Part 2 out of 3
adopted brother's letter appeared to me so pressing, and to involve
something of such consequence to Mdlle. de Cardoville, who had shown
herself so generous towards him, that I came here immediately."
"Unfortunately, as you already know, my mistress is no longer here."
"But is there no member of her family to whom, if I could not speak
myself, I might at least send word by you, that Agricola has something to
communicate of importance to this young lady?"
"It is strange!" said Florine, reflecting, and without replying. Then,
turning towards the sempstress, she added: "You are quite ignorant of
the nature of these revelations?"
"Completely so, mademoiselle; but I know Agricola. He is all honor and
truth, and you may believe whatever he affirms. Besides, he would have
"Good gracious!" interrupted Florine, suddenly, as if struck with a
sadden light; "I have just remembered something. When he was arrested in
a hiding-place where my mistress had concealed him, I happened to be
close at hand, and M. Agricola said to me, in a quick whisper: 'Tell your
generous mistress that her goodness to me will not go unrewarded, and
that my stay in that hiding-place may not be useless to her.' That was
all he could say to me, for they hurried him off instantly. I confess
that I saw in those words only the expression of his gratitude, and his
hope of proving it one day to my mistress; but now that I connect them
with the letter he has written you--" said Florine, reflecting.
"Indeed!" remarked Mother Bunch, "there is certainly some connection
between his hiding-place here and the important secrets which he wishes
to communicate to your mistress, or one of her family."
"The hiding-place had neither been inhabited nor visited for some time,"
said Florine, with a thoughtful air; "M. Agricola may have found therein
something of interest to my mistress."
"If his letter had not appeared to me so pressing," resumed the other, "I
should not have come hither; but have left him to do so himself, on his
release from prison, which now, thanks to the generosity of one of his
old fellow-workmen, cannot be very distant. But, not knowing if bail
would be accepted to-day, I have wished faithfully to perform his
instructions. The generous kindness of your mistress made it my first
Like all persons whose better instincts are still roused from time to
time, Florine felt a sort of consolation in doing good whenever she could
with impunity--that is to say, without exposing herself to the inexorable
resentments of those on whom she depended. Thanks to Mother Bunch, she
might now have an opportunity of rendering a great service to her
mistress. She knew enough of the Princess de Saint-Dizier's hatred of
her niece, to feel certain that Agricola's communication could not, from
its very importance, be made with safety to any but Mdlle. de Cardoville
herself. She therefore said very gravely: "Listen to me, mademoiselle!
I will give you a piece of advice which will, I think, be useful to my
poor mistress--but which would be very fatal to me if you did not attend
to my recommendations."
"How so, mademoiselle?" said the hunchback, looking at Florine with
"For the sake of my mistress, M. Agricola must confide to no one, except
herself, the important things he has to communicate."
"But, if he cannot see Mdlle. Adrienne, may he not address himself to
some of her family?"
"It is from her family, above all, that he must conceal whatever he
knows. Mdlle. Adrienne may recover, and then M. Agricola can speak to
her. But should she never get well again, tell your adopted brother that
it is better for him to keep his secret than to place it (which would
infallibly happen) at the disposal of the enemies of my mistress."
"I understand you, mademoiselle," said Mother Bunch, sadly. "The family
of your generous mistress do not love her, and perhaps persecute her?"
"I cannot tell you more on this subject now; and, as regards myself, let
me conjure you to obtain M. Agricola's promise that he will not mention
to any one in the world the step you have taken, or the advice I have
given you. The happiness--no, not the happiness," resumed Florine
bitterly, as if that were a lost hope, "not the happiness--but the peace
of my life depends upon your discretion."
"Oh! be satisfied!" said the sewing-girl, both affected and amazed by the
sorrowful expression of Florine's countenance; "I will not be ungrateful.
No one in the world but Agricola shall know that I have seen you."
"Thank you--thank you, mademoiselle," cried Florine, with emotion.
"Do you thank me?" said the other, astonished to see the large tears roll
down her cheeks.
"Yes! I am indebted to you for a moment of pure, unmixed happiness; for I
have perhaps rendered a service to my dear mistress, without risking the
increase of the troubles that already overwhelm me."
"You are not happy, then?"
"That astonishes you; but, believe me, whatever may be, your fate, I
would gladly change with you."
"Alas, mademoiselle!" said the sempstress: "you appear to have too good a
heart, for me to let you entertain such a wish--particularly now."
"What do you mean?"
"I hope sincerely, mademoiselle," proceeded Mother Bunch, with deep
sadness, "that you may never know what it is to want work, when labor is
your only resource."
"Are you reduced to that extremity?" cried Florine, looking anxiously at
the young sempstress, who hung her head, and made no answer. She
reproached herself, in her excessive delicacy, with having made a
communication which resembled a complaint, though it had only been wrung
from her by the thought of her dreadful situation.
"If it is so," went on Florine, "I pity you with all my heart; and yet I
know not, if my misfortunes are not still greater than yours."
Then, after a moment's reflection, Florine exclaimed, suddenly: "But let
me see! If you are really in that position, I think I can procure you
"Is it possible, mademoiselle?" cried Mother Bunch. "I should never have
dared to ask you such a service; but your generous offer commands my
confidence, and may save me from destruction. I will confess to you,
that, only this morning, I was thrown out of an employment which enabled
me to earn four francs a week."
"Four francs a week!" exclaimed Florine, hardly able to believe what she
"It was little, doubtless," replied the other; "but enough for me.
Unfortunately, the person who employed me, has found out where it can be
done still cheaper."
"Four francs a week!" repeated Florine, deeply touched by so much misery
and resignation. "Well! I think I can introduce you to persons, who will
secure you wages of at least two francs a day."
"I could earn two francs a day? Is it possible?"
"Yes, there is no doubt of it; only, you will have to go out by the day,
unless you chose to take a pace as servant."
"In my position," said Mother Bunch, with a mixture of timidity and
pride, "one has no right, I know, to be overnice; yet I should prefer to
go out by the day, and still more to remain at home, if possible, even
though I were to gain less."
"To go out is unfortunately an indispensable condition," said Florine.
"Then I must renounce this hope," answered Mother Bunch, timidly; "not
that I refuse to go out to work--but those who do so, are expected to be
decently clad--and I confess without shame, because there is no disgrace
in honest poverty, that I have no better clothes than these."
"If that be all," said Florine, hastily, "they will find you the means of
dressing yourself properly."
Mother Bunch looked at Florine with increasing surprise. These offers
were so much above what she could have hoped, and what indeed was
generally earned by needlewomen, that she could hardly credit them.
"But," resumed she, with hesitation, "why should any one be so generous
to me, mademoiselle? How should I deserve such high wages?"
Florine started. A natural impulse of the heart, a desire to be useful
to the sempstress, whose mildness and resignation greatly interested her,
had led her to make a hasty proposition; she knew at what price would
have to be purchased the advantages she proposed, and she now asked
herself, if the hunchback would ever accept them on such terms. But
Florine had gone too far to recede, and she durst not tell all. She
resolved, therefore, to leave the future to chance and as those, who have
themselves fallen, are little disposed to believe in the infallibility of
others, Florine said to herself, that perhaps in the desperate position
in which she was, Mother Bunch would not be so scrupulous after all.
Therefore she said: "I see, mademoiselle, that you are astonished at
offers so much above what you usually gain; but I must tell you, that I
am now speaking of a pious institution, founded to procure work for
deserving young women. This establishment, which is called St. Mary's
Society, undertakes to place them out as servants, or by the day as
needlewomen. Now this institution is managed by such charitable persons,
that they themselves undertake to supply an outfit, when the young women,
received under their protection are not sufficiently well clothed to
accept the places destined for them."
This plausible explanation of Florine's magnificent offers appeared to
satisfy the hearer. "I can now understand the high wages of which you
speak, mademoiselle," resumed she; "only I have no claim to be patronized
by the charitable persons who direct this establishment."
"You suffer--you are laborious and honest--those are sufficient claims;
only, I must tell you, they will ask if you perform regularly your
"No one loves and blesses God more fervently than I do, mademoiselle,"
said the hunchback, with mild firmness; "but certain duties are an affair
of conscience, and I would rather renounce this patronage, than be
"Not the least in the world. Only, as I told you, there are very pious
persons at the head of this institution, and you must not be astonished
at their questions on such a subject. Make the trial, at all events;
what do you risk? If the propositions are suitable--accept them; if, on
the contrary, they should appear to touch your liberty of conscience,
you can always refuse--your position will not be the worse for it."
Mother Bunch had nothing to object to this reasoning which left her at
perfect freedom, and disarmed her of all suspicion. "On these terms,
mademoiselle," said she, "I accept your offer, and thank you with all my
heart. But who will introduce me?"
"I will--to-morrow, if you please."
"But they will perhaps desire to make some inquiries about me."
"The venerable Mother Sainte-Perpetue, Superior of St, Mary's Convent,
where the institution is established, will, I am sure, appreciate your
good qualities without inquiry; but if otherwise, she will tell you, and
you can easily satisfy her. It is then agreed--to-morrow."
"Shall I call upon you here, mademoiselle?"
"No; as I told you before, they must not know that you came here on the
part of M. Agricola, and a second visit might be discovered, and excite
suspicion. I will come and fetch you in a coach; where do you live?"
"At No. 3, Rue Brise-Miche; as you are pleased to give yourself so much
trouble, mademoiselle, you have only to ask the dyer, who acts as porter,
to call down Mother Bunch."
"Mother Bunch?" said Florine, with surprise.
"Yes, mademoiselle," answered the sempstress, with a sad smile; "it is
the name every one gives me. And you see," added the hunchback, unable
to restrain a tear, "it is because of my ridiculous infirmity, to which
this name alludes, that I dread going out to work among strangers,
because there are so many people who laugh at one, without knowing the
pain they occasion. But," continued she, drying her eyes, "I have no
choice, and must make up my mind to it."
Florine, deeply affected, took the speaker's hand, and said to her: "Do
not fear. Misfortunes like yours must inspire compassion, not ridicule.
May I not inquire for you by your real name?"
"It is Magdalen Soliveau; but I repeat, mademoiselle, that you had better
ask for Mother Bunch, as I am hardly known by any other name."
"I will, then, be in the Rue Brise-Miche to-morrow, at twelve o'clock."
"Oh, mademoiselle! How can I ever requite your goodness?"
"Don't speak of it: I only hope my interference may be of use to you.
But of this you must judge for yourself. As for M. Agricola, do not
answer his letter; wait till he is out of prison, and then tell him to
keep his secret till he can see my poor mistress."
"And where is the dear young lady now?"
"I cannot tell you. I do not know where they took her, when she was
attacked with this frenzy. You will expect me to-morrow?"
"Yes--to-morrow," said Mother Bunch.
The convent whither Florine was to conduct the hunchback contained the
daughters of Marshal Simon, and was next door to the lunatic asylum of
Dr. Baleinier, in which Adrienne de Cardoville was confined.
St. Mary's Convent, whither the daughters of Marshal Simon had been
conveyed, was a large old building, the vast garden of which was on the
Boulevard de l'Hopital, one of the most retired places in Paris,
particularly at this period. The following scenes took place on the 12th
February, the eve of the fatal day, on which the members of the family of
Rennepont, the last descendants of the sister of the Wandering Jew, were
to meet together in the Rue St. Francois. St. Mary's Convent was a model
of perfect regularity. A superior council, composed of influential
ecclesiastics, with Father d'Aigrigny for president, and of women of
great reputed piety, at the head of whom was the Princess de Saint-
Dizier, frequently assembled in deliberation, to consult on the means of
extending and strengthening the secret and powerful influence of this
establishment, which had already made remarkable progress.
Skillful combinations and deep foresight had presided at the foundation
of St. Mary's Convent, which, in consequence of numerous donations,
possessed already real estate to a great extent, and was daily augmenting
its acquisitions. The religious community was only a pretext; but,
thanks to an extensive connection, kept up by means of the most decided
members of the ultramontane (i. e. high-church) party, a great number of
rich orphans were placed in the convent, there to receive a solid,
austere, religious education, very preferable, it was said, to the
frivolous instruction which might be had in the fashionable boarding-
schools, infected by the corruption of the age. To widows also, and lone
women who happened moreover to be rich, the convent offered a sure asylum
from the dangers and temptations of the world; in this peaceful retreat,
they enjoyed a delightful calm, and secured their salvation, whilst
surrounded by the most tender and affectionate attentions. Nor was this
all. Mother Sainte-Perpetue, the superior of the convent, undertook in
the name of the institution to procure for the faithful, who wished to
preserve the interior of their houses from the depravity of the age,
companions for aged ladies, domestic servants, or needlewomen working by
the day, all selected persons whose morality could be warranted. Nothing
would seem more worthy of sympathy and encouragement than such an
institution; but we shall presently unveil the vast and dangerous network
of intrigue concealed under these charitable and holy appearances. The
lady Superior, Mother Sainte-Perpetue, was a tall woman of about forty
years of age, clad in a stuff dress of the Carmelite tan color, and
wearing a long rosary at her waist; a white cap tied under the chin, and
a long black veil, closely encircled her thin, sallow face. A number of
deep wrinkles had impressed their transverse furrows in her forehead of
yellow ivory; her marked and prominent nose was bent like the beak of a
bird of prey; her black eye was knowing and piercing; the expression of
her countenance was at once intelligent, cold and firm.
In the general management of the pecuniary affairs of the community,
Mother Sainte-Perpetue would have been a match for the most cunning
attorney. When women are possessed of what is called a talent for
business, and apply to it their keen penetration, their indefatigable
perseverance, their prudent dissimulation, and, above all, that quick and
exact insight, which is natural to them, the results are often
prodigious. To Mother Sainte-Perpetue, a woman of the coolest and
strongest intellect, the management of the vast transactions of the
community was mere child's play. No one knew better how to purchase a
depreciated property, to restore it to its former value, and then sell it
with advantage; the price of stock, the rate of exchange, the current
value of the shares in the different companies, were all familiar to her;
she had yet never been known to make bad speculation, when the question
was to invest any of the funds which were given by pious souls for the
purposes of the convent. She had established in the house the utmost
order and discipline, and, above all, an extreme economy. The constant
aim of all her efforts was to enrich, not herself, but the community she
directed; for the spirit of association, when become a collective
egotism, gives to corporations the faults and vices of an individual.
Thus a congregation may dote upon power and money, just as a miser loves
them for their own sake. But it is chiefly with regard to estates that
congregations act like a single man. They dream of landed property; it
is their fixed idea, their fruitful monomania. They pursue it with their
most sincere, and warm, and tender wishes.
The first estate is to a rising little community what the wedding-
trousseau is to a young bride, his first horse to a youth, his first
success to a poet, to a gay girl her first fifty-guinea shawl; because,
after all, in this material age, an estate gives a certain rank to a
society on the Religious Exchange, and has so much the more effect upon
the simple-minded, that all these partnerships in the work of salvation,
which end by becoming immensely rich, begin with modest poverty as social
stock-in-trade, and charity towards their neighbors as security reserve
fund. We may therefore imagine what bitter and ardent rivalry must exist
between the different congregations with regard to the various estates
that each can lay claim to; with what ineffable satisfaction the richer
society crushes the poorer beneath its inventory of houses, and farms and
paper securities! Envy and hateful jealousy, rendered still more
irritable by the leisure of a cloistered life, are the necessary
consequences of such a comparison; and yet nothing is less Christian--in
the adorable acceptation of that divine word--nothing has less in common
with the true, essential, and religiously social spirit of the gospel,
than this insatiable ardor to acquire wealth by every possible means--
this dangerous avidity, which is far from being atoned for, in the eyes
of public opinion, by a few paltry alms, bestowed in the narrow spirit of
exclusion and intolerance.
Mother Sainte-Perpetue was seated before a large cylindrical-fronted desk
in the centre of an apartment simply but comfortably furnished. An
excellent fire burned within the marble chimney, and a soft carpet
covered the floor. The superior, to whom all letters addressed to the
sisters or the boarders were every day delivered, had just been opening
she first, according to her acknowledged right, and carefully unsealing
the second, without their knowing it, according to a right that she
ascribed to herself, of course, with a view to the salvation of those
dear creatures; and partly, perhaps, a little to make herself acquainted
with their correspondence, for she also had imposed on herself the duty
of reading all letters that were sent from the convent, before they were
put into the post. The traces of this pious and innocent inquisition
were easily effaced, for the good mother possessed a whole arsenal of
steel tools, some very sharp, to cut the pager imperceptibly round the
seal--others, pretty little rods, to be slightly heated and rolled round
the edge of the seal, when the letter had been read and replaced in its
envelope, so that the wax, spreading as it melted, might cover the first
incision. Moreover, from a praiseworthy feeling of justice and equality,
there was in the arsenal of the good mother a little fumigator of the
most ingenious construction, the damp and dissolving vapor of which was
reserved for the letters humbly and modestly secured with wafers, thus
softened, they yielded to the least efforts, without any tearing of the
paper. According to the importance of the revelations, which she thus
gleaned from the writers of the letters, the superior took notes more or
less extensive. She was interrupted in this investigation by two gentle
taps at the bolted door. Mother Sainte-Perpetue immediately let down the
sliding cylinder of her cabinet, so as to cover the secret arsenal, and
went to open the door with a grave and solemn air. A lay sister came to
announce to her that the Princess de Saint-Dizier was waiting for her in
the parlor, and that Mdlle. Florine, accompanied by a young girl,
deformed and badly dressed, was waiting at the door of the little
"Introduce the princess first," said Mother Sainte Perpetue. And, with
charming forethought, she drew an armchair to the fire. Mme. de Saint-
Without pretensions to juvenile coquetry, still the princess was
tastefully and elegantly dressed. She wore a black velvet bonnet of the
most fashionable make, a large blue cashmere shawl, and a black satin
dress, trimmed with sable, to match the fur of her muff.
"To what good fortune am I again to-day indebted for the honor of your
visit, my dear daughter?" said the superior, graciously.
"A very important recommendation, my dear mother, though I am in a great
hurry. I am expected at the house of his Eminence, and have,
unfortunately, only a few minutes to spare. I have again to speak of the
two orphans who occupied our attention so long yesterday."
"They continue to be kept separate, according to your wish; and this
separation has had such an effect upon them that I have been obliged to
send this morning for Dr. Baleinier, from his asylum. He found much
fever joined to great depression, and, singular enough, absolutely the
same symptoms in both cases. I have again questioned these unfortunate
creatures, and have been quite confounded and terrified to find them
"It was, you see, very urgent to place them in your care. But to the
subject of my visit, my dear mother: we have just learned the unexpected
return of the soldier who brought these girls to France, and was thought
to be absent for some days; but he is in Paris, and, notwithstanding his
age, a man of extraordinary boldness, enterprise and energy. Should he
discover that the girls are here (which, however, is fortunately almost
impossible), in his rage at seeing them removed from his impious
influence, he would be capable of anything. Therefore let me entreat
you, my dear mother, to redouble your precautions, that no one may effect
an entrance by night. This quarter of the town is so deserted!"
"Be satisfied, my dear daughter; we are sufficiently guarded. Our porter
and gardeners, all well armed, make a round every night on the side of
the Boulevard de l'Hopital. The walls are high, and furnished with
spikes at the more accessible places. But I thank you, my dear daughter,
for having warned me. We will redouble our precautions."
"Particularly this night, my dear mother."
"Because if this infernal soldier has the audacity to attempt such a
thing, it will be this very night."
"How do you know, my dear daughter?"
"We have information which makes us certain of it," replied the princess,
with a slight embarrassment, which did not escape the notice of the
Superior, though she was too crafty and reserved to appear to see it;
only she suspected that many things were concealed from her.
"This night, then," resumed Mother Sainte-Perpetue, "we will be more than
ever on our guard. But as I have the pleasure of seeing you, my dear
daughter, I will take the opportunity to say a word or two on the subject
of that marriage we mentioned."
"Yes, my dear mother," said the princess, hastily, "for it is very
important. The young Baron de Brisville is a man full of ardent devotion
in these times of revolutionary impiety; he practises openly, and is able
to render us great services. He is listened to in the Chamber, and does
not want for a sort of aggressive and provoking eloquence; I know not any
one whose tone is more insolent with regard to his faith, and the plan is
a good one, for this cavalier and open manner of speaking of sacred
things raises and excites the curiosity of the indifferent.
Circumstances are happily such that he may show the most audacious
violence towards our enemies, without the least danger to himself, which,
of course, redoubles his ardor as a would-be martyr. In a word, he is
altogether ours, and we, in return, must bring about this marriage. You
know, besides, my dear mother, that he proposes to offer a donation of a
hundred thousand francs to St. Mary's the day he gains possession of the
fortune of Mdlle. Baudricourt."
"I have never doubted the excellent intentions of M. de Brisville with
regard to an institution which merits the sympathy of all pious persons,"
answered the superior, discreetly; "but I did not expect to meet with so
many obstacles on the part of the young lady."
"How is that?"
"This girl, whom I always believed a most simple, submissive, timid,
almost idiotic person--instead of being delighted with this proposal of
marriage, asks time to consider!"
"It is really pitiable!"
"She opposes to me an inert resistance. It is in vain for me to speak
severely, and tell her that, having no parents or friends, and being
absolutely confided to my care, she ought to see with my eyes, hear with
my ears, and when I affirm that this union is suitable in all respects,
give her adhesion to it without delay or reflection."
"No doubt. It would be impossible to speak more sensibly."
"She answers that she wishes to see M. de Brisville, and know his
character before being engaged."
"It is absurd--since you undertake to answer for his morality, and esteem
this a proper marriage."
"Therefore, I remarked to Mdlle. Baudricourt, this morning, that till now
I had only employed gentle persuasion, but that, if she forced me to it,
I should be obliged, in her own interest, to act with rigor, to conquer
so much obstinacy that I should have to separate her from her companions,
and to confine her closely in a cell, until she made up her mind, after
all, to consult her own happiness, and--marry an honorable man."
"And these menaces, my dear mother?"
"Will, I hope, have a good effect. She kept up a correspondence with an
old school-friend in the country. I have put a stop to this, for it
appeared to me dangerous. She is now under my sole influence, and I hope
we shall attain our ends; but you see, my dear daughter, it is never
without crosses and difficulties that we succeed in doing good!"
"And I feel certain that M. de Brisville will even go beyond his first
promise, and I will pledge myself for him, that, should he marry Mdlle.
"You know, my dear daughter," said the superior, interrupting the
princess, "that if I were myself concerned, I would refuse everything;
but to give to this institution is to give to Heaven, and I cannot
prevent M. de Brisville from augmenting the amount of his good works.
Then, you see, we are exposed to a sad disappointment."
"What is that, my dear mother?"
"The Sacred Heart Convent disputes an estate with us that would have
suited us exactly. Really, some people are quite insatiable! I gave the
lady superior my opinion upon it pretty freely."
"She told me as much," answered Madame de Saint-Dizier, "and laid the
blame on the steward."
"Oh! so you see her, my dear daughter?" exclaimed the superior, with an
air of great surprise.
"I met her at the bishop's," answered Madame de Saint-Dizier, with a
slight degree of hesitation, that Mother Sainte-Perpetue did not appear
"I really do not know," resumed the latter, "why our establishment should
excite so violently the jealousy of the Sacred Heart. There is not an
evil report that they have not spread with regard to St. Mary's Convent.
Certain persons are always offended by the success of their neighbors!"
"Come, my dear mother," said the princess, in a conciliating tone, "we
must hope that the donation of M. de Brisville will enable you to outbid
the Sacred Heart. This marriage will have a double advantage, you see,
my dear mother; it will place a large fortune at the disposal of a man
who is devoted to us, and who will employ it as we wish; and it will also
greatly increase the importance of his position as our defender, by the
addition to his income of 100,000 francs a year. We shall have at length
an organ worthy of our cause, and shall no longer be obliged to look for
defenders amongst such people as that Dumoulin."
"There is great power and much learning in the writings of the man you
name. It is the style of a Saint Bernard, in wrath at the impiety of the
"Alas, my dear mother! if you only knew what a strange Saint Bernard this
Dumoulin is! But I will not offend your ears; all I can tell you is,
that such defenders would compromise the most sacred cause. Adieu, my
dear mother! pray redouble your precautions to-night--the return of this
soldier is alarming."
"Be quite satisfied, my dear daughter! Oh! I forgot. Mdlle. Florine
begged me to ask you a favor. It is to let her enter your service. You
know the fidelity she displayed in watching your unfortunate niece; I
think that, by rewarding her in this way, you will attach her to you
completely, and I shall feel grateful on her account."
"If you interest yourself the least in the world in Florine, my dear
mother, the thing is done. I will take her into my service. And now it
strikes me, she may be more useful to me than I thought."
"A thousand thanks, my dear daughter, for such obliging attention to my
request. I hope we shall soon meet again. The day after to-morrow, at
two o'clock, we have a long conference with his Eminence and the Bishop;
do not forget!"
"No, my dear mother; I shall take care to be exact. Only, pray, redouble
your precautions to-night for fear of a great scandal!"
After respectfully kissing the hand of the superior, the princess went
out by the great door, which led to an apartment opening on the principal
staircase. Some minutes after, Florine entered the room by another way.
The superior was seated and Florine approached her with timid humility.
"Did you meet the Princess de Saint-Dizier?" asked Mother Sainte
"No, mother; I was waiting in the passage, where the windows look out on
"The princess takes you into her service from to-day," said the superior.
Florine made a movement of sorrowful surprise, and exclaimed: "Me,
"I asked her in your name, and you have only to accept," answered the
"But, mother, I had entreated you--"
"I tell you, that you accept the offer," said the superior, in so firm
and positive a tone that Florine cast down her eyes, and replied in a low
voice: "I accept."
"It is in M. Rodin's name that I give you this order."
"I thought so, mother," replied Florine, sadly; "on what conditions am I
to serve the princess?"
"On the same conditions as those on which you served her niece."
Florine shuddered and said: "I am, then, to make frequent secret reports
with regard to the princess?"
"You will observe, you will remember, and you will give an account."
"Yes, my mother."
"You will above all direct your attention to the visits that the princess
may receive from the lady superior of the Sacred Heart. You must try and
listen--for we have to preserve the princess from evil influences."
"I will obey, my mother."
"You will also try and discover why two young orphans have been brought
hither, and recommended to be severely treated, by Madame Grivois, the
confidential waiting-woman of the princess."
"Which must not prevent you from remembering anything else that may be
worthy of remark. To-morrow I will give you particular instructions upon
"It is well, mother."
"If you conduct yourself in a satisfactory manner, and execute faithfully
the instructions of which I speak, you will soon leave the princess to
enter the service of a young bride; it will be an excellent and lasting
situation always on the same conditions. It is, therefore, perfectly
understood that you have asked me to recommend you to Madame de Saint-
"Yes, mother; I shall remember."
"Who is this deformed young girl that accompanies you?"
"A poor creature without any resources, very intelligent, and with an
education above her class; she works at her needle, but is at present
without employment, and reduced to the last extremity. I have made
inquiries about her this morning; she has an excellent character."
"She is ugly and deformed, you say?"
"She has an interesting countenance, but she is deformed."
The superior appeared pleased at this information, and added, after a
moment's reflection: "She appears intelligent?"
"And is absolutely without resources?"
"Yes, without any."
"Is she pious?"
"She does not practice."
"No matter," said the superior to herself; "if she be intelligent, that
will suffice." Then she resumed aloud. "Do you know if she is a good
"I believe so, mother."
The superior rose, took a register from a shelf, appeared to be looking
into it attentively for some time, and then said, as she replaced it:
"Fetch in this young girl, and go and wait for me in the press-room."
"Deformed--intelligent--clever at her needle," said the superior,
reflecting; "she will excite no suspicion. We must see."
In about a minute, Florine returned with Mother Bunch, whom she
introduced to the superior, and then discreetly withdrew. The young
sempstress was agitated, trembling, and much troubled, for she could, as
it were, hardly believe a discovery which she had chanced to make during
Florine's absence. It was not without a vague sense of terror that the
hunchback remained alone with the lady superior.
This was the cause of Mother Bunch's emotion. Florine, when she went to
see the superior, had left the young sempstress in a passage supplied
with benches, and forming a sort of ante-chamber on the first story.
Being alone, the girl had mechanically approached a window which looked
upon the convent garden, shut in by a half demolished wall, and
terminating at one end in an open paling. This wall was connected with a
chapel that was still building, and bordered on the garden of a
neighboring house. The sewing-girl, at one of the windows on the ground
floor of this house--a grated window, still more remarkable by the sort
of tent-like awning above it--beheld a young female, with her eyes fixed
upon the convent, making signs with her hand, at once encouraging and
affectionate. From the window where she stood, Mother Bunch could not
see to whom these signs were addressed; but she admired the rare beauty
of the telegrapher, the brilliancy of her complexion, the shining
blackness of her large eyes, the sweet and benevolent smile which
lingered on her lips. There was, no doubt, some answer to her graceful
and expressive pantomime, for, by a movement full of elegance, the girl
laid her left hand on her bosom, and waved her right, which seemed to
indicate that her heart flew towards the place on which she kept her
eyes. One faint sunbeam, piercing the clouds, came at this moment to
play with the tresses of the pale countenance, which, now held close to
the bars of the window, was suddenly, as it were, illuminated by the
dazzling reflection of her splendid golden hair. At sight of that
charming face, set in its admirable frame of red curls, Mother Bunch
started involuntarily; the thought of Mdlle. de Cardoville crossed her
mind, and she felt persuaded (nor was she, indeed, mistaken), that the
protectress of Agricola was before her. On thus beholding, in that
gloomy asylum, this young lady, so marvellously beautiful, and
remembering the delicate kindness with which a few days before she had
received Agricola in her luxurious little palace of dazzling splendor,
the work-girl felt her heart sink within her. She believed Adrienne
insane; and yet, as she looked attentively at her, it seemed as if
intelligence and grace animated that adorable countenance. Suddenly,
Mdlle. de Cardoville laid her fingers upon her lips, blew a couple of
kisses in the direction towards which she had been looking, and all at
once disappeared. Reflecting upon the important revelations which
Agricola had to make to Mdlle. de Cardoville, Mother Bunch regretted
bitterly that she had no means of approaching her; for she felt sure
that, if the young lady were mad, the present was a lucid interval. She
was yet absorbed in these uneasy reflections, when she saw Florine
return, accompanied by one of the nuns. Mother Bunch was obliged,
therefore, to keep silence with regard to the discovery she had made, and
soon after she found herself in the superior's presence. This latter,
after a rapid and searching examination of the countenance of the young
workwoman, judged her appearance so timid, gentle and honest, that she
thought she might repose full confidence in the information given by
"My dear daughter," said Mother Sainte-Perpetue, in an affectionate
voice, "Florine has told me in what a cruel situation you are placed. Is
it true that you are entirely without work?"
"Alas! yes, madame."
"Call me mother, my dear daughter; that name is dearer to me, and it is
the rule of our house. I need not ask you what are your principles?"
"I have always lived honestly by my labor, mother," answered the girl,
with a simplicity at once dignified and modest.
"I believe you, my dear daughter, and I have good reasons for so doing.
We must thank the Lord, who has delivered you from temptation; but tell
me--are you clever at your trade?"
"I do my best, mother, and have always satisfied my employers. If you
please to try me, you will be able to judge."
"Your affirmation is sufficient, my dear daughter. You prefer, I think,
to go out by the day?"
"Mdlle. Florine told me, mother, that I could not have work at home."
"Why, no--not for the present, my child. If hereafter an opportunity
should offer, I will think of it. Just now I have this to propose to
you. A very respectable old lady has asked me to recommend to her a
needle-woman by the day; introduced by me, you will certainly suit her.
The institution will undertake to clothe you becomingly, and this advance
we shall retain by degrees out of your wages, for you will look to us for
payment. We propose to give you two francs a day; does that appear to
"Oh, mother! it is much more than I could have expected."
"You will, moreover, only be occupied from nine o'clock in the morning
till six in the evening; you will thus have still some off hours, of
which you might make use. You see, the situation is not a hard one."
"Oh! quite the contrary, mother."
"I must tell you, first of all, with whom the institution intends to
place you. It is a widow lady, named Mme. de Bremant, a person of the
most steadfast piety. In her house, I hope, you will meet with none but
excellent examples. If it should be otherwise, you can come and inform
"How so, mother?" said the sewing-girl, with surprise.
"Listen to me, my dear daughter," said Mother Sainte-Perpetue, in a tone
ever more and more affectionate; "the institution of St. Mary has a
double end in view. You will perfectly understand that, if it is our
duty to give to masters and mistresses every possible security as to the
morality of the persons that we place in their families, we are likewise
bound to give to the persons that we so place out every possible security
as to the morality of their employers."
"Nothing can be more just and of a wiser foresight, mother."
"Naturally, my dear daughter; for even as a servant of bad morals may
cause the utmost trouble in a respectable family, so the bad conduct of a
master or mistress may have the most baneful influence on the persons who
serve them, or who come to work in their houses. Now, it is to offer a
mutual guarantee to good masters and honest servants, that we have
founded this institution."
"Oh, madame!" cried Mother Bunch, with simplicity; "such designs merit
the thanks and blessings of every one."
"And blessings do not fail us, my dear daughter, because we perform our
promises. Thus, an interesting workwoman--such as you, for example--is
placed with persons that we suppose irreproachable. Should she, however,
perceive, on the part of her employers, or on that of the persons who
frequent the house, any irregularity of morals, any tendency to what
would offend her modesty, or shock her religious principles, she should
immediately give us a detailed account of the circumstances that have
caused her alarm. Nothing can be more proper--don't you think so?"
"Yes, mother," answered Mother Bunch, timidly, for she began to find this
provision somewhat singular.
"Then," resumed the superior, "if the case appears a serious one, we
exhort our befriended one to observe what passes more attentively, so as
to convince herself whether she had really reason to be alarmed. She
makes a new report to us, and should it confirm our first fears, faithful
to our pious guardianship, we withdraw her instantly from the house.
Moreover, as the majority of our young people, notwithstanding their
innocence and virtue, have not always sufficient experience to
distinguish what may be injurious to their soul's health, we think it
greatly to their interest that they should confide to us once a week, as
a child would to her mother, either in person or by letter, whatever has
chanced to occur in the house in which we have placed them. Then we can
judge for them, whether to withdraw them or not. We have already about a
hundred persons, companions to ladies, young women in shops, servants,
and needlewomen by the day, whom we have placed in a great number of
families, and, for the interest of all, we have every reason to
congratulate ourselves on this mode of proceeding. You understand me, do
you not, my dear daughter?"
"Yes-yes, mother," said the sempstress, more and more embarrassed. She
had too much uprightness and sagacity not to perceive that this plan of
mutually insuring the morality of masters and servants resembled a vast
spy system, brought home to the domestic hearth, and carried on by the
members of the institution almost without their knowledge, for it would
have been difficult to disguise more skillfully the employment for which
they were trained.
"If I have entered into these long details my dear daughter," resumed
Mother Sainte-Perpetue, taking the hearer's silence for consent, "it is
that you may not suppose yourself obliged to remain in the house in
question, if, against our expectation, you should not find there holy and
pious examples. I believe Mme. de Bremont's house to be a pure and godly
place; only I have heard (though I will not believe it) that Mme. de
Bremont's daughter, Mme. de Noisy, who has lately come to reside with
her, is not so exemplary in her conduct as could be desired, that she
does not fulfil regularly her religious duties, and that, during the
absence of her husband, who is now in America, she receives visits,
unfortunately too frequent, from one M. Hardy, a rich manufacturer."
At the name of Agricola's master, Mother Bunch could not suppress a
movement of surprise, and also blushed slightly. The superior naturally
mistook this surprise and confusion for a proof of the modest
susceptibility of the young sempstress, and added: "I have told you all
this, my dear daughter, that you might be on your guard. I have even
mentioned reports that I believe to be completely erroneous, for the
daughter of Mme. de Bremont has always had such good examples before her
that she cannot have so forgotten them. But, being in the house from
morning to night, you will be able, better than any one, to discover if
these reports have any foundation in truth. Should it unfortunately so
turn out, my dear daughter, you would come and confide to me all the
circumstances that have led you to such a conclusion; and, should I then
agree in your opinion, I would withdraw you instantly from the house--for
the piety of the mother would not compensate sufficiently for the
deplorable example of the daughter's conduct. For, as soon as you form
part of the institution, I am responsible for your salvation, and, in
case your delicacy should oblige you to leave Mme. de Bremont's, as you
might be some time without employment, the institution will allow you, if
satisfied with your zeal and conduct, one franc a day till we could find
you another place. You see, my dear daughter, that you have everything
to gain with us. It is therefore agreed that the day after to-morrow you
go to Mme. de Bremont's." Mother Bunch found herself in a very hard
position. Sometimes she thought that her first suspicions were
confirmed, and, notwithstanding her timidity, her pride felt hurt at the
supposition, that, because they knew her poor, they should believe her
capable of selling herself as a spy for the sake of high wages.
Sometimes, on the contrary, her natural delicacy revolted at the idea
that a woman of the age and condition of the superior could descend to
make a proposition so disgraceful both to the accepter and the proposer,
and she reproached herself with her first doubts and asked herself if the
superior had not wished to try her, before employing her, to see if her
probity would enable her to resist a comparatively brilliant offer.
Mother Bunch was naturally so inclined to think well of every one, that
she made up her mind to this last conclusion, saying to herself, that if,
after all, she were deceived, it would be the least offensive mode of
refusing these unworthy offers. With a movement, exempt from all
haughtiness, but expressive of natural dignity, the young workman raised
her head, which she had hitherto held humbly cast down, looked the
superior full in the face, that the latter might read in her countenance
the sincerity of her words, and said to her in a slightly agitated voice,
forgetting this time to call her "mother": "Ah, madame! I cannot blame
you for exposing me to such a trial. You see that I am very poor, and I
have yet done nothing to command your confidence. But, believe me, poor
as I am, I would never stoop to so despicable an action as that which you
have thought fit to propose to me, no doubt to assure yourself, by my
refusal, that I am worthy of your kindness. No, no, madame--I could
never bring myself to be a spy at any price."
She pronounced these last words with so much animation that her cheeks
became slightly flushed. The superior had too much tact and experience
not to perceive the sincerity of the words. Thinking herself lucky that
the young girl should put this construction upon the affair, she smiled
upon her affectionately, and stretched out her arms to her, saying: "It
is well, my dear daughter. Come and embrace me!"
"Mother--I am really confused--with so much kindness--"
"No--you deserve it--your words are so full of truth and honesty. Only
be persuaded that I have not put you to any trial, because there is no
resemblance between the act of a spy and the marks of filial confidence
that we require of our members for the sake of watching over their
morals. But certain persons--I see you are of the number, my dear
daughter--have such fixed principles, and so mature a judgment, that they
can do without our advice and guardianship, and can appreciate themselves
whatever might be dangerous to their salvation. I will therefore leave
the entire responsibility to yourself, and only ask you for such
communications as you may think proper to make."
"Oh, madame! how good you are!" said poor Mother Bunch, for she was not
aware of the thousand devices of the monastic spirit, and thought herself
already sure of gaining just wages honorably.
"It is not goodness--but justice!" answered Mother Sainte-Perpetue, whose
tone was becoming more and more affectionate. "Too much tenderness
cannot be shown to pious young women like you, whom poverty has only
purified because they have always faithfully observed the divine laws."
"One last question, my child! how many times a month do you approach the
"Madame," replied the hunchback, "I have not taken the sacrament since my
first communion, eight years ago. I am hardly able, by working every
day, and all day long, to earn my bread. I have no time--"
"Gracious heaven!" cried the superior, interrupting, and clasping her
hands with all the signs of painful astonishment. "Is it possible? you
do not practise?"
"Alas, madame! I tell you that I have no time," answered Mother Bunch,
looking disconcertedly at Mother Saint-Perpetue.
"I am grieved, my dear daughter," said the latter sorrowfully, after a
moment's silence, "but I told you that, as we place our friends in none
but pious houses, so we are asked to recommend none but pious persons,
who practise their religious duties. It is one of the indispensable
conditions of our institution. It will, therefore, to my great regret,
be impossible for me to employ you as I had hoped. If, hereafter, you
should renounce your present indifference to those duties, we will then
"Madame," said Mother Bunch, her heart swollen with tears, for she was
thus forced to abandon a cheering hope, "I beg pardon for having detained
you so long--for nothing."
"It is I, my dear daughter, who regret not to be able to attach you to
the institution; but I am not altogether hopeless, that a person, already
so worthy of interest, will one day deserve by her piety the lasting
support of religious people. Adieu, my dear daughter! go in peace, and
may God be merciful to you, until the day that you return with your whole
heart to Him!"
So saying, the superior rose, and conducted her visitor to the door, with
all the forms of the most maternal kindness. At the moment she crossed
the threshold, she said to her: "Follow the passage, go down a few steps,
and knock at the second door on the right hand. It is the press-room,
and there you will find Florine. She will show you the way out. Adieu,
my dear daughter!"
As soon as Mother Bunch had left the presence of the superior, her tears,
until now restrained, gushed forth abundantly. Not wishing to appear
before Florine and the nuns in this state, she stopped a moment at one of
the windows to dry her eyes. As she looked mechanically towards the
windows of the next house, where she fancied she had seen Adrienne de
Cardoville, she beheld the latter come from a door in the building, and
advance rapidly towards the open paling that separated the two gardens.
At the same instant, and to her great astonishment, Mother Bunch saw one
of the two sisters whose disappearance had caused the despair of
Dagobert, with pale and dejected countenance, approach the fence that
separated her from Mdlle. de Cardoville, trembling with fear and anxiety,
as though she dreaded to be discovered.
MOTHER BUNCH AND MDLLE. DE CARDOVILLE.
Agitated, attentive, uneasy, leaning from one of the convent-windows, the
work-girl followed with her eyes the movements of Mdlle. de Cardoville
and Rose Simon, whom she so little expected to find together in such a
place. The orphan, approaching close to the fence, which separated the
nunnery-garden from that of Dr. Baleinier's asylum, spoke a few words to
Adrienne, whose features at once expressed astonishment, indignation, and
pity. At this juncture, a nun came running, and looking right and left,
as though anxiously seeking for some one; then, perceiving Rose, who
timidly pressed close to the paling, she seized her by the arm, and
seemed to scold her severely, and notwithstanding some energetic words
addressed to her by Mdlle. de Cardoville, she hastily carried off the
orphan, who with weeping eyes, turned several times to look back at
Adrienne; whilst the latter, after showing the interest she took in her
by expressive gestures, turned away suddenly, as if to conceal her tears.
The passage in which the witness stood, during this touching scene, was
situated on the first story. The thought immediately occurred to the
sempstress, to go down to the ground-floor, and try to get into the
garden, so that she might have an opportunity of speaking to the fair
girl with the golden hair, and ascertaining if it were really Mdlle. de
Cardoville, to whom; if she found her in a lucid interval, she might say
that Agricola had things of the greatest importance to communicate, but
that he did not know how to inform her of them. The day was advancing,
the sun was on its decline, and fearing that Florine would be tired of
waiting for her, Mother Bunch made haste to act; with a light step,
listening anxiously as she went, she reached the end of the passage,
where three or four stairs led down to the landing-place of the press-
room, and then formed a spiral descent to the ground-floor. Hearing
voices in the pressroom, the sempstress hastened down the stairs, and
found herself in a long passage, in the centre of which was a glass door,
opening on that part of the garden reserved for the superior. A path,
bordered by a high box-hedge, sheltered her from the gaze of curious
eyes, and she crept along it, till she reached the open paling; which, at
this spot, separated the convent-garden from that of Dr. Baleinier's
asylum. She saw Mdlle. de Cardoville a few steps from her, seated, and
with her arm resting upon a rustic bench. The firmness of Adrienne's
character had for a moment been shaken by fatigue, astonishment, fright,
despair, on the terrible night when she had been taken to the asylum by
Dr. Baleinier; and the latter, taking a diabolical advantage of her
weakness and despondency, had succeeded for a moment in making her doubt
of her own sanity. But the calm, which necessarily follows the most
painful and violent emotions, combined with the reflection and reasoning
of a clear and subtle intellect, soon convinced Adrienne of the
groundlessness of the fears inspired by the crafty doctor. She no longer
believed that it could even be a mistake on the part of the man of
science. She saw clearly in the conduct of this man, in which detestable
hypocrisy was united with rare audacity, and both served by a skill no
less remarkable, that M. Baleinier was, in fact, the blind instrument of
the Princess de Saint-Dizier. From that moment, she remained silent and
calm, but full of dignity; not a complaint, not a reproach was allowed to
pass her lips. She waited. Yet, though they left her at liberty to walk
about (carefully depriving her of all means of communicating with any one
beyond the walls), Adrienne's situation was harsh and painful,
particularly for her, who so loved to be surrounded by pleasant and
harmonious objects. She felt, however, that this situation could not
last long. She did not thoroughly understand the penetration and action
of the laws; but her good sense taught her, that a confinement of a few
days under the plea of some appearances of insanity, more or less
plausible in themselves, might be attempted, and even executed with
impunity; but that it could not be prolonged beyond certain limits,
because, after all, a young lady of her rank in society could not
disappear suddenly from the world, without inquiries being made on the
subject--and the pretence of a sudden attack of madness would lead to a
serious investigation. Whether true or false, this conviction had
restored Adrienne to her accustomed elasticity and energy of character.
And yet she sometimes in vain asked herself the cause of this attempt on
her liberty. She knew too well the Princess de Saint-Dizier, to believe
her capable of acting in this way, without a certain end in view, and
merely for the purpose of inflicting a momentary pang. In this, Mdlle.
de Cardoville was not deceived: Father d'Aigrigny and the princess were
both persuaded, that Adrienne, better informed than she wished to
acknowledge, knew how important it was for her to find herself in the
house in the Rue Saint-Francois on the 13th of February, and was
determined to maintain her rights. In shutting up Adrienne as mad, it
was intended to strike a fatal blow at her future prospects; but this
last precaution was useless, for Adrienne, though upon the true scent of
the family-secret they lead wished to conceal from her, had not yet
entirely penetrated its meaning, for want of certain documents, which had
been lost or hidden.
Whatever had been the motives for the odious conduct of Mdlle. de
Cardoville's enemies, she was not the less disgusted at it. No one could
be more free from hatred or revenge, than was this generous young girl,
but when she thought of all the sufferings which the Princess de Saint-
Dizier, Abbe d'Aigrigny, and Dr. Baleinier had occasioned her, she
promised herself, not reprisals, but a striking reparation. If it were
refused her, she was resolved to combat--without truce or rest--this
combination of craft, hypocrisy, and cruelty, not from resentment for
what she had endured, but to preserve from the same torments other
innocent victims, who might not, like her, be able to struggle and defend
themselves. Adrienne, still under the painful impression which had been
caused by her interview with Rose Simon, was leaning against one of the
sides of the rustic bench on which she was seated, and held her left hand
over her eyes. She had laid down her bonnet beside her, and the inclined
position of her head brought the long golden curls over her fair, shining
cheeks. In this recumbent attitude, so full of careless grace, the
charming proportions of her figure were seen to advantage beneath a
watered green dress, while a broad collar, fastened with a rose-colored
satin bow, and fine lace cuffs, prevented too strong a contrast between
the hue of her dress and the dazzling whiteness of the swan-like neck and
Raphaelesque hands, imperceptibly veined with tiny azure lines. Over the
high and well-formed instep, were crossed the delicate strings of a
little, black satin shoe--for Dr. Baleinier had allowed her to dress
herself with her usual taste, and elegance of costume was not with
Adrienne a mark of coquetry, but of duty towards herself, because she had
been made so beautiful. At sight of this young lady, whose dress and
appearance she admired in all simplicity, without any envious or bitter
comparison with her own poor clothes and deformity of person, Mother
Bunch said immediately to herself, with the good sense and sagacity
peculiar to her, that it was strange a mad woman should dress so sanely
and gracefully. It was therefore with a mixture of surprise and emotion
that she approached the fence which separated her from Adrienne--
reflecting, however, that the unfortunate girl might still be insane, and
that this might turn out to be merely a lucid interval. And now, with a
timid voice, but loud enough to be heard, Mother Bunch, in order to
assure herself of Adrienne's identity, said, whilst her heart beat fast:
"Mdlle. de Cardoville!"
"Who calls me?" said Adrienne. On hastily raising her head, and
perceiving the hunchback, she could not suppress a slight cry of
surprise, almost fright. For indeed this poor creature, pale, deformed,
miserably clad, thus appearing suddenly before her, must have inspired
Mdlle, de Cardoville, so passionately fond of grace and beauty, with a
feeling of repugnance, if not of terror--and these two sentiments were
both visible in her expressive countenance.
The other did not perceive the impression she had made. Motionless, with
her eyes fixed, and her hands clasped in a sort of adoring admiration,
she gazed on the dazzling beauty of Adrienne, whom she had only half seen
through the grated window. All that Agricola had told her of the charms
of his protectress, appeared to her a thousand times below the reality;
and never, even in her secret poetic visions, had she dreamed of such
rare perfection. Thus, by a singular contrast, a feeling of mutual
surprise came over these two girls--extreme types of deformity and
beauty, wealth and wretchedness. After rendering, as it were, this
involuntary homage to Adrienne, Mother Bunch advanced another step
towards the fence.
"What do you want?" cried Mdlle. de Cardoville, rising with a sentiment
of repugnance, which could not escape the work-girl's notice;
accordingly, she held down her head timidly, and said in a soft voice: "I
beg your pardon, madame, to appear so suddenly before you. But moments
are precious, I come from Agricola."
As she pronounced these words, the sempstress raised her eyes anxiously,
fearing that Mdlle. de Cardoville might have forgotten the name of the
workman. But, to her great surprise and joy, the fears of Adrienne
seemed to diminish at the name of Agricola, and approaching the fence,
she looked at the speaker with benevolent curiosity.
"You come from M. Agricola Baudoin?" said she. "Who are you?"
"His adopted sister, madame--a poor needlewoman, who lives in the same
Adrienne appeared to collect her thoughts, and said, smiling kindly,
after a moment's silence: "It was you then, who persuaded M. Agricola to
apply to me to procure him bail?"
"Oh, madame, do you remember--"
"I never forget anything that is generous and noble. M. Agricola was
much affected when he spoke of your devotion. I remember it well; it
would be strange if I did not. But how came you here, in this convent?"
"They told me that I should perhaps be able to get some occupation here,
as I am out of work. Unfortunately, I have been refused by the lady
"And how did you recognize me?"
"By your great beauty, madame, of which Agricola had told me."
"Or rather by this," said Adrienne, smiling as she lifted, with the tips
of her rosy fingers, one end of a long, silky ringlet of golden hair.
"You must pardon Agricola, madame," said the sewing girl, with one of
those half smiles, which rarely settled on her lips: "he is a poet, and
omitted no single perfection in the respectful and admiring description
which he gave of his protectress."
"And what induced you to come and speak to me?"
"The hope of being useful to you, madame. You received Agricola with so
much goodness, that I have ventured to go shares in his gratitude."
"You may well venture to do so, my dear girl," said Adrienne, with
ineffable grace; "until now, unfortunately, I have only been able to
serve your adopted brother by intention."
As they exchanged these words, Adrienne and Mother Bunch looked at each
other with increasing surprise. The latter was, first of all, astonished
that a person who passed for mad should express herself as Adrienne did;
next, she was amazed at the ease and freedom with which she herself
answered the questions of Mdlle. de Cardoville--not knowing that the
latter was endowed with the precious privilege of lofty and benevolent
natures, to draw out from those who approached her whatever sympathized
with herself. On her side, Mdlle. de Cardoville was deeply moved and
astonished to hear this young, low-born girl, dressed almost like a
beggar, express herself in terms selected with so much propriety. The
more she looked at her, the more the feeling of repugnance she at first
experienced wore off, and was at length converted into quite the opposite
sentiment. With that rapid and minute power of observation natural to
women, she remarked beneath the black crape of Mother Bunch's cap, the
smoothness and brilliancy of the fair, chestnut hair. She remarked, too,
the whiteness of the long, thin hand, though it displayed itself at the
end of a patched and tattered sleeve--an infallible proof that care, and
cleanliness, and self-respect were at least struggling against symptoms
of fearful distress. Adrienne discovered, also, in the pale and
melancholy features, in the expression of the blue eyes, at once
intelligent, mild and timid, a soft and modest dignity, which made one
forget the deformed figure. Adrienne loved physical beauty, and admired
it passionately, but she had too superior a mind, too noble a soul, too
sensitive a heart, not to know how to appreciate moral beauty, even when
it beamed from a humble and suffering countenance. Only, this kind of
appreciation was new to Mdlle. de Cardoville; until now, her large
fortune and elegant habits had kept her at a distance from persons of
Mother Bunch's class. After a short silence, during which the fair
patrician and the poor work-girl had closely examined each other,
Adrienne said to the other: "It is easy, I think, to explain the cause of
our mutual astonishment. You have, no doubt, discovered that I speak
pretty reasonably for a mad woman--if they have told you I am one. And
I," added Mdlle. de Cardoville, in a tone of respectful commiseration,
"find that the delicacy of your language and manners so singularly
contrast with the position in which you appear to be, that my surprise
must be even greater than yours."
"Ah, madame!" cried Mother Bunch, with a welling forth of such deep and
sincere joy that the tears started to her eyes; "is it true?--they have
deceived me--you are not mad! Just now, when I beheld you so kind and
beautiful, when I heard the sweet tone of your voice, I could not believe
that such a misfortune had happened to you. But, alas! how is it then,
madame, that you are in this place?"
"Poor child!" said Adrienne, touched by the affectionate interest of this
excellent creature; "and how is it that you, with such a heart and head,
should be in such distress? But be satisfied! I shall not always be
here--and that will suffice to tell you, that we shall both resume the
place which becomes us. Believe me, I shall never forget how, in spite
of the painful ideas which must needs occupy your mind, on seeing
yourself deprived of work--your only resource--you have still thought of
coming to me, and of trying to serve me. You may, indeed, be eminently
useful to me, and I am delighted at it, for then I shall owe you much--
and you shall see how I will take advantage of my gratitude!" said
Adrienne, with a sweet smile. "But," resumed she, "before talking of
myself, let us think of others. Is your adopted brother still in
"By this time, madame, I hope he has obtained his freedom; thanks to the
generosity of one of his comrades. His father went yesterday to offer
bail for him, and they promised that he should be released to-day. But,
from his prison, he wrote to me, that he had something of importance to
reveal to you."
"Yes, madame. Should Agricola be released immediately by what means can
he communicate with you?"
"He has secrets to tell me!" resumed Mdlle. de Cardoville, with an air of
thoughtful surprise. "I seek in vain to imagine what they can be; but so
long as I am confined in this house, and secluded from every one, M.
Agricola must not think of addressing himself directly or indirectly to
me. He must wait till I am at liberty; but that is not all, he must
deliver from that convent two poor children, who are much more to be
pitied than I am. The daughters of Marshal Simon are detained there
against their will."
"You know their name, madame?"
"When M. Agricola informed me of their arrival in Paris, he told me they
were fifteen years old, and that they resembled each other exactly--so
that, the day before yesterday, when I took my accustomed walk, and
observed two poor little weeping faces come close to the windows of their
separate cells, one on the ground floor, the other on the first story, a
secret presentiment told me that I saw in them the orphans of whom M.
Agricola had spoken, and in whom I already took a lively interest, as
being my relations."
"They are your relations, madame, then?"
"Yes, certainly. So, not being able to do more, I tried to express by
signs how much I felt for them. Their tears, and the sadness of their
charming faces, sufficiently told me that they were prisoners in the
convent, as I am myself in this house."
"Oh! I understand, madame--the victim of the animosity of your family?"
"Whatever may be my fate, I am much less to be pitied than these two
children, whose despair is really alarming. Their separation is what
chiefly oppresses them. By some words that one of them just now said to
me, I see that they are, like me, the victims of an odious machination.
But thanks to you, it will be possible to save them: Since I have been in
this house I have had no communication with any one; they have not
allowed me pen or paper, so it is impossible to write. Now listen to me
attentively, and we shall be able to defeat an odious persecution."
"Oh, speak! speak, madame!"
"The soldier, who brought these orphans to France, the father of M.
Agricola, is still in town?"
"Yes, madame. Oh! if you only knew his fury, his despair, when, on his
return home, he no longer found the children that a dying mother had
confided to him!"
"He must take care not to act with the least violence. It would ruin
all. Take this ring," said Adrienne, drawing it from her finger, "and
give it to him. He must go instantly--are you sure that you can remember
a name and address?"
"Oh! yes, madame. Be satisfied on that point. Agricola only mentioned
your name once, and I have not forgotten it. There is a memory of the
"I perceive it, my dear girl. Remember, then, the name of the Count de
"The Count de Montbron--I shall not forget."
"He is one of my good old friends, and lives on the Place Vendome, No.
"Place Vendome, No. 7--I shall remember."
"M. Agricola's father must go to him this evening, and, if he is not at
home, wait for his coming in. He must ask to speak to him, as if from
me, and send him this ring as a proof of what he says. Once with him, he
must tell him all--the abduction of the girls, the name of the convent
where they are confined, and my own detention as a lunatic in the asylum
of Dr. Baleinier. Truth has an accent of its own, which M. de Montbron
will recognize. He is a man of much experience and judgment, and
possessed of great influence. He will immediately take the necessary
steps, and to-morrow, or the day after, these poor orphans and myself
will be restored to liberty--all thanks to you! But moments are
precious; we might be discovered; make haste, dear child!"
At the moment of drawing back, Adrienne said to Mother Bunch, with so
sweet a smile and affectionate a tone, that it was impossible not to
believe her sincere: "M. Agricola told me that I had a heart like yours.
I now understand how honorable, how flattering those words were for me.
Pray, give me your hand!" added Mdlle. de Cardoville, whose eyes were
filling with tears; and, passing her beautiful hand through an opening in
the fence, she offered it to the other. The words and the gesture of the
fair patrician were full of so much real cordiality, that the sempstress,
with no false shame, placed tremblingly her own poor thin hand in
Adrienne's, while the latter, with a feeling of pious respect, lifted it
spontaneously to her lips, and said: "Since I cannot embrace you as my
sister, let me at least kiss this hand, ennobled by labor!"
Suddenly, footsteps were heard in the garden of Dr. Baleinier; Adrienne
withdrew abruptly, and disappeared behind some trees, saying: "Courage,
memory, and hope!"
All this had passed so rapidly that the young workwoman had no time to
speak or move; tears, sweet tears, flowed abundantly down her pale
cheeks. For a young lady, like Adrienne de Cardoville, to treat her as a
sister, to kiss her hand, to tell her that she was proud to resemble her
in heart--her, a poor creature, vegetating in the lowest abyss of misery-
-was to show a spirit of fraternal equality, divine, as the gospel words.
There are words and impressions which make a noble soul forget years of
suffering, and which, as by a sudden flash, reveal to it something of its
own worth and grandeur. Thus it was with the hunchback. Thanks to this
generous speech, she was for a moment conscious of her own value. And
though this feeling was rapid as it was ineffable, she clasped her hands
and raised her eyes to heaven with an expression of fervent gratitude;
for, if the poor sempstress did not practise, to use the jargon of
ultramontane cant, no one was more richly endowed with that deep
religious sentiment, which is to mere dogmas what the immensity of the
starry heaven is to the vaulted roof of a church.
Five minutes after quitting Mdlle. de Cardoville, Mother Bunch, having
left the garden without being perceived, reascended to the first story,
and knocked gently at the door of the press-room. A sister came to open
the door to her.
"Is not Mdlle. Florine, with whom I came, still here, sister?" asked the
"She could not wait for you any longer. No doubt, you have come from our
mother the superior?"
"Yes, yes, sister," answered the sempstress, casting down her eyes;
"would you have the goodness to show me the way out?"
"Come with me."
The sewing-girl followed the nun, trembling at every step lest she should
meet the superior, who would naturally have inquired the cause of her
long stay in the convent.
At length the inner gate closed upon Mother Bunch. Passing rapidly
across the vast court-yard and approaching the porter's lodge, to ask him
to let her out, she heard these words pronounced in a gruff voice: "It
seems, old Jerome, that we are to be doubly on our guard to-night. Well,
I shall put two extra balls in my gun. The superior says we are to make
two rounds instead of one."
"I want no gun, Nicholas," said the other voice; "I have my sharp scythe,
a true gardener's weapon--and none the worse for that."
Feeling an involuntary uneasiness at these words, which she had heard by
mere chance, Mother Bunch approached the porter's lodge, and asked him to
open the outer gate.
"Where do you come from?" challenged the porter, leaning half way out of
his lodge, with a double barrelled gun, which he was occupied in loading,
in his hand, and at the same time examining the sempstress with a
"I come from speaking to the superior," answered Mother Bunch timidly.
"Is that true?" said Nicholas roughly. "You look like a sanctified
scarecrow. Never mind. Make haste and cut!"
The gate opened, and Mother Bunch went out. Hardly had she gone a few
steps in the sweet, when, to her great surprise, she saw the dog Spoil-
sport run up to her, and his master, Dagobert, a little way behind him,
arriving also with precipitation. She was hastening to meet the soldier,
when a full, sonorous voice exclaimed from a little distance: "Oh my good
sister!" which caused the girl to turn round. From the opposite side to
that whence Dagobert was coming, she saw Agricola hurrying towards the
At the sight of Dagobert and Agricola, Mother Bunch remained motionless
with surprise, a few steps from the convent-gate. The soldier had not
yet perceived the sempstress. He advanced rapidly, following the dog,
who though lean, half-starved, rough-coated, and dirty, seemed to frisk
with pleasure, as he turned his intelligent face towards his master, to
whom he had gone back, after caressing Mother Bunch.
"Yes, yes; I understand you, old fellow!" said the soldier, with emotion.
"You are more faithful than I was; you did not leave the dear children
for a minute. Yes, you followed them, and watched day and night, without
food, at the door of the house to which they were taken--and, at length,
weary of waiting to see them come forth, ran home to fetch me. Yes;
whilst I was giving way to despair, like a furious madman, you were doing
what I ought to have done--discovering their retreat. What does it all
prove? Why, that beasts are better than men--which is well known. Well,
at length I shall see them again. When I think that tomorrow is the
13th, and that without you, my did Spoil-sport, all would be lost--it
makes me shudder. But I say, shall we soon be there? What a deserted
quarter! and night coming on!"
Dagobert had held this discourse to Spoil-sport, as he walked along
following the good dog, who kept on at a rapid pace. Suddenly, seeing
the faithful animal start aside with a bound, he raised his eyes, and
perceived the dog frisking about the hunchback and Agricola, who had just
met at a little distance from the convent-gate.
"Mother Bunch?" exclaimed both father and son, as they approached the
young workwoman, and looked at her with extreme surprise.
"There is good hope, M. Dagobert," said she with inexpressible joy.
"Rose and Blanche are found!" Then, turning towards the smith, she
added, "There is good hope, Agricola: Mdlle. de Cardoville is not mad.
I have just seen her."
"She is not mad? what happiness!" exclaimed the smith.
"The children!" cried Dagobert, trembling with emotion, as he took the
work-girl's hands in his own. "You have seen them?"
"Yes; just now--very sad--very unhappy--but I was not able to speak to
"Oh!" said Dagobert, stopping as if suffocated by the news, and pressing
his hands on his bosom; "I never thought that my old heart could beat
so!--And yet, thanks to my dog, I almost expected what has taken place.
Anyhow, I am quite dizzy with joy."
"Well, father, it's a good day," said Agricola, looking gratefully at the
"Kiss me, my dear child!" added the soldier, as he pressed Mother Bunch
affectionately in his arms; then, full of impatience, he added: "Come,
let us go and fetch the children."
"Ah, my good sister!" said Agricola, deeply moved; "you will restore
peace, perhaps life, to my father--and Mdlle. de Cardoville--but how do
"A mere chance. And how did you come here?"
"Spoil-sport stops and barks," cried Dagobert, who had already made
several steps in advance.
Indeed the dog, who was as impatient as his master to see the orphans,
and far better informed as to the place of their retreat, had posted
himself at the convent gate, and was beginning to bark, to attract the
attention of Dagobert. Understanding his dog, the latter said to the
hunchback, as he pointed in that direction with his finger: "The children
"Yes, M. Dagobert."
"I was sure of it. Good dog!--Oh, yes! beasts are better than men--except
you, my dear girl, who are better than either man or beast. But my poor
children! I shall see them, I shall have them once more!"
So saying, Dagobert, in spite of his age, began to run very fast towards
Spoil-sport. "Agricola," cried Mother Bunch, "prevent thy father from
knocking at that door. He would ruin all."
In two strides, the smith had reached his father, just as the latter was
raising his hand to the knocker. "Stop, father!" cried the smith, as he
seized Dagobert by the arm.
"What the devil is it now?"
"Mother Bunch says that to knock would ruin all."
"She will explain it to you." Although not so nimble as Agricola, Mother
Bunch soon came up, and said to the soldier: "M. Dagobert, do not let us
remain before this gate. They might open it, and see us; and that would
excite suspicion. Let us rather go away--"
"Suspicion!" cried the veteran, much surprised, but without moving from
the gate; "what suspicion?"
"I conjure you, do not remain there!" said Mother Bunch, with so much
earnestness, that Agricola joined her, and said to his father: "Since
sister rashes it, father, she has some reason for it. The Boulevard de
l'Hopital is a few steps from here; nobody passes that way; we can talk
there without being interrupted."
"Devil take me if I understand a word of all this!" cried Dagobert,
without moving from his post. "The children are here, and I will fetch
them away with me. It is an affair of ten minutes."
"Do not think that, M. Dagobert," said Mother Bunch. "It is much more
difficult than you imagine. But come! come!--I can hear them talk in the
In fact, the sound of voices was now distinctly audible. "Come father!"
said Agricola, forcing away the soldier, almost in spite of himself.
Spoil-sport, who appeared much astonished at these hesitations, barked
two or three times without quitting his post, as if to protest against
this humiliating retreat; but, being called by Dagobert, he hastened to
rejoin the main body.
It was now about five o'clock in the evening. A high wind swept thick
masses of grayish, rainy cloud rapidly across the sky. The Boulevard de
l'Hopital, which bordered on this portion of the convent-garden, was, as
we before said, almost deserted. Dagobert, Agricola, and the serving-
girl could hold a private conference in this solitary place.
The soldier did not disguise the extreme impatience that these delays
occasioned in him. Hardly had they turned the corner of the street, when
he said to Mother Bunch: "Come, my child, explain yourself. I am upon
"The house in which the daughters of Marshal Simon are confined is a
convent, M. Dagobert."
"A convent!" cried the soldier: "I might have suspected it." Then he
added: "Well, what then? I will fetch them from a convent as soon as
from any other place. Once is not always."
"But, M. Dagobert, they are confined against their will and against
yours. They will not give them up."
"They will not give them up? Zounds! we will see about that." And he
made a step towards the street.
"Father," said Agricola, holding him back, "one moment's patience; let us
"I will hear nothing. What! the children are there--two steps from me--I
know it--and I shall not have them, either by fair means or foul? Oh!
that would indeed be curious. Let me go."
"Listen to me, I beseech you, M. Dagobert," said Mother Bunch, taking his
hand: "there is another way to deliver these poor children. And that
without violence--for violence, as Mdlle. de Cardoville told me, would
"If there is any other way--quick--let me know it!"
"Here is a ring of Mdlle. de Cardoville's."
"And who is this Mdlle. de Cardoville?"
"Father," said Agricola, "it is the generous young lady, who offered to
be my bail, and to whom I have very important matters to communicate."
"Good, good," replied Dagobert; "we will talk of that presently. Well,
my dear girl--this ring?"
"You must take it directly, M. Dagobert, to the Count de Montbron, No.
7, Place Vendome. He appears to be a person of influence, and is a
friend of Mdlle. de Cardoville's. This ring will prove that you come on
her behalf, and you will tell him, that she is confined as a lunatic in
the asylum next door to this convent, in which the daughters of Marshal
Simon are detained against their will."
"Well, well--what next?"
"Then the Count de Montbron will take the proper steps with persons in
authority, to restore both Mdlle. de Cardoville and the daughters of
Marshal Simon to liberty--and perhaps, to-morrow, or the day after--"
"To-morrow or the day after!" cried Dagobert; "perhaps?--It is to-day, on
the instant, that I must have them. The day after to-morrow would be of
much use! Thanks, my good girl, but keep your ring: I will manage my own
business. Wait for me here, my boy."
"What are you going to do, father?" cried Agricola, still holding back
the soldier. "It is a convent, remember."
"You are only a raw recruit; I have my theory of convents at my fingers'
end. In Spain, I have put it in practice a hundred times. Here is what
will happen. I knock; a portress opens the door to me; she asks me what
I want, but I make no answer; she tries to stop me, but I pass on; once
in the convent, I walk over it from top to bottom, calling my children
with all my might."
"But, M. Dagobert, the nuns?" said Mother Bunch, still trying to detain
"The nuns run after me, screaming like so many magpies. I know them. At
Seville I fetched out an Andalusian girl, whom they were trying to keep
by force. Well, I walk about the convent calling for Rose and Blanche.
They hear me, and answer. If they are shut in, I take the first piece of
furniture that comes to hand, and break open the door."
"But, M. Dagobert--the nuns--the nuns?"
"The nuns, with all their squalling, will not prevent my breaking open
the door, seizing my children in my arms, and carrying them off. Should
the outer door be shut, there will be a second smash--that's all. So,"
added Dagobert, disengaging himself from the grasp, "wait for me here.
In ten minutes I shall be back again. Go and get a hackney-coach ready,
More calm than Dagobert, and, above all, better informed as to the
provisions of the Penal Code, Agricola was alarmed at the consequences
that might attend the veteran's strange mode of proceeding. So, throwing
himself before him, he exclaimed: "One word more, I entreat you."
"Zounds! make haste!"
"If you attempt to enter the convent by force, you will ruin all."
"First of all, M. Dagobert," said Mother Bunch, "there are men in the
convent. As I came out just now, I saw the porter loading his gun, and
heard the gardener talking of his sharp scythe, and the rounds he was to
make at night."
"Much I care for a porter's gun and a gardener's scythe!"
"Well, father; but listen to me a moment, I conjure you. Suppose you
knock, and the door is opened--the porter will ask you what you want.'
"I tell him that I wish to speak to the superior, and so walk into the
"But, M. Dagobert," said Mother Bunch, "when once you have crossed the
court-yard, you reach a second door, with a wicket. A nun comes to it,
to see who rings, and does not open the door till she knows the object of
"I will tell her that I wish to see the lady superior."
"Then, father, as you are not known in the convent, they will go and
inform the superior."
"Well, what then?"
"She will come down."
"She will ask you what you want, M. Dagobert."
"What I want?--the devil! my children!"
"One minute's patience, father. You cannot doubt, from the precautions
they have taken, that they wish to detain these young ladies against
their will, and against yours."
"Doubt! I am sure of it. To come to that point, they began by turning
the head of my poor wife."
"Then, father, the superior will reply to you that she does not know what
you mean, and that the young ladies are not in the convent."
"And I will reply to her, that they are in the convent witness--Mother
Bunch and Spoil-sport."
"The superior will answer, that she does not know you; that she has no
explanations to give you; and will close the wicket."
"Then I break it open--since one must come to that in the end--so leave
me alone, I tell you! 'sblood! leave me alone!"
"And, on this noise and violence, the porter will run and fetch the
guard, and they will begin by arresting you."
"And what will become of your poor children, then, M. Dagobert?" said
Agricola's father had too much good sense not to feel the truth of these
observations of the girl and his son; but he knew also, that, cost what
it might, the orphans must be delivered before the morrow. The
alternative was terrible--so terrible, that, pressing his two hands to
his burning forehead, Dagobert sunk back upon a stone bench, as if struck
down by the inexorable fatality of the dilemma.
Agricola and the workwoman, deeply moved by this mute despair, exchanged
a sad look. The smith, seating himself beside the soldier, said to him:
"Do not be down-hearted, father. Remember what's been told you. By
going with this ring of Mdlle. de Cardoville's to the influential
gentleman she named, the young ladies may be free by to-morrow, or, at
worst, by the day after."
"Blood and thunder! you want to drive me mad!" exclaimed Dagobert,
starting up from the bench, and looking at Mother Bunch and his son with
so savage an expression that Agricola and the sempstress drew back, with
an air of surprise and uneasiness.
"Pardon me, my children!" said Dagobert, recovering himself after a long
silence. "I am wrong to get in a passion, for we do not understand one
another. What you say is true; and yet I am right to speak as I do.
Listen to me. You are an honest man, Agricola; you an honest girl; what
I tell you is meant for you alone. I have brought these children from
the depths of Siberia--do you know why? That they may be to-morrow
morning in the Rue Saint-Francois. If they are not there, I have failed
to execute the last wish of their dying mother."
"No. 3, Rue Saint Francois?" cried Agricola, interrupting his father.
"Yes; how do you know the number?" said Dagobert.
"Is not the date inscribed on a bronze medal?"
"Yes," replied Dagobert, more end more surprised; "who told you?"
"One instant, father!" exclaimed Agricola; "let me reflect. I think I
guess it. Did you not tell me, my good sister, that Mdlle. de Cardoville
was not mad?"
"Not mad. They detain her in this asylum to prevent her communicating
with any one. She believes herself, like the daughters of Marshal Simon,
the victim of an odious machination."
"No doubt of it," cried the smith. "I understand all now, Mdlle. de
Cardoville has the same interest as the orphans to appear to-morrow at
the Rue Saint-Francois. But she does not perhaps know it."
"One word more, my good girl. Did Mdlle. de Cardoville tell you that she
had a powerful motive to obtain her freedom by to-morrow?"
"No; for when she gave me this ring for the Count de Montbron, she said
to me: 'By this means both I and Marshal Simon's daughters will be at
liberty either to-morrow or the day after--'"
"But explain yourself, then," said Dagobert to his son, with impatience.
"Just now," replied the smith, "when you came to seek me in prison, I
told you, father, that I had a sacred duty to perform, and that I would
rejoin you at home."
"Yes; and I went, on my side, to take some measures, of which I will
speak to you presently."
"I ran instantly to the house in the Rue de Babylone, not knowing that
Mdlle. de Cardoville was mad, or passed for mad. A servant, who opened
the door to me, informed me that the young lady had been seized with a
sudden attack of madness. You may conceive, father, what a blow that was
to me! I asked where she was: they answered, that they did not know. I
asked if I could speak to any of the family; as my jacket did not inspire
any great confidence, they replied that none of her family were at
present there. I was in despair, but an idea occurred to me. I said to
myself: 'If she is mad, her family physician must know where they have
taken her; if she is in a state to hear me, he will take me to her; if
not, I will speak to her doctor, as I would to her relations. A doctor
is often a friend.' I asked the servant, therefore, to give me the
doctor's address. I obtained it without difficulty--Dr. Baleinier, No.
12, Rue Taranne. I ran thither, but he had gone out; they told me that I
should find him about five o'clock at his asylum, which is next door to
the convent. That is how we have met."
"But the medal--the medal?" said Dagobert, impatiently; "where did you
"It is with regard to this and other things that I wished to make
important communications to Mdlle. de Cardoville."
"And what are these communications?"
"The fact is, father, I had gone to her the day of your departure, to beg
her to get me bail. I was followed; and when she learned this from her
waiting-woman, she concealed me in a hiding-place. It was a sort of
little vaulted room, in which no light was admitted, except through a
tunnel, made like a chimney; yet in a few minutes, I could see pretty
clearly. Having nothing better to do, I looked all about me and saw that
the walls were covered with wainscoting. The entrance to this room was
composed of a sliding panel, moving by means of weights and wheels
admirably contrived. As these concern my trade, I was interested in
them, so I examined the springs, spite of my emotion, with curiosity, and
understood the nature of their play; but there was one brass knob, of
which I could not discover the use. It was in vain to pull and move it
from right to left, none of the springs were touched. I said to myself:
'This knob, no doubt, belongs to another piece of mechanism'--and the
idea occurred to me, instead of drawing it towards me, to push it with
force. Directly after, I heard a grating sound, and perceived, just
above the entrance to the hiding-place, one of the panels, about two feet
square, fly open like the door of a secretary. As I had, no doubt,
pushed the spring rather too hard, a bronze medal and chain fell out with
"And you saw the address--Rue Saint-Francois?" cried Dagobert.
"Yes, father; and with this medal, a sealed letter fell to the ground.
On picking it up, I saw that it was addressed, in large letters: 'For
Mdlle. de Cardoville. To be opened by her the moment it is delivered.'
Under these words, I saw the initials 'R.' and 'C.,' accompanied by a
flourish, and this date: 'Paris, November the 13th, 1830.' On the other
side of the envelope I perceived two seals, with the letters 'R.' and
'C.,' surmounted by a coronet."
"And the seals were unbroken?" asked Mother Bunch.
"No doubt, then, Mdlle. de Cardoville was ignorant of the existence of
these papers," said the sempstress.
"That was my first idea, since she was recommended to open the letter
immediately, and, notwithstanding this recommendation, which bore date
two years back, the seals remained untouched."
"It is evident," said Dagobert. "What did you do?"
"I replaced the whole where it was before, promising myself to inform
Mdlle. de Cardoville of it. But, a few minutes after, they entered my
hiding-place, which had been discovered, and I did not see her again. I
was only able to whisper a few words of doubtful meaning to one of her
waiting-women, on the subject of what I had found, hoping thereby to
arouse the attention of her mistress; and, as soon as I was able to write
to you, my good sister, I begged you to go and call upon Mdlle. de
"But this medal," said Dagobert, "is exactly like that possessed by the
daughter of Marshal Simon. How can you account for that?"
"Nothing so plain, father. Mdlle. de Cardoville is their relation. I
remember now, that she told me so."
"A relation of Rose and Blanche?"
"Yes," added Mother Bunch; "she told that also to me just now."
"Well, then," resumed Dagobert, looking anxiously at his son, "do you now
understand why I must have my children this very day? Do you now
understand, as their poor mother told me on her death-bed, that one day's
delay might ruin all? Do you now see that I cannot be satisfied with a
perhaps to-morrow, when I have come all the way from Siberia, only, that
those children might be to-morrow in the Rue Saint-Francois? Do you at
last perceive that I must have them this night, even if I have to set
fire to the convent?"
"But, father, if you employ violence--"
"Zounds! do you know what the commissary of police answered me this
morning, when I went to renew my charge against your mother's confessor?
He said to me that there was no proof, and that they could do nothing."
"But now there is proof, father, for at least we know where the young
girls are. With that certainty we shall be strong. The law is more
powerful than all the superiors of convents in the world."
"And the Count de Montbron, to whom Mdlle. de Cardoville begs you to
apply," said Mother Bunch, "is a man of influence. Tell him the reasons
that make it so important for these young ladies, as well as Mdlle. de
Cardoville, to be at liberty this evening and he will certainly hasten
the course of justice, and to-night your children will be restored to
"Sister is in the right, father. Go to the Count. Meanwhile, I will run
to the commissary, and tell him that we now know where the young girls
are confined. Do you go home, and wait for us, my good girl. We will
meet at our own house!"
Dagobert had remained plunged in thought; suddenly, he said to Agricola:
"Be it so. I will follow your counsel. But suppose the commissary says
to you: 'We cannot act before to-morrow'--suppose the Count de Montbron
says to me the same thing--do not think I shall stand with my arms folded
until the morning."
"It is enough," resumed the soldier in an abrupt voice: "I have made up
my mind. Run to the commissary, my boy; wait for us at home, my good
girl; I will go to the Count. Give me the ring. Now for the address!"
"The Count de Montbron, No. 7, Place Vendome," said she; "you come on
behalf of Mdlle. de Cardoville."
"I have a good memory," answered the soldier. "We will meet as soon as
possible in the Rue Brise-Miche."
"Yes, father; have good courage. You will see that the law protects and
defends honest people."
"So much the better," said the soldier; "because, otherwise, honest
people would be obliged to protect and defend themselves. Farewell, my
children! we will meet soon in the Rue Brise-Miche."
When Dagobert, Agricola, and Mother Bunch separated, it was already dark
It is eight o'clock in the evening, the rain dashes against the windows
of Frances Baudoin's apartment in the Rue Brise-Miche, while violent
squalls of wind shake the badly dosed doors and casements. The disorder
and confusion of this humble abode, usually kept with so much care and
neatness, bore testimony to the serious nature of the sad events which
had thus disturbed existences hitherto peaceful in their obscurity.
The paved floor was soiled with mud, and a thick layer of dust covered
the furniture, once so bright and clean. Since Frances was taken away by
the commissary, the bed had not been made; at night Dagobert had thrown
himself upon it for a few hours in his clothes, when, worn out with
fatigue, and crushed by despair, he had returned from new and vain
attempts to discover Rose and Blanche's prison-house. Upon the drawers
stood a bottle, a glass, and some fragments of dry bread, proving the
frugality of the soldier, whose means of subsistence were reduced to the
money lent by the pawnbroker upon the things pledged by Mother Bunch,
after the arrest of Frances.
By the faint glimmer of a candle, placed upon the little stove, now cold
as marble, for the stock of wood had long been exhausted, one might have
seen the hunchback sleeping upon a chair, her head resting on her bosom,
her hands concealed beneath her cotton apron, and her feet resting on the
lowest rung of the chair; from time to time, she shivered in her damp,
After that long day of fatigue and diverse emotions, the poor creature
had eaten nothing. Had she even thought of it, she would have been at a
loss for bread. Waiting for the return of Dagobert and Agricola, she had
sunk into an agitated sleep--very different, alas! from calm and
refreshing slumber. From time to time, she half opened her eyes
uneasily, and looked around her. Then, again, overcome by irresistible
heaviness, her head fell upon her bosom.
After some minutes of silence, only interrupted by the noise of the wind,
a slow and heavy step was heard on the landing-place. The door opened,
and Dagobert entered, followed by Spoil-sport.
Waking with a start, Mother Bunch raised her head hastily, sprang from
her chair, and, advancing rapidly to meet Agricola's father, said to him:
"Well, M. Dagobert! have you good news? Have you--"
She could not continue, she was so struck with the gloomy expression of
the soldier's features. Absorbed in his reflections, he did not at first
appear to perceive the speaker, but threw himself despondingly on a
chair, rested his elbows upon the table, and hid his face in his hands.
After a long meditation, he rose, and said in a low voice: "It must--yes,
it must be done!"
Taking a few steps up and down the room, Dagobert looked around him, as
if in search of something. At length, after about a minute's
examination, he perceived near the stove, a bar of iron, perhaps two feet
long, serving to lift the covers, when too hot for the fingers. Taking
this in his hand, he looked at it closely, poised it to judge of its