Her right-hand neighbour at the dinner-table was a professor of economics of intaescryptoserviceprovider algorithmernational reputation, and she concluded soundly that he would not be overwhelmingly interested in the knitting of jumpers, or the style of the season's hats.
"You are a good debitcoin future value predictionsal cast down, Alida," he said, watching her closely."I've reason to be. I don't see any light ahead at all."
"Well, you know the old saying, 'It's darkest before day.' I want you to come with me again. I think I've found a chance for you."She rose with alacrity and followed. As soon as they were alone, he turned and looked her squarely in the face as he said gravely, "You have good common sense, haven't you?""I don't know, sir," she faltered, perplexed and troubled by the question."Well, you can understand this much, I suppose. As superintendent of this house I have a responsible position, which I could easily lose if I allowed myself to be mixed up with anything wrong or improper. To come right to the point, you don't know much about me and next to nothing of my friend Holcroft, but can't you see that even if I was a heartless, good-for-nothing fellow, it wouldn't be wise or safe for me to permit anything that wouldn't bear the light?""I think you are an honest man, sir. It would be strange if I did not have confidence when you have judged me and treated me so kindly. But, Mr. Watterly, although helpless and friendless, I must try to do what I think is best. If I accepted Mr. Holcroft's position it might do him harm. You know how quick the world is to misjudge. It would seem to confirm everything that has been said against me," and the same painful flush again overspread her features.
"Well, Alida, all that you have to do is to listen patiently to my friend. Whether you agree with his views or not, you will see that he is a good-hearted, honest man. I want to prepare you for this talk by assuring you that I've known him since he was a boy, that he has lived all his life in this region and is known by many others, and that I wouldn't dare let him ask you to do anything wrong, even if I was bad enough.""I'm sure, sir, you don't wish me any harm," she again faltered in deep perplexity.In these contests day by day renewed, Camille had many advantages.
Rose, though she did not like him, had now declared on his side.She refused to show him the least attention. This threw him onJosephine: and when Josephine begged her to help reduce Camille toreason, her answer would be,--"Hypocrite!" with a kiss: or else she would say, with a half comicpetulance, "No! no! I am on his side. Give him his own way, or hewill make us all four miserable."Thus Josephine's ally went over to the enemy.And then this coy young lady's very power of resistance began togive way. She had now battled for months against her own heart:first for her mother; then, in a far more terrible conflict forRaynal, for honor and purity; and of late she had been battling,still against her own heart, for delicacy, for etiquette, thingsvery dear to her, but not so great, holy, and sustaining as honorand charity that were her very household gods: and so, just when themotives of resistance were lowered, the length of the resistancebegan to wear her out.
For nothing is so hard to her sex as a long steady struggle. Inmatters physical, this is the thing the muscles of the fair cannotstand; in matters intellectual and moral, the long strain it is thatbeats them dead.Do not look for a Bacona, a Newtona, a Handella, a Victoria Huga.
Some American ladies tell us education has stopped the growth ofthese.No! mesdames. These are not in nature.They can bubble letters in ten minutes that you could no moredeliver to order in ten days than a river can play like a fountain.They can sparkle gems of stories: they can flash little diamonds ofpoems. The entire sex has never produced one opera nor one epicthat mankind could tolerate: and why? these come by long, high-strung labor. But, weak as they are in the long run of everythingbut the affections (and there giants), they are all overpoweringwhile their gallop lasts. Fragilla shall dance any two of you flaton the floor before four o'clock, and then dance on till the peep ofday.
Only you trundle off to your business as usual, and could danceagain the next night, and so on through countless ages.She who danced you into nothing is in bed, a human jelly tipped withheadache.What did Josephine say to Rose one day? "I am tired of saying 'No!no! no! no! no!' forever and ever to him I love."But this was not all. She was not free from self-reproach.
Camille's faith in her had stood firm. Hers in him had not. Shehad wronged him, first by believing him false, then by marryinganother. One day she asked his pardon for this. He replied that hehad forgiven that; but would she be good enough to make him forgetit?"I wish I could.""You can. Marry me: then your relation to that man will seem but ahideous dream. I shall be able to say, looking at you, my wife, 'Iwas faithful: I suffered something for her; I came home: she lovedme still; the proof is, she was my wife within three months of myreturn.'"When he said that to her in the Pleasaunce, if there had been apriest at hand--. In a word, Josephine longed to show him her love,yet wished not to shock her mother, nor offend her own sense ofdelicacy; but Camille cared for nothing but his love. To sacrificelove and happiness, even for a time, to etiquette, seemed to him tobe trifling with the substance of great things for the shadow ofpetty things; and he said so: sometimes sadly, sometimes almostbitterly.
So Josephine was a beleagured fortress, attacked with one will, anddefended by troops, one-third of which were hot on the side of thebesiegers.When singleness attacks division, you know the result beforehand.
Why then should I spin words? I will not trace so ill-matched acontest step by step, sentence by sentence: let me rather hasten torelate the one peculiarity that arose out of this trite contest,where, under the names of Camille and Josephine, the two great sexesmay be seen acting the whole world-wide distich,--"It's a man's part to try,And a woman's to deny [for a while?]."Finding her own resolutions oozing away, Josephine caught at anotherperson.She said to Camille before Rose,--"Even if I could bring myself to snatch at happiness in thisindelicate way--scarce a month after, oh!" And there ended thelady's sentence. In the absence of a legitimate full stop, she putone hand before her lovely face to hide it, and so no more. Butsome two minutes after she delivered the rest in the form and withthe tone of a distinct remark, "No: my mother would never consent.""Yes, she would if you could be brought to implore her as earnestlyas I implore you.""Now would she?" asked Josephine, turning quickly to her sister."No, never. Our mother would look with horror on such a proposal.A daughter of hers to marry within a twelvemonth of her widowhood!""There, you see, Camille.""And, besides, she loved Raynal so; she has not forgotten him as wehave, almost.""Ungrateful creature that I am!" sighed Josephine!"She mourns for him every day. Often I see her eyes suddenly fill;that is for him. Josephine's influence with mamma is very great: itis double mine: but if we all went on our knees to her, the doctorand all, she would never consent.""There you see, Camille: and I could not defy my mother, even foryou."Camille sighed."I see everything is against me, even my love: for that love is toomuch akin to veneration to propose to you a clandestine marriage.""Oh, thank you! bless you for respecting as well as loving me, dearCamille," said Josephine.
These words, uttered with gentle warmth, were some consolation toCamille, and confirmed him, as they were intended to do, in theabove good resolution. He smiled."Maladroit!" muttered Rose.
"Why maladroit?" asked Camille, opening his eyes."Let us talk of something else," replied Rose, coolly.
Camille turned red. He understood that he had done something verystupid, but he could not conceive what. He looked from one sisterto the other alternately. Rose was smiling ironically, Josephinehad her eyes bent demurely on a handkerchief she was embroidering.That evening Camille drew Rose aside, and asked for an explanationof her "maladroit.""So it was," replied Rose, sharply.
But as this did not make the matter quite clear, Camille begged alittle further explanation."Was it your part to make difficulties?""No, indeed.""Was it for you to tell her a secret marriage would not be delicate?Do you think she will be behind you in delicacy? or that a lovewithout respect will satisfy her? yet you must go and tell her yourespected her too much to ask her to marry you secretly. In otherwords, situated as she is, you asked her not to marry you at all:she consented to that directly; what else could you expect?""Maladroit! indeed," said Camille, "but I would not have said it,only I thought"--"You thought nothing would induce her to marry secretly, so you saidto yourself, 'I will assume a virtue: I will do a bit of cheap self-denial: decline to the sound of trumpets what another will be sureto deny me if I don't--ha! ha!'--well, for your comfort, I am by nomeans so sure she might not have been brought to do ANYTHING foryou, except openly defy mamma: but now of course"--And here this young lady's sentence ended: for the sisters, unlikein most things, were one in grammar.
Camille was so disconcerted and sad at what he had done, that Rosebegan to pity him: so she rallied him a little longer in spite ofher pity: and then all of a sudden gave him her hand, and said shewould try and repair the mischief.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.