Whether Professor Blinkwell wanted to loapenft coin supplyok or not Snacklit certainly did. He went forward, blinking into the white heat.
"That was the first thing, being duty, you know.""What? have you anything else to say to me, then?""I have.""Is it imporethereum classic weekly forecasttant? for my own duties will soon demand me.""It is so important that, command or no command, I should have comefurther than the Rhine to say it to you."Let a man be as bold as a lion, a certain awe still waits upon doubtand mystery; and some of this vague awe crept over Camille Dujardinat Raynal's mysterious speech, and his grave, quiet, significantmanner.Had he discovered something, and what? For Josephine's sake, morethan his own, Camille was on his guard directly.
Raynal looked at him in silence a moment."What?" said he with a slight sneer, "has it never occurred to youthat I MUST have a serious word to say to you? First, let me putyou a question: did they treat you well at my house? at the chateaude Beaurepaire?""Yes," faltered Camille."You met, I trust, all the kindness and care due to a woundedsoldier and an officer of merit. It would annoy me greatly if Ithought you were not treated like a brother in my house."Colonel Dujardin writhed inwardly at this view of matters. He couldnot reply in few words. This made him hesitate.His inquisitor waited, but, receiving no reply, went on, "Well,colonel, have you shown the sense of gratitude we had a right tolook for in return? In a word, when you left Beaurepaire, had yourconscience nothing to reproach you with?"Dujardin still hesitated. He scarcely knew what to think or what tosay. But he thought to himself, "Who has told him? does he knowall?""Colonel Dujardin, I am the husband of Josephine, the son of Madamede Beaurepaire, and the brother of Rose. You know very well whatbrings me here. Your answer?""Colonel Raynal, between men of honor, placed as you and I are, fewwords should pass, for words are idle. You will never prove to methat I have wronged you: I shall never convince you that I have not.Let us therefore close this painful interview in the way it is sureto close. I am at your service, at any hour and place you please.""And pray is that all the answer you can think of?" asked Raynalsomewhat scornfully.
"Why, what other answer can I give you?""A more sensible, a more honest, and a less boyish one. Who doubtsthat you can fight, you silly fellow? haven't I seen you? I wantyou to show me a much higher sort of courage: the courage to repaira wrong, not the paltry valor to defend one.""I really do not understand you, sir. How can I undo what is done?""Why, of course you cannot. And therefore I stand here ready toforgive all that is past; not without a struggle, which you don'tseem to appreciate."Camille was now utterly mystified. Raynal continued, "But of courseit is upon condition that you consent to heal the wound you havemade. If you refuse--hum! but you will not refuse.""But what is it you require of me?" inquired Camille impatiently."Only a little common honesty. This is the case: you have seduced ayoung lady.""Sir!" cried Camille angrily."Not going to church! I--I--scarcely understand. Worship is such a sacred duty--"
"You and Jane certainly have a right to go to church, and since it is your wish, I'll take you down to Lemuel Weeks' and you can go with them.""I don't want to go to Cousin Lemuel's, nor to church, nuther," Jane protested."Why, Mr. Holcroft," began the widow sweetly, "after you've once harnessed up it will take but a little longer to keep on to the meeting house. It would appear so seemly for us to drive thither, as a matter of course. It would be what the communerty expects of us. This is not our day, that we should spend it carnally. We should be spiritually-minded. We should put away things of earth. Thoughts of business and any unnecessary toil should be abhorrent. I have often thought that there was too much milking done on Sunday among farmers. I know they say it is essential, but they all seem so prone to forget that but one thing is needful. I feel it borne in upon my mind, Mr. Holcroft, that I should plead with you to attend divine worship and seek an uplifting of your thoughts. You have no idea how differently the day may end, or what emotions may be aroused if you place yourself under the droppings of the sanctuary.""I'm like Jane, I don't wish to go," said Mr. Holcroft nervously.
"But my dear Mr. Holcroft,"--the farmer fidgeted under this address,--"the very essence of true religion is to do what we don't wish to do. We are to mortify the flesh and thwart the carnal mind. The more thorny the path of self-denial is, the more certain it's the right path. "I've already entered upon it," she continued, turning a momentary glare upon Mrs. Wiggins. "Never before was a respecterble woman so harrowed and outraged; but I am calm; I am endeavoring to maintain a frame of mind suiterble to worship, and I feel it my bounden duty to impress upon you that worship is a necessity to every human being. My conscience would not acquit me if I did not use all my influence--""Very well, Mrs. Mumpson, you and your conscience are quits. You have used all your influence. I will do as I said--take you to Lemuel Weeks'--and you can go to church with his family," and he rose from the table.
"But Cousin Lemuel is also painfully blind to his spiritual interests--"Holcroft did not stay to listen and was soon engaged in the morning milking. Jane flatly declared that she would not go to Cousin Lemuel's or to church. "It don't do me no good, nor you, nuther," she sullenly declared to her mother.Mrs. Mumpson now resolved upon a different line of tactics. Assuming a lofty, spiritual air, she commanded Jane to light a fire in the parlor, and retired thither with the rocking chair. The elder widow looked after her and ejaculated, "Vell, hif she haint the craziest loon hi hever 'eard talk. Hif she vas blind she might 'a' seen that the master didn't vant hany sich lecturin' clack."Having kindled the fire, the child was about to leave the room when her mother interposed and said solemnly, "Jane, sit down and keep Sunday."
"I'm going to help Mrs. Wiggins if she'll let me.""You will not so demean yourself. I wish you to have no relations whatever with that female in the kitchen. If you had proper self-respect, you would never speak to her again.""We aint visitin' here. If I can't work indoors, I'll tell him I'll work outdoors.""It's not proper for you to work today. I want you to sit there in the corner and learn the Fifth Commandment."
"Aint you goin' to Cousin Lemuel's?""On mature reflection, I have decided to remain at home."
"I thought you would if you had any sense left. You know well enough we aint wanted down there. I'll go tell him not to hitch up.""Well, I will permit you to do so. Then return to your Sunday task."
"I'm goin' to mind him," responded the child. She passed rapidly and apprehensively through the kitchen, but paused on the doorstep to make some overtures to Mrs. Wiggins. If that austere dame was not to be propitiated, a line of retreat was open to the barn. "Say," she began, to attract attention."Vell, young-un," replied Mrs. Wiggins, rendered more pacific by her breakfast."Don't you want me to wash up the dishes and put 'em away? I know how.""Hi'll try ye. Hif ye breaks hanythink--" and the old woman nodded volumes at the child."I'll be back in a minute," said Jane. A moment later she met Holcroft carrying two pails of milk from the barnyard. He was about to pass without noticing her, but she again secured attention by her usual preface, "Say," when she had a somewhat extended communication to make."Come to the dairy room, Jane, and say your say there," said Holcroft not unkindly.
"She aint goin' to Cousin Lemuel's," said the girl, from the door."What is she going to do."
"Rock in the parlor. Say, can't I help Mrs. Wiggins wash up the dishes and do the work?""Certainly, why not?"
"Mother says I must sit in the parlor 'n' learn Commandments 'n' keep Sunday.""Well, Jane, which do you think you ought to do?"
"I think I oughter work, and if you and Mrs. Wiggins will let me, I will work in spite of mother.""I think that you and your mother both should help do the necessary work today. There won't be much.""If I try and help Mrs. Wiggins, mother'll bounce out at me. She shook me last night after I went upstairs, and she boxed my ears 'cause I wanted to keep the kitchen fire up last night.""I'll go with you to the kitchen and tell Mrs. Wiggins to let you help, and I won't let your mother punish you again unless you do wrong."
Mrs. Wiggins, relying on Jane's promise of help, had sat down to the solace of her pipe for a few minutes, but was about to thrust it hastily away on seeing Holcroft. He reassured her by saying good-naturedly, "No need of that, my good woman. Sit still and enjoy your pipe. I like to smoke myself. Jane will help clear away things and I wish her to. You'll find she's quite handy. By the way, have you all the tobacco you want?""Vell, now, master, p'raps ye know the 'lowance down hat the poor-us vasn't sich as ud keep a body in vat ye'd call satisfyin' smokin'. Hi never 'ad henough ter keep down the 'ankerin'."
"I suppose that's so. You shall have half of my stock, and when I go to town again, I'll get you a good supply. I guess I'll light my pipe, too, before starting for a walk.""Bless yer 'art, master, ye makes a body comf'terble. Ven hi smokes, hi feels more hat 'ome and kind o'contented like. An hold 'ooman like me haint got much left to comfort 'er but 'er pipe."
"Jane!" called Mrs. Mumpson sharply from the parlor. As there was no answer, the widow soon appeared in the kitchen door. Smoking was one of the unpardonable sins in Mrs. Mumpson's eyes; and when she saw Mrs. Wiggins puffing comfortably away and Holcroft lighting his pipe, while Jane cleared the table, language almost failed her. She managed to articulate, "Jane, this atmosphere is not fit for you to breathe on this sacred day. I wish you to share my seclusion.""Mrs. Mumpson, I have told her to help Mrs. Wiggins in the necessary work," Holcroft interposed.
"Mr. Holcroft, you don't realize--men never do--Jane is my offspring, and--""Oh, if you put it that way, I shan't interfere between mother and child. But I suppose you and Jane came here to work.""If you will enter the parlor, I will explain to you fully my views, and--""Oh, please excuse me!" said Holcroft, hastily passing out. "I was just starting for a walk--I'm bound to have one more day to myself on the old place," he muttered as he bent his steps toward an upland pasture.
Jane, seeing that her mother was about to pounce upon her, ran behind Mrs. Wiggins, who slowly rose and began a progress toward the irate widow, remarking as she did so, "Hi'll just shut the door 'twixt ye and yer hoffspring, and then ye kin say yer prayers hon the t'other side."Mrs. Mumpson was so overcome at the turn affairs had taken on this day, which was to witness such progress in her plans and hopes, as to feel the absolute necessity of a prolonged season of thought and soliloquy, and she relapsed, without further protest, into the rocking chair.
Chapter 12 JaneHolcroft was not long in climbing to a sunny nook whence he could see not only his farm and dwelling, but also the Oakville valley, and the little white spire of the distant meeting house. He looked at this last-named object wistfully and very sadly. Mrs. Mumpson's tirade about worship had been without effect, but the memories suggested by the church were bitter-sweet indeed. It belonged to the Methodist denomination, and Holcroft had been taken, or had gone thither, from the time of his earliest recollection. He saw himself sitting between his father and mother, a round-faced urchin to whom the sermon was unintelligible, but to whom little Bessie Jones in the next pew was a fact, not only intelligible, but very interesting. She would turn around and stare at him until he smiled, then she would giggle until her mother brought her right-about-face with considerable emphasis. After this, he saw the little boy--could it have been himself?--nodding, swaying, and finally slumbering peacefully, with his head on his mother's lap, until shaken into sufficient consciousness to be half dragged, half led, to the door. Once in the big, springless farm wagon he was himself again, looking eagerly around to catch another glimpse of Bessie Jones. Then he was a big, irreverent boy, shyly and awkwardly bent on mischief in the same old meeting house. Bessie Jones no longer turned and stared at him, but he exultingly discovered that he could still make her giggle on the sly. Years passed, and Bessie was his occasional choice for a sleigh-ride when the long body of some farm wagon was placed on runners, and boys and girls--young men and women, they almost thought themselves--were packed in like sardines. Something like self-reproach smote Holcroft even now, remembering how he had allowed his fancy much latitude at this period, paying attention to more than one girl besides Bessie, and painfully undecided which he liked best.
Then had come the memorable year which had opened with a protracted meeting. He and Bessie Jones had passed under conviction at the same time, and on the same evening had gone forward to the anxious seat. From the way in which she sobbed, one might have supposed that the good, simple-hearted girl had terrible burdens on her conscience; but she soon found hope, and her tears gave place to smiles. Holcroft, on the contrary, was terribly cast down and unable to find relief. He felt that he had much more to answer for than Bessie; he accused himself of having been a rather coarse, vulgar boy; he had made fun of sacred things in that very meeting house more times than he liked to think of, and now for some reason could think of nothing else.He could not shed tears or get up much emotion; neither could he rid himself of the dull weight at heart. The minister, the brethren and sisters, prayed for him and over him, but nothing removed his terrible inertia. He became a familiar form on the anxious seat for there was a dogged persistence in his nature which prevented him from giving up; but at the close of each meeting he went home in a state of deeper dejection. Sometimes, in returning, he was Bessie Jones' escort, and her happiness added to his gall and bitterness. One moonlight night they stopped under the shadow of a pine near her father's door, and talked over the matter a few moments before parting. Bessie was full of sympathy which she hardly knew how to express. Unconsciously, in her earnestness--how well he remembered the act!--she laid her hand on his arm as she said, "James, I guess I know what's the matter with you. In all your seeking you are thinking only of yourself--how bad you've been and all that. I wouldn't think of myself and what I was any more, if I was you. You aint so awful bad, James, that I'd turn a cold shoulder to you; but you might think I was doing just that if ye stayed away from me and kept saying to yourself, 'I aint fit to speak to Bessie Jones.'"