28 THE DEFENCE OF VERCHERES
This state of things went on for seven long days and nights, the strain constant, the enemy always on the alert, and none can understand what alertness is who have not taken part in savage warfare. Fortunately, food and ammunition seem to have been sufficient, and, after the first, there was no thought of surrender. How their condition was at length discovered we are not told — the duck-shooters, warned by the cannon, must with incredible exertions have secured aid from a long distance, for near there was none. The state of our heroine when help came is very natural, and makes the story live again as if the intervening centuries were but a light mist to be blown aside by the breeze of a summer clay. Worn out with watching and anxiety the poor child had gone to sleep, her head upon the table, her long loaded musket across her outstretched arms. Was it all a dream—this sudden tramp of men approaching —the rattle of arms, the challenge of the sentry:
" Qui vive ? "
Were they friends or foes? She sprang up, and running to her tower called out:
"Who are you?"
Think of the relief when the welcome answer reached her ears :