"Do you thinkeos coin future I've been kind to you?"
She walkedcardano coinbase custody beside him without a word."You'd better tell me something of your story. Perhaps I can do more for you in the morning."
"I can't. I'm a stranger. I haven't any friends in town.""Well, well, the sergeant will see what can be done in the morning. You've been up to some foolishness, I suppose, and you'd better tell the whole story to the sergeant."She soon entered the station house and was locked up in a narrow cell. She heard the grating of the key in the lock with a sense of relief, feeling that she had at least found a temporary place of refuge and security. A hard board was the only couch it possessed, but the thought of sleep did not enter her mind. Sitting down, she buried her face in her hands and rocked back and forth in agony and distraction until day dawned. At last, someone--she felt she could not raise her eyes to his face--brought her some breakfast and coffee. She drank the latter, but left the food untasted. Finally, she was led to the sergeant's private room and told that she must give an account of herself. "If you can't or won't tell a clear story," the officer threatened, "you'll have to go before the justice in open court, and he may commit you to prison. If you'll tell the truth now, it may be that I can discharge you. You had no business to be wandering about the streets like a vagrant or worse; but if you were a stranger or lost and hadn't sense enough to go where you'd be cared for, I can let you go.""Oh!" said Alida, again wringing her hands and looking at the officer with eyes so full of misery and fear that he began to soften, "I don't know where to go.""Haven't you a friend or acquaintance in town?"
"Not one that I can go to!""Why don't you tell me your story? Then I'll know what to do, and perhaps can help you. You don't look like a depraved woman."Stay, then, and live; and learn from me how to love Jean Raynal."He levelled the pistol at himself.
Josephine threw herself on him with a cry, and seized his arm. Withthe strength excitement lent her she got the better, and all butoverpowered him. But, as usual, the man's strength lasted longer,and with a sustained effort he threw her off; then, pale andpanting, raised the pistol to take his life. This time she movedneither hand nor foot; but she palsied his rash hand with a word."No; I LOVE YOU."Chapter 13There lie the dead corpses of those words on paper; but my art ispowerless to tell you how they were uttered, those words, potent asa king's, for they saved a life.
They were a cry of terror and a cry of reproach and a cry of loveunfathomable.The weapon shook in his hand. He looked at her with growingastonishment and joy; she at him fixedly and anxiously, her handsclasped in supplication.
"As you used to love me?""More, far more. Give me the pistol. I love you, dearest. I loveyou."At these delicious words he lost all power of resistance, she saw;and her soft and supple hand stole in and closed upon his, andgently withdrew the weapon, and threw it into the water. "GoodCamille! now give me the other.""How do you know there is another?""I know you are not the man to kill a woman and spare yourself.Come.""Josephine, have pity on me, do not deceive me; pray do not takethis, my only friend, from me, unless you really love me.""I love you; I adore you," was her reply.She leaned her head on his shoulder, but with her hand she soughthis, and even as she uttered those loving words she coaxed theweapon from his now unresisting grasp."There, it is gone; you are saved from death--saved from crime."And with that, the danger was over, she trembled for the first time,and fell to sobbing hysterically.
He threw himself at her knees, and embraced them again and again,and begged her forgiveness in a transport of remorse and self-reproach.She looked down with tender pity on him, and heard his cries ofpenitence and shame."Rise, Camille, and go home with me," said she faintly."Yes, Josephine."They went slowly and in silence. Camille was too ashamed andpenitent to speak; too full of terror too at the abyss of crime fromwhich he had been saved. The ancients feigned that a virgin couldsubdue a lion; perhaps they meant that a pure gentle nature cansubdue a nature fierce but generous. Lion-like Camille walked byJosephine's side with his eyes bent on the ground, the picture ofhumility and penitence.
"This is the last walk you and I shall take together," saidJosephine solemnly."I know it," said he humbly. "I have forfeited all right to be byyour side.""My poor, lost love," sighed Josephine, "will you never understandme? You never stood higher in my esteem than at this moment. It isthe avowal you have forced from ME that parts us. The man to whom Ihave said 'I'--must not remain beneath my husband's roof. Does notyour sense of honor agree with mine?""It does," faltered he.
"To-morrow you must leave the chateau.""I will obey you.""What, you do not resist, you do not break my heart by complaints,by reproaches?""No, Josephine, all is changed. I thought you unfeeling: I thoughtyou were going to be HAPPY with him; that was what maddened me.""I pray daily YOU may be happy, no matter how. But you and I arenot alike, dear as we are to one another. Well, do not fear: Ishall never be happy--will that soothe you, Camille?""Yes, Josephine, all is changed; the words you have spoken havedriven the fiends out of my heart. I have nothing to do now but toobey, you to command: it is your right. Since you love me a littlestill, dispose of me. Bid me live: bid me die: bid me stay: bid mego. I shall never disobey the angel who loves me, my only friendupon the earth."A single deep sob from Josephine was all the answer.Then he could not help asking her why she had not trusted him?
"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:I 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.There was a strange solemnity about them all.
Aubertin remained behind. But even he took no notice of Camille,but walked up and down with his hands behind him, and a sad andtroubled face. Camille felt his utter desolation. He was nothingto any of them. He resolved to go at once, and charge Aubertin withhis last adieus to the family. It was a wise and manly resolve. Hestopped Aubertin in the middle of his walk, and said in a faintvoice of the deepest dejection,--"Doctor, the time is come that I must once more thank you for allyour goodness to me, and bid you all farewell.""What, going before your strength is re-established?" said thedoctor politely, but not warmly."I am out of all danger, thanks to your skill.""Colonel, at another time I should insist upon your staying a day ortwo longer; but now I think it would be unadvisable to press you tostay. Ah, colonel, you came to a happy house, but you leave a sadone. Poor Madame Raynal!""Sir!""You saw the baroness draw her aside.""Y-yes.""By this time she knows it.""In Heaven's name what do you mean?" asked Camille.
"I forgot; you are not aware of the calamity that has fallen uponour beloved Josephine; on the darling of the house."Camille turned cold with vague apprehension. But he contrived tostammer out, "No; tell me! for Heaven's sake tell me."The doctor thus pressed revealed all in a very few words. "My poorfriend," said he solemnly, "her husband--is dead."Chapter 14The baroness, as I have said, drew Josephine aside, and tried tobreak to her the sad news: but her own grief overcame her, andbursting into tears she bewailed the loss of her son. Josephine wasgreatly shocked. Death!--Raynal dead--her true, kind friend dead--her benefactor dead. She clung to her mother's neck, and sobbedwith her. Presently she withdrew her face and suddenly hid it inboth 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, butburning, cheeks in her hands.Josephine confined herself for some days to her own room, leaving itonly to go to the chapel in the park, where she spent hours inprayers for the dead and in self-humiliation. Her "tenderconscience" accused herself bitterly for not having loved thisgallant spirit more than she had.
Camille realized nothing at first; he looked all confused in thedoctor'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 theground at his very feet, nor did he once raise them while the doctortold him how the sad news had come. "Picard the notary brought usthe Moniteur, and there was Commandant Raynal among the killed in acavalry skirmish." With this, he took the journal from his pocket,and Camille read it, with awe-struck, and other feelings he wouldhave been sorry to see analyzed. He said not a word; and loweredhis eyes to the ground.
"And now," said Aubertin, "you will excuse me. I must go to my poorfriend the baroness. She had a mother's love for him who is nomore: 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 eyesfurtively, like a guilty person, and looked irresolutely this wayand that: at last he turned and went back to the place where he hadmeditated suicide and murder; looked down at it a long while, thenlooked up to heaven--then fell suddenly on his knees: and soremained till night-fall. Then he came back to the chateau.
He whispered to himself, "And I am afraid it is too late to go awayto-night." He went softly into the saloon. Nobody was there butRose 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 fewminutes, and rang the bell, and ordered some supper to be brought upfor Colonel Dujardin."You have not dined, I hear," said she, very coldly."I was afraid you were gone altogether," said the doctor: thenturning to Rose, "He told me he was going this evening. You hadbetter 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! Idon't remember ever wishing him dead." And he went twice a day tothat place by the stream, and thought very solemnly what a terriblething ungoverned passion is; and repented--not eloquently, butsilently, sincerely.But soon his impatient spirit began to torment itself again. Whydid Josephine shun him now? Ah! she loved Raynal now that he wasdead. Women love the thing they have lost; so he had heard say. Inthat case, the very sight of him would of course be odious to her:
he could understand that. The absolute, unreasoning faith he oncehad 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 sawthat she shunned him.He became moody, sad, and disconsolate: and as Josephine shunnedhim, so he avoided all the others, and wandered for hours byhimself, perplexed and miserable. After awhile, he became consciousthat he was under a sort of surveillance. Rose de Beaurepaire, whohad been so kind to him when he was confined to his own room, buthad taken little notice of him since he came down, now resumed hercare of him, and evidently made it her business to keep up hisheart. She used to meet him out walking in a mysterious way, and inshort, be always falling in with him and trying to cheer him up: