So saying, Rodin again bowed very low, and, concealing his rage and vexation, left the room before Dagobert, who made a sign to the two sisters, and then followed, closing the door after him.
“What news of our father, Dagobert?” said Rose anxiously, when the soldier returned, after a quarter of an hours absence.
“Well, that old conjurer knows that the marshal set out in good spirits, and he seems acquainted with M. Robert. How could he be informed of all this? I cannot tell,” added the soldier, with a thoughtful air; “but it is only another reason to be on one’s guard against him.”
“But what news of our father?” asked Rose.
“One of that old rascal’s friends (I think him a rascal still) knows your father, he tells me, and met him five-and-twenty leagues from here. Knowing that this man was coming to Paris, the marshal charged him to let you know that he was in perfect health, and hoped soon to see you again.”
“Oh, what happiness!” cried Rose.
“You see, you were wrong to suspect the poor old man, Dagobert,” added Blanche. “You treated him so harshly!”
“Possibly so; but I am not sorry for it.”
“I have my reasons; and one of the best is that, when I saw him came in, and go sidling and creeping round about us, I felt chilled to the marrow of my bones, without knowing why. Had I seen a serpent crawling towards you, I should not have been more frightened. I knew, of course, that he could not hurt you in my presence; but I tell you, my children, in spite of the services he has no doubt rendered us, it was all I could do to refrain from throwing him out of the window. Now, this manner of proving my gratitude is not natural, and one must be on one’s guard against people who inspire us with such ideas.”
“Good Dagobert, it is your affection for us that makes you so suspicious,” said Rose, in a coaxing tone; “it proves how much you love us.”
THE IMPROVISED HOSPITAL
Among a great number of temporary hospitals opened at the time of the cholera in every quarter of Paris, one had been established on the ground-floor of a large house in the Rue du Mont-Blanc. The vacant apartments had been generously placed by their proprietor at the disposal of the authorities; and to this place were carried a number of persons, who, being suddenly attacked with the contagion, were considered in too dangerous a state to be removed to the principal hospitals.
Two days had elapsed since Rodin’s visit to Marshal Simon’s daughters. Shortly after he had been expelled, the Princess de Saint-Dizier had entered to see them, under the cloak of being a house-to-house visitor to collect funds for the cholera sufferers.
Choosing the moment when Dagobert, deceived by her lady-like demeanor, had withdrawn, she counselled the twins that it was their duty to go and see their governess, whom she stated to be in the hospital we now describe.