June 9, 1860.]
THE TWO FINGERS.
Adolphe was young and fearless; and in a quarter of an hour he was sound asleep.
Day was breaking when the landlord awoke our hero, who accepted, with considerable satisfaction, a cup of excellent coffee prepared by the delicate hands of Marie. As he did so he instinctively cast a glance at those of M. Ebrard, and had no sooner ascertained that they were intact than he began to relate to him his nocturnal adventure, and to point to the blood upon the floor of the chamber, and to the ghastly parcel upon the chair. The honest landlord turned ashy white as he listened, and clung to the arm of Adolphe for support; but he had no sooner rallied than he rushed towards the room of his elder guest. The door was open, he drew back the curtains of the bed, and found it empty; traces of blood were distinguishable in the direction of the window, which was also open; he looked out; the heavy impress of a man’s foot was visible on the soft soil of the garden which abutted on the high road; and thus M. Ebrard, excited as he was, soon convinced himself that the mutilated robber could be no other than the stately traveller who had honoured his poor house on the preceding night.
His indignation and horror were extreme; and he had no sooner seen Adolphe depart than he hurried off to acquaint the police with what had occurred; not forgetting to relieve his mind by the way, by communicating to every acquaintance whom he met the particulars of the tragedy which had desecrated the hitherto respectable auberge of Le Grand Roi.
Adolphe de Rosval reached his home about mid-day; as he was not expected, and accompanied his first greetings with the welcome intelligence of his new honours, his appearance was hailed with the most vehement joy. His fond mother wept as she held him to her heart, and his sisters clung to him with mingled tenderness and pride.
“Only think, mamma, he is an officer already! Is it not charming? What will papa say?”
“But where is my father?” asked the young man—“his welcome is still wanting.”
“You know he is often from home,” said Madame de Rosval; “and we are as little as ever in his confidence. He left us three days ago, but we expect him home to-day.”
“And is he still as low-spirited and as silent as when I saw him last?” inquired Adolphe.
“Unfortunately, yes,” replied the gentle matron. “I fear that he has involved himself in speculations beyond our means; and that the idea of having compromised the future welfare of his children presses heavily upon him; but your unlooked-for return, Adolphe, and your happy tidings will, I trust, restore him to cheerfulness.”
As soon as the family circle had become somewhat more composed, and that one person was at length permitted to speak at a time, Adolphe was overwhelmed with questions, every member of the party being anxious to learn all that he had done since their last parting.
“It is, at all events, a blessing,” said his mother, as she fondly passed her hand over his hair, “that you have performed your journey without any accident, my son, however monotonous you may have found it.”
“Nay, ma bonne mère,” smiled Adolphe; “it was not altogether so monotonous as you may imagine; for I at least met with one adventure strange enough to bear telling.”
“An adventure, and a strange one?” exclaimed his sisters simultaneously; “Oh, Adolphe, let us hear it.”
He complied with their request, and no cheek around him grew paler than his own as he recalled the extraordinary event of the previous night.