More and more surprised, Mother Bunch was about to answer Rodin, when the door opened, and M. de Gernande entered. The countenance of the magistrate was grave and sad.
“Marshal Simon’s daughters!” cried Mdlle. de Cardoville.
“Unfortunately, they are not with me,” answered the judge.
“Then, where are they, sir? What have they done with them? The day before yesterday, they were in the convent!” cried Dagobert, overwhelmed by this complete destruction of his hopes.
Hardly had the soldier pronounced these words, when, profiting by the impulse which gathered all the actors in this scene about the magistrate, Rodin withdrew discreetly towards the door, and disappeared without any one perceiving his absence. Whilst the soldier, thus suddenly thrown back to the depths of his despair, looked at M. de Gernande, waiting with anxiety for the answer, Adrienne said to the magistrate: “But, sir, when you applied at the convent, what explanation did the superior give on the subject of these young girls?”
“The lady superior refused to give any explanation, madame. `You pretend,’ said she, `that the young persons of whom you speak are detained here against their will. Since the law gives you the right of entering this house, make your search.’ `But, madame, please to answer me positively,’ said I to the superior; `do you declare, that you know nothing of the young girls, whom I have come to claim?’ `I have nothing to say on this subject, sir. You assert, that you are authorized to make a search: make it.’ Not being able to get any other explanation,” continued the magistrate, “I searched all parts of the convent, and had every door opened—but, unfortunately, I could find no trace of these young ladies.”
“They must have sent them elsewhere,” cried Dagobert; “who knows?—perhaps, ill. They will kill them—O God! they will kill them!” cried he, in a heart-rending tone.
“After such a refusal, what is to be done? Pray, sir, give us your advice; you are our providence,” said Adrienne, turning to speak to Rodin, who she fancied was behind her. “What is your—”
Then, perceiving that the Jesuit had suddenly disappeared, she said to Mother Bunch, with uneasiness: “Where is M. Rodin?”
“I do not know, madame,” answered the girl, looking round her; “he is no longer here.”
“It is strange,” said Adrienne, “to disappear so abruptly!”
“I told you he was a traitor!” cried Dagobert, stamping with rage; “they are all in a plot together.”
“No, no,” said Mdlle. de Cardoville; “do not think that. But the absence is not the less to be regretted, for, under these difficult circumstances, he might have given us very useful information, thanks to the position he occupied at M. d’Aigrigny’s.”
“I confess, madame, that I rather reckoned upon it,” said M. de Gernande; “and I returned hither, not only to inform you of the fruitless result of my search, but also to seek from the upright and honorable roan, who so courageously unveiled these odious machinations, the aid of his counsels in this contingency.”