He could scarcely believe his ears and eyes when he heard the farmer say, "Alida, you must let me lift you out," and thalving of bitcoin cashhen saw the "town gal" set gently on the ground, her hand placed on Holcroft's arm as she was supported slowly and carefully to the rocking chair beside the fire. "Jonathan," was the quiet announcement, "this is Mrs. Holcroft, my wife."
"Certacan i buy bitcoin from coinbase in indiainly, why not?""Mother says I must sit in the parlor 'n' learn Commandments 'n' keep Sunday."
"Well, Jane, which do you think you ought to do?""I think I oughter work, and if you and Mrs. Wiggins will let me, I will work in spite of mother.""I think that you and your mother both should help do the necessary work today. There won't be much.""If I try and help Mrs. Wiggins, mother'll bounce out at me. She shook me last night after I went upstairs, and she boxed my ears 'cause I wanted to keep the kitchen fire up last night.""I'll go with you to the kitchen and tell Mrs. Wiggins to let you help, and I won't let your mother punish you again unless you do wrong."
Mrs. Wiggins, relying on Jane's promise of help, had sat down to the solace of her pipe for a few minutes, but was about to thrust it hastily away on seeing Holcroft. He reassured her by saying good-naturedly, "No need of that, my good woman. Sit still and enjoy your pipe. I like to smoke myself. Jane will help clear away things and I wish her to. You'll find she's quite handy. By the way, have you all the tobacco you want?""Vell, now, master, p'raps ye know the 'lowance down hat the poor-us vasn't sich as ud keep a body in vat ye'd call satisfyin' smokin'. Hi never 'ad henough ter keep down the 'ankerin'.""The fewer the better," replied the other solemnly, "since"--andthen discipline tied his tongue.
"I understand you," said the old man. "Shall we say eight hundredmen?""I should prefer three hundred. They have made a back door to thebastion, and the means of flight at hand will put flight into theirheads. They will pick off some of our men as we go at them. Whenthe rest jump in they will jump out, and"-- He paused."Why, he knows all about it before it comes," said one of thecolonels naively."I do. I see the whole operation and its result before me, as I seethis hand. Three hundred men will do.""But, general," objected Raynal, "you are not beginning at thebeginning. The first thing in these cases is to choose the officerto command the storming party.""Yes, Raynal, unquestionably; but you must be aware that is apainful and embarrassing part of my duty, especially after ColonelDujardin's remarks.""Ah, bah!" cried Raynal. "He is prejudiced. He has been digging athundering long mine here, and now you are going to make his childuseless. We none of us like that. But when he gets the colors inhis hand, and the storming column at his back, his misgivings willall go to the wind, and the enemy after them, unless he has beencommitting some crime, and is very much changed from what I knew himfour years ago.""Colonel Raynal," said one of the other colonels, politely butfirmly, "pray do not assume that Colonel Dujardin is to lead thecolumn; there are three other claimants. General Raimbaut is toselect from us four.""Yes, gentlemen, and in a service of this kind I would feel gratefulto you all if you would relieve me of that painful duty.""Gentlemen," said Dujardin, with an imperceptible sneer, "thegeneral means to say this: the operation is so glorious that hecould hardly without partiality assign the command to either of usfour claimants. Well, then, let us cast lots."The proposal was received by acclamation."The general will mark a black cross on one lot, and he who draws itwins the command."The young colonels prepared their lots with almost boyish eagerness.
These fiery spirits were sick to death of lying and skulking in thetrenches. They flung their lots into the hat. After them, whoshould approach the hat, lot in hand, but Raynal. Dujardininstantly interfered, and held his arm as he was in the act ofdropping in his lot."What is the matter?" said Raynal, sharply.
"This is our affair, Colonel Raynal. You have no command in thisarmy.""I beg your pardon, sir, I have yours.""Not till to-morrow.""Why, you would not take such a pettifogging advantage of an oldcomrade as that.""Tell him the day ends at twelve o'clock," said one of the colonelsinterested by this strange strife."Ah!" cried Raynal, triumphantly; "but no," said he, altering histone, "let us leave that sort of argument to lawyers. I have come agood many miles to fight with you, general; and now you must decideto pay me this little compliment on my arrival, or put a bitteraffront on me--choose!"While the old general hesitated, Camille replied, "Since you takethat tone there can be but one answer. You are too great a creditto the French army for even an apparent slight to be put on youhere. The rule, I think, is, that one of the privates shall holdthe hat.--Hallo! Private Dard, come here--there--hold this hat.""Yes, colonel.--Lord, here is my young mistress's husband!""Silence!"And they began to draw, and, in the act of drawing, a change ofmanner was first visible in these gay and ardent spirits."It is not I," said one, throwing away his lot."Nor I.""It is I," said Raynal; then with sudden gravity, "I am the luckyone."And now that the honor and the danger no longer floated vaguely overfour heads, but had fixed on one, a sudden silence and solemnitytook the place of eager voices.
It was first broken by Private Dard saying, with foolish triumph,"And I held the hat for you, colonel.""Ah, Raynal!" said General Raimbaut, sorrowfully, "it was not worthwhile to come from Egypt for this."Raynal made no reply to this. He drew out his watch, and saidcalmly, he had no time to lose; he must inspect the detachments hewas to command. "Besides," said he, "I have some domesticarrangements to make. Hitherto on these occasions I was a bachelor,now I am married." General Raimbaut could not help sighing. Raynalread this aright, and turned to him, "A droll marriage, my oldfriend; I'll tell you all about it if ever I have the time. Itbegan with a purchase, general, and ends with--with a bequest, whichI might as well write now, and so have nothing to think of but dutyafterwards. Where can I write?""Colonel Dujardin will lend you his tent, I am sure.""Certainly.""And, messieurs," said Raynal, "if I waste time you need not. Youcan pick me my men from your brigades. Give me a strong spice ofold hands."The colonels withdrew on this, and General Raimbaut walked sadly andthoughtfully towards the battery. Dujardin and Raynal were leftalone."This postpones our affair, sir.""Yes, Raynal.""Have you writing materials in your tent?""Yes; on the table.""You are quite sure the bastion is mined, comrade?"This unexpected word and Raynal's gentle appeal touched Dujardindeeply. It was in a broken voice he replied that he wasunfortunately too sure of it.Raynal received this reply as a sentence of death, and withoutanother word walked slowly into Dujardin's tent.Dujardin's generosity was up in arms; he followed Raynal, and saideagerly, "Raynal, for Heaven's sake resign this command!""Allow me to write to my wife, colonel," was the cold reply.
Camille winced at this affront, and drew back a moment; but hisnobler part prevailed. He seized Raynal by the wrist. "You shallnot affront me, you cannot affront me. You go to certain death Itell you, if you attack that bastion.""Don't be a fool, colonel," said Raynal: "somebody must lead themen.""Yes; but not you. Who has so good a right to lead them as I, theircolonel?""And be killed in my place, eh?""I know the ground better than you," said Camille. "Besides, whocares for me? I have no friends, no family. But you are married--and so many will mourn if you"--Raynal interrupted him sternly. "You forget, sir, that Rose deBeaurepaire is my sister, when you tell me you have no tie to life."He added, with wonderful dignity and sobriety, "Allow me to write tomy wife, sir; and, while I write, reflect that you can embitter anold comrade's last moments by persisting in your refusal to restorehis sister the honor you have robbed her of."And leaving the other staggered and confused by this sudden blow, heretired into Dujardin's tent, and finding writing materials on alittle table that was there, sat down to pen a line to Josephine.Camille knew to whom he was writing, and a jealous pang passedthrough him.
What he wrote ran thus,--"A bastion is to be attacked at five. I command. Colonel Dujardinproposed we should draw lots, and I lost. The service is honorable,but the result may, I fear, give you some pain. My dear wife, it isour fate. I was not to have time to make you know, and perhaps loveme. God bless you."In writing these simple words, Raynal's hard face worked, and hismustache quivered, and once he had to clear his eye with his hand toform the letters. He, the man of iron.He who stood there, leaning on his scabbard and watching the writer,saw this, and it stirred all that was great and good in that grandthough passionate heart of his.
"Poor Raynal!" thought he, "you were never like that before on goinginto action. He is loath to die. Ay, and it is a coward's trick tolet him die. I shall have her, but shall I have her esteem? Whatwill the army say? What will my conscience say? Oh! I feel alreadyit will gnaw my heart to death; the ghost of that brave fellow--oncemy dear friend, my rival now, by no fault of his--will rise betweenher and me, and reproach me with my bloody inheritance. The heartnever deceives; I feel it now whispering in my ear: 'Skulkingcaptain, white-livered soldier, that stand behind a parapet while abetter man does your work! you assassinate the husband, but therival conquers you.' There, he puts his hand to his eyes. Whatshall I do?""Colonel," said a low voice, and at the same time a hand was laid onhis shoulder.It was General Raimbaut. The general looked pale and distressed."Come apart, colonel, for Heaven's sake! One word, while he iswriting. Ah! that was an unlucky idea of yours.""Of mine, general?""'Twas you proposed to cast lots.""Good God! so it was.""I thought of course it was to be managed so that Raynal should notbe the one. Between ourselves, what honorable excuse can we make?""None, general.""The whole division will be disgraced, and forgive me if I say aportion of the discredit will fall on you.""Help me to avert that shame then," cried Camille, eagerly."Ah! that I will: but how?""Take your pencil and write--'I authorize Colonel Dujardin to savethe honor of the colonels of the second division.'"The general hesitated. He had never seen an order so worded. Butat last he took out his pencil and wrote the required order, afterhis own fashion; i.e., in milk and water:--On account of the singular ability and courage with which ColonelDujardin has conducted the operations against the Bastion St. Andre,a discretionary power is given him at the moment of assault to carryinto effect such measures, as, without interfering with thecommander-in-chief's order, may sustain his own credit, and that ofthe other colonels of the second division.RAIMBAUT, General of Division.Camille put the paper into his bosom.
"Now, general, you may leave all to me. I swear to you, Raynalshall not die--shall not lead this assault.""Your hand, colonel. You are an honor to the French armies. Howwill you do it?""Leave it to me, general, it shall be done.""I feel it will, my noble fellow: but, alas! I fear not withoutrisking some valuable life or other, most likely your own. Tellme!""General, I decline.""You refuse me, sir?""Yes; this order gives me a discretionary power. I will hand backthe order at your command; but modify it I will not. Come, sir, youveteran generals have been unjust to me, and listened to me toolittle all through this siege, but at last you have honored me.This order is the greatest honor that was ever done me since I worea sword.".
"My poor colonel!""Let me wear it intact, and carry it to my grave.""Say no more! One word--Is there anything on earth I can do foryou, my brave soldier?""Yes, general. Be so kind as to retire to your quarters; there arereasons why you ought not to be near this post in half an hour.""I go. Is there NOTHING else?""Well, general, ask the good priest Ambrose, to pray for all thosewho shall die doing their duty to their country this afternoon."They parted. General Raimbaut looked back more than once at thefirm, intrepid figure that stood there unflinching, on the edge ofthe grave. But HE never took his eye off Raynal. The next minutethe sad letter was finished, and Raynal walked out of the tent, andconfronted the man he had challenged to single combat.I have mentioned elsewhere that Colonel Dujardin had eyes strangelycompounded of battle
Chapter 22A few wounded soldiers of the brigade lay still till dusk. Thenthey crept back to the trenches. These had all been struck down ordisabled short of the bastion. Of those that had taken the place noone came home.
Raynal, after the first stupefaction, pressed hard and even angrilyfor an immediate assault on the whole Prussian line. Not they. Itwas on paper that the assault should be at daybreak to-morrow. Suchleaders as they were cannot IMPROVISE.Rage and grief in his heart, Raynal waited chafing in the trenchestill five minutes past midnight. He then became commander of thebrigade, gave his orders, and took thirty men out to creep up to thewreck of the bastion, and find the late colonel's body.Going for so pious a purpose, he was rewarded by an importantdiscovery. The whole Prussian lines had been abandoned sincesunset, and, mounting cautiously on the ramparts, Raynal saw thetown too was evacuated, and lights and other indications on a risingground behind it convinced him that the Prussians were in fullretreat, probably to effect that junction with other forces whichthe assault he had recommended would have rendered impossible.They now lighted lanterns, and searched all over and round thebastion for the poor colonel, in the rear of the bastion they foundmany French soldiers, most of whom had died by the bayonet. ThePrussian dead had all been carried off.
Here they found the talkative Sergeant La Croix. The poor fellowwas silent enough now. A terrible sabre-cut on the skull. Thecolonel was not there. Raynal groaned, and led the way on to thebastion. The ruins still smoked. Seven or eight bodies werediscovered by an arm or a foot protruding through the masses ofmasonry. Of these some were Prussians; a proof that some devotedhand had fired the train, and destroyed both friend and foe.They found the tube of Long Tom sticking up, just as he had shownover the battlements that glorious day, with this exception, that agreat piece was knocked off his lip, and the slice ended in a long,broad crack.
The soldiers looked at this. "That is our bullet's work," saidthey. Then one old veteran touched his cap, and told Raynalgravely, he knew where their beloved colonel was. "Dig here, to thebottom," said he. "HE LIES BENEATH HIS WORK."Improbable and superstitious as this was, the hearts of the soldiersassented to it.Presently there was a joyful cry outside the bastion. A rush wasmade thither. But it proved to be only Dard, who had discoveredthat Sergeant La Croix's heart still beat. They took him upcarefully, and carried him gently into camp. To Dard's delight thesurgeon pronounced him curable. For all that, he was three daysinsensible, and after that unfit for duty. So they sent him homeinvalided, with a hundred francs out of the poor colonel's purse.
Raynal reported the evacuation of the place, and that ColonelDujardin was buried under the bastion, and soon after rode out ofthe camp.The words Camille had scratched with a pencil, and sent him from theedge of the grave, were few but striking.
"A dead man takes you once more by the hand. My last thought, thankGod, is France. For her sake and mine, Raynal. GO FOR GENERALBONAPARTE. Tell him, from a dying soldier, the Rhine is a river tothese generals, but to him a field of glory. He will lay out ourlives, not waste them."There was nothing to hinder Raynal from carrying out this sacredrequest: for the 24th brigade had ceased to exist: already thinnedby hard service, it was reduced to a file or two by the fatalbastion. It was incorporated with the 12th; and Raynal rode heavyat heart to Paris, with a black scarf across his breast.Chapter 23You see now into what a fatal entanglement two high-minded youngladies were led, step by step, through yielding to the naturalfoible of their sex--the desire to hide everything painful fromthose they love, even at the expense of truth.A nice mess they made of it with their amiable dishonesty. And praytake notice that after the first White Lie or two, circumstancesoverpowered them, and drove them on against their will. It was nosmall part of all their misery that they longed to get back to truthand could not.
We shall see presently how far they succeeded in that pious object,for the sake of which they first entered on concealments. But firsta word is due about one of the victims of their amiable, self-sacrificing lubricity. Edouard Riviere fell in one night, fromhappiness and confidence, such as till that night be had neverenjoyed, to deep and hopeless misery.He lost that which, to every heart capable of really loving, is thegreatest earthly blessing, the woman he adored. But worse thanthat, he lost those prime treasures of the masculine soul, belief inhuman goodness, and in female purity. To him no more could there bein nature a candid eye, a virtuous ready-mantling cheek: for frailtyand treachery had put on these signs of virtue and nobility.
Henceforth, let him live a hundred years, whom could he trust orbelieve in?Here was a creature whose virtues seemed to make frailty impossible:
treachery, doubly impossible: a creature whose very faults--forfaults she had--had seemed as opposite to treachery as her veryvirtues were. Yet she was all frailty and falsehood.He passed in that one night of anguish from youth to age. He wentabout his business like a leaden thing. His food turned tasteless.