At the sight of Mother Bunch, whom she recognized—for she had told her, the day before, of Agricola’s arrest and Mdlle. de Cardoville’s madness—Florine recoiled a step, so much was she moved with pity at the appearance of the young sempstress. In fact, the idea of being thrown out of work, in the midst of so many other painful circumstances, had made a terrible impression upon the young workwoman, the traces of recent tears furrowed her cheeks—without her knowing it, her features expressed the deepest despair—and she appeared so exhausted, so weak, so overcome, that Florine offered her arm to support her, and said to her kindly: “Pray walk in and rest yourself; you are very pale, and seem to be ill and fatigued.”
So saying, Florine led her into a small room; with fireplace and carpet, and made her sit down in a tapestried armchair by the side of a good fire. Georgette and Hebe had been dismissed, and Florine was left alone in care of the house.
When her guest was seated, Florine said to her with an air of interest: “Will you not take anything? A little orange flower-water and sugar, warm.”
“I thank you, mademoiselle,” said Mother Bunch, with emotion, so easily was her gratitude excited by the least mark of kindness; she felt, too, a pleasing surprise, that her poor garments had not been the cause of repugnance or disdain on the part of Florine.
“I thank you, mademoiselle,” said she, “but I only require a little rest, for I come from a great distance. If you will permit me—”
“Pray rest yourself as long as you like, mademoiselle; I am alone in this pavilion since the departure of my poor mistress,”—here Florine blushed and sighed;—“so, pray make yourself quite at home. Draw near the fire—you wilt be more comfortable—and, gracious! how wet your feet are!—place them upon this stool.”
The cordial reception given by Florine, her handsome face and agreeable manners, which were not those of an ordinary waiting-maid, forcibly struck Mother Bunch, who, notwithstanding her humble condition, was peculiarly susceptible to the influence of everything graceful and delicate. Yielding, therefore, to these attractions, the young sempstress, generally so timid and sensitive, felt herself almost at her ease with Florine.
“How obliging you are, mademoiselle!” said she in a grateful tone. “I am quite confused with your kindness.”
“I wish I could do you some greater service than offer you a place at the fire, mademoiselle. Your appearance is so good and interesting.”
“Oh, mademoiselle!” said the other, with simplicity, almost in spite of herself; “it does one so much good to sit by a warm fire!” Then, fearing, in her extreme delicacy, that she might be thought capable of abusing the hospitality of her entertainer, by unreasonably prolonging her visit, she added: “the motive that has brought me here is this. Yesterday, you informed me that a young workman, named Agricola Baudoin, had been arrested in this house.”