By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Thousand Francs Reward - and, Military Sketches
Author: Gaboriau, Emile, 1832-1873
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Thousand Francs Reward - and, Military Sketches" ***


By Emile Gaboriau.

Translated by Laura E. Kendall.



It's a very short time ago, yesterday as it were, that one Sunday
afternoon about four o'clock, the whole Quartier du Marais was in an

Rumor asserted that one of the most respectable merchants in the Hue
Boi-de-Sicile had disappeared, and all efforts to find him continued

The strange event was discussed in all the shops in the neighborhood;
there were groups at the doors of all the fruit-sellers, every moment
some terrified housewife arrived, bringing fresh particulars.

The grocer on the corner had the best and latest news, the most
reliable, too, for he received his information from the lips of the cook
who lived in the house.

"So," said he, "yesterday evening, after dinner, our neighbor, Monsieur
Jandidier, went down to his cellar to get a bottle of wine, and was
never seen again. He disappeared, vanished, evaporated!"

It occasionally happens that mysterious disappearances are mentioned.
The public becomes excited, and prudent people buy sword-canes.

Policemen hear absurd reports, and shrug their shoulders. They know the
wrong side of the carefully embroidered canvas. They investigate, and
find, instead of artless falsehoods, the truth; instead of romances,
sorrowful fol stories. Yet, up to a certain point, the grocer of the Rue
Saint Louis told the truth.

M. Jandidier, manufacturer of imitation jewelry, had not been at home
for the last twenty-four hours.

M. Theodore Jandidier was a man fifty-eight years old, very stout and
very bald, who had made a large fortune in business. He was supposed
to have a considerable income from stocks and bonds, and his business
brought him annually, on an average, fifty thousand francs. He was
be-loved and respected in his neighborhood, and justly so; his honesty
was above suspicion, his morality rigid. Married late in life to a
penniless relative, he had made her perfectly happy. He had an only
daughter, a pretty, graceful girl, named Thérèse, whom he worshiped. She
had been engaged to the eldest son of Schmidt the banker--member of the
firm Schmidt, Gubenheim & Worb--M. Gustave; but the match was broken
off, nobody knew why, for the young people were desperately in love
with each other. It was said by Jandidier's acquaintances that Schmidt
senior, a perfect skinflint, had demanded a dowry far beyond the
merchant's means.

Notified by public rumor, which hourly exaggerated the story, the
commissary of police went to the home of the man already called "the
victim," to obtain more exact information.

He found Mme. and Mile. Jandidier in such terrible grief that it was
with great difficulty he gleaned the truth. At last he learned the
following details:

The day before, Saturday, M. Jandidier had dined with his family as
usual, though his appetite was not good, owing, he said, to a violent

After dinner he went to his stores, gave some orders, and then entered
his office.

At half past six he came upstairs again, and told his wife he was going
to walk.

And he had not been seen since!

After carefully noting these particulars, the commissary requested Mme.
Jandidier to let him speak with her alone a few minutes. She made a sign
of assent, and Mile. Thérèse left the room.

"Pardon the question I am about to ask, madame," said the police
officer. "Do you know whether your husband--again I beg you to excuse
me--had any ties outside of his own family?"

Mme. Jandidier started up; anger dried her tears.

"I have been married twenty-three years, monsieur, and my husband has
never returned home later than ten o'clock."

"Was your husband in the habit of going to any club or café, madame?"
continued the officer.

"Never; I wouldn't have allowed it."

"Did he usually carry valuables on his person?"

"I don't know; I attended to my housekeeping and didn't trouble myself
about business matters."

It was impossible to get anything more from the haughty wife, who was
fairly bewildered by sorrow.

Having performed his duty, the commissary thought he ought to give the
poor woman a little commonplace consolation.

But on withdrawing, after an examination of the house, he felt very
anxious, and began to suspect that a crime had been committed.

That very evening one of the most skillful members of the detective
force, Rétiveau, better known in the Rue de Jerusalem under the name
of Maitre Magloire, was put on M. Jandidier's track, supplied with an
excellent photograph of the merchant


The very day after M. Jandidier's disappearance, Maitre Magloire
appeared at the Palais de justice to report what he had done to the
magistrate in charge of the affair.

"Ah! there you are, Monsieur Magloire," said the magistrate; "so you've
discovered something?"

"I am on the trail, monsieur."


"To begin with, Monsieur Jandidier did not leave home at half past six
o'clock, but precisely seven."


"Precisely. I ascertained that from a clock-maker in the Rue Saint
Denis, who is sure of it, because while passing his shop, Monsieur
Jandidier took out his watch to see if it was exactly like the
clock over the door. He held an unlighted cigar in his mouth. Having
discovered this last circumstance, I said to myself, 'I have it! He'll
light his cigar somewhere.' I reasoned correctly; he went into a retail
shop on the Boulevard du Temple, whose mistress knows him very well. The
fact was impressed on the woman's memory because he always smoked sou
cigars, and this time bought London ones."

"How did he appear?"

"Absent-minded, the shop-keeper told me. It was from her I found out
that he often went to the Café Ture. I entered it, and was told that he
had been there Saturday evening. He took two small glasses of brandy,
and talked with his friends. He seemed dull. 'The gentleman talked all
the time about life insurance policies,' the waiter told me. At half
past eight o'clock our man left the with one of his friends, a merchant
in the neighborhood, Monsieur Blandureau. I instantly went to this
gentleman, who informed me that he walked up the boulevard with Monsieur
Jandidier, who left him at the corner of the Rue Richelieu, pleading a
business engagement. He was not in his usual spirits, and seemed to be
assailed by the gloomiest presentiments."

"Very well, so far," murmured the magistrate.

"On leaving Monsieur Blandureau, I went to the Rue Roi-de-Sicile to
ascertain from somebody in the house whether Monsieur Jandidier had any
customers or friends in the Rue Richelieu, but no one lived there except
his tailor. I therefore proceeded hap-hazard to the tailor. He saw our
man Saturday. Monsieur Jandidier called on him after nine o'clock to
order a pair of trousers. While his measure was being taken, he noticed
that one of his vest buttons was nearly off, and asked to have it sewed
on. He was obliged to take off his overcoat while the trifling repair
was made, and as at the same time he removed the contents of the side
pocket, the tailor noticed several hundred-franc bank-bills."

"Ah!" that's a clew, "He had a considerable sum of money with him?"

"Considerable, no; but tolerably large. The tailor estimates it at
twelve or fourteen hundred francs."

"Go on," said the magistrate.

"While his vest was being repaired, Monsieur Jandidier complained of
sudden indisposition, and sent a little boy for a carriage, saying that
he was obliged to go to one of his workmen, who lived a long distance
off. Unfortunately, the lad had forgotten the number of the carriage.
He only recollected that it had yellow wheels, and was drawn by a large
black horse. The vehicle was found. A circular sent to all who kept
carriages for hire, put me on the track. I learned this morning that
it was No. 6007. The driver, on being questioned, distinctly remembered
having been stopped Saturday evening, about nine o'clock, in the Rue
Richelieu, by a little boy, and waiting ten minutes in front of the
Maison Gouin. The description he gave of his fare exactly suits our
man, and he recognized the photograph among five different ones I showed

Maitre Magloire stopped. He wanted to enjoy the approval visible in the
magistrate's expression.

"Monsieur Jandidier," he continued, "ordered the driver to take him to
No. 48 Rue d'Arras-Saint-Victor. In this house lives a workman named
Jules Tarot, employed by Monsieur Jandidier."

M. Magloire's way of pronouncing this name was intended to rouse the
magistrate's attention, and did so.

"You have suspicions?" he asked.

"Not exactly, but this is the story. Monsieur Jandidier dismissed the
carriage at the Rue d'Arras and went to Tarot's about ten o'clock. At
eleven the employer and workman came out together. The latter did not
return until midnight, and here I lose all trace of my man. Of course I
didn't question Tarot, for fear of putting him on his guard."

"Who is this Jules Tarot?"

"A workman in mother-of-pearl, a man who polishes shells on a grindstone
to make them perfectly iridescent. He's a skillful fellow, and, assisted
by his wife, to whom he has taught his trade, can make nearly a hundred
francs a week."

"They are in easy circumstances, then?"

"Oh! no. They are both young, they have no children, they are Parisians.
Deuce take it, they enjoy themselves. Monday regularly carries away what
the other days bring."


Two hours after Maitre Magloire's report, the police went to search
Jules Tarot's house.

At sight of the officers, the workman and his wife turned deadly pale,
and were seized with a nervous tremor that could not escape Maitre
Magloire's practiced eye, Yet the most thorough investigation failed to
detect anything suspicious, and the policemen were about to withdraw,
when the detective noticed Tarot's wife glance anxiously at a cage hung
in the window.

This was a ray of light. In less than an instant Ma-gloire had unhooked
and taken down the cage. Between the boards, at the bottom, twelve
hundred-franc bank-bills were found.

This discovery seemed to crush the workman. As to his wife, she began
to utter piercing shrieks, protesting that both she and her husband were
innocent. They were arrested, conveyed to head-quarters, and questioned
by the magistrate. Their answers were precisely the same.

They acknowledged having received a visit from their employer Saturday
evening. He seemed so ill that they asked him to take something to
drink, but he refused. He had come, he said, to give a large order, and
proposed that Tarot should undertake it, employing his own workmen.
They replied that they had no means to do so, whereupon their
employer answered: "No matter, I'll supply the money." And laid twelve
hundred-franc bills on the table.

At eleven o'clock M. Jandidier asked his workman to accompany him; he
was going to the Faubourg Saint Antoine. Tarot went as far as the Place
de la Bastile, crossing the foot-bridge of Constantine, and walking
along the canal.

The magistrate asked both husband and wife the very natural question:

"Why did you hide the money?"

They made the same reply.

Monday morning, hearing of M. Jandidier's disappearance, they were
seized with terror. Tarot said to his wife: "If it is known that our
employer came here, that I crossed the bridge and followed the edge of
the canal with him, I shall be seriously compromised. If this money were
found in our possession we should be lost."

The wife then wanted to burn the notes, but Tarot opposed the plan,
intending to return them to the family.

This explanation was reasonable and plausible, if not probable, but it
was merely an explanation. Tarot and his wife were kept under arrest.


A week after, the magistrate was still greatly perplexed. Three more
examinations had not enabled him to come to any fixed conclusion.

Were Tarot and his wife innocent? Were they simply marvelously clever in
maintaining a probable story?

The magistrate knew not what to think, when one morning a strange rumor
spread abroad. The Maison Jandidier had failed. A detective sent to
make inquiries, brought back the most startling news. M. Jandidier, who
people supposed to be so rich, was ruined, utterly ruined, and for three
years had kept up his credit by all sorts of expedients. There was not a
thousand francs in his house, and his notes due at the end of the month
amounted to sixty-seven thousand, five hundred francs.

The cautious merchant gambled in stocks at the Boürse, the virtuous
husband was unfaithful.

The magistrate had just heard these particulars, when Maitre Magloire
appeared, pale and panting for breath.

"You know, monsieur?" he exclaimed on the threshold. "All!"

"Tarot is innocent."

"I think so; and yet, that visit--how do you explain that visit?"

Magloire shook his head mournfully.

"I'm a fool," said he, "and Lecoq has just proved it Monsieur Jandidier
talked about life insurance policies at the Café Ture. That was the key
to the whole matter. Jandidier was insured for 200,000 francs, and the
companies, in France, never pay in case of suicide; do you understand?"


Thanks to M. Gustave Schmidt, who will marry Mile. Thérèse Jandidier
next month, the Maison Jandidier did not fail.

Tarot and his wife, on being restored to liberty, were set up in
business by the same M. Gustave, and no longer go junketing on Mondays.

But what has become of M. Jandidier? A thousand francs reward for news
of him!



She may be young or old, dazzlingly pretty or frightfully ugly; in this
case looks make no difference, she is ever and always the same. If there
is much that is evil in her composition there is quite as much that is
good. She is a woman although--or because--she is a cantinière. This
much is certain--she loves the soldier, and is ever ready to do him a

It is unnecessary to describe the cantinière in her glory; that is
to say, at the head of her regiment on review days, arrayed in fall
uniform, her glazed cap perched jauntily over one ear and her little
cask on her back. Every one knows her traditional jacket, coquettish
short skirt, trousers with scarlet stripes, and her fantastic boots.

It is certainly a pretty sight to see her when the drum beats, leading
the way, and keeping time to the step, of the soldiers.

But the drum is not always beating, fortunately! glory and noise do
not suffice to fill the stomach, so on her return to the quarters, the
cantinière lays aside her gorgeous apparel, and resumes her civilian
costume, that is, a skirt and drees, and bestows her attention upon the
thousand details connected with her establishment.

The cantine is not what the civilian generally supposes; it is at once
a restaurant, wiNe-shop, café, beer-shop, and boarding-house. It is here
that the soldier--and sometimes the officer--takes his morning dram;
the volunteer spends here a portion of the money sent him by his family;
hussars afflicted with a hearty appetite find here a cheap supplement to
the mess-room; troopers under arrest can here enjoy a demi-tasse without
leaving the quarters, and here all the non-commissioned officers take
their meals.

They pay forty-five centimes a day and furnish their bread: in exchange
for this amount, they are entitled to two meals a day, each composed
of two dishes and a dessert, besides a bowl of soup or porridge in the

The charges are not high, as you see; so cantinières do not accumulate
fortunes as rapidly as the restaurant-keepers on the boulevards.

But moderation in price does not prevent the articles from being good,
for some cantinières are veritable _cor-dons bleus_, competent to
prepare a dish originated by Dr. Véron.

In the generality of cases the cantinière is the wife of a drummer in
the infantry, of a trumpeter in the cavalry; her husband is sometimes
the fencing-master, or even a common soldier; but his position or rank
is not of the slightest importance. In the cantine, the husband is a
nonentity. His existence is scarcely recognized; and he is visible only
on great occasions, when there is a crowd, or when it is necessary to
quell disorder, which is seldom the case.

The husband of the cantinière, when his duties are over for the day,
smokes his pipe behind the door, and drinks brandy--or beer if he is a
German; almost all the cantinièrea are Alsatians. Their children are
sent to the regimental school; some become officers, the majority become
excellent trumpeters.

So the cantinière reigns supreme in her domain, which does not prevent
her from serving others. She is generally assisted by a young woman, and
by a good-natured soldier, who becomes her soldier, her right arm, in
consideration of a small salary. If any disorder arises she quells it,
putting the offender out-of-doors herself if necessary.

She does not like to give credit; but she is so kind-hearted that she
can not bear to see a man suffer, and it is impossible for her to refuse
a drop to a really thirsty soldier. Though she censures herself for her
weakness, she does not know how to resist an entreaty; but we must
admit that she is generally paid, and that she does not lose much by her

And what woman would not do the same? How could any one refuse to comply
with a request of this kind:

"My good Madame Bajot,--I have been in the lock-. up for four days.
I have not a penny nor even a morsel of tobacco to put in my pipe.
I entreat you to send me six sous' worth of tobacco--and a quart of
brandy--for I am very thirsty--through my comrade, and in a little
bottle on account of the corporal. By so doing you will save my life,
and I will settle your bill next pay-day. Let the tobacco be very dry
and of the best quality.

"Be assured of my eternal gratitude,


"Of the 1st Division, 3d Squadron."

The excellent woman shudders on contemplating the prisoner's privations,
and sends him the tobacco and brandy.

Moreover, if a trooper be sick or wounded, though not sufficiently to
be sent to the hospital, she nurses him, dresses his wound, and prepares
the _tisane_, for which she will never accept any pay.

If the cantinière is ugly, no one thinks of criticising her.

It is her right, and no one even perceives it; but if she is pretty, it
is a very different matter. She makes havoc in the regiment, and all the
young conscripts are speedily subjugated by her conquering charms.

It is an old trooper's axiom, that the goodness of the wine is in an
inverse ratio to the beauty of the cantinière.

She has a little wagon drawn by one or two horses. It is in this
equipage that she follows the troops, and appears upon the parade
ground, where she dispenses tobacco and liquors to the officers and men
in the intervals of rest during the drill.

During a campaign she devotes herself to her regiment. More than once in
the thickest of the fight she has been seen going from rank to rank
to carry a drop to the soldiers, and braving the canister and grape in
order to give a little water to the wounded. She keeps no accounts at
such times; she does not sell, she gives.

Several cantinières have been decorated, and the exploits of one of
their number have been related throughout Europe. They have formed
the plot of a drama which delineates all the characteristics of "the
soldier's mother," under the title of "The Vivandière of the Grand


As a general thing, it is upon the cheeks of his brother soldiers that
he serves his apprenticeship--a severe apprenticeship for the cheeks!
Heaven preserve you from ever falling into his clutches and testing
his dexterity. In former years, before entering the service, he was a
carpenter, a mechanic, or a stone-cutter;--his good conduct elevated him
to the important position of barber, and since that time he has plied in
turn the scissors and razor with more zeal than discretion.

This office of barber is one of the most popular in the regiment; and
the person who holds it is not a little proud of the honor. First of
all, he has a right to exact a small monthly payment from each soldier;
he also enjoys perfect freedom after ten o'clock; in short, he is
excused from all drudgery, and most of the exercises. And yet his
position is no sinecure.

The barber is responsible for the heads of the entire company. If the
beards are too long, or the hair transgresses the limits prescribed by
ordinance, he is the one upon whom the blame will fall. The
regulation is there; he must follow it to the letter, and shave his
companions-in-arms as closely as possible, and not unfrequently against
their will; for there are troopers who cling to their hair--

the natural ornament of man. The military gallant Would love to wear
long hair, probably so a loving hand could caress his curls; but the
regulations are pitiless.

"As soon as the hair can be seized with the hand, it must positively be
cut," says the corporal.

All sorts of means are vainly employed by the foppish trooper to
preserve his hair. He wets it every day, or pastes it down with the aid
of _cosmetique_, then hides it carefully under his cap.

'Wasted efforts! the officers are acquainted with all these tricks; they
pull off the caps, rumple up the hair, and then the delinquent and the
barber, who is held responsible, are almost sure of two, or even four
days in the guard house.

Those sly foxes--the old troopers--do not resort to such hackneyed
expedients; they feign some affection of the eyes or ears, and thus
obtain from the sergeant-major permission to wear their hair long.

The days of grand reviews are trying ordeals for the barber. In less
than two hours he must shave one hundred and fifty or two hundred
beards, to say nothing of the hair-cutting.

You should see him then, his sleeves rolled up to the elbow, and
armed with a terrible razor which he has not even time to sharpen. The
soldiers--I should say, the patients--perhaps martyrs would be still
better--lather themselves in advance, and come one after another to
take their place in the seat of torture. The work is accomplished in the
twinkling of an eye; the most obstinate beards do not resist; hairs that
refuse to be cut are torn out; the cheek bleeds a little, but that is
nothing. What is a scratch to a French soldier? Moreover, the barber is
a conscientious man, and if he occasionally happens to slice off an
ear, he always takes the greatest possible pains to restore it to its
rightful owner.

The troopers dread the razor, but they jeer at the barber; they call him
the butcher, in whispers be it understood--for if he overhears them, it
is in his power to avenge himself summarily.

Barbers are the heroes of a host of army legends; there is, first, the
story of Barber Plumepate, who belonged to a cavalry regiment.

This barber, who was very skillful in his profession, had an exceedingly
vindictive disposition. Very severely punished one day by his captain,
he swore vengeance, and openly declared he would kill the man who had so
wronged him.

The barber's threats coming to the ears of the captain, he immediately
summoned Plumepate.

"You have sworn that you would kill me," he said to him; "that is mere
boasting on your part; you would never dare to do it. Wait a moment; I
will try you. Prepare your implements and shave me."

The terrible Plumepate was completely disconcerted. He set to work, but
he dared not carry out his threats. Never, on the contrary, did he do a
neater job.

On another occasion, during a campaign, a barber in one of the regiments
of the line was summoned to shave the commander-in-chief. He was badly
frightened, and he could but think of the possible consequences should
his hand tremble. It did tremble so much that the general's face was
covered with blood when the operation was concluded. The unfortunate
barber, terrified by what he had done, shook in every limb, and
stammered a thousand excuses.

"Hold," said the general; "here is a louis! If your hand had not trembled
in shaving your general, you would not be a true trooper."

During a campaign, a barber becomes a soldier like the others, for then
both hair and beard are neglected.

"When one finds water in Africa one drinks it; one does not amuse one's
self in making soap-suds."

It sometimes happens that the barber of a regiment is a genuine barber,
who knows his trade, and who practiced it with honor before he became a
soldier. Then there is joy in the squadron; and the troopers flock to
be shaved by this artist, who does not mutilate them, and whose
well-sharpened razor is scarcely felt. The more foppish, in
consideration of a small fee, have their hair dressed and oiled.

The lower officers, not only of the squadron, but of the entire
regiment, give him their patronage; he becomes their favorite, their
factotum, they treat him affably, almost courteously, and even permit a
certain degree of familiarity.

Louis XI. made a prime minister of his barber.


He is always busy, very busy, exceedingly busy; that is his specialty.
Do not attempt to speak to him, he can not answer you; do not try to
stop him, he will march you straight to the guard-house. He does not
walk, he runs; he has not an hour to spare, not a moment, not a second.

This morning before the odious reveille had driven the soldiers from
their narrow couches he was up and dressed, ready to start.

Should you succeed in questioning him, this will be his response:

"What a life! what a profession! Look, sir, it is not yet nine o'clock,
and I have already made thirty trips. I had scarcely time to take my
dram this morning, and in my haste I almost choked myself. How do I know
I shall have time to swallow my absinthe? Shall I even get my breakfast?
That is doubtful. As you see, I invariably reach the cantine an hour
after the others. Everything is eaten, there is nothing left, or
if there is, it is something no one would eat, and consequently
intolerable. Then they bring me an egg. An egg!" (with a bitter laugh),
"an egg! for a man who has been running about all the morning. Never
adopt my profession, sir; my existence is insupportable--a dog's life!
To-morrow, you may rest assured, I shall tender my resignation and take
my place in the ranks, like the others. But what am I doing? Here I have
lost ten minutes in talking; clear oat, d--n you! I should have had time
to drink my absinthe."

It must be admitted that the life of the vaguemestre is not a path of

He is the Mercury of that company of deities known as the staff of a
regiment, and like that mythological courier, he must have wings on his
feet. He is also the superintendent of the regimental post-office; all
letters that come and go pass through his hands; he must know the hours
for the arrival and departure of the mails, carry the letters, and go
after them. If soldiers receive money through the post, they can not
draw it themselves; they carry their order to him, and he draws it
and pays it over to them; so I assure you this officer's time is fully
occupied. And yet something more than agility is needed, for he must
think of everything. The slightest oversight or the least delay might
produce serious consequences, for forgetfulness and want of punctuality
are severely punished.

In the morning he hastens to the post-office, then to the colonel's
house to obtain the order of the day; then he rushes back to the
barracks in company with the messenger.

He then hastily sorts the letters, making a separate pile for each
squadron; these he gives to the sergeants, who give them to the
corporals on duty for the week, who distribute them among the soldiers.

But the hour for the report arrives; he hastens after it; then he starts
off again. The report must be submitted to the superior officers. The
lieutenant-colonel is waiting for it; the major is waiting for it,
so the vaguemestre hurries away. On returning, he must stop to see a
captain who has sent for him; besides, the colonel has intrusted him
with a letter to be delivered to a lieutenant who lives at the very end
of the town. What a nuisance! He rushes to the place, but does not find
the lieutenant The letter is important; the lieutenant must be at the
_café_--lieutenants are always at the _café_--at least, when they are
not at breakfast. The vaguemestre visits the _café_, no lieutenant; at
last, he finds him at his boarding-house and delivers the letter.

He heaves a mighty sigh of relief. Now he can breakfast; he hurries
on with all the fleetness of which his tired limbs are capable; hunger
lends him wings. He reaches the barracks. Alas! the adjutant-major
who has just left the table, stops him in the passage; he has a few
suggestions to make--adjutant-majors always have suggestions to make.

At last he breakfasts in turn; he is the last of all. But it is useless
to describe the experience of the entire day.

The vaguemestre is gifted with an extraordinary memory. Every week, when
he distributes the money received by the soldiers, he knows the exact
condition of each man's account; he must know if those who are entitled
to money are in disgrace or ill. Every week the sergeant on duty in each
squadron must furnish him with a report embodying this information; but
it would take too much time to consult these documents. He prefers to

So, Sunday morning the trumpeter sounds the vaguemestre's call, that is
to say, executes a sort of flourish that signifies:

"All who have received money-orders through the post must come and find
the vaguemestre if they desire what is due them."

This call is so well understood that the soldiers respond promptly, and
without hesitation, whereupon colloquies of this kind ensue:

The Vaguemestre. Private Demanet, you have received twelve francs.

Private Demanet. Yes, lieutenant Vaguemestre. Private Demanet, your
outfit is not yet paid for; you are credited with only eleven francs,
which is a deplorable state of things. You must devote your twelve
francs to this purpose.

Private Demaret. I entreat you, lieutenant--Vaguemestre. Well, then,
here are a hundred sous. I will keep back only seven francs. Make out a
receipt example second.

Vaguemestre. Private Oastagnol, you have received fifty francs.

Private Oastagnol. Yes, lieutenant Vaguemestre. Your parents seem to
have more money than they know what to do with.

Private Castagnol. Lieutenant, my family--Vaguemestre. Ah! I remember,
you are a volunteer. Very well, you may go.

Private Castagnol. But my money?

Vaguemestre. You have eight days in the guard-house to make. Next
Sunday, if you are not punished in the meantime, you shall have your

Private Oastagkol. But--

Vaguemestre. No remarks.

Private Castagnol (_turning angrily away_). I shall tell my friends to
send bank-notes next time.

The vaguemestre being usually an adjutant, the soldiers address him as


Many have talked of the zouave: few know him.

Everybody has seen him lazily squatting at the gates of the Tuileries,
like a granite sphinx on the threshold of the Assyrian palaces. He is
on guard. He performs his duty with a profoundly melancholy air, smoking
his pipe with feverish impatience, or, rather, watching with feverish
impatience all the while he is smoking his pipe, some ray of our
Parisian sunlight, which seems like moonlight when compared with that
fierce African sunshine, which pours down upon the head like molten

A scrap of green or white calico, twisted around a red fez; a blue
jacket, trimmed with red or yellow braid, and which leaves the throat
entirely bare; full scarlet trousers, cut in the Oriental fashion; white
gaiters buttoning above the ankle; this is his costume.

How can one describe the man?

Short, spare, compactly built and muscular, with broad shoulders, square
fists, closely shaven head, keen eyes, a mocking smile, and a bold and
decided bearing--such is the zouave, the best soldier in the world for
bold ventures, skirmishes with outposts, impossible ambuscades, and
rapid marches.

Accustomed to the pursuit of the Arab, his constant enemy, the zouave is
thoroughly conversant with all the stratagems of desert warfare. He has
learned to outwit his savage foes, so he will always surprise the armies
of Europe.

"The Arab is very cunning, but the zouave is more cunning still."

He knows how to conceal himself in a little clump of shrubbery, and
steal imperceptibly upon the sentinel whom he wishes to capture; he
can advance without a sound, remain motionless for hours together, hide
behind the slightest irregularity in the ground, crawl, leap, bound,
disappear in the undergrowth that surrounds him, follow a track, and
shun all the traps that are set for him.

As a sharp-shooter, he has no equal.

If a position is to be taken, he dashes forward, with head down,
overturning everything in his passage. It is no longer a man; it is a
bullet. Once started on his course, he reaches the goal or dies.

The zouave cordially detests large cities, and regards garrisons with

In garrison life, the discipline becomes too irksome; he must polish his
cartridge-box, whiten his shoulder-belt, wash his clothes, mount guard
at regular hours, appear at parade--all wearisome enough to the average
trooper, but insupportable to the zouave.

The zouave needs the freedom of camp life, the free range of an enemy's
country, a _ragoût_ improvised under a tent. It matters not if his
canteen is only three-quarters full, and if the supply of coffee is
running short, so he has but a morsel of no matter what to appease his
hunger, he sings, he is gay, he is happy, he is himself.

It is true that when he is not happy, he is equally gay, and sings even
more loudly.

The zouave owes his fondness for adventure and his almost nomadic habits
to the African war. In constantly pursuing the Arabs through deserts and
over mountains, he has formed habits of living very like those of these
wandering tribes.

Like the philosopher Bias, the zouave carries all his possessions about
with him, which proves, perhaps, that he is something of a philosopher.

But you should see a zouave's knapsack when he is starting on an
expedition. It is monstrous; one wonders if he will not sink beneath his
burden, and be compelled to cast it aside. He would rather die. Besides,
it seems to be the universal belief that he does not feel the weight of

Usually, on taking the field, the infantry lighten their load as much as
possible; the officers not only permit this, but require it.

It is not so with the zouave. This seems to be the very time that his
burden must be heaviest He reduces his effects to the smallest possible
compass, rolls them, squeezes them, and then crowds them, and crowds
them, until the straps become too short and the distended knapsack
threatens to burst.

There is a little of everything in the zouave's load. An enumeration
of its contents would sound like the inventory of three distinct
establishments;--a drug, a haberdashery, and a grocery store.

He has thread, needles, buttons, soap, wax, tallow, a thimble, a fork,
one or two spoons, and several knives, to say nothing of the condiments
indispensable in the concoction of a savory _ragoût_.

For the zouave is a gourmand. It is to satisfy his fastidious tastes
in this direction that, having no servant at his command, he has made
himself the best cook in Europe.

His _ragoûts_ might not make his fortune in Paris; but in Africa, in the
desert, how many generals have smacked their lips over them!

Any one can make a savory dish of stewed rabbit _with_ a rabbit; but to
make it _without_ a rabbit, that is a difficult task, quite worthy of a

His fertile imagination never shines as brilliantly as when the
larder is empty; then, he employs all his wits; he searches, he invents.
On such days, he dines admirably; but how many strange animals are made
to turn from their usual path to take the road to the saucepan.

"I do not ask my zouaves for strawberries," said Marshal, then Colonel
Canrobert, one frightfully hot day, in the middle of the desert; "but if
I really desired some, they are quite capable of discovering them in the

To-day the zouave is the most popular of all our soldiers; his _chachia_
threatens to pass down to posterity with the towering bear-skin cap worn
by the grenadiers of the First Empire.

It is to the zouave that we owe the words of the celebrated march known
as the "Casquette." This is the origin of it:

One night the French camp was surprised by Arabs. A murderous fire so
astonished our soldiers, that they almost wavered at first; but Marshal
Bugeaud rushed from his tent, and his presence inspiring our troops with
their wonted enthusiasm, the enemy was repulsed.

When the conflict was ended, the marshal noticed that every one smiled
on looking at him. He raised his hands to his head. In his haste, he had
left his tent adorned with the anything but heroic head-gear of the King
of Yvetot; in short, a night-cap.

The next day, when the trumpets gave the signal for the troops to resume
their march, the zouaves, in memory of that original coifiure, sung in
deafening chorus:

     "As-tu vu
     La casquette
     La casquette,
     As-tu vu
     La casquette,
     Du Père Bugeaud?"

Two or three days afterward, the marshal, on giving the order for
departure, said to the trumpeters: "Boys, sound _la casquette_."

So this name still clings to the order. To how many victories it has
led, and will lead the zouaves!

Father Bugeaud's _casquette_, by insuring the success of "Duc Job,"
yielded eighty thousand francs to the Théâtre Français, and sixty
thousand francs to M. Léon Laya.

It is a night-cap well worth the having.


The fantassin, _par excellence_, is a soldier of the regular infantry.
The cavalry pretend that the foot-soldier wears spurs on his elbows,
but this is only a stale joke perpetrated before the bayonet came into
general use.

The regular infantry is really the French army. It has shed its blood
upon every battle-field, and has come off victorious again and again.
It is the infantry that has carried the standards of France through
conquered Europe. It is the regular infantry which, without shoes,
provisions, or artillery, swept down from the Alps upon Italy. It is
the infantry that fought at the Pyramids, at Eylau and at Moscow. The
infantry is the queen of battles; with her one can go in any direction
and always maintain one's position.

There is nothing brilliant about the infantry uniform, and yet when
seen in masses it produces an excellent effect. It is also the most
comfortable and the best adapted to all the needs of a soldier in the

At reviews, upon the parade ground, and on the boulevards there are,
perhaps, regiments that attract more attention; but such is not the case
if it is seen in line of battle. One should see it maneuvering under
fire with the same precision as on the Champs de Mars. Each regiment has
become a corps, with its officers at its head. A cannon-ball cuts down
an entire file. "Close up the ranks!" The ranks are closed; the void is
filled without haste, disorder, or confusion.

Nothing could be more beautiful, nothing could be more magnificent than
a regiment of the line advancing for a bayonet charge upon the enemy.
Search the ranks; examine one by one these soldiers blackened with
powder, try to find the foot-soldier you have seen lounging about the
shop windows in large cities, with his shako on the back of his head.
The lounger of yesterday is the hero of to-day. Now, danger illumines
every face; courage, like an aureole, shines resplendent on every brow.
All honor to the regulars! upon their banners is written our glorious

The foot-soldier in garrison bears no resemblance whatever to the
hero of the battle-field. He does not even remember his exploits of
yesterday; he little suspects the great deeds he will perform to-morrow
should France have need of his devotion and courage.

The foot-soldier in garrison is the best and most inoffensive of men,
always trying to make himself useful, ever ready to do a favor. His
tastes are simple, and his desires modest; boisterous amusements have no
attractions for him, and he rarely indulges in the bottle.

The foot-soldier, like all the members of his profession, is generally
in straitened circumstances.

     "For in France as in Austria
     The soldier is not rich,
     Every one knows that."

It is true that one can not indulge in much extravagance on five
centimes a day. Fortunately there are ways to increase this meager
income. In many regiments, the soldiers are allowed to find occupation
in the city, provided, of course, that discipline does not suffer
thereby. Those who have a trade devote all their leisure time to it;
those who have only their two hands and their good-will--and they are
by far the largest number--nevertheless find a way to make themselves
useful. In some _bourgeoisie_ households they hire a soldier to take
care of the garden and scrub the floors.

There is also another source of revenue which, though not the most
honorable, is certainly the most in vogue; this is playing a trick on
one's family.

The fraud is generally suggested by some old grumbler who is an adept in
the art of deception. A mischievously inclined volunteer, who is a good
penman, generally writes the letter. Illness is the usual pretext. It is
the simplest of all, and seldom fails to produce the desired effect.
How can you suppose that parents will refuse to forward a few francs on
receiving from their child a letter beginning thus:

"Dear Mother,--The object of this letter is to inform you that I am in
the hospital."

The family send money. A letter arrives, inclosing a post-office order.
The vaguemestre quickly changes it into shining coin. But alas! this
money vanishes like a dream. And how could it be otherwise? So many
friends must have a share of this windfall. First, there is the
bedfellow, then the inventor of the trick, then the writer, then two
or three comrades, fellow-countrymen--then a corporal who has been
obliging, and many others. Besides, it is not considered seemly for a
trooper to spend his money alone.

A soldier who goes out alone, and who drinks alone, is disgraced in the
eyes of his comrades.

When he has finished his daily task at the barracks, polished his
weapons, and answered to his name at roll-call, the foot-soldier is at
liberty, provided he is not on duty, or on guard, or on the _corveê_,
or undergoing punishment, and he can leave the barracks if he
chooses. Generally he is eager to improve the opportunity. There must be
something of importance to detain him if he does not go out; a letter to
write, some little job to do, a pipe of unusual length to color for
an officer who is making a collection. But such instances are rare. He
loves long walks. If he is stationed in a small town, you can always
meet him in the shady paths in the suburbs. He is generally cutting
little switches to beat his clothing.

If he is in a large city, he has a variety of amusements. He delights
in gazing into the shop-windows; he haunts the promenades and the public
gardens; mountebanks always find in him a patient and appreciative
patron, ever ready to laugh at their stale jokes. The mountebank and
the fantassin have had a mutual understanding for a long time. "Walk in.
Walk in, gentlemen and ladies. Admission is ten centimes; two sous. The
military only half-price."

But there is no place like Paris for the soldier. Wine is a trifle dear;
but how many diversions there are. This is a city! one can stroll about
five hours without danger of seeing the same objects. Moreover, Paris
contains the Jardin des Plantes, and the Jardin des Plantes is, as every
one knows, the soldier's earthly Paradise.

There, he can spend his hours of liberty most delightfully. He visits,
in succession, all the cabinets of natural history. He almost splits
his sides laughing as he stands before the monkey's palace, watching the
pranks of its occupants; he goes into ecstasies over the wild animals,
and shudders while contemplating the reptiles. But his favorites are the
bear and the elephant. He never leaves the Jardin des Plantes until he
has seen Martin climb the tree, and given the elephant a crust of bread,
held in reserve in his cap--for want of pantaloon pockets.

But the foot-soldier would be a body without a soul, if he had no
countrywoman. The payse, as he styles her, has been created for the
fantassin, as the fantassin has been created for the payse. They love
and understand each other. He accompanies the payse, who is usually a
child's nurse, in her walks; he assists her in watching the children,
when he does not prevent her from watching them; on the promenade, the
fantassin seats himself near the payse and pours sweet nothings into her
ears, while the children play on the gravel-walk. "Honi soit qui mal y

In spite of the fatigue that results from it, the foot-soldier loves
a change of garrison. He goes cheerfully from one end of France to the
other, singing as he plods along. Every day, before two o'clock, his
legs fail him, which does not prevent him from strolling around to see
the curiosities of the neighborhood as soon as he reaches the town where
he is to spend the night.

The _billet_ troubles the soldier a little. It is like a ticket in
a lottery. Some are very good, some are bad. As a general thing, the
soldier is cordially received; though the contrary happens sometimes. So
far as the fantassin is concerned, he hardly ever abuses the hospitality
accorded him. The _billet_ is considered very good when the people of
the house invite the soldier to share their dinner. It is a saving of
time and of money for him. The fantassin is overjoyed, and to repay his
entertainers, he tells them his history.

When his term of service expires and he returns to his fireside, the
soldier does not presume upon his superiority. He talks freely but
not boastingly of his travels and campaigns. He always finds attentive
auditors, for we all love and respect the old defenders of France.

Some accuse the fantassin of being too unsophisticated; there are
occasions when simplicity of speech is the height of eloquence.

"What were you doing at Solferino?" some one once asked a soldier.

"I?--I was doing like the rest--killing and being killed," he replied

Sublimely artless speech in which is summed up all the philosophy of



He does not walk; he runs; he is truly the soldier of his age--an age of
steam. He comes from Vincennes to Paris in thirty-five minutes; it takes
a first class _fiacre_ just twice as long.

The light infantry has given abundant proofs of courage. It was in
Africa, in 1842, that it received the baptism of fire, a glorious

From the very first the chasseurs inspired the Arabs with unconquerable
terror. It is true that everything combines to give them a frightful
appearance in battle; their somber costume, their strange evolutions,
the shrill sound of their trumpets, make them resemble, seen in the
midst of the smoke, a legion of unchained devils.

When the Arabs saw them advancing on the run they took flight.

The chasseurs have a terrible weapon. Their rifles, which are loaded
with oblong balls, pierce a board fifty millimeters in thickness at a
distance of more than a quarter of a mile; and as all the chasseurs are
excellent marksmen, they make frightful havoc in the enemy's ranks.

It is amusing to see the profound astonishment of the Arabs wounded at
such a distance. They believe there is some witchcraft about it.

At Sebastopol, the corps of volunteer sharp-shooters was recruited from
the ranks of the chasseurs. Creeping along, hiding in the slightest
furrow of ground, they generally succeed in approaching within range
of the battery, and then woe to its defenders! The cannons were soon
reduced to silence.

It is impossible for any one who has not witnessed the maneuvers of
the light infantry to have any conception of the marvels resulting from
discipline and daily practice.

Their ordinary gait is a rapid walk, their accelerated pace is the speed
of a race-horse. At a blast from the trumpet they disperse in every
direction, disappearing, kneeling, lying flat on their bellies or
on their backs, loading their rifles, aiming and firing in every
conceivable posture. Another signal is heard; instantly they are in the
ranks, crowded close together, bayonets glittering, ready to charge.

And an impetuous charge by the chasseurs of Vincennes is irresistible.
Dense as the mass may be upon which they precipitate themselves, they
cut their way through it with their broad saber-bayonets, leaving a
bloody trail behind them.

"They are demons!" Prince Mentchikoff exclaimed at Sebastopol.

The chasseurs are very proud of their reputation for swiftness. Once
when an order of the day was read to them beginning thus:

"Soldiers: we are about to march upon the enemy."--they cried: "Oh, no,
that does not suit us, we wish to run."

When off duty the chasseur preserves his rapid pace, and his ferocious,
almost tigerish manner. His hat is always cocked defiantly on one side
of his head, and his belt is always inordinately tight.

Quick and supple in every movement, he adores dancing. It is his
_forte_, and in it he wins a success that the Parisian fireman alone can
dispute with him. Naturally, the belles adore this perfect dancer; but
they should not trust him--the chasseur is even more inconstant than
that heartless butterfly, the voltigeur.

In Paris he haunts the shades of Vincennes and Saint Maudé. Monday,
Thursday, and Sunday he can always be found at the public balls, near
the Barrière du Trône, happy if permission to be absent until midnight
enables him to remain until the close of the festivities. He invariably
finds a brother chasseur who is also absent on leave, and who shares
several bottles of sour wine with him.


But it would be unjust not to say a word concerning the trumpeter of the

How the chasseur, laden with his knapsack, rations, weapons, ammunition,
and accouterments can run without losing his breath completely, it is
difficult to comprehend.

But how does the trumpeter, as he runs with the others, find breath to
blow his trumpet?

That is something one can not comprehend.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Thousand Francs Reward - and, Military Sketches" ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.