“I will have a care of him,” she had said curtly, when she had found him in great misery and learned his history from others; and she had had the care accordingly, maintaining him at her own cost in the Moorish building, and paying a good Jewess of the quarter to tend him when she was not herself in Algiers.
The old man was almost dead, mentally, though in bodily strength still well able to know the physical comforts of food and rest, and attendance; he was in his second childhood, in his ninetieth year, and was unconscious of the debt he owed her; even, with a curious caprice of decrepitude, he disliked her, and noticed nothing, except the raven when it shrieked its “Tue! Tue! Tue!” But to Cigarette he was as sacred as a god; had he not fought beneath the glance, and gazed upon the face of the First Consul?
She bent over him now, saw that he slept, busied herself noiselessly in brewing a little tin pot full of coffee and hot milk, set it over the lamp to keep it warm, and placed it beside him ready for his morning meal, with a roll of white wheat bread; then, with a glance round to see that her other dependents wanted for nothing, went to her own garret adjoining, and with the lattice fastened back, that the first rays of sunrise and the first white flash of her friends the pigeons’ gleaming wings might awaken her, threw herself on her straw and slept with all the graceful, careless rest of the childhood which, though in once sense she had never known, yet in another had never forsaken her.
She hid as her lawless courage would not have stooped to hide a sin, had she chosen to commit one, this compassion which she, the young condottiera of Algeria, showed with so tender a charity to the soldier of Bonaparte. To him, moreover, her fiery, imperious voice was gentle as the dove; her wayward, dominant will was pliant as the reed; her contemptuous, skeptic spirit was reverent as a child’s before an altar. In her sight the survivor of the Army of Italy was sacred; sacred the eyes which, when full of light, had seen the sun glitter on the breastplates of the Hussars of Murat, the Dragoons of Kellerman, the Cuirassiers of Milhaud; sacred the hands which, when nervous with youth, had borne the standard of the Republic victorious against the gathered Teuton host in Champagne; sacred the ears which, when quick to hear, had heard the thunder of Arcola, of Lodi, of Rivoli, and, above even the tempest of war, the clear, still voice of Napoleon; sacred the lips which when their beard was dark in the fullness of manhood, had quivered, as with a woman’s weeping, at the farewell, in the spring night, in the moonlit Cour des Adieux.
Cigarette had a religion of her own; and followed it more closely than most disciples follow other creeds.
“Milady aux beaux yeux BLEUS.”