Page:Stories by Foreign Authors (French II).djvu/52

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47
THE ATTACK ON THE MILL.

and pressed them in his, as if to take her under his protection. The captain smiled again, but added not a word. He remained sitting, his sword between his legs, his eyes looking at vacancy, as if in a dream.

It was already two o'clock. It was growing very hot. There was a dead silence. In the courtyard, under the sheds, the soldiers had fallen to eating their soup. Not a sound came from the village, in which the people had barricaded their houses, doors, and windows. A dog, left alone in the road, was howling. From the neighboring woods and meadows, motionless in the heat, came a far-off voice, long sustained, made up of every separate breath of air. A cuckoo was singing. Then the silence spread itself over the country also.

And, in this slumbering air, a shot suddenly burst forth. The captain sprang up quickly, the soldiers dropped their plates of soup, still half full. In a few seconds, every man was at his post for the fight; the mill was occupied from top to bottom. Yet the captain, who had gone out upon the road, could make out nothing; to the right and left, the road stretched out, empty and all white. A second shot was heard, and still nothing, not a shadow; but, on turning round, he espied, over towards Gagny, between two trees, a light cloudlet of smoke wafted away like gossamer. The wood was still profoundly quiet.