Cephyse was the first to think of this, and wishing to save her sister at least one humiliation, she turned towards the carriage, and said: “Rose Pompon, throw me down my cloak; and, Ninny Moulin, open the door directly!”
Having received the cloak, the Bacchanal Queen hastily wrapped it round her sister, before the latter could speak or move. Then, taking her by the hand, she said to her: “Come! come!”
“I!” cried Mother Bunch, in alarm. “Do not think of it!”
“I must speak with you. I will get a private room, where we shall be alone. So make haste, dear little sister! Do not resist before all these people—but come!”
The fear of becoming a public sight decided Mother Bunch, who, confused moreover with the adventure, trembling and frightened, followed her sister almost mechanically, and was dragged by her into the carriage, of which Ninny Moulin had just opened the door. And so, with the cloak of the Bacchanal Queen covering Mother Bunch’s poor garments and deformed figure, the crowd had nothing to laugh at, and only wondered what this meeting could mean, while the coaches pursued their way to the eating house in the Place du Chatelet.
Some minutes after the meeting of Mother Bunch with the Bacchanal Queen, the two sisters were alone together in a small room in the tavern.
“Let me kiss you again,” said Cephyse to the young sempstress; “at least now we are alone, you will not be afraid?”
In the effort of the Bacchanal Queen to clasp Mother Bunch in her arms, the cloak fell from the form of the latter. At sight of those miserable garments, which she had hardly had time to observe on the Place du Chatelet, in the midst of the crowd, Cephyse clasped her hands, and could not repress an exclamation of painful surprise. Then, approaching her sister, that she might contemplate her more closely, she took her thin, icy palms between her own plump hands, and examined for some minutes, with increasing grief, the suffering, pale, unhappy creature, ground down by watching and privations, and half-clothed in a poor, patched cotton gown.
“Oh, sister! to see you thus!” Unable to articulate another word, the Bacchanal Queen threw herself on the other’s neck, and burst into tears. Then, in the midst of her sobs, she added: “Pardon! pardon!”
“What is the matter, my dear Cephyse?” said the young sewing-girl, deeply moved, and gently disengaging herself from the embrace of her sister. “Why do you ask my pardon?”
“Why?” resumed Cephyse, raising her countenance, bathed in tears, and purple with shame; “is it not shameful of me to be dressed in all this frippery, and throwing away so much money in follies, while you are thus miserably clad, and in need of everything—perhaps dying of want, for I have never seen your poor face look so pale and worn.”