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The Wandering Jew, v4 by Eugene Sue

Part 3 out of 3

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weight, and then laid it down upon the drawers with an air of
satisfaction. Surprised at the long silence of Dagobert, the needlewoman
followed his movements with timid and uneasy curiosity. But soon her
surprise gave way to fright, when she saw the soldier take down his
knapsack, place it upon a chair, open it, and draw from it a pair of
pocket-pistols, the locks of which he tried with the utmost caution.

Seized with terror, the sempstress could not forbear exclaiming: "Good
gracious, M. Dagobert! what are you going to do?"

The soldier looked at her as if he only now perceived her for the first
time, and said to her in a cordial, but abrupt voice: "Good-evening, my
good girl! What is the time?"

"Eight o'clock has just struck at Saint-Mery's, M. Dagobert."

"Eight o'clock," said the soldier, speaking to himself; "only eight!"

Placing the pistols by the side of the iron bar, he appeared again to
reflect, while he cast his eyes around him.

"M. Dagobert," ventured the girl, "you have not, then, good news?"

"No."

That single word was uttered by the soldier in so sharp a tone, that, not
daring to question him further, Mother Bunch sat down in silence. Spoil-
sport came to lean his head on the knees of the girl, and followed the
movements of Dagobert with as much curiosity as herself.

After remaining for some moments pensive and silent, the soldier
approached the bed, took a sheet from it, appeared to measure its length,
and then said, turning towards Mother Bunch: "The scissors!"

"But, M. Dagobert--"

"Come, my good girl! the scissors!" replied Dagobert, in a kind tone, but
one that commanded obedience. The sempstress took the scissors from
Frances' work-basket, and presented them to the soldier.

"Now, hold the other end of the sheet, my girl, and draw it out tight."

In a few minutes, Dagobert had cut the sheet into four strips, which he
twisted in the fashion of cords, fastening them here and there with bits
of tape, so as to preserve the twist, and tying them strongly together,
so as to make a rope of about twenty feet long. This, however, did not
suffice him, for he said to himself: "Now I must have a hook."

Again he looked around him, and Mother Bunch, more and more frightened,
for she now no longer doubted Dagobert's designs, said to him timidly:
"M. Dagobert, Agricola has not yet come in. It may be some good news
that makes him so late."

"Yes," said the soldier, bitterly, as he continued to cast round his eyes
in search of something he wanted; "good news like mine! But I must have
a strong iron hook."

Still looking about, he found one of the coarse, gray sacks, that Frances
was accustomed to make. He took it, opened it, and said to the work-
girl: "Put me the iron bar and the cord into this bag, my girl. It will
be easier to carry."

"Heavens!" cried she, obeying his directions; "you will not go without
seeing Agricola, M. Dagobert? He may perhaps have some good news to tell
you."

"Be satisfied! I shall wait for my boy. I need not start before ten
o'clock--so I have time."

"Alas, M. Dagobert! have you last all hope?"

"On the contrary. I have good hope--but in myself."

So saying, Dagobert twisted the upper end of the sack, for the purpose of
closing it, and placed it on the drawers, by the side of his pistols.

"At all events, you will wait for Agricola, M. Dagobert?"

"Yes, if he arrives before ten o'clock."

"Alas; you have then quite made up your mind?"

"Quite. And yet, if I were weak enough to believe in bad omens--"

"Sometimes, M. Dagobert, omens do not deceive one," said the girl, hoping
to induce the soldier to abandon his dangerous resolution.

"Yes," resumed Dagobert; "old women say so--and, although I am not an old
woman, what I saw just now weighed heavily on my heart. After all, I may
have taken a feeling of anger for a presentiment."

"What have you seen?"

"I will tell it you, my good girl; it may help to pass the time, which
appears long enough." Then, interrupting himself, he exclaimed: "Was it
the half hour that just struck?"

"Yes, M. Dagobert; it is half-past eight."

"Still an hour and a half," said Dagobert, in a hollow voice. "This," he
added, "is what I saw. As I came along the street, my notice was
attracted by a large red placard, at the head of which was a black
panther devouring a white horse. That sight gave me a turn, for you must
know, my good girl, that a black panther destroyed a poor old white horse
that I had, Spoil-sport's companion, whose name was Jovial."

At the sound of this name, once so familiar, Spoil-sport, who was
crouching at the workwoman's feet, raised his head hastily, and looked at
Dagobert.

"You see that beasts have memory--he recollects," said the soldier,
sighing himself at the remembrance. Then, addressing his dog he added:
"Dost remember Jovial?"

On hearing this name a second time pronounced by his master, in a voice
of emotion, Spoil-sport gave a low whine, as if to indicate that he had
not forgotten his old travelling companion.

"It was, indeed, a melancholy incident, M. Dagobert," said Mother Bunch,
"to find upon this placard a panther devouring a horse."

"That is nothing to what's to come; you shall hear the rest. I drew near
the bill, and read in it, that one Morok, just arrived from Germany, is
about to exhibit in a theatre different wild beasts that he tamed, among
others a splendid lion, a tiger, and a black Java panther named Death."

"What an awful name!" said the hearer.

"You will think it more awful, my child, when I tell you, that this is
the very panther which strangled my horse at Leipsic, four months ago."

"Good Heaven! you are right, M. Dagobert," said the girl, "it is awful."

"Wait a little," said Dagobert, whose countenance was growing more and
more gloomy, "that is not all. It was by means of this very Morok, the
owner of the panther, that I and my poor children were imprisoned in
Leipsic."

"And this wicked man is in Paris, and wishes you evil?" said Mother
Bunch. "Oh! you are right, M. Dagobert; you must take care of yourself;
it is a bad omen."

"For him, if I catch him," said Dagobert, in a hollow tone. "We have old
accounts to settle."

"M. Dagobert," cried Mother Bunch, listening; "some one is running up the
stairs. It is Agricola's footsteps. I am sure he has good news."

"That will just do," said the soldier, hastily, without answering.
"Agricola is a smith. He will be able to find me the iron hook."

A few moments after, Agricola entered the room; but, alas! the sempstress
perceived at the first glance, in the dejected countenance of the
workman, the ruin of her cherished hopes.

"Well!" said Dagobert to his son, in a tone which clearly announced the
little faith he attached to the steps taken by Agricola; "well, what
news?"

"Father, it is enough to drive one mad--to make one dash one's brains out
against the wall!" cried the smith in a rage.

Dagobert turned towards Mother Bunch, and said: "You see, my poor child--
I was sure of it."

"Well, father," cried Agricola; "have you seen the Court de Montbron?"

"The Count de Montbron set out for Lorraine three days ago. That is my
good news," continued the soldier, with bitter irony; "let us have yours-
-I long to know all. I need to know, if, on appealing to the laws,
which, as you told me, protect and defend honest people, it ever happens
that the rogues get the best of it. I want to know this, and then I want
an iron hook--so I count upon you for both."

"What do you mean, father?"

"First, tell me what you have done. We have time. It is not much more
than half-past eight. On leaving me, where did you go first?"

"To the commissary, who had already received your depositions."

"What did he say to you?"

"After having very kindly listened to all I had to state, he answered,
that these young girls were placed in a respectable house, a convent--so
that there did not appear any urgent necessity for their immediate
removal--and besides, he could not take upon himself to violate the
sanctity of a religious dwelling upon your simple testimony; to-morrow,
he will make his report to the proper authorities, and steps will be
taken accordingly."

"Yes, yes--plenty of put offs," said the soldier.

"'But, sir,' answered I to him," resumed Agricola, "'it is now, this very
night, that you ought to act, for if these young girls should not be
present to-morrow morning in the Rue Saint Francois, their interests may
suffer incalculable damage. 'I am very sorry for it,' replied he, 'but I
cannot, upon your simple declaration, or that of your father, who--like
yourself--is no relation or connection of these young persons, act in
direct opposition to forms, which could not be set aside, even on the
demand of a family. The law has its delays and its formalities, to which
we are obliged to submit.'"

"Certainly!" said Dagobert. "We must submit to them, at the risk of
becoming cowardly, ungrateful traitors!"

"Didst speak also of Mdlle. de Cardoville to him?" asked the work-girl.

"Yes--but he: answered me on this subject in much the same manner: 'It
was very serious; there was no proof in support of my deposition. A
third party had told me that Mdlle. de Cardoville affirms she was not
mad; but all mad people pretend to be sane. He could not, therefore,
upon my sole testimony, take upon himself to enter the house of a
respectable physician. But he would report upon it, and the law would
have its course--'"

"When I wished to act just now for myself," said Dagobert, "did I not
forsee all this? And yet I was weak enough to listen to you."

"But, father, what you wished to attempt was impossible, and you agreed
that it would expose you to far too dangerous consequences."

"So," resumed the soldier, without answering his son, "they told you in
plain terms, that we must not think of obtaining legally the release of
Rose and Blanche this evening or even to-morrow morning?"

"Yes, father. In the eyes of the law, there is no special urgency. The
question may not be decided for two or three days."

"That is all I wished to know," said Dagobert, rising and walking up and
down the room.

"And yet," resumed his son, "I did not consider myself beaten. In
despair, but believing that justice could not remain deaf to such
equitable claims, I ran to the Palais de Justice, hoping to find there a
judge, a magistrate who would receive my complaint, and act upon it."

"Well?" said the soldier, stopping him.

"I was told that the courts shut every day at five o'clock, and do not
open again til ten in the morning. Thinking of your despair, and of the
position of poor Mdlle. de Cardoville, I determined to make one more
attempt. I entered a guard-house of troops of the line, commanded by a
lieutenant. I told him all. He saw that I was so much moved, and I
spoke with such warmth and conviction, that he became interested.--
'Lieutenant,' said I to him, 'grant me one favor; let a petty officer and
two soldiers go to the convent to obtain a legal entrance. Let them ask
to see the daughters of Marshal Simon, and learn whether it is their
choice to remain, or return to my father, who brought them from Russia.
You will then see if they are not detained against their will--'"

"And what answer did he give you, Agricola?" asked Mother Bunch, while
Dagobert shrugged his shoulders, and continued to walk up and down.

"'My good fellow,' said he, 'what you ask me is impossible. I understand
your motives, but I cannot take upon myself so serious a measure. I
should be broke were I to enter a convent by force.--'Then, sir, what am
I to do? It is enough to turn one's head.'--'Faith, I don't know,' said
the lieutenant; 'it will be safest, I think, to wait.'--Then, believing I
had done all that was possible, father, I resolved to come back, in the
hope that you might have been more fortunate than I--but, alas! I was
deceived!"

So saying, the smith sank upon a chair, for he was worn out with anxiety
and fatigue. There was a moment of profound silence after these words of
Agricola, which destroyed the last hopes of the three, mute and crushed
beneath the strokes of inexorable fatality.

A new incident came to deepen the sad and painful character of this
scene.

CHAPTER XI.

DISCOVERIES.

The door which Agricola had not thought of fastening opened, as it were,
timidly, and Frances Baudoin, Dagobert's wife, pale, sinking, hardly able
to support herself, appeared on the threshold.

The soldier, Agricola, and Mother Bunch, were plunged in such deep
dejection, that neither of them at first perceived the entrance. Frances
advanced two steps into the room, fell upon her knees, clasped her hands
together, and said in a weak and humble voice; "My poor husband--pardon!"

At these words, Agricola and the work-girl--whose backs were towards the
door--turned round suddenly, and Dagobert hastily raised his head.

"My mother!" cried Agricola, running to Frances.

"My wife!" cried Dagobert, as he also rose, and advanced to meet the
unfortunate woman.

"On your knees, dear mother!" said Agricola, stooping down to embrace her
affectionately. "Get up, I entreat you!"

"No, my child," said Frances, in her mild, firm accents, "I will not
rise, till your father has forgiven me. I have wronged him much--now I
know it."

"Forgive you, my poor wife?" said the soldier, as he drew near with
emotion. "Have I ever accused you, except in my first transport of
despair? No, no; it was the bad priests that I accused, and there I was
right. Well! I have you again," added he, assisting his son to raise
Frances; "one grief the less. They have then restored you to liberty?
Yesterday, I could not even learn in what prison they had put you. I
have so many cares that I could not think of you only. But come, dear
wife: sit down!"

"How feeble you are, dear mother!--how cold--how pale!" said Agricola
with anguish, his eyes filling with tears.

"Why did you not let us know?" added he. "We would have gone to fetch
you. But how you tremble! Your hands are frozen!" continued the smith,
as he knelt down before Frances. Then, turning towards Mother Bunch:
"Pray, make a little fire directly."

"I thought of it, as soon as your father came in, Agricola, but there is
no wood nor charcoal left."

"Then pray borrow some of Father Loriot, my dear sister. He is too good
a fellow to refuse. My poor mother trembles so--she might fall ill."

Hardly had he said the words, than Mother Bunch went out. The smith rose
from the ground, took the blanket from the bed, and carefully wrapped it
about the knees and feet of his mother. Then, again kneeling down, he
said to her: "Your hands, dear mother!" and, taking those feeble palms in
his own, he tried to warm them with his breath.

Nothing could be more touching than this picture: the robust young man,
with his energetic and resolute countenance, expressing by his looks the
greatest tenderness, and paying the most delicate attentions to his poor,
pale, trembling old mother.

Dagobert, kind-hearted as his son, went to fetch a pillow, and brought it
to his wife, saying: "Lean forward a little, and I will put this pillow
behind you; you will be more comfortable and warmer."

"How you both spoil me!" said Frances, trying to smile. "And you to be
so kind, after all the ill I have done!" added she to Dagobert, as,
disengaging one of her hands from those of her son, she took the
soldier's hand and pressed it to her tearful eyes. "In prison," said she
in a low voice, "I had time to repent."

Agricola's heart was near breaking at the thought that his pious and good
mother, with her angelic purity, should for a moment have been confined
in prison with so many miserable creatures. He would have made some
attempt to console her on the subject of the painful past, but he feared
to give a new shock to Dagobert, and was silent.

"Where is Gabriel, dear mother?" inquired he. "How is he? As you have
seen him, tell us all about him."

"I have seen Gabriel," said Frances, drying her tears; "he is confined at
home. His superiors have rigorously forbidden his going out. Luckily,
they did not prevent his receiving me, for his words and counsels have
opened my eyes to many things. It is from him that I learned how guilty
I had been to you, my poor husband."

"How so?" asked Dagobert.

"Why, you know that if I caused you so much grief, it was not from
wickedness. When I saw you in such despair, I suffered almost as much
myself; but I durst not tell you so, for fear of breaking my oath. I had
resolved to keep it, believing that I did well, believing that it was my
duty. And yet something told me that it could not be my duty to cause
you so much pain. 'Alas, my God! enlighten me!' I exclaimed in my
prison, as I knelt down and prayed, in spite of the mockeries of the
other women. 'Why should a just and pious work, commanded by my
confessor, the most respectable of men, overwhelm me and mine with so
much misery? 'Have mercy on me, my God, and teach me if I have done
wrong without knowing it!' As I prayed with fervor, God heard me, and
inspired me with the idea of applying to Gabriel. 'I thank Thee, Father!
I will obey!' said I within myself. 'Gabriel is like my own child; but
he is also a priest, a martyr--almost a saint. If any one in the world
imitates the charity of our blessed Saviour, it is surely he. When I
leave this prison, I will go and consult him and he will clear up my
doubts.'"

"You are right, dear mother," cried Agricola; "it was a thought from
heaven. Gabriel is an angel of purity, courage, nobleness--the type of
the true and good priest!"

"Ah, poor wife!" said Dagobert, with bitterness; "if you had never had
any confessor but Gabriel!"

"I thought of it before he went on his journey," said Frances, with
simplicity. "I should have liked to confess to the dear boy--but I
fancied Abbe Dubois would be offended, and that Gabriel would be too
indulgent with regard to my sins.

"Your sins, poor dear mother?" said Agricola. "As if you ever committed
any!"

"And what did Gabriel tell you?" asked the soldier.

"Alas, my dear! had I but had such an interview with him sooner! What I
told him of Abbe Dubois roused his suspicions, and he questioned me, dear
child, as to many things of which he had never spoken to me before. Then
I opened to him my whole heart, and he did the same to me, and we both
made sad discoveries with regard to persons whom we had always thought
very respectable, and who yet had deceived each of us, unknown to the
other."

"How so?"

"Why, they used to tell him, under the seal of secrecy, things that were
supposed to come from me; and they used to tell me, under the same seal
of secrecy, things that were supposed to come from him. Thus, he
confessed to me, that he did not feel at first any vocation for the
priesthood; but they told him that I should not believe myself safe in
this world or in the next, if he did not take orders, because I felt
persuaded that I could best serve the Lord by giving Him so good a
servant; and that yet I had never dared to ask Gabriel himself to give me
this proof of his attachment, though I had taken him from the street, a
deserted orphan, and brought him up as my own son, at the cost of labor
and privations. Then, how could it be otherwise? The poor dear child,
thinking he could please me, sacrificed himself. He entered the
seminary."

"Horrible," said Agricola; "'tis an infamous snare, and, for the priests
who were guilty of it, a sacrilegious lie!"

"During all that time," resumed Frances, "they were holding very
different language to me. I was told that Gabriel felt his vocation, but
that he durst not avow it to me, for fear of my being jealous on account
of Agricola, who, being brought up as a workman, would not enjoy the same
advantages as those which the priesthood would secure to Gabriel. So
when he asked my permission to enter the seminary dear child! he entered
it with regret, but he thought he was making me so happy!--instead of
discouraging this idea, I did all in my power to persuade him to follow
it, assuring him that he could not do better, and that it would occasion
me great joy. You understand, I exaggerated, for fear he should think me
jealous on account of Agricola."

"What an odious machination!" said Agricola, in amazement. "They were
speculating in this unworthy manner upon your mutual devotion. Thus
Gabriel saw the expression of your dearest wish in the almost forced
encouragement given to his resolution."

"Little by little, however, as Gabriel has the best heart in the world,
the vocation really came to him. That was natural enough--he was born to
console those who suffer, and devote himself for the unfortunate. He
would never have spoken to me of the past, had it not been for this
morning's interview. But then I beheld him, who is usually so mild and
gentle, become indignant, exasperated, against M. Rodin and another
person whom he accuses. He had serious complaints against them already,
but these discoveries, he says, will make up the measure."

At these words of Frances, Dagobert pressed his hand to his forehead, as
if to recall something to his memory. For some minutes he had listened
with surprise, and almost terror, to the account of these secret plots,
conducted with such deep and crafty dissimulation.

Frances continued: "When at last I acknowledged to Gabriel, that by the
advice of Abbe Dubois, my confessor, I had delivered to a stranger the
children confined to my husband--General Simon's daughters--the dear boy
blamed me, though with great regret, not for having wished to instruct
the poor orphans in the truths of our holy religion, but for having acted
without the consent of my husband, who alone was answerable before God
and man for the charge entrusted to him. Gabriel severely censured Abbe
Dubois' conduct, who had given me, he said, bad and perfidious counsels;
and then, with the sweetness of an angel, the dear boy consoled me, and
exhorted me to come and tell you all. My poor husband! he would fain
have accompanied me, for I had scarcely courage to come hither, so
strongly did I feel the wrong I had done you; but, unfortunately, Gabriel
is confined at the seminary by the strict order of his superiors; he
could not come with me, and--"

Here Dagobert, who seemed much agitated, abruptly interrupted his wife.
"One word, Frances," said he; "for, in truth, in the midst of so many
cares, and black, diabolical plots, one loses one's memory, and the head
begins to wander. Didst not tell me, the day the children disappeared,
that Gabriel, when taken in by you, had round his neck a bronze medal,
and in his pocket a book filled with papers in a foreign language?"

"Yes, my dear."

"And this medal and these papers were afterwards delivered to your
confessor?"

"Yes, my dear."

"And Gabriel never spoke of them since?"

"Never."

Agricola, hearing this from his mother, looked at her with surprise, and
exclaimed: "Then Gabriel has the same interest as the daughters of
General Simon, or Mdlle. de Cardoville, to be in the Rue Saint-Francois
to-morrow?"

"Certainly," said Dagobert. "And now do you remember what he said to us,
just after my arrival--that, in a few days, he would need our support in
a serious matter?"

"Yes, father."

"And he is kept a prisoner at his seminary! And he tells your mother
that he has to complain of his superiors! and he asked us for our support
with so sad and grave an air, that I said to him--"

"He would speak so, if about to engage in a deadly duel," interrupted
Agricola. "True, father! and yet you, who are a good judge of valor,
acknowledged that Gabriel's courage was equal to yours. For him so to
fear his superiors, the danger must be great indeed."

"Now that I have heard your mother, I understand it all," said Dagobert.
"Gabriel is like Rose and Blanche, like Mdlle. de Cardoville, like your
mother, like all of us, perhaps--the victim of a secret conspiracy of
wicked priests. Now that I know their dark machinations, their infernal
perseverance, I see," added the soldier, in a whisper, "that it requires
strength to struggle against them. I had not the least idea of their
power."

"You are right, father; for those who are hypocritical and wicked do as
much harm as those who are good and charitable, like Gabriel, do good.
There is no more implacable enemy than a bad priest."

"I know it, and that's what frightens me; for my poor children are in
their hands. But is all lost? Shall I bring myself to give them up
without an effort? Oh, no, no! I will not show any weakness--and yet,
since your mother told us of these diabolical plots, I do not know how it
is but I seem less strong, less resolute. What is passing around me
appears so terrible. The spiriting away of these children is no longer
an isolated fact--it is one of the ramifications of a vast conspiracy,
which surrounds and threatens us all. It seems to me as if I and those I
love walked together in darkness, in the midst of serpents, in the midst
of snares that we can neither see nor struggle against. Well! I'll
speak out! I have never feared death--I am not a coward and yet I
confess--yes, I confess it--these black robes frighten me--"

Dagobert pronounced these words in so sincere a tone, that his son
started, for he shared the same impression. And it was quite natural.
Frank, energetic, resolute characters, accustomed to act and fight in the
light of day, never feel but one fear--and that is, to be ensnared and
struck in the dark by enemies that escape their grasp. Thus, Dagobert
had encountered death twenty times; and yet, on hearing his wife's simple
revelation of this dark tissue of lies, and treachery, and crime, the
soldier felt a vague sense of fear; and, though nothing was changed in
the conditions of his nocturnal enterprise against the convent, it now
appeared to him in a darker and more dangerous light.

The silence, which had reigned for some moments, was interrupted by
Mother Bunch's return. The latter, knowing that the interview between
Dagobert, his wife, and Agricola, ought not have any importunate witness,
knocked lightly at the door, and remained in the passage with Father
Loriot.

"Can we come in, Mme. Frances?" asked the sempstress. "Here is Father
Loriot, bringing some wood."

"Yes, yes; come in, my good girl," said Agricola, whilst his father wiped
the cold sweat from his forehead.

The door opened, and the worthy dyer appeared, with his hands and arms of
an amaranthine color; on one side, he carried a basket of wood, and on
the other some live coal in a shovel.

"Good-evening to the company!" said Daddy Loriot. "Thank you for having
thought of me, Mme. Frances. You know that my shop and everything in it
are at your service. Neighbors should help one another; that's my motto!
You were kind enough, I should think, to my late wife!"

Then, placing the wood in a corner, and giving the shovel to Agricola,
the worthy dyer, guessing from the sorrowful appearance of the different
actors in this scene, that it would be impolite to prolong his visit,
added: "You don't want anything else, Mme. Frances?"

"No, thank you, Father Loriot."

"Then, good-evening to the company!" said the dyer; and, addressing
Mother Bunch, he added: "Don't forget the letter for M. Dagobert. I
durstn't touch it for fear of leaving the marks of my four fingers and
thumb in amaranthine! But, good evening to the company!" and Father
Loriot went out.

"M. Dagobert, here is a letter," said Mother Bunch. She set herself to
light the fire in the stove, while Agricola drew his mother's arm-chair
to the hearth.

"See what it is, my boy," said Dagobert to his son; "my head is so heavy
that I cannot see clear." Agricola took the letter, which contained only
a few lines, and read it before he looked at the signature.

"At Sea, December 25th, 1831.

"I avail myself of a few minutes' communication with a ship bound direct
for Europe, to write to you, my old comrade, a few hasty lines, which
will reach you probably by way of Havre, before the arrival of my last
letters from India. You must by this time be at Paris, with my wife and
child--tell them--

"I am unable to say more--the boat is departing. Only one word; I shall
soon be in France. Do not forget the 13th February; the future of my
wife and child depends upon it.

"Adieu, my friend! Believe in my eternal gratitude.

"SIMON."

"Agricola--quick! look to your father!" cried the hunchback.

From the first words of this letter, which present circumstances made so
cruelly applicable, Dagobert had become deadly pale. Emotion, fatigue,
exhaustion, joined to this last blow, made him stagger.

His son hastened to him, and supported him in his arms. But soon the
momentary weakness passed away, and Dagobert, drawing his hand across his
brow, raised his tall figure to its full height. Then, whilst his eye
sparkled, his rough countenance took an expression of determined
resolution, and he exclaimed, in wild excitement: "No, no! I will not be
a traitor; I will not be a coward. The black robes shall not frighten
me; and, this night, Rose and Blanche Simon shall be free!"

CHAPTER XII.

THE PENAL CODE.

Startled for a moment by the dark and secret machinations of the black
robes, as he called them, against the persons he most loved, Dagobert
might have hesitated an instant to attempt the deliverance of Rose and
Blanche; but his indecision ceased directly on the reading of Marshal
Simon's letter, which came so timely to remind him of his sacred duties.

To the soldier's passing dejection had succeeded a resolution full of
calm and collected energy.

"Agricola, what o'clock is it?" asked he of his son.

"Just struck nine, father."

"You must make me, directly, an iron hook--strong enough to support my
weight, and wide enough to hold on the coping of a wall. This stove will
be forge and anvil; you will find a hammer in the house; and, for iron,"
said the soldier, hesitating, and looking around him, "as for iron--here
is some!"

So saying, the soldier took from the hearth a strong pair of tongs, and
presented them to his son, adding: "Come, my boy! blow up the fire, blow
it to a white heat, and forge me this iron!"

On these words, Frances and Agricola looked at each other with surprise;
the smith remained mute and confounded, not knowing the resolution of his
father, and the preparations he had already commenced with the
needlewoman's aid.

"Don't you hear me, Agricola," repeated Dagobert, still holding the pair
of tongs in his hand; "you must make me a hook directly."

"A hook, father?--for what purpose?"

"To tie to the end of a cord that I have here. There must be a loop at
one end large enough to fix it securely."

"But this cord--this hook--for what purpose are they?"

"To scale the walls of the convent, if I cannot get in by the door."

"What convent?" asked Frances of her son.

"How, father?" cried the latter, rising abruptly. "You still think of
that?"

"Why! what else should I think of?"

"But, father, it is impossible; you will never attempt such an
enterprise."

"What is it, my child?" asked Frances, with anxiety. "Where is father
going?"

"He is going to break into the convent where Marshal Simon's daughters
are confined, and carry them off."

"Great God! my poor husband--a sacrilege!" cried Frances, faithful to her
pious traditions, and, clasping her hands together, she endeavored to
rise and approach Dagobert.

The soldier, forseeing that he would have to contend with observations
and prayers of all sorts, and resolved not to yield, determined to cut
short all useless supplications, which would only make him lose precious
time. He said, therefore, with a grave, severe, and almost solemn air,
which showed the inflexibility of his determination: "Listen to me, wife-
-and you also, my son--when, at my age, a man makes up his mind to do
anything, he knows the reason why. And when a man has once made up his
mind, neither wife nor child can alter it. I have resolved to do my
duty; so spare yourselves useless words. It may be your duty to talk to
me as you have done; but it is over now, and we will say no more about
it. This evening I must be master in my own house."

Timid and alarmed, Frances did not dare to utter a word, but she turned a
supplicating glance towards her son.

"Father," said the latter, "one word more--only one."

"Let us hear," replied Dagobert, impatiently.

"I will not combat your resolution; but I will prove to you that you do
not know to what you expose yourself."

"I know it all," replied the soldier, in an abrupt tone. "The
undertaking is a serious one; but it shall not be said that I neglected
any means to accomplish what I promised to do."

"But father, you do not know to what danger you expose yourself," said
the smith, much alarmed.

"Talk of danger! talk of the porter's gun and the gardener's scythe!"
said Dagobert, shrugging his shoulders contemptuously. "Talk of them,
and have done with it for, after all, suppose I were to leave my carcass
in the convent, would not you remain to your mother? For twenty years,
you were accustomed to do without me. It will be all the less trying to
you."

"And I, alas! am the cause of these misfortunes!" cried the poor mother.
"Ah! Gabriel had good reason to blame me."

"Mme. Frances, be comforted," whispered the sempstress, who had drawn
near to Dagobert's wife. "Agricola will not suffer his father to expose
himself thus."

After a moment's hesitation, the smith resumed, in an agitated voice: "I
know you too well, father, to think of stopping you by the fear of
death."

"Of what danger, then, do you speak?"

"Of a danger from which even you will shrink, brave as you are," said the
young man, in a voice of emotion, that forcibly struck his father.

"Agricola," said the soldier, roughly and severely, "that remark is
cowardly, you are insulting."

"Father--"

"Cowardly! resumed the soldier, angrily; "because it is cowardice to wish
to frighten a man from his duty--insulting! because you think me capable
of being so frightened."

"Oh, M. Dagobert!" exclaimed the sewing-girl, "you do not understand
Agricola."

"I understand him too well," answered the soldier harshly.

Painfully affected by the severity of his father, but firm in his
resolution, which sprang from love and respect, Agricola resumed, whilst
his heart beat violently. "Forgive me, if I disobey you, father; but,
were you to hate me for it, I must tell you to what you expose yourself
by scaling at night the walls of a convent--"

"My son! do you dare?" cried Dagobert, his countenance inflamed with
rage--

"Agricola!" exclaimed Frances, in tears. "My husband!"

"M. Dagobert, listen to Agricola!" exclaimed Mother Bunch. "It is only
in your interest that he speaks."

"Not one word more!" replied the soldier, stamping his foot with anger.

"I tell you, father," exclaimed the smith, growing fearfully pale as he
spoke, "that you risk being sent to the galleys!"

"Unhappy boy!" cried Dagobert, seizing his son by the arm; "could you not
keep that from me--rather than expose me to become a traitor and a
coward?" And the soldier shuddered, as he repeated: "The galleys!"--and,
bending down his head, remained mute, pensive, withered, as it were, by
those blasting words.

"Yes, to enter an inhabited place by night, in such a manner, is what the
law calls burglary, and punishes with the galleys," cried Agricola, at
once grieved and rejoicing at his father's depression of mind--"yes,
father, the galleys, if you are taken in the act; and there are ten
chances to one that you would be so. Mother Bunch has told you, the
convent is guarded. This morning, had you attempted to carry off the two
young ladies in broad daylight, you would have been arrested; but, at
least, the attempt would have been an open one, with a character of
honest audacity about it, that hereafter might have procured your
acquittal. But to enter by night, and by scaling the walls--I tell you,
the galleys would be the consequence. Now, father, decide. Whatever you
do, I will do also--for you shall not go alone. Say but the word, and I
will forge the hook for you--I have here hammer and pincers--and in an
hour we will set out."

A profound silence followed these words--a silence that was only
interrupted by the stifled sobs of Frances, who muttered to herself in
despair: "Alas! this is the consequence of listening to Abbe Dubois!"

It was in vain that Mother Bunch tried to console Frances. She was
herself alarmed, for the soldier was capable of braving even infamy, and
Agricola had determined to share the perils of his father.

In spite of his energetic and resolute character, Dagobert remained for
some time in a kind of stupor. According to his military habits, he had
looked at this nocturnal enterprise only as a ruse de guerre, authorized
by his good cause, and by the inexorable fatality of his position; but
the words of his son brought him back to the fearful reality, and left
him the choice of a terrible alternative--either to betray the confidence
of Marshal Simon, and set at naught the last wishes of the mother of the
orphan--or else to expose himself, and above all his son, to lasting
disgrace--without even the certainty of delivering the orphans after all.

Drying her eyes, bathed in tears, Frances exclaimed, as if by a sudden
inspiration: "Dear me! I have just thought of it. There is perhaps a way
of getting these dear children from the convent without violence."

"How so, mother?" said Agricola, hastily.

"It is Abbe Dubois, who had them conveyed thither; but Gabriel supposes,
that he probably acted by the advice of M. Rodin.

"And if that were so, mother, it would be in vain to apply to M. Rodin.
We should get nothing from him."

"Not from him--but perhaps from that powerful abbe, who is Gabriel's
superior, and has always patronized him since his first entrance at the
seminary."

"What abbe, mother?"

"Abbe d'Aigrigny."

"True mother; before being a priest, he was a soldier he may be more
accessible than others--and yet--"

"D'Aigrigny!" cried Dagobert, with an expression of hate and horror.
"There is then mixed up with these treasons, a man who was a soldier
before being a priest, and whose name is D'Aigrigny?"

"Yes, father; the Marquis d'Aigrigny--before the Restoration, in the
service of Russia--but, in 1815, the Bourbons gave him a regiment."

"It is he!" said Dagobert, in a hollow voice. "Always the same! like an
evil spirit--to the mother, father, children."

"What do you mean, father?"

"The Marquis d'Aigrigny!" replied Dagobert. "Do you know what is this
man? Before he was a priest, he was the murderer of Rose and Blanche's
mother, because she despised his love. Before he was a priest, he fought
against his country, and twice met General Simon face to face in war.
Yes; while the general was prisoner at Leipsic, covered with wounds at
Waterloo, the turncoat marquis triumphed with the Russians and English!--
Under the Bourbons, this same renegade, loaded with honors, found himself
once more face to face with the persecuted soldier of the empire.
Between them, this time, there was a mortal duel--the marquis was
wounded--General Simon was proscribed, condemned, driven into exile. The
renegade, you say, has become a priest. Well! I am now certain, that it
is he who has carried off Rose and Blanche, in order to wreak on them his
hatred of their father and mother. It is the infamous D'Aigrigny, who
holds them in his power. It is no longer the fortune of these children
that I have to defend; it is their life--do you hear what I say?--their
very life?"

"What, father! do you think this man capable--"

"A traitor to his country, who finishes by becoming a mock priest, is
capable of anything. I tell you, that, perhaps at this moment he may be
killing those children by a slow-fire!" exclaimed the soldier, in a voice
of agony. "To separate them from one another was to begin to kill them.
Yes!" added Dagobert, with an exasperation impossible to describe; "the
daughters of Marshal Simon are in the power of the Marquis d'Aigrigny and
his band, and I hesitate to attempt their rescue, for fear of the
galleys! The galleys!" added he, with a convulsive burst of laughter;
"what do I care for the galleys? Can they send a corpse there? If this
last attempt fail, shall I not have the right to blow my brains out?--Put
the iron in the fire, my boy--quick! time presses--and strike while the
iron's hot!"

"But your son goes with you!" exclaimed Frances, with a cry of maternal
despair. Then rising, she threw herself at the feet of Dagobert, and
said: "If you are arrested, he will be arrested also."

"To escape the galleys, he will do as I do. I have two pistols."

"And without you--without him," cried the unhappy mother, extending her
hands in supplication, "what will become of me?"

"You are right--I was too selfish," said Dagobert. "I will go alone."

"You shall not go alone, father," replied Agricola.

"But your mother?"

"Mother Bunch sees what is passing; she will go to Mr. Hardy, my master,
and tell him all. He is the most generous of men, and my mother will
have food and shelter for the rest of her days."

"And I am the cause of all!" cried Frances, wringing her hands in
despair. "Punish me, oh, heaven! for it is my fault. I gave up those
children. I shall be punished by the death of my child!"

"Agricola, you shall not go with me--I forbid it!" said Dagobert,
clasping his son closely to his breast.

"What! when I have pointed out the danger, am I to be the first to shrink
from it? you cannot think thus lowly of me, father! Have I not also some
one to deliver? The good, the generous Mdlle. de Cardoville, who tried
to save me from a prison, is a captive in her turn. I will follow you,
father. It is my right, my duty, my determination."

So saying, Agricola put into the heated stove the tongs that were
intended to form the hook. "Alas! may heaven have pity upon us!" cried
his poor mother, sobbing as she still knelt, whilst the soldier seemed a
prey to the most violent internal struggle.

"Do not cry so, dear mother; you will break my heart," said Agricola, as
he raised her with the sempstress's help. "Be comforted! I have
exaggerated the danger of my father. By acting prudently, we two may
succeed in our enterprise; without much risk--eh, father?" added he, with
a significant glance at Dagobert. "Once more, be comforted, dear mother.
I will answer for everything. We will deliver Marshal Simon's daughters,
and Mdlle. de Cardoville too. Sister, give me the hammer and pincers,
there in the press."

The sempstress, drying her tears, did as desired, while Agricola, by the
help of bellows, revived the fire in which the tongs were heating.

"Here are your tools, Agricola," said the hunchback, in a deeply-agitated
voice, as she presented them with trembling hands to the smith, who, with
the aid of the pincers, soon drew from the fire the white-hot tongs, and,
with vigorous blows of the hammer, formed them into a hook, taking the
stove for his anvil.

Dagobert had remained silent and pensive. Suddenly he said to Frances,
taking her by the hand: "You know what metal your son is. To prevent his
following me would now be impossible. But do not be afraid, dear wife;
we shall succeed--at least, I hope so. And if we should not succeed--if
Agricola and me should be arrested--well! we are not cowards; we shall
not commit suicide; but father and son will go arm in arm to prison, with
heads high and proud, look like two brave men who have done their duty.
The day of trial must come, and we will explain all, honestly, openly--we
will say, that, driven to the last extremity, finding no support, no
protection in the law, we were forced to have recourse to violence. So
hammer away, my boy!" added Dagobert, addressing his son, pounding the
hot iron; "forge, forge, without fear. Honest judges will absolve honest
men."

"Yes, father, you are right, be at ease dear mother! The judges will see
the difference between rascals who scale walls in order to rob, and an
old soldier and his son who, at peril of their liberty, their life, their
honor, have sought only to deliver unhappy victims."

"And if this language should not be heard," resumed Dagobert, "so much
the worse for them! It will not be your son, or husband, who will be
dishonored in the eyes of honest people. If they send us to the galleys,
and we have courage to survive--the young and the old convict will wear
their chains proudly--and the renegade marquis, the traitor priest, will
bear more shame than we. So, forge without fear, my boy! There are
things which the galleys themselves cannot disgrace--our good conscience
and our honor! But now," he added, "two words with my good Mother Bunch.
It grows late, and time presses. On entering the garden, did you remark
if the windows of the convent were far from the ground?"

"No, not very far, M. Dagobert--particularly on that side which is
opposite to the madhouse, where Mdlle. de Cardoville is confined."

"How did you manage to speak to that young lady?"

"She was on the other side of an open paling, which separates the two
gardens."

"Excellent!" said Agricola, as he continued to hammer the iron: "we can
easily pass from one garden to the other. The madhouse may perhaps be
the readier way out. Unfortunately, you do not know, Mdlle. de
Cardoville's chamber."

"Yes, I do," returned the work-girl, recollecting herself. "She is
lodged in one of the wings, and there is a shade over her window, painted
like canvas, with blue and white stripes."

"Good! I shall not forget that."

"And can you form no guess as to where are the rooms of my poor
children?" said Dagobert.

After a moment's reflection, Mother Bunch answered, "They are opposite to
the chamber occupied by Mdlle. de Cardoville, for she makes signs to them
from her window: and I now remember she told me, that their two rooms are
on different stories, one on the ground-floor, and the other up one pair
of stairs."

"Are these windows grated?" asked the smith.

"I do not know."

"Never mind, my good girl: with these indications we shall do very well,"
said Dagobert. "For the rest, I have my plans."

"Some water, my little sister," said Agricola, "that I may cool my iron."
Then addressing his father: "Will this hook do?"

"Yes, my boy; as soon as it is cold we will fasten the cord."

For some time, Frances Baudoin had remained upon her knees, praying with
fervor. She implored Heaven to have pity on Agricola and Dagobert, who,
in their ignorance, were about to commit a great crime; and she entreated
that the celestial vengeance might fall upon her only, as she alone had
been the cause of the fatal resolution of her son and husband.

Dagobert and Agricola finished their preparations in silence. They were
both very pale, and solemnly grave. They felt all the danger of so
desperate an enterprise.

The clock at Saint-Mery's struck ten. The sound of the bell was faint,
and almost drowned by the lashing of the wind and rain, which had not
ceased for a moment.

"Ten o'clock!" said Dagobert, with a start. "There is not a minute to
lose. Take the sack, Agricola."

"Yes, father."

As he went to fetch the sack, Agricola approached Mother Bunch, who was
hardly able to sustain herself, and said to her in a rapid whisper: "If
we are not here to-morrow, take care of my mother. Go to M. Hardy, who
will perhaps have returned from his journey. Courage, my sister! embrace
me. I leave poor mother to you." The smith, deeply affected, pressed
the almost fainting girl in his arms.

"Come, old Spoil-sport," said Dagobert: "you shall be our scout."
Approaching his wife, who, just risen from the ground, was clasping her
son's head to her bosom, and covering it with tears and kisses, he said
to her, with a semblance of calmness and serenity: "Come, my dear wife,
be reasonable! Make us a good fire. In two or three hours we will bring
home the two poor children, and a fine young lady. Kiss me! that will
bring me luck."

Frances threw herself on her husband's neck, without uttering a word.
This mute despair, mingled with convulsive sobs, was heart-rending.
Dagobert was obliged to tear himself from his wife's arms, and striving
to conceal his emotion, he said to his son, in an agitated voice: "Let us
go--she unmans me. Take care of her, my good Mother Bunch. Agricola--
come!"

The soldier slipped the pistols into the pocket of his great coat, and
rushed towards the door, followed by Spoil-sport.

"My son, let me embrace you once more--alas! it is perhaps for the last
time!" cried the unfortunate mother, incapable of rising, but stretching
out her arms to Agricola. "Forgive me! it is all my fault."

The smith turned back, mingled his tears with those of his mother--for he
also wept--and murmured, in a stifled voice: "Adieu, dear mother! Be
comforted. We shall soon meet again."

Then, escaping from the embrace, he joined his father upon the stairs.

Frances Baudoin heaved a long sigh, and fell almost lifeless into the
needlewoman's arms.

Dagobert and Agricola left the Rue Brise-Miche in the height of the
storm, and hastened with great strides towards the Boulevard de
l'Hopital, followed by the dog.

CHAPTER XIII.

BURGLARY.

Half-past eleven had just struck, when Dagobert and his son arrived on
the Boulevard de l'Hopital.

The wind blew violently, and the rain fell down in torrents, but
notwithstanding the thickness of the watery clouds, it was tolerably
light, thanks to the late rising of the moon. The tall, dark trees, and
the white walls of the convent garden, were distinguishable in the midst
of the pale glimmer. Afar off, a street lamp, acted on by the wind, with
its red lights hardly visible through the mist and rain, swung backwards
and forwards over the dirty causeway of the solitary boulevard.

At rare intervals, they heard, at a very great distance, the rattle and
rumble of a coach, returning home late; then all was again silent.

Since their departure from the Rue Brise-Miche, Dagobert and his son had
hardly exchanged a word. The design of these two brave men was noble and
generous, and yet, resolute but pensive, they glided through the darkness
like bandits, at the hour of nocturnal crimes.

Agricola carried on his shoulders the sack containing the cord, the hook,
and the iron bar; Dagobert leaned upon the arm of his son, and Spoil-
sport followed his master.

"The bench, where we sat down, must be close by," said Dagobert,
stopping.

"Yes," said Agricola, looking around; "here it is, father."
"It is oily half-past eleven--we must wait for midnight," resumed
Dagobert. "Let us be seated for an instant, to rest ourselves, and
decide upon our plan."

After a moment's silence, the soldier took his son's hands between his
own, and thus continued: "Agricola, my child--it is yet time. Let me go
alone, I entreat you. I shall know very well how to get through the
business; but the nearer the moment comes, the more I fear to drag you
into this dangerous enterprise."

"And the nearer the moment comes, father, the more I feel I may be of
some use; but, be it good or bad, I will share the fortune of your
adventure. Our object is praiseworthy; it is a debt of honor that you
have to pay, and I will take one half of it. Do not fancy that I will
now draw back. And so, dear father, let us think of our plan of action."

"Then you will come?" said Dagobert, stifling a sigh.

"We must do everything," proceeded Agricola, "to secure success. You
have already noticed the little garden-door, near the angle of the wall--
that is excellent."

"We shall get by that way into the garden, and look immediately for the
open paling."

"Yes; for on one side of this paling is the wing inhabited by Mdlle. de
Cardoville, and on the other that part of the convent in which the
general's daughters are confined."

At this moment, Spoil-sport, who was crouching at Dagobert's feet, rose
suddenly, and pricked up his ears, as if to listen.

"One would think that Spoil-sport heard something," said Agricola. They
listened--but heard only the wind, sounding through the tall trees of the
boulevard.

"Now I think of it, father--when the garden-door is once open, shall we
take Spoil-sport with us?"

"Yes; for if there is a watch-dog, he will settle him. And then he will
give us notice of the approach of those who go the rounds. Besides, he
is so intelligent, so attached to Rose and Blanche, that (who knows?) he
may help to discover the place where they are. Twenty times I have seen
him find them in the woods, by the most extraordinary instinct."

A slow and solemn knell here rose above the noise of the wind: it was the
first stroke of twelve.

That note seemed to echo mournfully through the souls of Agricola and his
father. Mute with emotion, they shuddered, and by a spontaneous
movement, each grasped the hand of the other. In spite of themselves,
their hearts kept time to every stroke of the clock, as each successive
vibration was prolonged through the gloomy silence of the night.

At the last strobe, Dagobert said to his son, in a firm voice: "It is
midnight. Shake hands, and let us forward!"

The moment was decisive and solemn. "Now, father," said Agricola, "we
will act with as much craft and daring as thieves going to pillage a
strong box."

So saying, the smith took from the sack the cord and hook; Dagobert armed
himself with the iron bar, and both advanced cautiously, following the
wall in the direction of the little door, situated not far from the angle
formed by the street and the boulevard. They stopped from time to time,
to listen attentively, trying to distinguish those noises which were not
caused either by the high wind or the rain.

It continued light enough for them to be able to see surrounding objects,
and the smith and the soldier soon gained the little door, which appeared
much decayed, and not very strong.

"Good!" said Agricola to his father. "It will yield at one blow."

The smith was about to apply his shoulder vigorously to the door, when
Spoil-sport growled hoarsely, and made a "point." Dagobert silenced the
dog with a word, and grasping his son's arm, said to him in a whisper:
"Do not stir. The dog has scented some one in the garden."

Agricola and his father remained for some minutes motionless, holding
their breath and listening. The dog, in obedience to his master, no
longer growled, but his uneasiness and agitation were displayed more and
more. Yet they heard nothing.

"The dog must have been deceived, father," whispered Agricola.

"I am sure of the contrary. Do not move."

After some seconds of expectation, Spoil-sport crouched down abruptly,
and pushed his nose as far as possible under the door, snuffling up the
air.

"They are coming," said Dagobert hastily, to his son.

"Let us draw off a little distance," replied Agricola.

"No," said his father; "we must listen. It will be time to retire, if
they open the door. Here, Spoil-sport! down!"

The dog obeyed, and withdrawing from the door, crouched down at the feet
of his master. Some seconds after, they heard a sort of splashing on the
damp ground, caused by heavy footsteps in puddles of water, and then the
sound of words, which carried away by the wind, did not reach distinctly
the ears of the soldier and the smith.

"They are the people of whom Mother Bunch told us, going their round,"
said Agricola to his father.

"So much the better. There will be an interval before they come round
again, and we shall have some two hours before us, without interruption.
Our affair is all right now."

By degrees, the sound of the footsteps became less and less distinct, and
at last died away altogether.

"Now, quick! we must not lose any time," said Dagobert to his son, after
waiting about ten minutes; "they are far enough. Let us try to open the
door."

Agricola leaned his powerful shoulder against it, and pushed vigorously;
but the door did not give way, notwithstanding its age.

"Confound it!" said Agricola; "there is a bar on the inside. I am sure
of it, or these old planks would not have resisted my weight."

"What is to be done?"

"I will scale the wall by means of the cord and hook, and open the door
from the other side."

So saying, Agricola took the cord, and after several attempts, succeeded
in fixing the hook on the coping of the wall.

"Now, father, give me a leg up; I will help myself up with the cord; once
astride on the wall, I can easily turn the hook and get down into the
garden."

The soldier leaned against the wall, and joined his two hands, in the
hollow of which his son placed one of his feet, then mounting upon the
robust shoulders of his father, he was able, by help of the cord, and
some irregularities in the wall, to reach the top. Unfortunately, the
smith had not perceived that the coping of the wall was strewed with
broken bottles, so that he wounded his knees and hands; but, for fear of
alarming Dagobert, he repressed every exclamation of pain, and replacing
the hook, he glided down the cord to the ground. The door was close by,
and he hastened to it; a strong wooden bar had indeed secured it on the
inside. This was removed, and the lock was in so bad a state, that it
offered no resistance to a violent effort from Agricola.

The door was opened, and Dagobert entered the garden with Spoil-sport.

"Now," said the soldier to his son, "thanks to you, the worst is over.
Here is a means of escape for the poor children, and Mdlle. de
Cardoville. The thing is now to find them, without accident or delay.
Spoil-sport will go before as a scout. Come, my good dog!" added
Dagobert, "above all--fair and softly!"

Immediately, the intelligent animal advanced a few steps, sniffing and
listening with the care and caution of a hound searching for the game.

By the half-light of the clouded moon, Dagobert and his son perceived
round them a V-shaped grove of tall trees, at which several paths met.
Uncertain which to choose, Agricola said to his father: "Let us take the
path that runs alongside the wall. It will surely lead to some
building."

"Right! Let us walk on the strips of grass, instead of through the mud.
It will make less noise."

The father and son, preceded by the Siberian dog, kept for some time in a
winding path, at no great distance from the wall. They stopped now and
then to listen, or to satisfy themselves, before continuing their
advance, with regard to the changing aspects of the trees and bushes,
which, shaken by the wind, and faintly illumined by the pale light of the
moon, often took strange and doubtful forms.

Half-past twelve struck as Agricola and his father reached a large iron
gate which shut in that part of the garden reserved for the Superior--the
same into which Mother Bunch had intruded herself, after seeing Rose
Simon converse with Adrienne de Cardoville.

Through the bars of this gate, Agricola and his father perceived at a
little distance an open paling, which joined a half-finished chapel, and
beyond it a little square building.

"That is no doubt the building occupied by Mdlle. de Cardoville," said
Agricola.

"And the building which contains the chambers of Rose and Blanche, but
which we cannot see from here, is no doubt opposite it," said Dagobert.
"Poor children! they are there, weeping tears of despair," added he, with
profound emotion.

"Provided the gate be but open," said Agricola.

"It will probably be so--being within the walls."

"Let us go on gently."

The gate was only fastened by the catch of the lock. Dagobert was about
to open it, when Agricola said to him: "Take care! do not make it creak
on its hinges."

"Shall I push it slowly or suddenly?"

"Let me manage it," said Agricola; and he opened the gate so quickly,
that it creaked very little; still the noise might have been plainly
heard, in the silence of the night, during one of the lulls between the
squalls of wind.

Agricola and his father remained motionless for a moment, listening
uneasily, before they ventured to pass through the gate. Nothing
stirred, however; all remained calm and still. With fresh courage, they
entered the reserved garden.

Hardly had the dog arrived on this spot, when he exhibited tokens of
extraordinary delight. Picking up his ears, wagging his tail, bounding
rather than running, he had soon reached the paling where, in the
morning, Rose Simon had for a moment conversed with Mdlle. de Cardoville.
He stopped an instant at this place, as if at fault, and turned round and
round like a dog seeking the scent.

Dagobert and his son, leaving Spoil-sport to his instinct, followed his
least movements with intense interest, hoping everything from his
intelligence and his attachment to the orphans.

"It was no doubt near this paling that Rose stood when Mother Bunch saw
her," said Dagobert. "Spoil-sport is on her track. Let him alone."

After a few seconds, the dog turned his head towards Dagobert, and
started at full trot in the direction of a door on the ground-floor of a
building, opposite to that occupied by Adrienne. Arrived at this door,
the dog lay down, seemingly waiting for Dagobert.

"No doubt of it! the children are there!" said Dagobert, hastening to
rejoin Spoil-sport; it was by this door that they took Rose into the
house."

"We must see if the windows are grated," said Agricola, following his
father.

"Well, old fellow!" whispered the soldier, as he came up to the dog and
pointed to the building, "are Rose and Blanche there?"

The dog lifted his head, and answered by a joyful bark. Dagobert had
just time to seize the mouth of the animal with his hands.

"He will ruin all!" exclaimed the smith. "They have, perhaps, heard
him."

"No," said Dagobert. "But there is no longer any doubt--the children are
here."

At this instant, the iron gate, by which the soldier and his son had
entered the reserved garden, and which they had left open, fell to with a
loud noise.

"They've shut us in," said Agricola, hastily; "and there is no other
issue."

For a moment, the father and son looked in dismay at each other; but
Agricola instantly resumed: "The gate has perhaps shut of itself. I will
make haste to assure myself of this, and to open it again if possible."

"Go quickly; I will examine the windows."

Agricola flew towards the gate, whilst Dagobert, gliding along the wall,
soon reached the windows on the ground floor. They were four in number,
and two of them were not grated. He looked up at the first story; it was
not very far from the ground, and none of the windows had bars. It would
then be easy for that one of the two sisters, who inhabited this story,
once informed of their presence, to let herself down by means of a sheet,
as the orphans had already done to escape from the inn of the White
Falcon. But the difficult thing was to know which room she occupied.
Dagobert thought they might learn this from the sister on the ground
floor; but then there was another difficulty--at which of the four
windows should they knock?

Agricola returned precipitately. "It was the wind, no doubt, which shut
the gate," said he. "I have opened it again, and made it fast with a
stone. But we have no time to lose."

"And how shall we know the windows of the poor children?" said Dagobert,
anxiously.

"That is true," said Agricola, with uneasiness. "What is to be done?"

"To call them at hap-hazard," continued Dagobert, "would be to give the
alarm."

"Oh, heavens!" cried Agricola, with increasing anguish. "To have arrived
here, under their windows, and yet not to know!"

"Time presses," said Dagobert, hastily, interrupting his son; "we must
run all risks."

"But how, father?"

"I will call out loud, 'Rose and Blanche'--in their state of despair, I
am sure they do not sleep. They will be stirring at my first summons.
By means of a sheet, fastened to the window, she who is on the first
story will in five minutes be in our arms. As for the one on the ground
floor--if her window is not grated, we can have her in a second. If it
is, we shall soon loosen one of the bars."

"But, father--this calling out aloud?"

"Will not perhaps be heard."

"But if it is heard--all will be lost."

"Who knows? Before they have time to call the watch, and open several
doors, the children may be delivered. Once at the entrance of the
boulevard, and we shall be safe."

"It is a dangerous course; but I see no other."

"If there are only two men, I and Spoil-sport will keep them in check,
while you will have time to carry off the children."

"Father, there is a better way--a surer one," cried Agricola, suddenly.
"From what Mother Bunch told us, Mdlle. de Cardoville has corresponded by
signs with Rose and Blanche."

"Yes."

"Hence she knows where they are lodged, as the poor children answered her
from their windows."

"You are right. There is only that course to take. But how find her
room?"

"Mother Bunch told me there was a shade over the window."

"Quick! we have only to break through a wooden fence. Have you the iron
bar?"

"Here it is."

"Then, quick!"

In a few steps, Dagobert and his son had reached the paling. Three
planks, torn away by Agricola, opened an easy passage.

"Remain here, father, and keep watch," said he to Dagobert, as he entered
Dr. Baleinier's garden.

The indicated window was easily recognized. It was high and broad; a
sort of shade surmounted it, for this window had once been a door, since
walled in to the third of its height. It was protected by bars of iron,
pretty far apart. Since some minutes, the rain had ceased. The moon,
breaking through the clouds, shone full upon the building. Agricola,
approaching the window, saw that the room was perfectly dark; but light
came from a room beyond, through a door left half open. The smith,
hoping that Mdlle. de Cardoville might be still awake, tapped lightly at
the window. Soon after, the door in the background opened entirely, and
Mdlle. de Cardoville, who had not yet gone to bed, came from the other
chamber, dressed as she had been at her interview with Mother Bunch. Her
charming features were visible by the light of the taper she held in her
hand. Their present expression was that of surprise and anxiety. The
young girl set down the candlestick on the table, and appeared to listen
attentively as she approached the window. Suddenly she started and
stopped abruptly. She had just discerned the face of a man, looking at
her through the window. Agricola, fearing that Mdlle. de Cardoville
would retire in terror to the next room, again tapped on the glass, and
running the risk of being heard by others, said in a pretty loud voice:
"It is Agricola Baudoin."

These words reached the ears of Adrienne. Instantly remembering her
interview with Mother Bunch, she thought that Agricola and Dagobert must
have entered the convent for the purpose of carrying off Rose and
Blanche. She ran to the window, recognized Agricola in the clear
moonlight, and cautiously opened the casement.

"Madame," said the smith, hastily; "there is not an instant to lose. The
Count de Montbron is not in Paris. My father and myself have come to
deliver you."

"Thanks, thanks, M. Agricola!" said Mdlle. de Cardoville, in a tone
expressive of the most touching gratitude; "but think first of the
daughters of General Simon."

"We do think of them, madame, I have come to ask you which are their
windows."

"One is on the ground floor, the last on the garden-side; the other is
exactly over it, on the first story."

"Then they are saved!" cried the smith.

"But let me see!" resumed Adrienne, hastily; "the first story is pretty
high. You will find, near the chapel they are building, some long poles
belonging to the scaffolding. They may be of use to you."

"They will be as good as a ladder, to reach the upstairs window. But now
to think of you madame."

"Think only of the dear orphans. Time presses. Provided they are
delivered to-night, it makes little difference to me to remain a day or
two longer in this house." "No, mademoiselle," cried the smith, "it is
of the first importance that you should leave this place to-night.
Interests are concerned, of which you know nothing. I am now sure of
it."

"What do you mean?"

"I have not time to explain myself further; but I conjure you madame, to
come. I can wrench out two of these bars; I will fetch a piece of iron."

"It is not necessary. They are satisfied with locking the outer door of
this building, which I inhabit alone. You can easily break open the
lock."

"And, in ten minutes, we shall be on the boulevard," said the smith.
"Make yourself ready, madame; take a shawl, a bonnet, for the night is
cold. I will return instantly."

"M. Agricola," said Adrienne, with tears in her eyes, "I know what you
risk for my sake. I shall prove to you, I hope, that I have as good a
memory as you have. You and your adopted sister are noble and valiant
creatures, and I am proud to be indebted to you. But do not return for
me till the daughters of Marshal Simon are in safety."

"Thanks to your directions, the thing will be done directly, madame. I
fly to rejoin my father, and we will come together to fetch you."

Following the excellent advice of Mdlle. de Cardoville, Agricola took one
of the long, strong poles that rested against the wall of the chapel,
and, bearing it on his robust shoulders, hastened to rejoin his father.
Hardly had Agricola passed the fence, to direct his steps towards the
chapel, obscured in shadow, than Mdlle. de Cardoville thought she
perceived a human form issue from one of the clumps of trees in the
convent-garden, cross the path hastily, and disappear behind a high hedge
of box. Alarmed at the sight, Adrienne in vain called to Agricola in a
low voice, to bid him beware. He could not hear her; he had already
rejoined his father, who, devoured by impatience, went from window to
window with ever-increasing anguish.

"We are saved," whispered Agricola. "Those are the windows of the poor
children--one on the ground floor, the other on the first story."

"At last!" said Dagobert, with a burst of joy impossible to describe. He
ran to examine the windows. "They are not grated!" he exclaimed.

"Let us make sure, that one of them is there," said Agricola; "then, by
placing this pole against the wall, I will climb up to the first story,
which is not so very high."

"Right, my boy!--once there, tap at the window, and call Rose or Blanche.
When she answers, come down. We will rest the pole against the window,
and the poor child will slide along it. They are bold and active.
Quick, quick! to work!"

"And then we will deliver Mdlle. de Cardoville."

Whilst Agricola placed his pole against the wall, and prepares to mount,
Dagobert tapped at the panes of the last window on the ground floor, and
said aloud: "It is I--Dagobert."

Rose Simon indeed occupied the chamber. The unhappy child, in despair at
being separated from her sister, was a prey to a burning fever, and,
unable to sleep, watered her pillow with her tears. At the sound of the
tapping on the glass, she started up affrighted, then, hearing the voice
of the soldier--that voice so familiar and so dear--she sat up in bed,
pressed her hands across her forehead, to assure herself that she was not
the plaything of a dream, and, wrapped in her long night-dress, ran to
the window with a cry of joy. But suddenly--and before she could open
the casement--two reports of fire-arms were heard, accompanied by loud
cries of "Help! thieves!

The orphan stood petrified with terror, her eyes mechanically fixed upon
the window, through which she saw confusedly, by the light of the moon,
several men engaged in a mortal struggle, whilst the furious barking of
Spoil-sport was heard above all the incessant cries of "Help! Help!
Thieves! Murder!"

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