Then Rose, seeing her terror, was almost glad at the suicidalfalsehood she had told. She comforted and encouraged Josephine and--deceived her. (This was the climax.)"All is well, my poor coward," she cried; "your fears are allimaginary; another has owned the child, and the story is believed.""Another! impossible! He would not believe it.""He does believe it--he shall believe it."Rose then, feeling by no means ethereum hard fork ledger nano ssure that Josephine, terrified as shewas, would consent to let her sister come to shame to screen her,told her boldly that Jacintha had owned herself the mother of thechild, and that Raynal's only feeling towards HER was pity, andregret at having so foolishly frightened her, weakened as she was byillness. "I told him you had been ill, dear. But how came you onthe ground?""I had come to myself; I was on my knees praying. He tapped. Iheard his voice. I remember no more. I must have fainted againdirectly."Rose had hard work to make her believe that her guilt, as she calledit, was not known; and even then she could not prevail on her tocome down-stairs, until she said, "If you don't, he will come toyou." On that Josephine consented eagerly, and with tremblingfingers began to adjust her hair and her dress for the interview.
Edouard Riviere retarded his cure by an impatient spirit: but he gotwell abitcoin news pricet last, and his uncle drove him in the cabriolet to his ownquarters. The news of the house had been told him by letter, but,of course, in so vague and general a way that, thinking he knew all,in reality he knew nothing.Josephine had married Raynal. The marriage was sudden, but no doubtthere was an attachment: he had some reason to believe in suddenattachments. Colonel Dujardin, an old acquaintance, had come backto France wounded, and the good doctor had undertaken his cure: thisincident appeared neither strange nor any way important. Whataffected him most deeply was the death of Raynal, his personalfriend and patron. But when his tyrants, as he called the surgeonand his uncle, gave him leave to go home, all feelings wereoverpowered by his great joy at the prospect of seeing Rose. Hewalked over to Beaurepaire, his arm in a sling, his heart beating.
He was coming to receive the reward of all he had done, and all hehad attempted. "I will surprise them," thought he. "I will see herface when I come in at the door: oh, happy hour! this pays for all."He entered the house without announcing himself; he went softly upto the saloon; to his great disappointment he found no one but thebaroness: she received him kindly, but not with the warmth heexpected. She was absorbed in her new grief. He asked timidlyafter her daughters. "Madame Raynal bears up, for the sake ofothers. You will not, however, see her: she keeps her room. Mydaughter Rose is taking a walk, I believe." After some politeinquiries, and sympathy with his accident, the baroness retired toindulge her grief, and Edouard thus liberated ran in search of hisbeloved.He met her at the gate of the Pleasaunce, but not alone. She waswalking with an officer, a handsome, commanding, haughty, brilliantofficer. She was walking by his side, talking earnestly to him.An arrow of ice shot through young Riviere; and then came a feelingof death at his heart, a new symptom in his young life.The next moment Rose caught sight of him. She flushed all over anduttered a little exclamation, and she bounded towards him like alittle antelope, and put out both her hands at once. He could onlygive her one."Ah!" she cried with an accent of heavenly pity, and took his handwith both hers.
This was like the meridian sun coming suddenly on a cold place. Hewas all happiness.When Josephine heard he was come her eye flashed, and she saidquickly, "I will come down to welcome him--dear Edouard!"The sisters looked at one another. Josephine blushed. Rose smiledand kissed her. She colored higher still, and said, "No, she wasashamed to go down.""Why?""Look at my face.""I see nothing wrong with it, except that it eclipses otherpeople's, and I have long forgiven you that.""Oh, yes, dear Rose: look what a color it has, and a fortnight agoit was pale as ashes.""Never mind; do you expect me to regret that?""Rose, I am a very bad woman.""Are you, dear? then hook this for me.""Yes, love. But I sometimes think you would forgive me if you knewhow hard I pray to be better. Rose, I do try so to be as unhappy asI ought; but I can't, I can't. My cold heart seems as dead tounhappiness as once it was to happiness. Am I a heartless womanafter all?""Not altogether," said Rose dryly. "Fasten my collar, dear, anddon't torment yourself. You have suffered much and nobly. It wasHeaven's will: you bowed to it. It was not Heaven's will that youshould be blighted altogether. Bow in this, too, to Heaven's will:"Oh, I know!" he interrupted. "Make out your list. You shall say what we want. Isn't there something you want for yourself?"
"No, not for myself, but I do want something that perhaps you would enjoy, too. You may think it a waste of money, though.""Well, you've a right to waste some in your way as well as I have over my pipe.""That's good. I hadn't thought of that. You are the one that puts notions into my head. I would like three or four geraniums and a few flower seeds."He looked as if he was thinking deeply and she felt a little hurt that he should not comply at once with her request, knowing that the outlay suggested was very slight.
At last he looked up, smiling as he said, "So I put notions into your head, do I?""Oh, well," she replied, flushing in the consciousness of her thoughts, "if you think it's foolish to spend money for such things--"
"Tush, tush, Alida! Of course I'll get what you wish. But I really am going to put a notion into your head, and it's stupid and scarcely fair in me that I hadn't thought of some such plan before. You want to take care of the chickens. Well, I put them wholly in your care and you shall have all you can make off them--eggs, young chickens, and everything.""That IS a new notion," she replied, laughing. "I hadn't thought of such a thing and it's more than fair. What would I do with so much money?""What you please. Buy yourself silk dresses if you want to.""But I couldn't use a quarter of the money."
"No matter, use what you like and I'll put the rest in the bank for you and in your name. I was a nice kind of a business partner, wasn't I? Expecting you to do nearly half the work and then have you say, 'Will you please get me a few plants and seeds?' and then, 'Oh! If you think it's foolish to spend money for such things.' Why, you have as good a right to spend some of the money you help earn as I have. You've shown you'll be sensible in spending it. I don't believe you'll use enough of it. Anyway, it will be yours, as it ought to be.""Very well," she replied, nodding at him with piquant significance, "I'll always have some to lend you.""Yes, shouldn't wonder if you were the richest some day. Everything you touch seems to turn out well. I shall be wholly dependent on you hereafter for eggs and an occasional fricassee.""You shall have your share. Yes, I like this notion. It grows on me. I'd like to earn some money to do what I please with. You'll be surprised to see what strange and extravagant tastes I'll develop!"
"I expect to be perfectly dumfoundered, as Mrs. Mumpson used to say. Since you are so willing to lend, I'll lend you enough to get all you want tomorrow. Make out your list. You can get a good start tomorrow for I was too tired and it was too late for me to gather the eggs tonight. I know, too, that a good many of the hens have stolen their nests of late, and I've been too busy to look for 'em. You may find perfect mines of eggs, but, for mercy's sake! don't climb around in dangerous places. I had such bad luck with chicks last year that I've only set a few hens. You can set few or many now, just as you please."Even as he talked and leisurely finished his supper, his eyes grew heavy with sleep. "What time will you start tomorrow?" she asked.
"Oh, no matter; long before you are up or ought to be. I'll get myself a cup of coffee. I expect to do my morning work and be back by nine or ten o'clock for I wish to get in some potatoes and other vegetables before Sunday.""Very well, I'll make out my list and lay it on the table here. Now, why don't you go and sleep at once? You ought, with such an early start in prospect."
"Ought I? Well, I never felt more 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?""No, indeed, I like to be alone."
"I thought I did. Most everyone has seemed a crowd to me. I'm glad you've never given me that feeling. Well, goodbye till you see me driving up with the geraniums."Chapter 25 A Charivari
The eastern horizon was aglow with rosy tints the following morning when Holcroft awoke; the stars were but just fading from the sky and the birds were still silent. He knew by these signs that it was very early and that he could carry out his plan of a timely start to town. Dressing very quietly, he stole downstairs, shoes in hand, lest his tread should awaken Alida. The kitchen door leading into the hall was closed. Lifting the latch carefully, he found the lamp burning, the breakfast table set, and the kettle humming over a good fire. "This is her work, but where is she?" he queried in much surprise.The outer door was ajar; he noiselessly crossed the room, and looking out, he saw her. She had been to the well for a pail of water, but had set it down and was watching the swiftly brightening east. She was so still and her face so white in the faint radiance that he had an odd, uncanny impression. No woman that he had ever known would stop that way to look at the dawn. He could see nothing so peculiar in it as to attract such fixed attention. "Alida," he asked, "what do you see?"She started slightly and turned to take up the pail; but he had already sprung down the steps and relieved her of the burden."Could anything be more lovely than those changing tints? It seems to me I could have stood there an hour," she said quietly.
"You are not walking or doing all this in your sleep, are you?" he asked, laughing, yet regarding her curiously. "You looked as you stood there like what people call a--what's that big word?""I'm not a somnambulist and never was, to my knowledge. You'll find I'm wide enough awake to have a good breakfast soon."
"But I didn't expect you to get up so early. I didn't wish it.""It's too late now," she said pleasantly, "so I hope you won't find fault with me for doing what I wanted to do."
"Did you mean to be up and have breakfast when I told you last night?""Yes. Of course I didn't let you know for you would have said I mustn't, and then I couldn't. It isn't good for people to get up so early and do as much as you had on your mind without eating. Now you won't be any the worse for it."
"I certainly ought to be the better for so much kindly consideration; but it will cure me of such unearthly hours if you feel that you must conform to them. You look pale this morning, Alida; you're not strong enough to do such things, and there's no need of it when I'm so used to waiting on myself.""I shall have to remind you," she replied with a bright look at him over her shoulder, "that you said I could do things my own way.""Well, it seems odd after a year when everyone who came here appeared to grudge doing a thing for a man's comfort.""I should hope I was different from them."
"Well, you are. I thought you were different from anyone I ever knew as I saw you there looking at the east. You seem wonderfully fond of pretty things.""I'll own to that. But if you don't hurry you won't do as much as you hoped by getting up early."
The morning was very mild, and she left the outer door open as she went quickly to and fro with elasticity of spirit as well as step. It was pleasant to have her efforts appreciated and almost as grateful to hear the swelling harmony of song from the awakening birds. The slight cloud that had fallen on her thoughts the evening before had lifted. She felt that she understood Holcroft better, and saw that his feeling was only that of honest friendliness and satisfaction. She had merely to recognize and respond to so much only and all would be well. Meantime, she desired nothing more, and he should be thoroughly convinced of this fact. She grew positively light-hearted over the fuller assurance of the truth that although a wife, she was not expected to love--only to be faithful to all his interests. This, and this only, she believed to be within her power.Holcroft departed in the serenity characteristic of one's mood when the present is so agreeable that neither memories of the past nor misgivings as to the future are obtrusive. He met Watterly in town, and remarked, "This is another piece of good luck. I hadn't time to go out to your place, although I meant to take time."
"A piece of good luck indeed!" Tom mentally echoed, for he would have been greatly embarrassed if Holcroft had called. Mrs. Watterly felt that she had been scandalized by the marriage which had taken place in her absence, and was all the more resentful for the reason that she had spoken to a cousin of uncertain age and still more uncertain temper in behalf of the farmer. In Mrs. Watterly's estimate of action, it was either right, that is, in accordance with her views, or else it was intolerably wrong and without excuse. Poor Tom had been made to feel that he had not only committed an almost unpardonable sin against his wife and her cousin, but also against all the proprieties of life. "The idea of such a wedding taking place in my rooms and with my husband's sanction!" she had said with concentrated bitterness. Then had followed what he was accustomed to characterize as a spell of "zero weather." He discreetly said nothing. "It didn't seem such a bad idea to me," he thought, "but then I suppose women folks know best about such things."He was too frank in his nature to conceal from Holcroft his misgivings or his wife's scornful and indignant disapproval. "Sorry Angy feels so bad about it, Jim," he said ruefully, "but she says I mustn't buy anything more of you."