“So be it. The rest, you will see, is a small matter. As soon as night falls, you will dress, and watch for the moment when the concierge, as usually, goes about the house lighting the gas. As soon as you see him on the great staircase; you will make haste and run down. I shall take measures to have the woman Chevassat either kept engaged, or out of the house; and you will thus find it easy to slip out without being perceived. Once in the street, you will turn to the right. At the corner of the street, in front of the great Auction-Mart, you will see a cab standing, with a plaid handkerchief like this hanging out of the window. Get into it boldly; I’ll be inside. I do not know if I have made it all clear to you?”
“Oh, perfectly, sir!”
“Then we understand each other. Do you feel strong enough?”
“Yes, sir. You may rely on me.”
Every thing passed off just as the old dealer had foreseen; and Henrietta played her part so well, that at night, when her disappearance was discovered, Mrs. Chevassat was neither much surprised nor troubled.
“She was tired of life, the girl!” she said to her husband. “I saw it when I was up there. We’ll see her again at the Morgue. As the charcoal did not do the work, she has tried the water.”
Dear woman! She would not have gone to bed so quietly, nor have fallen asleep so comfortably, if she had suspected the truth.
What gave her such perfect peace was the certainty she had, that Henrietta had left the house bareheaded, with wretched, worn-out shoes on her feet, with nothing but one petticoat, and her thin alpaca dress on her body. Now, she was quite sure, that in such a state of destitution, and in this cold December night, the poor young girl would soon be weary wandering through the streets of Paris, and would be irresistibly drawn to the waters of the Seine.
But it was by no means so. When Henrietta was alone, after the departure of Papa Ravinet, she had only become confirmed in her determination to trust in him blindly: she had even forborne to think it over, as she had, humanly speaking, no other choice on earth. Thus, after having received Mrs. Chevassat’s visit, and after having played the part assigned to her by the old dealer, she rose, and, although quite exhausted yet, took her place at the window to watch for the proper time. Four o’clock struck; and, as it was growing dark, the concierge came out, with a light in his hand, and went up the big staircase to light the lamps.
“Now is the time!” she said to herself.
And casting a last look at this wretched room, where she had suffered so much, and wept so much, and where she had expected to die, she slipped out. The back stairs were quite dark, and thus she was not recognized by two persons whom she met. The court was deserted, and the concierge’s room locked. She crossed the hall, and at one bound was in the street. Some forty paces to the left she could see the place where Papa Ravinet was waiting for her in his cab. She ran there, got in; and the driver, who had received his instructions, whipped his horses as soon as he heard the door shut.