Page:Yule Logs.djvu/278

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262
THE KING OF SPAIN'S WILL

galloped swiftly towards it—a house from the upper windows of which we could observe the faces of people looking. The upper windows, because all the lower part was in flames, and because they who were inside had all retreated up and up and up. Only, what could that avail them! Soon the house, the top floor—there were two above the ground—must fall in and—then! Yes—then!

We reached that burning auberge—'twas terrible, ghastly, to see the flames bursting forth from it in the broad daylight and looking white in the glare of the warm southern sun, although 'twas winter—reached it, wondering what we could do to save those who were perishing; to save the screaming mother with her babe clasped to her breast, the white-faced man who called on God through the open window he was at to spare him and his, or, if not him, then his wife and child.

What could we do—what? Bid them leap down to us, fling themselves upon us—yes, at least we might do that. One thing at least we could undoubtedly do—bid them throw down the babe into our arms. And this was done. The troopers sat close upon their horses, their arms extended; a moment later the little thing was safe in the great strong arms of the men, and being caressed and folded to the breast of our great brawny sergeant. Then, even as I witnessed this, even, too, as I (dismounted now) hurried round with some mousquetaires to discover if, in God's mercy, there was any ladder behind in the outhouse or garden whereby the upper part might be reached, I myself almost screamed with horror; for, at that moment, on to the roof there had sprung a woman shrieking; a woman down whose back fell coils of long black hair; a woman, handsome, beautiful, even in her agony and fear; a woman who was the girl called Damaris.

"Damaris!" I called out, "Damaris!" for by that