“You will laugh at me, my dear boy,” said Dagobert to his son; “but I wished the night to the devil, in order that I might gaze upon you in full day, as I now see you. But all in good time; I have lost nothing. Here is another silliness of mine; it delights me to see you wear moustaches. What a splendid horse-grenadier you would have made! Tell me; have you never had a wish to be a soldier?”
“I thought of mother!”
“That’s right,” said Dagobert: “and besides, I believe, after all, look ye, that the time of the sword has gone by. We old fellows are now good for nothing, but to be put in a corner of the chimney. Like rusty old carbines, we have had our day.”
“Yes; your days of heroism and of glory,” said Agricola with excitement; and then he added, with a voice profoundly softened and agitated, “it is something good and cheering to be your son!”
“As to the good, I know nothing of that,” replied Dagobert; “but as for the cheering, it ought to be so; for I love you proudly. And I think this is but the beginning! What say you, Agricola? I am like the famished wretches who have been some days without food. It is but by little and little that they recover themselves, and can eat. Now, you may expect to be tasted, my boy, morning and evening, and devoured during the day. No, I wish not to think that—not all the day—no, that thought dazzles and perplexes me; and I am no longer myself.”
These words of Dagobert caused a painful feeling to Agricola. He believed that they sprang from a presentiment of the separation with which he was menaced.
“Well,” continued Dagobert; “you are quite happy; M. Hardy is always good to you.”
“Oh!” replied Agricola: “there is none in the world better, or more equitable and generous! If you knew what wonders he has brought about in his factory! Compared to all others, it is a paradise beside the stithies of Lucifer!”
“Indeed!” said Dagobert.
“You shall see,” resumed Agricola, “what welfare, what joy, what affection, are displayed upon the countenances of all whom he employs; who work with an ardent pleasure.
“This M. Hardy of yours must be an out-and-out magician,” said Dagobert.
“He is, father, a very great magician. He has known how to render labor pleasant and attractive. As for the pleasure, over and above good wages, he accords to us a portion of his profits according to our deserts; whence you may judge of the eagerness with which we go to work. And that is not all: he has caused large, handsome buildings to be erected, in which all his workpeople find, at less expense than elsewhere, cheerful and salubrious lodgings, in which they enjoy all the advantages of an association. But you shall see—I repeat—you shall see!”
“They have good reason to say, that Paris is the region of wonders,” observed Dagobert.
“Well, behold me here again at last, never more to quit you, nor good mother!”