"No," he replied decidedlybitcoin chart js, "you've helped me. I'll be in before very long."
"Why did you not say to me long ago, 'I love you, but I am a wife;my husband is an honest soldier, absent, and fighting for France: Iam the guardian of his honor and my own; be just, be generous, beself-denying; depart and love me only as angels love'? Perhaps thismight have helped me to show you that I too am a man of honor.""Perhaps I was wrong," sighed Josephine. "I think I should havetrusted more to you. But then, who would have thought you couldreally doubt my love? You were ill; I could not bear you to go tillyou were well, quite well. I saw no other way to keep you but this,to treat you with feigned coldness. You saw the coldness, but notwhat it cost me to maintain it. Yes, I was unjust; and inconsiderate,for I had many furtive joys to sustain me: I had you in my houseunder my care--that thought was always sweet--I had a hand ineverything that was for your good, for your comfort. I helpedJacintha make your soup and your chocolate every day. I had thedelight of lining the dressing-gown you were to wear. I had alwayssome little thing or other to do for you. These kept me up: I forgotin my selfishness that you had none of these supports, and that Iwas driving you to despair. I am a foolish, disingenuous woman:kishu inu coingeckoI have been very culpable. Forgive me!""Forgive you, angel of purity and goodness? I alone am to blame.
What right had I to doubt your heart? I knew the whole story ofyour marriage; I saw your sweet pale face; but I was not pure enoughto comprehend angelic virtue and unselfishness. Well, I am broughtto my senses. There is but one thing for me to do--you bade meleave you to-morrow.""I was very cruel.""No! not cruel, wise. But I will be wiser. I shall go to-night.""To-night, Camille?" said Josephine, turning pale."Ay! for to-night I am strong; to-morrow I may be weak. To-nighteverything thrusts me on the right path. To-morrow everything willdraw me from it. Do not cry, beloved one; you and I have a hardfight. We must be true allies; whenever one is weak, then is thetime for the other to be strong. I have been weaker than you, to myshame be it said; but this is my hour of strength. A light fromheaven shows me my path. I am full of passion, but like you I havehonor. You are Raynal's wife, and--Raynal saved my life.""Ah! is it possible? When? where? may Heaven bless him for it!""Ask HIM; and say I told you of it--I have not strength to tell ityou, but I will go to-night."Then Josephine, who had resisted till all her strength was gone,whispered with a blush that it was too late to get a conveyance."I need none to carry my sword, my epaulets, and my love for you. Ishall go on foot."Josephine said nothing, but she began to walk slower and slower.And so the unfortunate pair came along creeping slowly with droopingheads towards the gate of the Pleasaunce. There their last walk inthis world must end. Many a man and woman have gone to the scaffoldwith hearts less heavy and more hopeful than theirs."Dry your eyes, Josephine," said Camille with a deep sigh. "Theyare all out on the Pleasaunce.""No, I will not dry my eyes," cried Josephine, almost violently. "Icare for nothing now."The baroness, the doctor, and Rose, were all in the Pleasaunce: andas the pair came in, lo! every eye was bent on Josephine.
She felt this, and her eyes sought the ground: benumbed as she waswith despondency, she began now to dread some fresh stroke or other.Camille felt doubly guilty and confused. How they all look at us,he thought. Do they know what a villain I have been? He determinedto slip away, and pack up, and begone. However, nobody took anynotice of him. The baroness drew Josephine apart. And Rosefollowed her mother and sister with eyes bent on the ground.Justice Harkins solemnly opened his big book and read, "'By this act of joining hands you do take each other as husband and wife. Therefore, in accordance with the law of the State of New York, I do hereby pronounce you husband and wife.' That's all."
"I don't think you'll ever be sorry, Alida," said Holcroft, pressing her hand as he led her to a chair. Watterly again bustled up with congratulations, and then said, "you must all come out now to a little supper, and also remember that it was gotten up in a hurry."The domestic stared at Alida and Holcroft, and then surmising what had taken place, was so excited that she could scarcely wait on the guests.Holcroft, with the simple tact which genuine kindness usually suggests, was attentive to his bride, but managed, by no slight effort for him, to engage the two men in general conversation, so that Alida might have time to recover her composure. His quiet, matter-of-fact bearing was reassuring in itself. A cup of strong tea and a little old currant wine, which Watterly insisted on her taking, brightened her up not a little. Indeed her weakness was now largely due to the want of nourishment suited to her feeble condition. Moreover, both nerves and mind found relief and rest in the consciousness that the decisive step had been taken. She was no longer shuddering and recoiling from a past in which each day had revealed more disheartening elements. Her face was now toward a future that promised a refuge, security, and even hope.The quiet meal was soon over. Holcroft put a five-dollar bill in the hands of the justice, who filled in a certificate and departed, feeling that the afternoon had not been spent in vain.
"Jim," said Watterly, drawing his friend aside, "you'll want to make some purchases. You know she's only what she wears. How are you off for money?""Well, Tom, you know I didn't expect anything of this kind when--"
"Of course I know it. Will fifty answer?""Yes. You're a good friend. I'll return it in a day or two.""Return it when you're a mind to. I say, Alida, I want you to take this. Jim Holcroft can't get married and his bride not receive a present from me," and he put ten dollars in her hand.Tears rushed to her eyes as she turned them inquiringly to Holcroft to know what she should do.
"Now see here, Tom, you've done too much for us already.""Shut up, Jim Holcroft! Don't you end the day by hurting my feelings! It's perfectly right and proper for me to do this. Goodby, Alida. I don't believe you'll ever be sorry you found your way to my hotel."Alida took his proffered hand, but could only falter, "I--I can never forget."Chapter 20 Uncle Jonathan's Impression of the Bride
"Now, Alida," said Holcroft, as they drove away, "remember that we are two middle-aged, sensible people. At least I'm middle-aged, and fairly sensible, too, I hope. You'll need to buy some things, and I want you to get all you need. Don't stint yourself, and you needn't hurry so as to get tired, for we shall have moonlight and there's no use trying to get home before dark. Is there any particular store which you'd like to go to?""No, sir; only I'd rather go over on the east side of the town where I'm not known."
"That suits me, for it's the side nearest home and I AM known there.""Perhaps--perhaps you also would rather go this evening where you are not known," she said hesitatingly.
"It makes no difference to me. In fact I know of a place where you'll have a good choice at reasonable rates.""I'll go where you wish," she said quietly.They soon entered a large shop together, and the proprietor said pleasantly, "Good evening, Mr. Holcroft.""Good evening, Mr. Jasper. My wife wants to get some things. If you'll be good enough to wait on her, I'll step out to do two or three errands."The merchant looked curiously at Alida, but was too polite to ask questions or make comments on her very simple purchases. Her old skill and training were of service now. She knew just what she absolutely needed, and bought no more.Holcroft laid in a good stock of groceries and some juicy beef and then returned. When Mr. Jasper gave him his bill, he went to Alida, who was resting, and said in a low voice, "This won't do at all. You can't have bought half enough."
For the first time something like a smile flitted across her face as she replied, "It's enough to begin with. I know.""Really, Mr. Holcroft, I didn't know you were married," said the merchant. "I must congratulate you."
"Well, I am. Thank you. Good night."A few moments later he and his wife were bowling out of town toward the hills. Reaching one of these, the horses came down to a walk and Holcroft turned and said, "Are you very tired, Alida? I'm troubled about you taking this long ride. You have been so sick."
"I'm sorry I'm not stronger, sir, but the fresh air seems to do me good and I think I can stand it.""You didn't promise to obey me, did you?" with a rather nervous little laugh.
"No, sir, but I will.""That's a good beginning. Now see what an old tyrant I am. In the first place, I don't want you to say 'sir' to me any more. My name is James. In the second place, you must work only as I let you. Your first business is to get strong and well, and you know we agreed to marry on strictly business grounds.""I understand it well, but I think you are very kind for a business man.""Oh, as to that, if I do say it of myself, I don't think it's my nature to be hard on those who treat me square. I think we shall be very good friends in our quiet way, and that's more than can be said of a good many who promise more than they seem to remember afterward."
"I will try to do all you wish for I am very grateful.""If you do, you may find I'm as grateful as you are."
"That can never be. Your need and mine were very different.--But I shall try to show my gratitude by learning your ways and wishes and not by many words of thanks.""Thank the Lord!" mentally ejaculated the farmer, "there's no Mrs. Mumpson in this case;" but he only said kindly, "I think we understand each other now, Alida. I'm not a man of words either, and I had better show by actions also what I am. The fact is, although we are married, we are scarcely acquainted, and people can't get acquainted in a day."
The first long hill was surmounted and away they bowled again, past cottage and farmhouse, through strips of woodland and between fields from which came the fragrance of the springing grass and the peepings of the hylas. The moon soon rose, full-orbed, above the higher eastern hills, and the mild April evening became luminous and full of beauty.A healing sense of quiet and security already began to steal into Alida's bruised heart. In turning her back upon the town in which she had suffered so greatly, she felt like one escaping from prison and torture. An increasing assurance of safety came with every mile; the cool, still radiance of the night appeared typical of her new and most unexpected experience. Light had risen on her shadowed path, but it was not warm, vivifying sunlight, which stimulates and develops. A few hours before she was in darkness which might be felt--yet it was a gloom shot through and through with lurid threatening gleams. It had seemed to her that she had fallen from home, happiness, and honor to unfathomed depths, and yet there had appeared to be deeper and darker abysses on every side. She had shuddered at the thought of going out into the world, feeling that her misfortune would awaken suspicion rather than sympathy, scorn instead of kindness; that she must toil on until death, to sustain a life to which death would come as God's welcome messenger. Then had come this man at her side, with his comparatively trivial troubles and perplexities, and he had asked her help--she who was so helpless. He had banished despair from her earthly future, he had lifted her up and was bearing her away from all which she had so dreaded; nothing had been asked which her crushed spirit was unable to bestow; she was simply expected to aid him in his natural wish to keep his home and to live where he had always dwelt. His very inability to understand her, to see her broken, trampled life and immeasurable need as she saw it, brought quietness of mind. The concentration of his thoughts on a few homely and simple hopes gave her immunity. With quick intuition, she divined that she had not a whimsical, jealous, exacting nature to deal with. He was the plain, matter-of-fact man he seemed; so literal and absolutely truthful that he would appear odd to most people. To her mind, his were the traits which she could now most welcome and value. He knew all about her, she had merely to be herself, to do what she had promised, in order to rest securely on his rock-like truth. He had again touched a deep, grateful chord in speaking of her to the shopkeeper as his wife; he showed no disposition whatever to shrink from the relation before the world; it was evident that he meant to treat her with respect and kindness, and to exact respect from others. For all this, while sitting quietly and silently at his side, she thanked him almost passionately in her heart; but far more than for all this she was glad and grateful that he would not expect what she now felt it would be impossible for her to give--the love and personal devotion which had been inseparable from marriage in her girlhood thoughts. He would make good his words--she should be his wife in name and be respected as such. He was too simple and true to himself and his buried love, too considerate of her, to expect more. She might hope, therefore, as he had said, that they might be helpful, loyal friends and he would have been surprised indeed had he known how the pale, silent woman beside him was longing and hoping to fill his home with comfort.
Thoughts like these had inspired and sustained her while at the same time ministering the balm of hope. The quiet face of nature, lovely in the moonlight, seemed to welcome and reassure her. Happy are those who, when sorely wounded in life, can turn to the natural world and find in every tree, shrub, and flower a comforting friend that will not turn from them. Such are not far from God and peace.The range of Holcroft's thoughts was far simpler and narrower than Alida's. He turned rather deliberately from the past, preferring to dwell on the probable consummation of his hope. His home, his farm, were far more to him than the woman he had married. He had wedded her for their sake, and his thoughts followed his heart, which was in his hillside acres. It is said that women often marry for a home; he truly had done so to keep his home. The question which now most occupied him was the prospect of doing this through quiet, prosperous years. He dwelt minutely on Alida's manner, as well as her words, and found nothing to shake his belief that she had been as truthful as himself. Nevertheless, he queried in regard to the future with not a little anxiety. In her present distress and poverty she might naturally be glad of the refuge he had offered; but as time passed and the poignancy of bitter memories was allayed, might not her life on the farm seem monotonous and dull, might not weariness and discontent come into her eyes in place of gratitude? "Well, well!" he concluded, "this marrying is a risky experiment at best, but Tom Watterly's talk and her manner seemed to shut me up to it. I was made to feel that I couldn't go on in any other way; and I haven't done anything underhanded or wrong, as I see, for the chance of going on. If I hadn't become such a heathen I should say there was a Providence in it, but I don't know what to think about such things any more. Time'll show, and the prospect is better than it has been yet. She'll never be sorry if she carries out the agreement made today, if kindness and good will can repay her."Thus it may be seen that, although two life currents had become parallel, they were still very distinct.By the time Holcroft approached the lane leading to his dwelling, Alida was growing very weary, and felt that her endurance had almost reached its limit. Her face was so white in the moonlight that he asked solicitously, "You can stand it a little longer, can't you?"
"I'll try. I'm very sorry I'm not stronger.""Don't you worry about that! You won't know yourself in a week. Here we are at the lane and there's the house yonder. A moment or two more and you'll be by the fire."
A loud barking startled old Jonathan Johnson out of his doze, and he hastened to replenish the fire and to call off his rather savage dog. He was a little surprised to see Holcroft drive toward the kitchen door with a woman by his side. "He's tried his luck with another of them town gals," he muttered, "but, Jerusalem! She won't stay a week, an' my old woman'll have the washin' an' mendin' all the same."He could scarcely believe his ears and eyes when he heard the farmer say, "Alida, you must let me lift you out," and then saw the "town gal" set gently on the ground, her hand placed on Holcroft's arm as she was supported slowly and carefully to the rocking chair beside the fire. "Jonathan," was the quiet announcement, "this is Mrs. Holcroft, my wife."
"Jeru--beg a pardon. Wasn't 'spectin; jis' sich a turn o' things. Respects, missus! Sorry to see yer enj'yin' poor health.""Yes, Jonathan, Mrs. Holcroft has been sick, but she's much better and will soon be well. She's very tired now from the long drive, but quiet life and country air will soon make her strong. I'll just step out and care for the horses, Alida, and soon be back again. You come and help me, Jonathan, and keep your dog off, too."