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The Civilized, Chapter 27 - English Translation of Les Civilisés

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English Text

But despite it all, there really was a head for the Great Lake Revolt. A prince of imperial blood, a distant descendent of a forgotten dynasty, had appeared mysteriously among his people. Neither his name nor his story were known. It was said that a virgin had prophesized his coming, and at the time she had said, he appeared, the virgin had recognized him, pointed him out, proclamed him amidst the crowd. Due respect was paid, and the priests had prostrated before him and the people rushed to arms. Now he fought with an army and a court, his skill and daring had become renowned, and his fanatical supporters had named him Hong-Kop, the Tiger. His imperial name would be declared later, after decisive victories, in the midst of triumphs and the swearing of fidelity of a freed people.

That is, until one night, prince Hong-Kop was betrayed.

The actual event itself is shrouded in mystery. The Asiatic mind only ever alf betrays something. Was it revenge, ambition, jealousy? Other unknown motives, incomprehensible to barbarian Europe? An anonymous tip off, written in good classical Latin, had been directed to headquarters. Two flying columns had been thrown out in haste, and in the indicated village, the prince was surprised with only a weak escort. Nothing more than that would ever be known.

It was a village surrounded by rivers, and next to a thick woods, perfect for an escape. Hong-Kop had tried to escape when he heard the first crashes of the raid, but the French already held in the woods, the moonlight illuminating their double lines thick with alert troops. The attack columns came along the rivers: bayonets shone from the single lines of soldiers that undulated across the landscape and its rises. Every retreat had been cut off. Hong-Kop realized that he was doomed, and resigned himself to it. On his orders, his followers retreated into the village, and the dynastic tragedy had its final act, somberly and dignified. The Emperor was seated in the middle of his court, while the neighboring huts were already burning in a blaze set by his followers, and he drank the tea that was given to him, without any last words, without any tears, with a smile on his face. None of his followers imitated his act of death, to try to usurp the dignity of a prince, but instead they waited around the body for the enemy to come massacre them. There were 58 men and 2 children. They didn't try any futile resistance, that would just tire them before they died. Paris had ordered in effect to massacre the pirates, and it was carried out in full.

They led them out of the village, into the rice paddy, because the village by now was just a pyre of flame. They didn't tie them: they knelt themselves, properly, in two lines. The rice field was already flooded and so the water rose to their calves: a few hitched up a bit their black scholar robes, to avoid the mud. The executioner arrived, a tirailleur of the same race as the condemned men, smooth black hair and a femine appearance: he took the long saber that cut so many heads, while the victims bared their necks, complacently. The burning village illuminated the strange scene and reddened the flooded grass where flickering shadows danced. Victorious officers, somberly, looked on the victims indifferently, detachedly. A head fell, then a second, then forty: the executioner halted to sharpen his blade, the forty first rebel watching him curiously. Then the bloody blade went to work again, finishing its job with the two children.

On a palisade that had escaped the blaze, the tirailleurs planted the heads, as an example to the others. In a close forest, a tiger, frightened by the red fire, barked like a dog would.

Fiere was there. He had had to act quickly, without being able to call on the support of distant detachments: to get enough men, they had debarked half of the crews of the gunboats. Fierce commanded the shore party.

Midnight had sounded. They camped on land, by sections, the sailors the closest to the forest. There seemed to be nothing to fear, and so only double sentinels were posted, and they lit fires in the camp, too excited and too tense to sleep. The smell of blood filled the air, and also the odor of the Asian vilalge, a horrible mixture of pepper, incense, and rot.

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Suddenly, a rifle crack sounded from the forest.

There was a brouhaha as they ran to their weapons. More explosions rang out. A sergeant, his inner leg hit by a bullet, screamed in pain. A sentinel, his throat mysteriously slit, fell dead without anyone seeing his assassin. A sense of panic started to grip the men. But the officers had thrown themselves in front, and their example rallied the men after them. Fierce was the first to enter into the trees, his saber drawn. A wild anger drove him, the anger of a beast disturbed from his rest. He stalked his adversary with a fog of red in his eyes.

But the enemy had fled. The woods were as peaceful as a cemetery. A stream ran in the middle, perhaps the route that the rebels might have escape with sampans. They found nothing save for a few dark huts perched on the water, perfectly silent and seemingly unoccupied. But still, by unremitted anger and in a lust for revenge, they battered down the doors, and the sailors flooded in with shouts and blows.

There were women in the huts - native girls hiding in their houses like hunted beasts, powerless, mute, and half-dead with fear. They killed them, without even seeing that they were women. A murderous rage filled all of these men - the little Breton fishermen and the peaceful peasants of France, who killed for the sake of killing. The contagion of bloodrush drove out every other thought, and Fierce too smashed down a door and looked, shaking with rage, for a living prey. he found her behind two boards thrown up as a barricade, in a hiding spot without a roof that the moon pitilessly illuminated, an Annamite girl hidden underneath a pile of mats. Discovered, she jumped up in an arc of terror, so scared that she didn't even cry out.

He lifted his saber. But she was almost a child, and she was almost naked. He saw her breasts and her sex. She was pretty and petite, with begging eyes wet with tears. He stopped, and she threw himself at his feet, kissing his hips and his knees, pleading with tears and caresses: he felt hot and his heart beat heavy, rooted in place.

He trembled from his head to his feet. His hands, hesitantly, touched her smooth locks, the smooth brown shoulders, the breasts. She held him with all of strength of her little hands, pulling him onto her, offering herself up as ransom for her life. He stumbled, fell onto his prey.

The wrinkled mats wheezed softly, and the worm eaten boards creaked. A cloud passed over the moon. The hut swealtering hut was like an alcove.

Outside, the cry of sailors grew more distant, and the roar of the tiger sounded closer.

French Text

Chapters

  1. Chapter 1
  2. Chapter 2
  3. Chapter 3
  4. Chapter 4
  5. Chapter 5
  6. Chapter 6
  7. Chapter 7
  8. Chapter 8
  9. Chapter 9
  10. Chapter 10
  11. Chapter 11
  12. Chapter 12
  13. Chapter 13
  14. Chapter 14
  15. Chapter 15
  16. Chapter 16
  17. Chapter 17
  18. Chapter 18
  19. Chapter 19
  20. Chapter 20
  21. Chapter 21
  22. Chapter 22
  23. Chapter 23
  24. Chapter 24
  25. Chapter 25
  26. Chapter 26
  27. Chapter 27
  28. Chapter 28
  29. Chapter 29
  30. Chapter 30
  31. Chapter 31
  32. Chapter 32
  33. Chapter 33
  34. Chapter 34
  35. Chapter 35
  36. Chapter 36

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