Disguising the uneasiness this discovery gave her, she looked hervisitor full in the face, and said mildly, where can hawaii buy bitcoinbut a little coldly,"Well, Jacintha?"Jacintha lowered her eyes and muttered slowly,--"The doctor--comes--to-day," then raised her eyes all in a moment totake Josephine off her guard; but the calm face was impenetrable.
General Raimbaut now joined the group of officers, and entered atonce icardano ada coin yorumn the business which had brought him. Addressing himself toColonel Dujardin, first he informs that officer he had presented hisobservations to the commander-in-chief, who had given them theattention they merited.Colonel Dujardin bowed.
"But," continued General Raimbaut, "they are overruled by imperiouscircumstances, some of which he did not reveal; they remain in hisown breast. However, on the eve of a general attack, which hecannot postpone, that bastion must be disarmed, otherwise it wouldbe too fatal to all the storming parties. It is a painfulnecessity." He added, "Tell Colonel Dujardin I count greatly on thecourage and discipline of his brigade, and on his own wisemeasures."Colonel Dujardin bowed. Then he whispered in the other's ear, "Bothwill alike be wasted."The other colonels waved their hats in triumph at the commander-in-chief's decision, and Raynal's face showed he looked on Dujardin asa sort of spoil-sport happily defeated."Well, then, gentlemen," said General Raimbaut, "we begin bysettling the contingents to be furnished by your several brigades.Say, an equal number from each. The sum total shall be settled byColonel Dujardin, who has so long and ably baffled the bastion atthis post."Colonel Dujardin bowed stiffly and not very graciously. In hisheart he despised these old fogies, compounds of timidity andrashness."So, how many men in all, colonel?" asked General Raimbaut."The fewer the better," replied the other solemnly, "since"--andthen discipline tied his tongue.
"I understand you," said the old man. "Shall we say eight hundredmen?""I should prefer three hundred. They have made a back door to thebastion, and the means of flight at hand will put flight into theirheads. They will pick off some of our men as we go at them. Whenthe rest jump in they will jump out, and"-- He paused."Why, he knows all about it before it comes," said one of thecolonels naively."She told me to tell you she was indisposed."
"Indisposed to go to Lemuel Weeks'?""I 'spect she means she's sick."He frowned and looked suspiciously at the girl. Here was a new complication, and very possibly a trick."What's the matter with her?"
"Dunno.""Well, she had better get well enough to go by this afternoon," he remarked, controlling his irritation with difficulty, and nothing more was said.
Full of his new plans he spent a busy forenoon and then came to dinner. It was the same old story. He went up and knocked at Mrs. Mumpson's door, saying that he wished to speak with her."I'm too indisposed to transact business," she replied feebly."You must be ready tomorrow morning," he called. "I have business plans which can't be delayed," and he turned away muttering rather sulphurous words."He will relent; his hard heart will soften at last--" But we shall not weary the reader with the long soliloquies with which she beguiled her politic seclusion, as she regarded it. Poor, unsophisticated Jane made matters worse. The condition of life among her much-visited relatives now existed again. She was not wanted, and her old sly, sullen, and furtive manner reasserted itself. Much of Holcroft's sympathy was thus alienated, yet he partially understood and pitied her. It became, however, all the more clear that he must get rid of both mother and child, and that further relations with either of them could only lead to trouble.
The following morning only Jane appeared. "Is your mother really sick?" he asked."S'pose so," was the laconic reply."You haven't taken much pains with the breakfast, Jane.""'Taint no use."
With knitted brows he thought deeply, and silently ate the wretched meal which had been prepared. Then, remarking that he might do some writing, he went up to a small attic room which had been used occasionally by a hired man. It contained a covered pipe-hole leading into the chimney flue. Removing the cover, he stopped up the flue with an old woolen coat. "I suppose I'll have to meet tricks with tricks," he muttered.Returning to his own apartment, he lighted a fire in the stove and laid upon the kindling blaze some dampened wood, then went out and quietly hitched his horses to the wagon.
The pungent odor of smoke soon filled the house. The cover over the pipe-hole in Mrs. Mumpson's room was not very secure, and thick volumes began to pour in upon the startled widow. "Jane!" she shrieked.If Jane was sullen toward Holcroft, she was furious at her mother, and paid no heed at first to her cry.
"Jane, Jane, the house is on fire!"Then the child did fly up the stairway. The smoke seemed to confirm the words of her mother, who was dressing in hot haste. "Run and tell Mr. Holcroft!" she cried."I won't," said the girl. "If he won't keep us in the house, I don't care if he don't have any house.""No, no, tell him!" screamed Mrs. Mumpson. "If we save his house he will relent. Gratitude will overwhelm him. So far from turning us away, he will sue, he will plead for forgiveness for his former harshness; his home saved will be our home won. Just put our things in the trunk first. Perhaps the house can't be saved, and you know we must save OUR things. Help me, quick! There, there; now, now"--both were sneezing and choking in a half-strangled manner. "Now let me lock it; my hand trembles so; take hold and draw it out; drag it downstairs; no matter how it scratches things!"Having reached the hall below, she opened the door and shrieked for Holcroft; Jane also began running toward the barn. The farmer came hastily out, and shouted, "What's the matter?""The house is on fire!" they screamed in chorus.
To carry out his ruse, he ran swiftly to the house. Mrs. Mumpson stood before him wringing her hands and crying, "Oh, dear Mr. Holcroft, can't I do anything to help you? I would so like to help you and--""Yes, my good woman, let me get in the door and see what's the matter. Oh, here's your trunk. That's sensible. Better get it outside," and he went up the stairs two steps at a time and rushed into his room.
"Jane, Jane," ejaculated Mrs. Mumpson, sinking on a seat in the porch, "he called me his good woman!" But Jane was busy dragging the trunk out of doors. Having secured her own and her mother's worldly possessions, she called, "Shall I bring water and carry things out?""No," he replied, "not yet. There's something the matter with the chimney," and he hastened up to the attic room, removed the clog from the flue, put on the cover again, and threw open the window. Returning, he locked the door of the room which Mrs. Mumpson had occupied and came downstairs. "I must get a ladder and examine the chimney," he said as he passed.
"Oh, my dear Mr. Holcroft!" the widow began."Can't talk with you yet," and he hastened on.
"As soon as he's sure the house is safe, Jane, all will be well."But the girl had grown hopeless and cynical. She had not penetrated his scheme to restore her mother to health, but understood the man well enough to be sure that her mother's hopes would end as they had in the past. She sat down apathetically on the trunk to see what would happen next.After a brief inspection Holcroft came down from the roof and said, "The chimney will have to be repaired," which was true enough and equally so of other parts of the dwelling. The fortunes of the owner were reflected in the appearance of the building.If it were a possible thing Holcroft wished to carry out his ruse undetected, and he hastened upstairs again, ostensibly to see that all danger had passed, but in reality to prepare his mind for an intensely disagreeable interview. "I'd rather face a mob of men than that one idiotic woman," he muttered. "I could calculate the actions of a setting hen with her head cut off better than I can this widow's. But there's no help for it," and he came down looking very resolute. "I've let the fire in my stove go out, and there's no more danger," he said quietly, as he sat down on the porch opposite Mrs. Mumpson.
"Oh-h," she exclaimed, with a long breath of relief, "we've saved the dwelling. What would we have done if it had burned down! We would have been homeless.""That may be my condition soon, as it is," he said coldly. "I am very glad, Mrs. Mumpson, that you are so much better. As Jane told you, I suppose, I will pay you the sum I agreed to give you for three months' service--"
"My dear Mr. Holcroft, my nerves have been too shaken to talk business this morning," and the widow leaned back and looked as if she were going to faint. "I'm only a poor lone woman," she added feebly, "and you cannot be so lacking in the milk of human kindness as to take advantage of me.""No, madam, nor shall I allow you and Lemuel Weeks to take advantage of me. This is my house and I have a right to make my own arrangements."
"It might all be arranged so easily in another way," sighed the widow."It cannot be arranged in any other way--" he began.
"Mr. Holcroft," she cried, leaning suddenly forward with clasped hands and speaking effusively, "you but now called me your good woman. Think how much those words mean. Make them true, now that you've spoken them. Then you won't be homeless and will never need a caretaker.""Are you making me an offer of marriage?" he asked with lowering brow."Oh, no, indeed!" she simpered. "That wouldn't be becoming in me. I'm only responding to your own words."Rising, he said sternly, "No power on earth could induce me to marry you, and that would be plain enough if you were in your right mind. I shall not stand this foolishness another moment. You must go with me at once to Lemuel Weeks'. If you will not, I'll have you taken to an insane asylum."
"To an insane asylum! What for?" she half shrieked, springing to her feet."You'll see," he replied, going down the steps. "Jump up, Jane! I shall take the trunk to your cousin's. If you are so crazy as to stay in a man's house when he don't want you and won't have you, you are fit only for an asylum."
Mrs. Mumpson was sane enough to perceive that she was at the end of her adhesive resources. In his possession of her trunk, the farmer also had a strategic advantage which made it necessary for her to yield. She did so, however, with very bad grace. When he drove up, she bounced into the wagon as if made of India rubber, while Jane followed slowly, with a look of sullen apathy. He touched his horses with the whip into a smart trot, scarcely daring to believe in his good fortune. The lane was rather steep and rough, and he soon had to pull up lest the object of his unhappy solicitude should be jolted out of the vehicle. This gave the widow her chance to open fire. "The end has not come yet, Mr. Holcroft," she said vindictively. "You may think you are going to have an easy triumph over a poor, friendless, unfortunate, sensitive, afflicted woman and a fatherless child, but you shall soon learn that there's a law in the land. You have addressed improper words to me, you have threatened me, you have broken your agreement. I have writings, I have a memory, I have language to plead the cause of the widow and the fatherless. I have been wronged, outraged, trampled upon, and then turned out of doors. The indignant world shall hear my story, the finger of scorn will be pointed at you. Your name will become a byword and a hissing. Respecterble women, respecterbly connected, will stand aloof and shudder."The torrent of words was unchecked except when the wheels struck a stone, jolting her so severely that her jaws came together with a click as if she were snapping at him.
He made no reply whatever, but longed to get his hands upon Lemuel Weeks. Pushing his horses to a high rate of speed, he soon reached that interested neighbor's door, intercepting him just as he was starting to town.He looked very sour as he saw his wife's relatives, and demanded harshly, "What does this mean?"