“Alas, my dear mother! if you only knew what a strange Saint Bernard this Dumoulin is! But I will not offend your ears; all I can tell you is, that such defenders would compromise the most sacred cause. Adieu, my dear mother! pray redouble your precautions to-night—the return of this soldier is alarming.”
“Be quite satisfied, my dear daughter! Oh! I forgot. Mdlle. Florine begged me to ask you a favor. It is to let her enter your service. You know the fidelity she displayed in watching your unfortunate niece; I think that, by rewarding her in this way, you will attach her to you completely, and I shall feel grateful on her account.”
“If you interest yourself the least in the world in Florine, my dear mother, the thing is done. I will take her into my service. And now it strikes me, she may be more useful to me than I thought.”
“A thousand thanks, my dear daughter, for such obliging attention to my request. I hope we shall soon meet again. The day after to-morrow, at two o’clock, we have a long conference with his Eminence and the Bishop; do not forget!”
“No, my dear mother; I shall take care to be exact. Only, pray, redouble your precautions to-night for fear of a great scandal!”
After respectfully kissing the hand of the superior, the princess went out by the great door, which led to an apartment opening on the principal staircase. Some minutes after, Florine entered the room by another way. The superior was seated and Florine approached her with timid humility.
“Did you meet the Princess de Saint-Dizier?” asked Mother Sainte Perpetue.
“No, mother; I was waiting in the passage, where the windows look out on the garden.”
“The princess takes you into her service from to-day,” said the superior.
Florine made a movement of sorrowful surprise, and exclaimed: “Me, mother! but—”
“I asked her in your name, and you have only to accept,” answered the other imperiously.
“But, mother, I had entreated you—”
“I tell you, that you accept the offer,” said the superior, in so firm and positive a tone that Florine cast down her eyes, and replied in a low voice: “I accept.”
“It is in M. Rodin’s name that I give you this order.”
“I thought so, mother,” replied Florine, sadly; “on what conditions am I to serve the princess?”
“On the same conditions as those on which you served her niece.”
Florine shuddered and said: “I am, then, to make frequent secret reports with regard to the princess?”
“You will observe, you will remember, and you will give an account.”
“Yes, my mother.”
“You will above all direct your attention to the visits that the princess may receive from the lady superior of the Sacred Heart. You must try and listen—for we have to preserve the princess from evil influences.”
“I will obey, my mother.”