“Do not fail! And now you will call, for me, on Frances Baudoin’s confessor, late as it is; you will tell him that I am waiting for him at Rue du Milieu des Ursins—he must not lose a moment. Do you come with him. Should I not be returned, he will wait for me. You will tell him it is on a matter of great moment.”
“All shall be faithfully executed,” said the ceremonious man, cringing to Rodin, as the coach drove quickly away.
Agricola and mother Bunch.
Within one hour after the different scenes which have just been described the most profound silence reigned in the soldier’s humble dwelling. A flickering light, which played through two panes of glass in a door, betrayed that Mother Bunch had not yet gone to sleep; for her gloomy recess, without air or light, was impenetrable to the rays of day, except by this door, opening upon a narrow and obscure passage, connected with the roof. A sorry bed, a table, an old portmanteau, and a chair, so nearly filled this chilling abode, that two persons could not possibly be seated within it, unless one of them sat upon the side of the bed.
The magnificent and precious flower that Agricola had given to the girl was carefully stood up in a vessel of water, placed upon the table on a linen cloth, diffusing its sweet odor around, and expanding its purple calix in the very closet, whose plastered walls, gray and damp, were feebly lighted by the rays of an attenuated candle. The sempstress, who had taken off no part of her dress, was seated upon her bed—her looks were downcast, and her eyes full of tears. She supported herself with one hand resting on the bolster; and, inclining towards the door, listened with painful eagerness, every instant hoping to hear the footsteps of Agricola. The heart of the young sempstress beat violently; her face, usually very pale, was now partially flushed—so exciting was the emotion by which she was agitated. Sometimes she cast her eyes with terror upon a letter which she held in her hand, a letter that had been delivered by post in the course of the evening, and which had been placed by the housekeeper (the dyer) upon the table, while she was rendering some trivial domestic services during the recognitions of Dagobert and his family.
After some seconds, Mother Bunch heard a door, very near her own, softly opened.
“There he is at last!” she exclaimed, and Agricola immediately entered.
“I waited till my father went to sleep,” said the blacksmith, in a low voice, his physiognomy evincing much more curiosity than uneasiness. “But what is the matter, my good sister? How your countenance is changed! You weep! What has happened? About what danger would you speak to me?”
“Hush! Read this!” said she, her voice trembling with emotion, while she hastily presented to him the open letter. Agricola held it towards the light, and read what follows: