“But this incognito,” said Rodin, hiding his disappointment, “will be difficult to preserve.”
“If the prince had inhabited the lodge, I agree with you; the neighborhood of my aunt would have enlightened him, and this fear is one of the reasons that have induced me to renounce my first project. But the prince will inhabit a distant quarter—the Rue Blanche. Who will inform him of my secret? One of my old friends, M. Norval—you, sir—and this dear girl,” pointing to Mother Bunch, “on whose discretion I can depend as on your own, will be my only confidants. My secret will then be quite safe. Besides, we will talk further on this subject to-morrow. You must begin by discovering the retreat of this unfortunate young prince.”
Rodin, though much vexed at Adrienne’s subtle determination with regard to Djalma, put the best face on the matter, and replied: “Your intentions shall be scrupulously fulfilled, my dear young lady; and to-morrow, with your leave, I hope to give you a good account of what you are pleased to call my providential mission.”
“To-morrow, then, I shall expect you with impatience,” said Adrienne, to Rodin, affectionately. “Permit me always to rely upon you, as from this day you may count upon me. You must be indulgent with me, sir; for I see that I shall yet have many counsels, many services to ask of you—though I already owe you so much.”
“You will never owe me enough, my dear young lady, never enough,” said Rodin, as he moved discreetly towards the door, after bowing to Adrienne. At the very moment he was going out, he found himself face to face with Dagobert.
“Holloa! at last I have caught one!” shouted the soldier, as he seized the Jesuit by the collar with a vigorous hand.
On seeing Dagobert grasp Rodin so roughly by the collar, Mdlle. de Cardoville exclaimed in terror, as she advanced several steps towards the soldier: “In the name of Heaven, sir! what are you doing?”
“What am I doing?” echoed the soldier, harshly, without relaxing his hold on Rodin, and turning his head towards Adrienne, whom he did not know; “I take this opportunity to squeeze the throat of one of the wretches in the band of that renegade, until he tells me where my poor children are.”
“You strangle me,” said the Jesuit, in a stifled voice, as he tried to escape from the soldier.
“Where are the orphans, since they are not here, and the convent door has been closed against me?” cried Dagobert, in a voice of thunder.
“Help! help!” gasped Rodin.
“Oh! it is dreadful!” said Adrienne, as, pale and trembling, she held up her clasped hands to Dagobert. “Have mercy, sir! listen to me! listen to him!”
“M. Dagobert!” cried Mother Bunch, seizing with her weak hands the soldier’s arm, and showing him Adrienne, “this is Mdlle. de Cardoville. What violence in her presence! and then, you are deceived doubtless!”