“Always the same,” said Rose, with emotion, as she looked affectionately at Dagobert.
“As faithful to the father and mother as to their children,” added Blanche.
“To love one was to love them all,” replied the soldier. “Well, the general joined the Emperor at Elba; I remained at Warsaw, concealed in the neighborhood of your mother’s house; I received the letters, and conveyed them to her clandestinely. In one of those letters—I feel proud to tell you of it my children—the general informed me that the Emperor himself had remembered me.”
“What, did he know you?”
“A little, I flatter myself—’Oh! Dagobert!’ said he to your father, who was talking to him about me; ’a horse-grenadier of my old guard—a soldier of Egypt and Italy, battered with wounds—an old dare-devil, whom I decorated with my own hand at Wagram—I have not forgotten him!’—I vow, children, when your mother read that to me, I cried like a fool.”
“The Emperor—what a fine golden face he has on the silver cross with the red ribbon that you would sometimes show us when we behaved well.”
“That cross—given by him—is my relic. It is there in my knapsack, with whatever we have of value—our little purse and papers. But, to return to your mother; it was a great consolation to her, when I took her letters from the general, or talked with her about him—for she suffered much—oh, so much! In vain her parents tormented and persecuted her; she always answered: ‘I will never marry any one but General Simon.’ A spirited woman, I can tell you—resigned, but wonderfully courageous. One day she received a letter from the general; he had left the Isle of Elba with the Emperor; the war had again broken out, a short campaign, but as fierce as ever, and heightened by soldiers’ devotion. In that campaign of France; my children, especially at Montmirail, your father fought like a lion, and his division followed his example it was no longer valor—it was frenzy. He told me that, in Champagne, the peasants killed so many of those Prussians, that their fields were manured with them for years. Men, women, children, all rushed upon them. Pitchforks, stones, mattocks, all served for the slaughter. It was a true wolf hunt!”
The veins swelled on the soldier’s forehead, and his cheeks flushed as he spoke, for this popular heroism recalled to his memory the sublime enthusiasm of the wars of the republic—those armed risings of a whole people, from which dated the first steps of his military career, as the triumphs of the Empire were the last days of his service.