"Yes, I know I'm almost as bad as an oyster about talking except when I'm with you. Somehow we've always had a good deal to say to each other. In this case, I felt that it was due to Alida that she should know all about me and understand fully just how I felt concerning this marriage. The verkishu coin tokeny fact that she hasn't friends to advise her made it all the more needful that I should be plain and not mislead her in any respect.--She has just as good a right to judge and act for herself as any woman in the land, and she takes me, and I take her, with no sentimental lies to start with. Now let's get back to business. I rather think, since Harkins was an old acquaintance of mine, he'll come up here and marry us, don't you? Alida, wouldn't you rather be married here quietly than face a lot of strangers? You can have your own way, I don't care now if half the town was present."
Very annoying. But, after awhile, it led to keen watchfulness: themore so that the sad and gloomy colonbitcoin cash price alertel showed by his manner heappreciated it. Indeed, one night he even opened his marble jaws,and told Sergeant La Croix that a watchful sentry was an importantsoldier, not to his brigade only, but to the whole army. Judgewhether the maxim and the implied encomium did not circulate nextmorning, with additions.Sixteenth day of the siege. The round bastion opened fire at eighto'clock, not on the opposing battery, but on the right of the Frenchattack. Its advanced position enabled a portion of its guns to rakethese trenches slant-wise: and depressing its guns it made the roundshot strike the ground first and ricochet over.
On this our colonel opened on them with all his guns: one of thesehe served himself. Among his other warlike accomplishments, he wasa wonderful shot with a cannon. He showed them capital practicethis morning: drove two embrasures into one, and knocked about a tonof masonry off the parapet. Then taking advantage of this, heserved two of his guns with grape, and swept the enemy off the topof the bastion, and kept it clear. He made it so hot they could notwork the upper guns. Then they turned the other two tiers all uponhim, and at it both sides went ding, dong, till the guns were toohot to be worked. So then Sergeant La Croix popped his head up fromthe battery, and showed the enemy a great white plate. This wasmeant to convey to them an invitation to dine with the French army:the other side of the table of course.To the credit of Prussian intelligence be it recorded, that thispantomimic hint was at once taken and both sides went to dinner.The fighting colonel, however, remained in the battery, and kept adetachment of his gunners employed cooling the guns and repairingthe touch-holes. He ordered his two cutlets and his glass of waterinto the battery.Meantime, the enemy fired a single gun at long intervals, as much asto say, "We had the last word."Let trenches be cut ever so artfully, there will be a little spaceexposed here and there at the angles. These spaces the men areordered to avoid, or whip quickly across them into cover.
Now the enemy had just got the range of one of these places withtheir solitary gun, and had already dropped a couple of shot righton to it. A camp follower with a tray, two cutlets, and a glass ofwater, came to this open space just as a puff of white smoke burstfrom the bastion. Instead of instantly seeking shelter till theshot had struck, he, in his inexperience, thought the shot must havestruck, and all danger be over. He stayed there mooning instead ofpelting under cover: the shot (eighteen-pound) struck him right onthe breast, knocked him into spilikins, and sent the mutton cutletsflying.The human fragments lay quiet, ten yards off. But a soldier thatwas eating his dinner kicked it over, and jumped up at the side of"Death's Alley" (as it was christened next minute), and danced andyelled with pain.The doctor sighed; then said gently, "They shall be happy: as happyas you wish them."Meantime, in another room, a reconciliation scene was taking place,and the mutual concessions of two impetuous but generous spirits.
The baroness noticed the change in Josephine's appearance.She asked Rose what could be the matter."Some passing ailment," was the reply."Passing? She has been so, on and off, a long time. She makes mevery anxious."Rose made light of it to her mother, but in her own heart she grewmore and more anxious day by day. She held secret conferences withJacintha; that sagacious personage had a plan to wake Josephine fromher deathly languor, and even soothe her nerves, and check thosepitiable fits of nervous irritation to which she had become subject.
Unfortunately, Jacintha's plan was so difficult and so dangerous,that at first even the courageous Rose recoiled from it; but thereare dangers that seem to diminish when you look them long in theface.The whole party was seated in the tapestried room: Jacintha wasthere, sewing a pair of sheets, at a respectful distance from thegentlefolks, absorbed in her work; but with both ears on full cock.
The doctor, holding his glasses to his eye, had just begun to readout the Moniteur.The baroness sat close to him, Edouard opposite; and the youngladies each in her corner of a large luxurious sofa, at some littledistance."'The Austrians left seventy cannon, eight thousand men, and threecolors upon the field. Army of the North: General Menard defeatedthe enemy after a severe engagement, taking thirteen field-piecesand a quantity of ammunition.'"The baroness made a narrow-minded renmark. "That is always the waywith these journals," said she. "Austrians! Prussians! when it'sEgypt one wants to hear about."--"No, not a word about Egypt," saidthe doctor; "but there is a whole column about the Rhine, whereColonel Dujardin is--and Dard. If I was dictator, the firstnuisance I would put down is small type." He then spelled out asanguinary engagement: "eight thousand of the enemy killed. We havesome losses to lament. Colonel Dujardin"--"Only wounded, I hope," said the baroness.The doctor went coolly on. "At the head of the 24th brigade made abrilliant charge on the enemy's flank, that is described in thegeneral order as having decided the fate of the battle.""How badly you do read," said the old lady, sharply. "I thought hewas gone; instead of that he has covered himself with glory; but itis all our doing, is it not, young ladies? We saved his life.""We saved it amongst us, madame.""What is the matter, Rose?" said Edouard.
"Nothing: give me the salts, quick."She only passed them, as it were, under her own nostrils; then heldthem to Josephine, who was now observed to be trembling all over.Rose contrived to make it appear that this was mere sympathy onJosephine's part."Don't be silly, girls," cried the baroness, cheerfully; "there isnobody killed that we care about."Dr. Aubertin read the rest to himself.Edouard fell into a gloomy silence and tortured himself aboutCamille, and Rose's anxiety and agitation.
By and by the new servant brought in a letter. It was the long-expected one from Egypt."Here is something better than salts for you. A long letter,Josephine, and all in his own hand; so he is safe, thank Heaven! Iwas beginning to be uneasy again. You frightened me for that poorCamille: but this is worth a dozen Camilles; this is my son; I wouldgive my old life for him."--"My dear Mother--('Bless him!'), my dearwife, and my dear sister--('Well! you sit there like two rocks!')--We have just gained a battle--fifty colors. ('What do you think ofthat?') All the enemy's baggage and ammunition are in our hands.
('This is something like a battle, this one.') Also the Pasha ofNatolie. ('Ah! the Pasha of Natolie; an important personage, nodoubt, though I never had the honor of hearing of him. Do youhear?--you on the sofa. My son has captured the Pasha of Natolie.He is as brave as Caesar.') But this success is not one of thosethat lead to important results ('Never mind, a victory is avictory'), and I should not wonder if Bonaparte was to dash home anyday. If so, I shall go with him, and perhaps spend a whole day withyou, on my way to the Rhine."At this prospect a ghastly look passed quick as lightning betweenRose and Josephine.
The baroness beckoned Josephine to come close to her, and read herwhat followed in a lower tone of voice."Tell my wife I love her more and more every day. I don't expect asmuch from her, but she will make me very happy if she can make shiftto like me as well as her family do."--"No danger! What husbanddeserves to be loved as he does? I long for his return, that hiswife, his mother, and his sister may all combine to teach this poorsoldier what happiness means. We owe him everything, Josephine, andif we did not love him, and make him happy, we should be monsters;now should we not?"Josephine stammered an assent."NOW you may read his letter: Jacintha and all," said the baronessgraciously.The letter circulated. Meantime, the baroness conversed withAubertin in quite an undertone."My friend, look at Josephine. That girl is ill, or else she isgoing to be ill.""Neither the one nor the other, madame," said Aubertin, looking hercoolly in the face."But I say she is. Is a doctor's eye keener than a mother's?""Considerably," replied the doctor with cool and enviable effrontery.
The baroness rose. "Now, children, for our evening walk. We shallenjoy it now.""I trust you may: but for all that I must forbid the evening air toone of the party--to Madame Raynal."The baroness came to him and whispered, "That is right. Thank you.See what is the matter with her, and tell me." And she carried offthe rest of the party.
At the same time Jacintha asked permission to pass the rest of theevening with her relations in the village. But why that swift,quivering glance of intelligence between Jacintha and Rose deBeaurepaire when the baroness said, "Yes, certainly"?Time will show.
Josephine and the doctor were left alone. Now Josephine had noticedthe old people whisper and her mother glance her way, and the wholewoman was on her guard. She assumed a languid complacency, and byway of shield, if necessary, took some work, and bent her eyes andapparently her attention on it.The doctor was silent and ill at ease.
She saw he had something weighty on his mind. "The air would havedone me no harm," said she."Neither will a few words with me.""Oh, no, dear friend. Only I think I should have liked a littlewalk this evening.""Josephine," said the doctor quietly, "when you were a child I savedyour life.""I have often heard my mother speak of it. I was choked by thecroup, and you had the courage to lance my windpipe.""Had I?" said the doctor, with a smile. He added gravely, "It seemsthen that to be cruel is sometimes kindness. It is the nature ofmen to love those whose life they save.""And they love you.""Well, our affection is not perfect. I don't know which is most toblame, but after all these years I have failed to inspire you withconfidence." The doctor's voice was sad, and Josephine's bosompanted."Pray do not say so," she cried. "I would trust you with my life.""But not with your secret.""My secret! What secret? I have no secrets.""Josephine, you have now for full twelve months suffered in body andmind, yet you have never come to me for counsel, for comfort, for anold man's experience and advice, nor even for medical aid.""But, dear friend, I assure you"--"We DO NOT deceive our friend. We CANNOT deceive our doctor."Josephine trembled, but defended herself after the manner of hersex. "Dear doctor," said she, "I love you all the better for this.Your regard for me has for once blinded your science. I am not sorobust as you have known me, but there is nothing serious the matterwith me. Let us talk of something else. Besides, it is notinteresting to talk about one's self.""Very well; since there is nothing serious or interesting in yourcase, we will talk about something that is both serious andinteresting.""With all my heart;" and she smiled with a sense of relief.
But the doctor leaned over the table to her, and said in a cautiousand most emphatic whisper, "We will talk about YOUR CHILD."The work dropped from Josephine's hands: she turned her face wildlyon Aubertin, and faltered out, "M--my child?""My words are plain," replied he gravely. "YOUR CHILD."When the doctor repeated these words, when Josephine looking in hisface saw he spoke from knowledge, however acquired, and not fromguess, she glided down slowly off the sofa and clasped his knees ashe stood before her, and hid her face in an agony of shame andterror on his knees."Forgive me," she sobbed. "Pray do not expose me! Do not destroyme.""Unhappy young lady," said he, "did you think you had deceived me,or that you are fit to deceive any but the blind? Your face, youranguish after Colonel Dujardin's departure, your languor, and thenyour sudden robustness, your appetite, your caprices, your strangesojourn at Frejus, your changed looks and loss of health on yourreturn! Josephine, your old friend has passed many an hour thinkingof you, divining your folly, following your trouble step by step.
Yet you never invited him to aid you."Josephine faltered out a lame excuse. If she had revered him lessshe could have borne to confess to him. She added it would be arelief to her to confide in him."Then tell me all," said he.
She consented almost eagerly, and told him--nearly all. The old manwas deeply affected. He murmured in a broken voice, "Your story isthe story of your sex, self-sacrifice, first to your mother, then toCamille, now to your husband.""And he is well worthy of any sacrifice I can make," said Josephine."But oh, how hard it is to live!""I hope to make it less hard to you ere long," said the doctorquietly. He then congratulated himself on having forced Josephineto confide in him. "For," said he, "you never needed an experiencedfriend more than at this moment. Your mother will not always be soblind as of late. Edouard is suspicious. Jacintha is a shrewdyoung woman, and very inquisitive."Josephine was not at the end of her concealments: she was ashamed tolet him know she had made a confidant of Jacintha and not of him.
She held her peace."Then," continued Aubertin, "there is the terrible chance ofRaynal's return. But ere I take on me to advise you, what are yourown plans?""I don't know," said Josephine helplessly."You--don't--know!" cried the doctor, looking at her in utteramazement."It is the answer of a mad woman, is it not? Doctor, I am littlebetter. My foot has slipped on the edge of a precipice. I close myeyes, and let myself glide down it. What will become of me?""All shall be well," said Aubertin, "provided you do not still lovethat man."Josephine did not immediately reply: her thoughts turned inwards.
The good doctor was proceeding to congratulate her on being cured ofa fatal passion, when she stopped him with wonder in her face. "Notlove him! How can I help loving him? I was his betrothed. Iwronged him in my thoughts. War, prison, anguish, could not killhim; he loved me so. He struggled bleeding to my feet; and could Ilet him die, after all? Could I be crueller than prison, andtorture, and despair?"The doctor sighed deeply; but, arming himself with the necessaryresolution, he sternly replied, "A woman of your name cannotvacillate between love and honor; such vacillations have but oneend. I will not let you drift a moral wreck between passion andvirtue; and that is what it will come to if you hesitate now.""Hesitate! Who can say I have hesitated where my honor wasconcerned? You can read our bodies then, but not our hearts. What!you see me so pale, forlorn, and dead, and that does not tell you Ihave bid Camille farewell forever? That we might be safer still Ihave not even told him he is a father: was ever woman so cruel as Iam? I have written him but one letter, and in that I must deceivehim. I told him I thought I might one day be happy, if I could hearthat he did not give way to despair. I told him we must never meetagain in this world. So now come what will: show me my duty and Iwill do it. This endless deceit burns my heart. Shall I tell myhusband? It will be but one pang more, one blush more for me. Butmy mother!" and, thus appealed to, Dr. Aubertin felt, for the firsttime, all the difficulty of the situation he had undertaken to cure.
He hesitated, he was embarrassed."Ah," said Josephine, "you see." Then, after a short silence, shesaid despairingly, "This is my only hope: that poor Raynal will belong absent, and that ere he returns mamma will lie safe from sorrowand shame in the little chapel. Doctor, when a woman of my ageforms such wishes as these, I think you might pity her, and forgiveher ill-treatment of you, for she cannot be very happy. Ah me! ahme! ah me!""Courage, poor soul! All is now in my hands, and I will save you,"said the doctor, his voice trembling in spite of him. "Guilt liesin the intention. A more innocent woman than you does not breathe.
Two courses lay open to you: to leave this house with CamilleDujardin, or to dismiss him, and live for your hard duty till itshall please Heaven to make that duty easy (no middle course wastenable for a day); of these two paths you chose the right one, and,having chosen, I really think you are not called on to reveal yourmisfortune, and make those unhappy to whose happiness you havesacrificed your own for years to come.""Forever," said Josephine quietly."The young use that word lightly. The old have almost ceased to useit. They have seen how few earthly things can conquer time."He resumed, "You think only of others, Josephine, but I shall thinkof you as well. I shall not allow your life to be wasted in aneedless struggle against nature." Then turning to Rose, who hadglided into the room, and stood amazed, "Her griefs were as manybefore her child was born, yet her health stood firm. Why? becausenature was on her side. Now she is sinking into the grave. Why?