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The Adventures of Gerard by Arthur Conan Doyle

Part 3 out of 4

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when Lord Rufton burst hurriedly into my room.

His face was pale and his manner that of a man in extreme

"Gerard," he cried, "have you seen Lady Jane Dacre?"

I had seen her after breakfast and it was now mid-day.

"By Heaven, there's villainy here!" cried my poor friend, rushing
about like a madman. "The bailiff has been up to say that a
chaise and pair were seen driving full split down the Tavistock
Road. The blacksmith heard a woman scream as it passed his
forge. Jane has disappeared. By the Lord, I believe that she
has been kidnapped by this villain Dacre." He rang the bell
furiously. "Two horses, this instant!" he cried. "Colonel
Gerard, your pistols! Jane comes back with me this night from
Gravel Hanger or there will be a new master in High Combe Hall."

Behold us then within half an hour, like two knight- errants of
old, riding forth to the rescue of this lady in distress. It was
near Tavistock that Lord Dacre lived, and at every house and
toll-gate along the road we heard the news of the flying
post-chaise in front of us, so there could be no doubt whither
they were bound. As we rode Lord Rufton told me of the man whom
we were pursuing.

His name, it seems, was a household word throughout all England
for every sort of mischief. Wine, women, dice, cards, racing--in
all forms of debauchery he had earned for himself a terrible
name. He was of an old and noble family, and it had been hoped
that he had sowed his wild oats when he married the beautiful
Lady Jane Rufton.

For some months he had indeed behaved well, and then he had
wounded her feelings in their most tender part by some unworthy
liaison. She had fled from his house and taken refuge with her
brother, from whose care she had now been dragged once more,
against her will. I ask you if two men could have had a fairer
errand than that upon which Lord Rufton and myself were riding.

"That's Gravel Hanger," he cried at last, pointing with his crop,
and there on the green side of a hill was an old brick and timber
building as beautiful as only an English country-house can be.
"There's an inn by the park-gate, and there we shall leave our
horses," he added.

For my own part it seemed to me that with so just a cause we
should have done best to ride boldly up to his door and summon
him to surrender the lady. But there I was wrong. For the one
thing which every Englishman fears is the law. He makes it
himself, and when he has once made it it becomes a terrible
tyrant before whom the bravest quails. He will smile at breaking
his neck, but he will turn pale at breaking the law. It seems,
then, from what Lord Rufton told me as we walked through the
park, that we were on the wrong side of the law in this matter.
Lord Dacre was in the right in carrying off his wife, since she
did indeed belong to him, and our own position now was nothing
better than that of burglars and trespassers. It was not for
burglars to openly approach the front door. We could take the
lady by force or by craft, but we could not take her by right,
for the law was against us. This was what my friend explained to
me as we crept up toward the shelter of a shrubbery which was
close to the windows of the house. Thence we could examine this
fortress, see whether we could effect a lodgment in it, and,
above all, try to establish some communication with the beautiful
prisoner inside.

There we were, then, in the shrubbery, Lord Rufton and I, each
with a pistol in the pockets of our riding coats, and with the
most resolute determination in our hearts that we should not
return without the lady.

Eagerly we scanned every window of the wide-spread house.

Not a sign could we see of the prisoner or of anyone else; but on
the gravel drive outside the door were the deep- sunk marks of
the wheels of the chaise. There was no doubt that they had
arrived. Crouching among the laurel bushes we held a whispered
council of wary but a singular interruption brought it to an end.

Out of the door of the house there stepped a tall, flaxen- haired
man, such a figure as one would choose for the flank of a
Grenadier company. As he turned his brown face and his blue eyes
toward us I recognised Lord Dacre.

With long strides he came down the gravel path straight for the
spot where we lay.

"Come out, Ned!" he shouted; "you'll have the game- keeper
putting a charge of shot into you. Come out, man, and don't
skulk behind the bushes."

It was not a very heroic situation for us. My poor friend rose
with a crimson face. I sprang to my feet also and bowed with
such dignity as I could muster.

"Halloa! it's the Frenchman, is it?" said he, without returning
my bow. "I've got a crow to pluck with him already. As to you,
Ned, I knew you would be hot on our scent, and so I was looking
out for you. I saw you cross the park and go to ground in the
shrubbery. Come in, man, and let us have all the cards on the

He seemed master of the situation, this handsome giant of a man,
standing at his ease on his own ground while we slunk out of our
hiding-place. Lord Rufton had said not a word, but I saw by his
darkened brow and his sombre eyes that the storm was gathering.
Lord Dacre led the way into the house, and we followed close at
his heels.

He ushered us himself into an oak-panelled sitting-room, closing
the door behind us. Then he looked me up and down with insolent

"Look here, Ned," said he, "time was when an English family could
settle their own affairs in their own way.

What has this foreign fellow got to do with your sister and my

"Sir," said I, "permit me to point out to you that this is not a
case merely of a sister or a wife, but that I am the friend of
the lady in question, and that I have the privilege which every
gentleman possesses of protecting a woman against brutality. It
is only by a gesture that I can show you what I think of you." I
had my riding glove in my hand, and I flicked him across the face
with it. He drew back with a bitter smile and his eyes were as
hard as flint.

"So you've brought your bully with you, Ned?" said he. "You
might at least have done your fighting yourself, if it must come
to a fight."

"So I will," cried Lord Rufton. "Here and now."

"When I've killed this swaggering Frenchman," said Lord Dacre.
He stepped to a side table and opened a brass-bound case. "By
Gad," said he, "either that man or I go out of this room feet
foremost. I meant well by you, Ned; I did, by George, but I'll
shoot this led- captain of yours as sure as my name's George

Take your choice of pistols, sir, and shoot across this table.
The barkers are loaded. Aim straight and kill me if you can, for
by the Lord if you don't, you're done."

In vain Lord Rufton tried to take the quarrel upon himself. Two
things were clear in my mind--one that the Lady Jane had feared
above all things that her husband and brother should fight, the
other that if I could but kill this big milord, then the whole
question would be settled forever in the best way. Lord Rufton
did not want him. Lady Jane did not want him. Therefore, I,
Etienne Gerard, their friend, would pay the debt of gratitude
which I owed them by freeing them of this encumbrance. But,
indeed, there was no choice in the matter, for Lord Dacre was as
eager to put a bullet into me as I could be to do the same
service to him. In vain Lord Rufton argued and scolded. The
affair must continue.

"Well, if you must fight my guest instead of myself, let it be
to-morrow morning with two witnesses," he cried, at last; "this
is sheer murder across the table."

"But it suits my humour, Ned," said Lord Dacre.

"And mine, sir," said I.

"Then I'll have nothing to do with it," cried Lord Rufton. "I
tell you, George, if you shoot Colonel Gerard under these
circumstances you'll find yourself in the dock instead of on the
bench. I won't act as second, and that's flat."

"Sir," said I, "I am perfectly prepared to proceed without a

"That won't do. It's against the law," cried Lord Dacre. "Come,
Ned, don't be a fool. You see we mean to fight. Hang it, man,
all I want you to do is to drop a handkerchief."

"I'll take no part in it."

"Then I must find someone who will," said Lord Dacre.

He threw a cloth over the pistols which lay upon the table, and
he rang the bell. A footman entered. "Ask Colonel Berkeley if
he will step this way. You will find him in the billiard-room."

A moment later there entered a tall thin Englishman with a great
moustache, which was a rare thing amid that clean-shaven race. I
have heard since that they were worn only by the Guards and the
Hussars. This Colonel Berkeley was a guardsman. He seemed a
strange, tired, languid, drawling creature with a long black
cigar thrusting out, like a pole from a bush, amidst that immense
moustache. He looked from one to the other of us with true
English phlegm, and he betrayed not the slightest surprise when
he was told our intention.

"Quite so," said he; "quite so."

"I refuse to act, Colonel Berkeley," cried Lord Rufton.

"Remember, this duel cannot proceed without you, and I hold you
personally responsible for anything that happens."

This Colonel Berkeley appeared to be an authority upon the
question, for he removed the cigar from his mouth and he laid
down the law in his strange, drawling voice.

"The circumstances are unusual but not irregular, Lord Rufton,"
said he. "This gentleman has given a blow and this other
gentleman has received it. That is a clear issue. Time and
conditions depend upon the person who demands satisfaction. Very
good. He claims it here and now, across the table. He is acting
within his rights. I am prepared to accept the responsibility."

There was nothing more to be said. Lord Rufton sat moodily in
the corner with his brows drawn down and his hands thrust deep
into the pockets of his riding-breeches.

Colonel Berkeley examined the two pistols and laid them both in
the centre of the table. Lord Dacre was at one end and I at the
other, with eight feet of shining mahogany between us. On the
hearth-rug with his back to the fire, stood the tall colonel, his
handkerchief in his left hand, his cigar between two fingers of
his right.

"When I drop the handkerchief," said he, "you will pick up your
pistols and you will fire at your own convenience.

Are you ready?"

"Yes," we cried.

His hand opened and the handkerchief fell. I bent swiftly
forward and seized a pistol, but the table, as I have said, was
eight feet across, and it was easier for this long-armed milord
to reach the pistols than it was for me.

I had not yet drawn myself straight before he fired, and to this
it was that I owe my life. His bullet would have blown out my
brains had I been erect. As it was it whistled through my curls.
At the same instant, just as I threw up my own pistol to fire,
the door flew open and a pair of arms were thrown round me. It
was the beautiful, flushed, frantic face of Lady Jane which
looked up into mine.

"You sha'n't fire! Colonel Gerard, for my sake don't fire," she
cried. "It is a mistake, I tell you, a mistake, a mistake! He
is the best and dearest of husbands. Never again shall I leave
his side." Her hands slid down my arm and closed upon my pistol.

"Jane, Jane," cried Lord Rufton; "come with me.

You should not be here. Come away."

"It is all confoundedly irregular," said Colonel Berkeley.

"Colonel Gerard, you won't fire, will you? My heart would break
if he were hurt."

"Hang it all, Jinny, give the fellow fair play," cried Lord
Dacre. "He stood my fire like a man, and I won't see him
interfered with. Whatever happens I can't get worse than I

But already there had passed between me and the lady a quick
glance of the eyes which told her everything.

Her hands slipped from my arm. "I leave my husband's life and my
own happiness to Colonel Gerard," said she.

How well she knew me, this admirable woman! I stood for an
instant irresolute, with the pistol cocked in my hand. My
antagonist faced me bravely, with no blenching of his sunburnt
face and no flinching of his bold, blue eyes.

"Come, come, sir, take your shot!" cried the colonel from the

"Let us have it, then," said Lord Dacre.

I would, at least, show them how completely his life was at the
mercy of my skill. So much I owed to my own self-respect. I
glanced round for a mark. The colonel was looking toward my
antagonist, expecting to see him drop. His face was sideways to
me, his long cigar projecting from his lips with an inch of ash
at the end of it.

Quick as a flash I raised my pistol and fired.

"Permit me to trim your ash, sir," said I, and I bowed with a
grace which is unknown among these islanders.

I am convinced that the fault lay with the pistol and not with my
aim. I could hardly believe my own eyes when I saw that I had
snapped off the cigar within half an inch of his lips. He stood
staring at me with the ragged stub of the cigar-end sticking out
from his singed mustache. I can see him now with his foolish,
angry eyes and his long, thin, puzzled face. Then he began to
talk. I have always said that the English are not really a
phlegmatic or a taciturn nation if you stir them out of their
groove. No one could have talked in a more animated way than
this colonel. Lady Jane put her hands over her ears.

"Come, come, Colonel Berkeley," said Lord Dacre, sternly, "you
forget yourself. There is a lady in the room."

The colonel gave a stiff bow.

"If Lady Dacre will kindly leave the room," said he,

"I will be able to tell this infernal little Frenchman what I
think of him and his monkey tricks."

I was splendid at that moment, for I ignored the words that he
had said and remembered only the extreme provocation.

"Sir," said I, "I freely offer you my apologies for this unhappy
incident. I felt that if I did not discharge my pistol Lord
Dacre's honour might feel hurt, and yet it was quite impossible
for me, after hearing what this lady has said, to aim it at her
husband. I looked round for a mark, therefore, and I had the
extreme misfortune to blow your cigar out of your mouth when my
intention had merely been to snuff the ash. I was betrayed by my
pistol. This is my explanation, sir, and if after listening to
my apologies you still feel that I owe you satisfaction, I need
not say that it is a request which I am unable to refuse."

It was certainly a charming attitude which I had assumed, and it
won the hearts of all of them. Lord Dacre stepped forward and
wrung me by the hand. "By George, sir," said he, "I never
thought to feel toward a Frenchman as I do to you. You're a man
and a gentleman, and I can't say more." Lord Rufton said
nothing, but his hand-grip told me all that he thought. Even
Colonel Berkeley paid me a compliment, and declared that he would
think no more about the unfortunate cigar.

And she--ah, if you could have seen the look she gave me, the
flushed cheek, the moist eye, the tremulous lip!

When I think of my beautiful Lady Jane it is at that moment that
I recall her. They would have had me stay to dinner, but you
will understand, my friends, that this was no time for either
Lord Rufton or myself to remain at Gravel Hanger. This
reconciled couple desired only to be alone. In the chaise he had
persuaded her of his sincere repentance, and once again they were
a loving husband and wife. If they were to remain so it was best
perhaps that I should go. Why should I unsettle this domestic
peace? Even against my own will my mere presence and appearance
might have their effect upon the lady. No, no, I must tear
myself away--even her persuasions were unable to make me stop.
Years afterward I heard that the household of the Dacres was
among the happiest in the whole country, and that no cloud had
ever come again to darken their lives. Yet I dare say if he
could have seen into his wife's mind--but there, I say no more!
A lady's secret is her own, and I fear that she and it are buried
long years ago in some Devonshire churchyard. Perhaps all that
gay circle are gone and the Lady Jane only lives now in the
memory of an old half-pay French brigadier. He at least can
never forget.

VI. How the Brigadier Rode to Minsk

I would have a stronger wine to-night, my friends, a wine of
Burgundy rather than of Bordeaux. It is that my heart, my old
soldier heart, is heavy within me. It is a strange thing, this
age which creeps upon one. One does not know, one does not
understand; the spirit is ever the same, and one does not
remember how the poor body crumbles. But there comes a moment
when it is brought home, when quick as the sparkle of a whirling
sabre it is clear to us, and we see the men we were and the men
we are. Yes, yes, it was so to-day, and I would have a wine of
Burgundy to-night. White Burgundy--Montrachet --Sir, I am your

It was this morning in the Champ de Mars. Your pardon, friends,
while an old man tells his trouble. You saw the review. Was it
not splendid? I was in the enclosure for veteran officers who
have been decorated.

This ribbon on my breast was my passport. The cross itself I
keep at home in a leathern pouch. They did us honour, for we
were placed at the saluting point, with the Emperor and the
carriages of the Court upon our right.

It is years since I have been to a review, for I cannot approve
of many things which I have seen. I do not approve of the red
breeches of the infantry. It was in white breeches that the
infantry used to fight. Red is for the cavalry. A little more,
and they would ask our busbies and our spurs! Had I been seen at
a review they might well have said that I, Etienne Gerard, had
condoned it. So I have stayed at home. But this war of the
Crimea is different. The men go to battle.

It is not for me to be absent when brave men gather.

My faith, they march well, those little infantrymen!

They are not large, but they are very solid and they carry
themselves well. I took off my hat to them as they passed. Then
there came the guns. They were good guns, well horsed and well
manned. I took off my hat to them. Then came the Engineers, and
to them also I took off my hat. There are no braver men than the
Engineers. Then came the cavalry, Lancers, Cuirassiers,
Chasseurs, and Spahis. To all of them in turn I was able to take
off my hat, save only to the Spahis.

The Emperor had no Spahis. But when all of the others had
passed, what think you came at the close? A brigade of Hussars,
and at the charge!

Oh, my friends, the pride and the glory and the beauty, the flash
and the sparkle, the roar of the hoofs and the jingle of chains,
the tossing manes, the noble heads, the rolling cloud, and the
dancing waves of steel! My heart drummed to them as they passed.
And the last of all, was it not my own old regiment? My eyes
fell upon the grey and silver dolmans, with the leopard-skin
shabraques, and at that instant the years fell away from me and I
saw my own beautiful men and horses, even as they had swept
behind their young colonel, in the pride of our youth and our
strength, just forty years ago. Up flew my cane. "Chargez! En
avant! Vive l'Empereur!"

It was the past calling to the present. But oh, what a thin,
piping voice! Was this the voice that had once thundered from
wing to wing of a strong brigade? And the arm that could scarce
wave a cane, were these the muscles of fire and steel which had
no match in all Napoleon's mighty host? They smiled at me. They
cheered me. The Emperor laughed and bowed. But to me the
present was a dim dream, and what was real were my eight hundred
dead Hussars and the Etienne of long ago.

Enough--a brave man can face age and fate as he faced Cossacks
and Uhlans. But there are times when Montrachet is better than
the wine of Bordeaux.

It is to Russia that they go, and so I will tell you a story of
Russia. Ah, what an evil dream of the night it seems! Blood and
ice. Ice and blood. Fierce faces with snow upon the whiskers.
Blue hands held out for succour. And across the great white
plain the one long black line of moving figures, trudging,
trudging, a hundred miles, another hundred, and still always the
same white plain. Sometimes there were fir-woods to limit it,
sometimes it stretched away to the cold blue sky, but the black
line stumbled on and on. Those weary, ragged, starving men, the
spirit frozen out of them, looked neither to right nor left, but
with sunken faces and rounded backs trailed onward and ever
onward, making for France as wounded beasts make for their lair.
There was no speaking, and you could scarce hear the shuffle of
feet in the snow. Once only I heard them laugh. It was outside
Wilna, when an aide-de-camp rode up to the head of that dreadful
column and asked if that were the Grand Army. All who were
within hearing looked round, and when they saw those broken men,
those ruined regiments, those fur-capped skeletons who were once
the Guard, they laughed, and the laugh crackled down the column
like a feu de joie. I have heard many a groan and cry and scream
in my life, but nothing so terrible as the laugh of the Grand

But why was it that these helpless men were not destroyed by the
Russians? Why was it that they were not speared by the Cossacks
or herded into droves, and driven as prisoners into the heart of
Russia? On every side as you watched the black snake winding
over the snow you saw also dark, moving shadows which came and
went like cloud drifts on either flank and behind. They were the
Cossacks, who hung round us like wolves round the flock.

But the reason why they did not ride in upon us was that all the
ice of Russia could not cool the hot hearts of some of our
soldiers. To the end there were always those who were ready to
throw themselves between these savages and their prey. One man
above all rose greater as the danger thickened, and won a higher
name amid disaster than he had done when he led our van to
victory. To him I drink this glass--to Ney, the red-maned Lion,
glaring back over his shoulder at the enemy who feared to tread
too closely on his heels. I can see him now, his broad white
face convulsed with fury, his light blue eyes sparkling like
flints, his great voice roaring and crashing amid the roll of the
musketry. His glazed and featherless cocked hat was the ensign
upon which France rallied during those dreadful days.

It is well known that neither I nor the regiment of Hussars of
Conflans were at Moscow. We were left behind on the lines of
communication at Borodino. How the Emperor could have advanced
without us is incomprehensible to me, and, indeed, it was only
then that I understood that his judgment was weakening and that
he was no longer the man that he had been. However, a soldier
has to obey orders, and so I remained at this village, which was
poisoned by the bodies of thirty thousand men who had lost their
lives in the great battle. I spent the late autumn in getting my
horses into condition and reclothing my men, so that when the
army fell back on Borodino my Hussars were the best of the
cavalry, and were placed under Ney in the rear-guard.

What could he have done without us during those dreadful days?
"Ah, Gerard," said he one evening-- but it is not for me to
repeat the words. Suffice it that he spoke what the whole army
felt. The rear-guard covered the army and the Hussars of
Conflans covered the rear-guard. There was the whole truth in a

Always the Cossacks were on us. Always we held them off. Never
a day passed that we had not to wipe our sabres. That was
soldiering indeed.

But there came a time between Wilna and Smolensk when the
situation became impossible. Cossacks and even cold we could
fight, but we could not fight hunger as well. Food must be got
at all costs. That night Ney sent for me to the waggon in which
he slept. His great head was sunk on his hands. Mind and body
he was wearied to death.

"Colonel Gerard," said he, "things are going very badly with us.
The men are starving. We must have food at all costs."

"The horses," I suggested.

"Save your handful of cavalry; there are none left."

"The band," said I.

He laughed, even in his despair.

"Why the band?" he asked.

"Fighting men are of value."

"Good," said he. "You would play the game down to the last card
and so would I. Good, Gerard, good!"

He clasped my hand in his. "But there is one chance for us yet,
Gerard." He unhooked a lantern from the roof of the waggon and
he laid it on a map which was stretched before him. "To the
south of us," said he, "there lies the town of Minsk. I have
word from a Russian deserter that much corn has been stored in
the town- hall. I wish you to take as many men as you think
best, set forth for Minsk, seize the corn, load any carts which
you may collect in the town, and bring them to me between here
and Smolensk. If you fail it is but a detachment cut off. If
you succeed it is new life to the army."

He had not expressed himself well, for it was evident that if we
failed it was not merely the loss of a detachment. It is quality
as well as quantity which counts.

And yet how honourable a mission and how glorious a risk! If
mortal men could bring it, then the corn should come from Minsk.
I said so, and spoke a few burning words about a brave man's duty
until the Marshal was so moved that he rose and, taking me
affectionately by the shoulders, pushed me out of the waggon.

It was clear to me that in order to succeed in my enterprise I
should take a small force and depend rather upon surprise than
upon numbers. A large body could not conceal itself, would have
great difficulty in getting food, and would cause all the
Russians around us to concentrate for its certain destruction.
On the other hand, if a small body of cavalry could get past the
Cossacks unseen it was probable that they would find no troops to
oppose them, for we knew that the main Russian army was several
days' march behind us. This corn was meant, no doubt, for their
consumption. A squadron of Hussars and thirty Polish Lancers
were all whom I chose for the venture. That very night we rode
out of the camp, and struck south in the direction of Minsk.

Fortunately there was but a half moon, and we were able to pass
without being attacked by the enemy. Twice we saw great fires
burning amid the snow, and around them a thick bristle of long
poles. These were the lances of Cossacks, which they had stood
upright while they slept. It would have been a great joy to us
to have charged in amongst them, for we had much to revenge, and
the eyes of my comrades looked longingly from me to those red
flickering patches in the darkness. My faith, I was sorely
tempted to do it, for it would have been a good lesson to teach
them that they must keep a few miles between themselves and a
French army. It is the essence of good generalship, however, to
keep one thing before one at a time, and so we rode silently on
through the snow, leaving these Cossack bivouacs to right and
left. Behind us the black sky was all mottled with a line of
flame which showed where our own poor wretches were trying to
keep themselves alive for another day of misery and starvation.

All night we rode slowly onward, keeping our horses' tails to the
Pole Star. There were many tracks in the snow, and we kept to
the line of these, that no one might remark that a body of
cavalry had passed that way.

These are the little precautions which mark the experienced
officer. Besides, by keeping to the tracks we were most likely
to find the villages, and only in the villages could we hope to
get food. The dawn of day found us in a thick fir-wood, the
trees so loaded with snow that the light could hardly reach us.
When we had found our way out of it it was full daylight, the rim
of the rising sun peeping over the edge of the great snow-plain
and turning it crimson from end to end. I halted my Hussars and
Lancers under the shadow of the wood, and I studied the country.
Close to us there was a small farm-house. Beyond, at the
distance of several miles, was a village. Far away on the
sky-line rose a considerable town all bristling with church
towers. This must be Minsk. In no direction could I see any
signs of troops. It was evident that we had passed through the
Cossacks and that there was nothing between us and our goal. A
joyous shout burst from my men when I told them our position, and
we advanced rapidly toward the village.

I have said, however, that there was a small farm- house
immediately in front of us. As we rode up to it I observed that
a fine grey horse with a military saddle was tethered by the
door. Instantly I galloped forward, but before I could reach it
a man dashed out of the door, flung himself on to the horse, and
rode furiously away, the crisp, dry snow flying up in a cloud
behind him. The sunlight gleamed upon his gold epaulettes, and I
knew that he was a Russian officer. He would raise the whole
country-side if we did not catch him. I put spurs to Violette
and flew after him. My troopers followed; but there was no horse
among them to compare with Violette, and I knew well that if I
could not catch the Russian I need expect no help from them.

But it is a swift horse indeed and a skilful rider who can hope
to escape from Violette with Etienne Gerard in the saddle. He
rode well, this young Russian, and his mount was a good one, but
gradually we wore him down.

His face glanced continually over his shoulder--dark, handsome
face, with eyes like an eagle--and I saw as I closed with him
that he was measuring the distance between us. Suddenly he half
turned; there were a flash and a crack as his pistol bullet
hummed past my ear.

Before he could draw his sword I was upon him; but he still
spurred his horse, and the two galloped together over the plain,
I with my leg against the Russian's and my left hand upon his
right shoulder. I saw his hand fly up to his mouth. Instantly I
dragged him across my pommel and seized him by the throat, so
that he could not swallow. His horse shot from under him, but I
held him fast and Violette came to a stand. Sergeant Oudin of
the Hussars was the first to join us. He was an old soldier, and
he saw at a glance what I was after.

"Hold tight, Colonel," said he, "I'll do the rest."

He slipped out his knife, thrust the blade between the clenched
teeth of the Russian, and turned it so as to force his mouth
open. There, on his tongue, was the little wad of wet paper
which he had been so anxious to swallow. Oudin picked it out and
I let go of the man's throat. From the way in which, half
strangled as he was, he glanced at the paper I was sure that it
was a message of extreme importance. His hands twitched as if he
longed to snatch it from me. He shrugged his shoulders, however,
and smiled good-humouredly when I apologised for my roughness.

"And now to business," said I, when he had done coughing and
hawking. "What is your name?"

"Alexis Barakoff."

"Your rank and regiment?"

"Captain of the Dragoons of Grodno."

"What is this note which you were carrying?"

"It is a line which I had written to my sweetheart."

"Whose name," said I, examining the address, "is the Hetman
Platoff. Come, come, sir, this is an important military
document, which you are carrying from one general to another.
Tell me this instant what it is."

"Read it and then you will know." He spoke perfect French, as do
most of the educated Russians. But he knew well that there is
not one French officer in a thousand who knows a word of Russian.
The inside of the note contained one single line, which ran like

"Pustj Franzuzy pridutt v Minsk. Min gotovy."

I stared at it, and I had to shake my head. Then I showed it to
my Hussars, but they could make nothing of it. The Poles were
all rough fellows who could not read or write, save only the
sergeant, who came from Memel, in East Prussia, and knew no
Russian. It was maddening, for I felt that I had possession of
some important secret upon which the safety of the army might
depend, and yet I could make no sense of it. Again I entreated
our prisoner to translate it, and offered him his freedom if he
would do so. He only smiled at my request.

I could not but admire him, for it was the very smile which I
should have myself smiled had I been in his position.

"At least," said I, "tell us the name of this village."

"It is Dobrova."

"And that is Minsk over yonder, I suppose."

"Yes, that is Minsk."

"Then we shall go to the village and we shall very soon find some
one who will translate this despatch."

So we rode onward together, a trooper with his carbine unslung on
either side of our prisoner. The village was but a little place,
and I set a guard at the ends of the single street, so that no
one could escape from it. It was necessary to call a halt and to
find some food for the men and horses, since they had travelled
all night and had a long journey still before them.

There was one large stone house in the centre of the village, and
to this I rode. It was the house of the priest --a snuffy and
ill-favoured old man who had not a civil answer to any of our
questions. An uglier fellow I never met, but, my faith, it was
very different with his only daughter, who kept house for him.
She was a brunette, a rare thing in Russia, with creamy skin,
raven hair, and a pair of the most glorious dark eyes that ever
kindled at the sight of a Hussar. From the first glance I saw
that she was mine. It was no time for love-making when a
soldier's duty had to be done, but still, as I took the simple
meal which they laid before me, I chatted lightly with the lady,
and we were the best of friends before an hour had passed.
Sophie was her first name, her second I never knew. I taught her
to call me Etienne, and I tried to cheer her up, for her sweet
face was sad and there were tears in her beautiful dark eyes. I
pressed her to tell me what it was which was grieving her.

"How can I be otherwise," said she, speaking French with a most
adorable lisp, "when one of my poor countrymen is a prisoner in
your hands? I saw him between two of your Hussars as you rode
into the village."

"It is the fortune of war," said I. "His turn to-day; mine,
perhaps, to-morrow."

"But consider, Monsieur--" said she.

"Etienne," said I.

"Oh, Monsieur----"

"Etienne," said I.

"Well, then," she cried, beautifully flushed and desperate,
"consider, Etienne, that this young officer will be taken back to
your army and will be starved or frozen, for if, as I hear, your
own soldiers have a hard march, what will be the lot of a

I shrugged my shoulders.

"You have a kind face, Etienne," said she; "you would not condemn
this poor man to certain death. I entreat you to let him go."

Her delicate hand rested upon my sleeve, her dark eyes looked
imploringly into mine.

A sudden thought passed through my mind. I would grant her
request, but I would demand a favour in return.

At my order the prisoner was brought up into the room.

"Captain Barakoff," said I, "this young lady has begged me to
release you, and I am inclined to do so. I would ask you to give
your parole that you will remain in this dwelling for twenty-four
hours, and take no steps to inform anyone of our movements."

"I will do so," said he.

"Then I trust in your honour. One man more or less can make no
difference in a struggle between great armies, and to take you
back as a prisoner would be to condemn you to death. Depart,
sir, and show your gratitude not to me, but to the first French
officer who falls into your hands."

When he was gone I drew my paper from my pocket.

"Now, Sophie," said I, "I have done what you asked me, and all
that I ask in return is that you will give me a lesson in

"With all my heart," said she.

"Let us begin on this," said I, spreading out the paper before
her. "Let us take it word for word and see what it means."

She looked at the writing with some surprise. "It means," said
she, "if the French come to Minsk all is lost." Suddenly a look
of consternation passed over her beautiful face. "Great
Heavens!" she cried, "what is it that I have done? I have
betrayed my country! Oh, Etienne, your eyes are the last for
whom this message is meant. How could you be so cunning as to
make a poor, simple-minded, and unsuspecting girl betray the
cause of her country?"

I consoled my poor Sophie as best I might, and I assured her that
it was no reproach to her that she should be outwitted by so old
a campaigner and so shrewd a man as myself. But it was no time
now for talk. This message made it clear that the corn was
indeed at Minsk, and that there were no troops there to defend
it. I gave a hurried order from the window, the trumpeter blew
the assembly, and in ten minutes we had left the village behind
us and were riding hard for the city, the gilded domes and
minarets of which glimmered above the snow of the horizon.
Higher they rose and higher, until at last, as the sun sank
toward the west, we were in the broad main street, and galloped
up it amid the shouts of the moujiks and the cries of frightened
women until we found ourselves in front of the great town-hall.
My cavalry I drew up in the square, and I, with my two sergeants,
Oudin and Papilette, rushed into the building.

Heavens! shall I ever forget the sight which greeted us? Right
in front of us was drawn up a triple line of Russian Grenadiers.
Their muskets rose as we entered, and a crashing volley burst
into our very faces. Oudin and Papilette dropped upon the floor,
riddled with bullets.

For myself, my busby was shot away and I had two holes through my
dolman. The Grenadiers ran at me with their bayonets.
"Treason!" I cried. "We are betrayed! Stand to your horses!" I
rushed out of the hall, but the whole square was swarming with

From every side street Dragoons and Cossacks were riding down
upon us, and such a rolling fire had burst from the surrounding
houses that half my men and horses were on the ground. "Follow
me!" I yelled, and sprang upon Violette, but a giant of a Russian
Dragoon officer threw his arms round me and we rolled on the
ground together.

He shortened his sword to kill me, but, changing his mind, he
seized me by the throat and banged my head against the stones
until I was unconscious. So it was that I became the prisoner of
the Russians.

When I came to myself my only regret was that my captor had not
beaten out my brains. There in the grand square of Minsk lay
half my troopers dead or wounded, with exultant crowds of
Russians gathered round them.

The rest in a melancholy group were herded into the porch of the
town-hall, a sotnia of Cossacks keeping guard over them. Alas!
what could I say, what could I do? It was evident that I had led
my men into a carefully- baited trap. They had heard of our
mission and they had prepared for us. And yet there was that
despatch which had caused me to neglect all precautions and to
ride straight into the town. How was I to account for that? The
tears ran down my cheeks as I surveyed the ruin of my squadron,
and as I thought of the plight of my comrades of the Grand Army
who awaited the food which I was to have brought them. Ney had
trusted me and I had failed him. How often he would strain his
eyes over the snow-fields for that convoy of grain which should
never gladden his sight! My own fate was hard enough. An exile
in Siberia was the best which the future could bring me. But you
will believe me, my friends, that it was not for his own sake,
but for that of his starving comrades, that Etienne Gerard's
cheeks were lined by his tears, frozen even as they were shed.

"What's this?" said a gruff voice at my elbow; and I turned to
face the huge, black-bearded Dragoon who had dragged me from my
saddle. "Look at the Frenchman crying! I thought that the
Corsican was followed by brave men and not by children."

"If you and I were face to face and alone, I should let you see
which is the better man," said I.

For answer the brute struck me across the face with his open
hand. I seized him by the throat, but a dozen of his soldiers
tore me away from him, and he struck me again while they held my

"You base hound," I cried, "is this the way to treat an officer
and a gentleman?"

"We never asked you to come to Russia," said he. "If you do you
must take such treatment as you can get. I would shoot you
off-hand if I had my way."

"You will answer for this some day," I cried, as I wiped the
blood from my moustache.

"If the Hetman Platoff is of my way of thinking you will not be
alive this time to-morrow," he answered, with a ferocious scowl.
He added some words in Russian to his troops, and instantly they
all sprang to their saddles.

Poor Violette, looking as miserable as her master, was led round
and I was told to mount her. My left arm was tied with a thong
which was fastened to the stirrup- iron of a sergeant of
Dragoons. So in most sorry plight I and the remnant of my men
set forth from Minsk.

Never have I met such a brute as this man Sergine, who commanded
the escort. The Russian army contains the best and the worst in
the world, but a worse than Major Sergine of the Dragoons of
Kieff I have never seen in any force outside of the guerillas of
the Peninsula.

He was a man of great stature, with a fierce, hard face and a
bristling black beard, which fell over his cuirass.

I have been told since that he was noted for his strength and his
bravery, and I could answer for it that he had the grip of a
bear, for I had felt it when he tore me from my saddle. He was a
wit, too, in his way, and made continual remarks in Russian at
our expense which set all his Dragoons and Cossacks laughing.
Twice he beat my comrades with his riding-whip, and once he
approached me with the lash swung over his shoulder, but there
was something in my eyes which prevented it from falling.

So in misery and humiliation, cold and starving, we rode in a
disconsolate column across the vast snow-plain. The sun had
sunk, but still in the long northern twilight we pursued our
weary journey. Numbed and frozen, with my head aching from the
blows it had received, I was borne onward by Violette, hardly
conscious of where I was or whither I was going. The little mare
walked with a sunken head, only raising it to snort her contempt
for the mangy Cossack ponies who were round her.

But suddenly the escort stopped, and I found that we had halted
in the single street of a small Russian village.

There was a church on one side, and on the other was a large
stone house, the outline of which seemed to me to be familiar. I
looked around me in the twilight, and then I saw that we had been
led back to Dobrova, and that this house at the door of which we
were waiting was the same house of the priest at which we had
stopped in the morning. Here it was that my charming Sophie in
her innocence had translated the unlucky message which had in
some strange way led us to our ruin. To think that only a few
hours before we had left this very spot with such high hopes and
all fair prospects for our mission, and now the remnants of us
waited as beaten and humiliated men for whatever lot a brutal
enemy might ordain! But such is the fate of the soldier, my
friends --kisses to-day, blows to-morrow. Tokay in a palace,
ditch-water in a hovel, furs or rags, a full purse or an empty
pocket, ever swaying from the best to the worst, with only his
courage and his honour unchanging.

The Russian horsemen dismounted, and my poor fellows were ordered
to do the same. It was already late, and it was clearly their
intention to spend the night in this village. There were great
cheering and joy amongst the peasants when they understood that
we had all been taken, and they flocked out of their houses with
flaming torches, the women carrying out tea and brandy for the
Cossacks. Amongst others the old priest came forth-- the same
whom we had seen in the morning. He was all smiles now, and he
bore with him some hot punch on a salver, the reek of which I can
remember still. Behind her father was Sophie. With horror I saw
her clasp Major Sergine's hand as she congratulated him upon the
victory he had won and the prisoners he had made. The old
priest, her father, looked at me with an insolent face and made
insulting remarks at my expense, pointing at me with his lean and
grimy hand. His fair daughter Sophie looked at me also, but she
said nothing, and I could read her tender pity in her dark eyes.
At last she turned to Major Sergine and said something to him in
Russian, on which he frowned and shook his head impatiently.

She appeared to plead with him, standing there in the flood of
light which shone from the open door of her father's house. My
eyes were fixed upon the two faces, that of the beautiful girl
and of the dark, fierce man, for my instinct told me that it was
my own fate which was under debate. For a long time the soldier
shook his head, and then, at last softening before her pleadings,
he appeared to give way. He turned to where I stood with my
guardian sergeant beside me.

"These good people offer you the shelter of their roof for the
night," said he to me, looking me up and down with vindictive
eyes. "I find it hard to refuse them, but I tell you straight
that for my part I had rather see you on the snow. It would cool
your hot blood, you rascal of a Frenchman!"

I looked at him with the contempt that I felt.

"You were born a savage and you will die one," said I.

My words stung him, for he broke into an oath, raising his whip
as if he would strike me.

"Silence, you crop-eared dog!" he cried. "Had I my way some of
the insolence would be frozen out of you before morning."
Mastering his passion, he turned upon Sophie with what he meant
to be a gallant manner. "If you have a cellar with a good lock,"
said he, "the fellow may lie in it for the night, since you have
done him the honour to take an interest in his comfort. I must
have his parole that he will not attempt to play us any tricks,
as I am answerable for him until I hand him over to the Hetman
Platoff to-morrow."

His supercilious manner was more than I could endure.

He had evidently spoken French to the lady in order that I might
understand the humiliating way in which he referred to me.

"I will take no favour from you," said I. "You may do what you
like, but I will never give you my parole."

The Russian shrugged his great shoulders, and turned away as if
the matter were ended.

"Very well, my fine fellow, so much the worse for your fingers
and toes. We shall see how you are in the morning after a night
in the snow."

"One moment, Major Sergine," cried Sophie. "You must not be so
hard upon this prisoner. There are some special reasons why he
has a claim upon our kindness and mercy."

The Russian looked with suspicion upon his face from her to me.

"What are the special reasons? You certainly seem to take a
remarkable interest in this Frenchman," said he.

"The chief reason is that he has this very morning of his own
accord released Captain Alexis Barakoff, of the Dragoons of

"It is true," said Barakoff, who had come out of the house. "He
captured me this morning, and he released me upon parole rather
than take me back to the French army, where I should have been

"Since Colonel Gerard has acted so generously you will surely,
now that fortune has changed, allow us to offer him the poor
shelter of our cellar upon this bitter night," said Sophie. "It
is a small return for his generosity."

But the Dragoon was still in the sulks.

"Let him give me his parole first that he will not attempt to
escape," said he. "Do you hear, sir? Do you give me your

"I give you nothing," said I.

"Colonel Gerard," cried Sophie, turning to me with a coaxing
smile, "you will give me your parole, will you not?"

"To you, mademoiselle, I can refuse nothing. I will give you my
parole, with pleasure."

"There, Major Sergine," cried Sophie, in triumph,

"that is surely sufficient. You have heard him say that he gives
me his parole. I will be answerable for his safety ."

In an ungracious fashion my Russian bear grunted his consent, and
so I was led into the house, followed by the scowling father and
by the big, black-bearded Dragoon. In the basement there was a
large and roomy chamber, where the winter logs were stored.
Thither it was that I was led, and I was given to understand that
this was to be my lodging for the night. One side of this bleak
apartment was heaped up to the ceiling with fagots of firewood.
The rest of the room was stone- flagged and bare-walled, with a
single, deep-set window upon one side, which was safely guarded
with iron bars. For light I had a large stable lantern, which
swung from a beam of the low ceiling. Major Sergine smiled as he
took this down, and swung it round so as to throw its light into
every corner of that dreary chamber.

"How do you like our Russian hotels, monsieur?" he asked, with
his hateful sneer. "They are not very grand, but they are the
best that we can give you. Perhaps the next time that you
Frenchmen take a fancy to travel you will choose some other
country where they will make you more comfortable." He stood
laughing at me, his white teeth gleaming through his beard. Then
he left me, and I heard the great key creak in the lock.

For an hour of utter misery, chilled in body and soul, I sat upon
a pile of fagots, my face sunk upon my hands and my mind full of
the saddest thoughts. It was cold enough within those four
walls, but I thought of the sufferings of my poor troopers
outside, and I sorrowed with their sorrow. Then. I paced up and
down, and I clapped my hands together and kicked my feet against
the walls to keep them from being frozen. The lamp gave out some
warmth, but still it was bitterly cold, and I had had no food
since morning. It seemed to me that everyone had forgotten me,
but at last I heard the key turn in the lock, and who should
enter but my prisoner of the morning, Captain Alexis Barakoff. A
bottle of wine projected from under his arm, and he carried a
great plate of hot stew in front of him.

"Hush!" said he; "not a word! Keep up your heart!

I cannot stop to explain, for Sergine is still with us.

Keep awake and ready!" With these hurried words he laid down the
welcome food and ran out of the room.

"Keep awake and ready!" The words rang in my ears. I ate my
food and I drank my wine, but it was neither food nor wine which
had warmed the heart within me. What could those words of
Barakoff mean?

Why was I to remain awake? For what was I to be ready? Was it
possible that there was a chance yet of escape? I have never
respected the man who neglects his prayers at all other times and
yet prays when he is in peril. It is like a bad soldier who pays
no respect to the colonel save when he would demand a favour of
him. And yet when I thought of the salt-mines of Siberia on the
one side and of my mother in France upon the other, I could not
help a prayer rising, not from my lips, but from my heart, that
the words of Barakoff might mean all that I hoped. But hour
after hour struck upon the village clock, and still I heard
nothing save the call of the Russian sentries in the street

Then at last my heart leaped within me, for I heard a light step
in the passage. An instant later the key turned, the door
opened, and Sophie was in the room.

"Monsieur--" she cried.

"Etienne," said I.

"Nothing will change you," said she. "But is it possible that
you do not hate me? Have you forgiven me the trick which I
played you?"

"What trick?" I asked.

"Good heavens! Is it possible that even now you have not
understood it? You have asked me to translate the despatch. I
have told you that it meant, 'If the French come to Minsk all is
lost.' "

"What did it mean, then?"

"It means, 'Let the French come to Minsk. We are awaiting

I sprang back from her.

"You betrayed me!" I cried. "You lured me into this trap. It is
to you that I owe the death and capture of my men. Fool that I
was to trust a woman!"

"Do not be unjust, Colonel Gerard. I am a Russian woman, and my
first duty is to my country. Would you not wish a French girl to
have acted as I have done?

Had I translated the message correctly you would not have gone to
Minsk and your squadron would have escaped.

Tell me that you forgive me!"

She looked bewitching as she stood pleading her cause in front of
me. And yet, as I thought of my dead men, I could not take the
hand which she held out to me.

"Very good," said she, as she dropped it by her side.

"You feel for your own people and I feel for mine, and so we are
equal. But you have said one wise and kindly thing within these
walls, Colonel Gerard. You have said, 'One man more or less can
make no difference in a struggle between two great armies.' Your
lesson of nobility is not wasted. Behind those fagots is an
unguarded door. Here is the key to it. Go forth, Colonel
Gerard, and I trust that we may never look upon each other's
faces again."

I stood for an instant with the key in my hand and my head in a
whirl. Then I handed it back to her.

"I cannot do it," I said.

"Why not?"

"I have given my parole."

"To whom?" she asked.

"Why, to you."

"And I release you from it."

My heart bounded with joy. Of course, it was true what she said.
I had refused to give my parole to Sergine. I owed him no duty.
If she relieved me from my promise my honour was clear. I took
the key from her hand.

"You will find Captain Barakoff at the end of the village
street," said she. "We of the North never forget either an
injury or a kindness. He has your mare and your sword waiting
for you. Do not delay an instant, for in two hours it will be

So I passed out into the star-lit Russian night, and had that
last glimpse of Sophie as she peered after me through the open
door. She looked wistfully at me as if she expected something
more than the cold thanks which I gave her, but even the humblest
man has his pride, and I will not deny that mine was hurt by the
deception which she had played upon me. I could not have brought
myself to kiss her hand, far less her lips. The door led into a
narrow alley, and at the end of it stood a muffled figure, who
held Violette by the bridle.

"You told me to be kind to the next French officer whom I found
in distress," said he. "Good luck! Bon voyage!" he whispered,
as I bounded into the saddle.

"Remember, 'Poltava' is the watchword."

It was well that he had given it to me, for twice I had to pass
Cossack pickets before I was clear of the lines.

I had just ridden past the last vedettes and hoped that I was a
free man again, when there was a soft thudding in the snow behind
me, and a heavy man upon a great black horse came swiftly after
me. My first impulse was to put spurs to Violette. My second,
as I saw a long black beard against a steel cuirass, was to halt
and await him.

"I thought that it was you, you dog of a Frenchman," he cried,
shaking his drawn sword at me. "So you have broken your parole,
you rascal!"

"I gave no parole."

"You lie, you hound!"

I looked around and no one was coming. The vedettes were
motionless and distant. We were all alone, with the moon above
and the snow beneath. Fortune has ever been my friend.

"I gave you no parole."

"You gave it to the lady."

"Then I will answer for it to the lady."

"That would suit you better, no doubt. But, unfortunately, you
will have to answer for it to me."

"I am ready."

"Your sword, too! There is treason in this! Ah, I see it all!
The woman has helped you. She shall see Siberia for this night's

The words were his death-warrant. For Sophie's sake I could not
let him go back alive. Our blades crossed, and an instant later
mine was through his black beard and deep in his throat. I was
on the ground almost as soon as he, but the one thrust was
enough. He died, snapping his teeth at my ankles like a savage

Two days later I had rejoined the army at Smolensk, and was a
part once more of that dreary procession which tramped onward
through the snow, leaving a long weal of blood to show the path
which it had taken.

Enough, my friends; I would not re-awaken the memory of those
days of misery and death. They still come to haunt me in my
dreams. When we halted at last in Warsaw we had left behind us
our guns, our transport, and three-fourths of our comrades. But
we did not leave behind us the honour of Etienne Gerard. They
have said that I broke my parole. Let them beware how they say
it to my face, for the story is as I tell it, and old as I am my
forefinger is not too weak to press a trigger when my honour is
in question.

VII . How the Brigadier Bore Himself at Waterloo


Of all the great battles in which I had the honour of drawing my
sword for the Emperor and for France there was not one which was
lost. At Waterloo, although, in a sense, I was present, I was
unable to fight, and the enemy was victorious. It is not for me
to say that there is a connection between these two things. You
know me too well, my friends, to imagine that I would make such a
claim. But it gives matter for thought, and some have drawn
flattering conclusions from it.

After all, it was only a matter of breaking a few English squares
and the day would have been our own. If the Hussars of Conflans,
with Etienne Gerard to lead them, could not do this, then the
best judges are mistaken.

But let that pass. The Fates had ordained that I should hold my
hand and that the Empire should fall. But they had also ordained
that this day of gloom and sorrow should bring such honour to me
as had never come when I swept on the wings of victory from
Boulogne to Vienna.

Never had I burned so brilliantly as at that supreme moment when
the darkness fell upon all around me. You are aware that I was
faithful to the Emperor in his adversity, and that I refused to
sell my sword and my honour to the Bourbons. Never again was I
to feel my war horse between my knees, never again to hear the
kettledrums and silver trumpets behind me as I rode in front of
my little rascals. But it comforts my heart, my friends, and it
brings the tears to my eyes, to think how great I was upon that
last day of my soldier life, and to remember that of all the
remarkable exploits which have won me the love of so many
beautiful women, and the respect of so many noble men, there was
none which, in splendour, in audacity, and in the great end which
was attained, could compare with my famous ride upon the night of
June 18th, 1815. I am aware that the story is often told at
mess-tables and in barrack-rooms, so that there are few in the
army who have not heard it, but modesty has sealed my lips, until
now, my friends, in the privacy of these intimate gatherings, I
am inclined to lay the true facts before you.

In the first place, there is one thing which I can assure you.
In all his career Napoleon never had so splendid an army as that
with which he took the field for that campaign. In 1813 France
was exhausted. For every veteran there were five children--Marie
Louises, as we called them; for the Empress had busied herself in
raising levies while the Emperor took the field. But it was very
different in 1815. The prisoners had all come back-- the men
from the snows of Russia, the men from the dungeons of Spain, the
men from the hulks in England.

These were the dangerous men, veterans of twenty battles, longing
for their old trade, and with hearts filled with hatred and
revenge. The ranks were full of soldiers who wore two and three
chevrons, every chevron meaning five years' service. And the
spirit of these men was terrible. They were raging, furious,
fanatical, adoring the Emperor as a Mameluke does his prophet,
ready to fall upon their own bayonets if their blood could serve
him. If you had seen these fierce old veterans going into
battle, with their flushed faces, their savage eyes, their
furious yells, you would wonder that anything could stand against
them. So high was the spirit of France at that time that every
other spirit would have quailed before it; but these people,
these English, had neither spirit nor soul, but only solid,
immovable beef, against which we broke ourselves in vain. That
was it, my friends! On the one side, poetry, gallantry, self-
sacrifice--all that is beautiful and heroic. On the other side,
beef. Our hopes, our ideals, our dreams--all were shattered on
that terrible beef of Old England.

You have read how the Emperor gathered his forces, and then how
he and I, with a hundred and thirty thousand veterans, hurried to
the northern frontier and fell upon the Prussians and the
English. On the 16th of June, Ney held the English in play at
Quatre-Bras while we beat the Prussians at Ligny. It is not for
me to say how far I contributed to that victory, but it is well
known that the Hussars of Conflans covered themselves with glory.
They fought well, these Prussians, and eight thousand of them
were left upon the field. The Emperor thought that he had done
with them, as he sent Marshal Grouchy with thirty-two thousand
men to follow them up and to prevent their interfering with his
plans. Then with nearly eighty thousand men, he turned upon
these "Goddam" Englishmen. How much we had to avenge upon them,
we Frenchmen--the guineas of Pitt, the hulks of Portsmouth, the
invasion of Wellington, the perfidious victories of Nelson! At
last the day of punishment seemed to have arisen.

Wellington had with him sixty-seven thousand men, but many of
them were known to be Dutch and Belgian, who had no great desire
to fight against us. Of good troops he had not fifty thousand.
Finding himself in the presence of the Emperor in person with
eighty thousand men, this Englishman was so paralysed with fear
that he could neither move himself nor his army. You have seen
the rabbit when the snake approaches. So stood the English upon
the ridge of Waterloo. The night before, the Emperor, who had
lost an aide-de- camp at Ligny, ordered me to join his staff, and
I had left my Hussars to the charge of Major Victor. I know not
which of us was the most grieved, they or I, that I should be
called away upon the eve of battle, but an order is an order, and
a good soldier can but shrug his shoulders and obey. With the
Emperor I rode across the front of the enemy's position on the
morning of the 18th, he looking at them through his glass and
planning which was the shortest way to destroy them. Soult was
at his elbow, and Ney and Foy and others who had fought the
English in Portugal and Spain. "Have a care, Sire," said Soult.
"The English infantry is very solid."

"You think them good soldiers because they have beaten you," said
the Emperor, and we younger men turned away our faces and smiled.
But Ney and Foy were grave and serious. All the time the English
line, chequered with red and blue and dotted with batteries, was
drawn up silent and watchful within a long musket- shot of us.
On the other side of the shallow valley our own people, having
finished their soup, were assembling for the battle. It had
rained very heavily, but at this moment the sun shone out and
beat upon the French army, turning our brigades of cavalry into
so many dazzling rivers of steel, and twinkling and sparkling on
the innumerable bayonets of the infantry. At the sight of that
splendid army, and the beauty and majesty of its appearance, I
could contain myself no longer, but, rising in my stirrups, I
waved my busby and cried, "Vive l'Empereur!" a shout which
growled and roared and clattered from one end of the line to the
other, while the horsemen waved their swords and the footmen held
up their shakos upon their bayonets. The English remained
petrified upon their ridge. They knew that their hour had come.

And so it would have come if at that moment the word had been
given and the whole army had been permitted to advance. We had
but to fall upon them and to sweep them from the face of the
earth. To put aside all question of courage, we were the more
numerous, the older soldiers, and the better led. But the
Emperor desired to do all things in order, and he waited until
the ground should be drier and harder, so that his artillery
could manoeuvre. So three hours were wasted, and it was eleven
o'clock before we saw Jerome Buonaparte's columns advance upon
our left and heard the crash of the guns which told that the
battle had begun. The loss of those three hours was our
destruction. The attack upon the left was directed upon a
farm-house which was held by the English Guards, and we heard the
three loud shouts of apprehension which the defenders were
compelled to utter. They were still holding out, and D'Erlon's
corps was advancing upon the right to engage another portion of
the English line, when our attention was called away from the
battle beneath our noses to a distant portion of the field of

The Emperor had been looking through his glass to the extreme
left of the English line, and now he turned suddenly to the Duke
of Dalmatia, or Soult, as we soldiers preferred to call him.

"What is it, Marshal?" said he.

We all followed the direction of his gaze, some raising our
glasses, some shading our eyes. There was a thick wood over
yonder, then a long, bare slope, and another wood beyond. Over
this bare strip between the two woods there lay something dark,
like the shadow of a moving cloud.

"I think that they are cattle, Sire," said Soult.

At that instant there came a quick twinkle from amid the dark

"It is Grouchy," said the Emperor, and he lowered his glass.
"They are doubly lost, these English. I hold them in the hollow
of my hand. They cannot escape me."

He looked round, and his eyes fell upon me.

"Ah! here is the prince of messengers," said he. "Are you well
mounted, Colonel Gerard?"

I was riding my little Violette, the pride of the brigade.

I said so.

"Then ride hard to Marshal Grouchy, whose troops you see over
yonder. Tell him that he is to fall upon the left flank and rear
of the English while I attack them in front. Together we should
crush them and not a man escape."

I saluted and rode off without a word, my heart dancing with joy
that such a mission should be mine. I looked at that long, solid
line of red and blue looming through the smoke of the guns, and I
shook my fist at it as I went. "We shall crush them and not a
man escape."

They were the Emperor's words, and it was I, Etienne Gerard, who
was to turn them into deeds. I burned to reach the Marshal, and
for an instant I thought of riding through the English left wing,
as being the shortest cut. I have done bolder deeds and come out
safely, but I reflected that if things went badly with me and I
was taken or shot the message would be lost and the plans of the
Emperor miscarry. I passed in front of the cavalry, therefore,
past the Chasseurs, the Lancers of the Guard, the Carabineers,
the Horse Grenadiers, and, lastly, my own little rascals, who
followed me wistfully with their eyes. Beyond the cavalry the
Old Guard was standing, twelve regiments of them, all veterans of
many battles, sombre and severe, in long blue overcoats and high
bearskins from which the plumes had been removed. Each bore
within the goatskin knapsack upon his back the blue and white
parade uniform which they would use for their entry into Brussels
next day. As I rode past them I reflected that these men had
never been beaten, and as I looked at their weather-beaten faces
and their stern and silent bearing, I said to myself that they
never would be beaten. Great heavens, how little could I foresee
what a few more hours would bring!

On the right of the Old Guard were the Young Guard and the 6th
Corps of Lobau, and then I passed Jacquinot's Lancers and
Marbot's Hussars, who held the extreme flank of the line. All
these troops knew nothing of the corps which was coming toward
them through the wood, and their attention was taken up in
watching the battle which raged upon their left. More than a
hundred guns were thundering from each side, and the din was so
great that of all the battles which I have fought I cannot recall
more than half-a-dozen which were as noisy. I looked back over
my shoulder, and there were two brigades of Cuirassiers, English
and French, pouring down the hill together, with the sword-blades
playing over them like summer lightning. How I longed to turn
Violette, and to lead my Hussars into the thick of it! What a
picture! Etienne Gerard with his back to the battle, and a fine
cavalry action raging behind him.

But duty is duty, so I rode past Marbot's vedettes and on in the
direction of the wood, passing the village of Frishermont upon my

In front of me lay the great wood, called the Wood of Paris,
consisting mostly of oak trees, with a few narrow paths leading
through it. I halted and listened when I reached it, but out of
its gloomy depths there came no blare of trumpet, no murmur of
wheels, no tramp of horses to mark the advance of that great
column which, with my own eyes, I had seen streaming toward it.
The battle roared behind me, but in front all was as silent as
that grave in which so many brave men would shortly sleep. The
sunlight was cut off by the arches of leaves above my head, and a
heavy damp smell rose from the sodden ground. For several miles
I galloped at such a pace as few riders would care to go with
roots below and branches above. Then, at last, for the first
time I caught a glimpse of Grouchy's advance guard. Scattered
parties of Hussars passed me on either side, but some distance
of, among the trees. I heard the beating of a drum far away, and
the low, dull murmur which an army makes upon the march. Any
moment I might come upon the staff and deliver my message to
Grouchy in person, for I knew well that on such a march a Marshal
of France would certainly ride with the van of his army.

Suddenly the trees thinned in front of me, and I understood with
delight that I was coming to the end of the wood? whence I could
see the army and find the Marshal.

Where the track comes out from amid the trees there is a small
cabaret, where wood-cutters and waggoners drink their wine.
Outside the door of this I reined up my horse for an instant
while I took in the scene which was before me. Some few miles
away I saw a second great forest, that of St. Lambert, out of
which the Emperor had seen the troops advancing. It was easy to
see, however, why there had been so long a delay in their leaving
one wood and reaching the other, because between the two ran the
deep defile of the Lasnes, which had to be crossed. Sure enough,
a long column of troops --horse, foot, and guns--was streaming
down one side of it and swarming up the other, while the advance
guard was already among the trees on either side of me. A
battery of Horse Artillery was coming along the road, and I was
about to gallop up to it and ask the officer in command if he
could tell me where I should find the Marshal, when suddenly I
observed that, though the gunners were dressed in blue, they had
not the dolman trimmed with red brandenburgs as our own
horse-gunners wear it. Amazed at the sight, I was looking at
these soldiers to left and right when a hand touched my thigh,
and there was the landlord, who had rushed from his inn.

"Madman!" he cried, "why are you here? What are you doing?"

"I am seeking Marshal Grouchy."

"You are in the heart of the Prussian army. Turn and fly!"

"Impossible; this is Grouchy's corps."

"How do you know?"

"Because the Emperor has said it."

"Then the Emperor has made a terrible mistake! I tell you that a
patrol of Silesian Hussars has this instant left me. Did you not
see them in the wood?"

"I saw Hussars."

"They are the enemy."

"Where is Grouchy?"

"He is behind. They have passed him."

"Then how can I go back? If I go forward I may see him yet. I
must obey my orders and find him where- ever{sic} he is."

The man reflected for an instant.

"Quick! quick!" he cried, seizing my bridle. "Do what I say and
you may yet escape. They have not observed you yet. Come with
me and I will hide you until they pass."

Behind his house there was a low stable, and into this he thrust
Violette. Then he half led and half dragged me into the kitchen
of the inn. It was a bare, brick- floored room. A stout,
red-faced woman was cooking cutlets at the fire.

"What's the matter now?" she asked, looking with a frown from me
to the innkeeper. "Who is this you have brought in?"

"It is a French officer, Marie. We cannot let the Prussians take

"Why not?"

"Why not? Sacred name of a dog, was I not myself a soldier of
Napoleon? Did I not win a musket of honour among the Velites of
the Guard? Shall I see a comrade taken before my eyes? Marie,
we must save him." But the lady looked at me with most
unfriendly eyes.

"Pierre Charras," she said, "you will not rest until you have
your house burned over your head. Do you not understand, you
blockhead, that if you fought for Napoleon it was because
Napoleon ruled Belgium? He does so no longer. The Prussians are
our allies and this is our enemy. I will have no Frenchman in
this house.

Give him up!"

The innkeeper scratched his head and looked at me in despair, but
it was very evident to me that it was neither for France nor for
Belgium that this woman cared, but that it was the safety of her
own house that was nearest her heart.

"Madame," said I, with all the dignity and assurance I could
command, "the Emperor is defeating the English, and the French
army will be here before evening.

If you have used me well you will be rewarded, and if you have
denounced me you will be punished and your house will certainly
be burned by the provost-martial."

She was shaken by this, and I hastened to complete my victory by
other methods.

"Surely," said I, "it is impossible that anyone so beautiful can
also be hard-hearted? You will not refuse me the refuge which I

She looked at my whiskers and I saw that she was softened. I
took her hand, and in two minutes we were on such terms that her
husband swore roundly that he would give me up himself if I
pressed the matter farther.

"Besides, the road is full of Prussians," he cried.

"Quick! quick! into the loft!"

"Quick! quick! into the loft!" echoed his wife, and together they
hurried me toward a ladder which led to a trap-door in the
ceiling. There was loud knocking at the door, so you can think
that it was not long before my spurs went twinkling through the
hole and the board was dropped behind me. An instant later I
heard the voices of the Germans in the rooms below me.

The place in which I found myself was a single long attic, the
ceiling of which was formed by the roof of the house. It ran
over the whole of one side of the inn, and through the cracks in
the flooring I could look down either upon the kitchen, the
sitting-room, or the bar at my pleasure. There were no windows,
but the place was in the last stage of disrepair, and several
missing slates upon the roof gave me light and the means of

The place was heaped with lumber-fodder at one end and a huge
pile of empty bottles at the other. There was no door or window
save the hole through which I had come up.

I sat upon the heap of hay for a few minutes to steady myself and
to think out my plans. It was very serious that the Prussians
should arrive upon the field of battle earlier than our reserves,
but there appeared to be only one corps of them, and a corps more
or less makes little difference to such a man as the Emperor. He
could afford to give the English all this and beat them still.

The best way in which I could serve him, since Grouchy was
behind, was to wait here until they were past, and then to resume
my journey, to see the Marshal, and to give him his orders. If
he advanced upon the rear of the English instead of following the
Prussians all would be well. The fate of France depended upon my
judgment and my nerve. It was not the first time, my friends, as
you are well aware, and you know the reasons that I had to trust
that neither nerve nor judgment would ever fail me. Certainly,
the Emperor had chosen the right man for his mission. "The
prince of messengers" he had called me. I would earn my title.

It was clear that I could do nothing until the Prussians had
passed, so I spent my time in observing them. I have no love for
these people, but I am compelled to say that they kept excellent
discipline, for not a man of them entered the inn, though their
lips were caked with dust and they were ready to drop with
fatigue. Those who had knocked at the door were bearing an
insensible comrade, and having left him they returned at once to
the ranks. Several others were carried in in the same fashion
and laid in the kitchen, while a young surgeon, little more than
a boy, remained behind in charge of them.

Having observed them through the cracks in the floor, I next
turned my attention to the holes in the roof, from which I had an
excellent view of all that was passing outside. The Prussian
corps was still streaming past. It was easy to see that they had
made a terrible march and had little food, for the faces of the
men were ghastly, and they were plastered from head to foot with
mud from their falls upon the foul and slippery roads. Yet,
spent as they were, their spirit was excellent, and they pushed
and hauled at the gun-carriages when the wheels sank up to the
axles in the mire, and the weary horses were floundering
knee-deep unable to draw them through.

The officers rode up and down the column encouraging the more
active with words of praise, and the laggards with blows from the
flat of their swords. All the time from over the wood in front
of them there came the tremendous roar of the battle, as if all
the rivers on earth had united in one gigantic cataract, booming
and crashing in a mighty fall. Like the spray of the cataract
was the long veil of smoke which rose high over the trees.

The officers pointed to it with their swords, and with hoarse
cries from their parched lips the mud-stained men pushed onward
to the battle. For an hour I watched them pass, and I reflected
that their vanguard must have come into touch with Marbot's
vedettes and that the Emperor knew already of their coming. "You
are going very fast up the road, my friends, but you will come
down it a great deal faster," said I to myself, and I consoled
myself with the thought.

But an adventure came to break the monotony of this long wait. I
was seated beside my loophole and congratulating myself that the
corps was nearly past, and that the road would soon be clear for
my journey, when suddenly I heard a loud altercation break out in
French in the kitchen.

"You shall not go!" cried a woman's voice.

"I tell you that I will!" said a man's, and there was a sound of

In an instant I had my eye to the crack in the floor.

There was my stout lady, like a faithful watch-dog, at the bottom
of the ladder, while the young German surgeon, white with anger,
was endeavouring to come up it.

Several of the German soldiers who had recovered from their
prostration were sitting about on the kitchen floor and watching
the quarrel with stolid, but attentive, faces.

The landlord was nowhere to be seen.

"There is no liquor there," said the woman.

"I do not want liquor; I want hay or straw for these men to lie
upon. Why should they lie on the bricks when there is straw

"There is no straw."

"What is up there?"

"Empty bottles."

"Nothing else?"


For a moment it looked as if the surgeon would abandon his
intention, but one of the soldiers pointed up to the ceiling. I
gathered from what I could understand of his words that he could
see the straw sticking out between the planks. In vain the woman
protested. Two of the soldiers were able to get upon their feet
and to drag her aside, while the young surgeon ran up the ladder,
pushed open the trap-door, and climbed into the loft.

As he swung the door back I slipped behind it, but as luck would
have it he shut it again behind him, and there we were left
standing face to face.

Never have I seen a more astonished young man.

"A French officer!" he gasped.

"Hush!" said I, "hush! Not a word above a whisper."

I had drawn my sword.

"I am not a combatant," he said; "I am a doctor.

Why do you threaten me with your sword? I am not armed."

"I do not wish to hurt you, but I must protect myself. I am in
hiding here."

"A spy!"

"A spy does not wear such a uniform as this, nor do you find
spies on the staff of an army. I rode by mistake into the heart
of this Prussian corps, and I concealed myself here in the hope
of escaping when they are past.

I will not hurt you if you do not hurt me, but if you do not
swear that you will be silent as to my presence you will never go
down alive from this attic."

"You can put up your sword, sir," said the surgeon, and I saw a
friendly twinkle in his eyes. "I am a Pole by birth, and I have
no ill-feeling to you or your people.

I will do my best for my patients, but I will do no more.

Capturing Hussars is not one of the duties of a surgeon.

With your permission I will now descend with this truss of hay to
make a couch for these poor fellows below."

I had intended to exact an oath from him, but it is my experience
that if a man will not speak the truth he will not swear the
truth, so I said no more. The surgeon opened the trap-door,
threw out enough hay for his purpose, and then descended the
ladder, letting down the door behind him. I watched him
anxiously when he rejoined his patients, and so did my good
friend the landlady, but he said nothing and busied himself with
the needs of his soldiers.

By this time I was sure that the last of the army corps was past,
and I went to my loophole confident that I should find the coast
clear, save, perhaps, for a few stragglers, whom I could
disregard. The first corps was indeed past, and I could see the
last files of the infantry disappearing into the wood; but you
can imagine my disappointment when out of the Forest of St.
Lambert I saw a second corps emerging, as numerous as the first.

There could be no doubt that the whole Prussian army, which we
thought we had destroyed at Ligny, was about to throw itself upon
our right wing while Marshal Grouchy had been coaxed away upon
some fool's errand.

The roar of guns, much nearer than before, told me that the
Prussian batteries which had passed me were already in action.
Imagine my terrible position! Hour after hour was passing; the
sun was sinking toward the west.

And yet this cursed inn, in which I lay hid, was like a little
island amid a rushing stream of furious Prussians.

It was all important that I should reach Marshal Grouchy, and yet
I could not show my nose without being made prisoner. You can
think how I cursed and tore my hair. How little do we know what
is in store for us!

Even while I raged against my ill-fortune, that same fortune was
reserving me for a far higher task than to carry a message to
Grouchy--a task which could not have been mine had I not been
held tight in that little inn on the edge of the Forest of Paris.

Two Prussian corps had passed and a third was coming up, when I
heard a great fuss and the sound of several voices in the
sitting-room. By altering my position I was able to look down
and see what was going on.

Two Prussian generals were beneath me, their heads bent over a
map which lay upon the table. Several aides- de-camp and staff
officers stood round in silence. Of the two generals, one was a
fierce old man, white-haired and wrinkled, with a ragged,
grizzled moustache and a voice like the bark of a hound. The
other was younger, but long-faced and solemn. He measured
distances upon the map with the air of a student, while his
companion stamped and fumed and cursed like a corporal of
Hussars. It was strange to see the old man so fiery and the
young one so reserved. I could not understand all that they
said, but I was very sure about their general meaning.

"I tell you we must push on and ever on!" cried the old fellow,
with a furious German oath. "I promised Wellington that I would
be there with the whole army even if I had to be strapped to my
horse. Bulow's corps is in action, and Ziethen's shall support
it with every man and gun. Forward, Gneisenau, forward!"

The other shook his head.

"You must remember, your Excellency, that if the English are
beaten they will make for the coast. What will your position be
then, with Grouchy between you and the Rhine?"

"We shall beat them, Gneisenau; the Duke and I will grind them to
powder between us. Push on, I say! The whole war will be ended
in one blow. Bring Pirsch up, and we can throw sixty thousand
men into the scale while Thielmann holds Grouchy beyond Wavre."

Gneisenau shrugged his shoulders, but at that instant an orderly
appeared at the door.

"An aide-de-camp from the Duke of Wellington," said he.

"Ha, ha!" cried the old man; "let us hear what he has to say!"

An English officer, with mud and blood all over his scarlet
jacket, staggered into the room. A crimson- stained handkerchief
was knotted round his arm, and he held the table to keep himself
from falling.

"My message is to Marshal Blucher," said he;

"I am Marshal Blucher. Go on! go on!" cried the impatient old

"The Duke bade me to tell you, sir, that the British Army can
hold its own and that he has no fears for the result. The French
cavalry has been destroyed, two of their divisions of infantry
have ceased to exist, and only the Guard is in reserve. If you
give us a vigorous support the defeat will be changed to absolute
rout and--" His knees gave way under him and he fell in a heap
upon the floor.

"Enough! enough!" cried Blucher. "Gneisenau, send an
aide-de-camp to Wellington and tell him to rely upon me to the
full. Come on, gentlemen, we have our work to do!" He bustled
eagerly out of the room with all his staff clanking behind him,
while two orderlies carried the English messenger to the care of
the surgeon.

Gneisenau, the Chief of the Staff, had lingered behind for an
instant, and he laid his hand upon one of the aides- de-camp.
The fellow had attracted my attention, for I have always a quick
eye for a fine man. He was tall and slender, the very model of a
horseman; indeed, there was something in his appearance which
made it not unlike my own. His face was dark and as keen as that
of a hawk, with fierce black eyes under thick, shaggy brows, and
a moustache which would have put him in the crack squadron of my
Hussars. He wore a green coat with white facings, and a
horse-hair helmet--a Dragoon, as I conjectured, and as dashing a
cavalier as one would wish to have at the end of one's

"A word with you, Count Stein," said Gneisenau. "If the enemy
are routed, but if the Emperor escapes, he will rally another
army, and all will have to be done again.

But if we can get the Emperor, then the war is indeed ended. It
is worth a great effort and a great risk for such an object as

The young Dragoon said nothing, but he listened attentively.

"Suppose the Duke of Wellington's words should prove to be
correct, and the French army should be driven in utter rout from
the field, the Emperor will certainly take the road back through
Genappe and Charleroi as being the shortest to the frontier. We
can imagine that his horses will be fleet, and that the fugitives
will make way for him. Our cavalry will follow the rear of the
beaten army, but the Emperor will be far away at the front of the

The young Dragoon inclined his head.

"To you, Count Stein, I commit the Emperor. If you take him your
name will live in history. You have the reputation of being the
hardest rider in our army.

Do you choose such comrades as you may select--ten or a dozen
should be enough. You are not to engage in the battle, nor are
you to follow the general pursuit, but you are to ride clear of
the crowd, reserving your energies for a nobler end. Do you
understand me?"

Again the Dragoon inclined his head. This silence impressed me.
I felt that he was indeed a dangerous man.

"Then I leave the details in your own hands. Strike at no one
except the highest. You cannot mistake the Imperial carriage,
nor can you fail to recognise the figure of the Emperor. Now I
must follow the Marshal.

Adieu! If ever I see you again I trust that it will be to
congratulate you upon a deed which will ring through Europe."

The Dragoon saluted and Gneisenau hurried from the room. The
young officer stood in deep thought for a few moments. Then he
followed the Chief of the Staff.

I looked with curiosity from my loophole to see what his next
proceeding would be. His horse, a fine, strong chestnut with two
white stockings, was fastened to the rail of the inn. He sprang
into the saddle, and, riding to intercept a column of cavalry
which was passing, he spoke to an officer at the head of the
leading regiment.

Presently after some talk I saw two Hussars--it was a Hussar
regiment--drop out of the ranks and take up their position beside
Count Stein. The next regiment was also stopped, and two Lancers
were added to his escort. The next furnished him with two
Dragoons and the next with two Cuirassiers. Then he drew his
little group of horsemen aside and he gathered them round him,
explaining to them what they had to do. Finally the nine
soldiers rode off together and disappeared into the Wood of

I need not tell you, my friends, what all this portended.

Indeed, he had acted exactly as I should have done in his place.
From each colonel he had demanded the two best horsemen in the
regiment, and so he had assembled a band who might expect to
catch whatever they should follow. Heaven help the Emperor if,
without an escort, he should find them on his track!

And I, dear friends--imagine the fever, the ferment, the madness
of my mind! All thought of Grouchy had passed away. No guns
were to be heard to the east. He could not be near. If he
should come up he would not now be in time to alter the event of
the day. The sun was already low in the sky and there could not
be more than two or three hours of daylight. My mission might be
dismissed as useless. But here was another mission, more
pressing, more immediate, a mission which meant the safety, and
perhaps the life, of the Emperor. At all costs, through every
danger, I must get back to his side.

But how was I to do it? The whole Prussian army was now between
me and the French lines. They blocked every road, but they could
not block the path of duty when Etienne Gerard sees it lie before

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