Silvere and Miette were still looking at each other. Silvere had remained by the corpse, through all the fusillade and the howls of agony, without even turning his head. He was only conscious of the presence of some men around him, and, from a feeling of modesty, he drew the red banner over Miette’s breast. Then their eyes still continued to gaze at one another.
The conflict, however, was at an end. The death of the receiver of taxes had satiated the soldiers. Some of these ran about, scouring every corner of the esplanade, to prevent the escape of a single insurgent. A gendarme who perceived Silvere under the trees, ran up to him, and seeing that it was a lad he had to deal with, called: “What are you doing there, youngster?”
Silvere, whose eyes were still fixed on those of Miette, made no reply.
“Ah! the bandit, his hands are black with powder,” the gendarme exclaimed, as he stooped down. “Come, get up, you scoundrel! You know what you’ve got to expect.”
Then, as Silvere only smiled vaguely and did not move, the other looked more attentively, and saw that the corpse swathed in the banner was that of a girl.
“A fine girl; what a pity!” he muttered. “Your mistress, eh? you rascal!”
Then he made a violent grab at Silvere, and setting him on his feet led him away like a dog that is dragged by one leg. Silvere submitted in silence, as quietly as a child. He just turned round to give another glance at Miette. He felt distressed at thus leaving her alone under the trees. For the last time he looked at her from afar. She was still lying there in all her purity, wrapped in the red banner, her head slightly raised, and her big eyes turned upward towards heaven.
It was about five o’clock in the morning when Rougon at last ventured to leave his mother’s house. The old woman had gone to sleep on a chair. He crept stealthily to the end of the Impasse Saint-Mittre. There was not a sound, not a shadow. He pushed on as far as the Porte de Rome. The gates stood wide open in the darkness that enveloped the slumbering town. Plassans was sleeping as sound as a top, quite unconscious, apparently, of the risk it was running in allowing the gates to remain unsecured. It seemed like a city of the dead. Rougon, taking courage, made his way into the Rue de Nice. He scanned from a distance the corners of each successive lane; and trembled at every door, fearing lest he should see a band of insurgents rush out upon him. However, he reached the Cours Sauvaire without any mishap. The insurgents seemed to have vanished in the darkness like a nightmare.