“Pray, sir, does not Miss Soliveau, a deformed needlewoman, live here?”
“No, sir; upstairs,” said Agricola.
“Really, sir,” cried the polite man, with low bows, “I am quite abroad at my blunder: I thought this was the room of that young person. I brought her proposals for work from a very respectable party.”
“It is very late, sir,” said Agricola, with surprise. “But that young person is as one of our family. Call to-morrow; you cannot see her to night; she is gone to bed.”
“Then, sir, I again beg you to excuse—”
“Enough, sir,” said Agricola, taking a step towards the door.
“I hope, madame and the young ladies, as well as this gent, will be assured that—”
“If you go on much longer making excuses, sir, you will have to excuse the length of your excuses; and it is time this came to an end!”
Rose and Blanche smiled at these words of Agricola; while Dagobert rubbed his moustache with pride.
“What wit the boy has!” said he aside to his wife. “But that does not astonish you—you are used to it.”
During this speech, the ceremonious person withdrew, having again directed a long inquiring glance to the sisters, and to Agricola and Dagobert.
In a few minutes after, Frances having spread a mattress on the ground for herself, and put the whitest sheets on her bed for the orphans, assisted them to undress with maternal solicitude, Dagobert and Agricola having previously withdrawn to their garret. Just as the blacksmith, who preceded his father with a light, passed before the door of Mother Bunch’s room, the latter, half concealed in the shade, said to him rapidly, in a low tone:
“Agricola, great danger threatens you: I must speak to you.”
These words were uttered in so hasty and low a voice that Dagobert did not hear them; but as Agricola stopped suddenly, with a start, the old soldier said to him,
“Well, boy, what is it?”
“Nothing, father,” said the blacksmith, turning round; “I feared I did not light you well.”
“Oh, stand at ease about that; I have the legs and eyes of fifteen to night;” and the soldier, not noticing his son’s surprise, went into the little room where they were both to pass the night.
On leaving the house, after his inquiries about Mother Bunch, the over polite Paul Pry slunk along to the end of Brise-Miche Street. He advanced towards a hackney-coach drawn up on the Cloitre Saint-Merry Square.
In this carriage lounged Rodin, wrapped in a cloak.
“Well?” said he, in an inquiring tone.
“The two girls and the man with gray moustache went directly to Frances Baudoin’s; by listening at the door, I learnt that the sisters will sleep with her, in that room, to-night; the old man with gray moustache will share the young blacksmith’s room.”
“Very well,” said Rodin.
“I did not dare insist on seeing the deformed workwoman this evening on the subject of the Bacchanal Queen; I intend returning to-morrow, to learn the effect of the letter she must have received this evening by the post about the young blacksmith.”