“I know it. When will you come?”
“I must ask Mdlle. de Cardoville what day she can spare sue. I will let you know.”
“Thanks, my good sister!” said Agricola warmly; then he added, with a smile: “Bring your best judgment with you—your full dress judgment.”
“Do not make a jest of it, brother,” said Mother Bunch, in a mild, sad voice; “it is a serious matter, for it concerns the happiness of your whole life.”
At this moment, a modest knock was heard at the door. “Come in,” said Mother Bunch. Florine appeared.
“My mistress begs that you will come to her, if you are not engaged,” said Florine to Mother Bunch.
The latter rose, and, addressing the smith, said to him: “Please wait a moment, Agricola. I will ask Mdlle. de Cardoville what day I can dispose of, and I will come and tell you.” So saying, the girl went out, leaving Agricola with Florine.
“I should have much wished to pay my respects to Mdlle. de Cardoville,” said Agricola; “but I feared to intrude.”
“My lady is not quite well, sir,” said Florine, “and receives no one to day. I am sure, that as soon as she is better, she will be quite pleased to see you.”
Here Mother Bunch returned, and said to Agricola: “If you can come for me to-morrow, about three o’clock, so as not to lose the whole day, we will go to the factory, and you can bring me back in the evening.”
“Then, at three o’clock to-morrow, my good sister.”
“At three to-morrow, Agricola.”
The evening of that same day, when all was quiet in the hotel, Mother Bunch, who had remained till ten o’clock with Mdlle. de Cardoville, re entered her bedchamber, locked the door after her, and finding herself at length free and unrestrained, threw herself on her knees before a chair, and burst into tears. She wept long—very long. When her tears at length ceased to flow, she dried her eyes, approached the writing-desk, drew out one of the boxes from the pigeonhole, and, taking from this hiding-place the manuscript which Florine had so rapidly glanced over the evening before, she wrote in it during a portion of the night.
Mother Bunch’s diary.
We have said that the hunchback wrote during a portion of the night, in the book discovered the previous evening by Florine, who had not ventured to take it away, until she had informed the persons who employed her of its contents, and until she had received their final orders on the subject. Let us explain the existence of this manuscript, before opening it to the reader. The day on which Mother Bunch first became aware of her love for Agricola, the first word of this manuscript had been written. Endowed with an essentially trusting character, yet always feeling herself restrained by the dread of ridicule—a dread which, in its painful exaggeration, was the workgirl’s only weakness—to whom could the unfortunate creature have confided the secret of that fatal passion, if not to paper—that mute confidant of timid and suffering souls, that patient friend, silent and cold, who, if it makes no reply to heart rending complaints, at least always listens, and never forgets?