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CHAPTER XIII.


There lie the dead corpses of those words on paper; but my art is
powerless to tell you how they were uttered, those words, potent as
a king's, for they saved a life.

They were a cry of terror and a cry of reproach and a cry of love
unfathomable.

The weapon shook in his hand. He looked at her with growing
astonishment and joy; she at him fixedly and anxiously, her hands
clasped in supplication.

"As you used to love me?"

"More, far more. Give me the pistol. I love you, dearest. I love
you."

At these delicious words he lost all power of resistance, she saw;
and her soft and supple hand stole in and closed upon his, and
gently withdrew the weapon, and threw it into the water. "Good
Camille! now give me the other."

"How do you know there is another?"

"I know you are not the man to kill a woman and spare yourself.
Come."

"Josephine, have pity on me, do not deceive me; pray do not take
this, my only friend, from me, unless you really love me."

"I love you; I adore you," was her reply.

She leaned her head on his shoulder, but with her hand she sought
his, and even as she uttered those loving words she coaxed the
weapon from his now unresisting grasp.

"There, it is gone; you are saved from death--saved from crime."
And with that, the danger was over, she trembled for the first time,
and fell to sobbing hysterically.

He threw himself at her knees, and embraced them again and again,
and begged her forgiveness in a transport of remorse and self-
reproach.

She looked down with tender pity on him, and heard his cries of
penitence and shame.

"Rise, Camille, and go home with me," said she faintly.

"Yes, Josephine."

They went slowly and in silence. Camille was too ashamed and
penitent to speak; too full of terror too at the abyss of crime from
which he had been saved. The ancients feigned that a virgin could
subdue a lion; perhaps they meant that a pure gentle nature can
subdue a nature fierce but generous. Lion-like Camille walked by
Josephine's side with his eyes bent on the ground, the picture of
humility and penitence.

"This is the last walk you and I shall take together," said
Josephine solemnly.

"I know it," said he humbly. "I have forfeited all right to be by
your side."

"My poor, lost love," sighed Josephine, "will you never understand
me? You never stood higher in my esteem than at this moment. It is
the avowal you have forced from ME that parts us. The man to whom I
have said 'I'--must not remain beneath my husband's roof. Does not
your sense of honor agree with mine?"

"It does," faltered he.

"To-morrow you must leave the chateau."

"I will obey you."

"What, you do not resist, you do not break my heart by complaints,
by reproaches?"

"No, Josephine, all is changed. I thought you unfeeling: I thought
you were going to be HAPPY with him; that was what maddened me."

"I pray daily YOU may be happy, no matter how. But you and I are
not alike, dear as we are to one another. Well, do not fear: I
shall never be happy--will that soothe you, Camille?"

"Yes, Josephine, all is changed; the words you have spoken have
driven the fiends out of my heart. I have nothing to do now but to
obey, you to command: it is your right. Since you love me a little
still, dispose of me. Bid me live: bid me die: bid me stay: bid me
go. I shall never disobey the angel who loves me, my only friend
upon the earth."

A single deep sob from Josephine was all the answer.

Then he could not help asking her why she had not trusted him?

"Why did you not say to me long ago, 'I love you, but I am a wife;
my husband is an honest soldier, absent, and fighting for France: I
am the guardian of his honor and my own; be just, be generous, be
self-denying; depart and love me only as angels love'? Perhaps this
might have helped me to show you that I too am a man of honor."

"Perhaps I was wrong," sighed Josephine. "I think I should have
trusted more to you. But then, who would have thought you could
really doubt my love? You were ill; I could not bear you to go till
you were well, quite well. I saw no other way to keep you but this,
to treat you with feigned coldness. You saw the coldness, but not
what it cost me to maintain it. Yes, I was unjust; and inconsiderate,
for I had many furtive joys to sustain me: I had you in my house
under my care--that thought was always sweet--I had a hand in
everything that was for your good, for your comfort. I helped
Jacintha make your soup and your chocolate every day. I had the
delight of lining the dressing-gown you were to wear. I had always
some little thing or other to do for you. These kept me up: I forgot
in my selfishness that you had none of these supports, and that I
was driving you to despair. I am a foolish, disingenuous woman:
I have been very culpable. Forgive me!"

"Forgive you, angel of purity and goodness? I alone am to blame.
What right had I to doubt your heart? I knew the whole story of
your marriage; I saw your sweet pale face; but I was not pure enough
to comprehend angelic virtue and unselfishness. Well, I am brought
to my senses. There is but one thing for me to do--you bade me
leave you to-morrow."

"I was very cruel."

"No! not cruel, wise. But I will be wiser. I shall go to-night."

"To-night, Camille?" said Josephine, turning pale.

"Ay! for to-night I am strong; to-morrow I may be weak. To-night
everything thrusts me on the right path. To-morrow everything will
draw me from it. Do not cry, beloved one; you and I have a hard
fight. We must be true allies; whenever one is weak, then is the
time for the other to be strong. I have been weaker than you, to my
shame be it said; but this is my hour of strength. A light from
heaven shows me my path. I am full of passion, but like you I have
honor. You are Raynal's wife, and--Raynal saved my life."

"Ah! is it possible? When? where? may Heaven bless him for it!"

"Ask HIM; and say I told you of it--I have not strength to tell it
you, but I will go to-night."

Then Josephine, who had resisted till all her strength was gone,
whispered with a blush that it was too late to get a conveyance.

"I need none to carry my sword, my epaulets, and my love for you. I
shall go on foot."

Josephine said nothing, but she began to walk slower and slower.
And so the unfortunate pair came along creeping slowly with drooping
heads towards the gate of the Pleasaunce. There their last walk in
this world must end. Many a man and woman have gone to the scaffold
with hearts less heavy and more hopeful than theirs.

"Dry your eyes, Josephine," said Camille with a deep sigh. "They
are all out on the Pleasaunce."

"No, I will not dry my eyes," cried Josephine, almost violently. "I
care for nothing now."

The baroness, the doctor, and Rose, were all in the Pleasaunce: and
as the pair came in, lo! every eye was bent on Josephine.

She felt this, and her eyes sought the ground: benumbed as she was
with despondency, she began now to dread some fresh stroke or other.

Camille felt doubly guilty and confused. How they all look at us,
he thought. Do they know what a villain I have been? He determined
to slip away, and pack up, and begone. However, nobody took any
notice of him. The baroness drew Josephine apart. And Rose
followed her mother and sister with eyes bent on the ground.

There was a strange solemnity about them all.

Aubertin remained behind. But even he took no notice of Camille,
but walked up and down with his hands behind him, and a sad and
troubled face. Camille felt his utter desolation. He was nothing
to any of them. He resolved to go at once, and charge Aubertin with
his last adieus to the family. It was a wise and manly resolve. He
stopped Aubertin in the middle of his walk, and said in a faint
voice of the deepest dejection,--

"Doctor, the time is come that I must once more thank you for all
your goodness to me, and bid you all farewell."

"What, going before your strength is re-established?" said the
doctor politely, but not warmly.

"I am out of all danger, thanks to your skill."

"Colonel, at another time I should insist upon your staying a day or
two longer; but now I think it would be unadvisable to press you to
stay. Ah, colonel, you came to a happy house, but you leave a sad
one. Poor Madame Raynal!"

"Sir!"

"You saw the baroness draw her aside."

"Y-yes."

"By this time she knows it."

"In Heaven's name what do you mean?" asked Camille.

"I forgot; you are not aware of the calamity that has fallen upon
our beloved Josephine; on the darling of the house."

Camille turned cold with vague apprehension. But he contrived to
stammer out, "No; tell me! for Heaven's sake tell me."

The doctor thus pressed revealed all in a very few words. "My poor
friend," said he solemnly, "her husband--is dead."





White Lies by Charles Reade
Category:
English Literature
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