But the next day early, Josephine took Rosbitcoin minere to a door outside thehouse, a door that had long been disused. Nettles grew before it.
"Sir, you whom I have called my son, but whom I witerra ultra pet foodll never presumeso to call again, I thought I had lived long enough never to have toblush again. I loved you, monsieur. I prayed every day for you.But she who WAS my daughter was not of my mind. Monsieur, I havenever knelt but to God and to my king, and I kneel to you: forgiveus, sir, forgive us!"She tried to go down on her knees. He raised her with his strongarm, but he could not speak. She turned on the others.
"So this is the secret you were hiding from me! This secret has notkilled you all. Oh! I shall not live under its shame so long as youhave. Chateau of Beaurepaire--nest of treason, ingratitude, andimmodesty--I loathe you as much as once I loved you. I will go andhide my head, and die elsewhere.""Stay, madame!" said he, in a voice whose depth and dignity was suchthat it seemed impossible to disobey it. "It was sudden--I wasshaken--but I am myself again.""Oh, show some pity!" cried Rose."I shall try to be just."There was a long, trembling silence; and during that silence andterrible agitation, one figure stood firm among those quaking,beating hearts, like a rock with the waves breaking round it--theMAN OF PRINCIPLE among the creatures of impulse.He raised Josephine from her knees, and placed her all limp andpowerless in an arm-chair. To her frenzy had now succeeded asickness and feebleness like unto death."Widow Dujardin," said he, in a broken voice, "listen to me."She moaned a sort of assent."Your mistake has been not trusting me. I was your friend, and nota selfish friend. I was not enough in love with you to destroy yourhappiness. Besides, I despise that sort of love. If you had toldme all, I would have spared you this misery. By the present law,civil contracts of marriage can be dissolved by mutual consent."At this the baroness uttered some sign of surprise.
"Ah!" continued Raynal, sadly, "you are aristocrats, and cannot keeppace with the times. This very day our mere contract shall beformally dissolved. Indeed, it ceases to exist since both partiesare resolved to withdraw from it. So, if you married Dujardin in achurch, you are Madame Dujardin at this moment, and his child islegitimate. What does she say?"This question was to Rose, for what Josephine uttered sounded like amere articulate moan. But Rose's quick ear had caught words, andshe replied, all in tears, "My poor sister is blessing you, sir. Weall bless you.""She does not understand my position," said Raynal. He then walkedup to Josephine, and leaning over her arm, and speaking rather loud,under the impression that her senses were blunted by grief, he said,"Look here: Colonel Dujardin, your husband, deliberately, and withhis eyes open, sacrificed his life for me, and for his own heroicsense of honor. Now, it is my turn. If that hero stood here, andasked me for all the blood in my body, I would give it him. He isgone; but, dying for me, he has left me his widow and his child;they remain under my wing. To protect them is my pride, and my onlyconsolation. I am going to the mayor to annul our unlucky contractin due form, and make us brother and sister instead. But," turningto the baroness, "don't you think to escape me as your daughter hasdone: no, no, old lady, once a mother, always a mother. Stir fromyour son's home if you dare!"And with these words, in speaking which his voice had recovered itsiron firmness, he strode out at the door, superb in manhood andprinciple, and every eye turned with wonder and admiration afterhim. Even when he was gone they gazed at the door by which acreature so strangely noble had disappeared.The baroness was about to follow him without taking any notice ofJosephine. But Rose caught her by the gown. "O mother, speak topoor Josephine: bid her live."The baroness only made a gesture of horror and disgust, and turnedher back on them both.praying to the Virgin with sighs and sobs and all her soul:
wrestling so in prayer with a dead saint as by a strange perversitymen cannot or will not wrestle with Him, who alone can hear amillion prayers at once from a million different places,--canrealize and be touched with a sense of all man's infirmities in away no single saint with his partial experience of them can realizeand be touched by them; who unasked suspended the laws of naturethat had taken a stranger's only son, and she a widow; and wept atanother great human sorrow, while the eyes of all the great saintsthat stood around it and Him were dry.Well, the soldier stood, his right foot on the step and his sword inhis left hand, transfixed: listening gravely to the agony of prayerthe innocent young creature poured forth within:--"O Madonna! hear me: it is for my mother's life. She will die--shewill die. You know she cannot live if she is taken away from herhouse and from this holy place where she prays to you this manyyears. O Queen of Heaven! put out your hand to us unfortunates!Virgin, hear a virgin: mother, listen to a child who prays for hermother's life! The doctor says she will not live away from here.She is too old to wander over the world. Let them drive us forth:
we are young, but not her, mother, oh, not her! Forgive the cruelmen that do this thing!--they are like those who crucified your Son--they know not what they are doing. But you, Queen of Heaven, youknow all; and, sweet mother, if you have kind sentiments towards me,poor Josephine, ah! show them now: for you know that it was I whoinsulted that wicked notary, and it is out of hatred to me he hassold our beloved house to a hard stranger. Look down on me, a childwho loves her mother, yet will destroy her unless you pity me andhelp me. Oh! what shall I say?--what shall I do? mercy! mercy! formy poor mother, for me!"Here her utterance was broken by sobs.The soldier withdrew his foot quietly. Her words had knockedagainst his very breast-bone. He marched slowly to and fro beforethe chapel, upright as a dart, and stiff as a ramrod, and actuallypale: for even our nerves have their habits; a woman's passionategrief shook him as a cannon fired over his head could not.
Josephine little thought who was her sentinel. She came to the doorat last, and there he was marching backwards and forwards, uprightand stiff. She gave a faint scream and drew back with a shudder atthe sight of their persecutor. She even felt faintish at him, aswomen will in such cases.Not being very quick at interpreting emotion, Raynal noticed heralarm, but not her repugnance; he saluted her with militaryprecision by touching his cap as only a soldier can, and said rathergently for him, "A word with you, mademoiselle."She replied only by trembling."Don't be frightened," said Raynal, in a tone not very reassuring."I propose an armistice.""I am at your disposal, sir," said Josephine, now assuming acalmness that was belied by the long swell of her heaving bosom.
"Of course you look on me as an enemy.""How can I do otherwise, sir? yet perhaps I ought not. You did notknow us. You just wanted an estate, I suppose--and--oh!""Well, don't cry; and let us come to the point, since I am a man offew words.""If you please, sir. My mother may miss me.""Well, I was in position on your flank when the notary delivered hisfire. And I saw the old woman's distress.""Ah, sir!""When you came flying out I followed to say a good word to you. Icould not catch you. I listened while you prayed to the Virgin.That was not a soldier-like trick, you will say. I confess it.""It matters little, sir, and you heard nothing I blush for.""No! by St. Denis; quite the contrary. Well, to the point. Younglady, you love your mother.""What has she on earth now but her children's love?""Now look here, young lady, I had a mother; I loved her in myhumdrum way very dearly. She promised me faithfully not to die tillI should be a colonel; and she went and died before I was acommandant, even; just before, too.""Then I pity you," murmured Josephine; and her soft purple eye beganto dwell on him with less repugnance."Thank you for that word, my good young lady," said Raynal. "Now, Ideclare, you are the first that has said that word to me about mylosing the true friend, that nursed me on her knee, and pinched andpinched to make a man of me. I should like to tell you about herand me.""I shall feel honored," said Josephine, politely, but withconsiderable restraint.Then he told her all about how he had vexed her when he was a boy,and gone for a soldier, though she was all for trade, and how he hadbeen the more anxious to see her enjoy his honors and success.
"And, mademoiselle," said he, appealingly, "the day this epaulet wasput on my shoulder in Italy, she died in Paris. Ah! how could youhave the heart to do that, my old woman?"The soldier's mustache quivered, and he turned away brusquely, andtook several steps. Then he came back to Josephine, and to hisinfinite surprise saw that her purple eyes were thick with tears."What? you are within an inch of crying for my mother, you who haveyour own trouble at this hour.""Monsieur, our situations are so alike, I may well spare some littlesympathy for your misfortune.""Thank you, my good young lady. Well, then, to business; while youwere praying to the Virgin, I was saying a word or two for my partto her who is no more.""Sir!""Oh! it was nothing beautiful like the things you said to the other.
Can I turn phrases? I saw her behind her little counter in the RueQuincampoix; for she is a woman of the people, is my mother. I sawmyself come to the other side of the counter, and I said, 'Lookhere, mother, here is the devil to pay about this new house. Theold woman talks of dying if we take her from her home, and the youngone weeps and prays to all the saints in paradise; what shall we do,eh?' Then I thought my old woman said to me, 'Jean, you are asoldier, a sort of vagabond; what do you want with a house inFrance? you who are always in a tent in Italy or Austria, or whoknows where. Have you the courage to give honest folk so much painfor a caprice? Come now,' says she, 'the lady is of my age, sayyou, and I can't keep your fine house, because God has willed itotherwise; so give her my place; so then you can fancy it is me youhave set down at your hearth: that will warm your heart up a bit,you little scamp,' said my old woman in her rough way. She was notwell-bred like you, mademoiselle. A woman of the people, nothingmore.""She was a woman of God's own making, if she was like that," criedJosephine, the tears now running down her cheeks."Ah, that she was, she was. So between her and me it is settled--what are you crying for NOW? why, you have won the day; the field isyours; your mother and you remain; I decamp." He whipped hisscabbard up with his left hand, and was going off without anotherword, if Josephine had not stopped him.
"But, sir, what am I to think? what am I to hope? it is impossiblethat in this short interview--and we must not forget what is due toyou. You have bought the estate.""True; well, we will talk over that, to-morrow; but being turned outof the house, that was the bayonet thrust to the old lady. So yourun in and put her heart at rest about it. Tell her that she maylive and die in this house for Jean Raynal; and tell her about theold woman in the Rue Quincampoix.""God bless you, Jean Raynal!" cried Josephine, clasping her hands."Are you going?" said he, peremptorily."Oh, yes!" and she darted towards the chateau.But when she had taken three steps she paused, and seemed irresolute.She turned, and in a moment she had glided to Raynal again and hadtaken his hand before he could hinder her, and pressed two velvetlips on it, and was away again, her cheeks scarlet at what she haddone, and her wet eyes beaming with joy. She skimmed the grass likea lapwing; you would have taken her at this minute for Rose, or forVirgil's Camilla; at the gate she turned an instant and clasped herhands together, with such a look, to show Raynal she blessed himagain, then darted into the house."Aha, my lady," said he, as he watched her fly, "behold you changeda little since you came out." He was soon on the high road marchingdown to the town at a great rate, his sword clanking, and thus ranhis thoughts: "This does one good; you are right, my old woman.
Your son's bosom feels as warm as toast. Long live the five-francpieces! And they pretend money cannot make a fellow happy. Theylie; it is because they do not know how to spend it."Meantime at the chateau, as still befalls in emergencies and trials,the master spirit came out and took its real place. Rose was nowthe mistress of Beaurepaire; she set Jacintha, and Dard, and thedoctor, to pack up everything of value in the house. "Do it thismoment!" she cried; "once that notary gets possession of the house,it may be too late. Enough of folly and helplessness. We havefooled away house and lands; our movables shall not follow them."The moment she had set the others to work, she wrote a single lineto Riviere to tell him the chateau and lands were sold, and would hecome to Beaurepaire at once? She ran with it herself to Bigot'sauberge, the nearest post-office, and then back to comfort hermother.The baroness was seated in her arm-chair, moaning and wringing herhands, and Rose was nursing and soothing her, and bathing hertemples with her last drop of eau de Cologne, and trying in vain toput some of her own courage into her, when in came Josephine radiantwith happiness, crying "Joy! joy! joy!" and told her strange tale,with this difference, that she related her own share in it brieflyand coldly, and was more eloquent than I about the strange soldier'sgoodness, and the interest her mother had awakened in his heart.
And she told about the old woman in the Rue Quincampoix, her ruggedphrases, and her noble, tender heart. The baroness, deaf to Rose'sconsolations, brightened up directly at Josephine's news, and at herglowing face, as she knelt pouring the good news, and hope, andcomfort, point blank into her. But Rose chilled them both."It is a generous offer," said, she, "but one we cannot accept. Wecannot live under so great an obligation. Is all the generosity tobe on the side of this Bonapartist? Are we noble in name only?
What would our father have said to such a proposal?"Josephine hung her head. The baroness groaned."No, mother," continued Rose; "let house and land go, but honor andtrue nobility remain.""What shall I do? you are cruel to me, Rose.""Mamma," cried the enthusiastic girl, "we need depend on no one.
Josephine and I have youth and spirit.""But no money.""We have plenty of jewels, and pictures, and movables. We can takea farm.""A farm!" shrieked the baroness."Why, his uncle has a farm, and we have had recourse to him forhelp: better a farmhouse than an almshouse, though that almshousewere a palace instead of a chateau."Josephine winced and held up her hand deprecatingly. The baronesspaled: it was a terrible stroke of language to come from herdaughter. She said sternly, "There is no answer to that. We wereborn nobles, let us die farmers: only permit me to die first.""Forgive me, mother," said Rose, kneeling. "I was wrong; it is forme to obey you, not to dictate. I speak no more." And, afterkissing her mother and Josephine, she crept away, but she left herwords sticking in both their consciences."HIS uncle," said the shrewd old lady. "She is no longer a child;and she says his uncle. This makes me half suspect it is her thatdear boy--Josephine, tell me the truth, which of you is it?""Dear mother, who should it be? they are nearly of an age: and whatman would not love our sweet Rose, that had eyes or a heart?"The baroness sighed deeply; and was silent. After awhile she said,"The moment they have a lover, he detaches their hearts from theirpoor old mother. She is no longer what my Josephine is to me.""Mamma, she is my superior. I see it more and more every day. Sheis proud: she is just; she looks at both sides. As for me, I am tooapt to see only what will please those I love.""And that is the daughter for me," cried the poor baroness, openingher arms wide to her.The next morning when they were at breakfast, in came Jacintha tosay the officer was in the dining-room and wanted to speak with theyoung lady he talked to yesterday. Josephine rose and went to him.
"Well, mademoiselle," said he gayly, "the old woman was right. HereI have just got my orders to march: to leave France in a month. Apretty business it would have been if I had turned your mother out.So you see there is nothing to hinder you from living here.""In your house, sir?""Why not, pray?""Forgive us. But we feel that would be unjust to you, humiliatingto us: the poor are sometimes proud.""Of course they are," said Raynal: "and I don't want to offend yourpride. Confound the house: why did I go and buy it? It is no useto me except to give pain to worthy people." He then, after amoment's reflection, asked her if the matter could not be arrangedby some third party, a mutual friend. "Then again," said he, "Idon't know any friend of yours.""Yes, sir," said Josephine; "we have one friend, who knows you, andesteems you highly."She wanted to name Edouard; but she hesitated, and asked herconscience if it was fair to name him: and while she blushed andhesitated, lo and behold a rival referee hove in sight. Raynal sawhim, suddenly opened a window, and shouted, "Hallo come in here: youare wanted."Perrin had ridden up to complete the exodus of the De Beaurepaires,and was strolling about inspecting the premises he had expelled themfrom.
Here was a pretty referee!Josephine almost screamed--"What are you doing? that is our enemy,our bitterest enemy. He has only sold you the estate to spite us,not for the love of you. I had--we had--we mortified his vanity.
It was not our fault: he is a viper. Sir, pray, pray, pray be onyour guard against his counsels."These words spoken with rare fire and earnestness carriedconviction: but it was too late to recall the invitation. Thenotary entered the room, and was going to bow obsequiously toRaynal, when he caught sight of Josephine, and almost started.Raynal, after Josephine's warning, was a little at a loss how tomake him available; and even that short delay gave the notary's onefoible time to lead him into temptation. "Our foibles are ourmanias.""So," said he, "you have taken possession, commandant. Thesemilitary men are prompt, are they not, mademoiselle?""Do not address yourself to me, sir, I beg," said Josephine quietly.
Perrin kept his self-command. "It is only as Commandant Raynal'sagent I presume to address so distinguished a lady: in thatcharacter I must inform you that whatever movables you have removedare yours: those we find in the house on entering we keep.""Come, come, not so fast," cried Raynal; "bother the chairs andtables! that is not the point.""Commandant," said the notary with dignity, "have I done anything tomerit this? have I served your interests so ill that you withdrawyour confidence from me?""No, no, my good fellow; but you exceed your powers. Just now Iwant you to take orders, not give them.""That is only just," said Perrin, "and I recall my hasty remark:excuse the susceptibility of a professional man, who is honored withthe esteem of his clients; and favor me with your wishes.""All right," said Raynal heartily. "Well, then--I want mademoiselleand her family to stay here while I go to Egypt with the FirstConsul. Mademoiselle makes difficulties; it offends her delicacy.""Comedy!" said the notary contemptuously."Though her mother's life depends on her staying here.""Comedy!" said Perrin. Raynal frowned."Her pride (begging her pardon) is greater than her affection.""Farce!""I have pitched upon you to reconcile the two.""Then you have pitched upon the wrong man," said Perrin bluntly. Headded obsequiously, "I am too much your friend. She has beentalking you over, no doubt; but you have a friend, an Ulysses, whois deaf to the siren's voice. I will be no party to such atransaction. I will not co-operate to humbug my friend and rob himof his rights."If Josephine was inferior to the notary in petty sharpness, she washis superior in the higher kinds of sagacity; and particularly ininstinctive perception of character. Her eye flashed with delightat the line Perrin was now taking with Raynal. The latter speedilyjustified her expectations: he just told Perrin to be off, and sendhim a more accommodating notary.
"A more accommodating notary!" screamed Perrin, stung to madness bythis reproach. "There is not a more accommodating notary in Europe.Ungrateful man! is this the return for all my zeal, my integrity, myunselfishness? Is there another agent in the world who would havelet such a bargain as Beaurepaire fall into your hands? It servesme right for deviating from the rules of business. Send me anotheragent--oh!"The honest soldier was confused. The lawyer's eloquence overpoweredhim. He felt guilty. Josephine saw his simplicity, and made a cutwith a woman's two-edged sword. "Sir," said she coolly, "do you notsee it is an affair of money? This is his way of saying, Pay mehandsomely for so unusual a commission.""And I'll pay him double," cried Raynal, catching the idea; "don'tbe alarmed, I'll pay you for it.""And my zeal, my devotion?""Put 'em in figures.""And my prob--?""Add it up.""And my integ--?""Add them together: and don't bother me.""I see! I see! my poor soldier. You are no match for a woman'stongue.""Nor, for a notary's. Go to h---, and send in your bill!" roaredthe soldier in a fury. "Well, will you go?" and he marched at him.
The notary scuttled out, with something between a snarl and a squeak.Josephine hid her face in her hands.
"What is the matter with you?" inquired Raynal. "Not crying again,surely!""Me! I never cry--hardly. I hid my face because I could not helplaughing. You frightened me, sir," said she: then very demurely, "Iwas afraid you were going to beat him.""No, no; a good soldier never leathers a civilian if he can possiblyhelp it; it looks so bad; and before a lady!""Oh, I would have forgiven you, monsieur," said Josephine benignly,and something like a little sun danced in her eye."Now, mademoiselle, since my referee has proved a pig, it is yourturn. Choose you a mutual friend."Josephine hesitated. "Ours is so young. You know him very well.