"Prescribe some of your nrinkeby eth addressice tonics for me, doctor," said Josephine,coaxingly.
When Mrs. Mumpson reached the blank wall of the inevitable, she yielded, and not before. She saw that the Weeks mine was worked out completely, and she knew that this exhaustion was about equally true of all similar mines, which had been bored until they would yield no further returns.polygon crypto symbolBut Mr. Weeks soon found that he could not carry out his summary measures. The widow was bent on negotiations and binding agreements. In a stiff, cramped hand, she wrote to Holcroft in regard to the amount of "salary" he would be willing to pay, intimating that one burdened with such responsibilities as she was expected to assume "ort to be compensiated proposhundly."
Weeks groaned as he dispatched his son on horseback with this first epistle, and Holcroft groaned as he read it, not on account of its marvelous spelling and construction, but by reason of the vista of perplexities and trouble it opened to his boding mind. But he named on half a sheet of paper as large a sum as he felt it possible to pay and leave any chance for himself, then affixed his signature and sent it back by the messenger.The widow Mumpson wished to talk over this first point between the high contracting powers indefinitely, but Mr. Weeks remarked cynically, "It's double what I thought he'd offer, and you're lucky to have it in black and white. Now that everything's settled, Timothy will hitch up and take you and Jane up there at once.But Mrs. Mumpson now began to insist upon writing another letter in regard to her domestic status and that of her child. They could not think of being looked upon as servants. She also wished to be assured that a girl would be hired to help her, that she should have all the church privileges to which she had been accustomed and the right to visit and entertain her friends, which meant every farmer's wife and all the maiden sisters in Oakville. "And then," she continued, "there are always little perquisites which a housekeeper has a right to look for--" Mr. Weeks irritably put a period to this phase of diplomacy by saying, "Well, well, Cynthy, the stage will be along in a couple of hours. We'll put you and your things aboard, and you can go on with what you call your negotiations at Cousin Abiram's. I can tell you one thing though--if you write any such letter to Holcroft, you'll never hear from him again."Compelled to give up all these preliminaries, but inwardly resolving to gain each point by a nagging persistence of which she was a mistress, she finally declared that she "must have writings about one thing which couldn't be left to any man's changeful mind. He must agree to give me the monthly salary he names for at least a year."Weeks thought a moment, and then, with a shrewd twinkle in his eyes, admitted, "It would be a good thing to have Holcroft's name to such an agreement. Yes, you might try that on, but you're taking a risk. If you were not so penny-wise and pound-foolish, you'd go at once and manage to get him to take you for 'better or worse.'"
"You--misjudge me, Cousin Lemuel," replied the widow, bridling and rocking violently. If there's any such taking to be done, he must get me to take him.""Well, well, write your letter about a year's engagement. That'll settle you for a twelvemonth, at least.""Do not call me monsieur, nor look so frightened. Call me yourfriend. I am your sincere friend.""Oh, yes; you always were.""Thank you. You will give me a dearer title before we part thistime.""Yes," said Josephine in a low whisper, and shuddered.
"Have you forgiven me frightening you so that night?""Yes.""It was a shock to me, too, I can tell you. I like the boy. Sheprofessed to love him, and, to own the truth, I loathe all treacheryand deceit. If I had done a murder, I would own it. A lie doublesevery crime. But I took heart; we are all selfish, we men; of thetwo sisters one was all innocence and good faith; and she was theone I had chosen."At these words Josephine rose, like a statue moving, and took aphial from her bosom and poured the contents into the glass.But ere she could drink it, if such was her intention, Raynal, withhis eyes gloomily lowered, said, in a voice full of strangesolemnity,--"I went to the army of the Rhine."Josephine put down the glass directly, though without removing herhand from it."I see you understand me, and approve. Yes, I saw that your sisterwould be dishonored, and I went to the army and saw her seducer.""You saw HIM. Oh, I hope you did not go and speak to him of--ofthis?""Why, of course I did."Josephine resolved to know the worst at once. "May I ask," saidshe, "what you told him?""Why, I told him all I had discovered, and pointed out the course hemust take; he must marry your sister at once. He refused. Ichallenged him. But ere we met, I was ordered to lead a forlornhope against a bastion. Then, seeing me go to certain death, thenoble fellow pitied me. I mean this is how I understood it all atthe time; at any rate, he promised to marry Rose if he should live."Josephine put out her hand, and with a horrible smile said, "I thankyou; you have saved the honor of our family;" and with no more ado,she took the glass in her hand to drink the fatal contents.But Raynal's reply arrested her hand. He said solemnly, "No, I havenot. Have you no inkling of the terrible truth? Do not fiddle withthat glass: drink it, or leave it alone; for, indeed, I need allyour attention."He took the glass out of her patient hand, and with a furtive lookat the bedroom-door, drew her away to the other end of the room;"and," said he, "I could not tell your mother, for she knows nothingof the girl's folly; still less Rose, for I see she loves him still,or why is she so pale? Advise me, now, whilst we are alone.
Colonel Dujardin was COMPARATIVELY indifferent to YOU. Will youundertake the task? A rough soldier like me is not the person tobreak the terrible tidings to that poor girl.""What tidings? You confuse, you perplex me. Oh! what does thishorrible preparation mean?""It means he will never marry your sister; he will never see hermore."Then Raynal walked the room in great agitation, which at oncecommunicated itself to his hearer. But the loving heart isingenious in avoiding its dire misgivings."I see," said she; "he told you he would never visit Beaurepaireagain. He was right."Raynal shook his head sorrowfully.
"Ah, Josephine, you are far from the truth. I was to attack thebastion. It was mined by the enemy, and he knew it. He tookadvantage of my back being turned. He led his men out of thetrenches; he assaulted the bastion at the head of his brigade. Hetook it.""Ah, it was noble; it was like him.""The enemy, retiring, blew the bastion into the air, and Dujardin--is dead.""Dead!" said Josephine, in stupefied tones, as if the word conveyedno meaning to her mind, benumbed and stunned by the blow."Don't speak so loud," said Raynal; "I hear the poor girl at thedoor. Ay, he took my place, and is dead.""Dead!""Swallowed up in smoke and flames, overwhelmed and crushed under theruins."Josephine's whole body gave way, and heaved like a tree fallingunder the axe. She sank slowly to her knees, and low moans of agonybroke from her at intervals. "Dead, dead, dead!""Is it not terrible?" he cried.She did not see him nor hear him, but moaned out wildly, "Dead,dead, dead!" The bedroom-door was opened.She shrieked with sudden violence, "Dead! ah, pity! the glass! thecomposing draught." She stretched her hands out wildly. Raynal,with a face full of concern, ran to the table, and got the glass.
She crawled on her knees to meet it; he brought it quickly to herhand."There, my poor soul!"Even as their hands met, Rose threw herself on the cup, and snatchedit with fury from them both. She was white as ashes, and her eyes,supernaturally large, glared on Raynal with terror. "Madman!" shecried, "would you kill her?"He glared back on her: what did this mean? Their eyes were fixed oneach other like combatants for life and death; they did not see thatthe room was filling with people, that the doctor was only on theother side of the table, and that the baroness and Edouard were atthe door, and all looking wonderstruck at this strange sight--Josephine on her knees, and those two facing each other, white, withdilating eyes, the glass between them.But what was that to the horror, when the next moment the patientJosephine started to her feet, and, standing in the midst, tore herhair by handfuls, out of her head."Ah, you snatch the kind poison from me!""Poison!""Poison!""Poison!" cried the others, horror-stricken.
"Ah! you won't let me die. Curse you all! curse you! I never hadmy own way in anything. I was always a slave and a fool. I havemurdered the man I love--I love. Yes, my husband, do you hear? theman I love.""Hush! daughter, respect my gray hairs.""Your gray hairs! You are not so old in years as I am in agony. Sothis is your love, Rose! Ah, you won't let me die--won't you? THENI'LL DO WORSE--I'LL TELL.""He who is dead; you have murdered him amongst you, and I'll followhim in spite of you all--he was my betrothed. He struggled wounded,bleeding, to my feet. He found me married. News came of myhusband's death; I married my betrothed.""Married him!" exclaimed the baroness."Ah, my poor mother. And she kissed me so kindly just now--she willkiss me no more. Oh, I am not ashamed of marrying him. I am onlyashamed of the cowardice that dared not do it in face of all theworld. We had scarce been happy a fortnight, when a letter camefrom Colonel Raynal. He was alive. I drove my true husband away,wretch that I was. None but bad women have an atom of sense. Itried to do my duty to my legal husband. He was my benefactor. Ithought it was my duty. Was it? I don't know: I have lost thesense of right and wrong. I turned from a living creature to a lie.
He who had scattered benefits on me and all this house; he whom itwas too little to love; he ought to have been adored: this man camehere one night to wife proud, joyous, and warm-hearted. He found acradle, and two women watching it. Now Edouard, now MONSIEUR, doyou see that life is IMPOSSIBLE to me? One bravely accused herself:she was innocent. One swooned away like a guilty coward."Edouard uttered an exclamation.
"Yes, Edouard, you shall not be miserable like me; she was guilty.You do not understand me yet, my poor mother--and she was so happythis morning--I was the liar, the coward, the double-faced wife, themiserable mother that denied her child. Now will you let me die?Now do you see that I can't and won't live upon shame and despair?Ah, Monsieur Raynal, my dear friend, you were always generous: youwill pity and kill me. I have dishonored the name you gave me tokeep: I am neither Beaurepaire nor Raynal. Do pray kill me,monsieur--Jean, do pray release me from my life!"And she crawled to his knees and embraced them, and kissed his hand,and pleaded more piteously for death, than others have begged forlife.Raynal stood like a rock: he was pale, and drew his breath audibly,but not a word. Then came a sight scarce less terrible thanJosephine's despair. The baroness, looking and moving twenty yearsolder than an hour before, tottered across the room to Raynal."Sir, you whom I have called my son, but whom I will never presumeso to call again, I thought I had lived long enough never to have toblush again. I loved you, monsieur. I prayed every day for you.
But she who WAS my daughter was not of my mind. Monsieur, I havenever knelt but to God and to my king, and I kneel to you: forgiveus, sir, forgive us!"She tried to go down on her knees. He raised her with his strongarm, but he could not speak. She turned on the others."So this is the secret you were hiding from me! This secret has notkilled you all. Oh! I shall not live under its shame so long as youhave. Chateau of Beaurepaire--nest of treason, ingratitude, andimmodesty--I loathe you as much as once I loved you. I will go andhide my head, and die elsewhere.""Stay, madame!" said he, in a voice whose depth and dignity was suchthat it seemed impossible to disobey it. "It was sudden--I wasshaken--but I am myself again.""Oh, show some pity!" cried Rose.
"I shall try to be just."There was a long, trembling silence; and during that silence andterrible agitation, one figure stood firm among those quaking,beating hearts, like a rock with the waves breaking round it--theMAN OF PRINCIPLE among the creatures of impulse.He raised Josephine from her knees, and placed her all limp andpowerless in an arm-chair. To her frenzy had now succeeded asickness and feebleness like unto death.
"Widow Dujardin," said he, in a broken voice, "listen to me."She moaned a sort of assent."Your mistake has been not trusting me. I was your friend, and nota selfish friend. I was not enough in love with you to destroy yourhappiness. Besides, I despise that sort of love. If you had toldme all, I would have spared you this misery. By the present law,civil contracts of marriage can be dissolved by mutual consent."At this the baroness uttered some sign of surprise.
"Ah!" continued Raynal, sadly, "you are aristocrats, and cannot keeppace with the times. This very day our mere contract shall beformally dissolved. Indeed, it ceases to exist since both partiesare resolved to withdraw from it. So, if you married Dujardin in achurch, you are Madame Dujardin at this moment, and his child islegitimate. What does she say?"This question was to Rose, for what Josephine uttered sounded like amere articulate moan. But Rose's quick ear had caught words, andshe replied, all in tears, "My poor sister is blessing you, sir. Weall bless you.""She does not understand my position," said Raynal. He then walkedup to Josephine, and leaning over her arm, and speaking rather loud,under the impression that her senses were blunted by grief, he said,"Look here: Colonel Dujardin, your husband, deliberately, and withhis eyes open, sacrificed his life for me, and for his own heroicsense of honor. Now, it is my turn. If that hero stood here, andasked me for all the blood in my body, I would give it him. He isgone; but, dying for me, he has left me his widow and his child;they remain under my wing. To protect them is my pride, and my onlyconsolation. I am going to the mayor to annul our unlucky contractin due form, and make us brother and sister instead. But," turningto the baroness, "don't you think to escape me as your daughter hasdone: no, no, old lady, once a mother, always a mother. Stir fromyour son's home if you dare!"And with these words, in speaking which his voice had recovered itsiron firmness, he strode out at the door, superb in manhood andprinciple, and every eye turned with wonder and admiration afterhim. Even when he was gone they gazed at the door by which acreature so strangely noble had disappeared.The baroness was about to follow him without taking any notice ofJosephine. But Rose caught her by the gown. "O mother, speak topoor Josephine: bid her live."The baroness only made a gesture of horror and disgust, and turnedher back on them both.Josephine, who had tottered up from her seat at Rose's words, sankheavily down again, and murmured, "Ah! the grave holds all that loveme now."Rose ran to her side. "Cruel Josephine! what, do not I love you?Mother, will you not help me persuade her to live? Oh! if she dies,I will die too; you will kill both your children."Stern and indignant as the baroness was, yet these words pierced herheart. She turned with a piteous, half apologetic air to Edouardand Aubertin. "Gentlemen," said she, "she has been foolish, notguilty. Heaven pardons the best of us. Surely a mother may forgiveher child." And with this nature conquered utterly; and she heldout her arms, wide, wide, as is a mother's heart. Her two erringchildren rushed sobbing violently into them; and there was not a dryeye in the room for a long time.
After this, Josephine's heart almost ceased to beat. Fear andmisgivings, and the heavy sense of deceit gnawing an honorableheart, were gone. Grief reigned alone in the pale, listless,bereaved widow.The marriage was annulled before the mayor; and, three daysafterwards, Raynal, by his influence, got the consummated marriageformally allowed in Paris.
With a delicacy for which one would hardly have given him credit, henever came near Beaurepaire till all this was settled; but hebrought the document from Paris that made Josephine the widowDujardin, and her boy the heir of Beaurepaire; and the moment shewas really Madame Dujardin he avoided her no longer; and he became acomfort to her instead of a terror.The dissolution of the marriage was a great tie between them. Somuch that, seeing how much she looked up to Raynal, the doctor saidone day to the baroness, "If I know anything of human nature, theywill marry again, provided none of you give her a hint which way herheart is turning."They, who have habituated themselves to live for others, can sufferas well as do great things. Josephine kept alive. A passion suchas hers, in a selfish nature, must have killed her.
Even as it was, she often said, "It is hard to live."Then they used to talk to her of her boy. Would she leave him--Camille's boy--without a mother? And these words were never spokento her quite in vain.Her mother forgave her entirely, and loved her as before. Who couldbe angry with her long? The air was no longer heavy with lies.
Wretched as she was, she breathed lighter. Joy and hope were gone.Sorrowful peace was coming. When the heart comes to this, nothingbut Time can cure; but what will not Time do? What wounds have Iseen him heal! His cures are incredible.The little party sat one day, peaceful, but silent and sad, in thePleasaunce, under the great oak.Two soldiers came to the gate. They walked feebly, for one waslame, and leaned upon the other, who was pale and weak, and leanedupon a stick.
"Soldiers," said Raynal, "and invalided.""Give them food and wine," said Josephine.Rose went towards them; but she had scarcely taken three steps ereshe cried out,--"It is Dard! it is poor Dard! Come in, Dard, come in."Dard limped towards them, leaning upon Sergeant La Croix. A bit ofDard's heel had been shot away, and of La Croix's head.
Rose ran to the kitchen."Jacintha, bring out a table into the Pleasaunce, and something fortwo guests to eat."The soldiers came slowly to the Pleasaunce, and were welcomed, andinvited to sit down, and received with respect; for France even inthat day honored the humblest of her brave.
Soon Jacintha came out with a little round table in her hands, andaffected a composure which was belied by her shaking hands and herglowing cheek.After a few words of homely welcome--not eloquent, but very sincere--she went off again with her apron to her eyes. She reappeared withthe good cheer, and served the poor fellows with radiant zeal.