There was something even comical in the position of the men in possession of the raft. Though they were uttering awful groans and imprecations, they dared not resist the grenadier, for in truth they were so closely packed together, that a push to one man might send half of them overboard. This danger was so pressing that a cavalry captain endeavored to get rid of the grenadier; but the latter, seeing the hostile movement of the officer, seized him round the waist and flung him into the water, crying out,—
“Ha! ha! my duck, do you want to drink? Well, then, drink!— Here are two places,” he cried. “Come, major, toss me the little woman and follow yourself. Leave that old fossil, who’ll be dead by to-morrow.”
“Make haste!” cried the voice of all, as one man.
“Come, major, they are grumbling, and they have a right to do so.”
The Comte de Vandieres threw off his wrappings and showed himself in his general’s uniform.
“Let us save the count,” said Philippe.
Stephanie pressed his hand, and throwing herself on his breast, she clasped him tightly.
“Adieu!” she said.
They had understood each other.
The Comte de Vandieres recovered sufficient strength and presence of mind to spring upon the raft, whither Stephanie followed him, after turning a last look to Philippe.
“Major! will you take my place? I don’t care a fig for life,” cried the grenadier. “I’ve neither wife nor child nor mother.”
“I confide them to your care,” said the major, pointing to the count and his wife.
“Then be easy; I’ll care for them, as though they were my very eyes.”
The raft was now sent off with so much violence toward the opposite side of the river, that as it touched ground, the shock was felt by all. The count, who was at the edge of it, lost his balance and fell into the river; as he fell, a cake of sharp ice caught him, and cut off his head, flinging it to a great distance.
“See there! major!” cried the grenadier.
“Adieu!” said a woman’s voice.
Philippe de Sucy fell to the ground, overcome with horror and fatigue.
“My poor niece became insane,” continued the physician, after a few moment’s silence. “Ah! monsieur,” he said, seizing the marquis’s hand, “life has been awful indeed for that poor little woman, so young, so delicate! After being, by dreadful fatality, separated from the grenadier, whose name was Fleuriot, she was dragged about for two years at the heels of the army, the plaything of a crowd of wretches. She was often, they tell me, barefooted, and scarcely clothed; for months together, she had no care, no food but what she could pick up; sometimes kept in hospitals, sometimes driven away like an animal, God alone knows the horrors that poor unfortunate creature has survived. She was locked