“And what answer did he give you, Agricola?” asked Mother Bunch, while Dagobert shrugged his shoulders, and continued to walk up and down.
“‘My good fellow,’ said he, ’what you ask me is impossible. I understand your motives, but I cannot take upon myself so serious a measure. I should be broke were I to enter a convent by force.—’Then, sir, what am I to do? It is enough to turn one’s head.’—’Faith, I don’t know,’ said the lieutenant; ’it will be safest, I think, to wait.’—Then, believing I had done all that was possible, father, I resolved to come back, in the hope that you might have been more fortunate than I—but, alas! I was deceived!”
So saying, the smith sank upon a chair, for he was worn out with anxiety and fatigue. There was a moment of profound silence after these words of Agricola, which destroyed the last hopes of the three, mute and crushed beneath the strokes of inexorable fatality.
A new incident came to deepen the sad and painful character of this scene.
The door which Agricola had not thought of fastening opened, as it were, timidly, and Frances Baudoin, Dagobert’s wife, pale, sinking, hardly able to support herself, appeared on the threshold.
The soldier, Agricola, and Mother Bunch, were plunged in such deep dejection, that neither of them at first perceived the entrance. Frances advanced two steps into the room, fell upon her knees, clasped her hands together, and said in a weak and humble voice; “My poor husband—pardon!”
At these words, Agricola and the work-girl—whose backs were towards the door—turned round suddenly, and Dagobert hastily raised his head.
“My mother!” cried Agricola, running to Frances.
“My wife!” cried Dagobert, as he also rose, and advanced to meet the unfortunate woman.
“On your knees, dear mother!” said Agricola, stooping down to embrace her affectionately. “Get up, I entreat you!”
“No, my child,” said Frances, in her mild, firm accents, “I will not rise, till your father has forgiven me. I have wronged him much—now I know it.”
“Forgive you, my poor wife?” said the soldier, as he drew near with emotion. “Have I ever accused you, except in my first transport of despair? No, no; it was the bad priests that I accused, and there I was right. Well! I have you again,” added he, assisting his son to raise Frances; “one grief the less. They have then restored you to liberty? Yesterday, I could not even learn in what prison they had put you. I have so many cares that I could not think of you only. But come, dear wife: sit down!”
“How feeble you are, dear mother!—how cold—how pale!” said Agricola with anguish, his eyes filling with tears.
“Why did you not let us know?” added he. “We would have gone to fetch you. But how you tremble! Your hands are frozen!” continued the smith, as he knelt down before Frances. Then, turning towards Mother Bunch: “Pray, make a little fire directly.”