The moment our heroines, who, in that desperation which is one ofthe forms of cowardbitcoin exchange co. ltdice, had hurled themselves on the foe, saw this,flash--the quick-witted poltroons exchanged purple lightning overEdouard's drooping head, and enacted lionesses in a moment.
"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.polkadot price ukThe 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?
because she is defying nature. Nature intended her to be pressingher child to her bosom day and night; instead of that, a peasantwoman at Frejus nurses the child, and the mother pines atBeaurepaire."At this, Josephine leaned her face on her hands on the doctor'sshoulder. In this attitude she murmured to him, "I have never seenhim since I left Frejus." Dr. Aubertin sighed for her. Emboldenedby this, she announced her intention of going to Frejus the verynext day to see her little Henri. But to this Dr. Aubertindemurred. "What, another journey to Frejus?" said he, "when thefirst has already roused Edouard's suspicions; I can never consentto that."Then Josephine surprised them both. She dropped her coaxing voiceand pecked the doctor like an irritated pigeon. "Take care," saidshe, "don't be too cruel to me. You see I am obedient, resigned. Ihave given up all I lived for: but if I am never to have my littleboy's arms round me to console me, then--why torment me any longer?Why not say to me, 'Josephine, you have offended Heaven; pray forpardon, and die'?"Then the doctor was angry in his turn. "Oh, go then," said he, "goto Frejus; you will have Edouard Riviere for a companion this time."Yes, and I plead with you to forgive him. Grant me my wish, James; I shall be so much happier, and so will you."
"Well, Mrs. Weeks, now you know what kind of a woman your son came to insult. You may tell your neighbors that there's one Christian in Oakville. I yield to Mrs. Holcroft, and will take no further action in the affair if we are let alone."Mrs. Weeks was not a bad woman at heart, and she had received a wholesome lesson. She came and took Alida's hand as she said, "Yes, you are a Christian--a better woman than I've been, but I aint so mean and bad but what, when I see my fault, I am sorry and can ask forgiveness. I do ask your forgiveness, Mr. Holcroft. I've been ashamed of myself ever since you brought my cousin back. I thought she would try, when she had the chance you gave her, but she seems to have no sense.""There, there! Let bygones be bygones," said the farmer in embarrassment. "I've surrendered. Please don't say anything more.""You've got a kind heart, in spite--"
"Oh, come now! Please quit, or I'll begin to swear a little to keep up the reputation my neighbors have given me. Go home and tell Tim to brace up and try to be a man. When I say I'm done with a grudge, I AM done. You and Mrs. Holcroft can talk all you like, but please excuse me," and with more than most men's horror of a scene, he escaped precipitately."Sit down, Mrs. Weeks," said Alida kindly.
"Well, I will. I can't say much to excuse myself or my folks--""You've already said everything, Mrs. Weeks," interrupted Alida gently; "you've said you are sorry."Mrs. Weeks stared a moment, and then resumed sententiously, "Well, I've heard more gospel in that remark than if I'd gone to church. And I couldn't go to church, I could never have gone there again or held my head up anywhere if--if--""That's all past and gone," said Alida, smiling. "When Mr. Holcroft says anything, you may depend on it."
"Well, God bless you for intercedin'--you had so much to forgive. Nobody shall ever speak a word against you again while I've got breath to answer. I wish you'd let me come and see you sometimes.""Whenever you wish, if you care to visit one who has had so much--so much trouble.""I see now that's all the more reason I should come, for if it hadn't been for you, I'd have been in bitter trouble myself. We've been worse than heathen, standin' off and talking against you. Oh, I've had a lesson I won't forget! Well, I must hurry home, for I left Timothy and Lemuel in a dreadful state."Seeing the farmer in the barn as she was passing, she rushed to him. "You've got to shake hands with me, Mr. Holcroft. Your wife IS a good woman, and she's a lady, too. Anyone with half an eye can see she's not one of the common sort."
The farmer shook the poor woman's hand good-naturedly and said heartily, "That's so! All right, meeting's over. Goodbye." Then he turned to his work and chuckled, "That's what Tom Watterly said. Thank the Lord! She ISN'T of the common sort. I've got to brace up and be more of a man as well as Tim Weeks."In spite of the pain in his head, Alida's words proved true. He was happier than he had been in many a long day. He had the glow which follows a generous act, and the thought that he had pleased a sweet little woman who somehow seemed very attractive to him that May morning; at the same time the old Adam in his nature led to a sneaking satisfaction that he had laid on the hickory so unsparingly the evening before.
Alida uttered a low, happy laugh as she heard him whistling "Coronation" in jig time, and she hustled away the breakfast things with the eagerness of a girl, that she might be ready to read to him when he came in.Chapter 27 Farm and Farmer Bewitched
The day grew warm, and having finished her tasks indoors and cared for the poultry, Alida brought a chair out in the porch. Her eyes were dreamy with a vague, undefined happiness. The landscape in itself was cause for exquisite pleasure, for it was an ideal day of the apple-blossoming period. The old orchard back of the barn looked as if pink-and-white clouds had settled upon it, and scattered trees near and far were exhaling their fragrance. The light breeze which fanned her cheek and bent the growing rye in an adjacent field was perfumed beyond the skill of art. Not only were her favorite meadow larks calling to each other, but the thrushes had come and she felt that she had never heard such hymns as they were singing. A burst of song from the lilac bush under the parlor window drew her eyes thither, and there was the paternal redbreast pouring out the very soul of ecstasy. From the nest beneath him rose the black head and yellow beak of his brooding mate. "How contented and happy she looks!" Alida murmured, "how happy they both are! And the secret of it is HOME. And to think that I, who was a friendless waif, am at home, also! At home with Eden-like beauty and peace before my eyes. But if it hadn't been for him, and if he were not brave, kind, and true to all he says--" and she shuddered at a contrast that rose before her fancy.She could now scarcely satisfy herself that it was only gratitude which filled her heart with a strange, happy tumult. She had never been conscious of such exaltation before. It is true, she had learned to cherish a strong affection for the man whom she had believed to be her husband, but chiefly because he had seemed kind and she had an affectionate disposition. Until within the last few hours, her nature had never been touched and awakened in its profoundest depths. She had never known before nor had she idealized the manhood capable of evoking the feelings which now lighted her eyes and gave to her face the supreme charm and beauty of womanhood. In truth, it was a fitting day and time for the birth of a love like hers, simple, all-absorbing, and grateful. It contained no element not in harmony with that May Sunday morning.Holcroft came and sat on the steps below her. She kept her eyes on the landscape, for she was consciously enough on her guard now. "I rather guess you think, Alida, that you are looking at a better picture than any artist fellow could paint?" he remarked."Yes," she replied hesitatingly, "and the picture seems all the more lovely and full of light because the background is so very dark. I've been thinking of what happened here last night and what might have happened, and how I felt then.""You feel better--different now, don't you? You certainly look so.""Yes!--You made me very happy by yielding to Mrs. Weeks."
"Oh! I didn't yield to her at all.""Very well, have it your own way, then."
"I think you had it your way.""Are you sorry?"
"Do I look so? How did you know I'd be happier if I gave in?""Because, as you say, I'm getting better acquainted with you. YOU couldn't help being happier for a generous act."
"I wouldn't have done it, though, if it hadn't been for you.""I'm not so sure about that.""I am. You're coming to make me feel confoundedly uncomfortable in my heathenish life.""I wish I could."
"I never had such a sermon in my life as you gave me this morning. A Christian act like yours is worth a year of religious talk."She looked at him wistfully for a moment and then asked, a little abruptly, "Mr. Holcroft, have you truly forgiven that Weeks family?"
"Oh, yes! I suppose so. I've forgiven the old lady, anyhow. I've shaken hands with her.""If her husband and son should come and apologize and say they were sorry, would you truly and honestly forgive them?"
"Certainly! I couldn't hold a grudge after that. What are you aiming at?" and he turned and looked inquiringly into her face.It was flushed and tearful in its eager, earnest interest. "Don't you see?" she faltered.
He shook his head, but was suddenly and strangely moved by her expression."Why, Mr. Holcroft, if you can honestly forgive those who have wronged you, you ought to see how ready God is to forgive."He fairly started to his feet so vividly the truth came home to him, illumined, as it was, by a recent and personal experience. After a moment, he slowly sat down again and said, with a long breath, "That was a close shot, Alida.""I only wish you to have the trust and comfort which this truth should bring you," she said. "It seems a pity you should do yourself needless injustice when you are willing to do what is right and kind by others."
"It's all a terrible muddle, Alida. If God is so ready to forgive, how do you account for all the evil and suffering in the world?""I don't account for it and can't. I'm only one of his little children; often an erring one, too. You've been able to forgive grown people, your equals, and strangers in a sense. Suppose you had a little boy that had done wrong, but said he was sorry, would you hold a grudge against him?"
"The idea! I'd be a brute."She laughed softly as she asked again, "don't you see?"
He sat looking thoughtfully away across the fields for a long time, and finally asked, "Is your idea of becoming a Christian just being forgiven like a child and then trying to do right?""Yes. Why not?"