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No French vermin in this house whilst I live here,” said old Jacob, gruffly.
“ Grandfather dear, don't be so cruel,” pleaded the girl, “ this poor soldier can do no harm, he is fainting, and will die, perhaps, as I stand here.”
“Well, well, give him a cup of water, or something to eat; that's quite good enough treatment for a Frenchman,-a spy in disguise, perhaps."
This from Jacob Stürmer. Aunt Gretchen chimed in with, “Yes, I am sure our poor fellows are suffering enough now from these horrid French soldiers."
“Oh, I forgot," interrupted Natalie, “I have great news for you, I brought it from Franz Kehler's, -the messenger from Strasbourg was then at his house. There has been a glorious victory at Sedan, and the Emperor, Louis Napoleon himself, is taken prisoner. Surely now we are so victorious we can afford to show a little mercy to our conquered enemies."
“ That is news indeed, child, good news for Germany." Jacob rose from his seat in his exultation, and remained standing.
“Is there any news of our soldiers, Natalie ?” asked Frau Stürmer, eagerly, “what of Hans ?”
“He is safe, I hope and believe, aunt, for his name was not in the lists of killed and wounded. But if he is safe, Aunt Gretchen, oh do for his sake show pity to this wounded soldier. If Hans were wounded or sick amongst strangers, would you not wish them to shelter him?"
Aunt Gretchen's heart was touched.
“Well, I think perhaps you're right, child," she said ; then turning to old Jacob, “Father, may the young man come here ?"
“Well, well,” grumbled the old man, “you women are so fanciful. Just for a day or two, if you will have it so, but then he must needs march off to Strasbourg, healed or unhealed. I am going down to neighbour Franz to hear all the news of this great victory," and Stürmer left the cottage, brushing rather contemptuously past the French soldiers at the courtyard gate.
Aunt Gretchen and Natalie, making the most of the old man's grudg. ing permission, hastened out and ordered the soldiers to bring in the sick man. He was taken into the little sitting-room opposite the kitchen (the parlour, I suppose it would have been called in an English farmhouse of the kind) and laid upon a large soft couch which stood there, -an old-fashioned piece of furniture enough, but the special pride of Frau Stürmer's heart. The latter was as famous for her doctoring and nursing propensities as for her culinary capabilities, and in her inmost heart she was delighted at having a patient on whom to exercise her skill. She bathed the inflamed wound, and dressed it with healing ointment; then she set to work to restore the poor
fellow to consciousness. Bidding Natalie bring cold water she bathed his heated forehead, and his face and hands, until the heavy lids unclosed, a look of returning consciousness came over his face, and he murmured, Merci, madame, mille fois merci.”
“We will do our best for you, my poor fellow, never fear,” said Aunt Gretchen, in her kindest tones. “ Now take this,” putting a restorative to his lips, “and do not talk to us now, but try to sleep little."
The soldier willingly obeyed Aunt Gretchen's orders. He appeared thoroughly exhausted, and soon fell into a quiet sleep. Aunt Gretchen was charmed at the success of her good doctoring.
“I must be busy about that soup now,” she said, " and I must make him something to take when he awakes. He seems comfortable enough now. Take your work, Natalie, and sit quietly in the window until he awakes, then come and call me,” and Frau Stürmer departed.
Natalie obeyed these last injunctions, but though her fingers were busied with her work she could not refrain from casting occasional glances at the couch and the stranger who lay there sleeping so profoundly. He was a young man, apparently from two to five and twenty, above the middle height and of a slim active figure. He had a clear olive complexion (flushed now with pain and fever ;) his eyes appeared to be dark, and his hair was a rich brown. He had neither beard nor whiskers, only a slight moustache fringed his upper lip. Natalie gazed at him with a sort of wondering admiration. To her he appeared so warlike, so god-like, that had she been as well up in mythology as she was in the history of the First Empire, she might have likened him to Apollo or Adonis himself. As it was, she compared him to those soldiers of “la grande nation,” who had followed Napoleon over the burning plains of Egypt and through the icy horrors of a Russian winter.
From admiring their invalid guest, Natalie went on to pity him. “Poor fellow,” she thought, “how sad for his mother if she could see him so weak, and for his sisters if he has any. It must be sadder still for his betrothed, if he has left one behind him. They say most of the soldiers have. I wonder whether he writes to her oftener than Hans does to me.”
At this point of her meditations, Natalie heard the stranger stir slightly in his sleep. Instantly she recalled her eyes, and turning her head away amused herself in decapitating an unfortunate little insect on the window pane. This cruel operation successfully performed, she ventured to glance towards the couch again. The stranger's eyes were wide open now, and he was gazing at the girl with an amused expres. sion on his face. Their eyes met, the young man smiled, and Natalie could not help smiling too, it was so absurd.
“I hope monsieur is better now,” she said, advancing; "I will go and call
aunt." "Ah, wait one moment pray, mademoiselle, before calling madame votre mère, and tell me where I am, and how I came here," asked the soldier, eagerly.
“You are in the house of Jacob Stürmer, a farmer, in the village of Nieder Brünnen, on the road to Strasbourg. You were brought here by four of your comrades, who said you had fallen ill upon the road, and were unable to proceed further,” was Natalie's answer.
“In the house of a German! an enemy! indebted to my foes for kind offices, and I maimed like this! Oh, Ciel! that I could rejoin my fellow-soldiers and perish with honour," cried the excited youth, half rising from his couch, but almost immediately sinking down again, with a half-suppressed groan.
“Hush, hush,” said Natalie, soothingly, "you must not excite yourself, monsieur. You will find, that if we are Germans, we are also Christians; we will do our best to restore you to health, and in a day or two doubtless you will be able to continue your journey to Strasbourg."
· Mademoiselle, you are too good, but—Strasbourg, ah,” passing his hand over his forehead with an evident attempt at recollection, “Strasbourg was to be bombarded. Sedan, that dreadful day then, it is no dream ?” Natalie shook her head; "and the Emperor too is prisoner ?” he resumed, looking at the girl inquiringly.
Alas, yes,” she murmured in a low tone. The soldier looked surprised. “Can you, a German, say alas,'
mademoiselle, or you are not German; is it possible that mademoiselle can be French ?” he continued, his whole face lighting up.
"My father was a German, and I live amongst Germans, monsieur, voilà tout,” rejoined Natalie, reverting to her native language, “but I was born in France ; : my mother, was French and the descendant of French soldiers. I love la belle France and feel deeply for her in her present troubles, still my German friends' are' dear to me. You will understand that, monsieur ?”.
"Vraiment, mademoiselle, it does me good to find some one who can sympathize with my poor country. You are not then the daughter of Herr, Stürmer in whose house you say I am ?”
"No, monsieur," replied the young girl; “Jacob Stürmer is my grandfather; Frau Stürmer, his son's widow, is my aunt, and her son, my cousin Hans, is away, in the army. Now, monsieur, I must go and call my aunt, she will be vexed with me for letting you talk so long."
And off darted Natalie to summon Frau Stürmer, who lost no time in making her appearance, laden with good things for the bodily sustenance of her patient.
Frau Stürmer,” said the young man upon her entrance, raising himself on one elbow, and looking into her face with his bright dark eyes, “I am perforce your prisoner de guerre, for a time-grieved as I am to be thus obliged to throw myself upon your mercy. My name is Louis Sévier. My father is a wealthy marchand, at Lyons, and I am a lieutenant in the French army. At the fatal battle of Sedan I was wounded in the shoulder, but in my anxiety to be on the march towards Strasbourg with my regiment, I concealed my wound from my fellow-soldiers. On my road this morning it became very inflamed; and I was at last I suppose unconscious from the pain, fatigue, and loss of blood. In that state I was carried here. Thanks, many thanks, madame, for your
kindness to me. You have done me much good; I feel better already, and hope that I shall not long have to trespass on your hospitality.”
“You are very weak still, monsieur,” returned Aunt Gretchen, in her usual quiet manner; “ and if yoụ are to be well soon you must not talk and excite yourself now. I shall give you some soup at once, and then I have a mixture for you to take, which will allay the pain and fever from your wound.”
Aunt Gretchen's former scruples had entirely disappeared; from this time forward she took the liveliest interest in the young stranger's welfare, and devoted herself to tending and nursing him. Her present prescription had the desired effect, and before long the weary soldier fell into a deep and refreshing slumber which promised to last for some hours. It was late when old Stürmer returned from the village full of tidings with respect to the great victory, and the future movements of the army. 'Strasbourg he said was to be bombarded next, and both women turned pale to think how near them the war was coming; they had thought themselves so secure in their peaceful valley. As the days passed on even this assumed a different aspect. German troops going to the siege and French troops marching to the relief of Strasbourg filled the country around Nieder Brünnen. Bands of rollicking soldiers would at times pass through the village, shouting the “Wacht am Rhein” or the “ Marseillaise,” as the case might be, at the top of their voices, and frightening the peaceful inhabitants with their loud tones and rough gestures. A week passed away, and Louis Sévier still remained an inmate of the Tannenbaus. He was a favourite with each of the little circle there—even with old Jacob, who would listen with great interest to the young man's tales of his military experiences, which were repeated over and over again for Stürmer's especial delectation. Aunt Gretchen was so charmed with his gratitude, and polite attentions to herself, that she declared she felt like a mother to him, whilst as for Natalie ! need I say that she had met with her “fate” in the person of this young wounded Frenchman ? The two young people were naturally thrown a good deal together. Sévier's wound, although not of a dangerous nature, was slow in healing, probably because it had been so long neglected. Aunt Gretchen, constantly occupied with household duties, and old Jacob generally busy upon his farm, were only too glad that Natalie should amuse the stranger, and help to beguile the tedious hours of his convalescence. This arrangement suited them both admirably. They were excellent companions, for never were two people more similar in tastes, feelings, and characteristics, and if Sévier stood rather higher in social rank than Natalie, he was by no means her superior in refinement of feeling and mental capacity. He was a fine young fellow, high-spirited, generous, and impetuous, like most of his countrymen-upright and warm-hearted, fond of his profession and devoted to the welfare of his country—a soldier in every sense of the word, but for all that, there was nothing very wonderful or extraordinary about him, though to Natalie he was a hero, the embodiment of her cherished ideas about the valour and chivalry of