fights his dressings, but we must be patient with him for he has been
very sick and that drawn look about the nose and a certain, startled
expression of the eyes, worry me. But the little _Soeur Victoire_ says
comfortingly that he will soon be well, though he does not wish to eat
and his jaws are a little stiff. O, _chere Soeur_, in your sweet faith,
are stiffened jaws such a trivial circumstance?
Next Augustin is Sylvestre, _le beau_. He was the splendid _pointeur_ of
Fort Chaudefontaine and was the least burned of the men; that is why I
know he is beautiful; also I catch many glimpses of him in the little
mirror in which he is constantly regarding himself, but he is _bon
garcon_, nevertheless--his honest blue eyes attest it.
At the end of the row is the big Flamand, who was always two feet too
long for his bed. He is sitting up now and that great, black head, with
features swollen three times their normal size, is a sight to frighten
the boldest. If he should roar at me I would drop everything and flee.
But he doesn't; nobody roars; for they are all the finest gentlemen in
the world, even in their trying moments.
At ten o'clock this evening, right out of the silence, issued sounds of
heavy, rolling carts, and horses' hoofs. Madame de H. and I stole out
into the court to see what it might be and, almost as if by magic, whole
regiments came pouring along in the greatest haste and disorder. A wing
of the servants' quarters hid the approach of the soldiers from us and
the strange, non-resonant quality of the atmosphere tonight deceived us
as to their nearness. In a moment they were upon us--not three feet
away, for some of the troops had taken, not the usual highroad two
hundred feet distant, but a short cut by the narrow path which directly
passes the court yard. Happily we had hidden ourselves behind the
grille, in the foliage, or we might have been shot without ceremony, as
by order of the military governor of the city "every civilian shall be
indoors and lights out at eight P. M."
We enjoyed the danger a little at first because we did not realize it;
all the same we obliterated ourselves as much as possible, though hardly
daring to move or breathe. Not an arm's length away, their nearness
oppressed us and the waves of heat which reeked from their toiling
bodies sickened us. But there we crouched in our light dresses, easily
seen if one had chanced to look, and separated only by an iron fence
with sparse, fluttering vines from a mass of tired, quarrelsome,
desperate men. Why! any of them might have run us through in a flash as
one would lunge at a white rag for the amusement of his companions.
Indoors the family were frantic, not daring to open a crack of the door
for fear of violent consequences to us.
The night was full of dull noises; even the clanking chains of the gun
carriages seemed muffled and the thud of horses' hoofs in the mud addedDownload<<BackPagesMainNext>>