“Does she say more?” he asked.
“‘My dear godfather; I wonder who plays backgammon with him in Paris.’ She has blown out the light—her head is on the pillow—she turns to sleep! Ah! she is off! How pretty she looks in her little night-cap.”
Minoret bowed to the great Unknown, wrung Bouvard by the hand, ran downstairs and hastened to a cab-stand which at that time was near the gates of a house since pulled down to make room for the Rue d’Alger. There he found a coachman who was willing to start immediately for Fontainebleau. The moment the price was agreed on, the old man, who seemed to have renewed his youth, jumped into the carriage and started. According to agreement, he stopped to rest the horse at Essonne, but arrived at Fontainebleau in time for the diligence to Nemours, on which he secured a seat, and dismissed his coachman. He reached home at five in the morning, and went to bed, with his life-long ideas of physiology, nature, and metaphysics in ruins about him, and slept till nine o’clock, so wearied was he with the events of his journey.
A two-fold conversion
On rising, the doctor, sure that no one had crossed the threshold of his house since he re-entered it, proceeded (but not without extreme trepidation) to verify his facts. He was himself ignorant of any difference in the bank-notes and also of the misplacement of the Pandect volumes. The somnambulist was right. The doctor rang for La Bougival.
“Tell Ursula to come and speak to me,” he said, seating himself in the center of his library.
The girl came; she ran up to him and kissed him. The doctor took her on his knee, where she sat contentedly, mingling her soft fair curls with the white hair of her old friend.
“Do you want something, godfather?”
“Yes; but promise me, on your salvation, to answer frankly, without evasion, the questions that I shall put to you.”
Ursula colored to the temples.
“Oh! I’ll ask nothing that you cannot speak of,” he said, noticing how the bashfulness of young love clouded the hitherto childlike purity of the girl’s blue eyes.
“Ask me, godfather.”
“What thought was in your mind when you ended your prayers last evening, and what time was it when you said them.”
“It was a quarter-past or half-past nine.”
“Well, repeat your last prayer.”
The girl fancied that her voice might convey her faith to the sceptic; she slid from his knee and knelt down, clasping her hands fervently; a brilliant light illumined her face as she turned it on the old man and said:—
“What I asked of God last night I asked again this morning, and I shall ask it till he vouchsafes to grant it.”
Then she repeated her prayer with new and still more powerful expression. To her great astonishment her godfather took the last words from her mouth and finished the prayer.