“One of my school-fellows, you great satyr!” said Rose-Pompon, still playing with the rabbit.
Then, glancing at a box, which Philemon deposited close to the cage and the portmanteau, she added: “I’ll wager anything you have brought me some more preserves!”
“Philly has brought something better to his dear puss,” said the student, imprinting two vigorous kisses on the rosy cheeks of Rose-Pompon, who had at length, consented to stand up; “Philly has brought her his heart.”
“Fudge!” said the grisette, delicately placing the thumb of her left hand on the tip of her nose, and opening the fingers, which she slightly moved to and fro. Philemon answered this provocation by putting his arm around her waist; and then the happy pair shut their door.
During the interview of Adrienne with Rose-Pompon a touching scene took place between Agricola and Mother Bunch, who had been much surprised at Mdlle. de Cardoville’s condescension with regard to the grisette. Immediately after the departure of Adrienne, Agricola had knelt down beside Mother Bunch, and said to her, with profound emotion: “We are alone, and I can at length tell you what weighs upon my heart. This act is too cruel—to die of misery and despair, and not to send to me for assistance.”
“Listen to me, Agricola—”
“No, there is no excuse for this. What! we called each other by the names of brother and sister, and for fifteen years gave every proof of sincere affection—and, when the day of misfortune comes, you quit life without caring for those you must leave behind—without considering that to kill yourself is to tell them they are indifferent to you!”
“Forgive me, Agricola! it is true. I had never thought of that,” said the workgirl, casting down her eyes; “but poverty—want of work—”
“Misery! want of work! and was I not here?”
“But why despair? This generous young lady had received you in her house; she knew your worth, and treated you as her friend—and just at the moment when you had every chance of happiness, you leave the house abruptly, and we remain in the most horrible anxiety on your account.”
“I feared—to be—to be a burden to my benefactress,” stammered she.
“You a burden to Mdlle. de Cardoville, that is so rich and good!”
“I feared to be indiscreet,” said the sewing-girl, more and more embarrassed.
Instead of answering his adopted sister, Agricola remained silent, and contemplated her for some moments with an undefinable expression; then he exclaimed suddenly, as if replying to a question put by himself: “She will forgive me for disobeying her.—I am sure of it.”
He next turned towards Mother Bunch, who was looking at him in astonishment, and said to her in a voice of emotion: “I am too frank to keep up this deception. I am reproaching you—blaming you—and my thoughts are quite different.”