“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!’”
The clamor was indeed approaching, and grew more and more distinct.
“It is the same noise that I heard just now,” said the marshal, rising in his turn.
“There are more than two hundred of them, M. Simon,” said Olivier; “they are armed with clubs and stones, and unfortunately the greater part of our workmen are in Paris. We are not above forty here in all; the women and children are already flying to their chambers, screaming for terror. Do you not hear them?”
The ceiling shook beneath the tread of many hasty feet.
“Will this attack be a serious one?” said the marshal to his father, who appeared more and more dejected.
“Very serious,” said the old man; “there is nothing more fierce than these combats between different unions; and everything has been done lately to excite the people of the neighborhood against the factory.”
“If you are so inferior in number,” said the marshal, “you must begin by barricading all the doors—and then—”