The door opened, and the worthy dyer appeared, with his hands and arms of an amaranthine color; on one side, he carried a basket of wood, and on the other some live coal in a shovel.
“Good-evening to the company!” said Daddy Loriot. “Thank you for having thought of me, Mme. Frances. You know that my shop and everything in it are at your service. Neighbors should help one another; that’s my motto! You were kind enough, I should think, to my late wife!”
Then, placing the wood in a corner, and giving the shovel to Agricola, the worthy dyer, guessing from the sorrowful appearance of the different actors in this scene, that it would be impolite to prolong his visit, added: “You don’t want anything else, Mme. Frances?”
“No, thank you, Father Loriot.”
“Then, good-evening to the company!” said the dyer; and, addressing Mother Bunch, he added: “Don’t forget the letter for M. Dagobert. I durstn’t touch it for fear of leaving the marks of my four fingers and thumb in amaranthine! But, good evening to the company!” and Father Loriot went out.
“M. Dagobert, here is a letter,” said Mother Bunch. She set herself to light the fire in the stove, while Agricola drew his mother’s arm-chair to the hearth.
“See what it is, my boy,” said Dagobert to his son; “my head is so heavy that I cannot see clear.” Agricola took the letter, which contained only a few lines, and read it before he looked at the signature.
“At Sea, December 25th, 1831.
“I avail myself of a few minutes’ communication with a ship bound direct for Europe, to write to you, my old comrade, a few hasty lines, which will reach you probably by way of Havre, before the arrival of my last letters from India. You must by this time be at Paris, with my wife and child—tell them—I am unable to say more —the boat is departing. Only one word; I shall soon be in France. Do not forget the 13th February; the future of my wife and child depends upon it.
“Adieu, my friend! Believe in my eternal gratitude.
“Agricola—quick! look to your father!” cried the hunchback.
From the first words of this letter, which present circumstances made so cruelly applicable, Dagobert had become deadly pale. Emotion, fatigue, exhaustion, joined to this last blow, made him stagger.
His son hastened to him, and supported him in his arms. But soon the momentary weakness passed away, and Dagobert, drawing his hand across his brow, raised his tall figure to its full height. Then, whilst his eye sparkled, his rough countenance took an expression of determined resolution, and he exclaimed, in wild excitement: “No, no! I will not be a traitor; I will not be a coward. The black robes shall not frighten me; and, this night, Rose and Blanche Simon shall be free!”