Part 29 out of 31
Rodin looked at Madame de Saint-Dizier with a softened and approving air,
as he heard her thus describe the position of the two defunct claimants.
For, in Rodin's view of the case, M. Hardy, in consequence of his
donation and his suicidal asceticism, belonged no longer to this world.
The lady continued: "One of these men, a wretched artisan, has been led
to his ruin by the exaggeration of his vices. You have brought the other
into the path of salvation, by carrying out his loving and tender
qualities. Honor, then. to your foresight, father! for you said that you
would make use of the passions to attain your end."
"Do not boast too soon," said Rodin, impatiently. "Have you forgotten
your niece, and the Hindoo, and the daughters of Marshal Simon? Have
they also made a Christian end, or resigned their claim to share in this
"Hence, you see, madame, we should not lose time in congratulating
ourselves on the past, but make ready for the future. The great day
approaches. The first of June is not far off. Heaven grant we may not
see the four surviving members of the family continue to live impenitent
up to that period, and so take possession of this enormous property--the
source of perdition in their hands--but productive of the glory of the
Church in the hands of our Company!"
"By the way, you were to see your lawyers on the subject of your niece?"
"I have seen them, father. However uncertain may be the chance of which
I spoke, it is worth trying. I shall know to-day, I hope, if it is
"Perhaps then,--in the new condition of life to which she would be
reduced, we might find means to effect her conversion," said Rodin, with
a strange and hideous smile; "until now, since she has been so fatally
brought in contact with the Oriental, the happiness of these two pagans
appears bright and changeless as the diamond. Nothing bites into it, not
even Faringhea's tooth. Let us hope that the Lord will wreak justice on
their vain and guilty felicity!"
This conversation was here interrupted by Father d'Aigrigny, who entered
the room with an air of triumph, and exclaimed, "Victory!"
"What do you say"' asked the princess.
"He is gone--last night," said Father d'Aigrigny.
"Who?" said Rodin.
"Marshal Simon," replied the abbe.
"At last!" said Rodin, unable to hide his joy.
"It was no doubt his interview with General d'Havrincourt which filled up
the measure," cried the princess, "for I know he had a long conversation
with the general, who like so many others, believed the reports in
circulation. All means are good against the impious!" added the
princess, by way of moral.
"Have you any details?" asked Rodin.
"I have just left Robert," said Father d'Aigrigny. "His age and
description agree with the marshal's, and the latter travels with his
papers. Only one thing has greatly surprised your emissary."
"What is that?" said Rodin.
"Until now, he had always to contend with the hesitations of the marshal,
and had moreover noticed his gloomy and desponding air. Yesterday, on
the contrary, he found him so bright with happiness, that he could not
help asking him the cause of the alteration."
"Well?" said Rodin and the princess together, both extremely surprised.
"The marshal answered: 'I am indeed the happiest man in the world; for I
am going joyfully to accomplish a sacred duty!"
The three actors in this scene looked at each other in silence.
"And what can have produced this sudden change in the mind of the
marshal?" said the princess, with a pensive air. "We rather reckon on
sorrow and every kind of irritation to urge him to engage in this
"I cannot make it out," said Rodin, reflecting; "but no matter--he is
gone. We must not lose a moment, to commence operations on his
daughters. Has he taken that infernal soldier with him?"
"No," said Father d'Aigrigny; "unfortunately, he has not done so. Warned
by the past, he will redouble his precautions; and a man, whom we might
have used against him at a pinch, has just been taken with the
"Who is that?" asked the princess.
"Morok. I could count upon him anywhere and for anything. He is lost to
us; for, should he recover from the cholera, I fear he will fall a victim
to a horrible and incurable disease."
"A few days ago, he was bitten by one of the mastiffs of his menagerie,
and, the next day, the dog showed symptoms of hydrophobia."
"Ah! it is dreadful," cried the princess; "and where is this unfortunate
"He has been taken to one of the temporary hospitals established in
Paris, for at present he has only been attacked with cholera. It is
doubly unfortunate, I repeat, for he was a devoted, determined fellow,
ready for anything. Now this soldier, who has the care of the orphans,
will be very difficult to get at, and yet only through him can we hope to
reach Marshal Simon's daughters."
"That is clear," said Rodin, thoughtfully.
"Particularly since the anonymous letters have again awakened his
suspicions," added Father d'Aigrigny "and--"
"Talking of the anonymous letters," said Rodin suddenly, interrupting
Father d'Aigrigny, "there is a fact that you ought to know; I will tell
"What is it?"
"Besides the letters that you know of, Marshal Simon has received a
number of others unknown to you, in which, by every possible means, it is
tried to exasperate his irritation against yourself--for they remind him
of all the reasons he has to hate you, and mock at him, because your
sacred character shelters you from his vengeance."
Father d'Aigrigny looked at Rodin with amazement, colored in spite of
himself, and said to him: "But for what purpose has your reverence acted
in this manner?"
"First of all, to clear myself of suspicion with regard to the letters;
then, to excite the rage of the marshal to madness, by incessantly
reminding him of the just grounds he has to hate you, and of the
impossibility of being avenged upon you. This, joined to the other
emotions of sorrow and anger, which ferment in the savage bosom of this
man of bloodshed, tended to urge him on to the rash enterprise, which is
the consequence and the punishment of his idolatry for a miserable
"That may be," said Father d'Aigrigny, with an air of constraint: "but I
will observe to your reverence, that it was, perhaps, rather dangerous
thus to excite Marshal Simon against me."
"Why?" asked Rodin, as he fixed a piercing look upon Father d'Aigrigny.
"Because the marshal, excited beyond all bounds, and remembering only our
mutual hate, might seek me out--"
"Well! and what then?"
"Well! he might forget that I am a priest--"
"Oh, you are afraid are you?" said Rodin, disdainfully, interrupting
At the words: "You are afraid," the reverend father almost started from
his chair; but recovering his coolness, he answered: "Your reverence is
right; yes, I should be afraid under such circumstances; I should be
afraid of forgetting that I am a priest, and of remembering too well that
I have been a soldier."
"Really?" said Rodin, with sovereign contempt. "You are still no further
than that stupid and savage point of honor? Your cassock has not yet
extinguished the warlike fire? So that if this brawling swordsman, whose
poor, weak head, empty and sonorous as a drum, is so easily turned with
the stupid jargon of 'Military honor, oaths, Napoleon II.'--if this
brawling bravo, I say, were to commit some violence against you, it would
require a great effort, I suppose, for you to remain calm?"
"It is useless, I think," said Father d'Aigrigny, quite unable to control
his agitation, "for your reverence to enter upon such questions."
"As your superior," answered Rodin, severely, "I have the right to ask.
If Marshal Simon had lifted his hand against you--"
"Sir," cried the reverend father.
"There are no sirs here--we are only priests," said Rodin, harshly.
Father d'Aigrigny held down his head, scarcely able to repress his rage.
"I ask you," continued Rodin, obstinately, "if Marshal Simon had struck
you? Is that clear?"
"Enough! in mercy," said Father d'Aigrigny, "enough!"
"Or, if you like it better, had Marshal Simon left the marks of his
fingers on your cheek?" resumed Rodin, with the utmost pertinacity.
Father d'Aigrigny, pale as death, ground his teeth in a kind of fury at
the very idea of such an insult, while Rodin, who had no doubt his object
in asking the question, raised his flabby eyelids, and seemed to watch
attentively the significant symptoms revealed in the agitated countenance
of the ex-colonel.
At length, recovering partly his presence of mind, Father d'Aigrigny
replied, in a forcedly calm tone: "If I were to be exposed to such an
insult, I would pray heaven to give me resignation and humility."
"And no doubt heaven would hear your prayers," said Rodin, coldly,
satisfied with the trial to which he had just put him. "Besides, you are
now warned, and it is not very probable," added he, with a grim smile,
"that Marshal Simon will ever return to test your humility. But if he
were to return," said Rodin, fixing on the reverend father a long and
piercing look, "you would know how to show this brutal swordsman, in
spite of all his violence, what resignation and humility there is in a
Two humble knocks at the door here interrupted the conversation for a
moment. A footman entered, bearing a large sealed packet on a salver,
which he presented to the princess. After this, he withdrew. Princess
de Saint-Dizier, having by a look asked Rodin's permission to open the
letter, began to read it--and a cruel satisfaction was soon visible on
"There is hope," cried she addressing herself to Rodin: "the demand is
rigorously legal, and the consequence may be such as we desire. In a
word, my niece may, any day, be exposed to complete destitution. She,
who is so extravagant! what a change in her life!"
"We shall then no doubt have some hold on that untamable character," said
Rodin with a meditative air; "for, till now, all has failed in that
direction, and one would suppose some kinds of happiness are
invulnerable," added the Jesuit, gnawing his flat and dirty nails.
"But, to obtain the result we desire, we must exasperate my niece's
pride. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary, that I should see and
talk to her," said the Princess de Saint-Dizier, reflecting.
"Mdlle. de Cardoville will refuse this interview," said Father
"Perhaps," replied the princess. "But she is so happy that her audacity
must be at its height. Yes, yes--I know her--and I will write in such a
manner, that she will come."
"You think so?" asked Rodin, with a doubtful air.
"Do not fear it, father," answered the lady, "she will come. And her
pride once brought into play, we may hope a good deal from it."
"We must then act, lady," resumed Rodin; "yes, act promptly. The moment
approaches. Hate and suspicion are awake. There is not a moment to
"As for hate," replied the princess, "Mdlle. de Cardoville must have seen
to what her lawsuit would lead, about what she called her illegal
detention in a lunatic asylum, and that of the two young ladies in St.
Mary's Convent. Thank heaven, we have friends everywhere! I know from
good authority, that the case will break down from want of evidence, in
spite of the animosity of certain parliamentary magistrates, who shall be
"Under these circumstances," replied Rodin, "the departure of the marshal
gives us every latitude. We must act immediately on his daughters."
"But how?" said the princess.
"We must see them," resumed Rodin, "talk with them, study them. Then we
shall act in consequence."
"But the soldier will not leave them a second," said Father d'Aigrigny.
"Then," replied Rodin, "we must talk to them in presence of the soldier,
and get him on our side."
"That hope is idle," cried Father d'Aigrigny. "You do not know the
military honor of his character. You do not know this man."
"Don't I know him?" said Rodin, shrugging his shoulders. "Did not Mdlle.
de Cardoville present me to him as her liberator, when I denounced you as
the soul of the conspiracy? Did I not restore to him his ridiculous
imperial relic--his cross of honor--when we met at Dr. Baleinier's? Did
I not bring him back the girls from the convent, and place them in the
arms of their father?"
"Yes," replied the princess; "but, since that time, my abominable niece
has either guessed or discovered all. She told you so herself, father."
"She told me, that she considered me her most mortal enemy," said Rodin.
"Be it so. But did she tell the same to the marshal? Has she ever
mentioned me to him? and if she have done so, has the marshal
communicated this circumstance to his soldier? It may be so; but it is
by no means sure; in any case. I must ascertain the fact; if the soldier
treats me as an enemy, we shall see what is next to be done--but I will
first try to be received as a friend."
"When?" asked the princess.
"To-morrow morning," replied Rodin.
"Good heaven, my clear father!" cried the Princess de Saint-Dizier, in
alarm; "if this soldier were to treat you as an enemy--beware--"
"I always beware, madame. I have had to face worse enemies than he is,"
said the Jesuit showing his black teeth; "the cholera to begin with."
"But he may refuse to see you, and in what way will you then get at
Marshal Simon's daughters?" said Father d'Aigrigny.
"I do not yet know." answered Rodin. "But as I intend to do it, I shall
find the means."
"Father," said the princess, suddenly, on reflection, "these girls have
never seen me, and I might obtain admittance to them, without sending in
"That would be perfectly useless at present, madame, for I must first
know what course to take with respect to them. I must see and converse
with them, at any cost, and then, after I have fixed my plan, your
assistance may be very useful. In any case, please to be ready to-
morrow, madame, to accompany me."
"To what place, father?"
"To Marshal Simon's."
"To the marshal's?"
"Not exactly. You will get into your carriage, and I will take a
hackney-coach. I will then try to obtain an interview with the girls,
and, during that time, you will wait for me at a few yards from the
house. If I succeed, and require your aid, I will come and fetch you; I
can give you my instructions without any appearance of concert between
"I am content, reverend father; but, in truth, I tremble at the thought
of your interview with that rough trooper."
"The Lord will watch over his servant, madame!" replied Rodin. "As for
you, father," added he, addressing the Abbe d'Aigrigny, "despatch
instantly to Vienna the note which is all prepared to announce the
departure and speedy arrival of the marshal. Every precaution has been
taken. I shall write more fully this evening."
The next morning, about eight o'clock, the Princess de Saint-Dizier, in
her carriage, and Rodin, in his hackney-coach, took the direction of
Marshal Simon's house.
Marshal Simon has been absent two days. It is eight o'clock in the
morning. Dagobert, walking on tip-toe with the greatest caution, so as
not to make the floor creak beneath his tread, crosses the room which
leads to the bedchamber of Rose and Blanche and applies his ear to the
door of the apartment. With equal caution, Spoil-sport follows exactly
the movements of his master. The countenance of the soldier is uneasy
and full of thought. As he approaches the door, he says to himself: "I
hope the dear children heard nothing of what happened in the night! It
would alarm them, and it is much better that they should not know it at
present. It might afflict them sadly, poor dears! and they are so gay,
so happy, since they feel sure of their father's love for them. They
bore his departure so bravely! I would not for the world that they
should know of this unfortunate event."
Then as he listened, the soldier resumed: "I hear nothing--and yet they
are always awake so early. Can it be sorrow?"
Dagobert's reflections were here interrupted by two frank, hearty bursts
of laughter, from the interior of the bedroom.
"Come! they are not so sad as I thought," said the soldier, breathing
more freely. "Probably they know nothing about it."
Soon, the laughter was again heard with redoubled force, and the soldier,
delighted at this gayety, so rare on the part of "his children," was much
affected by it: the tears started to his eyes at the thought that the
orphans had at length recovered the serenity natural to their age; then,
passing from one emotion to the other, still listening at the door, with
his body leaning forward, and his hands resting on his knees, Dagobert's
lip quivered with an expression of mute joy, and, shaking his head a
little, he accompanied with his silent laughter, the increasing hilarity
of the young girls. At last, as nothing is so contagious as gayety, and
as the worthy soldier was in an ecstasy of joy, he finished by laughing
aloud with all his might, without knowing why, and only because Rose and
Blanche were laughing. Spoil-sport had never seen his master in such a
transport of delight; he looked at him for a while in deep and silent
astonishment, and then began to bark in a questioning way.
At this well-known sound, the laughter within suddenly ceased, and a
sweet voice, still trembling with joyous emotion, exclaimed: "Is it you,
Spoil-sport, that have come to wake us?" The dog understood what was
said, wagged his tail, held down his ears, and, approaching close to the
door, answered the appeal of his young mistress by a kind of friendly
"Spoil-sport," said Rose, hardly able to restrain her laughter, "you are
very early this morning."
"Tell us what o'clock it is, if you please, old fellow?" added Blanche.
"Young ladies, it is past eight," said suddenly the gruff voice of
Dagobert, accompanying this piece of humor with a loud laugh.
A cry of gay surprise was heard, and then Rose resumed: "Good-morning,
"Good-morning, my children. You are very lazy to-day, I must tell you."
"It is not our fault. Our dear Augustine has not yet been to call us.
We are waiting for her."
"Oh! there it is," said Dagobert to himself, his features once more
assuming an expression of anxiety. Then he returned aloud, in a tone of
some embarrassment, for the worthy man was no hand at a falsehood: "My
children, our companion went out this morning--very early. She is gone
to the country--on business--she will not return for some days--so you
had better get up by yourselves for today."
"Our good Madame Augustine!" exclaimed Blanche, with interest. "I hope
it is nothing bad that has made her leave suddenly--eh, Dagobert?"
"No, no--not at all--only business," answered the soldier. "To see one
of her relations."
"Oh, so much the better!" said Rose. "Well, Dagobert, when we call you
can come in."
"I will come back in a quarter of an hour," said the soldier as he
withdrew; and he thought to himself: "I must lecture that fool Loony--for
he is so stupid, and so fond of talking, that he will let it all out."
The name of the pretended simpleton will serve as a natural transition,
to inform the reader of the cause of the hilarity of the sisters. They
were laughing at the numberless absurdities of the idiot. The girls rose
and dressed themselves, each serving as lady's-maid to the other. Rose
had combed and arranged Blanche's hair; it was now Blanche's turn to do
the same for her sister. Thus occupied, they formed a charming picture.
Rose was seated before the dressing-table; her sister, standing behind
her, was smoothing her beautiful brown hair. Happy age! so little
removed from childhood, that present joy instantly obliterates the traces
of past sorrow! But the sisters felt more than joy; it was happiness,
deep and unalterable, for their father loved them, and their happiness
was a delight, and not a pain to him. Assured of the affection of his
children, he, also, thanks to them, no longer feared any grief. To those
three beings, thus certain of their mutual love, what was a momentary
separation? Having explained this, we shall understand the innocent
gayety of the sisters, notwithstanding their father's departure, and the
happy, joyous expression, which now filled with animation their charming
faces, on which the late fading rose had begun once more to bloom. Their
faith in the future gave to their countenances something resolute and
decisive, which added a degree of piquancy to the beauty of their
Blanche, in smoothing her sister's hair, let fall the comb, and, as she
was stooping to pick it up, Rose anticipated her, saying: "If it had been
broken, we would have put it into the handle-basket."
Then the two laughed merrily at this expression, which reminded them of
an admirable piece of folly on the part of Loony.
The supposed simpleton had broken the handle of a cup, and when the
governess of the young ladies had reprimanded him for his carelessness,
he had answered: "Never mind, madame; I have put it into the handle-
"The handle-basket, what is that?"
"Yes, Madame; it is where I keep all the handles I break off the things!"
"Dear me!" said Rose, drying her eyes; "how silly it is to laugh at such
"It is droll," replied Blanche; "how can we help it?"
"All I regret is, that father cannot hear us laugh."
"He was so happy to see us gay!"
"We must write to him to-day, the story of the handle-basket."
"And that of the feather-brush, to show that, according to promise, we
kept up our spirits during his absence."
"Write to him, sister? no, he is to write to us, and we are not to answer
"True! well then, I have an idea. Let us address letters to him here,
Dagobert can put them into the post, and, on his return, our father will
read our correspondence."
"That will be charming! What nonsense we will write to him, since he
takes pleasure in it!"
"And we, too, like to amuse ourselves."
"Oh, certainly! father's last words have given us so much courage."
"As I listened to them, I felt quite reconciled to his going."
"When he said to us: 'My children, I will confide in you all I can. I go
to fulfill a sacred duty, and I must be absent for some time; for though,
when I was blind enough to doubt your affection, I could not make up my
mind to leave you, my conscience was by no means tranquil. Grief takes
such an effect on us, that I had not the strength to come to a decision,
and my days were passed in painful hesitation. But now that I am certain
of your tenderness, all this irresolution has ceased, and I understand
how one duty is not to be sacrificed to another, and that I have to
perform two duties at once, both equally sacred; and this I now do with
joy, and delight, and courage!'"
"Go on, sister!" cried Blanche, rising to draw nearer to Rose. "I think
I hear our father when I remember those words, which must console and
support us during his absence."
"And then our father continued: 'Instead of grieving at my departure, you
would rejoice in it, you should be proud and happy. I go to perform a
good and generous act. Fancy to yourselves, that there is somewhere a
poor orphan, oppressed and abandoned by all--and that the father of that
orphan was once my benefactor, and that I had promised him to protect his
son--and that the life of that son is now in peril--tell me, my children;
would you regret that I should leave you to fly to the aid of such an
"'No, no, brave father!' we answered: 'we should not then be your
daughters!'" continued Rose, with enthusiasm. "'Count upon us! We
should be indeed unhappy if we thought that our sorrow could deprive thee
of thy courage. Go! and every day we will say to ourselves proudly, "It
was to perform a great and noble duty that our father left us--we can
wait calmly for his return."
"How that idea of duty sustains one, sister!" resumed Rose, with growing
enthusiasm. "It gave our father the courage to leave us without regret,
and to us the courage to bear his absence gayly!"
"And then, how calm we are now! Those mournful dreams, which seemed to
portend such sad events, no longer afflict us."
"I tell you, sister, this time we are really happy once for all."
"And then, do you feel like me? I fancy, that I am stronger and more
courageous and that I could brave every danger."
"I should think so! We are strong enough now. Our father in the midst,
you on one side, I on the other--"
"Dagobert in the vanguard, and Spoil-sport in the rear! Then the army
will be complete, and let 'em come on by thousands!" added a gruff, but
jovial voice, interrupting the girl, as Dagobert appeared at the half-
open door of the room. It was worth looking at his face, radiant with
joy; for the old fellow had somewhat indiscreetly been listening to the
"Oh! you were listening, Paul Pry!" said Rose gayly, as she entered the
adjoining room with her sister, and both affectionately embraced the
"To be sure, I was listening; and I only regretted not to have ears as
large as Spoil-sport's! Brave, good girls! that's how I like to see you-
-bold as brass, and saying to care and sorrow: 'Right about face! march!
go to the devil!'"
"He will want to make us swear, now," said Rose to her sister, laughing
with all her might.
"Well! now and then, it does no harm," said the soldier; "it relieves and
calms one, when if one could not swear by five hundred thousand de--"
"That's enough!" said Rose, covering with her pretty hand the gray
moustache, so as to stop Dagobert in his speech. "If Madame Augustine
"Our poor governess! so mild and timid," resumed Blanche. "How you would
"Yes," said Dagobert, as he tried to conceal his rising embarrassment;
"but she does not hear us. She is gone into the country."
"Good, worthy woman!" replied Blanche, with interest. "She said
something of you, which shows her excellent heart."
"Certainly," resumed Rose; "for she said to us, in speaking of you, 'Ah,
young ladies! my affection must appear very little, compared with M.
Dagobert's. But I feel that I also have the right to devote myself to
"No doubt, no doubt! she has a heart of gold," answered Dagobert. Then
he added to himself, "It's as if they did it on purpose, to bring the
conversation back to this poor woman."
"Father made a good choice," continued Rose. "She is the widow of an old
officer, who was with him in the wars."
"When we were out of spirits," said Blanche, "you should have seen her
uneasiness and grief, and how earnestly she set about consoling us."
"I have seen the tears in her eyes when she looked at us," resumed Rose.
"Oh! she loves us tenderly, and we return her affection. With regard to
that, Dagobert, we have a plan as soon as our father comes back."
"Be quiet, sister!" said Blanche, laughing. "Dagobert will not keep our
"Will you keep it for us, Dagobert?"
"I tell you what," said the soldier, more and more embarrassed; "you had
better not tell it to me."
"What! can you keep nothing from Madame Augustine?"
"Ah, Dagobert! Dagobert!" said Blanche, gayly holding up her finger at
the soldier; "I suspect you very much of paying court to our governess."
"I pay court?" said the soldier--and the expression of his face was so
rueful, as he pronounced these words, that the two sisters burst out
Their hilarity was at its height when the door opened and Loony advanced
into room announcing, with a loud voice, "M. Rodin!" In fact, the Jesuit
glided almost imperceptibly into the apartment, as if to take possession
of the ground. Once there, he thought the game his own, and his reptile
eyes sparkled with joy. It would be difficult to paint the surprise of
the two sisters, and the anger of the soldier, at this unexpected visit.
Rushing upon Loony, Dagobert seized him by the collar, and exclaimed:
"Who gave you leave to introduce any one here without my permission?"
"Pardon, M. Dagobert!" said Loony, throwing himself on his knees, and
clasping his hands with an air of idiotic entreaty.
"Leave the room!--and you too!" added the soldier, with a menacing
gesture, as he turned towards Rodin, who had already approached the
girls, with a paternal smile on his countenance.
"I am at your orders, my dear sir," said the priest, humbly; and he made
a low bow, but without stirring from the spot.
"Will you go?" cried the soldier to Loony, who was still kneeling, and
who, thanks to the advantages of this position, was able to utter a
certain number of words before Dagobert could remove him.
"M. Dagobert," said Loony in a doleful voice, "I beg pardon for bringing
up the gentleman without leave; but, alas, my head is turned, because of
the misfortune that happened to Madame Augustine."
"What misfortune?" cried Rose and Blanche together, as they advanced
anxiously towards Loony.
"Will you go?" thundered Dagobert, shaking the servant by the collar, to
force him to rise.
"Speak--speak!" said Blanche, interposing between the soldier and his
prey. "What has happened to Madame Augustine?"
"Oh," shouted Loony, in spite of the cuffs of the soldier. "Madame
Augustine was attacked in the night with cholera, and taken--"
He was unable to finish. Dagobert struck him a tremendous blow with his
fist, right on the jaw, and, putting forth his still formidable strength,
the old horse-grenadier lifted him to his legs, and with one violent kick
bestowed on the lower part of his back, sent him rolling into the ante-
Then turning to Rodin, with flushed cheek and sparkling eye, Dagobert
pointed to the door with an expressive gesture, and said in an angry
voice: "Now, be off with you and that quickly!"
"I must pay my respects another time, my dear sir," said Rodin, as he
retired towards the door, bowing to the young girls.
Rodin, retreating slowly before the fire of Dagobert's angry looks,
walked backwards to the door, casting oblique but piercing glances at the
orphans, who were visibly affected by the servant's intentional
indiscretion. (Dagobert had ordered him not to speak before the girls of
the illness of their governess, and that was quite enough to induce the
simpleton to take the first opportunity of doing so.)
Rose hastily approached the soldier, and said to him: "Is it true--is it
really true that poor Madame Augustine has been attacked with the
"No--I do not know--I cannot tell," replied the soldier, hesitating;
"besides, what is it to you?"
"Dagobert, you would conceal from us a calamity," said Blanche. "I
remember now your embarrassment, when we spoke to you of our governess."
"If she is ill, we ought not to abandon her. She had pity on our
sorrows; we ought to pity her sufferings."
"Come, sister; come to her room," said Blanche, advancing towards the
door, where Rodin had stopped short, and stood listening with growing
attention to this unexpected scene, which seemed to give him ample food
"You will not leave this room," said the soldier, sternly, addressing the
"Dagobert," replied Rose, firmly, "it is a sacred duty, and it would be
cowardice not to fulfil it."
"I tell you that you shall not leave the room," said the soldier,
stamping his foot with impatience.
"Dagobert," replied Blanche, with as resolute an air as her sister's, and
with a kind of enthusiasm which brought the blood to her fair cheek, "our
father, when he left us, give us an admirable example of devotion and
duty. He would not forgive us were we to forget the lesson."
"What," cried Dagobert, in a rage, and advancing towards the sisters to
prevent their quitting the apartment; "you think that if your governess
had the cholera, I would let you go to her under the pretext of duty?--
Your duty is to live, to live happy, for your father's sake--and for mine
into the bargain--so not a word more of such folly!"
"We can run no danger by going to our governess in her room," said Rose.
"And if there were danger," added Blanche, "we ought not to hesitate.
So, Dagobert, be good! and let us pass."
Rodin, who had listened to what precedes, with sustained attention,
suddenly started, as if a thought had struck him; his eye shone brightly,
and an expression of fatal joy illumined his countenance.
"Dagobert, do not refuse!" said Blanche. "You would do for us what you
reproach us with wishing to do for another."
Dagobert had as it were, till now stood in the path of the Jesuit and the
twins by keeping close to the door; but, after a moments reflection, he
shrugged his shoulders, stepped to one side, and said calmly: "I was an
old fool. Come, young ladies; if you find Madame Augustine in the house,
I will allow you to remain with her."
Surprised at these words, the girls stood motionless and irresolute.
"If our governess is not here, where is she, then?" said Rose.
"You think, perhaps, that I am going to tell you in the excitement in
which you are!"
"She is dead!" cried Rose growing pale.
"No, no--be calm," said the soldier, hastily; "I swear to you, by your
father's honor, that she is not dead. At the first appearance of the
disorder, she begged to be removed from the house, fearing the contagion
for those in it."
"Good and courageous woman!" said Rose tenderly, "And you will not allow
"I will not allow you to go out, even if I have to lock you up in your
room," cried the soldier, again stamping with rage; then, remembering
that the blunderhead's indiscretion was the sole cause of this
unfortunate incident, he added, with concentrated fury: "Oh! I will break
my stick upon that rascal's back."
So saying, he turned towards the door, where Rodin still stood, silent
and attentive, dissembling with habitual impassibility the fatal hopes he
had just conceived in his brain. The girls, no longer doubting the
removal of their governess, and convinced that Dagobert would not tell
them whither they had conveyed her, remained pensive and sad.
At sight of the priest, whom he had forgotten for the moment, the
soldier's rage increased, and he said to him abruptly: "Are you still
"I would merely observe to you, my dear sir," said Rodin, with that air
of perfect good nature which he knew so well how to assume, "that you
were standing before the door, which naturally prevented me from going
Well, now nothing prevents you--so file off!"
"Certainly, I will file off, if you wish it, my dear sir though I think I
have some reason to be surprised at such a reception."
"It is no reception at all--so begone!"
"I had come, my dear sir to speak to you--"
"I have no time for talking."
"Upon business of great importance."
"I have no other business of importance than to remain with these
"Very good, my dear sir," said Rodin, pausing on the threshold. "I will
not disturb you any longer; excuse my indiscretion. The bearer of
excellent news from Marshal Simon, I came--"
"News from our father!" cried Rose, drawing nearer to Rodin.
"Oh, speak, speak, sir!" added Blanche.
"You have news of the marshal!" said Dagobert, glancing suspiciously at
Rodin. "Pray, what is this news?"
But Rodin, without immediately answering the question, returned from the
threshold into the room, and, contemplating Rose and Blanche by turns
with admiration, he resumed: "What happiness for me, to be able to bring
some pleasure to these dear young ladies. They are even as I left them
graceful, and fair, and charming--only less sad than on the day when I
fetched them from the gloomy convent in which they were kept prisoners,
to restore them to the arms of their glorious father!"
"That was their place, and this is not yours," said Dagobert, harshly,
still holding the door open behind Rodin.
"Confess, at least that I was not so much out of place at Dr.
Baleinier's," said the Jesuit, with a cunning air. "You know, for it was
there that I restored to you the noble imperial cross you so much
regretted--the day when that good Mdlle. de Cardoville only prevented you
from strangling me by telling you that I was her liberator. Aye! it was
just as I have the honor of stating, young ladies," added Rodin, with a
smile; "this brave soldier was very near strangling me, for, be it said
without offense, he has, in spite of his age, a grasp of iron. Ha, ha!
the Prussians and Cossacks must know that better than I!"
These few words reminded Dagobert and the twins of the services which
Rodin had really rendered them; and though the marshal had heard Mdlle.
de Cardoville speak of Rodin as of a very dangerous man, he had
forgotten, in the midst of so many anxieties, to communicate this
circumstance to Dagobert. But this latter, warned by experience, felt,
in spite of favorable appearances, a secret aversion for the Jesuit; so
he replied abruptly: "The strength of my grasp has nothing to do with the
"If I allude to that little innocent playfulness on your part, my dear
sir," said Rodin, in his softest tone, approaching the two sisters with a
wriggle which was peculiar to him; "if I allude to it, you see, it was
suggested by the involuntary recollection of the little services I was
happy enough to render you." Dagobert looked fixedly at Rodin, who
instantly veiled his glance beneath his flabby eyelids.
"First of all," said the soldier, after a moment's silence, "a true man
never speaks of the services he has rendered, and you come back three
times to the subject."
"But Dagobert," whispered Rose, "if he brings news of our father?"
The soldier made a sign, as if to beg the girl to let him speak, and
resumed, looking full at Rodin: "You are cunning, but I'm no raw
"I cunning?" said Rodin, with a sanctified air.
"Yes, very. You think to puzzle me with your fine phrases; but I'm not
to be caught in that way. Just listen to me. Some of your band of
black-gowns stole my cross; you returned it to me. Some of the same band
carried off these children; you brought them back. It is also true that
you denounced the renegade D'Aigrigny. But all this only proves two
things: first, that you were vile enough to be the accomplice of these
scoundrels; and secondly, that, having been their accomplice, you were
base enough to betray them. Now, those two facts are equally bad, and I
suspect you most furiously. So march off at once; your presence is not
good for these children."
"But, my dear sir--"
"I will have no buts," answered Dagobert, in an angry voice. "When a man
of your look does good, it is only to hide some evil; and one must be on
"I understand your suspicions," said Rodin coolly, hiding his growing
disappointment, for he had hoped it would have been easy to coax the
soldier; but, if you reflect, what interest have I in deceiving you? And
in what should the deception consist?"
"You have some interest or other in persisting to remain here, when I
tell you to go away."
"I have already had the honor of informing you of the object of my visit,
my dear sir."
"To bring news of Marshal Simon?"
"That is exactly the case. I am happy enough to have news of the
marshal. Yes, my dear young ladies," added Rodin, as he again approached
the two sisters, to recover, as it were, the ground he had lost, "I have
news of your glorious father!"
"Then come to my room directly, and you can tell it to me," replied
"What! you would be cruel enough to deprive these dear ladies of the
"By heaven, sir!" cried Dagobert, in a voice of thunder, "you will make
me forget myself. I should be sorry to fling a man of your age down the
stairs. Will you be gone?"
"Well, well," said Rodin mildly, "do not be angry with a poor old man. I
am really not worth the trouble. I will go with you to your room, and
tell you what I have to communicate. You will repent not having let me
speak before these dear young ladies; but that will be your punishment,
So saying, Rodin again bowed very low, and, concealing his rage and
vexation, left the room before Dagobert, who made a sign to the two
sisters, and then followed, closing the door after him.
"What news of our father, Dagobert?" said Rose anxiously, when the
soldier returned, after a quarter of an hours absence.
"Well, that old conjurer knows that the marshal set out in good spirits,
and he seems acquainted with M. Robert. How could he be informed of all
this? I cannot tell," added the soldier, with a thoughtful air; "but it
is only another reason to be on one's guard against him."
"But what news of our father?" asked Rose.
"One of that old rascal's friends (I think him a rascal still) knows your
father, he tells me, and met him five-and-twenty leagues from here.
Knowing that this man was coming to Paris, the marshal charged him to let
you know that he was in perfect health, and hoped soon to see you again."
"Oh, what happiness!" cried Rose.
"You see, you were wrong to suspect the poor old man, Dagobert," added
Blanche. "You treated him so harshly!"
"Possibly so; but I am not sorry for it."
"I have my reasons; and one of the best is that, when I saw him came in,
and go sidling and creeping round about us, I felt chilled to the marrow
of my bones, without knowing why. Had I seen a serpent crawling towards
you, I should not have been more frightened. I knew, of course, that he
could not hurt you in my presence; but I tell you, my children, in spite
of the services he has no doubt rendered us, it was all I could do to
refrain from throwing him out of the window. Now, this manner of proving
my gratitude is not natural, and one must be on one's guard against
people who inspire us with such ideas."
"Good Dagobert, it is your affection for us that makes you so
suspicious," said Rose, in a coaxing tone; "it proves how much you love
THE IMPROVISED HOSPITAL
Among a great number of temporary hospitals opened at the time of the
cholera in every quarter of Paris, one had been established on the
ground-floor of a large house in the Rue du Mont-Blanc. The vacant
apartments had been generously placed by their proprietor at the disposal
of the authorities; and to this place were carried a number of persons,
who, being suddenly attacked with the contagion, were considered in too
dangerous a state to be removed to the principal hospitals.
Two days had elapsed since Rodin's visit to Marshal Simon's daughters.
Shortly after he had been expelled, the Princess de Saint-Dizier had
entered to see them, under the cloak of being a house-to-house visitor to
collect funds for the cholera sufferers.
Choosing the moment when Dagobert, deceived by her lady-like demeanor,
had withdrawn, she counselled the twins that it was their duty to go and
see their governess, whom she stated to be in the hospital we now
It was about ten o'clock in the morning. The persons who had watched
during the night by the sick people, in the hospital established in the
Rue du Mont-Blanc, were about to be relieved by other voluntary
"Well, gentlemen," said one of those newly arrived, "how are we getting
on? Has there been any decrease last night in the number of the sick?"
"Unfortunately, no; but the doctors think the contagion has reached its
Then there is some hope of seeing it decrease."
"And have any of the gentlemen, whose places we come to take, been
attacked by the disease?"
"We came eleven strong last night; we are only nine now."
"That is bad. Were these two persons taken off rapidly?"
"One of the victims, a young man of twenty-five years of age, a cavalry
officer on furlough, was struck as it were by lightning. In less than a
quarter of an hour he was dead. Though such facts are frequent, we were
speechless with horror."
"Poor young man!"
"He had a word of cordial encouragement and hope for every, one. He had
so far succeeded in raising the spirits of the patients, that some of
them who were less affected by the cholera than by the fear of it, were
able to quit the hospital nearly well."
"What a pity! So good a young man! Well, he died gloriously; it requires
as much courage as on the field of battle."
"He had only one rival in zeal and courage, and that is a Young priest,
with an angelic countenance, whom they call the Abbe Gabriel. He is
indefatigable; he hardly takes an hour's rest, but runs from one to the
other, and offers himself to everybody. He forgets nothing. The
consolation; which he offers come from the depths of his soul, and are
not mere formalities in the way of his profession. No, no, I saw him
weep over a poor woman, whose eyes he had closed after a dreadful agony.
Oh, if all priests were like him!"
"No doubt, a good priest is most worthy of respect. But! who is the
other victim of last night?"
"Oh! his death was frightful. Do not speak of it. I have still the
horrible scene before my eyes."
"A sudden attack of cholera?"
"If it had only been the contagion, I should not so shudder at the
"What then did he die of?"
"It is a string of horrors. Three days ago, they brought here a man, who
was supposed to be only attacked with cholera. You have no doubt heard
speak of this personage. He is the lion-tamer, that drew all Paris to
"I know the man you mean. Called Morok. He performed a kind of play
with a tame panther."
"Exactly so; I was myself present at a similar scene, which a stranger,
an Indian, in consequence of a wager, was said at the time, jumped upon
the stage and killed the panther."
"Well, this Morok, brought here as a cholera-patient, and indeed with all
the symptoms of the contagion, soon showed signs of a still more
"And this was--"
"Did he become mad?"
"Yes; he confessed, that he had been bitten a few days before by one of
the mastiffs in his menagerie; unfortunately, we only learnt this
circumstance after the terrible attack, which cost the life of the poor
fellow we deplore."
"How did it happen, then?"
"Morok was in a room with three other patients. Suddenly seized with a
sort of furious delirium, he rose, uttering ferocious cries, and rushed
raving mad into the passage. Our poor friend made an attempt to stop
him. This kind of resistance increased the frenzy of Morok, who threw
himself on the man that crossed his path, and, tearing him with his
teeth, fell down in horrible convulsions."
"Oh! you are right. 'Twas indeed frightful. And, not withstanding every
assistance this victim of Morok's--"
"Died during the night, in dreadful agony; for the shock had been so
violent, that brain-fever almost instantly declared itself."
"And is Morok dead?"
"I do not know. He was to be taken to another hospital, after being fast
bound in the state of weakness which generally succeeds the fit. But,
till he can be removed he has been confined in a room upstairs."
"But he cannot recover."
"I should think he must be dead by this time. The doctors did not give
him twenty-four hours to live."
The persons engaged in this conversation were standing in an ante-chamber
on the ground-floor, in which usually assembled those who came to offer
their voluntary aid to the sick. One door of this room communicated with
the rest of the hospital, and the other with the passage that opened upon
"Dear me!" said one of the two speakers, looking through the window.
"See what two charming girls have just got out of that elegant carriage.
How much alike they are! Such a resemblance is indeed extraordinary."
"No doubt they are twins. Poor young girls! dressed in Mourning. They
have perhaps lost father or mother."
"One would imagine they are coming this way."
"Yes, they are coming up the steps."
And indeed Rose and Blanche soon entered the antechamber, with a timid,
anxious air, though a sort of feverish excitement was visible in their
looks. One of the two men that were talking together, moved by the
embarrassment of the girls, advanced toward them, and said, in a tone of
attentive politeness: "Is there anything I can do for you, ladies?"
"Is not this, sir," replied Rose, "the infirmary of the Rue du Mont-
"A lady, called Madame Augustine du Tremblay, was brought here, we are
told, about two days ago. Could we see her?"
"I would observe to you, miss, that there is some danger in entering the
It is a dear friend that we wish to see," answered Rose, in a mild and
firm tone, which sufficiently expressed that she was determined to brave
"I cannot be sure, miss," resumed the other, "that the person you seek is
here; but, if you will take the trouble to walk into this room on the
left, you will find there the good Sister Martha; she has the care of the
women's wards, and will give you all the information you can desire."
"Thank you, sir," said Blanche, with a graceful bow; and she and her
sister entered together the apartment which had been pointed out to them.
"They are really charming," said the man, looking after the two sisters,
who soon disappeared from his view. "It would be a great pity if--"
He was unable to finish. A frightful tumult, mingled with cries of alarm
and horror, rose suddenly from the adjoining rooms. Almost instantly,
two doors were thrown open, and a number of the sick, half-naked, pale,
fleshless, and their features convulsed with terror, rushed into the
antechamber, exclaiming: "Help! help! the madman!" It is impossible to
paint the scene of despairing and furious confusion which followed this
panic of so many affrighted wretches, flying to the only other door, to
escape from the perils they dreaded, and there, struggling and trampling
on each other to pass through the narrow entrance.
At the moment when the last of these unhappy creatures succeeded in
reaching the door, dragging himself along upon his bleeding hands, for he
had been thrown down and almost crushed in the confusion--Morok, the
object of so much terror--Morok himself appeared. He was a horrible
sight. With the exception of a rag bound about his middle, his wan form
was entirely naked, and from his bare legs still hung the remnants of the
cords he had just broken. His thick, yellow hair stood almost on end,
his beard bristled, his savage eyes rolled full of blood in their orbits,
and shone with a glassy brightness; his lips were covered with foam; from
time to time, he uttered hoarse, guttural cries. The veins, visible on
his iron limbs were swollen almost to bursting. He bounded like a wild
beast, and stretched out before him his bony and quivering hands. At the
moment Morok reached the doorway, by which those he pursued made their
escape, some persons, attracted by the noise, managed to close this door
from without, whilst others secured that which communicated with the
Morok thus found himself a prisoner. He ran to the window to force it
open, and threw himself into the courtyard. But, stopping suddenly, he
drew back from the glittering panes, seized with that invincible horror
which all the victims of hydrophobia feel at the sight of any shining
object, particularly glass. The unfortunate creatures whom he had
pursued, saw him from the courtyard exhausting himself in furious efforts
to open the doors that just had been closed upon him. Then, perceiving
the inutility of his attempts, he uttered savage cries, and rushed
furiously round the room, like a wild beast that seeks in vain to escape
from its cage.
But, suddenly, those spectators of this scene, who had approached nearest
to the window, uttered a loud exclamation of fear and anguish. Morok had
perceived the little door which led to the closet occupied by Sister
Martha, where Rose and Blanche had entered a few minutes before. Hoping
to get out by this way, Morok drew the door violently towards him, and
succeeded in half opening it, notwithstanding the resistance he
experienced from the inside. For an instant the affrighted crowd saw the
stiffened arms Of Sister Martha and the orphans, clinging to the door,
and holding it back with all their might.
When the sick people, assembled in the courtyard, saw the desperate
efforts of Morok to force the door of the room which contained Sister
Martha and the orphans, their fright redoubled. "It is all over, Sister
Martha!" cried they.
"The door will give way."
"And the closet has no other entrance."
"There are two young girls in mourning with her."
"Come! we must not leave these poor women to encounter the madman.
Follow me, friends!" cried generously one of the spectators, who was
still blessed with health, and he rushed towards the steps to return to
"It's too late! it's only exposing yourself in vain," cried many persons,
holding him back by force.
At this moment, voices were heard, exclaiming: "Here is the Abbe
"He is coming downstairs. He has heard the noise."
"He is asking what is the matter."
"What will he do?"
Gabriel, occupied with a dying person in a neighboring room, had, indeed,
just learned that Morok, having broken his bonds, had succeeded in
escaping from the chamber in which he had been temporarily confined.
Foreseeing the terrible dangers which might result from the escape of the
lion-tamer, the missionary consulted only his courage, and hastened down,
in the hope of preventing greater misfortunes. In obedience to his
orders, an attendant followed him, bearing a brazier full of hot cinders,
on which lay several irons, at a white heat, used by the doctors for
cauterizing, in desperate cases of cholera.
The angelic countenance of Gabriel was very pale; but calm intrepidity
shone upon his noble brow. Hastily crossing the passage, and making his
way through the crowd, he went straight to the ante-chamber door. As he
approached it, one of the sick people said to him, in a lamentable voice;
"Ah, sir! it is all over. Those who can see through the window say that
Sister Martha is lost."
Gabriel made no answer, but grasped the key of the door. Before entering
the room, however, he turned to the attendant, and said to him in a firm
voice: "Are the irons of a white heat?"
"Then wait here, and be ready. As for you, my friends," he added,
turning to some of the sick, who shuddered with terror, "as soon as I
enter shut the door after me. I will answer for the rest. And you;
friend, only bring your irons when I call."
And the young missionary turned the key in the lock. At this juncture, a
cry of alarm, pity, and admiration rose from every lip, and the
spectators drew back from the door, with an involuntary feeling of fear.
Raising his eyes to heaven, as if to invoke its assistance at this
terrible moment, Gabriel pushed open the door, and immediately closed it
behind him. He was alone with Morok.
The lion-tamer, by a last furious effort, had almost succeeded in opening
the door, to which Sister Martha and the orphans were clinging, in a fit
of terror, uttering piercing cries. At the sound of Gabriel's footsteps,
Morok turned round suddenly. Then, instead of continuing his attack on
the closet, he sprang, with a roar and a bound, upon the new-comer.
During this time, Sister Martha and the orphans, not knowing the cause of
the sudden retreat of their assailant, took advantage of the opportunity
to close and bolt the door, and thus placed themselves in security from a
new attack. Morok, with haggard eye, and teeth convulsively clinched,
had rushed upon Gabriel, his hands extended to seize him by the throat.
The missionary stood the shock valiantly. Guessing, at a glance, the
intention of his adversary, he seized him by the wrists as he advanced,
and, holding him back, bent him down violently with a vigorous hand. For
a second, Morok and Gabriel remained mute, breathless, motionless, gazing
on each other; then the missionary strove to conquer the efforts of the
madman, who, with violent jerks, attempted to throw himself upon him, and
to seize and tear him with his teeth.
Suddenly the lion-tamer's strength seemed to fail, his knees quivered,
his livid head sank upon his shoulder, his eyes closed. The missionary,
supposing that a momentary weakness had succeeded to the fit of rage, and
that the wretch was about to fall, relaxed his hold in order to lend him
assistance. But no sooner did he feel himself at liberty, thanks to his
crafty device, than Morok flung himself furiously upon Gabriel.
Surprised by this sudden attack, the latter stumbled, and at once felt
himself clasped into the iron arms of the madman. Yet, with redoubled
strength and energy, struggling breast to breast, foot to foot, the
missionary in his turn succeeded in tripping up his adversary, and,
throwing him with a vigorous effort, again seized his hands, and now held
him down beneath his knee. Having thus completely mastered him, Gabriel
turned his head to call for assistance, when Morok, by a desperate
strain, succeeded in raising himself a little, and seized with his teeth
the left arm of the missionary. At this sharp, deep, horrible bite,
which penetrated to the very bone, Gabriel could not restrain a scream of
anguish and horror. He strove in vain to disengage himself, for his arm
was held fast, as in a vice, between the firm-set jaws of Morok.
This frightful scene had lasted less time than it has taken in the
description, when suddenly the door leading to the passage was violently
opened, and several courageous men, who had learned from the patients to
what danger the young priest was exposed, came rushing to his assistance,
in spite of his recommendation not to enter till he should call. The
attendant was amongst the number, with the brazier and the hot irons.
Gabriel, as soon as he perceived him, said to him in an agitated voice:
"Quick, friend! your iron. Thank God I had thought of that."
One of the men who had entered the room was luckily provided with a
blanket; and the moment the missionary succeeded in wresting his arm from
the clinched teeth of Morok, whom he still held down with his knee, this
blanket was thrown over the madman's head, so that he could now be held
and bound without danger, notwithstanding his desperate resistance. Then
Gabriel rose, tore open the sleeve of his cassock, and laying bare his
left arm, on which a deep bite was visible, bleeding, of a bluish color,
he beckoned the attendant to draw near, seized one of the hot irons, and,
with a firm and sure hand, twice applied the burning metal to the wound,
with a calm heroism which struck all the spectators, with admiration.
But soon so many various emotions, intrepidly sustained, were followed by
a natural reaction. Large drops of sweat stood upon Gabriel's brow; his
long light hair clung to his temples; he grew deadly pale, reeled, lost
his senses, and was carried into the next room to receive immediate
An accidental circumstance, likely enough to occur, had converted one of
the Princess de Saint-Dizier's falsehoods into a truth. To induce the
orphans to go to the hospital, she had told them Gabriel was there, which
at the time she was far from believing. On the contrary, she would have
wished to prevent a meeting, which, from the attachment of the missionary
to the girls, might interfere with her projects. A little while after
the terrible scene we have just related, Rose and Blanche, accompanied by
Sister Martha, entered a vast room, of a strange and fatal aspect,
containing a number of women who had suddenly been seized with cholera.
These immense apartments, generously supplied for the purpose of a
temporary hospital, had been furnished with excessive luxury. The room
now occupied by the sick women, of whom we speak, had been used for a
ball-room. The white panels glittered with sumptuous gilding, and
magnificent pier-glasses occupied the spaces between the windows, through
which could be seen the fresh verdure of a pleasant garden, smiling
beneath the influence of budding May. In the midst of all this gilded
luxury, on a rich, inlaid floor of costly woods, were seen arranged in
regular order four rows of beds, of every shape and kind, from the humble
truckle-bed to the handsome couch in carved mahogany.
This long room was divided into two compartments by a temporary
partition, four or five feet in height. They had thus been able to
manage the four rows of beds. This partition finished at some little
distance from either end of the room, so as to leave an open space
without beds, for the volunteer attendants, when the sick did not require
their aid. At one of these extremities of the room was a lofty and
magnificent marble chimney piece, ornamented with gilt bronze. On the
fire beneath, various drinks were brewing for the patients. To complete
the singular picture, women of every class took their turns in attending
upon the sick, to whose sighs and groans they always responded with
consoling words of hope and pity. Such was the place, strange and
mournful, that Rose and Blanche entered together, hand in hand, a short
time after Gabriel had displayed such heroic courage in the struggle
against Morok. Sister Martha accompanied Marshal Simon's daughters.
After speaking a few words to them in a whisper, she pointed out to them
the two divisions in which the beds were arranged, and herself went to
the other end of the room to give some orders.
The orphans, still under the impression of the terrible danger from which
Gabriel had rescued them without their knowing it, were both excessively
pale; yet their eyes were expressive of firm resolution. They had
determined not only to perform what they considered an imperative duty,
but to prove themselves worthy of their valiant father; they were acting
too for their mother's sake, since they had been told that, dying in
Siberia without receiving the sacrament, her eternal felicity might
depend on the proofs they gave of Christian devotion. Need we add that
the Princess de Saint-Dizier, following the advice of Rodin, had, in a
second interview, skillfully brought about without the knowledge of
Dagobert, taken advantage of the excitable qualities of these poor,
confiding, simple, and generous souls, by a fatal exaggeration of the
most noble and courageous sentiments. The orphans having asked Sister
Martha if Madame Augustine du Tremblay had been brought to this asylum
within the last three days, that person had answered, that she really did
not know, but, if they would go through the women's wards, it would be
easy for them to ascertain. For the abominable hypocrite, who, in
conjunction with Rodin, had sent these two children to encounter a mortal
peril, had told an impudent falsehood when she affirmed that their
governess had been removed to this hospital. During their exile, and
their toilsome journey with Dagobert, the sisters had been exposed to
many hard trials. But never had they witnessed so sad a spectacle as
that which now offered itself to their view.
The long row of beds, on which so many poor creatures writhed in agony,
some uttering deep groans, some only a dull rattle in the throat, some
raving in the delirium of fever, or calling on those from whom they were
about to part forever--these frightful sights and sounds, which are too
much even for brave men, would inevitably, (such was the execrable design
of Rodin and his accomplices) make a fatal impression on these young
girls, urged by the most generous motives to undertake this perilous
visit. And then--sad memory! which awoke, in all its deep and poignant
bitterness, by the side of the first beds they came to--it was of this
very malady, the Cholera, that their mother had died a painful death.
Fancy the twins entering this vast room, of so fearful an aspect, and,
already much shaken by the terror which Morok had inspired, pursuing
their search in the midst of these unfortunate creatures, whose dying
pangs reminded them every instant of the dying agony of their mother!
For a moment, at sight of the funeral hall, Rose and Blanche had felt
their resolution fail them. A black presentiment made them regret their
heroic imprudence; and, moreover, since several minutes they had begun to
feel an icy shudder, and painful shootings across the temples; but,
attributing these symptoms to the fright occasioned by Morok, their good
and valiant natures soon stifled all these fears. They exchanged glances
of affection, their courage revived, and both of them--Rose on one side
of the partition, and Blanche on the other--proceeded with their painful
task. Gabriel, carried to the doctors' private room, had soon recovered
his senses. Thanks to his courage and presence of mind, his wound,
cauterized in time, could have no dangerous consequences. As soon as it
was dressed he insisted on returning to the women's ward, where he had be
offering pious consolations to a dying person at the moment they had come
to inform him of the frightful danger caused by the escape of Morok.
A few minutes before the missionary entered the room, Rose and Blanche
arrived almost together at the term of their mournful search, one from
the left, the other from the right-hand row of beds, separated by the
partition which divided the hall into compartments. The sisters had not
yet seen each other. Their steps tottered as they advanced, and they
were forced, from time to time, to lean against the beds as they passed
along. Their strength was--rapidly failing them. Giddy with fear and
pain, they appeared to act almost mechanically. Alas! the orphans had
been seized almost at the same moment with the terrible symptoms of
cholera. In consequence of that species of physiological phenomenon, of
which we have already spoken--a phenomenon by no means rare in twins,
which had already been displayed on one or two occasions of their
sickness--their organizations seemed liable to the same sensations, the
same simultaneous accidents, like two flowers on one stem, which bloom
and fade together. The sight of so much suffering, and so many deaths,
had accelerated the development of this dreadful disease. Already, on
their agitated and altered countenances, they bore the mortal tokens of
the contagion, as they came forth, each on her own side, from the two
subdivisions of the room in which they had vainly sought their governess.
Until now separated by the partition, Rose and Blanche had not yet seen
each other; but, when at length their eyes met, there ensued a heart-
THE GUARDIAN ANGEL.
To the charming freshness of the sisters' faces had succeeded a livid
pallor. Their large blue eyes, now hollow and sunk in, appeared of
enormous dimensions. Their lips, once so rosy, were now suffused with a
violet hue, and a similar color was gradually displacing the transparent
carmine of their cheeks and fingers. It was as if all the roses in their
charming countenances were fading and turning blue before the icy blast
When the orphans met, tottering and hardly able to sustain themselves, a
cry of mutual horror burst from their lips. Each of them exclaimed, at
sight of the fearful change in her sister's features. "Are you also ill,
sister?" And then, bursting into tears, they threw themselves into each
other's arms, and looked anxiously at one another.
"Good heaven, Rose! how pale you are!"
"Like you, sister."
"And do you feel a cold shudder?"
"Yes, and my sight fails me."
"My bosom is all on fire."
"Sister, we are perhaps going to die."
"Let it only be together!"
"And our poor father?"
"Sister, our dream has come true!" cried Rose, almost deliriously, as she
threw her arms round Blanche's neck. "Look! look! the Angel Gabriel is
here to fetch us."
Indeed, at this moment, Gabriel entered the open space at the end of the
room. "Heaven! what do I see?" cried the young priest. "The daughters
of Marshal Simon!"
And, rushing forward, he received the sisters in his arms, for they were
no longer able to stand. Already their drooping heads, their half-closed
eyes, their painful and difficult breathing, announced the approach of
death. Sister Martha was close at hand. She hastened to respond to the
call of Gabriel. Aided by this pious woman, he was able to lift the
orphans upon a bed reserved for the doctor in attendance. For fear that
the sight of this mournful agony should make too deep an impression on
the other patients, Sister Martha drew a large curtain, and the sisters
were thus in some sort walled off from the rest of the room. Their hands
had been so tightly clasped together, during a nervous paroxysm, that it
was impossible to separate them. It was in this position that the first
remedies were applied--remedies incapable of conquering the violence of
the disease, but which at least mitigated for a few moments the excessive
pains they suffered, and restored some faint glimmer of perception to
their obscured and troubled senses. At this moment, Gabriel was leaning
over the bed with a look of inexpressible grief. With breaking heart,
and face bathed in tears, he thought of the strange destiny, which thus
made him a witness of the death of these girls, his relations, whom but a
few months before he had rescued from the horrors of the tempest. In
spite of his firmness of soul, the missionary could not help shuddering
as he reflected on the fate of the orphans, the death of Jacques
Rennepont, and the fearful devices by which M. Hardy, retired to the
cloistered solitude of St. Herein, had become a member of the Society of
Jesus almost in dying. The missionary said to himself, that already four
members of the Rennepont family--his family--had been successively struck
down by some dreadful fate; and he asked himself with alarm, how it was
that the detestable interests of the Society of Loyola should be served
by a providential fatality? The astonishment of the young missionary
would have given place to the deepest horror, could he have known the
part that Rodin and his accomplices had taken, both in the death of
Jacques Rennepont, by exciting, through Morok, the evil propensities of
the artisan, and in the approaching end of Rose and Blanche, by
converting, through the Princess de Saint-Dizier, the generous
inspirations of the orphans into suicidal heroism.
Roused for a moment from the painful stupor in which they had been
plunged, Rose and Blanche half-opened their large eyes, already dull and
faded. Then, more and more bewildered they both gazed fixedly at the
angelic countenance of Gabriel.
"Sister," said Rose, in a faint voice, "do you see the archangel--as in
our dreams, in Germany?"
"Yes--three days ago--he appeared to us."
"He is come to fetch us."
"Alas! will our death save our poor mother from purgatory?"
"Angel! blessed angel! pray God for our mother--and for us!" Until now,
stupefied with amazement and sorrow, almost suffocated with sobs, Gabriel
had not been able to utter a word. But at these words of the orphans, he
exclaimed: "Dear children, why doubt of your mother's salvation? Oh!
never did a purer soul ascend to its Creator. Your mother? I know from
my adopted father, that her virtues and courage were the admiration of
all who knew her. Oh! believe me; God has blessed her."
"Do you hear, sister?" cried Rose, as a ray of celestial joy illumined
for an instant the livid faces of the orphans. "God has blessed our
"Yes, yes," resumed Gabriel; "banish these gloomy ideas. Take courage,
poor children! You must not die. Think of your father."
"Our father?" said Blanche, shuddering; and she continued, with a mixture
of reason and wild excitement, which would have touched the soul of the
most indifferent: "Alas! he will not find us on his return. Forgive us,
father! we did not think to do any harm. We wished, like you, to do
something generous--to help our governess."
"And we did not think to die so quickly, and so soon. Yesterday, we were
gay and happy."
"Oh, good angel! you will appear to our father, even as you have appeared
to us. You will tell him that, in dying--the last thought of his
children--was of him."
"We came here without Dagobert's knowing it--do not let our father scold
"Blessed angel!" resumed the other sister in a still more feeble voice;
"appear to Dagobert, also. Tell him, that we ask his forgiveness, for
the grief our death will occasion him."
"And let our old friend caress our poor Spoil-sport for us--our faithful
guardian," added Blanche, trying to smile.
"And then," resumed Rose, in a voice that was growing still fainter,
"promise to appear to two other persons, that have been so kind to us--
good Mother Bunch--and the beautiful Lady Adrienne."
"We forget none whom we have loved," said Blanche, with a last effort.
"Now, God grant we may go to our mother, never to leave her more!"
"You promised it good angel--you know you did--in the dream. You said to
us: 'Poor children--come from so far--you will have traversed the earth--
to rest on the maternal bosom!'"
"Oh! it is dreadful--dreadful! So young--and no hope!" murmured Gabriel,
as he buried his face in his hands. "Almighty Father! Thy views are
impenetrable. Alas! yet why should these children die this cruel death?"
Rose heaved a deep sigh and said in an expiring tone: "Let us be buried
together!--united in life, in death not divided--"
And the two turned their dying looks upon Gabriel, and stretched out
towards him their supplicating hands.
"Oh, blessed martyrs to a generous devotion!" cried the missionary,
raising to heaven his eyes streaming with tears. "Angelic souls!
treasures of innocence and truth! ascend, ascend to heaven--since God
calls you to him, and the earth is not worthy to possess you!"
"Sister! father!" were the last words that the orphans pronounced with
their dying voices.
And then the twins, by a last instinctive impulse, endeavored to clasp
each other, and their eyes half-opened to exchange yet another glance.
They shuddered twice or thrice, their limbs stiffened, a deep sigh
struggled from their violet-colored lips. Rose and Blanche were both
dead! Gabriel and Sister Martha, after closing the eyes of the orphans,
knelt down to pray by the side of that funeral couch. Suddenly a great
tumult was heard in the room. Rapid footsteps, mingled with
imprecations, sounded close at hand, the curtain was drawn aside from
this mournful scene, and Dagobert entered precipitately, pale, haggard,
his dress in disorder. At sight of Gabriel and the Sister of Charity
kneeling beside the corpses of his children, the soldier uttered a
terrible roar, and tried to advance--but in vain--for, before Gabriel
could reach him, Dagobert fell flat on the ground, and his gray head
struck violently on the floor.
It is night--a dark and stormy night. One o'clock in the morning has
just sounded from the church of Montmartre. It is to the cemetery of
Montmartre that is carried the coffin which, according to the last wishes
of Rose and Blanche contains them both. Through the thick shadow, which
rests upon that field of death, may be seen moving a pale light. It is
the gravedigger. He advances with caution; a dark lantern is in his
hand. A man wrapped in a cloak accompanies him. He holds down his head
and weeps. It is Samuel. The old Jew--the keeper of the house in the
Rue Saint-Francois. On the night of the funeral of Jacques Rennepont,
the first who died of the seven heirs, and who was buried in another
cemetery, Samuel had a similar mysterious interview with the gravedigger,
to obtain a favor at the price of gold. A strange and awful favor!
After passing down several paths, bordered with cypress trees, by the
side of many tombs, the Jew and the gravedigger arrived, at a little
glade, situated near the western wall of the cemetery. The night was so
dark, that scarcely anything could be seen. After moving his lantern up
and down, and all about, the gravedigger showed Samuel, at the foot of a
tall yew-tree, with long black branches, a little mound of newly-raised
earth, and said: "It is here."
"You are sure of it?"
"Yes, yes--two bodies in one coffin! it is not such a common thing."
"Alas! two in the same coffin!" said the Jew, with a deep sigh.
"Now that you know the place, what do you want more?" asked the
Samuel did not answer. He fell on his knees, and piously kissed the
little mound. Then rising, with his cheeks bathed in tears, he
approached the gravedigger, and spoke to him for some moments in a
whisper--though they were alone, and in the centre of that deserted
place. Then began between those two men a mysterious dialogue, which the
night enveloped in shade and silence. The gravedigger, alarmed at what
Samuel asked him, at first refused his request.
But the Jew, employing persuasions, entreaties, tears, and at last the
seduction of the jingling gold, succeeded in conquering the scruples of
the gravedigger. Though the latter trembled at the thought of what he
promised, he said to Samuel in an agitated tone: "To-morrow night, then,
at two o'clock."
"I shall be behind the wall," answered Samuel, pointing out the place
with the aid of a lantern. "I will throw three stones into the cemetery,
for a signal."
"Yes, three stones--as a signal," replied the gravedigger shuddering, and
wiping the cold sweat from his forehead.
With considerable remains of vigor, notwithstanding his great age, Samuel
availed himself of the broken surface of the low wall, and climbing over
it, soon disappeared. The gravedigger returned home with hasty strides.
From time to time, he looked fearfully behind him, as though he had been
pursued by some fatal vision.
On the evening after the funeral of Rose and Blanche, Rodin wrote two
letters. The first, addressed to his mysterious correspondent at Rome,
alluded to the deaths of Jacques Rennepont, and Rose and Blanche Simon,
as well as to the cession of M. Hardy's property, and the donation
of Gabriel--events which reduced the claimants of the inheritance to two-
-Mdlle. de Cardoville and Djalma. This first note written by Rodin for
Rome, contained only the following words: "Five from seven leaves two.
Announce this result to the Cardinal-Prince. Let him go on. I advance-
advance-advance!" The second note, in a feigned hand, was addressed to
Marshal Simon, to be delivered by a sure messenger, contained these few
lines: "If there is yet time, make haste to return. Your daughters are
both dead. You shall learn who killed them."
It is the day after the death of Marshal Simon's daughters. Mdlle. de
Cardoville is yet ignorant of the sad end of her young relatives. Her
countenance is radiant with happiness, and never has she looked more
beautiful; her eye has never been more brilliant, her complexion more
dazzling white, her lip of a richer coral. According to her somewhat
eccentric custom of dressing herself in her own house in a picturesque
style, Adrienne wears to-day, though it is about three o'clock in the
afternoon, a pale green watered-silk dress, with a very full skirt, the
sleeves and bodice slashed with rose-colored ribbon, and adorned with
white bugle-beads, of exquisite workmanship; while a slender network,
also of white bugle-beads, concealing the thick plait of Adrienne's back-
hair, forms an oriental head-dress of charming originality, and contrasts
agreeably with the long curls which fall in front almost to the swell of
the bosom. To the expression of indescribable happiness which marks the
features of Mdlle. de Cardoville, is added a certain resolute, cutting,
satirical air, which is not habitual to her. Her charming head, and
graceful, swan-like neck, are raised in an attitude of defiance; her
small, rose-colored nostrils seem to dilate with ill-repressed ardor, and
she waits with haughty impatience for the moment of an aggressive and
ironical interview. Not far from Adrienne is Mother Bunch. She has
resumed in the house the place which she at first occupied. The young
sempstress is in mourning for her sister, but her countenance is
expressive of a mild, calm sorrow. She looks at Mdlle. de Cardoville
with surprise; for never, till now, has she seen the features of the fair
patrician impressed with such a character of ironical audacity. Mdlle.
de Cardoville was exempt from the slightest coquetry, in the narrow and
ordinary sense of the word. Yet she now cast an inquiring look at the
glass before which she was standing, and, having restored the elastic
smoothness to one of her long, golden curls, by rolling it for a moment
round her ivory finger, she carefully effaced with her hands some almost
imperceptible folds, which had formed themselves in the thick material of
her elegant corsage. This movement, and that of turning her back to the
glass, to see if her dress sat perfectly on all points, revealed, in
serpentine undulations, all the charms and graces of her light and
elegant figure; for, in spite of the rich fulness of her shoulders, white
and firm as sculptured alabaster, Adrienne belonged to that class of
privileged persons, who are able at need to make a girdle out of a
Having performed, with indescribable grace, these charming evolutions of
feminine coquetry, Adrienne turned towards Mother Bunch, whose surprise
was still on the increase, and said to her, smiling: "My dear Magdalen,
do not laugh at my question--but what would you say to a picture, that
should represent me as I am now?"
"There you are again, with your lady-ing," said Adrienne, in a tone of
"Well, then, Adrienne," resumed Mother Bunch, "I think it would be a
charming picture, for you are dressed, as usual with perfect taste."
"But am I not better dressed than on other days, my dear poetess? I
began by telling you that I do not ask the question for my own sake,"
said Adrienne, gayly.
"Well, I suppose so," replied Mother Bunch, with a faint smile. "It is
certainly impossible to imagine anything that would suit you better. The
light green and the pale rose-color, with the soft lustre of the white
ornaments, harmonize so well with your golden hair, that I cannot
conceive, I tell you, a more graceful picture."
The speaker felt what she said, and she was happy to be able to express
it, for we know the intense admiration of that poetic soul for all that
"Well!" went on Adrienne, gayly, "I am glad, my dear, that you find me
better dressed than usual."
"Only," said the hunchback, hesitating.
"Only?" repeated Adrienne, looking at her with an air of interrogation.
"Why, only," continued the other, "if I have never seen you look more
pretty, I have also never observed in your features the resolute and
ironical expression which they had just now. It was like an air of
"And so it was, my dear little Magdalen," said Adrienne, throwing her
arms round the girl's neck with joyous tenderness. "I must kiss you, for
having guessed it. You see, I expect a visit from my dear aunt."
"The Princess de Saint-Dizier?" cried Mother Bunch, in alarm. "That
wicked lady, who did you so much evil?"
"The very same. She has asked for an interview, and I shall be delighted
to receive her."
"Yes--a somewhat ironical and malicious delight, it is true," answered
Adrienne, still more gayly. "You shall judge for yourself. She regrets
her gallantries, her beauty, her youth--even her size afflicts the holy
woman!--and she will see me young, fair, beloved--and above all thin--
yes, thin," added Mdlle. de Cardoville, laughing merrily. "And you may
imagine, my dear, how much envy and despair, the sight of a young, thin
woman excites in a stout one of a certain age!"
"My friend," said Mother Bunch, gravely, "you speak in jest. And yet, I
know not why, the coming of this princess alarms me."
"Dear, gentle soul, be satisfied!" answered Adrienne, affectionately. "I
do not fear this woman--I no longer have any fear of her--and to prove it
to her confusion, I will treat her--a monster of hypocrisy and
wickedness, who comes here, no doubt, on some abominable design--I will
treat her as an inoffensive, ridiculous fat woman!" And Adrienne again
A servant here entered the room, and interrupted the mirth of Adrienne,
by saying: "The Princess de Saint-Dizier wishes to know if you can
"Certainly," said Mdlle. de Cardoville; and the servant retired. Mother
Bunch was about to rise and quit the room; but Adrienne held her back,
and said to her, taking her hand with an air of serious tenderness:
"Stay, my dear friend, I entreat you."
"Do you wish it?"
"Yes; I wish--still in revenge, you know," said Adrienne, with a smile,
"to prove to her highness of Saint-Dizier, that I have an affectionate
friend--that I have, in fact, every happiness."
"But, Adrienne," replied the other, timidly, "consider--"
"Silence! here is the princess. Remain! I ask it as a favor. The
instinct of your heart will discover any snare she may have laid. Did
not your affection warn me of the plots of Rodin?"
Mother Bunch could not refuse such a request. She remained, but was
about to draw back from the fireplace. Adrienne, however, took her by
the hand, and made her resume her seat in the arm-chair, saying: "My dear
Magdalen, keep your place. You owe nothing to the lady. With me it is
different; she comes to my house."
Hardly had Adrienne uttered these words, than the princess entered with
head erect, and haughty air (we have said, she could carry herself most
loftily), and advanced with a firm step. The strongest minds have their
side of puerile weakness; a savage envy, excited by the elegance, wit,
and beauty of Adrienne, bore a large part in the hatred of the princess
for her niece; and though it was idle to think of eclipsing Adrienne, and
the Princess de Saint-Dizier did not seriously mean to attempt it, she
could not forbear, in preparing for the interview she had demanded,
taking more pains even than usual in the arrangement of her dress.
Beneath her robe of shot silk, she was laced in and tightened to excess--
a pressure which considerably increased the color in her cheeks. The
throng of jealous and hateful sentiments, which inspired her with regard
to Adrienne, had so troubled the clearness of her ordinarily calm
judgment, that, instead of the plain and quiet style, in which, as a
woman of tact and taste, she was generally attired, she now committed the
folly of wearing a dress of changing hues, and a crimson hat, adorned
with a magnificent bird of paradise. Hate, envy, the pride of triumph--
for she thought of the skillful perfidy with which she had sent to almost
certain death the daughters of Marshal Simon--and the execrable hope of
succeeding in new plots, were all expressed in the countenance of the
Princess de Saint-Dizier, as she entered her niece's apartment.
Without advancing to meet her aunt, Adrienne rose politely from the sofa
on which she was seated, made a half-curtsey, full of grace and dignity,
and immediately resumed her former posture. Then, pointing to an arm-
chair near the fireplace, at one corner of which sat Mother Bunch, and
she herself at the other, she said: "Pray sit down, your highness." The
princess turned very red, remained standing, and cast a disdainful glance
of insolent surprise at the sempstress, who, in compliance with
Adrienne's wish, only bowed slightly at the entrance of the Princess de
Saint-Dizier, wihout offering to give up her place. In acting thus, the
young sempstress followed the dictates of her conscience, which told her
that the real superiority did not belong to this base, hypocritical, and
wicked princess, but rather to such a person as herself, the admirable
and devoted friend.
"Let me beg your highness to sit down," resumed Adrienne, in a mild tone,
as she pointed to the vacant chair.
"The interview I have demanded, niece," said the princess "must be a
"I have no secrets, madame, from my best friend; you may speak in the
presence of this young lady."
"I have long known," replied Madame de Saint-Dizier, with bitter irony,
"that in all things you care little for secrecy, and that you are easy in
the choice of what you call your friends. But you will permit me to act
differently from you. If you have no secrets, madame, I have--and I do
not choose to confide them to the first comer."
So saying, the pious lady glanced contemptuously at the sempstress. The
latter, hurt at the insolent tone of the princess, answered mildly and
"I do not see what can be the great difference between the first and the
last comer to Mdlle. de Cardoville's."
"What! can it speak!" cried the princess, insolently.
"It can at least answer, madame," replied Mother Bunch, in her calm
"I wish to see you alone, niece--is that clear?" said the princess,
impatiently, to her niece.
"I beg your pardon, but I do not quite understand your highness," said
Adrienne, with an air of surprise. "This young lady, who honors me with
her friendship, is willing to be present at this interview, which you
have asked for--I say she has consented to be present, for it needs, I
confess, the kindest condescension in her to resign herself, from
affection for me, to hear all the graceful, obliging, and charming things
which you have no doubt come hither to communicate."
"Madame--" began the princess, angrily.
"Permit me to interrupt your highness," returned Adrienne, in a tone of
perfect amenity, as if she were addressing the most flattering
compliments to her visitor. "To put you quite at your ease with the lady
here, I will begin by informing you that she is quite aware of all the
holy perfidies, pious wrongs, and devout infamies, of which you nearly
made me the victim. She knows that you are a mother of the Church, such
as one sees but few of in these days. May I hope, therefore, that your
highness will dispense with this delicate and interesting reserve?"
"Really," said the princess, with a sort of incensed amazement, "I
scarcely know if I wake or sleep."
"Dear me!" said Adrienne, in apparent alarm; "this doubt as to the state
of your faculties is very shocking, madame. I see that the blood flies
to your head, for your face sufficiently shows it; you seem oppressed,
confined, uncomfortable--perhaps (we women may say so between ourselves),
perhaps you are laced a little too tightly, madame?"
These words, pronounced by Adrienne with an air of warm interest and
perfect simplicity, almost choked the princess with rage. She became
crimson, seated herself abruptly, and exclaimed: "Be it so, madame! I
prefer this reception to any other. It puts me at my ease, as you say."
"Does it indeed, madame?" said Adrienne, with a smile. "You may now at
least speak frankly all that you feel, which must for you have the charm
of novelty! Confess that you are obliged to me for enabling you, even
for a moment, to lay aside that mask of piety, amiability, and goodness,
which must be so troublesome to you."
As she listened to the sarcasms of Adrienne (an innocent and excusable
revenge, if we consider all the wrongs she had suffered), Mother Bunch
felt her heart sink within her; for she dreaded the malignity of the
princess, who replied, with the utmost calmness: "A thousand thanks,
madame, for your excellent intentions and sentiments. I appreciate them
as I ought, and I hope in a short time to prove it to you."
"Well, madame," said Adrienne, playfully, "let us have it all at once. I
am full of impatient curiosity."
"And yet," said the princess, feigning in her turn a bitter and ironical
delight, "you are far from having the least notion of what I am about to
announce to you."
"Indeed! I fear that your highness's candor and modesty deceive you,"
replied Adrienne, with the same mocking affability; "for there are very
few things on your part that can surprise me, madame. You must be aware
that from your highness, I am prepared for anything."
"Perhaps, madame," said the princess, laying great stress on her words,
"if, for instance, I were to tell you that within twenty-four hours--
suppose between this and to-morrow-thou will be reduced to poverty--"
This was so unexpected, that Mdlle. de Cardoville started in spite of
herself, and Mother Bunch shuddered.
"Ah, madame!" said the princess, with triumphant joy and cruel mildness,
as she watched the growing surprise of her niece, "confess that I have
astonished you a little. You were right in giving to our interview the
turn it has taken. I should have needed all sorts of circumlocution to
say to you, 'Niece, to-morrow you will be as poor as you are rich to-
day.' But now I can tell you the fact quite plainly and simply."
Recovering from her first amazement, Adrienne replied, with a calm smile,
which checked the joy of the princess: "Well, I confess frankly, madame,
that you have surprised me; I expected from you one of those black pieces
of malignity, one of those well-laid plots, in which you are known to
excel, and I did not think you would make all this fuss about such a
"To be ruined--completely ruined," cried the princess. "and that by to-
morrow--you that have been so prodigal, will see your house, furniture,
horses, jewels, even the ridiculous dresses of which you are so vain, all
taken from you--do you call that a trifle? You, that spend with
indifference thousands of louis, will be reduced to a pension inferior to
the wages you gave your foot-boy--do you call that a trifle?"
To her aunt's cruel disappointment, Adrienne, who appeared quite to have
recovered her serenity was about to answer accordingly, when the door
suddenly opened, and, without being announced, Prince Djalma entered the
room. A proud and tender expression of delight beamed from the radiant
brow of Adrienne at sight of the prince, and it is impossible to describe
the look of triumphant happiness and high disdain that she cast upon the
Princess de Saint-Dizier. Djalma himself had never looked more handsome,
and never had more intense happiness been impressed on a human
countenance. The Hindoo wore a long robe of white Cashmere, adorned with
innumerable stripes of gold and purple; his turban was of the same color
and material; a magnificent figured shawl was twisted about his waist.
On seeing the Indian, whom she had not hoped to meet at Mdlle. de
Cardoville's, the Princess de Saint-Dizier could not at first conceal her
extreme surprise. It was between these four, then, that the following
scene took place.
Djalma, having never before met the Princess de Saint-Dizier at
Adrienne's, at first appeared rather astonished at her presence. The
princess, keeping silence for a moment, contemplated with implacable