Then came fresh bursts of laughter and shouts and hooting, for this horrible mob has no pity for those who implore and suffer. The crowd increased more and more, and now they indulged in hoarse cries, piercing whistles, and all kinds of horse play. "Let a fellow see her; it's free gratis." "Don't push so; I've paid for my place!" "Make her stand up on something, that all may have a look." "My corns are being ground: it was not worth coming." "Show her properly--or return the money." "That's fair, ain't it?" "Give it us in the `garden' style." "Trot her out in all her paces! Kim up!" Fancy the feelings of this unfortunate creature, with her delicate mind, good heart, and lofty soul, and yet with so timid and nervous a character, as she stood alone with the two policemen in the thick of the crowd, and was forced to listen to all these coarse and savage insults. But the young sempstress did not yet understand of what crime she was accused. She soon discovered it, however, for the policeman, seizing the parcel which she had picked up and now held in her trembling hands, said to her rudely: "What is there in that bundle?" "Sir--it is--I am going--" The unfortunate girl hesitated--unable, in her terror, to find the word. "If that's all you have to answer," said the policeman, "it's no great shakes. Come, make haste! turn your bundle inside out." So saying, the policeman snatched the parcel from her, half opened it, and repeated, as he enumerated the divers articles it contained: "The devil!--sheets--a spoon and fork--a silver mug--a shawl--a blanket-- you're a downy mot! it was not so bad a move. Dressed like a beggar, and with silver plate about you. Oh, yes! you're a deep 'un." "Those articles do not belong to you," said the other officer. "No, sir," replied Mother Bunch, whose strength was failing her; "but--" "Oh, vile hunchback! you have stolen more than you are big!" "Stolen!" cried Mother Bunch, clasping her hands in horror, for she now understood it all. "Stolen!" "The guard! make way for the lobsters!" cried several persons at once. "Oh, ho! here's the lobsters!" "The fire-eaters!" "The Arab devourers!" "Come for their dromedary!" In the midst of these noisy jests, two soldiers and a corporal advanced with much difficulty. Their bayonets and the barrels of their guns were alone visible above the heads of this hideous and compact crowd. Some officious person had been to inform the officer at the nearest guard- house, that a considerable crowd obstructed the public way. "Come, here is the guard--so march to the guard-house!" said the policeman, taking Mother Bunch by the arm. "Sir," said the poor girl, in a voice stifled by sobs, clasping her hands in terror, and sinking upon her knees on the pavement; "sir,--have pity-- let me explain--" "You will explain at the guard-house; so come on!" "But, sir--I am not a thief," cried Mother Bunch, in a heart-rending tone; "have pity upon me--do not take me away like a thief, before all this crowd. Oh! mercy! mercy!" "I tell you, there will be time to explain at the guard-house. The street is blocked up; so come along!" Grasping the unfortunate creature by both her hands, he set her, as it were, on her feet again. At this instant, the corporal and his two soldiers, having succeeded in making their way through the crowd, approached the policeman. "Corporal," said the latter, "take this girl to the guard-house. I am an officer of the police." "Oh, gentlemen!" cried the girl, weeping hot tears, and wringing her hands, "do not take me away, before you let me explain myself. I am not a thief--indeed, indeed, I am not a thief! I will tell you--it was to render service to others--only let me tell you--" "I tell you, you should give your explanations at the guard-house; if you will not walk, we must drag you along," said the policeman. We must renounce the attempt to paint this scene, at once ignoble and terrible. Weak, overpowered, filled with alarm, the unfortunate girl was dragged along by the soldiers, her knees sinking under her at every step. The two police-officers had each to lend an arm to support her, and mechanically she accepted their assistance. Then the vociferations and hootings burst forth with redoubled fury. Half-swooning between the two men, the hapless creature seemed to drain the cup of bitterness to the dregs. Beneath that foggy sky, in that dirty street, under the shadow of the tall black houses, those hideous masses of people reminded one of the wildest fancies of Callot and of Goya: children in rags, drunken women, grim and blighted figures of men, rushed against each other, pushed, fought, struggled, to follow with howls and hisses an almost inanimate victim--the victim of a deplorable mistake. Of a mistake! How one shudders to think, that such arrests may often take place, founded upon nothing but the suspicion caused by the appearance of misery, or by some inaccurate description. Can we forget the case of that young girl, who, wrongfully accused of participating in a shameful traffic, found means to escape from the persons who were leading her to prison, and, rushing up the stairs of a house, threw herself from a window, in her despair, and was crushed to death upon the paving-stones? Meanwhile, after the abominable denunciation of which Mother Bunch was the victim, Mrs. Grivois had returned precipitately to the Rue Brise- Miche. She ascended in haste to the fourth story, opened the door of Frances Baudoin's room, and saw--Dagobert in company with his wife and the two orphans! CHAPTER LI. THE CONVENT. Let us explain in a few words the presence of Dagobert. His countenance was impressed with such an air of military frankness that the manager of the coach-office would have been satisfied with his promise to return and pay the money; but the soldier had obstinately insisted on remaining in pledge, as he called it, till his wife had answered his letter. When, however, on the return of the porter, he found that the money was coming, his scruples were satisfied, and he hastened to run home. We may imagine the stupor of Mrs. Grivois, when, upon entering the chamber, she perceived Dagobert (whom she easily recognized by the description she had heard of him) seated beside his wife and the orphans. The anxiety of Frances at sight of Mrs. Grivois was equally striking. Rose and Blanche had told her of the visit of a lady, during her absence, upon important business; and, judging by the information received from her confessor, Frances had no doubt that this was the person charged to conduct the orphans to a religious establishment. Her anxiety was terrible. Resolved to follow the counsels of Abbe Dubois, she dreaded lest a word from Mrs. Grivois should put Dagobert on the scent--in which case all would be lost, and the orphans would remain in their present state of ignorance and mortal sin, for which she believed herself responsible. Dagobert, who held the hands of Rose and Blanche, left his seat as the Princess de Saint-Dizier's waiting-woman entered the room and cast an inquiring glance on Frances. The moment was critical--nay, decisive; but Mrs. Grivois had profited by the example of the Princess de Saint-Dizier. So, taking her resolution at once, and turning to account the precipitation with which she had mounted the stairs, after the odious charge she had brought against poor Mother Bunch, and even the emotion caused by the unexpected sight of Dagobert, which gave to her features an expression of uneasiness and alarm--she exclaimed, in an agitated voice, after the moment's silence necessary to collect her thoughts: "Oh, madame! I have just been the spectator of a great misfortune. Excuse my agitation! but I am so excited--" "Dear me! what is the matter?" said Frances, in a trembling voice, for she dreaded every moment some indiscretion on the part of Mrs. Grivois. "I called just now," resumed the other, "to speak to you on some important business; whilst I was waiting for you, a poor young woman, rather deformed, put up sundry articles in a parcel--" "Yes," said Frances; "it was Mother Bunch, an excellent, worthy creature." "I thought as much, madame; well, you shall hear what has happened. As you did not come in, I resolved to pay a visit in the neighborhood. I go out, and get as far as the Rue St. Mery, when--Oh, madame!" "Well?" said Dagobert, "what then?" "I see a crowd--I inquire what is the matter--I learn that a policeman has just arrested a young girl as a thief, because she had been seen carrying a bundle, composed of different articles which did not appear to belong to her--I approached--what do I behold?--the same young woman that I had met just before in this room." "Oh! the poor child!" exclaimed Frances, growing pale, and clasping her hands together. "What a dreadful thing!" "Explain, then," said Dagobert to his wife. "What was in this bundle?" "Well, my dear--to confess the truth--I was a little short, and I asked our poor friend to take some things for me to the pawnbroker's--" "What! and they thought she had robbed us!" cried Dagobert; "she, the most honest girl in the world! it is dreadful--you ought to have interfered, madame; you ought to have said that you knew her." "I tried to do so, sir; but, unfortunately, they would not hear me. The crowd increased every moment, till the guard came up, and carried her off." "She might die of it, she is so sensitive and timid!" exclaimed Frances. "Ah, good Mother Bunch! so gentle! so considerate!" said Blanche, turning with tearful eyes towards her sister. "Not being able to help her," resumed Mrs. Grivois "I hastened hither to inform you of this misadventure--which may, indeed, easily be repaired-- as it will only be necessary to go and claim the young girl as soon as possible." At these words, Dagobert hastily seized his hat, and said abruptly to Mrs. Grivois: "Zounds, madame! you should have begun by telling us that. Where is the poor child? Do you know?" "I do not, sir; but there are still so many excited people in the street that, if you will have the kindness to step out, you will be sure to learn." "Why the devil do you talk of kindness? It is my duty, madame. Poor child!" repeated Dagobert. "Taken up as a thief!--it is really horrible. I will go to the guard-house, and to the commissary of police for this neighborhood, and, by hook or crook, I will find her, and have her out, and bring her home with me." So saying, Dagobert hastily departed. Frances, now that she felt more tranquil as to the fate of Mother Bunch, thanked the Lord that this circumstance had obliged her husband to go out, for his presence at this juncture caused her a terrible embarrassment. Mrs. Grivois had left My Lord in the coach below, for the moments were precious. Casting a significant glance at Frances she handed her Abbe Dubois' letter, and said to her, with strong emphasis on every word: "You will see by this letter, madame, what was the object of my visit, which I have not before been able to explain to you, but on which I truly congratulate myself, as it brings me into connection with these two charming young ladies." Rose and Blanche looked at each other in surprise. Frances took the letter with a trembling hand. It required all the pressing and threatening injunctions of her confessor to conquer the last scruples of the poor woman, for she shuddered at the thought of Dagobert's terrible indignation. Moreover, in her simplicity, she knew not how to announce to the young girls that they were to accompany this lady. Mrs. Grivois guessed her embarrassment, made a sign to her to be at her ease, and said to Rose, whilst Frances was reading the letter of her confessor: "How happy your relation will be to see you, my dear young lady!' "Our relation, madame?" said Rose, more and more astonished. "Certainly. She knew of your arrival here, but, as she is still suffering from the effects of a long illness, she was not able to come herself to-day, and has sent me to fetch you to her. Unfortunately," added Mrs. Grivois, perceiving a movement of uneasiness on the part of the two sisters, "it will not be in her power, as she tells Mrs. Baudoin in her letter, to see you for more than a very short time--so you may be back here in about an hour. But to-morrow or the next day after, she will be well enough to leave home, and then she will come and make arrangements with Mrs. Baudoin and her husband, to take you into her house--for she could not bear to leave you at the charge of the worthy people who have been so kind to you." These last words of Mrs. Grivois made a favorable impression upon the two sisters, and banished their fears of becoming a heavy burden to Dagobert's family. If it had been proposed to them to quit altogether the house in the Rue Bris-Miche, without first asking the consent of their old friend, they would certainly have hesitated; but Mrs. Grivois had only spoken of an hour's visit. They felt no suspicion, therefore, and Rose said to Frances: "We may go and see our relation, I suppose, madame, without waiting for Dagobert's return?" "Certainly " said Frances, in a feeble voice, "since you are to be back almost directly." "Then, madame, I would beg these dear young ladies to come with me as soon as possible, as I should like to bring them back before noon. "We are ready, madame," said Rose. "Well then, young ladies, embrace your second mother, and come," said Mrs. Grivois, who was hardly able to control her uneasiness, for she trembled lest Dagobert should return from one moment to the other. Rose and Blanche embraced Frances, who, clasping in her arms the two charming and innocent creatures that she was about to deliver up, could with difficulty restrain her tears, though she was fully convinced that she was acting for their salvation. "Come, young ladies," said Mrs. Grivois, in the most affable tone, "let us make haste--you will excuse my impatience, I am sure--but it is in the name of your relation that I speak." Having once more tenderly kissed the wife of Dagobert, the sisters quitted the room hand in hand, and descended the staircase close behind Mrs. Grivois, followed (without their being aware of it), by Spoil-sport. The intelligent animal cautiously watched their movements, for, in the absence of his master, he never let them out of his sight. For greater security, no doubt, the waiting-woman of Madame de Saint- Dizier had ordered the hackney-coach to wait for her at a little distance from the Rue Brise-Miche, in the cloister square. In a few seconds, the orphans and their conductress reached the carriage. "Oh, missus!" said the coachman, opening the door; "no offence, I hope-- but you have the most ill-tempered rascal of a dog! Since you put him into my coach, he has never ceased howling like a roasted cat, and looks as if he would eat us all up alive!" In fact, My Lord, who detested solitude, was yelling in the most deplorable manner.
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