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Title: The Eagle of the Empire - A Story of Waterloo
Author: Brady, Cyrus Townsend, 1861-1920
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Eagle of the Empire - A Story of Waterloo" ***

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[Frontispiece: The Little Countess takes Arms for Her Defence.]



THE EAGLE OF THE EMPIRE

A STORY OF WATERLOO


By CYRUS TOWNSEND BRADY



AUTHOR OF

  "The Island of Regeneration," "The Island of the Stairs,"
  "Britton of the Seventh," Etc.



With Frontispiece

By THE KINNEYS



A. L. BURT COMPANY

Publishers

New York

Published by Arrangements with GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY



Copyright, 1915,

By GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY



DEDICATION

Dedications have gone out of vogue save with the old fashioned.  The
ancient idea of an appeal to a patron has been eliminated from modern
literature.  If a man now inscribes a book to any one it is that he may
associate with his work the names of friends he loves and delights to
honor.  There is always a certain amount of assurance in any such
dedication, the assurance lying in the assumption that there is honor
to the recipient in the association with the book.  Well, there is no
mistaking the purpose anyway.

One of my best friends, and that friendship has been proved in war and
peace, at home and abroad, is a Bank!  The Bank is like Mercy in more
ways than one, but particularly in that it is twice blessed; it is
blessed in what it receives, I hope, and in what it gives, I know.
From the standpoint of the depositor sometimes it is better to receive
than to give.  It has been so in my case and I have been able to
persuade the Bank to that way of thinking.

Therefore, in grateful acknowledgment of the very present help it has
been to me in time of need and in public recognition of many courtesies
from its officers and directors, and as some evidence of my deep
appreciation of its many kindnesses to me, I dedicate this book to

THE MOUNT VERNON TRUST COMPANY

of

MOUNT VERNON, NEW YORK



PREFACE

The Battle of Waterloo, which was fought just one hundred years ago and
with which the story in this book ends, is popularly regarded as one of
the decisive battles of the world, particularly with reference to the
career of the greatest of all Captains.  Personally some study has led
me to believe that Bautzen was really the decisive battle of the
Napoleonic wars.  If the Emperor had there won the overwhelming victory
to which his combinations and the fortunes of war entitled him he would
still have retained his Empire.  Whether he would have been satisfied
or not is another question; and anyway as I am practically alone among
students and critics in my opinions about Bautzen they can be
dismissed.  And that he lost that battle was his own fault anyway!

However Napoleon's genius cannot be denied any more than his failure.
In this book I have sought to show him at his best and also almost at
his worst.  For sheer brilliance, military and mental, the campaigning
in France in 1814 could not be surpassed.  He is there with his raw
recruits, his beardless boys, his old guard, his tactical and
strategical ability, his furious energy, his headlong celerity and his
marvelous power of inspiration; just as he was in Italy when he
revolutionized the art of war and electrified the world.  Many of these
qualities are in evidence in the days before Waterloo, but during the
actual battle upon which his fate and the fate of the world turned, the
tired, broken, ill man is drowsily nodding before a farmhouse by the
road, while Ney, whose superb and headlong courage was not accompanied
by any corresponding military ability, wrecks the last grand army.

And there is no more dramatic an incident in all history, I believe,
than Napoleon's advance on the Fifth-of-the-line drawn up on the
Grenoble Road on the return from Elba.

Nor do the Roman Eagles themselves seem to have made such romantic
appeal or to have won such undying devotion as the Eagles of the Empire.

This story was written just before the outbreak of the present European
war and is published while it is in full course.  Modern commanders
wield forces beside which even the great Army of the Nations that
invaded Russia is scarcely more than a detachment, and battles last for
days, weeks, even months--Waterloo was decided in an afternoon!--yet
war is the same.  If there be any difference it simply grows more
horrible.  The old principles, however, are unchanged, and over the
fields upon which Napoleon marched and fought, armies are marching and
fighting in practically the same way to-day.  And great Captains are
still studying Frederick, Wellington and Bonaparte as they have ever
done.

The author modestly hopes that this book may not only entertain by the
love story, the tragic yet happily ended romance within its pages--for
there is romance here aside from the great Captain and his
exploits--but that in a small way it may serve to set forth not so much
the brilliance and splendor and glory of war as the horror of it.

We are frightfully fascinated by war, even the most peaceable and
peace-loving of us.  May this story help to convey to the reader some
of the other side of it; the hunger, the cold, the weariness, the
suffering, the disaster, the despair of the soldier; as well as the
love and the joy and the final happiness of the beautiful Laure and the
brave Marteau to say nothing of redoubtable old Bal-Arrêt, the
Bullet-Stopper--whose fates were determined on the battlefield amid the
clash of arms.

CYRUS TOWNSEND BRADY.

  THE HEMLOCKS,
  EDGECLIFF TERRACE, PARK-HILL-ON-HUDSON.
  YONKERS, N. Y.

EPIPHANY-TIDE, 1915.



CONTENTS


         PROLOGUE
           VIVE L'EMPEREUR


         BOOK I: THE EMPEROR AT BAY

Chapter

      I.  BEARERS OF EVIL TIDINGS
     II.  THE EMPEROR DREAMS
    III.  THE ARMY MARCHES AWAY
     IV.  MARTEAU AND BAL-ARRÊT RIDE
      V.  WHEN THE COSSACKS PASSED
     VI.  MARTEAU BARGAINS FOR THE WOMAN
    VII.  A RESCUE AND A SIEGE
   VIII.  A TRIAL OR ALLEGIANCE
     IX.  THE EMPEROR EATS AND RIDES
      X.  HOW MARTEAU WON THE CROSS
     XI.  AN EMPEROR AND A GENTLEMAN
    XII.  AN ALLIANCE DECLINED
   XIII.  THE THUNDERBOLT STROKE
    XIV.  THE HAMMER OF THE WAR GOD


          BOOK II: THE EAGLE'S FLIGHT

     XV.  THE BRIDGE AT ARCIS
    XVI.  THE GATE IN THE WALL
   XVII.  A VETERAN OF THE ARMY OF ITALY
  XVIII.  ALMOST A GENTLEMAN
    XIX.  THE GREAT HONOR ROLL
     XX.  WHEN THE VIOLETS BLOOM AGAIN
    XXI.  LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT
   XXII.  IN THE COUNTESS LAURE'S BED-CHAMBER
  XXIII.  THE MARQUIS GRANTS AN INTERVIEW
   XXIV.  ON THE WHOLE DEATH MAY BE BETTER THAN LIFE
    XXV.  NOT EVEN LOVE CAN FIND A WAY
   XXVI.  THEY MEET A LION IN THE WAY
  XXVII.  COMRADE!  GENERAL!  EMPEROR!


          BOOK III: THE LAST TRY

 XXVIII.  AT THE STAMP OF THE EMPEROR'S FOOT
   XXIX.  WATERLOO--THE FINAL REVIEW
    XXX.  WATERLOO--THE CHARGE OF D'ERLON
   XXXI.  WATERLOO--THE LAST OF THE GUARD
  XXXII.  AT LAST THE EAGLE AND THE WOMAN



PROLOGUE

VIVE L'EMPEREUR

The weatherworn Château d'Aumenier stands in the midst of a noble park
of trees forming part of an extensive domain not far to the northwest
of the little town of Sézanne, in the once famous county of Champagne,
in France.  The principal room of the castle is a great hall in the
oldest part of the venerable pile which dates back for eight hundred
years, or to the tenth century and the times of the famous Count Eudes
himself, for whom it was held by one of his greatest vassals.

The vast apartment is filled with rare and interesting mementos of its
distinguished owners, including spoils of war and trophies of the
chase, acquired in one way or another in the long course of their
history, and bespeaking the courage, the power, the ruthlessness, and,
sometimes, the unscrupulousness of the hard-hearted, heavy-handed line.
Every country in Europe and every age, apparently, has been levied upon
to adorn this great hall, with its long mullioned windows, its enormous
fireplace, its huge carved stone mantel, its dark oak paneled walls and
beamed ceiling.  But, the most interesting, the most precious of all
the wonderful things therein has a place of honor to itself at the end
farthest from the main entrance.

Fixed against this wall is a broken staff, or pole, surmounted by a
small metallic figure.  The staff is fastened to the wall by clamps of
tempered steel which are further secured by delicate locks of skillful
and intricate workmanship.  The pole is topped by the gilded effigy of
an eagle.

In dimensions the eagle is eight inches high, from head to feet, and
nine and a half inches wide, from wing tip to wing tip.  Heraldically,
"_Un Aigle Éployé_" it would be called.  That is, an eagle in the act
of taking flight--in the vernacular, a "spread eagle."  The eagle looks
to the left, with its wings half expanded.  In its talons it grasps a
thunderbolt, as in the old Roman standard.  Those who have ever
wandered into the Monastery of the Certosa, at Milan, have seen just
such an eagle on one of the tombs of the great Visconti family.  For,
in truth, this emblem has been modeled after that one.

Below the thunderbolt is a tablet of brass, three inches square, on
which is a raised number.  In this instance, the number is five.  The
copper of which the eagle is molded was originally gilded, but in its
present battered condition much of the gilt has been worn off, or shot
off, and the original material is plainly discernible.  If it could be
lifted its weight would be found to be about three and a half pounds.

Around the neck of the eagle hangs a wreath of pure gold.  There is an
inscription on the back of it, which says that the wreath was presented
to the regiment by the loyal city of Paris after the wonderful Ulm
campaign.

One of the claws of the eagle has been shot away.  The gold laurel
wreath has also been struck by a bullet, and some of its leaves are
gone.  The tip of one wing is missing.  The head of the eagle,
originally proudly and defiantly erect, has been bent backward so that,
instead of a level glance, it looks upward, and there is a deep dent in
it, as from a blow.  And right in the breast gapes a great ragged
shot-hole, which pierces the heart of the proud emblem.  The eagle has
seen service.  It has been in action.  It bears its honorable wounds.
No attempt has been made to repair it.

The staff on which the eagle stands has been broken at about half its
length, presumably by a bullet.  The shattered, splintered end
indicates that the staff is made of oak.  It had been painted blue
originally.  The freshness of the paint has been marred.  On one side,
a huge slice has been cut out of it as if by a mighty sword stroke.
The tough wood is gashed and scarred in various places, and there is a
long, dark blur just above the broken part, which looks as if it might
be a blood stain.

Below the eagle, and attached to the remainder of the staff for about
three-fourths of its length, is what remains of a battle flag.  The
material of it was originally rich and heavy crimson silk, bordered
with gold fringe.  It is faded, tattered, shot-torn, bullet-ridden,
wind-whipped; parts of it have disappeared.  It has been carefully
mounted, and is stretched out so as to present its face to the
beholder.  In dull, defaced letters of gold may be read
inscriptions--the imagination piecing out the missing parts.  Here is a
line that runs as follows:

  _Napoleon, Empereur des Français, au 5e Infanterie
    de la Ligne._


And underneath, in smaller and brighter letters, as if a later addition:

  _Grenadiers du Garde Imperiale._


There has been some sort of device in the middle, but most of it has
disappeared.  From what remains, one guesses that it was a facsimile of
the eagle on the staff-head.  There are little tarnished spots of gold
here and there.  A close observation discloses that they are golden
bees.  In the corners near the staff, the only ones that are left are
golden wreaths in the center of which may be seen the letter "N".

On the other side of the flag, hidden from the beholder, are a series
of names.  They have been transcribed upon a silver plate, which is
affixed to the wall below the broken staff.  They read as follows:

"Marengo; Ulm; Austerlitz; Jena; Berlin; Eylau; Friedland; Madrid;
Eckmuhl; Wagram; Vienna; Smolensk; Moskowa; Bautzen; Leipsic;
Montmirail; Arcis."

Beneath this list is a heavy dash and below all in larger letters,
which unlike the rest have been filled with black enamel, is the last
word,

  "WATERLOO."


The eagle, the staff, and the flag are enclosed and protected from
careless handling by a heavy glass case, the panes set in steel and
silver, and the doors carefully locked to prevent its being stolen
away.  But its security is not entrusted to these inanimate materials
alone.  Every hour of the day and night there keeps watch over it an
old soldier.  He is armed and equipped as if for battle, in the uniform
of the old Fifth Regiment of the Line, somehow temporarily incorporated
in the Imperial Guard as a supplementary regiment of the Grenadiers
thereof.  The black gaiters, the white trousers, the blue and scarlet
coat, with its crossed belts and brilliant decorations, the lofty
bearskin head-dress, are all strangely in keeping with the relic and
its surroundings.

Sometimes the soldier--and there are five of them whose sole and only
business it is to watch over the flag--paces steadily up and down in
front of it, like a sentry on his post.  Sometimes he stands before it
at parade rest.  As to each individual's movements, he suits his fancy.
These are old soldiers, indeed, highly privileged, veterans of twenty
campaigns, fifty pitched battles, and smaller affairs without number.
Their weatherbeaten faces are lined and wrinkled, their mustaches are
as white as snow.

The guard is always relieved at the appointed intervals with military
formality and precision.  One soldier, older, taller than the rest, is
in command of the other four.  From his buttonhole dangles from a white
ribbon a little cross of white enamel.  Though he shows no insignia of
rank higher than that of a Sergeant of the Guard, he has won the proud
distinction of the Legion of Honor.

At one stated hour in the day, a tall, handsome, distinguished,
middle-aged man, wearing for the occasion the uniform of a colonel in
the Imperial Guard, a blood-stained, tarnished, battered, battle-worn
uniform, be it observed, comes into the room.  He is more often than
not attended by a lovely lady of beauty and grace, in spite of her
years, who leads with either hand a handsome youth and a beautiful
maiden.  The four soldiers are always present in full uniform under the
command of their sergeant at this hour.  As the officer enters they
form line, come to attention, and present arms, a salute he gravely and
punctiliously acknowledges.  Attendants follow, bearing decanters and
glasses; wine for the officer and his family, something stronger for
the soldiers.  The glasses are filled.  With her own fair hands, the
lady hands them to the men.  When all are ready the officer holds up
his glass.  The men, stacking arms, do the same.  The eyes of all
glance upward.  Above the eagle and the flag upon a shelf upon the wall
stands a marble head, product of Canova's marvelous chisel.  It is
Napoleon.  White it gleams against the dark stone of the old hall.  At
a nod the soldiers face about, and----

"_Vive l'Empereur_," says the officer quietly.

"_Vive l'Empereur_," in deep and solemn tones repeats the old sergeant.

"_Vive l'Empereur_," comes from the lips of the four soldiers, and even
the woman and the young people join in that ancient acclaim.

The great Emperor is dead long since.  He sleeps beneath the willows in
the low valley in the lonely, far-off, wave-washed islet of St. Helena.
But to these men he will never die.  It is their blood that is upon
that eagle staff.  It was in their hands that it received those wounds.
While they carried it, flung to the breeze of battle, it was shot-torn
and storm-riven.  It is a priceless treasure to them all.  As they
followed it with the ardor and devotion of youth so they now guard it
and respect it with the steadier but not less intense consecration of
maturity and old age.

The eagle of a vanished empire, the emblem of a fame that is past.  It
is as real to them as when into the hands of one of them it was given
by the Emperor himself on the Champ de Mars so long ago when he was
lord of the world.  And so long as they live they will love it,
reverence it, guard it, salute it as in the past.



BOOK I

THE EMPEROR AT BAY


CHAPTER I

BEARERS OF EVIL TIDINGS

The Emperor walked nervously up and down the long, low-ceiled
apartment, the common room of the public inn at Nogent.  Grouped around
a long table in the center of the room several secretaries were busy
with orders, reports and dispatches.  At one end stood a group of
officers of high rank in rich uniforms whose brilliance was shrouded by
heavy cloaks falling from their shoulders and gathered about them, for
the air was raw and chill, despite a great fire burning in a huge open
fireplace.  Their cloaks and hats were wet, their boots and trousers
splashed with mud, and in general they were travel-stained and weary.
They eyed the Emperor, passing and repassing, in gloomy silence mixed
with awe.  In their bearing no less than in their faces was expressed a
certain unwonted fierce resentment, which flamed up and became more
evident when the Emperor turned his back in his short, restless march
to and fro, but which subsided as suddenly when he had them under
observation.  By the door was stationed a young officer in the uniform
of the Fifth Regiment of the infantry of the line.  He stood quietly at
attention, and was evidently there on duty.

From time to time officers, orderlies and couriers came into the room,
bearing dispatches.  These were handed to the young officer and by him
passed over to the Emperor.  Never since the days of Job had any man
perhaps been compelled to welcome such a succession of bearers of evil
tidings as Napoleon on that winter night.

The Emperor's face was pale always, but there was an ashy grayness
about his pallor in that hour that marked a difference.  His face was
lined and seamed, not to say haggard.  The mask of imperturbability he
usually wore was down.  He looked old, tired, discouraged.  His usual
iron self-control and calm had given place to an overwhelming
nervousness and incertitude.  He waved his hands, he muttered to
himself, his mouth twitched awry from time to time as he walked.

"Well, messieurs," he began at last, in sharp, rather high-pitched
notes--even his voice sounded differently--as he lifted his eyes from
perusing the latest dispatch and faced the uneasy group by the
fireplace, "you are doubtless anxious to know the news."  The Emperor
stepped over to the table as he spoke, and gathered up a handful of
dispatches and ran over them with his hands.  "It is all set forth
here: The Germans and the English have shut up Carnot in Antwerp," he
continued rapidly, throwing one paper down.  "The Bourbons have entered
Brussels,"--he threw another letter upon the table--"Belgium, you see,
is lost.  Bernadotte has taken Denmark.  Macdonald is falling back on
Épernay, his weak force growing weaker every hour.  Yorck, who failed
us once before, is hard on his heels with twice, thrice, the number of
his men.  Sacken is trying to head him off.  The King of Naples seeks
to save the throne on which I established him by withdrawing from me
now--the poor fool!  The way to Paris along the Marne is open, and
Blücher is marching on the capital with eighty thousand Russians,
Prussians and Bavarians.  Schwarzenburg with many more is close at
hand."

Something like a hollow groan broke from the breasts of the auditors as
the fateful dispatches fell one by one from the Emperor's hand.  The
secretaries stopped writing and stared.  The young officer by the door
clenched his hands.

"Sire----," said one of the officers, the rich trappings of whose dress
indicated that he was a Marshal of France.  He began boldly but ended
timidly.  "Before it is too late----"

Napoleon swung around and fixed his piercing eyes upon him, as his
voice died away.  The Emperor could easily finish the uncompleted
sentence.

"What, you, Mortier!" he exclaimed.

"I, too, Sire," said another marshal more boldly, apparently encouraged
by the fact that his brother officer had broken the ice.

"And you, Marmont," cried the Emperor, transfixing him in turn with a
reproachful glance.

Both marshals stepped back abashed.

"Besides," said the Emperor gloomily, "it is already too late.  I have
reserved the best for the last," he said with grim irony.  "The courier
who has just departed is from Caulaincourt."  He lifted the last
dispatch, which he had torn open a moment or two since.  He shook it in
the air, crushed it in his hand, laughed, and those who heard him laugh
shuddered.

"What does the Duke of Vicenza say, Sire?" chimed in another marshal.

"It is you, Berthier," said the Emperor.  "You, at least, do not advise
surrender?"

"Not yet, Sire."

"But when?" asked Napoleon quickly.  Without waiting for an answer to
his question, he continued: "The allies now graciously offer us--think
of it, gentlemen--the limits of 1791."

"Impossible!" cried a big red-headed marshal.

"They demand it, Prince of the Moskowa," answered the Emperor,
addressing Marshal Ney.

"But it's incredible, Sire."

"What!" burst out Napoleon passionately.  "Shall we leave France less
than we found her, after all these victories, after all these
conquests, after all these submissions of kings and nations?  Shall we
go back to the limits of the old monarchy?  Never!"

"But, Sire----" began Marshal Maret.

"No more," said the Emperor, turning upon the Duc de Bassano.  "Rather
death than that.  While we have arms we can at least die."

He flashed an imperious look upon the assembly, but no one seemed to
respond to his appeal.  The Emperor's glance slowly roved about the
room.  The young captain met his look.  Instantly and instinctively his
hand went up in salute, his lips framed the familiar phrase:

"_Vive l'Empereur_!  Yes, Sire, we can still die for you," he added in
a low respectful voice, but with tremendous emphasis nevertheless.

He was a mere youth, apparently.  Napoleon looked at him approvingly,
although some of the marshals, with clouded brows and indignant words
of protest at such an outburst from so young a man, would have reproved
him had not their great leader checked them with a gesture.

"Your name, sir," he said shortly to the young officer who had been
guilty of such an amazing breach of military decorum.

"Marteau, Sire.  Jean Marteau, at the Emperor's service," answered the
young soldier nervously, realizing what impropriety he had committed.

"It remains," said the Emperor, looking back at the marshals and their
aides, "for a beardless boy to set an example of devotion in which
Princes and Dukes of the Empire, Marshals of France, heroes of fifty
pitched battles, fail."

"We will die for you, Sire, for France, die with arms in our hands, if
we had them, and on the field of battle," began impetuous Ney.

"If we don't starve first, Sire," said cautious Berthier gloomily.

"Starve!" exclaimed the Emperor.

"The army is without food," said Marmont bluntly.

"It is half naked and freezing," added Victor.

"Ammunition fails us," joined in Oudinot.

"We have no arms," added Mortier.

"Do you, then, advise that we abandon ourselves to the tender mercies
of the allies?" asked Napoleon bitterly.

"Messieurs, it is surely better to die hungry and naked and without
arms for the Emperor than to consent to his dishonor, which is the
dishonor of France," suddenly burst forth the young man at the door.

"How dare you," thundered the usually cool and collected Berthier
angrily, "a mere boy, monsieur, assume to speak in the presence of the
Emperor, to say nothing of these great captains?"

"May my life be forfeit, _Monsieur le Duc_," said the young soldier
more boldly, since Napoleon had condoned his first remark, "if I have
done wrong in assuring my Emperor that we would still die for him."

"Of what regiment are you?" said Napoleon, waving Berthier of the
frowning face into silence.

"I belong to the fifth of the line, Sire."

"He is in my corps, Sire," said Ney.  "I have brigaded that veteran
regiment with the new recruits of the Young Guard."

"But I have seen service before," said the young captain.

"And I have seen you before," said Napoleon, fixing upon him a
penetrating glance.

"Yes, Sire, at the end of the bridge over the Elster at Leipsic.  You
were watching the men streaming across when the bridge was blown up.  I
was among the last to cross the bridge."

"Go on," said the Emperor, as the young man paused.

"Your majesty was pleased to say----"

"I recall it all now.  I saw you plunge into the river and bring back
to shore an Eagle--that of your regiment.  You fell at my feet.  You
should have had the Legion of Honor for it.  I promised it to you, did
I not?"

"Yes, Sire."

"Why did you not claim it?"

"I was wounded and left for dead; when I got back to France and my
regiment I could not add to your anxiety by----"

"Here," said the Emperor, "I still have power to reward faithful
servants and bold spirits." He took off his own cross, fastened it on
the heaving breast of the amazed young soldier.  "Prince," continued
the Emperor, turning to Ney.

"Sire?"

"Spare me this young man.  I need him on my staff."

"I can ill spare any officer from my weak corps of boys and old men,
much less a veteran," the marshal laughed.  "One campaign makes us
veterans, it seems, nowadays, but you shall have him."

"Berthier," continued Napoleon, "make out the transfer.  Give the young
man a step up.  Let him be Major."

"Very well, Sire," said Berthier, turning to one of the secretaries and
giving him directions.

"Meanwhile, what's to be done?" continued Napoleon.

"Tell Caulaincourt to agree to anything," said Maret bluntly.

"I yet live," said Napoleon proudly.  "Naked, starving, unarmed, though
we may be, I and my soldiers have not forgot our trade.  Courage,
messieurs.  All is not yet lost while your Emperor breathes.  Here at
Nogent, at Montereau and farther back we still have seventy thousand
men.  With seventy thousand men and Napoleon much may be accomplished.
Blücher, it is true, marches on Paris.  He counts on the army of
Schwarzenberg to contain us.  He marches leisurely, with wide intervals
between his divisions.  What shall prevent us----"

"Your majesty," cried Marmont, his eyes flashing as he divined the
Emperor's plan.

He was the quickest witted and most brilliant of the marshals, but by
no means the hardest fighter, or the most loyal and devoted subordinate.

"I am worn out," said the Emperor, smiling more kindly upon them.  "I
have scarcely been out of the saddle--I have scarcely had an hour of
sleep since the bloody day of La Rothière.  I must have rest.  Let none
disturb me for two hours.  Hold the messenger from the Duke of Vicenza.
I will give an answer then."

The Emperor drooped, as he spoke, much of the animation went out of his
face and figure.  He looked grayer than ever, heavier than ever, older
than ever.

"In two hours awaken me," he said.

He stepped toward the door that led to the room reserved for himself,
but before he reached it two officers were admitted.  Napoleon stopped
and looked at them.  They saluted him, walked over to Berthier, the
Chief of Staff.

"The soldiers are dying of hunger," said the first.  "The Commissary
General has nothing to give them.  He expected a convoy of provisions,
but Cossacks, who are reported at Fontainebleau, have captured the
train.  What shall we do?"

Berthier threw up his hands, and turned to the other officer to hear
his report.

"Ten thousand men are without arms, or with arms unserviceable and
broken.  The supply of powder is low.  Where shall we get any more?"

The silence in the room was terrible.

"Sire," said Berthier in a low voice, turning to Napoleon, standing
staring, "you hear?"  He stretched out his hand in appealing gesture.

The Emperor turned on his heel, without deigning to look or speak.

"Watch the door for two hours," he said to the young officer, crashing
to the door behind him.  "Awaken me then."

"Gentlemen," said Berthier despairingly to the other officers, "we
shall never persuade him.  You had better repair to your commands.
Some of you must have something to eat.  Divide what you have with the
less fortunate divisions.  Arm and equip the best men.  There is a
small supply at Nogent, I am told.  The others must wait."

"If we could only get at these pigs of Prussians, these dogs of
Russians," said Ney, "we could take food and guns and powder from them."

"Doubtless," said Berthier, not caring to argue that point.

He bowed to the officers, as they saluted, and went out of the door
muttering and arguing noisily and insubordinately, it must be admitted,
and then turned to the table where the secretaries sat.  One of them
had laid his head down on his arms, stretched out on the table and was
fast asleep.  The marshal awoke him and dismissed him with most of the
rest.  From another Berthier took a paper.  He examined it, signed it,
sealed it, and handed it to the young officer on guard at the door.

"Your commission, monsieur," he said.  "Once I was young and full of
enthusiasm and hope and determination.  It is well for France that some
of her children still retain those things."

"I thank the Prince de Wagram," said the young officer, bowing low,
"and I beg his pardon for having spoken."

"The Emperor has forgiven," said Berthier indifferently.  "His
absolution covers us all.  At least if I fall behind you in those other
qualities of youth I shall not fall behind you in devotion.  Come,
Maret," continued the grand marshal.

The two worthies turned away and went out.  The long room sank into
silence.  A soldier came in after a while and replenished the fire,
saluted and passed out.  The pen of the busy secretary, the only one
left of the group, ceased scratching on the paper.  He, too, sank back
in his chair asleep.  The short day faded into twilight and then into
darkness.  From outside beyond the courtyard of the inn came confused
noises, indicating moving bodies of men, the rumble of artillery, the
clatter of cavalry, faint words of command.  A light snow began to
fall.  It was intensely raw and cold.  The officer picked up his cloak,
wrapped it around him, and resumed his immobile guard.



CHAPTER II

THE EMPEROR DREAMS

Within a mean room, which had hastily been prepared for his use, upon a
camp bed, having cast himself down, fully clothed as he was, lay the
worn-out, dispirited, embittered Emperor.  He sought sleep in vain.
Since Leipsic, with its horrible disaster a few months before, one
reverse of fortune had succeeded another.  He who had entered every
country a conqueror at the head of his armies, whose myriads of
soldiers had overrun every land, eating it up with ruthless greed and
rapacity, and spreading destruction far and wide, was now at bay.  He
who had dictated terms of peace in all the capitals of Europe at the
head of triumphant legions was now with a small, weak, ill-equipped,
unfed army, striving to protect his own capital.  France was receiving
the pitiless treatment which she had accorded other lands.  With what
measure she had meted out, it was being measured back to her again.
The cup of trembling, filled with bitterness, was being held to her
shrinking lips, and she must perforce drain it to the dregs.  After all
Napoleon's far-flung campaigns, after all his overwhelming victories,
after the vast outpouring of blood and treasure, after all his glory
and all his fame, the end was at hand.

The prostrate Emperor stared out through the low window into the gray
sky with its drift of snow across the panes.  He heard faintly the
tumult outside.  Disaster, ruin, despair entered his heart.  The young
conscripts were disheartened by defeat, the steady old veterans were
pitifully few in number, thousands of them were in foreign prisons,
many more thousands of them were dead.  Disease was rife among the
youthful recruits, unused to such hard campaigning, as he had summoned
to the colors.  Without food and without arms, they were beginning to
desert their Eagles.  The spirit of the marshals and great officers
whom he had raised from the dust to affluence and power was waning.
They were worn out with much fighting.  They wanted peace, almost at
any price.  He remembered their eager questions when he had joined the
army a month ago.

"What reinforcements has your majesty brought?"

"None," he had been compelled to answer.

"What, then, shall we do?" queried one after the other.

"We must try fortune with what we have," he had declared undauntedly.

Well, they had tried fortune.  Brienne, where he had been a boy at
school, had been the scene of a brilliantly successful action.  They
had lost no glory at La Rothière afterward--although they gained
nothing else--where with thirty thousand men he had beaten back through
one long bloody day and night thrice that number, only to have to
retreat in the end for the salvation of those who had been left alive.
And, to him who had been wont to spend them so indifferently, men had
suddenly become precious, since he could get no more.  Every dead or
wounded man was now unreplaceable, and each loss made his problem
harder to solve.  Since those two first battles he had been forced
back, step by step, mile by mile, league by league, everywhere; and all
his lieutenants likewise.  Now Schwarzenberg, with one hundred and
thirty thousand men, confronted him on the Seine and the Aube, and
Blücher, with eighty thousand men, was marching on Paris by way of the
Marne, with only Macdonald and his beaten and dispirited men, not ten
thousand in number, to hold the fiery old Prussian field marshal in
check.

"How had it all come to this, and why?" the man asked himself, and,
with all his greatness and clearness of vision, the reason did not
occur to him.  For he had only himself to blame for his misfortunes.
He was not the man that he had been.  For a moment his old spirit had
flashed out in the common room of the inn two hours before, but the
reaction left him heavy, weary, old, lonely.  Physically, he felt
unequal to the strain.  His human frame was almost worn out.  Mere men
cannot long usurp the attributes of God.  Intoxicated with success, he
had grasped at omnipotence, and for a time had seemed to enjoy it, only
to fail.  The mills of the gods do grind slowly, but they do grind
immeasurably small in the end.

What a long, bloody way he had traversed since Toulon, since Arcola,
since the bridge at Lodi, since Marengo?  Into what far-off lands it
had led him: Italy, Egypt, Syria, Spain, Austria, Prussia and the
great, white, cold empire of the North.  And all the long way paved
with corpses--corpses he had regarded with indifference until to-day.

It was cold in the room, in spite of the fire in the stove.  It
reminded him of that dreadful retreat.  The Emperor covered his face
with his hand.  No one was there.  He could afford to give away.  There
rose before him in the darkness the face of the wife of his youth, only
to be displaced by the nearer woman, the Austrian wife and the little
son whom he had so touchingly confided to the National Guard a month
ago when he left Paris for the last try with fortune for his empire and
his life.  Would the allies at last and finally beat him; would Francis
Joseph, weak monarch whom he hated, take back his daughter, and with
her Napoleon's son, and bring him up in Austria to hate the name of
France and his father?  The Emperor groaned aloud.

The darkness fell upon the world outside, upon the room within, upon
the soul of the great Captain approaching the nadir of his fortunes,
his spirit almost at the breaking point.  To him at last came Berthier
and Maret.  They had the right of entrance.  The time for which he had
asked had passed.  Young Marteau admitted them without question.  They
entered the room slowly, not relishing their task, yet resolute to
discharge their errand.  The greater room outside was alight from fire
and from lanterns.  Enough illumination came through the door into the
bed-chamber for their purpose--more than enough for the Emperor.  He
turned his head away, lest they should see what they should see.  The
two marshals bowed and stood silent.

"Well?" said the Emperor at last, his voice unduly harsh, as if to
cover emotion with its roughness, and they noticed that he did not look
at them.

"Sire, the courier of the Duke of Vicenza waits for his answer," said
Maret.

There was another long pause.

"Will not your majesty give way for the good of the people?" urged
Berthier.  "Give peace to France, sire.  The army is hungry----"

"Am I God, messieurs, to feed thousands with a few loaves and fishes?"
cried the Emperor bitterly.

"No, Sire.  Therefore, authorize the duke to sign the treaty, and----"

"What!" said Napoleon fiercely, sitting up on the bed and facing them.
"You would have me sign a treaty like that?  Trample under foot my
coronation oath?  Unheard-of disaster may have snatched from me the
promise to renounce my own conquests, but give up those before me,
never!  Leave France smaller, weaker than I found her!  God keep me
from such a disgrace.  Reply to Caulaincourt, since you wish it, but
tell him I reject this treaty.  We must have better terms.  I prefer to
run the uttermost risks of war."

Berthier opened his mouth to speak again, but Napoleon silenced him
with word and gesture.

"No more," he said.  "Go."

The two marshals bowed and left the room with downcast heads and
resentful hearts.  As they disappeared Napoleon called after them.

"Send me that boy at the door.  Lights," he cried, as the young
officer, not waiting for the order to be repeated, promptly entered the
inner room and saluted.  "The maps on the table, bring them here, and
the table, too," commanded the Emperor.

Even as the lights which were placed on the table dispelled the dusk of
the room, so something had dispelled the gloom of the great man's soul.
For a moment he looked almost young again.  The gray pallor left his
cheeks.  Fire sparkled in his eyes.

"Not yet--not yet," he muttered, spreading the maps upon the table.
"We will have one more try with fortune.  My star is low on the
horizon, but it has not set yet."

"Nor shall it set, Sire, while I and my comrades live," returned
Marteau.

"You are right," said the Emperor.  "You stand to me for France.  Your
spirit typifies the spirit of my soldiery, does it not?"

"Theirs is even greater than mine, Sire," was the prompt answer.

"That's well.  Do you know the country hereabouts?"

"I was born at Aumenier."

"Let me see," said the Emperor, "the village lies beyond Sézanne?"

"Yes, Sire."

"In an opening in the great woods beyond the marshes of St. Gond,"
continued the other, studying the map, "there is a château there.  Are
you by any chance of the ancient house of Aumenier?"

"My father was a warden on the estates of the last marquis."

"Good.  Do you know that country?"

"I have hunted over every rod of it as a boy, Sire."

"I must have news," said the Emperor, "information, definite tidings.
I want to know where Blücher is; where his several army corps are.  Can
I trust so young a head as yours with great matters?"

"Tortures could not wring from me anything you may confide, your
majesty," said the young man resolutely.

"I believe you," said the Emperor, looking at him keenly and reading
him like a book.  "Look.  Before daybreak Marmont marches to Sézanne.
The next day after I follow.  I shall leave enough men behind the river
here to hold back Schwarzenberg, or at least to check him if he
advances.  With the rest I shall fall on Blücher."

The young man's eyes sparkled.  He had been bending over the map.  He
drew himself up and saluted.

"It is the Emperor at his best," he said.

"You have studied the art of war, young sir?"

"I have read every one of your majesty's campaigns."

"And you see what I would do?"

"Not altogether, but----"

"Fall upon the flank of the unsuspecting Prussian, burst through his
line, break his center, turn to the right or left, beat him in detail,
drive him back, relieve Paris, and then----"

"And then, Sire?"

"Come back and do the same thing with Schwarzenberg!"

"Your majesty!" cried the young soldier, as the whole mighty plan was
made clear to him.

"Ha!  It brightens your eyes and flushes your cheek, does it not?  So
it will brighten the eyes and flush the cheeks of France.  I will show
them.  In six weeks I will drive them across the Rhine.  In another
month they shall sue for peace and the Vistula shall be our boundary."

"What does your majesty desire of me?"

"That you go at once.  Take with you whomsoever you will.  Bring or
send me reports.  You are educated?"

"I was a student at your majesty's Military College," answered the
young man.

"Did you finish there?"

"I finished in your majesty's army last year."

"How old are you?"

"Twenty-two, Sire."

"You belong to the foot, but you can ride?"

"Anything."

"Marshal Berthier will give you horses.  I shall be at Sézanne the day
after to-morrow night.  You will have news for me then?"

"Or be dead, Sire."

"I have no use for dead men.  Don't get yourself taken.  Any fool can
die, or be made prisoner.  It is a wise man who can live for me and
France."

"I shall live," said the young man simply.  "Have you any further
command, Sire?"

"None."

The hand of Marteau was raised in salute.

"Stop," said the Emperor, as the soldier turned to the door.

"Sire?"

"Come back with news, and let us but escape from this tightening coil,
and you shall be a lieutenant colonel in my guard."

"I will do it for love of your majesty alone," cried the soldier,
turning away.

It was not nearly dawn before Berthier and Maret, who had been
pondering over the dispatch to Caulaincourt, who was fighting the
envoys of the allies at the Congress at Chatillon, ventured to intrude
upon the Emperor.  Having come to his decision, as announced to the
young soldier, who had got his horses and his comrade and gone, the
Emperor, with that supreme command of himself which few men possessed,
had at last got a few hours of rest.  He had dressed himself with the
assistance of his faithful valet, Constant, who had given him a bath
and shaved him, and he now confronted the two astonished marshals with
an air serene--even cheerful.

"Dispatches!" he said, as they approached him.  "It is a question of a
very different matter.  Tell Caulaincourt to prolong the negotiations,
but to concede nothing, to commit me to nothing.  I am going to beat
Blücher.  If I succeed, the state of affairs will entirely change, and
we shall see what we shall see.  Tell Marmont to give orders for his
corps to march immediately after they get some breakfast.  No, they may
not wait till morning.  Fortune has given the Prussians into my hands.
Write to my brother in Paris; tell him that he may expect news from us
of the most important character in forty-eight hours.  Let the
Parisians continue their misérérés and their forty-hour-long prayers
for the present.  We'll soon give them something else to think of."

"But, Sire----" feebly interposed Berthier.

"Do as I tell you," said the Emperor, good-humoredly, "and leave the
rest to me."  He was in a mood apparently that nothing could dash that
morning.  "And you will be as much surprised as the Prussians, and I
believe that nobody can be more amazed than they will be."



CHAPTER III

THE ARMY MARCHES AWAY

Gallantly on his errand rode young Marteau.  Napoleon's order to
Berthier, by him transmitted down the line, had secured four of the
best horses in the army for his messengers.  For young Marteau went not
alone.  With him rode a tall grenadier of the Imperial Guard, whose
original name had been lost, or forgot, in a sobriquet which fitted him
perfectly, and which he had richly earned in a long career as a
soldier.  They called him "Bullet Stopper," "Balle-Arrêtante," the
curious compound ran in French, and the soldiers clipped it and
condensed it into "Bal-Arrêt!"  He used to boast that he had been
wounded in every country in Europe and in Asia and Africa as well.  He
had been hit more times than any soldier high or low in the army.  He
had distinguished himself by valor, and, but for his humble extraction
and meager education, might have risen to a high command.  As it was,
he was personally known to the Emperor, and was accounted as one of the
favorite soldiers of the army.

He, too, had been a dweller on the Aumenier estates.  It was his tales
of adventure which had kindled the martial spirit in young Marteau,
whom he had known from his birth.  A warm friendship subsisted between
the young officer and the old soldier, which no difference in rank or
station could ever impair.  When the Emperor had given him leave to
take with him whomsoever he would, his thoughts had at once turned to
old Bullet Stopper.  The latter had gladly accepted the invitation.

Behold him now, his huge body astride of an enormous horse--for,
although the grenadier was a foot-soldier, he could still ride after a
fashion--plodding along through the mud and the wet and the cold on the
mission which, if successful, would perhaps enable Napoleon to save the
army and France, to say nothing of his throne and his family.

Captain Marteau, or Major Marteau, to give him his new title, had said
nothing as to the nature of his mission, upon which they had been
dispatched, to the humble comrade, the faithful follower who
accompanied him.  He had only told him that it was difficult,
dangerous, and of vital importance, and he had explained to him that
his familiarity with the country, as well as a warm-hearted admiration
and respect for his shrewdness and skill and courage, had caused his
selection.  That was enough for the old soldier; dangers, difficulties,
were as the breath of life to the veteran.  And he was always happy to
follow Marteau, in whose career he took an interest almost fatherly.

The weather was frightful.  It had snowed and then thawed.  The
temperature was now just above the freezing point.  The rough wind was
raw, the fierce winter gale was laden with wet snow.  The roads, like
all country cross-roads in France, or anywhere else, for that matter,
in that day, were a sea of mud.  It was well that the pair had brought
two extra horses.  By changing mounts from time to time they were
enabled to spare their beasts and make the greater speed.  The Emperor
had impressed upon his young aide the necessity for getting the
information to him at the earliest possible moment.  Haste was
everything.  So they pressed on.

Without waiting for their report, and presuming on his general
knowledge of Blücher's character and shrewdly deducing the exact state
of affairs Napoleon was already acting as if he possessed absolute and
accurate information.  The drums were beating the long roll as they
rode through the still dark streets of the little town of Nogent.
Horses were being harnessed to guns, baggage wagons were being loaded,
ammunition caissons were being got ready.  The troops were assembling
out of houses and tents, and coming from around fires, where many of
them had passed an unsheltered night.

There was little of the joy, the gaiety, the _élan_ of the French
soldier, to be seen in the faces of the men thus summoned to the
Eagles.  They came, indeed, they answered the call, but with black
looks and sullen faces and a manner almost despairing.  They had fought
and fought and fought.  They had been beaten back and back and back,
and when they had not been fighting they had been retreating.  And
always they were hungry.  And always they were cold.

The enormous armies of Schwarzenberg had been extended on either side.
They were constantly threatened with being outflanked.  Most of them
were young soldiers, weary and dispirited, and many of them unarmed.
Every battle had reduced the stock of good muskets.  Many of those
still in possession of the troops had been ruined by their unskillful
handling.

The supply of regimental officers was utterly inadequate to the demand.
The bravest and the best are usually the first to fall; the boldest and
most venturesome the most liable to capture.  Perhaps, if the Emperor
had broken up his guard and distributed the veterans among the raw
troops, the effect might have been better, but in that case he would
have destroyed his main reliance in his army.  No, it was better to
keep the guard together at all hazards.  It had already been drawn
heavily upon for officers for other corps.

War was popularly supposed to be a thing of dashing adventure, of
victory, and plunder.  It had been all that before.  Experience had
thrust them all unprepared face to face with the naked reality of
defeat, disease, weary marches over awful roads in freezing cold, in
drifting snow, or in sodden mire.  They had no guns, they had little
food, thank God, there was some clothing, such as it was, but even the
best uniforms were not calculated to stand such strains as had been
imposed upon these.

Only the old guard, staunch, stern, splendid, indomitable, a
magnificent body of men, held the army together--they and the cavalry.
Murat, peerless horseman, was playing the traitor to save his wretched
Neapolitan throne.  But Grouchy, Nansouty, Sebastiani and others
remained.  Conditions were bad in the cavalry, but they were not so bad
as they were in the infantry.  And Druot of the artillery also kept it
together in the retreat.  Guns, cannon, were more precious almost than
men.

Now early that morning, while it was yet dark, they were called up from
their broken sleep to undertake what to them was another purposeless
march.  Even the Eagles drooped in the hands of their bearers.  The
soldiers did not know, they could not see.  The great high roads that
led to Paris were being abandoned; they were plunging into unfathomable
morasses; they were being led through dark, gloomy, dreadful woods to
the northward.  Where?  For what purpose?  The dumb, wrathful,
insubordinate, despairful army indeed moved at the will of its master,
but largely because it realized that it could not stay where it was,
and largely because it was better to move on and die than to lie down
and die.  They were at least warmer on the march!

The spirit of the guard and of the subordinate officers, say from the
colonels down, was good enough, but the generals and the marshals were
sick of fighting.  They had had enough of it.  They had gained all that
they could gain in their world-wide campaigns, in fame, money, titles,
estates.  They had everything to lose and nothing to win.  They wanted
rest, an opportunity to enjoy.  Some of them were devoted to the
Emperor, in fact, all of them were, but their own comfort and
self-interest bulked larger and larger before them.  They saw nothing
but defeat at the end of their endeavors, and they wanted to negotiate
peace with such honor as could be had while they were still a force to
be reckoned with.

Their unwillingness and mutinous spirit, however, had not yet reached
its highest development.  That came later, and brought treachery in its
train.  The awful will of the Emperor still overruled them.
Wrathfully, insubordinately, protestingly, they still marched when he
gave the word.

The Emperor had been working with that furious concentration which he
alone of all men seemed to be able to bring about, and which was one of
the secrets of his power.  Orders borne by couriers had streamed in all
directions over the roads.  Napoleon was about to undertake the most
daring and marvelous campaign of his whole history.  The stimulus of
despair, the certainty of ruin unless the advance of the allies could
be stayed, had at last awakened his dormant energies, filled his veins
with the fire of youth and spring.

With that comprehensive eye which made him the master of battlefields
and nations he had forseen everything.  Soldiers were coming from
Spain.  He had given instructions to magnify their number and their
strength.  He shrewdly surmised that their appearance on the left flank
would cause the cautious Schwarzenberg to pause, to withdraw his
flankers, to mass to meet them.  There would be a halt in the advance.
The allies still feared the Emperor.  Although much of his prestige was
gone, they never made little of Napoleon.  He intended to leave some of
the best troops to confront Schwarzenberg between Nogent and Montereau,
under Victor and Oudinot, hard fighters both, with instructions not to
engage in any decisive battle, not to allow themselves to be trapped
into that, but to stand on the defensive, to hold the River Seine, to
retreat foot by foot, if pressed, to take advantage of every cover, to
hold the enemy in check, to contest every foot of the way, to assume a
strength which they did not have.

He promised that so soon as he had fallen upon Blücher he would send
the news and see that it got to Schwarzenberg and the allied monarchs
who were with him.  Reverses which he hoped to inflict on the Prussian
Field Marshal would increase the Austrian hesitation.  The Emperor
believed that the pressure by Oudinot and Victor would be effective.
They would draw in their columns and concentrate.

After he had finished with Blücher and his army, he intended to retrace
his steps and do the same thing with Schwarzenberg.  Of course, if he
failed with Blücher it was all over.  He was the last hope of
France--he and his army.  If his magnificent dash at the Prussians and
Russians was not successful, nothing could delay the end.  Napoleon was
staking all on the throw, taking the gambler's chance, taking it
recklessly, accepting the hazard, but neglecting no means to insure the
winning of the game.

The Emperor flung a screen of cavalry in front of Marmont, to patrol
every village, to control every farmhouse, to see that no news of his
advance came to the unsuspecting old Prussian.  And then he himself
stayed back in Nogent to see his own orders carried out.  He personally
inspected every division, as it marched to the front through the waning
night, the cheerless dawn, the gray dark day.  It cut him to the heart
to see his soldiers go so silently and so sullenly.  Here and there a
regiment did cry: "_Vive l'Empereur_"; here and there a voice sounded
it, but in the main the men marched dumbly, doggedly.  It was only the
old guard that gave him the imperial salute in full voice in the old
way.

Nothing indicated to the Emperor more thoroughly the temper of the
soldiers than that open indifference.  Why, even in Russia, ere their
stiffened lips froze into silence, they had breathed out the old
acclaim.  The Emperor remembered that grenadier who, when told by the
surgeon that he feared to probe for a ball that had pierced his breast
because he did not know what he would find, "If you probe deep enough
to reach my heart," said the soldier with his dying breath, "you will
find the Emperor."

Grave-faced and frowning, shivering from time to time in the fierce,
raw cold, the Emperor watched the troops march by.  Well, the day after
to-morrow, if there were any left, they would acclaim him loud enough.
The Emperor was cold and cynical.  He had never allowed the life of men
to stand in the way of his desires, but even his iron nerve, his icy
indifference had been shaken.  He gave no outward evidence of it, but
in his heart he realized more plainly than ever before that when these
were gone there were no more.  And so, perhaps, his shudder was not
altogether due to the cold.

Whatever his emotions, he steeled his heart, he made his preparations
for the last try with fortune, the last card to be played, the last die
to be thrown.  What would be the end of it?  What would be the result
of that final desperate game?  The Emperor was a master player--could
even his finesse and skill and talent and genius make up for the poor
hand that had been dealt him because the pack had been so drawn upon
that the good cards had been exhausted, used up, long since?

Did the Emperor realize that even he was not what he had been?  Did he
comprehend that he was no longer the soldier, the man, of the past?
Did he realize that at last he had tried the patience of that fortune
he had worshiped, beyond the limit; and that whatever favor might be
vouchsafed him would only delay the end?

The boys might march and fight, the old guard might sustain its ancient
fame, the genius of the Emperor might flash out in full effulgence once
more--and it would make no difference.  The stars on their courses
fought against Sisera.  The doom sentence was written.  Postponement he
might look forward to, but no final stay of judgment!  A few thousand
more lives he might throw away, but these late sacrifices would avail
nothing.  Oh, no; the Emperor's shudder was not altogether due to the
cold that winter morning.



CHAPTER IV

MARTEAU AND BAL-ARRÊT RIDE

Of this young Marteau and old Bullet Stopper, plodding along at the
best speed they could get from their horses, knew nothing.  The old
grenadier was laconic by nature, and his habit of silence had become
intensified by his years of subordination and service.  The young
officer was wrapped in his own thoughts.  Knowing, as they did, every
foot of the way, the two were able to find short cuts, take advantage
of narrow paths over the hills and through the woods, which would have
offered no passage to the army, even if they had been aware of it.
They reached Sézanne hours before Marmont's advance, long before the
cavalry even.

Baiting their horses, and getting a welcome meal at the inn--the town
itself had as yet suffered nothing from the ravages of the Cossacks,
being too strong for raiding parties--and refusing to answer questions,
and paying no attention to wondering looks of the inhabitants, they
rode out again.  Their way through the marshes of St. Gond was
dreadful.  If only the weather would change, the ground would freeze,
how welcome would be the altered conditions.  But the half snow, the
half rain, still beat down upon them.  Their poor beasts were almost
exhausted.  They broke the ice of the Grand Morin river to get water
for the horses and themselves, and, not daring to kindle a fire, for
they were approaching the country occupied by Blücher, they made a
scanty meal from their haversacks.

They had found the farmhouses and châteaux deserted, evidences of hasty
flight and plunder on every side.  The Cossacks had swept through the
land beyond the town.  The people who could had fled to Sézanne, or had
gone westward hurriedly, to escape the raiders.  In the ruined villages
and farms they came across many dead bodies of old women, old men and
children, with here and there a younger woman whose awful fate filled
the old soldier and the young alike with grim and passionate rage.

"Yonder," said Marteau, gloomily pointing westward through the
darkness, "lies Aumenier and my father's house."

"And mine," added Bullet-Stopper.

There was no need to express the thought further, to dilate upon it.
It had been the Emperor's maxim that war should support war.  His
armies had lived off the country.  The enemy had taken a leaf out of
his own book.  Even the stupid could not fight forever against Napoleon
without learning something.  The allies ate up the land, ravaged it,
turned it into a desert--_lex talionis_!

Marteau's father still lived, with his younger sister.  Old
Bullet-Stopper was alone in the world but for his friends.  What had
happened in that little village yonder?  What was going on in the great
château, so long closed, now finally abandoned by the proud royalist
family which had owned it and had owned Marteau and old Bullet-Stopper,
and all the rest of the villagers, for that matter, for eight hundred
years, or until the revolution had set them free?

Plunged in those gloomy thoughts the young officer involuntarily took a
step in the direction of that village.

"On the Emperor's service," said the grenadier sternly, catching his
young comrade by the arm.  "Later," he continued, "we may go."

"You're right," said Marteau.  "Let us move on."

Whether it was because the roads really were in a worse condition
because of that fact that they ran through marshy country, or whether
it was because the men were worn out and their horses more so, they
made the slowest progress of the day.  They plodded on determinedly
through the night.  The two weaker horses of the four finally gave way
under the strain.  Husbanding the remaining two with the greatest care,
the two soldiers, passing through the deserted villages of St. Prix, on
the Little Morin, and Baye, finally reached the great highroad which
ran through Champaubert, Vauxchamps and Montmirail, toward Paris, and
which, owing to a northward bend of the river, crossed the country some
leagues to the southward of the Marne.

Day was breaking as they reached the edge of the forest bordering the
road, and from a rather high hill had a glimpse of a wide stretch of
country before them.  Fortunately, while it was still raw and cold, the
sun came out and gave them a fair view of a great expanse of rolling
and open fields.  A scene of great animation was disclosed to them.
The road was covered with squadrons of green-coated Russian cavalry,
evidently just called to the saddle, and moving eastward at a walk or
slow trot.  They looked like the advance guard of some important
division.  There was a low, rolling volume of heavy sound coming from
the far north, and in the rising sun they thought they could
distinguish in that direction smoke, as from a battlefield.  The sound
itself was unmistakable to the veteran.

"Cannon!" he said.  "Fighting there."

"Yes," answered Marteau.  "The Emperor said that the Prussians and
Russians were pressing the Duke of Tarentum, Marshal Macdonald."

"But what have we here?" asked old Bal-Arrêt, shading his eyes and
peering at the array on the near road.

A division of Russians, coming from a defile to the right, had
debouched upon a broad plateau or level upon the edge of which the
little village of Champaubert straggled forlornly.  The Cossack
horsemen and the Russian cavalry had cleaned out Champaubert.  There
were no inhabitants left to welcome the Russian division, except dead
ones, who could offer no hospitality.

The division was weary and travel-stained, covered with mud, horses
dead beat; the cannon, huge, formless masses of clay, were dragged
slowly and painfully forward.  It was evident that the commander of the
division had doubled his teams, but the heavy guns could scarcely be
moved, even by twice the number of horses attached.  The poor brutes
had no rest, for, as fast as one gun arrived, both teams were unhitched
and sent over the road to bring up another.  A halt was made on the
plateau.  It was evident to the experienced eyes of the watchers that a
camp was about to be pitched.  The two men stared in keen interest,
with eyes alight with hatred.  What they had seen in the country they
had just passed intensified that hatred, and to the natural racial
antagonism, fostered by years of war, were now added bitter personal
resentments.

"That's one of old Marshal Forward's divisions," said the grenadier,
referring to Blücher by his already accepted name, "but what one?"

"Russians, by the look of them," answered Marteau.

"You say well.  I have seen those green caps and green overcoats
before.  Umph," answered Bullet-Stopper, making for him an
extraordinarily long speech, "it was colder then than it is now, but we
always beat them.  At Friedland, at Eylau, at Borodino, aye, even at
the Beresina.  It was the cold and hunger that beat us.  What wouldn't
the guard give to be where we are now.  Look at them.  They are so sure
of themselves that they haven't thrown out a picket or sentries."

In fact, neither Blücher nor any of his commanders apprehended any
danger whatsoever.  That Napoleon would dare to fall on them was
unthinkable.  That there could be a single French soldier in their
vicinity save those under Macdonald, being hard pressed by Yorck, never
entered anybody's head.

"What Russians are they, do you think?" asked Marteau of his comrade.

"How should I know?" growled the other.  "All Russians are alike to me,
and----"

Marteau, however, had heard discussions during the time he had been on
duty in Napoleon's headquarters.

"That will be Sacken's corps, unless I am very much mistaken," he said.

"And those up yonder toward Épernay, where the firing comes from?"
asked the grenadier.

Marteau shook his head.

"We must find out," was the answer.

"Yes, but how?"

"I don't know."

"There is only one way," continued Bal-Arrêt.

"And that is?"

"To go over there, and----"

"In these uniforms?" observed the young officer.  "We should be shot as
soon as we should appear, and questioned afterward."

"Yes, if there was anything left to question," growled the grenadier.
"The Russians will do some scouting.  Perhaps some of them will come
here.  If so, we will knock them on the head and take their uniforms,
wait until nightfall, slip through the lines, find out what we can, and
go back and tell the Emperor.  It is very simple."

"Quite so," laughed the young officer; "if we can catch two Russians,
if their uniforms will fit us, if we can get through, if we can find
out, if we can get back.  Do you speak Russian, Bal-Arrêt?"

"Not a word."

"Prussian?"

"Enough to pass myself through I guess, and----"

"Hush," said the young man, as three Russians suddenly appeared out of
a little ravine on the edge of the wood.

They had come on a foraging expedition, and had been successful,
apparently, for, tied to a musket and carried between two of the men
was a dead pig.  How it had escaped the Cossack raiders of the day
before was a mystery.  They were apparently coming farther into the
forest for firewood with which to roast the animal.  Perhaps, as the
pig was small, and, as they were doubtless hungry, they did not wish
their capture to be widely known.  At any rate, they came cautiously up
a ravine and had not been noticed until their heads rose above it.
They saw the two Frenchmen just about as soon as they were seen.  The
third man, whose arms were free, immediately presented his piece and
pulled the trigger.  Fortunately it missed fire.  If it had gone off it
might have attracted the attention of the Russian outposts,
investigations would have been instituted, and all chance of passing
the lines there would have been over.

At the same time he pulled the trigger he fell like a log.  The
grenadier, who had thrust into his belt a heavy knife, picked up from
some murdered woodsman on the journey, had drawn it, seized it by the
blade, and, with a skill born of olden peasant days, had hurled it at
the Russian.  The blade struck the man fairly in the face, and the
sharp weapon plunged into the man to the hilt.  He threw up his hands,
his gun dropped, he crashed down into the ravine stone dead.  The next
second the two Frenchmen had seized the two Russians.  The latter were
taken at a disadvantage.  They had retained their clutch on the
gun-sling carrying the pig, and, before they realized what was
toward--they were slow thinkers both--a pair of hands was clasped
around each throat.  The Russians were big men, and they struggled
hard.  A silent, terrible battle was waged under the trees, but, try as
they would, the Russians could not get release from the terrible grasp
of the Frenchmen.  The breath left their bodies, their eyes protruded,
their faces turned black.

Marteau suddenly released his prisoner, who dropped heavily to the
ground.  To bind him with his own breast and gun straps and belt was a
work of a few moments.  When he had finished he tore a piece of cloth
from the coat of the soldier and thrust it into his mouth to gag him.
The grenadier had a harder time with his enemy, who was the bigger of
the two men, but he, too, mastered him, and presently both prisoners
lay helpless, bound and gagged.  The two Frenchmen rose and stared at
each other, a merry twinkle in the eyes of old Bullet-Stopper, a very
puzzled expression in those of the young soldier.

"Well, here's our disguise," said the old soldier.

"Quite so," interposed the officer.  "But what shall we do with these
two?"

"Nothing simpler.  Knock them in the head after we have found out what
we can from them, and----"

But Marteau shook his head.

"I can't murder helpless prisoners," he said decisively.

"If you had seen what they did to us in Russia you wouldn't have any
hesitation on that score," growled the grenadier.  "I had comrades whom
they stripped naked and turned loose in the snow.  Some of them they
buried alive, some they gave to the wolves, some they burned to death.
I have no more feeling for them than I have for reptiles or devils."

"I can't do it," said the younger soldier stubbornly.  "We must think
of some other way."

Old Bullet-Stopper stood frowning, trying to think of some argument by
which to overcome these foolish scruples, when an idea came to his
friend.

"About half a mile back we passed a deserted house.  Let's take them
there and leave them.  There will probably be ropes or straps.  We can
bind them.  They will be sheltered and perhaps somebody may come along
and release them."

"Yes, doubtless somebody will," said the grenadier gravely, thinking
that if somebody proved to be a peasant their release would be an
eternal one, and glad in the thought.  "Very well, you are in command.
Give your order."

At Marteau's direction the straps around the feet of the men were
loosened, they were compelled to get up; they had been disarmed, of
course, and by signs they were made to march in the required direction.
Casting a backward glance over the encampment, to see whether the
absence of the three had been noticed, and, discerning no excitement of
any sort, Marteau followed the grenadier and the two prisoners.  Half a
mile back in the woods stood the hut.  It was a stoutly built
structure, of logs and stone.  A little clearing lay around it.  For a
wonder it had not been burned or broken down, although everything had
been cleaned out of it by raiders.  The door swung idly on its hinges.
The two Russians were forced to enter the hut.  They were bound with
ropes, of which there happened to be some hanging from a nail, the door
was closed, huge sticks from a surrounding fence were driven into the
ground against it, so that it could not be opened from the inside, and
the men were left to their own devices.

As neither Frenchman spoke Russian, and as the Russians understood
neither French nor Prussian, conversation was impossible.  Everything
had to be done by signs.

"I wouldn't give much for their chance, shut up in that house in this
wood," said the grenadier, as the two walked away.

"Nor I," answered Marteau.  "But at least we haven't killed them."

The two Frenchmen now presented a very different appearance.  Before
they left the hut they had taken off their own great coats, the
bearskin shako of the grenadier, and the high, flat-topped,
bell-crowned cap of the line regiment of the officer.  In place of
these they wore the flat Russian caps and the long Russian overcoats.
Bal-Arrêt might serve for a passable Russian, but no one could mistake
Marteau for anything but a Frenchman.  Still, it had to be chanced.

The two retraced their steps and came to the ravine, where the dead
Russian lay.  They had no interest in him, save the grenadier's desire
to get his knife back.  It had served him well, it might be useful
again.  But they had a great interest in the pig.  Their exhausted
horses were now useless, and they had thought they would have to kill
one to get something to eat.  But the pig, albeit he was a lean one,
was a treasure indeed.  To advance upon the Russian line in broad
daylight would have been madness.  Darkness was their only hope.
Reaching down into the ravine, the grenadier hoisted the body of the
poor pig to his comrade, and the two of them lugged it back far in the
woods where it was safe to kindle a fire.  With flint and steel and
tinder, they soon had a blaze going in the sequestered hollow they had
chosen, and the smell of savory roast presently delighted their fancy.
They ate their fill for the first time in weeks be it remarked.  If
they only had a bottle of the famous wine of the country to wash it
down they would have feasted like kings.

"So far," said the grenadier, when he could eat no more, "our
expedition has been successful.  If those youngsters down at Nogent
could only smell this pig there would be no holding them."

"I think it would be well to cook as much of it as we can carry with
us.  I don't know when we may get any more."

"That is well thought on," agreed the old soldier.  "Always provide for
the next meal when you can."

"And, with what's left, as we can't be far from the hut, we'll give
those two poor Russians something to eat."

"You're too tender-hearted, my lad," said Bullet-Stopper, his face
clouded, "ever to be a great soldier, I am afraid."

On an expedition of this kind rank was forgotten, and the humble
subordinate again assumed the role of the advisor.  Marteau laughed.

"Rather than let them starve I would knock them in the head," he said.

"That's what I wanted to do," growled the other savagely.

When it came to the issue, however, he really did respect the rank of
his young friend.  Accordingly, pieces of the roast pig were taken to
the hut and placed in reach of the prisoners, who were found bound as
before and looking very miserable.  Yet there was something suspicious
in their attitude.  The old grenadier turned one of them over and
discovered that one had endeavored to free the other by gnawing at the
ropes.  Not much progress had been made in the few hours that had
elapsed, but still it was evident that the rope would eventually be
bitten through and the men freed.  He pointed this out to his officer.

"Better finish them now," he said.

But Marteau shook his head.

"It will take them all day and night to get free at that rate; by that
time we will be far away, and it will be too late."

"But if they should tell what they have seen?"

"What can they tell?  Only that two Frenchmen fell upon them.  No, let
them be.  Set the food on the floor here.  If they get hungry they can
roll over toward it and eat it."

The gags had been taken out of the mouths of the men.  If they did give
the alarm there would be none to hear them, save perhaps a French
peasant passing that way, and at his hands they would meet short shrift.

Having stuffed their haversacks full of roast pig, they retraced their
steps and reached the edge of the clearing.  It was noon by this time,
so much of the day had been spent in the various undertakings that have
been described, but the Russians were still there.  Evidently they
intended to encamp for the day and rest.  Probably it was part of the
program.  These would move on, presumably on the morrow, and another
division of the army would come up and take their places.  The firing
still continued on the horizon.

Marteau, who had a soldierly instinct, divined that the cavalry, which
had long since disappeared to the westward, would try to outflank
Macdonald, perhaps get in his rear, and this Russian division would
move up and join Yorck's attacking force.  The whole proceeding was
leisurely.  There was no especial hurry.  There was no use tiring out
the men and fighting desperate battles when maneuvering would serve.

The two made a more careful investigation and discovered that trees led
across the road about half a mile to the left, and, although the roads
were filled with galloping couriers and many straggling men and small
commands, yet they decided that by going to the edge of the wood that
touched the road and watching their opportunity they could get across
unnoticed.

While they stared deliberating a squadron of cavalry, not of Cossacks,
but of Russian cuirassiers left the camp and moved off down the
cross-road that led to the south and west--the road, indeed, that led
to the Château d'Aumenier.  The officer in command rode in front and
with him were several civilians, at least, while they were covered with
heavy fur cloaks, no uniform was visible, and among the civilians was
one unmistakably a woman.  A Frenchman always had an eye for a woman.
The party was too far away to distinguish features, but the two men
noted the air of distinction about the party and the way the woman rode
her horse, the deference that appeared to be paid to her, and they
wasted no little time in wondering what might be toward.  However, no
explanation presenting itself to their minds, and, the matter being of
no great importance after all, they turned their attention to the
business in hand.

Working their way through the trees they reached a little coppice close
to the road.  They lay down on the ground back of the coppice, wormed
their way into it, and waited.

"Here we part," said Marteau.  "There are but two of us.  We must get
all the information we can.  I will find out what division this is in
front of us, and I will go back along the road to the eastward and
ascertain where the other divisions are, and by nightfall I will return
to Sézanne to report to the Emperor."

"And what am I to do?" asked the grenadier.  "Remain here?"

"You will cross the road and proceed in the direction of the firing.
Find out, if you can, how the battle goes, what troops are there, what
Marshal Macdonald is doing, and at nightfall retrace your steps and
hasten back to Sézanne."

"Where shall I meet you?"

"Let me think," answered Marteau.  "I shall first go east and then
west, if I can get around that division ahead yonder.  Let us take the
road to d'Aumenier.  I will meet you at the old château at ten o'clock,
or not later than midnight.  There is a by-road over the marsh and
through the forest by the bank of the river to Sézanne."

"I know it."

"Very well, then.  It is understood?"

Old Bullet-Stopper nodded.

"The road is clear," he said.  "Good luck."

The two men rose to their feet, shook hands.

"We had better go separately," said Marteau.  "You have the longer
distance.  You first.  I will follow."

The officer watched the old grenadier anxiously.  He passed the road
safely, ran across the intervening space, and disappeared in a little
clump of fruit trees surrounding a deserted farmhouse.  The young man
waited, listening intently for the sound of a shot or struggle, but he
heard nothing.  Then he turned, stepped out into the road, saw it was
empty for the moment, set his face eastward, and moved across it to see
what he could find out beyond.



CHAPTER V

WHEN THE COSSACKS PASSED

For the first time in years the great hall of the Château d'Aumenier
was brightly lighted.  The ancient house stood in the midst of a wooded
park adjacent to the village, overlooking one of the little lakes whose
outlets flowed into the Morin.  In former days it had been the scene of
much hospitality, and, even after the revolution in the period of the
consulate and the early empire, representatives of the ancient house
had resided there, albeit quietly and in greatly diminished style.  The
old Marquis Henri, as uncompromising a royalist soldier as ever lived,
had fled to England and had remained there.  His younger brother,
Robert, compromising his dignity and his principles alike, had finally
made his submission to Napoleon and received back the estates, or what
had not been sequestrated.  But he had lived there quietly, had sought
no preferment of the government--even rejecting many offers--and had
confined his recognition to as narrow limits as possible.  He had
married and there had been born to him a daughter, whom he had named
after the ancient dames of his honorable house, Laure.

The Count d'Aumenier, living thus retired, had fallen into rather
careless habits after the death of his wife, and the little demoiselle
had been brought up indifferently indeed.  Dark, brown-eyed,
black-haired, she had given promise of beauty to come.  Left to her own
devices she had acquired accomplishments most unusual in that day and
by no means feminine.  She could ride, shoot, swim, run, fence, much
better than she could dance the old courtly minuet, or the new and
popular waltz, just beginning to make its appearance.  A love of
reading and an ancient library in which she had a free range had
initiated her into many things which the well-brought-up French girl
was not supposed to know, and which, indeed, many of them went to their
graves without ever finding out.  The Count had a well-stored mind, and
on occasion he gave the child the benefit of it, while leaving her
mainly to her own devices.

Few of the ancient nobility had come back to the neighborhood.  Their
original holdings had been portioned out among the new creations of the
Imperial Wizard, and with them the Count held little intercourse.
Laure d'Aumenier had not reached the marriageable age, else some of the
newly made gentry would undoubtedly have paid court to her.  She found
companions among the retainers of her father's estate.  The devotion of
some of them had survived the passionate hatreds of the revolution and,
failing the Marquis, who was the head of the house, they loyally served
his brother, and with pride and admiration gave something like feudal
worship and devotion to the little lady.

The Marquis, an old man now, had never forgiven his brother, the Count,
for his compromise with principle and for his recognition of the
"usurper," as he was pleased to characterize Napoleon.  He had refused
even to accept that portion of the greatly diminished revenue of the
estate which the younger brother had regularly remitted to the Marquis'
bankers in London.  The whole amount lay there untouched and
accumulating, although, as were many other emigrés, the Marquis
frequently was hard pressed for the bare necessities of life.  With
every year, as Bonaparte--for that was the only name by which he
thought of him--seemed to be more and more thoroughly established on
the throne, the resentment of the Marquis had grown.  Latterly he had
refused to hold any communication with his brother.

The year before the Battle of the Nations, or just before Napoleon set
forth on his ill-fated Russian adventure, Count Robert d'Aumenier died.
With an idea of amendment, which showed how his conscience had smitten
him for his compromise, he left everything he possessed to his brother,
the Marquis, including his daughter, Laure, who had just reached her
sixteenth year.  With the will was a letter, begging the Marquis to
take the young demoiselle under his charge, to complete that ill-begun
and worse-conducted education, the deficiencies of which the father too
late realized, in a manner befitting her station, and to provide for
her marriage with a proper portion, as if she had been his own
daughter.  The Marquis had never married himself, lacking the means to
support his rank, and it was probable that he never would marry.

The Marquis was at first minded to refuse the bequest and to disregard
the appeal, but an old retainer of the family, none other than Jean
Marteau, the elder, complying with Count Robert's dying wish, had taken
the young Countess Laure across the channel, and had quietly left her
in her uncle's care, he himself coming back to act as steward or agent
for the remaining acres of the shrunken Aumenier domain; for the
Marquis, having chosen a course and walked in it for so many years, was
not minded even for the sake of being once more the lord of Aumenier to
go back to France, since the return involved the recognition of the
powers that were.

Old Jean Marteau lived in his modest house between the village and the
château.  And the château had been closed for the intervening time.
Young Jean Marteau, plodding along the familiar way, after a day full
of striking adventure and fraught with important news, instantly
noticed the light coming through the half moons in the shutters over
the windows of the château, as he came around a brow of the hill and
overlooked the village, the lake and the castle in the clearing.  The
village was as dark as the château was light.

Marteau was ineffably weary.  He had been without sleep for thirty-six
hours, he had ridden twenty leagues and walked--Heaven only knew how
many miles in addition.  He had extricated himself from desperate
situations only by his courage, daring, and, in one or two cases, by
downright fighting, rendered necessary by his determination to acquire
accurate information for the Emperor.  He had profited, not only by his
instruction in the military school, but by his campaigning, and he now
carried in his mind a disposition of the Russian forces which would be
of the utmost value to the Emperor.

The need of some rest, however, was absolute.  Marmont's troops,
starting out at the same time he had taken his departure, would barely
have reached Sézanne by this time, so much more slowly did an army move
than a single person.  The Emperor, who had intimated that he would
remain at Nogent until the next day, would scarcely undertake the march
before morning.  Aumenier lay off to the northwest of Sézanne, distant
a few miles.  If the young aide could find something to eat and get a
few hours' sleep, he could be at Sézanne before the Emperor arrived and
his information would be ready in the very nick of time.  With that
thought, after staring hard at the château in some little wonderment,
he turned aside from the road that led to its entrance and made for the
village.

His mother had died the year before; his father and his sister, with
one or two attendants, lived alone.  There was no noble blood in
Marteau's veins, as noble blood is counted, but his family had been
followers and dependents of the Aumeniers for as many generations as
that family had been domiciled in France.  Young Jean Marteau had not
only been Laure d'Aumenier's playmate, but he had been her devoted
slave as well.  To what extent that devotion had possessed him he had
not known until returning from the military school he had found her
gone.

The intercourse between the young people had been of the frankest and
pleasantest character, but, in spite of the sturdy respectability of
the family and the new principles of equality born of the revolution,
young Marteau realized--and if he had failed to do so his father had
enlightened him--that there was no more chance of his becoming a
suitor, a welcome suitor, that is, for the hand of Laure d'Aumenier
than there was of his becoming a Marshal of France.

Indeed, as in the case of many another soldier, that last was not an
impossibility.  Men infinitely more humble than he in origin and with
less natural ability and greatly inferior education had attained that
high degree.  If Napoleon lived long enough and the wars continued and
he had the opportunity, he, too, might achieve that coveted
distinction.  But not even that would make him acceptable to Count
Robert, no matter what his career had been; and even if Count Robert
could have been persuaded the old Marquis Henri would be doubly
impossible.

So, on the whole, Jean Marteau had been glad that Laure d'Aumenier had
gone out of his life.  He resolved to put her out of his heart in the
same way, and he plunged with splendid energy into the German campaign
of 1813, with its singular alternations of success and failure, of
victory and defeat, of glory and shame.  He had been lucky enough to
win his captain's commission, and now, as a major, with a position on
the staff of the Emperor, he could look forward to rapid advancement so
long as the Emperor lasted.  With the bright optimism of youth, even
though affairs were now so utterly hopeless that the wise old marshals
despaired, Marteau felt that his foot was on the first rung of the
ladder of fame and prosperity, and, in spite of himself, as he had
approached his native village, he had begun to dream again, almost to
hope.

There was something ominous, however, in the appearance of the village
in that dark gray evening hour.  There were no barking dogs, no
clucking hens, no lowing cattle, no sounds of childish laughter, no
sturdy-voiced men or softer-spoken women exchanging greetings.  The
stables and sheds were strangely silent.

The village was a small one.  He turned into it, entered the first
house, stumbled over a corpse!  The silence was of death.  With a
beating heart and with a strength he did not know he possessed, he
turned aside and ran straight to his father's house.

Standing by itself it was a larger, better and more inviting house than
the others.  The gate of the surrounding stone wall was battered off
the hinges, the front door of the house was open, the garden was
trampled.  The house had been half destroyed.  A dead dog lay in front
of the door.  He could see all that in the half light.  He ran down the
path and burst into the wrecked and plundered living room.  A few
feeble embers still glowed in the broad hearth.  From them he lighted a
candle standing on the mantel shelf.

The first sight that greeted him was the body of his sister, her torn
clothing in frightful disarray, a look of agony and horror upon her
white set face under its dishevelled hair.  She was stone dead.  He
knelt down and touched her.  She was stone cold, too.  He stared at
her, a groan bursting from his lips.  The groan brought forth another
sound.  Was it an echo?  Lifting the candle, he looked about him.  In a
far corner lay a huddled human body.  He ran to it and bent over it.
It was his father.  Knowing the house like a book, he ran and fetched
some water.  There were a few mouthfuls of spirits left in a flask of
vodka he had found in the Russian's overcoat.  He bathed his father's
face, forced a few drops of the strong spirit down his throat, and the
old man opened his eyes.  In the flickering light he caught sight of
the green cap and coat.

"Curse you," he whispered.

"My father!" cried the young officer.  "It is I."

"My son!"

"What has happened?"

"The Cossacks--I fought for the honor of your sister.  Where----" the
old man's voice faltered.

"She is dead yonder," answered the son.

"Thank God," came the faint whisper from the father.  "Mademoiselle
Laure--she--the wagon-train--the castle----"

His voice died away, his eyes closed.  Frantically the young man
recalled his father to his senses again.

"It's no use," whispered the old man, "a ball in the breast.  I am
going.  What do you here?"

"On the service of the Emperor," answered the young officer.  "Father,
speak to me!"

"Alas--poor--France," came the words slowly, one by one, and
then--silence.

Marteau had seen death too many times not to know it now.  He laid the
old man's head gently down, he straightened his limbs, he went over to
the form of the poor girl.  To what horrors she had been
subjected--like every other woman in the village--before she died!
Like his father, he thanked God that she was dead.  He lifted her up
tenderly and laid her down on a huge settle by the fireplace.  He stood
a moment, looking from one to the other.  The irreligion of the age had
not seized him.  He knelt down and made a prayer.  Having discharged
that duty, he lifted his hands to heaven and his lips moved.  Was he
invoking a curse upon these enemies?  He turned quickly and went out
into the night, drawing the door behind him, fastening it as tight as
he could.

He forgot that he was hungry, that he was thirsty, that he was tired,
that he was cold.  For the moment he almost forgot his duty toward his
Emperor and France, as he walked rapidly through the trees toward the
great house.  But as he walked that stern obligation came back to him.
His sister was dead, his father murdered.  Well, the first Cossack he
came upon should pay.  Meanwhile there was his duty.  What had his
father said?

"The Cossacks--the wagon-train--the Countess Laure."

What did it mean?  Part of it was plain enough.  The Cossacks had
raided the village, his father had been stricken down defending his
daughter, his sister had died.  That was easy, but the wagon-train, the
castle, the Countess Laure?  Could she have come back?  Was that the
occasion for the lights in the château?  That body of cavalry that he
had seen leaving Sacken's men that morning with the civilians--was she
that woman?  The mystery would be solved at the château.  And it was
there he had arranged to meet his comrade, anyway.

He stopped and looked back at the devastated village.  Already a light
was blazing in one of the houses.  It would soon be afire.  He could do
nothing then.  The château called him.  He broke into a run again,
heavy-footed and tired out though he was.  Around the château in the
courtyard were dozens of wagons.  His experienced glance told him that
they were army wagons, containing provisions, arms, ammunition.  Some
of the covers had been raised to expose the contents.  There was not a
living man present, and scarcely a living horse.  There had been some
sort of a battle evidently, for the wagons were in all sorts of
confusion and there were dead men and horses everywhere.  He did not
stop to examine them save to make sure that the dead men were French,
proving that the convoy had come from Paris.  He threaded his way among
the wagons and finally reached the steps that led to the broad terrace
upon which rose the château.

The main door was open.  There were no soldiers about, which struck him
as peculiar, almost terrifying.  He went up the steps and across the
terrace, and stopped before the building, almost stumbling over the
bodies of two men whose uniforms were plainly Russian!  He inspected
them briefly and stepped toward the door of the entrance hall.  It was
open but dimly lighted, and the light wavered fitfully.  The faint
illumination came into the hall from a big broad open door upon the
right, giving entrance to what had been the great room.  Still keeping
within the shadow, he moved carefully and noiselessly into the hall,
until he could get a view of the room beyond.

A huge fire was burning in the enormous fireplace.  The many tables
with which the room had been furnished had been pushed together in the
center, several tall candles pulled from the candelabra and fastened
there by their own melted wax stood upon these tables and added their
illumination to the fire-light.  Several men in uniforms, two of them
rough-coated Cossacks, and two whose dress showed clearly that they
belonged to the Russian Imperial Guard, lay on the floor, bound and
helpless.  A stout, elderly man, in civilian garb, with a very red face
and an angry look, his wig awry, was lashed to a chair.  Between two
ruffianly looking men, who held her firmly, stood a woman.

There were perhaps two dozen other men in the room, unkempt, savage,
brutal, armed with all sorts of nondescript weapons from ancient
pistols to fowling pieces, clubs and scythes.  They were all in a state
of great excitement, shouting and gesturing madly.

The woman standing between the two soldiers was in the full light.  So
soon as he caught sight of her Marteau recognized her.  It was Laure
d'Aumenier.  She had grown taller and more beautiful than when he had
seen her last as a young girl.  She had been handled roughly, her
clothes were torn, her hair partially unbound.  Her captors held her
with an iron grasp upon her arms, but she did not flinch or murmur.
She held herself as erect and looked as imperious as if she had been on
a throne.



CHAPTER VI

MARTEAU BARGAINS FOR THE WOMAN

The sight of her predicament filled the young Frenchman with rage and
horror.  Drawing his pistol, he strode into the room.  What he intended
to do, or how he intended to do it was not clear even to him.  There
stood the woman he loved in the clutch of wretches whose very touch was
pollution.  He must help her.  All duties and intentions gave way to
that determination.

A dead silence fell over the room as he entered and the people caught
sight of him.  He stood staring at the occupants and they returned his
stare in good measure.  Finally the biggest ruffian, who seemed to be
the leader, found his voice and burst out with a savage oath:

"Another Russian!  Well, the more the merrier."

He raised a huge horse pistol as he spoke.  His words were greeted with
jeers and yells from the band.  With a flash of inspiration Marteau,
realizing into what he had been led, dropped his own weapon and
instantly threw up his hands.

"I am French, messieurs," he cried loudly as the pistol clattered on
the floor at his feet.

"What are you doing in that uniform, then?" roared the leader.

Marteau tore open the heavy green coat, disclosing beneath it his
French uniform.  He had a second to make up his mind how to answer that
pertinent question.  He was quite in the dark as to the meaning of the
mysterious situation.  He opened his mouth and spoke.

"It is quite simple," he began, "I am----"

What should he say?  What was he?  Were these men for the Emperor or
for the king, or were they common blackguards for themselves?  The
latter was probably the true state of the case, but did it please them
to pose as royalists?  He took a long chance after a quick prayer
because he wanted to live not so much for himself as for the woman.

"I am deserting the Emperor," he said.  "I am for the king."

"No king could have brought us to worse straits than we are now in,"
said the leader, lowering his pistol uncertainly, but still keeping the
young man covered.

"Right, my friend," continued Marteau exultantly, realizing that he had
made the right choice.  "Bonaparte is beaten, Blücher is marching on
Paris, Schwarzenberg has the Emperor surrounded.  I thought I might as
well save myself while I had the chance, so I stole this Russian coat
to keep myself from freezing to death, and here I am.  I belong to
Aumenier."

"You'll join us, then?"

"With pleasure.  Who do you serve?"

"Ourselves," laughed the leader grimly.  "We're from Fére-Champenoise
way.  We're all of the village and countryside that the Cossacks and
the Prussians have left of our families.  We're hungry, starving,
naked.  Do you hear?  We were hiding in the woods hard by to-day.
There was a wagon-train.  A regiment of Cossacks surprised it, killed
its defenders, brought it here.  We saw it all."

"And where are the Cossacks gone?" asked the young man, coolly picking
up his pistol from the floor and nonchalantly sitting upon the nearest
table in a careless way which certainly belied the beating of his
heart.  He took careful notice of the men.  They were ignorant fellows
of the baser sort, half-mad, starving, ferocious peasants, little
better than brute beasts, made so by the war.

"An order came for them.  They marched away, leaving a company of other
soldiers like those yonder."  He pointed to the men on the floor.

"And what became of them?"

"There was an attack from the woods at night--a little handful of
French soldiers.  They beat them off and followed them down the road.
They have been gone half an hour.  We heard the firing.  We came out
thinking to plunder the train.  We opened wagon after wagon but found
nothing but arms.  We can't eat steel or powder.  We killed two
sentries, made prisoners of the officers.  We'll set fire to the house
and leave them presently.  As for this man, we'll kill him, and as for
this woman----"

He laughed meaningly, basely, leering at the girl in hideous
suggestiveness that made her shudder; and which his wretched companions
found highly amusing.

"You have done well," said the young officer quickly, although he was
cold with rage at the ruffian's low insinuation.  "I hope to have some
interest with the king later.  If you will give me your names I will
see that you are rewarded."

"Never mind our names," growled the leader, still suspicious, evidently.

"Food and drink would reward us better now," shouted a second.

"Aye," yelled one of the others, seconding this happy thought.  "We
have eaten nothing since yesterday, and as for drink, it is a week
since my lips have tasted a swallow of wine."

"And what would you give me if I could procure you some of the fine
wine of the country, my friends?" said Marteau quietly, putting great
restraint upon himself to continue trafficking with these scoundrels.

"Give?  Anything," answered several in chorus, their red eyes gleaming.

"If you've got it we'll take it for nothing," said the brutal leader
with ferocious cunning.

"Do I look as if I concealed wine and provisions on my person?" asked
the officer boldly, confident now that he had found the way to master
these men.

"No," was the answer.  "But where is it?"

"And be quick about it," cried a second threateningly.  "Those Russians
may be back at any moment."

"Is this a jest?" asked a third with a menacing gesture.

"It would be ill-done to joke with men as hungry as you are, I take
it," answered Marteau.

"Hurry, then," cried a fourth.

"In good time, my friends.  First, a word with you.  What are you going
to do with those two prisoners?"

"Knock the men in the head, I told you," answered the leader.

"And the woman?"

"We are trying to settle who should have her--first."

"It's a pity there's only one, still----" began another.

"I'll make a bargain with you, then," interrupted Marteau quickly,
fingering his weapon while he spoke.  "Food and drink in plenty for
you, the woman for me."

"And what do you want of the woman?"

"Before I was a soldier I lived in Aumenier, I told you.  I served
these people.  This woman is an aristocrat.  I hate her."

It was an old appeal and an old comment but it served.  These were wild
days like those of the revolution, the license and rapine and ravagings
of which some of the older men present could very well recall.

"She treated me like dirt under her feet," went on the officer.  "Now I
want to have my turn."

"Marteau!" cried the woman for the first time, recognizing him as he
turned a grim face toward her, upon which he had very successfully
counterfeited a look of hatred.  "Is it indeed----"

"Silence," thundered the young soldier, stepping near to her and
shaking his clenched fist in her face.  "These worthy patriots will
give you to me, and then----"

There was a burst of wild laughter throughout the room.

"It's these cursed aristocrats that have brought these hateful Russians
upon us," cried one.

"Give her to the lad and let us have food and drink," cried another.

"He'll deal with her," cried a third.

"You hear?" asked the chief.

"I hear," answered Marteau.  "Listen.  My father kept this house for
its owners.  He is dead in the village yonder."

"The wine, the wine," roared one, licking his lips.

"Food.  I starve," cried another, baring his teeth.

"Wait.  Naturally, fleeing from the army, I came to him.  My sister is
dead too, outraged, murdered.  You know?"

"Yes, yes, we know."

"I want to get my revenge on someone and who better than she?"

The young officer did not dare again to look at the young woman.  He
could feel the horror, the amazement, the contempt in her glance.  Was
this one of the loyal Marteaux?

"Make her suffer for us!"

"Our children!"

"Our mothers!"

"Our daughters!" cried one after the other, intoxicated with their
wrongs, real or fancied, their faces black with rage, their clenched
hands raised to heaven as if invoking vengeance.

"Have no fear," said Marteau.  "Because of my father's position I know
where the wine cellar is, and there is food there."

"Lead on," said the chief.  "We've talked too much."

"This way," replied the young captain, lifting the only candlestick
from the table.  "Leave two men to watch the woman and give the alarm,
the rest follow me."

Marteau knew the old castle like a book.  He knew where the keys were
kept.  Chatting carelessly and giving them every evidence of his
familiarity, he found the keys, unlocked the doors, led them from room
to room, from level to level, until finally they reached the wine
cellar.  It was separated from the cellar in which they stood by a
heavy iron-bound oaken door.  In spite of his easy bearing and manner,
suspicions had been aroused in the uneasy minds of the rabble, but when
Marteau lifted the candle and bade them bring their own lights and see
through an iron grating in the door what the chamber beyond contained
and they recognized the casks and bottles, to say nothing of hams,
smoked meats and other eatables, their suspicions vanished.  They burst
into uproarious acclamation.

"Hasten," cried the leader.

"This is the last door."

"Have you the key?"

"It is here."

Marteau lifted the key, thrust it in the lock and turned it slowly, as
if by a great effort and, the door opening outward, he drew it back.

"Enter," he said.  "Help yourselves."

With cries of joy like famished wolves the whole band poured into the
wine cellar.  All, that is, but Marteau.  As the last men entered he
flung the door to and with astonishing quickness turned the key in the
lock and turned away.  The door had shut with a mighty crash, the noise
had even stopped the rioting plunderers.  The first man who had seized
a bottle dropped it crashing to the floor.  All eyes and faces turned
toward the door.  The last man threw himself against it frantically.
It held as firmly as if it had been the rock wall.  They were trapped.
The leader was quicker than the rest.  He still had his weapon.
Thrusting it through the iron bars of the grating in the door he pulled
the trigger.  There was a mighty roar, a cloud of smoke, but
fortunately in the dim light his aim was bad.  Marteau laughed grimly.

"Enjoy yourselves, messieurs.  The provisions are good and you may eat
as much as you like.  The wine is excellent.  Drink your fill!"

The next instant he leaped up the stairs and retraced his steps.  It
was a long distance from the wine-cellar to the great room, but through
the grating that gave entrance to the courtyard the sound of shots had
penetrated.  One of the ruffians, committing the woman to the care of
the remaining man, started to follow his comrades.  He had his pistol
in his hand.  He went noisily, muttering oaths, feeling that something
was wrong but not being able to divine exactly what.  Marteau heard him
coming.  He put the candle down, concealed himself and, as the man
came, struck him heavily over the head with the butt of his remaining
pistol.  He fell like a log.  Leaving the candle where it was, the
young officer, dispossessing his victim of his pistols, entered the
hall and, instead of entering the great room by the door by which he
had left it, ran along the hall to the main entrance and thus took the
remaining brigand in the rear.

This man was one of those who had seized the Countess Laure.  In spite
of herself the girl started as the officer appeared in the doorway.
The man felt her start, wheeled, his eyes recognized the officer.  He
had no pistol, but his fingers went to his belt and with the quickness
of light itself he hurled a knife straight at Marteau.  The woman with
equal speed caught the man's arm and disturbed his aim.  Her movement
was purely instinctive.  According to his own words she had even more
to fear from Marteau than from this ruffian.  The young officer
instantly dropped to his knees and as he did so presented his pistol
and fired.  The knife whistled harmlessly over his head and buried
itself in the wood paneling of the door.  The bullet sped straight to
its mark.  The unfortunate blackguard collapsed on the floor at the
feet of the girl, who screamed and shrank back shuddering.

"Now, mademoiselle," said the young man, advancing into the room, "I
have the happiness to inform you that you are free."



CHAPTER VII

A RESCUE AND A SIEGE

The woman stared at him in wild amazement.  That she was free
temporarily at least, could not be gainsaid.  Her captors had not seen
fit to bind her and she now stood absolutely untouched by anyone.  The
shooting, the fighting, had confused her.  She had only seen Marteau as
an accomplice and friend of her assailants, she had no clew to his
apparent change of heart.  She did not know whether she had merely
exchanged masters or what had happened.  Smiling ironically at her
bewilderment, which he somehow resented in his heart, Marteau proceeded
to further explanation.

"You are free, mademoiselle," he repeated emphatically, bowing before
her.

"But I thought----"

"Did you think that I could be allied with such cowardly thieves and
vagabonds as those?"

"But you said----"

"It was simply a ruse.  Could you imagine that one of my family, that
I, should fail in respect and devotion to one of yours, to you?  I
determined to free you the instant I saw you."

"And will you not complete your good work?" broke out the man tied to
the chair in harsh and foreign but sufficiently comprehensible French,
"by straightway releasing me, young sir?"

"But who is this?"

"This is Sir Gervaise Yeovil," answered Mademoiselle Laure, "my
attorney, an English officer-of-the-law, of Lord Castlereagh's suite,
who came with me from Chatillon to get certain papers and----"

"Why all this bother and explanation?" burst out Sir Gervaise.  "Tell
him to cut these lashes and release me from this cursed bondage," he
added in English.

"That is quite another matter, sir," said Marteau gravely.  "I regret
that you are an enemy and that I can not----"

"But we are not enemies, Monsieur," cried one of the officers, who had
just succeeded in working a gag out of his mouth.  "We are Russian
officers of the Imperial Guard and since you have deserted the cause of
the Corsican you will----"

"Deserted!" thundered Marteau, his pale face flaming.  "That was as
much a ruse as the other."

"What, then, do you mean by wearing a Russian coat over your uniform
and----"

"He is a spy.  He shall be hanged," said the other, also freeing
himself of his gag.

"Indeed," laughed Marteau.  "And do you gentlemen ask me to release you
in order that you may hang me?"

"I won't hang you," burst out the Englishman.  "On the contrary, I'll
give you fifty pounds if you'll cut these cords and----"

Marteau shook his head.

"Countess," bellowed Yeovil angrily, "there's a knife on the table
yonder, pray do you----"

The young woman made a swift step in that direction, but the Frenchman
was too quick for her.

"Pardon me, mademoiselle, I beg that the first use you make of your new
life be not to aid my enemies."

"Your enemies, Marteau?"

"The enemies of France, then."

"Not my uncle's France," said the girl.

"But your father's, and I had hoped yours."

"No, no."

"In any event, these gentlemen must remain bound for the time being.
No harm shall come to you from me," continued Marteau, addressing the
two officers.  "But as for these hounds----"  He stepped over to the
two Cossacks, who lay mute.  He bent over them with such a look of
rage, ruthless determination and evil purpose in his face as startled
the woman into action.

"Monsieur!" she cried, stepping over to him and striving to interpose
between him and the two men.  "Marteau, what would you do?"

"My sister--dead in the cottage yonder after--after----" he choked out.
He stopped, his fingers twitching.  "My old father!  If I served them
right I would pitch them into yonder fireplace or torture them, the
dogs, the cowards!"

"My friend," said the young Countess gently, laying her hand on his arm.

Marteau threw up his hands, that touch recalled him to his senses.

"I will let them alone for the present," he said.  "Meanwhile----"  He
seized the dead man and dragged the body out of sight behind the tables.

"Will monsieur give a thought to me?" came another voice from the dim
recesses of a far corner.

"And who are you?" asked Marteau, lifting the light and staring.

"A Frenchman, sir.  They knocked me on the head and left me for dead,
but if monsieur would assist me I----"

Marteau stepped over to him, bent down and lifted him up.  He was a
stout, hardy looking peasant boy, pale cheeked, with blood clotted
around his forehead from a blow that he had received.  Feverish fire
sparkled in his eyes.

"If monsieur wishes help to put these brutes out of the way command
me," he said passionately.

"We will do nothing with them at present," answered Marteau.

"Quick, Laure, the knife," whispered the Englishman.

The Frenchman heard him, however, and wheeled around.

"Mademoiselle," he cried, "on your honor I charge you not to abuse the
liberty I have secured for you and that I allow you."

"But, my friends----"

"If you had depended on your friends you would even now be----" he
paused--"as my sister," he added with terrific intensity.

"Your pleasure shall be mine," said the young woman.

"If I could have a drink of wine!" said the young peasant, sinking down
into a chair.

"There is a flask which they did not get in the pocket of one of the
officers yonder," said the young Frenchwoman, looking sympathetically
at the poor exhausted lad.

Marteau quickly recovered it, in spite of the protestations of the
officer, who looked his indignation at this little betrayal by the
woman.  He gave some of it to the peasant and then offered it to
mademoiselle and, upon her declining it, took a long drink himself.  He
was weak and trembling with all he had gone through.

"Now, what's to be our further course?" asked the countess.

"I don't know yet.  I----"

But the answer was never finished.  Shots, cries, the sound of
galloping horses came faintly through the open door.

"My men returning!" cried the Russian officer triumphantly.  "Our turn
will come now, sir."

Two courses were open.  To run or to fight.  Duty said go; love said
stay.  Duty was stronger.  After a moment's hesitation Marteau dashed
for the door.  He was too late.  The returning Russian cavalry was
already entering the courtyard.  Fate had decided against him.  He
could not go now.  He thought with the swiftness of a veteran.  He
sprang back into the hall, threw the great iron-bound door into its
place, turned the massive key in its lock, thanking God that key and
lock were still intact, dropped the heavy bars at top and bottom that
further secured it, just as the first horseman thundered upon the door.

In his rapid passage through the house the young Frenchman had noticed
that all the windows were shuttered and barred, that only the front
door appeared to have been opened.  He was familiar with the château.
He knew how carefully its openings had been secured and how often his
father had inspected them, to keep out brigands, the waifs and strays,
the wanderers, the low men of the countryside.  For the moment he was
safe with his prisoners, one man and a boy guarding a score of men and
one woman, and holding a château against a hundred and fifty soldiers!
Fortunately, there would be no cannon with that troop of cavalry, there
were no cannon in that wagon train, so that they could not batter down
the château over his head.  What his ultimate fate would be he could
not tell.  Could he hold that castle indefinitely?  If not, what?  How
he was to get away and reach Napoleon with his vital news he could not
see.  There must be some way, however.  Well, whatever was to be would
be, and meanwhile he could only wait developments and hold on.

The troopers outside were very much astonished to find the heavy door
closed and the two sentries dead on the terrace.  They dismounted from
their horses at the foot of the terrace and crowded about the door,
upon which they beat with their pistols, at the same time shouting the
names and titles of the officers within.  Inside the great hall Marteau
had once more taken command.  In all this excitement Laure d'Aumenier
had stood like a stone, apparently indifferent to the appeals of the
four bound men on the floor and the Englishman in the chair that she
cut the ropes with which they were bound, while the French officer was
busy at the door.  Perhaps that young peasant might have prevented her,
but as a matter of fact, she made no attempt to answer their pleas.
She stood waiting and watching.  Just as Marteau reëntered the room the
chief Russian officer shouted out a command.  From where he lay on the
floor his voice did not carry well and there was too much tumult
outside for anyone to hear.  In a second Marteau was over him.

"If you open your mouth again, monsieur," he said fiercely, "I shall
have to choose between gagging and killing you, and I incline to the
latter.  And these other gentlemen may take notice.  You, what are you
named?"

"Pierre Lebois, sir," answered the peasant.

"Can you fire a gun?"

"Give me a chance," answered the young fellow.  "I've got people dead,
yonder, to avenge."

The brigands had left the swords and pistols of the officers on chairs,
tables and the floor.  There were eight pistols.  Marteau gathered them
up.  The English baronet yielded one other, a huge, heavy,
old-fashioned weapon.

"There are loopholes in the shutters yonder," said the officer.  "Do
you take that one, I will take the other.  They will get away from the
door in a moment and as soon as you can see them fire."

"Mademoiselle," said the Russian officer desperately, "I shall have to
report to the commander of the guard and he to the Czar that you gave
aid and comfort to our enemies."

"But what can I do?" asked the young woman.  "Monsieur Marteau could
certainly shoot me if I attempted----"

"Assuredly," said Marteau, smiling at her in a way anything but fierce.

It was that implicit trust in her that restrained her and saved him.
As a girl the young countess had been intensely fond of Jean Marteau.
He certainly appeared well in his present role before her.  In the
revulsion of feeling in finding him not a bully, not a traitor, but a
devoted friend and servitor, he advanced higher in her estimation than
ever before.  Besides, the young woman was by no means so thoroughgoing
a loyalist as her old uncle, for instance.

"I can see them now, monsieur," said the young peasant from the
peep-hole in the shutter.

Indeed, the men outside had broken away from the door, groups were
running to and fro seeking lights and some other entrance.  Taking aim
at the nearest Marteau pulled the trigger and Pierre followed his
example.  The noise of the explosions was succeeded by a scream of
anguish, one man was severely wounded and another killed.  Something
mysterious had happened while they had been off on the wild goose chase
apparently, the Russians decided.  The château had been seized, their
officers had been made way with, it was held by the enemy.

"They can't be anything more than wandering peasants," cried an
imperious voice in Russian outside.  "I thought you had made thorough
work with them all, Scoref," continued the speaker.  "Your Cossacks
must have failed to complete the job."

"It will be the first time," answered Scoref, the _hetman_ of the
raiders.  "Look, the village burns!"

"Well, what's to be done now?" said the first voice.

"I don't know, Baron," was the answer.  "Besieging castles is more in
your line than in mine."

"Shall we fire again, monsieur?" asked Pierre within.

"No," was the answer.  "Remember we've only got eight shots and we must
wait."

"Let us have lights," cried the commander of the squadron.  "Here, take
one of those wagons and----"

In a few moments a bright fire was blazing in the courtyard.

"The shots came from those windows," continued the Russian.  "Keep out
of the way and----  Isn't that a window open up there?"

"It is, it is!" came the answer from a dozen throats.

All the talk being in Russian was, of course, not understood by the two
Frenchmen.

"One of you climb up there," continued the Russian.  "You see the
spout, and the coping, that buttress?  Ten roubles to the man who does
it."

A soldier sprang forward.  Those within could hear his heavy body rub
along the wall.  They did not know what he was doing or what was
toward.  They were in entire ignorance that a shutter had become
detached from its hinges in the room above the drawing-room and that
they would soon have to face an attack from the rear.  The man who
climbed fancied himself perfectly secure, and indeed he was from those
within.  It was a hard climb, but presently he reached the
window-ledge.  His hands clasped it, he made a brave effort, drew
himself up and on the instant from beyond the wagons came a pistol
shot.  The man shrieked, released his hold and fell crashing to the
ground.  The besiegers broke into wild outcries.  Some of them ran in
the direction whence the shot had come.  They thought they caught the
glimpse of a figure running away in the darkness.  Pistols were fired
and the vicinity was thoroughly searched, but they found nothing.

The shot, the man's cry overhead, the body crashing down to the ground,
enlightened Marteau.  He handed Pierre two of the six remaining
pistols, told him to run to the floor above and watch the window.  The
young peasant crossed himself and turned away.  He found the room
easily enough.  It was impossible to barricade the window, but he drew
back in the darkness and waited.

Having found no one in the grove beyond the baggage-wagons, the
Russians called for another volunteer and a second man offered.  Pierre
heard him coming, permitted him to gain the ledge and then thrust the
pistol in his face and pulled the trigger.  At the same time a big
Cossack coming within easy range and standing outlined between the
loophole and the fire, Marteau gave him his second bullet, with fatal
effect.  There flashed into his mind that the shot which had come so
opportunely from outside bespoke the arrival of his friend, the
grenadier.  He hoped the man would have sense enough to go immediately
to Sézanne and report the situation.  If he could maintain the defense
of the castle for two hours he might be rescued.  He stepped to the
hall and called up to Pierre.  Receiving a cheery reply to the effect
that all was well and that he would keep good watch, he came back into
the great hall and resumed his ward.



CHAPTER VIII

A TRIAL OF ALLEGIANCE

Mademoiselle d'Aumenier had seated herself at a table and remained
there in spite of the entreaties and black looks of the prisoners.
Marteau did not dare to leave his loophole, but the necessity for
watching did not prevent him from talking.  The men outside seemed to
have decided that nothing more could be done for the present.  They
withdrew from out of range of the deadly fire of the defenders and,
back of the wagons, kindled fires, and seemed to be preparing to make a
night of it.

The best officers of the detachment were prisoners in the château.  The
subordinate who had been entrusted with the pursuit was young and
inexperienced; the Cossack commander was a mere raider.  They
themselves belonged to the cavalry.  They decided, after inspecting the
whole building carefully as nearly as they dared in view of the
constant threat of discharge, that they would have to wait until
morning, unless something occurred to them or some chance favored them.
They trusted that at daylight they would have no difficulty in
effecting an entrance somewhere.  A total of three men dead and one
wounded, to say nothing of the sentries and officers, had a
discouraging effect on night work.  They did not dream that there was
an enemy, a French soldier, that is, nearer than Troyes.  They supposed
that the castle had been seized by some of the enraged country people
who had escaped the Cossacks and that they could easily deal with them
in the morning.

Incidentally, the wine cellars in which the peasants had been shut had
openings to the outer air, and through them came shouts and cries which
added to the mystification of the besiegers and increased their
prudence.  The walls of the château were massive, the floors thick, the
wine cellar far away, and no sound came from them to the inmates of the
great hall.  Indeed, in the exciting adventure that had taken place,
the raiders had been completely forgot by Marteau and the others.

The conversation in the hall was not animated.  The Countess Laure,
womanlike, at last began to ask questions.

"Monsieur Marteau," she asked persuasively, "will you hear reason?"

"I will hear anything, mademoiselle, from you," was the instant reply.

"Think of the unhappy state of France."

"I have had reason enough to think of it to-night, mademoiselle.  My
father and my sister----" his voice faltered.

"I know," said the girl sympathetically, and, indeed, she was deeply
grieved for the misfortunes of the faithful and devoted old man and the
young girl she had loved.  She waited a moment and then continued.
"The Emperor is at last facing defeat.  His cause is hopeless."

"He yet lives," answered the soldier softly.

"Yes, of course," said the woman.  "I do not understand the military
situation, but my friends----"

"Will monsieur allow me the favor of a word?" interposed the chief
Russian officer courteously.

"If it is not to summon assistance you may speak," replied Marteau.

"As a soldier you know the situation as well as I," continued the
Russian.  "Prince Von Schwarzenberg has Napoleon in his grasp.  He will
hold him until he is ready to seize him, while Field-Marshal Blücher
takes Paris."

"The Emperor yet lives," said Marteau, repeating his former remark with
more emphasis and smiling somewhat scornfully.  "It is not wise to
portion the lion's skin while it covers his beating heart," he added
meaningly.

"Not even the genius of your Emperor," persisted the Russian more
earnestly, "will avail now, monsieur.  He is lost, his cause as well.
Why, this very convoy tells the story.  We intercepted letters that
told how pressing was its need.  Your army is without arms, without
food, without clothes."

"It still has its Emperor."

"Death!" cried the Russian impatiently.  "Must we kill him in order to
teach you a lesson?"

"You will not kill him while there is a soldier in France to interpose
his body."

"Very heroic, doubtless," sneered the Russian, beginning to get angry.
"But you know your cause is lost."

"And if it were?"

"Be reasonable.  There are many Frenchmen with the allied armies.  Your
rank is----?"

"I am a Major on the Emperor's staff if you are interested to know."

"Major Marteau, I have no doubt that my interest with my Emperor, the
Czar Alexander, with whom I am remotely connected--I may say I am a
favorite officer in his guard--would doubtless insure you a Colonel's
commission, perhaps even that of a General of Brigade, with my gracious
master, or in the army of King Louis after we have replaced him on his
throne if----"

"If what?"

"If you release us, restore us to our command.  Permit us to send for
horses to take the place of those we have killed to take the wagons of
the valuable convoy to our own army."

"And you would have me abandon my Emperor?"

"For the good of France," urged the Russian meaningly.

"Will you answer me a question, monsieur?" continued the young man
after a moment's deep thought.

"Certainly, if it be not treason to my master."

"Oh, you have views on treason, then," said the Frenchman adroitly and
not giving the other time to answer he continued.  "To what corps are
you attached?"

"Count Sacken's."

"And whose division?"

"General Olsuvieff's."

"Monsieur," said the young Frenchman calmly, "it is more than probable
that before to-morrow your division will be annihilated and the next
day the corps of General Sacken may meet the same fate."

The Russian laughed scornfully at what seemed to him the wildest
boasting.

"Are you mad?"

"Not so mad as you will be when it happens."

The Russian controlled himself with difficulty in the face of the
irritating observations.

"And who will do this?" he asked, at last.

"The Emperor."

"Does he command the lightning-flash that he could hurl the
thunder-bolt from Troyes?"

"Upon my word, I believe he does," laughed the Frenchman.

"This is foolish jesting, boy," broke out the Englishman.  "I am a man
of consideration in my own country.  The lady here will bear me out.  I
offered you fifty pounds.  I will give you five hundred if you will
release us and----"

"And I offer you my--friendship," said the Countess, making a long
pause before the last word.

How much of it she meant or how little no one could say.  Any ruse was
fair in war like this.  Marteau looked at her.  The color flamed to her
cheek and died away.  It had flamed into his cheek and died away also.

"Gentlemen," he said, "you offer me rank, money----" he
paused--"friendship----" he shot a meaning glance at the young girl.
He paused again.

"Well?" said the Russian.

"Speak out," said the Englishman.  "Your answer, lad?"

"I refuse."

"Don't be a fool," roared Sir Gervaise bluntly.

"I refuse, I repeat," said Marteau.  "While the Emperor lives I am his
man.  Not rank, not money, not friendship, not love itself even could
move me.  Enough, gentlemen," he continued imperiously as the two
Russians and the Englishman all began to speak at once.  "No more.
Such propositions are insults."

"There is another appeal which ought to be brought to your attention,
young sir," said the second Russian officer when he could be heard.

"And what is that?"

"Your life.  You know that as soon as day breaks the château will be
seized.  You are a self-confessed spy.  You came here wearing a Russian
uniform.  As soon as we are released we shall hang you as a spy.  But
if you release us now, on my word of honor you shall go free."

"Monsieur is a very brave man," said Marteau smiling.

"Why?"

"To threaten me with death while he is in my power.  You are the only
witnesses.  I could make way with you all."

"You forget the Countess and the English gentleman."

"Although the Countess is the enemy of France----"

"Nay, nay, the friend," interposed the girl.

"Be it so.  Although she is the enemy of the Emperor then, I cannot
believe that she could condemn to death by her testimony the man who
has saved her from worse than death, and as for the English
gentleman----"

"Damme if I'd say a word to hurt you, if only for what you have done
for her, whether you release me or not," cried Yeovil.

"You see?"

"Monsieur Jean," said the Countess, "you put me under great obligations
to you."

"By saving your life, your honor, mademoiselle!  I gladly----"

"By giving me your confidence," interrupted the girl, who in her secret
heart was delighted at the stand the young officer had taken.  She
would have despised him if he had succumbed to the temptation of which
she herself was part.

"I could do no less, mademoiselle," returned Marteau.  "I and my
forbears have served your house and known it and loved it for eight
hundred years."

"I know it," answered the girl.  "I value the association.  I am proud
of it."

"And since you know it and recognize it perhaps you will tell me how
you happen to be here."

"Willingly," answered Mademoiselle Laure.  "The estates are to be sold.
There are deeds and papers of value in the château without which
transactions could not be completed.  I alone knew where they were.
With Monsieur Yeovil, my uncle's friend and the father of----" she
hesitated and then went on, "so I came to France."

"But with the invading armies----"

"There was no other way.  The Czar Alexander gave me a safe conduct.  A
company of his guards escorted us.  Sir Gervaise Yeovil was accredited
to Lord Castlereagh, but with his permission he brought me here first.
My uncle was too old to come.  Arrived here we found the Cossacks, the
wagon-train.  There was a battle, a victory, pursuit.  Then those
villains seized us.  They stole upon us unsuspecting, having murdered
the sentries, and then you came."

"I see.  And have you the papers?"

"They are----  Not yet, but I may take them?"

"Assuredly, so far as I am concerned," answered Marteau, "although I
regret to see the old estate pass out of the hands of the ancient
family."

"I regret it also, but I am powerless."

"We played together here as children," said Marteau.  "My father has
kept it well since.  Your father died and now mine is gone----"

"And I am very sorry," answered the young woman softly.

Marteau turned away, peered out of the window and sank into gloomy
silence.



CHAPTER IX

THE EMPEROR EATS AND RIDES

Sézanne was a scene of the wildest confusion that night.  It was
congested with troops and more and more were arriving every minute.
They entered the town in fearful condition.  They had been weary and
ragged and naked before.  Now they were in a state of extreme
prostration; wet, cold, covered with mud.  The roads were blocked with
mired artillery, the guns were sunk into the mud to the hubs, the tired
horses could no longer move them.  The woods on either side were full
of stragglers, many of whom had dropped down on the wet ground and
slept the sleep of complete exhaustion.  Some, indeed, sick and
helpless, died where they lay.  Everything eatable and drinkable in
Sézanne had vanished as a green field before a swarm of locusts when
Marmont's division had come through some hours before.

The town boasted a little square or open space in the midst.  A huge
fire was burning in the center of this open space.  A cordon of
grenadiers kept the ground about the fire clear of stragglers.
Suddenly the Emperor rode into the midst.  He was followed by a wet,
cold, mud-spattered, bedraggled staff, all of them unutterably weary.
Intense resolution blazed in the Emperor's eyes.  He had had nothing to
eat or drink since morning, but that ancient bodily vigor, that
wonderful power of endurance, which had stood him in such good stead in
days gone by, seemed to have come back to him now.  He was all fire and
energy and determination.  So soon as his presence was known, couriers
reported to him.  Many of them he stopped with questions.

"The convoy of arms, provisions, powder," he snapped out to an officer
of Marmont's division approaching him, "which was to meet us here.
Have you seen it?"

"It has not appeared, Sire."

"Has anything been heard of it?"

"Nothing yet, your Majesty."

"Have you scouted for it, sent out parties to find it?  Where is the
Comte de Grouchy?"

"I come from him, Sire.  He is ahead of the Duke of Ragusa's corps."

"Has he come in touch with the enemy?"

"Not yet, Sire."

"The roads?"

"Worse than those we have passed over."

"Marshal Marmont?"

"I was ordered by General Grouchy to report to him and then----"

"Well, sir?"

"He sent me back here."

"For what purpose?"

"To find you, Sire, and to say to you most respectfully from the
Marshal that the roads are absolutely impassable.  He has put four
teams to a gun and can scarcely move them.  To advance is impossible.
He but awaits your order to retrace his steps."

"Retrace his steps!" shouted Napoleon, raising his voice.  "Never!  He
must go on.  Our only hope, our only chance, salvation lies in an
instant advance.  He knows that as well as I."

"But the guns, Sire?"

"Abandon the guns if necessary.  We'll take what cannon we need from
the enemy."

And that admission evidenced the force with which the Emperor held his
convictions as to the present movement.  Great, indeed, was the
necessity which would induce Napoleon to order the abandonment of a
single gun.

"But, Sire----"

"Monsieur," said Napoleon severely, "you are a young officer, although
you wear the insignia of a Colonel.  Know that I am not accustomed to
have my commands questioned by anyone.  You will return to Marshal
Marmont at once.  Exchange your tired horse for one of my own.  I still
have a fresh one, I believe.  And spare him not.  Tell the Duc de
Ragusa that he must advance at all hazards.  Advance with the guns if
he can, if not then without them.  Stay, as for the guns----  Where is
the Mayor of the town?"

"Here, Sire," answered a plain, simple man in civilian's dress standing
near.

"Are there any horses left in the countryside, monsieur?"

"Many, your Majesty, wherever the Russians have not passed."

"I thought so.  Gentlemen," the Emperor turned to his staff, "ride in
every direction.  Take the mounted escort.  Bid them scatter.  Go to
every village and farm.  Ask my good French people to bring their
horses in, to lend them to the Emperor.  It is for France.  I strike
the last blow for them, their homes, their wives and children.  Fortune
smiles upon us.  The enemy is delivered into our hands.  They shall be
liberally rewarded."

"The men are hungry," cried a voice from a dark group of officers in
the background.

"They are weary," exclaimed another, under cover of the darkness.

"Who spoke?" asked the Emperor, but he did not wait for an answer,
perhaps he did not care for one.  "I, too, am hungry, I, your Emperor,
and I am weary.  I have eaten nothing and have ridden the day long.
There is bread, there are guns in the Field-Marshal's army.  We shall
take from Blücher all that we need.  Then we can rest.  You hear?"

"We hear, Sire."

"Good.  Whose division is yonder?"

"Mine, Sire," answered Marshal Ney, riding up and saluting.

"Ah, Prince," said Napoleon, riding over toward him.  "Michael," he
added familiarly as he drew nearer, "I am confident that the Prussians
have no idea that we are nearer than Troyes to them.  We must get
forward with what we can at once and fall on them before they learn of
our arrival and concentrate.  We must move swiftly."

"To-morrow," suggested Ney.

"To-night."

"The conscripts of my young guard are in a state of great exhaustion
and depression.  If they could have the night to rest in----"

Napoleon shook his head.

"Advance with those who can march," he said decisively.  "We must fall
on Blücher in the morning or we are lost."

"Impossible!" ejaculated Ney.

"I banished that word from my vocabulary when I first went into Italy,"
said Napoleon.  "Where are your troops?"

"Here, your Majesty," answered Ney, turning, pointing back to dark
huddled ranks drooping over their muskets at parade rest.

Napoleon wheeled his horse and trotted over to them.  The iron hand of
Ney had kept some sort of discipline and some sort of organization, but
the distress and dismay of the conscripts was but too plainly evident.

"My friends," said the Emperor, raising his voice, "you are hungry----"
a dull murmur of acquiescence came from the battalion--"you are weary
and cold----" a louder murmur--"you are discouraged----" silence.
"Some of you have no arms.  You would fain rest.  Well I, your Emperor,
am weary, I am hungry, I am old enough to be the father of most of you
and I am wet and cold.  But we must forget those things.  You wonder
why I have marched you all the day and most of the night through the
cold and the wet and the mud.  The Prussians are in front of us.  They
are drawn out in long widely separated columns.  They have no idea that
we are near them.  One more effort, one more march, and we shall fall
upon them.  We shall pierce their lines, cut them to pieces, beat them
in detail; we shall seize their camps, their guns, their clothes, their
food.  We shall take back the plunder they have gathered as they have
ravaged France.  They have stolen and destroyed and murdered--you have
seen it.  One more march, one more battle for----" he hesitated a
moment--"for me," he said with magnificent egotism and audacity.  "I
have not forgotten how to lead, nor you to follow.  We will show them
that at the great game of war we are still master players.  Come, if
there be one too weary to walk, he shall have his Emperor's horse and I
will march afoot as I have often done for France."

He spoke with all his old force and power.  The tremendous personal
magnetism of the man was never more apparent.  The young men of Ney's
corps thrilled to the splendid appeal.  There was something
fascinating, alluring in the picture.  They hated the Prussians.  They
had seen the devastated fields, the dead men and women, the ruined
farms.  The light from the fire played mystically about the great
Emperor on his white horse.  He seemed to them like a demi-god.  There
were a few old soldiers in the battalion.  The habit of years was upon
them.

"_Vive l'Empereur_," one veteran shouted.

Another caught it up and finally the whole division roared out that
frightful and thrilling battle cry in unison.

"That's well," said the Emperor, a little color coming into his face.
"If the lads are of this mettle, what may I expect of the old soldiers
of the guard?"

"Forward!  Forward!" shouted a beardless boy in one of the front ranks.

"You hear, Marshal Ney?" said Napoleon, turning to his fighting
Captain.  "With such soldiers as these I can go anywhere and do
anything."

"Your Majesty," cried a staff officer, riding up at a gallop, "the
peasants are bringing their horses in.  There is a section of country
to the eastward which has not yet been ridden over by the enemy."

"Good," said the Emperor.  "As fast as they come up dispatch them to
Marmont.  You will find me there by the fire in the square for the next
hour.  Meanwhile I want the next brigade of horse that reaches Sézanne
to be directed to scout in the direction of Aumenier for that missing
wagon-train for which we----"

There was a sudden confusion on the edge of the line.  The grenadiers
forming a circle around the fire had caught a man wearing a Russian
greatcoat and were dragging him into the light.

"What's this?  _Mon Dieu_!" exclaimed Napoleon, recognizing the green
uniform which he had seen on many a battlefield.  "A Russian!  Here!"

"A soldier of France, Sire," came the astonishing answer in excellent
French from the supposed prisoner.

At this amazing remark in their own tongue the bewildered grenadiers on
guard released him.  He tore off the green cap and dashed it to the
ground.

"Give me a shako.  Let me feel the bearskin of the guard again," he
cried impetuously, as his hands ripped open his overcoat, disclosing
his uniform.  "I am a grenadier of the line, Sire."

Napoleon peered down at him.

"Ah," he said, "I know you.  You are called----"

"Bal-Arrêt, your Majesty."

"Exactly.  Have you stopped any more this time?"

"There is one in my left arm.  Your guards hurt when they grasped it.
But it is nothing.  I didn't come here to speak of bullets, but of----"

"What?"

"The Russians, the Prussians."

"Where did you get that coat and cap?"

"I rode with Jean Marteau," answered the grenadier, greatly excited.

"What of him?  Is he alive?"

"I think so."

"Did you leave him?"

"I did, Sire."

"And why?"

"To bring you news."

"Of Marshal Blücher's armies?"

The grenadier nodded his head.

"What of them?  Quick man, your tidings?  Have you been among them?"

"All day long."

"Where are they?"

"General Yorck with his men is at Étampes."

"And Macdonald?"

"Fighting a rearguard action beyond Château-Thierry."

"On what side of the Marne?"

"The north side, Sire.  Right at La Ferte-sous-Jouarre."

"What else?"

"Sacken's Russians are advancing along the main road through Montmirail
toward Paris.  Olusuvieff's Russian division is at Champaubert."

"And where are Blücher and Wittgenstein and Wrede?"

"Major Marteau will have to tell you that, Sire.  He went that way."

"You separated?"

"Yes, Sire."

"You were to meet somewhere?"

"At the Château d'Aumenier."

"Did you go there?"

"I did, Sire."

"And you found?"

"The ground around the château filled with wagons."

"A train?"

"Of arms, clothing, ammunition, everything the army lacks."

"What was it doing there?"

"There had been a battle.  Horses and men were slain; Frenchmen,
Cossacks, Russians.  I pillaged one wagon," continued the grenadier.

He drew forth from the pocket of the coat a bottle and a handful of
hard bread, together with what remained of the roast pig.

"Will you share your meal with a brother soldier?" asked the Emperor,
who was ordinarily the most fastidious of mortals, but who could on
occasion assume the manner of the rudest private soldier.

"Gladly," said the proud and delighted grenadier, handing the bottle,
the bread and the meat to Napoleon, who took them and drank and ate
rapidly as he continued to question amid the approving murmurs of the
soldiers, who were so delighted to see their Emperor eat like a common
man that they quite forgot their own hunger.

"What were the wagons doing there unguarded?"

"I think the men who captured the train were pursuing its guard.  Just
as I approached the chateau they came riding back.  I remained quiet,
watching them ride up to the door of the house, which they found barred
apparently, for I could hear them beat on it with the butts of their
sabers and pistols.  They built a fire and suddenly I heard shots.  By
the light I could see Russians falling.  It came into my mind that
Major Marteau had seized the castle and was holding it."

"Alone?"

"One soldier of yours, Sire, ought to be able to hold his own against a
thousand Russians, especially inside a castle wall."

"And what did you then?"

"I made ready my pistol, Sire, and when I saw a man climbing the wall
to get in an open window I shot him."

"And then?"

"They ran after me, fired at me but I escaped in the darkness."

"You ran?"

"Because I knew that you must have the news and as Marteau was there it
was necessary for me to bring it."

"You have done well," said the Emperor in great satisfaction.  "I thank
you for your tidings and your meal.  I have never tasted a better.  Do
you wish to go to the rear?"

"For a scratch in the arm?" asked old Bullet-Stopper scornfully.  "I,
who have carried balls in my breast and have some there now?"

"I like your spirit," said the Emperor, "and I will----"

At this instant a staff officer rode up.

"General Maurice's cavalry is just arriving, Sire," he said.

"Good," said the Emperor.  "The brave light-horseman!  My sword hand!
I will ride with him myself.  Tell the Comte de Vivonne to lead his
division toward Aumenier, I will join him at once."  He turned to those
of his staff who remained in the square.  "Remain here, gentlemen.
Tell the arriving troops that at daybreak we shall beat the Russians at
Champaubert.  Bid them hasten if they would take part in the victory
and the plunder.  The rest will be easy."

"And you, Sire?"

"I ride with the cavalry brigade to Aumenier.  Tell the men that the
wagon-train has arrived.  We shall seize it.  Food, arms, will be
distributed in the morning.  Is that you, Maurice?" he continued, as a
gallant young general officer attended by a few aides rode up.

"At your service, Sire," answered a gay voice.

"Your cavalry?"

"Weary but ready to follow the Emperor anywhere."

"Forward, then.  There is food and drink at the end of our ride.  It is
but a few miles to Aumenier."

"May I have a horse and go with you, Sire?" asked the old grenadier.

"Assuredly.  See that he gets one and a Cross of the Legion of Honor,
too.  Come, gentlemen," continued the Emperor, putting spurs to his
tired horse.



CHAPTER X

HOW MARTEAU WON THE CROSS

For a long time the besiegers had given little evidence of their
presence.  Through the loop-holes in the shutters fires could be seen
burning, figures coming and going.  They were busy about something, but
just what was not apparent.  They had been unmolested by the defenders.
Marteau had but three pistols and therefore three shots left.  Pierre,
upstairs, had but one.  To kill one or two more Russians would not have
bettered their condition.  The pistols should be saved for a final
emergency.  He had called up to Pierre and had cautioned him.  There
was nothing to do but to wait.

From time to time the silence was broken by snatches of conversation.
As, for instance, the Countess Laure, observing that Marteau wore upon
his breast the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, thus began,

"You wear a great decoration for a simple----"  She stopped awkwardly.

"For a simple peasant you were about to say, mademoiselle," answered
Marteau, smiling with a little touch of scorn.  "In France to-day even
a simple peasant may deserve and receive the favor of the Emperor."

"I am sure that you are worthy of whatever distinction you may have
achieved, monsieur," said the Countess gently, grieved at her lack of
consideration and anxious to make amends.  "And as one who takes pride
in all associated with her ancient house will you tell me how you got
that?"

"It was at Leipsic."

"Ah, we beat you there," said one Russian meaningly.

"Yes," said Marteau.  "Perhaps after having seen your backs so many
times we could afford to turn ours upon you once."

"I was there," said the other Russian triumphantly.

"Were you also at Friedland, at Eylau, at Borodino, at----" began
Marteau angrily.

"Gentlemen!" said the Countess.

"Forgive, mademoiselle," said the Frenchman quickly.  "I, at least,
will not fight our battles over in the presence of a woman."

"But the cross?"

"It was nothing.  I saved an eagle.  The Emperor bestowed it on me."

"Tell me about it."

"I was on the bridge at Leipsic when it was blown up by that fatal
mistake.  The Port-Aigle was torn to pieces.  The Colonel seized the
Eagle as it fell from his hand.  I was next to him--afoot.  A storm of
bullets swept over the river.  As the Colonel on his horse was pushed
over the parapet by the flying fugitives a shot struck him.  He had
just strength enough to gasp out, 'Save the Eagle' as he was swept
away.  I was lucky enough to catch the staff--a bullet had broken it--I
seized the upper half with the Eagle and the flag which had almost been
shot to pieces during the battle--the Fifth-of-the-Line had done its
full duty that day--and I swam with it toward the bank.  Really,
mademoiselle, any soldier would have done as well.  I only happened to
be there."

"Go on, monsieur, I wish to hear everything."

"At your pleasure, then," said Marteau reluctantly, continuing his
story.

"The river was filled with men and horses.  Marshal Poniatowski was
near me.  He had been wounded, and guided his swimming horse with his
left hand.  The current was swift.  We were swept down the stream.  A
cavalryman next to me was shot from his horse.  He fell over upon me.
I was forced under water a moment.  Another horse, swimming
frantically, struck my shoulder with his hoof, fortunately it was the
left one.  My arm was broken.  I seized the tatters of the flag in my
teeth--you know I am an expert swimmer, mademoiselle?"

"I know it," answered the girl, her eyes gleaming at the recital.
"Have you forgot the day when, disregarding your warnings, I fell into
the river and was swept away and how you plunged in and brought me to
the shore and never told my father?"

"I have not forgot," said the young officer simply, "but it was not for
me to remind you."

"And I have not forgot, either.  But continue the story," said the
young Countess, her eyes shining, her breath coming quicker, as she
listened to the gallant tale so modestly set forth.

"With my right arm I swam as best I could.  There was a horse nearby
which had lost his rider.  I grasped the saddle horn.  Somehow I
managed to reach the shore with the Eagle.  I clambered up the bank,
slippery with water and with blood, mademoiselle.  The Russians were
firing at us from the town.  A bullet struck me."

"Where?"

"I am ashamed to say, in the back," said the soldier, flushing at the
recollection.  "But if I had stood up and faced them the Eagle would
have been lost."

The Russian laughed scornfully.

"In the back," he cried meaningly, "a fine place for a soldier!"

"Shame," said the Countess quickly.

"If I had faced them," returned the French soldier simply, "I should
have been shot in the breast and killed, perhaps, but I should have
lost the Eagle.  It was my business to save the Eagle at all hazards,
even though I should be branded with cowardice for having done so," he
went on hotly.

"I understand," said the Countess.  "I, who have known you from a
child, know that you are a brave man, monsieur.  Proceed."

"I staggered up the bank.  Fortune had brought me to the place where
the Emperor stood watching.  There were staff officers about him.  Oh,
very few.  The slaughter had been dreadful, the confusion was
inconceivable, mademoiselle.  They made way for me.  How well I
remember the whole scene," continued the young Frenchman.  "The Emperor
stood a little apart, his face pale, his head bent.  He was frowning
and whistling."

"Whistling!  Damme," burst out Sir Gervaise Yeovil, deeply interested
in the unpretentious account of so heroic a deed.  "What was he
whistling?"

"_Malbrook-s'en-va-t'en-guerre_."

"By gad," roared the Englishman.  "Marlborough beat you.  Just wait
until we come in touch with you."

"There was no Napoleon there," observed Marteau simply, as if that were
adequate answer.

"Napoleon or no Napoleon, wait until Wellington----"

"We shall wait."

"Pardon, Monsieur Yeovil," said the Countess, "will you not allow
Monsieur Marteau to proceed?"

"There is little more to tell, mademoiselle.  The Emperor saw me come
up.  I was wet, my arm hung useless, the bullet had gone through my
body.  There was blood on my uniform coat.  I thought that I was dying,
that my end was at hand.  My strength was ebbing.  I concentrated all
my will and power.  Holding the Eagle, I lifted it up in salute.  'What
have we here?' cried the Emperor, fixing his glance upon me.
'Lieutenant Marteau,' I answered.  His voice came to me as in a dream
and my own voice sounded far away.  'Of what regiment?'  'The
Fifth-of-the-Line, Sire.'  'You have saved the Eagle.'  'Yes, Sire,' I
replied.  And then consciousness left me.  As I fell I heard the
Emperor say, 'See that he gets the Legion of Honor if he survives.'
People caught me in their arms.  When I woke up I was in France.  Here,
at Aumenier, in my father's house."

Young Marteau did not add to his story that, as he fell, he heard the
Emperor, deeply moved, exclaim:

"With such men what resources does not France possess?"

"And did the Emperor give you the cross?" eagerly asked the girl.

"It was forgot until a few days since.  When I recovered I rejoined the
regiment.  To take the duty of an officer suddenly ill I happened to be
stationed on service near the Emperor at Nogent.  When others were
urging him to make terms, I, though a young soldier, ventured to
express myself to the contrary."

"And then?"

"His Majesty pardoned the liberty, recognized me, gave me his own
cross, made me a Major on his staff."

"And the Eagle?"

"It is still carried at the head of what remains of the
Fifth-of-the-Line," said the young man proudly.

"When we have taken your Emperor we will do away with those Eagles, and
after we restore her rightful king to France we shall give her back her
ancient flag of golden lilies," said the Russian.

"Precisely," said Marteau sharply.  "When you have taken the Emperor
you may do all that.  The men who have made France so great under him
will care little what you do, monsieur, under such circumstances."

"And why will they be so indifferent, Monsieur Jean?" asked the
Countess curiously.

"They will be dead, mademoiselle, and their Emperor, too, unless God
preserve his life for some future use."

"Happy," said the young girl, "is the man who can inspire such
devotion, monsieur.  Although I have been trained differently I think
that----"

What the Countess thought was never said for at that instant the door
at the farther end of the great room was thrown open suddenly with a
violent crash, and into the apartment came crowding the score of
villains and scoundrels who had been imprisoned below stairs.  They had
managed to break out in some way and had returned to the great hall to
seize again their captives and to wreak their vengeance upon their
betrayer.  They had got at the wine and were inflamed with drink as
well as revenge and savage passion.  They had realized, of course, that
some enemies were outside but they had not clearly grasped the
situation.  All they thought of at the time were the people in the
great hall.  They came crowding through the big doorway, several of
them handling pistols and all of them shouting savage and fearsome
cries of revenge and triumph.

Instantly the pistols were presented, the triggers pressed and half a
dozen bullets swept through the room.  Marteau had seen the first
movement of the door.  He had divined what had happened.  Before the
pistols had been leveled he was by the side of the Countess.  The table
at which she sat was a huge and heavy one.  With one movement he hurled
her, chair and all, to the floor, with the other he threw the table on
its side in front of her.  One of the bullets grazed his cheek, the
others swept harmlessly through the room.  He seized from another table
two of his remaining pistols and discharged them squarely into the face
of the crowding mass at the other end of the room at point-blank range.
The sounds of the shots still echoed when he cried out:

"The knife, Countess.  Cut the bonds of the prisoners.  We must fight
here for our lives and your honor."

The Countess Laure was quick to understand.

"You are safe now.  They have no more shots.  Hasten," he urged,
reaching down a hand and assisting her to her feet.

He clutched the barrels of his pistols thereafter and hurled them
directly into the faces of the infuriated men.  Five of them were down
and his prompt action had given the people in the room a little respite.

"Gentlemen," cried Marteau, sweeping out his sword and stepping into
the open space between the prisoners and the overturned table on one
hand and the renegades on the other, "quick, take your swords for the
honor of the Countess and for your lives."

The man who led the renegades had some idea of military tactics.  He
spoke a few sharp words and half a dozen of them backed out of the
room, entered the outer hall and ran around to the door on the side of
the apartment which gave access to the great hall.  The little band of
defenders retreated into a corner near the fireplace, which was raised
a step or two above the floor of the room.

Meanwhile Laure had cut the lashings of the Russians, the Cossacks, and
the Englishman.  They staggered to their feet numb from their long
bondage, but inspired by the frightful imminence of their peril they
seized their swords and presented a bold front to the two-sided enemy.
There was one pistol left charged.  Marteau handed that to the girl.

"The last shot, mademoiselle," he said meaningly, "for yourself if----"

"I understand."

"If you could only get to the door," growled the Russian commander, "my
men outside would make short work of----"

"It is impossible until we have dealt with these villains," said
Marteau.  "On guard!" he cried as the marauders suddenly leaped forward.

The big Englishman, burly, tremendously powerful for all his advancing
years, dropped his sword for a moment, picked up one of the heavy oak
chairs and hurled it full into the face of the larger body at the
further end of the room.  One stumbled over it, two others fell.  The
next moment both parties were upon the little group.  In their haste,
in their drunken excitement, the marauders had not thought to recharge
their pistols.  With swords, scythes and clubs they fell on the six
men.  Their numbers worked to their disadvantage.  Three of the men
surrounding the woman, the Frenchman and the two Russian guardsmen,
were accomplished swordsmen.  The Cossacks were not to be disdained in
rough-and-tumble fighting and the Englishman was a valiant ally.  Their
racial antagonisms were forgot in their common danger and the deadly
peril of the woman.

The swords of the soldiers flashed as they thrust and parried.  The
Cossacks, less skillful, strove to beat down the attackers by sweeping
slashes--not the best method for such close fighting.  One Cossack was
pierced through the breast by a thrust from a renegade and another was
cut from his neck almost to his heart by a blow from a scythe.  One of
the Russian officers was wounded, fell to his knees and was dispatched.
The Englishman was hit by a billet of wood and dazed.  Marteau and the
other Russian were still unharmed.  But it was going hard with them.
In fact, a fierce blow on his blade from a bludgeon shivered the weapon
of the Frenchman.  A sword was aimed at his heart.  There was a
blinding flash, a detonation, and the man who held it staggered back.
The Countess, the last pistol almost touching the man's body, had
pulled the trigger.  Marteau seized the sword of the man who had
menaced him.  The next instant the château was shaken by a terrific
roar.  The Russians outside having constructed a rude bomb had blown up
the door.

For a second the combat ceased.  The hall was full of smoke.  From
outside came shots, shrieks, cries, loud curses and groans, cheers,
French and Russian voices, the galloping of horses, words of command.
The French were there.

"To me," shouted Marteau at the top of his voice.  "France!"

The first to heed the call was young Pierre.  He descended the hall,
watched the conflict a moment and, having possessed himself of a club,
battered down the man nearest him, unsuspecting an attack from the
rear, then ranged himself by the side of the surviving Russian and the
Frenchman.  He did not come through scathless, however, for one of the
renegades cut him fiercely as he passed.  He stood erect by an effort
of will but it was evident he could now add little to the defense.  The
Russian took the pistol from his hand.  The next second the great hall
was filled with shouting figures of soldiers.  Into the smoke and
confusion of the room came Napoleon.



CHAPTER XI

AN EMPEROR AND A GENTLEMAN

"The Emperor!" cried Marteau.

The Russian officer recognized Napoleon as quickly as the other.  The
Emperor advanced, the soldiers crowding after threw themselves upon the
renegades immediately, while the Emperor strode forward alone.  The
young Russian noble was a quicker witted man than his countrymen
ordinarily were.  He saw a chance to end everything then and there, to
do his country a great service, although his life would be forfeited
instantly in the doing of it.

"My chance," he shouted, raising Pierre's pistol.

The shot was an easy one.  It was impossible to miss.  Marteau had
stepped forward.  The thrill in the tones of the man's voice attracted
his attention.  One glance and he saw all.  He threw himself in front
of the Emperor just as the Russian pressed the trigger.  At the same
moment the Countess Laure, who stood nearest him, struck up the
Russian's arm.  The bullet buried itself in the ceiling above.

"Thank God!" cried Marteau as the sound died away and he saw the
Emperor standing unharmed.

Napoleon's keen eye had seen everything.

"It is this lady," said he gracefully, "to whom my safety is due.  And
I am not unmindful that you interposed your own body between the bullet
and your Emperor."

"Your Majesty," cried Marteau, now that his Emperor was safe, fain to
discharge his duty, "I have tidings of the utmost importance.  I have
held this château and detained this convoy the Russians had captured.
It contains powder, food, guns----"

"I know," said the Emperor.  "It comes in the nick of time."

"And I have to report, Sire, that the corps of Wittgenstein, Wrede and
of the Field-Marshal Blücher, himself, are strung out at long intervals
to the eastward of Champaubert.  They have no idea of your proximity."

"Are the divisions in supporting distance of one another?"

"No, Sire.  Olsuvieff's division lies isolated at Champaubert.  As to
the divisions of Sacken and Yorck I think----"

"I have already received information concerning them," said the
Emperor, "from your friend, Bullet-Stopper.  He should be here."

"I am here, your Majesty," roared the grenadier, stepping forward, "and
saving your Imperial Presence I am glad to see the lad.  It was I,"
continued the grenadier, addressing Marteau and presuming on the
familiarity with which Napoleon sometimes treated his men, "that fired
the shot that brought the man down from the window."

"And that shot saved us," said young Marteau.  "This young peasant
here----" he bent over Pierre--"he is not dead, Sire, but sorely
wounded--he kept them out up there while we held the room here."

"But these?" asked Napoleon, looking at the prisoners.

"Renegades who had taken advantage of the absence of the Russians
pursuing the escort to the wagon-train to seize the castle."

"Why did you not impress them for the defense thereof?" asked the
Emperor.  "They were French undoubtedly----"

"I found them fighting against us."

Rapidly and in few words Marteau told the story of the night, touching
lightly upon his own part, but the Emperor was soldier enough to read
between the words of the narration and reconstruct the scene instantly.
He turned to one of his officers.

"Take those scoundrels out.  Put them up against the wall and shoot
them out of hand.  They disgrace the name of France.  Bid the surgeons
of the command come here to look to the wounded."

"They are past hope, except the French boy, your Majesty," said Yeovil,
who having recovered his own consciousness speedily had been examining
them meanwhile.  "I have some skill in wounds.  One Cossack is already
dead.  It would be a mercy to put that other out of his misery with
that horrible scythe slash."

"The Russian officer?"

"Gone, too."

"And who are you?"

"I am a barrister," answered the Englishman in bad but comprehensible
French.

"A man of the law.  You look it not," said the Emperor, smiling faintly.

"Necessity makes us all resort to the sword," said Sir Gervaise,
looking at his bloody blade, for he had fought valiantly with the rest
and would have been killed but he had been knocked senseless with that
billet of wood which had hit him on the head and felled him to the
floor.

"You are, by your language, an Englishman."

"I am, and proud of it."

"The English," said Napoleon slowly, "have been my bitterest enemies."

"Pardon, Sire," said the Russian bluntly, "we children of the white
Czar will dispute that honor with them."

"And you sought to kill me?" said the Emperor, turning upon the other.
"You are a brave man," he added.

"And I would have done so but for----"

"Bah!" interrupted Napoleon contemptuously.  "The bullet is not molded
that is destined for me.  My career is not to be cut short by the hand
of any young boy who wears the uniform of the Russian guard.  Silence,
monsieur!  Take him prisoner.  See that he be kept under close guard.
When we have taken Olsuvieff's division to-morrow and then Sacken's
there will be many of his comrades to bear him company to Paris.  Did
any of the men outside escape?"

"No, Sire," answered General Maurice, entering the room just in time to
hear the question.  "The wood around the château was completely filled
with my men.  Those we have not killed here we have taken prisoner.
Most of them were shot down as they strove to break through."

"That is well," said the Emperor.

"And the convoy?" asked General Maurice.

"Detach a regiment to escort it back to Sézanne.  Let it be distributed
to the regiments and divisions as they arrive."

"And those who have gone on ahead?"

"Their arms, equipment and provisions are in the hands of the
Prussians.  We shall march immediately.  As for you, mademoiselle, what
is your name?"

"I am the Comtesse Laure d'Aumenier."

"H'm, the daughter of the Comte Robert d'Aumenier, who made his
submission to the Empire and received back his estates, I believe?"

"The same, Sire."

"Where is he?"

"Dead, Sire, these two years."

"And you?"

"I went to my uncle in England."

"To the enemy!" exclaimed Napoleon sharply.

"To the enemy," answered the Countess, looking at him courageously.

"And you came back for what purpose?"

"The estates are to be sold.  There were certain papers of which I
alone knew the hiding place.  There was no way for me to reach them
save by the courtesy of the Czar Alexander.  He sent me to
Field-Marshal Blücher with instructions to provide me with an escort to
this château.  The Field-Marshal did so, and the rest you know."

"And you propose to sell estates that have been in the hands of the
family for so long a period?  It seems to me that I visited them once
when I was a military student at Brienne.  Was not your uncle there at
the time, an officer in command?"

"I have heard him say so."

"I remember him very well now."

"And he you, your Majesty."

"And he intends now to sell the estates?"

"He did, Sire, but now that there is a possibility of the re--of
the----"

"The return of the Bourbons," said Napoleon, divining her thought as
the Countess paused in confusion, "There is no possibility of that,
mademoiselle.  In three weeks the armies opposing me will have been
hurled back beyond the frontier.  Your family has forfeited its rights
to any consideration at my hands.  Your uncle is an _emigré_ who has
never made his submission.  I find you, a Frenchwoman, in the company
of my enemies.  Your estates are forfeited.  Major Marteau, I make you
Comte d'Aumenier.  The domains are yours."

"I accept them, your Majesty."

"What!  Is it possible----" cried the Countess Laure, her face flaming.

"Silence, mademoiselle.  By the laws of war I could have you shot.  It
would be a fine example.  No Frenchman, however high in rank and
station, no Frenchwoman, however young or beautiful, can fight against
me and France with impunity.  Have you anything to say why I should not
mete out to you this well-deserved punishment?"

"Nothing," said the young woman with proud disdain.  "The revolution
has taken the lives of many of my people.  I am not better than they.
You are the very spirit of the revolution incarnate, Sire, and----"

"Your Majesty," interposed General Maurice.

"Well, sir?" said Napoleon.

General Maurice, a famous light horseman, otherwise known as the Count
de Vivonne, was an old friend and a devoted follower of the Emperor.
He had interfered before on occasion between Napoleon and his victims.
He knew the Emperor thoroughly and loved him.  He realized that it was
his time to interpose, or someone's, and he had intuition enough to
suspect that his interposition would be most welcome, that indeed
Napoleon was playing, as he sometimes loved to do, a little comedy.
With a wave of his hand the general checked Marteau, whom he knew
slightly, who had sprung forward to protest to the Emperor at the words
of the woman he loved.

"Allow me a word, Sire," asked the General with that exquisite mixture
of courtesy, deference and resolution which characterized his
intercourse with the Emperor.

"I am always glad to hear from you, my good Maurice," said the Emperor
familiarly.  "What have you to say?"

"This young woman is no traitor to you or to France, Sire, however
strange her position."

"How do you make that out?" asked the Emperor, the flickering of a
smile playing about his lips.

"It was her hand that struck up the Russian's pistol so that the bullet
went there," the General of cavalry pointed upward a moment and then
his hand fell until his index finger was trained upon the Emperor's
heart, "instead of there," he added meaningly.

"Very good," said the Emperor graciously.  "But had she not struck up
that hand it was in Marteau's heart that the bullet would have lodged,
not in mine, if I remember rightly."

"And if that gives me a claim, Sire, to your consideration----"

"Have I not rewarded you enough," asked the Emperor, "in adding the
official stamp of a patent to the nobility of heart which is already
yours and by giving you the forfeited lands of Aumenier to boot?"

"And I would give them all for the safety of the lady yonder, whose
family mine have served for eight hundred years, with whom I played
when a boy, and be content to follow your Majesty as the simple soldier
I have always been."

"Brave heart and true," said the Emperor, touched.  "Mademoiselle, you
cannot go back to Blücher.  Within two days his army will be no more.
I will give you a safe conduct.  You can remain here for the night.
Couriers will be dispatched to Troyes and to Paris under escort in the
morning.  They will take you there.  You have friends there, I presume?"

"Many."

"You can remain there or, if opportunity arises, I will give orders to
have you safely conducted so you can go back to England."

"And me, Sire?" growled out Sir Gervaise Yeovil.

The Emperor laughed.

"I am too good a soldier to fight with men of the law," he said.  "You
may go with your protégée and share her fortunes."

"I thank your Majesty," said the Englishman, touched in his blunt
nature by this extraordinary magnanimity.  "I will report your
consideration to my king and his people and----"

"And say to them that I long for the moment when I can measure swords
with the Duke of Wellington."

"And may that moment come speedily," returned Sir Gervaise.

"As for the rest," said the Emperor, turning away in high good humor,
"Marteau, you have been continuously on service for two days and two
nights and you are wounded----"

"It is nothing."

"Remain here with old Bullet-Stopper, who, true to his name, has had
another touch of the enemy's lead.  General Maurice, detail a score of
the weakest of your command, those slightly wounded, to whom a night's
rest would be useful.  They shall remain here until the courier stops
for the lady and her English friend, and then under Marteau's command
rejoin me in the morning."

"Very good, Sire," said General Maurice, turning away.

"I thank your Majesty," said Marteau, "for all you have done for me,
and for the Comtesse d'Aumenier."

"And I thank the Emperor also," said the young woman, smiling at him.
"Your Majesty's generosity almost wins me to an imperial allegiance."

Napoleon laughed.

"Not even the Emperor," he said proudly, "is as black as he is painted
by traitors and the English, Mademoiselle!" he bowed abruptly but not
ungracefully.  "Come, gentlemen," he said, turning on his heel, "we
must march."



CHAPTER XII

AN ALLIANCE DECLINED

As the Emperor left the room, followed by the officers and men, a
little silence fell over the three people remaining therein.

"Monsieur le Comte d'Aumenier!" exclaimed the Countess Laure, wonder,
derision and disdain in her voice.  "Your château, your domain!"

She looked about the great hall and laughed scornfully.  Young Marteau
turned crimson.  He threw up his head proudly.

"Mademoiselle----" he began sternly, his voice full of indignant
protest and resentment.

"Don't be too hard on the lad, Countess," interposed the Englishman,
his interest aroused.  "By gad, he saved your honor, your life, and----"

"And, if I mistake not, I repaid the obligation by saving his life
also, sir."

"And I recognize it, and am grateful, mademoiselle."

"I am ordered to report to you, sir," said a young man, coming into the
room followed by a file of dismounted soldiers, and relieving a
situation growing most tense.

"Very good," said Marteau, devoutly thankful for the interruption.
"You will dispose your men so as to guard the approaches of the château
at every hand.  You will keep a strict lookout, and you will awaken me
at dawn.  I think there is nothing to be apprehended from the enemy.
The advance of the Emperor will have cleared all this section of even
wandering troops of Cossacks by this time, but there are masterless men
abroad."

"I shall know how to deal with them," said the young officer, saluting.

"You will also send men to remove these dead bodies and clear up this
room.  Take this poor lad"--pointing to Pierre--"and see that he is
cared for.  You will find a place for him upstairs.  Your regimental
surgeon----"

"Is attending to the wounded.  I will see that the boy gets every care,
sir."

"And Bal-Arrêt?"

"His arm is dressed, and he is the admiration of the camp-fire."

"I suppose so."

"Any other orders, Major?"

"None; you may go."

"Mademoiselle," said Marteau, facing the Countess as the officer turned
away, his men taking the dead bodies and the wounded peasant with them,
"you wrong me terribly."

"By saving your life, pray?" she asked contemptuously.

"By--by--your----" he faltered and stopped.

"In what way, Monsieur le Comte?" interrupted the young woman, who knew
very well what the young man meant.

In her irritating use of his new-found title, and in the way in which
it fell from her lips, she cut him like a whip-lash, and she did it
deliberately, too--he, the Count, forsooth!

"Call me Marteau," he protested, stepping toward her, at which she fell
back a little.  "Or, better still, as when I was a boy, your faithful
follower, Jean."

"If the Emperor has the power, he has made you a Count; if he has not,
you are not."

"What the Emperor makes me is of little consequence between us,
mademoiselle.  It is what I am that counts."

"And you remain, then, just Jean Marteau, of the loyal Marteaux?"

"One does not wipe out the devotion of years in a moment.  My father
served yours, your grandfather, your uncle, your father.  I am
still"--he threw up his head proudly as he made the confession--"your
man."

"But the title----"

"What is a title?  Your uncle is in England.  He does not purpose to
come back to France unless he whom he calls his rightful king again
rules the land.  Should that come to be, my poor patent of nobility
would not be worth the parchment upon which it was engrossed."

"And the lands?"

"In any case I would but hold them in trust for the Marquis----"

"My uncle is old, childless.  I am the last of the long line."

"Then I will hold them for you, mademoiselle.  They are yours.  When
this war is over, and France is at peace once more, I will take my
father's place and keep them for you."

"I could not accept such a sacrifice."

"It would be no sacrifice."

"I repeat, I cannot consent to be under such obligation, even to you."

"There is a way----" began the young Frenchman softly, shooting a
meaning glance at the young woman.

"I do not understand," she faltered.

"I am peasant born," admitted Marteau, "but, though no gentle blood
flows through my veins, my family, I think, is as old as your own."

"It is so," agreed the Countess, trembling as she began to catch the
meaning.  "Oh, monsieur, stop."

"As there has never a d'Aumenier failed to hold the château so there
has never failed a Marteau to follow him," went on the young man,
unheeding her protest.

"I care as little for distinctions of rank as any demoiselle of old
France, perhaps, but----"

"Mademoiselle is right.  As for myself, I am a republican at heart,
although I follow the Emperor.  I, too, care little for the
distinctions of rank, for titles, yet I have earned a title in the
service of the Emperor.  Through him, even humble men rise high and go
far.  Will you----"

"Monsieur, you must not go on!" cried the girl, "thrusting out her
hand, as if to check him.

"Pardon," said the young Frenchman resolutely.  "Having gone thus far I
must go further.  Humble as I am, obscure though I be, I have dared to
raise my eyes to heaven--to you, mademoiselle.  In my boyhood days you
honored me with your friendship, your companionship.  I have made
something of myself.  If mademoiselle would only deign to----  It is
impossible that she should love me--it would be an ineffable
condescension--but is there not some merit in the thought that the last
survivors of the two lines should unite to----"

"Impossible!" cried the Countess, her face flushing.  "My uncle would
never consent.  In my veins is the oldest, the noblest blood of France.
Even I could not----"

"Be it so," said Marteau, paling, but standing very erect.  "It is, of
course, impossible.  There is not honor enough or merit enough in the
world," he went on bitterly, "to obliterate the difference in station
between us.  The revolution, after all, changed little.  Keep the
title, keep the estates, mademoiselle, I want them not," continued the
young soldier bitterly.  "Having aspired to you, do you think these are
compensations?"

"You saved my life," said the girl falteringly.

"It was nothing.  You did as much for me."

"And my honor," she added.

"I ask no reward."

"By gad!" said Yeovil at this juncture, "I'm damned if I see how you
can withstand him.  He is a gallant lad.  He has fought bravely and he
has pleaded nobly.  You may not win the Countess--as a matter of fact
she is pledged to my son--but you deserve her.  I've never been able to
understand any kind of women, much less Frenchwomen, saving your
presence, mademoiselle.  Base-born you may be, Major Marteau, but I
know a gentleman when I see him, I flatter myself, and, damme, young
man, here's my hand.  I can understand your Emperor better since he can
inspire the devotion of men like you."

The two men clasped hands.  The Countess looked on.  She stepped softly
nearer to them.  She laid her hand on Marteau's shoulder.

"Monsieur--Jean," she said, and there was a long pause between the two
words, "I would that I could grant your request, but it is--you
see--you know I cannot.  I am betrothed to Captain Yeovil, with my
uncle's consent, of course.  I am a very unhappy woman," she ended,
although just what she meant by that last sentence she hardly knew.

"And this Captain Yeovil, he is a soldier?" asked Marteau.

"Under Wellington," answered the father.

"Now may God grant that I may meet him!"

"You'll find him a gallant officer," answered the sturdy old Englishman
proudly.

"When I think of his father I know that to be true," was the polite
rejoinder.

The little Countess sank down on the chair, buried her face in her
hands and burst into tears.

"Well, of all the----" began the Englishman, but the Frenchman checked
him.

"Mademoiselle," he said softly, "were every tear a diamond they could
not make for me so precious a diadem as they do when I think that you
weep for me.  I wish you joy with your English captain.  I am your
humble servant ever."

And Laure d'Aumenier felt very much comforted by those words.  It was
absurd, inconceivable, impossible, of course, and yet no handsomer,
braver, truer, more considerate gentleman had ever crossed her horizon
than this descendant of an ancient line of self-respecting, honorable
yeomen.  She contrasted him with Captain Yeovil, and the contrast was
not to Marteau's disadvantage!  No, decidedly not!



CHAPTER XIII

THE THUNDERBOLT STROKE

On the tenth of February, 1814, for the first time in many days, the
sun shone brightly.  Nevertheless there was little change in the
temperature; the thaw still prevailed.  The sun's heat was not great
enough to dry the roads, nor was the weather sufficiently cold to
freeze them.  As the Emperor wrote to his brother, with scarcely any
exaggeration, there was still six feet of mud on highways and by-paths.

Napoleon, by rapid marching at the head of Maurice's Squadrons d'Élite,
mounted grenadiers, chasseurs, hussars and dragoons, had easily
attained a position in front of the van of the army commanded by
Marmont, which had rested a few hours at St. Prix, where the road
crossed the Petit Morin on a bridge.  His requisition on the peasantry
had been honored, and great numbers of fresh, vigorous draft horses had
been brought in from all sides.  There was not much speed to be got out
of these farm animals, to be sure, but they were of prodigious
strength.  The ordinary gun teams were relieved, and numbers of these
plow-horses attached to the limbers pulled the precious artillery
steadily toward the enemy.

Scouts had discovered the fact that Olsuvieff's division was preparing
breakfast on the low plateau upon which was situated the village of
Champaubert, which had been observed by Marteau and Bal-Arrêt.
Napoleon reconnoitered the place in person from the edge of the wood.
Nansouty's cavalry had earlier driven some Russian skirmishers out of
Baye, but Olsuvieff apparently had no conception of the fact that the
whole French army was hard by, and he had contented himself with
sending out a few scouts, who, unfortunately for him, scouted in the
wrong direction.

While waiting for the infantry under Marmont to come up, Napoleon sent
Nansouty's cavalry around to the left to head off Olsuvieff's advance
and interpose between him and the rear guard of Sacken's division.
Even the noise of the little battle--for the skirmish was a hot one--a
mile down the road, did not apprise the Russian of his danger, and it
was not until the long columns of the French came out of the wood and
deployed and until the guns were hauled into the clearing and wheeled
into action, that he awoke to the fact that an army was upon him and he
would have to fight for his life.

With his unerring genius Napoleon had struck at the key position, the
very center of Blücher's long drawn-out line.  With but thirty thousand
men attacking eighty thousand he had so maneuvered as to be in
overwhelming force at the point of contact!  In other words, he had got
there first with the most men.  Blücher's army was separated into
detachments and stretched out over forty miles of roads.

Olsuvieff's division comprised five thousand men with twenty guns.  At
first Napoleon could bring against him not many more than that number
of men and guns, to which must be added Nansouty's small cavalry
division.  And Olsuvieff, with all the advantages of the position, made
a magnificent defense.  As a defensive fighter the stubborn Russian
took a back seat for no soldier in Europe.  But the most determined
resistance, the most magnificent courage, could not avail against
overwhelming numbers, especially directed and led by Napoleon in
person, for with every hour the numbers of the assailants were
increased by the arrival of fresh troops, while with every hour the
defense grew weaker through casualties.

Olsuvieff might have surrendered with honor at midday, but he was a
stubborn soldier, and he realized, moreover, that it was his duty to
hold Napoleon as long as possible.  Even the most indifferent commander
could not fail to see the danger to Blücher's isolated corps.  Couriers
broke through to the east to Sacken and Yorck, who together had over
thirty-five thousand men under their command, and to the west to
Blücher, with as many more men, telling all these commanders of the
extreme peril of the center and of the frightfully dangerous situation
in which their carelessness and the ability of their great enemy had
involved them.  The noise of the firing, too, was carried far and wide
over the broad open fields and cultivated farms of the rolling prairie
of Champagne.

Blücher, however, could not credit the intelligence.  He believed it
impossible for Napoleon to have escaped from Schwarzenberg.  He could
not conceive that Napoleon would leave the Austrians unopposed to march
to Paris if they would.  He could not think that even Napoleon would
venture to attack eighty thousand men with thirty, and, if he did, he
reasoned that Sacken and Yorck and Olsuvieff, singly or in combination,
were easily a match for him.  The messengers must surely be mistaken.
This could only be a raid, a desperate stroke of some corps or
division.  Therefore, he halted and then drew back and concentrated on
his rear guard waiting for further news.

Sacken and Yorck were nearer the fighting.  They could hear and see for
themselves.  They at once gave over the pursuit of Macdonald and
retraced their steps.  Olsuvieff made good his defense until nightfall,
when the survivors gave up the battle.  Fifteen hundred men of his
brave division had been killed on the plateau.  As many more were
wounded and captured, most of whom subsequently died, and there were
about two thousand unhurt prisoners.  Their ammunition was exhausted.
They were worn out.  They were overwhelmed by massed charges at last.
Blücher's line was pierced, his center crushed, and one of the finest
divisions of his army was eliminated.

In the wagon train recaptured at Aumenier had been found arms and
provisions and ammunition.  Another Prussian wagon train, blundering
along the road, was seized by Maurice's cavalry, which had been sent
scouting to the eastward.  From the Russian camp the starving French
had got food, more arms and clothing.  The dead were quickly despoiled,
even the living were forced to contribute to the comfort of their
conquerors.  It was night before the last French division got up from
Sézanne, but there was enough food and weapons for all.

A new spirit had come over that army.  What had seemed to them a
purposeless, ghastly march through the mud was now realized to be one
of the most brilliant manoeuvres Napoleon had ever undertaken.  The
conscripts, the raw boys, the National Guards, many of whom had been in
action for the first time that day, were filled with incredible
enthusiasm.  They were ready for anything.

But the army must have rest.  It must be permitted to sleep the night.
Accordingly the divisions were disposed in the fields.  Those who had
fought hardest were given quarters in the village; the next were placed
in the captured Russian camp; the others made themselves as comfortable
as they could around huge fires.  The poor prisoners had little or
nothing.  The ragged French were at least better clothed than they were
in the morning.  The defenseless had arms and the whole army had been
fed.  There was wine, too; the Russian commissariat was a liberal one.
There was much laughter and jovialness in the camps that night.  Of
course, the guard and the other veterans expected nothing else, but to
the youngsters the brilliant stroke of Napoleon was a revelation.

As the little Emperor rode from division to division, sometimes
dismounting and walking through the camps on foot, he was received with
such acclaim as reminded him of the old days in Italy.  And, indeed,
the brief campaign which he had so brilliantly inaugurated can be
favorably compared to that famous Italian adventure, or to any other
short series of consecutive military exploits in the whole history of
war.

They said that the Emperor had hesitated and lost his great opportunity
at Borodino.  They said that he had frightfully miscalculated at
Moscow, that his judgment had been grievously at fault in the whole
Russian campaign.  They said that he had sat idle during a long day
when the fortunes of his empire might have been settled at Bautzen.
They said that, overcome by physical weariness, he had failed to grasp
his great opportunity after the victory at Dresden.  They said that
Leipsic and the battles that preceded it showed that he had lost the
ability to see things with a soldier's eye.  They declared that he made
pictures and presented them to himself as facts; that he thought as an
Emperor, not as a Captain.  They said that in this very campaign in
France, the same imperial obsession had taken such hold upon him that
in striving to retain everything from Holland to the end of the Italian
peninsula he stood to lose everything.  They said that, if he had
concentrated all his armies, withdrawn them from outlying dependencies,
he could have overwhelmed Blücher and Schwarzenberg, the Czar
Alexander, the Emperor Francis and King William, and that, having
hurled them beyond the Rhine, these provinces in dispute would have
fallen to his hand again.  They said that his practical omnipotence had
blinded his judgment.

Those things may be true.  But, whether they be true or not, no man
ever showed a finer strategic grasp of a situation, no man ever
displayed more tactical ability on a given field, no man ever conducted
a series of more brilliant enterprises, no man ever utilized a small,
compact, well-handled force opposed to at least two and a half times
its number, no man ever conducted a campaign which stood higher from a
professional point of view than this one which began with the march
from Nogent and the destruction at Champaubert.

There was no rest for Napoleon that night.  Undoubtedly he was not now
the man he had been.  Paralyzing physical disabilities before and after
interfered with his movements.  The enormous strains to which he had
subjected his body and brain sometimes resulted in periods of mental
blindness and physical prostration.  It was whispered that a strange
malady--was it some form of epilepsy?--sometimes overcame the Emperor
so that his faculties and abilities were in abeyance for hours.  No man
had ever abused such wonderful mental and physical gifts as he
originally had possessed by subjecting them to such absolutely
impossible strains as he, and Nature was having her revenge.  But for
that week in February and for a time thereafter there was a strange and
marvelous return of the Emperor's physical powers.

He had sustained more fatigue than any man in the army, because to all
of the personal sufferings of the march in the long day and the
sleepless night and the conduct of the battle had been added
responsibility, but he was as fresh as a boy.  His pale cheek showed
rare color; his eyes sparkled; his voice was clear and sharp.  The
nervous twitching of his mouth ceased.  The gray look vanished.  He was
once more the boyish Captain of the Army of Italy, at whom the huge
grenadiers laughed and the gray-headed veterans marveled.

The Emperor's scouts had been hard at work during the day.  They were
constantly coming and going at his headquarters at Champaubert with
detailed accounts of the situation of the Russians and the Prussians.
The Emperor had a momentous decision to make.  From the position he had
gained it was equally as easy for him to strike east as to strike west.
He decided at last to strike west, realizing that no captain, much less
fiery old Blücher, without an absolute forfeiture of his reputation as
a soldier could afford to leave his van unsupported, but that the
Prussian Field Marshal must advance to its support.  If the Emperor's
plans worked out, he could destroy that van, and then turn back and
mete out the same fate to the main body coming to its rescue.

Just about ten miles away to the westward, on the main road to Paris by
way of La Ferte-sous-Jouarre, lay the village of Montmirail.  As many
miles beyond Montmirail, on the same Paris road, Sacken, with twenty
thousand men, had been advancing.  From Montmirail a road led northward
to Château Thierry and the crossing of the Marne, behind which
Macdonald had been driven by Yorck, with perhaps fifteen thousand more.
The Emperor decided to seize Montmirail, throw out a corps to hold back
Yorck on the northern road, while he crushed Sacken on the other with
the remainder of the army, except one corps, which he would leave at
Champaubert to delay Blücher's advance.  These army corps were in
reality nothing more than weak divisions, less than seven thousand
strong.

Early in the afternoon Marteau, with old Bullet-Stopper and the little
squadron of Maurice's cavalry, had rejoined the Emperor.  He had been
greatly refreshed by his night's sleep.  He had taken advantage of the
early hours of the morning to bury his father and sister, saying such
prayers as he could remember, in default of the parish priest, who had
been murdered.  The Emperor having sent a courier with an escort back
to Nogent, the Countess Laure and her English friend had elected to go
with them.  They feared to be left alone in the château all day, in the
disturbed state of the country, and it was easier, perhaps, to reach
Paris from Nogent by way of the Seine than by going direct from
Sézanne.  Marteau had approved of their decision.

The parting between the young people had been as formal as possible.
The Englishman, on the contrary, with true British hospitality, had
said that if peace ever came he would indeed be glad to welcome him at
his home in England.  Marteau had sworn to hold the château and its
land in trust for the Countess, although she protested she would not
hear of anything of the kind.  And then he had bade her farewell.  He
had arrived in time to take part in the hard fighting at the close of
the day, and had been busy during the early part of the night in
carrying messages and resuming his duties at headquarters.

At two o'clock in the morning Napoleon threw himself down on a
peasant's bed in a hut and slept until four.  At that hour he awakened
and summoned the officer on duty.  Marteau presented himself.  The
Emperor, as refreshed by his two hours of sleep as if he had spent the
night in a comfortable bed, addressed the young man familiarly.  None
could unbend better than he.

"My good Marteau," he began.  "But stop--Monsieur le Comte
d'Aumenier"--he smiled--"I have not forgot.  Berthier has orders to
send to Paris to have your patent of nobility made out and to see that
the confiscated Aumenier lands are transferred to you."

"I thank your Majesty," said the young aide, deeming it wiser to say
nothing of his ultimate intentions regarding the patent of nobility and
the estates.

"It would be a fine thing," said the Emperor, "if you and that girl
should come together.  She is the last of her line, I understand, save
her old uncle in England, who is unmarried and childless.  Is it not
so?"

"That is true, Sire."

"Well, you couldn't do better.  She is a woman of spirit and
resolution.  Her prompt action in the château last night showed it.  I
commend her to your consideration.  Were I your age and in your station
I should like nothing better."

"Your Majesty anticipated my desire, my own proposition, in fact."

"What?  You struck while you had the opportunity?  That was well."

"But, unlike you, Sire, I struck unavailingly."

"The lady refused?"

"Positively.  She is of the oldest family in France, while I----"

"Marteau," said the Emperor sharply, "no more of that.  If you cannot
be a descendant, be an ancestor.  Look at me.  My family began at
Montemotte, and to-day the mother of my son is a Hapsburg!"

"But she is engaged to the son of that Englishman, Sire."

"Bah, what of that?  Engagements can be broken, marriages even
dissolved.  The Holy Father at Rome will refuse me nothing.  When I
have beaten the allies I will take your affair in hand.  There are few
powers in Europe that will turn a deaf ear to the suggestions of the
Emperor of the French, believe me.  The lady shall be yours."

"Your Majesty's power," said the young officer dubiously, "does not
extend to women's hearts."

"Does it not?" laughed the Emperor grimly.  "You shall see.  My word
shall be law again everywhere.  With my favor you will go far.  There
are no patents of nobility that stand higher than mine, for mine are
based on my recognition of merit alone, not on accident of birth.  You
served me well, and you shall see that I am not ungrateful.  Meanwhile,
to you a new duty is assigned."

"I welcome it gladly."

Napoleon took an order prepared the night before from a table.

"This to General Nansouty.  I want him to march at once.  Read it.  You
will see," he continued, "that Nansouty's cavalry is to hold Sacken in
check until I have seized Montmirail.  He has guns with him.  Let him
deploy, attack vigorously.  Keep the enemy occupied and gradually fall
back upon Montmirail.  Ride with him yourself, and rejoin me at
Montmirail about ten in the morning.  We should be up then.  You
understand?" said the Emperor, ready to explain his orders more fully,
believing that an order could be more intelligently delivered if the
purport were explained verbally to the bearer, especially in the case
of a skilled and trusted young soldier like Marteau.

"I understand, Sire."

"Away, then.  Continue to merit my favor, for upon that favor
rests"--he laughed, he was in high good spirits and humor that
morning--"the lady."

Marteau saluted.  In spite of himself a certain hope began to spring up
in his heart.  That Emperor was almost a demi-god to his men.  Whatever
he had essayed he had generally achieved in times past, and who could
tell?  Certainly they were on the eve of great events.



CHAPTER XIV

THE HAMMER OF THE WAR GOD

Nansouty's brilliant cavalrymen were already awake and their general
having divined to some extent the part he was to play in the glorious
day, the eleventh of February, the trumpets were already calling his
horsemen to arms when Marteau delivered the order and took his place by
the General as the Emperor's representative, a high position and great
responsibility for so young a soldier.  They made a hasty breakfast and
broke camp.  Indeed, there was little to break.  The words are only
used figuratively, since they had no tents.  In half an hour after
Marteau had left the Emperor's headquarters, the squadrons were formed.
Nansouty, attended by his staff and the young officer, galloped to the
head of the column, gave the word of command and the gallant horsemen
trotted down the road.

They had been posted near Fromentières, about two miles from
Champaubert, for the night.  The roads were bad, but they took to the
fields, and by six o'clock they had passed through the town of
Montmirail, easily driving out a few straggling battalions which
occupied it.  By eight o'clock they were in touch with the columns of
Sacken at Vieux Maisons.  A bit of woodland covered their approach.  It
was not until they were almost upon them that Sacken's advance came in
touch with them.  The French horse followed the Russian outposts and
advance guards at a gallop back to the main column, upon which they
fell impetuously.  Batteries were also deployed in the woods and opened
on the Russians.

Sacken's men had started after breakfast in a rather leisurely way, and
they had not progressed very far when Nansouty surprised them.  The
French rode down the advance regiments, threw the heads of the columns
into confusion, and then galloped back to the shelter of the wood.
Believing that he was about to be attacked in force, Sacken deployed,
wasting much valuable time before he discovered this was only a cavalry
feint, whereupon he moved forward.  It was ten o'clock before he
reached a large farm called Haute-Épine.  By that time Napoleon was
ready for him.  He had left Marmont back at Champaubert to hold back
Blücher.  He threw Mortier forward on the Château-Thierry road to check
Yorck.  He put Friant, the veteran and splendid fighter, in échelon
along the La Ferte road; withdrew Nansouty's cavalry to cover his own
right, and put Ney and Ricard in his main battle line between Friant on
the road and the river on the left.  The guard, with Maurice's cavalry
d'élite, he posted on the edge of the woodland, north of Montmirail,
ready to throw to the northwestward to Marmont, or to the west to the
support of Ney and Friant, as events might determine.  These
dispositions were barely completed before the battle was joined by the
Russian advance.

Sacken, who really outnumbered the forces opposed to him by at least
two thousand men, since Mortier's corps, guarding the northwest road,
was perforce inactive, and since six thousand men had been left at
Champaubert under Marmont to retain Blücher, attacked with the utmost
stubbornness and gallantry.  He could make no impression on Friant,
écheloned on the main road, and before the resolute resistance his
advancing divisions slowly obliqued to the right toward another walled
farmhouse, called Épine-aux-Bois, in a stretch of lowland watered by a
brook.

Napoleon, seeing the whole course of the battle clearly, laid a trap
for him.  He withdrew Nansouty from the battle, and ordered Ricard, in
command of his extreme left, to retreat slowly, fighting as if
defeated.  Sacken, as he saw the wavering on his right, threw his
heaviest battalions and regiments upon that point, and attacked with
headlong impetuosity.  At the same time he had enough men left to keep
Friant busy and in check.  Napoleon, seeing the success of his ruse,
suddenly brought up the Guard.  He threw it around the right flank of
Friant, and Sacken's left immediately began to give way.  Ricard
stopped his retreat suddenly and stood like a stone wall.  His
withdrawing Eagles moved forward.  The advance of the Russian right
stopped also, the Muscovite officers and soldiers were greatly amazed
by the sudden resistance of an enemy retreating a moment since.  One
division of the Guard moved out to the support of Friant, who also
advanced.  The other division joined Mortier, who was in a hot fight
with Yorck's cavalry and light infantry.  Napoleon now turned to
General Maurice, who had ridden up in advance of his horsemen.

"There"--he pointed down the hill toward the dark masses of the Russian
right--"there's your chance, General."

The Comte de Vivonne needed but the word.  Turning in his saddle he
raised his sword.  His cavalry had been waiting with unconcealed
impatience during the morning.  Eagerly they responded to the command.
Dashing down the hill they fell on the puzzled Russian infantry around
Épine-aux-Bois.  Ricard's men opened to give them way.  What had been a
triumphant advance was turned into a retreat.  The retreat bade fair to
be a disaster, but the Russians, as has been noted, were splendid
defensive soldiers.  They formed squares.  Although regiment after
regiment had been ridden over and beaten to pieces, those who remained
fought stubbornly.

Sacken perceived now that his only hope was to effect a junction with
Yorck.  He withdrew his men under cover of his artillery to
Vieux-Maisons, and began to lead them by the left flank, at the same
time sending frantic messages to Yorck, imploring him to hasten.  But
Yorck's guns were mired.  He had only the teams attached to them.  He
could get no other horses.  He was unaccountably delayed.  He had faced
about at the sound of the firing, but the movements of his main body
were slow, deliberate.  Nansouty, who had opened the battle, was now
sent in by Napoleon to deliver the _coup-de-grâce_.  With
characteristic gallantry he fell upon the Russian columns.

Sacken was driven from the field.  In killed, wounded, and prisoners he
had lost half his force and all of his guns.  His troops streamed
westward through roads and woods in wild confusion.  He would have been
annihilated then and there but for the arrival of Yorck.  The Prussian
at last fell on Mortier's weak corps and the Guard on the northern
road.  Mortier's men were outnumbered four to one.  They made a
desperate resistance, but it was not until Napoleon ordered up the
other division of the Guard, which had only been lightly engaged, and
Maurice's cavalry, that Yorck's advance was checked.

The short day had drawn to a close.  Preparations were made to pass the
night on the field and in the town.  All of Sacken's baggage train and
provisions had fallen into Napoleon's hands.  Montmirail had been a
more decisive victory than Champaubert.  Twenty thousand men had been
eliminated from calculations for the time being.  Sending couriers to
Macdonald to move down the banks of the Marne with all possible speed,
to get in the rear of Yorck, with whom he purposed to deal on the
morrow, Napoleon, in high spirits, made preparations for the next day's
battle.

The next morning, the thirteenth, leaving a heavy force to check any
possible attack by Sacken, who had, with incredible energy and labor,
partially at least reorganized his shattered troops, but who was too
weak to do anything more than lead them away from any possible touch
with Napoleon's troops, the Emperor advanced toward the little village
of Château-Thierry.  Yorck, by this time, had learned the full details
of the disaster to Sacken.  Indeed, several of Sacken's brigades had
joined him, considerably augmenting his force.  But he was now no match
for Napoleon.  To stay meant annihilation.  He hastily made his
disposition for a rear guard defense and a withdrawal.  He made a
stubborn rear guard battle of it during the day, and, although he lost
heavily in men, guns and supplies, he finally succeeded in crossing the
Marne and breaking the bridges behind him.

Macdonald had moved tardily.  If he had shown half the enterprise of
the Emperor he would have been at the crossing of the Marne in good
time and Yorck would have been caught in a trap whence he could not
have extricated himself.  As it was, Napoleon added largely to the
number of prisoners taken and the number of enemies killed.  Altogether
he had put twenty-five thousand men out of action, in killed, wounded
and prisoners.  He had taken one hundred and twenty guns--so many that
he had to tumble them into the creeks and rivers, because he could not
transport them all.  He had rearmed and reclothed and provided for his
gallant little army at the expense of the enemy.  It was an exploit of
which even he could be proud.  On the other hand, in these operations
the French had lost some four thousand men killed and wounded, and, as
their army was so small, they could ill afford such a diminution of
their forces.

Meantime, Blücher, apprised of these disasters, and at last awakened to
his peril, bravely marched westward.  He had come in touch with
Marmont, and had driven him out of Champaubert after a desperate
resistance.  The day after the elimination of Yorck, the fourteenth,
Napoleon headed his tired but triumphant troops back over the road to
Champaubert, sending word to Marmont to hold the Prussians in check as
long as possible, to dispute every rod of the way, but not to throw
away his precious men or bring on a general engagement until the
Emperor arrived.

The morning after that Napoleon fell on Blücher, who clearly
outnumbered the French.  But the allies were dismayed and disheartened.
The name of the Emperor whom they had defeated and driven across Europe
was again full of terror to them.  The French were accordingly elated.
They would not be denied.  Marmont's men, intoxicated with the news of
the success of the other divisions of the army, just as soon as they
were given the word, which was just as soon as Napoleon could bring up
their comrades, fell on Blücher like a storm.  They came in battle
contact in the village of Vauchamps.  The fighting was of the most
desperate character.  The battle was harder than all of the others put
together.  Bavarians, Prussians, and Russians, fighting under the eye
of brave old Blücher himself, who recklessly exposed his person on the
field, were tenacious and courageous to the highest degree, but the
tactics and dispositions of Napoleon, the spirit of his men, his own
equally reckless exposure of his person under fire, and a cavalry dash
at the allied rear at Janvilliers, finally turned the wavering tide of
battle.  The allies began to retreat, the French followed.

The French pursued relentlessly, but with splendid skill and
determination Blücher himself in command of the rearguard fought them
off.  Napoleon had foreseen this.  He had massed all the cavalry under
Grouchy and had sent them on a long round-about march across country to
get in Blücher's rear.  Just beyond Champaubert, in a dense wood in
front of the village of Étoges, the retreating allies found the road
barred by the cavalry.  Grouchy had been provided with sufficient
artillery to enable him to hold the retreat in check; but the mud still
prevailed, many horses had been shot and killed, the peasants' horses
drawing the guns had been unable to keep pace with the necessarily
rapid movements of the cavalry, and the batteries had not come up.  Nor
was there any supporting infantry.  Indeed, the retreat of the
Prussians had been so sudden and so rapid that Grouchy's horse had been
hard put to it to intercept them.

The regiments leading the allied retreat were formed in squares, and
with musketry and cannon animated with the courage of despair, they
forced a passage through the charging, barring masses of the French
cavalry, not, however, without losing several of the squares in the
process.  It was their only possible way to safety.  As it was, Blücher
himself narrowly escaped capture.

Napoleon's soldiers had fought five pitched battles in four days.  As a
preparation, they had marched thirty miles, night and day, over
incredible roads.  They were now utterly exhausted.  They could do no
more.  They must have a good rest.  Blücher's forces had been
scattered, eliminated, defeated in detail.  There was now nothing for
the Field Marshal to do but to retreat and rally his men.  The success
of the Emperor had been brilliant in the extreme.

The fighting was not over, however, for thirty miles to the southward
lay the vast army of Schwarzenberg.  Napoleon might have pursued
Blücher to the bitter end.  Military critics say he should have done
so.  To him, however, on the spot, it seemed proper to leave Blücher
for the time being and endeavor to repeat on Schwarzenberg the
marvelous tactics of the five days' fight.

The next morning, the fifteenth, he started back to Nogent whence he
had come.  Victor and Oudinot had been fighting hard with
Schwarzenberg, but the news of Napoleon's victories had finally caused
the cautious Austrian to stop.  He began the recall and concentration
of his own scattered divisions.  He, at least, would not be caught
napping.  As usual the enemy learned something, even in defeat.

Speed was still essential to Napoleon.  His men had had twenty-four
hours of rest.  His horses were comparatively fresh.  The weather had
changed, the roads were frozen, horribly rough, but still much more
passable than before.  Once again the Emperor resorted to the
peasantry.  They, too, had been intoxicated with the news of his
victories, many of which they had witnessed and, in the plunder
resulting, had shared.  They brought their horses which they had hidden
in ravines and forests when the country was overrun by the enemy.  This
time, instead of attaching them to the guns which their own
teams--recruited from the captures--could draw on the hard roads,
Napoleon had them hitched to the big farm wagons.  Into the wagons he
loaded his infantry.  And at the highest speed of the horses the whole
force made its way to the southward.  To other victories--to
defeats--to what?

The Emperor began once again to dream of an empire whose boundaries
would be the Vistula instead of the Rhine.



BOOK II

THE EAGLE'S FLIGHT


CHAPTER XV

THE BRIDGE AT ARCIS

The long journey was at last over.  The last Alp had been surmounted,
the last pass traversed.  Behind them rose the snowy summit of mighty
Mont Blanc itself.  Before them lay their wearying journey's end.  It
was cold even in sunny Southern France on that morning in early spring.
Marteau, his uniform worn, frayed, travel-stained, and dusty, his
close-wrapped precious parcel held to his breast under his shabby great
coat, his face pale and haggard from hardship and heartbreak, his body
weak and wasted from long illness and long captivity, stood on the top
of a ridge of the hill called Mont Rachais, overlooking the walled town
of Grenoble, on the right bank of the Isère.  The Fifth-of-the-Line had
been stationed there before in one of the infrequent periods of peace
during the Napoleonic era.  He was familiar with the place and he knew
exactly where to look for what he expected to see.

More ragged and tattered, more travel-stained indeed, and with only the
semblance of a uniform left, was the young lad who stood by the
soldier's side.  But the boy was in good health and looked strong and
sturdy.

"There," said the officer.  "You see that square bulk of buildings
against the wall beyond the Cathedral church-tower and over the Palais
de Justice?"

"I see them, my officer," answered the other, shading his hand and
staring over the roofs and walls and spires of the compact little town.

"The barracks will be there unless the regiment has moved.  That will
be the end of our journey."

"The building with the flag, you mean, monsieur?" asked Pierre.

"That one."

Alas! the flag was no longer the tricolor but the white flag of ancient
royal France.  Marteau heaved a deep sigh as he stared at it with sad
eyes and sadder face.

The unexpected, that is, from the young soldier's point of view, had
happened.  The empire was no more.  The allies had triumphed.  The
Emperor has been beaten.  He had abdicated and gone.  He was
practically a prisoner on the little island of Elba, adjacent to that
greater island of Corsica, where he had been born.  The great circle of
his life had been completed.  And all the achievements were to be
comprehended between those two little islands in the blue
Mediterranean--from Corsica to Elba, the phrase ran.  Was that all?

Much water had flowed under the bridges of Europe since that mad ride
of the infantry in the farm wagons to face Schwarzenberg after their
smashing and successful attacks upon Blücher, although the intervening
time had been short.  A year had scarcely elapsed, but that twelve
months had been crowded with incident, excitement, and vivid interest
almost unparalleled by any similar period in modern history.  The
Emperor had, indeed, fought hard for his throne and against heavy odds.
He had fought against indifference, against carelessness, against
negligence, last of all against treachery.  For in the end it was
treachery that had undone him and France.  Still, it may be that even
had Marmont and Mortier remained loyal the end would have been the same.

The odds were too heavy, in fine.  The Emperor did not realize their
preponderance until it was too late.  If he had assembled every
soldier, abandoning everything else but the defense of France, and if
he had shown with such an army as he could have gathered under those
conditions the same spirit of generalship which he had exhibited in
that marvelous campaign against Blücher, he might have saved France,
his throne, his wife, his little son, his prestige, everything.  As it
was, he lost all.  But not without fighting.  Stubborn, determined,
magnificently defiant he had been to the last.

Marteau had often thrilled to the recollection during the long hours he
spent in captivity in Austria, and even in the delirium and fever of
his long and wasting illness, begot of the foul prison, he had
remembered it.  In all the hard fighting and hard marching of those
mournful if splendid days the young man had faithfully and well borne
his important if humble part.  There was a great dearth of officers,
staff officers as well as the others.  He had been very near to the
Emperor during those last days.

He remembered the smashing attack upon the van of the allies at
Montereau.  He could feel once more the thrill of the army, as the
circumspect Schwarzenberg stopped his advance, retired, concentrated
his columns.  He remembered the long, swift march back across the
country, after further demonstrations to keep Schwarzenberg in his
cautious mood, against the rear of the reorganized and advancing army
of Blücher; the desperate, bloody, fruitless battles of Laon and
Craonne, rendered necessary by treachery.

He could recall again the furious rage of Napoleon, the almost despair
that filled the Emperor's heart, when the news came of the cowardly
surrender of the fort at Soissons by its incapable commandant, which
rendered useless Napoleon's cunning plans, and all the hard marching
and harder fighting of his heroic soldiery.

He recalled the escape of hard-pressed Blücher again, the return of the
French to face the overwhelming main army of the allies, slowly but
surely moving toward its goal whenever the withdrawal of the Emperor
left it free to advance, the detachment of Marmont and Mortier to
defend Paris, the fierce two-day battle at Arcis-sur-Aube, the dash of
Maurice's and Sebastiani's gallant cavalry upon the whole Austrian
army, the deadly conflict before the bridge, the picture of the retreat
that bade fair to become a rout.

He could see again the Emperor, riding down, sword in hand, into the
midst of the fugitives crossing the bridge, and, amid a storm of
bullets, ordering and beseeching and imploring the men to rally.  He
had been there on that mad March morning.  He would never forget the
sight of that figure, the words the Emperor said.  It reminded him of
the dash of the "little corporal" with the flag on the bridge of Lodi,
of which old Bullet-Stopper had often told him and the other young men
over the camp-fires.

The Fifth-of-the-Line had immortalized itself that day, adding to the
fame it had gained upon a hundred fields, an imperishable crown.
Napoleon saw that the battle was lost, that the whole Austrian army had
blundered upon that first French division and that, unless their steady
advance could be checked, the division itself would be cut to pieces.
Men had grown more precious to the Emperor every hour.  What would he
not have given for those he had spent so recklessly years before?  And
here was a whole division about to be annihilated, to say nothing of
the cavalry, which had performed prodigies of valor.

"What regiment is that?" he had asked Marteau, who was riding at his
heels in the midst of the fugitives, and doing his best to second the
Emperor's frantic efforts to restore order and bring the men to a stand.

"The Fifth-of-the-Line, Sire."

"Your old regiment?"

"The same, Sire."

"It still stands."

"And it will stand."

"Good!  Go to it.  Tell them that I, the Emperor, devote them to death,
for me and for the army.  They must hold the Austrians in check and
cover the retreat."

"Farewell, Sire," the young soldier had said, saluting.

"What mean you?"

"I shall not come back with the remainder."

"Adieu," said the Emperor, acknowledging the salute and understanding
all.

How well Marteau remembered that frightful conflict.  The
Fifth-of-the-Line had not waited to be attacked.  It had gone forward.
The Colonel had been shot down.  Officer after officer had fallen.  The
advancing line had wavered, hesitated, halted.  The Eagle-bearer fell.
Eager hands caught the staff.  The Austrian fire was concentrated upon
it.  The color guard was shot to pieces.  The Eagle itself had the tip
of its right wing shot away.  Mortal men could do no more.  The
regiment began to give back.

It was Marteau who sprang to the front, he and young Pierre, who had
attached himself to the officer in a sort of unofficial way.  It was
Marteau who seized the Eagle; it was he who rallied the line.  The new
men formed up like veterans, the old men settled in their places, cool
and ready.  They returned the Austrian fire, they checked the Austrian
advance, they stood ready while the troops behind them ran for their
lives.  Napoleon, whose eye nothing escaped, saw it all.  He even
recognized Marteau carrying the Eagle.

The Fifth-of-the-Line made good that defense until the time came for
the retreat.  Then it retired slowly, fighting every step of the way
down the low hill to the bridge.  The men dropped by scores.  The
Austrians, seeing victory in reach, pressed closer.  A charge at the
last minute by the cuirassiers of the Emperor Francis' guard almost
completed the annihilation of the first battalion of the regiment.  The
survivors sought to form a square, under a withering gun fire, to meet
the uplifted sabers of the heavy cavalry.  There were not enough of
them left.  They were ridden down.  Two hundred and fifty of the four
hundred who went into that fight lay dead on that field.  Of the
survivors scarce a handful got across the river.  Some of the unhurt
men, disdaining quarter and unable to fly, fought until they fell.  The
wounded, of whom there were many, were all captured out of hand.

Marteau, with the Eagle, had stood nearest the enemy.  They had swarmed
about him at last.  He found himself alone, save for the boy, Pierre.
He could see the red-faced, excited, shouting, yelling,
passion-animated Austrian soldiers crowding upon him.  His sword was
broken, his pistols empty and gone.  He was defenseless.  Retreat was
cut off.  The Eagle staff had been shot away.  The flag torn to pieces.
Hands were stretched out to seize it.  He could not escape with it, yet
it must not fall to the enemy.  It was the tradition of the service
that the Eagles were to be preserved at all hazards--not the flag, that
was a mere perishable adjunct to the Eagle, but the Eagle itself.  The
river ran but a few feet away.  Thrusting aside the nearest Austrian
with the stump of his blade, Marteau cleared a path for a second, and
into the swift deep waters he hurled the sacred emblem.

He, at least, he thought swiftly, had a right to dispose of it thus,
for out of the waters of the Elster he had brought it, so into the
waters of the Aube he threw it.

With cries of rage, for the Eagle was the most precious spoil of war,
and the regiment or the officer seizing it was distinguished above all
others, the Austrians would have cut him down where he stood with arms
crossed, facing the enemy, but officers who had ridden up had seen the
exploit and had interfered.  He had been made a prisoner and Pierre
with him.  He just had time to whisper to the boy to mark well the spot
where the Eagle had disappeared in the waters before they marched away.

While under guard with other prisoners at Salzburg he had heard the
story of the end.  How Napoleon, trusting the defense of Paris to
Marmont and Mortier, had resolved on the bold move of cutting the
communications of the allies with his little army, and how the allies
had decided to disregard their rear and march on Paris; how Marmont and
Mortier had battled for the capital, how the Emperor, hearing of their
straits, had begun that mad march toward his beloved city; how he had
ordered every soldier that could be reached to march in that direction;
how he had stopped at a wayside inn one night for a few hours' rest,
after a furious day's ride, only to be told that Marmont and Mortier
had gone over to the enemy, that Paris was lost!

The prisoners had learned how the Emperor, not yet despairing, had
striven to quicken the spirits of his marshals and soldiers for a last
try; how the marshals and great officers had failed him.  They had all
heard of those lonely hours at Fontainebleau, of the farewell to the
Guard, of the kiss on the Eagle, which he surrendered to General Petit,
of the abdication, of the exile to Elba, of the restoration of King
Louis.

It had made Marteau ill, frightfully so, and but for the tender nursing
and loving care of young Pierre he had died.  The lad had been devotion
itself, but Marteau missed more than anything else the companionship,
the sage advice, the bon camaraderie of old Bullet-Stopper.  He had
never seen him or heard from him after that day at the bridge-head at
Arcis.  Where was he now?

Oh, yes, those days and their tidings would never be forgot.  They all
came back to the young officer, as with his humble but devoted
companion he stood there on the heights above Grenoble looking at the
white flag.



CHAPTER XVI

THE GATE IN THE WALL

The two travelers were stopped by the guard at the main gate in the
walls that encircled the town.  Marteau had drawn his old cloak closely
about him, so that it was not evident that he was in uniform.  Pierre's
nondescript garments were so tattered and torn that neither would they
betray the pair.  The sentry was clad in the old uniform of the
Fifth-of-the-Line, except that he sported a white cockade in his
head-gear and every device that referred to the Empire had been
carefully eliminated.  Still he was the same soldier, and Marteau
recognized him at once as one of the veterans of the regiment.  The
recognition was not mutual.  Captivity, illness, privation had wrought
many changes in the officer's face.  The man looked at him curiously
and wonderingly, however, as he challenged him.

"My friend," asked the officer, "of what regiment are you, I pray?"

"The Fifth-of-the----" began the man instinctively, apparently, and
then he stopped.  "The regiment Dauphiné," he answered, his face
clouding.

"And what battalion?"

"The first, sir."

"Are there other troops in garrison?"

"Another regiment of infantry, that was the Seventh.  I don't know its
new name.  And some artillery to man the walls."

"Good.  I should like----  Who is in command of the town?"

"There is a new one since yesterday.  He has just come down from Paris,
the King sent----"

At that instant the gruff voice of the subaltern in command of the
detachment at the gate rang out.

"Turn out the guard for the Commanding Officer."

"Back, monsieur," cried the soldier, falling into line with his
comrades, who came running from the guard-house and ranged themselves
in order.

Marteau stepped back into the shadow of the gate, just as a carriage
and four, carrying three people and attended by a brilliant cavalry
escort, dashed through the narrow street of the town and passed out of
the gate, the soldiers of the guard standing at attention in line and
presenting arms as the carriage and its following went on into the
country by the highroad.  The horses had been moving at a fast trot.
Marteau had time for but one glance as the vehicle passed.  One glance
was enough.  When the guard had been dismissed and the soldier on post
turned again to look at the officer, he was astonished at the change
that had come over him.  Marteau, pale as death, leaned against the
wall, his hand on his heart.

"What's the matter?" cried the soldier, staring at him curiously.

"Has monsieur seen a ghost?" asked young Pierre, running toward him in
great anxiety.

"Who--who was that?" asked Marteau, who had received a dreadful shock
apparently.

"The governor of the town."

"Yes, yes, I know, but his name?"

"I was about to tell you.  The Marquis de----  Upon my word, I have
forgot it."

"Was it by any chance the Marquis d'Aumenier?"

"That's it," said the soldier.

"And the man with him in the red coat?"

The soldier spat into the dust to show his contempt.

"An English milord."

"And the lady?"

"I don't know.  They say, the wife of that Englishman.  Things have
come to a pretty pass," growled the soldier, turning away, "when our
girls marry these English beef-eaters, and----  It was not so in the
day of the Em----"

He stopped suddenly, wondering fearfully whether his garrulousness had
betrayed him into an imprudence with this stranger.

"No," said Marteau reassuringly.  "Will you let me pass, comrade?  I am
an old soldier of--the Empire."  He had no hesitation in avowing
himself under the circumstances.  "See," he threw open his cloak,
disclosing his uniform.

"Why, that is the uniform of this regiment!" exclaimed the amazed
soldier.

"Yes."

"And you are----"

"I was Captain Marteau when with the regiment," returned the officer.

"I thought I knew you, sir.  Yes, I remember it all now.  You were cut
down at the bridge at Arcis."

"Yes."

"I, too, was there.  I was one of the few who managed to get away
alive.  But I did not run, monsieur.  I did not go back until the
order."

"I believe it."

"And this boy?"

"He is a young comrade, a faithful companion of my own."

"And you are come back----"

"To rejoin the regiment.  I have been months in an Austrian prison, and
afterward, ill."

"Pass freely, monsieur.  You rallied us with the Eagle.  We saw it go
into the river.  The Emperor himself commended us, those who were left.
He said we should have another Eagle, but alas, we never got it."

"Have patience," said Marteau.  "What is lost may be found."

He touched the small, well-wrapped parcel, which even in his agitation
he had not allowed to fall to the ground.  The soldier looked at him
wonderingly.

"You mean----"

"Never mind.  Be silent.  Will you call your officer?"

"Corporal of the guard," shouted the sentry, and, when that official
appeared, the lieutenant in command of the gate was soon summoned
through the usual military channels.

"Monsieur," said Marteau, walking up to him, "do you not know me?"

"By heaven!" cried the officer, after a long stare, "is it--it is
Captain Marteau!"

"The same."

"We thought you dead.  Your name is honored in the regiment.  We knew
how you rallied the line; how you took the Eagle; how you threw it into
the river rather than permit it to be taken.  We thought you were
killed."

"My life was spared," was the solemn answer.

"But why did you not rejoin the regiment?"

"I was in prison at Salzburg, and for some reason was overlooked,
perhaps because it was thought I was dead, and then for some months I
was helpless, ill of a horrible fever.  It was only two months ago that
I was set free, with this lad here, who stood beside me before the
bridge at Arcis.  We learned through unofficial sources that the
regiment was here.  Having nowhere else to go, I came back, and----"

"They will be glad to see you," said the officer.  "The regiment lost
heavily.  It was almost cut to pieces at Arcis."

"I know."

"But many officers and men of the old regiment have come back, like
you, from Russia, from Prussia and from Austria, where they had been
held prisoners.  They will be glad to welcome you at the barracks
yonder.  You are permitted to pass.  But stop.  I must do my duty.
What have you in that parcel?"

Marteau looked about him, moved a step away from the sentries and the
corporal and sergeant of the guard, and whispered a word into the ear
of the officer.  He threw up his hands in astonishment.

"Mon Dieu!" he exclaimed.  "Is it possible?"

"The same," said Marteau, "but say nothing about it until I have seen
our comrades."

"Of course not."

"And that carriage and four that just passed?"

"The governor of the town, the Marquis d'Aumenier, the new commander of
the regiment."

"I see; and our old Colonel?"

"Dead.  The Major commanding the first battalion has been in command
until they sent this old noble down here yesterday."

"And the lady?"

"His niece."

"You have met her?"

"Not I.  They care nothing for such as we.  He treats us as if we were
of the scum of the earth, dogs.  Oh, if only----"

"Hush," said Marteau.  "It is dangerous."

"I know.  And he brought with him an Englishman, one of the Duke of
Wellington's officers."

"Is he married to the young lady?"

"Not yet, I believe, but betrothed."

"And his name?"

"He has a barbarous name.  I can't pronounce it.  He had us out
inspecting us yesterday--he and that Englishman.  Bah!  To think of the
Fifth-of-the-Line being inspected by such a young red-coated cockerel."

The veteran spat in the dust as the soldier had done and swore roundly.
He hated the red-coated English.  He had fought them before, and he
would like nothing better than to fight them again.

"Patience," said Marteau.

"Do you wish to go to headquarters and report yourself?  You were a
Major on the Emperor's staff?"

"A Lieutenant-Colonel, by personal appointment that day at Arcis."

"Well, you will be lucky enough if they make you a subaltern.  Look at
me.  I am older than you.  I am a veteran of Italy and I am only a
sub-lieutenant, I, who was Captain when I was captured."

"Patience, my friend," said Marteau again.

"Here," said the officer, hailing a cabriolet, which suddenly turned
the corner.

"I have no money," said Marteau quickly.

"The King pays ill enough," answered the officer, "but what I have is
ever at the service of a good comrade."

He assisted Marteau into the cabriolet, allowed Pierre to climb up
beside him, paid the driver his fare, and bade him take the two to the
headquarters in the barracks.



CHAPTER XVII

A VETERAN OF THE ARMY OF ITALY

It was noon when Marteau presented himself before the house in which
the Major of the first battalion, an old veteran named Lestoype, was
quartered.

"Who shall I say wants to see him?" asked the orderly before the door.

"A soldier of the Empire," was the bold answer, and it proved an open
sesame to the astonished orderly.

Lestoype was writing at a table, but he looked up when Marteau came in.
He stared at him a moment and then rose to his feet.

"I report myself ready for duty, Major," said the young officer,
saluting.

"Good God, is it Marteau!" exclaimed the Major.

"The same."

"We thought you dead."

Rapidly the young officer explained the situation.

"You see," he said in closing, "I survived the Eagle."

"Ah, if we could only have got it back!" exclaimed the Major.

"It is back."

"What do you mean?"

"It is here."

"I don't understand."

"Look," cried the officer, nervously tearing away the wrappings and
holding up his precious burden.

The Major came to attention, his heels clicked together, his hand went
up.  He stared at the Eagle.

"_Vive l'Empereur_," he said.

"_Vive l'Empereur_," answered the other, but both of them spoke in
whispers, for there was no Emperor, and a mention of the name was
treason to the King.

"It is the same?" asked the Major, taking the precious emblem in his
hand and pressing it to his heart.

"The very same."

"But how?"

"The boy here and I marked the spot where it fell.  We took bearings,
as a sailor would say; we took them independently, and when we had a
chance to compare them we found that we agreed exactly.  When I was
released from prison and discharged from the hospital as a
convalescent, we went back to Arcis, to the bridge, to the river side.
The boy here is an expert swimmer.  The river was low.  He dove into
the icy waters again and again until he found it.  We were most
circumspect in our movements.  No one observed us.  I wrapped it up,
concealed it carefully, learned that the regiment was here, and I
surrender it into your hands."

"It is a shame," began Lestoype gloomily at last, laying the Eagle
gently down on his desk.

"What is a shame?"

"The order."

"What order?"

"The Eagles of all the regiments and ships are to be sent to Paris to
be destroyed."

"Impossible!"

"Nevertheless, it is true.  They have taken them wherever they could
lay hands on them.  It has almost caused a revolt."

"And are you going to send this Eagle to Paris?" asked Marteau
threateningly.  "This Eagle for which I fought, this Eagle which I
rescued from the Elster and the Aube, for which hundreds of brave men
have died, this Eagle which has been in the forefront of every battle
in which the regiment took part since the Emperor gave it into our
keeping before Ulm?"

"What can I do?"

"I will throw it into the Isère first.  I will destroy it myself before
that happens," cried Marteau, snatching it up and pressing it to his
heart.  "I have taken no oaths.  I am still the Emperor's man."

"Not so loud," said Lestoype warningly.  "The men of the regiment may
not all be true.  You may be overheard."

"You and all the others have taken the oath of allegiance to the King?"

"What else was there to do?  Soldiering is my trade.  They offered us
commissions; the Empire was dead; the Emperor banished.  It was a
living, at any rate."

"But I am free, I am not bound."

"You must, you will take the oath," urged Lestoype.

"How if he should come back?"

"He will not come back."

"Will he not?  It is whispered everywhere," said Marteau.  "I have not
passed an old soldier who did not voice the hope.  It's in the air.
'When the violets bloom,' they say.  Even the peasants whisper it.  The
imperial purple flower----  He will return."

"God grant it may be so."

"And we shall be ready for him, we who have not taken the oath, and
who----"

"I am afraid I shall be a forsworn man, in that case," said the
veteran, smiling grimly.  "Should the Emperor again set foot in France
his presence would absolve us from all vows.  I only serve under the
King's colors because no others fly in France."

"Be it so."

"And you will be with us again in the regiment?"

"How can I?"

"Be advised," said the old soldier, laying his hand upon the arm of the
younger, "we must keep together.  We must keep our regimental
organizations intact.  The army must be ready for him.  Take the oath
as well nigh every soldier high and low in France has done, and----"

"Well, I shall see.  Meanwhile, the Eagle there.  You won't give it up?"

"Give it up!" laughed Lestoype.  "I feel just as you do about it, but
we must conceal it.  The Seventh, Labédoyère's regiment, in garrison
here, concealed their Eagle.  At least it has not been found.  There
was a terrible to do about it."

"Do you vouch for the officer at the main gate?  I had to tell him in
order to be passed.  I know him but slightly."

"The Sub-Lieutenant Drehon."

"He is safe?"

"Beyond doubt.  Meanwhile, you require----"

"Everything," said Marteau simply.

"The King's paymasters are a long time in coming.  We are left to make
shift as best we can.  But I am not yet penniless," returned the old
Major.  He threw a purse on the table.  "You will be my guest.  With
these you can get proper clothes and uniform."

"And the boy?"

"I will turn him over to the men.  They will be glad to welcome him.
He should have the Legion of Honor for rescuing the Eagle.  But stop."

"What is it?"

"He won't talk?"

"I have tested that lad.  He will be as close-mouthed as the grave.
You understand, Pierre, you are not to say a word about the Eagle until
I give you leave," said Marteau to his young comrade.  "About our other
adventures you can tell."

"I understand.  Monsieur knows that I can be silent."

"I know.  Good-by.  I shall see you to-morrow.  Now," began Marteau, as
the orderly who had been summoned had taken Pierre away with
instructions to see that he was clothed and fed, "let me ask some
questions.  Who was in command of the regiment?"

"I was until yesterday."

"And yesterday?"

"The King sent down an old officer to take the command, a
Lieutenant-Colonel."

"And the Colonel?"

"Monsieur d'Artois."

"So that----"

"The Lieutenant-Colonel commands the regiment, which is now known as
the Regiment Dauphiné, the Comte d'Artois' own," said the Major, with
fine scorn.  "What a name to take the place of the Fifth-of-the-Line,"
he added.

"And Monsieur d'Aumenier?"

"Oh, he seems harmless enough.  He is a trained soldier, too, of
royalist days before the Empire.  He even told me he had been at the
school at Brienne when the Emperor was a student there."

"And who is with him?"

"His niece, the Countess Laure d'Aumenier, engaged to that young
English officer."

"And what of him?"

"Well enough for an Englishman, I suppose," was the careless answer.
"We were paraded yesterday and the young Englishman inspected us, the
lady looking on.  Actually my gorge rose, as he handled our muskets,
criticized our drill.  I heard some of the old mustaches of the
regiment say they would like to put a bayonet through him, and, to be
frank, I should like it myself.  I fought against these English in
Spain.  There's no love lost between us."

"Did he disparage the regiment?"

"Oh, no, quite the contrary.  He was more than complimentary, but I
hate them.  His father is here, too."

"I see.  When is the marriage to take place?"

"How do I know?  I was surprised when the old Marquis volunteered any
information to the likes of me."

"I must see the Marquis at once; with your permission, of course."

"You have it," returned the other, smiling.  "You are not yet
reinstated in the regiment, and, so far as I am concerned, you are free
to go and come as you will."

"He is not here now, I believe?"

"No.  He turned over the command to me temporarily.  He is driving out
into the country, going out to the gap to reconnoiter for himself, I
take it, but he will be back before nightfall, and meanwhile you have
much to do.  We want to get you well fed, to get some good French wine
into you, to put the blood into your veins and color into your cheeks,
to give you a bath, to get you clothing--everything," said the generous
old veteran.



CHAPTER XVIII

ALMOST A GENTLEMAN

"Will you tell the Lieutenant-Colonel, the Marquis d'Aumenier, that an
officer returned from the wars desires to see him?" said Marteau to the
footman who answered the door at the Governor's palace.

"So many wandering officers want to see His Excellency," said the
servant superciliously, "that I have instructions to require further
enlightenment before I admit any to his presence."

"Say to your master," replied the other, his face flushing at the
insolence of the servant, "that one from the village of Aumenier craves
an audience on matters of great importance."

"And even that will scarcely be sufficient," began the lackey.

"Enough!" thundered Marteau.  "Carry my message to him instantly," he
said fiercely, "or I shall throw you aside and carry it myself."

The servant looked at him a moment, and not relishing what he saw,
turned on his heel and disappeared.

"His Excellency will see you, sir," he said, in a manner considerably
more respectful when he returned a few moments later.  "This way, sir.
His Excellency is in the drawing-room, having finished his dinner.
What name shall I announce?" he asked, his hand on the door.

"Announce no one," was the curt reply.  "Open the door.  I will make
myself known."

The lackey threw open the door.  Marteau entered the room and closed
the door behind him.  The drawing-room of the Governor's palace was
brilliantly illuminated.  The Governor was receiving the officers of
the garrison and the principal inhabitants of the city that night, but
it was yet early in the evening, and none of them had arrived.  The
young officer had purposely planned his visit at that hour, in order
that he might have a few moments' conversation with the Marquis before
the invited guests arrived.

There were five people gathered about the fireplace, all engrossed in
pleasant conversation apparently.  It was the second of March, and the
weather made the fire blazing on the hearth very welcome.  Four of the
five people in the room were men; the fifth person was a woman.  It was
she whose attention was first aroused by the sound of the closing of
the door.  She faced about, her glance fell upon the newcomer, a cup
which she held in her hand fell to the floor, the precious china
splintering into a thousand fragments, her face turned as white as the
lace of her low evening gown.

"Marteau!" she exclaimed in almost an agonized whisper.

"Mademoiselle," answered the soldier, bowing profoundly.

He was beautifully dressed in the nearest approach to the latest
fashion that the best tailor in Grenoble could offer--thanks to the
Major's purse--and, although his most becoming attire was not a
uniform, his every movement betrayed the soldier, as his every look
bespoke the man.

"And who have we here?" asked the oldest man of the group, the Marquis
d'Aumenier himself, the attention of all being attracted to the
newcomer by the crash of the broken china and the low exclamation of
the young woman which none had made out clearly.

"By gad!" bellowed out with tremendous voice a stout old man, whose red
face and heavy body contrasted surprisingly with the pale face, the
lean, thin figure of the old Marquis, "I am damned if it isn't the
young Frenchman that held the château with us.  Lad," he cried,
stepping forward and stretching out his hand, "I am glad to see you
alive.  I asked after you, as soon as I came back to France, but they
told me you were dead."

"On the contrary, as you see, sir, I am very much alive, and at Sir
Gervaise Yeovil's service as always," said Marteau, meeting the
Englishman's hand with his own, touched by the other's hearty greeting,
whose genuineness no one could doubt.  "And this gentleman?" he went
on, turning to a young replica of the older man, who had stepped to his
father's side.

"Is my son, Captain Frank Yeovil, of King George's Fifty-second Light
Infantry.  By gad, I am glad to have him make your acquaintance.  He is
going to marry the Marquis' niece here--your old friend--when they can
settle on a day.  You had thoughts in that direction yourself, I
remember," he went on, in his bluff way, "but I suppose you have got
bravely over them by now," he laughed.

"I have resigned myself to the inevitable, monsieur," answered Marteau
with a calmness that he did not feel.

He did not dare to look at the Countess Laure as he spoke.  He could
not have commanded himself if he had done so.  His lips were compressed
and his face was paler than before.  The girl saw it.  She had watched
him, fascinated.  The Englishman, young, frank, sunny-haired, gallant,
stepped up to him, shook him by his unwilling hand.

"I am glad to know you," he said.  "I have heard how you saved my
betrothed's life and honor, and held the château.  I have longed to
meet you, to thank you."

"And I you," said Marteau.  "You English are frank.  I shall be
likewise," he added.  "It was not thus I wanted to meet you, monsieur,
not in a drawing-room, in this peaceful dress, but--on the field."

"I understand," said the Englishman, sobered a little by the other's
seriousness.  "And if the war had continued perhaps we might have
settled the--er"--his eyes sought those of his fiancée, but she was not
looking at him--"our differences," he added, "in the old knightly way,
but now----"

"Now it is impossible," assented Marteau, "since my Emperor and I are
both defeated."

"Monsieur," broke in the high, rather sharp voice of the old Marquis,
"that is a title which is no longer current in France.  As loyal
subjects of, the King the word is banished--like the man."

"I am but new to France, Monsieur le Marquis, and have not yet learned
to avoid the ancient habit."

"And yet you are a Frenchman," commented the Marquis dryly.  "You said
you came from Aumenier.  I did not catch your name, sir?"

"Marteau, at your service."

"One of the loyal Marteaux?"

"The last one, sir."

"And pray why are you new to France?"

"I have but two months since been released from an Austrian prison and
an Austrian hospital."

"I made inquiry," said the Countess suddenly, the tones of her voice
bespeaking her deep agitation, "I caused the records to be searched.
They said you were dead, that you had been killed at the bridge of
Arcis with the rest of your regiment."

"I was unfortunate enough to survive my comrades as you see,
mademoiselle," said Marteau.

"And I thank God for that," said the Countess Laure.  "I have never
forgot what you did for me, and----"

"Nor has the memory of your interposition which twice saved my life
escaped from my mind for a single instant, mademoiselle."

"Yes, it was very fine, no doubt, on the part of both of you," said
Captain Yeovil, a little impatiently, because he did not quite see the
cause of all this perturbation on the part of his betrothed; "but you
are quits now, and for my part----"

"What I did for mademoiselle is nothing, monsieur.  I shall always be
in her debt," replied the Frenchman.

"Monsieur St. Laurent," said the Marquis, turning to the other occupant
of the room, "my new adjutant, Monsieur Marteau," he added in
explanation, "was there not a Marteau borne on the rolls of the
regiment?  I think I saw the name when I looked yesterday, and it
attracted me because I knew it."

"Yes, your Excellency," said St. Laurent, "he was a Captain when he was
detached."

"You were on service elsewhere, _Monsieur mon Capitaine_?" asked the
Marquis.

"I was a Lieutenant-Colonel, your Excellency."

"And where and when?"

"On the day at Arcis.  Made so by"--he threw up his head--"by him who
cannot be named."

"Ah!  Quite so," said the Marquis, helping himself to a pinch of snuff
from a jeweled box, quite after the fashion of the old régime.  He shut
the box and tapped it gently.  "There is, I believe, a vacancy in the
regiment, a Captaincy.  My gracious King, whom God and the saints
preserve, leaves the appointment to me.  It is at your service.  I
regret that I can offer you no higher rank.  I shall be glad to have
you in my command," he went on.  "It is meet and right that you should
be there.  I and my house have been well served for generations by your
house."

"I regret that I cannot accept your offer."

"Why not?" asked the Marquis haughtily.  "It is not to every wandering
officer that I would have made it."

"I should have to swear allegiance to your King, monsieur, and that
I----"

"Enough," said the Marquis imperiously.  "The offer is withdrawn.  You
may go, sir."

"I have a duty to discharge before I avail myself of your courteous
permission," said the young man firmly.

"My uncle," said the girl, "you cannot dismiss Monsieur Jean Marteau in
that cavalier fashion.  It is due to him that I am here."

"No, curse me, Marquis," burst out Sir Gervaise, wagging his big head
at the tall, French noble, "you don't know how much you owe to that
young man.  Why, even I would not have been here but for him."

"I am deeply sensible to the obligations under which he has laid me,
both through the Comtesse Laure, and through you, old friend.  I have
just endeavored to discharge them.  If there be any other way----
Monsieur is recently from prison--perhaps the state of his finances--if
he would permit me----" continued the Marquis, who was not without
generous impulses, it seemed.

"Sir," interrupted Marteau, "I thank you, but I came here to confer,
not to receive, benefits."

"To confer, monsieur?"

"We Marteaux have been accustomed to render service, as the Marquis
will recollect," he said proudly.

He drew forth a soiled, worn packet of papers.  Because they had
represented nothing of value to his captors they had not been taken.
They had never left his person except during his long period of
illness, when they had been preserved by a faithful official of the
hospital and returned to him afterward.

"Allow me to return these to the Marquis," he said, tendering them.

"And what are these?" asked the old man.

"The title deeds to the Aumenier estates, monsieur."

"The grant is waste paper," said the Marquis contemptuously.

"Not so," was the quick answer.  "I have learned that the acts of the
late--of--those which were duly and properly registered before
the--present king ascended the throne are valid.  The estates are
legally mine.  You reject them.  I----" he hesitated, he stepped over
to the young woman--"I return them to you, mademoiselle.  Her dowry,
monsieur," he added, facing the Englishman, as he laid the packet down
on the table by the side of the Countess Laure.

"Well, that's handsome of you," said the latter heartily.

"I cannot take them," ejaculated the young woman, just a touch of
contempt for her obtuse English lover in her voice.  "I----  They are
legally his.  We shall have no need----"

"Nonsense," burst out the young English officer.  "They are rightfully
yours.  They were taken from you by an usurper who----"

"Monsieur!" cried Marteau sharply.

"Well, sir?"

"He who cannot be named by order of the king is not to be slandered by
order of----"

"Whose order?"

"Mine," said Marteau.

"Indeed," answered the Englishman, his face flushing as he laid his
hand on his sword--he was wearing his uniform.

"Steady, steady," cried the old Baronet, interposing between the two.
"The lad's right.  If we can't name Bonaparte, it is only fair that we
shouldn't abuse him.  And the girl's right, too.  You have no need of
any such dowry.  Thank God I have got acres and pounds of my own for
the two of you and all that may come after."

"It strikes me, gentlemen," said the Marquis coolly, "that the disposal
of the affair is mine.  Marteau is right and I was wrong.  Perhaps he
has some claim to the estate.  But, however that may be, he does well
to surrender it to its ancient overlord.  I accept it as my due.  I
shall see that he does not suffer for his generosity."

"And does monsieur think that he could compensate me if he should give
me the whole of France for the loss of----"

"Good God!" said the keen witted, keen eyed old Marquis, seeing
Marteau's glance toward the young woman.  "Are you still presuming
to----"

"As man looks toward the sun that gives him life," said the young
Frenchman, "so I look toward mademoiselle.  But have no fear,
monsieur," he went on to the English dragoon, "you have won her heart.
I envy you but----"

"Marteau!" protested the Countess, the anguish in her soul speaking in
her voice again.

How different the appearance of this slender, pale, delicate young
Frenchman from the coarser-grained English soldier to whom she had
plighted her troth, but to whom she had not given her heart.  There was
no doubt in her mind as to where her affections pointed.  Some of the
pride of race, of high birth and ancient lineage, had been blown away
in the dust of the revolution.  She had played too long with the plain
people on the ancient estate.  She had been left too much to herself.
She had seen Marteau in splendid and heroic roles.  She saw him so now.
She had been his companion and associate in her youth.  But of all this
none knew, and she was fain not to admit it even to herself.

"Have you anything more to communicate, Marteau, or to surrender?"
asked the Marquis coldly.

To do him justice, any service Marteau might render him was quite in
accord with the old noble's idea of what was proper and with the
ancient feudal custom by which the one family had served the other for
so long.

"I have yet something else to give up."

"Another estate?"

"A title."

"Ah, and what title, pray, and what interest have I in it?" asked the
Marquis sarcastically.

"I have here," said the young Frenchman, drawing forth another legal
document, "a patent of nobility duly signed and attested.  It was
delivered to me by special courier the day after the battle of
Montereau."

"And you were created what, sir?"

"Count d'Aumenier, at your service, monsieur."

"Is this an insult?" exclaimed the Marquis, his pale face reddening.

"Sir," said the young man proudly, "it was given me by a man who has
made more men noble, and established them, than all the kings of France
before him.  No power on earth could better make me Count or Prince or
King, even."

"Sir!  Sir!" protested the Marquis furiously.

"I value this gift but I do not need it now.  I surrender it into your
hands.  You may destroy it.  I shall formally and before a notary
renounce it.  It shall be as if it had not been."

The Marquis took the paper, unfolded it deliberately amid a breathless
silence and glanced rapidly over it.

"Even so," he admitted.

He looked up at the gallant, magnanimous young Frenchman with more
interest and more care than before; he noticed how pale and haggard and
weak he appeared.  He appreciated it for the first time.  A little
change came over the hard, stern face of the old noble.  He, too, had
suffered; he, too, had been hungry and weak and weary; he, too, had
eaten his heart out longing for what seemed impossible.  After all,
they had been friends and more than friends, these ancient houses, the
high born and the peasant born, for many generations.

"St. Laurent," he said sharply, "we have been remiss.  Monsieur is ill,
a chair for him.  Laure, a glass of wine."

Indeed, the constraint that Marteau had put upon himself had drawn
heavily upon his scanty reserve of nervous force.  St. Laurent did not
like the task, but there was that in the Marquis's voice which warned
him not to hesitate.  He offered a chair, into which the young man
sank.  From a decanter on the table the girl, her hand trembling,
poured out a glass of wine.  Swiftly she approached him, she bent over
him, moved by a sudden impulse, she sank on her knees by his side and
tendered him the glass.

"On your knees, Laure!" protested the young Englishman.  "It is not
meet that----"

"In gratitude to a man who has served me well and who has set us all a
noble example of renunciation by his surrender of land and title here
in this very room."

"Rise, mademoiselle," said Marteau, taking the glass from her still
trembling hand.  "The honor is too great for me.  I cannot remain
seated unless----"

"Very pretty," said the Marquis coolly as young Captain Yeovil helped
his reluctant young betrothed to her feet.  "Your health, monsieur," he
continued, taking up his own glass.  "By all the saints, sir," he added
as he drained his glass, "you have acted quite like a gentleman."

"'Quite,' my uncle?" quoted the young woman with deep emphasis on the
word.

"Well, what more could I say to a Marteau?"

"What more indeed," said the young officer, smiling in proud disdain.

"Damme if I wouldn't have left the 'quite' out," muttered the elder
Yeovil.

"I have your leave to withdraw now, monsieur?" asked the young officer.
"You dismissed me a moment since."

"Now I ask you to stay.  By the cross of St. Louis," said the old
Marquis, fingering his order, "I am proud of you, young man.  Take the
commission.  I should like them to see what sort of men we breed in
Champagne and----"

"I feel I shall be unequal to it.  I must withdraw."

"Where are you staying?" asked the young woman eagerly.

"With Major Lestoype, an old comrade."

"And I shall see you once more?"

"I cannot hope to see mademoiselle again.  Our ways lie apart."

"Enough," said the Countess imperiously.  "It rests with me and I will
see you again.  Meanwhile, au revoir."

She offered her hand to the young Frenchman.  He seized it eagerly.

"Monsieur allows the privilege to an old and faithful servitor?" he
said to the young Englishman, who stood jealously looking on, and then,
not waiting for an answer, he bent low and pressed his lips upon it.

Did that hand tremble in his own?  Was there an upward movement as if
to press it against his lips?  He could not tell.  He did not dare to
speculate.  The Countess closed her eyes and when she opened them again
he was gone.



CHAPTER XIX

THE GREAT HONOR ROLL

At midnight, had there been anyone abroad in the garrison to observe
them, a number of men, heavily cloaked, might have been seen drifting
through the torrential rain that was falling, toward the quarters
occupied by Major Lestoype.  They were expected, evidently, for they
were admitted without hesitation by the carefully selected old soldiers
who kept the door.  The usual servants had been dismissed to their
quarters, and their places were taken by certain tried and trusted
veterans of the regiment.

In the quarters of Major Lestoype was a spacious and lofty hall.
Thither the new arrivals were conducted.  There was an air of great
secrecy about their movements.  The occasion was evidently felt to be a
solemn one by all.  Major Lestoype was not yet present.  As they threw
off their cloaks it was seen that they were soldiers of the Fifth
regiment of the line, to continue to give it the familiar title.  Each
one was arrayed in his best parade uniform.  They were of every rank
below that of Major, and included among them were several
non-commissioned officers and a few private soldiers of reputation and
standing.  The men were of all ages too, although the non-commissioned
officers and privates were, in every instance, veterans.  These last
stood in a little group by themselves, although there was no attempt on
the part of the officers to emphasize any difference in rank on such an
occasion.

There were, perhaps, a hundred men in the company when all had been
assembled.  They had been chosen with the utmost care.  The list
included all the officers, except certain new officers who had been
assigned to the regiment from other regiments of whom Major Lestoype
and the veteran captains were not sure.  Certain other young officers,
sons or connections of influential royalists now in high favor with
King Louis XVIII, who had also been assigned to the regiment were of
course excluded.

Those who were there were known men, all tried and true.  Major
Lestoype himself had been a private when the Fifth-of-the-Line had
followed the Emperor, then but General Bonaparte, into Italy on that
first and most marvelous of the campaigns of the great Captain.  He had
seen service in Egypt and had been present with the First Consul at the
decisive battle at Marengo.  Into his hand as a non-commissioned
officer thereafter the newly made Emperor had delivered the Eagle.
Naturally, he experienced toward it almost the feeling of a father for
his child.

Every other man there was associated in some way with that imperial
emblem, their regimental standard.  As has been said, it was not the
flag for which they cared; flags were of perishable silk or cloth; they
could be and often were destroyed in battle.  They could be replaced.
Some regiments stripped the colors from the poles before they went into
action.  It was the Eagle that was precious and to be defended.  It was
the Eagle that was in their hearts almost eternal.

It was to receive their Eagle again that these officers and men had
been summoned.  They did not know that definitely yet, but some whisper
of it had been in the air.  They were on the _qui vive_ for the
developments of the evening and full of restless excitement.  When the
great door was at last thrown open and the Senior Captain caught sight
of the tall, lean figure of his commander, he instantly came to
attention and said sharply:

"Gentlemen, attention.  The Major Commanding."

To be sure, Lestoype no longer occupied that position.  His place had
been taken by the Marquis d'Aumenier, but in the mind of the Senior
Captain and of the others the old Major still was supreme and he said
the words quite naturally.

The talking ceased at once, the well-drilled officers and men stood at
attention, their hands raised in salute.  Major Lestoype in full
uniform, his breast bright with all his medals and orders--and it was
observable that everybody else had adorned himself with every
decoration he possessed, even those that had become illegal and
valueless, forbidden even, after the fall of the Empire--entered the
room, acknowledged the salutes and bowed ceremoniously to the officers
assembled.  He was followed by a tall slender young man on this
occasion dressed again in the uniform of the regiment.

And yet there was a difference between this stranger and the other
officers.  While from the uniforms of the other officers had been
carefully removed everything which in the least degree suggested the
Empire, no such deletion had taken place with the equipment of the
young man.  On the contrary, the buttons, the brasses, the braids, the
tricolored cockade; in short, everything was just as it was before the
restoration.

The eyes of the soldiers gleamed as they immediately recognized the
difference.  They looked upon him with a certain envy, because he so
boldly sported that of which they were deprived.  At first they did not
recognize the man who had the hardihood thus to display the insignia of
Napoleon in the kingdom of Louis.  It was not until he had advanced
further in the room and stood in the full light of the chandelier and
Major Lestoype turned toward him that one of the veterans recognized
him.

"By the living God," cried a deep voice, "Marteau!"

Instantly the name was caught up.

"Marteau!  Marteau!  Marteau!" came from all parts of the room.

"Gentlemen, comrades," said Lestoype, raising his hand, "I beseech you,
silence.  Walls have ears.  Every man here is tried and true.  We are
trusting our lives and honor to one another, but what may be outside I
know not.  We must do nothing to attract any attention.  Therefore,
restrain yourselves, I beg.  Captain Marteau, for it is indeed he,
gentlemen, has brought back to the regiment----"

He paused a moment, with an instinctive feeling for the dramatic.
Perhaps the little scene had been prearranged.  Marteau had carried his
hand behind his back.  As Lestoype stopped he brought his hand to the
front of his body.  There in the light of the candles, from the great
chandelier above, the officers and soldiers saw the thing which they
venerated next to God.  For a moment they stared, almost aghast at the
gilded emblem in Marteau's hand.  Eyes sparkled in some faces, brimmed
with tears in others, cheeks paled on one hand and flushed upon the
other; breaths came quicker, a low murmur ran through the room--almost
terrible in its meaning.

"The Eagle of the regiment, messieurs," said old Lestoype solemnly,
breaking the silence.

"_Vive l'Empereur!_" suddenly exclaimed a veteran port-aigle, or
standard bearer, in a low but tense voice, and the mighty battle-cry
swept softly through the room from man to man, in low notes, in broken
whispers like a great wavering sigh from a multitude of throbbing
hearts.

"Is it the same?" asked one as the sound died away.

"The very same," answered Lestoype.  "It was given into my hands years
ago.  I had someone write down the Emperor's words then.  I committed
them to memory.  I can hear him speak now."

"And what were those words we ask you, we, who are young in the
regiment," broke out a youth who was yet a veteran of the German
campaign of 1813.

"The Emperor, turning to Marshal Berthier, took the Eagle from him, he
held it up thus in his own hands."

Lestoype turned to Marteau and suited the gesture to the word.  He
seized the Eagle and advanced a step and those who watched him so
keenly noticed how he trembled.  It was to him as if the Emperor were
there again.  Some mystic aura of his mighty presence seemed to
overhang the uplifted Eagle.

"Gentlemen, we were paraded on the Champ de Mars with thousands of
others.  The Eagles had been marched along the line with the ruffles of
drums and blare of bugles.  It was raining like tonight, there was no
sun, but never saw I a brighter day.  The Emperor said:

"_'Soldiers of the Fifth regiment of Infantry of the Line, I entrust to
you the Eagle of France.  It is to serve to you ever as your rallying
point.  You swear to me never to abandon it but with life?  You swear
never to suffer an affront to it for the honor of France?  You swear
ever to prefer death to dishonor for it?  You swear?'_"

As the words of the old officer died away, moved by a common impulse,
the hands of the men before him went to their swords.  With sweeping
gestures they dragged them out of their sheaths, up into the air they
heaved the shining blades.

"We swear," they said solemnly, instinctively repeating the ceremony of
the past in which some of them had participated and of which all had
heard.

As their words died away the gruff voices of the non-commissioned
officers and privates standing at salute repeated the acclaim, in
accordance with the custom.

"It was so when the Eagle was given," said old Lestoype, deeply
gratified by the spontaneous tribute.  "Gentlemen and comrades, be
seated, if you please.  I have called you here for the honor of the
regiment to consult as to what is to be done."

"_Mon Commandant_," said an old veteran, stepping forward as those
present sought seats where they could, "I was port-aigle of the
regiment before Dresden.  May I not take in my hand again the
'cou-cou'?"

That was the cant name which the soldiers gave to the standard, a term
of affection, of familiarity, of comradeship which in no way indicated
any lack of respect or any diminution of determination to die for it if
necessary.

"To you I gladly commit it until we have determined what is to be done
with it," said Lestoype, handing it to the old man.

It seemed a perfectly natural and spontaneous act to the officers
present when the port-aigle pressed his lips reverently upon the number
plate below the feet of the Eagle and then, disdaining to sit down,
stood at attention, holding it before him.

"Will you not tell us, Mon Commandant," said another of the younger
officers, "something more about the Eagle before we discuss its
disposition?"

"I was a Sub-Lieutenant at Austerlitz," said Lestoype, only too anxious
to comply.  "We were under the command of Marshal Soult, club-footed
Soult we called him, upon the heights of Pratzen.  In the advance we
were overwhelmed.  The port-aigle was killed.  I was close at hand.  I
seized the staff but a bullet got me in the shoulder, here.  My arm has
been stiff ever since.  I fell--a Russian--we were that closely
intermingled and fighting hand to hand--seized the staff.  I lapsed
into unconsciousness.  Captain Grenier--you were Sergeant-Major
then--finish the story."

"Willingly, Major Lestoype.  I cut down that Russian, although wounded
myself, and tore the staff from him as he fell.  But I couldn't hold
it.  I fell with it at your feet.  Our men had been driven back.  There
was nobody beside us but the regimental dog."

"Mustache," said one of the other officers, and all eyes turned toward
the stuffed skin of a mongrel poodle dog mounted in a glass case hung
against the wall.  Hands went up in salute.  Some of the soldiers
laughed grimly.

"The brave Mustache," continued Grenier.  "He leaped over my prostrate
body.  I was conscious still.  I saw it all.  I would have given worlds
for strength, but I was helpless.  Still Mustache was enough.  He loved
the port-aigle.  He seemed to know the Eagle was in danger.  He snapped
at the hands of the Russian.  The man drew back and cut at him with his
sword.  Perhaps I should have received that blow.  You see where the
forepaw of the dog was sliced off?  But he had the spirit of a French
soldier, that brave dog, and he kept them off until the regiment
rallied and came back and drove away the Russians.  Marshal Lannes had
a collar made for Mustache.  You can see it there around his neck,
young gentlemen," continued the old Captain.  "On one side the
inscription reads: _'He lost a leg in the battle of Austerlitz but he
saved the Eagle of his regiment.'  On the other side: 'Mustache, a dog
of France, who will be everywhere respected and honored as a brave
soldier.'_"

"What became of the dog?" asked another.

"He was carried on the roll of the regiment until he was killed by an
English cannon ball at Badajos.  We took the skin and it is there, but
we buried the brave heart and the rest of him on the rampart where he
fell.  The soldiers put up a stone above him.  'Here lies the brave
Mustache,' it read.  I think the English left it standing."

"That Eagle has been in every capital of Europe, messieurs," remarked
another veteran.  "Rome, Berlin, Vienna, Madrid, Moscow."

"It charged with the Guard at Eylau," said Drehon.  "You remember,
comrades, some of you at least, how we went forward in support of the
battalions of the Guard under General Dorsenne?"

"I remember, I remember," came from one and another.

"_Hein_," said a veteran, "he was a bold soldier."

"And a handsome one.  They called him '_Le Beau Dorsenne_,'" continued
Drehon.  "The Guard advanced at arms-aport and so did we.  Our drums
and theirs were rolling _La Grenadière_.  One of his staff said to him
as we drew near the ranks of the Russians, 'Hadn't we better begin
firing, my General?'  'No,' said the proud Dorsenne haughtily.
'Grenadiers keep your arms aport,' he continued as he saw some
wavering.  'The old guard only fights at the point of the bayonet.'"

"And what happened?"

"The Russians seemed to be paralyzed.  They stood and watched us.  When
they finally did fire, in their excitement, they overshot us.  The next
instant we burst upon them.  Our bayonets came down to a charge.  They
couldn't stand before us, comrades.  Corbleu! the white snow was red
with blood that day!  A squadron of cavalry, the Emperor's escort,
struck them in the rear at the same time and between us we cut them to
pieces.  They were heavy, those big Russians, to toss on the bayonet,
but we did it."

"Was that when the Emperor called us 'The Terrible Fifth'?" queried a
voice.

"That was the time."

"Tell us more," came from the excited assemblage.

"They gave us the gold wreath, there in Paris, after Jena and Eylau and
Friedland.  They loved the Eagle then, those Parisians," said Adjutant
Suraif, taking up the tale.  "The women fell on our necks and kissed us
when we came marching back.  They threw us flowers.  They opened their
arms to us.  They gave us wine.  Ah, that was fine."

"At Ratisbon," said the old Major, "I commanded the regiment at the
bridge-head.  We fought the Austrians off all day, giving the Emperor
time to make his dispositions.  We captured four hundred prisoners, an
Austrian battle flag, and three other flags.  The firing was terrible,
our cou-cou lost some leaves of his wreath there.  We were alone there
and at nightfall our ammunition was all gone.  The Austrians were there
in thousands.  They charged and overwhelmed us."

"But the Eagle?"

"Ah, we had taken precaution," laughed the old Major.  "We wrapped the
'cou-cou' up in the Austrian standard and in the battle flags and
buried it in a cellar, so when they captured us they got nothing but
the men and, of course, we didn't matter."

"And how did you get it back?" came an excited question.

"The Emperor took the town the day after.  They had kept us prisoners
there and so we were free.  I shall never forget the Emperor on that
day.  He rode down to us where we had formed in ranks.  He looked over
us.  His glance pierced every man's heart.  'Soldiers of the Fifth,' he
said, 'when I heard of the attack on the bridge at Ratisbon I said to
my staff, "I am tranquil, the Terrible Fifth is there," and now I see
you alive, many of you unharmed, and without your Eagle.  What have you
done with it?' he thundered out his face black as midnight.  'Sire,'
said I, stepping forward and upon my word, comrades, it took more
courage to face the Emperor in that mood than to charge an Austrian
battery, 'we have not lost our Eagle.  We have buried it and having
been but this instant released from captivity by your Majesty, we await
your permission to dig it up.'  'Go and resurrect it,' he said sharply.
'I will wait.'"

"And did he?"

"Most assuredly.  We found it safe and brought it back with the
Austrian standard.  The Emperor saluted it and commended us.  'I knew I
could trust you,' he said, smiling."

"He loved his Eagles," said another voice.

"That did he," answered a veteran.  "I have even seen him get out of
his traveling-carriage and stand at attention as an Eagle at the head
of a regiment marched by."

"I carried the Eagle in Marshal Macdonald's column at Wagram,
messieurs," said the old Eagle-bearer, stepping forward.  "It was there
the bullet struck the wing tip, here."  He laid his hand tenderly upon
it.  "Mon Dieu, that was a march!  Twenty thousand men in solid columns
going across the plain at steady step, with drums beating, the
Austrians pouring shot and shell into us.  You could hear the bullets
crash through the breasts of the division like glass.  My arm was numb
from the bullet which struck the Eagle, but I changed hands and carried
it forward.  I can see the big Marshal still.  The Emperor was looking
on.  It was terrible.  It didn't seem that mortal man could make it,
but we kept on, still, silent, until we came in touch with the
Austrians and then we cut them in two.  It was magnificent."

"I was with Marshal Mortier when we were caught in the pass of
Durrenstein," broke out one of the privates, an old Eagle-guard.  "We
fought all day and all night in that trap against awful odds, waiting,
hoping, until toward morning we heard the thunder of Dupont's guns.  We
were so close together that we seized the throats of the Russians, and
they ours.  We begged the Marshal to use a boat we had found to cross
over the Danube and escape.  'No,' he said, 'certainly not!  I will not
desert my brave comrades!  I will save them or die with them.'  Ah, he
was a brave man that day."

"And that such a man could betray the Emperor!" exclaimed another.

"I never could understand it," said one of the soldiers.

"That was the day," said a third, "when our drums were shot to pieces
and we had to beat the long roll on the iron cooking cans."

"You remember it well, comrade."

"I was a drummer there.  I remember there were but two thousand of the
six thousand in the division that answered roll call that day."

"I carried that Eagle into Moscow," said a scarred, one-armed veteran.
"I would have carried it back, but I was wounded at Malojaroslavets and
would have died but for you, my friend."

"And I carried it across the Niemen after that retreat was over,"
returned the other, acknowledging the generous tribute of his old
fellow soldier.

"Sacre-bleu!  How cold it was.  Not many of you can remember that march
because so few survived it.  The battalions in Spain can thank God they
escaped it," said another.

"It was hot enough there, and those English gave us plenty of
fighting," added one of the veterans who had fought against Wellington.

"Aye, that they did, I'll warrant," continued the veteran of Russia.
"The Emperor who marched on foot with the rest of us.  Before crossing
the Beresina--I shudder to think of the thousands drowned then.  I
dream about it sometimes at night--we were ordered to break up the
Eagles and throw them into the river."

"And did you?"

"Not I.  That is the only order I disobeyed.  I carried it with me,
wrapped in my own clothes.  One night my fingers froze to it.  See!"
He lifted his maimed hands.  "But I held on.  I crossed the Nieman
before Marshal Ney.  He threw away his musket, but I kept the Eagle.
He was the last man, I was just before him," said the man proudly.

"It was Marteau who saved it at Leipsic," said Lestoype, "and again
after he had hurled it into the Aube at Arcis he found it and brought
it back.  And it is here."

Tears glistened in the eyes of the veterans and the youth alike.
Hearts beat more rapidly, breaths came quicker, as these brave and
fragmentary reminiscences of the part the Eagle had played in past
glories were recited.

"What shall we do with it now?" asked Lestoype at last.



CHAPTER XX

WHEN THE VIOLETS BLOOM AGAIN

Now there was not a man in the room who had not heard of the order to
return the Eagles to Paris, where they were to be broken up and melted
down, not a man in the army for that matter.  Nor was there a man who
had not heard some account of the resistance of other regiments to the
order, which had been nevertheless enforced wherever possible, although
in cases not a few Eagles had been hidden or disappeared mysteriously
and had not been given up.  There was scarcely a man in the
regiment--unless some royalist officer or new recruit--who had not been
glad that their own Eagle had been lost honorably in battle and buried,
as they believed, in the river.  It was more fitting that it should
meet that end than be turned back to Paris to be broken up, melted down
and cast into metal for ignoble use--and any other use would be ignoble
in the estimation of the regiment.

"I would rather throw it into the Isère," growled old Grenier, "than
send it back."

"And I, and I, and I," came from different voices.

"Perhaps," said Lestoype, speaking slowly and with deep meaning, for he
realized that his words were in the highest degree treasonable, "if we
can preserve it by some means we may see it once again at the head of
the regiment when----" he stopped.  The silence was positively ghastly.
He looked about him.  The men thrilled to his glance.  "----'when the
violets bloom again,'" he said, using the mystic poetic phrase which
had become so widely current.

"God speed the day!" burst out some deep voiced veteran.

"Amen, amen!"

"_Vive l'Empereur_!"

"Let us save the Eagle!"

The whole room was in tumult of nervous cries.

"_Vive le brave Marteau_!" finally said Drehon when he could get a
hearing.  "He has given us back our honor, our life."

The emotions of the moment were too much.  Reckless of what might
happen, the room instantly rang with loud acclaim in response to this
appeal.  The soldiers sprang to their feet, moved by irresistible
emotion.  Swords were drawn again.

The officers and men clustered around Lestoype and Marteau.  The Eagle
was lifted high, blades were upheaved threateningly again.  Dangers
were forgotten.  Intoxicated with enthusiasm they gave free course to
their emotions.

"_Vive l'Empereur_!" resounded through the hall, not whispered but
shouted, not shouted but roared!

In their mad frenzy of excitement they did not, any of them, notice
that the door into the hall had been thrown open and that a young
officer of the regiment stood there, his face pale with amazement, his
mouth open, staring.  He could not take in the whole purport of the
scene but he saw the Eagle, he heard the cries, the word "_Vive_" came
to him out of the tumult, coupled with the name of Marteau and the
Emperor.

"Gentlemen!" he finally shouted, raising his voice to its highest pitch
and as the sound penetrated to the tumultuous mass the noise died away
almost as suddenly as it had arisen.

Men faced about and stared toward the entrance.  There stood young St.
Laurent, one of the royalist officers, newly appointed to the regiment,
who had been made aide to the Governor and commander.

"Major Lestoype," said the youth with great firmness, having recovered
his presence of mind and realizing instantly the full purport and
menace of the situation, "an order from the Governor requests your
presence at once.  I was sent to deliver it.  The soldiers at the door
strove vainly to stop me but I forced my way past them.  I am an
unwelcome guest, I perceive, being a loyal servant of the King, but I
am here.  What is the meaning of this gathering, the worship of this
discarded emblem, these treasonable cries?"

"Am I, a veteran of the army of Italy, to be catechised and questioned
by a boy?" growled Lestoype in mingled rage and astonishment.

"You forget yourself, monsieur.  I regret to fail in any military duty
or in respect to my seniors, but in this I represent the Marquis
d'Aumenier, the Governor, aye, even the King, my master.  Whence came
this Eagle?"

There was a dead silence.

"I brought it, monsieur, to my old comrades, to my old regiment,"
coolly said Marteau, stepping forward.

"Traitor!" exclaimed St. Laurent, confronting him boldly.

"Not so, for I have taken no oath to King Louis."

"Ah, you still wear the insignia of the Corsican, I see," continued the
young aide, looking more closely.  "But how about these gentlemen?"

Again the question was met by silence.

"Messieurs," said St. Laurent, "you are old soldiers of the former
Emperor.  I see.  I understand.  You love him as I and mine the King.
It is as much as my life is worth, as much as my honor, to condone it.
Yet I would not be a tale-bearer, but this cannot pass unless----"

"Shall I cut him down where he stands, _Mon Commandant_?" growled the
old port-aigle, presenting his weapon.

"And add murder to treason!" exclaimed St. Laurent, his face flushing a
little but not giving back an inch before the threatening approach of
the veteran.

There was good stuff in him, evidently, and even those who foresaw
terrible consequences to themselves in his unexpected presence could
not but admire him.  They were even proud that he was a Frenchman, even
though he served the King they hated.

"By no means," said Lestoype, motioning the color-bearer back.  "You
shall go as freely as you came."

"And if you do as I suggest I shall go and forget all I have seen,
messieurs."

"Impossible!"

"Upon my honor I shall do it but on one condition."

"Ah! and that is?"

"That you give me the Eagle."

"Give you the Eagle!" exclaimed old Captain Grenier.

"The Eagle for which our brave comrades died," said Drehon.

"The Eagle which has been carried in triumph in every capital in
Europe!" added Suraif.

The whole room was filled with cries again.

"Never!  Never!"

The whole mass surged forward, including Marteau.

"Was it to give it up to any servant of King Louis that I brought it
back?" the latter shouted threateningly.

"Gentlemen," said the young aide so soon as he could make himself heard
in the tumult, "the choice is yours, not mine.  I am a soldier of the
King, aide-de-camp to the Governor of this place, an officer under the
Marquis d'Aumenier.  You have your ideas of duty, I have mine.  I have
already stretched my conscience to the limit in offering to be silent
about this under any conditions.  I am doing wrong in concealing it but
I do not wish to doom so many brave men to disgrace, to death.  You,
monsieur"--he pointed toward Marteau--"refused a commission in this
regiment.  You wear the insignia of Bonaparte.  You have no place here.
Withdraw.  Your arrival has disturbed the orderly course of events.
These gentlemen were doing their duty contentedly----"

"No, by God, never," roared out a veteran.  "Contentedly!  We will
never be content until----"

"Until what, monsieur?"

"Until the violets bloom again," came the answer, accompanied by a
burst of sardonic laughter.

"Your interest in the flowers of spring does not concern me,
gentlemen," returned the young aide, affecting not to understand, and
perhaps he did not.  "If you will give me the Eagle----"

"And what will you do with it if we should do so?"

"I will be silent as to this."

"And how will you explain your possession of it?"

"I will say that I got it from Monsieur Marteau, who has gone."

"And what will you do with it?"

"That shall be as the Marquis d'Aumenier directs."

"And he?"

"I think he will undoubtedly obey the orders of the Minister of War and
send it to Paris to be broken up."

"Gentlemen," said Major Lestoype, endeavoring to quiet and repress the
growls of antagonism that arose on every hand, "you hear the
proposition of Monsieur St. Laurent.  Seeing his duty as he does, I am
forced to admit," continued the veteran with great magnanimity, "that
it does credit to his heart.  What shall we do?"

"Purchase our freedom, purchase our rank, purchase our lives by giving
up our Eagle!" said old Captain Grenier.  "Never!"

"I vote NO to that proposition," said Drehon.

"And I, and I, and I," acclaimed the soldiers.

"You hear, Monsieur St. Laurent?" said the Major.  "These gentlemen
have signified their will unmistakably."

"I hear," said the young aide.  "Major Lestoype, forgive me if I have
failed in respect or soldierly deference to my superior officer, but I,
too, have my duty to perform.  I warn you all that when I pass from
this room I shall go directly to the Marquis d'Aumenier and report what
I have seen."

"When he passes," cried some of the soldiers of lower rank ominously,
emphasizing the adverb and rudely thrusting themselves between St.
Laurent and the door.

"Pardon me, gentlemen," said the young aide quite coolly.  "It seems
that I spoke unadvisedly in one particular."

"You retract?" said a voice.

"Never.  I should have said 'if I pass.'"

Swords were still out, hands were clenched, arms were raised.

"Say the word and he dies where he stands," cried one.

"Gentlemen," said Lestoype sternly, "back, all of you.  Free passage
for Monsieur St. Laurent.  Back, I say.  Let him go unharmed, as he
came."

"My orders were to request your presence before the Governor of the
town immediately," said the aide.

"I attend him at once, young gentleman," returned the old soldier,
seizing his cloak and covering his head with his chapeau.  "Gentlemen,"
he added, turning to the rest, "I leave the Eagle in your hands.
Before he departs let me say that Monsieur St. Laurent has borne
himself like a brave man, a gallant officer, and a true gentleman.
Monsieur, you will not take amiss this heartfelt tribute from so old a
soldier as I."

"I thank you, sir, and you, gentlemen," said the young aide, surveying
the men, their sudden temper abated, now looking at him with
admiration, some of them with hands raised in salute.  "The duty you
have imposed upon me by your choice is the most painful I shall ever be
called upon to perform."

"This way, Monsieur St. Laurent," said old Lestoype, stepping through
the door with his head high, beckoning the young aide to follow him.

The door had scarcely closed behind the two when the wild confusion
broke out again.

"What shall be done now?" cried Captain Grenier, the senior officer
present, as soon as he could be heard.

"Messieurs," said Marteau, striving to gain the attention of all, "let
me speak a moment.  I have a plan.  Be silent, I beg of you."

"We will hear Marteau."

"What have you to suggest?"

"Speak!"

"Be quick."

"This.  I will take the Eagle, I, who brought it."

"You will throw it into the Isère?"

"No.  I know this town like a book.  The regiment was once stationed
here for a few months.  I had time on my hands.  I explored many of the
ancient buildings.  I will----  But ask me nothing.  Trust the Eagle to
me.  I have periled my life for it as have you all.  Trust it to me.
It shall come to no dishonor in my hands.  Say to the Governor that I
came here, that I brought the Eagle, that I was asked to surrender it,
that I refused, that I took it away, that you know not where I
concealed it, nor whither I am gone.  Let Monsieur St. Laurent make his
report.  You can simply tell the truth.  Nothing will be done."

"It is well thought on," said Captain Grenier.

"The danger is to you," said another.

"What of that?  I have looked danger in the face often since I have
been in the army, like all the rest of you."

"I like not to shift the responsibility upon this young man," said the
old port-aigle dubiously.  "He is saving our lives at the risk of his
own if they should find him--which is likely."

"Messieurs," said Marteau quickly, "I am not preserving your lives for
yourselves."

"Why, then?" asked an officer.

"That you may be ready," said the young man, throwing his cloak about
his shoulders, seizing the Eagle with his hands, "when the violets
bloom again."

As they stared at him he saluted, turned on his heel, opened the door
and went out.



CHAPTER XXI

LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT

The reception was over.  The last guest had departed.  The house had
been closed.  Sir Gervaise Yeovil and his son and the Countess Laure
had bidden the old Marquis good night and retired to their several
apartments.  There were wakeful hours ahead for the Governor, who
repaired to his cabinet and got to work.  The tidings which had been
brought him by the young Baron St. Laurent were sufficiently grave and
perturbing to render sleep impossible, even if he had nothing to do.
In great astonishment the Marquis had questioned Major Lestoype closely
and from him had received a frank and accurate version of the whole
affair.  The Major would have died rather than betray a comrade, but in
this instance the betrayal had already been effected and there was
nothing whatever to be gained, from Marteau's point of view or from
anybody's point of view, by an attempt at concealment.

The old Marquis had acted with dazzling promptitude.  His personal
escort had consisted of a troop of loyalist cavalry from the King's
household guard and it had not yet returned to Paris.  He could depend
absolutely upon these men.  They had none of them been soldiers of the
grand armies of the Emperor.  They had been recruited in loyal and
long-suffering Vendée.  He placed them under the command of St.
Laurent, of whose conduct he highly approved, being in ignorance of the
offer of secrecy made by that young soldier, Lestoype being too fine a
man to attempt to better his case by bringing the Lieutenant into
disgrace.  This detachment had searched the Major's quarters
thoroughly.  They had found them, of course, deserted.

Captain Grenier, being forthwith summoned to headquarters, had stated
truthfully that Marteau had taken the Eagle and gone and thereafter the
assembly had dispersed.  He declared upon his word of honor that he had
no knowledge where he had gone or what he had done with the Eagle.  The
Marquis had a complete description of Marteau drawn up and sent to
every gate in the walled town.  The guard was ordered to permit nobody
and nothing to pass without the severest scrutiny and the closest
search or inspection.  The Governor made preparations for public
proclamation on the morrow, offering a large reward for the fugitive's
apprehension dead or alive, and also an additional reward for
information that would lead to the discovery of the missing Eagle.

Promising himself to deal with the matter even more thoroughly in the
morning, he had at last dismissed his subordinates and retired.  If
Marteau was within the city walls--and it was impossible to see how he
could have got out of the town without a pass after twelve o'clock at
night--he would find him if he had to search every house in the town.
The spirit of the old man was high and aflame.  To be so braved, to
have his command the scene of such an outbreak of disloyalty and
treason to the King was more than he could bear with equanimity.

There was another regiment in the town that had formerly been known as
the Seventh-of-the-Line, commanded by Colonel Labédoyère, and there
were detachments of artillery.  The Eagle of the Seventh had never been
sent to the War Office in Paris.  It, too, had disappeared.  But that
had been months before the Marquis' time, and he had no responsibility
for that.  Colonel Labédoyère was more than suspected of lukewarmness,
but as he was a young man of great influence, high social standing and
much personal popularity no steps had as yet been taken against him.
The Marquis determined to have it out with him also at the first
convenient season, and unless he could be assured of his absolute
devotion to King Louis, he would report to the Minister of War the
necessity of the Colonel's removal.

The old man was fully alive to the Napoleonic sentiment among the
soldiers, a sentiment which arose from a variety of motives.  In the
first place, war was the trade of most of the soldiers.  They lived on
it, thrived by it, delighted in it.  The permanence of the monarchy
meant peace.  There would be little chance for advancement and none at
all for plunder.  Self-interest predisposed every old soldier to
continue an imperialist.

In the second place, the finances of France were naturally in a most
disordered condition.  The pay of officers and men was greatly in
arrears; promises made had not been kept, and there was much heart-felt
dissatisfaction on that account.  The pay of a soldier is in no sense
an adequate compensation for the risks he runs, the perils to which he
voluntarily and willingly subjects himself, but it is a universal
experience that although his pay is in no degree commensurate, yet the
soldier whose pay is withheld instantly becomes insubordinate and
mutinous, however high or patriotic the motives back of his enlistment.

Again the officers had, most of them, been degraded in rank.  Many of
them had been retired on pittances which were not paid.  Those who were
lucky enough to be retained in active service were superseded by
superannuated, often incompetent old officers of the old royal army
before the revolution, or by young scions of nobility with no knowledge
or fitness to command veterans, to whom the gross-bodied, uninspiring,
gouty old King did not appeal.  Again, the regimental names and
associations had been changed and the old territorial or royal and
princely designations had been reëstablished; the Napoleonic victories
had been erased from the battle-flags; the Eagles had been taken away.

The plain people of France were more or less apathetic toward Emperor
or King.  France had been drained of its best for so long that it
craved rest and peace and time to recuperate above everything else.  It
had been sated with glory and was alike indifferent to victory or
defeat.  But the army was a seething mass of discontent.  It had
nothing to gain by the continuance of present conditions and everything
to lose.  It was a body of soldiers-of-fortune held in control
temporarily by circumstances but ready to break the leash and respond
instantly to the call of the greatest soldier-of-fortune of all.

And while all this is true it must also be admitted that there were
many officers and men like Marteau who were profoundly humiliated and
distressed over conditions in France and who, passionately wrapped up
in and devoted to the Emperor, had spurned commissions and dignities
and preferments.  If they were obscure men they remained in France
unnoticed; if they were great men they had expatriated themselves and
sought seclusion and safety in other countries, oftentimes at great
personal sacrifice of property, ease and comfort.

The King, who was by no means lacking in shrewdness and wit, and his
chief advisers in Paris, did not fail to realize something of this, but
keen-sighted men like the Marquis d'Aumenier, away from the person of
the monarch, realized it much more fully, although even he had not the
least idea of the wide extent and depth of this feeling.  But the old
man knew instinctively that he must control things in Grenoble at least
with an iron hand and that no temporizing was possible.  The return of
Marteau, who was a man of parts and power, he admitted--he recalled how
well he had borne himself before the little group in the
drawing-room!--followed by the midnight gathering, the joy of the
veterans, their worship almost of the Eagle, enlightened him.  He would
put down sedition with an iron hand, he swore to himself.  The King had
committed this important place to him.  It was, in a certain sense, a
frontier city if the impossible happened.  Well, the King should find
that he had not reposed trust in the Marquis for nothing.

So the old man thought as he lay sleepless during the night.  He was
not the only one who lay sleepless during the night.  Laure d'Aumenier
sought rest and oblivion in vain.  She had been more moved by Marteau's
conduct and bearing and presence in the old Château d'Aumenier, a year
ago, than she had been willing to admit until she thought him dead.
The Marteaux had always been a good-looking, self-respecting people.
Madame Marteau, his mother, had been an unusual woman who had, it was
said, married beneath her when she became the wife of old Jean Marteau,
although she never in her long married life thought of it in that way.
The present Jean Marteau was as handsome and distinguished looking a
man as there was in France.  The delicacy and refinement of his bearing
and appearance did not connote weakness either, as she could testify.

The young woman owed her life and honor to the young soldier.  But long
before that chance meeting they had been companions in childhood,
intimate companions, too.  The boy had been her servitor, but he had
been more.  He had been her protector and friend.  In her memory she
could recall incident after incident when he had helped her, shielded
her.  Never once had he failed to show anything but devotion absolute
and unbounded toward her.

The proposition of marriage he had made in the old hall, which she had
laughed to scorn, had by no means escaped her memory.  She had dwelt
upon it, she had even speculated upon the possibility of an acceptance
of his proposal.  Why not?  She knew no man more gentle at heart, more
gallant in soul, more noble in spirit than he.  That, too, she had
turned over and over in her mind.

She admired Frank Yeovil.  He was a likable man, frank by nature as
well as name and brave, sunny in disposition and ardently devoted to
her.  When the betrothal had been made at her uncle's urgent insistence
that she accept Captain Yeovil's suit, it had been a great match for
her, for the d'Aumeniers were impoverished exiles, while the Yeovils
were a rich family and of a line almost as long as her own.  It had
been easy enough to plight her troth to the young Englishman at first,
but since she had seen Marteau, she realized that it would not be easy
to keep that engagement.  Fortunately, Captain Yeovil had been on
service in Spain and the South of France with the Duke of Wellington's
army, and only a few weeks before had he joined her uncle and herself
in Paris on leave of absence.  He had pressed her to name the day but
she had temporized and avoided the issue; not for any definite reason
but because as the time drew near she became less and less willing to
be the Englishman's wife.

Marteau had been reported killed at Arcis.  Perhaps that report had
done more to enlighten her to the true state of her affections than
anything else.  Her pride of birth, her rank and station would never
have permitted her, it may be, to dwell upon a living Marteau as a
possible husband, but since he was dead there could be no harm in
dreams of that kind; and in her grief she had indulged herself in them
to the full.  It had been a shock to her, of course, but not so great a
shock as it would have been if an engagement had subsisted between the
two, or she had permitted herself to think that she could ever look
favorably on the proposition he had made to her.  Nevertheless, it had
been a great sorrow.  There were some alleviations to the situation,
however.  Since it had become impossible, since she believed Marteau
dead, she could indulge her grief and her mind could dwell upon those
attractions which had influenced her so powerfully.

The period was one of intense anxiety and excitement.  The old Marquis
had lived much alone.  He was not versed in woman's ways.  Her
agitation and grief passed unnoticed.  By degrees she got control of
herself.  Since it was not to be Marteau it might as well be young
Yeovil.  The whole episode with which the French officer was concerned
she viewed from a point of detachment as a romantic dream.  His arrival
had rudely shattered that dream and awakened her to the reality of the
situation.  She loved him.

For Laure d'Aumenier to marry Marteau was impossible.  The Marquis
would never consent.  He was her legal guardian, the head of her race.
Marriage without his consent was unthinkable.  Loving Marteau she would
fain not marry Yeovil; yet her troth being plighted in the most public
manner and with her consent, the Marquis would force her to keep her
word.  She knew exactly the pressure that would be brought to bear upon
her.  Although she had lost some of the pride of her ancestors, she
could see the situation from their point of view.  There was a deadlock
before her and there appeared to be no way of breaking it.

It was a wild night outside.  The rain beat upon the casement windows
of the old castle.  The tempest without seemed fit accompaniment to the
tempest within, thought the woman.

A long time she lay thinking, planning, hoping, praying; alike
unavailingly.  Toward morning, utterly exhausted by the violence of her
emotions, the scene she had gone through--and it had been a torture to
stand and receive the townspeople after the departure of Marteau--she
fell at last into a troubled sleep.

She was awakened by a slight sound, as of a light footstep.  She
enjoyed the faculty of awakening with full command of her senses at
once.  She parted the curtains of the bed.  With her eyes wide open,
holding her breath, she listened.  She heard soft movements.  There was
someone in the room!

Laure d'Aumenier, as has been said, had been trained to self-reliance.
She could wield a sword expertly and was an accurate shot with a
firearm.  She could ride with any woman in England.  She had, in full,
the intrepidity and courage of her ancestors.  Her prowess, so strange
and so unusual in that day in a woman, had been a subject of
disapproval on the part of her uncle, but Sir Gervaise Yeovil and his
son had viewed it with delight.  Frank Yeovil had brought her from
Spain a beautiful Toledo blade and a pair of Spanish dueling pistols,
light, easily handled and of deadly accuracy.  The blade hung from a
peg in the wall by the head of her bed.  The pistols lay in a case on
the table upon which her lighted bedroom candle stood.  They were
charged and ready for use.

Throwing back the cover without a sound, presently she stepped through
the hangings and out on the floor.  A loose wrapper lay at the foot of
the bed, which was a tall old four-poster, heavily curtained.  Whoever
was in the room was on the other side of the bed, near the wall.  The
curtains hung between.

She was as light as a bird in her movements.  She drew the bed-gown
nearer, thrust her feet into heelless slippers, placed convenient for
her morning rising by her maid, opened the box of pistols, lifted one
of them, examining it on the instant to see that it was ready for use,
slipped on the wrapper, stepped toward the foot of the bed and waited.

The beat of the rain, the shriek of the wind, the roar of the thunder
filled the room with sound, but the woman had good ears and they were
well trained.  She could hear someone softly moving.  Sometimes, in
lulls in the storm, she thought she could detect heavy breathing.

The natural impulse of the ordinary woman would have been to scream or
if not that, having gained the floor, to rush to the door, or if not
that to pull the bell cord and summon help.  But Laure d'Aumenier was
not an ordinary woman.  She knew that any sound would bring aid and
rescue at once.  There would be plenty of time to scream, to pull the
bell or to do whatever was necessary later.  And something, she could
not tell what, something she could not recognize, impelled her to take
the course she did; to wait, armed.

But the wait began to tell on her sensibilities.  The sound of somebody
or something moving mysteriously to-and-fro behind the curtains over
against the wall at the other end of the room began to work on her
nerves.  It takes an iron steadiness, a passive capacity for endurance
which is quite different from woman's more or less emotional courage,
to wait under circumstances like that.

Just when she had reached the limit of her endurance and was persuaded
that she could stand no more, her attention was attracted by a slight
click as of a lock or catch, a movement as of something heavy, as of a
drawer or door, and then the footsteps turned and came toward the
window.  The moment of action had arrived and with it came the return
of her wavering courage.

To reach the window the intruder must pass by the foot of the bed where
she stood.  Now the light was on the table at the head of the bed and
the table was far enough from the bed to shine past her into the room.
The moving figure suddenly came into view.  It was a man, shrouded in a
heavy cloak.  He did not glance toward the bed.  His eyes were fixed on
the window.  His astonishment, therefore, was overwhelming when he
suddenly found himself looking into the barrel of a pistol and
confronted by a woman.



CHAPTER XXII

IN THE COUNTESS LAURE'S BED-CHAMBER

That astonishment was so great when the man recognized the woman that
he threw up his hands and stepped backward.  As he did so his sodden
cloak, which he had gathered closely around him, opened and fell.  The
next instant his hand tore his hat from his head and he stood revealed
in the full light of the candle.

"Marteau!" exclaimed the woman in a surprise and dismay equal to that
of the man she confronted.

Her arm that held the pistol dropped weakly to her side.  With the
other hand she drew the peignoir about her, a vivid crimson wave rushed
over her whole body.  To surprise a man, a thief, in her room at night,
was one thing; to confront the man she loved in such a guise was
another.  Her heart rose in her throat.  For a moment she thought she
would have fainted.

"You!  You!" she choked out brokenly.  "Mon Dieu!"

"Mademoiselle," began the man desperately, his confusion and dismay
growing with every flying moment, "I----"

"What do you here," she went on impetuously, finding voice, "in my
bedroom at night?  I thought you----"

"For God's sake hear me.  I came to----" and then he stopped lamely and
in agonized embarrassment.

"For what did you come?" she insisted.

"Mademoiselle," he said, throwing his head up, "I cannot tell you.  But
when I was stationed here before this was the bedroom of the
Commanding-Officer.  I supposed it was so still.  I had not the
faintest idea that you--that it was----"

"And what would you do in the bedroom of the Commanding-Officer?" asked
the woman, forgetting for the moment the strangeness of the situation
in her anxiety to solve the problem.

"And that, I repeat, I cannot tell."

"Not even to me, who----" she stopped in turn.

"Yes, yes, go on," urged the young man, stepping nearer to her.  "Not
even to you who----"

"Who espoused your cause in the hall this very night, who befriended
you," she went on rather lamely and inadequately having checked herself
in time.

"Oh," said the young officer in great disappointment, "that?"

"Yes."

"You see, the Governor----"

"Did you wish to kill him?"

"Mademoiselle!" he protested.  "I swear to you that I would not harm
him for the world but I----"

"Are you in need?  He offered you money.  I have a few resources."

"For God's sake, mademoiselle," interposed the officer desperately, but
she went resolutely on.

"Whatever I have is yours.  See----" she stripped rings from her
fingers and proffered them--"take them."

"Mademoiselle," said the young man sadly, "you wrong me."

"Well, if it was not for murder or for gain, for what cause did you
take so frightful a risk?"

"Is there no other motive, mademoiselle, that makes men risk their
lives than revenge or greed?"

"What do you mean?"

"Love."

"But you said you did not know this was my room!"

The words came from her impetuously and before she thought she realized
when it was too late.

"Ah, mademoiselle, love of woman is a great passion.  I know it only
too well, too sadly.  But it is not the only love."

"Have you another in your heart?" asked the Countess with a sinking in
her own.

"Love of honor."

"I don't understand."

"And yet I know that you are the very soul of honor yourself."

"I thank you, but----"

"Mademoiselle," said the young man, coming to a sudden resolution,
"appearances are frightfully against me.  That I should be here, in
your room, at this hour of the night, under the circumstances, condemns
me utterly in your opinion, especially as I have offered no adequate
explanation.  I am about to throw myself on your mercy, to trust to
your honor."

"You shall not trust in vain, monsieur."

"I know that.  I trusted to your honor in the Château d'Aumenier and
you did not fail me then."

"Nor will I now."

"Will you give me your word not to reveal what I tell you, and not to
make use of the knowledge I communicate, until I give you leave?"

"Does it concern the honor or the welfare of those I love?"

"You mean that Englishman?"

"I do not love--I mean the Marquis, my uncle."

"It does not," said the young man, noting with throbbing heart the
broken sentence.

"Then I give my promise.  Speak."

"I came here to conceal something, mademoiselle."

"What?"

"An emblem."

"Yours?"

"The Emperor's."

"You mean----"

"The Eagle of the Fifth-regiment-of-the-Line."

"Why here?"

"It is a long story.  I brought it back, having fished it out of the
river Aube, where it had lain since that day----"

"When I thought you killed," said the young woman, her hand pressed to
her heart.

"And were you sorry?"

"Sorry?  I----  But go on."

"I showed it to the officers of the regiment tonight at Major
Lestoype's quarters.  We were discovered.  The matter was reported to
your uncle.  Rather than give up the Eagle I said that I would hide it."

"And why here?"

"Because being as I thought the quarters of the Commanding-Officer it
would be the last place in Grenoble where it would be sought."

"And where did you hide it?"

"Back of one of the drawers in the cupboard yonder."

"And how did you know of the place?"

"I was stationed here when I first joined the regiment.  The château
was untenanted.  I rambled all over it.  I explored its nooks and
corners.  I discovered that secret hiding place by chance and now the
Eagle is there."

"And there it shall remain until it is discovered or until you give me
leave to produce it," said the girl firmly.

"I have your promise?"

"You know well that I shall keep it."

"I thank you, mademoiselle.  Twice you have saved my life and now, what
is more to me than life, the emblem of my faith as a soldier, the honor
of my regiment."

"But why keep it, this Eagle, at all," asked the girl, "and run this
risk?"

"It may be needed again."

"But by whom?"

"The Emperor."

"The name is forbid."

"But the man is not."

"Ah, you think he will return?"

"I do."

"And when?"

"Mademoiselle has all my secrets.  I am in her power absolutely.  Why
keep anything from her?"

"Why, indeed?" assented the woman, thrilling to the acknowledgment of
her power over the man she loved as any woman would.

"When the violets bloom again," said the young man, bowing.  "Now,
mademoiselle, I am at your service," he resumed as she stared at him.

"At my service?  What do you mean?"

"You have caught me here in your room.  You have only to call out to
summon assistance.  I shall be removed from your pathway forever."

"But the Eagle?"

"I shall find means before I die to tell someone where to look for it
if it should be needed."

"And I am to condemn you to death?"

"Why not?" said the young man.  "I only lived to bring it back.  I
never dreamed that I was to have the happiness of seeing you again."

"Happiness?  This anguish?" murmured the young woman in daring
self-revelation.

She had forgot the hour, her dress, the strangeness of the situation,
the awful impropriety of it all, the possibility of discovery.  She
only saw the man she loved.  She saw how he loved her.  She hung upon
his words, and would fain hear more--more!

"My God!" he responded with a sort of fierce pride that was almost
arrogant.  "Although I was born a peasant, mademoiselle, not the finest
gentleman in France or England could love you as I do.  Yet it is
impossible for you to love me now that the Emperor is no longer here.
Your uncle would never consent.  You, yourself, love that English
gentleman.  Why give thought to Marteau?  Summon assistance, deliver me
up and remember me as one who loved you with all the fervor of his
heart, or forget me, if you can."

"I would not have you die," said the woman, shuddering.  "God forbid."

"It is best so.  Life holds nothing for me now."

"But if the violets bloom again?" asked the other.

"Ah!" exclaimed the man, throwing up his hands and drawing a long
breath.  "Then!"

"How came you here, monsieur?"

"By that window there.  There is a ladder without.  It reaches most of
the way.  I am a good climber.  The ivy----"

"Go as you came.  None shall be the wiser."

"To you always the disposition of my life, mademoiselle," said Marteau
simply.  "I obey your command.  Farewell.  It is but a postponement,
anyway," he added as he turned away.  "I can never escape from
Grenoble.  They will seize me sooner or later and----"

"Stay!" she cried.

Moved by an unaccountable impulse the girl took a step nearer to him.
She loosened her clutch upon her garment and held out her hands to him.

"If it is to be farewell," she said tenderly, "know that I do not love
that English Captain, no, and that.  I----"

He seized her hand and covered it with kisses.

"I can die with better grace now," he said at last.

Not daring to trust himself further he turned to the window again.  As
he put his hand on the lock of the casement he heard shouts and cries
outside, he saw torches.  Escape that way was barred.  The whole castle
seemed suddenly to awake.  He realized it all in a moment.  He had been
traced there.  In another minute he would be discovered in the
Countess's room at that hour of the morning.  He turned swiftly to the
dismayed girl.

"They are there," he said.  "Escape is cut off."

Steps and voices resounded in the corridor.

"Quick," she said, "the closet yonder--you can hide."

She understood the peril as well as he.

"And bring disgrace upon you when they caught me?  Never!"

"Marteau, for God's sake, I love you," said the woman agonizingly.  "I
cannot----"

She stretched out her hands to him again.  Very lovely she looked, the
peignoir falling from her white shoulders, the soft candle-light
illuminating and yet concealing in its vague shadows the beauty of face
and figure.  Marteau did not dare to dwell upon that.  He must act and
instantly.  He rushed toward the woman.  He caught her by the hand.  He
even shook her a little.

"Shriek," he whispered in her ear.

He picked up the pistol from the bed upon which she had thrown it and
pointing it upward pulled the trigger.  Startled by his utterly
unexpected action, the meaning of which she could not fathom, she did
scream loudly.  The next instant the door was thrown open and into the
room half clad, sword in hand, burst the Marquis.  With him were Sir
Gervaise Yeovil and the young Captain, and attending them were servants
and guards bearing lights.

The Marquis stared from his niece back to the young officer.

"My God!" he exclaimed.  "Is it you?"

Marteau could only bow.  He had a few seconds to make up his mind, a
few seconds to decide upon the role he must play.  Well, his life was
certainly forfeit, his reputation he would also give for hers.  Any
explanation that he could make would be disbelieved unless, of course,
he produced the Eagle, which was not to be thought of.  Failing the
Eagle the more he endeavored to account for his presence the more
deeply would he involve the woman he loved.

"I find you here, you that I treated almost like a gentleman, who, I
thought, nearly measured up to the title, in my niece's room at this
hour of the morning," continued the enraged old man.  "Laure, has
he--has he harmed you?"

"You came too quickly, monsieur," answered Marteau, himself, giving the
young woman time to recover herself.  "You heard the pistol shot."  He
threw the weapon from him.  "We were struggling.  It went off and----"

"You damned low-born coward," gritted out the English officer, stepping
toward him furious with anger.

"Steady, Frank.  There is something strange about this," said Sir
Gervaise gloomily, catching his son by the arm.  "He is no coward.
That I'll warrant."

"But to seek entry into a woman's bed-chamber!" continued Frank
furiously.  "If you were a gentleman I'd----"

"That 'almost,'" said Marteau, "saves me in this instance."

"I feel this action almost as if it had been my own son, had God
blessed me with one," said the old Marquis, slowly recovering his
self-command.  "A loyal Marteau, a thief, a despoiler of women!  Why,
she knelt to you in the hall.  She raised her voice in your defense,
and now you--you----"  His fingers twitched.  "'The Count d'Aumenier,'"
he added in bittery mockery.  "You could not bear the title if it had
been left in your hand.  I shall have you branded as a thief in the
morning and----"

"My uncle," said the woman, "he----"

"Mademoiselle," interposed Marteau sharply, resolved to protect her at
all hazards, "is not my case black enough without further testimony
from you?  I beseech you to be silent."

"Speak, Laure," said the old Marquis.  "If you have anything to say
which will make his punishment surer and harder, I charge you to say
it."

"Nothing, nothing," answered the poor young woman.  "Oh, if ever a
woman's soul was tortured----"

"You tortured her, did you?" cried the Englishman, struggling in his
father's arms.  "I once thought of meeting you in the field--you--you!
I would like to strangle you with my bare hands."

"It is just.  I honor monsieur for his rage.  It is true, I love the
woman, and----"

"Is this the way a gentleman shows his affection?" roared out the
English captain.

"Monsieur forgets that I am almost, not quite, a gentleman."

"And there is another score we have to settle with you," cried the
Marquis.  "That cursed Eagle--where is it?"

"Before I sought mademoiselle," said Marteau, "I placed it in safety
and in such keeping as will watch over it.  You will never find it.  It
will only be produced when"--he stopped--"when the violets bloom again."

"What is this damned nonsense about flowers I hear everywhere?" burst
out Sir Gervaise.

"Well, monsieur," said the Marquis, "it will be produced before that
time, or when the violets do bloom they will find some red soil out of
which to spring."

"You mean----"

"As I live I will have you court-martialed in the morning and shot for
high treason.  I stand for the King, for the ancient laws of France.  I
will have no paltering with traitors, and I am more inclined to deal
swiftly and summarily with you since to treason you add theft and this
attempt upon a woman.  Produce that Eagle, or you die."

"I must die, then," said the young man.

"By heaven," said Sir Gervaise; looking keenly at the officer, "there
is more in this than I can understand.  Give me leave, my lord," he
turned to Marteau.  "I have liked you always.  I would befriend you
now.  I do not believe in appearances always.  Can you not explain?"

"Sir," said Marteau, "I am grateful to find one here who still
believes----"  He stopped.  "The circumstances speak for themselves.  I
love mademoiselle.  I was mad.  I came here, I----"

"Gentlemen," said the Marquis, "let us withdraw.  It is scandalous that
we should be here under such circumstances.  You, sir," he turned to
Marteau, "this way."

The poor Countess had stood in agony and despair.  Marteau did not look
at her.  He bent his head low as he passed her.  Two soldiers of the
guard grasped him by the arms, the rest closed about him.

"Go, gentlemen.  I will see you presently," said the Marquis.  "One of
you servants yonder send the Countess's women here."

"I thank God," said young Yeovil, "that we got here in time.  If he had
harmed you, dearest Laure, I would have killed him here where he stood."

Her lover attempted to take her hand, but she shrank away from him.  As
Sir Gervaise passed her she bent forward and seized the old Baronet's
hand and kissed it.  He, at least, had seen that there was something
beneath the surface.

"Now, my child," said the old Marquis kindly, but with fearful
sternness, as the door closed behind the others, "what have you to add
to what has been told?"

"What do you mean?"

"I know men.  I know that that young man did not come here to assault
you, or for robbery.  You cannot tell me that the blood of the Marteaux
runs in his veins for nothing.  And I know you did not invite him here,
either.  You are a d'Aumenier.  What is the explanation of it all?"

But the poor little Countess made no answer.  She slowly collapsed on
the floor at the feet of the iron old man, who, to save her honor and
reputation, had played his part, even as Marteau, in her bedroom on
that mad March morning.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE MARQUIS GRANTS AN INTERVIEW

The old Marquis was face to face with a terribly difficult problem.
That the Eagle had been brought back did not admit of doubt.  St.
Laurent had seen it, and the officers who had been present at the
midnight meeting in the Major's rooms made no attempt whatever to deny
it.  Marteau admitted it.  But it had disappeared.  He had not the
faintest idea where it was.  The most rigorous search had so far failed
to discover it.  Marteau had been questioned, appealed to, threatened,
with no results whatsoever.  His lips were sealed and no pressure that
could be brought to bear sufficed to open them.  He did not deny that
he knew where the Eagle was.  He simply remained silent, immutably
silent, when he was asked where.

From the few loyalist officers in the regiments and in the town a court
had been convened and Marteau had been put on trial.  He had been found
guilty--indeed, there was no other verdict possible, since he calmly
admitted everything--of treason, disobedience of orders, a whole
catalogue of crimes.  The Marquis acted on the old feudal idea that he
possessed all the rights of the ancient nobility, the high and low, the
middle justice.  And, indeed, he represented the King with full powers.
The court, completely under his influence, had condemned the young
soldier to death.  Marteau might have appealed, he might have
protested, but he did neither.  He accepted the inevitable.  What was
the difference?  No appeal would have been entertained, no protest
would have availed.  It all came to this, he would either have to give
up the Eagle or his life.

Well, life was not worth very much to him, as he had said.  Even though
he realized from her desperate avowal of the night before that the
interest of the Countess in him was more than she would have admitted,
had not the words been surprised and wrung from her by his deadly
peril, he knew that there was absolutely nothing to be hoped for in
that direction.  Even though his comrades, alarmed by the imminence of
his danger, and aroused by the energetic determination of the old
Marquis, besought him to give up the Eagle, he refused.  He would have
considered himself a forsworn man had he done so.

The Marquis had visited the prisoner and had condescended to make a
personal appeal to him, imploring him by that old duty and friendship
which had subsisted between the families, but his appeals had been as
fruitless as his commands and his threats.  The old noble was iron
hard.  He had no sympathy with the Empire or its Emperor, but the
determination of the young officer did arouse a certain degree of
admiration.  He would fain have spared him if he could, but, as he had
sacrificed everything he possessed for the King, and counted the
sacrifice as nothing, his sympathies did not abate his determination to
punish treason and contumacy one whit.

The Marquis was accustomed to having things his own way, and the long
period of exile had not changed his natural bent of mind in that
particular.  He was angry, too, at the stubbornness which he
nevertheless admired.  In other directions the Marquis was balked.  He
had seen through the little drama that had been played by Marteau and
the Countess Laure in her bedchamber.  That was one reason why he would
fain have saved him, because he had so gallantly allowed himself to
occupy the hideous role which he had assumed, to save the girl's honor.
The Marquis had not the faintest suspicion that there was anything
wrong in the situation, or even that his niece had actually given her
heart to this man.  Such a thought could not be entertained at all.

It was inconceivable, but he knew that, however innocent might have
been that meeting, if it had been prearranged the world would consider
the Countess disgraced, unless the explanation which Marteau had
suggested was allowed to become current.  He had summoned his niece
before him, and had sought in every way to force her to tell him the
whole truth, but she had partaken, in some degree, of Marteau's
stubbornness.  All she would say was, that Marteau was innocent of any
crime or any wrong.  But, when the bewildered Marquis asked her if she
had invited him there, and if he was there by her permission, she had
indignantly repudiated the suggestion as an insult, which left him more
puzzled than before.

The idea that Marteau had come there to hide the Eagle had never
entered the Marquis' mind for all his acuteness.  He had asked the girl
whether Marteau had brought anything into the room or taken anything
from it, and she had answered truthfully that when she saw him he had
been exactly as when they saw him.  The testimony of the Marquis and
the two Englishmen rendered it unnecessary for the Countess to be
present at the court-martial.  There was nothing material she could
add, and, indeed, it was not for attempted theft, or assault, that
Marteau had been condemned--the Marquis had suppressed that as much as
possible--but for his conduct with the Eagle.

It was the fifth of March, a warm and sunny day in the south of France,
even amid the mountains and hills of ancient Dauphiné.  Great things
were toward, although the Marquis did not yet know it.  The execution
of the condemned was set for the next day.  At ten o'clock in the
morning the regiment was to be paraded and Marteau was to be shot.  He
had asked that he might be granted a soldier's death, and the Marquis
had seen fit to grant the request.

There were very few troops in Grenoble which could be counted as loyal
to the King, but there were some.  From them the Marquis intended to
draw his firing party, and with them he intended to over-awe the
regiment if there should be any outbreak.  He was too keen a judge of
humanity, and too well able to read the characters of men not to
realize the whole regiment was in a mutinous temper over the Eagle
episode, that they looked upon Marteau as a martyr, and that there
might be outbreaks and grave difficulties before he was shot.  Well,
difficulties did not daunt the stout-hearted, inflexible old noble.  He
rather enjoyed them.  He rather welcomed this occasion, too, because he
intended to be master now, and, having once mastered the regiment, he
felt he would have no difficulty in controlling it in any future
emergency.

To him, as he sat in his cabinet maturing his plans for the morrow,
came a message from his niece, asking admittance.  The privilege was,
of course, instantly granted, and Laure d'Aumenier presently entered
the room.

"Have you come, my child," began the old man, regarding her tenderly,
for in the few years she had been with him he had learned to estimate
the worth of her character and love her as she deserved, "to explain
this mystery, to tell me why you declare that the presence of a man in
the room of a woman of my house at three o'clock in the morning is
innocent?  I repeat," he went on reassuringly, "that I cannot conceive
of or admit any wrong on your part, and that makes the situation more
impossible of explanation."

"My uncle," answered the Countess, "I can only say that Monsieur Jean
Marteau is not guilty, as he seems."

"And I can quite believe that," said the old Marquis.  "Indeed, our
English friend, who for all his bluntness is not without discrimination
and good sense, has said as much to me.  He declared with great
emphasis that there was something in it all which he could not
understand."

"And you--what did you say?"

"I asked him if that was meant for any reflection on the honor of my
family, for if it were I should accord him the pleasure of crossing
swords with me and in the end run him through."

"And he said----"

"He disclaimed absolutely the idea.  He is as convinced of your
sweetness, your innocence and purity, as I am."

"And Captain Yeovil?"

"He lacks his father's insight and finesse.  He is young.  He takes
matters as he sees them, and fancies Marteau the common, vulgar thief
he appeared."

"Impossible!" cried the Countess.  "He is----"

"No doubt he is not especially prepossessed in favor of Monsieur
Marteau, who has presumed to love you, and perhaps that accounts for
his willingness to believe anything derogatory of him."

"He is blind, and I----"

"But you are not declining his hand on that account!"

"No, the marriage stands.  I could wish that it did not," said the
woman passionately.  "I could be happier if he suspected me of
anything, however base, and in his suspicion set me free."

"Hark ye, Laure," said the Marquis earnestly.  "I am an old man, and
the life I have led has not served to maintain my youth.  What I am
engaged in now does not conduce to that ease of body and peace of mind
which promotes long life.  To you I say what I have said to no one
else.  We are standing, as it were, on a volcano.  The army is in no
sense loyal to the King.  I advised that it be disbanded absolutely,
but I was overruled.  It is seething with sedition.  The envoys of the
powers at Vienna are playing, idling, debating endlessly, and while
they play and idle and talk in their fools' paradise, the Emperor, he
who is so called by misguided France, will return.  I should not be
surprised at any moment to receive tidings that he has landed."

"And that is what they mean when they speak about the violets blooming
again?"

"Yes, that is it.  And, do you know as I walked in the garden this
morning I found this."

He tossed the first tiny purple violet of the spring on the table
before her.

"But he will be dead before the Emperor comes," murmured the woman, her
hand upon her heart.

"Put that thought out of your mind, my child," said the old man.
"Think rather of Captain Yeovil."

"I hate him," said the Countess, which was most unjust, for he had done
nothing at all to deserve such an expression on her part.

"Hate is the passion of old age," said the Marquis slowly, "love that
of youth.  I told you that my race would soon be run.  I am an old man.
I have suffered much.  I shall be content to die if I can serve my King
here a little after all these years of weary waiting.  The title-deeds
that young man gave back do not cover much.  The estate has been
divided and granted to strangers.  It is practically all gone but the
old château.  I have little or nothing to leave you beyond those small
amounts which your father used to send me, which I never would touch
because they came from a disloyal France.  The Yeovils are true and
worthy people.  The boy is a gallant lad, a brave soldier, even if not
overly acute.  Sir Gervaise is a man of consideration and of great
wealth.  You are portionless.  He is most generous.  I am very happy in
the thought that you will be taken care of.  I know what it is to be
alone and poor."

"I cannot bear----"

"We have to bear a great many things that we do not wish to in this
life.  You owe me some consideration.  I still retain my faith and
confidence in you.  I have not pressed you to the wall with hard
questions about last night."

"I know, I know, but----"

"And, as the head of the house, I must have even from the children the
obedience which is my due."

"I do not wish to fail in my duty toward you, monsieur, but----"

"And your word, the word of a d'Aumenier, has been plighted.  You
entered into this engagement of your own free will.  There was no
constraint."

"But there was pressure."

"Yes, certainly, I know what is best for you, but you were not forced
in any way, and your troth, having been plighted, your word given"--the
old man stopped, looked at her solemnly, his long fingers tapping
lightly on the table--"it must be kept," he said, with that air of
absolute finality which none could assume better than he.

"It shall be, although it kills me."

"If I live I shall see that it is; and if I die I have your promise?"

"You have."

"That is well.  You will live to thank me and bless me.  I have
fancied, of late, that your heart had been allowed to decline a little
to this Marteau.  Oh, he is a brave man and true, I know.  I take no
stock in his confession of theft or assault upon you.  Why, I would
have cut him down where he stood, or have him kill me if I believed
that!  But he is of another race, another blood.  The Eagle does not
stoop to the barnyard fowl.  The heart of a woman is a strange thing.
It leads her in strange ways if she follows its impulses.  Thank God
there are men who can and will direct and control those impulses.  Put
him out of your mind.  It is best.  To-morrow he will be a dead man.
At any rate, I am rather glad of that," said the Marquis, half
reflectively, knowing what trouble he might have made if he were to be
allowed to live on.  It was cold-blooded, but he could sacrifice
Marteau for his niece's happiness, and find abundant justification in
the annals of his house, where he could read of many Marteaux who had
been sacrificed or had sacrificed themselves for the d'Aumeniers.

"I--I will promise," faltered the girl, "but on one condition."

"I like it not when youth makes conditions with age.  Nevertheless,
what is in your mind?"

"I want to see Marteau again."

"Impossible!"

"Wait," said the woman quickly.  "Is it not true, have I not heard that
he is condemned outwardly because he brought an Eagle here and it is
gone?"

"Yes, that is true."

"And has it not been said that if he produced the Eagle his life could
be spared and he could go?"

"That is also true."

"And would it not allay the dissatisfaction of the regiment and
contribute to the establishment of your authority if he gave it up?"

"My authority is established by the King."

"The maintenance of it, then.  Would it not enable you to control and
hold in check these people, if you could show that you had not been
balked?"

"That may be," said the Marquis.  "Go on."

"And, if he should produce the Eagle----"

"I would save his life, but he would be a discredited man among his
comrades, if I know anything about it."

"Oh, not that, surely."

"Surely; and I may tell you that if I were in his place I would do
exactly as he has done."

The woman stepped nearer and put her hand to her head.

"Nevertheless, I must see him.  Have mercy!" she entreated piteously.

"Why?  Do you think you can persuade him to produce the Eagle--to his
discredit, be it remembered?" asked the old man, surveying her keenly,
realizing at last the extraordinary interest she took in Marteau.

"But it is his life if he does not."

"Do you care so much for--his life?"

"Yes," answered the woman, looking the Marquis straight in the eyes.

He recognized a will as inflexible as his own.  It aroused his
admiration.  He arose to his feet.  He bowed before her.

"Mademoiselle," he said firmly, "you have the strength of our house.
Perhaps it might be well if he could be induced to produce the Eagle
and be thus discredited in the eyes of his comrades.  It would tend to
make my authority more secure.  It would be to the advantage of the
King."

"Yes, yes."

"But what argument can you bring?"

"I--I do not know."

"Alas, my child, you know more than you will tell.  Oh, I recognize
that it is useless to appeal, and impossible to constrain.  Well, you
give me your word of honor that whatever happens you will carry through
the engagement with Captain Yeovil, and that we will together arrange a
proper time and that you----"

"I give it."

"Your hand," said the Marquis.  "Without there!"  He raised his voice.
An orderly appeared.  "Send Monsieur St. Laurent to me."

"Monsieur," continued the old man, as the officer presented himself,
"you will conduct the Countess Laure d'Aumenier to the small
drawing-room; you will leave her there; you will then go to the
guard-house and bring thence the prisoner, Marteau; you will conduct
him to mademoiselle, my niece, and you will leave them together for
half an hour; you will see that the prisoner is carefully guarded, that
sentries are posted outside of the windows, and you, yourself, will
remain with other escort, in front of the door."

"But out of hearing," said the young woman quickly.

"That, of course.  And on your honor, on your duty, on your allegiance,
you will say absolutely nothing about this to any one.  Do you
understand?"

"I understand, monsieur.  I shall obey," said St. Laurent, a youth of
rare quality, as has been seen.

"Good.  You have one half-hour, my child.  God grant that you may serve
France and induce this wretched prisoner to give up the Eagle.  Your
impulse of mercy does you credit," he said adroitly, making the best of
the situation for St. Laurent's benefit.  "Now you may go."

"This way, mademoiselle," said St. Laurent, bowing low before her at
the open door.

As the Countess passed down the long corridor she almost ran into young
Pierre, the boy.  He had been questioned with the rest, but had
absolutely nothing to tell.  Of course, he knew about the recovery of
the Eagle, but that was all.  He had known nothing about the midnight
meeting.  The Countess Laure had taken him into her service, her uncle
being willing.  And he had spent a miserable day when not with her,
wondering and hoping and praying for Marteau.  With others in the
regiments he had received important news in the last hour, and had made
every effort to get it to Marteau, as had been suggested to him, but he
had hitherto failed.  No sentry would pass him, and there was no way he
could get speech with the prisoner.

He was in despair when he saw the Countess approaching, St. Laurent
marching ceremoniously ahead, as if to clear the way.

"Mademoiselle," he whispered, plucking her gown.

"What is it?" asked the girl, naturally sinking her voice to the
other's pitch.

"You will see--him?"

"Yes."

"A message."

"What is it?"

"Give him this."

The boy thrust into her hand two or three flowers like those her uncle
had picked, the first purple blossoms of the virgin spring.

"And the message?"

"The violets have bloomed," said the boy, and he was gone.



CHAPTER XXIV

ON THE WHOLE DEATH MAY BE BETTER THAN LIFE

Marteau realized fully his position, and it would be idle to say that
despite his depression he contemplated his fate without regret.
Normally he would have wanted to live as much as any man, even though
in his more passionate moments he had said that life without Laure
d'Aumenier held nothing for him.  To be sure, life without her did not
look very inviting, and there was nothing in it for which he
particularly cared, especially since the Emperor was gone, and Marteau
had become a stranger, as it were, in France.  If the Emperor had come
back, or was coming back, it would be different.

In spite of rumors, originating nowhere apparently and spread by what
means no one could say, that the Emperor was coming back, Marteau, in
the depressed condition of his mind, gave these statements but little
credence.  Besides, even if they were true, even if Laure d'Aumenier
loved him, even if he had everything on earth for which a man could ask
or expect to live, he could not therewith purchase life; he could not
even purchase love, at the expense of his honor.

He could not give up the Eagle for the kingdom.  It was only a bit of
gilded copper, battered and shattered, but it awakened in his nature
the most powerful emotions which he was capable of entertaining.  His
love for Laure d'Aumenier was the great passion of his life.  Yet even
his love for the woman, or hers for him, if she had returned his
devotion with equal intensity and ardor, would not avail to persuade
him to give up that battered standard.

Even if she had loved him!  Ah, what had she said in that moment of
madness in her room that night?  It was a moment of madness, of course,
nothing else.  Marteau put it out of his mind, or strove to.  It could
not be.  Indeed, now that he was about to die, he would even admit that
it should not be.  But, if it were true, if that impulsive declaration
indicated the true state of her regard--the possibility was thrilling,
yet reflection convinced him it was better that he should die just the
same, because there could be no mating between the two.

He had crossed swords with the Marquis.  He had felt the hardness, the
inflexibility and temper of the old man's steel.  There would be no
breaking him, no altering his will.  He had made assurance doubly sure
in some way, Marteau was convinced.  This marriage with this young
Englishman, whom the Frenchman regarded with a tolerant, half-amused
contemptuousness for his simplicity and bluntness, would have to be
carried through.  When Marteau was dead the Countess would presumably
return to a saner frame of mind, and forget the mad attachment, if
indeed she had entertained it.

He took a certain melancholy satisfaction in the hope that he would at
least become one of her sacred and cherished memories.  But no memory
can successfully dispute the claim of the living, as a rule.  She would
eventually marry this Englishman; he would make her a good husband, and
by and by she would be happy, and Marteau would not be there to see.
And for that he would be glad.

If the Emperor had been there, if the war god had come and summoned his
men to arms again, Marteau might have eased the fever in his brain and
soul by deeds of prowess on fields of battle, but in peace he should
only eat his heart out thinking of her in the other man's arms.  There
were things worse than death, and this was one.  On the whole, he
concluded it was just as well, or even better, that he should die.

He was sufficiently versed in military and even civil law to see that
his condemnation was irregular in the extreme, but he let it go.  He
was an obscure officer of a lost cause.  There would not be any too
rigorous an inquiry into what disposition the Marquis made of him.
Nobody would care after it was all over.  There remained nothing for
him, therefore, but to die like a soldier, and--he smiled bitterly at
the thought--almost a gentleman!

He had been informed that any reasonable request he made would be
granted.  He would fain see a priest of his Church, but later, and
endeavor to make his peace with man after the time-honored custom of
his religion, and thus insure his peace with God.  Meanwhile, a request
for a brief interview with the woman he loved had trembled on his lips,
but it had found no utterance.  He was quite aware how he stood in that
quarter.  He had come to the conclusion that the Marquis, at least, had
seen through the little comedy--or, was it not a tragedy, after
all?--which he had played in her bed-chamber, and he had convinced
himself that the swiftness, the almost unseemly haste of his trial and
condemnation and the nearness of his execution were largely due to a
determination on the part of the old noble to get him out of the way
before any scandal should arise.  Perhaps scandal was certain to come,
and gossip to prevail, but it would be less harmful if the man were
dead.

To ask to see a woman whom he was supposed to have insulted so deeply
and wronged so grievously would have served only to call attention to
those things, to have given the whole game away, as it were.  Besides,
what would be the good of it?  She would leave him weaker in his
resolution than before.  If she had loved him--ah, God, how his heart
throbbed--if that impulsive admission had been the truth of her heart!
Well, he told himself, he would have gone through the trial, accepted
the verdict, received the bullets of the firing-squad in his heart,
although it would have been harder.  And yet--how he longed to see her.

He had not expected to see her ever again during his long tramp from
Salzburg to Grenoble.  He had not entertained the least idea that she
would be there.  He had schooled himself to do without her, contemplate
life absolutely sundered from her.  But when he did see her his whole
being had flamed with the passion he had so long repressed in vain.

And the Countess Laure knew more of his heart than he fancied.  During
the morning she had had young Pierre before her.  She had questioned
him, suggesting and even prompting his artless revelations.  The boy
needed no suggestions.  He was quick-witted and keen-eyed.  Admiring
Marteau extravagantly and devotedly as he did, he could not conceive
how any one could fail to share his feelings.  He told the
hungry-hearted woman the story of their lives since they had been
captured together at Arcis.

Reticent at first, Marteau had finally made a confidant of the lad, who
had shown himself sympathetic, discreet, adoring.  He had to tell
somebody, he had to ease his heart of his burden.  And when he had once
begun naturally he poured it all out before the boy.  He could not have
told a man, a woman, perhaps, had one been by sufficiently sympathetic
and tender, but, failing that, it was the boy who received the
confidences and who never once presumed on these revelations.  Indeed,
he had a vein of romance in his peasant heart.  He was a poet in his
soul.  Perhaps that was one reason why the man could confide in him.
And then, when Marteau lay in the delirium of fever, the boy had shared
their watches with the good Sisters of Charity.  He alone had
understood the burden of his ravings, for they were all about the
woman.  And, when she questioned him and gave him the opportunity, he
poured forth in turn all the stored treasure of his memory.

And the poor, distraught, unhappy young woman hung on his words with
heaving breast and panting heart and tear-dimmed eyes and cheeks that
flushed and paled.  Glad she was that he had so loved her; sad that it
could make no difference.  Indeed, young Pierre served his master well
in that hour, and earned whatsoever reward, however great it might be,
he should receive from him in the future.

How strangely selfish even in its loves is humanity!  Although Marteau
was intensely fond of the lad, and deeply devoted to him, absorbed in
his overwhelming affection for the woman he had forgot the boy until
too late to send for him that day.  Well, he would remedy that omission
on the morrow, he thought, as he abandoned himself once more to dreams
of other days, to fruitless anticipations, to vain hopes of what might
have been.

To him suddenly came St. Laurent.  The young aide knew but vaguely of
the scene in the Countess's bed-chamber and, therefore, there was no
prejudice in his mind against the officer.  Although he was a loyalist
to the core, he could sympathize as a soldier with the other's point of
view.  His address toward him, therefore, was respectful, and even
indicated some of that sympathy.

"Monsieur," he began most courteously, "I am sent by the Governor to
conduct you elsewhere."

"Shall I need my hat and cloak, monsieur?" asked the other, quite
appreciative of the young man's treatment of him.

"You will," was the answer.

"Am I leaving this room permanently?"

"You will return to it in half an hour."

"And whither----"

"You will pardon me," was the firm reply, "I have orders to conduct
you, not to answer questions."

"Your reproof," admitted Marteau, smiling faintly, "is well deserved.
I attend you at once, sir."

Escorted by St. Laurent and two soldiers, he left the building, walked
across the barrack yard, attracting instant attention from the soldiers
off duty congregated there, and a few officers of the garrison who
chanced to be passing.  All of them saluted him with the utmost
deference and the most profound respect.  He punctiliously acknowledged
their salutes with a melancholy grace and dignity.  There was an air of
great excitement everywhere, and he wondered vaguely what could be the
cause of it.

To his further wonderment also he found his steps directed to the
Governor's palace.  Entering, he was ushered through the halls and
marched to the door of a room which he remembered was one of the
smaller waiting-rooms of the palace.  St. Laurent stopped before the
door, his hand upon the knob.

"Monsieur," he said, "to this room there is but this one door.  I
remain without with these soldiers.  You can see by a glance through
the windows that they also are closely guarded.  Escape is impossible.
In half an hour I will knock upon the door, open it, and escort you
back to your place of confinement.  Do you understand?"

"Perfectly."

"Enter."

Somewhat bewildered by the mysteriousness of the whole proceeding, and
yet with a heart which in spite of himself did beat a little faster,
Marteau entered the room, St. Laurent closing the heavy door behind him.



CHAPTER XXV

NOT EVEN LOVE CAN FIND A WAY

Standing in the middle of the room, her closed hand resting upon a
table upon which she leaned as if for support, was Laure d'Aumenier.
The old Marquis had not noticed it, nor did the young man; that is, the
eye of neither took in the details, but both had been conscious of the
general effect, for the young Countess had dressed herself in her most
becoming gown, one that had been newly made for her in Paris before the
journey to the south of France and that she had never worn before.

She had spent a miserable night and day.  When she had talked with her
uncle a short time before, the effects of her sleeplessness and anguish
had been plainly apparent.  But there, within that room, her color
coming to her face, her eyes shining with excitement and emotion, she
looked as fresh and as beautiful as the springtime without.

It was her right hand that rested on the table, and as Marteau
approached her left instinctively sought her heart.  In his emotion he
looked at her with steady, concentrated glance, so keen, so piercing,
as if he sought to penetrate to the very depths of her heart, that she
could scarcely sustain his gaze.  He, too, had forgot cares and
anxieties, anticipation, hopes, dreams; in his excitement and surprise
everything had gone from him but her presence.  Here was the woman he
loved, looking at him in such a way, with such an air and such a
bearing, her hand upon her heart--was that heart beating for him?  Was
she trying to still it, to control it, because----

His approach was slow, almost terribly deliberate, like the movement of
the old Guard under Dorsenne--_Le Beau Dorsenne_!--against the heights
of Pratzen on the glorious yet dreadful day of Austerlitz.  His advance
was irresistible, but unhurried, as if there must be a tremendous clash
of arms in a moment to which haste could lend nothing, from the dignity
and splendor of which hurry would detract.  At another time the woman
might have shrunk back faltering, she might have voiced a protest, or
temporized, but now, in the presence of death itself, as it were, she
stood steady waiting for him.  Enjoying the luxury of looking upon him
unrestrained, her heart going out to him as he drew nearer, nearer,
nearer, she found herself tremblingly longing for his actual touch.

Now his arms went out to her, she felt them slowly fold around her, and
then, like a whirlwind released, he crushed her against his breast,
and, as she hung there, her throbbing heart making answer to the
beating of his own, he kissed her again, again, again.  Her heart
almost stopped its beating.  Beneath the fire of his lips her face
burned.  Her head drooped at last, her tense body gave way, she leaned
upon him heavily, glad for the support of his strong arms.

"Laure," he whispered, "my little Laure, you love me.  Oh, my God, you
love me.  It was true, then.  I did not dream it.  My ears did not mock
me."

"Yes, yes," said the woman at last.  "Whoever you are, whatever you
are, wherever you go, I love you."

"And was it to tell me this that you came?"

"Yes.  But not for this alone."

"What else?"

"I would have you live."

"For you?"

"For me."

"As your husband?"

"And if that were possible would you----"

"Yes, yes, would I what?"

"Give up the Eagle?"

"My God!" said the man, loosening his clasp of her a little and holding
her a little away that he might look at her.  "Does your love tempt me
to dishonor?"

"I do not know," said the woman piteously.  "I am confused.  I cannot
think aright.  Oh, Marteau, Jean, with whom I played as a child, think
of me.  I cannot bear to see you dead outside there.  I cannot look
upon a soldier without thinking of it.  The rattling of the carts in
the streets sounds in my ear like shots.  Don't, don't die.  You must
not."

"And, if I lived, would you love me?"

"So long as the good God gives me the breath of life."

"With the love of youth and the love of age?"

"Aye, for eternity."

"And would you be my wife?"

"Your wife?" said the woman, her face changing.  "It would be joy
beyond all, but I could not."

"Why not?"

"I--you know I am promised to another," she went on desperately, "and
but that I might see you I repeated the promise.  Otherwise my uncle
would never have permitted me this blessed privilege.  I told him that
I would marry anybody if he would only let me see you--alone--for a
moment, even.  What difference, so long as I could not be yours?  I
came to tell you that I loved you, and because of that to beg you to
live, to give up that Eagle.  What is it, a mere casting of metal,
valueless.  Don't look at me with that hard, set face.  Let me kiss the
line of your lips into softness again.  I cannot be your wife, but at
least you will live.  I will know that somewhere you think of me."

"And would death make a difference?  High in the highest heaven, should
I be so fortunate as to achieve it, I would think of you; and, if I
were to be sent to the lowest hell, I could forget it all in thinking
of you."

"Yes, yes, I know how you love, because----"

"Because why?"

"I won't hesitate now.  It may be unmaidenly, but I know, because I,
too----"

"Laure!" cried the man, sweeping her to him again.

"I think I loved you when we were boy and girl together," said the
woman, throwing everything to the winds in making her great confession.
"I know I loved you that night in the château, although I would not
admit it, and I treated you so cruelly.  And when they told me you were
dead, then, then, my heart broke.  And when you came here and I saw you
two men together--oh, I had made the contrast in my imagination--but
last night I saw and now I see.  Oh, you will live, live.  What is
honor compared to a woman's heart?  See, I am at your feet.  You will
not break me.  You will live.  Something may happen.  I am not married
yet.  The Emperor may come back."

"The boy, Pierre, said last night that it was rumored----"

"Yes, he gave me a message.  I almost forgot it."  She held out the
violet crushed in her fevered palm.  "He said to tell you that the
violet has bloomed."

"Does he mean----?"

"I know not what he means."

"It is but an assurance begot of hope," said Marteau.

"And if it were so?"

"He comes too late.  Rise, my lady.  It is not meet for you to kneel.
Let me lift you up, up to my heart.  I cannot give up the Eagle.  That
I have won your love is the most wonderful thing in all the world.  It
passes my understanding, the understanding of man, but I should forfeit
it if I should permit myself this shame."

"Then I will do it, I will betray you," said the little Countess
desperately.  "I alone know where that Eagle is.  I will get it.  I
will bargain with my uncle for your life.  Marteau, listen.  Do you
wish to condemn me to death?  I will not, I cannot, survive you.  I
will not be thrust into that other's arms.  I did not know, I did not
realize what it was--before.  But since I have been here, since you
have held me to your heart, since you have kissed me--no, I cannot.  It
would be desecration--horror.  Let me go.  I will tell."

"Dearest Laure," said the man, holding her tighter, "think, be calm,
listen.  It needs not that I assure you of my love.  I have proved it.
I lie here with the stigma of shame, the basest of accusations in the
hearts of those who know of our meeting at night, to save you from
suspicion even."

"Not my uncle, not the Marquis.  He says there is something back of it
all.  He knows you are not a thief."

"It takes a d'Aumenier to understand a Marteau," said the young man
proudly.

"And I am a d'Aumenier, too," said the woman.

"Then strive to comprehend my point of view."

"I can, I will, but----"

"What binds you to that Englishman?"

"My word, my uncle's word."

"Exactly.  And what else binds you to keep my secret?"

The woman stared at him.

"Oh, do not urge that against me," she pleaded.  "I must tell all."

"I have your word.  That Eagle must remain hidden there until the
Emperor comes back.  Then you must give it to him and say that I died
that you might place it in his hand."

"There must be a way, and there shall be a way," said the agonized
woman.  "I love you.  I cannot have you die.  I cannot, I cannot."

Her voice rose almost to a scream in mad and passionate protest.

"Why," said the man soothingly, "I am the more ready to die now that I
know that you love me.  Few men have ever got so much out of life as
that assurance gives me.  That I, peasant-born, beneath you, should
have won your heart, that I should have been permitted to hold you to
my breast, to feel that heart beat against my own, to drink of the
treasures of your lips, to kiss your eyes that shine upon me----  Oh,
my God, what have I done to deserve it all?  And it is better, far
better, having had thus much and being stopped from anything further,
that I should go to my grave in this sweet recollection.  Could I live
to think of you as his wife?"

"If you will only live I will die myself."

"And could I purchase life at that price?  No.  We have duties to
perform--hard, harsh words in a woman's ear, common accustomed phrase
to a soldier.  I have to die for my honor and you have to marry for
yours."

"Monsieur," broke in the sharp, somewhat high, thin voice of the old
Marquis standing by the door, "the court-martial brands you as a
traitor.  Captain Yeovil and those who were with me last night think
you are a thief and worse.  But, by St. Louis," continued the old
noble, fingering his cross, as was his wont in moments in which he was
deeply moved, "I know that you are a soldier and a gentleman."

"A soldier, yes; but a gentleman?--only 'almost,' my lord."

"Not almost but altogether.  There is not another man in France who
could withstand such a plea from such a woman."

"You heard!" exclaimed Marteau.

"Only the last words.  I heard her beg you to live because she loved
you."

"And you did not hear----"

"I heard nothing else," said the Marquis firmly.  "Would I listen?  I
spoke almost as soon as I came in.  Laure, these Marteaux have lived
long enough by the side of the d'Aumeniers to have become ennobled by
the contact," he went on naïvely.  "I now know the young man as I know
myself.  It is useless for you to plead longer.  I come to take you
away."

"Oh, not yet, not yet."

"Go," said the young officer.  "Indeed, I cannot endure this longer,
and I must summon my fortitude for to-morrow."

"As for that," said the Marquis, "there must be a postponement of the
execution."

"I ask it not, monsieur.  It is no favor to me for you to----"

"Thank God!  Thank God!" cried the woman.  "Every hour means----"

"And I am not postponing it because of you," continued the Marquis
coolly.  "But he who must not be named----"

"The Emperor."

"So you call him--has landed."

"Yes, yes; for God's sake, tell me more."

"I have no objection to telling you all.  He is on the march toward
Grenoble.  He will be here tomorrow night.  Troops have been sent for
and will assemble here.  He will be met in the gap on the road a few
miles below the town.  He will be taken.  If he resists he will be
shot."

"Yes, the violets have bloomed again."

"And they shall draw red nourishment from the soil of France," was the
prophetic answer.

"The Emperor!" cried the young man in an exultant dream, "in France
again!  The Emperor!"

"And so your execution will be deferred until we come back.  The
Emperor may take warning from it when he witnesses it," continued the
imperturbable old royalist.

"I shall see him once more."

"As a prisoner."

Marteau started to speak, checked himself.

"For the last time," said the girl, "I beg----"

"It is useless."

"Let me speak again.  My uncle has a kind heart under that hard
exterior.  He----"

"A kind heart, indeed," said the old man, smiling grimly, as Marteau
shook his head at the girl he loved so well.  "And, to prove it, here."

He extended a sealed paper.  Marteau made no effort to take it.  He
recognized it at once.  For a moment there flashed into the woman's
mind that it was a pardon.  But the old man undeceived her.

"Do you give it to him, Laure," he said.  "It is that patent of
nobility that he gave up.  Acting for my King, who will, I am sure,
approve of what I have done, I return it to him.  As he dies with the
spirit and soul of a gentleman, so also shall he die with the title.
_Monsieur le Comte d'Aumenier_, I, the head of the house, welcome you
into it.  I salute you.  Farewell.  And now," the old man drew out his
snuff box, tendered it to the young man with all the grace of the
ancient régime.  "No?" he said, as Marteau stared in bewilderment.
"The young generation has forgot how, it seems.  Very well."  He took a
pinch himself gracefully, closed the box, tapped it gently with his
long fingers, as was his wont.  "Monsieur will forgive my back," he
said, turning abruptly and calling over his shoulder, "and in a moment
we must go."

Ah, he could be, he was a gentleman of the ancient school, indeed.  It
seemed but a second to youth, although it was a long time to age,
before he tore them apart and led the half-fainting girl away.



CHAPTER XXVI

THEY MEET A LION IN THE WAY

Morning in the springtime, the sixth of March, 1815, bright and sunny,
the air fresh.  The parade-ground was filled with troops.  There were the
veterans of the old Seventh-of-the-Line, under the young Colonel
Labédoyère.  Here were the close-ranked lines of the Fifth regiment,
Major Lestoype astride his big horse at the head of the first battalion.
Grenier, Drehon, Suraif and the other officers with their companies, the
men in heavy marching order, their white cockades shining in the bright
sunlight in their shakos.  The artillery was drawn up on the walls, the
little squadron of household cavalry was in attendance upon the Marquis.
His lean, spare figure looked well upon a horse.  He rode with all the
grace and ease of a boy.

Yes, there were the colors, too, the white flag of France with the golden
lily in the place of the Eagle on the staff, at the head of the column.
With ruffling of drums and presenting of arms the flag had been escorted
to its place, and from the little group of cavalry had come the words not
heard till recently for so many years in France:

"_Vive le Roi_!"

The troops had assembled silently, somewhat sullenly.  They stood
undemonstrative now.  What they would do no one could tell.  The couriers
who had dashed into the town yesterday night had told the story to the
Marquis.  Napoleon had landed five days before.  He was within a day's
march of Grenoble.  His following consisted of eleven hundred French
infantry, eighty Polish horsemen, and a few guns; troops of the line, and
the grenadiers of the Elba guard.  The peasants had been apathetic.  He
had carefully avoided garrisoned towns, choosing the unfrequented and
difficult route over the maritime Alps of Southern France.  He was
marching straight into the heart of the country, to conquer or to die
with this little band.  The messenger's news had been for the Governor's
ears alone, but it had got out.  Indeed, the tidings spread everywhere.
Every wind that swept over the mountains seemed to be laden with the
story.  The whole city knew that the foot of the idol was once more upon
the soil of France.  They saw no feet of clay to that idol, then.

The news had reached Paris via Marseilles almost before it was known in
Grenoble.  The terror-stricken government yet acted promptly.  Troops
were put in motion, fast-riding expresses and couriers warned garrisons
and transmitted orders to capture or kill without mercy.  By a singular
freak of fate most of these orders were perforce given to the old
companions in arms of the Emperor.  Most of these were openly disaffected
toward the King, and eager to welcome Napoleon.  A few were indifferent
or inimical to the prospective appeal of their former Captain.  Still
fewer swore to capture him, and one "to bring him back in an iron cage!"
Only here and there a royalist pure and simple held high command, as the
Marquis at Grenoble.

The old noble acted with great promptitude and decision.  As the Governor
of Dauphiné he had an extensive command.  Grenoble was the most important
town in the southeast.  Within its walls was a great arsenal.  It was
strongly fortified, and adequately garrisoned.  No better place to resist
the Emperor, if his initial force had grown sufficiently to make it
formidable, could be found.  Rumor magnified that force immensely.  The
Marquis gave the order for the concentration of all the troops in the
province, to the number of six thousand.  He sent out scouting
detachments, and companies of engineers to break down bridges and block
up roads--none of whom, by the way, obeyed his orders.  In short, he did
everything that experience, skill and devotion could suggest to stop the
Emperor and terminate the great adventure then and there.

The ruffling of the drums in the square ceased.  The old Marquis detached
himself from his staff and the cavalry and rode out between the
regiments.  He lifted his hand.  There was an intensity of silence on
every hand.  Even the people of the town had left their places of
business and were crowded close to the lines to hear and see what was to
be done.

"Bonaparte," said the Marquis, that high, thin, somewhat cracked old
voice carrying with astonishing clearness in every direction, "landed
from Elba in the Gulf of Juan a few days ago.  This usurper, this
bloody-minded tyrant, has broken every oath, disregarded every treaty.
He is coming to Grenoble.  He will be here to-day.  As loyal subjects of
our gracious and most catholic Majesty, King Louis XVIII, whom God
preserve," continued the old man, taking off his hat, "it becomes our
duty to seize, and if he resists, to kill this treacherous monster, who
had plunged Europe into a sea of blood and well-nigh ruined France."  The
old man did not mince words, it appeared!  "You, gentlemen and comrades,
have all sworn oaths before God and man to be faithful to the King whose
bread you eat and whose uniform you wear.  It has been said to me that
there is disaffection among you.  I cannot believe that a soldier of
France can be false to his oaths and to his flag.  The Fifth Regiment of
the Line will march with me to meet the Corsican.  The cavalry and my
personal escort will keep the gates.  If by any chance we should be
beaten, which I cannot think possible with such brave men and gallant
officers, the town must be held.  Colonel Labédoyère, to you I commit the
charge.  Have your men line the walls.  Dispose the troops which will
soon be arriving advantageously.  See that the guns are double-shotted.
If by any chance I do not return, hold the place to the last.  Troops are
marching to your aid from all over France.  Major Lestoype, move your
regiment.  _Vive le Roi_!" ended the old man.

Again the cry was echoed, but not by many; the household cavalry, one or
two of the newer companies of the brigade, some of the citizens.  The
Marquis noticed it; everybody noticed it.  Well, what difference did it
make to the old man?  They might cry or they might not cry.  Fight they
must, and fight they should.  He had something of the old Roman spirit in
him, the Marquis d'Aumenier.  Upon him had devolved the conduct of the
critical issue.  If he could stop Napoleon then and there his venture
would be a mere escapade and a sorry one.  If he could not, then God help
France and the world.

From the window of his prison, which overlooked the parade, Marteau had
seen and heard all.  The Emperor was coming and he would not be there to
extend him a welcome.  He forgot that if Napoleon had been a day later it
would have made no difference to Marteau if he never came.  He would have
given years of his life, if it had been possible, to have marched with
the column.

Orders had been published that morning postponing his execution until the
return of the regiment.  Just what was in the Marquis' mind no one could
absolutely say, but he was shrewd enough to recognize the possibility of
an outbreak or an attempted mutiny among the troops, when the sentence of
execution was being carried out.  He did not want any difficulties of
that kind then.  Not because he feared them or felt unequal to them!  Oh,
no.  But because such an outbreak would make the regiment more difficult
to control in the greater emergency, and he knew he needed all the
influence and moral power and force he could exercise to keep it in line
for the graver duty and more tremendous responsibility it must now face.
And because he did not wish to leave it with Marteau in Grenoble, he took
the regiment with him.  If he could force it to do its duty and arrest
Napoleon, he could deal with Marteau at his leisure.  The Emperor was the
greater issue, and Marteau benefited by that fact.

So, with drums beating and flags flying, the Fifth-of-the-Line marched
down the road.  With the Colonel and his staff rode Sir Gervaise Yeovil
and his son.  They had asked permission and it had been accorded them.
Indeed, the staff was scanty.  Young St. Laurent and an orderly, besides
the two Englishmen, alone accompanied the old man.  Realizing how
critical the situation was, and how important it was that the town should
be held, he had left every officer and man upon whom he could count with
the cavalry, and with instructions to watch Labédoyère particularly, and
check any disloyalty, if possible.  If the Marquis alone could not effect
his purpose with the regiment, no staff officer could aid him.  He was a
lonely old man and a hard that morning.  The odds against him were
tremendous, and his weapons were flawed and breaking in his hand.  That
only made him the more firmly resolute.  He knew how sometimes one man
could enforce his will on unwilling thousands.  Was he that man that day?
He would see.

Some miles south of the town the winding road ran along the side of a
high and rocky hill.  On the side opposite to the hill was a deep morass.
This place was known as the Gap.  The Marquis, who had apparently thought
of everything, had reconnoitered the country, and had decided upon the
defensibleness of a place like this in the case of such an emergency as
he was about to face, for along that hillside ran the main highway to the
coast of France.

The troops reached it about noon-time.  The road was high up on the
hillside.  The Marquis, riding in advance of his regiment, saw far down
the long road and across a little river a moving column of men.  Above
them floated the tricolor flag, the blue and the red vividly distinct in
the bright sun, which seemed to be reflected, as it were, from a crown of
glory at the top of the staff.  There were perhaps twelve hundred
soldiers on foot and a few score on horseback.  They were coming steadily
along the road.  The distance was almost too great to distinguish men,
but one rode a white horse at the head.  The soldiers could see with
their minds and hearts better than their eyes, and they recognized that
gray-coated figure on that familiar white horse.  They could hear the
beating of drums faintly.  The bridges had not been broken.  The fords
were not guarded.  The advance parties had failed.  Presage of disaster!

The Marquis congratulated himself that he was in time to repair the
disobedience of orders, which he promised himself to punish at the first
opportunity.  Instantly he directed Major Lestoype to deploy the men from
column into line, so that they filled the road, which was here very broad
and spacious.  On a sloping hillside he placed flanking companies.  The
command was given to load, and the ramrods soon rang in the gun-barrels.
Major Lestoype's voice shook as he gave the commands, which were repeated
hoarsely, brokenly, nervously, by the company and the platoon officers.
The dispositions of the men were soon concluded.  The place of the
Marquis was behind the line, but he rode to the right of it in a little
depression cut out by the rains of winter in the side of the hill,
underneath a great tree which was just beginning to show its leaves in
the soft spring air and sunshine.  From there he could command every part
of the line with his glance, or move to the front or rear as the occasion
might warrant.  There he could see and be seen.

He was always pale, his old face seamed and drawn, but to his friends,
the Englishmen, he seemed paler and older than ever, as he sat quietly
calming his nervous horse.  And Sir Gervaise Yeovil was pale, too.  Not
that he had any bodily fear, but the incident was so fraught with
consequences which a man as experienced as he could so easily foresee,
appreciate and dread, that its possibilities oppressed his heart.  Young
Frank Yeovil was all excitement, however.  Napoleon had been buried in
Elba, but none mentioned his name in any country in Europe without a
thrill.  Few do it now without a thrill, for that matter.  The young man,
modestly in the background, as was proper, leaned forward in his saddle
and stared at the approaching men and the figure to the fore.  So this
was the great Bonaparte?  He longed earnestly for a nearer view.

"Think you, my lord," whispered the Baronet to the old Marquis, his great
anxiety showing in his voice, "that your men are to be depended upon?
That they will----"

The Marquis shook his head, stared down the ranks at the men standing
grim and tensely silent at parade-rest.

"They look steady," he replied, shrugging his shoulders.  "They have
taken an oath to the King, and--God only knows."

"What shall you do?"

"The best I can with the means at hand," was the indomitable answer.

"And if----"

"There are no 'ifs,' monsieur," was the imperious way in which the
Marquis silenced the other.

Recognizing that he had said enough, and indeed pitying the old man so
alone, the Baronet drew back a little.

"By heaven," whispered young Frank Yeovil to his father, "I wouldn't be
elsewhere for a thousand pounds."

"It may cost you that before you get away, and more," said the old man
grimly.  "It will cost England millions, unless----"

"_Monsieur le Commandant_," said old Major Lestoype, riding up to the
group and saluting respectfully.

"Major Lestoype."

"The command is formed and ready, sir."

"Very good.  Take your place and be prepared."

"Will _Monsieur le Marquis_ permit me?" asked the old soldier, who had
acquired a genuine respect for the old noble.

"Permit you what?"

"To return his advice," was the not unexpected reply.

"The thought of me, which is evidently back of your words, sir, inclines
me to overlook their meaning and its impropriety.  Know, sir, that I am
always ready," was the grim comment of the ancient soldier.

"Indeed, sir--" began the other, but the Marquis cut him short with an
imperious gesture and a word.

"Retire."

The Major saluted, resumed his place in the line.  No one spoke.  The
approaching soldiers were nearer now.  They were coming.  The
Fifth-of-the-Line sensed rather than heard a command down the road.  They
saw the guns of that little army come from their shoulders to a slanting
position across the breast--arms aport!  It was the habit of the Guard to
go into action at arms aport.  What had Dorsenne, _Le Beau Dorsenne_,
said on that famous day?  "The Guard fights at the point of the bayonet!"
Would the guns come down to a charge?  Would they have to meet bayonet
thrusts from these terrible soldiers?

There was something ominous in the slow movements of the men, picked men
they were, the grenadiers of the Elba Guard especially being of great
size, their huge bearskins towering above them.  They were marching in
columns of fours, but the road was wide; another sharp command and the
men with slow yet beautiful precision deployed into a close column of
companies at half distance--the very formation for a charge in mass!  The
brass drums were rolling a famous march, "La Grenadière," the grenadier's
march.  The hearts of the Fifth-of-the-Line were keeping time to the
beating of those drums.

Ah, they were splendid soldiers, that regiment of infantry.  Even the
youths got something from the veterans.  They stood still, quiet, at
parade-rest, staring.  The distance was growing shorter, shorter and
shorter.  Some of the officers looked toward the Marquis.  Even his
nervous horse seemed to have caught the spirit of the moment, for he was
at last still.  The old man sat there immobile, his lips pressed, his
eyes fixed on the approaching troops and shining like sword-blades in the
sunlight--horse and man carved, as it were, out of the rock of the
mountains.  Presently that high, thin, sharp voice rang out.  Men heard
it above the rolling of the drums.

"Attention!" he cried.  The men straightened up, swung the heavy muskets
to their sides.  "Carry arms."  As one man the battalion lifted its
weapons.  "Make ready!"  With a little crash the guns were dropped into
the outstretched hands.

The approaching men were nearer now.  Still they came on with arms aport.
Still the drums ruffled and rolled at their head.  They were not going to
make any response apparently to the fire of the Fifth-of-the-Line.  Were
they, indeed, to come to death's grapple at the bayonet's point with that
irresistible Guard?  But no, there was a sudden movement, a change in the
approaching ranks.

"Secure arms," cried old Cambronne, and with their guns reversed and
comfortably tucked under their arms, the old soldiers came on.

The meaning was plain, the battle was to be a moral one, evidently!

"Aim!" cried the sharp voice of the Marquis, and the guns came up to the
shoulders of the long line, as they bent their heads and mechanically
squinted along the barrels.

The moment had come!  Out in the front had ridden the familiar figure on
the white horse.  They could see the details of his person now.  His pale
face was flushed under the familiar black, three-cornered cocked hat with
its tricolor cockade, his gray redingote was buttoned across his breast.
He suddenly raised his hand.  The drums stopped beating, the moving
grenadiers halted.  Ah, at last!

The Emperor sprang from his horse, not heavily, as of late, but with some
of the alertness of a boy.  He nodded to the ranks.  Old General
Cambronne, in command of the Guard, stepped forward.  He took from the
colour-bearer the Eagle.  Four grenadiers of the Colour Guard closed
about him--one of them was called Bullet-Stopper, by the way.  In rear
and a little to the right of the Emperor he moved, holding up the flag
and the Eagle.  A deep breath, almost a sob, ran down the line of the
regiment.  Protended guns wavered.  Napoleon stepped forward.  He threw
back his gray overcoat, disclosing the familiar green uniform of the
Chasseurs of the Guard, which he affected.  The cross of the Legion of
Honor glittered on his breast, a shining mark at which to aim.

The flush on his ivory face died as quickly as it had come.  He was
apparently as composed and as steady as if he had been cut out of
granite.  But tiny beads of sweat bedewed his brow, shaded by that
familiar cocked hat.  What would the next moment disclose?  Would he be a
prisoner, the laughing stock, the jest of Europe?  Or would he lie dead
in the road, a French bullet in his heart?  He had faced the guns of
every people in Europe, but he had never faced French guns before.  Would
any finger in that line press a trigger?  Only God knew, but the Emperor
would soon find out.  Better death than exile without wife, child,
friend, or France.  On the hazard of the moment he staked all.  Yet he
who could have looked into that broad breast could have seen that heart
beating as never before.  Firmly he stepped on.



CHAPTER XXVII

COMRADE!  GENERAL!  EMPEROR!

"Behold the traitor," shouted the Marquis, his emotion lending depth to
that thin voice.  "Fire, soldiers!"

No finger pressed a trigger.  The silence was ghastly.

Ah! a thrill of hope in the breast of the greater Captain, of despair
in the heart of the lesser.

"By God!" muttered Yeovil, "he has lost them!"

The Marquis spurred his horse forward.

"Your oath!  For France!  The King!  Fire!" he shouted.

And now a greater voice broke the silence.

"Comrades!  Do you not know me?" said the Emperor.  Was there a tremble
in his clear, magnificent voice?  He paused, his speech stopped.
"Behold your General," he resumed.  He waited a few seconds again and
then finally, desperately, "Let any one among you who wishes to kill
his Emperor fire--now."

He raised his voice tremendously with that last word.  It almost came
with the force and clearness of a battle-cry.  The Marquis sat
stupefied, his face ghastly pale.

"There is yet time," he cried hoarsely at last.  "Is there none here
faithful to his King?  Fire!"

But the gun-barrels were coming down.  "_Comrade!  General!  Emperor!_"
who could be indifferent to that appeal?  Disregarding the old Marquis
absolutely, as if he were not on the earth, the Emperor came nearer
smiling.  He was irresistible to these soldiers when he smiled.

"Well," he said, his hands outstretched and open, "soldiers of the
Fifth, who were with me in Italy, how are you all?  I am come back to
see you again, _mes enfants_," he went on genially.  "Is there any one
of you who wishes to kill me?"

"No, no, Sire.  Certainly not," came the cry.

"Escape," whispered the Marquis to the Englishman, "while there is yet
time to take my niece away.  To you I commit her. . . .  St. Laurent,
to the town with the tidings!"

"By God, no," growled Yeovil, as St. Laurent saluted and galloped
rapidly down the road.  "I am going to see the end of this.  The damned
cravens!" he muttered, looking at the soldiers.

"And yet," continued Napoleon to the troops, "you presented your guns
at me."

"Sire," cried one of the veterans, dropping his musket and running his
ramrod down the barrel, "it is not loaded.  We only went through the
motions."

The Emperor laughed.  He was nearer.

"Lestoype," he said, "is it thou, old comrade, and Grenier and Drehon!"

It was astonishing that he should remember them, but so he did.  He
went down the line, speaking to the men, inspecting them just as of
old.  The officers could not keep them in line.  They crowded about
their old leader.  Shouts of "_Vive l'Empereur!_" rent the air.  Men
took off their caps, tore out the hated white cockades, trampled them
under foot, and from pockets where they had concealed them for this
very moment, they replaced them with the tricolor.

In his movements the Emperor at last confronted the Marquis.

"And who is this?" asked Napoleon, staring up at him curiously.

The Marquis' heart was broken.  It was not in the human power of any
servant of the King to dominate that scene.  A greater personality than
his was there.  The Emperor had shown himself as of yore, and exhibited
his mastery.  But no greater ideal possessed any man than that in the
heart of the old noble.  He hated, he loathed, he abominated the man
who looked up at him.  He saw in the action of the soldiery a picture
of the action of France, the downfall of the King.  Well, it flashed
into his mind that he at least, and perhaps he alone, might put a stop
to it.  From his holster he whipped out a pistol and leveled it at the
Emperor.  Lestoype, riding near, struck up his hand, the bullet sped
harmlessly, the Emperor stood unharmed.  A roar of rage burst from the
soldiers who came running.  Dropping the weapon and reining his
startled horse violently back, so as to give himself a certain present
and temporary freedom of action, the Marquis drew his other pistol.
Lestoype spurred his horse in front of the Emperor, but Napoleon was
not menaced.

"Have no fear," said the Marquis almost gently.  "I have failed my
King.  The bullet goes into a truer heart--my own," he added proudly.

Before any one could stop him there was a flash, a muffled report, the
spare figure reeled and fell forward on the saddle.  He, at least,
after the manner of his house, would not survive a failure which,
although he could not prevent it, must inevitably be charged against
him.

"A brave man," said the Emperor coolly, staring at him with his hard,
bright, gray eyes.  "See that his body is cared for in accordance with
his rank and his courage.  But who are these?" he asked, remounting his
horse and facing the two Englishmen, who had dismounted and received
the body of the Marquis, stone dead instantly.  "As I live, it is the
man of law," he said, his marvelous memory serving him well again, "who
was at the Château d'Aumenier.  It only needs Marteau----"

"He is alive, your Majesty," interposed Lestoype eagerly.  "He brought
back our Eagle and is----"

"Where is it, and why is he not with you?"

"The Eagle is in hiding somewhere in Grenoble, Marteau in prison.  He
hid it, and because he would not tell where, the Marquis yonder
condemned him to death."

"He has not yet been shot?"

"Not yet, Sire.  He waits the return of the regiment."

"Good," said the Emperor.  "We will surprise him.  Face the men about.
We shall go on to Grenoble and see what welcome awaits us there."

He was in high spirits.  In this first clash with the troops of King
Louis he found that he exercised the old influence over them and from
the army, at least, he now realized that he had nothing to fear.

One of the men who had stood nearest the Emperor back of Cambronne was
an old grenadier.  He had recognized the Marquis d'Aumenier, he had
heard the Emperor's conversation and the name of Marteau, and a thrill
went through the heart of old Bal-Arrêt when he learned that his
beloved officer and friend was yet alive.

The body of the old Marquis--covered with his cloak, and over his heart
the now discarded royal standard, for which nobody cared since he was
dead--was placed on a farm wagon and escorted back to Grenoble by some
of the officers of the regiment and two companies, with reversed arms.
He was watched over by the two Englishmen, whom Napoleon freely
permitted to follow their own pleasure in their movements, being
desirous of not adding fuel to any possible fire of animosity and of
showing every respect to every Frenchman, whatever his predilection.

With the Fifth-of-the-Line in the lead, the army moved forward after a
halt for noonday meal.  The greatly relieved, happy and confident
Emperor, riding now with the old regiment of Italy in the van, and now
with the grenadiers in the rear, approached Grenoble late in the
afternoon.  The short March day was drawing to a close when they came
in sight of the heavily garrisoned walls of the town.

Labédoyère had obeyed orders in some particulars.  The ramparts had
been manned, the cannon were loaded, torches were blazing on the walls,
and the town was awake and seething with excitement.  He had declared
for the Emperor, and after a sharp little conflict had disarmed the
royalist cavalry and himself held the gates.  Every regiment that had
come in had cast its lot in with Napoleon.  As the soldiers in the town
heard, in the twilight, the beating of the drums--"_La Grenadière_" the
old march again!--the Colonel of the Seventh, having seized the few
royalists, opened the gates, marched out at the head of the troops to
receive the Emperor with arms, yes, but with open arms.  Amid the
shouts of the citizens and the delirious joy of the soldiery, the
Emperor entered the city; in his train, first fruits of the war, was
the body of the old servant of the unfortunate King.

It was Pierre who burst into the apartment of the little Countess with
the news.

"The Emperor is here, mademoiselle," he cried enthusiastically.  "The
soldiers are bringing him to the palace."

"And Marteau?"

"He will be free."

"Thank God!" cried the girl, and then she remembered her uncle.  "And
the Marquis?" she asked.

"My dearest Laure," said the kindly, sympathetic voice of Captain Frank
Yeovil, stepping out of the twilight of the hall into the bright light
of the little drawing-room where last night she had bade farewell to
Marteau, "prepare yourself for some dreadful----"

"Yes, yes, I know," she interrupted.  "The Emperor is here."

"The troops went over to him."

"And my uncle?"

"He----"

"Speak, monsieur.  What has happened?  Did the Emperor----"

"No one harmed him.  He could not survive the disgrace, mademoiselle.
Prepare yourself."

"Oh, for God's sake, delay not your tidings."

"He died like a soldier of France on the field, by his own hand rather
than survive what he wrongfully thought his shame."

It was the policy of the Emperor to be merciful; it was his wish to be
clement.  If possible, he wanted peace.  If mercy and gentleness could
get it he could have it.  He gave free permission to Sir Gervaise
Yeovil and his son to return to England.  He made no objection to their
taking with them the Countess Laure, now the last of the line.  He,
himself, was present at the funeral of the Marquis, who was buried with
all the military honors of his rank and station.  There were generous
hearts among those Frenchmen.  As the representative of the King they
had hated him, but when he had died so gallantly rather than survive
what his nice sensibility believed to be his dishonor, his failure at
any rate, they honored him.  If he had been a Marshal of France they
could have done no more.

Marteau, restored to his rank and position as aide to the Emperor, had
but a few moments with the grief-stricken woman.

"No," she said sadly, "it makes no difference.  You know my heart.  No
words that I can utter could add anything more to the testimony I have
given you.  But I had promised my uncle, and now that he is dead, the
promise is doubly sacred.  I must go.  Thank your Emperor for me for
all he has done for me, his enemy, and for my friends, and for what he
has done for you.  Tell him the story of the Eagle, and the little part
in it that I played and--you will not forget me as I will not forget
you."

"God grant," said the young soldier, "that I may die for France on some
battlefield, my last thought of you."

"Ah, if that should befall you, I should envy you your rest.  Would to
God I might look forward to such a quick and happy ending," said the
grief-stricken woman, turning away.

The next morning, with great ceremony and much rejoicing, the Eagle was
brought out, and the Emperor once more presented it to the regiment.
He did more than that.  He signalized the action of the
Fifth-of-the-Line, the news of which had been sent broadcast by
couriers and which struck a keynote for the army to follow, by
incorporating it as a supplementary Fifth regiment of Grenadiers of the
Guard.  He promised them a new flag and new bearskins.  He promoted
Lestoype to be a lieutenant-colonel, Labédoyère to be a general, and
promised every veteran officer his old rank or higher in the new army
to be formed.  The men were promised bounties and rewards, and, with
high hopes and glorious anticipations, the march for Paris was begun.

So by the wayside and in the fields around this little army in that
springtime, the violets bloomed again.



BOOK III

THE LAST TRY


CHAPTER XXVIII

AT THE STAMP OF THE EMPEROR'S FOOT

The wonderful genius of Napoleon, which had been so clearly manifested in
so many ways during his varied career, was never exhibited to better
advantage than in the three months after his return from Elba.  During
that period he reorganized the government, recreated and reëquipped an
army.  The veterans flocked to his standards, and within the time
mentioned he had actually two hundred and fifty thousand men under arms.

With the better moiety of this force, the best armed, the best equipped,
the best officered contingent, he took the field early in the month of
June.  The Emperor did not want war any more than France did.  He began
his new reign with the most pacific of proclamations, which probably
reflected absolutely the whole desire of his heart.  But the patience of
Europe had been exhausted and the belief of rulers and peoples in the
honesty of his professions, declarations or intentions, had been
hopelessly shattered.

His arrival effected an immediate resurrection of the almost moribund
Congress of Vienna.  The squabbling, arguing, trifling plenipotentiaries
of the powers had burst into gigantic laughter--literally, actual
merriment, albeit of a somewhat grim character!--when they received the
news of Napoleon's return.  They were not laughing at Napoleon but at
themselves.  They had been dividing the lion's skin in high-flown
phrases, which meant nothing, endeavoring to incorporate the Decalogue
and the Sermon on the Mount in their protocols and treaties, when they
suddenly discovered that the Emperor was still to be reckoned with.

Differences were instantly laid aside and forgotten.  Russia, Prussia and
Austria immediately agreed to put in the field two hundred and fifty
thousand men each.  The smaller powers, Sweden, Spain, the Low Countries,
promised contingents.  England once more assumed the familiar role of
paymaster by immediately placing a vast subsidy at the disposal of the
allies.  She gave them also what was of more value than a subsidy, a
soldier of the first rank to command the armies in the field.

The Duke of Wellington had never crossed swords with the greatest captain
of his day and perhaps of all time.  But he had measured himself with the
ablest and most famous of Napoleon's Marshals.  With greatly inferior
forces, through four years of desperate fighting, he had defeated the
Marshals and armies of France.  The dashing and gallant Junot had been
routed at Vimiero, Victor had been overwhelmed at Talavera.  Wily old
Massena with all his ability could look back to the disaster of the
blood-stained hill of Busaco, Marmont, the dainty tactician, had been
smashed at Salamanca, stubborn Jourdan had been at last decisively
defeated at Victoria.  Finally, the brilliant Soult had been hurled out
of the Pyrenees and had met his master at Toulouse.  Still, great as were
these soldiers and highly trained as they had been in the best of
schools, not one of them was a Napoleon; all of them together were not,
for that matter.  Would the luster of Wellington's fame, which extended
from the Ganges to the Ebro, be tarnished when he met the Emperor?  It
was a foregone conclusion, of course, that Schwarzenberg would command
the Austrians; Blücher, the "Hussar General," the hard-fighting,
downright old "Marshal Vorwärts," the Prussians; and the Emperor
Alexander, with his veteran captains, the vast horde of Russians.

To assemble, arm, equip and move two hundred and fifty thousand men was a
great task in those days even for a rich and populous country flushed
with victory and in the enjoyment of an abundance of time and unlimited
means.  The organizing, it almost might be said the creative, ability of
Napoleon was not shared by his opponents.  Try as they would, June found
their preparations still woefully incomplete.  The Austrians had scarcely
moved at all.  The slower Russians, who were farther away and were to
constitute the reserve army, could be discounted from any present
calculation of the enemies of the Empire.  The English and their smaller
allies from the Low Countries, and the Prussians, whose hatred of France
and the Emperor was greater than that of any other nation, were quicker
to move.  Two hundred and fifteen thousand men, half of them Prussians, a
third of the other moiety English, the remaining two-thirds Belgians,
Hollanders, and other miscellaneous nationalities, had joined the colors
on the northwestern frontier of France.  One-half of this joint assembly
was commanded by Blücher and the other half by Wellington.

Leaving the weaker half of his own great army to complete its equipment,
and placing strong detachments in fortress and at strategetic points to
oppose the Austrians should they advance, the Emperor, as has been said,
with about one hundred and twenty-five thousand men took the field.
Naturally, inevitably, Belgium, the immemorial battleground of the
nations, and the great English-Prussian army were his objectives.  He saw
clearly the dangers that encompassed him, the demands he must meet and
the conditions over which he must triumph.

It was by no means certain, even if he decisively defeated his enemies in
Belgium and occupied Brussels, that his trouble would be over.  There
would still be left a possible five hundred thousand trained and
disciplined men with whom he would have to deal, under rulers and
generals the inveteracy of whose hatreds he could well understand.  But
at least his position would be greatly improved by a successful
preliminary campaign, any success in short, to say nothing of so great a
one.  If he could show himself once more the inimitable Captain, the
thunderbolt of war, the organizer of victory, the Napoleon of other days,
the effect upon France, at least, would be electrical.  And the world
would again take notice.

The Emperor had to admit that, save in the army, there had not been much
response from tired-out, exhausted France, to the appeals of its once
irresistible and beloved leader.  But the spirit of the army was that of
devotion itself.  There was a kind of a blind madness in it of which men
spoke afterward as a phenomenon that could only be recognized, that could
never be explained or understood.  They could not account for it.  Yet it
was a powerful factor, the most powerful, indeed, that enabled the
Emperor to accomplish so much, and fall short of complete triumph by so
narrow a margin.

The spirit of this new army was not that burning love of liberty which
had animated the armies of the early republic and turned its
tatterdemalion legions into paladins.  It was not the heroic consecration
of the veterans of later years to their native land.  It was a strange,
mysterious obsession, a personal attachment to Napoleon, the
individual--an unlimited, unbounded tribute to his fascination, to his
own unique personality.  It has not died out, and seems destined to live.
Even in death Napoleon, after a century, exercises the same fascination
over all sorts and conditions of men!  Wise and foolish alike acknowledge
his spell.  Men hate, men loathe much of that for which the Corsican
adventurer and soldier of fortune stood; they see clearly and admit
freely the thorough and entire selfishness of the colossal man, but they
cannot resist his appeal, even after one hundred years!

Yet in the long run no personal attachment, however deep, however ardent,
however complete, can take the place as the inspiration for heroic deeds
of that deeper passion of love of country.  Nor can any personal devotion
to a mere man produce such a steadfastness of character as is brought
about by adherence to a great cause or a great land.  A great passion
like the love of a people for a great country and that for which it
stands is eternal.  Usually the feet of clay upon which the idol stands
have only to be recognized to dissipate the ardor and fervor of the
worshipers.  But Napoleon was then an exception to all rules.  Though he
slew men, wasted them, threw them away, they trusted him.  We look at him
through the vista of years and in some way understand his soldiers.
Reason to the contrary, we can experience in some degree, at least, even
in the cold-blooded humanitarian materialism of the present, the old
thrill and the old admiration.  Did his contemporaries love him because
they believed he thought in terms of France, we wonder?

So that this body of soldiery was probably the most formidable army in
the quality of its units that had ever been mustered on the globe.  There
was not a man in it who was not a veteran.  Some of them were veterans of
fifteen years of campaigning with Napoleon.  This that came was to be the
sixtieth pitched battle in which some of them had participated.  Even the
younger men had gone through more than one campaign and taken part in
much hard fighting.  Back from the prisons where they had been confined
and the great fortresses they had held until the Emperor's abdication had
come the veterans.  The Old Guard had been reconstituted.  As a reward
for its action at Grenoble, the Fifth-of-the-Line had been incorporated
in it as a supplementary regiment, a second Fifth regiment of Grenadiers.
The ranks of the Guard had been most carefully culled, the unserviceable
had been weeded out, their places taken by men well fitted by their
record, their physical prowess and their personal appearance to belong to
that famous corps.  Not the Immortals of Xerxes, the Spartan Band of
Leonidas, the Companion Cavalry of Alexander, the Carthaginians of
Hannibal, the Tenth Legion of Caesar, the Spanish Infantry of Parma, or
the Ironsides of Cromwell, had surpassed the record of these Pretorians
of Imperial France.

The same weeding-out process had been carried out in the rest of the
army.  The flower of French cavalry, the matchless French artillery and
the famous infantry which had trampled down the world were ranged under
the Eagles.  Other corps had been drained for equipment.  But in some
particulars the army differed from the Imperial armies of the past.  With
two exceptions, the great Marshals were not there.  Murat, king of
horsemen and swordsmen, was a prisoner in his ignoble Neapolitan realm
awaiting trial and execution.  Marmont and Mortier dared not present
themselves before the Emperor they had betrayed.  Wily Massena, the
wisest and ablest of them all, was old and in convenient retirement.
Macdonald, the incorruptible, was with the fat-bodied, fat-witted Bourbon
King in Ghent.  Berthier, with his marvelous mastery of detail and his
almost uncanny ability to translate the Emperor's thoughts even into
orders, had not rejoined the Eagles--a terrible loss, indeed.

There were but two of the Marshals of old with Napoleon.  Soult, in some
respects the acutest strategist and finest tactician, was Chief of Staff.
He tried his best to fill Berthier's position and did it acceptably, if
not with the success of that master.  The other Marshal was preëminently
the battle-leader, red-headed Michael Ney, the fighter of fighters, a man
whose personality was worth an army-corps, whose reputation and influence
with the soldiers was of the very highest.

The rest of the officers, while veterans, were younger and less-known
men.  Drouet d'Erlon commanded one of the corps; Reille another; Grouchy
another; Druot was the leader of the Guard; Kellerman, Milhaud, Gerard
and Maurice the cavalry.  It was an army of veterans, officered by young
men, commanded by the greatest of soldiers.

But the army had not yet "found itself."  It had no natural coherence and
there had been no time to acquire any.  It had not yet been welded
together.  Officers, men, regiments, brigades, divisions were, more or
less, new and strange to one another.  There was a vast deal of suspicion
in the ranks.  The discipline was rather because of past habit than
present practice.  That army needed a few victories, and badly needed
them.  A welding process was required.  Given time and success to shake
it together, and it might laugh at the world.

Would it get time and win victory?  That was the question.  And if it got
neither, what then?  How would it stand up under the strain?  Would the
tie that bound hold in defeat?  Could the rest of the army live up to the
Guard, for instance?  Yes, that was the grave, the all-important question.

There was an enormous disparity in numbers between the French army--or it
would better be called Napoleon's army--and that of the allies he
purposed to attack.  The allies were to the French in the ratio of about
two to one.  Whatever else was lacking, Napoleon had not lost his
audacity, nor when his intentions are disclosed by a study of his plans,
can it be argued that his strategic intention was lacking in brilliancy
or daring.

He determined with his smaller but compact and manageable army to thrust
himself between the two wings of the somewhat loosely coherent enemy
under its divided command; to hold off one while he smashed the other and
then to concentrate upon the surviving half and mete out to it the same
hard fortune.  In other words, trusting to his ability, he deliberately
placed his own army between two others, each of which practically equaled
his own.  He thrust himself within the jaws of a trap, to use a homely
simile, intending to hold one arm of the trap open while he broke up the
other.  He intended to burst through the allied line and smash up each
half in succession.

Of course there was always the danger that he could not burst through
that line; or that he could not hold back one half while he fought the
other, or that holding back one half he could not beat the other, or
having beaten one half he would be too weak to fall on the other.  There
was always the danger that the trap would be sprung, that he would be
caught in its jaws or, to change the metaphor, that he would be like the
wheat between the upper and the nether millstone.  Still he did not think
so, and he did not go into the undertaking blindly.  As he had said, in
his own case, "War was not a conjectural art," and he had most carefully
counted the cost, estimated the probabilities.  In short, he looked well
before he leaped--yet a man may look well and leap wrong after all.

On these considerations he based his grand strategy.  The army of the
Prussians had approached the French frontier from the east; the army of
the English and allies from the northwest.  Napoleon had a complete
knowledge of one of the Captains opposing him.  He knew and accurately
estimated Blücher.  He did not know and he did not accurately estimate
Wellington.  He viewed the latter with contempt; the former with a
certain amount of disdainful approbation, for while Blücher was no
strategist and less of a tactician, he was a fighter and a fighter is
always dangerous and to be dreaded.  Gneisenau, a much more accomplished
soldier, was Blücher's second in command, but he was a negligible factor
in the Emperor's mind.  The fact that Wellington had beaten all of
Napoleon's Marshals with whom he had come in contact had intensified the
Emperor's hatred.  Instead of begetting caution in dealing with him,
Napoleon's antagonism had blinded him as to Wellington's ability.

He also rated the Prussians higher than the English as fighters, and when
his officers, who had felt the power of the thin red line which had so
often wrecked the French column, explained to him that there were no
better defensive fighters on earth than the English, not even the
Russians, he had laughed them to scorn, attributing their warnings to the
fact that they had been beaten in Spain and had grown timid.  The Emperor
did not purpose to be beaten in France or Belgium by the stolid English.

In more detail his first plan was to confuse Wellington, who held the
right of the allied line, then fall upon him before he had time to
concentrate, and beat him or contain him with a detachment under Ney,
while the Emperor in person thereafter put Blücher to rout--and all of
these things he came very near accomplishing completely.  Certainly, he
carried out his plans successfully and to the letter until the final day
of battle.

He reasoned that if he could beat Blücher and threaten his
communications, what was left of the Prussian army, which Napoleon hoped
would not be much, would immediately retreat eastward; and that when
Blücher had been thrown out of the game for the present, he could turn on
Wellington and his English and allies and make short work of him.  It did
not occur to him that even if he beat Blücher and beat Wellington,
provided the defeats did not end in utter routs, and they both retreated,
they might withdraw on parallel lines and effect a junction later when
even after the double defeat they would still so greatly outnumber him
that his chances of success would be faint indeed.

The possibility of their pursuing any other course than that he had
forecast for them never entered his mind.  His own conception of their
action was, in fact, an obsession with him.  Yet that which he thought
they would do they did not; and that which he was confident they would
not do they did!



CHAPTER XXIX

WATERLOO--THE FINAL REVIEW

In a romance like this, in which campaigns and marches, maneuvers and
battles, however decisive they may be in history, are only incidental
to the careers of the characters herein presented to the reader, it is
not necessary for the chronicler to turn himself into a military
historian, much as he would like it.  Therefore, in great restraint, he
presses on, promising hereafter only so much history as may serve to
show forth the somber background.

In this setting of the scene of the great drama to be played, young
Marteau has been necessarily somewhat lost sight of.  He was very much
in evidence during that hundred days of feverish and frantic activity.
Napoleon had distinguished him highly.  He had given him the rank of a
Colonel of the Guard, but he had still retained him on his staff.  Good
and experienced staff-officers were rare, and the Emperor needed all he
could get; he could have used many more than were available.  And as
Marteau was one of those who were attached to the Emperor by the double
motive of love of the man and love of his country, believing as he did
that the destiny of the two could not be dissevered, he had served the
Emperor most efficiently, with that blind, passionate devotion to duty
by which men give to a cause the best that is in them and which
sometimes leads them to almost inconceivable heights of achievements.

Suffice it to say that the great strategic conception of Napoleon was
carried out with rather striking success in the first three days of the
campaign.  The Emperor, crossing the Sambre, interposed himself between
Wellington and Blücher, completely deceived the Englishman, who thought
his extreme right was threatened, detached Ney to seize the village of
Quatre Bras, where Wellington had at last decided to concentrate, and
with eighty thousand men fell on the Prussians at Ligny.

Ney did not seize Quatre Bras; Wellington got there ahead of him and
stubbornly held the position.  Although Ney had twice the number of
troops at the beginning of the battle that the English Field-Marshal
could muster, they were not well handled and no adequate use was made
of the French preponderance.  Napoleon, on the far right of Ney, at
Ligny, on the contrary, fought the Prussians with his old-time skill
and brilliance.  The contending forces there were about equal, the
Prussians having the advantage in numbers, but victory finally declared
for the Emperor.  It was the last victory, not the least brilliant and
not the least desperately fought of his long career.  The importance
and quality of the battle has been lost sight of in the greater
struggle of Waterloo, which took place two days after, but it was a
great battle, nevertheless.  One of the crude ways in which to estimate
a battle is by what is called the "butcher's bill" and eighteen
thousand dead and wounded Prussians and twelve thousand Frenchmen tells
its tale.  But it was not the decisive battle that Napoleon had planned
to make it.

The Prussians retreated.  They had to.  But they retreated in good
order.  Blücher having been unhorsed and temporarily incapacitated in a
charge, the command and direction of the retreat devolved upon
Gneisenau.  His chief claim to military distinction lies in the fact
that he did not do what Napoleon expected, and what Blücher would have
done.  He retreated to the north instead of the east!  A pursuit was
launched, but it did not pursue the Prussians.  It went off, as it
were, into thin air.  It pursued Napoleon's idea, his forecast, which
owing to the accident to Blücher was wrong!

One reason why the victory of Ligny and the drawn battle at Quatre Bras
were not decisive was because of a strange lack of generalship and a
strange confusion of orders for which Napoleon and Ney are both
responsible.  Ney was constructively a victor at Quatre Bras, finally.
That is, the English retreated at nightfall and abandoned the field to
him; but they retreated not because they were beaten but because
Wellington, finding his position could be bettered by retirement and
concentration, decided upon withdrawal.  But Ney could have been the
victor in every sense, in spite of his indifferent tactics, if it had
not been for the same blunder that the Emperor committed.

D'Erlon, at the head of perhaps the finest corps in the army, numbering
twenty thousand men, through the long hours of that hot June day
marched from the vicinity of Quatre Bras to Ligny, whence he could
actually see the battle raging, only to be summoned back from Ligny to
Quatre Bras by orders from Ney.  Retracing his course, therefore, he
marched back over the route he had just traversed, arriving at Quatre
Bras too late to be of any service to Ney!  Like the famous King of
France who with twenty thousand men marched up the hill and then
marched down again, this splendid corps which, thrown into either
battle, would have turned the Prussian retreat into a rout on the one
hand, or have utterly cut to pieces Wellington on the other, did
nothing.  The principal fault was Napoleon's.  He saw d'Erlon's corps
approaching, but he sent no order and took no steps to put it into the
battle.

Well, in spite of the fact that the energies of d'Erlon had been spent
in marching instead of fighting, the Emperor was a happy man that
night.  He had got himself safely placed between the two armies and he
had certainly severely if not decisively beaten one of them.
Strategically, his operations had been characterized by unusual
brilliancy.  If things went as he hoped, surmised and confidently
expected, all would be well.  He was absolutely sure that Blücher was
retiring to the east, toward Namur.  He dispatched Grouchy with
thirty-five thousand of his best men to pursue him in the direction
which he supposed he had taken.

Napoleon's orders were positive, and he was accustomed to exact
implicit obedience from his subordinates.  He had a habit of
discouraging independent action in the sternest of ways, and for the
elimination of this great force from the subsequent battle the Emperor
himself must accept the larger responsibility.  But all this does not
excuse Grouchy.  He carried out his orders faithfully, to be sure, but
a more enterprising and more independent commander would have sooner
discovered that he was pursuing stragglers and would earlier have taken
the right course to regain his touch with his chief and to harry the
Prussian Field-Marshal.  He did turn to the north at last, but when the
great battle was joined he was miles away and of no more use than if he
had been in Egypt.  His attack on the Prussian rear-guard at Wavre,
while it brought about a smart little battle with much hard and gallant
fighting, really amounted to nothing and had absolutely no bearing on
the settlement of the main issue elsewhere.  He did not disobey orders,
but many a man has gained immortality and fame by doing that very
thing.  Grouchy had his chance and failed to improve it.  He was a
veteran and a successful soldier, too.

Comes the day of Waterloo.  Blücher had retreated north to Wavre and
was within supporting distance of Wellington.  His army had been beaten
but not crushed, its spirit was not abated.  The old Prussian Marshal,
badly bruised and shaken from being unhorsed and overridden in a
cavalry charge in which he had joined like a common trooper, but
himself again, promised in a famous interview between the two to come
to the support of the younger English Marshal, should he be attacked,
with his whole army.  Wellington had retreated as far as he intended
to.  He established his headquarters on a hill called Mont St. Jean,
back of a ridge near a village called Waterloo, where his army
commanded the junction point of the highroads to the south and west.
He drew up his lines, his red-coated countrymen and his blue-coated
allies on the long ridge in front of Mont St. Jean, facing south,
overlooking a gently sloping valley which was bounded by other parallel
ridges about a mile away.  On the right center of Wellington's lines, a
short distance below the crest of the ridge, embowered in trees, lay a
series of stone buildings, in extent and importance between a château
and a farmhouse, called Hougomont.  These were surrounded by a stone
wall and the place was impregnable against everything but artillery if
it were properly manned and resolutely held.  Both those conditions
were met that day.  Opposite the left center of the Duke's line was
another strong place, a farmhouse consisting of a series of stone
buildings on three sides of a square, the fourth closed by a wall,
called La Haye Sainte.  These outposts were of the utmost value,
rightly used.

The Duke had sixty-seven thousand men and one hundred and eighty guns.
His right had been strengthened at the expense of his left, because he
expected Napoleon to attack the right and he counted on Blücher's
arrival to support his left.  To meet him Napoleon had seventy-five
thousand men and two hundred and sixty guns.  Off to the northeast lay
Blücher at Wavre with nearly eighty thousand more men and two hundred
guns, and wandering around in the outer darkness was Grouchy with
thirty-five thousand.

The valley was highly cultivated.  The ripening grain still stood in
the fallow fields separated by low hedges.  Broad roads ran through the
valley in different directions.  The weather was horrible.  It rained
torrents during the night and the earlier part of the morning.  The
fields were turned into quagmires, the roads into morasses.  It was hot
and close.  The humidity was great.  Little air was stirring.
Throughout the day the mist hung heavy over the valley and the ridges
which bordered it.  But the rain ceased in the morning and Napoleon
made no attack until afternoon, waiting for the ground to dry out
somewhat.  It was more important to him that his soldiers should have
good footing than to the English, for the offensive, the attack, the
charge fell to him.  Wellington determined to fight strictly on the
defensive.  Nevertheless, precious hours were wasted.  Every passing
moment brought some accession to the allied army, and every passing
hour brought Blücher nearer.  With all the impetuosity of his soul, the
old man was urging his soldiers forward over the horrible roads.

"Boys," he said in his rough, homely way to some bitterly complaining
artillerists stalled in the mud, "I promised.  You would not have me
break my word, would you?"

Grouchy meanwhile had at last determined that the Prussians had gone
the other way.  He had learned that they were at Wavre and he had swung
about and was coming north.  Of course, he should have marched toward
the sound of the cannon--generally the safest guide for a
soldier!--but, at any rate, he was trying to get into touch with the
enemy.  No one can question his personal courage or his loyalty to his
cause.

Napoleon, when he should have been on the alert, was very drowsy and
dull that day at Waterloo.  He had shown himself a miracle of physical
strength and endurance in that wonderful four days of campaigning and
fighting, but the soldiers passing by the farmhouse of La Belle
Alliance--singular name which referred so prophetically to the
enemy--sometimes saw him sitting on a chair by a table outside the
house, his feet resting on a bundle of straw to keep them from the wet
ground, nodding, asleep!  And no wonder.  It is doubtful if he had
enjoyed as much as eight hours of sleep since he crossed the Sambre,
and those not consecutive!  Still, if ever he should have kept awake,
that eighteenth of June was the day of days!

So far as one can discern his intention, his battle plan had been to
feint at Hougomont on the right center, cause the Duke of Wellington to
weaken his line to support the château, and then to break through the
left center and crush him by one of those massed attacks under
artillery fire for which he had become famous.  The line once broken,
the end, of course, would be more or less certain.

The difference in the temperaments of the two great Captains was well
illustrated before the battle was joined.  The Duke mainly concealed
his men behind the ridge.  All that the French saw when they came on
the field were guns, officers and a few men.  The English-Belgian army
was making no parade.  What the British and Flemish saw was very
different.  The Emperor displayed his full hand.  The French, who
appeared not to have been disorganized at all by the hard fighting at
Ligny and Quatre Bras, came into view in most splendid style; bands
playing, drums rolling, swords waving, bayonets shining even in the
dull air of the wretched morning.  They came on the field in solid
columns, deployed and took their positions, out of cannon-shot range,
of course, in the most deliberate manner.  The uniforms of the army
were brand-new, and it was the fashion to fight in one's best in those
days.  They presented a magnificent spectacle.

Presently the Duke, his staff, the gunners and the others who were on
the top of the ridge and watching, saw a body of horsemen gallop
rapidly along the French lines.  One gray-coated figure riding a white
horse was in advance of the rest.  The cheers, the almost delirious
shouts and cries, told the watchers that it was the Emperor.  It was
his last grand review, his last moment of triumph.

It was after one o'clock before the actual battle began.  More books
have been written about that battle than any other that was ever
fought.  One is tempted to say, almost than all others that were ever
fought.  And the closest reasoners arrive at different conclusions and
disagree as to many vital and important details.  The Duke of
Wellington himself left two accounts, one in his dispatches and one in
notes written long afterward, which were irreconcilable, but some
things are certain, upon some things all historians are agreed.

The battle began with an attack on the Hougomont Château and the
conflict actually raged around that château for over six hours, or
until the French were in retreat.  Macdonell, Home and Saltoun,
Scotsmen all, with their regiments of the Household Guard, held that
château, although it was assailed over and over again, finally, by the
whole of Reille's corps.  They held that château, although it burned
over their heads, although the French actually broke into it on
occasion.  They held it, although every other man in it was shot down
and scarcely a survivor was without a wound.  It was assaulted with a
fury and a resolution which was only matched by the fury and resolution
of its defense.  Why it was not battered to pieces with artillery no
one knows.  At any rate, it occupied practically the whole of Reille's
corps during the whole long afternoon of fighting.

The space between Hougomont and La Haye Sainte was about a thousand
yards.  La Haye Sainte was assaulted also but, to anticipate events, it
held out until about five o'clock in the evening, when, after another
wonderful defense, it was carried.  The French established themselves
in it eighty yards from Wellington's line.



CHAPTER XXX

WATERLOO--THE CHARGE OF D'ERLON

Meanwhile the French had not confined their efforts to the isolated
forts, if they may be so called, on Wellington's center and left
center.  After a tremendous artillery duel d'Erlon's men had been
formed up for that massed attack for which the Emperor was famous, and
with which it was expected the English line would be pierced and the
issue decided.  The Emperor, as has been noted, had intended the attack
on Hougomont as a mere feint, hoping to induce the Duke of Wellington
to reinforce his threatened right and thereby to weaken his left
center.  It was no part of the Emperor's plan that an attempt to
capture Hougomont should become the main battle on his own left that it
had, nor could he be sure that even the tremendous attack upon it had
produced the effect at which he aimed.  Nevertheless, the movement of
d'Erlon had to be tried.

It must be remembered that Napoleon had never passed through the
intermediate army grades.  He had been jumped from a regimental officer
to a General.  He had never handled a regiment, a brigade, a division,
a corps--only an army, or armies.  Perhaps that was one reason why he
was accustomed to leaving details and the execution of his plans to
subordinates.  He was the greatest of strategists and the ablest of
tacticians, but minor tactics did not interest him, and the arrangement
of this great assault he left to the corps and its commander.

Giving orders to Ney and d'Erlon, therefore, the Emperor at last
launched his grand attack.  One hundred and twenty guns were
concentrated on that part of the English left beyond the westernmost of
the two outlying positions, through which it was determined to force a
way.  Under cover of the smoke, which all day hung thick and heavy in
the valley and clung to the ridges, d'Erlon's splendid corps, which had
been so wasted between Quatre Bras and Ligny, and which was burning to
achieve something, was formed in four huge parallel close-ranked
columns, slightly écheloned under Donzelot, Marcognet, Durutte and
Allix.  With greatly mistaken judgment, these four columns were crowded
close together.  The disposition was a very bad one.  In the first
place, their freedom of movement was so impaired by lack of proper
distance as to render deployment almost impossible.  Unless the columns
could preserve their solid formation until the very point of contact,
the charge would be a fruitless one.  In the second place, they made an
enormous target impossible to miss.  The attack was supported by light
batteries of artillery and the cavalry in the flanks.

Other things being equal, the quality of soldiers being the same, the
column is at an obvious disadvantage when attacking the line.  It was
so in this instance.  Although it was magnificently led by Ney and
d'Erlon in person, and although it comprised troops of the highest
order, the division commanders being men of superb courage and
resolution, no valor, no determination could make up for these
disadvantages.  The tremendous artillery-fire of the French, which did
great execution among the English, kept them down until the dark
columns of infantry mounting the ridge got in the way of the French
guns which, of course, ceased to fire.

The drums were rolling madly, the Frenchmen were cheering loudly when
the ridge was suddenly covered with long red lines.  There were not
many blue-coated allies left.  Many of them had already laid down their
lives; of the survivors more were exhausted by the fierce battling of
the preceding days when the Belgians had nobly sustained the fighting
traditions of a race to which nearly two thousand years before Caesar
himself had borne testimony.  As a matter of fact, most of the allies
were moved to the rear.  They did not leave the field.  They were
formed up again back of the battle line to constitute the reserve.  The
English did not intend to flee either.  They were not accustomed to it
and they saw no reason for doing it now.

Wellington moved the heavy cavalry over to support the threatened point
of the line and bade his soldiers restrain their fire.  There was
something ominous in the silent, steady, rock-like red wall.  It was
much more threatening to the mercuric Gallic spirit than the shouting
of the French was to the unemotional English disposition.  Still, they
came intrepidly on.

Meanwhile, renewed attacks were hurled against the château and the
farmhouse.  Ney and d'Erlon had determined to break the English line
with the bayonet.  Suddenly, when the French came within point-blank
range, the English awoke to action.  The English guns hurled shot into
the close-ranked masses, each discharge doing frightful execution.
Ney's horse was shot from under him at the first fire.  But the
unwounded Marshal scrambled to his feet and, mounting another horse,
pressed on.

The slow-moving ranks were nearer.  At point-blank range the English
infantrymen now opened fire.  Shattering discharges were poured upon
the French.  The fronts of the divisions were obliterated.  The men in
advance who survived would have given back, but the pressure of the
masses in their rear forced them to go on.  The divisions actually
broke into a run.  Again and again the British battalions spoke, the
black muskets in the hands of the red coats were tipped with redder
flame.  It was not in human flesh and blood to sustain very long such a
fire.

It was a magnificent charge, gloriously delivered, and such was its
momentum that it almost came in touch with the English line.  It did
not quite.  That momentum was spent at last.  The French deployed as
well as they could in the crowded space and at half-pistol-shot
distance began to return the English fire.  The French guns joined in
the infernal tumult.  The advance had been stopped, but it had not been
driven back.  The French cavalry were now coming up.  Before they
arrived that issue had to be decided.  The critical moment was at hand,
and Wellington's superb judgment determined the action.  He let loose
on them the heavy cavalry, led by the Scots Grays on their big horses.
As the ranks of the infantry opened to give them room, the men of the
Ninety-second Highlanders, mad with the enthusiasm of the moment,
caught the stirrup-straps of the Horse and, half running, half dragged,
joined in the charge.

The splendid body of heavy cavalry fell on the flank of the halted
columns.  There was no time for the French to form a square.  Nay more,
there was no room for them to form a square.  In an instant, however,
they faced about and delivered a volley which did great execution, but
nothing could stop the maddened rush of the gigantic horsemen.  Back on
the heights of Rossomme Napoleon, aroused from his lethargy at last,
stared at the great attack.

"_Mon Dieu!_" he exclaimed as he saw the tremendous onfall of the
cavalrymen upon his helpless infantry, "how terrible are those gray
horsemen!"

Yes, they were more terrible to the men at the point of contact than
they were to those back of La Belle Alliance.  No infantry that ever
lived in the position in which the French found themselves could have
stood up against such a charge as that.  Trampling, hacking, slashing,
thrusting, the horses biting and fighting like the men, the heavy
cavalry broke up two of the columns.  The second and third began to
retreat under an awful fire.  But the dash of the British troopers was
spent.  They had become separated, disorganized.  They had lost
coherence.  The French cavalry now arrived on the scene.  Admirably
handled, they were thrown on the scattered English.  There was nothing
for the latter to do but retire.  Retire they did, having accomplished
all that anyone could expect of cavalry, fighting every step of the
way.  Just as soon as they opened the fronts of the regiments' in line,
the infantry and artillery began again, and then the French cavalry got
its punishment in its turn.

It takes but moments to tell of this charge and, indeed, in the
battlefield it seemed but a few moments.  But the French did not give
way until after long hard fighting.  From the beginning of the
preliminary artillery-duel to the repulse of the charge an hour and a
half elapsed.  Indeed, they did not give way altogether either, for
Donzelot and Allix, who commanded the left divisions, were the men who
finally succeeded in capturing La Haye Sainte.  And both sides suffered
furiously before the French gave back.

There was plenty of fight left in the French yet.  Ney, whatever his
strategy and tactics, showed himself as of yore the bravest of the
brave.  It is quite safe to say that the hero of the retreat from
Russia, the last of the Grand Army, the star of many a hotly contested
battle, surpassed even his own glorious record for personal courage on
that day.  Maddened by the repulse, he gathered up all the cavalry,
twelve thousand in number, and with Kellerman, greatest of cavalrymen,
to second him and with division leaders like Milhaud and Maurice, he
hurled himself upon the English line between Hougomont and La Haye
Sainte.  But the English made no tactical mistakes like that of Ney and
d'Erlon.  The artillerists stood to their guns until the torrent of
French horsemen was about to break upon them, then they ran back to the
safety of the nearest English square.

The English had been put in such formation that the squares lay
checkerwise.  Each side was four men deep.  The front rank knelt, the
second rank bent over at a charge bayonets, the third and the fourth
ranks stood erect and fired.  The French horsemen might have endured
the tempest of bullets but they could not ride down the _chevaux de
frise_, the fringe of steel.  They tried it.  No one could find fault
with that army.  It was doing its best; it was fighting and dying for
its Emperor.  Over and over they sought to break those stubborn British
squares.  One or two of them were actually penetrated, but unavailingly.

Men mad with battle-lust threw themselves and their horses upon the
bayonets.  The guns were captured and recaptured.  The horsemen overran
the ridge, they got behind the squares, they counter-charged over their
own tracks, they rode until the breasts of the horses touched the guns.
They fired pistols in the face of the English.  One such charge is
enough to immortalize its makers, and during that afternoon they made
twelve!

Ney, raging over the field, had five horses killed under him.  The
British suffered horribly.  If the horsemen did draw off to take
breath, and reform for another effort, the French batteries, the
English squares presenting easy targets, sent ball after ball through
them.  And nobody stopped fighting to watch the cavalry.  Far and wide
the battle raged.  Toward the close of the day some of the English
squares had become so torn to pieces that regiments, brigades and
divisions had to be combined to keep from being overwhelmed.

Still the fight raged around Hougomont.  Now, from a source of
strength, La Haye Sainte had become a menace.  There the English
attacked and the French held.  Off to the northeast the country was
black with advancing masses of men.  No, it was not Grouchy and his
thirty-five thousand who, if they had been there at the beginning,
might have decided the day.  It was the Prussians.

They, at least, had marched to the sound of the cannon.  Grouchy was
off at Wavre.  He at last got in touch with one of Blücher's rear corps
and he was fighting a smart little battle ten miles from the place
where the main issue was to be decided.  As a diversion, his efforts
were negligible, for without that corps the allies outnumbered the
French two to one.

Telling the troops that the oncoming soldiers were their comrades of
Grouchy's command who would decide the battle, Napoleon detached the
gallant Lobau, who had stood like a stone wall at Aspern, with the
Young Guard to seize the village of Planchenoit and to hold the
Prussians back, for if they broke in the end would be as certain as it
was swift.  And well did Lobau with the Young Guard perform that task.
Bülow, commanding the leading corps, hurled himself again and again
upon the French line.  His heavy columns fared exactly as the French
columns had fared when they assaulted the English.  But it was not
within the power of ten thousand men to hold off thirty thousand
forever, and there were soon that number of Prussians at the point of
contact.  Frantic messages from Lobau caused the Emperor to send one of
the divisions of the Old Guard, the last reserve, to his support.

It was now after six o'clock, the declining sun was already low on the
horizon, the long June day was drawing to a close.  The main force of
the Prussians had not yet come up to the hill and ridge of Mont St.
Jean.  Wellington, in great anxiety, was clinging desperately to the
ridge with his shattered lines wondering how long he could hold them,
whether he could sustain another of those awful attacks.  His reserves,
except two divisions of light cavalry, Vivian's and Vandeleur's, and
Maitland's and Adams' brigades headed by Colborne's famous Fifty-second
Foot, among his troops the de luxe veterans of the Peninsula, had all
been expended.

Lobau was still holding back the Prussians by the most prodigious and
astounding efforts.  If Napoleon succeeded in his last titanic effort
to break that English line, Blücher would be too late.  Unless night or
Blücher came quickly, if Napoleon made that attack and it was not
driven back, victory in this struggle of the war gods would finally go
to the French.

Hougomont still held out.  The stubborn defense of it was Wellington's
salvation.  While it stood his right was more or less protected.  But
La Haye Sainte offered a convenient point of attack upon him.  If
Napoleon brought up his remaining troops behind it they would only have
a short distance to go before they were at death's grapple hand to hand
with the shattered, exhausted, but indomitable defenders of the ridge.



CHAPTER XXXI

WATERLOO--THE LAST OF THE GUARD

Long and earnestly, one from the heights of Mont St. Jean, the other
from those of Rossomme, the two great Captains scanned the opposing
line.  Napoleon seemed to have recovered from his indisposition.
Indeed, he had undergone frightful fatigues which would have been
incredible if sustained by a younger man, and which would have been
impossible to any other man than he.  To add to his fatigue, he was
ill.  He could not sleep and the nature of his illness was such that it
was agony for him to mount a horse.  This condition had been aggravated
by the awful exertion, physical and mental, he had made and the strain
of that long afternoon of desperate fighting.  Nor had he eaten
anything the livelong day.  Yet at about half after six that night he
did get into the saddle again.  Conquering his anguish, he rode down to
the fifteen battalions of the Guard still held in reserve at La Belle
Alliance, all that was left intact of that proud and gallant army.

"My children," he said hoarsely in last appeal, "I must sleep in
Brussels to-night.  There is the enemy.  Go and break the English line
for me."

Cambronne, to whom nature and education alike had denied every
attribute of grace or greatness except unbounded devotion and stubborn
courage, mustered the Guard.  Ney, _le terrible Rougeaud_, the
soldiers' idol, his torn uniform covered with dust, one of his epaulets
slashed from his shoulder, his coat open, his shirt likewise, his bared
breast black with powder, his face red-streaked with blood, for many
bullets had grazed him, his hair matted with sweat--the weather had
grown frightfully hot, the air was terribly humid--his eyes blazing,
flecks of foam about his mouth, placed himself in the lead.  Every
staff officer left joined the great Marshal.

With the brass drums beating "_La Grenadière_," that famous grenadier
quick-step, the great Guard moved out.  Here, again, in the excitement
of the conflict, an opportunity was overlooked.  They could have gone
up in rear of La Haye Sainte with practically no danger, but they went
straight out into the open, between farm and château.  Up the road,
over the fields of bloody grain, through the torn hedges, trampling
over the bodies of their comrades, the last hope advanced to meet the
enemy.

All over the field the tide of battle ebbed and flowed.  The armies
came together for the last try.  Off to the right Lobau still held his
appointed station, but now the Prussians in great masses were swarming
on the field about Planchenoit.  Division after division, avoiding
Lobau meanwhile, mounted the ridge to join the English line.  It had
almost been broken by d'Erlon at La Haye Sainte.  Mouffling,
Wellington's Prussian aide, had galloped over to Ziethen in command of
the advance with the news that unless the English were reinforced
heavily at once their line would be pierced and they would be routed.
On to the field opposite La Haye Sainte came the Prussians.  Still
raged the battle around Hougomont and the English right, but the eyes
of every spectator not engaged in fighting for his life were
concentrated on the advance of the Guard.

Napoleon had ridden down from Rossomme to La Belle Alliance.  He sat
his horse within easy cannon-shot of the English as the devoted Guard
passed by in its last review.  His physical pain was forgot in the
great anxiety with which he watched them.  The battle was practically
lost.  This was the last desperate throw of the gambler, the last stake
he could place upon the board.  He knew it, every officer knew it,
perhaps even the more experienced grenadiers like old Bullet-Stopper of
the Guard knew it.  That did not matter to them.  They were his men and
at his word, for him, they were going forward to conquer or die.

Tramp, tramp, tramp, keeping time to the long continuous rolling of the
drums whose notes were heard even above the roar of the cannon and the
tumult of the battle, the Guard, from whose lips came one continuous
cry of "_Vive l'Empereur_!" marched forward.  Covered as usual by the
fire of one of those great batteries of concentrated guns so
conspicuous in Napoleonic tactics, through the smoke and the mist and
the shadows of the evening, they passed on.  Napoleon himself with
three battalions in reserve followed a little distance behind them.

Now they were mounting the hill, now they were abreast of La Haye
Sainte; now the ridge in front of them was topped with English.  Away
off could be heard the thunder of the oncoming Prussian horsemen, the
roar of the Prussian guns.  Back of the ridge the brigades of light
cavalry stood ready.  The infantry reserve with brave Colborne and the
Fifty-second, thirteen hundred strong, in the lead, were quivering with
excitement.  Even the stolid British phlegm had vanished.  This was the
last supreme moment.  Throbbed wildly the usually steady hearts of the
cool islanders.  If they could stop this grand advance the battle would
be gained.  The hill would be held.  Could they do it?  And if not----!

Out of the smoke and mist opposite the English soldiers of the Royal
Guard came their Imperial enemies.  The waiting British saw the black
bearskins of the tall Guard, the imperial insignia on cross-belts and
uniforms.  They were so near that they could see the grim faces of the
old soldiers, their mustaches working, their lips drawn back over their
teeth, snarling, sputtering like savage beasts.  Here and there mouths
were tight shut in a firm line.  Here and there men came silently, but
mostly they were yelling.  And they came up, arms aport, after the
precept and example of Dorsenne, _le beau Dorsenne_, alas, no longer
with them, to try conclusions for the last time with the soldiers'
white weapon, the bayonet, cold steel!  Would the English wait for
that?  They would not.

"Fire!" cried an English voice just when the suspense had become
unbearable.

The heavens were shattered by the discharge.  Ney pitched from his
horse, the sixth that day to be shot under him.  He was up in a moment,
his sword out.  He advanced on foot at the head of the Guard.  It was
his last charge.  He was to face muskets again, but in Paris, in the
hands of a firing-squad, with his back to the wall.  He was not given
the coveted privilege of dying on that stricken field, though he sought
for it wildly everywhere, but when he did die it was as he had lived,
undaunted.  Now, his great voice uplifted, he led forward the devoted
and immortal band.  His sword was shot out of his hand.  Seizing a gun
and a bayonet from a falling grenadier, he fought in the ranks as in
Russia.

Again, the tactics were faulty, as d'Erlon's men the Guard came in
solid columns.  Right in front of the rapid-firing English, the muskets
and cannon in one continuous roar now, they sought to deploy and return
that terrible withering fire.  The Prussian infantry, panting like
dogs, now gained the crest of the ridge and, animated by more than
human hatred, fell into disorderly but determined lines and opened
fire.  Harsh German oaths and exclamations mingled with hearty English
curses and cheers.  The Guard was firing rapidly now, straight into the
faces of the English.  And still the columns came on.  Like a great
wave which rushes forward at first swiftly and then goes slower and
slower and slower as it rolls up the beach it advanced.  By and by it
stopped.  The end was at hand.  With bent heads the men stood and took
the hail of lead and iron.

"Come!" said Ney, frantic with battle fever.  "Come!  See how a Marshal
of France can die."

Now was the crucial moment.  The Iron Duke saw it.  The two armies were
face to face firing into each other.  To which side would the victory
incline?  He spoke to Maitland, to Adams, to Colborne.  That gallant
soldier threw his men on the exposed flank of the column which had
obliqued, bent to the right.  Before they could face about out of the
smoke came the yelling English!  They found the men on the flank of the
column the next morning just where it had stood lying in ordered ranks
dead.

Still they did not give back.  Vivian and Vandeleur, daring light
horsemen, were now hurled on the devoted division.  At it they ran.  On
it they fell.  Still it stood.  It was incredible.  It was almost
surrounded now.  The attack had failed.  To advance was impossible, to
retreat was dishonor.  They would stand!  Their case was hopeless.
Appeals were made for the survivors to lay down their arms and
surrender.  Into the faces of the assailants vulgar but heroic
Cambronne hurled a disgusting but graphic word.  No, nobody said so,
but the Guard would not surrender.  It would die.

Back of his Guard, the Emperor, having stopped not far from the
château, watched them die.  He was paler than ever, sweat poured from
his face, his eyes and lips twitched nervously and spasms of physical
pain added their torture to the mental agony of the moment.  He
muttered again and again:

"_Mon Dieu!  Mais ils sont mêlés ensemble._"

Now the Prussian horsemen, the Death-head Hussars, added their weight
to Vandeleur's and Vivian's swordsmen and lancers.  Other regiments
supplemented the withering fire of the advancing Fifty-second and the
reserve brigades.  Now, at last, the Guard began to give back.  Slowly,
reluctantly, clinging to their positions, fighting, firing, savage,
mad--they began to give way.

"_Tout est perdu_," whispered Napoleon.

"The Guard retreats!" cried someone near the Emperor.

"_La Garde recule_!" rose here and there from the battlefield.  "_La
Garde recule_!"  Men caught up the cry in wonder and despair.  Could it
be true?  Yes.  Back they came out of the smoke.  Now was the supreme
opportunity for the allies.  The Duke, recklessly exposing himself on
the crest of the hill, bullets flying about him, as they flew about
Napoleon, yet leading apparently a charmed life, closed his field-glass
and turned to the red line that had made good its defense.

"Up!" he cried, waving his hand and not finishing his sentence.

They needed no other signal.  Their time to attack had come.  Down the
hill they rushed, yelling, followed by Belgians, Netherlanders, and all
the rest, pressing hard upon their heels.  La Haye Sainte was
recaptured in the twinkling of an eye.  The shattered broken remains of
the Guard were driven in headlong rout.  The assailers of Hougomont
were themselves assaulted.  At last numbers had overwhelmed Lobau.  The
survivors of an army of a hundred and thirty thousand flushed with
victory fell on the survivors of an army of seventy thousand already
defeated.

At half-past seven the battle was lost.  At eight the withdrawal became
a retreat, the retreat a rout.  At set of sun lost was the Emperor,
lost was the Empire.  Ended was the age-long struggle which had begun
with the fall of the Bastile more than a score of years before.  Once
again from France, with the downfall of Napoleon, had been snatched the
hegemony of the world.

There was no reserve.  There was nothing to cover a retreat.  Someone
raised the wild cry not often heard on battlefields overlooked by
Napoleon, and it was echoed everywhere:

"_Sauve qui peut._"

The army as an army was gone.  Thousands of men in mad terror fled in
every direction.  Still, there were left a few battalions of the Guard
which had not been in action.  They formed three squares to receive the
English and Prussians.  Into the nearest square Napoleon, bewildered,
overwhelmed, stricken by the catastrophe, was led on his horse.  His
sword was out.  He would fain have died on that field.  Doubtless, many
a bullet marked him, but none struck him.  For a little while these
squares of the Guard, Napoleon in the center one, another square on
either side of the center one, stayed the British and Prussian advance,
but it was not to be.  "The stars in their courses fought against
Sisera!"  The Emperor gave no order.  Bertrand and Soult turned his
horse about and the squares retreated.

It was night.  They were the sole organized body left.  Well, they
upheld their ancient fame and glorious reputation and untarnished
honor.  Through the calm and moonlit night pursuers and pursued could
hear the rolling of the brass drums far and wide over the countryside
as the Guard marched away from that field back to stricken France, to
that famous grenadier march, "_La Grenadière._"

Again and again they stopped to beat off the furious attack of the
cavalry.  Again and again the Prussian pursuers hurled themselves
unavailingly on quadrangles of steel, worked up to a terrible pitch of
excitement by the possibility that they might seize the Emperor at
whose behest and for whose purpose fifty thousand men lay dead or
wounded on that fatal hill, in that dreadful valley.  Happy the fate of
those who were dead--horrible the condition of those who were wounded.
English, Prussians, Germans, Bavarians, Hollanders, French, trampled
together in indistinguishable masses.  Horses, guns, weapons,
equipment--everything in hopeless confusion.  Every horror, every
anguish, every agony was there--incense burned about the altar of one
devouring ambition.



CHAPTER XXXII

AT LAST THE EAGLE AND THE WOMAN

Nearest the crest of the hill immortalized by the great conflict, in
advance of but in touch with the regular dead lines of the Guard, a
little group, friend and foe, lay intermingled.  There was a young
officer of the Fifty-second infantry, one of Colborne's.  He was
conscious but suffering frightfully from mortal wounds.  One side of
his face where he had been thrown into the mud was covered with a red
compound of earth and blood; his bright head was dabbled with the same
hideous mixture.  Blood frothed out of his mouth as he breathed.  He
murmured from time to time a woman's name.  "Water," was sometimes the
sputtering syllable that came from him.

His left hand clutched uneasily at his breast, where his torn uniform
showed a gaping wound.  But his right hand was still.  The arm was
broken, paralyzed, but the fingers of his right hand were tightly
closed around a broken blue staff and next to his cheek, the
blood-stained one, and cold against it, was a French Eagle.  He had
seized that staff in the heat of battle and in the article of death he
held it.

At the feet of the English officer lay a French officer wearing the
insignia of a Colonel of the Guard.  He was covered with wounds,
bayonet thrusts, a saber-slash, and was delirious.  Although helpless,
he was really in much better case than the young Englishman.  He, too,
in his delirium muttered a woman's name.

They spoke different tongues, these two.  They were born in different
lands.  They were children of the same God, although one might have
doubted it, but no one could mistake the woman's name.  For there Frank
Yeovil and Jean Marteau, incapable of doing each other any further
harm, each thought of the same woman.

Did Laure d'Aumenier back in England waiting anxiously for news of
battle, fearing for one of those men, hear those piteous, broken
murmurs of a woman's name--her own?

Around these two were piled the dead.  Marteau had seized the Eagle.
Yes, he and a few brave men had stayed on the field when the great Ney,
raging like a madman, and seeking in vain the happy fortune of a bullet
or sword-thrust, had been swept away, and on him had fallen Yeovil with
another group of resolute English, and together they had fought their
little battle for the Eagle.  And Marteau had proved the Englishman's
master.  He had beaten him down.  He had shortened his sword to strike
when he recognized him.  Well, the battle was over, the Eagle was lost,
the Emperor was a fugitive, hope died with the retreating Guard, the
Empire was ended.  Marteau might have killed him, but to what end?

"For your wife's sake," he cried, lowering his sword, and the next
minute he paid for his mercy, for the other English threw themselves
upon him.

But Frank Yeovil did not get off scot free.  There was one lad who had
followed Marteau, who had marched with the Guard, who had no
compunctions of conscience whatever, and with his last pistol Pierre
gave the reeling Englishman the fatal shot.  Yes, Pierre paid too.
They would certainly have spared him, since he was only a boy, but
maddened by the death of their officer, half a dozen bayonets were
plunged into his breast.

Thither the next day came Sir Gervaise Yeovil, who had been with the
Duke at the Duchess of Richmond's famous ball in Brussels.  Young Frank
had left that ball at four o'clock in the morning, according to order,
only to find that later orders had directed the army to march at two
and that his baggage had gone.  He had fought that day in pumps and
silk stockings which he had worn at the ball; dabbled, gory, muddy,
they were now.

Sir Gervaise Yeovil was an old friend of the Duke of Wellington.  The
Iron Duke, as they called him, was nevertheless very tender-hearted
that morning.  He told the Baronet that his son was somewhere on the
field.  Colonel Colborne of the Fifty-second had marked him in the
charge, but that was all.  Neither Vivian nor Vandeleur could throw any
light on the situation.  There were twenty thousand of the allied
armies on that field and thirty thousand French.

"My God," said Sir Gervaise, staring along the line of the French
retreat, "what is so terrible as a defeat?"

"Nothing," said the Duke gravely.  Then looking at the nearer hillside
he added those tremendous words which epitomized war in a way in which
no one save a great modern captain has ever epitomized it.  "Nothing,"
he said slowly, "unless it be a victory."

They found the Guard.  That was easy.  There they lay in lines where
they had fallen; the tall bearskins on their heads, the muskets still
clasped in their hands.  There, too, they found young Yeovil at last.
They revived him.  Someone sought to take the Eagle from him, but with
a sudden accession of strength he protested against it.

"Father," he whispered to the old man bending over him, his red face
pale and working, "mine."

"True," said the Duke.  "He captured it.  Let him keep it."

"O God!" broke out the Baronet.  "Frank!  Can nothing be done?"

"Nothing.  Stop."  His lips moved, his father bent nearer.  "Laure----"
he whispered.

"Yes, yes, what of her?"

"That Frenchman she loved----"

"Marteau?"

The young Englishman closed his eyes in assent.

"He could have killed me but spared--for her--he--is there," he
faltered presently.

"There is life in this Frenchman yet," said one of the surgeons,
looking up at the moment.

"My Lord!" said old Sir Gervaise Yeovil, starting up, choking down a
sob and endeavoring to keep his voice steady.  "My boy yonder----"

"Yes," said the Duke, "a brave lad."

"He's----  It is all up with him.  You will let me take him back to
England, and--the Frenchman and the Eagle?"

"Certainly.  I wish to God it had never happened, Yeovil," went on the
soldier.  "But it had to be.  Bonaparte had to be put down, the world
freed.  And somebody had to pay."

"I thank God," said the old man, "that my boy dies for his King and his
country and for human liberty."

"Nor shall he die in vain," said the soldier.

Frank Yeovil died on the vessel Sir Gervaise chartered to carry him and
Marteau and some other wounded officers of his acquaintance back to
England.  They did not bury him at sea.  At his earnest request they
took him back to his own land to be laid with his ancestors, none of
whom had spent themselves more gloriously or for a greater cause than
he.

Marteau, frightfully weak, heart-broken and helpless, by Sir Gervaise
Yeovil's command was taken to the Baronet's own house.

"I did my best," he said brokenly from the bed on which he lay as Laure
d'Aumenier bent over him, Sir Gervaise standing grim and silent with
folded arms in the background.

"For France and the Emperor," whispered the woman.

"Yes, that, but for your husband as well.  He fell upon me.  I was
trying to rally the Guard--the Eagle--he was beaten down--but I
recognized him.  I would not have harmed him."

"He told me," said the Baronet, "what you said.  'For your wife's
sake,'" he quoted in his deep voice, looking curiously at the girl.

"Sir Gervaise," said the Countess, looking up at him entreatingly, "I
am alone in this world but for you.  I was to have been your daughter.
May I speak?"

"I wish it."

"Marteau--Jean," she said softly, "I was not his wife.  Perhaps now
that he is dead it would have been better if I had been, but----"

"And you are free?"

Again the Countess looked at the Englishman.  Simple and homely though
he was, he showed the qualities of his birth and rank.

"Mademoiselle," he began gravely, almost tenderly.  He looked a long
time at her.  "Little Laure," he continued at last, taking her slender
hand in his own great one, "I had hoped that you might some day call me
father but that hope is gone--since Waterloo.  If I were your real
father now I should say----"

"Monsieur!" whispered the woman, her eyes brightening, her hand
tightening in the clasp of the other.

"And I think the old Marquis would say that it is the will of God,
now----"  He bit his lip.  It was all so different from what he
imagined.

"Go on, if you please," whispered Marteau.  "I am ill.  I cannot
bear----"

"If she be guided by me she will be your wife, young sir," said Sir
Gervaise decisively.

He dropped the woman's hand.  He turned and walked heavily out of the
room without a backward glance.  He could do no more.

"And will you stoop to me?" pleaded Marteau.

For answer the woman knelt by his bed and slipped her arm tenderly
under his head.  She bent and kissed him.

"When you are stronger," she replied, "you shall raise me up to your
own high level of courage and devotion and self-sacrifice, but
meanwhile it is upon my bosom that your head must lie."

"Alas," said Marteau, after a little, "the Emperor is taken, the Empire
is lost, my poor France!"

"I will go back with you and we will help to build it up again," said
the woman.

That was the best medicine that could be given to the young man.  His
recovery was slow but it was sure and it was the more rapid because of
the gracious care of the woman he loved, who lavished upon him all the
pent-up passion of her fond adoring heart.

Sir Gervaise Yeovil, whose interest at court was great, exerted himself
to secure a reconfirmation of Marteau's patent of nobility and to see
that no difficulties were placed in the way of the young couple in
obtaining repossession of their estates.  So that once more there
should be a d'Aumenier and perhaps a renewal of the ancient house in
the old château in Champagne.  This was easier since Marteau had never
taken oath to King Louis and therefore had broken no faith.

At the quiet wedding that took place as soon as Marteau recovered his
strength a little, Sir Gervaise continued to act the father's part to
the poor woman.  After the ceremony he delighted the heart of the
soldier by giving to him what he loved after the woman, the Eagle which
had been Frank Yeovil's prize.

"You will think of the lad, sometimes," said the old Baronet to the
girl.  "He was not lucky enough to win you, but he loved you and he
died with your name on his lips."

"I shall remember him always," said the new-made wife.

"His name shall be held in highest honor in my house as a brave
soldier, a true lover and a most gallant gentleman," added the new-made
husband.

Marteau would never forget the picture of the Emperor sitting on his
horse at La Belle Alliance that June evening, stern, terrific, almost
sublime, watching the Guard go by to death.  He was glad he had not
seen him in the retreat of which he afterward heard from old Bal-Arrêt.
But that was not the last picture of the Emperor that he had.  Although
he was scarcely strong enough to be moved, he insisted on being taken
to Portsmouth with his young wife.  Sir Gervaise went with him.  He had
no other object in life it seemed but to provide happiness for these
young people.  He could scarcely bear them out of his sight.

One day, a bright and sunny morning late in July, they put the
convalescing soldier into a boat with his wife and the old Baronet and
the three were rowed out into the harbor as near as the cordon of
guard-boats allowed them to approach to a great English
ship-of-the-line, across the stern of which in gold letters they read
the name, "_Bellerophon_."

"Bonaparte gener'ly comes out 'n the quarter-gal'ry of the ship, 'bout
this hour in the mornin'," said one of the boatmen.  "An' if he does we
can see him quite plain from yere."

There were other boats there whose occupants were moved by curiosity
and various emotions, but when the figure of the little man with the
three-cornered cocked hat on his head, still wearing the green uniform
of the chasseurs of the Guard stepped out on the quarter-gallery, his
eyes, as it were instinctively, sought that particular boat.

"Help me up," said Marteau brokenly.

The boat was a large one and moving carefully they got the young
officer to his feet.  He was wearing his own battle-stained uniform.
He lifted his trembling hand to his head in salute.  The little Emperor
bent over the rail and stared hard at the trio.  Did he recognize
Marteau?  Ah, yes!  He straightened up presently, his own hand returned
the salute and then he took off that same cocked hat and bared his brow
and bent his head low and, with a gesture of farewell, he turned and
reëntered his cabin--Prometheus on the way to his chains at St. Helena!



THE END





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