After he had finished his letters and read the German newspapers, which his orderly had brought him, he rose, threw into the fire three or four enormous pieces of green wood, for these gentlemen were cutting down, little by little, the trees of the park to keep themselves warm and stepped over to the window. The rain was pouring, a regular Normandy rain which one might have thought was let loose and showered down by a furious hand, a slanting rain, thick like a curtain, forming a kind of wall with oblique stripes, a rain that lashed, splashed, deluged everything, a rain peculiar to the neighborhood of Rouen, that watering pot of France.
The Officer looked for a long while at the inundated lawn, and yonder, the swollen Andilles, which was overflowing; and with his fingers he was drumming on the window-pane a waltz from the Rhineland, when a noise caused him to turn around; it was his second in command, Baron von Kelweingstein, holding a rank equivalent to that of Captain.
The Major was a giant, with broad shoulders, graced by a fan-shaped blond beard, flowing down his chest and forming a breast-shield. His whole tall, solemn person suggested the image of a military peacock, a peacock that would carry its tail spread on its chin. He had blue eyes, cold and gentle; a cheek bearing the scar of a sword wound inflicted during the Austrian war; and he was said to be a kind hearted man as well as a brave officer.
Short, red faced, corpulent, tightly belted, the Captain wore, cropped almost close, his red hair, the fiery filaments of which, when under the reflection of certain lights, might have given the impression as though his face had been rubbed with phosphorus. Two teeth lost in a night orgy and brawl, he did not exactly remember now, caused him to spit out indistinct words which one could not always understand. He was bald only on the top of his head, like a tonsured monk, with a crop of short, curly hair, golden and shiny, around this circle of bare flesh.
The Commander shook hands, and gulped down his cup of coffee (the sixth since that morning), while listening to the report of his subordinate about the incidents and happening in the service. Then both came back near the window and declared that theirs was not a cheerful lot. The Major, a quiet man, married and having left his wife home, would adapt himself to anything; but the Baron Captain, accustomed to leading a fast life, a patron of low resorts, a wild chaser of disreputable women, was furious at having been confined for the last three months to the obligatory chasteness of this out of the way Post.
Presently they heard a scratching on the door; the Commander said: “Come in,” and a man, one of their automaton soldiers, appeared in the aperture, announcing by his mere presence that luncheon was served.
In the dining-room they found three officers of lower rank; one lieutenant, Otto von Grossling, and two second-lieutenants, Fritz Scheuneberg and Markgraf Wilhelm von Eyrik, a tiny blond man, haughty and brutal with his men, harsh toward the vanquished foe, and violent like a fire-arm.