So it gradually came about that they had more and more to say to each other on matters relating to the farm. Holcroft showed her the receipts from the dairy, and her eyes sparkled as if he had brought jewels home to her. Then she in turn would ethereum hard fork etherscanexpatiate on the poultry interests and assure him that there were already nearly two hundred little chicks on the place. One afternoon, during a shower, she ventured to beguile him into listening to the greater part of one of the agricultural journals, and with much deference made two or three suggestions about the farm, which he saw were excellent. She little dreamed that if she were willing to talk of turning the farm upside down and inside out, he would have listened with pleasure.
Dujardin heard, and did not choose a stranger should think he wasblock bittorrent trackerasleep in broad day. He came hastily out of the tent, therefore,with Josephine's letter in his hand, and, in the very act ofconveying it to his bosom, found himself face to face with--herhusband.Did you ever see two duellists cross rapiers?
How unlike a theatrical duel! How smooth and quiet the brightblades are! they glide into contact. They are polished andslippery, yet they hold each other. So these two men's eyes met,and fastened: neither spoke: each searched the other's face keenly.Raynal's countenance, prepared as he was for this meeting, was likea stern statue's. The other's face flushed, and his heart raged andsickened at sight of the man, that, once his comrade and benefactor,was now possessor of the woman he loved. But the figures of bothstood alike haughty, erect, and immovable, face to face.Colonel Raynal saluted Colonel Dujardin ceremoniously. ColonelDujardin returned the salute in the same style."You thought I was in Egypt," said Raynal with grim significancethat caught Dujardin's attention, though he did not know quite howto interpret it.He answered mechanically, "Yes, I did.""I am sent here by General Bonaparte to take a command," explainedRaynal.
"You are welcome. What command?""Yours.""Mine?" cried Dujardin, his forehead flushing with mortification andanger. "What, is it not enough that you take my"-- He stoppedthen."Come, colonel," said the other calmly, "do not be unjust to an oldcomrade. I take your demi-brigade; but you are promoted toRaimbaut's brigade. The exchange is to be made to-morrow.""Was it then to announce to me my promotion you came to myquarters?" and Camille looked with a strange mixture of feelings athis old comrade."Mr. Holcroft," began the widow, in some trepidation, "I don't approve--such irregular habits--"
"Madam," interrupted Holcroft sternly, "did I agree to do what you approved of? Your course is so peculiar that I scarcely believe you are in your right mind. You had better go to your room and try to recover your senses. If I can't have things in this house to suit me, I'll have no one in it. Here, Jane, you can help."Mrs. Mumpson put her handkerchief to her eyes and departed. She felt that this display of emotion would touch Holcroft's feelings when he came to think the scene all over.Having kindled the fire, he said to Jane, "You and Mrs. Wiggins get some coffee and supper in short order, and have it ready when I come in," and he hastened out to care for his horses. If the old woman was slow, she knew just how to make every motion effective, and a good supper was soon ready."Why didn't you keep up a fire, Jane?" Holcroft asked.
"She wouldn't let me. She said how you must be taught a lesson," replied the girl, feeling that she must choose between two potentates, and deciding quickly in favor of the farmer. She had been losing faith in her mother's wisdom a long time, and this night's experience had banished the last shred of it.Some rather bitter words rose to Holcroft's lips, but he restrained them. He felt that he ought not to disparage the mother to the child. As Mrs. Wiggins grew warm, and imbibed the generous coffee, her demeanor thawed perceptibly and she graciously vouchsafed the remark, "Ven you're hout late hag'in hi'll look hafter ye."
Mrs. Mumpson had not been so far off as not to hear Jane's explanation, as the poor child found to her cost when she went up to bed.Chapter 10 A Night of TerrorAs poor, dazed, homeless Alida passed out into the street after the revelation that she was not a wife and never had been, she heard a voice say, "Well, Hanner wasn't long in bouncing the woman. I guess we'd better go up now. Ferguson will need a lesson that he won't soon forget."The speaker of these words was Mrs. Ferguson's brother, William Hackman, and his companion was a detective. The wife had laid her still sleeping child down on the lounge and was coolly completing Alida's preparations for dinner. Her husband had sunk back into a chair and again buried his face in his hands. He looked up with startled, bloodshot eyes as his brother-in-law and the stranger entered, and then resumed his former attitude.
Mrs. Ferguson briefly related what had happened, and then said, "Take chairs and draw up.""I don't want any dinner," muttered the husband.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."At 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.At last a policeman said gruffly, "You've passed me twice. You can't be roaming the streets at this time of night. Why don't you go home?"Standing before him and wringing her hands, she moaned, "I have no home.""Where did you come from?"
"Oh, I can't tell you! Take me to any place where a woman will be safe.""I can't take you to any place now but the station house."
"But can I be alone there? I won't be put with anybody?""No, no; of course not! You'll be better off there. Come along. 'Taint far."
She walked beside him without a word."You'd better tell me something of your story. Perhaps I can do more for you in the morning."
"I can't. I'm a stranger. I haven't any friends in town.""Well, well, the sergeant will see what can be done in the morning. You've been up to some foolishness, I suppose, and you'd better tell the whole story to the sergeant."She soon entered the station house and was locked up in a narrow cell. She heard the grating of the key in the lock with a sense of relief, feeling that she had at least found a temporary place of refuge and security. A hard board was the only couch it possessed, but the thought of sleep did not enter her mind. Sitting down, she buried her face in her hands and rocked back and forth in agony and distraction until day dawned. At last, someone--she felt she could not raise her eyes to his face--brought her some breakfast and coffee. She drank the latter, but left the food untasted. Finally, she was led to the sergeant's private room and told that she must give an account of herself. "If you can't or won't tell a clear story," the officer threatened, "you'll have to go before the justice in open court, and he may commit you to prison. If you'll tell the truth now, it may be that I can discharge you. You had no business to be wandering about the streets like a vagrant or worse; but if you were a stranger or lost and hadn't sense enough to go where you'd be cared for, I can let you go.""Oh!" said Alida, again wringing her hands and looking at the officer with eyes so full of misery and fear that he began to soften, "I don't know where to go."
"Haven't you a friend or acquaintance in town?""Not one that I can go to!"
"Why don't you tell me your story? Then I'll know what to do, and perhaps can help you. You don't look like a depraved woman.""I'm not. God knows I'm not!"
"Well, my poor woman, I've got to act in view of what I know, not what God knows.""If I tell my story, will I have to give names?"
"No, not necessarily. It would be best, though.""I can't do that, but I'll tell you the truth. I will swear it on the Bible I married someone. A good minister married us. The man deceived me. He was already married, and last night his wife came to my happy home and proved before the man whom I thought my husband that I was no wife at all. He couldn't, didn't deny it. Oh! Oh! Oh!" And she again rocked back and forth in uncontrollable anguish. "That's all," she added brokenly. "I had no right to be near him or her any longer, and I rushed out. I don't remember much more. My brain seemed on fire. I just walked and walked till I was brought here.""Well, well!" said the sergeant sympathetically, "you have been treated badly, outrageously; but you are not to blame unless you married the man hastily and foolishly.""That's what everyone will think, but it don't seem to me that I did. It's a long story, and I can't tell it."
"But you ought to tell it, my poor woman. You ought to sue the man for damages and send him to State prison.""No, no!" cried Alida passionately. "I don't want to see him again, and I won't go to a court before people unless I am dragged there."
The sergeant looked up at the policeman who had arrested her and said, "This story is not contrary to anything you saw?""No, sir; she was wandering about and seemed half out of her mind."
"Well, then, I can let you go.""But I don't know where to go," she replied, looking at him with hunted, hollow eyes. "I feel as if I were going to be sick. Please don't turn me into the streets. I'd rather go back to the cell--"