Taking a few steps up and down the room, Dagobert looked around him, as if in search of something. At length, after about a minute’s examination, he perceived near the stove, a bar of iron, perhaps two feet long, serving to lift the covers, when too hot for the fingers. Taking this in his hand, he looked at it closely, poised it to judge of its weight, and then laid it down upon the drawers with an air of satisfaction. Surprised at the long silence of Dagobert, the needlewoman followed his movements with timid and uneasy curiosity. But soon her surprise gave way to fright, when she saw the soldier take down his knapsack, place it upon a chair, open it, and draw from it a pair of pocket-pistols, the locks of which he tried with the utmost caution.
Seized with terror, the sempstress could not forbear exclaiming: “Good gracious, M. Dagobert! what are you going to do?”
The soldier looked at her as if he only now perceived her for the first time, and said to her in a cordial, but abrupt voice: “Good-evening, my good girl! What is the time?”
“Eight o’clock has just struck at Saint-Mery’s, M. Dagobert.”
“Eight o’clock,” said the soldier, speaking to himself; “only eight!”
Placing the pistols by the side of the iron bar, he appeared again to reflect, while he cast his eyes around him.
“M. Dagobert,” ventured the girl, “you have not, then, good news?”
That single word was uttered by the soldier in so sharp a tone, that, not daring to question him further, Mother Bunch sat down in silence. Spoil sport came to lean his head on the knees of the girl, and followed the movements of Dagobert with as much curiosity as herself.
After remaining for some moments pensive and silent, the soldier approached the bed, took a sheet from it, appeared to measure its length, and then said, turning towards Mother Bunch: “The scissors!”
“But, M. Dagobert—”
“Come, my good girl! the scissors!” replied Dagobert, in a kind tone, but one that commanded obedience. The sempstress took the scissors from Frances’ work-basket, and presented them to the soldier.
“Now, hold the other end of the sheet, my girl, and draw it out tight.”
In a few minutes, Dagobert had cut the sheet into four strips, which he twisted in the fashion of cords, fastening them here and there with bits of tape, so as to preserve the twist, and tying them strongly together, so as to make a rope of about twenty feet long. This, however, did not suffice him, for he said to himself: “Now I must have a hook.”
Again he looked around him, and Mother Bunch, more and more frightened, for she now no longer doubted Dagobert’s designs, said to him timidly: “M. Dagobert, Agricola has not yet come in. It may be some good news that makes him so late.”
“Yes,” said the soldier, bitterly, as he continued to cast round his eyes in search of something he wanted; “good news like mine! But I must have a strong iron hook.”