None knew; not even Cigarette. She sat alone, so far away that none sought her out, beside the picket-fire that had long died out, with the little white dog of Zaraila curled on the scarlet folds of her skirt. Her arms rested on her knees, and her temples leaned on her hands tightly twisted among the dark, silken curls of her boyish hair. Her face had the same dusky, savage intensity upon it; and she never once moved from that rigid attitude.
She had the Cross on her heart—the idol of her long desire, the star to which her longing eyes had looked up ever since her childhood through the reek of carnage and the smoke of battle; and she would have flung it away like dross, to have had his lips touch hers once with love.
And she knew herself mad; for the desires and the delights of love die swiftly, but the knowledge of honor abides always. Love would have made her youth sweet with an unutterable gladness, to glide from her and leave her weary, dissatisfied, forsaken. But that Cross, the gift of her country, the symbol of her heroism, would be with her always, and light her forever with the honor of which it was the emblem; and if her life should last until youth passed away, and age came, and with age death, her hand would wander to it on her dying bed, and she would smile, as she died, to hear the living watchers murmur: “That life had glory—that life was lived for France.”
She knew this; but she was young; she was a woman-child; she had the ardor of passionate youth in her veins, she had the desolation of abandoned youth in her heart. And honor looked so cold beside love!
She rose impetuously; the night was far spent, the camp was very still, the torches had long died out, and a streak of dawn was visible in the east. She stood a while, looking very earnestly across the wide, black city of tents.
“I shall be best away for a time. I grow mad, treacherous, wicked here,” she thought. “I will go and see Blanc-Bec.”
Blanc-Bec was the soldier of the Army of Italy.
In a brief while she had saddled and bridled Etoile-Filante, and ridden out of the camp without warning or farewell to any; she was as free to come and to go as though she were a bird on the wing. Thus she went, knowing nothing of his fate. And with the sunrise went also the woman whom he loved—in ignorance.