"If you wanted me to live, why did you not come here before?""I did not think you would be so foterra usdolish, so wicked, so cruel as todo what you have been doing.""Come and shine upon me every day, and you shall have no fresh causeof complaint; things flourish in the sunshine that die in the dark:
Mr. William Hackman now gave way to his irritation. Turning to his brother, he relieved his mind as follows: "See here, Hank Ferguson, if you hadn't the best wife in the land, this gentleman would now be giving you a promenade to jail. I've left my work for weeks, and spent a sight of money to see that my sister got her rights, and, by thunder! she's going to have 'em. We've agreed to give you a chance to brace up and be a man. If we find out there isn't any man in you, then you go to prison and hard labor to the full extent of the law. We've fixed things so you can't play any more tricks. This man is a private detective. As long as you do the square thing by your wife and child, you'll be let alone. If you try to sneak off, you'll be nabbed. Now, if you aint a scamp down to your heel-taps, get up out of that chair like a man, treat your wife as she deserves for letting you off so easy, and don't make her change her mind by acting as if you, and not her, was the wronged person."ethereum coin circulationAt heart Ferguson was a weak, cowardly, selfish creature, whose chief aim in life was to have things to suit himself. When they ceased to be agreeable, he was ready for a change, without much regard for the means to his ends. He had always foreseen the possibility of the event which had now taken place, but, like all self-indulgent natures, had hoped that he might escape detection.
Alida, moreover, had won a far stronger hold upon him than he had once imagined possible. He was terribly mortified and cast down by the result of his experiment, as he regarded it. But the thought of a prison and hard labor speedily drew his mind away from this aspect of the affair. He had been fairly caught, his lark was over, and he soon resolved that the easiest and safest way out of the scrape was the best way. He therefore raised his head and came forward with a penitent air as he said: "It's natural I should be overwhelmed with shame at the position in which I find myself. But I see the truth of your words, and I'll try to make it all right as far as I can. I'll go back with you and Hannah to my old home. I've got money in the bank, I'll sell out everything here, and I'll pay you, William, as far as I can, what you've spent. Hannah is mighty good to let me off so easy, and she won't be sorry. This man is witness to what I say," and the detective nodded."Why, Ferguson," said Mr. Hackman effusively, "now you're talking like a man. Come and kiss him, Hannah, and make it all up.""That's the way with you men," said the woman bitterly. "These things count for little. Henry Ferguson must prove he's honest in what he says by deeds, not words. I'll do as I've said if he acts square, and that's enough to start with.""All right," said Ferguson, glad enough to escape the caress. "I'll do as I say."He did do all he promised, and very promptly, too. He was not capable of believing that a woman wronged as Alida had been would not prosecute him, and he was eager to escape to another state, and, in a certain measure, again to hide his identity under his own actual name.
Meanwhile, how fared the poor creature who had fled, driven forth by her first wild impulse to escape from a false and terrible position? With every step she took down the dimly lighted street, the abyss into which she had fallen seemed to grow deeper and darker. She was overwhelmed with the magnitude of her misfortune. She shunned the illumined thoroughfares with a half-crazed sense that every finger would be pointed at her. Her final words, spoken to Ferguson, were the last clear promptings of her womanly nature. After that, everything grew confused, except the impression of remediless disaster and shame. She was incapable of forming any correct judgment concerning her position. The thought of her pastor filled her with horror. He, she thought, would take the same view which the woman had so brutally expressed--that in her eagerness to be married, she had brought to the parsonage an unknown man and had involved a clergyman in her own scandalous record.--It would all be in the papers, and her pastor's name mixed up in the affair. She would rather die than subject him to such an ordeal. Long after, when he learned the facts in the case, he looked at her very sadly as he asked: "Didn't you know me better than that? Had I so failed in my preaching that you couldn't come straight to me?"She wondered afterward that she had not done this, but she was too morbid, too close upon absolute insanity, to do what was wise and safe. She simply yielded to the wild impulse to escape, to cower, to hide from every human eye, hastening through the darkest, obscurest streets, not caring where. In the confusion of her mind she would retrace her steps, and soon was utterly lost, wandering she knew not whither. As it grew late, casual passers-by looked after her curiously, rough men spoke to her, and others jeered. She only hastened on, driven by her desperate trouble like the wild, ragged clouds that were flying across the stormy March sky.What is that noise in the tree? Anybody listening to us?""I'll see," said Rose, with all a woman's wit, and whipped hastilyround to hinder Camille from going. She found Josephine white asdeath, apparently fainting, and clutching at the tree convulsivelywith her nails. Such was the intensity of the situation that sheleft her beloved sister in that piteous state, and even hoped shewould faint dead away, and so hear no more. She came back white,and told Camille it was only a bird got into the tree. "And tothink you should be wounded," said she, to divert his attention fromthe tree.
"Yes," said he, "and it is rather inflamed, and has worried me allthe way. You need not go telling Josephine, though. They wanted meto stop and lay up at Bayonne. How could I? And again at Paris.How could I? They said, 'You will die.'--'Not before I get toBeaurepaire,' said I. I could bear the motion of a horse no longer,so at the nearest town I asked for a carriage. Would you believeit? both his carriages were OUT AT A WEDDING. I could not wait tillthey came back. I had waited an eternity. I came on foot. Idragged my self along; the body was weak, but the heart was strong.A little way from here my wound seemed inclined to open. I pressedit together tight with my hand; you see I could not afford to loseany more blood, and so struggled on. 'Die?' said I, 'not beforeBeaurepaire.' And, O Rose! now I could be content to die--at herfeet; for I am happy. Oh! I am happy beyond words to utter. What Ihave gone through! But I kept my word, and this is Beaurepaire.Hurrah!" and his pale cheek flushed, and his eye gleamed, and hewaved his hat feebly over his head, "hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!""Oh, don't!--don't!--don't!" cried Rose wild with pity and dismay.
"How can I help?--I am mad with joy--hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!""No! no! no! no! no!""What is the matter?""And must I stab you worse than all your enemies have stabbed you?"sighed Rose, and tears of womanly pity now streamed down her cheeks.Camille's mind began to misgive him. What was become of Josephine?
she did not appear. He faltered out, "Your mother is well; all arewell I hope. Oh, where is she?" and receiving no reply, began totremble visibly with the fear of some terrible calamity.Rose, with a sister fainting close by, and this poor lover tremblingbefore her, lost all self-command, and began to wring her hands andcry wildly. "Camille," she almost screamed, "there is but one thingfor you to do; leave Beaurepaire on the instant: fly from it; it isno place for you.""She is dead," said Camille, very quietly.When he said that, with an unnatural and monotonous calm such asprecedes deliberate suicide, it flashed in one moment across Rosethat it was much best he should think so.She did not reply; but she drooped her head and let him think it.
"She would have come to me ere this if she was alive," said he."You are all in white: they mourn in white for angels like her, thatgo to heaven, virgins. Oh! I was blind. You might have told me atonce; you see I can bear it. What does it matter to one who lovesas I love? It is only to give her one more proof I lived only forher. I would have died a hundred times but for my promise to her.Yes, I am coming, love; I am coming."He fell on his knees and smiled, and whispered, "I am coming,Josephine, I am coming."A sob and a moan as of a creature dying in anguish answered him.Rose screamed with terror when she heard it.
Camille rose to his feet, awestruck. "That was her voice, behindthis tree," he whispered."No, no," cried Rose; "it was me."But at that moment a rustle and a rush was heard of some one dartingout of the tree.
Camille darted furiously round it in the same direction. Rose triedto stop him, but was too late. The next moment Raynal's wife was inhis arms.Chapter 10
Josephine wrestled long and terribly with nature in that old oak-tree. But who can so struggle forever? Anguish, remorse, horror,despair, and love wrenched her to and fro; and O mysterious humanheart! gleams of a mad fitful joy shot through her, coming quick aslightning, going as quickly, and leaving the despair darker. Andthen the fierce struggle of the soul to make itself heard! Morethan once she had to close her mouth with her hand: more than onceshe seized her throat not to cry out. But as the struggle endured,she got weaker and weaker, and nature mightier and mightier. Andwhen the wounded hero fell on his knees so close to her; when he whohad resisted death so bravely for her, prepared to give up lifecalmly for her, her bosom rose beyond all control: it seemed to fillto choking, then to split wide open and give the struggling soulpassage in one gasping sob and heart-stricken cry. Could she havepent this in she must have died.It betrayed her. She felt it had: so then came the woman'sinstinct--flight: the coward's impulse--flight: the chaste wife'sinspiration--flight. She rushed from her hiding-place and madewildly for the house.But, unluckily, Camille was at that moment darting round the tree:she ran right into the danger she meant to flee. He caught her inhis arms. He held her irresistibly. "I have got her; I have gother," he shouted in wild triumph. "No! I will not let you go. Nonebut God shall ever take you from me, and he has spared you to me.You are not dead: you have kept faith as I have: you have lived.See! look at me. I am alive, I am well, I am happy. I told Rosethat I suffered. If I had suffered I should remember it. It is allgone at sight of you, my love! my love! Oh, my Josephine! my love!"His arm was firm round her waist. His glowing eyes poured love uponher. She felt his beating heart.
All that passed in her then, what mortal can say? She seemed twowomen: that part of her which could not get away from his strong armlost all strength to resist, it yielded and thrilled under hisembrace, her bosom heaving madly: all that was free writhed awayfrom him; her face was averted with a glare of terror, and both herhands put up between his eyes and it."You turn away your head. Rose, she turns away. Speak for me.
Scold her; for I don't know how to scold her. No answer fromeither; oh, what has turned your hearts against me so?""Camille," cried Rose--the tears streaming down her cheeks--"my poorCamille! leave Beaurepaire. Oh, leave it at once."Returned towards her with a look of inquiry.At that Josephine, like some feeble but nimble wild creature on whoma grasp has relaxed, writhed away from him and got free: "Farewell!
Farewell!" she cried, in despair's own voice, and made swiftly forthe house.Camille stood aghast, and did not follow her.
Now ere she had gone many steps who should meet her right in frontbut Jacintha."Madame Raynal, the baroness's carriage is just in sight. I thoughtyou'd like to know." Then she bawled proudly to Rose, "I was thefirst to call her madame;" and off went Jacintha convinced she haddone something very clever.This blow turned those three to stone.Josephine had no longer the power or the wish to fly. "Better so,"she thought, and she stood cowering.
The great passions that had spoken so loud were struck dumb, and adeep silence fell upon the place. Madame Raynal's quivering eyeturned slowly and askant towards Camille, but stopped in terror ereit could see him. For she knew by this fearful stillness that thetruth was creeping on Camille. And so did Rose.At last Camille spoke one word in a low whisper.
"Madame?"Dead silence."White? both in white?"Rose came between him and Josephine, and sobbed out, "Camille, itwas our doing. We drove her to it. O sir, look how afraid of youshe is. Do not reproach her, if you are a man."He waved her out of his way as if she had been some idle feather,and almost staggered up to Josephine.
"It is for you to speak, my betrothed: are you married?"The poor creature, true to her nature, was thinking more of him thanherself. Even in her despair it flashed across her, "If he knewall, he too would be wretched for life. If I let him think ill ofme he may be happy one day." She cowered the picture of sorrow andtongue-tied guilt."Are you a wife?""Yes."He winced and quivered as if a bullet had pierced him.
"This is how I came to be suspected; she I loved was false.""Yes, Camille.""No, no!" cried Rose; "don't believe HER: she never suspected you.We have brought her to this, we alone.""Be silent, Rose! oh, be silent!" gasped Josephine."I lived for you: I would have died for you; you could not even waitfor me."A low moan, but not a word of excuse."What can I do for you now?""Forget me, Camille," said she despairingly, doggedly.
"Forget you? never, never! there is but one thing I can do to showyou how I loved you: I will forgive you, and begone. Whither shallI go? whither shall I go now?""Camile, your words stab her.""Let none speak but I," said Camille; "none but I have the right tospeak. Poor weak angel that loved yet could not wait: I forgiveyou. Be happy, if you can; I bid you be hap-py."The quiet, despairing tones died away, and with them life seemed toend to her, and hope to go out. He turned his back quickly on her.He cried hoarsely, "To the army! Back to the army, and a soldier'sgrave!" Then with a prodigious effort he drew himself haughtily upin marching attitude. He took three strides, erect and fiery andbold.
At the next something seemed to snap asunder in the great heart, andthe worn body that heart had held up so long, rolled like a dead logupon the ground with a tremendous fall.Chapter 11
The baroness and Aubertin were just getting out of their carriage,when suddenly they heard shrieks of terror in the Pleasaunce. Theycame with quaking hearts as fast as their old limbs would carrythem. They found Rose and Josephine crouched over the body of aman, an officer.Rose was just tearing open his collar and jacket. Dard and Jacinthahad run from the kitchen at the screams. Camille lay on his back,white and motionless.