Then it seemed to him that Laroussel was bending over him Laroussel in his cavalry uniform. "Bon jour, camarade! nous allons avoir un bien mauvais temps, mon pauvre Julien." How! bad weather? "Comment un mauvais temps?" ... He looked in Laroussel's face. There was something so singular in his smile. Ah! yes, he remembered now: it was the wound! ... "Un vilain temps!" whispered Laroussel.
That bivouac-night before the fight at Chancellorsville, Laroussel had begun to tell him such a singular story ... Chance had brought them, the old enemies, together; made them dear friends in the face of Death.
Suppose some of you who know French talk to her a bit ... Laroussel, why don't you try?" The young man addressed did not at first seem to notice the captain's suggestion. He was a tall, lithe fellow, with a dark, positive face: he had never removed his black gaze from the child since the moment of her appearance.
She shrank from Doctor Hecker, who addressed her in German, shook her head at Lawyer Solari, who tried to make her answer in Italian; and her look always went back plaintively to the dark, sinister face of Laroussel, Laroussel who had calmly taken a human life, a wicked human life, only the evening before. "Laroussel, you're the only Creole in this crowd," said the captain; "talk to her!
... Almost at the same hour that Laroussel was questioning the child in Creole patois, another expedition, searching for bodies along the coast, discovered on the beach of a low islet famed as a haunt of pelicans, the corpse of a child.
Divine absurdity of childish faith! infinite artlessness of childish love! ... Probably the little girl's parents had been residents of New Orleans dwellers of the old colonial quarter, the faubourg, the faubou'. "Well, gentlemen," said Captain Harris, as Laroussel abandoned his cross-examination in despair, "all we can do now is to make inquiries. I suppose we'd better leave the child here.
"All correct, boys?" asked the captain ... "Well, we've got to be going. By-by, Zouzoune!" But Zouzoune burst into tears. Laroussel was going too! "Give her the thing, Laroussel! she gave you a kiss, anyhow more than she'd do for me," cried the captain. Laroussel turned, detached the little compass from his watch chain, and gave it to her. She held up her pretty face for his farewell kiss ...
The splendid bribe evidently impressed her greatly; for tears rose to the brown eyes as she answered: "Mo pas capab di' ca; mo pas capab di' laut nom ... Mo oule; mo pas capab!" Laroussel explained. The child's name was Lili, perhaps a contraction of Eulalie; and her pet Creole name Zouzoune.
He tried to grasp it, and could not ... "N'importe, mon ami," said Laroussel, "tu vas la voir bientot." Who was he to see soon? "qui done, Laroussel?" But Laroussel did not answer. Through the red mist he seemed to smile; then passed. For some hours Carmen had trusted she could save her patient, desperate as the case appeared to be.
Perhaps, again, she was really unable to recall the name: certain memories might have been blurred in the delicate brain by the shock of that terrible night. Then Laroussel tried to reach a clew in other ways, without success.