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!
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—”