Ninety-three/3.3.2

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
Ninety-three by Victor Hugo
The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew (II).

CHAPTER II.

Suddenly, there was heard from without and below, on the side of the forest, the blast of a trumpet, a sort of flourish, haughty and stern. To this trumpet blast, the sound of a horn replied from the top of the tower.

This time it was the trumpet which called, and the horn which gave answer.

There was a second trumpet call, followed by a second sounding of the horn.

Then from the edge of the forest rose a distant but clear voice, which cried distinctly these words,—

"Brigands! a summons! If at sunset, you have not surrendered at discretion, we attack you."

A voice roared out in reply from the platform of the tower,—

"Attack us, then."

The voice below added,—

"A cannon will be fired, as a last warning, half an hour before the assault."

And the voice from above repeated,—

"Attack us."

These voices did not reach the children's ears, but the trumpet and the horn sounded higher and farther, and Georgette at the first blast of the trumpet raised her head and stopped eating; at the sound of the horn, she put her spoon in her porringer; at the second trumpet blast, she lifted the little forefinger of her right hand, and letting it fall and raising it again alternately, marked the cadences of the flourish which prolonged the second blowing of the horn; when the horn and the trumpet were silent, she remained thoughtful, her finger in the air, and murmured half aloud, "Misic."

We think that she meant "music."

The two oldest, René-Jean and Gros-Alain, had paid no attention to the horn and the trumpet; they were absorbed by something else; a woodlouse was crossing the library.

Gros-Alain noticed it and exclaimed,—

"There's a bug."

René-Jean ran to look at it.

Gros-Alain added,—

"It stings."

"Don't hurt it," said René-Jean.

And both began to watch it moving along.

In the meantime, Georgette finished her soup; she looked at her brothers. René-Jean and Gros-Alain were in the embrasure of a window, bending intently over the woodlouse; their foreheads touched, and their hair mingled; they were holding their breath in wonder, and examining the insect which had stopped and did not move, little pleased with so much admiration.

Georgette, seeing that her brothers were looking at something, wanted to know what it was. It was not an easy matter for her to reach them, but she undertook it; the journey bristled with difficulties; there were things on the floor; overthrown stools, piles of old papers, packing cases, unnailed and empty, chests, heaps of all sorts of things, around which she had to make her way, a perfect archipelago of reefs; Georgette ventured.

She began by getting out of her basket, the first difficulty; then she penetrated the reefs, meandered through the straits, pushed aside a stool, crawled between two trunks, went over a heap of papers, climbing up one side, rolling down the other, sweetly exposing her poor little bare body, and thus reached what a sailor would call the open sea, that is to say quite a wide space of unobstructed floor, where there were no more dangers; then she started forward, crossed this space, which was the whole width of the hall, on all fours, with the agility of a cat, and reached the window; here there was a formidable obstacle; the great ladder lying against the wall just reached to this window, and the end of it passed a little beyond the embrasure; this made a sort of cape to double between Georgette and her brothers; she stopped to meditate; having finished her interior monologue, she made up her mind; she resolutely grasped with her rosy fingers one of the rounds, which were vertical and not horizontal, as the ladder lay on one side; she tried to raise herself on her feet and fell back; she tried again twice, and failed; the third time she succeeded; then standing up straight, supporting herself with the rungs one after another, she began to walk along the ladder; when she reached the end, her support failed; she tumbled over, but seizing in her little hands the end of one of the side pieces, which was enormous, she pulled herself up again, rounded the promontory, looked at René-Jean and Gros-Alain and laughed.