Page:Ninety-three.djvu/73

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69
NINETY-THREE.

He could see the roofs of eleven towns and villages; he could make, out several leagues away, the steeples along the coast, which are very high, in order to serve as landmarks to people at sea.

After a few moments, the old man seemed to have found in the dim twilight what he was looking for; his eyes fastened on an enclosure of trees, walls, and roofs, which could just be seen half-way between the plain and the wood; this was a farm; he nodded his head with satisfaction as though saying to himself: "There it is," and he began to trace with his finger in the air a way through the hedges and fields. Now and then he examined a rather indistinct and shapeless object, moving above the principal roof of the farm, and he seemed to ask: "What is it?" It was colorless and confused because of the gloom; it was not a weathercock, because it fluttered, and there was no reason why it should be a flag.

He was weary: he was willing to rest on this spot where he was sitting, and he gave himself up to that sort of vague forgetfulness, which the first moment of repose brings to a tired man. There is an hour of the day which might be called noiseless, it is the quiet twilight hour. It was that hour now. He was enjoying it; he was looking about; he was listening; to what? tranquillity. Even the cruel have their sad moments. Suddenly this tranquillity was not disturbed, but made more intense, by passing voices; they were the voices of women and children. There are sometimes such unexpected chimes of joy in the darkness. The group from which the voices came could not be seen on account of the thickets, but it was walking along at the foot of the dune, going toward the plain and the forest. These voices came up clear and fresh to the old man lost in thought; they were so near that he caught all they said.

A woman's voice said,—

"We must hurry along, Flécharde. Is this the way?"

"No, it is this way."

And the dialogue continued between the two voices, one loud, the other timid.

"What do you call this farm where we are living now?"

"L'Herbe-en-Pail."

"Are we far from it?"