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."
db3nf.com screen-capture.net floresca.net simonova.net flora-source.com flora-source.com sourcecentral.com sourcecentral.com geocities.com