“From this slow expiring, you, Marshal Simon, one of the emperor’s most faithful friends, are able to rescue this unfortunate prince.
“The correspondence in my hand proves that it would be easy to open relations, of the surest and most secret nature, with one of the most influential persons about the King of Rome, and this person would be disposed to favor the prince’s escape.
“It is possible, by a bold, unexpected stroke, to deliver Napoleon II. from the custody of Austria, which would leave him to perish by inches in an atmosphere that is fatal to him.
“The enterprise may be a rash one, but it has chances of success that you Marshal Simon, more than any other, could change into certainties; for your devotion to the emperor is well known, and we remember with what adventurous audacity you conspired, in 1815, in favor of Napoleon II.”
The state of languor and decline of the King of Rome was then in France a matter of public notoriety. People even went so far as to affirm that the son of the hero was carefully trained by priests, who kept him in complete ignorance of the glory of his paternal name; and that, by the most execrable machinations, they strove day by day to extinguish every noble and generous instinct that displayed itself in the unfortunate youth. The coldest hearts were touched and softened at the story of so sad and fatal a destiny. When we remember the heroic character and chivalrous loyalty of Marshal Simon, and his passionate devotion to the emperor, we can understand how the father of Rose and Blanche was more interested than any one else in the fate of the young prince, and how, if occasion offered, he would feel himself obliged not to confine his efforts to mere regrets. With regard to the reality of the correspondence produced by Rodin’s emissary, it had been submitted by the marshal to a searching test, by means of his intimacy with one of his old companions in arms, who had been for a long period on a mission to Vienna, in the time of the empire. The result of this investigation, conducted with as much prudence as address, so that nothing should transpire, showed that the marshal might give his serious attention to the advances made him.
Hence, this proposition threw the father of Rose and Blanche into a cruel perplexity; for, to attempt so bold and dangerous an enterprise, he must once more abandon his children; whilst, on the contrary, if, alarmed at this separation, he renounced the endeavor to save the King of Rome, whose lingering death was perfectly true and well authenticated, the marshal would consider himself as false to the vow he had sworn to the emperor. To end these painful hesitations, full of confidence in the inflexible uprightness of his father’s character, the marshal had gone to ask his advice; unfortunately the old republican workman, mortally wounded during the attack on M. Hardy’s factory, but still pondering over the serious communication of his son, died with these words upon his Lips: “My son, you have a great duty to perform, under pain of not acting like a man of honor, and of disobeying my last will. You must, without hesitation—”