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"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.ethereum eip news"Well, then, gentlemen," said General Raimbaut, "we begin bysettling the contingents to be furnished by your several brigades.

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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.

"I do. I see the whole operation and its result before me, as I seethis hand. Three hundred men will do.""But, general," objected Raynal, "you are not beginning at thebeginning. The first thing in these cases is to choose the officerto command the storming party.""Yes, Raynal, unquestionably; but you must be aware that is apainful and embarrassing part of my duty, especially after ColonelDujardin's remarks.""Ah, bah!" cried Raynal. "He is prejudiced. He has been digging athundering long mine here, and now you are going to make his childuseless. We none of us like that. But when he gets the colors inhis hand, and the storming column at his back, his misgivings willall go to the wind, and the enemy after them, unless he has beencommitting some crime, and is very much changed from what I knew himfour years ago.""Colonel Raynal," said one of the other colonels, politely butfirmly, "pray do not assume that Colonel Dujardin is to lead thecolumn; there are three other claimants. General Raimbaut is toselect from us four.""Yes, gentlemen, and in a service of this kind I would feel gratefulto you all if you would relieve me of that painful duty.""Gentlemen," said Dujardin, with an imperceptible sneer, "thegeneral means to say this: the operation is so glorious that hecould hardly without partiality assign the command to either of usfour claimants. Well, then, let us cast lots."The proposal was received by acclamation."The general will mark a black cross on one lot, and he who draws itwins the command."The young colonels prepared their lots with almost boyish eagerness.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.

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"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--"

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"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?"

"It means," cried Mrs. Mumpson in her high, cackling tones, "that he's said things and done things too awful to speak of; that he's broken his agreement and turned us out of doors.""Jim Holcroft," said Mr. Weeks, blustering up to the wagon, "you can't carry on with this high hand. Take these people back to your house where they belong, or you'll be sorry."Holcroft sprang out, whirled Mr. Weeks out of his way, took out the trunk, then with equal expedition and no more ceremony lifted down Mrs. Mumpson and Jane."Do you know what you're about?" shouted Mr. Weeks in a rage. "I'll have the law on you this very day."

Holcroft maintained his ominous silence as he hitched his horses securely. Then he strode toward Weeks, who backed away from him. "Oh, don't be afraid, you sneaking, cowardly fox!" said the farmer bitterly. "If I gave you your desserts, I'd take my horsewhip to you. You're going to law me, are you? Well, begin today, and I'll be ready for you. I won't demean myself by answering that woman, but I'm ready for you in any way you've a mind to come. I'll put you and your wife on the witness stand. I'll summon Cousin Abram, as you call him, and his wife, and compel you all under oath to give Mrs. Mumpson a few testimonials. I'll prove the trick you played on me and the lies you told. I'll prove that this woman, in my absence, invaded my room, and with keys of her own opened my dead wife's bureau and pulled out her things. I'll prove that she hasn't earned her salt and can't, and may prove something more. Now, if you want to go to law, begin. Nothing would please me better than to show up you and your tribe. I've offered to pay this woman her three months' wages in full, and so have kept my agreement. She has not kept hers, for she's only sat in a rocking chair and made trouble. Now, do as you please. I'll give you all the law you want. I'd like to add a horsewhipping, but that would give you a case and now you haven't any."As Holcroft uttered these words sternly and slowly, like a man angry indeed but under perfect self-control, the perspiration broke out on Weeks' face. He was aware that Mrs. Mumpson was too well known to play the role of a wronged woman, and remembered what his testimony and that of many others would be under oath. Therefore, he began, "Oh, well, Mr. Holcroft! There's no need of your getting in such a rage and threatening so; I'm willing to talk the matter over and only want to do the square thing."

The farmer made a gesture of disgust as he said, "I understand you, Lemuel Weeks. There's no talking needed and I'm in no mood for it. Here's the money I agreed to pay. I'll give it to Mrs. Mumpson when she has signed this paper, and you've signed as witness of her signature. Otherwise, it's law. Now decide quick, I'm in a hurry."Objections were interposed, and Holcroft, returning the money to his pocket, started for his team, without a word. "Oh, well!" said Weeks in strong irritation, "I haven't time for a lawsuit at this season of the year. You are both cranks, and I suppose it would be best for me and my folks to be rid of you both. It's a pity, though, you couldn't be married and left to fight it out."

Holcroft took the whip from his wagon and said quietly, "If you speak another insulting word, I'll horsewhip you and take my chances."Something in the man's look prevented Weeks from uttering another unnecessary remark. The business was soon transacted, accompanied with Mrs. Mumpson's venomous words, for she had discovered that she could stigmatize Holcroft with impunity. He went to Jane and shook her hand as he said goodby. "I am sorry for you, and I won't forget my promise;" then drove rapidly away.

"Cousin Lemuel," said Mrs. Mumpson plaintively, "won't you have Timothy take my trunk to our room?""No, I won't," he snapped. "You've had your chance and have fooled it away. I was just going to town, and you and Jane will go along with me," and he put the widow's trunk into his wagon.Mrs. Weeks came out and wiped her eyes ostentatiously with her apron as she whispered, "I can't help it, Cynthy. When Lemuel goes off the handle in this way, it's no use for me to say anything."Mrs. Mumpson wept hysterically as she was driven away. Jane's sullen and apathetic aspect had passed away in part for Holcroft's words had kindled something like hope.

Chapter 17 A Momentous DecisionIt must be admitted that Holcroft enjoyed his triumph over Lemuel Weeks very much after the fashion of the aboriginal man. Indeed, he was almost sorry he had not been given a little more provocation, knowing well that, had this been true, his neighbor would have received a fuller return for his interested efforts. As he saw his farmhouse in the shimmering April sunlight, as the old churning dog came forward, wagging his tail, the farmer said, "This is the only place which can ever be home to me. Well, well! It's queer about people. Some, when they go, leave you desolate; others make you happy by their absence. I never dreamed that silly Mumpson could make me happy, but she has. Blessed if I don't feel happy! The first time in a year or more!" And he began to whistle old "Coronation" in the most lively fashion as he unharnessed his horses.

A little later, he prepared himself a good dinner and ate it in leisurely enjoyment, sharing a morsel now and then with the old dog. "You're a plaguey sight better company than she was," he mused. "That poor little stray cat of a Jane! What will become of her? Well, well! Soon as she's old enough to cut loose from her mother, I'll try to give her a chance, if it's a possible thing."After dinner, he made a rough draught of an auction bill, offering his cows for sale, muttering as he did so, "Tom Watterly'll help me put it in better shape." Then he drove a mile away to see old Mr. And Mrs. Johnson. The former agreed for a small sum to mount guard with his dog during the farmer's occasional absences, and the latter readily consented to do the washing and mending.

"What do I want of any more 'peculiar females,' as that daft widow called 'em?" he chuckled on his return. "Blames if she wasn't the most peculiar of the lot. Think of me marrying her!" and the hillside echoed to his derisive laugh. "As I feel today, there's a better chance of my being struck by lightning than marrying, and I don't think any woman could do it in spite of me. I'll run the ranch alone."That evening he smoked his pipe cheerfully beside the kitchen fire, the dog sleeping at his feet. "I declare," he said smilingly, "I feel quite at home."

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC#

Mark Suster

Written by

2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs 〞 I*m on Twitter at @msuster

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC, the largest and most active early-stage fund in Southern California. Snapchat: msuster

Mark Suster

Written by

2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs 〞 I*m on Twitter at @msuster

Both Sides of the Table

Perspectives of a 2x entrepreneur turned VC at @UpfrontVC, the largest and most active early-stage fund in Southern California. Snapchat: msuster