If Holcroft had been an ogre in appearance, he would have received the gratbuy usdt alipayeful glance which she now gave him as she said, "I'd be only too glad to work for you, sir, if you think I can do, or learn to do, what is required."
He fought manfully against this weakness, with which his wound andhis fatigue had something to do, as well as Rose's bitter words; andafter a gallant struggle he returned her her haughty stare, andaddressed her thus: "Mademoiselle, I feel myself blush, but it isfor you I blush, not for myself. This is what BECAME of me. I wentout alone to explore; I fell into an ambuscade; I shot one of theenemy, and pinked another, but my arm being broken by a bullet, andmy horse killed under me, the rascals got me. They took me about,tried to make a decoy of me as I have told you, and ended bythrowing me into a dungeon. They loaded me with chains, too, thoughthe walls were ten feet thick, and the door iron, and bolted anddouble-bolted outside. And there for months and years, in spite ofwounds, hunger, thirst, and all the tortures those cowards made mesuffer, I lived, because, Rose, I had promised some one at that gatethere (and he turned suddenly and pointed to it) that I would comeback alive. At last, one night, my jailer came to my cell drunk. Iseized him by the throat and throttled him till he was insensible;his keys unlocked my fetters, and locked him in the cell, and I gotsafely outside. But there a sentinel saw me, and fired at me. Hemissed me but ran after me, and caught me. You see I was stiff,confined so long. He gave me a thrust of his bayonet; I flung myheavy keys fiercely in his face; he staggered; I wrested his piecefrom him, and disabled him.""Ah!""I crossed the frontier in the night, and got to Bayonne; andthence, day and night, to Paris. There I met a reward for all myanguish. They gave me the epaulets of a colonel. See, here theyare. France does not give these to traitors, young lady." He heldthem out to her in both hands. She eyed them half stupidly; all herthoughts were on the oak-tree hard by. She began to shudder.uniswap staking explainedCamille 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."How can we help it?" asked Camille.
"You must and shall help it, somehow," retorted this little tyrant."Mamma suspects. She has given me such a cross-examination, myblood runs cold. No, on second thoughts, kiss her again, and youmay both be as happy as you like; for I am going to tell mamma all,and no power on earth shall hinder me.""Rose," said Camille, "you are a sensible girl; and I always saidso."But Josephine was horrified. "What! tell my mother that within amonth of my husband's death?"--"Don't say your husband," put in Camille wincing; "the priest neverconfirmed that union; words spoken before a magistrate do not make amarriage in the sight of Heaven."Josephine cut him short. "Amongst honorable men and women all oathsare alike sacred: and Heaven's eye is in a magistrate's room as in achurch. A daughter of Beaurepaire gave her hand to him, and calledherself his wife. Therefore, she was his wife: and is his widow.She owes him everything; the house you are all living in among therest. She ought to be proud of her brief connection with that pure,heroic spirit, and, when she is so little noble as to disown him,then say that gratitude and justice have no longer a place amongmankind.""Come into the chapel," said Camille, with a voice that showed hewas hurt.They entered the chapel, and there they saw something thatthoroughly surprised them: a marble monument to the memory ofRaynal. It leaned at present against the wall below the placeprepared to receive it. The inscription, short, but emphatic, andfull of feeling, told of the battles he had fought in, including thelast fatal skirmish, and his marriage with the heiress ofBeaurepaire; and, in a few soldier-like words, the uprightness,simplicity, and generosity of his character.
They were so touched by this unexpected trait in Camille that theyboth threw their arms round his neck by one impulse. "Am I wrong tobe proud of him?" said Josephine, triumphantly."Well, don't say too much to me," said Camille, looking downconfused. "One tries to be good; but it is very hard--to some ofus--not to you, Josephine; and, after all, it is only the truth thatwe have written on that stone. Poor Raynal! he was my old comrade;he saved me from death, and not a soldier's death--drowning; and hewas a better man than I am, or ever shall be. Now he is dead, I cansay these things. If I had said them when he was alive, it wouldhave been more to my credit."They all three went back towards the house; and on the way Rose toldthem all that had passed between the baroness and her. When shecame to the actual details of that conversation, to the words, andlooks, and tones, Josephine's uneasiness rose to an overpoweringheight; she even admitted that further concealment would be verydifficult.
"Better tell her than let her find out," said Rose. "We must tellher some day."At last, after a long and agitated discussion, Josephine consented;but Rose must be the one to tell. "So then, you at least will makeyour peace with mamma," argued Josephine, "and let us go in and dothis before our courage fails; besides, it is going to rain, and ithas turned cold. Where have all these clouds come from? An hourago there was not one in the sky."They went, with hesitating steps and guilty looks, to the saloon.Their mother was not there. Here was a reprieve.Rose had an idea. She would take her to the chapel, and show herthe monument, and that would please her with poor Camille. "Afterthat," said Rose, "I will begin by telling her all the misery youhave both gone through; and, when she pities you, then I will showher it was all my fault your misery ended in a secret marriage."The confederates sat there in a chilly state, waiting for thebaroness. At last, as she did not come, Rose got up to go to her."When the mind is made up, it is no use being cowardly, and puttingoff," said she, firmly. For all that, her cheek had but littlecolor left in it, when she left her chair with this resolve.
Now as Rose went down the long saloon to carry out their unitedresolve, Jacintha looked in; and, after a hasty glance to see whowas present, she waited till Rose came up to her, and then whipped aletter from under her apron and gave it her."For my mistress," said she, with an air of mystery."Why not take it to her, then?" inquired Rose."I thought you might like to see it first, mademoiselle," saidJacintha, with quiet meaning.
"Is it from the dear doctor?" asked Josephine."La, no, mademoiselle, don't you know the doctor is come home? Why,he has been in the house near an hour. He is with my lady."The doctor proved Jacintha correct by entering the room in personsoon after; on this Rose threw down the letter, and she and thewhole party were instantly occupied in greeting him.
When the ladies had embraced him and Camille shaken hands with him,they plied him with a thousand questions. Indeed, he had not halfsatisfied their curiosity, when Rose happened to catch sight of theletter again, and took it up to carry to the baroness. She now, forthe first time, eyed it attentively, and the consequence was sheuttered an exclamation, and took the first opportunity to beckonAubertin.He came to her; and she put the letter into his hand.
He put up his glasses, and eyed it. "Yes!" whispered he, "it isfrom HIM."Josephine and Camille saw something was going on; they joined theother two, with curiosity in their faces.Rose put her hand on a small table near her, and leaned a moment.She turned half sick at a letter coming from the dead. Josephinenow came towards her with a face of concern, and asked what was thematter.The reply came from Aubertin. "My poor friends," said he, solemnly,"this is one of those fearful things that you have not seen in yourshort lives, but it has been more than once my lot to witness it.The ships that carry letters from distant countries vary greatly inspeed, and are subject to detaining accidents. Yes, this is thethird time I have seen a letter come written by a hand known to becold. The baroness is a little excited to-day, I don't know fromwhat cause. With your approbation, Madame Raynal, I will read thisletter before I let her see it.""Read it, if you please.""Shall I read it out?""Certainly. There may be some wish expressed in it; oh, I hopethere is!"Camille, from delicacy, retired to some little distance, and thedoctor read the letter in a low and solemn voice."MY DEAR MOTHER,--I hope all are well at Beaurepaire, as I am, or Ihope soon to be. I received a wound in our last skirmish; not avery severe one; but it put an end to my writing for some time.""Poor fellow! it was his death wound. Why, when was this written?--why," and the doctor paused, and seemed stupefied: "why, my dears,has my memory gone, or"--and again he looked eagerly at the letter--"what was the date of the battle in which he was killed? for thisletter is dated the 15th of May. Is it a dream? no! this waswritten since the date of his death.""No, doctor," said Rose, "you deceive yourself.""Why, what was the date of the Moniteur, then?" asked Aubertin, ingreat agitation.
"Considerably later than this," said Camille."I don't think so; the journal! where is it?""My mother has it locked up. I'll run.""No, Rose; no one but me. Now, Josephine, do not you go and giveway to hopes that may be delusive. I must see that journaldirectly. I will go to the baroness. I shall excuse her less thanyou would."He was scarcely gone when a cry of horror filled the room, a cry asof madness falling like a thunderbolt on a human mind. It wasJosephine, who up to this had not uttered one word. But now shestood, white as a corpse, in the middle of the room, and wrung herhands. "What have I done? What shall I do? It was the 3d of May.
I see it before me in letters of fire; the 3d of May! the 3d ofMay!--and he writes the 15th.""No! no!" cried Camille wildly. "It was long, long after time 3d.""It was the 3d of May," repeated Josephine in a hoarse voice thatnone would have known for hers.Camille ran to her with words of comfort and hope; he did not shareher fears. He remembered about when the Moniteur came, though notthe very day. He threw his arm lovingly round her as if to protecther against these shadowy terrors. Her dilating eyes seemed fixedon something distant in space or time, at some horrible thing comingslowly towards her. She did not see Camille approach her, but themoment she felt him she turned upon him swiftly.
"Do you love me?" still in the hoarse voice that had so little in itof Josephine. "I mean, does one grain of respect or virtue minglein your love for me?""What words are these, my wife?""Then leave Raynal's house upon the instant. You wonder I can be socruel? I wonder too; and that I can see my duty so clear in oneshort moment. But I have lived twenty years since that letter came.Oh! my brain has whirled through a thousand agonies. And I havecome back a thousand times to the same thing; you 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?
Come, now, if you are a man of honor, if you have a spark ofgratitude towards the poor woman who has given you all except herfair name--that she will take to the grave in spite of you all--promise that you will leave Raynal's house this minute if he isalive, and let me die in honor as I have lived.""No, no!" cried Camille, terror-stricken; "it cannot be. Heaven ismerciful, and Heaven sees how happy we are. Be calm! these are idlefears; be calm! I say. For if it is so I will obey you. I willstay; I will go; I will die; I will live; I will obey you.""Swear this to me by the thing you hold most sacred," she almostshrieked."I swear by my love for you," was his touching reply.Ere they had recovered a miserable composure after this passionateoutburst, all the more terrible as coming from a creature so tenderas Josephine, agitated voices were heard at the door, and thebaroness tottered in, followed by the doctor, who was trying in vainto put some bounds to her emotion and her hopes."Oh, my children! my children!" cried she, trembling violently.
"Here, Rose, my hands shake so; take this key, open the cabinet,there is the Moniteur. What is the date?"The journal was found, and rapidly examined. The date was the 20thof May."There!" cried Camille. "I told you!"The baroness uttered a feeble moan. Her hopes died as suddenly asthey had been born, and she sank drooping into a chair, with abitter sigh.
Camille stole a joyful look at Josephine. She was in the sameattitude looking straight before her as at a coming horror.Presently Rose uttered a faint cry, "The battle was BEFORE.""To be sure," cried the doctor. "You forget, it is not the date ofthe paper we want, but of the battle it records. For Heaven's sake,when was the battle?""The 3d of May," said Josephine, in a voice that seemed to come fromthe tomb.
Rose's hands that held the journal fell like a dead weight upon herknees, journal and all. She whispered, "It was the 3d of May.""Ah!" cried the baroness, starting up, "he may yet be alive. Hemust be alive. Heaven is merciful! Heaven would not take my sonfrom me, a poor old woman who has not long to live. There was aletter; where is the letter?""Are we mad, not to read the letter?" said the doctor. "I had it;it has dropped from my old fingers when I went for the journal."A short examination of the room showed the letter lying crumpled upnear the door. Camille gave it to the baroness. She tried to readit, but could not."I am old," said she; "my hand shakes and my eyes are troubled.
This young gentleman will read it to us. His eyes are not dim andtroubled. Something tells me that when I hear this letter, I shallfind out whether my son lives. Why do you not read it to me,Camille?" cried she, almost fiercely.Camille, thus pressed, obeyed mechanically, and began to readRaynal's letter aloud, scarce knowing what he did, but urged anddriven by the baroness."MY DEAR MOTHER,--I hope all are well at Beaurepaire, as I am, or Ihope soon to be. I received a wound in our last skirmish; not avery severe one, but it put an end to my writing for some time.""Go on, dear Camille! go on.""The page ends there, madame,"The paper was thin, and Camille, whose hand trembled, had somedifficulty in detaching the leaves from one another. He succeeded,however, at last, and went on reading and writhing."By the way, you must address your next letter to me as ColonelRaynal. I was promoted just before this last affair, but had nottime to tell you; and my wound stopped my writing till now.""There, there!" cried the baroness. "He was Colonel Raynal, andColonel Raynal was not killed."The doctor implored her not to interrupt.
"Go on, Camille. Why do you hesitate? what is the matter? Do forpity's sake go on, sir."Camille cast a look of agony around, and put his hand to his brow,on which large drops of cold perspiration, like a death dew, weregathering; but driven to the stake on all sides, he gasped on ratherthan read, for his eye had gone down the page."A namesake of mine, Commandant Raynal,"--"Ah!""has not been--so fortunate. He"--"Go on! go on!"The wretched man could now scarcely utter Raynal's words; they camefrom him in a choking groan.
"he was killed, poor fellow! while heading a gallant charge upon theenemy's flank."He ground the letter convulsively in his hand, then it fell allcrumpled on the floor."Bless you, Camille!" cried the baroness, "bless you! bless you! Ihave a son still."She stooped with difficulty, took up the letter, and, kissing itagain and again, fell on her knees, and thanked Heaven aloud beforethem all. Then she rose and went hastily out, and her voice washeard crying very loud, "Jacintha! Jacintha!"The doctor followed in considerable anxiety for the effects of thisviolent joy on so aged a person. Three remained behind, panting andpale like those to whom dead Lazarus burst the tomb, and came forthin a moment, at a word. Then Camille half kneeled, half fell, atJosephine's feet, and, in a voice choked with sobs, bade her disposeof him.
She turned her head away. "Do not speak to me; do not look at me;if we look at one another, we are lost. Go! die at your post, and Iat mine."He bowed his head, and kissed her dress, then rose calm as despair,and white as death, and, with his knees knocking under him, totteredaway like a corpse set moving.He disappeared from the house.