Josepkishu coingeckohine was gone.
"Yeth price gold pricees."Holcroft looked at the two for a moment, and then shook his head as he went up to his room. "I thought my wife was nice and pleasant looking before," he thought, "but she's like a picture beside that child. Well, she has behaved handsomely. Tom Watterly didn't tell half the truth when he said she was not of the common run. She's a Christian in deeds, not talk. What's that in Scripture about 'I was hungry'? Well, well! She makes religion kind of natural and plain like, whether it's easy or not. Thunder! What a joke it is to see her so grateful because I've given her a chance to help me out of the worst scrape a man could be in! As if she hadn't changed everything for the better! Here I am sure of my home and getting ahead in the world again, and it's all her doing."
In admiration of his wife Holcroft quite forgot that there had been any self-sacrifice on his part, and he concluded that he could endure Jane and almost anything else as long as Alida continued to look after his comfort and interests.Now that the worst stress of Jane's anxiety was over, she proved that she was half starved. Indeed she had few misgivings now, for her confidence that Holcroft would accomplish what he attempted was almost unbounded. It was a rather silent meal at first, for the farmer and his wife had much to think about and Jane much to do in making up for many limited meals. At last Holcroft smiled so broadly that Alida said, "Something seems to please you.""Yes, more than one thing. It might be a great deal worse, and was, not long ago. I was thinking of old times.""How pleasant they must have been to make you look so happy!""They had their uses, and make me think of a picture I saw in a store window in town. It was a picture of a woman, and she took my fancy amazingly. But the point uppermost in my mind was a trick of the fellow who painted her. He had made the background as dark as night and so she stood out as if alive; and she looked so sweet and good that I felt like shaking hands with her. I now see why the painter made the background so dark"
Alida smiled mischievously as she replied, "That was his art. He knew that almost anyone would appear well against such a background."But Holcroft was much too direct to be diverted from his thought or its expression. "The man knew the mighty nice-looking woman he had painted would look well," he said, "and I know of another woman who appears better against a darker background. That's enough to make a man smile who has been through what I have."It had been agreed between him and Picard that the latter shouldcommunicate with Dr. Aubertin direct, should anything fresh occur.
And on the third day after Edouard's departure, Picard sent up aprivate message: "Perrin has just sent me a line to say he will nottrouble us, as he is offered the money in another quarter."This was a heavy blow, and sent them all to bed more or lessdespondent.The next day brought a long letter from Edouard to Rose, telling herhe had found his uncle crusty at first; but at last with a littlepatience, and the co-operation of Martha, his uncle's old servant,and his nurse, the old boy had come round. They might look on theaffair as all but settled.The contents of this letter were conveyed to the baroness. Thehouse brightened under it: the more so that there was some hope oftheir successful champion returning in person next day. MeantimePerrin had applied to Raynal for the immediate loan of a large sumof money on excellent security. Raynal refused plump. Perrin rodeaway disconsolate.But the next day he returned to the charge with another proposal:
and the nature of this second proposal we shall learn from events.The day Edouard was expected opened deliciously. It was a balmymorning, and tempted the sisters out before breakfast. Theystrolled on the south terrace with their arms round each other'swaists, talking about Edouard, and wondering whether they shouldreally see him before night. Rose owned she had missed him, andconfessed for the first time she was a proud and happy girl.
"May I tell him so?" asked Josephine."Not for all the world. Would you dare?"Further discussion of that nice point was stopped by the baronesscoming out, leaning on Dr. Aubertin.Then--how we young people of an unceremonious age should havestared--the demoiselles de Beaurepaire, inasmuch as this was theirmother's first appearance, lowered their fair heads at the same timelike young poplars bowing to the wind, and so waited reverently tillshe had slightly lifted her hands, and said, "God bless you, mychildren!"It was done in a moment on both sides, but full of grace and piety,and the charm of ancient manners."How did our dear mother sleep?" inquired Josephine. Aubertininterposed with a theory that she slept very well indeed if she tookwhat he gave her.
"Ay, IF," suggested Rose, saucily."I slept," said the baroness, "and I wish I had not for I dreamed anugly dream." They all gathered round her, and she told her dream."I thought I was with you all in this garden. I was admiring theflowers and the trees, and the birds were singing with all theirmight. Suddenly a dark cloud came; it cleared almost directly; butflowers, trees, sky, and birds were gone now, and I could see thechateau itself no more. It means that I was dead. An ugly dream,my children, an ugly dream.""But only a dream, dear mother," said Rose: then with a sweet,consoling smile, "See, here is your terrace and your chateau.""And here are your daughters," said Josephine; and they both cameand kissed her to put their existence out of doubt. "And here isyour Aesculapius," said Aubertin. "And here is your Jacintha.""Breakfast, madame," said Jacintha. "Breakfast, mesdemoiselles.Breakfast, monsieur:" dropping each a distinct courtesy in turn.
"She has turned the conversation very agreeably," said the baroness,and went in leaning on her old friend.But the sisters lagged behind and took several turns in silence.
Rose was the first to speak. "How superstitious of you!""I said nothing.""No; but you looked volumes at me while mamma was telling her dream.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.