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'
The others left off guessing: Aubertin had it all his own way: heupheld Perrin as their silent benefactor, and bade them all observethat the worthy notary had never visited the chateau openly sincethe day the purse was left there. "Guilty conscience," saidAubertin dryly.One day in his walks he met a gaunt figure ambling on a fat pony: hestopped him, and, holding up his finger, said abruptly, "We havefound you out, Maitre Perrin."The notary changed color.
"Oh, never be ashamed," said Aubertin; "a good action done slyly isnone the less a good action."The notary wore a puzzled air.Aubertin admired his histrionic powers in calling up this look."Come, come, don't overdo it," said he. "Well, well; they cannotprofit by your liberality; but you will be rewarded in a betterworld, take my word for that."The notary muttered indistinctly. He was a man of moderate desires;would have been quite content if there had been no other world inperspective. He had studied this one, and made it pay: did notdesire a better; sometimes feared a worse."Ah!" said Aubertin, "I see how it is; we do not like to hearourselves praised, do we? When shall we see you at the chateau?""I propose to call on the baroness the moment I have good news tobring," replied Perrin; and to avoid any more compliments spurredthe dun pony suddenly; and he waddled away.Now this Perrin was at that moment on the way to dine with acharacter who plays a considerable part in the tale--CommandantRaynal. Perrin had made himself useful to the commandant, and hadbecome his legal adviser. And, this very day after dinner, thecommandant having done a good day's work permitted himself a littlesentiment over the bottle, and to a man he thought his friend. Helet out that he had a heap of money he did not know what to do with,and almost hated it now his mother was gone and could not share it.
The man of law consoled him with oleaginous phrases: told him hevery much underrated the power of money. His hoard, directed by ajudicious adviser, would make him a landed proprietor, and thehusband of some young lady, all beauty, virtue, and accomplishment,whose soothing influence would soon heal the sorrow caused by anexcess of filial sentiment."Halt!" shouted Raynal: "say that again in half the words."Perrin was nettled, for he prided himself on his colloquial style.He began to smother her hand with kisses.
"Oh!" said she, "I don't deserve all that: I have a motive of myown; let me alone, child, do. Your unlucky speech will be quoted tome a dozen times. Never mind."Rose went and bribed Josephine to consent."Come, mamma shall not know, and as for you, you shall scarcely movein the matter; only do not oppose me very violently, and all will bewell.""Ah, Rose!" said Josephine; "it is delightful--terrible, I mean--tohave a little creature about one that reads one like this. Whatshall I do? What shall I do?""Why, do the best you can under all the circumstances. His wound ishealed, you know; he must go back to the army; you have bothsuffered to the limits of mortal endurance. Is he to go awayunhappy, in any doubt of your affection? and you to remain behindwith the misery of self-reproach added to the desolation ofabsence?--think.""It is cruel. But to deceive my mother!""Do not say deceive our mother; that is such a shocking phrase."Rose then reminded Josephine that their confessor had told them awise reticence was not the same thing as a moral deceit. Shereminded her, too, how often they had acted on his advice and alwayswith good effect; how many anxieties and worries they had savedtheir mother by reticence. Josephine assented warmly to this.Was there not some reason to think they had saved their mother'svery life by these reticences? Josephine assented. "And,Josephine, you are of age; you are your own mistress; you have aright to marry whom you please: and, sooner or later, you willcertainly marry Camille. I doubt whether even our mother couldprevail on you to refuse him altogether. So it is but a question oftime, and of giving our mother pain, or sparing her pain. Dearmamma is old; she is prejudiced. Why shock her prejudices? Shecould not be brought to understand the case: these things neverhappened in her day. Everything seems to have gone by rule then.Let us do nothing to worry her for the short time she has to live.
Let us take a course between pain to her and cruelty to you andCamille."These arguments went far to convince Josephine: for her own heartsupported them. She went from her solid objections to untenableones--a great point gained. She urged the difficulty, theimpossibility of a secret marriage.Camille burst in here: he undertook at once to overcome theseimaginary difficulties. "They could be married at a distance.""You will find no priest who will consent to do such a wicked thingas marry us without my mother's knowledge," objected Josephine.
"Oh! as to that," said Rose, "you know the mayor marries peoplenowadays.""I will not be married again without a priest," said Josephine,sharply."Nor I," said Camille. "I know a mayor who will do the civil formsfor me, and a priest who will marry me in the sight of Heaven, andboth will keep it secret for love of me till it shall pleaseJosephine to throw off this disguise.""Who is the priest?" inquired Josephine, keenly."An old cure: he lives near Frejus: he was my tutor, and the mayoris the mayor of Frejus, also an old friend of mine.""But what on earth will you say to them?""That is my affair: I must give them some reasons which compel me tokeep my marriage secret. Oh! I shall have to tell them some fibs,of course.""There, I thought so! I will not have you telling fibs; it lowersyou.""Of course it does; but you can't have secrecy without a fib ortwo.""Fibs that will injure no one," said Rose, majestically.From this day Camille began to act as well as to talk. He bought alight caleche and a powerful horse, and elected factotum Dard hisgroom. Camille rode over to Frejus and told a made-up story to theold cure and the mayor, and these his old friends believed everyword he said, and readily promised their services and strictsecrecy.
He told the young ladies what he had done.Rose approved. Josephine shook her head, and seeing matters goingas her heart desired and her conscience did not quite approve, shesuddenly affected to be next to nobody in the business--to beresigned, passive, and disposed of to her surprise by Queen Rose andKing Camille, without herself taking any actual part in theirproceedings.At last the great day arrived on which Camille and Josephine were tobe married at Frejus.The mayor awaited them at eleven o'clock. The cure at twelve. Thefamily had been duly prepared for this excursion by several smallerones.
Rose announced their intention over night; a part of it."Mamma," said she, blushing a little, "Colonel Dujardin is goodenough to take us to Frejus tomorrow. It is a long way, and we mustbreakfast early or we shall not be back to dinner.""Do so, my child. I hope you will have a fine day: and mind youtake plenty of wraps with you in case of a shower."At seven o'clock the next morning Camille and the two ladies took ahasty cup of coffee together instead of breakfast, and then Dardbrought the caleche round.
The ladies got in, and Camille had just taken the reins in his hand,when Jacintha screamed to him from the hall, "Wait a moment,colonel, wait a moment! The doctor! don't go without the doctor!"And the next moment Dr. Aubertin appeared with his cloak on his arm,and, saluting the ladies politely, seated himself quietly in thevehicle before the party had recovered their surprise.The ladies managed to keep their countenances, but Dujardin'sdiscomfiture was evident.
He looked piteously at Josephine, and then asked Aubertin if theywere to set him down anywhere in particular."Oh, no; I am going with you to Frejus," was the quiet reply.Josephine quaked. Camille was devoured with secret rage: he lashedthe horse and away they went.It was a silent party. The doctor seemed in a reverie. The othersdid not know what to think, much less to say. Aubertin sat byCamille's side; so the latter could hold no secret communicationwith either lady.Now it was not the doctor's habit to rise at this time of themorning: yet there he was, going with them to Frejus uninvited.Josephine was in agony; had their intention transpired through someimprudence of Camille?
Camille was terribly uneasy. He concluded the secret had transpiredthrough female indiscretion. Then they all tortured themselves asto the old man's intention. But what seemed most likely was, thathe was with them to prevent a clandestine marriage by his barepresence, without making a scene and shocking Josephine's pride: andif so, was he there by his own impulse? No, it was rather to befeared that all this was done by order of the baroness. There was afinesse about it that smacked of a feminine origin, and the baronesswas very capable of adopting such a means as this, to spare her ownpride and her favorite daughter's. "The clandestine" is not allsugar. A more miserable party never went along, even to a wedding.After waiting a long time for the doctor to declare himself, theyturned desperate, and began to chatter all manner of trifles. Thishad a good effect: it roused Aubertin from his reverie, andpresently he gave them the following piece of information: "I toldyou the other day that a nephew of mine was just dead; a nephew Ihad not seen for many years. Well, my friends, I received lastnight a hasty summons to his funeral.""At Frejus?""No, at Paris. The invitation was so pressing, that I was obligedto go. The letter informed me, however, that a diligence passesthrough Frejus, at eleven o'clock, for Paris. I heard you say youwere going to Frejus; so I packed up a few changes of linen, and myMS., my work on entomology, which at my last visit to the capitalall the publishers were mad enough to refuse: here it is. Apropos,has Jacintha put my bag into the carriage?"On this a fierce foot-search, and the bag was found. Meantime,Josephine leaned back in her seat with a sigh of thankfulness. Shewas more intent on not being found out than on being married. ButCamille, who was more intent on being married than on not beingfound out, was asking himself, with fury, how on earth they shouldget rid of Aubertin in time.
Well, of course, under such circumstances as these the diligence didnot come to its time, nor till long after; and all the while, theywere waiting for it they were failing their rendezvous with themayor, and making their rendezvous with the curate impossible. But,above all, there was the risk of one or other of those friendscoming up and blurting all out, taking for granted that the doctormust be in their confidence, or why bring him.At last, at half-past eleven o'clock, to their great relief, up camethe diligence. The doctor prepared to take his place in theinterior, when the conductor politely informed him that the vehiclestopped there a quarter of an hour.
"In that case I will not abandon my friends," said the doctor,affectionately.One of his friends gnashed his teeth at this mark of affection. ButJosephine smiled sweetly.
At last he was gone; but it wanted ten minutes only to twelve.Josephine inquired amiably, whether it would not be as well topostpone matters to another day--meaning forever. "My ARDOR ischilled," said she, and showed symptoms of crying at what she hadgone through.Camille replied by half dragging them to the mayor. That worthyreceived them with profound, though somewhat demure respect, andinvited them to a table sumptuously served. The ladies, out ofpoliteness, were about to assent, but Camille begged permission topostpone that part until after the ceremony.At last, to their astonishment, they were married. Then, with apromise to return and dine with the mayor, they went to the cure.
Lo and behold! he was gone to visit a sick person. "He had waited along time for them," said the servant.Josephine was much disconcerted, and showed a disposition to cryagain. The servant, a good-natured girl, nosed a wedding, andoffered to run and bring his reverence in a minute.
Presently there came an old silvery-haired man, who addressed themall as his children. He took them to the church, and blessed theirunion; and for the first time Josephine felt as if Heaven consented.They took a gentle farewell of him, and went back to the mayor's todine; and at this stage of the business Rose and Josephine at lasteffected a downright simultaneous cry, apropos of nothing that wasthen occurring.
This refreshed them mightily, and they glowed at the mayor's tablelike roses washed with dew.But oh! how glad at heart they all were to find themselves in thecarriage once more going home to Beaurepaire.
Rose and Josephine sat intertwined on the back seat; Camille, thereins in his right hand, nearly turned his back on the horse, andleaned back over to them and purred to Rose and his wife withineffable triumph and tenderness.The lovers were in Elysium, and Rose was not a little proud of hergood management in ending all their troubles. Their mother receivedthem back with great, and as they fancied, with singular, affection.She was beginning to be anxious about them, she said. Then herkindness gave these happy souls a pang it never gave them before.Since the above events scarce a fortnight had elapsed; but such achange! Camille sunburnt and healthy, and full of animation andconfidence; Josephine beaming with suppressed happiness, and morebeautiful than Rose could ever remember to have seen her. For asoft halo of love and happiness shone around her head; a new andindefinable attraction bloomed on her face. She was a wife. Hereye, that used to glance furtively on Camille, now dwelt demurely onhim; dwelt with a sort of gentle wonder and admiration as well asaffection, and, when he came or passed very near her, a keenobserver might have seen her thrill.
She kept a good deal out of her mother's way; for she felt withinthat her face must be too happy. She feared to shock her mother'sgrief with her radiance. She was ashamed of feeling unmixed heaven.But the flood of secret bliss she floated in bore all misgivingsaway. The pair were forever stealing away together for hours, andon these occasions Rose used to keep out of her mother's sight,until they should return. So then the new-married couple couldwander hand in hand through the thick woods of Beaurepaire, whosefresh green leaves were now just out, and hear the distant cuckoo,and sit on mossy banks, and pour love into one another's eyes, andplan ages of happiness, and murmur their deep passion and theirbliss almost more than mortal; could do all this and more, withoutshocking propriety. These sweet duets passed for trios: for ontheir return Rose would be out looking for them, or would go andmeet them at some distance, and all three would go up together tothe baroness, as from a joint excursion. And when they went up totheir bedrooms, Josephine would throw her arms round her sister'sneck, and sigh, "It is not happiness, it is beatitude!"Meantime, the baroness mourned for Raynal. Her grief showed nodecrease. Rose even fancied at times she wore a gloomy anddiscontented look as well; but on reflection she attributed that toher own fancy, or to the contrast that had now sprung up in hersister's beaming complacency.
Rose, when she found herself left day after day alone for hours, wassad and thought of Edouard. And this feeling gained on her day byday.At last, one afternoon, she locked herself in her own room, and,after a long contest with her pride, which, if not indomitable, wasnext door to it, she sat down to write him a little letter. Now, inthis letter, in the place devoted by men to their after-thoughts, bywomen to their pretended after-thoughts; i. e., to what they havebeen thinking of all through the letter, she dropped a careless hintthat all the party missed him very much, "even the obnoxiouscolonel, who, by-the-by, has transferred his services elsewhere. Ihave forgiven him that, because he has said civil things about you."Rose was reading her letter over again, to make sure that all theprincipal expressions were indistinct, and that the compositiongenerally, except the postscript, resembled a Delphic oracle, whenthere was a hasty footstep, and a tap at her door, and in cameJacintha, excited.
"He is come, mademoiselle," cried she, and nodded her head like amandarin, only more knowingly; then she added, "So you may burnthat." For her quick eye had glanced at the table."Who is come?" inquired Rose, eagerly.