Page:Ninety-three.djvu/21

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17
NINETY-THREE.

The oldest of the children, seeming to understand, said: "I'm hungry."

The sergeant took a piece of soldier's bread out of his pocket and handed it to the mother. The mother broke the bread in two pieces, and gave them to the children. The little ones eagerly devoured it.

"She hasn't kept any for herself," muttered the sergeant.

"It is because she isn't hungry," said a soldier.

"It's because she is their mother," said the sergeant. The children interrupted them.

"I want a drink," said one.

"I want a drink," repeated the other.

"Is there no brook in these devilish woods?" said the sergeant.

The vivandière took the copper cup hanging from her belt beside her bell, turned the spigot of the keg which hung from her shoulder by a strap, let a few drops run into the cup, and held it to the children's lips.

The first drank and made up a face.

The second one drank and spit it out.

"Why, it's good," said the vivandière.

"Is it Coupe-Figure?" asked the sergeant.

"Yes, and of the best. But they are peasants."

And she wiped the cup.

The sergeant continued,—

"And you are making your escape in this way?"

"I am obliged to."

"Across the country in a bee line."

"I ran with all my might, and then I walked, and then I fell down."

"Poor creature!" said the vivandière.

"People are fighting everywhere," stammered the woman. "I am surrounded on all sides with gunshot. I don't know what it all means. They have killed my husband. I only understand that."

The sergeant thumped the ground with the butt of his musket, and exclaimed,—

"In the name of a jackass, what a beastly war this is!"

The woman continued: "Last night we slept in an émousse."

"All four of you?"