The Major, Count de Farlsberg, the Prussian commandant, was reading the last of his mail, lying back in a deep, tapestrycovered armchair, with his feet, still encased in riding-boots, propped up on the elegant marble mantelpiece in which his spurs, in the three months that he had occupied the Château d'Urville,* had made two deep grooves, which grew deeper by the day.
Steam rose from a cup of coffee on an inlaid occasional table stained by liqueurs, scarred by cigar bums, and scored by the penknife of the victorious officer, who from time to time left off sharpening his pencil with it and used it to jot down figures or doodle patterns on its tasteful surface, as the whim of his wandering thoughts took him.
When he came to the end of his correspondence and finished going through the German newspapers which his post orderly had just brought him, he got to his feet. Then, after throwing three or four enormous green logs on to the fire--for these conquering heroes were prepared to chop down every last tree on the estate to keep warm--he went and stood by the window.
It was raining as it rains only in Normandy, as though great gouts of water were being sprayed by some angry, giant hand, a slanting downpour, dense as a thick curtain, impenetrable as a wall of sloping bars, a lashing, splashing deluge which drenched everything in its path, genuine diluvian rain such as falls only around Rouen, the chamber-pot of France.
The officer stared for some time at the waterlogged parkland and, in the distance, at the swollen Andelle,* which had overflowed its banks. He was drumming a Rhenish waltz on the window-pane with his fingers, when a sound made him turn round: it was his second-in-command, Baron de Kelweingstein, who had the rank of acting captain.