M. de Blessac remained dumb. M. Hardy, still unwilling to believe what he saw and heard, convulsively tore open the letter, which Rodin had just delivered to him, and read the first few lines—interrupting the perusal with exclamations of grief and amazement. He did not require to finish the letter, to convince himself of the black treachery of M. de Blessac. He staggered; for a moment his senses seemed to abandon him. The horrible discovery made him giddy, and his head swam on his first look down into that abyss of infamy. The loathsome letter dropped from his trembling hands. But soon indignation, rage, and scorn succeeded this moment of despair, and rushing, pale and terrible, upon M. de Blessac: “Wretch!” he exclaimed, with a threatening gesture. But, pausing as in the act to strike: “No!” he added, with fearful calmness. “It would be to soil my hands.”
He turned towards Rodin, who had approached hastily, as if to interpose. “It is not worth while chastising a wretch,” said M. Hardy; “But I will press your honest hand, sir—for you have had the courage to unmask a traitor and a coward.”
“Sir!” cried M. de Blessac, overcome with shame; “I am at your orders—and—”
He could not finish. The sound of voices was heard behind the door, which opened violently, and an aged woman entered, in spite of the efforts of the servant, exclaiming in an agitated voice: “I tell you, I must speak instantly to your master.”
On hearing this voice, and at sight of the pale, weeping woman, M. Hardy, forgetting M. de Blessac, Rodin, the infamous treachery, and all, fell back a step, and exclaimed: “Madame Duparc! you here! What is the matter?”
“Oh, sir! a great misfortune—”
“Margaret!” cried M. Hardy, in a tone of despair.
“She is gone, sir!”
“Gone!” repeated M. Hardy, as horror-struck as if a thunderbolt had fallen at his feet. “Margaret gone!”
“All is discovered. Her mother took her away—three days ago!” said the unhappy woman, in a failing voice.
“Gone! Margaret! It is not true. You deceive me,” cried M. Hardy. Refusing to hear more, wild, despairing, he rushed out of the house, threw himself into his carriage, to which the post-horses were still harnessed, waiting for M. de Blessac, and said to the postilion: “To Paris! as fast as you can go!”
As the carriage, rapid as lightning, started upon the road to Paris, the wind brought nearer the distant sound of the war-song of the Wolves, who were rushing towards the factory. In this impending destruction, see Rodin’s subtle hand, administering his fatal blows to clear his way up to the chair of St. Peter to which he aspired. His tireless, wily course can hardly be darker shadowed by aught save that dread coming horror the Cholera, whose aid he evoked, and whose health the Bacchanal Queen wildly drank.
That once gay girl, and her poor famished sister; the fair patrician and her Oriental lover; Agricola, the workman, and his veteran father; the smiling Rose-Pompon, and the prematurely withered Jacques Rennepont; Father d’Aigrigny, the mock priest; and Gabriel, the true disciple; with the rest that have been named and others yet to be pictured, in the blaze of the bolts of their life’s paths, will be seen in the third and concluding part of this romance entitled,