Part 13 out of 31
that he did not know how to inform her of them. The day was advancing,
the sun was on its decline, and fearing that Florine would be tired of
waiting for her, Mother Bunch made haste to act; with a light step,
listening anxiously as she went, she reached the end of the passage,
where three or four stairs led down to the landing-place of the press-
room, and then formed a spiral descent to the ground-floor. Hearing
voices in the pressroom, the sempstress hastened down the stairs, and
found herself in a long passage, in the centre of which was a glass door,
opening on that part of the garden reserved for the superior. A path,
bordered by a high box-hedge, sheltered her from the gaze of curious
eyes, and she crept along it, till she reached the open paling; which, at
this spot, separated the convent-garden from that of Dr. Baleinier's
asylum. She saw Mdlle. de Cardoville a few steps from her, seated, and
with her arm resting upon a rustic bench. The firmness of Adrienne's
character had for a moment been shaken by fatigue, astonishment, fright,
despair, on the terrible night when she had been taken to the asylum by
Dr. Baleinier; and the latter, taking a diabolical advantage of her
weakness and despondency, had succeeded for a moment in making her doubt
of her own sanity. But the calm, which necessarily follows the most
painful and violent emotions, combined with the reflection and reasoning
of a clear and subtle intellect, soon convinced Adrienne of the
groundlessness of the fears inspired by the crafty doctor. She no longer
believed that it could even be a mistake on the part of the man of
science. She saw clearly in the conduct of this man, in which detestable
hypocrisy was united with rare audacity, and both served by a skill no
less remarkable, that M. Baleinier was, in fact, the blind instrument of
the Princess de Saint-Dizier. From that moment, she remained silent and
calm, but full of dignity; not a complaint, not a reproach was allowed to
pass her lips. She waited. Yet, though they left her at liberty to walk
about (carefully depriving her of all means of communicating with any one
beyond the walls), Adrienne's situation was harsh and painful,
particularly for her, who so loved to be surrounded by pleasant and
harmonious objects. She felt, however, that this situation could not
last long. She did not thoroughly understand the penetration and action
of the laws; but her good sense taught her, that a confinement of a few
days under the plea of some appearances of insanity, more or less
plausible in themselves, might be attempted, and even executed with
impunity; but that it could not be prolonged beyond certain limits,
because, after all, a young lady of her rank in society could not
disappear suddenly from the world, without inquiries being made on the
subject--and the pretence of a sudden attack of madness would lead to a
serious investigation. Whether true or false, this conviction had
restored Adrienne to her accustomed elasticity and energy of character.
And yet she sometimes in vain asked herself the cause of this attempt on
her liberty. She knew too well the Princess de Saint-Dizier, to believe
her capable of acting in this way, without a certain end in view, and
merely for the purpose of inflicting a momentary pang. In this, Mdlle.
de Cardoville was not deceived: Father d'Aigrigny and the princess were
both persuaded, that Adrienne, better informed than she wished to
acknowledge, knew how important it was for her to find herself in the
house in the Rue Saint-Francois on the 13th of February, and was
determined to maintain her rights. In shutting up Adrienne as mad, it
was intended to strike a fatal blow at her future prospects; but this
last precaution was useless, for Adrienne, though upon the true scent of
the family-secret they lead wished to conceal from her, had not yet
entirely penetrated its meaning, for want of certain documents, which had
been lost or hidden.
Whatever had been the motives for the odious conduct of Mdlle. de
Cardoville's enemies, she was not the less disgusted at it. No one could
be more free from hatred or revenge, than was this generous young girl,
but when she thought of all the sufferings which the Princess de Saint-
Dizier, Abbe d'Aigrigny, and Dr. Baleinier had occasioned her, she
promised herself, not reprisals, but a striking reparation. If it were
refused her, she was resolved to combat--without truce or rest--this
combination of craft, hypocrisy, and cruelty, not from resentment for
what she had endured, but to preserve from the same torments other
innocent victims, who might not, like her, be able to struggle and defend
themselves. Adrienne, still under the painful impression which had been
caused by her interview with Rose Simon, was leaning against one of the
sides of the rustic bench on which she was seated, and held her left hand
over her eyes. She had laid down her bonnet beside her, and the inclined
position of her head brought the long golden curls over her fair, shining
cheeks. In this recumbent attitude, so full of careless grace, the
charming proportions of her figure were seen to advantage beneath a
watered green dress, while a broad collar, fastened with a rose-colored
satin bow, and fine lace cuffs, prevented too strong a contrast between
the hue of her dress and the dazzling whiteness of the swan-like neck and
Raphaelesque hands, imperceptibly veined with tiny azure lines. Over the
high and well-formed instep, were crossed the delicate strings of a
little, black satin shoe--for Dr. Baleinier had allowed her to dress
herself with her usual taste, and elegance of costume was not with
Adrienne a mark of coquetry, but of duty towards herself, because she had
been made so beautiful. At sight of this young lady, whose dress and
appearance she admired in all simplicity, without any envious or bitter
comparison with her own poor clothes and deformity of person, Mother
Bunch said immediately to herself, with the good sense and sagacity
peculiar to her, that it was strange a mad woman should dress so sanely
and gracefully. It was therefore with a mixture of surprise and emotion
that she approached the fence which separated her from Adrienne--
reflecting, however, that the unfortunate girl might still be insane, and
that this might turn out to be merely a lucid interval. And now, with a
timid voice, but loud enough to be heard, Mother Bunch, in order to
assure herself of Adrienne's identity, said, whilst her heart beat fast:
"Mdlle. de Cardoville!"
"Who calls me?" said Adrienne. On hastily raising her head, and
perceiving the hunchback, she could not suppress a slight cry of
surprise, almost fright. For indeed this poor creature, pale, deformed,
miserably clad, thus appearing suddenly before her, must have inspired
Mdlle, de Cardoville, so passionately fond of grace and beauty, with a
feeling of repugnance, if not of terror--and these two sentiments were
both visible in her expressive countenance.
The other did not perceive the impression she had made. Motionless, with
her eyes fixed, and her hands clasped in a sort of adoring admiration,
she gazed on the dazzling beauty of Adrienne, whom she had only half seen
through the grated window. All that Agricola had told her of the charms
of his protectress, appeared to her a thousand times below the reality;
and never, even in her secret poetic visions, had she dreamed of such
rare perfection. Thus, by a singular contrast, a feeling of mutual
surprise came over these two girls--extreme types of deformity and
beauty, wealth and wretchedness. After rendering, as it were, this
involuntary homage to Adrienne, Mother Bunch advanced another step
towards the fence.
"What do you want?" cried Mdlle. de Cardoville, rising with a sentiment
of repugnance, which could not escape the work-girl's notice;
accordingly, she held down her head timidly, and said in a soft voice: "I
beg your pardon, madame, to appear so suddenly before you. But moments
are precious, I come from Agricola."
As she pronounced these words, the sempstress raised her eyes anxiously,
fearing that Mdlle. de Cardoville might have forgotten the name of the
workman. But, to her great surprise and joy, the fears of Adrienne
seemed to diminish at the name of Agricola, and approaching the fence,
she looked at the speaker with benevolent curiosity.
"You come from M. Agricola Baudoin?" said she. "Who are you?"
"His adopted sister, madame--a poor needlewoman, who lives in the same
Adrienne appeared to collect her thoughts, and said, smiling kindly,
after a moment's silence: "It was you then, who persuaded M. Agricola to
apply to me to procure him bail?"
"Oh, madame, do you remember--"
"I never forget anything that is generous and noble. M. Agricola was
much affected when he spoke of your devotion. I remember it well; it
would be strange if I did not. But how came you here, in this convent?"
"They told me that I should perhaps be able to get some occupation here,
as I am out of work. Unfortunately, I have been refused by the lady
"And how did you recognize me?"
"By your great beauty, madame, of which Agricola had told me."
"Or rather by this," said Adrienne, smiling as she lifted, with the tips
of her rosy fingers, one end of a long, silky ringlet of golden hair.
"You must pardon Agricola, madame," said the sewing girl, with one of
those half smiles, which rarely settled on her lips: "he is a poet, and
omitted no single perfection in the respectful and admiring description
which he gave of his protectress."
"And what induced you to come and speak to me?"
"The hope of being useful to you, madame. You received Agricola with so
much goodness, that I have ventured to go shares in his gratitude."
"You may well venture to do so, my dear girl," said Adrienne, with
ineffable grace; "until now, unfortunately, I have only been able to
serve your adopted brother by intention."
As they exchanged these words, Adrienne and Mother Bunch looked at each
other with increasing surprise. The latter was, first of all, astonished
that a person who passed for mad should express herself as Adrienne did;
next, she was amazed at the ease and freedom with which she herself
answered the questions of Mdlle. de Cardoville--not knowing that the
latter was endowed with the precious privilege of lofty and benevolent
natures, to draw out from those who approached her whatever sympathized
with herself. On her side, Mdlle. de Cardoville was deeply moved and
astonished to hear this young, low-born girl, dressed almost like a
beggar, express herself in terms selected with so much propriety. The
more she looked at her, the more the feeling of repugnance she at first
experienced wore off, and was at length converted into quite the opposite
sentiment. With that rapid and minute power of observation natural to
women, she remarked beneath the black crape of Mother Bunch's cap, the
smoothness and brilliancy of the fair, chestnut hair. She remarked, too,
the whiteness of the long, thin hand, though it displayed itself at the
end of a patched and tattered sleeve--an infallible proof that care, and
cleanliness, and self-respect were at least struggling against symptoms
of fearful distress. Adrienne discovered, also, in the pale and
melancholy features, in the expression of the blue eyes, at once
intelligent, mild and timid, a soft and modest dignity, which made one
forget the deformed figure. Adrienne loved physical beauty, and admired
it passionately, but she had too superior a mind, too noble a soul, too
sensitive a heart, not to know how to appreciate moral beauty, even when
it beamed from a humble and suffering countenance. Only, this kind of
appreciation was new to Mdlle. de Cardoville; until now, her large
fortune and elegant habits had kept her at a distance from persons of
Mother Bunch's class. After a short silence, during which the fair
patrician and the poor work-girl had closely examined each other,
Adrienne said to the other: "It is easy, I think, to explain the cause of
our mutual astonishment. You have, no doubt, discovered that I speak
pretty reasonably for a mad woman--if they have told you I am one. And
I," added Mdlle. de Cardoville, in a tone of respectful commiseration,
"find that the delicacy of your language and manners so singularly
contrast with the position in which you appear to be, that my surprise
must be even greater than yours."
"Ah, madame!" cried Mother Bunch, with a welling forth of such deep and
sincere joy that the tears started to her eyes; "is it true?--they have
deceived me--you are not mad! Just now, when I beheld you so kind and
beautiful, when I heard the sweet tone of your voice, I could not believe
that such a misfortune had happened to you. But, alas! how is it then,
madame, that you are in this place?"
"Poor child!" said Adrienne, touched by the affectionate interest of this
excellent creature; "and how is it that you, with such a heart and head,
should be in such distress? But be satisfied! I shall not always be
here--and that will suffice to tell you, that we shall both resume the
place which becomes us. Believe me, I shall never forget how, in spite
of the painful ideas which must needs occupy your mind, on seeing
yourself deprived of work--your only resource--you have still thought of
coming to me, and of trying to serve me. You may, indeed, be eminently
useful to me, and I am delighted at it, for then I shall owe you much--
and you shall see how I will take advantage of my gratitude!" said
Adrienne, with a sweet smile. "But," resumed she, "before talking of
myself, let us think of others. Is your adopted brother still in
"By this time, madame, I hope he has obtained his freedom; thanks to the
generosity of one of his comrades. His father went yesterday to offer
bail for him, and they promised that he should be released to-day. But,
from his prison, he wrote to me, that he had something of importance to
reveal to you."
"Yes, madame. Should Agricola be released immediately by what means can
he communicate with you?"
"He has secrets to tell me!" resumed Mdlle. de Cardoville, with an air of
thoughtful surprise. "I seek in vain to imagine what they can be; but so
long as I am confined in this house, and secluded from every one, M.
Agricola must not think of addressing himself directly or indirectly to
me. He must wait till I am at liberty; but that is not all, he must
deliver from that convent two poor children, who are much more to be
pitied than I am. The daughters of Marshal Simon are detained there
against their will."
"You know their name, madame?"
"When M. Agricola informed me of their arrival in Paris, he told me they
were fifteen years old, and that they resembled each other exactly--so
that, the day before yesterday, when I took my accustomed walk, and
observed two poor little weeping faces come close to the windows of their
separate cells, one on the ground floor, the other on the first story, a
secret presentiment told me that I saw in them the orphans of whom M.
Agricola had spoken, and in whom I already took a lively interest, as
being my relations."
"They are your relations, madame, then?"
"Yes, certainly. So, not being able to do more, I tried to express by
signs how much I felt for them. Their tears, and the sadness of their
charming faces, sufficiently told me that they were prisoners in the
convent, as I am myself in this house."
"Oh! I understand, madame--the victim of the animosity of your family?"
"Whatever may be my fate, I am much less to be pitied than these two
children, whose despair is really alarming. Their separation is what
chiefly oppresses them. By some words that one of them just now said to
me, I see that they are, like me, the victims of an odious machination.
But thanks to you, it will be possible to save them: Since I have been in
this house I have had no communication with any one; they have not
allowed me pen or paper, so it is impossible to write. Now listen to me
attentively, and we shall be able to defeat an odious persecution."
"Oh, speak! speak, madame!"
"The soldier, who brought these orphans to France, the father of M.
Agricola, is still in town?"
"Yes, madame. Oh! if you only knew his fury, his despair, when, on his
return home, he no longer found the children that a dying mother had
confided to him!"
"He must take care not to act with the least violence. It would ruin
all. Take this ring," said Adrienne, drawing it from her finger, "and
give it to him. He must go instantly--are you sure that you can remember
a name and address?"
"Oh! yes, madame. Be satisfied on that point. Agricola only mentioned
your name once, and I have not forgotten it. There is a memory of the
"I perceive it, my dear girl. Remember, then, the name of the Count de
"The Count de Montbron--I shall not forget."
"He is one of my good old friends, and lives on the Place Vendome, No.
"Place Vendome, No. 7--I shall remember."
"M. Agricola's father must go to him this evening, and, if he is not at
home, wait for his coming in. He must ask to speak to him, as if from
me, and send him this ring as a proof of what he says. Once with him, he
must tell him all--the abduction of the girls, the name of the convent
where they are confined, and my own detention as a lunatic in the asylum
of Dr. Baleinier. Truth has an accent of its own, which M. de Montbron
will recognize. He is a man of much experience and judgment, and
possessed of great influence. He will immediately take the necessary
steps, and to-morrow, or the day after, these poor orphans and myself
will be restored to liberty--all thanks to you! But moments are
precious; we might be discovered; make haste, dear child!"
At the moment of drawing back, Adrienne said to Mother Bunch, with so
sweet a smile and affectionate a tone, that it was impossible not to
believe her sincere: "M. Agricola told me that I had a heart like yours.
I now understand how honorable, how flattering those words were for me.
Pray, give me your hand!" added Mdlle. de Cardoville, whose eyes were
filling with tears; and, passing her beautiful hand through an opening in
the fence, she offered it to the other. The words and the gesture of the
fair patrician were full of so much real cordiality, that the sempstress,
with no false shame, placed tremblingly her own poor thin hand in
Adrienne's, while the latter, with a feeling of pious respect, lifted it
spontaneously to her lips, and said: "Since I cannot embrace you as my
sister, let me at least kiss this hand, ennobled by labor!"
Suddenly, footsteps were heard in the garden of Dr. Baleinier; Adrienne
withdrew abruptly, and disappeared behind some trees, saying: "Courage,
memory, and hope!"
All this had passed so rapidly that the young workwoman had no time to
speak or move; tears, sweet tears, flowed abundantly down her pale
cheeks. For a young lady, like Adrienne de Cardoville, to treat her as a
sister, to kiss her hand, to tell her that she was proud to resemble her
in heart--her, a poor creature, vegetating in the lowest abyss of misery-
-was to show a spirit of fraternal equality, divine, as the gospel words.
There are words and impressions which make a noble soul forget years of
suffering, and which, as by a sudden flash, reveal to it something of its
own worth and grandeur. Thus it was with the hunchback. Thanks to this
generous speech, she was for a moment conscious of her own value. And
though this feeling was rapid as it was ineffable, she clasped her hands
and raised her eyes to heaven with an expression of fervent gratitude;
for, if the poor sempstress did not practise, to use the jargon of
ultramontane cant, no one was more richly endowed with that deep
religious sentiment, which is to mere dogmas what the immensity of the
starry heaven is to the vaulted roof of a church.
Five minutes after quitting Mdlle. de Cardoville, Mother Bunch, having
left the garden without being perceived, reascended to the first story,
and knocked gently at the door of the press-room. A sister came to open
the door to her.
"Is not Mdlle. Florine, with whom I came, still here, sister?" asked the
"She could not wait for you any longer. No doubt, you have come from our
mother the superior?"
"Yes, yes, sister," answered the sempstress, casting down her eyes;
"would you have the goodness to show me the way out?"
"Come with me."
The sewing-girl followed the nun, trembling at every step lest she should
meet the superior, who would naturally have inquired the cause of her
long stay in the convent.
At length the inner gate closed upon Mother Bunch. Passing rapidly
across the vast court-yard and approaching the porter's lodge, to ask him
to let her out, she heard these words pronounced in a gruff voice: "It
seems, old Jerome, that we are to be doubly on our guard to-night. Well,
I shall put two extra balls in my gun. The superior says we are to make
two rounds instead of one."
"I want no gun, Nicholas," said the other voice; "I have my sharp scythe,
a true gardener's weapon--and none the worse for that."
Feeling an involuntary uneasiness at these words, which she had heard by
mere chance, Mother Bunch approached the porter's lodge, and asked him to
open the outer gate.
"Where do you come from?" challenged the porter, leaning half way out of
his lodge, with a double barrelled gun, which he was occupied in loading,
in his hand, and at the same time examining the sempstress with a
"I come from speaking to the superior," answered Mother Bunch timidly.
"Is that true?" said Nicholas roughly. "You look like a sanctified
scarecrow. Never mind. Make haste and cut!"
The gate opened, and Mother Bunch went out. Hardly had she gone a few
steps in the sweet, when, to her great surprise, she saw the dog Spoil-
sport run up to her, and his master, Dagobert, a little way behind him,
arriving also with precipitation. She was hastening to meet the soldier,
when a full, sonorous voice exclaimed from a little distance: "Oh my good
sister!" which caused the girl to turn round. From the opposite side to
that whence Dagobert was coming, she saw Agricola hurrying towards the
At the sight of Dagobert and Agricola, Mother Bunch remained motionless
with surprise, a few steps from the convent-gate. The soldier had not
yet perceived the sempstress. He advanced rapidly, following the dog,
who though lean, half-starved, rough-coated, and dirty, seemed to frisk
with pleasure, as he turned his intelligent face towards his master, to
whom he had gone back, after caressing Mother Bunch.
"Yes, yes; I understand you, old fellow!" said the soldier, with emotion.
"You are more faithful than I was; you did not leave the dear children
for a minute. Yes, you followed them, and watched day and night, without
food, at the door of the house to which they were taken--and, at length,
weary of waiting to see them come forth, ran home to fetch me. Yes;
whilst I was giving way to despair, like a furious madman, you were doing
what I ought to have done--discovering their retreat. What does it all
prove? Why, that beasts are better than men--which is well known. Well,
at length I shall see them again. When I think that tomorrow is the
13th, and that without you, my did Spoil-sport, all would be lost--it
makes me shudder. But I say, shall we soon be there? What a deserted
quarter! and night coming on!"
Dagobert had held this discourse to Spoil-sport, as he walked along
following the good dog, who kept on at a rapid pace. Suddenly, seeing
the faithful animal start aside with a bound, he raised his eyes, and
perceived the dog frisking about the hunchback and Agricola, who had just
met at a little distance from the convent-gate.
"Mother Bunch?" exclaimed both father and son, as they approached the
young workwoman, and looked at her with extreme surprise.
"There is good hope, M. Dagobert," said she with inexpressible joy.
"Rose and Blanche are found!" Then, turning towards the smith, she
added, "There is good hope, Agricola: Mdlle. de Cardoville is not mad.
I have just seen her."
"She is not mad? what happiness!" exclaimed the smith.
"The children!" cried Dagobert, trembling with emotion, as he took the
work-girl's hands in his own. "You have seen them?"
"Yes; just now--very sad--very unhappy--but I was not able to speak to
"Oh!" said Dagobert, stopping as if suffocated by the news, and pressing
his hands on his bosom; "I never thought that my old heart could beat
so!--And yet, thanks to my dog, I almost expected what has taken place.
Anyhow, I am quite dizzy with joy."
"Well, father, it's a good day," said Agricola, looking gratefully at the
"Kiss me, my dear child!" added the soldier, as he pressed Mother Bunch
affectionately in his arms; then, full of impatience, he added: "Come,
let us go and fetch the children."
"Ah, my good sister!" said Agricola, deeply moved; "you will restore
peace, perhaps life, to my father--and Mdlle. de Cardoville--but how do
"A mere chance. And how did you come here?"
"Spoil-sport stops and barks," cried Dagobert, who had already made
several steps in advance.
Indeed the dog, who was as impatient as his master to see the orphans,
and far better informed as to the place of their retreat, had posted
himself at the convent gate, and was beginning to bark, to attract the
attention of Dagobert. Understanding his dog, the latter said to the
hunchback, as he pointed in that direction with his finger: "The children
"Yes, M. Dagobert."
"I was sure of it. Good dog!--Oh, yes! beasts are better than men--except
you, my dear girl, who are better than either man or beast. But my poor
children! I shall see them, I shall have them once more!"
So saying, Dagobert, in spite of his age, began to run very fast towards
Spoil-sport. "Agricola," cried Mother Bunch, "prevent thy father from
knocking at that door. He would ruin all."
In two strides, the smith had reached his father, just as the latter was
raising his hand to the knocker. "Stop, father!" cried the smith, as he
seized Dagobert by the arm.
"What the devil is it now?"
"Mother Bunch says that to knock would ruin all."
"She will explain it to you." Although not so nimble as Agricola, Mother
Bunch soon came up, and said to the soldier: "M. Dagobert, do not let us
remain before this gate. They might open it, and see us; and that would
excite suspicion. Let us rather go away--"
"Suspicion!" cried the veteran, much surprised, but without moving from
the gate; "what suspicion?"
"I conjure you, do not remain there!" said Mother Bunch, with so much
earnestness, that Agricola joined her, and said to his father: "Since
sister rashes it, father, she has some reason for it. The Boulevard de
l'Hopital is a few steps from here; nobody passes that way; we can talk
there without being interrupted."
"Devil take me if I understand a word of all this!" cried Dagobert,
without moving from his post. "The children are here, and I will fetch
them away with me. It is an affair of ten minutes."
"Do not think that, M. Dagobert," said Mother Bunch. "It is much more
difficult than you imagine. But come! come!--I can hear them talk in the
In fact, the sound of voices was now distinctly audible. "Come father!"
said Agricola, forcing away the soldier, almost in spite of himself.
Spoil-sport, who appeared much astonished at these hesitations, barked
two or three times without quitting his post, as if to protest against
this humiliating retreat; but, being called by Dagobert, he hastened to
rejoin the main body.
It was now about five o'clock in the evening. A high wind swept thick
masses of grayish, rainy cloud rapidly across the sky. The Boulevard de
l'Hopital, which bordered on this portion of the convent-garden, was, as
we before said, almost deserted. Dagobert, Agricola, and the serving-
girl could hold a private conference in this solitary place.
The soldier did not disguise the extreme impatience that these delays
occasioned in him. Hardly had they turned the corner of the street, when
he said to Mother Bunch: "Come, my child, explain yourself. I am upon
"The house in which the daughters of Marshal Simon are confined is a
convent, M. Dagobert."
"A convent!" cried the soldier: "I might have suspected it." Then he
added: "Well, what then? I will fetch them from a convent as soon as
from any other place. Once is not always."
"But, M. Dagobert, they are confined against their will and against
yours. They will not give them up."
"They will not give them up? Zounds! we will see about that." And he
made a step towards the street.
"Father," said Agricola, holding him back, "one moment's patience; let us
"I will hear nothing. What! the children are there--two steps from me--I
know it--and I shall not have them, either by fair means or foul? Oh!
that would indeed be curious. Let me go."
"Listen to me, I beseech you, M. Dagobert," said Mother Bunch, taking his
hand: "there is another way to deliver these poor children. And that
without violence--for violence, as Mdlle. de Cardoville told me, would
"If there is any other way--quick--let me know it!"
"Here is a ring of Mdlle. de Cardoville's."
"And who is this Mdlle. de Cardoville?"
"Father," said Agricola, "it is the generous young lady, who offered to
be my bail, and to whom I have very important matters to communicate."
"Good, good," replied Dagobert; "we will talk of that presently. Well,
my dear girl--this ring?"
"You must take it directly, M. Dagobert, to the Count de Montbron, No.
7, Place Vendome. He appears to be a person of influence, and is a
friend of Mdlle. de Cardoville's. This ring will prove that you come on
her behalf, and you will tell him, that she is confined as a lunatic in
the asylum next door to this convent, in which the daughters of Marshal
Simon are detained against their will."
"Well, well--what next?"
"Then the Count de Montbron will take the proper steps with persons in
authority, to restore both Mdlle. de Cardoville and the daughters of
Marshal Simon to liberty--and perhaps, to-morrow, or the day after--"
"To-morrow or the day after!" cried Dagobert; "perhaps?--It is to-day, on
the instant, that I must have them. The day after to-morrow would be of
much use! Thanks, my good girl, but keep your ring: I will manage my own
business. Wait for me here, my boy."
"What are you going to do, father?" cried Agricola, still holding back
the soldier. "It is a convent, remember."
"You are only a raw recruit; I have my theory of convents at my fingers'
end. In Spain, I have put it in practice a hundred times. Here is what
will happen. I knock; a portress opens the door to me; she asks me what
I want, but I make no answer; she tries to stop me, but I pass on; once
in the convent, I walk over it from top to bottom, calling my children
with all my might."
"But, M. Dagobert, the nuns?" said Mother Bunch, still trying to detain
"The nuns run after me, screaming like so many magpies. I know them. At
Seville I fetched out an Andalusian girl, whom they were trying to keep
by force. Well, I walk about the convent calling for Rose and Blanche.
They hear me, and answer. If they are shut in, I take the first piece of
furniture that comes to hand, and break open the door."
"But, M. Dagobert--the nuns--the nuns?"
"The nuns, with all their squalling, will not prevent my breaking open
the door, seizing my children in my arms, and carrying them off. Should
the outer door be shut, there will be a second smash--that's all. So,"
added Dagobert, disengaging himself from the grasp, "wait for me here.
In ten minutes I shall be back again. Go and get a hackney-coach ready,
More calm than Dagobert, and, above all, better informed as to the
provisions of the Penal Code, Agricola was alarmed at the consequences
that might attend the veteran's strange mode of proceeding. So, throwing
himself before him, he exclaimed: "One word more, I entreat you."
"Zounds! make haste!"
"If you attempt to enter the convent by force, you will ruin all."
"First of all, M. Dagobert," said Mother Bunch, "there are men in the
convent. As I came out just now, I saw the porter loading his gun, and
heard the gardener talking of his sharp scythe, and the rounds he was to
make at night."
"Much I care for a porter's gun and a gardener's scythe!"
"Well, father; but listen to me a moment, I conjure you. Suppose you
knock, and the door is opened--the porter will ask you what you want.'
"I tell him that I wish to speak to the superior, and so walk into the
"But, M. Dagobert," said Mother Bunch, "when once you have crossed the
court-yard, you reach a second door, with a wicket. A nun comes to it,
to see who rings, and does not open the door till she knows the object of
"I will tell her that I wish to see the lady superior."
"Then, father, as you are not known in the convent, they will go and
inform the superior."
"Well, what then?"
"She will come down."
"She will ask you what you want, M. Dagobert."
"What I want?--the devil! my children!"
"One minute's patience, father. You cannot doubt, from the precautions
they have taken, that they wish to detain these young ladies against
their will, and against yours."
"Doubt! I am sure of it. To come to that point, they began by turning
the head of my poor wife."
"Then, father, the superior will reply to you that she does not know what
you mean, and that the young ladies are not in the convent."
"And I will reply to her, that they are in the convent witness--Mother
Bunch and Spoil-sport."
"The superior will answer, that she does not know you; that she has no
explanations to give you; and will close the wicket."
"Then I break it open--since one must come to that in the end--so leave
me alone, I tell you! 'sblood! leave me alone!"
"And, on this noise and violence, the porter will run and fetch the
guard, and they will begin by arresting you."
"And what will become of your poor children, then, M. Dagobert?" said
Agricola's father had too much good sense not to feel the truth of these
observations of the girl and his son; but he knew also, that, cost what
it might, the orphans must be delivered before the morrow. The
alternative was terrible--so terrible, that, pressing his two hands to
his burning forehead, Dagobert sunk back upon a stone bench, as if struck
down by the inexorable fatality of the dilemma.
Agricola and the workwoman, deeply moved by this mute despair, exchanged
a sad look. The smith, seating himself beside the soldier, said to him:
"Do not be down-hearted, father. Remember what's been told you. By
going with this ring of Mdlle. de Cardoville's to the influential
gentleman she named, the young ladies may be free by to-morrow, or, at
worst, by the day after."
"Blood and thunder! you want to drive me mad!" exclaimed Dagobert,
starting up from the bench, and looking at Mother Bunch and his son with
so savage an expression that Agricola and the sempstress drew back, with
an air of surprise and uneasiness.
"Pardon me, my children!" said Dagobert, recovering himself after a long
silence. "I am wrong to get in a passion, for we do not understand one
another. What you say is true; and yet I am right to speak as I do.
Listen to me. You are an honest man, Agricola; you an honest girl; what
I tell you is meant for you alone. I have brought these children from
the depths of Siberia--do you know why? That they may be to-morrow
morning in the Rue Saint-Francois. If they are not there, I have failed
to execute the last wish of their dying mother."
"No. 3, Rue Saint Francois?" cried Agricola, interrupting his father.
"Yes; how do you know the number?" said Dagobert.
"Is not the date inscribed on a bronze medal?"
"Yes," replied Dagobert, more end more surprised; "who told you?"
"One instant, father!" exclaimed Agricola; "let me reflect. I think I
guess it. Did you not tell me, my good sister, that Mdlle. de Cardoville
was not mad?"
"Not mad. They detain her in this asylum to prevent her communicating
with any one. She believes herself, like the daughters of Marshal Simon,
the victim of an odious machination."
"No doubt of it," cried the smith. "I understand all now, Mdlle. de
Cardoville has the same interest as the orphans to appear to-morrow at
the Rue Saint-Francois. But she does not perhaps know it."
"One word more, my good girl. Did Mdlle. de Cardoville tell you that she
had a powerful motive to obtain her freedom by to-morrow?"
"No; for when she gave me this ring for the Count de Montbron, she said
to me: 'By this means both I and Marshal Simon's daughters will be at
liberty either to-morrow or the day after--'"
"But explain yourself, then," said Dagobert to his son, with impatience.
"Just now," replied the smith, "when you came to seek me in prison, I
told you, father, that I had a sacred duty to perform, and that I would
rejoin you at home."
"Yes; and I went, on my side, to take some measures, of which I will
speak to you presently."
"I ran instantly to the house in the Rue de Babylone, not knowing that
Mdlle. de Cardoville was mad, or passed for mad. A servant, who opened
the door to me, informed me that the young lady had been seized with a
sudden attack of madness. You may conceive, father, what a blow that was
to me! I asked where she was: they answered, that they did not know. I
asked if I could speak to any of the family; as my jacket did not inspire
any great confidence, they replied that none of her family were at
present there. I was in despair, but an idea occurred to me. I said to
myself: 'If she is mad, her family physician must know where they have
taken her; if she is in a state to hear me, he will take me to her; if
not, I will speak to her doctor, as I would to her relations. A doctor
is often a friend.' I asked the servant, therefore, to give me the
doctor's address. I obtained it without difficulty--Dr. Baleinier, No.
12, Rue Taranne. I ran thither, but he had gone out; they told me that I
should find him about five o'clock at his asylum, which is next door to
the convent. That is how we have met."
"But the medal--the medal?" said Dagobert, impatiently; "where did you
"It is with regard to this and other things that I wished to make
important communications to Mdlle. de Cardoville."
"And what are these communications?"
"The fact is, father, I had gone to her the day of your departure, to beg
her to get me bail. I was followed; and when she learned this from her
waiting-woman, she concealed me in a hiding-place. It was a sort of
little vaulted room, in which no light was admitted, except through a
tunnel, made like a chimney; yet in a few minutes, I could see pretty
clearly. Having nothing better to do, I looked all about me and saw that
the walls were covered with wainscoting. The entrance to this room was
composed of a sliding panel, moving by means of weights and wheels
admirably contrived. As these concern my trade, I was interested in
them, so I examined the springs, spite of my emotion, with curiosity, and
understood the nature of their play; but there was one brass knob, of
which I could not discover the use. It was in vain to pull and move it
from right to left, none of the springs were touched. I said to myself:
'This knob, no doubt, belongs to another piece of mechanism'--and the
idea occurred to me, instead of drawing it towards me, to push it with
force. Directly after, I heard a grating sound, and perceived, just
above the entrance to the hiding-place, one of the panels, about two feet
square, fly open like the door of a secretary. As I had, no doubt,
pushed the spring rather too hard, a bronze medal and chain fell out with
"And you saw the address--Rue Saint-Francois?" cried Dagobert.
"Yes, father; and with this medal, a sealed letter fell to the ground.
On picking it up, I saw that it was addressed, in large letters: 'For
Mdlle. de Cardoville. To be opened by her the moment it is delivered.'
Under these words, I saw the initials 'R.' and 'C.,' accompanied by a
flourish, and this date: 'Paris, November the 13th, 1830.' On the other
side of the envelope I perceived two seals, with the letters 'R.' and
'C.,' surmounted by a coronet."
"And the seals were unbroken?" asked Mother Bunch.
"No doubt, then, Mdlle. de Cardoville was ignorant of the existence of
these papers," said the sempstress.
"That was my first idea, since she was recommended to open the letter
immediately, and, notwithstanding this recommendation, which bore date
two years back, the seals remained untouched."
"It is evident," said Dagobert. "What did you do?"
"I replaced the whole where it was before, promising myself to inform
Mdlle. de Cardoville of it. But, a few minutes after, they entered my
hiding-place, which had been discovered, and I did not see her again. I
was only able to whisper a few words of doubtful meaning to one of her
waiting-women, on the subject of what I had found, hoping thereby to
arouse the attention of her mistress; and, as soon as I was able to write
to you, my good sister, I begged you to go and call upon Mdlle. de
"But this medal," said Dagobert, "is exactly like that possessed by the
daughter of Marshal Simon. How can you account for that?"
"Nothing so plain, father. Mdlle. de Cardoville is their relation. I
remember now, that she told me so."
"A relation of Rose and Blanche?"
"Yes," added Mother Bunch; "she told that also to me just now."
"Well, then," resumed Dagobert, looking anxiously at his son, "do you now
understand why I must have my children this very day? Do you now
understand, as their poor mother told me on her death-bed, that one day's
delay might ruin all? Do you now see that I cannot be satisfied with a
perhaps to-morrow, when I have come all the way from Siberia, only, that
those children might be to-morrow in the Rue Saint-Francois? Do you at
last perceive that I must have them this night, even if I have to set
fire to the convent?"
"But, father, if you employ violence--"
"Zounds! do you know what the commissary of police answered me this
morning, when I went to renew my charge against your mother's confessor?
He said to me that there was no proof, and that they could do nothing."
"But now there is proof, father, for at least we know where the young
girls are. With that certainty we shall be strong. The law is more
powerful than all the superiors of convents in the world."
"And the Count de Montbron, to whom Mdlle. de Cardoville begs you to
apply," said Mother Bunch, "is a man of influence. Tell him the reasons
that make it so important for these young ladies, as well as Mdlle. de
Cardoville, to be at liberty this evening and he will certainly hasten
the course of justice, and to-night your children will be restored to
"Sister is in the right, father. Go to the Count. Meanwhile, I will run
to the commissary, and tell him that we now know where the young girls
are confined. Do you go home, and wait for us, my good girl. We will
meet at our own house!"
Dagobert had remained plunged in thought; suddenly, he said to Agricola:
"Be it so. I will follow your counsel. But suppose the commissary says
to you: 'We cannot act before to-morrow'--suppose the Count de Montbron
says to me the same thing--do not think I shall stand with my arms folded
until the morning."
"It is enough," resumed the soldier in an abrupt voice: "I have made up
my mind. Run to the commissary, my boy; wait for us at home, my good
girl; I will go to the Count. Give me the ring. Now for the address!"
"The Count de Montbron, No. 7, Place Vendome," said she; "you come on
behalf of Mdlle. de Cardoville."
"I have a good memory," answered the soldier. "We will meet as soon as
possible in the Rue Brise-Miche."
"Yes, father; have good courage. You will see that the law protects and
defends honest people."
"So much the better," said the soldier; "because, otherwise, honest
people would be obliged to protect and defend themselves. Farewell, my
children! we will meet soon in the Rue Brise-Miche."
When Dagobert, Agricola, and Mother Bunch separated, it was already dark
It is eight o'clock in the evening, the rain dashes against the windows
of Frances Baudoin's apartment in the Rue Brise-Miche, while violent
squalls of wind shake the badly dosed doors and casements. The disorder
and confusion of this humble abode, usually kept with so much care and
neatness, bore testimony to the serious nature of the sad events which
had thus disturbed existences hitherto peaceful in their obscurity.
The paved floor was soiled with mud, and a thick layer of dust covered
the furniture, once so bright and clean. Since Frances was taken away by
the commissary, the bed had not been made; at night Dagobert had thrown
himself upon it for a few hours in his clothes, when, worn out with
fatigue, and crushed by despair, he had returned from new and vain
attempts to discover Rose and Blanche's prison-house. Upon the drawers
stood a bottle, a glass, and some fragments of dry bread, proving the
frugality of the soldier, whose means of subsistence were reduced to the
money lent by the pawnbroker upon the things pledged by Mother Bunch,
after the arrest of Frances.
By the faint glimmer of a candle, placed upon the little stove, now cold
as marble, for the stock of wood had long been exhausted, one might have
seen the hunchback sleeping upon a chair, her head resting on her bosom,
her hands concealed beneath her cotton apron, and her feet resting on the
lowest rung of the chair; from time to time, she shivered in her damp,
After that long day of fatigue and diverse emotions, the poor creature
had eaten nothing. Had she even thought of it, she would have been at a
loss for bread. Waiting for the return of Dagobert and Agricola, she had
sunk into an agitated sleep--very different, alas! from calm and
refreshing slumber. From time to time, she half opened her eyes
uneasily, and looked around her. Then, again, overcome by irresistible
heaviness, her head fell upon her bosom.
After some minutes of silence, only interrupted by the noise of the wind,
a slow and heavy step was heard on the landing-place. The door opened,
and Dagobert entered, followed by Spoil-sport.
Waking with a start, Mother Bunch raised her head hastily, sprang from
her chair, and, advancing rapidly to meet Agricola's father, said to him:
"Well, M. Dagobert! have you good news? Have you--"
She could not continue, she was so struck with the gloomy expression of
the soldier's features. Absorbed in his reflections, he did not at first
appear to perceive the speaker, but threw himself despondingly on a
chair, rested his elbows upon the table, and hid his face in his hands.
After a long meditation, he rose, and said in a low voice: "It must--yes,
it must be done!"
Taking a few steps up and down the room, Dagobert looked around him, as
if in search of something. At length, after about a minute's
examination, he perceived near the stove, a bar of iron, perhaps two feet
long, serving to lift the covers, when too hot for the fingers. Taking
this in his hand, he looked at it closely, poised it to judge of its
weight, and then laid it down upon the drawers with an air of
satisfaction. Surprised at the long silence of Dagobert, the needlewoman
followed his movements with timid and uneasy curiosity. But soon her
surprise gave way to fright, when she saw the soldier take down his
knapsack, place it upon a chair, open it, and draw from it a pair of
pocket-pistols, the locks of which he tried with the utmost caution.
Seized with terror, the sempstress could not forbear exclaiming: "Good
gracious, M. Dagobert! what are you going to do?"
The soldier looked at her as if he only now perceived her for the first
time, and said to her in a cordial, but abrupt voice: "Good-evening, my
good girl! What is the time?"
"Eight o'clock has just struck at Saint-Mery's, M. Dagobert."
"Eight o'clock," said the soldier, speaking to himself; "only eight!"
Placing the pistols by the side of the iron bar, he appeared again to
reflect, while he cast his eyes around him.
"M. Dagobert," ventured the girl, "you have not, then, good news?"
That single word was uttered by the soldier in so sharp a tone, that, not
daring to question him further, Mother Bunch sat down in silence. Spoil-
sport came to lean his head on the knees of the girl, and followed the
movements of Dagobert with as much curiosity as herself.
After remaining for some moments pensive and silent, the soldier
approached the bed, took a sheet from it, appeared to measure its length,
and then said, turning towards Mother Bunch: "The scissors!"
"But, M. Dagobert--"
"Come, my good girl! the scissors!" replied Dagobert, in a kind tone, but
one that commanded obedience. The sempstress took the scissors from
Frances' work-basket, and presented them to the soldier.
"Now, hold the other end of the sheet, my girl, and draw it out tight."
In a few minutes, Dagobert had cut the sheet into four strips, which he
twisted in the fashion of cords, fastening them here and there with bits
of tape, so as to preserve the twist, and tying them strongly together,
so as to make a rope of about twenty feet long. This, however, did not
suffice him, for he said to himself: "Now I must have a hook."
Again he looked around him, and Mother Bunch, more and more frightened,
for she now no longer doubted Dagobert's designs, said to him timidly:
"M. Dagobert, Agricola has not yet come in. It may be some good news
that makes him so late."
"Yes," said the soldier, bitterly, as he continued to cast round his eyes
in search of something he wanted; "good news like mine! But I must have
a strong iron hook."
Still looking about, he found one of the coarse, gray sacks, that Frances
was accustomed to make. He took it, opened it, and said to the work-
girl: "Put me the iron bar and the cord into this bag, my girl. It will
be easier to carry."
"Heavens!" cried she, obeying his directions; "you will not go without
seeing Agricola, M. Dagobert? He may perhaps have some good news to tell
"Be satisfied! I shall wait for my boy. I need not start before ten
o'clock--so I have time."
"Alas, M. Dagobert! have you last all hope?"
"On the contrary. I have good hope--but in myself."
So saying, Dagobert twisted the upper end of the sack, for the purpose of
closing it, and placed it on the drawers, by the side of his pistols.
"At all events, you will wait for Agricola, M. Dagobert?"
"Yes, if he arrives before ten o'clock."
"Alas; you have then quite made up your mind?"
"Quite. And yet, if I were weak enough to believe in bad omens--"
"Sometimes, M. Dagobert, omens do not deceive one," said the girl, hoping
to induce the soldier to abandon his dangerous resolution.
"Yes," resumed Dagobert; "old women say so--and, although I am not an old
woman, what I saw just now weighed heavily on my heart. After all, I may
have taken a feeling of anger for a presentiment."
"What have you seen?"
"I will tell it you, my good girl; it may help to pass the time, which
appears long enough." Then, interrupting himself, he exclaimed: "Was it
the half hour that just struck?"
"Yes, M. Dagobert; it is half-past eight."
"Still an hour and a half," said Dagobert, in a hollow voice. "This," he
added, "is what I saw. As I came along the street, my notice was
attracted by a large red placard, at the head of which was a black
panther devouring a white horse. That sight gave me a turn, for you must
know, my good girl, that a black panther destroyed a poor old white horse
that I had, Spoil-sport's companion, whose name was Jovial."
At the sound of this name, once so familiar, Spoil-sport, who was
crouching at the workwoman's feet, raised his head hastily, and looked at
"You see that beasts have memory--he recollects," said the soldier,
sighing himself at the remembrance. Then, addressing his dog he added:
"Dost remember Jovial?"
On hearing this name a second time pronounced by his master, in a voice
of emotion, Spoil-sport gave a low whine, as if to indicate that he had
not forgotten his old travelling companion.
"It was, indeed, a melancholy incident, M. Dagobert," said Mother Bunch,
"to find upon this placard a panther devouring a horse."
"That is nothing to what's to come; you shall hear the rest. I drew near
the bill, and read in it, that one Morok, just arrived from Germany, is
about to exhibit in a theatre different wild beasts that he tamed, among
others a splendid lion, a tiger, and a black Java panther named Death."
"What an awful name!" said the hearer.
"You will think it more awful, my child, when I tell you, that this is
the very panther which strangled my horse at Leipsic, four months ago."
"Good Heaven! you are right, M. Dagobert," said the girl, "it is awful."
"Wait a little," said Dagobert, whose countenance was growing more and
more gloomy, "that is not all. It was by means of this very Morok, the
owner of the panther, that I and my poor children were imprisoned in
"And this wicked man is in Paris, and wishes you evil?" said Mother
Bunch. "Oh! you are right, M. Dagobert; you must take care of yourself;
it is a bad omen."
"For him, if I catch him," said Dagobert, in a hollow tone. "We have old
accounts to settle."
"M. Dagobert," cried Mother Bunch, listening; "some one is running up the
stairs. It is Agricola's footsteps. I am sure he has good news."
"That will just do," said the soldier, hastily, without answering.
"Agricola is a smith. He will be able to find me the iron hook."
A few moments after, Agricola entered the room; but, alas! the sempstress
perceived at the first glance, in the dejected countenance of the
workman, the ruin of her cherished hopes.
"Well!" said Dagobert to his son, in a tone which clearly announced the
little faith he attached to the steps taken by Agricola; "well, what
"Father, it is enough to drive one mad--to make one dash one's brains out
against the wall!" cried the smith in a rage.
Dagobert turned towards Mother Bunch, and said: "You see, my poor child--
I was sure of it."
"Well, father," cried Agricola; "have you seen the Court de Montbron?"
"The Count de Montbron set out for Lorraine three days ago. That is my
good news," continued the soldier, with bitter irony; "let us have yours-
-I long to know all. I need to know, if, on appealing to the laws,
which, as you told me, protect and defend honest people, it ever happens
that the rogues get the best of it. I want to know this, and then I want
an iron hook--so I count upon you for both."
"What do you mean, father?"
"First, tell me what you have done. We have time. It is not much more
than half-past eight. On leaving me, where did you go first?"
"To the commissary, who had already received your depositions."
"What did he say to you?"
"After having very kindly listened to all I had to state, he answered,
that these young girls were placed in a respectable house, a convent--so
that there did not appear any urgent necessity for their immediate
removal--and besides, he could not take upon himself to violate the
sanctity of a religious dwelling upon your simple testimony; to-morrow,
he will make his report to the proper authorities, and steps will be
"Yes, yes--plenty of put offs," said the soldier.
"'But, sir,' answered I to him," resumed Agricola, "'it is now, this very
night, that you ought to act, for if these young girls should not be
present to-morrow morning in the Rue Saint Francois, their interests may
suffer incalculable damage. 'I am very sorry for it,' replied he, 'but I
cannot, upon your simple declaration, or that of your father, who--like
yourself--is no relation or connection of these young persons, act in
direct opposition to forms, which could not be set aside, even on the
demand of a family. The law has its delays and its formalities, to which
we are obliged to submit.'"
"Certainly!" said Dagobert. "We must submit to them, at the risk of
becoming cowardly, ungrateful traitors!"
"Didst speak also of Mdlle. de Cardoville to him?" asked the work-girl.
"Yes--but he: answered me on this subject in much the same manner: 'It
was very serious; there was no proof in support of my deposition. A
third party had told me that Mdlle. de Cardoville affirms she was not
mad; but all mad people pretend to be sane. He could not, therefore,
upon my sole testimony, take upon himself to enter the house of a
respectable physician. But he would report upon it, and the law would
have its course--'"
"When I wished to act just now for myself," said Dagobert, "did I not
forsee all this? And yet I was weak enough to listen to you."
"But, father, what you wished to attempt was impossible, and you agreed
that it would expose you to far too dangerous consequences."
"So," resumed the soldier, without answering his son, "they told you in
plain terms, that we must not think of obtaining legally the release of
Rose and Blanche this evening or even to-morrow morning?"
"Yes, father. In the eyes of the law, there is no special urgency. The
question may not be decided for two or three days."
"That is all I wished to know," said Dagobert, rising and walking up and
down the room.
"And yet," resumed his son, "I did not consider myself beaten. In
despair, but believing that justice could not remain deaf to such
equitable claims, I ran to the Palais de Justice, hoping to find there a
judge, a magistrate who would receive my complaint, and act upon it."
"Well?" said the soldier, stopping him.
"I was told that the courts shut every day at five o'clock, and do not
open again til ten in the morning. Thinking of your despair, and of the
position of poor Mdlle. de Cardoville, I determined to make one more
attempt. I entered a guard-house of troops of the line, commanded by a
lieutenant. I told him all. He saw that I was so much moved, and I
spoke with such warmth and conviction, that he became interested.--
'Lieutenant,' said I to him, 'grant me one favor; let a petty officer and
two soldiers go to the convent to obtain a legal entrance. Let them ask
to see the daughters of Marshal Simon, and learn whether it is their
choice to remain, or return to my father, who brought them from Russia.
You will then see if they are not detained against their will--'"
"And what answer did he give you, Agricola?" asked Mother Bunch, while
Dagobert shrugged his shoulders, and continued to walk up and down.
"'My good fellow,' said he, 'what you ask me is impossible. I understand
your motives, but I cannot take upon myself so serious a measure. I
should be broke were I to enter a convent by force.--'Then, sir, what am
I to do? It is enough to turn one's head.'--'Faith, I don't know,' said
the lieutenant; 'it will be safest, I think, to wait.'--Then, believing I
had done all that was possible, father, I resolved to come back, in the
hope that you might have been more fortunate than I--but, alas! I was
So saying, the smith sank upon a chair, for he was worn out with anxiety
and fatigue. There was a moment of profound silence after these words of
Agricola, which destroyed the last hopes of the three, mute and crushed
beneath the strokes of inexorable fatality.
A new incident came to deepen the sad and painful character of this
The door which Agricola had not thought of fastening opened, as it were,
timidly, and Frances Baudoin, Dagobert's wife, pale, sinking, hardly able
to support herself, appeared on the threshold.
The soldier, Agricola, and Mother Bunch, were plunged in such deep
dejection, that neither of them at first perceived the entrance. Frances
advanced two steps into the room, fell upon her knees, clasped her hands
together, and said in a weak and humble voice; "My poor husband--pardon!"
At these words, Agricola and the work-girl--whose backs were towards the
door--turned round suddenly, and Dagobert hastily raised his head.
"My mother!" cried Agricola, running to Frances.
"My wife!" cried Dagobert, as he also rose, and advanced to meet the
"On your knees, dear mother!" said Agricola, stooping down to embrace her
affectionately. "Get up, I entreat you!"
"No, my child," said Frances, in her mild, firm accents, "I will not
rise, till your father has forgiven me. I have wronged him much--now I
"Forgive you, my poor wife?" said the soldier, as he drew near with
emotion. "Have I ever accused you, except in my first transport of
despair? No, no; it was the bad priests that I accused, and there I was
right. Well! I have you again," added he, assisting his son to raise
Frances; "one grief the less. They have then restored you to liberty?
Yesterday, I could not even learn in what prison they had put you. I
have so many cares that I could not think of you only. But come, dear
wife: sit down!"
"How feeble you are, dear mother!--how cold--how pale!" said Agricola
with anguish, his eyes filling with tears.
"Why did you not let us know?" added he. "We would have gone to fetch
you. But how you tremble! Your hands are frozen!" continued the smith,
as he knelt down before Frances. Then, turning towards Mother Bunch:
"Pray, make a little fire directly."
"I thought of it, as soon as your father came in, Agricola, but there is
no wood nor charcoal left."
"Then pray borrow some of Father Loriot, my dear sister. He is too good
a fellow to refuse. My poor mother trembles so--she might fall ill."
Hardly had he said the words, than Mother Bunch went out. The smith rose
from the ground, took the blanket from the bed, and carefully wrapped it
about the knees and feet of his mother. Then, again kneeling down, he
said to her: "Your hands, dear mother!" and, taking those feeble palms in
his own, he tried to warm them with his breath.
Nothing could be more touching than this picture: the robust young man,
with his energetic and resolute countenance, expressing by his looks the
greatest tenderness, and paying the most delicate attentions to his poor,
pale, trembling old mother.
Dagobert, kind-hearted as his son, went to fetch a pillow, and brought it
to his wife, saying: "Lean forward a little, and I will put this pillow
behind you; you will be more comfortable and warmer."
"How you both spoil me!" said Frances, trying to smile. "And you to be
so kind, after all the ill I have done!" added she to Dagobert, as,
disengaging one of her hands from those of her son, she took the
soldier's hand and pressed it to her tearful eyes. "In prison," said she
in a low voice, "I had time to repent."
Agricola's heart was near breaking at the thought that his pious and good
mother, with her angelic purity, should for a moment have been confined
in prison with so many miserable creatures. He would have made some
attempt to console her on the subject of the painful past, but he feared
to give a new shock to Dagobert, and was silent.
"Where is Gabriel, dear mother?" inquired he. "How is he? As you have
seen him, tell us all about him."
"I have seen Gabriel," said Frances, drying her tears; "he is confined at
home. His superiors have rigorously forbidden his going out. Luckily,
they did not prevent his receiving me, for his words and counsels have
opened my eyes to many things. It is from him that I learned how guilty
I had been to you, my poor husband."
"How so?" asked Dagobert.
"Why, you know that if I caused you so much grief, it was not from
wickedness. When I saw you in such despair, I suffered almost as much
myself; but I durst not tell you so, for fear of breaking my oath. I had
resolved to keep it, believing that I did well, believing that it was my
duty. And yet something told me that it could not be my duty to cause
you so much pain. 'Alas, my God! enlighten me!' I exclaimed in my
prison, as I knelt down and prayed, in spite of the mockeries of the
other women. 'Why should a just and pious work, commanded by my
confessor, the most respectable of men, overwhelm me and mine with so
much misery? 'Have mercy on me, my God, and teach me if I have done
wrong without knowing it!' As I prayed with fervor, God heard me, and
inspired me with the idea of applying to Gabriel. 'I thank Thee, Father!
I will obey!' said I within myself. 'Gabriel is like my own child; but
he is also a priest, a martyr--almost a saint. If any one in the world
imitates the charity of our blessed Saviour, it is surely he. When I
leave this prison, I will go and consult him and he will clear up my
"You are right, dear mother," cried Agricola; "it was a thought from
heaven. Gabriel is an angel of purity, courage, nobleness--the type of
the true and good priest!"
"Ah, poor wife!" said Dagobert, with bitterness; "if you had never had
any confessor but Gabriel!"
"I thought of it before he went on his journey," said Frances, with
simplicity. "I should have liked to confess to the dear boy--but I
fancied Abbe Dubois would be offended, and that Gabriel would be too
indulgent with regard to my sins.
"Your sins, poor dear mother?" said Agricola. "As if you ever committed
"And what did Gabriel tell you?" asked the soldier.
"Alas, my dear! had I but had such an interview with him sooner! What I
told him of Abbe Dubois roused his suspicions, and he questioned me, dear
child, as to many things of which he had never spoken to me before. Then
I opened to him my whole heart, and he did the same to me, and we both
made sad discoveries with regard to persons whom we had always thought
very respectable, and who yet had deceived each of us, unknown to the
"Why, they used to tell him, under the seal of secrecy, things that were
supposed to come from me; and they used to tell me, under the same seal
of secrecy, things that were supposed to come from him. Thus, he
confessed to me, that he did not feel at first any vocation for the
priesthood; but they told him that I should not believe myself safe in
this world or in the next, if he did not take orders, because I felt
persuaded that I could best serve the Lord by giving Him so good a
servant; and that yet I had never dared to ask Gabriel himself to give me
this proof of his attachment, though I had taken him from the street, a
deserted orphan, and brought him up as my own son, at the cost of labor
and privations. Then, how could it be otherwise? The poor dear child,
thinking he could please me, sacrificed himself. He entered the
"Horrible," said Agricola; "'tis an infamous snare, and, for the priests
who were guilty of it, a sacrilegious lie!"
"During all that time," resumed Frances, "they were holding very
different language to me. I was told that Gabriel felt his vocation, but
that he durst not avow it to me, for fear of my being jealous on account
of Agricola, who, being brought up as a workman, would not enjoy the same
advantages as those which the priesthood would secure to Gabriel. So
when he asked my permission to enter the seminary dear child! he entered
it with regret, but he thought he was making me so happy!--instead of
discouraging this idea, I did all in my power to persuade him to follow
it, assuring him that he could not do better, and that it would occasion
me great joy. You understand, I exaggerated, for fear he should think me
jealous on account of Agricola."
"What an odious machination!" said Agricola, in amazement. "They were
speculating in this unworthy manner upon your mutual devotion. Thus
Gabriel saw the expression of your dearest wish in the almost forced
encouragement given to his resolution."
"Little by little, however, as Gabriel has the best heart in the world,
the vocation really came to him. That was natural enough--he was born to
console those who suffer, and devote himself for the unfortunate. He
would never have spoken to me of the past, had it not been for this
morning's interview. But then I beheld him, who is usually so mild and
gentle, become indignant, exasperated, against M. Rodin and another
person whom he accuses. He had serious complaints against them already,
but these discoveries, he says, will make up the measure."
At these words of Frances, Dagobert pressed his hand to his forehead, as
if to recall something to his memory. For some minutes he had listened
with surprise, and almost terror, to the account of these secret plots,
conducted with such deep and crafty dissimulation.
Frances continued: "When at last I acknowledged to Gabriel, that by the
advice of Abbe Dubois, my confessor, I had delivered to a stranger the
children confined to my husband--General Simon's daughters--the dear boy
blamed me, though with great regret, not for having wished to instruct
the poor orphans in the truths of our holy religion, but for having acted
without the consent of my husband, who alone was answerable before God
and man for the charge entrusted to him. Gabriel severely censured Abbe
Dubois' conduct, who had given me, he said, bad and perfidious counsels;
and then, with the sweetness of an angel, the dear boy consoled me, and
exhorted me to come and tell you all. My poor husband! he would fain
have accompanied me, for I had scarcely courage to come hither, so
strongly did I feel the wrong I had done you; but, unfortunately, Gabriel
is confined at the seminary by the strict order of his superiors; he
could not come with me, and--"
Here Dagobert, who seemed much agitated, abruptly interrupted his wife.
"One word, Frances," said he; "for, in truth, in the midst of so many
cares, and black, diabolical plots, one loses one's memory, and the head
begins to wander. Didst not tell me, the day the children disappeared,
that Gabriel, when taken in by you, had round his neck a bronze medal,
and in his pocket a book filled with papers in a foreign language?"
"Yes, my dear."
"And this medal and these papers were afterwards delivered to your
"Yes, my dear."
"And Gabriel never spoke of them since?"
Agricola, hearing this from his mother, looked at her with surprise, and
exclaimed: "Then Gabriel has the same interest as the daughters of
General Simon, or Mdlle. de Cardoville, to be in the Rue Saint-Francois
"Certainly," said Dagobert. "And now do you remember what he said to us,
just after my arrival--that, in a few days, he would need our support in
a serious matter?"
"And he is kept a prisoner at his seminary! And he tells your mother
that he has to complain of his superiors! and he asked us for our support
with so sad and grave an air, that I said to him--"
"He would speak so, if about to engage in a deadly duel," interrupted
Agricola. "True, father! and yet you, who are a good judge of valor,
acknowledged that Gabriel's courage was equal to yours. For him so to
fear his superiors, the danger must be great indeed."
"Now that I have heard your mother, I understand it all," said Dagobert.
"Gabriel is like Rose and Blanche, like Mdlle. de Cardoville, like your
mother, like all of us, perhaps--the victim of a secret conspiracy of
wicked priests. Now that I know their dark machinations, their infernal
perseverance, I see," added the soldier, in a whisper, "that it requires
strength to struggle against them. I had not the least idea of their
"You are right, father; for those who are hypocritical and wicked do as
much harm as those who are good and charitable, like Gabriel, do good.
There is no more implacable enemy than a bad priest."
"I know it, and that's what frightens me; for my poor children are in
their hands. But is all lost? Shall I bring myself to give them up
without an effort? Oh, no, no! I will not show any weakness--and yet,
since your mother told us of these diabolical plots, I do not know how it
is but I seem less strong, less resolute. What is passing around me
appears so terrible. The spiriting away of these children is no longer
an isolated fact--it is one of the ramifications of a vast conspiracy,
which surrounds and threatens us all. It seems to me as if I and those I
love walked together in darkness, in the midst of serpents, in the midst
of snares that we can neither see nor struggle against. Well! I'll
speak out! I have never feared death--I am not a coward and yet I
confess--yes, I confess it--these black robes frighten me--"
Dagobert pronounced these words in so sincere a tone, that his son
started, for he shared the same impression. And it was quite natural.
Frank, energetic, resolute characters, accustomed to act and fight in the
light of day, never feel but one fear--and that is, to be ensnared and
struck in the dark by enemies that escape their grasp. Thus, Dagobert
had encountered death twenty times; and yet, on hearing his wife's simple
revelation of this dark tissue of lies, and treachery, and crime, the
soldier felt a vague sense of fear; and, though nothing was changed in
the conditions of his nocturnal enterprise against the convent, it now
appeared to him in a darker and more dangerous light.
The silence, which had reigned for some moments, was interrupted by
Mother Bunch's return. The latter, knowing that the interview between
Dagobert, his wife, and Agricola, ought not have any importunate witness,
knocked lightly at the door, and remained in the passage with Father
"Can we come in, Mme. Frances?" asked the sempstress. "Here is Father
Loriot, bringing some wood."
"Yes, yes; come in, my good girl," said Agricola, whilst his father wiped
the cold sweat from his forehead.
The door opened, and the worthy dyer appeared, with his hands and arms of
an amaranthine color; on one side, he carried a basket of wood, and on
the other some live coal in a shovel.
"Good-evening to the company!" said Daddy Loriot. "Thank you for having
thought of me, Mme. Frances. You know that my shop and everything in it
are at your service. Neighbors should help one another; that's my motto!
You were kind enough, I should think, to my late wife!"
Then, placing the wood in a corner, and giving the shovel to Agricola,
the worthy dyer, guessing from the sorrowful appearance of the different
actors in this scene, that it would be impolite to prolong his visit,
added: "You don't want anything else, Mme. Frances?"
"No, thank you, Father Loriot."
"Then, good-evening to the company!" said the dyer; and, addressing
Mother Bunch, he added: "Don't forget the letter for M. Dagobert. I
durstn't touch it for fear of leaving the marks of my four fingers and
thumb in amaranthine! But, good evening to the company!" and Father
Loriot went out.
"M. Dagobert, here is a letter," said Mother Bunch. She set herself to
light the fire in the stove, while Agricola drew his mother's arm-chair
to the hearth.
"See what it is, my boy," said Dagobert to his son; "my head is so heavy
that I cannot see clear." Agricola took the letter, which contained only
a few lines, and read it before he looked at the signature.
"At Sea, December 25th, 1831.
"I avail myself of a few minutes' communication with a ship bound direct
for Europe, to write to you, my old comrade, a few hasty lines, which
will reach you probably by way of Havre, before the arrival of my last
letters from India. You must by this time be at Paris, with my wife and
"I am unable to say more--the boat is departing. Only one word; I shall
soon be in France. Do not forget the 13th February; the future of my
wife and child depends upon it.
"Adieu, my friend! Believe in my eternal gratitude.
"Agricola--quick! look to your father!" cried the hunchback.
From the first words of this letter, which present circumstances made so
cruelly applicable, Dagobert had become deadly pale. Emotion, fatigue,
exhaustion, joined to this last blow, made him stagger.
His son hastened to him, and supported him in his arms. But soon the
momentary weakness passed away, and Dagobert, drawing his hand across his
brow, raised his tall figure to its full height. Then, whilst his eye
sparkled, his rough countenance took an expression of determined
resolution, and he exclaimed, in wild excitement: "No, no! I will not be
a traitor; I will not be a coward. The black robes shall not frighten
me; and, this night, Rose and Blanche Simon shall be free!"
THE PENAL CODE.
Startled for a moment by the dark and secret machinations of the black
robes, as he called them, against the persons he most loved, Dagobert
might have hesitated an instant to attempt the deliverance of Rose and
Blanche; but his indecision ceased directly on the reading of Marshal
Simon's letter, which came so timely to remind him of his sacred duties.
To the soldier's passing dejection had succeeded a resolution full of
calm and collected energy.
"Agricola, what o'clock is it?" asked he of his son.
"Just struck nine, father."
"You must make me, directly, an iron hook--strong enough to support my
weight, and wide enough to hold on the coping of a wall. This stove will
be forge and anvil; you will find a hammer in the house; and, for iron,"
said the soldier, hesitating, and looking around him, "as for iron--here
So saying, the soldier took from the hearth a strong pair of tongs, and
presented them to his son, adding: "Come, my boy! blow up the fire, blow
it to a white heat, and forge me this iron!"
On these words, Frances and Agricola looked at each other with surprise;
the smith remained mute and confounded, not knowing the resolution of his
father, and the preparations he had already commenced with the
"Don't you hear me, Agricola," repeated Dagobert, still holding the pair
of tongs in his hand; "you must make me a hook directly."
"A hook, father?--for what purpose?"
"To tie to the end of a cord that I have here. There must be a loop at
one end large enough to fix it securely."
"But this cord--this hook--for what purpose are they?"
"To scale the walls of the convent, if I cannot get in by the door."
"What convent?" asked Frances of her son.
"How, father?" cried the latter, rising abruptly. "You still think of
"Why! what else should I think of?"
"But, father, it is impossible; you will never attempt such an
"What is it, my child?" asked Frances, with anxiety. "Where is father
"He is going to break into the convent where Marshal Simon's daughters
are confined, and carry them off."
"Great God! my poor husband--a sacrilege!" cried Frances, faithful to her
pious traditions, and, clasping her hands together, she endeavored to
rise and approach Dagobert.
The soldier, forseeing that he would have to contend with observations
and prayers of all sorts, and resolved not to yield, determined to cut
short all useless supplications, which would only make him lose precious
time. He said, therefore, with a grave, severe, and almost solemn air,
which showed the inflexibility of his determination: "Listen to me, wife-
-and you also, my son--when, at my age, a man makes up his mind to do
anything, he knows the reason why. And when a man has once made up his
mind, neither wife nor child can alter it. I have resolved to do my
duty; so spare yourselves useless words. It may be your duty to talk to
me as you have done; but it is over now, and we will say no more about
it. This evening I must be master in my own house."
Timid and alarmed, Frances did not dare to utter a word, but she turned a
supplicating glance towards her son.
"Father," said the latter, "one word more--only one."
"Let us hear," replied Dagobert, impatiently.
"I will not combat your resolution; but I will prove to you that you do
not know to what you expose yourself."
"I know it all," replied the soldier, in an abrupt tone. "The
undertaking is a serious one; but it shall not be said that I neglected
any means to accomplish what I promised to do."
"But father, you do not know to what danger you expose yourself," said
the smith, much alarmed.
"Talk of danger! talk of the porter's gun and the gardener's scythe!"
said Dagobert, shrugging his shoulders contemptuously. "Talk of them,
and have done with it for, after all, suppose I were to leave my carcass
in the convent, would not you remain to your mother? For twenty years,
you were accustomed to do without me. It will be all the less trying to
"And I, alas! am the cause of these misfortunes!" cried the poor mother.
"Ah! Gabriel had good reason to blame me."
"Mme. Frances, be comforted," whispered the sempstress, who had drawn
near to Dagobert's wife. "Agricola will not suffer his father to expose
After a moment's hesitation, the smith resumed, in an agitated voice: "I
know you too well, father, to think of stopping you by the fear of
"Of what danger, then, do you speak?"
"Of a danger from which even you will shrink, brave as you are," said the
young man, in a voice of emotion, that forcibly struck his father.
"Agricola," said the soldier, roughly and severely, "that remark is
cowardly, you are insulting."
"Cowardly! resumed the soldier, angrily; "because it is cowardice to wish
to frighten a man from his duty--insulting! because you think me capable
of being so frightened."
"Oh, M. Dagobert!" exclaimed the sewing-girl, "you do not understand
"I understand him too well," answered the soldier harshly.
Painfully affected by the severity of his father, but firm in his
resolution, which sprang from love and respect, Agricola resumed, whilst
his heart beat violently. "Forgive me, if I disobey you, father; but,
were you to hate me for it, I must tell you to what you expose yourself
by scaling at night the walls of a convent--"
"My son! do you dare?" cried Dagobert, his countenance inflamed with
"Agricola!" exclaimed Frances, in tears. "My husband!"
"M. Dagobert, listen to Agricola!" exclaimed Mother Bunch. "It is only
in your interest that he speaks."
"Not one word more!" replied the soldier, stamping his foot with anger.
"I tell you, father," exclaimed the smith, growing fearfully pale as he
spoke, "that you risk being sent to the galleys!"
"Unhappy boy!" cried Dagobert, seizing his son by the arm; "could you not
keep that from me--rather than expose me to become a traitor and a
coward?" And the soldier shuddered, as he repeated: "The galleys!"--and,
bending down his head, remained mute, pensive, withered, as it were, by
those blasting words.
"Yes, to enter an inhabited place by night, in such a manner, is what the
law calls burglary, and punishes with the galleys," cried Agricola, at
once grieved and rejoicing at his father's depression of mind--"yes,
father, the galleys, if you are taken in the act; and there are ten
chances to one that you would be so. Mother Bunch has told you, the
convent is guarded. This morning, had you attempted to carry off the two
young ladies in broad daylight, you would have been arrested; but, at
least, the attempt would have been an open one, with a character of
honest audacity about it, that hereafter might have procured your
acquittal. But to enter by night, and by scaling the walls--I tell you,
the galleys would be the consequence. Now, father, decide. Whatever you
do, I will do also--for you shall not go alone. Say but the word, and I
will forge the hook for you--I have here hammer and pincers--and in an
hour we will set out."
A profound silence followed these words--a silence that was only
interrupted by the stifled sobs of Frances, who muttered to herself in
despair: "Alas! this is the consequence of listening to Abbe Dubois!"
It was in vain that Mother Bunch tried to console Frances. She was
herself alarmed, for the soldier was capable of braving even infamy, and
Agricola had determined to share the perils of his father.
In spite of his energetic and resolute character, Dagobert remained for
some time in a kind of stupor. According to his military habits, he had
looked at this nocturnal enterprise only as a ruse de guerre, authorized
by his good cause, and by the inexorable fatality of his position; but
the words of his son brought him back to the fearful reality, and left
him the choice of a terrible alternative--either to betray the confidence
of Marshal Simon, and set at naught the last wishes of the mother of the
orphan--or else to expose himself, and above all his son, to lasting
disgrace--without even the certainty of delivering the orphans after all.
Drying her eyes, bathed in tears, Frances exclaimed, as if by a sudden
inspiration: "Dear me! I have just thought of it. There is perhaps a way
of getting these dear children from the convent without violence."
"How so, mother?" said Agricola, hastily.
"It is Abbe Dubois, who had them conveyed thither; but Gabriel supposes,
that he probably acted by the advice of M. Rodin.
"And if that were so, mother, it would be in vain to apply to M. Rodin.
We should get nothing from him."
"Not from him--but perhaps from that powerful abbe, who is Gabriel's
superior, and has always patronized him since his first entrance at the
"What abbe, mother?"
"True mother; before being a priest, he was a soldier he may be more
accessible than others--and yet--"
"D'Aigrigny!" cried Dagobert, with an expression of hate and horror.
"There is then mixed up with these treasons, a man who was a soldier
before being a priest, and whose name is D'Aigrigny?"
"Yes, father; the Marquis d'Aigrigny--before the Restoration, in the
service of Russia--but, in 1815, the Bourbons gave him a regiment."
"It is he!" said Dagobert, in a hollow voice. "Always the same! like an
evil spirit--to the mother, father, children."
"What do you mean, father?"
"The Marquis d'Aigrigny!" replied Dagobert. "Do you know what is this
man? Before he was a priest, he was the murderer of Rose and Blanche's
mother, because she despised his love. Before he was a priest, he fought
against his country, and twice met General Simon face to face in war.
Yes; while the general was prisoner at Leipsic, covered with wounds at
Waterloo, the turncoat marquis triumphed with the Russians and English!--
Under the Bourbons, this same renegade, loaded with honors, found himself
once more face to face with the persecuted soldier of the empire.
Between them, this time, there was a mortal duel--the marquis was
wounded--General Simon was proscribed, condemned, driven into exile. The
renegade, you say, has become a priest. Well! I am now certain, that it
is he who has carried off Rose and Blanche, in order to wreak on them his
hatred of their father and mother. It is the infamous D'Aigrigny, who
holds them in his power. It is no longer the fortune of these children
that I have to defend; it is their life--do you hear what I say?--their
"What, father! do you think this man capable--"
"A traitor to his country, who finishes by becoming a mock priest, is
capable of anything. I tell you, that, perhaps at this moment he may be
killing those children by a slow-fire!" exclaimed the soldier, in a voice
of agony. "To separate them from one another was to begin to kill them.
Yes!" added Dagobert, with an exasperation impossible to describe; "the
daughters of Marshal Simon are in the power of the Marquis d'Aigrigny and
his band, and I hesitate to attempt their rescue, for fear of the
galleys! The galleys!" added he, with a convulsive burst of laughter;
"what do I care for the galleys? Can they send a corpse there? If this
last attempt fail, shall I not have the right to blow my brains out?--Put
the iron in the fire, my boy--quick! time presses--and strike while the
"But your son goes with you!" exclaimed Frances, with a cry of maternal
despair. Then rising, she threw herself at the feet of Dagobert, and
said: "If you are arrested, he will be arrested also."
"To escape the galleys, he will do as I do. I have two pistols."
"And without you--without him," cried the unhappy mother, extending her
hands in supplication, "what will become of me?"
"You are right--I was too selfish," said Dagobert. "I will go alone."
"You shall not go alone, father," replied Agricola.
"But your mother?"
"Mother Bunch sees what is passing; she will go to Mr. Hardy, my master,
and tell him all. He is the most generous of men, and my mother will
have food and shelter for the rest of her days."
"And I am the cause of all!" cried Frances, wringing her hands in
despair. "Punish me, oh, heaven! for it is my fault. I gave up those
children. I shall be punished by the death of my child!"
"Agricola, you shall not go with me--I forbid it!" said Dagobert,
clasping his son closely to his breast.
"What! when I have pointed out the danger, am I to be the first to shrink
from it? you cannot think thus lowly of me, father! Have I not also some
one to deliver? The good, the generous Mdlle. de Cardoville, who tried
to save me from a prison, is a captive in her turn. I will follow you,
father. It is my right, my duty, my determination."
So saying, Agricola put into the heated stove the tongs that were
intended to form the hook. "Alas! may heaven have pity upon us!" cried
his poor mother, sobbing as she still knelt, whilst the soldier seemed a
prey to the most violent internal struggle.
"Do not cry so, dear mother; you will break my heart," said Agricola, as
he raised her with the sempstress's help. "Be comforted! I have
exaggerated the danger of my father. By acting prudently, we two may
succeed in our enterprise; without much risk--eh, father?" added he, with
a significant glance at Dagobert. "Once more, be comforted, dear mother.
I will answer for everything. We will deliver Marshal Simon's daughters,
and Mdlle. de Cardoville too. Sister, give me the hammer and pincers,
there in the press."
The sempstress, drying her tears, did as desired, while Agricola, by the
help of bellows, revived the fire in which the tongs were heating.
"Here are your tools, Agricola," said the hunchback, in a deeply-agitated
voice, as she presented them with trembling hands to the smith, who, with
the aid of the pincers, soon drew from the fire the white-hot tongs, and,
with vigorous blows of the hammer, formed them into a hook, taking the
stove for his anvil.
Dagobert had remained silent and pensive. Suddenly he said to Frances,
taking her by the hand: "You know what metal your son is. To prevent his
following me would now be impossible. But do not be afraid, dear wife;
we shall succeed--at least, I hope so. And if we should not succeed--if
Agricola and me should be arrested--well! we are not cowards; we shall
not commit suicide; but father and son will go arm in arm to prison, with
heads high and proud, look like two brave men who have done their duty.
The day of trial must come, and we will explain all, honestly, openly--we
will say, that, driven to the last extremity, finding no support, no
protection in the law, we were forced to have recourse to violence. So
hammer away, my boy!" added Dagobert, addressing his son, pounding the
hot iron; "forge, forge, without fear. Honest judges will absolve honest
"Yes, father, you are right, be at ease dear mother! The judges will see
the difference between rascals who scale walls in order to rob, and an
old soldier and his son who, at peril of their liberty, their life, their
honor, have sought only to deliver unhappy victims."
"And if this language should not be heard," resumed Dagobert, "so much
the worse for them! It will not be your son, or husband, who will be
dishonored in the eyes of honest people. If they send us to the galleys,
and we have courage to survive--the young and the old convict will wear
their chains proudly--and the renegade marquis, the traitor priest, will
bear more shame than we. So, forge without fear, my boy! There are
things which the galleys themselves cannot disgrace--our good conscience
and our honor! But now," he added, "two words with my good Mother Bunch.
It grows late, and time presses. On entering the garden, did you remark
if the windows of the convent were far from the ground?"
"No, not very far, M. Dagobert--particularly on that side which is
opposite to the madhouse, where Mdlle. de Cardoville is confined."
"How did you manage to speak to that young lady?"
"She was on the other side of an open paling, which separates the two
"Excellent!" said Agricola, as he continued to hammer the iron: "we can
easily pass from one garden to the other. The madhouse may perhaps be
the readier way out. Unfortunately, you do not know, Mdlle. de
"Yes, I do," returned the work-girl, recollecting herself. "She is
lodged in one of the wings, and there is a shade over her window, painted
like canvas, with blue and white stripes."
"Good! I shall not forget that."
"And can you form no guess as to where are the rooms of my poor
children?" said Dagobert.
After a moment's reflection, Mother Bunch answered, "They are opposite to
the chamber occupied by Mdlle. de Cardoville, for she makes signs to them
from her window: and I now remember she told me, that their two rooms are
on different stories, one on the ground-floor, and the other up one pair
"Are these windows grated?" asked the smith.
"I do not know."
"Never mind, my good girl: with these indications we shall do very well,"
said Dagobert. "For the rest, I have my plans."
"Some water, my little sister," said Agricola, "that I may cool my iron."
Then addressing his father: "Will this hook do?"
"Yes, my boy; as soon as it is cold we will fasten the cord."
For some time, Frances Baudoin had remained upon her knees, praying with
fervor. She implored Heaven to have pity on Agricola and Dagobert, who,
in their ignorance, were about to commit a great crime; and she entreated
that the celestial vengeance might fall upon her only, as she alone had
been the cause of the fatal resolution of her son and husband.
Dagobert and Agricola finished their preparations in silence. They were
both very pale, and solemnly grave. They felt all the danger of so
desperate an enterprise.
The clock at Saint-Mery's struck ten. The sound of the bell was faint,
and almost drowned by the lashing of the wind and rain, which had not
ceased for a moment.
"Ten o'clock!" said Dagobert, with a start. "There is not a minute to
lose. Take the sack, Agricola."
As he went to fetch the sack, Agricola approached Mother Bunch, who was
hardly able to sustain herself, and said to her in a rapid whisper: "If
we are not here to-morrow, take care of my mother. Go to M. Hardy, who
will perhaps have returned from his journey. Courage, my sister! embrace
me. I leave poor mother to you." The smith, deeply affected, pressed
the almost fainting girl in his arms.
"Come, old Spoil-sport," said Dagobert: "you shall be our scout."
Approaching his wife, who, just risen from the ground, was clasping her
son's head to her bosom, and covering it with tears and kisses, he said
to her, with a semblance of calmness and serenity: "Come, my dear wife,
be reasonable! Make us a good fire. In two or three hours we will bring
home the two poor children, and a fine young lady. Kiss me! that will
bring me luck."