"Please let me sit down a moment," she faltered, and Watterly hastened to give her a chair. She fixed her eyeschainlink binance staking on Holcroft, and said anxiously, "You see, sir, how weak I am. I have been sick and--and I fear I am far from being well now. I fear you will be disappointed--that it is not right to you, and that I may not be able--"
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.bitcoin depot kycAfter 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.
"What regiment?" asked Raynal.Dard was about to answer, but his superior stopped him severely;then, rising with his hand to his forehead, he replied, with pride,"Twenty-fourth brigade, second company. We were cut up atPhilipsburg, and incorporated with the 12th."Raynal instantly regretted his question; for Josephine's eye fixedon Sergeant La Croix with an expression words cannot paint. Yet sheshowed more composure, real or forced, than he expected."Heaven sends him," said she. "My friend, tell me, were you--ah!"Colonel Raynal interfered hastily. "Think what you do. He can tellyou nothing but what we know, not so much, in fact, as we know; for,now I look at him, I think this is the very sergeant we found lyinginsensible under the bastion. He must have been struck before thebastion was taken even.""I was, colonel, I was. I remember nothing but losing my senses,and feeling the colors go out of my hand.""There, you see, he knows nothing," said Raynal."It was hot work, colonel, under that bastion, but it was hotter tothe poor fellows that got in. I heard all about it from PrivateDard here.""So, then, it was you who carried the colors?""Yes, I was struck down with the colors of the brigade in my hand,"cried La Croix."See how people blunder about, everything; they told me the colonelcarried the colors.""Why, of course he did. You don't think our colonel, the fightingcolonel, would let me hold the colors of the brigade so long as hewas alive. No; he was struck by a Prussian bullet, and he had justtime to hand the colors to me, and point with his sword to thebastion, and down he went. It was hot work, I can tell you. I didnot hold them long, not thirty seconds, and if we could know theirhistory, they passed through more hands than that before they got tothe Prussian flag-staff."Raynal suddenly rose, and walked rapidly to and fro, with his handsbehind him.
"Poor colonel!" continued La Croix. "Well, I love to think he diedlike a soldier, and not like some of my poor comrades, hashed toatoms, and not a volley fired over him. I hope they put a stoneover him, for he was the best soldier and the best general in thearmy.""O sir!" cried Josephine, "there is no stone even to mark the spotwhere he fell," and she sobbed despairingly."Why, how is this, Private Dard?" inquired La Croix, sternly.Camille was telling the truth. She felt that; she saw it; andJosephine was hearing it. "Ay! look at them, you naughty girl,"said Camille, trying to be jocose over it all with his poortrembling lip. He went on to say that from the moment he had leftdark Spain, and entered fair France everybody was so kind, sosympathizing. "They felt for the poor worn soldier coming back tohis love. All but you, Rose. You told me I was a traitor to herand to France.""I was told so," said Rose, faintly. She was almost at her wits'
end what to say or do."Well, are you sorry or not sorry for saying such a cruel thing to apoor fellow?""Sorry, very sorry," whispered Rose. She could not persist ininjustice, yet she did not want Josephine to hear."Then say no more about it; there's my hand. You are not a soldier,and did not know what you were talking about.""I am very sorry I spoke so harshly to you. But you understand.How you look; how you pant.""There, I will show you I forgive you. These epaulets, dear, I havenever put them on. I said, no; Josephine shall put them on for me.
I will take honor as well as happiness from her dear hand. But youare her sister, and what are epaulets compared with what she willgive me? You shall put them on, dear. Come, then you will be sureI bear no malice."Rose, faint at heart, consented in silence, and fastened on theepaulets. "Yes, Camille!" she cried, with sudden terror, "think ofglory, now; nothing but glory.""No one thinks of it more. But to-day how can I think of it, howcan I give her a rival? To-day I am all love. Rose, no man everloved a human creature as I love Josephine. Your mother is well,dear? All are well at Beaurepaire? Oh, where is she all this time?in the house?" He was moving quickly towards the house; but Roseinstinctively put out her hand to stop him. He recoiled a littleand winced.
"What is the matter?" cried she."Nothing, dear girl; you put your hand on my wound, that is all.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 10Josephine 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.