"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 aethereum chart eurothundering 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.
"What I know, and what other people would say, are two very different things. Neithcan china buy dogecoiner you nor anyone else can go too strongly against public opinion. Still, it's nobody's business," added Tom thoughtfully. "Perhaps it's worth the trial. If she went I think she'd stay and do the best by you she could. Would you like to see her?""Yes."
Alida was summoned and stood with downcast eyes in the door. "Come in and take a chair," said Tom kindly. "You know I promised to be on the lookout for a good place for you. Well, my friend here, Mr. Holcroft, whom I've known ever since I was a boy, wants a woman to do general housework and take care of the dairy."She gave the farmer one of those swift, comprehensive glances by which women take in a personality, and said in a tone of regret, "But I don't understand dairy work.""Oh, you'd soon learn. It's just the kind of a place you said you wanted, a lonely, out-of-the-way farm and no other help kept. What's more, my friend Holcroft is a kind, honest man. He'd treat you right. He knows all about your trouble and is sorry for you."If Holcroft had been an ogre in appearance, he would have received the grateful glance which she now gave him as she said, "I'd be only too glad to work for you, sir, if you think I can do, or learn to do, what is required."Holcroft, while his friend was speaking, had studied closely Alida's thin, pale face, and he saw nothing in it not in harmony with the story he had heard. "I am sorry for you," he said kindly. "I believe you never meant to do wrong and have tried to do right. I will be perfectly honest with you. My wife is dead, the help I had has left me, and I live alone in the house. The truth is, too, that I could not afford to keep two in help, and there would not be work for them both."
Alida had learned much in her terrible adversity, and had, moreover the instincts of a class superior to the position she was asked to take. She bowed low to hide the burning flush that crimsoned her pale cheeks as she faltered, "It may seem strange to you, sirs, that one situated as I am should hesitate, but I have never knowingly done anything which gave people the right to speak against me. I do not fear work, I would humbly try to do my best, but--" She hesitated and rose as if to retire."I understand you," said Holcroft kindly, "and I don't blame you for doing what you think is right.""Permit me to tell you that his Holiness the Pope cannot undo mywork."Picard grinned slyly, and whispered something into Raynal's ear.
"Oh! indeed," said Raynal aloud and carelessly. "Come, MadameRaynal, to breakfast: follow us, the rest of you."They paired, and followed the bride and bridegroom into thebreakfast-room.The light words Picard whispered were five in number.Now if the mayor had not snubbed Picard just before, he would haveuttered those jocose but true words aloud. There was no particularreason why he should not. And if he had,--The threads of the web oflife, how subtle they are! The finest cotton of Manchester, thefiner meshes of the spider, seem three-inch cables by comparisonwith those moral gossamers which vulgar eyes cannot see at all, the"somethings, nothings," on which great fates have hung.It was a cheerful breakfast, thanks to Raynal, who would be in highspirits, and would not allow a word of regret from any one. MadameRaynal sat by his side, looking up at him every now and then withinnocent admiration. A merry wedding breakfast.
But if men and women could see through the walls of houses!Two doors off sat the wounded colonel alone, recruiting the smallremnant of his sore tried strength, that he might struggle on toBeaurepaire, and lose in one moment years of separation, pain,prison, anguish, martyrdom, in one great gush of joy withoutcompare.
The wedding breakfast was ended. The time was drawing near to part.There was a silence. It was broken by Madame Raynal. She askedRaynal very timidly if he had reflected. "On what?" said he."About taking me to Egypt.""No: I have not given it a thought since I said 'no.'""Yet permit me to say that it is my duty to be by your side, myhusband." And she colored at this word, being the first time shehad ever used it. Raynal was silent. She murmured on, "I would notbe an encumbrance to you, sir: I should not be useless. Gentlemen,I could add more to his comfort than he gives me credit for."Warm assent of the mayor and notary to this hint."I give you credit for being an angel," said Raynal warmly.
He hesitated. Rose was trembling, her fork shaking in her poorlittle hand.She cast a piteous glance at him. He saw it."You shall go with me next time," said he. "Let us speak of it nomore."Josephine bowed her head. "At least give me something to do for youwhile you are away. Tell me what I can do for my absent friend toshow my gratitude, my regard, my esteem.""Well, let me think. I saw a plain gray dress at Beaurepaire.""Yes, monsieur. My gray silk, Rose.""I like that dress.""Do you? Then the moment I reach home after losing you I shall putit on, and it shall be my constant wear. I see; you are right; graybecomes a wife whose husband is not dead, but is absent, and alas!in hourly danger.""Now look at that!" cried Raynal to the company. "That is her allover: she can see six meanings where another would see but one. Inever thought of that, I swear. I like modest colors, that is all.
My mother used to be all for modest wives wearing modest colors.""I am of her mind, sir. Is there nothing more difficult you will beso good as give me to do?""No; there is only one order more, and that will be easier still tosuch a woman as you. I commit to your care the name of Raynal. Itis not so high a name as yours, but it is as honest. I am proud ofit: I am jealous of it. I shall guard it for you in Egypt: youguard it in France for me.""With my life," cried Josephine, lifting her eyes and her hand toheaven.Soon after this Raynal ordered his charger.
The baroness began to cry. "The young people may hope to see youagain," said she; "but there are two chances against your poor oldmother.""Courage, mother!" cried the stout soldier. "No, no; you won't playme such a trick: once is enough for that game.""Brother!" cried Rose, "do not go without kissing your littlesister, who loves you and thanks you." He kissed her. "Bravo,generous soul!" she cried, with her arms round his neck. "Godprotect you, and send you back safe to us!""Amen!" cried all present by one impulse, even the cold notary.Raynal's mustache quivered. He kissed Josephine hastily on thebrow, the baroness on both cheeks; shook the men's hands warmly buthastily, and strode out without looking behind him. He was movedfor once.
They all followed him to the door of the house. He was tighteninghis horse's girths. He flung himself with all the resolution of hissteel nature into the saddle, and, with one grand wave of his cockedhat to the tearful group, he spurred away for Egypt.Chapter 9The baroness took the doctor a-shopping; she must buy Rose a graysilk. In doing this she saw many other tempting things. I say nomore.But the young ladies went up to Beaurepaire in the other carriage,for Josephine wished to avoid the gaze of the town, and get home andbe quiet. The driver went very fast. He had drunk the bride'shealth at the mayor's, item the bridegroom's, the bridesmaid's, themayor's, etc., and "a spur in the head is worth two in the heel,"says the proverb. The sisters leaned back on the soft cushions, andenjoyed the smooth and rapid motion once so familiar to them, sorare of late.Then Rose took her sister gently to task for having offered to go toEgypt. She had forgotten her poor sister."No, love," replied Josephine, "did you not see I dared not looktowards you? I love you better than all the world; but this was myduty. I was his wife: I had no longer a feeble inclination and afeeble disinclination to decide between, but right on one side,wrong on the other.""Oh! I know where your ladyship's strength lies: my force is--in--myinclinations.""Yes, Rose," continued Josephine thoughtfully, "duty is a greatcomfort: it is so tangible; it is something to lay hold of for lifeor death; a strong tower for the weak but well disposed."Rose assented, and they were silent a minute; and when she spokeagain it was to own she loved a carriage. "How fast we glide! Nowlean back with me, and take my hand, and as we glide shut your eyesand think: whisper me all your feelings, every one of them.""Well, then," said Josephine, half closing her eyes, "in the firstplace I feel a great calm, a heavenly calm. My fate is decided. Nomore suspense. My duties are clear. I have a husband I am proudof. There is no perfidy with him, no deceit, no disingenuousness,no shade. He is a human sun. He will make me a better, truerwoman, and I him a happier man. Yes, is it not nice to think thatgreat and strong as he is I can teach him a happiness he knows notas yet?" And she smiled with the sense of her delicate power, butsaid no more; for she was not the one to talk much about herself.
But Rose pressed her. "Yes, go on, dear," she said, "I seem to seeyour pretty little thoughts rising out of your heart like a bubblingfountain: go on."Thus encouraged, Josephine thought on aloud, "And then, gratitude!"said she. "I have heard it said, or read it somewhere, thatgratitude is a burden: I cannot understand that sentiment; why, tome gratitude is a delight, gratitude is a passion. It is thewarmest of all the tender feelings I have for dear Monsieur Raynal.I feel it glow here, in my bosom. I think I shall love him as Iought long before he comes back.""BEFORE?""Yes," murmured Josephine, her eyes still half closed. "His virtueswill always be present to me. His little faults of manner will notbe in sight. Good Raynal! The image of those great qualities Irevere so, perhaps because I fail in them myself, will be before mymind; and ere he comes home I shall love him dearly. I'll tell youone reason why I wished to go home at once was--no--you must guess.""Guess?" said Rose, contemptuously. "As if I did not see it was toput on your gray silk."Josephine smiled assent, and said almost with fervor, "Good Raynal!
I feel prouder of his honest name than of our noble one. And I amso calm, dear, thanks to you, so tranquil; so pleased that mymother's mind is at rest, so convinced all is for the best, socontented with my own lot; so hap--py."A gentle tear stole from beneath her long lashes. Rose looked ather wistfully: then laid her cheek to hers. They leaned back handin hand, placid and silent.The carriage glided fast. Beaurepaire was almost in sight.
Suddenly Josephine's hand tightened on Rose's, and she sat up in thecarriage like a person awakened from a strange dream."What is it?" asked Rose.
"Some one in uniform.""Oh, is that all? Ah! you thought it was a message from Raynal.""Oh! no! on foot--walking very slowly. Coming this way, too.Coming this way!" and she became singularly restless, and lookedround in the carriage. It was one of those old chariots with noside windows, but a peep hole at the back. This aperture, however,had a flap over it. Josephine undid the flap with nimble thoughagitated fingers; and saw--nothing. The road had taken a turn."Oh," said Rose, carelessly, "for that matter the roads are full ofsoldiers just now.""Ay, but not of officers on foot."Rose gave her such a look, and for the first time this many a dayspoke sternly to her, and asked her what on earth she had to do withuniforms or officers except one, the noblest in the world, herhusband.A month ago that word was almost indifferent to Josephine, or rathershe uttered it with a sort of mild complacency. Now she started atit, and it struck chill upon her. She did not reply, however, andthe carriage rolled on.
"He seemed to be dragging himself along." This was the first wordJosephine had spoken for some time. "Oh, did he?" replied Rosecarelessly; "well, let him. Here we are, at home.""I am glad of it," said Josephine, "very glad."On reaching Beaurepaire she wanted to go up-stairs at once and puton her gray gown. But the day was so delightful that Rose beggedher to stroll in the Pleasaunce for half an hour and watch for theirmother's return. She consented in an absent way, and presentlybegan to walk very fast, unconscious of her companion. Rose laid ahand upon her playfully to moderate her, and found her skin burning."Why, what is the matter?" said she, anxiously.
"Nothing, nothing," was the sharp reply."There's a fretful tone; and how excited you look, and feel too.
Well, I thought you were unnaturally calm after such an event.""I only saw his back," said Josephine. "Did not you see him?""See who? Oh, that tiresome officer. Why, how much more are we tohear about him? I don't believe there WAS one."At this moment a cocked hat came in sight, bobbing up and down abovethe palings that divided the park from the road. Josephine pointedto it without a word.Rose got a little cross at being practically confuted, and saidcoldly, "Come, let us go in; the only cocked hat we can see is onthe way to Paris."Josephine assented eagerly. But she had not taken two steps towardsthe house ere she altered her mind, and said she felt faint, shewanted air; no, she should stay out a little longer. "Look, Rose,"said she, in a strangely excited way, "what a shame! They put allmanner of rubbish into this dear old tree: I will have it all turnedout." And she looked with feigned interest into the tree: but hereyes seemed turned inward.
Rose gave a cry of surprise. "He is waving his hat to me! What onearth does that mean?""Perhaps he takes you for me," said Josephine."Who is it? What do you mean?""IT IS HE! I knew his figure at a glance." And she blushed andtrembled with joy; she darted behind the tree and peered round athim unseen: turning round a moment she found Rose at her back paleand stern. She looked at her, and said with terrible simplicity,"Ah, Rose, I forgot.""Are you mad, Josephine? Into the house this moment; if it IS he, Iwill receive him and send him about his business."But Josephine stood fascinated, and pale as ashes; for now thecocked hat stopped, and a pale face with eyes whose eager fire shoneeven at that distance, rose above the palings. Josephine crouchedbehind Rose, and gasped out, "Something terrible is coming,terrible! terrible!""Say something hateful," said Rose, trembling in her turn, but onlywith anger. "The heartless selfish traitor! He never notices youtill you are married to the noblest of mankind; and then he comeshere directly to ruin your peace. No; I have altered my mind. Heshall not see you, of course; but YOU shall hear HIM. I'll soonmake you know the wretch and loathe him as I do. There, now he hasturned the corner; hide in the oak while he is out of sight. Hide,quick, quick." Josephine obeyed mechanically; and presently,through that very aperture whence her sister had smiled on her lovershe hissed out, in a tone of which one would not have thought hercapable, "Be wise, be shrewd; find out who is the woman that hasseduced him from me, and has brought two wretches to this. I tellyou it is some wicked woman's doing. He loved me once.""Not so loud!--one word: you are a wife. Swear to me you will notlet him see you, come what may.""Oh! never! never!" cried Josephine with terror. "I would ratherdie. When you have heard what he has to say, then tell him I amdead. No, tell him I adore my husband, and went to Egypt this daywith him. Ah! would to God I had!""Sh! sh!""Sh!"Camille was at the little gate.Rose stood still, and nerved herself in silence. Josephine pantedin her hiding-place.Rose's only thought now was to expose the traitor to her sister, andrestore her peace. She pretended not to see Camille till he wasnear her. He came eagerly towards her, his pale face flushing withgreat joy, and his eyes like diamonds.
"Josephine! It is not Josephine, after all," said he. "Why, thismust be Rose, little Rose, grown up to a fine lady, a beautifullady.""What do you come here for, sir?" asked Rose in a tone of icyindifference."What do I come here for? is that the way to speak to me? but I amtoo happy to mind. Dear Beaurepaire! do I see you once again!""And madame?""What madame?""Madame Dujardin that is or was to be.""This is the first I have ever heard of her," said Camille, gayly.
"This is odd, for we have heard all about it.""Are you jesting?""No.""If I understand you right, you imply that I have broken faith withJosephine?""Certainly.""Then you lie, Mademoiselle Rose de Beaurepaire.""Insolent!""No. It is you who have insulted your sister as well as me. Shewas not made to be deserted for meaner women. Come, mademoiselle,affront me, and me alone, and you shall find me more patient. Oh!who would have thought Beaurepaire would receive me thus?""It is your own fault. You never sent her a line for all theseyears.""Why, how could I?""Well, sir, the information you did not supply others did. We knowthat you were seen in a Spanish village drinking between twoguerillas.""That is true," said Camille.
"An honest French soldier fired at you. Why, he told us so himself.""He told you true," said Camille, sullenly. "The bullet grazed myhand; see, here is the mark. Look!" She did look, and gave alittle scream; but recovering herself, said she wished it had gonethrough his heart. "Why prolong this painful interview?" said she;"the soldier told us all.""I doubt that," said Camille. "Did he tell you that under the tableI was chained tight down to the chair I sat in? Did he tell youthat my hand was fastened to a drinking-horn, and my elbow to thetable, and two fellows sitting opposite me with pistols quietlycovering me, ready to draw the trigger if I should utter a cry? Didhe tell you that I would have uttered that cry and died at thattable but for one thing, I had promised her to live?""Not he; he told me nothing so incredible. Besides, what became ofyou all these years? You are a double traitor, to your country andto her."Camille literally gasped for breath. "You are a most cruel younglady to insult me so," said he, and scalding tears forced themselvesfrom his eyes.Rose eyed him with merciless scorn.