Presently she smiled, a smile full of conscious power and furtivecomplacency, and said quietly, "He will not go."Rose was pleased, but not surprised, to hear her sister speak soconfidently, for she knew her power over Camille. "That is right,"said she, "go to him, and say two honest words: 'I bid you stay.'""O Rose! no!""Poltroon! You know he would go down on his kneeapp to buy bitcoin in germanys, and staydirectly.""No: I should blush all my life before you and him. I COULD not. Ishould let him go sooner, almost. Oh, no! I will never ask a manto stay who wishes to leave me. But just you go to him, and sayMadame Raynal is going to take a little walk: will he do her thehonor to be her companion? Not a word more, if you love me.""I'll go. Hypocrite!"Josephine received Camille with a bright smile. She seemed inunusually good spirits, and overflowing with kindness and innocentaffection. On this his high gloomy brow relaxed, and all hisprospects brightened as by magic. Then she communicated to him anumber of little plans for next week and the week after. Among therest he was to go with her and Rose to Frejus. "Such a sweet place:
"In other wohow to buy nft crypto on binancerds, what you thought your duty?""I suppose that is what one should try to do."
"I guess you are the one that would succeed in doing it, even to Mrs. Mumpson," he said, turning hastily away and going to his room.She was puzzled again. "I'm sure I don't dote on self-sacrifice and hard duty any more than he does, but I can't tell him that duty is not hard when it's to him."Jane was given the room over the kitchen which Mrs. Wiggins had occupied, and the farmhouse soon adopted her into its quiet routine. Holcroft's course continued to cause Alida a dissatisfaction which she could scarcely define. He was as kind as ever he had been and even more considerate; he not only gratified her wishes, but tried to anticipate them, while Jane's complete subserviency proved that she had been spoken to very plainly.One day she missed her spelling lesson for the third time, and Alida told her that she must learn it thoroughly before going out. The child took the book reluctantly, yet without a word. "That's a good girl!" said Alida, wishing to encourage her. "I was afraid at first you wouldn't mind me so readily.""He told me to. He'd fire me out the window if I didn't mind you."
"Oh, no! I think he's very kind to you.""Well, he's kind to you, too."then she and Jacintha were wonderfully busy on the other side thescreen, but presently Rose said, "This is imprudent; you must godown to the foot of the stairs and wait till I call you."Jacintha pleaded hard against this arrangement, and represented thatthere was no earthly chance of any one coming to that part of thechateau.
"No matter; I will be guarded on every side.""Mustn't I stop and just see her happy for once?""No, my poor Jacintha, you must hear it from my lips."Jacintha retired to keep watch as she was bid. Rose went toJosephine's room, and threw her arms round her neck and kissed hervehemently. Josephine returned her embrace, then held her out atarm's length and looked at her."Your eyes are red, yet your little face is full of joy. There, yousmile.""I can't help that; I am so happy.""I am glad of it. Are you coming to bed?""Not yet. I invite you to take a little walk with me first. Come!"and she led the way slowly, looking back with infinite archness andtenderness."You almost frighten me," said Josephine; "it is not like you to beall joy when I am sad. Three whole weeks more!""That is it. Why are you sad? because the doctor would not let yougo to Frejus. And why am I not sad? because I had already thoughtof a way to let you see Edouard without going so far.""Rose! O Rose! O Rose!""This way--come!" and she smiled and beckoned with her finger, whileJosephine followed like one under a spell, her bosom heaving, hereye glancing on every side, hoping some strange joy, yet scarcedaring to hope.Rose drew back the screen, and there was a sweet little berceau thathad once been Josephine's own, and in it, sunk deep in snow-whitelawn, was a sleeping child, that lay there looking as a rose mightlook could it fall upon new-fallen snow.
At sight of it Josephine uttered a little cry, not loud but deep--ay, a cry to bring tears into the eye of the hearer, and she stoodtrembling from head to foot, her hands clasped, and her eyefascinated and fixed on the cradle."My child under this roof! What have you done?" but her eye,fascinated and fixed, never left the cradle.
"I saw you languishing, dying, for want of him.""Oh, if anybody should come?" But her eye never stirred an inchfrom the cradle."No, no, no! the door is locked. Jacintha watches below; there isno dan-- Ah, oh, poor sister!"For, as Rose was speaking, the young mother sprang silently upon herchild. You would have thought she was going to kill him; her headreared itself again and again like a crested snake's, and again andagain and again and again plunged down upon the child, and shekissed his little body from head to foot with soft violence, andmurmured, through her streaming tears, "My child! my darling! myangel! oh, my poor boy! my child! my child!"I will ask my female readers of every degree to tell their brothersand husbands all the young noble did: how she sat on the floor, andhad her child on her bosom; how she smiled over it through hertears; how she purred over it; how she, the stately one, lisped andprattled over it; and how life came pouring into her heart from it.Before she had had it in her arms five minutes, her pale cheek wasas red as a rose, and her eyes brighter than diamonds."Bless you, Rose! bless you! bless you! in one moment you have mademe forget all I ever suffered in my life.""There is a cold draught," cried she presently, with maternalanxiety; "close the panel, Rose.""No, dear; or I could not call to Jacintha, or she to me; but I willshift the screen round between him and the draught. There, now,come to his aunt--a darling!"Then Rose sat on the floor too, and Josephine put her boy on aunt'slap, and took a distant view of him. But she could not bear so vasta separation long. She must have him to her bosom again.
Presently my lord, finding himself hugged, opened his eyes, and, asa natural consequence, his mouth."Oh, that will never do," cried Rose, and they put him back in thecradle with all expedition, and began to rock it. Young master wasnot to be altogether appeased even by that. So Rose began singingan old-fashioned Breton chant or lullaby.Josephine sang with her, and, singing, watched with a smile her boydrop off by degrees to sleep under the gentle motion and the lullingsong. They sang and rocked till the lids came creeping down, andhid the great blue eyes; but still they sang and rocked, lulling theboy, and gladdening their own hearts; for the quaint old Bretonditty was tunable as the lark that carols over the green wheat inApril; and the words so simple and motherly, that a nation had takenthem to heart. Such songs bind ages together and make the lofty andthe low akin by the great ties of music and the heart. Many aBreton peasant's bosom in the olden time had gushed over hersleeping boy as the young dame's of Beaurepaire gushed now--in thisquaint, tuneful lullaby.Now, as they kneeled over the cradle, one on each side, and rockedit, and sang that ancient chant, Josephine, who was opposite thescreen, happening to raise her eyes, saw a strange thing.
There was the face of a man set close against the side of thescreen, and peeping and peering out of the gloom. The light of hercandle fell full on this face; it glared at her, set pale, wonder-struck, and vivid in the surrounding gloom.Horror! It was her husband's face.
At first she was quite stupefied, and looked at it with soul andsenses benumbed. Then she trembled, and put her hand to her eyes;for she thought it a phantom or a delusion of the mind. No: thereit glared still. Then she trembled violently, and held out her lefthand, the fingers working convulsively, to Rose, who was stillsinging.But, at the same moment, the mouth of this face suddenly opened in along-drawn breath. At this, Josephine uttered a violent shriek, andsprang to her feet, with her right hand quivering and pointing atthat pale face set in the dark.
Rose started up, and, wheeling her head round, saw Raynal's gloomyface looking over her shoulder. She fell screaming upon her knees,and, almost out of her senses, began to pray wildly and piteouslyfor mercy.Josephine uttered one more cry, but this was the faint cry ofnature, sinking under the shock of terror. She swooned dead away,and fell senseless on the floor ere Raynal could debarrass himselfof the screen, and get to her.This, then, was the scene that met Edouard's eyes. His affiancedbride on her knees, white as a ghost, trembling, and screaming,rather than crying, for mercy. And Raynal standing over his wife,showing by the working of his iron features that he doubted whethershe was worthy he should raise her.One would have thought nothing could add to the terror of thisscene. Yet it was added to. The baroness rang her bell violentlyin the room below. She had heard Josephine's scream and fall.At the ringing of this shrill bell Rose shuddered like a maniac, andgrovelled on her knees to Raynal, and seized his very knees andimplored him to show some pity."O sir! kill us! we are culpable"--Dring! dring! dring! dring! dring! pealed the baroness's bell again.
"But do not tell our mother. Oh, if you are a man! do not! do not!Show us some pity. We are but women. Mercy! mercy! mercy!""Speak out then," groaned Raynal. "What does this mean? Why has mywife swooned at sight of me?--whose is this child?""Whose?" stammered Rose. Till he said that, she never thought thereCOULD be a doubt whose child.
Dring! dring! dring! dring! dring!"Oh, my God!" cried the poor girl, and her scared eyes glanced everyway like some wild creature looking for a hole, however small, toescape by.
Edouard, seeing her hesitation, came down on her other side. "Whoseis the child, Rose?" said he sternly."You, too? Why were we born? mercy! oh! pray let me go to mysister."Dring! dring! dring! dring! dring! went the terrible bell.
The men were excited to fury by Rose's hesitation; they each seizedan arm, and tore her screaming with fear at their violence, from herknees up to her feet between them with a single gesture."Whose is the child?""You hurt me!" said she bitterly to Edouard, and she left crying andwas terribly calm and sullen all in a moment."Whose is the child?" roared Edouard and Raynal, in one ragingbreath. "Whose is the child?""It is mine."Chapter 20
These were not words; they were electric shocks.The two arms that gripped Rose's arms were paralyzed, and droppedoff them; and there was silence.
Then first the thought of all she had done with those three wordsbegan to rise and grow and surge over her. She stood, her eyesturned downwards, yet inwards, and dilating with horror.Silence.
Now a mist began to spread over her eyes, and in it she sawindistinctly the figure of Raynal darting to her sister's side, andraising her head.She dared not look round on the other side. She heard feet staggeron the floor. She heard a groan, too; but not a word.
Horrible silence.With nerves strung to frenzy, and quivering ears, that magnifiedevery sound, she waited for a reproach, a curse; either would havebeen some little relief. But no! a silence far more terrible.Then a step wavered across the room. Her soul was in her ear. Shecould hear and feel the step totter, and it shook her as it went.All sounds were trebled to her. Then it struck on the stone step ofthe staircase, not like a step, but a knell; another step, anotherand another; down to the very bottom. Each slow step made her headring and her heart freeze.
At last she heard no more. Then a scream of anguish and recall roseto her lips. She fought it down, for Josephine and Raynal. Edouardwas gone. She had but her sister now, the sister she loved betterthan herself; the sister to save whose life and honor she had thismoment sacrificed her own, and all a woman lives for.She turned, with a wild cry of love and pity, to that sister's sideto help her; and when she kneeled down beside her, an iron arm waspromptly thrust out between the beloved one and her.
"This is my care, madame," said Raynal, coldly.There was no mistaking his manner. The stained one was not to touchhis wife.
She looked at him in piteous amazement at his ingratitude. "It iswell," said she. "It is just. I deserve this from you."She said no more, but drooped gently down beside the cradle, and hidher forehead in the clothes beside the child that had brought allthis woe, and sobbed bitterly.Then honest Raynal began to be sorry for her, in spite of himself.