The Downfall (La Débâcle), by Émile Zola

Part Third

1.

All the long, long day of the battle Silvine, up on Remilly hill, where Father Fouchard’s little farm was situated, but her heart and soul absent with Honore amid the dangers of the conflict, never once took her eyes from off Sedan, where the guns were roaring. The following day, moreover, her anxiety was even greater still, being increased by her inability to obtain any definite tidings, for the Prussians who were guarding the roads in the vicinity refused to answer questions, as much from reasons of policy as because they knew but very little themselves. The bright sun of the day before was no longer visible, and showers had fallen, making the valley look less cheerful than usual in the wan light.

Toward evening Father Fouchard, who was also haunted by a sensation of uneasiness in the midst of his studied taciturnity, was standing on his doorstep reflecting on the probable outcome of events. His son had no place in his thoughts, but he was speculating how he best might convert the misfortunes of others into fortune for himself, and as he revolved these considerations in his mind he noticed a tall, strapping young fellow, dressed in the peasant’s blouse, who had been strolling up and down the road for the last minute or so, looking as if he did not know what to do with himself. His astonishment on recognizing him was so great that he called him aloud by name, notwithstanding that three Prussians happened to be passing at the time.

“Why, Prosper! Is that you?”

The chasseur d’Afrique imposed silence on him with an emphatic gesture; then, coming closer, he said in an undertone:

“Yes, it is I. I have had enough of fighting for nothing, and I cut my lucky. Say, Father Fouchard, you don’t happen to be in need of a laborer on your farm, do you?”

All the old man’s prudence came back to him in a twinkling. He was looking for someone to help him, but it would be better not to say so at once.

“A lad on the farm? faith, no — not just now. Come in, though, all the same, and have a glass. I shan’t leave you out on the road when you’re in trouble, that’s sure.”

Silvine, in the kitchen, was setting the pot of soup on the fire, while little Charlot was hanging by her skirts, frolicking and laughing. She did not recognize Prosper at first, although they had formerly served together in the same household, and it was not until she came in, bringing a bottle of wine and two glasses, that she looked him squarely in the face. She uttered a cry of joy and surprise; her sole thought was of Honore.

“Ah, you were there, weren’t you? Is Honore all right?”

Prosper’s answer was ready to slip from his tongue; he hesitated. For the last two days he had been living in a dream, among a rapid succession of strange, ill-defined events which left behind them no precise memory, as a man starts, half-awakened, from a slumber peopled with fantastic visions. It was true, doubtless, he believed he had seen Honore lying upon a cannon, dead, but he would not have cared to swear to it; what use is there in afflicting people when one is not certain?

“Honore,” he murmured, “I don’t know, I couldn’t say.”

She continued to press him with her questions, looking at him steadily.

“You did not see him, then?”

He waved his hands before him with a slow, uncertain motion and an expressive shake of the head.

“How can you expect one to remember! There were such lots of things, such lots of things. Look you, of all that d ——-d battle, if I was to die for it this minute, I could not tell you that much — no, not even the place where I was. I believe men get to be no better than idiots, ‘pon my word I do!” And tossing off a glass of wine, he sat gloomily silent, his vacant eyes turned inward on the dark recesses of his memory. “All that I remember is that it was beginning to be dark when I recovered consciousness. I went down while we were charging, and then the sun was very high. I must have been lying there for hours, my right leg caught under poor old Zephyr, who had received a piece of shell in the middle of his chest. There was nothing to laugh at in my position, I can tell you; the dead comrades lying around me in piles, not a living soul in sight, and the certainty that I should have to kick the bucket too unless someone came to put me on my legs again. Gently, gently, I tried to free my leg, but it was no use; Zephyr’s weight must have been fully up to that of the five hundred thousand devils. He was warm still. I patted him, I spoke to him, saying all the pretty things I could think of, and here’s a thing, do you see, that I shall never forget as long as I live: he opened his eyes and made an effort to raise his poor old head, which was resting on the ground beside my own. Then we had a talk together: ‘Poor old fellow,’ says I, ‘I don’t want to say a word to hurt your feelings, but you must want to see me croak with you, you hold me down so hard.’ Of course he didn’t say he did; he couldn’t, but for all that I could read in his great sorrowful eyes how bad he felt to have to part with me. And I can’t say how the thing happened, whether he intended it or whether it was part of the death struggle, but all at once he gave himself a great shake that sent him rolling away to one side. I was enabled to get on my feet once more, but ah! in what a pickle; my leg was swollen and heavy as a leg of lead. Never mind, I took Zephyr’s head in my arms and kept on talking to him, telling him all the kind thoughts I had in my heart, that he was a good horse, that I loved him dearly, that I should never forget him. He listened to me, he seemed to be so pleased! Then he had another long convulsion, and so he died, with his big vacant eyes fixed on me till the last. It is very strange, though, and I don’t suppose anyone will believe me; still, it is the simple truth that great, big tears were standing in his eyes. Poor old Zephyr, he cried just like a man —”

At this point Prosper’s emotion got the better of him; tears choked his utterance and he was obliged to break off. He gulped down another glass of wine and went on with his narrative in disjointed, incomplete sentences. It kept growing darker and darker, until there was only a narrow streak of red light on the horizon at the verge of the battlefield; the shadows of the dead horses seemed to be projected across the plain to an infinite distance. The pain and stiffness in his leg kept him from moving; he must have remained for a long time beside Zephyr. Then, with his fears as an incentive, he had managed to get on his feet and hobble away; it was an imperative necessity to him not to be alone, to find comrades who would share his fears with him and make them less. Thus from every nook and corner of the battlefield, from hedges and ditches and clumps of bushes, the wounded who had been left behind dragged themselves painfully in search of companionship, forming when possible little bands of four or five, finding it less hard to agonize and die in the company of their fellow-beings. In the wood of la Garenne Prosper fell in with two men of the 43d regiment; they were not wounded, but had burrowed in the underbrush like rabbits, waiting for the coming of the night. When they learned that he was familiar with the roads they communicated to him their plan, which was to traverse the woods under cover of the darkness and make their escape into Belgium. At first he declined to share their undertaking, for he would have preferred to proceed direct to Remilly, where he was certain to find a refuge, but where was he to obtain the blouse and trousers that he required as a disguise? to say nothing of the impracticability of getting past the numerous Prussian pickets and outposts that filled the valley all the way from la Garenne to Remilly. He therefore ended by consenting to act as guide to the two comrades. His leg was less stiff than it had been, and they were so fortunate as to secure a loaf of bread at a farmhouse. Nine o’clock was striking from the church of a village in the distance as they resumed their way. The only point where they encountered any danger worth mentioning was at la Chapelle, where they fell directly into the midst of a Prussian advanced post before they were aware of it; the enemy flew to arms and blazed away into the darkness, while they, throwing themselves on the ground and alternately crawling and running until the fire slackened, ultimately regained the shelter of the trees. After that they kept to the woods, observing the utmost vigilance. At a bend in the road, they crept up behind an out-lying picket and, leaping on his back, buried a knife in his throat. Then the road was free before them and they no longer had to observe precaution; they went ahead, laughing and whistling. It was about three in the morning when they reached a little Belgian village, where they knocked up a worthy farmer, who at once opened his barn to them; they snuggled among the hay and slept soundly until morning.

The sun was high in the heavens when Prosper awoke. As he opened his eyes and looked about him, while the two comrades were still snoring, he beheld their entertainer engaged in hitching a horse to a great carriole loaded with bread, rice, coffee, sugar, and all sorts of eatables, the whole concealed under sacks of charcoal, and a little questioning elicited from the good man the fact that he had two married daughters living at Raucourt, in France, whom the passage of the Bavarian troops had left entirely destitute, and that the provisions in the carriole were intended for them. He had procured that very morning the safe-conduct that was required for the journey. Prosper was immediately seized by an uncontrollable desire to take a seat in that carriole and return to the country that he loved so and for which his heart was yearning with such a violent nostalgia. It was perfectly simple; the farmer would have to pass through Remilly to reach Raucourt; he would alight there. The matter was arranged in three minutes; he obtained a loan of the longed-for blouse and trousers, and the farmer gave out, wherever they stopped, that he was his servant; so that about six o’clock he got down in front of the church, not having been stopped more than two or three times by the German outposts.

They were all silent for a while, then: “No, I had enough of it!” said Prosper. “If they had but set us at work that amounted to something, as out there in Africa! but this going up the hill only to come down again, the feeling that one is of no earthly use to anyone, that is no kind of a life at all. And then I should be lonely, now that poor Zephyr is dead; all that is left me to do is to go to work on a farm. That will be better than living among the Prussians as a prisoner, don’t you think so? You have horses, Father Fouchard; try me, and see whether or not I will love them and take good care of them.”

The old fellow’s eyes gleamed, but he touched glasses once more with the other and concluded the arrangement without any evidence of eagerness.

“Very well; I wish to be of service to you as far as lies in my power; I will take you. As regards the question of wages, though, you must not speak of it until the war is over, for really I am not in need of anyone and the times are too hard.”

Silvine, who had remained seated with Charlot on her lap, had never once taken her eyes from Prosper’s face. When she saw him rise with the intention of going to the stable and making immediate acquaintance with its four-footed inhabitants, she again asked:

“Then you say you did not see Honore?”

The question repeated thus abruptly made him start, as if it had suddenly cast a flood of light in upon an obscure corner of his memory. He hesitated for a little, but finally came to a decision and spoke.

“See here, I did not wish to grieve you just now, but I don’t believe Honore will ever come back.”

“Never come back — what do you mean?”

“Yes, I believe that the Prussians did his business for him. I saw him lying across his gun, his head erect, with a great wound just beneath the heart.”

There was silence in the room. Silvine’s pallor was frightful to behold, while Father Fouchard displayed his interest in the narrative by replacing upon the table his glass, into which he had just poured what wine remained in the bottle.

“Are you quite certain?” she asked in a choking voice.

Dame! as certain as one can be of a thing he has seen with his own two eyes. It was on a little hillock, with three trees in a group right beside it; it seems to me I could go to the spot blindfolded.”

If it was true she had nothing left to live for. That lad who had been so good to her, who had forgiven her her fault, had plighted his troth and was to marry her when he came home at the end of the campaign! and they had robbed her of him, they had murdered him, and he was lying out there on the battlefield with a wound under the heart! She had never known how strong her love for him had been, and now the thought that she was to see him no more, that he who was hers was hers no longer, aroused her almost to a pitch of madness and made her forget her usual tranquil resignation. She set Charlot roughly down upon the floor, exclaiming:

“Good! I shall not believe that story until I see the evidence of it, until I see it with my own eyes. Since you know the spot you shall conduct me to it. And if it is true, if we find him, we will bring him home with us.”

Her tears allowed her to say no more; she bowed her head upon the table, her frame convulsed by long-drawn, tumultuous sobs that shook her from head to foot, while the child, not knowing what to make of such unusual treatment at his mother’s hands, also commenced to weep violently. She caught him up and pressed him to her heart, with distracted, stammering words:

“My poor child! my poor child!”

Consternation was depicted on old Fouchard’s face. Appearances notwithstanding, he did love his son, after a fashion of his own. Memories of the past came back to him, of days long vanished, when his wife was still living and Honore was a boy at school, and two big tears appeared in his small red eyes and trickled down his old leathery cheeks. He had not wept before in more than ten years. In the end he grew angry at the thought of that son who was his and upon whom he was never to set eyes again; he rapped out an oath or two.

Nom de Dieu! it is provoking all the same, to have only one boy, and that he should be taken from you!”

When their agitation had in a measure subsided, however, Fouchard was annoyed that Silvine still continued to talk of going to search for Honore’s body out there on the battlefield. She made no further noisy demonstration, but harbored her purpose with the dogged silence of despair, and he failed to recognize in her the docile, obedient servant who was wont to perform her daily tasks without a murmur; her great, submissive eyes, in which lay the chief beauty of her face, had assumed an expression of stern determination, while beneath her thick brown hair her cheeks and brow wore a pallor that was like death. She had torn off the red kerchief that was knotted about her neck, and was entirely in black, like a widow in her weeds. It was all in vain that he tried to impress on her the difficulties of the undertaking, the dangers she would be subjected to, the little hope there was of recovering the corpse; she did not even take the trouble to answer him, and he saw clearly that unless he seconded her in her plan she would start out alone and do some unwise thing, and this aspect of the case worried him on account of the complications that might arise between him and the Prussian authorities. He therefore finally decided to go and lay the matter before the mayor of Remilly, who was a kind of distant cousin of his, and they two between them concocted a story: Silvine was to pass as the actual widow of Honore, Prosper became her brother, so that the Bavarian colonel, who had his quarters in the Hotel of the Maltese Cross down in the lower part of the village, made no difficulty about granting a pass which authorized the brother and sister to bring home the body of the husband, provided they could find it. By this time it was night; the only concession that could be obtained from the young woman was that she would delay starting on her expedition until morning.

When morning came old Fouchard could not be prevailed on to allow one of his horses to be taken, fearing he might never set eyes on it again. What assurance had he that the Prussians would not confiscate the entire equipage? At last he consented, though with very bad grace, to loan her the donkey, a little gray animal, and his cart, which, though small, would be large enough to hold a dead man. He gave minute instructions to Prosper, who had had a good night’s sleep, but was anxious and thoughtful at the prospect of the expedition now that, being rested and refreshed, he attempted to remember something of the battle. At the last moment Silvine went and took the counterpane from her own bed, folding and spreading it on the floor of the cart. Just as she was about to start she came running back to embrace Charlot.

“I entrust him to your care, Father Fouchard; keep an eye on him and see that he doesn’t get hold of the matches.”

“Yes, yes; never fear!”

They were late in getting off; it was near seven o’clock when the little procession, the donkey, hanging his head and drawing the narrow cart, leading, descended the steep hill of Remilly. It had rained heavily during the night, and the roads were become rivers of mud; great lowering clouds hung in the heavens, imparting an air of cheerless desolation to the scene.

Prosper, wishing to save all the distance he could, had determined on taking the route that lay through the city of Sedan, but before they reached Pont-Maugis a Prussian outpost halted the cart and held it for over an hour, and finally, after their pass had been referred, one after another, to four or five officials, they were told they might resume their journey, but only on condition of taking the longer, roundabout route by way of Bazeilles, to do which they would have to turn into a cross-road on their left. No reason was assigned; their object was probably to avoid adding to the crowd that encumbered the streets of the city. When Silvine crossed the Meuse by the railroad bridge, that ill-starred bridge that the French had failed to destroy and which, moreover, had been the cause of such slaughter among the Bavarians, she beheld the corpse of an artilleryman floating lazily down with the sluggish current. It caught among some rushes near the bank, hung there a moment, then swung clear and started afresh on its downward way.

Bazeilles, through which they passed from end to end at a slow walk, afforded a spectacle of ruin and desolation, the worst that war can perpetrate when it sweeps with devastating force, like a cyclone, through a land. The dead had been removed; there was not a single corpse to be seen in the village streets, and the rain had washed away the blood; pools of reddish water were to be seen here and there in the roadway, with repulsive, frowzy-looking debris, matted masses that one could not help associating in his mind with human hair. But what shocked and saddened one more than all the rest was the ruin that was visible everywhere; that charming village, only three days before so bright and smiling, with its pretty houses standing in their well-kept gardens, now razed, demolished, annihilated, nothing left of all its beauties save a few smoke-stained walls. The church was burning still, a huge pyre of smoldering beams and girders, whence streamed continually upward a column of dense black smoke that, spreading in the heavens, overshadowed the city like a gigantic funeral pall. Entire streets had been swept away, not a house left on either side, nor any trace that houses had ever been there, save the calcined stone-work lying in the gutter in a pasty mess of soot and ashes, the whole lost in the viscid, ink-black mud of the thoroughfare. Where streets intersected the corner houses were razed down to their foundations, as if they had been carried away bodily by the fiery blast that blew there. Others had suffered less; one in particular, owing to some chance, had escaped almost without injury, while its neighbors on either hand, literally torn to pieces by the iron hail, were like gaunt skeletons. An unbearable stench was everywhere, noticeable, the nauseating odor that follows a great fire, aggravated by the penetrating smell of petroleum, that had been used without stint upon floors and walls. Then, too, there was the pitiful, mute spectacle of the household goods that the people had endeavored to save, the poor furniture that had been thrown from windows and smashed upon the sidewalk, crazy tables with broken legs, presses with cloven sides and split doors, linen, also, torn and soiled, that was trodden under foot; all the sorry crumbs, the unconsidered trifles of the pillage, of which the destruction was being completed by the dissolving rain. Through the breach in a shattered house-front a clock was visible, securely fastened high up on the wall above the mantel-shelf, that had miraculously escaped intact.

“The beasts! the pigs!” growled Prosper, whose blood, though he was no longer a soldier, ran hot at the sight of such atrocities.

He doubled his fists, and Silvine, who was white as a ghost, had to exert the influence of her glance to calm him every time they encountered a sentry on their way. The Bavarians had posted sentinels near all the houses that were still burning, and it seemed as if those men, with loaded muskets and fixed bayonets, were guarding the fires in order that the flames might finish their work. They drove away the mere sightseers who strolled about in the vicinity, and the persons who had an interest there as well, employing first a menacing gesture, and in case that was not sufficient, uttering a single brief, guttural word of command. A young woman, her hair streaming about her shoulders, her gown plastered with mud, persisted in hanging about the smoking ruins of a little house, of which she desired to search the hot ashes, notwithstanding the prohibition of the sentry. The report ran that the woman’s little baby had been burned with the house. And all at once, as the Bavarian was roughly thrusting her aside with his heavy hand, she turned on him, vomiting in his face all her despair and rage, lashing him with taunts and insults that were redolent of the gutter, with obscene words which likely afforded her some consolation in her grief and distress. He could not have understood her, for he drew back a pace or two, eying her with apprehension. Three comrades came running up and relieved him of the fury, whom they led away screaming at the top of her voice. Before the ruins of another house a man and two little girls, all three so weary and miserable that they could not stand, lay on the bare ground, sobbing as if their hearts would break; they had seen their little all go up in smoke and flame, and had no place to go, no place to lay their head. But just then a patrol went by, dispersing the knots of idlers, and the street again assumed its deserted aspect, peopled only by the stern, sullen sentries, vigilant to see that their iniquitous instructions were enforced.

“The beasts! the pigs!” Prosper repeated in a stifled voice. “How I should like, oh! how I should like to kill a few of them!”

Silvine again made him be silent. She shuddered. A dog, shut up in a carriage-house that the flames had spared and forgotten there for the last two days, kept up an incessant, continuous howling, in a key so inexpressibly mournful that a brooding horror seemed to pervade the low, leaden sky, from which a drizzling rain had now begun to fall. They were then just abreast of the park of Montivilliers, and there they witnessed a most horrible sight. Three great covered carts, those carts that pass along the streets in the early morning before it is light and collect the city’s filth and garbage, stood there in a row, loaded with corpses; and now, instead of refuse, they were being filled with dead, stopping wherever there was a body to be loaded, then going on again with the heavy rumbling of their wheels to make another stop further on, threading Bazeilles in its every nook and corner until their hideous cargo overflowed. They were waiting now upon the public road to be driven to the place of their discharge, the neighboring potter’s field. Feet were seen projecting from the mass into the air. A head, half-severed from its trunk, hung over the side of the vehicle. When the three lumbering vans started again, swaying and jolting over the inequalities of the road, a long, white hand was hanging outward from one of them; the hand caught upon the wheel, and little by little the iron tire destroyed it, eating through skin and flesh clean down to the bones.

By the time they reached Balan the rain had ceased, and Prosper prevailed on Silvine to eat a bit of the bread he had had the foresight to bring with them. When they were near Sedan, however, they were brought to a halt by another Prussian post, and this time the consequences threatened to be serious; the officer stormed at them, and even refused to restore their pass, which he declared, in excellent French, to be a forgery. Acting on his orders some soldiers had run the donkey and the little cart under a shed. What were they to do? were they to be forced to abandon their undertaking? Silvine was in despair, when all at once she thought of M. Dubreuil, Father Fouchard’s relative, with whom she had some slight acquaintance and whose place, the Hermitage, was only a few hundred yards distant, on the summit of the eminence that overlooked the faubourg. Perhaps he might have some influence with the military, seeing that he was a citizen of the place. As they were allowed their freedom, conditionally upon abandoning their equipage, she left the donkey and cart under the shed and bade Prosper accompany her. They ascended the hill on a run, found the gate of the Hermitage standing wide open, and on turning into the avenue of secular elms beheld a spectacle that filled them with amazement.

“The devil!” said Prosper; “there are a lot of fellows who seem to be taking things easy!”

On the fine-crushed gravel of the terrace, at the bottom of the steps that led to the house, was a merry company. Arranged in order around a marble-topped table were a sofa and some easy-chairs in sky-blue satin, forming a sort of fantastic open-air drawing-room, which must have been thoroughly soaked by the rain of the preceding day. Two zouaves, seated in a lounging attitude at either end of the sofa, seemed to be laughing boisterously. A little infantryman, who occupied one of the fauteuils, his head bent forward, was apparently holding his sides to keep them from splitting. Three others were seated in a negligent pose, their elbows resting on the arms of their chairs, while a chasseur had his hand extended as if in the act of taking a glass from the table. They had evidently discovered the location of the cellar, and were enjoying themselves.

“But how in the world do they happen to be here?” murmured Prosper, whose stupefaction increased as he drew nearer to them. “Have the rascals forgotten there are Prussians about?”

But Silvine, whose eyes had dilated far beyond their natural size, suddenly uttered an exclamation of horror. The soldiers never moved hand or foot; they were stone dead. The two zouaves were stiff and cold; they both had had the face shot away, the nose was gone, the eyes were torn from their sockets. If there appeared to be a laugh on the face of him who was holding his sides, it was because a bullet had cut a great furrow through the lower portion of his countenance, smashing all his teeth. The spectacle was an unimaginably horrible one, those poor wretches laughing and conversing in their attitude of manikins, with glassy eyes and open mouths, when Death had laid his icy hand on them and they were never more to know the warmth and motion of life. Had they dragged themselves, still living, to that place, so as to die in one another’s company? or was it not rather a ghastly prank of the Prussians, who had collected the bodies and placed them in a circle about the table, out of derision for the traditional gayety of the French nation?

“It’s a queer start, though, all the same,” muttered Prosper, whose face was very pale. And casting a look at the other dead who lay scattered about the avenue, under the trees and on the turf, some thirty brave fellows, among them Lieutenant Rochas, riddled with wounds and surrounded still by the shreds of the flag, he added seriously and with great respect: “There must have been some very pretty fighting about here! I don’t much believe we shall find the bourgeois for whom you are looking.”

Silvine entered the house, the doors and windows of which had been battered in and afforded admission to the damp, cold air from without. It was clear enough that there was no one there; the masters must have taken their departure before the battle. She continued to prosecute her search, however, and had entered the kitchen, when she gave utterance to another cry of terror. Beneath the sink were two bodies, fast locked in each other’s arms in mortal embrace, one of them a zouave, a handsome, brown-bearded man, the other a huge Prussian with red hair. The teeth of the former were set in the latter’s cheek, their arms, stiff in death, had not relaxed their terrible hug, binding the pair with such a bond of everlasting hate and fury that ultimately it was found necessary to bury them in a common grave.

Then Prosper made haste to lead Silvine away, since they could accomplish nothing in that house where Death had taken up his abode, and upon their return, despairing, to the post where the donkey and cart had been detained, it so chanced that they found, in company with the officer who had treated them so harshly, a general on his way to visit the battlefield. This gentleman requested to be allowed to see the pass, which he examined attentively and restored to Silvine; then, with an expression of compassion on his face, he gave directions that the poor woman should have her donkey returned to her and be allowed to go in quest of her husband’s body. Stopping only long enough to thank her benefactor, she and her companion, with the cart trundling after them, set out for the Fond de Givonne, obedient to the instructions that were again given them not to pass through Sedan.

After that they bent their course to the left in order to reach the plateau of Illy by the road that crosses the wood of la Garenne, but here again they were delayed; twenty times they nearly abandoned all hope of getting through the wood, so numerous were the obstacles they encountered. At every step their way was barred by huge trees that had been laid low by the artillery fire, stretched on the ground like mighty giants fallen. It was the part of the forest that had suffered so severely from the cannonade, where the projectiles had plowed their way through the secular growths as they might have done through a square of the Old Guard, meeting in either case with the sturdy resistance of veterans. Everywhere the earth was cumbered with gigantic trunks, stripped of their leaves and branches, pierced and mangled, even as mortals might have been, and this wholesale destruction, the sight of the poor limbs, maimed, slaughtered and weeping tears of sap, inspired the beholder with the sickening horror of a human battlefield. There were corpses of men there, too; soldiers, who had stood fraternally by the trees and fallen with them. A lieutenant, from whose mouth exuded a bloody froth, had been tearing up the grass by handfuls in his agony, and his stiffened fingers were still buried in the ground. A little farther on a captain, prone on his stomach, had raised his head to vent his anguish in yells and screams, and death had caught and fixed him in that strange attitude. Others seemed to be slumbering among the herbage, while a zouave; whose blue sash had taken fire, had had his hair and beard burned completely from his head. And several times it happened, as they traversed those woodland glades, that they had to remove a body from the path before the donkey could proceed on his way. Presently they came to a little valley, where the sights of horror abruptly ended. The battle had evidently turned at this point and expended its force in another direction, leaving this peaceful nook of nature untouched. The trees were all uninjured; the carpet of velvety moss was undefiled by blood. A little brook coursed merrily among the duckweed, the path that ran along its bank was shaded by tall beeches. A penetrating charm, a tender peacefulness pervaded the solitude of the lovely spot, where the living waters gave up their coolness to the air and the leaves whispered softly in the silence.

Prosper had stopped to let the donkey drink from the stream.

“Ah, how pleasant it is here!” he involuntarily exclaimed in his delight.

Silvine cast an astonished look about her, as if wondering how it was that she, too, could feel the influence of the peaceful scene. Why should there be repose and happiness in that hidden nook, when surrounding it on every side were sorrow and affliction? She made a gesture of impatience.

“Quick, quick, let us be gone. Where is the spot? Where did you tell me you saw Honore?”

And when, at some fifty paces from there, they at last came out on the plateau of Illy, the level plain unrolled itself in its full extent before their vision. It was the real, the true battlefield that they beheld now, the bare fields stretching away to the horizon under the wan, cheerless sky, whence showers were streaming down continually. There were no piles of dead visible; all the Prussians must have been buried by this time, for there was not a single one to be seen among the corpses of the French that were scattered here and there, along the roads and in the fields, as the conflict had swayed in one direction or another. The first that they encountered was a sergeant, propped against a hedge, a superb man, in the bloom of his youthful vigor; his face was tranquil and a smile seemed to rest on his parted lips. A hundred paces further on, however, they beheld another, lying across the road, who had been mutilated most frightfully, his head almost entirely shot away, his shoulders covered with great splotches of brain matter. Then, as they advanced further into the field, after the single bodies, distributed here and there, they came across little groups; they saw seven men aligned in single rank, kneeling and with their muskets at the shoulder in the position of aim, who had been hit as they were about to fire, while close beside them a subaltern had also fallen as he was in the act of giving the word of command. After that the road led along the brink of a little ravine, and there they beheld a spectacle that aroused their horror to the highest pitch as they looked down into the chasm, into which an entire company seemed to have been blown by the fiery blast; it was choked with corpses, a landslide, an avalanche of maimed and mutilated men, bent and twisted in an inextricable tangle, who with convulsed fingers had caught at the yellow clay of the bank to save themselves in their descent, fruitlessly. And a dusky flock of ravens flew away, croaking noisily, and swarms of flies, thousands upon thousands of them, attracted by the odor of fresh blood, were buzzing over the bodies and returning incessantly.

“Where is the spot?” Silvine asked again.

They were then passing a plowed field that was completely covered with knapsacks. It was manifest that some regiment had been roughly handled there, and the men, in a moment of panic, had relieved themselves of their burdens. The debris of every sort with which the ground was thickly strewn served to explain the episodes of the conflict. There was a stubble field where the scattered kepis, resembling huge poppies, shreds of uniforms, epaulettes, and sword-belts told the story of one of those infrequent hand-to-hand contests in the fierce artillery duel that had lasted twelve hours. But the objects that were encountered most frequently, at every step, in fact, were abandoned weapons, sabers, bayonets, and, more particularly, chassepots; and so numerous were they that they seemed to have sprouted from the earth, a harvest that had matured in a single ill-omened day. Porringers and buckets, also, were scattered along the roads, together with the heterogeneous contents of knapsacks, rice, brushes, clothing, cartridges. The fields everywhere presented an uniform scene of devastation: fences destroyed, trees blighted as if they had been struck by lightning, the very soil itself torn by shells, compacted and hardened by the tramp of countless feet, and so maltreated that it seemed as if seasons must elapse before it could again become productive. Everything had been drenched and soaked by the rain of the preceding day; an odor arose and hung in the air persistently, that odor of the battlefield that smells like fermenting straw and burning cloth, a mixture of rottenness and gunpowder.

Silvine, who was beginning to weary of those fields of death over which she had tramped so many long miles, looked about her with increasing distrust and uneasiness.

“Where is the spot? where is it?”

But Prosper made no answer; he also was becoming uneasy. What distressed him even more than the sights of suffering among his fellow-soldiers was the dead horses, the poor brutes that lay outstretched upon their side, that were met with in great numbers. Many of them presented a most pitiful spectacle, in all sorts of harrowing attitudes, with heads torn from the body, with lacerated flanks from which the entrails protruded. Many were resting on their back, with their four feet elevated in the air like signals of distress. The entire extent of the broad plain was dotted with them. There were some that death had not released after their two days’ agony; at the faintest sound they would raise their head, turning it eagerly from right to left, then let it fall again upon the ground, while others lay motionless and momentarily gave utterance to that shrill scream which one who has heard it can never forget, the lament of the dying horse, so piercingly mournful that earth and heaven seemed to shudder in unison with it. And Prosper, with a bleeding heart, thought of poor Zephyr, and told himself that perhaps he might see him once again.

Suddenly he became aware that the ground was trembling under the thundering hoof-beats of a headlong charge. He turned to look, and had barely time to shout to his companion:

“The horses, the horses! Get behind that wall!”

From the summit of a neighboring eminence a hundred riderless horses, some of them still bearing the saddle and master’s kit, were plunging down upon them at break-neck speed. They were cavalry mounts that had lost their masters and remained on the battlefield, and instinct had counseled them to associate together in a band. They had had neither hay nor oats for two days, and had cropped the scanty grass from off the plain, shorn the hedge-rows of leaves and twigs, gnawed the bark from the trees, and when they felt the pangs of hunger pricking at their vitals like a keen spur, they started all together at a mad gallop and charged across the deserted, silent fields, crushing the dead out of all human shape, extinguishing the last spark of life in the wounded.

The band came on like a whirlwind; Silvine had only time to pull the donkey and cart to one side where they would be protected by the wall.

Mon Dieu! we shall be killed!”

But the horses had taken the obstacle in their stride and were already scouring away in the distance on the other side with a rumble like that of a receding thunder-storm; striking into a sunken road they pursued it as far as the corner of a little wood, behind which they were lost to sight.

Silvine, when she had brought the cart back into the road, insisted that Prosper should answer her question before they proceeded further.

“Come, where is it? You told me you could find the spot with your eyes bandaged; where is it? We have reached the ground.”

He, drawing himself up and anxiously scanning the horizon in every direction, seemed to become more and more perplexed.

“There were three trees, I must find those three trees in the first place. Ah, dame! see here, one’s sight is not of the clearest when he is fighting, and it is no such easy matter to remember afterward the roads one has passed over!”

Then perceiving people to his left, two men and a woman, it occurred to him to question them, but the woman ran away at his approach and the men repulsed him with threatening gestures; and he saw others of the same stripe, clad in sordid rags, unspeakably filthy, with the ill-favored faces of thieves and murderers, and they all shunned him, slinking away among the corpses like jackals or other unclean, creeping beasts. Then he noticed that wherever these villainous gentry passed the dead behind them were shoeless, their bare, white feet exposed, devoid of covering, and he saw how it was: they were the tramps and thugs who followed the German armies for the sake of plundering the dead, the detestable crew who followed in the wake of the invasion in order that they might reap their harvest from the field of blood. A tall, lean fellow arose in front of him and scurried away on a run, a sack slung across his shoulder, the watches and small coins, proceeds of his robberies, jingling in his pockets.

A boy about fourteen or fifteen years old, however, allowed Prosper to approach him, and when the latter, seeing him to be French, rated him soundly, the boy spoke up in his defense. What, was it wrong for a poor fellow to earn his living? He was collecting chassepots, and received five sous for every chassepot he brought in. He had run away from his village that morning, having eaten nothing since the day before, and engaged himself to a contractor from Luxembourg, who had an arrangement with the Prussians by virtue of which he was to gather the muskets from the field of battle, the Germans fearing that should the scattered arms be collected by the peasants of the frontier, they might be conveyed into Belgium and thence find their way back to France. And so it was that there was quite a flock of poor devils hunting for muskets and earning their five sous, rummaging among the herbage, like the women who may be seen in the meadows, bent nearly double, gathering dandelions.

“It’s a dirty business,” Prosper growled.

“What would you have! A chap must eat,” the boy replied. “I am not robbing anyone.”

Then, as he did not belong to that neighborhood and could not give the information that Prosper wanted, he pointed out a little farmhouse not far away where he had seen some people stirring.

Prosper thanked him and was moving away to rejoin Silvine when he caught sight of a chassepot, partially buried in a furrow. His first thought was to say nothing of his discovery; then he turned about suddenly and shouted, as if he could not help it:

“Hallo! here’s one; that will make five sous more for you.”

As they approached the farmhouse Silvine noticed other peasants engaged with spades and picks in digging long trenches; but these men were under the direct command of Prussian officers, who, with nothing more formidable than a light walking-stick in their hands, stood by, stiff and silent, and superintended the work. They had requisitioned the inhabitants of all the villages of the vicinity in this manner, fearing that decomposition might be hastened, owing to the rainy weather. Two cart-loads of dead bodies were standing near, and a gang of men was unloading them, laying the corpses side by side in close contiguity to one another, not searching them, not even looking at their faces, while two men followed after, equipped with great shovels, and covered the row with a layer of earth, so thin that the ground had already begun to crack beneath the showers. The work was so badly and hastily done that before two weeks should have elapsed each of those fissures would be breathing forth pestilence. Silvine could not resist the impulse to pause at the brink of the trench and look at those pitiful corpses as they were brought forward, one after another. She was possessed by a horrible fear that in each fresh body the men brought from the cart she might recognize Honore. Was not that he, that poor wretch whose left eye had been destroyed? No! Perhaps that one with the fractured jaw was he? The one thing certain to her mind was that if she did not make haste to find him, wherever he might be on that boundless, indeterminate plateau, they would pick him up and bury him in a common grave with the others. She therefore hurried to rejoin Prosper, who had gone on to the farmhouse with the cart.

Mon Dieu! how is it that you are not better informed? Where is the place? Ask the people, question them.”

There were none but Prussians at the farm, however, together with a woman servant and her child, just come in from the woods, where they had been near perishing of thirst and hunger. The scene was one of patriarchal simplicity and well-earned repose after the fatigues of the last few days. Some of the soldiers had hung their uniforms from a clothes-line and were giving them a thorough brushing, another was putting a patch on his trousers, with great neatness and dexterity, while the cook of the detachment had built a great fire in the middle of the courtyard on which the soup was boiling in a huge pot from which ascended a most appetizing odor of cabbage and bacon. There is no denying that the Prussians generally displayed great moderation toward the inhabitants of the country after the conquest, which was made the easier to them by the spirit of discipline that prevailed among the troops. These men might have been taken for peaceable citizens just come in from their daily avocations, smoking their long pipes. On a bench beside the door sat a stout, red-bearded man, who had taken up the servant’s child, a little urchin five or six years old, and was dandling it and talking baby-talk to it in German, delighted to see the little one laugh at the harsh syllables which it could not understand.

Prosper, fearing there might be more trouble in store for them, had turned his back on the soldiers immediately on entering, but those Prussians were really good fellows; they smiled at the little donkey, and did not even trouble themselves to ask for a sight of the pass.

Then ensued a wild, aimless scamper across the bosom of the great, sinister plain. The sun, now sinking rapidly toward the horizon, showed its face for a moment from between two clouds. Was night to descend and surprise them in the midst of that vast charnel-house? Another shower came down; the sun was obscured, the rain and mist formed an impenetrable barrier about them, so that the country around, roads, fields, trees, was shut out from their vision. Prosper knew not where they were; he was lost, and admitted it: his memory was all astray, he could recall nothing precise of the occurrences of that terrible day but one before. Behind them, his head lowered almost to the ground, the little donkey trotted along resignedly, dragging the cart, with his customary docility. First they took a northerly course, then they returned toward Sedan. They had lost their bearings and could not tell in which direction they were going; twice they noticed that they were passing localities that they had passed before and retraced their steps. They had doubtless been traveling in a circle, and there came a moment when in their exhaustion and despair they stopped at a place where three roads met, without courage to pursue their search further, the rain pelting down on them, lost and utterly miserable in the midst of a sea of mud.

But they heard the sound of groans, and hastening to a lonely little house on their left, found there, in one of the bedrooms, two wounded men. All the doors were standing open; the two unfortunates had succeeded in dragging themselves thus far and had thrown themselves on the beds, and for the two days that they had been alternately shivering and burning, their wounds having received no attention, they had seen no one, not a living soul. They were tortured by a consuming thirst, and the beating of the rain against the window-panes added to their torment, but they could not move hand or foot. Hence, when they heard Silvine approaching, the first word that escaped their lips was: “Drink! Give us to drink!” that longing, pathetic cry, with which the wounded always pursue the by-passer whenever the sound of footsteps arouses them from their lethargy. There were many cases similar to this, where men were overlooked in remote corners, whither they had fled for refuge. Some were picked up even five and six days later, when their sores were filled with maggots and their sufferings had rendered them delirious.

When Silvine had given the wretched men a drink Prosper, who, in the more sorely injured of the twain, had recognized a comrade of his regiment, a chasseur d’Afrique, saw that they could not be far from the ground over which Margueritte’s division had charged, inasmuch as the poor devil had been able to drag himself to that house. All the information he could get from him, however, was of the vaguest; yes, it was over that way; you turned to the left, after passing a big field of potatoes.

Immediately she was in possession of this slender clue Silvine insisted on starting out again. An inferior officer of the medical department chanced to pass with a cart just then, collecting the dead; she hailed him and notified him of the presence of the wounded men, then, throwing the donkey’s bridle across her arm, urged him along over the muddy road, eager to reach the designated spot, beyond the big potato field. When they had gone some distance she stopped, yielding to her despair.

“My God, where is the place! Where can it be?”

Prosper looked about him, taxing his recollection fruitlessly.

“I told you, it is close beside the place where we made our charge. If only I could find my poor Zephyr —”

And he cast a wistful look on the dead horses that lay around them. It had been his secret hope, his dearest wish, during the entire time they had been wandering over the plateau, to see his mount once more, to bid him a last farewell.

“It ought to be somewhere in this vicinity,” he suddenly said. “See! over there to the left, there are the three trees. You see the wheel-tracks? And, look, over yonder is a broken-down caisson. We have found the spot; we are here at last!”

Quivering with emotion, Silvine darted forward and eagerly scanned the faces of two corpses, two artillerymen who had fallen by the roadside.

“He is not here! He is not here! You cannot have seen aright. Yes, that is it; some delusion must have cheated your eyes.” And little by little an air-drawn hope, a wild delight crept into her mind. “If you were mistaken, if he should be alive! And be sure he is alive, since he is not here!”

Suddenly she gave utterance to a low, smothered cry. She had turned, and was standing on the very position that the battery had occupied. The scene was most frightful, the ground torn and fissured as by an earthquake and covered with wreckage of every description, the dead lying as they had fallen in every imaginable attitude of horror, arms bent and twisted, legs doubled under them, heads thrown back, the lips parted over the white teeth as if their last breath had been expended in shouting defiance to the foe. A corporal had died with his hands pressed convulsively to his eyes, unable longer to endure the dread spectacle. Some gold coins that a lieutenant carried in a belt about his body had been spilled at the same time as his life-blood, and lay scattered among his entrails. There were Adolphe, the driver, and the gunner, Louis, clasped in each other’s arms in a fierce embrace, their sightless orbs starting from their sockets, mated even in death. And there, at last, was Honore, recumbent on his disabled gun as on a bed of honor, with the great rent in his side that had let out his young life, his face, unmutilated and beautiful in its stern anger, still turned defiantly toward the Prussian batteries.

“Oh! my friend,” sobbed Silvine, “my friend, my friend —”

She had fallen to her knees on the damp, cold ground, her hands joined as if in prayer, in an outburst of frantic grief. The word friend, the only name by which it occurred to her to address him, told the story of the tender affection she had lost in that man, so good, so loving, who had forgiven her, had meant to make her his wife, despite the ugly past. And now all hope was dead within her bosom, there was nothing left to make life desirable. She had never loved another; she would put away her love for him at the bottom of her heart and hold it sacred there. The rain had ceased; a flock of crows that circled above the three trees, croaking dismally, affected her like a menace of evil. Was he to be taken from her again, her cherished dead, whom she had recovered with such difficulty? She dragged herself along upon her knees, and with a trembling hand brushed away the hungry flies that were buzzing about her friend’s wide-open eyes.

She caught sight of a bit of blood-stained paper between Honore’s stiffened fingers. It troubled her; she tried to gain possession of the paper, pulling at it gently, but the dead man would not surrender it, seemingly tightening his hold on it, guarding it so jealously that it could not have been taken from him without tearing it in bits. It was the letter she had written him, that he had always carried next his heart, and that he had taken from its hiding place in the moment of his supreme agony, as if to bid her a last farewell. It seemed so strange, was such a revelation, that he should have died thinking of her; when she saw what it was a profound delight filled her soul in the midst of her affliction. Yes, surely, she would leave it with him, the letter that was so dear to him! she would not take it from him, since he was so bent on carrying it with him to the grave. Her tears flowed afresh, but they were beneficent tears this time, and brought healing and comfort with them. She arose and kissed his hands, kissed him on the forehead, uttering meanwhile but that one word, which was in itself a prolonged caress:

“My friend! my friend —”

Meantime the sun was declining; Prosper had gone and taken the counterpane from the cart, and between them they raised Honore’s body, slowly, reverently, and laid it on the bed-covering, which they had stretched upon the ground; then, first wrapping him in its folds, they bore him to the cart. It was threatening to rain again, and they had started on their return, forming, with the donkey, a sorrowful little cortege on the broad bosom of the accursed plain, when a deep rumbling as of thunder was heard in the distance. Prosper turned his head and had only time to shout:

“The horses! the horses!”

It was the starving, abandoned cavalry mounts making another charge. They came up this time in a deep mass across a wide, smooth field, manes and tails streaming in the wind, froth flying from their nostrils, and the level rays of the fiery setting sun sent the shadow of the infuriated herd clean across the plateau. Silvine rushed forward and planted herself before the cart, raising her arms above her head as if her puny form might have power to check them. Fortunately the ground fell off just at that point, causing them to swerve to the left; otherwise they would have crushed donkey, cart, and all to powder. The earth trembled, and their hoofs sent a volley of clods and small stones flying through the air, one of which struck the donkey on the head and wounded him. The last that was seen of them they were tearing down a ravine.

“It’s hunger that starts them off like that,” said Prosper. “Poor beasts!”

Silvine, having bandaged the donkey’s ear with her handkerchief, took him again by the bridle, and the mournful little procession began to retrace its steps across the plateau, to cover the two leagues that lay between it and Remilly. Prosper had turned and cast a look on the dead horses, his heart heavy within him to leave the field without having seen Zephyr.

A little below the wood of la Garenne, as they were about to turn off to the left to take the road that they had traversed that morning, they encountered another German post and were again obliged to exhibit their pass. And the officer in command, instead of telling them to avoid Sedan, ordered them to keep straight on their course and pass through the city; otherwise they would be arrested. This was the most recent order; it was not for them to question it. Moreover, their journey would be shortened by a mile and a quarter, which they did not regret, weary and foot-sore as they were.

When they were within Sedan, however, they found their progress retarded owing to a singular cause. As soon as they had passed the fortifications their nostrils were saluted by such a stench, they were obliged to wade through such a mass of abominable filth, reaching almost to their knees, as fairly turned their stomachs. The city, where for three days a hundred thousand men had lived without the slightest provision being made for decency or cleanliness, had become a cesspool, a foul sewer, and this devil’s broth was thickened by all sorts of solid matter, rotting hay and straw, stable litter, and the excreta of animals. The carcasses of the horses, too, that were knocked on the head, skinned, and cut up in the public squares, in full view of everyone, had their full share in contaminating the atmosphere; the entrails lay decaying in the hot sunshine, the bones and heads were left lying on the pavement, where they attracted swarms of flies. Pestilence would surely break out in the city unless they made haste to rid themselves of all that carrion, of that stratum of impurity, which, in the Rue de Minil, the Rue Maqua, and even on the Place Turenne, reached a depth of twelve inches. The Prussian authorities had taken the matter up, and their placards were to be seen posted about the city, requisitioning the inhabitants, irrespective of rank, laborers, merchants, bourgeois, magistrates, for the morrow; they were ordered to assemble, armed with brooms and shovels, and apply themselves to the task, and were warned that they would be subjected to heavy penalties if the city was not clean by night. The President of the Tribunal had taken time by the forelock, and might even then be seen scraping away at the pavement before his door and loading the results of his labors upon a wheelbarrow with a fire-shovel.

Silvine and Prosper, who had selected the Grande Rue as their route for traversing the city, advanced but slowly through that lake of malodorous slime. In addition to that the place was in a state of ferment and agitation that made it necessary for them to pull up almost at every moment. It was the time that the Prussians had selected for searching the houses in order to unearth those soldiers, who, determined that they would not give themselves up, had hidden themselves away. When, at about two o’clock of the preceding day, General de Wimpffen had returned from the chateau of Bellevue after signing the capitulation, the report immediately began to circulate that the surrendered troops were to be held under guard in the peninsula of Iges until such time as arrangements could be perfected for sending them off to Germany. Some few officers had expressed their intention of taking advantage of that stipulation which accorded them their liberty conditionally on their signing an agreement not to serve again during the campaign. Only one general, so it was said, Bourgain-Desfeuilles, alleging his rheumatism as a reason, had bound himself by that pledge, and when, that very morning, his carriage had driven up to the door of the Hotel of the Golden Cross and he had taken his seat in it to leave the city, the people had hooted and hissed him unmercifully. The operation of disarming had been going on since break of day; the manner of its performance was, the troops defiled by battalions on the Place Turenne, where each man deposited his musket and bayonet on the pile, like a mountain of old iron, which kept rising higher and higher, in a corner of the place. There was a Prussian detachment there under the command of a young officer, a tall, pale youth, wearing a sky-blue tunic and a cap adorned with a cock’s feather, who superintended operations with a lofty but soldier-like air, his hands encased in white gloves. A zouave, in a fit of insubordination, having refused to give up his chassepot, the officer ordered that he be taken away, adding, in the same even tone of voice: “And let him be shot forthwith!” The rest of the battalion continued to defile with a sullen and dejected air, throwing down their arms mechanically, as if in haste to have the ceremony ended. But who could estimate the number of those who had disarmed themselves voluntarily, those whose muskets lay scattered over the country, out yonder on the field of battle? And how many, too, within the last twenty-four hours had concealed themselves, flattering themselves with the hope that they might escape in the confusion that reigned everywhere! There was scarcely a house but had its crew of those headstrong idiots who refused to respond when called on, hiding away in corners and shamming death; the German patrols that were sent through the city even discovered them stowed away under beds. And as many, even after they were unearthed, stubbornly persisted in remaining in the cellars whither they had fled for shelter, the patrols were obliged to fire on them through the coal-holes. It was a man-hunt, a brutal and cruel battue, during which the city resounded with rifle-shots and outlandish oaths.

At the Pont du Meuse they found a throng which the donkey was unable to penetrate and were brought to a stand-still. The officer commanding the guard at the bridge, suspecting they were endeavoring to carry on an illicit traffic in bread or meat, insisted on seeing with his own eyes what was contained in the cart; drawing aside the covering, he gazed for an instant on the corpse with a feeling expression, then motioned them to go their way. Still, however, they were unable to get forward, the crowd momentarily grew denser and denser; one of the first detachments of French prisoners was being conducted to the peninsula of Iges under escort of a Prussian guard. The sorry band streamed on in long array, the men in their tattered, dirty uniforms crowding one another, treading on one another’s heels, with bowed heads and sidelong, hang-dog looks, the dejected gait and bearing of the vanquished to whom had been left not even so much as a knife with which to cut their throat. The harsh, curt orders of the guard urging them forward resounded like the cracking of a whip in the silence, which was unbroken save for the plashing of their coarse shoes through the semi-liquid mud. Another shower began to fall, and there could be no more sorrowful sight than that band of disheartened soldiers, shuffling along through the rain, like beggars and vagabonds on the public highway.

All at once Prosper, whose heart was beating as if it would burst his bosom with repressed sorrow and indignation, nudged Silvine and called her attention to two soldiers who were passing at the moment. He had recognized Maurice and Jean, trudging along with their companions, like brothers, side by side. They were near the end of the line, and as there was now no impediment in their way, he was enabled to keep them in view as far as the Faubourg of Torcy, as they traversed the level road which leads to Iges between gardens and truck farms.

“Ah!” murmured Silvine, distressed by what she had just seen, fixing her eyes on Honore’s body, “it may be that the dead have the better part!”

Night descended while they were at Wadelincourt, and it was pitchy dark long before they reached Remilly. Father Fouchard was greatly surprised to behold the body of his son, for he had felt certain that it would never be recovered. He had been attending to business during the day, and had completed an excellent bargain; the market price for officers’ chargers was twenty francs, and he had bought three for forty-five francs.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/z/zola/emile/downfall/part3.1.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 15:06