This seemed to strike La Croissette a good deal. He remained in thought a few minutes, and then said, “Well, it is time I should take my leave. I respect you very much.” Then, resuming his bantering tone, “Since you are so willing to hazard the disturbance which poor old Monsieur Laccassagne found it so hard to bear, I advise you to sleep day and night while you are here, and lay in a good stock of repose against the time when you will be deprived of it.”
Stepping back again, just as he seemed going, he said, “You fancy yourselves very safe here; and, indeed, the dragoons unless with a guide to you, might possibly take some time to find you out; but depend on it, Les Arenes will be well searched some day—perhaps very soon; it is too well known as having been an old hiding-place. Every corner—this among the rest—is known to outcasts, many of them of bad reputation, who, for a morsel of bread, would give up St. Paul or St. Peter. All are not so, however, and those I am now among have a kind of the honor which exists among thieves. Do not depend too much on it, however.”
And with this very unsatisfactory speech, he left us. My father, after brooding on what he had said for some time, knelt down, and was long in prayer: then he murmured, “I will both lay me down in peace and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.” And I knew soon, by his breathing, that he had indeed found rest in sleep. For me, I could not close my eyes: the text that dwelt in my mind was, “My soul is among lions.” I thought of Madame Laccassagne and the other poor women wandering in the fields, and pictured a thousand distressing circumstances. Our solitary oil-lamp was beginning to languish for want of trimming, and I thought, “What if it should leave us in darkness altogether, and we should never know when it is day?” and dwelt on the Egyptians in the plague of darkness, when none of them rose from his place for three days. I was so feverish that it seemed to me a darkness like that would madden me—I must dash my head against the wall, or do something desperate; and I thought of Jonah in the whale’s belly, when the waters compassed him round about, and his soul fainted in that hideous darkness; and again it was “three days.” Then I thought, “Why three days?” Was it because the Son of Man was three days in the heart of the earth? And shall we remain here in this subterranean darkness three days?
Just as the lamp seemed going out my loved mother stole out of the inner dungeon, and trimmed it; then noiselessly stole to my side, and, seeing my eyes open, smiled on me and kissed me, and then lay down beside my father. Oh, the peace, the security of her presence! I sank into dreamless sleep.
I was awakened by the most horrid noise I ever heard in my life. It seemed like the roar of a lion close to my ear, and I started up in wild affright, fancying myself a Christian prisoner about to be thrown to the wild beasts. All around was dark as pitch—the lamp had gone out! The frightful bellowing continued without intermission; and, besides, there were sobs and screams, brutal laughter and cursing. Dreadful moment! Presently a spark of light momentarily illumined our cell, and showed the anxious face of my mother, as she re-kindled the lamp, surrounded by the terrified children and girls, roused from their sleep by the hideous uproar.