"I think I oughter work, and if ybitcoin graph growthou and Mrs. Wiggins will let me, I will work in spite of mother."
Raynal, after the first stupefaction, pressed hard and even bitcoin to usd apiangrilyfor 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."Yes," he replied, "and I must keep at it several days to get in all the oats I mean to sow. If this weather holds, I shall be through next week."
"I looked in the milk-room a while ago. Isn't there anything I could do there this afternoon?""No. I'll attend to everything there. It's too damp for you yet. Keep on resting. Why, bless me! I didn't think you'd be well enough to do anything for a week.""Indeed," she admitted, "I'm surprised at myself. It seems as if a crushing weight had been lifted off my mind and that I was coming right up. I'm so glad, for I feared I might be feeble and useless a long time.""Well, Alida, if you had been, or if you ever are, don't think I'll be impatient. The people I can't stand are those who try to take advantage of me, and I tell you I've had to contend with that disposition so long that I feel as if I could do almost anything for one who is simply honest and tries to keep her part of an agreement. But this won't do. I've enjoyed my own dinner so much that I've half forgotten that the horses haven't had theirs yet. Now will you scold if I light my pipe before I go out?"
"Oh, no! I don't mind that.""No good-natured fibs! Isn't smoke disagreeable?"
She shook her head. "I don't mind it at all," she said, but her sudden paleness puzzled him. He could not know that he had involuntarily recalled the many times that she had filled the evening pipe for a man who now haunted her memory like a specter."I guess you don't like it very much," he said, as he passed out. "Well, no matter! It's getting so mild that I can smoke out of doors."With the exception of the episode of dinner the day was chiefly passed by Alida in a health-restoring languor, the natural reaction from the distress and strong excitements of the past. The rest that had been enjoined upon her was a blessed privilege, and still more happy was the truth that she could rest. Reclining on the lounge in the parlor, with a wood fire on one side and the April sun on the other, both creating warmth and good cheer, she felt like those who have just escaped from a wreck and engulfing waves. Her mind was too weary to question either the past or the future, and sometimes a consciousness of safety is happiness in itself. In the afternoon, the crackling of the fire and the calling and singing of the birds without formed a soothing lullaby and she fell asleep.At last, in a dream, she heard exquisite music which appeared to grow so loud, strong, and triumphant that she started up and looked around bewildered. A moment later, she saw that a robin was singing in a lilac bush by the window and that near the bird was a nest partially constructed. She recalled her hopeless grief when she had last seen the building of one of their little homes; and she fell upon her knees with a gratitude too deep for words, and far more grateful to Heaven than words.
Stepping out on the porch, she saw by the shadows that the sun was low in the west and that Holcroft was coming down the lane with his horses. He nodded pleasantly as he passed on to the barn. Her eyes followed him lingeringly till he disappeared, and then they ranged over the wide valley and the wooded hills in the distance. Not a breath of air was stirring; the lowing of cattle and other rural sounds softened by distance came from other farmhouses; the birds were at vespers, and their songs, to her fancy, were imbued with a softer, sweeter melody than in the morning. From the adjacent fields came clear, mellow notes that made her nerves tingle, so ethereal yet penetrating were they. She was sure she had never heard such bird music before. When Holcroft came in to supper she asked, "What birds are those that sing in the field?""Meadow larks. Do you like them?""I never heard a hymn sung that did me more good.""Well, I own up, I'd rather hear 'em than much of the singing we used to have down at the meeting house."
"It seems to me," she remarked, as she sat down at the table, "that I've never heard birds sing as they have today.""Now I think of it, they have been tuning up wonderfully. Perhaps they've an idea of my good luck," he added smilingly.
"I had thought of that about myself," she ventured. "I took a nap this afternoon, and a robin sang so near the window that he woke me up. It was a pleasant way to be waked.""Took a nap, did you? That's famous! Well, well! This day's gone just to suit me, and I haven't had many such in a good while, I can tell you. I've got in a big strip of oats, and now, when I come in tired, here's a good supper. I certainly shall have to be on the watch to do Tom Watterly good turns for talking me into this business. That taking a nap was a first-rate idea. You ought to keep it up for a month."
"No, indeed! There's no reason why you should work hard and I be idle. I've rested today, as you wished, and I feel better than I ever expected to again; but tomorrow I must begin in earnest. What use is there of your keeping your cows if good butter is not made? Then I must be busy with my needle.""Yes, that's true enough. See how thoughtless I am! I forgot you hadn't any clothes to speak of. I ought to take you to town to a dressmaker.""I think you had better get your oats in," she replied, smiling shyly. "Besides, I have a dressmaker that just suits me--one that's made my dresses a good many years.""If she don't suit you, you're hard to be suited," said he, laughing. "Well, some day, after you are fixed up, I shall have to let you know how dilapidated I am.""Won't you do me a little favor?""Oh, yes! A dozen of 'em, big or little."
"Please bring down this evening something that needs mending. I am so much better--""No, no! I wasn't hinting for you to do anything tonight."
"But you've promised me," she urged. "Remember I've been resting nearly all day. I'm used to sewing, and earned my living at it. Somehow, it don't seem natural for me to sit with idle hands.""If I hadn't promised--"
"But you have.""I suppose I'm fairly caught," and he brought down a little of the most pressing of the mending.
"Now I'll reward you," she said, handing him his pipe, well filled. "You go in the parlor and have a quiet smoke. I won't be long in clearing up the kitchen.""What! Smoke in the parlor?""Yes, why not? I assure you I don't mind it.""Ha! Ha! Why didn't I think of it before--I might have kept the parlor and smoked Mrs. Mumpson out."
"It won't be smoke that will keep me out.""I should hope not, or anything else. I must tell you how I DID have to smoke Mrs. Mumpson out at last," and he did so with so much drollery that she again yielded to irrepressible laughter.
"Poor thing! I'm sorry for her," she said."I'm sorry for Jane--poor little stray cat of a child! I hope we can do something for her some day," and having lighted his pipe, he took up the county paper, left weekly in a hollow tree by the stage driver, and went into the parlor.
After freshening up the fire he sat down to read, but by the time she joined him the tired man was nodding. He tried to brighten up, but his eyes were heavy."You've worked hard today," she said sympathetically.
"Well, I have," he answered. "I've not done such a good day's work in a year.""Then why don't you go to sleep at once?""It don't seem polite--""Please don't talk that way," she interrupted. "I don't mind being alone at all. I shall feel a great deal more at home if you forget all about ceremony."
"Well, Alida, I guess we had both better begin on that basis. If I give up when I'm tired, you must. You mustn't think I'm always such a sleepyhead. The fact is I've been more tired out with worry of late than with work. I can laugh about it now, but I've been so desperate over it that I've felt more like swearing. You'll find out I've become a good deal of a heathen.""Very well; I'll wait till I find out."
"I think we are getting acquainted famously, don't you?""Yes," she nodded, with a smile that meant more than a long speech. "Good night."
Chapter 23 Between the Past and FutureHuman nature, in common with Mother Nature, has its immutable laws. The people who existed before the flood were, in their primal motives, like those of today. The conventionality of highly civilized society does not change the heart, but it puts so much restraint upon it that not a few appear heartless. They march through life and fight its battles like uniformed men, trained in a certain school of tactics. The monotony of character and action is superficial, in most cases, rather than real, and he who fathoms the eyes of others, who catches the subtle quality of tones and interprets the flexible mouth that utters them, will discover that the whole gamut of human nature exists in those that appear only like certain musical instruments, made by machinery to play a few well-known tunes. Conventional restraint often, no doubt, produces dwarfed and defective human nature. I suppose that if souls could be put under a microscope, the undeveloped rudiments of almost everything would be discovered. It is more satisfactory to study the things themselves than their suggestions; this we are usually better able to do among people of simple and untrammeled modes of life, who are not practiced in disguises. Their peculiar traits and their general and dominant laws and impulses are exhibited with less reserve than by those who have learned to be always on their guard. Of course there are commonplace yeomen as truly as commonplace aristocrats, and simple life abounds in simpletons.