"Mademoiselle, do not be angry. I was wrong.""Oh! never mind. Children are little creatures without reserve, andtreated accordingly, and to notice them is to honor them.""Adieu then, mademoiselle. Try to believe no one rescardano smart chain releasepects you morethan I do.""Yes, let us part, for there is Dard's house; and I begin to suspectthat Josephine never sent you.""I confess it.""There, he confesses it. I thought so all along; WHAT A DUPE I HAVEBEEN!""I will offend no more," said poor silly Edouard. "Adieu,mademoiselle. May you find friends as sincere as I am, and more toyour taste!""Heaven hear your prayers!" replied the malicious thing, casting upher eyes with a mock tragic air.
"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 hethereum transaction fee historyusband, 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."I am not so sure of that. Now then.""Now then, what?""Begin.""Begin what?""Amusing me." And she made herself look sullen and unamusable allover.
"I will try," said Riviere. "I'll tell you what they say of you:that you are too young to love.""So I am, much.""No, no, no! I made a mistake. I mean too young to be loved.""Oh, I am not too young for that, not a bit."This point settled, she suggested that, if he could not amuse her,he had better do THE NEXT BEST THING, and that was, talk sense."I think I had better not talk at all," said he, "for I am no matchfor such a nimble tongue. And then you are so remorseless. I'llhold my tongue, and make a sketch of this magnificent oak.""Ay, do: draw it as it appeared on a late occasion: with two ladiesflying out of it, and you rooted with dismay.""There is no need; that scene is engraved.""Where? in all the shops?""No; on all our memories.""Not on mine; not on mine. How terrified you were--ha, ha! and howterrified we should have been if you had not. Listen: once upon atime--don't be alarmed: it was long after Noah--a frightened hareran by a pond; the frogs splashed in the water, smit with awe. Thenshe said, 'Ah ha! there are people in the world I frighten in myturn; I am the thunderbolt of war.' Excuse my quoting La Fontaine:I am not in 'Charles the Twelfth of Sweden' yet. I am but a child.""And it's a great mercy, for when you grow up, you will be too muchfor me, that is evident. Come, then, Mademoiselle the Quizzer, comeand adorn my sketch.""Monsieur, shall I make you a confession? You will not be angry: Icould not support your displeasure. I have a strange inclination towalk up and down this terrace while you go and draw that tree in thePleasaunce.""Resist that inclination; perhaps it will fly from you.""No; you fly from me, and draw. I will rejoin you in a few minutes.""Thank you, I'm not so stupid. You will step indoors directly.""Do you doubt my word, sir?" asked she haughtily.
He had learned to obey all her caprices; so he went and placedhimself on the west side of the oak and took out his sketch-book,and worked zealously and rapidly. He had done the outlines of thetree and was finishing in detail a part of the huge trunk, when hiseyes were suddenly dazzled: in the middle of the rugged bark,deformed here and there with great wart-like bosses, and wrinkled,seamed, and ploughed all over with age, burst a bit of variegatedcolor; bright as a poppy on a dungeon wall, it glowed and glitteredout through a large hole in the brown bark; it was Rose's facepeeping. To our young lover's eye how divine it shone! None of thehalf tints of common flesh were there, but a thing all rose, lily,sapphire, and soul. His pencil dropped, his mouth opened, he wasdownright dazzled by the glowing, bewitching face, sparkling withfun, in the gaunt tree. Tell me, ladies, did she know, even at thatage, the value of that sombre frame to her brightness? The momentshe found herself detected, the gaunt old tree rang musical with acrystal laugh, and out came the arch-dryad. "I have been there allthe time. How solemn you looked! Now for the result of suchprofound study." He showed her his work; she altered her tone."Oh, how clever!" she cried, "and how rapid! What a facility youhave! Monsieur is an artist," said she gravely; "I will be morerespectful," and she dropped him a low courtesy. "Mind you promisedit me," she added sharply.
"You will accept it, then?""That I will, now it is worth having: dear me, I never reckoned onthat. Finish it directly," cried this peremptory young person."First I must trouble you to stand out there near the tree.""Me? what for?""Because art loves contrasts. The tree is a picture of age andgradual decay; by its side then I must place a personification ofyouth and growing loveliness."She did not answer, but made a sort of defiant pirouette, and wentwhere she was bid, and stood there with her back to the artist."That will never do," said he; "you really must be so good as toturn round.""Oh, very well." And when she came round, behold her color hadrisen mightily. Flattery is sweet.This child of nature was delighted, and ashamed it should be seenthat she was.
And so he drew her, and kept looking off the paper at her, and had aright in his character of artist to look her full in the face; andhe did so with long lingering glances. To be sure, they all begansevere and businesslike with half-closed eyes, and the peculiarhostile expression art puts on; but then they always ended open-eyed, and so full and tender, that she, poor girl, who was all realgold, though sham brass, blushed and blushed, and did not know whichway to look not to be scorched up by his eye like a tender flower,or blandly absorbed like the pearly dew. Ah, happy hour! ah, happydays of youth and innocence and first love!Trouble loves to intrude on these halcyon days.The usually quiet Josephine came flying from the house, pale andagitated, and clung despairingly to Rose, and then fell to sobbingand lamenting piteously.I shall take leave to relate in my own words what had just occurredto agitate her so. When she entered her mother's room, she foundthe baroness and Perrin the notary seated watching for her. She satdown after the usual civilities, and Perrin entered upon the subjectthat had brought him.
He began by confessing to them that he had not overcome therefractory creditor without much trouble; and that he had sincelearned there was another, a larger creditor, likely to press forpayment or for sale of the estate. The baroness was greatlytroubled by this communication: the notary remained cool as acucumber, and keenly observant. After a pause he went on to say allthis had caused him grave reflections. "It seems," said he withcool candor, "a sad pity the estate should pass from a family thathas held it since the days of Charlemagne.""Now God forbid!" cried the baroness, lifting her eyes and herquivering hands to heaven.The notary held the republican creed in all its branches.
"Providence, madame, does not interfere--in matters of business,"said he. "Nothing but money can save the estate. Let us then bepractical. Has any means occurred to you of raising money to payoff these incumbrances?""No. What means can there be? The estate is mortgaged to its fullvalue: so they say, at least.""And they say true," put in the notary quickly. "But do notdistress yourself, madame: confide in me.""Ah, my good friend, may Heaven reward you.""Madame, up to the present time I have no complaint to make ofHeaven. I am on the rise: here, mademoiselle, is a gimcrack theyhave given me;" and he unbuttoned his overcoat, and showed them apiece of tricolored ribbon and a clasp. "As for me, I look to 'thesolid;' I care little for these things," said he, swelling visibly,"but the world is dazzled by them. However, I can show yousomething better." He took out a letter. "This is from theMinister of the Interior to a client of mine: a promise I shall bethe next prefect; and the present prefect--I am happy to say--is onhis death-bed. Thus, madame, your humble servant in a few shortmonths will be notary no longer, but prefect; I shall then sell myoffice of notary: and I flatter myself when I am a prefect you willnot blush to own me.""Then, as now, monsieur," said the baroness politely, "we shallrecognize your merit. But"--"I understand, madame: like me you look to 'the solid.' Thus thenit is; I have money.""Ah! all the better for you.""I have a good deal of money. But it is dispersed in a great manysmall but profitable investments: to call it in suddenly wouldentail some loss. Nevertheless, if you and my young lady there haveever so little of that friendly feeling towards me of which I haveso much towards you, all my investments shall be called in, and two-thirds of your creditors shall be paid off at once. A single clientof mine, no less a man than the Commandant Raynal, will, I am sure,advance me the remaining third at an hour's notice; and soBeaurepaire chateau, park, estate, and grounds, down to the old oak-tree, shall be saved; and no power shall alienate them from you,mademoiselle, and from the heirs of your body."The baroness clasped her hands in ecstasy."But what are we to do for this?" inquired Josephine calmly, "for itseems to me that it can only be effected by a sacrifice on yourpart.""I thank you, mademoiselle, for your penetration in seeing that Imust make sacrifices. I would never have told you, but you haveseen it; and I do not regret that you have seen it. Madame--mademoiselle--those sacrifices appear little to me; will seemnothing; will never be mentioned, or even alluded to after this day,if you, on your part, will lay me under a far heavier obligation, ifin short"--here the contemner of things unsubstantial reopened hiscoat, and brought his ribbon to light again--"if you, madame, willaccept me for your son-in-law--if you, mademoiselle, will take mefor your husband."The baroness and her daughter looked at one another in silence.
"Is it a jest?" inquired the former of the latter."Can you think so? Answer Monsieur Perrin. He has just done us akind office, mother.""I shall remember it. Monsieur, permit me to regret that havinglately won our gratitude and esteem, you have taken this way ofmodifying those feelings. But after all," she added with gentlecourtesy, "we may well put your good deeds against this--this errorin judgment. The balance is in your favor still, provided you neverreturn to this topic. Come, is it agreed?" The baroness's mannerwas full of tact, and the latter sentences were said with an openkindliness of manner. There was nothing to prevent Perrin fromdropping the subject, and remaining good friends. A gentleman or alover would have so done. Monsieur Perrin was neither. He saidbitterly, "You refuse me, then."The tone and the words were each singly too much for the baroness'spride. She answered coldly but civilly,--"I do not refuse you. I do not take an affront into consideration.""Be calm, mamma; no affront whatever was intended.""Ah! here is one that is more reasonable," cried Perrin."There are men," continued Josephine without noticing him, "who lookto but one thing--interest. It was an offer made politely in theway of business: decline it in the same spirit; that is what youhave to do.""Monsieur, you hear what mademoiselle says? She carries politenessa long way. After all it is a good fault. Well, monsieur, I neednot answer you, since Mademoiselle de Beaurepaire has answered you;but I detain you no longer."Strictly a weasel has no business with the temper of a tiger, butthis one had, and the long vindictiveness of a Corsican. "Ah! mylittle lady, you turn me out of the house, do you?" cried he,grinding his teeth."Turn him out of the house? what a phrase! where has this manlived?""A man!" snarled Perrin, "whom none ever yet insulted withoutrepenting it, and repenting in vain. You are under obligations tome, and you think to turn me out! You are at my mercy, and youthink I will let you turn me to your door! In less than a mouth Iwill stand here, and say to you, Beaurepaire is mine. Begone fromit!"When he uttered these terrible words, each of which was like asword-stroke to the baroness, the old lady, whose courage was notequal to her strength, shrank over the side of her arm-chair, andcried piteously--"He threatens me! he threatens me! I amfrightened;" and put up her trembling hands, for the notary'seloquence, being accompanied with abundance of gesture, borderedupon physical violence. His brutality received an unexpected check.Imagine that a sparrow-hawk had seized a trembling pigeon, and thata royal falcon swooped, and with one lightning-like stroke of bodyand wing, buffeted him away, and sent him gaping and glaring andgrasping at pigeonless air with his claws. So swift and majestic,Josephine de Beaurepaire came from her chair with one gesture of herbody between her mother and the notary, who was advancing with armsfolded in a brutal, menacing way--not the Josephine we have seenher, the calm languid beauty, but the demoiselle de Beaurepaire--hergreat heart on fire--her blood up--not her own only, but all theblood of all the De Beaurepaires--pale as ashes with great wrath,her purple eyes on fire, and her whole panther-like body full ofspring. "Wretch! you dare to insult her, and before me! Arrieremiserable! or I soil my hand with your face." And her hand was upwith the word, up, up, higher it seemed than ever a hand was raisedbefore. And if he had hesitated one moment, I really believe itwould have come down; not heavily, perhaps--the lightning is notheavy. But there was no need. The towering threat and the flamingeye and the swift rush buffeted the caitiff away: he recoiled. Shefollowed him as he went, strong, FOR A MOMENT OR TWO, as Hercules,beautiful and terrible as Michael driving Satan. He dared not, orcould not stand before her: he writhed and cowered and recoiled alldown the room, while she marched upon him. But the driven serpenthissed horribly as it wriggled away."You shall both be turned out of Beaurepaire by me, and forever; Iswear it, parole de Perrin."He had not been gone a minute when Josephine's courage oozed away,and she ran, or rather tottered, into the Pleasaunce, and clung likea drowning thing to Rose, and, when Edouard took her hand, she clungto him. They had to gather what had happened how they could: theaccount was constantly interrupted with her sobs and self-reproaches. She said she had ruined all she loved: ruined hersister, ruined her mother, ruined the house of Beaurepaire. Why wasshe ever born? Why had she not died three years ago? (Query, whatwas the date at which Camille's letters suddenly stopped?) "Thatcoward," said she, "has the heart of a fiend. He told us he neverforgave an affront; and he holds our fate in his hands. He willdrive our mother from her home, and she will die: murdered by herown daughter. After all, why did I refuse him? What should I havesacrificed by marrying him? Rose, write to him, and say--say--I wastaken by surprise, I--I"--a violent flood of tears interrupted thesentence.
Rose flung her arms round her neck. "My beautiful Josephine marrythat creature? Let house and lands go a thousand times sooner. Ilove my sister a thousand times better than the walls of this or anyother house.""Come, come," cried Edouard, "you are forgetting ME all this time.Do you really think I am the sort of man to stand by with my handsin my pockets, and let her marry that cur, or you be driven out ofBeaurepaire? Neither, while I live.""Alas! dear boy," sighed Josephine, "what can you do?""I'll soon show you. From this hour forth it is a duel between thatPerrin and me. Now, Josephine--Rose--don't you cry and fret likethat: but just look quietly on, and enjoy the fight, both of you."Josephine shook her head with a sad smile: but Rose deliveredherself thus, after a sob, "La, yes; I forgot: we have got agentleman now; that's one comfort."Edouard rose to the situation: he saw that Perrin would lose notime; and that every day, or even hour, might be precious. He toldthem that the first thing he must do for them was to leave thecompany he loved best on earth, and run down to the town to consultPicard the rival notary: he would be back by supper-time, when hehoped they would do him the honor, in a matter of such importance,to admit him to a family council.
Josephine assented with perfect simplicity; Rose with a deep blush,for she was too quick not to see all the consequences of admittingso brisk a wooer into a family council.It was a wet evening, and a sad and silent party sat round a woodfire in the great dining-hall. The baroness was almost prostratedby the scene with Perrin; and a sombre melancholy and forebodingweighed on all their spirits, when presently Edouard Riviere enteredbriskly, and saluted them all profoundly, and opened the proceedingswith a little favorite pomposity. "Madame the baroness, and youMonsieur Aubertin, who honor me with your esteem, and youMademoiselle de Beaurepaire, whom I adore, and you MademoiselleRose, whom I hoped to be permitted--you have this day done me thehonor to admit me as your adviser. I am here to lay my plans beforeyou. I believe, madame, I have already convinced you that yourfarms are under-let, and your property lowered in value by generalmismanagement; this was doubtless known to Perrin, and set himscheming. Well, I rely on the same circumstance to defeat him. Ihave consulted Picard and shown him the rent-roll and balance-sheetI had already shown you. He has confessed that the estate is worthmore than its debts, so capitalists can safely advance the money.
To-morrow morning, then, I ride to Commandant Raynal for a week'sleave of absence; then, armed with Picard's certificate, shallproceed to my uncle and ask him to lend the money. His estate isvery small compared with Beaurepaire, but he has always farmed ithimself. 'I'll have no go-between,' says he, 'to impoverish bothself and soil.' He is also a bit of a misanthrope, and has made meone. I have a very poor opinion of my fellow-creatures, very.""Well, but," said Rose, "if he is all that, he will not sympathizewith us, who have so mismanaged Beaurepaire. Will he not despiseus?"Edouard was a little staggered, but Aubertin came to his aid."Permit me, Josephine," said he. "Natural history steps in here,and teaches by me, its mouth-piece. A misanthrope hates allmankind, but is kind to every individual, generally too kind. Aphilanthrope loves the whole human race, but dislikes his wife, hismother, his brother, and his friends and acquaintances. Misanthropeis the potato: rough and repulsive outside, but good to the core.
Philanthrope is a peach: his manner all velvet and bloom, his wordssweet juice, his heart of hearts a stone. Let me read Philanthrope'sbook, and fall into the hands of Misanthrope."Edouard admitted the shrewdness of this remark."And so," said he, "my misanthrope will say plenty of biting words,--which, by-the-by, will not hurt you, who will not hear them, onlyme,--and then he'll lend us the money, and Beaurepaire will be free,and I shall have had a hand in it. Hurrah!"Then came a delicious hour to Edouard Riviere. Young and old pouredout their glowing thanks and praises upon him till his checks burnedlike fire.The baroness was especially grateful, and expressed a gentle regretthat she could see no way of showing her gratitude except in words."What can we do for this little angel?" said she, turning toJosephine.
"Leave that to me, mamma," replied Josephine, turning her lovelyeyes full on Edouard, with a look the baroness misunderstooddirectly.She sat and watched Josephine and Edouard with comical severity allthe rest of the time she was there; and, when she retired, shekissed Rose affectionately, but whispered her eldest daughter, "Ihope you are not serious. A mere boy compared with you.""But such a sweet one," suggested Josephine, apologetically.
"What will the world come to?" said the baroness out loud, andretreated with a sour glance at all of them--except Rose.She had not been gone five minutes when a letter came by messengerto Edouard. It was from Picard. He read it out.
"Perrin has been with me, to raise money. He wants it in forty-eight hours. Promises good legal security. I have agreed to tryand arrange the matter for him."They were all astonished at this."The double-faced traitor!" cried Edouard. "Stay; wait a minute.
Let us read it to an end.""This promise is, of course, merely to prevent his going elsewhere.At the end of the forty-eight hours I shall begin to makedifficulties. Meantime, as Perrin is no fool, you had better profitto the full by this temporary delay.""Well done, Picard!" shouted Edouard. "Notary cut notary. I won'tlose an hour. I'll start at five; Commandant Raynal is an earlyriser himself."Accordingly, at five he was on the road; Raynal's quarters lay inthe direct line to his uncle's place. He found the commandant athome, and was well received. Raynal had observed his zeal, andliked his manners. He gave him the week's leave, and kept him tobreakfast, and had his horse well fed. At eight o'clock Edouardrode out of the premises in high spirits. At the very gate he met agaunt figure riding in on a squab pony. It was Perrin the notarycoming in hot haste to his friend and employer, Commandant Raynal.Chapter 5After Edouard's departure, Josephine de Beaurepaire was sad, andweighed down with presentiments. She felt as soldiers sometimesfeel who know the enemy is undermining them; no danger on thesurface; nothing that can be seen, met, baffled, attacked, orevaded; in daily peril, all the more horrible that it imitatesperfect serenity, they await the fatal match. She imparted hermisgivings to Aubertin; but he assured her she exaggerated thedanger.
"We have a friend still more zealous and active than our enemy;believe me, your depression is really caused by his absence; we allmiss the contact of that young heroic spirit; we are a body, and heits soul."Josephine was silent, for she said to herself, "Why should I dashtheir spirits? they are so happy and confident."Edouard had animated Rose and Aubertin with his own courage, and hadeven revived the baroness.It had been agreed between him and Picard that the latter shouldcommunicate with Dr. Aubertin direct, should anything fresh occur.
And on the third day after Edouard's departure, Picard sent up aprivate message: "Perrin has just sent me a line to say he will nottrouble us, as he is offered the money in another quarter."This was a heavy blow, and sent them all to bed more or lessdespondent.The next day brought a long letter from Edouard to Rose, telling herhe had found his uncle crusty at first; but at last with a littlepatience, and the co-operation of Martha, his uncle's old servant,and his nurse, the old boy had come round. They might look on theaffair as all but settled.
The contents of this letter were conveyed to the baroness. Thehouse brightened under it: the more so that there was some hope oftheir successful champion returning in person next day. MeantimePerrin had applied to Raynal for the immediate loan of a large sumof money on excellent security. Raynal refused plump. Perrin rodeaway disconsolate.But the next day he returned to the charge with another proposal: