to see who rings, and does not open the door till she knows the object of the visit." "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." "What next?" "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 Mother Bunch. 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." "How so?" "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 see it?" "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 a shock." "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. "Perfectly whole." "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 Cardoville." "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 you." "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." "But, father--" "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 night. CHAPTER X. THE MEETING. 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, chill garments. 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 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.
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