The table, cleared in an instant, was turned into a mortuary bed, and the four officers, straight, rigid and sobered up, with the harsh faces of warriors on duty stood near the windows, searching and scanning the night.
The torrential rain was continuing. An incessant rippling filled the darkness, a floating murmur of water that falls and water that runs, water that drops and water that gushes forth.
Suddenly a rifle shot was heard; then another far away; and thus for four hours one heard from time to time, near or distant reports of firing and rallying cries, strange words shouted like a call by guttural voices.
At daybreak everybody returned. Two soldiers had been killed and three others wounded by their comrades in the eagerness of the chase and the confusion of the nocturnal pursuit.
They had not been able to find Rachel.
Then the inhabitants were terrorized, the houses searched most carefully, the whole region combed, beaten, scoured. The Jewess did not seem to have left any trace of her passage.
The General, who had been notified, ordered to hush the matter up so as not to give a bad example in the Army, and he disciplined the Commander who, in turn, punished his subordinates. The General had said: “We do not go to war to indulge in orgies and caress prostitutes.” And exasperated Graf Farlsberg resolved to take revenge on the country.
As he needed a pretext to take drastic measures without constraint, he summoned the Priest and ordered him to ring the Church bell at the burial of Markgraf von Eyrik.
Contrary to general expectation, the priest showed himself docile, humble, full of attention. And when the body of Mademoiselle Fifi, carried by soldiers, preceded, surrounded and followed by soldiers, who marched with loaded rifles, left the Chateau d’Urville, on the way to the cemetery, for the first time the bell sounded the knell in a gay tone, as if a friendly hand had been fondling it.
It rang also in the evening, and the next day and every day; it chimed as much as they wanted. Sometimes also, in the dead of night, it would ring all alone and throw two or three notes in the darkness, seized by a singular mirth, awakened one knew not why. All the peasants in the neighborhood then thought that the bell had been bewitched; and no one except the Priest and the Sexton came near the bell-tower.
A poor girl was living up there, in fear and solitude, secretly fed by those two men.
She remained there until the German troops departed. Then, one evening, the Priest having borrowed the baker’s cart, drove himself and the prisoner as far as the Gate of Rouen. When they reached the Gate, the Priest kissed her; she got off the cart and quickly went back to the disreputable house, the keeper of which had thought that she was dead.
She was taken out of the house of prostitution shortly afterwards by a patriot without prejudice, who loved her for her brave act, and then, having loved her for herself, married her and made of her a lady as good as many others.