Part 9 out of 10
As he said these words he placed in Napoleon's hands the keepsake which St.
Croix had left with me years before in Spain, and which, as the reader may
remember, was a miniature of the Empress Josephine.
The moment the Emperor threw his eyes upon it, the flush which excitement
had called into his cheek disappeared at once. He became pale as death, his
very lips as bloodless as his wan cheek.
"Leave me, Lefebvre; leave me, Cambronne, for a moment. I will speak with
this gentleman alone."
As the door closed upon them he leaned his arm upon the mantelpiece, and
with his head sunk upon his bosom, remained some moments without speaking.
"Augure sinistre!" muttered he within his teeth, as his piercing gaze was
riveted upon the picture before him. "Voila la troisieme fois peut-etre
la derniere." Then suddenly rousing himself, he advanced close to me, and
seizing me by the arm with a grasp like iron, inquired:--
"How came you by this picture? The truth, sir; mark me, the truth!"
Without showing any sign of feeling hurt at the insinuation of this
question, I detailed, in as few words as I could, the circumstance by which
the locket became mine. Long before I had concluded, however, I could mark
that his attention flagged, and finally wandered far away from the matter
"Why will you not give me the information I look for? I seek for no breach
of faith. The campaign is all but over. The Prussians were beaten at Ligny,
their army routed, their artillery captured, ten thousand prisoners taken.
Your troops and the Dutch were conquered yesterday, and they are in full
retreat on Brussels. By to-morrow evening I shall date my bulletin from
the palace at Laeken. Antwerp will be in my possession within twenty-four
hours. Namur is already mine. Cambronne, Lefebvre," cried he, "cet homme-la
n'en sait rien," pointing to me as he spoke; "let us see the other." With
this he motioned slightly with his hand as a sign for me to withdraw, and
the next moment I was once more in the solitude of my prison-room, thinking
over the singular interview I had just had with the great Emperor.
How anxiously pass the hours of one who, deprived of other means of
information, is left to form his conjectures by some passing object or some
chance murmur. The things which, in the ordinary course of life, are passed
by unnoticed and unregarded, are now matters of moment,--with what scrutiny
he examines the features of those whom he dare not question; with what
patient ear he listens to each passing word. Thus to me, a prisoner,
the hours went by tardily yet anxiously; no sabre clanked; no war-horse
neighed; no heavy-booted cuirassier tramped in the courtyard beneath my
window, without setting a hundred conjectures afloat as to what was about
to happen. For some time there had been a considerable noise and bustle in
and about the dwelling. Horsemen came and went continually. The sounds of
galloping could be heard along the paved causeway; then the challenge of
the sentry at the gate; then the nearer tread of approaching stops, and
many voices speaking together, would seem to indicate that some messenger
had arrived with despatches. At length all these sounds became hushed and
still. No longer were the voices heard; and except the measured tread of
the heavy cuirassier, as he paced on the flags beneath, nothing was to be
heard. My state of suspense, doubly greater now than when the noise and
tumult suggested food for conjecture, continued till towards noon, when
a soldier in undress brought me some breakfast, and told me to prepare
speedily for the road.
Scarcely had he left the room, when the rumbling noise of wagons was heard
below, and a train of artillery carts moved into the little courtyard
loaded with wounded men. It was a sad and frightful sight to see these poor
fellows, as, crammed side by side in the straw of the _charrette_, they
lay, their ghastly wounds opening with every motion of the wagon, while
their wan, pale faces were convulsed with agony and suffering. Of every
rank, from the sous-lieutenant to the humble soldier, from every arm of the
service, from the heavy cuirassier of the guard to the light and intrepid
tirailleur, they were there. I well remember one, an artillery-man of
the guard, who, as they lifted him forth from the cart, presented the
horrifying spectacle of one both of whose legs had been carried away by a
cannon-shot. Pale, cold, and corpse-like, ha lay in their arms; his head
lay heavily to one side, his arms fell passively as in death. It was at
this moment a troop of lancers, the advanced guard of D'Erlon's Division,
came trotting up the road; the cry of "Vive l'Empereur!" burst from them
as they approached; its echo rang within the walls of the farm-house, when
suddenly the dying man, as though some magic touch had called him back to
life and vigor, sprang up erect between his bearers, his filmy eye flashing
fire, a burning spot of red coloring his bloodless cheek. He cast one wild
and hurried look around him, like one called back from death to look
upon the living; and as he raised his blood-stained hand above his head,
shouted, in a heart-piercing cry, "Vive l'Empereur!" The effort was his
last. It was the expiring tribute of allegiance to the chief he adored. The
blood spouted in cataracts from his half-closed wounds, a convulsive spasm
worked through his frame, his eyes rolled fearfully, as his outstretched
hands seemed striving to clutch some object before them, and he was dead.
Fresh arrivals of wounded continued to pour in; and now I thought I could
detect at intervals the distant noise of a cannonade. The wind, however,
was from the southward, and the sounds were too indistinct to be relied on.
"Allons, aliens, mon cher!" said a rough but good-humored looking fellow,
as he strode into my room. He was the quartermaster of Milhaud's Dragoons,
under whose care I was now placed, and came to inform me that we were to
set out immediately.
Monsieur Bonnard was a character in his way; and if it were not so near the
conclusion of my history, I should like to present him to my readers. As
it is, I shall merely say he was a thorough specimen of one class of
his countrymen,--a loud talker, a louder swearer, a vaporing, boasting,
overbearing, good-natured, and even soft-hearted fellow, who firmly
believed that Frenchmen were the climax of the species, and Napoleon the
climax of Frenchmen. Being a great _bavard_, he speedily told me all that
had taken place during the last two days. From him I learned that the
Prussians had really been beaten at Ligny, and had fallen back, he knew
not where. They were, however, he said, hotly pursued by Grouchy, with
thirty-five thousand men, while the Emperor himself was now following the
British and Dutch armies with seventy thousand more.
"You see," continued he, "l'affaire est faite! Who can resist the Emperor?"
These were sad tidings for me; and although I did not place implicit
confidence in my informant, I had still my fears that much of what he said
"And the British, now," said I, "what direction have they taken?"
"Bah, they're in retreat on Brussels, and will probably capitulate
"Oui, oui; ne vous fachez pas, camarade," said he, laughing. "What could
you do against Napoleon? You did not expect to beat him, surely? But come,
we must move on; I have my orders to bring you to Planchenoit this evening,
and our horses are tired enough already."
"Mine, methinks, should be fresh," said I.
"_Parbleu, mon!_" replied he; "he has twice made the journey to Fresnes
this morning with despatches for Marshal Ney; the Emperor is enraged
with the marshal for having retreated last night, having the wood in his
possession; he says he should have waited till daybreak, and then fallen
upon your retreating columns. As it is, you are getting away without much
loss. _Sacristie_, that was a fine charge!" These last words he muttered to
himself, adding, between his teeth, "Sixty-four killed and wounded."
"What was that? Who were they?" said I.
"Our fellows," replied he, frankly; "the Emperor ordered up two
twelve-pounders, and eight squadrons of lancers; they fell upon your light
dragoons in a narrow part of the high road. But suddenly we heard a noise
in front; your hussars fell back, and a column of your heavy dragoons came
thundering down upon us. _Parbleu!_ they swept over us as if we were broken
infantry; and there! there!" said he, pointing to the courtyard, from
whence the groans of the wounded still rose,--"there are the fruits of that
I could not restrain an outbreak of triumphant pleasure at this gallant
feat of my countrymen.
"Yes, yes," said the honest quartermaster; "it was a fine thing; but a
heavy reckoning is at hand. But come, now, let us take the road."
In a few moments more I found myself seated upon a heavy Norman horse,
whose lumbering demi-peak saddle was nearly cleft in two by a sabre-cut.
"Ay, ay," said Monsieur Bonnard, as he saw my eye fixed on the spot, "it
was one of your fellows did that; and the same cut clove poor Pierre from
the neck to the seat."
"I hope," said I, laughing, "the saddle may not prove an unlucky one."
"No, no," said the Frenchman, seriously; "it has paid its debt to fate."
As we pressed on our road, which, broken by the heavy guns, and ploughed up
in many places by the artillery, was nearly impassable, we could distinctly
hear from time to time the distant boom of the large guns, as the retiring
and pursuing armies replied to each other; while behind us, but still a
long way off, a dark mass appeared on the horizon: they were the advancing
columns of Ney's Division.
"Have the troops come in contact more than once this morning?"
"Not closely," said the quartermaster; "the armies have kept a respectful
distance; they were like nothing I can think of," said the figurative
Frenchman, "except two hideous serpents wallowing in mire, and vomiting at
each other whole rivers of fire and flame."
As we approached Planchenoit, we came up to the rear-guard of the French
army; from them we learned that Ney's Division, consisting of the Eighth
Corps, had joined the Emperor; that the British were still in retreat, but
that nothing of any importance had occurred between the rival armies, the
French merely firing their heavy guns from time to time to ascertain by
the reply the position of the retreating forces. The rain poured down in
torrents; gusts of cold and stormy wind swept across the wide plains, or
moaned sorrowfully through the dense forest. As I rode on by the side of my
companion, I could not help remarking how little the effects of a fatiguing
march and unfavorable weather were apparent on those around me. The spirit
of excited gayety pervaded every rank; and unlike the stern features which
the discipline of our service enforces, the French soldiers were talking,
laughing and even singing, as they marched; the canteens passed freely from
hand to hand, and jests and toasts flew from front to rear along the dark
columns; many carried their loaves of dark rye-bread on the tops of their
bayonets; and to look upon that noisy and tumultuous mass as they poured
along, it would have needed a practised eye to believe them the most
disciplined of European armies.
The sun was just setting, as mounting a ridge of high land beside the high
road, my companion pointed with his finger to a small farm-house, which,
standing alone in the plain, commands an extensive view on every side of
"There," said he,--"there is the _quartier general_; the Emperor sleeps
there to-night. The King of Holland will afford him a bed to-morrow night."
The dark shadows of the coming night were rapidly falling as I strained my
eyes to trace the British position. A hollow, rumbling sound announced the
movement of artillery in our front.
"What is it, Arnotte?" said the quartermaster to a dragoon officer who rode
"It is nothing," replied the other, laughing, "but a _ruse_ of the Emperor.
He wishes to ascertain if the enemy are in force, or if we have only a
strong rear-guard before us."
As he spoke fifteen heavy guns opened there fire, and the still air
reverberated with a loud thunder. The sound had not died away, the very
smoke lay yet heavily upon the moist earth, when forty pieces of British
cannon rang out their answer, and the very plain trembled beneath the
"Ha, they are there, then!" exclaimed the dragoon, as his eyes flashed with
ecstasy. "Look! see! the artillery are limbering up already. The Emperor is
And so it was. A dark column of twelve hundred horse that accompanied the
guns into the plain, now wheeled slowly round, and wound their long track
far away to the right. The rain fell in torrents; the wind was hushed;
and as the night fell in darkness, the columns moved severally to their
destinations. The bivouacs were formed; the watch-fires were lighted; and
seventy thousand men and two hundred pieces of cannon occupied the heights
"My orders are to bring you to La Caillon," said the quartermaster; "and if
you only can spur your jaded horse into a trot, we shall soon reach it."
About a hundred yards from the little farm-house, stood a small cottage of
a peasant. Here some officers of Marshal Soult's staff had taken up their
quarters; and thither my guide now bent his steps.
"Comment, Bonnard!" said an aide-de-camp, as we rode up. "Another prisoner?
_Sacrebleu!_ We shall have the whole British staff among us. You are
in better luck than your countryman, the general, I hope," said the
aide-decamp. "His is a sad affair; and I'm sorry for it, too. He's a fine,
soldier-like looking fellow."
"Pray, what has happened?" said I. "To what do you allude?"
"Merely to one of your people who has just been taken with some letters and
papers of Bourmont's in his possession. The Emperor is in no very amicable
humor towards the traitor, and resolves to pay off some part of his debt on
his British correspondent."
"How cruel! How unjust!"
"Why, yes, it is hard, I confess, to be shot for the fault of another.
Mais, que voulez-vous?"
"And when is this atrocious act to take place?"
"By daybreak to-morrow," said he, bowing, as he turned towards the hut.
"Meanwhile, let me counsel you, if you would not make another in the party,
to reserve your indignation for your return to England."
"Come along," said the quartermaster; "I find they have got quarters for
you in the granary of the farm. I'll not forget you at supper-time."
So saying, he gave his horse to an orderly, and led me by a little path
to a back entrance of the dwelling. Had I time or inclination for such a
scene, I might have lingered long to gaze at the spectacle before me. The
guard held their bivouac around the quarters of the Emperor; and here,
beside the watch-fires, sat the bronzed and scarred veterans who had braved
every death and danger, from the Pyramids to the Kremlin. On every side I
heard the names of those whom history has already consigned to immortality;
and as the fitful blaze of a wood-fire flashed from within the house, I
could mark the figure of one who, with his hands behind his back, walked
leisurely to and fro, his head leaned a little forward as though in deep
thought; but as the light fell upon his pale and placid features, there was
nothing there to indicate the stormy strife of hope and fear that raged
beneath. From the rapid survey I took around I was roused by an officer,
who, saluting me, politely desired me to follow him. We mounted a flight of
stone steps which, outside the wall of the building, led to the upper story
of a large but ruined granary. Here a sentry was posted, who permitting us
to pass forward, I found myself in a small, mean-looking apartment, whose
few articles of coarse furniture were dimly lighted by the feeble glimmer
of a lamp. At the farther end of the room sat a man wrapped in a large blue
cavalry cloak, whose face, covered with his hands as he bent downward,
was completely concealed from view. The noise of the opening door did not
appear to arouse him, nor did he notice my approach. As I entered, a faint
sigh broke from him, as he turned his back upon the light; but he spoke not
I sat for some time in silence, unwilling to obtrude myself upon the
sorrows of one to whom I was unknown; and as I walked up and down the
gloomy chamber, my thoughts became riveted so completely upon my own
fortunes that I ceased to remember my fellow-prisoner. The hours passed
thus lazily along, when the door suddenly opened, and an officer in the
dress of a lancer of the guard stood for an instant before me, and then,
springing forward, clasped me by both hands, and called out,--
"Charles, mon ami, c'est bien toi?"
The voice recalled to my recollections what his features, altered by time
and years, had failed to do. It was Jules St. Croix, my former prisoner in
the Peninsula. I cannot paint the delight with which I saw him again; his
presence now, while it brought back the memory of some of my happiest days,
also assured me that I was not friendless.
His visit was a brief one, for he was in attendance on Marshal Lobau's
staff. In the few minutes, however, of his stay, he said,--
"I have a debt to pay, Charles, and have come to discharge it. In an hour
hence I shall leave this with despatches for the left of our line. Before
I go, I'll come here with two or three others, as it were, to wish you a
good-night. I'll take care to carry a second cloak and a foraging cap; I'll
provide a fast horse; you shall accompany us for some distance. I'll see
you safe across our pickets; for the rest, you must trust to yourself.
C'est arrange, n'est-ce-pas?"
One firm grasp of his hand, to which I responded by another, followed, and
he was gone.
Everything concurred to show me that a tremendous battle must ensue on the
morrow, if the British forces but held their position. It was, then, with a
feeling of excitement approaching to madness that I saw my liberty before
me; that once more I should join in the bold charge and the rude shock
of arms, hear the wild cry of my gallant countrymen, and either live to
triumph with them in victory, or wait not to witness our defeat. Fast flew
my hopes, as with increasing impatience I waited St. Croix's coming, and
with anxious heart listened to every sound upon the stairs which might
indicate his approach. At length he came. I heard the gay and laughing
voices of his companions as they came along; the door opened, and affecting
the familiarity of old acquaintance to deceive the sentry, they all shook
me by the hand and spoke in terms of intimacy.
"Labedoyere is below," said St. Croix, in a whisper; "you must wait here a
few moments longer, and I'll return for you; put on the cloak and cap, and
speak not a word as you pass out. The sentry will suppose that one of our
party has remained behind; for I shall call out as if speaking to him, as I
leave the room."
The voice of an officer calling in tones of impatience for the party
to come down, cut short the interview; and again assuring me of their
determination to stand by me, they left the chamber and descended into the
court. Scarcely had the door closed behind them, when my fellow-prisoner,
whom I had totally forgotten, sprang on his legs and came towards me. His
figure screening the lamplight as he stood, prevented my recognizing his
features, but the first tones of his voice told me who he was.
"Stay, sir," cried he, as he placed his hand upon my arm; "I have overheard
your project. In an hour hence you will be free. Can you---will you perform
a service for one who will esteem it not the less that it will be the last
that man can render him? The few lines which I have written here with my
pencil are for my daughter."
I could bear no more, and called out in a voice broken as his own,--
"Oh, be not deceived, sir. Will you, even in an hour like this, accept a
service from one whom you have banished from your house?"
The old man started as I spoke; his hand trembled till it shook my very
arm, and after a pause and with an effort to seem calm and collected, he
"My hours are few. Some despatches of General Bourmont with which the duke
intrusted me were found in my possession. My sentence is a hurried one, and
it is death. By to-morrow's sunrise--"
"Stay, stay!" said I. "You shall escape; my life is in no danger. I have,
as you see, even friends among the staff. Besides, I have done nothing to
compromise or endanger my position."
"No, sir," said he, sternly, "I will not act such a part as this. The tears
you have seen in these old eyes are not for myself. I fear not death.
Better it were it should have come upon the field of glorious battle; but
as it is, my soldier's honor is intact, untainted."
"You refuse the service on account of him who proffers it," said I, as I
fell heavily upon a seat, my head bowed upon my bosom.
"Not so, not so, my boy," replied he, kindly. "The near approach of death,
like the fading light of day, gives us a longer and a clearer view before
us. I feel that I have wronged you; that I have imputed to you the errors
of others; but, believe me, if I have wronged you, I have punished my own
heart; for, Charles, I have loved you like a son."
"Then prove it," said I, "and let me act towards you as towards a father.
You will not? You refuse me still? Then, by Heaven, I remain to share your
fate! I well know the temper of him who has sentenced you, and that, by one
word of mine, my destiny is sealed forever."
"No, no, boy! This is but rash and insane folly. Another year or two, nay,
perhaps a few months more, and in the common course of Nature I had ceased
to be; but you, with youth, with fortune, and with hope--"
"Oh, not with hope!" said I, in a voice of agony.
"Nay, say not so," replied he, calmly, while a sickly smile played sadly
over his face; "you will give this letter to my daughter, you will tell her
that we parted as friends should part; and if after that, when time shall
have smoothed down her grief, and her sorrow be rather a dark dream of the
past than a present suffering,--if then you love her, and if--"
"Oh, tempt me not thus!" said I, as the warm tears gushed from my eyes.
"Lead me not thus astray from what my honor tells me I should do. Hark!
They are coming already. I hear the clank of their sabres; they are
mounting the steps; not a moment is to be lost! Do you refuse me still?"
"I do," replied he, firmly; "I am resolved to bide my fate."
"Then so do I," cried I, as folding my arms, I sat down beside the window,
determined on my course.
"Charley, Charley," said he, stooping over me, "my friend, my last hope,
the protector of my child--"
"I will not go," said I, in a hollow whisper.
Already they were at the door; I heard their voices as they challenged the
sentry; I heard his musket as he raised it to his shoulder. The thought
flashed across me. I jumped up, and throwing the loose mantle of the French
dragoon around him, and replacing his own with the foraging cap of St.
Croix, I sprang into a corner of the room, and seating myself so as to
conceal my face, waited the result. The door opened, the party entered
laughing and talking together.
"Come, Eugene," said one, taking Sir George by the arm, "you have spent
long enough time here to learn the English language. We shall be late at
the outpost. Messieurs les Anglais, good-night, good-night!"
This was repeated by the others as they passed out with Sir George Dashwood
among them, who, seeing that my determination was not to be shaken, and
that any demur on his part must necessarily compromise both, yielded to a
_coup-de-main_ what he never would have consented to from an appeal to his
reason. The door closed; their steps died away in the distance. Again a
faint sound struck my ear; it was the challenge of the sentry beneath,
and I heard the tramp of horses' feet. All was still, and in a burst of
heart-felt gratitude I sank upon my knees, and thanked God that he was
So soundly did I sleep, that not before I was shaken several times by the
shoulder could I awake on the following morning.
"I thought there were two prisoners here," said a gruff voice, as an old
mustached-looking veteran cast a searching look about the room. "However,
we shall have enough of them before sunset. Get--get up; Monsieur le Duc de
Dalmatie desires some information you can give him."
As he said this, he led me from the room; and descending the flight of
stone steps, we entered the courtyard. It was but four o'clock, the rain,
still falling in torrents, yet every one was up and stirring.
"Mount this horse," said my gruff friend, "and come with me towards the
left; the marshal has already gone forward."
The heavy mist of the morning, darkened by the lowering clouds which almost
rested on the earth, prevented our seeing above a hundred yards before
us; but the hazy light of the watch-fires showed me extent of the French
position, as it stretched away along the, ridge towards the Halle road. We
rode forward at a trot, but in the deep clayey soil we sank at each moment
to our horses' fetlocks. I turned my head as I heard the tramp and splash
of horsemen behind, and perceived that I was followed by two dragoons,
who, with their carbines on the rest, kept their eyes steadily upon me to
prevent any chance of escape. In a slight hollow of the ground before us
stood a number of horsemen, who conversed together in a low tone as we came
"There, that is the marshal," said my companion, in a whisper, as we joined
"Yes, Monsieur le Duc," said an engineer colonel, who stood beside Soult's
horse with a colored plan in his hand,--"yes, that is the Chateau de
Goumont, yonder. It is, as you perceive, completely covered by the rising
ground marked here. They will doubtless place a strong artillery force in
"Ah, who is this?" said the marshal, turning his eyes suddenly upon me, and
then casting a look of displeasure around him, lest I should have overheard
any portion of their conversation. "You are deficient in cavalry, it would
appear, sir," said he to me.
"You must feel, Monsieur le Duc," said I, calmly, "how impossible it is for
me, as a man of honor and a soldier, to afford you any information as to
the army I belong to."
"I do not see that, sir. You are a prisoner in our hands; your treatment,
your fortune, your very life depends on us. Besides, sir, when French
officers fall into the power of your people, I have heard they meet with no
very ceremonious treatment."
"Those who say so, say falsely," said I, "and wrong both your countrymen
and mine. In any case--"
"The Guards are an untried force in your service," said he, with a mixture
of inquiry and assertion.
I replied not a word.
"You must see, sir," continued he, "that all the chances are against you.
The Prussians beaten, the Dutch discouraged, the Belgians only waiting for
victory to incline to our standard, to desert your ranks and pass over to
ours; while your troops, scarcely forty thousand,--nay, I might say, not
more than thirty-five thousand. Is it not so?"
Here was another question so insidiously conveyed that even a change of
feature on my part might have given the answer. A half smile, however, and
a slight bow was all my reply; while Soult muttered something between his
teeth, which called forth a laugh from those around him.
"You may retire, sir, a little," said he, dryly, to me.
Not sorry to be freed from the awkwardness of my position, I fell back to
the little rising ground behind. Although the rain poured down without
ceasing, the rising sun dispelled, in part, the heavy vapor, and by degrees
different portions of the wide plain presented themselves to view; and
as the dense masses of fog moved slowly along, I could detect, but still
faintly, the outline of the large, irregular building which I had heard
them call the Chateau de Goumont, and from whence I could hear the clank of
masonry, as, at intervals, the wind bore the sounds towards me. These were
the sappers piercing the walls for musketry; and this I could now perceive
was looked upon as a position of no small importance. Surrounded by a
straggling orchard of aged fruit-trees, the chateau lay some hundred yards
in advance of the British line, commanded by two eminences,--one of which,
in the possession of the French, was already occupied by a park of eleven
guns; of the other I knew nothing, except the passing glance I had obtained
of its position on the map. The Second Corps, under Jerome Bonaparte, with
Foy and Kellermann's Brigade of light artillery, stretched behind us. On
the right of these came D'Erlon's Corps, extending to a small wood, which
my companion told me was Frischermont; while Lobau's Division was stationed
to the extreme right towards St. Lambert, to maintain the communication
with Grouchy at Wavre, or, if need be, to repel the advance of the
Prussians and prevent their junction with the Anglo-Dutch army. The
Imperial Guard, with the cavalry, formed the reserve. Such was, in
substance, the information given me by my guide, who seemed to expatiate
with pleasure over the magnificent array of battle, while he felt a pride
in displaying his knowledge of the various divisions and their leaders.
"I see the marshal moving towards the right," said he; "we had better
It was now about eight o'clock as from the extremity of the line I could
see a party of horsemen advancing at a sharp canter.
"That must be Ney," said my companion. "See how rashly he approaches the
And so it was. The party in question rode fearlessly down the slope, and
did not halt until they reached within about three hundred yards of what
appeared a ruined church.
"What is that building yonder?"
"That--that," replied he, after a moment's thought,--"that must be La Haye
Sainte; and yonder, to the right of it, is the road to Brussels. There,
look now! Your people are in motion. See, a column is moving towards the
right, and the cavalry are defiling on the other side of the road! I was
mistaken, that cannot be Ney. _Sacre Dieu!_ it was the Emperor himself, and
here he comes."
As he spoke, the party galloped forward and pulled up short within a few
yards of where we stood.
"Ha!" cried he, as his sharp glance fell upon me, "there is my taciturn
friend of Quatre Bras. You see, sir, I can dispense with your assistance
now; the chess-board is before me;" and then added, in a tone he intended
not to be overheard, "Everything depends on Grouchy."
"Well, Haxo," he called out to an officer who galloped up, _chapeau_ in
hand, "what say you? Are they intrenched in that position?"
"No, Sire, the ground is open, and in two hours more will be firm enough
for the guns to manoeuvre."
"Now, then, for breakfast," said Napoleon, as with an easy and tranquil
smile he turned his horse's head and cantered gently up the heights
towards La Belle Alliance. As he approached the lines, the cry of "Vive
l'Empereur!" burst forth. Regiment after regiment took it up; and from the
distant wood of Frischermont to the far left beside Merke-braine, the
shout resounded. So sudden, so simultaneous the outbreak, that he himself,
accustomed as he well was to the enthusiasm of his army, seemed as he
reined in his horse, and looked with proud and elated eye upon the
countless thousands, astounded and amazed. He lifted with slow and graceful
action his unplumed hat above his head, and while he bowed that proud front
before which kings have trembled, the acclamation burst forth anew, and
rent the very air.
At this moment the sun shone brilliantly from out the dark clouds, and
flashed upon the shining blades and glistening bayonets along the line. A
dark and lowering shadow hung gloomily over the British position, while the
French sparkled and glittered in the sunbeams. His quick glance passed with
lightning speed from one to the other; and I thought that, in his look,
upturned to heaven, I could detect the flitting thought which bade him hope
it was an augury. The bands of the Imperial Guard burst forth in joyous and
triumphant strains; and amidst the still repeated cries of "L'Empereur!
l'Empereur!" he rode slowly along towards La Belle Alliance.
Napoleon's first intention was to open the battle by an attack upon the
extreme right; but Ney, who returned from an observation of the ground,
informed him that a rivulet swollen by the late rains had now become a
foaming torrent perfectly impassable to infantry. To avoid this difficulty
he abandoned his favorite manoeuvre of a flank movement, and resolved to
attack the enemy by the centre. Launching his cavalry and artillery by the
road to Brussels, he hoped thus to cut off the communication of the British
with their own left, as well as with the Prussians, for whom he trusted
that Grouchy would be more than a match.
The reserves were in consequence all brought up to the centre. Seven
thousand cavalry and a massive artillery assembled upon the heights of La
Belle Alliance, and waited but the order to march. It was eleven o'clock,
and Napoleon mounted his horse and rode slowly along the line; again the
cry of "Vive l'Empereur!" resounded, and the bands of the various regiments
struck up their spirit-stirring strains as the gorgeous staff moved along.
On the British side all was tranquil; and still the different divisions
appeared to have taken up their ground, and the long ridge from Ter-la-Haye
to Merke-braine bristled with bayonets. Nothing could possibly be more
equal than the circumstances of the field. Each army possessed an eminence
whence their artillery might play. A broad and slightly undulating valley
lay between both. The ground permitted in all places both cavalry and
infantry movements, and except the crumbling walls of the Chateau of
Hougoumont. or the farm-house of La Haye Sainte, both of which were
occupied by the British, no advantage either by Nature or art inclined to
either side. It was a fair stand-up fight. It was the mighty tournament,
not only of the two greatest nations, but the two deadliest rivals and
bitterest enemies, led on by the two greatest military geniuses that the
world has ever seen; it might not be too much to say, or ever will see.
As for me, condemned to be an inactive spectator of the mighty struggle,
doomed to witness all the deep-laid schemes and well-devised plans of
attack which were destined for the overthrow of my country's arms, my state
was one of torture and suspense. I sat upon the little rising ground of
Rossomme; before me in the valley, where yet the tall corn waved in ripe
luxuriance, stood the quiet and peaceful-looking old Chateau of Hougoumont,
and the blossoming branches of the orchard; the birds were gayly singing
their songs; the shrill whistle of the fatal musketry was to be heard; and
through my glass I could detect the uniform of the soldiers who held the
position, and my heart beat anxiously and proudly as I recognized the
Guards. In the orchard and the garden were stationed some riflemen,--at
least their dress and the scattered order they assumed bespoke them such.
While I looked, the tirailleurs of Jerome's Division advanced from the
front of the line, and descending the hill in a sling trot, broke into
scattered parties, keeping up as they went a desultory and irregular fire.
The English skirmishers, less expert in this peculiar service, soon fell
back, and the head of Reille's Brigade began their march towards the
chateau. The English artillery is unmasked and opens its fire. Kellermann
advances at a gallop his twelve pieces of artillery; the chateau is
concealed from view by the dense smoke, and as the attack thickens, fresh
troops pour forward, the artillery thundering on either side; the entire
lines of both armies stand motionless spectators of the terrific combat,
while every eye is turned towards that devoted spot from whose dense mass
of cloud and smoke the bright glare of artillery is flashing, as the
crashing masonry, the burning rafters, and the loud yell of battle add
to the frightful interest of the scene. For above an hour the tremendous
attack continues without cessation; the artillery stationed upon the height
has now found its range, and every ringing shot tells upon the tottering
walls; some wounded soldiers return faint and bleeding from the conflict,
but there are few who escape. A crashing volley of fire-arms is now heard
from the side where the orchard stands; a second, and a third succeed, one
after the other as rapid as lightning itself. A silence follows, when,
after a few moments, a deafening cheer bursts forth, and an aide-de-camp
gallops up to say that the orchard has been carried at the point of the
bayonet, the Nassau sharp-shooters who held it having, after a desperate
resistance, retired before the irresistible onset of the French infantry.
"A moi! maintenant!" said General Foy, as he drew his sabre and rode down
to the head of his splendid division, which, anxious for the word to
advance, was standing in the valley. "En avant! mes braves!" cried he,
while, pointing to the chateau with his sword, he dashed boldly forward.
Scarcely had he advanced a hundred yards, when a cannon-shot, "ricocheting"
as it went, struck his horse in the counter and rolled him dead on the
plain. Disengaging himself from the lifeless animal, at once he sprang to
his feet, and hurried forward. The column was soon hid from my view, and I
was left to mourn over the seemingly inevitable fate that impended over my
In the intense interest which chained me to this part of the field, I had
not noticed till this moment that the Emperor and his staff were standing
scarcely thirty yards from where I was. Napoleon, seated upon a gray,
almost white, Arabian, had suffered the reins to fall loosely on the neck
as he held with both hands his telescope to his eye; his dress, the usual
green coat with white facings, the uniform of the _chasseurs a cheval_,
was distinguished merely by the cross of the legion; his high boots were
splashed and mud-stained from riding through the deep and clayey soil; his
compact and clean-bred charger looked also slightly blown and heated, but
he himself, and I watched his features well, looked calm, composed, and
tranquil. How anxiously did I scrutinize that face; with what a throbbing
heart did I canvass every gesture, hoping to find some passing trait of
doubt, of difficulty, or of hesitation; but none was there. Unlike one who
looked upon the harrowing spectacle of the battle-field, whose all was
depending on the game before him; gambling with one throw his last his only
stake, and that the empire of the world. Yet, could I picture to myself one
who felt at peace within himself,--naught of reproach, naught of regret to
move or stir his spirit, whose tranquil barque had glided over the calm sea
of life, unruffled by the breath of passion,--I should have fancied such
Beside him sat one whose flashing eye and changing features looked in every
way his opposite; watching with intense anxiety the scene of the deadly
struggle round the chateau, every look, every gesture told the changing
fortune of the moment; his broad and brawny chest glittered with orders and
decorations, but his heavy brow and lowering look, flushed almost black
with excitement, could not easily be forgotten. It was Soult, who, in his
quality of major-general, accompanied the Emperor throughout the day.
"They have lost it again, Sire," said the marshal, passionately; "and see,
they are forming beneath the cross-fire of the artillery; the head of the
column keeps not its formation two minutes together; why does he not move
"Domont, you know the British; what troops are those in the orchard? They
use the bayonet well."
The officer addressed pointed his glass for a moment to the spot. Then,
turning to the Emperor, replied, as he touched his hat, "They are the
During this time Napoleon spoke not a word; his eye ever bent upon the
battle, he seemed to pay little if any attention to the conversation about
him. As he looked, an aide-de-camp, breathless and heated, galloped up.
"The columns of attack are formed, Sire; everything is ready, and the
marshal only waits the order."
Napoleon turned upon his saddle, and directing his glass towards Ney's
Division, looked fixedly for some moments at them. His eye moved from front
to rear slowly, and at last, carrying his telescope along the line, he
fixed it steadily upon the far left. Here, towards St. Lambert, a slight
cloud seemed to rest on the horizon, as the Emperor continued to gaze
steadfastly at it. Every glass of the staff was speedily turned in that
"It is nothing but a cloud; some exhalation from the low grounds in that
quarter," whispered one.
"To me," said another, "they look like trees, part of the Bois de Wavre."
"They are men," said the Emperor, speaking for the first time. "Est-ce
Grouchy? Est-ce Blucher?"
Soult inclines to believe it to be the former, and proceeds to give his
reasons; but the Emperor, without listening, turns towards Domont, and
orders him, with his division of light cavalry and Subervic's Brigade, to
proceed thither at once. If it be Grouchy, to establish a junction with
him; to resist, should it prove to be the advanced guard of Marshal
Blucher. Scarcely is the order given when a column of cavalry, wheeling
"fours about," unravels itself from the immense mass, and seems to
serpentine like an enormous snake between the squares of the mighty army.
The pace increases at every moment, and at length we see them emerge from
the extreme right and draw up, as if on parade, above half a mile from the
wood. This movement, by its precision and beauty, attracted our entire
attention, not only from the attack upon Hougoumont, but also from an
incident which had taken place close beside us. This was the appearance
of a Prussian hussar who had been taken prisoner between Wavre and
Planchenoit; he was the bearer of a letter from Bulow to Wellington,
announcing his arrival at St. Lambert, and asking for orders.
This at once explains the appearance on the right; but the prisoner also
adds, that the three Prussian corps were at Wavre, having pushed their
patrols two leagues from that town without ever encountering any portion of
the force under the command of Grouchy. For a moment not a word is spoken.
A silence like a panic pervades the staff; the Emperor himself is the first
to break it.
"This morning," said he, turning towards Soult, "the chances were ninety to
one in our favor; Bulow's arrival has already lost us thirty of the number;
but the odds are still sufficient, if Grouchy but repair the _horrible
fault_ he has committed."
He paused for a moment, and as he lifted up his own hand, and turned a look
of indignant passion towards the staff, added, in a voice the sarcasm of
whose tone there is no forgetting:--
"Il s'amuse a Gembloux! Still," said he, speaking rapidly and with more
energy than I had hitherto noticed, "Bulow may be entirely cut off. Let
an officer approach. Take this letter, sir," giving as he spoke, Bulow's
letter to Lord Wellington,--"give this letter to Marshal Grouchy; tell him
that at this moment he should be before Wavre; tell him that already, had
he obeyed his orders--but no, tell him to march at once, to press forward
his cavalry, to come up in two hours, in three at farthest. You have but
five leagues to ride; see, sir, that you reach him within an hour."
As the officer hurries away at the top of his speed, an aide-de-camp from
General Domont confirms the news; they are the Prussians whom he has before
him. As yet, however, they are debouching from the wood, and have attempted
no forward movement.
"What's Bulow's force, Marshal?"
"Thirty thousand, Sire."
"Let Lobau take ten thousand, with the Cuirassiers of the Young Guard, and
hold the Prussians in check."
"Maintenant, pour les autres," this he said with a smile, as he turned his
eyes once more towards the field of battle. The aide-de-camp of Marshal
Ney, who, bare-headed and expectant, sat waiting for orders, presented
himself to view. The Emperor turned towards him as he said, with a clear
and firm voice:--
"Tell the marshal to open the fire of his batteries; to carry La Haye
Sainte with the bayonet, and leaving an infantry division for its
protection, to march against La Papelotte and La Haye. They must be carried
by the bayonet."
The aide-de-camp was gone; Napoleon's eye followed him as he crossed the
open plain and was lost in the dense ranks of the dark columns. Scarcely
five minutes elapsed when eighty guns thundered out together, and as the
earth shook and trembled beneath, the mighty movement of the day began its
execution. From Hougoumont, where the slaughter and the carnage continued
unslackened and unstayed, every eye was now turned towards the right. I
knew not what troops occupied La Haye Sainte, or whether they were British
who crowned the heights above it; but in my heart how fervently did I pray
that they might be so. Oh, in that moment of suspense and agonizing doubt,
what would I not have given to know that Picton himself and the fighting
Fifth were there; that behind that ridge the Greys, the Royals, and the
Enniskilleners sat motionless, but burning to advance; and the breath
of battle waved among the tartans of the Highlanders, and blew upon the
flashing features of my own island countrymen. Had I known this, I could
have marked the onset with a less failing spirit.
"There goes Marcognet's Division," said my companion, springing to his
legs; "they're moving to the right of the road. I should like to see the
troops that will stand before them."
So saying, he mounted his horse, and desiring me to accompany him, rode to
the height beside La Belle Alliance. The battle was now raging from the
Chateau de Hougoumont to St. Lambert, where the Prussian tirailleurs, as
they issued from the wood, were skirmishing with the advanced posts of
Lobau's Brigade. The attack upon the centre, however, engrossed all my
attention, and I watched the dark columns as they descended into the plain,
while the incessant roll of the artillery played about them. To the right
of Ney's attack, D'Erlon advanced with three divisions, and the artillery
of the Guard. Towards this part of the field my companion moved. General le
Vasseur desired to know if the division on the Brussels road were English
or Hanoverian troops, and I was sent for to answer the question. We passed
from square to square until at length we found ourselves upon the flank of
D'Erlon's Division. Le Vasseur, who at the head of his cuirassiers waited
but the order to charge, waved impatiently with his sword for us to
approach. We were now to the right of the high road, and about four hundred
yards from the crest of the hill where, protected by a slight hedge,
Picton, with Kempt's Brigade, waited the attack of the enemy.
Just at this moment an incident took place which, while in itself one of
the most brilliant achievements of the day, changed in a signal manner my
own fortunes. The head of D'Erlon's column pressed with fixed bayonets up
the gentle slope. Already the Belgian infantry give way before them. The
brave Brunswickers, overwhelmed by the heavy cavalry of France, at first
begin to waver, then are broken; and at last retreat in disorder up the
road, a whirlwind of pursuing squadrons thundering behind them. "En avant!
en avant! la victoire est enous," is shouted madly through the impatient
ranks; and the artillery is called up to play upon the British squares;
upon which, fixed and immovable, the cuirassiers have charged without
success. Like a thunderbolt, the flying artillery dashes to the front;
but scarcely has it reached the bottom of the ascent, when, from the deep
ground, the guns become embedded in the soil, the wheels refuse to move. In
vain the artillery drivers whip and spur their laboring cattle. Impatiently
the leading files of the column prick with their bayonets the struggling
horses. The hesitation is fatal; for Wellington, who, with eager glance,
watches from an eminence beside the high road the advancing column, sees
the accident. An order is given; and with one fell swoop, the heavy cavalry
brigade pour down. Picton's Division deploys into line; the bayonets glance
above the ridge; and with a shout that tells above the battle, on they
come, the fighting Fifth. One volley is exchanged; but the bayonet is now
brought to the charge, and the French division retreat in close column,
pursued by their gallant enemy. Scarcely have the leading divisions fallen
back, and the rear pressed down upon, or thrown into disorder, when the
cavalry trumpets sound a charge; the bright helmets of the Enniskilleners
come flashing in the sunbeams, and the Scotch Greys, like a white-crested
wave, are rolling upon the foe. Marcognet's Division is surrounded; the
dragoons ride them down on every side; the guns are captured; the drivers
cut down; and two thousand prisoners are carried off. A sudden panic seems
to seize upon the French, as cavalry, infantry, and artillery are hurried
back on each other. Vainly the French attempt to rally; the untiring enemy
press madly on; the household brigade, led on by Lord Uxbridge, came
thundering down the road, riding down with their gigantic force the mailed
cuirassiers of France. Borne along with the retreating torrents, I was
carried on amidst the densely commingled mass. The British cavalry, which,
like the lightnings that sever the thunder-cloud, pierces through in every
direction, plunged madly upon us. The roar of battle grew louder, as hand
to hand they fought. Milhaud's Heavy Dragoons, with the 4th Lancers, came
up at a gallop. Picton presses forward, waving his plumed hat above his
head; his proud eye flashes with the fire of victory. That moment is his
last. Struck in the forehead by a musket-ball, he falls dead from the
saddle; and the wild yell of the Irish regiments, as they ring his
death-cry, are the last sounds which he hears. Meanwhile the Life Guards
are among us; prisoners of rank are captured on every side; and I, seizing
the moment, throw myself among the ranks of my countrymen, and am borne to
the rear with the retiring squadrons.
As we reached the crest of the hill above the road, a loud cheer in the
valley beneath us burst forth, and from the midst of the dense smoke a
bright and pointed flame shot up towards the sky. It was the farm-house La
Haye Sainte, which the French had succeeded in setting fire to with hot
shot. For some time past the ammunition of the corps that held it had
failed, and a dropping irregular musketry was the only reply to the
incessant rattle of the enemy. As the smoke cleared away we discovered that
the French had carried the position; and as no quarter was given in that
deadly hand-to-hand conflict, not one returned to our ranks to toll the
tale of their defeat.
"This is the officer that I spoke of," said an aide-decamp, as he rode up
to where I was standing bare-headed and without a sword. "He has just made
his escape from the French lines, and will be able to give your lordship
The handsome features and gorgeous costume of Lord Uxbridge were known
to me; but I was not aware, till afterward, that a soldier-like,
resolute-looking officer beside him was General Graham. It was the latter
who first addressed me.
"Are you aware, sir," said he, "if Grouchy's force have arrived?"
"They have not; on the contrary, shortly before I escaped, an aide-de-camp
was despatched to Gembloux, to hasten his coming. And the troops, for they
must be troops, were debouching from the wood yonder. They seem to form a
junction with the corps to the right; they are the Prussians. They arrived
there before noon from St. Lambert, and are part of Bulow's Corps. Count
Lobau and his division of ten thousand men were despatched, about an hour
since, to hold them in check."
"This is great news," said Lord Uxbridge. "Fitzroy must know it at once."
So saying, he dashed spurs into his horse, and soon disappeared amidst the
crowd on the hill-top.
"You had better see the duke, sir," said Graham. "Your information is too
important to be delayed. Captain Calvert, let this officer have a horse;
his own is too tired to go much farther."
"And a cap, I beg of you," added I in an undertone, "for I have already
found a sabre."
By a slightly circuitous route we reached the road, upon which a mass
of dismounted artillery-carts, baggage-wagons, and tumbrils were heaped
together as a barricade against the attack of the French dragoons, who more
than once had penetrated to the very crest of our position. Close to this
and on a little rising ground, from which a view of the entire field
extended, from Hougoumont to the far left, the Duke of Wellington stood
surrounded by his staff. His eye was bent upon the valley before him, where
the advancing columns of Ney's attack still pressed onward; while the fire
of sixty great guns poured death and carnage into his lines. The Second
Belgian Division, routed and broken, had fallen back upon the 27th
Regiment, who had merely time to throw themselves into square, when
Milhaud's cuirassiers, armed with their terrible long, straight swords,
came sweeping down upon them. A line of impassable bayonets, a living
_chevaux-de-frise_ of the best blood of Britain, stood firm and motionless
before the shock. The French _mitraille_ played mercilessly on the ranks;
but the chasms were filled up like magic, and in vain the bold horsemen of
Gaul galloped round the bristling files. At length the word, "Fire!" was
heard within the square, and as the bullets at pistol-range rattled upon
them, the cuirass afforded them no defence against the deadly volley. Men
and horses rolled indiscriminately upon the earth. Then would come a charge
of our clashing squadrons, who, riding recklessly upon the foe, were in
their turn to be repulsed by numbers, and fresh attacks poured down upon
our unshaken infantry.
"That column yonder is wavering. Why does he not bring up his supporting
squadrons?" inquired the duke, pointing to a Belgian regiment of light
dragoons, who were formed in the same brigade with the 7th Hussars.
"He refuses to oppose his light cavalry to cuirassiers, my lord," said an
aide-de-camp, who had just returned from the division in question.
"Tell him to march his men off the ground," said the duke in a quiet and
In less than ten minutes the "Belgian regiment" was seen to defile from the
mass and take the road to Brussels, to increase the panic of that city by
circulating and strengthening the report that the English were beaten, and
Napoleon in full march upon the capital.
"What's Ney's force; can you guess, sir?" said the Duke of Wellington,
turning to me.
"About twelve thousand men, my lord."
"Are the Guard among them?"
"No, sir; the Guard are in reserve above La Belle Alliance."
"In what part of the field is Bonaparte?"
"Nearly opposite to where we stand."
"I told you, gentlemen, Hougoumont never was the great attack. The battle
must be decided here," pointing as he spoke to the plain beneath us, where
Ney still poured on his devoted columns, where yet the French cavalry rode
down upon our firm squares.
As he spoke, an aide-de-camp rode up from the valley.
"The Ninety-second requires support, my lord. They cannot maintain their
position half an hour longer with out it."
"Have they given way, sir?"
"Well, then, they must stand where they are. I hear cannon towards the
left; yonder, near Frischermont."
At this moment the light cavalry swept past the base of the hill on which
we stood, hotly followed by the French heavy cuirassier brigade. Three
of our guns were taken; and the cheering of the French infantry, as they
advanced to the charge, presaged their hope of victory.
"Do it, then," said the duke, in reply to some whispered question of Lord
Uxbridge; and shortly after the heavy trot of advancing squadrons was heard
They were the Life Guards and the Blues, who, with the 1st Dragoon Guards
and the Enniskilleners, were formed into close column.
"I know the ground, my lord," said I to Lord Uxbridge.
"Come along, sir, come along," said he, as he threw his hussar jacket
loosely behind him to give freedom to his sword arm. "Forward, my men,
forward; but steady, hold your horses in hand, threes about, and together,
"Charge!" he shouted; while as the word flew from squadron to squadron,
each horseman bent upon his saddle, and that mighty mass, as though
instinct with but one spirit, dashed like a thunderbolt upon the column
beneath them. The French, blown and exhausted, inferior besides in weight,
both of man and horse, offered but a short resistance. As the tall corn
bends beneath the sweeping hurricane, wave succeeding wave, so did the
steel-clad squadrons of France fall before the nervous arm of Britain's
cavalry. Onward they went, carrying death and ruin before them, and never
stayed their course until the guns were recaptured, and the cuirassiers,
repulsed, disordered, and broken, had retired beneath the protection of
There was, as a brilliant and eloquent writer on the subject mentions, a
terrible sameness in the whole of this battle. Incessant charges of cavalry
upon the squares of our infantry, whose sole manoeuvre consisted in either
deploying into line to resist the attack of the infantry, or falling back
into square when the cavalry advanced; performing those two evolutions
under the devastating fire of artillery, before the unflinching heroism of
that veteran infantry whose glories have been reaped upon the blood-stained
fields of Austerlitz, Marengo, and Wagram, or opposing an unbroken front
to the whirlwind swoop of infuriated cavalry. Such were the enduring and
devoted services demanded from the English troops; and such they failed not
to render. Once or twice had temper nearly failed them, and the cry ran
through the ranks, "Are we never to move forward? Only let us at them!" But
the word was not yet spoken which was to undam the pent-up torrent, and
bear down with unrelenting vengeance upon the now exulting columns of the
It was six o'clock; the battle had continued with unchanged fortune for
three hours. The French, masters of La Haye Sainte, could never advance
farther into our position. They had gained the orchard of Hougoumont; but
the chateau was still held by the British Guards, although its blazing
roof and crumbling walls made its occupation rather the desperate stand of
unflinching valor than the maintenance of an important position. The smoke
which hung upon the field rolled in slow and heavy masses back upon the
French lines, and gradually discovered to our view the entire of the army.
We quickly perceived that a change was taking place in their position. The
troops, which on their left stretched far beyond Hougoumont, were now moved
nearer to the centre. The attack upon the chateau seemed less vigorously
supported, while the oblique direction of their right wing, which, pivoting
upon Planchenoit, opposed a face to the Prussians, all denoted a change in
their order of battle. It was now the hour when Napoleon, at last convinced
that nothing but the carnage he could no longer support could destroy the,
unyielding ranks of British infantry; that although Hougoumont had been
partially, La Haye Sainte completely won; that upon the right of the road
the farm-houses Papolotte and La Haye were nearly surrounded by his troops,
which with any other army must prove the forerunner of defeat,--yet still
the victory was beyond his grasp. The bold stratagems, whose success the
experience of a life had proved, were here to be found powerless. The
decisive manoeuvre of carrying one important point of the enemy's lines, of
turning him upon the flank, or piercing him through the centre, were here
found impracticable. He might launch his avalanche of grape-shot, he might
pour down his crashing columns of cavalry, he might send forth the iron
storm of his brave infantry; but though death in every shape heralded their
approach, still were others found to fill the fallen ranks, and feed with
their hearts' blood the unslaked thirst for slaughter. Well might the
gallant leader of this gallant host, as he watched the reckless onslaught
of the untiring enemy, and looked upon the unflinching few who, bearing the
proud badge of Britain, alone sustained the fight, well might he exclaim,
"Night or Blucher!"
It was now seven o'clock, when a dark mass was seen to form upon the
heights above the French centre, and divide into three gigantic columns,
of which the right occupied the Brussels road. These were the reserves,
consisting of the Old and Young Guards, and amounting to twelve
thousand,--the _elite_ of the French army,--reserved by the Emperor for
a great _coup-de-main_. These veterans of a hundred battles had been
stationed from the beginning of the day, inactive spectators of the fight;
their hour was now come, and with a shout of "Vive l'Empereur!" which rose
triumphantly over the din and crash of battle, they began their march.
Meanwhile aides-de-camp galloped along the lines announcing the arrival of
Grouchy, to reanimate the drooping spirits of the men; for at last a doubt
of victory was breaking upon the minds of those who never before, in the
most adverse hour of fortune, deemed _his_ star could be set that led them
on to glory.
"They are coming; the attack will be made on the centre, my lord," said
Lord Fitzroy Somerset, as he directed his glass upon the column. Scarcely
had he spoken when the telescope fell from his hand, as his arm, shattered
by a French bullet, fell motionless to his side.
"I see it," was the cool reply of the duke, as he ordered the Guards to
deploy into line and lie down behind the ridge, which now the French
artillery had found the range of, and were laboring at their guns. In front
of them the Fifty-second, Seventy-first, and Ninety-fifth were formed; the
artillery stationed above and partly upon the road, loaded with grape, and
waited but the word to open.
It was an awful, a dreadful moment. The Prussian cannon thundered on our
left; but so desperate was the French resistance, they made but little
progress. The dark columns of the Guard had now commenced the ascent, and
the artillery ceased their fire as the bayonets of the grenadiers showed
themselves upon the slope. Then began that tremendous cheer from right
to left of our line, which those who heard never can forget. It was the
impatient, long-restrained burst of unslaked vengeance. With the instinct
which valor teaches, they knew the hour of trial was come; and that wild
cry flew from rank to rank, echoing from the, blood-stained walls of
Hougoumont to the far-off valley of La Papelotte. "They come! they come!"
was the cry; and the shout of "Vive l'Empereur!" mingled with the out-burst
of the British line.
Under an overwhelming shower of grape, to which succeeded a charge of
cavalry of the Imperial Guard, the head of Ney's column fired its volley
and advanced with the bayonet. The British artillery now opened at half
range, and although the plunging fire scathed and devasted the dark ranks
of the Guard, on they came, Ney himself on foot at their head. Twice the
leading division of that gallant column turned completely round, as the
withering fire wasted and consumed them; but they were resolved to win.
Already they gained the crest of the hill, and the first line of the
British were falling back before them. The artillery closes up; the
flanking fire from the guns upon the road opens upon them; the head of
their column breaks like a shell; the duke seizes the moment, and advances
on foot towards the ridge.
"Up, Guards, and at them!" he cried.
The hour of triumph and vengeance had arrived. In a moment the Guards were
on their feet; one volley was poured in; the bayonets were brought to
the charge; they closed upon the enemy; then was seen the most dreadful
struggle that the history of all war can present. Furious with
long-restrained passion, the Guards rushed upon the leading divisions; the
Seventy-first and Ninety-fifth and Twenty-sixth overlapped them on the
flanks. Their generals fell thickly on every side; Michel, Jamier, and
Mallet are killed; Friant lies wounded upon the ground; Ney, his dress
pierced and ragged with balls, shouts still to advance; but the leading
files waver; they fall back; the supporting divisions thicken; confusion,
panic succeeds. The British press down; the cavalry come galloping up to
their assistance; and at last, pell-mell, overwhelmed and beaten, the
French fell back upon the Old Guard. This was the decisive moment of the
day; the duke closed his glass, as he said,--
"The field is won. Order the whole line to advance."
On they came, four deep, and poured like a torrent from the height.
"Let the Life Guards charge them," said the duke; but every aide-de-camp on
his staff was wounded, and I myself brought the order to Lord Uxbridge.
Lord Uxbridge had already anticipated his orders, and bore down with four
regiments of heavy cavalry upon the French centre. The Prussian artillery
thundered upon their flank and at their rear. The British bayonet was in
their front; while a panic fear spread through their ranks, and the cry of
"Sauve qui peut!" resounded on all sides. In vain Ney, the bravest of the
brave, in vain Soult, Bertrand, Gourgaud, and Labedoyere, burst from the
broken, disorganized mass, and called on them to stand fast. A battalion
of the Old Guard, with Cambronne at their head, alone obeyed the summons;
forming into square, they stood between the pursuers and their prey,
offering themselves a sacrifice to the tarnished honor of their arms. To
the order to surrender they answered with a cry of defiance; and as our
cavalry, flushed and elated with victory, rode round their bristling
ranks, no quailing look, no craven spirit was there. The Emperor himself
endeavored to repair the disaster; he rode with lightning speed hither and
thither, commanding, ordering, nay, imploring, too; but already the night
was falling, the confusion became each moment more inextricable, and the
effort was a fruitless one. A regiment of the Guards, and two batteries
were in reserve behind Planchenoit. He threw them rapidly into position;
but the overwhelming impulse of flight drove the mass upon them, and they
were carried away upon the torrent of the beaten army. No sooner did the
Emperor see this his last hope desert him, than he dismounted from his
horse, and drawing his sword, threw himself into a square, which the first
regiment of Chasseurs of the Old Guard had formed with a remnant of the
battalion. Jerome followed him, as he called out,--
"You are right, brother; here should perish all who bear the name of
The same moment the Prussian light artillery rend the ranks asunder, and
the cavalry charge down upon the scattered fragments. A few of his staff,
who never left him, place the Emperor upon a horse and fly through the
death-dealing artillery and musketry. A squadron of the Life Guards, to
which I had attached myself, came up at the moment, and as Blucher's
hussars rode madly here and there, where so lately the crowd of staff
officers had denoted the presence of Napoleon, expressed their rage and
disappointment in curses and cries of vengeance.
Cambronne's battalion stood yet unbroken, and seemed to defy every attack
that was brought against them. To the second summons to surrender they
replied as indignantly as at first; and Vivian's Brigade was ordered to
charge them. A cloud of British horse bore down on every face of the
devoted square; but firm as in their hour of victory, the heroes of Marengo
never quailed; and twice the bravest blood of Britian recoiled, baffled and
dismayed. There was a pause for some minutes, and even then, as we surveyed
our broken and blood-stained squadrons, a cry of admiration burst from our
ranks at the gallant bearing of that glorious infantry. Suddenly the tramp
of approaching cavalry was heard; I turned my head and saw two squadrons of
the Second Life Guards. The officer who led them on was bare-headed; his
long dark hair streaming wildly behind him, and upon his pale features,
to which not even the headlong enthusiasm of battle had lent one touch of
color. He rode straight to where I was standing, his dark eyes fixed upon
me with a look so fierce, so penetrating, that I could not look away.
The features, save in this respect, had almost a look of idiocy. It was
"Ha!" he cried at last, "I have sought you out the entire day, but in vain.
It is not yet too late. Give me your hand, boy. You once called on me to
follow _you_, and I did not refuse; I trust you'll do the like by _me_. Is
it not so?"
[Illustration: DEATH OF HAMMERSLEY.]
A terrible perception of his meaning shot through my mind as I clasped his
clay-cold hand in mine, and for a moment I did not speak.
"I hoped for better than this," said he, bitterly, and as a glance of
withering scorn flashed from his eye. "I did trust that he who was
preferred before me was at least not a coward."
As the word fell from his lips I nearly leaped from my saddle, and
mechanically raised my sabre to cleave him on the spot.
"Then follow me!" shouted he, pointing with his sword to the glistening
ranks before us.
"Come on!" said I, with a voice hoarse with passion, while burying my spurs
in my horse's flanks, I sprang on a full length before him, and bore down
upon the enemy. A loud shout, a deafening volley, the agonizing cry of the
wounded and the dying, were all I heard, as my horse, rearing madly upward,
plunged twice into the air, and then fell dead upon the earth, crushing me
beneath his cumbrous weight, lifeless and insensible.
The day was breaking; the cold, gray light of morning was struggling
through the misty darkness, when I once more recovered my consciousness.
There are moments in life when memory can so suddenly conjure up the whole
past before us, that there is scarcely time for a doubt ere the disputed
reality is palpable to our senses. Such was this to me. One hurried glance
upon the wide, bleak plain before me, and every circumstance of the
battle-field was present to my recollection. The dismounted guns, the
broken wagons, the heaps of dead or dying, the straggling parties who on
foot or horseback traversed the field, and the dark litters which carried
the wounded, all betokened the sad evidences of the preceding day's battle.
Close around me where I lay the ground was marked with the bodies of our
cavalry, intermixed with the soldiers of the Old Guard. The broad brow and
stalwart chest of the Saxon lay bleaching beside the bronzed and bearded
warrior of Gaul, while the torn-up ground attested the desperation of that
struggle which closed the day.
As my eye ranged over this harrowing spectacle, a dreadful anxiety shot
through me as I asked myself whose had been the victory. A certain confused
impression of flight and of pursuit remained in my mind; but at the moment,
the circumstances of my own position in the early part of the day increased
the difficulty of reflection, and left me in a state of intense and
agonizing uncertainty. Although not wounded, I had been so crushed by my
fall that it was not without pain I got upon my legs. I soon perceived
that the spot around me had not yet been visited by those vultures of the
battle-field who strip alike the dead and dying. The distance of the place
from where the great conflict of the battle had occurred was probably the
reason; and now, as the straggling sunbeams fell upon the earth, I could
trace the helmet of the Enniskilleners, or the tall bearskin of the Scotch
Greys, lying in thick confusion where the steel cuirass and long sword of
the French dragoons showed the fight had been hottest. As I turned my eyes
hither and thither I could see no living thing near me. In every attitude
of struggling agony they lay around; some buried beneath their horses, some
bathed in blood, some, with clinched hands and darting eyeballs, seemed
struggling even in death; but all was still,--not a word, not a sigh, not a
groan was there. I was turning to leave the spot, and uncertain which way
to direct my steps, looked once more around, when my glance rested upon
the pale and marble features of one who, even in that moment of doubt and
difficulty, there was no mistaking. His coat, torn widely open, was grasped
in either hand, while his breast was shattered with balls and bathed in
gore. Gashed and mutilated as he lay, still the features wore no trace of
suffering; cold, pale, motionless, but with the tranquil look of sleep, his
eyelids were closed, and his half-parted lips seemed still to quiver in
life. I knelt down beside him; I took his hand in mine; I bent over and
whispered his name; I placed my hand upon his heart, where even still the
life blood was warm,--but he was dead. Poor Hammersley! His was a gallant
soul; and as I looked upon his blood-stained corpse, my tears fell fast and
hot upon his brow to think how far I had myself been the cause of a life
blighted in its hope, and a death like his.
Once more I would entreat my reader's indulgence for the prolixity of
a narrative which has grown beneath my hands to a length I had never
intended. This shall, however, be the last time for either the offence or
the apology. My story is now soon concluded.
After wandering about for some time, uncertain which way to take, I at
length reached the Charleroi road, now blocked by carriages and wagons
conveying the wounded towards Brussels. Here I learned, for the first time,
that we had gained the battle, and heard of the total annihilation of the
French army, and the downfall of the Emperor. On arriving at the farm-house
of Mont St. Jean, I found a number of officers, whose wounds prevented
their accompanying the army in its forward movement. One of them, with whom
I was slightly acquainted, informed me that General Dashwood had spent
the greater part of the night upon the field in search of me and that my
servant Mike was in a state of distraction at my absence that bordered on
insanity. While he was speaking, a burst of laughter and the tones of a
well-remembered voice behind attracted my attention.
"Made a very good thing of it, upon my life. A dressing-case,--not gold,
you know, but silver-gilt,--a dozen knives with blood-stone handles, and a
little coffee-pot, with the imperial arms,--not to speak of three hundred
Naps in a green silk purse--Lord! it reminds me of the Peninsula. Do you
know those Prussians are mere barbarians, haven't a notion of civilized
war. Bless your heart, my fellows in the Legion would have ransacked the
whole coach, from the boot to the sword-case, in half the time they took to
cut down the coachman."
"The major, as I live!" said I. "How goes it, Major?"
"Eh, Charley! when did you turn up? Delighted see you. They told me you
were badly wounded or killed or something of that kind. But I should have
paid the little debt to your executors all the same."
"All the same, no doubt, Major; but where, in Heaven's name, did you fall
upon that mine of pillage you have just been talking of?"
"In the Emperor's carriage, to be sure, boy. While the duke was watching
all day the advance of Ney's column and keeping an anxious look-out for the
Prussians, I sat in a window in this old farm-house, and never took my eye
off the garden at Planchenoit. I saw the imperial carriage there in the
morning; it was there also at noon; and they never put the horses to it
till past seven in the evening. The roads were very heavy, and the crowd
was great. I judged the pace couldn't be a fast one; and with four of the
Enniskilleners I charged it like a man. The Prussians, however, had the
start of us; and if they hadn't thought, from my seat on horseback and
my general appearance, that I was Lord Uxbridge, I should have got but a
younger son's portion. However, I got in first, filled my pockets with a
few little _souvenirs_ of the Emperor, and then laying my hands upon what
was readiest, got out in time to escape being shot; for two of Blucher's
hussars, thinking I must be the Emperor, fired at me through the window."
"What an escape you had!"
"Hadn't I though? Fortunate, too, my Enniskilleners saw the whole thing;
for I intend to make the circumstance the ground of an application for a
pension. Hark ye, Charley, don't say anything about the coffee-pot and
the knives. The duke, you know, has strange notions of his own on these
matters. But isn't that your fellow fighting his way yonder?"
"Tear and ages! don't howld me--that's himself,--devil a one else!"
This exclamation came from Mickey Free, who, with his dress torn and
dishevelled, his eyes bloodshot and strained, was upsetting and elbowing
all before him, as he made his way towards me through the crowd.
"Take that fellow to the guard-house! Lay hold of him, Sergeant! Knock him
down! Who is the scoundrel?"
Such were the greetings he met with on every side. Regardless of everything
and everybody, he burst his way through the dense mass.
"Oh, murther! oh, Mary! oh, Moses! Is he safe here after all?"
The poor fellow could say no more, but burst into a torrent of tears.
A roar of laughter around him soon, however, turned the current of his
emotions; when, dashing the scalding drops from his eyelids, he glared
fiercely like a tiger on every side.
"Ye're laughing at me, are ye," cried he, "bekase I love the hand that fed
me, and the master that stood to me? But let us see now which of us two has
the stoutest heart,--you with your grin on you, or myself with the salt
tears on my face."
As he spoke, he sprang upon them like a madman, striking right and left at
everything before him. Down they went beneath his blows, levelled with the
united strength of energy and passion, till at length, rushing upon him
in numbers, he was overpowered and thrown to the ground. It was with some
difficulty I accomplished his rescue; for his enemies felt by no means
assured how far his amicable propensities for the future could be relied
upon; and, indeed, Mike himself had a most constitutional antipathy to
binding himself by any pledge. With some persuasion, however, I reconciled
all parties; and having, by the kindness of a brother officer, provided
myself with a couple of troop horses, I mounted, and set out for Brussels,
followed by Mickey, who had effectually cured his auditory of any tendency
to laughter at his cost.
As I rode up to the Belle Vue, I saw Sir George Dashwood in the window. He
was speaking to the ambassador, Lord Clancarty, but the moment he caught my
eye, he hurried down to meet me.
"Charley, safe,--safe, my boy! Now am I really happy. The glorious day had
been one of sorrow to me for the rest of my life had anything happened to
you. Come up with me at once; I have more than one friend here who longs to
So saying, he hurried me along; and before I could well remember where I
was, introduced me to a number of persons in the saloon.
"Ah, very happy to know you, sir," said Lord Clancarty. "Perhaps we had
better walk this way. My friend Dashwood has explained to me the very
pressing reasons there are for this step; and I, for my part, see no
"What, in Heaven's name, can he mean?" thought I, as he stopped short,
expecting me to say something, while, in utter confusion, I smiled,
simpered, and muttered some common-places.
"Love and war, sir," resumed the ambassador, "very admirable associates,
and you certainly have contrived to couple them most closely together. A
long attachment, I believe?"
"Yes, sir, a very long attachment," stammered I, not knowing which of us
was about to become insane.
"A very charming person, indeed; I have seen the lady," replied his
lordship, as he opened the door of a small room, and beckoned me to follow.
The table was covered with paper and materials for writing; but before
I had time to ask for any explanation of this unaccountable mystery, he
added, "Oh, I was forgetting; this must be witnessed. Wait one moment."
With these words he left the room, while I, amazed and thunderstruck,
vacillating between fear and hope, trembling lest the delusive glimmering
of happiness should give way at every moment, and yet totally unable to
explain by any possible supposition how fortune could so far have favored
While yet I stood hesitating and uncertain, the door opened, and the
senhora entered. She looked a little pale though not less beautiful than
ever; and her features wore a slight trace of seriousness, which rather
heightened than took from the character of her loveliness.
"I heard you had come, Chevalier," said she, "and so I ran down to shake
hands with you. We may not meet again for some time."
"How so, Senhora? You are not going to leave us, I trust?"
"Then you have not seen Fred. Oh, I forgot; you know nothing of our plans."
"Here we are at last," said the ambassador, as he came in followed by Sir
George, Power, and two other officers. "Ah, _ma belle_, how fortunate to
find you here! I assure you, it is a matter of no small difficulty to get
people together at such a time as this."
"Charley, my dear friend," cried Power, "I scarcely hoped to have had a
shake hands with you ere I left."
"Do, Fred, tell me what all this means? I am in a perfect maze of doubt and
difficulty, and cannot comprehend a word I hear about me."
"Faith, my boy, I have little time for explanation. The man who was at
Waterloo yesterday, is to be married to-morrow, and to sail for India in a
week, has quite enough upon his hands."
"Colonel Power, you will please to put your signature here," said Lord
Clancarty, addressing himself to me.
"If you will allow me," said Fred, "I had rather represent myself."
"Is not this the colonel, then? Why, confound it, I have been wishing him
joy the last quarter of an hour!"
A burst of laughter from the whole party, in which it was pretty evident I
took no part, followed this announcement.
"And so you are not Colonel Power? Nor going to be married, either?"
I stammered out something, while, overwhelmed with confusion, I stooped
down to sign the paper. Scarcely had I done so, when a renewed burst of
laughter broke from the party.
"Nothing but blunders, upon my soul," said the ambassador, as he handed the
paper from one to another.
What was my confusion to discover that instead of Charles O'Malley, I had
written the name of Lucy Dashwood. I could bear no more. The laughing and
raillery of my friends came upon my wounded and irritated feelings like the
most poignant sarcasm. I seized my cap and rushed from the room. Desirous
of escaping from all that knew me, anxious to bury my agitated and
distracted thoughts in solitude and quiet, I opened the first door before
me, and seeing it an empty and unoccupied room, throw myself upon a sofa,
and buried my head within my hands. Oh, how often had the phantom of
happiness passed within my reach, but still glided from my grasp! How often
had I beheld the goal I aimed at, as it were before me, and the next moment
all the bleak reality of my evil fortune was lowering around me!
"Oh, Lucy, Lucy!" I exclaimed aloud, "but for you and a few words
carelessly spoken, I had never trod that path of ambition whose end has
been the wreck of all my happiness. But for you, I had never loved so
fondly; I had never filled my mind with one image which, excluding every
other thought, leaves no pleasure but in it alone. Yes, Lucy, but for you I
should have gone tranquilly down the stream of life with naught of grief or
care, save such as are inseparable from the passing chances of mortality;
loved, perhaps, and cared for by some one who would have deemed it no
disgrace to have linked her fortune to my own. But for you, and I had never
"A soldier, you would say," whispered a soft voice, as a light hand gently
touched my shoulder. "I had come," continued she, "to thank you for a gift
no gratitude can repay,--my father's life; but truly, I did not think to
hear the words you have spoken; nor having heard them, can I feel their
justice. No, Mr. O'Malley, deeply grateful as I am to you for the service
you once rendered myself, bound as I am by every tie of thankfulness, by
the greater one to my father, yet do I feel that in the impulse I had given
to your life, if so be that to me you owe it, I have done more to repay
my debt to you, than by all the friendship, all the esteem I owe you; if,
indeed, by my means, you became a soldier, if my few and random words
raised within your breast that fire of ambition which has been your
beacon-light to honor and to glory, then am I indeed proud."
"Alas, alas, Lucy!--Miss Dashwood, I would say,--forgive me, if I know not
the very words I utter. How has my career fulfilled the promise that gave
it birth? For you, and you only, to gain your affection, to win your heart,
I became a soldier; hardship, danger, even death itself were courted by me,
supported by the one thought that you had cared for or had pitied me; and
now, and now--"
"And now," said she, while her eyes beamed upon me with a very flood of
tenderness, "is it nothing that in my woman's heart I have glowed with
pride at triumphs I could read of, but dared not share in? Is it nothing
that you have lent to my hours of solitude and of musing the fervor of that
career, the maddening enthusiasm of that glorious path my sex denied me?
I have followed you in my thoughts across the burning plains of the
Peninsula, through the long hours of the march in the dreary nights, even
to the battle-field. I have thought of you; I have dreamed of you; I have
prayed for you."
"Alas, Lucy, but not loved me!"
The very words, as I spoke them, sank with a despairing cadence upon my
heart. Her hand, which had fallen upon mine, trembled violently; I pressed
my lips upon it, but she moved it not. I dared to look up; her head was
turned away, but her heaving bosom betrayed her emotion.
"No, no, Lucy," cried I, passionately, "I will not deceive myself; I ask
for more than you can give me. Farewell!"
Now, and for the last time, I pressed her hand once more to my lips; my hot
tears fell fast upon it. I turned to go, and threw one last look upon her.
Our eyes met; I cannot say what it was, but in a moment the whole current
of my thoughts was changed; her look was bent upon me beaming with softness
and affection, her hand gently pressed my own, and her lips murmured my
The door burst open at this moment, and Sir George Dashwood appeared. Lucy
turned one fleeting look upon her father, and fell fainting into my arms.
"God bless you, my boy!" said the old general, as he hurriedly wiped a tear
from his eye; "I am now, indeed, a happy father."
[Illustration: THE WELCOME HOME.]
* * * * *
The sun had set about half an hour. Already were the dusky shadows blending
with the faint twilight, as on a lovely July evening we entered the little
village of Portumna,--we, I say; for Lucy was beside me. For the last few
miles of the way I had spoken little; thoughts of the many times I had
travelled that same road, in how many moods, occupied my mind; and
although, as we flew rapidly along, some well-known face would every now
and then present itself, I had but time for the recognition ere we were
past. Arousing myself from my revery, I was pointing out to Lucy certain
well-known spots in the landscape, and directing her attention to places
with the names of which she had been for some time familiar, when suddenly
a loud shout rent the air, and the next moment the carriage was surrounded
by hundreds of country people, some of whom brandished blazing pine
torches; others carried rude banners in their hands,--but all testified
the most fervent joy as they bade us welcome. The horses were speedily
unharnessed, and their places occupied by a crowd of every age and sex,
who hurried us along through the straggling street of the village, now a
perfect blaze of bonfires.
Mounds of turf, bog-fir, and tar-barrels sent up their ruddy blaze, while
hundreds of wild, but happy faces, flitted around and through them,--now
dancing merrily in chorus; now plunging madly into the midst of the fire,
and scattering the red embers on every side. Pipers were there too, mounted
upon cars or turf-kishes; even the very roof-tops rang out their merry
notes; the ensigns of the little fishing-craft waved in the breeze, and
seemed to feel the general joy around them; while over the door of the
village inn stood a brilliantly lighted transparency, representing the head
of the O'Malleys holding a very scantily-robed young lady by the tips of
the fingers; but whether this damsel was intended to represent the genius
of the west, or my wife, I did not venture to inquire.
If the welcome were rude, assuredly it was a hearty one. Kind wishes and
blessings poured in on every side, and even our own happiness took a
brighter coloring from the beaming looks around us. The scene was wild;
the lurid glare of the red torchlight, the frantic gestures, the maddening
shouts, the forked flames rising amidst the dark shadows of the little
hamlet, had something strange and almost unearthly in their effect; but
Lucy showed no touch of fear. It is true she grasped my hand a little
closer, but her fair cheek glowed with pleasure, and her eye brightened as
she looked; and as the rich light fell upon her beauteous features, how
many a blessing, heart-felt and deep, how many a word of fervent praise was
"Ah, then, the Lord be good to you; it's yourself has the darling blue
eyes! Look at them, Mary; ain't they like the blossoms on a peacock's tail?
Musha, may sorrow never put a crease in that beautiful cheek! The saints
watch over you, for your mouth is like a moss-rose! Be good to her, yer
honor, for she's a raal gem: devil fear you, Mr. Charles, but you'd have a
We wended our way slowly, the crowd ever thickening around us, until we
reached the market-place. Here the procession came to a stand, and I could
perceive, by certain efforts around me, that some endeavor was making to
"Whisht, there! Hould your prate! Be still, Paddy! Tear an' ages, Molly
Blake, don't be holding me that way; let us hear his reverence. Put him up
on the barrel. Haven't you got a chair for the priest? Run, and bring a
table out of Mat Haley's. Here, Father--here, your reverence; take care,
will you,--you'll have the holy man in the blaze!"
By this time I could perceive that my worthy old friend Father Rush was in
the midst of the mob with what appeared to be a written oration, as long as
the tail of a kite, between his hands.
"Be aisy, there, ye savages! Who's tearing the back of my neck? Howld me up
straight! Steady, now--hem!"
"Take the laste taste in life to wet your lips, your riverence," said a
kind voice, while at the same moment a smoking tumbler of what seemed to be
punch appeared on the heads of the crowd.
"Thank ye, Judy," said the father, as he drained the cup. "Howld the light
up higher; I can't read my speech. There now, be quiet, will ye! Here goes.
Peter, stand to me now and give me the word."
This admonition was addressed to a figure on a barrel behind the priest,
who, as well as the imperfect light would permit me to descry, was the
coadjutor of the parish, Peter Nolan. Silence being perfectly established,
Father Rush began:--
"When Mars, the god of war, on high,
Of battles first did think,
He girt his sword upon his thigh,
and--what is't, Peter?"
"And mixed a drop of drink."
"And mixed a drop of drink," quoth Father Rush, with great emphasis; when
scarcely were the spoken words than a loud shout of laughter showed him his
mistake, and he overturned upon the luckless curate the full vial of his
"What is it you mean, Father Peter? I'm ashamed of ye; faith, it's may be
yourself, not Mars, you are speaking of."
The roar of merriment around prevented me hearing what passed; but I could
see by Peter's gestures--for it was too dark to see his face--that he was
expressing deep sorrow for the mistake. After a little time, order was
again established, and Father Rush resumed:--
"But love drove battles from his head,
And sick of wounds and scars,
To Venus bright he knelt, and said--
and said--and said; what the blazes did he say?"
"I'll make you Mrs. Mars,"
shouted Peter, loud enough to be heard.
"Bad luck to you, Peter Nolan, it's yourself's the ruin of me this blessed
night! Here have I come four miles with my speech in my pocket, _per imbres
et ignes_." Here the crowd crossed themselves devoutly. "Ay, just so; and
he spoiled it for me entirely." At the earnest entreaty, however, of the
crowd, Father Rush, with renewed caution to his unhappy prompter, again
returned to the charge:
"Thus love compelled the god to yield
And seek for purer joys;
He laid aside his helm and shield,
"And took to corduroys,"
cried Father Nolan.
This time, however, the good priest's patience could endure no more, and he
levelled a blow at his luckless colleague, which, missing his aim, lost him
his own balance, and brought him down from his eminence upon the heads of
Scarcely had I recovered the perfect convulsion of laughter into which this
scene had thrown me, when the broad brim of Father Nolan's hat appeared at
the window of the carriage. Before I had time to address him, he took it
reverently from his head, disclosing in the act the ever-memorable features
of Master Frank Webber!
"What! Eh! Can it be?" said I.
"It is surely not--" said Lucy, hesitating at the name.
"Your aunt, Miss Judy Macan, no more than the Rev. Peter Nolan, I assure
you; though, I confess, it has cost me much more to personate the latter
character than the former, and the reward by no means so tempting."
Here poor Lucy blushed deeply at the remembrance of the scene alluded to;
and anxious to turn the conversation, I asked by what stratagem he had
succeeded to the functions of the worthy Peter.
"At the cost of twelve tumblers of the strongest punch ever brewed at the
O'Malley Arms. The good father gave in only ten minutes before the oration
began, and I had barely time to change my dress and mount the barrel,
without a moment's preparation."
The procession once more resumed its march; and hurried along through the
town, we soon reached the avenue. Here fresh preparations for welcoming us
had also been made; but regardless of blazing tar-barrels and burning logs,
the reckless crowd pressed madly on, their wild cheers waking the echoes as
they went. We soon reached the house; but with a courtesy which even
the humblest and poorest native of this country is never devoid of, the
preparations of noise and festivity had not extended to the precincts of
the dwelling. With a tact which those of higher birth and older blood might
be proud of, they limited the excesses of their reckless and careless
merriment to their own village; so that as we approached the terrace, all
was peaceful, still, and quiet.
I lifted Lucy from the carriage, and passing my arm around her, was
assisting her to mount the steps, when a bright gleam of moonlight burst
forth and lit up the whole scene. It was, indeed, an impressive one. Among
the assembled hundreds there who stood bare-headed, beneath the cold
moonlight, not a word was now spoken, not a whisper heard. I turned from
the lawn, where the tall beech-trees were throwing their gigantic shadows,
to where the river, peering at intervals through the foliage, was flowing
on its silvery track, plashing amidst the tall flaggers that lined its
banks,--all were familiar, all were dear to me from childhood. How doubly
were they so now! I lifted up my eyes towards the door, and what was my
surprise at the object before them! Seated in a large chair was an old man,
whose white hair, flowing in straggling masses upon his neck and shoulders,
stirred with the night air; his hands rested upon his knees, and his eyes,
turned slightly upward, seemed to seek for some one he found it difficult
to recognize. Changed as he was by time, heavily as years had done their
work upon him, the stern features were not to be mistaken; but as I looked,
he called out in a voice whose unshaken firmness seemed to defy the touch
"Charley O'Malley, come here, my boy! Bring her to me, till I bless you
both. Come here, Lucy,--I may call you so. Come here, my children. I have
tried to live on to see this day, when the head of an old house comes back
with honor, with fame, and with fortune, to dwell amidst his own people in
the old home of his fathers."
The old man bent above us, his white hair falling upon the fair locks of
her who knelt beside him, and pressed his cold and quivering hand within
"Yes, Lucy," said I, as I led her within the house, "this is home."
Here now ends my story. The patient reader who has followed me so far
deserves at my hands that I should not trespass upon his kindness one
moment beyond the necessity; if, however, any lurking interest may remain
for some of those who have accompanied me through this my history, it
may be as well that I should say a few words farther, ere they disappear
Power went to India immediately after his marriage, distinguished himself
repeatedly in the Burmese war, and finally rose to a high command that he
this moment holds, with honor to himself and advantage to his country.
O'Shaughnessy, on half-pay, wanders about the Continent, passing his
summers on the Rhine, his winters at Florence or Geneva. Known to and by
everybody, his interest in the service keeps him _au courant_ to every
change and regulation, rendering him an invaluable companion to all to whom
an army list is inaccessible. He is the same good fellow he ever was, and
adds to his many excellent qualities the additional one of being the only
man who can make a bull in French!
Monsoon, the major, when last I saw him, was standing on the pier at
Calais, endeavoring, with a cheap telescope, to make out the Dover cliffs,
from a nearer prospect of which certain little family circumstances might
possibly debar him. He recognized me in a moment, and held out his hand,
while his eye twinkled with its ancient drollery.
"Charley, my son, how goes it? Delighted to see you. What a pity I did not
meet you yesterday! Had a little dinner at Crillon's. Harding, Vivian, and
a few others. They all wished for you; 'pon my life they did."
"Civil, certainly," thought I, "as I have not the honor of being known to
"You are at Meurice's," resumed he; "a very good house, but give you bad
wine, if they don't know you. They know me," added he, in a whisper; "never
try any tricks upon me. I'll just drop in upon you at six."
"It is most unfortunate, Major; I can't have the pleasure you speak of; we
start in half an hour."
"Never mind, Charley, never mind; another time. By-the-bye, now I think of
it, don't you remember something of a ten-pound note you owe me?"
"As well as I remember, Major, the circumstance was reversed. You are the
"Upon my life, you are right; how droll. No matter; let me have the ten,
and I'll give you a check for the whole."
The major thrust his tongue into his cheek as he spoke, gave another leer,
pocketed the note, and sauntered down the pier, muttering something to
himself about King David and greenhorns; but how they were connected I
could not precisely overhear.
Baby Blake, or Mrs. Sparks,--to call her by her more fitting
appellation,--is as handsome as ever, and not less good-humored and
light-hearted, her severest trials being her ineffectual efforts to convert
Sparks into something like a man for Galway.
Last of all, Mickey Free. Mike remains attached to our fortune firmly, as
at first he opened his career; the same gay, rollicksome Irishman, making
songs, making love, and occasionally making punch, he spends his days and
his nights pretty much as he was wont to do some thirty years ago. He
obtains an occasional leave of absence for a week or so, but for what
precise purpose, or with what exact object, I have never been completely
able to ascertain. I have heard, it as true, that a very fascinating
companion and a most agreeable gentleman frequents a certain oyster-house
in Dublin called Burton Bindon's. I have also been told of a distinguished
foreigner, whose black mustache and broken English were the admiration of
Cheltenham for the last two winters. I greatly fear from the high tone of
the conversation in the former, and for the taste in continental characters
in the latter resort, that I could fix upon the individual whose convivial
and social gifts have won so much of their esteem and admiration; but were
I to run on thus, I should recur to every character of my story, with each
and all of whom you have, doubtless, grown well wearied. So here for the
last time, and with every kind wish, I say, adieu!
Kind friends,--It is somewhat unfortunate that the record of the happiest
portion of my friend's life should prove the saddest part of my duty as
his editor, and for this reason, that it brings me to that spot where my
acquaintance with you must close, and sounds the hour when I must say,
They, who have never felt the mysterious link that binds the solitary
scribe in his lonely study, to the circle of his readers, can form no
adequate estimate of what his feelings are when that chain is about to be
broken; they know not how often, in the fictitious garb of his narrative,
he has clothed the inmost workings of his heart; they know not how
frequently he has spoken aloud his secret thoughts, revealing, as though to
a dearest friend, the springs of his action, the causes of his sorrow, the
sources of his hope; they cannot believe by what a sympathy he is bound to
those who bow their heads above his pages; they do not think how the ideal
creations of his brain are like mutual friends between him and the world,
through whom he is known and felt and thought of, and by whom he reaps in
his own heart the rich harvest of flattery and kindness that are rarely
refused to any effort to please, however poor, however humble. They know
not this, nor can they feel the hopes, the fears, that stir within him, to
earn some passing word of praise; nor think they, when won, what brightness
around his humble hearth it may be shedding. These are the rewards for
nights of toil and days of thought; these are the recompenses which pay the
haggard cheek, the sunken eye, the racked and tired head. These are the
stakes for which one plays his health, his leisure, and his life, yet not
regrets the game.
Nearly three years have now elapsed since I first made my bow before you.
How many events have crowded into that brief space! How many things of
vast moment have occurred! Only think that in the last few months you've
frightened the French; terrified M. Thiers; worried the Chinese; and are,
at this very moment, putting the Yankees into a "_most uncommon fix_;" not
to mention the minor occupations of ousting the Whigs; reinstating the
Tories, and making O'Connell Lord Mayor,--and yet, with all these and a
thousand other minor cares, you have not forgotten your poor friend, the
Irish Dragoon. Now this was really kind of you, and in my heart I thank you
Do not, I entreat you, construe my gratitude into any sense of future
favors,--no such thing; for whatever may be my success with you hereafter,
I am truly deeply grateful for the past. Circumstances, into which I
need not enter, have made me for some years past a resident in a foreign
country, and as my lot has thrown me into a land where the reputation of
writing a book is pretty much on a par with that of picking a pocket, it
may readily be conceived with what warm thankfulness I have caught at any
little testimonies of your approval which chance may have thrown in my way.
Like the reduced gentlewoman who, compelled by poverty to cry fresh eggs
through the streets, added after every call, "I hope nobody hears me;" so
I, finding it convenient, for a not very dissimilar reason, to write books,
keep my authorship as quietly to myself as need be, and comfort me with the
assurance that nobody knows me.
A word now to my critics. Never had any man more reason to be satisfied
with that class than myself. As if you knew and cared for the temperament
of the man you were reviewing; as if you were aware of the fact that it was
at any moment in your power, by a single article of severe censure, to have
extinguished in him forever all effort, all ambition for success,--you have
mercifully extended to him the mildest treatment, and meted out even your
disparagement, with a careful measure.
While I have studied your advice with attention, and read your criticisms
with care, I confess I have trembled more than once before your more
palpable praise; for I thought you might be hoaxing me.
Now and then, to be sure, I have been accused of impressing real
individuals, and compelling them to serve in my book; that this reproach
was unjust, they who know me can best vouch for, while I myself can
honestly aver, that I never took a portrait without the consent of the
Others again have fallen foul of me, for treating of things, places, and
people with which I had no opportunity of becoming personally acquainted.
Thus one of my critics has showed that I could not have been a Trinity
College man; and another has denied my military matriculation. Now,
although both my Latin and my learning are on the peace establishment, and
if examined in the movements for cavalry, it is perfectly possible I should
be cautioned, yet as I have both a degree and a commission I might have
been spared this reproach.
"Of coorse," says Father Malachi Brennan, who leans over my shoulder while
I write,--"of coorse you ought to know all about these things as well as
the Duke of Wellington or Marshal Soult himself. UNDE DERYVATUR MILES.
Ain't you in the Derry militia?" I hope the Latin and the translation will
satisfy every objection.
While, then, I have nothing but thankfulness in my heart respecting the
entire press of my own country, I have a small grudge with my friends of
the far west; and as this is a season of complaint against the Yankees,
"Why shouldn't I roll my tub also?" A certain New York paper, called the
"Sunday Times," has thought fit for some time past to fill its columns with
a story of the Peninsular war, announcing it as "by the author of Charles
O'Malley." Heaven knows that injured individual has sins enough of his own
to answer for, without fathering a whole foundling hospital of American
balderdash; but this kidnapping spirit of brother Jonathan would seem to be
the fashion of the day! Not content with capturing Macleod, who unhappily
ventured within his frontier, he must come over to Ireland and lay hands
on Harry Lorrequer. Thus difficulties are thickening every day. When they
dispose of the colonel, then comes the boundary question; after that there
is Grogan's affair, then me. They may liberate Macleod;  they may
abandon the State of Maine,--but what recompense can be made to me for this
foul attack on my literary character? It has been suggested to me from the
Foreign Office that the editor might be hanged. I confess I should like
this; but after all it would be poor satisfaction for the injury done me.
Meanwhile, as Macleod has the _pas_ of me, I'll wait patiently, and think
the matter over.
[Footnote 3: I have just read that Macleod and Grogan have been liberated.
May I indulge a hope that _my_ case will engage the sympathies of the
world during the Christmas holidays. H. L.]
It was my intention, before taking leave of you, to have apologized
separately for many blunders in my book; but the errors of the press are
too palpable to be attributed to me. I have written letters without end,
begged, prayed, and entreated that more care might be bestowed; but
somehow, after all, they have crept in in spite of me. Indeed, latterly I
began to think I had found out the secret of it. My publisher, excellent
man, has a kind of pride about printing in Ireland, and he thinks the
blunders, like the green cover to the volume, give the thing a national
look. I think it was a countryman of mine of whom the story is told, that
he apologized for his spelling by the badness of his pen. This excuse, a
little extended, may explain away anacronisms, and if it won't I am sorry
for it, for I have no other.
Here then I conclude: I must say, adieu! Yet can I not do so before I
again assure you that if perchance I may have lightened an hour of _your_
solitude, you, my kind friends, have made happy whole weeks and days of
_mine_; and if happily I have called up a passing smile upon _your_ lip,
your favor has spoken joy and gladness to many a heart around _my_ board.
Is it, then, strange that I should be grateful for the past; be sorrowful
for the present?
To one and all, then, a happy Christmas; and if before the new year, you
have not forgotten me, I shall be delighted to have your company at OUR
Meanwhile believe me most respectfully and faithfully yours,