“Yes, father. In the eyes of the law, there is no special urgency. The question may not be decided for two or three days.”
“That is all I wished to know,” said Dagobert, rising and walking up and down the room.
“And yet,” resumed his son, “I did not consider myself beaten. In despair, but believing that justice could not remain deaf to such equitable claims, I ran to the Palais de Justice, hoping to find there a judge, a magistrate who would receive my complaint, and act upon it.”
“Well?” said the soldier, stopping him.
“I was told that the courts shut every day at five o’clock, and do not open again til ten in the morning. Thinking of your despair, and of the position of poor Mdlle. de Cardoville, I determined to make one more attempt. I entered a guard-house of troops of the line, commanded by a lieutenant. I told him all. He saw that I was so much moved, and I spoke with such warmth and conviction, that he became interested. —’Lieutenant,’ said I to him, ’grant me one favor; let a petty officer and two soldiers go to the convent to obtain a legal entrance. Let them ask to see the daughters of Marshal Simon, and learn whether it is their choice to remain, or return to my father, who brought them from Russia. You will then see if they are not detained against their will—’”
“And what answer did he give you, Agricola?” asked Mother Bunch, while Dagobert shrugged his shoulders, and continued to walk up and down.
“‘My good fellow,’ said he, ’what you ask me is impossible. I understand your motives, but I cannot take upon myself so serious a measure. I should be broke were I to enter a convent by force.—’Then, sir, what am I to do? It is enough to turn one’s head.’—’Faith, I don’t know,’ said the lieutenant; ’it will be safest, I think, to wait.’—Then, believing I had done all that was possible, father, I resolved to come back, in the hope that you might have been more fortunate than I—but, alas! I was deceived!”
So saying, the smith sank upon a chair, for he was worn out with anxiety and fatigue. There was a moment of profound silence after these words of Agricola, which destroyed the last hopes of the three, mute and crushed beneath the strokes of inexorable fatality.
A new incident came to deepen the sad and painful character of this scene.
The door which Agricola had not thought of fastening opened, as it were, timidly, and Frances Baudoin, Dagobert’s wife, pale, sinking, hardly able to support herself, appeared on the threshold.
The soldier, Agricola, and Mother Bunch, were plunged in such deep dejection, that neither of them at first perceived the entrance. Frances advanced two steps into the room, fell upon her knees, clasped her hands together, and said in a weak and humble voice; “My poor husband—pardon!”