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CHAPTER XI.


The baroness and Aubertin were just getting out of their carriage,
when suddenly they heard shrieks of terror in the Pleasaunce. They
came with quaking hearts as fast as their old limbs would carry
them. They found Rose and Josephine crouched over the body of a
man, an officer.

Rose was just tearing open his collar and jacket. Dard and Jacintha
had run from the kitchen at the screams. Camille lay on his back,
white and motionless.

The doctor was the first to come up. "Who! what is this? I seem to
know his face." Then shaking his head, "Whoever it is, it is a bad
case. Stand away, ladies. Let me feel his pulse."

Whilst the old man was going stiffly down on one knee, Jacintha
uttered a cry of terror. "See, see! his shirt! that red streak!
Ah, ah! it is getting bigger and bigger:" and she turned faint in a
moment, and would have fallen but for Dard.

The doctor looked. "All the better," said he firmly. "I thought he
was dead. His blood flows; then I will save him. Don't clutch me
so, Josephine; don't cling to me like that. Now is the time to show
your breed: not turn sick at the sight of a little blood, like that
foolish creature, but help me save him."

"Take him in-doors," cried the baroness.

"Into our house, mamma?" gasped Rose; "no, no."

"What," said the baroness, "a wounded soldier who has fought for
France! leave him to lie and die outside my door: what would my son
say to that? He is a soldier himself."

Rose cast a hasty look at Josephine. Josephine's eyes were bent on
the ground, and her hands clenched and trembling.

"Now, Jacintha, you be off," said the doctor. "I can't have cowards
about him to make the others as bad. Go and stew down a piece of
good beef for him. Stew it in red wine and water."

"That I will: poor thing!"

"Why, I know him," said the baroness suddenly; "it is an old
acquaintance, young Dujardin: you remember, Josephine. I used to
suspect him of a fancy for you, poor fellow! Why, he must have come
here to see us, poor soul."

"No matter who it is; it is a man. Now, girls, have you courage,
have you humanity? Then come one on each side of him and take hands
beneath his back, while I lift his head and Dard his legs."

"And handle him gently whatever you do," said Dard. "I know what it
is to be wounded."

These four carried the lifeless burden very slowly and gently across
the Pleasaunce to the house, then with more difficulty and caution
up the stairs.

All the while the sisters' hands griped one another tight beneath
the lifeless burden, and spoke to one another. And Josephine's arm
upheld tenderly but not weakly the hero she had struck down. She
avoided Rose's eye, her mother's, and even the doctor's: one gasping
sob escaped her as she walked with head half averted, and vacant,
terror-stricken eyes, and her victim on her sustaining arm.

The doctor selected the tapestried chamber for him as being most
airy. Then he ordered the women out, and with Dard's help undressed
the still insensible patient.

Josephine sat down on the stairs in gloomy silence, her eyes on the
ground, like one waiting for her deathblow.

Rose, sick at heart, sat silent too at some distance. At last she
said faintly, "Have we done well?"

"I don't know," said Josephine doggedly. Her eyes never left the
ground.

"We could not let him die for want of care."

"He will not thank us. Better for him to die than live. Better for
me."

At this instant Dard came running down. "Good news, mesdemoiselles,
good news! the wound runs all along; it is not deep, like mine was.
He has opened his eyes and shut them again. The dear good doctor
stopped the blood in a twinkle. The doctor says he'll be bound to
save him. I must run and tell Jacintha. She is taking on in the
kitchen."

Josephine, who had risen eagerly from her despairing posture,
clasped her hands together, then lifted up her voice and wept. "He
will live! he will live!"

When she had wept a long while, she said to Rose, "Come, sister,
help your poor Josephine."

"Yes, love, what shall we do?"

"My duty," faltered Josephine. "An hour ago it seemed so sweet,"
and she fell to weeping patiently again. They went to Josephine's
room. She crept slowly to a wardrobe, and took out a gray silk
dress.

"Oh, never mind for to-day," cried Rose.

"Help me, Rose. It is for myself as well; to remind me every moment
I am Madame Raynal."

They put the gray gown on her, both weeping patiently. It will be
known at the last day, all that honest women have suffered weeping
silently in this noisy world.


Camille soon recovered his senses and a portion of his strength:
then the irritation of his wound brought on fever. This in turn
retired before the doctor's remedies and a sound constitution, but
it left behind it a great weakness and general prostration. And in
this state the fate of the body depends greatly on the mind.

The baroness and the doctor went constantly to see him, and soothe
him: he smiled and thanked them, but his eager eyes watched the door
for one who came not.

When he got well enough to leave his bed the largest couch was sent
up to him from the saloon; a kind hand lined the baron's silk
dressing-gown for him warm and soft and nice; and he would sit or
lie on his couch, or take two turns in the room leaning upon Rose's
shoulder, and glad of the support; and he looked piteously in her
eyes when she came and when she went. Rose looked down; she could
do nothing, she could say nothing.

With his strength, Camille lost a portion of his pride: he pined for
a sight of her he no longer respected; pined for her, as the thirsty
pine for water in Sahara.

At last one day he spoke out. "How kind you are to me, Rose! how
kind you all are--but one."

He waited in hopes she would say something, but she held her tongue.

"At least tell me why it is. Is she ashamed? Is she afraid?"

"Neither."

"She hates me: it is true, then, that we hate those whom we have
wounded. Cruel, cruel Josephine! Oh, heart of marble against which
my heart has wrecked itself forever!"

"No, no! She is anything but cruel: but she is Madame Raynal."

"Ah! I forgot. But have I no claim on her? Nearly four years she
has been my betrothed. What have I done? Was I ever false to her?
I could forgive her for what she has done to me, but she cannot
forgive me. Does she mean never to see me again?"

"Ask yourself what good could come of it."

"Very well," said Camille, with a malicious smile. "I am in her
way. I see what she wants; she shall have it."

Rose carried these words to Josephine. They went through her like a
sword.

Rose pitied her. Rose had a moment's weakness.

"Let us go to him," she said; "anything is better than this."

"Rose, I dare not," was the wise reply.

But the next day early, Josephine took Rose to a door outside the
house, a door that had long been disused. Nettles grew before it.
She produced a key and with great difficulty opened this door. It
led to the tapestried chamber, and years ago they used to steal up
it and peep into the room.

Rose scarcely needed to be told that she was to watch Camille, and
report to her. In truth, it was a mysterious, vague protection
against a danger equally mysterious. Yet it made Josephine easier.
But so unflinching was her prudence that she never once could be
prevailed on to mount those stairs, and peep at Camille herself. "I
must starve my heart, not feed it," said she. And she grew paler
and more hollow-eyed day by day.

Yet this was the same woman who showed such feebleness and
irresolution when Raynal pressed her to marry him. But then dwarfs
feebly drew her this way and that. Now giants fought for her.
Between a feeble inclination and a feeble disinclination her dead
heart had drifted to and fro. Now honor, duty, gratitude,--which
last with her was a passion,--dragged her one way: love, pity, and
remorse another.

Not one of these giants would relax his grasp, and nothing yielded
except her vital powers. Yes; her temper, one of the loveliest
Heaven ever gave a human creature, was soured at times.

Was it a wonder? There lay the man she loved pining for her;
cursing her for her cruelty, and alternately praying Heaven to
forgive him and to bless her: sighing, at intervals, all the day
long, so loud, so deep, so piteously, as if his heart broke with
each sigh; and sometimes, for he little knew, poor soul, that any
human eye was upon him, casting aside his manhood in his despair,
and flinging himself on the very floor, and muffling his head, and
sobbing; he a hero.

And here was she pining in secret for him who pined for her? "I am
not a woman at all," said she, who was all woman. "I am crueller to
him than a tiger or any savage creature is to the victim she tears.
I must cure him of his love for me; and then die; for what shall I
have to live for? He weeps, he sighs, he cries for Josephine."

Her enforced cruelty was more contrary to this woman's nature than
black is to white, or heat to cold, and the heart rebelled furiously
at times. As when a rock tries to stem a current, the water fights
its way on more sides than one, so insulted nature dealt with
Josephine. Not only did her body pine, but her nerves were
exasperated. Sudden twitches came over her, that almost made her
scream. Her permanent state was utter despondency, but across it
came fitful flashes of irritation; and then she was scarce mistress
of herself.

Wherefore you, who find some holy woman cross and bitter, stop a
moment before you sum her up vixen and her religion naught: inquire
the history of her heart: perhaps beneath the smooth cold surface of
duties well discharged, her life has been, or even is, a battle
against some self-indulgence the insignificant saint's very blood
cries out for: and so the poor thing is cross, not because she is
bad, but because she is better than the rest of us; yet only human.

Now though Josephine was more on her guard with the baroness than
with Rose, or the doctor, or Jacintha, her state could not
altogether escape the vigilance of a mother's eye.

But the baroness had not the clew we have; and what a difference
that makes! How small an understanding, put by accident or
instruction on the right track, shall run the game down! How great
a sagacity shall wander if it gets on a false scent!

"Doctor," said the baroness one day, "you are so taken up with your
patient you neglect the rest of us. Do look at Josephine! She is
ill, or going to be ill. She is so pale, and so fretful, so
peevish, which is not in her nature. Would you believe it, doctor,
she snaps?"

"Our Josephine snap? This is new."

"And snarls."

"Then look for the end of the world."

"The other day I heard her snap Rose: and this morning she half
snarled at me, just because I pressed her to go and console our
patient. Hush! here she is. My child, I am accusing you to the
doctor. I tell him you neglect his patient: never go near him."

"I will visit him one of these days," said Josephine, coldly.

"One of these days," said the baroness, shocked. "You used not to
be so hard-hearted. A soldier, an old comrade of your husband's,
wounded and sick, and you alone never go to him, to console him with
a word of sympathy or encouragement."

Josephine looked at her mother with a sort of incredulous stare.
Then, after a struggle, she replied with a tone and manner so
spiteful and icy that it would have deceived even us who know her
had we heard it. "He has plenty of nurses without me." She added,
almost violently, "My husband, if he were wounded, would not have so
many, perhaps not have one."

With this she rose and went out, leaving them aghast. She sat down
in the passage on a window-seat, and laughed hysterically. Rose
heard her and ran to her. Josephine told her what her mother had
said to her. Rose soothed her. "Never mind, you have your sister
who understands you: don't you go back till they have got some other
topic."

Rose out of curiosity went in, and found a discussion going on. The
doctor was fathoming Josephine, for the benefit of his companion.

"It is a female jealousy, and of a mighty innocent kind. We are so
taken up with this poor fellow, she thinks her soldier is forgotten."

"Surely, doctor, our Josephine would not be so unreasonable, so
unjust," suggested her mother.

"She belongs to a sex, be it said without offending you, madame,
among whose numberless virtues justice does not fill a prominent
place."

The baroness shook her head. "That is not it. It is a piece of
prudery. This young gentleman was a sort of admirer of hers, though
she did not admire him much, as far as I remember. But it was four
years ago; and she is married to a man she loves, or is going to
love."

"Well, but, mamma, a trifling excess of delicacy is surely
excusable." This from Rose.

"No, no; it is not delicacy; it is prudery. And when people are
sick and suffering, an honest woman should take up her charity and
lay down her prudery, or her coquetry: two things that I suspect are
the same thing in different shapes."

Here Jacintha came in. "Mademoiselle, here is the colonel's broth;
Madame Raynal has flavored it for him, and you are to take it up to
him, and keep him company while he eats it."

"Come," cried the baroness, "my lecture has not been lost."

Rose followed Jacintha up-stairs.

Rose was heart and head on Raynal's side.

She had deceived him about Josephine's attachment, and felt all the
more desirous to guard him against any ill consequences of it. Then
he had been so generous to her: he had left her her sister, who
would have gone to Egypt, and escaped this misery, but for her.

But on the other hand,


--Gentle pity
Tugged at her heartstrings with complaining cries.


This watching of Camille saddened even her. When she was with him
his pride bore him up: but when he was alone as he thought, his
anguish and despair were terrible, and broke out in so many ways
that often Rose shrank in terror from her peep hole.

She dared not tell Josephine the half of what she saw: what she did
tell her agitated her so terribly: and often Rose had it on the tip
of her tongue to say, "Do pray go and see if you can say nothing
that will do him good;" but she fought the impulse down. This
battle of feeling, though less severe than her sister's, was
constant; it destroyed her gayety. She, whose merry laugh used to
ring like chimes through the house, never laughed now, seldom
smiled, and often sighed.

Dr. Aubertin was the last to succumb to the deep depression, but his
time came: and he had been for a day or two as grave and as sad as
the rest, when one day that Rose was absent, spying on Camille, he
took the baroness and Josephine into his confidence; and
condescended finally to ask their advice.

"It is humiliating," said he, "after all my experience, to be
obliged to consult unprofessional persons. Forty years ago I should
have been TOO WISE to do so. But since then I have often seen
science baffled and untrained intelligences throw light upon hard
questions: and your sex in particular has luminous instincts and
reads things by flashes that we men miss with a microscope. Our
dear Madame Raynal suspected that plausible notary, and to this day
I believe she could not tell us why."

Josephine admitted as much very frankly.

"There you see," said the doctor. "Well, then, you must help me in
this case. And this time I promise to treat your art with more
respect."

"And pray who is it she is to read now?" asked the baroness.

"Who should it be but my poor patient? He puzzles me. I never knew
a patient so faint-hearted."

"A soldier faint-hearted!" exclaimed the baroness. "To be sure
these men that storm cities, and fire cannon, and cut and hack one
another with so much spirit, are poor creatures compared with us
when they have to lie quiet and suffer."

The doctor walked the room in great excitement. "It is not his
wound that is killing him, there's something on his mind. You,
Josephine, with your instincts do help me: do pray, for pity's sake,
throw off that sublime indifference you have manifested all along to
this man's fate."

"She has not," cried the baroness, firing up. "Did I not see her
lining his dressing-gown for him? and she inspects everything that
he eats: do you not?"

"Yes, mother." She then suggested in a faltering voice that time
would cure the patient, and time alone.

"Time! you speak as if time was a quality: time is only a measure of
events, favorable or unfavorable; it kills as many as it cures."

"Why, you surely would not imply his life is in any danger?" This
was the baroness.

"Madame, if the case was not grave, should I take this unusual step?
I tell you if some change does not take place soon, he will be a
dead man in another fortnight. That is all TIME will do for him."

The baroness uttered an exclamation of pity and distress. Josephine
put her hand to her bosom, and a creeping horror came over her, and
then a faintness. She sat working mechanically, and turning like
ice within. After a few minutes of this, she rose with every
appearance of external composure and left the room. In the passage
she met Rose coming hastily towards the salon laughing: the first
time she had laughed this many a day. Oh, what a contrast between
the two faces that met there--the one pale and horror stricken, the
other rosy and laughing!

"Well, dear, at last I am paid for all my trouble, and yours, by a
discovery; he never drinks a drop of his medicine; he pours it into
the ashes under the grate; I caught him in the fact."

"Then this is too much: I can resist no longer. Come with me," said
Josephine doggedly.

"Where?"

"To him."





White Lies by Charles Reade
Category:
English Literature
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