“Oh!” cried Hardy, completely beside himself; “a whole life of prayer, fasting, torture, for such a moment—with her, whom I mourn—with her, whom I have perhaps led to perdition!”
“What do you say? such a moment!” cried Rodin, whose yellow forehead was bathed in sweat like that of a magnetizer, and who now took Hardy by the hand, and drew still closer, as if to breathe into him the burning delirium; “it was not once in his religious life—it was almost every day, that Rancey, plunged in divine ecstasy, enjoyed these delicious, ineffable, superhuman pleasures, which are to the pleasures of earth what eternity is to man’s existence!”
Seeing, no doubt, that Hardy was now at the point to which he wished to bring him, and the night being almost entirely come, the reverend father coughed two or three times in a significant manner, and looked towards the door. At this moment, Hardy, in the height of his frenzy, exclaimed, with a supplicating voice: “A cell—a tomb—and the Ecstatic Vision!”
The door of the room opened, and Father d’Aigrigny entered, with a cloak under his arm. A servant followed him, bearing a light.
About ten minutes after this scene, a dozen robust men with frank, open countenances, led by Agricola, entered the Rue de Vaugirard, and advanced joyously towards the house of the reverend fathers. It was a deputation from the former workmen of M. Hardy. They came to escort him, and to congratulate him on his return amongst them. Agricola walked at their head. Suddenly he saw a carriage with post-horses issuing from the gateway of the house. The postilion whipped up the horses, and they started at full gallop. Was it chance or instinct? The nearer the carriage approached the group of which he formed a part, the more did Agricola’s heart sink within him.
The impression became so vivid that it was soon changed into a terrible apprehension; and at the moment when the vehicle, which had its blinds down, was about to pass close by him, the smith, in obedience to a resistless impulse, exclaimed, as he rushed to the horses’ heads: “Help, friends! stop them!”
“Postilion! ten louis if you ride over him!” cried from the carriage the military voice of Father d’Aigrigny.
The cholera was still raging. The postilion had heard of the murder of the poisoners. Already frightened at the sudden attack of Agricola, he struck him a heavy blow on the head with the butt of his whip which stretched him senseless on the ground. Then, spurring with all his might, he urged his three horses into a triple gallop, and the carriage rapidly disappeared, whilst Agricola’s companions, who had neither understood his actions nor the sense of his words, crowded around the smith, and did their best to revive him.