“Ten o’clock!” said Dagobert, with a start. “There is not a minute to lose. Take the sack, Agricola.”
As he went to fetch the sack, Agricola approached Mother Bunch, who was hardly able to sustain herself, and said to her in a rapid whisper: “If we are not here to-morrow, take care of my mother. Go to M. Hardy, who will perhaps have returned from his journey. Courage, my sister! embrace me. I leave poor mother to you.” The smith, deeply affected, pressed the almost fainting girl in his arms.
“Come, old Spoil-sport,” said Dagobert: “you shall be our scout.” Approaching his wife, who, just risen from the ground, was clasping her son’s head to her bosom, and covering it with tears and kisses, he said to her, with a semblance of calmness and serenity: “Come, my dear wife, be reasonable! Make us a good fire. In two or three hours we will bring home the two poor children, and a fine young lady. Kiss me! that will bring me luck.”
Frances threw herself on her husband’s neck, without uttering a word. This mute despair, mingled with convulsive sobs, was heart-rending. Dagobert was obliged to tear himself from his wife’s arms, and striving to conceal his emotion, he said to his son, in an agitated voice: “Let us go—she unmans me. Take care of her, my good Mother Bunch. Agricola—come!”
The soldier slipped the pistols into the pocket of his great coat, and rushed towards the door, followed by Spoil-sport.
“My son, let me embrace you once more—alas! it is perhaps for the last time!” cried the unfortunate mother, incapable of rising, but stretching out her arms to Agricola. “Forgive me! it is all my fault.”
The smith turned back, mingled his tears with those of his mother—for he also wept—and murmured, in a stifled voice: “Adieu, dear mother! Be comforted. We shall soon meet again.”
Then, escaping from the embrace, he joined his father upon the stairs.
Frances Baudoin heaved a long sigh, and fell almost lifeless into the needlewoman’s arms.
Dagobert and Agricola left the Rue Brise-Miche in the height of the storm, and hastened with great strides towards the Boulevard de l’Hopital, followed by the dog.
Half-past eleven had just struck, when Dagobert and his son arrived on the Boulevard de l’Hopital.
The wind blew violently, and the rain fell down in torrents, but notwithstanding the thickness of the watery clouds, it was tolerably light, thanks to the late rising of the moon. The tall, dark trees, and the white walls of the convent garden, were distinguishable in the midst of the pale glimmer. Afar off, a street lamp, acted on by the wind, with its red lights hardly visible through the mist and rain, swung backwards and forwards over the dirty causeway of the solitary boulevard.