At Sarrebourg we received tickets for lodgings. Mine was for the old printer Jârcisse, who knew Mr. Goulden and Aunt Grédel, and who made me dine at his table with my new comrade and bedfellow, Jean Buche, the son of a wood-cutter of Harberg, who had never eaten anything but potatoes before he was conscripted. He devoured everything, even to the bones that they set before us.
The long-forgotten communiqués of that early period of the war reported success after success, until at last it was announced that the victorious French armies had reached Sarrebourg and Morhange, and were astride the Strassburg-Metz Railroad. And then Berlin took up the cry, and France and the world learned of a great German victory and of the defeat and rout of the invading army.
Monsieur the Sub-Prefect of Sarrebourg, with his silver collar, and his secretary, had stopped the day before at the "Red Ox," and they were also looking out of the window. Toward eight o'clock, Monsieur Goulden began work, after breakfasting. I ate nothing, but stared and stared until Monsieur the Mayor Parmentier and his co-adjutor, came for Monsieur the Sub-Prefect.
The band were to march in a body for the slopes of the Vosges, behind Sarrebourg and Saverne; and were then to divide into companies, and scatter themselves among the villages between Lorquin and Marmontier, so as to act together or separately, as it might seem expedient.
We saw the saddest sight of all, and this was the crowds of Germans and Russians in Lorraine and Alsace. They were drilling at Luneville, at Blamont, and at Sarrebourg, with oak branches in their wretched shakos. What vexation to see such savages living in luxury at the expense of our peasants. Father Goulden was right when he said that military glory costs very dear.
Two new corps have been voted for the German army, to be numbered 24 and 25; one is for the Russian frontier, with head-quarters at Allenstein, and the other for the French frontier, with head-quarters at Sarrebourg or Mulhouse. A German army corps on a war footing comprises about 52,000 men, with 150 guns and 16,000 horses.
This little account in such a dark place was quite cheering; for they are surrounded and oppressed by the Roman Catholics, in whose presence they are afraid to speak. On entering Alsace, the view of the country was enchanting. We dined at Sarrebourg, which appeared at a distance like a town in the midst of a wood.
Sigismund was proposing to make for Sarrebourg, when the glittering of lances was seen in the distance, and the troop was drawn closely together, for the chance that, as had been already thought probable, some of the Lorrainers had risen as to war and invasion.
All that I remember is that Joseph Bertha, native of Dabo, Canton of Phalsbourg, Arrondissement of Sarrebourg, was incorporated in the Sixth regiment of the line, and that he was to join his corps the twenty-ninth of January at Mayence. This letter produced as bad an effect on me as if I had known nothing of it before. It seemed something new, and I grew angry.
The news which hurried them forwards had been to the effect that a body of two hundred Uhlans had left Sarrebourg, and were advancing towards Blamont. They were going quietly, stopping to levy contributions at the villages on the way. It was probable that they would enter Blamont on the same evening that the franc tireurs reached Halloville.