Part 3 out of 3
"I cannot tell--it is that which turns one's brain. They must come from
the enemies of the marshal, and he has no enemies but the black-gowns."
"But, father, since these letters are to excite his anger against the
Abbe d'Aigrigny, they can hardly have been written by priests."
"That is what I have said to myself."
"But what, then, can be their object?"
"Their object? oh, it is too plain!" cried Dagobert. "The marshal is
hasty, ardent; he has a thousand reasons to desire vengeance on the
renegade. But he cannot do himself justice, and the other sort of
justice fails him. Then what does he do? He endeavors to forget, he
forgets. But every day there comes to him an insolent letter, to provoke
and exasperate his legitimate hatred, by mockeries and insults. Devil
take me! my head is not the weakest--but, at such a game, I should go
"Father, such a plot would be horrible, and only worthy of hell!"
"And that is not all."
"The marshal has received other letters; those he has not shown me--but,
after he had read the first, he remained like a man struck motionless,
and murmured to himself: 'They do not even respect that--oh! it is too
much--too much!'--And, hiding his face in his hands he wept."
"The marshal wept!" cried the blacksmith, hardly able to believe what he
"Yes," answered Dagobert, "he wept like a child."
"And what could these letters contain, father?"
"I did not venture to ask him, he appeared so miserable and dejected."
"But thus harassed and tormented incessantly, the marshal must lead a
"And his poor little girls too! he sees them grow sadder and sadder,
without being able to guess the cause. And the death of his father,
killed almost in his arms! Perhaps, you will think all this enough; but,
no! I am sure there is something still more painful behind. Lately, you
would hardly know the marshal. He is irritable about nothing, and falls
into such fits of passion, that--" After a moment's hesitation, the
soldier resumed: "I way tell this to you, my poor boy. I have just been
upstairs, to take the caps from his pistols."
"What, father!" cried Agricola; "you fear--"
"In the state of exasperation in which I saw him yesterday, there is
everything to fear."
" What then happened?"
"Since some time, he has often long secret interviews with a gentleman,
who looks like an old soldier and a worthy man. I have remarked that the
gloom and agitation of the marshal are always redoubled after one of
these visits. Two or three times, I have spoken to him about it; but I
saw by his look, that I displeased him, and therefore I desisted.
"Well! yesterday, this gentleman came in the evening. He remained here
until eleven o'clock, and his wife came to fetch him, and waited for him
in a coach. After his departure, I went up to see if the marshal wanted
anything. He was very pale, but calm; he thanked me, and I came down
again. You know that my room is just under his. I could hear the
marshal walking about as if much agitated, and soon after he seemed to be
knocking down the furniture. In alarm, I once more went upstairs. He
asked me, with an irritated air, what I wanted, and ordered me to leave
the room. Seeing him in that way, I remained; he grew more angry, still
I remained; perceiving a chair and table thrown down, I pointed to them
with so sad an air that he understood me. You know that he has the best
heart in the world, so, taking me by the hand, he said to me: 'Forgive me
for causing you this uneasiness, my good Dagobert; but just now, I lost
my senses, and gave way to a burst of absurd fury; I think I should have
thrown myself out of the window, had it been open. I only hope, that my
poor dear girls have not heard me,' added he, as he went on tip-toe to
open the door which communicates with his daughters' bedroom. When he
had listened anxiously for a moment, he returned to me, and said:
"Luckily, they are asleep.'--Then I asked him what was the cause of his
agitation, and if, in spite of my precautions, he had received any more
anonymous letters. 'No,' replied he, with a gloomy air; 'but leave me,
my friend. I am now better. It has done me good to see you. Good--
night, old comrade! go downstairs to bed.'--I took care not to contradict
him; but, pretending to go down, I came up again, and seated myself on
the top stair, listening. No doubt, to calm himself entirely, the
marshal went to embrace his children, for I heard him open and shut their
door. Then he returned to his room, and walked about for a long time,
but with a more quiet step. At last, I heard him throw himself on his
bed, and I came down about break of day. After that, all remained
"But whatever can be the matter with him, father?"
"I do not know. When I went up to him, I was astonished at the agitation
of his countenance, and the brilliancy of his eyes. He would have looked
much the same, had he been delirious, or in a burning fever--so that,
when I heard him say, he could have thrown himself out of the window, had
it been open, I thought it more prudent to remove the caps from his
"I cannot understand it!" said Agricola. "So firm, intrepid, and cool a
man as the marshal, a prey to such violence!"
"I tell you that something very extraordinary is passing within him. For
two days, he has not been to see his children, which is always a bad sign
with him--to say nothing of the poor little angels themselves, who are
miserable at the notion that they have displeased their father. They
displease him! If you only knew the life they lead, dear creatures! a
walk or ride with me and their companion, for I never let them go out
alone, and, the rest of their time, at their studies, reading, or
needlework--always together--and then to bed. Yet their duenna, who is,
I think, a worthy woman, tells me that sometimes at night, she has seen
them shed tears in their sleep. Poor children! they have hitherto known
but little happiness," added the soldier, with a sigh.
At this moment, hearing some one walk hastily across the courtyard,
Dagobert raised his eyes, and saw Marshal Simon, with pale face and
bewildered air, holding in his two hands a letter, which he seemed to
read with devouring anxiety.
THE GOLDEN CITY.
While Marshal Simon was crossing the little court with so agitated an
air, reading the anonymous letter, which he had received by Spoil-sport's
unexpected medium, Rose and Blanche were alone together, in the sitting-
room they usually occupied, which had been entered for a moment by Loony
during their absence. The poor children seemed destined to a succession
of sorrows. At the moment their mourning for their mother drew near its
close, the tragical death of their grandfather had again dressed them in
funereal weeds. They were seated together upon a couch, in front of
their work-table. Grief often produces the effect of years. Hence, in a
few months, Rose and Blanche had become quite young women. To the
infantine grace of their charming faces, formerly so plump and rosy, but
now pale and thin, had succeeded an expression of grave and touching
sadness. Their large, mild eyes of limpid azure, which always had a
dreamy character, were now never bathed in those joyous tears, with which
a burst of frank and hearty laughter used of old to adorn their silky
lashes, when the comic coolness of Dagobert, or some funny trick of
Spoil-sport, cheered them in the course of their long and weary
In a word, those delightful faces, which the flowery pencil of Greuze
could alone have painted in all their velvet freshness, were now worthy
of inspiring the melancholy ideal of the immortal Ary Scheffer, who gave
us Mignon aspiring to Paradise, and Margaret dreaming of Faust. Rose,
leaning back on the couch, held her head somewhat bowed upon her bosom,
over which was crossed a handkerchief of black crape. The light
streaming from a window opposite, shone softly on her pure, white
forehead, crowned by two thick bands of chestnut hair. Her look was
fixed, and the open arch of her eyebrows, now somewhat contracted,
announced a mind occupied with painful thoughts. Her thin, white little
hands had fallen upon her knees, but still held the embroidery, on which
she had been engaged. The profile of Blanche was visible, leaning a
little towards her sister, with an expression of tender and anxious
solicitude, whilst her needle remained in the canvas, as if she had just
ceased to work.
"Sister," said Blanche, in a low voice, after some moments of silence,
during which the tears seemed to mount to her eyes, "tell me what you are
thinking of. You look so sad."
"I think of the Golden City of our dreams," replied Rose, almost in a
whisper, after another short silence.
Blanche understood the bitterness of these words. Without speaking, she
threw herself on her sister's neck, and wept. Poor girls! the Golden
City of their dreams was Paris, with their father in it--Paris, the
marvellous city of joys and festivals, through all of which the orphans
had beheld the radiant and smiling countenance of their sire! But, alas!
the Beautiful City had been changed into a place of tears, and death, and
mourning. The same terrible pestilence which had struck down their
mother in the heart of Siberia, seemed to have followed them like a dark
and fatal cloud, which, always hovering above them, hid the mild blue of
the sky, and the joyous light of the sun.
The Golden City of their dreams! It was the place, where perhaps one day
their father would present to them two young lovers, good and fair as
themselves. "They love you," he was to say; "they are worthy of you.
Let each of you have a brother, and me two sons." Then what chaste,
enchanting confusion for those two orphans, whose hearts, pure as
crystal, had never reflected any image but that of Gabriel, the celestial
messenger sent by their mother to protect them!
We can therefore understand the painful emotion of Blanche, when she
heard her sister repeat, with bitter melancholy, those words which
described their whole situation: "I think of the Golden City of our
"Who knows?" proceeded Blanche, drying her sister's tears; "perhaps,
happiness may yet be in store for us."
"Alas! if we are not happy with our father by us--shall we ever be so?"
"Yes, when we rejoin our mother," said Blanche, lifting her eyes to
"Then, sister, this dream may be a warning--it is so like that we had in
"The difference being that then the Angel Gabriel came down from heaven
to us, and that this time he takes us from earth, to our mother."
"And this dream will perhaps come true, like the other, my sister. We
dreamt that the Angel Gabriel would protect us, and he came to save us
from the shipwreck."
"And, this time, we dream that he will lead us to heaven. Why should not
that happen also?"
"But to bring that about, sister, our Gabriel, who saved us from the
shipwreck, must die also. No, no; that must not happen. Let us pray
that it may not happen."
"No, it will not happen--for it is only Gabriel's good angel, who is so
like him, that we saw in our dreams."
"Sister, dear, how singular is this dream!--Here, as in Germany, we have
both dreamt the same--three times, the very same!"
"It is true. The Angel Gabriel bent over us, and looked at us with so
mild and sad an air, saying: 'Come, my children! come, my sisters! Your
mother waits for you. Poor children, arrived from so far!' added he in
his tender voice: 'You have passed over the earth, gentle and innocent as
two doves, to repose forever in the maternal nest.'"
"Yes, those were the words of the archangel," said the other orphan, with
a pensive air; "we have done no harm to any one, and we have loved those
who loved us--why should we fear to die?"
"Therefore, dear sister, we rather smiled than wept, when he took us by
the hand, and, spreading wide his beautiful white wings, carried us along
with him to the blue depths of the sky."
"To heaven, where our dear mother waited for us with open arms, her face
all bathed in tears."
"Oh, sweet sister! one has not dreams like ours for nothing. And then,"
added she, looking at Rose, with a sad smile that went to the heart, "our
death might perhaps end the sorrow, of which we have been the cause."
"Alas! it is not our fault. We love him so much. But we are so timid
and sorrowful before him, that he may perhaps think we love him not."
So saying, Rose took her handkerchief from her workbasket, to dry her
fears; a paper, folded in the form of a letter, fell out.
At this sight, the two shuddered, and pressed close to one mother, and
Rose said to Blanche, in a trembling voice: "Another of these letters!--
Oh, I am afraid! It will doubtless be like the last."
"We must pick it up quickly, that it may not be seen," said Blanche,
hastily stooping to seize the letter; "the people who take interest in us
might otherwise be exposed to great danger."
"But how could this letter come to us?"
"How did the others come to be placed right under our hand, and always in
the absence of our duenna?"
"It is true. Why seek to explain the mystery? We should never be able
to do so. Let us read the letter. It will perhaps be more favorable to
us than the last." And the two sisters read as follows:--
"Continue to love your father, dear children, for he is very miserable,
and you are the involuntary cause of his distress. You will never know
the terrible sacrifices that your presence imposes on him; but, alas! he
is the victim of his paternal duties. His sufferings are more cruel than
ever; spare him at least those marks of tenderness, which occasion him so
much more pain than pleasure. Each caress is a dagger-stroke, for he
sees in you the innocent cause of his misfortunes. Dear children, you
must not therefore despair. If you have enough command over yourselves,
not to torture him by the display of too warm a tenderness, if you can
mingle some reserve with your affection, you will greatly alleviate his
sorrow. Keep these letters a secret from every one, even from good
Dagobert, who loves you so much; otherwise, both he and you, your father,
and the unknown friend who is writing to you, will be exposed to the
utmost peril, for your enemies are indeed formidable. Courage and hope!
May your father's tenderness be once more free from sorrow and regret!--
That happy day is perhaps not so far distant. Burn this letter like all
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
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
"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
"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."
"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
"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.
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
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
"Spoil-sport?" said Dagobert, in the utmost surprise.
"Yes," answered the marshal, bitterly; "it is no doubt a joke of your
"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
"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!"
"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
"General, I can't let you say that," replied Dagobert, in a calm, but
"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
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!"
"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
"What! was it to this that the anonymous letter alluded?"
"Yes; and it spoke the truth," replied the marshal, with a sigh of grief
"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--'
"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
"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."
"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
"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
"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!"
"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?"
"Yes; for the worst ingratitude towards me, is to make your children
"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
"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
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
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,
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
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.