Ball of Fat 31
And in this way they talked on, fathoming the wishes of God, predicting His
judgments, describing Him as interested in matters which assuredly concern Him
All was said with the utmost care and discretion, but every word uttered by the holy woman in her nun's garb weakened the indignant resistance of the courtesan. Then the conversation drifted somewhat, and the nun began to talk of the convents of her order, of her Superior, of herself, and of her fragile little neighbor, Sister St. Nicephore. They had been sent for from Havre to nurse the hundreds of soldiers who were in hospitals, stricken with smallpox. She described these wretched invalids and their malady. And, while they themselves were detained on their way by the caprices of the Prussian officer, scores of Frenchmen might be dying, whom they would otherwise have saved! For the nursing of soldiers was the old nun's specialty; she had been in the Crimea, in Italy, in Austria; and as she told the story of her campaigns she revealed herself as one of those holy sisters of the fife and drum who seem designed by nature to follow camps, to snatch the wounded from amid the strife of battle, and to quell with a word, more effectually than any general, the rough and insubordinate troopers—a masterful woman, her seamed and pitted face itself an image of the devastations of war.
No one spoke when she had finished for fear of spoiling the excellent effect of her words.
As soon as the meal was over the travellers retired to their rooms, whence they emerged the following day at a late hour of the morning.
Luncheon passed off quietly. The seed sown the preceding evening was being given time to germinate and bring forth fruit.
In the afternoon the countess proposed a walk; then the count, as had been arranged beforehand, took Ball of Fat's arm, and walked with her at some distance behind the rest.
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