Part 8 out of 8
journey, to inherit his uncle's property: a million francs. But
don't you go and fall ill, like Josephine; turn pale, like Rose; and
make journeys in the region of fancy, after Edouard Riviere, who is
tramping along on the vulgar high road."
This tirade came from Aubertin, and very clever he thought himself.
But he had to do with a shrewd old lady, whose suspicions had long
smouldered; and now burst out. She said quietly, "Oh, then Edouard
is not in this part of the world. That alters the case: where IS
"In Normandy, probably," said Rose, blushing.
The baroness looked inquiringly towards Aubertin. He put on an
innocent face and said nothing.
"Very good," said the baroness. "It's plain I am to learn nothing
from you two. But I know somebody who will be more communicative.
Yes: this uncomfortable smiling, and unreasonable crying, and
interminable whispering; these appearances of the absent, and
disappearances of the present; I shall know this very day what they
"Really, I do not understand you."
"Oh, never mind; I am an old woman, and I am in my dotage. For all
that, perhaps you will allow me two words alone with my daughter."
"I retire, madame," and he disappeared with a bow to her, and an
anxious look at Rose. She did not need this; she clenched her
teeth, and braced herself up to stand a severe interrogatory.
Mother and daughter looked at one another, as if to measure forces,
and then, instead of questioning her as she had intended, the
baroness sank back in her chair and wept aloud. Rose was all
unprepared for this. She almost screamed in a voice of agony, "O
mamma! mamma! O God! kill me where I stand for making my mother
"My girl," said the baroness in a broken voice, and with the most
touching dignity, "may you never know what a mother feels who finds
herself shut out from her daughters' hearts. Sometimes I think it
is my fault; I was born in a severer age. A mother nowadays seems
to be a sort of elder sister. In my day she was something more.
Yet I loved my mother as well, or better than I did my sisters. But
it is not so with those I have borne in my bosom, and nursed upon my
At this Rose flung herself, sobbing and screaming, at her mother's
knees. The baroness was alarmed. "Come, dearest, don't cry like
that. It is not too late to take your poor old mother into your
confidence. What is this mystery? and why this sorrow? How comes
it I intercept at every instant glances that were not intended for
me? Why is the very air loaded with signals and secrecy? (Rose
replied only by sobs.) Is some deceit going on? (Rose sobbed.) Am
I to have no reply but these sullen sobs? will you really tell me
"I've nothing to tell," sobbed Rose.
"Well, then, will you do something for me?"
Such a proposal was not only a relief, but a delight to the
deceiving but loving daughter. She started up crying, "Oh, yes,
mamma; anything, everything. Oh, thank you!" In the ardor of her
gratitude, she wanted to kiss her mother; but the baroness declined
the embrace politely, and said, coldly and bitterly, "I shall not
ask much; I should not venture now to draw largely on your
affection; it's only to write a few lines for me."
Rose got paper and ink with great alacrity, and sat down all
beaming, pen in hand.
The baroness dictated the letter slowly, with an eye gimleting her
daughter all the time.
The pen fell from Rose's hand, and she turned red and then pale.
"What! write to him?"
"Not in your own name; in mine. But perhaps you prefer to give me
"Cruel! cruel!" sighed Rose, and wrote the words as requested.
The baroness dictated again,--
"Oblige me by coming here at your very earliest convenience."
"But, mamma, if he is in Normandy," remonstrated Rose, fighting
every inch of the ground.
"Never you mind where he is," said the baroness. "Write as I
"Yes, mamma," said Rose with sudden alacrity; for she had recovered
her ready wit, and was prepared to write anything, being now fully
resolved the letter should never go.
"Now sign my name." Rose complied. "There; now fold it, and
address it to his lodgings." Rose did so; and, rising with a
cheerful air, said she would send Jacintha with it directly.
She was half across the room when her mother called her quietly
"No, mademoiselle," said she sternly. "You will give me the letter.
I can trust neither the friend of twenty years, nor the servant that
stayed by me in adversity, nor the daughter I suffered for and
nursed. And why don't I trust you? Because YOU HAVE TOLD ME A
At this word, which in its coarsest form she had never heard from
those high-born lips till then, Rose cowered like a hare.
"Ay, A LIE," said the baroness. "I saw Edouard Riviere in the park
but yesterday. I saw him. My old eyes are feeble, but they are not
deceitful. I saw him. Send my breakfast to my own room. I come of
an ancient race: I could not sit with liars; I should forget
courtesy; you would see in my face how thoroughly I scorn you all."
And she went haughtily out with the letter in her hand.
Rose for the first time, was prostrated. Vain had been all this
deceit; her mother was not happy; was not blinded. Edouard might
come and tell her his story. Then no power could keep Josephine
silent. The plot was thickening; the fatal net was drawing closer
She sank with a groan into a chair, and body and spirit alike
succumbed. But that was only for a little while. To this
prostration succeeded a feverish excitement. She could not, would
not, look Edouard in the face. She would implore Josephine to be
silent; and she herself would fly from the chateau. But, if
Josephine would not be silent? Why, then she would go herself to
Edouard, and throw herself upon his honor, and tell him the truth.
With this, she ran wildly up the stairs, and burst into Josephine's
room so suddenly, that she caught her, pale as death, on her knees,
with a letter in one hand and a phial of laudanum in the other.
Josephine conveyed the phial into her bosom with wonderful rapidity
and dexterity, and rose to her feet. But Rose just saw her conceal
something, and resolved to find out quietly what it was. So she
said nothing about it, but asked Josephine what on earth she was
"I was praying."
"And what is that letter?"
"A letter I have just received from Colonel Raynal."
Rose took the letter and read it. Raynal had written from Paris.
He was coming to Beaurepaire to stay a month, and was to arrive that
Then Rose forgot all about herself, and even what she had come for.
She clung about her sister's neck, and implored her, for her sake,
to try and love Raynal.
Josephine shuddered, and clung weeping to her sister in turn. For
in Rose's arms she realized more powerfully what that sister would
suffer if she were to die. Now, while they clung together, Rose
felt something hard, and contrived just to feel it with her cheek.
It was the phial.
A chill suspicion crossed the poor girl. The attitude in which she
had found Josephine; the letter, the look of despair, and now this
little bottle, which she had hidden. WHY HIDE IT? She resolved not
to let Josephine out of her sight; at all events, until she had seen
this little bottle, and got it away from her.
She helped her to dress, and breakfasted with her in the tapestried
room, and dissembled, and put on gayety, and made light of
everything but Josephine's health.
Her efforts were not quite in vain. Josephine became more composed;
and Rose even drew from her a half promise that she would give
Raynal and time a fair trial.
And now Rose was relieved of her immediate apprehensions for
Josephine, but the danger of another kind, from Edouard, remained.
So she ran into her bedroom for her bonnet and shawl, determined to
take the strong measure of visiting Edouard at once, or intercepting
him. While she was making her little toilet, she heard her mother's
voice in the room. This was unlucky; she must pass through that
room to go out. She sat down and fretted at this delay. And then,
as the baroness appeared to be very animated, Rose went to the
keyhole, and listened. Their mother was telling Josephine how she
had questioned Rose, and how Rose had told her an untruth, and how
she had made that young lady write to Edouard, etc.; in short, the
very thing Rose wanted to conceal from Josephine.
Rose lost all patience, and determined to fly through the room and
out before anybody could stop her. She heard Jacintha come in with
some message, and thought that would be a good opportunity to slip
out unmolested. So she opened the door softly. Jacintha, it
seemed, had been volunteering some remark that was not well
received, for the baroness was saying, sharply, "Your opinion is not
asked. Go down directly, and bring him up here, to this room."
Jacintha cast a look of dismay at Rose, and vanished.
Rose gathered from that look, as much as from the words, who the
visitor was. She made a dart after Jacintha. But the room was a
long one, and the baroness intercepted her: "No," said she, gravely,
"I cannot spare you."
Rose stood pale and panting, but almost defiant. "Mamma," said she,
"if it is Monsieur Riviere, I MUST ask your leave to retire. And
you have neither love nor pity, nor respect for me, if you detain
"Mademoiselle!" was the stern reply, "I FORBID you to move. Be good
enough to sit there;" with which the baroness pointed imperiously to
a sofa at the other side of the room. "Josephine, go to your room."
Josephine retired, casting more than one anxious glance over her
Rose looked this way and that in despair and terror; but ended by
sinking, more dead than alive, into the seat indicated; and even as
she drooped, pale and trembling, on that sofa, Edouard Riviere, worn
and agitated, entered the room, and bowed low to them all, without a
The baroness looked at him, and then at her daughter, as much as to
say, now I have got you; deceive me now if you can. "Rose, my
dear," said this terrible old woman, affecting honeyed accents,
"don't you see Monsieur Riviere?"
The poor girl at this challenge rose with difficulty, and courtesied
humbly to Edouard.
He bowed to her, and stealing a rapid glance saw her pallor and
distress; and that showed him she was not so hardened as he had
"You have not come to see us lately," said the baroness, quietly,
"yet you have been in the neighborhood."
These words puzzled Edouard. Was the old lady all in the dark,
then? As a public man he had already learned to be on his guard; so
he stammered out, "That he had been much occupied with public
Madame de Beaurepaire despised this threadbare excuse too much to
notice it at all. She went on as if he had said nothing. "Intimate
as you were with us, you must have some reason for deserting us so
"I have," said Edouard, gravely.
"What is it?"
"Excuse me," said Edouard, sullenly.
"No, monsieur, I cannot. This neglect, succeeding to a somewhat
ardent pursuit of my daughter, is almost an affront. You shall, of
course, withdraw yourself altogether, if you choose. But not
without an explanation. This much is due to me; and, if you are a
gentleman, you will not withhold it from me."
"If he is a gentleman!" cried Rose; "O mamma, do not you affront a
gentleman, who never, never gave you nor me any ground of offence.
Why affront the friends and benefactors we have lost by our own
"Oh, then, it is all your fault," said the baroness. "I feared as
"All my fault, all," said Rose; then putting her pretty palms
together, and casting a look of abject supplication on Edouard, she
murmured, "my temper!"
"Do not you put words into his mouth," said the shrewd old lady.
"Come, Monsieur Riviere, be a man, and tell me the truth. What has
she said to you? What has she done?"
By this time the abject state of terror the high-spirited Rose was
in, and her piteous glances, had so disarmed Edouard, that he had
not the heart to expose her to her mother.
"Madame," said he, stiffly, taking Rose's hint, "my temper and
mademoiselle's could not accord."
"Why, her temper is charming: it is joyous, equal, and gentle."
"You misunderstand me, madame; I do not reproach Mademoiselle Rose.
It is I who am to blame."
"For what?" inquired the baroness dryly.
"For not being able to make her love me."
"Oh! that is it! She did not love you?"
"Ask herself, madame," said Edouard, bitterly.
"Rose," said the baroness, her eye now beginning to twinkle, "were
you really guilty of such a want of discrimination? Didn't you love
Rose flung her arms round her mother's neck, and said, "No, mamma, I
did not love Monsieur Edouard," in an exquisite tone of love, that
to a female ear conveyed the exact opposite of the words.
But Edouard had not that nice discriminating ear. He sighed deeply,
and the baroness smiled. "You tell me that?" said she, "and you are
"She is crying, madame?" said Edouard, inquiringly, and taking a
step towards them.
"Why, you see she is, you foolish boy. Come, I must put an end to
this;" and she rose coolly from her seat, and begging Edouard to
forgive her for leaving him a moment with his deadly enemy, went off
with knowing little nods into Josephine's room; only, before she
entered it, she turned, and with a maternal smile discharged this
word at the pair.
But between the alienated lovers was a long distressing silence.
Neither knew what to say; and their situation was intolerable. At
last Rose ventured in a timorous voice to say, "I thank you for your
generosity. But I knew that you would not betray me."
"Your secret is safe for me," sighed Edouard. "Is there anything
else I can do for you?"
Rose shook her head sadly.
Edouard moved to the door.
Rose bowed her head with a despairing moan. It took him by the
heart and held him. He hesitated, then came towards her.
"I see you are sorry for what you have done to me who loved you so;
and you loved me. Oh! yes, do not deny it, Rose; there was a time
you loved me. And that makes it worse: to have given me such sweet
hopes, only to crush both them and me. And is not this cruel of you
to weep so and let me see your penitence--when it is too late?"
"Alas! how can I help my regrets? I have insulted so good a
There was a sad silence. Then as he looked at her, her looks belied
the charge her own lips had made against herself.
A light seemed to burst on Edouard from that high-minded, sorrow-
"Tell me it is false!" he cried.
She hid her face in her hands--woman's instinct to avoid being read.
"Tell me you were misled then, fascinated, perverted, but that your
heart returned to me. Clear yourself of deliberate deceit, and I
will believe and thank you on my knees."
"Heaven have pity on us both!" cried poor Rose.
"On us! Thank you for saying on us. See now, you have not gained
happiness by destroying mine. One word--do you love that man?--that
"You know I do not."
"I am glad of that; since his life is forfeited; if he escapes my
friend Raynal, he shall not escape me."
Rose uttered a cry of terror. "Hush! not so loud. The life of
Camille! Oh! if he were to die, what would become of--oh, pray do
not speak so loud."
"Own then that you DO love him," yelled Edouard; "give me truth, if
you have no love to give. Own that you love him, and he shall be
safe. It is myself I will kill, for being such a slave as to love
Rose's fortitude gave way.
"I cannot bear it," she cried despairingly; "it is beyond my
strength; Edouard, swear to me you will keep what I tell you secret
as the grave!"
"Ah!" cried Edouard, all radiant with hope, "I swear."
"Then you are under a delirium. I have deceived, but never wronged
you; that unhappy child is not-- Hush! HERE SHE COMES."
The baroness came smiling out, and Josephine's wan, anxious face was
seen behind her.
"Well," said the baroness, "is the war at an end? What, are we
still silent? Let me try then what I can do. Edouard, lend me your
While Edouard hesitated, Josephine clasped her hands and mutely
supplicated him to consent. Her sad face, and the thought of how
often she had stood his friend, shook his resolution. He held out
his hand, but slowly and reluctantly.
"There is my hand," he groaned.
"And here is mine, mamma," said Rose, smiling to please her mother.
Oh! the mixture of feeling, when her soft warm palm pressed his.
How the delicious sense baffled and mystified the cold judgment.
Josephine raised her eyes thankfully to heaven.
While the young lovers yet thrilled at each other's touch, yet could
not look one another in the face, a clatter of horses' feet was
"That is Colonel Raynal," said Josephine, with unnatural calmness.
"I expected him to-day."
The baroness was at the side window in a moment.
"It is he!--it is he!"
She hurried down to embrace her son.
Josephine went without a word to her own room. Rose followed her
the next minute. But in that one minute she worked magic.
She glided up to Edouard, and looked him full in the face: not the
sad, depressed, guilty-looking humble Rose of a moment before, but
the old high-spirited, and some what imperious girl.
"You have shown yourself noble this day. I am going to trust you as
only the noble are trusted. Stay in the house till I can speak to
She was gone, and something leaped within Edouard's bosom, and a
flood of light seemed to burst in on him. Yet he saw no object
clearly: but he saw light.
Rose ran into Josephine's room, and once more surprised her on her
knees, and in the very act of hiding something in her bosom.
"What are you doing, Josephine, on your knees?" said she, sternly.
"I have a great trial to go through," was the hesitating answer.
Rose said nothing. She turned paler. She is deceiving me, thought
she, and she sat down full of bitterness and terror, and, affecting
not to watch Josephine, watched her.
"Go and tell them I am coming, Rose."
"No, Josephine, I will not leave you till this terrible meeting is
over. We will encounter him hand in hand, as we used to go when our
hearts were one, and we deceived others, but never each other."
At this tender reproach Josephine fell upon her neck and wept.
"I will not deceive you," she said. "I am worse than the poor
doctor thinks me. My life is but a little candle that a breath may
put out any day."
Rose said nothing, but trembled and watched her keenly.
"My little Henri," said Josephine imploringly, "what would you do
with him--if anything should happen to me?"
"What would I do with him? He is mine. I should be his mother.
Oh! what words are these: my heart! my heart!"
"No, dearest; some day you will be married, and owe all the mother
to your children; and Henri is not ours only: he belongs to some one
I have seemed unkind to. Perhaps he thinks me heartless. For I am
a foolish woman; I don't know how to be virtuous, yet show a man my
heart. But THEN he will understand me and forgive me. Rose, love,
you will write to him. He will come to you. You will go together
to the place where I shall be sleeping. You will show him my heart.
You will tell him all my long love that lasted to the end. YOU need
not blush to tell him all. I have no right. Then you will give him
his poor Josephine's boy, and you will say to him, 'She never loved
but you: she gives you all that is left of her, her child. She only
prays you not to give him a bad mother.'"
Poor soul! this was her one bit of little, gentle jealousy; but it
made her eyes stream. She would have put out her hand from the tomb
to keep her boy's father single all his life.
"Oh! my Josephine, my darling sister," cried Rose, "why do you speak
of death? Do you meditate a crime?"
"No; but it was on my heart to say it: it has done me good."
"At least, take me to your bosom, my well-beloved, that I may not
SEE your tears."
"There--tears? No, you have lightened my heart. Bless you! bless
The sisters twined their bosoms together in a long, gentle embrace.
You might have taken them for two angels that flowed together in one
love, but for their tears.
A deep voice was now heard in the sitting-room.
Josephine and Rose postponed the inevitable one moment more, by
arranging their hair in the glass: then they opened the door, and
entered the tapestried room.
Raynal was sitting on the sofa, the baroness's hand in his. Edouard
was not there.
Colonel Raynal had given him a strange look, and said, "What, you
here?" in a tone of voice that was intolerable.
Raynal came to meet the sisters. He saluted Josephine on the brow.
"You are pale, wife: and how cold her hand is."
"She has been ill this month past," said Rose interposing.
"You look ill, too, Mademoiselle Rose."
"Never mind," cried the baroness joyously, "you will revive them
Raynal made no reply to that.
"How long do you stay this time, a day?"
"A month, mother."
The doctor now joined the party, and friendly greetings passed
between him and Raynal.
But ere long somehow all became conscious this was not a joyful
meeting. The baroness could not alone sustain the spirits of the
party, and soon even she began to notice that Raynal's replies were
short, and that his manner was distrait and gloomy. The sisters saw
this too, and trembled for what might be coming.
At last Raynal said bluntly, "Josephine, I want to speak to you
The baroness gave the doctor a look, and made an excuse for going
down-stairs to her own room. As she was going Josephine went to her
and said calmly,--
"Mother, you have not kissed me to-day."
"There! Bless you, my darling!"
Raynal looked at Rose. She saw she must go, but she lingered, and
sought her sister's eye: it avoided her. At that Rose ran to the
doctor, who was just going out of the door.
"Oh! doctor," she whispered trembling, "don't go beyond the door. I
found her praying. My mind misgives me. She is going to tell him--
or something worse."
"What do you mean?"
"I am afraid to say all I dread. She could not be so calm if she
meant to live. Be near! as I shall. She has a phial hid in her
She left the old man trembling, and went back.
"Excuse me," said she to Raynal, "I only came to ask Josephine if
she wants anything."
"No!--yes!--a glass of eau sucree."
Rose mixed it for her. While doing this she noticed that Josephine
shunned her eye, but Raynal gazed gently and with an air of pity on
She retired slowly into Josephine's bedroom, but did not quite close
Raynal had something to say so painful that he shrank from plunging
into it. He therefore, like many others, tried to creep into it,
beginning with something else.
"Your health," said he, "alarms me. You seem sad, too. I don't
understand that. You have no news from the Rhine, have you?"
"Monsieur!" said Josephine scared.
"Do not call me monsieur, nor look so frightened. Call me your
friend. I am your sincere friend."
"Oh, yes; you always were."
"Thank you. You will give me a dearer title before we part this
"Yes," said Josephine in a low whisper, and shuddered.
"Have you forgiven me frightening you so that night?"
"It was a shock to me, too, I can tell you. I like the boy. She
professed to love him, and, to own the truth, I loathe all treachery
and deceit. If I had done a murder, I would own it. A lie doubles
every crime. But I took heart; we are all selfish, we men; of the
two sisters one was all innocence and good faith; and she was the
one I had chosen."
At these words Josephine rose, like a statue moving, and took a
phial from her bosom and poured the contents into the glass.
But ere she could drink it, if such was her intention, Raynal, with
his eyes gloomily lowered, said, in a voice full of strange
"I went to the army of the Rhine."
Josephine put down the glass directly, though without removing her
hand from it.
"I see you understand me, and approve. Yes, I saw that your sister
would be dishonored, and I went to the army and saw her seducer."
"You saw HIM. Oh, I hope you did not go and speak to him of--of
"Why, of course I did."
Josephine resolved to know the worst at once. "May I ask," said
she, "what you told him?"
"Why, I told him all I had discovered, and pointed out the course he
must take; he must marry your sister at once. He refused. I
challenged him. But ere we met, I was ordered to lead a forlorn
hope against a bastion. Then, seeing me go to certain death, the
noble fellow pitied me. I mean this is how I understood it all at
the time; at any rate, he promised to marry Rose if he should live."
Josephine put out her hand, and with a horrible smile said, "I thank
you; you have saved the honor of our family;" and with no more ado,
she took the glass in her hand to drink the fatal contents.
But Raynal's reply arrested her hand. He said solemnly, "No, I have
not. Have you no inkling of the terrible truth? Do not fiddle with
that glass: drink it, or leave it alone; for, indeed, I need all
He took the glass out of her patient hand, and with a furtive look
at the bedroom-door, drew her away to the other end of the room;
"and," said he, "I could not tell your mother, for she knows nothing
of the girl's folly; still less Rose, for I see she loves him still,
or why is she so pale? Advise me, now, whilst we are alone.
Colonel Dujardin was COMPARATIVELY indifferent to YOU. Will you
undertake the task? A rough soldier like me is not the person to
break the terrible tidings to that poor girl."
"What tidings? You confuse, you perplex me. Oh! what does this
horrible preparation mean?"
"It means he will never marry your sister; he will never see her
Then Raynal walked the room in great agitation, which at once
communicated itself to his hearer. But the loving heart is
ingenious in avoiding its dire misgivings.
"I see," said she; "he told you he would never visit Beaurepaire
again. He was right."
Raynal shook his head sorrowfully.
"Ah, Josephine, you are far from the truth. I was to attack the
bastion. It was mined by the enemy, and he knew it. He took
advantage of my back being turned. He led his men out of the
trenches; he assaulted the bastion at the head of his brigade. He
"Ah, it was noble; it was like him."
"The enemy, retiring, blew the bastion into the air, and Dujardin--
"Dead!" said Josephine, in stupefied tones, as if the word conveyed
no meaning to her mind, benumbed and stunned by the blow.
"Don't speak so loud," said Raynal; "I hear the poor girl at the
door. Ay, he took my place, and is dead."
"Swallowed up in smoke and flames, overwhelmed and crushed under the
Josephine's whole body gave way, and heaved like a tree falling
under the axe. She sank slowly to her knees, and low moans of agony
broke from her at intervals. "Dead, dead, dead!"
"Is it not terrible?" he cried.
She did not see him nor hear him, but moaned out wildly, "Dead,
dead, dead!" The bedroom-door was opened.
She shrieked with sudden violence, "Dead! ah, pity! the glass! the
composing draught." She stretched her hands out wildly. Raynal,
with a face full of concern, ran to the table, and got the glass.
She crawled on her knees to meet it; he brought it quickly to her
"There, my poor soul!"
Even as their hands met, Rose threw herself on the cup, and snatched
it with fury from them both. She was white as ashes, and her eyes,
supernaturally large, glared on Raynal with terror. "Madman!" she
cried, "would you kill her?"
He glared back on her: what did this mean? Their eyes were fixed on
each other like combatants for life and death; they did not see that
the room was filling with people, that the doctor was only on the
other side of the table, and that the baroness and Edouard were at
the door, and all looking wonderstruck at this strange sight--
Josephine on her knees, and those two facing each other, white, with
dilating eyes, the glass between them.
But what was that to the horror, when the next moment the patient
Josephine started to her feet, and, standing in the midst, tore her
hair by handfuls, out of her head.
"Ah, you snatch the kind poison from me!"
"Poison!" cried the others, horror-stricken.
"Ah! you won't let me die. Curse you all! curse you! I never had
my own way in anything. I was always a slave and a fool. I have
murdered the man I love--I love. Yes, my husband, do you hear? the
man I love."
"Hush! daughter, respect my gray hairs."
"Your gray hairs! You are not so old in years as I am in agony. So
this is your love, Rose! Ah, you won't let me die--won't you? THEN
I'LL DO WORSE--I'LL TELL."
"He who is dead; you have murdered him amongst you, and I'll follow
him in spite of you all--he was my betrothed. He struggled wounded,
bleeding, to my feet. He found me married. News came of my
husband's death; I married my betrothed."
"Married him!" exclaimed the baroness.
"Ah, my poor mother. And she kissed me so kindly just now--she will
kiss me no more. Oh, I am not ashamed of marrying him. I am only
ashamed of the cowardice that dared not do it in face of all the
world. We had scarce been happy a fortnight, when a letter came
from Colonel Raynal. He was alive. I drove my true husband away,
wretch that I was. None but bad women have an atom of sense. I
tried to do my duty to my legal husband. He was my benefactor. I
thought it was my duty. Was it? I don't know: I have lost the
sense of right and wrong. I turned from a living creature to a lie.
He who had scattered benefits on me and all this house; he whom it
was too little to love; he ought to have been adored: this man came
here one night to wife proud, joyous, and warm-hearted. He found a
cradle, and two women watching it. Now Edouard, now MONSIEUR, do
you see that life is IMPOSSIBLE to me? One bravely accused herself:
she was innocent. One swooned away like a guilty coward."
Edouard uttered an exclamation.
"Yes, Edouard, you shall not be miserable like me; she was guilty.
You do not understand me yet, my poor mother--and she was so happy
this morning--I was the liar, the coward, the double-faced wife, the
miserable mother that denied her child. Now will you let me die?
Now do you see that I can't and won't live upon shame and despair?
Ah, Monsieur Raynal, my dear friend, you were always generous: you
will pity and kill me. I have dishonored the name you gave me to
keep: I am neither Beaurepaire nor Raynal. Do pray kill me,
monsieur--Jean, do pray release me from my life!"
And she crawled to his knees and embraced them, and kissed his hand,
and pleaded more piteously for death, than others have begged for
Raynal stood like a rock: he was pale, and drew his breath audibly,
but not a word. Then came a sight scarce less terrible than
Josephine's despair. The baroness, looking and moving twenty years
older than an hour before, tottered across the room to Raynal.
"Sir, you whom I have called my son, but whom I will never presume
so to call again, I thought I had lived long enough never to have to
blush again. I loved you, monsieur. I prayed every day for you.
But she who WAS my daughter was not of my mind. Monsieur, I have
never knelt but to God and to my king, and I kneel to you: forgive
us, sir, forgive us!"
She tried to go down on her knees. He raised her with his strong
arm, but he could not speak. She turned on the others.
"So this is the secret you were hiding from me! This secret has not
killed you all. Oh! I shall not live under its shame so long as you
have. Chateau of Beaurepaire--nest of treason, ingratitude, and
immodesty--I loathe you as much as once I loved you. I will go and
hide my head, and die elsewhere."
"Stay, madame!" said he, in a voice whose depth and dignity was such
that it seemed impossible to disobey it. "It was sudden--I was
shaken--but I am myself again."
"Oh, show some pity!" cried Rose.
"I shall try to be just."
There was a long, trembling silence; and during that silence and
terrible agitation, one figure stood firm among those quaking,
beating hearts, like a rock with the waves breaking round it--the
MAN OF PRINCIPLE among the creatures of impulse.
He raised Josephine from her knees, and placed her all limp and
powerless in an arm-chair. To her frenzy had now succeeded a
sickness and feebleness like unto death.
"Widow Dujardin," said he, in a broken voice, "listen to me."
She moaned a sort of assent.
"Your mistake has been not trusting me. I was your friend, and not
a selfish friend. I was not enough in love with you to destroy your
happiness. Besides, I despise that sort of love. If you had told
me all, I would have spared you this misery. By the present law,
civil contracts of marriage can be dissolved by mutual consent."
At this the baroness uttered some sign of surprise.
"Ah!" continued Raynal, sadly, "you are aristocrats, and cannot keep
pace with the times. This very day our mere contract shall be
formally dissolved. Indeed, it ceases to exist since both parties
are resolved to withdraw from it. So, if you married Dujardin in a
church, you are Madame Dujardin at this moment, and his child is
legitimate. What does she say?"
This question was to Rose, for what Josephine uttered sounded like a
mere articulate moan. But Rose's quick ear had caught words, and
she replied, all in tears, "My poor sister is blessing you, sir. We
all bless you."
"She does not understand my position," said Raynal. He then walked
up to Josephine, and leaning over her arm, and speaking rather loud,
under the impression that her senses were blunted by grief, he said,
"Look here: Colonel Dujardin, your husband, deliberately, and with
his eyes open, sacrificed his life for me, and for his own heroic
sense of honor. Now, it is my turn. If that hero stood here, and
asked me for all the blood in my body, I would give it him. He is
gone; but, dying for me, he has left me his widow and his child;
they remain under my wing. To protect them is my pride, and my only
consolation. I am going to the mayor to annul our unlucky contract
in due form, and make us brother and sister instead. But," turning
to the baroness, "don't you think to escape me as your daughter has
done: no, no, old lady, once a mother, always a mother. Stir from
your son's home if you dare!"
And with these words, in speaking which his voice had recovered its
iron firmness, he strode out at the door, superb in manhood and
principle, and every eye turned with wonder and admiration after
him. Even when he was gone they gazed at the door by which a
creature so strangely noble had disappeared.
The baroness was about to follow him without taking any notice of
Josephine. But Rose caught her by the gown. "O mother, speak to
poor Josephine: bid her live."
The baroness only made a gesture of horror and disgust, and turned
her back on them both.
Josephine, who had tottered up from her seat at Rose's words, sank
heavily down again, and murmured, "Ah! the grave holds all that love
Rose ran to her side. "Cruel Josephine! what, do not I love you?
Mother, will you not help me persuade her to live? Oh! if she dies,
I will die too; you will kill both your children."
Stern and indignant as the baroness was, yet these words pierced her
heart. She turned with a piteous, half apologetic air to Edouard
and Aubertin. "Gentlemen," said she, "she has been foolish, not
guilty. Heaven pardons the best of us. Surely a mother may forgive
her child." And with this nature conquered utterly; and she held
out her arms, wide, wide, as is a mother's heart. Her two erring
children rushed sobbing violently into them; and there was not a dry
eye in the room for a long time.
After this, Josephine's heart almost ceased to beat. Fear and
misgivings, and the heavy sense of deceit gnawing an honorable
heart, were gone. Grief reigned alone in the pale, listless,
The marriage was annulled before the mayor; and, three days
afterwards, Raynal, by his influence, got the consummated marriage
formally allowed in Paris.
With a delicacy for which one would hardly have given him credit, he
never came near Beaurepaire till all this was settled; but he
brought the document from Paris that made Josephine the widow
Dujardin, and her boy the heir of Beaurepaire; and the moment she
was really Madame Dujardin he avoided her no longer; and he became a
comfort to her instead of a terror.
The dissolution of the marriage was a great tie between them. So
much that, seeing how much she looked up to Raynal, the doctor said
one day to the baroness, "If I know anything of human nature, they
will marry again, provided none of you give her a hint which way her
heart is turning."
They, who have habituated themselves to live for others, can suffer
as well as do great things. Josephine kept alive. A passion such
as hers, in a selfish nature, must have killed her.
Even as it was, she often said, "It is hard to live."
Then they used to talk to her of her boy. Would she leave him--
Camille's boy--without a mother? And these words were never spoken
to her quite in vain.
Her mother forgave her entirely, and loved her as before. Who could
be angry with her long? The air was no longer heavy with lies.
Wretched as she was, she breathed lighter. Joy and hope were gone.
Sorrowful peace was coming. When the heart comes to this, nothing
but Time can cure; but what will not Time do? What wounds have I
seen him heal! His cures are incredible.
The little party sat one day, peaceful, but silent and sad, in the
Pleasaunce, under the great oak.
Two soldiers came to the gate. They walked feebly, for one was
lame, and leaned upon the other, who was pale and weak, and leaned
upon a stick.
"Soldiers," said Raynal, "and invalided."
"Give them food and wine," said Josephine.
Rose went towards them; but she had scarcely taken three steps ere
she cried out,--
"It is Dard! it is poor Dard! Come in, Dard, come in."
Dard limped towards them, leaning upon Sergeant La Croix. A bit of
Dard's heel had been shot away, and of La Croix's head.
Rose ran to the kitchen.
"Jacintha, bring out a table into the Pleasaunce, and something for
two guests to eat."
The soldiers came slowly to the Pleasaunce, and were welcomed, and
invited to sit down, and received with respect; for France even in
that day honored the humblest of her brave.
Soon Jacintha came out with a little round table in her hands, and
affected a composure which was belied by her shaking hands and her
After a few words of homely welcome--not eloquent, but very sincere--
she went off again with her apron to her eyes. She reappeared with
the good cheer, and served the poor fellows with radiant zeal.
"What regiment?" asked Raynal.
Dard was about to answer, but his superior stopped him severely;
then, rising with his hand to his forehead, he replied, with pride,
"Twenty-fourth brigade, second company. We were cut up at
Philipsburg, and incorporated with the 12th."
Raynal instantly regretted his question; for Josephine's eye fixed
on Sergeant La Croix with an expression words cannot paint. Yet she
showed more composure, real or forced, than he expected.
"Heaven sends him," said she. "My friend, tell me, were you--ah!"
Colonel Raynal interfered hastily. "Think what you do. He can tell
you nothing but what we know, not so much, in fact, as we know; for,
now I look at him, I think this is the very sergeant we found lying
insensible under the bastion. He must have been struck before the
bastion was taken even."
"I was, colonel, I was. I remember nothing but losing my senses,
and feeling the colors go out of my hand."
"There, you see, he knows nothing," said Raynal.
"It was hot work, colonel, under that bastion, but it was hotter to
the poor fellows that got in. I heard all about it from Private
"So, then, it was you who carried the colors?"
"Yes, I was struck down with the colors of the brigade in my hand,"
cried La Croix.
"See how people blunder about, everything; they told me the colonel
carried the colors."
"Why, of course he did. You don't think our colonel, the fighting
colonel, would let me hold the colors of the brigade so long as he
was alive. No; he was struck by a Prussian bullet, and he had just
time to hand the colors to me, and point with his sword to the
bastion, and down he went. It was hot work, I can tell you. I did
not hold them long, not thirty seconds, and if we could know their
history, they passed through more hands than that before they got to
the Prussian flag-staff."
Raynal suddenly rose, and walked rapidly to and fro, with his hands
"Poor colonel!" continued La Croix. "Well, I love to think he died
like a soldier, and not like some of my poor comrades, hashed to
atoms, and not a volley fired over him. I hope they put a stone
over him, for he was the best soldier and the best general in the
"O sir!" cried Josephine, "there is no stone even to mark the spot
where he fell," and she sobbed despairingly.
"Why, how is this, Private Dard?" inquired La Croix, sternly.
Dard apologized for his comrade, and touching his own head
significantly told them that since his wound the sergeant's memory
"Now, sergeant, didn't I tell you the colonel must have got the
better of his wound, and got into the battery?"
"It's false, Private Dard; don't I know our colonel better than
that? Would ever he have let those colors out of his hand, if there
had been an ounce of life left in him?"
"He died at the foot of the battery, I tell you."
"Then why didn't we find him?"
Here Jacintha put in a word with the quiet subdued meaning of her
class. "I can't find that anybody ever saw the colonel dead."
"They did not find him, because they did not look for him," said
Sergeant La Croix.
"God forgive you, sergeant!" said Dard, with some feeling. "Not
look for OUR COLONEL! We turned over every body that lay there,--
full thirty there were,--and you were one of them."
"Only thirty! Why, we settled more Prussians than that, I'll
"Oh! they carried off their dead."
"Ay! but I don't see why they should carry our colonel off. His
epaulets was all the thieves could do any good with. Stop! yet I
do, Private Dard; I have a horrible suspicion. No, I have not; it
is a certainty. What! don't you see, ye ninny? Thunder and
thousands of devils, here's a disgrace. Dogs of Prussians! they
have got our colonel, they have taken him prisoner."
"O God bless them!" cried Josephine; "O God bless the mouth that
tells me so! O sir, I am his wife, his poor heart-broken wife. You
would not be so cruel as to mock my despair. Say again that he may
be alive, pray, say it again!"
"His wife! Private Dard, why didn't you tell me? You tell me
nothing. Yes, my pretty lady, I'll say it again, and I'll prove it.
Here is an enemy in full retreat, would they encumber themselves
with the colonel? If he was dead, they'd have whipped off his
epaulets, and left him there. Alive? why not? Look at me: I am
alive, and I was worse wounded than he was. They took me for dead,
you see. Courage, madame! you will see him again, take an old
soldier's word for it. Dard, attention! this is the colonel's
She gazed on the speaker like one in a trance.
Every eye and every soul had been so bent on Sergeant La Croix that
it was only now Raynal was observed to be missing. The next minute
he came riding out of the stable-yard, and went full gallop down the
"Ah!" cried Rose, with a burst of hope; "he thinks so too; he has
hopes. He is gone somewhere for information. Perhaps to Paris."
Josephine's excitement and alternations of hope and fear were now
alarming. Rose held her hand, and implored her to try and be calm
till they could see Raynal.
Just before dark he came riding fiercely home. Josephine flew down
the stairs. Raynal at sight of her forgot all his caution. He
waved his cocked hat in the air. She fell on her knees and thanked
God. He gasped out,--
"Prisoner--exchanged for two Prussian lieutenants--sent home--they
say he is in France!"
The tears of joy gushed in streams from her.
Some days passed in hope and joy inexpressible; but the good doctor
was uneasy for Josephine. She was always listening with
supernatural keenness and starting from her chair, and every fibre
of her lovely person seemed to be on the quiver.
Nor was Rose without a serious misgiving. Would husband and wife
ever meet? He evidently looked on her as Madame Raynal, and made it
a point of honor to keep away from Beaurepaire.
They had recourse to that ever-soothing influence--her child.
Madame Jouvenel was settled in the village, and Josephine visited
her every day, and came back often with red eyes, but always
One day Rose and she went to Madame Jouvenel, and, entering the
house without ceremony, found the nurse out, and no one watching the
"How careless!" said Rose.
Josephine stopped eagerly to kiss him. But instead of kissing him,
she uttered a loud cry. There was a locket hanging round his neck.
It was a locket containing some of Josephine's hair and Camille's.
She had given it him in the happy days that followed their marriage.
She stood gasping in the middle of the room. Madame Jouvenel came
running in soon after. Josephine, by a wonderful effort over
herself, asked her calmly and cunningly,--
"Where is the gentleman who put this locket round my child's neck?
I want to speak with him."
Madame Jouvenel stammered and looked confused.
"A soldier--an officer?--come, tell me!"
"Woman," cried Rose, "why do you hesitate?"
"What am I to do?" said Madame Jouvenel. "He made me swear never to
mention his coming here. He goes away, or hides whenever you come.
And since Madame does not love the poor wounded gentleman, what can
he do better?"
"Not love him!" cried Rose: "why, she is his wife, his lawful wedded
wife; he is a fool or a monster to run away for her. She loves him
as no woman ever loved before. She pines for him. She dies for
The door of a little back room opened at these words of Rose, and
there stood Camille, with his arm in a sling, pale and astounded,
but great joy and wonder working in his face.
Josephine gave a cry of love that made the other two women weep, and
in a moment they were sobbing for joy upon each other's neck.
Away went sorrow, doubt, despair, and all they had suffered. That
one moment paid for all. And in that moment of joy and surprise, so
great as to be almost terrible, perhaps it was well for Josephine
that Camille, weakened by his wound, was quite overcome, and nearly
fainted. She was herself just going into hysterics; but, seeing him
quite overcome, she conquered them directly, and nursed, and
soothed, and pitied, and encouraged him instead.
Then they sat hand in hand. Their happiness stopped their very
breath. They could not speak. So Rose told him all. He never
owned why he had slipped away when he saw them coming. He forgot
it. He forgot all his hard thoughts of her. They took him home in
the carriage. His wife would not let him out of her sight. For
years and years after this she could hardly bear to let him be an
hour out of her sight.
The world is wide; there may be a man in it who can paint the sudden
bliss that fell on these two much suffering hearts; but I am not
that man; this is beyond me; it was not only heaven, but heaven
Leave we the indescribable and the unspeakable for a moment, and go
to a lighter theme.
The day Rose's character was so unexpectedly cleared, Edouard had no
opportunity of speaking to her, or a reconciliation would have taken
place. As it was, he went home intensely happy. But he did not
resume his visits to the chateau. When he came to think calmly over
it, his vanity was cruelly mortified. She was innocent of the
greater offence; but how insolently she had sacrificed him, his
love, and his respect, to another's interest.
More generous thoughts prevailed by degrees. And one day that her
pale face, her tears, and her remorse got the better of his offended
pride, he determined to give her a good lecture that should drown
her in penitent tears; and then end by forgiving her. For one thing
he could not be happy till he had forgiven her.
She walked into the room with a calm, dignified, stately air, and
before he could utter one word of his grave remonstrance, attacked
him thus: "You wish to speak to me, sir. If it is to apologize to
me, I will save your vanity the mortification. I forgive you."
"YOU forgive ME!" cried Edouard furiously.
"No violence, if you please," said the lady with cold hauteur. "Let
us be friends, as Josephine and Raynal are. We cannot be anything
more to one another now. You have wounded me too deeply by your
jealous, suspicious nature."
Edouard gasped for breath, and was so far out-generalled that he
accepted the place of defendant. "Wasn't I to believe your own
lips? Did not Colonel Raynal believe you?"
"Oh, that's excusable. He did not know me. But you were my lover;
you ought to have seen I was forced to deceive poor Raynal. How
dare you believe your eyes; much more your ears, against my truth,
against my honor; and then to believe such nonsense?" Then, with a
grand assumption of superior knowledge, says she, "You little
simpleton, how could the child be mine when I wasn't married at
At this reproach, Edouard first stared, then grinned. "I forgot
that," said he.
"Yes, and you forgot the moon isn't made of green cheese. However,
if I saw you very humble, and very penitent, I might, perhaps,
really forgive you--in time."
"No, forgive me at once. I don't understand your angelical,
diabolical, incomprehensible sex: who on earth can? forgive me."
"Oh! oh! oh! oh!"
Lo! the tears that could not come at a remonstrance were flowing in
a stream at his generosity.
"What is the matter now?" said he tenderly. She cried away, but at
the same time explained,--
"What a f--f--foolish you must be not to see that it is I who am
without excuse. You were my betrothed. It was to you I owed my
duty; not my sister. I am a wicked, unhappy girl. How you must
"I adore you. There, no more forgiving on either side. Let our
only quarrel be who shall love the other best."
"Oh, I know how that will be," said the observant toad. "You will
love me best till you have got me; and then I shall love you best;
oh, ever so much."
However, the prospect of loving best did not seem disagreeable to
her; for with this announcement she deposited her head on his
shoulder, and in that attitude took a little walk with him up and
down the Pleasaunce: sixty times; about eight miles.
These two were a happy pair. This wayward, but generous heart never
forgot her offence, and his forgiveness. She gave herself to him
heart and soul, at the altar, and well she redeemed her vow. He
rose high in political life: and paid the penalty of that sort of
ambition; his heart was often sore. But by his own hearth sat
comfort and ever ready sympathy. Ay, and patient industry to read
blue-books, and a ready hand and brain to write diplomatic notes for
him, off which the mind glided as from a ball of ice.
In thirty years she never once mentioned the servants to him.
"Oh, let eternal honor crown her name!"
It was only a little bit of heel that Dard had left in Prussia.
More fortunate than his predecessor (Achilles), he got off with a
slight but enduring limp. And so the army lost him.
He married Jacintha, and Josephine set them up in Bigot's,
(deceased) auberge. Jacintha shone as a landlady, and custom flowed
in. For all that, a hankering after Beaurepaire was observable in
her. Her favorite stroll was into the Beaurepaire kitchen, and on
all fetes and grand occasions she was prominent in gay attire as a
retainer of the house. The last specimen of her homely sagacity I
shall have the honor to lay before you is a critique upon her
husband, which she vented six years after marriage.
"My Dard," said she, "is very good as far as he goes. What he has
felt himself, that he can feel FOR: nobody better. You come to him
with an empty belly, or a broken head, or all bleeding with a cut,
or black and blue, and you shall find a friend. But if it is a sore
heart, or trouble, and sorrow, and no hole in your carcass to show
for it, you had better come to ME; for you might as well tell your
grief to a stone wall as to my man."
The baroness took her son Raynal to Paris, and there, with keen eye,
selected him a wife. She proved an excellent one. It would have
been hard if she had not, for the baroness with the severe sagacity
of her age and sex, had set aside as naught a score of seeming
angels, before she could suit herself with a daughter-in-law. At
first the Raynals very properly saw little of the Dujardins; but
when both had been married some years, the recollection of that
fleeting and nominal connection waxed faint, while the memory of
great benefits conferred on both sides remained lively as ever in
hearts so great, and there was a warm, a sacred friendship between
the two houses--a friendship of the ancient Greeks, not of the
Camille and Josephine were blessed almost beyond the lot of
humanity: none can really appreciate sunshine but those who come out
of the cold dark. And so with happiness. For years they could
hardly be said to live like mortals: they basked in bliss. But it
was a near thing; for they but just scraped clear of life-long
misery, and death's cold touch grazed them both as they went.
Yet they had heroic virtues to balance White Lies in the great
A wholesome lesson, therefore, and a warning may be gathered from
this story: and I know many novelists who would have preached that
lesson at some length in every other chapter, and interrupted the
sacred narrative to do it. But when I read stories so mutilated, I
think of a circumstance related by Mr. Joseph Miller.
"An Englishman sojourning in some part of Scotland was afflicted
with many hairs in the butter, and remonstrated. He was told, in
reply, that the hairs and the butter came from one source--the cow;
and that the just and natural proportions hitherto observed, could
not be deranged, and bald butter invented--for ONE. 'So be it,'
said the Englishman; 'but let me have the butter in one plate, and
the hairs in another.'"
Acting on this hint, I have reserved some admirable remarks,
reflections, discourses, and tirades, until the story should be
ended, and the other plate be ready for the subsidiary sermon.
And now that the proper time is come, that love of intruding one's
own wisdom in one's own person on the reader, which has marred so
many works of art, is in my case restrained--first, by pure fatigue;
secondly, because the moral of this particular story stands out so
clear in the narrative, that he who runs may read it without any
sermon at all.
Those who will not take the trouble to gather my moral from the
living tree, would not lift it out of my dead basket: would not
unlock their jaw-bones to bite it, were I to thrust it into their