A pen was put into her white bitcoin live news todayhand, and in another moment she hadsigned a marriage contract.
But Josephine begged to be excused, feared it would be hardlydecan i buy bitcoin from blockchain in indialicate; and said languidly that for her part she felt they were ingood hands, and prescribed patience. The baroness acquiesced, andpoor Rose and her curiosity were baffled on every side.At last, one fine day, her torments were relieved without anyfurther exertion on her part. Jacintha bounced into the drawing-room with a notice that the commandant wanted to speak to Josephinea minute out in the Pleasaunce.
"How droll he is," said Rose; "fancy sending in for a young ladylike that. Don't go, Josephine; how, he would stare.""My dear, I no more dare disobey him than if I was one of hissoldiers." And she laid down her work, and rose quietly to do whatshe was bid."Well," said Rose, superciliously, "go to your commanding officer.And, O Josephine, if you are worth anything at all, do get out ofhim what that Edouard has settled."Josephine kissed her, and promised to try. After the firstsalutation, there was a certain hesitation about Raynal whichJosephine had never seen a trace of in him before; so, to put him athis ease, and at the same time keep her promise to Rose, she askedtimidly if their mutual friend had been able to suggest anything."What! don't you know that I have been acting all along upon hisinstructions?" answered Raynal."No, indeed! and you have not told us what he advised.""Told you? why, of course not; they were secret instructions. Ihave obeyed one set, and now I come to the other; and there is thedifficulty, being a kind of warfare I know nothing about.""It must be savage warfare, then," suggested the lady politely.
"Not a bit of it. Now, who would have thought I was such a coward?"Josephine was mystified; however, she made a shrewd guess. "Do youfear a repulse from any one of us? Then, I suppose, you meditatesome extravagant act of generosity.""Not I.""Of delicacy, then.""Just the reverse. Confound the young dog! why is he not here tohelp me?""But, after all," suggested Josephine, "you have only to carry outhis instructions.""That is true! that is true! but when a fellow is a coward, apoltroon, and all that sort of thing."This repeated assertion of cowardice on the part of the livingDamascus blade that stood bolt-upright before her, struck Josephineas so funny that she laughed merrily, and bade him fancy it was onlya fort he was attacking instead of the terrible Josephine; whom nonebut heroes feared, she assured him.This encouragement, uttered in jest, was taken in earnest. Thesoldier thanked her, and rallied visibly at the comparison. "Allright," said he, "as you say, it is only a fort--so--mademoiselle!""Monsieur!""Hum! will you lend me your hand for a moment?""My hand! what for? there," and she put it out an inch a minute. Hetook it, and inspected it closely."Stand back!" she cried sternly. "You've no right, and never can have."
"Oh, yes, I have!" he replied in a wheedling tone. "Come, come! Your nerves are shaken. Sit down, for I've much to tell you.""No, I won't sit down, and I tell you to leave me instantly. You've no right here and I no right to listen to you.""I can soon prove that you have a better right to listen to me than to anyone else. Were we not married by a minister?""Yes, but that made no difference. You deceived both him and me."
"It made no difference, perhaps, in the eye of the law, while that woman you saw was living, but she's dead, as I can easily prove. How were you married to this man Holcroft?"Alida grew dizzy; everything whirled and grew black before her eyes as she sank into a chair. He came to her and took her hand, but his touch was a most effectual restorative. She threw his hand away and said hoarsely, "Do you--do you mean that you have any claim on me?"
"Who has a better claim?" he asked cunningly. "I loved you when I married you and I love you now. Do you think I rested a moment after I was free from the woman I detested? No, indeed; nor did I rest till I found out who took you from the almshouse to be his household drudge, not wife. I've seen the justice who aided in the wedding farce, and learned how this man Holcroft made him cut down even the ceremony of a civil marriage to one sentence. It was positively heathenish, and he only took you because he couldn't get a decent servant to live with him.""O God!" murmured the stricken woman. "Can such a horrible thing be?""So it seems," he resumed, misinterpreting her. "Come now!" he said confidently, and sitting down, "Don't look so broken up about it. Even while that woman was living I felt that I was married to you and you only; now that I'm free--""But I'm not free and don't wish to be."
"Don't be foolish, Alida. You know this farmer don't care a rap for you. Own up now, does he?"The answer was a low, half-despairing cry."There, I knew it was so. What else could you expect? Don't you see I'm your true refuge and not this hard-hearted, money-grasping farmer?""Stop speaking against him!" she cried. "O God!" she wailed, "can the law give this man any claim on me, now his wife is dead?"
"Yes, and one I mean to enforce," he replied doggedly."I don't believe she's dead, I don't believe anything you say! You deceived me once.
"I'm not deceiving you now, Alida," he said with much solemnity. "She IS dead. If you were calmer, I have proofs to convince you in these papers. Here's the newspaper, too, containing the notice of her death," and he handed it to her.She read it with her frightened eyes, and then the paper dropped from her half-paralyzed hands to the floor. She was so unsophisticated, and her brain was in such a whirl of confusion and terror, that she was led to believe at the moment that he had a legal claim upon her which he could enforce.
"Oh, that Mr. Holcroft were here!" she cried desperately. "He wouldn't deceive me; he never deceived me.""It is well for him that he isn't here," said Ferguson, assuming a dark look."What do you mean?" she gasped."Come, come, Alida!" he said, smiling reassuringly. "You are frightened and nervous, and I don't wish to make you any more so. You know how I would naturally regard the man who I feel has my wife; but let us forget about him. Listen to my plan. All I ask of you is to go with me to some distant place where neither of us are known, and--""Never!" she interrupted."Don't say that," he replied coolly. "Do you think I'm a man to be trifled with after what I've been through?"
"You can't compel me to go against my will," and there was an accent of terror in her words which made them a question.He saw his vantage more clearly and said quietly, "I don't want to compel you if it can be helped. You know how true I was to you--"
"No, no! You deceived me. I won't believe you now.""You may have to. At any rate, you know how fond I was of you, and I tell you plainly, I won't give you up now. This man doesn't love you, nor do you love him--"
"I DO love him, I'd die for him! There now, you know the truth. You wouldn't compel a woman to follow you who shrinks from you in horror, even if you had the right. Although the ceremony was brief it WAS a ceremony; and he was not married then, as you were when you deceived me. He has ever been truth itself, and I won't believe you have any rights till he tells me so himself.""So you shrink from me with horror, do you?" asked Ferguson, rising, his face growing black with passion.
"Yes, I do. Now leave me and let me never see you again.""And you are going to ask this stupid old farmer about my rights?""Yes. I'll take proof of them from no other, and even if he confirmed your words I'd never live with you again. I would live alone till I died!""That's all very foolish high tragedy, but if you're not careful there may be some real tragedy. If you care for this Holcroft, as you say, you had better go quietly away with me."
"What do you mean?" she faltered tremblingly."I mean I'm a desperate man whom the world has wronged too much already. You know the old saying, 'Beware of the quiet man!' You know how quiet, contented, and happy I was with you, and so I would be again to the end of my days. You are the only one who can save me from becoming a criminal, a vagabond, for with you only have I known happiness. Why should I live or care to live? If this farmer clod keeps you from me, woe betide him! My one object in living will be his destruction. I shall hate him only as a man robbed as I am can hate."
"What would you do?" she could only ask in a horrified whisper."I can only tell you that he'd never be safe a moment. I'm not afraid of him. You see I'm armed," and he showed her a revolver. "He can't quietly keep from me what I feel is my own."
"Merciful Heaven! This is terrible," she gasped."Of course it's terrible--I mean it to be so. You can't order me off as if I were a tramp. Your best course for his safety is to go quietly with me at once. I have a carriage waiting near at hand."
"No, no! I'd rather die than do that, and though he cannot feel as I do, I believe he'd rather die than have me do it.""Oh, well! If you think he's so ready to die--""No, I don't mean that! Kill me! I want to die.""Why should I kill you?" he asked with a contemptuous laugh. "That wouldn't do me a particle of good. It will be your own fault if anyone is hurt."
"Was ever a woman put in such a cruel position?""Oh, yes! Many and many a time. As a rule, though, they are too sensible and kind-hearted to make so much trouble."
"If you have legal rights, why don't you quietly enforce them instead of threatening?"For a moment he was confused and then said recklessly, "It would come to the same thing in the end. Holcroft would never give you up."
"He'd have to. I wouldn't stay here a moment if I had no right.""But you said you would not live with me again?"