The poor boy pined and pined. His clothes hung loose about him; hisface was so drawn with suffering, you would not have known him. Hehated company. The things he was ebitcoin halving expected datexpected to talk about!--he withhis crushed heart. He could not. He would not. He shunned all theworld; he went alone like a wounded deer. The good doctor, on hisreturn from Paris, called on him to see if he was ill: since he hadnot come for days to the chateau. He saw the doctor coming and badethe servant say he was not in the village.
"Ought I? Well, I never felt filecoin retrievalmore inclined to do my duty. You must own up I have put one good notion into your head?""I have said nothing against any of them. Come, you ought to go at once."
"Can't I smoke my pipe first please?""You'll find it quieter in the parlor.""But it's pleasanter here where I can watch you.""Do you think I need watching?""Yes, a little, since you don't look after your own interests very sharply."
"It isn't my way to look after anything very sharply.""No, Alida, thank the Lord! There's nothing sharp about you, not even your tongue. You won't mind being left alone a few hours tomorrow?"So then Jacintha added, "to our misfortune," throwing in still moremeaning.
"To our misfortune? A dear old friend--like him?"Jacintha explained. "That old man makes me shake. You are neversafe with him. So long as his head is in the clouds, you might takehis shoes off, and on he'd walk and never know it; but every now andthen he comes out of the clouds all in one moment, without a word ofwarning, and when he does his eye is on everything, like a bird's.Then he is so old: he has seen a heap. Take my word for it, the oldare more knowing than the young, let them be as sharp as you like:the old have seen everything. WE have only heard talk of the mostpart, with here and there a glimpse. To know life to the bottom youmust live it out, from the soup to the dessert; and that is what thedoctor has done, and now he is coming here. And Mademoiselle Rosewill go telling him everything; and if she tells him half what shehas seen, your secret will be no secret to that old man.""My secret!" gasped Josephine, turning pale."Don't look so, madame: don't be frightened at poor Jacintha.
Sooner or later you MUST trust somebody besides Mademoiselle Rose."Josephine looked at her with inquiring, frightened eyes.Jacintha drew nearer to her.
"Mademoiselle,--I beg pardon, madame,--I carried you in my arms whenI was a child. When I was a girl you toddled at my side, and heldmy gown, and lisped my name, and used to put your little arms roundmy neck, and kissed me, you would; and if ever I had the least painor sickness your dear little face would turn as sorrowful, and allthe pretty color leave it for Jacintha; and now you are in trouble,in sore trouble, yet you turn away from me, you dare not trust me,that would be cut in pieces ere I would betray you. Ah,mademoiselle, you are wrong. The poor can feel: they have all seentrouble, and a servant is the best of friends where she has theheart to love her mistress; and do not I love you? Pray do not turnfrom her who has carried you in her arms, and laid you to sleep uponher bosom, many's and many's the time."Josephine panted audibly. She held out her hand eloquently toJacintha, but she turned her head away and trembled.Jacintha cast a hasty glance round the room. Then she trembled tooat what she was going to say, and the effect it might have on theyoung lady. As for Josephine, terrible as the conversation hadbecome, she made no attempt to evade it: she remained perfectlypassive. It was the best way to learn how far Jacintha hadpenetrated her secret, if at all.Jacintha looked fearfully round and whispered in Josephine's ear,"When the news of Colonel Raynal's death came, you wept, but thecolor came back to your cheek. When the news of his life came, youturned to stone. Ah! my poor young lady, there has been morebetween you and THAT MAN than should be. Ever since one day you allwent to Frejus together, you were a changed woman. I have seen youlook at him as--as a wife looks at her man. I have seen HIM"--"Hush, Jacintha! Do not tell me what you have seen: oh! do notremind me of joys I pray God to help me forget. He was my husband,then!--oh, cruel Jacintha, to remind me of what I have been, of whatI am! Ah me! ah me! ah me!""Your husband!" cried Jacintha in utter amazement.Then Josephine drooped her head on this faithful creature'sshoulder, and told her with many sobs the story I have told you.
She told it very briefly, for it was to a woman who, though littleeducated, was full of feeling and shrewdness, and needed but thebare facts: she could add the rest from her own heart andexperience: could tell the storm of feelings through which these twounhappy lovers must have passed. Her frequent sighs of pity andsympathy drew Josephine on to pour out all her griefs. When thetale was ended she gave a sigh of relief."It might have been worse: I thought it was worse the more fool I.I deserve to have my head cut off." This was Jacintha's onlycomment at that time.It was Josephine's turn to be amazed. "It could have been worse?"said she. "How? tell me," added she bitterly. "It would be aconsolation to me, could I see that."Jacintha colored and evaded this question, and begged her to go on,to keep nothing back from her. Josephine assured her she hadrevealed all. Jacintha looked at her a moment in silence.
"It is then as I half suspected. You do not know all that is beforeyou. You do not see why I am afraid of that old man.""No, not of him in particular.""Nor why I want to keep Mademoiselle Rose from prattling to him?""No. I assure you Rose is to be trusted; she is wise--wiser than Iam.""You are neither of you wise. You neither of you know anything. Mypoor young mistress, you are but a child still. You have a deepwater to wade through," said Jacintha, so solemnly that Josephinetrembled. "A deep water, and do not see it even. You have told mewhat is past, now I must tell you what is coming. Heaven help me!But is it possible you have no misgiving? Tell the truth, now.""Alas! I am full of them; at your words, at your manner, they flyaround me in crowds.""Have you no ONE?""No.""Then turn your head from me a bit, my sweet young lady; I am anhonest woman, though I am not so innocent as you, and I am forcedagainst my will to speak my mind plainer than I am used to."Then followed a conversation, to detail which might anticipate ourstory; suffice it to say, that Rose, coming into the room rathersuddenly, found her sister weeping on Jacintha's bosom, and Jacinthacrying and sobbing over her.
She stood and stared in utter amazement.Dr. Aubertin, on his arrival, was agreeably surprised at MadameRaynal's appearance. He inquired after her appetite.
"Oh, as to her appetite," cried the baroness, "that is immense.""Indeed!""It was," explained Josephine, "just when I began to get better, butnow it is as much as usual." This answer had been arrangedbeforehand by Jacintha. She added, "The fact is, we wanted to seeyou, doctor, and my ridiculous ailments were a good excuse fortearing you from Paris."--"And now we have succeeded," said Rose,"let us throw off the mask, and talk of other things; above all, ofParis, and your eclat.""For all that," persisted the baroness, "she was ill, when I firstwrote, and very ill too.""Madame Raynal," said the doctor solemnly, "your conduct has beenirregular; once ill, and your illness announced to your medicaladviser, etiquette forbade you to get well but by his prescriptions.Since, then, you have shown yourself unfit to conduct a malady, itbecomes my painful duty to forbid you henceforth ever to be ill atall, without my permission first obtained in writing."This badinage was greatly relished by Rose, but not at all by thebaroness, who was as humorless as a swan.He stayed a month at Beaurepaire, then off to Paris again: and beingnow a rich man, and not too old to enjoy innocent pleasures, he gota habit of running backwards and forwards between the two places,spending a month or so at each alternately. So the days rolled on.Josephine fell into a state that almost defies description; herheart was full of deadly wounds, yet it seemed, by some mysterious,half-healing balm, to throb and ache, but bleed no more. Beams ofstrange, unreasonable complacency would shoot across her; the nextmoment reflection would come, she would droop her head, and sighpiteously. Then all would merge in a wild terror of detection. Sheseemed on the borders of a river of bliss, new, divine, andinexhaustible: and on the other bank mocking malignant fiends daredher to enter that heavenly stream. The past to her was full ofregrets; the future full of terrors, and empty of hope. Yet she didnot, could not succumb. Instead of the listlessness and languor ofa few months back, she had now more energy than ever; at times itmounted to irritation. An activity possessed her: it broke out inmany feminine ways. Among the rest she was seized with what we mencall a cacoethes of the needle: "a raging desire" for work. Herfingers itched for work. She was at it all day. As devotees retireto pray, so she to stitch. On a wet day she would often slip intothe kitchen, and ply the needle beside Jacintha: on a dry day shewould hide in the old oak-tree, and sit like a mouse, and ply thetools of her craft, and make things of no mortal use to man orwoman; and she tried little fringes of muslin upon her white hand,and held it up in front of her, and smiled, and then moaned. It waswinter, and Rose used sometimes to bring her out a thick shawl, asshe sat in the old oak-tree stitching, but Josephine nearly alwaysdeclined it. SHE WAS NEARLY IMPERVIOUS TO COLD.Then, her purse being better filled than formerly, she visited thepoor more than ever, and above all the young couples; and took awarm interest in their household matters, and gave them muslinarticles of her own making, and sometimes sniffed the soup in ayoung housewife's pot, and took a fancy to it, and, if invited totaste it, paid her the compliment of eating a good plateful of it,and said it was much better soup than the chateau produced, and,what is stranger, thought so: and, whenever some peevish little bratset up a yell in its cradle and the father naturally enough shookhis fist at the destroyer of his peace, Madame Raynal's lovely facefilled with concern not for the sufferer but the pest, and she flewto it and rocked it and coaxed it and consoled it, till the younghousewife smiled and stopped its mouth by other means. And, besidesthe five-franc pieces she gave the infants to hold, these visits ofMadame Raynal were always followed by one from Jacintha with abasket of provisions on her stalwart arm, and honest Sir JohnBurgoyne peeping out at the corner. Kind and beneficent as she was,her temper deteriorated considerably, for it came down from angelicto human. Rose and Jacintha were struck with the change, assentedto everything she said, and encouraged her in everything it pleasedher caprice to do. Meantime the baroness lived on her son Raynal'sletters (they came regularly twice a month). Rose too had acorrespondence, a constant source of delight to her. EdouardRiviere was posted at a distance, and could not visit her; but theirlove advanced rapidly. Every day he wrote down for his Rose theacts of the day, and twice a week sent the budget to his sweetheart,and told her at the same time every feeling of his heart. She wasless fortunate than he; she had to carry a heavy secret; but stillshe found plenty to tell him, and tender feelings too to vent on himin her own arch, shy, fitful way. Letters can enchain hearts; itwas by letters that these two found themselves imperceptiblybetrothed. Their union was looked forward to as certain, and notvery distant. Rose was fairly in love.One day, Dr. Aubertin, coming back from Paris to Beaurepaire rathersuddenly, found nobody at home but the baroness. Josephine and Rosewere gone to Frejus; had been there more than a week. She wasailing again; so as Frejus had agreed with her once, Rose thought itmight again. "She would send for them back directly.""No," said the doctor, "why do that? I will go over there and seethem." Accordingly, a day or two after this, he hired a carriage,and went off early in the morning to Frejus. In so small a place heexpected to find the young ladies at once; but, to his surprise, noone knew them nor had heard of them. He was at a nonplus, and justabout to return home and laugh at himself and the baroness for thiswild-goose chase, when he fell in with a face he knew, one Mivart, asurgeon, a young man of some talent, who had made his acquaintancein Paris. Mivart accosted him with great respect; and, after thefirst compliments, informed him that he had been settled some monthsin this little town, and was doing a fair stroke of business.
"Killing some, and letting nature cure others, eh?" said the doctor;then, having had his joke, he told Mivart what had brought him toFrejus."Are they pretty women, your friends? I think I know all the prettywomen about," said Mivart with levity. "They are not pretty,"replied Aubertin. Mivart's interest in them faded visibly out ofhis countenance. "But they are beautiful. The elder might pass forVenus, and the younger for Hebe.""I know them then!" cried he; "they are patients of mine."The doctor colored. "Ah, indeed!""In the absence of your greater skill," said Mivart, politely; "itis Madame Aubertin and her sister you are looking for, is it not?"Aubertin groaned. "I am rather too old to be looking for a MadameAubertin," said he; "no; it is Madame Raynal, and Mademoiselle deBeaurepaire."Mivart became confidential. "Madame Aubertin and her sister," saidhe, "are so lovely they make me ill to look at them: the deepestblue eyes you ever saw, both of them; high foreheads; teeth likeivory mixed with pearl; such aristocratic feet and hands; and theirarms--oh!" and by way of general summary the young surgeon kissedthe tips of his fingers, and was silent; language succumbed underthe theme. The doctor smiled coldly.
Mivart added, "If you had come an hour sooner, you might have seenMademoiselle Rose; she was in the town.""Mademoiselle Rose? who is that?""Why, Madame Aubertin's sister."At this Dr. Aubertin looked first very puzzled, then very grave."Hum!" said he, after a little reflection, "where do these paragonslive?""They lodge at a small farm; it belongs to a widow; her name isRoth." They parted. Dr. Aubertin walked slowly towards hiscarriage, his hands behind him, his eyes on the ground. He bade thedriver inquire where the Widow Roth lived, and learned it was abouthalf a league out of the town. He drove to the farmhouse; when thecarriage drove up, a young lady looked out of the window on thefirst floor. It was Rose de Beaurepaire. She caught the doctor'seye, and he hers. She came down and welcomed him with a greatappearance of cordiality, and asked him, with a smile, how he foundthem out.
"From your medical attendant," said the doctor, dryly.Rose looked keenly in his face.
"He said he was in attendance on two paragons of beauty, blue eyes,white teeth and arms.""And you found us out by that?" inquired Rose, looking still morekeenly at him."Hardly; but it was my last chance of finding you, so I came. Whereis Madame Raynal?""Come into this room, dear friend. I will go and find her."Full twenty minutes was the doctor kept waiting, and then in cameRose, gayly crying, "I have hunted her high and low, and where doyou think my lady was? sitting out in the garden--come."Sure enough, they found Josephine in the garden, seated on a lowchair. She smiled when the doctor came up to her, and asked afterher mother. There was an air of languor about her; her color wasclear, delicate, and beautiful."You have been unwell, my child.""A little, dear friend; you know me; always ailing, and tormentingthose I love.""Well! but, Josephine, you know this place and this sweet air alwaysset you up. Look at her now, doctor; did you ever see her lookbetter? See what a color. I never saw her look more lovely.""I never saw her look SO lovely; but I have seen her look better.Your pulse. A little languid?""Yes, I am a little.""Do you stay at Beaurepaire?" inquired Rose; "if so, we will comehome.""On the contrary, you will stay here another fortnight," said thedoctor, authoritatively.
"Prescribe some of your nice tonics for me, doctor," said Josephine,coaxingly."No! I can't do that; you are in the hands of another practitioner.""What does that matter? You were at Paris.""It is not the etiquette in our profession to interfere with anotherman's patients.""Oh, dear! I am so sorry," began Josephine.
"I see nothing here that my good friend Mivart is not competent todeal with," said the doctor, coldly.Then followed some general conversation, at the end of which thedoctor once more laid his commands on them to stay another fortnightwhere they were, and bade them good-by.
He was no sooner gone than Rose went to the door of the kitchen, andcalled out, "Madame Jouvenel! Madame Jouvenel! you may come intothe garden again."The doctor drove away; but, instead of going straight to Beaurepaire,he ordered the driver to return to the town. He then walked toMivart's house.In about a quarter of an hour he came out of it, looking singularlygrave, sad, and stern.
Chapter 17Edouard Riviere contrived one Saturday to work off all arrears ofbusiness, and start for Beaurepaire. He had received a very kindletter from Rose, and his longing to see her overpowered him. Onthe road his eyes often glittered, and his cheek flushed withexpectation. At last he got there. His heart beat: for four monthshe had not seen her. He ran up into the drawing-room, and therefound the baroness alone; she welcomed him cordially, but soon lethim know Rose and her sister were at Frejus. His heart sank.Frejus was a long way off. But this was not all. Rose's lastletter was dated from Beaurepaire, yet it must have been written atFrejus. He went to Jacintha, and demanded an explanation of this.The ready Jacintha said it looked as if she meant to be homedirectly; and added, with cool cunning, "That is a hint for me toget their rooms ready.""This letter must have come here enclosed in another," said Edouard,sternly.
"Like enough," replied Jacintha, with an appearance of sovereignindifference.Edouard looked at her, and said, grimly, "I will go to Frejus.""So I would," said Jacintha, faltering a little, but notperceptibly; "you might meet them on the road, if so be they comethe same road; there are two roads, you know."Edouard hesitated; but he ended by sending Dard to the town on hisown horse, with orders to leave him at the inn, and borrow a freshhorse. "I shall just have time," said he. He rode to Frejus, andinquired at the inns and post-office for Mademoiselle deBeaurepaire. They did not know her; then he inquired for MadameRaynal. No such name known. He rode by the seaside upon the chanceof their seeing him. He paraded on horseback throughout the place,in hopes every moment that a window would open, and a fair faceshine at it, and call him. At last his time was up, and he wasobliged to ride back, sick at heart, to Beaurepaire. He told thebaroness, with some natural irritation, what had happened. She wasas much surprised as he was.
"I write to Madame Raynal at the post-office, Frejus," said she."And Madame Raynal gets your letters?""Of course she does, since she answers them; you cannot haveinquired at the post.""Why, it was the first place I inquired at, and neither Mademoisellede Beaurepaire nor Madame Raynal were known there."Jacintha, who could have given the clew, seemed so puzzled herself,that they did not even apply to her. Edouard took a sorrowful leaveof the baroness, and set out on his journey home.
Oh! how sad and weary that ride seemed now by what it had beencoming. His disappointment was deep and irritating; and ere he hadridden half way a torturer fastened on his heart. That torture issuspicion; a vague and shadowy, but gigantic phantom that oppressesand rends the mind more terribly than certainty. In this state ofvague, sickening suspicion, he remained some days: then came anaffectionate letter from Rose, who had actually returned home. Inthis she expressed her regret and disappointment at having missedhim; blamed herself for misleading him, but explained that theirstay at Frejus had been prolonged from day to day far beyond herexpectation. "The stupidity of the post-office was more than shecould account for," said she. But, what went farthest to consoleEdouard, was, that after this contretemps she never ceased to invitehim to come to Beaurepaire. Now, before this, though she said manykind and pretty things in her letters, she had never invited him tovisit the chateau; he had noticed this. "Sweet soul," thought he,"she really is vexed. I must be a brute to think any more about it.Still"--So this wound was skinned over.