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so quietly down upon it all, a flaming something which looks like a rocket, and which forming a vast ellipse drops down into the devoted city or citadel, and explodes with a dull thud. It is a bomb. The mortar battery is getting to work. And now shell follows shell from the south battery, and a little behind bomb follows bomb from the mortars. All the other batteries are getting to work. As the night wears on a perfect feu d'enfer is poured into the devoted place. The fire in the citadel blazes up, and towards midnight is very bright."
Upon such a scene as this did Aunt Gretchen and Natalie look down during the long hours of that terrible evening, hiding their eyes with their hands every now and then as the deadly rockets flew up into the clear sky, and again uncovering them to gaze upon the like with a species of fascination. They did not think of sleep, so excited were they —every nerve was so strained that they did not even feel any fatigue.
Sometimes it was Aunt Gretchen, sometimes Natalie who fell down and prayed for the safety of her dear ones, but one or other did not fail to do so constantly throughout those trying hours. It was their only comfort-man seemed so hopelessly impotent against those terrible engines of death and destruction. Frau Stürmer thought of her son, but his risk was palpably far less than that of Louis, and Natalie's fears were principally on account of the latter.
It was a wild night, now the rain fell heavily, and now the bright full moon coming from behind the watery clouds, poured a flood of silver light over the doomed city. Through all this cannonade there stood the glorious Minster in its ideal beauty, seeming to look down with the same calm serenity as the moon, upon the passionate strife that men were waging around its wall. Night wore on, morning appeared ; faint streaks of daylight lighted up the sky, and the weary women were about to retire to their much needed rest, when old Franz came slowly toiling up the narrow stairs.
“Ay, ay, Frau Stürmer, a fearful night,” he began; "I have been down near the town, only out of harm's way. There seems to have been a scuffle amongst the soldiers there, I think, about some young Frenchman whom they tried to shoot, believing him to be a spy, but I didn't know the rights of it. I thought perhaps I'd go down again this morning by daylight and hear what it was all about."
Natalie turned deadly pale and seized Frau Stürmer's arm. Aunt, Louis ! Louis !” she said in a hoarse whisper ; “O dear old
Ob, Franz, do for the love of me go down and see what has become of him, and if he be hurt or killed; bring him here or let me go to him, but pray do not delay one moment.”
“Why what on earth is amiss with the girl," (he had known Natalie from her childhood, and looked upon her as a child still ;) “how now, my little Fraulein, have you then a lover amongst these gay young Frenchmen down yonder ?”
“Why yes,” Frau Stürmer replied for her niece, "we have been very foolish I fear, neighbour, only you are our oldest friend, and I must trust to you not to betray me. We took in and concealed young French soldier, who was dangerously wounded and unable to reach Strasbourg. He and Natalie became fond of each other, and they were betrothed, (against our wishes, I must say, neighbour.) The poor young man left us last night with my son, hoping to join his regiment within the town, and now I should fear, from what you say, that he has been killed in the attempt. Poor lad, I am sorry for him; what a terrible thing war is.”
“You have not been wise, Frau Stürmer, you have not been wise,” said old Franz, shaking his head sagely; "in fact, I may say you have been most unwise. However, it can't be helped now, and you may trust me,- you have nothing to fear from me.”
“O, Franz, good Franz," interrupted Natalie impatiently, “pray go at once, this moment; this suspense is dreadful to bear.”
Well, well, Fraulein, if you will have it so. Women must have their own way, they say, and for my part I have always found it true," said the old man, resuming his coat, before emerging into the chilly morning air; “ but don't make yourself unhappy and break your heart, my pretty one, for after all there may be nothing amiss. I am getting a little deaf, I know, and don't always get hold of the right end of a
He set out directly, pausing in the kitchen below to ask his brother to accompany him, whilst his wife and sister-in-law were commissioned to see that the Stürmers retired to rest. The Kehlers were kind friendly well-meaning women, but their presence at this time was rather a restraint upon Aunt Gretchen and Natalie. Neither of the latter dared acknowledge any interest in a French soldier before their neighbours, who were intensely German in their feelings and prejudices, and all four women appeared to be at cross purposes with each other. At last, as the only way of getting out of the difficulty, the Stürmers consented to retire to the chamber they were to share together. Aunt Gretchen threw herself on the bed, and soon fell asleep, overpowered by sheer weariness. Restlessly did Natalie pace the little chamber, occasionally stopping to look out of the window, from which a limited view of Strasbourg could be seen. The daylight grew stronger and stronger, the birds began to sing, the sun rose, shrouded at first in a thick autumnal mist, which gradually cleared away before him, and by seven o'clock he was flooding the world with a tide of golden radiance. The bright light roused Natalie from a short sleep into which she had fallen only about an hour before. Short though the rest had been it had refreshed her, and the fresh morning sunshine revived her spirits. She began to hope things were not really so bad as she had fancied. There were other Frenchmen beside Louis around Strasbourg, and perhaps after all the whole story was a mistake of old Franz's; he was certainly getting very deaf.
Her aunt was by this time awake, and they were preparing to go down to breakfast together, when the little garden gate was heard to click, and Natalie looking from the window saw Franz Kehler, his brother, and two peasants, carrying a burden between them. Natalie's heart seemed to stop beating for a moment—then it went on at a rate which threatened to deprive her of the power of motion, her head swam, her knees trembled, yet she felt impelled to proceed. She hardly knew how she got down the narrow awkward staircase, but in one moment she was at the door, and opening it. The men came in slowly, without speaking, and laid their heavy burden upon the table. With gentle hands they lifted up the cloak in which it had been wrapped, and there lay, not Louis indeed, but Hans Stürmer, deadly pale and unconscious, his chest enveloped in bandages-his whole appearance that of a man who has received his mortal yound.
Natalie's first sensation was one of relief, her next, one of overwhelming sorrow. “My poor aunt !” she exclaimed, glancing hopelessly at old Franz. Ay, ay, it is a sad thing indeed,” said the old man ;
“ he is wounded in the chest, poor fellow, and I fear there is no chance for him. He is alive still though, only he has fainted away from the loss of blood and the journey here."
At this moment Aunt Gretchen entered the room. For the first moment she appeared overpowered by the shock, and sat down exclaiming, “My poor boy, my poor boy;" but she evidently hardly
realized the fall danger of his condition, and was soon absorbed in the one idea of nursing him tenderly in the hope of shortly restoring him to health.
With the assistance of the men he was carried up stairs and laid upon the bed in the little chamber which Natalie and her aunt had just quitted. Whilst his mother and the women Kehler were busily engaged in attending to him, old Franz took Natalie aside, and when they were alone in the garden related to her the particulars of his morning journey.
“I find that I was mistaken after all, Natalie,” said the old man. “Your lover has escaped; for all I know he is safe and sound with his countrymen,” (Natalie clasped her hands in thankfulness,)“ but he is saved at the expense of this poor fellow's life, I fear. From what I learn when they two approached the town together last night, the Frenchman was suspected and fired at. Hans saw it, and deliberately threw himself in front of the Frenchman, and warned him to run for his life.
The bullet entered Hans's chest and he fell. The soldiers seeing one man fall did not fire again directly, when they saw the other running off they fired at him again, but either did not hit him or only wounded him slightly, for he is supposed to have escaped. Poor Hans has been unconscious nearly ever since. When it was discovered that he was a German soldier he was sent to a sort of ambulance or temporary hospital not far off. The surgeon has seen him, and done all he could for him, but pronounced it a hopeless case. Twenty-four hours he said would terminate all. He has been conscious only once since I first saw him, and then he murmured faintly · Mother, Natalie, take me home,' and knowing his mother was here, I thought it better to bring him to her, although they warned me it would be a risk to move him. Ah well, it is a grievous business ! Poor fellow, I remember him as quite a child. If I am of no use here, I shall go and break the news to my old friend Jacob; it will be a terrible blow for him.”
With these words the old man re-entered the house, and Natalie remained alone in the little overgrown garden, almost too stupified with grief to think rationally. Could it be true, she asked herself, that Hans was going to die, he who had been her best friend since the day that her grandfather had brought her to his home, a little wayward maiden of ten years old. True they had differed a great deal in their opinions, and they had often argued, ay, and almost disputed sometimes, but he had been kind always, and she in her vanity and short
sightedness had despised him. As for Hans doing anything heroic,
up to Sévier, he gave up his life then : after this the real death blow was painless : and was not she, Natalie, in a manner the cause of his death ? She had no thought of Sévier now. After the first feeling of thankfulness for his safety she had almost forgotten him; she was grieving truly for Hans, and her grief was mingled with self-reproaches-some merited perhaps, but others totally undeserved. It is when our friends are going from us that we begin to realize our shortcomings towards them, and then in the excess of our sorrow we are apt to exaggerate our own failings. Natalie sat there in the garden a long time, alone with her grief, and feeling most utterly miserable.
She was aroused by Aunt Gretchen's coming to look for her. Frau Stürmer was, as has been said, a quiet undemonstrative woman; in this respect she much resembled her son. She made no outward show of grief. Her eyes were red as though she had been weeping bitterly, but her manner was calm. Natalie's violent sobs and murmured self-reproaches almost frightened her, and yet she felt touched by the girl's sympathy with her, and affection for Hans—for Natalie had been much taken up with Sévier lately, and Frau Stürmer had never guessed that any betrothal had taken place between Hans and her niece. The bright September day wore on slowly, Hans lay hour after hour in much the same state. He was seldom conscious, and did not speak, except to murmur occasionally “Mütterchen” in a faint voice. He appeared to be getting weaker, doubtless from the internal hæmorrhage that was going on. Through the bot noontide hours, as the sun shone full into the little chamber, and neither open door nor window seemed to afford them a breath of air they watched him, those two loving women. Aunt Gretchen sat on one side of the bed, her eyes fixed on his unconscious face, every now and then moving to moisten his lips with stimulants. Natalie stood