“Oh! yes, madame. Be satisfied on that point. Agricola only mentioned your name once, and I have not forgotten it. There is a memory of the heart.”
“I perceive it, my dear girl. Remember, then, the name of the Count de Montbron.”
“The Count de Montbron—I shall not forget.”
“He is one of my good old friends, and lives on the Place Vendome, No. 7.”
“Place Vendome, No. 7—I shall remember.”
“M. Agricola’s father must go to him this evening, and, if he is not at home, wait for his coming in. He must ask to speak to him, as if from me, and send him this ring as a proof of what he says. Once with him, he must tell him all—the abduction of the girls, the name of the convent where they are confined, and my own detention as a lunatic in the asylum of Dr. Baleinier. Truth has an accent of its own, which M. de Montbron will recognize. He is a man of much experience and judgment, and possessed of great influence. He will immediately take the necessary steps, and to-morrow, or the day after, these poor orphans and myself will be restored to liberty—all thanks to you! But moments are precious; we might be discovered; make haste, dear child!”
At the moment of drawing back, Adrienne said to Mother Bunch, with so sweet a smile and affectionate a tone, that it was impossible not to believe her sincere: “M. Agricola told me that I had a heart like yours. I now understand how honorable, how flattering those words were for me. Pray, give me your hand!” added Mdlle. de Cardoville, whose eyes were filling with tears; and, passing her beautiful hand through an opening in the fence, she offered it to the other. The words and the gesture of the fair patrician were full of so much real cordiality, that the sempstress, with no false shame, placed tremblingly her own poor thin hand in Adrienne’s, while the latter, with a feeling of pious respect, lifted it spontaneously to her lips, and said: “Since I cannot embrace you as my sister, let me at least kiss this hand, ennobled by labor!”
Suddenly, footsteps were heard in the garden of Dr. Baleinier; Adrienne withdrew abruptly, and disappeared behind some trees, saying: “Courage, memory, and hope!”
All this had passed so rapidly that the young workwoman had no time to speak or move; tears, sweet tears, flowed abundantly down her pale cheeks. For a young lady, like Adrienne de Cardoville, to treat her as a sister, to kiss her hand, to tell her that she was proud to resemble her in heart—her, a poor creature, vegetating in the lowest abyss of misery—was to show a spirit of fraternal equality, divine, as the gospel words.
There are words and impressions which make a noble soul forget years of suffering, and which, as by a sudden flash, reveal to it something of its own worth and grandeur. Thus it was with the hunchback. Thanks to this generous speech, she was for a moment conscious of her own value. And though this feeling was rapid as it was ineffable, she clasped her hands and raised her eyes to heaven with an expression of fervent gratitude; for, if the poor sempstress did not practise, to use the jargon of ultramontane cant, no one was more richly endowed with that deep religious sentiment, which is to mere dogmas what the immensity of the starry heaven is to the vaulted roof of a church.