"Then it wouldethereum account based be too late to interfere?"
Then Raynal concluded she was in the plot; but, scorning to reproacha servant, he merely said, "Well, what do you kneel there for,gaping at me like that? Take this, I tell you, and carry it out ofthe house."He shoved the cradle roughly down into her hands, then turned on hisheel without a word.btt price prediction forecastJacintha collapsed on the stairs, and the cradle beside her, for allthe power was driven out of her body; she could hardly support herown weight, much less the cradle.
She rocked herself, and moaned out, "Oh, what's this? oh, what'sthis?"A cold perspiration came over her whole frame."What could this mean? What on earth had happened?"She took up the candle, for it was lying burning and guttering onthe stairs; scraped up the grease with the snuffers, and by force ofhabit tried to polish it clean with a bit of paper that shookbetween her fingers; she did not know what she was doing. When sherecovered her wits, she took the child out of the cradle, andwrapped it carefully in her shawl; then went slowly down the stairs;and holding him close to her bosom, with a furtive eye, and brainconfused, and a heart like lead, stole away to the tenantlesscottage, where Madame Jouvenel awaited her.Meantime, Rose, with quaking heart, had encountered the baroness.She found her pale and agitated, and her first question was, "Whatis the matter? what have you been all doing over my head?""Darling mother," replied Rose, evasively, "something has happenedthat will rejoice your heart. Somebody has come home.""My son? eh, no! impossible! We cannot be so happy.""He will be with you directly."The old lady now trembled with joyful agitation."In five minutes I will bring him to you. Shall you be dressed? Iwill ring for the girl to help you.""But, Rose, the scream, and that terrible fall. Ah! where isJosephine?""Can't you guess, mamma? Oh, the fall was only the screen; theystumbled over it in the dark.""They! who?""Colonel Raynal, and--and Edouard. I will tell you, mamma, butdon't be angry, or even mention it; they wanted to surprise us.
They saw a light burning, and they crept on tiptoe up to thetapestried room, where Josephine and I were, and they did give us agreat fright.""What madness!" cried the baroness, angrily; "and in Josephine'sweak state! Such a surprise might have driven her into a fit.""Yes, it was foolish, but let it pass, mamma. Don't speak of it,for he is so sorry about it."Then Rose slipped out, ordered a fire in the salon, and not in thetapestried room, and the next minute was at her sister's door.There she found Raynal knocking, and asking Josephine how she was."Time! you speak as if time was a quality: time is only a measure ofevents, favorable or unfavorable; it kills as many as it cures.""Why, you surely would not imply his life is in any danger?" Thiswas the baroness.
"Madame, if the case was not grave, should I take this unusual step?I tell you if some change does not take place soon, he will be adead man in another fortnight. That is all TIME will do for him."The baroness uttered an exclamation of pity and distress. Josephineput her hand to her bosom, and a creeping horror came over her, andthen a faintness. She sat working mechanically, and turning likeice within. After a few minutes of this, she rose with everyappearance of external composure and left the room. In the passageshe met Rose coming hastily towards the salon laughing: the firsttime she had laughed this many a day. Oh, what a contrast betweenthe two faces that met there--the one pale and horror stricken, theother rosy and laughing!"Well, dear, at last I am paid for all my trouble, and yours, by adiscovery; he never drinks a drop of his medicine; he pours it intothe ashes under the grate; I caught him in the fact.""Then this is too much: I can resist no longer. Come with me," saidJosephine doggedly."Where?""To him."
Chapter 12Josephine paused on the landing, and laid her hand on Rose'sshoulder. It was so cold it made Rose shudder, and exacted apromise from her not to contradict a word she should say to Camille.
"I do not go to him for my pleasure, but for his life," she said; "Imust deceive him and save him; and then let me lie down and die.""Oh, that the wretch had never been born!" cried Rose, in despair.But she gave the required promise, and offered to go and tellCamille Josephine was coming to visit him.But Josephine declined this. "No," said she; "give me everyadvantage; I must think beforehand every word I shall say; but takehim by surprise, coward and doubleface that I am."Rose knocked at the door. A faint voice said, "Come in." Thesisters entered the room very softly. Camille sat on the sofa, hishead bowed over his hands. A glance showed Josephine that he wasdoggedly and resolutely thrusting himself into the grave. Thinkingit was only Rose--for he had now lost all hope of seeing Josephinecome in at the door--he never moved. Some one glided gently butrapidly up to him. He looked up. Josephine was kneeling to him.He lifted his head with a start, and trembled all over.
She whispered, "I am come to you to beg your pity; to appeal to yourgenerosity; to ask a favor; I who deserve so little of you.""You have waited a long time," said Camille, agitated greatly; "andso have I.""Camille, you are torturing one who loved you once, and who has beenvery weak and faithless, but not so wicked as she appears.""How am I torturing you?""With remorse; do I not suffer enough? Would you make me amurderess?""Why have you never been near me?" retorted Camille. "I couldforgive your weakness, but not your heartlessness.""It is my duty. I have no right to seek your society. If youreally want mine, you have only to get well, and so join us down-stairs a week or two before you leave us.""How am I to get well? My heart is broken.""Camille, be a man. Do not fling away a soldier's life because afickle, worthless woman could not wait for you. Forgive me like aman, or else revenge yourself like a man. If you cannot forgive me,kill me. See, I kneel at your feet. I will not resist you. Killme.""I wish I could. Oh! if I could kill you with a look and myselfwith a wish! No man should ever take you from me, then. We wouldbe together in the grave at this hour. Do not tempt me, I say;" andhe cast a terrible look of love, and hatred, and despair upon her.Her purple eye never winced; it poured back tenderness and affectionin return. He saw and turned away with a groan, and held out hishand to her. She seized it and kissed it. "You are great, you aregenerous; you will not strike me as a woman strikes; you will notdie to drive me to despair.""I see," said he, more gently, "love is gone, but pity remains. Ithought that was gone, too.""Yes, Camille," said Josephine, in a whisper, "pity remains, andremorse and terror at what I have done to a man of whom I was neverworthy.""Well, madame, as you have come at last to me, and even do me thehonor to ask me a favor--I shall try--if only out of courtesy--to--ah, Josephine! Josephine! when did I ever refuse you anything?"At this Josephine sank into a chair, and burst out crying. Camille,at this, began to cry too; and the two poor things sat a long wayfrom one another, and sobbed bitterly.The man, weakened as he was, recovered his quiet despair first."Don't cry so," said he. "But tell me what is your will, and Ishall obey you as I used before any one came between us.""Then, live, Camille. I implore you to live.""Well, Josephine, since you care about it, I will try and live. Whydid not you come before and ask me? I thought I was in your way. Ithought you wanted me dead."Josephine cast a look of wonder and anguish on Camille, but she saidnothing. She rang the bell, and, on Jacintha coming up, despatchedher to Dr. Aubertin for the patient's medicine.
"Tell the doctor," said she, "Colonel Dujardin has let fall theglass." While Jacintha was gone, she scolded Camille gently. "Howcould you be so unkind to the poor doctor who loves you so? Onlythink: to throw away his medicines! Look at the ashes; they arewet. Camille, are you, too, becoming disingenuous?"Jacintha came in with the tonic in a glass, and retired with anobeisance. Josephine took it to Camille."Drink with me, then," said he, "or I will not touch it." Josephinetook the glass. "I drink to your health, Camille, and to yourglory; laurels to your brow, and some faithful woman to your heart,who will make you forget this folly: it is for her I am saving you."She put the glass with well-acted spirit to her lips; but in thevery action a spasm seized her throat and almost choked her; shelowered her head that he might not see her face, and tried again;but the tears burst from her eyes and ran into the liquid, and herlips trembled over the brim, and were paralyzed.
"No, no! give it me!" he cried; "there is a tear of yours in it."He drank off the bitter remedy now as if it had been nectar.Josephine blushed.
"If you wanted me to live, why did you not come here before?""I did not think you would be so foolish, so wicked, so cruel as todo what you have been doing.""Come and shine upon me every day, and you shall have no fresh causeof complaint; things flourish in the sunshine that die in the dark:Rose, it is as if the sun had come into my prison; you are pale, butyou are beautiful as ever--more beautiful; what a sweet dress! soquiet, so modest, it sets off your beauty instead of vainly tryingto vie with it." With this he put out his hand and took her graysilk dress, and went to kiss it as a devotee kisses the altar steps.She snatched it away with a shudder."Yes, you are right," said she; "thank you for noticing my dress; itis a beautiful dress--ha! ha! A dress I take a pride in wearing,and always shall, I hope. I mean to be buried in it. Come, Rose.Thank you, Camille; you are very good, you have once more promisedme to live. Get well; come down-stairs; then you will see me everyday, you know--there is a temptation. Good-by, Camille!--are youcoming, Rose? What are you loitering for? God bless you, andcomfort you, and help you to forget what it is madness to remember!"With these wild words she literally fled; and in one moment the roomseemed to darken to Camille.Outside the door Josephine caught hold of Rose. "Have I committedmyself?""Over and over again. Do not look so terrified; I mean to me, butnot to him. How blind he is! and how much better you must know himthan I do to venture on such a transparent deceit. He believeswhatever you tell him. He is all ears and no eyes. Yes, love, Iwatched him keenly all the time. He really thinks it is pity andremorse, nothing more. My poor sister, you have a hard life tolead, a hard game to play; but so far you have succeeded; yet couldlook poor Raynal in the face if he came home to-day.""Then God be thanked!" cried Josephine. "I am as happy to-day as Ican ever hope to be. Now let us go through the farce of dressing--it is near dinner-time--and then the farce of talking, and, hardestof all, the farce of living."From that hour Camille began to get better very slowly, yetperceptibly.
The doctor, afraid of being mistaken, said nothing for some days,but at last he announced the good news at the dinner-table. "He isto come down-stairs in three days," added the doctor.But I am sorry to say that as Camille's body strengthened some ofthe worst passions in our nature attacked him. Fierce gusts of hateand love combined overpowered this man's high sentiments of honorand justice, and made him clench his teeth, and vow never to leaveBeaurepaire without Josephine. She had been his four years beforeshe ever saw this interloper, and she should be his forever. Herlove would soon revive when they should meet every day, and shewould end by eloping with him.
Then conscience pricked him, and reminded him how and why Raynal hadmarried her: for Rose had told him all. Should he undermine anabsent soldier, whose whole conduct in this had been so pure, sogenerous, so unselfish?But this was not all. As I have already hinted, he was under agreat personal obligation to his quondam comrade Raynal. Wheneverthis was vividly present to his mind, a great terror fell on him,and he would cry out in anguish, "Oh! that some angel would come tome and tear me by force from this place!" And the next momentpassion swept over him like a flood, and carried away all hisvirtuous resolves. His soul was in deep waters; great waves droveit to and fro. Perilous condition, which seldom ends well. Camillewas a man of honor. In no other earthly circumstance could he havehesitated an instant between right and wrong. But such natures,proof against all other temptations, have often fallen, and willfall, where sin takes the angel form of her they love. Yet, of allmen, they should pray for help to stand; for when they fall theystill retain one thing that divides them from mean sinners.
Remorse, the giant that rends the great hearts which mock at fear.The day came in which the doctor had promised his patient he shouldcome down-stairs. First his comfortable sofa was taken down intothe saloon for his use: then the patient himself came down leaningon the doctor's arm, and his heart palpitating at the thought of themeeting. He came into the room; the baroness was alone. Shegreeted him kindly, and welcomed him. Rose came in soon after anddid the same. But no Josephine. Camille felt sick at heart. Atlast dinner was announced; "She will surely join us at dinner,"thought he. He cast his eyes anxiously on the table; the napkinswere laid for four only. The baroness carelessly explained this tohim as they sat down. "Madame Raynal dines in her own room. I amsorry to say she is indisposed."Camille muttered polite regrets: the rage of disappointment droveits fangs into him, and then came the heart-sickness of hopedeferred. The next day he saw her, but could not get a word withher alone. The baroness tortured him another way. She was full ofRaynal. She loved him. She called him her son; was never weary ofdescanting on his virtues to Camille. Not a day passed that she didnot pester Camille to make a calculation as to the probable periodof his return, and he was obliged to answer her. She related to himbefore Josephine and Rose, how this honest soldier had come to themlike a guardian angel and saved the whole family. In vain hemuttered that Rose had told him.
"Let me have the pleasure of telling it you my way," cried she, andtold it diffusely, and kept him writhing.The next thing was, Josephine had received no letter from him thismonth; the first month he had missed. In vain did Rose representthat he was only a few days over his time. The baroness becameanxious, communicated her anxieties to Camille among the rest; and,by a torturing interrogatory, compelled him to explain to her beforeJosephine and them all, that ships do not always sail to a day, andare sometimes delayed. But oh! he winced at the man's name; andRose observed that he never mentioned it, nor acknowledged theexistence of such a person as Josephine's husband, except whenothers compelled him. Yet they were acquainted; and Rose sometimeswondered that he did not detract or sneer."I should," said she; "I feel I should.""He is too noble," said Josephine, "and too wise. For, if he did, Ishould respect him less, and my husband more than I do--ifpossible."Certainly Camille was not the sort of nature that detracts, but thereason he avoided Raynal's name was simply that his whole internalbattle was to forget such a man existed. From this dream he wasrudely awakened every hour since he joined the family, and the woundhis self-deceiving heart would fain have skinned over, was tornopen. But worse than this was the torture of being tantalized. Hewas in company with Josephine, but never alone. Even if she leftthe room for an instant, Rose accompanied her and returned with her.Camille at last began to comprehend that Josephine had decided thereshould be no private interviews between her and him. Thus, not onlythe shadow of the absent Raynal stood between them, but her motherand sister in person, and worst of all, her own will. He called hera cold-blooded fiend in his rage. Then the thought of all hertenderness and goodness came to rebuke him. But even in rebuking itmaddened him. "Yes, it is her very nature to love; but since shecan make her heart turn whichever way her honor bids, she will loveher husband; she does not now; but sooner or later she will. Thenshe will have children--(he writhed with anguish and fury at thisthought)--loving ties between him and her. He has everything on hisside. I, nothing but memories she will efface from her heart. Willefface? She must have effaced them, or she could not have marriedhim." I know no more pitiable state of mind than to love and hatethe same creature. But when the two feelings are both intense, andmeet in an ardent bosom, such a man would do well to spend a day ortwo upon his knees, praying for grace divine. For he who with allhis soul loves and hates one woman is next door to a maniac, and isscarcely safe an hour together from suicide or even from homicide;this truth the newspapers tell us, by examples, every month; but arewonderfully little heeded, because newspapers do not, nor is ittheir business to, analyze and dwell upon the internal feelings ofthe despairing lover, whose mad and bloody act they record. Withsuch a tempest in his heart did Camille one day wander into thepark. And soon an irresistible attraction drew him to the side ofthe stream that flowed along one side of it. He eyed it gloomily,and wherever the stagnant water indicated a deeper pool than usualhe stopped, and looked, and thought, "How calm and peaceful youare!"He sat down at last by the water-side, his eyes bent on a calm,green pool.
It looked very peaceful; and it could give peace. He thought, oh!what a blessing; to be quit of rage, jealousy, despair, and life,all in a minute!
Yet that was a sordid death for a soldier to die, who had seen greatbattles. Could he not die more nobly than that? With this hesuddenly felt in his pocket; and there sure enough fate had placedhis pistols. He had put them into this coat; and he had not wornthis coat until to-day. He had armed himself unconsciously. "Ah!"said he; "it is to be; all these things are preordained." (Thisnotion of fate has strengthened many a fatal resolution.) Then hehad a cruel regret. To die without a word; a parting word. Then hethought to himself, it was best so; for perhaps he should have takenher with him."Sir! colonel!" uttered a solemn voice behind him.
Absorbed and strung up to desperation as he was, this voice seemedunnaturally loud, and discordant with Camille's mood; a suddentrumpet from the world of small things.It was Picard, the notary.
"Can you tell me where Madame Raynal is?""No. At the chateau, I suppose.""She is not there; I inquired of the servant. She was out. Youhave not seen her, colonel?""Not I; I never see her.""Then perhaps I had better go back to the chateau and wait for her:stay, are you a friend of the family? Colonel, suppose I were totell you, and ask you to break it to Madame Raynal, or, betterstill, to the baroness, or Mademoiselle Rose.""Monsieur," said Camille coldly, "charge me with no messages, for Icannot deliver them. I AM GOING ANOTHER WAY.""In that case, I will go to the chateau once more; for what I haveto say must be heard."Picard returned to the chateau wondering at the colonel's strangemanner.Camille, for his part, wondered that any one could be so mad as totalk to him about trifles; to him, a man standing on the brink ofeternity. Poor soul, it was he who was mad and unlucky. He shouldhave heard what Picard had to say. The very gentleness andsolemnity of manner ought to have excited his curiosity.He watched Picard's retiring form. When he was out of sight, thenhe turned round and resumed his thoughts as if Picard had been nomore than a fly that had buzzed and then gone.
"Yes, I should have taken her with me," he said. He sat gloomy anddogged like a dangerous maniac in his cell; never moved, scarcethought for more than half an hour; but his deadly purpose grew inhim. Suddenly he started. A lady was at the style, about a hundredyards distant. He trembled. It was Josephine.She came towards him slowly, her eyes bent on the ground in a deepreverie. She stopped about a stone's throw from him, and looked atthe river long and thoughtfully; then casting her eye around, shecaught sight of Camille. He watched her grimly. He saw her give alittle start, and half turn round; but if this was an impulse toretreat, it was instantly suppressed; for the next moment shepursued her way.
Camille stood gloomy and bitter, awaiting her in silence. Heplanted himself in the middle of the path, and said not a word.She looked him all over, and her color came and went.
"Out so far as this," she said kindly; "and without your cap."He put his hand to his head, and discovered that he was bareheaded."You will catch your death of cold. Come, let us go in and get yourcap."She made as if she would pass him. He planted himself right beforeher.