At sight of the blood-stained and torn remains, Dagobert stood motionless, and his rough countenance assumed an expression of the deepest grief: then, throwing himself on his knees, he lifted the head of Jovial; and when he saw those dull, glassy, and half-closed eyes, once so bright and intelligent, as they turned towards a much-loved master, the soldier could not suppress an exclamation of bitter anguish. Forgetting his anger, forgetting the deplorable consequences of this accident, so fatal to the interests of the two maidens, who would thus be prevented from continuing their journey—he thought only of the horrible death of his poor old horse, the ancient companion of his fatigues and wars, the faithful animal, twice wounded like himself, and from whom for so many years he had never been separated. This poignant emotion was so cruelly, so affectingly visible in the soldier's countenance, that the landlord and his people felt themselves for a moment touched with pity, as they gazed on the tall veteran kneeling beside his dead horse.
But, when following the course of his regrets, he thought how Jovial had also been the companion of his exile, how the mother of the orphans had formerly (like her daughters) undertaken a toilsome journey with the aid of this unfortunate animal, the fatal consequences of his loss presented themselves on a sudden to his mind. Then, fury succeeding to grief, he rose, with anger flashing from his eyes, and threw himself on the Prophet; with one hand he seized him by the throat, and with the other administered five or six heavy blows, which fell harmlessly on the coat of mail.
"Rascal! you shall answer to me for my horse's death!" said the soldier, as he continued his correction. Morok, light and sinewy, could not struggle with advantage against Dagobert, who, aided by his tall stature, still displayed extraordinary vigor. It needed the intervention of Goliath and the landlord to rescue the Prophet from the hands of the old grenadier. After some moments, they succeeded in separating the two champions. Morok was white with rage. It needed new efforts to prevent his seizing the pike to attack Dagobert.
"It is abominable!" cried the host, addressing the soldier, who pressed his clinched fists in despair against his bald forehead. "You expose this good man to be devoured by his beasts, and then you wish to beat him into the bargain. Is this fitting conduct for a graybeard? Shall we have to fetch the police? You showed yourself more reasonable in the early part of the evening."
These words recalled the soldier to himself. He regretted his impetuosity the more, as the fact of his being a stranger might augment the difficulty of his position. It was necessary above all to obtain the price of his horse, so as to be enabled to continue his journey, the success of which might be compromised by a single day's delay. With a violent effort, therefore, he succeeded in restraining his wrath.
"You are right—I was too hasty," said he to the host, in an agitated voice, which he tried to make as calm as possible. "I had not the same patience as before. But ought not this man be responsible for the loss of my horse? I make you judge in the matter."
"Well, then, as judge, I am not of your opinion. All this has been your own fault. You tied up your horse badly, and he strayed by chance into this shed, of which no doubt the door was half-open," said the host, evidently taking the part of the brute-tamer.
"It was just as you say," answered Goliath. "I can remember it. I left the door ajar, that the beasts might have some air in the night. The cages were well shut, and there was no danger."
"Very true," said one of the standers-by.
"It was only the sight of the horse," added another, "that made the panther furious, so as to break out of its cage."
"It is the Prophet who has the most right to complain," observed a third.
"No matter what this or that person says," returned Dagobert, whose patience was beginning to fail him, "I say, that I must have either money or a horse on the instant—yes, on the instant—for I wish to quit this unlucky house."
"And I say, it is you that must indemnify me," cried Morok, who had kept this stage-trick for the last, and who now exhibited his left hand all bloody, having hitherto concealed it beneath the sleeve of his pelisse. "I shall perhaps be disabled for life," he added; "see what a wound the panther has made here!"
Without having the serious character that the Prophet ascribed to it, the wound was a pretty deep one. This last argument gained for him the general sympathy. Reckoning no doubt upon this incident, to secure the winning of a cause that he now regarded as his own, the host said to the hostler: "There is only one way to make a finish. It is to call up the burgomaster, and beg him to step here. He will decide who is right or wrong."
"I was just going to propose it to you," said the soldier, "for, after all, I cannot take the law into my own hands."
"Fritz, run to the burgomaster's!"—and the hustler started in all haste. His master, fearing to be compromised by the examination of the soldier, whose papers he had neglected to ask for on his arrival, said to him: "The burgomaster will be in a very bad humor, to be disturbed so late. I have no wish to suffer by it, and I must therefore beg you to go and fetch me your papers, to see if they are in rule. I ought to have made you show them, when you arrived here in the evening."
"They are upstairs in my knapsack; you shall have them," answered the soldier—and turning away his head, and putting his hand before his eyes, as he passed the dead body of Jovial, he went out to rejoin the sisters.
The Prophet followed him with a glance of triumph, and said to himself: "There he goes!—without horse, without money, without papers. I could not do more—for I was forbidden to do more—I was to act with as much cunning as possible and preserve appearances. Now every one will think this soldier in the wrong. I can at least answer for it, that he will not continue his journey for some days—since such great interests appear to depend on his arrest, and that of the young girls."
A quarter of an hour after this reflection of the brute-tamer, Karl, Goliath's comrade, left the hiding-place where his master had concealed him during the evening, and set out for Leipsic, with a letter which Morok had written in haste, and which Karl, on his arrival, was to put immediately into the post.
The address of this letter was as follows:
"A Monsieur Rodin, Rue du Milieu-des-Ursins, No, 11, A Paris, France."
CHAPTER XII. THE BURGOMASTER.
Dagobert's anxiety increased every moment. Certain that his horse had not entered the shed of its own accord, he attributed the event which had taken place to the spite of the brute-tamer; but he sought in vain for the motive of this wretch's animosity, and he reflected with dismay, that his cause, however just, would depend on the good or bad humor of a judge dragged from his slumbers and who might be ready to condemn upon fallacious appearances.
Fully determined to conceal, as long as possible, from the orphans the fresh misfortunes, which had befallen them, he was proceeding to open the door of their chamber, when he stumbled over Spoil-sport—for the dog had run back to his post, after vainly trying to prevent the Prophet from leading away Jovial. "Luckily the dog has returned; the poor little things have been well guarded," said the soldier, as he opened the door. To his great surprise, the room was in utter darkness.
"My children," cried he, "why are you without a light?" There was no answer. In terror he groped his way to the bed, and took the hand of one of the sisters; the hand was cold as ice.
"Rose, my children!" cried he. "Blanche! Give me some answer! you frighten me." Still the same silence continued; the hand which he held remained cold and powerless, and yielded passively to his touch.
Just then, the moon emerged from the black clouds that surrounded her, and threw sufficient light into the little room, and upon the bed, which faced the window, for the soldier to see that the two sisters had fainted. The bluish light of the moon added to the paleness of the orphans; they held each other in a half embrace, and Rose had buried her head on Blanche's bosom.
"They must have fainted through fear," exclaimed Dagobert, running to fetch his gourd. "Poor things! after a day of so much excitement, it is not surprising." And moistening the corner of a handkerchief with a few drops of brandy, the soldier knelt beside the bed, gently chafed the temples of the two sisters, and held the linen, wet with the spirituous liquor, to their little pink nostrils.
Still on his knees, and bending his dark, anxious face over the orphans, he waited some moments before again resorting to the only restorative in his power. A slight shiver of Rose gave him renewed hope; the young girl turned her head on the pillow with a sigh; then she started, and opened her eyes with an expression of astonishment and alarm; but, not immediately recognizing Dagobert, she exclaimed: "Oh, sister!" and threw herself into the arms of Blanche.
The latter also was beginning to experience the effect of the soldier's care. The exclamation of Rose completely roused her from her lethargy, and she clung to her sister, again sharing the fright without knowing its cause.
"They've come to—that's the chief point," said Dagobert, "now we shall soon get rid of these foolish fears." Then softening his voice, he added: "Well, my children, courage? You are better. It is I who am here—me, Dagobert!"
The orphans made a hasty movement, and, turning towards the soldier their sweet faces, which were still full of dismay and agitation, they both, by a graceful impulse, extended their arms to him and cried: "It is you, Dagobert—then we are safe!"
"Yes, my children, it is I," said the veteran, taking their hands in his, and pressing them joyfully. "So you have been much frightened during my absence?"
"Oh, frightened to death!"
"If you knew—oh, goodness! if you knew—"
"But the lamp is extinguished—why is that?"
"We did not do it."
"Come—recover yourselves, poor children, and tell me all about it. I have no good opinion of this inn; but, luckily, we shall soon leave it. It was an ill wind that blew me hither—though, to be sure, there was no other in the village. But what has happened?"
"You were hardly gone, when the window flew open violently, and the lamp and table fell together with a loud crash."
"Then our courage failed—we screamed and clasped each other, for we thought we could hear some one moving in the room."
"And we were so frightened, that we fainted away."
Unfortunately, persuaded that it was the violence of the wind which had already broken the glass, and shaken the window, Dagobert attributed this second accident to the same cause as the first, thinking that he had not properly secured the fastening and that the orphans had been deceived by a false alarm. "Well, well—it is over now," said he to them: "Calm yourselves, and don't think of it any more."
"But why did you leave us so hastily, Dagobert?"
"Yes, now I remember—did we not hear a great noise, sister, and see Dagobert run to the staircase, crying: 'My horse! what are they doing to my horse?'"
"It was then Jovial who neighed?"
These questions renewed the anguish of the soldier; he feared to answer them, and said, with a confused air: "Yes—Jovial neighed—but it was nothing. By the by, we must have a light here. Do you know where I put my flint and steel last evening? Well, I have lost my senses; it is here in my pocket. Luckily, too, we have a candle, which I am going to light; I want to look in my knapsack for some papers I require."
Dagobert struck a few sparks, obtained a light, and saw that the window was indeed open, the table thrown down, and the lamp lying by the side of the knapsack. He shut the window, set the little table on its feet again, placed the knapsack upon it, and began to unbuckle this last in order to take out his portfolio, which had been deposited along with his cross and purse, in a kind of pocket between the outside and the lining. The straps had been readjusted with so much care, that there was no appearance of the knapsack having been disturbed; but when the soldier plunged his hand into the pocket above-mentioned, he found it empty. Struck with consternation, he grew pale, and retreated a step, crying: "How is this?—Nothing!"
"What is the matter?" said Blanche. He made her no answer. Motionless, he leaned against the table, with his hand still buried in the pocket. Then, yielding to a vague hope—for so cruel a reality did not appear possible—he hastily emptied the contents of the knapsack on the table—his poor half-worn clothes—his old uniform-coat of the horse-grenadiers of the Imperial Guard, a sacred relic for the soldiers—but, turn and return them as he would, he found neither his purse, nor the portfolio that contained his papers, the letters of General Simon, and his cross.
In vain, with that serious childishness which always accompanies a hopeless search, he took the knapsack by the two ends, and shook it vigorously; nothing came out. The orphans looked on with uneasiness, not understanding his silence or his movements, for his back was turned to them. Blanche ventured to say to him in a timid voice: "What ails you—you don't answer us.—What is it you are looking for in your knapsack?"
Still mute, Dagobert searched his own person, turned out all his pockets—nothing!—For the first time in his life, perhaps, his two children, as he called them, had spoken to him without receiving a reply. Blanche and Rose felt the big tears start into their eyes; thinking that the soldier was angry, they darst not again address him.
"No, no! it is impossible—no!" said the veteran, pressing his hand to his forehead, and seeking in his memory where he might have put those precious objects, the loss of which he could not yet bring himself to believe. A sudden beam of joy flashed from his eyes. He ran to a chair, and took from it the portmanteau of the orphans; it contained a little linen, two black dresses, and a small box of white wood, in which were a silk handkerchief that had belonged to their mother, two locks of her hair, and a black ribbon she had worn round her neck. The little she possessed had been seized by the Russian government, in pursuance of the confiscation. Dagobert searched and researched every article—peeped into all the corners of the portmanteau—still nothing!
This time, completely worn out, leaning against the table, the strong, energetic man felt himself giving way. His face was burning, yet bathed in a cold sweat; his knees trembled under him. It is a common saying, that drowning men will catch at straws; and so it is with the despair that still clings to some shred of hope. Catching at a last chance—absurd, insane, impossible—he turned abruptly towards the orphans, and said to them, without considering the alteration in his voice and features: "I did not give them to you—to keep for me?—speak?"
Instead of answering, Rose and Blanche, terrified at his paleness and the expression of his countenance, uttered a cry. "Good heavens! what is the matter with you?" murmured Rose.
"Have you got them—yes, or no?" cried in a voice of thunder the unfortunate, distracted man. "If you have not—I'll take the first knife I meet with, and stick it into my body!"
"Alas! You are so good: pardon us if we have done anything to afflict you! You love us so much, you would not do us any harm." The orphans began to weep, as they stretched forth their hands in supplication towards the soldier.
He looked at them with haggard eye, without even seeing them; till, as the delusion passed away, the reality presented itself to his mind with all its terrible consequences. Then he clasped his hands together, fell on his knees before the bed of the orphans, leaned his forehead upon it, and amid his convulsive sobs—for the man of iron sobbed like a child—these broken words were audible: "Forgive me—forgive!—I do not know how it can be!—Oh! what a misfortune!—what a misfortune!—Forgive me!"
At this outbreak of grief, the cause of which they understood not, but which in such a man was heart-rending, the two sisters wound their arms about his old gray head, and exclaimed amid their tears: "Look at us! Only tell us what is the matter with you?—Is it our fault?"
At this instant, the noise of footsteps resounded from the stairs, mingled with the barking of Spoil-sport, who had remained outside the door. The nearer the steps approached, the more furious became the barking; it was no doubt accompanied with hostile demonstrations, for the host was heard to cry out in an angry tone: "Hollo! you there! Call off your dog, or speak to him. It is Mr. Burgomaster who is coming up."
"Dagobert—do you hear?—it is the burgomaster," said Rose.
"They are coming upstairs—a number of people," resumed Blanche.
The word burgomaster recalled whatever had happened to the mind of Dagobert, and completed, so to express it, the picture of his terrible position. His horse was dead, he had neither papers nor money, and a day, a single day's detention, might defeat the last hope of the sisters, and render useless this long and toilsome journey.
Men of strong minds, and the veteran was of the number, prefer great perils, positions of danger accurately defined, to the vague anxieties which precede a settled misfortune. Guided by his good sense and admirable devotion, Dagobert understood at once, that his only resource was now in the justice of the burgomaster, and that all his efforts should tend to conciliate the favor of that magistrate. He therefore dried his eyes with the sheet, rose from the ground, erect, calm, and resolute, and said to the orphans: "Fear nothing, my children; it is our deliverer who is at hand."
"Will you call off your dog or no?" cried the host, still detained on the stairs by Spoil-sport, who, as a vigilant sentinel, continued to dispute the passage. "Is the animal mad, I say? Why don't you tie him up? Have you not caused trouble enough in my house? I tell you, that Mr. Burgomaster is waiting to examine you in your turn, for he has finished with Morok."
Dagobert drew his fingers through his gray locks and across his moustache, clasped the collar of his top-coat, and brushed the sleeves with his hand, in order to give himself the best appearance possible; for he felt that the fate of the orphans must depend on his interview with the magistrate. It was not without a violent beating of the heart, that he laid his hand upon the door-knob, saying to the young girls, who were growing more and more frightened by such a succession of events: "Hide yourselves in your bed, my children; if any one must needs enter, it shall be the burgomaster alone."
Thereupon, opening the door, the soldier stepped out on the landing place, and said: "Down, Spoil-sport!—Here!"
The dog obeyed, but with manifest repugnance. His master had to speak twice, before he would abstain from all hostile movements towards the host. This latter, with a lantern in one hand and his cap in the other, respectfully preceded the burgomaster, whose magisterial proportions were lost in the half shadows of the staircase. Behind the judge, and a few steps lower, the inquisitive faces of the people belonging to the inn were dimly visible by the light of another lantern.
Dagobert, having turned the dog into the room, shut the door after him, and advanced two steps on the landing-place, which was sufficiently spacious to hold several persons, and had in one corner a wooden bench with a back to it. The burgomaster, as he ascended the last stair, was surprised to see Dagobert close the door of the chamber, as though he wished to forbid his entrance. "Why do you shut that door?" asked he in an abrupt tone.
"First, because two girls, whom I have the charge of, are in bed in that room; secondly, because your examination would alarm them," replied Dagobert. "Sit down upon this bench, Mr. Burgomaster, and examine me here; it will not make any difference, I should think."
"And by what right," asked the judge, with a displeased air, "do you pretend to dictate to me the place of your examination?"
"Oh, I have no such pretension, Mr. Burgomaster!" said the soldier hastily, fearing above all things to prejudice the judge against him: "only, as the girls are in bed, and already much frightened, it would be a proof of your good heart to examine me where I am."
"Humph!" said the magistrate, with ill-humor; "a pretty state of things, truly!—It was much worth while to disturb me in the middle of the night. But, come, so be it; I will examine you here." Then, turning to the landlord, he added: "Put your lantern upon this bench, and leave us."
The innkeeper obeyed, and went down, followed by his people, as dissatisfied as they were at being excluded from the examination. The veteran was left alone with the magistrate.
CHAPTER XIII. THE JUDGEMENT.
The worthy burgomaster of Mockern wore a cloth cap, and was enveloped in a cloak. He sat down heavily on the bench. He was a corpulent man, about sixty, with an arrogant, morose countenance; and he frequently rubbed with his red, fat fist, eyes that were still swollen and blood shot, from his having been suddenly roused from sleep.
Dagobert stood bareheaded before him, with a submissive, respectful air, holding his old foraging cap in his hands, and trying to read in the sullen physiognomy of his judge what chance there might be to interest him in his favor—that is, in favor of the orphans.
In this critical juncture, the poor soldier summoned to his aid all his presence of mind, reason, eloquence and resolution. He, who had twenty times braved death with the utmost coolness—who, calm and serene, because sincere and tried, had never quailed before the eagle-glance of the Emperor, his hero and idol—now felt himself disconcerted and trembling before the ill-humored face of a village burgomaster. Even so, a few hours before, he had submitted, impassive and resigned, to the insults of the Prophet—that he might not compromise the sacred mission with which a dying mother had entrusted him—thus showing to what a height of heroic abnegation it is possible for a simple and honest heart to attain.
"What have you to say in your justification? Come, be quick!" said the judge roughly, with a yawn of impatience.
"I have not got to justify myself—I have to make a complaint, Mr. Burgomaster," replied Dagobert in a firm voice.
"Do you think you are to teach me in what terms I am to put my questions?" exclaimed the magistrate, in so sharp a tone that the soldier reproached himself with having begun the interview so badly. Wishing to pacify his judge, he made haste to answer with submission:
"Pardon me, Mr. Burgomaster, I have ill-explained my meaning. I only wished to say that I was not wrong in this affair."
"The Prophet says the contrary."
"The Prophet?" repeated the soldier, with an air of doubt.
"The Prophet is a pious and honest man," resumed the judge, "incapable of falsehood."
"I cannot say anything upon that subject; but you are too just, and have too good a heart, Mr. Burgomaster, to condemn without hearing me. It is not a man like you that would do an injustice; oh, one can see that at a glance!"
In resigning himself thus to play the part of a courtier, Dagobert softened as much as possible his gruff voice, and strove to give to his austere countenance a smiling, agreeable, and flattering expression. "A man like you," he added, with redoubled suavity of manner, "a respectable judge like you, never shuts his ears to one side or the other."
"Ears are not in question, but eyes; and, though mine smart as if I had rubbed them with nettles, I have seen the hand of the brute-tamer, with a frightful wound on it."
"Yes, Mr. Burgomaster, it is very true; but consider, if he had shut his cages and his door, all this would not have happened."
"Not so; it is your fault. You should have fastened your horse securely to the manger."
"You are right, Mr. Burgomaster, certainly, you are right," said the soldier, in a still more affable and conciliating voice. "It is not for a poor devil like me to contradict you. But supposing my horse was let loose out of pure malice, in order that he might stray into the menagerie—you will then acknowledge that it was not my fault. That is, you will acknowledge it if you think fit," hastily added the soldier "I have no right to dictate to you in anything."
"And why the devil should any one do you this ill-turn?"
"I do not know, Mr. Burgomaster—but—"
"You do not know—well, nor I either," said the burgomaster impatiently. "Zounds! what a many words about the carcass of an old horse!"
The countenance of the soldier, losing on a sudden its expression of forced suavity, became once more severe; he answered in a grave voice, full of emotion: "My horse is dead—he is no more than a carcass—that is true; but an hour ago, though very old, he was full of life and intelligence. He neighed joyously at my voice—and, every evening, he licked the hands of the two poor children, whom he had carried all the day—as formerly he had carried their mother. Now he will never carry any one again; they will throw him to the dogs, and all will be finished. You need not have reminded me harshly of it, Mr. Burgomaster—for I loved my horse!"
By these words, pronounced with noble and touching simplicity, the burgomaster was moved in spite of himself, and regretted his hasty speech. "It is natural that you should be sorry for your horse," said he, in a less impatient tone; "but what is to be done?—It is a misfortune."
"A misfortune?—Yes, Mr. Burgomaster, a very great misfortune. The girls, who accompany me, were too weak to undertake a long journey on foot, too poor to travel in a carriage—and yet we have to arrive in Paris before the month of February. When their mother died, I promised her to take them to France, for these children have only me to take care of them."
"You are then their—"
"I am their faithful servant, Mr. Burgomaster; and now that my horse has been killed, what can I do for them? Come, you are good, you have perhaps children of your own; if, one day, they should find themselves in the position of my two little orphans—with no wealth, no resources in the world, but an old soldier who loves them, and an old horse to carry them along—if, after being very unfortunate from their birth—yes, very unfortunate, for my orphans are the daughters of exiles—they should see happiness before them at the end of a journey, and then, by the death of their horse, that journey become impossible—tell me, Mr. Burgomaster, if this would not touch your heart? Would you not find, as I do, that the loss of my horse is irreparable?"
"Certainly," answered the burgomaster, who was not ill natured at bottom, and who could not help taking part in Dagobert's emotion; "I now understand the importance of the loss you have suffered. And then your orphans interest me: how old are they?"
"Fifteen years and two months. They are twins."
"Fifteen years and two months—that is about the age of my Frederica."
"You have a young lady of that age?" cried Dagobert, once more awaking to hope; "ah, Mr. Burgomaster! I am really no longer uneasy about my poor children. You will do us justice."
"To do justice is my duty. After all, in this affair, the faults are about equal on both sides. You tied up your horse badly, and the brute tamer left his door open. He says: 'I am wounded in the hand.' You answer: 'My horse has been killed—and, for a thousand reasons, the loss of my horse is irreparable.'"
"You make me speak better than I could ever speak on my own account, Mr. Burgomaster," said the soldier, with a humble, insinuating smile; "but 'tis what I meant to express—and, as you say yourself, Mr. Burgomaster, my horse being my whole fortune, it is only fair—"
"Exactly so," resumed the magistrate, interrupting the soldier; "your reasons are excellent. The Prophet—who is a good and pious man with all has related the facts to me in his own way; and then, you see, he is an old acquaintance. We are nearly all zealous Catholics here, and he sells to our wives such cheap and edifying little books, with chaplets and amulets of the best manufacture, at less than the prime cost. All this, you will say, has nothing to do with the affair; and you will be right in saying so: still I must needs confess that I came here with the intention—"
"Of deciding against me, eh, Mr. Burgomaster?" said Dagobert, gaining more and more confidence. "You see, you were not quite awake, and your justice had only one eye open."
"Really, master soldier," answered the judge with good humor, "it is not unlikely; for I did not conceal from Morok that I gave it in his favor. Then he said to me (very generously, by the way): 'Since you condemn my adversary, I will not aggravate his position by telling you certain things—'"
"What! against me?"
"Apparently so; but, like a generous enemy, when I told him that I should most likely condemn you to pay him damages, he said no more about it. For I will not hide from you, that, before I heard your reasons, I fully intended that you should make compensation for the Prophet's wound."
"See, Mr. Burgomaster, how the most just and able persons are subject to be deceived," said Dagobert, becoming once more the courtier; then, trying to assume a prodigiously knowing look, he added: "But such persons find out the truth at last, and are not to be made dupes of, whatever prophets may say."
This poor attempt at a jest—the first and only one, perhaps, that Dagobert had ever been guilty of—will show the extremity to which he was reduced, and the desperate efforts of all kinds he was making to conciliate the good graces of his judge. The burgomaster did not at first see the pleasantry; he was only led to perceive it by the self satisfied mien of Dagobert, and by his inquiring glance, which seemed to say: "Is it not good, eh?—I am astonished at it myself."
The magistrate began, therefore, to smile with a patronizing air, and, nodding his head, replied in the same jocular spirit: "Ha! Ha! Ha! You are right; the Prophet is out in his prophecy. You shall not pay him any damages. The faults on both sides are equal, and the injuries balance one another. He has been wounded, your horse has been killed; so you may cry quits, and have done with it."
"But how much then, do you think he owes me?" asked the soldier, with singular simplicity.
"Yes, Mr. Burgomaster, what sum will he have to pay me? Yes—but, before you decide, I must tell you one thing, Mr. Burgomaster. I think I shall be entitled to spend only part of the money in buying a horse. I am sure, that, in the environs of Leipsic, I could get a beast very cheap from some of the peasants; and, between ourselves, I will own to you, that, if I could meet with only a nice little donkey—I should not be over particular—I should even like it just as well; for, after my poor Jovial, the company of another horse would be painful to me. I must also tell you—"
"Hey-day!" cried the burgomaster, interrupting Dagobert, "of what money, what donkey, and what other horse are you talking? I tell you, that you owe nothing to the Prophet, and that he owes you nothing!"
"He owes me nothing?"
"You are very dull of comprehension, my good man. I repeat, that, if the Prophet's animals have killed your horse, the Prophet himself has been badly wounded; so you may cry quits. In other words, you owe him nothing, and he owes you nothing. Now do you understand?"
Dagobert, confounded, remained for some moments without answering, whilst he looked at the burgomaster with an expression of deep anguish. He saw that his judgment would again destroy all his hopes.
"But, Mr. Burgomaster," resumed he, in an agitated voice, "you are too just not to pay attention to one thing: the wound of the brute-tamer does not prevent him from continuing his trade; the death of my horse prevents me from continuing my journey; therefore, he ought to indemnify me."
The judge considered he had already done a good deal for Dagobert, in not making him responsible for the wound of the Prophet, who, as we have already said, exercised a certain influence over the Catholics of the country by the sale of his devotional treasures, and also from its being known that he was supported by some persons of eminence. The soldier's pertinacity, therefore, offended the magistrate, who, reassuming his lofty air, replied, in a chilling tone: "You will make me repent my impartiality. How is this? Instead of thanking me, you ask for more."
"But, Mr. Burgomaster, I ask only for what is just. I wish I were wounded in the hand, like the Prophet, so that I could but continue my journey."
"We are not talking of what you wish. I have pronounced sentence—there is no more to say."
"But, Mr. Burgomaster—"
"Enough, enough. Let us go to the next subject. Your papers?"
"Yes, we will speak about my papers; but I beg of you, Mr. Burgomaster, to have pity on those two children. Let us have the means to continue our journey, and—"
"I have done all I could for you—perhaps, more than I ought. Once again, your papers!"
"I must first explain to you—"
"No! No explanation—your papers!—Or would you like me to have you arrested as a vagabond?"
"I tell you that, if you refuse to show me your papers, it will be as if you had none. Now, those people who have no papers we take into custody till the authorities can dispose of them. Let me see your papers, and make haste!—I am in a hurry to get home."
Dagobert's position was the more distressing, as for a moment he had indulged in sanguine hope. The last blow was now added to all the veteran had suffered since the commencement of this scene, which was a cruel as well as dangerous trial, for a man of his character—upright, but obstinate—faithful, but rough and absolute—a man who, for a long time a soldier, and a victorious one, had acquired a certain despotic mariner of treating with civilians.
At these words—"your papers," Dagobert became very pale; but he tried to conceal his anguish beneath an air of assurance, which he thought best calculated to gain the magistrate's good opinion. "I will tell you all about it, Mr. Burgomaster," said he. "Nothing can be clearer. Such a thing might happen to any one. I do not look like a beggar and a vagabond, do I? And yet—you will understand, that an honest man who travels with two young girls—"
"No more words! Your papers!"
At this juncture two powerful auxiliaries arrived to the soldier's aid. The orphans, growing more and more uneasy, and hearing Dagobert still talking upon the landing-place, had risen and dressed themselves; so that just at the instant, when the magistrate said in a rough voice—"No more words! Your papers!"—Rose and Blanche holding each other by the hand, came forth from the chamber.
At sight of those charming faces, which their poor mourning vestments only rendered more interesting, the burgomaster rose from his seat, struck with surprise and admiration. By a spontaneous movement, each sister took a hand of Dagobert, and pressed close to him, whilst they regarded the magistrate with looks of mingled anxiety and candor.
It was so touching a picture, this of the old soldier presenting as it were to his judge the graceful children, with countenances full of innocence and beauty, that the burgomaster, by a sudden reaction, found himself once more disposed to sentiments of pity. Dagobert perceived it; and, still holding the orphans by the hand, he advanced towards him, and said in a feeling voice: "Look at these poor children, Mr. Burgomaster! Could I show you a better passport?" And, overcome by so many painful sensations—restrained, yet following each other in quick succession—Dagobert felt, in spite of himself, that the tears were starting to his eyes.
Though naturally rough, and rendered still more testy by the interruption of his sleep, the burgomaster was not quite deficient in sense of feeling. He perceived at once, that a man thus accompanied, ought not to inspire any great distrust. "Poor dear children!" said he, as he examined them with growing interest; "orphans so young, and they come from far—"
"From the heart of Siberia, Mr. Burgomaster, where their mother was an exile before their birth. It is now more than five months that we have been travelling on by short stages—hard enough, you will say, for children of their age. It is for them that I ask your favor and support for them against whom everything seems to combine to-day for, only just now, when I went to look for my papers, I could not find in my knapsack the portfolio in which they were, along with my purse and cross—for you must know, Mr. Burgomaster—pardon me, if I say it—'tis not from vain glory—but I was decorated by the hand of the Emperor; and a man whom he decorated with his own hand, you see, could not be so bad a fellow, though he may have had the misfortune to lose his papers—and his purse. That's what has happened to me, and made me so pressing about the damages."
"How and where did you suffer this loss?"
"I do not know, Mr. Burgomaster; I am sure that the evening before last, at bed-time, I took a little money out of the purse, and saw the portfolio in its place; yesterday I had small change sufficient, and did not undo the knapsack."
"And where then has the knapsack been kept?"
"In the room occupied by the children: but this night—"
Dagobert was here interrupted by the tread of some one mounting the stairs: it was the Prophet. Concealed in the shadow of the staircase, he had listened to this conversation, and he dreaded lest the weakness of the burgomaster should mar the complete success of his projects.
CHAPTER XIV. THE DECISION.
Morok, who wore his left arm in a sling, having slowly ascended the staircase, saluted the burgomaster respectfully. At sight of the repulsive countenance of the lion-tamer, Rose and Blanche, affrighted, drew back a step nearer to the soldier. The brow of the latter grew dark, for he felt his blood boil against Morok, the cause of all his difficulties—though he was yet ignorant that Goliath, at the instigation of the Prophet, had stolen his portfolio and papers.
"What did you want, Morok?" said the burgomaster, with an air half friendly and half displeased. "I told the landlord that I did not wish to be interrupted."
"I have come to render you a service, Mr. Burgomaster."
"Yes, a great service; or I should not have ventured to disturb you. My conscience reproaches me."
"Yes, Mr. Burgomaster, it reproaches me for not having told you all that I had to tell about this man; a false pity led me astray."
"Yell, but what have you to tell?"
Morok approached the judge, and spoke to him for sometime in a low voice.
At first apparently much astonished, the burgomaster became by degrees deeply attentive and anxious; every now and then be allowed some exclamation of surprise or doubt to escape him, whilst he glanced covertly at the group formed by Dagobert and the two young girls. By the expression of his countenance, which grew every moment more unquiet, severe, and searching, it was easy to perceive that the interest which the magistrate had felt for the orphans and for the soldier, was gradually changed, by the secret communications of the Prophet, into a sentiment of distrust and hostility.
Dagobert saw this sudden revolution, and his fears, which had been appeased for an instant, returned with redoubled force; Rose and Blanche, confused, and not understanding the object of this mute scene, looked at the soldier with increased perplexity.
"The devil!" said the burgomaster, rising abruptly; "all of this never occurred to me. What could I have been thinking of?—But you see, Morok, when one is roused up in the middle of the night, one has not always presence of mind. You said well: it is a great service you came to render me."
"I assert nothing positively, but—"
"No matter; 'tis a thousand to one that you are right."
"It is only a suspicion founded upon divers circumstances; but even a suspicion—"
"May give you scent of the truth. And here was I, going like a gull into the snare!—Once more, what could I have been thinking of?"
"It is so difficult to be on guard against certain appearances."
"You need not tell me so, my dear Morok, you need not tell me so."
During this mysterious conversation, Dagobert was on thorns; he saw vaguely that a violent storm was about to burst. He thought only of how he should still keep his anger within bounds.
Morok again approached the judge, and glancing at the orphans, recommenced speaking in a low voice. "Oh" cried the burgomaster, with, indignation, "you go too far now."
"I affirm nothing," said Morok, hastily; "it is a mere supposition founded on—" and he again brought his lips close to the ear of the judge.
"After all, why not?" resumed the magistrate, lifting up his hands; "such people are capable of anything. He says that he brings them from the heart of Siberia: why may not all this prove to be a tissue of impudent falsehoods?—But I am not to be made a dupe twice," cried the burgomaster, in an angry tone, for, like all persons of a weak and shifting character, he was without pity for those whom he thought capable of having beguiled his compassion.
"Do not be in a hurry to decide—don't give to my words more weight than they deserve," resumed Morok with a hypocritical affectation of humility. "I am unhappily placed in so false a position with regard to this man,"—pointing to Dagober—"that I might be thought to have acted from private resentment for the injury he has done me; perhaps I may so act without knowing it, while I fancy that I am only influenced by love of justice, horror of falsehood, and respect for our holy religion. Well—who lives long enough will know—and may heaven forgive me if I am deceived!—In any case, the law will pronounce upon it; and if they should prove innocent, they will be released in a month or two."
"And, for that reason, I need not hesitate. It is a mere measure of precaution; they will not die of it. Besides, the more I think of it, the more it seems probable. Yes this man is doubtless a French spy or agitator, especially when I compare these suspicions with the late demonstration of the students at Frankfort."
"And, upon that theory, nothing is better fitted to excite and stir up those hot-headed youths than—" He glanced significantly at the two sisters; then, after a pause, he added with a sigh, "Satan does not care by what means he works out his ends!"
"Certainly, it would be odious, but well-devised."
"And then, Mr Burgomaster, look at him attentively: you will see that this man has a dangerous face. You will see—"
In continuing thus to speak in a low tone, Morok had evidently pointed to Dagobert. The latter, notwithstanding his self-command, felt that the restraint he had imposed upon himself, since his arrival at this unlucky inn, and above all wince the commencement of the conversation between Morok and the burgomaster, was becoming no longer bearable; besides, he saw clearly that all his efforts to conciliate the favor of the judge were rendered completely null by the fatal influence of the brute-tamer; so, losing patience, he advanced towards him with his arms folded on his breast, and said to him in a subdued voice: "Was it of me that you were whispering to Mr. Burgomaster?"
"Yes," said Morok, looking fixedly at him.
"Why did you not speak out loud?" Having said this, the almost convulsive movement of his thick moustache, as he stood looping Morok full in the face, gave evidence of a severe internal conflict. Seeing that his adversary preserved a contemptuous silence, he repeated in a sterner voice: "I ask you, why you did not speak out loud to Mr. Burgomaster, when you were talking of me?"
"Because there are some things so shameful, that one would blush to utter them aloud," answered Morok insolently.
Till then Dagobert had kept his arms folded; he now extended them violently, clenching his fists. This sudden movement was so expressive that the two sisters uttered a cry of terror, and drew closer to him.
"Hark ye, Mr. Burgomaster!" said the soldier, grinding his teeth with rage: "bid that man go down, or I will not answer for myself!"
"What!" said the burgomaster, haughtily; "do you dare to give orders to me?"
"I tell you to make that man go down," resumed Dagobert, quite beside himself, "or there will be mischief!"
"Dagobert!—good heaven!—be calm," cried the children, grasping his hands.
"It becomes you, certainly—miserable vagabond that you are—not to say worse," returned the burgomaster, in a rage: "it becomes you to give orders to me!—Oh! you think to impose upon me, by telling me you have lost your papers!—It will not serve your turn, for which you carry about with you these two girls, who, in spite of their innocent looks, are perhaps after all—"
"Wretch!" cried Dagobert, with so terrible a voice and gesture that the official did not dare to finish. Taking the children by the arm before they could speak a word, the soldier pushed them back into the chamber; then, locking the door, and putting the key into his pocket, he returned precipitately towards the burgomaster, who, frightened at the menacing air and attitude of the veteran, retreated a couple of steps, and held by one hand to the rail of the staircase.
"Listen to me!" said the soldier, seizing the judge by the arm. "Just now, that scoundrel insulted me—I bore with it—for it only concerned myself. I have heard patiently all your idle talk, because you seemed for a moment to interest yourself in those poor children. But since you have neither soul, nor pity, nor justice—I tell you that, burgomaster though you are—I will spurn you as I would spurn that dog," pointing again to the Prophet, "if you have the misfortune to mention those two young girls, in any other way than you would speak of your own child!—Now, do you mark me?"
"What!—you dare to say," cried the burgomaster, stammering with rage, "that if I happen to mention two adventuresses—"
"Hats off!—when you speak of the daughters of the Duke of Ligny," cried the soldier, snatching the cap of the burgomaster and flinging it on the ground. On this act of aggression, Morok could not restrain his joy. Exasperated and losing all hope, Dagobert had at length yielded to the violence of his anger, after struggling so painfully against it for some hours.
When the burgomaster saw his cap at his feet, he looked at the brute tamer with an air of stupefaction, as if he hesitated to believe so great an enormity. Dagobert, regretting, his violence, and feeling that no means of conciliation note remained, threw a rapid glance around him, and, retreating several paces, gained the topmost steps of the staircase. The burgomaster stood near the bench, in a corner of the landing-place, whilst Morok, with his arm in the sling, to give the more serious appearance to his wound, was close beside him. "So!" cried the magistrate, deceived by the backward movement of Dagobert, "you think to escape, after daring to lift hand against me!—Old villain!"
"Forgive me, Mr. Burgomaster! It was a burst of rashness that I was not able to control. I am sorry for it," said Dagobert in a repentant voice, and hanging his head humbly.
"No pity for thee, rascal! You would begin again to smooth me over with your coaxing ways, but I have penetrated your secret designs. You are not what you appear to be, and there is perhaps an affair of state at the bottom of all this," added the magistrate, in a very diplomatic tone. "All means are alike to those who wish to set Europe in flames."
"I am only a poor devil, Mr. Burgomaster; you, that have a good heart, will show me some mercy."
"What! when you have pulled off my cap?"
"And you," added the soldier, turning towards Morok, "you, that have been the cause of all this—have same pity upon me—do not bear malice!—You, a holy man, speak a word in my favor to Mr. Burgomaster."
"I have spoken to him what I was bound to speak," answered the Prophet ironically.
"Oho! you can look foolish enough now, you old vagabond! Did you think to impose on me with lamentations?" resumed the burgomaster, advancing towards Dagobert. "Thanks be, I am no longer your dupe!—You shall see that we have good dungeons at Leipsic for French agitators and female vagrants, for your damsels are no better than you are. Come," added he, puffing out his cheeks with an important air, "go down before me—and as for you, Morok—"
The burgomaster was unable to finish. For some minutes Dagobert had only sought to gain time, and had cast many a side-glance at a half-open door on the landing-place, just opposite to the chamber occupied by the orphans: finding the moment favorable, he now rushed quick as lightning on the burgomaster, seized him by the throat, and dashed him with such violence against the door in question, that the magistrate, stupefied by this sudden attack, and unable to speak a word or utter a cry, rolled over to the further end of the room, which was completely dark. Then, turning towards Morok, who, with his arm encumbered by the sling, made a rush for the staircase, the soldier caught him by his long, streaming hair, pulled him back, clasped him with hands of iron, clapped his hand over his mouth to stifle his outcries, and notwithstanding his desperate resistance, dragged him into the chamber, on the floor of which the burgomaster lay bruised and stunned.
Having double-locked the door, and put the key in his pocket, Dagobert descended the stairs at two bounds, and found himself in a passage, that opened on the court-yard. The gate of the inn was shut, and there was no possibility of escape on that side. The rain fell in torrents. He could see through the window of a parlor, in which a fire was burning, the host and his people waiting for the decision of the burgomaster. To bolt the door of the passage, and thus intercept all communication with the yard, was for the soldier the affair of an instant, and he hastened upstairs again to rejoin the orphans.
Morok, recovering from his surprise, was calling for help with all his might; but, even if the distance had permitted him to be heard, the noise of the wind and rain would have drowned his outcries. Dagobert had about an hour before him, for it would require some time to elapse before the length of his interview with the magistrate would excite astonishment; and, suspicion or fear once awakened, it would be necessary to break open two doors—that which separated the passage from the court-yard, and that of the room in which the burgomaster and the Prophet were confined.
"My children, it is now time to prove that you have a soldier's blood in your veins," said Dagobert, as he entered abruptly the chamber of the young girls, who were terrified at the racket they had heard for some minutes.
"Good heaven, Dagobert! what has happened?" cried Blanche.
"What do you wish us to do?" added Rose.
Without answering, the soldier ran to the bed, tore off the sheets, tied them strongly together, made a knot at one end, passed it over the top of the left half of the casement, and so shut it in. Thus made fast by the size of the knot, which could not slip through, the sheets, floating on the outside, touched the ground. The second half of the window was left open, to afford a passage to the fugitives.
The veteran next took his knapsack, the children's portmanteau, and the reindeer pelisse, and threw them all out of the window, making a sign to Spoil-sport to follow, to watch over them. The dog did not hesitate, but disappeared at a single bound. Rose and Blanche looked at Dagobert in amazement, without uttering a word.
"Now, children," said he to them, "the doors of the inn are shut, and it is by this way," pointing to the window, "that we must pass—if we would not be arrested, put in prison—you in one place, and I in the other—and have our journey altogether knocked on the head."
"Arrested! put in prison!" cried Rose.
"Separated from you!" exclaimed Blanche.
"Yes, my poor children!—They have killed Jovial—we must make our escape on foot, and try to reach Leipsic—when you are tired, I will carry you, and, though I have to beg my way, we will go through with it. But a quarter of an hour later, and all will be lost. Come, children, have trust in me—show that the daughters of General Simon are no cowards—and there is yet hope."
By a sympathetic movement, the sisters joined hands, as though they would meet the danger united. Their sweet faces, pale from the effect of so many painful emotions, were now expressive of simple resolve, founded on the blind faith they reposed in the devotion of the soldier.
"Be satisfied, Dagobert! we'll not be frightened," said Rose, in a firm voice.
"We will do what must be done," added Blanche, in a no less resolute tone.
"I was sure of it," cried Dagobert; "good blood is ever thicker than water. Come! you are light as feathers, the sheet is strong, it is hardly eight feet to the ground, and the pup is waiting for you."
"It is for me to go first—I am the eldest for to-day," cried Rose, when she had tenderly embraced Blanche; and she ran to the window, in order, if there were any danger, to expose herself to it before her sister.
Dagobert easily guessed the cause of this eagerness. "Dear children!" said he, "I understand you. But fear nothing for one another—there is no danger. I have myself fastened the sheet. Quick, my little Rose!"
As light as a bird, the young girl mounted the ledge of the window, and assisted by Dagobert, took hold of the sheet, and slid gently down according to the recommendation of the soldier, who, leaning out his whole body, encouraged her with his voice.
"Don't be afraid, sister!" said she, as soon as she touched the ground, "it is very easy to come down this way. And Spoil-sport is here, licking my hands." Blanche did not long keep her waiting; as courageous as her sister, she descended with the same success.
"Dear little creatures! what have they done to be so unfortunate?—Thousand thunders! there must be a curse upon the family," cried Dagobert, as, with heavy heart, he saw the pale, sweet face of the young girl disappear amid the gloom of the dark night, which violent squalls of wind and torrents of rain rendered still more dismal.
"Dagobert, we are waiting for you; come quickly!" said the orphans in a low voice, from beneath the window. Thanks to his tall stature, the soldier rather leaped than glided to the ground.
Dagobert and the two young girls had not fled from the inn of the White Falcon more than a quarter of an hour, when a long crash resounded through the house. The door had yielded to the efforts of the burgomaster and Morok, who had made use of a heavy table as a battering ram. Guided by the light, they ran to the chamber of the orphans, now deserted. Morok saw the sheets floating from the casement, and cried: "Mr. Burgomaster, they have escaped by the window—they are on foot—in this dark and stormy night, they cannot be far."
"No doubt, we shall catch them, the miserable tramps! Oh, I will be revenged! Quick, Morok; your honor is concerned as well as mine."
"My honor?—Much more is concerned than that, Mr. Burgomaster," answered the Prophet, in a tone of great irritation. Then, rapidly descending the stairs, he opened the door of the court-yard, and shouted in a voice of thunder:
"Goliath! unchain the dogs!—and, landlord! bring us lanterns, torches—arm your people—open the doors!—We must pursue the fugitives; they cannot escape us; we must have them—alive or dead!"
CHAPTER XV. THE DESPATCHES.
When we read, in the rules of the order of the Jesuits, under the title De formula scribendi (Institut. 2, 11, p. 125, 129), the development of the 8th part of the constitutions, we are appalled by the number of letters, narratives, registers, and writings of all kinds, preserved in the archives of the society.
It is a police infinitely more exact and better informed than has ever been that of any state. Even the government of Venice found itself surpassed by the Jesuits: when it drove them out in 1606, it seized all their papers, and reproached them for their great and laborious curiosity. This police, this secret inquisition, carried to such a degree of perfection, may give some idea of the strength of a government, so well-informed so persevering in its projects, so powerful by its unity, and, as the constitutions have it, by the union of its members. It is not hard to understand, what immense force must belong to the heads of this society, and how the general of the Jesuits could say to the Duke de Brissac: "From this room, your grace, I govern not only Paris, but China—not only China, but the whole world—and all without any one knowing how it is done:" (Constitution of the Jesuits, edited by Paulin, Paris, 1843.)
Morok, the lion-tamer, seeing Dagobert deprived of his horse, and stripped of his money and papers, and thinking it was thus out of his power to continue his journey, had, previous to the arrival of the burgomaster, despatched Karl to Leipsic, as the bearer of a letter which he was to put immediately into the post. The address of this letter was as follows: "A Monsieur Rodin, Rue du Milieu des Ursins, Paris."
About the middle of this obscure and solitary street, situate below the level of the Quai Napoleon, which it joins not far from the Rue Saint Landry, there stood a house of unpretentious appearance, at the bottom of a dark and narrow court-yard, separated from the street by a low building in front, with arched doorway, and two windows protected by thick iron bars. Nothing could be more simple than the interior of this quiet dwelling, as was sufficiently shown by the furniture of a pretty large room on the ground floor. The walls of this apartment were lined with old gray wainscot; the tiled floor was painted red, and carefully polished; curtains of white calico shaded the windows.
A sphere of about four feet in diameter, raised on a pedestal of massive oak, stood at one end of the room, opposite to the fireplace. Upon this globe, which was painted on a large scale, a host of little red crosses appeared scattered over all parts of the world—from the North to the South, from the rising to the setting sun, from the most barbarous countries, from the most distant isles, to the centres of civilization, to France itself. There was not a single country which did not present some spots marked with these red crosses, evidently indicative of stations, or serving as points of reference.
Before a table of black wood, loaded with papers, and resting against the wall near the chimney, a chair stood empty. Further on, between the two windows, was a large walnut-wood desk, surmounted by shelves full of pasteboard boxes.
At the end of the month of October, 1831, about eight o'clock in the morning, a man sat writing at this desk. This was M. Rodin, the correspondent of Morok, the brute-tamer.
About fifty years of age, he wore an old, shabby, olive greatcoat, with a greasy collar, a snuff-powdered cotton handkerchief for a cravat, and waistcoat and trousers of threadbare black cloth. His feet, buried in loose varnished shoes, rested on a petty piece of green baize upon the red, polished floor. His gray hair lay flat on his temples, and encircled his bald forehead; his eyebrows were scarcely marked; his upper eyelid, flabby and overhanging, like the membrane which shades the eyes of reptiles, half concealed his small, sharp, black eye. His thin lips, absolutely colorless, were hardly distinguishable from the wan hue of his lean visage, with its pointed nose and chin; and this livid mask (deprived as it were of lips) appeared only the more singular, from its maintaining a death-like immobility. Had it not been for the rapid movement of his fingers, as, bending over the desk, he scratched along with his pen, M. Rodin might have been mistaken for a corpse.
By the aid of a cipher (or secret alphabet) placed before him he was copying certain passages from a long sheet full of writing, in a manner quite unintelligible to those who did not possess the key to the system. Whilst the darkness of the day increased the gloom of the large, cold, naked-looking apartment, there was something awful in the chilling aspect of this man, tracing his mysterious characters in the midst of profound silence.
The clock struck eight. The dull sound of the knocker at the outer door was heard, then a bell tinkled twice, several doors opened and shut, and a new personage entered the chamber. On seeing him, M. Rodin rose from the desk, stuck his pen between his teeth, bowed with a deeply submissive air, and sat down again to his work without uttering a word.
The two formed a striking contrast to one another. The newcomer, though really older than he seemed, would have passed for thirty-six or thirty eight years of age at most. His figure was tall and shapely, and few could have encountered the brightness of his large gray eye, brilliant as polished steel. His nose, broad at the commencement, formed a well-cut square at its termination; his chin was prominent, and the bluish tints of his close-shaved beard were contrasted with the bright carnation of his lips, and the whiteness of his fine teeth. When he took off his hat to change it for a black velvet cap which he found on the small table, he displayed a quantity of light chestnut hair, not yet silvered by time. He was dressed in a long frock-coat, buttoned up to the neck in military fashion.
The piercing glance and broad forehead of this man revealed a powerful intellect, even as the development of his chest and shoulders announced a vigorous physical organization; whilst his gentlemanly appearance, the perfection of his gloves and boots, the light perfume which hung about his hair and person, the grace and ease of his least movements, betrayed what is called the man of the world, and left the impression that he had sought or might still seek every kind of success, from the most frivolous to the most serious. This rare combination of strength of mind, strength of body, and extreme elegance of manners, was in this instance rendered still more striking by the circumstance, that whatever there might be of haughtiness or command in the upper part of that energetic countenance, was softened down, and tempered by a constant but not uniform smile—for, as occasion served, this smile became either kind or sly, cordial or gay, discreet or prepossessing, and thus augmented the insinuating charm of this man, who, once seen, was never again forgotten. But, in yielding to this involuntary sympathy, the doubt occurred if the influence was for good—or for evil.
M. Rodin, the secretary of the newcomer, continued to write.
"Are there any letters from Dunkirk, Rodin?" inquired his master.
"Post not yet in."
"Without being positively uneasy as to my mother's health, since she was already convalescent," resumed the other, "I shall only be quite reassured by a letter from my excellent friend, the Princess de Saint Dizier. I shall have good news this morning, I hope."
"It is to be desired," said the secretary, as humble and submissive as he was laconic and impassible.
"Certainly it is to be desired," resumed his master; "for one of the brightest days of my life was when the Princess de Saint-Dizier announced to me that this sudden and dangerous illness had yielded to the care and attention with which she surrounds my mother. Had it not been for that I must have gone down to her instantly, though my presence here is very necessary."
Then, approaching the desk, he added: "Is the summary of the foreign correspondence complete?"
"Here is the analysis."
"The letters are still sent under envelope to the places named, and are then brought here as I directed?"
"Read to me the notes of this correspondence; if there are any letters for me to answer, I will tell you." And Rodin's master began to walk up and down the room, with his hands crossed behind his back, dictating observations of which Rodin took careful note.
The secretary turned to a pretty large pile of papers, and thus began:
"Don Raymond Olivarez acknowledges from Cadiz receipt of letter No.19; he will conform to it, and deny all share in the abduction."
"Very well; file it."
"Count Romanoff, of Riga, finds himself in a position of pecuniary embarrassment."
"Let Duplessis send him fifty louis; I formerly served as captain in his regiment, and he has since given us good information."
"They have received at Philadelphia the last cargo of Histories of France, expurgated for the use of the faithful they require some more of the same sort."
"Take note of it, and write to Duplessis. Go on."
"M. Spindler sends from Namur the secret report on M. Ardouin."
"To be examined."
"M. Ardouin sends from the same town the secret report on M. Spindler."
"To be examined."
"Doctor Van Ostadt, of the same town, sends a confidential note on the subject of Messrs. Spindler and Ardouin."
"To be compared. Go on!"
"Count Malipierri, of Turin, announces that the donation of 300,000 francs is signed."
"Inform Duplessis. What next?"
"Don Stanislaus has just quitted the waters of Baden with Queen Marie Ernestine. He informs us that her majesty will receive with gratitude the promised advices, and will answer them with her own hand."
"Make a note of it. I will myself write to the queen."
Whilst Rodin was inscribing a few remarks on the margin of the paper, his master, continuing to walk up and down the room, found himself opposite to the globe marked with little red crosses, and stood contemplating it for a moment with a pensive air.
Rodin continued: "In consequence of the state of the public mind in certain parts of Italy, where sundry agitators have turned their eyes in the direction of France, Father Arsenio writes from Milan, that it would be of importance to distribute profusely in that country, some little book, in which the French would be represented as impious and debauched, rapacious and bloody."
"The idea is excellent. We might turn to good account the excesses committed by our troops in Italy during the wars of the Republic. You must employ Jacques Dumoulin to write it. He is full of gall, spite, and venom: the pamphlet will be scorching. Besides, I may furnish a few notes; but you must not pay Dumoulin till after delivery of the manuscript."
"That is well understood: for, if we were to pay him beforehand, he would be drunk for a week in some low den. It was thus we had to pay him twice over for his virulent attack on the pantheistic tendencies of Professor Martin's philosophy."
"Take note of it—and go on!"
"The merchant announces that the clerk is about to send the banker to give in his accounts. You understand?' added Rodin, after pronouncing these words with a marked emphasis.
"Perfectly," said the other, with a start; "they are but the expressions agreed on. What next?"
"But the clerk," continued the secretary, "is restrained by a last scruple."
After a moment's silence, during which the features of Rodin's master worked strongly, he thus resumed: "They must continue to act on the clerk's mind by silence and solitude; then, let him read once more the list of cases in which regicide is authorized and absolved. Go on!"
"The woman Sydney writes from Dresden, that she waits for instructions. Violent scenes of jealousy on her account have again taken place between the father and son; but neither from these new bursts of mutual hatred, nor from the confidential communications which each has made to her against his rival, has she yet been able to glean the information required. Hitherto, she has avoided giving the preference to one or the other; but, should this situation be prolonged, she fears it may rouse their suspicion. Which ought she then to choose—the father or the son?"
"The son—for jealous resentment will be much more violent and cruel in the old man, and, to revenge himself for the preference bestowed upon his son, he will perhaps tell what they have both such an interest to conceal. The next?"
"Within the last three years, two maid-servants of Ambrosius whom we placed in that little parish in the mountains of the Valais, have disappeared, without any one knowing what has become of them. A third has just met with the same fate. The Protestants of the country are roused—talk of murder with frightful attendant circumstances—"
"Until there is proof positive and complete of the fact, Ambrosius must be defended against these infamous calumnies, the work of a party that never shrinks from; monstrous inventions. Go on!"
"Thompson, of Liverpool, has at length succeeded in procuring for Justin the place of agent or manager to Lord Stewart, a rich Irish Catholic, whose head grows daily weaker."
"Let the fact be once verified, and Thompson shall have a premium of fifty louis. Make a note of it for Duplessis. Proceed."
"Frantz Dichstein, of Vienna," resumed Rodin, "announces that his father has just died of the cholera, in a little village at some leagues from that city: for the epidemic continues to advance slowly, coming from the north of Russia by way of Poland."
"It is true," said Rodin's master, interrupting him; "may its terrible march be stayed, and France be spared."
"Frantz Dichstein," resumed Rodin, "says that his two brothers are determined to contest the donation made by his father, but that he is of an opposite opinion."
"Consult the two persons that are charged with all matters of litigation. What next?"
"The Cardinal Prince d'Amalfi will conform to the three first points of the proposal: he demands to make a reservation upon the fourth point."
"No reserve!—Either full and absolute acceptance—or else war—and (mark me well) war without mercy—on him and his creatures. Go on!"
"Fra Paolo announces that the Prince Boccari, chief of a redoubtable secret society, in despair at seeing his friends accuse him of treachery, in consequence of suspicions excited in their minds by Fra Paolo himself, has committed suicide."
"Boccari! is it possible?" cried Rodin's master. "Boccari! the patriot Boccari! so dangerous a person!"
"The patriot Boccari," repeated the impassible secretary.
"Tell Duplessis to send an order for five-and-twenty louis to Fra Paolo. Make a note of it."
"Hausman informs us that the French dancer, Albertine Ducornet, is the mistress of the reigning prince; she has the most complete influence over him, and it would be easy through her means to arrive at the end proposed, but that she is herself governed by her lover (condemned in France as a forger), and that she does nothing without consulting him."
"Let Hausman get hold of this man—if his claims are reasonable, accede to them—and learn if the girl has any relations in Paris."
"The Duke d'Orbano announces, that the king his master will authorize the new establishment, but on the conditions previously stated."
"No condition!—either a frank adhesion or a positive refusal. Let us know our friends from our enemies. The more unfavorable the circumstances, the more we must show firmness, and overbear opposition by confidence in ourselves."
"The same also announces, that the whole of the corps diplomatique continues to support the claims of the father of that young Protestant girl, who refuses to quit the convent where she has taken refuge, unless it be to marry her lover against her father's will."
"Ah! the corps diplomatique continues to remonstrate in the father's name?"
"Then, continue to answer, that the spiritual power has nothing to do with the temporal."
At this moment, the bell of the outer door again sounded twice. "See who it is," said Rodin's master; and the secretary rose and left the room. The other continued to walk thoughtfully up and down, till, coming near to the huge globe, he stopped short before it.
For some time he contemplated, in profound silence, the innumerable little red crosses, which appeared to cover, as with an immense net, all the countries of the earth. Reflecting doubtless on the invisible action of his power, which seemed to extend over the whole world, the features of this man became animated, his large gray eye sparkled, his nostrils swelled, and his manly countenance assumed an indescribable expression of pride, energy, and daring. With haughty brow and scornful lip, he drew still nearer to the globe, and leaned his strong hand upon the pole.
This powerful pressure, an imperious movement, as of one taking possession, seemed to indicate, that he felt sure of governing this globe, on which he looked down from the height of his tall figure, and on which he rested his hand with so lofty and audacious an air of sovereignty.
But now he no longer smiled. His eye threatened, and his large forehead was clad with a formidable scowl. The artist, who had wished to paint the demon of craft and pride, the infernal genius of insatiable domination, could not have chosen a more suitable model.
When Rodin returned, the face of his master had recovered its ordinary expression. "It is the postman," said Rodin, showing the letters which he held in his hand; "there is nothing from Dunkirk."
"Nothing?" cried his master—and his painful emotion formed a strange contrast to his late haughty and implacable expression of countenance—"nothing? no news of my mother?—Thirty-six hours more, then, of anxiety."
"It seems to me, that, if the princess had bad news to give, she would have written. Probably the improvement goes on."
"You are doubtless right, Rodin—but no matter—I am far from easy. If, to-morrow, the news should not be completely satisfactory, I set out for the estate of the princess. Why would my mother pass the autumn in that part of the country? The environs of Dunkirk do not, I fear, agree with her."
After a few moments' silence, he added, as he continued to walk: "Well—these letters—whence are they?"
Rodin looked at the post-marks, and replied: "Out of the four there are three relative to the great and important affairs of the medals."
"Thank heaven!—provided the news be favorable," cried his master, with an expression of uneasiness, which showed how much importance he attached to this affair.
"One is from Charlestown, and no doubt relative to Gabriel, the missionary," answered Rodin; "this other from Batavia, and no doubt concerns the Indian, Djalma. The third is from Leipsic, and will probably confirm that received yesterday, in which the lion-tamer, Morok, informed us, that, in accordance with his orders, and without his being compromised in any way, the daughters of General Simon would not be able to continue their journey."
At the name of General Simon, a cloud passed over the features of Rodin's master.
CHAPTER XVI. THE ORDERS.
The principal houses correspond with that in Paris; they are also in direct communication with the General, who resides at Rome. The correspondence of the Jesuits so active, various, and organized in so wonderful a manner, has for its object to supply the heads with all the information they can require. Every day, the General receives a host of reports, which serve to check one another. In the central house, at Rome, are immense registers, in which are inscribed the names of all the Jesuits, of their adherents, and of all the considerable persons, whether friends or enemies, with whom they have any connection. In these registers are reported, without alteration, hatred or passion the facts relating to the life of each individual. It is the most gigantic biographical collection that has ever been formed. The frailties of a woman, the secret errors of a statesman, are chronicled in this book with the same cold impartiality. Drawn up for the purpose of being useful, these biographies are necessarily exact. When the Jesuits wish to influence an individual, they have but to turn to this book, and they know immediately his life, his character, his parts, his faults, his projects, his family, his friends, his most sacred ties. Conceive, what a superior facility of action this immense police-register, which includes the whole world, must give to any one society! It is not lightly that I speak of these registers; I have my facts from a person who has seen this collection, and who is perfectly well acquainted with the Jesuits. Here then, is matter to reflect on for all those families, who admit freely into their houses the members of a community that carries its biographical researches to such a point. (Libri, Member of the Institute. Letters on the Clergy.)
When he had conquered the involuntary emotion which the name or remembrance of General Simon had occasioned, Rodin's master said to the secretary: "Do not yet open the letters from Leipsic, Charlestown, and Batavia; the information they contain will doubtless find its place presently. It will save our going over the same ground twice."
The secretary looked inquiringly at his master.
The latter continued—"Have you finished the note relating to the medals?"
"Here it is," replied the secretary; "I was just finishing my interpretation of the cipher."
"Read it to me, in the order of the facts. You can append to it the news contained in those three letters."
"True," said Rodin; "in that way the letters will find their right place."
"I wish to see," rejoined the other, "whether this note is clear and fully explanatory; you did not forget that the person it is intended for ought not to know all?"
"I bore it in mind, and drew up the paper accordingly."
"Read," said the master.
M. Rodin read as follows, slowly and deliberately:
"'A hundred and fifty years ago, a French Protestant family, foreseeing the speedy—revocation of the edict of Nantes, went into voluntary exile, in order to avoid the just and rigorous decrees already issued against the members of the reformed church—those indomitable foes of our holy religion.
"'Some members of this family sought refuge in Holland, and afterwards in the Dutch colonies; others in Poland, others in Germany; some in England, and some in America.
"'It is supposed that only seven descendants remain of this family, which underwent strange vicissitudes since; its present representatives are found in all ranks of society, from the sovereign to the mechanic.
"'These descendants, direct or indirect, are:
"'On the mother's side,
"'Rose and Blanche Simon—minors.
"'General Simon married, at Warsaw, a descendant of the said family.
"'Francois Hardy, manufacturer at Plessis, near Paris.
"'Prince Djalma, son of Kadja-sing, King of Mondi.
"'Kadja-sing, married, in 1802, a descendant of the said family, then settled at Batavia, in the Island of Java, a Dutch colony.
"'On the father's side—Jacques Rennepont, surnamed Sleepinbuff, mechanic.
"'Adrienne de Cardoville, daughter of the Count of Rennepont, Duke of Cardoville.
"'Gabriel Rennepont, priest of the foreign missions.
"'All the members of this family possess, or should possess, a bronze medal bearing the following inscriptions:
Victim of L. C. D. J. Pray for me! Paris February the 13th, 1682.
At Paris, Rue Saint Francois, No. 3, In a century and a half you will be. February the 13th, 1832. Pray For Me!
"'These words and dates show that all of them have a great interest to be at Paris on the 13th of February, 1832; and that, not by proxy, but in person, whether they are minors, married or single.
"'But other persons have an immense interest that none of the descendants of this family be at Paris on the 13th February, except Gabriel Rennepont, priest of the foreign missions.
"'At all hazards, therefore, Gabriel must be the only person present at the appointment made with the descendants of this family, a century and a half ago.
"'To prevent the other six persons from reaching Paris on the said day, or to render their presence of no effect, much has been already done; but much remains to be done to ensure the success of this affair, which is considered as the most vital and most important of the age, on account of its probable results.'"
"'Tis but too true," observed Rodin's master, interrupting him, and shaking his head pensively. "And, moreover, that the consequences of success are incalculable, and there is no forseeing what may follow failure. In a word, it almost involves a question of existence or non existence during several years. To succeed, therefore, 'all possible means must be employed. Nothing must be shunned,' except, however, that appearances must be skillfully maintained."
"I have written it," said Rodin, having added the words his master had just dictated, who then said,
Rodin read on:
"'To forward or secure the affair in question, it is necessary to give some private and secret particulars respecting the seven persons who represent this family.
"'The truth of these particulars may be relied on. In case of need they might be completed in the most minute degree for contradictory information having been given, very lengthened evidence has been obtained. The order in which the names of the persons stand will be observed, and events that have happened up to the present time will only be mentioned.
"'NOTE, No. I. "'Rose and Blanche Simon, twin sisters, about fifteen years of age; very pretty, so much alike, one might be taken for the other; mild and timid disposition, but capable of enthusiasm. Brought up in Siberia by their mother, a woman of strong mind and deistical sentiments, they are wholly ignorant of our holy religion.
"'General Simon, separated from his wife before they were born, is not aware, even now, that he has two daughters.
"'It was hoped that their presence in Paris, on the 13th of February, would be prevented, by sending their mother to a place of exile, much more distant than the one first allotted her; but their mother dying, the Governor of Siberia, who is wholly ours, supposing, by a deplorable mistake, that the measure only affected the wife of General Simon personally, unfortunately allowed the girls to return to France, under the guidance of an old soldier.
"'This man is enterprising, faithful, and determined. He is noted down as dangerous.
"'The Simon girls are inoffensive. It is hoped, on fair grounds, that they are now detained in the neighborhood of Leipsic.'"
Rodin's master interrupted him, saying:
"Now, read the letter just received from Leipsic; it may complete the information."
Rodin read it, and exclaimed:
"Excellent news! The maidens and their guide had succeeded in escaping during the night from the White Falcon Tavern, but all three were overtaken and seized about a league from Mockern. They have been transferred to Leipsic, where they are imprisoned as vagabonds; their guide, the soldier, is accused and condemned of resisting the authorities, and using violence to a magistrate."
"It is almost certain, then, considering the tedious mode of proceeding in Germany (otherwise we would see to it), that the girls will not be able to be here on the 13th February," added Rodin's master. "Append this to the note on the back."
The secretary obeyed, and endorsed "An abstract of Morok's letter."
"It is written," he then added.
"Go on," resumed his master.
Rodin continued reading.
"'NOTE, No. II. "'Francois Hardy, manufacturer at Plessis, near Paris, forty years old; a steady, rich, intelligent, active, honest, well-informed man, idolized by his workmen—thanks to numberless innovations to promote their welfare. Never attending to the duties of our holy religion. Noted down as a very dangerous man: but the hatred and envy he excites among other manufacturers, especially in M. le Baron Tripeaud, his competitor, may easily be turned against him. If other means of action on his account, and against him, are necessary, the evidence may be consulted; it is very voluminous. This man has been marked and watched for a long time.
"'He has been so effectually misguided with respect to the medal, that he is completely deceived as to the interests it represents. He is, however, constantly watched, surrounded, and governed, without suspecting it; one of his dearest friends deceives him, and through his means we know his secret thoughts.
"'NOTE, No. III. "'Prince Djalma; eighteen; energetic and generous, haughty, independent and wild; favorite of General Simon, who commanded the troops of his father, Kadja-sing, in the struggle maintained by the latter against the English in India. Djalma is mentioned only by way of reminder, for his mother died young, while her parents were living. They resided at Batavia. On the death of the latter, neither Djalma nor the king, his father, claimed their little property. It is, therefore, certain that they are ignorant of the grave interests connected with the possession of the medal in question, which formed part of the property of Djalma's mother."'"
Rodin's master interrupted him.
"Now read the letter from Batavia, and complete the information respecting Djalma."
Rodin read, and then observed:
"Good news again. Joshua Van Dael, merchant at Batavia (he was educated in our Pondicherry establishment), learns from his correspondent at Calcutta that the old Indian king was killed in the last battle with the English. His son, Djalma, deprived of the paternal throne, is provisionally detained as a prisoner of state in an Indian fortress."
"We are at the end of October," said Rodin's master. "If Prince Djalma were to leave India now, he could scarcely reach Paris by the month of February."
"Van Dael," continued Rodin, "regrets that he has not been able to prove his zeal in this case. Supposing Prince Djalma set at liberty, or having effected his escape, it is certain he would come to Batavia to claim his inheritance from his mother, since he has nothing else left him in the world. In that case, you may rely on Van Dael's devotedness. In return, he solicits very precise information, by the next post, respecting the fortune of M. le Baron Tripeaud, banker and manufacturer, with whom he has business transactions."
"Answer that point evasively. Van Dael as yet has only shown zeal; complete the information respecting Djalma from these new tidings."
But in a few minutes his master said to him with a singular expression:
"Does not Van Dael mention General Simon in connection with Djalma's imprisonment and his father's death?"
"He does not allude to him," said the secretary, continuing his task.
Rodin's master was silent, and paced the room.
In a few moments Rodin said to him: "I have done it."
"Go on, then."
"'NOTE, No. IV. "'Jacques Rennepont, surnamed "Sleepinbuff," i.e. Lie naked, workman in Baron Tripeaud's factory. This artisan is drunken, idle, noisy, and prodigal; he is not without sense, but idleness and debauch have ruined him. A clever agent, on whom we rely, has become acquainted with his mistress, Cephyse Soliveau, nicknamed the Bacchanal Queen. Through her means, the agent has formed such ties with him that he may even now be considered beyond the reach of the interests that ought to insure his presence in Paris on the 13th of February.
"'NOTE, No. V. "'Gabriel Rennepont, priest of foreign missions, distant relation of the above, but he is alike ignorant of the existence of his relative and the relationship. An orphan foundling, he was adopted by Frances Baudoin, the wife of a soldier going by the name Dagobert.
"'Should this soldier, contrary to expectation, reach Paris, his wife would be a powerful means of influencing him. She is an excellent creature, ignorant and credulous, of exemplary piety, over whom we have long had unlimited control. She prevailed on Gabriel to take orders, notwithstanding his repugnance.
"'Gabriel is five-and-twenty; disposition as angelic as his countenance; rare and solid virtues; unfortunately he was brought up with his adopted brother, Agricola, Dagobert's son. This Agricola is a poet and workman—but an excellent workman; he is employed by M. Hardy; has imbibed the most detestable doctrines; fond of his mother; honest, laborious, but without religious feeling. Marked as very dangerous. This causes his intimacy with Gabriel to be feared.
"'The latter, notwithstanding his excellent qualities, sometimes causes uneasiness. We have even delayed confiding in him fully. A false step might make him, too, one of the most dangerous. Much precaution must be used then, especially till the 13th of February; since, we repeat it, on him, on his presence in Paris at that time, depend immense hopes and equally important interests.
"'Among other precautions, we have consented to his taking part in the American mission, for he unites with angelic sweetness of character a calm intrepidity and adventurous spirit which could only be satisfied by allowing him to engage in the perilous existence of the missionaries. Luckily, his superiors at Charlestown have received the strictest orders not to endanger, on any account, so precious a life. They are to send him to Paris, at least a month or two before February 13th."'
Rodin's master again interrupted him, and said: "Read the letter from Charlestown, and see what it tells you in order to complete the information upon this point also."
When he had read the letter, Rodin went on: "Gabriel is expected every day from the Rocky Mountains, whither he had absolutely insisted on going alone upon a mission."
"He has no doubt escaped all danger, as he himself announces his speedy return to Charlestown. As soon as he arrives, which cannot (they write) be later than the middle of this month, he will be shipped off for France."
"Add this to the note which concerns him," said Rodin's master.
"It is written," replied the secretary, a few moments later.
"Proceed, then," said his master. Rodin continued
"'NOTE, No. VI. "'ADRIENNE RENNEPONT DE CARDOVILLE.
"'Distantly related (without knowing it) to Jacques Rennepont, alias Sleepinbuff, and Gabriel Rennepont, missionary priest. She will soon be twenty-one years of age, the most attractive person in the world—extraordinary beauty, though red-haired—a mind remarkable for its originality—immense fortune—all the animal instincts. The incredible independence of her character makes one tremble for the future fate of this young person. Happily, her appointed guardian, Baron Tripeaud (a baron of 1829 creation, formerly agent to the late Count of Rennepont, Duke of Cardoville), is quite in the interest, and almost in the dependence, of the young lady's aunt. We count, with reason, upon this worthy and respectable relative, and on the Baron Tripeaud, to oppose and repress the singular, unheard-of designs which this young person, as resolute as independent, does not fear to avow—and which, unfortunately, cannot be turned to account in the interest of the affair in question—for—"
Rodin was here interrupted by two discreet taps at the door. The secretary rose, went to see who knocked, remained a moment without, and then returned with two letters in his hand, saying: "The princess has profited by the departure of a courier to—"
"Give me the letter!" cried his master, without leaving him time to finish. "At length," he added, "I shall have news of my mother—"
He had scarcely read the first few lines of the letter, when he grew deadly pale, and his features took an expression of painful astonishment and poignant grief. "My mother!" he cried, "oh, heavens! my mother!"
"What misfortune has happened!" asked Rodin, with a look of alarm, as he rose at the exclamation of his master.
"The symptoms of improvement were fallacious," replied the other, dejectedly; "she has now relapsed into a nearly hopeless state. And yet the doctor thinks my presence might save her, for she calls for me without ceasing. She wishes to see me for the last time, that she may die in peace. Oh, that wish is sacred! Not to grant it would be matricide. If I can but arrive in time! Travelling day and night, it will take nearly two days."
"Alas! what a misfortune!" said Rodin, wringing his hands, and raising his eyes to heaven.
His master rang the bell violently, and said to the old servant that opened the door: "Just put what is indispensable into the portmanteau of my travelling-carriage. Let the porter take a cab, and go for post horses instantly. Within an hour, I must be on the road. Mother! mother!" cried he, as the servant departed in haste. "Not to see her again—oh, it would be frightful!" And sinking upon a chair, overwhelmed with sorrow, he covered his face with his hands.
This great grief was sincere—he loved tenderly his mother that divine sentiment had accompanied him, unalterable and pure, through all the phases of a too often guilty life.
After a few minutes, Rodin ventured to say to his master, as he showed him the second letter: "This, also, has just been brought from M. Duplessis. It is very important—very pressing—"
"See what it is, and answer it. I have no head for business."
"The letter is confidential," said Rodin, presenting it to his master. "I dare not open it, as you may see by the mark on the cover."
At sight of this mark, the countenance of Rodin's master assumed an indefinable expression of respect and fear. With a trembling hand he broke the seal. The note contained only the following words: "Leave all business, and without losing a minute, set out and come. M. Duplessis will replace you. He has orders."
"Great God!" cried this man in despair. "Set out before I have seen my mother! It is frightful, impossible—it would perhaps kill her—yes, it would be matricide!"
Whilst he uttered these words, his eyes rested on the huge globe, marked with red crosses. A sudden revolution seemed to take place within him; he appeared to repent of the violence of his regrets; his face, though still sad, became once more calm and grave. He handed the fatal letter to his secretary, and said to him, whilst he stifled a sigh: "To be classed under its proper number."
Rodin took the letter, wrote a number upon it, and placed it in a particular box. After a moment's silence, his master resumed: "You will take orders from M. Duplessis, and work with him. You will deliver to him the note on the affair of the medals; he knows to whom to address it. You will write to Batavia, Leipsic, and Charlestown, in the sense agreed. Prevent, at any price, the daughters of General Simon from quitting Leipsic; hasten the arrival of Gabriel in Paris; and should Prince Djalma come to Batavia, tell M. Joshua Van Dael, that we count on his zeal and obedience to keep him there."
And this man, who, while his dying mother called to him in vain, could thus preserve his presence of mind, entered his own apartments; whilst Rodin busied himself with the answers he had been ordered to write, and transcribed them in cipher.