"Yes," he replied, "and I must keep at it severalaxe dogecoin where to buy days to get in all the oats I mean to sow. If this weather holds, I shall be through next week."
The rough crew without perckusama price prediction in inreived that their presence was known, and Tim Weeks cried, "Now, all together!"A frightful overture began at once, the hooting and yelling almost drowning the instrumental part and sending to Alida's heart that awful chill of fear produced by human voices in any mob-like assemblage. Holcroft understood the affair at once, for he was familiar with the custom, but she did not. He threw open the door with the purpose of sternly expostulating with the disturbers of the peace and of threatening them with the law unless they retired. With an instinct to share his danger she stepped to his side, and this brought a yell of derision. Lurid thoughts swept through her mind. She had brought this danger. Her story had become known. What might they not do to Holcroft? Under the impulse of vague terror and complete self-sacrifice, she stepped forward and cried, "I only am to blame. I will go away forever if you will spare--" But again the scornful clamor rose and drowned her voice.
Her action and words had been so swift that Holcroft could not interfere, but in an instant he was at her side, his arm around her, his square jaw set, and his eyes blazing with his kindling anger. He was not one of those men who fume early under provocation and in words chiefly. His manner and gesture were so impressive that his tormentors paused to listen."I know," he said quietly, "all about this old, rude custom--that it's often little more than a rough lark. Well, now that you've had it, leave at once. I'm in no mood for such attention from my neighbors. This is my wife, and I'll break any man's head who says a word to hurt her feelings--""Oh yes! Take care of her feelings, now it's your turn. They must 'a' been hurt before," piped up Tim Weeks."Good for you, old man, for showin' us your poorhouse bride," said another."We don't fancy such grass-widders, and much married, half-married women in Oakville," yelled a third.
"Why didn't yer jump over a broomstick for a weddin' ceremony?" someone else bawled.These insults were fired almost in a volley. Alida felt Holcroft's arm grow rigid for a second. "Go in, quick!" he said.The baroness looked at him, and then at her daughter, as much as tosay, now I have got you; deceive me now if you can. "Rose, mydear," said this terrible old woman, affecting honeyed accents,"don't you see Monsieur Riviere?"The poor girl at this challenge rose with difficulty, and courtesiedhumbly to Edouard.
He bowed to her, and stealing a rapid glance saw her pallor anddistress; and that showed him she was not so hardened as he hadthought."You have not come to see us lately," said the baroness, quietly,"yet you have been in the neighborhood."These words puzzled Edouard. Was the old lady all in the dark,then? As a public man he had already learned to be on his guard; sohe stammered out, "That he had been much occupied with publicduties."Madame de Beaurepaire despised this threadbare excuse too much tonotice it at all. She went on as if he had said nothing. "Intimateas you were with us, you must have some reason for deserting us sosuddenly.""I have," said Edouard, gravely."What is it?""Excuse me," said Edouard, sullenly."No, monsieur, I cannot. This neglect, succeeding to a somewhatardent pursuit of my daughter, is almost an affront. You shall, ofcourse, withdraw yourself altogether, if you choose. But notwithout an explanation. This much is due to me; and, if you are agentleman, you will not withhold it from me.""If he is a gentleman!" cried Rose; "O mamma, do not you affront agentleman, who never, never gave you nor me any ground of offence.
Why affront the friends and benefactors we have lost by our ownfault?""Oh, then, it is all your fault," said the baroness. "I feared asmuch.""All my fault, all," said Rose; then putting her pretty palmstogether, and casting a look of abject supplication on Edouard, shemurmured, "my temper!""Do not you put words into his mouth," said the shrewd old lady."Come, Monsieur Riviere, be a man, and tell me the truth. What hasshe said to you? What has she done?"By this time the abject state of terror the high-spirited Rose wasin, and her piteous glances, had so disarmed Edouard, that he hadnot the heart to expose her to her mother.
"Madame," said he, stiffly, taking Rose's hint, "my temper andmademoiselle's could not accord.""Why, her temper is charming: it is joyous, equal, and gentle.""You misunderstand me, madame; I do not reproach Mademoiselle Rose.It is I who am to blame.""For what?" inquired the baroness dryly."For not being able to make her love me.""Oh! that is it! She did not love you?""Ask herself, madame," said Edouard, bitterly."Rose," said the baroness, her eye now beginning to twinkle, "wereyou really guilty of such a want of discrimination? Didn't you lovemonsieur?"Rose flung her arms round her mother's neck, and said, "No, mamma, Idid not love Monsieur Edouard," in an exquisite tone of love, thatto a female ear conveyed the exact opposite of the words.
But Edouard had not that nice discriminating ear. He sighed deeply,and the baroness smiled. "You tell me that?" said she, "and you arecrying!""She is crying, madame?" said Edouard, inquiringly, and taking astep towards them."Why, you see she is, you foolish boy. Come, I must put an end tothis;" and she rose coolly from her seat, and begging Edouard toforgive her for leaving him a moment with his deadly enemy, went offwith knowing little nods into Josephine's room; only, before sheentered it, she turned, and with a maternal smile discharged thisword at the pair."Babies!"But between the alienated lovers was a long distressing silence.Neither knew what to say; and their situation was intolerable. Atlast Rose ventured in a timorous voice to say, "I thank you for yourgenerosity. But I knew that you would not betray me.""Your secret is safe for me," sighed Edouard. "Is there anythingelse I can do for you?"Rose shook her head sadly.
Edouard moved to the door.Rose bowed her head with a despairing moan. It took him by theheart and held him. He hesitated, then came towards her.
"I see you are sorry for what you have done to me who loved you so;and you loved me. Oh! yes, do not deny it, Rose; there was a timeyou loved me. And that makes it worse: to have given me such sweethopes, only to crush both them and me. And is not this cruel of youto weep so and let me see your penitence--when it is too late?""Alas! how can I help my regrets? I have insulted so good afriend."There was a sad silence. Then as he looked at her, her looks beliedthe charge her own lips had made against herself.A light seemed to burst on Edouard from that high-minded, sorrow-stricken face.
"Tell me it is false!" he cried.She hid her face in her hands--woman's instinct to avoid being read."Tell me you were misled then, fascinated, perverted, but that yourheart returned to me. Clear yourself of deliberate deceit, and Iwill believe and thank you on my knees.""Heaven have pity on us both!" cried poor Rose."On us! Thank you for saying on us. See now, you have not gainedhappiness by destroying mine. One word--do you love that man?--thatDujardin?""You know I do not.""I am glad of that; since his life is forfeited; if he escapes myfriend Raynal, he shall not escape me."Rose uttered a cry of terror. "Hush! not so loud. The life ofCamille! Oh! if he were to die, what would become of--oh, pray donot speak so loud.""Own then that you DO love him," yelled Edouard; "give me truth, ifyou have no love to give. Own that you love him, and he shall besafe. It is myself I will kill, for being such a slave as to loveyou still."Rose's fortitude gave way."I cannot bear it," she cried despairingly; "it is beyond mystrength; Edouard, swear to me you will keep what I tell you secretas the grave!""Ah!" cried Edouard, all radiant with hope, "I swear.""Then you are under a delirium. I have deceived, but never wrongedyou; that unhappy child is not-- Hush! HERE SHE COMES."The baroness came smiling out, and Josephine's wan, anxious face wasseen behind her."Well," said the baroness, "is the war at an end? What, are westill silent? Let me try then what I can do. Edouard, lend me yourhand."While Edouard hesitated, Josephine clasped her hands and mutelysupplicated him to consent. Her sad face, and the thought of howoften she had stood his friend, shook his resolution. He held outhis hand, but slowly and reluctantly.
"There is my hand," he groaned."And here is mine, mamma," said Rose, smiling to please her mother.
Oh! the mixture of feeling, when her soft warm palm pressed his.How the delicious sense baffled and mystified the cold judgment.
Josephine raised her eyes thankfully to heaven.While the young lovers yet thrilled at each other's touch, yet couldnot look one another in the face, a clatter of horses' feet washeard.
"That is Colonel Raynal," said Josephine, with unnatural calmness."I expected him to-day."The baroness was at the side window in a moment."It is he!--it is he!"She hurried down to embrace her son.Josephine went without a word to her own room. Rose followed herthe next minute. But in that one minute she worked magic.
She glided up to Edouard, and looked him full in the face: not thesad, depressed, guilty-looking humble Rose of a moment before, butthe old high-spirited, and some what imperious girl."You have shown yourself noble this day. I am going to trust you asonly the noble are trusted. Stay in the house till I can speak toyou."She was gone, and something leaped within Edouard's bosom, and aflood of light seemed to burst in on him. Yet he saw no objectclearly: but he saw light.
Rose ran into Josephine's room, and once more surprised her on herknees, and in the very act of hiding something in her bosom."What are you doing, Josephine, on your knees?" said she, sternly.
"I have a great trial to go through," was the hesitating answer.Rose said nothing. She turned paler. She is deceiving me, thoughtshe, and she sat down full of bitterness and terror, and, affectingnot to watch Josephine, watched her.
"Go and tell them I am coming, Rose.""No, Josephine, I will not leave you till this terrible meeting isover. We will encounter him hand in hand, as we used to go when ourhearts were one, and we deceived others, but never each other."At this tender reproach Josephine fell upon her neck and wept."I will not deceive you," she said. "I am worse than the poordoctor thinks me. My life is but a little candle that a breath mayput out any day."Rose said nothing, but trembled and watched her keenly."My little Henri," said Josephine imploringly, "what would you dowith him--if anything should happen to me?""What would I do with him? He is mine. I should be his mother.Oh! what words are these: my heart! my heart!""No, dearest; some day you will be married, and owe all the motherto your children; and Henri is not ours only: he belongs to some oneI have seemed unkind to. Perhaps he thinks me heartless. For I ama foolish woman; I don't know how to be virtuous, yet show a man myheart. But THEN he will understand me and forgive me. Rose, love,you will write to him. He will come to you. You will go togetherto the place where I shall be sleeping. You will show him my heart.
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.