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The Wandering Jew, Complete
by Eugene Sue
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The above note was written with so much cunning that, even supposing the orphans had communicated it to their father or Dagobert, it would at the worst have been considered a strange, intrusive proceeding, but almost excusable from the spirit in which it was conceived. Nothing could have been contrived with more perfidious art, if we consider the cruel perplexity in which Marshal Simon was struggling between the fear of again leaving his children and the shame of neglecting what he considered a sacred duty. All the tenderness, all the susceptibility of heart which distinguished the orphans, had been called into play by these diabolical counsels, and the sisters soon perceived that their presence was in fact both sweet and painful to their father; for sometimes he felt himself incapable of leaving them, and sometimes the thought of a neglected duty spread a cloud of sadness over his brow. Hence the poor twins could not fail to value the fatal meaning of the anonymous letters they received. They were persuaded that, from some mysterious motive, which they were unable to penetrate, their presence was often importunate and even painful to their father. Hence the growing sadness of Rose and Blanche—hence the sort of fear and reserve which restrained the expression of their filial tenderness. A most painful situation for the marshal, who deceived by inexplicable appearances, mistook, in his turn, their manner of indifference to him—and so, with breaking heart, and bitter grief upon his face, often abruptly quitted his children to conceal his tears!

And the desponding orphans said to each other: "We are the cause of our father's grief. It is our presence which makes him so unhappy."

The reader may new judge what ravages such a thought, when fixed and incessant, must have made on these young, loving, timid, and simple hearts. Haw could the orphans be on their guard against such anonymous communications, which spoke with reverence of all they loved, and seemed every day justified by the conduct of their father? Already victims of numerous plots, and hearing that they were surrounded by enemies, we can understand, how faithful to the advice of their unknown friend, they forbore to confide to Dagobert these letters, in which he was so justly appreciated. The object of the proceeding was very plain. By continually harassing the marshal on all sides, and persuading him of the coldness of his children, the conspirators might naturally hope to conquer the hesitation which had hitherto prevented his again quitting his daughters to embark in a dangerous enterprise. To render the marshal's life so burdensome that he would desire to seek relief from his torments in airy project of daring and generous chivalry, was one of the ends proposed by Rodin—and, as we have seen, it wanted neither logic nor possibility.

After having read the letter, the two remained for a moment silent and dejected. Then Rose, who held the paper in her hand, started up suddenly, approached the chimneypiece, and threw the letter into the fire, saying, with a timid air: "We must burn it quickly, or perhaps some great danger will ensue."

"What greater misfortune can happen to us," said Blanche, despondingly, "than to cause such sorrow to our father? What can be the reason of it?"

"Perhaps," said Rose, whose tears were slowly trickling down her cheek, "he does not find us what he could have desired. He may love us well as the children of our poor mother, but we are not the daughters he had dreamed of. Do you understand me, sister?"

"Yes, yes—that is perhaps what occasioned all his sorrow. We are so badly informed, so wild, so awkward, that he is no doubt ashamed of us; and, as he loves us in spite of all, it makes him suffer."

"Alas! it is not our fault. Our dear mother brought us up in the deserts of Siberia as well as she could."

"Oh! father himself does not reproach us with it; only it gives him pain."

"Particularly if he has friends whose daughters are very beautiful, and possessed of all sorts of talents. Then he must bitterly regret that we are not the same."

"Dost remember when he took us to see our cousin, Mdlle. Adrienne, who was so affectionate and kind to us, that he said to us, with admiration: 'Did you notice her, my children? How beautiful she is, and what talent, what a noble heart, and therewith such grace and elegance!'"

"Oh, it is very true! Mdlle. de Cardoville is so beautiful, her voice is so sweet and gentle, that, when we saw and heard her, we fancied that all our troubles were at an end."

"And it is because of such beauty, no doubt, that our father, comparing us with our cousin and so many other handsome young ladies, cannot be very proud of us. And he, who is so loved and honored, would have liked to have been proud of his daughters."

Suddenly Rose laid her hand on her sister's arm, and said to her, with anxiety: "Listen! listen! they are talking very loud in father's bedroom."

"Yes," said Blanche, listening in her turn; "and I can hear him walking. That is his step."

"Good heaven! how he raises his voice; he seems to be in a great passion; he will perhaps come this way."

And at the thought of their father's coming—that father who really adored them—the unhappy children looked in terror at each other. The sound of a loud and angry voice became more and more distinct; and Rose, trembling through all her frame, said to her sister: "Do not let us remain here! Come into our room."

"Why?"

"We should hear, without designing it, the words of our father—and he does not perhaps know that we are so near."

"You are right. Come, come!" answered Blanche, as she rose hastily from her seat.

"Oh! I am afraid. I have never heard him speak in so angry a tone."

"Oh! kind heaven!" said Blanche, growing pale, as she stopped involuntarily. "It is to Dagobert that he is talking so loud."

"What can be the matter—to make our father speak to him in that way?"

"Alas! some great misfortune must have happened."

"Oh, sister! do not let us remain here! It pains me too much to hear Dagobert thus spoken to."

The crash of some article, hurled with violence and broken to pieces in the next room, so frightened the orphans, that, pale and trembling with emotion, they rushed into their own apartment, and fastened the door. We must now explain the cause of Marshal Simon's violent anger.



CHAPTER XLVIII. THE STUNG LION.

This was the scene, the sound of which had so terrified Rose and Blanche. At first alone in his chamber, in a state of exasperation difficult to describe, Marshal Simon had begun to walk hastily up and down, his handsome, manly face inflamed with rage, his eyes sparkling with indignation, while on his broad forehead, crowned with short-cut hair that was now turning gray, large veins, of which you might count the pulsations, were swollen almost to bursting; and sometimes his thick, black moustache was curled with a convulsive motion, not unlike that which is seen in the visage of a raging lion. And even as the wounded lion, in its fury, harassed and tortured by a thousand invisible darts, walks up and down its den with savage wrath, so Marshal Simon paced the floor of his room, as if bounding from side to side; sometimes he stooped, as though bending beneath the weight of his anger; sometimes, on the contrary, he paused abruptly, drew himself up to his full height, crossed his arms upon his vigorous chest, and with raised brow, threatening and terrible look, seemed to defy some invisible enemy, and murmur confused exclamations. Then he stood like a man of war and battle in all his intrepid fire.

And now he stamped angrily with his foot, approached the chimney-piece, and pulled the bell so violently that the bell-rope remained in his hand. A servant hastened to attend to this precipitate summons. "Did you not tell Dagobert that I wished to speak to him?" cried the marshal.

"I executed your grace's orders, but M. Dagobert was accompanying his son to the door, and—"

"Very well!" interrupted Marshal Simon, with an abrupt and imperious gesture.

The servant went out, and his master continued to walk up and down with impatient steps, crumpling, in his rage, a letter that he held in his left hand. This letter had been innocently delivered by Spoil-sport, who, seeing him come in, had run joyously to meet him. At length the door opened, and Dagobert appeared. "I have been waiting for you a long time, sirrah!" cried the marshal, in an irritated tone.

Dagobert, more pained than surprised at this burst of anger, which he rightly attributed to the constant state of excitement in which the marshal had now been for some time past, answered mildly: "I beg your pardon, general, but I was letting out my son—"

"Read that, sir!" said the marshal abruptly, giving him the letter.

While Dagobert was reading it, the marshal resumed, with growing anger, as he kicked over a chair that stood in his way: "Thus, even in my own house, there are wretches bribed to harass me with incredible perseverance. Well! have you read it, sir?"

"It is a fresh insult to add to the others," said Dagobert, coolly, as he threw the letter into the fire.

"The letter is infamous—but it speaks the truth," replied the marshal. Dagobert looked at him in amazement.

"And can you tell who brought me this infamous letter" continued the marshal. "One would think the devil had a hand in it—for it was your dog!"

"Spoil-sport?" said Dagobert, in the utmost surprise.

"Yes," answered the marshal, bitterly; "it is no doubt a joke of your invention."

"I have no heart for joking, general," answered Dagobert, more and more saddened by the irritable state of the marshal; "I cannot explain how it happened. Spoil-sport is a good carrier, and no doubt found the letter in the house—"

"And who can have left it there? Am I surrounded by traitors? Do you keep no watch? You, in whom I have every confidence?"

"Listen to me, general—"

But the marshal proceeded, without waiting to hear him. "What! I have made war for five-and-twenty years, I have battled with armies, I have struggled victoriously through the evil times of exile and proscription, I have withstood blows from maces of iron—and now I am to be killed with pins! Pursued into my own house, harassed with impunity, worn out, tortured every minute, to gratify some unknown, miserable hate!—When I say unknown, I am wrong—it is d'Aigrigny, the renegade, who is at the bottom of all this, I am sure. I have in the world but one enemy, and he is the man. I must finish with him, for I am weary of this—it is too much."

"But, general, remember he is a priest—"

"What do I care for that? Have I not seen him handle the sword? I will yet make a soldier's blood rise to the forehead of the traitor!"

"But, general—"

"I tell you, that I must be avenged on some one," cried the marshal, with an accent of the most violent exasperation; "I tell you, that I mast find a living representative of these cowardly plots, that I may at once make an end of him!—They press upon me from all sides; they make my life a hell—you know it—and you do nothing to save me from these tortures, which are killing me as by a slow fire. Can I have no one in whom to trust?"

"General, I can't let you say that," replied Dagobert, in a calm, but firm voice.

"And why not?"

"General, I can't let you say that you have no one to trust to. You might end perhaps in believing it, and then it would be even worse for yourself, than for those who well know their devotion for you, and would go through fire and water to serve you. I am one of them—and you know it."

These simple words, pronounced by Dagobert with a tone of deep conviction, recalled the marshal to himself; for although his honorable and generous character might from time to time be embittered by irritation and grief, he soon recovered his natural equanimity. So, addressing Dagobert in a less abrupt tone, he said to him, though still much agitated: "You are right. I could never doubt your fidelity. But anger deprives me of my senses. This infamous letter is enough to drive one mad. I am unjust, ungrateful—yes, ungrateful—and to you!"

"Do not think of me, general. With a kind word at the end, you might blow me up all the year round. But what has happened?"

The general's countenance again darkened, as he answered rapidly: "I am looked down upon, and despised!"

"You?"

"Yes I. After all," resumed the marshal bitterly, "why should I conceal from you this new wound? If I doubted you a moment, I owe you some compensation, and you shall know all. For some time past, I perceived that, when I meet any of my old companions in arms, they try to avoid me—"

"What! was it to this that the anonymous letter alluded?"

"Yes; and it spoke the truth," replied the marshal, with a sigh of grief and indignation.

"But it is impossible, general—you are so loved and respected—"

"Those are mere words; I speak of positive facts. When I appear, the conversation is often interrupted. Instead of treating me as an old comrade, they affect towards me a rigorously cold politeness. There are a thousand little shades, a thousand trifles, which wound the heart, but which it is impossible to notice—"

"What you are now saying, general, quite confounds me," replied Dagobert. "You assure me of it, and I am forced to believe you."

"Oh, it is intolerable! I was resolved to ease my heart of it; so, this morning, I went to General d'Havrincourt, who was colonel with me in the Imperial Guard; he is honor and honesty itself. I went to him with open heart. 'I perceive,' said I, 'the coldness that is shown me. Some calumny must be circulating to my disadvantage. Tell me all about it. Knowing the attack, I shall be able to defend myself—'

"Well, general?"

"D'Havrincourt remained impassible ceremoniously polite. To all my questions he answered coldly: 'I am not aware, my lord duke, that any calumny has been circulated with regard to you.'—'Do not call me "my lord duke," my dear D'Havrincourt; we are old fellow-soldiers and friends, my honor is somewhat touchy, I confess, and I find that you and our comrades do not receive me so cordially, as in times past. You do not deny it; I see, I know, I feel it.' To all this D'Havrincourt answered, with the same coldness: 'I have never seen any one wanting in respect towards you.'—'I am not talking of respect,' exclaimed I, as I clasped his hand affectionately, though I observed that he but feebly returned the pressure; 'I speak of cordiality, confidence, which I once enjoyed, while now I am treated like a stranger. Why is it? What has occasioned this change?'—Still cold and reserved, he answered: 'These distinctions are so nice, marshal, that it is impossible for me to give you any opinion on the subject.'—My heart swelled with grief and anger. What was I to do? To quarrel with D'Havrincourt would have been absurd. A sense of dignity forced me to break off the interview, but it has only confirmed my fears. Thus," added the marshal, getting more and more animated, "thus am I fallen from the esteem to which I am entitled, thus am I despised, without even knowing the cause! Is it not odious? If they would only utter a charge against me—I should at least be able to defend myself, and to find an answer. But no, no! not even a word—only the cold politeness that is worse than any insult. Oh! it is too much, too much! for all this comes but in addition to other cares. What a life is mine since the death of my father! If I did but find rest and happiness at home—but no! I come in, but to read shameful letters; and still worse," added the marshal, in a heartrending tone, and after a moment's hesitation, "to find my children grow more and more indifferent towards me—"Yes," continued he, perceiving the amazement of Dagobert, "and yet they know how much I love them!"

"Your daughters indifferent!" exclaimed Dagobert, in astonishment. "You make them such a reproach?"

"Oh! I do not blame them. They have hardly had time to know me."

"Not had time to know you?" returned the soldier, in a tone of remonstrance, and warming up in his turn. "Ah! of what did their mother talk to them, except you? and I too! what could I teach your children except to know and love you?"

"You take their part—that is natural—they love you better than they do me," said the marshal, with growing bitterness. Dagobert felt himself so painfully affected, that he looked at the marshal without answering.

"Yes!" continued the other; "yes! it may be base and ungrateful—but no matter!—Twenty times I have felt jealous of the affectionate confidence which my children display towards you, while with me they seem always to be in fear. If their melancholy faces ever grow animated for a moment, it is in talking to you, in seeing you; while for me they have nothing but cold respect—and that kills me. Sure of the affection of my children, I would have braved and surmounted every difficulty—" Then, seeing that Dagobert rushed towards the door which led to the chamber of Rose and Blanche, the marshal asked: "Where are you going?"

"For your daughters, general."

"What for?"

"To bring them face to face with you—to tell them: 'My children, your father thinks that you do not love him.'—I will only say that—and then you will see."

"Dagobert! I forbid you to do it," cried the marshal, hastily.

"I don't care for that—you have no right to be unjust to the poor children," said the soldier, as he again advanced towards the door.

"Dagobert, I command you to remain here," cried the marshal.

"Listen to me, general. I am your soldier, your inferior, your servant, if you will," said the old grenadier, roughly; "but neither rank nor station shall keep me silent, when I have to defend your daughters. All must be explained—I know but one way—and that is to bring honest people face to face."

If the marshal had not seized him by the arm, Dagobert would have entered the apartment of the young girls.

"Remain!" said the marshal, so imperiously that the soldier, accustomed to obedience, hung his head, and stood still.

"What would you do?" resumed the marshal. "Tell my children, that I think they do not love me? induce them to affect a tenderness they do not feel—when it is not their fault, but mine?"

"Oh, general!" said Dagobert, in a tone of despair, "I no longer feel anger, in hearing you speak thus of your children. It is such grief, that it breaks my heart!"

Touched by the expression of the soldier's countenance, the marshal continued, less abruptly: "Come, I may be wrong; and yet I ask you, without bitterness or jealousy, are not my children more confiding, more familiar, with you than with me?"

"God bless me, general!" cried Dagobert; "if you come to that, they are more familiar with Spoil-sport than with either of us. You are their father; and, however kind a father may be, he must always command some respect. Familiar with me! I should think so. A fine story! What the devil should they respect in me, who, except that I am six feet high, and wear a moustache, might pass for the old woman that nursed them?—and then I must say, that, even before the death of your worthy father, you were sad and full of thought; the children have remarked that; and what you take for coldness on their part, is, I am sure, anxiety for you. Come, general; you are not just. You complain, because they love you too much."

"I complain, because I suffer," said the marshal, in an agony of excitement. "I alone know my sufferings."

"They must indeed be grievous, general," said Dagobert, carried further than he would otherwise have gone by his attachment for the orphans, "since those who love you feel them so cruelly."

"What, sir! more reproaches?"

"Yes, general, reproaches," cried Dagobert. "Your children have the right to complain of you, since you accuse them so unjustly."

"Sir," said the marshal, scarcely able to contain himself, "this is enough—this is too much!"

"Oh, yes! it is enough," replied Dagobert, with rising emotion. "Why defend unfortunate children, who can only love and submit? Why defend them against your unhappy blindness?"

The marshal started with anger and impatience, but then replied, with a forced calmness: "I needs must remember all that I owe you—and I will not forget it, say what you will."

"But, general," cried Dagobert, "why will you not let me fetch your children?"

"Do you not see that this scene is killing me?" cried the exasperated marshal. "Do you not understand, that I will not have my children witness what I suffer? A father's grief has its dignity, sir; and you ought to feel for and respect it."

"Respect it? no—not when it is founded on injustice!"

"Enough, sir—enough!"

"And not content with tormenting yourself," cried Dagobert, unable any longer to control his feelings, "do you know what you will do? You will make your children die of sorrow. Was it for this, that I brought them to you from the depths of Siberia?"

"More reproaches!"

"Yes; for the worst ingratitude towards me, is to make your children unhappy."

"Leave the room, sir!" cried the marshal, quite beside himself, and so terrible with rage and grief, that Dagobert, regretting that he had gone so far, resumed: "I was wrong, general. I have perhaps been wanting in respect to you—forgive me—but—"

"I forgive you—only leave me!" said the marshal, hardly restraining himself.

"One word, general—"

"I entreat you to leave me—I ask it as a service—is that enough?" said the marshal, with renewed efforts to control the violence of his emotions.

A deadly paleness succeeded to the high color which during this painful scene had inflamed the cheeks of the marshal. Alarmed at this symptom, Dagobert redoubled his entreaties. "I implore you, general," said he, in an agitated mice, "to permit me for one moment—"

"Since you will have it so, sir, I must be the one to leave," said the marshal, making a step towards the door.

These words were said in such a manner, that Dagobert could no longer resist. He hung his head in despair, looked for a moment in silent supplication at the marshal, and then, as the latter seemed yielding to a new movement of rage, the soldier slowly quitted the room.

A few minutes had scarcely elapsed since the departure of Dagobert, when the marshal, who, after a long and gloomy silence, had repeatedly drawn near the door of his daughters' apartment with a mixture of hesitation and anguish, suddenly made a violent effort, wiped the cold sweat from his brow, and entered the chamber in which Rose and Blanche had taken refuge.



CHAPTER XLIX. THE TEST.

Dagobert was right in defending his children, as he paternally called Rose and Blanche, and yet the apprehensions of the marshal with regard to the coldness of his daughters, were unfortunately justified by appearances. As he had told his father, unable to explain the sad, and almost trembling embarrassment, which his daughters felt in his presence, he sought in vain for the cause of what he termed their indifference. Now reproaching himself bitterly for not concealing from them his grief at the death of their mother, he feared he might have given them to understand that they would be unable to console him; now supposing that he had not shown himself sufficiently tender, and that had chilled them with his military sternness; and now repeating with bitter regret, that, having always lived away from them, he must be always a stranger to them. In a word, the most unlikely suppositions presented themselves by turns to his mind, and whenever such seeds of doubt, suspicion, or fear, are blended with a warm affection, they will sooner or later develop themselves with fatal effect. Yet, notwithstanding this fancied coldness, from which he suffered so much, the affection of the marshal for his daughters was so true and deep, that the thought of again quitting them caused the hesitations which were the torment of his life, and provoked an incessant struggle between his paternal love and the duty he held most sacred.

The injurious calumnies, which had been so skillfully propagated, that men of honor, like his old brothers in arms, were found to attach some credit to them, had been spread with frightful pertinacity by the friends of the Princess de Saint-Dizier. We shall describe hereafter the meaning and object of these odious reports, which, joined with so many other fatal injuries, had filled up the measure of the marshal's indignation. Inflamed with anger, excited almost to madness by this incessant "stabbing with pins" (as he had himself called it), and offended at some of Dagobert's words, he had spoken harshly to him. But, after the soldier's departure, when left to reflect in silence, the marshal remembered the warm and earnest expressions of the defender of his children, and doubt crossed his mind, as to the reality of the coldness of which he accused them. Therefore, having taken a terrible resolution in case a new trial should confirm his desponding doubts, he entered, as we before said, his, daughters' chamber. The discussion with Dagobert had been so loud, that the sound of the voices had confusedly reached the ears of the two sisters, even after they had taken refuge in their bedroom. So that, on the arrival of their father, their pale faces betrayed their fear and anxiety. At sight of the marshal, whose countenance was also much agitated, the girls rose respectfully, but remained close together, trembling in each other's arms. And yet there was neither anger nor severity on their father's face—only a deep, almost supplicating grief, which seemed to say: "My children, I suffer—I have come to you—console me, love me! or I shall die!"

The marshal's countenance was at this moment so expressive, that, the first impulse of fear once surmounted, the sisters were about to throw themselves into his arms; but remembering the recommendations of the anonymous letter, which told them how painful any effusion of their tenderness was to their father, they exchanged a rapid glance, and remained motionless. By a cruel fatality, the marshal at this moment burned to open his arms to his children. He looked at them with love, he even made a slight movement as if to call them to him; but he would not attempt more, for fear of meeting with no response. Still the poor children, paralyzed by perfidious counsels, remained mute, motionless, trembling!

"It is all over," thought he, as he gazed upon them. "No chord of sympathy stirs in their bosom. Whether I go—-whether I remain—matters not to them. No, I am nothing to these children—since, at this awful moment, when they see me perhaps for the last time, no filial instinct tells them that their affection might save me still!"

During these terrible reflections, the marshal had not taken his eyes off his children, and his manly countenance assumed an expression at once so touching and mournful—his look revealed so painfully the tortures of his despairing soul—that Rose and Blanche, confused, alarmed, but yielding together to a spontaneous movement, threw themselves on their father's neck, and covered him with tears and caresses. Marshal Simon had not spoken a word; his daughters had not uttered a sound; and yet all three had at length understood one another. A sympathetic shock had electrified and mingled those three hearts. Vain fears, false doubts, lying counsel, all had yielded to the irresistible emotion which had brought the daughters to their father's arms. A sudden revelation gave them faith, at the fatal moment when incurable suspicion was about to separate them forever.

In a second, the marshal felt all this, but words failed him. Pale, bewildered, kissing the brows, the hair, the hands of his daughters, weeping, sighing, smiling all in turn, he was wild, delirious, drunk with happiness. At length, he exclaimed: "I have found them—or rather, I have never lost them. They loved me, and did not dare to tell me so. I overawed them. And I thought it was my fault. Heavens! what good that does! what strength, what heart, what hope!—Ha! ha!" cried he, laughing and weeping at the same time, whilst he covered his children with caresses; "they may despise me now, they may harass me now—I defy them all. My own blue eyes! my sweet blue eyes! look at me well, and inspire me with new life."

"Oh, father! you love us then as much as we love you?" cried Rose, with enchanting simplicity.

"And we may often, very often, perhaps every day, throw ourselves on your neck, embrace you, and prove how glad we are to be with you?"

"Show you, dear father, all the store of love we were heaping up in our hearts—so sad, alas! that we could not spend it upon you?"

"Tell you aloud all that we think in secret?"

"Yes—you may do so—you may do so," said Marshal Simon, faltering with joy; "what prevented you, my children? But no; do not answer; enough of the past!—I know all, I understand all. You misinterpreted my gloom, and it made you sad; I, in my turn, misinterpreted your sadness. But never mind; I scarcely know what I am saying to you. I only think of looking at you—and it dazzles me—it confuses me—it is the dizziness of joy!"

"Oh, look at us, father! look into our eyes, into our hearts," cried Rose, with rapture.

"And you will read there, happiness for us, and love for you, sir!" added Blanche.

"Sir, sir!" said the marshal, in a tone of affectionate reproach; "what does that mean? Will you call me father, if you please?"

"Dear father, your hand!" said Blanche, as she took it, and placed it on her heart.

"Dear father, your hand!" said Rose, as she took the other hand of the marshal. "Do you believe now in our love and happiness?" she continued.

It is impossible to describe the charming expression of filial pride in the divine faces of the girls, as their father, slightly pressing their virgin bosoms, seemed to count with delight the joyous pulsations of their hearts.

"Oh, yes! happiness and affection can alone make the heart beat thus!" cried the marshal.

A hoarse sob, heard in the direction of the open door, made the three turn round, and there they saw the tall figure of Dagobert, with the black nose of Spoil-sport reaching to his master's knee. The soldier, drying his eyes and moustache with his little blue cotton handkerchief, remained motionless as the god Terminus. When he could speak, he addressed himself to the marshal, and, shaking his head, muttered, in a hoarse voice, for the good man was swallowing his tears: "Did I not tell you so?"

"Silence!" said the marshal, with a sign of intelligence. "You were a better father than myself, my old friend. Come and kiss them! I shall not be jealous."

The marshal stretched out his hand to the soldier, who pressed it cordially, whilst the two sisters threw themselves on his neck, and Spoil-sport, according to custom wishing to have his share in the general joy, raised himself on his hind legs, and rested his fore-paws against his master's back. There was a moment of profound silence. The celestial felicity enjoyed during that moment, by the marshal, his daughters, and the soldier, was interrupted by the barking of Spoil-sort, who suddenly quitted the attitude of a biped. The happy group separated, looked round, and saw Loony's stupid face. He looked even duller than usual, as he stood quite still in the doorway, staring with wide stretched eyes, and holding a feather-broom under his arm, and in his hand the ever-present basket of wood.

Nothing makes one so gay as happiness; and, though this grotesque figure appeared at a very unseasonable moment, it was received with frank laughter from the blooming lips of Rose and Blanche. Having made the marshal's daughters laugh, after their long sadness, Loony at once acquired a claim to the indulgence of the marshal, who said to him, good humoredly: "What do you want, my lad?"

"It's not me, my lord duke!" answered Loony, laying his hand on his breast, as if it were taking a vow, so that his feather-brush fell down from under his arm. The laughter of the girls redoubled.

"It is not you?" said the marshal.

"Here! Spoil-sport!" Dagobert called, for the honest dog seemed to have a secret dislike for the pretended idiot, and approached him with an angry air.

"No, my lord duke, it is not me!" resumed Loony. "It is the footman who told me to tell M. Dagobert, when I brought up the wood to tell my lord duke, as I was coming up with the basket, that M. Robert wants to see him."

The girls laughed still more at this new stupidity. But, at the name of Robert, Marshal Simon started.

M. Robert was the secret emissary of Rodin, with regard to the possible, but adventurous, enterprise of attempting the liberation of Napoleon II. After a moment's silence, the marshal, whose face was still radiant with joy and happiness, said to Loony: "Beg M. Robert to wait for me a moment in my study."

"Yes, my lord duke," answered Loony, bowing almost to the ground.

The simpleton withdrew, and the marshal said to his daughters, in a joyous tone, "You see, that, in a moment like this, one does not leave one's children, even for M. Robert."

"Oh! that's right, father!" cried Blanche, gayly; "for I was already very angry with this M. Robert."

"Have you pen and paper at hand?" asked the marshal.

"Yes, father; there on the table," said Rose, hastily, as she pointed to a little desk near one of the windows, towards which the marshal now advanced rapidly.

From motives of delicacy, the girls remained where they were, close to the fireplace, and caressed each other tenderly, as if to congratulate themselves in private on the unexpected happiness of this day.

The marshal seated himself at the desk, and made a sign to Dagobert to draw near.

While he wrote rapidly a few words in a firm hand, he said to the soldier with a smile, in so low a tone that it was impossible for his daughters to hear: "Do you know what I had almost resolved upon, before entering this room?"

"What, general?"

"To blow my brains out. It is to my children that I owe my life." And the marshal continued writing.

Dagobert started at this communication, and then replied, also in a whisper: "It would not have been with your pistols. I took off the caps."

The marshal turned round hastily, and looked at him with an air of surprise. But the soldier only nodded his head affirmatively, and added: "Thank heaven, we have now done with all those ideas!"

The marshal's only answer was to glance at his children, his eyes swimming with tenderness, and sparkling with delight; then, sealing the note he had written, he gave it to the soldier, and said to him, "Give that to M. Robert. I will see him to-morrow."

Dagobert took the letter, and went out. Returning towards his daughters, the marshal joyfully extended his arms to them, and said, "Now, young ladies, two nice kisses for having sacrificed M. Robert to you. Have I not earned them?" And Rose and Blanche threw themselves on their father's neck.

About the time that these events were taking place at Paris, two travellers, wide apart from each other, exchanged mysterious thoughts through the breadth of space.



BOOK XI.

L. The Ruins of the Abbey of St. John the Baptist LI. The Calvary LII. The Council LIII. Happiness LIV. Duty LV. The Improvised Hospital LVI. Hydrophobia LVII. The Guardian Angel LVIII. Ruin LIX. Memories LX. The Ordeal LXI. Ambition LXII. To a Socius, a Socius and a Half LXIII. Faringhea's Affection LXIV. An Evening at St. Colombe's LXV. The Nuptial Bed LXVI. A Duel to the Death LXVII. A Message LXVIII. The First of June



EPILOGUE.

I. Four Years After II. The Redemption



CHAPTER L. THE RUINS OF THE ABBEY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST.

The sun is fast sinking. In the depths of an immense piny wood, in the midst of profound solitude, rise the ruins of an abbey, once sacred to St. John the Baptist. Ivy, moss, and creeping plants, almost entirely conceal the stones, now black with age. Some broken arches, some walls pierced with ovals, still remain standing, visible on the dark background of the thick wood. Looking down upon this mass of ruins from a broken pedestal, half-covered with ivy, a mutilated, but colossal statue of stone still keeps its place. This statue is strange and awful. It represents a headless human figure. Clad in the antique toga, it holds in its hand a dish and on that dish is a head. This head is its own. It is the statue of St. John the Baptist and Martyr, put to death by wish of Herodias.

The silence around is solemn. From time to time, however, is heard the dull rustling of the enormous branches of the pine-trees, shaken by the wind. Copper-colored clouds, reddened by the setting sun, pass slowly over the forest, and are reflected in the current of a brook, which, deriving its source from a neighboring mass of rocks, flows through the ruins. The water flows, the clouds pass on, the ancient trees tremble, the breeze murmurs.

Suddenly, through the shadow thrown by the overhanging wood, which stretches far into endless depths, a human form appears. It is a woman. She advances slowly towards the ruins. She has reached them. She treads the once sacred ground. This woman is pale, her look sad, her long robe floats on the wind, her feet covered with dust. She walks with difficulty and pain. A block of stone is placed near the stream, almost at the foot of the statue of John the Baptist. Upon this stone she sinks breathless and exhausted, worn out with fatigue. And yet, for many days, many years, many centuries, she has walked on unwearied.

For the first time, she feels an unconquerable sense of lassitude. For the first time, her feet begin to fail her. For the first time, she, who traversed, with firm and equal footsteps, the moving lava of torrid deserts, while whole caravans were buried in drifts of fiery sand—who passed, with steady and disdainful tread, over the eternal snows of Arctic regions, over icy solitudes, in which no other human being could live—who had been spared by the devouring flames of conflagrations, and by the impetuous waters of torrents—she, in brief, who for centuries had had nothing in common with humanity—for the first time suffers mortal pain.

Her feet bleed, her limbs ache with fatigue, she is devoured by burning thirst. She feels these infirmities, yet scarcely dares to believe them real. Her joy would be too immense! But now, her throat becomes dry, contracted, all on fire. She sees the stream, and throws herself on her knees, to quench her thirst in that crystal current, transparent as a mirror. What happens then? Hardly have her fevered lips touched the fresh, pure water, than, still kneeling, supported on her hands, she suddenly ceases to drink, and gazes eagerly on the limpid stream. Forgetting the thirst which devours her, she utters a loud cry—a cry of deep, earnest, religious joy, like a note of praise and infinite gratitude to heaven. In that deep mirror, she perceives that she has grown older.

In a few days, a few hours, a few minutes, perhaps in a single second, she has attained the maturity of age. She, who for more than eighteen centuries has been as a woman of twenty, carrying through successive generations the load of her imperishable youth—she has grown old, and may, perhaps, at length, hope to die. Every minute of her life may now bring her nearer to the last home! Transported by that ineffable hope, she rises, and lifts her eyes to heaven, clasping her hands in an attitude of fervent prayer. Then her eyes rest on the tall statue of stone, representing St. John. The head, which the martyr carries in his hand, seems, from beneath its half-closed granite eyelid, to cast upon the Wandering Jewess a glance of commiseration and pity. And it was she, Herodias who, in the cruel intoxication of a pagan festival, demanded the murder of the saint! And it is at the foot of the martyr's image, that, for the first time, the immortality, which weighed on her for so many centuries, seems likely to find a term!

"Oh, impenetrable mystery! oh, divine hope!" she cries. "The wrath of heaven is at length appeased. The hand of the Lord brings me to the feet of the blessed martyr, and I begin once more to feel myself a human creature. And yet it was to avenge his death, that the same heaven condemned me to eternal wanderings!

"Oh, Lord! grant that I may not be the only one forgiven. May he—the artisan, who like me, daughter of a king, wanders on for centuries—likewise hope to reach the end of that immense journey!

"Where is he, Lord? where is he? Hast thou deprived me of the power once bestowed, to see and hear him through the vastness of intervening space? Oh, in this mighty moment, restore me that divine gift—for the more I feel these human infirmities, which I hail and bless as the end of my eternity of ills, the more my sight loses the power to traverse immensity, and my ear to catch the sound of that wanderer's accent, from the other extremity of the globe?"

Night had fallen, dark and stormy. The wind rose in the midst of the great pine-trees. Behind their black summits, through masses of dark cloud, slowly sailed the silver disk of the moon. The invocation of the Wandering Jewess had perhaps been heard. Suddenly, her eyes closed—with hands clasped together, she remained kneeling in the heart of the ruins—motionless as a statue upon a tomb. And then she had a wondrous dream!



CHAPTER LI. THE CALVARY.

This was the vision of Herodias: On the summit of a high, steep, rocky mountain, there stands a cross. The sun is sinking, even as when the Jewess herself, worn out with fatigue, entered the ruins of St. John's Abbey. The great figure on the cross—which looks down from this Calvary, on the mountain, and on the vast, dreary plain beyond—stands out white and pale against the dark, blue clouds, which stretch across the heavens, and assume a violent tint towards the horizon. There, where the setting sun has left a long track of lurid light, almost of the hue of blood—as far as the eye can reach, no vegetation appears on the surface of the gloomy desert, covered with sand and stones, like the ancient bed of some dried-up ocean. A silence as of death broods over this desolate tract. Sometimes, gigantic black vultures, with red unfeathered necks, luminous yellow eyes, stooping from their lofty flight in the midst of these solitudes, come to make their bloody feast on the prey they have carried off from less uncultivated regions.

How, then, did this Calvary, this place of prayer, come to be erected so far from the abodes of men? This Calvary was prepared at a great cost by a repentant sinner. He had done much harm to his fellow-creatures, and, in the hope of obtaining pardon for his crimes, he had climbed this mountain on his knees, and become a hermit, and lived there till his death, at the foot of this cross, only sheltered by a roof of thatch, now long since swept away by the wind. The sun is still sinking. The sky becomes darker. The luminous lines on the horizon grow fainter and fainter, like heated bars of iron that gradually grow cool. Suddenly, on the eastern side of the Calvary, is heard the noise of some falling stones, which, loosened from the side of the mountain, roll down rebounding to its base. These stones have been loosened by the foot of a traveller, who, after traversing the plain below, has, during the last hour, been climbing the steep ascent. He is not yet visible—but one hears the echo of his tread—slow, steady, and firm. At length, he reaches the top of the mountain, and his tall figure stands out against the stormy sky.

The traveller is pale as the great figure on the cross. On his broad forehead a black line extends from one temple to the other. It is the cobbler of Jerusalem. The poor artisan, who hardened by misery, injustice and oppression, without pity for the suffering of the Divine Being who bore the cross, repulsed him from his dwelling, and bade him: "Go ON! GO ON! GO ON!" And, from that day, the avenging Deity has in his turn said to the artisan of Jerusalem: "GO ON! GO ON! GO ON!"

And he has gone on, without end or rest. Nor did the divine vengeance stop there. From time to time death has followed the steps of the wanderer, and innumerable graves have been even as mile-stones on his fatal path. And if ever he found periods of repose in the midst of his infinite grief, it was when the hand of the Lord led him into deep solitudes, like that where he now dragged his steps along. In passing over that dreary plain, or climbing to that rude Calvary, he at least heard no more the funeral knell, which always, always sounded behind him in every inhabited region.

All day long, even at this hour, plunged in the black abyss of his thoughts, following the fatal track—going whither he was guided by the invisible hand, with head bowed on his breast, and eyes fixed upon the ground, the wanderer had passed over the plain, and ascended the mountain, without once looking at the sky—without even perceiving the Calvary—without seeing the image upon the cross. He thought of the last descendants of his race. He felt, by the sinking of his heart, that great perils continued to threaten him. And in the bitterness of a despair, wild and deep as the ocean, the cobbler of Jerusalem seated himself at the foot of the cross. At this moment a farewell ray of the setting sun, piercing the dark mass of clouds, threw a refection upon the Calvary, vivid as a conflagration's glare. The Jew rested his forehead upon his hand. His long hair, shaken by the evening breeze, fell over his pale face—when sweeping it back from his brow, he started with surprise—he, who had long ceased to wonder at anything. With eager glance he contemplated the long lock of hair that he held between his fingers. That hair, until now black as night, had become gray. He also, like unto Herodias, was growing older.

His progress towards old age, stopped for eighteen hundred years, had resumed its course. Like the Wandering Jewess, he might henceforth hope for the rest of the grave. Throwing himself on his knees, he stretched his hands towards heaven, to ask for the explanation of the mystery which filled him with hope. Then, for the first time, his eyes rested on the Crucified One, looking down upon the Calvary, even as the Wandering Jewess had fixed her gaze on the granite eyelids of the Blessed Martyr.

The Saviour, his head bowed under the weight of his crown of thorns, seemed from the cross to view with pity, and pardon the artisan, who for so many centuries had felt his curse—and who, kneeling, with his body thrown backward in an attitude of fear and supplication, now lifted towards the crucifix his imploring hands.

"Oh, Messiah!" cried the Jew, "the avenging arm of heaven brings me back to the foot of this heavy cross, which thou didst bear, when, stopping at the door of my poor dwelling, thou wert repulsed with merciless harshness, and I said unto thee: 'Go on! go on!'—After my long life of wanderings, I am again before this cross, and my hair begins to whiten. Oh Lord! in thy divine mercy, hast thou at length pardoned me? Have I reached the term of my endless march? Will thy celestial clemency grant me at length the repose of the sepulchre, which, until now, alas! has ever fled before me?—Oh! if thy mercy should descend upon me, let it fall likewise upon that woman, whose woes are equal to mine own! Protect also the last descendants of my race! What will be their fate? Already, Lord, one of them—the only one that misfortune had perverted—has perished from the face of the earth. Is it for this that my hair grows gray? Will my crime only be expiated when there no longer remains in this world one member of our accursed race? Or does this proof of thy powerful goodness, Lord, which restores me to the condition of humanity, serve also as a sign of the pardon and happiness of my family? Will they at length triumph over the perils which beset them? Will they, accomplishing the good which their ancestor designed for his fellow creatures, merit forgiveness both for themselves and me? Or will they, inexorably condemned as the accursed scions of an accursed stock, expiate the original stain of my detested crime?

"Oh, tell me—tell me, gracious Lord! shall I be forgiven with them, or will they be punished with me?"

The twilight gave place to a dark and stormy night, yet the Jew continued to pray, kneeling at the foot of the cross.



CHAPTER LII. THE COUNCIL.

The following scene took place at Saint-Dizier House, two days after the reconciliation of Marshal Simon with his daughters. The princess is listening with the most profound attention to the words of Rodin. The reverend father, according to his habit, stands leaning against the mantelpiece, with his hands thrust into the pockets of his old brown great-coat. His thick, dirty shoes have left their mark on the ermine hearth-rug. A deep sense of satisfaction is impressed on the Jesuit's cadaverous countenance. Princess de Saint-Dizier, dressed with that sort of modest elegance which becomes a mother of the church, keeps her eyes fixed on Rodin—for the latter has completely supplanted Father d'Aigrigny in the good graces of this pious lady. The coolness, audacity lofty intelligence, and rough and imperious character of the ex-socius have overawed this proud woman, and inspired her with a sincere admiration. Even his filthy habits and often brutal repartees have their charm for her, and she now prefers them to the exquisite politeness and perfumed elegance of the accomplished Father d'Aigrigny.

"Yes, madame," said Rodin, in a sanctified tone, for these people do not take off their masks even with their accomplices, "yes, madame, we have excellent news from our house at St. Herem. M. Hardy, the infidel, the freethinker, has at length entered the pale of the holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church." Rodin pronounced these last word with a nasal twang, and the devout lady bowed her head respectfully.

"Grace has at length touched the heart of this impious man," continued Rodin, "and so effectually that, in his ascetic enthusiasm, he has already wished to take the vows which will bind him forever to our divine Order."

"So soon, father?" said the princess, in astonishment.

"Our statutes are opposed to this precipitation, unless in the case of a penitent in articulo mortis—on the very gasp of death—should such a person consider it necessary for his salvation to die in the habit of our Order, and leave us all his wealth for the greater glory of the Lord."

"And is M. Hardy in so dangerous a condition, father?"

"He has a violent fever. After so many successive calamities, which have miraculously brought him into the path of salvation," said Rodin, piously, "his frail and delicate constitution is almost broken up, morally and physically. Austerities, macerations, and the divine joys of ecstasy, will probably hasten his passage to eternal life, and in a few clays," said the priest, shaking his head with a solemn air, "perhaps—"

"So soon as that, father?"

"It is almost certain. I have therefore made use of my dispensations, to receive the dear penitent, as in articulo mortis, a member of our divine Company, to which, in the usual course, he has made over all his possessions, present and to come—so that now he can devote himself entirely to the care of his soul, which will be one victim more rescued from the claws of Satan."

"Oh, father!" cried the lady, in admiration; "it is a miraculous conversion. Father d'Aigrigny told me how you had to contend against the influence of Abbe Gabriel."

"The Abbe Gabriel," replied Rodin, "has been punished for meddling with what did not concern him. I have procured his suspension, and he has been deprived of his curacy. I hear that he now goes about the cholera hospitals to administer Christian consolation; we cannot oppose that—but this universal comforter is of the true heretical stamp."

"He is a dangerous character, no doubt," answered the princess, "for he has considerable influence over other men. It must have needed all your admirable and irresistible eloquence to combat the detestable counsels of this Abbe Gabriel, who had taken it into his head to persuade M. Hardy to return to the life of the world. Really, father, you are a second St. Chrysostom."

"Tut, tut, madame!" said Rodin, abruptly, for he was very little sensible to flattery; "keep that for others."

"I tell you that you're a second St. Chrysostom father," repeated the princess with enthusiasm; "like him, you deserve the name of Golden Mouth."

"Stuff, madame!" said Rodin, brutally, shrugging his shoulders; "my lips are too pale, my teeth too black, for a mouth of gold. You must be only joking."

"But, father—"

"No, madame, you will not catch old birds with chaff," replied Rodin, harshly. "I hate compliments, and I never pay them."

"Your modesty must pardon me, father," said the princess, humbly; "I could not resist the desire to express to you my admiration, for, as you almost predicted, or at least foresaw, two members of the Rennepont family, have, within the last few months, resigned all claim to the inheritance."

Rodin looked at Madame de Saint-Dizier with a softened and approving air, as he heard her thus describe the position of the two defunct claimants. For, in Rodin's view of the case, M. Hardy, in consequence of his donation and his suicidal asceticism, belonged no longer to this world.

The lady continued: "One of these men, a wretched artisan, has been led to his ruin by the exaggeration of his vices. You have brought the other into the path of salvation, by carrying out his loving and tender qualities. Honor, then to your foresight, father! for you said that you would make use of the passions to attain your end."

"Do not boast too soon," said Rodin, impatiently. "Have you forgotten your niece, and the Hindoo, and the daughters of Marshal Simon? Have they also made a Christian end, or resigned their claim to share in this inheritance?"

"No, doubtless."

"Hence, you see, madame, we should not lose time in congratulating ourselves on the past, but make ready for the future. The great day approaches. The first of June is not far off. Heaven grant we may not see the four surviving members of the family continue to live impenitent up to that period, and so take possession of this enormous property—the source of perdition in their hands—but productive of the glory of the Church in the hands of our Company!"

"True, father!"

"By the way, you were to see your lawyers on the subject of your niece?"

"I have seen them, father. However uncertain may be the chance of which I spoke, it is worth trying. I shall know to-day, I hope, if it is legally possible."

"Perhaps then,—in the new condition of life to which she would be reduced, we might find means to effect her conversion," said Rodin, with a strange and hideous smile; "until now, since she has been so fatally brought in contact with the Oriental, the happiness of these two pagans appears bright and changeless as the diamond. Nothing bites into it, not even Faringhea's tooth. Let us hope that the Lord will wreak justice on their vain and guilty felicity!"

This conversation was here interrupted by Father d'Aigrigny, who entered the room with an air of triumph, and exclaimed, "Victory!"

"What do you say"' asked the princess.

"He is gone—last night," said Father d'Aigrigny.

"Who?" said Rodin.

"Marshal Simon," replied the abbe.

"At last!" said Rodin, unable to hide his joy.

"It was no doubt his interview with General d'Havrincourt which filled up the measure," cried the princess, "for I know he had a long conversation with the general, who like so many others, believed the reports in circulation. All means are good against the impious!" added the princess, by way of moral.

"Have you any details?" asked Rodin.

"I have just left Robert," said Father d'Aigrigny. "His age and description agree with the marshal's, and the latter travels with his papers. Only one thing has greatly surprised your emissary."

"What is that?" said Rodin.

"Until now, he had always to contend with the hesitations of the marshal, and had moreover noticed his gloomy and desponding air. Yesterday, on the contrary, he found him so bright with happiness, that he could not help asking him the cause of the alteration."

"Well?" said Rodin and the princess together, both extremely surprised.

"The marshal answered: 'I am indeed the happiest man in the world; for I am going joyfully to accomplish a sacred duty!"

The three actors in this scene looked at each other in silence.

"And what can have produced this sudden change in the mind of the marshal?" said the princess, with a pensive air. "We rather reckon on sorrow and every kind of irritation to urge him to engage in this adventurous enterprise."

"I cannot make it out," said Rodin, reflecting; "but no matter—he is gone. We must not lose a moment, to commence operations on his daughters. Has he taken that infernal soldier with him?"

"No," said Father d'Aigrigny; "unfortunately, he has not done so. Warned by the past, he will redouble his precautions; and a man, whom we might have used against him at a pinch, has just been taken with the contagion."

"Who is that?" asked the princess.

"Morok. I could count upon him anywhere and for anything. He is lost to us; for, should he recover from the cholera, I fear he will fall a victim to a horrible and incurable disease."

"How so?"

"A few days ago, he was bitten by one of the mastiffs of his menagerie, and, the next day, the dog showed symptoms of hydrophobia."

"Ah! it is dreadful," cried the princess; "and where is this unfortunate man?"

"He has been taken to one of the temporary hospitals established in Paris, for at present he has only been attacked with cholera. It is doubly unfortunate, I repeat, for he was a devoted, determined fellow, ready for anything. Now this soldier, who has the care of the orphans, will be very difficult to get at, and yet only through him can we hope to reach Marshal Simon's daughters."

"That is clear," said Rodin, thoughtfully.

"Particularly since the anonymous letters have again awakened his suspicions," added Father d'Aigrigny "and—"

"Talking of the anonymous letters," said Rodin suddenly, interrupting Father d'Aigrigny, "there is a fact that you ought to know; I will tell you why."

"What is it?"

"Besides the letters that you know of, Marshal Simon has received a number of others unknown to you, in which, by every possible means, it is tried to exasperate his irritation against yourself—for they remind him of all the reasons he has to hate you, and mock at him, because your sacred character shelters you from his vengeance."

Father d'Aigrigny looked at Rodin with amazement, colored in spite of himself, and said to him: "But for what purpose has your reverence acted in this manner?"

"First of all, to clear myself of suspicion with regard to the letters; then, to excite the rage of the marshal to madness, by incessantly reminding him of the just grounds he has to hate you, and of the impossibility of being avenged upon you. This, joined to the other emotions of sorrow and anger, which ferment in the savage bosom of this man of bloodshed, tended to urge him on to the rash enterprise, which is the consequence and the punishment of his idolatry for a miserable usurper."

"That may be," said Father d'Aigrigny, with an air of constraint: "but I will observe to your reverence, that it was, perhaps, rather dangerous thus to excite Marshal Simon against me."

"Why?" asked Rodin, as he fixed a piercing look upon Father d'Aigrigny.

"Because the marshal, excited beyond all bounds, and remembering only our mutual hate, might seek me out—"

"Well! and what then?"

"Well! he might forget that I am a priest—"

"Oh, you are afraid are you?" said Rodin, disdainfully, interrupting Father d'Aigrigny.

At the words: "You are afraid," the reverend father almost started from his chair; but recovering his coolness, he answered: "Your reverence is right; yes, I should be afraid under such circumstances; I should be afraid of forgetting that I am a priest, and of remembering too well that I have been a soldier."

"Really?" said Rodin, with sovereign contempt. "You are still no further than that stupid and savage point of honor? Your cassock has not yet extinguished the warlike fire? So that if this brawling swordsman, whose poor, weak head, empty and sonorous as a drum, is so easily turned with the stupid jargon of 'Military honor, oaths, Napoleon II.'—if this brawling bravo, I say, were to commit some violence against you, it would require a great effort, I suppose, for you to remain calm?"

"It is useless, I think," said Father d'Aigrigny, quite unable to control his agitation, "for your reverence to enter upon such questions."

"As your superior," answered Rodin, severely, "I have the right to ask. If Marshal Simon had lifted his hand against you—"

"Sir," cried the reverend father.

"There are no sirs here—we are only priests," said Rodin, harshly. Father d'Aigrigny held down his head, scarcely able to repress his rage.

"I ask you," continued Rodin, obstinately, "if Marshal Simon had struck you? Is that clear?"

"Enough! in mercy," said Father d'Aigrigny, "enough!"

"Or, if you like it better, had Marshal Simon left the marks of his fingers on your cheek?" resumed Rodin, with the utmost pertinacity.

Father d'Aigrigny, pale as death, ground his teeth in a kind of fury at the very idea of such an insult, while Rodin, who had no doubt his object in asking the question, raised his flabby eyelids, and seemed to watch attentively the significant symptoms revealed in the agitated countenance of the ex-colonel.

At length, recovering partly his presence of mind, Father d'Aigrigny replied, in a forcedly calm tone: "If I were to be exposed to such an insult, I would pray heaven to give me resignation and humility."

"And no doubt heaven would hear your prayers," said Rodin, coldly, satisfied with the trial to which he had just put him. "Besides, you are now warned, and it is not very probable," added he, with a grim smile, "that Marshal Simon will ever return to test your humility. But if he were to return," said Rodin, fixing on the reverend father a long and piercing look, "you would know how to show this brutal swordsman, in spite of all his violence, what resignation and humility there is in a Christian soul!"

Two humble knocks at the door here interrupted the conversation for a moment. A footman entered, bearing a large sealed packet on a salver, which he presented to the princess. After this, he withdrew. Princess de Saint-Dizier, having by a look asked Rodin's permission to open the letter, began to read it—and a cruel satisfaction was soon visible on her face.

"There is hope," cried she addressing herself to Rodin: "the demand is rigorously legal, and the consequence may be such as we desire. In a word, my niece may, any day, be exposed to complete destitution. She, who is so extravagant! what a change in her life!"

"We shall then no doubt have some hold on that untamable character," said Rodin with a meditative air; "for, till now, all has failed in that direction, and one would suppose some kinds of happiness are invulnerable," added the Jesuit, gnawing his flat and dirty nails.

"But, to obtain the result we desire, we must exasperate my niece's pride. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary, that I should see and talk to her," said the Princess de Saint-Dizier, reflecting.

"Mdlle. de Cardoville will refuse this interview," said Father d'Aigrigny.

"Perhaps," replied the princess. "But she is so happy that her audacity must be at its height. Yes, yes—I know her—and I will write in such a manner, that she will come."

"You think so?" asked Rodin, with a doubtful air.

"Do not fear it, father," answered the lady, "she will come. And her pride once brought into play, we may hope a good deal from it."

"We must then act, lady," resumed Rodin; "yes, act promptly. The moment approaches. Hate and suspicion are awake. There is not a moment to lose."

"As for hate," replied the princess, "Mdlle. de Cardoville must have seen to what her lawsuit would lead, about what she called her illegal detention in a lunatic asylum, and that of the two young ladies in St. Mary's Convent. Thank heaven, we have friends everywhere! I know from good authority, that the case will break down from want of evidence, in spite of the animosity of certain parliamentary magistrates, who shall be well remembered."

"Under these circumstances," replied Rodin, "the departure of the marshal gives us every latitude. We must act immediately on his daughters."

"But how?" said the princess.

"We must see them," resumed Rodin, "talk with them, study them. Then we shall act in consequence."

"But the soldier will not leave them a second," said Father d'Aigrigny.

"Then," replied Rodin, "we must talk to them in presence of the soldier, and get him on our side."

"That hope is idle," cried Father d'Aigrigny. "You do not know the military honor of his character. You do not know this man."

"Don't I know him?" said Rodin, shrugging his shoulders. "Did not Mdlle. de Cardoville present me to him as her liberator, when I denounced you as the soul of the conspiracy? Did I not restore to him his ridiculous imperial relic—his cross of honor—when we met at Dr. Baleinier's? Did I not bring him back the girls from the convent, and place them in the arms of their father?"

"Yes," replied the princess; "but, since that time, my abominable niece has either guessed or discovered all. She told you so herself, father."

"She told me, that she considered me her most mortal enemy," said Rodin. "Be it so. But did she tell the same to the marshal? Has she ever mentioned me to him? and if she have done so, has the marshal communicated this circumstance to his soldier? It may be so; but it is by no means sure; in any case. I must ascertain the fact; if the soldier treats me as an enemy, we shall see what is next to be done—but I will first try to be received as a friend."

"When?" asked the princess.

"To-morrow morning," replied Rodin.

"Good heaven, my clear father!" cried the Princess de Saint-Dizier, in alarm; "if this soldier were to treat you as an enemy—beware—"

"I always beware, madame. I have had to face worse enemies than he is," said the Jesuit showing his black teeth; "the cholera to begin with."

"But he may refuse to see you, and in what way will you then get at Marshal Simon's daughters?" said Father d'Aigrigny.

"I do not yet know." answered Rodin. "But as I intend to do it, I shall find the means."

"Father," said the princess, suddenly, on reflection, "these girls have never seen me, and I might obtain admittance to them, without sending in my name."

"That would be perfectly useless at present, madame, for I must first know what course to take with respect to them. I must see and converse with them, at any cost, and then, after I have fixed my plan, your assistance may be very useful. In any case, please to be ready to morrow, madame, to accompany me."

"To what place, father?"

"To Marshal Simon's."

"To the marshal's?"

"Not exactly. You will get into your carriage, and I will take a hackney-coach. I will then try to obtain an interview with the girls, and, during that time, you will wait for me at a few yards from the house. If I succeed, and require your aid, I will come and fetch you; I can give you my instructions without any appearance of concert between us."

"I am content, reverend father; but, in truth, I tremble at the thought of your interview with that rough trooper."

"The Lord will watch over his servant, madame!" replied Rodin. "As for you, father," added he, addressing the Abbe d'Aigrigny, "despatch instantly to Vienna the note which is all prepared to announce the departure and speedy arrival of the marshal. Every precaution has been taken. I shall write more fully this evening."

The next morning, about eight o'clock, the Princess de Saint-Dizier, in her carriage, and Rodin, in his hackney-coach, took the direction of Marshal Simon's house.



CHAPTER LIII. HAPPINESS.

Marshal Simon has been absent two days. It is eight o'clock in the morning. Dagobert, walking on tip-toe with the greatest caution, so as not to make the floor creak beneath his tread, crosses the room which leads to the bedchamber of Rose and Blanche and applies his ear to the door of the apartment. With equal caution, Spoil-sport follows exactly the movements of his master. The countenance of the soldier is uneasy and full of thought. As he approaches the door, he says to himself: "I hope the dear children heard nothing of what happened in the night! It would alarm them, and it is much better that they should not know it at present. It might afflict them sadly, poor dears! and they are so gay, so happy, since they feel sure of their father's love for them. They bore his departure so bravely! I would not for the world that they should know of this unfortunate event."

Then as he listened, the soldier resumed: "I hear nothing—and yet they are always awake so early. Can it be sorrow?"

Dagobert's reflections were here interrupted by two frank, hearty bursts of laughter, from the interior of the bedroom.

"Come! they are not so sad as I thought," said the soldier, breathing more freely. "Probably they know nothing about it."

Soon, the laughter was again heard with redoubled force, and the soldier, delighted at this gayety, so rare on the part of "his children," was much affected by it: the tears started to his eyes at the thought that the orphans had at length recovered the serenity natural to their age; then, passing from one emotion to the other, still listening at the door, with his body leaning forward, and his hands resting on his knees, Dagobert's lip quivered with an expression of mute joy, and, shaking his head a little, he accompanied with his silent laughter, the increasing hilarity of the young girls. At last, as nothing is so contagious as gayety, and as the worthy soldier was in an ecstasy of joy, he finished by laughing aloud with all his might, without knowing why, and only because Rose and Blanche were laughing. Spoil-sport had never seen his master in such a transport of delight; he looked at him for a while in deep and silent astonishment, and then began to bark in a questioning way.

At this well-known sound, the laughter within suddenly ceased, and a sweet voice, still trembling with joyous emotion, exclaimed: "Is it you, Spoil-sport, that have come to wake us?" The dog understood what was said, wagged his tail, held down his ears, and, approaching close to the door, answered the appeal of his young mistress by a kind of friendly growl.

"Spoil-sport," said Rose, hardly able to restrain her laughter, "you are very early this morning."

"Tell us what o'clock it is, if you please, old fellow?" added Blanche.

"Young ladies, it is past eight," said suddenly the gruff voice of Dagobert, accompanying this piece of humor with a loud laugh.

A cry of gay surprise was heard, and then Rose resumed: "Good-morning, Dagobert."

"Good-morning, my children. You are very lazy to-day, I must tell you."

"It is not our fault. Our dear Augustine has not yet been to call us. We are waiting for her."

"Oh! there it is," said Dagobert to himself, his features once more assuming an expression of anxiety. Then he returned aloud, in a tone of some embarrassment, for the worthy man was no hand at a falsehood: "My children, our companion went out this morning—very early. She is gone to the country—on business—she will not return for some days—so you had better get up by yourselves for today."

"Our good Madame Augustine!" exclaimed Blanche, with interest. "I hope it is nothing bad that has made her leave suddenly—eh, Dagobert?"

"No, no—not at all—only business," answered the soldier. "To see one of her relations."

"Oh, so much the better!" said Rose. "Well, Dagobert, when we call you can come in."

"I will come back in a quarter of an hour," said the soldier as he withdrew; and he thought to himself: "I must lecture that fool Loony—for he is so stupid, and so fond of talking, that he will let it all out."

The name of the pretended simpleton will serve as a natural transition, to inform the reader of the cause of the hilarity of the sisters. They were laughing at the numberless absurdities of the idiot. The girls rose and dressed themselves, each serving as lady's-maid to the other. Rose had combed and arranged Blanche's hair; it was now Blanche's turn to do the same for her sister. Thus occupied, they formed a charming picture. Rose was seated before the dressing-table; her sister, standing behind her, was smoothing her beautiful brown hair. Happy age! so little removed from childhood, that present joy instantly obliterates the traces of past sorrow! But the sisters felt more than joy; it was happiness, deep and unalterable, for their father loved them, and their happiness was a delight, and not a pain to him. Assured of the affection of his children, he, also, thanks to them, no longer feared any grief. To those three beings, thus certain of their mutual love, what was a momentary separation? Having explained this, we shall understand the innocent gayety of the sisters, notwithstanding their father's departure, and the happy, joyous expression, which now filled with animation their charming faces, on which the late fading rose had begun once more to bloom. Their faith in the future gave to their countenances something resolute and decisive, which added a degree of piquancy to the beauty of their enchanting features.

Blanche, in smoothing her sister's hair, let fall the comb, and, as she was stooping to pick it up, Rose anticipated her, saying: "If it had been broken, we would have put it into the handle-basket."

Then the two laughed merrily at this expression, which reminded them of an admirable piece of folly on the part of Loony.

The supposed simpleton had broken the handle of a cup, and when the governess of the young ladies had reprimanded him for his carelessness, he had answered: "Never mind, madame; I have put it into the handle basket."

"The handle-basket, what is that?"

"Yes, Madame; it is where I keep all the handles I break off the things!"

"Dear me!" said Rose, drying her eyes; "how silly it is to laugh at such foolishness."

"It is droll," replied Blanche; "how can we help it?"

"All I regret is, that father cannot hear us laugh."

"He was so happy to see us gay!"

"We must write to him to-day, the story of the handle-basket."

"And that of the feather-brush, to show that, according to promise, we kept up our spirits during his absence."

"Write to him, sister? no, he is to write to us, and we are not to answer his letters."

"True! well then, I have an idea. Let us address letters to him here, Dagobert can put them into the post, and, on his return, our father will read our correspondence."

"That will be charming! What nonsense we will write to him, since he takes pleasure in it!"

"And we, too, like to amuse ourselves."

"Oh, certainly! father's last words have given us so much courage."

"As I listened to them, I felt quite reconciled to his going."

"When he said to us: 'My children, I will confide in you all I can. I go to fulfill a sacred duty, and I must be absent for some time; for though, when I was blind enough to doubt your affection, I could not make up my mind to leave you, my conscience was by no means tranquil. Grief takes such an effect on us, that I had not the strength to come to a decision, and my days were passed in painful hesitation. But now that I am certain of your tenderness, all this irresolution has ceased, and I understand how one duty is not to be sacrificed to another, and that I have to perform two duties at once, both equally sacred; and this I now do with joy, and delight, and courage!'"

"Go on, sister!" cried Blanche, rising to draw nearer to Rose. "I think I hear our father when I remember those words, which must console and support us during his absence."

"And then our father continued: 'Instead of grieving at my departure, you would rejoice in it, you should be proud and happy. I go to perform a good and generous act. Fancy to yourselves, that there is somewhere a poor orphan, oppressed and abandoned by all—and that the father of that orphan was once my benefactor, and that I had promised him to protect his son—and that the life of that son is now in peril—tell me, my children; would you regret that I should leave you to fly to the aid of such an orphan?'—"

"'No, no, brave father!' we answered: 'we should not then be your daughters!'" continued Rose, with enthusiasm. "Count upon us! We should be indeed unhappy if we thought that our sorrow could deprive thee of thy courage. Go! and every day we will say to ourselves proudly, 'It was to perform a great and noble duty that our father left us—we can wait calmly for his return.'"

"How that idea of duty sustains one, sister!" resumed Rose, with growing enthusiasm. "It gave our father the courage to leave us without regret, and to us the courage to bear his absence gayly!"

"And then, how calm we are now! Those mournful dreams, which seemed to portend such sad events, no longer afflict us."

"I tell you, sister, this time we are really happy once for all."

"And then, do you feel like me? I fancy, that I am stronger and more courageous and that I could brave every danger."

"I should think so! We are strong enough now. Our father in the midst, you on one side, I on the other—"

"Dagobert in the vanguard, and Spoil-sport in the rear! Then the army will be complete, and let 'em come on by thousands!" added a gruff, but jovial voice, interrupting the girl, as Dagobert appeared at the half open door of the room. It was worth looking at his face, radiant with joy; for the old fellow had somewhat indiscreetly been listening to the conversation.

"Oh! you were listening, Paul Pry!" said Rose gayly, as she entered the adjoining room with her sister, and both affectionately embraced the soldier.

"To be sure, I was listening; and I only regretted not to have ears as large as Spoil-sport's! Brave, good girls! that's how I like to see you—bold as brass, and saying to care and sorrow: 'Right about face! march! go to the devil!'"

"He will want to make us swear, now," said Rose to her sister, laughing with all her might.

"Well! now and then, it does no harm," said the soldier; "it relieves and calms one, when if one could not swear by five hundred thousand de—"

"That's enough!" said Rose, covering with her pretty hand the gray moustache, so as to stop Dagobert in his speech. "If Madame Augustine heard you—"

"Our poor governess! so mild and timid," resumed Blanche. "How you would frighten her!"

"Yes," said Dagobert, as he tried to conceal his rising embarrassment; "but she does not hear us. She is gone into the country."

"Good, worthy woman!" replied Blanche, with interest. "She said something of you, which shows her excellent heart."

"Certainly," resumed Rose; "for she said to us, in speaking of you, 'Ah, young ladies! my affection must appear very little, compared with M. Dagobert's. But I feel that I also have the right to devote myself to you.'"

"No doubt, no doubt! she has a heart of gold," answered Dagobert. Then he added to himself, "It's as if they did it on purpose, to bring the conversation back to this poor woman."

"Father made a good choice," continued Rose. "She is the widow of an old officer, who was with him in the wars."

"When we were out of spirits," said Blanche, "you should have seen her uneasiness and grief, and how earnestly she set about consoling us."

"I have seen the tears in her eyes when she looked at us," resumed Rose. "Oh! she loves us tenderly, and we return her affection. With regard to that, Dagobert, we have a plan as soon as our father comes back."

"Be quiet, sister!" said Blanche, laughing. "Dagobert will not keep our secret."

"He!"

"Will you keep it for us, Dagobert?"

"I tell you what," said the soldier, more and more embarrassed; "you had better not tell it to me."

"What! can you keep nothing from Madame Augustine?"

"Ah, Dagobert! Dagobert!" said Blanche, gayly holding up her finger at the soldier; "I suspect you very much of paying court to our governess."

"I pay court?" said the soldier—and the expression of his face was so rueful, as he pronounced these words, that the two sisters burst out laughing.

Their hilarity was at its height when the door opened and Loony advanced into room announcing, with a loud voice, "M. Rodin!" In fact, the Jesuit glided almost imperceptibly into the apartment, as if to take possession of the ground. Once there, he thought the game his own, and his reptile eyes sparkled with joy. It would be difficult to paint the surprise of the two sisters, and the anger of the soldier, at this unexpected visit.

Rushing upon Loony, Dagobert seized him by the collar, and exclaimed: "Who gave you leave to introduce any one here without my permission?"

"Pardon, M. Dagobert!" said Loony, throwing himself on his knees, and clasping his hands with an air of idiotic entreaty.

"Leave the room!—and you too!" added the soldier, with a menacing gesture, as he turned towards Rodin, who had already approached the girls, with a paternal smile on his countenance.

"I am at your orders, my dear sir," said the priest, humbly; and he made a low bow, but without stirring from the spot.

"Will you go?" cried the soldier to Loony, who was still kneeling, and who, thanks to the advantages of this position, was able to utter a certain number of words before Dagobert could remove him.

"M. Dagobert," said Loony in a doleful voice, "I beg pardon for bringing up the gentleman without leave; but, alas, my head is turned, because of the misfortune that happened to Madame Augustine."

"What misfortune?" cried Rose and Blanche together, as they advanced anxiously towards Loony.

"Will you go?" thundered Dagobert, shaking the servant by the collar, to force him to rise.

"Speak—speak!" said Blanche, interposing between the soldier and his prey. "What has happened to Madame Augustine?"

"Oh," shouted Loony, in spite of the cuffs of the soldier. "Madame Augustine was attacked in the night with cholera, and taken—"

He was unable to finish. Dagobert struck him a tremendous blow with his fist, right on the jaw, and, putting forth his still formidable strength, the old horse-grenadier lifted him to his legs, and with one violent kick bestowed on the lower part of his back, sent him rolling into the ante chamber.

Then turning to Rodin, with flushed cheek and sparkling eye, Dagobert pointed to the door with an expressive gesture, and said in an angry voice: "Now, be off with you and that quickly!"

"I must pay my respects another time, my dear sir," said Rodin, as he retired towards the door, bowing to the young girls.



CHAPTER LIV. DUTY.

Rodin, retreating slowly before the fire of Dagobert's angry looks, walked backwards to the door, casting oblique but piercing glances at the orphans, who were visibly affected by the servant's intentional indiscretion. (Dagobert had ordered him not to speak before the girls of the illness of their governess, and that was quite enough to induce the simpleton to take the first opportunity of doing so.)

Rose hastily approached the soldier, and said to him: "Is it true—is it really true that poor Madame Augustine has been attacked with the cholera?"

"No—I do not know—I cannot tell," replied the soldier, hesitating; "besides, what is it to you?"

"Dagobert, you would conceal from us a calamity," said Blanche. "I remember now your embarrassment, when we spoke to you of our governess."

"If she is ill, we ought not to abandon her. She had pity on our sorrows; we ought to pity her sufferings."

"Come, sister; come to her room," said Blanche, advancing towards the door, where Rodin had stopped short, and stood listening with growing attention to this unexpected scene, which seemed to give him ample food for thought.

"You will not leave this room," said the soldier, sternly, addressing the two sisters.

"Dagobert," replied Rose, firmly, "it is a sacred duty, and it would be cowardice not to fulfil it."

"I tell you that you shall not leave the room," said the soldier, stamping his foot with impatience.

"Dagobert," replied Blanche, with as resolute an air as her sister's, and with a kind of enthusiasm which brought the blood to her fair cheek, "our father, when he left us, give us an admirable example of devotion and duty. He would not forgive us were we to forget the lesson."

"What," cried Dagobert, in a rage, and advancing towards the sisters to prevent their quitting the apartment; "you think that if your governess had the cholera, I would let you go to her under the pretext of duty?—Your duty is to live, to live happy, for your father's sake—and for mine into the bargain—so not a word more of such folly!"

"We can run no danger by going to our governess in her room," said Rose.

"And if there were danger," added Blanche, "we ought not to hesitate. So, Dagobert, be good! and let us pass."

Rodin, who had listened to what precedes, with sustained attention, suddenly started, as if a thought had struck him; his eye shone brightly, and an expression of fatal joy illumined his countenance.

"Dagobert, do not refuse!" said Blanche. "You would do for us what you reproach us with wishing to do for another."

Dagobert had as it were, till now stood in the path of the Jesuit and the twins by keeping close to the door; but, after a moments reflection, he shrugged his shoulders, stepped to one side, and said calmly: "I was an old fool. Come, young ladies; if you find Madame Augustine in the house, I will allow you to remain with her."

Surprised at these words, the girls stood motionless and irresolute.

"If our governess is not here, where is she, then?" said Rose.

"You think, perhaps, that I am going to tell you in the excitement in which you are!"

"She is dead!" cried Rose growing pale.

"No, no—be calm," said the soldier, hastily; "I swear to you, by your father's honor, that she is not dead. At the first appearance of the disorder, she begged to be removed from the house, fearing the contagion for those in it."

"Good and courageous woman!" said Rose tenderly, "And you will not allow us—"

"I will not allow you to go out, even if I have to lock you up in your room," cried the soldier, again stamping with rage; then, remembering that the blunderhead's indiscretion was the sole cause of this unfortunate incident, he added, with concentrated fury: "Oh! I will break my stick upon that rascal's back."

So saying, he turned towards the door, where Rodin still stood, silent and attentive, dissembling with habitual impassibility the fatal hopes he had just conceived in his brain. The girls, no longer doubting the removal of their governess, and convinced that Dagobert would not tell them whither they had conveyed her, remained pensive and sad.

At sight of the priest, whom he had forgotten for the moment, the soldier's rage increased, and he said to him abruptly: "Are you still there?"

"I would merely observe to you, my dear sir," said Rodin, with that air of perfect good nature which he knew so well how to assume, "that you were standing before the door, which naturally prevented me from going out."

"Well, now nothing prevents you—so file off!"

"Certainly, I will file off, if you wish it, my dear sir though I think I have some reason to be surprised at such a reception."

"It is no reception at all—so begone!"

"I had come, my dear sir to speak to you—"

"I have no time for talking."

"Upon business of great importance."

"I have no other business of importance than to remain with these children."

"Very good, my dear sir," said Rodin, pausing on the threshold. "I will not disturb you any longer; excuse my indiscretion. The bearer of excellent news from Marshal Simon, I came—"

"News from our father!" cried Rose, drawing nearer to Rodin.

"Oh, speak, speak, sir!" added Blanche.

"You have news of the marshal!" said Dagobert, glancing suspiciously at Rodin. "Pray, what is this news?"

But Rodin, without immediately answering the question, returned from the threshold into the room, and, contemplating Rose and Blanche by turns with admiration, he resumed: "What happiness for me, to be able to bring some pleasure to these dear young ladies. They are even as I left them graceful, and fair, and charming—only less sad than on the day when I fetched them from the gloomy convent in which they were kept prisoners, to restore them to the arms of their glorious father!"

"That was their place, and this is not yours," said Dagobert, harshly, still holding the door open behind Rodin.

"Confess, at least that I was not so much out of place at Dr. Baleinier's," said the Jesuit, with a cunning air. "You know, for it was there that I restored to you the noble imperial cross you so much regretted—the day when that good Mdlle. de Cardoville only prevented you from strangling me by telling you that I was her liberator. Aye! it was just as I have the honor of stating, young ladies," added Rodin, with a smile; "this brave soldier was very near strangling me, for, be it said without offense, he has, in spite of his age, a grasp of iron. Ha, ha! the Prussians and Cossacks must know that better than I!"

These few words reminded Dagobert and the twins of the services which Rodin had really rendered them; and though the marshal had heard Mdlle. de Cardoville speak of Rodin as of a very dangerous man, he had forgotten, in the midst of so many anxieties, to communicate this circumstance to Dagobert. But this latter, warned by experience, felt, in spite of favorable appearances, a secret aversion for the Jesuit; so he replied abruptly: "The strength of my grasp has nothing to do with the matter."

"If I allude to that little innocent playfulness on your part, my dear sir," said Rodin, in his softest tone, approaching the two sisters with a wriggle which was peculiar to him; "if I allude to it, you see, it was suggested by the involuntary recollection of the little services I was happy enough to render you." Dagobert looked fixedly at Rodin, who instantly veiled his glance beneath his flabby eyelids.

"First of all," said the soldier, after a moment's silence, "a true man never speaks of the services he has rendered, and you come back three times to the subject."

"But Dagobert," whispered Rose, "if he brings news of our father?"

The soldier made a sign, as if to beg the girl to let him speak, and resumed, looking full at Rodin: "You are cunning, but I'm no raw recruit."

"I cunning?" said Rodin, with a sanctified air.

"Yes, very. You think to puzzle me with your fine phrases; but I'm not to be caught in that way. Just listen to me. Some of your band of black-gowns stole my cross; you returned it to me. Some of the same band carried off these children; you brought them back. It is also true that you denounced the renegade D'Aigrigny. But all this only proves two things: first, that you were vile enough to be the accomplice of these scoundrels; and secondly, that, having been their accomplice, you were base enough to betray them. Now, those two facts are equally bad, and I suspect you most furiously. So march off at once; your presence is not good for these children."

"But, my dear sir—"

"I will have no buts," answered Dagobert, in an angry voice. "When a man of your look does good, it is only to hide some evil; and one must be on guard."

"I understand your suspicions," said Rodin coolly, hiding his growing disappointment, for he had hoped it would have been easy to coax the soldier; "but, if you reflect, what interest have I in deceiving you? And in what should the deception consist?"

"You have some interest or other in persisting to remain here, when I tell you to go away."

"I have already had the honor of informing you of the object of my visit, my dear sir."

"To bring news of Marshal Simon?"

"That is exactly the case. I am happy enough to have news of the marshal. Yes, my dear young ladies," added Rodin, as he again approached the two sisters, to recover, as it were, the ground he had lost, "I have news of your glorious father!"

"Then come to my room directly, and you can tell it to me," replied Dagobert.

"What! you would be cruel enough to deprive these dear ladies of the pleasure—"

"By heaven, sir!" cried Dagobert, in a voice of thunder, "you will make me forget myself. I should be sorry to fling a man of your age down the stairs. Will you be gone?"

"Well, well," said Rodin mildly, "do not be angry with a poor old man. I am really not worth the trouble. I will go with you to your room, and tell you what I have to communicate. You will repent not having let me speak before these dear young ladies; but that will be your punishment, naughty man!"

So saying, Rodin again bowed very low, and, concealing his rage and vexation, left the room before Dagobert, who made a sign to the two sisters, and then followed, closing the door after him.

"What news of our father, Dagobert?" said Rose anxiously, when the soldier returned, after a quarter of an hours absence.

"Well, that old conjurer knows that the marshal set out in good spirits, and he seems acquainted with M. Robert. How could he be informed of all this? I cannot tell," added the soldier, with a thoughtful air; "but it is only another reason to be on one's guard against him."

"But what news of our father?" asked Rose.

"One of that old rascal's friends (I think him a rascal still) knows your father, he tells me, and met him five-and-twenty leagues from here. Knowing that this man was coming to Paris, the marshal charged him to let you know that he was in perfect health, and hoped soon to see you again."

"Oh, what happiness!" cried Rose.

"You see, you were wrong to suspect the poor old man, Dagobert," added Blanche. "You treated him so harshly!"

"Possibly so; but I am not sorry for it."

"And why?"

"I have my reasons; and one of the best is that, when I saw him came in, and go sidling and creeping round about us, I felt chilled to the marrow of my bones, without knowing why. Had I seen a serpent crawling towards you, I should not have been more frightened. I knew, of course, that he could not hurt you in my presence; but I tell you, my children, in spite of the services he has no doubt rendered us, it was all I could do to refrain from throwing him out of the window. Now, this manner of proving my gratitude is not natural, and one must be on one's guard against people who inspire us with such ideas."

"Good Dagobert, it is your affection for us that makes you so suspicious," said Rose, in a coaxing tone; "it proves how much you love us."



CHAPTER LV. THE IMPROVISED HOSPITAL

Among a great number of temporary hospitals opened at the time of the cholera in every quarter of Paris, one had been established on the ground-floor of a large house in the Rue du Mont-Blanc. The vacant apartments had been generously placed by their proprietor at the disposal of the authorities; and to this place were carried a number of persons, who, being suddenly attacked with the contagion, were considered in too dangerous a state to be removed to the principal hospitals.

Two days had elapsed since Rodin's visit to Marshal Simon's daughters. Shortly after he had been expelled, the Princess de Saint-Dizier had entered to see them, under the cloak of being a house-to-house visitor to collect funds for the cholera sufferers.

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