After that long day of fatigue and diverse emotions, the poor creature had eaten nothing. Had she even thought of it, she would have been at a loss for bread. Waiting for the return of Dagobert and Agricola, she had sunk into an agitated sleep—very different, alas! from calm and refreshing slumber. From time to time, she half opened her eyes uneasily, and looked around her. Then, again, overcome by irresistible heaviness, her head fell upon her bosom.
After some minutes of silence, only interrupted by the noise of the wind, a slow and heavy step was heard on the landing-place. The door opened, and Dagobert entered, followed by Spoil-sport.
Waking with a start, Mother Bunch raised her head hastily, sprang from her chair, and, advancing rapidly to meet Agricola’s father, said to him: “Well, M. Dagobert! have you good news? Have you—”
She could not continue, she was so struck with the gloomy expression of the soldier’s features. Absorbed in his reflections, he did not at first appear to perceive the speaker, but threw himself despondingly on a chair, rested his elbows upon the table, and hid his face in his hands. After a long meditation, he rose, and said in a low voice: “It must—yes, it must be done!”
Taking a few steps up and down the room, Dagobert looked around him, as if in search of something. At length, after about a minute’s examination, he perceived near the stove, a bar of iron, perhaps two feet long, serving to lift the covers, when too hot for the fingers. Taking this in his hand, he looked at it closely, poised it to judge of its weight, and then laid it down upon the drawers with an air of satisfaction. Surprised at the long silence of Dagobert, the needlewoman followed his movements with timid and uneasy curiosity. But soon her surprise gave way to fright, when she saw the soldier take down his knapsack, place it upon a chair, open it, and draw from it a pair of pocket-pistols, the locks of which he tried with the utmost caution.
Seized with terror, the sempstress could not forbear exclaiming: “Good gracious, M. Dagobert! what are you going to do?”
The soldier looked at her as if he only now perceived her for the first time, and said to her in a cordial, but abrupt voice: “Good-evening, my good girl! What is the time?”
“Eight o’clock has just struck at Saint-Mery’s, M. Dagobert.”
“Eight o’clock,” said the soldier, speaking to himself; “only eight!”
Placing the pistols by the side of the iron bar, he appeared again to reflect, while he cast his eyes around him.
“M. Dagobert,” ventured the girl, “you have not, then, good news?”
That single word was uttered by the soldier in so sharp a tone, that, not daring to question him further, Mother Bunch sat down in silence. Spoil sport came to lean his head on the knees of the girl, and followed the movements of Dagobert with as much curiosity as herself.