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He regretted that he had not brought his geologist's hammer
and botanical wallet with him. His pockets were now so full of stones
that they were almost bursting, while bundles of long herbs peered forth
from the surgeon's case which he carried under his arm.

"Hallo! You here, my lad?" he cried, as he perceived Silvere. "I thought
I was the only member of the family here."

He spoke these last words with a touch of irony, as if deriding the
intrigues of his father and his uncle Antoine. Silvere was very glad
to meet his cousin; the doctor was the only one of the Rougons who
ever shook hands with him in the street, and showed him any sincere
friendship. Seeing him, therefore, still covered with dust from the
march, the young man thought him gained over to the Republican cause,
and was much delighted thereat. He talked to the doctor, with youthful
magniloquence, of the people's rights, their holy cause, and their
certain triumph. Pascal smiled as he listened, and watched the youth's
gestures and the ardent play of his features with curiosity, as though
he were studying a patient, or analysing an enthusiasm, to ascertain
what might be at the bottom of it.

"How you run on! How you run on!" he finally exclaimed. "Ah! you are
your grandmother's true grandson." And, in a whisper, he added, like
some chemist taking notes: "Hysteria or enthusiasm, shameful madness
or sublime madness. It's always those terrible nerves!" Then, again
speaking aloud, as if summing up the matter, he said: "The family is
complete now. It will count a hero among its members."

Silvere did not hear him. He was still talking of his dear Republic.
Miette had dropped a few paces off; she was still wrapped in her large
red pelisse. She and Silvere had traversed the town arm-in-arm.
The sight of this tall red girl at last puzzled Pascal, and again
interrupting his cousin, he asked him: "Who is this child with you?"

"She is my wife," Silvere gravely answered.

The doctor opened his eyes wide, for he did not understand. He was very
shy with women; however, he raised his hat to Miette as he went away.

The night proved an anxious one. Forebodings of misfortune swept over
the insurgents. The enthusiasm and confidence of the previous evening
seemed to die away in the darkness. In the morning there were gloomy
faces; sad looks were exchanged, followed by discouraging silence.
Terrifying rumours were now circulating. Bad news, which the leaders
had managed to conceal the previous evening, had spread abroad, though
nobody in particular was known to have spoken. It was the work of
that invisible voice, which, with a word, throws a mob into a panic.
According to some reports Paris was subdued, and the provinces had
offered their hands and feet, eager to be bound. And it was added that
a large party of troops, which had left Marseilles under the command of
Colonel Masson and Monsieur de Bleriot, the prefect of the department,
was advancing by forced marches to disperse the insurrectionary bands.
This news came like a thunderbolt, at once awakening rage and despair.
These men, who on the previous evening had been all aglow with patriotic
fever, now shivered with cold, chilled to their hearts by the shameful
submissiveness of prostrate France. They alone, then, had had the
courage to do their duty! And now they were to be left to perish amidst
the general panic, the death-like silence of the country; they had
become mere rebels, who would be hunted down like wild beasts; they,
who had dreamed of a great war, of a whole nation in revolt, and of
the glorious conquest of the people's rights! Miserably baffled and
betrayed, this handful of men could but weep for their dead faith and
their vanished dreams of justice. There were some who, while taunting
France with her cowardice, flung away their arms, and sat down by the
roadside, declaring that they would there await the bullets of the
troops, and show how Republicans could die.

Although these men had nothing now but death or exile before them,
there were very few desertions from their ranks. A splendid feeling of
solidarity kept them together. Their indignation turned chiefly against
their leaders, who had really proved incapable. Irreparable mistakes
had been committed; and now the insurgents, without order or discipline,
barely protected by a few sentries, and under the command of irresolute
men, found themselves at the mercy of the first soldiers that might
arrive.

They spent two more days at Orcheres, Tuesday and Wednesday, thus losing
time and aggravating the situation. The general, the man with the sabre,
whom Silvere had pointed out to Miette on the Plassans road, vacillated
and hesitated under the terrible responsibility that weighed upon him.
On Thursday he came to the conclusion that the position of Orcheres
was a decidedly dangerous one; so towards one o'clock he gave orders to
march, and led his little army to the heights of Sainte-Roure. That was,
indeed, an impregnable position for any one who knew how to defend it.
The houses of Sainte-Roure rise in tiers along a hill-side; behind the
town all approach is shut off by enormous rocks, so that this kind of
citadel can only be reached by the Nores plain, which spreads out at the
foot of the plateau. An esplanade, converted into a public walk planted
with magnificent elms, overlooks the plain. It was on this esplanade
that the insurgents encamped. The hostages were imprisoned in the Hotel
de la Mule-Blanche, standing half-way along the promenade. The night
passed away heavy and black. The insurgents spoke of treachery. As soon
as it was morning, however, the man with the sabre, who had neglected to
take the simplest precautions, reviewed the troops. The contingents were
drawn up in line with their backs turned to the plain. They presented
a wonderful medley of costume, some wearing brown jackets, others
dark greatcoats, and others again blue blouses girded with red sashes.
Moreover, their arms were an equally odd collection: there were newly
sharpened scythes, large navvies' spades, and fowling-pieces with
burnished barrels glittering in the sunshine. And at the very moment
when the improvised general was riding past the little army, a sentry,
who had been forgotten in an olive-plantation, ran up gesticulating and
shouting:

"The soldiers! The soldiers!"

There was indescribable emotion. At first, they thought it a false
alarm. Forgetting all discipline, they rushed forward to the end of the
esplanade in order to see the soldiers. The ranks were broken, and as
the dark line of troops appeared, marching in perfect order with a long
glitter of bayonets, on the other side of the greyish curtain of olive
trees, there came a hasty and disorderly retreat, which sent a quiver of
panic to the other end of the plateau. Nevertheless, the contingents
of La Palud and Saint-Martin-de-Vaulx had again formed in line in
the middle of the promenade, and stood there erect and fierce. A
wood-cutter, who was a head taller than any of his companions, shouted,
as he waved his red neckerchief: "To arms, Chavanoz, Graille, Poujols,
Saint-Eutrope! To arms, Les Tulettes! To arms, Plassans!"

Crowds streamed across the esplanade. The man with the sabre, surrounded
by the folks from Faverolles, marched off with several of the country
contingents--Vernoux, Corbiere, Marsanne, and Pruinas--to outflank the
enemy and then attack him. Other contingents, from Valqueyras, Nazere,
Castel-le-Vieux, Les Roches-Noires, and Murdaran, dashed to the left,
scattering themselves in skirmishing parties over the Nores plain.

And meantime the men of the towns and villages that the wood-cutter had
called to his aid mustered together under the elms, there forming a dark
irregular mass, grouped without regard to any of the rules of strategy,
simply placed there like a rock, as it were, to bar the way or die. The
men of Plassans stood in the middle of this heroic battalion. Amid the
grey hues of the blouses and jackets, and the bluish glitter of the
weapons, the pelisse worn by Miette, who was holding the banner with
both hands, looked like a large red splotch--a fresh and bleeding wound.

All at once perfect silence fell. Monsieur Peirotte's pale face appeared
at a window of the Hotel de la Mule-Blanche. And he began to speak,
gesticulating with his hands.

"Go in, close the shutters," the insurgents furiously shouted; "you'll
get yourself killed."

Thereupon the shutters were quickly closed, and nothing was heard save
the regular, rhythmical tramp of the soldiers who were drawing near.

A minute, that seemed an age, went by. The troops had disappeared,
hidden by an undulation of the ground; but over yonder, on the side of
the Nores plain, the insurgents soon perceived the bayonets shooting
up, one after another, like a field of steel-eared corn under the rising
sun. At that moment Silvere, who was glowing with feverish agitation,
fancied he could see the gendarme whose blood had stained his hands. He
knew, from the accounts of his companions, that Rengade was not dead,
that he had only lost an eye; and he clearly distinguished the unlucky
man with his empty socket bleeding horribly. The keen recollection of
this gendarme, to whom he had not given a thought since his departure
from Plassans, proved unbearable. He was afraid that fear might get the
better of him, and he tightened his hold on his carbine, while a mist
gathered before his eyes. He felt a longing to discharge his gun
and fire at the phantom of that one-eyed man so as to drive it away.
Meantime the bayonets were still and ever slowly ascending.

When the heads of the soldiers appeared on a level with the esplanade,
Silvere instinctively turned to Miette. She stood there with flushed
face, looking taller than ever amidst the folds of the red banner; she
was indeed standing on tiptoes in order to see the troops, and nervous
expectation made her nostrils quiver and her red lips part so as to
show her white, eager, gleaming teeth. Silvere smiled at her. But he had
scarcely turned his head when a fusillade burst out.



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Keywords: general, doctor, bayonets, appeared, silence, contingents, previous, proved, enthusiasm, evening
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