Though much astonished, the child obeyed mechanically, and held out both her little arms; then the count took her by the wrists, and lifted her lightly from the ground, which he did the more easily, as the carnage was very low, and its progress by no means rapid. More stupefied than frightened, the child said not a word. Adrienne and Lady de Morinval made room for her to crouch down between them, and the little girl was soon hidden beneath the shawls of the two young women. All this was executed so quickly, that it was hardly perceived by a few persons passing in the side-avenues.
“Now, my dear count,” said Adrienne, radiant with pleasure, “let us make off at once with our prey.”
M. de Montbron half rose, and called to the postilions. “Home!” and the four horses started at once into a rapid and regular trot.
“This day of happiness now seems consecrated, and my luxury is excused,” thought Adrienne; “till I can again meet with that poor Mother Bunch, and from this day I will make every exertion to find her out, her place will at least not be quite empty.”
There are often strange coincidences in life. At the moment when this thought of the hunchback crossed the mind of Adrienne, a crowd had collected in one of the side-avenues, and other persons soon ran to join the group.
“Look, uncle!” said Lady de Morinval; “how many people are assembled yonder. What can it be? Shall we stop, and send to inquire?”
“I am sorry, my dear, but your curiosity cannot be satisfied,” said the count, drawing out his watch; “it will soon be six o’clock, and the exhibition of the wild beasts begin at eight. We shall only just have time to go home and dine. Is not that your opinion, my dear child?” said he to Adrienne.
“And yours, Julia?” said Mdlle. de Cardoville to the marchioness.
“Oh, certainly!” answered her friend.
“I am the less inclined to delay,” resumed the count, “as when I have taken you to the Porte-Saint-Martin, I shall be obliged to go for half an-hour to my club, to ballot for Lord Campbell, whom I propose.”
“Then, Adrienne and I will be left alone at the play, uncle?”
“Your husband will go with you, I suppose.”
“True, dear uncle; but do not quite leave us, because of that.”
“Be sure I shall not: for I am curious as you are to see these terrible animals, and the famous Morok, the incomparable lion-tamer.”
A few minutes after, Mdlle. de Cardoville’s carriage had left the Champs Elysees, carrying with it the little girl, and directing its course towards the Rue d’Anjou. As the brilliant equipage disappeared from the scene, the crowd, of which we before have spoken, greatly increased about one of the large trees in the Champs-Elysees, and expressions of pity were heard here and there amongst the groups. A lounger approached a young man on the skirts of the crowd, and said to him: “What is the matter, sir?”