"Oh, pshaw!" interrupted Cousin Lecardano price targetsmuel, "it'll be according to whether you've got any sense or not."
"I don't expecbitcoin atm near me new yorkt to marry again," said Holcroft curtly."Oh, well! Many a man and woman has said that and believed it, too, at the time. I'm not saying that my wife's cousin is inclined that way herself. Like enough, she isn't at all, but then, the right kind of persuading does change women's minds sometimes, eh? Mrs. Mumpson is kinder alone in the world, like yourself, and if she was sure of a good home and a kind husband there's no telling what good luck might happen to you. But there'll be plenty of time for considering all that on both sides. You can't live like a hermit."
"I was thinking of selling out and leaving these parts," Holcroft interrupted."Now look here, neighbor, you know as well as I do that in these times you couldn't give away the place. What's the use of such foolishness? The thing to do is to keep the farm and get a good living out of it. You've got down in the dumps and can't see what's sensible and to your own advantage."Holcroft was thinking deeply, and he turned his eyes wistfully to the upland slopes of his farm. Mr. Weeks had talked plausibly, and if all had been as he represented, the plan would not have been a bad one. But the widower did not yearn for the widow. He did not know much about her, but had very unfavorable impressions. Mrs. Holcroft had not been given to speaking ill of anyone, but she had always shaken her head with a peculiar significance when Mrs. Mumpson's name was mentioned.The widow had felt it her duty to call and counsel against the sin of seclusion and being too much absorbed in the affairs of this world."You should take an interest in everyone," this self-appointed evangelist had declared, and in one sense she lived up to her creed. She permitted no scrap of information about people to escape her, and was not only versed in all the gossip of Oakville, but also of several other localities in which she visited.
But Holcroft had little else to deter him from employing her services beyond an unfavorable impression. She could not be so bad as Bridget Malony, and he was almost willing to employ her again for the privilege of remaining on his paternal acres. As to marrying the widow--a slight shudder passed through his frame at the thought.Slowly he began, as if almost thinking aloud, "I suppose you are right, Lemuel Weeks, in what you say about selling the place. The Lord knows I don't want to leave it. I was born and brought up here, and that counts with some people. If your wife's cousin is willing to come and help me make a living, for such wages as I can pay, the arrangement might be made. But I want to look on it as a business arrangement. I have quiet ways of my own, and things belonging to the past to think about, and I've got a right to think about 'em. I aint one of the marrying kind, and I don't want people to be a-considering such notions when I don't. I'd be kind and all that to her and her little girl, but I should want to be left to myself as far as I could be."Raynal's countenance, prepared as he was for this meeting, was likea stern statue's. The other's face flushed, and his heart raged andsickened at sight of the man, that, once his comrade and benefactor,was now possessor of the woman he loved. But the figures of bothstood alike haughty, erect, and immovable, face to face.
Colonel Raynal saluted Colonel Dujardin ceremoniously. ColonelDujardin returned the salute in the same style."You thought I was in Egypt," said Raynal with grim significancethat caught Dujardin's attention, though he did not know quite howto interpret it.He answered mechanically, "Yes, I did.""I am sent here by General Bonaparte to take a command," explainedRaynal."You are welcome. What command?""Yours.""Mine?" cried Dujardin, his forehead flushing with mortification andanger. "What, is it not enough that you take my"-- He stoppedthen.
"Come, colonel," said the other calmly, "do not be unjust to an oldcomrade. I take your demi-brigade; but you are promoted toRaimbaut's brigade. The exchange is to be made to-morrow.""Was it then to announce to me my promotion you came to myquarters?" and Camille looked with a strange mixture of feelings athis old comrade."That was the first thing, being duty, you know.""What? have you anything else to say to me, then?""I have.""Is it important? for my own duties will soon demand me.""It is so important that, command or no command, I should have comefurther than the Rhine to say it to you."Let a man be as bold as a lion, a certain awe still waits upon doubtand mystery; and some of this vague awe crept over Camille Dujardinat Raynal's mysterious speech, and his grave, quiet, significantmanner.
Had he discovered something, and what? For Josephine's sake, morethan his own, Camille was on his guard directly.Raynal looked at him in silence a moment."What?" said he with a slight sneer, "has it never occurred to youthat I MUST have a serious word to say to you? First, let me putyou a question: did they treat you well at my house? at the chateaude Beaurepaire?""Yes," faltered Camille."You met, I trust, all the kindness and care due to a woundedsoldier and an officer of merit. It would 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.
His inquisitor waited, but, receiving no reply, went on, "Well,colonel, have you shown the sense of gratitude we had a right tolook for in return? In a word, when you left Beaurepaire, had yourconscience nothing to reproach you with?"Dujardin still hesitated. He scarcely knew what to think or what tosay. But he thought to himself, "Who has told him? does he knowall?""Colonel Dujardin, I am the husband of Josephine, the son of Madamede Beaurepaire, and the brother of Rose. You know very well whatbrings me here. Your answer?""Colonel Raynal, between men of honor, placed as you and I are, fewwords should pass, for words are idle. You will never prove to methat I have wronged you: I shall never convince you that I have not.Let us therefore close this painful interview in the way it is sureto close. I am at your service, at any hour and place you please.""And pray is that all the answer you can think of?" asked Raynalsomewhat scornfully."Why, what other answer can I give you?""A more sensible, a more honest, and a less boyish one. Who doubtsthat you can fight, you silly fellow? haven't I seen you? I wantyou to show me a much higher sort of courage: the courage to repaira wrong, not the paltry valor to defend one.""I really do not understand you, sir. How can I undo what is done?""Why, of course you cannot. And therefore I stand here ready toforgive all that is past; not without a struggle, which you don'tseem to appreciate."Camille was now utterly mystified. Raynal continued, "But of courseit is upon condition that you consent to heal the wound you havemade. If you refuse--hum! but you will not refuse.""But what is it you require of me?" inquired Camille impatiently."Only a little common honesty. This is the case: you have seduced ayoung lady.""Sir!" cried Camille angrily.
"What is the matter? The word is not so bad as the crime, I takeit. You have seduced her, and under circumstances-- But we won'tspeak of them, because I am resolved to keep cool. Well, sir, asyou said just now, it's no use crying over spilled milk; you can'tunseduce the little fool; so you must marry her.""M--m--marry her?" and Dujardin flushed all over, and his heartbeat, and he stared in Raynal's face."Why, what is the matter again? If she has played the fool, it waswith you, and no other man: it is not as if she was depraved. Come,my lad, show a little generosity! Take the consequences of your ownact--or your share of it--don't throw it all on the poor feeblewoman. If she has loved you too much, you are the man of all othersthat should forgive her. Come, what do you say?"This was too much for Camille; that Raynal should come and demand ofhim to marry his own wife, for so he understood the proposal. Hestared at Raynal in silence ever so long, and even when he spoke itwas only to mutter, "Are you out of your senses, or am I?"At this it cost Raynal a considerable effort to restrain his wrath.
However, he showed himself worthy of the office he had undertaken.He contained himself, and submitted to argue the matter. "Why,colonel," said he, "is it such a misfortune to marry poor Rose? Sheis young, she is lovely, she has many good qualities, and she wouldhave walked straight to the end of her days but for you."Now here was another surprise for Dujardin, another mystification.
"Rose de Beaurepaire?" said he, putting his hand to his head, as ifto see whether his reason was still there."Yes, Rose de Beaurepaire--Rose Dujardin that ought to be, and thatis to be, if you please.""One word, monsieur: is it of Rose we have been talking all thistime?"Raynal nearly lost his temper at this question, and the cold,contemptuous tone with which it was put; but he gulped down his ire."It is," said he."One question more. Did she tell you I had--I had"--"Why, as to that, she was in no condition to deny she had fallen,poor girl; the evidence was too strong. She did not reveal herseducer's name; but I had not far to go for that.""One question more," said Dujardin, with a face of anguish. "Is itJos--is it Madame Raynal's wish I should marry her sister?""Why, of course," said Raynal, in all sincerity, assuming thatnaturally enough as a matter of course; "if you have any respect forHER feelings, look on me as her envoy in this matter."At this Camille turned sick with disgust; then rage and bitternessswelled his heart. A furious impulse seized him to expose Josephineon the spot. He overcame that, however, and merely said, "Shewishes me to marry her sister, does she? very well then, I decline."Raynal was shocked. "Oh," said he, sorrowfully, "I cannot believethis of you; such heartlessness as this is not written in your face;it is contradicted by your past actions.""I refuse," said Dujardin, hastily; and to tell the truth, not sorryto inflict some pain on the honest soldier who had unintentionallydriven the iron so deep into his own soul."And I," said Raynal, losing his temper, "insist, in the name of mydear Josephine"--"Perdition!" snarled Dujardin, losing his self-command in turn."And of the whole family.""And I tell you I will never marry her. Upon my honor, never.""Your honor! you have none. The only question is would you rathermarry her--or die.""Die, to be sure.""Then die you shall.""Ah!" said Dujardin; "did I not tell you we were wasting time?
"Let us waste no more then. WHEN and WHERE?""At the rear of the commander-in-chief's tent; when you like.""This afternoon, then--at five.""At five.""Seconds?""What for?""You are right. They are only in the way of men who carry sabres;and besides the less gossip the better. Good-by, till five," andthe two saluted one another with grim ceremony; and Raynal turned onhis heel.Camille stood transfixed; a fierce, guilty joy throbbed in hisheart. His rival had quarrelled with him, had insulted him, hadchallenged him. It was not his fault. The sun shone bright nowupon his cold despair. An hour ago life offered nothing. A fewhours more, and then joy beyond expression, or an end of all. Deathor Josephine! Then he remembered that this very Josephine wished tomarry him to Rose. Then he remembered Raynal had saved his life.
Cold chills crossed his breaking heart. Of all that could happen tohim death alone seemed a blessing without alloy.He stood there so torn with conflicting passions, that he notedneither the passing hours nor the flying bullets.
He was only awakened from his miserable trance by the even tread ofsoldiers marching towards him; he looked up and there were severalofficers coming along the edge of the trench, escorted by acorporal's guard.He took a step or two to meet them. After the usual salutes, one ofthe three colonels delivered a large paper, with a large seal, toDujardin. He read it out to his captains and lieutenants, who hadassembled at sight of the cocked hats and full uniforms.
"Attack by the army to-morrow upon all the lines. Attack of thebastion St. Andre this evening. The 22d, the 24th, and 12thbrigades will furnish the contingents; the operation will beconducted by one of the colonels of the second division, to beappointed by General Raimbaut.""Aha!" sounded a voice like a trombone at the reader's elbow. "I amjust in the nick of time. When, colonel, when?""At five this evening, Colonel Raynal.""There," said Raynal, in a half-whisper, to Dujardin; "could theychoose no hour but that?""Do not be uneasy," replied Dujardin, under his breath. Heexplained aloud--"the assault will not take place, gentlemen; thebastion is mined.""What of that? half of them are mined. We will take our engineersin with us," said Raynal."Such an assault will be a useless massacre," resumed Dujardin. "Ireconnoitred the bastion last night, and saw their preparations forblowing us to the devil; and General Raimbaut, at my request, iseven now presenting my remarks to the commander-in-chief, andenforcing them. There will be no assault. In a day or two we shallblow the bastion, mines, and all into the air."At this moment Raynal caught sight of a gray-haired officer comingat some distance. "There IS General Raimbaut," said he. "I will goand pay my respects to him." General Raimbaut shook his handwarmly, and welcomed him to the army. They were old and warmfriends. "And you are come at the right time," said he. "It willsoon be as hot here as in Egypt."Raynal laughed and said all the better.General Raimbaut now joined the group of officers, and entered atonce in the business which had brought him. Addressing himself toColonel Dujardin, first he informs that officer he had presented hisobservations to the commander-in-chief, who had given them theattention they merited.Colonel Dujardin bowed.
"But," continued General Raimbaut, "they are overruled by imperiouscircumstances, some of which he did not reveal; they remain in hisown breast. However, on the eve of a general attack, which hecannot postpone, that bastion must be disarmed, otherwise it wouldbe too fatal to all the storming parties. It is a painfulnecessity." He added, "Tell Colonel Dujardin I count greatly on thecourage and discipline of his brigade, and on his own wisemeasures."Colonel Dujardin bowed. Then he whispered in the other's ear, "Bothwill alike be wasted."The other colonels waved their hats in triumph at the commander-in-chief's decision, and Raynal's face showed he looked on Dujardin asa sort of spoil-sport happily defeated."Well, then, gentlemen," said General Raimbaut, "we begin bysettling the contingents to be furnished by your several brigades.
Say, an equal number from each. The sum total shall be settled byColonel Dujardin, who has so long and ably baffled the bastion atthis post."Colonel Dujardin bowed stiffly and not very graciously. In hisheart he despised these old fogies, compounds of timidity andrashness."So, how many men in all, colonel?" asked General Raimbaut.
"The fewer the better," replied the other solemnly, "since"--andthen discipline tied his tongue."I understand you," said the old man. "Shall we say eight hundredmen?""I should prefer three hundred. They have made a back door to thebastion, and the means of flight at hand will put flight into theirheads. They will pick off some of our men as we go at them. Whenthe rest jump in they will jump out, and"-- He paused.
"Why, he knows all about it before it comes," said one of thecolonels naively."I do. I see the whole operation and its result before me, as I seethis hand. Three hundred men will do.""But, general," objected Raynal, "you are not beginning at thebeginning. The first thing in these cases is to choose the officerto command the storming party.""Yes, Raynal, unquestionably; but you must be aware that is apainful and embarrassing part of my duty, especially after ColonelDujardin's remarks.""Ah, bah!" cried Raynal. "He is prejudiced. He has been digging athundering long mine here, and now you are going to make his childuseless. We none of us like that. But when he gets the colors inhis hand, and the storming column at his back, his misgivings willall go to the wind, and the enemy after them, unless he has beencommitting some crime, and is very much changed from what I knew himfour years ago.""Colonel Raynal," said one of the other colonels, politely butfirmly, "pray do not assume that Colonel Dujardin is to lead thecolumn; there are three other claimants. General Raimbaut is toselect from us four.""Yes, gentlemen, and in a service of this kind I would feel gratefulto you all if you would relieve me of that painful duty.""Gentlemen," said Dujardin, with an imperceptible sneer, "thegeneral means to say this: the operation is so glorious that hecould hardly without partiality assign the command to either of usfour claimants. Well, then, let us cast lots."The proposal was received by acclamation."The general will mark a black cross on one lot, and he who draws itwins the command."The young colonels prepared their lots with almost boyish eagerness.These fiery spirits were sick to death of lying and skulking in thetrenches. They flung their lots into the hat. After them, whoshould approach the hat, lot in hand, but Raynal. Dujardininstantly interfered, and held his arm as he was in the act ofdropping in his lot.
"What is the matter?" said Raynal, sharply."This is our affair, Colonel Raynal. You have no command in thisarmy.""I beg your pardon, sir, I have yours.""Not till to-morrow.""Why, you would not take such a pettifogging advantage of an oldcomrade as that.""Tell him the day ends at twelve o'clock," said one of the colonelsinterested by this strange strife.
"Ah!" cried Raynal, triumphantly; "but no," said he, altering histone, "let us leave that sort of argument to lawyers. I have come agood many miles to fight with you, general; and now you must decideto pay me this little compliment on my arrival, or put a bitteraffront on me--choose!"While the old general hesitated, Camille replied, "Since you takethat tone there can be but one answer. You are too great a creditto the French army for even an apparent slight to be put on youhere. The rule, I think, is, that one of the privates shall holdthe hat.--Hallo! Private Dard, come here--there--hold this hat.""Yes, colonel.--Lord, here is my young mistress's husband!""Silence!"And they began to draw, and, in the act of drawing, a change ofmanner was first visible in these gay and ardent spirits."It is not I," said one, throwing away his lot.
"Nor I.""It is I," said Raynal; then with sudden gravity, "I am the luckyone."And now that the honor and the danger no longer floated vaguely overfour heads, but had fixed on one, a sudden silence and solemnitytook the place of eager voices.It was first broken by Private Dard saying, with foolish triumph,"And I held the hat for you, colonel.""Ah, Raynal!" said General Raimbaut, sorrowfully, "it was not worthwhile to come from Egypt for this."Raynal made no reply to this. He drew out his watch, and saidcalmly, he had no time to lose; he must inspect the detachments hewas to command. "Besides," said he, "I have some domesticarrangements to make. Hitherto on these occasions I was a bachelor,now I am married." General Raimbaut could not help sighing. Raynalread this aright, and turned to him, "A droll marriage, my oldfriend; I'll tell you all about it if ever I have the time. Itbegan with a purchase, general, and ends with--with a bequest, whichI might as well write now, and so have nothing to think of but dutyafterwards. Where can I write?""Colonel Dujardin will lend you his tent, I am sure.""Certainly.""And, messieurs," said Raynal, "if I waste time you need not. Youcan pick me my men from your brigades. Give me a strong spice ofold hands."The colonels withdrew on this, and General Raimbaut walked sadly andthoughtfully towards the battery. Dujardin and Raynal were leftalone.