Her manner of deprecating such remarks was to exaggerate them and she replied, "Yes, next week you will sell my eggs and I shethereum classic chart liveall subscribe for the agricultural paper my father used to take. Then will begin all the improvements of book-farming. I shall advise you to sow oats in June, plant corn in March, and show you generally that all your experience counts for nothing."
"Ah, indeed!" said he quietly. "I observed they were tryingdistancpolkadot price prediction 2025es.""Must not happen again, colonel. You must drive them from the gun.""How?""Why, where is the difficulty?""If you will do me the honor to step into the battery, I will showyou," said the colonel."If you please," said the aide-de-camp stiffly.
Colonel Dujardin took him to the parapet, and began, in a calm,painstaking way, to show him how and why none of his guns could bebrought to bear upon Long Tom.In the middle of the explanation a melodious sound was heard in theair above them, like a swarm of Brobdingnag bees."What is that?" inquired the aide-de-camp."What? I see nothing.""That humming noise.""Oh, that? Prussian bullets. Ah, by-the-by, it is a compliment toyour uniform, monsieur; they take you for some one of importance.Well, as I was observing"--"Your explanation is sufficient, colonel; let us get out of this.
Ha, ha! you are a cool hand, colonel, I must say. But your batteryis a warm place enough: I shall report it so at headquarters."The grim colonel relaxed."Captain," said he politely, "you shall not have ridden to my postin vain. Will you lend me your horse for ten minutes?""Certainly; and I will inspect your trenches meantime.""Do so; oblige me by avoiding that angle; it is exposed, and theenemy have got the range to an inch."Colonel Dujardin slipped into his quarters; off with his half-dressjacket and his dirty boots, and presently out he came full fig,glittering brighter than the other, with one French and two foreignorders shining on his breast, mounted the aide-de-camp's horse, andaway full pelt."You look ill, too, Mademoiselle Rose.""Never mind," cried the baroness joyously, "you will revive themboth."Raynal made no reply to that.
"How long do you stay this time, a day?""A month, mother."The doctor now joined the party, and friendly greetings passedbetween him and Raynal.But ere long somehow all became conscious this was not a joyfulmeeting. The baroness could not alone sustain the spirits of theparty, and soon even she began to notice that Raynal's replies wereshort, and that his manner was distrait and gloomy. The sisters sawthis too, and trembled for what might be coming.At last Raynal said bluntly, "Josephine, I want to speak to youalone."The baroness gave the doctor a look, and made an excuse for goingdown-stairs to her own room. As she was going Josephine went to herand said calmly,--"Mother, you have not kissed me to-day.""There! Bless you, my darling!"Raynal looked at Rose. She saw she must go, but she lingered, andsought her sister's eye: it avoided her. At that Rose ran to thedoctor, who was just going out of the door."Oh! doctor," she whispered trembling, "don't go beyond the door. Ifound her praying. My mind misgives me. She is going to tell him--or something worse.""What do you mean?""I am afraid to say all I dread. She could not be so calm if shemeant to live. Be near! as I shall. She has a phial hid in herbosom."She left the old man trembling, and went back.
"Excuse me," said she to Raynal, "I only came to ask Josephine ifshe wants anything.""No!--yes!--a glass of eau sucree."Rose mixed it for her. While doing this she noticed that Josephineshunned her eye, but Raynal gazed gently and with an air of pity onher.She retired slowly into Josephine's bedroom, but did not quite closethe door.
Raynal had something to say so painful that he shrank from plunginginto it. He therefore, like many others, tried to creep into it,beginning with something else."Your health," said he, "alarms me. You seem sad, too. I don'tunderstand that. You have no news from the Rhine, have you?""Monsieur!" said Josephine scared."Do not call me monsieur, nor look so frightened. Call me yourfriend. I am your sincere friend.""Oh, yes; you always were.""Thank you. You will give me a dearer title before we part thistime.""Yes," said Josephine in a low whisper, and shuddered."Have you forgiven me frightening you so that night?""Yes.""It was a shock to me, too, I can tell you. I like the boy. Sheprofessed to love him, and, to own the truth, I loathe all treacheryand deceit. If I had done a murder, I would own it. A lie doublesevery crime. But I took heart; we are all selfish, we men; of thetwo sisters one was all innocence and good faith; and she was theone I had chosen."At these words Josephine rose, like a statue moving, and took aphial from her bosom and poured the contents into the glass.
But ere she could drink it, if such was her intention, Raynal, withhis eyes gloomily lowered, said, in a voice full of strangesolemnity,--"I went to the army of the Rhine."Josephine put down the glass directly, though without removing herhand from it."I see you understand me, and approve. Yes, I saw that your sisterwould be dishonored, and I went to the army and saw her seducer.""You saw HIM. Oh, I hope you did not go and speak to him of--ofthis?""Why, of course I did."Josephine resolved to know the worst at once. "May I ask," saidshe, "what you told him?""Why, I told him all I had discovered, and pointed out the course hemust take; he must marry your sister at once. He refused. Ichallenged him. But ere we met, I was ordered to lead a forlornhope against a bastion. Then, seeing me go to certain death, thenoble fellow pitied me. I mean this is how I understood it all atthe time; at any rate, he promised to marry Rose if he should live."Josephine put out her hand, and with a horrible smile said, "I thankyou; you have saved the honor of our family;" and with no more ado,she took the glass in her hand to drink the fatal contents.But Raynal's reply arrested her hand. He said solemnly, "No, I havenot. Have you no inkling of the terrible truth? Do not fiddle withthat glass: drink it, or leave it alone; for, indeed, I need allyour attention."He took the glass out of her patient hand, and with a furtive lookat the bedroom-door, drew her away to the other end of the room;"and," said he, "I could not tell your mother, for she knows nothingof the girl's folly; still less Rose, for I see she loves him still,or why is she so pale? Advise me, now, whilst we are alone.Colonel Dujardin was COMPARATIVELY indifferent to YOU. Will youundertake the task? A rough soldier like me is not the person tobreak the terrible tidings to that poor girl.""What tidings? You confuse, you perplex me. Oh! what does thishorrible preparation mean?""It means he will never marry your sister; he will never see hermore."Then Raynal walked the room in great agitation, which at oncecommunicated itself to his hearer. But the loving heart isingenious in avoiding its dire misgivings.
"I see," said she; "he told you he would never visit Beaurepaireagain. He was right."Raynal shook his head sorrowfully."Ah, Josephine, you are far from the truth. I was to attack thebastion. It was mined by the enemy, and he knew it. He tookadvantage of my back being turned. He led his men out of thetrenches; he assaulted the bastion at the head of his brigade. Hetook it.""Ah, it was noble; it was like him.""The enemy, retiring, blew the bastion into the air, and Dujardin--is dead.""Dead!" said Josephine, in stupefied tones, as if the word conveyedno meaning to her mind, benumbed and stunned by the blow.
"Don't speak so loud," said Raynal; "I hear the poor girl at thedoor. Ay, he took my place, and is dead.""Dead!""Swallowed up in smoke and flames, overwhelmed and crushed under theruins."Josephine's whole body gave way, and heaved like a tree fallingunder the axe. She sank slowly to her knees, and low moans of agonybroke from her at intervals. "Dead, dead, dead!""Is it not terrible?" he cried.She did not see him nor hear him, but moaned out wildly, "Dead,dead, dead!" The bedroom-door was opened.
She shrieked with sudden violence, "Dead! ah, pity! the glass! thecomposing draught." She stretched her hands out wildly. Raynal,with a face full of concern, ran to the table, and got the glass.She crawled on her knees to meet it; he brought it quickly to herhand."There, my poor soul!"Even as their hands met, Rose threw herself on the cup, and snatchedit with fury from them both. She was white as ashes, and her eyes,supernaturally large, glared on Raynal with terror. "Madman!" shecried, "would you kill her?"He glared back on her: what did this mean? Their eyes were fixed oneach other like combatants for life and death; they did not see thatthe room was filling with people, that the doctor was only on theother side of the table, and that the baroness and Edouard were atthe door, and all looking wonderstruck at this strange sight--Josephine on her knees, and those two facing each other, white, withdilating eyes, the glass between them.But what was that to the horror, when the next moment the patientJosephine started to her feet, and, standing in the midst, tore herhair by handfuls, out of her head."Ah, you snatch the kind poison from me!""Poison!""Poison!""Poison!" cried the others, horror-stricken."Ah! you won't let me die. Curse you all! curse you! I never hadmy own way in anything. I was always a slave and a fool. I havemurdered the man I love--I love. Yes, my husband, do you hear? theman I love.""Hush! daughter, respect my gray hairs.""Your gray hairs! You are not so old in years as I am in agony. Sothis is your love, Rose! Ah, you won't let me die--won't you? THENI'LL DO WORSE--I'LL TELL.""He who is dead; you have murdered him amongst you, and I'll followhim in spite of you all--he was my betrothed. He struggled wounded,bleeding, to my feet. He found me married. News came of myhusband's death; I married my betrothed.""Married him!" exclaimed the baroness.
"Ah, my poor mother. And she kissed me so kindly just now--she willkiss me no more. Oh, I am not ashamed of marrying him. I am onlyashamed of the cowardice that dared not do it in face of all theworld. We had scarce been happy a fortnight, when a letter camefrom Colonel Raynal. He was alive. I drove my true husband away,wretch that I was. None but bad women have an atom of sense. Itried to do my duty to my legal husband. He was my benefactor. Ithought it was my duty. Was it? I don't know: I have lost thesense of right and wrong. I turned from a living creature to a lie.He who had scattered benefits on me and all this house; he whom itwas too little to love; he ought to have been adored: this man camehere one night to wife proud, joyous, and warm-hearted. He found acradle, and two women watching it. Now Edouard, now MONSIEUR, doyou see that life is IMPOSSIBLE to me? One bravely accused herself:
she was innocent. One swooned away like a guilty coward."Edouard uttered an exclamation."Yes, Edouard, you shall not be miserable like me; she was guilty.
You do not understand me yet, my poor mother--and she was so happythis morning--I was the liar, the coward, the double-faced wife, themiserable mother that denied her child. Now will you let me die?Now do you see that I can't and won't live upon shame and despair?
Ah, Monsieur Raynal, my dear friend, you were always generous: youwill pity and kill me. I have dishonored the name you gave me tokeep: I am neither Beaurepaire nor Raynal. Do pray kill me,monsieur--Jean, do pray release me from my life!"And she crawled to his knees and embraced them, and kissed his hand,and pleaded more piteously for death, than others have begged forlife.Raynal stood like a rock: he was pale, and drew his breath audibly,but not a word. Then came a sight scarce less terrible thanJosephine's despair. The baroness, looking and moving twenty yearsolder than an hour before, tottered across the room to Raynal."Sir, you whom I have called my son, but whom I will 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.Josephine, who had tottered up from her seat at Rose's words, sankheavily down again, and murmured, "Ah! the grave holds all that loveme now."Rose ran to her side. "Cruel Josephine! what, do not I love you?Mother, will you not help me persuade her to live? Oh! if she dies,I will die too; you will kill both your children."Stern and indignant as the baroness was, yet these words pierced herheart. She turned with a piteous, half apologetic air to Edouardand Aubertin. "Gentlemen," said she, "she has been foolish, notguilty. Heaven pardons the best of us. Surely a mother may forgiveher child." And with this nature conquered utterly; and she heldout her arms, wide, wide, as is a mother's heart. Her two erringchildren rushed sobbing violently into them; and there was not a dryeye in the room for a long time.After this, Josephine's heart almost ceased to beat. Fear andmisgivings, and the heavy sense of deceit gnawing an honorableheart, were gone. Grief reigned alone in the pale, listless,bereaved widow.
The marriage was annulled before the mayor; and, three daysafterwards, Raynal, by his influence, got the consummated marriageformally allowed in Paris.With a delicacy for which one would hardly have given him credit, henever came near Beaurepaire till all this was settled; but hebrought the document from Paris that made Josephine the widowDujardin, and her boy the heir of Beaurepaire; and the moment shewas really Madame Dujardin he avoided her no longer; and he became acomfort to her instead of a terror.
The dissolution of the marriage was a great tie between them. Somuch that, seeing how much she looked up to Raynal, the doctor saidone day to the baroness, "If I know anything of human nature, theywill marry again, provided none of you give her a hint which way herheart is turning."They, who have habituated themselves to live for others, can sufferas well as do great things. Josephine kept alive. A passion suchas hers, in a selfish nature, must have killed her.Even as it was, she often said, "It is hard to live."Then they used to talk to her of her boy. Would she leave him--Camille's boy--without a mother? And these words were never spokento her quite in vain.
Her mother forgave her entirely, and loved her as before. Who couldbe angry with her long? The air was no longer heavy with lies.Wretched as she was, she breathed lighter. Joy and hope were gone.