"You met, I trust, all the kindness and care due to a woundedsoldier and an officer of merit. It gdex postage price to singaporewould annoy me greatly if Ithought you were not treated like a brother in my house."Colonel Dujardin writhed inwardly at this view of matters. He couldnot reply in few words. This made him hesitate.
"Mr. Holcroft, you ripple xrp price auddon't realize--men never do--Jane is my offspring, and--""Oh, if you put it that way, I shan't interfere between mother and child. But I suppose you and Jane came here to work."
"If you will enter the parlor, I will explain to you fully my views, and--""Oh, please excuse me!" said Holcroft, hastily passing out. "I was just starting for a walk--I'm bound to have one more day to myself on the old place," he muttered as he bent his steps toward an upland pasture.Jane, seeing that her mother was about to pounce upon her, ran behind Mrs. Wiggins, who slowly rose and began a progress toward the irate widow, remarking as she did so, "Hi'll just shut the door 'twixt ye and yer hoffspring, and then ye kin say yer prayers hon the t'other side."Mrs. Mumpson was so overcome at the turn affairs had taken on this day, which was to witness such progress in her plans and hopes, as to feel the absolute necessity of a prolonged season of thought and soliloquy, and she relapsed, without further protest, into the rocking chair.Chapter 12 Jane
Holcroft was not long in climbing to a sunny nook whence he could see not only his farm and dwelling, but also the Oakville valley, and the little white spire of the distant meeting house. He looked at this last-named object wistfully and very sadly. Mrs. Mumpson's tirade about worship had been without effect, but the memories suggested by the church were bitter-sweet indeed. It belonged to the Methodist denomination, and Holcroft had been taken, or had gone thither, from the time of his earliest recollection. He saw himself sitting between his father and mother, a round-faced urchin to whom the sermon was unintelligible, but to whom little Bessie Jones in the next pew was a fact, not only intelligible, but very interesting. She would turn around and stare at him until he smiled, then she would giggle until her mother brought her right-about-face with considerable emphasis. After this, he saw the little boy--could it have been himself?--nodding, swaying, and finally slumbering peacefully, with his head on his mother's lap, until shaken into sufficient consciousness to be half dragged, half led, to the door. Once in the big, springless farm wagon he was himself again, looking eagerly around to catch another glimpse of Bessie Jones. Then he was a big, irreverent boy, shyly and awkwardly bent on mischief in the same old meeting house. Bessie Jones no longer turned and stared at him, but he exultingly discovered that he could still make her giggle on the sly. Years passed, and Bessie was his occasional choice for a sleigh-ride when the long body of some farm wagon was placed on runners, and boys and girls--young men and women, they almost thought themselves--were packed in like sardines. Something like self-reproach smote Holcroft even now, remembering how he had allowed his fancy much latitude at this period, paying attention to more than one girl besides Bessie, and painfully undecided which he liked best.Then had come the memorable year which had opened with a protracted meeting. He and Bessie Jones had passed under conviction at the same time, and on the same evening had gone forward to the anxious seat. From the way in which she sobbed, one might have supposed that the good, simple-hearted girl had terrible burdens on her conscience; but she soon found hope, and her tears gave place to smiles. Holcroft, on the contrary, was terribly cast down and unable to find relief. He felt that he had much more to answer for than Bessie; he accused himself of having been a rather coarse, vulgar boy; he had made fun of sacred things in that very meeting house more times than he liked to think of, and now for some reason could think of nothing else."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.
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.