In passing out, he caught sight of Jane whisking back into the kitchenbuy bitcoin credit card lowest fees. "She's been listening," he thought. "Well, I'll go to town tomorrow afternoon, get a stove for my room upstairs, and stuff the keyhole."
"It cannot be arranged in any other way--" he began.eos price coin market cap"Mr. Holcroft," she cried, leaning suddenly forward with clasped hands and speaking effusively, "you but now called me your good woman. Think how much those words mean. Make them true, now that you've spoken them. Then you won't be homeless and will never need a caretaker."
"Are you making me an offer of marriage?" he asked with lowering brow."Oh, no, indeed!" she simpered. "That wouldn't be becoming in me. I'm only responding to your own words."Rising, he said sternly, "No power on earth could induce me to marry you, and that would be plain enough if you were in your right mind. I shall not stand this foolishness another moment. You must go with me at once to Lemuel Weeks'. If you will not, I'll have you taken to an insane asylum.""To an insane asylum! What for?" she half shrieked, springing to her feet."You'll see," he replied, going down the steps. "Jump up, Jane! I shall take the trunk to your cousin's. If you are so crazy as to stay in a man's house when he don't want you and won't have you, you are fit only for an asylum."
Mrs. Mumpson was sane enough to perceive that she was at the end of her adhesive resources. In his possession of her trunk, the farmer also had a strategic advantage which made it necessary for her to yield. She did so, however, with very bad grace. When he drove up, she bounced into the wagon as if made of India rubber, while Jane followed slowly, with a look of sullen apathy. He touched his horses with the whip into a smart trot, scarcely daring to believe in his good fortune. The lane was rather steep and rough, and he soon had to pull up lest the object of his unhappy solicitude should be jolted out of the vehicle. This gave the widow her chance to open fire. "The end has not come yet, Mr. Holcroft," she said vindictively. "You may think you are going to have an easy triumph over a poor, friendless, unfortunate, sensitive, afflicted woman and a fatherless child, but you shall soon learn that there's a law in the land. You have addressed improper words to me, you have threatened me, you have broken your agreement. I have writings, I have a memory, I have language to plead the cause of the widow and the fatherless. I have been wronged, outraged, trampled upon, and then turned out of doors. The indignant world shall hear my story, the finger of scorn will be pointed at you. Your name will become a byword and a hissing. Respecterble women, respecterbly connected, will stand aloof and shudder."The torrent of words was unchecked except when the wheels struck a stone, jolting her so severely that her jaws came together with a click as if she were snapping at him.That means you promised to dig in the aristocrat's garden thisafternoon, so march! Here, then, is one that has gained nothing bykings being put down, for I am ruled with a mopstick of iron. Thankyour stars, citizen, that you are not in may place.""Dard," retorted Jacintha, "if you don't like your place, I'd quitit. There are two or three young men down in the village will beglad to take it.""I won't give them the chance, the vile egotists!" cried Dard. Andhe returned to the chateau and little odd jobs.
Jacintha hung behind, lowered her eyes, put on a very deferentialmanner, and thanked Edouard for the kind sentiments he had uttered;but at the same time she took the liberty to warn him againstbelieving the extravagant stories Dard had been telling about hermistress's poverty. She said the simple fact was that the baron hadcontracted debts, and the baroness, being the soul of honor, wasliving in great economy to pay them off. Then, as to Dard gettingno supper up at Beaurepaire, a complaint that appeared to sting herparticularly, she assured him she was alone to blame: the baronesswould be very angry if she knew it. "But," said she, "Dard is anegotist. Perhaps you may have noticed that trait in him.""Glimpses of it," replied Riviere, laughing."Monsieur, he is so egotistic that he has not a friend in the worldbut me. I forgive him, because I know the reason; he has never hada headache or a heartache in his life."Edouard, aged twenty, and a male, did not comprehend this piece offeminine logic one bit: and, while he puzzled over it in silence,Jacintha went on to say that if she were to fill her egotist'spaunch, she should never know whether he came to Beaurepaire forher, or himself. "Now, Dard," she added, "is no beauty, monsieur;why, he is three inches shorter than I am.""You are joking! he looks a foot," said Edouard."He is no scholar neither, and I have had to wipe up many a sneerand many a sarcasm on his account; but up to now I have always beenable to reply that this five feet one of egotism loves me sincerely;and the moment I doubt this, I give him the sack,--poor littlefellow!""In a word," said Riviere, a little impatiently, "the family atBeaurepaire are not in such straits as he pretends?""Monsieur, do I look like one starved?""By Jove, no! by Ceres, I mean.""Are my young mistresses wan, and thin?""Treason! blasphemy! ah, no! By Venus and Hebe, no!"Jacintha smiled at this enthusiastic denial, and also because hersex is apt to smile when words are used they do not understand."Dard is a fool," suggested Riviere, by way of general solution. Headded, "And yet, do you know I wish every word he said had beentrue." (Jacintha's eyes expressed some astonishment.) "Becausethen you and I would have concerted means to do them kindnesses,secretly; for I see you are no ordinary servant; you love your youngmistresses. Do you not?"These simple words seemed to touch a grander chord in Jacintha'snature.
"Love them?" said she, clasping her hands; "ah, sir, do not beoffended; but, believe me, it is no small thing to serve an old, oldfamily. My grandfather lived and died with them; my father wastheir gamekeeper, and fed to his last from off the poor baron'splate (and now they have killed him, poor man); my mother died inthe house and was buried in the sacred ground near the familychapel. They put an inscription on her tomb praising her fidelityand probity. Do you think these things do not sink into the heartof the poor?--praise on her tomb, and not a word on their own, butjust the name, and when each was born and died, you know. Ah! thepride of the mean is dirt; but the pride of the noble is gold.""For, look you, among parvenues I should be a servant, and nothingmore; in this proud family I am a humble friend; of course they arenot always gossiping with me like vulgar masters and mistresses; ifthey did, I should neither respect nor love them; but they all smileon me whenever I come into the room, even the baroness herself. Ibelong to them, and they belong to me, by ties without number, bythe many kind words in many troubles, by the one roof that shelteredus a hundred years, and the grave where our bones lie together tillthe day of judgment."** The French peasant often thinks half a sentence, and utters theother half aloud, and so breaks air in the middle of a thought.Probably Jacintha's whole thought, if we had the means of knowingit, would have run like this--Besides, I have another reason: Icould not be so comfortable myself elsewhere--for, look you"--Jacintha clasped her hands, and her black eyes shone out warmthrough the dew. Riviere's glistened too.
"That is well said," he cried; "it is nobly said: yet, after all,these are ties that owe their force to the souls they bind. Howoften have such bonds round human hearts proved ropes of sand! Theygrapple YOU like hooks of steel; because you are steel yourself tothe backbone. I admire you, Jacintha. Such women as you have agreat mission in France just now."Jacintha shook her head incredulously. "What can we poor women do?""Bring forth heroes," cried Publicola with fervor. "Be the mothersof great men, the Catos and the Gracchi of the future!"Jacintha smiled. She did not know the Gracchi nor their politics;but the name rang well. "Gracchi!" Aristocrats, no doubt. "Thatwould be too much honor," replied she modestly. "At present, I mustsay adieu!" and she moved off an inch at a time, in an uncertainhesitating manner, not very difficult to read; but Riviere, you mustknow, had more than once during this interview begged her to sitdown, and in vain; she had always thanked him, but said she had nota moment to stay. So he made no effort to detain her now. Theconsequence was--she came slowly back of her own accord, and satdown in a corner of the porch, where nobody could see her, and thenshe sighed deeply."What is the matter now?" said Edouard, opening his eyes.She looked at him point-blank for one moment; and her scale turned."Monsieur," said she timidly, "you have a good face, and a goodheart. All I told you was--give me your honor not to betray us.""I swear it," said Edouard, a little pompously.
"Then--Dard was not so far from the truth; it was but a guess ofhis, for I never trusted my own sweetheart as I now trust astranger. But to see what I see every day, and have no one I darebreathe a word to, oh, it is very hard! But on what a thread thingsturn! If any one had told me an hour ago it was you I should openmy heart to! It's not economy: it's not stinginess; they are notpaying off their debts. They never can. The baroness and theDemoiselles de Beaurepaire--are paupers.""Paupers, Jacintha?""Ay, paupers! their debts are greater than their means. They livehere by sufferance. They have only their old clothes to wear. Theyhave hardly enough to eat. Just now our cow is in full milk, youknow; so that is a great help: but, when she goes dry, Heaven knowswhat we shall do; for I don't. But that is not the worst; better alight meal than a broken heart. Your precious government offers thechateau for sale. They might as well send for the guillotine atonce, and cut off all our heads. You don't know my mistress as Ido. Ah, butchers, you will drag nothing out of that but her corpse.And is it come to this? the great old family to be turned adriftlike beggars. My poor mistress! my pretty demoiselles that I playedwith and nursed ever since I was a child! (I was just six whenJosephine was born) and that I shall love with my last breath"--She could say no more, but choked by the strong feeling so long pentup in her own bosom, fell to sobbing hysterically, and tremblinglike one in an ague.The statesman, who had passed all his short life at school andcollege, was frightened, and took hold of her and pulled her, andcried, "Oh! don't, Jacintha; you will kill yourself, you will die;this is frightful: help here! help!" Jacintha put her hand to hismouth, and, without leaving off her hysterics, gasped out, "Ah!don't expose me." So then he didn't know what to do; but he seizeda tumbler and filled it with wine, and forced it between her lips.
All she did was to bite a piece out of the glass as clean as if adiamond had cut it. This did her a world of good: destruction ofsacred household property gave her another turn. "There, I've brokeyour glass now," she cried, with a marvellous change of tone; andshe came-to and cried quietly like a reasonable person, with herapron to her eyes.When Edouard saw she was better, he took her hand and said proudly,"Secret for secret. I choose this moment to confide to you that Ilove Mademoiselle Rose de Beaurepaire. Love her? I did love her;but now you tell me she is poor and in distress, I adore her." Theeffect of this declaration on Jacintha was magical, comical. Herapron came down from one eye, and that eye dried itself and sparkledwith curiosity: the whole countenance speedily followed suit andbeamed with sacred joy. What! an interesting love affair confidedto her all in a moment! She lowered her voice to a whisperdirectly. "Why, how did you manage? She never goes into company.""No; but she goes to church. Besides, I have met her eleven timesout walking with her sister, and twice out of the eleven she smiledon me. O Jacintha! a smile such as angels smile; a smile to warmthe heart and purify the soul and last forever in the mind.""Well, they say 'man is fire and woman tow:' but this beats all.
Ha! ha!""Oh! do not jest. I did not laugh at you. Jacintha, it is nolaughing matter; I revere her as mortals revere the saints; I loveher so that were I ever to lose all hope of her I would not live aday. And now that you have told me she is poor and in sorrow, and Ithink of her walking so calm and gentle--always in black, Jacintha,--and her low courtesy to me whenever we met, and her sweet smile tome though her heart must be sad, oh! my heart yearns for her. Whatcan I do for her? How shall I surround her with myself unseen--makeher feel that a man's love waits upon her feet every step she takes--that a man's love floats in the air round that lovely head?" Thendescending to earth for a moment, "but I say, you promise not tobetray me; come, secret for secret.""I will not tell a soul; on the honor of a woman," said Jacintha.The form of protestation was quite new to Edouard, and not exactlythe one his study of the ancient writers would have led him toselect. But the tone was convincing: he trusted her. They partedsworn allies; and, at the very moment of parting, Jacintha, who hadcast many a furtive glance at the dead game, told Edouard demurely,Mademoiselle Rose was very fond of roast partridge. On this he madeher take the whole bag; and went home on wings. Jacintha'srevelation roused all that was noble and forgiving in him. Hisunderstanding and his heart expanded from that hour, and his fancyspread its pinions to the sun of love. Ah! generous Youth, let whowill betray thee; let who will sneer at thee; let me, though youngno longer, smile on thee and joy in thee! She he loved was sad, waspoor, was menaced by many ills; then she needed a champion. Hewould be her unseen friend, her guardian angel. A hundred wildschemes whirled in his beating heart and brain. He could not go in-doors, indeed, no room could contain him: he made for a green lanehe knew at the back of the village, and there he walked up and downfor hours. The sun set, and the night came, and the starsglittered; but still he walked alone, inspired, exalted, full ofgenerous and loving schemes: of sweet and tender fancies: a heart onfire; and youth the fuel, and the flame vestal.
Chapter 3This very day was the anniversary of the baron's death.The baroness kept her room all the morning, and took no nourishmentbut one cup of spurious coffee Rose brought her. Towards eveningshe came down-stairs. In the hall she found two chaplets offlowers; they were always placed there for her on this sad day. Shetook them in her hand, and went into the little oratory that was inthe park; there she found two wax candles burning, and two freshchaplets hung up. Her daughters had been there before her.She knelt and prayed many hours for her husband's soul; then sherose and hung up one chaplet and came slowly away with the other inher hand. At the gate of the park, Josephine met her with tenderanxiety in her sapphire eyes, and wreathed her arms round her, andwhispered, "But you have your children still."The baroness kissed her and they came towards the house together,the baroness leaning gently on her daughter's elbow.Between the park and the angle of the chateau was a small plot ofturf called at Beaurepaire the Pleasance, a name that had descendedalong with other traditions; and in the centre of this Pleasance, orPleasaunce, stood a wonderful oak-tree. Its circumference wasthirty-four feet. The baroness came to this ancient tree, and hungher chaplet on a mutilated limb called the "knights' bough."The sun was setting tranquil and red; a broad ruby streak lingeredon the deep green leaves of the prodigious oak. The baroness lookedat it awhile in silence.Then she spoke slowly to it and said, "You were here before us: youwill be here when we are gone."A spasm crossed Josephine's face, but she said nothing at the time.
And so they went in together.Now as this tree was a feat of nature, and, above all, played acurious part in our story, I will ask you to stay a few minutes andlook at it, while I say what was known about it; not the thousandthpart of what it could have told, if trees could speak as well asbreathe.
The baroness did not exaggerate; the tree was far older than eventhis ancient family. They possessed among other archives amanuscript written by a monk, a son of the house, about four hundredyears before our story, and containing many of the oral traditionsabout this tree that had come down to him from remote antiquity.According to this authority, the first Baron of Beaurepaire hadpitched his tent under a fair oak-tree that stood prope rivum, neara brook. His grandson built a square tower hard by, and dug a moatthat enclosed both tree and tower, and received the waters of thebrook aforesaid.
At this time the tree seems only to have been remarked for itsheight. But, a century and a half before the monk wrote, it hadbecome famous in all the district for its girth, and in the monk'sown day had ceased to grow; but not begun to decay. The mutilatedarm I have mentioned was once a long sturdy bough, worn smooth asvelvet in one part from a curious cause: it ran about as high abovethe ground as a full-sized horse, and the knights and squires usedto be forever vaulting upon it, the former in armor; the monk, whena boy, had seen them do it a thousand times. This bough broke intwo, A.D. 1617: but the mutilated limb was still called the knights'bough, nobody knew why. So do names survive their ideas.
What had not this tree seen since first it came green and tender asa cabbage above the soil, and stood at the mercy of the first hareor rabbit that should choose to cut short its frail existence!Since then eagles had perched on its crown, and wild boars fedwithout fear of man upon its acorns. Troubadours had sung beneathit to lords and ladies seated round, or walking on the grass andcommenting the minstrel's tales of love by exchange of amorousglances. Mediaeval sculptors had taken its leaves, and wiselytrusting to nature, had adorned churches with those leaves cut instone.It had seen a Norman duke conquer England, and English kings invadeFrance and be crowned at Paris. It had seen a girl put knights tothe rout, and seen the warrior virgin burned by envious priests withcommon consent both of the curs she had defended and the curs shehad defeated.Why, in its old age it had seen the rise of printing, and the firstdawn of national civilization in Europe. It flourished and decayedin France; but it sprung in Gaul. And more remarkable still, thoughby all accounts it may see the world to an end, it was a tree inancient history: its old age awaits the millennium; its first youthbelonged to that great tract of time which includes the birth ofChrist, the building of Rome, and the siege of Troy.
The tree had, ere this, mingled in the fortunes of the family. Ithad saved their lives and taken their lives. One lord ofBeaurepaire, hotly pursued by his feudal enemies, made for the tree,and hid himself partly by a great bough, partly by the thick screenof leaves. The foe darted in, made sure he had taken to the house,ransacked it, and got into the cellar, where by good-luck was astore of Malvoisie: and so the oak and the vine saved the quakingbaron. Another lord of Beaurepaire, besieged in his castle, wasshot dead on the ramparts by a cross-bowman who had secreted himselfunobserved in this tree a little before the dawn.A young heir of Beaurepaire, climbing for a raven's nest to the topof this tree, lost his footing and fell, and died at its foot: andhis mother in her anguish bade them cut down the tree that hadkilled her boy. But the baron her husband refused, and spake inthis wise: "ytte ys eneugh that I lose mine sonne, I will nat alsoelose mine Tre." In the male you see the sober sentiment of theproprietor outweighed the temporary irritation of the parent. Thenthe mother bought fifteen ells of black velvet, and stretched a pallfrom the knights' bough across the west side to another branch, andcursed the hand that should remove it, and she herself "wolde neverpasse the Tre neither going nor coming, but went still about." Andwhen she died and should have been carried past the tree to thepark, her dochter did cry from a window to the bearers, "Goe about!
goe about!" and they went about, and all the company. And in timethe velvet pall rotted, and was torn and driven away by the winds:and when the hand of Nature, and no human hand, had thus flouted anddispersed the trappings of the mother's grief, two pieces werepicked up and preserved among the family relics: but the blackvelvet had turned a rusty red.
So the baroness did nothing new in this family when she hung herchaplet on the knights' bough; and, in fact, on the west side, abouteighteen feet from the ground, there still mouldered one corner ofan Atchievement an heir of Beaurepaire had nailed there twocenturies before, when his predecessor died: "For," said he, "thechateau is of yesterday, but the tree has seen us all come and go."The inside of the oak was hollow as a drum; and on its east sideyawned a fissure as high as a man and as broad as a street-door.Dard used to wheel his wheelbarrow into the tree at a trot, andthere leave it.
Yet in spite of excavation and mutilation not life only but vigordwelt in this wooden shell. The extreme ends of the longer boughswere firewood, touchwood, and the crown was gone this many a year:but narrow the circle a very little to where the indomitable trunkcould still shoot sap from its cruse deep in earth, and there onevery side burst the green foliage in its season countless as thesand. The leaves carved centuries ago from these very models,though cut in stone, were most of them mouldered, blunted, notched,deformed: but the delicate types came back with every summer,perfect and lovely as when the tree was but their elder brother: andgreener than ever: for, from what cause nature only knows, theleaves were many shades richer than any other tree could show for ahundred miles round; a deep green, fiery, yet soft; and then theirmultitude--the staircases of foliage as you looked up the tree, andcould scarce catch a glimpse of the sky. An inverted abyss ofcolor, a mound, a dome, of flake emeralds that quivered in thegolden air.And now the sun sets; the green leaves are black; the moon rises:her cold light shoots across one half that giant stem.
How solemn and calm stands the great round tower of living wood,half ebony, half silver, with its mighty cloud above of flake jetleaves tipped with frosty fire!Now is the still hour to repeat in a whisper the words of the dameof Beaurepaire, "You were here before us: you will be here when weare gone."We leave the hoary king of trees standing in the moonlight, calmlydefying time, and follow the creatures of a day; for, what theywere, we are.
A spacious saloon panelled; dead but showy white picked outsparingly with gold. Festoons of fruits and flowers finely carvedin wood on some of the panels. These also not smothered in gilding,but as it were gold speckled here and there, like tongues of flamewinding among insoluble snow. Ranged against the walls were sofasand chairs covered with rich stuffs well worn. And in one littledistant corner of the long room a gray-haired gentleman and twoyoung ladies sat round a small plain table, on which burned asolitary candle; and a little way apart in this candle's twilight anold lady sat in an easy-chair, thinking of the past, scarce daringto inquire the future. Josephine and Rose were working: not fancy-work but needle-work; Dr. Aubertin writing. Every now and then heput the one candle nearer the girls. They raised no objection: onlya few minutes after a white hand would glide from one or other ofthem like a serpent, and smoothly convey the light nearer to thedoctor's manuscript."Is it not supper-time?" he inquired. "I have an inward monitor;and I think our dinner was more ethereal than usual.""Hush!" said Josephine, and looked uneasily towards her mother.
"Wax is so dear.""Wax?--ah!--pardon me:" and the doctor returned hastily to his work.But Rose looked up and said, "I wonder Jacintha does not come; it iscertainly past the hour;" and she pried into the room as if sheexpected to see Jacintha on the road. But she saw in fact verylittle of anything, for the spacious room was impenetrable to hereye; midway from the candle to the distant door its twilightdeepened, and all became shapeless and sombre. The prospect endedsharp and black, as in those out-o'-door closets imagined andpainted by a certain great painter, whose Nature comes to a fullstop as soon as he has no further commercial need of her, instead ofmelting by fine expanse and exquisite gradation into genuinedistance, as nature does in Claude and in nature. To reverse thepicture, if you stood at the door you looked across forty feet ofblack, and the little corner seemed on fire, and the fair headsabout the candle shone like the St. Cecilias and Madonnas in anantique stained-glass window.