"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.
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