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Gradually, however, they became more
pronounced, and rose at last like the tramping of an army on the march.
Then amidst the continuous growing rumble one detected the shouts of a
crowd, strange rhythmical blasts as of a hurricane. One could even have
fancied they were the thunderclaps of a rapidly approaching storm which
was already disturbing the slumbering atmosphere. Silvere listened
attentively, unable to tell, however, what were those tempest-like
shouts, for the hills prevented them from reaching him distinctly.
Suddenly a dark mass appeared at the turn of the road, and then the
"Marseillaise" burst forth, formidable, sung as with avenging fury.

"Ah, here they are!" cried Silvere, with a burst of joyous enthusiasm.

Forthwith he began to run up the hill, dragging Miette with him. On the
left of the road was an embankment planted with evergreen oaks, up which
he clambered with the young girl, to avoid being carried away by the
surging, howling multitude.

When he had reached the top of the bank and the shadow of the brushwood,
Miette, rather pale, gazed sorrowfully at those men whose distant song
had sufficed to draw Silvere from her embrace. It seemed as if the
whole band had thrust itself between them. They had been so happy a few
minutes before, locked in each other's arms, alone and lost amidst the
overwhelming silence and discreet glimmer of the moon! And now Silvere,
whose head was turned away from her, who no longer seemed even conscious
of her presence, had eyes only for those strangers whom he called his
brothers.

The band descended the slope with a superb, irresistible stride. There
could have been nothing grander than the irruption of those few thousand
men into that cold, still, deathly scene. The highway became a torrent,
rolling with living waves which seemed inexhaustible. At the bend in the
road fresh masses ever appeared, whose songs ever helped to swell the
roar of this human tempest. When the last battalions came in sight the
uproar was deafening. The "Marseillaise" filled the atmosphere as
if blown through enormous trumpets by giant mouths, which cast it,
vibrating with a brazen clang, into every corner of the valley. The
slumbering country-side awoke with a start--quivering like a beaten drum
resonant to its very entrails, and repeating with each and every echo
the passionate notes of the national song. And then the singing was
no longer confined to the men. From the very horizon, from the distant
rocks, the ploughed land, the meadows, the copses, the smallest bits
of brushwood, human voices seemed to come. The great amphitheatre,
extending from the river to Plassans, the gigantic cascade over which
the bluish moonlight flowed, was as if filled with innumerable invisible
people cheering the insurgents; and in the depths of the Viorne, along
the waters streaked with mysterious metallic reflections, there was not
a dark nook but seemed to conceal human beings, who took up each refrain
with yet greater passion. With air and earth alike quivering, the whole
country-side cried for vengeance and liberty. So long as the little army
was descending the slope, the roar of the populace thus rolled on in
sonorous waves broken by abrupt outbursts which shook the very stones in
the roadway.

Silvere, pale with emotion, still listened and looked on. The insurgents
who led the van of that swarming, roaring stream, so vague and monstrous
in the darkness, were rapidly approaching the bridge.

"I thought," murmured Miette, "that you would not pass through
Plassans?"

"They must have altered the plan of operations," Silvere replied; "we
were, in fact, to have marched to the chief town by the Toulon road,
passing to the left of Plassans and Orcheres. They must have left
Alboise this afternoon and passed Les Tulettes this evening."

The head of the column had already arrived in front of the young people.
The little army was more orderly than one would have expected from a
band of undisciplined men. The contingents from the various towns and
villages formed separate battalions, each separated by a distance of a
few paces. These battalions were apparently under the orders of certain
chiefs. For the nonce the pace at which they were descending the
hillside made them a compact mass of invincible strength. There were
probably about three thousand men, all united and carried away by the
same storm of indignation. The strange details of the scene were not
discernible amidst the shadows cast over the highway by the lofty
slopes. At five or six feet from the brushwood, however, where Miette
and Silvere were sheltered, the left-hand embankment gave place to
a little pathway which ran alongside the Viorne; and the moonlight,
flowing through this gap, cast a broad band of radiance across the road.
When the first insurgents reached this patch of light they were
suddenly illumined by a sharp white glow which revealed, with singular
distinctness, every outline of visage or costume. And as the various
contingents swept on, the young people thus saw them emerge, fiercely
and without cessation, from the surrounding darkness.

As the first men passed through the light Miette instinctively clung
to Silvere, although she knew she was safe, even from observation. She
passed her arm round the young fellow's neck, resting her head against
his shoulder. And with the hood of her pelisse encircling her pale
face she gazed fixedly at that square patch of light as it was rapidly
traversed by those strange faces, transfigured by enthusiasm, with dark
open mouths full of the furious cry of the "Marseillaise." Silvere,
whom she felt quivering at her side, then bent towards her and named the
various contingents as they passed.

The column marched along eight abreast. In the van were a number of big,
square-headed fellows, who seemed to possess the herculean strength and
na´ve confidence of giants. They would doubtless prove blind, intrepid
defenders of the Republic. On their shoulders they carried large axes,
whose edges, freshly sharpened, glittered in the moonlight.

"Those are the woodcutters of the forests of the Seille," said Silvere.
"They have been formed into a corps of sappers. At a signal from their
leaders they would march as far as Paris, battering down the gates of
the towns with their axes, just as they cut down the old cork-trees on
the mountain."

The young man spoke with pride of the heavy fists of his brethren. And
on seeing a band of labourers and rough-bearded men, tanned by the
sun, coming along behind the woodcutters, he continued: "That is the
contingent from La Palud. That was the first place to rise. The men in
blouses are labourers who cut up the cork-trees; the others in velveteen
jackets must be sportsmen, poachers, and charcoal-burners living in the
passes of the Seille. The poachers knew your father, Miette. They have
good firearms, which they handle skilfully. Ah! if all were armed in the
same manner! We are short of muskets. See, the labourers have only got
cudgels!"

Miette, still speechless, looked on and listened. As Silvere spoke to
her of her father, the blood surged to her cheeks. Her face burnt as she
scrutinised the sportsmen with a strange air of mingled indignation and
sympathy. From this moment she grew animated, yielding to the feverish
quiver which the insurgents' songs awakened.

The column, which had just begun the "Marseillaise" afresh, was still
marching down as though lashed on by the sharp blasts of the "Mistral."
The men of La Palud were followed by another troop of workmen, among
whom a goodly number of middle class folks in great-coats were to be
seen.

"Those are the men of Saint-Martin-de-Vaulx," Silvere resumed. "That
_bourg_ rose almost at the same time as La Palud. The masters joined the
workmen. There are some rich men there, Miette; men whose wealth would
enable them to live peacefully at home, but who prefer to risk their
lives in defence of liberty. One can but admire them. Weapons are very
scarce, however; they've scarcely got a few fowling-pieces. But do you
see those men yonder, Miette, with red bands round their left elbows?
They are the leaders."

The contingents descended the hill more rapidly than Silvere could
speak. While he was naming the men from Saint-Martin-de-Vaulx, two
battalions had already crossed the ray of light which blanched the
roadway.

"Did you see the insurgents from Alboise and Les Tulettes pass by just
now?" he asked. "I recognised Burgat the blacksmith. They must have
joined the band to-day. How they do run!"

Miette was now leaning forward, in order to see more of the little bands
described to her by the young man. The quiver she felt rose from her
bosom to her throat. Then a battalion larger and better disciplined than
the others appeared. The insurgents composing it were nearly all dressed
in blue blouses, with red sashes round their waists. One would have
thought they were arrayed in uniform. A man on horseback, with a sabre
at his side, was in the midst of them. And most of these improvised
soldiers carried guns, probably carbines and old muskets of the National
Guard.

"I don't know those," said Silvere. "The man on horseback must be the
chief I've heard spoken of. He brought with him the contingents from
Faverolles and the neighbouring villages. The whole column ought to be
equipped in the same manner."

He had no time to take breath. "Ah! see, here are the country people!"
he suddenly cried.

Small groups of ten or twenty men at the most were now advancing behind
the men of Faverolles. They all wore the short jacket of the Southern
peasantry, and as they sang they brandished pitchforks and scythes. Some
of them even only carried large navvies' shovels. Every hamlet, however,
had sent its able-bodied men.

Silvere, who recognised the parties by their leaders, enumerated them in
feverish tones. "The contingent from Chavanoz!" said he. "There are
only eight men, but they are strong; Uncle Antoine knows them. Here's
Nazeres! Here's Poujols! They're all here; not one has failed to answer
the summons. Valqueyras!



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Keywords: labourers, brushwood, various, leaders, suddenly, already, plassans, moonlight, amidst, listened
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