“Georges, mon brave,” said the Little One, with that accent of authority which was as haughty as any General’s, “do you know how that Chasseur is that we brought in last night?”
“Not heard, ma belle,” said the cheery little Tringlo, who was hard pressed; for there was much to be done, and he was very busy.
“What is to be done with the wounded?”
Georges lifted his eyebrows.
“Ma belle! There are very few. There are hundreds of dead. The few there are we shall take with an escort of Spahis to headquarters.”
“Good. I will go with you. Have a heed, Georges, never to whisper that I had anything to do with saving that man I called to you about.”
“And why, my Little One?”
“Because I desire it!” said Cigarette, with her most imperious emphasis. “They say he is English, and a ruined Milord, pardieu! Now, I would not have an Englishman think I thought his six feet of carcass worth saving, for a ransom.”
The Tringlo chuckled; he was an Anglophobist. In the Chinese expedition his share of “loot” had been robbed from him by a trick of which two English soldiers had been the concocters, and a vehement animosity against the whole British race had been the fruit of it in him.
“Non, non, non!” he answered her heartily. “I understand. Thou art very bright, Cigarette. If we have ever obliged an Englishman, he thinks his obligation to us opens him a neat little door through which to cheat us. It is very dangerous to oblige the English; they always hate you for it. That is their way. They may have virtues; they may,” he added dubiously, but with an impressive air of strictest impartiality, “but among them is not written gratitude. Ask that man, Rac, how they treat their soldiers!” and M. Georges hurried away to this mules and his duties; thinking with loving regret of the delicious Chinese plunder of which the dogs of Albion had deprived him.
“He is safe!” thought Cigarette; of the patrol who had seen her, she was not afraid—he had never noticed with whom she was when he had put his head into the scullion’s tent; and she made her way toward the place where she had left him, to see how it went with this man who she as so careful should never know that which he had owed to her.
It went well with him, thanks to her; care, and strengthening nourishment, and the skill of her tendance had warded off all danger from his wound. The bruise and pressure from the weight of the horse had been more ominous, and he could not raise himself or even breathe without severe pain; but his fever had left him, and he had just been lifted into a mule-drawn ambulance-wagon as Cigarette reached the spot.
“How goes the day, M. Victor? So you got sharp scratches, I hear? Ah! that was a splendid thing we had yesterday! When did you go down? We charged together!” she cried gayly to him; then her voice dropped suddenly, with an indescribable sweetness and change of tone. “So!—you suffer still?” she asked softly.