having to do with another than you." "My dear," said Frances, in a mild, firm voice, "you cannot think to impose by violence on a venerable man, who for twenty years has had the care of my soul. His age alone should be respected." "No age shall prevent me!" "Heavens! where are you going? You alarm me!" "I am going to your church. They must know you there--I will ask for your confessor--and we shall see!" "I entreat you, my dear," cried Frances, throwing herself in a fright before Dagobert, who was hastening towards the door; "only think, to what you will expose yourself! Heavens! insult a priest? Why, it is one of the reserved cases!" These last words, which appeared most alarming to the simplicity of Dagobert's wife, did not make any impression upon the soldier. He disengaged himself from her grasp, and was going to rush out bareheaded, so high was his exasperation, when the door opened, and the commissary of police entered, followed by Mother Bunch and a policeman, carrying the bundle which he had taken from the young girl. "The commissary!" cried Dagobert, who recognized him by his official scarf. "Ah! so much the better--he could not have come at a fitter moment." CHAPTER LIII. THE EXAMINATION. "Mistress Frances Baudoin?" asked the magistrate. "Yes, sir--it is I," said Frances. Then, perceiving the pale and trembling sewing-girl, who did not dare to come forward, she stretched out her arms to her. "Oh, my poor child!" she exclaimed, bursting into tears; "forgive--forgive us--since it is for our sake you have suffered this humiliation!" When Dagobert's wife had tenderly embraced the young sempstress, the latter, turning towards the commissary, said to him with an expression of sad and touching dignity: 'You see, sir, that I am not a thief." "Madame," said the magistrate, addressing Frances, "am I to understand that the silver mug, the shawl, the sheets contained in this bundle--" "Belong to me, sir. It was to render me a service that this dear girl, who is the best and most honest creature in the world, undertook to carry these articles to the pawnbroker's." "Sir," said the magistrate sternly to the policeman, "you have committed a deplorable error. I shall take care to report you, and see that you are punished. You may go, sir." Then, addressing Mother Bunch, with an air of real regret, he added: "I can only express my sorrow for what has happened. Believe me, I deeply feel for the cruel position in which you have been placed." "I believe it, sir," said Mother Bunch, "and I thank you." Overcome by so many emotions, she sank upon a chair. The magistrate was about to retire, when Dagobert, who had been seriously reflecting for some minutes, said to him in a firm voice: "Please to hear me, Sir; I have a deposition to make." "Speak, Sir." "What I am about to say is very important; it is to you, in your quality of a magistrate, that I make this declaration." "And as a magistrate I will hear you, sir." "I arrived here two days ago, bringing with me from Russia two girls who had been entrusted to me by their mother--the wife of Marshal Simon." "Of Marshal Simon, Duke de Ligny?" said the commissary, very much surprised. "Yes, Sir. Well, I left them here, being obliged to get out on pressing business. This morning, during my absence, they disappeared--and I am certain I know the man who has been the cause of it." "Now, my dear," said Frances, much alarmed. "Sir," said the magistrate, "your declaration is a very serious one. Disappearance of persons--sequestration, perhaps. But are you quite sure?" "These young ladies were here an hour ago; I repeat, sir, that during my absence, they have been taken away." "I do not doubt the sincerity of your declaration, sir; but still it is difficult to explain so strange an abduction. Who tells you that these young girls will not return? Besides, whom do you suspect? One word, before you make your accusation. Remember, it is the magistrate who hears you. On leaving this place, the law will take its course in this affair." "That is what I wish, Sir; I am responsible for those young ladies to their father. He may arrive at any moment, and I must be prepared to justify myself." "I understand all these reasons, sir; but still have a care you are not deceived by unfounded suspicions. Your denunciation once made, I may have to act provisionally against the person accused. Now, if you should be under a mistake, the consequences would be very serious for you; and, without going further," said the magistrate, pointing to Mother Bunch, with emotion, "you see what are the results of a false accusation." "You hear, my dear," cried Frances, terrified at the resolution of Dagobert to accuse Abbe Dubois; "do not say a word more, I entreat you." But the more the soldier reflected, the more he felt convinced that nothing but the influence of her confessor could have induced Frances to act as she had done; so he resumed, with assurance: "I accuse my wife's confessor of being the principal or the accomplice in the abduction of Marshal Simon's daughters." Frances uttered a deep groan, and hid her face in her hands; while Mother Bunch, who had drawn nigh, endeavored to console her. The magistrate had listened to Dagobert with extreme astonishment, and he now said to him with some severity: "Pray, sir, do not accuse unjustly a man whose position is in the highest degree respectable--a priest, sir?--yes, a priest? I warned you beforehand to reflect upon what you advanced. All this becomes very serious, and, at your age, any levity in such matters would be unpardonable." "Bless me, sir!" said Dagobert, with impatience; "at my age, one has common sense. These are the facts. My wife is one of the best and most honorable of human creatures--ask any one in the neighborhood, and they will tell you so--but she is a devotee; and, for twenty years, she has always seen with her confessor's eyes. She adores her son, she loves me also; but she puts the confessor before us both." "Sir," said the commissary, "these family details--" "Are indispensable, as you shall see. I go out an hour ago, to look after this poor girl here. When I come back, the young ladies have disappeared. I ask my wife to whom she has entrusted them, and where they are; she falls at my feet weeping, and says: 'Do what you will with me, but do not ask me what has become of the children. I cannot answer you.'" "Is thus true, madame?" cried the commissary, looking at Frances with surprise. "Anger, threats, entreaties, had no effect," resumed Dagobert; "to everything she answered as mildly as a saint: 'I can tell you nothing!' Now, sir, I maintain that my wife has no interest to take away these children; she is under the absolute dominion of her confessor; she has acted by his orders and for his purposes; he is the guilty party." Whilst Dagobert spoke, the commissary looked more and more attentively at Frances, who, supported by the hunchback, continued to weep bitterly. After a moment's reflection, the magistrate advanced towards Dagobert's wife, and said to her: "Madame, you have heard what your husband has just declared." "Yes, sir." "What have you to say in your justification?" "But, sir," cried Dagobert, "it is not my wife that I accuse--I do not mean that; it is her confessor." "Sir, you have applied to a magistrate; and the magistrate must act as he thinks best for the discovery of the truth. Once more, madame," he resumed, addressing Frances, "what have you to say in your justification?" "Alas! nothing, sir." "Is it true that your husband left these young girls in your charge when he went out?" "Yes, sir." "Is it true that, on his return, they were no longer to be found?" "Yes, sir." "Is it true that, when he asked you where they were, you told him that you could give him no information on the subject?" The commissary appeared to wait for Frances' reply with kind of anxious curiosity. "Yes, sir," said she, with the utmost simplicity, "that was the answer I made my husband." "What, madame!" said the magistrate, with an air of painful astonishment; "that was your only answer to all the prayers and commands of your husband? What! you refused to give him the least information? It is neither probable nor possible." "It is the truth, sir." "Well, but, after all, madame, what have you done with the young ladies that were entrusted to your care?" "I can tell you nothing about it, sir. If I would not answer my poor husband, I certainly will not answer any one else." "Well, sir," resumed Dagobert, "was I wrong? An honest, excellent woman like that, who was always full of good sense and affection, to talk in this way--is it natural? I repeat to you, sir that it is the work of her confessor; act against him promptly and decidedly, we shall soon know all, and my poor children will be restored to me." "Madame," continued the commissary, without being able to repress a certain degree of emotion, "I am about to speak to you very severely. My duty obliges me to do so. This affair becomes so serious and complicated, that I must instantly commence judicial proceedings on the subject. Yon acknowledge that these young ladies have been left in your charge, and that you cannot produce them. Now, listen to me: if you refuse to give any explanation in the matter, it is you alone that will be accused of their disappearance. I shall be obliged, though with great regret, to take you into custody." "Me!" cried Frances, with the utmost alarm. "Her!" exclaimed Dagobert; "never! It is her confessor that I accuse, not my poor wife. Take her into custody, indeed!" He ran towards her, as if he would protect her. "It is too late, sir," said the commissary. "You have made your charge for the abduction of these two young ladies. According to your wife's own declaration, she alone is compromised up to this point. I must take her before the Public Prosecutor, who will decide what course to pursue." "And I say, sir," cried Dagobert, in a menacing tone, "that my wife shall not stir from this room." "Sir," said the commissary coolly, "I can appreciate your feelings; but, in the interest of justice, I would beg you not to oppose a necessary measure--a measure which, moreover, in ten minutes it would be quite impossible for you to prevent." These words, spoken with calmness, recalled the soldier to himself. "But, sir," said he, "I do not accuse my wife."' "Never mind, my dear--do not think of me!" said Frances, with the angelic resignation of a martyr. "The Lord is still pleased to try me sorely; but I am His unworthy servant, and must gratefully resign myself to His will. Let them arrest me, if they choose; I will say no more in prison than I have said already on the subject of those poor children." "But, sir," cried Dagobert, "you see that my wife is out of her head. You cannot arrest her." "There is no charge, proof, or indication against the other person whom you accuse, and whose character should be his protection. If I take your wife, she may perhaps be restored to you after a preliminary examination. I regret," added the commissary, in a tone of pity, "to have to execute such a mission, at the very moment when your son's arrest--" "What!" cried Dagobert, looking with speechless astonishment at his wife and Mother Bunch; "what does he say? my son?" "You were not then aware of it? Oh, sir, a thousand pardons!" said the magistrate, with painful emotion. "It is distressing to make you such a communication." "My son!" repeated Dagobert, pressing his two hands to his forehead. "My son! arrested!" "For a political offence of no great moment," said the commissary. "Oh! this is too much. All comes on me at once!" cried the soldier, falling overpowered into a chair, and hiding his face with his hands. After a touching farewell, during which, in spite of her terror, Frances remained faithful to the vow she had made to the Abbe Dubois--Dagobert, who had refused to give evidence against his wife, was left leaning upon a table, exhausted by contending emotions, and could not help explaining: "Yesterday, I had with me my wife, my son, my two poor orphans--and now-- I am alone--alone!" The moment he pronounced these words, in a despairing tone, a mild sad voice was heard close behind him, saying timidly: "M. Dagobert, I am here; if you will allow me, I will remain and wait upon you." It was Mother Bunch! Trusting that the reader's sympathy is with the old soldier thus left desolate, with Agricola in his prison, Adrienne in hers, the madhouse, and Rose and Blanche Simon in theirs, the nunnery; we hasten to assure him (or her, as the case may be), that not only will their future steps be traced, but the dark machinations of the Jesuits, and the thrilling scenes in which new characters will perform their varied parts, pervaded by the watching spirit of the Wandering Jew, will be revealed in Part Second of this work, entitled: THE CHASTISEMENT.
db3nf.com screen-capture.net floresca.net simonova.net flora-source.com flora-source.com sourcecentral.com sourcecentral.com geocities.com