“For what do you ask pardon, my dear prince?” said he to Djalma.
“When you entered, I was in a dream; I did not come to meet you. Once more, pardon me, father!”
“Once more, I forgive you with all my heart, my dear prince. But let us have some talk. Pray resume your place on the couch, and your pipe, too, if you like it.”
But Djalma, instead of adopting the suggestion, and throwing himself on the divan, according to his custom, insisted on seating himself in a chair, notwithstanding all the persuasions of “the Old Man with the Good Heart,” as he always called the Jesuit.
“Really, your politeness troubles me, my dear prince,” said Rodin; “you are here at home in India; at least, we wish you to think so.”
“Many things remind me of my country,” said Djalma, in a mild grave tone. “Your goodness reminds me of my father, and of him who was a father to me,” added the Indian, as he thought of Marshal Simon, whose arrival in Paris had been purposely concealed from him.
After a moment’s silence, he resumed in a tone full of affectionate warmth, as he stretched out his hand to Rodin, “You are come, and I am happy!”
“I understand your joy, my dear prince, for I come to take you out of prison—to open your cage for you. I had begged you to submit to a brief seclusion, entirely for your own interest.”
“Can I go out to-morrow?”
“To-day, my dear prince, if you please.”
The young Indian reflected for a moment, and then resumed, “I must have friends, since I am here in a palace that does not belong to me.”
“Certainly you have friends—excellent friends,” answered Rodin. At these words, Djalma’s countenance seemed to acquire fresh beauty. The most noble sentiments were expressed in his fine features; his large black eyes became slightly humid, and, after another interval of silence, he rose and said to Rodin with emotion: “Come!”
“Whither, dear prince?” said the other, much surprised.
“To thank my friends. I have waited three days. It is long.”
“Permit me dear prince—I have much to tell you on this subject—please to be seated.”
Djalma resumed his seat with docility. Rodin continued: “It is true that you have friends; or rather, you have a friend. Friends are rare.”
“What are you?”
“Well, then, you have two friends, my dear prince—myself, whom you know, and one other, whom you do not know, and who desires to remain unknown to you.”
“Why?” answered Rodin, after a moment’s embarrassment. “Because the happiness he feels in giving you these proofs of his friendship and even his own tranquillity, depend upon preserving this mystery.”
“Why should there be concealment when we do good?”
“Sometimes, to conceal the good we do, my dear prince.”
“I profit by this friendship; why should he conceal himself from one?” These repeated questions of the young Indian appeared to puzzle Rodin, who, however, replied: “I have told you, my dear prince, that your secret friend would perhaps have his tranquillity compromised, if he were known.”