Five minutes after quitting Mdlle. de Cardoville, Mother Bunch, having left the garden without being perceived, reascended to the first story, and knocked gently at the door of the press-room. A sister came to open the door to her.
“Is not Mdlle. Florine, with whom I came, still here, sister?” asked the needlewoman.
“She could not wait for you any longer. No doubt, you have come from our mother the superior?”
“Yes, yes, sister,” answered the sempstress, casting down her eyes; “would you have the goodness to show me the way out?”
“Come with me.”
The sewing-girl followed the nun, trembling at every step lest she should meet the superior, who would naturally have inquired the cause of her long stay in the convent.
At length the inner gate closed upon Mother Bunch. Passing rapidly across the vast court-yard and approaching the porter’s lodge, to ask him to let her out, she heard these words pronounced in a gruff voice: “It seems, old Jerome, that we are to be doubly on our guard to-night. Well, I shall put two extra balls in my gun. The superior says we are to make two rounds instead of one.”
“I want no gun, Nicholas,” said the other voice; “I have my sharp scythe, a true gardener’s weapon—and none the worse for that.”
Feeling an involuntary uneasiness at these words, which she had heard by mere chance, Mother Bunch approached the porter’s lodge, and asked him to open the outer gate.
“Where do you come from?” challenged the porter, leaning half way out of his lodge, with a double barrelled gun, which he was occupied in loading, in his hand, and at the same time examining the sempstress with a suspicious air.
“I come from speaking to the superior,” answered Mother Bunch timidly.
“Is that true?” said Nicholas roughly. “You look like a sanctified scarecrow. Never mind. Make haste and cut!”
The gate opened, and Mother Bunch went out. Hardly had she gone a few steps in the sweet, when, to her great surprise, she saw the dog Spoil sport run up to her, and his master, Dagobert, a little way behind him, arriving also with precipitation. She was hastening to meet the soldier, when a full, sonorous voice exclaimed from a little distance: “Oh my good sister!” which caused the girl to turn round. From the opposite side to that whence Dagobert was coming, she saw Agricola hurrying towards the spot.
At the sight of Dagobert and Agricola, Mother Bunch remained motionless with surprise, a few steps from the convent-gate. The soldier had not yet perceived the sempstress. He advanced rapidly, following the dog, who though lean, half-starved, rough-coated, and dirty, seemed to frisk with pleasure, as he turned his intelligent face towards his master, to whom he had gone back, after caressing Mother Bunch.