Rushing upon Loony, Dagobert seized him by the collar, and exclaimed: “Who gave you leave to introduce any one here without my permission?”
“Pardon, M. Dagobert!” said Loony, throwing himself on his knees, and clasping his hands with an air of idiotic entreaty.
“Leave the room!—and you too!” added the soldier, with a menacing gesture, as he turned towards Rodin, who had already approached the girls, with a paternal smile on his countenance.
“I am at your orders, my dear sir,” said the priest, humbly; and he made a low bow, but without stirring from the spot.
“Will you go?” cried the soldier to Loony, who was still kneeling, and who, thanks to the advantages of this position, was able to utter a certain number of words before Dagobert could remove him.
“M. Dagobert,” said Loony in a doleful voice, “I beg pardon for bringing up the gentleman without leave; but, alas, my head is turned, because of the misfortune that happened to Madame Augustine.”
“What misfortune?” cried Rose and Blanche together, as they advanced anxiously towards Loony.
“Will you go?” thundered Dagobert, shaking the servant by the collar, to force him to rise.
“Speak—speak!” said Blanche, interposing between the soldier and his prey. “What has happened to Madame Augustine?”
“Oh,” shouted Loony, in spite of the cuffs of the soldier. “Madame Augustine was attacked in the night with cholera, and taken—”
He was unable to finish. Dagobert struck him a tremendous blow with his fist, right on the jaw, and, putting forth his still formidable strength, the old horse-grenadier lifted him to his legs, and with one violent kick bestowed on the lower part of his back, sent him rolling into the ante chamber.
Then turning to Rodin, with flushed cheek and sparkling eye, Dagobert pointed to the door with an expressive gesture, and said in an angry voice: “Now, be off with you and that quickly!”
“I must pay my respects another time, my dear sir,” said Rodin, as he retired towards the door, bowing to the young girls.
Rodin, retreating slowly before the fire of Dagobert’s angry looks, walked backwards to the door, casting oblique but piercing glances at the orphans, who were visibly affected by the servant’s intentional indiscretion. (Dagobert had ordered him not to speak before the girls of the illness of their governess, and that was quite enough to induce the simpleton to take the first opportunity of doing so.)
Rose hastily approached the soldier, and said to him: “Is it true—is it really true that poor Madame Augustine has been attacked with the cholera?”
“No—I do not know—I cannot tell,” replied the soldier, hesitating; “besides, what is it to you?”
“Dagobert, you would conceal from us a calamity,” said Blanche. “I remember now your embarrassment, when we spoke to you of our governess.”