Part 3 out of 8
right," said he, "as you say, it is only a fort--so--mademoiselle!"
"Hum! will you lend me your hand for a moment?"
"My hand! what for? there," and she put it out an inch a minute. He
took it, and inspected it closely.
"A charming hand; the hand of a virtuous woman?"
"Yes," said Josephine as cool as a cucumber, too sublimely and
absurdly innocent even to blush.
"Is it your own?"
"Sir!" She blushed at that, I can tell you.
"Because if it was, I would ask you to give it me. (I've fired the
first shot anyway.)"
Josephine whipped her hand off his palm, where it lay like cream
spilt on a trencher.
"Ah! I see; you are not free: you have a lover."
"No, no!" cried Josephine in distress; "I love nobody but my mother
and sister: I never shall."
"Your mother," cried Raynal; "that reminds me; he told me to ask
her; by Jove, I think he told me to ask her first;" and Raynal up
with his scabbard and was making off.
Josephine begged him to do nothing of the kind.
"I can save you the trouble," said she.
"Ah, but my instructions! my instructions!" cried the military
pedant, and ran off into the house, and left Josephine "planted
there," as they say in France.
Raynal demanded a private interview of the baroness so significantly
and unceremoniously that Rose had no alternative but to retire, but
not without a glance of defiance at the bear. She ran straight,
without her bonnet, into the Pleasaunce to slake her curiosity at
Josephine. That young lady was walking pensively, but turned at
sight of Rose, and the sisters came together with a clash of tongues.
"O Rose! he has"--
So nimbly does the female mind run on its little beaten tracks, that
it took no more than those syllables for even these innocent young
women to communicate that Raynal had popped.
Josephine apologized for this weakness in a hero. "It wasn't his
fault," said she. "It is your Edouard who set him to do it."
"My Edouard? Don't talk in that horrid way: I have no Edouard. You
said 'no' of course."
"Something of the kind."
"What, did you not say 'no' plump?"
"I did not say it brutally, dear."
"Josephine, you frighten me. I know you can't say 'no' to any one;
and if you don't say 'no' plump to such a man as this, you might as
well say 'yes.'"
"Well, love," said Josephine, "you know our mother will relieve me
of this; what a comfort to have a mother!"
They waited for Raynal's departure, to go to the baroness. They had
to wait a long time. Moreover, when he did leave the chateau he
came straight into the Pleasaunce. At sight of him Rose seized
Josephine tight and bade her hold her tongue, as she could not say
"no" plump to any one. Josephine was far from raising any objection
to the arrangement.
"Monsieur," said Rose, before he could get a word out, "even if she
had not declined, I could not consent."
Raynal tapped his forehead reflectively, and drew forth from memory
that he had no instructions whatever to ask HER consent.
She colored high, but returned to the charge.
"Is her own consent to be dispensed with too? She declined the
honor, did she not?"
"Of course she did; but this was anticipated in my instructions. I
am to be sure and not take the first two or three refusals."
"O Josephine, look at that insolent boy: he has found you out."
"Insolent boy!" cried Raynal; "why, it is the referee of your own
choosing, and as well behaved a lad as ever I saw, and a zealous
"My kind friends," put in Josephine with a sweet languor, "I cannot
let you quarrel about a straw."
"It is not about a straw," said Raynal, "it is about you."
"The distinction involves a compliment, sir," said Josephine; then
she turned to Rose, "Is it possible you do not see Monsieur Raynal's
strange proposal in its true light? and you so shrewd in general.
He has no personal feeling whatever in this eccentric proceeding: he
wants to make us all happy, especially my mother, without seeming to
lay us under too great an obligation. Surely good-nature was never
carried so far before; ha, ha! Monsieur, I will encumber you with my
friendship forever, if you permit me, but farther than that I will
not abuse your generosity."
"Now look here, mademoiselle," began Raynal bluntly, "I did start
with a good motive at first, that there's no denying. But, since I
have been every day in your company, and seen how good and kind you
are to all about you, I have turned selfish; and I say to myself,
what a comfort such a wife as you would be to a soldier! Why, only
to have you to write letters home to, would be worth half a fellow's
pay. Do you know sometimes when I see the fellows writing their
letters it gives me a knock here to think I have no one at all to
"So you see I am not so mighty disinterested. Now, mademoiselle,
you speak so charmingly, I can't tell what you mean: can't tell
whether you say 'no' because you could never like me, or whether it
is out of delicacy, and you only want pressing. So I say no more at
present: it is a standing offer. Take a day to consider. Take two
if you like. I must go to the barracks; good-day."
"Oh! this must be put an end to at once," said Rose.
"With all my heart," replied Josephine; "but how?"
"Come to our mother, and settle that," said the impetuous sister,
and nearly dragged the languid one into the drawing-room.
To their surprise they found the baroness walking up and down the
room with unusual alacrity for a person of her years. She no sooner
caught sight of Josephine than she threw her arms open to her with
joyful vivacity, and kissed her warmly. "My love, you have saved
us. I am a happy old woman. If I had all France to pick from I
could not have found a man so worthy of my Josephine. He is brave,
he is handsome, he is young, he is a rising man, he is a good son,
and good sons make good husbands--and--I shall die at Beaurepaire,
shall I not, Madame the Commandante?"
Josephine held her mother round the neck, but never spoke. After a
silence she held her tighter, and cried a little.
"What is it?" asked the baroness confidentially of Rose, but without
showing any very profound concern.
"Mamma! mamma! she does not love him."
"Love him? She would be no daughter of mine if she loved a man at
sight. A modest woman loves her husband only."
"But she scarcely knows Monsieur Raynal."
"She knows more of him than I knew of your father when I married
him. She knows his virtues and appreciates them. I have heard her,
have I not, love? Esteem soon ripens into love when they are once
"Mother, does her silence then tell you nothing? Her tears--are
they nothing to you?"
"Silly child! These are tears that do not scald. The sweet soul
weeps because she now for the first time sees she will have to leave
her mother. Alas! my eldest, it is inevitable. Mothers are not
immortal. While they are here it is their duty to choose good
husbands for their daughters. My youngest, I believe, has chosen
for herself--like the nation. But for my eldest I choose. We shall
see which chooses the best. Meantime we stay at Beaurepaire, thanks
to my treasure here."
"Josephine! Josephine! you don't say one word," cried Rose in
"What CAN I say? I love my mother and I love you. You draw me
different ways. I want you to be both happy."
"Then if you will not speak out I must. Mother, do not deceive
yourself: it is duty alone that keeps her silent: this match is
odious to her."
"Then we are ruined. Josephine, is this match odious to you?"
"Not exactly odious: but I am very, very indifferent."
"There!" cried Rose triumphantly.
"There!" cried the baroness in the same breath, triumphantly. "She
esteems his character; but his person is indifferent to her: in
other words, she is a modest girl, and my daughter; and let me tell
you, Rose, that but for the misfortunes of our house, both my
daughters would be married as I was, without knowing half as much of
their husbands as Josephine knows of this brave, honest, generous,
"Well, then, since she will not speak out, I will. Pity me: I love
her so. If this stranger, whom she does not love, takes her away
from us, he will kill me. I shall die; oh!"
Josephine left her mother and went to console Rose.
The baroness lost her temper at this last stroke of opposition.
"Now the truth comes out, Rose; this is selfishness. Do not deceive
"You are only waiting to leave me yourself. Yet your eldest sister,
forsooth, must be kept here for you,--till then." She added more
gently, "Let me advise you to retire to your own room, and examine
your heart fairly. You will find there is a strong dash of egoism
in all this."
"If I do"--
"You will retract your opposition."
"My heart won't let me; but I will despise myself, and be silent."
And the young lady, who had dried her eyes the moment she was
accused of selfishness, walked, head erect, from the room.
Josephine cast a deprecating glance at her mother. "Yes, my angel!"
said the latter, "I was harsh. But we are no longer of one mind,
and I suppose never shall be again."
"Oh, yes, we shall. Be patient! Mother--you shall not leave
The baroness colored faintly at these four last words of her
daughter, and hung her head.
Josephine saw that, and darted to her and covered her with kisses.
That day the doctor scolded them both. "You have put your mother
into a high fever," said he; "here's a pulse; I do wish you would be
The commandant did not come to dinner as usual. The evening passed
heavily; their hearts were full of uncertainty.
"We miss our merry, spirited companion," said the baroness with a
grim look at Rose. Both young ladies assented with ludicrous
That night Rose came and slept with Josephine, and more than once
she awoke with a start and seized Josephine convulsively and held
Accused of egoism! at first her whole nature rose in arms against
the charge: but, after a while, coming as it did from so revered a
person, it forced her to serious self-examination. The poor girl
said to herself, "Mamma is a shrewd woman. Am I after all deceiving
myself? Would she be happy, and am I standing in the way?" In the
morning she begged her sister to walk with her in the park, so that
they might be safe from interruption.
There, she said sadly, she could not understand her own sister.
"Why are you so calm and cold, while am I in tortures of anxiety?
Have you made some resolve and not confided it to your Rose?"
"No, love," was the reply; "I am scarce capable of a resolution; I
am a mere thing that drifts."
"Let me put it in other words, then. How will this end?"
"I hardly know."
"Do you mean to marry Monsieur Raynal, then? answer me that."
"No; but I should not wonder if he were to marry ME."
"But you said 'no.'"
"Yes, I said 'no' once."
"And don't you mean to say it again, and again, and again, till
"What is the use? you heard him say he would not desist any the
more, and I care too little about the matter to go on persisting,
and persisting, and persisting."
"Why not, if he goes on pestering, and pestering, and pestering?"
"Ah, he is like you, all energy, at all hours; but I have so little
where my heart is unconcerned: he seems, too, to have a wish! I
have none either way, and my conscience says 'marry him!'"
"Your conscience say marry one man when you love another?"
"Heaven forbid! Rose, I love no one: I HAVE loved; but now my heart
is dead and silent; only my conscience says, 'You are the cause of
all your mother's trouble; you are the cause that Beaurepaire was
sold. Now you can repair that mischief, and at the same time make a
brave man happy, our benefactor happy.' It is a great temptation: I
hardly know why I said 'no' at all; surprise, perhaps--or to please
you, pretty one."
Rose groaned: "Are you then worth so little that you would throw
yourself away on a man who does not love you, nor want you, and is
quite as happy single?"
"No; not happy; he is only stout-hearted and good, and therefore
content; and he is a character that it would be easy--in short, I
feel my power here: I could make that man happy; he has nobody to
write to even, when he is away--poor fellow!"
"I shall lose all patience," cried Rose; "you are at your old trick,
thinking of everybody but yourself: I let you do it in trifles, but
I love you too well to permit it when the happiness of your whole
life is at stake. I must be satisfied on one point, or else this
marriage shall never take place: just answer me this; if Camille
Dujardin stood on one side, and Monsieur Raynal on the other, and
both asked your hand, which would you take?"
"That will never be. Whose? Not his whom I despise. Esteem might
ripen into love, but what must contempt end in?"
This reply gave Rose great satisfaction. To exhaust all awkward
contingencies, she said, "One question more, and I have done.
Suppose Camille should turn out--be not quite--what shall I say--
At this unlucky gush, Josephine turned pale, then red, then pale
again, and cried eagerly, "Then all the world should not part us.
Why torture me with such a question? Ah! you have heard something."
And in a moment the lava of passion burst wildly through its thin
sheet of ice. "I was blind. This is why you would save me from
this unnatural marriage. You are breaking the good news to me by
degrees. There is no need. Quick--quick--let me have it. I have
waited three years; I am sick of waiting. Why don't you speak? Why
don't you tell me? Then I will tell YOU. He is alive--he is well--
he is coming. It was not he those soldiers saw; they were so far
off. How could they tell? They saw a uniform but not a face.
Perhaps he has been a prisoner, and so could not write; could not
come: but he is coming now. Why do you groan? why do you turn pale?
ah! I see; I have once more deceived myself. I was mad. He I love
is still a traitor to France and me, and I am wretched forever. Oh!
that I were dead! oh! that I were dead! No; don't speak to me:
never mind me; this madness will pass as it has before, and leave me
a dead thing among the living. Ah! sister, why did you wake me from
my dream? I was drifting so calmly, so peacefully, so dead, and
painless, drifting over the dead sea of the heart towards the living
waters of gratitude and duty. I was going to make more than one
worthy soul happy; and seeing them happy, I should have been content
and useful--what am I now?--and comforted other hearts, and died
joyful--and young. For God is good; he releases the meek and
patient from their burdens."
With this came a flood of tears; and she leaned against a bough with
her forehead on her arm, bowed like a wounded lily.
"Accursed be that man's name, and MY tongue if ever I utter it again
in your hearing!" cried Rose, weeping bitterly. "You are wiser than
I, and every way better. O my darling, dry your tears! Here he
comes: look! riding across the park."
"Rose," cried Josephine, hastily, "I leave all to you. Receive
Monsieur Raynal, and decline his offer if you think proper. It is
you who love me best. My mother would give me up for a house; for
an estate, poor dear."
"I would not give you for all the world."
"I know it. I trust all to you."
"Well, but don't go; stay and hear what I shall say."
"Oh, no; that poor man is intolerable to me NOW. Let me avoid his
sight, and think of his virtues."
Rose was left alone, mistress of her sister's fate. She put her
head into her hands and filled with anxiety and sudden doubt.
Like a good many more of us, she had been positive so long as the
decision did not rest with her. But with power comes responsibility,
with responsibility comes doubt. Easy to be an advocate in
re incerta; hard to be the judge. And she had but a few seconds
to think in; for Raynal was at hand. The last thing in her
mind before he joined her was the terrible power of that base
Camille over her sister. She despaired of curing Josephine, but a
husband might. There's such divinity doth hedge a husband in
innocent girls' minds.
"Well, little lady," began Raynal, "and how are you, and how is my
mother-in-law that is to be--or is not to be, as your sister
pleases; and how is SHE? have I frightened her away? There were two
petticoats, and now there is but one."
"She left me to answer you."
"All the worse for me: I am not to your taste."
"Do not say that," said Rose, almost hysterically.
"Oh! it is no sacrilege. Not one in fifty likes me."
"But I do like you, sir."
"Then why won't you let me have your sister?"
"I have not quite decided that you shall not have her," faltered
poor Rose. She murmured on, "I dare say you think me very unkind,
very selfish; but put yourself in my place. I love my sister as no
man can ever love her, I know: my heart has been one flesh and one
soul with hers all my life. A stranger comes and takes her away
from me as if she was I don't know what; his portmanteau; takes her
to Egypt, oh! oh! oh!"
Raynal comforted her.
"What, do you think I am such a brute as to take that delicate
creature about fighting with me? why, the hot sand would choke her,
to begin. No. You don't take my manoeuvre. I have no family; I
try for a wife that will throw me in a mother and sister. You will
live all together the same as before, of course; only you must let
me make one of you when I am at home. And how often will that be?
Besides, I am as likely to be knocked on the head in Egypt as not;
you are worrying yourself for nothing, little lady."
He uttered the last topic of consolation in a broad, hearty,
hilarious tone, like a trombone impregnated with cheerful views of
"Heaven forbid!" cried Rose: "and I will, for even I shall pray for
you now. What you will leave her at home? forgive me for not seeing
all your worth: of course I knew you were an angel, but I had no
idea you were a duck. You are just the man for my sister. She
likes to obey: you are all for commanding. So you see. Then she
never thinks of herself; any other man but you would impose on her
good-nature; but you are too generous to do that. So you see. Then
she esteems you so highly. And one whom I esteem (between you and
me) has chosen you for her."
"Then say yes, and have done with it," suggested the straightforward
"Why should I say 'no?' you will make one another happy some day:
you are both so good. Any other man but you would tear her from me;
but you are too just, too kind. Heaven will reward you. No! I
will. I will give you Josephine: ah, my dear brother-in-law, it is
the most precious thing I have to give in the world."
"Thank you, then. So that is settled. Hum! no, it is not quite; I
forgot; I have something for you to read; an anonymous letter. I
got it this morning; it says your sister has a lover."
The letter ran to this tune: a friend who had observed the
commandant's frequent visits at Beaurepaire wrote to warn him
against traps. Both the young ladies of Beaurepaire were doubtless
at the new proprietor's service to pick and choose from. But for
all that each of them had a lover, and though these lovers had their
orders to keep out of the way till monsieur should be hooked, he
might be sure that if he married either, the man of her heart would
come on the scene soon after, perhaps be present at the wedding.
In short, it was one of those poisoned arrows a coarse vindictive
coward can shoot.
It was the first anonymous letter Rose had ever seen. It almost
drove her mad on the spot. Raynal was sorry he had let her see it.
She turned red and white by turns, and gasped for breath.
"Why am I not a man?--why don't I wear a sword? I would pass it
through this caitiff's heart. The cowardly slave!--the fiend! for
who but a fiend could slander an angel like my Josephine? Hooked?
Oh! she will never marry you if she sees this."
"Then don't let her see it: and why take it to heart like that? I
don't trust to the word of a man who owns that his story is a thing
he dares not sign his name to; at all events, I shall not put his
word against yours. But it is best to understand one another in
time. I am a plain man, but not a soft one. I should not be an
easygoing husband like some I see about: I'd have no wasps round my
honey; if my wife took a lover I would not lecture THE WOMAN--what
is the use?--I'd kill THE MAN then and there, in-doors or out, as I
would kill a snake. If she took another, I'd send him after the
first, and so on till one killed me."
"And serve the wretches right."
"Yes; but for my own sake I don't choose to marry a woman that loves
any other man. So tell me the plain truth; come."
Rose turned chill in her inside. "I have no lover," she stammered.
"I have a young fool that comes and teases me: but it is no secret.
He is away, but why? he is on a sickbed, poor little fellow!"
"But your sister? She could not have a lover unknown to you."
"I defy her. No, sir; I have not seen her speak three words to any
young man except Monsieur Riviere this three years past."
"That is enough;" and he tore the letter quietly to atoms.
Then Rose saw she could afford a little more candor. "Understand
me; I can't speak of what happened when I was a child. But if ever
she had a girlish attachment, he has not followed it up, or surely I
should have seen something of him all these years."
"Of course. Oh! as for flirtations, let them pass: a lovely girl
does not grow up without one or two whispering some nonsense into
her ear. Why, I myself should have flirted no doubt; but I never
had the time. Bonaparte gives you time to eat and drink, but not to
sleep or flirt, and that reminds me I have fifty miles to ride, so
good-by, sister-in-law, eh?"
Left alone, Rose had some misgivings. She had equivocated with one
whose upright, candid nature ought to have protected him: but an
enemy had accused Josephine; and it came so natural to shield her.
"Did he really think I would expose my own sister?" said she to
herself, angrily. Was not this anger secret self-discontent?
"Well, love," said Josephine, demurely, "have you dismissed him?"
Josephine smiled feebly. "It is easy to say 'say no;' but it is not
so easy to say 'no,' especially when you feel you ought to say
'yes,' and have no wish either way except to give pleasure to
"But I am not such skim milk as all that," replied Rose: "I have
always a strong wish where you are concerned, and your happiness. I
hesitated whilst I was in doubt, but I doubt no longer: I have had a
long talk with him. He has shown me his whole heart: he is the
best, the noblest of creatures: he has no littleness or meanness.
And then he is a thorough man; I know that by his being the very
opposite of a woman in his ways. Now you are a thorough woman, and
so you will suit one another to a T. I have decided: so no more
doubts, love; no more tears; no more disputes. We are all of one
mind, and I do think I have secured your happiness. It will not
come in a day, perhaps, but it will come. So then in one little
fortnight you marry Monsieur Raynal."
"What!" said Josephine, "you have actually settled that?"
"But are you sure I can make him as happy as he deserves?"
"I think so too; still"--
"It is settled, dear," said Rose soothingly.
"Oh, the comfort of that! you relieve me of a weight; you give me
peace. I shall have duties; I shall do some good in the world.
They were all for it but you before, were they not?"
"Yes, and now I am strongest for it of them all. Josephine, it is
Josephine looked at her for a moment in silence, then said eagerly,
"Bless you, dear Rose; you have saved your sister;" then, after a
moment, in a very different voice, "O Camille! Camille! why have you
And with this she fell to sobbing terribly. Rose wept on her neck,
but said nothing. She too was a woman, and felt that this was the
last despairing cry of love giving up a hopeless struggle.
They sat twined together in silence till Jacintha came to tell them
it was close upon dinner-time; so then they hastened to dry their
tears and wash their red eyes, for fear their mother should see what
they had been at, and worry herself.
"Well, mademoiselle, these two consent; but what do you say? for
after all, it is you I am courting, and not them. Have you the
courage to venture on a rough soldier like me?"
This delicate question was put point-blank before the three ladies.
"Sir," replied Josephine timidly, "I will be as frank, as
straightforward as you are. I thank you for the honor you do me."
Raynal looked perplexed.
"And does that mean 'yes' or 'no'?"
"Which you please," said Josephine, hanging her sweet head.
The wedding was fixed for that day fortnight. The next morning
wardrobes were ransacked. The silk, muslin, and lace of their
prosperous days were looked out: grave discussions were held over
each work of art. Rose was active, busy, fussy. The baroness threw
in the weight of her judgment and experience.
Josephine managed to smile whenever either Rose or the baroness
looked at all fixedly at her.
So glided the peaceful days. So Josephine drifted towards the haven
At Bayonne, a garrison town on the south frontier of France, two
sentinels walked lethargically, crossing and recrossing before the
governor's house. Suddenly their official drowsiness burst into
energy; for a pale, grisly man, in rusty, defaced, dirty, and torn
regimentals, was walking into the courtyard as if it belonged to
him. The sentinels lowered their muskets, and crossed them with a
clash before the gateway.
The scarecrow did not start back. He stopped and looked down with a
smile at the steel barrier the soldiers had improvised for him, then
drew himself a little up, carried his hand carelessly to his cap,
which was nearly in two, and gave the name of an officer in the
If you or I, dressed like a beggar who years ago had stolen
regimentals and worn them down to civil garments, had addressed
these soldiers with these very same words, the bayonets would have
kissed closer, or perhaps the points been turned against our sacred
and rusty person: but there is a freemasonry of the sword. The
light, imperious hand that touched that battered cap, and the quiet
clear tone of command told. The sentinels slowly recovered their
pieces, but still looked uneasy and doubtful in their minds. The
battered one saw this, and gave a sort of lofty smile; he turned up
his cuffs and showed his wrists, and drew himself still higher.
The sentinels shouldered their pieces sharp, then dropped them
simultaneously with a clatter and ring upon the pavement.
The rusty figure rang the governor's bell. A servant came and eyed
him with horror and contempt. He gave his name, and begged to see
the governor. The servant left him in the hall, and went up-stairs
to tell his master. At the name the governor reflected, then
frowned, then bade his servant reach him down a certain book. He
inspected it. "I thought so: any one with him?"
"No, your excellency."
"Load my pistols, put them on the table, show him in, and then order
a guard to the door."
The governor was a stern veteran with a powerful brow, a shaggy
eyebrow, and a piercing eye. He never rose, but leaned his chin on
his hand, and his elbow on a table that stood between them, and eyed
his visitor very fixedly and strangely. "We did not expect to see
you on this side the Pyrenees," said he gravely.
"Nor I myself, governor."
"What do you come for?"
"A suit of regimentals, and money to take me to Paris."
"And suppose, instead of that, I turn out a corporal's guard, and
bid them shoot you in the courtyard?"
"It would be the drollest thing you ever did, all things considered,"
said the other coolly, but bitterly.
The governor looked for the book he had lately consulted, found the
page, handed it to the rusty officer, and watched him keenly: the
blood rushed all over his face, and his lip trembled; but his eye
dwelt stern yet sorrowful on the governor.
"I have read your book, now read mine." He drew off his coat and
showed his wrists and arms, blue and waled. "Can you read that,
"All the better for you: Spanish fetters, general." He showed a
white scar on his shoulder. "Can you read that? This is what I cut
out of it," and he handed the governor a little round stone as big
and almost as regular as a musket-ball.
"Humph! that could hardly have been fired from a French musket."
"Can you read this?" and he showed him a long cicatrix on his other
"Knife I think," said the governor.
"You are right, sir: Spanish knife. Can you read this?" and opening
his bosom he showed a raw wound on his breast.
"Oh, the devil!" cried the governor.
The wounded man put his rusty coat on again, and stood erect, and
haughty, and silent.
The general eyed him, and saw his great spirit shining through this
man. The more he looked the less could the scarecrow veil the hero
from his practised eye. He said there must be some mistake, or else
he was in his dotage; after a moment's hesitation, he added, "Be
seated, if you please, and tell me what you have been doing all
"Not all the time, I suppose."
"But what? suffering what?"
"Cold, hunger, darkness, wounds, solitude, sickness, despair,
prison, all that man can suffer."
"Impossible! a man would be dead at that rate before this."
"I should have died a dozen deaths but for one thing; I had promised
her to live."
There was a pause. Then the old soldier said gravely, but more
kindly, to the young one, "Tell me the facts, captain" (the first
time he had acknowledged his visitor's military rank).
An hour had scarce elapsed since the rusty figure was stopped by the
sentinels at the gate, when two glittering officers passed out under
the same archway, followed by a servant carrying a furred cloak.
The sentinels presented arms. The elder of these officers was the
governor: the younger was the late scarecrow, in a brand-new uniform
belonging to the governor's son. He shone out now in his true
light; the beau ideal of a patrician soldier; one would have said he
had been born with a sword by his side and drilled by nature, so
straight and smart, yet easy he was in every movement. He was like
a falcon, eye and all, only, as it were, down at the bottom of the
hawk's eye lay a dove's eye. That compound and varying eye seemed
to say, I can love, I can fight: I can fight, I can love, as few of
you can do either.
The old man was trying to persuade him to stay at Bayonne, until his
wound should be cured.
"No, general, I have other wounds to cure of longer standing than
"Well, promise me to lay up at Paris."
"General, I shall stay an hour at Paris."
"An hour in Paris! Well, at least call at the War Office and
present this letter."
That same afternoon, wrapped in the governor's furred cloak, the
young officer lay at his full length in the coupe of the diligence,
the whole of which the governor had peremptorily demanded for him,
and rolled day and night towards Paris.
He reached it worn with fatigue and fevered by his wound, but his
spirit as indomitable as ever. He went to the War Office with the
governor's letter. It seemed to create some little sensation; one
functionary came and said a polite word to him, then another. At
last to his infinite surprise the minister himself sent down word he
wished to see him; the minister put several questions to him, and
seemed interested in him and touched by his relation.
"I think, captain, I shall have to send to you: where do you stay in
"Nowhere, monsieur; I leave Paris as soon as I can find an easy-
"But General Bretaux tells me you are wounded."
"Pardon me, captain, but is this prudent? is it just to yourself and
"Yes, I owe it to those who perhaps think me dead."
"You can write to them."
"I grudge so great, so sacred a joy to a letter. No! after all I
have suffered I claim to be the one to tell her I have kept my word:
I promised to live, and I live."
"HER? then I say no more, only tell me what road you take."
"The road to Brittany."
As the young officer was walking his horse by the roadside about a
league and a half from Paris, he heard a clatter behind him, and up
galloped an aide-de-camp and drew up alongside, bringing his horse
nearly on his haunches.
He handed him a large packet sealed with the arms of France. The
other tore it open; and there was his brevet as colonel. His cheek
flushed and his eye glittered with joy. The aide-de-camp next gave
him a parcel: "Your epaulets, colonel! We hear you are going into
the wilds where epaulets don't grow. You are to join the army of
the Rhine as soon as your wound is well."
"Wherever my country calls me."
"Your address, then, colonel, that we may know where to put our
finger on a tried soldier when we want one."
"I am going to Beaurepaire."
"Beaurepaire? I never heard of it."
"You never heard of Beaurepaire? it is in Brittany, forty-five
leagues from Paris, forty-three leagues and a half from here."
"Good! Health and honor to you, colonel."
"The same to you, lieutenant; or a soldier's death."
The new colonel read the precious document across his horse's mane,
and then he was going to put one of the epaulets on his right
shoulder, bare at present: but he reflected.
"No; she should make him a colonel with her own dear hand. He put
them in his pocket. He would not even look at them till she had
seen them. Oh, how happy he was not only to come back to her alive,
but to come back to her honored."
His wound smarted, his limbs ached, but no pain past or present
could lay hold of his mind. In his great joy he remembered past
suffering and felt present pain--yet smiled. Only every now and
then he pined for wings to shorten the weary road.
He was walking his horse quietly, drooping a little over his saddle,
when another officer well mounted came after him and passed him at a
hand gallop with one hasty glance at his uniform, and went tearing
on like one riding for his life.
"Don't I know that face?" said Dujardin.
He cudgelled his memory, and at last he remembered it was the face
of an old comrade. At least it strongly reminded him of one Jean
Raynal who had saved his life in the Arno, when they were lieutenants
Yes, it was certainly Raynal, only bronzed by service in some hot
"Ah!" thought Camille; "I suppose I am more changed than he is; for
he certainly did not recognize me at all. Now I wonder what that
fellow has been doing all this time. What a hurry he was in! a
moment more and I should have hailed him. Perhaps I may fall in
with him at the next town."
He touched his horse with the spur, and cantered gently on, for
trotting shook him more than he could bear. Even when he cantered
he had to press his hand against his bosom, and often with the
motion a bitterer pang than usual came and forced the water from his
eyes; and then he smiled. His great love and his high courage made
this reply to the body's anguish. And still his eyes looked
straight forward as at some object in the distant horizon, while he
came gently on, his hand pressed to his bosom, his head drooping now
and then, smiling patiently, upon the road to Beaurepaire.
Oh! if anybody had told him that in five days his Josephine was to
be married; and that the bronzed comrade, who had just galloped past
him, was to marry her!
At Beaurepaire they were making and altering wedding-dresses. Rose
was excited, and even Josephine took a calm interest. Dress never
goes for nothing with her sex. The chairs and tables were covered,
and the floor was littered. The baroness was presiding over the
rites of vanity, and telling them what she wore at her wedding,
under Louis XV., with strict accuracy, and what we men should
consider a wonderful effort of memory, when the Commandant Raynal
came in like a cannon-ball, without any warning, and stood among
them in a stiff, military attitude. Exclamations from all the
party, and then a kind greeting, especially from the baroness.
"We have been so dull without you, Jean."
"And I have missed you once or twice, mother-in-law, I can tell you.
Well, I have got bad news; but you must consider we live in a busy
time. To-morrow I start for Egypt."
Loud ejaculations from the baroness and Rose. Josephine put down
her work quietly.
The baroness sighed deeply, and the tears came into her eyes. "Oh,
you must not be down-hearted, old lady," shouted Raynal. "Why, I am
as likely to come back from Egypt as not. It is an even chance, to
say the least."
This piece of consolation completed the baroness's unhappiness. She
really had conceived a great affection for Raynal, and her heart had
been set on the wedding.
"Take away all that finery, girls," said she bitterly; "we shall not
want it for years. I shall not be alive when he comes home from
Egypt. I never had a son--only daughters--the best any woman ever
had; but a mother is not complete without a son, and I shall never
live to have one now."
"I hate General Bonaparte," said Rose viciously.
"Hate my general?" groaned Raynal, looking down with a sort of
superstitious awe and wonder at the lovely vixen. "Hate the best
soldier the world ever saw?"
"What do I care for his soldiership? He has put off our wedding.
For how many years did you say?"
"No; he has put it on."
In answer to the astonished looks this excited, he explained that
the wedding was to have been in a week, but now it must be to-morrow
at ten o'clock.
The three ladies set up their throats together. "Tomorrow?"
"To-morrow. Why, what do you suppose I left Paris for yesterday?
left my duties even."
"What, monsieur?" asked Josephine, timidly, "did you ride all that
way, and leave your duties MERELY TO MARRY ME?" and she looked a
"You are worth a great deal more trouble than that," said Raynal
simply. "Besides, I had passed my word, and I always keep my word."
"So do I," said Josephine, a little proudly. "I will not go from it
now, if you insist; but I confess to you, that such a proposal
staggers me; so sudden--no preliminaries--no time to reflect; in
short, there are so many difficulties that I must request you to
reconsider the matter."
"Difficulties," shouted Raynal with merry disdain; "there are none,
unless you sit down and make them; we do more difficult things than
this every day of our lives: we passed the bridge of Arcola in
thirteen minutes; and we had not the consent of the enemy, as we
have yours--have we not?"
Her only reply was a look at her mother, to which the baroness
replied by a nod; then turning to Raynal, "This empressement is very
flattering; but I see no possibility: there is an etiquette we
cannot altogether defy: there are preliminaries before a daughter of
Beaurepaire can become a wife."
"There used to be all that, madam," laughed Raynal, putting her down
good-humoredly; "but it was in the days when armies came out and
touched their caps to one another, and went back into winter
quarters. Then the struggle was who could go slowest; now the fight
is who can go fastest. Time and Bonaparte wait for nobody; and
ladies and other strong places are taken by storm, not undermined a
foot a month as under Noah Quartorze: let me cut this short, as time
He then drew a little plan of a wedding campaign. "The carriages
will be here at 9 A.M.," said he; "they will whisk us down to the
mayor's house by a quarter to ten: Picard, the notary, meets us
there with the marriage contract, to save time; the contract signed,
the mayor will do the marriage at quick step out of respect for me--
half an hour--quarter past ten; breakfast in the same house an hour
and a quarter:--we mustn't hurry a wedding breakfast--then ten
minutes or so for the old fogies to waste in making speeches about
our virtues--my watch will come out--my charger will come round--I
rise from the table--embrace my dear old mother--kiss my wife's
hand--into the saddle--canter to Paris--roll to Toulon--sail to
Egypt. But I shall leave a wife and a mother behind me: they will
both send me a kind word now and then; and I will write letters to
you all from Egypt, and when I come home, my wife and I will make
acquaintance, and we will all be happy together: and if I am killed
out there, don't you go and fret your poor little hearts about it;
it is a soldier's lot sooner or later. Besides, you will find I
have taken care of you; nobody shall come and turn you out of your
quarters, even though Jean Raynal should be dead; I have got to meet
Picard at Riviere's on that very business--I am off."
He was gone as brusquely as he came.
"Mother! sister!" cried Josephine, "help me to love this man."
"You need no help," cried the baroness, with enthusiasm, "not love
him, we should all be monsters."
Raynal came to supper looking bright and cheerful. "No more work
to-day. I have nothing to do but talk; fancy that."
This evening Josephine de Beaurepaire, who had been silent and
thoughtful, took a quiet opportunity, and purred in his ear,
"Mademoiselle!" rang the trombone.
"Am I not to go to Egypt?"
Josephine drew back at this brusque reply like a sensitive plant.
But she returned to the attack.
"But is it not a wife's duty to be by her husband's side to look
after his comfort--to console him when others vex him--to soothe him
when he is harassed?"
"Her first duty is to obey him."
"Well, when I am your husband, I shall bid you stay with your mother
and sister while I go to Egypt."
"I shall obey you."
He told her bluntly he thought none the worse of her for making the
offer; but should not accept it.
Camille Dujardin slept that night at a roadside inn about twelve
miles from Beaurepaire, and not more than six from the town where
the wedding was to take place next day.
It was a close race.
And the racers all unconscious of each other, yet spurred impartially
by events that were now hurrying to a climax.
The next day at sharp nine two carriages were at the door.
But the ladies were not ready. Thus early in the campaign did they
throw all into disorder. For so nicely had Raynal timed the several
events that this threw him all into confusion. He stamped backwards
and forwards, and twisted his mustaches, and swore. This enforced
unpunctuality was a new torture to him. Jacintha told them he was
angry, and that made them nervous and flurried, and their fingers
strayed wildly among hooks and eyes, and all sorts of fastenings;
they were not ready till half-past nine. Conscious they deserved a
scolding, they sent Josephine down first to mollify. She dawned
upon the honest soldier so radiant, so dazzling in her snowy dress,
with her coronet of pearls (an heirloom), and her bridal veil
parted, and the flush of conscious beauty on her cheek, that instead
of scolding her, he actually blurted out, "Well! by St. Denis it was
worth waiting half an hour for."
He recovered a quarter of an hour by making the driver gallop. Then
occasional shrieks issued from the carriage that held the baroness.
That ancient lady feared annihilation: she had not come down from a
They drove into the town, drew up at the mayor's house, were
received with great ceremony by that functionary and Picard, and
entered the house.
When their carriages rattled into the street from the north side,
Colonel Dujardin had already entered it from the south, and was
riding at a foot's pace along the principal street. The motion of
his horse now shook him past endurance. He dismounted at an inn a
few doors from the mayor's house, and determined to do the rest of
the short journey on foot. The landlord bustled about him
obsequiously. "You are faint, colonel; you have travelled too far.
Let me order you an excellent breakfast."
"No. I want a carriage; have you one?"
"I have two; but, unluckily, they are both engaged for the day, and
by people of distinction. Commandant Raynal is married to-day."
"Ah! I wish him joy," said Camille, heartily. He then asked the
landlord to open the window, as he felt rather faint. The landlord
insisted on breakfast, and Camille sat down to an omelet and a
bottle of red wine. Then he lay awhile near the window, revived by
the air, and watched the dear little street he had not seen for
years. He felt languid, but happy, celestially happy.
She was a few doors from him, and neither knew it.
A pen was put into her white hand, and in another moment she had
signed a marriage contract.
"Now to the church," cried the baroness, gayly. To get to the
church, they must pass by the window Camille reclined at.
"Oh! there's no time for that," said Raynal. And as the baroness
looked horrified and amazed, Picard explained: "The state marries
its citizens now, with reason: since marriage is a civil contract."
"Marriage a civil contract!" repeated the baroness. "What, is it
then no longer one of the holy sacraments? What horrible impiety
shall we come to next? Unhappy France! Such a contract would never
be a marriage in my eyes: and what would become of an union the
Church had not blessed?"
"Madame," said Picard, "the Church can bless it still; but it is
only the mayor here that can DO it."
All this time Josephine was blushing scarlet, and looking this way
and that, with a sort of instinctive desire to fly and hide, no
matter where, for a week or so.
"Haw! haw! haw!" roared Raynal; "here is a pretty mother. Wants her
daughter to be unlawfully married in a church, instead of lawfully
in a house. Give me the will!"
"Look here, mother-in-law: I have left Beaurepaire to my lawful
"Otherwise," put in Picard, "in case of death, it would pass to his
"And HE would turn you all out, and that does not suit me. Now
there stands the only man who can make mademoiselle my LAWFUL wife.
So quick march, monsieur the mayor, for time and Bonaparte wait for
"Stay a minute, young people," said the mayor. "We should soothe
respectable prejudices, not crush them. Madam, I am at least as old
as you, and have seen many changes. I perfectly understand your
"Ah, monsieur! oh!"
"Calm yourself, dear madam; the case is not so bad as you think. It
is perfectly true that in republican France the civil magistrate
alone can bind French citizens in lawful wedlock. But this does not
annihilate the religious ceremony. You can ask the Church's
blessing on my work; and be assured you are not the only one who
retains that natural prejudice. Out of every ten couples that I
marry, four or five go to church afterwards and perform the ancient
ceremonies. And they do well. For there before the altar the
priest tells them what it is not my business to dilate upon--the
grave moral and religious duties they have undertaken along with
this civil contract. The state binds, but the Church still blesses,
and piously assents to that"--
"From which she has no power to dissent."
"Monsieur Picard, do you consider it polite to interrupt the chief
magistrate of the place while he is explaining the law to a
(This closed Picard.)
"I married a daughter last year," continued the worthy mayor.
"What, after this fashion?"
"I married her myself, as I will marry yours, if you will trust me
with her. And after I have made them one, there is nothing to
prevent them adjourning to the church."
"I beg your pardon," cried Raynal, "there are two things to prevent
it: a couple that wait for no man: Time and Bonaparte. Come, sir;
marry us, and have done with it."
The mayor assented. He invited Josephine to stand before him. She
trembled and wept a little: Rose clung to her and wept, and the good
mayor married the parties off hand.
"Is that all?" asked the baroness; "it is terribly soon done."
"It is done effectively, madam," said the mayor, with a smile.
"Permit me to tell you that his Holiness the Pope cannot undo my
Picard grinned slyly, and whispered something into Raynal's ear.
"Oh! indeed," said Raynal aloud and carelessly. "Come, Madame
Raynal, to breakfast: follow us, the rest of you."
They paired, and followed the bride and bridegroom into the
The light words Picard whispered were five in number.
Now if the mayor had not snubbed Picard just before, he would have
uttered those jocose but true words aloud. There was no particular
reason why he should not. And if he had,--The threads of the web of
life, how subtle they are! The finest cotton of Manchester, the
finer meshes of the spider, seem three-inch cables by comparison
with those moral gossamers which vulgar eyes cannot see at all, the
"somethings, nothings," on which great fates have hung.
It was a cheerful breakfast, thanks to Raynal, who would be in high
spirits, and would not allow a word of regret from any one. Madame
Raynal sat by his side, looking up at him every now and then with
innocent admiration. A merry wedding breakfast.
But if men and women could see through the walls of houses!
Two doors off sat the wounded colonel alone, recruiting the small
remnant of his sore tried strength, that he might struggle on to
Beaurepaire, and lose in one moment years of separation, pain,
prison, anguish, martyrdom, in one great gush of joy without
The wedding breakfast was ended. The time was drawing near to part.
There was a silence. It was broken by Madame Raynal. She asked
Raynal very timidly if he had reflected. "On what?" said he.
"About taking me to Egypt."
"No: I have not given it a thought since I said 'no.'"
"Yet permit me to say that it is my duty to be by your side, my
husband." And she colored at this word, being the first time she
had ever used it. Raynal was silent. She murmured on, "I would not
be an encumbrance to you, sir: I should not be useless. Gentlemen,
I could add more to his comfort than he gives me credit for."
Warm assent of the mayor and notary to this hint.
"I give you credit for being an angel," said Raynal warmly.
He hesitated. Rose was trembling, her fork shaking in her poor
She cast a piteous glance at him. He saw it.
"You shall go with me next time," said he. "Let us speak of it no
Josephine bowed her head. "At least give me something to do for you
while you are away. Tell me what I can do for my absent friend to
show my gratitude, my regard, my esteem."
"Well, let me think. I saw a plain gray dress at Beaurepaire."
"Yes, monsieur. My gray silk, Rose."
"I like that dress."
"Do you? Then the moment I reach home after losing you I shall put
it on, and it shall be my constant wear. I see; you are right; gray
becomes a wife whose husband is not dead, but is absent, and alas!
in hourly danger."
"Now look at that!" cried Raynal to the company. "That is her all
over: she can see six meanings where another would see but one. I
never thought of that, I swear. I like modest colors, that is all.
My mother used to be all for modest wives wearing modest colors."
"I am of her mind, sir. Is there nothing more difficult you will be
so good as give me to do?"
"No; there is only one order more, and that will be easier still to
such a woman as you. I commit to your care the name of Raynal. It
is not so high a name as yours, but it is as honest. I am proud of
it: I am jealous of it. I shall guard it for you in Egypt: you
guard it in France for me."
"With my life," cried Josephine, lifting her eyes and her hand to
Soon after this Raynal ordered his charger.
The baroness began to cry. "The young people may hope to see you
again," said she; "but there are two chances against your poor old
"Courage, mother!" cried the stout soldier. "No, no; you won't play
me such a trick: once is enough for that game."
"Brother!" cried Rose, "do not go without kissing your little
sister, who loves you and thanks you." He kissed her. "Bravo,
generous soul!" she cried, with her arms round his neck. "God
protect you, and send you back safe to us!"
"Amen!" cried all present by one impulse, even the cold notary.
Raynal's mustache quivered. He kissed Josephine hastily on the
brow, the baroness on both cheeks; shook the men's hands warmly but
hastily, and strode out without looking behind him. He was moved
They all followed him to the door of the house. He was tightening
his horse's girths. He flung himself with all the resolution of his
steel nature into the saddle, and, with one grand wave of his cocked
hat to the tearful group, he spurred away for Egypt.
The baroness took the doctor a-shopping; she must buy Rose a gray
silk. In doing this she saw many other tempting things. I say no
But the young ladies went up to Beaurepaire in the other carriage,
for Josephine wished to avoid the gaze of the town, and get home and
be quiet. The driver went very fast. He had drunk the bride's
health at the mayor's, item the bridegroom's, the bridesmaid's, the
mayor's, etc., and "a spur in the head is worth two in the heel,"
says the proverb. The sisters leaned back on the soft cushions, and
enjoyed the smooth and rapid motion once so familiar to them, so
rare of late.
Then Rose took her sister gently to task for having offered to go to
Egypt. She had forgotten her poor sister.
"No, love," replied Josephine, "did you not see I dared not look
towards you? I love you better than all the world; but this was my
duty. I was his wife: I had no longer a feeble inclination and a
feeble disinclination to decide between, but right on one side,
wrong on the other."
"Oh! I know where your ladyship's strength lies: my force is--in--my
"Yes, Rose," continued Josephine thoughtfully, "duty is a great
comfort: it is so tangible; it is something to lay hold of for life
or death; a strong tower for the weak but well disposed."
Rose assented, and they were silent a minute; and when she spoke
again it was to own she loved a carriage. "How fast we glide! Now
lean back with me, and take my hand, and as we glide shut your eyes
and think: whisper me all your feelings, every one of them."
"Well, then," said Josephine, half closing her eyes, "in the first
place I feel a great calm, a heavenly calm. My fate is decided. No
more suspense. My duties are clear. I have a husband I am proud
of. There is no perfidy with him, no deceit, no disingenuousness,
no shade. He is a human sun. He will make me a better, truer
woman, and I him a happier man. Yes, is it not nice to think that
great and strong as he is I can teach him a happiness he knows not
as yet?" And she smiled with the sense of her delicate power, but
said no more; for she was not the one to talk much about herself.
But Rose pressed her. "Yes, go on, dear," she said, "I seem to see
your pretty little thoughts rising out of your heart like a bubbling
fountain: go on."
Thus encouraged, Josephine thought on aloud, "And then, gratitude!"
said she. "I have heard it said, or read it somewhere, that
gratitude is a burden: I cannot understand that sentiment; why, to
me gratitude is a delight, gratitude is a passion. It is the
warmest of all the tender feelings I have for dear Monsieur Raynal.
I feel it glow here, in my bosom. I think I shall love him as I
ought long before he comes back."
"Yes," murmured Josephine, her eyes still half closed. "His virtues
will always be present to me. His little faults of manner will not
be in sight. Good Raynal! The image of those great qualities I
revere so, perhaps because I fail in them myself, will be before my
mind; and ere he comes home I shall love him dearly. I'll tell you
one reason why I wished to go home at once was--no--you must guess."
"Guess?" said Rose, contemptuously. "As if I did not see it was to
put on your gray silk."
Josephine smiled assent, and said almost with fervor, "Good Raynal!
I feel prouder of his honest name than of our noble one. And I am
so calm, dear, thanks to you, so tranquil; so pleased that my
mother's mind is at rest, so convinced all is for the best, so
contented with my own lot; so hap--py."
A gentle tear stole from beneath her long lashes. Rose looked at
her wistfully: then laid her cheek to hers. They leaned back hand
in 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 the
carriage 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 looked
round in the carriage. It was one of those old chariots with no
side windows, but a peep hole at the back. This aperture, however,
had a flap over it. Josephine undid the flap with nimble though
agitated fingers; and saw--nothing. The road had taken a turn.
"Oh," said Rose, carelessly, "for that matter the roads are full of
soldiers just now."
"Ay, but not of officers on foot."
Rose gave her such a look, and for the first time this many a day
spoke sternly to her, and asked her what on earth she had to do with
uniforms or officers except one, the noblest in the world, her
A month ago that word was almost indifferent to Josephine, or rather
she uttered it with a sort of mild complacency. Now she started at
it, and it struck chill upon her. She did not reply, however, and
the carriage rolled on.
"He seemed to be dragging himself along." This was the first word
Josephine had spoken for some time. "Oh, did he?" replied Rose
carelessly; "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 put
on her gray gown. But the day was so delightful that Rose begged
her to stroll in the Pleasaunce for half an hour and watch for their
mother's return. She consented in an absent way, and presently
began to walk very fast, unconscious of her companion. Rose laid a
hand upon her playfully to moderate her, and found her skin burning.
"Why, what is the matter?" said she, anxiously.
"Nothing, nothing," was the sharp reply.
"There's a fretful tone; and how excited you look, and feel too.
Well, I thought you were unnaturally calm after such an event."
"I only saw his back," said Josephine. "Did not you see him?"
"See who? Oh, that tiresome officer. Why, how much more are we to
hear about him? I don't believe there WAS one."
At this moment a cocked hat came in sight, bobbing up and down above
the palings that divided the park from the road. Josephine pointed
to it without a word.
Rose got a little cross at being practically confuted, and said
coldly, "Come, let us go in; the only cocked hat we can see is on
the way to Paris."
Josephine assented eagerly. But she had not taken two steps towards
the house ere she altered her mind, and said she felt faint, she
wanted air; no, she should stay out a little longer. "Look, Rose,"
said she, in a strangely excited way, "what a shame! They put all
manner of rubbish into this dear old tree: I will have it all turned
out." And she looked with feigned interest into the tree: but her
eyes seemed turned inward.
Rose gave a cry of surprise. "He is waving his hat to me! What on
earth does that mean?"
"Perhaps he takes you for me," said Josephine.
"Who is it? What do you mean?"
"IT IS HE! I knew his figure at a glance." And she blushed and
trembled with joy; she darted behind the tree and peered round at
him unseen: turning round a moment she found Rose at her back pale
and stern. She looked at her, and said with terrible simplicity,
"Ah, Rose, I forgot."
"Are you mad, Josephine? Into the house this moment; if it IS he, I
will receive him and send him about his business."
But Josephine stood fascinated, and pale as ashes; for now the
cocked hat stopped, and a pale face with eyes whose eager fire shone
even at that distance, rose above the palings. Josephine crouched
behind Rose, and gasped out, "Something terrible is coming,
"Say something hateful," said Rose, trembling in her turn, but only
with anger. "The heartless selfish traitor! He never notices you
till you are married to the noblest of mankind; and then he comes
here directly to ruin your peace. No; I have altered my mind. He
shall not see you, of course; but YOU shall hear HIM. I'll soon
make you know the wretch and loathe him as I do. There, now he has
turned the corner; hide in the oak while he is out of sight. Hide,
quick, quick." Josephine obeyed mechanically; and presently,
through that very aperture whence her sister had smiled on her lover
she hissed out, in a tone of which one would not have thought her
capable, "Be wise, be shrewd; find out who is the woman that has
seduced him from me, and has brought two wretches to this. I tell
you it is some wicked woman's doing. He loved me once."
"Not so loud!--one word: you are a wife. Swear to me you will not
let him see you, come what may."
"Oh! never! never!" cried Josephine with terror. "I would rather
die. When you have heard what he has to say, then tell him I am
dead. No, tell him I adore my husband, and went to Egypt this day
with him. Ah! would to God I had!"
Camille was at the little gate.
Rose stood still, and nerved herself in silence. Josephine panted
in her hiding-place.
Rose's only thought now was to expose the traitor to her sister, and
restore her peace. She pretended not to see Camille till he was
near her. He came eagerly towards her, his pale face flushing with
great joy, and his eyes like diamonds.
"Josephine! It is not Josephine, after all," said he. "Why, this
must be Rose, little Rose, grown up to a fine lady, a beautiful
"What do you come here for, sir?" asked Rose in a tone of icy
"What do I come here for? is that the way to speak to me? but I am
too happy to mind. Dear Beaurepaire! do I see you once again!"
"Madame Dujardin that is or was to be."
"This is the first I have ever heard of her," said Camille, gayly.
"This is odd, for we have heard all about it."
"Are you jesting?"
"If I understand you right, you imply that I have broken faith with
"Then you lie, Mademoiselle Rose de Beaurepaire."
"No. It is you who have insulted your sister as well as me. She
was not made to be deserted for meaner women. Come, mademoiselle,
affront me, and me alone, and you shall find me more patient. Oh!
who would have thought Beaurepaire would receive me thus?"
"It is your own fault. You never sent her a line for all these
"Why, how could I?"
"Well, sir, the information you did not supply others did. We know
that you were seen in a Spanish village drinking between two
"That is true," said Camille.
"An honest French soldier fired at you. Why, he told us so himself."
"He told you true," said Camille, sullenly. "The bullet grazed my
hand; see, here is the mark. Look!" She did look, and gave a
little scream; but recovering herself, said she wished it had gone
through his heart. "Why prolong this painful interview?" said she;
"the soldier told us all."
"I doubt that," said Camille. "Did he tell you that under the table
I was chained tight down to the chair I sat in? Did he tell you
that my hand was fastened to a drinking-horn, and my elbow to the
table, and two fellows sitting opposite me with pistols quietly
covering me, ready to draw the trigger if I should utter a cry? Did
he tell you that I would have uttered that cry and died at that
table but for one thing, I had promised her to live?"
"Not he; he told me nothing so incredible. Besides, what became of
you all these years? You are a double traitor, to your country and
Camille literally gasped for breath. "You are a most cruel young
lady to insult me so," said he, and scalding tears forced themselves
from his eyes.
Rose eyed him with merciless scorn.
He fought manfully against this weakness, with which his wound and
his fatigue had something to do, as well as Rose's bitter words; and
after a gallant struggle he returned her her haughty stare, and
addressed her thus: "Mademoiselle, I feel myself blush, but it is
for you I blush, not for myself. This is what BECAME of me. I went
out alone to explore; I fell into an ambuscade; I shot one of the
enemy, and pinked another, but my arm being broken by a bullet, and
my horse killed under me, the rascals got me. They took me about,
tried to make a decoy of me as I have told you, and ended by
throwing me into a dungeon. They loaded me with chains, too, though
the walls were ten feet thick, and the door iron, and bolted and
double-bolted outside. And there for months and years, in spite of
wounds, hunger, thirst, and all the tortures those cowards made me
suffer, I lived, because, Rose, I had promised some one at that gate
there (and he turned suddenly and pointed to it) that I would come
back alive. At last, one night, my jailer came to my cell drunk. I
seized him by the throat and throttled him till he was insensible;
his keys unlocked my fetters, and locked him in the cell, and I got
safely outside. But there a sentinel saw me, and fired at me. He
missed me but ran after me, and caught me. You see I was stiff,
confined so long. He gave me a thrust of his bayonet; I flung my
heavy keys fiercely in his face; he staggered; I wrested his piece
from him, and disabled him."
"I crossed the frontier in the night, and got to Bayonne; and
thence, day and night, to Paris. There I met a reward for all my
anguish. They gave me the epaulets of a colonel. See, here they
are. France does not give these to traitors, young lady." He held
them out to her in both hands. She eyed them half stupidly; all her
thoughts were on the oak-tree hard by. She began to shudder.
Camille was telling the truth. She felt that; she saw it; and
Josephine was hearing it. "Ay! look at them, you naughty girl,"
said Camille, trying to be jocose over it all with his poor
trembling lip. He went on to say that from the moment he had left
dark Spain, and entered fair France everybody was so kind, so
sympathizing. "They felt for the poor worn soldier coming back to
his love. All but you, Rose. You told me I was a traitor to her
and to France."
"I was told so," said Rose, faintly. She was almost at her wits'
end what to say or do.
"Well, are you sorry or not sorry for saying such a cruel thing to a
"Sorry, very sorry," whispered Rose. She could not persist in
injustice, yet she did not want Josephine to hear.
"Then say no more about it; there's my hand. You are not a soldier,
and did not know what you were talking about."
"I am very sorry I spoke so harshly to you. But you understand.
How you look; how you pant."
"There, I will show you I forgive you. These epaulets, dear, I have
never put them on. I said, no; Josephine shall put them on for me.
I will take honor as well as happiness from her dear hand. But you
are her sister, and what are epaulets compared with what she will
give me? You shall put them on, dear. Come, then you will be sure
I bear no malice."
Rose, faint at heart, consented in silence, and fastened on the
epaulets. "Yes, Camille!" she cried, with sudden terror, "think of
glory, now; nothing but glory."
"No one thinks of it more. But to-day how can I think of it, how
can I give her a rival? To-day I am all love. Rose, no man ever
loved a human creature as I love Josephine. Your mother is well,
dear? All are well at Beaurepaire? Oh, where is she all this time?
in the house?" He was moving quickly towards the house; but Rose
instinctively put out her hand to stop him. He recoiled a little
"What is the matter?" cried she.
"Nothing, dear girl; you put your hand on my wound, that is all.
What is that noise in the tree? Anybody listening to us?"
"I'll see," said Rose, with all a woman's wit, and whipped hastily
round to hinder Camille from going. She found Josephine white as
death, apparently fainting, and clutching at the tree convulsively
with her nails. Such was the intensity of the situation that she
left her beloved sister in that piteous state, and even hoped she
would faint dead away, and so hear no more. She came back white,
and told Camille it was only a bird got into the tree. "And to
think you should be wounded," said she, to divert his attention from
"Yes," said he, "and it is rather inflamed, and has worried me all
the way. You need not go telling Josephine, though. They wanted me
to stop and lay up at Bayonne. How could I? And again at Paris.
How could I? They said, 'You will die.'--'Not before I get to
Beaurepaire,' said I. I could bear the motion of a horse no longer,
so at the nearest town I asked for a carriage. Would you believe
it? both his carriages were OUT AT A WEDDING. I could not wait till
they came back. I had waited an eternity. I came on foot. I
dragged my self along; the body was weak, but the heart was strong.
A little way from here my wound seemed inclined to open. I pressed
it together tight with my hand; you see I could not afford to lose
any more blood, and so struggled on. 'Die?' said I, 'not before
Beaurepaire.' And, O Rose! now I could be content to die--at her
feet; for I am happy. Oh! I am happy beyond words to utter. What I
have gone through! But I kept my word, and this is Beaurepaire.
Hurrah!" and his pale cheek flushed, and his eye gleamed, and he
waved his hat feebly over his head, "hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!"
"Oh, don't!--don't!--don't!" cried Rose wild with pity and dismay.
"How can I help?--I am mad with joy--hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!"
"No! no! no! no! no!"
"What is the matter?"
"And must I stab you worse than all your enemies have stabbed you?"
sighed Rose, and tears of womanly pity now streamed down her cheeks.
Camille's mind began to misgive him. What was become of Josephine?
she did not appear. He faltered out, "Your mother is well; all are
well I hope. Oh, where is she?" and receiving no reply, began to
tremble visibly with the fear of some terrible calamity.
Rose, with a sister fainting close by, and this poor lover trembling
before her, lost all self-command, and began to wring her hands and
cry wildly. "Camille," she almost screamed, "there is but one thing
for you to do; leave Beaurepaire on the instant: fly from it; it is
no place for you."
"She is dead," said Camille, very quietly.
When he said that, with an unnatural and monotonous calm such as
precedes deliberate suicide, it flashed in one moment across Rose
that it was much best he should think so.
She did not reply; but she drooped her head and let him think it.
"She would have come to me ere this if she was alive," said he.
"You are all in white: they mourn in white for angels like her, that
go to heaven, virgins. Oh! I was blind. You might have told me at
once; you see I can bear it. What does it matter to one who loves
as I love? It is only to give her one more proof I lived only for
her. I would have died a hundred times but for my promise to her.
Yes, I am coming, love; I am coming."
He fell on his knees and smiled, and whispered, "I am coming,
Josephine, I am coming."
A sob and a moan as of a creature dying in anguish answered him.
Rose screamed with terror when she heard it.
Camille rose to his feet, awestruck. "That was her voice, behind
this tree," he whispered.
"No, no," cried Rose; "it was me."
But at that moment a rustle and a rush was heard of some one darting
out of the tree.
Camille darted furiously round it in the same direction. Rose tried
to stop him, but was too late. The next moment Raynal's wife was in
Josephine wrestled long and terribly with nature in that old oak-
tree. But who can so struggle forever? Anguish, remorse, horror,
despair, and love wrenched her to and fro; and O mysterious human
heart! gleams of a mad fitful joy shot through her, coming quick as
lightning, going as quickly, and leaving the despair darker. And
then the fierce struggle of the soul to make itself heard! More
than once she had to close her mouth with her hand: more than once
she seized her throat not to cry out. But as the struggle endured,
she got weaker and weaker, and nature mightier and mightier. And
when the wounded hero fell on his knees so close to her; when he who
had resisted death so bravely for her, prepared to give up life
calmly for her, her bosom rose beyond all control: it seemed to fill
to choking, then to split wide open and give the struggling soul
passage in one gasping sob and heart-stricken cry. Could she have
pent this in she must have died.
It betrayed her. She felt it had: so then came the woman's
instinct--flight: the coward's impulse--flight: the chaste wife's
inspiration--flight. She rushed from her hiding-place and made
wildly for the house.
But, unluckily, Camille was at that moment darting round the tree:
she ran right into the danger she meant to flee. He caught her in
his arms. He held her irresistibly. "I have got her; I have got
her," he shouted in wild triumph. "No! I will not let you go. None
but God shall ever take you from me, and he has spared you to me.
You are not dead: you have kept faith as I have: you have lived.
See! look at me. I am alive, I am well, I am happy. I told Rose
that I suffered. If I had suffered I should remember it. It is all
gone at sight of you, my love! my love! Oh, my Josephine! my love!"
His arm was firm round her waist. His glowing eyes poured love upon
her. She felt his beating heart.
All that passed in her then, what mortal can say? She seemed two
women: that part of her which could not get away from his strong arm
lost all strength to resist, it yielded and thrilled under his
embrace, her bosom heaving madly: all that was free writhed away
from him; her face was averted with a glare of terror, and both her
hands put up between his eyes and it.
"You turn away your head. Rose, she turns away. Speak for me.
Scold her; for I don't know how to scold her. No answer from
either; oh, what has turned your hearts against me so?"
"Camille," cried Rose--the tears streaming down her cheeks--"my poor
Camille! leave Beaurepaire. Oh, leave it at once."
Returned towards her with a look of inquiry.
At that Josephine, like some feeble but nimble wild creature on whom
a grasp has relaxed, writhed away from him and got free: "Farewell!
Farewell!" she cried, in despair's own voice, and made swiftly for
Camille stood aghast, and did not follow her.
Now ere she had gone many steps who should meet her right in front
"Madame Raynal, the baroness's carriage is just in sight. I thought
you'd like to know." Then she bawled proudly to Rose, "I was the
first to call her madame;" and off went Jacintha convinced she had
done something very clever.
This blow turned those three to stone.
Josephine had no longer the power or the wish to fly. "Better so,"
she thought, and she stood cowering.
The great passions that had spoken so loud were struck dumb, and a
deep silence fell upon the place. Madame Raynal's quivering eye
turned slowly and askant towards Camille, but stopped in terror ere
it could see him. For she knew by this fearful stillness that the
truth was creeping on Camille. And so did Rose.
At last Camille spoke one word in a low whisper.
"White? both in white?"
Rose came between him and Josephine, and sobbed out, "Camille, it
was our doing. We drove her to it. O sir, look how afraid of you
she is. Do not reproach her, if you are a man."
He waved her out of his way as if she had been some idle feather,
and almost staggered up to Josephine.
"It is for you to speak, my betrothed: are you married?"
The poor creature, true to her nature, was thinking more of him than
herself. Even in her despair it flashed across her, "If he knew
all, he too would be wretched for life. If I let him think ill of
me he may be happy one day." She cowered the picture of sorrow and
"Are you a wife?"
He winced and quivered as if a bullet had pierced him.
"This is how I came to be suspected; she I loved was false."
"No, no!" cried Rose; "don't believe HER: she never suspected you.
We have brought her to this, we alone."
"Be silent, Rose! oh, be silent!" gasped Josephine.
"I lived for you: I would have died for you; you could not even wait
A low moan, but not a word of excuse.
"What can I do for you now?"
"Forget me, Camille," said she despairingly, doggedly.
"Forget you? never, never! there is but one thing I can do to show
you how I loved you: I will forgive you, and begone. Whither shall
I go? whither shall I go now?"
"Camile, your words stab her."
"Let none speak but I," said Camille; "none but I have the right to
speak. Poor weak angel that loved yet could not wait: I forgive
you. Be happy, if you can; I bid you be hap-py."
The quiet, despairing tones died away, and with them life seemed to
end to her, and hope to go out. He turned his back quickly on her.
He cried hoarsely, "To the army! Back to the army, and a soldier's
grave!" Then with a prodigious effort he drew himself haughtily up
in marching attitude. He took three strides, erect and fiery and
At the next something seemed to snap asunder in the great heart, and
the worn body that heart had held up so long, rolled like a dead log
upon the ground with a tremendous fall.
The baroness and Aubertin were just getting out of their carriage,
when suddenly they heard shrieks of terror in the Pleasaunce. They
came with quaking hearts as fast as their old limbs would carry
them. They found Rose and Josephine crouched over the body of a
man, an officer.
Rose was just tearing open his collar and jacket. Dard and Jacintha
had run from the kitchen at the screams. Camille lay on his back,
white and motionless.
The doctor was the first to come up. "Who! what is this? I seem to
know his face." Then shaking his head, "Whoever it is, it is a bad
case. Stand away, ladies. Let me feel his pulse."
Whilst the old man was going stiffly down on one knee, Jacintha
uttered a cry of terror. "See, see! his shirt! that red streak!
Ah, ah! it is getting bigger and bigger:" and she turned faint in a
moment, and would have fallen but for Dard.
The doctor looked. "All the better," said he firmly. "I thought he
was dead. His blood flows; then I will save him. Don't clutch me
so, Josephine; don't cling to me like that. Now is the time to show
your breed: not turn sick at the sight of a little blood, like that
foolish creature, but help me save him."
"Take him in-doors," cried the baroness.
"Into our house, mamma?" gasped Rose; "no, no."
"What," said the baroness, "a wounded soldier who has fought for
France! leave him to lie and die outside my door: what would my son
say to that? He is a soldier himself."
Rose cast a hasty look at Josephine. Josephine's eyes were bent on
the ground, and her hands clenched and trembling.
"Now, Jacintha, you be off," said the doctor. "I can't have cowards
about him to make the others as bad. Go and stew down a piece of
good beef for him. Stew it in red wine and water."
"That I will: poor thing!"
"Why, I know him," said the baroness suddenly; "it is an old
acquaintance, young Dujardin: you remember, Josephine. I used to
suspect him of a fancy for you, poor fellow! Why, he must have come
here to see us, poor soul."
"No matter who it is; it is a man. Now, girls, have you courage,
have you humanity? Then come one on each side of him and take hands
beneath his back, while I lift his head and Dard his legs."
"And handle him gently whatever you do," said Dard. "I know what it
is to be wounded."
These four carried the lifeless burden very slowly and gently across
the Pleasaunce to the house, then with more difficulty and caution
up the stairs.
All the while the sisters' hands griped one another tight beneath
the lifeless burden, and spoke to one another. And Josephine's arm
upheld tenderly but not weakly the hero she had struck down. She
avoided Rose's eye, her mother's, and even the doctor's: one gasping
sob escaped her as she walked with head half averted, and vacant,
terror-stricken eyes, and her victim on her sustaining arm.
The doctor selected the tapestried chamber for him as being most
airy. Then he ordered the women out, and with Dard's help undressed
the still insensible patient.
Josephine sat down on the stairs in gloomy silence, her eyes on the
ground, like one waiting for her deathblow.
Rose, sick at heart, sat silent too at some distance. At last she
said faintly, "Have we done well?"
"I don't know," said Josephine doggedly. Her eyes never left the
"We could not let him die for want of care."
"He will not thank us. Better for him to die than live. Better for
At this instant Dard came running down. "Good news, mesdemoiselles,
good news! the wound runs all along; it is not deep, like mine was.
He has opened his eyes and shut them again. The dear good doctor
stopped the blood in a twinkle. The doctor says he'll be bound to
save him. I must run and tell Jacintha. She is taking on in the
Josephine, who had risen eagerly from her despairing posture,
clasped her hands together, then lifted up her voice and wept. "He
will live! he will live!"
When she had wept a long while, she said to Rose, "Come, sister,
help your poor Josephine."
"Yes, love, what shall we do?"