“Yes, I know it. Many times you have repeated those words to me, and, like yourself, I have been moved by them.”
“Well, father! suppose, informed of the sufferings of the son of the Emperor, I had seen—with the positive certainty that I was not deceived—a letter from a person of high rank in the court of Vienna, offering to a man that was still faithful to the Emperor’s memory, the means of communicating with the king of Rome, and perhaps of saving him from his tormentors—”
“What next?” said the workman, looking fixedly at his son. “Suppose Napoleon II. once at liberty—”
“What next?” exclaimed the marshal. Then he added, in a suppressed voice: “Do you think, father, that France is insensible to the humiliations she endures? Do you think that the memory of the Emperor is extinct? No, no; it is, above all, in the days of our country’s degredation, that she whispers that sacred name. How would it be, then, were that name to rise glorious on the frontier, reviving in his son? Do you not think that the heart of all France would beat for him?”
“This implies a conspiracy—against the present government—with Napoleon II. for a watchword,” said the workman. “This is very serious.”
“I told you, father, that I was very unhappy; judge if it be not so,” cried the marshal. “Not only I ask myself, if I ought to abandon my children and you, to run the risk of so daring an enterprise, but I ask myself if I am not bound to the present government, which, in acknowledging my rank and title, if it bestowed no favor, at least did me an act of justice. How shall I decide?—abandon all that I love, or remain insensible to the tortures of Emperor—of that Emperor to the son of the whom I owe everything—to whom I have sworn fidelity, both to himself and child? Shall I lose this only opportunity, perhaps, of saving him, or shall I conspire in his favor? Tell me, if I exaggerate what I owe to the memory of the Emperor? Decide for me, father! During a whole sleepless night, I strove to discover, in the midst of this chaos, the line prescribed by honor; but I only wandered from indecision to indecision. You alone, father—you alone, I repeat, can direct me.”
After remaining for some moments in deep thought, the old man was about to answer, when some person, running across the little garden, opened the door hastily, and entered the room in which were the marshal and his father. It was Olivier, the young workman, who had been able to effect his escape from the village in which the Wolves had assembled.
“M. Simon! M. Simon!” cried he, pale, and panting for breath. “They are here—close at hand. They have come to attack the factory.”
“Who?” cried the old man, rising hastily.
“The Wolves, quarrymen, and stone-cutters, joined on the road by a crowd of people from the neighborhood, and vagabonds from town. Do you not hear them? They are shouting, ‘Death to the Devourers!’”