"Let me have the pleasure of tellinbitcoin euro valutag it you my way," cried she, andtold it diffusely, and kept him writhing.
"If you will enter bitcoin graph in yearsthe parlor, I will explain to you fully my views, and--""Oh, please excuse me!" said Holcroft, hastily passing out. "I was just starting for a walk--I'm bound to have one more day to myself on the old place," he muttered as he bent his steps toward an upland pasture.
Jane, seeing that her mother was about to pounce upon her, ran behind Mrs. Wiggins, who slowly rose and began a progress toward the irate widow, remarking as she did so, "Hi'll just shut the door 'twixt ye and yer hoffspring, and then ye kin say yer prayers hon the t'other side."Mrs. Mumpson was so overcome at the turn affairs had taken on this day, which was to witness such progress in her plans and hopes, as to feel the absolute necessity of a prolonged season of thought and soliloquy, and she relapsed, without further protest, into the rocking chair.Chapter 12 JaneHolcroft was not long in climbing to a sunny nook whence he could see not only his farm and dwelling, but also the Oakville valley, and the little white spire of the distant meeting house. He looked at this last-named object wistfully and very sadly. Mrs. Mumpson's tirade about worship had been without effect, but the memories suggested by the church were bitter-sweet indeed. It belonged to the Methodist denomination, and Holcroft had been taken, or had gone thither, from the time of his earliest recollection. He saw himself sitting between his father and mother, a round-faced urchin to whom the sermon was unintelligible, but to whom little Bessie Jones in the next pew was a fact, not only intelligible, but very interesting. She would turn around and stare at him until he smiled, then she would giggle until her mother brought her right-about-face with considerable emphasis. After this, he saw the little boy--could it have been himself?--nodding, swaying, and finally slumbering peacefully, with his head on his mother's lap, until shaken into sufficient consciousness to be half dragged, half led, to the door. Once in the big, springless farm wagon he was himself again, looking eagerly around to catch another glimpse of Bessie Jones. Then he was a big, irreverent boy, shyly and awkwardly bent on mischief in the same old meeting house. Bessie Jones no longer turned and stared at him, but he exultingly discovered that he could still make her giggle on the sly. Years passed, and Bessie was his occasional choice for a sleigh-ride when the long body of some farm wagon was placed on runners, and boys and girls--young men and women, they almost thought themselves--were packed in like sardines. Something like self-reproach smote Holcroft even now, remembering how he had allowed his fancy much latitude at this period, paying attention to more than one girl besides Bessie, and painfully undecided which he liked best.Then had come the memorable year which had opened with a protracted meeting. He and Bessie Jones had passed under conviction at the same time, and on the same evening had gone forward to the anxious seat. From the way in which she sobbed, one might have supposed that the good, simple-hearted girl had terrible burdens on her conscience; but she soon found hope, and her tears gave place to smiles. Holcroft, on the contrary, was terribly cast down and unable to find relief. He felt that he had much more to answer for than Bessie; he accused himself of having been a rather coarse, vulgar boy; he had made fun of sacred things in that very meeting house more times than he liked to think of, and now for some reason could think of nothing else.
He could not shed tears or get up much emotion; neither could he rid himself of the dull weight at heart. The minister, the brethren and sisters, prayed for him and over him, but nothing removed his terrible inertia. He became a familiar form on the anxious seat for there was a dogged persistence in his nature which prevented him from giving up; but at the close of each meeting he went home in a state of deeper dejection. Sometimes, in returning, he was Bessie Jones' escort, and her happiness added to his gall and bitterness. One moonlight night they stopped under the shadow of a pine near her father's door, and talked over the matter a few moments before parting. Bessie was full of sympathy which she hardly knew how to express. Unconsciously, in her earnestness--how well he remembered the act!--she laid her hand on his arm as she said, "James, I guess I know what's the matter with you. In all your seeking you are thinking only of yourself--how bad you've been and all that. I wouldn't think of myself and what I was any more, if I was you. You aint so awful bad, James, that I'd turn a cold shoulder to you; but you might think I was doing just that if ye stayed away from me and kept saying to yourself, 'I aint fit to speak to Bessie Jones.'"Her face had looked sweet and compassionate, and her touch upon his arm had conveyed the subtle magic of sympathy. Under her homely logic, the truth had burst upon him like sunshine. In brief, he had turned from his own shadow and was in the light. He remembered how in his deep feeling he had bowed his head on her shoulder and murmured, "Oh, Bessie, Heaven bless you! I see it all.""I expected him to-day."The baroness was at the side window in a moment.
"It is he!--it is he!"She hurried down to embrace her son.Josephine went without a word to her own room. Rose followed herthe next minute. But in that one minute she worked magic.She glided up to Edouard, and looked him full in the face: not thesad, depressed, guilty-looking humble Rose of a moment before, butthe old high-spirited, and some what imperious girl."You have shown yourself noble this day. I am going to trust you asonly the noble are trusted. Stay in the house till I can speak toyou."She was gone, and something leaped within Edouard's bosom, and aflood of light seemed to burst in on him. Yet he saw no objectclearly: but he saw light.
Rose ran into Josephine's room, and once more surprised her on herknees, and in the very act of hiding something in her bosom."What are you doing, Josephine, on your knees?" said she, sternly.
"I have a great trial to go through," was the hesitating answer.Rose said nothing. She turned paler. She is deceiving me, thoughtshe, and she sat down full of bitterness and terror, and, affectingnot to watch Josephine, watched her."Go and tell them I am coming, Rose.""No, Josephine, I will not leave you till this terrible meeting isover. We will encounter him hand in hand, as we used to go when ourhearts were one, and we deceived others, but never each other."At this tender reproach Josephine fell upon her neck and wept."I will not deceive you," she said. "I am worse than the poordoctor thinks me. My life is but a little candle that a breath mayput out any day."Rose said nothing, but trembled and watched her keenly.
"My little Henri," said Josephine imploringly, "what would you dowith him--if anything should happen to me?""What would I do with him? He is mine. I should be his mother.Oh! what words are these: my heart! my heart!""No, dearest; some day you will be married, and owe all the motherto your children; and Henri is not ours only: he belongs to some oneI have seemed unkind to. Perhaps he thinks me heartless. For I ama foolish woman; I don't know how to be virtuous, yet show a man myheart. But THEN he will understand me and forgive me. Rose, love,you will write to him. He will come to you. You will go togetherto the place where I shall be sleeping. You will show him my heart.You will tell him all my long love that lasted to the end. YOU neednot blush to tell him all. I have no right. Then you will give himhis poor Josephine's boy, and you will say to him, 'She never lovedbut you: she gives you all that is left of her, her child. She onlyprays you not to give him a bad mother.'"Poor soul! this was her one bit of little, gentle jealousy; but itmade her eyes stream. She would have put out her hand from the tombto keep her boy's father single all his life."Oh! my Josephine, my darling sister," cried Rose, "why do you speakof death? Do you meditate a crime?""No; but it was on my heart to say it: it has done me good.""At least, take me to your bosom, my well-beloved, that I may notSEE your tears.""There--tears? No, you have lightened my heart. Bless you! blessyou!"The sisters twined their bosoms together in a long, gentle embrace.
You might have taken them for two angels that flowed together in onelove, but for their tears.A deep voice was now heard in the sitting-room.
Josephine and Rose postponed the inevitable one moment more, byarranging their hair in the glass: then they opened the door, andentered the tapestried room.Raynal was sitting on the sofa, the baroness's hand in his. Edouardwas not there.
Colonel Raynal had given him a strange look, and said, "What, youhere?" in a tone of voice that was intolerable.Raynal came to meet the sisters. He saluted Josephine on the brow."You are pale, wife: and how cold her hand is.""She has been ill this month past," said Rose interposing."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.