Between the park and the angle of the chateau was a small plot ofturf called at Beaurepaire the Pleasance, a name that had descendedalong with other traditions; and in the centre obitcoin code keanu reevesf this Pleasance, orPleasaunce, stood a wonderful oak-tree. Its circumference wasthirty-four feet. The baroness came to this ancient tree, and hungher chaplet on a mutilated limb called the "knights' bough."The sun was setting tranquil and red; a broad ruby streak lingeredon the deep green leaves of the prodigious oak. The baroness lookedat it awhile in silence.
A spacious saloon panelled; dead but showy white picked outsparingly with gold. Festoons of fruits and flowers finely carvedin wood on some of the panels. These also not smothered in gilding,but as it were gold speckled here and there, like tongues of flamewinding among insoluble snow. Ranged against the walls were sofasand chairs covered with rich stuffs well worn. And in one littledistant corner of the long room a gray-haired gentleman and twoyoung ladies sat round a small plain table, on which burned asolitary candle; and a little way apart in this candle's twilight anold lady sat in an easy-chair, thinking of the past, scarce daringto inquire the future. Josephine and Rose were working: not fancy-work but needle-work; Dr. Aubertin writing. Every now and then heput the one candle nearer the girls. They raised no objection: onlya few minutes after a white hand would glide from one or other ofthem like a serpent, and smoothly convey the light nearer to thedoctor's manuscript.ethereum blockchain größe"Is it not supper-time?" he inquired. "I have an inward monitor;and I think our dinner was more ethereal than usual.""Hush!" said Josephine, and looked uneasily towards her mother.
"Wax is so dear.""Wax?--ah!--pardon me:" and the doctor returned hastily to his work.But Rose looked up and said, "I wonder Jacintha does not come; it iscertainly past the hour;" and she pried into the room as if sheexpected to see Jacintha on the road. But she saw in fact verylittle of anything, for the spacious room was impenetrable to hereye; midway from the candle to the distant door its twilightdeepened, and all became shapeless and sombre. The prospect endedsharp and black, as in those out-o'-door closets imagined andpainted by a certain great painter, whose Nature comes to a fullstop as soon as he has no further commercial need of her, instead ofmelting by fine expanse and exquisite gradation into genuinedistance, as nature does in Claude and in nature. To reverse thepicture, if you stood at the door you looked across forty feet ofblack, and the little corner seemed on fire, and the fair headsabout the candle shone like the St. Cecilias and Madonnas in anantique stained-glass window.At last the door opened, and another candle fired Jacintha's comelypeasant face in the doorway. She put down her candle outside thedoor, and started as crow flies for the other light. After glowinga moment in the doorway she dived into the shadow and emerged intolight again close to the table with napkins on her arm. She removedthe work-box reverentially, the doctor's manuscript unceremoniously,and proceeded to lay a cloth: in which operation she looked at Rosea point-blank glance of admiration: then she placed the napkins; andin this process she again cast a strange look of interest upon Rose.The young lady noticed it this time, and looked inquiringly at herin return, half expecting some communication; but Jacintha loweredher eyes and bustled about the table. Then Rose spoke to her with asort of instinct of curiosity, on the chance of drawing her out."Supper is late to-night, is it not, Jacintha?""Yes, mademoiselle; I have had more cooking than usual," and withthis she delivered another point-blank look as before, and divedinto the palpable obscure, and came to light in the doorway.
Her return was anxiously expected; for, if the truth must be told,they were very hungry. So rigorous was the economy in this decayedbut honorable house that the wax candles burned to-day in theoratory had scrimped their dinner, unsubstantial as it was wont tobe. Think of that, you in fustian jackets who grumble after meat.The door opened, Jacintha reappeared in the light of her candle amoment with a tray in both hands, and, approaching, was lost toview; but a strange and fragrant smell heralded her. All their eyesturned with curiosity towards the unwonted odor, and Jacintha dawnedwith three roast partridges on a dish.For my part I feel sure love is stronger than hate; and we shallstay all our days in this sweet place: and O Josey! am I not a happygirl that it's all owing to HIM!"At this moment Jacintha came running towards them. They took it fora summons to breakfast, and moved to meet her. But they soon sawshe was almost as white as her apron, and she came open-mouthed andwringing her hands. "What shall I do? what shall I do? Oh, don'tlet my poor mistress know!"They soon got from her that Dard had just come from the town, andlearned the chateau was sold, and the proprietor coming to takepossession this very day. The poor girls were stupefied by theblow.
If anything, Josephine felt it worst. "It is my doing," she gasped,and tottered fainting. Rose supported her: she shook it off by aviolent effort. "This is no time for weakness," she cried, wildly;"come to the Pleasaunce; there is water there. I love my mother.What will I not do for her? I love my mother."Muttering thus wildly she made for the pond in the Pleasaunce. Shehad no sooner turned the angle of the chateau than she started backwith a convulsive cry, and her momentary feebleness left herdirectly; she crouched against the wall and griped the ancientcorner-stone with her tender hand till it powdered, and she spiedwith dilating eye into the Pleasaunce, Rose and Jacintha pantingbehind her. Two men stood with their backs turned to her looking atthe oak-tree; one an officer in full uniform, the other the humansnake Perrin. Though the soldier's back was turned, his off-handed,peremptory manner told her he was inspecting the place as its master."The baroness! the baroness!" cried Jacintha, with horror. Theylooked round, and the baroness was at their very backs."What is it?" cried she, gayly.
"Nothing, mamma.""Let me see this nothing."They glanced at one another, and, idle as the attempt was, the habitof sparing her prevailed, and they flung themselves between her andthe blow."Josephine is not well," said Rose. "She wants to go in." Bothgirls faced the baroness.
"Jacintha," said the baroness, "fetch Dr. Aubertin. There, I havesent her away. So now tell me, why do you drive me back so?Something has happened," and she looked keenly from one to theother."O mamma! do not go that way: there are strangers in the Pleasaunce.""Let me see. So there are. Call Jacintha back that I may orderthese people out of my premises." Josephine implored her to becalm."Be calm when impertinent intruders come into my garden?""Mother, they are not intruders.""What do you mean?""They have a right to be in our Pleasaunce. They have bought thechateau.""It is impossible. HE was to buy it for us--there is some mistake--what man would kill a poor old woman like me? I will speak to thisgentleman: he wears a sword. Soldiers do not trample on women. Ah!
that man."The notary, attracted by her voice, was coming towards her, a paperin his hand.Raynal coolly inspected the tree, and tapped it with his scabbard,and left Perrin to do the dirty work. The notary took off his hat,and, with a malignant affectation of respect, presented the baronesswith a paper.The poor old thing took it with a courtesy, the effect of habit, andread it to her daughters as well as her emotion permitted, and thelanguage, which was as new to her as the dialect of Cat Island toColumbus."Jean Raynal, domiciled by right, and lodging in fact at the Chateauof Beaurepaire, acting by the pursuit and diligence of MasterPerrin, notary; I, Guillaume Le Gras, bailiff, give notice toJosephine Aglae St. Croix de Beaurepaire, commonly called theBaroness de Beaurepaire, having no known place of abode"--"Oh!""but lodging wrongfully at the said Chateau of Beaurepaire, that sheis warned to decamp within twenty-four hours"--"To decamp!""failing which that she will be thereto enforced in the manner forthat case made and provided with the aid of all the officers andagents of the public force.""Ah! no, messieurs, pray do not use force. I am frightened enoughalready. I did not know I was doing anything wrong. I have beenhere thirty years. But, since Beaurepaire is sold, I comprehendperfectly that I must go. It is just. As you say, I am not in myown house. I will go, gentlemen, I will go. Whither shall I go, mychildren? The house where you were born to me is ours no longer.
Excuse me, gentlemen--this is nothing to you. Ah! sir, you haverevenged yourself on two weak women--may Heaven forgive you!"The notary turned on his heel. The poor baroness, all whose pridethe iron law, with its iron gripe, had crushed into dismay andterror, appealed to him. "O sir! send me from the house, but notfrom the soil where my Henri is laid! is there not in all thisdomain a corner where she who was its mistress may lie down and die?Where is the NEW BARON, that I may ask this favor of him on myknees?"She turned towards Raynal and seemed to be going towards him withoutstretched arms. But Rose checked her with fervor. "Mamma! donot lower yourself. Ask nothing of these wretches. Let us loseall, but not forget ourselves."The baroness had not her daughter's spirit. Her very persontottered under this blow. Josephine supported her, and the nextmoment Aubertin came out and hastened to her side. Her head fellback; what little strength she had failed her; she was half lifted,half led, into the house.
Commandant Raynal was amazed at all this, and asked what the deucewas the matter."Oh!" said the notary, "we are used to these little scenes in ourbusiness.""But I am not," replied the soldier. "You never told me there wasto be all this fuss."He then dismissed his friend rather abruptly and strode up and downthe Pleasaunce. He twisted his mustaches, muttered, and "pested,"and was ill at ease. Accustomed to march gayly into a town, and seethe regiment, that was there before, marching gayly out, or viceversa, and to strike tents twice a quarter at least, he was littleprepared for such a scene as this. True, he did not hear all thebaroness's words, but more than one tone of sharp distress reachedhim where he stood, and the action of the whole scene was soexpressive, there was little need of words. He saw the noticegiven; the dismay it caused, and the old lady turn imploringlytowards him with a speaking gesture, and above all he saw hercarried away, half fainting, her hands clasped, her reverend facepale. He was not a man of quick sensibilities. He did notthoroughly take the scene in at first: it grew upon him afterwards.
"Confound it," thought he, "I am the proprietor. They all say so.Instead of which I feel like a thief. Fancy her getting so fond ofa PLACE as all this."Presently it occurred to him that the shortness of the notice mighthave much to do with her distress. "These notaries," said he tohimself, "understand nothing save law: women have piles of baggage,and can't strike tents directly the order comes, as we can. Perhapsif I were to give them twenty-four days instead of hours?--hum!"With this the commandant fell into a brown study. Now each of ushas his attitude of brown study. One runs about the room like hyenain his den; another stands stately with folded arms (this one seldomthinks to the purpose); another sits cross-legged, brows lowered:another must put his head into his hand, and so keep it up tothinking mark: another must twiddle a bit of string, or a key; granthim this, he can hatch an epic. This commandant must draw himselfup very straight, and walk six paces and back very slowly, till theproblem was solved: I suspect he had done a good bit of sentinelwork in his time.Now whilst he was guarding the old oak-tree, for all the world as ifit had been the gate of the Tuileries or the barracks, Josephine deBeaurepaire came suddenly out from the house and crossed thePleasaunce: her hair was in disorder, her manner wild: she passedswiftly into the park.Raynal recognized her as one of the family; and after a moment'sreflection followed her into the park with the good-naturedintention of offering her a month to clear out instead of a day.But it was not so easy to catch her: she flew. He had to take hisscabbard in his left hand and fairly run after her. Before he couldcatch her, she entered the little chapel. He came up and had hisfoot on the very step to go in, when he was arrested by that heheard within.
Josephine had thrown herself on her knees and was praying aloud: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.