"Is this just?" said she. "Think of two months ago: yes, but twomonths ago, you were dying. You doubted my love, because it couldnot overcome my virtue and my gratitude: yet you might have seen itwas destroying my life. Poor Raynal, my husband, my benefactor,died. Then I could do more for you, if not with delicacy, at leastwith honor; but no! words, and looks, and tender offices of lovewere not enough, I must give stronger proof. Dear Camille, I havebeen reared in a strict school: and perhaps none of your sex canknow what it cost me to go to Frejus that day with him I uniswap coin calendarlove.""My own Josephine!""I made but one condition: that you would not rob me of my mother'srespect: to her our hasty marriage would appear monstrous,heartless. You consented to be secretly happy for six months. Onefortnight has passed, and you are discontented again.""Oh, no! do not think so. It is every word true. I am anungrateful villain.""How dare you say so? and to me! No! but you are a man.""So I have been told; but my conduct to you, sweet one, has not beenthat of a man from first to last. Yet I could die for you, with asmile on my lips. But when I think that once I lifted thissacrilegious hand against your life--oh!""Do not be silly, Camille. I love you all the better for loving mewell enough to kill me. What woman would not? I tell you, youfoolish thing, you are a man: monseigneur is one of the lordly sex,that is accustomed to have everything its own way. My love, in aworld that is full of misery, here are two that are condemned to besecretly happy a few months longer: a hard fate for one of your sex,it seems: but it is so much sweeter than the usual lot of mine, thatreally I cannot share your misery," and she smiled joyously.
"Yes, Josephine."They went slowly and in silence. Camille was too ashamed andpenitent to speak; too full ofkusama price in india live 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.His words and manner were another ray of light--a welcome rift in the black pall that had gathered round her.
"You were the first friend I found, sir, after--what happened," she said gratefully."Well, you've found another and a better one; and he'll always be just the same. Any woman might be glad--""Come, Tom, no more of that. I'm a plain old farmer that does what he agrees, and that's all there is about it. I've told Alida just what I wished and could do--""I should hope so," interrupted Watterly, laughing. "You've taken time enough, certainly, and I guess you've talked more than you have before in a year."
"Yes, I know I'm almost as bad as an oyster about talking except when I'm with you. Somehow we've always had a good deal to say to each other. In this case, I felt that it was due to Alida that she should know all about me and understand fully just how I felt concerning this marriage. The very fact that she hasn't friends to advise her made it all the more needful that I should be plain and not mislead her in any respect.--She has just as good a right to judge and act for herself as any woman in the land, and she takes me, and I take her, with no sentimental lies to start with. Now let's get back to business. I rather think, since Harkins was an old acquaintance of mine, he'll come up here and marry us, don't you? Alida, wouldn't you rather be married here quietly than face a lot of strangers? You can have your own way, I don't care now if half the town was present.""Oh, yes, indeed, sir! I don't want to meet strangers--and--and--I'm not very strong yet. I thank you for considering my feelings so kindly."
"Why, that's my duty," replied the farmer. "Come, Watterly, the sun is getting low, and we've considerable to do yet before we start home.""I'm with you. Now, Alida, you go back quietly and act as if nothing had happened till I send for you. Of course this impatient young groom will hurry back with the justice as fast as possible. Still, we may not find him, or he may be so busy that we shall have to come back for you and take you to his office."As she turned to leave the room, Holcroft gave her his hand and said kindly, "Now don't you be nervous or worried. I see you are not strong, and you shall not be taxed any more than I can help. Goodby for a little while."Meantime Watterly stepped out a moment and gave his domestic a few orders; then he accompanied Holcroft to the barn, and the horses were soon attached to the market wagon. "You're in for it now, Jim, sure enough," he said laughing. "What will Angy say to it all?"
"Tell her that I say you've been a mighty good friend to me, yet I hope I may never return any favors of the same kind.""By jocks! I hope not. I guess it's just as well she was away. She'll think we've acted just like two harum-scarum men, and will be awfully scandalized over your marrying this woman. Don't you feel a little nervous about it?""No! When my mind's made up, I don't worry. Nobody else need lie awake for it's my affair.""Well, Jim, you know how I feel about it, but I've got to say something and I might as well say it plain."
"That's the only way you ought to say it.""Well, you talked long enough to give me plenty of time to think. One thing is clear, Angy won't take to this marriage. You know I'd like to have you both come in and take a meal as you always have done, but then a man must keep peace with his wife, and--"
"I understand, Tom. We won't come till Mrs. Watterly asks us.""But you won't have hard feelings?"
"No, indeed. Aint you doing your level best as a friend?""Well, you know women are so set about these things, and Angy is rather hard on people who don't come up to her mark of respectability. What's more, I suppose you'll find that others will think and act as she does. If you cared about people's opinions I should have been dead against it, but as you feel and are situated, I'm hanged if I don't think she's just the one.""If it hadn't been this one, I don't believe it would have been anyone. Here we are," and he tied his horses before the office of the justice.Mr. Harkins greeted Holcroft with a sort of patronizing cordiality, and was good enough to remember that they had been at the little country schoolhouse together. In Watterly he heartily recognized a brother politician who controlled a goodly number of votes.When Holcroft briefly made known his errand, the justice gave a great guffaw of laughter and said, "Oh, bring her here! And I'll invite in some of the boys as witnesses.""I'm not afraid of all the witnesses that you could crowd into a ten-acre lot," said Holcroft somewhat sternly, "but there is no occasion to invite the boys, whoever they are, or anyone else. She doesn't want to be stared at. I was in hopes, Mr. Harkins, that you'd ride up to the almshouse with us and quietly marry us there."
"Well, I guess you'd better bring her here. I'm pretty busy this afternoon, and--""See here, Ben," said Watterly, taking the justice aside, "Holcroft is my friend, and you know I'm mighty thick with my friends. They count more with me than my wife's relations. Now I want you to do what Holcroft wishes, as a personal favor to me, and the time will come when I can make it up to you."
"Oh, certainly, Watterly! I didn't understand," replied Harkins, who looked upon Holcroft as a close and, as he would phrase it, no-account farmer, from whom he could never expect even a vote. "I'll go with you at once. It's but a short job.""Well," said Holcroft, "how short can you make it?"
"Let me get my book," and he took from a shelf the "Justice's Assistant." "You can't want anything shorter than this?" and he read, "'By this act of joining hands you do take each other as husband and wife and solemnly engage in the presence of these witnesses to love and honor and comfort and cherish each other as such so long as you both shall live. Therefore, in accordance with the law of the state of New York I do hereby pronounce you husband and wife.' A sailor couldn't tie a knot quicker than that.""I guess you can, justice," said Holcroft, taking the book. "Suppose you only read this much: 'By this act of joining hands you do take each other as husband and wife. Therefore, in accordance with the law, etc.' Would that be a legal marriage?"
"Certainly. You'd have to go to a divorce court to get out of that.""It's my purpose to keep out of courts of all kinds. I'll thank you to read just that much and no more. I don't want to say anything that isn't exactly true.""You see how it is, Ben. Holcroft hasn't known the woman long, and she's a nice woman, too, if she is boarding at my hotel. Holcroft needs a wife--must have one, in fact, to help run his house and dairy. It wasn't exactly a love match, you know; and he's that kind of a man that a yoke of oxen couldn't draw a word out of him that he didn't mean.""Yes, yes, I see now," said Harkins. "I'll read just what you say and no more."
"And I'll have a little spread that we can be longer at than the ceremony," added Watterly, who was inclined to be a little hilarious over the affair.Holcroft, however, maintained his grave manner, and when they reached the almshouse he took Watterly aside and said, "See here, Tom, you've been a good friend today and seconded me in everything. Now let the affair pass off just as quietly and seriously as possible. She's too cast down for a gay wedding. Suppose we had a daughter who'd been through such an experience--a nice, good, modest girl. Her heart's too sore for fun and jokes. My marrying her is much the same as pulling her out of deep water in which she was sinking."
"You're right, Jim. I didn't think, and one doesn't have much cause to be so sparing of the feelings of such creatures as come here. But she's out of the common run, and I ought to have remembered it. By jocks! You're mighty careful about promising to love, cherish, and obey, and all that, but I guess you'll do a sight more than many who do promise.""Of course I'm going to be kind. That's my duty. Give Harkins a hint. Tell him that she's lost her mother. He needn't know when the old lady died, but it will kind of solemnize him."
Watterly did as requested, and Harkins, now convinced that his political interests could be furthered by careful compliance with all requirements, put on a grave, official air and was ready for business.Alida was sent for. She was too agitated to say farewell to any of the poor creatures with whom she had been compelled to associate--even to the few who, though scarcely sane, had manifested tenderness and affection. She had felt that she must reserve all her strength for the coming ordeal, which she both welcomed and feared inexpressibly. She knew how critical was the step she was taking and how much depended on it, yet the more she thought, the more it seemed to her as if Providence had, as by a miracle, given her a refuge. Holcroft's businesslike view of the marriage comforted her greatly, and she asked God to give her health and strength to work faithfully for him many years.
But she had sad misgivings as she followed the messenger, for she felt so weak that she could scarcely walk. It was indeed a pallid, sorrowful, trembling bride that entered Mr.Watterly's parlor. Holcroft met her and taking her hand, said kindly, "Courage! It will be over in a minute."She was so pale and agitated that the justice asked, "do you enter into this marriage freely and without compulsion of any kind?""Please let me sit down a moment," she faltered, and Watterly hastened to give her a chair. She fixed her eyes on Holcroft, and said anxiously, "You see, sir, how weak I am. I have been sick and--and I fear I am far from being well now. I fear you will be disappointed--that it is not right to you, and that I may not be able--""Alida," interrupted Holcroft gravely, "I'm not one to break my word. Home and quiet will soon restore you. Answer the justice and tell him the exact truth."
No elixir could have brought hope and courage like that word "home." She rose at once and said to Harkins, "I have consented to Mr. Holcroft's wishes with feelings of the deepest gratitude.""Very well. Join hands."
She hesitated and looked for a moment at Holcroft with strange intensity."It's all right, Alida," he said with a smile. "Come!"
His perfect honesty and steadfastness of purpose stood him in good stead then, for she came at once to his side and took his hand.Justice Harkins solemnly opened his big book and read, "'By this act of joining hands you do take each other as husband and wife. Therefore, in accordance with the law of the State of New York, I do hereby pronounce you husband and wife.' That's all."