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- Mademoiselle Fifi - 4/13 -
choked with rage: "That, that is not true! you shall never have the women of France!"
He sat down to laugh at his ease and tried to imitate the Parisian accent: "That is a good one! that is a good one! And what are you doing here, you little one?"
Confused, at first, she did not answer, as she did not, in her excitement, understand fully what he said; then, as soon as the meaning of it dawned on her mind, she shouted at him indignantly and vehemently: "I, I, I am not a woman! I am a prostitute! and that is all a Prussian deserves!"
Hardly had she finished, that he slapped her face violently; but, as he was raising his hand again, maddened with rage she caught on the table a small silver-bladed dessert knife, and so quickly that nobody noticed it, she stabbed him right in the neck, just at the hollow where the breast begins.
A word, that he was about to mutter, was cut short in his throat, and he remained stiff, with his mouth open and a frightful look.
All shouted and got up tumultuously; but having thrown her chair in the legs of Lieutenant Otto, who collapsed and fell down at full length, she ran to the window, opened it before they could catch her, and jumped out in the night, under the rain that was still falling.
In two minutes Mademoiselle Fifi was dead. Then Fritz and Otto drew their swords and wanted to massacre the women, who threw themselves to their knees; the Major, not without difficulty, prevented the butchery and had the four bewildered girls locked up in a room and guarded by two soldiers; and then, as if he were disposing his men for battle, he organized the search for the fugitive[*], quite certain that he would catch her.
[*][Note from Brett: The original uses "fugutive," but, again, I think this is a typographical error as there is no such word.]
Fifty men, whipped by threats, were launched on her trail in the park; two hundred others searched the woods and all the houses of the Valley.
The table, cleared in an instant, was turned into a mortuary bed, and the four officers, straight, rigid and sobered up, with the harsh faces of warriors on duty stood near the windows, searching and scanning the night.
The torrential rain was continuing. An incessant rippling filled the darkness, a floating murmur of water that falls and water that runs, water that drops and water that gushes forth.
Suddenly a rifle shot was heard; then another far away; and thus for four hours one heard from time to time, near or distant reports of firing and rallying cries, strange words shouted like a call by guttural voices.
At daybreak everybody returned. Two soldiers had been killed and three others wounded by their comrades in the eagerness of the chase and the confusion of the nocturnal pursuit.
They had not been able to find Rachel.
Then the inhabitants were terrorized, the houses searched most carefully, the whole region combed, beaten, scoured. The Jewess did not seem to have left any trace of her passage.
The General, who had been notified, ordered to hush the matter up so as not to give a bad example in the Army, and he disciplined the Commander who, in turn, punished his subordinates. The General had said: "We do not go to war to indulge in orgies and caress prostitutes." And exasperated Graf Farlsberg resolved to take revenge on the country.
As he needed a pretext to take drastic measures without constraint, he summoned the Priest and ordered him to ring the Church bell at the burial of Markgraf von Eyrik.
Contrary to general expectation, the priest showed himself docile, humble, full of attention. And when the body of Mademoiselle Fifi, carried by soldiers, preceded, surrounded and followed by soldiers, who marched with loaded rifles, left the Chateau d'Urville, on the way to the cemetery, for the first time the bell sounded the knell in a gay tone, as if a friendly hand had been fondling it.
It rang also in the evening, and the next day and every day; it chimed as much as they wanted. Sometimes also, in the dead of night, it would ring all alone and throw two or three notes in the darkness, seized by a singular mirth, awakened one knew not why. All the peasants in the neighborhood then thought that the bell had been bewitched; and no one except the Priest and the Sexton came near the bell-tower.
A poor girl was living up there, in fear and solitude, secretly fed by those two men.
She remained there until the German troops departed. Then, one evening, the Priest having borrowed the baker's cart, drove himself and the prisoner as far as the Gate of Rouen. When they reached the Gate, the Priest kissed her; she got off the cart and quickly went back to the disreputable house, the keeper of which had thought that she was dead.
She was taken out of the house of prostitution shortly afterwards by a patriot without prejudice, who loved her for her brave act, and then, having loved her for herself, married her and made of her a lady as good as many others.
Boule de Suif
For several days in succession the remnants of a routed army had been passing through the City. They were not troops, but disorganized hordes. The men had long, dirty beards and tattered uniforms; they walked with a listless gait, without flag nor formation. All seemed exhausted, worn out, incapable of thought or resolve, marching only by force of habit and dropping with fatigue as soon as they stopped. One saw for the most part hastily mobilized men, peaceful business men and rentiers, bending under the weight of their rifles; young snappy volunteers, easily scared, but full of enthusiasm, ready to attack as well as to retreat; then, among them, a few red trousers, fragments of a division decimated in a great battle; despondent artillery men aligned with these non-descript infantrymen; and there and there the shining helmet of a heavy footed dragon who had difficulty in keeping step with the quicker pace of the soldiers of the line.
Legions of francs-tireurs with heroic names: "Avengers of Defeat"--"Citizens of the Tombs"--"Brothers in Death"--passed in their turn looking like bandits.
Their leaders, former drapers or grain merchants, tallow or soap dealers, warriors for the circumstance, who had been commissioned officers on account of their money or the length of their mustaches; covered with arms, flannel and stripes, they were talking in a high-sounding voice, discussing plans of campaign, and claiming that they alone supported on their shoulders agonizing France; as a matter of fact, these braggarts were afraid of their own men, scoundrels often brave to excess, but always ready for pillage and debauch.
It was rumored that the Prussians were going to enter Rouen.
The National Guard who, for the past two months, had been very carefully reconnoitering in the neighboring woods, at times shooting their own sentries and getting ready to fight when a little rabbit rustled in the bushes, had been mustered out and returned to their homes. Their arms, uniforms, all their deadly apparel, with which they had recently frightened the milestones along the national highways for three leagues around, had suddenly disappeared.
The last of the French soldiers had just crossed the Seine to go to Pont-Andemer by Saint Sever and Bourg-Achard; and following them all, their general, desperate, unable to attempt anything with such non-descript wrecks, himself dismayed in the crushing debacle of a people accustomed to conquer and now disastrously defeated despite their legendary bravery, was walking between two orderlies.
Then a profound calm, a trembling and silent expectancy hovered over the City. Many corpulent well to do citizens, emasculated by the business life they had led, were anxiously waiting for the victors, fearing lest they might consider as weapons their roasting spits or their large kitchen knives.
Life seemed to be at a standstill; the shops were closed and the streets silent and deserted. Sometimes a citizen, intimidated by this silence, ran rapidly along the walls.
The anguish of suspense made the citizens desire the arrival of the enemy.
In the afternoon of the day that followed the departure of the French troops, a few Uhlans, coming from no one knew where, crossed the City in a hurry. Then, a little later, a black mass came down the Ste. Catherine Hill, while two other invading waves appeared on the Darnetal and Boisguillame roads. The vanguards of the three corps made their junction at precisely the same time in the Hotel de Ville Square; and, by all the neighboring roads, the German Army was arriving, rolling its battalions that made the pavements ring under their heavy and well measured steps.
Orders shouted in an unknown and guttural voice, rose along the houses which seemed dead and deserted, while behind the closed shutters, eyes watched these victorious men, masters of the City, of property and life by the right of war. The inhabitants, in their darkened rooms, felt the bewilderment caused by cataclysms, the great bloody upheavals of the earth against which all human wisdom and force are of no avail. For the same feeling reappears whenever the established order of things is upset, when security ceases to exist, when all that is protected by the laws of men or those of protected nature, is at the mercy of unreasoning and ferocious brutality. The earthquake crushing a whole nation under crumbling houses; the overflowing river swirling the bodies of drowned peasants along with the dead oxen and the beams torn away
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