"Bill" the girl said, with a familiarity which was equally evident in his manner uniswap price at launchto her, "this lady says a taxi-driver's been killed in the yard, and they've just burnt his body. I've told her that, if they did, it was nothing to do with you."
Chapter 39 polygon coin hangi borsadaObjection To Being Roasted Alive"I DON'T THINK this is the way out. There was panic in Irene s voice which she could not control.
Burfoot had stopped and locked the door through which they had come. There might be no certain significance in that, but he was now leading the way to a glass-walled chamber, the use of which was not difficult to guess, even apart from the faint penetrating odour which never left its precincts, even when it was not charged with the fumes by which it destroyed its countless unsuspecting victims, who were repaid for the love and loyalty they had given to men by this murderous treachery.Burfoot looked at her with the derisive grin she had seen at their first encounter. He said: "You can please yourself. It's all one to me. But I should say a good whiff of gas is better than being roasted alive.""But - you can't mean it!" she answered faintly. "You said you'd show me the way out, and I'd give you a hundred pounds. Suppose we say two? Or what do you want? It's no use trying to frighten me like this. You can't want to be hanged. I've told you the police are on the way here. I know they are. . . ."She stopped before the malicious amusement in his eyes. Incredible as it must seem, she knew at that moment that he meant to kill her, and that there was no hope in any pleading, and little in appeals either to greed or fear.The inclination to faint came again, as it had done in the room above, and she knew that, if she should do so, there would be no return to consciousness, unless it should be in some horror of mortal pain.
She looked at the man, who was a head taller than herself massive, muscular, able to break her back over his knee, and she knew that, even if she had retained the poker that she had been cajoled into laying down so foolishly, it would have been useless to her. Her wits must save her, or nothing would. And how could her wits avail?The man had listened to her with no sign of relenting. She saw that her terror was amusement to him - that he would find pleasure in that which he was meaning to do. But he answered her, in the tone of one who would show sense to a fool.Camille knew to whom he was writing, and a jealous pang passedthrough him.
What he wrote ran thus,--"A bastion is to be attacked at five. I command. Colonel Dujardinproposed we should draw lots, and I lost. The service is honorable,but the result may, I fear, give you some pain. My dear wife, it isour fate. I was not to have time to make you know, and perhaps loveme. God bless you."In writing these simple words, Raynal's hard face worked, and hismustache quivered, and once he had to clear his eye with his hand toform the letters. He, the man of iron.He who stood there, leaning on his scabbard and watching the writer,saw this, and it stirred all that was great and good in that grandthough passionate heart of his."Poor Raynal!" thought he, "you were never like that before on goinginto action. He is loath to die. Ay, and it is a coward's trick tolet him die. I shall have her, but shall I have her esteem? Whatwill the army say? What will my conscience say? Oh! I feel alreadyit will gnaw my heart to death; the ghost of that brave fellow--oncemy dear friend, my rival now, by no fault of his--will rise betweenher and me, and reproach me with my bloody inheritance. The heartnever deceives; I feel it now whispering in my ear: 'Skulkingcaptain, white-livered soldier, that stand behind a parapet while abetter man does your work! you assassinate the husband, but therival conquers you.' There, he puts his hand to his eyes. Whatshall I do?""Colonel," said a low voice, and at the same time a hand was laid onhis shoulder.It was General Raimbaut. The general looked pale and distressed.
"Come apart, colonel, for Heaven's sake! One word, while he iswriting. Ah! that was an unlucky idea of yours.""Of mine, general?""'Twas you proposed to cast lots.""Good God! so it was.""I thought of course it was to be managed so that Raynal should notbe the one. Between ourselves, what honorable excuse can we make?""None, general.""The whole division will be disgraced, and forgive me if I say aportion of the discredit will fall on you.""Help me to avert that shame then," cried Camille, eagerly."Ah! that I will: but how?""Take your pencil and write--'I authorize Colonel Dujardin to savethe honor of the colonels of the second division.'"The general hesitated. He had never seen an order so worded. Butat last he took out his pencil and wrote the required order, afterhis own fashion; i.e., in milk and water:--On account of the singular ability and courage with which ColonelDujardin has conducted the operations against the Bastion St. Andre,a discretionary power is given him at the moment of assault to carryinto effect such measures, as, without interfering with thecommander-in-chief's order, may sustain his own credit, and that ofthe other colonels of the second division.
RAIMBAUT, General of Division.Camille put the paper into his bosom."Now, general, you may leave all to me. I swear to you, Raynalshall not die--shall not lead this assault.""Your hand, colonel. You are an honor to the French armies. Howwill you do it?""Leave it to me, general, it shall be done.""I feel it will, my noble fellow: but, alas! I fear not withoutrisking some valuable life or other, most likely your own. Tellme!""General, I decline.""You refuse me, sir?""Yes; this order gives me a discretionary power. I will hand backthe order at your command; but modify it I will not. Come, sir, youveteran generals have been unjust to me, and listened to me toolittle all through this siege, but at last you have honored me.This order is the greatest honor that was ever done me since I worea sword.".
"My poor colonel!""Let me wear it intact, and carry it to my grave.""Say no more! One word--Is there anything on earth I can do foryou, my brave soldier?""Yes, general. Be so kind as to retire to your quarters; there arereasons why you ought not to be near this post in half an hour.""I go. Is there NOTHING else?""Well, general, ask the good priest Ambrose, to pray for all thosewho shall die doing their duty to their country this afternoon."They parted. General Raimbaut looked back more than once at thefirm, intrepid figure that stood there unflinching, on the edge ofthe grave. But HE never took his eye off Raynal. The next minutethe sad letter was finished, and Raynal walked out of the tent, andconfronted the man he had challenged to single combat.I have mentioned elsewhere that Colonel Dujardin had eyes strangelycompounded of battleChapter 22A few wounded soldiers of the brigade lay still till dusk. Thenthey crept back to the trenches. These had all been struck down ordisabled short of the bastion. Of those that had taken the place noone came home.
Raynal, after the first stupefaction, pressed hard and even angrilyfor an immediate assault on the whole Prussian line. Not they. Itwas on paper that the assault should be at daybreak to-morrow. Suchleaders as they were cannot IMPROVISE.Rage and grief in his heart, Raynal waited chafing in the trenchestill five minutes past midnight. He then became commander of thebrigade, gave his orders, and took thirty men out to creep up to thewreck of the bastion, and find the late colonel's body.
Going for so pious a purpose, he was rewarded by an importantdiscovery. The whole Prussian lines had been abandoned sincesunset, and, mounting cautiously on the ramparts, Raynal saw thetown too was evacuated, and lights and other indications on a risingground behind it convinced him that the Prussians were in fullretreat, probably to effect that junction with other forces whichthe assault he had recommended would have rendered impossible.They now lighted lanterns, and searched all over and round thebastion for the poor colonel, in the rear of the bastion they foundmany French soldiers, most of whom had died by the bayonet. ThePrussian dead had all been carried off.
Here they found the talkative Sergeant La Croix. The poor fellowwas silent enough now. A terrible sabre-cut on the skull. Thecolonel was not there. Raynal groaned, and led the way on to thebastion. The ruins still smoked. Seven or eight bodies werediscovered by an arm or a foot protruding through the masses ofmasonry. Of these some were Prussians; a proof that some devotedhand had fired the train, and destroyed both friend and foe.They found the tube of Long Tom sticking up, just as he had shownover the battlements that glorious day, with this exception, that agreat piece was knocked off his lip, and the slice ended in a long,broad crack.The soldiers looked at this. "That is our bullet's work," saidthey. Then one old veteran touched his cap, and told Raynalgravely, he knew where their beloved colonel was. "Dig here, to thebottom," said he. "HE LIES BENEATH HIS WORK."Improbable and superstitious as this was, the hearts of the soldiersassented to it.Presently there was a joyful cry outside the bastion. A rush wasmade thither. But it proved to be only Dard, who had discoveredthat Sergeant La Croix's heart still beat. They took him upcarefully, and carried him gently into camp. To Dard's delight thesurgeon pronounced him curable. For all that, he was three daysinsensible, and after that unfit for duty. So they sent him homeinvalided, with a hundred francs out of the poor colonel's purse.Raynal reported the evacuation of the place, and that ColonelDujardin was buried under the bastion, and soon after rode out ofthe camp.The words Camille had scratched with a pencil, and sent him from theedge of the grave, were few but striking.
"A dead man takes you once more by the hand. My last thought, thankGod, is France. For her sake and mine, Raynal. GO FOR GENERALBONAPARTE. Tell him, from a dying soldier, the Rhine is a river tothese generals, but to him a field of glory. He will lay out ourlives, not waste them."There was nothing to hinder Raynal from carrying out this sacredrequest: for the 24th brigade had ceased to exist: already thinnedby hard service, it was reduced to a file or two by the fatalbastion. It was incorporated with the 12th; and Raynal rode heavyat heart to Paris, with a black scarf across his breast.Chapter 23
You see now into what a fatal entanglement two high-minded youngladies were led, step by step, through yielding to the naturalfoible of their sex--the desire to hide everything painful fromthose they love, even at the expense of truth.A nice mess they made of it with their amiable dishonesty. And praytake notice that after the first White Lie or two, circumstancesoverpowered them, and drove them on against their will. It was nosmall part of all their misery that they longed to get back to truthand could not.
We shall see presently how far they succeeded in that pious object,for the sake of which they first entered on concealments. But firsta word is due about one of the victims of their amiable, self-sacrificing lubricity. Edouard Riviere fell in one night, fromhappiness and confidence, such as till that night be had neverenjoyed, to deep and hopeless misery.He lost that which, to every heart capable of really loving, is thegreatest earthly blessing, the woman he adored. But worse thanthat, he lost those prime treasures of the masculine soul, belief inhuman goodness, and in female purity. To him no more could there bein nature a candid eye, a virtuous ready-mantling cheek: for frailtyand treachery had put on these signs of virtue and nobility.
Henceforth, let him live a hundred years, whom could he trust orbelieve in?Here was a creature whose virtues seemed to make frailty impossible:treachery, doubly impossible: a creature whose very faults--forfaults she had--had seemed as opposite to treachery as her veryvirtues were. Yet she was all frailty and falsehood.He passed in that one night of anguish from youth to age. He wentabout his business like a leaden thing. His food turned tasteless.
His life seemed ended. Nothing appeared what it had been. The verylandscape seemed cut in stone, and he a stone in the middle of it,and his heart a stone in him. At times, across that heavy heartcame gushes of furious rage and bitter mortification; his heart wasbroken, and his faith was gone, for his vanity had been stabbed asfiercely as his love. "Georges Dandin!" he would cry, "curse her!curse her!" But love and misery overpowered these heats, and frozehim to stone again.
The poor boy pined and pined. His clothes hung loose about him; hisface was so drawn with suffering, you would not have known him. Hehated company. The things he was expected to talk about!--he withhis crushed heart. He could not. He would not. He shunned all theworld; he went alone like a wounded deer. The good doctor, on hisreturn from Paris, called on him to see if he was ill: since he hadnot come for days to the chateau. He saw the doctor coming and badethe servant say he was not in the village.He drew down the blind, that he might never see the chateau again.
He drew it up again: he could not exist without seeing it. "Shewill be miserable, too," he cried, gnashing his teeth. "She willsee whether she has chosen well." At other times, all his courage,and his hatred, and his wounded vanity, were drowned in his love andits despair, and then he bowed his head, and sobbed and cried as ifhis heart would burst. One morning he was so sobbing with his headon the table, when his landlady tapped at his door. He started upand turned his head away from the door."A young woman from Beaurepaire, monsieur.""From Beaurepaire?" his heart gave a furious leap. "Show her in."He wiped his eyes and seated himself at a table, and, all in aflutter, pretended to be the state's.
It was not Jacintha, as he expected, but the other servant. Shemade a low reverence, cast a look of admiration on him, and gave hima letter. His eye darted on it: his hand trembled as he took it.He turned away again to open it. He forced himself to say, in atolerably calm voice, "I will send an answer."The letter was apparently from the baroness de Beaurepaire; a mereline inviting him to pay her a visit. It was written in a tremuloushand. Edouard examined the writing, and saw directly it was writtenby Rose.Being now, naturally enough, full of suspicion, he set this down asan attempt to disguise her hand. "So," said he, to himself, "thisis the game. The old woman is to be drawn into it, too. She is tohelp to make Georges Dandin of me. I will go. I will baffle themall. I will expose this nest of depravity, all ceremony on thesurface, and voluptuousness and treachery below. O God! who couldbelieve that creature never loved me! They shall none of them seemy weakness. Their benefactor shall be still their superior. Theyshall see me cold as ice, and bitter as gall."But to follow him farther just now, would be to run too far inadvance of the main story. I must, therefore, return toBeaurepaire, and show, amongst other things, how this very lettercame to be written.When Josephine and Rose awoke from that startled slumber thatfollowed the exhaustion of that troubled night, Rose was the morewretched of the two. She had not only dishonored herself, butstabbed the man she loved.
Josephine, on the other hand, was exhausted, but calm. The fearfulescape she had had softened down by contrast her more distantterrors.She began to shut her eyes again, and let herself drift. Above all,the doctor's promise comforted her: that she should go to Paris withhim, and have her boy.
This deceitful calm of the heart lasted three days.Carefully encouraged by Rose, it was destroyed by Jacintha.
Jacintha, conscious that she had betrayed her trust, was almostheart-broken. She was ashamed to appear before her young mistress,and, coward-like, wanted to avoid knowing even how much harm she haddone.She pretended toothache, bound up her face, and never stirred fromthe kitchen. But she was not to escape: the other servant came downwith a message: "Madame Raynal wanted to see her directly."She came quaking, and found Josephine all alone.