It was a blow which might have been decisive, but Billson swerved, and it did no more than graze the side of his bitcoin halving live streamhead. It was returned next moment with equal force and more smashing contact, and then the two men fought like raging beasts, while Irene struggled to her feet, to be swept off them again by a rush which was regardless of her.
"Poor colonel!" continued La Croix. "Well, I love to think he diedlike a soldier, and not like some of my poor comrades, hashed toatoms, and not a volley fired over him. I hope they put a stoneover him, for he was the best soldier and the best general in thearmy.""O sir!" cried Josephine, "there is no stone even to mark the spotwhere he fell," and she sobbed despairingly.can you buy dogecoin uk"Why, how is this, Private Dard?" inquired La Croix, sternly.
Dard apologized for his comrade, and touching his own headsignificantly told them that since his wound the sergeant's memorywas defective."Now, sergeant, didn't I tell you the colonel must have got thebetter of his wound, and got into the battery?""It's false, Private Dard; don't I know our colonel better thanthat? Would ever he have let those colors out of his hand, if therehad been an ounce of life left in him?""He died at the foot of the battery, I tell you.""Then why didn't we find him?"Here Jacintha put in a word with the quiet subdued meaning of herclass. "I can't find that anybody ever saw the colonel dead.""They did not find him, because they did not look for him," saidSergeant La Croix."God forgive you, sergeant!" said Dard, with some feeling. "Notlook for OUR COLONEL! We turned over every body that lay there,--full thirty there were,--and you were one of them.""Only thirty! Why, we settled more Prussians than that, I'llswear.""Oh! they carried off their dead.""Ay! but I don't see why they should carry our colonel off. Hisepaulets was all the thieves could do any good with. Stop! yet Ido, Private Dard; I have a horrible suspicion. No, I have not; itis a certainty. What! don't you see, ye ninny? Thunder andthousands of devils, here's a disgrace. Dogs of Prussians! theyhave got our colonel, they have taken him prisoner.""O God bless them!" cried Josephine; "O God bless the mouth thattells me so! O sir, I am his wife, his poor heart-broken wife. Youwould not be so cruel as to mock my despair. Say again that he maybe alive, pray, say it again!""His wife! Private Dard, why didn't you tell me? You tell menothing. Yes, my pretty lady, I'll say it again, and I'll prove it.Here is an enemy in full retreat, would they encumber themselveswith the colonel? If he was dead, they'd have whipped off hisepaulets, and left him there. Alive? why not? Look at me: I amalive, and I was worse wounded than he was. They took me for dead,you see. Courage, madame! you will see him again, take an oldsoldier's word for it. Dard, attention! this is the colonel'swife."She gazed on the speaker like one in a trance.Every eye and every soul had been so bent on Sergeant La Croix thatit was only now Raynal was observed to be missing. The next minutehe came riding out of the stable-yard, and went full gallop down theroad.
"Ah!" cried Rose, with a burst of hope; "he thinks so too; he hashopes. He is gone somewhere for information. Perhaps to Paris."Josephine's excitement and alternations of hope and fear were nowalarming. Rose held her hand, and implored her to try and be calmtill they could see Raynal.Just before dark he came riding fiercely home. Josephine flew downthe stairs. Raynal at sight of her forgot all his caution. Hewaved his cocked hat in the air. She fell on her knees and thankedGod. He gasped out,--"Prisoner--exchanged for two Prussian lieutenants--sent home--theysay he is in France!"The tears of joy gushed in streams from her.He has opened his eyes and shut them again. The dear good doctorstopped the blood in a twinkle. The doctor says he'll be bound tosave him. I must run and tell Jacintha. She is taking on in thekitchen."Josephine, who had risen eagerly from her despairing posture,clasped her hands together, then lifted up her voice and wept. "Hewill live! he will live!"When she had wept a long while, she said to Rose, "Come, sister,help your poor Josephine.""Yes, love, what shall we do?""My duty," faltered Josephine. "An hour ago it seemed so sweet,"and she fell to weeping patiently again. They went to Josephine'sroom. She crept slowly to a wardrobe, and took out a gray silkdress.
"Oh, never mind for to-day," cried Rose."Help me, Rose. It is for myself as well; to remind me every momentI am Madame Raynal."They put the gray gown on her, both weeping patiently. It will beknown at the last day, all that honest women have suffered weepingsilently in this noisy world.Camille soon recovered his senses and a portion of his strength:then the irritation of his wound brought on fever. This in turnretired before the doctor's remedies and a sound constitution, butit left behind it a great weakness and general prostration. And inthis state the fate of the body depends greatly on the mind.
The baroness and the doctor went constantly to see him, and soothehim: he smiled and thanked them, but his eager eyes watched the doorfor one who came not.When he got well enough to leave his bed the largest couch was sentup to him from the saloon; a kind hand lined the baron's silkdressing-gown for him warm and soft and nice; and he would sit orlie on his couch, or take two turns in the room leaning upon Rose'sshoulder, and glad of the support; and he looked piteously in hereyes when she came and when she went. Rose looked down; she coulddo nothing, she could say nothing.
With his strength, Camille lost a portion of his pride: he pined fora sight of her he no longer respected; pined for her, as the thirstypine for water in Sahara.At last one day he spoke out. "How kind you are to me, Rose! howkind you all are--but one."He waited in hopes she would say something, but she held her tongue."At least tell me why it is. Is she ashamed? Is she afraid?""Neither.""She hates me: it is true, then, that we hate those whom we havewounded. Cruel, cruel Josephine! Oh, heart of marble against whichmy heart has wrecked itself forever!""No, no! She is anything but cruel: but she is Madame Raynal.""Ah! I forgot. But have I no claim on her? Nearly four years shehas been my betrothed. What have I done? Was I ever false to her?I could forgive her for what she has done to me, but she cannotforgive me. Does she mean never to see me again?""Ask yourself what good could come of it.""Very well," said Camille, with a malicious smile. "I am in herway. I see what she wants; she shall have it."Rose carried these words to Josephine. They went through her like asword.
Rose pitied her. Rose had a moment's weakness."Let us go to him," she said; "anything is better than this.""Rose, I dare not," was the wise reply.But the next day early, Josephine took Rose to a door outside thehouse, a door that had long been disused. Nettles grew before it.She produced a key and with great difficulty opened this door. Itled to the tapestried chamber, and years ago they used to steal upit and peep into the room.
Rose scarcely needed to be told that she was to watch Camille, andreport to her. In truth, it was a mysterious, vague protectionagainst a danger equally mysterious. Yet it made Josephine easier.But so unflinching was her prudence that she never once could beprevailed on to mount those stairs, and peep at Camille herself. "Imust starve my heart, not feed it," said she. And she grew palerand more hollow-eyed day by day.
Yet this was the same woman who showed such feebleness andirresolution when Raynal pressed her to marry him. But then dwarfsfeebly drew her this way and that. Now giants fought for her.Between a feeble inclination and a feeble disinclination her deadheart had drifted to and fro. Now honor, duty, gratitude,--whichlast with her was a passion,--dragged her one way: love, pity, andremorse another.
Not one of these giants would relax his grasp, and nothing yieldedexcept her vital powers. Yes; her temper, one of the loveliestHeaven ever gave a human creature, was soured at times.Was it a wonder? There lay the man she loved pining for her;cursing her for her cruelty, and alternately praying Heaven toforgive him and to bless her: sighing, at intervals, all the daylong, so loud, so deep, so piteously, as if his heart broke witheach sigh; and sometimes, for he little knew, poor soul, that anyhuman eye was upon him, casting aside his manhood in his despair,and flinging himself on the very floor, and muffling his head, andsobbing; he a hero.And here was she pining in secret for him who pined for her? "I amnot a woman at all," said she, who was all woman. "I am crueller tohim than a tiger or any savage creature is to the victim she tears.I must cure him of his love for me; and then die; for what shall Ihave to live for? He weeps, he sighs, he cries for Josephine."Her enforced cruelty was more contrary to this woman's nature thanblack is to white, or heat to cold, and the heart rebelled furiouslyat times. As when a rock tries to stem a current, the water fightsits way on more sides than one, so insulted nature dealt withJosephine. Not only did her body pine, but her nerves wereexasperated. Sudden twitches came over her, that almost made herscream. Her permanent state was utter despondency, but across itcame fitful flashes of irritation; and then she was scarce mistressof herself.Wherefore you, who find some holy woman cross and bitter, stop amoment before you sum her up vixen and her religion naught: inquirethe history of her heart: perhaps beneath the smooth cold surface ofduties well discharged, her life has been, or even is, a battleagainst some self-indulgence the insignificant saint's very bloodcries out for: and so the poor thing is cross, not because she isbad, but because she is better than the rest of us; yet only human.Now though Josephine was more on her guard with the baroness thanwith Rose, or the doctor, or Jacintha, her state could notaltogether escape the vigilance of a mother's eye.
But the baroness had not the clew we have; and what a differencethat makes! How small an understanding, put by accident orinstruction on the right track, shall run the game down! How greata sagacity shall wander if it gets on a false scent!"Doctor," said the baroness one day, "you are so taken up with yourpatient you neglect the rest of us. Do look at Josephine! She isill, or going to be ill. She is so pale, and so fretful, sopeevish, which is not in her nature. Would you believe it, doctor,she snaps?""Our Josephine snap? This is new.""And snarls.""Then look for the end of the world.""The other day I heard her snap Rose: and this morning she halfsnarled at me, just because I pressed her to go and console ourpatient. Hush! here she is. My child, I am accusing you to thedoctor. I tell him you neglect his patient: never go near him.""I will visit him one of these days," said Josephine, coldly.
"One of these days," said the baroness, shocked. "You used not tobe so hard-hearted. A soldier, an old comrade of your husband's,wounded and sick, and you alone never go to him, to console him witha word of sympathy or encouragement."Josephine looked at her mother with a sort of incredulous stare.Then, after a struggle, she replied with a tone and manner sospiteful and icy that it would have deceived even us who know herhad we heard it. "He has plenty of nurses without me." She added,almost violently, "My husband, if he were wounded, would not have somany, perhaps not have one."With this she rose and went out, leaving them aghast. She sat downin the passage on a window-seat, and laughed hysterically. Roseheard her and ran to her. Josephine told her what her mother hadsaid to her. Rose soothed her. "Never mind, you have your sisterwho understands you: don't you go back till they have got some othertopic."Rose out of curiosity went in, and found a discussion going on. Thedoctor was fathoming Josephine, for the benefit of his companion.
"It is a female jealousy, and of a mighty innocent kind. We are sotaken up with this poor fellow, she thinks her soldier is forgotten.""Surely, doctor, our Josephine would not be so unreasonable, sounjust," suggested her mother."She belongs to a sex, be it said without offending you, madame,among whose numberless virtues justice does not fill a prominentplace."The baroness shook her head. "That is not it. It is a piece ofprudery. This young gentleman was a sort of admirer of hers, thoughshe did not admire him much, as far as I remember. But it was fouryears ago; and she is married to a man she loves, or is going tolove.""Well, but, mamma, a trifling excess of delicacy is surelyexcusable." This from Rose.
"No, no; it is not delicacy; it is prudery. And when people aresick and suffering, an honest woman should take up her charity andlay down her prudery, or her coquetry: two things that I suspect arethe same thing in different shapes."Here Jacintha came in. "Mademoiselle, here is the colonel's broth;Madame Raynal has flavored it for him, and you are to take it up tohim, and keep him company while he eats it.""Come," cried the baroness, "my lecture has not been lost."Rose followed Jacintha up-stairs.Rose was heart and head on Raynal's side.She had deceived him about Josephine's attachment, and felt all themore desirous to guard him against any ill consequences of it. Thenhe had been so generous to her: he had left her her sister, whowould have gone to Egypt, and escaped this misery, but for her.But on the other hand,--Gentle pityTugged at her heartstrings with complaining cries.
This watching of Camille saddened even her. When she was with himhis pride bore him up: but when he was alone as he thought, hisanguish and despair were terrible, and broke out in so many waysthat often Rose shrank in terror from her peep hole.She dared not tell Josephine the half of what she saw: what she didtell her agitated her so terribly: and often Rose had it on the tipof her tongue to say, "Do pray go and see if you can say nothingthat will do him good;" but she fought the impulse down. Thisbattle of feeling, though less severe than her sister's, wasconstant; it destroyed her gayety. She, whose merry laugh used toring like chimes through the house, never laughed now, seldomsmiled, and often sighed.
Dr. Aubertin was the last to succumb to the deep depression, but histime came: and he had been for a day or two as grave and as sad asthe rest, when one day that Rose was absent, spying on Camille, hetook the baroness and Josephine into his confidence; andcondescended finally to ask their advice."It is humiliating," said he, "after all my experience, to beobliged to consult unprofessional persons. Forty years ago I shouldhave been TOO WISE to do so. But since then I have often seenscience baffled and untrained intelligences throw light upon hardquestions: and your sex in particular has luminous instincts andreads things by flashes that we men miss with a microscope. Ourdear Madame Raynal suspected that plausible notary, and to this dayI believe she could not tell us why."Josephine admitted as much very frankly.
"There you see," said the doctor. "Well, then, you must help me inthis case. And this time I promise to treat your art with morerespect.""And pray who is it she is to read now?" asked the baroness."Who should it be but my poor patient? He puzzles me. I never knewa patient so faint-hearted.""A soldier faint-hearted!" exclaimed the baroness. "To be surethese men that storm cities, and fire cannon, and cut and hack oneanother with so much spirit, are poor creatures compared with uswhen they have to lie quiet and suffer."The doctor walked the room in great excitement. "It is not hiswound that is killing him, there's something on his mind. You,Josephine, with your instincts do help me: do pray, for pity's sake,throw off that sublime indifference you have manifested all along tothis man's fate.""She has not," cried the baroness, firing up. "Did I not see herlining his dressing-gown for him? and she inspects everything thathe eats: do you not?""Yes, mother." She then suggested in a faltering voice that timewould cure the patient, and time alone.
"Time! you speak as if time was a quality: time is only a measure ofevents, favorable or unfavorable; it kills as many as it cures.""Why, you surely would not imply his life is in any danger?" Thiswas the baroness."Madame, if the case was not grave, should I take this unusual step?I tell you if some change does not take place soon, he will be adead man in another fortnight. That is all TIME will do for him."The baroness uttered an exclamation of pity and distress. Josephineput her hand to her bosom, and a creeping horror came over her, andthen a faintness. She sat working mechanically, and turning likeice within. After a few minutes of this, she rose with everyappearance of external composure and left the room. In the passageshe met Rose coming hastily towards the salon laughing: the firsttime she had laughed this many a day. Oh, what a contrast betweenthe two faces that met there--the one pale and horror stricken, theother rosy and laughing!"Well, dear, at last I am paid for all my trouble, and yours, by adiscovery; he never drinks a drop of his medicine; he pours it intothe ashes under the grate; I caught him in the fact.""Then this is too much: I can resist no longer. Come with me," saidJosephine doggedly.
"Where?""To him."Chapter 12
Josephine paused on the landing, and laid her hand on Rose'sshoulder. It was so cold it made Rose shudder, and exacted apromise from her not to contradict a word she should say to Camille."I do not go to him for my pleasure, but for his life," she said; "Imust deceive him and save him; and then let me lie down and die.""Oh, that the wretch had never been born!" cried Rose, in despair.
But she gave the required promise, and offered to go and tellCamille Josephine was coming to visit him.But Josephine declined this. "No," said she; "give me everyadvantage; I must think beforehand every word I shall say; but takehim by surprise, coward and doubleface that I am."Rose knocked at the door. A faint voice said, "Come in." Thesisters entered the room very softly. Camille sat on the sofa, hishead bowed over his hands. A glance showed Josephine that he wasdoggedly and resolutely thrusting himself into the grave. Thinkingit was only Rose--for he had now lost all hope of seeing Josephinecome in at the door--he never moved. Some one glided gently butrapidly up to him. He looked up. Josephine was kneeling to him.