“Your very humble and most obedient servant,
After reading this letter and the signature of the writer, Hardy remained for some time in deep thought, without being able to recollect the name of Rodin, or to what serious circumstances he alluded.
After a silence of some duration, he said to the servant “M. Rodin gave you this letter?”
“And who is M. Rodin?”
“A good old gentleman, who is just recovering from a long illness, that almost carried him off. Lately, he has been getting better, but he is still so weak and melancholy, that it makes one sad to see him. It is a great pity, for there is not a better and more worthy gentleman in the house—unless it be you, sir,” added the servant, bowing with an air of flattering respect.
“M. Rodin;” said Hardy, thoughtfully. “It is singular, that I should not remember the name nor any circumstance connected with it.”
“If you will give me your answer, sir,” resumed the servant, “I will take it to M. Rodin. He is now with Father d’Aigrigny, to whom he is bidding farewell.”
“Yes, sir, the post-horses have just come.”
“Post-horses for whom?” asked Hardy.
“For Father d’Aigrigny, sir.”
“He is going on a journey then!” said Hardy, with some surprise.
“Oh! he will not, I think be long absent,” said the servant, with a confidential air, “for the reverend father takes no one with him, and but very light luggage. No doubt, the reverend father will come to say farewell to you, sir, before he starts. But what answer shall I give M. Rodin?”
The letter, just received, was couched in such polite terms—it spoke of Gabriel with so much respect—that Hardy, urged moreover by a natural curiosity, and seeing no motive to refuse this interview before quitting the house, said to the servant: “Please tell M. Rodin, that if he will give himself the trouble to come to me, I shall be glad to see him.”
“I will let him know immediately, sir,” answered the servant, bowing as he left the room.
When alone, Hardy, while wondering who this M. Rodin could be, began to make some slight preparations for his departure. For nothing in the world would he have passed another night in this house; and, in order to keep up his courage, he recalled every instant the mild, evangelical language of Gabriel, just as the superstitious recite certain litanies, with a view of escaping from temptation.