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"I shall tell him so myself. I shall remonstrate with him. The idea of his coming home alone at this time of night with an unknown female!"what does polygon coin do"One would think you was his aunt, to hear you talk," remarked the girl sullenly.
"I am a respecterble woman and most respecterbly connected. My character and antercedents render me irrerproachful.--This could not be said of a hussy, and a hussy he'll probably bring--some flighty, immerture female that will tax even MY patience to train."Another hour passed, and the frown on Mrs. Mumpson's brow grew positively awful. "To think," she muttered, "that a man whom I have deemed it my duty to marry should stay out so and under such peculiar circumstances. He must have a lesson which he can never forget." Then aloud, to Jane, "Kindle a fire on the parlor hearth and let this fire go out. He must find us in the most respecterble room in the house--a room befitting my station.""I declare, mother, you aint got no sense at all!" exclaimed the child, exasperated beyond measure."I'll teach you to use such unrerspectful language!" cried Mrs. Mumpson, darting from her chair like a hawk and pouncing upon the unhappy child.With ears tingling from a cuffing she could not soon forget, Jane lighted the parlor fire and sat down sniffling in the farthest corner.
"There shall be only one mistress in this house," said Mrs. Mumpson, who had now reached the loftiest plane of virtuous indignation, "and its master shall learn that his practices reflect upon even me as well as himself."At last the sound of horses' feet were heard on the wet, oozy ground without. The irate widow did not rise, but merely indicated her knowledge of Holcroft's arrival by rocking more rapidly."Then come with me. You ARE dressed; never mind your bonnets, oryou will be too late."Questions poured on her; but she waived all explanation, and did notgive them time to think, or Josephine, for one, she knew would raiseobjections. She led the way to the Pleasaunce, and, when she got tothe ancestral oak, she said hurriedly, "Now, mesdemoiselles, hide inthere, and as still as mice. You'll soon know who leaves the purses."With this she scudded to the lane, and gave Edouard the key. "Looksharp," said she, "before they get up; it's almost their dressingtime.""YOU'LL SOON KNOW WHO LEAVES THE PURSES!"Curiosity, delicious curiosity, thrilled our two daughters of Eve.
This soon began to alternate with chill misgivings at the novelty ofthe situation."She is not coming back," said Josephine ruefully."No," said Rose, "and suppose when we pounce out on him, it shouldbe a stranger.""Pounce on him? surely we are not to do that?""Oh, y-yes; that is the p-p-programme," quavered Rose.A key grated, and the iron gate creaked on its hinges. They rantogether and pinched one another for mutual support, but did notdare to speak.
Presently a man's shadow came slap into the tree. They crouched andquivered, and expected to be caught instead of catching, and wishedthemselves safe back in bed, and all this a nightmare, and no worse.At last they recovered themselves enough to observe that thisshadow, one half of which lay on the ground, while the head andshoulders went a little way up the wall of the tree, represented aman's profile, not his front face. The figure, in short, wasstanding between them and the sun, and was contemplating thechateau, not the tree.
The shadow took off its hat to Josephine, in the tree. Then wouldshe have screamed if she had not bitten her white hand instead, andmade a red mark thereon.It wiped its brow with a handkerchief; it had walked fast, poorthing! The next moment it was away.They looked at one another and panted. They scarcely dared do itbefore. Then Rose, with one hand on her heaving bosom, shook herlittle white fist viciously at where the figure must be, and perhapsa comical desire of vengeance stimulated her curiosity. She nowglided through the fissure like a cautious panther from her den; andnoiseless and supple as a serpent began to wind slowly round thetree. She soon came to a great protuberance in the tree, andtwining and peering round it with diamond eye, she saw a very young,very handsome gentleman, stealing on tiptoe to the nearest flower-bed. Then she saw him take a purse out of his bosom, and drop it onthe bed. This done, he came slowly past the tree again, and waseven heard to vent a little innocent chuckle of intense satisfaction:but of brief duration; for, when Rose saw the purse leave his hand,she made a rapid signal to Josephine to wheel round the other sideof the tree, and, starting together with admirable concert, boththe daughters of Beaurepaire glided into sight with a vast appearanceof composure.
Two women together are really braver than fifteen separate; butstill, most of this tranquillity was merely put on, but so admirablythat Edouard Riviere had no chance with them. He knew nothing abouttheir tremors; all he saw or heard was, a rustle, then a flap oneach side of him as of great wings, and two lovely women were uponhim with angelic swiftness. "Ah!" he cried out with a start, andglanced from the first-comer, Rose, to the gate. But Josephine wason that side by this time, and put up her hand, as much as to say,"You can't pass here." In such situations, the mind works quickerthan lightning. He took off his hat, and stammered an excuse--"Cometo look at the oak." At this moment Rose pounced on the purse, andheld it up to Josephine. He was caught. His only chance now was tobolt for the mark and run; but it was not the notary, it was anovice who lost his presence of mind, or perhaps thought it rude torun when a lady told him to stand still. All he did was to crushhis face into his two hands, round which his cheeks and neck nowblushed red as blood. Blush? they could both see the color rushlike a wave to the very roots of his hair and the tips of hisfingers.The moment our heroines, who, in that desperation which is one ofthe forms of cowardice, had hurled themselves on the foe, saw this,flash--the quick-witted poltroons exchanged purple lightning overEdouard's drooping head, and enacted lionesses in a moment.It was with the quiet composure of lofty and powerful natures thatJosephine opened on him. "Compose yourself, sir; and be so good asto tell us who you are." Edouard must answer. Now he could notspeak through his hands; and he could not face a brace of tranquillionesses: so he took a middle course, removed one hand, and shadinghimself from Josephine with the other, he gasped out, "I am--my nameis Riviere; and I--I--ladies!""I am afraid we frighten you," said Josephine, demurely."Don't be frightened," said Rose, majestically; "we are not VERYangry, only a LITTLE curious to know why you water our flowers withgold."At this point-blank thrust, and from her, Edouard was so confoundedand distressed, they both began to pity him. He stammered out thathe was so confused he did not know what to say. He couldn't thinkhow ever he could have taken such a liberty; might he be permittedto retire? and with this he tried to slip away.
"Let me detain you one instant," said Josephine, and made for thehouse.Left alone so suddenly with the culprit, the dignity, and majesty,and valor of Rose seemed to ooze gently out; and she stood blushing,and had not a word to say; no more had Edouard. But he hung hishead, and she hung her head. And, somehow or other, whenever sheraised her eyes to glance at him, he raised his to steal a look ather, and mutual discomfiture resulted.
This awkward, embarrassing delirium was interrupted by Josephine'sreturn. She now held another purse in her hand, and quietly pouredthe rest of the coin into it. She then, with a blush, requested himto take back the money.At that he found his tongue. "No, no," he cried, and put up hishands in supplication. "Ladies, do let me speak ONE word to you.
Do not reject my friendship. You are alone in the world; yourfather is dead; your mother has but you to lean on. After all, I amyour neighbor, and neighbors should be friends. And I am yourdebtor; I owe you more than you could ever owe me; for ever since Icame into this neighborhood I have been happy. No man was ever sohappy as I, ever since one day I was walking, and met for the firsttime an angel. I don't say it was you, Mademoiselle Rose. It mightbe Mademoiselle Josephine.""How pat he has got our names," said Rose, smiling."A look from that angel has made me so good, so happy. I used tovegetate, but now I live. Live! I walk on wings, and tread onroses. Yet you insist on declining a few miserable louis d'or fromhim who owes you so much. Well, don't be angry; I'll take themback, and throw them into the nearest pond, for they are really nouse to me. But then you will be generous in your turn. You willaccept my devotion, my services. You have no brother, you know;well, I have no sisters; let me be your brother, and your servantforever."At all this, delivered in as many little earnest pants as there weresentences, the water stood in the fair eyes he was looking into sopiteously.Josephine was firm, but angelical. "We thank you, MonsieurRiviere," said she, softly, "for showing us that the world is stillembellished with hearts like yours. Here is the money;" and sheheld it out in her creamy hand."But we are very grateful," put in Rose, softly and earnestly."That we are," said Josephine, "and we beg to keep the purse as asouvenir of one who tried to do us a kindness without mortifying us.And now, Monsieur Riviere, you will permit us to bid you adieu."Edouard was obliged to take the hint. "It is I who am theintruder," said he. "Mesdemoiselles, conceive, if you can, my prideand my disappointment." He then bowed low; they courtesied low tohim in return; and he retired slowly in a state of mixed feelingindescribable.
With all their sweetness and graciousness, he felt overpowered bytheir high breeding, their reserve, and their composure, in asituation that had set his heart beating itself nearly out of hisbosom. He acted the scene over again, only much more adroitly, andconcocted speeches for past use, and was very hot and very cold byturns.I wish he could have heard what passed between the sisters as soonas ever he was out of earshot. It would have opened his eyes, andgiven him a little peep into what certain writers call "the sex.""Poor boy," murmured Josephine, "he has gone away unhappy.""Oh, I dare say he hasn't gone far," replied Rose, gayly. "Ishouldn't if I was a boy."Josephine held up her finger like an elder sister; then went on tosay she really hardly knew why she had dismissed him.
"Well, dear," said Rose, dryly, "since you admit so much, I must sayI couldn't help thinking--while you were doing it--we were letting'the poor boy' off ridiculously cheap.""At least I did my duty?" suggested Josephine, inquiringly."Magnificently; you overawed even me. So now to business, as thegentlemen say. Which of us two takes him?""Takes whom?" inquired Josephine, opening her lovely eyes.
"Edouard," murmured Rose, lowering hers.Josephine glared on the lovely minx with wonder and comical horror.
"Oh! you shall have him," said Rose, "if you like. You are theeldest, you know.""Fie!""Do now; TO OBLIGE ME.""For shame! Rose. Is this you? talking like that!""Oh! there's no compulsion, dear; I never force young ladies'inclinations. So you decline him?""Of course I decline him.""Then, oh, you dear, darling Josephine, this is the prettiestpresent you ever made me," and she kissed her vehemently.Josephine was frightened now. She held Rose out at arm's lengthwith both hands, and looked earnestly into her, and implored her notto play with fire. "Take warning by me."Rose recommended her to keep her pity for Monsieur Riviere, "who hadfallen into nice hands," she said. That no doubt might remain onthat head, she whispered mysteriously, but with much gravity andconviction, "I am an Imp;" and aimed at Josephine with herforefinger to point the remark. For one second she stood andwatched this important statement sink into her sister's mind, thenset-to and gambolled elfishly round her as she moved stately andthoughtful across the grass to the chateau.Two days after this a large tree was blown down in Beaurepaire park,and made quite a gap in the prospect. You never know what a bigthing a leafy tree is till it comes down. And this ill wind blewEdouard good; for it laid bare the chateau to his inquiringtelescope. He had not gazed above half an hour, when a femalefigure emerged from the chateau. His heart beat. It was onlyJacintha. He saw her look this way and that, and presently Dardappeared, and she sent him with his axe to the fallen tree. Edouardwatched him hacking away at it. Presently his heart gave a violentleap; for why? two ladies emerged from the Pleasaunce and walkedacross the park. They came up to Dard, and stood looking at thetree and Dard hacking it, and Edouard watched them greedily. Youknow we all love to magnify her we love. And this was a delightfulway of doing it. It is "a system of espionage" that prevails underevery form of government. How he gazed, and gazed, on his now polarstar; studied every turn, every gesture, with eager delight, andtried to gather what she said, or at least the nature of it.
But by and by they left Dard and strolled towards the other end ofthe park. Then did our astronomer fling down his tube, and comerunning out in hopes of intercepting them, and seeming to meet themby some strange fortuity. Hope whispered he should be blessed witha smile; perhaps a word even. So another minute and he was runningup the road to Beaurepaire. But his good heart was doomed to bediverted to a much humbler object than his idol; as he came near thefallen tree he heard loud cries for help, followed by groans ofpain. He bounded over the hedge, and there was Dard hanging overhis axe, moaning. "What is the matter? what is the matter?" criedEdouard, running to him."Oh! oh! cut my foot. Oh!"Edouard looked, and turned sick, for there was a gash right throughDard's shoe, and the blood welling up through it. But, recoveringhimself by an effort of the will, he cried out, "Courage, my lad!
don't give in. Thank Heaven there's no artery there. Oh, dear, itis a terrible cut! Let us get you home, that is the first thing.Can you walk?""Lord bless you, no! nor stand neither without help."Edouard flew to the wheelbarrow, and, reversing it, spun a lot ofbillet out. "Ye must not do that," said Dard with all the energy hewas capable of in his present condition. "Why, that is Jacintha'swood."--"To the devil with Jacintha and her wood too!" criedEdouard, "a man is worth more than a fagot. Come, I shall wheel youhome: it is only just across the park."With some difficulty he lifted him into the barrow. Luckily he hadhis shooting-jacket on with a brandy-flask in it: he administered itwith excellent effect.
The ladies, as they walked, saw a man wheeling a barrow across thepark, and took no particular notice; but, as Riviere was making forthe same point they were, though at another angle, presently thebarrow came near enough for them to see Dard's head and arms in it.Rose was the first to notice this. "Look! look! if he is notwheeling Dard in the barrow now.""Who?""Can you ask? Who provides all our excitement?"Josephine instantly divined there was something amiss. "Consider,"said she, "Monsieur Riviere would not wheel Dard all across the parkfor amusement."Rose assented; and in another minute, by a strange caprice of fate,those Edouard had come to intercept, quickened their pace tointercept him. As soon as he saw their intention he thrilled allover, but did not slacken his pace. He told Dard to take his coatand throw it over his foot, for here were the young ladies coming.
"What for?" said Dard sulkily. "No! let them see what they havedone with their little odd jobs: this is my last for one while. Isha'n't go on two legs again this year."The ladies came up with them."O monsieur!" said Josephine, "what is the matter?""We have met with a little accident, mademoiselle, that is all.Dard has hurt his foot; nothing to speak of, but I thought he wouldbe best at home."Rose raised the coat which Riviere, in spite of Dard, had flung overhis foot."He is bleeding! Dard is bleeding! Oh, my poor Dard. Oh! oh!""Hush, Rose!""No, don't put him out of heart, mademoiselle. Take another pull atthe flask, Dard. If you please, ladies, I must have him homewithout delay.""Oh yes, but I want him to have a surgeon," cried Josephine. "Andwe have no horses nor people to send off as we used to have.""But you have me, mademoiselle," said Edouard tenderly. "Me, whowould go to the world's end for you." He said this to Josephine,but his eye sought Rose. "I'm a famous runner," he added, a littlebumptiously; "I'll be at the town in half an hour, and send asurgeon up full gallop.""You have a good heart," said Rose simply.
He bowed his blushing, delighted face, and wheeled Dard to hiscottage hard by with almost more than mortal vigor. How softly, hownobly, that frolicsome girl could speak! Those sweet words rang inhis ears and ran warm round and round his heart, as he straightenedhis arms and his back to the work. When they had gone about ahundred yards, a single snivel went off in the wheelbarrow. Fiveminutes after, Dard was at home in charge of his grandmother, hisshoe off, his foot in a wet linen cloth; and Edouard, his coat tiedround the neck, squared his shoulders, and ran the two short leaguesout. He ran them in forty minutes, found the surgeon at home, toldthe case, pooh-poohed that worthy's promise to go to the patientpresently, darted into his stable, saddled the horse, brought himround, saw the surgeon into the saddle, started him, dined at therestaurateur's, strolled back, and was in time to get a good look atthe chateau of Beaurepaire just as the sun set on it.Jacintha came into Dard's cottage that evening.
"So you have been at it, my man," cried she cheerfully and ratherroughly, then sat down and rocked herself, with her apron over herhead. She explained this anomalous proceeding to his grandmotherprivately. "I thought I would keep his heart up anyway, but you seeI was not fit."Next morning, as Riviere sat writing, he received an unexpectedvisit from Jacintha. She came in with her finger to her lips, andsaid, "You prowl about Dard's cottage. They are sure to go and seehim every day, and him wounded in their service.""Oh, you good girl! you dear girl!" cried Edouard.She did not reply in words, but, after going to the door, returnedand gave him a great kiss without ceremony. "Dare say you know whatthat's for," said she, and went off with a clear conscience andreddish cheeks.
Dard's grandmother had a little house, a little land, a littlemoney, and a little cow. She could just maintain Dard and herself,and her resources enabled Dard to do so many little odd jobs forlove, yet keep his main organ tolerably filled."Go to bed, my little son, since you have got hashed," said she.--"Bed be hanged," cried he. "What good is bed? That's a silly oldcustom wants doing away with. It weakens you: it turns you intotrain oil: it is the doctor's friend, and the sick man's bane. Manya one dies through taking to bed, that could have kept his life ifhe had kept his feet like a man. If I had cut myself in two I wouldnot go to bed,--till I go to the bed with a spade in it. No! sit uplike Julius Caesar; and die as you lived, in your clothes: don'tstrip yourself: let the old women strip you; that is their delightlaying out a chap; that is the time they brighten up, the oldsorceresses." He concluded this amiable rhapsody, the latter partof which was levelled at a lugubrious weakness of his grandmother'sfor the superfluous embellishment of the dead, by telling her it wasbad enough to be tied by the foot like an ass, without settling downon his back like a cast sheep. "Give me the armchair. I'll sit init, and, if I have any friends, they will show it now: they willcome and tell me what is going on in the village, for I can't getout to see it and hear it, they must know that."Seated in state in his granny's easy-chair, the loss of which afterthirty years' use made her miserable, she couldn't tell why, leSieur Dard awaited his friends.