Cigarette en CONSEIL et CACHETTE.
“Corporal Victor, M. le Commandant desires you to present yourself at his campagne to-night, at ten precisely, with all your carvings; above all, with your chessmen.”
The swift, sharp voice of a young officer of his regiment wakened Cecil from his musing, as he went on his way down the crowded, tortuous, stifling street. He had scarcely time to catch the sense of the words, and to halt, giving the salute, before the Chasseur’s skittish little Barbary mare had galloped past him; scattering the people right and left, knocking over a sweetmeat seller, upsetting a string of maize-laden mules, jostling a venerable marabout on to an impudent little grisette, and laming an old Moor as he tottered to his mosque, without any apology for any of the mischief, in the customary insolence which makes “Roumis” and “Bureaucratic” alike execrated by the indigenous populace with a detestation that the questionable benefits of civilized importations can do very little to counter-balance in the fiery breasts of the sons of the soil.
Cecil involuntarily stood still. His face darkened. All orders that touched on the service, even where harshest and most unwelcome, he had taught himself to take without any hesitation, till he now scarcely felt the check of the steel curb; but to be ordered thus like a lackey—to take his wares thus like a hawker!
“We are soldiers, not traders—aren’t we? You don’t like that, M. Victor? You are no peddler. And you think you would rather risk being court-martialed and shot than take your ivory toys for the Black Hawk’s talons?”
Cecil looked up in astonishment at the divination and translation of his thoughts, to encounter the bright, falcon eyes of Cigarette looking down on him from a little oval casement above, dark as pitch within, and whose embrasure, with its rim of gray stone coping, set off like a picture-frame, with a heavy background of unglazed Rembrandt shadow, the piquant head of the Friend of the Flag, with her pouting, scarlet, mocking lips, and her mischievous, challenging smile, and her dainty little gold-banded foraging-cap set on curls as silken and jetty as any black Irish setter’s.
“Bon jour, ma belle!” he answered, with a little weariness; lifting his fez to her with a certain sense of annoyance that this young bohemian of the barracks, this child with her slang and her satire, should always be in his way like a shadow.
“Bon jour, mon brave!” returned Cigarette contemptuously. “We are not so ceremonious as all that in Algiers! Good fellow, you should be a chamberlain, not a corporal. What fine manners, mon Dieu!”