“You? Oh, dear, only to think I did not know I had such a pretty neighbor.”
“Yes, I have lodged here six months, M. Rodin.”
“On the third story, front, M. Rodin.”
“It was you, then, that sang so well just now?”
“You gave me great pleasure, I must say.”
“You are very polite, M. Rodin.”
“You lodge, I suppose, with your respectable family?”
“I believe you, M. Rodin,” said Rose-Pompon, casting down her eyes with a timid air. “I lodge with Grandpapa Philemon, and Grandmamma Bacchanal—who is a queen and no mistake.”
Rodin had hitherto been seriously uneasy, not knowing in what manner Rose had discovered his real name. But on hearing her mention the Bacchanal queen, with the information that she lodged in the house, he found something to compensate for the disagreeable incident of Rose-Pompon’s appearance. It was, indeed, important to Rodin to find out the Bacchanal Queen, the mistress of Sleepinbuff, and the sister of Mother Bunch, who had been noted as dangerous since her interview with the superior of the convent, and the part she had taken in the projected escape of Mdlle. de Cardoville. Moreover, Rodin hoped—thanks to what he had just heard—to bring Rose-Pompon to confess to him the name of the person from whom she had learned that “Charlemagne” masked “Rodin.”
Hardly had the young girl pronounced the name of the Bacchanal queen, than Rodin clasped his hands, and appeared as much surprised as interested.
“Oh, my dear child,” he exclaimed, “I conjure you not to jest on this subject. Are you speaking of a young girl who bears that nickname, the sister of a deformed needlewoman.”
“Yes, sir, the Bacchanal Queen is her nickname,” said Rose-Pompon, astonished in her turn; “she is really Cephyse Soliveau, and she is my friend.”
“Oh! she is your friend?” said Rodin, reflecting.
“Yes, sir, my bosom friend.”
“So you love her?”
“Like a sister. Poor girl! I do what
I can for her, and that’s not much.
But how comes it that a respectable man of your age should know the
Bacchanal Queen?—Ah! that shows you have a false name!”
“My dear child, I am no longer inclined to laugh,” said Rodin, with so sorrowful an air, that Rose-Pompon, reproaching herself with her pleasantry, said to him: “But how comes it that you know Cephyse?”
“Alas! I do not know her—but a young fellow, that I like excessively—”
“Otherwise called Sleepinbuff. He is now in prison for debt,” sighed Rodin. “I saw him yesterday.”
“You saw him yesterday?—how strange!” said Rose-Pompon, clapping her hands. “Quick! quick!—come over to Philemon’s, to give Cephyse news of her lover. She is so uneasy about him.”
“My dear child, I should like to give her good news of that worthy fellow, whom I like in spite of his follies, for who has not been guilty of follies?” added Rodin, with indulgent good-nature.