"Have you then decided against me too?""I?" asked Rose. "What have I to do with questions of etiquette? Iam only a child: so considered atbitcoin dollar to naira least.""You a child--an angel like you?""Ask any of them, they will tell you I am a child; and it is to thatI owe this conversation, no doubt; if you did not look on me as achild, you would not take this liberty with me," said the young cat,scratching without a moment's notice.
Colonel Dujardin was COMPARATIVELY indifferent to YOU. Will youundertake the task? A rough soldier like me is not the person tobreak the terrible tidings to that poor girl.""What tidings? You confuse, you perplex me. Oh! what does thishorrible preparation mean?""It means he will never marry your sister; he will never see hermore."Then Raynal walked the room in great agitation, which at oncecommunicated itself to his hearer. But the loving heart isingenious in avoiding its dire misgivings.solana exchange"I see," said she; "he told you he would never visit Beaurepaireagain. He was right."Raynal shook his head sorrowfully.
"Ah, Josephine, you are far from the truth. I was to attack thebastion. It was mined by the enemy, and he knew it. He tookadvantage of my back being turned. He led his men out of thetrenches; he assaulted the bastion at the head of his brigade. Hetook it.""Ah, it was noble; it was like him.""The enemy, retiring, blew the bastion into the air, and Dujardin--is dead.""Dead!" said Josephine, in stupefied tones, as if the word conveyedno meaning to her mind, benumbed and stunned by the blow."Don't speak so loud," said Raynal; "I hear the poor girl at thedoor. Ay, he took my place, and is dead.""Dead!""Swallowed up in smoke and flames, overwhelmed and crushed under theruins."Josephine's whole body gave way, and heaved like a tree fallingunder the axe. She sank slowly to her knees, and low moans of agonybroke from her at intervals. "Dead, dead, dead!""Is it not terrible?" he cried.She did not see him nor hear him, but moaned out wildly, "Dead,dead, dead!" The bedroom-door was opened.She shrieked with sudden violence, "Dead! ah, pity! the glass! thecomposing draught." She stretched her hands out wildly. Raynal,with a face full of concern, ran to the table, and got the glass.She crawled on her knees to meet it; he brought it quickly to herhand.
"There, my poor soul!"Even as their hands met, Rose threw herself on the cup, and snatchedit with fury from them both. She was white as ashes, and her eyes,supernaturally large, glared on Raynal with terror. "Madman!" shecried, "would you kill her?"He glared back on her: what did this mean? Their eyes were fixed oneach other like combatants for life and death; they did not see thatthe room was filling with people, that the doctor was only on theother side of the table, and that the baroness and Edouard were atthe door, and all looking wonderstruck at this strange sight--Josephine on her knees, and those two facing each other, white, withdilating eyes, the glass between them.But what was that to the horror, when the next moment the patientJosephine started to her feet, and, standing in the midst, tore herhair by handfuls, out of her head.Chapter 4
Edouard Riviere was unhappy. She never came out now. This alonemade the days dark to him. And then he began to fear it was him sheshunned. She must have seen him lie in wait for her; and so shewould come out no more. He prowled about and contrived to fall inwith Jacintha; he told her his grief. She assured him the simplefact was their mourning was worn out, and they were ashamed to goabroad in colors. This revelation made his heart yearn still more."O Jacintha," said he, "if I could only make a beginning; but herewe might live a century in the same parish, and not one chance for apoor wretch to make acquaintance."Jacintha admitted this, and said gentlefolks were to be pitied."Why, if it was the likes of me, you and I should have made friendslong before now."Jacintha herself was puzzled what to do; she would have told Rose ifshe had felt sure it would be well received; but she could not findout that the young lady had even noticed the existence of Edouard.But her brain worked, and lay in wait for an opportunity.
One came sooner than she expected. One morning at about sixo'clock, as she came home from milking the cow, she caught sight ofyoung Riviere trying to open the iron gate. "What is up now?"thought she; suddenly the truth flashed upon her, clear as day. Sheput her pail down and stole upon him. "You want to leave us anotherpurse," said she. He colored all over and panted."How did you know? how could you know? you won't betray me? youwon't be so cruel? you promised.""Me betray you," said Jacintha; "why, I'll help you; and then theywill be able to buy mourning, you know, and then they will come out,and give you a chance. You can't open that gate, for it's locked.
But you come round to the lane, and I'll get you the key; it ishanging up in the kitchen."The key was in her pocket. But the sly jade wanted him away fromthat gate; it commanded a view of the Pleasaunce. He was no soonersafe in the lane, than she tore up-stairs to her young ladies, andasked them with affected calm whether they would like to know wholeft the purse."Oh, yes, yes!" screamed Rose."Then come with me. You ARE dressed; never mind your bonnets, oryou will be too late."Questions poured on her; but she waived all explanation, and did notgive them time to think, or Josephine, for one, she knew would raiseobjections. She led the way to the Pleasaunce, and, when she got tothe ancestral oak, she said hurriedly, "Now, mesdemoiselles, hide inthere, and as still as mice. You'll soon know who leaves the purses."With this she scudded to the lane, and gave Edouard the key. "Looksharp," said she, "before they get up; it's almost their dressingtime.""YOU'LL SOON KNOW WHO LEAVES THE PURSES!"Curiosity, delicious curiosity, thrilled our two daughters of Eve.This soon began to alternate with chill misgivings at the novelty ofthe situation.
"She is not coming back," said Josephine ruefully."No," said Rose, "and suppose when we pounce out on him, it shouldbe a stranger.""Pounce on him? surely we are not to do that?""Oh, y-yes; that is the p-p-programme," quavered Rose.A key grated, and the iron gate creaked on its hinges. They rantogether and pinched one another for mutual support, but did notdare to speak.Presently a man's shadow came slap into the tree. They crouched andquivered, and expected to be caught instead of catching, and wishedthemselves safe back in bed, and all this a nightmare, and no worse.
At last they recovered themselves enough to observe that thisshadow, one half of which lay on the ground, while the head andshoulders went a little way up the wall of the tree, represented aman's profile, not his front face. The figure, in short, wasstanding between them and the sun, and was contemplating thechateau, not the tree.The shadow took off its hat to Josephine, in the tree. Then wouldshe have screamed if she had not bitten her white hand instead, andmade a red mark thereon.
It wiped its brow with a handkerchief; it had walked fast, poorthing! The next moment it was away.They looked at one another and panted. They scarcely dared do itbefore. Then Rose, with one hand on her heaving bosom, shook herlittle white fist viciously at where the figure must be, and perhapsa comical desire of vengeance stimulated her curiosity. She nowglided through the fissure like a cautious panther from her den; andnoiseless and supple as a serpent began to wind slowly round thetree. She soon came to a great protuberance in the tree, andtwining and peering round it with diamond eye, she saw a very young,very handsome gentleman, stealing on tiptoe to the nearest flower-bed. Then she saw him take a purse out of his bosom, and drop it onthe bed. This done, he came slowly past the tree again, and waseven heard to vent a little innocent chuckle of intense satisfaction:
but of brief duration; for, when Rose saw the purse leave his hand,she made a rapid signal to Josephine to wheel round the other sideof the tree, and, starting together with admirable concert, boththe daughters of Beaurepaire glided into sight with a vast appearanceof composure.Two women together are really braver than fifteen separate; butstill, most of this tranquillity was merely put on, but so admirablythat Edouard Riviere had no chance with them. He knew nothing abouttheir tremors; all he saw or heard was, a rustle, then a flap oneach side of him as of great wings, and two lovely women were uponhim with angelic swiftness. "Ah!" he cried out with a start, andglanced from the first-comer, Rose, to the gate. But Josephine wason that side by this time, and put up her hand, as much as to say,"You can't pass here." In such situations, the mind works quickerthan lightning. He took off his hat, and stammered an excuse--"Cometo look at the oak." At this moment Rose pounced on the purse, andheld it up to Josephine. He was caught. His only chance now was tobolt for the mark and run; but it was not the notary, it was anovice who lost his presence of mind, or perhaps thought it rude torun when a lady told him to stand still. All he did was to crushhis face into his two hands, round which his cheeks and neck nowblushed red as blood. Blush? they could both see the color rushlike a wave to the very roots of his hair and the tips of hisfingers.The moment our heroines, who, in that desperation which is one ofthe forms of cowardice, had hurled themselves on the foe, saw this,flash--the quick-witted poltroons exchanged purple lightning overEdouard's drooping head, and enacted lionesses in a moment.It was with the quiet composure of lofty and powerful natures thatJosephine opened on him. "Compose yourself, sir; and be so good asto tell us who you are." Edouard must answer. Now he could notspeak through his hands; and he could not face a brace of tranquillionesses: so he took a middle course, removed one hand, and shadinghimself from Josephine with the other, he gasped out, "I am--my nameis Riviere; and I--I--ladies!""I am afraid we frighten you," said Josephine, demurely."Don't be frightened," said Rose, majestically; "we are not VERYangry, only a LITTLE curious to know why you water our flowers withgold."At this point-blank thrust, and from her, Edouard was so confoundedand distressed, they both began to pity him. He stammered out thathe was so confused he did not know what to say. He couldn't thinkhow ever he could have taken such a liberty; might he be permittedto retire? and with this he tried to slip away."Let me detain you one instant," said Josephine, and made for thehouse.
Left alone so suddenly with the culprit, the dignity, and majesty,and valor of Rose seemed to ooze gently out; and she stood blushing,and had not a word to say; no more had Edouard. But he hung hishead, and she hung her head. And, somehow or other, whenever sheraised her eyes to glance at him, he raised his to steal a look ather, and mutual discomfiture resulted.This awkward, embarrassing delirium was interrupted by Josephine'sreturn. She now held another purse in her hand, and quietly pouredthe rest of the coin into it. She then, with a blush, requested himto take back the money.
At that he found his tongue. "No, no," he cried, and put up hishands in supplication. "Ladies, do let me speak ONE word to you.Do not reject my friendship. You are alone in the world; yourfather is dead; your mother has but you to lean on. After all, I amyour neighbor, and neighbors should be friends. And I am yourdebtor; I owe you more than you could ever owe me; for ever since Icame into this neighborhood I have been happy. No man was ever sohappy as I, ever since one day I was walking, and met for the firsttime an angel. I don't say it was you, Mademoiselle Rose. It mightbe Mademoiselle Josephine.""How pat he has got our names," said Rose, smiling.
"A look from that angel has made me so good, so happy. I used tovegetate, but now I live. Live! I walk on wings, and tread onroses. Yet you insist on declining a few miserable louis d'or fromhim who owes you so much. Well, don't be angry; I'll take themback, and throw them into the nearest pond, for they are really nouse to me. But then you will be generous in your turn. You willaccept my devotion, my services. You have no brother, you know;well, I have no sisters; let me be your brother, and your servantforever."At all this, delivered in as many little earnest pants as there weresentences, the water stood in the fair eyes he was looking into sopiteously.Josephine was firm, but angelical. "We thank you, MonsieurRiviere," said she, softly, "for showing us that the world is stillembellished with hearts like yours. Here is the money;" and sheheld it out in her creamy hand.
"But we are very grateful," put in Rose, softly and earnestly."That we are," said Josephine, "and we beg to keep the purse as asouvenir of one who tried to do us a kindness without mortifying us.And now, Monsieur Riviere, you will permit us to bid you adieu."Edouard was obliged to take the hint. "It is I who am theintruder," said he. "Mesdemoiselles, conceive, if you can, my prideand my disappointment." He then bowed low; they courtesied low tohim in return; and he retired slowly in a state of mixed feelingindescribable.With all their sweetness and graciousness, he felt overpowered bytheir high breeding, their reserve, and their composure, in asituation that had set his heart beating itself nearly out of hisbosom. He acted the scene over again, only much more adroitly, andconcocted speeches for past use, and was very hot and very cold byturns.
I wish he could have heard what passed between the sisters as soonas ever he was out of earshot. It would have opened his eyes, andgiven him a little peep into what certain writers call "the sex.""Poor boy," murmured Josephine, "he has gone away unhappy.""Oh, I dare say he hasn't gone far," replied Rose, gayly. "Ishouldn't if I was a boy."Josephine held up her finger like an elder sister; then went on tosay she really hardly knew why she had dismissed him."Well, dear," said Rose, dryly, "since you admit so much, I must sayI couldn't help thinking--while you were doing it--we were letting'the poor boy' off ridiculously cheap.""At least I did my duty?" suggested Josephine, inquiringly.
"Magnificently; you overawed even me. So now to business, as thegentlemen say. Which of us two takes him?""Takes whom?" inquired Josephine, opening her lovely eyes."Edouard," murmured Rose, lowering hers.
Josephine glared on the lovely minx with wonder and comical horror."Oh! you shall have him," said Rose, "if you like. You are theeldest, you know.""Fie!""Do now; TO OBLIGE ME.""For shame! Rose. Is this you? talking like that!""Oh! there's no compulsion, dear; I never force young ladies'
inclinations. So you decline him?""Of course I decline him.""Then, oh, you dear, darling Josephine, this is the prettiestpresent you ever made me," and she kissed her vehemently.Josephine was frightened now. She held Rose out at arm's lengthwith both hands, and looked earnestly into her, and implored her notto play with fire. "Take warning by me."Rose recommended her to keep her pity for Monsieur Riviere, "who hadfallen into nice hands," she said. That no doubt might remain onthat head, she whispered mysteriously, but with much gravity andconviction, "I am an Imp;" and aimed at Josephine with herforefinger to point the remark. For one second she stood andwatched this important statement sink into her sister's mind, thenset-to and gambolled elfishly round her as she moved stately andthoughtful across the grass to the chateau.Two days after this a large tree was blown down in Beaurepaire park,and made quite a gap in the prospect. You never know what a bigthing a leafy tree is till it comes down. And this ill wind blewEdouard good; for it laid bare the chateau to his inquiringtelescope. He had not gazed above half an hour, when a femalefigure emerged from the chateau. His heart beat. It was onlyJacintha. He saw her look this way and that, and presently Dardappeared, and she sent him with his axe to the fallen tree. Edouardwatched him hacking away at it. Presently his heart gave a violentleap; for why? two ladies emerged from the Pleasaunce and walkedacross the park. They came up to Dard, and stood looking at thetree and Dard hacking it, and Edouard watched them greedily. Youknow we all love to magnify her we love. And this was a delightfulway of doing it. It is "a system of espionage" that prevails underevery form of government. How he gazed, and gazed, on his now polarstar; studied every turn, every gesture, with eager delight, andtried to gather what she said, or at least the nature of it.But by and by they left Dard and strolled towards the other end ofthe park. Then did our astronomer fling down his tube, and comerunning out in hopes of intercepting them, and seeming to meet themby some strange fortuity. Hope whispered he should be blessed witha smile; perhaps a word even. So another minute and he was runningup the road to Beaurepaire. But his good heart was doomed to bediverted to a much humbler object than his idol; as he came near thefallen tree he heard loud cries for help, followed by groans ofpain. He bounded over the hedge, and there was Dard hanging overhis axe, moaning. "What is the matter? what is the matter?" criedEdouard, running to him.
"Oh! oh! cut my foot. Oh!"Edouard looked, and turned sick, for there was a gash right throughDard's shoe, and the blood welling up through it. But, recoveringhimself by an effort of the will, he cried out, "Courage, my lad!don't give in. Thank Heaven there's no artery there. Oh, dear, itis a terrible cut! Let us get you home, that is the first thing.
Can you walk?""Lord bless you, no! nor stand neither without help."Edouard flew to the wheelbarrow, and, reversing it, spun a lot ofbillet out. "Ye must not do that," said Dard with all the energy hewas capable of in his present condition. "Why, that is Jacintha'swood."--"To the devil with Jacintha and her wood too!" criedEdouard, "a man is worth more than a fagot. Come, I shall wheel youhome: it is only just across the park."With some difficulty he lifted him into the barrow. Luckily he hadhis shooting-jacket on with a brandy-flask in it: he administered itwith excellent effect.The ladies, as they walked, saw a man wheeling a barrow across thepark, and took no particular notice; but, as Riviere was making forthe same point they were, though at another angle, presently thebarrow came near enough for them to see Dard's head and arms in it.
Rose was the first to notice this. "Look! look! if he is notwheeling Dard in the barrow now.""Who?""Can you ask? Who provides all our excitement?"Josephine instantly divined there was something amiss. "Consider,"said she, "Monsieur Riviere would not wheel Dard all across the parkfor amusement."Rose assented; and in another minute, by a strange caprice of fate,those Edouard had come to intercept, quickened their pace tointercept him. As soon as he saw their intention he thrilled allover, but did not slacken his pace. He told Dard to take his coatand throw it over his foot, for here were the young ladies coming."What for?" said Dard sulkily. "No! let them see what they havedone with their little odd jobs: this is my last for one while. Isha'n't go on two legs again this year."The ladies came up with them.