He lay there unconscious of her presence, tossing wearily to and fro in fevered, unrefreshing sleep, murmuring incoherent words of French and English strangely mingled; and Cigarette crouched on the ground, with the firelight playing all over her picturesque, childlike beauty, and her large eyes strained and savage, yet with a strange, wistful pain in them; looking out at the moonlight where the headless body lay in a cold, gray sea of shadow.
Yet she did not leave him.
She was too generous for that. “What is right is right. He is a soldier of France,” she muttered, while she kept her vigil. She felt no want of sleep; a hard, hateful wakefulness seemed to have banished all rest from her; she stayed there all the night so, with the touch of water on his forehead, or of cooled wine to his lips, by the alteration of the linen on his wounds, or the shifting of the rough forage that made his bed. But she did it without anything of that loving, lingering attendance she had given before; she never once drew out the task longer than it needed, or let her hands wander among his hair, or over his lips, as she had done before.
And he never once was conscious of it; he never once knew that she was near. He did not waken from the painful, delirious, stupefied slumber that had fallen on him; he only vaguely felt that he was suffering pain; he only vaguely dreamed of what he murmured of—his past, and the beauty of the woman who had brought all the memories of that past back on him.
And this was Cigarette’s reward—to hear him mutter wearily of the proud eyes and of the lost smile of another!
The dawn came at last; her constant care and the skill with which she had cooled and dressed his wounds had done him infinite service; the fever had subsided, and toward morning his incoherent words ceased, his breathing grew calmer and more tranquil; he fell asleep—sleep that was profound, dreamless, and refreshing.
She looked at him with a tempestuous shadow darkening her face, that was soft with a tenderness that she could not banish. She hated him; she ought to have stabbed or shot him rather than have tended him thus; he neglected her, and only thought of that woman of his old Order. As a daughter of the People, as a child of the Army, as a soldier of France, she ought to have killed him rather than have caressed his hair and soothed his pain! Pshaw! She ground one in another her tiny white teeth, that were like a spaniel’s.
Then gently, very gently, lest she should waken him, she took her tunic skirt with which she had covered him from the chills of the night, put more broken wood on the fading fire, and with a last, lingering look at him where he slept, passed out from the tent as the sun rose in a flushed and beautiful dawn. He would never know that she had saved him thus: he never should know it, she vowed in her heart.