“I complain, because I suffer,” said the marshal, in an agony of excitement. “I alone know my sufferings.”
“They must indeed be grievous, general,” said Dagobert, carried further than he would otherwise have gone by his attachment for the orphans, “since those who love you feel them so cruelly.”
“What, sir! more reproaches?”
“Yes, general, reproaches,” cried Dagobert. “Your children have the right to complain of you, since you accuse them so unjustly.”
“Sir,” said the marshal, scarcely able to contain himself, ’this is enough—this is too much!”
“Oh, yes! it is enough,” replied Dagobert, with rising emotion. “Why defend unfortunate children, who can only love and submit? Why defend them against your unhappy blindness?”
The marshal started with anger and impatience, but then replied, with a forced calmness: “I needs must remember all that I owe you—and I will not forget it, say what you will.”
“But, general,” cried Dagobert, “why will you not let me fetch your children?”
“Do you not see that this scene is killing me?” cried the exasperated marshal. “Do you not understand, that I will not have my children witness what I suffer? A father’s grief has its dignity, sir; and you ought to feel for and respect it.”
“Respect it? no—not when it is founded on injustice!”
“And not content with tormenting yourself,” cried Dagobert, unable any longer to control his feelings, “do you know what you will do? You will make your children die of sorrow. Was it for this, that I brought them to you from the depths of Siberia?”
“Yes; for the worst ingratitude towards me, is to make your children unhappy.”
“Leave the room, sir!” cried the marshal, quite beside himself, and so terrible with rage and grief, that Dagobert, regretting that he had gone so far, resumed: “I was wrong, general. I have perhaps been wanting in respect to you—forgive me—but—”
“I forgive you—only leave me!” said the marshal, hardly restraining himself.
“One word, general—”
“I entreat you to leave me—I ask it as a service—is that enough?” said the marshal, with renewed efforts to control the violence of his emotions.
A deadly paleness succeeded to the high color which during this painful scene had inflamed the cheeks of the marshal. Alarmed at this symptom, Dagobert redoubled his entreaties. “I implore you, general,” said he, in an agitated mice, “to permit me for one moment—”
“Since you will have it so, sir, I must be the one to leave,” said the marshal, making a step towards the door.
These words were said in such a manner, that Dagobert could no longer resist. He hung his head in despair, looked for a moment in silent supplication at the marshal, and then, as the latter seemed yielding to a new movement of rage, the soldier slowly quitted the room.