White Lies by Charles Reade
The baroness, as I have said, drew Josephine aside, and tried to break to her the sad news: but her own grief overcame her, and bursting into tears she bewailed the loss of her son. Josephine was greatly shocked. Death!--Raynal dead--her true, kind friend dead-- her benefactor dead. She clung to her mother's neck, and sobbed with her. Presently she withdrew her face and suddenly hid it in both her hands.
She rose and kissed her mother once more: and went to her own room: and then, though there was none to see her, she hid her wet, but burning, cheeks in her hands.
Josephine confined herself for some days to her own room, leaving it only to go to the chapel in the park, where she spent hours in prayers for the dead and in self-humiliation. Her "tender conscience" accused herself bitterly for not having loved this gallant spirit more than she had.
Camille realized nothing at first; he looked all confused in the doctor's face, and was silent. Then after awhile he said, "Dead? Raynal dead?"
"Killed in action."
A red flush came to Camille's face, and his eyes went down to the ground at his very feet, nor did he once raise them while the doctor told him how the sad news had come. "Picard the notary brought us the Moniteur, and there was Commandant Raynal among the killed in a cavalry skirmish." With this, he took the journal from his pocket, and Camille read it, with awe-struck, and other feelings he would have been sorry to see analyzed. He said not a word; and lowered his eyes to the ground.
"And now," said Aubertin, "you will excuse me. I must go to my poor friend the baroness. She had a mother's love for him who is no more: well she might."
Aubertin went away, and left Dujardin standing there like a statue, his eyes still glued to the ground at his feet.
The doctor was no sooner out of sight, than Camille raised his eyes furtively, like a guilty person, and looked irresolutely this way and that: at last he turned and went back to the place where he had meditated suicide and murder; looked down at it a long while, then looked up to heaven--then fell suddenly on his knees: and so remained till night-fall. Then he came back to the chateau.
He whispered to himself, "And I am afraid it is too late to go away to-night." He went softly into the saloon. Nobody was there but Rose and Aubertin. At sight of him Rose got up and left the room. But I suppose she went to Josephine; for she returned in a few minutes, and rang the bell, and ordered some supper to be brought up for Colonel Dujardin.
"You have not dined, I hear," said she, very coldly.
"I was afraid you were gone altogether," said the doctor: then turning to Rose, "He told me he was going this evening. You had better stay quiet another day or two," added he, kindly.
"Do you think so?" said Camille, timidly.
He stayed upon these terms. And now he began to examine himself. "Did I wish him dead? I hope I never formed such a thought! I don't remember ever wishing him dead." And he went twice a day to that place by the stream, and thought very solemnly what a terrible thing ungoverned passion is; and repented--not eloquently, but silently, sincerely.
But soon his impatient spirit began to torment itself again. Why did Josephine shun him now? Ah! she loved Raynal now that he was dead. Women love the thing they have lost; so he had heard say. In that case, the very sight of him would of course be odious to her: he could understand that. The absolute, unreasoning faith he once had in her had been so rudely shaken by her marriage with Raynal, that now he could only believe just so much as he saw, and he saw that she shunned him.
He became moody, sad, and disconsolate: and as Josephine shunned him, so he avoided all the others, and wandered for hours by himself, perplexed and miserable. After awhile, he became conscious that he was under a sort of surveillance. Rose de Beaurepaire, who had been so kind to him when he was confined to his own room, but had taken little notice of him since he came down, now resumed her care of him, and evidently made it her business to keep up his heart. She used to meet him out walking in a mysterious way, and in short, be always falling in with him and trying to cheer him up: with tolerable success.
Such was the state of affairs when the party was swelled and matters complicated by the arrival of one we have lost sight of.
Edouard Riviere retarded his cure by an impatient spirit: but he got well at last, and his uncle drove him in the cabriolet to his own quarters. 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 doubt there was an attachment: he had some reason to believe in sudden attachments. Colonel Dujardin, an old acquaintance, had come back to France wounded, and the good doctor had undertaken his cure: this incident appeared neither strange nor any way important. What affected him most deeply was the death of Raynal, his personal friend and patron. But when his tyrants, as he called the surgeon and his uncle, gave him leave to go home, all feelings were overpowered by his great joy at the prospect of seeing Rose. He walked 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 he had attempted. "I will surprise them," thought he. "I will see her face when I come in at the door: oh, happy hour! this pays for all." He entered the house without announcing himself; he went softly up to the saloon; to his great disappointment he found no one but the baroness: she received him kindly, but not with the warmth he expected. She was absorbed in her new grief. He asked timidly after her daughters. "Madame Raynal bears up, for the sake of others. You will not, however, see her: she keeps her room. My daughter Rose is taking a walk, I believe." After some polite inquiries, and sympathy with his accident, the baroness retired to indulge her grief, and Edouard thus liberated ran in search of his beloved.
He met her at the gate of the Pleasaunce, but not alone. She was walking with an officer, a handsome, commanding, haughty, brilliant officer. She was walking by his side, talking earnestly to him.
An arrow of ice shot through young Riviere; and then came a feeling of death at his heart, a new symptom in his young life.
The next moment Rose caught sight of him. She flushed all over and uttered a little exclamation, and she bounded towards him like a little antelope, and put out both her hands at once. He could only give her one.
"Ah!" she cried with an accent of heavenly pity, and took his hand with both hers.
This was like the meridian sun coming suddenly on a cold place. He was all happiness.
When Josephine heard he was come her eye flashed, and she said quickly, "I will come down to welcome him--dear Edouard!"
The sisters looked at one another. Josephine blushed. Rose smiled and kissed her. She colored higher still, and said, "No, she was ashamed to go down."
"Look at my face."
"I see nothing wrong with it, except that it eclipses other people's, and I have long forgiven you that."
"Oh, yes, dear Rose: look what a color it has, and a fortnight ago it 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 knew how hard I pray to be better. Rose, I do try so to be as unhappy as I ought; but I can't, I can't. My cold heart seems as dead to unhappiness as once it was to happiness. Am I a heartless woman after all?"
"Not altogether," said Rose dryly. "Fasten my collar, dear, and don't torment yourself. You have suffered much and nobly. It was Heaven's will: you bowed to it. It was not Heaven's will that you should be blighted altogether. Bow in this, too, to Heaven's will: take things as they come, and do cease to try and reconcile feelings that are too opposite to live together."
"Ah! these are such comfortable words, Rose; but mamma will see this dreadful color in my cheek, and what can I say to her?"
"Ten to one it will not be observed; and if it should, I will say it is the excitement of seeing Edouard. Leave all to me."
Josephine greeted Edouard most affectionately, drew from him his whole history, and petted him and sympathized with him deliciously, and made him the hero of the evening. Camille, who was not naturally of a jealous temper, bore this very well at first, but at last he looked so bitter at her neglect of him, that Rose took him aside to soothe him. Edouard, missing the auditor he most valued, and seeing her in secret conference with the brilliant colonel, felt a return of the jealous pangs that had seized him at first sight of the man; and so they played at cross purposes.
At another period of the evening the conversation became more general; and Edouard took a dislike to Colonel Dujardin. A young man of twenty-eight nearly always looks on a boy of twenty-one with the air of a superior, and this assumption, not being an ill-natured one, is apt to be so easy and so undefined that the younger hardly knows how to resent or to resist it. But Edouard was a little vain as we know; and the Colonel jarred him terribly. His quick haughty eye jarred him. His regimentals jarred him: they fitted like a glove. His mustache and his manner jarred him, and, worst of all, his cool familiarity with Rose, who seemed to court him rather than be courted by him. He put this act of Rose's to the colonel's account, according to the custom of lovers, and revenged himself in a small way by telling Josephine in her ear "that the colonel produced on his mind the effect of an intolerable puppy."
Josephine colored up and looked at him with a momentary surprise. She said quietly, "Military men do give themselves some airs, but he is very amiable at bottom. You must make a better acquaintance with him, and then he will reveal to you his nobler qualities."--"Oh! I have no particular desire," sneered unlucky Edouard. Sweet as Josephine was, this was too much for her: she said nothing; but she quietly turned Edouard over to Aubertin, and joined Rose, and under cover of her had a sweet timid chat with her falsely accused.
This occupied the two so entirely that Edouard was neglected. This hurt his foible, and seemed to be so unkind on the very first day of his return that he made his adieus to the baroness, and marched off in dudgeon unobserved.
Rose missed him first, but said nothing.
When Josephine saw he was gone, she uttered a little exclamation, and looked at Rose. Rose put on a mien of haughty indifference, but the water was in her eyes.
Josephine looked sorrowful.
When they talked over everything together at night, she reproached herself. "We behaved ill to poor Edouard: we neglected him."
"He is a little cross, ill-tempered fellow," said Rose pettishly.
"Oh, no! no!"
"And as vain as a peacock."
"Has he not some right to be vain in this house?"
"Yes,--no. I am very angry with him. I won't hear a word in his favor," said Rose pouting: then she gave his defender a kiss. "Yes, dear," said Josephine, answering the kiss, and ignoring the words, "he is a dear; and he is not cross, nor so very vain, poor boy! now don't you see what it was?"
"Yes, you do, you little cunning thing: you are too shrewd not to see everything."
"No, indeed, Josephine; do tell me, don't keep me waiting: I can't bear that."
"Well, then--jealous! A little."
"Jealous? Oh, what fun! Of Camille? Ha! ha! Little goose!"
"And," said Josephine very seriously, "I almost think he would be jealous of any one that occupied your attention. I watched him more or less all the evening."
"All the better. I'll torment my lord."
"Heaven forbid you should be so cruel."
"Oh! I will not make him unhappy, but I'll tease him a little; it is not in nature to abstain."
This foible detected in her lover, Rose was very gay at the prospect of amusement it afforded her.
And I think I have many readers who at this moment are awaiting unmixed enjoyment and hilarity from the same source.
I wish them joy of their prospect.
Edouard called the next day: he wore a gloomy air. Rose met this with a particularly cheerful one; on this, Edouard's face cleared up, and he was himself again; agreeable as this was, Rose felt a little disappointed. "I am afraid he is not very jealous after all," thought she.
Josephine left her room this day and mingled once more with the family. The bare sight of her was enough for Camille at first, but after awhile he wanted more. He wanted to be often alone with her; but several causes co-operated to make her shy of giving him many such opportunities: first, her natural delicacy, coupled with her habit of self-denial; then her fear of shocking her mother, and lastly her fear of her own heart, and of Camille, whose power over her she knew. For Camille, when he did get a sweet word alone with her, seemed to forget everything except that she was his betrothed, and that he had come back alive to marry her. He spoke to her of his love with an ardor and an urgency that made her thrill with happiness, but at the same time shrink with a certain fear and self- reproach. Possessed with a feeling no stronger than hers, but single, he did not comprehend the tumult, the trouble, the daily contest in her heart. The wind seemed to him to be always changing, and hot and cold the same hour. Since he did not even see that she was acting in hourly fear of her mother's eye, he was little likely to penetrate her more hidden sentiments; and then he had not touched her key-note,--self-denial.
Women are self-denying and uncandid. Men are self-indulgent and outspoken.
And this is the key to a thousand double misunderstandings; for believe me, good women are just as stupid in misunderstanding men as honest men are in misunderstanding women.
To Camille, Josephine's fluctuations, joys, tremors, love, terror, modesty, seemed one grand total, caprice. The component parts of it he saw not; and her caprice tortured him almost to madness. Too penitent to give way again to violent passion, he gently fretted. His health retrograded and his temper began to sour. The eye of timid love that watched him with maternal anxiety from under its long lashes saw this with dismay, and Rose, who looked into her sister's bosom, devoted herself once more to soothe him without compromising Josephine's delicacy. Matters were not so bad but what a fine sprightly girl like Rose could cheer up a dejected but manly colonel; and Rose was generally successful.
But then, unfortunately, this led to a fresh mystification. Riviere's natural jealousy revived, and found constant food in the attention Rose paid Camille, a brilliant colonel living in the house while he, poor wretch, lived in lodgings. The false position of all the parties brought about some singular turns. I give from their number one that forms a link, though a small one, in my narrative.
One day Edouard came to tell Rose she was making him unhappy; he had her alone in the Pleasaunce; she received him with a radiant smile, and they had a charming talk,--a talk all about him: what the family owed him, etc.
On this, his late jealousy and sense of injury seemed a thing of three years ago, and never to return. So hard it is for the loving heart to resist its sun.
Jacintha came with a message from the colonel: "Would it be agreeable to Mademoiselle Rose to walk with him at the usual hour?"
"Certainly," said Rose.
As Jacintha was retiring Edouard called to her to stop a minute.
Then, turning to Rose, he begged her very ceremoniously to reconsider that determination.
"To sacrifice me to this Colonel Dujardin." Still politely, only a little grimly.
Rose opened her eyes. "Are you mad?" inquired she with quiet hauteur.
"Neither mad nor a fool," was the reply. "I love you too well to share your regard with any one, upon any terms; least of all upon these, that there is to be a man in the world at whose beck and call you are to be, and at whose orders you are to break off an interview with me. Perdition!"
"Dear Edouard, what folly! Can you suspect me of discourtesy, as well as of--I know not what. Colonel Dujardin will join us, that is all, and we shall take a little walk with him."
"Not I. I decline the intrusion; you are engaged with me, and I have things to say to you that are not fit for that puppy to hear. So choose between me and him, and choose forever."
Rose colored. "I should be very sorry to choose either of you forever; but for this afternoon I choose you."
"Oh, thank you--my whole life shall prove my gratitude for this preference."
Rose beckoned Jacintha, and sent her with an excuse to Colonel Dujardin. She then turned with an air of mock submission to Edouard. "I am at monsieur's orders."
Then this unhappy novice, being naturally good-natured, thanked her again and again for her condescension in setting his heart at rest. He proposed a walk, since his interference had lost her one. She yielded a cold assent. This vexed him, but he took it for granted it would wear off before the end of the walk. Edouard's heart bounded, but he loved her too sincerely to be happy unless he could see her happy too; the malicious thing saw this, or perhaps knew it by instinct, and by means of this good feeling of his she revenged herself for his tyranny. She tortured him as only a woman can torture, and as even she can torture only a worthy man, and one who loves her. In the course of that short walk this inexperienced girl, strong in the instincts and inborn arts of her sex, drove pins and needles, needles and pins, of all sorts and sizes, through her lover's heart.
She was everything by turns, except kind, and nothing for long together. She was peevish, she was ostentatiously patient and submissive, she was inattentive to her companion and seemingly wrapped up in contemplation of absent things and persons, the colonel to wit; she was dogged, repulsive, and cold; and she never was herself a single moment. They returned to the gate of the Pleasaunce. "Well, mademoiselle," said Riviere very sadly, "that interloper might as well have been with us."
"Of course he might, and you would have lost nothing by permitting me to be courteous to a guest and an invalid. If you had not played the tyrant, and taken the matter into your own hands, I should have found means to soothe your jeal--I mean your vanity; but you preferred to have your own way. Well, you have had it."
"Yes, mademoiselle, you have given me a lesson; you have shown me how idle it is to attempt to force a young lady's inclinations in anything."
He bade her good-day, and went away sorrowful.
She cut Camille dead for the rest of the day.
Next morning, early, Edouard called expressly to see her. "Mademoiselle Rose," said he, humbly, "I called to apologize for the ungentlemanly tone of my remonstrances yesterday."
"Fiddle-dee," said Rose. "Don't do it again; that is the best apology."
"I am not likely to offend so again," said he sadly. "I am going away. I am sorry to say I am promoted; my new post is ten leagues. He will have it all his own way now. But perhaps it is best. Were I to stay here, I foresee you would soon lose whatever friendly feeling you have for me."
"Am I so changeable? I am not considered so," remonstrated Rose, gently.
Riviere explained; "I am not vain," said he, with that self- knowledge which is so general an attribute of human beings; "no man less so, nor am I jealous; but I respect myself, and I could never be content to share your time and your regard with Colonel Dujardin, nor with a much better man. See now; he has made me arrogant. Was I ever so before?"
"No! no! no! and I forgive you now, my poor Edouard."
"He has made you cold as ice to me."
"No! that was my own wickedness and spitefulness."
"Wickedness, spitefulness! they are not in your nature. It is all that wretch's doing."
Rose sighed, but she said nothing; for she saw that to excuse Camille would only make the jealous one more bitter against him.
"Will you deign to write to me at my new post? once a month? in answer to my letters?"
"Yes, dear. But you will ride over sometimes to see us."
"Oh, yes; but for some little time I shall not be able. The duties of a new post."
"Perhaps in a month--a fortnight?"
"Sooner perhaps; the moment I hear that man is out of the house."
Edouard went away, dogged and sad; Rose shut herself up in her room and had a good cry. In the afternoon Josephine came and remonstrated with her. "You have not walked with him at all to-day."
"No; you must pet him yourself for once. I hate the sight of him; it has made mischief between Edouard and me, my being so attentive to him. Edouard is jealous, and I cannot wonder. After all, what right have I to mystify him who honors me with his affection?"
Then, being pressed with questions by Josephine, she related to her all that had passed between Edouard and her, word for word.
"Poor Camille!" sighed Josephine the just.
"Oh, dear, yes! poor Camille! who has the power to make us all miserable, and who does it, and will go on doing it until he is happy himself."
"Ah! would to Heaven I could make him as happy as he deserves to be."
"You could easily make him much happier than that. And why not do it?"
"O Rose," said Josephine, shocked, "how can you advise me so?"
She then asked her if she thought it possible that Camille could be ignorant of her heart.
"Josephine," replied Rose, angrily, "these men are absurd: they believe only what they see. I have done what I can for you and Camille, but it is useless. Would you have him believe you love him, you must yourself be kind to him; and it would be a charitable action: you would make four unhappy people happy, or, at least, put them on the road; now they are off the road, and, by what I have seen to-day, I think, if we go on so much longer, it will be too late to try to return. Come, Josephine, for my sake! Let me go and tell him you will consent--to all our happinesses. There, the crime is mine." And she ran off in spite of Josephine's faint and hypocritical entreaties. She returns the next minute looking all aghast. "It is too late," said she. "He is going away. I am sure he is, for he is packing up his things to go. I spied through the old place and saw him. He was sighing like a furnace as he strapped his portmanteau. I hate him, of course, but I was sorry for him. I could not help being. He sighed so all the time, piteously."
Josephine turned pale, and lifted her hands in surprise and dismay.
"Depend on it, Josephine, we are wrong," said Rose, firmly: "these wretches will not stand our nonsense above a certain time: they are not such fools. We are mismanaging: one gone, the other going; both losing faith in us."
Josephine's color returned to her cheek, and then mounted high. Presently she smiled, a smile full of conscious power and furtive complacency, and said quietly, "He will not go."
Rose was pleased, but not surprised, to hear her sister speak so confidently, for she knew her power over Camille. "That is right," said she, "go to him, and say two honest words: 'I bid you stay.'"
"O Rose! no!"
"Poltroon! You know he would go down on his knees, and stay directly."
"No: I should blush all my life before you and him. I could not. I should let him go sooner, almost. Oh, no! I will never ask a man to stay who wishes to leave me. But just you go to him, and say Madame Raynal is going to take a little walk: will he do her the honor to be her companion? Not a word more, if you love me."
"I'll go. Hypocrite!"
Josephine received Camille with a bright smile. She seemed in unusually good spirits, and overflowing with kindness and innocent affection. On this his high gloomy brow relaxed, and all his prospects brightened as by magic. Then she communicated to him a number of little plans for next week and the week after. Among the rest he was to go with her and Rose to Frejus. "Such a sweet place: I want to show it you. You will come?"
He hesitated a single moment: a moment of intense anxiety to the smiling Josephine.
"Yes! he would come: it was a great temptation, he saw so little of her."
"Well, you will see more of me now."
"Shall I see you every day--alone, I mean?"
"Oh, yes, if you wish it," replied Josephine, in an off-hand, indifferent way.
He seized her hand and devoured it with kisses. "Foolish thing!" murmured she, looking down on him with ineffable tenderness. "Should I not be always with you if I consulted my inclination?--let me go."
"No! consult your inclination a little longer."
"Yes; that shall be your punishment."
"For what? What have I done?" asked she with an air of great innocence.
"You have made me happy, me who adore you," was the evasive reply.
Josephine came in from her walk with a high color and beaming eyes, and screamed, "Run, Rose!"
On this concise, and to us not very clear instruction, Rose slipped up the secret stair. She saw Camille come in and gravely unpack his little portmanteau, and dispose his things in the drawers with soldier-like neatness, and hum an agreeable march. She came and told Josephine.
"Ah!" said Josephine with a little sigh of pleasure, and a gentle triumph in her eyes.
She had not only got her desire, but had arrived at it her way,-- woman's way, round about.
This adroit benevolence led to more than she bargained for. She and Camille were now together every day: and their hearts, being under restraint in public, melted together all the more in their stolen interviews.
At the third delicious interview the modest Camille begged Josephine to be his wife directly.
Have you noticed those half tame deer that come up to you in a park so lovingly, with great tender eyes, and, being now almost within reach, stop short, and with bodies fixed like statues on pedestals, crane out their graceful necks for sugar, or bread, or a chestnut, or a pocket-handkerchief? Do but offer to put your hand upon them, away they bound that moment twenty yards, and then stand quite still, and look at your hand and you, with great inquiring, suspicious, tender eyes.
So Josephine started at Camille's audacious proposal. "Never mention such a thing to me again: or--or, I will not walk with you any more:" then she thrilled with pleasure at the obnoxious idea, "she Camille's wife!" and colored all over--with rage, Camille thought. He promised submissively not to renew the topic: no more he did till next day. Josephine had spent nearly the whole interval in thinking of it; so she was prepared to put him down by calm reasons. She proceeded to do so, gently, but firmly.
Lo and behold! what does he do, but meets her with just as many reasons, and just as calm ones: and urges them gently, but firmly.
Heaven had been very kind to them: why should they be unkind to themselves? They had had a great escape: why not accept the happiness, as, being persons of honor, they had accepted the misery? with many other arguments, differing in other things, but agreeing in this, that they were all sober, grave, and full of common-sense.
Finding him not defenceless on the score of reason, she shifted her ground and appealed to his delicacy. On this he appealed to her love, and then calm reason was jostled off the field, and passion and sentiment battled in her place.
In these contests day by day renewed, Camille had many advantages.
Rose, though she did not like him, had now declared on his side. She refused to show him the least attention. This threw him on Josephine: and when Josephine begged her to help reduce Camille to reason, her answer would be,--
"Hypocrite!" with a kiss: or else she would say, with a half comic petulance, "No! no! I am on his side. Give him his own way, or he will make us all four miserable."
Thus Josephine's ally went over to the enemy.
And then this coy young lady's very power of resistance began to give way. She had now battled for months against her own heart: first for her mother; then, in a far more terrible conflict for Raynal, for honor and purity; and of late she had been battling, still against her own heart, for delicacy, for etiquette, things very dear to her, but not so great, holy, and sustaining as honor and charity that were her very household gods: and so, just when the motives of resistance were lowered, the length of the resistance began to wear her out.
For nothing is so hard to her sex as a long steady struggle. In matters physical, this is the thing the muscles of the fair cannot stand; in matters intellectual and moral, the long strain it is that beats them dead.
Do not look for a Bacona, a Newtona, a Handella, a Victoria Huga.
Some American ladies tell us education has stopped the growth of these.
No! mesdames. These are not in nature.
They can bubble letters in ten minutes that you could no more deliver to order in ten days than a river can play like a fountain. They can sparkle gems of stories: they can flash little diamonds of poems. The entire sex has never produced one opera nor one epic that mankind could tolerate: and why? these come by long, high- strung labor. But, weak as they are in the long run of everything but the affections (and there giants), they are all overpowering while their gallop lasts. Fragilla shall dance any two of you flat on the floor before four o'clock, and then dance on till the peep of day.
Only you trundle off to your business as usual, and could dance again the next night, and so on through countless ages.
She who danced you into nothing is in bed, a human jelly tipped with headache.
What did Josephine say to Rose one day? "I am tired of saying 'No! no! no! no! no!' forever and ever to him I love."
But this was not all. She was not free from self-reproach. Camille's faith in her had stood firm. Hers in him had not. She had wronged him, first by believing him false, then by marrying another. One day she asked his pardon for this. He replied that he had forgiven that; but would she be good enough to make him forget it?
"I wish I could."
"You can. Marry me: then your relation to that man will seem but a hideous dream. I shall be able to say, looking at you, my wife, 'I was faithful: I suffered something for her; I came home: she loved me still; the proof is, she was my wife within three months of my return.'"
When he said that to her in the Pleasaunce, if there had been a priest at hand--. In a word, Josephine longed to show him her love, yet wished not to shock her mother, nor offend her own sense of delicacy; but Camille cared for nothing but his love. To sacrifice love and happiness, even for a time, to etiquette, seemed to him to be trifling with the substance of great things for the shadow of petty things; and he said so: sometimes sadly, sometimes almost bitterly.
So Josephine was a beleagured fortress, attacked with one will, and defended by troops, one-third of which were hot on the side of the besiegers.
When singleness attacks division, you know the result beforehand. Why then should I spin words? I will not trace so ill-matched a contest step by step, sentence by sentence: let me rather hasten to relate the one peculiarity that arose out of this trite contest, where, under the names of Camille and Josephine, the two great sexes may be seen acting the whole world-wide distich,--
"It's a man's part to try, And a woman's to deny [for a while?]."
Finding her own resolutions oozing away, Josephine caught at another person.
She said to Camille before Rose,--
"Even if I could bring myself to snatch at happiness in this indelicate way--scarce a month after, oh!" And there ended the lady's sentence. In the absence of a legitimate full stop, she put one hand before her lovely face to hide it, and so no more. But some two minutes after she delivered the rest in the form and with the tone of a distinct remark, "No: my mother would never consent."
"Yes, she would if you could be brought to implore her as earnestly as I implore you."
"Now would she?" asked Josephine, turning quickly to her sister.
"No, never. Our mother would look with horror on such a proposal. A daughter of hers to marry within a twelvemonth of her widowhood!"
"There, you see, Camille."
"And, besides, she loved Raynal so; she has not forgotten him as we have, almost."
"Ungrateful creature that I am!" sighed Josephine!
"She mourns for him every day. Often I see her eyes suddenly fill; that is for him. Josephine's influence with mamma is very great: it is double mine: but if we all went on our knees to her, the doctor and all, she would never consent."
"There you see, Camille: and I could not defy my mother, even for you."
"I see everything is against me, even my love: for that love is too much akin to veneration to propose to you a clandestine marriage."
"Oh, thank you! bless you for respecting as well as loving me, dear Camille," said Josephine.
These words, uttered with gentle warmth, were some consolation to Camille, and confirmed him, as they were intended to do, in the above good resolution. He smiled.
"Maladroit!" muttered Rose.
"Why maladroit?" asked Camille, opening his eyes.
"Let us talk of something else," replied Rose, coolly.
Camille turned red. He understood that he had done something very stupid, but he could not conceive what. He looked from one sister to the other alternately. Rose was smiling ironically, Josephine had her eyes bent demurely on a handkerchief she was embroidering.
That evening Camille drew Rose aside, and asked for an explanation of her "maladroit."
"So it was," replied Rose, sharply.
But as this did not make the matter quite clear, Camille begged a little further explanation.
"Was it your part to make difficulties?"
"Was it for you to tell her a secret marriage would not be delicate? Do you think she will be behind you in delicacy? or that a love without respect will satisfy her? yet you must go and tell her you respected her too much to ask her to marry you secretly. In other words, situated as she is, you asked her not to marry you at all: she consented to that directly; what else could you expect?"
"Maladroit! indeed," said Camille, "but I would not have said it, only I thought"--
"You thought nothing would induce her to marry secretly, so you said to yourself, 'I will assume a virtue: I will do a bit of cheap self- denial: decline to the sound of trumpets what another will be sure to deny me if I don't--ha! ha!'--well, for your comfort, I am by no means so sure she might not have been brought to do anything for you, except openly defy mamma: but now of course"--
And here this young lady's sentence ended: for the sisters, unlike in most things, were one in grammar.
Camille was so disconcerted and sad at what he had done, that Rose began to pity him: so she rallied him a little longer in spite of her pity: and then all of a sudden gave him her hand, and said she would try and repair the mischief.
He began to smother her hand with kisses.
"Oh!" said she, "I don't deserve all that: I have a motive of my own; let me alone, child, do. Your unlucky speech will be quoted to me a dozen times. Never mind."
Rose went and bribed Josephine to consent.
"Come, mamma shall not know, and as for you, you shall scarcely move in the matter; only do not oppose me very violently, and all will be well."
"Ah, Rose!" said Josephine; "it is delightful--terrible, I mean--to have a little creature about one that reads one like this. What shall I do? What shall I do?"
"Why, do the best you can under all the circumstances. His wound is healed, you know; he must go back to the army; you have both suffered to the limits of mortal endurance. Is he to go away unhappy, in any doubt of your affection? and you to remain behind with the misery of self-reproach added to the desolation of absence?--think."
"It is cruel. But to deceive my mother!"
"Do not say deceive our mother; that is such a shocking phrase."
Rose then reminded Josephine that their confessor had told them a wise reticence was not the same thing as a moral deceit. She reminded her, too, how often they had acted on his advice and always with good effect; how many anxieties and worries they had saved their mother by reticence. Josephine assented warmly to this.
Was there not some reason to think they had saved their mother's very life by these reticences? Josephine assented. "And, Josephine, you are of age; you are your own mistress; you have a right to marry whom you please: and, sooner or later, you will certainly marry Camille. I doubt whether even our mother could prevail on you to refuse him altogether. So it is but a question of time, and of giving our mother pain, or sparing her pain. Dear mamma is old; she is prejudiced. Why shock her prejudices? She could not be brought to understand the case: these things never happened in her day. Everything seems to have gone by rule then. Let us do nothing to worry her for the short time she has to live. Let us take a course between pain to her and cruelty to you and Camille."
These arguments went far to convince Josephine: for her own heart supported them. She went from her solid objections to untenable ones--a great point gained. She urged the difficulty, the impossibility of a secret marriage.
Camille burst in here: he undertook at once to overcome these imaginary difficulties. "They could be married at a distance."
"You will find no priest who will consent to do such a wicked thing as marry us without my mother's knowledge," objected Josephine.
"Oh! as to that," said Rose, "you know the mayor marries people nowadays."
"I will not be married again without a priest," said Josephine, sharply.
"Nor I," said Camille. "I know a mayor who will do the civil forms for me, and a priest who will marry me in the sight of Heaven, and both will keep it secret for love of me till it shall please Josephine to throw off this disguise."
"Who is the priest?" inquired Josephine, keenly.
"An old cure: he lives near Frejus: he was my tutor, and the mayor is the mayor of Frejus, also an old friend of mine."
"But what on earth will you say to them?"
"That is my affair: I must give them some reasons which compel me to keep my marriage secret. Oh! I shall have to tell them some fibs, of course."
"There, I thought so! I will not have you telling fibs; it lowers you."
"Of course it does; but you can't have secrecy without a fib or two."
"Fibs that will injure no one," said Rose, majestically.
From this day Camille began to act as well as to talk. He bought a light caleche and a powerful horse, and elected factotum Dard his groom. Camille rode over to Frejus and told a made-up story to the old cure and the mayor, and these his old friends believed every word he said, and readily promised their services and strict secrecy.
He told the young ladies what he had done.
Rose approved. Josephine shook her head, and seeing matters going as her heart desired and her conscience did not quite approve, she suddenly affected to be next to nobody in the business--to be resigned, passive, and disposed of to her surprise by Queen Rose and King Camille, without herself taking any actual part in their proceedings.
At last the great day arrived on which Camille and Josephine were to be married at Frejus.
The mayor awaited them at eleven o'clock. The cure at twelve. The family had been duly prepared for this excursion by several smaller ones.
Rose announced their intention over night; a part of it.
"Mamma," said she, blushing a little, "Colonel Dujardin is good enough to take us to Frejus tomorrow. It is a long way, and we must breakfast early or we shall not be back to dinner."
"Do so, my child. I hope you will have a fine day: and mind you take plenty of wraps with you in case of a shower."
At seven o'clock the next morning Camille and the two ladies took a hasty cup of coffee together instead of breakfast, and then Dard brought the caleche round.
The ladies got in, and Camille had just taken the reins in his hand, when Jacintha screamed to him from the hall, "Wait a moment, colonel, wait a moment! The doctor! don't go without the doctor!" And the next moment Dr. Aubertin appeared with his cloak on his arm, and, saluting the ladies politely, seated himself quietly in the vehicle before the party had recovered their surprise.
The ladies managed to keep their countenances, but Dujardin's discomfiture was evident.
He looked piteously at Josephine, and then asked Aubertin if they were to set him down anywhere in particular.
"Oh, no; I am going with you to Frejus," was the quiet reply.
Josephine quaked. Camille was devoured with secret rage: he lashed the horse and away they went.
It was a silent party. The doctor seemed in a reverie. The others did not know what to think, much less to say. Aubertin sat by Camille's side; so the latter could hold no secret communication with either lady.
Now it was not the doctor's habit to rise at this time of the morning: yet there he was, going with them to Frejus uninvited.
Josephine was in agony; had their intention transpired through some imprudence of Camille?
Camille was terribly uneasy. He concluded the secret had transpired through female indiscretion. Then they all tortured themselves as to the old man's intention. But what seemed most likely was, that he was with them to prevent a clandestine marriage by his bare presence, without making a scene and shocking Josephine's pride: and if so, was he there by his own impulse? No, it was rather to be feared that all this was done by order of the baroness. There was a finesse about it that smacked of a feminine origin, and the baroness was very capable of adopting such a means as this, to spare her own pride and her favorite daughter's. "The clandestine" is not all sugar. A more miserable party never went along, even to a wedding.
After waiting a long time for the doctor to declare himself, they turned desperate, and began to chatter all manner of trifles. This had a good effect: it roused Aubertin from his reverie, and presently he gave them the following piece of information: "I told you the other day that a nephew of mine was just dead; a nephew I had not seen for many years. Well, my friends, I received last night a hasty summons to his funeral."
"No, at Paris. The invitation was so pressing, that I was obliged to go. The letter informed me, however, that a diligence passes through Frejus, at eleven o'clock, for Paris. I heard you say you were going to Frejus; so I packed up a few changes of linen, and my MS., my work on entomology, which at my last visit to the capital all the publishers were mad enough to refuse: here it is. Apropos, has Jacintha put my bag into the carriage?"
On this a fierce foot-search, and the bag was found. Meantime, Josephine leaned back in her seat with a sigh of thankfulness. She was more intent on not being found out than on being married. But Camille, who was more intent on being married than on not being found out, was asking himself, with fury, how on earth they should get rid of Aubertin in time.
Well, of course, under such circumstances as these the diligence did not come to its time, nor till long after; and all the while, they were waiting for it they were failing their rendezvous with the mayor, and making their rendezvous with the curate impossible. But, above all, there was the risk of one or other of those friends coming up and blurting all out, taking for granted that the doctor must be in their confidence, or why bring him.
At last, at half-past eleven o'clock, to their great relief, up came the diligence. The doctor prepared to take his place in the interior, when the conductor politely informed him that the vehicle stopped there a quarter of an hour.
"In that case I will not abandon my friends," said the doctor, affectionately.
One of his friends gnashed his teeth at this mark of affection. But Josephine smiled sweetly.
At last he was gone; but it wanted ten minutes only to twelve.
Josephine inquired amiably, whether it would not be as well to postpone matters to another day--meaning forever. "My ardor is chilled," said she, and showed symptoms of crying at what she had gone through.
Camille replied by half dragging them to the mayor. That worthy received them with profound, though somewhat demure respect, and invited them to a table sumptuously served. The ladies, out of politeness, were about to assent, but Camille begged permission to postpone that part until after the ceremony.
At last, to their astonishment, they were married. Then, with a promise to return and dine with the mayor, they went to the cure. Lo and behold! he was gone to visit a sick person. "He had waited a long time for them," said the servant.
Josephine was much disconcerted, and showed a disposition to cry again. The servant, a good-natured girl, nosed a wedding, and offered to run and bring his reverence in a minute.
Presently there came an old silvery-haired man, who addressed them all as his children. He took them to the church, and blessed their union; and for the first time Josephine felt as if Heaven consented. They took a gentle farewell of him, and went back to the mayor's to dine; and at this stage of the business Rose and Josephine at last effected a downright simultaneous cry, apropos of nothing that was then occurring.
This refreshed them mightily, and they glowed at the mayor's table like roses washed with dew.
But oh! how glad at heart they all were to find themselves in the carriage once more going home to Beaurepaire.
Rose and Josephine sat intertwined on the back seat; Camille, the reins in his right hand, nearly turned his back on the horse, and leaned back over to them and purred to Rose and his wife with ineffable triumph and tenderness.
The lovers were in Elysium, and Rose was not a little proud of her good management in ending all their troubles. Their mother received them back with great, and as they fancied, with singular, affection. She was beginning to be anxious about them, she said. Then her kindness gave these happy souls a pang it never gave them before.
Since the above events scarce a fortnight had elapsed; but such a change! Camille sunburnt and healthy, and full of animation and confidence; Josephine beaming with suppressed happiness, and more beautiful than Rose could ever remember to have seen her. For a soft halo of love and happiness shone around her head; a new and indefinable attraction bloomed on her face. She was a wife. Her eye, that used to glance furtively on Camille, now dwelt demurely on him; dwelt with a sort of gentle wonder and admiration as well as affection, and, when he came or passed very near her, a keen observer might have seen her thrill.
She kept a good deal out of her mother's way; for she felt within that her face must be too happy. She feared to shock her mother's grief with her radiance. She was ashamed of feeling unmixed heaven. But the flood of secret bliss she floated in bore all misgivings away. The pair were forever stealing away together for hours, and on these occasions Rose used to keep out of her mother's sight, until they should return. So then the new-married couple could wander hand in hand through the thick woods of Beaurepaire, whose fresh green leaves were now just out, and hear the distant cuckoo, and sit on mossy banks, and pour love into one another's eyes, and plan ages of happiness, and murmur their deep passion and their bliss almost more than mortal; could do all this and more, without shocking propriety. These sweet duets passed for trios: for on their return Rose would be out looking for them, or would go and meet them at some distance, and all three would go up together to the baroness, as from a joint excursion. And when they went up to their bedrooms, Josephine would throw her arms round her sister's neck, and sigh, "It is not happiness, it is beatitude!"
Meantime, the baroness mourned for Raynal. Her grief showed no decrease. Rose even fancied at times she wore a gloomy and discontented look as well; but on reflection she attributed that to her own fancy, or to the contrast that had now sprung up in her sister's beaming complacency.
Rose, when she found herself left day after day alone for hours, was sad and thought of Edouard. And this feeling gained on her day by day.
At last, one afternoon, she locked herself in her own room, and, after a long contest with her pride, which, if not indomitable, was next door to it, she sat down to write him a little letter. Now, in this letter, in the place devoted by men to their after-thoughts, by women to their pretended after-thoughts; i. e., to what they have been thinking of all through the letter, she dropped a careless hint that all the party missed him very much, "even the obnoxious colonel, who, by-the-by, has transferred his services elsewhere. I have forgiven him that, because he has said civil things about you."
Rose was reading her letter over again, to make sure that all the principal expressions were indistinct, and that the composition generally, except the postscript, resembled a Delphic oracle, when there was a hasty footstep, and a tap at her door, and in came Jacintha, excited.
"He is come, mademoiselle," cried she, and nodded her head like a mandarin, only more knowingly; then she added, "So you may burn that." For her quick eye had glanced at the table.
"Who is come?" inquired Rose, eagerly.
"Why, your one?"
"My one?" asked the young lady, reddening, "my what?"
"The little one--Edouard--Monsieur Riviere."
"Oh, Monsieur Riviere," said Rose, acting nonchalance. "Why could you not say so? you use such phrases, who can conjecture what you mean? I will come to Monsieur Riviere directly; mamma will be so glad."
Jacintha gone, Rose tore up the letter and locked up the pieces, then ran to the glass. Etc.
Edouard had been so profoundly miserable he could stand it no longer; in spite of his determination not to visit Beaurepaire while it contained a rival, he rode over to see whether he had not tormented himself idly: above all, to see the beloved face.
Jacintha put him into the salle a manger. "By that you will see her alone," said the knowing Jacintha. He sat down, hat and whip in hand, and wondered how he should be received--if at all.
In glides Rose all sprightliness and good-humor, and puts out her hand to him; the which he kisses.
"How could I keep away so long?" asked he vaguely, and self- astonished.
"How indeed, and we missing you so all the time!"
"Have you missed me?" was the eager inquiry.
"Oh, no!" was the cheerful reply; "but all the rest have."
Presently the malicious thing gave a sudden start.
"Oh! such a piece of news; you remember Colonel Dujardin, the obnoxious colonel?"
"Transferred his attentions. Fancy!"
"To Josephine and mamma. But such are the military. He only wanted to get rid of you: this done (through your want of spirit), he scorns the rich prize; so now I scorn him. Will you come for a walk?"
"We will go and look for my deserter. I say, tell me now; cannot I write to the commander-in-chief about this? a soldier has no right to be a deserter, has he? tell me, you are a public man, and know everything except my heart."
"Is it not too bad to tease me to-day?"
"Yes! but please! I have had few amusements of late. I find it so dull without you to tease."
Formal permission to tease being conceded, she went that instant on the opposite tack, and began to tell him how she had missed him, and how sorry she had been anything should have occurred to vex their kind good friend. In short, Edouard spent a delightful day, for Rose took him one way to meet Josephine, who, she knew, was coming another. At night the last embers of jealousy got quenched, for Josephine was a wife now, and had already begun to tell Camille all her little innocent secrets; and she told him all about Edouard and Rose, and gave him his orders; so he treated Rose with great respect before Edouard; but paid her no marked attention; also he was affable to Riviere, who, having ceased to suspect, began to like him.
In the course of the evening, the colonel also informed the baroness that he expected every day an order to join the army of the Rhine.
Edouard pricked his ears.
The baroness said no more than politeness dictated. She did not press him to stay, but treated his departure as a matter of course. Riviere rode home late in the evening in high spirits.
The next day Rose varied her late deportment; she sang snatches of melody, going about the house; it was for all the world like a bird chirping. In the middle of one chirp Jacintha interfered. "Hush, mademoiselle, your mamma! she is at the bottom of the corridor."
"What was I thinking of?" said Rose.
"Oh! I dare say you know, mademoiselle," replied the privileged domestic.
A letter of good news came from Aubertin. That summons to his nephew's funeral was an era in his harmless life.
The said nephew was a rich man and an oddity; one of those who love to surprise folk. Moreover, he had no children, and detected his nephews and nieces being unnaturally civil to him. "Waiting to cut me up," was his generous reading of them. So with this he made a will, and there defied, as far as in him lay, the laws of nature; for he set his wealth a-flowing backwards instead of forwards; he handed his property up to an ancestor, instead of down to posterity.
All this the doctor's pen set down with some humor, and in the calm spirit with which a genuine philosopher receives prosperity as well as adversity. Yet one natural regret escaped him; that all this wealth, since it was to come, had not come a year or two sooner.
All at Beaurepaire knew what their dear old friend meant.
His other news to them was that they might expect him any moment.
So here was another cause of rejoicing.
"I am so glad," said Josephine. "Now, perhaps, he will be able to publish his poor dear entomology, that the booksellers were all so unkind, so unfeeling about."
I linger on the brink of painful scenes to observe that a sweet and loving friendship, such as this was between the good doctor and three persons of another sex, is one of the best treasures of the human heart. Poverty had strengthened it; yet now wealth could not weaken it. With no tie of blood it yet was filial, sisterly, brotherly, national, chivalrous; happy, unalloyed sentiment, free from ups and downs, from heats and chills, from rivalry, from caprice; and, indeed, from all mortal accidents but one--and why say one? methinks death itself does but suspend these gentle, rare, unselfish amities a moment, then waft them upward to their abiding home.