“‘But, sir,’ answered I to him,” resumed Agricola, “’it is now, this very night, that you ought to act, for if these young girls should not be present to-morrow morning in the Rue Saint Francois, their interests may suffer incalculable damage. ‘I am very sorry for it,’ replied he, ’but I cannot, upon your simple declaration, or that of your father, who—like yourself—is no relation or connection of these young persons, act in direct opposition to forms, which could not be set aside, even on the demand of a family. The law has its delays and its formalities, to which we are obliged to submit.’”
“Certainly!” said Dagobert. “We must submit to them, at the risk of becoming cowardly, ungrateful traitors!”
“Didst speak also of Mdlle. de Cardoville to him?” asked the work-girl.
“Yes—but he: answered me on this subject in much the same manner: ’It was very serious; there was no proof in support of my deposition. A third party had told me that Mdlle. de Cardoville affirms she was not mad; but all mad people pretend to be sane. He could not, therefore, upon my sole testimony, take upon himself to enter the house of a respectable physician. But he would report upon it, and the law would have its course—’”
“When I wished to act just now for myself,” said Dagobert, “did I not forsee all this? And yet I was weak enough to listen to you.”
“But, father, what you wished to attempt was impossible, and you agreed that it would expose you to far too dangerous consequences.”
“So,” resumed the soldier, without answering his son, “they told you in plain terms, that we must not think of obtaining legally the release of Rose and Blanche this evening or even to-morrow morning?”
“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—’”