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CHAPTER V.


After Edouard's departure, Josephine de Beaurepaire was sad, and
weighed down with presentiments. She felt as soldiers sometimes
feel who know the enemy is undermining them; no danger on the
surface; nothing that can be seen, met, baffled, attacked, or
evaded; in daily peril, all the more horrible that it imitates
perfect serenity, they await the fatal match. She imparted her
misgivings to Aubertin; but he assured her she exaggerated the
danger.

"We have a friend still more zealous and active than our enemy;
believe me, your depression is really caused by his absence; we all
miss the contact of that young heroic spirit; we are a body, and he
its soul."

Josephine was silent, for she said to herself, "Why should I dash
their spirits? they are so happy and confident."

Edouard had animated Rose and Aubertin with his own courage, and had
even revived the baroness.

It had been agreed between him and Picard that the latter should
communicate with Dr. Aubertin direct, should anything fresh occur.
And on the third day after Edouard's departure, Picard sent up a
private message: "Perrin has just sent me a line to say he will not
trouble us, as he is offered the money in another quarter."

This was a heavy blow, and sent them all to bed more or less
despondent.

The next day brought a long letter from Edouard to Rose, telling her
he had found his uncle crusty at first; but at last with a little
patience, and the co-operation of Martha, his uncle's old servant,
and his nurse, the old boy had come round. They might look on the
affair as all but settled.

The contents of this letter were conveyed to the baroness. The
house brightened under it: the more so that there was some hope of
their successful champion returning in person next day. Meantime
Perrin had applied to Raynal for the immediate loan of a large sum
of money on excellent security. Raynal refused plump. Perrin rode
away 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 balmy
morning, and tempted the sisters out before breakfast. They
strolled on the south terrace with their arms round each other's
waists, talking about Edouard, and wondering whether they should
really see him before night. Rose owned she had missed him, and
confessed 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 baroness
coming out, leaning on Dr. Aubertin.

Then--how we young people of an unceremonious age should have
stared--the demoiselles de Beaurepaire, inasmuch as this was their
mother's first appearance, lowered their fair heads at the same time
like young poplars bowing to the wind, and so waited reverently till
she had slightly lifted her hands, and said, "God bless you, my
children!"

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. Aubertin
interposed with a theory that she slept very well indeed if she took
what he gave her.

"Ay, IF," suggested Rose, saucily.

"I slept," said the baroness, "and I wish I had not for I dreamed an
ugly dream." They all gathered round her, and she told her dream.

"I thought I was with you all in this garden. I was admiring the
flowers and the trees, and the birds were singing with all their
might. Suddenly a dark cloud came; it cleared almost directly; but
flowers, trees, sky, and birds were gone now, and I could see the
chateau 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 came
and kissed her to put their existence out of doubt. "And here is
your 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 shall
stay all our days in this sweet place: and O Josey! am I not a happy
girl that it's all owing to HIM!"

At this moment Jacintha came running towards them. They took it for
a summons to breakfast, and moved to meet her. But they soon saw
she was almost as white as her apron, and she came open-mouthed and
wringing her hands. "What shall I do? what shall I do? Oh, don't
let my poor mistress know!"

They soon got from her that Dard had just come from the town, and
learned the chateau was sold, and the proprietor coming to take
possession this very day. The poor girls were stupefied by the
blow.

If anything, Josephine felt it worst. "It is my doing," she gasped,
and tottered fainting. Rose supported her: she shook it off by a
violent 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. She
had no sooner turned the angle of the chateau than she started back
with a convulsive cry, and her momentary feebleness left her
directly; she crouched against the wall and griped the ancient
corner-stone with her tender hand till it powdered, and she spied
with dilating eye into the Pleasaunce, Rose and Jacintha panting
behind her. Two men stood with their backs turned to her looking at
the oak-tree; one an officer in full uniform, the other the human
snake 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. They
looked 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 habit
of sparing her prevailed, and they flung themselves between her and
the blow.

"Josephine is not well," said Rose. "She wants to go in." Both
girls faced the baroness.

"Jacintha," said the baroness, "fetch Dr. Aubertin. There, I have
sent her away. So now tell me, why do you drive me back so?
Something has happened," and she looked keenly from one to the
other.

"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 order
these people out of my premises." Josephine implored her to be
calm.

"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 the
chateau."

"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 this
gentleman: he wears a sword. Soldiers do not trample on women. Ah!
that man."

The notary, attracted by her voice, was coming towards her, a paper
in 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 baroness
with a paper.

The poor old thing took it with a courtesy, the effect of habit, and
read it to her daughters as well as her emotion permitted, and the
language, which was as new to her as the dialect of Cat Island to
Columbus.


"Jean Raynal, domiciled by right, and lodging in fact at the Chateau
of Beaurepaire, acting by the pursuit and diligence of Master
Perrin, notary; I, Guillaume Le Gras, bailiff, give notice to
Josephine Aglae St. Croix de Beaurepaire, commonly called the
Baroness de Beaurepaire, having no known place of abode"--


"Oh!"


"but lodging wrongfully at the said Chateau of Beaurepaire, that she
is warned to decamp within twenty-four hours"--


"To decamp!"


"failing which that she will be thereto enforced in the manner for
that case made and provided with the aid of all the officers and
agents of the public force."


"Ah! no, messieurs, pray do not use force. I am frightened enough
already. I did not know I was doing anything wrong. I have been
here thirty years. But, since Beaurepaire is sold, I comprehend
perfectly that I must go. It is just. As you say, I am not in my
own house. I will go, gentlemen, I will go. Whither shall I go, my
children? The house where you were born to me is ours no longer.
Excuse me, gentlemen--this is nothing to you. Ah! sir, you have
revenged yourself on two weak women--may Heaven forgive you!"

The notary turned on his heel. The poor baroness, all whose pride
the iron law, with its iron gripe, had crushed into dismay and
terror, appealed to him. "O sir! send me from the house, but not
from the soil where my Henri is laid! is there not in all this
domain 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 my
knees?"

She turned towards Raynal and seemed to be going towards him with
outstretched arms. But Rose checked her with fervor. "Mamma! do
not lower yourself. Ask nothing of these wretches. Let us lose
all, but not forget ourselves."

The baroness had not her daughter's spirit. Her very person
tottered under this blow. Josephine supported her, and the next
moment Aubertin came out and hastened to her side. Her head fell
back; 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 deuce
was the matter.

"Oh!" said the notary, "we are used to these little scenes in our
business."

"But I am not," replied the soldier. "You never told me there was
to be all this fuss."

He then dismissed his friend rather abruptly and strode up and down
the Pleasaunce. He twisted his mustaches, muttered, and "pested,"
and was ill at ease. Accustomed to march gayly into a town, and see
the regiment, that was there before, marching gayly out, or vice
versa, and to strike tents twice a quarter at least, he was little
prepared for such a scene as this. True, he did not hear all the
baroness's words, but more than one tone of sharp distress reached
him where he stood, and the action of the whole scene was so
expressive, there was little need of words. He saw the notice
given; the dismay it caused, and the old lady turn imploringly
towards him with a speaking gesture, and above all he saw her
carried away, half fainting, her hands clasped, her reverend face
pale. He was not a man of quick sensibilities. He did not
thoroughly 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 of
a PLACE as all this."

Presently it occurred to him that the shortness of the notice might
have much to do with her distress. "These notaries," said he to
himself, "understand nothing save law: women have piles of baggage,
and can't strike tents directly the order comes, as we can. Perhaps
if I were to give them twenty-four days instead of hours?--hum!"

With this the commandant fell into a brown study. Now each of us
has his attitude of brown study. One runs about the room like hyena
in his den; another stands stately with folded arms (this one seldom
thinks to the purpose); another sits cross-legged, brows lowered:
another must put his head into his hand, and so keep it up to
thinking mark: another must twiddle a bit of string, or a key; grant
him this, he can hatch an epic. This commandant must draw himself
up very straight, and walk six paces and back very slowly, till the
problem was solved: I suspect he had done a good bit of sentinel
work in his time.

Now whilst he was guarding the old oak-tree, for all the world as if
it had been the gate of the Tuileries or the barracks, Josephine de
Beaurepaire came suddenly out from the house and crossed the
Pleasaunce: her hair was in disorder, her manner wild: she passed
swiftly into the park.

Raynal recognized her as one of the family; and after a moment's
reflection followed her into the park with the good-natured
intention 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 his
scabbard in his left hand and fairly run after her. Before he could
catch her, she entered the little chapel. He came up and had his
foot on the very step to go in, when he was arrested by that he
heard 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 perversity
men cannot or will not wrestle with Him, who alone can hear a
million prayers at once from a million different places,--can
realize and be touched with a sense of all man's infirmities in a
way no single saint with his partial experience of them can realize
and be touched by them; who unasked suspended the laws of nature
that had taken a stranger's only son, and she a widow; and wept at
another great human sorrow, while the eyes of all the great saints
that stood around it and Him were dry.

Well, the soldier stood, his right foot on the step and his sword in
his left hand, transfixed: listening gravely to the agony of prayer
the innocent young creature poured forth within:--

"O Madonna! hear me: it is for my mother's life. She will die--she
will die. You know she cannot live if she is taken away from her
house and from this holy place where she prays to you this many
years. O Queen of Heaven! put out your hand to us unfortunates!
Virgin, hear a virgin: mother, listen to a child who prays for her
mother'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 cruel
men that do this thing!--they are like those who crucified your Son--
they know not what they are doing. But you, Queen of Heaven, you
know all; and, sweet mother, if you have kind sentiments towards me,
poor Josephine, ah! show them now: for you know that it was I who
insulted that wicked notary, and it is out of hatred to me he has
sold our beloved house to a hard stranger. Look down on me, a child
who loves her mother, yet will destroy her unless you pity me and
help me. Oh! what shall I say?--what shall I do? mercy! mercy! for
my poor mother, for me!"

Here her utterance was broken by sobs.

The soldier withdrew his foot quietly. Her words had knocked
against his very breast-bone. He marched slowly to and fro before
the chapel, upright as a dart, and stiff as a ramrod, and actually
pale: for even our nerves have their habits; a woman's passionate
grief shook him as a cannon fired over his head could not.

Josephine little thought who was her sentinel. She came to the door
at last, and there he was marching backwards and forwards, upright
and stiff. She gave a faint scream and drew back with a shudder at
the sight of their persecutor. She even felt faintish at him, as
women will in such cases.

Not being very quick at interpreting emotion, Raynal noticed her
alarm, but not her repugnance; he saluted her with military
precision by touching his cap as only a soldier can, and said rather
gently for him, "A word with you, mademoiselle."

She replied only by trembling.

"Don't be frightened," said Raynal, in a tone not very reassuring.
"I propose an armistice."

"I am at your disposal, sir," said Josephine, now assuming a
calmness that was belied by the long swell of her heaving bosom.

"Of course you look on me as an enemy."

"How can I do otherwise, sir? yet perhaps I ought not. You did not
know us. You just wanted an estate, I suppose--and--oh!"

"Well, don't cry; and let us come to the point, since I am a man of
few words."

"If you please, sir. My mother may miss me."

"Well, I was in position on your flank when the notary delivered his
fire. And I saw the old woman's distress."

"Ah, sir!"

"When you came flying out I followed to say a good word to you. I
could not catch you. I listened while you prayed to the Virgin.
That was not a soldier-like trick, you will say. I confess it."

"It matters little, sir, and you heard nothing I blush for."

"No! by St. Denis; quite the contrary. Well, to the point. Young
lady, you love your mother."

"What has she on earth now but her children's love?"

"Now look here, young lady, I had a mother; I loved her in my
humdrum way very dearly. She promised me faithfully not to die till
I should be a colonel; and she went and died before I was a
commandant, even; just before, too."

"Then I pity you," murmured Josephine; and her soft purple eye began
to dwell on him with less repugnance.

"Thank you for that word, my good young lady," said Raynal. "Now, I
declare, you are the first that has said that word to me about my
losing the true friend, that nursed me on her knee, and pinched and
pinched to make a man of me. I should like to tell you about her
and me."

"I shall feel honored," said Josephine, politely, but with
considerable restraint.

Then he told her all about how he had vexed her when he was a boy,
and gone for a soldier, though she was all for trade, and how he had
been the more anxious to see her enjoy his honors and success.
"And, mademoiselle," said he, appealingly, "the day this epaulet was
put on my shoulder in Italy, she died in Paris. Ah! how could you
have the heart to do that, my old woman?"

The soldier's mustache quivered, and he turned away brusquely, and
took several steps. Then he came back to Josephine, and to his
infinite surprise saw that her purple eyes were thick with tears.
"What? you are within an inch of crying for my mother, you who have
your own trouble at this hour."

"Monsieur, our situations are so alike, I may well spare some little
sympathy for your misfortune."

"Thank you, my good young lady. Well, then, to business; while you
were praying to the Virgin, I was saying a word or two for my part
to her who is no more."

"Sir!"

"Oh! it was nothing beautiful like the things you said to the other.
Can I turn phrases? I saw her behind her little counter in the Rue
Quincampoix; for she is a woman of the people, is my mother. I saw
myself come to the other side of the counter, and I said, 'Look
here, mother, here is the devil to pay about this new house. The
old woman talks of dying if we take her from her home, and the young
one weeps and prays to all the saints in paradise; what shall we do,
eh?' Then I thought my old woman said to me, 'Jean, you are a
soldier, a sort of vagabond; what do you want with a house in
France? you who are always in a tent in Italy or Austria, or who
knows where. Have you the courage to give honest folk so much pain
for a caprice? Come now,' says she, 'the lady is of my age, say
you, and I can't keep your fine house, because God has willed it
otherwise; so give her my place; so then you can fancy it is me you
have set down at your hearth: that will warm your heart up a bit,
you little scamp,' said my old woman in her rough way. She was not
well-bred like you, mademoiselle. A woman of the people, nothing
more."

"She was a woman of God's own making, if she was like that," cried
Josephine, the tears now running down her cheeks.

"Ah, that she was, she was. So between her and me it is settled--
what are you crying for NOW? why, you have won the day; the field is
yours; your mother and you remain; I decamp." He whipped his
scabbard up with his left hand, and was going off without another
word, if Josephine had not stopped him.

"But, sir, what am I to think? what am I to hope? it is impossible
that in this short interview--and we must not forget what is due to
you. You have bought the estate."

"True; well, we will talk over that, to-morrow; but being turned out
of the house, that was the bayonet thrust to the old lady. So you
run in and put her heart at rest about it. Tell her that she may
live and die in this house for Jean Raynal; and tell her about the
old woman in the Rue Quincampoix."

"God bless you, Jean Raynal!" cried Josephine, clasping her hands.

"Are you going?" said he, peremptorily.

"Oh, yes!" and she darted towards the chateau.

But when she had taken three steps she paused, and seemed irresolute.
She turned, and in a moment she had glided to Raynal again and had
taken his hand before he could hinder her, and pressed two velvet
lips on it, and was away again, her cheeks scarlet at what she had
done, and her wet eyes beaming with joy. She skimmed the grass like
a lapwing; you would have taken her at this minute for Rose, or for
Virgil's Camilla; at the gate she turned an instant and clasped her
hands together, with such a look, to show Raynal she blessed him
again, then darted into the house.

"Aha, my lady," said he, as he watched her fly, "behold you changed
a little since you came out." He was soon on the high road marching
down to the town at a great rate, his sword clanking, and thus ran
his thoughts: "This does one good; you are right, my old woman.
Your son's bosom feels as warm as toast. Long live the five-franc
pieces! And they pretend money cannot make a fellow happy. They
lie; it is because they do not know how to spend it."

Meantime at the chateau, as still befalls in emergencies and trials,
the master spirit came out and took its real place. Rose was now
the mistress of Beaurepaire; she set Jacintha, and Dard, and the
doctor, to pack up everything of value in the house. "Do it this
moment!" she cried; "once that notary gets possession of the house,
it may be too late. Enough of folly and helplessness. We have
fooled away house and lands; our movables shall not follow them."

The moment she had set the others to work, she wrote a single line
to Riviere to tell him the chateau and lands were sold, and would he
come to Beaurepaire at once? She ran with it herself to Bigot's
auberge, the nearest post-office, and then back to comfort her
mother.

The baroness was seated in her arm-chair, moaning and wringing her
hands, and Rose was nursing and soothing her, and bathing her
temples with her last drop of eau de Cologne, and trying in vain to
put some of her own courage into her, when in came Josephine radiant
with happiness, crying "Joy! joy! joy!" and told her strange tale,
with this difference, that she related her own share in it briefly
and coldly, and was more eloquent than I about the strange soldier's
goodness, and the interest her mother had awakened in his heart.
And she told about the old woman in the Rue Quincampoix, her rugged
phrases, and her noble, tender heart. The baroness, deaf to Rose's
consolations, brightened up directly at Josephine's news, and at her
glowing face, as she knelt pouring the good news, and hope, and
comfort, point blank into her. But Rose chilled them both.

"It is a generous offer," said, she, "but one we cannot accept. We
cannot live under so great an obligation. Is all the generosity to
be on the side of this Bonapartist? Are we noble in name only?
What would our father have said to such a proposal?"

Josephine hung her head. The baroness groaned.

"No, mother," continued Rose; "let house and land go, but honor and
true nobility remain."

"What shall I do? you are cruel to me, Rose."

"Mamma," cried the enthusiastic girl, "we need depend on no one.
Josephine and I have youth and spirit."

"But no money."

"We have plenty of jewels, and pictures, and movables. We can take
a farm."

"A farm!" shrieked the baroness.

"Why, his uncle has a farm, and we have had recourse to him for
help: better a farmhouse than an almshouse, though that almshouse
were a palace instead of a chateau."

Josephine winced and held up her hand deprecatingly. The baroness
paled: it was a terrible stroke of language to come from her
daughter. She said sternly, "There is no answer to that. We were
born nobles, let us die farmers: only permit me to die first."

"Forgive me, mother," said Rose, kneeling. "I was wrong; it is for
me to obey you, not to dictate. I speak no more." And, after
kissing her mother and Josephine, she crept away, but she left her
words sticking in both their consciences.

"HIS uncle," said the shrewd old lady. "She is no longer a child;
and she says his uncle. This makes me half suspect it is her that
dear boy--Josephine, tell me the truth, which of you is it?"

"Dear mother, who should it be? they are nearly of an age: and what
man would not love our sweet Rose, that had eyes or a heart?"

The baroness sighed deeply; and was silent. After awhile she said,
"The moment they have a lover, he detaches their hearts from their
poor old mother. She is no longer what my Josephine is to me."

"Mamma, she is my superior. I see it more and more every day. She
is proud: she is just; she looks at both sides. As for me, I am too
apt to see only what will please those I love."

"And that is the daughter for me," cried the poor baroness, opening
her arms wide to her.

The next morning when they were at breakfast, in came Jacintha to
say the officer was in the dining-room and wanted to speak with the
young lady he talked to yesterday. Josephine rose and went to him.
"Well, mademoiselle," said he gayly, "the old woman was right. Here
I have just got my orders to march: to leave France in a month. A
pretty business it would have been if I had turned your mother out.
So you see there is nothing to hinder you from living here."

"In your house, sir?"

"Why not, pray?"

"Forgive us. But we feel that would be unjust to you, humiliating
to us: the poor are sometimes proud."

"Of course they are," said Raynal: "and I don't want to offend your
pride. Confound the house: why did I go and buy it? It is no use
to me except to give pain to worthy people." He then, after a
moment's reflection, asked her if the matter could not be arranged
by some third party, a mutual friend. "Then again," said he, "I
don't know any friend of yours."

"Yes, sir," said Josephine; "we have one friend, who knows you, and
esteems you highly."

She wanted to name Edouard; but she hesitated, and asked her
conscience if it was fair to name him: and while she blushed and
hesitated, lo and behold a rival referee hove in sight. Raynal saw
him, suddenly opened a window, and shouted, "Hallo come in here: you
are wanted."

Perrin had ridden up to complete the exodus of the De Beaurepaires,
and was strolling about inspecting the premises he had expelled them
from.

Here was a pretty referee!

Josephine almost screamed--"What are you doing? that is our enemy,
our bitterest enemy. He has only sold you the estate to spite us,
not for the love of you. I had--we had--we mortified his vanity.
It was not our fault: he is a viper. Sir, pray, pray, pray be on
your guard against his counsels."

These words spoken with rare fire and earnestness carried
conviction: but it was too late to recall the invitation. The
notary entered the room, and was going to bow obsequiously to
Raynal, when he caught sight of Josephine, and almost started.
Raynal, after Josephine's warning, was a little at a loss how to
make him available; and even that short delay gave the notary's one
foible time to lead him into temptation. "Our foibles are our
manias."

"So," said he, "you have taken possession, commandant. These
military men are prompt, are they not, mademoiselle?"

"Do not address yourself to me, sir, I beg," said Josephine quietly.

Perrin kept his self-command. "It is only as Commandant Raynal's
agent I presume to address so distinguished a lady: in that
character I must inform you that whatever movables you have removed
are yours: those we find in the house on entering we keep."

"Come, come, not so fast," cried Raynal; "bother the chairs and
tables! that is not the point."

"Commandant," said the notary with dignity, "have I done anything to
merit this? have I served your interests so ill that you withdraw
your confidence from me?"

"No, no, my good fellow; but you exceed your powers. Just now I
want you to take orders, not give them."

"That is only just," said Perrin, "and I recall my hasty remark:
excuse the susceptibility of a professional man, who is honored with
the esteem of his clients; and favor me with your wishes."

"All right," said Raynal heartily. "Well, then--I want mademoiselle
and her family to stay here while I go to Egypt with the First
Consul. Mademoiselle makes difficulties; it offends her delicacy."

"Comedy!" said the notary contemptuously.

"Though her mother's life depends on her staying here."

"Comedy!" said Perrin. Raynal frowned.

"Her pride (begging her pardon) is greater than her affection."

"Farce!"

"I have pitched upon you to reconcile the two."

"Then you have pitched upon the wrong man," said Perrin bluntly. He
added obsequiously, "I am too much your friend. She has been
talking you over, no doubt; but you have a friend, an Ulysses, who
is deaf to the siren's voice. I will be no party to such a
transaction. I will not co-operate to humbug my friend and rob him
of his rights."

If Josephine was inferior to the notary in petty sharpness, she was
his superior in the higher kinds of sagacity; and particularly in
instinctive perception of character. Her eye flashed with delight
at the line Perrin was now taking with Raynal. The latter speedily
justified her expectations: he just told Perrin to be off, and send
him a more accommodating notary.

"A more accommodating notary!" screamed Perrin, stung to madness by
this reproach. "There is not a more accommodating notary in Europe.
Ungrateful man! is this the return for all my zeal, my integrity, my
unselfishness? Is there another agent in the world who would have
let such a bargain as Beaurepaire fall into your hands? It serves
me right for deviating from the rules of business. Send me another
agent--oh!"

The honest soldier was confused. The lawyer's eloquence overpowered
him. He felt guilty. Josephine saw his simplicity, and made a cut
with a woman's two-edged sword. "Sir," said she coolly, "do you not
see it is an affair of money? This is his way of saying, Pay me
handsomely for so unusual a commission."

"And I'll pay him double," cried Raynal, catching the idea; "don't
be alarmed, I'll pay you for it."

"And my zeal, my devotion?"

"Put 'em in figures."

"And my prob--?"

"Add it up."

"And my integ--?"

"Add them together: and don't bother me."

"I see! I see! my poor soldier. You are no match for a woman's
tongue."

"Nor, for a notary's. Go to h---, and send in your bill!" roared
the soldier in a fury. "Well, will you go?" and he marched at him.

The notary scuttled out, with something between a snarl and a squeak.

Josephine hid her face in her hands.

"What is the matter with you?" inquired Raynal. "Not crying again,
surely!"

"Me! I never cry--hardly. I hid my face because I could not help
laughing. You frightened me, sir," said she: then very demurely, "I
was afraid you were going to beat him."

"No, no; a good soldier never leathers a civilian if he can possibly
help it; it looks so bad; and before a lady!"

"Oh, I would have forgiven you, monsieur," said Josephine benignly,
and something like a little sun danced in her eye.

"Now, mademoiselle, since my referee has proved a pig, it is your
turn. Choose you a mutual friend."

Josephine hesitated. "Ours is so young. You know him very well.
You are doubtless the commandant of whom I once heard him speak with
such admiration: his name is Riviere, Edouard Riviere."

"Know him? he is my best officer, out and out." And without a
moment's hesitation he took Edouard's present address, and accepted
that youthful Daniel as their referee; then looked at his watch and
marched off to his public duties with sabre clanking at his heels.

The notary went home gnashing his teeth. His sweet revenge was
turned to wormwood this day. Raynal's parting commissions rang in
his ear; in his bitter mood the want of logical sequence in the two
orders disgusted him.

So he inverted them.

He sent in a thundering bill the very next morning, but postponed
the other commission till his dying day.

As for Josephine, she came into the drawing-room beaming with love
and happiness, and after kissing both her mother and Rose with
gentle violence, she let them know the strange turn things had
taken.

And she whispered to Rose, "Only think, YOUR Edouard to be OUR
referee!"

Rose blushed and bent over her work; and wondered how Edouard would
discharge so grave an office.

The matter approached a climax; for, as the reader is aware, Edouard
was hourly expected at Beaurepaire.

He did not come; but it was not his fault. On receiving Rose's
letter he declined to stay another hour at his uncle's.

He flung himself on his horse; and, before he was well settled on
the stirrups, the animal shied violently at a wheelbarrow some fool
had left there; and threw Edouard on the stones of the courtyard.
He jumped up in a moment and laughed at Marthe's terror; meantime a
farm-servant caught the nag and brought him back to his work.

But when Edouard went to put his hand on the saddle, he found it
would not obey him. "Wait a minute," said he; "my arm is benumbed."

"Let me see!" said the farmer, and examined the limb himself;
"benumbed? yes; and no wonder. Jacques, get on the brute and ride
for the surgeon."

"Are you mad, uncle?" cried Edouard. "I can't spare my horse, and I
want no surgeon; it will be well directly."

"It will be worse before it is better."

"I don't know what you mean, uncle; it is only numbed, ah! it hurts
when I rub it."

"It is worse than numbed, boy; it is broken."

"Broken? nonsense:" and he looked at it in piteous bewilderment:
"how can it be broken? it does not hurt except when I touch it."

"It WILL hurt: I know all about it. I broke mine fifteen years ago:
fell off a haystack."

"Oh, how unfortunate I am!" cried Edouard, piteously. "But I will
go to Beaurepaire all the same. I can have the thing mended there,
as well as here."

"You will go to bed," said the old man, quietly; "that is where
YOU'LL go."

"I'll go to blazes sooner," yelled the young one.

The old man made a signal to his myrmidons, whom Marthe's cries had
brought around, and four stout fellows took hold of Edouard by the
legs and the left shoulder and carried him up-stairs raging and
kicking; and deposited him on a bed.

Presently he began to feel faint, and so more reasonable. They cut
his coat off, and put him in a loose wrapper, and after considerable
delay the surgeon came, and set his arm skilfully, and behold this
ardent spirit caged. He chafed and fretted sadly. Fortitude was
not his forte.

It was two days after his accident. He was lying on his back,
environed by slops and cursing his evil fate, and fretting his soul
out of its fleshly prison, when suddenly he heard a cheerful
trombone saying three words to Marthe, then came a clink-clank, and
Marthe ushered into the sickroom the Commandant Raynal. The sick
man raised himself in bed, with great surprise and joy.

"O commandant! this is kind to come and see your poor officer in
purgatory."

"Ah," cried Raynal, "you see I know what it is. I have been chained
down by the arm, and the leg, and all: it is deadly tiresome."

"Tiresome! it is--it is--oh, dear commandant, Heaven bless you for
coming!"

"Ta! ta! ta! I am come on my own business."

"All the better. I have nothing to do; that is what kills me. I'm
eating my own heart."

"Cannibal! Well, my lad, since you are in that humor, cheer up, for
I bring you a job, and a tough one; it has puzzled me."

"What is it, commandant? What is it?"

"Well, do you know a house and a family called Beaurepaire?"

"Do I know Beaurepaire?"

And the pale youth turned very red; and stared with awe at this
wizard of a commandant. He thought he was going to be called over
the coals for frequenting a disaffected family. "Well," said
Raynal, "I have been and bought this Beaurepaire."

Edouard uttered a loud exclamation. "It was YOU bought it! she
never told me that."

"Yes," said Raynal, "I am the culprit; and we have fixed on you to
undo my work without hurting their pride too much, poor souls; but
let us begin with the facts."

Then Raynal told him my story after his fashion. Of course I shall
not go and print his version; you might like his concise way better
than my verbose; and I'm not here to hold up any man's coat-tails.
Short as he made it, Edouard's eyes were moist more than once; and
at the end he caught Raynal's hand and kissed it. Then he asked
time to reflect; "for," said he, "I must try and be just."

"I'll give you an hour," said Raynal, with an air of grand
munificence. The only treasure he valued was time.

In less than an hour Edouard had solved the knot, to his entire
satisfaction; he even gave the commandant particular instructions
for carrying out his sovereign decree. Raynal received these orders
from his subordinate with that simplicity which formed part of his
amazing character, and rode home relieved of all responsibility in
the matter.


COMMANDANT RAYNAL TO MADEMOISELLE DE BEAUREPAIRE.

Mademoiselle,--Before I could find time to write to our referee,
news came in that he had just broken his arm;--


"Oh! oh, dear! our poor Edouard!"

And if poor Edouard had seen the pale faces, and heard the faltering
accents, it would have reconciled him to his broken arm almost.
This hand-grenade the commandant had dropped so coolly among them,
it was a long while ere they could recover from it enough to read
the rest of the letter,--


so I rode over to him, and found him on his back, fretting for want
of something to do. I told him the whole story. He undertook the
business. I have received his instructions, and next week shall be
at his quarters to clear off his arrears of business, and make
acquaintance with all your family, if they permit.

RAYNAL.


As the latter part of this letter seemed to require a reply, the
baroness wrote a polite note, and Jacintha sent Dard to leave it for
the commandant at Riviere's lodgings. But first they all sat down
and wrote kind and pitying and soothing letters to Edouard. Need I
say these letters fell upon him like balm?

They all inquired carelessly in their postscripts what he had
decided as their referee. He replied mysteriously that they would
know that in a week or two. Meantime, all he thought it prudent to
tell them was that he had endeavored to be just to both parties.

"Little solemn puppy," said Rose, and was racked with curiosity.

Next week Raynal called on the baroness. She received him alone.
They talked about Madame Raynal. The next day he dined with the
whole party, and the commandant's manners were the opposite of what
the baroness had inculcated. But she had a strong prejudice in his
favor. Had her feelings been the other way his brusquerie would
have shocked her. It amused her. If people's hearts are with you,
THAT for their heads!

He came every day for a week, chatted with the baroness, walked with
the young ladies; and when after work he came over in the evening,
Rose used to cross-examine him, and out came such descriptions of
battles and sieges, such heroism and such simplicity mixed, as made
the evening pass delightfully. On these occasions the young ladies
fixed their glowing eyes on him, and drank in his character as well
as his narrative, in which were fewer "I's" than in anything of the
sort you ever read or heard.

At length Rose contrived to draw him aside, and, hiding her
curiosity under feigned nonchalance, asked him what the referee had
decided. He told her that was a secret for the present.

"Well, but," said Rose, "not from me. Edouard and I have no
secrets."

"Come, that's good," said Raynal. "Why, you are the very one he
warned me against the most; said you were as curious as Mother Eve,
and as sharp as her needle."

"Then he is a little scurrilous traitor," cried Rose, turning very
red. "So that is how he talks of me behind my back, and calls me an
angel to my face; I'll pay him for this. Do tell me, commandant;
never mind what HE says."

"What! disobey orders?"

"Orders? to you from that boy!"

"Oh!" said Raynal, "for that matter, we soldiers are used to command
one moment, and obey the next."

In a word, this military pedant was impracticable, and Rose gave him
up in disgust, and began to call up a sulky look when the other two
sang his praises. For the old lady pronounced him charming, and
Josephine said he was a man of crystal; never said a word he did not
mean, and she wished she was like him. But the baroness thought
this was going a little too far.

"No, thank you," said she hastily; "he is a man, a thorough man. He
would make an intolerable woman. A fine life if one had a parcel of
women about, all blurting out their real minds every moment, and
never smoothing matters."

"Mamma, what a horrid picture!" chuckled Rose.

She then proposed that at his next visit they should all three make
an earnest appeal to him to let them know what Edouard had decided.

But Josephine begged to be excused, feared it would be hardly
delicate; and said languidly that for her part she felt they were in
good hands, and prescribed patience. The baroness acquiesced, and
poor Rose and her curiosity were baffled on every side.

At last, one fine day, her torments were relieved without any
further exertion on her part. Jacintha bounced into the drawing-
room with a notice that the commandant wanted to speak to Josephine
a minute out in the Pleasaunce.

"How droll he is," said Rose; "fancy sending in for a young lady
like that. Don't go, Josephine; how, he would stare."

"My dear, I no more dare disobey him than if I was one of his
soldiers." And she laid down her work, and rose quietly to do what
she was bid.

"Well," said Rose, superciliously, "go to your commanding officer.
And, O Josephine, if you are worth anything at all, do get out of
him what that Edouard has settled."

Josephine kissed her, and promised to try. After the first
salutation, there was a certain hesitation about Raynal which
Josephine had never seen a trace of in him before; so, to put him at
his ease, and at the same time keep her promise to Rose, she asked
timidly if their mutual friend had been able to suggest anything.

"What! don't you know that I have been acting all along upon his
instructions?" answered Raynal.

"No, indeed! and you have not told us what he advised."

"Told you? why, of course not; they were secret instructions. I
have obeyed one set, and now I come to the other; and there is the
difficulty, being a kind of warfare I know nothing about."

"It must be savage warfare, then," suggested the lady politely.

"Not a bit of it. Now, who would have thought I was such a coward?"

Josephine was mystified; however, she made a shrewd guess. "Do you
fear a repulse from any one of us? Then, I suppose, you meditate
some extravagant act of generosity."

"Not I."

"Of delicacy, then."

"Just the reverse. Confound the young dog! why is he not here to
help me?"

"But, after all," suggested Josephine, "you have only to carry out
his instructions."

"That is true! that is true! but when a fellow is a coward, a
poltroon, and all that sort of thing."

This repeated assertion of cowardice on the part of the living
Damascus blade that stood bolt-upright before her, struck Josephine
as so funny that she laughed merrily, and bade him fancy it was only
a fort he was attacking instead of the terrible Josephine; whom none
but heroes feared, she assured him.

This encouragement, uttered in jest, was taken in earnest. The
soldier thanked her, and rallied visibly at the comparison. "All
right," said he, "as you say, it is only a fort--so--mademoiselle!"

"Monsieur!"

"Hum! will you lend me your hand for a moment?"

"My hand! what for? there," and she put it out an inch a minute. He
took it, and inspected it closely.

"A charming hand; the hand of a virtuous woman?"

"Yes," said Josephine as cool as a cucumber, too sublimely and
absurdly innocent even to blush.

"Is it your own?"

"Sir!" She blushed at that, I can tell you.

"Because if it was, I would ask you to give it me. (I've fired the
first shot anyway.)"

Josephine whipped her hand off his palm, where it lay like cream
spilt on a trencher.

"Ah! I see; you are not free: you have a lover."

"No, no!" cried Josephine in distress; "I love nobody but my mother
and sister: I never shall."

"Your mother," cried Raynal; "that reminds me; he told me to ask
her; by Jove, I think he told me to ask her first;" and Raynal up
with his scabbard and was making off.

Josephine begged him to do nothing of the kind.

"I can save you the trouble," said she.

"Ah, but my instructions! my instructions!" cried the military
pedant, and ran off into the house, and left Josephine "planted
there," as they say in France.

Raynal demanded a private interview of the baroness so significantly
and unceremoniously that Rose had no alternative but to retire, but
not without a glance of defiance at the bear. She ran straight,
without her bonnet, into the Pleasaunce to slake her curiosity at
Josephine. That young lady was walking pensively, but turned at
sight of Rose, and the sisters came together with a clash of tongues.

"O Rose! he has"--

"Oh!"

So nimbly does the female mind run on its little beaten tracks, that
it took no more than those syllables for even these innocent young
women to communicate that Raynal had popped.

Josephine apologized for this weakness in a hero. "It wasn't his
fault," said she. "It is your Edouard who set him to do it."

"My Edouard? Don't talk in that horrid way: I have no Edouard. You
said 'no' of course."

"Something of the kind."

"What, did you not say 'no' plump?"

"I did not say it brutally, dear."

"Josephine, you frighten me. I know you can't say 'no' to any one;
and if you don't say 'no' plump to such a man as this, you might as
well say 'yes.'"

"Well, love," said Josephine, "you know our mother will relieve me
of this; what a comfort to have a mother!"

They waited for Raynal's departure, to go to the baroness. They had
to wait a long time. Moreover, when he did leave the chateau he
came straight into the Pleasaunce. At sight of him Rose seized
Josephine tight and bade her hold her tongue, as she could not say
"no" plump to any one. Josephine was far from raising any objection
to the arrangement.

"Monsieur," said Rose, before he could get a word out, "even if she
had not declined, I could not consent."

Raynal tapped his forehead reflectively, and drew forth from memory
that he had no instructions whatever to ask HER consent.

She colored high, but returned to the charge.

"Is her own consent to be dispensed with too? She declined the
honor, did she not?"

"Of course she did; but this was anticipated in my instructions. I
am to be sure and not take the first two or three refusals."

"O Josephine, look at that insolent boy: he has found you out."

"Insolent boy!" cried Raynal; "why, it is the referee of your own
choosing, and as well behaved a lad as ever I saw, and a zealous
officer."

"My kind friends," put in Josephine with a sweet languor, "I cannot
let you quarrel about a straw."

"It is not about a straw," said Raynal, "it is about you."

"The distinction involves a compliment, sir," said Josephine; then
she turned to Rose, "Is it possible you do not see Monsieur Raynal's
strange proposal in its true light? and you so shrewd in general.
He has no personal feeling whatever in this eccentric proceeding: he
wants to make us all happy, especially my mother, without seeming to
lay us under too great an obligation. Surely good-nature was never
carried so far before; ha, ha! Monsieur, I will encumber you with my
friendship forever, if you permit me, but farther than that I will
not abuse your generosity."

"Now look here, mademoiselle," began Raynal bluntly, "I did start
with a good motive at first, that there's no denying. But, since I
have been every day in your company, and seen how good and kind you
are to all about you, I have turned selfish; and I say to myself,
what a comfort such a wife as you would be to a soldier! Why, only
to have you to write letters home to, would be worth half a fellow's
pay. Do you know sometimes when I see the fellows writing their
letters it gives me a knock here to think I have no one at all to
write to."

Josephine sighed.

"So you see I am not so mighty disinterested. Now, mademoiselle,
you speak so charmingly, I can't tell what you mean: can't tell
whether you say 'no' because you could never like me, or whether it
is out of delicacy, and you only want pressing. So I say no more at
present: it is a standing offer. Take a day to consider. Take two
if you like. I must go to the barracks; good-day."

"Oh! this must be put an end to at once," said Rose.

"With all my heart," replied Josephine; "but how?"

"Come to our mother, and settle that," said the impetuous sister,
and nearly dragged the languid one into the drawing-room.

To their surprise they found the baroness walking up and down the
room with unusual alacrity for a person of her years. She no sooner
caught sight of Josephine than she threw her arms open to her with
joyful vivacity, and kissed her warmly. "My love, you have saved
us. I am a happy old woman. If I had all France to pick from I
could not have found a man so worthy of my Josephine. He is brave,
he is handsome, he is young, he is a rising man, he is a good son,
and good sons make good husbands--and--I shall die at Beaurepaire,
shall I not, Madame the Commandante?"

Josephine held her mother round the neck, but never spoke. After a
silence she held her tighter, and cried a little.

"What is it?" asked the baroness confidentially of Rose, but without
showing any very profound concern.

"Mamma! mamma! she does not love him."

"Love him? She would be no daughter of mine if she loved a man at
sight. A modest woman loves her husband only."

"But she scarcely knows Monsieur Raynal."

"She knows more of him than I knew of your father when I married
him. She knows his virtues and appreciates them. I have heard her,
have I not, love? Esteem soon ripens into love when they are once
fairly married."

"Mother, does her silence then tell you nothing? Her tears--are
they nothing to you?"

"Silly child! These are tears that do not scald. The sweet soul
weeps because she now for the first time sees she will have to leave
her mother. Alas! my eldest, it is inevitable. Mothers are not
immortal. While they are here it is their duty to choose good
husbands for their daughters. My youngest, I believe, has chosen
for herself--like the nation. But for my eldest I choose. We shall
see which chooses the best. Meantime we stay at Beaurepaire, thanks
to my treasure here."

"Josephine! Josephine! you don't say one word," cried Rose in
dismay.

"What CAN I say? I love my mother and I love you. You draw me
different ways. I want you to be both happy."

"Then if you will not speak out I must. Mother, do not deceive
yourself: it is duty alone that keeps her silent: this match is
odious to her."

"Then we are ruined. Josephine, is this match odious to you?"

"Not exactly odious: but I am very, very indifferent."

"There!" cried Rose triumphantly.

"There!" cried the baroness in the same breath, triumphantly. "She
esteems his character; but his person is indifferent to her: in
other words, she is a modest girl, and my daughter; and let me tell
you, Rose, that but for the misfortunes of our house, both my
daughters would be married as I was, without knowing half as much of
their husbands as Josephine knows of this brave, honest, generous,
filial gentleman."

"Well, then, since she will not speak out, I will. Pity me: I love
her so. If this stranger, whom she does not love, takes her away
from us, he will kill me. I shall die; oh!"

Josephine left her mother and went to console Rose.

The baroness lost her temper at this last stroke of opposition.
"Now the truth comes out, Rose; this is selfishness. Do not deceive
YOURself--selfishness!"

"Mamma!"

"You are only waiting to leave me yourself. Yet your eldest sister,
forsooth, must be kept here for you,--till then." She added more
gently, "Let me advise you to retire to your own room, and examine
your heart fairly. You will find there is a strong dash of egoism
in all this."

"If I do"--

"You will retract your opposition."

"My heart won't let me; but I will despise myself, and be silent."

And the young lady, who had dried her eyes the moment she was
accused of selfishness, walked, head erect, from the room.
Josephine cast a deprecating glance at her mother. "Yes, my angel!"
said the latter, "I was harsh. But we are no longer of one mind,
and I suppose never shall be again."

"Oh, yes, we shall. Be patient! Mother--you shall not leave
Beaurepaire."

The baroness colored faintly at these four last words of her
daughter, and hung her head.

Josephine saw that, and darted to her and covered her with kisses.

That day the doctor scolded them both. "You have put your mother
into a high fever," said he; "here's a pulse; I do wish you would be
more considerate."

The commandant did not come to dinner as usual. The evening passed
heavily; their hearts were full of uncertainty.

"We miss our merry, spirited companion," said the baroness with a
grim look at Rose. Both young ladies assented with ludicrous
eagerness.

That night Rose came and slept with Josephine, and more than once
she awoke with a start and seized Josephine convulsively and held
her tight.

Accused of egoism! at first her whole nature rose in arms against
the charge: but, after a while, coming as it did from so revered a
person, it forced her to serious self-examination. The poor girl
said to herself, "Mamma is a shrewd woman. Am I after all deceiving
myself? Would she be happy, and am I standing in the way?" In the
morning she begged her sister to walk with her in the park, so that
they might be safe from interruption.

There, she said sadly, she could not understand her own sister.
"Why are you so calm and cold, while am I in tortures of anxiety?
Have you made some resolve and not confided it to your Rose?"

"No, love," was the reply; "I am scarce capable of a resolution; I
am a mere thing that drifts."

"Let me put it in other words, then. How will this end?"

"I hardly know."

"Do you mean to marry Monsieur Raynal, then? answer me that."

"No; but I should not wonder if he were to marry ME."

"But you said 'no.'"

"Yes, I said 'no' once."

"And don't you mean to say it again, and again, and again, till
kingdom come?"

"What is the use? you heard him say he would not desist any the
more, and I care too little about the matter to go on persisting,
and persisting, and persisting."

"Why not, if he goes on pestering, and pestering, and pestering?"

"Ah, he is like you, all energy, at all hours; but I have so little
where my heart is unconcerned: he seems, too, to have a wish! I
have none either way, and my conscience says 'marry him!'"

"Your conscience say marry one man when you love another?"

"Heaven forbid! Rose, I love no one: I HAVE loved; but now my heart
is dead and silent; only my conscience says, 'You are the cause of
all your mother's trouble; you are the cause that Beaurepaire was
sold. Now you can repair that mischief, and at the same time make a
brave man happy, our benefactor happy.' It is a great temptation: I
hardly know why I said 'no' at all; surprise, perhaps--or to please
you, pretty one."

Rose groaned: "Are you then worth so little that you would throw
yourself away on a man who does not love you, nor want you, and is
quite as happy single?"

"No; not happy; he is only stout-hearted and good, and therefore
content; and he is a character that it would be easy--in short, I
feel my power here: I could make that man happy; he has nobody to
write to even, when he is away--poor fellow!"

"I shall lose all patience," cried Rose; "you are at your old trick,
thinking of everybody but yourself: I let you do it in trifles, but
I love you too well to permit it when the happiness of your whole
life is at stake. I must be satisfied on one point, or else this
marriage shall never take place: just answer me this; if Camille
Dujardin stood on one side, and Monsieur Raynal on the other, and
both asked your hand, which would you take?"

"That will never be. Whose? Not his whom I despise. Esteem might
ripen into love, but what must contempt end in?"

This reply gave Rose great satisfaction. To exhaust all awkward
contingencies, she said, "One question more, and I have done.
Suppose Camille should turn out--be not quite--what shall I say--
inexcusable?"

At this unlucky gush, Josephine turned pale, then red, then pale
again, and cried eagerly, "Then all the world should not part us.
Why torture me with such a question? Ah! you have heard something."
And in a moment the lava of passion burst wildly through its thin
sheet of ice. "I was blind. This is why you would save me from
this unnatural marriage. You are breaking the good news to me by
degrees. There is no need. Quick--quick--let me have it. I have
waited three years; I am sick of waiting. Why don't you speak? Why
don't you tell me? Then I will tell YOU. He is alive--he is well--
he is coming. It was not he those soldiers saw; they were so far
off. How could they tell? They saw a uniform but not a face.
Perhaps he has been a prisoner, and so could not write; could not
come: but he is coming now. Why do you groan? why do you turn pale?
ah! I see; I have once more deceived myself. I was mad. He I love
is still a traitor to France and me, and I am wretched forever. Oh!
that I were dead! oh! that I were dead! No; don't speak to me:
never mind me; this madness will pass as it has before, and leave me
a dead thing among the living. Ah! sister, why did you wake me from
my dream? I was drifting so calmly, so peacefully, so dead, and
painless, drifting over the dead sea of the heart towards the living
waters of gratitude and duty. I was going to make more than one
worthy soul happy; and seeing them happy, I should have been content
and useful--what am I now?--and comforted other hearts, and died
joyful--and young. For God is good; he releases the meek and
patient from their burdens."

With this came a flood of tears; and she leaned against a bough with
her forehead on her arm, bowed like a wounded lily.

"Accursed be that man's name, and MY tongue if ever I utter it again
in your hearing!" cried Rose, weeping bitterly. "You are wiser than
I, and every way better. O my darling, dry your tears! Here he
comes: look! riding across the park."

"Rose," cried Josephine, hastily, "I leave all to you. Receive
Monsieur Raynal, and decline his offer if you think proper. It is
you who love me best. My mother would give me up for a house; for
an estate, poor dear."

"I would not give you for all the world."

"I know it. I trust all to you."

"Well, but don't go; stay and hear what I shall say."

"Oh, no; that poor man is intolerable to me NOW. Let me avoid his
sight, and think of his virtues."

Rose was left alone, mistress of her sister's fate. She put her
head into her hands and filled with anxiety and sudden doubt.

Like a good many more of us, she had been positive so long as the
decision did not rest with her. But with power comes responsibility,
with responsibility comes doubt. Easy to be an advocate in
re incerta; hard to be the judge. And she had but a few seconds
to think in; for Raynal was at hand. The last thing in her
mind before he joined her was the terrible power of that base
Camille over her sister. She despaired of curing Josephine, but a
husband might. There's such divinity doth hedge a husband in
innocent girls' minds.

"Well, little lady," began Raynal, "and how are you, and how is my
mother-in-law that is to be--or is not to be, as your sister
pleases; and how is SHE? have I frightened her away? There were two
petticoats, and now there is but one."

"She left me to answer you."

"All the worse for me: I am not to your taste."

"Do not say that," said Rose, almost hysterically.

"Oh! it is no sacrilege. Not one in fifty likes me."

"But I do like you, sir."

"Then why won't you let me have your sister?"

"I have not quite decided that you shall not have her," faltered
poor Rose. She murmured on, "I dare say you think me very unkind,
very selfish; but put yourself in my place. I love my sister as no
man can ever love her, I know: my heart has been one flesh and one
soul with hers all my life. A stranger comes and takes her away
from me as if she was I don't know what; his portmanteau; takes her
to Egypt, oh! oh! oh!"

Raynal comforted her.

"What, do you think I am such a brute as to take that delicate
creature about fighting with me? why, the hot sand would choke her,
to begin. No. You don't take my manoeuvre. I have no family; I
try for a wife that will throw me in a mother and sister. You will
live all together the same as before, of course; only you must let
me make one of you when I am at home. And how often will that be?
Besides, I am as likely to be knocked on the head in Egypt as not;
you are worrying yourself for nothing, little lady."

He uttered the last topic of consolation in a broad, hearty,
hilarious tone, like a trombone impregnated with cheerful views of
fate.

"Heaven forbid!" cried Rose: "and I will, for even I shall pray for
you now. What you will leave her at home? forgive me for not seeing
all your worth: of course I knew you were an angel, but I had no
idea you were a duck. You are just the man for my sister. She
likes to obey: you are all for commanding. So you see. Then she
never thinks of herself; any other man but you would impose on her
good-nature; but you are too generous to do that. So you see. Then
she esteems you so highly. And one whom I esteem (between you and
me) has chosen you for her."

"Then say yes, and have done with it," suggested the straightforward
soldier.

"Why should I say 'no?' you will make one another happy some day:
you are both so good. Any other man but you would tear her from me;
but you are too just, too kind. Heaven will reward you. No! I
will. I will give you Josephine: ah, my dear brother-in-law, it is
the most precious thing I have to give in the world."

"Thank you, then. So that is settled. Hum! no, it is not quite; I
forgot; I have something for you to read; an anonymous letter. I
got it this morning; it says your sister has a lover."

The letter ran to this tune: a friend who had observed the
commandant's frequent visits at Beaurepaire wrote to warn him
against traps. Both the young ladies of Beaurepaire were doubtless
at the new proprietor's service to pick and choose from. But for
all that each of them had a lover, and though these lovers had their
orders to keep out of the way till monsieur should be hooked, he
might be sure that if he married either, the man of her heart would
come on the scene soon after, perhaps be present at the wedding.

In short, it was one of those poisoned arrows a coarse vindictive
coward can shoot.

It was the first anonymous letter Rose had ever seen. It almost
drove her mad on the spot. Raynal was sorry he had let her see it.

She turned red and white by turns, and gasped for breath.

"Why am I not a man?--why don't I wear a sword? I would pass it
through this caitiff's heart. The cowardly slave!--the fiend! for
who but a fiend could slander an angel like my Josephine? Hooked?
Oh! she will never marry you if she sees this."

"Then don't let her see it: and why take it to heart like that? I
don't trust to the word of a man who owns that his story is a thing
he dares not sign his name to; at all events, I shall not put his
word against yours. But it is best to understand one another in
time. I am a plain man, but not a soft one. I should not be an
easygoing husband like some I see about: I'd have no wasps round my
honey; if my wife took a lover I would not lecture THE WOMAN--what
is the use?--I'd kill THE MAN then and there, in-doors or out, as I
would kill a snake. If she took another, I'd send him after the
first, and so on till one killed me."

"And serve the wretches right."

"Yes; but for my own sake I don't choose to marry a woman that loves
any other man. So tell me the plain truth; come."

Rose turned chill in her inside. "I have no lover," she stammered.
"I have a young fool that comes and teases me: but it is no secret.
He is away, but why? he is on a sickbed, poor little fellow!"

"But your sister? She could not have a lover unknown to you."

"I defy her. No, sir; I have not seen her speak three words to any
young man except Monsieur Riviere this three years past."

"That is enough;" and he tore the letter quietly to atoms.

Then Rose saw she could afford a little more candor. "Understand
me; I can't speak of what happened when I was a child. But if ever
she had a girlish attachment, he has not followed it up, or surely I
should have seen something of him all these years."

"Of course. Oh! as for flirtations, let them pass: a lovely girl
does not grow up without one or two whispering some nonsense into
her ear. Why, I myself should have flirted no doubt; but I never
had the time. Bonaparte gives you time to eat and drink, but not to
sleep or flirt, and that reminds me I have fifty miles to ride, so
good-by, sister-in-law, eh?"

"Adieu, brother-in-law."

Left alone, Rose had some misgivings. She had equivocated with one
whose upright, candid nature ought to have protected him: but an
enemy had accused Josephine; and it came so natural to shield her.
"Did he really think I would expose my own sister?" said she to
herself, angrily. Was not this anger secret self-discontent?


"Well, love," said Josephine, demurely, "have you dismissed him?"

"No."

Josephine smiled feebly. "It is easy to say 'say no;' but it is not
so easy to say 'no,' especially when you feel you ought to say
'yes,' and have no wish either way except to give pleasure to
others."

"But I am not such skim milk as all that," replied Rose: "I have
always a strong wish where you are concerned, and your happiness. I
hesitated whilst I was in doubt, but I doubt no longer: I have had a
long talk with him. He has shown me his whole heart: he is the
best, the noblest of creatures: he has no littleness or meanness.
And then he is a thorough man; I know that by his being the very
opposite of a woman in his ways. Now you are a thorough woman, and
so you will suit one another to a T. I have decided: so no more
doubts, love; no more tears; no more disputes. We are all of one
mind, and I do think I have secured your happiness. It will not
come in a day, perhaps, but it will come. So then in one little
fortnight you marry Monsieur Raynal."

"What!" said Josephine, "you have actually settled that?"

"Yes."

"But are you sure I can make him as happy as he deserves?"

"Positive."

"I think so too; still"--

"It is settled, dear," said Rose soothingly.

"Oh, the comfort of that! you relieve me of a weight; you give me
peace. I shall have duties; I shall do some good in the world.
They were all for it but you before, were they not?"

"Yes, and now I am strongest for it of them all. Josephine, it is
settled."

Josephine looked at her for a moment in silence, then said eagerly,
"Bless you, dear Rose; you have saved your sister;" then, after a
moment, in a very different voice, "O Camille! Camille! why have you
deserted me?"

And with this she fell to sobbing terribly. Rose wept on her neck,
but said nothing. She too was a woman, and felt that this was the
last despairing cry of love giving up a hopeless struggle.

They sat twined together in silence till Jacintha came to tell them
it was close upon dinner-time; so then they hastened to dry their
tears and wash their red eyes, for fear their mother should see what
they had been at, and worry herself.


"Well, mademoiselle, these two consent; but what do you say? for
after all, it is you I am courting, and not them. Have you the
courage to venture on a rough soldier like me?"

This delicate question was put point-blank before the three ladies.

"Sir," replied Josephine timidly, "I will be as frank, as
straightforward as you are. I thank you for the honor you do me."

Raynal looked perplexed.

"And does that mean 'yes' or 'no'?"

"Which you please," said Josephine, hanging her sweet head.

The wedding was fixed for that day fortnight. The next morning
wardrobes were ransacked. The silk, muslin, and lace of their
prosperous days were looked out: grave discussions were held over
each work of art. Rose was active, busy, fussy. The baroness threw
in the weight of her judgment and experience.

Josephine managed to smile whenever either Rose or the baroness
looked at all fixedly at her.

So glided the peaceful days. So Josephine drifted towards the haven
of wedlock.





White Lies by Charles Reade
Category:
English Literature
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