Since then eagles had perched on its crown, and wild boars fedwithout fear of man upon its acorns. Troubadours had sung beneathethereum chart priceit to lords and ladies seated round, or walking on the grass andcommenting the minstrel's tales of love by exchange of amorousglances. Mediaeval sculptors had taken its leaves, and wiselytrusting to nature, had adorned churches with those leaves cut instone.
At last they recovered themselves enough to observe that thisshadow, one half of whbitcoin gold kaç tlich lay on the ground, while the head andshoulders went a little way up the wall of the tree, represented aman's profile, not his front face. The figure, in short, wasstanding between them and the sun, and was contemplating thechateau, not the tree.The shadow took off its hat to Josephine, in the tree. Then wouldshe have screamed if she had not bitten her white hand instead, andmade a red mark thereon.
It wiped its brow with a handkerchief; it had walked fast, poorthing! The next moment it was away.They looked at one another and panted. They scarcely dared do itbefore. Then Rose, with one hand on her heaving bosom, shook herlittle white fist viciously at where the figure must be, and perhapsa comical desire of vengeance stimulated her curiosity. She nowglided through the fissure like a cautious panther from her den; andnoiseless and supple as a serpent began to wind slowly round thetree. She soon came to a great protuberance in the tree, andtwining and peering round it with diamond eye, she saw a very young,very handsome gentleman, stealing on tiptoe to the nearest flower-bed. Then she saw him take a purse out of his bosom, and drop it onthe bed. This done, he came slowly past the tree again, and waseven heard to vent a little innocent chuckle of intense satisfaction:but of brief duration; for, when Rose saw the purse leave his hand,she made a rapid signal to Josephine to wheel round the other sideof the tree, and, starting together with admirable concert, boththe daughters of Beaurepaire glided into sight with a vast appearanceof composure.Two women together are really braver than fifteen separate; butstill, most of this tranquillity was merely put on, but so admirablythat Edouard Riviere had no chance with them. He knew nothing abouttheir tremors; all he saw or heard was, a rustle, then a flap oneach side of him as of great wings, and two lovely women were uponhim with angelic swiftness. "Ah!" he cried out with a start, andglanced from the first-comer, Rose, to the gate. But Josephine wason that side by this time, and put up her hand, as much as to say,"You can't pass here." In such situations, the mind works quickerthan lightning. He took off his hat, and stammered an excuse--"Cometo look at the oak." At this moment Rose pounced on the purse, andheld it up to Josephine. He was caught. His only chance now was tobolt for the mark and run; but it was not the notary, it was anovice who lost his presence of mind, or perhaps thought it rude torun when a lady told him to stand still. All he did was to crushhis face into his two hands, round which his cheeks and neck nowblushed red as blood. Blush? they could both see the color rushlike a wave to the very roots of his hair and the tips of hisfingers.The moment our heroines, who, in that desperation which is one ofthe forms of cowardice, 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 was with the quiet composure of lofty and powerful natures thatJosephine opened on him. "Compose yourself, sir; and be so good asto tell us who you are." Edouard must answer. Now he could notspeak through his hands; and he could not face a brace of tranquillionesses: so he took a middle course, removed one hand, and shadinghimself from Josephine with the other, he gasped out, "I am--my nameis Riviere; and I--I--ladies!""I am afraid we frighten you," said Josephine, demurely."Don't be frightened," said Rose, majestically; "we are not VERYangry, only a LITTLE curious to know why you water our flowers withgold."At this point-blank thrust, and from her, Edouard was so confoundedand distressed, they both began to pity him. He stammered out thathe was so confused he did not know what to say. He couldn't thinkhow ever he could have taken such a liberty; might he be permittedto retire? and with this he tried to slip away."What has she been doing to you, dear?" began she kindly.
"Has she not told you, Madame Raynal?""No; she is refractory. She will tell me nothing, and that makes mefear she is the one in fault.""Oh! if she does not accuse me, I am sure I will not accuse her. Idare say I am to blame; it is not her fault that I cannot make herlove me.""But you can. She does.""Yes; but she loves others better, and she holds me out no hope itwill ever be otherwise. On this one point how can I hope for yoursympathy; unfortunately for me you are one of my rivals. She toldme plainly she never could love me as she loves you.""And you believed her?""I had good reason to believe her."Josephine smiled sadly. "Dear Edouard," said she, "you must notattach so much importance to every word we say. Does Rose at herage know everything? Is she a prophet? Perhaps she really fanciesshe will always love her sister as she does now; but you are a manof sense; you ought to smile and let her talk. When you marry heryou will take her to your own house; she will only see me now andthen; she will have you and your affection always present. Each daysome new tie between you and her. You two will share every joy,every sorrow. Your children playing at your feet, and reflectingthe features of both parents, will make you one. Your hearts willmelt together in that blessed union which raises earth so near toheaven; and then you will wonder you could ever be jealous of poorJosephine, who must never hope--ah, me!"Edouard, wrapped up in himself, mistook Josephine's emotion at thepicture she had drawn of conjugal love. He soothed her, and vowedupon his honor he never would separate Rose from her."Madame Raynal," said he, "you are an angel, and I am a fiend.Jealousy must be the meanest of all sentiments. I never will bejealous again, above all, of you, sweet angel. Why, you are mysister as well as hers, and she has a right to love you, for I loveyou myself.""You make me very happy when you talk so," sighed Josephine. "Peaceis made?""Never again to be broken. I will go and ask her pardon. What isthe matter now?"For Jacintha was cackling very loud, and dismissing with ignominytwo beggars, male and female.She was industry personified, and had no sympathy with mendicity.
In vain the couple protested, Heaven knows with what truth, thatthey were not beggars, but mechanics out of work. "March! tramp!"was Jacintha's least word. She added, giving the rein to herimagination, "I'll loose the dog." The man moved away, the womanturned appealingly to Edouard. He and Josephine came towards thegroup. She had got a sort of large hood, and in that hood shecarried an infant on her shoulders. Josephine inspected it. "Itlooks sickly, poor little thing," said she."What can you expect, young lady?" said the woman. "Its mother hadto rise and go about when she ought to have been in her bed, and nowshe has not enough to give it.""Oh, dear!" cried Josephine. "Jacintha, give them some food and anice bottle of wine.""That I will," cried Jacintha, changing her tone with courtier-likealacrity. "I did not see she was nursing."Josephine put a franc into the infant's hand; the little fingersclosed on it with that instinct of appropriation, which is our firstand often our last sentiment. Josephine smiled lovingly on thechild, and the child seeing that gave a small crow.
"Bless it," said Josephine, and thereupon her lovely head reareditself like a snake's, and then darted down on the child; and theyoung noble kissed the beggar's brat as if she would eat it.This won the mother's heart more than even the gifts."Blessings on you, my lady!" she cried. "I pray the Lord not toforget this when a woman's trouble comes on you in your turn! It isa small child, mademoiselle, but it is not an unhealthy one. See."Inspection was offered, and eagerly accepted.Edouard stood looking on at some distance in amazement, mingled withdisgust.
"Ugh!" said he, when she rejoined him, "how could you kiss thatnasty little brat?""Dear Edouard, don't speak so of a poor little innocent. Who wouldpity them if we women did not? It had lovely eyes.""Like saucers.""Yes.""It is no compliment when you are affectionate to anybody; youoverflow with benevolence on all creation, like the rose which shedsits perfume on the first-comer.""If he is not going to be jealous of me next," whined Josephine.She took him to Rose, and she said, "There, whenever good friendsquarrel, it is understood they were both in the wrong. Bygones areto be bygones; and when your time comes round to quarrel again,please consult me first, since it is me you will afflict." She leftthem together, and went and tapped timidly at the doctor's study.Aubertin received her with none of that reserve she had seen in him.He appeared both surprised and pleased at her visit to his littlesanctum. He even showed an emotion Josephine was at a loss toaccount for. But that wore off during the conversation, and,indeed, gave place to a sort of coldness.
"Dear friend," said she, "I come to consult you about Rose andEdouard." She then told him what had happened, and hinted atEdouard's one fault. The doctor smiled. "It is curious. You havecome to draw my attention to a point on which it has been fixed forsome days past. I am preparing a cure for the two young fools; asevere remedy, but in their case a sure one."He then showed her a deed, wherein he had settled sixty thousandfrancs on Rose and her children. "Edouard," said he, "has a goodplace. He is active and rising, and with my sixty thousand francs,and a little purse of ten thousand more for furniture and nonsense,they can marry next week, if they like. Yes, marriage is asovereign medicine for both of these patients. She does not lovehim quite enough. Cure: marriage. He loves her a little too much.Cure: marriage.""O doctor!""Can't help it. I did not make men and women. We must take humannature as we find it, and thank God for it on the whole. Have younothing else to confide to me?""No, doctor.""Are you sure?""No, dear friend. But this is very near my heart," falteredJosephine.
The doctor sighed; then said gently, "They shall be happy: as happyas you wish them."Meantime, in another room, a reconciliation scene was taking place,and the mutual concessions of two impetuous but generous spirits.The baroness noticed the change in Josephine's appearance.
She asked Rose what could be the matter."Some passing ailment," was the reply."Passing? She has been so, on and off, a long time. She makes mevery anxious."Rose made light of it to her mother, but in her own heart she grewmore and more anxious day by day. She held secret conferences withJacintha; that sagacious personage had a plan to wake Josephine fromher deathly languor, and even soothe her nerves, and check thosepitiable fits of nervous irritation to which she had become subject.Unfortunately, Jacintha's plan was so difficult and so dangerous,that at first even the courageous Rose recoiled from it; but thereare dangers that seem to diminish when you look them long in theface.The whole party was seated in the tapestried room: Jacintha wasthere, sewing a pair of sheets, at a respectful distance from thegentlefolks, absorbed in her work; but with both ears on full cock.The doctor, holding his glasses to his eye, had just begun to readout the Moniteur.
The baroness sat close to him, Edouard opposite; and the youngladies each in her corner of a large luxurious sofa, at some littledistance."'The Austrians left seventy cannon, eight thousand men, and threecolors upon the field. Army of the North: General Menard defeatedthe enemy after a severe engagement, taking thirteen field-piecesand a quantity of ammunition.'"The baroness made a narrow-minded renmark. "That is always the waywith these journals," said she. "Austrians! Prussians! when it'sEgypt one wants to hear about."--"No, not a word about Egypt," saidthe doctor; "but there is a whole column about the Rhine, whereColonel Dujardin is--and Dard. If I was dictator, the firstnuisance I would put down is small type." He then spelled out asanguinary engagement: "eight thousand of the enemy killed. We havesome losses to lament. Colonel Dujardin"--"Only wounded, I hope," said the baroness.
The doctor went coolly on. "At the head of the 24th brigade made abrilliant charge on the enemy's flank, that is described in thegeneral order as having decided the fate of the battle.""How badly you do read," said the old lady, sharply. "I thought hewas gone; instead of that he has covered himself with glory; but itis all our doing, is it not, young ladies? We saved his life.""We saved it amongst us, madame.""What is the matter, Rose?" said Edouard."Nothing: give me the salts, quick."She only passed them, as it were, under her own nostrils; then heldthem to Josephine, who was now observed to be trembling all over.
Rose contrived to make it appear that this was mere sympathy onJosephine's part."Don't be silly, girls," cried the baroness, cheerfully; "there isnobody killed that we care about."Dr. Aubertin read the rest to himself.
Edouard fell into a gloomy silence and tortured himself aboutCamille, and Rose's anxiety and agitation.By and by the new servant brought in a letter. It was the long-expected one from Egypt."Here is something better than salts for you. A long letter,Josephine, and all in his own hand; so he is safe, thank Heaven! Iwas beginning to be uneasy again. You frightened me for that poorCamille: but this is worth a dozen Camilles; this is my son; I wouldgive my old life for him."--"My dear Mother--('Bless him!'), my dearwife, and my dear sister--('Well! you sit there like two rocks!')--We have just gained a battle--fifty colors. ('What do you think ofthat?') All the enemy's baggage and ammunition are in our hands.('This is something like a battle, this one.') Also the Pasha ofNatolie. ('Ah! the Pasha of Natolie; an important personage, nodoubt, though I never had the honor of hearing of him. Do youhear?--you on the sofa. My son has captured the Pasha of Natolie.
He is as brave as Caesar.') But this success is not one of thosethat lead to important results ('Never mind, a victory is avictory'), and I should not wonder if Bonaparte was to dash home anyday. If so, I shall go with him, and perhaps spend a whole day withyou, on my way to the Rhine."At this prospect a ghastly look passed quick as lightning betweenRose and Josephine.The baroness beckoned Josephine to come close to her, and read herwhat followed in a lower tone of voice.
"Tell my wife I love her more and more every day. I don't expect asmuch from her, but she will make me very happy if she can make shiftto like me as well as her family do."--"No danger! What husbanddeserves to be loved as he does? I long for his return, that hiswife, his mother, and his sister may all combine to teach this poorsoldier what happiness means. We owe him everything, Josephine, andif we did not love him, and make him happy, we should be monsters;now should we not?"Josephine stammered an assent."NOW you may read his letter: Jacintha and all," said the baronessgraciously.
The letter circulated. Meantime, the baroness conversed withAubertin in quite an undertone."My friend, look at Josephine. That girl is ill, or else she isgoing to be ill.""Neither the one nor the other, madame," said Aubertin, looking hercoolly in the face.
"But I say she is. Is a doctor's eye keener than a mother's?""Considerably," replied the doctor with cool and enviable effrontery.The baroness rose. "Now, children, for our evening walk. We shallenjoy it now.""I trust you may: but for all that I must forbid the evening air toone of the party--to Madame Raynal."The baroness came to him and whispered, "That is right. Thank you.See what is the matter with her, and tell me." And she carried offthe rest of the party.At the same time Jacintha asked permission to pass the rest of theevening with her relations in the village. But why that swift,quivering glance of intelligence between Jacintha and Rose deBeaurepaire when the baroness said, "Yes, certainly"?
Time will show.Josephine and the doctor were left alone. Now Josephine had noticedthe old people whisper and her mother glance her way, and the wholewoman was on her guard. She assumed a languid complacency, and byway of shield, if necessary, took some work, and bent her eyes andapparently her attention on it.
The doctor was silent and ill at ease.She saw he had something weighty on his mind. "The air would havedone me no harm," said she.
"Neither will a few words with me.""Oh, no, dear friend. Only I think I should have liked a littlewalk this evening.""Josephine," said the doctor quietly, "when you were a child I savedyour life.""I have often heard my mother speak of it. I was choked by thecroup, and you had the courage to lance my windpipe.""Had I?" said the doctor, with a smile. He added gravely, "It seemsthen that to be cruel is sometimes kindness. It is the nature ofmen to love those whose life they save.""And they love you.""Well, our affection is not perfect. I don't know which is most toblame, but after all these years I have failed to inspire you withconfidence." The doctor's voice was sad, and Josephine's bosompanted."Pray do not say so," she cried. "I would trust you with my life.""But not with your secret.""My secret! What secret? I have no secrets.""Josephine, you have now for full twelve months suffered in body andmind, yet you have never come to me for counsel, for comfort, for anold man's experience and advice, nor even for medical aid.""But, dear friend, I assure you"--"We DO NOT deceive our friend. We CANNOT deceive our doctor."Josephine trembled, but defended herself after the manner of hersex. "Dear doctor," said she, "I love you all the better for this.