Part 18 out of 31
we have now to talk of the present so important for you and your family.
Do you know what is taking place?"
Adrienne looked at the Jesuit with surprise, and said, "What is taking
"Do you know the real motive of your imprisonment in this house? Do you
know what influenced the Princess de Saint-Dizier and Abbe d'Aigrigny?"
At the sound of those detested names, Mdlle. de Cardoville's face, now so
full of happiness, became suddenly sad, and she answered with bitterness,
"It is hatred, sir, that no doubt animated Madame de Saint-Dizier against
"Yes, hatred; and, moreover, the desire to rob you with impunity of an
"Me, sir! how?"
"You must be ignorant, my dear young lady, of the interest you had to be
in the Rue Saint-Francois on the 13th February, for an inheritance?"
"I was ignorant, sir, of the date and details: but I knew by some family
papers, and thanks to an extraordinary circumstance, that one of our
"Had left an enormous sum to be divided between his descendants; is it
"But what unfortunately you did not know, my dear young lady, was that
the heirs were all bound to be present at a certain hour on the 13th
February. This day and hour once past, the absent would forfeit their
claim. Do you now understand why you have been imprisoned here, my dear
"Yes, yes; I understand it," cried Mdlle. de Cardoville; "cupidity was
added to the hatred which my aunt felt for me. All is explained.
Marshal Simon's daughters, having the same right as I had have, like me,
"And yet," cried Rodin, "you and they were not the only victims."
"Who, then, are the others, sir?"
"A young East Indian."
"Prince Djalma?" said Adrienne, hastily.
"For the same reason he has been nearly poisoned with a narcotic."
"Great God!" cried the young girl, clasping her hands in horror. "It is
fearful. That young prince, who was said to have so noble and generous a
character! But I had sent to Cardoville Castle--"
"A confidential person, to fetch the prince to Paris--I know it, my dear
young lady; but, by means of a trick, your friend was got out of the way,
and the young Oriental delivered to his enemies."
"And where is he now?"
"I have only vague information on the subject. I know that he is in
Paris, and do not despair of finding him. I shall pursue my researches
with an almost paternal ardor, for we cannot too much love the rare
qualities of that poor king's son. What a heart, my dear young lady!
what a heart! Oh, it is a heart of gold, pure and bright as the gold of
"We must find the prince, sir," said Adrienne with emotion; "let me
entreat you to neglect nothing for that end. He is my relation--alone
here--without support--without assistance."
"Certainly," replied Rodin, with commiseration. "Poor boy!--for he is
almost a boy--eighteen or nineteen years of age--thrown into the heart of
Paris, of this hell--with his fresh, ardent, half-savage passions--with
his simplicity and confidence--to what perils may he not be exposed?"
"Well, we must first find him, sir," said Adrienne, hastily; "and then we
will save him from these dangers. Before I was confined here, I learned
his arrival in France, and sent a confidential person to offer him the
services of an unknown friend. I now see that this mad idea, with which
I have been so much reproached, was a very sensible one. I am more
convinced of it than ever. The prince belongs to my family, and I owe
him a generous hospitality. I had destined for him the lodge I occupied
at my aunt's."
"And you, my dear young lady?"
"To-day, I shall remove to a house, which I had prepared some time ago,
with the determination of quitting Madame de Saint-Dizier, and living
alone as I pleased. Then, sir, as you seem bent upon being the good
genius of our family, be as generous with regard to Prince Djalma, as you
have been to me and Marshal Simon's daughters. I entreat you to discover
the hiding-place of this poor king's son, as you call him; keep my secret
for me, and conduct him to the house offered by the unknown friend. Let
him not disquiet himself about anything; all his wants shall be provided
for; he shall live--like a prince."
"Yes; he will indeed live like a prince, thanks to your royal
munificence. But never was such kind interest better deserved. It is
enough to see (as I have seen) his fine, melancholy countenance--"
"You have seen him, then, sir?" said Adrienne, interrupting Rodin.
"Yes, my dear young lady; I was with him for about two hours. It was
quite enough to judge of him. His charming features are the mirror of
"And where did you see him, sir?"
"At your old Chateau de Cardoville, my dear young lady, near which he had
been shipwrecked in a storm, and whither I had gone to--" Rodin hesitated
for a moment, and then, as if yielding to the frankness of his
disposition, added: "Whither I had gone to commit a bad action--a
shameful, miserable action, I must confess!"
"You, sir?--at Cardoville House--to commit a bad action?" cried Adrienne,
"Alas! yes, my dear young lady," answered Rodin with simplicity. "In one
word, I had orders from Abbe d'Aigrigny, to place your former bailiff in
the alternative either of losing his situation or lending himself to a
mean action--something, in fact, that resembled spying and calumny; but
the honest, worthy man refused."
"Why, who are you, sir?" said Mdlle. de Cardoville, more and more
"I am Rodin, lately secretary of the Abbe d'Aigrigny--a person of very
little importance, as you see."
It is impossible to describe the accent, at once humble and ingenuous, of
the Jesuit, as he pronounced these words, which he accompanied with a
respectful bow. On this revelation, Mdlle. de Cardoville drew back
abruptly. We have said that Adrienne had sometimes heard talk of Rodin,
the humble secretary of the Abbe d'Aigrigny, as a sort of obedient and
passive machine. That was not all; the bailiff of Cardoville Manor,
writing to Adrienne on the subject of Prince Djalma, had complained of
the perfidious and dishonest propositions of Rodin. She felt, therefore,
a vague suspicion, when she heard that her liberator was the man who had
played so odious a part. Yet this unfavorable feeling was balanced by
the sense of what she owed to Rodin, and by his frank denunciation of
Abbe d'Aigrigny before the magistrate. And then the Jesuit, by his own
confession, had anticipated, as it were, the reproaches that might have
been addressed to him. Still, it was with a kind of cold reserve that
Mdlle. de Cardoville resumed this dialogue, which she had commenced with
as much frankness as warmth and sympathy.
Rodin perceived the impression he had made. He expected it. He was not
the least disconcerted when Mdlle. de Cardoville said to him, as she
fixed upon him a piercing glance, "Ah! you are M. Rodin--secretary to the
"Say ex-secretary, if you please, my dear young lady," answered the
Jesuit; "for you see clearly that I can never again enter the house of
the Abbe d'Aigrigny. I have made of him an implacable enemy, and I am
now without employment--but no matter--nay, so much the better--since, at
this price, the wicked are unmasked, and honest people rescued."
These words, spoken with much simplicity, and dignity, revived a feeling
of pity in Adrienne's heart. She thought within herself that, after all,
the poor old man spoke the truth. Abbe d'Aigrigny's hate, after this
exposure, would be inexorable, and Rodin had braved it for the sake of a
Still Mdlle. de Cardoville answered coldly, "Since you knew, sir, that
the propositions you were charged to make to the bailiff of Cardoville
were shameful and perfidious, how could you undertake the mission?"
"How?" replied Rodin, with a sort of painful impatience; "why, because I
was completely under Abbe d'Aigrigny's charm, one of the most
prodigiously clever men I have ever known, and, as I only discovered the
day before yesterday, one of the most prodigiously dangerous men there is
in the world. He had conquered my scruples, by persuading me that the
End justifies the Means. I must confess that the end he seemed to
propose to himself was great and beautiful; but the day before yesterday
I was cruelly undeceived. I was awakened, as it were, by a thunder-peal.
Oh, my dear young lady!" added Rodin, with a sort of embarrassment and
confusion, "let us talk no more of my fatal journey to Cardoville.
Though I was only an ignorant and blind instrument, I feel as ashamed and
grieved at it as if I had acted for myself. It weighs upon me, it
oppresses me. I entreat you, let us speak rather of yourself, and of
what interests you--for the soul expands with generous thoughts, even as
the breast is dilated in pure and healthful air."
Rodin had confessed his fault so spontaneously, he explained it so
naturally, he appeared to regret it so sincerely, that Adrienne, whose
suspicions had no other grounds, felt her distrust a good deal
"So," she resumed, still looking attentively at Rodin, "it was at
Cardoville that you saw Prince Djalma?"
"Yes, madame; and my affection for him dates from that interview.
Therefore I will accomplish my task. Be satisfied, my dear young lady;
like you, like Marshal Simon's daughters, the prince shall avoid being
the victim of this detestable plot, which unhappily does not stop there."
"And who besides, then, is threatened?"
"M. Hardy, a man full of honor and probity, who is also your relation,
and interested in this inheritance, but kept away from Paris by infamous
treachery. And another heir, an unfortunate artisan, who falling into a
trap cleverly baited, has been thrown into a prison for debt."
"But, sir," said Adrienne, suddenly, "for whose advantage was this
abominable plot, which really alarms me, first devised?"
"For the advantage of Abbe d'Aigrigny," answered Rodin.
"How, and by what right! Was he also an heir?"
"It would take too long to explain it to you, my dear young lady. You
will know all one day. Only be convinced that your family has no more
bitter enemy that Abbe d'Aigrigny."
"Sir," said Adrienne, giving way to one last suspicion, "I will speak
frankly to you. How can I have deserved the interest that you seem to
take in me, and that you even extend to all the members of my family?"
"My dear young lady," answered Rodin, with a smile, "were I to tell you
the cause, you would only laugh at, or misapprehend me."
"Speak, I beg of you, sir. Do not mistrust me or yourself."
"Well, then, I became interested in you--devoted to you--because your
heart is generous, your mind lofty, your character independent and proud.
Once attached to you, those of your race, who are indeed themselves
worthy of interest, were no longer indifferent to me. To serve them was
to serve you also."
"But, sir--admitting that you suppose me worthy of the too flattering
praises you bestow upon me--how could you judge of my heart, my mind, my
"I will tell you, my dear young lady; but first I must make another
confession, that fills me with shame. If you were not even so
wonderfully endowed, what you have suffered in this house should suffice
to command the interest of every honest man--don't you think so?"
"I do think it should, sir."
"I might thus explain the interest I feel in you. But no--I confess it--
that would not have sufficed with me. Had you been only Mdlle. de
Cardoville--a rich, noble, beautiful young lady--I should doubtless have
pitied your misfortune; but I should have said to myself, 'This poor
young lady is certainly much to be pitied; but what can I, poor man, do
in it? My only resource is my post of secretary to the Abbe d'Aigrigny,
and he would be the first that must be attacked. He is all-powerful, and
I am nothing. To engage in a struggle with him would be to ruin myself,
without the hope of saving this unfortunate person.' But when I learnt
what you were, my dear young lady, I revolted, in spite of my
inferiority. `No,' I said, `a thousand times, no! So fine an intellect,
so great a heart, shall not be the victims of an abominable plot. I may
perish in the struggle, but I will at least make the attempt.'"
No words can paint the mixture of delicacy, energy, and sensibility with
which Rodin uttered these sentiments. As it often happens with people
singularly repulsive and ill-favored, if they can once bring you to
forget their ugliness, their very deformity becomes a source of interest
and commiseration, and you say to yourself, "What a pity that such a
mind, such a soul, should inhabit so poor a body!"--and you are touched
and softened by the contrast.
It was thus that Mdlle. de Cardoville began to look upon Rodin. He had
shown himself as simple and affectionate towards her as he had been
brutal and insolent to Dr. Baleinier. One thing only excited the lively
curiosity of Mdlle. de Cardoville--she wished to know how Rodin had
conceived the devotion and admiration which she seemed to inspire.
"Forgive my indiscreet and obstinate curiosity, sir, but I wish to know--"
"How you were morally revealed to me--is it not so? Oh, my dear young
lady! nothing is more simple. I will explain it to you in two words.
The Abbe d'Aigrigny saw in me nothing but a writing-machine, an obtuse,
mute, blind instrument--"
"I thought M. d'Aigrigny had more penetration."
"And you are right, my dear young lady; he is a man of unparalleled
sagacity; but I deceived him by affecting more than simplicity. Do not,
therefore, think me false. No; I am proud in my manner--and my pride
consists in never appearing above my position, however subaltern it may
be! Do you know why? It is that, however haughty may be my superiors, I
can say to myself, `They do not know my value. It is the inferiority of
my condition, not me, that they humiliate.' By this I gain doubly--my
self-love is spared, and I hate no one."
"Yes, I understand that sort of pride," said Adrienne, more and more
struck with Rodin's original turn of mind.
"But let us return to what concerns you, my dear young lady. On the eve
of the 13th of February, the Abbe d'Aigrigny delivered to me a paper in
shorthand, and said to me, `Transcribe this examination; you may add that
it is to support the decision of a family council, which has declared, in
accordance with the report of Dr. Baleinier, the state of mind of Mdlle.
de Cardoville to be sufficiently alarming to render it necessary to
confine her in a lunatic asylum.'"
"Yes," said Adrienne, with bitterness; "it related to a long interview,
which I had with the Princess de Saint-Dizier, my aunt, and which was
taken down without my knowledge."
Behold me, then, poring over my shorthand report, and beginning to
transcribe it. At the end of the first ten lines, I was struck with
stupor. I knew not if I were awake or dreaming. `What! mad?' They must
be themselves insane who dare assert so monstrous a proposition!--More
and more interested, I continued my reading--I finished it--Oh! then,
what shall I say? What I felt, my dear young lady, it is impossible to
express. It was sympathy, delight, enthusiasm!"
"Sir," said Adrienne.
"Yes, my dear young lady, enthusiasm! Let not the words shock your
modesty. Know that these ideas, so new, so independent, so courageous
which you expressed to your aunt with so much brilliancy, are, without
your being aware of it, common to you and another person, for whom you
will one day feel the most tender and religious respect."
"Of whom do you speak, sir?" cried Mdlle. de Cardoville, more and more
After a moment's apparent hesitation, Rodin resumed, "No, no--it is
useless now to inform you of it. All I can tell you, my dear young lady,
is that, when I had finished my reading, I ran to Abbe d'Aigrigny's, to
convince him of the error into which he had fallen with regard to you.
It was impossible then to find him; but yesterday morning I told him
plainly what I thought. He only appeared surprised to find that I could
think at all. He received my communications with contemptuous silence.
I thought him deceived; I continued my remonstrances, but quite in vain.
He ordered me to follow him to the house, where the testament of your
ancestor was to be opened. I was so blind with regard to the Abbe
d'Aigrigny, that it required the successive arrivals of the soldier, of
his son, and of Marshal Simon's father, to open my eyes thoroughly.
Their indignation unveiled to me the extent of a conspiracy, plotted long
ago, and carried on with terrible ability. Then, I understood why you
were confined here as a lunatic; why the daughters of Marshal Simon were
imprisoned in a convent. Then a thousand recollections returned to my
mind; fragments of letters and statements, which had been given me to
copy or decipher, and of which I had never been able to find the
explanation, put me on the track of this odious machination. To express
then and there the sudden horror I felt at these crimes, would have been
to ruin all. I did not make this mistake. I opposed cunning to cunning;
I appeared even more eager than Abbe d'Aigrigny. Had this immense
inheritance been destined for me alone, I could not have shown myself
more grasping and merciless. Thanks to this stratagem, Abbe d'Aigrigny
had no suspicion. A providential accident having rescued the inheritance
from his hands, he left the house in a state of profound consternation.
For my part, I felt indescribable joy; for I had now the means of saving
and avenging you, my dear young lady. As usual, I went yesterday evening
to my place of business. During the absence of the abbe, it was easy for
me to peruse the correspondence relative to the inheritance. In this way
I was able to unite all the threads of this immense plot. Oh! then, my
dear young lady, I remained, struck with horror, in presence of the
discoveries that I made, and that I never should have made under any
"What discoveries, sir?"
"There are some secrets which are terrible to those who possess them. Do
not ask me to explain, my dear young lady; but, in this examination, the
league formed against you and your relations, from motives of insatiable
cupidity, appeared to me in all its dark audacity. Thereupon, the lively
and deep interest which I already felt for you, my dear young lady, was
augmented greatly, and extended itself to the other innocent victims of
this infernal conspiracy. In spite of my weakness, I determined to risk
all, to unmask the Abbe d'Aigrigny. I collected the necessary proofs, to
give my declaration before the magistrate the needful authority; and,
this morning, I left the abbe's house without revealing to him my
projects. He might have employed some violent method to detain me; yet
it would have been cowardly to attack him without warning. Once out of
his house, I wrote to him, that I had in my hands proof enough of his
crimes, to attack him openly in the face of day. I would accuse, and he
must defend himself. I went directly to a magistrate, and you know the
At this juncture, the door opened, and one of the nurses appeared, and
said to Rodin: "Sir, the messenger that you and the magistrate sent to
the Rue Brise-Miche has just come back."
"Has he left the letter?"
"Yes, sir; and it was taken upstairs directly."
"Very well. Leave us!" The nurse went out.
If it had been possible for Mdlle. de Cardoville to harbor any suspicion
of the sincerity of Rodin's devotion, it must have given way before this
reasoning, unfortunately so simple and undeniable. How could she suppose
the faintest complicity between the Abbe d'Aigrigny and his secretary,
when it was the latter who completely unveiled the machinations of his
master, and exposed them to the tribunals? when in this, Rodin went even
further than Mdlle. de Cardoville would herself have gone? Of what
secret design could she suspect the Jesuit? At worst, of a desire to
earn by his services the profitable patronage of the young lady.
And then, had he not just now protested against this supposition, by
declaring his devotion, not to Mdlle. de Cardoville--not to the fair,
rich, noble lady--but to the high-souled and generous girl? Finally, as
Rodin had said himself, could any but a miserable wretch fail to be
interested in Adrienne's fate? A strange mixture of curiosity, surprise,
and interest, was joined with Mdlle. de Cardoville's feelings of
gratitude towards Rodin. Yet, as she recognized the superior mind under
that humble exterior, she was suddenly struck with a grave suspicion.
"Sir," said she to Rodin, "I always confess to the persons I esteem the
doubts they may have inspired, so that they may justify themselves, and
excuse me, if I am wrong."
Rodin looked at Mdlle. de Cardoville with surprise, as if mentally
calculating the suspicions than she might entertain, and replied, after a
moment's silence: "You are perhaps thinking of my journey to Cardoville,
of my base proposals to your good and worthy bailiff? Oh! if you--"
"No, no, sir," said Adrienne, interrupting him; "you made that confession
spontaneously, and I quite understand, that, blinded with regard to M.
d'Aigrigny, you passively executed instructions repugnant to your
delicacy. But how comes it, that, with your incontestable merits, you
have so long; occupied so mean a position in his service?"
"It is true," said Rodin, with a smile; "that must impress you
unfavorably, my dear young lady; for a man of any capacity, who remains
long in an inferior condition, has evidently some radical vice, some bad
or base passion--"
"It is generally true, sir."
"And personally true--with regard to myself."
"What, sir! do you make this avowal?"
"Alas! I confess that I have a bad passion, to which, for forty years, I
have sacrificed all chances of attaining to a better position."
"And this passion, sir?"
"Since I must make the unpleasant avowal, this passion is indolence--yes,
indolence--the horror of all activity of mind, of all moral
responsibility, of taking the lead in anything. With the twelve hundred
francs that Abbe d'Aigrigny gave me, I was the happiest man in the world;
I trusted to the nobleness of his views; his thoughts became mine, his
wishes mine. My work once finished, I returned to my poor little
chamber, I lighted my fire, I dined on vegetables--then, taking up some
book of philosophy, little known, and dreaming over it, I gave free
course to my imagination, which, restrained all the day long, carried me
through numberless theories to a delicious Utopia. Then, from the
eminences of my intelligence, lifted up Lord knows whither, by the
audacity of my thoughts, I seemed to look down upon my master, and upon
the great men of the earth. This fever lasted for three or four hours,
after which I had a good sleep; and, the next morning, I went lightly to
my work, secure of my daily bread, without cares for the future, living
content with little, waiting with impatience for the delights of my
solitary evening, and saying to myself as I went on writing like a stupid
machine: `And yet--and yet--if I chose!'--"
"Doubtless, you could, like others, surer than others, have reached a
higher position," said Adrienne, greatly struck with Rodin's practical
"Yes, I think I could have done so; but for what purpose?--You see, my
dear young lady, what often renders people of some merit puzzles to the
vulgar, is that they are frequently content to say: 'If I chose!'"
"But, sir, without attaching much importance to the luxuries of life,
there is a certain degree of comfort, which age renders almost
indispensable, and which you seem to have utterly renounced."
"Undeceive yourself, if you please, my dear young lady," said Rodin, with
a playful smile. "I am a true Sybarite; I require absolutely warm
clothes, a good stove, a soft mattress, a good piece of bread, a fresh
radish, flavored with good cheap salt, and some good, clear water; and,
notwithstanding this complication of wants, my twelve hundred francs have
always more than sufficed, for I have been able to make some little
"But now that you are without employment, how will you manage to live,
sir?" said Adrienne, more and more interested by the singularities of
this man, and wishing to put his disinterestedness to the proof.
"I have laid by a little, which will serve me till I have unravelled the
last thread of Father d'Aigrigny's dark designs. I owe myself this
reparation, for having been his dupe; three or four days, I hope, will
complete the work. After that, I have the certainty of meeting with a
situation, in my native province, under a collector of taxes: some time
ago, the offer was made me by a friend; but then I would not leave Father
d'Aigrigny, notwithstanding the advantages proposed. Fancy, my dear
young lady--eight hundred francs, with board and lodging! As I am a
little of the roughest, I should have preferred lodging apart; but, as
they give me so much, I must submit to this little inconvenience."
Nothing could exceed Rodin's ingenuity, in making these little household
confidences (so abominably false) to Mdlle. de Cardoville, who felt her
last suspicions give way.
"What, sir?" said she to the Jesuit, with interest; "in three or four
days, you mean to quit Paris?"
"I hope to do so, my dear young lady; and that," added he, in a
mysterious tone, "and that for many reasons. But what would be very
precious to me," he resumed, in a serious voice, as he looked at Adrienne
with emotion, "would be to carry with me the conviction, that you did me
the justice to believe, that, on merely reading your interview with the
Princess de Saint-Dizier, I recognized at once qualities quite unexampled
in our day, in a young person of your age and condition."
"Ah, sir!" said Adrienne, with a smile, "do not think yourself obliged to
return so soon the sincere praises that I bestowed on your superiority of
mind. I should be better pleased with ingratitude."
"Oh, no! I do not flatter you, my dear young lady. Why should I? We
may probably never meet again. I do not flatter you; I understand you--
that's all--and what will seem strange to you, is, that your appearance
complete, the idea which I had already formed of you, my dear young lady,
in reading your interview with your aunt: and some parts of your
character, hitherto obscure to me, are now fully displayed."
"Really, sir, you astonish me more and more."
"I can't help it! I merely describe my impressions. I can now explain
perfectly, for example, your passionate love of the beautiful, your eager
worship of the refinements of the senses, your ardent aspirations for a
better state of things, your courageous contempt of many degrading and
servile customs, to which woman is condemned; yes, now I understand the
noble pride with which you contemplate the mob of vain, self-sufficient,
ridiculous men, who look upon woman as a creature destined for their
service, according to the laws made after their own not very handsome
image. In the eyes of these hedge-tyrants, woman, a kind of inferior
being to whom a council of cardinals deigned to grant a soul by a
majority of two voices, ought to think herself supremely happy in being
the servant of these petty pachas, old at thirty, worn-out, used up,
weary with excesses, wishing only for repose, and seeking, as they say,
to make an end of it, which they set about by marrying some poor girl,
who is on her side desirous to make a beginning."
Mdlle. de Cardoville would certainly have smiled at these satirical
remarks, if she had not been greatly struck by hearing Rodin express in
such appropriate terms her own ideas, though it was the first time in her
life that she saw this dangerous man. Adrienne forgot, or rather, she
was not aware, that she had to deal with a Jesuit of rare intelligence,
uniting the information and the mysterious resources of the police-spy
with the profound sagacity of the confessor; one of those diabolic
priests, who, by the help of a few hints, avowals, letters, reconstruct a
character, as Cuvier could reconstruct a body from zoological fragments.
Far from interrupting Rodin, Adrienne listened to him with growing
curiosity. Sure of the effect he produced, he continued, in a tone of
indignation: "And your aunt and the Abbe d'Aigrigny treated you as mad,
because you revolted against the yoke of such tyrants! because, hating
the shameful vices of slavery, you chose to be independent with the
suitable qualities of independence, free with the proud virtues of
"But, sir," said Adrienne, more and more surprised, "how can my thoughts
be so familiar to you?"
"First, I know you perfectly, thanks to your interview with the Princess
de Saint-Dizier: and next, if it should happen that we both pursue the
same end, though by different means," resumed Rodin, artfully, as he
looked at Mdlle. de Cardoville with an air of intelligence, "why should
not our convictions be the same?"
"I do not understand you, sir. Of what end do you speak?"
"The end pursued incessantly by all lofty, generous, independent spirits-
-some acting, like you, my dear young lady, from passion, from instinct,
without perhaps explaining to themselves the high mission they are called
on to ful, fil. Thus, for example, when you take pleasure in the most
refined delights, when you surround yourself with all that charms the
senses, do you think that you only yield to the attractions of the
beautiful, to the desire of exquisite enjoyments? No! ah, no! for then
you would be incomplete, odiously selfish, a dry egotist, with a fine
taste--nothing more--and at your age, it would be hideous, my dear young
lady, it would be hideous!"
"And do you really think thus severely of me?" said Adrienne, with
uneasiness, so much influence had this man irresistibly attained over
"Certainly, I should think thus of you, if you loved luxury for luxury's
sake; but, no--quite another sentiment animates you," resumed the Jesuit.
"Let us reason a little. Feeling a passionate desire for all these
enjoyments, you know their value and their need more than any one--is it
"It is so," replied Adrienne, deeply interested.
"Your gratitude and favor are then necessarily acquired by those who,
poor, laborious, and unknown, have procured for you these marvels of
luxury, which you could not do without?"
"This feeling of gratitude is so strong in me, sir," replied Adrienne,
more and more pleased to find herself so well understood, "that I once
had inscribed on a masterpiece of goldsmith's work, instead of the name
of the seller, that of the poor unknown artist who designed it, and who
has since risen to his true place."
"There you see, I was not deceived," went on Rodin; "the taste for
enjoyment renders you grateful to those who procure it for you; and that
is not all; here am I, an example, neither better nor worse than my
neighbors, but accustomed to privations, which cause me no suffering--so
that the privations of others necessarily touch me less nearly than they
do you, my dear young lady; for your habits of comfort must needs render
you more compassionate towards misfortune. You would yourself suffer too
much from poverty, not to pity and succor those who are its victims."
"Really, sir," said Adrienne, who began to feel herself under the fatal
charm of Rodin, "the more I listen to you, the more I am convinced that
you would defend a thousand times better than I could those ideas for
which I was so harshly reproached by Madame de Saint-Dizier and Abbe
d'Aigrigny. Oh! speak, speak, sir! I cannot tell you with what
happiness, with what pride I listen."
Attentive and moved, her eyes fixed on the Jesuit with as much interest
as sympathy and curiosity, Adrienne, by a graceful toss of the head that
was habitual to her, threw hack her long, golden curls, the better to
contemplate Rodin, who thus resumed: "You are astonished, my dear young
lady, that you were not understood by your aunt or by Abbe d'Aigrigny!
What point of contact had you with these hypocritical, jealous, crafty
minds, such as I can judge them to be now? Do you wish a new proof of
their hateful blindness? Among what they called your monstrous follies,
which was the worst, the most damnable? Why, your resolution to live
alone and in your own way, to dispose freely of the present and the
future. They declared this to be odious, detestable, immoral. And yet--
was this resolution dictated by a mad love of liberty? no!--by a
disordered aversion to all restraint? no!--by the desire of singularity?
--no!--for then I, too, should have blamed you severely."
"Other reasons have indeed guided me, sir, I assure you," said Adrienne
eagerly, for she had become very eager for the esteem with which her
character might inspire Rodin.
"Oh! I know it well; your motives could only be excellent ones," replied
the Jesuit. "Why then did you take this resolution, so much called in
question? Was it to brave established etiquette? no! for you respected
them until the hate of Mme. de Saint-Dizier forced you to withdraw
yourself from her unbearable guardianship. Was it to live alone, to
escape the eyes of the world? no! you would be a hundred times more open
to observation in this than any other condition. Was it to make a bad
use of your liberty? no, ah, no! those who design evil seek for darkness
and solitude; while you place yourself right before the jealous anal
envious eyes of the vulgar crowd. Why then do you take this
determination, so courageous and rare, unexampled in a young person of
your age? Shall I tell you, my dear young lady? It is, that you wish to
prove, by your example, that a woman of pure heart and honest mind, with
a firm character and independence of soul, may nobly and proudly throw
off the humiliating guardianship that custom has imposed upon her. Yes,
instead of accepting the fate of a revolted slave, a life only destined
to hypocrisy or vice, you wish to live freely in presence of all the
world, independent, honorable, and respected. You wish to have, like
man, the exercise of your own free will, the entire responsibility of all
your actions, so as to establish the fact, that a woman left completely
to herself, may equal man in reason, wisdom, uprightness, and surpass him
indelicacy and dignity. That is your design, my dear young lady. It is
noble and great. Will your example be imitated? I hope it may; but
whether it be so or not, your generous attempt, believe me, will place
you in a high and worthy position."
Mdlle. de Cardoville's eyes shone with a proud and gentle brightness, her
cheeks were slightly colored, her bosom heaved, she raised her charming
head with a movement of involuntary pride; at length completely under the
charm of that diabolical man she exclaimed: "But, sir, who are you that
can thus know and analyze my most secret thoughts, and read my soul more
clearly than myself, so as to give new life and action to those ideas of
independence which have long stirred within me? Who are you, that can
thus elevate me in my own eyes, for now I am conscious of accomplishing a
mission, honorable to myself, and perhaps useful to my sisters immersed
in slavery? Once again, sir, who are you?"
"Who am I, madame?" answered Rodin, with a smile of the greatest good-
nature; "I have already told you that I am a poor old man, who for the
last forty years, having served in the day time as a writing machine to
record the ideas of others, went home every evening to work out ideas of
his own--a good kind of man who, from his garret, watches and even takes
some little share in the movement of generous spirits, advancing towards
an end that is nearer than is commonly thought. And thus, my dear young
lady, as I told you just now, you and I are both tending towards the same
objects, though you may do the same without reflection, and merely in
obedience to your rare and divine instincts. So continue so to live,
fair, free, and happy!--it is your mission--more providential than you
may think it. Yes; continue to surround yourself with all the marvels of
luxury and art; refine your senses, purify your tastes, by the exquisite
choice of your enjoyments; by genius, grace, and purity raise yourself
above the stupid and ill-favored mob of men, that will instantly surround
you, when they behold you alone and free; they will consider you an easy
prey, destined to please their cupidity, their egotism, their folly.
"Laugh at them, and mock these idiotic and sordid pretensions. Be the
queen of your own world, and make yourself respected as a queen. Love--
shine--enjoy--it is your part upon earth. All the flowers, with which
you are whelmed in profusion, will one day bear fruit. You think that
you have lived only for pleasure; in reality, you will have lived for the
noblest aims that could tempt a great and lofty soul. And so--some years
hence--we may meet again, perhaps; you, fairer and more followed than
ever; I, older and more obscure. But, no matter--a secret voice, I am
sure, says to you at this moment, that between us two, however different,
there exists an invisible bond, a mysterious communion, which nothing
hereafter will ever be able to destroy!"
He uttered these final words in a tone of such profound emotion, that
Adrienne started. Rodin had approached without her perceiving it, and
without, as it were, walking at all, for he dragged his steps along the
floor, with a sort of serpent motion; and he had spoken with so much
warmth and enthusiasm, that his pale face had become slightly tinged, and
his repulsive ugliness had almost disappeared before the brilliancy of
his small sharp eyes, now wide open, and fixed full upon Adrienne. The
latter leaned forward, with half-open lips and deep-drawn breath, nor
could she take her eyes from the Jesuit's; he had ceased to speak, and
yet she was still listening. The feelings of the fair young lady, in
presence of this little old man, dirty, ugly, and poor, were
inexplicable. That comparison so common, and yet so true, of the
frightful fascination of the bird by the serpent, might give some idea of
the singular impression made upon her. Rodin's tactics were skillful and
sure. Until now, Mdlle. de Cardoville had never analyzed her tastes or
instincts. She had followed them, because they were inoffensive and
charming. How happy and proud she then was sure to be to hear a man of
superior mind not only praise these tendencies, for which she had been
heretofore so severely blamed, but congratulate her upon them, as upon
something great, noble, and divine! If Rodin had only addressed himself
to Adrienne's self-conceit, he would have failed in his perfidious
designs, for she had not the least spark of vanity. But he addressed
himself to all that was enthusiastic and generous in her heart; that
which he appeared to encourage and admire in her was really worthy of
encouragement and admiration. How could she fail to be the dupe of such
language, concealing though it did such dark and fatal projects?
Struck with the Jesuit's rare intelligence, feeling her curiosity greatly
excited by some mysterious words that he had purposely uttered, hardly
explaining to herself the strange influence which this pernicious
counsellor already exercised over her, and animated by respectful
compassion for a man of his age and talents placed in so precarious a
position, Adrienne said to him, with all her natural cordiality, "A man
of your merit and character, sir, ought not to be at the mercy of the
caprice of circumstances. Some of your words have opened a new horizon
before me; I feel that, on many points, your counsels may be of the
greatest use to me. Moreover, in coming to fetch me from this house, and
in devoting yourself to the service of other persons of my family, you
have shown me marks of interest which I cannot forget without
ingratitude. You have lost a humble but secure situation. Permit me--"
"Not a word more, my dear young lady," said Rodin, interrupting Mdlle. de
Cardoville, with an air of chagrin. "I feel for you the deepest sympathy;
I am honored by having ideas in common with you; I believe firmly that
some day you will have to ask advice of the poor old philosopher; and,
precisely because of all that, I must and ought to maintain towards you
the most complete independence."
"But, sir, it is I that would be the obliged party, if you deigned to
accept what I offer."
"Oh, my dear young lady," said Rodin, with a smile: "I know that your
generosity would always know how to make gratitude light and easy; but,
once more, I cannot accept anything from you. One day, perhaps, you will
"It is impossible for me to tell you more. And then, supposing I were
under an obligation to you, how could I tell you all that was good and
beautiful in your actions? Hereafter, if you are somewhat indebted to me
for my advice, so much the better; I shall be the more ready to blame
you, if I find anything to blame."
"In this way, sir, you would forbid me to be grateful to you."
"No, no," said Rodin, with apparent emotion. "Oh, believe me! there will
come a solemn moment, in which you may repay all, in a manner worthy of
yourself and me."
This conversation was here interrupted by the nurse, who said to Adrienne
as she entered: "Madame, there is a little humpback workwoman downstairs,
who wishes to speak to you. As, according to the doctor's new orders,
you are to do as you like, I have come to ask, if I am to bring her up to
you. She is so badly dressed, that I did not venture."
"Bring her up, by all means," said Adrienne, hastily, for she had
recognized Mother Bunch by the nurse's description. "Bring her up
"The doctor has also left word, that his carriage is to be at your
orders, madame; are the horses to be put to?"
Yes, in a quarter of an hour," answered Adrienne to the nurse, who went
out; then, addressing Rodin, she continued: "I do not think the
magistrate can now be long, before he returns with Marshal Simon's
"I think not, my dear young lady; but who is this deformed workwoman?"
asked Rodin, with an air of indifference.
"The adopted sister of a gallant fellow, who risked all in endeavoring to
rescue me from this house. And, sir," said Adrienne, with emotion, "this
young workwoman is a rare and excellent creature. Never was a nobler
mind, a more generous heart, concealed beneath an exterior less--"
But reflecting, that Rodin seemed to unite in his own person the same
moral and physical contrasts as the sewing-girl, Adrienne stopped short,
and then added, with inimitable grace, as she looked at the Jesuit, who
was somewhat astonished at the sudden pause: "No; this noble girl is not
the only person who proves how loftiness of soul, and superiority of
mind, can make us indifferent to the vain advantages which belong only to
the accidents of birth or fortune." At the moment of Adrienne speaking
these last words, Mother Bunch entered the room.
Mdlle. de Cardoville sprang hastily to meet the visitor, and said to her,
in a voice of emotion, as she extended her arms towards her: "Come--come
--there is no grating to separate us now!"
On this allusion, which reminded her how her poor, laborious hand had
been respectfully kissed by the fair and rich patrician, the young
workwoman felt a sentiment of gratitude, which was at once ineffable and
proud. But, as she hesitated to respond to the cordial reception,
Adrienne embraced her with touching affection. When Mother Bunch found
herself clasped in the fair arms of Mdlle. de Cardoville, when she felt
the fresh and rosy lips of the young lady fraternally pressed to her own
pale and sickly cheek, she burst into tears without being able to utter a
word. Rodin, retired in a corner of the chamber, locked on this scene
with secret uneasiness. Informed of the refusal, so full of dignity,
which Mother Bunch had opposed to the perfidious temptations of the
superior of St. Mary's Convent, and knowing the deep devotion of this
generous creature for Agricola--a devotion which for some days she had so
bravely extended to Mdlle. de Cardoville--the Jesuit did not like to see
the latter thus laboring to increase that affection. He thought, wisely,
that one should never despise friend or enemy, however small they may
appear. Now, devotion to Mdlle. de Cardoville constituted an enemy in
his eyes; and we know, moreover, that Rodin combined in his character
rare firmness, with a certain degree of superstitious weakness, and he
now felt uneasy at the singular impression of fear which Mother Bunch
inspired in him. He determined to recollect this presentiment.
Delicate natures sometimes display in the smallest things the most
charming instincts of grace and goodness. Thus, when the sewing-girl was
shedding abundant and sweet tears of gratitude, Adrienne took a richly
embroidered handkerchief, and dried the pale and melancholy face. This
action, so simple and spontaneous, spared the work-girl one humiliation;
for, alas! humiliation and suffering are the two gulfs, along the edge of
which misfortune continually passes. Therefore, the least kindness is in
general a double benefit to the unfortunate. Perhaps the reader may
smile in disdain at the puerile circumstance we mention. But poor Mother
Bunch, not venturing to take from her pocket her old ragged handkerchief,
would long have remained blinded by her tears, if Mdlle. de Cardoville
had not come to her aid.
"Oh! you are so good--so nobly charitable, lady!" was all that the
sempstress could say, in a tone of deep emotion; for she was still more
touched by the attention of the young lady, than she would perhaps have
been by a service rendered.
"Look there, sir," said Adrienne to Rodin, who drew near hastily. "Yes,"
added the young patrician, proudly, "I have indeed discovered a treasure.
Look at her, sir; and love her as I love her, honor as I honor. She has
one of those hearts for which we are seeking."
"And which, thank heaven, we are still able to find, my dear young lady!"
said Rodin, as he bowed to the needle-woman.
The latter raised her eyes slowly, and locked at the Jesuit. At sight of
that cadaverous countenance, which was smiling benignantly upon her, the
young girl started. It was strange! she had never seen this man, and yet
she felt instantly the same fear and repulsion that he had felt with
regard to her. Generally timid and confused, the work-girl could not
withdraw her eyes from Rodin's; her heart beat violently, as at the
coming of some great danger, and, as the excellent creature feared only
for those she loved, she approached Adrienne involuntarily, keeping her
eyes fixed on Rodin. The Jesuit was too good a physiognomist not to
perceive the formidable impression he had made, and he felt an increase
of his instinctive aversion for the sempstress. Instead of casting down
his eyes, he appeared to examine her with such sustained attention, that
Mdlle. de Cardoville was astonished at it.
"I beg your pardon, my dear girl," said Rodin, as if recalling his
recollections, and addressing himself to Mother Bunch, "I beg your
pardon--but I think--if I am not deceived--did you not go a few days
since to St. Mary's Convent, hard by?"
"No doubt, it was you. Where then was my head?" cried Rodin. "It was
you--I should have guessed it sooner."
"Of what do you speak, sir?" asked Adrienne.
"Oh! you are right, my dear young lady," said Rodin, pointing to the
hunchback. "She has indeed a noble heart, such as we seek. If you knew
with what dignity, with what courage this poor girl, who was out of work
and, for her, to want work is to want everything--if you knew, I say,
with what dignity she rejected the shameful wages that the superior of
the convent was unprincipled enough to offer, on condition of her acting
as a spy in a family where it was proposed to place her."
"Oh, that is infamous!" cried Mdlle. de Cardoville, with disgust. "Such
a proposal to this poor girl--to her!"
"Madame," said Mother Bunch, bitterly, "I had no work, I was poor, they
did not know me--and they thought they might propose anything to the
likes of me."
"And I tell you," said Rodin, "that it was a double baseness on the part
of the superior, to offer such temptation to misery, and it was doubly
noble in you to refuse."
"Sir," said the sewing-girl, with modest embarrassment.
"Oh! I am not to be intimidated," resumed Rod in. "Praise or blame, I
speak out roughly what I think. Ask this dear young lady," he added,
with a glance at Adrienne. "I tell you plainly, that I think as well of
you as she does herself."
"Believe me, dear," said Adrienne, "there are some sorts of praise which
honor, recompense, and encourage; and M. Rodin's is of the number. I
know it,--yes, I know it."
"Nay, my dear young lady, you must not ascribe to me all the honor of
"How so, sir?"
"Is not this dear girl the adopted sister of Agricola Baudoin, the
gallant workman, the energetic and popular poet? Is not the affection of
such a man the best of guarantees, and does it not enable us to judge, as
it were, by the label?" added Rodin, with a smile.
"You are right, sir," said Adrienne; "for, before knowing this dear girl,
I began to feel deeply interested in her, from the day that her adopted
brother spoke to me about her. He expressed himself with so much warmth,
so much enthusiasm, that I at once conceived an esteem for the person
capable of inspiring so noble an attachment."
These words of Adrienne, joined to another circumstance, had such an
effect upon their hearer, that her pale face became crimson. The
unfortunate hunchback loved Agricola, with love as passionate as it was
secret and painful: the most indirect allusion to this fatal sentiment
occasioned her the most cruel embarrassment. Now, the moment Mdlle. de
Cardoville spoke of Agricola's attachment for Mother Bunch, the latter
had encountered Rodin's observing and penetrating look fixed upon her.
Alone with Adrienne, the sempstress would have felt only a momentary
confusion on hearing the name of the smith; but unfortunately she fancied
that the Jesuit, who already filled her with involuntary fear, had seen
into her heart, and read the secrets of that fatal love, of which she was
the victim. Thence the deep blushes of the poor girl, and the
embarrassment so painfully visible, that Adrienne was struck with it.
A subtle and prompt mind, like Rodin's on perceiving the smallest effect,
immediately seeks the cause. Proceeding by comparison, the Jesuit saw on
one side a deformed, but intelligent young girl, capable of passionate
devotion; on the other, a young workman, handsome, bold, frank, and full
of talent. "Brought up together, sympathizing with each other on many
points, there must be some fraternal affection between them," said he to
himself; "but fraternal affection does not blush, and the hunchback
blushed and grew troubled beneath my look; does she, then, Love
Once on the scent of this discovery, Rodin wished to pursue the
investigation. Remarking the surprise and visible uneasiness that Mother
Bunch had caused in Adrienne, he said to the latter, with a smile,
looking significantly at the needlewoman: "You see, my dear young lady,
how she blushes. The good girl is troubled by what we said of the
attachment of this gallant workman."
The needlewoman hung down her head, overcome with confusion. After the
pause of a second, during which Rodin preserved silence, so as to give
time for his cruel remark to pierce the heart of the victim, the savage
resumed: "Look at the dear girl! how embarrassed she appears!"
Again, after another silence, perceiving that Mother Bunch from crimson
had become deadly pale, and was trembling in all her limbs, the Jesuit
feared he had gone too far, whilst Adrienne said to her friend, with
anxiety: "Why, dear child, are you so agitated?"
"Oh! it is clear enough," resumed Rodin, with an air of perfect
simplicity; for having discovered what he wished to know, he now chose to
appear unconscious. "It is quite clear and plain. This good girl has
the modesty of a kind and tender sister for a brother. When you praise
him, she fancies that she is herself praised."
"And she is as modest as she is excellent," added Adrienne, taking bath
of the girl's hands, "the least praise, either of her adopted brother or
of herself, troubles her in this way. But it is mere childishness, and I
must scold her for it."
Mdlle. de Cardoville spoke sincerely, for the explanation given by Rodin
appeared to her very plausible. Like all other persons who, dreading
every moment the discovery of some painful secret have their courage as
easily restored as shaken, Mother Bunch persuaded herself (and she needed
to do so, to escape dying of shame), that the last words of Rodin were
sincere, and that he had no idea of the love she felt for Agricola. So
her agony diminished, and she found words to reply to Mdlle. de
"Excuse me, madame," she said timidly, "I am so little accustomed to such
kindness as that with which you overwhelm me, that I make a sorry return
for all your goodness."
"Kindness, my poor girl?" said Adrienne. "I have done nothing for you
yet. But, thank heaven! from this day I shall be able to keep my
promise, and reward your devotion to me, your courageous resignation,
your sacred love of labor, and the dignity of which you have given so
many proofs, under the most cruel privations. In a word, from this day,
if you do not object to it, we will part no more."
"Madame, you are too kind," said Mother Bunch, in a trembling voice;
"Oh! be satisfied," said Adrienne, anticipating her meaning. "If you
accept my offer, I shall know how to reconcile with my desire (not a
little selfish) of having you near me, the independence of your
character, your habits of labor, your taste for retirement, and your
anxiety to devote yourself to those who deserve commiseration; it is, I
confess, by affording you the means of satisfying these generous
tendencies, that I hope to seduce and keep you by me."
"But what have I done?" asked the other, simply, "to merit any gratitude
from you? Did you not begin, on the contrary, by acting so generously to
my adopted brother?"
"Oh! I do not speak of gratitude," said Adrienne; "we are quits. I speak
of friendship and sincere affection, which I now offer you."
"Friendship to me, madame?"
"Come, come," said Adrienne, with a charming smile, "do not be proud
because your position gives you the advantage. I have set my heart on
having you for a friend, and you will see that it shall be so. But now
that I think of it (a little late, you will say), what good wind brings
"This morning M. Dagobert received a letter, in which he was requested to
come to this place, to learn some news that would be of the greatest
interest to him. Thinking it concerned Marshal Simon's daughters, he
said to me: `Mother Bunch, you have taken so much interest in those dear
children, that you must come with me: you shall witness my joy on finding
them, and that will be your reward.'"
Adrienne glanced at Rodin. The latter made an affirmative movement of
the head, and answered: "Yes, yes, my dear young lady: it was I who wrote
to the brave soldier, but without signing the letter, or giving any
explanation. You shall know why."
"Then, my dear girl, why did you come alone?" said Adrienne.
"Alas, madame! on arriving here, it was your kind reception that made me
forget my fears."
"What fears?" asked Rodin.
"Knowing that you lived here, madame, I supposed the letter was from you;
I told M. Dagobert so, and he thought the same. When we arrived, his
impatience was so great, that he asked at the door if the orphans were in
this house, and he gave their description. They told him no. Then, in
spite of my supplications, he insisted on going to the convent to inquire
"What imprudence!" cried Adrienne.
"After what took place the other night, when he broke in," added Rodin,
shrugging his shoulders.
"It was in vain to tell him," returned Mother Bunch, "that the letter did
not announce positively, that the orphans would be delivered up to him;
but that, no doubt, he would gain some information about them. He
refused to hear anything, but said to me: `If I cannot find them, I will
rejoin you. But they were at the convent the day before yesterday, and
now that all is discovered, they cannot refuse to give them up--"
"And with such a man there is no disputing!" said Rodin, with a smile.
"I hope they will not recognize him!" said Adrienne, remembering
"It is not likely," replied Rodin; "they will only refuse him admittance.
That will be, I hope, the worst misfortune that will happen. Besides,
the magistrate will soon be here with the girls. I am no longer wanted:
other cares require my attention. I must seek out Prince Djalma. Only
tell me, my dear young lady, where I shall find you, to keep you informed
of my discoveries, and to take measures with regard to the young prince,
if my inquiries, as I hope, shall be attended with success."
"You will find me in my new house, Rue d'Anjou, formerly Beaulieu House.
But now I think of it," said Adrienne, suddenly, after some moments of
reflection, "it would not be prudent or proper, on many accounts, to
lodge the Prince Djalma in the pavilion I occupied at Saint-Dizier House.
I saw, some time ago, a charming little house, all furnished and ready;
it only requires some embellishments, that could be completed in twenty-
four hours, to make it a delightful residence. Yes, that will be a
thousand times preferable," added Mdlle. de Cardoville, after a new
interval of silence; "and I shall thus be able to preserve the strictest
"What!" cried Rodin, whose projects would be much impeded by this new
resolution of the young lady; "you do not wish him to know who you are?"
"I wish Prince Djalma to know absolutely nothing of the anonymous friend
who comes to his aid; I desire that my name should not be pronounced
before him, and that he should not even know of my existence--at least,
for the present. Hereafter--in a month, perhaps--I will see;
circumstances will guide me."
"But this incognito," said Rodin, hiding his disappointment, "will be
difficult to preserve."
"If the prince had inhabited the lodge, I agree with you; the
neighborhood of my aunt would have enlightened him, and this fear is one
of the reasons that have induced me to renounce my first project. But
the prince will inhabit a distant quarter--the Rue Blanche. Who will
inform him of my secret? One of my old friends, M. Norval--you, sir--and
this dear girl," pointing to Mother Bunch, "on whose discretion I can
depend as on your own, will be my only confidants. My secret will then
be quite safe. Besides, we will talk further on this subject to-morrow.
You must begin by discovering the retreat of this unfortunate young
Rodin, though much vexed at Adrienne's subtle determination with regard
to Djalma, put the best face on the matter, and replied: "Your intentions
shall be scrupulously fulfilled, my dear young lady; and to-morrow, with
your leave, I hope to give you a good account of what you are pleased to
call my providential mission."
"To-morrow, then, I shall expect you with impatience," said Adrienne, to
Rodin, affectionately. "Permit me always to rely upon you, as from this
day you may count upon me. You must be indulgent with me, sir; for I see
that I shall yet have many counsels, many services to ask of you--though
I already owe you so much."
"You will never owe me enough, my dear young lady, never enough," said
Rodin, as he moved discreetly towards the door, after bowing to Adrienne.
At the very moment he was going out, he found himself face to face with
"Holloa! at last I have caught one!" shouted the soldier, as he seized
the Jesuit by the collar with a vigorous hand.
On seeing Dagobert grasp Rodin so roughly by the collar, Mdlle. de
Cardoville exclaimed in terror, as she advanced several steps towards the
soldier: "In the name of Heaven, sir! what are you doing?"
"What am I doing?" echoed the soldier, harshly, without relaxing his hold
on Rodin, and turning his head towards Adrienne, whom he did not know;
"I take this opportunity to squeeze the throat of one of the wretches in
the band of that renegade, until he tells me where my poor children are."
"You strangle me," said the Jesuit, in a stifled voice, as he tried to
escape from the soldier.
"Where are the orphans, since they are not here, and the convent door has
been closed against me?" cried Dagobert, in a voice of thunder.
"Help! help!" gasped Rodin.
"Oh! it is dreadful!" said Adrienne, as, pale and trembling, she held up
her clasped hands to Dagobert. "Have mercy, sir! listen to me! listen to
"M. Dagobert!" cried Mother Bunch, seizing with her weak hands the
soldier's arm, and showing him Adrienne, "this is Mdlle. de Cardoville.
What violence in her presence! and then, you are deceived doubtless!"
At the name of Mdlle. de Cardoville, the benefactress of his son, the
soldier turned round suddenly, and loosened his hold on Rodin. The
latter, crimson with rage and suffocation, set about adjusting his collar
and his cravat.
"I beg your pardon, madame," said Dagobert, going towards Adrienne, who
was still pale with fright; "I did not known who you were, and the first
impulse of anger quite carried me away."
"But what has this gentleman done to you?" said Adrienne. "If you had
listened to me, you would have learned--"
"Excuse me if I interrupt you, madame," said the soldier to Adrienne, in
a hollow voice. Then addressing himself to Rodin, who had recovered his
coolness, he added: "Thank the lady, and begone!--If you remain here, I
will not answer for myself."
"One word only, my dear sir," said Rodin.
"I tell you that if you remain, I will not answer for myself!" cried
Dagobert, stamping his foot.
"But, for heaven's sake, tell me the cause of this anger," resumed
Adrienne; "above all, do not trust to appearances. Calm yourself, and
"Calm myself, madame!" cried Dagobert, in despair; "I can think only of
one thing, ma dame--of the arrival of Marshal Simon--he will be in Paris
to-day or to-morrow."
"Is it possible?" said Adrienne. Rodin started with surprise and joy.
"Yesterday evening," proceeded Dagobert, "I received a letter from the
marshal: he has landed at Havre. For three days I have taken step after
step, hoping that the orphans would be restored to me, as the
machinations of those wretches have failed." He pointed to Rodin with a
new gesture of impatience. "Well! it is not so. They are conspiring
some new infamy. I am prepared for anything."
"But, sir," said Rodin advancing, "permit me--"
"Begone!" cried Dagobert, whose irritation and anxiety redoubled, as he
thought how at any moment Marshal Simon might arrive in Paris. "Begone!
Were it not for this lady, I would at least be revenged on some one."
Rodin made a nod of intelligence to Adrienne, whom he approached
prudently, and, pointing to Dagobert with a gesture of affectionate
commiseration, he said to the latter: "I will leave you, sir, and the
more willingly, as I was about to withdraw when you entered." Then,
coming still closer to Mdlle. de Cardoville, the Jesuit whispered to her,
"Poor soldier! he is beside himself with grief, and would be incapable of
hearing me. Explain it all to him, my dear young lady; he will be nicely
caught," added he, with a cunning air. "But in the meantime," resumed
Rodin, feeling in the side-pocket of his great-coat and taking out a
small parcel, "let me beg you to give him this, my dear young lady. It
is my revenge, and a very good one."
And while Adrienne, holding the little parcel in her hand looked at the
Jesuit with astonishment, the latter laying his forefinger upon his lip,
as if recommending silence, drew backward on tiptoe to the door, and went
out after again pointing to Dagobert with a gesture of pity; while the
soldier, in sullen dejection, with his head drooping, and his arms
crossed upon his bosom, remained deaf to the sewing-girl's earnest
consolations. When Rodin had left the room, Adrienne, approaching the
soldier, said to him, in her mild voice, with an expression of deep
interest, "Your sudden entry prevented my asking you a question that
greatly concerns me. How is your wound?"
"Thank you, madame," said Dagobert, starting from his painful lethargy,
"it is of no consequence, but I have not time to think of it. I am sorry
to have been so rough in your presence, and to have driven away that
wretch; but 'tis more than I could master. At sight of those people, my
blood is all up."
"And yet, believe me, you have been too hasty in your judgment. The
person who was just now here--"
"Too hasty, madame! I do not see him to-day for the first time. He was
with that renegade the Abbe d'Aigrigny--"
"No doubt!--and yet he is an honest and excellent man."
"He!" cried Dagobert.
"Yes; for at this moment he is busy about only one thing restoring to you
those dear children!"
"He!" repeated Dagobert, as if he could not believe what he heard. "He
restore me my children?"
"Yes; and sooner, perhaps, than you think for."
"Madame," said Dagobert, abruptly, "he deceives you. You are the dupe of
that old rascal."
"No," said Adrienne, shaking her head, with a smile. "I have proofs of
his good faith. First of all, it is he who delivers me from this house."
"Is it true?" said Dagobert, quite confounded.
"Very true; and here is, perhaps, something that will reconcile you to
him," said Adrienne, as she delivered the small parcel which Rodin had
given her as he went out. "Not wishing to exasperate you by his
presence, he said to me: `Give this to that brave soldier; it is my
Dagobert looked at Mdlle. de Cardoville with surprise, as he mechanically
opened the little parcel. When he had unfolded it, and discovered his
own silver cross, black with age, and the old red, faded ribbon,
treasures taken from him at the White Falcon Inn, at the same time as his
papers, he exclaimed in a broken voice: "My cross! my cross! It is my
cross!" In the excitement of his joy, he pressed the silver star to his
Adrienne and the other were deeply affected by the emotion of the old
soldier, who continued, as he ran towards the door by which Rodin had
gone out: "Next to a service rendered to Marshal Simon, my wife, or son,
nothing could be more precious to me. And you answer for this worthy
man, madame, and I have ill used him in your presence! Oh! he is
entitled to reparation, and he shall have it."
So saying, Dagobert left the room precipitately, hastened through two
other apartments, gained the staircase, and descending it rapidly,
overtook Rodin on the lowest step.
"Sir," said the soldier to him, in an agitated voice, as he seized him by
the arm, "you must come upstairs directly."
"You should make up your mind to one thing or the other, my dear sir,"
said Rodin, stopping good-naturedly; "one moment you tell me to begone,
and the next to return. How are we to decide?"
"Just now, sir, I was wrong; and when I am wrong, I acknowledge it. I
abused and ill-treated you before witnesses; I will make you my apologies
"But, my dear sir--I am much obliged to you--I am in a hurry."
"I cannot help your being in a hurry. I tell you, I must have you come
upstairs, directly--or else--or else," resumed Dagobert, taking the hand
of the Jesuit, and pressing it with as much cordiality as emotion, "or
else the happiness you have caused the in returning my cross will not be
"Well, then, my good friend, let us go up."
"And not only have you restored me my cross, for which I have wept many
tears, believe me, unknown to any one," cried Dagobert, much affected;
"but the young lady told me, that, thanks to you, those poor children but
tell me--no false joy-is it really true?--My God! is it really true?"
"Ah! ah! Mr. Inquisitive," said Rodin, with a cunning smile. Then he
added: "Be perfectly tranquil, my growler; you shall have your two angels
back again." And the Jesuit began to ascend the stairs.
"Will they be restored to me to-day?" cried Dagobert, stopping Rodin
abruptly, by catching hold of his sleeve.
"Now, really, my good friend," said the Jesuit, "let us come to the
point. Are we to go up or down? I do not find fault, but you turn me
about like a teetotum."
"You are right. We shall be better able to explain things upstairs.
Come with me--quick! quick!" said Dagobert, as, taking the Jesuit by the
arm, he hurried him along, and brought him triumphantly into the room,
where Adrienne and Mother Bunch had remained in much surprise at the
soldier's sudden disappearance.
"Here he is! here he is!" cried Dagobert, as he entered. "Luckily, I
caught him at the bottom of the stairs."
"And you have made me come up at a fine pace!" added Rodin, pretty well
out of breath.
"Now, sir," said Dagobert, in a grave voice, "I declare, in presence of
all, that I was wrong to abuse and ill-treat you. I make you my apology
for it, sir; and I acknowledge, with joy, that I owe you--much--oh! very
much and when I owe, I pay."
So saying, Dagobert held out his honest hand to Rodin, who pressed it in
a very affable manner, and replied: "Now, really--what is all this about?
What great service do you speak of?"
"This!" said Dagobert, holding up the cross before Rodin's eyes. "You do
not know, then, what this cross is to me?"
"On the contrary, supposing you would set great store by it, I intended
to have the pleasure of delivering it myself. I had brought it for that
purpose; but, between ourselves, you gave me so warm a reception, that I
had not the time--"
"Sir," said Dagobert, in confusion, "I assure you that I sincerely repent
of what I have done."
"I know it, my good friend; do not say another word about it. You were
then much attached to this cross?"
"Attached to it, sir!" cried Dagobert. "Why, this cross," and he kissed
it as he spoke, "is my relic. He from whom it came was my saint--my
hero--and he had touched it with his hand!"
"Oh!" said Rodin, feigning to regard the cross with as much curiosity as
respectful admiration; "did Napoleon--the Great Napoleon--indeed touch
with his own hand--that victorious hand!--this noble star of honor?"
"Yes, sir, with his own hand. He placed it there upon my bleeding
breast, as a cure for my fifth wound. So that, you see, were I dying of
hunger, I think I should not hesitate betwixt bread and my cross--that I
might, in any case, have it on my heart in death. But, enough--enough!-
let us talk of something else. It is foolish in an old soldier, is it
not?" added Dagobert, drawing his hand across his eyes, and then, as if
ashamed to deny what he really felt: "Well, then! yes," he resumed,
raising his head proudly, and no longer seeking to conceal the tears that
rolled down his cheek; "yes, I weep for joy, to have found my cross--my
cross, that the Emperor gave me with his victorious hand, as this worthy
man has called it."
"Then blessed be my poor old hand for having restored you the glorious
treasure!" said Rodin, with emotion. "In truth," he added, "the day will
be a good one for everybody--as I announced to you this morning in my
"That letter without a signature?" asked the soldier, more and more
astonished. "Was it from you?"
"It was I who wrote it. Only, fearing some new snare of the Abbe
d'Aigrigny, I did not choose, you understand, to explain myself more
"Then--I shall see--my orphans?"
Rodin nodded affirmatively, with an expression of great good-nature.
"Presently--perhaps immediately," said Adrienne, with smile. "Well! was
I right in telling you that you had not judged this gentleman fairly?"
"Why did he not tell me this when I came in?" cried Dagobert, almost
beside himself with joy.
"There was one difficulty in the way, my good friend," said Rodin; "it
was, that when you came in, you nearly throttled me."
"True; I was too hasty. Once more, I ask your pardon. But was I to
blame? I had only seen you with that Abbe d'Aigrigny, and in the first
"This dear young lady," said Rodin, bowing to Adrienne, "will tell you
that I have been, without knowing it, the accomplice IN many perfidious
actions; but as soon as I began to see my way through the darkness, I
quitted the evil course on which I had entered, and returned to that
which is honest, just and true."
Adrienne nodded affirmatively to Dagobert, who appeared to consult her
"If I did not sign the letter that I wrote to you, my good friend, it was
partly from fear that my name might inspire suspicion; and if I asked you
to come hither, instead of to the convent, it was that I had some dread--
like this dear young lady--lest you might be recognized by the porter or
by the gardener, your affair of the other night rendering such a
recognition somewhat dangerous."
"But M. Baleinier knows all; I forgot that," said Adrienne, with
uneasiness. "He threatened to denounce M. Dagobert and his son, if I
made any complaint."
"Do not be alarmed, my dear young lady; it will soon he for you to
dictate conditions," replied Rodin. "Leave that to me; and as for you,
my good friend, your torments are now finished."
"Yes," said Adrienne, "an upright and worthy magistrate has gone to the
convent, to fetch Marshal Simon's daughters. He will bring them hither;
but he thought with me, that it would be most proper for them to take up
their abode in my house. I cannot, however, come to this decision
without your consent, for it is to you that these orphans were entrusted
by their mother."
"You wish to take her place with regard to them, madame?" replied
Dagobert. "I can only thank you with all my heart, for myself and for
the children. But, as the lesson has been a sharp one, I must beg to
remain at the door of their chamber, night and day. If they go out with
you, I must be allowed to follow them at a little distance, so as to keep
them in view, just like Spoil-sport, who has proved himself a better
guardian than myself. When the marshal is once here--it will be in a day
or two--my post will be relieved. Heaven grant it may be soon!"
"Yes," replied Rodin, in a firm voice, "heaven grant he may arrive soon,
for he will have to demand a terrible reckoning of the Abbe d'Aigrigny,
for the persecution of his daughters; and yet the marshal does not know
"And don't you tremble for the renegade?" asked Dagobert, as he thought
how the marquis would soon find himself face to face with the marshal.
"I never care for cowards and traitors," answered Rodin; "and when
Marshal Simon returns--" Then, after a pause of some seconds, he
continued: "If he will do me the honor to hear me, he shall be edified as
to the conduct of the Abbe d'Aigrigny. The marshal knows that his
dearest friends, as well as himself, have been victims of the hatred of
that dangerous man."
"How so?" said Dagobert.
"Why, yourself, for instance," replied Rodin; "you are an example of what
"Do you think it was mere chance, that brought about the scene at the
White Falcon Inn, near Leipsic?"
"Who told you of that scene?" said Dagobert in astonishment.
"Where you accepted the challenge of Morok," continued the Jesuit,
without answering Dagobert's question, "and so fell into a trap, or else
refused it, and were then arrested for want of papers, and thrown into
prison as a vagabond, with these poor children. Now, do you know the
object of this violence? It was to prevent your being here on the 13th
"But the more I hear, sir," said Adrienne, "the more I am alarmed at the
audacity of the Abbe d'Aigrigny, and the extent of the means he has at
his command. Really," she resumed, with increasing surprise, "if your
words were not entitled to absolute belief--"
"You would doubt their truth, madame?" said Dagobert. "It is like me.
Bad as he is. I cannot think that this renegade had relations with a
wild-beast showman as far off as Saxony; and then, how could he know that
I and the children were to pass through Leipsic? It is impossible, my
"In fact, sir," resumed Adrienne, "I fear that you are deceived by your
dislike (a very legitimate one) of Abbe d'Aigrigny, and that you ascribe
to him an almost fabulous degree of power and extent of influence."
After a moment's silence, during which Rodin looked first at Adrienne and
then at Dagobert, with a kind of pity, he resumed. "How could the Abbe
d'Aigrigny have your cross in his possession, if he had no connection
"That is true, sir," said Dagobert; "joy prevented me from reflecting.
But how indeed, did my cross come into your hands?"
"By means of the Abbe d'Aigrigny's having precisely those relations with
Leipsic, of which you and the young lady seem to doubt."
"But how did my cross get to Paris?"
"Tell me; you were arrested at Leipsic for want of papers--is it not so?"
"Yes; but I could never understand how my passports and money disappeared
from my knapsack. I thought I must have had the misfortune to lose
Rodin shrugged his shoulders, and replied: "You were robbed of them at
the White Falcon Inn, by Goliath, one of Morok's servants, and the latter
sent the papers and the cross to the Abbe d'Aigrigny, to prove that he
had succeeded in executing his orders with respect to the orphans and
yourself. It was the day before yesterday, that I obtained the key of
that dark machination. Cross and papers were amongst the stores of Abbe
d'Aigrigny; the papers formed a considerable bundle, and he might have
missed them; but, hoping to see you this morning, and knowing how a
soldier of the Empire values his cross, his sacred relic, as you call it,
my good friend--I did not hesitate. I put the relic into my pocket.
`After all,' said I, `it is only restitution, and my delicacy perhaps
exaggerates this breach of trust.'"
"You could not have done a better action," said Adrienne; "and, for my
part, because of the interest I feel for M. Dagobert--I take it as a
personal favor. But, sir," after a moment's silence, she resumed with
anxiety: "What terrible power must be at the command of M. d'Aigrigny,
for him to have such extensive and formidable relations in a foreign
"Silence!" said Rodin, in a low voice, and looking round him with an air
of alarm. "Silence! In heaven's name do not ask me about it!"
Mdlle. de Cardoville, much astonished at the alarm displayed by Rodin,
when she had asked him for some explanation of the formidable and far-
reaching power of the Abby d'Aigrigny, said to him: "Why, sir, what is
there so strange in the question that I have just asked you?"
After a moment's silence, Rodin cast his looks all around, with well-
feigned uneasiness, and replied in a whisper: "Once more, madame, do not
question me on so fearful a subject. The walls of this house may have
Adrienne and Dagobert looked at each other with growing surprise. Mother
Bunch, by an instinct of incredible force, continued to regard Rodin with
invincible suspicion. Sometimes she stole a glance at him, as if trying
to penetrate the mask of this man, who filled her with fear. At one
moment, the Jesuit encountered her anxious gaze, obstinately fixed upon
him; immediately he nodded to her with the greatest amenity. The young
girl, alarmed at finding herself observed, turned away with a shudder.
"No, no, my dear young lady," resumed Rodin, with a sigh, as he saw
Mdlle. de Cardoville astonished at his silence; "do not question me on
the subject of the Abbe d'Aigrigny's power!"
"But, to persist, sir," said Adrienne; "why this hesitation to answer?
What do you fear?"
"Ah, my dear young lady," said Rodin, shuddering, "those people are so
powerful! their animosity is so terrible!"
"Be satisfied, sir; I owe you too much, for my support ever to fail you."
"Ah, my dear young lady," cried Rodin, as if hurt by the supposition;
"think better of me, I entreat you. Is it for myself that I fear?--No,
no; I am too obscure, too inoffensive; but it is for you, for Marshal
Simon, for the other members of your family, that all is to be feared.
Oh, my dear young lady! let me beg you to ask no questions. There are
secrets which are fatal to those who possess them."
"But, sir, is it not better to know the perils with which one is
"When you know the manoeuvres of your enemy, you may at least defend
yourself," said Dagobert. "I prefer an attack in broad daylight to an
"And I assure you," resumed Adrienne, "the few words you have spoken
cause me a vague uneasiness."
"Well, if I must, my dear young lady," replied the Jesuit, appearing to
make a great effort, "since you do not understand my hints, I will be
more explicit; but remember," added he, in a deeply serious tone, "that
you have persevered in forcing me to tell you what you had perhaps better
not have known."
"Speak, Sir, I pray you speak," said Adrienne.
Drawing about him Adrienne, Dagobert, and Mother Bunch, Rodin said to
them in a low voce, and with a mysterious air: "Have you never heard of a
powerful association, which extends its net over all the earth, and
counts its disciples, agents, and fanatics in every class of society
which has had, and often has still, the ear of kings and nobles--which,
in a word, can raise its creatures to the highest positions, and with a
word can reduce them again to the nothingness from which it alone could
"Good heaven, sir!" said Adrienne, "what formidable association? Until
now I never heard of it."
"I believe you; and yet your ignorance on this subject greatly astonishes
me, my dear young lady."
"And why should it astonish you?"
"Because you lived some time with your aunt, and must have often seen the
"I lived at the princess's, but not with her; for a thousand reasons she
had inspired me with warrantable aversion."
"In truth, my dear young lady, my remark was ill-judged. It was there,
above all, and particularly in your presence, that they would keep
silence with regard to this association--and yet to it alone did the
Princess de Saint-Dizier owe her formidable influence in the world,
during the last reign. Well, then; know this--it is the aid of that
association which renders the Abbe d'Aigrigny so dangerous a man.
"By it he was enabled to follow and to reach divers members of your
family, some in Siberia, some in India, others on the heights of the
American mountains; but, as I have told you, it was only the day before
yesterday, and by chance, that, examining the papers of Abbe d'Aigrigny,
I found the trace of his connection with this Company, of which he is the
most active and able chief."
"But the name, sir, the name of this Company?" said Adrienne.
"Well! it is--" but Rodin stopped short.
"It is," repeated Adrienne, who was now as much interested as Dagobert
and the sempstress; "it is--"
Rodin looked round him, beckoned all the actors in this scene to draw
nearer, and said in a whisper, laying great stress upon the words: "It
is--the Society of Jesus!" and he again shuddered.
"The Jesuits!" cried Mdlle. de Cardoville, unable to restrain a burst of
laughter, which was the more buoyant, as, from the mysterious precautions
of Rodin, she had expected some very different revelation. "The
Jesuits!" she resumed, still laughing. "They have no existence, except
in books; they are frightful historical personages, certainly; but why
should you put forward Madame de Saint-Dizier and M. d'Aigrigny in that
character? Such as they are, they have done quite enough to justify my
aversion and disdain."
After listening in silence to Mdlle. de Cardoville Rodin continued, with
a grave and agitated air: "Your blindness frightens me, my dear, young
lady; the past should have given you some anxiety for the future, since,
more than any one, you have already suffered from the fatal influence of
this Company, whose existence you regard as a dream!"
"I, sir?" said Adrienne, with a smile, although a little surprised.
"Under what circumstances?"
"You ask me this question! my dear young lady! you ask me this question!-
-and yet you have been confined here as a mad person! Is it not enough
to tell you that the master of this house is one of the most devoted lay
members of the Company, and therefore the blind instrument of the Abbe
"So," said Adrienne, this time without smiling, "Dr. Baleinier"
"Obeyed the Abbe d'Aigrigny, the most formidable chief of that formidable
society. He employs his genius for evil; but I must confess he is a man
of genius. Therefore, it is upon him that you and yours must fix all
your doubts and suspicions; it is against him that you must be upon your
guard. For, believe me, I know him, and he does not look upon the game
as lost. You must be prepared for new attacks, doubtless of another
kind, but only the more dangerous on that account--"
"Luckily, you give us notice," said Dagobert, "and you will be on our
"I can do very little, my good friends; but that little is at the service
of honest people," said Rodin.
"Now," said Adrienne, with a thoughtful air, completely persuaded by
Rodin's air of conviction, "I can explain the inconceivable influence
that my aunt exercised in the world. I ascribed it chiefly to her
relations with persons in power; I thought that she, like the Abbe
d'Aigrigny, was concerned in dark intrigues, for which religion served as
a veil--but I was far from believing what you tell me."
"How many things you have got to learn!" resumed Rodin. "If you knew, my
dear young lady, with what art these people surround you, without your
being aware of it, by agents devoted to themselves! Every one of your
steps is known to them, when they have any interest in such knowledge.
Thus, little by little, they act upon you--slowly, cautiously, darkly.
They circumvent you by every possible means, from flattery to terror--
seduce or frighten, in order at last to rule you, without your being
conscious of their authority. Such is their object, and I must confess
they pursue it with detestable ability."
Rodin had spoken with so much sincerity, that Adrienne trembled; then,
reproaching herself with these fears, she resumed: "And yet, no--I can
never believe in so infernal a power; the might of priestly ambition
belongs to another age. Heaven be praised, it has disappeared forever!"
"Yes, certainly, it is out of sight; for they now know how to disperse
and disappear, when circumstances require it. But then are they the most
dangerous; for suspicion is laid asleep, and they keep watch in the dark.
Oh! my dear young lady, if you knew their frightful ability! In my
hatred of all that is oppressive, cowardly, and hypocritical, I had
studied the history of that terrible society, before I knew that the Abbe
d'Aigrigny belonged to it. Oh! it is dreadful. If you knew what means
they employ! When I tell you that, thanks to their diabolical devices,
the most pure and devoted appearances often conceal the most horrible
snares." Rodin's eye rested, as if by chance, on the hunchback; but,
seeing that Adrienne did not take the hint, the Jesuit continued: "In a
word--are you not exposed to their pursuits?--have they any interest in
gaining you over?--oh! from that moment, suspect all that surround you,
suspect the most noble attachments, the most tender affections, for these
monsters sometimes succeed in corrupting your best friends, and making a
terrible use of them, in proportion to the blindness of your confidence."
"Oh! it is impossible," cried Adrienne, in horror. "You must exaggerate.
No! hell itself never dreamed of more frightful treachery!"
"Alas, my dear young lady! one of your relations, M. Hardy--the most
loyal and generous-hearted man that could be--has been the victim of some
such infamous treachery. Do you know what we learned from the reading of
your ancestor's will? Why, that he died the victim of the malevolence of
these people; and now, at the lapse of a hundred and fifty years, his
descendants are still exposed to the hate of that indestructible
"Oh, sir! it terrifies me," said Adrienne, feeling her heart sink within
her. "But are there no weapons against such attacks?"
"Prudence, my dear young lady--the most watchful caution--the most
incessant study and suspicion of all that approach you."
"But such a life would be frightful! It is a torture to be the victim of
continual suspicions, doubts, and fears."
"Without doubt! They know it well, the wretches! That constitutes their
strength. They often triumph by the very excess of the precautions taken
against them. Thus, my dear young lady, and you, brave and worthy
soldier, in the name of all that is dear to you, be on your guard, and do
not lightly impart your confidence. Be on your guard, for you have
nearly fallen the victims of those people. They will always be your
implacable enemies. And you, also, poor, interesting girl!" added the
Jesuit, speaking to Mother Bunch, "follow my advice--fear these people.
Sleep, as the proverb says, with one eye open."
"I, sir!" said the work-girl. "What have I done? what have I to fear?"
"What have you done? Dear me! Do not you tenderly love this young lady,
your protectress? have you not attempted to assist her? Are you not the
adopted sister of the son of this intrepid soldier, the brave Agricola!
Alas, poor, girl! are not these sufficient claims to their hatred, in
spite of your obscurity? Nay, my dear young lady! do not think that I
exaggerate. Reflect! only reflect! Think what I have just said to the
faithful companion-in-arms of Marshal Simon, with regard to his
imprisonment at Leipsic. Think what happened to yourself, when, against
all law and reason, you were brought hither. Then you will see, that
there is nothing exaggerated in the picture I have drawn of the secret
power of this Company. Be always on your guard, and, in doubtful cases,
do not fear to apply to me. In three days, I have learned enough by my
own experience, with regard to their manner of acting, to be able to
point out to you many a snare, device, and danger, and to protect you
"In any such case, sir," replied Mdlle. de Cardoville, "my interests, as
well as gratitude, would point to you as my best counsellor."
According to the skillful tactics of the sons of Loyola, who sometimes
deny their own existence, in order to escape from an adversary--and
sometimes proclaim with audacity the living power of their organization,
in order to intimidate the feeble-R-odin had laughed in the face of the
bailiff of Cardoville, when the latter had spoken of the existence of the
Jesuits; while now, at this moment, picturing their means of action, he
endeavored, and he succeeded in the endeavor, to impregnate the mind of
Mdlle. de Cardoville with some germs of doubt, which were gradually to
develop themselves by reflection, and serve hereafter the dark projects
that he meditated. Mother Bunch still felt considerable alarm with
regard to Rodin. Yet, since she had heard the fatal powers of the
formidable Order revealed to Adrienne, the young sempstress, far from
suspecting the Jesuit of having the audacity to speak thus of a society
of which he was himself a member, felt grateful to him, in spite of
herself, for the important advice that he had just given her patroness.
The side-glance which she now cast upon him (which Rodin also detected,
for he watched the young girl with sustained attention), was full of
gratitude, mingled with surprise. Guessing the nature of this
impression, and wishing entirely to remove her unfavorable opinion, and
also to anticipate a revelation which would be made sooner or later, the
Jesuit appeared to have forgotten something of great importance, and
exclaimed, striking his forehead: "What was I thinking of?" Then,
speaking to Mother Bunch, he added: "Do you know where your sister is, my
dear girl?" Disconcerted and saddened by this unexpected question, the
workwoman answered with a blush, for she remembered her last interview
with the brilliant Bacchanal Queen: "I have not seen my sister for some
"Well, my dear girl, she is not very comfortable," said Rodin; "I
promised one of her friends to send her some little assistance. I have
applied to a charitable person, and that is what I received for her." So
saying, he drew from his pocket a sealed roll of coin, which he delivered
to Mother Bunch, who was now both surprised and affected.
"You have a sister in trouble, and I know nothing of it?" said Adrienne,
hastily. "This is not right of you, my child!"
"Do not blame her," said Rodin. "First of a11, she did not know that her
sister was in distress, and, secondly, she could not ask you, my dear
young lady, to interest yourself about her."
As Mdlle. de Cardoville looked at Rodin with astonishment, he added,
again speaking to the hunchback: "Is not that true, my dear girl!"
"Yes, sir," said the sempstress, casting down her eyes and blushing.
Then she added, hastily and anxiously: "But when did you see my sister,
sir? where is she? how did she fall into distress?"
"All that would take too long to tell you, my dear girl; but go as soon
as possible to the greengrocer's in the Rue Clovis, and ask to speak to
your sister as from M. Charlemagne or M. Rodin, which you please, for I
am equally well known in that house by my Christian name as by my
surname, and then you will learn all about it. Only tell your sister,
that, if she behaves well, and keeps to her good resolutions, there are
some who will continue to look after her."
More and more surprised, Mother Bunch was about to answer Rodin, when the
door opened, and M. de Gernande entered. The countenance of the
magistrate was grave and sad.
"Marshal Simon's daughters!" cried Mdlle. de Cardoville.
"Unfortunately, they are not with me," answered the judge.
"Then, where are they, sir? What have they done with them? The day
before yesterday, they were in the convent!" cried Dagobert, overwhelmed
by this complete destruction of his hopes.
Hardly had the soldier pronounced these words, when, profiting by the
impulse which gathered all the actors in this scene about the magistrate,
Rodin withdrew discreetly towards the door, and disappeared without any
one perceiving his absence. Whilst the soldier, thus suddenly thrown
back to the depths of his despair, looked at M. de Gernande, waiting with
anxiety for the answer, Adrienne said to the magistrate: "But, sir, when
you applied at the convent, what explanation did the superior give on the
subject of these young girls?"
"The lady superior refused to give any explanation, madame. `You
pretend,' said she, `that the young persons of whom you speak are
detained here against their will. Since the law gives you the right of
entering this house, make your search.' `But, madame, please to answer me
positively,' said I to the superior; `do you declare, that you know
nothing of the young girls, whom I have come to claim?' `I have nothing
to say on this subject, sir. You assert, that you are authorized to make
a search: make it.' Not being able to get any other explanation,"
continued the magistrate, "I searched all parts of the convent, and had
every door opened--but, unfortunately, I could find no trace of these
"They must have sent them elsewhere," cried Dagobert; "who knows?--
perhaps, ill. They will kill them--O God! they will kill them!" cried
he, in a heart-rending tone.
"After such a refusal, what is to be done? Pray, sir, give us your
advice; you are our providence," said Adrienne, turning to speak to
Rodin, who she fancied was behind her. "What is your--"
Then, perceiving that the Jesuit had suddenly disappeared, she said to
Mother Bunch, with uneasiness: "Where is M. Rodin?"
"I do not know, madame," answered the girl, looking round her; "he is no
"It is strange," said Adrienne, "to disappear so abruptly!"
"I told you he was a traitor!" cried Dagobert, stamping with rage; "they
are all in a plot together."
"No, no," said Mdlle. de Cardoville; "do not think that. But the absence
is not the less to be regretted, for, under these difficult
circumstances, he might have given us very useful information, thanks to
the position he occupied at M. d'Aigrigny's."
"I confess, madame, that I rather reckoned upon it," said M. de Gernande;
"and I returned hither, not only to inform you of the fruitless result of
my search, but also to seek from the upright and honorable roan, who so
courageously unveiled these odious machinations, the aid of his counsels
in this contingency."
Strangely enough, for the last few moments Dagobert was so completely
absorbed in thought, that he paid no attention to the words of the
magistrate, however important to him. He did not even perceive the
departure of M. de Gernande, who retired after promising Adrienne that he
would neglect no means to arrive at the truth, in regard to the
disappearance of the orphans. Uneasy at this silence, wishing to quit
the house immediately, and induce Dagobert to accompany her, Adrienne,
after exchanging a rapid glance with Mother Bunch, was advancing towards
the soldier, when hasty steps were heard from without the chamber, and a
manly sonorous voice, exclaiming with impatience, "Where is he--where is
At the sound of this voice, Dagobert seemed to rouse himself with a
start, made a sudden bound, and with a loud cry, rushed towards the door.
It opened. Marshal Simon appeared on the threshold!
Marshal Pierre Simon, Duke de Ligny, was a man of tall stature, plainly
dressed in a blue frock-coat, buttoned up to the throat, with a red
ribbon tied to the top buttonhole. You could not have wished to see a
more frank, honest, and chivalrous cast of countenance than the
marshal's. He had a broad forehead, an aquiline nose, a well formed
chin, and a complexion bronzed by exposure to the Indian sun. His hair,
cut very short, was inclined to gray about the temples; but his eyebrows
were still as black as his large, hanging moustache. His walk was free
and bold, and his decided movements showed his military impetuosity. A
man of the people, a man of war and action, the frank cordiality of his
address invited friendliness and sympathy. As enlightened as he was
intrepid as generous as he was sincere, his manly, plebeian pride was the
most remarkable part of his character. As others are proud of their high
birth, so was he of his obscure origin, because it was ennobled by the
fine qualities of his father, the rigid republican, the intelligent and
laborious artisan, who, for the space of forty years, had been the
example and the glory of his fellow-workmen. In accepting with gratitude
the aristocratic title which the Emperor had bestowed upon him, Pierre
Simon acted with that delicacy which receives from a friendly hand a
perfectly useless gift, and estimates it according to the intention of
the giver. The religious veneration of Pierre Simon for the Emperor had
never been blind; in proportion as his devotion and love for his idol
were instructive and necessary, his admiration was serious, and founded
upon reason. Far from resembling those swashbucklers who love fighting
for its own sake, Marshal Simon not only admired his hero as the greatest
captain in the world, but he admired him, above all, because he knew that
the Emperor had only accepted war in the hope of one day being able to
dictate universal peace; for if peace obtained by glory and strength is
great, fruitful, and magnificent, peace yielded by weakness and cowardice
is sterile, disastrous, and dishonoring. The son of a workman, Pierre
Simon still further admired the Emperor, because that imperial parvenu
had always known how to make that popular heart beat nobly, and,
remembering the people, from the masses of whom he first arose, had
invited them fraternally to share in regal and aristocratic pomp.
When Marshal Simon entered the room, his countenance was much agitated.
At sight of Dagobert, a flash of joy illumined his features; he rushed
towards the soldier, extending his arms, and exclaimed, "My friend! my
Dagobert answered this affectionate salute with silent emotion. Then the
marshal, disengaging himself from his arms, and fixing his moist eyes
upon him, said to him in so agitated a voice that his lips trembled,
"Well, didst arrive in time for the 13th of February?"
"Yes, general; but everything is postponed for four months."
"And--my wife?--my child?" At this question Dagobert shuddered, hung down
his head, and was silent.
"They are not, then, here?" asked Simon, with more surprise than
uneasiness. "They told me they were not at your house, but that I should
find you here--and I came immediately. Are they not with you?"
"General," said Dagobert, becoming deadly pale; "general--" Drying the
drops of cold sweat that stood upon his forehead, he was unable to
articulate a word, for his voice was checked in his parched throat.
"You frighten me!" exclaimed Pierre Simon, becoming pale as the soldier,
and seizing him by the arm.
At this, Adrienne advanced, with a countenance full of grief and
sympathy; seeing the cruel embarrassment of Dagobert, she wished to come
to his assistance, and she said to Pierre Simon, in a mild but agitated
voice, "Marshal, I am Mdlle. de Cardoville--a relation of your dear