Earth holds no more dismal sepulchre than that dark vault, through the crevice in whose wall the blue-bloused marketers cast curious glances. Yet within these grim coffins lie two bodies with their severed heads, all that remains mortal of the haughty Marie Antoinette and other humble spouse.
THE PRISONERS RELEASED
The first dread days, when the Boy, heavy with fever, seemed scarcely to realise our presence, were swiftly followed by placid hours when he lay and smiled in blissful content, craving nothing, now that we were all together again. But this state of beatitude was quickly ousted by a period of discontent, when the hunger fiend reigned supreme in the little room.
“Manger, manger, manger, tout le temps!" Thus the nurse epitomised the converse of her charges. And indeed she was right, for, from morning till night, the prisoners’ solitary topic of conversation was food. During the first ten days their diet consisted solely of boiled milk, and as that time wore to a close the number of quarts consumed increased daily, until Paul, the chief porter, seemed ever ascending the little outside stair carrying full bottles of milk, or descending laden with empty ones.
“Milk doesn’t count. When shall we be allowed food, real food?” was the constant cry, and their relief was abounding when, on Christmas Day, the doctor withdrew his prohibition, and permitted an approach to the desired solids. But even then the prisoners, to their loudly voiced disappointment, discovered that their only choice lay between vermicelli and tapioca, nursery dishes which at home they would have despised.
“Tapioca! Imagine tapioca for a Christmas dinner!” the invalids exclaimed with disgust. But that scorn did not prevent them devouring the mess and eagerly demanding more. And thereafter the saucepan simmering over the gas-jet in the outer room seemed ever full of savoury spoon-meat.
I doubt if any zealous mother-bird ever had a busier time feeding her fledglings than had the good Sister in satisfying the appetites of these callow cormorants. To witness the French nun seeking to allay the hunger of these voracious schoolboy aliens was to picture a wren trying to fill the ever-gaping beaks of two young cuckoos whom an adverse fate had dropped into her nest.
As the days wore by, the embargo placed upon our desire to cater for the invalids was gradually lifted, and little things such as sponge biscuits and pears crept in to vary the monotony of the milk diet.