Page:Ninety-three.djvu/319

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
315
NINETY-THREE.

The flames danced; the joyfulness of flames is a doleful thing. It seemed as if some malicious breath were fanning the fire in this funereal pile. It might have been thought that the grim l'Imânus was wholly there, changed to a whirlwind of sparks, living in the murderous life of the conflagration, and as if this monster of a soul had turned to fire.

The story where the library was had not yet been reached, the height of its ceiling, and the thickness of its walls retarded the time when it would take fire, but the fatal moment was drawing near; the fire in the first story licked it, and the flames in the third story caressed it. The awful kiss of death touched it. Below, a cellar of lava, above, an arch of embers; if a hole should break through the ceiling, the children would be buried in the live coals. René-Jean, Gros-Alain, and Georgette were not yet awake, they were sleeping the deep, quiet sleep of childhood; and through the folds of flame and smoke, which alternately covered and disclosed the windows, they could be seen in this grotto of fire, behind this meteoric blaze, peaceful, graceful, motionless, like three confiding child Jesuses, asleep in a hell; and a tiger would have wept to see these roses in this furnace and these cradles in this tomb.

Meanwhile, the mother was wringing her hands.

"Fire! fire! I say. Are they all deaf that they do not come? They are burning my children! Come, you men over yonder. I have walked days and days, and and this is how I find them. Fire! help the angels! Indeed they are angels! What have those innocent little creatures done? the men shot me, and now they are burning them! Who does such things? Help! save my children! Don't you hear me? One would take pity on a dog! My children! they are asleep! Ah! Georgette! I see her dear little stomach! René-Jean! Gros-Alain! Those are their names. You see that I am their mother. It is abominable that such a thing as this should happen. I have walked days and nights, as I told a woman this morning. Help! help! fire! You are monsters! It is horrible! the oldest is not five years old, the little one less than two. I see their little bare legs. They are asleep, good, holy Virgin! the hand of Heaven gave them to me. and the hand of hell is taking them from me. And