“Bouffarick—petite Bouffarick!” returned Cigarette caressingly, in a whisper, and Bouffarick, content, limped back to a nest of hay; being a little wiry dog that had lost a leg in one of the most famous battles of Oran, and lain in its dead master’s breast through three days and nights on the field. Cigarette, shading the lamp with one hand, glanced round on her family.
They had all histories—histories in the French Army, which was the only history she considered of any import to the universe. There was a raven perched high, by name Vole-qui-Vent; he was a noted character among the Zouaves, and had made many a campaign riding on his owner’s bayonet; he loved a combat, and was specially famed for screaming “Tue! Tue! Tue!” all over a battlefield; he was very gray now, and the Zouave’s bones had long bleached on the edge of the desert.
There was a tame rat who was a vieille moustache, and who had lived many years in a Lignard’s pocket, and munched waifs and strays of the military rations, until, the enormous crime being discovered that it was taught to sit up and dress its whiskers to the heinous air of the “Marseillaise,” the Lignard got the stick, and the rat was condemned to be killed, had not Cigarette dashed in to the rescue and carried the long-tailed revolutionist off in safety.
There was a big white cat curled in a ball, who had been the darling of a Tringlo, and had traveled all over North Africa on the top of his mule’s back, seven seasons through; in the eighth the Tringlo was picked off by a flying shot, and an Indigene was about to skin the shrieking cat for the soup-pot, when a bullet broke his wrist, making him drop the cat with a yell of pain, and the Friend of the Flag, catching it up, laughed in his face: “A lead comfit instead of slaughter-soup, my friend!”
There were little Bouffarick and three other brother-dogs of equal celebrity; one, in especial, who had been brought from Chalons, in defiance of the regulations, inside the drum of his regiment, and had been wounded a dozen times; always seeking the hottest heat of the skirmish. And there was, besides these, sleeping serenely on straw, a very old man with a snowy beard. A very old man—one who had been a conscript in the bands of Young France, and marched from his Pyrenean village to the battle tramp of the Marseillaise, and charged with the Enfants de Paris across the plains; who had known the passage of the Alps, and lifted the long curls from the dead brow of Dessaix at Marengo, and seen in the sultry noonday dust of a glorious summer the Guard march into Paris, while the people laughed and wept with joy; surging like the mighty sea around one pale, frail form, so young by years, so absolute by genius.
A very old man; long broken with poverty, with pain, with bereavement, with extreme old age; and, by a long course of cruel accidents, alone, here in Africa, without one left of the friends of his youth, or of the children of his name, and deprived even of the charities due from his country to his services—alone, save for the little Friend of the Flag, who, for four years, had kept him on the proceeds of her wine trade, in this Moorish attic; tending him herself when in town, taking heed that he should want for nothing when she was campaigning.