At rare intervals, they heard, at a very great distance, the rattle and rumble of a coach, returning home late; then all was again silent.
Since their departure from the Rue Brise-Miche, Dagobert and his son had hardly exchanged a word. The design of these two brave men was noble and generous, and yet, resolute but pensive, they glided through the darkness like bandits, at the hour of nocturnal crimes.
Agricola carried on his shoulders the sack containing the cord, the hook, and the iron bar; Dagobert leaned upon the arm of his son, and Spoil sport followed his master.
“The bench, where we sat down, must be close by,” said Dagobert, stopping.
“Yes,” said Agricola, looking around; “here it is, father.” “It is oily half-past eleven—we must wait for midnight,” resumed Dagobert. “Let us be seated for an instant, to rest ourselves, and decide upon our plan.”
After a moment’s silence, the soldier took his son’s hands between his own, and thus continued: “Agricola, my child—it is yet time. Let me go alone, I entreat you. I shall know very well how to get through the business; but the nearer the moment comes, the more I fear to drag you into this dangerous enterprise.”
“And the nearer the moment comes, father, the more I feel I may be of some use; but, be it good or bad, I will share the fortune of your adventure. Our object is praiseworthy; it is a debt of honor that you have to pay, and I will take one half of it. Do not fancy that I will now draw back. And so, dear father, let us think of our plan of action.”
“Then you will come?” said Dagobert, stifling a sigh.
“We must do everything,” proceeded Agricola, “to secure success. You have already noticed the little garden-door, near the angle of the wall—that is excellent.”
“We shall get by that way into the garden, and look immediately for the open paling.”
“Yes; for on one side of this paling is the wing inhabited by Mdlle. de Cardoville, and on the other that part of the convent in which the general’s daughters are confined.”
At this moment, Spoil-sport, who was crouching at Dagobert’s feet, rose suddenly, and pricked up his ears, as if to listen.
“One would think that Spoil-sport heard something,” said Agricola. They listened—but heard only the wind, sounding through the tall trees of the boulevard.
“Now I think of it, father—when the garden-door is once open, shall we take Spoil-sport with us?”
“Yes; for if there is a watch-dog, he will settle him. And then he will give us notice of the approach of those who go the rounds. Besides, he is so intelligent, so attached to Rose and Blanche, that (who knows?) he may help to discover the place where they are. Twenty times I have seen him find them in the woods, by the most extraordinary instinct.”
A slow and solemn knell here rose above the noise of the wind: it was the first stroke of twelve.