He launched into a treatise upon the vitality of human beings, andproved that it is the mind which keeps the body of a man alive forso great a length of time as fourscore years; for that he had in theearlier part of his studies carefully dissected a multitude ofanimals,--frogs, rabbits, dogs, men, horses, sheep, squirrels,foxes, cats, etc.,--and discovered no peculiarity iethereum price historyn man's organs toaccount for his singular longevity, except in the brain or organ ofmind. Thence he went to the longevity of men with contented minds,and the rapid decay of the careworn. Finally he succeeded inconvincing them the baroness was so constituted, physically andmentally, that she would never move from Beaurepaire except into hergrave. However, having thus terrified them, he proceeded to consolethem. "You have a friend," said he, "a powerful friend; and here inmy pocket--somewhere--is a letter that proves it."The letter was from Mr. Perrin the notary. It appeared by it thatDr. Aubertin had reminded the said Perrin of his obligations to thelate baron, and entreated him to use all his influence to keep theestate in this ancient family.
I feel prouder of his honest name than of our noble one. And I amso calm, dear, thanks to you, seos crypto grapho tranquil; so pleased that mymother's mind is at rest, so convinced all is for the best, socontented with my own lot; so hap--py."A gentle tear stole from beneath her long lashes. Rose looked ather wistfully: then laid her cheek to hers. They leaned back handin hand, placid and silent.The carriage glided fast. Beaurepaire was almost in sight.
Suddenly Josephine's hand tightened on Rose's, and she sat up in thecarriage like a person awakened from a strange dream."What is it?" asked Rose."Some one in uniform.""Oh, is that all? Ah! you thought it was a message from Raynal.""Oh! no! on foot--walking very slowly. Coming this way, too.Coming this way!" and she became singularly restless, and lookedround in the carriage. It was one of those old chariots with noside windows, but a peep hole at the back. This aperture, however,had a flap over it. Josephine undid the flap with nimble thoughagitated fingers; and saw--nothing. The road had taken a turn."Oh," said Rose, carelessly, "for that matter the roads are full ofsoldiers just now.""Ay, but not of officers on foot."Rose gave her such a look, and for the first time this many a dayspoke sternly to her, and asked her what on earth she had to do withuniforms or officers except one, the noblest in the world, herhusband.
A month ago that word was almost indifferent to Josephine, or rathershe uttered it with a sort of mild complacency. Now she started atit, and it struck chill upon her. She did not reply, however, andthe carriage rolled on."He seemed to be dragging himself along." This was the first wordJosephine had spoken for some time. "Oh, did he?" replied Rosecarelessly; "well, let him. Here we are, at home.""I am glad of it," said Josephine, "very glad."On reaching Beaurepaire she wanted to go up-stairs at once and puton her gray gown. But the day was so delightful that Rose beggedher to stroll in the Pleasaunce for half an hour and watch for theirmother's return. She consented in an absent way, and presentlybegan to walk very fast, unconscious of her companion. Rose laid ahand upon her playfully to moderate her, and found her skin burning."Yes, Josephine."They went slowly and in silence. Camille was too ashamed andpenitent to speak; too full of terror too at the abyss of crime fromwhich he had been saved. The ancients feigned that a virgin couldsubdue a lion; perhaps they meant that a pure gentle nature cansubdue a nature fierce but generous. Lion-like Camille walked byJosephine's side with his eyes bent on the ground, the picture ofhumility and penitence.
"This is the last walk you and I shall take together," saidJosephine solemnly."I know it," said he humbly. "I have forfeited all right to be byyour side.""My poor, lost love," sighed Josephine, "will you never understandme? You never stood higher in my esteem than at this moment. It isthe avowal you have forced from ME that parts us. The man to whom Ihave said 'I'--must not remain beneath my husband's roof. Does notyour 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 thoughtyou 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 arenot alike, dear as we are to one another. Well, do not fear: Ishall never be happy--will that soothe you, Camille?""Yes, Josephine, all is changed; the words you have spoken havedriven the fiends out of my heart. I have nothing to do now but toobey, you to command: it is your right. Since you love me a littlestill, dispose of me. Bid me live: bid me die: bid me stay: bid mego. I shall never disobey the angel who loves me, my only friendupon 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: Iam the guardian of his honor and my own; be just, be generous, beself-denying; depart and love me only as angels love'? Perhaps thismight have helped me to show you that I too am a man of honor.""Perhaps I was wrong," sighed Josephine. "I think I should havetrusted more to you. But then, who would have thought you couldreally doubt my love? You were ill; I could not bear you to go tillyou 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 notwhat 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 houseunder my care--that thought was always sweet--I had a hand ineverything that was for your good, for your comfort. I helpedJacintha make your soup and your chocolate every day. I had thedelight of lining the dressing-gown you were to wear. I had alwayssome little thing or other to do for you. These kept me up: I forgotin my selfishness that you had none of these supports, and that Iwas 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 ofyour marriage; I saw your sweet pale face; but I was not pure enoughto comprehend angelic virtue and unselfishness. Well, I am broughtto my senses. There is but one thing for me to do--you bade meleave 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-nighteverything thrusts me on the right path. To-morrow everything willdraw me from it. Do not cry, beloved one; you and I have a hardfight. We must be true allies; whenever one is weak, then is thetime for the other to be strong. I have been weaker than you, to myshame be it said; but this is my hour of strength. A light fromheaven shows me my path. I am full of passion, but like you I havehonor. 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 ityou, 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. Ishall go on foot."Josephine said nothing, but she began to walk slower and slower.And so the unfortunate pair came along creeping slowly with droopingheads towards the gate of the Pleasaunce. There their last walk inthis world must end. Many a man and woman have gone to the scaffoldwith hearts less heavy and more hopeful than theirs.
"Dry your eyes, Josephine," said Camille with a deep sigh. "Theyare all out on the Pleasaunce.""No, I will not dry my eyes," cried Josephine, almost violently. "Icare for nothing now."The baroness, the doctor, and Rose, were all in the Pleasaunce: andas the pair came in, lo! every eye was bent on Josephine.She felt this, and her eyes sought the ground: benumbed as she waswith 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 determinedto slip away, and pack up, and begone. However, nobody took anynotice of him. The baroness drew Josephine apart. And Rosefollowed 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 andtroubled face. Camille felt his utter desolation. He was nothingto any of them. He resolved to go at once, and charge Aubertin withhis last adieus to the family. It was a wise and manly resolve. Hestopped Aubertin in the middle of his walk, and said in a faintvoice of the deepest dejection,--"Doctor, the time is come that I must once more thank you for allyour goodness to me, and bid you all farewell.""What, going before your strength is re-established?" said thedoctor 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 ortwo longer; but now I think it would be unadvisable to press you tostay. Ah, colonel, you came to a happy house, but you leave a sadone. 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 uponour beloved Josephine; on the darling of the house."Camille turned cold with vague apprehension. But he contrived tostammer out, "No; tell me! for Heaven's sake tell me."The doctor thus pressed revealed all in a very few words. "My poorfriend," said he solemnly, "her husband--is dead."Chapter 14
The baroness, as I have said, drew Josephine aside, and tried tobreak to her the sad news: but her own grief overcame her, andbursting into tears she bewailed the loss of her son. Josephine wasgreatly shocked. Death!--Raynal dead--her true, kind friend dead--her benefactor dead. She clung to her mother's neck, and sobbedwith her. Presently she withdrew her face and suddenly hid it inboth her hands.She rose and kissed her mother once more: and went to her own room:and then, though there was none to see her, she hid her wet, butburning, cheeks in her hands.Josephine confined herself for some days to her own room, leaving itonly to go to the chapel in the park, where she spent hours inprayers for the dead and in self-humiliation. Her "tenderconscience" accused herself bitterly for not having loved thisgallant spirit more than she had.Camille realized nothing at first; he looked all confused in thedoctor's face, and was silent. Then after awhile he said, "Dead?Raynal dead?""Killed in action."A red flush came to Camille's face, and his eyes went down to theground at his very feet, nor did he once raise them while the doctortold him how the sad news had come. "Picard the notary brought usthe Moniteur, and there was Commandant Raynal among the killed in acavalry skirmish." With this, he took the journal from his pocket,and Camille read it, with awe-struck, and other feelings he wouldhave been sorry to see analyzed. He said not a word; and loweredhis eyes to the ground.
"And now," said Aubertin, "you will excuse me. I must go to my poorfriend the baroness. She had a mother's love for him who is nomore: well she might."Aubertin went away, and left Dujardin standing there like a statue,his eyes still glued to the ground at his feet.The doctor was no sooner out of sight, than Camille raised his eyesfurtively, like a guilty person, and looked irresolutely this wayand that: at last he turned and went back to the place where he hadmeditated suicide and murder; looked down at it a long while, thenlooked up to heaven--then fell suddenly on his knees: and soremained till night-fall. Then he came back to the chateau.
He whispered to himself, "And I am afraid it is too late to go awayto-night." He went softly into the saloon. Nobody was there butRose and Aubertin. At sight of him Rose got up and left the room.But I suppose she went to Josephine; for she returned in a fewminutes, and rang the bell, and ordered some supper to be brought upfor Colonel Dujardin.
"You have not dined, I hear," said she, very coldly."I was afraid you were gone altogether," said the doctor: thenturning to Rose, "He told me he was going this evening. You hadbetter stay quiet another day or two," added he, kindly.
"Do you think so?" said Camille, timidly.He stayed upon these terms. And now he began to examine himself."Did I wish him dead? I hope I never formed such a thought! Idon't remember ever wishing him dead." And he went twice a day tothat place by the stream, and thought very solemnly what a terriblething ungoverned passion is; and repented--not eloquently, butsilently, sincerely.But soon his impatient spirit began to torment itself again. Whydid Josephine shun him now? Ah! she loved Raynal now that he wasdead. Women love the thing they have lost; so he had heard say. Inthat case, the very sight of him would of course be odious to her:
he could understand that. The absolute, unreasoning faith he oncehad in her had been so rudely shaken by her marriage with Raynal,that now he could only believe just so much as he saw, and he sawthat she shunned him.He became moody, sad, and disconsolate: and as Josephine shunnedhim, so he avoided all the others, and wandered for hours byhimself, perplexed and miserable. After awhile, he became consciousthat he was under a sort of surveillance. Rose de Beaurepaire, whohad been so kind to him when he was confined to his own room, buthad taken little notice of him since he came down, now resumed hercare of him, and evidently made it her business to keep up hisheart. She used to meet him out walking in a mysterious way, and inshort, be always falling in with him and trying to cheer him up:
with tolerable success.Such was the state of affairs when the party was swelled and matterscomplicated by the arrival of one we have lost sight of.
Edouard Riviere retarded his cure by an impatient spirit: but he gotwell at last, and his uncle drove him in the cabriolet to his ownquarters. The news of the house had been told him by letter, but,of course, in so vague and general a way that, thinking he knew all,in reality he knew nothing.Josephine had married Raynal. The marriage was sudden, but no doubtthere was an attachment: he had some reason to believe in suddenattachments. Colonel Dujardin, an old acquaintance, had come backto France wounded, and the good doctor had undertaken his cure: thisincident appeared neither strange nor any way important. Whataffected him most deeply was the death of Raynal, his personalfriend and patron. But when his tyrants, as he called the surgeonand his uncle, gave him leave to go home, all feelings wereoverpowered by his great joy at the prospect of seeing Rose. Hewalked over to Beaurepaire, his arm in a sling, his heart beating.
He was coming to receive the reward of all he had done, and all hehad attempted. "I will surprise them," thought he. "I will see herface when I come in at the door: oh, happy hour! this pays for all."He entered the house without announcing himself; he went softly upto the saloon; to his great disappointment he found no one but thebaroness: she received him kindly, but not with the warmth heexpected. She was absorbed in her new grief. He asked timidlyafter her daughters. "Madame Raynal bears up, for the sake ofothers. You will not, however, see her: she keeps her room. Mydaughter Rose is taking a walk, I believe." After some politeinquiries, and sympathy with his accident, the baroness retired toindulge her grief, and Edouard thus liberated ran in search of hisbeloved.He met her at the gate of the Pleasaunce, but not alone. She waswalking with an officer, a handsome, commanding, haughty, brilliantofficer. She was walking by his side, talking earnestly to him.An arrow of ice shot through young Riviere; and then came a feelingof death at his heart, a new symptom in his young life.The next moment Rose caught sight of him. She flushed all over anduttered a little exclamation, and she bounded towards him like alittle antelope, and put out both her hands at once. He could onlygive her one.
"Ah!" she cried with an accent of heavenly pity, and took his handwith both hers.This was like the meridian sun coming suddenly on a cold place. Hewas all happiness.
When Josephine heard he was come her eye flashed, and she saidquickly, "I will come down to welcome him--dear Edouard!"The sisters looked at one another. Josephine blushed. Rose smiledand kissed her. She colored higher still, and said, "No, she wasashamed to go down.""Why?""Look at my face.""I see nothing wrong with it, except that it eclipses otherpeople's, and I have long forgiven you that.""Oh, yes, dear Rose: look what a color it has, and a fortnight agoit was pale as ashes.""Never mind; do you expect me to regret that?""Rose, I am a very bad woman.""Are you, dear? then hook this for me.""Yes, love. But I sometimes think you would forgive me if you knewhow hard I pray to be better. Rose, I do try so to be as unhappy asI ought; but I can't, I can't. My cold heart seems as dead tounhappiness as once it was to happiness. Am I a heartless womanafter all?""Not altogether," said Rose dryly. "Fasten my collar, dear, anddon't torment yourself. You have suffered much and nobly. It wasHeaven's will: you bowed to it. It was not Heaven's will that youshould be blighted altogether. Bow in this, too, to Heaven's will:take things as they come, and do cease to try and reconcile feelingsthat are too opposite to live together.""Ah! these are such comfortable words, Rose; but mamma will see thisdreadful color in my cheek, and what can I say to her?""Ten to one it will not be observed; and if it should, I will say itis the excitement of seeing Edouard. Leave all to me."Josephine greeted Edouard most affectionately, drew from him hiswhole history, and petted him and sympathized with him deliciously,and made him the hero of the evening. Camille, who was notnaturally of a jealous temper, bore this very well at first, but atlast he looked so bitter at her neglect of him, that Rose took himaside to soothe him. Edouard, missing the auditor he most valued,and seeing her in secret conference with the brilliant colonel, felta return of the jealous pangs that had seized him at first sight ofthe man; and so they played at cross purposes.
At another period of the evening the conversation became moregeneral; and Edouard took a dislike to Colonel Dujardin. A youngman of twenty-eight nearly always looks on a boy of twenty-one withthe air of a superior, and this assumption, not being an ill-naturedone, is apt to be so easy and so undefined that the younger hardlyknows how to resent or to resist it. But Edouard was a little vainas we know; and the Colonel jarred him terribly. His quick haughtyeye jarred him. His regimentals jarred him: they fitted like aglove. His mustache and his manner jarred him, and, worst of all,his cool familiarity with Rose, who seemed to court him rather thanbe courted by him. He put this act of Rose's to the colonel'saccount, according to the custom of lovers, and revenged himself ina small way by telling Josephine in her ear "that the colonelproduced on his mind the effect of an intolerable puppy."Josephine colored up and looked at him with a momentary surprise.She said quietly, "Military men do give themselves some airs, but heis very amiable at bottom. You must make a better acquaintance withhim, and then he will reveal to you his nobler qualities."--"Oh! Ihave no particular desire," sneered unlucky Edouard. Sweet asJosephine was, this was too much for her: she said nothing; but shequietly turned Edouard over to Aubertin, and joined Rose, and undercover of her had a sweet timid chat with her falsely accused.