"No, general, I have other wounds to cure of longer standing thanthis one.""Well, promise me to lay up at Paris.""General, I shall stay an hour at Paris.""Abuy litecoin credit cardn hour in Paris! Well, at least call at the War Office andpresent this letter."That same afternoon, wrapped in the governor's furred cloak, theyoung 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.
Now as this tree was a feat of nature, and, above all, played acuriopolygon premier 5 buy onlineus part in our story, I will ask you to stay a few minutes andlook at it, while I say what was known about it; not the thousandthpart of what it could have told, if trees could speak as well asbreathe.The baroness did not exaggerate; the tree was far older than eventhis ancient family. They possessed among other archives amanuscript written by a monk, a son of the house, about four hundredyears before our story, and containing many of the oral traditionsabout this tree that had come down to him from remote antiquity.
According to this authority, the first Baron of Beaurepaire hadpitched his tent under a fair oak-tree that stood prope rivum, neara brook. His grandson built a square tower hard by, and dug a moatthat enclosed both tree and tower, and received the waters of thebrook aforesaid.At this time the tree seems only to have been remarked for itsheight. But, a century and a half before the monk wrote, it hadbecome famous in all the district for its girth, and in the monk'sown day had ceased to grow; but not begun to decay. The mutilatedarm I have mentioned was once a long sturdy bough, worn smooth asvelvet in one part from a curious cause: it ran about as high abovethe ground as a full-sized horse, and the knights and squires usedto be forever vaulting upon it, the former in armor; the monk, whena boy, had seen them do it a thousand times. This bough broke intwo, A.D. 1617: but the mutilated limb was still called the knights'bough, nobody knew why. So do names survive their ideas.What had not this tree seen since first it came green and tender asa cabbage above the soil, and stood at the mercy of the first hareor rabbit that should choose to cut short its frail existence!Since then eagles had perched on its crown, and wild boars fedwithout fear of man upon its acorns. Troubadours had sung beneathit to lords and ladies seated round, or walking on the grass andcommenting the minstrel's tales of love by exchange of amorousglances. Mediaeval sculptors had taken its leaves, and wiselytrusting to nature, had adorned churches with those leaves cut instone.
It had seen a Norman duke conquer England, and English kings invadeFrance and be crowned at Paris. It had seen a girl put knights tothe rout, and seen the warrior virgin burned by envious priests withcommon consent both of the curs she had defended and the curs shehad defeated.Why, in its old age it had seen the rise of printing, and the firstdawn of national civilization in Europe. It flourished and decayedin France; but it sprung in Gaul. And more remarkable still, thoughby all accounts it may see the world to an end, it was a tree inancient history: its old age awaits the millennium; its first youthbelonged to that great tract of time which includes the birth ofChrist, the building of Rome, and the siege of Troy."And who told you to put in your word?" inquired Jacintha. "You'rehere to dig the hole where mademoiselle chooses; not to argufy."Josephine whispered Rose, "I admire the energy of her character.
Could she be induced to order once for all where the poor thing isto be planted?""Then where WILL you have it, mademoiselle?" asked Dard, sulkily."Here, I think, Dard," said Josephine sweetly.Dard grinned malignantly, and drove in his spade. "It will never bemuch bigger than a stinging nettle," thought he, "for the roots ofthe oak have sucked every atom of heart out of this." His blacksoul exulted secretly.Jacintha stood by Dard, inspecting his work; the sistersintertwined, a few feet from him. The baroness turned aside, andwent to look for a moment at the chaplet she had placed yesterday onthe oak-tree bough. Presently she uttered a slight ejaculation; andher daughters looked up directly.
"Come here, children," said she. They glided to her in a moment;and found her eyes fixed upon an object that lay on the knights'bough.
It was a sparkling purse.I dare say you have noticed that the bark on the boughs of thesevery ancient trees is as deeply furrowed as the very stem of an oaktree that boasts but a few centuries; and in one of these deepfurrows lay a green silk purse with gold coins glittering throughthe glossy meshes.Josephine and Rose eyed it a moment like startled deer; then Rosepounced on it. "Oh, how heavy!" she cried. This brought up Dardand Jacintha, in time to see Rose pour ten shining gold pieces outof the purse into her pink-white palm, while her face flushed andher eyes glittered with excitement. Jacintha gave a scream of joy;"Our luck is turned," she cried, superstitiously. Meanwhile,Josephine had found a slip of paper close to the purse. She openedit with nimble fingers; it contained one line in a hand like that ofa copying clerk: FROM A FRIEND: IN PART PAYMENT OF A GREAT DEBT.Keen, piquant curiosity now took the place of surprise. Who couldit be? The baroness's suspicion fell at once on Dr. Aubertin. ButRose maintained he had not ten gold pieces in the world. Thebaroness appealed to Josephine. She only blushed in an extraordinaryway, and said nothing. They puzzled, and puzzled, and were as muchin the dark as ever, when lo! one of the suspected parties deliveredhimself into the hands of justice with ludicrous simplicity. Ithappened to be Dr. Aubertin's hour of out-a-door study; and hecame mooning along, buried in a book, and walked slowly into thegroup--started, made a slight apology, and was mooning off, lostin his book again. Then the baroness, who had eyed him with grimsuspicion all the time, said with well-affected nonchalance, "Doctor,you dropped your purse; we have just picked it up." And she handedit to him. "Thank you, madame," said he, and took it quietly withoutlooking at it, put it in his pocket, and retired, with his soul inhis book. They stared comically at one another, and at this coolhand. "It's no more his than it's mine," said Jacintha, bluntly.
Rose darted after the absorbed student, and took him captive. "Now,doctor," she cried, "be pleased to come out of the clouds." Andwith the word she whipped the purse out of his coat pocket, andholding it right up before his eye, insisted on his telling herwhether that was his purse or not, money and all. Thus adjured,he disowned the property mighty coolly, for a retired physician,who had just pocketed it."No, my dear," said he; "and, now I think of it, I have not carrieda purse this twenty years."The baroness, as a last resource, appealed to his honor whether hehad not left a purse and paper on the knights' bough. The questionhad to be explained by Josephine, and then the doctor surprised themall by being rather affronted--for once in his life."Baroness," said he, "I have been your friend and pensioner nearlytwenty years; if by some strange chance money were to come into myhands, I should not play you a childish trick like this. What! haveI not the right to come to you, and say, 'My old friend, here Ibring you back a very small part of all I owe you?'""What geese we are," remarked Rose. "Dear doctor, YOU tell us whoit is."Dr. Aubertin reflected a single moment; then said he could make ashrewd guess."Who? who? who?" cried the whole party.
"Perrin the notary."It was the baroness's turn to be surprised; for there was nothingromantic about Perrin the notary. Aubertin, however, let her knowthat he was in private communication with the said Perrin, and thiswas not the first friendly act the good notary had done her in secret.While he was converting the baroness to his view, Josephine and Roseexchanged a signal, and slipped away round an angle of the chateau.
"Who is it?" said Rose."It is some one who has a delicate mind.""Clearly, and therefore not a notary.""Rose, dear, might it not be some person who has done us some wrong,and is perhaps penitent?""Certainly; one of our tenants, or creditors, you mean; but then,the paper says 'a friend.' Stay, it says a debtor. Why a debtor?
Down with enigmas!""Rose, love," said Josephine, coaxingly, "think of some one thatmight--since it is not the doctor, nor Monsieur Perrin, might it notbe--for after all, he would naturally be ashamed to appear before me.""Before you? Who do you mean?" asked Rose nervously, catching aglimpse now."He who once pretended to love me.""Josephine, you love that man still.""No, no. Spare me!""You love him just the same as ever. Oh, it is wonderful; it isterrible; the power he has over you; over your judgment as well asyour heart.""No! for I believe he has forgotten my very name; don't you think so?""Dear Josephine, can you doubt it? Come, you do doubt it.""Sometimes.""But why? for what reason?""Because of what he said to me as we parted at that gate; the wordsand the voice seem still to ring like truth across the weary years.He said, 'I am to join the army of the Pyrenees, so fatal to ourtroops; but say to me what you never yet have said, Camille, I loveyou: and I swear I will come back alive.' So then I said to him, 'Ilove you,'--and he never came back.""How could he come here? a deserter, a traitor!""It is not true; it is not in his nature; inconstancy may be. Tellme that he never really loved me, and I will believe you; but notthat he is a traitor. Let me weep over my past love, not blush forit.""Past? You love him to-day as you did three years ago.""No," said Josephine, "no; I love no one. I never shall love anyone again.""But him. It is that love which turns your heart against others.Oh, yes, you love him, dearest, or why should you fancy our secretbenefactor COULD be that Camille?""Why? Because I was mad: because it is impossible; but I see myfolly. I am going in.""What! don't you care to know who I think it was, perhaps?""No," said Josephine sadly and doggedly; she added with coldnonchalance, "I dare say time will show." And she went slowly in,her hand to her head."Her birthday!" sighed Rose.The donor, whoever he was, little knew the pain he was inflicting onthis distressed but proud family, or the hard battle that ensuedbetween their necessities and their delicacy. The ten gold pieceswere a perpetual temptation: a daily conflict. The words thataccompanied the donation offered a bait. Their pride and dignitydeclined it; but these bright bits of gold cost them many a sharppang. You must know that Josephine and Rose had worn out theirmourning by this time; and were obliged to have recourse to gayermaterials that lay in their great wardrobes, and were older, butless worn. A few of these gold pieces would have enabled the poorgirls to be neat, and yet to mourn their father openly. And it wentthrough and through those tender, simple hearts, to think that theymust be disunited, even in so small a thing as dress; that whiletheir mother remained in her weeds, they must seem no longer toshare her woe.
The baroness knew their feeling, and felt its piety, and yet couldnot bow her dignity to say, "Take five of these bits of gold, andlet us all look what we are--one." Yet in this, as in everythingelse, they supported each other. They resisted, they struggled, andwith a wrench they conquered day by day. At last, by generalconsent, Josephine locked up the tempter, and they looked at it nomore. But the little bit of paper met a kinder fate. Rose made alittle frame for it, and it was kept in a drawer, in the salon: andoften looked at and blessed. Just when they despaired of humanfriendship, this paper with the sacred word "friend" written on it,had fallen all in a moment on their aching hearts.They could not tell whence it came, this blessed word.
But men dispute whence comes the dew?Then let us go with the poets, who say it comes from heaven.
And even so that sweet word, friend, dropped like the dew fromheaven on these afflicted ones.So they locked the potent gold away from themselves, and took thekind slip of paper to their hearts.
The others left off guessing: Aubertin had it all his own way: heupheld Perrin as their silent benefactor, and bade them all observethat the worthy notary had never visited the chateau openly sincethe day the purse was left there. "Guilty conscience," saidAubertin dryly.One day in his walks he met a gaunt figure ambling on a fat pony: hestopped him, and, holding up his finger, said abruptly, "We havefound you out, Maitre Perrin."The notary changed color."Oh, never be ashamed," said Aubertin; "a good action done slyly isnone the less a good action."The notary wore a puzzled air.Aubertin admired his histrionic powers in calling up this look.
"Come, come, don't overdo it," said he. "Well, well; they cannotprofit by your liberality; but you will be rewarded in a betterworld, take my word for that."The notary muttered indistinctly. He was a man of moderate desires;would have been quite content if there had been no other world inperspective. He had studied this one, and made it pay: did notdesire a better; sometimes feared a worse."Ah!" said Aubertin, "I see how it is; we do not like to hearourselves praised, do we? When shall we see you at the chateau?""I propose to call on the baroness the moment I have good news tobring," replied Perrin; and to avoid any more compliments spurredthe dun pony suddenly; and he waddled away.
Now this Perrin was at that moment on the way to dine with acharacter who plays a considerable part in the tale--CommandantRaynal. Perrin had made himself useful to the commandant, and hadbecome his legal adviser. And, this very day after dinner, thecommandant having done a good day's work permitted himself a littlesentiment over the bottle, and to a man he thought his friend. Helet out that he had a heap of money he did not know what to do with,and almost hated it now his mother was gone and could not share it.The man of law consoled him with oleaginous phrases: told him hevery much underrated the power of money. His hoard, directed by ajudicious adviser, would make him a landed proprietor, and thehusband of some young lady, all beauty, virtue, and accomplishment,whose soothing influence would soon heal the sorrow caused by anexcess of filial sentiment.
"Halt!" shouted Raynal: "say that again in half the words."Perrin was nettled, for he prided himself on his colloquial style."You can buy a fine estate and a chaste wife with the money,"snapped this smooth personage, substituting curt brutality forhoneyed prolixity.
The soldier was struck by the propositions the moment they flew athim small and solid, like bullets."I've no time," said he, "to be running after women. But the estateI'll certainly have, because you can get that for me without mytroubling my head.""Is it a commission, then?" asked the other sharply."Of course. Do you think I speak for the sake of talking?"And so Perrin received formal instructions to look out for a landedestate; and he was to receive a handsome commission as agent.Now to settle this affair, and pocket a handsome percentage forhimself, he had only to say "Beaurepaire."Well, he didn't. Never mentioned the place; nor the fact that itwas for sale.
Such are all our agents, when rival speculators. Mind that. Stillit is a terrible thing to be so completely in the power of any manof the world, as from this hour Beaurepaire was in the power ofPerrin the notary.Chapter 4
Edouard Riviere was unhappy. She never came out now. This alonemade the days dark to him. And then he began to fear it was him sheshunned. She must have seen him lie in wait for her; and so shewould come out no more. He prowled about and contrived to fall inwith Jacintha; he told her his grief. She assured him the simplefact was their mourning was worn out, and they were ashamed to goabroad in colors. This revelation made his heart yearn still more."O Jacintha," said he, "if I could only make a beginning; but herewe might live a century in the same parish, and not one chance for apoor wretch to make acquaintance."Jacintha admitted this, and said gentlefolks were to be pitied.
"Why, if it was the likes of me, you and I should have made friendslong before now."Jacintha herself was puzzled what to do; she would have told Rose ifshe had felt sure it would be well received; but she could not findout that the young lady had even noticed the existence of Edouard.But her brain worked, and lay in wait for an opportunity.