“No, thank you, Father Loriot.”
“Then, good-evening to the company!” said the dyer; and, addressing Mother Bunch, he added: “Don’t forget the letter for M. Dagobert. I durstn’t touch it for fear of leaving the marks of my four fingers and thumb in amaranthine! But, good evening to the company!” and Father Loriot went out.
“M. Dagobert, here is a letter,” said Mother Bunch. She set herself to light the fire in the stove, while Agricola drew his mother’s arm-chair to the hearth.
“See what it is, my boy,” said Dagobert to his son; “my head is so heavy that I cannot see clear.” Agricola took the letter, which contained only a few lines, and read it before he looked at the signature.
“At Sea, December 25th, 1831.
“I avail myself of a few minutes’ communication with a ship bound direct for Europe, to write to you, my old comrade, a few hasty lines, which will reach you probably by way of Havre, before the arrival of my last letters from India. You must by this time be at Paris, with my wife and child—tell them—I am unable to say more —the boat is departing. Only one word; I shall soon be in France. Do not forget the 13th February; the future of my wife and child depends upon it.
“Adieu, my friend! Believe in my eternal gratitude.
“Agricola—quick! look to your father!” cried the hunchback.
From the first words of this letter, which present circumstances made so cruelly applicable, Dagobert had become deadly pale. Emotion, fatigue, exhaustion, joined to this last blow, made him stagger.
His son hastened to him, and supported him in his arms. But soon the momentary weakness passed away, and Dagobert, drawing his hand across his brow, raised his tall figure to its full height. Then, whilst his eye sparkled, his rough countenance took an expression of determined resolution, and he exclaimed, in wild excitement: “No, no! I will not be a traitor; I will not be a coward. The black robes shall not frighten me; and, this night, Rose and Blanche Simon shall be free!”
The penal Code.
Startled for a moment by the dark and secret machinations of the black robes, as he called them, against the persons he most loved, Dagobert might have hesitated an instant to attempt the deliverance of Rose and Blanche; but his indecision ceased directly on the reading of Marshal Simon’s letter, which came so timely to remind him of his sacred duties.
To the soldier’s passing dejection had succeeded a resolution full of calm and collected energy.
“Agricola, what o’clock is it?” asked he of his son.
“Just struck nine, father.”
“You must make me, directly, an iron hook—strong enough to support my weight, and wide enough to hold on the coping of a wall. This stove will be forge and anvil; you will find a hammer in the house; and, for iron,” said the soldier, hesitating, and looking around him, “as for iron—here is some!”