The marshal’s countenance was at this moment so expressive, that, the first impulse of fear once surmounted, the sisters were about to throw themselves into his arms; but remembering the recommendations of the anonymous letter, which told them how painful any effusion of their tenderness was to their father, they exchanged a rapid glance, and remained motionless. By a cruel fatality, the marshal at this moment burned to open his arms to his children. He looked at them with love, he even made a slight movement as if to call them to him; but he would not attempt more, for fear of meeting with no response. Still the poor children, paralyzed by perfidious counsels, remained mute, motionless, trembling!
“It is all over,” thought he, as he gazed upon them. “No chord of sympathy stirs in their bosom. Whether I go—–whether I remain—matters not to them. No, I am nothing to these children—since, at this awful moment, when they see me perhaps for the last time, no filial instinct tells them that their affection might save me still!”
During these terrible reflections, the marshal had not taken his eyes off his children, and his manly countenance assumed an expression at once so touching and mournful—his look revealed so painfully the tortures of his despairing soul—that Rose and Blanche, confused, alarmed, but yielding together to a spontaneous movement, threw themselves on their father’s neck, and covered him with tears and caresses. Marshal Simon had not spoken a word; his daughters had not uttered a sound; and yet all three had at length understood one another. A sympathetic shock had electrified and mingled those three hearts. Vain fears, false doubts, lying counsel, all had yielded to the irresistible emotion which had brought the daughters to their father’s arms. A sudden revelation gave them faith, at the fatal moment when incurable suspicion was about to separate them forever.
In a second, the marshal felt all this, but words failed him. Pale, bewildered, kissing the brows, the hair, the hands of his daughters, weeping, sighing, smiling all in turn, he was wild, delirious, drunk with happiness. At length, he exclaimed: “I have found them—or rather, I have never lost them. They loved me, and did not dare to tell me so. I overawed them. And I thought it was my fault. Heavens! what good that does! what strength, what heart, what hope!—Ha! ha!” cried he, laughing and weeping at the same time, whilst he covered his children with caresses; “they may despise me now, they may harass me now—I defy them all. My own blue eyes! my sweet blue eyes! look at me well, and inspire me with new life.”