"Alida," said Holcroft gravely, "I've not forgotten yobitcoin litecoin dogecoinur story, and you shouldn't forget mine. Be sensible now. Don't I look old enough to know what I'm about?"
"Then tell me all," said he.bitcoin chart marketwatchShe consented almost eagerly, and told him--nearly all. The old manwas deeply affected. He murmured in a broken voice, "Your story isthe story of your sex, self-sacrifice, first to your mother, then toCamille, now to your husband.""And he is well worthy of any sacrifice I can make," said Josephine.
"But oh, how hard it is to live!""I hope to make it less hard to you ere long," said the doctorquietly. He then congratulated himself on having forced Josephineto confide in him. "For," said he, "you never needed an experiencedfriend more than at this moment. Your mother will not always be soblind as of late. Edouard is suspicious. Jacintha is a shrewdyoung woman, and very inquisitive."Josephine was not at the end of her concealments: she was ashamed tolet him know she had made a confidant of Jacintha and not of him.She held her peace."Then," continued Aubertin, "there is the terrible chance ofRaynal's return. But ere I take on me to advise you, what are yourown plans?""I don't know," said Josephine helplessly."You--don't--know!" cried the doctor, looking at her in utteramazement."It is the answer of a mad woman, is it not? Doctor, I am littlebetter. My foot has slipped on the edge of a precipice. I close myeyes, and let myself glide down it. What will become of me?""All shall be well," said Aubertin, "provided you do not still lovethat man."Josephine did not immediately reply: her thoughts turned inwards.
The good doctor was proceeding to congratulate her on being cured ofa fatal passion, when she stopped him with wonder in her face. "Notlove him! How can I help loving him? I was his betrothed. Iwronged him in my thoughts. War, prison, anguish, could not killhim; he loved me so. He struggled bleeding to my feet; and could Ilet him die, after all? Could I be crueller than prison, andtorture, and despair?"The doctor sighed deeply; but, arming himself with the necessaryresolution, he sternly replied, "A woman of your name cannotvacillate between love and honor; such vacillations have but oneend. I will not let you drift a moral wreck between passion andvirtue; and that is what it will come to if you hesitate now.""Hesitate! Who can say I have hesitated where my honor wasconcerned? You can read our bodies then, but not our hearts. What!you see me so pale, forlorn, and dead, and that does not tell you Ihave bid Camille farewell forever? That we might be safer still Ihave not even told him he is a father: was ever woman so cruel as Iam? I have written him but one letter, and in that I must deceivehim. I told him I thought I might one day be happy, if I could hearthat he did not give way to despair. I told him we must never meetagain in this world. So now come what will: show me my duty and Iwill do it. This endless deceit burns my heart. Shall I tell myhusband? It will be but one pang more, one blush more for me. Butmy mother!" and, thus appealed to, Dr. Aubertin felt, for the firsttime, all the difficulty of the situation he had undertaken to cure."Well, Alida, I'm not only satisfied with you, but I'm very grateful to you. Why shouldn't I be when you are a good Christian woman? I guess I'm the one to be suited, not Oakville. I should be as reckless as the devil if you should go away from me. Don't I act like a man who's ready to stand up for and protect you?"
"Yes, too ready. It would kill me if anything happened to you on my account.""Well, the worst would happen," he said firmly, "if we don't go right on as we've begun. If we go quietly on about our own affairs, we'll soon be let alone and that's all we ask.""Yes, yes indeed! Don't worry, James. I'll do as you wish.""Famous! You never said 'James' to me before. Why haven't you?"
"I don't know," she faltered, with a sudden rush of color to her pale face."Well, that's my name," he resumed, laughing. "I guess it's because we are getting better acquainted.
She looked up and said impetuously, "You don't know how a woman feels when a man stands up for her as you did tonight.""Well, I know how a man feels when there is a woman so well worth standing up for. It was a lucky thing that I had nothing heavier in my hand than that hickory." All the while he was looking at her curiously; then he spoke his thought. "You're a quiet little woman, Alida, most times, but you're capable of a thunder gust now and then.""I'll try to be quiet at all times," she replied, with drooping eyes."Oh, I'm not complaining!" he said, laughing. "I like the trait."
He took a small pitcher and went to the dairy. Returning, he poured out two glasses of milk and said, "Here's to your health and happiness, Alida; and when I don't stand up for the woman who started out to save me from a mob of murderers, may the next thing I eat or drink choke me. You didn't know they were merely a lot of Oakville boys, did you?""You can't make so light of it," said she. "They tried to close on you, and if that stone had struck you on the temple, it might have killed you. They swore like pirates, and looked like ruffians with their blackened faces. They certainly were not boys in appearance.""I'm afraid I swore too," he said sadly."You had some excuse, but I'm sorry. They would have hurt you if you hadn't kept them off."
"Yes, they'd probably have given me a beating. People do things in hot blood they wish they hadn't afterward. I know this Oakville rough-scuff. Since we've had it out, and they know what to expect, they'll give me a wide berth. Now go and sleep. You were never safer in your life."She did not trust herself to reply, but the glance she gave him from her tearful eyes was so eloquent with grateful feeling that he was suddenly conscious of some unwonted sensations. He again patrolled the place and tied the dog near the barn.
"It's barely possible that some of these mean cusses might venture to kindle a fire, but a bark from Towser will warn 'em off. She IS a spirited little woman," he added, with a sharp change in soliloquy. "There's nothing milk-and-water about her. Thunder! I felt like kissing her when she looked at me so. I guess that crack on my skull has made me a little light-headed."He lay down in his clothes so that he might rush out in case of any alarm, and he intended to keep awake. Then, the first thing he knew, the sun was shining in the windows.
It was long before Alida slept, and the burden of her thoughts confirmed the words that she had spoken so involuntarily. "You don't know how a woman feels when a man stands up for her as you did." It is the nature of her sex to adore hardy, courageous manhood. Beyond all power of expression, Alida felt her need of a champion and protector. She was capable of going away for his sake, but she would go in terror and despair. The words that had smitten her confirmed all her old fears of facing the world alone. Then came the overpowering thought of his loyalty and kindness, of his utter and almost fierce repugnance to the idea of her leaving him. In contrast with the man who had deceived and wronged her, Holcroft's course overwhelmed her very soul with a passion of grateful affection. A new emotion, unlike anything she had ever known, thrilled her heart and covered her face with blushes. "I could die for him!" she murmured.She awoke late in the morning. When at last she entered the kitchen she stopped in deep chagrin, for Holcroft had almost completed preparations for breakfast. "Ha, ha!" he laughed, "turn about is fair play.""Well," she sighed, "there's no use of making excuses now.""There's no occasion for any. Did you ever see such a looking case as I am with this bandage around my head?""Does it pain you?" she asked sympathetically."Well, it does. It pains like thunder."
"The wound needs dressing again. Let me cleanse and bind it up.""Yes, after breakfast."
"No, indeed; now. I couldn't eat my breakfast while you were suffering so.""I'm more unfeeling then than you are, for I could."
She insisted on having her way, and then tore up her handkerchief to supply a soft linen bandage."You're extravagant, Alida," but she only shook her head.
"Famous! That feels better. What a touch you have! Now, if you had a broken head, my fingers would be like a pair of tongs."She only shook her head and smiled."You're as bad as Jane used to be. She never said a word when she could shake or nod her meaning.""I should think you would be glad, after having been half talked to death by her mother."
"As I said before, take your own way of doing things. It seems the right way after it is done."A faint color came into her face, and she looked positively happy as she sat down to breakfast. "Are you sure your head feels better?" she asked.
"Yes, and you look a hundred per cent better. Well, I AM glad you had such a good sleep after all the hubbub.""I didn't sleep till toward morning," she said, with downcast eyes.
"Pshaw! That's too bad. Well, no matter, you look like a different person from what you did when I first saw you. You've been growing younger every day."Her face flushed like a girl's under his direct, admiring gaze, making her all the more pretty. She hastened to divert direct attention from herself by asking, "You haven't heard from anyone this morning?"
"No, but I guess the doctor has. Some of those fellows will have to keep shady for a while."As they were finishing breakfast, Holcroft looked out of the open kitchen door and exclaimed, "By thunder! We're going to hear from some of them now. Here comes Mrs. Weeks, the mother of the fellow who hit me.""Won't you please receive her in the parlor?""Yes, she won't stay long, you may be sure. I'm going to give that Weeks tribe one lesson and pay off the whole score."
He merely bowed coldly to Mrs. Weeks' salutation and offered her a chair. The poor woman took out her handkerchief and began to mop her eyes, but Holcroft was steeled against her, not so much on account of the wound inflicted by her son as for the reason that he saw in her an accomplice with her husband in the fraud of Mrs. Mumpson."I hope you're not badly hurt," she began.
"It might be worse.""Oh, Mr. Holcroft!" she broke out sobbingly, "spare my son. It would kill me if you sent him to prison."
"He took the chance of killing me last night," was the cold reply. "What's far worse, he insulted my wife.""Oh, Mr. Holcroft! He was young and foolish; he didn't realize--"