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Title: Maurice Tiernay, Soldier of Fortune
Author: Lever, Charles James
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.

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MAURICE TIERNAY SOLDIER OF FORTUNE

By Charles James Lever


The Novels Of Charles Lever

Edited By His Daughter

Illustrations by A. D. M’Cormick

London

Downey And Co., Limited

12 York St. Covent Garden

1898



BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

‘Maurice Tiernay was first published as a serial in ‘The Dublin
University Magazine,’ commencing in the issue for April 1850, and ending
in the issue for December 1851. It was first published in book form
(as a volume of The Parlour Library) with the following title-page
(undated):

Maurice Tiernay | The | Soldier of Fortune | By the Author of | ‘Sir
Jasper Carew’ | etc. etc. I London, | Thomas Hodgson, | 13 Paternoster
Bow.

The earliest edition which has Lever’s name on the title-page is one
published in Leipzig in 1861. This edition has the following title-page:

Maurice Tiernay | the | Soldier of Fortune, | by | Charles Lever, I
Author of ‘Charles O’Malley,’ etc. I Copyright Edition. | In two VOLUMES
| VOL. I. | LEIPZIG | BERNHARD TAUCH-NITZ I 1861.



NOTICE

The strangeness of some of the incidents, and the rapidity with which
events so remarkable succeeded each other, almost deterred the writer
from ever committing them to the press; nor was it till after much
consultation, and some persuasive influence on the part of friends,
that he at length yielded and decided upon so doing. Whether in that
determination his choice was a wise one, must be left to the judgment of
the reader; for himself, he has but to say that to ponder over some
of these early scenes, and turn over, in thought, some of his youthful
passages, has solaced many a weary hour of an age when men make few new
friendships, and have almost as few opportunities to cultivate old ones.

That the chief events related in these pages--such, for instance, as
every detail of the French invasion, the capture of Wolfe Tone, and
the attack on Monte di Faccio--are described with rigid exactness, the
writer is most sincere in the expression of his conviction. For the
truth of incident purely personal, it is needless to press any claim,
seeing that the hero owns no higher name than that of--A Soldier of
Fortune.



MAURICE TIERNAY

THE SOLDIER OF FORTUNE



CHAPTER I. ‘THE DAYS OF THE GUILLOTINE’

Neither the tastes nor the temper of the age we live in are such as
to induce any man to boast of his family nobility. We see too many
preparations around us for laying down new foundations, to think it
a suitable occasion for alluding to the ancient edifice. I will,
therefore, confine myself to saying, that I am not to be regarded as a
mere pretender because my name is not chronicled by Burke or Debrett. My
great-grandfather, after whom I am called, served on the personal staff
of King James at the Battle of the Boyne, and was one of the few who
accompanied the monarch on his flight from the field, for which act of
devotion he was created a peer of Ireland, by the style and title of
Timmahoo--Lord Tiernay, of Timmahoo the family called it--and a very
rich-sounding and pleasant designation has it always seemed to me.

The events of the time, the scanty intervals of leisure enjoyed by
the king, and other matters, prevented a due registry of my ancestors’
claims; and, in fact, when more peaceable days succeeded, it was
judged prudent to say nothing about a matter which might revive unhappy
recollections, and open old scores, seeing that there was now another
king on the throne ‘who knew not Joseph’; and so, for this reason and
many others, my greatgrandfather went back to his old appellation of
Maurice Tiernay, and was only a lord among his intimate friends and
cronies of the neighbourhood.

That I am simply recording a matter of fact, the patent of my ancestors’
nobility, now in my possession, will sufficiently attest: nor is its
existence the less conclusive, that it is inscribed on the back of his
commission as a captain in the Shanabogue Fencibles--the well-known
‘Clear-the-way-boy s’--a proud title, it is said, to which they imparted
a new reading at the memorable battle aforementioned.

The document bears the address of a small public-house called the
‘Nest,’ on the Kells road, and contains in one corner a somewhat lengthy
score for potables, suggesting the notion that his Majesty sympathised
with vulgar infirmities, and found, as the old song says, ‘that grief
and sorrow are dry.’

The prudence which for some years sealed my greatgrandfather’s lips,
lapsed, after a time, into a careless and even boastful spirit, in which
he would allude to his rank in the peerage, the place he ought to
be holding, and so on: till at last, some of the Government people,
doubtless taking a liking to the snug house and demesne of Timmahoo,
denounced him as a rebel, on which he was arrested and thrown into gaol,
where he lingered for many years, and only came out at last to find his
estate confiscated, and himself a beggar.

There was a small gathering of Jacobites in one of the towns of
Flanders, and thither he repaired; but how he lived, or how he died,
I never learned. I only know that his son wandered away to the east of
Europe, and took service in what was called Trenck’s Pandours--as jolly
a set of robbers as ever stalked the map of Europe, from one side to
the other. This was my grandfather, whose name is mentioned in various
chronicles of that estimable corps, and who was hanged at Prague
afterwards, for an attempt to carry off an archduchess of the empire,
to whom, by the way, there is good reason to believe he was privately
married. This suspicion was strengthened by the fact that his infant
child, Joseph, was at once adopted by the imperial family, and placed as
a pupil in the great military school of Vienna. From thence he obtained
a commission in the Maria Theresa Hussars, and subsequently, being sent
on a private mission to France, entered the service of Louis xvi.,
where he married a lady of the Queen’s household--a Mademoiselle de la
Lasterie--of high rank and some fortune; and with whom he lived happily
till the dreadful events of 17--, when she lost her life, beside
my father, then fighting as a Garde du Corps, on the staircase at
Versailles. How he himself escaped on that day, and what were the next
features in his history, I never knew; but when again we heard of him,
he was married to the widow of a celebrated orator of the Mountain, and
he himself an intimate friend of St. Just and Marat, and all the most
violent of the Republicans.

My father’s history about this period is involved in such obscurity, and
his second marriage followed so rapidly on the death of his first wife,
that, strange as it may seem, I never knew which of the two was my
mother--the lineal descendant of a house, noble before the Crusades,
or--the humble _bourgeoise_ of the Quartier St. Denis. What peculiar
line of political action my father followed I am unable to say, nor
whether he was suspected with or without due cause; but suspected he
certainly was, and at a time when suspicion was all-sufficient for
conviction. He was arrested, and thrown into the Temple, where I
remember I used to visit him every week; and whence I accompanied him
one morning, as he was led forth with a string of others to the Place
de Grève, to be guillotined. I believe he was accused of royalism; and
I know that a white cockade was found among his effects, and in mockery
was fastened on his shoulder on the day of his execution. This emblem,
deep dyed with blood, and still dripping, was taken up by a bystander,
and pinned on my cap, with the savage observation, ‘Voilà, it is the
proper colour; see that you profit by the way it became so.’ As, with
a bursting heart, and a head wild with terror, I turned to find my way
homeward, I felt my hand grasped by another--I looked up, and saw an old
man, whose threadbare black clothes and emaciated appearance bespoke the
priest in the times of the Convention.

‘You have no home now, my poor boy,’ said he to me; ‘come and share
mine.’

I did not ask him why. I seemed to have suddenly become reckless as to
everything present or future. The terrible scene I had witnessed had
dried up all the springs of my youthful heart; and, infant as I was, I
was already a sceptic as to everything good or generous in human nature.
I followed him, therefore, without a word, and we walked on, leaving the
thoroughfares and seeking the less frequented streets, till we arrived
in what seemed a suburban part of Paris--at least the houses were
surrounded with trees and shrubs; and at a distance I could see the
hill of Montmartre and its windmills--objects well known to me by many a
Sunday visit.

Even after my own home, the poverty of the Père Michel’s household
was most remarkable: he had but one small room, of which a miserable
settle-bed, two chairs, and a table constituted all the furniture; there
was no fireplace, a little pan for charcoal supplying the only means
for warmth or cookery; a crucifix and a few coloured prints of saints
decorated the whitewashed walls; and, with a string of wooden beads,
a cloth skull-cap, and a bracket with two or three books, made up the
whole inventory of his possessions; and yet, as he closed the door
behind him, and drew me towards him to kiss my cheek, the tears
glistened in his eyes with gratitude as he said--

‘Now, my dear Maurice, you are at home.’

‘How do you know that I am called Maurice?’ said I, in astonishment.

‘Because I was an old friend of your poor father, my child; we came from
the same country--we held the same faith, had the same hopes, and may
one day yet, perhaps, have the same fate.’

He told me that the closest friendship had bound them together for years
past, and in proof of it showed me a variety of papers which my father
had intrusted to his keeping, well aware, as it would seem, of the
insecurity of his own life.

‘He charged me to take you home with me, Maurice, should the day come
when this might come to pass. You will now live with me, and I will be
your father, so far, at least, as humble means will suffer me.’

I was too young to know how deep my debt of gratitude ought to be. I had
not tasted the sorrows of utter desertion; nor did I know from what a
hurricane of blood and anarchy Fortune had rescued me; still I accepted
the père’s benevolent offer with a thankful heart, and turned to him at
once as to all that was left to me in the world.

All this time, it may be wondered how I neither spoke nor thought of
my mother, if she were indeed such; but for several weeks before my
father’s death I had never seen her, nor did he ever once allude to her.
The reserve thus imposed upon me remained still, and I felt as though
it would have been like a treachery to his memory were I now to speak of
her whom, in his lifetime, I had not dared to mention.

The père lost no time in diverting my mind from the dreadful events I
had so lately witnessed. The next morning, soon after daybreak, I was
summoned to attend him to the little church of St. Blois, where he
said mass. It was a very humble little edifice, which once had been
the private chapel of a château, and stood in a weed-grown, neglected
garden, where broken statues and smashed fountains bore evidence of
the visits of the destroyer. A rude effigy of St. Blois, upon whom some
profane hand had stuck a Phrygian cap of liberty, and which none were
bold enough to displace, stood over the doorway; except this, not a
vestige of ornament or decoration existed. The altar, covered with
a white cloth, displayed none of the accustomed emblems; and a rude
crucifix of oak was the only symbol of the faith remaining. Small as was
the building, it was even too spacious for the few who came to worship.
The terror which prevailed on every side--the dread that devotion to
religion should be construed into an adherence to the monarchy, that
submission to God should be interpreted as an act of rebellion against
the sovereignty of human will--had gradually thinned the numbers, till
at last the few who came were only those whose afflictions had steeled
them against any reverses, and who were ready martyrs to whatever might
betide them. These were almost exclusively women--the mothers and wives
of those who had sealed their faith with their blood in the terrible
Place de Grève. Among them was one whose dress and appearance, although
not different from the rest, always created a movement of respect as she
passed in or out of the chapel. She was a very old lady, with hair white
as snow, and who led by the hand a little girl of about my own age; her
large dark eyes and brilliant complexion giving her a look of unearthly
beauty in that assemblage of furrowed cheeks, and eyes long dimmed by
weeping. It was not alone that her features were beautifully regular, or
that their lines were fashioned in the very perfection of symmetry, but
there was a certain character in the expression of the face so different
from all around it, as to be almost electrical in effect. Untouched by
the terrible calamities that weighed on every heart, she seemed, in
the glad buoyancy of her youth, to be at once above the very reach of
sorrow, like one who bore a charmed fate, and whom Fortune had exempted
from all the trials of this life. So at least did I read those features,
as they beamed upon me in such a contrast to the almost stern character
of the sad and sorrow-struck faces of the rest.

It was a part of my duty to place a footstool each morning for the
‘Marquise,’ as she was distinctively called, and on these occasions
it was that I used to gaze upon that little girl’s face with a kind of
admiring wonder that lingered in my heart for hours after. The bold
look with which she met mine, if it at first half abashed, at length
encouraged me; and as I stole noiselessly away, I used to feel as though
I carried with me some portion of that high hope which bounded within
her own heart. Strange magnetism! it seemed as though her spirit
whispered to me not to be downhearted or depressed--that the sorrows of
life came and went as shadows pass over the earth--that the season
of mourning was fast passing, and that for us the world would wear a
brighter and more glorious aspect.

Such were the thoughts her dark eyes revealed to me, and such the hopes
I caught up from her proud features.

It is easy to colour a life of monotony; any hue may soon tinge the
outer surface, and thus mine speedily assumed a hopeful cast; not the
less decided, that the distance was lost in vague uncertainty. The
nature of my studies--and the père kept me rigidly to the desk--offered
little to the discursiveness of fancy. The rudiments of Greek and
Latin, the lives of saints and martyrs, the litanies of the Church, the
invocations peculiar to certain holy-days, chiefly filled up my time,
when not sharing those menial offices which our poverty exacted from our
own hands.

Our life was of the very simplest; except a cup of coffee each morning
at daybreak, we took but one meal; our drink was always water. By what
means even the humble fare we enjoyed was procured I never knew, for I
never saw money in the père’s possession, nor did he ever appear to buy
anything.

For about two hours in the week I used to enjoy entire liberty, as the
père was accustomed every Saturday to visit certain persons of his flock
who were too infirm to go abroad. On these occasions he would leave me
with some thoughtful injunction about reflection or pious meditation,
perhaps suggesting, for my amusement, the life of St. Vincent de Paul,
or some other of those adventurous spirits whose missions among the
Indians are so replete with heroic struggles; but still with free
permission for me to walk out at large and enjoy myself as I liked best.
We lived so near the outer boulevard that I could already see the open
country from our windows; but fair and enticing as seemed the sunny
slopes of Montmartre--bright as glanced the young leaves of spring in
the gardens at its foot--I ever turned my steps into the crowded city,
and sought the thoroughfares where the great human tide rolled fullest.

There were certain spots which held a kind of supernatural influence
over me--one of these was the Temple, another was the Place de Grève.
The window at which my father used to sit, from which, as a kind of
signal, I have so often seen his red kerchief floating, I never could
pass now, without stopping to gaze at--now, thinking of him who had been
its inmate; now, wondering who might be its present occupant. It needed
not the onward current of population that each Saturday bore along, to
carry me to the Place de Grève. It was the great day of the guillotine,
and as many as two hundred were often led out to execution. Although the
spectacle had now lost every charm of excitement to the population, from
its frequency, it had become a kind of necessity to their existence,
and the sight of blood alone seemed to slake that feverish thirst for
vengeance which no sufferings appeared capable of satiating. It was
rare, however, when some great and distinguished criminal did not absorb
all the interest of the scene. It was at that period when the fierce
tyrants of the Convention had turned upon each other, and sought, by
denouncing those who had been their bosom friends, to seal their new
allegiance to the people. There was something demoniacal in the
exultation with which the mob witnessed the fate of those whom, but a
few weeks back, they had acknowledged as their guides and teachers. The
uncertainty of human greatness appeared the most glorious recompense to
those whose station debarred them from all the enjoyments of power, and
they stood by the death-agonies of their former friends with a fiendish
joy that all the sufferings of their enemies had never yielded.

To me the spectacle had all the fascination that scenes of horror
exercise over the mind of youth. I knew nothing of the terrible
conflict, nothing of the fierce passions enlisted in the struggle,
nothing of the sacred names so basely polluted, nothing of that
remorseless vengeance with which the low born and degraded were still
hounded on to slaughter. It was a solemn and a fearful sight, but it
was no more; and I gazed upon every detail of the scene with an interest
that never wandered from the spot whereon it was enacted. If the
parade of soldiers, of horse, foot, and artillery, gave these scenes
a character of public justice, the horrible mobs, who chanted ribald
songs, and danced around the guillotine, suggested the notion of popular
vengeance; so that I was lost in all my attempts to reconcile the
reasons of these executions with the circumstances that accompanied
them.

Not daring to inform the Père Michel of where I had been, I could not
ask him for any explanation; and thus was I left to pick up from the
scattered phrases of the crowd what was the guilt alleged against the
criminals. In many cases the simple word ‘Chouan,’ of which I knew not
the import, was all I heard; in others, jeering allusions to former rank
and station would be uttered; while against some the taunt would imply
that they had shed tears over others who fell as enemies of the people,
and that such sympathy was a costly pleasure to be paid for but with a
life’s-blood. Such entire possession of me had these awful sights taken,
that I lived in a continual dream of them. The sound of every cart-wheel
recalled the dull rumble of the hurdle--every distant sound seemed like
the far-off hum of the coming multitude--every sudden noise suggested
the clanking drop of the guillotine! My sleep had no other images, and
I wandered about my little round of duties pondering over this terrible
theme.

Had I been less occupied with my own thoughts, I must have seen that
the Père Michel was suffering under some great calamity. The poor
priest became wasted to a shadow; for entire days long he would taste
of nothing; sometimes he would be absent from early morning to late at
night, and when he did return, instead of betaking himself to rest,
he would drop down before the crucifix in an agony of prayer, and thus
spend more than half the night. Often and often have I, when feigning
sleep, followed him as he recited the litanies of the breviary, adding
my own muttered prayers to his, and beseeching for a mercy whose object
I knew not.

For some time his little chapel had been closed by the authorities; a
heavy padlock and two massive seals being placed upon the door, and a
notice, in a vulgar handwriting, appended, to the effect that it was by
the order of the Commissary of the Department. Could this be the source
of the père’s sorrow? or did not his affliction seem too great for such
a cause? were questions I asked myself again and again.

In this state were matters, when one morning--it was a Saturday--the
priest enjoined me to spend the day in prayer, reciting particularly the
liturgies for the dead, and all those sacred offices for those who have
just departed this life.

‘Pray unceasingly, my dear child--pray with your whole heart, as
though it were for one you loved best in the world. I shall not return,
perhaps, till late to-night; but I will kiss you then, and to-morrow we
shall go into the woods together.’

The tears fell from his cheek to mine as he said this, and his damp hand
trembled as he pressed my fingers. My heart was full to bursting at his
emotion, and I resolved faithfully to do his bidding. To watch him as he
went, I opened the sash, and as I did so, the sound of a distant drum,
the well-known muffled roll, floated on the air, and I remembered it was
the day of the guillotine--that day in which my feverish spirit turned,
as it were in relief, to the reality of blood. Remote as was the part
of the city we lived in, I could still mark the hastening steps of the
foot-passengers, as they listened to the far-off summons, and see the
tide was setting towards the fatal Place de Grève. It was a lowering,
heavy morning, overcast with clouds, and on its loaded atmosphere sounds
moved slowly and indistinctly; yet I could trace through all the din
of the great city, the incessant roll of the drums, and the loud shouts
that burst forth, from time to time, from some great multitude.

Forgetting everything save my intense passion for scenes of terror, I
hastened down the stairs into the street, and at the top of my speed
hurried to the place of execution. As I went along, the crowded streets
and thronged avenues told of some event of more than common interest;
and in the words which fell from those around me, I could trace
that some deep Royalist plot had just been discovered, and that the
conspirators would all on that day be executed. Whether it was that the
frequent sight of blood was beginning to pall upon the popular appetite,
or that these wholesale massacres interested less than the sight of
individual suffering, I know not; but certainly there was less of
exultation, less of triumphant scorn in the tone of the speakers. They
talked of the coming event as of a common occurrence, which, from mere
repetition, was gradually losing interest.

‘I thought we had done with these Chouans,’ said a man in a blouse, with
a paper cap on his head. ‘_Pardie!_ they must have been more numerous
than we ever suspected.’

‘That they were, citizen,’ said a haggard-looking fellow, whose features
showed the signs of recent strife; ‘they were the millions who gorged
and fed upon us for centuries--who sipped the red grape of Bordeaux,
while you and I drank the water of the Seine.’

‘Well, their time is come now,’ cried a third.

‘And when will ours come?’ asked a fresh-looking, dark-eyed girl, whose
dress bespoke her trade as a flower-girl, ‘or do you call this our time,
my masters, when Paris has no more pleasant sight than blood, nor any
music save the “Ça ira” that drowns the cries of the guillotine? Is this
our time, when we have lost those who gave us bread, and got in their
place only those who would feed us with carnage?’

‘Down with her! down with the Chouane! _à bas la Royaliste!_’ cried the
pale-faced fellow; and he struck the girl with his fist upon her face,
and left it covered with blood.

‘To the Lantern with her--to the Seine!’ shouted several voices; and
now, rudely seizing her by the shoulders, the mob seemed bent upon
sudden vengeance; while the poor girl, letting fall her basket, begged
with clasped hands for mercy.

‘See here, see here, comrades,’ cried a fellow, stooping down among the
flowers, ‘she is a Royalist: here are lilies hid beneath the rest.’

What sad consequences this discovery might have led to, there is no
knowing; when, suddenly, a violent rush of the crowd turned every
thought into a different direction. It was caused by a movement of the
_Gendarmerie à cheval_, who were clearing the way for the approaching
procession. I had just time to place the poor girl’s basket in her
hands, as the onward impulse of the dense mob carried me forward. I saw
her no more. A flower--I know not how it came there--was in my
bosom, and seeing that it was a lily, I placed it within my cap for
concealment.

The hoarse clangour of the bassoons--the only instruments which played
during the march--now told that the procession was approaching; and then
I could see, above the heads of the multitude, the leopard-skin helmets
of the dragoons, who led the way. Save this I could see nothing, as
I was borne along in the vast torrent towards the place of execution.
Slowly as we moved, our progress was far more rapid than that of the
procession, which was often obliged to halt from the density of the mob
in front. We arrived, therefore, at the Place a considerable time before
it; and now I found myself beside the massive wooden railing placed to
keep off the crowd from the space around the guillotine.

It was the first time I had ever stood so close to the fatal spot, and
my eyes devoured every detail with the most searching intensity. The
colossal guillotine itself, painted red, and with its massive axe
suspended aloft--the terrible basket, half filled with sawdust,
beneath--the coarse table, on which a rude jar and a cup were
placed--and, more disgusting than all, the lounging group, who, with
their newspapers in hand, seemed from time to time to watch if the
procession were approaching. They sat beneath a misshapen statue of
wood, painted red like the guillotine. This was the goddess of Liberty.
I climbed one of the pillars of the paling, and could now see the great
cart, which, like a boat upon wheels, came slowly along, dragged by six
horses. It was crowded with people, so closely packed that they could
not move their bodies, and only waved their hands, which they did
incessantly. They seemed, too, as if they were singing; but the deep
growl of the bassoons, and the fierce howlings of the mob, drowned all
other sounds. As the cart came nearer, I could distinguish the faces,
amid which were those of age and youth, men and women, bold-visaged boys
and fair girls--some, whose air bespoke the very highest station, and
beside them, the hardy peasant, apparently more amazed than terrified
at all he saw around him. On they came, the great cart surging heavily,
like a bark in a stormy sea; and now it cleft the dense ocean that
filled the Place, and I could descry the lineaments wherein the
stiffened lines of death were already marked. Had any touch of pity
still lingered in that dense crowd, there might well have been some show
of compassion for the sad convoy, whose faces grew ghastly with terror
as they drew near the horrible engine.

Down the furrowed cheek of age the heavy tears coursed freely, and sobs
and broken prayers burst forth from hearts that until now had beat high
and proudly.

‘There is the Due d’Angeac,’ cried a fellow, pointing to a venerable
old man, who was seated at the corner of the cart with an air of calm
dignity; ‘I know him well, for I was his perruquier.’

‘His hair must be content with sawdust this morning, instead of powder,’
said another; and a rude laugh followed the ruffian jest.

‘See! mark that woman with the long dark hair--that is La Bretonville,
the actress of the St. Martin.’

‘I have often seen her represent terror far more naturally,’ cried
a fashionably dressed man, as he stared at the victim through his
opera-glass.

‘Bah!’ replied his friend, ‘she despises her audience, _voilà tout_.
Look, Henri, if that little girl beside her be not Lucille, of the
Pantheon.’

‘_Parbleu!_ so it is. Why, they’ll not leave a pirouette in the Grand
Opera. _Pauvre petite_, what had you to do with politics?’

‘Her little feet ought to have saved her head any day.’

‘See how grim that old lady beside her looks; I’d swear she is more
shocked at the company she’s thrown into than the fate that awaits her.
I never saw a glance of prouder disdain than she has just bestowed on
poor Lucille.’

‘That is the old Marquise d’Estelles, the very essence of our old
nobility. They used to talk of their _mésalliance_ with the Bourbons as
the first misfortune of their house.’ ‘_Pardi!_ they have lived to learn
deeper sorrows.’ I had by this time discovered her they were speaking
of, whom I recognised at once as the old marquise of the chapel of St.
Blois. My hands nearly gave up their grasp as I gazed on those features,
which so often I had seen fixed in prayer, and which now--a thought
paler, perhaps--wore the self-same calm expression. With what
intense agony I peered into the mass, to see if the little girl, her
granddaughter, were with her; and, oh! the deep relief I felt as I saw
nothing but strange faces on every side. It was terrible to feel, as
my eyes ranged over that vast mass, where grief, and despair, and
heart-sinking terror were depicted, that I should experience a spirit
of joy and thankfulness; and yet I did so, and with my lips I uttered my
gratitude that she was spared! But I had not time for many reflections
like this; already the terrible business of the day had begun, and the
prisoners were now descending from the cart, ranging themselves, as
their names were called, in a line below the scaffold. With a
few exceptions, they took their places in all the calm of seeming
indifference. Death had long familiarised itself to their minds in a
thousand shapes. Day by day they had seen the vacant places left
by those led out to die, and if their sorrows had not rendered them
careless of life, the world itself had grown distasteful to them. In
some cases a spirit of proud scorn was manifested to the very last; and,
strange inconsistency of human nature! the very men whose licentiousness
and frivolity first evoked the terrible storm of popular fury, were the
first to display the most chivalrous courage in the terrible face of the
guillotine. Beautiful women, too, in all the pride of their loveliness,
met the inhuman stare of that mob undismayed. Nor were these traits
without their fruits. This noble spirit--this triumphant victory of the
well born and the great--was a continual insult to the populace, who saw
themselves defrauded of half their promised vengeance, and they learned
that they might kill, but they could never humiliate them. In vain they
dipped their hands in the red life-blood, and, holding up their dripping
fingers, asked--‘How did it differ from that of the people?’ Their
hearts gave the lie to the taunt; for they witnessed instances of
heroism, from grey hairs and tender womanhood, that would have shamed
the proudest deeds of their new-born chivalry!

‘Charles Grégoire Courcelles!’ shouted out a deep voice from the
scaffold.

‘That is my name,’ said a venerable-looking old gentleman, as he arose
from his seat, adding, with a placid smile, ‘but for half a century my
friends have called me the Duc de Riancourt.’

‘We have no dukes nor marquises; we know of no titles in France,’
replied the functionary. ‘All men are equal before the law.’

‘If it were so, my friend, you and I might change places; for you were
my steward, and plundered my château.’

‘Down with the Royalist--away with the aristocrat!’ shouted a number of
voices from the crowd.

‘Be a little patient, good people,’ said the old man, as he ascended the
steps with some difficulty; ‘I was wounded in Canada, and have never yet
recovered. I shall probably be better a few minutes hence.’

There was something of half simplicity in the careless way the words
were uttered that hushed the multitude, and already some expressions
of sympathy were heard; but as quickly the ribald insults of the hired
ruffians of the Convention drowned these sounds, and ‘Down with the
Royalist’ resounded on every side, while two officials assisted him to
remove his stock and bare his throat. The commissary, advancing to the
edge of the platform, and, as it were, addressing the people, read in
a hurried, slurring kind of voice, something that purported to be the
ground of the condemnation. But of this not a word could be heard. None
cared to hear the ten-thousand-time told tale of suspected Royalism,
nor would listen to the high-sounding declamation that proclaimed the
virtuous zeal of the Government--their untiring energy--their glorious
persistence in the cause of the people. The last words were as usual
responded to with an echoing shout, and the cry of ‘_Vive la République!_
rose from the great multitude.

‘_Vive le Roi!_ cried the old man, with a voice heard high above the
clamour; but the words were scarce out when the lips that uttered them
were closed in death; so sudden was the act, that a cry burst forth from
the mob, but whether in reprobation or in ecstasy I know not.

I will not follow the sad catalogue, wherein nobles, and peasants,
priests, soldiers, actors, men of obscure fortune, and women of lofty
station, succeeded each other, occupying for a brief minute every eye,
and passing away for ever. Many ascended the platform without a word;
some waved a farewell towards a distant quarter, where they suspected a
friend to be; others spent their last moments in prayer, and died in
the very act of supplication. All bore themselves with a noble and proud
courage; and now some five or six alone remained of whose fate none
seemed to guess the issue, since they had been taken from the Temple by
some mistake, and were not included in the list of the commissary. There
they sat, at the foot of the scaffold, speechless and stupefied--they
looked as though it were matter of indifference to which side their
steps should turn--to the gaol or the guillotine. Among these was the
marquise, who alone preserved her proud self-possession, and sat in all
her accustomed dignity; while close beside her an angry controversy was
maintained as to their future destiny--the commissary firmly refusing
to receive them for execution, and the delegate of the Temple, as he was
styled, as flatly asserting that he would not reconduct them to prison.
The populace soon grew interested in the dispute, and the most violent
altercations arose among the partisans of each side of the question.

Meanwhile the commissary and his assistants prepared to depart. Already
the massive drapery of red cloth was drawn over the guillotine,
and every preparation made for withdrawing, when the mob, doubtless
dissatisfied that they should be defrauded of any portion of the
entertainment, began to climb over the wooden barricades, and, with
furious cries and shouts, threaten vengeance upon any who would screen
the enemies of the people.

The troops resisted the movement, but rather with the air of men
entreating calmness than with the spirit of soldiery. It was plain to
see on which side the true force lay.

‘If you will not do it, the people will do it for you,’ whispered the
delegate to the commissary; ‘and who is to say where they will stop when
their hands once learn the trick!’

The commissary grew lividly pale, and made no reply.

‘See there!’ rejoined the other--‘they are carrying a fellow on their
shoulders yonder--they mean him to be the executioner.’

‘But I dare not--I cannot--without my orders.’

‘Are not the people sovereign?--whose will have we sworn to obey but
theirs?’

‘My own head would be the penalty if I yielded.’

‘It will be, if you resist--even now it is too late.’

And as he spoke he sprang from the scaffold, and disappeared in the
dense crowd that already thronged the space within the rails.

By this time the populace were not only masters of the area around,
but had also gained the scaffold itself, from which many of them seemed
endeavouring to harangue the mob--others contenting themselves with
imitating the gestures of the commissary and his functionaries. It was
a scene of the wildest uproar and confusion--frantic cries and screams,
ribald songs and fiendish yellings on every side. The guillotine was
again uncovered, and the great crimson drapery, torn into fragments,
was waved about like flags, or twisted into uncouth head-dresses. The
commissary, failing in every attempt to restore order peaceably, and
either not possessing a sufficient force, or distrusting the temper of
the soldiers, descended from the scaffold, and gave the order to march.
This act of submission was hailed by the mob with the most furious yell
of triumph. Up to that very moment they had never credited the bare
possibility of a victory; and now they saw themselves suddenly masters
of the field--the troops, in all the array of horse and foot, retiring
in discomfiture. The exultation knew no bounds; and, doubtless, had
there been amongst them those with skill and daring to profit by the
enthusiasm, the torrent had rushed a longer and more terrific course
than through the blood-steeped clay of the Place de Grève.

‘Here is the man we want,’ shouted a deep voice. ‘St. Just told us
t’ other day that the occasion never failed to produce one; and see,
here is “Jean Gougon”; and though he’s but two feet high, his fingers
can reach the pin of the guillotine.’

And he held aloft on his shoulders a misshapen dwarf, who was well known
on the Pont Neuf, where he gained his living by singing infamous songs,
and performing mockeries of the service of the mass. A cheer of welcome
acknowledged this speech, to which the dwarf responded by a mock
benediction, which he bestowed with all the ceremonious observance of an
archbishop. Shouts of the wildest laughter followed this ribaldry, and
in a kind of triumph they carried him up the steps, and deposited him on
the scaffold.

Ascending one of the chairs, the little wretch proceeded to address the
mob, which he did with all the ease and composure of a practised public
speaker. Not a murmur was heard in that tumultuous assemblage, as
he, with a most admirable imitation of Hébert, then the popular idol,
assured them that France was, at that instant, the envy of surrounding
nations; and that, bating certain little weaknesses on the score of
humanity--certain traits of softness and over-mercy--her citizens
realised all that ever had been said of angels. From thence he passed
on to a mimicry of Marat, of Danton, and of Robespierre--tearing off his
cravat, baring his breast, and performing all the oft-exhibited antics
of the latter, as he vociferated, in a wild scream, the well-known
peroration of a speech he had lately made--‘If we look for a glorious
morrow of freedom, the sun of our slavery must set in blood!’

However amused by the dwarfs exhibition, a feeling of impatience began
to manifest itself among the mob, who felt that, by any longer delay,
it was possible time would be given for fresh troops to arrive, and the
glorious opportunity of popular sovereignty be lost in the very hour of
victory.

‘To work--to work, Master Gougon!’ shouted hundreds of rude voices; ‘we
cannot spend our day in listening to oratory.’

‘You forget, my dear friends,’ said he blandly, ‘that this is to me a
new walk in life. I have much to learn, ere I can acquit myself worthily
to the Republic.’

‘We have no leisure for preparatory studies, Gougon,’ cried a fellow
below the scaffold.

‘Let me, then, just begin with monsieur,’ said the dwarf, pointing to
the last speaker, and a shout of laughter closed the sentence.

A brief and angry dispute now arose as to what was to be done; and it is
more than doubtful how the debate might have ended, when Gougon, with a
readiness all his own, concluded the discussion by saying--

‘I have it, citizens, I have it! There is a lady here, who, however
respectable her family and connections, will leave few to mourn her
loss. She is, in a manner, public property, and if not born on the soil,
at least a naturalised Frenchwoman. We have done a great deal for her,
and in her name, for some time back, and I am not aware of any singular
benefit she has rendered us. With your permission, then, I ‘ll begin
with her.*

‘Name, name--name her!’ was cried by thousands.

‘_La voilà_,’ said he archly, as he pointed with his thumb to the wooden
effigy of Liberty above his head.

The absurdity of the suggestion was more than enough for its success. A
dozen hands were speedily at work, and down came the goddess of Liberty!
The other details of an execution were hurried over with all the speed
of practised address, and the figure was placed beneath the drop. Down
fell the axe, and Gougon, lifting up the wooden head, paraded it about
the scaffold, crying--

‘Behold! an enemy of France. Long live the Republic, one and
indivisible!’

Loud and wild were the shouts of laughter from this brutal mockery; and
for a time it almost seemed as if the ribaldry had turned the mob from
the sterner passions of their vengeance. This hope, if one there ever
cherished it, was short-lived, and again the cry arose for blood. It
was too plain that no momentary diversion, no passing distraction,
could withdraw them from that lust for cruelty that had now grown into a
passion.

And now a bustle and movement of those around the stairs showed that
something was in preparation; and in the next moment the old marquise
was led forward between two men.

‘Where is the order for this woman’s execution?’ asked the dwarf,
mimicking the style and air of the commissary.

‘We give it--it is from us!’ shouted the mob, with one savage roar.

Gougon removed his cap, and bowed in token of obedience.

‘Let us proceed in order, citizens,’ said he gravely; ‘I see no priest
here.’

‘Shrive her yourself, Gougon; few know the mummeries better!’ cried a
voice.

‘Is there not one here can remember a prayer, or even a verse of the
offices,’ said Gougon, with a well-affected horror in his voice.

‘Yes, yes, I do,’ cried I, my zeal overcoming all sense of the mockery
in which the words were spoken; ‘I know them all by heart, and can
repeat them from “lux beatissima” down to “hora mortis”’; and as if to
gain credence for my self-laudation, I began at once to recite, in the
sing-song tone of the seminary--

     ‘Salve, mater salvatoris,
     Fons salutis, vas honoris;
     Scala coli, porta et via,
     Salve semper, O Maria!’

It is possible I should have gone on to the very end, if the uproarious
laughter which rung around had not stopped me.

‘There’s a brave youth!’ cried Gougon, pointing towards me, with mock
admiration. ‘If it ever come to pass--as what may not in these strange
times?--that we turn to priestcraft again, thou shalt be the first
archbishop of Paris. Who taught thee that famous canticle?’

‘The Père Michel,’ replied I, in no way conscious of the ridicule
bestowed upon me; ‘the Père Michel of St. Blois.’

The old lady lifted up her head at these words, and her dark eyes rested
steadily upon me; and then, with a sign of her hand, she motioned to me
to come over to her.

‘Yes; let him come,’ said Gougon, as if answering the half-reluctant
glances of the crowd. And now I was assisted to descend, and passed
along over the heads of the people, till I was placed upon the scaffold.
Never can I forget the terror of that moment, as I stood within a few
feet of the terrible guillotine, and saw beside me the horrid basket
splashed with recent blood.

‘Look not at these things, child,’ said the old lady, as she took my
hand and drew me towards her, ‘but listen to me, and mark my words
well.’

‘I will, I will,’ cried I, as the hot tears rolled down my cheeks.

‘Tell the père--you will see him to-night--tell him that I have changed
my mind, and resolved upon another course, and that he is not to leave
Paris. Let them remain. The torrent runs too rapidly to last. This
cannot endure much longer. We shall be among the last victims. You hear
me, child?’

‘I do, I do,’ cried I, sobbing. ‘Why is not the Père Michel with you
now?’

‘Because he is suing for my pardon--asking for mercy where its very name
is a derision. Kneel down beside me, and repeat the “Angelus.”’

I took off my cap, and knelt down at her feet, reciting, in a voice
broken by emotion, the words of the prayer. She repeated each syllable
after me, in a tone full and unshaken, and then stooping, she took up
the lily which lay in my cap. She pressed it to her lips two or three
times passionately. ‘Give it to _her_; tell her I kissed it at my last
moment. Tell her----’

‘This “shrift” is beyond endurance. Away, holy father!’ cried Gougon, as
he pushed me rudely back, and seized the marquise by the wrist. A faint
cry escaped her. I heard no more; for, jostled and pushed about by the
crowd, I was driven to the very rails of the scaffold. Stepping beneath
these, I mingled with the mob beneath; and burning with eagerness to
escape a scene, to have witnessed which would almost have made my
heart break, I forced my way into the dense mass, and, by squeezing and
creeping, succeeded at last in penetrating to the verge of the Place. A
terrible shout, and a rocking motion of the mob, like the heavy surging
of the sea, told me that all was over; but I never looked back to the
fatal spot, but, having gained the open streets, ran at the top of my
speed towards home.



CHAPTER II. THE RESTAURANT ‘AU SCELERAT’

As I gained the street, at a distance from the Place, I was able to
increase my speed; and I did so with an eagerness as if the world
depended on my haste. At any other time I would have bethought me of my
disobedience to the père’s commands, and looked forward to meeting him
with shame and sorrow, but now I felt a kind of importance in the charge
intrusted to me. I regarded my mission as something superior to any
petty consideration of self, while the very proximity in which I had
stood to peril and death made me seem a hero in my own eyes.

At last I reached the street where we lived, and, almost breathless with
exertion, gained the door. What was my amazement, however, to find it
guarded by a sentry, a large, solemn-looking fellow, with a tattered
cocked-hat on his head, and a pair of worn striped trousers on his
legs, who cried out, as I appeared, ‘Halte-là!’ in a voice that at once
arrested my steps.

‘Where to, youngster?’ said he, in a somewhat melted tone, seeing the
shock his first words had caused me.

‘I am going home, sir,’ said I submissively; ‘I live at the third
storey, in the apartment of the Père Michel.’

‘The Père Michel will live there no longer, my boy; his apartment is now
in the Temple,’ said he slowly.

‘In the Temple!’ said I, whose memory at once recalled my father’s fate;
and then, unable to control my feelings, I sat down upon the steps and
burst into tears.

‘There, there, child, you must not cry thus,’ said he; ‘these are not
days when one should weep over misfortunes; they come too fast and too
thick on all of us for that. The père was your tutor, I suppose?’

I nodded.

‘And your father--where is he?’

‘Dead.’

He made a sign to imitate the guillotine, and I assented by another nod.

‘Was he a Royalist, boy?’

‘He was an officer in the Garde du Corps,’ said I proudly. The soldier
shook his head mournfully, but with what meaning I know not.

‘And your mother, boy?’

‘I do not know where she is,’ said I, again relapsing into tears at the
thought of my utter desolation. The old soldier leaned upon his musket
in profound thought, and for some time did not utter a word. At last he
said--

‘There is nothing but the Hôtel de Ville for you, my child. They say
that the Republic adopts all the orphans of France. What she does with
them I cannot tell.’

‘But I can, though,’ replied I fiercely; ‘the Noyades or the Seine are
a quick and sure provision; I saw eighty drowned one morning below the
Pont Neuf myself.’

‘That tongue of yours will bring you into trouble, youngster,’ said he
reprovingly; ‘mind that you say not such things as these.’

‘What worse fortune can betide me than to see my father die at the
guillotine, and my last, my only friend, carried away to prison?’

‘You have no care for your own neck, then?’

‘Why should I---what value has life for me?’

‘Then it will be spared to you,’ said he sententiously; ‘mark my words,
lad. You never need fear death till you begin to love life. Get up, my
poor boy; you must not be found there when the relief comes, and that
will be soon. This is all that I have,’ said he, placing three sous in
my palm, ‘which will buy a loaf; to-morrow there may be better luck in
store for you.’

I shook the rough hand he offered with cordial gratitude, and resolved
to bear myself as like a man as I could. I drew myself up, touched my
cap in soldierlike fashion, and cried out, adieu--and then, descending
into the street, hurried away to hide the tears that were almost
suffocating me.

Hour after hour I walked the streets; the mere act of motion seemed to
divert my grief, and it was only when, footsore and weary, I could march
no longer, that my sorrows came back in full force, and overwhelmed
me in their flow. It was less pride or shame than a sense of my utter
helplessness, that prevented me addressing any one of the hundreds who
passed me. I bethought me of my inability to do anything for my own
support, and it was this consciousness that served to weigh me down more
than all else; and yet I felt with what devotion I could serve him who
would but treat me with the kindness he might bestow upon his dog; I
fancied with what zeal I could descend to very slavery for one word of
affection. The streets were crowded with people; groups were gathered
here and there, either listening to some mob orator of the day, or
hearing the newspapers read aloud. I tried, by forcing my way into the
crowd, to feel myself ‘one of them,’ and to think that I had my share of
interest in what was going forward, but in vain. Of the topics
discussed I knew nothing, and of the bystanders none even noticed
me. High-swelling phrases met the ear at every moment, that sounded
strangely enough to me. They spoke of Fraternity--of that brotherhood
which linked man to man in close affection; of Equality--that made all
sharers in this world’s goods; of Liberty--that gave freedom to every
noble aspiration and generous thought; and for an instant, carried away
by the glorious illusion, I even forgot my solitary condition, and felt
proud of my heritage as a youth of France. I looked around me, however,
and what faces met my gaze! The same fearful countenances I had seen
around the scaffold--the wretches, blood-stained, and influenced
by passion--their bloated cheeks and strained eyeballs glowing with
intemperance--their oaths, their gestures--their very voices having
something terrible in them. The mockery soon disgusted me, and I moved
away, again to wander about without object or direction through the
weary streets. It was past midnight when I found myself, without knowing
where I was, in a large open space, in the midst of which a solitary
lamp was burning. I approached it and, to my horror, saw that it was the
guillotine, over which in mournful cadence a lantern swung, creaking
its chain as the night wind stirred it. The dim outline of the fearful
scaffold, the fitful light that fell upon the platform, and the
silence-all conspired to strike terror into my heart. All I had so
lately witnessed seemed to rise up again before me, and the victims
seemed to stand up again, pale, and livid, and shuddering, as last I saw
them.

I knelt down and tried to pray, but terror was too powerful to suffer
my thoughts to take this direction, and, half fainting with fear and
exhaustion, I lay down upon the ground and slept--slept beneath the
platform of the guillotine. Not a dream crossed my slumber, nor did I
awake till dawn of day, when the low rumbling of the peasants’ carts
aroused me, as they were proceeding to the market. I know not why or
whence, but I arose from the damp earth, and looked about me with a more
daring and courageous spirit than I had hitherto felt. It was May--the
first bright rays of sunshine were slanting along the Place, and the
fresh, brisk air felt invigorating and cheering. Whither to? asked I of
myself, and my eyes turned from the dense streets and thoroughfares of
the great city to the far-off hills beyond the barrier, and for a
moment I hesitated which road to take. I almost seemed to feel as if the
decision involved my whole future fortune--whether I should live and die
in the humble condition of a peasant, or play for a great stake in
life. Yes, said I, after a short hesitation, I will remain here--in the
terrible conflict going forward, many must be new adventurers, and never
was any one more greedy to learn the trade than myself. I will throw
sorrow behind me. Yesterday’s tears are the last I shall shed. Now for
a bold heart and a ready will, and here goes for the world! With these
stout words I placed my cap jauntily on one side of my head, and with a
fearless air marched off for the very centre of the city.

For some hours I amused myself gazing at the splendid shops, or staring
in at the richly decorated cafés, where the young celebrities of the day
were assembled at breakfast, in all the extravagance of the newfangled
costume. Then I followed the Guard to the parade at the ‘Carrousel,’
and listened to the band; quitting which I wandered along the quays,
watching the boats as they dragged the river in search of murdered
bodies or suicides. Thence I returned to the Palais-Royal and listened
to the news of the day, as read out by some elected enlightener of his
countrymen.

By what chance I know not, but at last my rambling steps brought me
opposite to the great solemn-looking towers of the ‘Temple.’ The gloomy
prison, within whose walls hundreds were then awaiting the fate which
already their friends had suffered--little groups, gathered here and
there in the open Place, were communicating to the prisoners by signs
and gestures, and from many a small-grated window, at an immense height,
handkerchiefs were seen to wave in recognition of those below. These
signals seemed to excite neither watchfulness nor prevention--indeed,
they needed none; and perhaps the very suspense they excited was a
torture that pleased the inhuman gaolers. Whatever the reason, the
custom was tolerated, and was apparently enjoyed at that moment by
several of the turnkeys, who sat at the windows, much amused at the
efforts made to communicate. Interested by the sight, I sat down upon a
stone bench to watch the scene, and fancied that I could read something
of the rank and condition of those who signalled from below their
messages of hope or fear. At last a deep bell within the prison tolled
the hour of noon; and now every window was suddenly deserted. It was the
hour for the muster of the prisoners, which always took place before
the dinner at one o’clock. The curious groups soon after broke up. A few
lingered around the gate, with, perhaps, some hope of admission to visit
their friends; but the greater number departed.

My hunger was now such that I could no longer deny myself the
long-promised meal, and I looked about me for a shop where I might buy a
loaf of bread. In my search, I suddenly found myself opposite an immense
shop, where viands of every tempting description were ranged with
all that artistic skill so purely Parisian, making up a picture whose
composition Snyders would not have despised. Over the door was a
painting of a miserable wretch, with hands bound behind him, and his
hair cut close in the well-known crop for the scaffold; and underneath
was written, ‘Au Scélérat’; while on a larger board, in gilt letters,
ran the inscription:--

     ‘Boivin Père et fils,
     Traiteurs pour MM. les Condamnées.’

I could scarcely credit my eyes, as I read and re-read this infamous
announcement; but there it stood, and in the crowd that poured
incessantly to and from the door, I saw the success that attended the
traffic. A ragged knot were gathered around the window, eagerly gazing
at something, which, by their exclamations, seemed to claim all their
admiration. I pressed forward to see what it was, and beheld a miniature
guillotine, which, turned by a wheel, was employed to chop the meat for
sausages. This it was that formed the great object of attraction, even
to those to whom the prototype had grown flat and uninteresting.

Disgusted as I was by this shocking sight, I stood watching all that
went forward within with a strange interest. It was a scene of incessant
bustle and movement; for now, as one o’clock drew nigh, various dinners
were being prepared for the prisoners, while parties of their friends
were assembling inside. Of these latter there seemed persons of every
rank and condition; some, dressed in all the brilliancy of the mode;
others, whose garments bespoke direst poverty. There were women, too,
whose costume emulated the classic drapery of the ancients, and who
displayed, in their looped togas, no niggard share of their forms; while
others, in shabby mourning, sat in obscure corners, not noticing the
scene before them, nor noticed themselves. A strange equipage, with two
horses extravagantly bedizened with rosettes and bouquets, stood at the
door; and, as I looked, a pale, haggard-looking man, whose foppery in
dress contrasted oddly with his careworn expression, hurried from the
shop and sprang into the carriage. In doing so, a pocket-book fell from
his pocket. I took it up; but as I did so, the carriage was already
away, and far beyond my power to overtake it.

Without stopping to examine my prize, or hesitating for a second, I
entered the restaurant, and asked for M. Boivin.

‘Give your orders to me, boy,’ said a man busily at work behind the
counter.

‘My business is with himself,’ said I stoutly.

‘Then you ‘ll have to wait with some patience,’ said he sneeringly.

‘I can do so,’ was my answer, and I sat down in the shop.

I might have been half an hour thus seated, when an enormously fat man,
with a huge _bonnet rouge_ on his head, entered from an inner room, and
passing close to where I was, caught sight of me.

‘Who are you, sirrah--what brings you here?’

‘I want to speak with M. Bouvin.’

‘Then speak!’ said he, placing his hand upon his immense chest.

‘It must be alone,’ said I.

‘How so, alone, sirrah?’ said he, growing suddenly pale; ‘I have no
secrets--I know of nothing that may not be told before all the world.’

Though he said this in a kind of appeal to all around, the dubious looks
and glances interchanged seemed to make him far from comfortable.

‘So you refuse me, then?’ said I, taking up my cap and preparing to
depart.

‘Come hither,’ said he, leading the way into the room from which he had
emerged. It was a very small chamber, the most conspicuous ornaments
of which were busts and pictures of the various celebrities of the
Revolution. Some of these latter were framed ostentatiously, and one,
occupying the post of honour above the chimney, at once attracted
me, for in a glance I saw that it was a portrait of him who owned the
pocket-book, and bore beneath it the name ‘Robespierre.’

‘Now, sir, for your communication,’ said Boivin; ‘and take care that
it is of sufficient importance to warrant the interview you have asked
for.’

‘I have no fears on that score,’ said I calmly, still scanning the
features of the portrait, and satisfying myself of their identity.

‘Look at me, sir, and not at that picture,’ said Boivin.

‘And yet it is of M. Robespierre I have to speak,’ said I coolly.

‘How so--of M. Robespierre, boy? What is the meaning of this? If it be a
snare--if this be a trick, you never leave this spot living,’ cried
he, as he placed a massive hand on each of my shoulders and shook me
violently.

‘I am not so easily to be terrified, citizen,’ said I; ‘nor have I any
secret cause for fear, whatever you may have. My business is of another
kind. This morning, in passing out to his carriage, he dropped his
pocket-book, which I picked up. Its contents may well be of a kind that
should not be read by other eyes than his own. My request is, then, that
you will seal it up before me, and then send some one along with me,
while I restore it to its owner.’

‘Is this a snare--what secret mischief have we here?’ said Boivin, half
aloud, as he wiped the cold drops of perspiration from his forehead.

‘Any mishap that follows will depend upon your refusal to do what I
ask.’

‘How so--I never refused it; you dare not tell M. Robespierre that I
refused, sirrah?’

‘I will tell him nothing that is untrue,’ said I calmly; for already a
sense of power had gifted me with composure. ‘If M. Robespierre----’

[Illustration: 054]

‘Who speaks of me here?’ cried the identical personage, as he dashed
hurriedly into the room, and then, not waiting for the reply, went on--’
You must send out your scouts on every side--I lost my pocket-book as I
left this a while ago.’

‘It is here, sir,’ said I, presenting it at once.

‘How--where was it found--in whose keeping has it been, boy?’

‘In mine only; I took it from the ground the same moment that you
dropped it, and then came here to place it in M. Boivin’s hands.’

‘Who has taken care of it since that time?’ continued Robespierre, with
a slow and sneering accentuation on every word.

‘The pocket-book has never left my possession since it quitted yours,’
was my reply.

‘Just so,’ broke in Boivin, now slowly recovering from his terror. ‘Of
its contents I know nothing; nor have I sought to know anything.’

Robespierre looked at me as if to corroborate this statement, and I
nodded my head in acquiescence.

‘Who is your father, boy?’

‘I have none--he was guillotined.’

‘His name?’

‘Tiernay.’

‘Ah, I remember; he was called _l’Irlandais_.’

‘The same.’

‘A famous Royalist was that same Tiernay, and, doubtless, contrived to
leave a heritage of his opinions to his son.’

‘He left me nothing--I have neither house, nor home, nor even bread to
eat.’

‘But you have a head to plan, and a heart to feel, youngster; and it is
better that fellows like you should not want a dinner. Boivin, look to
it that he is taken care of. In a few days I will relieve you of the
charge. You will remain here, boy; there are worse resting-places, I
promise you. There are men who call themselves teachers of the people,
who would ask no better life than free quarters on Boivin.’ And so
saying, he hurriedly withdrew, leaving me face to face with my host.

‘So then, youngster,’ said Boivin, as he scratched his ear thoughtfully,
‘I have gained a pensioner! _Parbleu!_ if life were not an uncertain
thing in these times, there’s no saying how long we might not be blessed
with your amiable company.’

‘You shall not be burthened heavily, citizen,’ said I: ‘let me have my
dinner--I have not eaten since yesterday morning, and I will go my ways
peacefully.’

‘Which means straight to Robespierre’s dwelling, to tell him that I have
turned you out of doors--eh, sirrah?’

‘You mistake me much,’ said I; ‘this would be sorry gratitude for eaten
bread. I meant what I said--that I will not be an unwelcome guest, even
though the alternative be, as it is, something very nigh starvation.’

Boivin did not seem clearly to comprehend the meaning of what I said; or
perhaps my whole conduct and bearing puzzled him, for he made no reply
for several seconds. At last, with a kind of sigh, he said-- ‘Well,
well, it cannot be helped; it must be even as he wished, though the odds
are, he ‘ll never think more about him. Come, lad, you shall have your
dinner.’

I followed him through a narrow, unlighted passage, which opened into
a room, where, at a long table, were seated a number of men and boys at
dinner. Some were dressed as cooks; others wore a kind of grey blouse,
with a badge upon the arm, bearing the name ‘Boivin’ in large letters,
and were, as I afterwards learned, the messengers employed to carry
refreshments into the prison, and who, by virtue of this sign, were
freely admitted within the gates.

Taking my place at the board, I proceeded to eat with a voracity that
only a long fast could have excused; and thus took but little heed of
my companions, whose solecisms in table etiquette might otherwise have
amused me.

‘Art a Marmiton, thou?’ asked an elderly man in a cook’s cap, as he
stared fixedly at me for some seconds.

‘No,’ said I, helping myself and eating away as before.

‘Thou canst never be a commissionaire, friend, with an appetite like
that,’ cried another; ‘I wouldn’t trust thee to carry a casserole to the
fire.’

‘Nor shall I be,’ said I coolly.

‘What trade, then, has the good fortune to possess your shining
abilities.’

‘A trade that thrives well just now, friend--pass me the flask.’

‘Indeed, and what may it be?’

‘Can you not guess, citizen,’ said I, ‘if I tell you that it was never
more in vogue; and, if there be some who will not follow it, they’ll
wear their heads just as safely by holding their peace?’

‘_Parbleu!_ thou hast puzzled me,’ said the chief cook; ‘and if thou
be’st not a coffin-maker----’ A roar of merriment cut short his speech,
in which I myself could not but join heartily.

‘That is, I know,’ said I, ‘a thriving business; but mine is even
better; and, not to mystify you longer, I ‘ll just tell you what I am;
which is, simply, a friend of the Citizen Robespierre.’

The blow told with full force; and I saw, in the terrified looks that
were interchanged around the table, that my sojourn amongst them,
whether destined to be of short or long duration, would not be disturbed
by further liberties. It was truly a reign of terror that same period!
The great agent of everything was the vague and shadowy dread of some
terrible vengeance, against which precautions were all in vain. Men met
each other with secret misgivings, and parted with the same dreadful
distrust. The ties of kindred were all broken; brotherly affection
died out. Existence was become like the struggle for life upon some
shipwrecked raft, where each sought safety by his neighbour’s doom! At
such a time--with such terrible teachings--children became men in
all the sterner features of character; cruelty is a lesson so easily
learned.

As for myself, energetic and ambitious by nature, the ascendency my
first assumption of power suggested was too grateful a passion to be
relinquished. The name--whose spell was like a talisman, because now the
secret engine by which I determined to work out my fortune--Robespierre
had become to my imagination like the slave of Aladdin’s lamp; and
to conjure him up was to be all-powerful Even to Boivin himself this
influence extended; and it was easy to perceive that he regarded the
whole narrative of the pocket-book as a mere fable, invented to obtain a
position as a spy over his household.

I was not unwilling to encourage the belief--it added to my importance,
by increasing the fear I inspired; and thus I walked indolently about,
giving myself those airs of _mouchard_ that I deemed most fitting, and
taking a mischievous delight in the terror I was inspiring.

The indolence of my life, however, soon wearied me, and I began to long
for some occupation, or some pursuit. Teeming with excitement as the
world was--every day, every hour, brimful of events--it was impossible
to sit calmly on the shore, and watch the great, foaming current of
human passions, without longing to be in the stream. Had I been a man
at that time, I should have become a furious orator of the Mountain--an
impassioned leader of the people. The impulse to stand foremost--to take
a bold and prominent position--would have carried me to any lengths. I
had caught up enough of the horrid fanaticism of the time to think that
there was something grand and heroic in contempt for human suffering;
that a man rose proudly above all the weakness of his nature, when, in
the pursuit of some great object, he stifled within his breast every
throb of affection--every sentiment of kindness and mercy. Such were the
teachings rife at the time--such the first lessons that boyhood
learned; and oh! what a terrible hour had that been for humanity if
the generation then born had grown up to manhood unchastened and
unconverted!

But to return to my daily life. As I perceived that a week had now
elapsed, and the Citizen Robespierre had not revisited the ‘restaurant,’
nor taken any interest in my fate or fortunes, I began to fear lest
Boivin should master his terror regarding me, and take heart to put me
out of doors--an event which, in my present incertitude, would have
been sorely inconvenient. I resolved, therefore, to practise a petty
deception on my host, to sustain the influence of terror over him. This
was, to absent myself every day at a certain hour, under the pretence of
visiting my patron; letting fall, from time to time, certain indications
to show in what part of the city I had been, and occasionally, as if
in an unguarded moment, condescending to relate some piece of popular
gossip. None ventured to inquire the source of my information--not one
dared to impugn its veracity. Whatever their misgivings in secret, to
myself they displayed the most credulous faith. Nor was their trust so
much misplaced, for I had, in reality, become a perfect chronicle of all
that went forward in Paris--never missing a debate in the Convention,
where my retentive memory could carry away almost verbally all that
I heard--ever present at every public fête or procession, whether the
occasions were some insulting desecration of their former faith, or some
tasteless mockery of heathen ceremonial.

My powers of mimicry, too, enabled me to imitate all the famous
characters of the period; and in my assumed inviolability, I used to
exhibit the uncouth gestures and spluttering utterance of Marat--the
wild and terrible ravings of Danton--and even the reedy treble of my own
patron Robespierre, as he screamed denunciations against the enemies
of the people. It is true these exhibitions of mine were only given in
secret to certain parties, who, by a kind of instinct, I felt could be
trusted.

Such was my life, as one day, returning from the Convention, I beheld
a man affixing to a wall a great placard, to which the passing crowd
seemed to pay deep attention. It was a decree of the Committee of Public
Safety, containing the names of above seven hundred Royalists, who were
condemned to death, and who were to be executed in three _tournées_, on
three successive days.

For sometime back the mob had not been gratified with a spectacle of
this nature. In the ribald language of the day, the ‘holy guillotine had
grown thirsty from long drought’; and they read the announcement
with greedy eyes, commenting as they went upon those whose names were
familiar to them. There were many of noble birth among the proscribed,
but by far the greater number were priests, the whole sum of whose
offending seemed written in the simple and touching words, _ancien
curé_, of such a parish! It was strange to mark the bitterness of
invective with which the people loaded these poor and innocent men, as
though they were the source of all their misfortunes. The lazy indolence
with which they reproached them seemed ten times more offensive in their
eyes than the lives of ease and affluence led by the nobility. The fact
was, they could not forgive men of their own rank and condition what
they pardoned in the well born and the noble! an inconsistency that has
characterised democracy in other situations beside this.

As I ran my eyes down the list of those confined in the Temple, I came
to a name which smote my heart with a pang of ingratitude as well as
sorrow--the ‘Père Michel Delannois, soi disant curé de St. Blois’--my
poor friend and protector was there among the doomed! If, up to that
moment, I had made no effort to see him, I must own the reason lay in my
own selfish feeling of shame--the dread that he should mark the change
that had taken place in me, a change that I felt extended to all about
me, and showed itself in my manner as it influenced my every action. It
was not alone that I lost the obedient air and quiet submissiveness of
the child, but I had assumed the very extravagance of that democratic
insolence which was the mode among the leading characters of the time.

How should I present myself before him, the very impersonation of
all the vices against which he used to warn me--how exhibit the utter
failure of all his teachings and his hopes? What would this be but to
embitter his reflections needlessly. Such were the specious reasons with
which I fed my self-love, and satisfied my conscience; but now, as I
read his name in that terrible catalogue, their plausibility served me
no longer, and at last I forgot myself to remember only him.

‘I will see him at once,’ thought I, ‘whatever it may cost me--I will
stay beside him for his last few hours of life; and when he carries
with him from this world many an evil memory of shame and treachery,
ingratitude from me shall not increase the burthen.’ And with this
resolve I turned my steps homeward.



CHAPTER III. THE ‘TEMPLE’

At the time of which I write, there was but one motive principle
throughout France--‘Terror.’ By the agency of terror and the threat
of denunciation was everything carried on, not only in the public
departments of the state, but in all the common occurrences of everyday
life. Fathers used it towards their children--children towards their
parents; mothers coerced their daughters--daughters, in turn, braved the
authority of their mothers. The tribunal of public opinion, open to all,
scattered its decrees with a reckless cruelty--denying to-day what
it had decreed but yesterday, and at last obliterating every trace of
‘right’ or ‘principle’ in a people who now only lived for the passing
hour, and who had no faith in the future, even of this world.

Among the very children at play, this horrible doctrine had gained a
footing: the tyrant urchin, whose ingenuity enabled him to terrorise,
became the master of his playfellows. I was not slow in acquiring the
popular education of the period, and soon learned that fear was a ‘Bank’
on which one might draw at will. Already the domineering habit had given
to my air and manner all the insolence of seeming power, and, while a
mere boy in years, I was a man in all the easy assumption of a certain
importance.

It was with a bold and resolute air I entered the restaurant, and
calling Boivin aside, said--

‘I have business in the Temple this morning, Boivin; see to it that I
shall not be denied admittance.’

‘I am not governor of the gaol,’ grunted Boivin sulkily, ‘nor have I the
privilege to pass any one.’

‘But your boys have the entrée; the “rats” (so were they called) are
free to pass in and out.’

‘Ay, and I’m responsible for the young rascals, too, and for anything
that may be laid to their charge.’

‘And you shall extend this same protection to me, Master Boivin, for one
day, at least--nay, my good friend, there’s no use in sulking about it.
A certain friend of ours, whose name I need not speak aloud, is
little in the habit of being denied anything; are you prepared for the
consequence of disobeying his orders?’

‘Let me see that they are his orders,’ said he sturdily--‘who tells me
that such is his will?’

‘I do,’ was my brief reply, as, with a look of consummate effrontery, I
drew myself up and stared him insolently in the face.

‘Suppose, then, that I have my doubts on the matter--suppose----’

‘I will suppose all you wish, Boivin,’ said I interrupting, ‘and even
something more; for I will suppose myself returning to the quarter
whence I have just come, and within one hour--ay, within one hour,
Boivin--bringing back with me a written order, not to pass me into the
Temple, but to receive the body of the Citizen Jean Baptiste Boivin, and
be accountable for the same to the Committee of Public Safety.’

He trembled from head to foot as I said these words, and in his shaking
cheeks and fallen jaw I saw that my spell was working.

‘And now, I ask for the last time, do you consent or not?’

‘How is it to be done?’ cried he, in a voice of downright wretchedness.
‘You are not “inscribed” at the secretaries’ office as one of the
“rats.”’

‘I should hope not,’ said I, cutting him short; ‘but I may take the
place of one for an hour or so. Tristan is about my own size; his blouse
and badge will just suit me.’

‘Ay, leave me to a fine of a thousand francs, if you should be found
out,’ muttered Boivin, ‘not to speak of a worse mayhap.’

‘Exactly so--far worse in case of your refusing; but there sounds the
bell for mustering the prisoners--it is now too late.’

‘Not so--not so,’ cried Boivin, eagerly, as he saw me prepared to leave
the house. ‘You shall go in Tristan’s place. Send him here, that he may
tell you everything about the “service,” and give you his blouse and
badge.’

I was not slow in availing myself of the permission, nor was Tristan
sorry to find a substitute. He was a dull, depressed-looking boy, not
over communicative as to his functions, merely telling me that I was
to follow the others--that I came fourth in the line--to answer when
my name was called ‘Tristan,’ and to put the money I received in my
leathern pocket, without uttering a word, lest the gaolers should notice
it.

To accoutre myself in the white cotton nightcap and the blouse of the
craft was the work of a few seconds; and then, with a great knife in my
girdle, and a capacious pocket slung at my side, I looked every inch a
‘Marmiton.’

In the kitchen the bustle had already begun, and half-a-dozen cooks,
with as many under-cooks, were dealing out ‘portions’ with all the speed
of a well-practised performance. Nothing short of great habit could
have prevented the confusion degenerating into downright anarchy. The
‘service’ was, indeed, effected with a wonderful rapidity; and certain
phrases, uttered with speed, showed how it progressed. ‘Maigre des
Curés,’--‘finished.’ ‘Bouillon for the “expectants,’”--‘ready here.’
‘Canards aux olives des condamnées,’--‘all served.’ ‘Red partridges for
the reprieved at the upper table,’--‘despatched.’ Such were the quick
demands, and no less quick replies, that rung out, amidst the crash of
plates, knives, and glasses, and the incessant movement of feet, until,
at last, we were all marshalled in a long line, and, preceded by a drum,
set out for the prison.

As we drew near, the heavy gates opened to receive, and closed behind us
with a loud bang that I could not help feeling must have smote heavily
on many a heart that had passed there. We were now in a large courtyard,
where several doors led off, each guarded by a sentinel, whose ragged
clothes and rusty accoutrements proclaimed a true soldier of the
Republic. One of the large hurdles used for carrying the prisoners to
the Place stood in one corner, and two or three workmen were busied in
repairing it for the coming occasion.

So much I had time to observe, as we passed along; and now we entered a
dimly lighted corridor of great extent; passing down which, we emerged
into a second _cour_, traversed by a species of canal or river, over
which a bridge led. In the middle of this was a strongly barred iron
gate, guarded by two sentries. As we arrived here, our names were called
aloud by a species of turnkey; and at the call ‘Tristan,’ I advanced,
and, removing the covers from the different dishes, submitted them for
inspection to an old, savage-looking fellow, who, with a long steel
fork, pricked the pieces of meat, as though anything could have been
concealed within them. Meanwhile, another fellow examined my cotton cap
and pocket, and passed his hands along my arms and body. The whole did
not last more than a few minutes, and the word ‘forward’ was given to
pass on. The gloom of the place---the silence, only broken by the heavy
bang of an iron-barred door, or the clank of chains, the sad thoughts
of the many who trod these corridors on their way to death--depressed me
greatly, and equally unprepared me for what was to come; for as we drew
near the great hall, the busy hum of voices, the sound of laughter, and
the noises of a large assembly in full converse, suddenly burst upon the
ear; and as the wide doors were thrown open, I beheld above a hundred
people, who, either gathered in single groups, or walking up and down in
parties, seemed all in the fullest enjoyment of social intercourse.

A great table, with here and there a large flagon of water, or a huge
loaf of the coarse bread used by the peasantry, ran from end to end of
the chamber. A few had already taken their places at this, but some were
satisfied with laying a cap or a kerchief on the bench opposite their
accustomed seat; while others again had retired into windows and
corners, as if to escape the general gaze, and partake of their humble
meal in solitude.

Whatever restrictions prison discipline might have exercised elsewhere,
here the widest liberty seemed to prevail. The talk was loud, and even
boisterous; the manner to the turnkeys exhibited nothing of fear: the
whole assemblage presented rather the aspect of a gathering of riotous
republicans than of a band of prisoners under sentence. And yet such
were the greater number, and the terrible slip of paper attached to the
back of each, with a date, told the day on which he was to die.

As I lingered to gaze on this strange gathering, I was admonished to
move on, and now perceived that my companion had advanced to the end
of the hall, by which a small flight of stone steps led out upon a
terrace--at the end of which we entered another and not less spacious
chamber, equally crowded and noisy. Here the company were of both sexes,
and of every grade and condition of rank--from the highest noble of the
former Court, to the humblest peasant of La Vendee. If the sounds of
mirth and levity were less frequent, the buzz of conversation was,
to the full, as loud as in the lower hall, where, from difference
of condition in life, the scenes passing presented stranger and more
curious contrasts. In one corner a group of peasants were gathered
around a white-haired priest, who, in a low but earnest voice, was
uttering his last exhortation to them; in another, some young and
fashionably dressed men were exhibiting to a party of ladies the very
airs and graces by which they would have adorned a saloon; here, was a
party at piquet--there, a little group, arranging, for the last time,
their household cares, and settling, with a few small coins, the
account of mutual expenditure. Of the ladies, several were engaged at
needlework--some little preparation for the morrow--the last demand that
ever vanity was to make of them!

Although there was matter of curiosity in all around me, my eyes sought
for hut one object, the curé of St. Blois. Twice or thrice, from the
similarity of dress, I was deceived, and, at last, when I really did
behold him, as he sat alone in a window, reading, I could scarcely
satisfy myself of the reality, he was lividly pale, his eyes deep sunk,
and surrounded with two dark circles, while along his worn cheek
the tears had marked two channels of purple colour. What need of the
guillotine there--the lamp of life was in its last flicker without it.

Our names were called, and the meats placed upon the table. Just as the
head-turnkey was about to give the order to be seated, a loud commotion,
and a terrible uproar in the court beneath, drew every one to the
window. It was a hurdle which, emerging from an archway, broke down from
overcrowding; and now the confusion of prisoners, gaolers, and sentries,
with plunging horses and screaming sufferers, made a scene of the
wildest uproar. Chained two by two, the prisoners were almost helpless,
and in their efforts to escape injury made the most terrific struggle.
Such were the instincts of life in those on the very road to death!

Resolving to profit by the moment of confusion, I hastened to the
window, where alone, unmoved by the general commotion, sat the Père
Michel. He lifted his glassy eyes as I came near, and in a low, mild
voice said--

‘Thanks, my good boy, but I have no money to pay thee; nor does it
matter much now--it is but another day.

I could have cried as I heard these sad words; but mastering emotions
which would have lost time so precious, I drew close, and whispered--

‘Père Michel, it is I, your own Maurice.’

He started, and a deep flush suffused his cheek; and then stretching out
his hand, he pushed back my cap, and parted the hair of my forehead, as
if doubting the reality of what he saw; when with a weak voice he said--

‘No, no, thou art not my own Maurice. His eyes shone not with that
worldly lustre--thine do; his brow was calm, and fair as children’s
should be--thine is marked with manhood’s craft and subtlety; and yet,
thou art like him.’

A low sob broke from me as I listened to his words, and the tears gushed
forth, and rolled in torrents down my cheeks.

‘Yes,’ cried he, clasping me in his arms, ‘thou art my own dear boy.
I know thee now; but how art thou here, and thus?’ and he touched my
blouse as he spoke.

‘I came to see and to save you, père,’ said I. ‘Nay, do not try to
discourage me, but rather give me all your aid. I saw her--I was with
her in her last moments at the guillotine; she gave me a message for
you, but this you shall never hear till we are without these walls.’

‘It cannot be, it cannot be,’ said he sorrowfully.

‘It can and shall be,’ said I resolutely. ‘I have merely assumed this
dress for the occasion; I have friends, powerful and willing to protect
me. Let us change robes--give me that “soutane,” and put on the blouse.
When you leave this, hasten to the old garden of the chapel, and wait
for my coming--I will join you there before night.’

‘It cannot be,’ replied he again.

‘Again I say, it shall, and must be. Nay, if you still refuse, there
shall be two victims, for I will tear off the dress here where I stand,
and openly declare myself the son of the Royalist Tiernay.’

Already the commotion in the court beneath was beginning to subside, and
even now the turnkeys’ voices were heard in the refectory, recalling the
prisoners to table--another moment and it would have been too late: it
was, then, less by persuasion than by actual force I compelled him to
yield, and, pulling off his black serge gown, drew over his shoulders my
yellow blouse, and placed upon his head the white cap of the ‘Marmiton.’
The look of shame and sorrow of the poor curé would have betrayed him at
once, if any had given themselves the trouble to look at him.

‘And thou, my poor child,’ said he, as he saw me array myself in his
priestly dress, ‘what is to be thy fate?’

‘All will depend upon you, Père Michel,’ said I, holding him by the
arm, and trying to fix his wandering attention. ‘Once out of the prison,
write to Boivin, the restaurateur of the “Scélérat,” and tell him that
an escaped convict has scruples for the danger into which he has brought
a poor boy, one of his “Marmitons,” and whom by a noxious drug he has
lulled into insensibility, while, having exchanged clothes, he has
managed his escape. Boivin will comprehend the danger he himself runs
by leaving me here. All will go well---and now there’s not a moment to
lose. Take up your basket, and follow the others.’

‘But the falsehood of all this,’ cried the père.

‘But your life, and mine, too, lost, if you refuse,’ said I, pushing him
away.

‘Oh, Maurice, how changed have you become!’ cried he sorrowfully.

‘You will see a greater change in me yet, as I lie in the sawdust
beneath the scaffold,’ said I hastily. ‘Go, go.’

There was, indeed, no more time to lose. The muster of the prisoners was
forming at one end of the chamber, while the ‘Marmitons’ were gathering
up their plates and dishes, previous to departure, at the other; and it
was only by the decisive step of laying myself down within the recesses
of the window, in the attitude of one overcome by sleep, that I could
force him to obey my direction. I could feel his presence as he bent
over me, and muttered something that must have been a prayer. I could
know, without seeing, that he still lingered near me, but as I never
stirred, he seemed to feel that my resolve was not to be shaken, and at
last he moved slowly away.

At first the noise and clamour sounded like the crash of some desperate
conflict, but by degrees this subsided, and I could hear the names
called aloud and the responses of the prisoners, as they were ‘told off’
in parties from the different parts of the prison. Tender leave-takings
and affectionate farewells from many who never expected to meet again,
accompanied these, and the low sobs of anguish were mingled with the
terrible chaos of voices; and at last I heard the name of ‘Michel
Delannois’: I felt as if my death-summons was in the words ‘Michel
Delannois,’

‘That crazy priest can neither hear nor see, I believe,’ said the gaoler
savagely. ‘Will no one answer for him?’

‘He is asleep yonder in the window,’ replied a voice from the crowd.

‘Let him sleep then,’ said the turnkey; ‘when awake he gives us no peace
with his prayers and exhortations.’

‘He has eaten nothing for three days,’ observed another; ‘he is,
perhaps, overcome by weakness more than by sleep.’

‘Be it so! if he only lie quiet, I care not,’ rejoined the gaoler, and
proceeded to the next name on the list.

The monotonous roll-call, the heat, the attitude in which I was lying,
all conspired to make me drowsy: even the very press of sensations that
crowded to my brain lent their aid, and at last I slept as soundly as
ever I had done in my bed at night. I was dreaming of the dark alleys in
the wood of Belleville, where so often I had strolled of an evening with
Père Michel: I was fancying that we were gathering the fresh violets
beneath the old trees, when a rude hand shook my shoulder, and I awoke.
One of the turnkeys and Boivin stood over me, and I saw at once that my
plan had worked well.

‘Is this the fellow?’ said the turnkey, pushing me rudely with his foot.

‘Yes,’ replied Boivin, white with fear; ‘this is the boy; his name
is Tristan.’ The latter words were accompanied with a look of great
significance towards me.

‘What care we how he is called! let us hear in what manner he came
here.’

‘I can tell you little,’ said I, staring and looking wildly around; ‘I
must have been asleep, and dreaming, too.’

‘The letter,’ whispered Boivin to the turnkey--‘the letter says that he
was made to inhale some poisonous drug, and that while insensible----’

‘Bah,’ said the other derisively, ‘this will not gain credit here; there
has been complicity in the affair, Master Boivin. The commissaire is not
the man to believe a trumped-up tale of the sort; besides, you are
well aware that you are responsible for these “rats” of yours. It is a
private arrangement between you and the commissaire, and it is not very
probable that he’ll get himself into a scrape for you.’

‘Then what are we to do?’ cried Boivin passionately, as he wrung his
hands in despair.

‘I know what I should, in a like case,’ was the dry reply.

‘And that is?-----’

‘_Laisser aller!_ was the curt rejoinder. ‘The young rogue has passed
for a curé for the last afternoon; I’d even let him keep up the disguise
a little longer, and it will be all the same by this time to-morrow.’

‘You’d send me to the guillotine for another?’ said I boldly; ‘thanks
for the good intention, my friend; but Boivin knows better than to
follow your counsel. Hear me one moment,’ said I, addressing the latter,
and drawing him to one side--‘if you don’t liberate me within a quarter
of an hour, I’ll denounce you and yours to the commissary. I know well
enough what goes on at the “Scélérat,”--you understand me well. If
a priest has really made his escape from the prison, you are not
clean-handed enough to meet the accusation; see to it then, Boivin, that
I may be free at once.’

‘Imp of Satan,’ exclaimed Boivin, grinding his teeth, ‘I have never
enjoyed ease or quietness since the first hour I saw you.’

‘It may cost a couple of thousand francs, Boivin,’ said I calmly; ‘but
what then? Better that than take your seat along with us to-morrow in
the _Charrette Rouge_.’

‘Maybe he’s right, after all,’ muttered the turnkey in a half-whisper;
‘speak to the commissary.’

‘Yes,’ said I, affecting an air of great innocence and simplicity--‘tell
him that a poor orphan boy, without friends or home, claims his pity.’

‘_Scélérat infâme!_’ cried Boivin, as he shook his fist at me, and then
followed the turnkey to the commissary’s apartment.

In less time than I could have believed possible, Boivin returned with
one of the upper gaolers, and told me, in a few dry words, that I was
free. ‘But, mark me,’ added he, ‘we part here--come what may, you never
shall plant foot within my doors again.’

‘Agreed,’ said I gaily; ‘the world has other dupes as easy to play upon,
and I was getting well nigh weary of you.’

‘Listen to the scoundrel!’ muttered Boivin; ‘what will he say next?’

‘Simply this,’ rejoined I--‘that as these are not becoming garments for
me to wear--for I’m neither _père_ nor _frère_--I must have others ere I
quit this.’

If the insolence of my demand occasioned some surprise at first, a
little cool persistence on my part showed that compliance would be the
better policy; and, after conferring together for a few minutes, during
which I heard the sound of money, the turnkey retired, and came back
speedily with a jacket and cap belonging to one of the drummers of the
Republican Guard--a gaudy, tasteless affair enough, but, as a disguise,
nothing could have been more perfect.

‘Have you not a drum to give him?’ said Boivin, with a most malignant
sneer at my equipment.

‘He ‘ll make a noise in the world without that,’ muttered the gaoler,
half soliloquising; and the words fell upon my heart with a strange
significance.

‘Your blessing, Boivin,’ said I, ‘and we part.’ ‘_Le te_----’

‘No, no; don’t curse the boy,’ interposed the gaoler good-humouredly.

‘Then, move off, youngster; I’ve lost too much time with you already.’

The next moment I was in the Place; a light misty rain was falling, and
the night was dark and starless. The ‘Scélérat’ was brilliant with lamps
and candles, and crowds were passing in and out; but it was no longer a
home for me, so I passed on, and continued my way towards the Boulevard.



CHAPTER IV. ‘THE NIGHT OF THE NINTH THERMIDOR’

I had agreed with the Père Michel to rendezvous at the garden of the
little chapel of St. Blois, and thitherward I now turned my steps.

The success which followed this my first enterprise in life had already
worked a wondrous change in all my feelings. Instead of looking up to
the poor curé for advice and guidance, I felt as though our parts were
exchanged, and that it was I who was now the protector of the other. The
oft-repeated sneers at _les bons Prêtres_, who were good for nothing,
must have had a share in this new estimate of my friend, but a certain
self-reliance just then springing up in my heart effectually completed
the change.

The period was essentially one of action and not of reflection. Events
seemed to fashion themselves at the will of him who had daring and
courage to confront them, and they alone appeared weak and poor-spirited
who would not stem the tide of fortune. Sentiments like these were not,
as may be supposed, best calculated to elevate the worthy père in my
esteem, and I already began to feel how unsuited was such companionship
for me, whose secret promptings whispered ever, ‘Go forward.’

The very vagueness of my hopes served but to extend the horizon of
futurity before me, and I fancied a thousand situations of distinction
that might yet be mine. Fame--or its poor counterfeit, notoriety--seemed
the most enviable of all possessions. It mattered little by what merits
it was won, for, in that fickle mood of popular opinion, great vices
were as highly prized as transcendent abilities, and one might be as
illustrious by crime as by genius. Such were not the teachings of
the père; but they were the lessons that Paris dinned into my ears
unceasingly. Reputation, character, was of no avail, in a social
condition where all was change and vacillation. What was idolised one
day was execrated the next day. The hero of yesterday was the object
of popular vengeance to-day. The success of the passing hour was
everything.

The streets were crowded as I passed along; although a drizzling rain
was falling, groups and knots of people were gathered together at every
corner, and, by their eager looks and gestures, showed that some event
of great moment had occurred. I stopped to ask what it meant, and
learned that Robespierre had been denounced in the Assembly, and that
his followers were hastening, in arms, to the Place de Grève. As yet,
men spoke in whispers, or broken phrases. Many were seen affectionately
embracing and clasping each other’s hands in passionate emotion; but
few dared to trust themselves to words, for none knew if the peril were
really passed, or if the power of the tyrant might not become greater
than ever. While I yet listened to the tidings, which, in half-sentences
and broken words, reached my ears, the roll of drums, beating the
_générale_, was heard, and suddenly the head of a column appeared,
carrying torches, and seated upon ammunition-waggons and caissons, and
chanting in wild chorus the words of the ‘Marseillaise.’ On they came,
a terrible host of half-naked wretches, their heads bound in
handkerchiefs, and their brawny arms bare to the shoulders.

The artillery of the Municipale followed, many of the magistrates riding
amongst them dressed in the tricoloured scarfs of officers. As the
procession advanced, the crowds receded, and gradually the streets were
left free to the armed force.

While, terror-struck, I continued to gaze at the countenances over
which the lurid torchlight cast a horrid glare, a strong hand grasped my
collar, and by a jerk swung me up to a seat on one of the caissons; and
at the same time a deep voice said, ‘Come, youngster, this is more in
thy way than mine,’ and a black-bearded _sapeur_ pushed a drum before
me, and ordered me to beat the _générale_. Such was the din and uproar
that my performance did not belie my uniform, and I beat away manfully,
scarcely sorry, amid all my fears, at the elevated position from which I
now surveyed the exciting scene around me.

As we passed, the shops were closed on either side in haste, and across
the windows of the upper storeys beds and mattresses were speedily
drawn, in preparation for the state of siege now so imminent. Lights
flickered from room to room, and all betokened a degree of alarm and
terror. Louder and louder pealed the ‘Marseillaise,’ as the columns
deployed into the open Place, from which every street and lane
now poured its crowds of armed men. The line was now formed by the
artillery, which, to the number of sixteen pieces, ranged from end to
end of the square, the dense crowd of horse and foot forming behind, the
mass dimly lighted by the waving torches that here and there marked the
presence of an officer. Gradually the sounds of the ‘Marseillaise’ grew
fainter and fainter, and soon a dreary silence pervaded that varied
host, more terrible now, as they stood speechless, than in all the
tumultuous din of the wildest uproar. Meanwhile, from the streets which
opened into the Place at the farthest ends, the columns of the National
Guard began to move up, the leading files carrying torches; behind
them came ten pieces of artillery, which, as they issued, were speedily
placed in battery, and flanked by the heavy dragoons of the Guard; and
now, in breathless silence, the two forces stood regarding each other,
the cannoniers with lighted matches in their hands, the dragoons firmly
clasping their sabres--all but waiting for the word to plunge into the
deadliest strife. It was a terrible moment--the slightest stir in the
ranks--the rattling of a horse’s panoply--the clank of a sabre--fell
upon the heart like the toll of a death-bell. It was then that two or
three horsemen were seen to advance from the troops of the Convention,
and, approaching the others, were speedily lost among their ranks. A
low and indistinct murmur ran along the lines, which each moment
grew louder, till at last it burst forth into a cry of ‘_Vive la
Convention!_’ Quitting their ranks, the men gathered around a general of
the National Guard, who addressed them in words of passionate eloquence,
but of which I was too distant to hear anything. Suddenly the ranks
began to thin; some were seen to pile their arms, and move away in
silence; others marched across the Place, and took up their position
beside the troops of the National Guard; of the cannoniers, many threw
down their matches, and extinguished the flame with their feet, while
others again, limbering up their guns, slowly retired to the barracks.

As for myself, too much interested in the scene to remember that I was,
in some sort, an actor in it, I sat upon the caisson, watching all
that went forward so eagerly, that I never noticed the departure of my
companions, nor perceived that I was left by myself. I know not how much
later this discovery might have been deferred to me had not an officer
of the Guard ridden up to where I was, and said, ‘Move up, move up, my
lad; keep close to the battery.’ He pointed at the same time with his
sabre in the direction where a number of guns and carriages were already
proceeding.

Not a little flattered by the order, I gathered up reins and whip, and,
thanks to the good drilling of the beasts, who readily took their proper
places, soon found myself in the line, which now drew up in the rear of
the artillery of the Guard, separated from the front by a great mass of
horse and foot. I knew nothing of what went forward in the Place;
from what I gathered, however, I could learn that the artillery was
in position, the matches burning, and everything in readiness for a
cannonade. Thus we remained for above an hour, when the order was given
to march. Little knew I that, in that brief interval, the whole fortunes
of France--ay, of humanity itself--had undergone a mighty change--that
the terrible reign of blood, the tyranny of Robespierre, had closed,
and that he who had sent so many to the scaffold now lay bleeding and
mutilated upon the very table where he had signed the death-warrants.

The day was just beginning to dawn as we entered the barracks of the
Conciergerie, and drew up in a double line along its spacious square.
The men dismounted, and stood ‘at ease,’ awaiting the arrival of the
staff of the National Guard, which, it was said, was coming; and now the
thought occurred to me of what I should best do, whether make my escape
while it was yet time, or remain to see by what accident I had come
there. If a sense of duty to the Père Michel urged me on one side, the
glimmering hope of some opening to fortune swayed me on the other. I
tried to persuade myself that my fate was bound up with his, and that
he should be my guide through the wild waste before me; but these
convictions could not stand against the very scene in which I stood. The
glorious panoply of war--the harnessed team--the helmeted dragoon--the
proud steed in all the trappings of battle! How faint were the pleadings
of duty against such arguments! The père, too, designed me for a priest.
The life of a seminarist in a convent was to be mine! I was to wear the
red gown and the white cape of an acolyte!--to be taught how to swing a
censer, or snuff the candles of the high altar--to be a train-bearer
in a procession, or carry a relic in a glass-case! The hoarse bray of a
trumpet that then rung through the court routed these ignoble fancies,
and as the staff rode proudly in, my resolve was taken. I was determined
to be a soldier.

The day, I have said, was just breaking, and the officers wore their
dark-grey capotes over their uniforms. One, however, had his coat partly
open, and I could see the blue and silver beneath, which, tarnished and
worn as it was, had to my eyes all the brilliancy of a splendid uniform.
He was an old man, and by his position in advance of the others showed
that he was the chief of the staff. This was General Lacoste, at that
time _en mission_ from the army of the Rhine, and now sent by the
Convention to report upon the state of events among the troops. Slowly
passing along the line, the old general halted before each gun, pointing
out to his staff certain minutiæ, which, from his gestures and manner,
it was easy to see were not the subject of eulogy. Many of the pieces
were ill slung, and badly balanced on the trucks; the wheels, in some
cases, were carelessly put on, their tires worn, and the iron shoeing
defective. The harnessing, too, was patched and mended in a slovenly
fashion; the horses lean and out of condition; the drivers awkward and
inexperienced.

‘This is all bad, gentlemen,’ said he, addressing the officers, but in a
tone to be easily heard all around him, ‘and reflects but little credit
upon the state of your discipline in the capital. We have been now
seventeen months in the field before the enemy, and not idle either; and
yet I would take shame to myself if the worst battery in our artillery
were not better equipped, better horsed, better driven, and better
served, than any I see here.’

One who seemed a superior officer here appeared to interpose some
explanation or excuse, but the general would not listen to him, and
continued his way along the line--passing around which he now entered
the space between the guns and the caissons. At last he stopped directly
in front of where I was, and fixed his dark and penetrating eyes
steadily on me. Such was their fascination that I could not look from
him, but continued to stare as fixedly at him.

[Illustration: 80]

‘Look here, for instance,’ cried he, as he pointed to me with his
sword, ‘is that _gamin_ yonder like an artillery-driver? or is it to a
drummer-boy you intrust the caisson of an eight-pounder gun? Dismount,
sirrah, and come hither,’ cried he to me, in a voice that sounded like
an order for instant execution. ‘This popinjay dress of yours must have
been the fancy of some worthy shopkeeper of the ‘Quai Lepelletier’; it
never could belong to any regular corps. Who are you?’

‘Maurice Tiernay, sir,’ said I, bringing my hand to my cap in military
salute.

‘Maurice Tiernay,’ repeated he, slowly, after me. ‘And have you no more
to say for yourself than your name?’

‘Very little, sir,’ said I, taking courage from the difficulty in which
I found myself.

‘What of your father, boy?--is he a soldier?’

‘He was, sir,’ replied I, with firmness.

‘Then he is dead? In what corps did he serve?’

‘In the Garde du Corps,’ said I proudly.

The old general gave a short cough, and seemed to search for his
snuff-box to cover his confusion; the next moment, however, he had
regained his self-possession, and continued: ‘And since that event--I
mean since you lost your father--what have you been doing? How have you
supported yourself?’

‘In various ways, sir, said I, with a shrug of the shoulders, to imply
that the answer was too tedious to listen to. ‘I have studied to be a
priest, and I have served as a “rat” in the Prison du Temple.’

‘You have certainly tried the extremes of life,’ said he, laughing;
‘and now you wish, probably, to hit the _juste milieu_, by becoming a
soldier?’

‘Even so, sir,’ said I easily. ‘It was a mere accident that mounted me
upon this caisson, but I am quite ready to believe that Fortune intended
me kindly when she did so.’

‘These _gredins_ fancy that they are all born to be generals of France,
said the old man, laughing; ‘but, after all, it is a harmless delusion,
and easily curable by a campaign or two. Come, sirrah, I’ll find out a
place for you, where, if you cannot serve the Republic better, you
will, at least, do her less injury than as a driver in her artillery.
Bertholet, let him be enrolled in your detachment of the gendarme, and
give him my address--I wish to speak to him to-morrow.’

‘At what hour, general?’ said I promptly.

‘At eight, or half-past--after breakfast,’ replied he.

‘It may easily be before mine,’ muttered I to myself.

‘What says he?’ cried the general sharply.

The aide-de-camp whispered a few words in answer, at which the other
smiled, and said, ‘Let him come somewhat earlier--say eight o’clock.’

‘You hear that, boy?’ said the aide-de-camp to me, while with a
slight gesture he intimated that I might retire. Then, as if suddenly
remembering that he had not given me the address of the general, he took
a scrap of crumpled paper from his pocket-book, and wrote a few words
hastily on it with his pencil. ‘There,’ cried he, throwing it towards
me, ‘there is your billet for this day, at least.’ I caught the scrap
of paper, and, after deciphering the words, perceived that they were
written on the back of an assignat for forty sous.

It was a large sum to one who had not wherewithal to buy a morsel of
bread; and as I looked at it over and over, I fancied there would be no
end to the pleasures such wealth could purchase. I can breakfast on
the Quai Voltaire, thought I--ay, and sumptuously too, with coffee and
chestnuts, and a slice of melon, and another of cheese, and a _petite
goutte_ to finish, for five sous. The panther, at the corner of the
Pont Neuf, costs but a sou; and for three one can see the brown bear
of America, the hyæna, and another beast whose name I forget, but whose
image, as he is represented outside, carrying off a man in his teeth, I
shall retain to my last hour. Then there is the panorama of Dunkirk,
at the Rue Chopart, with the Duke of York begging his life from a
terrible-looking soldier in a red cap and a tricoloured scarf. After
that, there’s the parade at the ‘Carrousel’; and mayhap something more
solemn still at the ‘Grève’; but there was no limit to the throng of
enjoyments which came rushing to my imagination, and it was in a kind of
ecstasy of delight I set forth on my voyage of pleasure.



CHAPTER V. THE CHOICE OF A LIFE

In looking back, after a long lapse of years, I cannot refrain from a
feeling of astonishment to think how little remembrance I possess of the
occurrences of that day--one of the most memorable that ever dawned for
France--the eventful 29th of July, that closed the reign of terror
by the death of the tyrant! It is true, that all Paris was astir at
daybreak; that a sense of national vengeance seemed to pervade the
vast masses that filled the streets, which now were scenes of the most
exciting emotion. I can only account for the strange indifference that I
felt about these stirring themes by the frequency with which similar, or
what to me at least appeared similar, scenes had already passed before
my eyes.

One of the most remarkable phases of the revolution was the change
it produced in all the social relations by substituting an assumed
nationality for the closer and dearer ties of kindred and affection.
France was everything--the family nothing; every generous wish, every
proud thought, every high ambition or noble endeavour, belonged to the
country. In this way, whatever patriotism may have gained, certainly
all the home affections were utterly wrecked; the humble and unobtrusive
virtues of domestic life seemed mean and insignificant beside the grand
displays of patriotic devotion which each day exhibited.

Hence grew the taste for that ‘life of the streets’ then so
popular--everything should be en _évidence_. All the emotions which
delicacy would render sacred to the seclusion of home were now to be
paraded to the noonday. Fathers were reconciled to rebellious children
before the eyes of multitudes; wives received forgiveness from their
husbands in the midst of approving crowds; leave-takings the most
affecting; partings, for those never to meet again; the last utterings
of the death-bed; the faint whispers of expiring affection; the
imprecations of undying hate--all, all were exhibited in public, and the
gaze of the low, the vulgar, and the debauched associated with the most
agonising griefs that ever the heart endured. The scenes, which now are
shrouded in all the secrecy of domestic privacy, were then the daily
life of Paris; and to this cause alone can I attribute the hardened
indifference with which events the most terrible and heart-rending were
witnessed. Bred up amidst such examples, I saw little matter for emotion
in scenes of harrowing interest. An air of mockery was on everything,
and a bastard classicality destroyed every semblance of truth in
whatever would have been touching and affecting.

The commotion of Paris on that memorable morning was, then, to my
thinking, little more than usual If the crowds who pressed their way to
the Place de la Revolution were greater--if the cries of vengeance
were in louder utterance--if the imprecations were deeper and more
terrible--the ready answer that satisfied all curiosity was--it was
Robespierre who was on his way to be executed. Little knew I what hung
upon that life! and how the fate of millions depended upon the blood
that morning was to shed! Too full of myself and my own projects, I
disengaged myself from the crowds that pressed eagerly towards the
Tuileries, and took my way by less-frequented streets in the direction
of the Boulevard Mont Parnasse.

I wished, if possible, to see the père once more, to take a last
farewell of him, and ask his blessing, too; for still a lingering faith
in the lessons he had taught me continued to haunt my mind amidst
all the evil influences with which my wayward life surrounded me. The
further I went from the quarter of the Tuileries, the more deserted
and solitary grew the streets. Not a carriage or horseman was to be
seen--scarcely a foot-passenger. All Paris had, apparently, assembled
on the Place de la Révolution; and the very beggars had quitted their
accustomed haunts to repair thither. Even the distant hum of the vast
multitude faded away, and it was only as the wind bore them that I could
catch the sounds of the hoarse cries that bespoke a people’s vengeance.
And now I found myself in the little silent street which once had been
my home. I stood opposite the house where we used to live, afraid to
enter it lest I might compromise the safety of her I wished to save,
and yet longing once more to see the little chamber where we once sat
together--the chimney-corner where, in the dark nights of winter, I
nestled, with my hymn-book, and tried to learn the rhymes that every
plash of the falling hail against the windows routed--to lie down once
more in the little bed, where so often I had passed whole nights of
happy imaginings--bright thoughts of a peaceful future that were never
to be realised!

Half choking with my emotion, I passed on, and soon saw the green
fields, and the windmill-covered hill of Montmartre rising above the
embankment of the Boulevards--and now the ivy-clothed wall of the
garden, within which stood the chapel of St. Blois. The gate lay ajar as
of old, and, pushing it open, I entered. Everything was exactly as I had
left it--the same desolation and desertion everywhere--so much so, that
I almost fancied no human foot had crossed its dreary precincts since
last I was there. On drawing nigh to the chapel, I found the door fast
barred and barricaded as before; but a window lay open, and on examining
it closer I discovered the marks of a recent foot-track on the ground
and the window-sill. Could the Père Michel have been there? was the
question that at once occurred to my mind. Had the poor priest come
to take a last look and a farewell of a spot so dear to him? It could
scarcely have been any other. There was nothing to tempt cupidity in
that humble little church; an image of the ‘Virgin and Child’ in wax
was the only ornament of the altar. No, no; pillage had never been the
motive of him who entered here.

Thus reasoning, I climbed up to the window, and entered the chapel. As
my footsteps echoed through the silent building, I felt that sense of
awe and reverence so inseparably connected with a place of worship,
and which is ever more impressive still as we stand in it alone. The
present, however, was less before me than the past, of which everything
reminded me. There was the seat the marquise used to sit in--there the
footstool I had so often placed at her feet. How different was the last
service I had rendered her! There the pillar, beside which I have
stood spell-bound, gazing at that fair face, whose beauty arrested
the thoughts that should have wended heavenward, and made my muttered
prayers like offerings to herself. The very bouquet of flowers some
pious hand had placed beneath the shrine--withered and faded--was there
still. But where were they whose beating hearts had throbbed with deep
devotion? How many had died upon the scaffold!--how many were still
lingering in imprisonment, some in exile, some in concealment, dragging
out lives of misery and anxiety! What was the sustaining spirit of
such martyrdom? I asked myself again and again. Was it the zeal of true
religion, or was it the energy of loyalty that bore them up against
every danger, and enabled them to brave death itself with firmness?--and
if this faith of theirs was thus ennobling, why could not France be of
one mind and heart? There came no answer to these doubts of mine, and I
slowly advanced towards the altar, still deeply buried in thought. What
was my surprise to see that two candles stood there, which bore signs
of having been recently lighted. At once the whole truth flashed across
me--the père had been there; he had come to celebrate a mass--the last,
perhaps, he was ever to offer up at that altar. I knew with what warm
affection he loved every object and every spot endeared to him by long
time, and I fancied to myself the overflowing of his heart as he entered
once more, and for the last time, the little temple, associated with
all the joys and sorrows of his existence. Doubtless, too, he had waited
anxiously for my coming; mayhap in the prayers he offered I was not
forgotten. I thought of him kneeling there, in the silence of the night,
alone, as he was, his gentle voice the only sound in the stillness of
the hour, his pure heart throbbing with gratitude for his deliverance,
and prayerful hopes for those who had been his persecutors. I thought
over all this, and, in a torrent of emotions, I knelt down before
the altar to pray. I know not what words I uttered, but his name must
somehow have escaped my lips, for suddenly a door opened beside the
altar, and the Père Michel, dressed in his full vestments, stood before
me. His features, wan and wasted as they were, had regained their wonted
expression of calm dignity, and by his look I saw that he would not
suffer the sacred spot to be profaned by any outburst of feeling on
either side.

‘Those dreadful shouts tell of another massacre,’ said he solemnly, as
the wind bore towards us the deafening cries of the angry multitude.
‘Let us pray for the souls’ rest of the departed.’

‘Then will your prayers be offered for Robespierre, for Couthon, and St.
Just,’ said I boldly.

‘And who are they who need more the saints’ intercession--who have ever
been called to judgment with such crimes to expiate--who have ever so
widowed France, and so desecrated her altars? Happily, a few yet remain
where piety may kneel to implore pardon for their iniquity. Let us
recite the Litany for the Dead,’ said he solemnly, and at once began the
impressive service.

As I knelt beside the rails of the altar, and heard the prayers which,
with deep devotion, he uttered, I could not help feeling the contrast
between that touching evidence of Christian charity and the tumultuous
joy of the populace, whose frantic bursts of triumph were borne on the
air.

‘And now come with me, Maurice,’ said he, as the Litany was concluded.
‘Here, in this little sacristy, we are safe from all molestation; none
will think of us on such a day as this.’

And as he spoke he drew his arm around me, and led me into the little
chamber where once the precious vessels and the decorations of the
church were kept.

‘Here we are safe,’ said he, as he drew me to his side on the oaken
bench, which formed all the furniture of the room. ‘To-morrow, Maurice,
we must leave this, and seek an asylum in another land; but we are not
friendless, my child--the brothers of the “Sacred Heart” will receive
us. Their convent is in the wilds of the Ardennes, beyond the frontiers
of France, and there, beloved by the faithful peasantry, they live in
security and peace. We need not take the vows of their order, which is
one of the strictest of all religious houses; but we may claim their
hospitality and protection, and neither will be denied us. Think what a
blessed existence will that be, Maurice, my son, to dwell under the same
roof with these holy men, and to imbibe from them the peace of mind
that holiness alone bestows; to awake at the solemn notes of the pealing
organ, and to sink to rest with the glorious liturgies still chanting
around you; to feel an atmosphere of devotion on every side, and to see
the sacred relics whose miracles have attested the true faith in ages
long past. Does it not stir thy heart, my child, to know that such
blessed privileges may be thine?’

I hung my head in silence, for, in truth, I felt nothing of the
enthusiasm with which he sought to inspire me. The père quickly saw what
passed in my mind, and endeavoured to depict the life of the monastery
as a delicious existence, embellished by all the graces of literature,
and adorned by the pleasures of intellectual converse. Poetry, romance,
scenery, all were pressed into the service of his persuasions; but how
weak were such arguments to one like me, the boy whose only education
had been what the streets of Paris afforded--whose notions of eloquence
were formed on the insane ravings of ‘The Mountain,’ and whose idea of
greatness was centred in mere notoriety!

My dreamy look of inattention showed him again that he had failed; and I
could see, in the increased pallor of his face, the quivering motion of
his lip, the agitation the defeat was costing him.

‘Alas! alas!’ cried he passionately, ‘the work of ruin is perfect; the
mind of youth is corrupted, and the fountain of virtue denied at the
very source. O Maurice, I had never thought this possible of thee, the
child of my heart!’

A burst of grief here overcame him; for some minutes he could not speak.
At last he arose from his seat, and wiping off the tears that covered
his cheeks with his robe, spoke, but in a voice whose full round tones
contrasted strongly with his former weak accents.

‘The life I have pictured seems to thee ignoble and unworthy, boy. So
did it not appear to Chrysostom, to Origen, and to Augustine--to the
blessed saints of our Church, the eldest-born of Christianity. Be it so.
Thine, mayhap, is not the age, nor this the era, in which to hope for
better things. Thy heart yearns for heroic actions--thy spirit is set
upon high ambitions--be it so. I say, never was the time more fitting
for thee. The enemy is up; his armies are in the field; thousands and
tens of thousands swell the ranks, already flushed with victory. Be
a soldier, then. Ay, Maurice, buckle on the sword--the battlefield is
before thee. Thou hast made choice to seek the enemy in the far-away
countries of heathen darkness, or here in our own native France, where
his camp is already spread. If danger be the lure that tempts thee--if
to confront peril be thy wish--there is enough of it. Be a soldier,
then, and gird thee for the great battle that is at hand. Ay, boy, if
thou feelest within thee the proud darings that foreshadow success,
speak the word, and thou shalt be a standard-bearer in the very van.’

I waited not for more; but springing up, I clasped my arms around his
neck, and cried, in ecstasy, ‘Yes! Père Michel, you have guessed aright,
my heart’s ambition is to be a soldier, and I want but your blessing to
be a brave one.’

‘And thou shalt have it. A thousand blessings follow those who go forth
to the good fight. But thou art yet young, Maurice--too young for this.
Thou needest time, and much teaching, too. He who would brave the enemy
before us, must be skilful as well as courageous. Thou art as yet but a
child.’

‘The general said he liked boy-soldiers,’ said I promptly; ‘he told me
so himself.’

‘What general--who told thee?’ cried the père, in trembling eagerness.

‘General Lacoste, the Chef d’État-major of the army of the Rhine; the
same who gave me a rendezvous for to-morrow at his quarters.’

It was not till I had repeated my explanation again and again, nor,
indeed, until I had recounted all the circumstances of my last night’s
adventure, that the poor père could be brought to see his way through a
mystery that had almost become equally embarrassing to myself. When he
did, however, detect the clue, and when he had perceived the different
tracks on which our minds were travelling, his grief burst all bounds.
He inveighed against the armies of the Republic as hordes of pillagers
and bandits, the sworn enemies of the Church, the desecrators of her
altars. Their patriotism he called a mere pretence to shroud their
infidelity. Their heroism was the bloodthirstiness of democratic
cruelty. Seeing me still unmoved by all this passionate declamation,
he adopted another tactic, and suddenly asked me if it were for such a
cause as this my father had been a soldier?

‘No!’ replied I firmly; ‘for when my father was alive, the soil of
France had not been desecrated by the foot of the invader. The Austrian,
the Prussian, the Englishman, had not yet dared to dictate the laws
under which we were to live.’

He appeared thunderstruck at my reply, revealing, as it seemed to him,
the extent of those teachings, whose corruptions he trembled at.

‘I knew it, I knew it!’ cried he bitterly, as he wrung his hands. ‘The
seed of the iniquity is sown--the harvest-time will not be long in
coming! And so, boy, thou hast spoken with one of these men--these
generals, as they call themselves, of that republican horde?’

‘The officer who commands the artillery of the army of the Rhine may
write himself general with little presumption,’ said I, almost angrily.

‘They who once led our armies to battle were the nobles of France--men
whose proud station was the pledge for their chivalrous devotion. But
why do I discuss the question with thee? He who deserts his faith may
well forget that his birth was noble. Go, boy, join those with whom
your heart is already linked. Tour lesson will be an easy one--you have
nothing to unlearn. The songs of the Girondins are already more grateful
to your ear than our sacred canticles. Go, I say, since between us
henceforth there can be no companionship.’

‘Will you not bless me, père,’ said I, approaching him in deep humility;
‘will you not let me carry with me thy benediction?’

‘How shall I bless the arm that is lifted to wound the Holy Church?--how
shall I pray for one whose place is in the ranks of the infidel? Hadst
thou faith in my blessing, boy, thou hadst never implored it in such a
cause. Renounce thy treason--and not alone my blessing, but thou shalt
have a ‘Novena’ to celebrate thy fidelity. Be of us, Maurice, and thy
name shall be honoured where honour is immortality.’

The look of beaming affection with which he uttered this, more than the
words themselves, now shook my courage, and, in a conflict of doubt and
indecision, I held down my head without speaking. What might have been
my ultimate resolve, if left completely to myself, I know not; but at
that very moment a detachment of soldiers marched past in the street
without. They were setting off to join the army of the Rhine, and were
singing in joyous chorus the celebrated song of the day, ‘Le chant du
départ.’ The tramp of their feet--the clank of their weapons--their
mellow voices--but, more than all, the associations that thronged to my
mind, routed every other thought, and I darted from the spot, and never
stopped till I reached the street.

A great crowd followed the detachment, composed partly of friends of the
soldiers, partly of the idle loungers of the capital. Mixing with these,
I moved onward, and speedily passed the outer boulevard and gained the
open country.



CHAPTER VI. ‘THE ARMY SIXTY YEARS SINCE’

I followed the soldiers as they marched beyond the outer boulevard and
gained the open country. Many of the idlers dropped off here; others
accompanied us a little farther; but at length, when the drums ceased
to beat, and were slung in marching order on the backs of the
drummers, when the men broke into the open order that French soldiers
instinctively assume on a march, the curiosity of the gazers appeared
to have nothing more to feed upon, and one by one they returned to the
capital, leaving me the only lingerer.

To any one accustomed to military display, there was little to attract
notice in the column, which consisted of detachments from various corps,
horse, foot, and artillery; some were returning to their regiments after
a furlough; some had just issued from the hospitals, and were seated in
_charrettes_, or country cars; and others, again, were peasant boys only
a few days before drawn in the conscription. There was every variety of
uniform, and, I may add, of raggedness, too--a coarse blouse and a pair
of worn shoes, with a red or blue handkerchief on the head, being the
dress of many among them. The Republic was not rich in those days,
and cared little for the costume in which her victories were won. The
artillery alone seemed to preserve anything like uniformity in dress.
They wore a plain uniform of blue, with long white gaiters coming
half-way up the thigh; a low cocked-hat, without feather, but with the
tricoloured cockade in front. They were mostly men middle aged, or past
the prime of life, bronzed, weather-beaten, hardy-looking fellows, whose
white moustaches contrasted well with their sun-burned faces. All their
weapons and equipments were of a superior kind, and showed the care
bestowed upon an arm whose efficiency was the first discovery of the
republican generals. The greater number of these were Bretons, and
several of them had served in the fleet, still bearing in their looks
and carriage something of that air which seems inherent in the seaman.
They were grave, serious, and almost stern in manner, and very unlike
the young cavalry soldiers, who, mostly recruited from the south of
France, many of them Gascons, had all the high-hearted gaiety and
reckless levity of their own peculiar land. A campaign to these fellows
seemed a pleasant excursion; they made a jest of everything, from the
wan faces of the invalids to the black bread of the commissary; they
quizzed the new ‘Tourlerous,’ as the recruits were styled, and the old
‘Grumblers,’ as it was the fashion to call the veterans of the army;
they passed their jokes on the Republic, and even their own officers
came in for a share of their ridicule. The Grenadiers, however, were
those who especially were made the subject of their sarcasm. They were
generally from the north of France, and the frontier country toward
Flanders, whence they probably imbibed a portion of that phlegm and
moroseness so very unlike the general gaiety of French nature; and
when assailed by such adversaries, were perfectly incapable of reply or
retaliation.

They all belonged to the army of the ‘Sambre et Meuse,’ which, although
at the beginning of the campaign highly distinguished for its successes,
had been latterly eclipsed by the extraordinary victories on the Upper
Rhine and in Western Germany; and it was curious to hear with what
intelligence and interest the greater questions of strategy were
discussed by those who carried their packs as common soldiers in the
ranks. Movements and manoeuvres were criticised, attacked, defended,
ridiculed, and condemned, with a degree of acuteness and knowledge that
showed the enormous progress the nation had made in military science,
and with what ease the Republic could recruit her officers from the
ranks of her soldiers.

At noon the column halted in the wood of Belleville; and while the men
were resting, an express arrived announcing that a fresh body of troops
would soon arrive, and ordering the others to delay their march till
they came up. The orderly who brought the tidings could only say that
he believed some hurried news had come from Germany, for before he left
Paris the rappel was beating in different quarters, and the rumour
ran that reinforcements were to set out for Strasbourg with the utmost
despatch.

‘And what troops are coming to join us?’ said an old artillery sergeant,
in evident disbelief of the tidings.

‘Two batteries of artillery and the voltigeurs of the 4th, I know for
certain are coming,’ said the orderly, ‘and they spoke of a battalion of
grenadiers.’

‘What! do these Germans need another lesson?’ said the cannonier. ‘I
thought Fleurus had taught them what our troops were made of.’

‘How you talk of Fleurus!’ interrupted a young hussar of the south. ‘I
have just come from the army of Italy, and, _ma foi!_ we should never
have mentioned such a battle as Fleurus in a despatch. Campaigning
amongst dikes and hedges--fighting with a river on one flank and a
fortress on t’other--parade manoeuvres--where, at the first check, the
enemy retreats, and leaves you free, for the whole afternoon, to write
off your successes to the Directory. Had you seen our fellows scaling
the Alps, with avalanches of snow descending at every fire of the great
guns--forcing pass after pass against an enemy, posted on every cliff
and crag above us--cutting our way to victory by roads the hardiest
hunter had seldom trod--I call that war.’

‘And I call it the skirmish of an outpost!’ said the gruff veteran, as
he smoked away in thorough contempt for the enthusiasm of the other. ‘I
have served under Kléber, Hoche, and Moreau, and I believe they are the
first generals of France.’

‘There is a name greater than them all,’ cried the hussar, with
eagerness.

‘Let us hear it, then--you mean Pichegru, perhaps, or Masséna?’

‘No, I mean Bonaparte!’ said the hussar triumphantly.

‘A good officer, and one of us,’ said the artilleryman, touching his
belt to intimate the arm of the service the general belonged to. ‘He
commanded the siege-train at Toulon.’

‘He belongs to all,’ said the other. ‘He is a dragoon, a voltigeur, an
artillerist, a pontonnier--what you will--he knows everything, as I know
my horse’s saddle, and cloak-bag.’

Both parties now grew warm; and as each was not only an eager partisan,
but well acquainted with the leading events of the two campaigns they
undertook to defend, the dispute attracted a large circle of listeners,
who, either seated on the green sward, or lying at full length, formed
a picturesque group under the shadow of the spreading oak-trees.
Meanwhile, the cooking went speedily forward, and the camp-kettles
smoked with a steam whose savoury odour was not a little tantalising to
one who, like myself, felt that he did not belong to the company.

‘What’s thy mess, boy?’ said an old grenadier to me, as I sat at
a little distance off, and affecting--but I fear very ill--a total
indifference to what went forward.

‘He is asking to what corps thou belong’st?’ said another, seeing that
the question puzzled me.

‘I Unfortunately I have none,’ said I. ‘I merely followed the march for
curiosity.’

‘And thy father and mother, child--what will they say to thee on thy
return home?’

‘I have neither father, mother, nor home,’ said I promptly.

‘Just like myself,’ said an old red-whiskered sapeur; ‘or if I ever had
parents they never had the grace to own me. Come over here, child, and
take share of my dinner.’

‘No, _parbleu!_ I ‘ll have him for my comrade,’ cried the young hussar.
‘I was made a corporal yesterday, and have a larger ration. Sit here, my
boy, and tell us how art called.’

‘Maurice Tiernay.’

‘Maurice will do; few of us care for more than one name, except in the
dead muster they like to have it in full. Help thyself, my lad, and
here’s the wine-flask beside thee.’

‘How comes it thou hast this old uniform, boy?’ said he, pointing to my
sleeve.

‘It was one they gave me in the Temple,’ said I. ‘I was a _rat du
prison_ for some time.’

‘Thunder of war!’ exclaimed the cannonier, ‘I had rather stand a whole
platoon-fire than see what thou must have seen, child.’

‘And hast heart to go back there, boy,’ said the corporal, ‘and live the
same life again?’

‘No, I ‘ll never go back,’ said I. ‘I ‘ll be a soldier.’

‘Well said, _mon brave_--thou’lt be a hussar, I know.’

‘If nature has given thee a good head, and a quick eye, my boy, thou
might even do better, and in time, perhaps, wear a coat like mine,’ said
the cannonier.

‘_Sacrebleu!_ cried a little fellow, whose age might have been anything
from boyhood to manhood--for while small of stature, he was shrivelled
and wrinkled like a mummy--‘why not be satisfied with the coat he
wears?’

‘And be a drummer, like thee?’ said the cannonier.

‘Just so, like me, and like Masséna--he was a drummer, too.’

‘No, no!’ cried a dozen voices together; ‘that’s not true.’

‘He’s right; Masséna was a drummer in the Eighth,’ said the cannonier;
‘I remember him when he was like that boy yonder.’

‘To be sure,’ said the little fellow, who, I now perceived, wore the
dress of a _tambour_; and is it a disgrace to be the first to face the
enemy?’

‘And the first to turn his back to him, comrade,’ cried another.

‘Not always---not always,’ said the little fellow, regardless of the
laugh against him. ‘Had it been so, I had not gained the battle of
Grandrengs on the Sambre.’

‘Thou gain a battle!’ shouted half a dozen, in derisive laughter.

‘What, Petit Pierre gained the day at Grandrengs!’ said the cannonier;
‘why, I was there myself, and never heard of that till now.’

‘I can believe it well,’ replied Pierre; ‘many a man’s merits go
unacknowledged--and Kléber got all the credit that belonged to Pierre
Canot.’

‘Let us hear about it, Pierre, for even thy victory is unknown by name
to us poor devils of the army of Italy. How call’st thou the place?’

‘Grandrengs,’ said Pierre proudly. ‘It’s name will live as long,
perhaps, as many of those high-sounding ones you have favoured us with.
Mayhap, thou hast heard of Cambray?’

‘Never!’ said the hussar, shaking his head.

‘Nor of Mons, either, I’ll be sworn?’ continued Pierre.

‘Quite true, I never heard of it before.’

‘_Voilà!_ exclaimed Pierre, in contemptuous triumph. ‘And these are the
fellows that pretend to feel their country’s glory, and take pride in
her conquests. Where hast thou been, lad, not to hear of places that
every child syllables nowadays?’

‘I will tell you where I’ve been,’ said the hussar haughtily, and
dropping at the same time the familiar ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ of soldier
intercourse--‘I’ve been at Montenotte, at Millesimo, at Mondove---

‘_Allons, donc!_ with your disputes,’ broke in an old grenadier; ‘as if
France was not victorious whether the enemies were English or German.
Let us hear how Pierre won his battle at--at----’

‘At Grandrengs,’ said Pierre. ‘They call it in the despatch the “action
of the Sambre,” because Kléber came up there--and Kléber being a great
man, and Pierre Canot a little one, you understand, the glory attaches
to the place where the bullion epaulettes are found--just as the old
King of Prussia used to say, “Le bon Dieu est toujours a côté des gros
bataillons.”’

‘I see we’ll never come to this same victory of Grandrengs, with all
these turnings and twistings,’ muttered the artillery sergeant.

‘Thou art very near it now, comrade, if thou’lt listen,’ said Pierre,
as he wiped his mouth after a long draught of the wine-flask. ‘I’ll
not weary the honourable company with any description of the battle
generally, but just confine myself to that part of it in which I was
myself in action. It is well known, that though we claimed the victory
of the 10th May, we did little more than keep our own, and were obliged
to cross the Sambre, and be satisfied with such a position as enabled us
to hold the two bridges over the river--and there we remained for four
days; some said preparing for a fresh attack upon Kaunitz, who commanded
the allies; some, and I believe they were right, alleging that
our generals were squabbling all day, and all night, too, with two
commissaries that the Government had sent down to teach us how to win
battles. _Ma foi!_ we had had some experience in that way ourselves,
without learning the art from two citizens with tricoloured scarfs round
their waists, and yellow tops to their boots! However that might be,
early on the morning of the 20th we received orders to cross the river
in two strong columns, and form on the opposite side; at the same time
that a division was to pass the stream by boat two miles higher up,
and, concealing themselves in a pine wood, be ready to take the enemy in
flank, when they believed that all the force was in the front.’

‘_Sacré tonnerre!_ I believe that our armies of the Sambre and the
Rhine never have any other notion of battles than that eternal flank
movement!’ cried a young sergeant of the voltigeurs, who had just come
up from the army of Italy. ‘Our general used to split the enemy by the
centre, cut him piecemeal by attack in columns, and then mow him down
with artillery at short range--not leaving him time for a retreat in
heavy masses----’

‘Silence, silence, and let us hear Petit Pierre!’ shouted a dozen
voices, who cared far more for an incident than a scientific discussion
about manoeuvres.

‘The plan I speak of was General Moreau’s,’ continued Pierre; ‘and I
fancy that your Bonaparte has something to learn ere he be his equal!’

This rebuke seeming to have engaged the suffrages of the company, he
went on: ‘The boat division consisted of four battalions of infantry,
two batteries of light artillery, and a voltigeur company of the
“Régiment de Marboeuf”--to which I was then, for the time, attached as
_tambour en chef_. What fellows they were--the greatest devils in
the whole army! They came from the Faubourg St. Antoine, and were as
reckless and undisciplined as when they strutted the streets of Paris.
When they were thrown out to skirmish, they used to play as many tricks
as schoolboys: sometimes they ‘d run up to the roof of a cabin or a
hut--and they could climb like cats--and, sitting down on the chimney,
begin firing away at the enemy as coolly as if from a battery; sometimes
they’d capture half-a-dozen asses, and ride forward as if to charge, and
then, affecting to tumble off, the fellows would pick down any of the
enemy’s officers that were fools enough to come near--scampering back to
the cover of the line, laughing and joking as if the whole were sport.
I saw one when his wrist was shattered by a shot, and he couldn’t fire,
take a comrade on his back and caper away like a horse, just to tempt
the Germans to come out of their lines. It was with these blessed youths
I was now to serve, for the _tambour_ of the “Marboeuf” was drowned in
crossing the Sambre a few days before. Well, we passed the river safely,
and, unperceived by the enemy, gained the pine wood, where we formed
in two columns, one of attack, and the other of support--the voltigeurs
about five hundred paces in advance of the leading files. The morning
was dull and hazy, for a heavy rain had fallen during the night; and
the country is flat, and so much intersected with drains, and dikes, and
ditches, that, after rain, the vapour is too thick to see twenty yards
on any side. Our business was to make a counter-march to the right,
and, guided by the noise of the cannonade, to come down upon the enemy’s
flank in the thickest of the engagement. As we advanced, we found
ourselves in a kind of marshy plain, planted with willows, and so
thick that it was often difficult for three men to march abreast. This
extended for a considerable distance; and on escaping from it we saw
that we were not above a mile from the enemy’s left, which rested on a
little village.’

‘I know it well,’ broke in the cannonier; ‘it’s called Huyningen.’

‘Just so. There was a formidable battery in position there; and part of
the place was stockaded, as if they expected an attack. Still, there
are no vedettes, nor any lookout party, so far as we could see; and our
commanding officer didn’t well know what to make of it, whether it was
a point of concealed strength, or a position they were about to withdraw
from. At all events, it required caution; and, although the battle had
already begun on the right--as a loud cannonade and a heavy smoke
told us--he halted the brigade in the wood, and held a council of his
officers to see what was to be done. The resolution come to was, that
the voltigeurs should advance alone to explore the way, the rest of the
force remaining in ambush. We were to go out in sections of companies,
and, spreading over a wide surface, see what we could of the place.

‘Scarcely was the order given, when away we went--and it was now a race
who should be earliest up and exchange first shot with the enemy. Some
dashed forward over the open field in front; others skulked along by
dikes and ditches; some, again, dodged here and there, as cover offered
its shelter; but about a dozen, of whom I was one, kept the track of a
little cart-road, which, half concealed by high banks and furze, ran in
a zigzag line towards the village. I was always smart of foot; and now,
having newly joined the voltigeurs, was naturally eager to show myself
not unworthy of my new associates. I went on at my best pace, and being
lightly equipped--neither musket nor ball cartridge to carry--I soon
outstripped them all; and, after about twenty minutes’ brisk running,
saw in front of me a long, low farmhouse, the walls all pierced for
musketry, and two small eight-pounders in battery at the gate. I looked
back for my companions, but they were not up--not a man of them to be
seen. “No matter,” thought I, “they’ll be here soon; meanwhile, I’ll
make for that little copse of brushwood”; for a small clump of low furze
and broom was standing at a little distance in front of the farm.
All this time, I ought to say, not a man of the enemy was to be seen,
although I, from where I stood, could see the crenelated walls, and
the guns, as they were pointed. At a distance all would seem like an
ordinary peasant house.

‘As I crossed the open space to gain the copse, piff! came a bullet,
whizzing past me; and just as I reached the cover, piff! came another.
I ducked my head and made for the thicket; but just as I did so, my foot
caught in a branch. I stumbled and pitched forward; and trying to save
myself, I grasped a bough above me; it smashed suddenly, and down I
went. Ay! down sure enough--for I went right through the furze, and into
a well--one of those old, walled wells they have in these countries,
with a huge bucket that fills up the whole space, and is worked by a
chain. Luckily, the bucket was linked up near the top, and caught me, or
I should have gone where there would have been no more heard of Pierre
Canot; as it was, I was sorely bruised by the fall, and didn’t recover
myself for full ten minutes after. Then I discovered that I was sitting
in a large wooden trough, hooped with iron, and supported by two heavy
chains that passed over a windlass, about ten feet above my head.

‘I was safe enough for the matter of that; at least, none were likely
to discover me, as I could easily see by the rust of the chain and the
grass-grown edges, that the well had been long disused. Now the position
was far from being pleasant. There stood the farmhouse full of soldiers,
the muskets ranging over every approach to where I lay. Of my comrades
there was nothing to be seen--they had either missed the way or
retreated; and so time crept on, and I pondered on what might be going
forward elsewhere, and whether it would ever be my own fortune to see my
comrades again.

‘It might be an hour--it seemed three or four to me--after this, as I
looked over the plain, I saw the caps of our infantry just issuing
over the brushwood, and a glancing lustre of their bayonets, as the sun
tipped them. They were advancing, but, as it seemed, slowly--halting
at times, and then moving forward again--just like a force waiting for
others to come up. At last they debouched into the plain; but, to my
surprise, they wheeled about to the right, leaving the farmhouse on
their flank, as if to march beyond it. This was to lose their way
totally; nothing would be easier than to carry the position of the
farm, for the Germans were evidently few, had no vedettes, and thought
themselves in perfect security. I crept out from my ambush, and, holding
my cap on a stick, tried to attract notice from our fellows, but none
saw me. I ventured at last to shout aloud, but with no better success;
so that, driven to the end of my resources, I set to and beat a
_roulade_ on the drum, thundering away with all my might, and not caring
what might come of it, for I was half mad with vexation as well as
despair. They heard me now; I saw a staff-officer gallop up to the head
of the leading division and halt them; a volley came peppering from
behind me, but without doing me any injury, for I was safe once more in
my bucket. Then came another pause, and again I repeated my manouvre,
and to my delight perceived that our fellows were advancing at quick
march. I beat harder, and the drums of the grenadiers answered me. All
right now, thought I, as, springing forward, I called out--“This way,
boys, the wall of the orchard has scarcely a man to defend it!” and I
rattled out the _pas de charge_ with all my force. One crashing fire of
guns and small-arms answered me from the farmhouse, and then away went
the Germans as hard as they could!--such running never was seen! One of
the guns they carried off with them; the tackle of the other broke, and
the drivers, jumping off their saddles, took to their legs at once. Our
lads were over the walls, through the windows, between the stockades,
everywhere, in fact, in a minute, and, once inside, they carried all
before them. The village was taken at the point of the bayonet, and in
less than an hour the whole force of the brigade was advancing in full
march on the enemy’s flank. There was little resistance made after that,
and Kaunitz only saved his artillery by leaving his rear-guard to be cut
to pieces.’

The cannonier nodded, as if in full assent, and Pierre looked around him
with the air of a man who has vindicated his claim to greatness.

‘Of course,’ said he, ‘the despatch said little about Pierre Canot, but
a great deal about Moreau, and Kléber, and the rest of them.’

While some were well satisfied that Pierre had well established his
merits as the conqueror of ‘Grandrengs,’ others quizzed him about the
heroism of lying hid in a well, and owing all his glory to a skin of
parchment.

‘An’ thou wert with the army of Italy, Pierre,’ said the hussar, ‘thou
‘d have seen men march boldly to victory, and not skulk underground like
a mole.’

‘I am tired of your song about this army of Italy,’ broke in the
cannonier; ‘we who have served in La Vendée and the North know what
fighting means as well, mayhap, as men whose boldest feats are scaling
rocks and clambering up precipices. Your Bonaparte is more like one of
those Guerilla chiefs they have in the “Basque,” than the general of a
French army.’

‘The man who insults the army of Italy, or its chief, insults me!’
said the corporal, springing up, and casting a sort of haughty defiance
around him.

‘And then?’--asked the other.

‘And then--if he be a French soldier, he knows what should follow.’

‘_Parbleu!_’ said the cannonier coolly, ‘there would be little glory in
cutting you down, and even less in being wounded by you; but if you
will have it so, it’s not an old soldier of the artillery will balk your
humour.’

As he spoke, he slowly arose from the ground, and tightening his
waist-belt, seemed prepared to follow the other. The rest sprang to
their feet at the same time, but not, as I anticipated, to offer a
friendly mediation between the angry parties, but in full approval of
their readiness to decide by the sword a matter too trivial to be called
a quarrel.

In the midst of the whispering conferences as to place and weapons--for
the short straight sword of the artillery was very unlike the curved
sabre of the hussar--the quick tramp of horses was heard, and suddenly
the head of a squadron was seen, as, with glancing helmets and
glittering equipments, they turned off the highroad and entered the
wood.

‘Here they come!--here come the troops!’ was now heard on every side;
and all question of the duel was forgotten in the greater interest
inspired by the arrival of the others. The sight was strikingly
picturesque; for, as they rode up, the order to dismount was given, and
in an instant the whole squadron was at work picketing and unsaddling
their horses; forage was shaken out before the weary and hungry beasts,
kits were unpacked, cooking utensils produced, and every one busy in
preparing for the bivouac. An infantry column followed close upon the
others, which was again succeeded by two batteries of field-artillery
and some squadrons of heavy dragoons; and now the whole wood, far and
near, was crammed with soldiers, waggons, caissons, and camp equipage.
To me the interest of the scene was never-ending--life, bustle, and
gaiety on every side. The reckless pleasantry of the camp, too, seemed
elevated by the warlike accompaniments of the picture--the caparisoned
horses, the brass guns, blackened on many a battlefield, the
weather-seamed faces of the hardy soldiers themselves, all conspiring to
excite a high enthusiasm for the career.

Most of the equipments were new and strange to my eyes. I had never
before seen the grenadiers of the Republican Guard, with their enormous
shakos, and their long-flapped vests, descending to the middle of the
thigh; neither had I seen the ‘Hussars de la mort,’ in their richly
braided uniform of black, and their long hair curled in ringlets
at either side of the face. The cuirassiers, too, with their
low cocked-hats, and straight black feathers, as well as the
‘Porte-drapeaux,’ whose brilliant uniforms, all slashed with gold,
seemed scarcely in keeping with yellow-topped boots; all were now seen
by me for the first time. But of all the figures which amused me most by
its singularity, was that of a woman, who, in a short frock-coat and
a low-crowned hat, carried a little barrel at her side, and led an ass
loaded with two similar but rather larger casks. Her air and gait
were perfectly soldierlike; and as she passed the different posts and
sentries, she saluted them in true military fashion. I was not long to
remain in ignorance of her vocation nor her name; for scarcely did she
pass a group without stopping to dispense a wonderful cordial that she
carried; and then I heard the familiar title of ‘La Mère Madou,’ uttered
in every form of panegyric.

She was a short, stoutly built figure, somewhat past the middle of life,
but without any impairment of activity in her movements. A pleasing
countenance, with good teeth, and black eyes, a merry voice, and a ready
tongue, were qualities more than sufficient to make her a favourite
with the soldiers, whom I found she had followed to more than one
battlefield.

‘_Peste!_ cried an old grenadier, as he spat out the liquor on the
ground. ‘This is one of those sweet things they make in Holland; it
smacks of treacle and bad lemons.’

‘Ah, Grognard!’ said she, laughing, ‘thou art more used to corn-brandy,
with a clove of garlick in’t, than to good curaçoa.’

‘What, curaçoa! Mère Madou, has got curaçoa there?’ cried a
grey-whiskered captain, as he turned on his saddle at the word.

‘Yes, _mon capitaine_, and such as no burgomaster ever drank better’;
and she filled out a little glass and presented it gracefully to him.

‘_Encore! ma bonne mère_,’ said he, as he wiped his thick moustache;
‘that liquor is another reason for extending the blessings of liberty to
the brave Dutch.’

‘Didn’t I tell you so?’ said she, refilling the glass; ‘but, holloa,
there goes Grégoire at full speed. Ah, scoundrels that ye are, I see
what ye ‘ve done.’ And so was it; some of the wild young voltigeur
fellows had fastened a lighted furze-bush to the beast’s tail, and had
set him at a gallop through the very middle of the encampment, upsetting
tents, scattering cooking-pans, and tumbling the groups, as they sat, in
every direction.

The confusion was tremendous, for the picketed horses jumped about, and
some, breaking loose, galloped here and there, while others set off with
half-unpacked waggons, scattering their loading as they went.

It was only when the blazing furze had dropped off, that the whole cause
of the mischance would suffer himself to be captured and led quietly
back to his mistress. Half crying with joy, and still wild with anger,
she kissed the beast and abused her tormentors by turns.

‘Cannoniers that ye are,’ she cried, ‘_ma foi_! you’ll have little taste
for fire when the day comes that ye should face it! _Pauvre_ Grégoire,
they’ve left thee a tail like a tirailleur’s feather! Plagues light
on the thieves that did it! Come here, boy,’ said she, addressing me,
‘hold, the bridle; what’s thy corps, lad?’

‘I have none now; I only followed the soldiers from Paris.’

‘Away with thee, street runner; away with thee, then,’ said she
contemptuously; ‘there are no pockets to pick here; and if there were,
thou ‘d lose thy ears for the doing it. Be off, then--back with thee
to Paris and all its villainies. There are twenty thousand of thy trade
there, but there’s work for ye all.’

‘Nay, mère, don’t be harsh with the boy,’ said a soldier; ‘you can see
by his coat that his heart is with us.’

‘And he stole that, I’ll be sworn,’ said she, pulling me round, by the
arm, full in front of her. ‘Answer me, _gamin_, where didst find that
old tawdry jacket?’

‘I got it in a place where, if they had hold of thee and thy bad tongue,
it would fare worse with thee than thou thinkest,’ said I, maddened by
the imputed theft and insolence together.

‘And where may that be, young slip of the galleys?’ cried she angrily.

‘In the “Prison du Temple.”’

‘Is that their livery, then?’ said she, laughing and pointing at me with
ridicule, ‘or is it a family dress made after thy father’s?’

‘My father wore a soldier’s coat, and bravely, too,’ said I, with
difficulty restraining the tears that rose to my eyes.

‘In what regiment, boy?’ asked the soldier who spoke before.

‘In one that exists no longer,’ said I sadly, and not wishing to allude
to a service that would find but slight favour in republican ears.

‘That must be the 24th of the Line; they were cut to pieces at
“Tongres.”’

‘No--no, he ‘s thinking of the 9th, that got so roughly handled at
Fontenoy,’ said another.

‘Of neither,’ said I; ‘I am speaking of those who have left nothing but
a name behind them--the Garde du Corps of the king.’

‘_Voilà!_ cried Madou, clapping her hands in astonishment at my
impertinence; ‘there’s an aristocrat for you! Look at him, _mes braves!_
it’s not every day we have the grand seigneurs condescending to come
amongst us! You can learn something of courtly manners from the polished
descendant of our nobility. Say, boy, art a count, or a baron, or
perhaps a duke?’

‘Make way there--out of the road, Mère Madou,’ cried a dragoon,
curveting his horse in such a fashion as almost to upset ass and
_cantinière_ together, ‘the staff is coming.’

The mere mention of the word sent numbers off in full speed to their
quarters; and now all was haste and bustle to prepare for the coming
inspection. The mère’s endeavours to drag her beast along were not very
successful, for, with the peculiar instinct of his species, the more
necessity there was of speed, the lazier he became; and as every one had
his own concerns to look after, she was left to her own unaided efforts
to drive him forward.

‘Thou’lt have a day in prison if thou’rt found here, Mère Madou,’ said a
dragoon, as he struck the ass with the flat of his sabre.

‘I know it well,’ cried she passionately; ‘but I have none to help me.
Come here, lad; be good-natured, and forget what passed. Take his bridle
while I whip him on.’

I was at first disposed to refuse, but her pitiful face and sad plight
made me think better of it, and I seized the bridle at once; but just as
I had done so, the escort galloped forward, and the dragoons coming
on the flank of the miserable beast, over he went, barrels and all,
crushing me beneath him as he fell.

[Illustration: 111]

‘Is the boy hurt?’ were the last words I heard, as I fainted; but a few
minutes after I found myself seated on the grass, while a soldier was
stanching the blood that ran freely from a cut in my forehead.

‘It is a trifle, general--a mere scratch,’ said a young officer to an
old man on horseback beside him, ‘and the leg is not broken.’

‘Glad of it,’ said the old officer; ‘casualties are insufferable, except
before an enemy. Send the lad to his regiment.’

‘He’s only a camp-follower, general. He does not belong to us.’

‘There, my lad, take this, then, and make thy way back to Paris,’ said
the old general, as he threw me a small piece of money.

I looked up, and, straight before me, saw the same officer who had given
me the assignat the night before.

‘General Lacoste!’ cried I, in delight, for I thought him already a
friend.

‘How is this--have I an acquaintance here?’ said he, smiling; ‘on my
life! it’s the young rogue I met this morning. Eh! art not thou the
artillery-driver I spoke to at the barrack?’

‘Yes, general, the same.’

‘_Diantre!_ It seems fated, then, that we are not to part company so
easily; for hadst thou remained in Paris, lad, we had most probably
never met again.’

‘_Ainsi, je suis bien tombé, general?_ said I, punning upon my accident.

He laughed heartily, less, I suppose, at the jest, which was a poor one,
than at the cool impudence with which I uttered it, and then turning to
one of the staff, said--

‘I spoke to Bertholet about this boy already; see that they take him in
the 9th. I say, my lad, what’s thy name?’

‘Tiernay, sir.’

‘Ay, to be sure, Tiernay. Well, Tiernay, thou shalt be a hussar, my man.
See that I get no disgrace by the appointment.’

I kissed his hand fervently, and the staff rode forward, leaving me the
happiest heart that beat in all the crowded host.



CHAPTER VII. A PASSING ACQUAINTANCE

If the guide who is to lead us on a long and devious track stops at
every byway, following out each path that seems to invite a ramble or
suggest a halt, we naturally might feel distrustful of his safe conduct,
and uneasy at the prospect of the road before us. In the same way
may the reader be disposed to fear that he who descends to slight and
trivial circumstances will scarcely have time for events which ought
to occupy a wider space in his reminiscences; and for this reason I am
bound to apologise for the seeming transgression of my last chapter.
Most true it is, that were I to relate the entire of my life with a
similar diffuseness, my memoir would extend to a length far beyond what
I intend it to occupy. Such, however, is very remote from my thoughts.
I have dwelt with, perhaps, something of prolixity upon the soldier-life
and characteristics of a past day, because I shall yet have to speak of
changes, without which the contrast would be inappreciable; but I have
also laid stress upon an incident trivial in itself, because it formed
an event in my own fortunes. It was thus, in fact, that I became a
soldier.

Now, the man who carries a musket in the ranks may very reasonably be
deemed but a small ingredient of the mass that forms an army; and in our
day his thoughts, hopes, fears, and ambitions are probably as unknown
and uncared for as the precise spot of earth that yielded the ore from
which his own weapon was smelted. This is not only reasonable, but it is
right in the time of which I am now speaking it was far otherwise. The
Republic, in extinguishing a class, had elevated the individual; and
now each, in whatever station he occupied, felt himself qualified to
entertain opinions and express sentiments which, because they were his
own, he presumed them to be national The idlers of the streets discussed
the deepest questions of politics; the soldiers talked of war with all
the presumption of consummate generalship. The great operations of a
campaign, and the various qualities of different commanders, were the
daily subjects of dispute in the camp. Upon one topic only were
all agreed; and there, indeed, our unanimity repaid all previous
discordance. We deemed France the only civilised nation of the globe,
and reckoned that people thrice happy who, by any contingency of
fortune, engaged our sympathy, or procured the distinction of our
presence in arms. We were the heaven-born disseminators of freedom
throughout Europe, the sworn enemies of kingly domination, and the
missionaries of a political creed, which was not alone to ennoble
mankind, but to render its condition eminently happy and prosperous.

There could not be an easier lesson to learn than this, and particularly
when dinned into your ears all day, and from every rank and grade around
you. It was the programme of every message from the Directory; it
was the opening of every general order from the general; it was the
table-talk of your mess. The burthen of every song, the title of every
military march performed by the regimental band, recalled it; even the
riding-master, as he followed the recruit around the weary circle,
whip in hand, mingled the orders he uttered with apposite axioms upon
republican grandeur. How I think I hear it still! as the grim old
quartermaster-sergeant, with his Alsatian accent and deep-toned voice,
would call out--

‘Elbows back!--wrist lower and free from the side--free, I say, as every
citizen of a great Republic!--head erect, as a Frenchman has a right to
carry it!--chest full out, like one who can breathe the air of heaven,
and ask no leave from king or despot!--down with your heel, sir; think
that you crush a tyrant beneath it!’

Such and such like were the running commentaries on equitation, till
often I forgot whether the lesson had more concern with a seat on
horseback or the great cause of monarchy throughout Europe. I suppose,
to use a popular phrase of our own day, ‘the system worked well’;
certainly the spirit of the army was unquestionable. From the grim old
veteran, with snow-white moustache, to the beardless, boy, there was but
one hope and wish--the glory of France. How they understood that glory,
or in what it essentially consisted, is another and very different
question.

Enrolled as a soldier in the ninth regiment of Hussars, I accompanied
that corps to Nancy, where, at that time, a large cavalry school was
formed, and where the recruits from the different regiments were trained
and managed before being sent forward to their destination.

A taste for equitation, and a certain aptitude for catching up the
peculiar character of the different horses, at once distinguished me in
the riding-school, and I was at last adopted by the riding-master of the
regiment as a kind of aide to him in his walk. When I thus became a bold
and skilful horseman, my proficiency interfered with my promotion,
for instead of accompanying my regiment I was detained at Nancy, and
attached to the permanent staff of the cavalry school there.

At first I asked for nothing better. It was a life of continued pleasure
and excitement, and while I daily acquired knowledge of a subject which
interested me deeply, I grew tall and strong of limb, and with
that readiness in danger, and that cool collectedness in moments of
difficulty, that are so admirably taught by the accidents and mischances
of a cavalry riding-school.

The most vicious and unmanageable beasts from the Limousin were often
sent to us, and when any one of these was deemed peculiarly untractable,
‘Give him to Tiernay’ was the last appeal, before abandoning him as
hopeless. I’m certain I owe much of the formation of my character to
my life at this period, and that my love of adventure, my taste
for excitement, my obstinate resolution to conquer a difficulty, my
inflexible perseverance when thwarted, and my eager anxiety for praise,
were all picked up amid the sawdust and tan of the riding-school. How
long I might have continued satisfied with such triumphs, and content
to be the wonder of the freshly joined conscripts, I know not, when
accident, or something very like it, decided the question.

It was a calm, delicious evening in April, in the year after I had
entered the school, that I was strolling alone on the old fortified
wall, which, once a strong redoubt, was the favourite walk of the good
citizens of Nancy. I was somewhat tired with the fatigues of the day,
and sat down to rest under one of the acacia-trees, whose delicious
blossom was already scenting the air. The night was still and noiseless;
not a man moved along the wall; the hum of the city was gradually
subsiding, and the lights in the cottages over the plain told that the
labourer was turning homeward from his toil. It was an hour to invite
calm thoughts, and so I fell a-dreaming over the tranquil pleasures of
a peasant’s life, and the unruffled peace of an existence passed amid
scenes that were endeared by years of intimacy. ‘How happily,’ thought
I, ‘time must steal on in these quiet spots, where the strife and
struggle of war are unknown, and even the sounds of conflict never
reach!’ Suddenly my musings were broken in upon by hearing the measured
tramp of cavalry, as at a walk; a long column wound their way along
the zigzag approaches, which by many a redoubt and fosse, over many a
drawbridge, and beneath many a strong arch, led to the gates of Nancy.
The loud, sharp call of a trumpet was soon heard, and, after a brief
parley, the massive gates of the fortress were opened for the troops to
enter. From the position I occupied exactly over the gate, I could not
only see the long, dark line of armed men as they passed, but also hear
the colloquy which took place as they entered--

‘What regiment?*

‘Detachments of the 12th Dragoons and the 22nd Chasseurs à cheval.’

‘Where from?’

‘Valence.’

‘Whereto?’

‘The army of the Rhine.’

‘Pass on!’

And with the words the ringing sound of the iron-shod horses was heard
beneath the vaulted entrance. As they issued from beneath the long deep
arch, the men were formed in line along two sides of a wide ‘Place’
inside the walls, where, with that despatch that habit teaches, the
billets were speedily distributed, and the parties ‘told off’ in squads
for different parts of the city. The force seemed a considerable one,
and with all the celerity they could employ, the billeting occupied a
long time. As I watched the groups moving off, I heard the direction
given to one party, ‘Cavalry School--Rue de Lorraine.’ The young officer
who commanded the group took a direction exactly the reverse of the
right one; and hastening down from the rampart, I at once overtook them,
and explained the mistake. I offered them my guidance to the place,
which being willingly accepted, I walked along at their side.

Chatting as we went, I heard that the dragoons were hastily withdrawn
from La Vendee to form part of the force under General Hoche. The young
sous-lieutenant, a mere boy of my own age, had already served in two
campaigns in Holland and the south of France; had been wounded in the
Loire, and received his grade of officer at the hands of Hoche himself
on the field of battle.

He could speak of no other name--Hoche was the hero of all his thoughts;
his gallantry, his daring, his military knowledge, his coolness in
danger, his impetuosity in attack, his personal amiability, the mild
gentleness of his manner, were themes the young soldier loved to
dwell on; and however pressed by me to talk of war and its chances, he
inevitably came back to the one loved theme--his general.

When the men were safely housed for the night, I invited my new friend
to my own quarters, where, having provided the best entertainment I
could afford, we passed more than half the night in chatting. There
was nothing above mediocrity in the look or manner of the youth; his
descriptions of what he had seen were unmarked by anything glowing
or picturesque; his observations did not evince either a quick or a
reflective mind, and yet, over this mass of commonplace, enthusiasm
for his leader had shed a rich glow, like a gorgeous sunlight on a
landscape, that made all beneath it seem brilliant and splendid.

‘And now,’ said he, after an account of the last action he had seen,
‘and now, enough of myself; let’s talk of thee. Where hast thou been?’

‘Here!’ said I, with a sigh, and in a voice that shame had almost made
inaudible. ‘Here, here, at Nancy.’

‘Not always here?’

‘Just so. Always here.’

‘And what doing, _mon cher_? Thou art not one of the Municipal Guard,
surely?’

‘No,’ said I, smiling sadly, ‘I belong to the “École d’Équitation.’”

‘Ah, that’s it,’ said he, in somewhat of confusion; ‘I always thought
they selected old Serjeants _en retraite_, worn-out veterans, and
wounded fellows, for riding-school duty.’

‘Most of ours are such,’ said I, my shame increasing at every word--‘but
somehow they chose me also, and I had no will in the matter----’

‘No will in the matter, _parbleu!_ and why not? Every man in France has
a right to meet the enemy in the field. Thou art a soldier, a hussar of
the 9th, a brave and gallant corps, and art to be told that thy comrades
have the road to fame and honour open to them, whilst thou art to mope
away life like an invalided drummer? It is too gross an indignity, my
boy, and must not be borne. Away with you to-morrow at daybreak to the
état-major; ask to see the Commandant. You’re in luck, too, for our
colonel is with him now, and he is sure to back your request. Say that
you served in the school to oblige your superiors, but that you cannot
see all chances of distinction lost to you for ever by remaining there.
They’ve given you no grade yet, I see,’ continued he, looking at my arm.

‘None; I am still a private.’

‘And I a sous-lieutenant, just because I have been where powder was
flashing! You can ride well, of course?’

‘I defy the wildest Limousin to shake me in my saddle.’

‘And, as a swordsman, what are you?’

‘Gros Jean calls me his best pupil.’

‘Ah, true! you have Gros Jean here, the best _sabreur_ in France! And
here you are--a horseman, and one of Gros Jean’s _élèves_--rotting away
life in Nancy! Have you any friends in the service?’

‘Not one.’

‘Not one! Nor relations, nor connections?’

‘None. I am Irish by descent. My family are only French by one
generation.’

‘Irish! Ah! that’s lucky too,’ said he. ‘Our colonel is an Irishman. His
name is Mahon. You’re certain of getting your leave now. I’ll present
you to him to-morrow. We are to halt two days here, and before that is
over, I hope you’ll have made your last caracole in the riding-school of
Nancy.’

‘But remember,’ cried I, ‘that although Irish by family, I have never
been there. I know nothing of either the people or the language--and do
not present me to the general as his countryman.’

‘I’ll call you by your name, as a soldier of the 9th Hussars, and leave
you to make out your claim as countrymen, if you please, together.’

This course was now agreed upon, and after some further talking, my
friend, refusing all my offers of a bed, coolly wrapped his cloak about
him, and, with his head on the table, fell fast asleep, long before
I had ceased thinking over his stories and his adventures in camp and
battlefield.



CHAPTER VIII. ‘TRONCHON’

My duties in the riding-school were always over before mid-day, and as
noon was the hour appointed by the young lieutenant to present me to his
colonel, I was ready by that time, and anxiously awaiting his arrival. I
had done my best to smarten up my uniform, and make all my accoutrements
bright and glistening. My scabbard was polished like silver, the steel
front of my shako shone like a mirror, and the tinsel lace of my jacket
had undergone a process of scrubbing and cleaning that threatened its
very existence. My smooth chin and beardless upper-lip, however, gave
me a degree of distress that all other deficiencies failed to inflict.
I can dare to say, that no mediaeval gentleman’s bald spot ever cost him
one-half the misery as did my lack of moustache occasion me. ‘A hussar
without beard, as well without spurs or sabretache’; a tambour major
without his staff, a cavalry charger without a tail, couldn’t be more
ridiculous; and there was that old serjeant of the riding-school,
‘Tron-chon,’ with a beard that might have made a mattress! How the goods
of this world are unequally distributed! thought I; still why might he
not spare me a little--a very little would suffice--just enough to give
the ‘air hussar’ to my countenance. He’s an excellent creature, the
kindest old fellow in the world. I ‘m certain he ‘d not refuse me. To
be sure, the beard is a red one, and pretty much like bell-wire in
consistence; no matter, better that than this girlish smooth chin I now
wear.

Tronchon was spelling out the _Moniteurs_ account of the Italian
campaign as I entered his room, and found it excessively difficult to
get back from the Alps and Apennines to the humble request I preferred.

‘Poor fellows!’ muttered he--‘four battles in seven days, without stores
of any kind or rations--almost without bread; and here comest thou,
whining because thou hasn’t a beard.’

‘If I were not a hussar----’

‘Bah!’ said he, interrupting, ‘what of that? Where shouldst thou have
had thy baptism of blood, boy? Art a child--nothing more.’

‘I shared my quarters last night with one, not older, Tronchon, and he
was an officer, and had seen many a battlefield.’

‘I know that, too,’ said the veteran, with an expression of
impatience--‘and that General Bonaparte will give every boy his
epaulettes before an old and tried soldier.’

‘It was not Bonaparte. It was----’

‘I care not who promoted the lad; the system is just the same with them
all. It is no longer, “Where have you served?--what have you seen?”
 but, “Can you read glibly?--can you write faster than speak?--have you
learned to take towns upon paper, and attack a breastwork with a rule
and a pair of compasses?” This is what they called “_le génie_” “_le
génie_”--ha! ha! ha!’ cried he, laughing heartily; ‘that’s the name old
women used to give the devil when I was a boy.’

It was with the greatest difficulty I could get him back from these
disagreeable reminiscences to the object of my visit, and, even then,
I could hardly persuade him that I was serious in asking the loan of a
beard. The prayer of my petition being once understood, he discussed the
project gravely enough; but to my surprise he was far more struck by the
absurd figure _he_ should cut with his diminished mane, than _I_ with my
mock moustache.

‘There’s not a child in Nancy won’t laugh at me--they’ll cry, “There
goes old Tronchon--he’s like Kléber’s charger, which the German cut the
tail off, to make a shako plume!”’

‘I assured him that he might as well pretend to miss one tree in the
forest of Fontainebleau--that after furnishing a squadron like myself,
his would be still the first beard in the Republic; and at last he
yielded, and gave in.

Never did a little damsel of the nursery array her doll with
more delighted looks, and gaze upon her handiwork with more
self-satisfaction, than did old Tronchon survey me, as, with the aid
of a little gum, he decorated my lip with a stiff line of his iron-red
beard.

‘_Diantre!_’ cried he, in ecstasy, ‘if thou ben’t something like a man
after all. Who would have thought it would have made such a change? Thou
might pass for one that saw real smoke and real fire, any day, lad. Ay!
thou hast another look in thine eye, and another way to carry thy
head, now! Trust me, thou’lt look a different fellow on the left of the
squadron.’

I began to think so too, as I looked at myself in the small triangle
of a looking-glass which decorated Tronchon’s wall, under a picture of
Kellermann, his first captain. I fancied that the improvement was most
decided. I thought that, bating a little over-ferocity, a something
verging upon the cruel, I was about as perfect a type of the hussar
as need be. My jacket seemed to fit tighter--my pelisse hung more
jauntily--my shako sat more saucily on one side of my head--my sabre
banged more proudly against my boot--my very spurs jangled with a
pleasanter music--and all because a little hair bristled over my lip,
and curled in two spiral flourishes across my cheek! I longed to see the
effect of my changed appearance, as I walked down the ‘Place Carrière,’
or sauntered into the café where my comrades used to assemble. What will
Mademoiselle Josephine say, thought I, as I ask for my _petit verre_,
caressing my moustache thus! Not a doubt of it, what a fan is to a
woman a beard is to a soldier!--a something to fill up the pauses in
conversation, by blandly smoothing with the finger, or fiercely curling
at the point.

‘And so thou art going to ask for thy grade, Maurice?’ broke in
Tronchon, after a long silence.

‘Not at all. I am about to petition for employment upon active service.
I don’t seek promotion till I have deserved it.’

‘Better still, lad. I was eight years myself in the ranks before they
gave me the stripe on my arm. _Parbleu!_ the Germans had given me some
three or four with the sabre before that time.’

‘Do you think they ‘ll refuse me, Tronchon?’

‘Not if thou go the right way about it, lad. Thou mustn’t fancy
it’s like asking leave from the captain to spend the evening in a
_guinguette_, or to go to the play with thy sweetheart. No, no, boy.
It must be done _en règle_. Thou’lt have to wait on the general at his
quarters at four o’clock, when he “receives,” as they call it. Thou’lt
be there, mayhap, an hour, ay, two or three belike, and after all,
perhaps, won’t see him that day at all! I was a week trying to catch
Kellermann, and, at last, he only spoke to me going downstairs with his
staff--

‘“Eh, Tronchon, another bullet in thy old carcass; want a furlough to
get strong again, eh?”

‘“No, colonel; all sound this time. I want to be a sergeant--I’m twelve
years and four months corporal.”

‘“Slow work, too,” said he, laughing; “ain’t it, Charles?” and he
pinched one of his young officers by the cheek. “Let old Tronchon
have his grade; and I say, my good fellow,” said he to me, “don’t come
plaguing me any more about promotion till I’m General of Division. You
hear that?”

‘Well, he’s got his step since; but I never teased him after.’

‘And why so, Tronchon?’ said L

‘I’ll tell thee, lad,’ whispered he, in a low, confidential tone, as if
imparting a secret well worth the hearing. ‘They can find fellows every
day fit for lieutenants and _chefs d’escadron. Parbleu!_ they meet
with them in every café, in every “billiard” you enter; but a sergeant!
Maurice, one that drills his men on parade--can dress them like a
wall--see that every kit is well packed, and every cartouch well
filled--who knows every soul in his company as he knows the buckles of
his own sword-belt--that’s what one should not chance upon in haste.
It’s easy enough to manoeuvre the men, Maurice; but to make them,
boy, to fashion the fellows so that they be like the pieces of a great
machine, that’s the real labour--that’s soldiering indeed.’

‘And you say I must write a petition, Tronchon?’ said I, more anxious
to bring him back to my own affairs than listen to these speculations of
his. ‘How shall I do it?’

‘Sit down there, lad, and I’ll tell thee. I’ve done the thing some
scores of times, and know the words as well as I once knew my “Pater.”
 _Parbleu!_ I often wish I could remember that now, just to keep me from
gloomy thoughts when I sit alone of an evening.’

It was not a little to his astonishment, but still more to his delight,
that I told the poor fellow I could help to refresh his memory, knowing,
as I did, every word of the litanies by heart; and, accordingly, it was
agreed on that I should impart religious instruction in exchange for the
secular knowledge he was conferring upon me.

‘As for the petition,’ said Tronchon, seating himself opposite to me at
the table, ‘it is soon done; for mark me, lad, these things must always
be short; if thou be long-winded, they put thee away, and tell some
of the clerks to look after thee--and there’s an end of it. Be brief,
therefore, and next--be legible--write in a good, large, round hand;
just as, if thou wert speaking, thou wouldst talk with a fine, clear,
distinct voice. Well, then, begin thus:--“Republic of France, one and
indivisible!” Make a flourish round that, lad, as if it came freely from
the pen. When a man writes--“France!” he should do it as he whirls his
sabre round his head in a charge! Ay, just so.’

‘I ‘m ready, Tronchon, go on.’

’”_Mon Général!_” Nay, nay--_Général_ mustn’t be as large as
_France_--yes, that’s better. “The undersigned, whose certificates
of service and conduct are herewith inclosed.” Stay, stop a moment,
Tronchon; don’t forget that I have got neither one nor t’other. No
matter; I’ll make thee out both. Where was I?--Ay, “herewith inclosed;
and whose wounds, as the accompanying report will show----“’

‘Wounds! I never received one.’

‘No matter, I’ll--eh--what? _Feu d’enfer!_ how stupid I am! What have
I been thinking of? Why, boy, it was a sick-furlough I was about to ask
for--the only kind of petition I have ever had to write in a life long.’

‘And _I_ am asking for active service.’

‘Ha! That came without asking for in my case.’

‘Then what’s to be done, Tronchon?--clearly this won’t do!’

He nodded sententiously an assent, and, after a moment’s rumination,
said--

‘It strikes me, lad, there can be no need of begging for that which
usually comes unlooked for; but if thou don’t choose to wait for thy
billet for t’other world, but must go and seek it, the best way will be
to up and tell the general as much.’

‘That was exactly my intention.’

‘If he asks thee, “Canst ride?” just say, “Old Tronchon taught me”; he
‘ll be one of the young hands, indeed, if he don’t know that name! And,
mind, lad, have no whims or caprices about whatever service he names
thee for, even were ‘t the infantry itself! It’s a hard word, that--I
know it well; but a man must make up his mind for anything and
everything. Wear any coat, go anywhere, face any enemy thou ‘rt ordered,
and have none of those newfangled notions about this general, or that
army. Be a good soldier and a good comrade. Share thy kit and thy purse
to the last sou, for it will not only be generous in thee, but that so
long as thou hoardest not, thou’lt never be over-eager for pillage. Mind
these things, and with a stout heart and a sharp sabre, Maurice, _tu
iras loin_. Yes, I tell thee again, lad, _tu iras loin_.’

I give these three words as he said them, for they have rung in my ears
throughout all my life long. In moments of gratified ambition, in the
glorious triumph of success, they have sounded to me like the confirmed
predictions of one who foresaw my elevation in less prosperous hours.
When fortune has looked dark and lowering, they have been my comforter
and support, telling me not to be downcast or depressed, that the season
of sadness would pass away, and the road to fame and honour again open
before me.

‘You really think so, Tronchon? You think that I shall be something
yet?’

‘_Tu iras loin_, I say,’ repeated he emphatically, and with the air of
an oracle who would not suffer further interrogation. I therefore shook
his hand cordially, and set out to pay my visit to the general.



CHAPTER IX. A SCRAPE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES

When I reached the quarters of the état-major, I found the great
courtyard of the ‘hotel’ crowded with soldiers of every rank and arm of
the service. Some were newly joined recruits waiting for the orders
to be forwarded to their respective regiments, some were invalids
just issued from the hospital, some were sick and wounded on their way
homeward. There were sergeants with their billet-rolls, and returns, and
court-martial sentences. Adjutants with regimental documents hastening
hither and thither. Mounted orderlies, too, continually came and went;
all was bustle, movement, and confusion. Officers in staff uniforms
called out the orders from the different windows, and despatches were
sent off here and there with hot haste. The building was the ancient
palace of the Dukes of Lorraine, and a splendid fountain of white marble
in the centre of the _cour_, still showed the proud armorial bearings of
that princely house. Around the sculptured base of this now were seated
groups of soldiers, their war-worn looks and piled arms contrasting
strangely enough with the great porcelain vases of flowering plants that
still decorated the rich plateau. Shakos, helmets, and greatcoats were
hung upon the orange-trees. The heavy boots of the cuirassier, the white
leather apron of the sapeur, were drying along the marble benches of the
terrace. The richly traceried veining of gilt iron-work, which separated
the court from the garden, was actually covered with belts, swords,
bayonets, and horse-gear, in every stage and process of cleaning. Within
the garden itself, however, all was silent and still--two sentries, who
paced backwards and forwards beneath the grille, showing that the spot
was to be respected by those whose careless gestures and reckless air
betrayed how little influence the mere ‘genius of the place’ would
exercise over them.

To me the interest of everything was increasing; and whether I lingered
to listen to the raw remarks of the new recruit, in wonder at all he
saw, or stopped to hear the campaigning stories of the old soldiers
of the army, I never wearied. Few, if any, knew whither they were
going--perhaps to the north to join the army of the Sambre; perhaps
to the east to the force upon the Rhine. It might be that they were
destined for Italy--none cared! Meanwhile, at every moment, detachments
moved off, and their places were filled by fresh arrivals--all dusty and
wayworn from the march. Some had scarcely time to eat a hurried morsel,
when they were called on to ‘fall in,’ and again the word ‘forward’ was
given. Such of the infantry as appeared too weary for the march were
sent on in great charrettes drawn by six or eight horses, and capable of
carrying forty men in each; and of these there seemed to be no end. No
sooner was one detachment away than another succeeded. Whatever their
destination, one thing seemed evident, the urgency that called them was
beyond the common. For a while I forgot all about myself in the greater
interest of the scene; but then came the thought that I too should have
my share in this onward movement, and now I set out to seek for my young
friend, the sous-lieutenant. I had not asked his name, but his regiment
I knew to be the 22nd Chasseurs à cheval. The uniform was light green,
and easily enough to be recognised; yet nowhere was it to be seen.
There were cuirassiers, and hussars, heavy dragoons, and carabiniers in
abundance--everything, in short, but what I sought.

At last I asked of an old quartermaster where the 22nd were quartered,
and heard, to my utter dismay, that they had marched that morning at
eight o’clock. There were two more squadrons expected to arrive at noon,
but the orders were that they were to proceed without further halt.

‘And whither to,’ asked I.

‘To Treves, on the Moselle,’ said he, and turned away as if he would not
be questioned further. It was true that my young friend could not have
been much of a patron, yet the loss of him was deeply felt by me. He was
to have introduced me to his colonel, who probably might have obtained
the leave I desired at once; and now I knew no one, not one even to
advise me how to act. I sat down upon a bench to think, but could
resolve on nothing; the very sight of that busy scene had now become a
reproach to me. There were the veterans of a hundred battles hastening
forward again to the field; there were the young soldiers just flushed
with recent victory; even the peasant boys were ‘eager for the fray’;
but I alone was to have no part in the coming glory. The enthusiasm of
all around only served to increase and deepen my depression. There was
not one there, from the old and war-worn veteran of the ranks to the
merest boy, with whom I would not gladly have exchanged fortunes. Some
hours passed over in these gloomy reveries, and when I looked up from
the stupor my own thoughts had thrown over me, the _cour_ was almost
empty. A few sick soldiers, waiting for their billets of leave, a few
recruits not yet named to any corps, and a stray orderly or two standing
beside his horse, were all that remained.

I arose to go away, but in my preoccupation of mind, instead of turning
toward the street, I passed beneath a large archway into another court
of the building, somewhat smaller, but much richer in decoration and
ornament than the outer one. After spending some time admiring the
quaint devices and grim heads which peeped out from all the architraves
and friezes, my eye was caught by a low, arched doorway, in the middle
of which was a small railed window, like the grille of a convent. I
approached, and perceived that it led into a garden, by a long, narrow
walk of clipped yew, dense and upright as a wall The trimly raked
gravel, and the smooth surface of the hedge, showed the care bestowed
on the grounds to be a wide contrast to the neglect exhibited in the
mansion itself; a narrow border of hyacinths and carnations ran along
either side of the walk, the gorgeous blossoms appearing in strong
relief against the background of dark foliage.

The door, as I leaned against it, gently yielded to the pressure of my
arm, and almost without knowing it, I found myself standing within the
precincts of the garden. My first impulse, of course, was to retire and
close the door again, but somehow, I never knew exactly why, I could not
resist the desire to see a little more of a scene so tempting. There was
no mark of footsteps on the gravel, and I thought it likely the garden
was empty. On I went, therefore, at first with cautious and uncertain
steps, at last with more confidence, for as I issued from the
hedge-walk, and reached an open space beyond, the solitude seemed
unbroken. Fruit-trees, loaded with blossom, stood in a closely shaven
lawn, through which a small stream meandered, its banks planted with
daffodils and water-lilies. Some pheasants moved about through the
grass, but without alarm at my presence; while a young fawn boldly came
over to me, and although in seeming disappointment at not finding an old
friend, continued to walk beside me as I went.

The grounds appeared of great extent: paths led off in every direction;
and while, in some places, I could perceive the glittering roof and
sides of a conservatory, in others the humble culture of a vegetable
garden was to be seen. There was a wondrous fascination in the calm and
tranquil solitude around; and coming, as it did, so immediately after
the busy bustle of the ‘soldiering,’ I soon not only forgot that I was
an intruder there, but suffered myself to wander ‘fancy free,’ following
out the thoughts each object suggested. I believe at that moment, if the
choice were given me, I would rather have been the ‘Adam of that Eden’
than the proudest of those generals that ever led a column to victory!
Fortunately, or unfortunately--it would not be easy to decide which--the
alternative was not open to me. It was while I was still musing, I found
myself at the foot of a little eminence, on which stood a tower whose
height and position showed it had been built for the view it afforded
over a vast tract of country. Even from where I stood, at its base, I
could see over miles and miles of a great plain, with the main roads
leading towards the north and eastward. This spot was also the boundary
of the grounds, and a portion of the old boulevard of the town formed
the defence against the open country beyond. It was a deep ditch, with
sides of sloping sward, cropped neatly, and kept in trimmest order, but,
from its depth and width, forming a fence of a formidable kind. I was
peering cautiously down into the abyss, when I heard a voice so close to
my ear that I started with surprise. I listened, and perceived that the
speaker was directly above me, and leaning over the battlements at the
top of the tower.

‘You’re quite right,’ cried he, as he adjusted a telescope to his eye,
and directed his view towards the plain. ‘He has gone wrong! He has
taken the Strasbourg road, instead of the northern one.’

An exclamation of anger followed these words; and now I saw the
telescope passed to another hand, and, to my astonishment, that of a
lady.

‘Was there ever stupidity like that? He saw the map like the others, and
yet---- _Parbleu!_ it’s too bad!’

I could perceive that a female voice made some rejoinder, but did not
distinguish the words; when the man again spoke--

‘No, no; it’s all a blunder of that old major; and here am I without an
orderly to send after him. _Diable!_ it is provoking.’

‘Isn’t that one of your people at the foot of the tower?’ said the lady,
as she pointed to where I stood, praying for the earth to open and close
over me; for, as he moved his head to look down, I saw the epaulettes of
a staff-officer.

‘Holloa!’ cried he, ‘are you on duty?’

‘No, sir; I was----’

Not waiting for me to finish an explanation, he went on--

‘Follow that division of cavalry that has taken the Strasbourg road, and
tell Major Roquelard that he has gone wrong; he should have turned off
to the left at the suburbs. Lose no time, but away at once. You are
mounted, of course?’

‘No, sir, my horse is at quarters; but I can----’

‘No, no; it will be too late,’ he broke in again. ‘Take my troop-horse,
and be off. You’ll find him in the stable to your left.’

Then turning to the lady I heard him say--

‘It may save Roquelard from an arrest.’

I did not wait for more, but hurried off in the direction he had
pointed. A short gravel walk brought me in front of a low building, in
the cottage style, but which, decorated with emblems of the chase, I
guessed to be the stable. Not a groom was to be seen; but the door being
unlatched I entered freely. Four large and handsome horses were feeding
at the racks, their glossy coats and long silken manes showing the care
bestowed upon them. Which is the trooper? thought I, as I surveyed them
all with keen and scrutinising eye. All my skill in such matters
was unable to decide the point; they seemed all alike valuable and
handsome--in equally high condition, and exhibiting equal marks of
careful treatment. Two were stamped on the haunches with the letters ‘R.
F.’; and these, of course, were cavalry horses. One was a powerful black
horse, whose strong quarters and deep chest bespoke great action, while
the backward glances of his eye indicated the temper of a ‘tartar.’
Making choice of him without an instant’s hesitation, I threw on the
saddle, adjusted the stirrups to my own length, buckled the bridle, and
led him forth. In all my ‘school experience’ I had never seen an animal
that pleased me so much; his well-arched neck and slightly dipped back
showed that an Arab cross had mingled with the stronger qualities of the
Norman horse. I sprang to my saddle with delight; to be astride such a
beast was to kindle up all the enthusiasm of my nature; and as I grasped
the reins, and urged him forward, I was half wild with excitement.

Apparently the animal was accustomed to more gentle treatment, for he
gave a loud snort, such as a surprised or frightened horse will give,
and then bounded forward once or twice, as if to dismount me. This
failing, he reared up perfectly straight, pawing madly, and threatening
even to fall backwards. I saw that I had, indeed, selected a wicked one;
for in every bound and spring, in every curvet and leap, the object was
clearly to unseat the rider. At one instant he would crouch, as if to
lie down, and then bound up several feet in the air, with a toss up
of his haunches that almost sent me over the head. At another he would
spring from side to side, writhing and twisting like a fish, till the
saddle seemed actually slipping away from his lithe body. Not only did
I resist all these attacks, but vigorously continued to punish with whip
and spur the entire time--a proceeding, I could easily see, he was not
prepared for. At last, actually maddened with his inability to throw
me, and enraged by my continuing to spur him, he broke away, and
dashing headlong forward, rushed into the very thickest of the grove.
Fortunately for me, the trees were either shrubs or of stunted growth,
so that I had only to keep my saddle to escape danger; but suddenly
emerging from this, he gained the open sward, and as if his passion
became more furious as he indulged in it, he threw up his head, and
struck out in full gallop. I had but time to see that he was heading for
the great fosse of the boulevard, when we were already on its brink. A
shout, and a cry of I know not what, came from the tower; but I heard
nothing more. Mad as the maddened animal himself, perhaps at that moment
just as indifferent to life, I dashed the spurs into his flanks, and
oyer we went, lighting on the green sward as easily as a seagull on a
wave. To all seeming, the terrible leap had somewhat sobered him; but
on me it had produced the very opposite effect. I felt that I had gained
the mastery, and resolved to use it. With unrelenting punishment, then,
I rode him forward, taking the country as it lay straight before me. The
few fences which divided the great fields were too insignificant to be
called leaps, and he took them in the ‘sling’ of his stretching gallop.
He was now subdued, yielding to every turn of my wrist, and obeying
every motive of my will like an instinct. It may read like a petty
victory; but he who has ever experienced the triumph over an enraged
and powerful horse, well knows that few sensations are more pleasurably
exciting. High as is the excitement of being borne along in full speed,
leaving village and spire, glen and river, bridge and mill behind
you--now careering up the mountain-side, with the fresh breeze upon
your brow; now diving into the dark forest, startling the hare from
her cover, and sending the wild deer scampering before you--it is still
increased by the sense of a victory; by feeling that the mastery is with
you, and that each bound of the noble beast beneath you has its impulse
in your own heart.

Although the cavalry squadrons I was despatched to overtake had quitted
Nancy four hours before, I came up with them in less than an hour,
and inquiring for the officer in command, rode up to the head of the
division. He was a thin, gaunt-looking, stern-featured man, who listened
to my message without changing a muscle.

‘Who sent you with this order?’ said he.

‘A general officer, sir, whose name I don’t know, but who told me to
take his own horse and follow you.’

‘Did he tell you to kill the animal, sir?’ said he, pointing to the
heaving flanks and shaking tail of the exhausted beast.

‘He bolted with me at first, major, and having cleared the ditch of the
boulevard, rode away with me.’

‘Why, it’s Colonel Mahon’s Arab, Aleppo,’ said another officer; ‘what
could have persuaded him to mount an orderly on a beast worth ten
thousand francs?’

I thought I’d have fainted, as I heard these words; the whole
consequences of my act revealed themselves before me, and I saw arrest,
trial, sentence, imprisonment, and Heaven knew what afterwards, like a
panorama rolling out to my view.

‘Tell the colonel, sir,’ said the major, ‘that I have taken the north
road, intending to cross over at Beaumont; that the artillery trains
have cut up the Metz road so deeply, cavalry cannot travel; tell him I
thank him much for his politeness in forwarding this despatch to me; and
tell him, that I regret the rules of active service should prevent my
sending back an escort to place yourself under arrest for the manner in
which you have ridden--you hear, sir?’

I touched my cap in salute.

‘Are you certain, sir, that you have my answer correctly?’

‘I am, sir.’

‘Repeat it, then.’

I repeated the reply, word for word, as he spoke it.

‘No, sir,’ said he as I concluded; ‘I said for unsoldier-like and cruel
treatment to your horse.’

One of his officers whispered something in his ear, and he quietly
added--

‘I find that I had not used these words, but I ought to have done so;
give the message, therefore, as you heard it at first.’

‘Mahon will shoot him, to a certainty,’ muttered one of the captains.

‘I’d not blame him,’ joined another; ‘that horse saved his life at
Quiberon, when he fell in with a patrol; and look at him now!’

The major made a sign for me to retire, and I turned and set ont towards
Nancy, with the feelings of a convict on the way to his fate.

If I did not feel that these brief records of a humble career were
‘upon honour,’ and that the only useful lesson a life so unimportant can
teach, is the conflict between opposing influences, I might possibly
be disposed to blink the avowal, that, as I rode along towards Nancy, a
very great doubt occurred to me as to whether I ought not to desert!
It is a very ignoble expression; but it must out. There were not in
the French service any of those ignominious punishments which, once
undergone, a man is dishonoured for ever, and no more admissible to rank
with men of character than if convicted of actual crime; but there were
marks of degradation, almost as severe, then in vogue, and which men
dreaded with a fear nearly as acute--such, for instance, as being
ordered for service at the Bagne de Brest, in Toulon--the arduous duty
of guarding the galley-slaves, and which was scarcely a degree above the
condition of the condemned themselves. Than such a fate as this, I
would willingly have preferred death. It was, then, this thought that
suggested desertion; but I soon rejected the unworthy temptation, and
held on my way towards Nancy.

Aleppo, if at first wearied by the severe burst, soon rallied, while he
showed no traces of his fiery temper, and exhibited few of fatigue; and
as I walked along at his side, washing his mouth and nostrils at each
fountain I passed, and slackening his saddle-girths to give him freedom,
long before we arrived at the suburbs he had regained all his looks and
much of his spirit.

At last we entered Nancy about nightfall, and, with a failing heart, I
found myself at the gate of the ducal palace. The sentries suffered me
to pass unmolested, and entering, I took my way through the courtyard,
towards the small gate of the garden, which, as I had left it, was
unlatched.

It was strange enough, the nearer I drew towards the eventful moment of
my fate, the more resolute and composed my heart became. It is possible,
thought I, that in a fit of passion he will send a ball through me, as
the officer said. Be it so--the matter is the sooner ended. If, however,
he will condescend to listen to my explanation, I may be able to assert
my innocence, at least so far as intention went. With this comforting
conclusion, I descended at the stable door. Two dragoons in undress were
smoking, as they lay at full length upon a bench, and speedily arose as
I came up.

‘Tell the colonel he’s come, Jacques,’ said one, in a loud voice, and
the other retired; while the speaker, turning towards me, took the
bridle from my hand, and led the animal in, without vouchsafing a word
to me.

‘An active beast that,’ said I, affecting the easiest and coolest
indifference. The soldier gave me a look of undisguised amazement, and I
continued--

‘He has had a bad hand on him, I should say--some one too flurried and
too fidgety to give confidence to a hot-tempered horse.’

Another stare was all the reply.

‘In a little time, and with a little patience, I’d make him as gentle as
a lamb.’

‘I’m afraid you’ll not have the opportunity,’ replied he significantly;
‘but the colonel, I see, is waiting for you, and you can discuss the
matter together.’

The other dragoon had just then returned, and made me a sign to follow
him. A few paces brought us to the door of a small pavilion, at which a
sentry stood; and having motioned to me to pass in, my guide left me.
An orderly sergeant at the same instant appeared, and beckoning to me to
advance, he drew aside a curtain, and pushing me forward, let the heavy
folds close behind me; and now I found myself in a richly furnished
chamber, at the farther end of which an officer was at supper with a
young and handsome woman. The profusion of wax-lights on the table--the
glitter of plate, and glass, and porcelain--the richness of the lady’s
dress, which seemed like the costume of a ball--were all objects
distracting enough, but they could not turn me from the thought of my
own condition; and I stood motionless, while the officer, a man of about
fifty, with dark and stern features, deliberately scanned me from head
to foot. Not a word did he speak, not a gesture did he make, but sat,
with his black eyes actually piercing me. I would have given anything
for some outbreak of anger, some burst of passion, that would have put
an end to this horrible suspense, but none came; and there he remained
several minutes, as if contemplating something too new and strange for
utterance. ‘This must have an end,’ thought I--‘here goes’; and so, with
my hand in salute, I drew myself full up, and said--

‘I carried your orders, sir, and received for answer that Major
Roquelard had taken the north road advisedly, as that by Beaumont was
cut up by the artillery trains; that he would cross over to the Metz
Chaussée as soon as possible; that he thanked you for the kindness of
your warning, and regretted that the rules of active service precluded
his despatching an escort of arrest along with me, for the manner in
which I had ridden with the order.’

‘Anything more?’ asked the colonel, in a voice that sounded thick and
guttural with passion.

‘Nothing more, sir.’

‘No further remark or observation?’ ‘None, sir--at least from the
major.’

‘What then--from any other?’

‘A captain, sir, whose name I do not know, did say something.’

‘What was it?’

‘I forget the precise words, sir, but their purport was, that Colonel
Mahon would certainly shoot me when I got back.’

‘And you replied?’

‘I don’t believe I made any reply at the time, sir.’

‘But you thought, sir--what were your thoughts?’

‘I thought it very like what I’d have done myself in a like case,
although certain to be sorry for it afterwards.’

Whether the emotion had been one for some time previous restrained, or
that my last words had provoked it suddenly, I cannot tell, but the lady
here burst out into a fit of laughter, but which was as suddenly checked
by some sharp observation of the colonel, whose stern features grew
sterner and darker every moment.

‘There we differ, sir,’ said he, ‘for I should not’ At the same
instant he pushed his plate away, to make room on the table for a small
portfolio, opening which, he prepared to write.

‘You will bring this paper,’ continued he, ‘to the provost-marshal.
To-morrow morning you shall be tried by a regimental court-martial, and
as your sentence may probably be the galleys and hard labour----’

‘I ‘ll save them the trouble,’ said I, quietly drawing my sword; but
scarcely was it clear of the scabbard when a shriek broke from the lady,
who possibly knew not the object of my act; at the same instant the
colonel bounded across the chamber, and striking me a severe blow upon
the arm, dashed the weapon from my hand to the ground.

‘You want the fusillade--is that what you want?’ cried he, as, in a
towering fit of passion, he dragged me forward to the light. I was now
standing close to the table; the lady raised her eyes towards me, and
at once broke out into a burst of laughter--such hearty, merry laughter,
that, even with the fear of death before me, I could almost have joined
in it.

‘What is it--what do you mean, Laure?’ cried the colonel angrily.

‘Don’t you see it?’ said she, still holding her kerchief to her
face--‘can’t you perceive it yourself? He has only one moustache!’

I turned hastily towards the mirror beside me, and there was the fatal
fact revealed--one gallant curl disported proudly over the left cheek,
while the other was left bare.

‘Is the fellow mad--a mountebank?’ said the colonel, whose anger was now
at its white heat.

‘Neither, sir,’ said I, tearing off my remaining moustache, in shame
and passion together. ‘Among my other misfortunes I have that of being
young; and what’s worse, I was ashamed of it; but I begin to see my
error, and know that a man may be old without gaining either in dignity
or temper.’

With a stroke of his closed fist upon the table, the colonel made every
glass and decanter spring from their places, while he uttered an oath
that was only current in the days of that army. ‘This is beyond belief,’
cried he. ‘Come, _gredin_, you have at least had one piece of good
fortune: you’ve fallen precisely into the hands of one who can deal with
you.--Your regiment?’

‘The Ninth Hussars.’

‘Your name?’

‘Tiernay.’

‘Tiernay; that’s not a French name?’

‘Not originally; we were Irish once.’

‘Irish,’ said he, in a different tone from what he had hitherto used.
‘Any relative of a certain Comte Maurice de Tiernay, who once served in
the Royal Guard?’

‘His son, sir.’

‘What--his son! Art certain of this, lad? You remember your mother’s
name then--what was it?’

‘I never knew which was my mother,’ said I. ‘Mademoiselle de la Lasterie
or----’

He did not suffer me to finish, but throwing his arms around my neck,
pressed me to his bosom.

‘You are little Maurice, then,’ said he, ‘the son of my old and valued
comrade! Only think of it, Laure--I was that boy’s godfather.’

Here was a sudden change in my fortunes; nor was it without a great
effort that I could credit the reality of it, as I saw myself seated
between the colonel and his fair companion, both of whom overwhelmed me
with attention.

It turned out that Colonel Mahon had been a fellow-guardsman with my
father, for whom he had ever preserved the warmest attachment. One of
the few survivors of the Garde du Corps, he had taken service with
the Republic, and was already reputed as one of the most distinguished
cavalry officers.

‘Strange enough, Maurice,’ said he to me, ‘there was something in your
look and manner, as you spoke to me there, that recalled your poor
father to my memory; and without knowing or suspecting why, I suffered
you to bandy words with me, while at another moment I would have ordered
you to be ironed and sent to prison.’

Of my mother, of whom I wished much to learn something, he would not
speak, but adroitly changed the conversation to the subject of my own
adventures, and these he made me recount from the beginning. If the lady
enjoyed all the absurdities of my chequered fortune with a keen sense of
the ridiculous, the colonel apparently could trace in them but so many
resemblances to my father’s character, and constantly broke out into
exclamations of ‘How like him!’ ‘Just what he would have done himself!’
‘His own very words! ‘and so on.

It was only in a pause of the conversation, as the clock on the
mantelpiece struck eleven, that I was aware of the lateness of the hour,
and remembered that I should be on the punishment-roll the next morning
for absence from quarters.

‘Never fret about that, Maurice--I ‘ll return your name as on a special
service; and to have the benefit of truth on our side, you shall be
named one of my orderlies, with the grade of corporal.’

‘Why not make him a sous-lieutenant?’ said the lady, in a half-whisper.
‘I’m sure he is better worth his epaulettes than any I have seen on your
staff.’

‘Nay, nay,’ muttered the colonel, ‘the rules of the service forbid it.
He’ll win his spurs time enough, or I ‘m much mistaken.’

While I thanked my new and kind patron for his goodness, I could not
help saying that my heart was eagerly set upon the prospect of actual
service; and that proud as I should be of his protection, I would rather
merit it by my conduct than owe my advancement to favour.

‘Which simply means that you are tired of Nancy, and riding drill, and
want to see how men comport themselves where the manoeuvres are not
arranged beforehand. Well, so far you are right, boy. I shall, in all
likelihood, be stationed here for three or four months, during which
you might have advanced a stage or so towards those epaulettes my fair
friend desires to see upon your shoulders. You shall, therefore, be sent
forward to your own corps. I’ll write to the colonel to confirm the
rank of corporal; the regiment is at present on the Moselle, and, if I
mistake not, will soon be actively employed Come to me to-morrow before
noon, and be prepared to march with the first detachments that are sent
forward.’

A cordial shake of the hand followed these words; and the lady having
also vouchsafed me an equal token of her good-will, I took my leave, the
happiest fellow that ever betook himself to quarters after hours, and as
indifferent to the penalties annexed to the breach of discipline as if
the whole code of martial law were a mere fable.



CHAPTER X. AN ARISTOCRATIC REPUBLICAN

If the worthy reader would wish to fancy the happiest of all youthful
beings, let him imagine what I must have been, as, mounted upon Aleppo,
a present from my godfather, with a purse of six shining louis in
my pocket, and a letter to my colonel, I set forth for Metz. I had
breakfasted with Colonel Mahon, who, amid much good advice for my future
guidance, gave me, half slyly, to understand that the days of Jacobinism
had almost run their course, and that a reactionary movement had already
set in. The Republic, he added, was as strong, perhaps stronger, than
ever, but that men had grown weary of mob tyranny, and were, day by
day, reverting to the old loyalty, in respect for whatever pretended to
culture, good-breeding, and superior intelligence. ‘As, in a shipwreck,
the crew instinctively turn for counsel and direction to the officers,
you will see that France will, notwithstanding all the libertinism of
our age, place her confidence in the men who have been the tried and
worthy servants of former governments. So far, then, from suffering on
account of your gentle blood, Maurice, the time is not distant when it
will do you good service, and when every association that links you with
family and fortune will be deemed an additional guarantee of your good
conduct. I mention these things,’ continued he, ‘because your colonel
is what they call a “Grosbleu “--that is, a coarse-minded, inveterate
republican, detesting aristocracy and all that belongs to it. Take care,
therefore, to give him no just cause for discontent, but be just as
steady in maintaining your position as the descendant of a noble house,
who has not forgotten what were once the privileges of his rank. Write
to me frequently and freely, and I’ll take care that you want for
nothing, so far as my small means go, to sustain whatever grade you
occupy. Your own conduct shall decide whether I ever desire to have any
other inheritor than the son of my oldest friend in the world.’

Such were his last words to me as I set forth, in company with a large
party, consisting for the most part of under-officers and employés
attached to the medical staff of the army. It was a very joyous and
merry fraternity, and, consisting of ingredients drawn from different
pursuits and arms of the service, infinitely amusing from contrast
of character and habits. My chief associate amongst them was a young
sous-lieutenant of dragoons, whose age, scarcely much above my own,
joined to a joyous, reckless temperament, soon pointed him out as the
character to suit me; his name was Eugène Santron. In appearance he was
slightly formed, and somewhat undersized, but with handsome features,
their animation rendered sparkling by two of the wickedest black eyes
that ever glistened and glittered in a human head. I soon saw that,
under the mask of affected fraternity and equality, he nourished the
most profound contempt for the greater number of associates, who, in
truth, were, however _braves gens_, the very roughest and least-polished
specimens of the polite nation. In all his intercourse with them, Eugène
affected the easiest tone of camaraderie and equality, never assuming
in the slightest, nor making any pretensions to the least superiority
on the score of position or acquirements, but on the whole consoling
himself, as it were, by ‘playing them off’ in their several
eccentricities, and rendering every trait of their vulgarity and
ignorance tributary to his own amusement. Partly from seeing that he
made me an exception to this practice, and partly from his perceiving
the amusement it afforded me, we drew closer towards each other, and
before many days elapsed, had become sworn friends.

There is probably no feature of character so very attractive to a
young man as frankness. The most artful of all flatteries is that which
addresses itself by candour, and seems at once to select, as it were by
intuition, the object most suited for a confidence. Santron carried me
by a _coup de main_ of this kind, as, taking my arm one evening as I was
strolling along the banks of the Moselle, he said--

‘My dear Maurice, it’s very easy to see that the society of our
excellent friends yonder is just as distasteful to you as to me. One
cannot always be satisfied laughing at their solecisms in breeding
and propriety. One grows weary at last of ridiculing their thousand
absurdities; and then there comes the terrible retribution in the
reflection of what the devil brought me into such company? a question
that, however easily answered, grows more and more intolerable the
oftener it is asked. To be sure, in my case there was little choice in
the matter, for I was not in any way the arbiter of my own fortune. I
saw myself converted from a royal page to a printer’s devil by a kind
old fellow, who saved my life by smearing my face with ink, and covering
my scarlet uniform with a filthy blouse; and since that day I have taken
the hint, and often found the lesson a good one--the dirtier the safer!

‘We were of the old nobility of France, but as the name of our family
was the cause of its extinction, I took care to change it. I see you
don’t clearly comprehend me, and so I’ll explain myself better. My
father lived unmolested during the earlier days of the Revolution,
and might so have continued to the end, if a detachment of the Garde
Républicaine had not been despatched to our neighbourhood of Saarlouis,
where it was supposed some lurking regard for royalty yet lingered.
These fellows neither knew nor cared for the ancient noblesse of the
country, and one evening a patrol of them stopped my father as he was
taking his evening walk along the ramparts. He would scarcely deign to
notice the insolent ‘_Qui va là?_ of the sentry, a summons he at least
thought superfluous in a town which had known his ancestry for eight or
nine generations. At the repetition of the cry, accompanied by something
that sounded ominous, in the sharp click of a gun-lock, he replied
haughtily, “Je suis le Marquis de Saint-Trône.”

‘“There are no more marquises in France!” was the savage answer.

‘My father smiled contemptuously, and briefly said “Saint-Trône.”

‘“We have no saints either,” cried another.

‘“Be it so, my friend,” said he, with mingled pity and disgust. “I
suppose some designation may at least be left to me, and that I may call
myself Trône.”

‘“We are done with thrones long ago,” shouted they in chorus, “and we
‘ll finish you also.”

‘Ay, and they kept their word, too. They shot him that same evening, on
very little other charge than his own name! If I have retained the old
sound of my name, I have given it a more plebeian spelling, which is,
perhaps, just as much of an alteration as any man need submit to for a
period that will pass away so soon.’

‘How so, Eugène? you fancy the Republic will not endure in France. What,
then, can replace it?’

‘Anything, everything; for the future all is possible. We have
annihilated legitimacy, it is true, just as the Indians destroy a
forest, by burning the trees; but the roots remain; and if the soil is
incapable of sending up the giant stems as before, it is equally unable
to furnish a new and different culture. Monarchy is just as firmly
rooted in a Frenchman’s heart, but he will have neither patience for its
tedious growth, nor can he submit to restore what has cost him so dearly
to destroy. The consequences will, therefore, be a long and continued
struggle between parties, each imposing upon the nation the form, of
government that pleases it in turn. Meanwhile you and I, and others like
us, must serve whatever is uppermost--the cleverest fellow he who sees
the coming change, and prepares to take advantage of it.’

‘Then you are a Royalist?’ asked I.

‘A Royalist! What! stand by a monarch who deserted his aristocracy,
and forgot his own order; defend a throne that he had reduced to the
condition of a _fauteuil de Bourgeois?_’

‘You are then for the Republic?’

‘For what robbed me of my inheritance--what degraded me from my rank,
and reduced me to a state below that of my own vassals! Is this a cause
to uphold?’

‘You are satisfied with military glory, perhaps,’ said I, scarcely
knowing what form of faith to attribute to him.

‘In an army where my superiors are the very dregs of the people; where
the canaille have the command, and the chivalry of France is represented
by a sans-culotte!’

‘The cause of the Church----’

A hurst of ribald laughter cut me short, and laying his hand on my
shoulder he looked me full in the face; while with a struggle to recover
his gravity, he said--

‘I hope, my dear Maurice, you are not serious, and that you do not mean
this for earnest. Why, my dear boy, don’t you talk of the Eleusinian
Mysteries, the Delphic Oracle of Alchemy, Astrology--of anything, in
short, of which the world, having amused itself, has at length grown
weary? Can’t you see that the Church has passed away, and these good
priests have gone the same road as their predecessors? Is any acuteness
wanting to show that there is an end of this superstition that has
enthralled men’s minds for a couple of thousand years? No, no, their
game is up, and for ever. These pious men, who despised this world, and
yet had no other hold upon the minds of others than by the very craft
and subtlety that world taught them--these heavenly souls, whose whole
machinations revolved about earthy objects and the successes of this
grovelling planet! Fight for them! No, _parbleu!_ we owe them but little
love or affection. Their whole aim in life has been to disgust one
with whatever is enjoyable, and the best boon they have conferred upon
humanity, that bright thought of locking up the softest eyes and fairest
cheeks of France in cloisters and nunneries! I can forgive our glorious
Revolution much of its wrong when I think of the Prêtre; not but that
they could have knocked down the church without suffering the ruins to
crush the château!’

Such, in brief, were the opinions my companion held, and of which I was
accustomed to hear specimens every day; at first, with displeasure and
repugnance; later on, with more of toleration; and at last, with a sense
of amusement at the singularity of the notions, or the dexterity
with which he defended them. The poison of his doctrines was the more
insidious, because it was mingled with a certain dash of good-nature,
and a reckless, careless easiness of disposition always attractive to
very young men. His reputation for courage, of which he had given signal
proofs, elevated him in my esteem; and, ere long, all my misgivings
about him, in regard of certain blemishes, gave way before my admiration
of his heroic bearing and a readiness to confront peril, wherever to be
found.

I had made him the confidant of my own history, of which I told him
everything, save the passages which related to the Père Michel. These
I either entirely glossed over, or touched so lightly as to render
unimportant--a dread of ridicule restraining me from any mention of
those earlier scenes of my life, which were alone of all those I should
have avowed with pride. Perhaps it was from mere accident--perhaps some
secret shame to conceal my forlorn and destitute condition may have had
its share in the motive; but, for some cause or other, I gave him to
understand that my acquaintance with Colonel Mahon had dated back to
a much earlier period than a few days before, and, the impression once
made, a sense of false shame led me to support it.

‘Mahon can be a good friend to you,’ said Eugène; ‘he stands well with
all parties. The Convention trust him, the sans-culottes are afraid of
him, and the few men of family whom the guillotine has left look up to
him as one of their stanchest adherents. Depend upon it, therefore, your
promotion is safe enough, even if there were not a field open for every
man who seeks the path to eminence. The great point, however, is to get
service with the army of Italy. These campaigns here are as barren and
profitless as the soil they are fought over; but, in the south, Maurice,
in the land of dark eyes and tresses, under the blue skies, or beneath
the trellised vines, there are rewards of victory more glorious than a
grateful country, as they call it, ever bestowed. Never forget, my boy,
that you or I have no cause! It is to us a matter of indifference
what party triumphs, or who is uppermost. The Government may change
to-morrow, and the day after, and so on for a month long, and yet we
remain just as we were. Monarchy, Commonwealth, Democracy--what you
will--may rule the hour, but the sous-lieutenant is but the servant
who changes his master. Now, in revenge for all this, we have one
compensation, which is, to “live for the day”--to make the most of that
brief hour of sunshine granted us, and to taste of every pleasure, to
mingle in every dissipation, and enjoy every excitement that we can.
This is my philosophy, Maurice, and just try it.’

Such was the companion with whom chance threw me in contact, and I
grieve to think how rapidly his influence gained the mastery over me.



CHAPTER XI. ‘THE PASSAGE OP THE RHINE’

I parted from my friend Eugène at Treves, where he remained in garrison,
while I was sent forward to Coblentz to join my regiment, at that time
forming part of Ney’s division.

Were I to adhere in my narrative to the broad current of great events,
I should here have to speak of that grand scheme of tactics by which
Kléber, advancing from the Lower Rhine, engaged the attention of the
Austrian Grand-Duke, in order to give time and opportunity for Hoche’s
passage of the river at Strasbourg, and the commencement of that
campaign which had for its object the subjugation of Germany. I have
not, however, the pretension to chronicle those passages which history
has for ever made memorable, even were my own share in them of a
more distinguished character. The insignificance of my station must,
therefore, be my apology if I turn from the description of great and
eventful incidents to the humble narrative of my own career.

Whatever the contents of Colonel Mahon’s letter, they did not plead
very favourably for me with Colonel Hacque, my new commanding officer;
neither, to all seeming, did my own appearance weigh anything in my
favour. Raising his eyes at intervals from the letter to stare at me,
he uttered some broken phrases of discontent and displeasure; at last
he said--‘What’s the object of this letter, sir; to what end have you
presented it to me?’

‘As I am ignorant of its contents, mon colonel,’ said I calmly, ‘I can
scarcely answer the question.’

‘Well, sir, it informs me that you are the son of a certain Count
Tiernay, who has long since paid the price of his nobility; and that,
being an especial protégé of the writer, he takes occasion to present
you to me; now I ask again, with what object?’

‘I presume, sir, to obtain for me the honour which I now enjoy--to
become personally known to you.’

‘I know every soldier under my command, sir,’ said he rebukingly, ‘as
you will soon learn if you remain in my regiment. I have no need of
recommendatory letters on that score. As to your grade of corporal, it
is not confirmed; time enough when your services shall have shown that
you deserve promotion. _Parbleu!_ sir, you’ll have to show other claims
than your ci-devant countship.’

Colonel Mahon gave me a horse, sir; may I be permitted to retain him as
a regimental mount?’ asked I timidly.

‘We want horses--what is he like?’

‘Three-quarters Arab, and splendid in action, sir.’

‘Then, of course, unfit for service and field manoeuvres.

Send him to the état-major. The Republic will find a fitting mount for
you; you may retire.’

And I did retire, with a heart almost bursting between anger and
disappointment. What a future did this opening present to me! What a
realisation this of all my flattering hopes!

This sudden reverse of fortune, for it was nothing less, did not render
me more disposed to make the best of my new condition, nor see in the
most pleasing light the rough and rude fraternity among which I was
thrown. The Ninth Hussars were reputed to be an excellent service-corps,
but, off duty, contained some of the worst ingredients of the army.
Play, and its consequence, duelling, filled up every hour not devoted to
regimental duty; and low as the tone of manners and morals stood in the
service generally, ‘Hacque’s Tapageurs,’ as they were called, enjoyed
the unflattering distinction of being the leaders. Self-respect was a
quality utterly unknown amongst them--none felt ashamed at the disgrace
of punishment; and as all knew that, at the approach of the enemy,
prison-doors would open, and handcuffs fall off, they affected to think
the ‘Salle de Police’ was a pleasant alternative to the fatigue and
worry of duty. These habits not only stripped soldiering of all its
chivalry, but robbed freedom itself of all its nobility. These men saw
nothing but licentiousness in their newly won liberty. Their ‘Equality’
was the permission to bring everything down to a base and unworthy
standard; their ‘Fraternity,’ the appropriation of what belonged to one
richer than themselves.

It would give me little pleasure to recount, and the reader, in all
likelihood, as little to hear, the details of my life among such
associates. They are the passages of my history most painful to recall,
and least worthy of being remembered; nor can I even yet write without
shame the confession, how rapidly their habits became my own. Eugene’s
teachings had prepared me, in a manner, for their lessons. His
scepticism, extending to everything and every one, had made me
distrustful of all friendship, and suspicious of whatever appeared a
kindness. Vulgar association, and daily intimacy with coarsely minded
men, soon finished what he had begun; and in less time than it took me
to break my troop-horse to regimental drill, I had been myself ‘broke
in’ to every vice and abandoned habit of my companions. It was not in my
nature to do things by halves; and thus I became, and in a brief space,
too, the most inveterate Tapageur of the whole regiment. There was not
a wild prank or plot in which I was not foremost, not a breach of
discipline unaccompanied by my name or presence, and more than half the
time of our march to meet the enemy, I passed in double irons under the
guard of the provost-marshal.

It was at this pleasant stage of my education that our brigade arrived
at Strasbourg, as part of the _corps d’armée_, under the command of
General Moreau.

He had just succeeded to the command on the dismissal of Pichegru, and
found the army not only dispirited by the defeats of the past campaign,
but in a state of rudest indiscipline and disorganisation. If left to
himself, he would have trusted much to time and circumstances for the
reform of abuses that had been the growth of many months long. But
Régnier, the second in command, was made of ‘different stuff’; he was
a harsh and stern disciplinarian, who rarely forgave a first, never
a second, offence, and who, deeming the ‘Salle de Police’ as an
encumbrance to an army on service, which, besides, required a guard of
picked men, that might be better employed elsewhere, usually gave the
preference to the shorter sentence of ‘four paces and a fusillade.’
Nor was he particular in the classification of those crimes he thus
expiated: from the most trivial excess to the wildest scheme of
insubordination, all came under the one category. More than once, as we
drew near to Strasbourg, I heard the project of a mutiny discussed, day
after day. Some one or other would denounce the ‘_scélérat_ Régnier,’
and proclaim his readiness to be the executioner; but the closer we drew
to headquarters, the more hushed and subdued became these mutterings,
till at last they ceased altogether, and a dark and foreboding dread
succeeded to all our late boastings and denunciations.

This at first surprised and then utterly disgusted me with my
companions. Brave as they were before the enemy, had they no courage for
their own countrymen? Was all their valour the offspring of security, or
could they only be rebellious when the penalty had no terrors for them?
Alas! I was very young, and did not then know that men are never strong
against the right, and that a bad cause is always a weak one.

It was about the middle of June when we reached Strasbourg, where now
about forty thousand troops were assembled. I shall not readily forget
the mingled astonishment and disappointment our appearance excited as
the regiment entered the town. The Tapageurs, so celebrated for all
their terrible excesses and insubordination, were seen to be a fine
corps of soldierlike fellows, their horses in high condition, their
equipments and arms in the very best order. Neither did our conduct
at all tally with the reputation that preceded us. All was orderly and
regular in the several billets; the parade was particularly observed;
not a man late at the night muster. What was the cause of this sudden
and remarkable change? Some said that we were marching against the
enemy; but the real explanation lay in the few words of a general order
read to us by our colonel the day before we entered the city:--

     ‘The 9th Hussars have obtained the unworthy reputation of
     being an ill-disciplined and ill-conducted regiment, relying
     upon their soldierlike qualities in face of the enemy to
     cover the disgrace of their misconduct in quarters. This is
     a mistake that must be corrected. All Frenchmen are brave;
     none can arrogate to themselves any prerogative of valour.
     If any wish to establish such a belief, a campaign can
     always attest it. If any profess to think so without such
     proof, and, acting in conformity with this impression,
     disobey their orders or infringe regimental discipline, I
     will have them shot.

     ‘Régnier, Adjutant-General.’


This was, at least, a very straightforward and intelligible
announcement, and as such my comrades generally acknowledged it. I,
however, regarded it as a piece of monstrous and intolerable tyranny,
and sought to make converts to my opinion by declaiming about the rights
of Frenchmen, the liberty of free discussion, the glorious privilege of
equality, and so on; but these arguments sounded faint in presence
of the drumhead; and while some slunk away from the circle around me,
others significantly hinted that they would accept no part of the danger
my doctrines might originate.

However I might have respected my comrades had they been always the
well-disciplined body I now saw them, I confess that this sudden
conversion through fear was in nowise to my taste, and rashly confounded
their dread of punishment with a base and ignoble fear of death. ‘And
these are the men,’ thought I, ‘who talk of their charging home through
the dense squares of Austria--who have hunted the leopard into the sea,
and have carried the flag of France over the high Alps?’

A bold rebel, whatever may be the cause against which he revolts, will
always be sure of a certain ascendency. Men are prone to attribute power
to pretension, and he who stands foremost in the breach will at least
win the suffrages of those whose cause he assumes to defend. In this
way it happened that exactly, as my comrades fell in my esteem, I was
elevated in theirs; and while I took a very depreciating estimate of
their courage, they conceived a very exalted opinion of mine.

It was altogether inexplicable to see these men, many of them the
bronzed veterans of a dozen campaigns--the wounded and distinguished
soldiers in many a hard-fought field, yielding up their opinions and
sacrificing their convictions to a raw and untried stripling who had
never yet seen an enemy.

With a certain fluency of speech I possessed also a readiness at picking
up information, and arraying the scattered fragments of news into a
certain consistence, which greatly imposed upon my comrades. A quick
eye for manoeuvres, and a shrewd habit of combining in my own mind the
various facts that came before me, made me appear to them a perfect
authority on military matters, of which I talked, I shame to say, with
all the confidence and presumption of an accomplished general. A few
lucky guesses, and a few half hints, accidentally confirmed, completed
all that was wanting; and what says ‘Le Jeune Maurice,’ was the
inevitable question that followed each piece of flying gossip, or every
rumour that rose of a projected movement.

I have seen a good deal of the world since that time, and I am bound to
confess, that not a few of the great reputations I have witnessed have
stood upon grounds very similar, and not a whit more stable than my
own. A bold face, a ready tongue, a promptness to support, with my right
hand, whatever my lips were pledged to, and, above all, good-luck, made
me the king of my company; and although that sovereignty only extended
to half a squadron of hussars, it was a whole universe to me.

So stood matters when, on the 23rd of June, orders came for the whole
_corps d’armée_ to hold itself in readiness for a forward movement.
Rations for two days were distributed, and ammunition given out as if
for an attack of some duration. Meanwhile, to obviate any suspicion
of our intentions, the gates of Strasbourg, on the eastern side,
were closed--all egress in that direction forbidden--and couriers and
_estafettes_ sent off towards the north, as if to provide for the march
of our force in that direction. The arrival of various orderly dragoons
during the previous night, and on that morning early, told of a great
attack in force on Mannheim, about sixty miles lower down the Rhine,
and the cannonade of which some avowed that they could hear at that
distance. The rumour, therefore, seemed confirmed, that we were ordered
to move to the north, to support this assault.

The secret despatch of a few dismounted dragoons and some riflemen to
the hanks of the Rhine, however, did not strike me as according with
this view, and particularly as I saw that, although all were equipped,
and in readiness to move, the order to march was not given, a delay very
unlikely to be incurred if we were destined to act as the reserve of the
force already engaged.

Directly opposite to us, on the right bank of the river, and separated
from it by a low flat of about two miles in extent, stood the fortress
of Kehl, at that time garrisoned by a strong Austrian force; the banks
of the river, and the wooded islands in the stream, which communicated
with the right by bridges, or fordable passes, being also held by the
enemy in force.

These we had often seen, by the aid of telescopes, from the towers and
spires of Strasbourg; and now I remarked that the general and his staff
seemed more than usually intent on observing their movements. This fact,
coupled with the not less significant one that no preparations for a
defence of Strasbourg were in progress, convinced me that, instead of
moving down the Rhine to the attack on Mannheim, the plan of our general
was to cross the river where we were, and make a dash at the fortress
of Kehl. I was soon to receive the confirmation of my suspicion, as the
orders came for two squadrons of the 9th to proceed, dismounted, to
the bank of the Rhine, and, under shelter of the willows, to conceal
themselves there. Taking possession of the various skiffs and
fishing-boats along the bank, we were distributed in small parties, to
one of which, consisting of eight men under the orders of a corporal, I
belonged.

About an hour’s march brought us to the river-side, in a little clump
of alder willows, where, moored to a stake, lay a fishing-boat with two
short oars in her. Lying down beneath the shade, for the afternoon was
hot and sultry, some of us smoked, some chatted, and a few dozed away
the hours that somehow seemed unusually slow in passing.

There was a certain dogged sullenness about my companions, which
proceeded from their belief that we and all who remained at Strasbourg
were merely left to occupy the enemy’s attention, while greater
operations were to be carried on elsewhere.

‘You see what it is to be a condemned corps,’ muttered one; ‘it’s little
matter what befalls the old 9th, even should they be cut to pieces.’

‘They didn’t think so at Enghien,’ said another, ‘when we rode down the
Austrian cuirassiers.’

‘Plain enough,’ cried a third, ‘we are to have skirmishers’ duty here,
without skirmishers’ fortune in having a force to fall back upon.’

‘Eh! Maurice, is not this very like what you predicted for us?’ broke in
a fourth ironically.

‘I’m of the same mind still,’ rejoined I coolly: ‘the general is
not thinking of a retreat; he has no intention of deserting a
well-garrisoned, well-provisioned fortress. Let the attack on Mannheim
have what success it may, Strasbourg will be held still. I overheard
Colonel Guyon remark that the waters of the Rhine have fallen three
feet since the drought set in, and Régnier replied ‘that we must lose no
time, for there will come rain and floods ere long.’ Now what could that
mean but the intention to cross over yonder?’

‘Cross the Rhine in face of the fort of Kehl!’ broke in the corporal.

‘The French army have done bolder things before now!’ was my reply;
and, whatever the opinion of my comrades, the flattery ranged them on
my side. Perhaps the corporal felt it beneath his dignity to discuss
tactics with an inferior, or perhaps he felt unable to refute the
specious pretensions I advanced; in any case he turned away, and either
slept, or affected sleep, while I strenuously laboured to convince my
companions that my surmise was correct.

I repeated all my former arguments about the decrease in the Rhine,
showing that the river was scarcely two-thirds of its habitual breadth,
that the nights were now dark, and well suited for a surprise, that the
columns which issued from the town took their departure with a pomp and
parade far more likely to attract the enemy’s attention than escape his
notice, and were, therefore, the more likely to be destined for some
secret expedition, of which all this display was but the blind. These,
and similar facts, I grouped together with a certain ingenuity, which,
if it failed to convince, at least silenced my opponents. And now the
brief twilight, if so short a struggle between day and darkness deserved
the name, passed off, and night suddenly closed around us--a night black
and starless, for a heavy mass of lowering cloud seemed to unite with
the dense vapour that arose from the river, and the low-lying grounds
alongside of it. The air was hot and sultry, too, like the precursor
of a thunderstorm, and the rush of the stream as it washed among the
willows sounded preternaturally loud.

A hazy, indistinct flame, the watch-fire of the enemy, on the island of
Eslar, was the only object visible in the murky darkness. After a while,
however, we could detect another fire on a smaller island, a short
distance higher up the stream. This, at first dim and uncertain, blazed
up after a while, and at length we descried the dark shadows of men as
they stood around it.

It was but the day before that I had been looking on a map of the Rhine,
and remarked to myself that this small island, little more than a mere
rock in the stream, was so situated as to command the bridge between
Eslar and the German bank, and I could not help wondering that the
Austrians had never taken the precaution to strengthen it, or at
least place a gun there, to enfilade the bridge. Now, to my extreme
astonishment, I saw it occupied by the soldiery, who, doubtless, were
artillery, as in such a position small arms would prove of slight
efficiency. As I reflected over this, wondering within myself if any
intimation of our movements could have reached the enemy, I heard along
the ground on which I was lying the peculiar tremulous, dull sound
communicated by a large body of men marching. The measured tramp could
not be mistaken, and as I listened I could perceive that a force was
moving towards the river from different quarters. The rumbling roll
of heavy guns and the clattering noise of cavalry were also easily
distinguished, and awaking one of my comrades I called his attention to
the sounds.

‘_Parbleu!_’ said he, ‘thou’rt right; they’re going to make a dash at
the fortress, and there will be hot work ere morning. What say you now,
corporal? has Maurice hit it off this time?’

‘That’s as it may be,’ growled the other sulkily; ‘guessing is easy work
ever for such as thee! but if he be so clever, let him tell us why are
we stationed along the river’s bank in small detachments. We have had no
orders to observe the enemy, nor to report upon anything that might
go forward; nor do I see with what object we were to secure the
fishing-boats; troops could never be conveyed across the Rhine in skiffs
like these!’

‘I think that this order was given to prevent any of the fishermen
giving information to the enemy in case of a sudden attack,’ replied I.

‘Mayhap thou wert at the council of war when the plan was decided on,’
said he contemptuously. ‘For a fellow that never saw the smoke of an
enemy’s gun, thou hast a rare audacity in talking of war!’

‘Yonder is the best answer to your taunt,’ said I, as, in a little bend
of the stream beside us, two boats were seen to pull under the shelter
of the tall alders, from which the clank of arms could be plainly heard;
and now another larger launch swept past, the dark shadows of a dense
crowd of men showing above the gunwale.

‘They are embarking--they are certainly embarking,’ now ran from mouth
to mouth. As the troops arrived at the river’s bank they were speedily
‘told off’ in separate divisions, of which some were to lead the attack,
others to follow, and a third portion to remain as a reserve in the
event of a repulse.

The leading boat was manned entirely by volunteers, and I could hear
from where I lay the names called aloud as the men stepped out from the
ranks. I could hear that the first point of attack was the island of
Eslar. So far there was a confirmation of my own guessing, and I did
not hesitate to assume the full credit of my skill from my comrades. In
truth, they willingly conceded all or even more than I asked for. Not a
stir was heard, not a sight seen, not a movement made of which I was not
expected to tell the cause and the import; and knowing that to
sustain my influence there was nothing for it but to affect a thorough
acquaintance with everything, I answered all their questions boldly and
unhesitatingly. I need scarcely observe that the corporal in comparison
sank into downright insignificance. He had already shown himself a
false guide, and none asked his opinion further, and I became the ruling
genius of the hour. The embarkation now went briskly forward; several
light field-guns were placed in the boats, and two or three large rafts,
capable of containing two companies each, were prepared to be towed
across by boats.

Exactly as the heavy hammer of the cathedral struck one, the first boat
emerged from the willows, and darting rapidly forward, headed for the
middle of the stream; another and another in quick succession followed,
and speedily were lost to us in the gloom; and now two four-oared
skiffs stood out together, having a raft, with two guns, in tow; by some
mischance, however, they got entangled in a side current, and the raft
swerving to one side, swept past the boats, carrying them down the
stream along with it. Our attention was not suffered to dwell on this
mishap, for at the same moment the flash and rattle of firearms told us
the battle had begun. Two or three isolated shots were first heard, and
then a sharp platoon-fire, accompanied by a wild cheer, that we well
knew came from our own fellows. One deep mellow boom of a large gun
resounded amidst the crash, and a slight streak of flame, higher up the
stream, showed that the shot came from the small island I have already
spoken of.

‘Listen, lads,’ said I; ‘that came from the “Fels Insel.” If they are
firing grape yonder, our poor fellows in the boats will suffer sorely
from it. By Jove, there is a crash!’

As I was speaking, a rattling noise like the sound of clattering timber
was heard, and with it a sharp, shrill cry of agony, and all was hushed.

‘Let’s at them, boys: they can’t be much above our own number. The
island is a mere rock,’ cried I to my comrades.

‘Who commands this party,’ said the corporal--‘you or I?’

‘You, if you lead us against the enemy,’ said I; ‘but I’ll take it if my
comrades will follow me. There goes another shot, lads--yes or no--now
is the time to speak.’

‘We’re ready,’ cried three, springing forward with one impulse.

At the instant I jumped into the skiff, the others took their places,
and then come a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, and a seventh, leaving the
corporal alone on the bank.

‘Come along, corporal,’ cried I, ‘we’ll win your epaulettes for you’;
but he turned away without a word; and, not waiting further, I pushed
out the skiff, and sent her skimming down the stream.

‘Pull steady, boys, and silently,’ said I; ‘we must gain the middle of
the current, and then drop down the river without the least noise.
Once beneath the trees, we’ll give them a volley, and then the bayonet.
Remember, lads, no flinching; it’s as well to die here as be shot by old
Régnier to-morrow.’

The conflict on the Eslar island was now, to all seeming, at its height.
The roll of musketry was incessant, and sheets of flame, from time to
time, streaked the darkness above the river.

‘Stronger and together, boys--once more--there it is--we are in the
current now; in with you, men, and look to your carbines; see that the
priming is safe; every shot soon will be worth a fusillade. Lie still
now, and wait for the word to fire.’

The spreading foliage of the nut-trees was rustling over our heads as
I spoke, and the sharp skiff, borne on the current, glided smoothly on
till her bow struck the rock. With high-beating hearts we clambered up
the little cliff, and, as we reached the top, beheld immediately beneath
us, in a slight dip of the ground, several figures around a gun, which
they were busy adjusting. I looked right and left to see that my
little party were all assembled, and without waiting for more, gave the
order--fire!

We were within pistol range, and the discharge was a deadly one. The
terror, however, was not less complete; for all who escaped death fled
from the spot, and dashing through the brushwood, made for the shallow
part of the stream, between the island and the right bank.

Our prize was a brass eight-pounder, and an ample supply of ammunition.
The gun was pointed towards the middle of the stream, where the current
being strongest, the boats would necessarily be delayed; and in all
likelihood some of our gallant comrades had already experienced its
fatal fire. To wheel it right about, and point it on the Eslar bridge,
was the work of a couple of minutes; and while three of our little party
kept up a steady fire on the retreating enemy, the others loaded the gun
and prepared to fire.

Our distance from the Eslar island and bridge, as well as I could judge
from the darkness, might be about two hundred and fifty yards, and, as
we had the advantage of a slight elevation of ground, our position was
admirable.

‘Wait patiently, lads,’ said I, restraining, with difficulty, the
burning ardour of my men. ‘Wait patiently, till the retreat has
commenced over the bridge. The work is too hot to last much longer on
the island; to fire upon them there would be to risk our own men as
much as the enemy. See what long flashes of flame break forth among the
brushwood; and listen to the cheering now. That was a French cheer!--and
there goes another. Look!--look, the bridge is darkening already! That
was a bugle-call, and they are in full retreat. Now, lads--now!’

As I spoke, the gun exploded, and the instant after we heard the
crashing rattle of the timber, as the shot struck the bridge, and
splintered the wood-work in all directions.

‘The range is perfect, lads,’ cried I. ‘Load and fire with all speed.’

Another shot, followed by a terrific scream from the bridge, told how
the work was doing. Oh! the savage exultation, the fiendish joy of my
heart, as I drank in that cry of agony, and called upon my men to load
faster.

Six shots were poured in with tremendous precision and effect, and the
seventh tore away one of the main supports of the bridge, and down went
the densely crowded column into the Rhine. At the same instant the guns
of our launches opened a destructive fire upon the banks, which soon
were swept clean of the enemy.

High up on the stream, and for nearly a mile below also, we could see
the boats of our army pulling in for shore; the crossing of the Rhine
had been effected, and we now prepared to follow.



CHAPTER XII. ‘A GLANCE AT STAFF-DUTY’

Although the passage of the Rhine was but the prelude to the attack on
the fortress, that exploit being accomplished, Kehl was carried at the
point of the bayonet, the French troops entering the outworks pell-mell
with the retreating enemy, and in less than two hours after the landing
of our first detachments, the tricolour waved over the walls of the
fortress.

Lost amid the greater and more important successes which since that time
have immortalised the glory of the French arms, it is almost impossible
to credit the celebrity attached at that time to this brilliant
achievement, whose highest merits probably were rapidity and resolution.
Moreau had long been jealous of the fame of his great rival, Bonaparte,
whose tactics, rejecting the colder dictates of prudent strategy, and
the slow progress of scientific manouvres, seemed to place all his
confidence in the sudden inspirations of his genius, and the indomitable
bravery of his troops. It was necessary, then, to raise the morale of
the army of the Rhine, to accomplish some great feat similar in boldness
and heroism to the wonderful achievements of the Italian army. Such was
the passage of the Rhine at Strasbourg, effected in the face of a great
enemy, advantageously posted, and supported by one of the strongest of
all the frontier fortresses.

The morning broke upon us in all the exultation of our triumph, and as
our cheers rose high over the field of the late struggle, each heart
beat proudly with the thought of how that news would be received in
Paris.

‘You ‘ll see how the bulletin will spoil all,’ said a young officer of
the army of Italy, as he was getting his wound dressed on the field.
‘There will be such a long narrative of irrelevant matter--such details
of this, that, and t’ other--that the public will scarce know whether
the placard announces a defeat or a victory.’

‘_Parbleu!_’ replied an old veteran of the Rhine army, ‘what would you
have? You’d not desire to omit the military facts of such an exploit?’

‘To be sure I would,’ rejoined the other. ‘Give me one of our young
general’s bulletins, short, stirring, and effective:--“Soldiers! you
have crossed the Rhine against an army double your own in numbers and
munitions of war. You have carried a fortress, believed impregnable, at
the bayonet. Already the great flag of our nation waves over the citadel
you have won. Forward, then, and cease not till it floats over the
cities of conquered Germany, and let the name of France be that of
Empire over the continent of Europe.’”

‘Ha! I like that, cried I enthusiastically; ‘that’s the bulletin to my
fancy. Repeat it once more, mon lieutenant, that I may write it in my
note-book.’

‘What! hast thou a note-book?’ cried an old staff-officer, who was
preparing to mount his horse; ‘let’s see it, lad.’

With a burning cheek and trembling hand I drew my little journal from
the breast of my jacket, and gave it to him.

‘_Sacrebleu!_’ exclaimed he, in a burst of laughter, ‘what have we
here? Why, this is a portrait of old General Moricier, and although a
caricature, a perfect likeness. And here comes a plan for manoeuvring a
squadron by threes from the left. This is better--it is a receipt for
an “Omelette à la Hussard”; and here we have a love-song, and a
moustache-paste, with some hints about devotion, and diseased frog
in horses. Most versatile genius, certainly!’ And so he went on,
occasionally laughing at my rude sketches and ruder remarks, till he
came to a page headed ‘Equitation, as practised by Officers of the
Staff,’ and followed by a series of caricatures of bad riding, in all
its moods and tenses. The flush of anger which instantly coloured
his face soon attracted the notice of those about him, and one of the
bystanders quickly snatched the book from his fingers, and, in the midst
of a group all convulsed with laughter, proceeded to expatiate upon
my illustrations. To be sure, they were absurd enough. Some were
represented sketching on horseback, under shelter of an umbrella;
others were ‘taking the depth of a stream’ by a ‘header’ from their own
saddles; some again were ‘exploring ground for an attack in line,’ by a
measurement of the rider’s own length over the head of his horse.
Then there were ridiculous situations, such as ‘sitting down before a
fortress,’ ‘taking an angle of incidence,’ and so on. Sorry jests all of
them, but sufficient to amuse those with whose daily associations they
chimed in, and to whom certain traits of portraiture gave all the zest
of a personality.

My shame at the exposure, and my terror for its consequences,
gradually yielded to a feeling of flattered vanity at the success of
my lucubrations; and I never remarked that the staff-officer had ridden
away from the group till I saw him galloping back at the top of his
speed.

‘Is your name Tiernay, my good fellow?’ cried he, riding close up to my
side, and with an expression on his features I did not half like.

‘Yes, sir,’ replied I.

‘Hussar of the Ninth, I believe?’ repeated he, reading from a paper in
his hand.

‘The same, sir.’

‘Well, your talents as a draughtsman have procured you promotion, my
friend; I have obtained your discharge from your regiment, and you are
now my orderly--orderly on the staff, do you mind; so mount, sir, and
follow me.’

I saluted him respectfully, and prepared to obey his orders. Already
I foresaw the downfall of all the hopes I had been cherishing, and
anticipated the life of tyranny and oppression that lay before me. It
was clear to me that my discharge had been obtained solely as a means
of punishing me, and that Captain Discau, as the officer was called,
had destined me to a pleasant expiation of my note-book The savage
exultation with which he watched me, as I made up my kit and saddled
my horse--the cool malice with which he handed me back the accursed
journal, the cause of all my disasters--gave me a dark foreboding of
what was to follow; and as I mounted my saddle, my woeful face and
miserable look brought forth a perfect shout of laughter from the
bystanders.

Captain Discau’s duty was to visit the banks of the Rhine and the Eslar
island, to take certain measurements of distances, and obtain accurate
information on various minute points respecting the late engagement;
for, while a brief announcement of the victory would suffice for the
bulletin, a detailed narrative of the event in all its bearings must be
drawn up for the minister of war, and for this latter purpose various
staff-officers were then employed in different parts of the field.

As we issued from the fortress, and took our way over the plain, we
struck out into a sharp gallop; but as we drew near the river, our
passage became so obstructed by lines of baggage-waggons, tumbrils, and
ammunition-carts, that we were obliged to dismount and proceed on foot;
and now I was to see for the first time that dreadful picture which, on
the day after a battle, forms the reverse of the great medal of glory.
Huge litters of wounded men, on their way back to Strasbourg, were drawn
by six or eight horses, their jolting motion increasing the agony of
sufferings that found their vent in terrific cries and screams; oaths,
yells, and blasphemies, the ravings of madness, and the wild shouts of
infuriated suffering, filled the air on every side. As if to give the
force of contrast to this uproar of misery, two regiments of Swabian
infantry marched past as prisoners. Silent, crest-fallen, and
wretched-looking, they never raised their eyes from the ground, but
moved, or halted, wheeled, or stood at ease, as though by some impulse
of mechanism; a cord coupled the wrists of the outer files one with
another, which struck me less as a measure of security against escape,
than as a mark of indignity.

Carts and charrettes with wounded officers, in which oftentimes the
uniform of the enemy appeared side by side with our own, followed
in long procession; and thus were these two great currents--the one
hurrying forward, ardent, high-hearted, and enthusiastic; the other
returning maimed, shattered, and dying!

It was an affecting scene to see the hurried gestures, and hear the few
words of adieu, as they passed each other. Old comrades who were never
to meet again, parted with a little motion of the hand; sometimes a mere
look was all their leave-taking, save when, now and then, a halt would
for a few seconds bring the lines together, and then many a bronzed and
rugged cheek was pressed upon the faces of the dying, and many a tear
fell from eyes bloodshot with the fury of the battle! Wending our way on
foot slowly along, we at last reached the river-side, and having secured
a small skiff, made for the Eslar island--our first business being to
ascertain some details respecting the intrenchments there, and the depth
and strength of the stream between it and the left bank. Discau, who
was a distinguished officer, rapidly possessed himself of the principal
facts he wanted, and then, having given me his portfolio, he seated
himself under the shelter of a broken waggon, and opening a napkin,
began his breakfast off a portion of a chicken and some bread-viands
which, I own, more than once made my lips water as I watched him.

‘You’ve eaten nothing to-day, Tiernay?’ asked he, as he wiped his lips
with the air of a man that feels satisfied.

‘Nothing, _mon capitaine?_ replied I.

‘That’s bad,’ said he, shaking his head; ‘a soldier cannot do his duty
if his rations be neglected. I have always maintained the principle:
Look to the men’s necessaries--take care of their food and clothing. Is
there anything on that bone there?’

‘Nothing, _mon capitaine_.’

‘I’m sorry for it--I meant it for you. Put up that bread, and the
remainder of that flask of wine. Bourdeaux is not to be had every day.
We shall want it for supper, Tiernay.’

I did as I was bid, wondering not a little why he said ‘we,’ seeing how
little a share I occupied in the copartnery.

‘Always be careful of the morrow on a campaign, Tiernay--no squandering,
no waste; that’s one of my principles,’ said he gravely, as he watched
me while I tied up the bread and wine in the napkin. ‘You’ll soon see
the advantage of serving under an old soldier.’

I confess the great benefit had not already struck me, but I held my
peace and waited; meanwhile he continued--

‘I have studied my profession from my boyhood, and one thing I have
acquired that all experience has confirmed--the knowledge that men must
neither be taxed beyond their ability nor their endurance. A French
soldier, after all, is human; eh, is’t not so?’

‘I feel it most profoundly, _mon capitaine_,’ replied I, with my hand on
my empty stomach.

‘Just so,’ rejoined he; ‘every man of sense and discretion must confess
it. Happily for you, too, I know it; ay, Tiernay I know it, and practise
it. When a young fellow has acquitted himself to my satisfaction during
the day--not that I mean to say that the performance has not its fair
share of activity and zeal--when evening comes and stable duty finished,
arms burnished, and accoutrements cleaned, what do you think I say to
him?--eh, Tiernay--just guess now?’

‘Probably, sir, you tell him he is free to spend an hour at the canteen,
or take his sweetheart to the theatre.’

‘What! more fatigue! more exhaustion to an already tired and worn-out
nature!’

‘I ask pardon, sir, I see I was wrong; but I had forgotten how
thoroughly the poor fellow was done up. I now see that you told him to
go to bed.’

‘To bed! to bed! Is it that he might writhe in the nightmare, or suffer
agony from cramps? To bed after fatigue like this! No, no, Tiernay; that
was not the school in which I was brought up; we were taught to think of
the men under our command; to remember that they had wants, sympathies,
hopes, fears, and emotions like our own. I tell him to seat himself
at the table, and with pen, ink, and paper before him, to write up the
blanks. I see you don’t quite understand me, Tiernay, as to the meaning
of the phrase, but I’ll let you into the secret. You have been kind
enough to give me a peep at your note-book, and you shall in return have
a look at mine. Open that volume, and tell me what you find in it.’

I obeyed the direction, and read at the top of a page the words,
‘Skeleton, 5th Prarial,’ in large characters, followed by several
isolated words, denoting the strength of a brigade, the number of guns
in a battery, the depth of a fosse, the height of a parapet, and such
like. These were usually followed by a flourish of the pen, or sometimes
by the word ‘Bom.,’ which singular monosyllable always occurred at the
foot of the pages.

‘Well, have you caught the key to the cipher?’ said he, after a pause.

‘Not quite, sir,’ said I, pondering; ‘I can perceive that the chief
facts stand prominently forward, in a fair round hand; I can also guess
that the flourishes may be spaces left for detail; but this word “Bom.”
 puzzles me completely.’

‘Quite correct, as to the first part,’ said he approvingly; ‘and as to
the mysterious monosyllable, it is nothing more than an abbreviation for
“Bombaste,” which is always to be done to the taste of each particular
commanding officer.’

‘I perceive, sir,’ said I quickly; ‘like the wadding of a gun, which may
increase the loudness, but never affect the strength of the shot.’

‘Precisely, Tiernay; you have hit it exactly. Now I hope that, with a
little practice, you may be able to acquit yourself respectably in this
walk; and now to begin our skeleton. Turn over to a fresh page, and
write as I dictate to you.’

So saying, he filled his pipe and lighted it, and disposing his limbs in
an attitude of perfect ease, he began:--

‘“8th Thermidor, midnight--twelve battalions, and two batteries
of field--boats and rafts--Eslar Island--stockades--eight
guns--Swabian infantry--sharp firing, and a flourish--strong
current--flourish--detachment of the 28th carried down--‘Bom.

‘“Let me see it now--all right--nothing could be better--proceed. “The
10th, 45th, and 48th landing together--more firing--flourish--first gun
captured--Bom.--bayonet charges--Bom. Bom.--three guns taken--Bom. Bom.
Bom.--Swabs in retreat--flourish. The bridge eighty toises in length--
flanking fire--heavy loss--flourish.”’

‘You go a little too fast, _mon capitaine_,’ said I, for a sudden bright
thought just flashed across me.

‘Very well,’ said he, shaking the ashes of his pipe out upon the rock,
‘I’ll take my doze, and you may awaken me when you’ve filled in those
details--it will be a very fair exercise for you’; and with this he
threw his handkerchief over his face, and without any other preparation
was soon fast asleep.

I own that, if I had not been a spectator of the action, it would have
been very difficult, if not impossible, for me to draw up anything like
a narrative of it from the meagre details of the captain’s note-book.
My personal observations, however, assisted by an easy imagination,
suggested quite enough to make at least a plausible story, and I wrote
away without impediment and halt till I came to that part of the action
in which the retreat over the bridge commenced. There I stopped. Was I
to remain satisfied with such a crude and one-sided explanation as
the notebook afforded, and merely say that the retreating forces were
harassed by a strong flank fire from our batteries? Was I to omit the
whole of the great incident, the occupation of the ‘Fels Insel,’ and the
damaging discharges of grape and round shot which plunged through the
crowded ranks, and ultimately destroyed the bridge? Could I--to use
the phrase so popular--could I, in the ‘interests of truth,’ forget the
brilliant achievement of a gallant band of heroes who, led on by a young
hussar of the 9th, threw themselves into the ‘Fels Insel,’ routed
the garrison, captured the artillery, and directing its fire upon the
retiring enemy, contributed most essentially to the victory. Ought I,
in a word, to suffer a name so associated with a glorious action to sink
into oblivion? Should Maurice Tiernay be lost to fame out of any neglect
or false shame on my part? Forbid it all truth and justice! cried I, as
I set myself down to relate the whole adventure most circumstantially.
Looking up from time to time at my officer, who slept soundly, I
suffered myself to dilate upon a theme in which somehow I felt a more
than ordinary degree of interest. The more I dwelt upon the incident,
the more brilliant and striking did it seem like the appetite,
which the proverb tells us comes by eating, my enthusiasm grew under
indulgence, so that, had a little more time been granted me, I verily
believe I should have forgotten Moreau altogether, and coupled only
Maurice Tiernay with the passage of the Rhine, and the capture of the
fortress of Kehl. Fortunately, Captain Discau awoke, and cut short my
historic recollections by asking me how much I had done, and telling me
to read it aloud to him.

I accordingly began to read my narrative slowly and deliberately,
thereby giving myself time to think what I should best do when I came to
that part which became purely personal To omit it altogether would have
been dangerous, as the slightest glance at the mass of writing would
have shown the deception. There was, then, nothing left, but to invent
at the moment another version, in which Maurice Tiernay never occurred,
and the incident of the ‘Fels Insel’ should figure as unobtrusively as
possible. I was always a better improvisatore than amanuensis; so that
without a moment’s loss of time I fashioned a new and very different
narrative, and detailing the battle tolerably accurately, minus the
share my own heroism had taken in it. The captain made a few, a very
few corrections of my style, in which the ‘flourish’ and ‘bom.’ figured,
perhaps, too conspicuously; and then told me frankly, that once upon a
time he had been fool enough to give himself great trouble in framing
these kind of reports, but that having served for a short period in the
‘bureau’ of the minister of war, he had learned better--‘In fact,’ said
he, ‘a district report is never read! Some hundreds of them reach
the office of the minister every day, and are safely deposited in the
“archives” of the department. They have all, besides, such a family
resemblance, that with a few changes in the name of the commanding
officer, any battle in the Netherlands would do equally well for one
fought beyond the Alps! Since I became acquainted with this fact,
Tiernay, I have bestowed less pains upon the matter, and usually deputed
the task to some smart orderly of the staff.’

So, thought I, I have been writing history for nothing; and Maurice
Tiernay, the real hero of the passage of the Rhine, will be unrecorded
and unremembered, just for want of one honest and impartial scribe
to transmit his name to posterity. The reflection was not a very
encouraging one; nor did it serve to lighten the toil in which I passed
many weary hours, copying out my own precious manuscript. Again and
again during that night did I wonder at my own diffuseness--again and
again did I curse the prolix accuracy of a description that cost such
labour to reiterate. It was like a species of poetical justice on me
for my own amplifications; and when the day broke, and I still sat at my
table writing on, at the third copy of this precious document, I vowed a
vow of brevity, should I ever survive to indite similar compositions.



CHAPTER XIII. A FAREWELL LETTER

It was in something less than a week after that I entered upon my new
career as orderly in the staff, when I began to believe myself the
most miserable of all human beings. On the saddle at sunrise, I never
dismounted, except to carry a measuring chain, ‘to step distances,’
mark out intrenchments, and then write away, for hours, long
enormous reports, that were to be models of caligraphy, neatness and
elegance--and never to be read. Nothing could be less like soldiering
than the life I led; and were it not for the clanking sabre I wore at
my side, and the jingling spurs that decorated my heels, I might have
fancied myself a notary’s clerk. It was part of General Moreau’s plan to
strengthen the defences of Kehl before he advanced farther into Germany;
and to this end repairs were begun upon a line of earthworks, about
two leagues to the northward of the fortress, at a small village called
‘Ekheim.’ In this miserable little hole, one of the dreariest spots
imaginable, we were quartered, with two companies of sapeurs and some of
the waggon-train, trenching, digging, carting earth, sinking wells, and
in fact engaged in every kind of labour save that which seemed to be
characteristic of a soldier.

I used to think that Nancy and the riding-school were the most dreary
and tiresome of all destinies, but they were enjoyments and delight
compared with this. Now it very often happens in life that when a man
grows discontented and dissatisfied with mere monotony, when he chafes
at the sameness of a tiresome and unexciting existence, he is rapidly
approaching to some critical or eventful point, where actual peril and
real danger assail him, and from which he would willingly buy his escape
by falling back upon that wearisome and plodding life he had so often
deplored before. This case was my own. Just as I had convinced myself
that I was exceedingly wretched and miserable, I was to know there are
worse things in this world than a life of mere uniform stupidity. I was
waiting outside my captain’s door for orders one morning, when at
the tinkle of his little hand-bell I entered the room where he sat at
breakfast, with an open despatch before him.

‘Tiernay,’ said he, in his usual quiet tone, ‘here is an order from the
adjutant-general to send you back under an escort to headquarters. Are
you aware of any reason for it, or is there any charge against you which
warrants this?’

‘Not to my knowledge, _mon capitaine_,’ said I, trembling with fright,
for I well knew with what severity discipline was exercised in that
army, and how any, even the slightest, infractions met the heaviest
penalties.

‘I have never known you to pillage,’ continued he, ‘have never seen you
drink, nor have you been disobedient while under my command; yet this
order could not be issued on light grounds; there must be some grave
accusation against you, and in any case you must go; therefore arrange
all my papers, put everything to rights, and be ready to return with the
orderly.’

‘You’ll give me a good character, _mon capitaine_,’ said I, trembling
more than ever--‘you’ll say what you can for me, I’m sure.’

‘Willingly, if the general or chief were here,’ replied he; ‘but that’s
not so. General Moreau is at Strasbourg. It is General Régnier that is
in command of the army, and unless specially applied to, I could not
venture upon the liberty of obtruding my opinion upon him.’

‘Is he so severe, sir?’ asked I timidly.

‘The general is a good disciplinarian,’ said he cautiously, while he
motioned with his hand towards the door, and accepting the hint, I
retired.

It was evening when I re-entered Kehl, under an escort of two of my own
regiment, and was conducted to the ‘Salle de Police.’ At the door stood
my old corporal, whose malicious grin, as I alighted, revealed the whole
story of my arrest; and I now knew the charge that would be preferred
against me--a heavier there could not be made--was, ‘disobedience in the
field.’ I slept very little that night, and when I did close my eyes, it
was to awake with a sudden start, and believe myself in presence of
the court-martial, or listening to my sentence, as read out by the
president. Towards day, however, I sank into a heavy, deep slumber, from
which I was aroused by the reveille of the barracks.

I had barely time to dress when I was summoned before the ‘Tribunale
Militaire’--a sort of permanent court-martial, whose sittings were held
in one of the churches of the town. Not even all the terror of my own
precarious position could overcome the effect of old prejudices in my
mind, as I saw myself led up the dim aisle of the church towards the
altar rails, within which, around a large table, were seated a number of
officers, whose manner and bearing evinced but little reverence for the
sacred character of the spot.

Stationed in a group of poor wretches whose wan looks and anxious
glances told that they were prisoners like myself, I had time to see
what was going forward around me. The president, who alone wore his hat,
read from a sort of list before him the name of a prisoner and that of
the witnesses in the cause. In an instant they were all drawn up and
sworn. A few questions followed, rapidly put, and almost as rapidly
replied to. The prisoner was called on then for his defence: if this
occupied many minutes, he was sure to be interrupted by an order to be
brief. Then came the command to ‘stand by’; and after a few seconds’
consultation together, in which many times a burst of laughter might be
heard, the Court agreed upon the sentence, recorded and signed it, and
then proceeded with the next case.

If nothing in the procedure imposed reverence or respect, there was that
in the despatch which suggested terror, for it was plain to see that the
Court thought more of the cost of their own precious minutes than of the
years of those on whose fate they were deciding. I was sufficiently near
to hear the charges of those who were arraigned, and, for the greater
number, they were all alike. Pillage, in one form or another, was the
universal offending, and from the burning of a peasant’s cottage, to the
theft of his dog or his _poulet_, all came under this head. At last came
number 82--‘Maurice Tiernay, hussar of the Ninth.’ I stepped forward to
the rails.

‘Maurice Tiernay,’ read the president hurriedly, ‘accused by Louis
Gaussin, corporal of the same regiment, “of wilfully deserting his post
while on duty in the field, and in the face of direct orders to the
contrary, inducing others to a similar breach of discipline.” Make the
charge, Gaussin.’

The corporal stepped forward, and began--

‘We were stationed in detachment on the bank of the Rhine, on the
evening of the 23rd----’

‘The Court has too many duties to lose its time for nothing,’
interrupted I. ‘It is all true. I did desert my post, I did disobey
orders; and, seeing a weak point in the enemy’s line, attacked and
carried it with success. The charge is, therefore, admitted by me, and
it only remains for the Court to decide how far a soldier’s zeal for his
country may be deserving of punishment. Whatever the result, one thing
is perfectly clear, Corporal Gaussin will never be indicted for a
similar misdemeanour.’

A murmur of voices and suppressed laughter followed this impertinent and
not over-discreet sally of mine, and the president, calling out, ‘Proven
by acknowledgment,’ told me to ‘stand by.’ I now fell back to my
former place, to be interrogated by my comrades on the result of my
examination, and hear their exclamations of surprise and terror at the
rashness of my conduct. A little reflection of the circumstances would
probably have brought me over to their opinion, and shown me that I had
gratuitously thrown away an opportunity of self-defence; but my temper
could not brook the indignity of listening to the tiresome accusation
and the stupid malevolence of the corporal, whose hatred was excited by
the influence I wielded over my comrades.

It was long past noon ere the proceedings terminated, for the list was a
full one, and at length the Court rose, apparently not sorry to exchange
their tiresome duties for the pleasant offices of the dinner-table. No
sentences had been pronounced, but one very striking incident seemed
to shadow forth a gloomy future. Three, of whom I was one, were marched
off, doubly guarded, before the rest, and confined in separate cells of
the ‘Salle,’ where every precaution against escape too plainly showed
the importance attached to our safe keeping.

At about eight o’clock, as I was sitting on my bed--if that inclined
plane of wood, worn by the form of many a former prisoner, could deserve
the name--a sergeant entered with the prison allowance of bread and
water. He placed it beside me without speaking, and stood for a few
seconds gazing at me.

‘What age art thou, lad?’ said he, in a voice of compassionate interest.

‘Something over fifteen, I believe,’ replied I.

‘Hast father and mother?’

‘Both are dead!’

‘Uncles or aunts living?’

‘Neither.’

‘Hast any friends who could help thee?’

‘That might depend on what the occasion for help should prove, for I
have one friend in the world.’

‘Who is he?’

‘Colonel Mahon, of the Cuirassiers.’

‘I never heard of him--is he here?’

‘No, I left him at Nancy; but I could write to him.’

‘It would be too late, much too late.’

‘How do you mean--too late?’ asked I tremblingly.

‘Because it is fixed for to-morrow evening,’ replied he in a low,
hesitating voice.

‘What? the--the----’ I could not say the word, but merely imitated the
motion of presenting and firing. He nodded gravely in acquiescence.

‘What hour is it to take place?’ asked I.

‘After evening parade. The sentence must be signed by General Berthier,
and he will not be here before that time.’

‘It would be too late then, sergeant,’ said I, musing, ‘far too late.
Still I should like to write the letter; I should like to thank him for
his kindness in the past, and show him, too, that I have not been either
unworthy or ungrateful. Could you let me have paper and pen, sergeant?’

‘I can venture so far, lad; but I cannot let thee have a light, it is
against orders; and during the day, thou ‘ll be too strictly watched.*

‘No matter; let me have the paper, and I’ll try to scratch a few lines
in the dark; and thou ‘lt post it for me, sergeant? I ask thee as a last
favour to do this.’

‘I promise it,’ said he, laying his hand on my shoulder. After standing
for a few minutes thus in silence, he started suddenly and left the
cell.

I now tried to eat my supper, but although resolved on behaving with a
stout and unflinching courage throughout the whole sad event, I could
not swallow a mouthful. A sense of choking stopped me at every attempt,
and even the water I could only get down by gulps. The efforts I made
to bear up seemed to have caused a species of hysterical excitement that
actually rose to the height of intoxication, for I talked away loudly to
myself, laughed and sung. I even jested and mocked myself on this sudden
termination of a career that I used to anticipate as stored with future
fame and rewards. At intervals, I have no doubt that my mind wandered
far beyond the control of reason, but as constantly came back again to a
full consciousness of my melancholy position, and the fate that awaited
me. The noise of the key in the door silenced my ravings, and I sat
motionless as the sergeant entered with the pen, ink, and paper, which
he laid down upon the bed, and then as silently withdrew.

A long interval of stupor, a state of dreary half consciousness, now
came over me, from which I aroused myself with great difficulty to write
the few lines I destined for Colonel Mahon. I remember even now, long
as has been the space of years since that event, full as it has been of
stirring and strange incidents, I remember perfectly the thought which
flashed across me, as I sat, pen in hand, before the paper. It was the
notion of a certain resemblance between our actions in this world with
the characters I was about to inscribe upon that paper. Written in
darkness and in doubt, thought I, how shall they appear when brought to
the light! Perhaps those I have deemed the best and fairest shall seem
but to be the weakest or the worst! What need of kindness to forgive the
errors, and of patience to endure the ignorance! At last I began: ‘Mon
Colonel,--Forgive, I pray you, the errors of these lines, penned in the
darkness of my cell, and the night before my death. They are written
to thank you ere I go hence, and to tell you that the poor heart whose
beating will soon be still, throbbed gratefully towards you to the last!
I have been sentenced to death for a breach of discipline of which I was
guilty. Had I failed in the achievement of my enterprise by the bullet
of an enemy, they would have named me with honour; but I have had the
misfortune of success, and to-morrow am I to pay its penalty. I have the
satisfaction, however, of knowing that my share in that great day can
neither be denied nor evaded; it is already on record, and the time may
yet come when my memory will be vindicated. I know not if these lines
be legible, nor if I have crossed or recrossed them. If they are blotted
they are not my tears have done it, for I have a firm heart and a good
courage; and when the moment comes----’ Here my hand trembled so much,
and my brain grew so dizzy, that I lost the thread of my meaning,
and merely jotted down at random a few words, vague, unconnected, and
unintelligible, after which, and by an effort that cost all my strength,
I wrote ‘Maurice Tiernay, late Hussar of the 9th Regiment.’

A hearty burst of tears followed the conclusion of this letter; all the
pent-up emotion with which my heart was charged broke out at last, and
I cried bitterly. Intense passions are, happily, never of long duration,
and, better still, they are always the precursors of calm. Thus,
tranquil, the dawn of morn broke upon me, when the sergeant came to
take my letter, and apprise me that the adjutant would appear in a few
moments to read my sentence, and inform me when it was to be executed.

‘Thou’It bear up well, lad; I know thou wilt,’ said the poor fellow,
with tears in his eyes. ‘Thou hast no mother, and thou ‘lt not have to
grieve for her.’

‘Don’t be afraid, sergeant; I’ll not disgrace the old 9th. Tell my
comrades I said so.’

‘I will. I will tell them all! Is this thy jacket, lad?’

‘Yes; what do you want it for?’

‘I must take it away with me. Thou art not to wear it more?’

‘Not wear it, nor die in it! and why not?’

‘That is the sentence, lad; I cannot help it. It’s very hard, very
cruel; but so it is.’

‘Then I am to die dishonoured, sergeant; is that the sentence?’

He dropped his head, and I could see that he moved his sleeve across his
eyes; and then, taking up my jacket, he came towards me.

‘Remember, lad, a stout heart; no flinching. Adieu--God bless thee.’ He
kissed me on either cheek, and went out.

He had not been gone many minutes, when the tramp of marching outside
apprised me of the coming of the adjutant, and the door of my cell being
thrown open, I was ordered to walk forth into the court of the prison.
Two squadrons of my own regiment, all who were not on duty, were
drawn up, dismounted, and without arms; beside them stood a company
of grenadiers and a half battalion of the line, the corps to which the
other two prisoners belonged, and who now came forward, in shirtsleeves
like myself, into the middle of the court.

One of my fellow-sufferers was a very old soldier, whose hair and
beard were white as snow; the other was a middle-aged man, of a dark and
forbidding aspect, who scowled at me angrily as I came up to his side,
and seemed as if he scorned the companionship. I returned a glance,
haughty and as full of defiance as his own, and never noticed him after.

The drum beat a roll, and the word was given for silence in the
ranks--an order so strictly obeyed, that even the clash of a weapon was
unheard, and, stepping in front of the line, the Auditeur Militaire read
out the sentences. As for me, I heard but the words ‘_Peine afflictive
et infamante’_; all the rest became confusion, shame, and terror
commingled; nor did I know that the ceremonial was over when the troops
began to defile, and we were marched back again to our prison quarters.



CHAPTER XIV. A SURPRISE AND AN ESCAPE

It is a very common subject of remark in newspapers, and as invariably
repeated with astonishment by the readers, how well and soundly such
a criminal slept on the night before his execution. It reads like a
wonderful evidence of composure, or some not less surprising proof of
apathy or indifference. I really believe it has as little relation to
one feeling as to the other, and is simply the natural consequence of
faculties overstrained, and a brain surcharged with blood; sleep being
induced by causes purely physical in their nature. For myself, I can say
that I was by no means indifferent to life, nor had I any contempt for
the form of death that awaited me. As localities which have failed to
inspire a strong attachment become endowed with a certain degree of
interest when we are about to part from them for ever, I never held
life so desirable as now that I was going to leave it; and yet, with all
this, I fell into a sleep so heavy and profound, that I never awoke
till late in the evening. Twice was I shaken by the shoulder ere I could
throw off the heavy weight of slumber; and even when I looked up, and
saw the armed figures around me, I could have lain down once more and
composed myself to another sleep.

The first thing which thoroughly aroused me, and at once brightened up
my slumbering senses, was missing my jacket, for which I searched every
corner of my cell, forgetting that it had been taken away, as the
nature of my sentence was declared _infamante_. The next shock was still
greater, when two sapeurs came forward to tie my wrists together behind
my back; I neither spoke nor resisted, but in silent submission complied
with each order given me.

All preliminaries being completed, I was led forward, preceded by a
pioneer, and guarded on either side by two sapeurs of ‘the guard’; a
muffled drum, ten paces in advance, keeping up a low monotonous rumble
as we went.

Our way led along the ramparts, beside which ran a row of little
gardens, in which the children of the officers were at play. They ceased
their childish gambols as we drew near, and came closer up to watch us.
I could mark the terror and pity in their little faces as they gazed at
me; I could see the traits of compassion with which they pointed me out
to each other, and my heart swelled with gratitude for even so slight
a sympathy. It was with difficulty I could restrain the emotion of that
moment, but with a great effort I did subdue it, and marched on, to all
seeming, unmoved. A little farther on, as we turned the angle of the
wall, I looked back to catch one last look at them. Would that I had
never done so! They had quitted the railings, and were now standing in
a group, in the act of performing a mimic execution. One, without his
jacket, was kneeling on the grass. But I could not bear the sight, and
in scornful anger I closed my eyes, and saw no more.

A low whispering conversation was kept up by the soldiers around me.
They were grumbling at the long distance they had to march, as the
‘affair’ might just as well have taken place on the glacis as two miles
away. How different were my feelings--how dear to me was now every
minute, every second of existence; how my heart leaped at each turn of
the way, as I still saw a space to traverse and some little interval
longer to live!

‘And mayhap after all,’ muttered one dark-faced fellow, ‘we shall have
come all this way for nothing. There can be no fusillade without the
general’s signature, so I heard the adjutant say; and who’s to promise
that he ‘ll be at his quarters?’

‘Very true,’ said another; ‘he may be absent, or at table.’

‘At table!’ cried two or three together; ‘and what if he were?’

‘If he be,’ rejoined the former speaker, ‘we may go back again for our
pains! I ought to know him well; I was his orderly for eight months,
when I served in the “Légers,” and can tell you, my lads, I wouldn’t be
the officer who would bring him a report or a return to sign when once
he had opened out his napkin on his knee; and it’s not very far from his
dinner-hour now.’

What a sudden thrill of hope ran through me! Perhaps I should be spared
for another day.

‘No, no we’re all in time,’ exclaimed the sergeant; ‘I can see the
general’s tent from this; and there he stands, with all his staff around
him.’

‘Yes; and there go the other escorts--they will be up before us if we
don’t make haste; quick-time, lads. Come along, _mon cher,_’ said he,
addressing me--‘thou’rt not tired, I hope?’

‘Not tired!’ replied I; ‘but remember, sergeant, what a long journey I
have before me.’

‘_Pardi!_ I don’t believe all that rhodomontade about another world,’
said he gruffly; ‘the Republic settled that question.’

I made no reply, for such words, at such a moment, were the most
terrible of tortures to me. And now we moved on at a brisker pace, and
crossing a little wooden bridge, entered a kind of esplanade of closely
shaven turf, at one corner of which stood the capacious tent of the
Commander-in-chief, for such, in Moreau’s absence, was General Berthier.
Numbers of staff-officers were riding about on duty, and a large
travelling-carriage, from which the horses seemed recently detached,
stood before the tent.

We halted as we crossed the bridge, while the adjutant advanced to
obtain the signature to the sentence. My eyes followed him till they
swam with rising tears, and I could not wipe them away, as my hands were
fettered. How rapidly did my thoughts travel during those few moments.
The good old Père Michel came back to me in memory, and I tried to think
of the consolation his presence would have afforded me; but I could do
no more than think of them.

‘Which is the prisoner Tiernay?’ cried a young aide-decamp, cantering up
to where I was standing.

‘Here, sir,’ replied the sergeant, pushing me forward.

‘So,’ rejoined the officer angrily, ‘this fellow has been writing
letters, it would seem, reflecting upon the justice of his sentence, and
arraigning the conduct of his judges. Your epistolary tastes are like to
cost you dearly, my lad; it had been better for you if writing had been
omitted in your education. Reconduct the others, sergeant, they are
respited; this fellow alone is to undergo his sentence.’

The other two prisoners gave a short and simultaneous cry of joy as they
fell back, and I stood alone in front of the escort.

‘_Parbleu!_ he has forgotten the signature,’ said the adjutant, casting
his eye over the paper: ‘he was chattering and laughing all the time,
with the pen in his hand, and I suppose fancied that he had signed it.’

‘Nathalie was there, perhaps,’ said the aide-de-camp significantly.

‘She was, and I never saw her looking better. It’s something like eight
years since I saw her last; and I vow she seems not only handsomer but
fresher, and more youthful, to-day than then.’

‘Where is she going?--have you heard?’

‘Who can tell? Her passport is like a firman--she may travel where she
pleases. The rumour of the day says Italy.’

‘I thought she looked provoked at Moreau’s absence; it seemed like want
of attention on his part, a lack of courtesy she’s not used to.’

‘Very true; and her reception of Berthier was anything but gracious,
although he certainly displayed all his civilities in her behalf.’

‘Strange days we live in!’ sighed the other; ‘when a man’s promotion
hangs upon the favourable word of a----’

‘Hush!--take care!--be cautious!’ whispered the other. ‘Let us not
forget this poor fellow’s business. How are you to settle it? Is the
signature of any consequence? The whole sentence is all right and
regular.’

‘I shouldn’t like to omit the signature,’ said the other cautiously; ‘it
looks like carelessness, and might involve us in trouble hereafter.’

‘Then we must wait some time, for I see they are gone to dinner.’

‘So I perceive,’ replied the former, as he lighted his cigar, and seated
himself on a bank. ‘You may let the prisoner sit down, sergeant, and
leave his hands free; he looks wearied and exhausted.’

I was too weak to speak, but I looked my gratitude; and sitting down
upon the grass, covered my face and wept heartily.

Although quite close to where the officers sat together chatting and
jesting, I heard little or nothing of what they said. Already the things
of life had ceased to have any hold upon me; and I could have heard of
the greatest victory, or listened to a story of the most fatal defeat,
without the slightest interest or emotion. An occasional word or a name
would strike upon my ear, but leave no impression nor any memory behind
it.

The military band was performing various marches and opera airs before
the tent where the general dined, and in the melody, softened by
distance, I felt a kind of calm and sleepy repose that lulled me into a
species of ecstasy.

At last the music ceased to play, and the adjutant, starting hurriedly
up, called on the sergeant to move forward.

‘By Jove!’ cried he, ‘they seem preparing for a promenade, and we shall
get into a scrape if Berthier sees us here. Keep your party yonder,
sergeant, out of sight, till I obtain the signature.’

And so saying, away he went towards the tent at a sharp gallop.

A few seconds, and I watched him crossing the esplanade; he dismounted
and disappeared. A terrible choking sensation was over me, and I
scarcely was conscious that they were again tying my hands. The adjutant
came out again, and made a sign with his sword.

‘We are to move on!’ said the sergeant, half in doubt.

‘Not at all,’ broke in the aide-de-camp; ‘he is making a sign for you
to bring up the prisoner! There, he is repeating the signal--lead him
forward.’

I knew very little of how--less still of why--but we moved on in the
direction of the tent, and in a few minutes stood before it. The
sounds of revelry and laughter--the hum of voices, and the clink of
glasses-together with the hoarse bray of a brass band, which again
struck up--all were commingled in my brain, as, taking me by the arm, I
was led forward within the tent, and found myself at the foot of a table
covered with all the gorgeousness of silver plate, and glowing with
bouquets of flowers and fruits. In the one hasty glance I gave, before
my lids fell over my swimming eyes, I could see the splendid uniforms of
the guests as they sat around the board, and the magnificent costume of
a lady in the place of honour next the head.

Several of those who sat at the lower end of the table drew back their
seats as I came forward, and seemed as if desirous to give the general a
better view of me.

Overwhelmed by the misery of my fate, as I stood awaiting my death, I
felt as though a mere word, a look, would have crushed me but one moment
back; but now, as I stood there before that group of gazers, whose
eyes scanned me with looks of insolent disdain, or still more insulting
curiosity, a sense of proud defiance seized me, to confront and dare
them with glances haughty and scornful as their own. It seemed to me so
base and unworthy a part to summon a poor wretch before them, as if to
whet their new appetite for enjoyment by the aspect of his misery, that
an indignant anger took possession of me, and I drew myself up to my
full height, and stared at them calm and steadily.

‘So, then!’ cried a deep soldierlike voice from the far end of the
table, which I at once recognised as the general-in-chief s--‘so, then,
gentlemen, we have now the honour of seeing amongst us the hero of the
Rhine! This is the distinguished individual by whose prowess the passage
of the river was effected, and the Swabian infantry cut off in their
retreat! Is it not true, sir?’ said he, addressing me with a savage
scowl.

‘I have had my share in the achievement,’ said I, with the cool air of
defiance.

‘_Parbleu!_ you are modest, sir. So had every drummer-boy that beat his
tattoo! But yours was the part of a great leader, if I err not?’

I made no answer, but stood firm and unmoved.

‘How do you call the island which you have immortalised by your valour?’

‘The Fels Insel, sir.’

[Illustration:  190]

‘Gentlemen, let us drink to the hero of the Fels Insel,’ said he,
holding up his glass for the servant to fill it. ‘A bumper--a full, a
flowing bumper! And let him also pledge a toast in which his interest
must be so brief. Give him a glass, Contard.’

The order was obeyed in a second; and I, summoning up all my courage to
seem as easy and indifferent as they were, lifted the glass to my lips,
and drained it off.

‘Another glass now to the health of this fair lady, through whose
intercession we owe the pleasure of your company,’ said the general.

‘Willingly,’ said I; ‘and may one so beautiful seldom find herself in a
society so unworthy of her!’

A perfect roar of laughter succeeded the insolence of this speech; amid
which I was half pushed, half dragged, up to the end of the table where
the general sat.

‘How so, _coquin_; do you dare to insult a French general at the head of
his own staff!’

‘If I did, sir, it were quite as brave as to mock a poor criminal on his
way to his execution!’

‘That is the boy!--I know him now!--the very same lad!’ cried the lady,
as, stooping behind Berthier’s chair, she stretched out her hand towards
me. ‘Come here; are you not Colonel Mahon’s godson?’

I looked her full in the face; and whether her own thoughts gave the
impulse, or that something in my stare suggested it, she blushed till
her cheeks grew crimson.

‘Poor Charles was so fond of him!’ whispered she in Berthier’s ear; and
as she spoke, the expression of her face at once recalled where I had
seen her, and I now perceived that she was the same person I had seen at
table with Colonel Mahon, and whom I believed to be his wife.

A low whispering conversation now ensued between the general and her, at
the close of which he turned to me and said--

‘Madame Merlancourt has deigned to take an interest in you--you are
pardoned. Remember, sir, to whom you owe your life, and be grateful to
her for it.’

I took the hand she extended towards me, and pressed it to my lips.

‘Madame,’ said I, ‘there is but one favour more I would ask in this
world, and with it I could think myself happy.’

‘But can I grant it, _mon cher_?’ said she, smiling.

‘If I am to judge from the influence I have seen you wield, madame, here
and elsewhere, this petition will easily be accorded.’

A slight flush coloured the lady’s cheek, while that of the general
became dyed red with anger. I saw that I had committed some terrible
blunder, but how, or in what, I knew not.

‘Well, sir,’ said Madame Merlancourt, addressing me with a stately
coldness of manner, very different from her former tone, ‘let us hear
what you ask, for we are already taking up a vast deal of time that our
host would prefer devoting to his friends--what is it you wish?’

‘My discharge from a service, madame, where zeal and enthusiasm are
rewarded with infamy and disgrace; my freedom to be anything but a
French soldier.’

‘You are resolved, sir, that I am not to be proud of my protégé,’ said
she haughtily; ‘what words are these to speak in presence of a general
and his officers?’

‘I am bold, madame, as you say, but I am wronged.’

‘How so, sir--in what have you been injured?’ cried the general hastily,
‘except in the excessive condescension which has stimulated your
presumption. But we are really two indulgent in this long parley.
Madame, permit me to offer you some coffee under the trees. Contardo,
tell the band to follow us. Gentlemen, we expect the pleasure of your
society.’

And so’ saying, Berthier presented his arm to the lady, who swept
proudly past without deigning to notice me. In a few minutes the tent
was cleared of all, except the servants occupied in removing the remains
of the dessert, and I fell back, unremarked and unobserved, to take my
way homeward to the barracks, more indifferent to life than ever I had
been afraid of death.

As I am not likely to recur at any length to the somewhat famous person
to whom I owed my life, I may as well state that her name has since
occupied no inconsiderable share of attention in France, and her
history, under the title of _Mémoires d’une Contemporaine_, excited a
degree of interest and anxiety in quarters which one might have fancied
far above the reach of her revelations. At the time I speak of, I
little knew the character of the age in which such influences were
all powerful, nor how destinies very different from mine hung upon the
favouritism of ‘La belle Nathalie.’ Had I known these things, and, still
more, had I known the sad fate to which she brought my poor friend,
Colonel Mahon, I might have scrupled to accept my life at such hands,
or involved myself in a debt of gratitude to one for whom I was
subsequently to feel nothing but hatred and aversion. It was indeed
a terrible period, and in nothing more so than the fact that acts of
benevolence and charity were blended up with features of falsehood,
treachery, and baseness, which made one despair of humanity, and think
the very worst of their species.



CHAPTER XV. SCRAPS OF HISTORY

Nothing displays more powerfully the force of egotism than the simple
truth that, when any man sits himself down to write the events of his
life, the really momentous occurrences in which he may have borne a part
occupy a conspicuously small place, when each petty incident of a merely
personal nature is dilated and extended beyond all bounds. In one sense,
the reader benefits by this, since there are few impertinences less
forgivable than the obtrusion of some insignificant name into the
narrative of facts that are meet for history. I have made these remarks
in a spirit of apology to my reader; not alone for the accuracy of my
late detail, but also, if I should seem in future to dwell but passingly
on the truly important facts of a great campaign, in which my own part
was so humble.

I was a soldier in that glorious army which Moreau led into the heart
of Germany, and whose victorious career would only have ceased when
they entered the capital of the Empire, had it not been for the unhappy
mistakes of Jourdan, who commanded the auxiliary forces in the north.
For nigh three months we advanced steadily and successfully, superior
in every engagement; we only waited for the moment of junction with
Jourdan’s army, to declare the Empire our own; when at last came the
terrible tidings that he had been beaten, and that Latour was advancing
from Ulm to turn our left flank, and cut off our communications with
France.

Two hundred miles from our own frontiers--separated from the Rhine by
that terrible Black Forest whose defiles are mere gorges between vast
mountains--with an army fifty thousand strong on one flank, and the
Archduke Charles commanding a force of nigh thirty thousand on the
other--such were the dreadful combinations which now threatened us with
a defeat not less signal than Jourdan’s own. Our strength, however, lay
in a superb army of seventy thousand unbeaten men, led on by one whose
name alone was victory.

On the 24th of September the order for retreat was given; the army began
to retire by slow marches, prepared to contest every inch of ground, and
make every available spot a battlefield. The baggage and ammunition were
sent on in front, and two days’ march in advance. Behind, a formidable
rear-guard was ready to repulse every attack of the enemy. Before,
however, entering those close défiles by which his retreat lay, Moreau
determined to give one terrible lesson to his enemy, like the hunted
tiger turning upon his pursuers, he suddenly halted at Biberach, and ere
Latour, who commanded the Austrians, was aware of his purpose, assailed
the Imperial forces with an attack on right, centre, and left together.
Four thousand prisoners and eighteen pieces of cannon were the trophies
of the victory.

The day after this decisive battle our march was resumed, and the
advanced-guard entered that narrow and dismal defile which goes by the
name of the ‘Valley of Hell,’ when our left and right flanks, stationed
at the entrance of the pass, effectually secured the retreat against
molestation. The voltigeurs of St. Cyr crowning the heights as we
went, swept away the light troops which were scattered along the rocky
eminences, and in less than a fortnight our army debouched by Fribourg
and Oppenheim into the valley of the Rhine, not a gun having been lost,
not a caisson deserted, during that perilous movement.

The Archduke, however, having ascertained the direction of Moreau’s
retreat, advanced by a parallel pass through the Kinzigthal, and
attacked St. Cyr at Nauen-dorf, and defeated him. Our right flank,
severely handled at Emmendingen, the whole force was obliged to retreat
on Hüningen, and once more we found ourselves upon the banks of the
Rhine, no longer an advancing army, high in hope, and flushed with
victory--but beaten, harassed, and retreating!

The last few days of that retreat presented a scene of disaster such
as I can never forget. To avoid the furious charges of the Austrian
cavalry, against which our own could no longer make resistance, we
had fallen back upon a line of country cut up into rocky cliffs and
precipices, and covered by a dense pine forest. Here, necessarily broken
up into small parties, we were assailed by the light troops of the
enemy, led on through the various passes by the peasantry, whose
animosity our own severity had excited. It was, therefore, a continual
hand-to-hand struggle, in which, opposed as we were to overpowering
numbers acquainted with every advantage of the ground, our loss was
terrific. It is said that nigh seven thousand men fell---an immense
number, when no general action had occurred. Whatever the actual loss,
such were the circumstances of our army, that Moreau hastened to propose
an armistice, on the condition of the Rhine being the boundary between
the two armies, while Kehl was still to be held by the French.

The proposal was rejected by the Austrians, who at once commenced
preparations for a siege of the fortress with forty thousand troops,
under Latour’s command. The earlier months of winter now passed in the
labours of the siege, and on the morning of New-year’s Day the first
attack was made; the second line was carried a few days after, and,
after a glorious defence by Desaix, the garrison capitulated, and
evacuated the fortress on the 9th of the month. Thus, in the space of
six short months, had we advanced with a conquering army into the very
heart of the Empire, and now we were back again within our own frontier,
not one single trophy of all our victories remaining, two-thirds of our
army dead or wounded--more than all, the prestige of our superiority
fatally injured, and that of the enemy’s valour and prowess as signally
elevated.

The short annals of a successful soldier are often comprised in the few
words which state how he was made lieutenant at such a date, promoted to
his company here, obtained his majority there, succeeded to the command
of his regiment at such a place, and so on. Now my exploits may even be
more briefly written as regards this campaign--for, whether at Kehl,
at Nauendorf, on the Elz, or at Huningen, I ended as I began--a
simple soldier of the ranks. A few slight wounds, a few still more
insignificant words of praise, were all that I brought back with me; but
if my trophies were small, I had gained considerably both in habits
of discipline and obedience. I had learned to endure, ably and without
complaining, the inevitable hardships of a campaign, and, better still,
to see that the irrepressible impulses of the soldier, however prompted
by zeal or heroism, may oftener mar than promote the more mature plans
of his general. Scarcely had my feet once more touched French ground,
than I was seized with the ague, then raging as an epidemic among the
troops, and sent forward with a large detachment of sick to the Military
Hospital of Strasbourg.

Here I bethought me of my patron, Colonel Mahon, and determined to
write to him. For this purpose I addressed a question to the
Adjutant-General’s office to ascertain the colonel’s address. The reply
was a brief and stunning one--he had been dismissed the service. No
personal calamity could have thrown me into deeper affliction; nor had
I even the sad consolation of learning any of the circumstances of this
misfortune. His death, even though thereby I should have lost my only
friend, would have been a lighter evil than this disgrace; and coming as
did the tidings when I was already broken by sickness and defeat, more
than ever disgusted me with a soldier’s life. It was then with a feeling
of total indifference that I heard a rumour which at another moment
would have filled me with enthusiasm--the order for all invalids
sufficiently well to be removed, to be drafted into regiments serving in
Italy. The fame of Bonaparte, who commanded that army, had now surpassed
that of all the other generals; his victories paled the glory of their
successes, and it was already a mark of distinction to have served under
his command.

The walls of the hospital were scrawled over with the names of his
victories; rude sketches of Alpine passes, terrible ravines, or
snow-clad peaks, met the eye everywhere; and the one magical name,
‘Bonaparte,’ written beneath, seemed the key to all their meaning. With
him war seemed to assume all the charms of romance. Each action was
illustrated by feats of valour or heroism, and a halo of glory seemed to
shine over all the achievements of his genius.

It was a clear, bright morning of March, when a light frost sharpened
the air, and a fair, blue sky overhead showed a cloudless elastic
atmosphere, that the ‘invalides,’ as we were all called, were drawn
up in the great square of the hospital for inspection. Two superior
officers of the staff, attended by several surgeons and an adjutant,
sat at a table in front of us, on which lay the regimental books and
conduct-rolls of the different corps. Such of the sick as had received
severe wounds, incapacitating them for further service, were presented
with some slight reward--a few francs in money, a greatcoat, or a pair
of shoes, and obtained their freedom. Others, whose injuries were less
important, received their promotion, or some slight increase of pay,
these favours being all measured by the character the individual bore
in his regiment, and the opinion certified of him by his commanding
officer. When my turn came, and I stood forward, I felt a kind of
shame to think how little claim I could prefer either to honour or
advancement.

‘Maurice Tiernay, slightly wounded by a sabre at Nauendorf--flesh-wound
at Biberach--enterprising and active, but presumptuous and overbearing
with his comrades,’ read out the adjutant, while he added a few words I
could not hear, but at which the superior laughed heartily.

‘What says the doctor?’ asked he, after a pause.

‘This has been a bad case of ague, and I doubt if the young fellow will
ever be fit for active service--certainly not at present.’

‘Is there a vacancy at Saumur?’ asked the general. ‘I see he has been
employed in the school at Nancy.’

‘Tes, sir; for the third class there is one.’

‘Let him have it, then. Tiernay, you are appointed as aspirant of the
third class at the College of Saumur. Take care that the report of your
conduct be more creditable than what is written here. Your opportunities
will now be considerable, and, if well employed, may lead to further
honour and distinction; if neglected or abused, your chances are
forfeited for ever.’

I bowed and retired, as little satisfied with the admonition as elated
with a prospect which converted me from a soldier into a scholar,
and, in the first verge of manhood, threw me back once more into the
condition of a mere boy.

Eighteen months of my life--not the least happy, perhaps, since in the
peaceful portion I can trace so little to be sorry for--glided over
beside the banks of the beautiful Loire, the intervals in the hour of
study being spent either in the riding-school, or the river, where, in
addition to swimming and diving, we were instructed in pontooning and
rafting, the modes of transporting ammunition and artillery, and the
attacks of infantry by cavalry pickets.

I also learned to speak and write English and German with great ease
and fluency, besides acquiring some skill in military drawing and
engineering.

It is true that the imprisonment chafed sorely against us, as we read of
the great achievements of our armies in various parts of the world--of
the great battles of Cairo and the Pyramids, of Acre and Mount Thabor,
and of which a holiday and a fête were to be our only share.

The terrible storms which shook Europe from end to end only reached us
in the bulletins of new victories, and we panted for the time when we,
too, should be actors in the glorious exploits of France.

It is already known to the reader that of the country from which my
family came I myself knew nothing. The very little I had ever learned of
it from my father was also a mere tradition; still was I known among my
comrades only as ‘the Irishman,’ and by that name was I recognised,
even in the record of the school, where I was inscribed thus--‘Maurice
Tiernay, _dit l’Irlandais_.’ It was on this very simple and seemingly
unimportant fact my whole fate in life was to turn; and in this wise-But
the explanation deserves a chapter of its own, and shall have it.



CHAPTER XVI. AN OLD GENERAL OF THE IRISH BRIGADE

In obedience to an order which arrived at Saumur one morning in the July
of 1788,1 was summoned before the commandant of the school, when the
following brief colloquy ensued:--

‘Maurice Tiernay,’ said he, reading from the record of the school, why
are you called _l’Irlandais?_’

‘I am Irish by descent, sir.’

‘Ha! by descent. Your father was, then, an _émigré?_

‘No, sir--my great-grandfather.’

‘_Parbleu!_ that is going very far back. Are you aware of the causes
which induced him to leave his native country?’

‘They were connected with political trouble, I’ve heard, sir. He took
part against the English, my father told me, and was obliged to make his
escape to save his life.’ ‘You, then, hate the English, Maurice?’ ‘My
ancestor certainly did not love them, sir.’

‘Nor can you, boy, ever forgive their having exiled your family from
country and home; every man of honour retains the memory of such
injuries.’

‘I can scarcely deem that an injury, sir, which has made me a French
citizen,’ said I proudly.

‘True, boy--you say what is perfectly true and just; any sacrifice of
fortune or patrimony is cheap at such a price; still you have suffered a
wrong--a deep and irreparable wrong--and as a Frenchman you are ready to
avenge it.’

Although I had no very precise notion, either as to the extent of the
hardships done me, nor in what way I was to demand the reparation, I
gave the assent he seemed to expect.

‘You are well acquainted with the language, I believe?’ continued he.

‘I can read and speak English tolerably well, sir.’

‘But I speak of Irish, boy--of the language which is spoken by your
fellow-countrymen,’ said he rebukingly.

‘I have always heard, sir, that this has fallen into disuse, and is
little known save among the peasantry in a few secluded districts.’

He seemed impatient as I said this, and referred once more to the paper
before him, from whose minutes he appeared to have been speaking.

‘You must be in error, boy. I find here that the nation is devotedly
attached to its traditions and literature, and feels no injury deeper
than the insulting substitution of a foreign tongue for their own noble
language.’

‘Of myself I know nothing, sir; the little I have learned was acquired
when a mere child.’

‘Ah, then, you probably forget, or may never have heard the fact; but
it is as I tell you. This, which I hold here, is the report of a highly
distinguished and most influential personage, who lays great stress
upon the circumstance. I am sorry, Tiernay, very sorry, that you are
unacquainted with the language.’

He continued for some minutes to brood over this disappointment, and at
last returned to the paper before him.

‘The geography of the country--what knowledge have you on that subject?’

‘No more, sir, than I may possess of other countries, and merely learned
from maps.’

‘Bad again,’ muttered he to himself. ‘Madgett calls these “essentials”;
but we shall see.’ Then addressing me, he said, ‘Tiernay, the object of
my present interrogatory is to inform you that the Directory is about
to send an expedition to Ireland to assist in the liberation of that
enslaved people. It has been suggested that young officers and soldiers
of Irish descent might render peculiar service to the cause, and I
have selected you for an opportunity which will convert these worsted
epaulettes into bullion.’

This at least was intelligible news, and now I began to listen with more
attention.

‘There is a report,’ said he, laying down before me a very capacious
manuscript, ‘which you will carefully peruse. Here are the latest
pamphlets setting forth the state of public opinion in Ireland; and here
are various maps of the coast, the harbours, and the strongholds of that
country, with all of which you may employ yourself advantageously; and
if, on considering the subject, you feel disposed to volunteer--for as a
volunteer only could your services be accepted--I will willingly support
your request by all the influence in my power.’

‘I am ready to do so at once, sir,’ said I eagerly; ‘I have no need to
know any more than you have told me.’

‘Well said, boy; I like your ardour. Write your petition and it shall be
forwarded to-day. I will also try and obtain for you the same regimental
rank you hold in the school’--I was a sergeant--‘it will depend upon
yourself afterwards to secure a further advancement. You are now free
from duty; lose no time, therefore, in storing your mind with every
possible information, and be ready to set out at a moment’s notice.’

‘Is the expedition so nearly ready, sir?’ asked I eagerly.

He nodded, and with a significant admonition as to secrecy, dismissed
me, bursting with anxiety to examine the stores of knowledge before me,
and prepare myself with all the details of a plan in which already I
took the liveliest interest. Before the week expired, I received an
answer from the Minister, accepting the offer of my services. The reply
found me deep in those studies, which I scarcely could bear to quit even
at meal-times. Never did I experience such an all-devouring passion
for a theme as on that occasion. ‘Ireland’ never left my thoughts; her
wrongs and sufferings were everlastingly before me; all the cruelties of
centuries--all the hard tyranny of the penal laws--the dire injustice
of caste oppression--filled me with indignation and anger; while, on
the other hand, I conceived the highest admiration of a people who,
undeterred by the might and power of England, resolved to strike a great
blow for liberty.

The enthusiasm of the people--the ardent daring of a valour whose
impetuosity was its greatest difficulty--their high romantic
temperament--their devotion--their gratitude--the childlike trustfulness
of their natures, were all traits, scattered through the various
narratives, which invariably attracted me, and drew me more strongly to
their cause--more from affection than reason.

Madgett’s memoir was filled with these; and he, I concluded, must know
them well, being, as it was asserted, one of the ancient nobility of the
land, and who now desired nothing better than to throw rank, privilege,
and title into the scale, and do battle for the liberty and equality
of his countrymen. How I longed to see this great man, whom my fancy
arrayed in all the attributes he so lavished upon his countrymen, for
they were not only, in his description, the boldest and the bravest, but
the handsomest people of Europe.

As to the success of the enterprise, whatever doubts I had at first
conceived, from an estimate of the immense resources of England, were
speedily solved, as I read of the enormous preparations the Irish had
made for the struggle. The Roman Catholics, Madgett said, were three
millions, the Dissenters another million, all eager for freedom and
French alliance, wanting nothing but the appearance of a small armed
force to give them the necessary organisation and discipline. They were
somewhat deficient, he acknowledged, in firearms--cannon they had
none whatever; but the character of the country, which consisted
of mountains, valleys, ravines and gorges, reduced war to the
mere chivalrous features of personal encounter. What interminable
descriptions did I wade through of clubs and associations, the very
names of which were a puzzle to me--the great union of all appearing to
be a society called ‘Defenders,’ whose oath bound them to ‘fidelity to
the united nations of France and Ireland!’

So much for the one side. For the other, it was asserted that the
English forces then in garrison in Ireland were beneath contempt; the
militia, being principally Irish, might be relied on for taking the
popular side; and as to the Regulars, they were either ‘old men or
boys,’ incapable of active service; and several of the regiments being
Scotch, greatly disaffected to the Government. Then, again, as to
the navy, the sailors in the English fleet were more than two-thirds
Irishmen, all Catholics, and all disaffected.

That the enterprise contained every element of success, then, who
could doubt? The nation, in the proportion of ten to one, were for the
movement. On their side lay not alone the wrongs to avenge, but the
courage, the energy, and the daring. Their oppressors were as weak as
tyrannical, their cause was a bad one, and their support of it a hollow
semblance of superiority.

If I read these statements with ardour and avidity, one lurking sense
of doubt alone obtruded itself on my reasonings. Why, with all these
guarantees of victory, with everything that can hallow a cause, and give
it stability and strength--why did the Irish ask for aid? If they were,
as they alleged, an immense majority--if there was all the heroism and
the daring--if the struggle was to be maintained against a miserably
inferior force, weakened by age, incapacity, and disaffection--what
need had they of Frenchmen on their side? The answer to all such doubts,
however, was ‘the Irish were deficient in organisation.’

Not only was the explanation a very sufficient one, but it served in a
high degree to flatter our vanity. We were, then, to be organisers of
Ireland; from us were they to take the lessons of civilisation, which
should prepare them for freedom--ours was the task to discipline their
valour, and train their untaught intelligence. Once landed in the
country, it was to our standard they were to rally; from us were to go
forth the orders of every movement and measure; to us this new land
was to be an El Dorado. Madgett significantly hinted everywhere at the
unbounded gratitude of Irishmen, and more than hinted at the future fate
of certain confiscated estates. One phrase, ostentatiously set forth in
capitals, asserted that the best general of the French Republic could
not be anywhere employed with so much reputation and profit. There was,
then, everything to stimulate the soldier in such an enterprise--honour,
fame, glory, and rich rewards were all among the prizes.

It was when deep in the midst of these studies, poring over maps and
reports, taxing my memory with hard names, and getting off by heart
dates, distances, and numbers, that the order came for me to repair at
once to Paris, where the volunteers of the expedition were to assemble.
My rank of sergeant had been confirmed, and in this capacity, as
_sous-officier_, I was ordered to report myself to General Kilmaine, the
adjutant-general of the expedition, then living in the Rue Ghantereine.
I was also given the address of a certain Lestaing--Rue Tailbout--a
tailor, from whom, on producing a certificate, I was to obtain my new
uniform.

Full as I was of the whole theme, thinking of the expedition by day, and
dreaming of it by night, I was still little prepared for the enthusiasm
it was at that very moment exciting in every society of the capital. For
some time previously a great number of Irish emigrants had made Paris
their residence; some were men of good position and ample fortune; some
were individuals of considerable ability and intelligence. All were
enthusiastic, and ardent in temperament--devotedly attached to their
country--hearty haters of England, and proportionally attached to
all that was French. These sentiments, coupled with a certain ease of
manner, and a faculty of adaptation, so peculiarly Irish, made them
general favourites in society; and long before the Irish question had
found any favour with the public, its national supporters had won over
the hearts and good wishes of all Paris to the cause.

Well pleased, then, as I was with my handsome uniform of green and gold,
my small chapeau, with its plume of cock’s feathers, and the embroidered
shamrock on my collar, I was not a little struck by the excitement my
first appearance in the street created. Accustomed to see a hundred
strange military costumes--the greater number, I own, more singular than
tasteful--the Parisians, I concluded, would scarcely notice mine in the
crowd. Not so, however; the print-shops had already given the impulse to
the admiration, and the ‘Irish Volunteer of the Guard’ was to be seen in
every window, in all the ‘glory of his bravery.’ The heroic character of
the expedition, too, was typified by a great variety of scenes, in which
the artist’s imagination had all the credit. In one picture the _jeune
Irlandais_ was planting a national flag of very capacious dimensions on
the summit of his native mountains; here he was storming _Le Château de
Dublin_, a most formidable fortress, perched on a rock above the sea;
here he was crowning the heights of _La Citadelle de Cork_, a very
Gibraltar in strength; or he was haranguing the native chieftains,
a highly picturesque group--a cross between a knight crusader and a
South-sea islander.

My appearance, therefore, in the streets was the signal for general
notice and admiration, and more than one compliment was uttered,
purposely loud enough to reach me, on the elegance and style of my
equipment. In the pleasant flurry of spirits excited by this flattery,
I arrived at the general’s quarters in the Rue Chantereine. It was
considerably before the time of his usual receptions, but the glitter
of my epaulettes, and the air of assurance I had assumed, so far imposed
upon the old servant who acted as valet, that he at once introduced
me into a small saloon, and after a brief pause presented me to the
general, who was reclining on a sofa at his breakfast. Although far
advanced in years, and evidently broken by bad health, General Kilmaine
still preserved traces of great personal advantages, while his manner
exhibited all that polished ease and courtesy which was said to be
peculiar to the Irish gentleman of the French Court. Addressing me in
English, he invited me to join his meal, and on my declining, as having
already breakfasted, he said, ‘I perceive, from your name, we are
countrymen, and as your uniform tells me the service in which you are
engaged, we may speak with entire confidence. Tell me then, frankly, all
that you know of the actual condition of Ireland.’

Conceiving that this question applied to the result of my late studies,
and was meant to elicit the amount of my information, I at once began
a recital of what I had learned from the books and reports I had been
reading, My statistics were perfect--they had been gotten off by heart;
my sympathies were, for the same reason, most eloquent; my indignation
was boundless on the wrongs I deplored, and in fact, in the fifteen
minutes during which he permitted me to declaim without interruption, I
had gone through the whole ‘cause of Ireland,’ from Henry n. to George
n.

‘You have been reading Mr. Madgett, I perceive,’ said he, with a smile;
‘but I would rather hear something of your own actual experience. Tell
me, therefore, in what condition are the people at this moment, as
regards poverty?’

‘I have never been in Ireland, general,’ said I, not without some shame
at the avowal coming so soon after my eloquent exhortation.

‘Ah, I perceive,’ said he blandly, ‘of Irish origin, and a relative
probably of that very distinguished soldier, Count Maurice de Tiernay,
who served in the Garde du Corps.’

‘His only son, general,’ said I, blushing with eagerness and pleasure at
the praise of my father.

‘Indeed!’ said he, smiling courteously, and seeming to meditate on my
words. ‘There was not a better nor a braver sabre in the corps than your
father--a very few more of such men might have saved the monarchy--as it
was, they dignified its fall. And to whose guidance and care did you owe
your early training, for I see you have not been neglected?’

A few words told him the principal events of my early years, to which he
listened with deep attention. At length he said, ‘And now you are about
to devote your acquirements and energy to this new expedition?’

‘All, general! Everything that I have is too little for such a cause.’

‘You say truly, boy,’ said he warmly; ‘would that so good a cause had
better leaders. I mean,’ added he hurriedly, ‘wiser ones. Men more
conversant with the actual state of events, more fit to cope with
the great difficulties before them, more ready to take advantage of
circumstances, whose outward meaning will often prove deceptive. In
fact, Irishmen of character and capacity, tried soldiers and good
patriots. Well, well, let us hope the best. In whose division are you?’

‘I have not yet heard, sir. I have presented myself here to-day to
receive your orders.’

‘There again is another instance of their incapacity,’ cried he
passionately. ‘Why, boy, I have no command, nor any function. I did
accept office under General Hoche, but he is not to lead the present
expedition.’

‘And who is, sir?’

‘I cannot tell you. A week ago they talked of Grouchy, then of Hardy;
yesterday it was Humbert; to-day it may be Bonaparte, and to-morrow
yourself! Ay, Tiernay, this great and good cause has its national
fatality attached to it, and is so wrapped up in low intrigue and
falsehood, that every Minister becomes in turn disgusted with the
treachery and mendacity he meets with, and bequeaths the question to
some official underling, meet partisan for the mock patriot he treats
with.’

‘But the expedition will sail, general?’ asked I, sadly discomfited by
this tone of despondency.

He made me no answer, but sat for some time absorbed in his own
thoughts. At last he looked up, and said, ‘You ought to be in the army
of Italy, boy; the great teacher of war is there.’

‘I know it, sir, but my whole heart is in this struggle. I feel that
Ireland has a claim on all who derived even a name from her soil. Do you
not believe that the expedition will sail?’

Again he was silent and thoughtful.

‘Mr. Madgett would say yes,’ said he scornfully, ‘though, certes, he
would not volunteer to bear it company.’

‘Colonel Cherin, general!’ said the valet, as he flung open the door for
a young officer in a staff uniform. I arose at once to withdraw, but the
general motioned to me to wait in an adjoining room, as he desired to
speak with me again.

Scarcely five minutes had elapsed when I was summoned once more before
him.

‘You have come at a most opportune moment, Tiernay,’ said he; ‘Colonel
Cherin informs me that an expedition is ready to sail from Rochelle at
the first favourable wind. General Humbert has the command; and if you
are disposed to join him I will give you a letter of presentation.’

Of course I did not hesitate in accepting the offer; and while the
general drew over his desk to write the letter, I withdrew towards the
window to converse with Colonel Cherin.

‘You might have waited long enough,’ said he, laughing, ‘if the affair
had been in other hands than Humbert’s. The delays and discussions of
the official people, the difficulty of anything like agreement, the want
of money, and fifty other causes, would have detained the fleet till the
English got scent of the whole. But Humbert has taken the short road in
the matter. He only arrived at La Rochelle five days ago, and now he is
ready to weigh anchor.’

‘And in what way has he accomplished this?’ asked I, in some curiosity.

‘By a method,’ replied he, laughing again, ‘which is usually reserved
for an enemy’s country. Growing weary of a correspondence with the
Minister, which seemed to make little progress, and urged on by the
enthusiastic stories of the Irish refugees, he resolved to wait no
longer; and so he has called on the merchants and magistrates to
advance him a sum on military requisition, together with such stores and
necessaries as he stands in need of.’

‘And they have complied?’ asked I.

‘_Parbleu!_ that have they. In the first place, they had no other
choice; and in the second, they are but too happy to get rid of him and
his ‘Legion Noir,’ as they are called, so cheaply. A thousand louis and
a thousand muskets would not pay for the damage of these vagabonds each
night they spent in the town.’

I confess that this description did not tend to exalt the enthusiasm
I had conceived for the expedition; but it was too late for
hesitation--too late for even a doubt. Go forward I should, whatever
might come of it. And now the general had finished his letter, which,
having sealed and addressed, he gave into my hand, saying--‘This will
very probably obtain your promotion, if not at once, at least on the
first vacancy. Good-bye, my lad; there may be hard knocks going where
you will be, but I’m certain you’ll not disgrace the good name you bear,
nor the true cause for which you are fighting. I would that I had youth
and strength to stand beside you in the struggle!

‘Good-bye.’ He shook me affectionately by both hands; the colonel,
too, bade me adieu not less cordially; and I took my leave with a heart
overflowing with gratitude and delight.



CHAPTER XVII. LA ROCHELLE

La Rochelle is a quiet little town at the bottom of a small bay, the
mouth of which is almost closed up by two islands. There is a sleepy,
peaceful air about the place--a sort of drowsy languor pervades
everything and everybody about it, that tells of a town whose days of
busy prosperity have long since passed by, and which is dragging out
life, like some retired tradesman--too poor for splendour, but rich
enough to be idle. A long avenue of lime-trees incloses the harbour;
and here the merchants conduct their bargains, while their wives, seated
beneath the shade, discuss the gossip of the place over their work. All
is patriarchal and primitive as Holland itself; the very courtesies of
life exhibiting that ponderous stateliness which insensibly reminds one
of the land of dikes and broad breeches. It is the least ‘French’ of any
town I have ever seen in France; none of that light merriment, that gay
volatility of voice and air which form the usual atmosphere of a
French town. All is still, orderly, and sombre; and yet on the night in
which--something more than fifty years back--I first entered it, a very
different scene was presented to my eyes.

It was about ten o’clock, and by a moon nearly full, the diligence
rattled along the covered ways of the old fortress, and crossing many a
moat and drawbridge, the scenes of a once glorious struggle, entered
the narrow streets, traversed a wide place, and drew up within the ample
portals of ‘La Poste.’

Before I could remove the wide capote which I wore, the waiter ushered
me into a large salon where a party of about forty persons were seated
at supper. With a few exceptions they were all military officers, and
_sous-officiers_ of the expedition, whose noisy gaiety and boisterous
mirth sufficiently attested that the entertainment had begun a
considerable time before.

A profusion of bottles, some empty, others in the way to become
so, covered the table, amidst which lay the fragments of a common
table-d’hôte supper--large dishes of cigars and basins of tobacco
figuring beside the omelettes and the salad.

The noise, the heat, the smoke, and the confusion--the clinking of
glasses, the singing, and the speech-making, made a scene of such
turmoil and uproar, that I would gladly have retired to some quieter
atmosphere, when suddenly an accidental glimpse of my uniform caught
some eyes among the revellers, and a shout was raised of ‘Holloa,
comrades! here’s one of the “Guides” among us.’ And at once the whole
assembly rose up to greet me. For full ten minutes I had to submit to
a series of salutations, which led to every form, from hand-shaking and
embracing to kissing; while, perfectly unconscious of any cause for my
popularity, I went through the ceremonies like one in a dream.

‘Where’s Kilmaine?’ ‘What of Hardy?’ ‘Is Grouchy coming?’ ‘Can the Brest
fleet sail?’ ‘How many line-of-battle ships have they?’ ‘What’s the
artillery force?’ ‘Have you brought any money?’ This last question,
the most frequent of all, was suddenly poured in upon me, and with a
fortunate degree of rapidity, that I had no time for a reply, had I even
the means of making one.

‘Let the lad have a seat and a glass of wine before he submits to this
interrogatory,’ said a fine, jolly-looking old _chef d’escadron_ at the
head of the table, while he made a place for me at his side. ‘Now tell
us, boy, what number of the “Guides” are to be of our party?’

I looked a little blank at the question, for in truth I had not heard of
the corps before, nor was I aware that it was their uniform I was then
wearing.

‘Come, come, be frank with us, lad,’ said he; ‘we are all comrades here.
Confound secrecy, say I.’

‘Ay, ay,’ cried the whole assembly together--‘confound secrecy. We are
not bandits nor highwaymen; we have no need of concealment.’

‘I’ll be as frank as you can wish, comrades,’ said I; ‘and if I lose
some importance in your eyes by owning that I am not the master of a
single state secret, I prefer to tell you so, to attempting any unworthy
disguise. I come here, by orders from General Kilmaine, to join your
expedition; and except this letter for General Humbert, I have no claim
to any consideration whatever.’

The old _chef_ took the letter from my hands and examined the seal and
superscription carefully, and then passed the document down the table
for the satisfaction of the rest.

While I continued to watch with anxious eyes the letter on which so much
of my own fate depended, a low whispering conversation went on at my
side, at the end of which the _chef_ said--

‘It’s more than likely, lad, that your regiment is not coming; but our
general is not to be balked for that. Go he will; and let the Government
look to themselves if he is not supported. At all events you had better
see General Humbert at once; there’s no saying what that despatch may
contain. Santerre, conduct him upstairs.’

A smart young fellow arose at the bidding, and beckoned me to follow
him.

It was not without difficulty that we forced our way upstairs, down
which porters, and sailors, and soldiers were now carrying a number of
heavy trunks and packing-cases. At last we gained an anteroom, where
confusion seemed at its highest, crowded as it was by soldiers, the
greater number of them intoxicated, and all in a state of riotous
and insolent insubordination. Amongst these were a number of the
townspeople, eager to prefer complaints for outrage and robbery, but
whose subdued voices were drowned amid the clamour of their oppressors.
Meanwhile, clerks were writing away receipts for stolen and pillaged
articles, and which, signed with the name of the general, were grasped
at with eager avidity. Even personal injuries were requited in the same
cheap fashion, orders on the national treasury being freely issued
for damaged noses and smashed heads, and gratefully received by the
confiding populace.

‘If the wind draws a little more to the southward before morning, we’ll
pay our debts with the topsail sheet, and it will be somewhat shorter,
and to the full as honest,’ said a man in a naval uniform.

‘Where’s the officer of the “Regiment des Guides?”’ cried a soldier from
the door at the farther end of the room; and before I had time to think
over the designation of rank given me, I was hurried into the general’s
presence.

General Humbert, whose age might have been thirty-eight or forty, was
a tall, well-built, but somewhat over-corpulent man; his features
frank and manly, but with a dash of coarseness in their expression,
particularly about the mouth; a sabre-cut, which had divided the upper
lip, and whose cicatrix was then seen through his moustache, heightening
the effect of his sinister look; his carriage was singularly erect and
soldierlike, but all his gestures betrayed the habits of one who had
risen from the ranks, and was not unwilling to revive the recollection.

He was parading the room from end to end when I entered, stopping
occasionally to look out from an open window upon the bay, where by
the clear moonlight might be seen the ships of the fleet at anchor.
Two officers of his staff were writing busily at a table, whence the
materials of a supper had not yet been removed. They did not look up
as I came forward, nor did he notice me in any way for several minutes.
Suddenly he turned towards me, and snatching the letter I held in my
hand, proceeded to read it. A burst of coarse laughter broke from him as
he perused the lines; and then throwing down the paper on the table, he
cried out--

‘So much for Kilmaine’s contingent. I asked for a company of
engineers and a squadron of “Guides,” and they send me a boy from
the cavalry-school of Saumur. I tell them that I want some fellows
conversant with the language and the people, able to treat with the
peasantry, and acquainted with their habits, and here I have got a raw
youth whose highest acquirement in all likelihood is to daub a map with
water-colours, or take fortifications with a pair of compasses! I wish
I had some of these learned gentlemen in the trenches for a few hours.
_Parbleu!_ I think I could teach them something they don’t learn from
Citizen Carnot.--Well, sir,’ said he, turning abruptly towards me, ‘how
many squadrons of the “Guides” are completed?’

‘I cannot tell, general,’ was my timid answer.

‘Where are they stationed?’

‘Of that also I am ignorant, sir.’

‘_Peste!_’ cried he, stamping his foot passionately; then suddenly
checking his anger, he asked, ‘How many are coming to join this
expedition? Is there a regiment, a division, a troop? Can you tell me
with certainty that a sergeant’s guard is on the way hither?’

‘I cannot, sir; I know nothing whatever about the regiment in question.’

‘You have never seen it?’ cried he vehemently.

‘Never, sir.’

‘This exceeds all belief,’ exclaimed he, with a crash of his closed fist
upon the table. ‘Three weeks letter-writing! Estafettes, orderlies, and
special couriers to no end! And here we have an unfledged cur from a
cavalry institute, when I asked for a strong reinforcement. Then what
brought you here, boy?’

‘To join your expedition, general.’

‘Have they told you it was a holiday-party that we had planned? Did they
say it was a junketing we were bent upon?’

‘If they had, sir, I would not have come.’

‘The greater fool you, then, that’s all,’ cried he, laughing; ‘when I
was your age I’d not have hesitated twice between a merry-making and a
bayonet charge.’

While he was thus speaking, he never ceased to sign his name to every
paper placed before him by one or other of the secretaries.

‘No, _parbleu!_ he went on, ‘_La maîtresse_ before the _mitraille_ any
day for me. But what’s all this, Girard? Here I’m issuing orders
upon the national treasury for hundreds of thousands without let or
compunction.’

The aide-de-camp whispered a word or two in a low tone.

‘I know it, lad; I know it well,’ said the general, laughing heartily;
‘I only pray that all our requisitions may be as easily obtained in
future.--Well, Monsieur le Guide, what are we to do with you?’

‘Not refuse me, I hope, general,’ said I diffidently.

‘Not refuse you, certainly; but in what capacity to take you, lad,
that’s the question. If you had served--if you had even walked a
campaign----’

‘So I have, general--this will show you where I have been’; and I handed
him the _livret_ which every soldier carries of his conduct and career.

He took the book, and casting his eyes hastily over it, exclaimed--

‘Why, what’s this, lad? You’ve been at Kehl, at Emmendingen, at
Rorschach, at Huningen, through all that Black Forest affair with
Moreau! You have seen smoke, then. Ay! I see honourable mention of you
besides, for readiness in the field and zeal during action. What!
more brandy, Girard. Why, our Irish friends must have been exceedingly
thirsty. I’ve given them credit for something like ten thousand “velts”
 already! No matter, the poor fellows may have to put up with short
rations for all this yet--and there goes my signature once more. What
does that blue light mean, Girard?’ said he, pointing to a bright blue
star that shone from a mast of one of the ships of war.

‘That is the signal, general, that the embarkation of the artillery is
complete.’

‘_Parbleu!_’ said he with a laugh, ‘it need not have taken long; they’ve
given in two batteries of eights, and one of them has not a gun fit for
service. There goes a rocket, now. Isn’t that a signal to heave short on
the anchors? Yes, to be sure. And now it is answered by the other! Ha!
lads, this does look like business at last!’

The door opened as he spoke, and a naval officer entered.

‘The wind is drawing round to the south, general; we can weigh with the
ebb if you wish it.’

‘Wish it!--if I wish it! Yes, with my whole heart and soul I do! I am
just as sick of La Rochelle as is La Rochelle of me. The salute that
announces our departure will be a _feu de joie_ to both of us! Ay, sir,
tell your captain that I need no further notice than that he is ready.
Girard, see to it that the marauders are sent on board in irons. The
fellows must learn at once that discipline begins when we trip our
anchors. As for you,’ said he, turning to me, ‘you shall act upon my
staff with provisional rank as sous-lieutenant: time will show if the
grade should be confirmed. And now hasten down to the quay, and put
yourself under Colonel Serasin’s orders.’

Colonel Serasin, the second in command, was, in many respects, the very
opposite of Humbert Sharp, petulant, and irascible, he seemed quite to
overlook the fact, that, in an expedition which was little better than
a foray, there must necessarily be a great relaxation of the rules
of discipline, and many irregularities at least winked at, which, in
stricter seasons, would call for punishment. The consequence was, that
a large proportion of our force went on board under arrest, and many
actually in irons. The Irish were, without a single exception, all
drunk; and the English soldiers, who had procured their liberation
from imprisonment on condition of joining the expedition, had made
sufficiently free with the brandy-bottle, to forget their new alliance,
and vent their hatred of France and Frenchmen in expressions whose only
alleviation was, that they were nearly unintelligible.

Such a scene of uproar, discord, and insubordination never was seen. The
relative conditions of guard and prisoner elicited national animosities
that were scarcely even dormant, and many a bloody encounter took
place between those whose instinct was too powerful to feel themselves
anything but enemies. A cry, too, was raised, that it was meant
to betray the whole expedition to the English, whose fleet, it was
asserted, had been seen off Oleron that morning; and although there
was not even the shadow of a foundation for the belief, it served to
increase the alarm and confusion. Whether originating or not with the
Irish, I cannot say, but certainly they took advantage of it to avoid
embarking; and now began a schism which threatened to wreck the whole
expedition, even in the harbour.

The Irish, as indifferent to the call of discipline as they were
ignorant of French, refused to obey orders save from officers of their
own country; and although Serasin ordered two companies to ‘load with
ball and fire low,’ the similar note for preparation from the insurgents
induced him to rescind the command and try a compromise.

In this crisis I was sent by Serasin to fetch what was called the
‘Committee,’ the three Irish deputies who accompanied the force.
They had already gone aboard of the _Dedalus_, little foreseeing the
difficulties that were to arise on shore.

Seated in a small cabin next the wardroom, I found these three
gentlemen, whose names were Tone, Teel-ing, and Sullivan. Their
attitudes were gloomy and despondent, and their looks anything but
encouraging as I entered. A paper on which a few words had been
scrawled, and signed with their three names underneath, lay before them,
and on this their eyes were bent with a sad and deep meaning. I knew
not then what it meant, but I afterwards learned that it was a compact
formally entered into and drawn up, that if, by the chance of war, they
should fall into the enemy’s hands, they would anticipate their fate
by suicide, but leave to the English Government all the ignominy and
disgrace of their death.

They seemed scarcely to notice me as I came forward, and even when I
delivered my message they heard it with a half indifference.

‘What do you want us to do, sir?’ said Teeling, the eldest of the
party. ‘We hold no command in the service. It was against our advice and
counsel that you accepted these volunteers at all We have no influence
over them.’

‘Not the slightest,’ broke in Tone. ‘These fellows are bad soldiers and
worse Irishmen. The expedition will do better without them.’

‘And they better without the expedition,’ muttered Sullivan dryly.

‘But you will come, gentlemen, and speak to them,’ said I. ‘You can at
least assure them that their suspicions are unfounded.’

‘Very true, sir,’ replied Sullivan, ‘we can do so, but with what
success? No, no. If you can’t maintain discipline here on your own soil,
you’ll make a bad hand of doing it when you have your foot on Irish
ground.

And, after all, I for one am not surprised at the report gaining
credence.’

‘How so, sir?’ asked I indignantly.

‘Simply that when a promise of fifteen thousand men dwindles down to a
force of eight hundred; when a hundred thousand stand of arms come to
be represented by a couple of thousand; when an expedition, pledged by
a Government, has fallen down to a marauding party; when Hoche or
Kléber---- But never mind, I always swore that if you sent but a
corporal’s guard that I ‘d go with them.’

A musket-shot here was heard, followed by a sharp volley and a cheer,
and, in an agony of anxiety, I rushed to the deck. Although above half
a mile from the shore, we could see the movement of troops hither and
thither, and hear the loud words of command. Whatever the struggle, it
was over in a moment, and now we saw the troops descending the steps to
the boats. With an inconceivable speed the men fell into their places,
and, urged on by the long sweeps, the heavy launches swept across the
calm water of the bay.

If a cautious reserve prevented any open questioning as to the late
affray, the second boat which came alongside revealed some of its
terrible consequences. Seven wounded soldiers were assisted up the
side by their comrades, and in total silence conveyed to their station
between decks.

‘A bad augury this!’ muttered Sullivan, as his eye followed them. ‘They
might as well have left that work for the English!’

A swift six-oar boat, with the tricolour flag floating from a flagstaff
at her stern, now skimmed along towards us, and as she came nearer we
could recognise the uniforms of the officers of Humbert’s staff, while
the burly figure of the general himself was soon distinguishable in the
midst of them.

As he stepped up the ladder, not a trace of displeasure could be seen on
his broad bold features. Greeting the assembled officers with a smile,
he asked how the wind was.

‘All fair, and freshening at every moment,’ was the answer.

‘May it continue!’ cried he fervently. ‘Welcome a hurricane, if it only
waft us westward!’

The foresail filled out as he spoke, the heavy ship heaved over to the
wind, and we began our voyage.



CHAPTER XVIII. ‘THE BAY OF BATHFRAN’

Our voyage was very uneventful, but not without anxiety, since, to avoid
the English cruisers and the Channel fleet, we were obliged to hold
a southerly course for several days, making a great circuit before we
could venture to bear up for the place of our destination. The weather
alternated between light winds and a dead calm, which usually came on
every day at noon, and lasted till about sunset. As to me, there was
an unceasing novelty in everything about a ship; her mechanism, her
discipline, her progress, furnished abundant occupation for all my
thoughts, and I never wearied of acquiring knowledge of a theme so
deeply interesting. My intercourse with the naval officers, too,
impressed me strongly in their favour in comparison with their comrades
of the land service. In the former case, all was zeal, activity, and
watchfulness. The lookout never slumbered at his post; and an unceasing
anxiety to promote the success of the expedition manifested itself in
all their words and actions. This, of course, was all to be expected in
the discharge of the duties peculiarly their own; but I also looked for
something which should denote preparation and forethought in the
others; yet nothing of the kind was to be seen. The expedition was never
discussed even as table-talk; and for anything that fell from the party
in conversation, it would have been impossible to say if our destination
were China or Ireland. Not a book nor a map, not a pamphlet nor a paper
that bore upon the country whose destinies were about to be committed to
us, ever appeared on the tables. A vague and listless doubt how long
the voyage might last was the extent of interest any one condescended to
exhibit; but as to what was to follow after--what new chapter of events
should open when this first had closed, none vouchsafed to inquire.

Even to this hour I am puzzled whether to attribute this strange conduct
to the careless levity of national character, or to a studied and well
‘got up’ affectation. In all probability both influences were at work;
while a third, not less powerful, assisted them--this was the gross
ignorance and shameless falsehood of some of the Irish leaders of the
expedition, whose boastful and absurd histories ended by disgusting
every one. Among the projects discussed at the time, I well remember one
which was often gravely talked over, and the utter absurdity of which
certainly struck none amongst us. This was no less than the intention
of demanding the West India Islands from England as an indemnity for
the past woes and bygone misgovernment of Ireland. If this seem barely
credible now, I can only repeat my faithful assurance of the fact, and I
believe that some of the memoirs of the time will confirm my assertion.

The French officers listened to these and similar speculations with
utter indifference; probably to many of them the geographical question
was a difficulty that stopped any further inquiry, while others felt
no further interest than what a campaign promised. All the enthusiastic
narratives, then, of high rewards and splendid trophies that awaited us,
fell upon inattentive ears, and at last the word Ireland ceased to be
heard amongst us. Play of various kinds occupied us when not engaged on
duty. There was little discipline maintained on board, and none of that
strictness which is the habitual rule of a ship-of-war. The lights were
suffered to burn during the greater part of the night in the cabins;
gambling went on usually till daybreak; and the quarter-deck, that most
reverential of spots to every sailor-mind, was often covered by lounging
groups, who smoked, chatted, or played at chess, in all the cool apathy
of men indifferent to its claim for respect.

Now and then, the appearance of a strange sail afar off, or some dim
object in the horizon, would create a momentary degree of excitement and
anxiety; but when the ‘lookout’ from the mast-head had proclaimed her a
‘schooner from Brest,’ or a ‘Spanish fruit-vessel,’ the sense of danger
passed away at once, and none ever reverted to the subject.

With General Humbert I usually passed the greater part of each
forenoon--a distinction, I must confess, I owed to my skill as a
chess-player, a game of which he was particularly fond, and in which I
had attained no small proficiency. I was too young and too unpractised
in the world to make my skill subordinate to my chiefs, and beat him at
every game with as little compunction as though he were only my equal,
till, at last, vexed at his want of success, and tired of a contest that
offered no vicissitude of fortune, he would frequently cease playing to
chat over the events of the time, and the chances of the expedition.

It was with no slight mixture of surprise and dismay that I now detected
his utter despair of all success, and that he regarded the whole as a
complete forlorn-hope. He had merely taken the command to involve the
French Government in the cause, and so far compromise the national
character that all retreat would be impossible. We shall be all cut
to pieces or taken prisoners the day after we land,’ was his constant
exclamation, ‘and then, but not till then, will they think seriously in
France of a suitable expedition.’ There was no heroism, still less was
there any affectation of recklessness in this avowal. By nature he was a
rough, easy, good-tempered fellow, who liked his profession less for
its rewards than for its changeful scenes and moving incidents--his one
predominating feeling being that France should give rule to the whole
world, and the principles of her Revolution he everywhere pre-eminent.
To promote this consummation the loss of an army was of little moment.
Let the cause but triumph in the end, and the cost was not worth
fretting about.

Next to this sentiment was his hatred of England, and all that was
English. Treachery, falsehood, pride, avarice, grasping covetousness,
and unscrupulous aggression, were the characteristics by which he
described the nation; and he made the little knowledge he had gleaned
from newspapers and intercourse so subservient to this theory, that I
was an easy convert to his opinion; so that, ere long, my compassion for
the wrongs of Ireland was associated with the most profound hatred of
her oppressors.

To be sure, I should have liked the notion that we ourselves were to
have some more active share in the liberation of Irishmen than the mere
act of heralding another and more successful expedition; but even in
this thought there was romantic self-devotion, not unpleasing to the
mind of a boy; but, strange enough, I was the only one who felt it.

The first sight of land to one on sea is always an event of uncommon
interest; but how greatly increased is the feeling when that land is
to be the scene of a perilous exploit--the cradle of his ambition, or
perhaps his grave! All my speculations about the expedition--all my
daydreams of success, or my anxious hours of dark forebodings--never
brought the matter so palpably before me as the dim outline of a distant
headland, which, I was told, was part of the Irish coast.

This was on the 17th of August, but on the following day we stood
further out to sea again, and saw no more of it.

The three succeeding ones we continued to beat up slowly to the
northward against a head wind and a heavy sea; but on the evening of
the 21st the sun went down in mellow splendour, and a light air from the
south springing up, the sailors pronounced a most favourable change of
weather--a prophecy that a starry night and a calm sea soon confirmed.

The morning of the 22nd broke splendidly--a gentle breeze from the
south-west slightly curled the blue waves, and filled the canvas of
the three frigates, as in close order they sailed along under the tall
cliffs of Ireland. We were about three miles from the shore, on which
now every telescope and glass was eagerly directed. As the light
and fleeting clouds of early morning passed away we could descry the
outlines of the bold coast, indented with many a bay and creek, while
rocky promontories and grassy slopes succeeded each other in endless
variety of contrast. Towns, or even villages, we could see none--a few
small wretched-looking hovels were dotted over the hills, and here and
there a thin wreath of blue smoke bespoke habitation, but, save these
signs, there was an air of loneliness and solitude which increased the
solemn feelings of the scene.

All these objects of interest, however, soon gave way before another
to the contemplation of which every eye was turned. This was a small
fishing-boat, which, with a low mast and ragged piece of canvas, was
seen standing boldly out for us: a red handkerchief was fastened to a
stick in the stern, as if for a signal, and on our shortening sail,
to admit of her overtaking us, the ensign was lowered as though in
acknowledgment of our meaning.

The boat was soon alongside, and we now perceived that her crew
consisted of a man and a boy, the former of whom, a powerfully built,
loose fellow, of about five-and-forty, dressed in a light-blue frieze
jacket and trousers, adroitly caught at the cast of rope thrown out to
him, and having made fast his skiff, clambered up the ship’s side at
once, gaily, as though he were an old friend coming to welcome us.

‘Is he a pilot?’ asked the officer of the watch, addressing one of the
Irish officers.

‘No; he’s only a fisherman, but he knows the coast perfectly, and says
there is deep water within twenty fathoms of the shore.’

An animated conversation in Irish now ensued between the peasant and
Captain Madgett, during which a wondering and somewhat impatient group
stood around, speedily increased by the presence of General Humbert
himself and his staff.

‘He tells me, general,’ said Madgett, ‘that we are in the Bay of
Killala, a good and safe anchorage, and, during the southerly winds, the
best on all the coast.’

‘What news has he from the shore?’ asked Humbert sharply, as if the care
of the ship was a very secondary consideration.

‘They have been expecting us with the greatest impatience, general; he
says the most intense anxiety for our coming is abroad.’

‘What of the people themselves? Where are the national forces? Have they
any headquarters near this? Eh, what says he? What is that? Why does he
laugh?’ asked Humbert, in impatient rapidity, as he watched the changes
in the peasant’s face.

‘He was laughing at the strange sound of a foreign language, so odd and
singular to his ears,’ said Madgett; but for all his readiness, a slight
flushing of the cheek showed that he was ill at ease.

‘Well, but what of the Irish forces? Where are they?’

For some minutes the dialogue continued in an animated strain between
the two; the vehement tone and gestures of each bespeaking what sounded
at least like altercation; and Madgett at last turned half angrily away,
saying, ‘The fellow is too ignorant; he actually knows nothing of what
is passing before his eyes.’

[Illustration: 229]

‘Is there no one else on board can speak this _barargouinage_?’ cried
Humbert, in anger.

‘Yes, general, I can interrogate him,’ cried a young lad named Conolly,
who had only joined us on the day before we sailed.

And now as the youth addressed the fisherman in a few rapid sentences,
the other answered as quickly, making a gesture with his hands that
implied grief, or even despair.

‘We can interpret that for ourselves,’ broke in Humbert; ‘he is telling
you that the game is up.’

‘Exactly so, general; he says that the insurrection has been completely
put down, that the Irish forces are scattered or disbanded, and all the
leaders taken.’

‘The fellow is just as likely to be an English spy,’ said Madgett, in a
whisper; but Humbert’s gesture of impatience showed how little trust he
reposed in the allegation.

‘Ask him what English troops are quartered in this part of the country,’
said the general.

‘A few militia, and two squadrons of dragoons,’ was the prompt reply.

‘No artillery?’

‘None.’

‘Is there any rumour of our coming abroad, or have the frigates been
seen?’ asked Humbert.

‘They were seen last night from the church steeple of Killala, general,’
said Conolly, translating, ‘but believed to be English.’

‘Come; that is the best news he has brought us yet,’ said Humbert,
laughing; ‘we shall at least surprise them a little. Ask him what men of
rank or consequence live in the neighbourhood, and how are they affected
towards the expedition?’

A few words, and a low dry laugh, made all the peasant’s reply.

‘Eh, what says he?’ asked Humbert.

‘He says, sir, that, except a Protestant bishop, there’s nothing of the
rank of gentry here.’

‘I suppose we need scarcely expect his blessing on our efforts,’ said
Humbert, with a hearty laugh. ‘What is he saying now?--what is he
looking at?’

‘He says that we are now in the very best anchorage of the bay,’ said
Conolly, ‘and that on the whole coast there’s not a safer spot.’

A brief consultation now took place between the general and naval
officers, and in a few seconds the word was given to take in all sail
and anchor.

‘I wish I could speak to that honest fellow myself,’ said Humbert, as
he stood watching the fisherman, who, with a peasant curiosity, had now
approached the mast, and was passing his fingers across the blades of
the cutlasses as they stood in the sword-rack.

‘Sharp enough for the English, eh?’ cried Humbert, in French, but with
a gesture that seemed at once intelligible. A dry nod of the head gave
assent to the remark.

‘If I understand him aright,’ said Humbert, in a half-whisper to
Conolly, ‘we are as little expected by our friends as by our enemies;
and that there is little or no force in arms among the Irish.’

‘There are plenty ready to fight, he says, sir, but none accustomed to
discipline.’

A gesture, half contemptuous, was all Humbert’s reply, and he now turned
away and walked the deck alone and in silence. Meanwhile the bustle and
movements of the crew continued, and soon the great ships, their sails
all coiled, lay tranquilly at anchor in a sea without a ripple.

‘A boat is coming out from the shore, general,’ whispered the lieutenant
on duty.

‘Ask the fisherman if he knows it.’

Conolly drew the peasant’s attention to the object, and the man, after
looking steadily for a few seconds, became terribly agitated.

‘What is it, man--can’t you tell who it is?’ asked Conolly.

But although so composed before, so ready with all his replies, he
seemed now totally unmanned--his frank and easy features being struck
with the signs of palpable terror. At last, and with an effort that
bespoke all his fears, he muttered--’ ‘Tis the king’s boat is coming,
and ‘tis the collector’s on board of her!’

‘Is that all?’ cried Conolly, laughing, as he translated the reply to
the general.

‘Won’t you say that I’m a prisoner, sir; won’t you tell them that you
“took” me?’ said the fisherman, in an accent of fervent entreaty, for
already his mind anticipated the casualty of a failure, and what might
betide him afterwards; but no one now had any care for him or his
fortunes--all was in preparation to conceal the national character of
the ships. The marines were ordered below, and all others whose uniforms
might betray their country, while the English colours floated from every
mast-head.

General Humbert, with Serasin and two others, remained on the poop-deck,
where they continued to walk, apparently devoid of any peculiar interest
or anxiety in the scene. Madgett alone betrayed agitation at this
moment, his pale face was paler than ever, and there seemed to me a kind
of studious care in the way he covered himself up with his cloak, so
that not a vestige of his uniform could be seen.

The boat now came close under our lee, and Conolly being ordered to
challenge her in English, the collector, standing up in the stern,
touched his hat, and announced his rank. The gangway-ladder was
immediately lowered, and three gentlemen ascended the ship’s side and
walked aft to the poop. I was standing near the bulwark at the time,
watching the scene with intense interest. As General Humbert stood a
little in advance of the rest, the collector, probably taking him for
the captain, addressed him with some courteous expressions of welcome,
and was proceeding to speak of the weather, when the general gently
stopped him by asking if he spoke French.

I shall never forget the terror of face that question evoked. At first,
looking at his two companions, the collector turned his eyes to the
gaff, where the English flag was flying; but still unable to utter a
word, he stood like one entranced.

‘You have been asked if you can speak French, sir?’ said Conolly, at a
sign from the general.

‘No--very little--very badly--not at all; but isn’t this--am I not on
board of----’

‘Can none of them speak French?’ said Humbert shortly.

‘Yes, sir,’ said a young man on the collector’s right; ‘I can make
myself intelligible in that language, although no great proficient.’

‘Who are you, monsieur?--are you a civilian?’ asked Humbert.

‘Yes, sir. I am the son of the Bishop of Killala, and this young
gentleman is my brother.’

‘What is the amount of the force in this neighbourhood?’

‘You will pardon me, sir,’ said the youth, ‘if I ask, first, who it is
puts this question, and under what circumstances I am expected to answer
it.’

‘All frank and open, sir,’ said Humbert, good-humouredly. ‘I ‘m the
General Humbert, commanding the army for the liberation of Ireland--so
much for your first question. As to your second one, I believe that if
you have any concern for yourself, or those belonging to you, you will
find that nothing will serve your interest so much as truth and plain
dealing.’

‘Fortunately, then, for me,’ said the youth, laughing, ‘I cannot
betray my king’s cause, for I know nothing, nothing whatever, about the
movement of troops. I seldom go ten miles from home, and have not been
even at Ballina since last winter.’

‘Why so cautious about your information, then, sir,’ broke in Serasin
roughly, ‘since you have none to give?’

‘Because I had some to receive, sir, and was curious to know where I was
standing,’ said the young man boldly.

While these few sentences were being interchanged, Madgett had
learned from the collector that, except a few companies of militia and
fencibles, the country was totally unprovided with troops; but he also
learned that the people were so crest-fallen and subdued in courage from
the late failure of the rebellion, that it was very doubtful whether
our coming would arouse them to another effort. This information,
particularly the latter part of it, Madgett imparted to Humbert at once,
and I thought, by his manner, and the eagerness with which he spoke,
that he seemed to use all his powers to dissuade the general from a
landing; at least I overheard him more than once say--‘Had we been
farther north, sir-----’

Humbert quickly stopped him by the words--

‘And what prevents us, when we have landed, sir, in extending our line
north’ard?--the winds cannot surely master us, when we have our feet
on the sward. Enough of all this; let these gentlemen be placed in
security, and none have access to them without my orders. Make signal
for the commanding-officers to come on board here. We’ve had too much of
speculation--a little action now will be more profitable.’

‘So, we are prisoners, it seems!’ said the young man who spoke French,
as he moved away with the others, who, far more depressed in spirit,
hung their heads in silence, as they descended between decks.

Scarcely was the signal for a council of war seen from the mast-head,
when the different boats might be descried stretching across the bay
with speed. And now all were assembled in General Humbert’s cabin whose
rank and station in the service entitled them to the honour of being
consulted.

To such of us as held inferior ‘grade,’ the time passed tediously enough
as we paced the deck, now turning from the aspect of the silent and
seemingly uninhabited cliffs along shore to listen if no sign betokened
the breaking up of the council; nor were we without serious fears that
the expedition would be abandoned altogether. This suspicion originated
with some of the Irish themselves, who, however confident of success,
and boastful of their country’s resources before we sailed, now made no
scruple of averring that everything was the exact reverse of what they
had stated, for that the people were dispirited, the national forces
disbanded, neither arms, money, nor organisation anywhere--in fact, that
a more hopeless scheme could not be thought of than the attempt, and
that its result could not fail to be defeat and ruin to all concerned.

Shall I own that the bleak and lonely aspect of the hills along shore,
the dreary character of the landscape, the almost deathlike stillness
of the scene, aided these gloomy impressions, and made it seem as if we
were about to try our fortune on some desolate spot, without one look of
encouragement, or one word of welcome to greet us? The sight of even an
enemy’s force would have been a relief to this solitude--the stir and
movement of a rival army would have given spirit to our daring, and
nerved our courage, but there was something inexpressibly sad in this
unbroken monotony.

A few tried to jest upon the idea of liberating a land that had no
inhabitants--the emancipation of a country without people; but even
French flippancy failed to be witty on a theme so linked with all our
hopes and fears, and at last a dreary silence fell upon all, and we
walked the deck without speaking, waiting and watching for the result of
that deliberation which already had lasted above four mortal hours.

Twice was the young man who spoke French summoned to the cabin, but,
from the briefness of his stay, apparently with little profit; and
now the day began to wane, and the tall cliffs threw their lengthened
shadows over the still waters of the bay, and yet nothing was resolved
on. To the quiet and respectful silence of expectation, now succeeded
a low and half-subdued muttering of discontent; groups of five or six
together were seen along the deck, talking with eagerness and animation,
and it was easy to see that whatever prudential or cautious reasons
dictated to the leaders, their arguments found little sympathy with
the soldiers of the expedition. I almost began to fear that if a
determination to abandon the exploit were come to, a mutiny might break
out, when my attention was drawn off by an order to accompany Colonel
Gharost on shore to reconnoitre. This at least looked like business, and
I jumped into the small boat with alacrity.

With the speed of four oars stoutly plied, we skimmed along the calm
surface, and soon saw ourselves close in to the shore. Some little time
was spent in looking for a good place to land, for although not the
slightest air of wind was blowing, the long swell of the Atlantic broke
upon the rocks with a noise like thunder. At last we shot into a little
creek with a shelving gravelly beach, and completely concealed by the
tall rocks on every side; and now we sprang out, and stood upon Irish
ground!



CHAPTER XIX. A RECONNAISSANCE

From the little creek where we landed, a small zigzag path led up the
sides of the cliff, the track by which the peasants carried the sea-weed
which they gathered for manure, and up this we now slowly wended our
way.

Stopping for some time to gaze at the ample bay beneath us, the
tall-masted frigates floating so majestically on its glassy surface--it
was a scene of tranquil and picturesque beauty with which it would have
been almost impossible to associate the idea of war and invasion. In
the lazy bunting that hung listlessly from peak and mast-head--in the
cheerful voices of the sailors, heard afar off in the stillness--in
the measured plash of the sea itself, and the fearless daring of the
sea-gulls, as they soared slowly above our heads--there seemed
something so suggestive of peace and tranquillity, that it struck us as
profanation to disturb it.

As we gained the top and looked around us, our astonishment became even
greater. A long succession of low hills, covered with tall ferns or
heath, stretched away on every side; not a house, nor a hovel, nor a
living thing to be seen. Had the country been one uninhabited since
the Creation, it could not have presented an aspect of more thorough
desolation! No road-track, nor even a footpath, led through the dreary
waste before us, on which, to all seeming, the foot of man had never
fallen. And as we stood for some moments, uncertain which way to turn, a
sense of the ridiculous suddenly burst upon the party, and we all broke
into a hearty roar of laughter.

‘I little thought,’ cried Charost, ‘that I should ever emulate “La
Perouse,” but it strikes me that I am destined to become a great
discoverer.’

‘How so, colonel?’ asked his aide-de-camp.

‘Why, it is quite clear that this same island is uninhabited; and if it
be all like this, I own I’m scarcely surprised at it.’

‘Still, there must be a town not far off, and the residence of that
bishop we heard of this morning.’

A half-incredulous shrug of the shoulders was all his reply, as he
sauntered along with his hands behind his back, apparently lost in
thought; while we, as if instinctively partaking of his gloom, followed
him in total silence.

‘Do you know, gentlemen, what I’m thinking?’ said he, stopping suddenly
and facing about. ‘My notion is, that the best thing to do here would be
to plant our tricolour, proclaim the land a colony of France, and take
to our boats again.’

This speech, delivered with an air of great gravity, imposed upon us
for an instant; but the moment after, the speaker breaking into a hearty
laugh, we all joined him, as much amused by the strangeness of our
situation, as by anything in his remark.

‘We never could bring our guns through a soil like this, colonel,’
said the aide-de-camp, as he struck his heel into the soft and clayey
surface.

‘If we could ever land them at all!’ muttered he, half aloud; then
added, ‘But for what object should we? Believe me, gentlemen, if we are
to have a campaign here, bows and arrows are the true weapons.’

‘Ah! what do I see yonder?’ cried the aide-de-camp; ‘are not those sheep
feeding in that little glen?’

‘Yes,’ cried I, ‘and a man herding them, too. See, the fellow has caught
sight of us, and he’s off as fast as his legs can carry him.’ And so was
it: the man had no sooner seen us than he sprang to his feet and hurried
down the mountain at full speed.

Our first impulse was to follow and give him chase, and even without a
word we all started off in pursuit; but we soon saw how fruitless would
be the attempt, for, even independent of the start he had got of us, the
peasant’s speed was more than the double of our own.

‘No matter,’ said the colonel, ‘if we have lost the shepherd we have
at least gained the sheep, and so I recommend you to secure mutton for
dinner to-morrow.’

With this piece of advice, down the hill he darted as hard as he could;
Briolle, the aide-de-camp, and myself following at our best pace. We
were reckoning without our host, however, for the animals, after one
stupid stare at us, set off in a scamper that soon showed their mountain
breeding, keeping all together like a pack of hounds, and really not
very inferior in the speed they displayed.

A little gorge led between the hills, and through this they rushed
madly, and with a clatter like a charge of cavalry. Excited by the
chase, and emulous each to outrun the other, the colonel threw off his
shako, and Briolle his sword, in the ardour of pursuit. We now gained
on them rapidly, and though, from a winding in the glen, they had
momentarily got out of sight, we knew that we were close upon them. I
was about thirty paces in advance of my comrades, when, on turning an
angle of the gorge, I found myself directly in front of a group of mud
hovels, near which were standing about a dozen ragged, miserable-looking
men, armed with pitchforks and scythes, while in the rear stood the
sheep, blowing and panting from the chase.

I came to a dead stop; and although I would have given worlds to have
had my comrades at my side, I never once looked back to see if they were
coming; but, putting a bold face on the matter, called out the only few
words I knew of Irish, ‘Go de-mat ha tu.’

The peasants looked at each other; and whether it was my accent, my
impudence, or my strange dress and appearance, or altogether, I cannot
say, but after a few seconds’ pause they burst out into a roar of
laughter, in the midst of which my two comrades came up.

‘We saw the sheep feeding on the hills yonder,’ said I, recovering
self-possession, ‘and guessed that by giving them chase they’d lead us
to some inhabited spot. What is this place called?’

‘Shindrennin,’ said a man who seemed to be the chief of the party; ‘and,
if I might make so bould, who are you, yourselves?’

‘French officers; this is my colonel,’ said I, pointing to Charost, who
was wiping his forehead and face after his late exertion.

The information, far from producing the electric effect of pleasure I
had anticipated, was received with a coldness almost amounting to fear,
and they spoke eagerly together for some minutes in Irish.

‘Our allies evidently don’t like the look of us,’ said Charost,
laughing;’ and if the truth must be told, I own the disappointment is
mutual.’

‘Tis too late you come, sir,’ said the peasant, addressing the colonel,
while he removed his hat, and assumed an air of respectful deference.
‘‘Tis all over with poor Ireland this time.’

‘Tell him,’ said Charost, to whom I translated the speech, ‘that it’s
never too late to assert a good cause; that we have got arms for twenty
thousand, if they have but hands and hearts to use them. Tell him that
a French army is now lying in that bay yonder, ready and able to
accomplish the independence of Ireland.’

I delivered my speech as pompously as it was briefed to me; and although
I was listened to in silence, and respectfully, it was plain my words
carried little or no conviction with them. Not caring to waste more of
our time in such discourse, I now inquired about the country--in what
directions lay the highroads, and the relative situations of the towns
of Killala, Gastlebar, and Ballina, the only places of comparative
importance in the neighbourhood. I next asked about the landing-places,
and learned that a small fishing-harbour existed, not more than half a
mile from the spot where we had landed, from which a little country
road lay to the village of Palmerstown. As to the means of transporting
baggage, guns, and ammunition, there were few horses to be had, but
with money we might get all we wanted; indeed, the peasants constantly
referred to this means of success, even to asking ‘What the French would
give a man that was to join them?’ If I did not translate the demand
with fidelity to my colonel, it was really that a sense of shame
prevented me. My whole heart was in the cause; and I could not endure
the thought of its being degraded in this way. It was growing duskish,
and the colonel proposed that the peasant should show us the way to
the fishing-harbour he spoke of, while some other of the party might go
round to our boat, and direct them to follow us thither. The arrangement
was soon made, and we all sauntered down towards the shore, chatting
over the state of the country, and the chances of a successful rising.
From the specimen before me, I was not disposed to be over sanguine
about the peasantry. The man was evidently disaffected towards England.
He bore her neither good-will nor love, but his fears were greater than
all else. He had never heard of anything but failure in all attempts
against her, and he could not believe in any other result. Even the aid
and alliance of France inspired no other feeling than distrust, for
he said more than once, ‘Sure what can harm yez? Haven’t ye yer ships
beyant, to take yez away, if things goes bad?’

I was heartily glad that Colonel Charost knew so little English, that
the greater part of the peasant’s conversation was unintelligible to
him, since, from the first, he had always spoken of the expedition in
terms of disparagement; and certainly what we were now to hear was not
of a nature to controvert the prediction.

In our ignorance as to the habits and modes of thought of the people,
we were much surprised at the greater interest the peasant betrayed when
asking us about France and her prospects, than when the conversation
concerned his own country. It appeared as though, in the one case,
distance gave grandeur and dimensions to all his conceptions, while
familiarity with home scenes and native politics had robbed them of
all their illusions. He knew well that there were plenty of hardships,
abundance of evils, to deplore in Ireland: rents were high, taxes and
tithes oppressive, agents were severe, bailiffs were cruel Social wrongs
he could discuss for hours, but of political woes, the only ones we
could be expected to relieve or care for, he really knew nothing. ‘‘Tis
true,’ he repeated, ‘that what my honour said was all right, Ireland was
badly treated,’ and so on; ‘liberty was an elegant thing if a body had
it,’ and such like; but there ended his patriotism.

Accustomed for many a day to the habits of a people where all were
politicians, where the rights of man and the grand principles of
equality and self-government were everlastingly under discussion, I was,
I confess it, sorely disappointed at this worse than apathy.

‘Will they fight?--ask him that,’ said Gharost, to whom I had been
conveying a rather rose-coloured version of my friend’s talk.

‘Oh, begorra! we ‘ll fight sure enough!’ said he, with a half-dogged
scowl beneath his brows.

‘What number of them may we reckon on in the neighbourhood?’ repeated
the colonel.

‘‘Tis mighty hard to say; many of the boys were gone over to England for
the harvest; some were away to the counties inland, others were working
on the roads; but if they knew, sure they ‘d be soon back again.’

‘Might they calculate on a thousand stout, effective men?’ asked
Charost.

‘Ay, twenty, if they were at home,’ said the peasant, less a liar by
intention than from the vague and careless disregard of truth so common
in all their own intercourse with each other.

I must own that the degree of credit we reposed in the worthy man’s
information was considerably influenced by the state of facts before
us, inasmuch as that the ‘elegant, fine harbour’ he had so gloriously
described--‘the beautiful road’--‘the neat little quay’ to land upon,
and the other advantages of the spot, all turned out to be most grievous
disappointments. That the people were not of our own mind on these
matters, was plain enough from the looks of astonishment our discontent
provoked; and now a lively discussion ensued on the relative merits of
various bays, creeks, and inlets along the coast, each of which, with
some unpronounceable name or other, was seen to have a special advocate
in its favour, till at last the colonel lost all patience, and jumping
into the boat, ordered the men to push off for the frigate.

Evidently out of temper at the non-success of his reconnaissance, and as
little pleased with the country as the people, Gharost did not speak a
word as we rowed back to the ship. Our failure, as it happened, was of
little moment, for another party, under the guidance of Madgett, had
already discovered a good landing-place at the bottom of the Bay of
Rathfran, and arrangements were already in progress to disembark the
troops at daybreak. We also found that, during our absence, some of the
‘chiefs’ had come off from shore, one of whom, named Neal Kerrigan, was
destined to attain considerable celebrity in the rebel army. He was a
talkative, vulgar, presumptuous fellow, who, without any knowledge or
experience whatever, took upon him to discuss military measures and
strategy with all the assurance of an old commander.

Singularly enough, Humbert suffered this man to influence him in a great
degree, and yielded opinion to him on points even where his own judgment
was directly opposed to the advice he gave.

If Kerrigan’s language and bearing were directly the reverse of
soldierlike, his tawdry uniform of green and gold, with massive
epaulettes and a profusion of lace, were no less absurd in our eyes,
accustomed as we were to the almost puritan plainness of military
costume. His rank, too, seemed as undefined as his information; for
while he called himself ‘General,’ his companions as often addressed
him by the title of ‘Captain.’ Upon some points his counsels, indeed,
alarmed and astonished us.

‘It was of no use whatever,’ he said, ‘to attempt to discipline the
peasantry, or reduce them to anything like habits of military obedience.
Were the effort to be made, it would prove a total failure; for they
would either grow disgusted with the restraint, and desert altogether,
or so infect the other troops with their own habits of disorder, that
the whole force would become a mere rabble. Arm them well, let them have
plenty of ammunition, and free liberty to use it in their own way and
their own time, and we should soon see that they would prove a greater
terror to the English than double the number of trained and disciplined
troops.’

In some respects this view was a correct one; but whether it was a
wise counsel to have followed, subsequent events gave us ample cause to
doubt.

Kerrigan, however, had a specious, reckless, go-a-head way with him that
suited well the tone and temper of Humbert’s mind. He never looked too
far into consequences, but trusted that the eventualities of the morrow
would always suggest the best course for the day after; and this alone
was so akin to our own general’s mode of proceeding, that he speedily
won his confidence.

The last evening on board was spent merrily on all sides. In the general
cabin, where the staff and all the _chefs de brigade_ were assembled,
gay songs, and toasts, and speeches succeeded each other till nigh
morning. The printed proclamations, meant for circulation among the
people, were read out, with droll commentaries; and all imaginable
quizzing and jesting went on about the new government to be established
in Ireland, and the various offices to be bestowed upon each. Had the
whole expedition been a joke, the tone of levity could not have been
greater. Not a thought was bestowed, not a word wasted, upon any of
the graver incidents that might ensue. All were, if not hopeful and
sanguine, utterly reckless, and thoroughly indifferent to the future.



CHAPTER XX. KILLALA

I will not weary my reader with an account of our debarkation, less
remarkable as it was for the ‘pomp and circumstance of war’ than for
incidents and accidents the most absurd and ridiculous--the miserable
boats of the peasantry, the still more wretched cattle employed to drag
our artillery and train-waggons, involving us in innumerable misfortunes
and mischances. Never were the heroic illusions of war more thoroughly
dissipated than by the scenes which accompanied our landing! Boats and
baggage-waggons upset; here, a wild, half savage-looking fellow swimming
after a cocked-hat--there, a group of ragged wretches scraping sea-weed
from a dripping officer of the staff; noise, uproar, and confusion
everywhere; smart aides-de-camp mounted on donkeys; trim field-pieces
‘horsed’ by a promiscuous assemblage of men, women, cows, ponies, and
asses. Crowds of idle country-people thronged the little quay, and,
obstructing the passages, gazed upon the whole with eyes of wonderment
and surprise, but evidently enjoying all the drollery of the scene with
higher relish than they felt interest in its object or success. This
trait in them soon attracted all our notice, for they laughed at
everything: not a caisson tumbled into the sea, not a donkey brought his
rider to the ground, but one general shout shook the entire assemblage.

If want and privation had impressed themselves by every external sign on
this singular people, they seemed to possess inexhaustible resources of
good-humour and good spirits within. No impatience or rudeness on
our part could irritate them; and even to the wildest and least
civilised-looking fellow around, there was a kind of native courtesy and
kindliness that could not fail to strike us.

A vague notion prevailed that we were their ‘friends’; and although
many of them did not clearly comprehend why we had come, or what was
the origin of the warm attachment between us, they were too lazy and too
indifferent to trouble their heads about the matter. They were satisfied
that there would be a ‘shindy’ somewhere, and somebody’s bones would get
broken, and even that much was a pleasant and reassuring consideration;
while others of keener mould revelled in plans of private vengeance
against this landlord or that agent--small debts of hatred to be paid
off in the day of general reckoning.

From the first moment nothing could exceed the tone of fraternal feeling
between our soldiers and the people. Without any means of communicating
their thoughts by speech, they seemed to acquire an instinctive
knowledge of each other in an instant. If the peasant was poor, there
was no limit to his liberality in the little he had. He dug up his
half-ripe potatoes, he unroofed his cabin to furnish straw for litter,
he gave up his only beast, and was ready to kill his cow, if asked,
to welcome us. Much of this was from the native, warm, and impulsive
generosity of their nature, and much, doubtless, had its origin in the
bright hopes of future recompense inspired by the eloquent appeals of
Neal Kerrigan, who, mounted on an old white mare, rode about on every
side, addressing the people in Irish, and calling upon them to give all
aid and assistance to ‘the expedition.’

The difficulty of the landing was much increased by the small space of
level ground which intervened between the cliffs and the sea, and of
which now the thickening crowd filled every spot. This and the miserable
means of conveyance for our baggage delayed us greatly, so that, with
a comparatively small force, it was late in the afternoon before we had
all reached the shore.

We had none of us eaten since morning, and were not sorry, as we crowned
the heights, to hear the drums beat for ‘cooking.’ In an inconceivably
short, time fires blazed along the hills, around which, in motley
groups, stood soldiers and peasantry mingled together, while the work
of cooking and eating went briskly on, amid hearty laughter and all the
merriment that mutual mistakes and misconceptions occasioned. It was a
new thing for French soldiers to bivouac in a friendly country, and find
themselves the welcome guests of a foreign people; and certainly, the
honours of hospitality, however limited the means, could not have been
performed with more of courtesy or good-will. Paddy gave his ‘all,’ with
a generosity that might have shamed many a richer donor.

While the events I have mentioned were going forward, and a considerable
crowd of fishermen and peasants had gathered about us, still it was
remarkable that, except immediately on the coast itself, no suspicion of
our arrival had gained currency, and even the country-people who lived a
mile from the shore did not know who we were. The few who, from distant
heights and headlands, had seen the ships, mistook them for English, and
as all those who were out with fish or vegetables to sell were detained
by the frigates, any direct information about us was impossible. So far,
therefore, all might be said to have gone most favourably with us. We
had safely escaped the often-menaced dangers of the Channel fleet; we
had gained a secure and well-sheltered harbour; and we had landed our
force not only without opposition, but in perfect secrecy. There were,
I will not deny, certain little counterbalancing circumstances on the
other side of the account not exactly so satisfactory. The patriot
forces upon which we had calculated had no existence. There were neither
money, nor stores, nor means of conveyance to be had; even accurate
information as to the strength and position of the English was
unattainable; and as to generals and leaders, the effective staff had
but a most sorry representative in the person of Neal Kerrigan. This
man’s influence over our general increased with every hour, and one of
the first orders issued after our landing contained his appointment as
an extra aide-de-camp on General Humbert’s staff.

In one capacity Neal was most useful. All the available sources of
pillage for a wide circuit of country he knew by heart, and it was
plain, from the accurate character of his information, varying, as it
did, from the chattels of the rich landed proprietor to the cocks
and hens of the cottier, that he had taken great pains to master his
subject. At his suggestion it was decided that we should march that
evening on Killala, where little or more likely no resistance would
be met with, and General Humbert should take up his quarters in the
‘Castle,’ as the palace of the bishop was styled. There, he said,
we should not only find ample accommodation for the staff, but good
stabling, well filled, and plenty of forage, while the bishop himself
might be a most useful hostage to have in our keeping. From thence, too,
as a place of some note, general orders and proclamations would issue,
with a kind of notoriety and importance necessary at the outset of an
undertaking like ours; and truly never was an expedition more loaded
with this species of missive than ours--whole cart-loads of printed
papers, decrees, placards, and such like, followed us. If our object had
been to drive out the English by big type and a flaming letterpress, we
could not have gone more vigorously to work. Fifty thousand broadsheet
announcements of Irish independence were backed by as many proud
declarations of victory, some dated from Limerick, Cashel, or Dublin
itself.

Here, a great placard gave the details of the new Provincial Government
of Western Ireland, with the name of the ‘Prefect’ a blank. There was
another, containing the police regulations for the ‘arrondissements’ of
Connaught, ‘et ses dépendances.’ Every imaginable step of conquest
and occupation was anticipated and provided for in these wise and
considerate protocols, from the ‘enthusiastic welcome of the French on
the western coast’ to the hour of ‘General Humbert’s triumphal entry
into Dublin!’ Nor was it prose alone, but even poetry did service in
our cause. Songs, not, I own, conspicuous for any great metrical beauty,
commemorated our battles and our bravery; so that we entered upon the
campaign as deeply pledged to victory as any force I ever heard or read
of in history.

Neal, who was, I believe, originally a schoolmaster, had great
confidence in this arsenal of ‘black and white,’ and soon persuaded
General Humbert that a bold face and a loud tongue would do more in
Ireland than in any country under heaven; and, indeed, if his own career
might be called a success, the theory deserved some consideration.
A great part of our afternoon was then spent in distributing these
documents to the people, not one in a hundred of whom could read, but
who treasured the placards with a reverence nothing diminished by
their ignorance. Emissaries, too, were appointed to post them up in
conspicuous places through the country, on the doors of the chapels,
at the smiths’ forges, at cross-roads--everywhere, in short, where they
might attract notice. The most important and business-like of all these,
however, was one headed ‘Arms!’--‘Arms!’ and which went on to say that
no man who wished to lift his hand for old Ireland need do so without
a weapon, and that a general distribution of guns, swords, and bayonets
would take place at noon the following day at the Palace of Killala.

Serasint and, I believe, Madgett, were strongly opposed to this
indiscriminate arming of the people; but Neal’s counsels were now in the
ascendant, and Humbert gave an implicit confidence to all he suggested.

It was four o’clock in the evening when the word to march was given, and
our gallant little force began its advance movement. Still attached to
Colonel Charost’s staff, and being, as chasseurs, in the advance, I had
a good opportunity of seeing the line of march from an eminence about
half a mile in front. Grander and more imposing displays I have indeed
often witnessed. As a great military ‘spectacle’ it could not, of
course, be compared with those mighty armies I had seen deploying
through the defiles of the Black Forest, or spreading like a sea over
the wide plain of Germany; but in purely picturesque effect, this scene
surpassed all I had ever beheld at the time, nor do I think that, in
after-life, I can recall one more striking.

The winding road, which led over hill and valley, now disappearing,
now emerging, with the undulations of the soil, was covered by troops
marching in a firm, compact order--the grenadiers in front, after which
came the artillery, and then the regiments of the line. Watching the
dark column, occasionally saluting it as it went with a cheer, stood
thousands of country-people on every hill-top and eminence, while far
away in the distance the frigates lay at anchor in the bay, the guns at
intervals thundering out a solemn ‘boom’ of welcome and encouragement to
their comrades.

There was something so heroic in the notion of that little band of
warriors throwing themselves fearlessly into a strange land, to contest
its claim for liberty with one of the most powerful nations of the
world; there was a character of daring intrepidity in this bold advance,
they knew not whither, nor against what force, that gave the whole an
air of glorious chivalry.

I must own that distance lent its wonted illusion to the scene, and
proximity, like its twin-brother familiarity, destroyed much of the
prestige my fancy had conjured up. The line of march, so imposing when
seen from afar, was neither regular nor well kept. The peasantry were
permitted to mingle with the troops; ponies, mules, and asses, loaded
with camp-kettles and cooking-vessels, were to be met with everywhere.
The baggage-waggons were crowded with officers and _sous-officiers_ who,
disappointed in obtaining horses, were too indolent to walk. Even the
gun-carriages, and the guns themselves, were similarly loaded, while, at
the head of the infantry column, in an old rickety gig, the ancient mail
conveyance between Ballina and the coast, came General Humbert, Neal
Kerrigan capering at his side on the old grey, whose flanks were now
tastefully covered by the tricolour ensign of one of the boats as a
saddle-cloth.

This nearer and less enchanting prospect of my gallant comrades I was
enabled to obtain on being despatched to the rear by Colonel Charost, to
say that we were now within less than a mile of the town of Killala, its
venerable steeple and the tall chimneys of the palace being easily seen
above the low hills in front. Neal Kerrigan passed me as I rode back
with my message, galloping to the front with all the speed he could
muster; but while I was talking to the general he came back to say that
the beating of drums could be heard from the town, and that by the rapid
movements here and there of people, it was evident the defence was being
prepared. There was a lookout, too, from the steeple, that showed our
approach was already known. The general was not slow in adopting his
measures, and the word was given for quick-march, the artillery to
deploy right and left of the road, two companies of grenadiers forming
on the flanks. ‘As for you, sir,’ said Humbert to me, ‘take that horse,’
pointing to a mountain pony, fastened behind the gig, ‘ride forward to
the town, and make a reconnaissance. You are to report to me,’ cried he,
as I rode away, and was soon out of hearing.

Quitting the road, I took a foot-track across the fields, and which the
pony seemed to know well, and after a sharp canter reached a small, poor
suburb of the town, if a few straggling wretched cabins can deserve the
name. A group of countrymen stood in the middle of the road, about fifty
yards in front of me; and while I was deliberating whether to advance
or retire, a joyous cry of ‘Hurrah for the French!’ decided me, and I
touched my cap in salute and rode forward.

Other groups saluted me with a similar cheer, as I went on; and now
windows were flung open, and glad cries and shouts of welcome rang out
from every side. These signs were too encouraging to turn my back upon,
so I dashed forward through a narrow street in front, and soon found
myself in a kind of square or ‘Place,’ the doors and windows of which
were all closed, and not a human being to be seen anywhere. As I
hesitated what next to do, I saw a soldier in a red coat rapidly turn
the corner--‘What do you want here, you spy?’ he cried out in a loud
voice, and at the same instant his bullet rang past my ear with a
whistle. I drove in the spurs at once, and just as he had gained a
doorway, I clove his head open with my sabre--he fell dead on the spot
before me. Wheeling my horse round, I now rode back, as I had come, at
full speed, the same welcome cries accompanying me as before.

Short as had been my absence, it was sufficient to have brought the
advanced guard close up with the town; and just as I emerged from the
little suburb, a quick, sharp firing drew my attention towards the left
of the wall, and there I saw our fellows advancing at a trot, while
about twenty red-coats were in full flight before them, the wild cries
of the country-people following them as they went.

I had but time to see thus much, and to remark that two or three English
prisoners were taken, when the general came up. He had now abandoned
the gig, and was mounted on a large, powerful black horse, which I
afterwards learned was one of the bishop’s. My tidings were soon told,
and, indeed, but indifferently attended to, for it was evident enough
that the place was our own.

‘This way, general--follow me,’ cried Kerrigan. ‘If the light companies
will take the road down to the “Acres,” they’ll catch the yeomen as they
retreat by that way, and we have the town our own.’

The counsel was speedily adopted; and although a dropping fire here and
there showed that some slight resistance was still being made, it was
plain enough that all real opposition was impossible.

‘Forward!’ was now the word; and the chasseurs, with their muskets ‘in
sling,’ advanced at a trot up the main street. At a little distance the
grenadiers followed, and, debouching into the square, were received
by an ill-directed volley from a few of the militia, who took to their
heels after they fired. Three or four red-coats were killed, but the
remainder made their escape through the churchyard, and, gaining the
open country, scattered and fled as best they could.

Humbert, who had seen war on a very different scale, could not help
laughing at the absurdity of the skirmish, and was greatly amused with
the want of all discipline and ‘accord’ exhibited by the English troops.

‘I foresee, gentlemen,’ said he jocularly, ‘that we may have abundance
of success, but gain very little glory, in the same campaign. Now for a
blessing upon our labours--where shall we find our friend the bishop?’

‘This way, general,’ cried Neal, leading down a narrow street, at the
end of which stood a high wall, with an iron gate. This was locked, and
some efforts at barricading it showed the intention of a defence; but
a few strokes of a pioneer s hammer smashed the lock, and we entered
a kind of pleasure-ground, neatly and trimly kept. We had not
advanced many paces when the bishop, followed by a great number of his
clergy--for it happened to be the period of his annual visitation--came
forward to meet us.

Humbert dismounted, and removing his chapeau, saluted the dignitary
with a most finished courtesy. I could see, too, by his gesture, that he
presented General Serasin, the second in command; and, in fact, all his
motions were those of a well-bred guest at the moment of being received
by his host. Nor was the bishop, on his side, wanting either in ease or
dignity; his manner, not without the appearance of deep sorrow, was yet
that of a polished gentleman doing the honours of his house to a number
of strangers.

As I drew nearer I could hear that the bishop spoke French fluently,
but with a strong foreign accent. This facility, however, enabled him
to converse with ease on every subject, and to hold intercourse directly
with our general, a matter of no small moment to either party. It is
probable that the other clergy did not possess this gift, for assuredly
their manner towards us inferiors of the staff was neither gracious nor
conciliating; and as for myself, the few efforts I made to express, in
English, my admiration for the coast scenery, or the picturesque
beauty of the neighbourhood, were met in any rather than a spirit of
politeness.

The generals accompanied the bishop into the castle, leaving myself
and three or four others on the outside. Colonel Charost soon made
his appearance, and a guard was stationed at the entrance gate, with a
strong picket in the garden. Two sentries were placed at the hall door,
and the words ‘Quartier Général’ written up over the portico. A small
garden pavilion was appropriated to the colonel’s use, and made the
office of the adjutant-general, and in less than half an hour after
our arrival, eight _sous-officiers_ were hard at work under the trees,
writing away at billets, contribution orders, and forage rations; while
I, from my supposed fluency in English, was engaged in carrying messages
to and from the staff to the various shopkeepers and tradesmen of the
town, numbers of whom now flocked around us with expressions of welcome
and rejoicing.



CHAPTER XXI. OUR ALLIES

I have spent pleasanter, but I greatly doubt if I ever knew busier days,
than those I passed at the Bishop’s Palace at Killala; and now, as I
look upon the event, I cannot help wondering that we could seriously
have played out a farce so full of absurdity and nonsense! There was a
gross mockery of all the usages of war, which, had it not been for the
serious interests at stake, would have been highly amusing.

Whether it was the important functions of civil government, the details
of police regulation, the imposition of contributions, the appointment
of officers, or the arming of the volunteers, all was done with a
pretentious affectation of order that was extremely ludicrous. The very
institutions which were laughingly agreed to overnight, as the wine went
briskly round, were solemnly ratified in the morning, and, still more
strange, apparently believed in by those whose ingenuity devised them;
and thus the ‘Irish Directory,’ as we styled the imaginary government,
the National Treasury, the Pension Fund, were talked of with all the
seriousness of facts! As to the commissariat, to which I was for the
time attached, we never ceased writing receipts and acknowledgments
for stores and munitions of war, all of which were to be honourably
acquitted by the Treasury of the Irish Republic.

No people could have better fallen in with the humour of this delusion
than the Irish. They seemed to believe everything, and yet there was a
reckless, headlong indifference about them, which appeared to say, that
they were equally prepared for any turn fortune might take, and if the
worst should happen, they would never reproach us for having misled
them. The real truth was--but we only learned it too late--all those
who joined us were utterly indifferent to the great cause of Irish
independence; their thoughts never rose above a row and a pillage. It
was to be a season of sack, plunder, and outrage, but nothing more! That
such were the general sentiments of the volunteers, I believe none will
dispute. We, however, in our ignorance of the people and their language,
interpreted all the harum-scarum wildness we saw as the buoyant
temperament of a high-spirited nation, who, after centuries of
degradation and ill-usage, saw the dawning of liberty at last.

Had we possessed any real knowledge of the country, we should at once
have seen that, of those who joined us, none were men of any influence
or station. If, now and then, a man of any name strayed into the camp,
he was sure to be one whose misconduct or bad character had driven
him from associating with his equals; and, even of the peasantry, our
followers were of the very lowest order. Whether General Humbert was
the first to notice the fact, I know not; but Charost, I am certain,
remarked it, and even thus early predicted the utter failure of the
expedition.

I must confess the volunteers were the least imposing of allies. I think
I have the whole scene before my eyes this moment, as I saw it each
morning in the palace garden.

The inclosure, which, more orchard than garden, occupied a space of a
couple of acres, was the headquarters of Colonel Charost; and here, in
a pavilion formerly dedicated to hoes, rakes, rolling-stones, and
garden-tools, we were now established to the number of fourteen. As the
space beneath the roof was barely sufficient for the colonel’s personal
use, the officers of his staff occupied convenient spots in the
vicinity. My station was under a large damson-tree, the fruit of which
afforded me, more than once, the only meal I tasted from early morning
till late at night; not, I must say, from any lack of provisions, for
the palace abounded with every requisite of the table, but that, such
was the pressure of business, we were not able to leave off work even
for half an hour during the day.

A subaltern’s guard of grenadiers, divided into small parties, did duty
in the garden; and it was striking to mark the contrast between these
bronzed and war-worn figures, and the reckless tatterdemalion host
around us. Never was seen such a scarecrow set! Wild-looking, ragged
wretches, their long lank hair hanging down their necks and shoulders,
usually barefooted, and with every sign of starvation in their features;
they stood in groups and knots, gesticulating, screaming, hurrahing, and
singing, in all the exuberance of a joy that caught some, at least, of
its inspiration from whisky.

It was utterly vain to attempt to keep order amongst them; even the
effort to make them defile singly through the gate into the garden was
soon found impracticable, without the employment of a degree of force
that our adviser, Kerrigan, pronounced would be injudicious. Not only
the men made their way in, but great numbers of women, and even children
also; and there they were, seated around fires, roasting their potatoes
in this bivouac fashion, as though they had deserted hearth and home to
follow us.

Such was the avidity to get arms--of which the distribution was
announced to take place here--that several had scaled the wall in their
impatience, and as they were more or less in drink, some disastrous
accidents were momentarily occurring, adding the cries and exclamations
of suffering to the ruder chorus of joy and revelry that went on
unceasingly.

The impression--we soon saw how absurd it was--the impression that
we should do nothing that might hurt the national sensibilities, but
concede all to the exuberant ardour of a bold people, eager to be led
against their enemies, induced us to submit to every imaginable breach
of order and discipline.

‘In a day or two, they ‘ll he like your own men; you ‘ll not know them
from a battalion of the line. Those fellows will be like a wall under
fire.’

Such and such like were the assurances we were listening to all day,
and it would have been like treason to the cause to have refused them
credence.

Perhaps I might have been longer a believer in this theory, had I not
perceived signs of a deceptive character in these our worthy allies;
many who, to our faces, wore nothing but looks of gratitude and delight,
no sooner mixed with their fellows than their downcast faces and dogged
expression betrayed some inward sense of disappointment.

One very general source of dissatisfaction arose from the discovery,
that we were not prepared to pay our allies! We had simply come to arm
and lead them, to shed our own blood, and pledge our fortunes in their
cause; but we certainly had brought no military chest to bribe their
patriotism, nor stimulate their nationality; and this I soon saw was a
grievous disappointment.

In virtue of this shameful omission on our part, they deemed the
only resource was to be made officers, and thus crowds of uneducated,
semi-civilised vagabonds were every hour assailing us with their claims
to the epaulette. Of the whole number of these, I remember but three who
had ever served at all; two were notorious drunkards, and the third
a confirmed madman, from a scalp wound he had received when fighting
against the Turks. Many, however, boasted high-sounding names, and were,
at least so Kerrigan said, men of the first families in the land.

Our general-in-chief saw little of them while at Killala, his principal
intercourse being with the bishop and his family; but Colonel Charost
soon learned to read their true character, and from that moment
conceived the most disastrous issue to our plans. The most trustworthy
of them was a certain O’Donnell, who, although not a soldier, was
remarked to possess a greater influence over the rabble volunteers
than any of the others. He was a young man of the half-squire class, an
ardent and sincere patriot, after his fashion; but that fashion, it must
be owned, rather partook of the character of class-hatred and
religious animosity than the features of a great struggle for national
independence. He took a very low estimate of the fighting qualities of
his countrymen, and made no secret of declaring it.

‘You would be better without them altogether,’ said he one day to
Charost; ‘but if you must have allies, draw them up in line, select
one-third of the best, and arm them.’

‘And the rest?’ asked Charost. ‘Shoot them,’ was the answer.

This conversation is on record--indeed, I believe there is yet one
witness living to corroborate it.

I have said that we were very hard worked, but I must fain acknowledge
that the real amount of business done was very insignificant, so many
were the mistakes, misconceptions, and interruptions, not to speak of
the time lost by that system of conciliation of which I have already
made mention. In our distribution of arms there was little selection
practised or possible. The process was a brief one, but it might have
been briefer.

Thomas Colooney, of Banmayroo, was called, and not usually being
present, the name would be passed on, from post to post, till it swelled
into a general shout of Colooney.

‘Tom Colooney, you’re wanted; Tom, run for it, man, there’s a price bid
for you! Here’s Mickey, his brother, maybe he ‘ll do as well.’

And so on: all this accompanied by shouts of laughter, and a running
fire of jokes, which, being in the vernacular, was lost to us.

At last the real Colooney was found, maybe eating his dinner of
potatoes, maybe discussing his poteen with a friend---sometimes engaged
in the domestic duties of washing his shirt or his small-clothes,
fitting a new crown to his hat, or a sole to his brogues--whatever his
occupation, he was urged forward by his friends and the public, with
many a push, drive, and even a kick, into our presence, where, from the
turmoil, uproar, and confusion, he appeared to have fought his way by
main force, and very often, indeed, this was literally the fact, as his
bleeding nose, torn coat, and bare head attested.

‘Thomas Colooney--are you the man?’ asked one of our Irish officers of
the staff.

‘Yis, yer honour, I ‘m that same!’

‘You’ve come here, Colooney, to offer yourself as a volunteer in the
cause of your country?’

Here a yell of ‘Ireland for ever!’ was always raised by the bystanders,
which drowned the reply in its enthusiasm, and the examination went
on:--

‘You’ll be true and faithful to that cause till you secure for your
country the freedom of America and the happiness of France? Kiss the
cross. Are you used to firearms?’

‘Isn’t he?--maybe not! I’ll be bound he knows a musket from a mealy
pratie!’

Such and such like were the comments that rang on all sides, so that the
modest ‘Yis, sir,’ of the patriot was completely lost.

‘Load that gun, Tom,’ said the officer.

Here Colooney, deeming that so simple a request must necessarily be only
a cover for something underhand--a little clever surprise or so--takes
up the piece in a very gingerly manner, and examines it all round,
noticing that there is nothing, so far as he can discover, unusual nor
uncommon about it.

‘Load that gun, I say.’

Sharper and more angrily is the command given this time.

‘Yis, sir, immadiately.’

And now Tom tries the barrel with the ramrod, lest there should be
already a charge there--a piece of forethought that is sure to be loudly
applauded by the public, not the less so because the impatience of the
French officers is making itself manifest in various ways.

At length he rams down the cartridge, and returns the ramrod; which
piece of adroitness, if done with a certain air of display and flourish,
is unfailingly saluted by another cheer. He now primes and cocks the
piece, and assumes a look of what he believes to be most soldierlike
severity.

As he stands thus for scrutiny, a rather lively debate gets up as to
whether or not Tom bit off the end of the cartridge before he rammed it
down. The biters and anti-biters being equally divided, the discussion
waxes strong. The French officers, eagerly asking what may be the
disputed point, laugh very heartily on hearing it.

‘I’ll lay ye a pint of sperits she won’t go off,’ cries one.

‘Done! for two naggins, if he pulls strong,’ rejoins another.

‘Devil fear the same gun,’ cries a third; ‘she shot Mr. Sloan at fifty
paces, and killed him dead.’

‘Tisn’t the same gun--that’s a Frinch one--a bran-new one!’

‘She isn’t.’

‘She is.’

‘No, she isn’t.’

‘Yes, but she is.’ ‘What is’t you say?’ ‘Hould your prate.’

‘Arrah, teach your mother to feed ducks.’

‘Silence in the ranks. Keep silence there. Attention, Colooney!’

‘Yis, sir.’

‘Fire!’

‘What at, sir?’ asks Tom, taking an amateur glance of the company, who
look not over satisfied at his scrutiny.

‘Fire in the air!’

[Illustration: 260]

Bang goes the piece, and a yell follows the explosion, while cries of
‘Well done, Tom,’ ‘Begorra, if a Protestant got that!’ and so on, greet
the performance.

‘Stand by, Colooney!’ and the volunteer falls back to make way for
another and similar exhibition, occasionally varied by the humour of the
blunders of the new candidate.

As to the Treasury orders, as we somewhat ludicrously styled the cheques
upon our imaginary bank, the scenes they led to were still more absurd
and complicated. We paid liberally, that is to say in promises, for
everything, and our generosity saved us a good deal of time, for it was
astonishing how little the owners disputed our solvency when the price
was left to themselves. But the rations were indeed the most difficult
matter of all; it being impossible to convince our allies of the fact
that the compact was one of trust, and the ration was not his own to
dispose of in any manner that might seem fit.

‘Sure, if I don’t like to ate it--if I haven’t an appetite for it--if
I’d rather have a pint of sperits, or a flannel waistcoat, or a pair of
stockings, than a piece of mate, what harm is that to any one?’

This process of reasoning was much harder of answer than is usually
supposed, and even when replied to, another difficulty arose in its
place. Unaccustomed to flesh diet, when they tasted they could not
refrain from it, and the whole week’s rations of beef, amounting to
eight pounds, were frequently consumed in the first twenty-four hours.

Such instances of gormandising were by no means unfrequent, and,
stranger still, in no one case, so far as I knew, followed by any ill
consequences.

The leaders were still more difficult to manage than the people. Without
military knowledge or experience of any kind, they presumed to dictate
the plan of a campaign to old and distinguished officers like Humbert
and Serasin, and when overruled by argument or ridicule, invariably fell
back upon their superior knowledge of Ireland and her people, a defence
for which, of course, we were quite unprepared, and unable to oppose
anything. From these and similar causes it may well be believed that
our labours were not light, and yet somehow, with all the vexations and
difficulties around us, there was a congenial tone of levity, an easy
recklessness, and a careless freedom in the Irish character that suited
us well There was but one single point whereupon we were not thoroughly
together, and this was religion. They were a nation of most zealous
Catholics; and as for us, the revolution had not left the vestige of a
belief amongst us.

A reconnaissance in Ballina, meant rather to discover the strength
of the garrison than of the place itself, having shown that the royal
forces were inconsiderable in number, and mostly militia, General
Humbert moved forward, on Sunday morning the 26th, with nine hundred men
of our own force, and about three thousand ‘volunteers,’ leaving Colonel
Charost and his staff, with two companies of foot, at Killala, to
protect the town, and organise the new levies as they were formed.

We saw our companions defile from the town with heavy hearts. The small
body of real soldiers seemed even smaller still from being enveloped
by that mass of peasants who accompanied them, and who marched on the
flanks or in the rear, promiscuously, without discipline or order--a
noisy, half-drunken rabble, firing off their muskets at random, and
yelling as they went, in savage glee and exultation. Our sole comfort
was in the belief, that, when the hour of combat did arrive, they would
fight to the very last. Such were the assurances of their own officers,
and made so seriously and confidently, that we never thought of
mistrusting them.

‘If they be but steady under fire,’ said Charost, ‘a month will make
them good soldiers. Ours is an easy drill, and soon learned; but I own,’
he added, ‘they do not give me this impression.’

Such was the reflection of one who watched them as they went past, and
with sorrow we saw ourselves concurring in the sentiment.



CHAPTER XXII. THE DAY OF ‘CASTLEBAR’

We were all occupied with our drill at daybreak on the morning of the
27th of August, when a mounted orderly arrived at full gallop, with
news that our troops were in motion for Castlebar, and orders for us
immediately to march to their support, leaving only one subaltern and
twenty men in ‘the Castle.’

The worthy bishop was thunderstruck at the tidings. It is more than
probable that he never entertained any grave fears of our ultimate
success; still he saw that in the struggle, brief as it might be,
rapine, murder, and pillage would spread over the country, and that
crime of every sort would be certain to prevail during the short
interval of anarchy.

As our drums were beating the ‘rally,’ he entered the garden, and
with hurried steps came forward to where Colonel Charost was standing
delivering his orders.

‘Good-day, Mons. l’Évêque,’ said the colonel, removing his hat, and
bowing low. You see us in a moment of haste. The campaign has opened,
and we are about to march.’

‘Have you made any provision for the garrison of this town, colonel?’
said the bishop, in terror. ‘Your presence alone here restrained the
population hitherto. If you leave us-----’

‘We shall leave you a strong force of our faithful allies, sir,’ said
Charost; ‘Irishmen could scarcely desire better defenders than their
countrymen.’

‘You forget, colonel, that some of us here are averse to this cause,
but, as non-combatants, lay claim to protection.’

‘You shall have it, too, Mons. l’Évêque; we leave an officer and twenty
men.’

‘An officer and twenty men!’ echoed the bishop, in dismay.

‘Quite sufficient, I assure you,’ said Charost coldly; ‘and if a hair
of one of their heads be injured by the populace, trust me, sir, that we
shall take a terrible vengeance.’

‘You do not know these people, sir, as I know them,’ said the bishop
eagerly. ‘The same hour that you march out, will the town of Killala be
given up to pillage. As for your retributive justice, I may be pardoned
for not feeling any consolation in the pledge, for certes neither I nor
mine will live to witness it.’

As the bishop was speaking, a crowd of volunteers, some in uniform and
all armed, drew nearer and nearer to the place of colloquy; and although
understanding nothing of what went forward in the foreign language,
seemed to watch the expressions of the speakers’ faces with a most keen
interest. To look at the countenances of these fellows, truly one would
not have called the bishop’s fears exaggerated; their expression was
that of demoniac passion and hatred.

‘Look, sir,’ said the bishop, turning round, and facing the mob, ‘look
at the men to whose safeguard you propose to leave us.’

Charost made no reply; but making a sign for the bishop to remain where
he was, re-entered the pavilion hastily. I could see, through the window
that he was reading his despatches over again, and evidently taking
counsel with himself how to act. The determination was quickly come to.

‘Mons. l’Évêque,’ said he, laying his hand on the bishop’s arm, ‘I find
that my orders admit of a choice on my part. I will, therefore, remain
with you myself, and keep a sufficient force of my own men. It is not
impossible, however, that in taking this step I may be perilling my
own safety. You will, therefore, consent that one of your sons shall
accompany the force now about to march, as a hostage. This is not an
unreasonable request on my part.’

‘Very well, sir,’ said the bishop sadly. ‘When do they leave?’

‘Within half an hour,’ said Charost.

The bishop, bowing, retraced his steps through the garden back to the
house. Our preparations for the road were by this time far advanced. The
command said, ‘Light marching order, and no rations’; so that we
foresaw that there was sharp work before us. Our men--part of the 12th
demi-brigade, and a half company of grenadiers--were, indeed, ready on
the instant; but the Irish were not so easily equipped. Many had strayed
into the town; some, early as it was, were dead drunk; and not a few had
mislaid their arms or their ammunition, secretly preferring the chance
of a foray of their own to the prospect of a regular engagement with the
Royalist troops.

Our force was still a considerable one, numbering at least fifteen
hundred volunteers, besides about eighty of our men. By seven o’clock
we were under march, and with drums beating, defiled from the narrow
streets of Killala into the mountain-road that leads to Cloonagh; it
being our object to form a junction with the main body at the foot of
the mountain.

Two roads led from Ballina to Castlebar--one to the eastward, the other
to the west of Lough Con. The former was a level road, easily passable
by wheel carriages, and without any obstacle or difficulty whatever;
the other took a straight direction over lofty mountains, and in one
spot--the Pass of Barnageeragh--traversed a narrow defile, shut in
between steep cliffs, where a small force, assisted by artillery, could
have arrested the advance of a great army. The road itself, too, was
in disrepair; the rains of autumn had torn and fissured it, while heavy
sandslips and fallen rocks in many places rendered it almost impassable.

The Royalist generals had reconnoitred it two days before, and were so
convinced that all approach in this direction was out of the
question, that a small picket of observation, posted near the Pass of
Barnageeragh, was withdrawn as useless, and the few stockades they had
fixed were still standing as we marched through.

General Humbert had acquired all the details of these separate lines of
attack, and at once decided for the mountain-road, which, besides the
advantage of a surprise, was in reality four miles shorter.

The only difficulty was the transport of our artillery, but as we merely
carried those light field-pieces called ‘curricle guns,’ and had no want
of numbers to draw them, this was not an obstacle of much moment. With
fifty, sometimes sixty, peasants to a gun, they advanced at a run, up
places where our infantry found the ascent sufficiently toilsome. Here,
indeed, our allies showed in the most favourable colours we had yet seen
them. The prospect of a fight seemed to excite their spirits almost
to madness; every height they surmounted they would break into a wild
cheer, and the vigour with which they tugged the heavy ammunition-carts
through the deep and spongy soil never interfered with the joyous shouts
they gave, and the merry songs they chanted in rude chorus.

     ‘Tra, la, la! the French is comin’,
          What ‘ll now the red-coats do?
     Maybe they won’t get a drubbin’!
          Sure we ‘ll lick them black and blue!

     ‘Ye little knew the day was near ye,
          Ye little thought they ‘d come so far;
     But here’s the boys that never fear ye--
          Run, yer sowls, for Castlebar!’

To this measure they stepped in time, and although the poetry was
lost upon our ignorance, the rattling joyousness of the air sounded
pleasantly, and our men, soon catching up the tune, joined heartily in
the chorus. Another very popular melody ran somewhat thus:--

     ‘Our day is now begun,
     Says the Shan van voght,
     Our day is now begun,
     Says the Shan van voght.
     Our day is now begun,
     And ours is all the fun!
     Be my sowl ye ‘d better run!
     Says the Shan van voght!’

There were something like a hundred verses to this famous air, but it
is more than likely, from the specimen given above, that my reader will
forgive the want of memory that leaves me unable to quote the remaining
ninety-nine; nor is it necessary that I should add, that the merit of
these canticles lay in the hoarse accord of a thousand rude voices,
heard in the stillness of a wild mountain region, and at a time when
an eventful struggle was before us; such were the circumstances which
possibly made these savage rhymes assume something of terrible meaning.

We had just arrived at the entrance of Barnageeragh, when one of our
mounted scouts rode up to say, that a peasant, who tended cattle on
the mountains, had evidently observed our approach, and hastened into
Castlebar with the tidings.

It was difficult to make General Humbert understand this fact.

‘Is this the patriotism we have heard so much of? Are these the people
who would welcome us as deliverers?! _Parbleu!_ I’ve seen nothing but
lukewarmness or downright opposition since I landed! In that same town
we have just quitted--a miserable hole, too, was it--what was the
first sight that greeted us? a fellow in our uniform hanging from
the stanchion of a window, with an inscription round his neck, to the
purport that he was a traitor! This is the fraternity which our Irish
friends never wearied to speak of!’

Our march was now hastened, and in less than an hour we debouched from
the narrow gorge into the open plain before the town of Castlebar. A few
shots in our front told us that the advanced picket had fallen in with
the enemy, but a French cheer also proclaimed that the Royalists had
fallen back, and our march continued unmolested. The road, which was
wide and level here, traversed a flat country, without hedgerow or
cover, so that we were able to advance in close column, without any
precaution for our flanks; but before us there was a considerable
ascent, which shut out all view of the track beyond it. Up this our
advanced guard was toiling, somewhat wearied with a seven hours’ march
and the heat of a warm morning, when scarcely had the leading files
topped the ridge, than plump went a round shot over their heads, which,
after describing a fine curve, plunged into the soft surface of a newly
ploughed field. The troops were instantly retired behind the crest of
the hill, and an orderly despatched to inform the general that we
were in face of the enemy. He had already seen the shot and marked its
direction. The main body was accordingly halted, and defiling from the
centre, the troops extended on either side into the fields. While this
movement was being effected Humbert rode forward, and crossing the
ridge, reconnoitred the enemy.

It was, as he afterwards observed, a stronger force than he had
anticipated, consisting of between three and four thousand bayonets,
with four squadrons of horse, and two batteries of eight guns, the
whole admirably posted on a range of heights, in front of the town, and
completely covering it.

The ridge was scarcely eight hundred yards’ distance, and so distinctly
was every object seen, that Humbert and his two aides-de-camp were
at once marked and fired at, even in the few minutes during which the
reconnaissance lasted.

As the general retired the firing ceased, and now all our arrangements
were made without molestation of any kind. They were, indeed, of the
simplest and speediest Two companies of our grenadiers were marched to
the front, and in advance of them, about twenty paces, were posted a
body of Irish in French uniforms. This place being assigned them, it was
said, as a mark of honour, but in reality for no other purpose than to
draw on them the Royalist artillery, and thus screen the grenadiers.

Under cover of this force came two light six-pounder guns, loaded
with grape, and intended to be discharged at point-blank distance. The
infantry brought up the rear in three compact columns, ready to deploy
into line at a moment.

In these very simple tactics no notice whatever was taken of the great
rabble of Irish who hung upon our flanks and rear in disorderly
masses, cursing, swearing, and vociferating in all the license
of insubordination; and O’Donnell, whose showy uniform contrasted
strikingly with the dark-blue coat and low glazed cocked-hat of Humbert,
was now appealed to by his countrymen as to the reason of this palpable
slight.

‘What does he want? what does the fellow say?’ asked Humbert, as he
noticed his excited gestures and passionate manner.

‘He is remonstrating, sir,’ replied I, ‘on the neglect of his
countrymen; he says that they do not seem treated like soldiers; no post
has been assigned, nor any order given them.’

‘Tell him, sir,’ said Humbert, with a savage grin, ‘that the discipline
we have tried in vain to teach them hitherto, we’ll not venture to
rehearse under an enemy’s fire; and tell him also that he and his ragged
followers are free to leave us, or, if they like better, to turn against
us, at a moment’s warning.’

I was saved the unpleasant task of interpreting this civil message by
Conolly, who, taking O’Donnell aside, appeared endeavouring to reason
with him, and reduce him to something like moderation.

‘There, look at them, they’re running like sheep!’ cried Humbert,
laughing, as he pointed to an indiscriminate rabble, some hundred yards
off, in a meadow, and who had taken to their heels on seeing a round
shot plunge into the earth near them. ‘Come along, sir: come with me,
and when you have seen what fire is, you may go back and tell your
countrymen! Serasin, is all ready? Well then, forward, march!’

‘March!’ was now re-echoed along the line, and steadily, as on a parade,
our hardy infantry stepped out, while the drums kept up a continued roll
as we mounted the hill.

The first to cross the crest of the ascent were the ‘Legion,’ as the
Irish were called, who, dressed like French soldiers, were selected for
some slight superiority in discipline and bearing. They had but gained
the ridge, however, when a well-directed shot from a six-pounder smashed
in amongst them, killing two, and wounding six or seven others. The
whole mass immediately fell back on our grenadiers. The confusion
compelled the supporting column to halt, and once more the troops were
retired behind the hill.

‘Forward, men, forward!’ cried Humbert, riding up to the front, and
in evident impatience at these repeated checks; and now the grenadiers
passed to the front, and, mounting the height, passed over, while a
shower of balls flew over and around them. A small slated house stood
half-way down the hill, and for this the leading files made a dash and
gained it, just as the main body were, for the third time, driven back
to re-form.

It was now evident that an attack in column could not succeed against a
fire so admirably directed, and Humbert quickly deployed into line, and
prepared to storm the enemy’s position.

Up to this the conduct of the Royalists had been marked by the greatest
steadiness and determination. Every shot from their batteries had told,
and all promised an easy and complete success to their arms. No
sooner, however, had our infantry extended into line, than the militia,
unaccustomed to see an enemy before them, and unable to calculate
distance, opened a useless, dropping fire, at a range where not a bullet
could reach!

The ignorance of this movement, and the irregularity of the discharge,
were not lost upon our fellows, most of whom were veterans of the army
of the Rhine, and, with a loud cheer of derision, our troops advanced
to meet them, while a cloud of skirmishers dashed forward and secured
themselves under cover of a hedge.

Even yet, however, no important advantage had been gained by us, and if
the Royalists had kept their ground in support of their artillery,
we must have been driven back with loss; but, fortunately for us, a
movement we made to keep open order was mistaken by some of the militia
officers for the preparation to outflank them, a panic seized the
whole line, and they fell back, leaving their guns totally exposed and
unprotected.

‘They ‘re running! they ‘re running!’ was the cry along our line; and
now a race was seen, which should be first up with the artillery. The
cheers at this moment were tremendous, for our ‘allies,’ who had kept
wide aloof hitherto, were now up with us, and, more lightly equipped
than we were, soon took the lead. The temerity, however, was costly, for
three several times did the Royalist artillery load and fire; and each
discharge, scarcely at half-musket range, was terribly effective.

We were by no means prepared for either so sudden or complete a success,
and the scene was exciting in the highest degree, as the whole line
mounted the hill, cheering madly. From the crest of this rising ground
we could now see the town of Castlebar beneath us, into which the
Royalists were scampering at full speed. A preparation for defending the
bridge into the town did not escape the watchful eyes of our general,
who again gave the word ‘Forward!’ not by the road alone, but also
by the fields at either side, so as to occupy the houses that should
command the bridge, and which, by a palpable neglect, the others had
forgotten to do.

Our small body of horse, about twenty hussars, were ordered to charge
the bridge, and had they been even moderately well mounted, must have
captured the one gun of the enemy at once; but the miserable cattle,
unable to strike a canter, only exposed them to a sharp musketry; and
when they did reach the bridge, five of their number had fallen. The
six-pounder was, however, soon taken, and the gunners sabred at their
posts, while our advanced guard coming up, completed the victory; and
nothing now remained but a headlong flight.

Had we possessed a single squadron of dragoons, few could have escaped
us, for not a vestige of discipline remained. All was wild confusion
and panic. Such of the officers as had ever seen service, were already
killed or badly wounded; and the younger ones were perfectly unequal to
the difficult task of rallying or restoring order to a routed force.

The scene in the market-square, as we rode in, is not easily to be
forgotten; about two hundred prisoners were standing in a group,
disarmed, it is true, but quite unguarded, and without any preparation
or precaution against escape!

Six or seven English officers, amongst whom were two majors, were
gathered around General Humbert, who was conversing with them in
tones of easy and jocular familiarity. The captured guns of the enemy
(fourteen in all) were being ranged on one side of the square, while
behind them were drawn up a strange-looking line of men, with their
coats turned. These were part of the Kilkenny militia, who had deserted
to our ranks after the retreat began.

Such was the ‘fight’ of Castlebar. It would be absurd to call it a
‘battle’--a day too inglorious for the Royalists to reflect any credit
upon us; but, such as it was, it raised the spirits of our Irish
followers to a pitch of madness, and, out of our own ranks, none now
doubted in the certainty of Irish independence.

Our occupation of the town lasted only a week; but, brief as the time
was, it was sufficient to widen the breach between ourselves and our
allies into an open and undisguised hatred. There were, unquestionably,
wrongs on both sides. As for us, we were thoroughly, bitterly
disappointed in the character of those we had come to liberate; and,
making the egregious mistake of confounding these semi-civilised
peasants with the Irish people, we deeply regretted that ever the French
army should have been sent on so worthless a mission. As for them, they
felt insulted and degraded by the offensive tone we assumed towards
them. Not alone were they never regarded as comrades, but a taunting
insolence of manner was assumed in all our dealings with them, very
strikingly in contrast to that with which we conducted ourselves towards
all the other inhabitants of the island, even those who were avowedly
inimical to our object and our cause.

These things, with native quickness, they soon remarked. They saw the
consideration and politeness with which the bishop and his family were
treated; they saw several Protestant gentlemen suffered to return to
their homes ‘on parole.’ They saw, too--worse grievance of all--how
all attempts at pillage were restrained, or severely punished, and they
asked themselves, ‘To what end a revolt, if neither massacre nor robbery
were to follow? If they wanted masters and rulers, sure they had the
English that they were used to, and could at least understand.’

Such were the causes, and such the reasonings, which gradually ate
deeper and deeper into their minds, rendering them at first sullen,
gloomy, and suspicious, and at last insubordinate, and openly insulting
to us.

Their leaders were the first to exhibit this state of feeling. Affecting
a haughty disdain for us, they went about with disparaging stories of
the French soldiery; and at last went even so far as to impugn their
courage!

In one of the versions of the affair at Castlebar, it was roundly
asserted that but for the Irish threatening to fire on them, the French
would have turned and fled; while in another, the tactics of that
day were all ascribed to the military genius of Neal Kerrigan, who,
by-the-bye, was never seen from early morning until late the same
afternoon, when he rode into Castlebar on a fine bay horse that belonged
to Captain Shortall of the Royal Artillery!

If the feeling between us and our allies was something less than
cordial, nothing could be more friendly than that which subsisted
between us and such of the Royalists as we came in contact with. The
officers who became our prisoners were treated with every deference and
respect. Two field-officers and a captain of carbineers dined daily
with the general, and Serasin entertained several others. We liked
them greatly; and I believe I am not flattering if I say that they
were equally satisfied with us. _Nos amis l’ennemis_, was the constant
expression used in talking of them; and every day drew closer the ties
of this comrade regard and esteem.

Such was the cordial tone of intimacy maintained between us, that I
remember well, one evening at Humbert’s table, an animated discussion
being carried on between the general and an English staff-officer on
the campaign itself--the Royalist averring that in marching southward
at all, a gross and irreparable mistake had been made, and that if the
French had occupied Sligo, and extended their wings towards the north,
they would have secured a position of infinitely greater strength, and
also become the centre for rallying round them a population of a very
different order from the half-starved tribes of Mayo.

Humbert affected to say that the reason for his actual plan was that
twenty thousand French were daily expected to land in Lough Swilly, and
that the western attack was merely to occupy time and attention, while
the more formidable movement went on elsewhere.

I know not if the English believed this; I rather suspect not. Certes,
they were too polite to express any semblance of distrust of what was
told them with all the air of truth.

It was amusing, too, to see the candour with which each party discussed
the other to his face--the French general criticising all the faulty
tactics and defective manoeuvres of the Royalists; while the English
never hesitated to aver that whatever momentary success might wait upon
the French arms, they were just as certain to be obliged to capitulate
in the end.

‘You know it better than I do, general,’ said the major of dragoons. ‘It
may be a day or two earlier or later, but the issue will and must be--a
surrender.’

‘I don’t agree with you,’ said Humbert, laughing; ‘I think there will
be more than one “Castlebar.” But let the worst happen--and you must
own that your haughty country has received a heavy insult--your great
England has got a _soufflet_ in the face of all Europe!’

This, which our general regarded as a great compensation--the greatest,
perhaps, he could receive for all defeat--did not seem to affect the
English with proportionate dismay, nor even to ruffle the equanimity of
their calm tempers.

Upon one subject both sides were quite agreed--that the peasantry never
could aid, but very possibly would always shipwreck, every attempt to
win national independence.

‘I should have one army to fight the English, and two to keep down the
Irish!’ was Humbert’s expression; and very little experience served to
show that there was not much exaggeration in the sentiment.

Our week at Castlebar taught us a good lesson in this respect. The
troops, wearied with a march that had begun on the midnight of the day
before, and with an engagement that lasted from eight till two in the
afternoon, were obliged to be under arms for several hours, to repress
pillage and massacre. Our allies now filled the town, to the number
of five thousand, openly demanding that it should be given up to them,
parading the streets in riotous bands, and displaying banners with long
lists of names doomed for immediate destruction.

The steadiness and temper of our soldiery were severely tried by these
factious and insubordinate spirits; but discipline prevailed at last,
and before the first evening closed in, the town was quiet, and, for the
time at least, danger over.



CHAPTER XXIII. THE TOWN-MAJOR OF CASTLEBAR

I am at a loss to know whether or not I owe an apology to my reader for
turning away from the more immediate object of this memoir of a life, to
speak of events which have assumed an historical reputation. It may be
thought ill-becoming in one who occupied the subordinate station that
I did, to express himself on subjects so very far above both his
experience and acquaintance; but I would premise, that in the opinions I
may have formed, and the words of praise or censure dropped, I have been
but retailing the sentiments of those older and wiser than myself, and
by whose guidance I was mainly led to entertain not only the convictions
but the prejudices of my early years.

Let the reader bear in mind, too, that I was very early in life thrown
into the society of men--left self-dependent, in a great measure, and
obliged to decide for myself on subjects which usually are determined
by older and more mature heads. So much of excuse, then, if I seem
presumptuous in saying that I began to conceive a very low opinion
generally of popular attempts at independence, and a very high one of
the powers of military skill and discipline. A mob, in my estimation,
was the very lowest, and an army about the very highest, object I
could well conceive. My short residence at Castlebar did not tend to
controvert these impressions. The safety of the town and its inhabitants
was entirely owing to the handful of French who held it, and who,
wearied with guards, pickets, and outpost duty, were a mere fraction of
the small force that had landed a few days before.

Our ‘allies’ were now our most difficult charge, Abandoning the hopeless
task of drilling and disciplining them, we confined ourselves to the
more practical office of restraining pillage and repressing violence--a
measure, be it said, that was not without peril, and of a very
serious kind. I remember one incident, which, if not followed by grave
consequences, yet appeared at the time of a very serious character.

By the accidental misspelling of a name, a man named Dowall, a
notorious ruffian and demagogue, was appointed _commandant de place_, or
town-major, instead of a most respectable shopkeeper named Downes, who,
although soon made aware of the mistake, from natural timidity took
no steps to undeceive the general. Dowall was haranguing a mob of
half-drunken vagabonds, when his commission was put into his hands; and,
accepting the post as an evidence of the fears the French entertained of
his personal influence, became more overbearing and insolent than ever.
We had a very gallant officer, the second major of the 12th Regiment
of the Line, killed in the attack on Castlebar, and this Dowall at once
took possession of poor Delaitre’s horse, arms, and equipment. His coat
and shako, his very boots and gloves, the scoundrel appropriated; and,
as if in mockery of us and our poor friend, assumed a habit that he had
when riding fast, to place his sabre between his leg and the saddle, to
prevent its striking the horse on the flanks.

I need scarcely say that, thoroughly disgusted by the unsightly
exhibition, our incessant cares, and the endless round of duty we were
engaged in, as well as the critical position we occupied, left us no
time to notice the fellow’s conduct by any other than a passing sign
of anger or contempt--provocations that he certainly gave us back as
insolently as we offered them. I do not believe that the general ever
saw him, but I know that incessant complaints were daily made to him
about the man’s rapacity and tyranny, and scarcely a morning passed
without a dozen remonstrances being preferred against his overbearing
conduct.

Determined to have his own countrymen on his side, he issued the
most absurd orders for the billeting of the rabble, the rations and
allowances of all kinds. He seized upon one of the best houses for his
own quarters, and three fine saddle-horses for his personal use, besides
a number of inferior ones for the ruffian following he called his staff!

It was, indeed, enough to excite laughter, had not indignation been the
more powerful emotion, to see this fellow ride forth of a morning--a
tawdry scarf of green, with deep gold fringe, thrown over his shoulder,
and a saddle-cloth of the same colour, profusely studded with gold
shamrocks, on his horse; a drawn sword in his hand, and his head erect,
followed by an indiscriminate rabble on foot or horseback--some with
muskets, some pikes, some with sword blades, bayonets, or even knives
fastened on sticks, but all alike ferocious-looking.

They affected to march in order, and, with a rude imitation of soldiery,
carried something like a knapsack on their shoulders, surmounted by a
kettle or tin cup, or sometimes an iron pot--a grotesque parody on the
trim cooking equipment of the French soldier. It was evident, from their
step and bearing, that they thought themselves in the very height of
discipline; and this very assumption was far more insulting to the real
soldier than all the licentious irregularity of the marauder. If to us
they were objects of ridicule and derision, to the townspeople they were
images of terror and dismay. The miserable shopkeeper who housed one of
them lived in continual fear; he knew nothing to be his own, and felt
that his property and family were every moment at the dictate of a
ruffian gang, who acknowledged no law, nor any rule save their own will
and convenience. Dowall’s squad were indeed as great a terror in that
little town as I had seen the great name of Robespierre in the proud
city of Paris.

In my temporary position on General Serasin’s staff, I came to hear much
of this fellow’s conduct. The most grievous stories were told me every
day of his rapacity and cruelty; but, harassed and overworked as the
general was with duties that would have been overmuch for three or four
men, I forebore to trouble him with recitals which could only fret and
distress him without affording the slightest chance of relief to others.
Perhaps this impunity had rendered him more daring, or, perhaps, the
immense number of armed Irish in comparison with the small force of
disciplined soldiers, emboldened the fellow; but certainly he grew day
by day more presumptuous and insolent, and at last so far forgot himself
as to countermand one of General Serasin’s orders, by which a guard
was stationed at the Protestant church to prevent its being molested or
injured by the populace.

General Humbert had already refused the Roman Catholic priest his
permission to celebrate mass in that building, but Dowall had determined
otherwise, and that, too, by a written order, under his own hand. The
French sergeant who commanded the guard of course paid little attention
to this warrant; and when Father Hennisy wanted to carry the matter with
a high hand, he coolly tore up the paper, and threw the fragments at
him.

Dowall was soon informed of the slight offered to his mandate. He was at
supper at the time, entertaining a party of his friends, who all heard
the priest’s story, and, of course, loudly sympathised with his sorrows,
and invoked the powerful leader’s aid and protection. Affecting to
believe that the sergeant had merely acted in ignorance, and from not
being able to read English, Dowall despatched a fellow whom he called
his aide-de-camp, a schoolmaster named Lowrie, and who spoke a little
bad French, to interpret his command, and to desire the sergeant to
withdraw his men, and give up the guard to a party of ‘the squad.’

Great was the surprise of the supper-party, when, after the lapse of
half an hour, a country fellow came in to say that he had seen Lowrie
led off to prison between two French soldiers. By this time Dowall had
drunk himself into a state of utter recklessness, while, encouraged by
his friends’ praises, and the arguments of his own passions, he fancied
that he might dispute ascendency with General Humbert himself. He at
once ordered out his horse, and gave a command to assemble the ‘squad.’
As they were all billeted in his immediate vicinity, this was speedily
effected, and their numbers swelled by a vast mass of idle and curious,
who were eager to see how the matter would end; the whole street was
crowded, and when Dowall mounted, his followers amounted to above a
thousand people.

If our sergeant, an old soldier of the ‘Sambre et Meuse,’ had not
already enjoyed some experience of our allies, it is more than likely
that, seeing their hostile advance, he would have fallen back upon the
main guard, then stationed in the market-square. As it was, he simply
retired his party within the church, the door of which had already been
pierced for the use of musketry. This done, and one of his men being
despatched to headquarters for advice and orders, he waited patiently
for the attack.

I happened that night to make one of General Serasin’s dinner-party,
and we were sitting over our wine, when the officer of the guard entered
hastily with the tidings of what was going on in the town.

‘Is it the _commandant de place_ himself who is at the head?’ exclaimed
Serasin, in amazement, such a thought being a direct shock to all his
ideas of military discipline.

‘Yes, sir,’ said the officer; ‘the soldier knows his appearance well,
and can vouch for its being him.’

‘As I know something of him, general,’ said I, ‘I may as well mention
that nothing is more likely.’

‘Who is he--what is he?’ asked Serasin hastily.

A very brief account--I need not say not a nattering one--told all that
I knew or had ever heard of our worthy town-major--many of the officers
around corroborating, as I went on, all that I said, and interpolating
little details of their own about his robberies and exactions.

‘And yet I have heard nothing of all this before,’ said the general,
looking sternly around him on every side.

None ventured on a reply; and what might have followed there is no
guessing, when the sharp rattle of musketry cut short all discussion.

‘That fire was not given by soldiers,’ said Serasin. ‘Go, Tiernay, and
bring this fellow before me at once.’

I bowed, and was leaving the room, when an officer, having whispered a
few words in Serasin’s ear, the general called me back, saying--

‘You are not to incur any risk, Tiernay; I want no struggle, still less
a rescue. You understand me?’

‘Perfectly, general; the matter will, I trust, be easy enough.’

And so I left the room, my heart--shall I avow it?--bumping and
throbbing in a fashion that gave a very poor corroboration to my words.
There were always three or four horses ready saddled for duty at each
general’s quarters, and, taking one of them, I ordered a corporal of
dragoons to follow me, and set out. It was a fine night of autumn; the
last faint sunlight was yet struggling with the coming darkness, as I
rode at a brisk trot down the main street towards the scene of action.

I had not proceeded far when the crowds compelled me to slacken my pace
to a walk, and finding that the people pressed in upon me in such a
way as to prevent anything like a defence if attacked, still more, any
chance of an escape by flight, I sent the corporal forward to clear
a passage, and announce my coming to the redoubted commandant. It was
curious to see how the old dragoon’s tactic effected his object,
and with what speed the crowd opened and fell back, as, with a flank
movement of his horse, he ‘passaged’ up the street, prancing, bounding,
and back-leaping, yet all the while perfectly obedient to the hand,
and never deviating from the straight line in the very middle of the
thoroughfare.

I could catch from the voices around me that the mob had fired a volley
at the church door, but that our men had never returned the fire; and
now a great commotion of the crowd, and that swaying, surging motion of
the mass, which is so peculiarly indicative of a coming event, told that
something more was in preparation. And such was it; for already numbers
were hurrying forward with straw faggots, broken furniture, and other
combustible material, which, in the midst of the wildest cries and
shouts of triumph, were now being heaped up against the door. Another
moment, and I should have been too late; as it was, my loud summons to
‘halt,’ and a bold command for the mob to fall back, only came at the
very last minute.

‘Where’s the commandant?’ said I, in an imperious tone.

‘Who wants him?’ responded a deep, husky voice, which I well knew to be
Dowall’s.

‘The general in command of the town,’ said I firmly--‘General Serasin.’

‘Maybe I’m as good a general as himself,’ was the answer. ‘I never
called him my superior yet! Did I, boys?’

‘Never--devil a bit--why would you?’ and such like, were shouted by the
mob around us, in every accent of drunken defiance.

‘You ‘ll not refuse General Serasin’s invitation to confer with your
commandant, I hope?’ said I, affecting a tone of respectful civility,
while I gradually drew nearer and nearer to him, contriving, at the same
time, by a dexterous plunging of my horse, to force back the bystanders,
and thus isolate my friend Dowall.

‘Tell him I’ve work to do here,’ said he, ‘and can’t come; but if he’s
fond of a bonfire he may as well step down this far and see one.’

By this time, at a gesture of command from me, the corporal had placed
himself on the opposite side of Dowall’s horse, and, by a movement
similar to my own, completely drove back the dense mob, so that we had
him completely in our power, and could have sabred or shot him at any
moment.

‘General Serasin only wishes to see you on duty, commandant,’ said I,
speaking in a voice that could be heard over the entire assemblage; and
then, dropping it to a whisper, only audible to himself, I added--

‘Come along quietly, sir, and without a word. If you speak, if you
mutter, or if you lift a finger, I’ll run my sabre through your body.’

‘Forward, way, there!’ shouted I aloud, and the corporal, holding
Dowall’s bridle, pricked the horse with the point of his sword, and
right through the crowd we went at a pace that defied following, had any
the daring to think of it.

So sudden was the act and so imminent the peril, for I held the point of
my weapon within a few inches of his back, and would have kept my word
most assuredly too, that the fellow never spoke a syllable as we went,
nor ventured on even a word of remonstrance till we descended at the
general’s door. Then, with a voice tremulous with restrained passion, he
said--

‘If ye think I’ll forgive ye this thrick, my fine hoy, may the flames
and fire be my portion! and if I haven’t my revenge on ye yet, my name
isn’t Mick Dowall.’

With a dogged, sulky resolution he mounted the stairs, but as he neared
the room where the general was, and from which his voice could even now
be heard, his courage seemed to fail him, and he looked back as though
to see if no chance of escape remained. The attempt would have been
hopeless, and he saw it.

‘This is the man, general,’ said I, half pushing him forward into the
middle of the room, where he stood with his hat on, and in an attitude
of mingled defiance and terror.

‘Tell him to uncover,’ said Serasin; but one of the aides-de-camp, more
zealous than courteous, stepped forward and knocked the hat off with his
hand. Dowall never budged an inch, nor moved a muscle, at this insult;
to look at him you could not have said that he was conscious of it.

‘Ask him if it was by his orders that the guard was assailed,’ said the
general.

I put the question in about as many words, but he made no reply.

‘Does the man know where he is? does he know who I am?’ repeated Serasin
passionately.

‘He knows both well enough, sir,’ said I; ‘this silence is a mere
defiance of us.’

‘_Parbleu!_’ cried an officer, ‘that is the _coquin_ took poor
Delaitre’s equipments; the very uniform he has on was his.’

‘The fellow was never a soldier,’ said another.

‘I know him well,’ interposed a third--’ he is the very terror of the
townsfolk.’

‘Who gave him his commission?--who appointed him?’ asked Serasin.

Apparently the fellow could follow some words of French, for as the
general asked this he drew from his pocket a crumpled and soiled paper,
which he threw heedlessly upon the table before us.

‘Why, this is not his name, sir,’ said I; ‘this appointment is made out
in the name of Nicholas Downes, and our friend here is called Dowall.’

‘Who knows him? who can identify him?’ asked Serasin.

‘I can say that his name is Dowall, and that he worked as a porter on
the quay in this town when I was a boy,’ said a young Irishman who was
copying letters and papers at a side-table. ‘Yes, Dowall,’ said the
youth, confronting the look which the other gave him. ‘I am neither
afraid nor ashamed to tell you to your face that I know you well, and
who you are, and what you are.’

‘I’m an officer in the Irish Independent Army now,’ said Dowall
resolutely. ‘To the divil I fling the French commission and all that
belongs to it. Tisn’t troops that run and guns that burst we want.
Let them go back again the way they came--we ‘re able for the work
ourselves.*

Before I could translate this rude speech an officer broke into the
room, with tidings that the streets had been cleared, and the rioters
dispersed; a few prisoners, too, were taken, whose muskets bore trace of
being recently discharged.

‘They fired upon our pickets, general,’ said the officer, whose excited
look and voice betrayed how deeply he felt the outrage.

The men were introduced; three ragged, ill-looking wretches, apparently
only roused from intoxication by the terror of their situation, for each
was guarded by a soldier with a drawn bayonet in his hand.

‘We only obeyed ordhers, my lord; we only did what the captain tould
us,’ cried they, in a miserable, whining tone, for the sight of their
leader in captivity had sapped all their courage.

‘What am I here for? who has any business with me?’ said Dowall,
assuming before his followers an attempt at his former tone of bully.

‘Tell him,’ said Serasin, ‘that wherever a French general stands in full
command he will neither brook insolence nor insubordination. Let those
fellows be turned out of the town, and warned never to approach the
quarters of the army under any pretence whatever. As for this scoundrel,
we’ll make an example of him. Order a _peloton_ into the yard, and shoot
him!’

I rendered this speech into English as the general spoke it, and never
shall I forget the wild scream of the wretch as he heard the sentence.

‘I’m an officer in the army of Ireland. I don’t belong to ye at all.
You’ve no power over me. Oh, captain, darlin’; oh, gentlemen, speak for
me! General, dear; general, honey, don’t sintince me! don’t, for the
love o’ God!’ and in grovelling terror the miserable creature threw
himself on his knees to beg for mercy.

‘Tear off his epaulettes,’ cried Serasin; ‘never let a French uniform be
so disgraced!’

The soldiers wrenched off the epaulettes at the command, and, not
satisfied with this, they even tore away the lace from the cuffs of the
uniform, which now hung in ragged fragments over his trembling hands.

‘Oh, sir! oh, general! oh, gentlemen, have marcy!’

‘Away with him,’ said Serasin contemptuously; ‘it is only the cruel can
be such cowards. Give the fellow his fusillade with blank cartridge,
and, the chances are, fear will kill him outright.’

The scene that ensued is too shocking, too full of abasement, to record;
there was nothing that fear of death, nothing that abject terror could
suggest, that this miserable wretch did not attempt to save his life; he
wept--he begged in accents that were unworthy of all manhood--he kissed
the very ground at the general’s feet in his abject sorrow; and when at
last he was dragged from the room, his screams were the most piercing
and terrific.

Although all my compassion was changed into contempt, I felt that I
could never have given the word to fire upon him, had such been my
orders; his fears had placed him below all manhood, but they still
formed a barrier of defence around him. I accordingly whispered a few
words to the sergeant, as we passed down the stairs, and then, affecting
to have forgotten something, I stepped back towards the room, where the
general and his staff were sitting. The scuffling sound of feet, mingled
with the crash of firearms, almost drowned the cries of the still
struggling wretch; his voice, however, burst forth into a wild cry, and
then there came a pause--a pause that at last became insupportable to my
anxiety, and I was about to rush downstairs, when a loud yell, a savage
howl of derision and hate burst forth from the street; and on looking
out I saw a vast crowd before the door, who were shouting after a man,
whose speed soon carried him out of reach. This was Dowall, who, thus
suffered to escape, was told to fly from the town and never to return to
it.

‘Thank Heaven,’ muttered I, ‘we’ve seen the last of him.’

The rejoicing was, however, premature.



CHAPTER XXIV. THE MISSION TO THE NORTH

I have never yet been able to discover whether General Humbert really
did feel the confidence that he assumed at this period, or that he
merely affected it, the better to sustain the spirits of those around
him. If our success at Castlebar was undeniable, our loss was also
great, and far more than proportionate to all the advantages we had
acquired. Six officers and two hundred and forty men were either
killed or badly wounded, and as our small force had really acquired no
reinforcement worth the name, it was evident that another such costly
victory would be our ruin.

Not one gentleman of rank or influence had yet joined us; few of the
priesthood; and, even among the farmers and peasantry, it was easy to
see that our recruits comprised those whose accession could never have
conferred honour or profit on any cause.

Our situation was anything but promising. The rumours that reached us
(and we had no other or more accurate information than rumours)
told that an army of thirty thousand men, under the command of Lord
Cornwallis, was in march against us; that all the insurrectionary
movements of the south were completely repressed; that the spirit of
the Irish was crushed, and their confidence broken, either by defeat or
internal treachery. In a word, that the expedition had already failed,
and the sooner we had the means of leaving the land of our disasters the
better.

Such were the universal feelings of all my comrades; but Humbert, who
had often told us that we were only here to prepare the way for another
and more formidable mission, now pretended to think that we were
progressing most favourably towards a perfect success. Perhaps he firmly
believed all this, or perhaps he thought that the pretence would give
more dignity to the finale of an exploit which he already saw was
nearly played out. I know not which is the true explanation, and am half
disposed to think that he was actuated as much by one impulse as the
other.

‘The Army of the North’ was the talisman, which we now heard of for the
first time, to repair all our disasters, and ensure complete victory.
‘The Army of the North,’ whose strength varied from twenty to
twenty-five, and sometimes reached even thirty thousand men, and was
commanded by a distinguished Irish general, was now the centre to which
all our hopes turned. Whether it had already landed, and where, of what
it consisted, and how officered, not one of us knew anything; but by
dint of daily repetition and discussion we had come to believe in its
existence as certainly as though we had seen it under arms.

The credulous lent their convictions without any trouble to themselves
whatever; the more sceptical studied the map, and fancied twenty
different places in which they might have disembarked; and thus the Army
of the North grew to be a substance and reality, as undoubted as the
scenes before our eyes.

Never was such a ready solution of all difficulties discovered as this
same Army of the North. Were we to be beaten by Cornwallis, it was only
a momentary check, for the Army of the North would come up within a
few days and turn the whole tide of war. If our Irish allies grew
insubordinate or disorderly, a little patience and the Army of the North
would settle all that. Every movement projected was fancied to be in
concert with this redoubted corps, and at last every trooper that rode
in from Killala or Ballina was questioned as to whether his despatches
did not come from the Army of the North.

Frenchmen will believe anything you like for twenty-four hours. They
can be flattered into a credulity of two days, and, by dint of great
artifice and much persuasion, will occasionally reach a third; but
there, faith has its limit; and if nothing palpable, tangible, and real,
intervene, scepticism ensues; and what with native sarcasm, ridicule,
and irony, they will demolish the card edifice of credit far more
rapidly than ever they raised it. For two whole days the Army of the
North occupied every man amongst us. We toasted it over our wine; we
discussed it at our quarters; we debated upon its whereabouts, its
strength, and its probable destination; but on the third morning a
terrible shock was given to our feelings by a volatile young lieutenant
of hussars exclaiming--‘_Ma foi!_ I wish I could see this same Army of
the North!’

Now, although nothing was more reasonable than this wish, nor was there
any one of us who had not felt a similar desire, this sudden expression
of it struck us all most forcibly, and a shrinking sense of doubt spread
over every face, and men looked at each other as though to say--‘Is the
fellow capable of supposing that such an army does not exist?’ It was a
very dreadful moment--a terrible interval of struggle between the broad
daylight of belief and the black darkness of incredulity; and we turned
glances of actual dislike at the man who had so unwarrantably shaken our
settled convictions.

‘I only said I should like to see them under arms,’ stammered he, in the
confusion of one who saw himself exposed to public obloquy.

This half-apology came too late---the mischief was done! and we shunned
each other like men who were afraid to read the accusation of even a
shrewd glance. As for myself, I can compare my feelings only to those of
the worthy alderman, who broke out into a paroxysm of grief on hearing
that _Robinson Crusoe_ was a fiction. I believe, on that sudden
revulsion of feeling, I could have discredited any and everything. If
there was no Army of the North, was I quite sure that there was any
expedition at all? Were the generals mere freebooters, the chiefs of a
marauding venture? Were the patriots anything but a disorderly rabble
eager for robbery and bloodshed? Was Irish Independence a mere phantom?
Such were among the shocking terrors that came across my mind as I
sat in my quarters, far too dispirited and depressed to mix among my
comrades.

It had been a day of fatiguing duty, and I was not sorry, as night
fell, that I might betake myself to bed, to forget, if it might be, the
torturing doubts that troubled me. Suddenly I heard a heavy foot upon
the stair, and an orderly entered with a command for me to repair to the
headquarters of the general at once. Never did the call of duty summon
me less willing, never found me so totally disinclined to obey. I was
weary and fatigued; but worse, than this, I was out of temper with
myself, the service, and the whole world. Had I heard that the Royal
forces were approaching, I was exactly in the humour to have dashed
into the thick of them, and sold my life as dearly as I could, out of
desperation.

Discipline is a powerful antagonist to a man’s caprices, for with all
my irritability and discontent I arose, and resuming my uniform, set out
for General Humbert’s quarters. I followed ‘the orderly,’ as he led the
way through many a dark street and crooked alley till we reached the
square. There, too, all was in darkness, save at the mainguard, where,
as usual, the five windows of the first storey were a blaze of light,
and the sounds of mirth and revelry, the nightly orgies of our officers,
were ringing out in the stillness of the quiet hour. The wild chorus
of a soldier-song, with its rataplan accompaniment of knuckles on the
table, echoed through the square, and smote upon my ear with anything
but a congenial sense of pleasure.

In my heart I thought them a senseless, soulless crew, that could give
themselves to dissipation and excess on the very eve, as it were, of our
defeat, and with hasty steps I turned away into the side-street, where
a large lamp, the only light to be seen, proclaimed General Humbert’s
quarters.

A bustle and stir, very unusual at this late hour, pervaded the passages
and stairs, and it was some time before I could find one of the staff to
announce my arrival, which at last was done somewhat unceremoniously,
as an officer hurried me through a large chamber crowded with the staff
into an inner room, where, on a small field-bed, lay General Humbert,
without coat or boots, a much-worn scarlet cloak thrown half over him,
and a black handkerchief tied round his head. I had scarcely seen him
since our landing, and I could with difficulty recognise the burly,
high-complexioned soldier of a few days back, in the worn and haggard
features of the sick man before me. An attack of ague, which he had
originally contracted in Holland, had relapsed upon him, and he was now
suffering all the lassitude and sickness of that most depressing of all
maladies.

Maps, books, plans, and sketches of various kinds scattered the bed,
the table, and even the floor around him; but his attitude as I entered
betrayed the exhaustion of one who could labour no longer, and whose
worn-out faculties demanded rest. He lay flat on his back, his arms
straight down beside him, and with half-closed eyes, seemed as though
falling off to sleep.

His first aide-de-camp, Merochamp, was standing with his back to a small
turf fire, and made a sign to us to be still, and make no noise as we
came in.

‘He ‘s sleeping,’ said he; ‘it ‘s the first time he has closed his eyes
for ten days.’

We stood for a moment uncertain, and were about to retrace our steps,
when Humbert said, in a low, weak voice--

‘No! I’m not asleep, come in.’

The officer who presented me now retired, and I advanced towards the
bedside.

‘This is Tiernay, general,’ said Merochamp, stooping down and speaking
low; ‘you wished to see him.’

‘Yes, I wanted him. Ha! Tiernay, you see me a good deal altered since we
parted last; however, I shall be all right in a day or two, it’s a mere
attack of ague, and will leave when the good weather comes. I wished to
ask you about your family, Tiernay; was not your father Irish?’

‘No, sir; we were Irish two or three generations back, but since that we
have belonged either to Austria or to France.’

‘Then where were you born?’

‘In Paris, sir, I believe, but certainly in France.’

‘Then I said so, Merochamp; I knew that the boy was French.’

‘Still I don’t think the precaution worthless,’ replied Merochamp;
‘Teeling and the others advise it.’

‘I know they do,’ said Humbert peevishly, ‘and for themselves it may be
needful; but this lad’s case will be injured, not bettered by it. He is
not an Irishman; he never was at any time a British subject. Have you
any certificate of birth or baptism, Tiernay?’

‘None, sir; but I have my ‘livret’ for the school of Saumur, which sets
forth my being a Frenchman by birth.’

‘Quite sufficient, boy, let me have it.’

It was a document which I always carried about with me since I landed,
to enable me any moment, if made prisoner, to prove myself an alien, and
thus escape the inculpation of fighting against the flag of my country.
Perhaps there was something of reluctance in my manner as I relinquished
it, for the general said, ‘I’ll take good care of it, Tiernay; you shall
not fare the worse because it is in my keeping. I may as well tell you
that some of our Irish officers have received threatening letters. It
is needless to say they are without name, stating that if matters go
unfortunately with us in this campaign they will meet the fate of men
taken in open treason; and that their condition of officers in our
service will avail them nothing. I do not believe this. I cannot believe
that they will be treated in any respect differently from the rest
of us. However, it is only just that I should tell you that your name
figures amongst those so denounced; for this reason I have sent for you
now. You, at least, have nothing to apprehend on this score. You are as
much a Frenchman as myself. I know Merochamp thinks differently from me,
and that your Irish descent and name will be quite enough to involve you
in the fate of others.’

A gesture, half of assent but half of impatience, from the aide-de-camp,
here arrested the speaker.

‘Why not tell him frankly how he stands?’ said Humbert eagerly; ‘I see
no advantage in any concealment.’

Then addressing me, he went on. ‘I purpose, Tiernay, to give you the
same option I gave the others, but which they have declined to accept.
It is this: we are daily expecting to hear of the arrival of a force in
the north under the command of Generals Tandy and Rey.’

‘The Army of the North?’ asked I, in some anxiety. ‘Precisely; the Army
of the North. Now I desire to open a communication with them, and at the
same time to do so through the means of such officers as, in the event
of any disaster here, may have the escape to France open to them; which
this army will have, and which, I need not say, we have no longer.
Our Irish friends have declined this mission as being more likely to
compromise them if taken; and also as diminishing and not increasing
their chance of escape. In my belief that you were placed similarly
I have sent for you here this evening, and at the same time desire to
impress upon you that your acceptance or refusal is purely a matter at
your own volition.’

‘Am I to regard the matter simply as one of duty, sir? or as an
opportunity of consulting my personal safety?’

‘What shall I say to this, Merochamp?’ asked Humbert bluntly.

‘That you are running to the full as many risks of being banged for
going as by staying; such is my opinion,’ said the aide-de-camp. ‘Here
as a rebel, there as a spy.’

‘I confess, then,’ said I, smiling at the cool brevity of the speech,
‘the choice is somewhat embarrassing! May I ask what you advise me to
do, general?’

‘I should say go, Tiernay.’

‘Go, by all means, lad,’ broke in the aide-de-camp, who throughout
assumed a tone of dictation and familiarity most remarkable. ‘If a stand
is to be made in this miserable country it will be with Rey’s force;
here the game will not last much longer. There lies the only man capable
of conducting such an expedition, and his health cannot stand up against
its trials!’

‘Not so, Merochamp; I ‘ll be on horseback to-morrow or the day after at
furthest; and if I never were to take the field again, there are others,
yourself amongst the number, well able to supply my place: but as to
Tiernay--what says he?’

‘Make it duty, sir, and I shall go, or remain here with an easy
conscience,’ said I.

‘Then duty be it, boy,’ said he; ‘and Merochamp will tell you
everything, for all this discussion has wearied me much, and I cannot
endure more talking.’

‘Sit down here,’ said the aide-de-camp, pointing to a seat at his side,
‘and five minutes will suffice.’

He opened a large map of Ireland before us on the table, and running his
finger along the coast-line of the western side, stopped abruptly at the
bay of Lough Swilly.

‘There,’ said he, ‘that is the spot. There, too, should have been our
own landing! The whole population of the north will be with them--not
such allies as these fellows, but men accustomed to the use of arms,
able and willing to take the field. They say that five thousand men
could hold the passes of those mountains against thirty.’

‘Who says this?’ said I, for I own it that I had grown marvellously
sceptical as to testimony.

‘Napper Tandy, who is a general of division, and one of the leaders of
this force’; and he went on: ‘The utmost we can do will be to hold these
towns to the westward till they join us. We may stretch away thus
far,’ and he moved his finger towards the direction of Leitrim, but no
farther. ‘You will have to communicate with them; to explain what we
have done, where we are, and how we are. Conceal nothing--let them
hear fairly that this patriot force is worth nothing, and that even to
garrison the towns we take they are useless. Tell them, too, the sad
mistake we made by attempting to organise what never can be disciplined,
and let them not arm a population, as we have done, to commit rapine and
plunder.’

Two letters were already written--one addressed to Rey, the other to
Napper Tandy. These I was ordered to destroy if I should happen to
become a prisoner; and with the map of Ireland, pen-marked in various
directions, by which I might trace my route, and a few lines to Colonel
Charost, whom I was to see on passing at Killala, I was dismissed.’
When I approached the bedside to take leave of the general he was sound
asleep. The excitement of talking having passed away, he was pale
as death, and his lips totally colourless. Poor fellow, he was
exhausted-looking and weary, and I could not help thinking, as I looked
on him, that he was no bad emblem of the cause he had embarked in!

I was to take my troop-horse as far as Killala, after which I was to
proceed either on foot, or by such modes of conveyance as I could find,
keeping as nigh the coast as possible, and acquainting myself, so far as
I might do, with the temper and disposition of the people as I went. It
was a great aid to my sinking courage to know that there really was an
Army of the North, and to feel myself accredited to hold intercourse
with the generals commanding it.

Such was my exultation at this happy discovery, that I was dying to
burst in amongst my comrades with the tidings, and proclaim, at the same
time, my own high mission. Merochamp had strictly enjoined my speedy
departure without the slightest intimation to any, whither I was going,
or with what object.

A very small cloak-bag held all my effects, and with this slung at my
saddle I rode out of the town just as the church clock was striking
twelve. It was a calm, starlight night, and once a short distance from
the town, as noiseless and still as possible; a gossoon, one of
the numerous scouts we employed in conveying letters or bringing
intelligence, trotted along on foot beside me to show the way, for there
was a rumour that some of the Royalist cavalry still loitered about
the passes to capture our despatch bearers, or make prisoners of any
stragglers from the army.

These gossoons, picked up by chance, and selected for no other
qualification than because they were keen-eyed and swift of foot, were
the most faithful and most worthy creatures we met with. In no instance
were they ever known to desert to the enemy, and, stranger still, they
were never seen to mix in the debauchery and excesses so common to all
the volunteers of the rebel camp. Their intelligence was considerable,
and to such a pitch had emulation stimulated them in the service, that
there was no danger they would not incur in their peculiar duties.

My companion on the present occasion was a little fellow of about
thirteen years of age, and small and slight even for that; we knew him
as ‘Peter,’ but whether he had any other name, or what, I was ignorant.
He was wounded by a sabre-cut across the hand, which nearly severed the
fingers from it, at the bridge of Castlebar, but, with a strip of linen
bound round it, now he trotted along as happy and careless as if nothing
ailed him.

I questioned him as we went, and learned that his father had been a herd
in the service of a certain Sir Roger Palmer, and his mother a dairymaid
in the same house, but as the patriots had sacked and burned the
‘Castle,’ of course they were now upon the world. He was a good deal
shocked at my asking what part his father took on the occasion of the
attack, but for a very different reason than that which I suspected.

‘For the cause, of course!’ replied he, almost indignantly; ‘why
wouldn’t he stand up for ould Ireland!’

‘And your mother--what did she do?’

He hung down his head, and made no answer till I repeated the question.

‘Faix,’ said he slowly and sadly, ‘she went and towld the young ladies
what was goin’ to be done, and if it hadn’t been that the “boys” caught
Tim Haynes, the groom, going off to Foxford with a letter, we’d have had
the dragoons down upon us in no time! They hanged Tim, but they let the
young ladies away, and my mother with them, and off they all went to
Dublin.’

‘And where’s your father now?’ I asked.

‘He was drowned in the bay of Killala four days ago. He went with a
party of others to take oatmeal from a sloop that was wrecked in the
bay, and an English cruiser came in at the time and fired on them; at
the second discharge the wreck and all upon it went down!’

He told all these things without any touch of sorrow in voice or manner.
They seemed to be the ordinary chances of war, and so he took them. He
had three brothers and a sister; of the former, two were missing, the
third was a scout; and the girl--she was but nine years old--was waiting
on a canteen, and mighty handy, he said, for she knew a little French
already, and understood the soldiers when they asked for a _goutte_, or
wanted _du feu_ for their pipes.

Such, then, was the credit side of the account with Fortune, and,
strange enough, the boy seemed satisfied with it; and although a few
days had made him an orphan and houseless, he appeared to feel that the
great things in store for his country were an ample recompense for
all. Was this, then, patriotism? Was it possible that one, untaught and
unlettered as he was, could think national freedom cheap at such a cost?
If I thought so for a moment, a very little further inquiry undeceived
me. Religious rancour, party feuds, the hate of the Saxon--a blind,
ill-directed, unthinking hate--were the motives which actuated him. A
terrible retribution for something upon somebody, an awful wiping out
of old scores, a reversal of the lot of rich and poor, were the main
incentives to his actions, and he was satisfied to stand by at the
drawing of this great lottery, even without holding a ticket in it!

It was almost the first moment of calm reflective thought I had enjoyed,
as I rode along thus in the quiet stillness of the night, and I own that
my heart began to misgive me as to the great benefits of our expedition.
I will not conceal the fact, that I had been disappointed in every
expectation I had formed of Ireland.

The bleak and barren hills of Mayo, the dreary tracts of mountain and
morass, were about as unworthy representatives of the boasted beauty and
fertility, as were the half-clad wretches who flocked around us of that
warlike people of whom we had heard so much. Where were the chivalrous
chieftains with their clans behind them? Where the thousands gathering
around a national standard? Where that high-souled patriotism,
content to risk fortune, station--all, in the conflict for national
independence? A rabble led on by a few reckless debauchees, and two or
three disreputable or degraded priests, were our only allies; and even
these refused to be guided by our councils, or swayed by our authority.
I half suspected Serasin was right when he said--‘Let the Directory send
thirty thousand men and make it a French province, but let us not fight
an enemy to give the victory to the _sans-culottes_.’

As we neared the pass of Barnageeragh, I turned one last look on the
town of Castlebar, around which, at little intervals of space, the
watch-fires of our pickets were blazing; all the rest of the place was
in darkness.

It was a strange and a thrilling thought to think that there, hundreds
of miles from their home, without one link that could connect them
to it, lay a little army in the midst of an enemy’s country, calm,
self-possessed, and determined. How many, thought I, are destined to
leave it? How many will bring back to our dear France the memory of this
unhappy struggle?



CHAPTER XXV. A PASSING VISIT TO KILLALA

I found a very pleasant party assembled around the bishop’s
breakfast-table at Killala. The bishop and his family were all there,
with Charost and his staff, and some three or four other officers
from Ballina. Nothing could be less constrained, more easy, or more
agreeable, than the tone of intimacy which in a few days had grown up
between them. A cordial good feeling seemed to prevail on every subject,
and even the reserve which might be thought natural on the momentous
events then happening was exchanged for a most candid and frank
discussion of all that was going forward, which, I must own, astonished
as much as it gratified me.

The march on Castlebar, the choice of the mountain-road, ‘which led past
the position occupied by the Royalists, the attack and capture of the
artillery, had all to be related by me for the edification of such
as were not conversant with French; and I could observe that however
discomfited by the conduct of the militia, they fully relied on the
regiments of the line and the artillery. It was amusing, too, to see
with what pleasure they listened to all our disparagement of the Irish
volunteers.

Every instance we gave of insubordination or disobedience delighted
them, while our own blundering attempts to manage the people, the absurd
mistakes we fell into, and the endless misconceptions of their character
and habits, actually convulsed them with laughter.

‘Of course,’ said the bishop to us, ‘you are prepared to hear that
there is no love lost between you, and that they are to the full as
dissatisfied with you as you are dissatisfied with them?’

‘Why, what can they complain of?’ asked Charost, smiling; ‘we gave them
the place of honour in the very last engagement!’

‘Very true, you did so, and they reaped all the profit of the situation.
Monsieur Tiernay had just told the havoc that grape and round shot
scattered amongst the poor creatures. However, it is not of this they
complain--it is their miserable fare, the raw potatoes, their beds in
open fields and highways, while the French, they say, eat of the best
and sleep in blankets; they do not understand this inequality, and
perhaps it is somewhat hard to comprehend.’

‘Patriotism ought to be proud of such little sacrifices,’ said Charost,
with an easy laugh; ‘besides, it is only a passing endurance: a month
hence, less, perhaps, will see us dividing the spoils, and revelling in
the conquest of Irish independence.’

‘You think so, colonel?’ asked the bishop, half slyly.

‘_Parbleu!_ to be sure I do--and you?’

‘I’m just as sanguine,’ said the bishop, ‘and fancy that, about a month
hence, we shall be talking of all these things as matters of history;
and while sorrowing over some of the unavoidable calamities of the
event, preserving a grateful memory of some who came as enemies but left
us warm friends.’

‘If such is to be the turn of fortune,’ said Charost, with more
seriousness than before, ‘I can only say that the kindly feelings will
not be one-sided.’

And now the conversation became an animated discussion on the chances of
success or failure. Each party supported his opinion ably and eagerly,
and with a degree of freedom that was not a little singular to the
bystanders. At last, when Charost was fairly answered by the bishop on
every point, he asked--

‘But what say you to the Army of the North?’

‘Simply, that I do not believe in such a force,’ rejoined the bishop.

‘Not believe it--not believe on what General Humbert relies at this
moment, and to which that officer yonder is an accredited messenger!
When I tell you that a most distinguished Irishman, Napper Tandy----’

‘Napper Tandy!’ repeated the bishop, with a good-humoured smile; ‘the
name is quite enough to relieve one of any fears, if they ever felt
them. I am not sufficiently acquainted with your language to give him
the epithet he deserves, but if you can conceive an empty, conceited
man, as ignorant of war as of politics, rushing into a revolution for
the sake of a green uniform, and ready to convulse a kingdom that he may
be called a major-general, only enthusiastic in his personal vanity,
and wanting even in that heroic daring which occasionally dignifies weak
capacities--such is Napper Tandy.’

‘What in soldier-phrase we call a “Blague,”’ said Charost, laughing;
‘I’m sorry for it.’

What turn the conversation was about to take I cannot guess, when it was
suddenly interrupted by one of the bishop’s servants rushing into the
room, with a face bloodless from terror. He made his way up to where the
bishop sat, and whispered a few words in his ear.

‘And how is the wind blowing, Andrew?’ asked the bishop, in a voice that
all his self-command could not completely steady.

‘From the north, or the north-west, and mighty strong, too, my lord,’
said the man, who trembled in every limb.

The affrighted aspect of the messenger, the excited expression of the
bishop’s face, and the question as to the ‘wind,’ at once suggested to
me the idea that a French fleet had arrived in the bay, and that the
awful tidings were neither more nor less than the announcement of our
reinforcement.

‘From the north-west,’ repeated the bishop; ‘then, with God’s blessing,
we may be spared.’ And so saying, he arose from the table, and with an
effort that showed that the strength to do so had only just returned to
him.

‘Colonel Charost, a word with you!’ said he, leading the way into an
adjoining room.

‘What is it?--what has happened?--what can it be?’ was asked by each in
turn. And now groups gathered at the windows, which all looked into the
court of the building, now crowded with people, soldiers, servants, and
country-folk gazing earnestly towards the roof of the castle.

‘What’s the matter, Terry?’ asked one of the bishop’s sons, as he threw
open the window.

‘Tis the chimbley on fire, Master Robert,’ said the man; ‘the kitchen
chimbley, wid those divils of Frinch!’

I cannot describe the burst of laughter that followed the explanation.

So much terror for so small a catastrophe was inconceivable; and whether
we thought of Andrew’s horrified face, or the worthy bishop’s pious
thanksgiving as to the direction of the wind, we could scarcely refrain
from another outbreak of mirth. Colonel Charost made his appearance at
the instant, and although his step was hurried, and his look severe,
there was nothing of agitation or alarm on his features.

‘Turn out the guard, Truchet, without arms,’ said he. ‘Come with me,
Tiernay--an awkward business enough,’ whispered he, as he led me along.
‘These follows have set fire to the kitchen chimney, and we have three
hundred barrels of gunpowder in the cave!’ Nothing could be more easy
and unaffected than the way he spoke this; and I actually stared at
him, to see if his coldness was a mere pretence, but far from it--every
gesture and every word showed the most perfect self-possession, with a
prompt readiness for action.

When we reached the court, the bustle and confusion had reached its
highest, for, as the wind lulled, large masses of inky smoke hung, like
a canopy, overhead, through which a forked flame darted at intervals,
with that peculiar furnacelike roar that accompanies a jet of fire in
confined places. At times, too, as the soot ignited, great showers of
bright sparks floated upwards, and afterwards fell, like a fiery
rain, on every side. The country-people, who had flocked in from the
neighbourhood, were entirely occupied with these signs, and only intent
upon saving the remainder of the house, which they believed in great
peril, totally unaware of the greater and more imminent danger close
beside them.

Already they had placed ladders against the walls, and, with ropes and
buckets, were preparing to ascend, when Truchet marched in with his
company, in fatigue-jackets, twenty sappers with shovels accompanying
them.

‘Clear the courtyard, now,’ said Charost, ‘and leave this matter to us.’

The order was obeyed somewhat reluctantly, it is true, and at last we
stood the sole occupants of the spot, the bishop being the only civilian
present, he having refused to quit the spot, unless compelled by force.

The powder was stored in a long shed adjoining the stables, and
originally used as a shelter for farming tools and utensils. A few
tarpaulins we had carried with us from the ships were spread over the
barrels, and on this now some sparks of fire had fallen, as the burning
soot had been carried in by an eddy of wind.

The first order was, to deluge the tarpaulins with water; and while this
was being done, the sappers were ordered to dig trenches in the garden,
to receive the barrels. Every man knew the terrible peril so near him;
each felt that at any instant a frightful death might overtake him, and
yet every detail of the duty was carried on with the coldest unconcern;
and when at last the time came to carry away the barrels, on a species
of hand-barrow, the fellows stepped in time, as if on the march, and
moved in measure, a degree of indifference, which, to judge from the
good bishop’s countenance, evidently inspired as many anxieties for
their spiritual welfare as it suggested astonishment and admiration for
their courage.

He himself, it must be owned, displayed no sign of trepidation, and in
the few words he spoke, or the hints he dropped, exhibited every quality
of a brave man.

At moments the peril seemed very imminent indeed. Some timber having
caught fire, slender fragments of burning wood fell in masses, covering
the men as they went, and falling on the barrels, whence the soldiers
brushed them off with cool indifference. The dense, thick smoke, too,
obscuring every object a few paces distant, added to the confusion, and
occasionally bringing the going and returning parties into collision,
a loud shout, or cry, would ensue; and it is difficult to conceive how
such a sound thrilled through the heart at such a time. I own that more
than once I felt a choking fulness in the throat, as I heard a sudden
yell, it seemed so like a signal for destruction. In removing one of
the last barrels from the hand-barrow, it slipped, and, falling to the
ground, the hoops gave way, it burst open, and the powder fell out on
every side. The moment was critical, for the wind was baffling, now
wafting the sparks clear away, now whirling them in eddies around us. It
was then that an old sergeant of grenadiers threw off his upper coat and
spread it over the broken cask, while, with all the composure of a man
about to rest himself, he lay down on it, while his comrades went to
fetch water. Of course his peril was no greater than that of every one
around him, but there was an air of quick determination in his act which
showed the training of an old soldier. At length the labour was ended,
the last barrel was committed to the earth, and the men, formed into
line, were ordered to wheel and march. Never shall I forget the bishop’s
face as they moved past. The undersized and youthful look of our
soldiers had acquired for them a kind of depreciating estimate in
comparison with the more mature and manly stature of the British
soldier, to whom, indeed, they offered a strong contrast on parade;
but now, as they were seen in a moment of arduous duty, surrounded
by danger, the steadiness and courage, the prompt obedience to every
command, the alacrity of their movements and the fearless intrepidity
with which they performed every act, impressed the worthy bishop so
forcibly, that he muttered half aloud, ‘Thank Heaven there are so few of
them!’

Colonel Charost resisted steadily the bishop’s proffer to afford the
men some refreshment; he would not even admit of an extra allowance of
brandy to their messes. ‘If we become too liberal for slight services,
we shall never be able to reward real ones,’ was his answer; and the
bishop was reduced to the expedient of commemorating what he could not
reward. This, indeed, he did with the most unqualified praise, relating
in the drawing-room all that he had witnessed, and lauding French valour
and heroism to the very highest.

The better to conceal my route, and to avoid the chances of being
tracked, I sailed that evening in a fishing-boat for Killybegs, a small
harbour on the coast of Donegal, having previously exchanged my uniform
for the dress of a sailor, so that if apprehended I should pretend to
be an Ostend or Antwerp seaman, washed overboard in a gale at sea.
Fortunately for me I was not called on to perform this part, for as my
nautical experiences were of the very slightest, I should have made a
deplorable attempt at the impersonation. Assuredly the fishermen of the
smack would not have been among the number of the ‘imposed upon,’ for a
more sea-sick wretch never masqueraded in a blue jacket.

My only clue, when I touched land, was a certain Father Doogan, who
lived at the foot of the Bluerock Mountains, about fifteen miles from
the coast, and to whom I brought a few lines from one of the Irish
officers, a certain Bourke of Ballina. The road led in this direction,
and so little intercourse had the shore folk with the interior, that it
was with difficulty any one could be found to act as a guide thither.
At last an old fellow was discovered, who used to travel these
mountains formerly with smuggled tobacco and tea; and although, from
the discontinuance of the smuggling trade, and increased age, he had for
some years abandoned the line of business, a liberal offer of payment
induced him to accompany me as guide.

It was not without great misgivings that I looked at the very old and
almost decrepit creature who was to be my companion through a solitary
mountain region.

The few stairs he had to mount in the little inn where I put up seemed
a sore trial to his strength and chest; but he assured me that, once out
of the smoke of the town, and with his foot on the ‘short grass of the
sheep-patch,’ he’d be like a four-year-old; and his neighbour having
corroborated the assertion, I was fain to believe him.

Determined, however, to make his excursion subservient to profit in
his old vocation, he provided himself with some pounds of tobacco and
a little parcel of silk handkerchiefs, to dispose of amongst the
country-people, with which, and a little bag of meal slung at his back,
and a walking-stick in his hand, he presented himself at my door just as
the day was breaking.

‘We ‘ll have a wet day I fear, Jerry,’ said I, looking out.

‘Not a bit of it,’ replied he. ‘Tis the spring-tides makes it cloudy
there beyant; but when the sun gets up it will be a fine mornin’; but I
‘m thinkin’ ye ‘re strange in them parts’; and this he said with a keen,
sharp glance under his eyes.

‘Donegal is new to me, I confess,’ said I guardedly.

‘Yes, and the rest of Ireland, too,’ said he, with a roguish leer. ‘But
come along, we ‘ve a good step before us;’ and with these words he
led the way down the stairs, holding the balustrade as he went, and
exhibiting every sign of age and weakness. Once in the street, however,
he stepped out more freely, and, before we got clear of the town, walked
at a fair pace, and, to all seeming, with perfect ease.



CHAPTER XXVI. A REMNANT OF ‘FONTENOY’

There was no resisting the inquisitive curiosity of my companion. The
short dry cough, the little husky ‘ay,’ that sounded like anything
rather than assent, which followed on my replies to his questions, and,
more than all, the keen, oblique glances of his shrewd grey eyes, told
me that I had utterly failed in all my attempts at mystification, and
that he read me through and through.

‘And so,’ said he, at last, after a somewhat lengthy narrative of my
shipwreck, ‘and so the Flemish sailors wear spurs?’

‘Spurs! of course not; why should they?’ asked I, in some astonishment.

‘Well, but don’t they?’ asked he again.

‘No such thing; it would be absurd to suppose it.’

‘So I thought,’ rejoined he; ‘and when I looked at yer “honour’s” boots’
(it was the first time he had addressed me by this title of deference),
‘and saw the marks on the heels for spurs, I soon knew how much of a
sailor you were.’

‘And if not a sailor, what am I, then?’ asked I; for, in the loneliness
of the mountain region where we walked, I could afford to throw off my
disguise without risk.

‘Ye’re a French officer of dragoons, and God bless ye; but ye ‘re young
to be at the trade. Aren’t I right, now?’

‘Not very far from it, certainly, for I am a lieutenant of hussars,’
said I, with a little of that pride which we of the loose pelisse always
feel on the mention of our corps.

‘I knew it well all along,’ said he coolly; ‘the way you stood in the
room, your step as you walked, and, above all, how you believed me when
I spoke of the spring-tides, and the moon only in her second quarter,
I saw you never was a sailor, anyhow. And so I set a-thinking what you
were. You were too silent for a pedlar, and your hands were too white to
be in the smuggling trade; but when I saw your boots, I had the secret
at once, and knew ye were one of the French army that landed the other
day at Killala.’

‘It was stupid enough of me not to have remembered the boots!’ said I,
laughing.

‘Arrah, what use would it be,’ replied he; ‘sure ye ‘re too straight in
the back, and your walk is too regular, and your toes turns in too much,
for a sailor; the very way you hould a switch in your hand would betray
you!’

‘So it seems, then, I must try some other disguise,’ said I, ‘if I ‘m to
keep company with people as shrewd as you are.’

‘You needn’t,’ said he, shaking his head doubtfully; ‘any that wants to
betray ye wouldn’t find it hard.’

I was not much flattered by the depreciating tone in which he dismissed
my efforts at personation, and walked on for some time without speaking.

‘Yez came too late, four months too late,’ said he, with a sorrowful
gesture of the hands. ‘When the Wexford boys was up, and the Kildare
chaps, and plenty more ready to come in from the north, then, indeed, a
few thousand French down here in the west would have made a differ; but
what’s the good in it now? The best men we had are hanged or in gaol;
some are frightened; more are traitors! ‘Tis too late--too late!’

‘But not too late for a large force landing in the north, to rouse the
island to another effort for liberty.’

‘Who would be the gin’ral?’ asked he suddenly.

‘Napper Tandy, your own countryman,’ replied I proudly.

‘I wish ye luck of him!’ said he, with a bitter laugh; ‘‘tis more like
mocking us than anything else the French does be, with the chaps they
sent here to be gin’rals. Sure it isn’t Napper Tandy, nor a set of young
lawyers like Tone and the rest of them, we wanted. It was men that knew
how to drill and manage troops--fellows that was used to fightin’; so
that when they said a thing, we might believe that they understhood it,
at laste. I ‘m ould enough to remimber the “Wild Geese,” as they used
to call them--the fellows that ran away from this to take sarvice in
France; and I remimber, too, the sort of men the French were that came
over to inspect them--soldiers, real soldiers, every inch of them. And a
fine sarvice it was. _Volte-face!_ cried he, holding himself erect, and
shouldering his stick like a musket, _marche!_ Ha, ha! ye didn’t think
that was in me; but I was at the thrade long before you were born.’

‘How is this?’ said I, in amazement; ‘you were not in the French army?’

‘Wasn’t I, though? maybe I didn’t get that stick there.’ And he bared
his breast as he spoke, to show the cicatrix of an old flesh-wound from
a Highlander’s bayonet. ‘I was at Fontenoy!’

The last few words he uttered with a triumphant pride that I shall never
forget. As for me, the mere name was magical. ‘Fontenoy’ was like one of
those great words which light up a whole page of history; and it almost
seemed impossible that I should see before me a soldier of that glorious
battle.

‘Ay, faith!’ he added, ‘‘tis more than fifty, ‘tis nigh sixty years
now since that, and I remember it as if it was yesterday. I was in
the regiment “Tourville”; I was recruited for the “Dillon,” but they
scattered us about among the other corps afterwards, because we used now
and then to be fighting and quarrellin’ among one another. Well, it was
the Dillons that gained the battle; for after the English was in the
village of Fontenoy, and the French was falling back upon the heights
near the wood--arrah, what’s the name of the wood? Sure, I’ll forget
my own name next. Ay, to be sure, Verzon--the “Wood of Verzon.” Major
Jodillon--that’s what the French called him, but his name was Joe
Dillon--turned an eight-pounder short round into a little yard of a
farmhouse, and making a breach for the gun, he opened a dreadful fire on
the English column. It was loaded with grape, and at half-musket range,
so you may think what a peppering they got. At last the column halted
and lay down; and Joe seen an officer ride off to the rear, to bring up
artillery to silence our guns. A few minutes more and it would be all
over with us. So Joe shouts out as loud as he could, “Cavalry there!
tell off by threes, and prepare to charge.” I needn’t tell you that the
divil a horse nor a rider was within a mile of us at the time; but the
English didn’t know that, and, hearin’ the ordher, up they jumps, and we
heerd the word passin’, “Prepare to receive cavalry.” They formed square
at once, and the same minute we plumped into them with such a charge as
tore a lane right through the middle of them. Before they could recover,
we opened a platoon-fire on their flank; they staggered, broke, and at
last fell back in disorder upon Aeth, with the whole of the French army
after them. Such firin’--grape, round shot, and musketry--I never seed
afore, and we all shouting like divils, for it was more like a hunt nor
anything else; for ye see the Dutch never came up, but left the English
to do all the work themselves, and that’s the reason they couldn’t form,
for they had no supportin’ column.

‘It was then I got that stick of the bayonet, for there was such runnin’
that we only thought of pelting after them as hard as we could; but ye
see, there’s nothin’ so treacherous as a Highlander. I was just behind
one, and had my sword-point between his bladebones ready to run him
through, when he turned short about, and run his bayonet into me under
the short ribs, and that was all I saw of the battle; for I bled till I
fainted, and never knew more of what happened. ‘Tisn’t by way of
making little of Frenchmen I say it, for I sarved too long wid them for
that--but sorra taste of that victory ever they’d see if it wasn’t for
the Dillons, and Major Joe that commanded them! The English knows it
well, too! Maybe they don’t do us many a spite for it to this very day!’

‘And what became of you after that?’

‘That same summer I came over to Scotland with the young Prince Charles,
and was at the battle of Prestonpans afterwards! and, what’s worse, I
was at Culloden! Oh, that was the terrible day. We were dead bate before
we began the battle. We were on the march from one o’clock the night
before, under the most dreadful rain ever ye seen! We lost our way
twice, and after four hours of hard marching, we found ourselves
opposite a milldam we crossed early that same morning; for the guides
led us all astray! Then came ordhers to wheel about face and go back
again; and back we went, cursing the blaguards that deceived us, and
almost faintin’ with hunger. Some of us had nothing to eat for two days,
and the Prince, I seen myself, had only a brown bannock to a wooden
measure of whisky for his own breakfast. Well, it’s no use talking; we
were bate, and we retreated to Inverness that night, and next morning we
surrendered and laid down our arms--that is, the “Régiment do Tournay”
 and the “Voltigeurs de Metz,” the corps I was in myself.’

‘And did you return to France?’

‘No; I made my way back to Ireland, and after loiterin’ about home some
time, and not liking the ways of turning to work again, I took sarvice
with one Mister Brooke, of Castle Brooke, in Fermanagh, a young man that
was just come of age, and as great a divil, God forgive me, as ever was
spawned. He was a Protestant, but he didn’t care much about one side or
the other, but only wanted diversion and his own fun out of the world;
and faix he took it, too! He had plenty of money, was a fine man to look
at, and had courage to face a lion!

‘The first place we went to was Aix-la-Chapelle, for Mr. Brooke was
named something--I forget what--to Lord Sandwich, that was going there
as an Ambassador.

It was a grand life there while it lasted. Such liveries, such coaches,
such elegant dinners every day, I never saw even in Paris. But my master
was soon sent away for a piece of wildness he did. There was an ould
Austrian there--a Count Riedensegg was his name---and he was always
plottin’ and schamin’ with this, that, and the other; buyin’ up the
sacrets of others, and gettin’ at their private papers one way or the
other; and at last he begins to thry the same game with us; and as he
saw that Mr. Brooke was very fond of high play, and would bet anything
one offered him, the ould count sends for a great gambler from Vienna,
the greatest villain, they say, that ever touched a card. Ye may have
heerd of him, tho’ ‘twas long ago that he lived, for he was well known
in them times. He was the Baron von Breokendorf, and a great friend
afterwards of the Prince Ragint and all the other blaguards in London.

‘Well, sir, the baron arrives in great state, with despatches, they
said, but sorrow other despatch he carried nor some packs of marked
cards, and a dice-box that could throw sixes whenever ye wanted; and he
puts up at the Grand Hotel, with all his servants in fine liveries
and as much state as a prince. That very day Mr. Brooke dined with the
count, and in the evening himself and the baron sits down to the cards;
and, pretending to be only playin’ for silver, they were bettin’ a
hundred guineas on every game.

‘I always heerd that my master was cute with the cards, and that few
was equal to him in any game with pasteboard or ivory; but, be my
conscience, he met his match now, for if it was ould Nick was playin’ he
couldn’t do the thrick nater nor the baron. He made everything come up
just like magic: if he wanted a seven of diamonds, or an ace of spades,
or the knave of clubs, there it was for you.

‘Most gentlemen would have lost temper at seein’ the luck so dead agin’
them, and everything goin’ so bad; but my master only smiled, and
kept muttering to himself, “Faix, its beautiful; by my conscience its
elegant; I never saw anybody could do it like that.” At last the baron
stops and asks, “What is it he’s saying to himself?” “I’ll tell you
by-and-by,” says my master, “when we’re done playing”; and so on they
went, betting higher and higher, till at last the stakes wasn’t very
far from a thousand pounds on a single card. At the end, Mr. Brooke lost
everything, and in the last game, by way of generosity, the baron says
to him, “Double or quit?” and he tuk it.

‘This time luck stood to my master, and he turned the queen of hearts;
and as there was only one card could beat him, the game was all as one
as his own. The baron takes up the pack, and begins to deal. “Wait,”
 says my master, leaning over the table, and talking in a whisper;
“wait,” says he; “what are ye doin’ there wid your thumb?” for sure
enough he had his thumb dug hard into the middle of the pack.

‘“Do you mane to insult me?” says the baron, getting mighty red, and
throwing down the cards on the table. “Is that what you’re at?”

‘“Go on with the deal,” says Mr. Brooke quietly; “but listen to me,” and
here he dropped his voice to a whisper, “as sure as you turn the king
of hearts, I’ll send a bullet through your skull! Go on, now, and don’t
rise from that seat till you ‘ve finished the game.” Faix he just did as
he was bid; he turned a little two or three of diamonds, and gettin’ up
from the table, he left the room, and the next morning there was no
more seen of him in Aix-la-Chapelle. But that wasn’t the end of it, for
scarce was the baron two posts on his journey when my master sends in
his name, and says he wants to speak to Count Riedensegg. There was a
long time and a great debatin’, I believe, whether they’d let him in or
not; for the count couldn’t make if it was mischief he was after; but at
last he was ushered into the bedroom where the other was in bed.

‘“Count,” says he, after he fastened the door, and saw that they was
alone, “Count, you tried a dirty thrick with that dirty spalpeen of a
baron--an ould blaguard that’s as well known as Preney the robber--but
I forgive you for it all, for you did it in the way of business. I know
well what you was afther; you wanted a peep at our despatches--there, ye
needn’t look cross and angry--why wouldn’t ye do it, just as the baron
always took a sly glance at my cards before he played his own. Well,
now, I’m just in the humour to sarve you. They’re not trating me as they
ought here, and I’m going away, and if you’ll give me a few letthers
to some of the pretty women in Vienna, Katinka Batthyani, and Amalia
Gradoffseky, and one or two men in the best set, I’ll send you in return
something that will surprise you.”

‘It was after a long time and great batin’ about the bush, that the ould
count came in; but the sight of a sacret cipher did the business, and he
consented.

‘“There it is,” says Mr. Brooke, “there’s the whole key to our
correspondence; study it well, and I’ll bring you a sacret despatch in
the evening--something that will surprise you.”

‘“Ye will--will ye?” says the count.

‘“On the honour of an Irish gentleman, I will,” says Mr. Brooke.

‘The count sits down on the spot and writes the letters to all the
princesses and countesses in Vienna, saying that Mr. Brooke was the
elegantest, and politest, and most trusty young gentleman ever he met;
and telling them to treat him with every consideration.

‘“There will be another account of me,” says the master to me, “by the
post; but I ‘ll travel faster, and give me a fair start, and I ask no
more.”

‘And he was as good as his word, for he started that evening for Vienna,
without lave or license, and that’s the way he got dismissed from his
situation.’

‘And did he break his promise to the count, or did he really send him
any intelligence?’

‘He kept his word, like a gentleman; he promised him something
that would surprise him, and so he did. He sent him “The Weddin’ of
Ballyporeen” in cipher. It took a week to make out, and I suppose they
‘ve never got to the right understandin’ it yet.’

‘I’m curious to hear how he was received in Vienna, after this,’ said I.
‘I suppose you accompanied him to that city?’

‘Troth I did, and a short life we led there. But here we are now, at the
end of our journey. That’s Father Doogan’s down there, that small, low,
thatched house in the hollow.’

‘A lonely spot, too. I don’t see another near it for miles on any side.’

‘Nor is there. His chapel is at Murrah, about three miles off. My eyes
isn’t over good; but I don’t think there’s any smoke coming out of the
chimley.’

‘You are right--there is not.’

‘He’s not at home, then, and that’s a bad job for us, for there’s not
another place to stop the night in.’

‘But there will be surely some one in the house.’

‘Most likely not; ‘tis a brat of a boy from Murrah does be with him when
he’s at home, and I’m sure he’s not there now.’

This reply was not very cheering, nor was the prospect itself much
brighter. The solitary cabin, to which we were approaching, stood in
a rugged glen, the sides of which were covered with a low furze,
intermixed here and there with the scrub of what once had been an oak
forest. A brown, mournful tint was over everything--sky and landscape
alike; and even the little stream of clear water that wound its twining
course along took the same colour from the gravelly bed it flowed over.
Not a cow nor sheep was to be seen, nor even a bird; all was silent and
still.

‘There’s few would like to pass their lives down there, then!’ said my
companion, as if speaking to himself.

‘I suppose the priest, like a soldier, has no choice in these matters.’

‘Sometimes he has, though. Father Doogan might have had the pick of the
county, they say; but he chose this little quiet spot here. He’s a friar
of some ordher abroad, and when he came over, two or three years ago, he
could only spake a little Irish, and, I believe, less English; but there
wasn’t his equal for other tongues in all Europe. They wanted him to
stop and be the head of a college somewhere in Spain, but he wouldn’t.
“There was work to do in Ireland,” he said, and there he’d go, and to
the wildest and laste civilised bit of it besides; and ye see that he
was not far ont in his choice when he took Murrah.’

‘Is he much liked here by the people?’

‘They’d worship him, if he’d let them, that’s what it is; for if he has
more larnin’ and knowledge in his head than ever a bishop in Ireland,
there’s not a child in the barony his equal for simplicity. He that
knows the names of the stars, and what they do be doing, and where the
world’s going, and what’s comin’ afther her, hasn’t a thought for the
wickedness of this life, no more than a sucking infant! He could tell
you every crop to put in your ground from this to the day of judgment,
and I don’t think he’d know which end of the spade goes into the
ground.’

While we were thus talking, we reached the door, which, as well as the
windows, was closely barred and fastened. The great padlock, however,
on the former, with characteristic acuteness, was looked without being
hasped, so that, in a few seconds, my old guide had undone all the
fastenings, and we found ourselves under shelter.

A roomy kitchen, with a few cooking utensils, formed the entrance hall;
and as a small supply of turf stood in one corner, my companion at once
proceeded to make a fire, congratulating me as he went on with the fact
of our being housed, for a long-threatening thunderstorm had already
burst, and the rain was now swooping along in torrents.

While he was thus busied, I took a ramble through the little cabin,
curious to see something of the ‘interior’ of one whose life had already
interested me. There were but two small chambers, one at either side of
the kitchen. The first I entered was a bedroom, the only furniture being
a common bed, or a tressel like that of a hospital, a little coloured
print of St. Michael adorning the wall overhead. The bed-covering was
cleanly, but patched in many places, and bespeaking much poverty, and
the black ‘soutane’ of silk that hung against the wall seemed to show
long years of service. The few articles of any pretensions to comfort
were found in the sitting-room, where a small book-shelf with some
well-thumbed volumes, and a writing-table covered with papers, maps, and
a few pencil-drawings, appeared. All seemed as if he had just quitted
the spot a few minutes before; the pencil lay across a half-finished
sketch; two or three wild plants were laid within, the leaves of a
little book on botany; and a chess problem, with an open book beside it,
still waited for solution on a little board, whose workmanship clearly
enough betrayed it to be by his own hands.

I inspected everything with an interest inspired by all I had been
hearing of the poor priest, and turned over the little volumes of his
humble library, to trace, if I might, some due to his habits in his
readings. They were all, however, of one cast and character--religious
tracts and offices, covered with annotations and remarks, and showing
by many signs the most careful and frequent perusal. It was easy to see
that his taste for drawing or for chess were the only dissipations he
permitted himself to indulge. What a strange life of privation, thought
I, alone and companionless as he must be! and while speculating on the
sense of duty which impelled such a man to accept a post so humble and
unpromising, I perceived that on the wall right opposite to me there
hung a picture, covered by a little curtain of green silk.

Curious to behold the saintly effigy so carefully enshrined, I drew
aside the curtain, and what was my astonishment to find a little
coloured sketch of a boy about twelve years old, dressed in the tawdry
and much-worn uniform of a drummer. I started. Something flashed
suddenly across my mind, that the features, the dress, the air, were not
unknown to me. Was I awake, or were my senses misleading me? I took
it down and held it to the light, and as well as my trembling hands
permitted, I spelled out at the foot of the drawing, the words ‘Le Petit
Maurice, as I saw him last.’ Yes, it was my own portrait, and the words
were in the writing of my dearest friend in the world, the Père Michel.
Scarce knowing what I did, I ransacked books and papers on every side,
to confirm my suspicions, and although his name was nowhere to be found,
I had no difficulty in recognising his hand, now so forcibly recalled to
my memory.

Hastening into the kitchen, I told my guide that I must set out to
Murrah at once, that it was, above all, important that I should see the
priest immediately. It was in vain that he told me he was unequal to the
fatigue of going farther, that the storm was increasing, the mountain
torrents were swelling to a formidable size, that the path could not be
discovered after dark; I could not brook the thought of delay, and would
not listen to the detail of difficulties. ‘I must see him and I will,’
were my answers to every obstacle. If I were resolved on one side, he
was no less obstinate on the other; and after explaining with patience
all the dangers and hazards of the attempt, and still finding me
unconvinced, he boldly declared that I might go alone, if I would, but
that he would not leave the shelter of a roof, such a night, for any
one.

There was nothing in the shape of argument I did not essay. I tried
bribery, I tried menace, flattery, intimidation, all--and all with
the like result. ‘Wherever he is to-night, he’ll not leave it, that’s
certain,’ was the only satisfaction he would vouchsafe, and I retired
beaten from the contest, and disheartened. Twice I left the cottage,
resolved to make the journey alone, but the utter darkness of the night,
the torrents of rain that beat against my face, soon showed me the
impracticability of the attempt, and I retraced my steps crest-fallen
and discomfited. The most intense curiosity to know how and by what
chances he had come to Ireland mingled with my ardent desire to meet
him. What stores of reminiscence had we to interchange! Nor was it
without pride that I bethought me of the position I then held--an
officer of a hussar regiment, a soldier of more than one campaign, and
high on the list for promotion. If I hoped, too, that many of the good
father’s prejudices against the career I followed would give way to the
records of my own past life, I also felt how, in various respects, I
had myself conformed to many of his notions. We should be dearer, closer
friends than ever. This I was sure of.

I never slept the whole night through. Tired and weary as the day’s
journey had left me, excitement was still too strong for repose, and I
walked up and down, lay for half an hour on my bed, rose to look out,
and peer for coming dawn. Never did hours lag so lazily. The darkness
seemed to last for an eternity, and when at last day did break, it was
through the lowering gloom of skies still charged with rain, and an
atmosphere loaded with vapour.

‘This is a day for the chimney-corner, and thankful to have it we ought
to be,’ said my old guide, as he replenished the turf fire, at which
he was preparing our breakfast. ‘Father Doogan will be home here afore
night, I’m sure, and as we have nothing better to do, I’ll tell you some
of our old adventures when I lived with Mr. Brooke. Twill sarve to pass
the time, anyway.’

‘I’m off to Murrah, as soon as I have eaten something,’ replied I.

‘Tis little you know what a road it is,’ said he, smiling dubiously.
‘‘Tis four mountain rivers you ‘d have to cross, two of them, at least,
deeper than your head, and there’s the pass of Barnascorney, where you
‘d have to turn the side of a mountain, with a precipice hundreds of
feet below you, and a wind blowing that would wreck a seventy-four!
There ‘s never a man in the barony would venture over the same path with
a storm ragin’ from the nor’-west.’

‘I never heard of a man being blown away off a mountain,’ said I,
laughing contemptuously.

‘Arrah, didn’t ye, then? then maybe ye never lived in parts where the
heaviest ploughs and harrows that can be laid in the thatch of a cabin
are flung here and there, like straws, and the strongest timbers torn
out of the walls, and scattered for miles along the coast, like the
spars of a shipwreck.’

‘But so long as a man has hands to grip with----’

‘How ye talk! sure, when the wind can tear the strongest trees up by
the roots; when it rolls big rocks fifty and a hundred feet out of their
place; when the very shingle on the mountain-side is flying about like
dust and sand, where would your grip be? It is not only on the mountains
either, but down in the plains, ay, even in the narrowest glens, that
the cattle lies down under shelter of the rocks; and many’s the time a
sheep, or even a heifer, is swept away off the cliffs into the sea.’

With many an anecdote of storm and hurricane he seasoned our little
meal of potatoes. Some curious enough, as illustrating the precautionary
habits of a peasantry, who, on land, experience many of the vicissitudes
supposed peculiar to the sea; others too miraculous for easy credence,
but yet vouched for by him with every affirmative of truth. He displayed
all his powers of agreeability and amusement, but his tales fell on
unwilling ears, and when our meal was over I started up and began to
prepare for the road.

‘So you will go, will you?’ said he peevishly. ‘‘Tis in your country
to be obstinate, so I ‘ll say nothing more; but maybe ‘tis only into
throubles you ‘d be running, after all!’

‘I’m determined on it,’ said I, ‘and I only ask you to tell me what road
to take.’

‘There is only one, so there is no mistakin’ it; keep to the sheep-path,
and never leave it except at the torrents; you must pass them how ye
can. And when ye come to four big rocks in the plain, leave them to your
left, and keep the side of the mountain for two miles, till ye see the
smoke of the village underneath you. Murrah is a small place, and ye’ll
have to look out sharp, or maybe ye’ll miss it.’

‘That’s enough,’ said I, putting some silver in his hand as I pressed
it. ‘We ‘ll probably meet no more; good-bye, and many thanks for your
pleasant company.’

‘No, we’re not like to meet again,’ said he thoughtfully, ‘and that’s
the reason I’d like to give you a bit of advice. Hear me, now,’ said
he, drawing closer and talking in a whisper; ‘you can’t go far in this
country without being known; ‘tisn’t your looks alone, but your voice,
and your tongue, will show what ye are. Get away out of it as fast as
you can! there’s thraitors in every cause, and there’s chaps in Ireland
would rather make money as informers than earn it by honest industry.
Get over to the Scotch islands; get to Islay or Barra; get anywhere out
of this for the time.’

‘Thanks for the counsel,’ said I, somewhat coldly, ‘I’ll have time to
think over it as I go along;’ and with these words I set forth on my
journey.



CHAPTER XXVII. THE CRANAGH

I will not weary my reader with a narrative of my mountain walk, nor
the dangers and difficulties which beset me on that day of storm
and hurricane. Few as were the miles to travel, what with accidents,
mistakes of the path, and the halts to take shelter, I only reached
Murrah as the day was declining.

The little village, which consisted of some twenty cabins, occupied a
narrow gorge between two mountains, and presented an aspect of greater
misery than I had ever witnessed before, not affording even the humblest
specimen of a house of entertainment. From some peasants that were
lounging in the street I learned that ‘Father Doogan’ had passed through
two days before in company with a naval officer, whom they believed to
be French. At least ‘he came from one of the ships in the lough, and
could speak no English.’ Since that the priest had not returned, and
many thought that he had gone away for ever. This story varied in a few
unimportant particulars. I also learned that a squadron of several sail
had, for three or four days, been lying at the entrance of Lough Swilly,
with, it was said, large reinforcements for the ‘army of independence.’
There was then no time to be lost; here was the very force which I had
been sent to communicate with; there were the troops that should at that
moment be disembarking. The success of my mission might all depend now
on a little extra exertion, and so I at once engaged a guide to conduct
me to the coast; and having fortified myself with a glass of mountain
whisky I felt ready for the road.

My guide could only speak a very little English, so that our way was
passed in almost unbroken silence; and as, for security, he followed the
least frequented paths, we scarcely met a living creature as we went.
It was with a strange sense of half pride, half despondency, that I
bethought me of my own position there--a Frenchman alone, and separated
from his countrymen--in a wild mountain region of Ireland, carrying
about him documents that, if detected, might peril his life; involved in
a cause that had for its object the independence of a nation, and that
against the power of the mightiest kingdom in Europe. An hour earlier or
later, an accident by the way, a swollen torrent, a chance impediment of
any kind that should delay me--and what a change might that produce in
the whole destiny of the world!

The despatches I carried conveyed instructions the most precise and
accurate: the places for combined action of the two armies--information
as to the actual state of parties, and the condition of the native
forces, was contained in them. All that could instruct the newly-come
generals, or encourage them to decisive measures, were there; and yet,
on what narrow contingencies did their safe arrival depend! It was thus,
in exaggerating to myself the part I played--in elevating my humble
position into all the importance of a high trust--that I sustained my
drooping spirits, and acquired energy to carry me through fatigue and
exhaustion. During that night, and the greater part of the following
day, we walked on, almost without halt, scarcely eating, and, except by
an occasional glass of whisky, totally unrefreshed; and, I am free to
own, that my poor guide--a barelegged youth of about seventeen,
without any of those high-sustaining illusions which stirred within my
heart--suffered far less either from hunger or weariness than I did.
So much for motives. A shilling or two were sufficient to equalise
the balance against all the weight of my heroism and patriotic ardour
together.

A bright sun, and a sharp wind from the north, had succeeded to the
lowering sky and heavy atmosphere of the morning, and we travelled along
with light hearts and brisk steps, breasting the side of a steep ascent,
from the summit of which, my guide told me, I should behold the sea--the
sea! not only the great plain on which I expected to see our armament,
but the link which bound me to my country! Suddenly, just as I turned
the angle of a cliff, it burst upon my sight--one vast mirror of golden
splendour--appearing almost at my feet! In the yellow gleams of a
setting sun, long columns of azure-coloured light streaked its calm
surface, and tinged the atmosphere with a warm and rosy hue. While I
was lost in admiration of the picture, I heard the sound of voices close
beneath me, and, on looking down, saw two figures who, with telescope
in hand, were steadily gazing on a little bay that extended towards the
west.

At first, my attention was more occupied by the strangers than by the
object of their curiosity, and I remarked that they were dressed and
equipped like sportsmen, their guns and game-bags lying against the rock
behind them.

‘Do you still think that they are hovering about the coast, Tom?’ said
the elder of the two, ‘or are you not convinced, at last, that I am
right?’

‘I believe you are,’ replied the other; ‘but it certainly did not
look like it yesterday evening, with their boats rowing ashore every
half-hour, signals flying, and blue lights burning; all seemed to
threaten a landing.’

‘If they ever thought of it they soon changed their minds,’ said the
former. ‘The defeat of their comrades in the west, and the apathy of the
peasantry here, would have cooled down warmer ardour than theirs. There
they go, Tom. I only hope that they’ll fall in with Warren’s squadron,
and French insolence receive at sea the lesson we failed to give them on
land.’

‘Not so,’ rejoined the younger; ‘Humbert’s capitulation, and the total
break up of the expedition, ought to satisfy-even your patriotism.’

‘It fell far short of it, then!’ cried the other. ‘I’d never have
treated those fellows other than as bandits and freebooters. I’d have
hanged them as highwaymen. Theirs was less war than rapine; but what
could you expect? I have been assured that Humbert’s force consisted of
little other than liberated felons and galley-slaves--the refuse of the
worst population of Europe!’

Distracted with the terrible tidings I had overheard--overwhelmed with
the sight of the ships, now glistening like bright specks on the verge
of the horizon, I forgot my own position--my safety--everything but the
insult thus cast upon my gallant comrades.

‘Whoever said so was a liar, and a base coward, to boot!’ cried I,
springing down from the height and confronting them both where they
stood. They started back, and, seizing their guns, assumed an attitude
of defence, and then, quickly perceiving that I was alone--for the boy
had taken to flight as fast as he could--they stood regarding me with
faces of intense astonishment.

‘Yes,’ said I, still boiling with passion, ‘you are two to one, on your
own soil besides, the odds you are best used to; and yet I repeat it,
that he who asperses the character of General Humbert’s force is a
liar.’

‘He’s French.’

‘No, he’s Irish,’ muttered the elder.

‘What signifies my country, sirs,’ cried I passionately, ‘if I demand
retraction for a falsehood.’

‘It signifies more than you think of, young man,’ said the elder calmly,
and without evincing even the slightest irritation in his manner. ‘If
you be a Frenchman born, the lenity of our Government accords you the
privilege of a prisoner of war. If you be only French by adoption, and a
uniform, a harsher destiny awaits you.’

‘And who says I am a prisoner yet?’ asked I, drawing myself up, and
staring them steadily in the face.

‘We should be worse men, and poorer patriots than you give us credit
for, or we should be able to make you so,’ said he quietly; ‘but this is
no time for ill-temper on either side. The expedition has failed. Well,
if you will not believe me, read that. There, in that paper, you will
see the official account of General Humbert’s surrender at Boyle. The
news is already over the length and breadth of the island; even if you
only landed last night I cannot conceive how you should be ignorant of
it!’ I covered my face with my hands to hide my emotion; and he went on:
‘If you be French you have only to claim and prove your nationality, and
you partake the fortunes of your countrymen.’

‘And if he be not,’ whispered the other, in a voice which, although low,
I could still detect, ‘why should we give him up?’

‘Hush, Tom, be quiet,’ replied the elder, ‘let him plead for himself.’

‘Let me see the newspaper,’ said I, endeavouring to seem calm and
collected; and, taking it at the place he pointed out, I read the
heading in capitals, ‘Capitulation of General Humbert and his whole
Force.’ I could see no more. I could not trace the details of so
horrible a disaster, nor did I ask to know by what means it occurred.
My attitude and air of apparent occupation, however, deceived the
other; and the elder, supposing that I was engaged in considering the
paragraph, said, ‘You’ll see the Government proclamation on the other
side--a general amnesty to all under the rank of officers in the rebel
army, who give up their arms within six days. The French to be treated
as prisoners of war.’

‘Is he too late to regain the fleet?’ whispered the younger.

‘Of course he is. They are already hull down; besides, who’s to assist
his escape, Tom? You forget the position he stands in.’

‘But I do not forget it,’ answered I; ‘and you need not be afraid that
I will seek to compromise you, gentlemen. Tell me where to find the
nearest justice of the peace, and I will go and surrender myself.’

‘It is your wisest and best policy,’ said the elder. ‘I am not in the
commission, but a neighbour of mine is, and lives a few miles off, and,
if you like, we ‘ll accompany you to his house.’

I accepted the offer, and soon found myself descending the steep path
of the mountain in perfect good-fellowship with the two strangers. It
is likely enough, if they had taken any peculiar pains to obliterate the
memory of our first meeting, or if they had displayed any extraordinary
efforts of conciliation, that I should have been on my guard against
them; but their manners, on the contrary, were easy and unaffected
in every respect. They spoke of the expedition sensibly and
dispassionately, and while acknowledging that there were many things
they would like to see altered in the English rule of Ireland, they were
very averse from the desire of a foreign intervention to rectify them.

I avowed to them that we had been grossly deceived. That all the
representations made to us depicted Ireland as a nation of soldiers,
wanting only arms and military stores to rise as a vast army. That the
peasantry were animated by one spirit, and the majority of the gentry
willing to hazard everything on the issue of a struggle. Our Killala
experiences, of which I detailed some, heartily amused them, and it was
in a merry interchange of opinions that we now walked along together.

A cluster of houses, too small to be called a village, and known as the
‘Cranagh,’ stood in a little nook of the bay; and here they lived. They
were brothers; and the elder held some small appointment in the revenue,
which maintained them as bachelors in this cheap country. In a low
conversation that passed between them it was agreed that they would
detain me as their guest for that evening, and on the morrow accompany
me to the magistrate’s house, about five miles distant. I was not sorry
to accept their hospitable offer. I longed for a few hours of rest and
respite before embarking on another sea of troubles. The failure of
the expedition, and the departure of the fleet, had overwhelmed me with
grief, and I was in no mood to confront new perils.

If my new acquaintances could have read my inmost thoughts, their manner
towards me could not have displayed more kindness or good-breeding.
Not pressing me with questions on subjects where the greatest curiosity
would have been permissible, they suffered me to tell only so much as I
wished of our late plans; and, as if purposely to withdraw my thoughts
from the unhappy theme of our defeat, led me to talk of France, and her
career in Europe.

It was not without surprise that I saw how conversant the newspapers had
made them with European politics, nor how widely different did events
appear when viewed from afar off, and by the lights of another and
different nationality. Thus all that we were doing on the Continent to
propagate liberal notions, and promote the spread of freedom, seemed to
their eyes but the efforts of an ambitious power to crush abroad
what they had annihilated at home, and extend their own influence in
disseminating doctrines, all to revert, one day or other, to some grand
despotism, whenever the man arose capable to exercise it. The elder
would not even concede to us that we were fit for freedom.

‘You are glorious fellows at destroying an old edifice,’ said he,
‘but sorry architects when comes the question of rebuilding; and as
to liberty, your highest notion of it is an occasional anarchy like
schoolboys, you will bear any tyranny for ten years, to have ten days of
a “barring out” afterward.’

I was not much flattered by these opinions; and, what was worse, I could
not get them out of my head all night afterwards. Many things I had
never doubted about now kept puzzling and confounding me, and I began,
for the first time, to know the misery of the struggle between implicit
obedience and conviction.



CHAPTER XXVIII. SOME NEW ACQUAINTANCES

I went to bed at night in all apparent health; save from the flurry and
excitement of an anxious mind, I was in no respect different from my
usual mood; and yet, when I awoke next morning, my head was distracted
with a racking pain, cramps were in all my limbs, and I could not turn
or even move without intense suffering. The long exposure to rain, while
my mind was in a condition of extreme excitement, had brought on
an attack of fever, and before evening set in, I was raving in wild
delirium. Every scene I had passed through, each eventful incident of my
life, came flashing in disjointed portions through my poor brain, and
I raved away of France, of Germany, of the dreadful days of terror,
and the fearful orgies of the ‘Revolution.’ Scenes of strife and
struggle--the terrible conflicts of the streets--all rose before me;
and the names of every blood-stained hero of France now mingled with the
obscure titles of Irish insurrection.

What narratives of my early life I may have given--what stories I may
have revealed of my strange career, I cannot tell; but the interest my
kind hosts took in me grew stronger every day. There was no care nor
kindness they did not lavish on me. Taking alternate nights to sit up
with me, they watched beside my bed like brothers. All that affection
could give they rendered me; and even from their narrow fortunes they
paid a physician, who came from a distant town to visit me. When I was
sufficiently recovered to leave my bed, and sit at the window, or stroll
slowly in the garden, I became aware of the full extent to which their
kindness had carried them, and in the precautions for secrecy I saw
the peril to which my presence exposed them. From an excess of delicacy
towards me, they did not allude to the subject, nor show the slightest
uneasiness about the matter; but day by day some little circumstance
would occur, some slight and trivial fact reveal the state of anxiety
they lived in.

They were averse, too, from all discussion of late events, and either
answered my questions vaguely or with a certain reserve; and when I
hinted at my hope of being soon able to appear before a magistrate and
establish my claim as a French citizen, they replied that the moment
was an unfavourable one: the lenity of the Government had latterly been
abused, their gracious intentions misstated and perverted--that, in
fact, a reaction towards severity had occurred, and military law and
courts-martial were summarily disposing of cases that a short time back
would have received the mildest sentences of civil tribunals. It was
clear, from all they said, that if the rebellion was suppressed, the
insurrectionary feeling was not extinguished, and that England was the
very reverse of tranquil on the subject of Ireland.

It was to no purpose that I repeated my personal indifference to all
these measures of severity, that in my capacity as a Frenchman and an
officer I stood exempt from all the consequences they alluded to. Their
reply was, that in times of trouble and alarm things were done which
quieter periods would never have sanctioned, and that indiscreet and
over-zealous men would venture on acts that neither law nor justice
could substantiate. In fact, they gave me to believe, that such was the
excitement of the moment, such the embittered vengeance of those whose
families or fortunes had suffered by the rebellion, that no reprisals
would be thought too heavy, nor any harshness too great, for those who
aided the movement.

Whatever I might have said against the injustice of this proceeding, in
my secret heart I had to confess that it was only what might have been
expected; and coming from a country where it was enough to call a man an
aristocrat, and then cry _à la lanterne!_ I saw nothing unreasonable in
it all.

My friends advised me, therefore, instead of preferring any formal claim
to immunity, to take the first occasion of escaping to America, whence I
could not fail, later on, of returning to France. At first, the counsel
only irritated me, but by degrees, as I came to think more calmly and
seriously of the difficulties, I began to regard it in a different
light; and at last I fully concurred in the wisdom of the advice, and
resolved on adopting it.

To sit on the cliffs, and watch the ocean for hours, became now the
practice of my life--to gaze from daybreak almost to the falling of
night oyer the wide expanse of sea, straining my eyes at each sail, and
conjecturing to what distant shore they were tending. The hopes which at
first sustained at last deserted me, as week after week passed over,
and no prospect of escape appeared. The life of inactivity gradually
depressed my spirits, and I fell into a low and moping condition, in
which my hours rolled over without thought or notice. Still, I returned
each day to my accustomed spot, a lofty peak of rock that stood over the
sea, and from which the view extended for miles on every side. There,
half hid in the wild heath, I used to lie for hours long, my eyes bent
upon the sea, but my thoughts wandering away to a past that never was to
be renewed, and a future I was never destined to experience.

Although late in the autumn, the season was mild and genial, and the
sea calm and waveless, save along the shore, where, even in the stillest
weather, the great breakers came tumbling in with a force independent of
storm; and, listening to their booming thunder, I have dreamed away
hour after hour unconsciously. It was one day, as I lay thus, that my
attention was caught by the sight of three large vessels on the very
verge of the horizon. Habit had now given me a certain acuteness, and I
could perceive from their height and size that they were ships of war.
For a while they seemed as if steering for the entrance of the lough,
but afterwards they changed their course, and headed towards the west.
At length they separated, and one of smaller size, and probably a
frigate from her speed, shot forward beyond the rest, and, in less
than half an hour, disappeared from view. The other two gradually
sank beneath the horizon, and not a sail was to be seen over the
wide expanse. While speculating on what errand the squadron might be
employed, I thought I could hear the deep and rolling sound of distant
cannonading. My ear was too practised in the thundering crash of the
breakers along shore to confound the noises; and as I listened I fancied
that I could distinguish the sound of single guns from the louder roar
of a whole broadside. This could not mean saluting, nor was it likely
to be a mere exercise of the fleet. They were not times when much powder
was expended un-profitably. Was it then an engagement? But with what or
whom? Tandy’s expedition, as it was called, had long since sailed, and
must ere this have been captured or safe in France. I tried a hundred
conjectures to explain the mystery, which now, from the long continuance
of the sounds, seemed to denote a desperately contested engagement. It
was not till after three hours that the cannonading ceased, and then I
could descry a thick dark canopy of smoke that hung hazily over one spot
in the horizon, as if marking out the scene of the struggle. With what
aching, torturing anxiety I burned to know what had happened, and with
which side rested the victory!

Well habituated to hear of the English as victors in every naval
engagement, I yet went on hoping against hope itself, that Fortune might
for once have favoured us; nor was it till the falling night prevented
my being able to trace out distant objects, that I could leave the spot
and turn homewards. With wishes so directly opposed to theirs, I did not
venture to tell my two friends what I had witnessed, nor trust myself
to speak on a subject where my feelings might have betrayed me into
unseemly expressions of my hopes. I was glad to find that they knew
nothing of the matter, and talked away indifferently of other subjects.
By daybreak the next morning I was at my post, a sharp nor’-wester
blowing, and a heavy sea rolling in from the Atlantic. Instinctively
carrying my eyes to the spot where I had heard the cannonade, I could
distinctly see the tops of spars, as if the upper rigging of some
vessels beyond the horizon.

Gradually they rose higher and higher, till I could detect the yard-arms
and cross-trees, and finally the great hulls of five vessels that were
bearing towards me.

For above an hour I could see their every movement, as with all canvas
spread they held on majestically towards the land, when at length a
lofty promontory of the bay intervened, and they were lost to my view.
I jumped to my legs at once, and set off down the cliff to reach the
headland, from whence an uninterrupted prospect extended. The distance
was greater than I had supposed, and in my eagerness to take a direct
line to it, I got entangled in difficult gorges among the hills, and
impeded by mountain torrents which often compelled me to go back a
considerable distance; it was already late in the afternoon as I gained
the crest of a ridge over the bay of Lough Swilly. Beneath me lay the
calm surface of the lough, landlocked and still; but farther out seaward
there was a sight that made my very limbs tremble, and sickened my heart
as I beheld it. There was a large frigate, that, with studding-sails
set, stood boldly up the bay, followed by a dismasted three-decker, at
whose mizzen floated the ensign of England over the French tricolour.
Several other vessels were grouped about the offing, all of them
displaying English colours.

The dreadful secret was out. There had been a tremendous sea-fight, and
the _Hoche_, of seventy-four guns, was the sad spectacle which, with
shattered sides and ragged rigging, I now beheld entering the bay. Oh,
the humiliation of that sight! I can never forget it. And although on
all the surrounding hills scarcely fifty country-people were assembled,
I felt as if the whole of Europe were spectators of our defeat. The
flag I had always believed triumphant now hung ignominiously beneath the
ensign of the enemy, and the decks of our noble ship were crowded with
the uniforms of English sailors and marines.

The blue water surged and spouted from the shot-holes as the great hull
loomed heavily from side to side, and broken spars and ropes still
hung over the side, as she went, a perfect picture of defeat. Never was
disaster more legibly written. I watched her till the anchor dropped,
and then, in a burst of emotion, I turned away, unable to endure more.
As I hastened homeward I met the elder of my two hosts coming to meet
me, in considerable anxiety. He had heard of the capture of the _Hoche_,
but his mind was far more intent on another and less important event.
Two men had just been at his cottage with a warrant for my arrest.
The document bore my name and rank, as well as a description of my
appearance, and significantly alleged that, although Irish by birth, I
affected a foreign accent for the sake of concealment.

‘There is no chance of escape now,’ said my friend; ‘we are surrounded
with spies on every hand. My advice is, therefore, to hasten to Lord
Cavan’s quarters--he is now at Letterkenny--and give yourself up as a
prisoner. There is at least the chance of your being treated like the
rest of your countrymen. I have already provided you with a horse and a
guide, for I must not accompany you myself. Go, then, Maurice. We shall
never see each other again; but we’ll not forget you, nor do we fear
that you will forget us. My brother could not trust himself to take
leave of you, but his best wishes and prayers go with you.’

Such were the last words my kind-hearted friend spoke to me; nor do I
know what reply I made, as, overcome by emotion, my voice became
thick and broken. I wanted to tell all my gratitude, and yet could say
nothing. To this hour I know not with what impression of me he went
away. I can only assert, that in all the long career of vicissitudes of
a troubled and adventurous life, these brothers have occupied the chosen
spot of my affection for everything that was disinterested in kindness
and generous in good feeling.

They have done more; for they have often reconciled me to a world
of harsh injustice and illiberality, by remembering that two such
exceptions existed, and that others may have experienced what fell to my
lot.

For a mile or two my way lay through the mountains, but after reaching
the highroad I had not proceeded far when I was overtaken by a
jaunting-car, on which a gentleman was seated, with his leg supported by
a cushion, and bearing all the signs of a severe injury.

‘Keep the near side of the way, sir, I beg of you,’ cried he; ‘I have a
broken leg, and am excessively uneasy when a horse passes close to me.’

I touched my cap in salute, and immediately turned my horse’s head to
comply with his request.

‘Did you see that, George?’ cried another gentleman, who sat on the
opposite side of the vehicle; ‘did you remark that fellow’s salute? My
life on’t he’s a French soldier.’

‘Nonsense, man; he’s the steward of a Clyde smack, or a clerk in a
counting-house,’ said the first, in a voice which, though purposely low,
my quick hearing could catch perfectly.

‘Are we far from Letterkenny just now, sir?’ said the other, addressing
me.

‘I believe about five miles,’ said I, with a prodigious effort to make
my pronunciation pass muster.

‘You’re a stranger in these parts, I see, sir,’ rejoined he, with a
cunning glance at his friend, while he added, lower, ‘Was I right,
Hill?’

Although seeing that all concealment was now hopeless, I was in nowise
disposed to plead guilty at once, and therefore, with a cut of my
switch, pushed my beast into a sharp canter to get forward.

My friends, however, gave chase, and now the jaunting-car,
notwithstanding the sufferings of the invalid, was clattering after me
at about nine miles an hour. At first I rather enjoyed the malice of
the penalty their curiosity was costing, but as I remembered that the
invalid was not the chief offender, I began to feel compunction at the
severity of the lesson, and drew up to a walk.

They at once shortened their pace, and came up beside me.

‘A clever hack you’re riding, sir,’ said the inquisitive man.

‘Not so bad for an animal of this country,’ said I superciliously.

‘Oh, then, what kind of a horse are you accustomed to?’ asked he, half
insolently.

‘The Limousin,’ said I coolly, ‘what we always mount in our hussar
regiments in France.’

‘And you are a French soldier, then,’ cried he, in evident astonishment
at my frankness.

‘At your service, sir,’ said I, saluting; ‘a lieutenant of hussars; and
if you are tormented by any further curiosity concerning me, I may
as well relieve you by stating that I am proceeding to Lord Cavan’s
headquarters to surrender as a prisoner.’

‘Frank enough that!’ said he of the broken leg, laughing heartily as he
spoke. ‘Well, sir,’ said the other, ‘you are, as your countrymen would
call it, _bien venu_, for we are bound in that direction ourselves, and
will be happy to have your company.’

One piece of tact my worldly experience had profoundly impressed upon
me, and that was, the necessity of always assuming an air of easy
unconcern in every circumstance of doubtful issue. There was quite
enough of difficulty in the present case to excite my anxiety, but I
rode along beside the jaunting-car, chatting familiarly with my new
acquaintances, and, I believe, without exhibiting the slightest degree
of uneasiness regarding my own position.

From them I learned so much as they had heard of the late naval
engagement. The report was that Bompard’s fleet had fallen in with Sir
John Warren’s squadron; and having given orders for his fastest sailers
to make the best of their way to France, had, with the _Hoche_, the
_Loire_, and the _Resolve_, given battle to the enemy. These had all
been captured, as well as four others which fled, two alone of the whole
succeeding in their escape. I think now, that, grievous as these tidings
were, there was nothing of either boastfulness or insolence in the tone
in which they were communicated to me. Every praise was accorded to
Bompard for skill and bravery, and the defence was spoken of in terms
of generous eulogy. The only trait of acrimony that showed itself in the
recital was a regret that a number of Irish rebels should have escaped
in the _Biche_, one of the smaller frigates; and several emissaries of
the people, who had been deputed to the admiral, were also alleged to
have been on board of that vessel.

‘You are sorry to have missed your friend the priest of Murrah,’ said
Hill jocularly.

‘Yes, by George, that fellow should have graced a gallows if I had been
lucky enough to have taken him.’

‘What was his crime, sir?’ asked I, with seeming unconcern.

‘Nothing more than exciting to rebellion a people with whom he had no
tie of blood or kindred! He was a Frenchman, and devoted himself to the
cause of Ireland,* as they call it, from pure sympathy----’

‘And a dash of Popery,’ broke in Hill.

‘It’s hard to say even that; my own opinion is, that French Jacobinism
cares very little for the Pope. Am I right, young gentleman--you don’t
go very often to confession?’

‘I should do so less frequently if I were to be subjected to such a
system of interrogatory as yours,’ said I tartly.

They both took my impertinent speech in good part, and laughed heartily
at it; and thus, half amicably, half in earnest, we entered the little
town of Letterkenny, just as night was falling.

‘If you’ll be our guest for this evening, sir,’ said Hill, ‘we shall be
happy to have your company.’

I accepted the invitation, and followed them into the inn.



CHAPTER XXIX. THE BREAKFAST AT LETTERKENNY

Early the next morning, a messenger arrived from the Cranagh, with a
small packet of my clothes and effects, and a farewell letter from the
two brothers. I had but time to glance over its contents when the tramp
of feet and the buzz of voices in the street attracted me to the window,
and on looking out I saw a long line of men, two abreast, who were
marching along as prisoners, a party of dismounted dragoons keeping
guard over them on either side, followed by a strong detachment of
marines. The poor fellows looked sad and crest-fallen enough. Many of
them wore bandages on their heads and limbs, the tokens of the late
struggle. Immediately in front of the inn door stood a group of about
thirty persons; they were the staff of the English force, and the
officers of our fleet, all mingled together, and talking away with
the greatest air of unconcern. I was struck by remarking that all our
seamen, though prisoners, saluted the officers as they passed, and in
the glances interchanged I thought I could read a world of sympathy
and encouragement. As for the officers, like true Frenchmen they bore
themselves as though it were one of the inevitable chances of war, and,
however vexatious for the moment, not to be thought of as an event of
much importance. The greater number of them belonged to the army, and I
could see the uniforms of the staff, artillery and dragoons, as well as
the less distinguished costume of the line.

Perhaps they carried the affectation of indifference a little too far,
and in the lounging ease of their attitude, and the cool unconcern
with which they puffed their cigars, displayed an over-anxiety to seem
unconcerned.

That the English were piqued at their bearing was still more plain to
see; and indeed, in the sullen looks of the one, and the careless gaiety
of the other party, a stranger might readily have mistaken the captor
for the captive.

My two friends of the evening before were in the midst of the group. He
who had questioned me so sharply now wore a general officer’s uniform,
and seemed to be the chief in command. As I watched him I heard him
addressed by an officer, and now saw that he was no other than Lord
Cavan himself, while the other was a well-known magistrate and country
gentleman, Sir George Hill.

The sad procession took almost half an hour to defile; and then came a
long string of country cars and carts, with sea-chests and other
stores belonging to our officers, and, last of all, some eight or ten
ammunition-waggons and gun-carriages, over which an English union-jack
now floated in token of conquest.

There was nothing like exultation or triumph exhibited by the peasantry
as this pageant passed. They gazed in silent wonderment at the scene,
and looked like men who scarcely knew whether the result boded more of
good or evil to their own fortunes. While keenly scrutinising the looks
and bearing of the bystanders, I received a summons to meet the general
and his party at breakfast.

Although the occurrence was one of the most pleasurable incidents of my
life, which brought me once more into intercourse with my comrades and
my countrymen, I should perhaps pass it over with slight mention, were
it not that it made me witness to a scene which has since been recorded
in various different ways, but of whose exact details I profess to be an
accurate narrator.

After making a tour of the room, saluting my comrades, answering
questions here, putting others there, I took my place at the long table,
which, running the whole length of the apartment, was indiscriminately
occupied by French and English, and found myself with my back to
the fireplace, and having directly in front of me a man of about
thirty-three or thirty-four years of age, dressed in the uniform of a
_chef de brigade_; light-haired and blue-eyed, he bore no resemblance
whatever to those around him, whose dark faces and black beards
proclaimed them of a foreign origin. There was an air of mildness in his
manner, mingled with a certain impetuosity that betrayed itself in the
rapid glances of his eye, and I could plainly mark that while the rest
were perfectly at their ease, he was constrained, restless, watching
eagerly everything that went forward about him, and showing unmistakably
a certain anxiety and distrust, widely differing from the gay and
careless indifference of his comrades. I was curious to hear his name,
and on asking, learned that he was the _Chef de Brigade_ Smith, an
Irishman by birth, but holding a command in the French service.

I had but asked the question, when, pushing back his chair from the
table, he arose suddenly, and stood stiff and erect, like a soldier on
parade.

‘Well, sir, I hope you are satisfied with your inspection of me,’ cried
he, and sternly, addressing himself to some one behind my back. I turned
and perceived it was Sir George Hill, who stood in front of the fire,
leaning on his stick. Whether he replied or not to this rude speech I am
unable to say, but the other walked leisurely round the table and came
directly in front of him. ‘You know me now, sir, I presume,’ said he,
in the same imperious voice, ‘or else this uniform has made a greater
change in my appearance than I knew of.’

‘Mr. Tone!’ said Sir George, in a voice scarcely above a whisper.

‘Ay, sir, Wolfe Tone; there is no need of secrecy here; Wolfe Tone, your
old college acquaintance in former times, but now _chef de brigade_ in
the service of France.’

‘This is a very unexpected, a very unhappy meeting, Mr. Tone,’ said Hill
feelingly; ‘I sincerely wish you had not recalled the memory of our past
acquaintance. My duty gives me no alternative.’

‘Your duty, or I mistake much, can have no concern with me, sir,’ cried
Tone, in a more excited voice.

‘I ask for nothing better than to be sure of this, Mr. Tone,’ said Sir
George, moving slowly towards the door.

‘You would treat me like an _émigré rentré?_ cried Tone passionately,
‘but I am a French subject and a French officer!’

‘I shall be well satisfied if others take the same view of your case, I
assure you,’ said Hill, as he gained the door.

‘You ‘ll not find me unprepared for either event, sir,’ rejoined Tone,
following him out of the room, and banging the door angrily behind him.

For a moment or two the noise of voices was heard from without, and
several of the guests, English and French, rose from the table, eagerly
inquiring what had occurred, and asking for an explanation of the scene,
when suddenly the door was flung wide open, and Tone appeared between
two policemen, his coat off, and his wrists inclosed in handcuffs.

‘Look here, comrades,’ he cried in French; ‘this is another specimen of
English politeness and hospitality. After all,’ added he, with a bitter
laugh, ‘they have no designation in all their heraldry as honourable as
these fetters, when worn for the cause of freedom! Good-bye, comrades;
we may never meet again, but don’t forget how we parted.’

These were the last words he uttered, when the door was closed, and he
was led forward under charge of a strong force of police and military.
A postchaise was soon seen to pass the windows at speed, escorted by
dragoons, and we saw no more of our comrade.

The incident passed even more rapidly than I write it. The few words
spoken, the hurried gestures, the passionate exclamations, are yet all
deeply graven on my memory; and I can recall every little incident of
the scene, and every feature of the locality wherein it occurred. With
true French levity many reseated themselves at the breakfast-table;
whilst others, with perhaps as little feeling, but more of curiosity,
discussed the event, and sought for an explanation of its meaning.

‘Then what’s to become of Tiernay,’ cried one, ‘if it be so hard
to throw off this “coil of Englishmen?” His position may be just as
precarious.’

‘That is exactly what has occurred,’ said Lord Cavan; ‘a warrant for his
apprehension has just been put into my hands, and I deeply regret
that the duty should violate that of hospitality, and make my guest my
prisoner.’

‘May I see this warrant, my lord?’ asked I.

‘Certainly, sir. Here it is; and here is the information on oath through
which it was issued, sworn to before three justices of the peace by a
certain Joseph Dowall, late an officer in the rebel forces, but now a
pardoned approver of the Crown; do you remember such a man, sir?’

I bowed, and he went on.

‘He would seem a precious rascal; but such characters become
indispensable in times like these. After all, M. Tiernay, my orders are
only to transmit you to Dublin under safe escort, and there is nothing
either in my duty or in your position to occasion any feeling of
unpleasantness between us. Let us have a glass of wine together.’

I responded to this civil proposition with politeness, and, after
a slight interchange of leave-takings with some of my newly-found
comrades, I set out for Derry on a jaunting-car, accompanied by
an officer and two policemen, affecting to think very little of a
circumstance which, in reality, the more I reflected over, the more
serious I deemed it.



CHAPTER XXX. SCENE IN THE ROYAL BARRACKS

It would afford me little pleasure to write, and doubtless my readers
less to read, my lucubrations as I journeyed along towards Dublin. My
thoughts seldom turned from myself and my own fortunes, nor were
they cheered by the scene through which I travelled. The season was a
backward and wet one, and the fields, partly from this cause, and partly
from the people being engaged in the late struggle, lay untilled and
neglected. Groups of idle, lounging peasants stood in the villages,
or loitered on the highroads as we passed, sad, ragged-looking, and
wretched. They seemed as if they had no heart to resume their wonted
life of labour, but were waiting for some calamity to close their
miserable existence. Strongly in contrast with this were the air
and bearing of the yeomanry and militia detachments with whom we
occasionally came up. Quite forgetting how little creditable to some
of them, at least, were the events of the late campaign, they gave
themselves the most intolerable airs of heroism, and in their drunken
jollity, and reckless abandonment, threatened, I know not what--utter
ruin to France and all Frenchmen. Bonaparte was the great mark of
their sarcasms, and, from some cause or other, seemed to enjoy a most
disproportioned share of their dislike and derision.

At first it required some effort of constraint on my part to listen to
this ribaldry in silence; but prudence, and a little sense, taught me
the safer lesson of ‘never minding,’ and so I affected to understand
nothing that was said in a spirit of insult or offence.

On the night of the 7th of November we drew nigh to Dublin; but instead
of entering the capital, we halted at a small village outside of it,
called Ghapelizod. Here a house had been fitted up for the reception of
French prisoners, and I found myself, if not in company, at least under
the same roof, with my countrymen.

Nearer intercourse than this, however, I was not destined to enjoy, for
early on the following morning I was ordered to set out for the Royal
Barracks, to be tried before a court-martial. It was on a cold, raw
morning, with a thin, drizzly rain falling, that we drove into the
barrack-yard, and drew up at the mess-room, then used for the purposes
of a court. As yet none of the members had assembled, and two or three
mess-waiters were engaged in removing the signs of last night’s
debauch, and restoring a semblance of decorum to a very rackety-looking
apartment. The walls were scrawled over with absurd caricatures, in
charcoal or ink, of notorious characters of the capital, and a very
striking ‘battle-piece’ commemorated the ‘Races of Castlebar,’ as that
memorable action was called, in a spirit, I am bound to say, of
little flattery to the British arms. There were, to be sure, little
compensatory illustrations here and there of French cavalry in Egypt,
mounted on donkeys, or revolutionary troops on parade, ragged as
scarecrows, and ill-looking as highwaymen; but a most liberal justice
characterised all these frescoes, and they treated both Trojan and
Tyrian alike.

I had abundant time given me to admire them, for although summoned for
seven o’clock, it was nine before the first officer of the court-martial
made his appearance, and he having popped in his head, and perceiving
the room empty, sauntered out again, and disappeared. At last a very
noisy jaunting-car rattled into the square, and a short, red-faced
man was assisted down from it, and entered the mess-room. This was Mr.
Peters, the Deputy Judge Advocate, whose presence was the immediate
signal for the others, who now came dropping in from every side, the
President, a Colonel Daly, arriving the last.

A few tradespeople, loungers, it seemed to me, of the barracks, and some
half-dozen non-commissioned officers off duty, made up the public; and I
could not but feel a sense of my insignificance in the utter absence of
interest my fate excited. The listless indolence and informality, too,
offended and insulted me; and when the President politely told me to
be seated, for they were obliged to wait for some books or papers left
behind at his quarters, I actually was indignant at his coolness.

As we thus waited, the officers gathered round the fireplace, chatting
and laughing pleasantly together, discussing the social events of the
capital, and the gossip of the day; everything, in fact, but the case of
the individual on whose future fate they were about to decide.

At length the long-expected books made their appearance, and a few
well-thumbed volumes were spread over the table, behind which the Court
took their places, Colonel Daly in the centre, with the judge upon his
left.

The members being sworn, the Judge Advocate arose, and in a hurried,
humdrum kind of voice, read out what purported to be the commission
under which I was to be tried; the charge being, whether I had or had
not acted treacherously and hostilely to his Majesty, whose natural-born
subject I was, being born in that kingdom, and, consequently, owing to
him all allegiance and fidelity. ‘Guilty or not guilty, sir?’

‘The charge is a falsehood; I am a Frenchman,’ was my answer.

‘Have respect for the Court, sir,’ said Peters; ‘you mean that you are a
French officer, but by birth an Irishman.’

‘I mean no such thing--that I am French by birth, as I am in
feeling--that I never saw Ireland till within a few months back, and
heartily wish I had never seen it.’

‘So would General Humbert, too, perhaps,’ said Daly, laughing; and the
Court seemed to relish the jest.

‘Where were you born, then, Tiernay?’

‘In Paris, I believe.’

‘And your mother’s name, what was it?’

‘I never knew; I was left an orphan when a mere infant, and can tell
little of my family.’

‘Your father was Irish, then?’

‘Only by descent. I have heard that we came from a family who bore the
title of “Timmahoo”---Lord Tiernay of Timmahoo.’

‘There was such a title,’ interposed Peters; ‘it was one of King James’s
last creations after his flight from the Boyne. Some, indeed, assert
that it was conferred before the battle. What a strange coincidence, to
find the descendant, if he be such, labouring in something like the same
cause as his ancestor.’

‘What’s your rank, sir?’ asked a sharp, severe-looking man, called Major
Flood.

‘First Lieutenant of Hussars.’

‘And is it usual for a boy of your years to hold that rank; or was there
anything peculiar in your case that obtained the promotion?’

‘I served in two campaigns, and gained my grade regularly.’

‘Your Irish blood, then, had no share in your advancement?’ asked he
again.

‘I am a Frenchman, as I said before,’ was my answer.

‘A Frenchman, who lays claim to an Irish estate and an Irish title,’
replied Flood. ‘Let us hear Dowall’s statement.’

And now, to my utter confusion, a man made his way to the table, and,
taking the book from the Judge Advocate, kissed it in token of an oath.

‘Inform the Court of anything you know in connection with the prisoner,’
said the judge.

And the fellow, not daring even to look towards me, began a long,
rambling, unconnected narrative of his first meeting with me at Killala,
affecting that a close intimacy had subsisted between us, and that,
in the faith of a confidence, I had told him how, being an Irishman by
birth, I had joined the expedition in the hope that with the expulsion
of the English I should be able to re-establish my claim to my family
rank and fortune. There was little coherence in his story, and more
than one discrepant statement occurred in it; but the fellow’s natural
stupidity imparted a wonderful air of truth to the narrative, and I
was surprised how naturally it sounded even to my own ears, little
circumstances of truth being interspersed through the recital, as though
to season the falsehood into a semblance of fact.

‘What have you to reply to this, Tiernay?’ asked the colonel.

‘Simply, sir, that such a witness, were his assertions even more
consistent and probable, is utterly unworthy of credit. This fellow was
one of the greatest marauders of the rebel army; and the last exercise
of authority I ever witnessed by General Humbert was an order to drive
him out of the town of Castlebar.’

‘Is this the notorious Town-major Dowall?’ asked an officer of
artillery.

‘The same, sir.’

‘I can answer, then, for his being one of the greatest rascals
unhanged,’ rejoined he.

‘This is all very irregular, gentlemen,’ interposed the Judge Advocate;
‘the character of a witness cannot be impugned by what is mere desultory
conversation. Let Dowall withdraw.’

The man retired, and now a whispered conversation was kept up at the
table for about a quarter of an hour, in which I could distinctly
separate those who befriended from those who opposed me, the major being
the chief of the latter party. One speech of his which I overheard made
a slight impression on me, and for the first time suggested uneasiness
regarding the event.

‘Whatever you do with this lad must have an immense influence on Tone’s
trial. Don’t forget that if you acquit him, you’ll be sorely puzzled to
convict the other.’

The colonel promptly overruled this unjust suggestion, and maintained
that in my accent, manner, and appearance, there was every evidence of
my French origin.

‘Let Wolfe Tone stand upon his own merits,’ said he, ‘but let us not mix
this case with his.’

‘I’d have treated every man who landed to a rope,’ exclaimed the major,
‘Humbert himself among the rest. It was pure “brigandage,” and nothing
less.’

‘I hope if I escape, sir, that it will never be my fortune to see you a
prisoner of France,’ said I, forgetting all in my indignation.

‘If my voice have any influence, young man, that opportunity is not
likely to occur to you,’ was the reply.

This ungenerous speech found no sympathy with the rest, and I soon saw
that the major represented a small minority in the Court.

The want of my commission, or of any document suitable to my rank or
position in the service, was a great drawback; for I had given all my
papers to Humbert, and had nothing to substantiate my account of myself.
I saw how unfavourably this acknowledgment was taken by the Court; and
when I was ordered to withdraw that they might deliberate, I own that I
felt great misgivings as to the result.

The deliberation was a long, and, as I could overhear, a strongly
disputed one. Dowall was twice called in for examination, and when he
retired on the last occasion the discussion grew almost stormy.

As I stood thus awaiting my fate, the public, now removed from the
court, pressed eagerly to look at me; and while some thronged the
doorway, and even pressed against the sentry, others crowded at the
window to peep in. Among these faces, over which my eye ranged in half
vacancy, one face struck me, for the expression of sincere sympathy and
interest it bore. It was that of a middle-aged man of a humble walk in
life, whose dress bespoke him from the country. There was nothing in his
appearance to have called for attention or notice, and at any other time
I should have passed him over without remark; but now, as his features
betokened a feeling almost verging on anxiety, I could not regard him
without interest.

Whichever way my eyes turned, however my thoughts might take me off,
whenever I looked towards him I was sure to find his gaze steadily bent
upon me, and with an expression quite distinct from mere curiosity. At
last came the summons for me to reappear before the Court, and the crowd
opened to let me pass in.

The noise, the anxiety of the moment, and the movement of the people
confused me at first; and when I recovered self-possession, I found
that the Judge Advocate was reciting the charge under which I was tried.
There were three distinct counts, on each of which the Court pronounced
me ‘Not Guilty,’ but at the same time qualifying the finding by the
additional words--‘by a majority of two’; thus showing me that my escape
had been a narrow one.

‘As a prisoner of war,’ said the President, ‘you will now receive the
same treatment as your comrades of the same rank. Some have been already
exchanged, and some have given bail for their appearance to answer any
future charges against them.’

‘I am quite ready, sir, to accept my freedom on parole,’ said I; ‘of
course, in a country where I am an utter stranger, bail is out of the
question.’

‘I’m willing to bail him, your worship; I’ll take it on me to be surety
for him,’ cried a coarse, husky voice from the body of the court; and
at the same time a man dressed in a greatcoat of dark frieze pressed
through the crowd and approached the table.

‘And who are you, my good fellow, so ready to impose yourself on the
Court?’ asked Peters.

‘I’m a farmer of eighty acres of land, from the Black Pits, near
Baldoyle, and the adjutant there, Mr. Moore, knows me well.’

‘Yes,’ said the adjutant, ‘I have known you some years, as supplying
forage to the cavalry, and always heard you spoken of as honest and
trustworthy.’

‘Thank you, Mr. Moore; that’s as much as I want.’

‘Yes; but it’s not as much as we want, my worthy man,’ said Peters; ‘we
require to know that you are a solvent and respectable person.’

‘Come out and see my place, then; ride over the land and look at my
stock; ask my neighbours my character; find out if there’s anything
against me.’

‘We prefer to leave all that trouble on your shoulders,’ said Peters;
‘show us that we may accept your surety, and we ‘ll entertain the
question at once.’

‘How much is it?’ asked he eagerly.

‘We demanded five hundred pounds for a major on the staff; suppose we
say two, colonel, is that sufficient?’ asked Peters of the President.

‘I should say quite enough,’ was the reply.

‘There’s eighty of it, anyway,’ said the farmer, producing a dirty roll
of bank-notes, and throwing them on the table; ‘I got them from Mr.
Murphy in Smithfield this morning, and I’ll get twice as much more from
him for asking; so if your honours will wait till I come back, I’ll not
be twenty minutes away.’

‘But we can’t take your money, my man; we have no right to touch it.’

‘Then what are ye talking about two hundred pounds for?’ asked he
sternly.

‘We want your promise to pay in the event of this bail being broken.’

‘Oh, I see, it’s all the same thing in the end; I’ll do it either way.’

‘We’ll accept Mr. Murphy’s guarantee for your solvency,’ said Peters;
‘obtain that, and you can sign the bond at once.’

‘‘Faith, I’ll get it, sure enough, and be here before you’ve the writing
drawn out,’ said he, buttoning up his coat.

‘What name are we to insert in the bond?’ ‘Tiernay, sir.’

‘That’s the prisoner’s name, but we want yours.’ ‘Mine’s Tiernay, too,
sir; Pat Tiernay of the Black Pits.’

Before I could recover from my surprise at this announcement he had left
the court, which in a few minutes afterwards broke up, a clerk alone
remaining to fill up the necessary documents and complete the bail-bond.

The colonel, as well as two others of his officers, pressed me to join
them at breakfast, but I declined, resolving to wait for my namesake’s
return, and partake of no other hospitality than his.

It was near one o’clock when he returned, almost worn out with fatigue,
since he had been in pursuit of Mr. Murphy for several hours, and only
came upon him by chance at last. His business, however, he had fully
accomplished; the bail-bond was duly drawn out and signed, and I left
the barrack in a state of mind very different from the feeling with
which I had entered it that day.



CHAPTER XXXI. A BRIEF CHANGE OF LIFE AND COUNTRY

My new acquaintance never ceased to congratulate himself on what he
called the lucky accident that had led him to the barracks that morning,
and thus brought about our meeting. ‘Little as you think of me, my
dear,’ said he, ‘I’m one of the Tiernays of Timmahoo myself; faix, until
I saw you, I thought I was the last of them! There are eight generations
of us in the churchyard at Kells, and I was looking to the time when
they’d lay my bones there as the last of the race, but I see there’s
better fortune before us.’

‘But you have a family, I hope?’

‘Sorrow one belonging to me. I might have married when I was young,
but there was a pride in me to look for something higher than I had any
right--except from blood I mean, for a better stock than our own
isn’t to be found; and that’s the way years went over and I lost the
opportunity, and here I am now an old bachelor, without one to stand to
me, barrin’ it be yourself.’

The last words were uttered with a tremulous emotion, and, on turning
towards him, I saw his eyes swimming with tears, and perceived that some
strong feeling was working within him.

‘You can’t suppose I can ever forget what I owe you, Mr. Tiernay.’

‘Call me Pat, Pat Tiernay,’ interrupted he roughly.

‘I ‘ll call you what you please,’ said I, ‘if you let me add friend to
it.’

‘That’senough; we understand one another now--no more need be said.
You’ll come home and live with me It’s not long, maybe, you’ll have to
do that same; but when I go you ‘ll be heir to what I have. ‘Tis more,
perhaps, than many supposes, looking at the coat and the gaiters I am
wearin’. Mind, Maurice, I don’t want you, nor I don’t expect you, to
turn farmer like myself. You need never turn a hand to anything. You ‘ll
have your horse to ride--two, if you like it. Your time will be all your
own, so that you spend a little of it now and then with me, and as much
divarsion as ever you care for.’

I have condensed into a few words the substance of a conversation
which lasted till we reached Baldoyle; and passing through that not
over-imposing village, gained the neighbourhood of the sea-shore, along
which stretched the farm of the ‘Black Pits,’ a name derived, I was
told, from certain black holes that were dug in the sands by fishermen
in former times, when the salt tide washed over the pleasant fields
where corn was now growing. A long, low, thatched cabin, with far more
indications of room and comfort than pretension to the picturesque,
stood facing the sea. There were neither trees nor shrubs around it,
and the aspect of the spot was bleak and cheerless enough, a colouring a
dark November day did nothing to dispel.

It possessed one charm, however; and had it been a hundred times
inferior to what it was, that one would have compensated for all else--a
hearty welcome met me at the door, and the words, ‘This is your home,
Maurice,’ filled my heart with happiness.

Were I to suffer myself to dwell even in thought on this period of my
life, I feel how insensibly I should be led away into an inexcusable
prolixity. The little meaningless incidents of my daily life, all so
engraven on my memory still, occupied me pleasantly from day till
night. Not only the master of myself and my own time, I was master of
everything around me. Uncle Pat, as he loved to call himself, treated me
with a degree of respect that was almost painful to me, and only when
we were alone together did he relapse into the intimacy of equality. Two
first-rate hunters stood in my stable; a stout-built half-deck boat lay
at my command beside the quay; I had my gun and my greyhounds; books,
journals; everything, in short, that a liberal purse and a kind spirit
could confer--all but acquaintance. Of these I possessed absolutely
none. Too proud to descend to intimacy with the farmers and small
shopkeepers of the neighbourhood, my position excluded me from
acquaintance with the gentry; and thus I stood between both, unknown to
either.

For a while my new career was too absorbing to suffer me to dwell on
this circumstance. The excitement of field-sports sufficed me when
abroad, and I came home usually so tired at night that I could
barely keep awake to amuse Uncle Pat with those narratives of war and
campaigning he was so fond of hearing. To the hunting-field succeeded
the Bay of Dublin, and I passed days, even weeks, exploring every creek
and inlet of the coast--now cruising under the dark cliffs of the Welsh
shore, or, while my boat lay at anchor, wandering among the solitary
valleys of Lambay, my life, like a dream full of its own imaginings, and
unbroken by the thoughts or feelings of others! I will not go the length
of saying that I was self-free from all reproach on the inglorious
indolence in which my days were passed, or that my thoughts never
strayed away to that land where my first dreams of ambition were felt.
But a strange fatuous kind of languor had grown upon me, and the more I
retired within myself, the less did I wish for a return to that struggle
with the world which every active life engenders. Perhaps--I cannot now
say if it were so--perhaps I resented the disdainful distance with
which the gentry treated me, as we met in the hunting-field or the
coursing-ground. Some of the isolation I preferred may have had this
origin, but choice had the greater share in it, until at last my
greatest pleasure was to absent myself for weeks on a cruise, fancying
that I was exploring tracts never visited by man, and landing on spots
where no human foot had ever been known to tread.

If Uncle Pat would occasionally remonstrate on the score of these long
absences, he never ceased to supply means for them; and my sea-store and
a well-filled purse were never wanting, when the blue-peter floated from
_La Hoche_, as in my ardour I had named my cutter. Perhaps at heart
he was not sorry to see me avoid the capital and its society. The
bitterness which had succeeded the struggle for independence was now at
its highest point, and there was what, to my thinking at least, appeared
something like the cruelty of revenge in the sentences which followed
the state trials. I will not suffer myself to stray into the debatable
ground of politics, nor dare I give an opinion on matters, where, with
all the experience of fifty years superadded, the wisest heads are
puzzled how to decide; but my impression at the time was that lenity
would have been a safer and a better policy than severity, and that in
the momentary prostration of the country, lay the precise conjuncture
for those measures of grace and favour which were afterwards rather
wrung from than conceded by the English Government. Be this as it may,
Dublin offered a strange spectacle at that period. The triumphant joy
of one party--the discomfiture and depression of the other. All the
exuberant delight of success here, all the bitterness of failure there.
On one side, festivities, rejoicings, and public demonstrations; on the
other, confinement, banishment, or the scaffold.

The excitement was almost madness. The passion for pleasure, restrained
by the terrible contingencies of the time, now broke forth with
redoubled force, and the capital was thronged with all its rank, riches,
and fashion, when its gaols were crowded, and the heaviest sentences of
the law were in daily execution. The state-trials were crowded by all
the fashion of the metropolis; and the heart-moving eloquence of Curran
was succeeded by the strains of a merry concert. It was just then, too,
that the great lyric poet of Ireland began to appear in society, and
those songs which were to be known afterwards as ‘The Melodies,’ _par
excellence_, were first heard in all the witching enchantment which his
own taste and voice could lend them. To such as were indifferent to
or could forget the past, it was a brilliant period. It was the last
flickering blaze of Irish nationality, before the lamp was extinguished
for ever.

Of this society I myself saw nothing. But even in the retirement of my
humble life the sounds of its mirth and pleasure penetrated, and I
often wished to witness the scenes which even in vague description were
fascinating. It was, then, in a kind of discontent at my exclusion, that
I grew from day to day more disposed to solitude, and fonder of
those excursions which led me out of all reach of companionship or
acquaintance. In this spirit I planned a long cruise down channel,
resolving to visit the island of Valentia, or, if the wind and weather
favoured, to creep around the south-west coast as far as Bantry or
Kenmare. A man and his son, a boy of about sixteen, formed all my crew,
and were quite sufficient for the light tackle and easy rig of my craft.
Uncle Pat was already mounted on his pony, and ready to set out for
market, as we prepared to start. It was a bright spring morning--such a
one as now and then the changeful climate of Ireland brings forth in a
brilliancy of colour and softness of atmosphere that are rare in even
more favoured lands.

‘You have a fine day of it, Maurice, and just enough wind,’ said he,
looking at the point from whence it came. ‘I almost wish I was going
with you.’

‘And why not come, then?’ asked I. ‘You never will give yourself a
holiday. Do so for once, now.’

‘Not to-day, anyhow,’ said he, half sighing at his self-denial. ‘I have
a great deal of business on my hands to-day, but the next time--the very
next you’re up to a long cruise, I’ll go with you.’

‘That’s a bargain, then?’

‘A bargain. Here’s my hand on it.’

We shook hands cordially on the compact. Little knew I it was to be for
the last time, and that we were never to meet again!

I was soon aboard, and with a free mainsail skimming rapidly over the
bright waters of the bay. The wind freshened as the day wore on, and
we quickly passed the Kish light-ship, and held our course boldly down
channel. The height of my enjoyment in these excursions consisted in
the unbroken quietude of mind I felt, when removed from all chance
interruption, and left free to follow out my own fancies and indulge my
dreamy conceptions to my heart’s content. It was then I used to revel in
imaginings which sometimes soared into the boldest realms of ambition,
and at others strayed contemplatively in the humblest walks of obscure
fortune. My crew never broke in upon these musings; indeed, old Tom
Finerty’s low crooning song rather aided than interrupted them. He was
not much given to talking, and a chance allusion to some vessel afar
off, or some headland we were passing, were about the extent of his
communicativeness, and even these often fell on my ear unnoticed.

It was thus, at night, we made the Hook Tower, and on the next day
passed, in a spanking breeze, under the bold cliffs of Tramore, just
catching, as the sun was sinking, the sight of Youghal Bay and the tall
headlands beyond it.

‘The wind is drawing more to the nor’ard,’ said old Tom, as night closed
in, ‘and the clouds look dirty.’

‘Bear her up a point or two,’ said I, ‘and let us stand in for Cork
Harbour if it comes on to blow.’

He muttered something in reply, but I did not catch the words, nor,
indeed, cared I to hear them, for I had just wrapped myself in my
boat-cloak, and, stretched at full length on the shingle ballast of the
yawl, was gazing in rapture at the brilliancy of the starry sky above
me. Light skiffs of feathery cloud would now and then flit past, and
a peculiar hissing sound of the sea told, at the same time, that the
breeze was freshening. But old Tom had done his duty in mentioning this
once, and thus having disburthened his conscience, he closehauled his
mainsail, shifted the ballast a little to midships, and, putting up the
collar of his pilot-coat, screwed himself tighter into the corner beside
the tiller, and chewed his quid in quietness. The boy slept soundly in
the bow, and I, lulled by the motion and the plashing waves, fell into a
dreamy stupor, like a pleasant sleep. The pitching of the boat continued
to increase, and twice or thrice struck by a heavy sea, she lay over,
till the white waves came tumbling in over her gunwale. I heard Tom call
to his boy something about the head-sail, but for the life of me I
could not or would not arouse myself from a train of thought that I was
following.

‘She’s a stout boat to stand this,’ said Tom, as he rounded her off at a
coming wave, which, even thus escaped, splashed over us like a cataract.
‘I know many a bigger craft wouldn’t hold up her canvas under such a
gale.’

‘Here it comes, father. Here’s a squall!’ cried the boy; and with a
crash like thunder, the wind struck the sail, and laid the boat half
under.

‘She’d float if she was full of water,’ said the old man, as the craft
‘righted.’

‘But maybe the spars wouldn’t stand,’ said the boy anxiously.

‘‘Tis what I ‘m thinking,’ rejoined the father. ‘There’s a shake in the
mast, below the caps.’

‘Tell him it’s better to bear up, and go before it,’ whispered the lad,
with a gesture towards where I was lying.

‘Troth, it’s little he’d care,’ said the other; ‘besides, he’s never
plazed to be woke up.’

‘Here it comes again!’ cried the boy. But this time the squall swept
past ahead of us, and the craft only reeled to the swollen waves, as
they tore by.

‘We ‘d better go about, sir,’ said Tom to me; ‘there’s a heavy sea
outside, and it’s blowing hard now.’

‘And there’s a split in the mast as long as my arm,’ cried the boy.

‘I thought she’d live through any sea, Tom!’ said I, laughing, for it
was his constant boast that no weather could harm her.

‘There goes the spar!’ shouted he, while with a loud snap the mast gave
way, and fell with a crash over the side. The boat immediately came head
to wind, and sea after sea broke upon her bow, and fell in great floods
over us.

‘Out away the stays--clear the wreck,’ cried Tom, ‘before the squall
catches her!’

And although we now laboured like men whose lives depended on the
exertion, the trailing sail and heavy rigging, shifting the ballast as
they fell, laid her completely over; and when the first sea struck her,
over she went. The violence of the gale sent me a considerable distance
out, and for several seconds I felt as though I should never reach the
surface again. Wave after wave rolled over me, and seemed bearing me
downwards with their weight. At last I grasped something; it was a
rope--a broken halyard; but by its means I gained the mast, which
floated alongside of the yawl as she now lay keel uppermost. With what
energy did I struggle to reach her! The space was scarcely a dozen
feet, and yet it cost me what seemed an age to traverse. Through all the
roaring of the breakers, and the crashing sounds of storm, I thought I
could hear my comrades’ voices shouting and screaming; but this was in
all likelihood a mere deception, for I never saw them more!

Grasping with a death-grip the slippery keel, I hung on to the boat
through all the night. The gale continued to increase, and by daybreak
it blew a perfect hurricane. With an aching anxiety I watched for light
to see if I were near the land, or if any ship were in sight; but when
the sun rose, nothing met my eyes but a vast expanse of waves tumbling
and tossing in mad confusion, while overhead some streaked and mottled
clouds were hurried along with the wind. Happily for me, I have no
correct memory of that long day of suffering. The continual noise, but
more still, the incessant motion of sea and sky around, brought on
a vertigo, that seemed like madness; and although the instinct of
self-preservation remained, the wildest and most incoherent fancies
filled my brain. Some of these were powerful enough to impress
themselves upon my memory for years after, and one I have never yet been
able to dispel. It clings to me in every season of unusual depression
or dejection; it recurs in the half-nightmare sleep of over-fatigue, and
even invades me when, restless and feverish, I lie for hours incapable
of repose. This is the notion that my state was one of afterlife
punishment; that I had died, and was now expiating a sinful life by the
everlasting misery of a castaway. The fever brought on by thirst and
exhaustion, and the burning sun which beamed down upon my uncovered
head, soon completed the measure of this infatuation, and all sense and
guidance left me.

By what instinctive impulse I still held on my grasp, I cannot explain;
but there I clung during the whole of that long dreadful day, and the
still more dreadful night, when the piercing cold cramped my limbs, and
seemed as if freezing the very blood within me. It was no wish for life,
it was no anxiety to save myself, that now filled me. It seemed like a
vague impulse of necessity that compelled me to hang on. It was, as it
were, part of that terrible sentence which made this my doom for ever!

An utter unconsciousness must have followed this state, and a dreary
blank, with flitting shapes of suffering, is all that remains to my
recollection.

*****

Probably within the whole range of human sensations, there is not one
so perfect in its calm and soothing influence as the first burst of
gratitude we feel when recovering from a long and severe illness. There
is not an object, however humble and insignificant, that is not for
the time invested with a new interest. The air is balmier, flowers are
sweeter, the voices of friends, the smiles and kind looks, are dearer
and fonder than we have ever known them. The whole world has put on a
new aspect for us, and we have not a thought that is not teeming with
forgiveness and affection. Such, in all their completeness, were my
feelings as I lay on the poop-deck of a large three-masted ship, which,
with studding and topgallant sails all set, proudly held her course up
the Gulf of St Lawrence.

She was a Danzig barque, the _Hoffnung_, bound for Quebec, her only
passengers being a Moravian minister and his wife, on their way to join
a small German colony established near Lake Champlain. To Gottfried
Kroller and his dear little wife I owe not life alone, but nearly all
that has made it valuable. With means barely removed from absolute
poverty, I found that they had spared nothing to assist in my recovery;
for, when discovered, emaciation and wasting had so far reduced me that
nothing but the most unremitting care and kindness could have succeeded
in restoring me. To this end they bestowed not only their whole time and
attention, but every little delicacy of their humble sea-store. All
the little cordials and restoratives, meant for a season of sickness
or debility, were lavished unsparingly on me, and every instinct of
national thrift and carefulness gave way before the more powerful
influence of Christian benevolence.

I can think of nothing but that bright morning, as I lay on a mattress
on the deck, with the ‘Pfarrer’ on one side of me, and his good little
wife, Lieschen, on the other; he with his volume of ‘Wieland,’ and she
working away with her long knitting-needles, and never raising her head
save to bestow a glance at the poor sick boy, whose bloodless lips were
trying to mutter her name in thankfulness. It is like the most delicious
dream as I think over those hours, when, rocked by the surging motion
of the large ship, hearing in half distinctness the words of
the ‘Pfarrer’s’ reading, I followed out little fancies--now
self-originating, now rising from the theme of the poet’s musings.

How softly the cloud-shadows moved over the white sails and swept along
the bright deck! How pleasantly the water rippled against the vessel’s
side I With what a glad sound the great ensign napped and fluttered in
the breeze! There was light, and life, and motion on every side, and I
felt all the intoxication of enjoyment.

And like a dream was the portion of my life which followed. I
accompanied the Pfarrer to a small settlement near ‘Crown Point,’
where he was to take up his residence as minister. Here we lived amid
a population of about four or five hundred Germans, principally from
Pomerania, on the shores of the Baltic, a peaceful, thrifty, quiet
set of beings, who, content with the little interests revolving around
themselves, never troubled their heads about the great events of war or
politics. And here in all likelihood should I have been content to pass
my days, when an accidental journey I made to Albany, to receive some
letters for the Pfarrer, once more turned the fortune of my life.

It was a great incident in the quiet monotony of my life, when I set
out one morning, arrayed in a full suit of coarse, glossy black, with
buttons like small saucers, and a hat whose brim almost protected my
shoulders. I was, indeed, an object of very considerable envy to some,
and I hope, also, not denied the admiring approval of some others. Had
the respectable city I was about to visit been the chief metropolis of a
certain destination which I must not name, the warnings I received about
its dangers, dissipations, and seductions, could scarcely have been more
earnest or impressive. I was neither to speak with, nor even to look at,
those I met in the streets. I was carefully to avoid taking my meals
at any of the public eating-houses, rigidly guarding myself from the
contamination of even a chance acquaintance. It was deemed as needless
to caution me against theatres or places of amusement, as to hint to
me that I should not commit a highway robbery or a murder; and so, in
sooth, I should myself have felt it. The patriarchal simplicity in which
I had lived for above a year had not been without its affect in subduing
exaggerated feeling, or controlling that passion for excitement so
common to youth. I felt a kind of dreamy, religious languor over me,
which I sincerely believed represented a pious and well-regulated
temperament. Perhaps in time it might have become such. Perhaps with
others, more happily constituted, the impression would have been
confirmed and fixed; but in my case it was a mere lacquer, that the
first rubbing in the world was sure to brush off.

I arrived safely at Albany, and having presented myself at the bank of
Gabriel Shultze, was desired to call the following morning, when all
the letters and papers of Gottfried Kröller should be delivered to me. A
very cold invitation to supper was the only hospitality extended to
me. This I declined on pretext of weariness, and set out to explore the
town, to which my long residence in rural life imparted a high degree of
interest.

I don’t know what it may now be--doubtless a great capital, like one of
the European cities; but at that time I speak of, Albany was a strange,
incongruous assemblage of stores and wooden houses, great buildings like
granaries, with whole streets of low sheds around them, where, open to
the passer-by, men worked at various trades, and people followed out
the various duties of domestic life in sight of the public: daughters
knitted and sewed; mothers cooked, and nursed their children; men ate,
and worked, and smoked, and sang, as if in all the privacy of closed
dwellings, while a thick current of population poured by, apparently too
much immersed in their own cares, or too much accustomed to the scene,
to give it more than passing notice.

It was curious how one bred and born in the great city of Paris, with
all its sights and sounds, and scenes of excitement and display,
could have been so rusticated by time as to feel a lively interest in
surveying the motley aspect of this quaint town. There were, it is
true, features in the picture very unlike the figures in ‘Old-World’
landscape. A group of ‘red men,’ seated around a fire in the open
street, or a squaw carrying on her back a baby, firmly tied to a piece
of curved bark; a Southern-stater, with a spanking waggon-team, and two
grinning negroes behind, were new and strange elements in the life of a
city. Still, the mere movement, the actual busy stir and occupation of
the inhabitants, attracted me as much as anything else; and the shops
and stalls, where trades were carried on, were a seduction I could not
resist.

The strict puritanism in which I had lately lived taught me to regard
all these things with a certain degree of distrust. They were the
impulses of that gold-seeking passion of which Gottfried had spoken
so frequently; they were the great vice of that civilisation, whose
luxurious tendency he often deplored; and here, now, more than one-half
around me were arts that only ministered to voluptuous tastes. Brilliant
articles of jewellery; gay cloaks, worked with wampum, in Indian taste;
ornamental turning, and costly weapons, inlaid with gold and silver,
succeeded each other, street after street; and the very sight of them,
however pleasurable to the eye, set me a-moralising in a strain that
would have done credit to a son of Geneva. It might have been that, in
my enthusiasm, I uttered half aloud what I intended for soliloquy; or
perhaps some gesture, or peculiarity of manner, had the effect; but so
it was, I found myself an object of notice; and my queer-cut coat and
wide hat, contrasting so strangely with my youthful appearance and
slender make, drew many a criticism on me.

‘He ain’t a Quaker, that’s a fact,’ cried one, ‘for they don’t wear
black.’

‘He’s a down-easter--a horse-jockey chap, I’ll be bound,’ cried another.
‘They put on all manner of disguises and “masqueroonings.” I know ‘em!’

‘He’s a calf preacher--a young bottle-nosed Gospeller,’ broke in a
thick, short fellow, like the skipper of a merchant-ship. ‘Let’s have
him out for a preachment.’

‘Ay, you’re right,’ chimed in another. ‘I’ll get you a sugar hogshead in
no time’; and away he ran on the mission.

Between twenty and thirty persons had now collected; and I saw myself,
to my unspeakable shame and mortification, the centre of all their looks
and speculations. A little more _aplomb_ or knowledge of life would have
taught me coolness enough in a few words to undeceive them; but such a
task was far above me now, and I saw nothing for it but flight. Could I
only have known which way to take, I need not have feared any pursuer,
for I was a capital runner, and in high condition; but of the locality
I was utterly ignorant, and should only surrender myself to mere chance.
With a bold rush, then, I dashed right through the crowd, and set off
down the street, the whole crew after me.

[Illustration: 369]

The dusk of the closing evening was in my favour; and although
volunteers were enlisted in the chase at every corner and turning, I
distanced them, and held on my way in advance. My great object being not
to turn on my course, lest I should come back to my starting point,
I directed my steps nearly straight onward, clearing apple-stalls and
fruit-tables at a bound, and more than once taking a flying-leap over an
Indian’s fire, when the mad shout of the red man would swell the chorus
that followed me. At last I reached a network of narrow lanes and
alleys, by turning and wending through which I speedily found myself
in a quiet secluded spot, with here and there a flickering candle-light
from the windows, but no other sign of habitation. I looked anxiously
about for an open door; but they were all safe barred and fastened; and
it was only on turning a corner I spied what seemed to me a little shop,
with a solitary lamp over the entrance. A narrow canal, crossed by a
rickety old bridge, led to this; and the moment I had crossed over, I
seized the single plank which formed the footway, and shoved it into the
stream. My retreat being thus secured, I opened the door, and entered.
It was a barber’s shop; at least, so a great chair before a cracked old
looking-glass, with some well-worn combs and brushes, bespoke it; but
the place seemed untenanted, and although I called aloud several times,
no one came or responded to my summons.

I now took a survey of the spot, which seemed of the poorest imaginable.
A few empty pomatum pots, a case of razors that might have defied the
most determined suicide, and a half-finished wig, on a block painted
like a red man, were the entire stock-in-trade. On the walls, however,
were some coloured prints of the battles of the French army in Germany
and Italy. Execrably done things they were, but full of meaning and
interest to my eyes in spite of that. With all the faults of drawing and
all the travesties of costume, I could recognise different corps of the
service, and my heart bounded as I gazed on the tall shakos swarming to
a breach, or the loose jacket as it floated from the hussar in a charge.
All the wild pleasures of soldiering rose once more to my mind, and
I thought over old comrades who doubtless were now earning the high
rewards of their bravery in the great career of glory. And as I did so,
my own image confronted me in the glass, as with long lank hair, and
a great bolster of a white cravat, I stood before it. What a
contrast!--how unlike the smart hussar, with curling locks and fierce
moustache! Was I as much changed in heart as in looks? Had my spirit
died out within me? Would the proud notes of the bugle or the trumpet
fall meaningless on my ears, or the hoarse cry of ‘Charge!’ send no
bursting fulness to my temples? Ay, even these coarse representations
stirred the blood in my veins, and my step grew firmer as I walked the
room.

In a passionate burst of enthusiasm, I tore off my slouched hat and
hurled it from me. It felt like the badge of some ignoble slavery, and
I determined to endure it no longer. The noise of the act called up a
voice from the inner room, and a man, to all appearance suddenly roused
from sleep, stood at the door. He was evidently young, but poverty,
dissipation, and raggedness made the question of his age a difficult
one to solve. A light-coloured moustache and beard covered all the
lower part of his face, and his long blonde hair fell heavily over his
shoulders.

‘Well,’ cried he, half angrily, ‘what’s the matter; are you so impatient
that you must smash the furniture?’

Although the words were spoken as correctly as I have written them,
they were uttered with a foreign accent; and, hazarding the stroke, I
answered him in French by apologising for the noise.

‘What! a Frenchman,’ exclaimed he, ‘and in that dress! what can that
mean?’

‘If you’ll shut your door, and cut off pursuit of me, I’ll tell you
everything,’ said I, ‘for I hear the voices of people coming down that
street in front.’

‘I’ll do better,’ said he quickly; ‘I’ll upset the bridge, and they
cannot come over.’

‘That’s done already,’ replied I; ‘I shoved it into the stream as I
passed.’

He looked at me steadily for a moment without speaking, and then
approaching close to me, said, ‘_Parbleu!_ the act was very unlike your
costume!’ At the same time he shut the door, and drew a strong bar
across it. This done, he turned to me once more--‘Now for it: who are
you, and what has happened to you?’

‘As to what I am,’ replied I, imitating his own abruptness, ‘my dress
would almost save the trouble of explaining; these Albany folk, however,
would make a field-preacher of me, and to escape them I took to flight.’

‘Well, if a fellow will wear his hair that fashion, he must take the
consequence,’ said he, drawing out my long lank locks as they hung over
my shoulders. ‘And so you wouldn’t hold forth for them--not even give
them a stave of a conventicle chant.’ He kept his eyes riveted on me
as he spoke, and then seizing two pieces of stick from the firewood, he
beat on the table the rataplan of the French drum. ‘That’s the music
you know best, lad, eh?--that’s the air, which, if it has not led
heavenward, has conducted many a brave fellow out of this world at
least. Do you forget it?’

‘Forget it! no,’ cried I;’ but who are you; and how comes it
that--that----’ I stopped in confusion at the rudeness of the question I
had begun. ‘That I stand here, half fed, and all but naked--a barber in
a land where men don’t shave once a month. _Parbleu!_ they’d come even
seldomer to my shop if they knew how tempted I feel to draw the razor
sharp and quick across the gullet of a fellow with a well-stocked
pouch.’

As he continued to speak, his voice assumed a tone and cadence that
sounded familiar to my ears as I stared at him in amazement.

‘Not know me yet!’ exclaimed he, laughing; ‘and yet all this poverty and
squalor isn’t as great a disguise as your own, Tiernay. Come, lad, rub
your eyes a bit, and try if you can’t recognise an old comrade.’

‘I know you, yet cannot remember how or where we met,’ said I, in
bewilderment.

‘I’ll refresh your memory,’ said he, crossing his arms, and drawing
himself proudly up. ‘If you can trace back in your mind to a certain
hot and dusty day, on the Metz road, when you, a private in the Ninth
Hussars, were eating an onion and a slice of black bread for your
dinner, a young officer, well looking and well mounted, cantered up and
threw you his brandy flask. Your acknowledgment of the civility showed
you to be a gentleman; and the acquaintance thus opened soon ripened
into intimacy.’

‘But he was the young Marquis de Saint-Trône,’ said I, perfectly
remembering the incident.

‘Or Eugène Santron, of the republican army, or the barber at Albany,
without any name at all,’ said he, laughing. ‘What, Maurice, don’t you
know me yet?’

‘What! the lieutenant of my regiment? The dashing officer of hussars?’

‘Just so, and as ready to resume the old skin as ever,’ cried he, ‘and
brandish a weapon somewhat longer, and perhaps somewhat sharper, too,
than a razor.’

We shook hands with all the cordiality of old comrades, meeting far away
from home, and in a land of strangers; and although each was full of
curiosity to learn the other’s history, a kind of reserve held back the
inquiry, till Santron said, ‘My confession is soon made, Maurice: I left
the service in the Meuse, to escape being shot. One day, on returning
from a field manouvre, I discovered that my portmanteau had been opened,
and a number of letters and papers taken out. They were part of a
correspondence I held with old General Lamarre, about the restoration of
the Bourbons--a subject, I’m certain, that half the officers in the army
were interested in, and, even to Bonaparte himself, deeply implicated
in, too. No matter, my treason, as they called it, was too flagrant, and
I had just twenty minutes’ start of the order which was issued for my
arrest to make my escape into Holland. There I managed to pass several
months in various disguises, part of the time being employed as a Dutch
spy, and actually charged with an order to discover tidings of myself,
until I finally got away in an Antwerp schooner to New York. From that
time my life has been nothing but a struggle--a hard one, too,
with actual want, for in this land of enterprise and activity, mere
intelligence, without some craft or calling, will do nothing.

‘I tried fifty things: to teach riding--and when I mounted into the
saddle, I forgot everything but my own enjoyment, and caracoled, and
plunged, and passaged, till the poor beast hadn’t a leg to stand on;
fencing--and I got into a duel with a rival teacher, and ran him through
the neck, and was obliged to fly from Halifax; French--I made love to
my pupil, a pretty-looking Dutch girl, whose father didn’t smile on our
affection; and so on, I descended from a dancing-master to a waiter,
a _laquais de place_, and at last settled down as a barber, which
brilliant speculation I had just determined to abandon this very night,
for to-morrow morning, Maurice, I start for New York and France again;
ay, boy, and you’ll go with me. This is no land for either of us.’

‘But I have found happiness, at least contentment, here,’ said I
gravely.

‘What! play the hypocrite with an old comrade! shame on you, Maurice,’
cried he. ‘It is these confounded locks have perverted the boy,’ added
he, jumping up; and before I knew what he was about, he had shorn my
hair, in two quick cuts of the scissors, close to the head. ‘There,’
said he, throwing the cut-off hair towards me, ‘there lies all your
saintship; depend upon it, boy, they ‘d hunt you out of the settlement
if you came back to them cropped in this fashion.’

‘But you return to certain death, Santron,’ said I; ‘your crime is too
recent to be forgiven or forgotten.’

‘Not a bit of it; Fouché, Cassaubon, and a dozen others, now in office,
were deeper than I was. There’s not a public man in France could stand
an exposure, or hazard recrimination. It’s a thieves’ amnesty at this
moment, and I must not lose the opportunity. I’ll show you letters that
will prove it, Maurice; for, poor and ill-fed as I am, I like life just
as well as ever I did. I mean to be a general of division one of these
days, and so will you too, lad, if there’s any spirit left in you.’

Thus did Santron rattle on, sometimes of himself and his own future;
sometimes discussing mine; for while talking, he had contrived to learn
all the chief particulars of my history, from the time of my sailing
from La Rochelle for Ireland.

The unlucky expedition afforded him great amusement, and he was never
weary of laughing at all our adventures and mischances in Ireland. Of
Humbert, he spoke as a fourth or fifth-rate man, and actually shocked
me by all the heresies he uttered against our generals, and the plan of
campaign; but, perhaps, I could have borne even these better than the
sarcasms and sneers at the little life of ‘the settlement.’ He treated
all my efforts at defence as mere hypocrisy, and affected to regard
me as a mere knave, that had traded on the confiding kindness of these
simple villagers. I could not undeceive him on this head; nor, what was
more, could I satisfy my own conscience that he was altogether in the
wrong; for, with a diabolical ingenuity, he had contrived to hit on some
of the most vexatious doubts which disturbed my mind, and instinctively
to detect the secret cares and difficulties that beset me. The lesson
should never be lost on us, that the devil was depicted as a sneerer!
I verily believe the powers of temptation have no such advocacy as
sarcasm. Many can resist the softest seductions of vice; many are proof
against all the blandishments of mere enjoyment, come in what shape it
will; but how few can stand firm against the assaults of clever irony,
or hold fast to their convictions when assailed by the sharp shafts of
witty depreciation!

I am ashamed to own how little I could oppose to all his impertinences
about our village and its habits; or how impossible I found it not to
laugh at his absurd descriptions of a life which, without having ever
witnessed, he depicted with a rare accuracy. He was shrewd enough not
to push this ridicule offensively; and long before I knew it, I found
myself regarding, with his eyes, a picture in which, but a few months
back, I stood as a foreground figure. I ought to confess, that no
artificial aid was derived from either good cheer or the graces of
hospitality; we sat by a miserable lamp, in a wretchedly cold chamber,
our sole solace some bad cigars, and a can of flat, stale cider.

‘I have not a morsel to offer you to eat, Maurice, but to-morrow we’ll
breakfast on my razors, dine on that old looking-glass, and sup on two
hard brushes and the wig!’

Such were the brilliant pledges, and we closed a talk which the
nickering lamp at last put an end to.

A broken, unconnected conversation followed for a little time, but at
length, worn out and wearied, each dropped off to sleep--Eugène on the
straw settle, and I in the old chair--never to awake till the bright sun
was streaming in between the shutters, and dancing merrily on the tiled
floor.

An hour before I awoke, he had completed the sale of all his little
stock-in-trade, and with a last look round the spot where he had passed
some months of struggling poverty, out we sailed into the town.

‘We’ll breakfast at Jonathan Hone’s,’ said Santron.

‘It’s the first place here. I’ll treat you to rump-steaks, pumpkin pie,
and a gin twister that will astonish you. Then, while I’m arranging for
our passage down the Hudson, you’ll see the hospitable banker, and tell
him how to forward all his papers, and so forth, to the settlement, with
your respectful compliments and regrets, and the rest of it.’

‘But am I to take leave of them in this fashion?’ asked I.

‘Unless you want me to accompany you there, I think it’s by far the best
way,’ said he laughingly. ‘If, however, you think that my presence and
companionship will add any lustre to your position, say the word, and
I’m ready. I know enough of the barber’s craft now to make up a head _en
Puritain_, and, if you wish, I’ll pledge myself to impose upon the whole
colony.’

Here was a threat there was no mistaking; and any imputation of
ingratitude on my part were far preferable to the thought of such
an indignity. He saw his advantage at once, and boldly declared that
nothing should separate us.

‘The greatest favour, my dear Maurice, you can ever expect at my hands
is, never to speak of this freak of yours; or, if I do, to say that you
performed the part to perfection.’

My mind was in one of those moods of change when the slightest
impulse is enough to sway it, and, more from this cause, than all his
persuasion, I yielded; and the same evening saw me gliding down the
Hudson, and admiring the bold Catskills, on our way to New York.



CHAPTER XXXII. THE ‘ATHOL’ TENDER

As I cast my eyes over these pages, and see how small a portion of my
life they embrace, I feel like one who, having a long journey before
him, perceives that some more speedy means of travel must be adopted, if
he ever hope to reach his destination. With the instinctive prosiness of
age I have lingered over the scenes of boyhood, a period which, strange
to say, is fresher in my memory than many of the events of few years
back; and were I to continue my narrative as I have begun it, it would
take more time on my part, and more patience on that of my readers, than
are likely to be conceded to either of us. Were I to apologise to my
readers for any abruptness in my transitions, or any want of continuity
in my story, I should perhaps inadvertently seem to imply a degree of
interest in my fate which they have never felt; and, on the other
hand, I would not for a moment be thought to treat slightingly the very
smallest degree of favour they may feel disposed to show me. With these
difficulties on either hand, I see nothing for it but to limit myself
for the future to such incidents and passages of my career as most
impressed themselves on myself, and to confine my record to the events
in which I personally took a share.

Santron and I sailed from New York on the 9th of February, and arrived
in Liverpool on the 14th of March. We landed in as humble a guise as
need be. One small box contained all our effects, and a little leathern
purse, with something less than three dollars, all our available wealth.
The immense movement and stir of the busy town, the din and bustle
of trade, the roll of waggons, the cranking clatter of cranes and
windlasses, the incessant flux and reflux of population, all eager and
intent on business, were strange spectacles to our eyes as we loitered
houseless and friendless through the streets, staring in wonderment at
the wealth and prosperity of that land we were taught to believe was
tottering to bankruptcy.

Santron affected to be pleased with all--talked of the _beau pillage_ it
would afford one day or other; but in reality this appearance of riches
and prosperity seemed to depress and discourage him. Both French and
American writers had agreed in depicting the pauperism and discontent of
England, and yet where were the signs of it? Not a house was untenanted,
every street was thronged, every market filled; the equipages of the
wealthy vied with the loaded waggons in number; and if there were not
the external evidences of happiness and enjoyment the gayer population
of other countries display, there was an air of well-being and comfort
such as no other land could exhibit.

Another very singular trait made a deep impression on us. Here were
these islanders with a narrow strait only separating them from a land
bristling with bayonets. The very roar of the artillery at exercise
might be almost heard across the gulf, and yet not a soldier was to
be seen about! There were neither forts nor bastions. The harbour, so
replete with wealth, lay open and unprotected, not even a gunboat or
a guardship to defend it! There was an insolence in this security that
Santron could not get over, and he muttered a prayer that the day might
not be distant that should make them repent it.

He was piqued with everything. While on board ship we had agreed
together to pass ourselves for Canadians, to avoid all inquiries of the
authorities! Heaven help us! The authorities never thought of us. We
were free to go or stay as we pleased. Neither police nor passport
officers questioned us. We might have been Hoche and Massena for aught
they either knew or cared. Not a _mouchard_ tracked us; none even looked
after us as we wont. To me this was all very agreeable and reassuring;
to my companion it was contumely and insult. All the ingenious fiction
he had devised of our birth, parentage, and pursuits, was a fine romance
inedited, and he was left to sneer at the self-sufficiency that would
not take alarm at the advent of two ragged youths on the quay of
Liverpool.

‘If they but knew who we were, Maurice,’ he kept continually muttering
as we went along--‘if these fellows only knew whom they had in their
town, what a rumpus it would create! How the shops would close! What
barricading of doors and windows we should see! What bursts of terror
and patriotism! _Par St. Denis_, I have a mind to throw up my cap in the
air and cry ‘_Vive la République!_’ just to witness the scene that would
follow.’ With all these boastings, it was not very difficult to restrain
my friend’s ardour, and to induce him to defer his invasion of England
to a more fitting occasion, so that at last he was fain to content
himself with a sneering commentary on all around him; and in this
amiable spirit we descended into a very dirty cellar to eat our first
dinner on shore.

The place was filled with sailors, who, far from indulging in the
well-known careless gaiety of their class, seemed morose and sulky,
talking together in low murmurs, and showing unmistakable signs of
discontent and dissatisfaction. The reason was soon apparent; the
pressgangs were out to take men off to reinforce the blockading force
before Genoa, a service of all others the most distasteful to a seaman.
If Santron at first was ready to flatter himself into the notion that
very little persuasion would make these fellows take part against
England, as he listened longer he saw the grievous error of the opinion,
no epithet of insult or contempt being spared by them when talking of
France and Frenchmen. Whatever national animosity prevailed at that
period, sailors enjoyed a high preeminence in feeling. I have heard that
the spirit was encouraged by those in command, and that narratives
of French perfidy, treachery, and even cowardice, were the popular
traditions of the sea-service. We certainly could not controvert the
old adage as to ‘listeners,’ for every observation and every anecdote
conveyed a sneer or an insult on our country. There could be no reproach
in listening to these unresented, but Santron assumed a most indignant
air, and more than once affected to be overcome by a spirit of
recrimination. What turn his actions might have taken in this wise I
cannot even guess, for suddenly a rush of fellows took place up the
ladder, and in less than a minute the whole cellar was cleared, leaving
none but the hostess and an old lame waiter along with ourselves in the
place.

‘You’ve got a protection, I suppose, sirs,’ said the woman, approaching
us; ‘but still I’ll advise you not to trust to it overmuch; they’re in
great want of men just now, and they care little for law or justice when
once they have them on the high-seas.’

‘We have no protection,’ said I; ‘we are strangers here, and know no
one.’

‘There they come, sir; that’s the tramp,’ cried the woman; ‘there’s
nothing for it now but to stay quiet and hope you ‘ll not be noticed.
Take those knives up, will ye,’ said she, flinging a napkin towards me,
and speaking in an altered voice, for already two figures were darkening
the entrance, and peering down into the depth below, while turning to
Santron she motioned him to remove the dishes from the table--a service
in which, to do him justice, he exhibited a zeal more flattering to his
tact than his spirit of resistance.

‘Tripped their anchors already, Mother Martin?’ said a large-whiskered
man, with a black belt round his waist; while, passing round the tables,
he crammed into his mouth several fragments of the late feast.

‘You wouldn’t have ‘em wait for you, Captain John,’ said she, laughing.

‘It’s just what I would, then,’ replied he. ‘The Admiralty has put
thirty shillings more on the bounty, and where will these fellows get
the like of that? It isn’t a West India service, neither, nor a coastin’
cruise off Newfoundland, but all as one as a pleasure-trip up the
Mediterranean, and nothing to fight but Frenchmen. Eh, younker, that
tickles your fancy,’ cried he to Santron, who, in spite of himself, made
some gesture of impatience.

‘Handy chaps, those, Mother Martin; where did you chance on’em?’

‘They’re sons of a Canada skipper in the river yonder,’ said she calmly.

‘They aren’t over like to be brothers,’ said he, with the grin of one
too well accustomed to knavery to trust anything opposed to his own
observation. ‘I suppose them’s things happens in Canada as elsewhere,’
said he, laughing, and hoping the jest might turn her flank. Meanwhile
the press leader never took his eyes off me, as I arranged plates and
folded napkins with all the skill which my early education in Boivin’s
restaurant had taught me.

‘He is a smart one,’ said he, half musingly. ‘I say, boy, would you like
to go as cook’s aid on board a king’s ship? I know of one as would just
suit you.’

‘I’d rather not, sir; I’d not like to leave my father,’ said I, backing
up Mrs. Martin’s narrative.

‘Nor that brother, there; wouldn’t he like it?’

I shook my head negatively.

‘Suppose I have a talk with the skipper about it,’ said he, looking at
me steadily for some seconds. ‘Suppose I was to tell him what a good
berth you ‘d have, eh?’

‘Oh, if he wished it, I’d make no objection,’ said I, assuming all the
calmness I could.

‘That chap ain’t your brother--and he’s no sailor neither. Show me your
hands, youngster,’ cried he to Santron, who at once complied with the
order, and the press captain bent over and scanned them narrowly. As he
thus stood with his back to me, the woman shook her head significantly,
and pointed to the ladder. If ever a glance conveyed a whole story
of terror hers did. I looked at my companion as though to say, ‘Can I
desert him?’ and the expression of her features seemed to imply utter
despair. This pantomime did not occupy half a minute. And now, with
noiseless step, I gained the ladder, and crept cautiously up it. My
fears were how to escape those who waited outside; but as I ascended I
could see that they were loitering about in groups, inattentive to all
that was going on below. The shame at deserting my comrade so nearly
overcame me, that, when almost at the top, I was about to turn back
again. I even looked round to see him; but, as I did so, I saw the press
leader draw a pair of handcuffs from his pocket and throw them on the
table. The instincts of safety were too strong, and with a spring I
gained the street, and, slipping noiselessly along the wall, escaped the
‘lookout.’ Without a thought of where I was going to, or what to do, I
ran at the very top of my speed directly onwards, my only impulse being
to get away from the spot. Could I reach the open country I thought
it would be my best chance. As I fled, however, no signs of a suburb
appeared; the streets, on the contrary, grew narrower and more
intricate; huge warehouses, seven or eight storeys high, loomed at
either side of me; and at last, on turning an angle, a fresh sea-breeze
met me, and showed that I was near the harbour. I avow that the sight of
shipping, the tall and taper spars that streaked the sky of night, the
clank of chain-cables, and the heavy surging sound of the looming hulls,
were anything but encouraging, longing as I did for the rustling leaves
of some green lane; but still, all was quiet. A few flickering lights
twinkled here and there from a cabin window, but everything seemed sunk
in repose.

The quay was thickly studded with hogsheads and bales of merchandise, so
that I could easily have found a safe resting-place for the night, but
a sense of danger banished all wish for sleep, and I wandered out,
restless and uncertain, framing a hundred plans, and abandoning them
when formed.

So long as I kept company with Santron, I never thought of returning to
‘Uncle Pat’; my reckless spendthrift companion had too often avowed
the pleasure he would feel in quartering himself on my kind friend,
dissipating his hard-earned gains, and squandering the fruits of all his
toil. Deterred by such a prospect, I resolved rather never to revisit
him than in such company. Now, however, I was again alone, and all my
hopes and wishes turned towards him. A few hours’ sail might again bring
me beneath his roof, and once more should I find myself at home. The
thought was calming to all my excitement; I forgot every danger I had
passed through, I lost all memory of every vicissitude I had escaped,
and had only the little low parlour in the ‘Black Pits’ before my mind’s
eye, the wild, unweeded garden, and the sandy, sunny beach before the
door. It was as though all that nigh a year had compassed had never
occurred, and that my life at Crown Point and my return to England were
only a dream. Sleep overcame me as I thus lay pondering, and when I
awoke the sun was glittering in the bright waves of the Mersey, a fresh
breeze was flaunting and fluttering the half-loosened sails, and
the joyous sounds of seamen’s voices were mingling with the clank of
capstans, and the measured stroke of oars.

It was full ten minutes after I awoke before I could remember how I came
there, and what had befallen me. Poor Santron, where is he now? was my
first thought, and it came with all the bitterness of self-reproach.

Could I have parted company with him under other circumstances, it would
not have grieved me deeply. His mocking, sarcastic spirit, the tone of
depreciation which he used towards everything and everybody, had gone
far to sour me with the world, and day by day I felt within me the
evil influences of his teachings. How different were they from poor
Gottfried’s lessons, and the humble habits of those who lived beneath
them! Yet I was sorry, deeply sorry, that our separation should have
been thus, and almost wished I had stayed to share his fate, whatever it
might be.

While thus swayed by different impulses, now thinking of my old home at
Crown Point, now of Uncle Pat’s thatched cabin, and again of Santron, I
strolled down to the wharf, and found myself in a considerable crowd of
people, who were all eagerly pressing forward to witness the embarkation
of several boatfuls of pressed seamen, who, strongly guarded and ironed,
were being conveyed to the _Athol_ tender, a large three-master, about a
mile off, down the river. To judge from the cut faces and bandaged heads
and arms, the capture had not been effected without resistance. Many of
the poor fellows appeared more suited to a hospital than the duties of
active service, and several lay with bloodless faces and white lips, the
handcuffed wrists seeming a very mockery of a condition so destitute of
all chance of resistance.

The sympathies of the bystanders were very varied regarding them. Some
were full of tender pity and compassion; some denounced the system as
a cruel ‘and oppressive tyranny; others deplored it as an unhappy
necessity; and a few well-to-do-looking old citizens, in drab shorts
and wide-brimmed hats, grew marvellously indignant at the recreant
poltroonery of ‘the scoundrels who were not proud to fight their
country’s battles.’

As I was wondering within myself how it happened that men thus coerced
could ever be depended on in moments of peril and difficulty, and
by what magic the mere exercise of discipline was able to merge the
feelings of the man in the sailor, the crowd was rudely driven back by
policemen, and a cry of ‘Make way,’ ‘Fall back there,’ given. In the
sudden retiring of the mass I found myself standing on the very edge
of the line along which a new body of impressed men were about to pass.
Guarded front, flank, and rear, by a strong party of marines, the poor
fellows came along slowly enough. Many were badly wounded, and walked
lamely; some were bleeding profusely from cuts on the face and temples;
and one, at the very tail of the procession, was actually carried in
a blanket by four sailors. A low murmur ran through the crowd at the
spectacle, which gradually swelled louder and fuller till it burst forth
into a deep groan of indignation, and a cry of ‘Shame I Shame!’ Too much
used to such ebullitions of public feeling, or too proud to care for
them, the officer in command of the party never seemed to hear the angry
cries and shouts around him; and I was even more struck by his cool
self-possession than by their enthusiasm. For a moment or two I was
convinced that a rescue would be attempted. I had no conception that so
much excitement could evaporate innocuously, and was preparing myself
to take part in the struggle when the line halted as the leading files
gained the stairs, and, to my wonderment, the crowd became hushed and
still. Then, one burst of excited pity over, not a thought occurred to
any to offer resistance to the law, or dare to oppose the constituted
authorities. How unlike Frenchmen! thought I; nor am I certain whether I
deemed the disparity to their credit!

‘Give him a glass of water!’ I heard the officer say, as he leaned over
the litter; and the crowd at once opened to permit some one to fetch
it. Before I believed it were possible to have procured it, a tumbler of
water was passed from hand to hand till it reached mine, and, stepping
forwards, I bent down to give it to the sick man. The end of a coarse
sheet was thrown over his face, and as it was removed I almost fell over
him, for it was Santron. His face was covered with a cold sweat, which
lay in great drops all over it, and his lips were slightly frothed. As
he looked up I could see that he was just rallying from a fainting-fit,
and could mark in the change that came over his glassy eye that he had
recognised me. He made a faint effort at a smile, and, in a voice barely
a whisper, said, ‘I knew thou’d not leave me, Maurice.’

‘You are his countryman?’ said the officer, addressing me in French.

‘Yes, sir,’ was my reply.

‘You are both Canadians, then?’

‘Frenchmen, sir, and officers in the service. We only landed from an
American ship yesterday, and were trying to make our way to France.’

‘I’m sorry for you,’ said he compassionately; ‘nor do I know how to help
you. Come on board the tender, however, and we’ll see if they’ll not
give you a passage with your friend to the Nore. I’ll speak to my
commanding officer for you.’

This scene all passed in a very few minutes, and before I well knew how
or why, I found myself on board of a ship’s longboat, sweeping along
over the Mersey, with Santron’s head in my lap, and his cold, clammy
fingers grasped in mine. He was either unaware of my presence or too
weak to recognise me, for he gave no sign of knowing me; and during our
brief passage down the river, and when lifted up the ship’s side, seemed
totally insensible to everything.

The scene of uproar, noise, and confusion on board the _Athol_ is
far beyond my ability to convey. A shipwreck, a fire, and mutiny, all
combined, could scarcely have collected greater elements of discord. Two
large detachments of marines, many of whom, fresh from furlough, were
too drunk for duty, and were either lying asleep along the deck, or
riotously interfering with everybody; a company of Sappers _en route_
to Woolwich, who would obey none but their own officer, and he was still
ashore; detachments of able-bodied seamen from the _Jupiter_, full of
grog and prize-money; four hundred and seventy impressed men, cursing,
blaspheming, and imprecating every species of calamity on their captors;
added to which, a crowd of Jews, bumboat women, and slop-sellers of all
kinds, with the crews of two ballast-lighters, fighting for additional
pay, being the chief actors in a scene whose discord I never
saw equalled. Drunkenness, suffering, hopeless misery, and even
insubordination, all lent their voices to a tumult, amid which the words
of command seemed lost, and all effort at discipline vain.

How we were ever to go to sea in this state, I could not even imagine.
The ship’s crew seemed inextricably mingled with the rioters, many of
whom were just sufficiently sober to be eternally meddling with the
ship’s tackle; belaying what ought to be ‘free,’ and loosening what
should have been ‘fast’; getting their fingers jammed in blocks, and
their limbs crushed by spars, till the cries of agony rose high
above every other confusion. Turning with disgust from a spectacle so
discordant and disgraceful, I descended the ladders, which led, by many
a successive flight, into the dark, low-ceilinged chamber called the
‘sick bay,’ where poor Santron was lying in, what I almost envied,
insensibility to the scene around him. A severe blow from the hilt of a
cutlass had caused a concussion of the brain, and, save in the momentary
excitement which a sudden question might cause, left him totally
unconscious. His head had been already shaved before I descended, and
I found the assistant-surgeon, an Irishman, Mr. Peter Colhayne,
experimenting a new mode of cupping as I entered. By some mischance
of the machinery, the lancets of the cupping instrument had remained
permanently fixed, refusing to obey the spring, and standing all
straight outside the surface. In this dilemma, Peter’s ingenuity saw
nothing for it but to press them down vigorously into the scalp, and
then saw them backwards the whole length of the head--a performance the
originality of which, in all probability, was derived from the operation
of a harrow in agriculture. He had just completed a third track when I
came in, and, by great remonstrance and no small flattery, induced him
to desist. ‘We have glasses,’ said he, ‘but they were all broke in
the cock-pit; but a tin porringer is just as good.’ And so saying, he
lighted a little pledget of tow, previously steeped in turpentine, and,
popping it into the tin vessel, clapped it on the head. This was meant
to exhaust the air within, and thus draw the blood to the surface--a
scientific process he was good enough to explain most minutely for my
benefit, and the good results of which he most confidently vouched for.

‘They’ve a hundred new conthrivances,’ said Mr. Colhayne, ‘for doing
that simple thing ye see there. They’ve pumps, and screws, and hydraulic
devilments as much complicated as a watch that’s always getting out of
order and going wrong; but with that ye’ll see what good ‘twill do him;
he’ll he as lively as a lark in ten minutes.’

The prophecy was destined to a perfect fulfilment, for poor Santron, who
lay motionless and unconscious up to that moment, suddenly gave signs
of life by moving his features, and jerking his limbs to this side and
that. The doctor’s self-satisfaction took the very proudest form. He
expatiated on the grandeur of medical science, the wonderful advancement
it was making, and the astonishing progress the curative art had made
even within his own time. I must own that I should have lent a more
implicit credence to this paean if I had not waited for the removal
of the cupping-vessel, which, instead of blood, contained merely the
charred ashes of the burnt tow, while the scalp beneath it presented
a blackened, seared aspect, like burnt leather. Such was literally
the effect of the operation; but as from that period the patient began
steadily to improve, I must leave to more scientific inquirers the task
of explaining through what agency, and on what principles.

Santron’s condition, although no longer dangerous, presented little hope
of speedy recovery. His faculties were clouded and obscured, and the
mere effort at recognition seemed to occasion him great subsequent
disturbance. Colhayne, who, whatever may have been his scientific
deficiencies, was good-nature and kindness itself, saw nothing for him
but removal to Haslar, and we now only waited for the ship’s arrival at
the Nore to obtain the order for his transmission.

If the _Athol_ was a scene of the wildest confusion and uproar when
we tripped our anchor, we had not been six hours at sea when all was a
picture of order and propriety. The decks were cleared of every one
not actually engaged in the ship’s working, or specially permitted to
remain; ropes were coiled, boats hauled up, sails trimmed, hatches down,
sentinels paced the deck in appointed places, and all was discipline and
regularity. From the decorous silence that prevailed, none could have
supposed so many hundred living beings were aboard, still less, that
they were the same disorderly mob who sailed from the Mersey a few short
hours before. From the surprise which all this caused me I was speedily
aroused by an order more immediately interesting, being summoned on
the poop-deck to attend the general muster. Up they came from holes and
hatchways, a vast host, no longer brawling and insubordinate, but quiet,
submissive, and civil. Such as were wounded had been placed under the
doctor’s care, and all those now present were orderly and servicelike.
With a very few exceptions they were all sailors, a few having already
served in a king’s ship. The first lieutenant, who first inspected
us, was a grim, greyheaded man past the prime of life, with features
hardened by disappointment and long service, but who still retained an
expression of kindliness and good-nature. His duty he despatched with
all the speed of long habit--read the name, looked at the bearer of it,
asked a few routine questions, and then cried ‘Stand by,’ even ere the
answers were finished. When he came to me he said--

‘Abraham Hackett. Is that your name, lad?’

‘No, sir. I ‘m called Maurice Tiernay.’

‘Tiernay, Tiernay,’ said he a couple of times over. ‘No such name here.’

‘Where’s Tiernay’s name, Cottle?’ asked he of a subordinate behind him.

The fellow looked down the list--then at me--then at the list again--and
then back to me, puzzled excessively by the difficulty, but not seeing
how to explain it.

‘Perhaps I can set the matter right, sir,’ said I. ‘I came aboard along
with a wounded countryman of mine--the young Frenchman who is now in the
sick bay.’

‘Ay, to be sure; I remember all about it now,’ said the lieutenant, ‘You
call yourselves French officers?’ ‘And such are we, sir.’

‘Then how the devil came ye here? Mother Martin’s cellar is, to say the
least of it, an unlikely spot to select as a restaurant.’

‘The story is a somewhat long one, sir.’

‘Then I haven’t time for it, lad,’ he broke in. ‘We’ve rather too much
on hand just now for that. If you ‘ve got your papers, or anything to
prove what you assert, I’ll land you when I come into the Downs, and
you’ll, of course, be treated as your rank in the service requires. If
you have not, I must only take the responsibility on myself to regard
you as an impressed man. Very hard, I know, but can’t help it. Stand
by.’

These few words were uttered with a most impetuous speed; and as all
reply to them was impossible, I saw my case decided and my fate decreed,
even before I knew they were under litigation.

As we were marched forwards to go below, I overheard an officer say to
another--

‘Hay will get into a scrape about those French fellows; they may turn
out to be officers, after all.’

‘What matter?’ cried the other. ‘One is dying; and the other Hay means
to draft on board the _Téméraire_. Depend upon it, we’ll never hear more
of either of them.’

This was far from pleasant tidings; and yet I knew not any remedy for
the mishap. I had never seen the officer who spoke to me ashore since we
came on board. I knew of none to intercede for me; and as I sat down on
the bench beside poor Santron’s cot, I felt my heart lower than it
had ever been before. I was never enamoured of the sea-service; and
certainly the way to overcome my dislike was not by engaging against
my own country; and yet this, in all likelihood, was now to be my fate.
These were my last waking thoughts the first night I passed on board the
_Athol_.



CHAPTER XXXIII. A BOLD STROKE FOR FAME AND FORTUNE

To be awakened suddenly from a sound sleep, hurried half-dressed up a
gangway, and, ere your faculties have acquired free play, be passed over
a ship’s side, on a dark and stormy night, into a boat wildly tossed
here and there, with spray showering over you, and a chorus of loud
voices about you, is an event not easily forgotten. Such a scene still
dwells in my memory, every incident of it as clear and distinct as
though it had occurred only yesterday. In this way was I ‘passed,’ with
twelve others, on board his Majesty’s frigate, _Téméraire_, a vessel
which, in the sea-service, represented what a well-known regiment did
on shore, and bore the reputation of being a ‘condemned ship’--this
depreciating epithet having no relation to the qualities of the vessel
herself, which was a singularly beautiful French model, but only to that
of the crew and officers, it being the policy of the day to isolate the
blackguards of both services, confining them to particular crafts and
corps, making, as it were, a kind of _index expurgatorius_, where all
the rascality was available at a moment’s notice.

It would be neither agreeable to my reader nor myself, if I should
dwell on this theme, nor linger on a description where cruelty,
crime, heartless tyranny, and reckless insubordination made up all
the elements. A vessel that floated the seas only as a vast
penitentiary--the ‘cats,’ the ‘yard-arm,’ and the ‘gangway,’ comprising
its scheme of discipline--would scarcely be an agreeable subject. And,
in reality, my memory retains of the life aboard little else than scenes
of suffering and sorrow. Captain Gesbrook had the name of being able to
reduce any, the most insubordinate, to discipline. The veriest rascals
of the fleet, the consummate scoundrels, one of whom was deemed
pollution to an ordinary crew, were said to come from his hands models
of seamanship and good conduct; and it must be owned, that if the
character was deserved, it was not obtained without some sacrifice. Many
died under punishment; many carried away with them diseases under
which they lingered on to death; and not a few preferred suicide to the
terrible existence on board. And although a ‘Téméraire’--as a man who
had served in her was always afterwards called--was now and then shown
as an example of sailorlike smartness and activity, very few knew
how dearly that one success had been purchased, nor by what terrible
examples of agony and woe that solitary conversion was obtained.

To me the short time I spent on board of her is a dreadful dream. We
were bound for the Mediterranean, to touch at Malta and Gibraltar, and
then join the blockading squadron before Genoa. What might have been
my fate, to what excess passionate indignation might have carried
me, revolted as I was by tyranny and injustice, I know not, when an
accident, happily for me, rescued me from all temptation. We lost our
mizzen-mast, in a storm, in the Bay of Biscay, and a dreadful blow on
the head, from the spanker-boom, felled me to the deck, with a fracture
of the skull.

From that moment I know of nothing till the time when I lay in my cot,
beside a port-hole of the maindeck, gazing at the bright blue waters
that flashed and rippled beside me, or straining my strength to rest on
my elbow, when I caught sight of the glorious city of Genoa, with its
grand mountain background, about three miles from where I lay. Whether
from a due deference to the imposing strength of the vast fortress,
or that the line of duty prescribed our action, I cannot say, but the
British squadron almost exclusively confined its operations to the act
of blockade. Extending far across the bay, the English ensign was seen
floating from many a taper mast, while boats of every shape and size
plied incessantly from ship to ship, their course marked out at night by
the meteorlike light that glittered in them; not, indeed, that the eye
often turned in that direction, all the absorbing interest of the
scene lying inshore. Genoa was, at that time, surrounded by an immense
Austrian force, under the command of General Melas, who, occupying all
the valleys and deep passes of the Apennines, were imperceptible during
the day; but no sooner had night closed in, than a tremendous cannonade
began, the balls describing great semicircles in the air ere they fell
to scatter death and ruin on the devoted city. The spectacle was grand
beyond description, for while the distance at which we lay dulled and
subdued the sound of the artillery to a hollow booming, like far-off
thunder, the whole sky was streaked by the course of the shot, and, at
intervals, lighted up by the splendour of a great fire, as the red shot
fell into and ignited some large building or other.

As, night after night, the cannonade increased in power and intensity,
and the terrible effects showed themselves in flames which burst out
from different quarters of the city, I used to long for morning, to see
if the tricolour still floated on the walls; and when my eye caught the
well-known ensign, I could have wept with joy as I beheld it.

High up, too, on the cliffs of the rugged Apennines, from many a craggy
eminence, where perhaps a solitary gun was stationed, I could see the
beloved flag of France, the emblem of liberty and glory!

In the day the scene was one of calm and tranquil beauty. It would have
seemed impossible to connect it with war and battle. The glorious city,
rising in terraces of palaces, lay reflected in the mirrorlike waters of
the bay, blue as the deep sky above them. The orange-trees, loaded with
golden fruit, shed their perfume over marble fountains, amid gardens
of every varied hue; bands of military music were heard from the public
promenades--all the signs of joy and festivity which betokened a happy
and pleasure-seeking population. But at night the ‘red artillery’ again
flashed forth, and the wild cries of strife and battle rose through
the beleaguered city. The English spies reported that a famine and a
dreadful fever were raging within the walls, and that all Masséna’s
efforts were needed to repress an open mutiny of the garrison; but the
mere aspect of the ‘proud city’ seemed to refute the assertion. The gay
carolling of church bells vied with the lively strains of martial music,
and the imposing pomp of military array, which could be seen from the
walls, bespoke a joyous confidence, the very reverse of this depression.

From the ‘tops,’ and high up in the rigging, the movements inshore
could be descried; and frequently, when an officer came down to visit
a comrade, I could hear of the progress of the siege, and learn, I need
not say with what delight, that the Austrians had made little or no way
in the reduction of the place, and that every stronghold and bastion was
still held by Frenchmen.

At first, as I listened, the names of new places and new generals
confused me; but by daily familiarity with the topic, I began to
perceive that the Austrians had interposed a portion of their force
between Masséna’s division and that of Suchet, cutting off the latter
from Genoa, and compelling him to fall back towards Chiavari and
Borghetto, along the coast of the Gulf. This was the first success of
any importance obtained; and it was soon followed by others of equal
significance, Soult being driven from ridge to ridge of the Apennines,
until he was forced back within the second line of defences.

The English officers were loud in condemning Austrian slowness--the
inaptitude they exhibited to profit by a success, and the over-caution
which made them, even in victory, so careful of their own safety. From
what I overheard, it seemed plain that Genoa was untenable by any troops
but French, or opposed to any other adversaries than their present ones.

The bad tidings--such I deemed them--came quicker and heavier. Now,
Soult was driven from Monte Notte. Now, the great advance post of Monte
Faccio was stormed and carried. Now, the double eagle was floating from
San Tecla, a fort within cannon-shot of Genoa, A vast semicircle
of bivouac fires stretched from the Apennines to the sea, and their
reflected glare from the sky lit up the battlements and ramparts of the
city.

‘Even yet, if Masséna would make a dash at them,’ said a young English
lieutenant,’ the white-coats would fallback.’

‘My life on ‘t he ‘d cut his way through, if he knew they were only two
to one!’

And this sentiment met no dissentient. All agreed that French heroism
was still equal to the overthrow of a force double its own.

It was evident that all hope of reinforcement from France was vain.
Before they could have begun their march southward, the question must be
decided one way or other.

‘There’s little doing to-night,’ said an officer, as he descended the
ladder to the sick bay. ‘Melas is waiting for some heavy mortars that
are coming up; and then there will be a long code of instructions from
the Aulic Council, and a whole treatise on gunnery to be read, before
he can use them. Trust me, if Masséna knew his man, he ‘d be up and at
him.’

Much discussion followed this speech, but all more or less agreed in its
sentiment. Weak as were the French, lowered by fever and by famine, they
were still an overmatch for their adversaries. What a glorious avowal
from the lips of an enemy was this! The words did more for my recovery
than all the cares and skill of physic Oh, if my countrymen but knew! if
Masséna could but hear it! was my next thought; and I turned my eyes to
the ramparts, whose line was marked out by the bivouac fires, through
the darkness. How short the distance seemed, and yet it was a whole
world of separation. Had it been a great plain in a mountain tract, the
attempt might almost have appeared practicable; at least, I had often
seen fellows who would have tried it. Such were the ready roads, the
royal paths, to promotion, and he who trod them saved miles of weary
journey. I fell asleep, still thinking on these things; but they haunted
my dreams. A voice seemed ever to whisper in my ear--‘If Masséna but
knew, he would attack them. One bold dash, and the Austrians would fall
back.’ At one instant, I thought myself brought before a court-martial
of English officers, for attempting to carry these tidings; and proudly
avowing the endeavour, I fancied I was braving the accusation. At
another, I was wandering through the streets of Genoa, gazing on the
terrible scenes of famine I had heard of. And lastly, I was marching
with a night party to attack the enemy. The stealthy footfall of the
column appeared suddenly to cease; we were discovered; the Austrian
cavalry were upon us! I started and awoke, and found myself in the dim,
half-lighted chamber, with pain and suffering around me, and where,
even in this midnight hour, the restless tortures of disease were yet
wakeful.

‘The silence is more oppressive to me than the roll of artillery,’
said one, a sick midshipman, to his comrade. ‘I grew accustomed to the
clatter of the guns, and slept all the better for it.’

‘You ‘ll scarcely hear much more of that music,’ replied his friend.
‘The French must capitulate to-morrow or next day.’

‘Not if Masséna would make a dash at them,’ thought I; and with
difficulty could I refrain from uttering the words aloud.

They continued to talk to each other in low whispers, and, lulled by the
drowsy tones, I fell asleep once more, again to dream of my comrades and
their fortunes. A heavy bang like a cannon-shot awoke me; but whether
this were real or not I never knew; most probably, however, it was the
mere creation of my brain, for all were now in deep slumber around me,
and even the marine on duty had seated himself on the ladder, and with
his musket between his legs, seemed dozing away peacefully. I looked out
through the little window beside my berth. A light breeze was
faintly rippling the dark water beneath me. It was the beginning of a
‘Levanter,’ and scarcely ruffled the surface as it swept along.

‘Oh, if it would but bear the tidings I am full of!’ thought I. ‘But why
not dare the attempt myself?’ While in America I had learned to become
a good swimmer. Under Indian teaching, I had often passed hours in the
water; and though now debilitated by long sickness, I felt that the
cause would supply me with the strength I needed. From the instant that
I conceived the thought, till I found myself descending the ship’s side,
was scarcely a minute. Stripping off my woollen shirt, and with nothing
but my loose trousers, I crept through the little window, and lowering
myself gently by the rattlin of my hammock, descended slowly and
noiselessly into the sea. I hung on thus for a couple of seconds, half
fearing the attempt, and irresolute of purpose. Should strength fail, or
even a cramp seize me, I must be lost, and none would ever know in what
an enterprise I had perished. It would be set down as a mere attempt
at escape. This notion almost staggered my resolution, but only for a
second or so; and with a short prayer, I slowly let slip the rope, and
struck out to swim.

The immense efforts required to get clear of the ship’s side discouraged
me dreadfully, nor probably without the aid of the ‘Levanter’ should I
have succeeded in doing so, the suction of the water along the sides was
so powerful. At last, however, I gained the open space, and found myself
stretching away towards shore rapidly. The night was so dark that I had
nothing to guide me save the lights on the ramparts; but in this lay my
safety. Swimming is, after all, but a slow means of progression. After
what I judged to be an hour in the water, as I turned my head to look
back, I almost fancied that the great bowsprit of the _Téméraire_ was
over me, and that the figure who leaned over the taffrail was steadily
gazing on me. How little way had I made, and what a vast reach of water
lay between me and the shore! I tried to animate my courage by thinking
of the cause, how my comrades would greet me, the honour in which they
would hold me for the exploit, and such like; but the terror of failure
damped this ardour, and hope sank every moment lower and lower.

For some time I resolved within myself not to look back--the
discouragement was too great; but the impulse to do so became all the
greater, and the only means of resisting was by counting the strokes,
and determining not to turn my head before I had made a thousand. The
monotony of this last, and the ceaseless effort to advance, threw me
into a kind of dreamy state, wherein mere mechanical effort remained.
A few vague impressions are all that remain to me of what followed. I
remember the sound of the morning guns from the fleet; I remember, too,
the hoisting of the French standard at daybreak on the fort of the Mole;
I have some recollection of a bastion crowded with people, and hearing
shouts and cheers like voices of welcome and encouragement; and then
a whole fleet of small boats issuing from the harbour, as if by one
impulse; and then there comes a bright blaze of light over one incident,
for I saw myself, dripping and almost dead, lifted on the shoulders of
strong men, and carried along a wide street filled with people. I was in
Genoa!



CHAPTER XXXIV. GENOA IN THE SIEGE

Up a straight street, so steep and so narrow that it seemed a stair,
with hundreds of men crowding around me, I was borne along. Now, they
were sailors who carried me; now, white-bearded grenadiers, with their
bronzed, bold faces; now, they were the wild-looking Faquini of the
Mole, with long-tasselled red caps, and gaudy sashes around their
waists. Windows were opened on either side as we went, and eager faces
protruded to stare at me; and then there were shouts and cries of
triumphant joy bursting forth at every moment, amidst which I could hear
the ever-recurring words--‘Escaped from the English fleet.’

By what means, or when, I had exchanged my dripping trousers of coarse
sailcloth for the striped gear of our republican mode--how one had given
me his jacket, another a cap, and a third a shirt--I knew not; but there
I was, carried along in triumph, half fainting from exhaustion, and
almost maddened by excitement. That I must have told something of my
history--Heaven knows how incoherently and unconnectedly--is plain
enough, for I could hear them repeating one to the other--‘Had served
with Moreau’s corps in the Black Forest;’ ‘A hussar of the Ninth;’ ‘One
of Humbert’s fellows’; and so on.

As we turned into a species of ‘Place,’ a discussion arose as to whither
they should convey me. Some were for the ‘Cavalry Barracks,’ that I
might be once more with those who resembled my old comrades. Others,
more considerate, were for the hospital; but a staff-officer decided the
question by stating that the general was at that very moment receiving
the report in the church of the Annunziata, and that he ought to see me
at once.

‘Let the poor fellow have some refreshment,’ cried one. ‘Here, take
this, it’s coffee.’ ‘No, no, the _petite goutte_ is hotter--try that
flask.’ ‘He shall have my chocolate,’ said an old major, from the door
of a café; and thus they pressed and solicited me with a generosity that
I had yet to learn how dear it cost.

‘He ought to be dressed’; ‘He should be in uniform’; ‘Is better as he
is’; ‘The general will not speak to him thus’; ‘He will’; ‘He must.’

Such, and such like, kept buzzing around me, as with reeling brain and
confused vision they bore me up the great steps, and carried me into
a gorgeous church, the most splendidly ornamented building I had ever
beheld. Except, however, in the decorations of the ceiling, and the
images of saints which figured in niches high up, every trace of a
religious edifice had disappeared. The pulpit had gone--the chairs and
seats for the choir, the confessionals, the shrines, altars--all had
been uprooted, and a large table, at which some twenty officers were
seated writing, now occupied the elevated platform of the high altar,
while here and there stood groups of officers, with their reports from
their various corps or parties in out-stations. Many of these drew near
to me as I entered, and now the buzz of voices in question and rejoinder
swelled into a loud noise; and while some were recounting my feat with
all the seeming accuracy of eye-witnesses, others were as resolutely
protesting it all to be impossible. Suddenly the tumult was hushed, the
crowd fell back, and as the clanking muskets proclaimed ‘a salute,’ a
whispered murmur announced the ‘general.’

I could just see the waving plumes of his staff, as they passed up; and
then, as they were disappearing in the distance, they stopped, and one
hastily returned to the entrance of the church.

‘Where is this fellow? let me see him,’ cried he hurriedly, brushing his
way through the crowd. ‘Let him stand down; set him on his legs.’

‘He is too weak, _capitaine_,’ said a soldier.

‘Place him in a chair, then,’ said the aide-de-camp, for such he was.
‘You have made your escape from the English fleet, my man?’ continued
he, addressing me.

‘I am an officer, and your comrade,’ replied I proudly; for with all my
debility, the tone of his address stung me to the quick.

‘In what service, pray?’ asked he, with a sneering look at my motley
costume.

‘Your general shall hear where I have served, and how, whenever he is
pleased to ask me,’ was my answer.

‘Ay, _parbleu!_, cried three or four _sous-officiers_ in a breath, ‘the
general shall see him himself.’

And with a jerk they hoisted me once more on their shoulders, and with a
run--the regular storming tramp of the line--they advanced up the aisle
of the church, and never halted till within a few feet of where the
staff were gathered around the general. A few words--they sounded like a
reprimand--followed; a severe voice bade the soldiers ‘fall back,’ and
I found myself standing alone before a tall and very strongly built
man, with a large, red-brown beard; he wore a grey upper coat over his
uniform, and carried a riding-whip in his hand.

‘Get him a seat. Let him have a glass of wine,’ cried he quickly, as he
saw the tottering efforts I was making to keep my legs. ‘Are you better
now?’ asked he, in a voice which, rough as it was, sounded kindly.

Seeing me so far restored, he desired me to recount my late adventure,
which I did in the fewest words, and the most concise fashion, I could.
Although never interrupting, I could mark that particular portions of
my narrative made much impression on him, and he could not repress a
gesture of impatience when I told him that I was impressed as a seaman
to fight against the flag of my own country.

‘Of course, then,’ cried he, ‘you were driven to the alternative of this
attempt.’

‘Not so, general,’ said I, interrupting; ‘I had grown to be very
indifferent about my own fortunes. I had become half fatalist as to
myself. It was on very different grounds, indeed, that I dared this
danger. It was to tell you, for if I mistake not I am addressing General
Massvna, tidings of deep importance.’

I said these words slowly and deliberately, and giving them all the
impressiveness I was able.

‘Come this way, friend,’ said he, and, assisting me to arise, he led me
a short distance off, and desired me to sit down on the steps in front
of the altar railing. ‘Now, you may speak freely. I am the General
Masséna, and I have only to say, that if you really have intelligence of
any value for me, you shall be liberally rewarded; but if you have not,
and if the pretence be merely an effort to impose on one whose cares
and anxieties are already hard to bear, it would be better that you had
perished on sea than tried to attempt it.’

There was a stern severity in the way he said this, which for a moment
or two actually overpowered me. It was quite clear that he looked for
some positive fact, some direct piece of information on which he might
implicitly rely; and here was I now with nothing save the gossip of some
English lieutenants, the idle talk of inexperienced young officers.
I was silent. From the bottom of my heart I wished that I had never
reached the shore, to stand in a position of such humiliation as this.

‘So, then, my caution was not unneeded,’ said the general, as he bent
his heavy brows upon me. ‘Now, sir, there is but one amende you can make
for this; tell me frankly, have others sent you on this errand, or is
the scheme entirely of your own devising? Is this an English plot, or is
there a Bourbon element in it?’

‘Neither one nor the other,’ said I boldly, for indignation at last gave
me courage. ‘I hazarded my life to tell you what I overheard among the
officers of the fleet yonder; you may hold their judgment cheap; you may
not think their counsels worth the pains of listening to; but I could
form no opinion of this, and only thought if these tidings could reach
you, you might profit by them.’

‘And what are they?’ asked he bluntly.

‘They said that your force was wasting away by famine and disease; that
your supplies could not hold out above a fortnight; that your granaries
were empty, and your hospitals filled.’

‘They scarcely wanted the gift of second-sight to see this,’ said he
bitterly. ‘A garrison in close siege for four months may be suspected of
as much.’

‘Yes; but they said that as Soult’s force fell back upon the city, your
position would be rendered worse.’

‘Fell back from where?’ asked he, with a searching look at me.

‘As I understood, from the Apennines,’ replied I, growing more confident
as I saw that he became more attentive. ‘If I understood them aright,
Soult held a position called the “Monte Faccio.” Is there such a name?’

‘Go on,’ said he, with a nod of assent.

‘That this could not long be tenable without gaining the highest
fortified point of the mountain. The “Monte Creto” they named it.’

‘The attempt on which has failed!’ said Masséna, as if carried away by
the subject; ‘and Soult himself is a prisoner! Go on.’

‘They added, that now but one hope remained for this army.’

‘And what was that, sir?’ said he fiercely. ‘What suggestion of cunning
strategy did these sea-wolves intimate?’

‘To cut your way through the blockade, and join Suchet’s corps,
attacking the Austrians at the Monte Ratte, and by the sea-road gaining
the heights of Bochetta.’

‘Do these heroic spirits know the strength of the same Austrian corps?
did they tell you that it numbered fifty-four thousand bayonets?’

‘They called them below forty thousand; and that now that Bonaparte was
on his way through the Alps, perhaps by this over the Mount Cenis----’

‘What! did they say this? Is Bonaparte so near us?’ cried he, placing a
hand on either shoulder, as he stared me in the face.

‘Yes; there is no doubt of that. The despatch to Lord Keith brought the
news a week ago, and there is no secret made about it in the fleet.’

‘Over Mount Cenis!’ repeated he to himself. ‘Already in Italy!’

‘Holding straight for Milan, Lord Keith thinks,’ added I.

‘No, sir, straight for the Tuileries,’ cried Masséna sternly; and
then correcting himself suddenly, he burst into a forced laugh. I must
confess that the speech puzzled me sorely at the time, but I lived
to learn its meaning; and many a time have I wondered at the shrewd
foresight which even then read the ambitious character of the future
Emperor.

‘Of this fact, then, you are quite certain. Bonaparte is on his march
hither?’

‘I have heard it spoken of every day for the last week,’ replied I; ‘and
it was in consequence of this that the English officers used to remark,
if Masséna but knew it, he’d make a dash at them, and clear his way
through at once.’

‘They said this, did they?’ said he, in a low voice, and as if pondering
over it.

‘Yes; one and all agreed in thinking there could not be a doubt of the
result.’

‘Where have you served, sir?’ asked he, suddenly turning on me, and with
a look that showed he was resolved to test the character of the witness.

‘With Moreau, sir, on the Rhine and the Schwarz-wald; in Ireland with
Humbert.’

‘Your regiment?’

‘The Ninth Hussar.’

‘The “Tapageurs”’ said he, laughing. ‘I know them, and glad I am not to
have their company here at this moment; you were a lieutenant?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Well, supposing that, on the faith of what you have told me, I was
to follow the wise counsel of these gentlemen, would you like the
alternative of gaining your promotion in the event of success, or being
shot by a _peloton_ if we fail.’

‘They seem sharp terms, sir,’ said I, smiling, ‘when it is remembered
that no individual efforts of mine can either promote one result or the
other.’

‘Ay, but they can, sir,’ cried he quickly. ‘If you should turn out to
be an Austro-English spy; if these tidings be of a character to lead
my troops into danger; if, in reliance on you, I should be led to
compromise the honour and safety of a French army--your life, were it
worth ten thousand times over your own value of it, would be a sorry
recompense. Is this intelligible?’

‘Far more intelligible than flattering,’ said I, laughing; for I saw
that the best mode to treat him was by an imitation of his own frank and
careless humour. ‘I have already risked that life you hold so cheaply to
convey this information, but I am still ready to accept the conditions
you offer me, if, in the event of success, my name appear in the
despatch.’

He again stared at me with his dark and piercing eyes; but I stood
the glance with a calm conscience, and he seemed so to read it, for he
said--

‘Be it so. I will, meanwhile, test your prudence. Let nothing of this
interview transpire--not a word of it among the officers and comrades
you shall make acquaintance with. You shall serve on my own staff. Go
now, and recruit your strength for a couple of days, and then report
yourself at headquarters when ready for duty.--Latrobe, look to the
Lieutenant Tiernay; see that he wants for nothing, and let him have a
horse and a uniform as soon as may be.’

Captain Latrobe, the future General of Division, was then a young gay
officer of about five-and-twenty, very good-looking, and full of life
and spirits--a buoyancy which the terrible uncertainties of the siege
could not repress.

‘Our general talks nobly, Tiernay,’ said he, as he gave me his arm to
assist me; ‘but you ‘ll stare when I tell you that “wanting for nothing”
 means, having four ounces of black bread, and ditto of blue cheese, per
diem; and as to a horse, if I possessed such an animal, I’d have given
a dinner-party yesterday and eaten him. You look surprised, but when you
see a little more of us here, you’ll begin to think that prison rations
in the fleet yonder were luxuries compared to what we have. No matter,
you shall take share of my superabundance; and if I have little else to
offer, I’ll show you a view from my window, finer than anything you ever
looked on in your life, and with a sea-breeze that would be glorious if
it didn’t make one hungry.’

While he thus rattled on, we reached the street, and there, calling a
couple of soldiers forward, he directed them to carry me along to his
quarters, which lay in the upper town, on an elevated plateau that
overlooked the city and the bay together.

From the narrow lanes, flanked with tall, gloomy houses, and steep,
ill-paved streets, exhibiting poverty and privation of every kind, we
suddenly emerged into an open space of grass, at one side of which a
handsome iron railing stood, with a richly ornamented gate, gorgeously
gilded. Within this was a garden and a fish-pond, surrounded with
statues, and farther on, a long, low villa, whose windows reached to
the ground, and were shaded by a deep awning of striped blue and white
canvas.

Camellias, orange-trees, cactuses, and magnolias abounded everywhere;
tulips and hyacinths seemed to grow wild; and there was in the
half-neglected look of the spot something of savage luxuriance that
heightened the effect immensely.

‘This is my Paradise, Tiernay, only wanting an Eve to be perfect,’ said
Latrobe, as he set me down beneath a spreading lime-tree. ‘Yonder are
your English friends; there they stretch away for miles beyond that
point. That’s the Monte Creto, you may have heard of; and there’s
the Bochetta. In that valley, to the left, the Austrian outposts are
stationed; and from those two heights closer to the shore, they are
gracious enough to salute us every evening after sunset, and even
prolong the attention sometimes the whole night through. Turn your eyes
in this direction, and you’ll see the “cornice” road, that leads to la
belle France, but of which we see as much from this spot as we are ever
like to do. So much for the geography of our position; and now to look
after your breakfast. You have, of course, heard that we do not revel in
superfluities. Never was the boasted excellence of our national cookery
more severely tested, for we have successively descended from cows and
sheep to goats, horses, donkeys, dogs, occasionally experimenting on
hides and shoe-leather, till we ended by regarding a rat as a rarity,
and deeming a mouse a delicacy of the season. As for vegetables,
there would not have been a flowering plant in all Genoa, if tulip
and ranunculus roots had not been bitter as aloes. These seem very
inhospitable confessions, but I make them the more freely since I am
about to treat you _en gourmet_. Come in now, and acknowledge that
juniper bark isn’t bad coffee, and that commissary bread is not to be
thought of “lightly.”’

In this fashion did my comrade invite me to a meal, which, even with
this preface, was far more miserable and scanty than I looked for.



CHAPTER XXXV. A NOVEL COUNCIL OP WAR

I had scarcely finished my breakfast, when a group of officers rode up
to our quarters to visit me. My arrival had already created an immense
sensation in the city, and all kinds of rumours were afloat as to the
tidings I had brought. The meagreness of the information would, indeed,
have seemed in strong contrast to the enterprise and hazard of the
escape, had I not the craft to eke it out by that process of suggestion
and speculation in which I was rather an adept.

Little in substance as my information was, all the younger officers
were in favour of acting upon it. The English are no bad judges of our
position and chances, was the constant argument. They see exactly how we
stand; they know the relative forces of our army and the enemy’s; and if
the ‘cautious islanders’--such was the phrase--advised a _coup de main_,
it surely must have much in its favour. I lay stress upon the remark,
trifling as it may seem; but it is curious to know, that with all the
immense successes of England on sea, her reputation at that time among
Frenchmen was rather for prudent and well-matured undertaking than for
those daring enterprises which are as much the character of her courage.

My visitors continued to pour in during the morning--officers of every
arm and rank, some from mere idle curiosity, some to question and
interrogate, and not a few to solve doubts in their mind as to my being
really French, and a soldier, and not an agent of that ‘perfide Albion,’
whose treachery was become a proverb amongst us. Many were disappointed
at my knowing so little. I neither could tell the date of Napoleon’s
passing St. Gothard, nor the amount of his force; neither knew I whether
he meant to turn eastward towards the plains of Lombardy, or march
direct to the relief of Genoa. Of Moreau’s successes in Germany, too, I
had only heard vaguely, and, of course, could recount nothing. I
could overhear, occasionally, around and about me, the murmurs of
dissatisfaction my ignorance called forth, and was not a little grateful
to an old artillery captain for saying, ‘That’s the very best thing
about the lad; a spy would have had his whole lesson by heart.’

‘You are right, sir,’ cried I, catching at the words; ‘I may know but
little, and that little, perhaps, valueless and insignificant, but my
truth no man shall gainsay.’

The boldness of this speech from one wasted and miserable as I was, with
tattered shoes and ragged clothes, caused a hearty laugh, in which, as
much from policy as feeling, I joined myself.

‘Come here, _mon cher_,’ said an infantry colonel, as, walking to the
door of the room, he drew his telescope from his pocket; ‘you tell us of
a _coup de main_--on the Monte Faccio, is it not?’

‘Yes,’ replied I promptly, ‘so I understand the name.’

‘Well, have you ever seen the place?’

‘Never.’

‘Well, there it is yonder’; and he handed me his glass as he spoke. ‘You
see that large beetling cliff, with the olives at the foot? There, on
the summit, stands the Monte Faccio. The road--the pathway rather, and a
steep one it is--leads up where you see those goats feeding, and crosses
in front of the crag, directly beneath the fire of the batteries.
There’s not a spot on the whole ascent where three men could march
abreast; and wherever there is any shelter from fire, the guns of the
“Sprona,” that small fort to the right, take the whole position. What do
you think of your counsel now?’

‘You forget, sir, it is not my counsel. I merely repeat what I
overheard.’

‘And do you mean to say, that the men who gave that advice were serious,
or capable of adopting it themselves?’

‘Most assuredly; they would never recommend to others what they felt
unequal to themselves. I know these English well, and so much will I say
of them.’

‘Bah!’ cried he, with an insolent gesture of his hand, and turned
away; and I could plainly see that my praises of the enemy were very
ill-taken. In fact, my unlucky burst of generosity had done more to
damage my credit than all the dangerous or impracticable features of
my scheme. Every eye was turned to the bold precipice, and the stern
fortress that crowned it, and all agreed that an attack must be
hopeless.

I saw, too late, the great fault I had committed, and that nothing could
be more wanting in tact than to suggest to Frenchmen an enterprise which
Englishmen deemed practicable, and which yet, to the former, seemed
beyond all reach of success. The insult was too palpable and too direct;
but to retract was impossible, and I had now to sustain a proposition
which gave offence on every side.

It was very mortifying to me to see how soon all my personal credit
was merged in this unhappy theory. No one thought more of my hazardous
escape, the perils I encountered, or the sufferings I had undergone. All
that was remembered of me was the affront I had offered to the national
courage, and the preference I had implied to English bravery.

Never did I pass a more tormenting day. New arrivals continually
refreshed the discussion, and always with the same results. And although
some were satisfied to convey their opinions by a shake of the head or a
dubious smile, others, more candid than civil, plainly intimated that if
I had nothing of more consequence to tell, I might as well have stayed
where I was, and not added one more to a garrison so closely pressed by
hunger. Very little more of such reasoning would have persuaded myself
of its truth, and I almost began to wish that I was once more back in
the ‘sick bay’ of the frigate.

Towards evening I was left alone. My host went down to the town on
duty; and after the visit of a tailor, who came to try on me a staff
uniform--a distinction, I afterwards learned, owing to the abundance
of this class of costume, and not to any claims I could prefer to the
rank--I was perfectly free to stroll about where I pleased unmolested,
and, no small blessing, unquestioned.

On following along the walls for some distance, I came to a part where
a succession of deep ravines opened at the foot of the bastions,
conducting by many a tortuous and rocky glen to the Apennines. The
sides of these gorges were dotted here and there with wild hollies and
fig-trees, stunted and ill-thriven, as the nature of the soil might
imply. Still, for the sake of the few berries, or the sapless fruit they
bore, the soldiers of the garrison were accustomed to creep out from the
embrasures and descend the steep cliffs--a peril great enough in
itself, but terribly increased by the risk of exposure to the enemy’s
tirailleurs, as well as the consequences such indiscipline would bring
down on them.

So frequent, however, had been these infractions, that little footpaths
were worn bare along the face of the cliff, traversing in many a zigzag
a surface that seemed like a wall. It was almost incredible that men
would brave such peril for so little, but famine had rendered them
indifferent to death; and although debility exhibited itself in every
motion and gesture, the men would stand unshrinking and undismayed
beneath the fire of a battery. At one spot, near the angle of a bastion,
and where some shelter from the north winds protected the place, a
little clump of orange-trees stood; and towards these, though fully
a mile off, many a foot-track led, showing how strong had been the
temptation in that quarter. To reach it, the precipice should be
traversed, the gorge beneath and a considerable ascent of the opposite
mountain accomplished; and yet all these dangers had been successfully
encountered, merely instigated by hunger!

High above this very spot, at a distance of perhaps eight hundred feet,
stood the Monte Faccio--the large black and yellow banner of Austria
floating from its walls, as if amid the clouds. I could see the muzzles
of the great guns protruding from the embrasures; and I could even catch
glances of a tall bearskin, as some soldier passed or repassed behind
the parapet, and I thought how terrible would be the attempt to
storm such a position. It was, indeed, true, that if I had the least
conception of the strength of the fort, I never should have dared
to talk of a _coup de main_. Still I was in a manner pledged to the
suggestion. I had perilled my life for it, and few men do as much for
an opinion; for this reason I resolved, come what would, to maintain my
ground, and hold fast to my conviction. I never could be called upon to
plan the expedition, nor could it by any possibility be confided to my
guidance; responsibility could not, therefore, attach to me. All these
were strong arguments, at least quite strong enough to decide a wavering
judgment.

Meditating on these things, I strolled back to my quarters. As I entered
the garden, I found that several officers were assembled, among whom was
Colonel de Barre, the brother of the general of that name who afterwards
fell at the Borodino. He was _chef d’état-major_ to Masséna, and a most
distinguished and brave soldier. Unlike the fashion of the day, which
made the military man affect the rough coarseness of a savage, seasoning
his talk with oaths, and curses, and low expressions, De Barre had
something of the _petit-maître_ in his address, which nothing short of
his well-proved courage would have saved from ridicule. His voice was
low and soft, his smile perpetual; and although well bred enough to have
been dignified and easy, a certain fidgety impulse to be pleasing
made him always appear affected and unnatural. Never was there such
a contrast to his chief; but indeed it was said, that to this very
disparity of temperament he owed all the influence he possessed over
Masséna’s mind.

I might have been a general of division at the very least, to judge from
the courteous deference of the salute with which he approached me--a
politeness the more striking, as all the others immediately fell back,
to leave us to converse together. I was actually overcome with the
flattering terms in which he addressed me on the subject of my escape.

‘I could scarcely at first credit the story,’ said he, ‘but when they
told me that you were a “Ninth man,” one of the old Tapageurs, I never
doubted it more. You see what a bad character is, Monsieur de Tiernay!’
It was the first time I had ever heard the prefix to my name, and I
own the sound was pleasurable. ‘I served a few months with your corps
myself, but I soon saw there was no chance of promotion among fellows
all more eager than myself for distinction. Well, sir, it is precisely
to this reputation I have yielded my credit, and to which General
Masséna is kind enough to concede his own confidence. Your advice is
about to be acted on, Monsieur de Tiernay.’

‘The _coup de main_----’

‘A little lower, if you please, my dear sir. The expedition is to be
conducted with every secrecy, even from the officers of every rank
below a command. Have the goodness to walk along with me this way. If I
understand General Masséna aright, your information conveys no details,
nor any particular suggestions as to the attack.’

‘None whatever, sir. It was the mere talk of a gunroom--the popular
opinion among a set of young officers.’

‘I understand,’ said he, with a bow and a smile--‘the suggestion of
a number of high-minded and daring soldiers, as to what they deemed
practicable.’

‘Precisely, sir.’

‘Neither could you collect from their conversation anything which
bore upon the number of the Austrian advance guard, or their state of
preparation?’

‘Nothing, sir. The opinion of the English was, I suspect, mainly founded
on the great superiority of our forces to the enemy’s in all attacks of
this kind.’

‘Our _esprit “tapageur”_ eh?’ said he, laughing, and pinching my arm
familiarly, and I joined in the laugh with pleasure. ‘Well, Monsieur de
Tiernay, let us endeavour to sustain this good impression. The attempt
is to be made to-night.’

‘To-night!’ exclaimed I, in amazement, for everything within the city
seemed tranquil and still.

‘To-night, sir; and, by the kind favour of General Masséna, I am to lead
the attack--the reserve, if we are ever to want it, being under his own
command It is to be at your own option on which staff you will serve.’

‘On yours, of course, sir,’ cried I hastily. ‘A man who stands unknown
and unvouched for among his comrades, as I do, has but one way to
vindicate his claim to credit--by partaking the peril he counsels.’

‘There could be no doubt either of your judgment, or the sound reasons
for it,’ replied the colonel; ‘the only question was, whether you might
be unequal to the fatigue.’

‘Trust me, sir, you’ll not have to send me to the rear,’ said I,
laughing.

‘Then you are extra on my staff, Monsieur de Tiernay.’

As we walked along, he proceeded to give me the details of our
expedition, which was to be on a far stronger scale than I anticipated.
Three battalions of infantry, with four light batteries, and as many
squadrons of dragoons, were to form the advance.

‘We shall neither want the artillery nor cavalry, except to cover a
retreat,’ said he; ‘I trust, if it come to that, there will not be many
of us to protect; but such are the general’s orders, and we have but to
obey them.’

With the great events of that night on my memory, it is strange that
I should retain so accurately in my mind the trivial and slight
circumstances, which are as fresh before me as if they had occurred but
yesterday.

It was about eleven o’clock, of a dark but starry night, not a breath of
wind blowing, that, passing through a number of gloomy, narrow streets,
I suddenly found myself in the courtyard of the Balbé Palace. A large
marble fountain was playing in the centre, around which several lamps
were lighted; by these I could see that the place was crowded with
officers, some seated at tables drinking, some smoking, and others
lounging up and down in conversation. Huge loaves of black bread, and
wicker-covered flasks of country wine, formed the entertainment;
but even these, to judge from the zest of the guests, were no common
delicacies. At the foot of a little marble group, and before a small
table, with a map on it, sat General Masséna himself, in his grey
overcoat, cutting his bread with a case-knife, while he talked away to
his staff.

‘These maps are good for nothing, Bressi,’ cried he. ‘To look at them,
you ‘d say that every road was practicable for artillery, and every
river passable, and you find afterwards that all these fine _chaussées_
are bypaths, and the rivulets downright torrents. Who knows the Chiavari
road?’

‘Giorgio knows it well, sir,’ said the officer addressed, and who was a
young Piedmontese from Massena’s own village.

‘Ah, Birbante!’ cried the general, ‘are you here again?’ and he turned
laughingly towards a little bandy-legged monster, of less than three
feet high, who, with a cap stuck jauntily on one side of his head, and a
wooden sword at his side, stepped forward with all the confidence of an
equal.

‘Ay, here I am,’ said he, raising his hand to his cap, soldier fashion;
‘there was nothing else for it but this trade,’ and he placed his hand
on the hilt of his wooden weapon. ‘You cut down all the mulberries and
left us no silkworms; you burned all the olives, and left us no oil;
you trampled down our maize crops and our vines. _Per Baccho!_ the only
thing left was to turn brigand like yourself, and see what would come of
it.’

‘Is he not cool to talk thus to a general at the head of his staff?’
said Masséna, with an assumed gravity.

‘I knew you when you wore a different-looking epaulette than that
there,’ said Giorgio, ‘and when you carried one of your father’s
meal-sacks on your shoulder instead of all that bravery.’

‘_Parbleu!_ so he did,’ cried Masséna, laughing heartily. ‘That
scoundrel was always about our mill, and, I believe, lived by thieving!’
added he, pointing to the dwarf.

‘Every one did a little that way in our village,’ said the dwarf; ‘but
none ever profited by his education like yourself.’

If the general and some of the younger officers seemed highly amused at
the fellow’s impudence and effrontery, some of the others looked angry
and indignant. A few were really well born, and could afford to smile at
these recognitions; but many who sprung from an origin even more humble
than the general’s could not conceal their angry indignation at the
scene.

‘I see that these gentlemen are impatient of our vulgar recollections,’
said Masséna, with a sardonic grin; ‘so now to business, Giorgio. You
know the Chiavari road--what is’t like?’

‘Good enough to look at, but mined in four places.’

The general gave a significant glance at the staff, and bade him go on.

‘The white-coats are strong in that quarter, and have eight guns to bear
upon the road, where it passes beneath Monte Ratte.’

‘Why, I was told that the pass was undefended!’ cried Masséna
angrily--‘that a few skirmishers were all that could be seen near it.’

‘All that could be seen!--so they are; but there are eight
twelve-pounder guns in the brushwood, with shot and shell enough to be
seen, and felt too.’

Masséna now turned to the officers near him, and conversed with them
eagerly for some time. The debated point I subsequently heard was how
to make a feint attack on the Chiavari road, to mask the _coup de main_
intended for the Monte Faccio. To give the false attack any colour of
reality, required a larger force and greater preparation than they could
afford, and this was now the great difficulty. At last it was resolved
that this should be a mere demonstration, not to push far beyond the
walls, but, by all the semblance of a serious advance, to attract as
much attention as possible from the enemy.

Another and a greater embarrassment lay in the fact, that the troops
intended for the _coup de main_ had no other exit than the gate which
led to Chiavari, so that the two lines of march would intersect and
interfere with each other. Could we even have passed out our tirailleurs
in advance, the support would easily follow; but the enemy would, of
course, notice the direction our advance would take, and our object be
immediately detected.

‘Why not pass the skirmishers out by the embrasures, to the left
yonder,’ said I; ‘I see many a track where men have gone already.’

‘It is steep as a wall,’ cried one.

‘And there’s a breast of rock in front that no foot could scale.’

‘You have at least a thousand feet of precipice above you, when you
reach the glen, if ever you do reach it alive.’

‘And this to be done in the darkness of a night!’ Such were the
discouraging comments which rattled, quick as musketry, around me.

‘The lieutenant’s right, nevertheless,’ said Giorgio. ‘Half the
voltigeurs of the garrison know the path well already; and as to
darkness--if there were a moon you dared not attempt it.’

‘There’s some truth in that,’ observed an old major.

‘Could you promise to guide them, Giorgio?’ said Masséna.

‘Yes, every step of the way--up to the very walls of the fort.’

‘There, then,’ cried the general, ‘one great difficulty is got over
already.*

‘Not so fast, _générale mio_,’ said the dwarf; ‘I said I could, but I
never said that I would.’

‘Not for a liberal present, Giorgio; not if I filled that leather pouch
of yours with five-franc pieces, man?’

‘I might not live to spend it, and I care little for my next of kin,’
said the dwarf dryly.

‘I don’t think that we need his services, general,’ said I; ‘I saw
the place this evening, and however steep it seems from the walls,
the descent is practicable enough--at least I am certain that our
tirailleurs, in the Black Forest, would never have hesitated about it.’

I little knew that when I uttered this speech I had sent a shot into the
very heart of the magazine, the ruling passion of Masséna’s mind being
an almost insane jealousy of Moreau’s military fame--his famous campaign
of Southern Germany, and his wonderful retreat upon the Rhine, being
regarded as achievements of the highest order.

‘I’ve got some of those regiments you speak of in my brigade here, sir,’
said he, addressing himself directly to me, and I must own that their
discipline reflects but little credit on the skill of so great an
officer as General Moreau; and as to light troops, I fancy Colonel de
Vallence yonder would scarcely feel it a flattery were you to tell him
to take a lesson from them.’

‘I have just been speaking to Colonel de Vallence, general,’ said
Colonel de Barre. ‘He confirms everything Monsieur de Tiernay tells us
of the practicable nature of these paths; his fellows have tracked them
at all hours, and neither want guidance nor direction to go.’

‘In that case I may as well offer my services,’ said Giorgio, tightening
his belt; ‘but I must tell you that it is too late to begin to-night--we
must start immediately after nightfall. It will take from forty to fifty
minutes to descend the cliff, a good two hours to climb the ascent, so
that you ‘ll not have much time to spare before daybreak.’

Giorgio’s opinion was backed by several others, and it was finally
resolved upon that the attempt should be made on the following evening.
Meanwhile, the dwarf was committed to the safe custody of a sergeant,
affectedly to look to his proper care and treatment, but really to guard
against any imprudent revelations that he might make respecting the
intended attack.



CHAPTER XXXVI. GENOA DURING THE SIEGE

If the natural perils of the expedition were sufficient to suggest
grave thoughts, the sight of the troops that were to form it was even
a stronger incentive to fear. I could not believe my eyes, as I watched
the battalions which now deployed before me. Always accustomed,
whatever the hardships they were opposed to, to see French soldiers
light-hearted, gay, and agile, performing their duties in a spirit of
sportive pleasure, as if soldiering were but fun, what was the shock I
received at sight of these careworn, downcast, hollow-cheeked fellows,
dragging their legs wearily along, and scarcely seeming to hear the
words of command; their clothes, patched and mended, sometimes too big,
sometimes too little, showing that they had changed wearers without
being altered; their tattered shoes, tied on with strings round the
ankles; their very weapons dirty and uncared for; they resembled rather
a horde of bandits than the troops of the first army of Europe. There
was, besides, an expression of stealthy, treacherous ferocity in their
faces, such as I never saw before. To this pitiable condition had they
been brought by starvation. Not alone the horses had been eaten, but
dogs and cats; even the vermin of the cellars and sewers was consumed as
food. Leather and skins were all eagerly devoured; and there is but too
terrible reason to believe that human flesh itself was used to prolong
for a few hours this existence of misery.

As they defiled into the ‘Piazza,’ there seemed a kind of effort to
assume the port and bearing of their craft; and although many stumbled,
and some actually fell, from weakness, there was an evident attempt to
put on a military appearance. The manner of the adjutant, as he passed
down the line, revealed at once the exact position of affairs. No
longer inspecting every little detail of equipment, criticising this, or
remarking on that, his whole attention was given to the condition of
the musket, whose lock he closely scrutinised, and then turned to the
cartouch-box. The ragged uniforms, the uncouth shakos, the belts dirty
and awry, never called forth a word of rebuke. Too glad, as it seemed,
to recognise even the remnants of discipline, he came back from his
inspection apparently well satisfied and content.

‘These fellows turn out well,’ said Colonel de Barre, as he looked along
the line; and I started to see if the speech were an unfeeling jest.
Far from it; he spoke in all seriousness. The terrible scenes he had for
months been witnessing; the men dropping from hunger at their posts; the
sentries fainting as they carried arms, and borne away to the hospital
to die; the bursts of madness that would now and then break forth from
men whose agony became unendurable, had so steeled him to horrors, that
even this poor shadow of military display seemed orderly and imposing.

‘They are the 22nd, colonel,’ replied the adjutant, proudly, ‘a corps
that always have maintained their character, whether on parade or under
fire!’

‘Ah! the 22nd, are they? They have come up from Ronco, then?’

‘Yes, sir; they were all that General Soult could spare us.’

‘Fine-looking fellows they are,’ said De Barre, scanning them through
his glass. ‘The third company is a little, a very little to the
rear--don’t you perceive it?--and the flank is a thought or so restless
and unsteady.’

‘A sergeant has just been carried to the rear ill, sir,’ said a young
officer, in a low voice.

‘The heat, I have no douht; a _colpo di sole_, as they tell us
everything is,’ said De Barre. ‘By the way, is not this the regiment
that boasts the pretty vivandière? What’s this her name is?’

‘Lela, sir.’

‘Yes, to be sure, Lela. I’m sure I’ve heard her toasted often enough at
cafés and restaurants.’

‘There she is, sir, yonder, sitting on the steps of the fountain’; and
the officer made a sign with his sword for the girl to come over. She
made an effort to arise at the order, but tottered back, and would have
fallen if a soldier had not caught her. Then suddenly collecting
her strength, she arranged the folds of her short scarlet jupe, and
smoothing down the braids of her fair hair, came forward, at that
sliding, half-skipping pace that is the wont of her craft.

The exertion, and possibly the excitement, had flushed her cheek, so
that as she came forward her look was brilliantly handsome; but as the
colour died away, and a livid pallor spread over her jaws, lank and
drawn in by famine, her expression was dreadful. The large eyes,
lustrous and wild-looking, gleaming with the fire of fever, while her
thin nostrils quivered at each respiration.

Poor girl, even then, with famine and fever eating within her, the
traits of womanly vanity still survived, and as she carried her hand to
her cap in salute, she made a faint attempt at a smile.

‘The 22nd may indeed be proud of their vivandière,* said De Barre
gallantly.

‘What hast in the _tonnslet_, Lela?’ continued he, tapping the little
silver-hooped barrel she carried at her back.

‘_Ah, que voulez-vous?_ cried she laughing, with a low, husky sound, the
laugh of famine.

‘I must have a glass of it to your health, _ma belle_ Lela, if it cost
me a crown-piece’; and he drew forth the coin as he spoke.

‘For such a toast, the liquor is quite good enough,’ said Lela, drawing
back at the offer of money; while slinging the little cask in front, she
unhooked a small silver cup, and filled it with water.

‘No brandy, Lela?’

‘None, colonel,’ said she, shaking her head; ‘and if I had, those poor
fellows yonder would not like it so well.’

‘I understand,’ said he significantly; ‘theirs is the thirst of fever.’

A short, dry cough, and a barely perceptible nod of the head, was all
her reply; but their eyes met, and any so sad an expression as they
interchanged I never beheld! it was a confession in full of all each had
seen of sorrow, of suffering, and of death--the terrible events three
months of famine had revealed, and all the agonies of pestilence and
madness.

‘That is delicious water, Tiernay,’ said the colonel, as he passed me
the cup, and thus trying to get away from the sad theme of his thoughts.

‘I fetch it from a well outside the walls every morning,’ said Lela;
‘ay, and within gunshot of the Austrian sentries, too.’

‘There’s coolness for you, Tiernay,’ said the colonel; ‘think what the
22nd are made of when their vivandière dares to do this!’

‘They’ll not astonish him,’ said Lela, looking steadily at me

‘And why not, _ma belle?_’ cried De Barre. ‘He was a Tapageur, one of
the “Naughty Ninth,” as they called them.’

‘How do you know that, Lela? Have we ever met before?’ cried I eagerly.

‘I’ve seen you, sir,’ said she slyly. ‘They used to call you the
corporal that won the battle of Kehl. I know my father always said so.’

I would have given worlds to have interrogated her further; so
fascinating is selfishness, that already at least a hundred questions
were presenting themselves to my mind. Who could Lela be? and who was
her father? and what were these reports about me? Had I really won fame
without knowing it? and did my comrades indeed speak of me with honour?
All these, and many more inquiries, were pressing for utterance, as
General Masséna walked up with his staff. The general fully corroborated
De Barre’s opinion of the ‘22nd.’ They were, as he expressed it, a
‘magnificent body.’ It was a perfect pleasure to see such troops under
arms.’ ‘Those fellows certainly exhibited few traces of a starved-out
garrison.’

Such and such like were the observations bandied from one to the other,
in all the earnest seriousness of truth What more terrible evidence of
the scenes they had passed through, than these convictions! What more
stunning proof of the condition to which long suffering had reduced
them!

‘Where is our pleasant friend, who talked to us of the Black Forest last
night? Ah, there he is; well, Monsieur Tiernay, do you think General
Moreau’s people turned out better than that after the retreat from
Donau-eschingen?’

There was no need for any reply, since the scornful burst of laughter of
the staff already gave the answer he wanted; and now he walked forward
to the centre of the piazza, while the troops proceeded to march past.

The band, a miserable group, reduced from fifty to thirteen in number,
struck up a quick step, and the troops, animated by the sounds, and more
still, perhaps, by Masséna’s presence, made an effort to step out in
quick time; but the rocking, wavering motion, the clinking muskets and
uncertain gait, were indescribably painful to a soldier’s eye. Their
colonel, De Vallence, however, evidently did not regard them thus, for
as he joined the staff, he received the general’s compliments with all
the good faith and composure in the world.

The battalions were marched off to barracks, and the group of officers
broke up to repair to their several quarters. It was the hour of dinner,
but it had been many a day since that meal had been heard of amongst
them. A stray café here and there was open in the city, but a cup of
coffee, without milk, and a small roll of black bread, a horrid compound
of rye and cocoa, was all the refreshment obtainable; and yet, I am bold
to say that a murmur or a complaint was unheard against the general
or the Government. The heaviest reverses, the gloomiest hours of ill
fortune, never extinguished the hope that Genoa was to be relieved
at last, and that all we had to do was to hold out for the arrival of
Bonaparte. To the extent of this conviction is to be attributed the
wide disparity between the feeling displayed by the military and the
townsfolk.

The latter, unsustained by hope, without one spark of speculation to
cheer their gloomy destiny, starved, and sickened, and died in masses.
The very requirements of discipline were useful in averting the
despondent vacuity which comes of hunger. Of the sanguine confidence of
the soldiery in the coming of their comrades, I was to witness a strong
illustration on the very day of which I have been speaking.

It was about four o’clock in the afternoon, the weather had been heavy
and overcast, and the heat excessive, so that all who were free from
duty had either lain down to sleep, or were quietly resting within
doors, when a certain stir and movement in the streets, a rare event
during the hours of the siesta, drew many a head to the windows. The
report ran, and like wildfire it spread through the city, that the
advanced guard of Bonaparte had reached Ronco that morning, and were
already in march on Genoa. Although nobody could trace this story to
any direct source, each believed and repeated it; the tale growing more
consistent and fuller at every repetition. I need not weary my reader
with all the additions and corrections the narrative received, nor
recount how now it was Moreau with the right wing of the army of the
Rhine; now it was Kellermann’s brigade; now it was Macdonald, who had
passed the Ticino; and last of all, Bonaparte. The controversy was
often even an angry one, when, finally, all speculation was met by the
official report, that all that was known lay in the simple fact, that
heavy guns had been heard that morning, near Ronco, and as the Austrians
held no position with artillery there, the firing must needs be French.

This very bare announcement was, of course, a great ‘come down’ for all
the circumstantial detail with which we had been amusing ourselves and
each other, but yet it nourished hope, and the hope that was nearest to
all our hearts, too! The streets were soon filled; officers and soldiers
hastily dressed, and with many a fault of costume were all
commingled, exchanging opinions, resolving doubts, and even bandying
congratulations. The starved and hungry faces were lighted up with an
expression of savage glee. It was like the last flickering gleam of
passion in men whose whole vitality was the energy of fever! The heavy
debt they owed their enemy was at last to be paid, and all the insulting
injury of a besieged and famine-stricken garrison to be avenged. A
surging movement in the crowd told that some event had occurred; it
was Masséna and his staff, who were proceeding to a watch-tower in the
bastion, from whence a wide range of country could be seen. This was
reassuring. The general himself entertained the story, and here was
proof that there was ‘something in it.’ All the population now made
for the walls; every spot from which the view towards Ronco could
be obtained was speedily crowded, every window filled, and all the
housetops crammed. A dark mass of inky cloud covered the tops of the
Apennines, and even descended to some distance down the sides. With what
shapes and forms of military splendour did our imaginations people the
space behind that sombre curtain! What columns of stern warriors, what
prancing squadrons, what earth-shaking masses of heavy artillery! How
longingly each eye grew weary watching--waiting for the veil to be rent,
and the glancing steel to be seen glistening bright in the sun-rays!

As if to torture our anxieties, the lowering mass grew darker and
heavier, and, rolling lazily adown the mountain, it filled up the
valley, wrapping earth and sky in one murky mantle.

‘There, did you hear that?’ cried one; ‘that was artillery.’

A pause followed, each ear was bent to listen, and not a word was
uttered for full a minute or more; the immense host, as if swayed by
the one impulse, strained to catch the sounds, when suddenly, from the
direction of the mountain top, there came a rattling, crashing noise,
followed by the dull, deep booming that every soldier’s heart responds
to What a cheer then burst forth! never did I hear--never may I
hear--such a cry as that was; it was like the wild yell of a shipwrecked
crew, as some distant sail hove in sight; and yet, through its cadence,
there rang the mad lust for vengeance! Yes, in all the agonies of
sinking strength, with fever in their hearts, and the death sweat on
their cheeks, their cry was Blood! The puny shout, for such it seemed
now, was drowned in the deafening crash that now was heard; peal after
peal shook the air, the same rattling, peppering noise of musketry
continuing through all.

That the French were in strong force, as well as the enemy, there could
now be no doubt. Nothing but a serious affair and a stubborn resistance
could warrant such a fire. It had every semblance of an attack with all
arms. The roar of the heavy guns made the air vibrate, and the clatter
of small-arms was incessant. How each of us filled up the picture from
the impulses of his own fancy! Some said that the French were still
behind the mountain, and storming the heights of the Borghetto; others
thought that they had gained the summit, but not _en force_, and were
only contesting their position there; and a few, more sanguine, of whom
I was one myself, imagined that they were driving the Austrians down the
Apennines, cleaving their ranks, as they went, with their artillery.

Each new crash, every momentary change of direction of the sounds,
favoured this opinion or that, and the excitement of partisanship rose
to an immense height. What added indescribably to the interest of the
scene, was a group of Austrian officers on horseback, who, in their
eagerness to obtain tidings, had ridden beyond their lines, and were
now standing almost within musket range of us. We could see that their
telescopes were turned to the eventful spot, and we gloried to think of
the effect the scene must have been producing on them.

‘They’ve seen enough!’ cried one of our fellows, laughing, while he
pointed to the horsemen, who, suddenly wheeling about, galloped back to
their camp at full speed.

‘You ‘ll have the drums beat to arms now; there’s little time to lose.
Our cuirassiers will soon be upon them,’ cried another, in ecstasy.

‘No, but the rain will, and upon us, too,’ said Giorgio, who had
now come up; ‘don’t you see that it’s not a battle yonder, it’s a
_burrasca_. There it comes.’ And as if the outstretched finger of the
dwarf had been the wand of a magician, the great cloud was suddenly torn
open with a crash, and the rain descended like a deluge, swept along by
a hurricane wind, and came in vast sheets of water, while high over our
heads, and moving onward towards the sea, growled the distant thunder.
The great mountain was now visible from base to summit, but not a
soldier, not a gun, to be seen! Swollen and yellow, the gushing torrents
leaped madly from crag to crag, and crashing trees, and falling rocks,
added their wild sounds to the tumult.

There we stood, mute and sorrow-struck, regardless of the seething rain,
unconscious of anything save our disappointment. The hope we built upon
had left us, and the dreary scene of storm around seemed but a type of
our own future! And yet we could not turn away, but with eyes strained
and aching, gazed at the spot from where our succour should have come.

I looked up at the watch-tower, and there was Massena still, his arms
folded, on a battlement; he seemed to be deep in thought. At last
he arose, and, drawing his cloak across his face, descended the
winding-stair outside the tower. His step was slow, and more than once
he halted, as if to think. When he reached the walls, he walked rapidly
on, his suite following him.

‘Ah, Monsieur Tiernay,’ said he, as he passed me, ‘you know what an
Apennine storm is now; but it will cool the air and give us delicious
weather’; and so he passed on with an easy smile.



CHAPTER XXXVII. MONTE DI PACCIO

The disappointment we had suffered was not the only circumstance adverse
to our expedition. The rain had now swollen the smallest rivulets to
the size of torrents; in many places the paths would be torn away and
obliterated, and everywhere the difficulty of a night march enormously
increased. Giorgio, however, who was, perhaps, afraid of forfeiting his
reward, assured the general that these mountain streams subside even
more rapidly than they rise; that such was the dryness of the soil, no
trace of rain would be seen by sunset, and that we should have a calm,
starry night; the very thing we wanted for our enterprise.

We did not need persuasion to believe all he said--the opinion chimed in
with our own wishes, and, better still, was verified to the very
letter by a glorious afternoon. Landward, the spectacle was perfectly
enchanting; the varied foliage of the Apennines, refreshed by the rain,
glittered and shone in the sun’s rays, while in the bay, the fleet, with
sails hung out to dry, presented a grand and an imposing sight. Better
than all, Monte Faccio now appeared quite near us; we could, even with
the naked eye, perceive all the defences, and were able to detect a
party of soldiers at work outside the walls, clearing, as it seemed,
some watercourse that had been impeded by the storm. Unimportant as the
labour was, we watched it anxiously, for we thought that perhaps before
another sunset many a brave fellow’s blood might dye that earth. During
the whole of that day, from some cause or other, not a shot had been
fired either from the land-batteries or the fleet, and as though a truce
had been agreed to, we sat watching each other’s movements peacefully
and calmly.

‘The Austrians would seem to have been as much deceived as ourselves,
sir,’ said an old artillery sergeant to me, as I strolled along the
walls at nightfall. ‘The pickets last night were close to the glacis,
but see, now they have fallen back a gunshot or more.’

‘But they had time enough since to have resumed their old position,’
said I, half doubting the accuracy of the surmise.

‘Time enough, _parbleu!_ I should think so too! but when the white-coats
manoeuvre, they write to Vienna to ask, “What’s to be done next?”’

This passing remark, in which, with all its exaggeration, there lay a
germ of truth, was the universal judgment of our soldiers on those of
the Imperial army; and to the prevalence of the notion may be ascribed
much of that fearless indifference with which small divisions of ours
attacked whole army corps of the enemy. Bonaparte was the first to point
out this slowness, and to turn it to the best advantage.

‘If our general ever intended a sortie, this would be the night for it,
sir,’ resumed he; ‘the noise of those mountain streams would mask the
sounds of a march, and even cavalry, if led with caution, might be in
upon them before they were aware.’

This speech pleased me, not only for the judgment it conveyed, but as an
assurance that our expedition was still a secret in the garrison.

On questioning the sergeant further, I was struck to find that he had
abandoned utterly all hope of ever seeing France again; such, he told
me, was the universal feeling of the soldiery. ‘We know well, sir,
that Massena is not the man to capitulate, and we cannot expect to
be relieved’ And yet with this stern, comfortless conviction on their
minds--with hunger, and famine, and pestilence on every side--they never
uttered one word of complaint, not even a murmur of remonstrance. What
would Moreau’s fellows say of us? What would the army of the Meuse
think? These were the ever-present arguments against surrender; and
the judgment of their comrades was far more terrible to them than the
grapeshot of the enemy.

‘But do you not think, when Bonaparte crosses the Alps, he will hasten
to our relief?’

‘Not he, sir! I know him well. I was in the same troop with him, a
bombardier at the same gun. Bonaparte will never go after small game
where there’s a nobler prey before him. If he does cross the Alps, he’ll
be for a great battle under Milan; or, mayhap, march on Venice. He’s
not thinking of our starved battalions here; he’s planning some great
campaign, depend on it. He never faced the Alps to succour Genoa.’

How true was this appreciation of the great general’s ambition, I need
scarcely repeat; but so it was at the time; many were able to guess the
bold aspirings of one who, to the nation, seemed merely one among the
numerous candidates for fame and honours.

It was about an hour after my conversation with the sergeant, that an
orderly came to summon me to Colonel de Barres quarters; and with all
my haste to obey, I only arrived as the column was formed. The plan of
attack was simple enough. Three Voltigeur companies were to attempt the
assault of the Monte Facoio, under De Barre; while, to engage attention,
and draw off the enemy’s force, a strong body of infantry and cavalry
was to debouch on the Chiavari road, as though to force a passage in
that direction. In all that regarded secrecy and despatch our expedition
was perfect; and as we moved silently through the streets, the sleeping
citizens never knew of our march. Arrived at the gate, the column
halted, to give us time to pass along the walls and descend the glen, an
operation which, it was estimated, would take forty-five minutes; at the
expiration of this they were to issue forth to the feint attack.

At a quick step we now pressed forward towards the angle of the bastion,
whence many a path led down the cliff in all directions. Half a dozen of
our men, well acquainted with the spot, volunteered as guides, and the
muskets being slung on the back, the word was given to ‘move on,’ the
rallying-place being the plateau of the orange-trees I have already
mentioned.

‘Steep enough this,’ said De Barre to me, as, holding on by briers and
brambles, we slowly descended the gorge; ‘but few of us will ever climb
it again.’

‘You think so?’ asked I, in some surprise.

‘Of course, I know it,’ said he. ‘Vallence, who commands the battalions
below, always condemned the scheme; rely on it, he’s not the man to make
himself out a false prophet. I don’t pretend to tell you that in our
days of monarchy there were neither jealousies nor party grudges, and
that men were above all small and ungenerous rivalry; but, assuredly, we
had less of them than now. If the field of competition is more open to
every one, so are the arts by which success is won; a preeminence in a
republic means always the ruin of a rival If we fail, as fail we must,
he’ll be a general.’

‘But why must we fail?’

‘For every reason; we are not in force; we know nothing of what we are
about to attack; and, if repulsed, have no retreat behind us.’

‘Then why----?’ I stopped, for already I saw the impropriety of my
question.

‘Why did I advise the attack?’ said he mildly, taking up my half-uttered
question. ‘Simply because death outside these walls is quicker and more
glorious than within them. There’s scarcely a man who follows us has not
the same sentiment in his heart. The terrible scenes of the last
five weeks have driven our fellows to all but mutiny. Nothing indeed
maintained discipline but a kind of tigerish thirst for vengeance--a
hope that the day of reckoning would come round, and one fearful lesson
teach these same white-coats how dangerous it is to drive a brave enemy
to despair.’

De Barre continued to talk in this strain as we descended, every remark
he made being uttered with all the coolness of one who talked of a
matter indifferent to him. At length the way became too steep for much
converse, and slipping and scrambling we now only interchanged a chance
word as we went. Although two hundred and fifty men were around and
about us, not a voice was heard; and, except the occasional breaking of
a branch, or the occasional fall of some heavy stone into the valley,
not a sound was heard. At length a long, shrill whistle announced that
the first man had reached the bottom, which, to judge from the faintness
of the sound, appeared yet a considerable distance off. The excessive
darkness increased the difficulty of the way, and De Barre continued
to repeat--‘that we had certainly been misinformed, and that even in
daylight the descent would take an hour.’

It was full half an hour after this when we came to a small rivulet, the
little boundary line between the two steep cliffs. Here our men were all
assembled, refreshing themselves with the water, still muddy from recent
rain, and endeavouring to arrange equipments and arms, damaged and
displaced by many a fall.

‘We ‘ve taken an hour and twenty-eight minutes,’ said De Barre, as he
placed a firefly on the glass of his watch, to see the hour. ‘Now, men,
let us make up for lost time. _En avant!_

‘_En avant!_,’ was quickly passed from mouth to mouth, and never was
a word more spirit-stirring to Frenchmen! With all the alacrity of men
fresh and ‘eager for the fray,’ they began the ascent, and such was the
emulous ardour to be first, that it assumed all the features of a race.

A close pine wood greatly aided us now, and, in less time than we
could believe it possible, we reached the plateau appointed for our
rendezvous. This being the last spot of meeting before our attack on the
fort, the final dispositions were here settled on, and the orders for
the assault arranged. With daylight, the view from this terrace, for
such it was in reality, would have been magnificent, for even now, in
the darkness, we could track out the great thoroughfares of the city,
follow the windings of the bay and harbour, and, by the lights on board,
detect the fleet as it lay at anchor. To the left, and for many a mile,
as it seemed, were seen twinkling the bivouac fires of the Austrian
army; while directly above our heads, glittering like a red star, shone
the solitary gleam that marked out the ‘Monte Faccio.’

I was standing silently at De Barre’s side, looking on this sombre
scene, so full of terrible interest, when he clutched my arm violently,
and whispered--‘Look yonder; see, the attack has begun.’

The fire of the artillery had flashed as he spoke, and now, with his
very words, the deafening roar of the guns was heard from below.

‘I told you he’d not wait for us, Tiernay. I told you how it would
happen!’ cried he; then suddenly recovering his habitual composure of
voice and manner, he said, ‘Now for our part, men; forwards!’

And away went the brave fellows, tearing up the steep mountain-side,
like an assault party at a breach. Though hidden from our view by the
darkness and the dense wood, we could hear the incessant din of large
and small arms; the roll of the drums summoning men to their quarters,
and what we thought were the cheers of charging squadrons.

Such was the mad feeling of excitement these sounds produced, that I
cannot guess what time elapsed before we found ourselves on the crest of
the mountain, and not above three hundred paces from the outworks of
the fort. The trees had been cut away on either side, so as to offer
a species of glacis, and this must be crossed under the fire of the
batteries, before an attack could be commenced. Fortunately for us,
however, the garrison was too confident of its security to dread a _coup
de main_ from the side of the town, and had placed all their guns along
the bastion, towards Borghetto, and this De Barre immediately detected.
A certain ‘alert’ on the walls, however, and a quick movement of lights
here and there, showed that they had become aware of the sortie from
the town, and gradually we could see figure after figure ascending the
walls, as if to peer down into the valley beneath.

‘You see what Vallence has done for us,’ said De Barre bitterly; ‘but
for him we should have taken these fellows, _en flagrant délit_, and
carried their walls before they could turn out a captain’s guard.’

As he spoke a heavy crashing sound was heard, and a wild cheer. Already
our pioneers had gained the gate, and were battering away at it; another
party had reached the walls, and thrown up their rope-ladders, and
the attack was opened. In fact, Giorgio had led one division by a path
somewhat shorter than ours, and they had begun the assault before we
issued from the pine wood.

We now came up at a run, but under a smart fire from the walls, already
fast crowding with men. Defiling close beneath the wall, we gained the
gate, just as it had fallen beneath the assaults of our men. A steep
covered way led up from it, and along this our fellows rushed madly;
but suddenly from the gloom a red glare flashed out, and a terrible
discharge of grape swept all before it. ‘Lie down!’ was now shouted from
front to rear, but even before the order could be obeyed another and
more fatal volley followed.

Twice we attempted to storm the ascent; but wearied by the labour of the
mountain pass--worn out by fatigue--and, worse still, weak from actual
starvation, our men faltered! It was not fear, nor was there anything
akin to it; for even as they fell under the thick fire their shrill
cheers breathed stern defiance. They were utterly exhausted, and failing
strength could do no more! De Barre took the lead, sword in hand,
and with one of those wild appeals that soldiers never hear in vain,
addressed them; but the next moment his shattered corpse was carried
to the rear. The scaling party, alike repulsed, had now defiled to
our support; but the death-dealing artillery swept through us without
ceasing. Never was there a spectacle so terrible as to see men, animated
by courageous devotion, burning with glorious zeal, and yet powerless
from very debility--actually dropping from the weakness of famine! The
staggering step--the faint shout--the powerless charge--all showing the
ravages of pestilence and want!

Some sentiment of compassion must have engaged our enemies’ sympathy,
for twice they relaxed their fire, and only resumed it as we returned to
the attack. One fearful discharge of grape, at pistol range, now seemed
to have closed the struggle; and as the smoke cleared away, the earth
was seen crowded with dead and dying. The broken ranks no longer showed
discipline--men gathered in groups around their wounded comrades, and,
to all seeming, indifferent to the death that menaced them. Scarcely an
officer survived, and, among the dead beside me, I recognised
Giorgio, who still knelt in the attitude in which he had received his
death-wound.

I was like one in some terrible dream, powerless and terror-stricken, as
I stood thus amid the slaughtered and the wounded.

‘You are my prisoner,’ said a gruff-looking old Groat grenadier, as
he snatched my sword from my hand by a smart blow on the wrist; and I
yielded without a word.

‘Is it over?’ said I; ‘is it over?’

‘Yes, _parbleu!_ I think it is,’ said a comrade, whose cheek was hanging
down from a bayonet wound. ‘There are not twenty of us remaining, and
they will do very little for the service of the “Great Republic’”



CHAPTER XXXVIII. A ROYALIST ‘DE LA VIEILLE ROCHE’

On a hot and sultry day of June I found myself seated in a country cart,
and under the guard of two mounted dragoons, wending my way towards
Kuffstein, a Tyrol fortress, to which I was sentenced as a prisoner. A
weary journey was it; for in addition to my now sad thoughts I had to
contend against an attack of ague, which I had just caught, and which
was then raging like a plague in the Austrian camp. One solitary
reminiscence, and that far from a pleasant one, clings to this period.
We had halted on the outskirts of a little village called ‘Broletto,’
for the siesta, and there, in a clump of olives, were quietly dozing
away the sultry hours, when the clatter of horsemen awoke us; and on
looking up, we saw a cavalry escort sweep past at a gallop. The corporal
who commanded our party hurried into the village to learn the news, and
soon returned with the tidings that ‘a great victory had been gained
over the French, commanded by Bonaparte in person; that the army was in
full retreat; and this was the despatch an officer of Melas’ staff was
now hastening to lay at the feet of the emperor.’

‘I thought several times this morning,’ said the corporal, ‘that I heard
artillery; and so it seems I might, for we are not above twenty miles
from where the battle was fought.’

‘And how is the place called?’ asked I, in a tone sceptical enough to be
offensive.

‘Marengo,’ replied he; ‘mayhap, the name will not escape your memory.’

How true was the surmise, but in how different a sense from what he
uttered it! But so it was; even as late as four o’clock the victory
was with the Austrians. Three separate envoys had left the field with
tidings of success; and it was only late at night that the general,
exhausted by a disastrous day, and almost broken-hearted, could write to
tell his master that ‘Italy was lost.’

I have many a temptation here to diverge from a line that I set down for
myself in these memoirs, and from which as yet I have not wandered--I
mean, not to dwell upon events wherein I was not myself an actor; but
I am determined still to adhere to my rule, and, leaving that glorious
event behind me, plod wearily along my journey.

Day after day we journeyed through a country teeming with abundance:
vast plains of corn and maize, olives and vines, everywhere--on the
mountains, the crags, the rocks, festooned over cliffs, and spreading
their tangled networks over cottages; and yet everywhere poverty,
misery, and debasement, ruined villages, and a half-naked, starving
populace, met the eye at every turn. There was the stamp of slavery on
all, and still more palpably was there the stamp of despotism in the air
of their rulers.

If any spot can impress the notion of impregnability it is Kuffstein.
Situated on an eminence of rock over the Inn, three sides of the base
are washed by that rapid river. A little village occupies the fourth;
and from this the supplies are hoisted up to the garrison above by
cranes and pulleys--the only approach being by a path wide enough for
a single man, and far too steep and difficult of access to admit of his
carrying any burthen, however light. All that science and skill could do
is added to the natural strength of the position, and from every surface
of the vast rock itself the projecting mouths of guns and mortars show
resources of defence it would seem madness to attack.

Three thousand men, under the command of General Urleben, held this
fortress at the time I speak of, and by their habits of discipline
and vigilance showed that no over-security would make them neglect the
charge of so important a trust. I was the first French prisoner that had
ever been confined within the walls, and to the accident of my uniform
was I indebted for this distinction. I have mentioned that in Genoa they
gave me a staff-officer’s dress and appointments, and from this
casual circumstance it was supposed that I should know a great deal of
Masséna’s movements and intentions, and that by judicious management I
might be induced to reveal it.

General Urleben, who had been brought up in France, was admirably
calculated to have promoted such an object were it practicable. He
possessed the most winning address as well as great personal advantages,
and although now past the middle of life, was reputed one of the
handsomest men in Austria. He at once invited me to his table, and
having provided me with a delightful little chamber, from whence the
view extended for miles along the Inn, he sent me stores of books,
journals, and newspapers, French, English, and German, showing by the
very candour of their tidings a most flattering degree of confidence and
trust.

If imprisonment could ever be endurable with resignation, mine ought to
have been so. My mornings were passed in weeding or gardening a little
plot of ground outside my window, giving me ample occupation in that
way, and rendering carnations and roses dearer to me, through all my
after-life, than without such associations they would ever have been.
Then I used to sketch for hours, from the walls, bird’s-eye views,
prisoner’s glimpses, of the glorious Tyrol scenery below us. Early
in the afternoon came dinner; and then, with the general’s pleasant
converse, a cigar, and a chess-board, the time wore smoothly on till
nightfall.

An occasional thunderstorm, grander and more sublime than anything I
have ever seen elsewhere, would now and then vary a life of calm but not
unpleasant monotony; and occasionally, too, some passing escort, on
the way to or from Vienna, would give tidings of the war; but except in
these, each day was precisely like the other, so that when the almanac
told me it was autumn, I could scarcely believe a single month had
glided over. I will not attempt to conceal the fact, that the inglorious
idleness of my life, this term of inactivity at an age when hope, and
vigour, and energy were highest within me, was a grievous privation;
but, except in these regrets, I could almost call this time a happy
one. The unfortunate position in which I started in life gave me little
opportunity, or even inclination for learning. Except the little Père
Michel had taught me, I knew nothing. I need not say that this was but
a sorry stock of education, even at that period, when, I must say, the
sabre was more in vogue than the grammar.

I now set steadily about repairing this deficiency. General Urleben lent
me all his aid, directing my studies, supplying me with books, and
at times affording me the still greater assistance of his counsel and
advice. To history generally, but particularly that of France, he made
me pay the deepest attention, and seemed never to weary while impressing
upon me the grandeur of our former monarchies, and the happiness of
France when ruled by her legitimate sovereigns.

I had told him all that I knew myself of my birth and family, and
frequently would he allude to the subject of my reading, by saying, ‘The
son of an old “Garde du Corps” needs no commentary when perusing such
details as these. Your own instincts tell you how nobly these servants
of a monarchy bore themselves--what chivalry lived at that time in men’s
hearts, and how generous and self-denying was their loyalty.’

Such and such like were the expressions which dropped from him from time
to time; nor was their impression the less deep when supported by the
testimony of the memoirs with which he supplied me. Even in deeds of
military glory the Monarchy could compete with the Republic, and Urleben
took care to insist upon a fact I was never unwilling to concede--that
the well born were ever foremost in danger, no matter whether the banner
was a white one or a tricolour.

‘Le bon sang ne peut pas mentir’ was an adage I never disputed, although
certainly I never expected to hear it employed to the disparagement of
those to whom it did not apply.

As the winter set in I saw less of the general. He was usually much
occupied in the mornings, and at evenings he was accustomed to go
down to the village, where, of late, some French _émigré_ families
had settled--unhappy exiles, who had both peril and poverty to contend
against! Many such were scattered through the Tyrol at that period, both
for the security and the cheapness it afforded. Of these, Urleben rarely
spoke; some chance allusion, when borrowing a book or taking away a
newspaper, being the extent to which he ever referred to them.

One morning, as I sat sketching on the walls, he came up to me and said,
‘Strange enough, Tiernay, last night I was looking at a view of this
very scene, only taken from another point of sight; both were correct,
accurate in every detail, and yet most dissimilar--what a singular
illustration of many of our prejudices and opinions! The sketch I speak
of was made by a young countrywoman of yours--a highly gifted lady, who
little thought that the accomplishments of her education were one day
to be the resources of her livelihood. Even so,’ said he, sighing, ‘a
marquise of the best blood of France is reduced to sell her drawings!’

As I expressed a wish to see the sketches in question, he volunteered
to make the request if I would send some of mine in return; and thus
accidentally grew up a sort of intercourse between myself and the
strangers, which gradually extended to books and music, and, lastly, to
civil messages and inquiries of which the general was ever the bearer.

What a boon was all this to me! What a sun-ray through the bars of
a prisoner’s cell was this gleam of kindness and sympathy! The very
similarity of our pursuits, too, had something inexpressibly pleasing in
it, and I bestowed ten times as much pains upon each sketch, now that I
knew to whose eyes it would be submitted.

‘Do you know, Tiernay,’ said the general to me, one day, ‘I am about to
incur a very heavy penalty in your behalf--I am going to contravene the
strict orders of the War Office, and take you along with me this evening
down to the village.’

I started with surprise and delight together, and could not utter a
word.

‘I know perfectly well,’ continued he, ‘that you will not abuse my
confidence. I ask, then, for nothing beyond your word, that you will
not make any attempt at escape; for this visit may lead to others, and I
desire, so far as possible, that you should feel as little constraint as
a prisoner well may.’

I readily gave the pledge required, and he went on--‘I have no cautions
to give you, nor any counsels--Madame d’Aigreville is a Royalist.’

‘She is madame, then!’ said I, in a voice of some disappointment.

‘Yes, she is a widow, but her niece is unmarried,’ said he, smiling
at my eagerness. I affected to hear the tidings with unconcern, but a
burning flush covered my cheek, and I felt as uncomfortable as possible.

I dined that day as usual with the general, adjourning after dinner to
the little drawing-room, where we played our chess. Never did he
appear to me so tedious in his stories, so intolerably tiresome in
his digressions, as that evening. He halted at every move--he had some
narrative to recount, or some observation to make, that delayed our
game to an enormous time; and at last, on looking out of the window, he
fancied there was a thunderstorm brewing, and that we should do well to
put off our visit to a more favourable opportunity.

‘It is little short of half a league,’ said he, ‘to the village, and in
bad weather is worse than double the distance.’

I did not dare to controvert his opinion, but, fortunately, a gleam of
sunshine shot, the same moment, through the window, and proclaimed a
fair evening.

Heaven knows I had suffered little of a prisoner’s durance--my life had
been one of comparative freedom and ease; and yet, I cannot tell the
swelling emotion of my heart with which I emerged from the deep archway
of the fortress, and heard the bang of the heavy gate as it closed
behind me. Steep as was the path, I felt as if I could have bounded
down it without a fear! The sudden sense of liberty was maddening in
its excitement, and I half suspect that had I been on horseback in that
moment of wild delight, I should have forgotten all my plighted word and
parole, though I sincerely trust that the madness would not have endured
beyond a few minutes. If there be among my readers one who has known
imprisonment, he will forgive this confession of a weakness, which to
others of less experience will seem unworthy, perhaps dishonourable.

Dorf Kuffstein was a fair specimen of the picturesque simplicity of
a Tyrol village. There were the usual number of houses, with carved
galleries and quaint images in wood, the shrines and altars, the little
‘platz,’ for Sunday recreation, and the shady alley for rifle practice.

There were also the trellised walks of vines, and the orchards; in the
midst of one of which we now approached a long, low farmhouse, whose
galleries projected over the river. This was the abode of Madame
d’Aigreville.

A peasant was cleaning a little mountain pony, from which a side-saddle
had just been removed as we came up, and he, leaving his work, proceeded
to ask us into the house, informing us, as he went, that the ladies had
just returned from a long ramble, and would be with us presently.

The drawing-room into which we were shown was a perfect picture of
cottage elegance; all the furniture was of polished walnut-wood, and
kept in the very best condition. It opened by three spacious windows
upon the terrace above the river, and afforded a view of mountain and
valley for miles on every side. An easel was placed on this gallery, and
a small sketch in oils of Kuffstein was already nigh completed on it.
There were books, too, in different languages, and, to my inexpressible
delight, a piano!

The reader will smile, perhaps, at the degree of pleasure objects so
familiar and everyday called forth; but let him remember how removed
were all the passages of my life from such civilising influences--how
little of the world had I seen beyond camps and barrack-rooms, and how
ignorant I was of the charm which a female presence can diffuse over
even the very humblest abode.

Before I had well ceased to wonder, and admire these objects, the
marquise entered.

A tall and stately old lady, with an air at once haughty and gracious,
received me with a profound curtsy, while she extended her hand to the
salute of the general She was dressed in deep mourning, and wore
her white hair in two braids along her face. The sound of my native
language, with its native accent, made me forget the almost profound
reserve of her manner, and I was fast recovering from the constraint her
coldness imposed, when her niece entered the room. Mademoiselle, who was
at that time about seventeen, but looked older by a year or two, was the
very ideal of brunette beauty; she was dark-eyed and black-haired, with
a mouth the most beautifully formed; her figure was light, and her foot
a model of shape and symmetry. All this I saw in an instant, as she
came, half-sliding, half-bounding, to meet the general; and then turning
to me, welcomed me with a cordial warmth, very different from the
reception of Madame la Marquise.

Whether it was the influence of her presence, whether it was a partial
concession of the old lady’s own, or whether my own awkwardness was
wearing off by time, I cannot say--but gradually the stiffness of the
interview began to diminish. From the scenery around us we grew to talk
of the Tyrol generally, then of Switzerland, and lastly of France. The
marquise came from Auvergne, and was justly proud of the lovely scenery
of her birthplace.

Calmly and tranquilly as the conversation had been carried on up to
this period, the mention of France seemed to break down the barrier of
reserve within the old lady’s mind, and she burst out in a wild flood
of reminiscences of the last time she had seen her native village. ‘The
Blues,’ as the revolutionary soldiers were called, had come down
upon the quiet valley, carrying fire and carnage into a once peaceful
district. The château of her family was razed to the ground; her husband
was shot upon his own terrace; the whole village was put to the sword;
her own escape was owing to the compassion of the gardener’s wife, who
dressed her like a peasant boy, and employed her in a menial station, a
condition she was forced to continue so long as the troops remained in
the neighbourhood. ‘Yes,’ said she, drawing off her silk mittens, ‘these
hands still witness the hardships I speak of. These are the marks of my
servitude.’

It was in vain the general tried at first to sympathise, and then
withdraw her from the theme; in vain her niece endeavoured to suggest
another topic, or convey a hint that the subject might be unpleasing
to me. It was the old lady’s one absorbing idea, and she could not
relinquish it. Whole volumes of the atrocities perpetrated by the
revolutionary soldiery came to her recollection; each moment as she
talked, memory would recall this fact or the other, and so she continued
rattling on with the fervour of a heated imagination, and the wild
impetuosity of a half-crazed intellect. As for myself, I suffered far
more from witnessing the pain others felt for me, than from any offence
the topic occasioned me directly. These events were all ‘before my
time.’ I was neither a Blue by birth nor by adoption; a child during the
period of revolution, I had only taken a man’s part when the country,
emerging from its term of anarchy and blood, stood at bay against the
whole of Europe. These consolations were, however, not known to the
others, and it was at last, in a moment of unendurable agony, that
mademoiselle rose and left the room.

The general’s eyes followed her as she went, and then sought mine with
an expression full of deep meaning. If I read his look aright, it
spoke patience and submission; and the lesson was an easier one than he
thought.

‘They talk of heroism,’ cried she frantically--‘it was massacre!
And when they speak of chivalry they mean the slaughter of women and
children!’ She looked round, and seeing that her niece had left the
room, suddenly dropped her voice to a whisper, and said, ‘Think of her
mother’s fate, dragged from her home, her widowed, desolate home, and
thrown into the Temple, outraged and insulted, condemned on a mock
trial, and then carried away to the guillotine! Ay, and even then, on
that spot which coming death might have sanctified, in that moment when
even fiendish vengeance can turn away and leave its victim at liberty
to utter a last prayer in peace, even then, these wretches devised an
anguish greater than all death could compass. You will scarcely believe
me,’ said she, drawing in her breath, and talking with an almost
convulsive effort, ‘you will scarcely believe me in what I am now about
to tell you, but it is the truth--the simple but horrible truth. When my
sister mounted the scaffold there was no priest to administer the last
rites. It was a time, indeed, when few were left; their hallowed heads
had fallen in thousands before that. She waited for a few minutes,
hoping that one would appear; and when the mob learned the meaning of
her delay, they set up a cry of fiendish laughter, and with a blasphemy
that makes one shudder to think of, they pushed forward a boy, one of
those blood-stained _gamins_ of the streets, and made him gabble a mock
litany! Yes, it is true--a horrible mockery of our service, in the ears
and before the eyes of that dying saint.’

‘When? in what year? in what place was that?’ cried I, in an agony of
eagerness.

‘I can give you both time and place, sir,’ said the marquise, drawing
herself proudly up, for she construed my question into a doubt of her
veracity. ‘It was in the year 1703, in the month of August; and as for
the place, it was one well seasoned to blood--the Place de Grève at
Paris.’

A fainting sickness came over me as I heard these words; the dreadful
truth flashed across me that the victim was the Marquise d’Estelles, and
the boy on whose infamy she dwelt so strongly, no other than myself.
For the moment, it was nothing to me that she had not identified me with
this atrocity; I felt no consolation in the thought that I was unknown
and unsuspected. The heavy weight of the indignant accusation almost
crushed me. Its falsehood I knew, and yet could I dare to disprove it?
Could I hazard the consequences of an avowal, which all my subsequent
pleadings could never obliterate. Even were my innocence established in
one point, what a position did it reduce me to in every other!

These struggles must have manifested themselves strongly in my looks,
for the marquise, with all her self-occupation, remarked how ill I
seemed. ‘I see sir,’ cried she, ‘that all the ravages of war have not
steeled your heart against true piety; my tale has moved you strongly.’
I muttered something in concurrence, and she went on. ‘Happily for you,
you were but a child when such scenes were happening. Not, indeed, that
childhood was always unstained in those days of blood; but you were, as
I understand, the son of a “Garde du Corps,” one of those loyal men who
sealed their devotion with their life. Were you in Paris then?’

‘Yes, madam,’ said I briefly.

‘With your mother, perhaps?’

‘I was quite alone, madam--an orphan on both sides.’

‘What was your mother’s family name?’

Here was a puzzle; but at a hazard I resolved to claim her who should
sound best to the ears of La Marquise. ‘La Lasterie, madam,’ said I.

‘La Lasterie de la Vignoble--a most distinguished house, sir. Provencal,
and of the purest blood. Auguste de la Lasterie married the daughter of
the Duke de Miriancourt, a cousin of my husband’s, and there was another
of them who went as ambassador to Madrid.’

I knew none of them, and I suppose I looked as much.

‘Your mother was, probably, of the elder branch, sir?’ asked she.

I had to stammer out a most lamentable confession of my ignorance.

‘Not know your own kinsfolk, sir--not your nearest of blood!’ cried she,
in amazement. ‘General, have you heard this strange avowal? or is it
possible that my ears have deceived me?’

‘Please to remember, madam,’ said I submissively, ‘the circumstances in
which I passed my infancy. My father fell by the guillotine.’

‘And his son wears the uniform of those who slew him!’

‘Of a French soldier, madam, proud of the service he belongs to;
glorying to be one of the first army in Europe.’

‘An army without a cause is a banditti, sir. Your soldiers, without
loyalty, are without a banner.’

‘We have a country, madam.’

‘I must protest against this discussion going further,’ said the general
blandly, while in a lower tone he whispered something in her ear.

‘Very true, very true,’ said she; ‘I had forgotten all that. Monsieur
de Tiernay, you will forgive me this warmth. An old woman, who has lost
nearly everything in the world, may have the privilege of bad temper
accorded her. We are friends now, I hope,’ added she, extending her
hand, and, with a smile of most gracious meaning, beckoning to me to sit
beside her on the sofa.

Once away from the terrible theme of the Revolution, she conversed with
much agreeability; and her niece having reappeared, the conversation
became animated and pleasing. Need I say with what interest I now
regarded mademoiselle--the object of all my boyish devotion, the same
whose pale features I had watched for many an hour in the dim half-light
of the little chapel, her whose image was never absent from my thoughts
waking or sleeping, and now again appearing before me in all the grace
of coming womanhood!

Perhaps to obliterate any impression of her aunt’s severity--perhaps it
was mere manner--but I thought there was a degree of anxiety to please
in her bearing towards me. She spoke, too, as though our acquaintance
was to be continued by frequent meetings, and dropped hints of
plans that implied constant intercourse. Even excursions into the
neighbourhood she spoke of; when, suddenly stopping, she said, ‘But
these are for the season of spring, and before that time Monsieur de
Tiernay will be far away.’

‘Who can tell that?’ said I. ‘I would seem to be forgotten by my
comrades.’

‘Then you must take care to do that which may refresh their memory,’
said she pointedly; and before I could question her more closely as to
her meaning, the general had risen to take his leave.

‘Madame la Marquise was somewhat more tart than usual,’ said he to me,
as we ascended the cliff; ‘but you have passed the ordeal now, and the
chances are, she will never offend you in the same way again. Great
allowances must be made for those who have suffered as she has.
Family--fortune--station--even country--all lost to her; and even hope
now dashed by many a disappointment.’

Though puzzled by the last few words, I made no remark on them, and he
resumed--

‘She has invited you to come and see her as often as you are at liberty;
and, for my part, you shall not be restricted in that way. Go and come
as you please, only do not infringe the hours of the fortress; and if
you can concede a little now and then to the prejudices of the old lady,
your intercourse will be all the more agreeable to both parties.’

‘I believe, general, that I have little of the Jacobin to recant,’ said
I, laughing.

‘I should go further, my dear friend, and say, none,’ added he. ‘Your
uniform is the only tint of “blue” about you.’ And thus chatting, we
reached the fortress, and said good-night.

I have been particular, perhaps tiresomely so, in retelling these broken
phrases and snatches of conversation; but they were the first matches
applied to a train that was long and artfully laid.



CHAPTER XXXIX. A SORROWFUL PARTING

The general was as good as his word, and I now enjoyed the most
unrestricted liberty; in fact, the officers of the garrison said truly,
that they were far more like prisoners than I was. As regularly as
evening came, I descended the path to the village, and, as the bell
tolled out the vespers, I was crossing the little grass-plot to the
cottage. So regularly was I looked for, that the pursuits of each
evening were resumed as though only accidentally interrupted. The
unfinished game of chess, the half-read volume, the newly-begun drawing,
were taken up where we had left them, and life seemed to have centred
itself in those delightful hours between sunset and midnight.

I suppose there are few young men who have not, at some time or other
of their lives, enjoyed similar privileges, and known the fascination of
intimacy in some household, where the affections became engaged as the
intellect expanded, and, while winning another’s heart, have elevated
their own. But to know the full charm of such intercourse, one must have
been as I was--a prisoner--an orphan--almost friendless in the world--a
very ‘waif’ upon the shore of destiny. I cannot express the intense
pleasure these evenings afforded me. The cottage was my home, and more
than my home. It was a shrine at which my heart worshipped--for I was
in love! Easy as the confession is to make now, tortures would not have
wrung it from me then!

In good truth, it was long before I knew it; nor can I guess how much
longer the ignorance might have lasted, when General Urleben suddenly
dispelled the clouds, by informing me that he had just received from the
Minister of War at Vienna a demand for the name, rank, and regiment of
his prisoner, previous to the negotiation for his exchange.

‘You will fill up these blanks, Tiernay,’ said he, ‘and within a month,
or less, you will be once more free, and say adieu to Kuffstein.’

Had the paper contained my dismissal from the service, I shame to own
it would have been more welcome! The last few months had changed all the
character of my life, suggested new hopes and new ambitions. The career
I used to glory in had grown distasteful; the comrades I once longed to
rejoin were now become almost repulsive to my imagination. The marquise
had spoken much of emigrating to some part of the new world beyond seas,
and thither my fancy alike pointed. Perhaps my dreams of a future were
not the less rose-coloured that they received no shadow from anything
like a ‘fact.’ The old lady’s geographical knowledge was neither
accurate nor extensive, and she contrived to invest this land of promise
with old associations of what she once heard of Pondicherry--with
certain features belonging to the United States. A glorious country it
would indeed have been, which, within a month’s voyage, realised all
the delights of the tropics, with the healthful vigour of the temperate
zone, and where, without an effort beyond the mere will, men amassed
enormous fortunes in a year or two. In a calmer mood, I might, indeed
must, have been struck with the wild inconsistency of the old lady’s
imaginings, and looked with somewhat of scepticism on the map for that
spot of earth so richly endowed; but now I believed everything, provided
it only ministered to my new hopes. Laura evidently, too, believed in
the ‘Canaan’ of which, at last, we used to discourse as freely as though
we had been there. Little discussions would, however, now and then vary
the uniformity of this creed, and I remember once feeling almost hurt at
Laura’s not agreeing with me about zebras, which I assured her were just
as trainable as horses, but which the marquise flatly refused ever to
use in any of her carriages. These were mere passing clouds: the regular
atmosphere of our wishes was bright and transparent. In the midst of
these delicious daydreams, there came one day a number of letters to
the marquise by the hands of a courier on his way to Naples. What their
contents I never knew, but the tidings seemed most joyful, for the old
lady invited the general and myself to dinner, when the table was decked
out with white lilies on all sides; she herself, and Laura also, wearing
them in bouquets on their dresses.

The occasion had, I could see, something of a celebration about it.
Mysterious hints to circumstances I knew nothing of were constantly
interchanged, the whole ending with a solemn toast to the memory of the
‘Saint and Martyr’; but who he was, or when he lived, I knew not one
single fact about.

That evening--I cannot readily forget it--was the first I had ever an
opportunity of being alone with Laura! Hitherto the marquise had always
been beside us; now she had all this correspondence to read over
with the general, and they both retired into a little boudoir for
the purpose, while Laura and myself wandered out upon the terrace,
as awkward and constrained as though our situation had been the most
provoking thing possible. It was on that same morning I had received the
general’s message regarding my situation, and I was burning with anxiety
to tell it, and yet knew not exactly how. Laura, too, seemed full of her
own thoughts, and leaned pensively over the balustrade and gazed on the
stream.

‘What are you thinking of so seriously?’ asked I, after a long pause.

‘Of long, long ago,’ said she, sighing, ‘when I was a little child. I
remember a little chapel like that yonder, only that it was not on a
rock over a river, but stood in a small garden; and though in a great
city, it was as lonely and solitary as might be--the Chapelle de St.
Blois.’

‘St. Blois, Laura!’ cried I; ‘oh, tell me about that!’

‘Why, you surely never heard of it before,’ said she, smiling. ‘It was
in a remote quarter of Paris, nigh the outer Boulevard, and known to but
a very few. It had once belonged to our family; for in olden times there
were châteaux and country-houses within that space, which then was part
of Paris, and one of our ancestors was buried there. How well I remember
it all! The dim little aisle, supported on wooden pillars; the simple
altar, with the oaken crucifix, and the calm, gentle features of the
poor curé.’

‘Can you remember all this so well?’ asked I eagerly, for the theme was
stirring my very heart of hearts.

‘All--everything--the straggling, weed-grown garden, through which we
passed to our daily devotions, the congregation standing respectfully to
let us walk by, for my mother was still the great Marquise d’Estelles,
although my father had been executed, and our estates confiscated. They
who had known us in our prosperity were as respectful and devoted as
ever; and poor old Richard, the lame sacristan, that used to take my
mother’s bouquet from her, and lay it on the altar; how everything
stands out clear and distinct before my memory! Nay, Maurice, but I can
tell you more, for strangely enough, certain things, merely trifles in
themselves, make impressions that even great events fail to do. There
was a little boy, a child somewhat older than myself, that used to serve
the mass with the père, and he always came to place a footstool or a
cushion for my mother. Poor little fellow, bashful and diffident he was,
changing colour at every minute, and trembling in every limb; and when
he had done his duty, and made his little reverence, with his hands
crossed on his bosom, he used to fall back into some gloomy corner of
the church, and stand watching us with an expression of intense wonder
and pleasure! Yes, I think I see his dark eyes, glistening through the
gloom, ever fixed on me! I am sure, Maurice, that little fellow fancied
he was in love with me!’

‘And why not, Laura? was the thing so very impossible? was it even so
unlikely?’

‘Not that,’ said she archly; ‘but think of a mere child; we were both
mere children; and fancy him, the poor little boy, of some humble house,
perhaps--of course he must have been that--raising his eyes to the
daughter of the great “marquise”; what energy of character there must
have been to have suggested the feeling! how daring he was, with all his
bashfulness!’

‘You never saw him afterwards?’

‘Never!’

‘Never thought of him, perhaps?’

‘I’ll not say that,’ said she, smiling. ‘I have often wondered to myself
if that hardihood I speak of had borne good or evil fruit. Had he
been daring or enterprising in the right, or had he, as the sad times
favoured, been only bold and impetuous for the wrong!’

‘And how have you pictured him to your imagination?’ said I, as if
merely following out a fanciful vein of thought.

‘My fancy would like to have conceived him a chivalrous adherent to our
ancient royalty, striving nobly in exile to aid the fortunes of some
honoured house, or daring, as many brave men have dared, the heroic part
of La Vendée. My reason, however, tells me that he was far more likely
to have taken the other part.’

‘To which you will concede no favour, Laura; not even the love of
glory.’

‘Glory, like honour, should have its fountain in a monarchy,’ cried she
proudly. ‘The rude voices of a multitude can confer no meed of praise.
Their judgments are the impulses of the moment. But why do we speak of
these things, Maurice? nor have I, who can but breathe my hopes for a
cause, the just pretension to contend with you, who shed your blood for
its opposite.’

As she spoke, she hurried from the balcony, and quitted the room. It was
the first time, as I have said, that we had ever been alone together,
and it was also the first time she had ever expressed herself strongly
on the subject of party. What a moment to have declared her opinions,
and when her reminiscences, too, had recalled our infancy! How often
was I tempted to interrupt that confession by declaring myself, and how
strongly was I repelled by the thought that the avowal might sever us
for ever! While I was thus deliberating, the marquise, with the general,
entered the room, and Laura followed in a few moments.

The supper that night was a pleasant one to all save me. The rest were
gay and high-spirited. Allusions, understood by them but not by me, were
caught up readily, and as quickly responded to. Toasts were uttered, and
wishes breathed in concert, but all was like a dream to me. Indeed my
heart grew*heavier at every moment. My coming departure, of which I had
not yet spoken, lay drearily on my mind, while the bold decision with
which Laura declared her faith showed that our destinies were separated
by an impassable barrier.

It may be supposed that my depression was not relieved by discovering
that the general had already announced my approaching departure, and the
news, far from being received with anything like regret, was made
the theme of pleasant allusion, and even congratulation. The marquise
repeatedly assured me of the delight the tidings gave her, and Laura
smiled happily towards me, as if echoing the sentiment.

Was this the feeling I had counted on? were these the evidences of
an affection for which I had given my whole heart? Oh, how bitterly
I reviled the frivolous ingratitude of woman! how heavily I condemned
their heartless, unfeeling nature! In a few days, a few hours, perhaps,
I shall be as totally forgotten here as though I had never been, and yet
these are the people who parade their devotion to a fallen monarchy, and
their affection for an exiled house. I tried to arm myself with every
prejudice against Royalism. I thought of Santron and his selfish,
sarcastic spirit. I thought of all the stories I used to hear of
cowardly ingratitude and noble infamy, and tried to persuade myself that
the blandishments of the well born were but the gloss that covered cruel
and unfeeling natures.

For very pride s sake, I tried to assume a manner cool and unconcerned
as their own. I affected to talk of my departure as a pleasant event,
and even hinted at the career that Fortune might hereafter open to me.
In this they seemed to take a deeper interest than I anticipated, and I
could perceive that more than once the general exchanged looks with
the ladies most significantly. I fear I grew very impatient at last.
I grieve to think that I fancied a hundred annoyances that were never
intended for me, and, when we arose to take leave, I made my adieux with
a cold and stately reserve, intended to be strongly impressive and cut
them to the quick.

I heard very little of what the general said as we ascended the cliff.
I was out of temper with him, and myself, and all the world; and it was
only when he recalled my attention to the fact, for the third or fourth
time, that I learned how very kindly he meant by me in the matter of my
liberation; for while he had forwarded all my papers to Vienna, he was
quite willing to set me at liberty on the following day, in the perfect
assurance that my exchange would be confirmed.

‘You will thus have a full fortnight at your own disposal, Tiernay,’
said he, ‘since the official answer cannot arrive from Vienna before
that time, and you need not report yourself in Paris for eight or ten
days after.’

Here was a boon now thrown away! For my part, I would a thousand times
rather have lingered on at Kuffstein than have been free to travel
Europe from one end to the other. My outraged pride, however, put this
out of the question. La Marquise and her niece had both assumed a manner
of sincere gratification, and I was resolved not to be behindhand in my
show of joy. I ought to have known it, said I again and again. I ought
to have known it. These antiquated notions of birth and blood can never
co-exist with any generous sentiment. These remnants of a worn-out
monarchy can never forgive the vigorous energy that has dethroned their
decrepitude. I did not dare to speculate on what a girl Laura might have
been under other auspices; how nobly her ambition would have soared;
what high-souled patriotism she could have felt; how gloriously she
would have adorned the society of a regenerated nation. I thought of her
as she was, and could have hated myself for the devotion with which my
heart regarded her.

I never closed my eyes the entire night. I lay down and walked about
alternately, my mind in a perfect fever of conflict. Pride, a false
pride, but not the less strong for that, alone sustained me. The general
had announced to me that I was free. Be it so; I will no longer be a
burden on his hospitality. La Marquise hears the tidings with pleasure.
Agreed, then, we part without regret. Very valorous resolutions they
were, but come to, I must own, with a very sinking heart and a very
craven spirit.

Instead of my full uniform, that morning, I put on half dress, showing
that I was ready for the road; a sign, I had hoped, would have spoken
unutterable things to La Marquise and Laura.

Immediately after breakfast, I set out for the cottage. All the way, as
I went, I was drilling myself for the interview by assuming a tone of
the coolest and easiest indifference. They shall have no triumph over me
in this respect, muttered I. Let us see if I cannot be as unconcerned
as they are! To such a pitch had I carried my zeal for flippancy, that I
resolved to ask them whether they had no commission I could execute
for them in Paris or elsewhere. The idea struck me as excellent, so
indicative of perfect self-possession and command. I am sure I must
have rehearsed our interview at least a dozen times, supplying all the
stately grandeur of the old lady and all the quiet placitude of Laura.

By the time I reached the village I was quite strong in my part, and
as I crossed the Platz I was eager to begin it. This energetic spirit,
however, began to waver a little as I entered the lawn before the
cottage, and a most uncomfortable throbbing at my side made me stand
for a moment in the porch before I entered. I used always to make my
appearance unannounced, but now I felt that it would be more dignified
and distant were I to summon a servant, and yet I could find none. The
household was on a very simple scale, and in all likelihood the labours
of the field or the garden were now employing them. I hesitated what to
do, and after looking in vain around the _cour_ and the stable-yard, I
turned into the garden to seek for some one.

I had not proceeded many paces along a little alley, flanked by two
close hedges of yew, when I heard voices, and at the same instant my own
name uttered.

‘You told him to use caution, Laura; that we know little of this Tiernay
beyond his own narrative----’

‘I told him the very reverse, aunt. I said that he was the son of a
loyal “Garde du Corps,” left an orphan in infancy, and thrown by force
of events into the service of the Republic; but that every sentiment he
expressed, every ambition he cherished, and every feeling he displayed,
was that of a gentleman; nay, further----’ But

I did not wait for more, for, striking my sabre heavily on the ground
to announce my coming, I walked hurriedly forward towards a small arbour
where the ladies were seated at breakfast.

I need not stop to say how completely all my resolves were routed by the
few words I had overheard from Laura, nor how thoroughly I recanted all
my expressions concerning her. So full was I of joy and gratitude, that
I hastened to salute her before ever noticing the marquise, or being
conscious of her presence.

The old lady, usually the most exacting of all beings, took my omission
in good part, and most politely made room for me between herself and
Laura at the breakfast-table.

‘You have come most opportunely, Monsieur de Tiernay,’ said she; ‘for
not only were we just speaking of you, but discussing whether or not we
might ask of you a favour.’

‘Does the question admit of a discussion, madame?’ said I, bowing.

‘Perhaps not, in ordinary circumstances, perhaps not; but-----’ she
hesitated, seemed confused, and looked at Laura, who went on--‘My aunt
would say, sir, that we may be possibly asking too much--that we may
presume too far.’

‘Not on my will to serve you,’ I broke in, for her looks said much more
than her words.

‘The matter is this, sir,’ said the aunt: ‘we have a very valued
relative----’

‘Friend,’ interposed Laura, ‘friend, aunt.’

‘We will say friend, then,’ resumed she; ‘a friend in whose welfare we
are deeply interested, and whose regard for us is not less powerful, has
been for some years back separated from us by the force of those unhappy
circumstances which have made so many of us exiles! No means have
existed of communicating with each other, nor of interchanging those
hopes or fears for our country’s welfare which are so near to every
French heart! He is in Germany, we are in the wild Tyrol, one-half the
world apart, and dare not trust to a correspondence the utterance of
those sympathies which have brought so many to the scaffold!’

‘We would ask of you to see him, Monsieur de Tiernay, to know him,’
burst out Laura; ‘to tell him all that you can of France--above all, of
the sentiments of the army; he is a soldier himself, and will hear you
with pleasure.’

‘You may speak freely and frankly,’ continued the marquise; ‘the count
is man of the world enough to hear the truth even when it gives pain.
Your own career will interest him deeply; heroism has always had a charm
for all his house. This letter will introduce you; and as the general
informs us you have some days at your own disposal, pray give them to
our service in this cause.’

‘Willingly, madame,’ replied I, ‘only let me understand a little
better----’

‘There is no need to know more,’ interrupted Laura; ‘the Count de
Marsanne will himself suggest everything of which you will talk. He will
speak of us, perhaps--of the Tyrol--of Kuffstein; then he will lead the
conversation to France--in fact, once acquainted, you will follow the
dictates of your own fancy.’

‘Just so, Monsieur de Tiernay; it will be a visit with as little of
ceremony as possible----’

‘Aunt!’ interrupted Laura, as if recalling the marquise to caution; and
the old lady at once acknowledged the hint by a significant look.

I see it all, thought I De Marsanne is Laura’s accepted lover, and I am
the person to be employed as go-between. This was intolerable, and when
the thought first struck me, I was beside myself with passion.

‘Are we asking too great a favour, Monsieur de Tiernay?’ said the
marquise, whose eyes were fixed upon me during this conflict.

‘Of course not, madame,’ said I, in an accent of almost sarcastic tone.
‘If I am not wrong in my impressions, the cause might claim a deeper
devotion; but this is a theme I would not wish to enter upon.’

‘We are aware of that,’ said Laura quickly; ‘we are quite prepared for
your reserve, which is perfectly proper and becoming.’

‘Your position being one of unusual delicacy,’ chimed in the marquise.

I bowed haughtily and coldly, while the marquise uttered a thousand
expressions of gratitude and regard to me.

‘We had hoped to have seen you here a few days longer, monsieur,’ said
she, ‘but perhaps, under the circumstances, it is better as it is.’

‘Under the circumstances, madame,’ repeated I, ‘I am bound to agree with
you’; and I turned to say farewell.

‘Rather, _au revoir_, Monsieur de Tiernay,’ said the marquise;
‘friendship, such as ours, should at least be hopeful; say then _au
revoir_.’

‘Perhaps Monsieur de Tiernay’s hopes run not in the same channel as our
own, aunt,’ said Laura, ‘and perhaps the days of happiness that we look
forward to would bring far different feelings to his heart.’

This was too pointed--this was insupportably offensive I and I was only
able to mutter, ‘You are right, mademoiselle’; and then, addressing
myself to the marquise, I made some blundering apologies about haste
and so forth; while I promised to fulfil her commission faithfully and
promptly.

‘Shall we not hear from you?’ said the old lady, as she gave me her
hand. I was about to say, ‘Under the circumstances, better not’; but I
hesitated, and Laura, seeing my confusion, said, ‘It might be unfair,
aunt, to expect it; remember how he is placed.’

‘Mademoiselle is a miracle of forethought and candour too,’ said I.
‘Adieu! adieu for ever!’ The last word I uttered in a low whisper.

‘Adieu, Maurice,’ said she, equally low, and then turned away towards
the window.

From that moment until the instant when, out of breath and exhausted, I
halted for a few seconds on the crag below the fortress, I knew nothing;
my brain was in a whirl of mad, conflicting thought. Every passion
was working within me, and rage, jealousy, love, and revenge were
alternately swaying and controlling me. Then, however, as I looked down
for the last time on the village and the cottage beside the river, my
heart softened, and I burst into a torrent of tears. There, said I, as
I arose to resume my way, there! one illusion is dissipated; let me take
care that life never shall renew the affliction! Henceforth I will be a
soldier, and only a soldier.



CHAPTER XL. THE CHATEAU OF ETTENHEIM

I now come to an incident in my life, which, however briefly I may
speak, has left the deepest impression on my memory. I have told the
reader how I left Kuffstein fully satisfied that the Count de Marsanne
was Laura’s lover, and that in keeping my promise to see and speak with
him, I was about to furnish an instance of self-denial and fidelity that
nothing in ancient or modern days could compete with.

The letter was addressed, ‘The Count Louis de Marsanne, Château
d’Ettenheim, à Baden,’ and thither I accordingly repaired, travelling
over the Arlberg to Bregenz, and across the Lake of Constance to
Freyburg; my passport containing a very few words in cipher, which
always sufficed to afford me free transit and every attention from the
authorities. I had left the southern Tyrol in the outburst of a glorious
spring, but as I journeyed northward I found the rivers frozen, the
roads encumbered with snow, and the fields untilled and dreary-looking.
Like all countries which derive their charms from the elements of rural
beauty, foliage and verdure, Germany offers a sad coloured picture to
the traveller in winter or wintry weather.

It was thus, then, that the Grand-Duchy, so celebrated for its
picturesque beauty, struck me as a scene of dreary and desolate
wildness, an impression which continued to increase with every mile I
travelled from the highroad.

A long unbroken flat, intersected here and there by stunted willows,
traversed by a narrow earth road, lay between the Rhine and the Taunus
Mountains, in the midst of which stood the village of ‘Ettenheim.’
Outside the village, about half a mile off, and on the border of a vast
pine forest, stood the château.

It was originally a hunting-seat of the Dukes of Baden, but from
neglect, and disuse, gradually fell into ruin, from which it was
reclaimed, imperfectly enough, a year before, and now exhibited some
remnants of its former taste, along with the evidences of a far less
decorative spirit; the lower rooms being arranged as a stable, while the
stair and entrance to the first storey opened from a roomy coach-house.
Here some four or five conveyances of rude construction were gathered
together, splashed and unwashed, as if from recent use; and at a small
stove in a corner was seated a peasant in a blue frock, smoking as he
affected to clean a bridle which he held before him.

Without rising from his seat he saluted me, with true German phlegm, and
gave me the ‘Guten Tag,’ with all the grave unconcern of a ‘Badener.’ I
asked if the Count de Marsanne lived there. He said yes, but the ‘Graf’
was out hunting. When would he be back? By nightfall.

Could I remain there till his return? was my next question; and he
stared at me as I put it, with some surprise. ‘Warum nicht?’ ‘Why not?’
was at last his sententious answer, as he made way for me beside the
stove. I saw at once that my appearance had evidently not entitled me to
any peculiar degree of deference or respect, and that the man regarded
me as his equal. It was true I had come some miles on foot, and with a
knapsack on my shoulder, so that the peasant was fully warranted in his
reception of me. I accordingly seated myself at his side, and lighting
my pipe from his, proceeded to derive all the profit I could from
drawing him into conversation. I might have spared myself the trouble.
Whether the source lay in stupidity or sharpness, he evaded me on every
point. Not a single particle of information could I obtain about the
count, his habits, or his history. He would not even tell me how long he
had resided there, nor whence he had come. He liked hunting, and so did
the other ‘Herren.’ There was the whole I could scan; and to the simple
fact that there were others with him, did I find myself limited.

Curious to see something of the count’s ‘interior,’ I hinted to my
companion that I had come on purpose to visit his master, and suggested
the propriety of my awaiting his arrival in a more suitable place; but
he turned a deaf ear to the hint, and dryly remarked that the ‘Graf
would not be long a-coming now.’ This prediction was, however, not to
be verified; the dreary hours of the dull day stole heavily on, and
although I tried to beguile the time by lounging about the place,
the cold ungenial weather drove me back to the stove, or to the dark
precinct of the stable, tenanted by three coarse ponies of the mountain
breed.

One of these was the Grafs favourite, the peasant told me; and indeed
here he showed some disposition to become communicative, narrating
various gifts and qualities of the unseemly looking animal, which, in
his eyes, was a paragon of horse-flesh. ‘He could travel from here to
Kehl and back in a day, and has often done it,’ was one meed of praise
that he bestowed; a fact which impressed me more as regarded the rider
than the beast, and set my curiosity at work to think why any man should
undertake a journey of nigh seventy miles between two such places and
with such speed. The problem served to occupy me till dark, and I know
not how long after. A stormy night of rain and wind set in, and the
peasant, having bedded and foraged his cattle, lighted a rickety old
lantern and began to prepare for bed; for such I at last saw was the
meaning of a long crib, like a coffin, half filled with straw and
sheep-skins. A coarse loaf of black bread, some black forest cheese, and
a flask of Kleinthaler, a most candid imitation of vinegar, made their
appearance from a cupboard, and I did not disdain to partake of these
delicacies.

My host showed no disposition to become more communicative over his
wine, and, indeed, the liquor might have excused any degree of reserve;
and no sooner was our meal over than, drawing a great woollen cap half
over his face, he rolled himself up in his sheep-skins, and betook
himself to sleep, if not with a good conscience, at least with a sturdy
volition that served just as well.

Occasionally snatching a short slumber, or walking to and fro in the
roomy chamber, I passed several hours, when the splashing sound of
horses’ feet, advancing up the miry road, attracted me. Several times
before that I had been deceived by noises which turned out to be the
effects of storm, but now, as I listened, I thought I could hear voices.
I opened the door, but all was dark outside; it was the inky hour before
daybreak, when all is wrapped in deepest gloom. The rain, too, was
sweeping along the ground in torrents. The sounds came nearer every
instant, and, at last, a deep voice shouted out, ‘Jacob.’ Before I
could awaken the sleeping peasant, to whom I judged this summons was
addressed, a horseman dashed up to the door and rode in; another as
quickly followed him, and closed the door.

‘_Parbleu!_ D’Egville,’ said the first who entered, ‘we have got a rare
peppering!’

‘Even so,’ said the other, as he shook his hat, and threw off a cloak
perfectly soaked with rain; ‘_à la guerre comme à la guerre_.’

This was said in French, when, turning towards me, the former said in
German, ‘Be active, Master Jacob; these nags have had a smart ride
of it.’ Then, suddenly, as the light flashed full on my features, he
started back, and said, ‘How is this--who are you?’

A very brief explanation answered this somewhat un-courteous question,
and, at the same time, I placed the marquise’s letter in his hand,
saying, ‘The Count de Marsanne, I presume.’

He took it hastily, and drew nigh to the lantern to peruse it. I had now
full time to observe him, and saw that he was a tall and well-built
man, of about seven or eight-and-twenty. His features were remarkably
handsome, and although slightly flushed by his late exertion, were
as calm and composed as might be; a short black moustache gave his
upper-lip a slight character of ‘scorn, but the brow, open, frank and
good-tempered in its expression, redeemed this amply. He had not read
many lines when, turning about, he apologised in the most courteous
terms for the manner of my reception. He had been on a shooting
excursion for a few days back, and taken all his people with him, save
the peasant, who looked after the cattle. Then, introducing me to his
friend, whom he called Count d’Egville, he led the way upstairs.

It would be difficult to imagine a greater contrast to the dark and
dreary coach-house than the comfortable suite of apartments which we now
traversed on our way to a large, well-furnished room, where a table was
laid for supper, and a huge wood fire blazed brightly on the hearth. A
valet, of most respectful manner, received the count’s orders to prepare
a room for me, after which my host and his friend retired to change
their clothes.

Although D’Egville was many years older, and of a graver, sterner
fashion than the other, I could detect a degree of deference and respect
in his manner towards him, which De Marsanne accepted like one well
accustomed to receive it. It was a time, however, when, in the wreck
of fortune, so many men lived in a position of mere dependence, that I
thought nothing of this, nor had I even the time, as Count de Marsanne
entered. From my own preconceived notions as to his being Laura’s lover,
I was quite prepared to answer a hundred impatient inquiries about the
marquise and her niece, and as we were now alone, I judged that he would
deem the time a favourable one to talk of them. What was my surprise,
however, when he turned the conversation exclusively to the topic of my
own journey, the route I had travelled. He knew the country perfectly,
and spoke of the various towns and their inhabitants with acuteness and
tact.

His Royalist leanings did not, like those of the marquise, debar him
from feeling a strong interest respecting the success of the Republican
troops, with whose leaders he was thoroughly acquainted, knowing all
their peculiar excellences and defaults as though he had lived in
intimacy with them. Of Bonaparte’s genius he was the most enraptured
admirer, and would not hear of any comparison between him and the other
great captains of the day. D’Egville at last made his appearance, and
we sat down to an excellent supper, enlivened by the conversation of our
host, who, whatever the theme, talked well and pleasingly.

I was in a mood to look for flaws in his character--my jealousy was
still urging me to seek for whatever I could find fault with; and yet
all my critical shrewdness could only detect a slight degree of pride in
his manner, not displaying itself by any presumption, but by a certain
urbanity that smacked of condescension. But even this at last went off,
and before I wished him good-night I felt that I had never met any one
so gifted with agreeable qualities, nor possessed of such captivating
manners, as himself. Even his Royalism had its fascinations, for it was
eminently national, and showed at every moment that he was far more of
a Frenchman than a Monarchist. We parted without one word of allusion to
the marquise or to Laura! Had this singular fact any influence upon the
favourable impression I had conceived of him, or was I unconsciously
grateful for the relief thus given to all my jealous tormentings?
Certain is it that I felt infinitely happier than I ever fancied I
should be under his roof, and, as I lay down in my bed, thanked my stars
that he was not my rival!

When I awoke the next morning it was some minutes before I could
remember where I was; and as I still lay, gradually recalling myself to
memory, the valet entered to announce the count.

‘I have come to say adieu for a few hours,’ said he; a very pressing
appointment requires me to be at Pforzheim to-day, and I have to ask
that you will excuse my absence. I know that I may take this liberty
without any appearance of rudeness, for the marquise has told me all
about you. Pray, then, try and amuse yourself till evening, and we shall
meet at supper.’

I was not sorry that D’Egville was to accompany him, and, turning on
my side, dozed off to sleep away some of the gloomy hours of a winter’s
day.

In this manner several days were passed, the count absenting himself
each morning, and returning at nightfall, sometimes accompanied by
D’Egville, sometimes alone. It was evident enough, from the appearance
of his horses at his return, as well as from his own jaded looks, that
he had ridden hard and far; but except a chance allusion to the state
of the roads or the weather, it was a topic to which he never referred,
nor, of course, did I ever advert. Meanwhile our intimacy grew closer
and franker. The theme of politics, a forbidden subject between men so
separated, was constantly discussed between us, and I could not help
feeling flattered at the deference with which he listened to opinions
from one so much his junior, and so inferior in knowledge as myself.
Nothing could be more moderate than his views of government, only
provided that it was administered by the rightful sovereign. The claim
of a king to his throne he declared to be the foundation of all the
rights of property, and which, if once shaken or disputed, would
inevitably lead to the wildest theories of democratic equality. ‘I don’t
want to convert you,’ would he say laughingly; ‘the son of an old “Garde
da Corps,” the born gentleman, has but to live to learn. It may come a
little later or a little earlier, but you’ll end as a good Monarchist.’

One evening he was unusually late in returning, and when he came was
accompanied by seven or eight companions, some younger, some older, than
himself, but all men whose air and bearing bespoke their rank in life,
while their names recalled the thoughts of old French chivalry. I
remember among them was a Coigny, a Gramont, and Rochefoucauld--the last
as lively a specimen of Parisian wit and brilliancy as ever fluttered
along the sunny Boulevards.

De Marsanne, while endeavouring to enjoy himself and entertain his
guests, was, to my thinking, more serious than usual, and seemed
impatient at D’Egville’s absence, for whose coming we now waited supper.

‘I should not wonder if he was lost in the deep mud of those
cross-roads,’ said Coigny.

‘Or perhaps he has fallen into the Republic,’ said Rochefoucauld; ‘it’s
the only thing dirtier that I know of.’

‘Monsieur forgets that I wear its cloth,’ said I, in a low whisper to
him; and low as it was, De Marsanne overheard it.

‘Yes, Charles,’ cried he, ‘you must apologise, and on the spot, for the
rudeness.’

Rochefoucauld reddened and hesitated.

‘I insist, sir,’ cried De Marsanne, with a tone of superiority I had
never seen him assume before.

‘Perhaps,’ said he, with a half-sneer, ‘Monsieur de Tiernay might refuse
to accept my excuses.’

‘In that case, sir,’ interposed De Marsanne, ‘the quarrel will become
mine, for he is my guest, and lives here under the safeguard of my
honour.’

Rochefoucauld bowed submissively, and with the air of a man severely but
justly rebuked; and then advancing to me said, ‘I beg to tender you
my apology, monsieur, for an expression which should never have been
uttered by me in your presence.’

‘Quite sufficient, sir,’ said I, bowing, and anxious to conclude a scene
which for the first time had disturbed the harmony of our meetings.
Slight as was the incident, its effects were yet visible in the
disconcerted looks of the party, and I could see that more than one
glance was directed towards me with an expression of coldness and
distrust.

‘Here comes D’Egville at last,’ said one, throwing open the window
to listen. The night was starlit, but dark, and the air calm and
motionless. ‘I certainly heard a horses tread on the causeway.’

‘I hear distinctly the sound of several,’ cried Coigny; ‘and, if I
mistake not much, so does Monsieur de Tiernay.’ This sudden allusion
turned every eye towards me, as I stood still, suffering from the
confusion of the late scene.

‘Yes; I hear the tramp of horses, and cavalry too, I should say, by
their measured tread.’

‘There was a trumpet-call!’ cried Coigny; ‘what does that mean?’

‘It is the signal to take open order,’ said I, answering as if
the question were addressed to myself. ‘It is a picket taking a
reconnaissance.’

‘How do you know that, sir?’ said Gramont sternly.

‘Ay! how does he know that?’ cried several passionately, as they closed
around me.

‘You must ask in another tone, messieurs,’ said I calmly, ‘if you expect
to be answered.’

‘They mean to say, how do you happen to know the German trumpet-calls,
Tiernay,’ said De Marsanne mildly, as he laid his hand on my arm.

‘It’s a French signal,’ said I; ‘I ought to know it well.’

Before my words were well uttered the door was thrown open, and
D’Egville burst into the room, pale as death, his clothes all
mud-stained and disordered. Making his way through the others, he
whispered a few words in De Marsanne’s ear.

‘Impossible!’ cried the other; ‘we are here in the territory of the
Margrave.’

‘It is as I say,’ replied D’Egville; ‘there’s not a second to lose--it
may be too late even now--by Heavens it is!--they’ve drawn a cordon
round the château.’

‘What’s to be done, gentlemen?’ said De Marsanne, seating himself
calmly, and crossing his arms on his breast.

‘What do you say, sir?’ cried Gramont, advancing to me with an air
of insolent menace; ‘you, at least, ought to know the way out of this
difficulty.’

‘Or, by Heaven, his own road shall be one of the shortest, considering
the length of the journey,’ muttered another; and I could hear the sharp
click of a pistol-cock as he spoke the words.

‘This is unworthy of you, gentlemen, and of me,’ said De Marsanne
haughtily; and he gazed around him with a look that seemed to abash
them; ‘nor is it a time to hold such disputation. There is another and
a very difficult call to answer. Are we agreed?’ Before he could finish
the sentence the door was burst open, and several dragoons in French
uniforms entered, and ranged themselves across the entrance, while a
colonel, with his sabre drawn, advanced in front of them.

‘This is brigandage,’ cried De Marsanne passionately, as he drew
his sword, and seemed meditating a spring through them; but he was
immediately surrounded by his friends and disarmed. Indeed nothing
could be more hopeless than resistance; more than double our number were
already in the room, while the hoarse murmur of voices without, and the
tramp of heavy feet, announced a strong party.

At a signal from their officers the dragoons unslung their carbines,
and held them at the cock, when the colonel called out, ‘Which of you,
messieurs, is the Due d’Enghien?’

‘If you come to arrest him,’ replied De Marsanne, * you ought to have
his description in your warrant.’

‘Is the descendant of a Condé ashamed to own his name?’ asked the
colonel, with a sneer. ‘But we ‘ll make short work of it, sirs; I arrest
you all My orders are peremptory, messieurs. If you resist, or attempt
to escape--’ and he made a significant sign with his hand to finish. The
‘Duc’---for I need no longer call him De Marsanne--never spoke a word,
but with folded arms calmly walked forward, followed by his little
household. As we descended the stairs, we found ourselves in the midst
of about thirty dismounted dragoons, all on the alert, and prepared for
any resistance. The remainder of a squadron were on horseback without.
With a file of soldiers on either hand, we marched for about a quarter
of a mile across the fields to a small mill, where a general officer and
his staff seemed awaiting our arrival. Here, too, a picket of gendarmes
was stationed--a character of force significant enough of the meaning
of the enterprise. We were hurriedly marched into the court of the mill,
the owner of which stood between two soldiers, trembling from head to
foot with terror.

‘Which is the Duc d’Enghien?’ asked the colonel of the miller.

‘That is he with the scarlet vest’; and the prince nodded an assent.

‘Your age, monsieur?’ asked the colonel of the prince.

‘Thirty-two--that is, I should have been so much in August, were it not
for this visit,’ said he, smiling.

The colonel wrote on rapidly for a few minutes, and then showed the
paper to the general, who briefly said, ‘Yes, yes; this does not concern
you nor me.’

‘I wish to ask, sir,’ said the prince, addressing the general, ‘do you
make this arrest with the consent of the authorities of this country, or
do you do so in defiance of them?’

‘You must reserve questions like that for the court who will judge
you, Monsieur de Condé,’ said the officer roughly. ‘If you wish for any
articles of dress from your quarters, you had better think of them. My
orders are to convey you to Strasbourg. Is there anything so singular in
the fact, sir, that you should look so much astonished?’

‘There is, indeed,’ said the prince sorrowfully. ‘I shall be the first
of my house who ever crossed that frontier a prisoner.’

‘But not the first who carried arms against his country,’ rejoined the
other--a taunt the duke only replied to by a look of infinite scorn
and contempt. With a speed that told plainly the character of the
expedition, we were now placed, two together, on country cars, and
driven at a rapid pace towards Strasbourg. Relays of cattle awaited us
on the road, and we never halted but for a few minutes during the entire
journey. My companion on this dreary day was the Baron de St. Jacques,
the aide-de-camp to the duke; but he never spoke once; indeed he
scarcely lifted his head during the whole journey.

Heaven knows it was a melancholy journey; and neither the country nor
the season were such as to lift the mind from sorrow; and yet, strange
enough, the miles glided over rapidly, and to this hour I cannot
remember by what magic the way seemed so short. The thought that
for several days back I had been living in closest intimacy with a
distinguished prince of the Bourbon family; that we had spent hours
together discussing themes and questions which were those of his own
house, canvassing the chances and weighing the claims of which he was
himself the asserter--was a most exciting feeling. How I recalled now
all the modest deference of his manner--his patient endurance of my
crude opinions--his generous admissions regarding his adversaries--and,
above all, his ardent devotion to France, whatever the hand that swayed
her destinies; and then the chivalrous boldness of his character,
blended with an almost girlish gentleness-how princely were such traits!

From these thoughts I wandered on to others about his arrest and
capture, from which, however, I could not believe any serious issue was
to come. Bonaparte is too noble-minded not to feel the value of such
a life as this. Men like the prince can be more heavily fettered by
generous treatment than by all the chains that ever bound a felon. But
what will be done with him? what with his followers? and lastly, not at
all the pleasantest consideration, what is to come of Maurice Tiernay,
who, to say the least, has been found in very suspicious company, and
without a shadow of an explanation to account for it? This last thought
just occurred to me as we crossed over the long bridge of boats, and
entered Strasbourg.



CHAPTER XLI. AN ‘ORDINARY’ ACQUAINTANCE

The Duc d’Enghien and his aide-de-camp were forwarded with the utmost
speed to Paris; the remainder of us were imprisoned at Strasbourg. What
became of my companions I know not; but I was sent on, along with
a number of others, about a month later, to Nancy, to be tried by
a military commission. I may mention it here as a singular fact
illustrating the secrecy of the period, that it was not till long after
this time I learned the terrible fate of the poor Prince de Condé. Had I
known it, it is more than probable that I should have utterly despaired
of my own safety. The dreadful story of Vincennes--the mock trial, and
the midnight execution, are all too well known to my readers; nor is it
necessary I should refer to an event on which I myself can throw no new
light.

That the sentence was determined on before his arrest--and that the
grave was dug while the victim was still sleeping the last slumber
before ‘the sleep that knows not waking’--the evidences are strong and
undeniable. But an anecdote which circulated at the time, and which,
so far as I know, has never appeared in print, would seem to show that
there was complicity, at least, in the crime, and that the secret was
not confined to the First Consul’s breast.

On that fatal night of the 20th March, Talleyrand was seated at a
card-table at Caulaincourt’s house at Paris. The party was about to rise
from play, when suddenly the ‘pendule’ on the chimney-piece struck two.
It was in one of those accidental pauses in the conversation when any
sound is heard with unusual distinctness. Talleyrand started as he heard
it, and then turning to Caulaincourt, whispered, ‘Yes; ‘tis all over
now!’--words which, accidentally overheard, without significance, were
yet to convey a terrible meaning when the dreadful secret of that night
was disclosed.

If the whole of Europe was convulsed by the enormity of this crime--the
foulest that stains the name of Bonaparte--the Parisians soon forgot it
in the deeper interest of the great event that was now approaching--the
assumption of the Imperial title by Napoleon.

The excitement on this theme was so great and absorbing, that nothing
else was spoken or thought of. Private sorrows and afflictions were
disregarded and despised, and to obtrude one’s hardships on the notice
of others, seemed, at this juncture, a most ineffable selfishness. That
I, a prisoner, friendless and unknown as I was, found none to
sympathise with me, or take interest in my fate, is, therefore, nothing
extraordinary. In fact, I appeared to have been entirely forgotten; and
though still in durance, nothing was said either of the charge to be
preferred against me, nor the time when I should be brought to trial.

Giacourt, an old lieutenant of the marines, and at that time
Deputy-Governor of the Temple, was kind and good-natured towards me,
occasionally telling of the events which were happening without, and
giving me the hope that some general amnesty would, in all likelihood,
liberate all those whose crimes were not beyond the reach of mercy.
The little cell I occupied (and to Giacourt’s kindness I owed the sole
possession of it) looked out upon the tall battlements of the outer
walls, which excluded all view beyond, and thus drove me within myself
for occupation and employment. In this emergency, I set about to write
some notices of my life--some brief memoirs of those changeful fortunes
which had accompanied me from boyhood. Many of those incidents which I
relate now, and many of those traits of mind or temper that I recall,
were then for the first time noted down, and thus graven on my memory.

My early boyhood, my first experience as a soldier, the campaign of the
‘Schwarzwald,’ Ireland, and Genoa, all were mentioned; and writing as
I did solely for myself, and my own eyes, I set down many criticisms on
the generals, and their plans of campaign, which, if intended for the
inspection of others, would have been the greatest presumption
and impertinence. And in this way Moreau, Hoche, Massëna, and even
Bonaparte, came in for a most candid and impartial criticism.

How Germany might have been conquered; how Ireland ought to have been
invaded; in what way Italy should have been treated; and lastly, the
grand political error of the seizure of the Duc d’Enghien, were
subjects that I discussed and determined with consummate boldness and
self-satisfaction. I am almost overwhelmed with shame, even now, as
I think of that absurd chronicle, with its rash judgments, its crude
opinions, and its pretentious decisions.

So fascinated had I become with my task, that I rose early to resume it
each morning, and used to fall asleep cogitating on the themes for the
next day, and revolving within myself all the passages of interest I
should commemorate. A man must have known imprisonment to feel all
the value that can be attached to any object, no matter how mean or
insignificant, that can employ the thoughts, amuse the fancy, or engage
the affections. The narrow cell expands under such magic, the barred
casement is a free portal to the glorious sun and the free air; the
captive himself is but the student bending over his allotted task. To
this happy frame of mind had I come, without a thought or a wish beyond
the narrow walls at either side of me, when a sad disaster befell me.
On awaking one morning, as usual, to resume my labour, my manuscript
was gone! the table and writing materials, all had disappeared, and,
to increase my discomfiture, the turnkey informed me that Lieutenant
Giacourt had been removed from his post, and sent off to some inferior
station in the provinces.

I will not advert to the dreary time which followed this misfortune, a
time in which the hours passed on unmeasured and almost unfelt. Without
speculation, without a wish, I passed my days in a stupid indolence akin
to torpor. Had the prison doors been open, I doubt if I should have had
the energy to make my escape. Life itself ceased to have any value for
me, but somehow I did not desire death. I was in this miserable mood
when the turnkey awoke me one day as I was dozing on my bed. ‘Get up,
and prepare yourself to receive a visitor,’ said he. ‘There’s an officer
of the staff without, come to see you’; and as he spoke, a young,
slightly formed man, entered, in the uniform of a captain, who, making a
sign for the turnkey to withdraw, took his seat at my bedside.

‘Don’t get up, monsieur; you look ill and weak, so pray let me not
disturb you,’ said he, in a voice of kindly meaning.

‘I’m not ill,’ said I, with an effort--but my hollow utterance and
my sunken cheeks contradicted my words; ‘but I have been sleeping; I
usually doze at this hour.’

‘The best thing a man can do in prison, I suppose,’ said he, smiling
good-naturedly.

‘No, not the best,’ said I, catching up his words too literally. ‘I
used to write the whole day long, till they carried away my paper and my
pens.’

‘It is just of that very thing I have come to speak, sir,’ resumed he.
‘You intended that memoir for publication?’

‘No; never.’

‘Then for private perusal among a circle of friends?’

‘Just as little. I scarcely know three people in the world who would
acknowledge that title.’

‘You had an object, however, in composing it?’

‘Yes; to occupy thought; to save me from--from----’

I hesitated, for I was ashamed of the confession that nearly burst from
me, and, after a pause, I said, ‘from being such as I now am!’

‘You wrote it for yourself alone, then?’

‘Yes.’

‘Unprompted; without any suggestion from another?’

‘Is it here,’ said I, looking around my cell, ‘is it here that I should
be likely to find a fellow-labourer?’

‘No; but I mean to ask, were the sentiments your own, without any
external influence, or any persuasions from others?’

‘Quite my own.’

‘And the narrative is true?’

‘Strictly so, I believe.’

‘Even to your meeting with the Due d’Enghien. It was purely accidental?’

‘That is, I never knew him to be the duke till the moment of his
arrest.’

‘Just so; you thought he was merely a Royalist noble. Then, why did you
not address a memoir to that effect to the Minister?’

‘I thought it would be useless; when they made so little of a Condé,
what right had I to suppose they would think much about me?’

‘If he could have proved his innocence----’ He stopped, and then in an
altered voice said--‘But as to this memoir; you assume considerable airs
of military knowledge in it, and many of the opinions smack of heads
older than yours.’

‘They are, I repeat, my own altogether; as to their presumption, I have
already told you they were intended solely for my own eye.’

‘So that you are not a Royalist?’

‘No,’

‘Never were one?’

‘Never.’

‘In what way would you employ yourself if set at liberty to-day?’

I stared, and felt confused; for however easy I found it to refer to
the past, and reason on it, any speculation as to the future was a
considerable difficulty.

‘You hesitate; you have not yet made up your mind, apparently.’

‘It is not that; I am trying to think of liberty, trying to fancy myself
free--but I cannot!’ said I, with a weary sigh. ‘The air of this cell
has sapped my courage and my energy--a little more will finish the
ruin!’

‘And yet you are not much above four or five-and-twenty years of age?’

‘Not yet twenty!’ said I.

‘Come, come, Tiernay--this is too early to be sick of life!’ said he,
and the kind tone touched me so that I burst into tears. They were
bitter tears, too; for while my heart was relieved by this gush of
feeling, I was ashamed at my own weakness. ‘Come, I say,’ continued he,
‘this memoir of yours might have done you much mischief--happily it
has not done so. Give me the permission to throw it in the fire, and,
instead of it, address a respectful petition to the head of the state,
setting forth your services, and stating the casualty by which you were
implicated in Royalism. I will take care that it meets his eye, and, if
possible, will support its prayer. Above all, ask for reinstalment in
your grade, and a return to the service. It may be, perhaps, that
you can mention some superior officer who would vouch for your future
conduct.’

‘Except Colonel Mahon----’

‘Not the Colonel Mahon who commanded the 13th Cuirassiers?’

‘The same.’

‘That name would little serve you,’ said he coldly: ‘he has been placed
_en retraite_ some time back; and if your character can call no other
witness than him, your case is not too favourable.’ He saw that the
speech had disconcerted me, and soon added, ‘Never mind--keep to
the memoir; state your case, and your apology, and leave the rest to
Fortune. When can you let me have it?’

‘By to-morrow--to-night, if necessary.’

‘To-morrow will do well, and so good-bye. I will order them to supply
you with writing materials’; and slapping me good-naturedly on the
shoulder, he cried, ‘Courage, my lad!’ and departed.

Before I lay down to sleep that night, I completed my ‘memoir,’ the
great difficulty of which I found to consist in giving it that dry
brevity which I knew Bonaparte would require. In this, however, I
believe I succeeded at last, making the entire document not to occupy
one sheet of paper. The officer had left his card of address, which
I found was inscribed Monsieur Bourrienne, Rue Lafitte, a name that
subsequently was to be well known to the world.

I directed my manuscript to his care, and lay down with a lighter heart
than I had known for many a day. I will not weary my reader with the
tormenting vacillations of hope and fear which followed. Day after day
went over, and no answer came to me. I addressed two notes, respectful,
but urgent, begging for some information as to my demand--none came. A
month passed thus, when, one morning, the governor of the Temple entered
my room, with an open letter in his hand.

‘This is an order for your liberation, Monsieur de Tiernay,’ said he;
‘you are free.’

‘Am I reinstated in my grade?’ asked I eagerly.

He shook his head, and said nothing.

‘Is there no mention of my restoration to the service?’

‘None, sir.’

‘Then what is to become of me--to what end am I liberated?’ cried I
passionately.

‘Paris is a great city--there is a wide world beyond it; and a man so
young as you are must have few resources, or he will carve out a good
career for himself.’

‘Say, rather, he must have few resentments, sir,’ cried I bitterly, ‘or
he will easily hit upon a bad one’; and with this, I packed up the few
articles I possessed, and prepared to depart.

I remember it well: it was between two and three o’clock of the
afternoon, on a bright day in spring, that I stood on the Quai Voltaire,
a very small packet of clothes in a bundle in one hand, and a cane
in the other, something short of three louis in my purse, and as much
depression in my heart as ever settled down in that of a youth not full
nineteen. Liberty is a glorious thing, and mine had been perilled often
enough to give me a hearty appreciation of its blessing; but at that
moment, as I stood friendless and companionless in a great thoroughfare
of a great city, I almost wished myself back again within the dreary
walls of the Temple, for somehow it felt like home! It is true, one must
have had a lonely lot in life before he could surround the cell of a
prison with such attributes as these. Perhaps I have more of the catlike
affection for a particular spot than most men; but I do find that I
attach myself to walls with a tenacity that strengthens as I grow older,
and, like my brother parasite, the ivy, my grasp becomes more rigid the
longer I cling.

If I know of few merely sensual gratifications higher than a lounge
through Paris, at the flood-tide of its population, watching the varied
hues and complexions of its strange inhabitants, displaying, as they do,
in feature, air, and gesture, so much more of character and purpose than
other people, so also do I feel that there is something indescribably
miserable in being alone, unknown, and unnoticed in that vast throng,
destitute of means for the present, and devoid of hope for the future.

Some were bent on business, some on pleasure; some were evidently
bent on killing time till the hour of more agreeable occupation should
arrive; some were loitering along, gazing at the prints in shop-windows,
or half listlessly stopping to read at book-stalls. There was not only
every condition of mankind, from wealth to mendicancy, but every frame
of mind, from enjoyment to utter ennui, and yet I thought I could not
hit upon any one individual who looked as forlorn and cast-away as
myself; however, there were many who passed me that day who would
gladly have changed fortune with me, but it would have been difficult to
persuade me of the fact in the mood I then was.

At the time I speak of, there was a species of cheap ordinary held in
the open air on the quay, where people of the humblest condition used to
dine. I need scarcely describe the fare--the reader may conceive what it
was, which, wine included, cost only four sous. A rude table without a
cloth, some wooden platters, and an iron rail to which the knives and
forks were chained, formed the ‘equipage,’ the cookery bearing a due
relation to the elegance of these accessories. As for the company, if
not polite, it was certainly picturesque--consisting of labourers of the
lowest class, the sweepers of crossings, hackney-cabmen out of employ,
that poorest of the poor who try to earn a livelihood by dragging the
Seine for lost articles, and finally, the motley race of idlers who
vacillate between beggary and ballad-singing, with now and then a dash
at highway robbery for a ‘distraction’; a class, be it said without
paradox, which in Paris includes a considerable number of tolerably
honest folk.

The moment was the eventful one in which France was about once more
to become a monarchy, and as may be inferred from the character of the
people, it was a time of high excitement and enthusiasm. The nation,
even in its humblest citizen, seemed to feel some of the reflected glory
that glanced from the great achievements of Bonaparte, and his elevation
was little other than a grand manifestation of national self-esteem.
That he knew how to profit by this sentiment, and incorporate his own
with the country’s glory, so that they seemed to be inseparable, is not
among the lowest nor the least of the efforts of his genius.

The paroxysm of national vanity, for it was indeed no less, imparted a
peculiar character to the period. A vainglorious, boastful spirit was
abroad; men met each other with high-sounding gratulations about French
greatness and splendour, the sway we wielded over the rest of Europe,
and the influence with which we impressed our views over the entire
globe.

Since the fall of the monarchy there had been half-a-dozen national
fevers! There was the great Fraternal and Equality one; there was
the era of classical associations, with all their train of trumpery
affectation in dress and manner. Then came the conquering spirit, with
the flattering spectacle of great armies; and now, as if to complete
the cycle, there grew up that exaggerated conception of ‘France and
her Mission,’ an unlucky phrase that has since done plenty of mischief,
which seemed to carry the nation into the seventh heaven of overweening
self-love.

If I advert to this here, it is but passingly, neither stopping to
examine its causes, nor seeking to inquire the consequences that ensued
from it, but, as it were, chronicling the fact as it impressed me as
I stood that day on the Quai Voltaire, perhaps the only unimpassioned
lounger along its crowded thoroughfare.

Not even the ordinary ‘à quatre sous’ claimed exemption from this
sentiment. It might be supposed that meagre diet and sour wine were but
sorry provocatives to national enthusiasm, but even they could minister
to the epidemic ardour, and the humble dishes of that frugal board
masqueraded under titles that served to feed popular vanity. Of this
I was made suddenly aware as I stood looking over the parapet into the
river, and heard the rude voices of the labourers as they called for
cutlets _à la Caire_, potatoes _en Mamelouques_, or roast beef _à la
Monte-Notte_, while every goblet of their wine was tossed off to some
proud sentiment of national supremacy.

Amused by the scene, so novel in all its bearings, I took my place at
the table, not sorry for the excuse to myself for partaking so humble a
repast.

‘_Sacrebleu!_’ cried a rough-looking fellow with a red nightcap set
on one side of the head, ‘make room there, we have the _aristocrates_,
coming down among us.’

‘Monsieur is heartily welcome,’ said another, making room for me; ‘we
are only flattered by such proofs of confidence and esteem.’

‘Ay, _parbleu!_ cried a third. ‘The Empire is coming, and we shall be
well bred and well mannered. I intend to give up the river, and take to
some more gentlemanlike trade than dredging for dead men.’

‘And I, I’ll never sharpen anything under a rapier or a dress sword for
the Court,’ said a knife-grinder; ‘we have been living like _canaille_
hitherto--nothing better.’

‘À l’Empire, à l’Empire!’ shouted half-a-dozen voices in concert; and
the glasses were drained to the toast with a loud cheer.

Directly opposite to me sat a thin, pale, mild-looking man, of about
fifty, in a kind of stuff robe, like the dress of a village curate. His
appearance, though palpably poor, was venerable and imposing--not the
less so, perhaps, from its contrast with the faces and gestures at
either side of him. Once or twice, while these ebullitions of enthusiasm
burst forth, his eyes met mine, and I read, or fancied that I read,
a look of kindred appreciation in their mild and gentle glance. The
expression was less reproachful than compassionate, as though in
pity for the ignorance rather than in reprobation for the folly. Now,
strangely enough, this was precisely the very sentiment of my own
heart at that moment. I remembered a somewhat similar enthusiasm for
republican liberty, by men just as unfitted to enjoy it; and I thought
to myself, the Empire, like the Convention, or the Directory, is a mere
fabulous conception to these poor fellows, who, whatever may be the
régime, will still be hewers of wood and drawers of water to the end of
all time.

As I was pondering over this, I felt something touch my arm, and, on
turning, perceived that my opposite neighbour had now seated himself at
my side, and, in a low, soft voice, was bidding me ‘Good-day.’ After one
or two commonplace remarks upon the weather and the scene, he seemed to
feel that some apology for his presence in such a place was needful, for
he said--

‘You are here, monsieur, from a feeling of curiosity, that I see well
enough; but I come for a very different reason. I am the pastor of a
mountain village of the Ardèche, and have come to Paris in search of a
young girl, the daughter of one of my flock, who, it is feared, has been
carried off, by some evil influence, from her home and her friends,
to seek fortune and fame in this rich capital; for she is singularly
beautiful, and gifted too; sings divinely, and improvises poetry with a
genius that seems inspiration.’

There was a degree of enthusiasm, blended with simplicity, in the poor
cure’s admiration of his ‘lost sheep’ that touched me deeply. He had
been now three weeks in vain pursuit, and was at last about to turn
homeward, discomfited and unsuccessful. ‘Lisette’ was the very soul of
the little hamlet, and he knew not how life was to be carried on there
without her. The old loved her as a daughter; the young were rivals for
her regard.

‘And to me,’ said the père, ‘whom, in all the solitude of my lonely lot,
literature and especially poetry, consoles many an hour of sadness or
melancholy--to me, she was like a good angel, her presence diffusing
light as she crossed my humble threshold, and elevating my thoughts
above the little crosses and accidents of daily life.’

So interested had I become in this tale, that I listened while he told
every circumstance of the little locality; and walking along at his
side, I wandered out of the city, still hearing of ‘La Marche,’ as the
village was called, till I knew the ford where the blacksmith lived, and
the miller with the cross wife, and the lame schoolmaster, and Pierre
the postmaster, who read out the _Moniteur_ each evening under the elms,
even to Jacques Fulgeron the ‘Tapageur,’ who had served at Jemappes,
and, with his wounded hand and his waxed moustache, was the terror of
all peaceable folk.

‘You should come and see us, my dear monsieur,’ said he to me, as I
showed some more than common interest in the narrative. ‘You, who seem
to study character, would find something better worth the notice than
these hardened natures of city life. Come, and spend a week or two with
me, and if you do not like our people and their ways, I am but a sorry
physiognomist.’

It is needless to say that I was much flattered by this kind proof of
confidence and good-will; and finally it was agreed upon between us that
I should aid him in his search for three days, after which, if still
unsuccessful, we should set out together for La Marche. It was easy to
see that the poor curé was pleased at my partnership in the task, for
there were several public places of resort--theatres, ‘spectacles,’ and
the like--to which he scrupled to resort, and these he now willingly
conceded to my inspection, having previously given me so accurate a
description of La Lisette, that I fancied I should recognise her
amongst a thousand. If her long black eyelashes did not betray her,
her beautiful teeth were sure to do so; or, if I heard her voice,
there could be no doubt then; and, lastly, her foot would as infallibly
identify her as did Cinderella’s.

For want of better, it was agreed upon that we should make the
‘Restaurant à Quatre Sous’ our rendezvous each day, to exchange our
confidences and report progress. It will scarcely be believed how even
this much of a pursuit diverted my mind from its own dark dreamings, and
how eagerly my thoughts pursued the new track that was opened to them.
It was the utter listlessness, the nothingness of my life, that was
weighing me down; and already I saw an escape from this in the pursuit
of a good object. I could wager that the pastor of La Marche never
thought so intensely, so uninterruptedly, of Lisette as did I for the
four-and-twenty hours that followed! It was not only that I had created
her image to suit my fancy, but I had invented a whole narrative of her
life and adventures since her arrival in Paris.

My firm conviction being that it was lost time to seek for her in
obscure and out-of-the-way quarters of the city, I thought it best to
pursue the search in the thronged and fashionable resorts of the gay
world, the assemblies and theatres. Strong in this conviction, I changed
one of my three gold pieces to purchase a ticket for the opera. The
reader may smile at the sacrifice; but when he who thinks four sous
enough for a dinner, pays twelve francs for the liberty to be crushed in
the crowded parterre of a playhouse, he is indeed buying pleasure at a
costly price. It was something more than a fifth of all I possessed in
the world, but, after all, my chief regret arose from thinking that it
left me so few remaining ‘throws of the dice’ for ‘Fortune.’

I have often reflected since that day by what a mere accident I was
present, and yet the spectacle was one that I have never forgotten.
It was the last time the First Consul appeared in public, before his
assumption of the Imperial title; and at no period through all his great
career was the enthusiasm more impassioned regarding him. He sat in the
box adjoining the stage--Cambacérès and Lebrun, with a crowd of others,
standing and not sitting, around and behind his chair. When he appeared,
the whole theatre rose to greet him, and three several times was he
obliged to rise and acknowledge the salutations. And with what a
stately condescension did he make these slight acknowledgments!--what
haughtiness was there in the glance he threw around him! I have often
heard it said, and I have seen it also written, that previous to his
assumption of the crown, Bonaparte’s manner exhibited the mean arts
and subtle devices of a candidate on the hustings, dispensing all the
flatteries and scattering all the promises that such occasions are so
prolific of. I cannot, of course, pretend to contradict this statement
positively; but I can record the impression which that scene made upon
me, as decidedly the opposite of this assumption. I have repeatedly seen
him since that event, but never do I remember his calm, cold features
more impassively stern, more proudly collected, than on that night.

Every allusion of the piece that could apply to him was eagerly caught
up. Not a phrase nor a chance word that could compliment, was passed
over in silence; and if greatness and glory were accorded, as if by an
instinctive reverence, the vast assemblage turned towards him, to lay
their homage at his feet. I watched him narrowly, and could see that he
received them all as his rightful tribute, the earnest of the debt the
nation owed him. Among the incidents of that night, I remember one which
actually for the moment convulsed the house with its enthusiasm. One of
the officers of his suite had somehow stumbled against Bonaparte’s hat,
which, on entering, he had thrown carelessly beside his chair. Stooping
down and lifting it up, he perceived to whom it belonged, and then,
remarking the mark of a bullet on the edge, he showed it significantly
to a general near him. Slight and trivial as was the incident, it was
instantly caught up by the parterre. A low murmur ran quickly around;
and then a sudden cheer burst forth, for some one remembered it was
the anniversary of Marengo! And now the excitement became madness, and
reiterated shouts proclaimed that the glory of that day was among the
proudest memories of France. For once, and once only, did any trait of
feeling show itself on that impassive face. I thought I could mark even
a faint tinge of colour in that sallow cheek, as in recognition he bowed
a dignified salute to the waving and agitated assembly.

I saw that proud face, at moments when human ambition might have seemed
to have reached its limit, and yet never with a haughtier look than on
that night I speak of. His foot was already on the first step of the
throne, and his spirit seemed to swell with the conscious force of
coming greatness.

And Lisette, all this time? Alas, I had totally forgotten her! As the
enthusiasm around me began to subside, I had time to recover myself,
and look about me. There was much beauty and splendour to admire. Madame
Junot was there, and Mademoiselle de Bessières, with a crowd of others
less known, but scarcely less lovely. Not one, however, could I see that
corresponded with my mind-drawn portrait of the peasant beauty; and I
scanned each face closely and critically. There was female loveliness
of every type, from the dark-eyed beauty of Spanish race, to the almost
divine regularity of a Raphaelite picture. There was the brilliant
aspect of fashion, too; but nowhere could I see what I sought for;
nowhere detect that image which imagination had stamped as that of the
beauty of ‘La Marche.’ If disappointed in my great object, I left the
theatre with my mind full of all I had witnessed. The dreadful event of
Ettenheim had terribly shaken Bonaparte in my esteem; yet how resist the
contagious devotion of a whole nation--how remain cold in the midst
of the burning zeal of all France? These thoughts brought me to the
consideration of myself. Was I, or was I not, any longer a soldier of
his army? or was I disqualified for joining in that burst of national
enthusiasm which proclaimed that all France was ready to march under
his banner? To-morrow I ‘ll wait upon the Minister of War, thought I, or
I’ll seek out the commanding officer of some regiment that I know, or at
least a comrade; and so I went on, endeavouring to frame a plan for
my guidance, as I strolled along the streets, which were now almost
deserted. The shops were all closed; of the hotels, such as were yet
open were far too costly for means like mine; and so, as the night was
calm and balmy with the fresh air of spring, I resolved to pass it
out of doors. I loitered then along the Champs-Elysées; and at length
stretching myself on the grass beneath the trees, lay down to sleep. ‘An
odd bedroom enough,’ thought I, ‘for one who has passed the evening at
the opera, and who has feasted his ears at the expense of his stomach.’
I remembered, too, another night when the sky had been my canopy in
Paris, when I slept beneath the shadow of the guillotine and the Place
de Grève. ‘Well,’ thought I, ‘times are at least changed for the better
since that day; and my own fortunes are certainly not lower.’

This comforting reflection closed my waking memories, and I slept
soundly till morning.



CHAPTER XLII. THE ‘COUNT DE MAUREPAS,’ ALIAS--------

There is a wide gulf between him who opens his waking eyes in a splendid
chamber, and with half-drowsy thoughts speculates on the pleasures
of the coming day, and him, who, rising from the dew-moistened earth,
stretches his aching limbs for a second or so, and then hurries away to
make his toilet at the nearest fountain.

I have known both conditions, and yet, without being thought
paradoxical, I would wish to say that there are some sensations
attendant on the latter and the humbler lot which I would not exchange
for all the voluptuous ease of the former. Let there be but youth, and
there is something of heroism, something adventurous in the notion of
thus alone and unaided breasting the wide ocean of life, and, like
a hardy swimmer, daring to stem the roughest breakers without one to
succour him, that is worth all the security that even wealth can impart,
all the conscious ease that luxury and affluence can supply. In a world
and an age like ours, thought I, there must surely be some course for
one young, active and daring as I am. Even if France reject me, there
are countries beyond the seas where energy and determination will open
a path. ‘Courage, Maurice,’ said I, as I dashed the sparkling water over
my head, ‘the past has not been all inglorious, and the future may prove
even better.’

A roll and a glass of iced water furnished my breakfast, after which
I set forth in good earnest on my search. There was a sort of
self-flattery in the thought that one so destitute as I was could devote
his thoughts and energies to the service of another, that pleased me
greatly. It was so ‘unselfish’--at least I thought so. Alas and alas!
how egotistical are we when we fancy ourselves least so. That day I
visited St. Roch and Notre Dame at early mass, and by noon reached the
Louvre, the gallery of which occupied me till the hour of meeting the
curé drew nigh.

Punctual to his appointment, I found him waiting for me at the corner of
the quay, and although disappointed at the failure of all his efforts,
he talked away with all the energy of one who would not suffer himself
to be cast down by adverse fortune. ‘I feel,’ said he, ‘a kind of
instinctive conviction that we shall find her yet. There is something
tells me that all our pains shall not go unrewarded. Have you never
experienced a sensation of this kind,--a species of inward prompting to
pursue a road, to penetrate into a pass, or to explore a way, without
exactly knowing why or wherefore?’

This question, vague enough as it seemed, led me to talk about myself
and my own position; a theme which, however much I might have shrunk
from introducing, when once opened, I spoke of in all the freedom of old
friendship.

Nothing could be more delicate than the priest’s manner during all this
time; nor even when his curiosity was highest did he permit himself to
ask a question or an explanation of any difficulty that occurred; and
while he followed my recital with a degree of interest that was most
flattering, he never ventured on a word or dropped a remark that might
seem to urge me to greater frankness. ‘Do you know,’ said he, at last,
‘why your story has taken such an uncommon hold upon my attention? It
is not from its adventurous character, nor from the stirring and strange
scenes you have passed through; it is because your old pastor and guide,
the Père Delamoy, was my own dearest friend, my school companion and
playfellow from infancy. We were both students at Louvain together; both
called to the priesthood on the same day. Think, then, of my intense
delight at hearing his dear name once more--ay, and permit me to say it,
hearing from the lips of another the very precepts and maxims that I can
recognise as his own. Ah, yes! _mon cher_ Maurice,’ cried he, grasping
my hand in a burst of enthusiasm, ‘disguise it how you may, cover it up
under the uniform of a “Bleu,” bury it beneath the shako of the soldier
of the Republic, but the head and the heart will turn to the ancient
altars of the Church and the Monarchy. It is not alone that your good
blood suggests this, but all your experience of life goes to prove it.
Think of poor Michel, self-devoted, generous, and noble-hearted; think
of that dear cottage at Kuffstein, where, even in poverty, the dignity
of birth and blood threw a grace and an elegance over daily life; think
of Ettenheim and the glorious prince--the last Condé--and who now sleeps
in his narrow bed in the fosse of Vincennes!’

‘How do you mean?’ said I eagerly; for up to this time I knew nothing of
his fate.

‘Come along with me, and you shall know it all,’ said he; and, rising,
he took my arm, and we sauntered along out of the crowded street, till
we reached the Boulevards. He then narrated to me every incident of the
midnight trial, the sentence, and the execution. From the death-warrant
that came down ready filled from Paris, to the grave dug while the
victim was yet sleeping--he forgot nothing; and I own that my very blood
ran cold at the terrible atrocity of that dark murder. It was already
growing dusk when he had finished, and we parted hurriedly, as he was
obliged to be at a distant quarter of Paris by eight o’clock, again
agreeing to meet, as before, on the Quai Voltaire.

From that moment till we met the following day, the Duc d’Enghien was
never out of my thoughts, and I was impatient for the priest’s presence
that I might tell him every little incident of our daily life at
Ettenheim, the topics we used to discuss, and the opinions he expressed
on various subjects. The eagerness of the curé to listen stimulated me
to talk on, and I not only narrated all that I was myself a witness
of, but various other circumstances which were told to me by the prince
himself; in particular, an incident he mentioned to me one day of being
visited by a stranger who came, introduced by a letter from a very
valued friend; his business being to propose to the duke a scheme for
the assassination of Bonaparte. At first the prince suspected the whole
as a plot against himself, but on further questioning he discovered that
the man’s intentions were really such as he professed them, and offered
his services in the conviction that no price could be deemed too high
to reward him. It is needless to say that the offer was rejected with
indignation, and the prince dismissed the fellow with the threat of
delivering him up to the Government of the First Consul. The pastor
heard this anecdote with deep attention, and, for the first time,
diverging from his line of cautious reserve, he asked me various
questions as to when the occurrence had taken place, and where--if the
prince had communicated the circumstance to any other than myself, and
whether he had made it the subject of any correspondence. I knew little
more than I had already told him: that the offer was made while residing
at Ettenheim, and during the preceding year, were facts, however, that I
could remember.

‘You are surprised, perhaps,’ said he, ‘at the interest I feel in all
this; but, strangely enough, there is here in Paris at this moment one
of the great ‘Seigneurs’ of the Ardèche; he has come up to the capital
for medical advice, and he was a great, perhaps the greatest friend of
the poor duke. What if you were to come and pay him a visit with me,
there is not probably one favour the whole world could bestow he would
value so highly. You must often have heard his name from the prince; has
he not frequently spoken of the Count de Maurepas?’ I could not remember
having ever heard the name. ‘It is historical, however,’ said the curé,
‘and even in our own days has not derogated from its ancient chivalry.
Have you not heard how a noble of the Court rode postillion to the
king’s carriage on the celebrated escape from Varennes? Well, even for
curiosity’s sake, he is worth a visit, for this is the very Count Henri
de Maurepas, now on the verge of the grave!’

If the good curé had known me all my life, he could not more
successfully have baited a trap for my curiosity. To see and know
remarkable people, men who had done something out of the ordinary route
of everyday life, had been a passion with me from boyhood. Hero-worship
was, indeed, a great feature in my character, and has more or less
influenced all my career, nor was I insensible to the pleasure of doing
a kind action. It was rare, indeed, that one so humbly placed could ever
confer a favour, and I grasped with eagerness the occasion to do so. We
agreed, then, on the next afternoon, towards nightfall, to meet at
the quay, and proceed together to the count’s residence. I have often
reflected, since that day, that Lisette’s name was scarcely ever
mentioned by either of us during this interview; and yet, at the time,
so preoccupied were my thoughts, I never noticed the omission. The
Château of Ettenheim, and its tragic story, filled my mind to the
exclusion of all else.

I pass over the long and dreary hours that intervened, and come at
once to the time, a little after sunset, when we met at our accustomed
rendezvous.

The curé had provided a _fiacre_ for the occasion, as the count’s
residence was about two leagues from the city, on the way to Belleville.
As we trotted along, he gave me a most interesting account of the
old noble, whose life had been one continued act of devotion to the
monarchy.

‘It will be difficult,’ said he, ‘for you to connect the poor, worn-out,
shattered wreck before you, with all that was daring in deed and
chivalrous in sentiment; but the “Maurepas” were well upheld in all
their glorious renown, by him who is now to be the last of the race! You
will see him reduced by suffering and sickness, scarcely able to speak,
but be assured that you will have his gratitude for this act of true
benevolence. Thus chatting we rattled along over the paved highway, and
at length entered upon a deep clay road which conducted us to a spacious
park, with a long straight avenue of trees, at the end of which stood
what, even in the uncertain light, appeared a spacious château. The door
lay open, and as we descended, a servant in plain clothes received
us, and, after a whispered word or two from the curé, ushered us along
through a suite of rooms into a large chamber furnished like a study.
There were hook-shelves well filled, and a writing-table covered with
papers and letters, and the whole floor was littered with newspapers and
journals.

A lamp, shaded by a deep gauze cover, threw a half-light over
everything, nor was it until we had been nearly a couple of minutes in
the room that we became aware of the presence of the count, who lay
upon a sofa, covered up in a fur pelisse, although the season was far
advanced in spring.

His gentle ‘Good-evening, messieurs,’ was the first warning we had of
his presence, and the curé, advancing respectfully, presented me as his
young friend, Monsieur de Tiernay.

‘It is not for the first time that I hear that name,’ said the sick man,
with a voice of singular sweetness. ‘It is chronicled in the annals of
our monarchy. Ay, sir, I knew that faithful servant of his king, who
followed his master to the scaffold.’

‘My father?’ cried I eagerly.

‘I knew him well,’ continued he; ‘I may say, without vaunting, that I
had it in my power to befriend him, too. He made an imprudent marriage;
he was unfortunate in the society his second wife’s family threw him
amongst. They were not his equals in birth, and far beneath him in
sentiment and principle. Well, well,’ sighed he, ‘this is not a theme
for me to speak of, nor for you to hear; tell me of yourself. The curé
says that you have had more than your share of worldly vicissitudes.
There, sit down, and let me hear your story from your own lips.’

He pointed to a seat at his side, and I obeyed him at once; for,
somehow, there was an air of command even in the gentlest tones of his
voice, and I felt that his age and his sufferings were not the only
claims he possessed to influence those around him.

With all the brevity in my power, my story lasted till above an hour,
during which time the count only interrupted me once or twice by asking
to which Colonel Mahon I referred, as there were two of the name; and
again by inquiring to what circumstances the _émigré_ family were living
as to means, and whether they appeared to derive any of their resources
from France. These were points I could give no information upon, and I
plainly perceived that the count had no patience for a conjecture,
and that, where positive knowledge failed, he instantly passed on to
something else. When I came to speak of Ettenheim his attention became
fixed, not suffering the minutest circumstance to escape him, and even
asking for the exact description of the locality, and its distance from
the towns in the neighbourhood.

The daily journeys of the prince, too, interested him much, and once
or twice he made me repeat what the peasant had said of the horse being
able to travel from Strasbourg without a halt. I vow it puzzled me why
he should dwell on these points in preference to others of far more
interest, but I set them down to the caprices of illness, and thought
no more of them. His daily life, his conversation, the opinions he
expressed about France, the questions he used to ask, were all matters
he inquired into, till, finally, we came to the anecdote of the
meditated assassination of Bonaparte. This he made me tell him twice
over, each time asking me eagerly whether, by an effort of memory, I
could not recall the name of the man who had offered his services for
the deed. This I could not; indeed I knew not if I had ever heard it.

‘But the prince rejected the proposal?’ said he, peering at me beneath
the dark shadow of his heavy brow; ‘he would not hear of it?’

‘Of course not,’ cried I; ‘he even threatened to denounce the man to the
Government.’

‘And do you think that he would have gone thus far, sir?’ asked he
slowly.

‘I am certain of it. The horror and disgust he expressed when reciting
the story were a guarantee for what he would have done.’

‘But yet Bonaparte has been a dreadful enemy to his race.’ said the
count.

‘It is not a Condé can right himself by a murder,’ said I, as calmly.

‘How I like that burst of generous Royalism, young man!’ said he,
grasping my hand and shaking it warmly. ‘That steadfast faith in the
honour of a Bourbon is the very heart and soul of loyalty!’

Now, although I was not, so far as I knew of, anything of a
Royalist--the cause had neither my sympathy nor my wishes--I did not
choose to disturb the equanimity of a poor sick man by a needless
disclaimer, nor induce a discussion which must be both unprofitable and
painful.

‘How did the fellow propose the act? had he any accomplices? or was he
alone?’

‘I believe quite alone.’

‘Of course suborned by England? Of that there can be no doubt.’

‘The prince never said so.’

‘Well, but it is clear enough, the man must have had means; he travelled
by a very circuitous route; he had come from Hamburg probably?’

‘I never heard.’

‘He must have done so. The ports of Holland, as those of France, would
have been too dangerous for him. Italy is out of the question.’

I owned that I had not speculated so deeply in the matter.

‘It was strange,’ said he, after a pause, ‘that the duke never mentioned
who had introduced the man to him.’

‘He merely called him a valued friend.’

‘In other words, the Count d’Artois,’ said the count; ‘did it not strike
you so?’

I had to confess it had not occurred to me to think so.

‘But reflect a little,’ said he. ‘Is there any other living who could
have dared to make such a proposal but the count? Who, but the head of
his house, could have presumed on such a step? No inferior could have
had the audacity! It must have come from one so highly placed that crime
paled itself down to a mere measure of expediency under the loftiness of
the sanction. What think you?’

‘I cannot, I will not think so,’ was my answer. ‘The very indignation of
the prince’s rejection refutes the supposition.’

‘What a glorious gift is unsuspectfulness!’ said he feelingly. ‘I am
a rich man, and you I believe are not so; and yet, I’d give all the
wealth, ay, ten times told, not for your vigour of health, not for the
lightness of your heart, nor the elasticity of your spirits, but for
that one small quality, defect though it be, that makes you trustful and
credulous.’

I believe I would just as soon that the old gentleman had thought fit to
compliment me upon any other quality. Of all my acquisitions there was
not one I was so vain of as my knowledge of life and character. I had
seen, as I thought, so much of life I I had peeped at all ranks and
conditions of men, and it was rather hard to find an old country
gentleman, a _Seigneur de Village_, calling me credulous and
unsuspecting!

I was much more pleased when he told the cure that a supper was ready
for us in the adjoining room, at which he begged we would excuse his
absence; and truly a most admirable little meal it was, and served with
great elegance.

‘The count expects you to stop here; there is a chamber prepared for
you,’ said the curé as we took our seats at table. ‘He has evidently
taken a fancy to you. I thought, indeed I was quite certain, he would.
Who can tell what good fortune this chance meeting may lead to, Monsieur
Maurice! _À votre santé, mon cher!_’ cried he, as he clinked his
champagne glass against mine; and I at last began to think that destiny
was about to smile on me.

‘You should see his château in the Ardèche; this is nothing to it! There
is a forest, too, of native oak, and a _chasse_ such as royalty never
owned!’

Mine were delightful dreams that night; but I was sorely disappointed
on waking to find that Laura was not riding at my side through a
forest-alley, while a crowd of _piqueurs_ and huntsmen galloped to and
fro, making the air vibrate with their joyous bugles. Still, I opened my
eyes in a richly furnished chamber, while a lackey handed me my coffee
on a silver stand, and in a cup of costliest Sèvres.



CHAPTER XLIII. A FOREST RIDE

While I was dressing, a note was handed to me from the curé, apologising
for his departure without seeing me, and begging, as a great favour,
that I would not leave the château till his return. He said that the
count’s spirits had benefited greatly by our agreeable converse,
and that he requested me to be his guest for some time to come. The
postscript added a suggestion that I should write down some of
the particulars of my visit to Ettenheim, but particularly of that
conversation alluding to the meditated assassination of Bonaparte.

There were many points in the arrangement which I did not like. To
begin, I had no fancy whatever for the condition of a dependant, and
such my poverty would at once stamp me. Secondly, I was averse to this
frequent intercourse with men of the Royalist party, whose restless
character and unceasing schemes were opposed to all the principles of
those I had served under; and finally, I was growing impatient under the
listless vacuity of a life that gave no occupation, nor opened any view
for the future. I sat down to breakfast in a mood very little in unison
with the material enjoyments around me. The meal was all that could
tempt appetite; and the view from the open window displayed a beautiful
flower-garden, imperceptibly fading away into a maze of ornamental
planting, which was backed again by a deep forest, the well-known wood
of Belleville. Still I ate on sullenly, scarce noticing any of the
objects around me. I will see the count, and take leave of him, thought
I suddenly; I cannot be his guest without sacrificing feeling in a dozen
ways.

‘At what hour does monsieur rise?’ asked I of the obsequious valet who
waited behind my chair.

‘Usually at three or four in the afternoon, sir; but to-day he has
desired me to make his excuses to you. There will be a consultation of
doctors here; and the likelihood is, that he may not leave his chamber.’

‘Will you convey my respectful compliments, then, to him, and my regrets
that I had not seen him before leaving the château?’

‘The count charged me, sir, to entreat your remaining here till he had
seen you. He said you had done him infinite service already; and indeed
it is long since he has passed a night in such tranquillity.’

There are few slight circumstances which impress a stranger more
favourably than any semblance of devotion on the part of a servant
to his master. The friendship of those above one in life is easier to
acquire than the attachment of those beneath. Love is a plant whose
tendrils strive ever upwards. I could not help feeling struck at
the man’s manner as he spoke these few words; and insensibly my mind
reverted to the master who had inspired such sentiments.

‘My master gave orders, sir,’ continued he, ‘that we should do
everything possible to contribute to your wishes; that the carriage,
or, if you prefer them, saddle-horses, should be ready at any hour you
ordered. The wood has a variety of beautiful excursions; there is a
lake, too, about two leagues away; and the ruins of Monterraye are also
worth seeing.’

‘If I had not engagements in Paris,’ muttered I, while I affected to
mumble over the conclusion of the sentence to myself.

‘Monsieur has seldom done a greater kindness than this will be,’ added
he respectfully; ‘but if monsieur’s business could be deferred for a day
or two, without inconvenience-----’

‘Perhaps that might be managed,’ said I, starting up, and walking to the
window, when, for the first time, the glorious prospect revealed itself
before me. How delicious, after all, would be a few hours of such a
retreat!--a morning loitered away in that beautiful garden, and then
a long ramble through the dark wood till sunset. Oh, if Laura were but
here! if she could be my companion along those leafy alleys! If not
with, I can at least think of her, thought I--seek out spots she
would love to linger in, and points of view she would enjoy with all
a painter’s zest. And this poor count, with all his riches, could not
derive in a whole lifetime the enjoyment that a few brief hours
would yield to us! So is it almost ever in this world: to one man the
appliances, to another the faculties for enjoyment.

‘I am so glad monsieur has consented,’ said the valet joyously.

‘Did I say so? I don’t know that I said anything.’

‘The count will be so gratified,’ added he, and hurried away to convey
the tidings.

Well, be it so. Heaven knows my business in Paris will scarcely suffer
by my absence, my chief occupation there being to cheat away the hours
till meal-time. It is an occupation I can easily resume a few days
hence. I took a book, and strolled out into the garden; but I could not
read. There is a gush of pleasure felt at times from the most familiar
objects, which the most complicated machinery of enjoyment often fails
to equal; and now the odour of moss-roses and geraniums, the rich
perfume of orange-flowers, the plash of fountains and the hum of the
summer insects, steeped my mind in delight; and I lay there in a dream
of bliss that was like enchantment. I suppose I must have fallen asleep,
for my thoughts took every form of wildness and incoherency. Ireland;
the campaign; the Bay of Genoa; the rugged height of Kuff-stein,
all passed before my mind, peopled with images foreign to all their
incidents. It was late in the afternoon that I aroused myself, and
remembered where I was. The shadows of the dark forest were stretching
over the plain, and I determined on a ride beneath their mellow shade.
As if in anticipation of my wishes, the horses were already saddled, and
a groom stood awaiting my orders. Oh, what a glorious thing it is to be
rich! thought I, as I mounted; from what an eminence does the wealthy
man view life! No petty cares nor calculations mar the conceptions of
his fancy. His will, like his imagination, wanders free and unfettered.
And so thinking, I dashed spurs into my horse, and plunged into the
dense wood. Perhaps I was better mounted than the groom, or perhaps the
man was scarcely accustomed to such impetuosity. Whatever the reason, I
was soon out of sight of him. The trackless grass of the alley, and its
noiseless turf, made pursuit difficult in a spot where the paths crossed
and recrossed in a hundred different directions; and so I rode on for
miles and miles without seeing more of my follower.

Forest riding is particularly seductive; you are insensibly led on to
see where this alley will open, or how that path will terminate. Some
of the spirit of discovery seems to seal its attractions to the wild
and devious track, untrodden as it looks; and you feel all the charm
of adventure as you advance. The silence, too, is most striking;
the noiseless footfall of the horse, and the unbroken stillness, add
indescribable charm to the scene, and the least imaginative cannot fail
to weave fancies and fictions as he goes.

Near as it was to a great city, not a single rider crossed my path; not
even a peasant did I meet. A stray bundle of faggots, bound and ready
to be carried away, showed that the axe of the woodman had been heard
within the solitude; but not another trace told that human footstep had
ever pressed the sward.

Although still a couple of hours from sunset, the shade of the wood was
dense enough to make the path appear uncertain, and I was obliged
to ride more cautiously than before. I had thought that by steadily
pursuing one straight track, I should at last gain the open country, and
easily find some road that would reconduct me to the château; but now I
saw no signs of this. ‘The alley’ was, to all appearance, exactly as I
found it--miles before. A long aisle of beech-trees stretched away in
front and behind me; a short, grassy turf was beneath my feet, and not
an object to tell me how far I had come, or whither I was tending. If
now and then another road crossed the path, it was in all respects like
this one. This was puzzling; and to add to my difficulty, I suddenly
remembered that I had never thought of learning the name of the château,
and well knew that to ask for it as the residence of the Count de
Maurepas would be a perfect absurdity. There was something so ludicrous
in the situation, that I could not refrain from laughing at first; but
a moment’s reconsideration made me regard the incident more gravely. In
what a position should I stand, if unable to discover the château! The
curé might have left Paris before I could reach it; all clue to the
count might thus be lost; and although these were but improbable
circumstances, they came now very forcibly before me, and gave me
serious uneasiness.

‘I have been so often in false positions in life, so frequently
implicated where no real blame could attach to me, that I shall not be
in the least surprised if I be arrested as a horse-stealer!’ The night
now began to fall rapidly, so that I was obliged to proceed at a slow
pace; and at length, as the wood seemed to thicken, I was forced to get
off, and walk beside my horse. I have often found myself in situations
of real peril, with far less anxiety than I now felt. My position seemed
at the time inexplicable and absurd. I suppose, thought I, that no man
was ever lost in the wood of Belleville; he must find his way out of it
sooner or later; and then there can be no great difficulty in returning
to Paris. This was about the extent of the comfort I could afford
myself; for, once back in the capital, I could not speculate on a single
step further.

I was at last so weary with the slow and cautious progression I was
condemned to, that I half determined to picket my horse to a tree, and
lie down to sleep till daylight. While I sought out a convenient spot
for my bivouac, a bright twinkling light, like a small star, caught my
eye. Twice it appeared, and vanished again, so that I was well assured
of its being real, and no phantom of my now over-excited brain. It
appeared to proceed from the very densest part of the wood, and whither,
so far as I could see, no path conducted. As I listened to catch any
sounds, I again caught sight of the faint star, which now seemed at
a short distance from the road where I stood. Fastening my horse to a
branch, I advanced directly through the brushwood for about a hundred
yards, when I came to a small open space, in which stood one of those
modest cottages, of rough timber, wherein, at certain seasons, the
gamekeepers take refuge. A low, square, log-hut, with a single door
and an unglazed window, comprised the whole edifice, being one of the
humblest, even of its humble kind, I had ever seen. Stealing cautiously
to the window, I peeped in. On a stone, in the middle of the earthern
floor, a small iron lamp stood, which threw a faint and fickle light
around. There was no furniture of any kind--nothing that bespoke the
place as inhabited; and it was only as I continued to gaze that I
detected the figure of a man, who seemed to be sleeping on a heap of
dried leaves in one corner of the hovel. I own that, with all my anxiety
to find a guide, I began to feel some scruples about obtruding on
the sleeper’s privacy. He was evidently no _garde-chasse_, who are a
well-to-do sort of folk, being usually retired _sous-officiers_ of
the army. He might be a poacher, a robber, or perhaps a dash of both
together--a trade I had often heard of as being resorted to by the most
reckless and abandoned of the population of Paris, when their crimes and
their haunts became too well known in the capital.

I peered eagerly through the chamber to see if he were armed; but not a
weapon of any kind was to be seen. I next sought to discover if he were
quite alone; and although one side of the hovel was hidden from my view,
I was well assured that he had no comrade. Come, said I to myself, man
to man, if it should come to a struggle, is fair enough; and the chances
are I shall be able to defend myself.

His sleep was sound and heavy, like that after fatigue; so that I
thought it would be easy for me to enter the hovel, and secure his arms,
if he had such, before he should awake. I may seem to my reader, all
this time, to have been inspired with an undue amount of caution and
prudence, considering how evenly we were matched; but I would remind
him that it was a period when the most dreadful crimes were of daily
occurrence. Not a night went over without some terrible assassination;
and a number of escaped galley-slaves were known to be at large in the
suburbs and outskirts of the capital. These men, under the slightest
provocation, never hesitated at murder; for their lives were already
forfeited, and they scrupled at nothing which offered a chance of
escape. To add to the terror their atrocities excited, there was a
rumour current at the time that the Government itself made use of these
wretches for its own secret acts of vengeance; and many implicitly
believed that the dark assassinations of the Temple had no other agency.
I do not mean to say that these fears were well founded, or that I
myself partook of them; but such were the reports commonly circulated,
and the impunity of crime certainly favoured the impression. I know
not if this will serve as an apology for the circumspection of my
proceeding, as, cautiously pushing the door, inch by inch, I at length
threw it wide open. Not the slightest sound escaped as I did so; and yet
certainly before my hand quitted the latch, the sleeper had sprung to
his knees, and with his dark eyes glaring wildly at me, crouched like a
beast about to rush upon an enemy.

His attitude and his whole appearance at that moment are yet before me.
Long black hair fell in heavy masses at either side of his head; his
face was pale, haggard, and hunger-stricken; a deep, drooping moustache
descended from below his chin, and almost touched his collar-bones,
which were starting from beneath the skin; a ragged cloak, that covered
him as he lay, had fallen off, and showed that a worn shirt and a
pair of coarse linen trousers were all his clothing. Such a picture of
privation and misery I never looked upon before nor since.

‘_Qui va là?_’ cried he sternly, and with the voice of one not unused
to command; and although the summons showed his soldier-training, his
condition of wretchedness suggested deep misgivings.

‘Qui _va là?_’ shouted he again, louder and more determinedly.

‘A friend--perhaps a comrade,’ said I boldly.

‘Advance, comrade, and give the countersign,’ replied he rapidly,
and like one repeating a phrase of routine; and then, as if suddenly
remembering himself, he added, with a low sigh, ‘There is none!’ His
arms dropped heavily as he spoke, and he fell back against the wall,
with his head drooping on his chest.

There was something so unutterably forlorn in his look, as he sat thus,
that all apprehension of personal danger from him left me at the moment,
and advancing frankly, I told him how I had lost my way in the wood, and
by a mere accident chanced to descry his light as I wandered along in
the gloom.

I do not know if he understood me at first, for he gazed half vacantly
at my face while I was speaking, and often stealthily peered around to
see if others were coming, so that I had to repeat more than once that
I was perfectly alone. That the poor fellow was insane seemed but
too probable; the restless activity of his wild eye, the suspicious
watchfulness of his glances, all looked like madness, and I thought
that he had probably made his escape from some military hospital, and
concealed himself within the recesses of the forest. But even these
signs of overwrought excitement began to subside soon; and as though the
momentary effort at vigilance had been too much for his strength, he now
drew his cloak about him, and lay down once more.

I handed him my brandy flask, which still contained a little, and he
raised it to his lips with a slight nod of recognition. Invigorated by
the stimulant, he supped again and again, but always cautiously, and
with prudent reserve.

‘You have been a soldier?’ said I, taking my seat at his side.

‘I am a soldier,’ said he, with a strong emphasis on the verb.

‘I too have served,’ said I; ‘although, probably, neither as long nor as
creditably as you have.’

He looked at me fixedly for a second or two, and then dropped his eyes
without a reply.

‘You were probably with the army of the Meuse?’ said I, hazarding the
guess, from remembering how many of that army had been invalided by the
terrible attacks of ague contracted in North Holland.

‘I served on the Rhine,’ said he briefly; ‘but I made the campaign of
Jemappes, too. I served the king also--King Louis,’ cried he sternly.
‘Is that avowal candid enough, or do you want more?’

Another Royalist, thought I, with a sigh. Whichever way I turn they meet
me--the very ground seems to give them up.

‘And could you find no better trade than that of a _mouchard?_ ‘asked he
sneeringly.

‘I am not a _mouchard_--I never was one. I am a soldier like yourself;
and, mayhap, if all were to be told, scarcely a more fortunate one.’

‘Dismissed the service--and for what?’ asked he bluntly.

‘If not broke, at least not employed,’ said I bitterly.

‘A Royalist?’

‘Not the least of one, but suspected.’

‘Just so. Your letters--your private papers ransacked, and brought in
evidence against you. Your conversations with your intimates noted down
and attested--every word you dropped in a moment of disappointment or
anger; every chance phrase you uttered when provoked--all quoted; wasn’t
that it?’

As he spoke this, with a rapid and almost impetuous utterance, I, for
the first time, noticed that both the expressions and the accent implied
breeding and education. Not all his vehemence could hide the evidences
of former cultivation.

‘How comes it,’ asked I eagerly, ‘that such a man as you are is to be
found thus? You certainly did not always serve in the ranks?’

‘I had my grade,’ was his short, dry reply.

‘You were a quartermaster--perhaps a sous-lieutenant?’ said I, hoping by
the flattery of the surmise to lead him to talk further.

‘I was the colonel of a dragoon regiment,’ said he sternly-- ‘and that
neither the least brave nor the least distinguished in the French army.’

Ah! thought I, my good fellow, you have shot your bolt too high this
time; and in a careless, easy way, I asked, ‘What might have been the
number of your corps?’

‘How can it concern you?’ said he, with a savage vehemence. ‘You say
that you are not a spy. To what end these questions? As it is, you
have made this hovel, which has been my shelter for some weeks back, no
longer of any service to me. I will not be tracked. I will not suffer
espionage, by Heaven!’ cried he, as he dashed his clenched fist against
the ground beside him. His eyes, as he spoke, glared with all the
wildness of insanity, and great drops of sweat hung upon his damp
forehead.

‘Is it too much,’ continued he, with all the vehemence of passion, ‘is
it too much that I was master here? Are these walls too luxurious?
Is there the sign of foreign gold in this tasteful furniture and the
splendour of these hangings? Or is this’--and he stretched out his lean
and naked arms as he spoke--‘is this the garb--is this the garb of a man
who can draw at will on the coffers of royalty? Ay!’ cried he, with a
wild laugh, ‘if this is the price of my treachery, the treason might
well be pardoned.’

I did all I could to assuage the violence of his manner. I talked to
him calmly and soberly of myself and of him, repeating over and over the
assurance that I had neither the will nor the way to injure him. ‘You
may be poor,’ said I, ‘and yet scarcely poorer than I am--friendless,
and have as many to care for you as I have. Believe me, comrade, save
in the matter of a few years the less on one side, and some services the
more on the other, there is little to chose between us.’

These few words, wrung from me in sorrowful sincerity, seemed to do more
than all I had said previously, and he moved the lamp a little to
one side that he might have a better view of me as I sat; and thus we
remained for several minutes staring steadfastly at each other, without
a word spoken on either side. It was in vain that I sought in that face,
livid and shrunk by famine--in that straggling matted hair, and that
figure enveloped in rags, for any traces of former condition. Whatever
might once have been his place in society, now he seemed the very lowest
of that miserable tribe whose lives are at once the miracle and shame of
our century.

‘Except that my senses are always playing me false,’ said he, as he
passed his hand across his eyes, ‘I could say that I have seen your face
before. What was your corps?’

‘The Ninth Hussars, “the Tapageurs,” as they called them.’

‘When did you join--and where?’ said he, with an eagerness that
surprised me.

‘At Nancy,’ said I calmly.

‘You were there with the advanced guard of Moreau’s corps,’ said he
hastily; ‘you followed the regiment to the Moselle.’

‘How do you know all this?’ asked I, in amazement.

‘Now for your name; tell me your name,’ cried he, grasping my hand in
both of his--‘and I charge you by all you care for here or hereafter,
no deception with me. It is not a head that has been tried like mine can
bear a cheat.’

‘I have no object in deceiving you; nor am I ashamed to say who I am,’
replied I, ‘My name is Tiernay--Maurice Tiernay.’

The word was but out when the poor fellow threw himself forward, and
grasping my hands, fell upon and kissed them.

‘So, then, cried he passionately, ‘I am not friendless--I am not utterly
deserted in life--you are yet left to me, my dear boy!’

This burst of feeling convinced me that he was deranged; and I was
speculating in my mind how best to make my escape from him, when he
pushed back the long and tangled hair from his face, and staring wildly
at me, said, ‘You know me now--don’t you? Oh, look again, Maurice, and
do not let me think that I am forgotten by all the world.

‘Good heavens!’ cried I, ‘it is Colonel Mahon!’

‘Ay, “Le Beau Mahon,”’ said he, with a burst of wild laughter; ‘Le Beau
Mahon, as they used to call me long ago. Is this a reverse of fortune, I
ask you?’ and he held out the ragged remnants of his miserable clothes.
‘I have not worn shoes for nigh a month. I have tasted food but once in
the last thirty hours! I, that have led French soldiers to the charge
full fifty times, up to the very batteries of the enemy, am reduced to
hide and skulk from place to place like a felon, trembling at the clank
of a gendarme’s boot, as never the thunder of an enemy’s squadron made
me. Think of the persecution that has brought me to this, and made me a
beggar and a coward together!’

A gush of tears burst from him at these words, and he sobbed for several
minutes like a child.

Whatever might have been the original source of his misfortunes, I had
very little doubt that now his mind had been shaken by their influence,
and that calamity had deranged him. The flighty uncertainty of his
manner, the incoherent rapidity with which he passed from one topic to
another, increased with his excitement, and he passed alternately
from the wildest expressions of delight at our meeting, to the most
heart-rending descriptions of his own sufferings. By great patience
and some ingenuity, I learned that he had taken refuge in the wood of
Belleville, where the kindness of an old soldier of his own brigade--now
a _garde-chasse_--had saved him from starvation. Jacques Gaillon was
continually alluded to in his narrative. It was Jacques sheltered him
when he came first to Belleville. Jacques had afforded him a refuge
in the different huts of the forest, supplying him with food--acts
not alone of benevolence, but of daring courage, as Mahon continually
asserted. If it were but known, ‘they ‘d give him a _peloton_ and eight
paces.’ The theme of Jacques’ heroism was so engrossing, that he could
not turn from it; every little incident of his kindness, every stratagem
of his inventive good-nature, he dwelt upon with eager delight, and
seemed half to forget his own sorrows in recounting the services of his
benefactor. I saw that it would be fruitless to ask for any account of
his past calamity, or by what series of mischances he had fallen so low.
I saw--I will own with some chagrin--that, with the mere selfishness of
misfortune, he could not speak of anything save what bore upon his own
daily life, and totally forgot me and all about me.

The most relentless persecution seemed to follow him from place to
place. Wherever he went, fresh spies started on his track, and the
history of his escapes was unending. The very faggot-cutters of the
forest were in league against him, and the high price offered for his
capture had drawn many into the pursuit. It was curious to mark the
degree of self-importance all these recitals imparted, and how the poor
fellow, starving and almost naked as he was, rose into all the imagined
dignity of martyrdom, as he told of his sorrows. If he ever asked a
question about Paris, it was to know what people said of himself and of
his fortunes. He was thoroughly convinced that Bonaparte’s thoughts were
far more occupied about him than on that empire now so nearly in his
grasp, and he continued to repeat with a proud delight, ‘He has caught
them all but me! I am the only one who has escaped him!’ These few words
suggested to me the impression that Mahon had been engaged in some plot
or conspiracy, but of what nature, how composed, or how discovered, it
was impossible to arrive at.

‘There!’ said he, at last, ‘there is the dawn breaking! I must be off. I
must now make for the thickest part of the wood till nightfall There are
hiding-places there known to none save myself. The bloodhounds cannot
track me where I go.’

His impatience became now extreme. Every instant seemed full of peril
to him now--every rustling leaf and every waving branch a warning. I was
unable to satisfy myself how far this might be well-founded terror, or a
vague and causeless fear. At one moment I inclined to this--at another,
to the opposite impression. Assuredly nothing could be more complete
than the precautions he took against discovery. His lamp was concealed
in the hollow of a tree; the leaves that formed his bed he scattered and
strewed carelessly on every side; he erased even the foot-tracks on the
clay, and then gathering up his tattered cloak, prepared to set out.

‘When are we to meet again, and where?’ said I, grasping his hand.

He stopped suddenly, and passed his hand over his brow, as if
reflecting. ‘You must see Caillon; Jacques will tell you all,’ said he
solemnly. ‘Good-bye. Do not follow me. I will not be tracked’; and with
a proud gesture of his hand he motioned me back.

Poor fellow! I saw that any attempt to reason with him would be in vain
at such a moment; and determining to seek out the _garde-chasse_, I
turned away slowly and sorrowfully.

‘What have been my vicissitudes of fortune compared to his?’ thought I.
‘The proud colonel of a cavalry regiment, a beggar and an outcast!’
The great puzzle to me was, whether insanity had been the cause or the
consequence of his misfortunes. Caillon will, perhaps, be able to tell
me his story, said I to myself; and thus ruminating, I returned to where
I had picketed my horse three hours before. My old dragoon experiences
had taught me how to ‘hobble’ a horse, as it is called, by passing the
bridle beneath the counter before tying it, and so I found him just as I
left him.

The sun was now up, and I could see that a wide track led off through
the forest straight before me. I accordingly mounted, and struck into a
sharp canter. About an hour’s riding brought me to a small clearing, in
the midst of which stood a neat and picturesque cottage, over the door
of which was painted the words ‘Station de Chasse--No. 4.’ In a little
garden in front, a man was working in his shirt sleeves, but his
military trousers at once proclaimed him the _garde_. He stopped as I
came up, and eyed me sharply.

‘Is this the road to Belleville?’ said I.

‘You can go this way, but it takes you two miles of a round,’ replied
he, coming closer, and scanning me keenly.

‘You can tell me, perhaps, where Jacques Caillon, _garde-chaase_, is to
be found?’

‘I am Jacques Caillon, sir,’ was the answer, as he saluted in soldier
fashion, while a look of anxiety stole over his face.

‘I have something to speak to you about,’ said I, dismounting, and
giving him the bridle of my horse. ‘Throw him some corn, if you have
got it, and then let us talk together’; and with this I walked into the
garden, and seated myself on a bench.

If Jacques be an old soldier, thought I, the only way is to come the
officer over him; discipline and obedience are never forgotten, and
whatever chances I may have of his confidence will depend on how much I
seem his superior. It appeared as if this conjecture was well founded,
for as Jacques came back, his manner betrayed every sign of respect and
deference. There was an expression of almost fear in his face as, with
his hand to his cap, he asked ‘What were my orders?’

The very deference of his air was disconcerting, and so, assuming a look
of easy cordiality, I said--

‘First, I will ask you to give me something to eat; and secondly, to
give me your company for half an hour.’

Jacques promised both, and learning that I preferred my breakfast in
the open air, proceeded to arrange the table under a blossoming
chestnut-tree.

‘Are you quite alone here?’ asked I, as he passed back and forward.

‘Quite alone, sir; and except a stray faggot-cutter or a chance
traveller who may have lost his way, I never see a human face from
year’s end to year’s end. It’s a lonely thing for an old soldier, too,’
said he, with a sigh.

‘I know more than one who would envy you, Jacques,’ said I; and the
words made him almost start as I spoke them. The coffee was now ready,
and I proceeded to make my breakfast with all the appetite of a long
fast.

There was indeed but little to inspire awe, or even deference, in my
personal appearance--a threadbare undress frock and a worn-out old
foraging-cap were all the marks of my soldierlike estate; and yet,
from Jacques’s manner, one might have guessed me to be a general at the
least. He attended me with the stiff propriety of the parade, and when,
at last, induced to take a seat, he did so full two yards off from the
table, and arose almost every time he was spoken to. Now it was quite
clear that the honest soldier did not know me either as the hero of
Kehl, of Ireland, or of Genoa. Great achievements as they were, they
were wonderfully little noised about the world, and a man might frequent
mixed companies every day of the week, and never hear of one of them.
So far, then, was certain---it could not be my fame had imposed on
him; and, as I have already hinted, it could scarcely be my general
appearance. Who knows, thought I, but I owe all this obsequious
deference to my horse? If Jacques be an old cavalry-man, he will have
remarked that the beast is of great value, and doubtless argue to the
worth of the rider from the merits of his ‘mount.’ If this explanation
was not the most flattering, it was, at all events, the best I could hit
on; and with a natural reference to what was passing in my own mind, I
asked him if he had looked to my horse.

‘Oh yes, sir,’ said he, reddening suddenly, ‘I have taken off the
saddle, and thrown him his corn.’

What the deuce does his confusion mean? thought I; the fellow looks as
if he had half a mind to run away, merely because I asked him a simple
question.

‘I ‘ve had a sharp ride,’ said I, rather by way of saying something,
‘and I shouldn’t wonder if he was a little fatigued.’

‘Scarcely so, sir,’ said he, with a faint smile; ‘he’s old, now, but
it’s not a little will tire him.’

‘You know him, then?’ said I quickly.

‘Ay, sir, and have known him for eighteen years. He was in the second
squadron of our regiment; the major rode him two entire campaigns!’

The reader may guess that his history was interesting to me, from
perceiving the impression the reminiscence made on the relator, and I
inquired what became of him after that.

‘He was wounded by a shot at Neuwied, and sold into the train, where
they couldn’t manage him; and after three years, when horses grew
scarce, he came back into the cavalry. A serjeant-major of lancers was
killed on him at “Zwei Brücken.” That was the fourth rider he brought
mishap to, not to say a farrier whom he dashed to pieces in his stable.’

Ah, Jack, thought I, I have it; it is a piece of old-soldier
superstition about this mischievous horse has inspired all the man’s
respect and reverence; and, if a little disappointed in the mystery, I
was so far pleased at having discovered the clue.

‘But I have found him quiet enough,’ said I; ‘I never backed him till
yesterday, and he has carried me well and peaceably.’

‘Ah, that he will now, I warrant him; since the day a shell burst under
him at Waitzen he never showed any vice. The wound nearly left the ribs
bare, and he was for months and months invalided; after that he was sold
out of the cavalry, I don’t know where or to whom. The next I saw of him
was in his present service.’

‘Then you are acquainted with the present owner?’ asked I eagerly.

‘As every Frenchman is!’ was the curt rejoinder.

‘_Parbleu!_ it will seem a droll confession, then, when I tell you that
I myself do not even know his name.’

The look of contempt these words brought to my companion’s face could
not, it seemed, be either repressed or concealed, and although my
conscience acquitted me of deserving such a glance, I own that I felt
insulted by it.

‘You are pleased to disbelieve me, Master Caillon,’ said I sternly,
‘which makes me suppose that you are neither so old nor so good a
soldier as I fancied; at least in the corps I had the honour to serve
with, the word of an officer was respected like an “order of the day.”’

He stood erect, as if on parade, under this rebuke, but made no answer.

‘Had you simply expressed surprise at what I said, I would have given
you the explanation frankly and freely; as it is, I shall content myself
with repeating what I said--I do not even know his name.’

The same imperturbable look and the same silence met me as before.

‘Now, sir, I ask you how this gentleman is called, whom I, alone of all
France, am ignorant of?’

‘Monsieur Fouché,’ said he calmly.

‘What! Fouché, the Minister of Police?’

This time, at least, my agitated looks seemed to move him, for he
replied quietly--

‘The same, sir. The horse has the brand of the “Ministère” on his
haunch.’

‘And where is the Ministère?’ cried I eagerly.

‘In the Rue des Victoires, monsieur.’

‘But he lives in the country, in a château near this very forest.’

‘Where does he not live, monsieur? At Versailles, at St. Germain, in the
Luxembourg, in the Marais, at Neuilly, the Batignolles. I have carried
despatches to him in every quarter of Paris. Ah, monsieur, what secret
are you in possession of, that it was worth while to lay so subtle a
trap to catch you?’

This question, put in all the frank abruptness of a sudden thought,
immediately revealed everything before me.

‘Is it not as I have said?’ resumed he, still looking at my agitated
face; ‘is it not as I have said---monsieur is in the web of the
_mouchards?_’

‘Good heavens! is such baseness possible?’ was all that I could utter.

‘I’ll wager a piece of five francs I can read the mystery,’ said
Jacques. ‘You served on Moreau’s staff, or with Pichegru in Holland;
you either have some of the general’s letters, or you can be supposed to
have them, at all events; you remember many private conversations held
with him on politics; you can charge your memory with a number of strong
facts; and you can, if needed, draw up a memoir of all your intercourse.
I know the system well, for I was a _mouchard_ myself.’

‘You a police spy, Jacques?’

‘Ay, sir; I was appointed without knowing what services were expected
from me, or the duties of my station. Two months’ trial, however, showed
that I was “incapable,” and proved that a smart, _sous-offieier_ is not
necessarily a scoundrel. They dismissed me as impracticable, and made me
_garde-chasse_; and they were right, too. Whether I was dressed up in
a snuff-brown suit, like a bourgeois of the Rue St. Denis; whether they
attired me as a farmer from the provinces, a retired _maître de poste_,
an old officer, or the _conducteur_ of a diligence, I was always Jacques
Gaillon. Through everything--wigs and beards, lace or rags, jackboots or
sabots, it was all alike; and while others could pass weeks in the Pays
Latin as students, country doctors, or _notaires de village_, I was
certain to be detected by every brat that walked the streets.’

‘What a system! And so these fellows assume every disguise?’ asked I, my
mind full of my late rencontre.

‘That they do, monsieur. There is one fellow, a Provencal by birth, has
played more characters than ever did Brunet himself. I have known him as
a _laquais de place_, a cook to an English nobleman, a letter-carrier,
a flower-girl, a cornet-à-piston in the opera, and a curé from the
Ardèche.’

‘A curé from the Ardèche!’ exclaimed I. ‘Then I am a ruined man.’

‘What! has monsieur fallen in with Paul?’ cried he, laughing. ‘Was
he begging for a small contribution to repair the roof of his little
chapel, or was it a fire that had devastated his poor village? Did the
altar want a new covering, or the curé a vestment? Was it a canopy for
the Fête of the Virgin, or a few sous towards the “Orphelines de St.
Jude?”’

‘None of these,’ said I, half angrily, for the theme was no jesting one
to me. ‘It was a poor girl that had been carried away.’

‘Lisette, the miller’s daughter, or the schoolmaster’s niece?’ broke he
in, laughing. ‘He must have known you were new to Paris, monsieur, that
he took so little trouble about a deception. And you met him at the
“Charrette Rouge” in the Marais?’

‘No; at a little ordinary in the Quai Voltaire.’

‘Better again. Why, half the company there are _mouchards_. It is one of
their rallying-points, where they exchange tokens and information. The
labourers, the beggars, the fishermen of the Seine, the hawkers of old
books, the vendors of gilt ornaments, are all spies; the most miserable
creature that implored charity behind your chair as you sat at dinner
has, perhaps, his ten francs a day on the roll of the Préfecture! Ah,
monsieur! if I had not been a poor pupil of that school, I ‘d have
at once seen that you were a victim, and not a follower; but I soon
detected my error--my education taught me at least so much!’

I had no relish for the self-gratulation of honest Jacques, uttered, as
it was, at my own expense. Indeed I had no thought for anything but the
entanglement into which I had so stupidly involved myself; and I could
not endure the recollection of my foolish credulity, now that all the
paltry machinery of the deceit was brought before me. All my regard,
dashed as it was with pity for the poor curé; all my compassionate
interest for the dear Lisette; all my benevolent solicitude for the sick
count, who was neither more nor less than Monsieur Fouché himself, were
anything but pleasant reminiscences now, and I cursed my own stupidity
with an honest sincerity that greatly amused my companion.

‘And is France come to this?’ cried I passionately, and trying to
console myself by inveighing against the Government.

‘Even so, sir,’ said Jacques. ‘I heard Monsieur de Talleyrand say as
much the other day, as I waited behind his chair. It is only _dans les
bonnes maisons_, said he, “that servants ever listen at the doors.”
 Depend upon it, then, that a secret police is a strong symptom that we
are returning to a monarchy.’

It was plain that even in his short career in the police service,
Caillon had acquired certain shrewd habits of thought, and some power
of judgment, and so I freely communicated to him the whole of my late
adventure, from the moment of my leaving the Temple to the time of my
setting out for the château.

‘You have told me everything but one, monsieur,’ said he, as I finished.
‘How came you ever to have heard the name of so humble a person as
Jacques Caillon, for you remember you asked for me as you rode up?’

‘I was just coming to that point, Jacques; and, as you will see, it was
not an omission in my narrative, only that I had not reached so far.’

I then proceeded to recount my night in the forest, and my singular
meeting with poor Mahon, which he listened to with great attention and
some anxiety.

‘The poor colonel!’ said he, breaking in, ‘I suppose he is a hopeless
case; his mind can never come right again.’

‘But if the persecution were to cease; if he were at liberty to appear
once more in the world----’

‘What if there was no persecution, sir?’ broke in Jacques. ‘What if the
whole were a mere dream or fancy? He is neither tracked nor followed. It
is not such harmless game the bloodhounds of the Rue des Victoires scent
out.’

‘Was it, then, some mere delusion drove him from the service?’ said I,
surprised.

‘I never said so much as that,’ replied Jacques. ‘Colonel Mahon has foul
injury to complain of, but his present sufferings are the inflictions of
his own terror. He fancies that the whole power of France is at war with
him; that every engine of the Government is directed against him; with
a restless fear he flies from village to village, fancying pursuit
everywhere. Even kindness now he is distrustful of; and the chances are,
that he will quit the forest this very day, merely because he met you
there.’

From being of all men the most open-hearted and frank, he had become the
most suspicious; he trusted nothing nor any one; and if for a moment
a burst of his old generous nature would return, it was sure to be
followed by some excess of distrust that made him miserable almost
to despair. Jacques was obliged to fall in with this humour, and only
assist him by stealth and by stratagem; he was even compelled to chime
in with all his notions about pursuit and danger, to suggest frequent
change of place, and endless precautions against discovery.

‘Were I for once to treat him frankly, and ask him to share my home with
me,’ said Jacques, ‘I should never see him more.’

‘What could have poisoned so noble a nature?’ cried I. ‘When I saw him
last he was the very type of generous confidence.’

‘Where was that, and when?’ asked Jacques.

‘It was at Nancy, on the march for the Rhine.’

‘His calamities had not fallen on him then. He was a proud man in those
days, but it was a pride that well became him. He was the colonel of a
great regiment, and for bravery had a reputation second to none.’

‘He was married, I think?’

‘No, sir; he was never married.’

As Jacques said this, he arose, and moved slowly away, as though he
would not be questioned further. His mind, too, seemed full of its own
crowding memories, for he looked completely absorbed in thought, and
never noticed my presence for a considerable time. At last he appeared
to have decided some doubtful issue within himself, and said--

‘Come, sir, let us stroll into the shade of the wood, and I’ll tell you
in a few words the cause of the poor colonel’s ruin--for ruin it is.
Even were all the injustice to be revoked to-morrow, the wreck of his
heart could never be repaired.’

We walked along, side by side, for some time, before Jacques spoke
again, when he gave me, in brief and simple words, the following
sorrowful story. It was such a type of the age, so pregnant with the
terrible lessons of the time, that although not without some misgivings,
I repeat it here as it was told to myself, premising that however
scant may be the reader’s faith in many of the incidents of my own
narrative--and I neither beg for his trust in me, nor seek to entrap
it--I implore him to believe that what I am now about to tell was a
plain matter of fact, and, save in the change of one name, not a single
circumstance is owing to imagination.



CHAPTER XLIV. AN EPISODE OF ‘94

When the French army fell back across the Sambre, after the battle of
Mons, a considerable portion of the rear, who covered the retreat,
were cut off by the enemy, for it became their onerous duty to keep the
allied forces in check, while the Republicans took measures to secure
and hold fast the three bridges over the river. In this service many
distinguished French officers fell, and many more were left badly
wounded on the field; among the latter was a young captain of dragoons,
who, with his hand nearly severed by a sabre-cut, yet found strength
enough to crawl under cover of a hedge, and there lie down in the
fierce resolve to die where he was, rather than surrender himself as a
prisoner.

Although the allied forces had gained the battle, they quickly foresaw
that the ground they had won was untenable; and scarcely had night
closed in when they began their preparations to fall back. With strong
pickets of observation to watch the bridges, they slowly withdrew
their columns towards Mons, posting the artillery on the heights around
Grandrengs. From these movements, the ground of the late struggle became
comparatively deserted, and before day began to dawn, not a sound was
heard over its wide expanse, save the faint moan of a dying soldier, or
the low rumble of a cart, as some spoiler of the dead stole stealthily
along. Among the demoralising effects of war, none was more striking
than the number of the peasantry who betook themselves to this infamous
trade, and who, neglecting all thoughts of honest industry, devoted
themselves to robbery and plunder. The lust of gain did not stop with
the spoil of the dead, but the wounded were often found stripped of
everything, and in some cases the traces of fierce struggle, and the
wounds of knives and hatchets, showed that murder had consummated the
iniquity of these wretches.

In part from motives of pure humanity, in part from feelings of a more
interested nature--for the terror to what this demoralisation would
tend was now great and widespread--the nobles and gentry of the land
instituted a species of society to reward those who might succour the
wounded, and who displayed any remarkable zest in their care for the
sufferers after a battle. This generous philanthropy was irrespective of
country, and extended its benevolence to the soldiers of either army. Of
course, personal feeling enjoyed all its liberty of preference, but
it is fair to say that the cases were few where the wounded man could
detect the political leanings of his benefactor.

The immense granaries, so universal in the Low Countries, were usually
fitted up as hospitals, and many rooms of the château itself were often
devoted to the same purpose, the various individuals of the household,
from the ‘seigneur’ to the lowest menial, assuming some office in
the great work of charity. And it was a curious thing to see how the
luxurious indolence of château life became converted into the zealous
activity of useful benevolence; and not less curious to the moralist to
observe how the emergent pressure of great crime so instinctively, as it
were, suggested this display of virtuous humanity.

It was a little before daybreak that a small cart drawn by a mule drew
up beside the spot where the wounded dragoon sat, with his shattered
arm bound up in his sash, calmly waiting for the death that his sinking
strength told could not be far distant. As the peasant approached him,
he grasped his sabre in the left hand, resolved on making a last and
bold resistance; but the courteous salutation, and the kindly look of
the honest countryman, soon showed that he was come on no errand of
plunder, while, in the few words of bad French he could muster, he
explained his purpose.

‘No, no, my kind friend,’ said the officer, ‘your labour would only be
lost on me. It is nearly all over already! A little farther on in the
field, yonder, where that copse stands, you’ll find some poor fellow or
other better worth your care, and more like to benefit by it. Adieu!’

But neither the farewell, nor the abrupt gesture that accompanied it,
could turn the honest peasant from his purpose. There was something
that interested him in this very disregard of life, as well as in the
personal appearance of the sufferer, and, without further colloquy, he
lifted the half-fainting form into the cart, and disposing the straw
comfortably on either side of him, set out homeward. The wounded man was
almost indifferent to what happened, and never spoke a word nor raised
his head as they went along. About three hours’ journey brought them to
a large old-fashioned chateau beside the Sambre, an immense straggling
edifice which, with a facade of nearly a hundred windows, looked out
upon the river. Although now in disrepair and neglect, with ill-trimmed
alleys and grass-grown terraces, it had been once a place of great
pretensions, and associated with some of the palmiest days of Flemish
hospitality. The Chateau d’Overbecque was the property of a certain rich
merchant of Antwerp, named D’ Aerschot, one of the oldest families of
the land, and was, at the time we speak of, the temporary abode of his
only son, who had gone there to pass the honeymoon. Except that they
were both young, neither of them yet twenty, too people could not easily
be found so discrepant in every circumstance and every quality. He
the true descendant of a Flemish house, plodding, commonplace, and
methodical, hating show and detesting expense. She a lively, volatile
girl, bursting with desire to see and be seen, fresh from the restraint
of a convent at Bruges, and anxious to mix in all the pleasures and
dissipations of the world. Like all marriages in their condition, it
had been arranged without their knowledge or consent. Circumstances of
fortune made the alliance suitable; so many hundred thousand florins on
one side were wedded to an equivalent on the other, and the young people
were married to facilitate the ‘transaction.’

That he was not a little shocked at the gay frivolity of his beautiful
bride, and she as much disappointed at the staid demureness of her
stolid-looking husband, is not to be wondered at; but their friends knew
well that time would smooth down greater discrepancies than even these.
And if ever there was a country, the monotony of whose life could subdue
all to its own leaden tone, it was Holland in old days. Whether engaged
in the active pursuit of gain in the great cities, or enjoying the
luxurious repose of château life, a dull, dreary uniformity pervaded
everything--the same topics, the same people, the same landscape,
recurred day after day; and save what the season induced, there was
nothing of change in the whole round of their existence. And what a dull
honeymoon was it for that young bride at the old Château of Overbecque!
To toil along the deep sandy roads in a lumbering old coach with two
long-tailed black horses--to halt at some little eminence, and strain
the eyes over a long unbroken flat, where a windmill, miles off, was an
object of interest--to loiter beside the bank of a sluggish canal, and
gaze on some tasteless excrescence of a summer-house, whose owner could
not be distinguished from the wooden effigy that sat, pipe in mouth,
beside him--to dine in the unbroken silence of a funeral feast, and doze
away the afternoon over the _Handelsblatt_, while her husband smoked
himself into the seventh heaven of a Dutch Elysium--poor Caroline! this
was a sorry realisation of all her bright dreamings! It ought to be
borne in mind, that many descendants of high French families, who were
either too proud or too poor to emigrate to England or America, had
sought refuge from the Revolution in the convents of the Low Countries;
where, without entering an order, they lived in all the discipline of a
religious community. These ladies, many of whom had themselves mixed in
all the elegant dissipations of the Court, carried with them the most
fascinating reminiscences of a life of pleasure, and could not readily
forget the voluptuous enjoyments of Versailles, and the graceful
caprices of ‘Le Petit Trianon.’ From such sources as these the young
pupils drew all their ideas of the world, and assuredly it could have
scarcely worn colours more likely to fascinate such imaginations.

What a shortcoming was the wearisome routine of Overbecque to a mind
full of all the refined follies of Marie Antoinette’s Court! Even war
and its chances offered a pleasurable contrast to such dull monotony,
and the young bride hailed with eagerness the excitement and bustle of
the moving armies--the long columns which poured along the highroad, and
the clanking artillery heard for miles off! Monsieur d’Aerschot, like
all his countrymen who held property near the frontier, was too prudent
to have any political bias. Madame was, however, violently French. The
people who had such admirable taste in toilet could scarcely be wrong in
the theories of government; and a nation so invariably correct in dress,
could hardly be astray in morals. Besides this, all their notions of
mortality were as pliant and as easy to wear as their own well-fitting
garments. Nothing was wrong but what looked ungracefully; everything
was right that sat becomingly on her who did it--a short code, and
wonderfully easy to learn. If I have dealt somewhat tediously on these
tendencies of the time, it is that I may pass the more glibly over the
consequences, and not pause upon the details by which the young French
captain’s residence at Overbecque gradually grew, from the intercourse
of kindness and good offices, to be a close friendship with his host,
and as much of regard and respectful devotion as consisted with the
position of his young and charming hostess.

He thought her, as she certainly was, very beautiful; she rode to
perfection, she sang delightfully; she had all the volatile gaiety of
a happy child, with the graceful ease of coming womanhood. Her very
passion for excitement gave a kind of life and energy to the dull old
château, and made her momentary absence felt as a dreary blank.

It is not my wish to speak of the feelings suggested by the contrast
between her husband and the gay and chivalrous young soldier, nor how
little such comparisons tended to allay the repinings at her lot.
Their first effect was, however, to estrange her more and more from
D’Aerschot, a change which he accepted with the most Dutch indifference.
Possibly, piqued by this, or desirous of awakening his jealousy, she
made more advances towards the other, selecting him as the companion
of her walks, and passing the greater part of each day in his society.
Nothing could be more honourable than the young soldier’s conduct
in this trying position. The qualities of agreeability which he had
previously displayed to requite, in some sort, the hospitality of his
hosts, he now gradually restrained, avoiding as far as he could,
without remark, the society of the young countess, and even feigning
indisposition to escape from the peril of her intimacy.

He did more--he exerted himself to draw D’Aerschot more out, to make
him exhibit the shrewd intelligence which lay buried beneath his native
apathy, and display powers of thought and reflection of no mean order.
Alas! these very efforts on his part only increased the mischief, by
adding generosity to his other virtues! He now saw all the danger in
which he was standing, and, although still weak and suffering, resolved
to take his departure. There was none of the concealed vanity of a
coxcomb in this knowledge. He heartily deplored the injury he had
unwittingly done, and the sorry return he had made for all their
generous hospitality.

There was not a moment to be lost; but the very evening before, as they
walked together in the garden, she had confessed to him the misery in
which she lived by recounting the story of her ill-sorted marriage. What
it cost him to listen to that sad tale with seeming coldness--to hear
her afflictions without offering one word of kindness; nay, to proffer
merely some dry, harsh counsels of patience and submission, while
he added something very like rebuke for her want of that assiduous
affection which should have been given to her husband!

Unaccustomed to even the slightest censure, she could scarcely trust her
ears as she heard him. Had she humiliated herself, by such a confession,
to be met by advice like this? And was it he that should reproach her
for the very faults his own intimacy had engendered? She could not
endure the thought, and she felt that she could hate, just at the very
moment when she knew she loved him!

They parted in anger--reproaches, the most cutting and bitter, on her
part; coldness, far more wounding, on his! Sarcastic compliments upon
his generosity, replied to by as sincere expressions of respectful
friendship. What hypocrisy and self-deceit together! And yet deep
beneath all, lay the firm resolve for future victory. Her wounded
self-love was irritated, and she was not one to turn from an unfinished
purpose. As for him, he waited till all was still and silent in the
house, and then seeking out D’Aerschot’s chamber, thanked him most
sincerely for all his kindness, and, affecting a hurried order to join
his service, departed. While in her morning dreams she was fancying
conquest, he was already miles away on the road to France.

*****

It was about three years after this, that a number of French officers
were seated one evening in front of a little café in Freyburg. The town
was then crammed with troops moving down to occupy the passes of the
Rhine, near the Lake of Constance, and every hour saw fresh arrivals
pouring in, dusty and wayworn from the march. The necessity for a sudden
massing of the troops in a particular spot compelled the generals to
employ every possible means of conveyance to forward the men to their
destination, and from the lumbering old diligence with ten horses, to
the light charrette with one, all were engaged in this pressing service.

When men were weary, and unable to march forward, they were taken up
for twelve or fourteen miles, after which they proceeded on their
way, making room for others, and thus forty and even fifty miles were
frequently accomplished in the same day.

The group before the café were amusing themselves criticising the
strange appearance of the new arrivals, many of whom certainly made
their entry in the least military fashion possible. Here came a great
country waggon, with forty infantry soldiers all sleeping on the straw.
Here followed a staff-officer trying to look quite at his ease in a
donkey-cart. Unwieldy old bullock-carts were filled with men, and a
half-starved mule tottered along with a drummer-boy in one pannier, and
camp-kettles in the other.

He who was fortunate enough to secure a horse for himself was obliged
to carry the swords and weapons of his companions, which were all hung
around and about him on every side, together with helmets and shakos of
all shapes and sizes, whose owners were fain to cover their head with
the less soldierlike appendages of a nightcap or a handkerchief. Nearly
all who marched carried their caps on their muskets, for in such times
as these all discipline is relaxed, save such as is indispensable to the
maintenance of order; and so far was freedom conceded, that some were to
be seen walking barefoot in the ranks, while their shoes were suspended
by a string on their backs. The rule seemed to be ‘Get forward--it
matters not how--only get forward!’

And with French troops, such relaxation of strict discipline is always
practicable; the instincts of obedience return at the first call of the
bugle or the first roll of the drum; and at the word to ‘fall in!’ every
symptom of disorder vanishes, and the mass of seeming confusion becomes
the steady and silent phalanx.

Many were the strange sights that passed before the eyes of the party at
the café, who, having arrived early in the day, gave themselves all the
airs of ease and indolence before their wayworn comrades. Now laughing
heartily at the absurdity of this one, now exchanging some good-humoured
jest with that, they were in the very full current of their criticism,
when the sharp, shrill crack of a postillion’s whip informed them that
a traveller of some note was approaching. A mounted courier, all slashed
with gold lace, came riding up the street at the same moment, and a
short distance behind followed a handsome equipage, drawn by six horses,
after which came a heavy fourgon, with four.

One glance showed that the whole equipage betokened a wealthy owner.
There was all that cumbrous machinery of comfort about it that tells
of people who will not trust to the chances of the road for their daily
wants. Every appliance of ease was there; and even in the self-satisfied
air of the servants who lounged in the rumble might be read habits of
affluent prosperity. A few short years back, and none would have dared
to use such an equipage. The sight of so much indulgence would have
awakened the fiercest rage of popular fury; but already the high fever
of democracy was gradually subsiding, and, bit by bit, men were found
reverting to old habits and old usages. Still each new indication of
these tastes met a certain amount of reprobation. Some blamed openly,
some condemned in secret; but all felt that there was at least impolicy
in a display which would serve as pretext for the terrible excesses that
were committed under the banner of ‘Equality.’

‘If we lived in the days of princes,’ said one of the officers, ‘I
should say there goes one now. Just look at all the dust they are
kicking up yonder; while, as if to point a moral upon greatness, they
are actually stuck fast in the narrow street, and unable, from their own
unwieldiness, to get farther.’

‘Just so,’ cried another; ‘they want to turn down towards the “Swan,”
 and there isn’t space enough to wheel the leaders.’

‘Who or what are they?’ asked a third.

‘Some commissary-general, I’ll be sworn,’ said the first. ‘They are the
most shameless thieves going; for they are never satisfied with robbery,
if they do not exhibit the spoils in public.’

‘I see a bonnet and a lace veil,’ said another, rising suddenly, and
pushing through the crowd. ‘I’ll wager it’s a danseuse of the Grand
Opéra.’

‘Look at Mérode!’ remarked the former, as he pointed to the last
speaker. ‘See how he thrusts himself forward there. ‘Watch, and you’ll
see him bow and smile to her, as if they had been old acquaintances.’

The guess was so far unlucky, that Mérode had no sooner come within
sight of the carriage-window, than he was seen to bring his hand to
the salute, and remain in an attitude of respectful attention till the
equipage moved on.

‘Well, Mérode, who is it?--who are they?’ cried several together, as he
fell back among his comrades.

‘It’s our new adjutant-general, _parbleu!_’ said he, ‘and he caught me
staring in at his pretty wife.’

‘Colonel Mahon!’ said another, laughing. ‘I wish you joy of your
gallantry, Mérode.’ ‘And, worse still,’ broke in a third, ‘she is not
his wife. She never could obtain the divorce to allow her to marry
again. Some said it was the husband--a Dutchman, I believe--refused it;
but the simple truth is, she never wished it herself.’

‘How not wish it?’ remarked three or four in a breath.

‘Why should she? Has she not every advantage the position could give
her, and her liberty into the bargain? If we were back again in the old
days of the Monarchy, I agree with you she could not go to Court; she
would receive no invitations to the _petits soupers_ of the Trianon, nor
be asked to join the discreet hunting-parties at Fontainebleau; but we
live in less polished days; and if we have little virtue, we have less
hypocrisy.’

‘_Voilà!_’ cried another; ‘only I, for one, would never believe that we
are a jot more wicked or more dissolute than those powdered and perfumed
scoundrels that played courtier in the king’s bedchamber.’

‘There, they are getting out, at the “Tour d’Argent!”’ cried another.
‘She is a splendid figure, and what magnificence in her dress!’

‘Mahon waits on her like a lackey,’ muttered a grim old lieutenant of
infantry.

‘Rather like a well-born cavalier, I should say,’ interposed a young
hussar. ‘His manner is all that it ought to be--full of devotion and
respect.’

‘Bah!’ said the former; ‘a soldier’s wife, or a soldier’s mistress--for
it’s all one--should know how to climb up to her place on the
baggage-waggon, without three lazy rascals to catch her sleeve or her
petticoats for her.’

‘Mahon is as gallant a soldier as any in this army,’ said the hussar;
‘and I’d not be in the man’s coat who disparaged him in anything.’

‘By St. Denis!’ broke in another, ‘he’s not more brave than he is
fortunate. Let me tell you, it’s no slight luck to chance upon so lovely
a woman as that, with such an immense fortune, too.’

‘Is she rich?’

‘Enormously rich. He has nothing. An _émigré_ of good family, I believe,
but without a sou; and see how he travels yonder!’

While this conversation was going forward, the new arrivals had alighted
at the chief inn of the town, and were being installed in the principal
suite of rooms, which opened on a balcony over the ‘Place.’ The active
preparations of the host to receive such distinguished guests--the
hurrying of servants here and there--the blaze of wax-lights that shone
half-way across the street beneath--and, lastly, the appearance of a
regimental band to play under the windows--were all circumstances well
calculated to sustain and stimulate that spirit of sharp criticism which
the group around the café were engaged in.

The discussion was, however, suddenly interrupted by the entrance of an
officer, at whose appearance every one arose and stood in attitudes
of respectful attention. Scarcely above the middle size, and more
remarkable for the calm and intellectual cast of his features, than for
that, air of military pride then so much in vogue amongst the French
troops, he took his place at a small table near the door, and called for
his coffee. It was only when he was seated, and that by a slight gesture
he intimated his wishes to that effect, that the others resumed their
places, and continued the conversation, but in a lower, more subdued
tone.

‘What distinguished company have we got yonder?’ said he, after about
half an hour’s quiet contemplation of the crowd before the inn, and the
glaring illumination from the windows.

‘Colonel Mahon, of the Fifth Cuirassiers, general,’ replied an officer.

‘Our Republican simplicity is not so self-denying a system, after all,
gentlemen,’ said the general, smiling half sarcastically. ‘Is he very
rich?’

‘His mistress is, general,’ was the prompt reply.

‘Bah!’ said the general, as he threw his cigar away, and, with a
contemptuous expression of look, arose and walked away.

‘_Parbleu!_ he’s going to the inn!’ cried an officer, who peered out
after him. ‘I’ll be sworn Mahon will get a heavy reprimand for all this
display and ostentation.’

‘And why not?’ said another. ‘Is it when men are arriving half dead with
fatigue, without rations, without billets, glad to snatch a few hours’
rest on the stones of the “Place,” that the colonel of a regiment should
travel with all the state of an eastern despot?’

‘We might as well have the Monarchy back again,’ said an old
weather-beaten captain; ‘I say far better, for their vices sat
gracefully and becomingly on those essenced scoundrels, whereas they but
disfigure the plainness of our daily habits.’

‘All this is sheer envy, comrades,’ broke in a young major of
hussars--‘sheer envy; or what is worse, downright hypocrisy. Not one of
us is a whit better or more moral than if he wore the livery of a king,
and carried a crown on his shako instead of that naked damsel that
represents French Liberty. Mahon is the luckiest fellow going, and, I
heartily believe, the most deserving of his fortune! And see if General
Moreau be not of my opinion.

There he is on the balcony, and she is leaning on his arm.’

‘_Parbleu!_ the major is right!’ said another; ‘but, for certain, it was
not in that humour he left us just now; his lips were closely puckered
up, and his fingers were twisted into his sword-knot--two signs of anger
and displeasure there’s no mistaking.’

‘If he’s in a better temper, then,’ said another, ‘it was never the
smiles of a pretty woman worked the change. There’s not a man in France
so thoroughly indifferent to such blandishments.’

‘_Tant pis pour lui,_’ said the major; ‘but they’re closing the
window-shutters, and we may as well go home.’



CHAPTER XLV. THE CABINET OF A CHEF DE POLICE

Whatever opinion may be formed of the character of the celebrated
conspiracy of Georges and Pichegru, the mode of its discovery, and
the secret rules by which its plans were detected, are among the great
triumphs of police skill. From the hour when the conspirators first met
together in London, to that last fatal moment when they expired in the
Temple, the agents of Fouché never ceased to track them.

Their individual tastes and ambitions were studied; their habits
carefully investigated; everything that could give a clue to their turn
of thought or mind well weighed; so that the Consular Government was not
only in possession of all their names and rank, but knew thoroughly
the exact amount of complicity attaching to each, and could distinguish
between the reckless violence of Georges and the more tempered, but
higher ambition of Moreau. It was a long while doubtful whether the
great general would be implicated in the scheme. His habitual reserve--a
habit less of caution than of constitutional delicacy--had led him to
few intimacies, and nothing like even one close friendship; he moved
little in society; he corresponded with none, save on the duties of the
service. Fouché’s well-known boast of, ‘Give me, two words of a man’s
writing and I’ll hang him,’ were then scarcely applicable here.

To attack such a man unsuccessfully, to arraign him on a weak
indictment, would have been ruin; and yet Bonaparte’s jealousy of his
great rival pushed him even to this peril, rather than risk the growing
popularity of his name with the army.

Fouché, and, it is said also, Talleyrand, did all they could to dissuade
the First Consul from this attempt, but he was fixed and immutable in
his resolve, and the Police Minister at once addressed himself to his
task with all his accustomed cleverness.

High play was one of the great vices of the day. It was a time of wild
and varied excitement, and men sought even in their dissipations, the
whirlwind passions that stirred them in active life. Moreau, however,
was no gambler; it was said that he never could succeed in learning a
game. He, whose mind could comprehend the most complicated question of
strategy, was obliged to confess himself conquered by écarté! So much
for the vaunted intellectuality of the play-table! Neither was he
addicted to wine. All his habits were temperate, even to the extent of
unsociality.

A man who spoke little, and wrote less, who indulged in no dissipations,
nor seemed to have taste for any, was a difficult subject to treat; and
so Fouché found, as, day after day, his spies reported to him the utter
failure of all their schemes to entrap him. Lajolais, the friend of
Pichegru, and the man who betrayed him, was the chief instrument the
Police Minister used to obtain secret information. Being well born, and
possessed of singularly pleasing manners, he had the entrée of the best
society of Paris, where his gay, easy humour made him a great favourite.
Lajolais, however, could never penetrate into the quiet domesticity
of Moreau’s life, nor make any greater inroad on his intimacy than a
courteous salutation as they passed each other in the garden of the
Luxembourg. At the humble restaurant where he dined each day for two
francs, the ‘General,’ as he was distinctively called, never spoke to
any one. Unobtrusive and quiet, he occupied a little table in a recess
of the window, and arose the moment he finished his humble meal After
this he was to be seen in the garden of the Luxembourg, with a cigar and
a book, or sometimes without either, seated pensively under a tree for
hours together.

If he had been conscious of the espionage established over all
his actions, he could scarcely have adopted a more guarded or more
tantalising policy. To the verbal communications of Pichegru and Armand
Polignac, he returned vague replies; their letters he never answered
at all; and Lajolais had to confess that, after two months of close
pursuit, the game was as far from him as ever!

‘You have come to repeat the old song to me, Monsieur Lajolais,’ said
Fouché one evening, as his wily subordinate entered the room; ‘you have
nothing to tell me, eh?’

‘Very little, Monsieur le Ministre, but still something. I have at last
found out where Moreau spends all his evenings. I told you that about
half-past nine o’clock every night all lights were extinguished in his
quarters, and, from the unbroken stillness, it was conjectured that
he had retired to bed. Now it seems that about an hour later, he is
accustomed to leave his house, and, crossing the Place de l’Odéon, to
enter the little street called the “Allée du Caire,” where, in a
small house next but one to the corner, resides a certain officer, _en
retraite_--a Colonel Mahon of the Cuirassiers.’

‘A Royalist?’

‘This is suspected, but not known. His polities, however, are not in
question here; the attraction is of a different order.’

‘Ha! I perceive; he has a wife or a daughter.’

‘Better still, a mistress. You may have heard of the famous Caroline de
Stassart, that married a Dutchman named D’Aersohot.’

‘Madame Laure, as they called her.’ said Fouché, laughing.

‘The same. She has lived as Mahon’s wife for some years, and was as
such introduced into society; in fact, there is no reason, seeing what
society is in these days, that she should not participate in all its
pleasures.’

‘No matter for that,’ broke in Fouché; ‘Bonaparte will not have it so.
He wishes that matters should go back to the old footing, and wisely
remarks, that it is only in savage life that people or vices go without
clothing.’

‘Be it so, monsieur. In the present case no such step is necessary. I
know her maid, and from her I have heard that her mistress is heartily
tired of her protector. It was originally a sudden fancy, taken when she
knew nothing of life--had neither seen anything, nor been herself seen.
By the most wasteful habits she has dissipated all, or nearly all, her
own large fortune, and involved Mahon heavily in debt; and they are thus
reduced to a life of obscurity and poverty--the very things the least
endurable to all her notions.’

‘Well, does she care for Moreau?’ asked Fouché quickly; for all stories
to his ear only resolved themselves into some question of utility or
gain.

‘No, but he does for her. About a year back she did take a liking to
him. He was returning from his great German campaign, covered with
honours and rich in fame; but as her imagination is captivated by
splendour, while her heart remains perfectly cold and intact, Moreau’s
simple, unpretending habits quickly effaced the memory of his hard-won
glory, and now she is quite indifferent to him.’

‘And who is her idol now, for, of course, she has one?’ asked Fouché.

‘You would scarcely guess,’ said Lajolais. ‘_Parbleu!_ I hope it is not
myself,’ said Fouché, laughing.

‘No, Monsieur le Ministre, her admiration is not so well placed. The
man who has captivated her present fancy is neither good-looking nor
well-mannered; he is short and abrupt of speech, careless in dress,
utterly indifferent to woman’s society, and almost rude to them.’

‘You have drawn the very picture of a man to be adored by them,’ said
Fouché, with a dry laugh.

‘I suppose so,’ said the other, with a sigh; ‘or General Ney would not
have made this conquest.’

‘Ah! it is Ney, then. And he, what of him?’

‘It is hard to say. As long as she lived in a grand house of the Rue St.
Georges, where he could dine four days a week, and, in his dirty boots
and unbrushed frock, mix with all the fashion and elegance of the
capital; while he could stretch full length on a Persian ottoman, and
brush the cinders from his cigar against a statuette by Canova, or a
gold embroidered hanging; while in the midst of the most voluptuous
decorations he alone could be dirty and uncared for, I really believe
that he did care for her, at least, so far as ministering to his own
enjoyments; but in a miserable lodging of the “Allée du Caire,” without
equipage, lackeys, liveried footmen----’

‘To be sure,’ interrupted Fouché, ‘one might as well pretend to be
fascinated by the beauty of a landscape the day after it has been
desolated by an earthquake. Ney is right! Well, now, Monsieur Lajolais,
where does all this bring us to?’

‘Very near to the end of our journey, Monsieur le Ministre. Madame, or
mademoiselle, is most anxious to regain her former position; she longs
for all the luxurious splendour she used to live in. Let us but show her
this rich reward, and she will be our own!’

‘In my trade, Monsieur Lajolais, generalities are worth nothing. Give me
details; let me know how you would proceed.’

‘Easily enough, sir: Mahon must first of all be disposed of, and perhaps
the best way will be to have him arrested for debt. This will not be
difficult, for his bills are everywhere. Once in the Temple, she will
never think more of him. It must then be her task to obtain the most
complete influence over Moreau. She must affect the deepest interest
in the Royalist cause--I’ll furnish her with all the watchwords of the
party--and Moreau, who never trusts a man, will open all his confidence
to a woman.’

‘Very good; go on!’ cried Fouché, gathering fresh interest as the plot
began to reveal itself before him.

He hates writing; she will be his secretary, embodying all his thoughts
and suggestions, and, now and then, for her own guidance, obtaining
little scraps in his hand. If he be too cautious here, I will advise her
to remove to Geneva for change of air; he likes Switzerland, and will
follow her immediately.

‘This will do; at least it looks practicable,’ said Fouché thoughtfully.
‘Is she equal to the part you would assign her?’

‘Ay, sir, and to a higher one, too! She has considerable ability, and
great ambition. Her present narrow fortune has irritated and disgusted
her; the moment is most favourable for us.’

‘If she should play us false,’ said Fouché, half aloud.

‘From all I can learn, there is no risk of this; there is a headlong
determination in her, when once she has conceived a plan, from which
nothing turns her; overlooking all but her object, she will brave
anything, do anything, to attain it.’

‘Bonaparte was right in what he said of Necker’s daughter,’ said Fouché
musingly, ‘and there is no doubt it adds wonderfully to a woman’s head
that she has no heart. And now, the price, Monsieur Lajolais? Remember
that our treasury received some deadly wounds lately--what is to be the
price?’

‘It may be a smart one; she is not likely to be a cheap purchase.’

‘In the event of success--I mean of such proof as may enable us to
arrest Moreau, and commit him to prison----’

He stopped as he got thus far, and paused for some seconds--’ Bethink
you, then, Lajolais,’ said he, ‘what a grand step this would be, and how
terrible the consequences if undertaken on rash or insufficient grounds.
Moreau’s popularity with the army is only second to one man’s! His
unambitious character has made him many friends; he has few, very few,
enemies.’

‘But you need not push matters to the last--an implied, but not a proven
guilt, would be enough; and you can pardon him!’

‘Ay, Lajolais, but who would pardon us?’ cried Fouché, carried beyond
all the bounds of his prudence by the thought of a danger so imminent.
‘Well, well, let us come back; the price--will that do?’ And taking up a
pen he scratched some figures on a piece of paper.

Lajolais smiled dubiously, and added a unit to the left of the sum.

‘What! a hundred and fifty thousand francs!’ cried Fouché.

‘And a cheap bargain, too,’ said the other; ‘for, after all, it is
only the price of a ticket in the lottery, of which the great prize is
General Ney!’

‘You say truly,’ said the Minister; ‘be it so.’

‘Write your name there, then,’ said Lajolais, ‘beneath those figures;
that will be warranty sufficient for my negotiation, and leave the rest
to me.’

‘Nature evidently meant you for a _chef de police_, Master Lajolais.’

‘Or a cardinal, Monsieur le Ministre,’ said the other, as he folded up
the paper--a little insignificant slip, scrawled over with a few figures
and an almost illegible word, and yet pregnant with infamy to one,
banishment to another, ruin and insanity to a third.

This sad record need not be carried further. It is far from a pleasant
task to tell of baseness unredeemed by one trait of virtue--of
treachery, unrepented even by regret. History records Moreau’s
unhappy destiny; the pages of private memoir tell of Ney’s disastrous
connection; our own humble reminiscences speak of poor Mahon’s fate,
the least known of all, but the most sorrowful victim of a woman’s
treachery!



CHAPTER XLVI. A GLANCE AT THE ‘PREFECTURE DE POLICE’

Poor Mahon’s melancholy story made a deep impression upon me, and I
returned to Paris execrating the whole race of spies and _mouchards_,
and despising, with a most hearty contempt, a Government compelled
to use such agencies for its existence. It seemed to me so utterly
impossible to escape the snares of a system so artfully interwoven,
and so vain to rely on innocence as a protection, that I felt a kind
of reckless hardihood as to whatever might betide me, and rode into the
_cour_ of the Préfecture with a bold indifference as to my fate that I
have often wondered at since.

The horse on which I was mounted was immediately recognised as I
entered; and the obsequious salutations that met me showed that I was
regarded as one of the trusty followers of the Minister; and in this
capacity was I ushered into a large waiting-room, where a considerable
number of persons were assembled, whose air and appearance, now that
necessity for disguise was over, unmistakably pronounced them to be
spies of the police. Some, indeed, were occupied in taking off their
false whiskers and moustaches; others were removing shades from their
eyes; and one was carefully opening what had been the hump on his back
in search of a paper he was anxious to discover.

I had very little difficulty in ascertaining that these were all the
very lowest order of _mouchards_, whose sphere of duty rarely led
beyond the Faubourgs or the Batignolles, and indeed soon saw that my own
appearance amongst them led to no little surprise and astonishment.

‘You are looking for Nicquard, monsieur?’ said one, ‘but he has not come
yet.’

‘No; monsieur wants to see Boule-de-Fer,’ said another.

‘Here’s José can fetch him,’ cried a third.

‘He ‘ll have to carry him, then,’ growled out another, ‘for I saw him in
the Morgue this morning!’ ‘What! dead?’ exclaimed several together.

‘As dead as four stabs in the heart and lungs can make a man! He must
have been meddling where he had no business, for there was a piece of a
lace ruffle found in his fingers.’

‘Ah, _voilà!_, cried another, ‘that comes of mixing in high society.’

I did not wait for the discussion that followed, but stole quietly away
as the disputants were waxing warm. Instead of turning into the _cour_
again, however, I passed out into a corridor, at the end of which was
a door of green cloth. Pushing open this, I found myself in a chamber,
where a single clerk was writing at a table.

‘You’re late to-day, and he’s not in a good-humour,’ said he, scarcely
looking up from his paper. ‘Go in!’

Resolving to see my adventure to the end, I asked no further questions,
but passed on to the room beyond. A person who stood within the doorway
withdrew as I entered, and I found myself standing face to face with the
Marquis de Maurepas, or, to speak more properly, the Minister Fouché. He
was standing at the fireplace as I came in, reading a newspaper, but
no sooner had he caught sight of me than he laid it down, and, with his
hands crossed behind his back, continued steadily staring at me.

‘_Diable!_ exclaimed he, at last, ‘how came you here?’ ‘Nothing more
naturally, sir, than from the wish to restore what you were so good
as to lend me, and express my sincere gratitude for a most hospitable
reception.’ ‘But who admitted you?’

‘I fancy your saddle-cloth was my introduction, sir, for it was speedily
recognised. Gesler’s cap was never held in greater honour.’

‘You are a very courageous young gentleman, I must say--very
courageous, indeed,’ said he, with a sardonic grin that was anything but
encouraging.

‘The better chance that I may find favour with Monsieur de Fouché,’
replied I.

‘That remains to be seen, sir,’ said he, seating himself in his chair,
and motioning me to a spot in front of it. ‘Who are you?’

‘A lieutenant of the Ninth Hussars, sir; by name Maurice Tiernay.’

‘I don’t care for that,’ said he impatiently; ‘what’s your
occupation?--how do you live?--with whom do you associate?’

‘I have neither means nor associates. I have been liberated from the
Temple but a few days back; and what is to be my future, and where, are
facts of which I know as little as does Monsieur de Fouché of my past
history.’

‘It would seem that every adventurer, every fellow destitute of home,
family, fortune, and position, thinks that his natural refuge lies in
this Ministry, and that I must be his guardian.’

‘I never thought so, sir.’

‘Then why are you here? What other than personal reasons procures me the
honour of this visit?’

‘As Monsieur de Fouché will not believe in my sense of gratitude,
perhaps he may put some faith in my curiosity, and excuse the natural
anxiety I feel to know if Monsieur de Maurepas has really benefited by
the pleasure of my society.’

‘_Hardi, monsieur, bien hardi_,’ said the minister, with a peculiar
expression of irony about the mouth that made me almost shudder. He rang
a little hand-bell as he spoke, and a servant made his appearance.

‘You have forgotten to leave me my snuff-box, Geoffroy,’ said he mildly
to the valet, who at once left the room, and speedily returned with a
magnificently chased gold box, on which the initials of the First Consul
were embossed in diamonds.

‘Arrange those papers, and place those books on the shelves,’ said
the Minister. And then turning to me, as if resuming a previous
conversation, went on--

‘As to that memoir of which we were speaking t’ other night, monsieur,
it would be exceedingly interesting just now; and I have no doubt that
you will see the propriety of confiding to me what you already promised
to Monsieur de Maurepas.--That will do, Geoffroy; leave us.’

The servant retired, and we were once more alone.

‘I possess no secrets, sir, worthy the notice of the Minister of
Police,’ said I boldly.

‘Of that I may presume to be the better judge,’ said Fouché calmly. ‘But
waiving this question, there is another of some importance. You have,
partly by accident, partly by a boldness not devoid of peril, obtained
some little insight into the habits and details of this Ministry; at
least, you have seen enough to suspect more, and misrepresent what you
cannot comprehend. Now, sir, there is an almost universal custom in
all secret societies of making those who intrude surreptitiously within
their limits to take every oath and pledge of that society, and to
assume every responsibility that attaches to its voluntary members----’

‘Excuse my interrupting you, sir; but my intrusion was purely
involuntary; I was made the dupe of a police spy.’

‘Having ascertained which,’ resumed he coldly, ‘your wisest policy
would have been to have kept the whole incident for yourself alone, and
neither have uttered one syllable about it, nor ventured to come here,
as you have done, to display what you fancy to be your power over
the Minister of Police. You are a very young man, and the lesson may
possibly be of service to you; and never forget that to attempt a
contest of address with those whose habits have taught them every wile
and subtlety of their fellow-men will always be a failure. This Ministry
would be a sorry engine of government if men of your stamp could outwit
it.’

I stood abashed and confused under a rebuke which at the same time I
felt to be but half deserved.

‘Do you understand Spanish?’ asked he suddenly.

‘No, sir, not a word.’

‘I’m sorry for it; you should learn that language without loss of time.
Leave your address with my secretary, and call here by Monday or Tuesday
next.’

‘If I may presume so far, sir,’ said I, with a great effort to seem
collected, ‘I would infer that your intention is to employ me in some
capacity or other. It is, therefore, better I should say at once, I have
neither the ability nor the desire for such occupation. I have always
been a soldier. Whatever reverses of fortune I may meet with, I would
wish still to continue in the same career. At all events, I could never
become a--a--’

‘Spy. Say the word out; its meaning conveys nothing offensive to my
ears, young man. I may grieve over the corruption that requires such a
system, but I do not confound the remedy with the disease.’

‘My sentiments are different, sir,’ said I resolutely, as I moved
towards the door. ‘I have the honour to wish you a good-morning.’

‘Stay a moment, Tiernay,’ said he, looking for something amongst his
papers; ‘there are, probably, situations where all your scruples could
find accommodation, and even be serviceable, too.’

‘I would rather not place them in peril, Monsieur le Ministre.’

‘There are people in this city of Paris who would not despise my
protection, young man--some of them to the full as well supplied with
the gifts of fortune as Monsieur Tiernay.’

‘And, doubtless, more fitted to deserve it!’ said I sarcastically; for
every moment now rendered me more courageous.

‘And, doubtless, more fitted to deserve it,’ repeated he after me, with
a wave of the hand in token of adieu.

I bowed respectfully, and was retiring, when he called out in a low and
gentle voice--

‘Before you go, Monsieur de Tiernay, I will thank you to restore my
snuff-box.’

‘Your snuff-box, sir?’ cried I indignantly; ‘what do I know of it?’

‘In a moment of inadvertence, you may, probably, have placed it in your
pocket,’ said he, smiling; ‘do me the favour to search there.’

‘This is unnecessary insult, sir,’ said I fiercely; ‘and you forget that
I am a French officer!’

‘It is of more consequence that you should remember it,’ said he calmly.
‘And now, sir, do as I have told you.’

‘It is well, sir, that this scene has no witness,’ said I, boiling over
with passion, ‘or, by Heaven, all the dignity of your station should not
save you.’

‘Your observation is most just,’ said he, with the same coolness. ‘It is
as well that we are quite alone; and for this reason I beg to repeat
my request. If you persist in a refusal, and force me to ring that
bell----’

‘You would not dare to offer me such an indignity,’ said I, trembling
with rage.

‘You leave me no alternative, sir,’ said he, rising, and taking the
hell in his hand. ‘My honour is also engaged in this question. I have
preferred a charge--’

‘You have,’ cried I, interrupting, ‘and for whose falsehood I am
resolved to hold you responsible.’

‘To prove which you must show your innocence.’

‘There, then--there are my pockets; here are the few things I possess.
This is my pocket-book--my purse. Oh, heavens, what is this?’ cried
I, as I drew forth the gold box, along with the other contents of my
pocket; and then staggering back, I fell, overwhelmed with shame and
sickness, against the wall. For some seconds I neither saw nor heard
anything; a vague sense of ineffable disgrace--of some ignominy that
made life a misery, was over me, and I closed my eyes with the wish
never to open them more.’

‘The box has a peculiar value in my eyes, sir,’ said he--‘it was a
present from the First Consul--otherwise I might have hesitated----’

‘Oh, sir, you cannot, you dare not, suppose me guilty of a theft. You
seem bent on being my ruin; but, for mercy’s sake, let your hatred of
me take some other shape than this. Involve me in what snares, what
conspiracies you will, give me what share you please in any guilt, but
spare me the degradation of such a shame!’

He seemed to enjoy the torments I was suffering, and actually revel in
the contemplation of my misery; for he never spoke a word, but continued
steadily to stare me in the face.

‘Sit down here, monsieur,’ said he, at length, while he pointed to a
chair near him; ‘I wish to say a few words to you, in all seriousness,
and in good faith also.’

I seated myself, and he went on.

‘The events of the last two days must have made such an impression on
your mind that even the most remarkable incidents of your life could not
compete with. You fancied yourself a great discoverer, and that, by
the happy conjuncture of intelligence and accident, you had actually
fathomed the depths of that wonderful system of police, which, more
powerful than armies or councils, is the real government of France! I
will not stop now to convince you that you have not wandered out of the
very shallowest channels of this system. It is enough that you have been
admitted to an audience with me, to suggest an opposite conviction, and
give to your recital, when you repeat the tale, a species of importance.
Now, sir, my counsel to you is, never to repeat it; and for this reason:
nobody possessed of common powers of judgment will ever believe you!
not one, sir! No one would ever believe that Monsieur Fouché had made so
grave a mistake, no more than he would believe that a man of good name
and birth, a French officer, could have stolen a snuff-box. You see,
Monsieur de Tiernay, that I acquit you of this shameful act. Imitate my
generosity, sir, and forget all that you have witnessed since Tuesday
last. I have given you good advice, sir; if I find that you profit by
it, we may see more of each other.’

Scarcely appreciating the force of his parable, and thinking of nothing
save the vindication of my honour, I muttered a few unmeaning words, and
withdrew, glad to escape a presence which had assumed, to my terrified
senses, all the diabolical subtlety of Satanic influence. Trusting
that no future accident of my life should ever bring me within such
precincts, I hurried from the place as though it were contaminated and
plague-stricken.



CHAPTER XLVII. THE VILLAGE OP SCHWARTZ-ACH

I was destitute enough when I quitted the Temple, a few days back; but
my condition now was sadder still, for, in addition to my poverty and
friendlessness, I had imbibed a degree of distrust and suspicion that
made me shun my fellow-men, and actually shrink from the contact of a
stranger. The commonest show of courtesy, the most ordinary exercise
of politeness, struck me as the secret wiles of that police whose
machinations, I fancied, were still spread around me. I had conceived
a most intense hatred of civilisation, or, at least, of what I rashly
supposed to be the inherent vices of civilised life. I longed for what
I deemed must be the glorious independence of a savage. If I could but
discover this Paradise beyond seas, of which the marquise raved so much;
if I only could find out that glorious land which neither knew secret
intrigues nor conspiracies, I should leave France for ever, taking any
condition, or braving any mischances fate might have in store for me.

There was something peculiarly offensive in the treatment I had
met with. Imprisoned on suspicion, I was liberated without any
amende--neither punished like a guilty man, nor absolved as an innocent
one. I was sent out upon the world as though the State would not own
nor acknowledge me--a dangerous practice, as I often thought, if
only adopted on a large scale. It was some days before I could summon
resolution to ascertain exactly my position. At last I did muster up
courage, and, under pretence of wishing to address a letter to myself, I
applied at the Ministry of War for the address of Lieutenant Tiernay,
of the 9th Hussars. I was one of a large crowd similarly engaged, some
inquiring for sons that had fallen in battle, or husbands or fathers in
faraway countries. The office was only open each morning for two hours,
and consequently, as the expiration of the time drew nigh, the eagerness
of the inquirers became far greater, and the contrast with the cold
apathy of the clerks the more strongly marked. I had given way to many,
who were weaker than myself, and less able to buffet with the crowd
about them; and at last, when, wearied by waiting, I was drawing nigh
the table, my attention was struck by an old, a very old man, who,
with a beard white as snow, and long moustaches of the same colour, was
making great efforts to gain the front rank. I stretched out my hand,
and caught his, and by considerable exertion at last succeeded in
placing him in front of me.

He thanked me fervently, in a strange kind of German, a patois I had
never heard before, and kissed my hand three or four times over in his
gratitude; indeed, so absorbed was he for the time in his desire to
thank me, that I had to recall him to the more pressing reason of his
presence, and warn him that but a few minutes more of the hour remained
free.

‘Speak up,’ cried the clerk, as the old man muttered something in a low
and very indistinct voice; ‘speak up, and remember, my friend, that we
do not profess to give information further back than the times of “Louis
Quatorze.”’

This allusion to the years of the old man was loudly applauded by his
colleagues, who drew nigh to stare at the cause of it.

‘Sacrebleu! he is talking Hebrew,’ said another, ‘and asking for a
friend who fell at Ramoth-Gilead.’

‘He is speaking German,’ said I peremptorily, ‘and asking for a relative
whom he believes to have embarked with the expedition to Egypt.’

‘Are you a sworn interpreter, young man?’ asked an older and more
consequential-looking personage.

I was about to return a hasty reply to this impertinence, but I thought
of the old man, and the few seconds that still remained for his inquiry,
and I smothered my anger, and was silent.

‘What rank did he hold?’ inquired one of the clerks, who had listened
with rather more patience to the old man. I translated the question for
the peasant, who, in reply, confessed that he could not tell. The
youth was his only son, and had left home many years before, and never
written. A neighbour, however, who had travelled in foreign parts, had
brought tidings that he had gone with the expedition to Egypt, and was
already high in the French army.

‘You are not quite certain that he did not command the army of Egypt?’
said one of the clerks, in mockery of the old man’s story.

‘It is not unlikely,’ said the peasant gravely; ‘he was a brave and a
bold youth, and could have lifted two such as you with one hand, and
hurled you out of that window.’

‘Let us hear his name once more,’ said the elder clerk--‘it is worth
remembering.’

‘I have told you already. It was Karl Kléher.’

‘The General--General Kléher!’ cried three or four in a breath.

‘Mayhap,’ was all the reply.

‘And are you the father of the great general of Egypt?’ asked the elder,
with an air of deep respect.

‘Kléher is my son; and so that he is alive and well, I care little if a
general or simple soldier.’

Not a word was said in answer to this speech, and each seemed to feel
reluctant to tell the sad tidings. At last the elder clerk said, ‘You
have lost a good son, and France one of her greatest captains. The
General Kléher is dead.’

‘Dead!’ said the old man slowly.

‘In the very moment of his greatest glory, too, when he had won the
country of the Pyramids, and made Egypt a colony of France.’

‘When did he die?’ said the peasant.

‘The last accounts from the East brought the news; and this very day the
Council of State has accorded a pension to his family of ten thousand
livres.’

‘They may keep their money. I am all that remains, and have no want of
it; and I should be poorer still before I’d take it.’

These words he uttered in a low, harsh tone, and pushed his way back
through the crowd.

One moment more was enough for my inquiry.

‘Maurice Tiernay, of the 9th--_destitué_,’ was the short and stunning
answer I received.

‘Is there any reason alleged---is there any charge imputed to him?’
asked I timidly.

‘_Ma foi!_ you must go to the Minister of War with that question.
Perhaps he was paymaster, and embezzled the funds of the regiment;
perhaps he liked Royalist gold better than Republican silver; or perhaps
he preferred the company of the baggage-train and the ambulances, when
he should have been at the head of his squadron.’

I did not care to listen longer to this impertinence, and making my way
out I gained the street. The old peasant was still standing there, like
one stunned and overwhelmed by some great shock, and neither heeding the
crowd that passed, nor the groups that halted occasionally to stare at
him.

‘Come along with me,’ said I, taking his hand in mine. ‘Your calamity is
a heavy one, but mine is harder to bear up against.’

He suffered himself to be led away like a child, and never spoke a word
as we walked along towards the _barrière_, beyond which, at a short
distance, was a little ordinary, where I used to dine. There we had our
dinner together, and as the evening wore on, the old man rallied enough
to tell me of his son’s early life, and his departure for the army. Of
his great career I could speak freely, for Kléber’s name was, in soldier
esteem, scarcely second to that of Bonaparte himself. Not all the
praises I could bestow, however, were sufficient to turn the old man
from his stern conviction, that a peasant in the ‘Lech Thai’ was a more
noble and independent man than the greatest general that ever marched to
victory.

‘We have been some centuries there,’ said he, ‘and none of our name has
incurred a shadow of disgrace. Why should not Karl have lived like his
ancestors?’

It was useless to appeal to the glory his son had gained--the noble
reputation he had left behind him. The peasant saw in the soldier but
one who hired out his courage and his blood, and deemed the calling a
low and unworthy one. I suppose I was not the first who, in the effort
to convince another, found himself shaken in his own convictions; for I
own before I lay down that night many of the old man’s arguments assumed
a force and power that I could not resist, and held possession of my
mind even after I fell asleep. In my dreams I was once more beside the
American lake, and that little colony of simple people, where I had seen
all that was best of my life, and learned the few lessons I had ever
received of charity and good-nature.

From what the peasant said, the primitive habits of the Lech Thai must
be almost alike those of that little colony, and I willingly assented to
his offer to accompany him in his journey homeward. He seemed to feel a
kind of satisfaction in turning my thoughts away from a career that he
held so cheaply, and talked enthusiastically of the tranquil life of the
Bregenzerwald.

We left Paris the following morning, and, partly by diligence, partly on
foot, reached Strasbourg in a few days; thence we proceeded by Kehl to
Freyburg, and, crossing the Lake of Constance at Rorschach, we entered
the Bregenzerwald on the twelfth morning of our journey. I suppose that
most men preserve fresher memory of the stirring and turbulent scenes of
their lives than of the more peaceful and tranquil ones, and I shall
not be deemed singular when I say that some years passed over me in
this quiet spot, and seemed as but a few weeks. The old peasant was the
_Vorsteher_, or ruler of the village, by whom all disputes were settled,
and all litigation of a humble kind decided--a species of voluntary
jurisdiction maintained to this very day in that primitive region. My
occupation there was as a species of secretary to the court, an office
quite new to the villagers, but which served to impress them more
reverentially than ever in favour of this rude justice. My legal duties
over, I became a vine-dresser, a wood-cutter, or a deer-stalker, as
season and weather dictated--my evenings being always devoted to the
task of schoolmaster. A curious seminary was it, too, embracing every
class from childhood to advanced age, all eager for knowledge, and all
submitting to the most patient discipline to attain it. There was much
to make me happy in that humble lot. I had the love and esteem of all
around me; there was neither a harassing doubt for the future, nor the
rich man’s contumely to oppress me; my life was made up of occupations
which alternately engaged mind and body, and, above all and worth all
besides, I had a sense of duty, a feeling that I was doing that which
was useful to my fellow-men; and however great may be a man’s station
in life, if it want this element, the humblest peasant that rises to his
daily toil has a nobler and a better part.

As I trace these lines, how many memories of the spot are rising before
me!--scenes I had long forgotten--faces I had ceased to remember! And
now I see the little wooden bridge--a giant tree, guarded by a single
rail, that crossed the torrent in front of our cottage; and I behold
once more the little waxen image of the Virgin over the door, in whose
glass shrine at nightfall a candle ever burned! and I hear the low hum
of the villagers’ prayer as the ‘Angelus’ is singing, and see on every
crag or cliff the homebound hunter kneeling in his deep devotion!

Happy people, and not less good than happy! Your bold and barren
mountains have been the safeguard of your virtue and your innocence!
Long may they prove so, and long may the waves of the world’s ambition
be stayed at their rocky feet!

I was beginning to forget all that I had seen of life, or, if not
forget, at least to regard it as a wild and troubled dream, when an
accident, one of those things we always regard as the merest chances,
once more opened the floodgates of memory, and sent the whole past in a
strong current through my brain.

In this mountain region the transition from winter to summer is effected
in a few days. Some hours of a scorching sun and south wind swell the
torrents with melted snow; the icebergs fall thundering from cliff and
crag, and the sporting waterfall once more dashes over the precipice.
The trees burst into leaf, and the grass springs up green and fresh from
its wintry covering; and from the dreary aspect of snow-capped hills and
leaden clouds. Nature changes to fertile plains and hills, and a sky of
almost unbroken blue.

It was on a glorious evening in April, when all these changes were
passing, that I was descending the mountain above our village after a
hard day’s chamois-hunting. Anxious to reach the plain before nightfall,
I could not, however, help stopping from time to time to watch the
golden and ruby tints of the sun upon the snow, or see the turquoise
blue which occasionally marked the course of a rivulet through the
glaciers. The Alp-horn was sounding from every cliff and height, and
the lowing of the cattle swelled into a rich and mellow chorus. It was
a beautiful picture, realising in every tint and hue, in every sound and
cadence, all that one can fancy of romantic simplicity, and I surveyed
it with a swelling and a grateful heart.

As I turned to resume my way, I was struck by the sound of voices
speaking, as I fancied, in French, and before I could settle the doubt
with myself, I saw in front of me a party of some six or seven soldiers,
who, with their muskets slung behind them, were descending the steep
path by the aid of sticks.

Weary-looking and footsore as they were, their dress, their bearing,
and their soldierlike air, struck me forcibly, and sent into my heart a
thrill I had not known for many a day before. I came up quickly behind
them, and could overhear their complaints at having mistaken the road,
and their maledictions, uttered in no gentle spirit, on the stupid
mountaineers who could not understand French.

‘Here comes another fellow, let us try him,’ said one, as he turned and
saw me near. ‘Schwartz-Ach, Schwartz-Ach,’ added he, addressing me, and
reading the name from a slip of paper in his hand.

‘I am going to the village,’ said I in French, ‘and will show the way
with pleasure.’

‘How! what! are you a Frenchman, then?’ cried the corporal, in
amazement.

‘Even so,’ said I.

‘Then by what chance are you living in this wild spot? How, in the name
of wonder, can you exist here?’

‘With venison like this,’ said I, pointing to a chamois buck on my
shoulder, ‘and the red wine of the Lech Thai, a man may manage to forget
Veray’s and the “Dragon Vert,” particularly as they are not associated
with a bill and a waiter!’

‘And perhaps you are a Royalist,’ cried another, ‘and don’t like how
matters are going on at home?’

‘I have not that excuse for my exile,’ said I coldly.

‘Have you served, then?’

I nodded.

‘Ah, I see,’ said the corporal, ‘you grew weary of parade and guard
mounting.’

‘If you mean that I deserted,’ said I, ‘you are wrong there also; and
now let it be my turn to ask a few questions. What is France about? Is
the Republic still as great and victorious as ever?’

‘_Sacrebleu_, man, what are you thinking of? We are an Empire some years
back, and Napoleon has made as many kings as he has got brothers and
cousins to crown.’

‘And the army, where is it?’

‘Ask for some half-dozen armies, and you’ll still be short of the
mark. We have one in Hamburg, and another in the far North, holding the
Russians in check; we have garrisons in every fortress of Prussia and
the Rhine Land; we have some eighty thousand fellows in Poland and
Galicia--double as many more in Spain. Italy is our own, and so will he
Austria ere many days go over.’

Boastfully as all this was spoken, I found it to be not far from truth,
and learned, as we walked along, that the Emperor was, at that very
moment, on the march to meet the Archduke Charles, who, with a numerous
army, was advancing on Ratishon, the little party of soldiers being
portion of a force despatched to explore the passes of the ‘Vorarlberg,’
and report on how far they might be practicable for the transmission
of troops to act on the left flank and rear of the Austrian army. Their
success had up to this time been very slight, and the corporal was
making for Schwartz-Ach, as a spot where he hoped to rendezvous with
some of his comrades. They were much disappointed on my telling them
that I had quitted the village that morning, and that not a soldier had
been seen there. There was, however, no other spot to pass the night
in, and they willingly accepted the offer I made them of a shelter and a
supper in our cottage.



CHAPTER XLVIII. A VILLAGE ‘SYNDICUS’

I SAT up all night listening to the soldiers’ stories of war and
campaigning. Some had served with Soult’s army in the Asturias; some
made part of Davout’s corps in the north of Europe; one had just
returned from Friedland, and amused us with describing the celebrated
conference at Tilsit, where he had been a sentinel on the river-side,
and presented arms to the two emperors as they passed. It will seem
strange, but it is a fact, that this slight incident attracted towards
him a greater share of his comrades’ admiration than was accorded to
those who had seen half the battlefields of modern war.

He described the dress, the air, the general bearing of the emperors,
remarking that although Alexander was taller, and handsomer, and even
more soldierlike than our own emperor, there was a something of
calm dignity and conscious majesty in Napoleon that made him appear
immeasurably the superior. Alexander wore the uniform of the Russian
guard, one of the most splendid it is possible to conceive. The only
thing simple about him was his sword, which was a plain sabre with a
tarnished gilt scabbard, and a very dirty sword-knot; and yet every
moment he used to look down at it and handle it with great apparent
admiration; ‘and well might he,’ added the soldier--‘Napoleon had given
it to him but the day before.’

To listen even to such meagre details as these was to light up again in
my heart the fire that was only smouldering, and that no life of peasant
labour or obscurity could ever extinguish. My companions quickly saw the
interest I took in their narratives, and certainly did their utmost to
feed the passion--now with some sketch of a Spanish marauding party,
as full of adventure as a romance; now with a description of northern
warfare, where artillery thundered on the ice, and men fought behind
intrenchments of deep snow.

From the North Sea to the Adriatic, all Europe was now in arms. Great
armies were marching in every direction--some along the deep valley of
the Danube, others from the rich plains of Poland and Silesia; some were
passing the Alps into Italy, and some again were pouring down for the
Tyrol ‘Jochs,’ to defend the rocky passes of their native land against
the invader. Patriotism and glory, the spirit of chivalry and conquest,
all were abroad, and his must indeed have been a cold heart which could
find within it no response to the stirring sounds around. To the
intense feeling of shame which I at first felt at my own life of obscure
inactivity, there now succeeded a feverish desire to be somewhere and
do something to dispel this worse than lethargy. I had not resolution
to tell my comrades that I had served--I felt reluctant to speak of
a career so abortive and unsuccessful; and yet I blushed at the
half-pitying expressions they bestowed upon my life of inglorious
adventure.

‘You risk life and limb here in these pine forests, and hazard existence
for a bear or a chamois goat,’ cried one, ‘and half the peril in real
war would perhaps make you a _chef d escadron_ or even a general.’

‘Ay,’ said another, ‘we serve in an army where crowns are military
distinctions, and the epaulette is only the first step to a kingdom.’

‘True,’ broke in a third, ‘Napoleon has changed the whole world,
and made soldiering the only trade worth following. Masséna was a
drummer-boy within my own memory, and see him now! Ney was not born
to great wealth and honours. Junot never could learn his trade as a
cobbler, and for want of better has become a general of division.’

‘Yes; and,’ said I, following out the theme, ‘under that wooden roof
yonder, through that little diamond-paned window the vine is trained
across, a greater than any of the last three first saw the light. It was
there Kléber, the conqueror of Egypt, was born.’

‘Honour to the brave dead!’ said the soldiers from their places around
the fire, and carrying their hands to the salute. ‘We’ll fire a salvo to
him to-morrow before we set out!’ said the corporal. ‘And so Kléber
was born there!’ said he, resuming his place, and staring with admiring
interest at the dark outline of the old house, as it stood out against
the starry and cloudless sky.

It was somewhat of a delicate task for me to prevent my companions
offering their tribute of respect, but which the old peasant would have
received with little gratitude, seeing that he had never yet forgiven
the country nor the service for the loss of his son. With some
management I accomplished this duty, however, promising my services at
the same time to be their guide through the Bregenzerwald, and not to
part with them till I had seen them safely into Bavaria.

Had it not been for my thorough acquaintance with the Tyroler dialect,
and all the usages of Tyrol life, their march would have been one
of great peril, for already the old hatred against their Bavarian
oppressors was beginning to stir the land, and Austrian agents were
traversing the mountain districts in every direction, to call forth that
patriotic ardour which, ill-requited as it has been, has more than once
come to the rescue of Austria.

So sudden had been the outbreak of this war, and so little aware were
the peasantry of the frontier of either its object or aim, that we
frequently passed recruits for both armies on their way to headquarters
on the same day--honest Bavarians, who were trudging along the road with
pack on their shoulders, and not knowing, nor indeed much caring, on
which side they were to combat. My French comrades scorned to report
themselves to any German officer, and pushed on vigorously in the hope
of meeting with a French regiment. I had now conducted my little party
to Immenstadt, at the foot of the Bavarian Alps, and, having completed
my compact, was about to bid them good-bye.

We were seated around our bivouac fire for the last time, as we deemed
it, and pledging each other in a parting glass, when suddenly our
attention was attracted to a bright red tongue of flame that suddenly
darted up from one of the Alpine summits above our head. Another and
another followed, till at length every mountain-peak for miles and miles
away displayed a great signal-fire! Little knew we that behind that
giant range of mountains, from the icy crags of the Glockner, and from
the snowy summit of the Orteler itself, similar fires were summoning all
Tyrol to the combat, while every valley resounded with the war-cry of
‘God and the Emperor!’ We were still in busy conjecture what all this
might portend, when a small party of mounted men rode past us at a
trot. They carried carbines slung over their peasant frocks, and showed
unmistakably enough that they were some newly-raised and scarcely
disciplined force. After proceeding about a hundred yards beyond us,
they halted, and drew up across the road, unslinging their pieces as if
to prepare for action.

‘Look at those fellows, yonder,’ said the old corporal, as he puffed
his pipe calmly and deliberately; ‘they mean mischief, or I ‘m much
mistaken. Speak to them, Tiernay; you know their jargon.’

I accordingly arose and advanced towards them, touching my hat in salute
as I went forward. They did not give me much time, however, to open
negotiations, for scarcely had I uttered a word, when bang went a
shot close beside me; another followed; and then a whole volley was
discharged, but with such haste and ill direction that not a ball struck
me. Before I could take advantage of this piece of good fortune to renew
my advances, a bullet whizzed by my head, and down went the left-hand
horse of the file, at first on his knees, and then, with a wild plunge
into the air, he fell, stone-dead, on the road, the rider beneath him.
As for the rest, throwing off carbines, and cartouch-boxes, they sprang
from their horses, and took to the mountains with a speed that showed
how far more they were at home amidst rocks and heather than when seated
on the saddle. My comrades lost no time in coming up; but while three of
them kept the fugitives in sight, covering them all the time with their
muskets, the others secured the cattle, as in amazement and terror they
stood around the dead horse.

Although the peasant had received no other injuries than a heavy fall
and his own fears inflicted, he was overcome with terror, and so certain
of death that he would do nothing but mumble his prayers, totally deaf
to all the efforts I made to restore his courage. ‘That comes of putting
a man out of his natural bent,’ said the old corporal. ‘On his native
mountains, and with his rifle, that fellow would be brave enough; but
making a dragoon of him is like turning a Cossack into a foot-soldier.
One thing is clear enough, we’ve no time to throw away here; these
peasants will soon alarm the village in our rear, so that we had better
mount and press forward.’

‘But in what direction?’ cried another; ‘who knows if we shall not be
rushing into worse danger?’

‘Tiernay must look to that,’ interposed a third. ‘It’s clear he can’t
leave us now; his retreat is cut off, at all events.’

‘That’s the very point I was thinking of, lads,’ said I. ‘The
beacon-fires show that “the Tyrol is up”; and safely as I have journeyed
hither, I know well I dare not venture to retrace my road; I ‘d be shot
in the first Dorf I entered. On one condition, then, I’ll join you; and
short of that, however, I’ll take my own path, come what may of it.’

‘What’s the condition, then?’ cried three or four together.

‘That you give me the full and absolute command of this party, and
pledge your honour, as French soldiers, to obey me in everything, till
the day we arrive at the headquarters of a French corps.’

‘What, obey a Pekin! take the _mot d’ordre_ from a civilian that never
handled a firelock!’ shouted three or four in derision.

‘I have served, and with distinction, too, my lads,’ said I calmly; ‘and
if I have not handled a firelock, it is because I wielded a sabre, as an
officer of hussars. It is not here, nor now, that I am going to tell
why I wear the epaulette no longer. I’ll render account of that to my
superiors and yours! If you reject my offer (and I don’t press you to
accept it), let us at least part good friends. As for me, I can take
care of myself.’ As I said this, I slung over my shoulder the cross-belt
and carbine of one of the fugitives, and selecting a strongly built,
short-legged black horse as my mount, I adjusted the saddle, and sprang
on his back.

‘That was done like an old hussar, anyhow,’ said a soldier, who had
been a cavalry man, ‘and I ‘ll follow you, whatever the rest may do.’ He
mounted as he spoke, and saluted as if on duty. Slight as the incident
was, its effect was magical. Old habits of discipline revived at the
first signal of obedience, and the corporal having made his men fall in,
came up to my side for orders.

‘Select the best of these horses,’ said I, ‘and let us press forward
at once. We are about eighteen miles from the village of Wangheim; by
halting a short distance outside of it, I can enter alone, and learn
something about the state of the country, and the nearest French post.
The cattle are all fresh, and we can easily reach the village before
daybreak.’

Three of my little ‘command’ were tolerable horsemen, two of them having
served in the artillery train, and