Oh! my brain has whirled through a thousand agonies. And I havecome back a thousand times to the same thing; ylitecoin ltc addressou and I must seeeach other's face no more.""Oh!" cried Rose, "is there no way but this?""Take care," she screamed, wildly, to her and Camille, "I am on theverge of madness; is it for you two to thrust me over the precipice?
But is it possible you have no misgiving? Tell the truth, now.""Alas! I am full of them; at your words, at your manner, they flyaround me in crowdsbuy usdt lebanon.""Have you no ONE?""No.""Then turn your head from me a bit, my sweet young lady; I am anhonest woman, though I am not so innocent as you, and I am forcedagainst my will to speak my mind plainer than I am used to."Then followed a conversation, to detail which might anticipate ourstory; suffice it to say, that Rose, coming into the room rathersuddenly, found her sister weeping on Jacintha's bosom, and Jacinthacrying and sobbing over her.She stood and stared in utter amazement.
Dr. Aubertin, on his arrival, was agreeably surprised at MadameRaynal's appearance. He inquired after her appetite."Oh, as to her appetite," cried the baroness, "that is immense.""Indeed!""It was," explained Josephine, "just when I began to get better, butnow it is as much as usual." This answer had been arrangedbeforehand by Jacintha. She added, "The fact is, we wanted to seeyou, doctor, and my ridiculous ailments were a good excuse fortearing you from Paris."--"And now we have succeeded," said Rose,"let us throw off the mask, and talk of other things; above all, ofParis, and your eclat.""For all that," persisted the baroness, "she was ill, when I firstwrote, and very ill too.""Madame Raynal," said the doctor solemnly, "your conduct has beenirregular; once ill, and your illness announced to your medicaladviser, etiquette forbade you to get well but by his prescriptions.Since, then, you have shown yourself unfit to conduct a malady, itbecomes my painful duty to forbid you henceforth ever to be ill atall, without my permission first obtained in writing."This badinage was greatly relished by Rose, but not at all by thebaroness, who was as humorless as a swan.He stayed a month at Beaurepaire, then off to Paris again: and beingnow a rich man, and not too old to enjoy innocent pleasures, he gota habit of running backwards and forwards between the two places,spending a month or so at each alternately. So the days rolled on.Josephine fell into a state that almost defies description; herheart was full of deadly wounds, yet it seemed, by some mysterious,half-healing balm, to throb and ache, but bleed no more. Beams ofstrange, unreasonable complacency would shoot across her; the nextmoment reflection would come, she would droop her head, and sighpiteously. Then all would merge in a wild terror of detection. Sheseemed on the borders of a river of bliss, new, divine, andinexhaustible: and on the other bank mocking malignant fiends daredher to enter that heavenly stream. The past to her was full ofregrets; the future full of terrors, and empty of hope. Yet she didnot, could not succumb. Instead of the listlessness and languor ofa few months back, she had now more energy than ever; at times itmounted to irritation. An activity possessed her: it broke out inmany feminine ways. Among the rest she was seized with what we mencall a cacoethes of the needle: "a raging desire" for work. Herfingers itched for work. She was at it all day. As devotees retireto pray, so she to stitch. On a wet day she would often slip intothe kitchen, and ply the needle beside Jacintha: on a dry day shewould hide in the old oak-tree, and sit like a mouse, and ply thetools of her craft, and make things of no mortal use to man orwoman; and she tried little fringes of muslin upon her white hand,and held it up in front of her, and smiled, and then moaned. It waswinter, and Rose used sometimes to bring her out a thick shawl, asshe sat in the old oak-tree stitching, but Josephine nearly alwaysdeclined it. SHE WAS NEARLY IMPERVIOUS TO COLD.
Then, her purse being better filled than formerly, she visited thepoor more than ever, and above all the young couples; and took awarm interest in their household matters, and gave them muslinarticles of her own making, and sometimes sniffed the soup in ayoung housewife's pot, and took a fancy to it, and, if invited totaste it, paid her the compliment of eating a good plateful of it,and said it was much better soup than the chateau produced, and,what is stranger, thought so: and, whenever some peevish little bratset up a yell in its cradle and the father naturally enough shookhis fist at the destroyer of his peace, Madame Raynal's lovely facefilled with concern not for the sufferer but the pest, and she flewto it and rocked it and coaxed it and consoled it, till the younghousewife smiled and stopped its mouth by other means. And, besidesthe five-franc pieces she gave the infants to hold, these visits ofMadame Raynal were always followed by one from Jacintha with abasket of provisions on her stalwart arm, and honest Sir JohnBurgoyne peeping out at the corner. Kind and beneficent as she was,her temper deteriorated considerably, for it came down from angelicto human. Rose and Jacintha were struck with the change, assentedto everything she said, and encouraged her in everything it pleasedher caprice to do. Meantime the baroness lived on her son Raynal'sletters (they came regularly twice a month). Rose too had acorrespondence, a constant source of delight to her. EdouardRiviere was posted at a distance, and could not visit her; but theirlove advanced rapidly. Every day he wrote down for his Rose theacts of the day, and twice a week sent the budget to his sweetheart,and told her at the same time every feeling of his heart. She wasless fortunate than he; she had to carry a heavy secret; but stillshe found plenty to tell him, and tender feelings too to vent on himin her own arch, shy, fitful way. Letters can enchain hearts; itwas by letters that these two found themselves imperceptiblybetrothed. Their union was looked forward to as certain, and notvery distant. Rose was fairly in love.One day, Dr. Aubertin, coming back from Paris to Beaurepaire rathersuddenly, found nobody at home but the baroness. Josephine and Rosewere gone to Frejus; had been there more than a week. She wasailing again; so as Frejus had agreed with her once, Rose thought itmight again. "She would send for them back directly.""No," said the doctor, "why do that? I will go over there and seethem." Accordingly, a day or two after this, he hired a carriage,and went off early in the morning to Frejus. In so small a place heexpected to find the young ladies at once; but, to his surprise, noone knew them nor had heard of them. He was at a nonplus, and justabout to return home and laugh at himself and the baroness for thiswild-goose chase, when he fell in with a face he knew, one Mivart, asurgeon, a young man of some talent, who had made his acquaintancein Paris. Mivart accosted him with great respect; and, after thefirst compliments, informed him that he had been settled some monthsin this little town, and was doing a fair stroke of business.You will tell him all my long love that lasted to the end. YOU neednot blush to tell him all. I have no right. Then you will give himhis poor Josephine's boy, and you will say to him, 'She never lovedbut you: she gives you all that is left of her, her child. She onlyprays you not to give him a bad mother.'"Poor soul! this was her one bit of little, gentle jealousy; but itmade her eyes stream. She would have put out her hand from the tombto keep her boy's father single all his life.
"Oh! my Josephine, my darling sister," cried Rose, "why do you speakof death? Do you meditate a crime?""No; but it was on my heart to say it: it has done me good.""At least, take me to your bosom, my well-beloved, that I may notSEE your tears.""There--tears? No, you have lightened my heart. Bless you! blessyou!"The sisters twined their bosoms together in a long, gentle embrace.You might have taken them for two angels that flowed together in onelove, but for their tears.A deep voice was now heard in the sitting-room.Josephine and Rose postponed the inevitable one moment more, byarranging their hair in the glass: then they opened the door, andentered the tapestried room.
Raynal was sitting on the sofa, the baroness's hand in his. Edouardwas not there.Colonel Raynal had given him a strange look, and said, "What, youhere?" in a tone of voice that was intolerable.
Raynal came to meet the sisters. He saluted Josephine on the brow."You are pale, wife: and how cold her hand is.""She has been ill this month past," said Rose interposing."You look ill, too, Mademoiselle Rose.""Never mind," cried the baroness joyously, "you will revive themboth."Raynal made no reply to that."How long do you stay this time, a day?""A month, mother."The doctor now joined the party, and friendly greetings passedbetween him and Raynal.
But ere long somehow all became conscious this was not a joyfulmeeting. The baroness could not alone sustain the spirits of theparty, and soon even she began to notice that Raynal's replies wereshort, and that his manner was distrait and gloomy. The sisters sawthis too, and trembled for what might be coming.At last Raynal said bluntly, "Josephine, I want to speak to youalone."The baroness gave the doctor a look, and made an excuse for goingdown-stairs to her own room. As she was going Josephine went to herand said calmly,--"Mother, you have not kissed me to-day.""There! Bless you, my darling!"Raynal looked at Rose. She saw she must go, but she lingered, andsought her sister's eye: it avoided her. At that Rose ran to thedoctor, who was just going out of the door."Oh! doctor," she whispered trembling, "don't go beyond the door. Ifound her praying. My mind misgives me. She is going to tell him--or something worse.""What do you mean?""I am afraid to say all I dread. She could not be so calm if shemeant to live. Be near! as I shall. She has a phial hid in herbosom."She left the old man trembling, and went back."Excuse me," said she to Raynal, "I only came to ask Josephine ifshe wants anything.""No!--yes!--a glass of eau sucree."Rose mixed it for her. While doing this she noticed that Josephineshunned her eye, but Raynal gazed gently and with an air of pity onher.
She retired slowly into Josephine's bedroom, but did not quite closethe door.Raynal had something to say so painful that he shrank from plunginginto it. He therefore, like many others, tried to creep into it,beginning with something else.
"Your health," said he, "alarms me. You seem sad, too. I don'tunderstand that. You have no news from the Rhine, have you?""Monsieur!" said Josephine scared."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.