regret and shame, trembling, dismayed, his eyes streaming with tears, and all his features marked with an expression of the most touching despair, he fell at Adrienne's feet, and lifting his clasped hands towards her, said in a soft, supplicating, timid voice: "Oh, remain! remain! do not leave me. I have waited for you so long!" To this prayer, uttered with the timid simplicity of a child, and a resignation which contrasted strangely with the savage violence that had so frightened Adrienne, she replied, as she made a sign to Florine to prepare for their departure: "Prince, it is impossible for me to remain longer here." "But you will return?" said Djalma, striving to restrain his tears. "I shall see you again?" "Oh, no! never--never!" said Mdlle. de Cardoville, in a failing voice. Then, profiting by the stupor into which her answer had thrown Djalma, Adrienne disappeared rapidly behind the plants in the greenhouse. Florine was hastening to rejoin her mistress, when, just at the moment she passed before Rodin, he said to her in a low, quick voice: "To-morrow we must finish with the hunchback." Florine trembled in every limb, and, without answering Rodin, disappeared, like her mistress, behind the plants. Broken, overpowered, Djalma remained upon his knees, with his head resting on his breast. His countenance expressed neither rage nor excitement, but a painful stupor; he wept silently. Seeing Rodin approach him, he rose, but with so tremulous a step, that he could hardly reach the divan, on which he sank down, hiding his face in his hands. Then Rodin, advancing, said to him in a mild and insinuating tone: "Alas! I feared what has happened. I did not wish you to see your benefactress; and if I told you she was old, do you know why, dear prince?" Djalma, without answering, let his hands fall upon his knees, and turned towards Rodin a countenance still bathed in tears. "I knew that Mdlle. de Cardoville was charming, and at your age it is so easy to fall in love," continued Rodin; "I wished to spare you that misfortune, my dear prince, for your beautiful protectress passionately loves a handsome young man of this town." Upon these words, Djalma suddenly pressed both hands to his heart, as if he felt a piercing stab, uttered a cry of savage grief, threw back his head, and fell fainting upon the divan. Rodin looked at him coldly for some seconds, and then said as he went away, brushing his old hat with his elbow, "Come! it works--it works!" CHAPTER XLV. THE CONSULTATION. It is night. It has just struck nine. It is the evening of that day on which Mdlle. de Cardoville first found herself in the presence of Djalma. Florine, pale, agitated, trembling, with a candle in her hand, had just entered a bedroom, plainly but comfortably furnished. This room was one of the apartments occupied by Mother Bunch, in Adrienne's house. They were situated on the ground-floor, and had two entrances. One opened on the garden, and the other on the court-yard. From this side came the persons who applied to the workgirl for succor; an ante-chamber in which they waited, a parlor in which they were received, constituted Mother Bunch's apartments, along with the bedroom, which Florine had just entered, looking about her with an anxious and alarmed air, scarcely touching the carpet with the tips of her satin shoes, holding her breath, and listening at the least noise. Placing the candle upon the chimney-piece, she took a rapid survey of the chamber, and approached the mahogany desk, surmounted by a well-filled bookcase. The key had been left in the drawers of this piece of furniture, and they were all three examined by Florine. They contained different petitions from persons in distress, and various, notes in the girl's handwriting. This was not what Florine wanted. Three cardboard boxes were placed in pigeon-holes beneath the bookcase. These also were vainly explored, and Florine, with a gesture of vexation, looked and listened anxiously; then, seeing a chest of drawers, she made therein a fresh and useless search. Near the foot of the bed was a little door, leading to a dressing-room. Florine entered it, and looked--at first without success--into a large wardrobe, in which were suspended several black dresses, recently made for Mother Bunch, by order of Mdlle. de Cardoville. Perceiving, at the bottom of this wardrobe, half hidden beneath a cloak, a very shabby little trunk, Florine opened it hastily, and found there, carefully folded up, the poor old garments in which the work-girl had been clad when she first entered this opulent mansion. Florine started--an involuntary emotion contracted her features; but considering that she had not liberty to indulge her feelings, but only to obey Rodin's implacable orders, she hastily closed both trunk and wardrobe, and leaving the dressing-room, returned into the bed-chamber. After having again examined the writing-stand, a sudden idea occurred to her. Not content with once more searching the cardboard boxes, she drew out one of them from the pigeon-hole, hoping to find what she sought behind the box: her first attempt failed, but the second was more successful. She found behind the middle box a copy-book of considerable thickness. She started in surprise, for she had expected something else; yet she took the manuscript, opened it, and rapidly turned over the leaves. After having perused several pages, she manifested her satisfaction, and seemed as if about to put the book in her pocket; but after a moment's reflection, she replaced it where she had found it, arranged everything in order, took her candle, and quitted the apartment without being discovered--of which, indeed, she had felt pretty sure, knowing that Mother Bunch would be occupied with Mdlle. de Cardoville for some hours. The day after Florine's researches, Mother Bunch, alone in her bed- chamber, was seated in an arm-chair, close to a good fire. A thick carpet covered the floor; through the window-curtains could be seen the lawn of a large garden; the deep silence was only interrupted by the regular ticking of a clock, and the crackling of the wood. Her hands resting on the arms of the chair, she gave way to a feeling of happiness, such as she had never so completely enjoyed since she took up her residence at the hotel. For her, accustomed so long to cruel privations, there was a kind of inexpressible charm in the calm silence of this retreat--in the cheerful aspect of the garden, and above all, in the consciousness that she was indebted for this comfortable position, to the resignation and energy she had displayed, in the thick of the many severe trials which now ended so happily. An old woman, with a mild and friendly countenance, who had been, by express desire of Adrienne, attached to the hunchback's service, entered the room and said to her: "Mademoiselle, a young man wishes to speak to you on pressing business. He gives his name as Agricola Baudoin." At this name, Mother Bunch uttered an exclamation of surprise and joy, blushed slightly, rose and ran to the door which led to the parlor in which was Agricola. "Good-morning, dear sister," said the smith, cordially embracing the young girl, whose cheeks burned crimson beneath those fraternal kisses. "Ah, me!" cried the sempstress on a sudden, as she looked anxiously at Agricola; "what is that black band on your forehead? You have been wounded!" "A mere nothing," said the smith, "really nothing. Do not think of it. I will tell you all about that presently. But first, I have things of importance to communicate." "Come into my room, then; we shall be alone," Mother Bunch, as she went before Agricola. Notwithstanding the expression of uneasiness which was visible on the countenance of Agricola, he could not forbear smiling with pleasure as he entered the room and looked around him. "Excellent, my poor sister! this is how I would always have you lodged. I recognize here the hand of Mdlle. de Cardoville. What a heart! what a noble mind!--Dost know, she wrote to me the day before yesterday, to thank me for what I had done for her, and sent me a gold pin (very plain), which she said I need not hesitate to accept, as it had no other value but that of having been worn by her mother! You can't tell how much I was affected by the delicacy of this gift!" "Nothing must astonish you from a heart like hers," answered the hunchback. "But the wound--the wound?" "Presently, my good sister; I have so many things to tell you. Let us begin by what is most pressing, for I want you to give me some good advice in a very serious case. You know how much confidence I have in your excellent heart and judgment. And then, I have to ask of you a service--oh! a great service," added the smith, in an earnest, and almost solemn tone, which astonished his hearer. "Let us begin with what is not personal to myself." "Speak quickly." "Since my mother went with Gabriel to the little country curacy he has obtained, and since my father lodges with Marshal Simon and the young ladies, I have resided, you know, with my mates, at M. Hardy's factory, in the common dwelling-house. Now, this morning but first, I must tell you that M. Hardy, who has lately returned from a journey, is again absent for a few days on business. This morning, then, at the hour of breakfast, I remained at work a little after the last stroke of the bell; I was leaving the workshop to go to our eating-room, when I saw entering the courtyard, a lady who had just got out of a hackney-coach. I remarked that she was fair, though her veil was half down; she had a mild and pretty countenance, and her dress was that of a fashionable lady. Struck with her paleness, and her anxious, frightened air, I asked her if she wanted anything. 'Sir,' said she to me, in a trembling voice, and as if with a great effort, 'do you belong to this factory?'--'Yes, madame.'- -'M. Hardy is then in clanger?' she exclaimed.--'M. Hardy, madame? He has not yet returned home.'--'What!' she went on, 'M. Hardy did not come hither yesterday evening? Was he not dangerously wounded by some of the machinery?' As she said these words, the poor young lady's lips trembled, and I saw large tears standing in her eyes. 'Thank God, madame! all this is entirely false,' said I, 'for M. Hardy has not returned, and indeed is only expected by to-morrow or the day after.'-- 'You are quite sure that he has not returned! quite sure that he is not hurt?' resumed the pretty young lady, drying her eyes.--'Quite sure, madame; if M. Hardy were in danger, I should not be so quiet in talking to you about him.'--'Oh! thank God! thank God!' cried the young lady. Then she expressed to me her gratitude, with so happy, so feeling an air, that I was quite touched by it. But suddenly, as if then only she felt ashamed of the step she had taken, she let down her veil, left me precipitately, went out of the court-yard, and got once more into the hackney-coach that had brought her. I said to myself: 'This is a lady who takes great interest in M. Hardy, and has been alarmed by a false report."' "She loves him, doubtless," said Mother Bunch, much moved, "and, in her anxiety, she perhaps committed an act of imprudence, in coming to inquire after him." "It is only too true. I saw her get into the coach with interests, for her emotion had infected me. The coach started--and what did I see a few seconds after? A cab, which the young lady could not have perceived, for it had been hidden by an angle of the wall; and, as it turned round the corner, I distinguished perfectly a man seated by the driver's side, and making signs to him to take the same road as the hackney-coach." "The poor young lady was followed," said Mother Bunch, anxiously. "No doubt of it; so I instantly hastened after the coach, reached it, and through the blinds that were let down, I said to the young lady, whilst I kept running by the side of the coach door: 'Take care, madame; you are followed by a cab. "Well, Agricola! and what did she answer?" "I heard her exclaim, 'Great Heaven!' with an accent of despair. The coach continued its course. The cab soon came up with me; I saw, by the side of the driver, a great, fat, ruddy man, who, having watched me running after the coach, no doubt suspected something, for he looked at me somewhat uneasily." "And when does M. Hardy return?" asked the hunchback. "To-morrow, or the day after. Now, my good sister, advise me. It is evident that this young lady loves M. Hardy. She is probably married, for she looked so embarrassed when she spoke to me, and she uttered a cry of terror on learning that she was followed. What shall I do? I wished to ask advice of Father Simon, but he is so very strict in such matters-- and then a love affair, at his age!--while you are so delicate and sensible, my good sister, that you will understand it all." The girl started, and smiled bitterly; Agricola did not perceive it, and thus continued: "So I said to myself, 'There is only Mother Bunch, who can give me good advice.' Suppose M. Hardy returns to-morrow, shall I tell him what has passed or not?" "Wait a moment," cried the other, suddenly interrupting Agricola, and appearing to recollect something; "when I went to St. Mary's Convent, to ask for work of the superior, she proposed that I should be employed by the day, in a house in which I was to watch or, in other words, to act as a spy--" "What a wretch!" "And do you know," said the girl, "with whom I was to begin this odious trade? Why, with a Madame de-Fremont, or de Bremont, I do not remember which, a very religious woman, whose daughter, a young married lady, received visits a great deal too frequent (according to the superior) from a certain manufacturer." "What do you say?" cried Agricola. "This manufacturer must be--" "M. Hardy. I had too many reasons to remember that name, when it was pronounced by the superior. Since that day, so many other events have taken place, that I had almost forgotten the circumstance. But it is probable that this young lady is the one of whom I heard speak at the convent." "And what interest had the superior of the convent to set a spy upon her?" asked the smith. "I do not know; but it is clear that the same interest still exists, since the young lady was followed, and perhaps, at this hour, is discovered and dishonored. Oh! it is dreadful!" Then, seeing Agricola start suddenly, Mother Bunch added: "What, then, is the matter?" "Yes--why not?" said the smith, speaking to himself; "why may not all this be the work of the same hand? The superior of a convent may have a private understanding with an abbe--but, then, for what end?" "Explain yourself, Agricola," said the girl. "And then,--where did you get your wound? Tell me that, I conjure you." "It is of my wound that I am just going to speak; for in truth, the more I think of it, the more this adventure of the young lady seems to connect itself with other facts." "How so?"
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