“This is a violation of national courtesies,” she exclaimed irately. “It is brigandage, to waylay and take as prisoners two distinguished women.”
“Madame’s husband has also detained as prisoners two distinguished women,” in a respectful tone responded Vavel.
“But my daughter is so nervous.”
“There is not a more timid creature in the world than my poor little Marie.”
“At all events, monsieur, you are a Frenchman, and know what is due to ladies of our station.”
“In that respect, madame, I shall follow General Guillaume’s example.”
They were now among the gardens of Boercs, where the cherry-trees, heavily laden with fruit, rose above the tall hedges; and very soon they turned into a beautiful street shaded by walnut-trees, which led to the redoubt. The parsonage was the only house of importance in the village. The pastor was standing at his door when Vavel ordered the coach to stop. He assisted the ladies to alight, and begged the pastor to grant them the hospitality of his roof. The request was not refused, and the ladies were made as comfortable as possible.
“Do you care to see the sights of the village, madame?” asked Vavel of the mother, after they had partaken of the lunch prepared by the pastor’s housekeeper. The young lady, who was exhausted by the journey, had gone to her room. “There is a very old church here which is interesting.”
“Are there any fine pictures in it?” inquired madame.
“There is one,—a very touching scene,—’The Samaritan.’”
“Ancient or modern?” queried the lady.
“The subject is old—it dates back to the first years of Christianity, madame. The execution is modern.”
“Is it the work of a celebrated artist?”
“No; it is the work of our clerical host.”
The lady shook her head; she was uncertain whether Count Vavel was making sport of her or of the pastor.
But she understood him when she entered the church. The house consecrated to the service of God had become a hospital, and was crowded with wounded French soldiers. The women of the village, as volunteer nurses, were taking care of them, and performed the task as faithfully as if the invalids were their own sons and brothers. The pastor himself supplied the necessary medicines from his own cupboard; for no army surgeon came here at a time when twenty thousand wounded Frenchmen lay at Aspern, and twenty-two thousand at Wagram.
“Is it not an affecting tableau, madame?” said Count Vavel. “It would be a suitable altar-piece for Notre Dame—and the name of its creator deserves perpetuation!”
Monsieur le Capitaine Descourcelles rode an excellent horse, was a capital rider, and was plainly very much in love. These three circumstances combined brought back the gallant soldier from Raab by five o’clock in the afternoon.