Page:Ninety-three.djvu/312

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308
NINETY-THREE.

The marquis remained motionless. He was one of those men who tried to have no feelings; but he could not restrain the emotion of breathing free air after having breathed so much blood and carnage. To feel himself perfectly safe after having been completely lost; after seeing the tomb so near, to take possession of absolute security; to escape from death and come back to life, all this, even for a man like Lantenac, was a shock; and although he had passed through similar experience before, he could not restrain his imperturbable soul from violent emotion for some minutes. He acknowledged to himself, that he was happy. He quickly subdued this feeling which almost resembled joy.

He took out his watch and made it strike. What time was it?

To his great astonishment, it was only ten o'clock.

When one has gone through one of these sudden changes of fortune in human life, when everything has been questioned, one is always amazed to find that minutes so full are no longer than others.

The warning cannon had been fired a little before sunset, and La Tourgue had been approached by the attacking column a half-hour later, between seven and eight o'clock just at nightfall. So, this colossal struggle, begun at eight o'clock, was over at ten. This whole epopée had lasted one hundred and twenty minutes. Sometimes the rapidity of lightning is mingled with catastrophes. Events are so surprisingly short.

If we stop to reflect, it is the contrary which is really astonishing; a resistance of two hours with so small a number against a number so large was extraordinary, and surely it was not short or soon over, this battle of nineteen against four thousand.

But it was time to be on his way. Halmalo must be far distant, and the marquis decided that there was no need of staying there any longer. He put his watch back into his vest, not into the same pocket, for he had just noticed that it was in contact with the key of the iron door, which l'Imânus had brought to him, and that the crystal of his watch was liable to be broken against this key, and he prepared to reach the forest in his turn. As he was about to turn to the left, it seemed to him as if he saw a dim light.