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PARIS IN THE SIEGE.
"And Uncle Joe is in France, where the fathers and brothers of those little Prussian boys have been fighting. I wish I could see it."
There was a thunder and a whizzing in the air and a sharp rattling noise besides; a strange, damp unwholesome smell too, mixed with that of gunpowder; and when Lucy looked up, she found herself down some steps in a dark, dull, vaulted-looking place, lined with stone, however, and open to the street above. A little lamp was burning in a corner, piles of straw and bits of furniture were lying about, and upon one of the bundles of straw sat a little rough-haired girl.
"Ah! Madamoiselle, good morning," she said. "Are you come here to take shelter from the shells? The battery is firing now; I do not think Mamma will come home till it slackens a little. She is gone to my brother who is weak after his wounds. I wish I could offer you something, but we have nothing but water, and it is not even sugared."
"Do you live down her?" asked Lucy, looking round at the dreary place with wonder.
"Not always. We used to have a pretty little house over this, but the cruel shells came crashing in, and flew into pieces, tearing everything to splinters, and we are only safe from them down here. Ah, if I could only have shown you Mamma's pretty room! But there is a great hole in the floor now, and the ceiling is all tumbling down, and the table broken."
"But why do you stay here?"
"Mamma and Emily say it is all the same. We are as safe in our cellar as we could be anywhere, and we should have to pay elsewhere."
"Then you cannot get out of Paris?"
"Oh no, while the Prussians are all around us, and shut us in. My brothers are all in the Garde Mobile, and, you see, so is my doll. Every one must be a soldier, now. My dear Adolphe, hold yourself straight." (And there the doll certainly showed himself perfectly drilled and disciplined.) "March--right foot forward--left foot forward." But in this movement, as may be well supposed, little Coralie had to help her recruit a good deal.
Lucy was surprised. "So you can play even in this dreadful place?" she said.
"Oh yes! What's the use of crying and wearying one's self? I do not mind as long as they leave me my kitten, my dear little Minette."
"Oh! what a pretty, long-haired kitten! But how small and thin!"
"Yes, truly, the poor Minette! The cruel people ate her mother, and there is no milk--no milk, and my poor Minette is almost starved, though I give her bits of my bread and soup; but the bread is only bran and sawdust, and she likes it no more than I."
"Ate up her mother!"
"Yes. She was a superb Cyprus cat, all gray; but, alas! one day she took a walk in the street, and they caught her, and then indeed it was all over with her. I only hope Minette will not get out, but she is so lean that they would find little but bones and fur."
"Ah! how I wish I could take you and her home to Uncle Joe, and give you both good bread and milk! Take my hand, and shut your eyes, and we will wish and wish very hard, and, perhaps, you will come there with me. Paris is not very far off."
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