At the name of Mdlle. de Cardoville, the benefactress of his son, the soldier turned round suddenly, and loosened his hold on Rodin. The latter, crimson with rage and suffocation, set about adjusting his collar and his cravat.
“I beg your pardon, madame,” said Dagobert, going towards Adrienne, who was still pale with fright; “I did not known who you were, and the first impulse of anger quite carried me away.”
“But what has this gentleman done to you?” said Adrienne. “If you had listened to me, you would have learned—”
“Excuse me if I interrupt you, madame,” said the soldier to Adrienne, in a hollow voice. Then addressing himself to Rodin, who had recovered his coolness, he added: “Thank the lady, and begone!—If you remain here, I will not answer for myself.”
“One word only, my dear sir,” said Rodin.
“I tell you that if you remain, I will not answer for myself!” cried Dagobert, stamping his foot.
“But, for heaven’s sake, tell me the cause of this anger,” resumed Adrienne; “above all, do not trust to appearances. Calm yourself, and listen.”
“Calm myself, madame!” cried Dagobert, in despair; “I can think only of one thing, ma dame—of the arrival of Marshal Simon—he will be in Paris to-day or to-morrow.”
“Is it possible?” said Adrienne. Rodin started with surprise and joy.
“Yesterday evening,” proceeded Dagobert, “I received a letter from the marshal: he has landed at Havre. For three days I have taken step after step, hoping that the orphans would be restored to me, as the machinations of those wretches have failed.” He pointed to Rodin with a new gesture of impatience. “Well! it is not so. They are conspiring some new infamy. I am prepared for anything.”
“But, sir,” said Rodin advancing, “permit me—”
“Begone!” cried Dagobert, whose irritation and anxiety redoubled, as he thought how at any moment Marshal Simon might arrive in Paris. “Begone! Were it not for this lady, I would at least be revenged on some one.”
Rodin made a nod of intelligence to Adrienne, whom he approached prudently, and, pointing to Dagobert with a gesture of affectionate commiseration, he said to the latter: “I will leave you, sir, and the more willingly, as I was about to withdraw when you entered.” Then, coming still closer to Mdlle. de Cardoville, the Jesuit whispered to her, “Poor soldier! he is beside himself with grief, and would be incapable of hearing me. Explain it all to him, my dear young lady; he will be nicely caught,” added he, with a cunning air. “But in the meantime,” resumed Rodin, feeling in the side-pocket of his great-coat and taking out a small parcel, “let me beg you to give him this, my dear young lady. It is my revenge, and a very good one.”