One woman was lamenting something worse than death. “My girl! . . . My poor girl!” Her look of hatred and wild desperation revealed the secret tragedy; her outcries and tears recalled that other mother who was sobbing in the same way up at the castle. In the depths of some cave, was lying the victim, half-dead with fatigue, shaken with a wild delirium in which she still saw the succession of brutal faces, inflamed with simian passion.
The miserable group, forming themselves into a circle around him, stretched out their hands beseechingly toward the man whom they knew to be so very rich. The women showed him the death-pallor on the faces of their scarcely breathing babies, their eyes glazed with starvation. “Bread! . . . bread!” they implored, as though he could work a miracle. He gave to one mother the gold piece that he had in his hand and distributed more to the others. They took them without looking at them, and continued their lament, “Bread! . . . Bread!” And he had gone to the village to make the same supplication! . . . He fled, recognizing the uselessness of his efforts.
THE BANNER OF THE RED CROSS
Returning in desperation to his estate, Don Marcelo Desnoyers saw huge automobiles and men on horseback, forming a very long convoy and completely filling the road. They were all going in his direction. At the entrance to the park a band of Germans was putting up the wires for a telephone line. They had just been reconnoitering the rooms befouled with the night’s saturnalia, and were ha-haing boisterously over Captain von Hartrott’s inscription, “Bitte, nicht plundern.” To them it seemed the acme of wit—truly Teutonic.
The convoy now invaded the park with its automobiles and trucks bearing a red cross. A war hospital was going to be established in the castle. The doctors were dressed in grayish green and armed the same as the officers; they also imitated their freezing hauteur and repellent unapproachableness. There came out of the drays hundreds of folding cots, which were placed in rows in the different rooms. The furniture that still remained was thrown out in a heap under the trees. Squads of soldiers were obeying with mechanical promptitude the brief and imperious orders. An odor of an apothecary shop, of concentrated drugs, now pervaded the quarters, mixed with the strong smell of the antiseptics with which they were sprinkling the walls in order to disinfect the filthy remains of the nocturnal orgy.
Then he saw women clad in white, buxom girls with blue eyes and flaxen hair. They were grave, bland, austere and implacable in appearance. Several times they pushed Desnoyers out of their way as if they did not see him. They looked like nuns, but with revolvers under their habits.