“It’s not here,” said he, moving towards the stairs. “I do not know him. Inquire above or below.”
“No, you don’t! giving yourself airs at your age!” said Rose-Pompon, shrugging her shoulders. “As if we did not know that you are M. Rodin.”
“Charlemagne,” said the socius, bowing; “Charlemagne, to serve you—if I am able.”
“You are not able,” answered Rose-Pompon, majestically; then she added with a mocking air, “So, we have our little pussy-cat hiding-places; we change our name; we are afraid Mamma Rodin will find us out.”
“Come, my dear child,” said the socius, with a paternal smile; “you have come to the right quarter. I am an old man, but I love youth—happy, joyous youth! Amuse yourself, pray, at my expense. Only let me pass, for I am in a hurry.” And Rodin again advanced towards the stairs.
“M. Rodin,” said Rose-Pompon, in a solemn voice, “I have very important things to say to you, and advice to ask about a love affair.”
“Why, little madcap that you are! have you nobody to tease in your own house, that you must come here?”
“I lodge in this house, M. Rodin,” answered Rose-Pompon, laying a malicious stress on the name of her victim.
“You? Oh, dear, only to think I did not know I had such a pretty neighbor.”
“Yes, I have lodged here six months, M. Rodin.”
“On the third story, front, M. Rodin.”
“It was you, then, that sang so well just now?”
“You gave me great pleasure, I must say.”
“You are very polite, M. Rodin.”
“You lodge, I suppose, with your respectable family?”
“I believe you, M. Rodin,” said Rose-Pompon, casting down her eyes with a timid air. “I lodge with Grandpapa Philemon, and Grandmamma Bacchanal—who is a queen and no mistake.”
Rodin had hitherto been seriously uneasy, not knowing in what manner Rose had discovered his real name. But on hearing her mention the Bacchanal queen, with the information that she lodged in the house, he found something to compensate for the disagreeable incident of Rose-Pompon’s appearance. It was, indeed, important to Rodin to find out the Bacchanal Queen, the mistress of Sleepinbuff, and the sister of Mother Bunch, who had been noted as dangerous since her interview with the superior of the convent, and the part she had taken in the projected escape of Mdlle. de Cardoville. Moreover, Rodin hoped—thanks to what he had just heard—to bring Rose-Pompon to confess to him the name of the person from whom she had learned that “Charlemagne” masked “Rodin.”
Hardly had the young girl pronounced the name of the Bacchanal queen, than Rodin clasped his hands, and appeared as much surprised as interested.
“Oh, my dear child,” he exclaimed, “I conjure you not to jest on this subject. Are you speaking of a young girl who bears that nickname, the sister of a deformed needlewoman.”