Florine started—an involuntary emotion contracted her features; but considering that she had not liberty to indulge her feelings, but only to obey Rodin’s implacable orders, she hastily closed both trunk and wardrobe, and leaving the dressing-room, returned into the bed-chamber. After having again examined the writing-stand, a sudden idea occurred to her. Not content with once more searching the cardboard boxes, she drew out one of them from the pigeon-hole, hoping to find what she sought behind the box: her first attempt failed, but the second was more successful. She found behind the middle box a copy-book of considerable thickness. She started in surprise, for she had expected something else; yet she took the manuscript, opened it, and rapidly turned over the leaves. After having perused several pages, she manifested her satisfaction, and seemed as if about to put the book in her pocket; but after a moment’s reflection, she replaced it where she had found it, arranged everything in order, took her candle, and quitted the apartment without being discovered—of which, indeed, she had felt pretty sure, knowing that Mother Bunch would be occupied with Mdlle. de Cardoville for some hours.
The day after Florine’s researches, Mother Bunch, alone in her bed chamber, was seated in an arm-chair, close to a good fire. A thick carpet covered the floor; through the window-curtains could be seen the lawn of a large garden; the deep silence was only interrupted by the regular ticking of a clock, and the crackling of the wood. Her hands resting on the arms of the chair, she gave way to a feeling of happiness, such as she had never so completely enjoyed since she took up her residence at the hotel. For her, accustomed so long to cruel privations, there was a kind of inexpressible charm in the calm silence of this retreat—in the cheerful aspect of the garden, and above all, in the consciousness that she was indebted for this comfortable position, to the resignation and energy she had displayed, in the thick of the many severe trials which now ended so happily. An old woman, with a mild and friendly countenance, who had been, by express desire of Adrienne, attached to the hunchback’s service, entered the room and said to her: “Mademoiselle, a young man wishes to speak to you on pressing business. He gives his name as Agricola Baudoin.”
At this name, Mother Bunch uttered an exclamation of surprise and joy, blushed slightly, rose and ran to the door which led to the parlor in which was Agricola.
“Good-morning, dear sister,” said the smith, cordially embracing the young girl, whose cheeks burned crimson beneath those fraternal kisses.
“Ah, me!” cried the sempstress on a sudden, as she looked anxiously at Agricola; “what is that black band on your forehead? You have been wounded!”
“A mere nothing,” said the smith, “really nothing. Do not think of it. I will tell you all about that presently. But first, I have things of importance to communicate.”