Cigarette was very haughty in her own wayward, careless fashion. At a word of love from him, at a kiss from his lips, at a prayer from his voice, she would have given herself to him in all the abandonment of a first passion, and have gloried in being known as his mistress. But she would have perished by a thousand deaths rather than have sought him through his pity or through his gratitude; rather than have accepted the compassion of a heart that gave its warmth to another; rather than have ever let him learn that he was any more to her than all their other countless comrades who filled up the hosts of Africa.
“He will never know,” she said to herself, as she passed through the disordered camp, and in a distant quarter coiled herself among the hay of a forage-wagon, and covered up in dry grass, like a bird in a nest, let her tired limbs lie and her aching eyes close in repose. She was very tired; and every now and then, as she slept, a quick, sobbing breath shook her as she slumbered, like a worn-out fawn who has been wounded while it played.
The leathern Zackrist.
With the reveille and the break of morning Cigarette woke, herself again; she gave a little petulant shake to her fairy form when she thought of what folly she had been guilty. “Ah, bah! you deserve to be shot,” she said to herself afresh. “One would think you were a Silver Pheasant—you grow such a little fool!”
Love was all very well, so Cigarette’s philosophy had always reckoned; a chocolate bonbon, a firework, a bagatelle, a draught of champagne, to flavor an idle moment. “Vin et Venus” she had always been accustomed to see worshiped together, as became their alliterative; it was a bit of fun—that was all. A passion that had pain in it had never touched the Little One; she had disdained it with the lightest, airiest contumely. “If your sweetmeat has a bitter almond in it, eat the sugar and throw the almond away, you goose! That is simple enough, isn’t it? Bah? I don’t pity the people who eat the bitter almond; not I!” she had said once, when arguing with an officer on the absurdity of a melancholy love that possessed him, and whose sadness she rallied most unmercifully. Now, for once in her young life, the Child of France found that it was remotely possible to meet with almonds so bitter that the taste will remain and taint all things, do what philosophy may to throw its acridity aside.
With the reveille she awoke, herself again, though she had not had more than an hour’s slumber, it is true, with a dull ache at her heart that was very new and bitterly unwelcome to her, but with the buoyant vivacity and the proud carelessness of her nature in arms against it, and with that gayety of childhood inherent to her repelling, and very nearly successfully, the foreign depression that weighted on it.
Her first thought was to take care that he should never learn what she had done for him. The Princesse Corona would not have been more utterly disdained to solicit regard through making a claim upon gratitude than the fiery little warrior of France would have done. She went straight to the Tringlo who had known her at her mission of mercy.