The penal code.
Startled for a moment by the dark and secret machinations of the black robes, as he called them, against the persons he most loved, Dagobert might have hesitated an instant to attempt the deliverance of Rose and Blanche; but his indecision ceased directly on the reading of Marshal Simon’s letter, which came so timely to remind him of his sacred duties.
To the soldier’s passing dejection had succeeded a resolution full of calm and collected energy.
“Agricola, what o’clock is it?” asked he of his son.
“Just struck nine, father.”
“You must make me, directly, an iron hook—strong enough to support my weight, and wide enough to hold on the coping of a wall. This stove will be forge and anvil; you will find a hammer in the house; and, for iron,” said the soldier, hesitating, and looking around him, “as for iron—here is some!”
So saying, the soldier took from the hearth a strong pair of tongs, and presented them to his son, adding: “Come, my boy! blow up the fire, blow it to a white heat, and forge me this iron!”
On these words, Frances and Agricola looked at each other with surprise; the smith remained mute and confounded, not knowing the resolution of his father, and the preparations he had already commenced with the needlewoman’s aid.
“Don’t you hear me, Agricola,” repeated Dagobert, still holding the pair of tongs in his hand; “you must make me a hook directly.”
“A hook, father?—for what purpose?”
“To tie to the end of a cord that I have here. There must be a loop at one end large enough to fix it securely.”
“But this cord—this hook—for what purpose are they?”
“To scale the walls of the convent, if I cannot get in by the door.”
“What convent?” asked Frances of her son.
“How, father?” cried the latter, rising abruptly. “You still think of that?”
“Why! what else should I think of?”
“But, father, it is impossible; you will never attempt such an enterprise.”
“What is it, my child?” asked Frances, with anxiety. “Where is father going?”
“He is going to break into the convent where Marshal Simon’s daughters are confined, and carry them off.”
“Great God! my poor husband—a sacrilege!” cried Frances, faithful to her pious traditions, and, clasping her hands together, she endeavored to rise and approach Dagobert.
The soldier, forseeing that he would have to contend with observations and prayers of all sorts, and resolved not to yield, determined to cut short all useless supplications, which would only make him lose precious time. He said, therefore, with a grave, severe, and almost solemn air, which showed the inflexibility of his determination: “Listen to me, wife—and you also, my son—when, at my age, a man makes up his mind to do anything, he knows the reason why. And when a man has once made up his mind, neither wife nor child can alter it. I have resolved to do my duty; so spare yourselves useless words. It may be your duty to talk to me as you have done; but it is over now, and we will say no more about it. This evening I must be master in my own house.”