“Oh, my dear friend! you are right,” said Rose. “How good you are! you think of everything.”
“And here,” said Blanche, “is the letter, with the address upon it. Take that with you.”
“Thank you,” answered Mother Bunch: then, addressing the porter, she added: “Return to the person who sent you, and tell him I shall be at the coach-office very shortly.”
“Infernal hunchback!” thought Mrs. Grivois, with suppressed rage, “she thinks of everything. Without her, we should have escaped the plague of this man’s return. What is to be done now? The girls would not go with me, before the arrival of the soldier’s wife; to propose it to them would expose me to a refusal, and might compromise all. Once more, what is to be done?”
“Do not be uneasy, ladies,” said the porter as he went out; “I will go and assure the good man, that he will not have to remain long in pledge.”
Whilst Mother Bunch was occupied in tying her parcel, in which she had placed the silver cup, fork, and spoon, Mrs. Grivois seemed to reflect deeply. Suddenly she started. Her countenance, which had been for some moments expressive of anxiety and rage, brightened up on the instant. She rose, still holding My Lord in her arms, and said to the young girls: “As Mrs. Baudoin does not come in, I am going to pay a visit in the neighborhood, and will return immediately. Pray tell her so!”
With these words Mr. Grivois took her departure, a few minutes before Mother Bunch left.
After she had again endeavored to cheer up the orphans, the sewing-girl descended the stairs, not without difficulty, for, in addition to the parcel, which was already heavy, she had fetched down from her own room the only blanket she possessed—thus leaving herself without protection from the cold of her icy garret.
The evening before, tortured with anxiety as to Agricola’s fate, the girl had been unable to work; the miseries of expectation and hope delayed had prevented her from doing so; now another day would be lost, and yet it was necessary to live. Those overwhelming sorrows, which deprive the poor of the faculty of labor, are doubly dreaded; they paralyze the strength, and, with that forced cessation from toil, want and destitution are often added to grief.
But Mother Bunch, that complete incarnation of holiest duty, had yet strength enough to devote herself for the service of others. Some of the most frail and feeble creatures are endowed with extraordinary vigor of soul; it would seem as if, in these weak, infirm organizations, the spirit reigned absolutely over the body, and knew how to inspire it with a factitious energy.
Thus, for the last twenty-four hours, Mother Bunch had neither slept nor eaten; she had suffered from the cold, through the whole of a frosty night. In the morning she had endured great fatigue, in going, amid rain and snow, to the Rue de Babylone and back, twice crossing Paris and yet her strength was not exhausted—so immense is the power of the human heart!