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Here's
Nazeres! Here's Poujols! They're all here; not one has failed to answer
the summons. Valqueyras! Hold, there's the parson amongst them; I've
heard about him, he's a staunch Republican."

He was becoming intoxicated with the spectacle. Now that each battalion
consisted of only a few insurgents he had to name them yet more hastily,
and his precipitancy gave him the appearance of one in a frenzy.

"Ah! Miette," he continued, "what a fine march past! Rozan! Vernoux!
Corbiere! And there are more still, you'll see. These have only got
scythes, but they'll mow down the troops as close as the grass in their
meadows--Saint-Eutrope! Mazet! Les Gardes, Marsanne! The whole north
side of the Seille! Ah, we shall be victorious! The whole country is
with us. Look at those men's arms, they are hard and black as iron.
There's no end to them. There's Pruinas! Roches Noires! Those last
are smugglers: they are carrying carbines. Still more scythes and
pitchforks, the contingents of country folk are still passing.
Castel-le-Vieux! Sainte-Anne! Graille! Estourmel! Murdaran!"

His voice was husky with emotion as he finished naming these men, who
seemed to be borne away by a whirlwind as fast as he enumerated them.
Erect, with glowing countenance, he pointed out the several contingents
with a nervous gesture. Miette followed his movements. The road below
attracted her like the depths of a precipice. To avoid slipping down
the incline she clung to the young man's neck. A strange intoxication
emanated from those men, who themselves were inebriated with clamour,
courage, and confidence. Those beings, seen athwart a moonbeam, those
youths and those men in their prime, those old people brandishing
strange weapons and dressed in the most diverse costumes, from working
smock to middle class overcoat, those endless rows of heads, which
the hour and the circumstances endowed with an expression of fanatical
energy and enthusiasm, gradually appeared to the girl like a whirling,
impetuous torrent. At certain moments she fancied they were not of
themselves moving, that they were really being carried away by the force
of the "Marseillaise," by that hoarse, sonorous chant. She could not
distinguish any conversation, she heard but a continuous volume of
sound, alternating from bass to shrill notes, as piercing as nails
driven into one's flesh. This roar of revolt, this call to combat,
to death, with its outbursts of indignation, its burning thirst for
liberty, its remarkable blending of bloodthirsty and sublime impulses,
unceasingly smote her heart, penetrating more deeply at each fierce
outburst, and filling her with the voluptuous pangs of a virgin martyr
who stands erect and smiles under the lash. And the crowd flowed on ever
amidst the same sonorous wave of sound. The march past, which did not
really last more than a few minutes, seemed to the young people to be
interminable.

Truly, Miette was but a child. She had turned pale at the approach of
the band, she had wept for the loss of love, but she was a brave child,
whose ardent nature was easily fired by enthusiasm. Thus ardent emotions
had gradually got possession of her, and she became as courageous as
a youth. She would willingly have seized a weapon and followed the
insurgents. As the muskets and scythes filed past, her white teeth
glistened longer and sharper between her red lips, like the fangs of
a young wolf eager to bite and tear. And as she listened to Silvere
enumerating the contingents from the country-side with ever-increasing
haste, the pace of the column seemed to her to accelerate still more.
She soon fancied it all a cloud of human dust swept along by a tempest.
Everything began to whirl before her. Then she closed her eyes; big hot
tears were rolling down her cheeks.

Silvere's eyelashes were also moist. "I don't see the men who left
Plassans this afternoon," he murmured.

He tried to distinguish the end of the column, which was still hidden by
the darkness. Suddenly he cried with joyous exultation: "Ah, here they
are! They've got the banner--the banner has been entrusted to them!"

Then he wanted to leap from the slope in order to join his companions.
At this moment, however, the insurgents halted. Words of command ran
along the column, the "Marseillaise" died out in a final rumble, and
one could only hear the confused murmuring of the still surging crowd.
Silvere, as he listened, caught the orders which were passed on from one
contingent to another; they called the men of Plassans to the van. Then,
as each battalion ranged itself alongside the road to make way for the
banner, the young man reascended the embankment, dragging Miette with
him.

"Come," he said; "we can get across the river before they do."

When they were on the top, among the ploughed land, they ran along to a
mill whose lock bars the river. Then they crossed the Viorne on a
plank placed there by the millers, and cut across the meadows of
Sainte-Claire, running hand-in-hand, without exchanging a word. The
column threw a dark line over the highway, which they followed alongside
the hedges. There were some gaps in the hawthorns, and at last Silvere
and Miette sprang on to the road through one of them.

In spite of the circuitous way they had come, they arrived at the same
time as the men of Plassans. Silvere shook hands with some of them. They
must have thought he had heard of the new route they had chosen, and had
come to meet them. Miette, whose face was half-concealed by her hood,
was scrutinised rather inquisitively.

"Why, it's Chantegreil," at last said one of the men from the Faubourg
of Plassans, "the niece of Rebufat, the _meger_[*] of the Jas-Meiffren."

[*] A _meger_ is a farmer in Provence who shares the
expenses and profits of his farm with the owner of the land.

"Where have you sprung from, gadabout?" cried another voice.

Silvere, intoxicated with enthusiasm, had not thought of the distress
which his sweetheart would feel at the jeers of the workmen. Miette, all
confusion, looked at him as if to implore his aid. But before he
could even open his lips another voice rose from the crowd, brutally
exclaiming:

"Her father's at the galleys; we don't want the daughter of a thief and
murderer amongst us."

At this Miette turned dreadfully pale.

"You lie!" she muttered. "If my father did kill anybody, he never
thieved!"

And as Silvere, pale and trembling more than she, began to clench his
fists: "Stop!" she continued; "this is my affair."

Then, turning to the men, she repeated with a shout: "You lie! You lie!
He never stole a copper from anybody. You know it well enough. Why do
you insult him when he can't be here?"

She drew herself up, superb with indignation. With her ardent, half-wild
nature she seemed to accept the charge of murder composedly enough, but
that of theft exasperated her. They knew it, and that was why folks,
from stupid malice, often cast the accusation in her face.

The man who had just called her father a thief was merely repeating
what he had heard said for many years. The girl's defiant attitude
only incited the workmen to jeer the more. Silvere still had his fists
clenched, and matters might have become serious if a poacher from
the Seille, who had been sitting on a heap of stones at the roadside
awaiting the order to march, had not come to the girl's assistance.

"The little one's right," he said. "Chantegreil was one of us. I knew
him. Nobody knows the real facts of his little matter. I always believed
in the truth of his deposition before the judge. The gendarme whom he
brought down with a bullet, while he was out shooting, was no doubt
taking aim at him at the time. A man must defend himself! At all events
Chantegreil was a decent fellow; he committed no robbery."

As often happens in such cases, the testimony of this poacher sufficed
to bring other defenders to Miette's aid. Several workmen also professed
to have known Chantegreil.

"Yes, yes, it's true!" they all said. "He wasn't a thief. There are
some scoundrels at Plassans who ought to be sent to prison in his place.
Chantegreil was our brother. Come, now, be calm, little one."

Miette had never before heard anyone speak well of her father. He was
generally referred to as a beggar, a villain, and now she found good
fellows who had forgiving words for him, and declared him to be an
honest man. She burst into tears, again full of the emotion awakened in
her by the "Marseillaise;" and she bethought herself how she might thank
these men for their kindness to her in misfortune. For a moment she
conceived the idea of shaking them all by the hand like a man. But her
heart suggested something better. By her side stood the insurgent
who carried the banner. She touched the staff, and, to express her
gratitude, said in an entreating tone, "Give it to me; I will carry it."

The simple-minded workmen understood the ingenuous sublimity of this
form of gratitude.

"Yes," they all cried, "Chantegreil shall carry the banner."

However, a woodcutter remarked that she would soon get tired, and would
not be able to go far.

"Oh! I'm quite strong," she retorted proudly, tucking up her sleeves and
showing a pair of arms as big as those of a grown woman. Then as they
handed her the flag she resumed, "Wait just a moment."

Forthwith she pulled off her cloak, and put it on again after turning
the red lining outside. In the clear moonlight she appeared to be
arrayed in a purple mantle reaching to her feet. The hood resting on the
edge of her chignon formed a kind of Phrygian cap. She took the flag,
pressed the staff to her bosom, and held herself upright amid the folds
of that blood-coloured banner which waved behind her. Enthusiastic child
that she was, her countenance, with its curly hair, large eyes moist
with tears, and lips parted in a smile, seemed to rise with energetic
pride as she turned it towards the sky. At that moment she was the
virgin Liberty.

The insurgents burst into applause. The vivid imagination of those
Southerners was fired with enthusiasm at the sudden apparition of this
girl so nervously clasping their banner to her bosom.



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Keywords: herself, contingents, marseillaise, followed, little, ardent, turned, scythes, father, another
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