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The Adventures of Gerard by Arthur Conan Doyle

Part 4 out of 4

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him. I could not wait longer. I must be gone.

There was but the one opening to the loft, and so it was only
down the ladder that I could descend. I looked into the kitchen
and I found that the young surgeon was still there. In a chair
sat the wounded English aide-de- camp, and on the straw lay two
Prussian soldiers in the last stage of exhaustion. The others
had all recovered and been sent on. These were my enemies, and I
must pass through them in order to gain my horse. From the
surgeon I had nothing to fear; the Englishman was wounded, and
his sword stood with his cloak in a corner; the two Germans were
half insensible, and their muskets were not beside them. What
could be simpler? I opened the trap-door, slipped down the
ladder, and appeared in the midst of them, my sword drawn in my

What a picture of surprise! The surgeon, of course, knew all,
but to the Englishman and the two Germans it must have seemed
that the god of war in person had descended from the skies. With
my appearance, with my figure, with my silver and grey uniform,
and with that gleaming sword in my hand, I must indeed have been
a sight worth seeing. The two Germans lay petrified with staring
eyes. The English officer half rose, but sat down again from
weakness, his mouth open and his hand on the back of his chair.

"What the deuce!" he kept on repeating, "what the deuce!"

"Pray do not move," said I; "I will hurt no one, but woe to the
man who lays hands upon me to stop me. You have nothing to fear
if you leave me alone, and nothing to hope if you try to hinder
me. I am Colonel Etienne Gerard, of the Hussars of Conflans."

"The deuce!" said the Englishman. "You are the man that killed
the fox." A terrible scowl had darkened his face. The jealousy
of sportsmen is a base passion. He hated me, this Englishman,
because I had been before him in transfixing the animal. How
different are our natures! Had I seen him do such a deed I would
have embraced him with cries of joy. But there was no time for

"I regret it, sir," said I; "but you have a cloak here and I must
take it."

He tried to rise from his chair and reach his sword, but I got
between him and the corner where it lay.

"If there is anything in the pockets----"

"A case," said he.

"I would not rob you," said I; and raising the cloak I took from
the pockets a silver flask, a square wooden case and a
field-glass. All these I handed to him. The wretch opened the
case, took out a pistol, and pointed it straight at my head.

"Now, my fine fellow," said he, "put down your sword and give
yourself up."

I was so astounded at this infamous action that I stood petrified
before him. I tried to speak to him of honour and gratitude, but
I saw his eyes fix and harden over the pistol.

"Enough talk!" said he. "Drop it!"

Could I endure such a humiliation? Death were better than to be
disarmed in such a fashion. The word

"Fire!" was on my lips when in an instant the English man
vanished from before my face, and in his place was a great pile
of hay, with a red-coated arm and two Hessian boots waving and
kicking in the heart of it. Oh, the gallant landlady! It was my
whiskers that had saved me.

"Fly, soldier, fly!" she cried, and she heaped fresh trusses of
hay from the floor on to the struggling Englishman. In an
instant I was out in the courtyard, had led Violette from her
stable, and was on her back. A pistol bullet whizzed past my
shoulder from the window, and I saw a furious face looking out at
me. I smiled my contempt and spurred out into the road. The
last of the Prussians had passed, and both my road and my duty
lay clear before me. If France won, all well. If France lost,
then on me and my little mare depended that which was more than
victory or defeat--the safety and the life of the Emperor. "On,
Etienne, on!" I cried.

"Of all your noble exploits, the greatest, even if it be the
last, lies now before you!"


I told you when last we met, my friends, of the important mission
from the Emperor to Marshal Grouchy, which failed through no
fault of my own, and I described to you how during a long
afternoon I was shut up in the attic of a country inn, and was
prevented from coming out because the Prussians were all around
me. You will remember also how I overheard the Chief of the
Prussian Staff give his instructions to Count Stein, and so
learned the dangerous plan which was on foot to kill or capture
the Emperor in the event of a French defeat. At first I could
not have believed in such a thing, but since the guns had
thundered all day, and since the sound had made no advance in my
direction, it was evident that the English had at least held
their own and beaten off all our attacks.

I have said that it was a fight that day between the soul of
France and the beef of England, but it must be confessed that we
found the beef was very tough. It was clear that if the Emperor
could not defeat the English when alone, then it might, indeed,
go hard with him now that sixty thousand of these cursed
Prussians were swarming on his flank. In any case, with this
secret in my possession, my place was by his side.

I had made my way out of the inn in the dashing manner which I
have described to you when last we met, and I left the English
aide-de-camp shaking his foolish fist out of the window. I could
not but laugh as I looked back at him, for his angry red face was
framed and frilled with hay. Once out on the road I stood erect
in my stirrups, and I put on the handsome black riding- coat,
lined with red, which had belonged to him. It fell to the top of
my high boots, and covered my tell-tale uniform completely. As
to my busby, there are many such in the German service, and there
was no reason why it should attract attention. So long as no one
spoke to me there was no reason why I should not ride through the
whole of the Prussian army; but though I understood German, for I
had many friends among the German ladies during the pleasant
years that I fought all over that country, still I spoke it with
a pretty Parisian accent which could not be confounded with their
rough, unmusical speech. I knew that this quality of my accent
would attract attention, but I could only hope and pray that I
would be permitted to go my way in silence.

The Forest of Paris was so large that it was useless to think of
going round it, and so I took my courage in both hands and
galloped on down the road in the track of the Prussian army. It
was not hard to trace it, for it was rutted two feet deep by the
gun-wheels and the caissons. Soon I found a fringe of wounded
men, Prussians and French, on each side of it, where Bulow's
advance had come into touch with Marbot's Hussars. One old man
with a long white beard, a surgeon, I suppose, shouted at me, and
ran after me still shouting, but I never turned my head and took
no notice of him save to spur on faster. I heard his shouts long
after I had lost sight of him among the trees.

Presently I came up with the Prussian reserves. The infantry
were leaning on their muskets or lying exhausted on the wet
ground, and the officers stood in groups listening to the mighty
roar of the battle and discussing the reports which came from the
front. I hurried past at the top of my speed, but one of them
rushed out and stood in my path with his hand up as a signal to
me to stop. Five thousand Prussian eyes were turned upon me.
There was a moment! You turn pale, my friends, at the thought of
it. Think how every hair upon me stood on end. But never for
one instant did my wits or my courage desert me. "General
Blucher!" I cried. Was it not my guardian angel who whispered
the words in my ear? The Prussian sprang from my path, saluted,
and pointed forward. They are well disciplined, these Prussians,
and who was he that he should dare to stop the officer who bore a
message to the general?

It was a talisman that would pass me out of every danger, and my
heart sang within me at the thought. So elated was I that I no
longer waited to be asked, but as I rode through the army I
shouted to right and left,

"General Blucher! General Blucher!" and every man pointed me
onward and cleared a path to let me pass.

There are times when the most supreme impudence is the highest
wisdom. But discretion must also be used, and I must admit that
I became indiscreet. For as I rode upon my way, ever nearer to
the fighting line, a Prussian officer of Uhlans gripped my bridle
and pointed to a group of men who stood near a burning farm.
"There is Marshal Blucher. Deliver your message!" said he, and
sure enough, my terrible old grey-whiskered veteran was there
within a pistol-shot, his eyes turned in my direction.

But the good guardian angel did not desert me.

Quick as a flash there came into my memory the name of the
general who commanded the advance of the Prussians.

{illust. caption = "There is Marshal Blucher. Deliver your

"General Bulow!" I cried. The Uhlan let go my bridle. "General
Bulow! General Bulow!" I shouted, as every stride of the dear
little mare took me nearer my own people. Through the burning
village of Planchenoit I galloped, spurred my way between two
columns of Prussian infantry, sprang over a hedge, cut down a
Silesian Hussar who flung himself before me, and an instant
afterward, with my coat flying open to show the uniform below, I
passed through the open files of the tenth of the line, and was
back in the heart of Lobau's corps once more. Outnumbered and
outflanked, they were being slowly driven in by the pressure of
the Prussian advance. I galloped onward, anxious only to find
myself by the Emperor's side.

But a sight lay before me which held me fast as though I had been
turned into some noble equestrian statue. I could not move, I
could scarce breathe, as I gazed upon it. There was a mound over
which my path lay, and as I came out on the top of it I looked
down the long, shallow valley of Waterloo. I had left it with
two great armies on either side and a clear field between them.
Now there were but long, ragged fringes of broken and exhausted
regiments upon the two ridges, but a real army of dead and
wounded lay between. For two miles in length and half a mile
across the ground was strewed and heaped with them. But
slaughter was no new sight to me, and it was not that which held
me spellbound. It was that up the long slope of the British
position was moving a walking forest-black, tossing, waving,
unbroken. Did I not know the bearskins of the Guard? And did I
not also know, did not my soldier's instinct tell me, that it was
the last reserve of France; that the Emperor, like a desperate
gamester, was staking all upon his last card? Up they went and
up--grand, solid, unbreakable, scourged with musketry, riddled
with grape, flowing onward in a black, heavy tide, which lapped
over the British batteries. With my glass I could see the
English gunners throw themselves under their pieces or run to the
rear. On rolled the crest of the bearskins, and then, with a
crash which was swept across to my ears, they met the British
infantry. A minute passed, and another, and another. My heart
was in my mouth.

They swayed back and forward; they no longer advanced; they were
held. Great Heaven! was it possible that they were breaking?
One black dot ran down the hill, then two, then four, then ten,
then a great, scattered, struggling mass, halting, breaking,
halting, and at last shredding out and rushing madly downward.
"The Guard is beaten! The Guard is beaten!" From all around me
I heard the cry. Along the whole line the infantry turned their
faces and the gunners flinched from their guns.

"The Old Guard is beaten! The Guard retreats!" An officer with
a livid face passed me yelling out these words of woe. "Save
yourselves! Save yourselves! You are betrayed!" cried another.
"Save yourselves! Save yourselves!" Men were rushing madly to
the rear, blundering and jumping like frightened sheep. Cries
and screams rose from all around me. And at that moment, as I
looked at the British position, I saw what I can never forget. A
single horseman stood out black and clear upon the ridge against
the last red angry glow of the setting sun. So dark, so
motionless, against that grim light, he might have been the very
spirit of Battle brooding over that terrible valley. As I gazed,
he raised his hat high in the air, and at the signal, with a low,
deep roar like a breaking wave, the whole British army flooded
over their ridge and came rolling down into the valley.

Long steel-fringed lines of red and blue, sweeping waves of
cavalry, horse batteries rattling and bounding--down they came on
to our crumbling ranks. It was over. A yell of agony, the agony
of brave men who see no hope, rose from one flank to the other,
and in an instant the whole of that noble army was swept in a
wild, terror- stricken crowd from the field. Even now, dear
friends, I cannot, as you see, speak of that dreadful moment with
a dry eye or with a steady voice.

At first I was carried away in that wild rush, whirled off like a
straw in a flooded gutter. But, suddenly, what should I see
amongst the mixed regiments in front of me but a group of stern
horsemen, in silver and grey, with a broken and tattered standard
held aloft in the heart of them! Not all the might of England
and of Prussia could break the Hussars of Conflans. But when I
joined them it made my heart bleed to see them. The major, seven
captains, and five hundred men were left upon the field. Young
Captain Sabbatier was in command, and when I asked him where were
the five missing squadrons he pointed back and answered: "You
will find them round one of those British squares." Men and
horses were at their last gasp, caked with sweat and dirt, their
black tongues hanging out from their lips; but it made me thrill
with pride to see how that shattered remnant still rode knee to
knee, with every man, from the boy trumpeter to the
farrier-sergeant, in his own proper place.

Would that I could have brought them on with me as an escort for
the Emperor! In the heart of the Hussars of Conflans he would be
safe indeed. But the horses were too spent to trot. I left them
behind me with orders to rally upon the farm-house of St. Aunay,
where we had camped two nights before. For my own part, I forced
my horse through the throng in search of the Emperor.

There were things which I saw then, as I pressed through that
dreadful crowd, which can never be banished from my mind. In
evil dreams there comes back to me the memory of that flowing
stream of livid, staring, screaming faces upon which I looked
down. It was a nightmare. In victory one does not understand
the horror of war. It is only in the cold chill of defeat that
it is brought home to you. I remember an old Grenadier of the
Guard lying at the side of the road with his broken leg doubled
at a right angle. "Comrades, comrades, keep off my leg!" he
cried, but they tripped and stumbled over him all the same. In
front of me rode a Lancer officer without his coat. His arm had
just been taken off in the ambulance. The bandages had fallen.
It was horrible. Two gunners tried to drive through with their
gun. A Chasseur raised his musket and shot one of them through
the head. I saw a major of Cuirassiers draw his two holster
pistols and shoot first his horse and then himself. Beside the
road a man in a blue coat was raging and raving like a madman.
His face was black with powder, his clothes were torn, one
epaulette was gone, the other hung dangling over his breast.
Only when I came close to him did I recognise that it was Marshal
Ney. He howled at the flying troops and his voice was hardly
human. Then he raised the stump of his sword-- it was broken
three inches from the hilt. "Come and see how a Marshal of
France can die!" he cried. Gladly would I have gone with him,
but my duty lay elsewhere.

He did not, as you know, find the death he sought, but he met it
a few weeks later in cold blood at the hands of his enemies.

There is an old proverb that in attack the French are more than
men, in defeat they are less than women. I knew that it was true
that day. But even in that rout I saw things which I can tell
with pride. Through the fields which skirt the road moved
Cambronne's three reserve battalions of the Guard, the cream of
our army.

They walked slowly in square, their colours waving over the
sombre line of the bearskins. All round them raged the English
cavalry and the black Lancers of Brunswick, wave after wave
thundering up, breaking with a crash, and recoiling in ruin.
When last I saw them, the English guns, six at a time, were
smashing grape-shot through their ranks and the English infantry
were closing in upon three sides and pouring volleys into them;
but still, like a noble lion with fierce hounds clinging to its
flanks, the glorious remnant of the Guard, marching slowly,
halting, closing up, dressing, moved majestically from their last
battle. Behind them the Guard's battery of twelve- pounders was
drawn up upon the ridge. Every gunner was in his place, but no
gun fired. "Why do you not fire?" I asked the colonel as I
passed. "Our powder is finished." "Then why not retire?" "Our
appearance may hold them back for a little. We must give the
Emperor time to escape." Such were the soldiers of France.

Behind this screen of brave men the others took their breath, and
then went on in less desperate fashion. They had broken away
from the road, and all over the countryside in the twilight I
could see the timid, scattered, frightened crowd who ten hours
before had formed the finest army that ever went down to battle.
I with my splendid mare was soon able to get clear of the throng,
and just after I passed Genappe I overtook the Emperor with the
remains of his Staff. Soult was with him still, and so were
Drouot, Lobau, and Bertrand, with five Chasseurs of the Guard,
their horses hardly able to move.

The night was falling, and the Emperor's haggard face gleamed
white through the gloom as he turned it toward me.

"Who is that?" he asked.

"It is Colonel Gerard," said Soult.

"Have you seen Marshal Grouchy?"

"No, Sire. The Prussians were between."

"It does not matter. Nothing matters now. Soult, I will go

He tried to turn his horse, but Bertrand seized his bridle. "Ah,
Sire," said Soult, "the enemy has had good fortune enough
already." They forced him on among them. He rode in silence
with his chin upon his breast, the greatest and the saddest of
men. Far away behind us those remorseless guns were still
roaring. Sometimes out of the darkness would come shrieks and
screams and the low thunder of galloping hoofs. At the sound we
would spur our horses and hasten onward through the scattered
troops. At last, after riding all night in the clear moonlight,
we found that we had left both pursued and pursuers behind. By
the time we passed over the bridge at Charleroi the dawn was
breaking. What a company of spectres we looked in that cold,
clear, searching light, the Emperor with his face of wax, Soult
blotched with powder, Lobau dabbled with blood! But we rode more
easily now, and had ceased to glance over our shoulders, for
Waterloo was more than thirty miles behind us. One of the
Emperor's carriages had been picked up at Charleroi, and we
halted now on the other side of the Sambre, and dismounted from
our horses.

You will ask me why it was that during all this time I had said
nothing of that which was nearest my heart, the need for guarding
the Emperor. As a fact, I had tried to speak of it both to Soult
and to Lobau, but their minds were so overwhelmed with the
disaster and so distracted by the pressing needs of the moment
that it was impossible to make them understand how urgent was my
message. Besides, during this long flight we had always had
numbers of French fugitives beside us on the road, and, however
demoralised they might be, we had nothing to fear from the attack
of nine men. But now, as we stood round the Emperor's carriage
in the early morning, I observed with anxiety that not a single
French soldier was to be seen upon the long, white road behind
us. We had outstripped the army. I looked round to see what
means of defence were left to us. The horses of the Chasseurs of
the Guard had broken down, and only one of them, a grey-whiskered
sergeant, remained.

There were Soult, Lobau, and Bertrand; but, for all their
talents, I had rather, when it came to hard knocks, have a single
quartermaster-sergeant of Hussars at my side than the three of
them put together. There remained the Emperor himself, the
coachman, and a valet of the household who had joined us at
Charleroi--eight all told; but of the eight only two, the
Chasseur and I, were fighting soldiers who could be depended upon
at a pinch. A chill came over me as I reflected how utterly
helpless we were. At that moment I raised my eyes, and there
were the nine Prussian horsemen coming over the hill.

On either side of the road at this point are long stretches of
rolling plain, part of it yellow with corn and part of it rich
grass land watered by the Sambre. To the south of us was a low
ridge, over which was the road to France. Along this road the
little group of cavalry was riding. So well had Count Stein
obeyed his instructions that he had struck far to the south of us
in his determination to get ahead of the Emperor. Now he was
riding from the direction in which we were going-- the last in
which we could expect an enemy. When I caught that first glimpse
of them they were still half a mile away.

"Sire!" I cried, "the Prussians!"

They all started and stared. It was the Emperor who broke the

"Who says they are Prussians?"

"I do, Sire--I, Etienne Gerard!"

Unpleasant news always made the Emperor furious against the man
who broke it. He railed at me now in the rasping, croaking,
Corsican voice which only made itself heard when he had lost his

"You were always a buffoon," he cried. "What do you mean, you
numskull, by saying that they are Prussians?

How could Prussians be coming from the direction of France? You
have lost any wits that you ever possessed."

His words cut me like a whip, and yet we all felt toward the
Emperor as an old dog does to its master.

His kick is soon forgotten and forgiven. I would not argue or
justify myself. At the first glance I had seen the two white
stockings on the forelegs of the leading horse, and I knew well
that Count Stein was on its back.

For an instant the nine horsemen had halted and surveyed us. Now
they put spurs to their horses, and with a yell of triumph they
galloped down the road. They had recognised that their prey was
in their power.

At that swift advance all doubt had vanished. "By heavens, Sire,
it is indeed the Prussians!" cried Soult.

Lobau and Bertrand ran about the road like two frightened hens.
The sergeant of Chasseurs drew his sabre with a volley of curses.
The coachman and the valet cried and wrung their hands. Napoleon
stood with a frozen face, one foot on the step of the carriage.
And I--ah, my friends, I was magnificent! What words can I use
to do justice to my own bearing at that supreme instant of my
life? So coldly alert, so deadly cool, so clear in brain and
ready in hand. He had called me a numskull and a buffoon. How
quick and how noble was my revenge! When his own wits failed
him, it was Etienne Gerard who supplied the want.

To fight was absurd; to fly was ridiculous. The Emperor was
stout, and weary to death. At the best he was never a good
rider. How could he fly from these, the picked men of an army?
The best horseman in Prussia was among them. But I was the best
horseman in France. I, and only I, could hold my own with them.
If they were on my track instead of the Emperor's, all might
still be well. These were the thoughts which flashed so swiftly
through my mind that in an instant I had sprung from the first
idea to the final conclusion. Another instant carried me from
the final conclusion to prompt and vigorous action. I rushed to
the side of the Emperor, who stood petrified, with the carriage
between him and our enemies. "Your coat, Sire! your hat!" I
cried. I dragged them of him.

Never had he been so hustled in his life. In an instant I had
them on and had thrust him into the carriage. The next I had
sprung on to his famous white Arab and had ridden clear of the
group upon the road.

You have already divined my plan; but you may well ask how could
I hope to pass myself off as the Emperor.

My figure is as you still see it, and his was never beautiful,
for he was both short and stout. But a man's height is not
remarked when he is in the saddle, and for the rest one had but
to sit forward on the horse and round one's back and carry
oneself like a sack of flour. I wore the little cocked hat and
the loose grey coat with the silver star which was known to every
child from one end of Europe to the other. Beneath me was the
Emperor's own famous white charger. It was complete.

Already as I rode clear the Prussians were within two hundred
yards of us. I made a gesture of terror and despair with my
hands, and I sprang my horse over the bank which lined the road.
It was enough. A yell of exultation and of furious hatred broke
from the Prussians.

It was the howl of starving wolves who scent their prey. I
spurred my horse over the meadow-land and looked back under my
arm as I rode. Oh, the glorious moment when one after the other
I saw eight horsemen come over the bank at my heels! Only one
had stayed behind, and I heard shouting and the sounds of a
struggle. I remembered my old sergeant of Chasseurs, and I was
sure that number nine would trouble us no more. The road was
clear and the Emperor free to continue his journey.

But now I had to think of myself. If I were overtaken the
Prussians would certainly make short work of me in their
disappointment. If it were so--if I lost my life--I should still
have sold it at a glorious price. But I had hopes that I might
shake them off. With ordinary horsemen upon ordinary horses I
should have had no difficulty in doing so, but here both steeds
and riders were of the best. It was a grand creature that I
rode, but it was weary with its long night's work, and the
Emperor was one of those riders who do not know how to manage a
horse. He had little thought far them and a heavy hand upon
their mouths. On the other hand, Stein and his men had come both
far and fast. The race was a fair one.

So quick had been my impulse, and so rapidly had I acted upon it,
that I had not thought enough of my own safety. Had I done so in
the first instance I should, of course, have ridden straight back
the way we had come, for so I should have met our own people.
But I was off the road and had galloped a mile over the plain
before this occurred to me. Then when I looked back I saw that
the Prussians had spread out into a long line, so as to head me
off from the Charleroi road. I could not turn back, but at least
I could edge toward the north. I knew that the whole face of the
country was covered with our flying troops, and that sooner or
later I must come upon some of them.

But one thing I had forgotten--the Sambre. In my excitement I
never gave it a thought until I saw it, deep and broad, gleaming
in the morning sunlight. It barred my path, and the Prussians
howled behind me. I galloped to the brink, but the horse refused
the plunge. I spurred him, but the bank was high and the stream

He shrank back trembling and snorting. The yells of triumph were
louder every instant. I turned and rode for my life down the
river bank. It formed a loop at this part, and I must get across
somehow, for my retreat was blocked. Suddenly a thrill of hope
ran through me, for I saw a house on my side of the stream and
another on the farther bank. Where there are two such houses it
usually means that there is a ford between them. A sloping path
led to the brink and I urged my horse down it. On he went, the
water up to the saddle, the foam flying right and left. He
blundered once and I thought we were lost, but he recovered and
an instant later was clattering up the farther slope. As we came
out I heard the splash behind me as the first Prussian took the
water. There was just the breadth of the Sambre between us.

I rode with my head sunk between my shoulders in Napoleon's
fashion, and I did not dare to look back for fear they should see
my moustache. I had turned up the collar of the grey coat so as
partly to hide it. Even now if they found out their mistake they
might turn and overtake the carriage. But when once we were on
the road I could tell by the drumming of their hoofs how far
distant they were, and it seemed to me that the sound grew
perceptibly louder, as if they were slowly gaining upon me. We
were riding now up the stony and rutted lane which led from the
ford. I peeped back very cautiously from under my arm and I
perceived that my danger came from a single rider, who was far
ahead of his comrades.

He was a Hussar, a very tiny fellow, upon a big black horse, and
it was his light weight which had brought him into the foremost
place. It is a place of honour; but it is also a place of
danger, as he was soon to learn. I felt the holsters, but, to my
horror, there were no pistols. There was a field-glass in one
and the other was stuffed with papers. My sword had been left
behind with Violette.

Had I only my own weapons and my own little mare I could have
played with these rascals. But I was not entirely unarmed. The
Emperor's own sword hung to the saddle. It was curved and short,
the hilt all crusted with gold--a thing more fitted to glitter at
a review than to serve a soldier in his deadly need. I drew it,
such as it was, and I waited my chance. Every instant the clink
and clatter of the hoofs grew nearer. I heard the panting of the
horse, and the fellow shouted some threat at me. There was a
turn in the lane, and as I rounded it I drew up my white Arab on
his haunches. As we spun round I met the Prussian Hussar face to
face. He was going too fast to stop, and his only chance was to
ride me down. Had he done so he might have met his own death,
but he would have injured me or my horse past all hope of escape.
But the fool flinched as he saw me waiting and flew past me on my
right. I lunged over my Arab's neck and buried my toy sword in
his side. It must have been the finest steel and as sharp as a
razor, for I hardly felt it enter, and yet his blood was within
three inches of the hilt. His horse galloped on and he kept his
saddle for a hundred yards before he sank down with his face on
the mane and then dived over the side of the neck on to the road.
For my own part I was already at his horse's heels. A few
seconds had sufficed for all that I have told.

I heard the cry of rage and vengeance which rose from the
Prussians as they passed their dead comrade, and I could not but
smile as I wondered what they could think of the Emperor as a
horseman and a swordsman. I glanced back cautiously as before,
and I saw that none of the seven men stopped. The fate of their
comrade was nothing compared to the carrying out of their

They were as untiring and as remorseless as bloodhounds.

But I had a good lead and the brave Arab was still going well. I
thought that I was safe. And yet it was at that very instant
that the most terrible danger befell me. The lane divided, and I
took the smaller of the two divisions because it was the more
grassy and the easier for the horse's hoofs. Imagine my horror
when, riding through a gate, I found myself in a square of
stables and farm-buildings, with no way out save that by which I
had come! Ah, my friends, if my hair is snowy white, have I not
had enough to make it so?

To retreat was impossible. I could hear the thunder of the
Prussians' hoofs in the lane. I looked round me, and Nature has
blessed me with that quick eye which is the first of gifts to any
soldier, but most of all to a leader of cavalry. Between a long,
low line of stables and the farm-house there was a pig-sty. Its
front was made of bars of wood four feet high; the back was of
stone, higher than the front. What was beyond I could not tell.
The space between the front and the back was not more than a few
yards. It was a desperate venture, and yet I must take it.
Every instant the beating of those hurrying hoofs was louder and
louder. I put my Arab at the pig-sty. She cleared the front
beautifully and came down with her forefeet upon the sleeping pig
within, slipping forward upon her knees. I was thrown over the
wall beyond, and fell upon my hands and face in a soft
flower-bed. My horse was upon one side of the wall, I upon the
other, and the Prussians were pouring into the yard. But I was
up in an instant and had seized the bridle of the plunging horse
over the top of the wall. It was built of loose stones, and I
dragged down a few of them to make a gap. As I tugged at the
bridle and shouted the gallant creature rose to the leap, and an
instant afterward she was by my side and I with my foot on the

An heroic idea had entered my mind as I mounted into the saddle.
These Prussians, if they came over the pig- sty, could only come
one at once, and their attack would not be formidable when they
had not had time to recover from such a leap. Why should I not
wait and kill them one by one as they came over? It was a
glorious thought. They would learn that Etienne Gerard was not a
safe man to hunt. My hand felt for my sword, but you can imagine
my feelings, my friends, when I came upon an empty scabbard. It
had been shaken out when the horse had tripped over that infernal
pig. On what absurd trifles do our destinies hang--a pig on one
side, Etienne Gerard on the other! Could I spring over the wall
and get the sword? Impossible! The Prussians were already in
the yard. I turned my Arab and resumed my flight.

But for a moment it seemed to me that I was in a far worse trap
than before. I found myself in the garden of the farm-house, an
orchard in the centre and flower- beds all round. A high wall
surrounded the whole place. I reflected, however, that there
must be some point of entrance, since every visitor could not be
expected to spring over the pig-sty. I rode round the wall. As
I expected, I came upon a door with a key upon the inner side. I
dismounted, unlocked it, opened it, and there was a Prussian
Lancer sitting his horse within six feet of me.

For a moment we each stared at the other. Then I shut the door
and locked it again. A crash and a cry came from the other end
of the garden. I understood that one of my enemies had come to
grief in trying to get over the pig-sty. How could I ever get
out of this cul-de-sac? It was evident that some of the party
had galloped round, while some had followed straight upon my
tracks. Had I my sword I might have beaten off the Lancer at the
door, but to come out now was to be butchered. And yet if I
waited some of them would certainly follow me on foot over the
pig-sty, and what could I do then? I must act at once or I was
lost. But it is at such moments that my wits are most active and
my actions most prompt. Still leading my horse, I ran for a
hundred yards by the side of the wall away from the spot where
the Lancer was watching. There I stopped, and with an effort I
tumbled down several of the loose stones from the top of the
wall. The instant I had done so I hurried back to the door. As
I had expected, he thought I was making a gap for my escape at
that point, and I heard the thud of his horse's hoofs as he
galloped to cut me off. As I reached the gate I looked back, and
I saw a green-coated horseman, whom I knew to be Count Stein,
clear the pig-sty and gallop furiously with a shout of triumph
across the garden.

"Surrender, your Majesty, surrender!" he yelled; "we will give
you quarter!" I slipped through the gate, but had no time to
lock it on the other side. Stein was at my very heels, and the
Lancer had already turned his horse. Springing upon my Arab's
back, I was off once more with a clear stretch of grass land
before me. Stein had to dismount to open the gate, to lead his
horse through, and to mount again before he could follow.

It was he that I feared rather than the Lancer, whose horse was
coarse-bred and weary. I galloped hard for a mile before I
ventured to look back, and then Stein was a musket-shot from me,
and the Lancer as much again, while only three of the others were
in sight. My nine Prussians were coming down to more manageable
numbers, and yet one was too much for an unarmed man.

It had surprised me that during this long chase I had seen no
fugitives from the army, but I reflected that I was considerably
to the west of their line of flight, and that I must edge more
toward the east if I wished to join them. Unless I did so it was
probable that my pursuers, even if they could not overtake me
themselves, would keep me in view until I was headed off by some
of their comrades coming from the north. As I looked to the
eastward I saw afar off a line of dust which stretched for miles
across the country. This was certainly the main road along which
our unhappy army was flying. But I soon had proof that some of
our stragglers had wandered into these side tracks, for I came
suddenly upon a horse grazing at the corner of a field, and
beside him, with his back against the bank, his master, a French
Cuirassier, terribly wounded and evidently on the point of death.
I sprang down, seized his long, heavy sword, and rode on with it.
Never shall I forget the poor man's face as he looked at me with
his failing sight. He was an old, grey-moustached soldier, one
of the real fanatics, and to him this last vision of his Emperor
was like a revelation from on high.

Astonishment, love, pride--all shone in his pallid face. He said
something--I fear they were his last words --but I had no time to
listen, and I galloped on my way.

All this time I had been on the meadow-land, which was
intersected in this part by broad ditches. Some of them could
not have been less than from fourteen to fifteen feet, and my
heart was in my mouth as I went at each of them, for a slip would
have been my ruin.

But whoever selected the Emperor's horses had done his work well.
The creature, save when it balked on the bank of the Sambre,
never failed me for an instant.

We cleared everything in one stride. And yet we could not shake
off! those infernal Prussians. As I left each water-course
behind me I looked back with renewed hope; but it was only to see
Stein on his white-legged chestnut flying over it as lightly as I
had done myself. He was my enemy, but I honoured him for the way
in which he carried himself that day.

Again and again I measured the distance which separated him from
the next horseman. I had the idea that I might turn and cut him
down, as I had the Hussar, before his comrade could come to his
help. But the others had closed up and ere not far behind. I
reflected that this Stein was probably as fine a swordsman as he
was a rider, and that it might take me some little time to get
the better of him. In that case the others would come to his aid
an I should be lost. On the whole, it was wiser to continue my

A road with poplars on either side ran across the plain from east
to west. It would lead me toward that long line of dust which
marked the French retreat. I wheeled my horse, therefore, and
galloped down it. As I rode I saw a single house in front of me
upon the right, with a great bush hung over the door to mark it
as an inn. Outside there were several peasants, but for them I
cared nothing. What frightened me was to see the gleam of a red
coat, which showed that there were British in the place.
However, I could not turn and I could not stop, so there was
nothing for it but to gallop on and to take my chance. There
were no troops in sight, so these men must be stragglers or
marauders, from whom I had little to fear. As I approached I saw
that there were two of them sitting drinking on a bench outside
the inn door. I saw them stagger to their feet, and it was
evident that they were both very drunk. One stood swaying in the
middle of the road.

"It's Boney! So help me, it's Boney!" he yelled. He ran with
his hands out to catch me, but luckily for himself his drunken
feet stumbled and he fell on his face on the road. The other was
more dangerous. He had rushed into the inn, and just as I passed
I saw him run out with his musket in his hand. He dropped upon
one knee, and I stooped forward over my horse's neck.

A single shot from a Prussian or an Austrian is a small matter,
but the British were at that time the best shots in Europe, and
my drunkard seemed steady enough when he had a gun at his
shoulder. I heard the crack, and my horse gave a convulsive
spring which would have unseated many a rider. For an instant I
thought he was killed, but when I turned in my saddle I saw a
stream of blood running down the off hind-quarter. I looked back
at the Englishman, and the brute had bitten the end off another
cartridge and was ramming it into his musket, but before he had
it primed we were beyond his range. These men were foot-soldiers
and could not join in the chase, but I heard them whooping and
tally-hoing behind me as if I had been a fox. The peasants also
shouted and ran through the fields flourishing their sticks.
From all sides I heard cries, and everywhere were the rushing,
waving figures of my pursuers. To think of the great Emperor
being chivvied over the country-side in this fashion! It made me
long to have these rascals within the sweep of my sword.

But now I felt that I was nearing the end of my course. I had
done all that a man could be expected to do--some would say
more--but at last I had come to a point from which I could see no
escape. The horses of my pursuers were exhausted, but mine was
exhausted and wounded also. It was losing blood fast, and we
left a red trail upon the white, dusty road. Already his pace
was slackening, and sooner or later he must drop under me. I
looked back, and there were the five inevitable Prussians--Stein
a hundred yards in front, then a Lancer, and then three others
riding together.

Stein had drawn his sword, and he waved it at me. For my own
part I was determined not to give myself up.

I would try how many of these Prussians I could take with me into
the other world. At this supreme moment all the great deeds of
my life rose in a vision before me, and I felt that this, my last
exploit, was indeed a worthy close to such a career. My death
would be a fatal blow to those who loved me, to my dear mother,
to my Hussars, to others who shall be nameless. But all of them
had my honour and my fame at heart, and I felt that their grief
would be tinged with pride when they learned how I had ridden and
how I had fought upon this last day. Therefore I hardened my
heart and, as my Arab limped more and more upon his wounded leg,
I drew the great sword which I had taken from the Cuirassier, and
I set my teeth for my supreme struggle. My hand was in the very
act of tightening the bridle, for I feared that if I delayed
longer I might find myself on foot fighting against five mounted

At that instant my eye fell upon something which brought hope to
my heart and a shout of joy to my lips.

From a grove of trees in front of me there projected the steeple
of a village church. But there could not be two steeples like
that, for the corner of it had crumbled away or been struck by
lightning, so that it was of a most fantastic shape. I had seen
it only two daye{sic} before, and it was the church of the
village of Gosselies. It was not the hope of reaching the
village which set my heart singing with joy, but it was that I
knew my ground now, and that farm-house not half a mile ahead,
with its gable end sticking out from amid the trees, must be that
very farm of St. Aunay where we had bivouacked, and which I had
named to Captain Sabbatier as the rendezvous of the Hussars of
Conflans. There they were, my little rascals, if I could but
reach them. With every bound my horse grew weaker. Each instant
the sound of the pursuit grew louder. I heard a gust of
crackling German oaths at my very heels. A pistol bullet sighed
in my ears. Spurring frantically and beating my poor Arab with
the flat of my sword I kept him at the top of his speed. The
open gate of the farm-yard lay before me. I saw the twinkle of
steel within. Stein's horse's head was within ten yards of me as
I thundered through.

"To me, comrades! To me!" I yelled. I heard a buzz as when the
angry bees swarm from their nest. Then my splendid white Arab
fell dead under me and I was hurled on to the cobble-stones of
the yard, where I can remember no more.

Such was my last and most famous exploit, my dear friends, a
story which rang through Europe and has made the name of Etienne
Gerard famous in history.

Alas! that all my efforts could only give the Emperor a few weeks
more liberty, since he surrendered upon the 15th of July to the
English. But it was not my fault that he was not able to collect
the forces still waiting for him in France, and to fight another
Waterloo with a happier ending. Had others been as loyal as I
was the history of the world might have been changed, the Emperor
would have preserved his throne, and such a soldier as I would
not have been left to spend his life in planting cabbages or to
while away his old age telling stories in a cafe. You ask me
about the fate of Stein and the Prussian horsemen! Of the three
who dropped upon the way I know nothing. One you will remember
that I killed. There remained five, three of whom were cut down
by my Hussars, who, for the instant, were under the impression
that it was indeed the Emperor whom they were defending. Stein
was taken, slightly wounded, and so was one of the Uhlans. The
truth was not told to them, for we thought it best that no news,
or false news, should get about as to where the Emperor was, so
that Count Stein still believed that he was within a few yards of
making that tremendous capture. "You may well love and honour
your Emperor," said he, "for such a horseman and such a swordsman
I have never seen." He could not understand why the young
colonel of Hussars laughed so heartily at his words--but he has
learned since.

VIII. The Last Adventure of the Brigadier

I will tell you no more stories, my dear friends. It is said
that man is like the hare, which runs in a circle and comes back
to die at the point from which it started.

Gascony has been calling to me of late. I see the blue Garonne
winding among the vineyards and the bluer ocean toward which its
waters sweep. I see the old town also, and the bristle of masts
from the side of the long stone quay. My heart hungers for the
breath of my native air and the warm glow of my native sun.

Here in Paris are my friends, my occupations, my pleasures.
There all who have known me are in their grave. And yet the
southwest wind as it rattles on my windows seems always to be the
strong voice of the motherland calling her child back to that
bosom into which I am ready to sink. I have played my part in my
time. The time has passed. I must pass also.

Nay, dear friends, do not look sad, for what can be happier than
a life completed in honour and made beautiful with friendship and
love? And yet it is solemn also when a man approaches the end of
the long road and sees the turning which leads him into the
unknown. But the Emperor and all his Marshals have ridden round
that dark turning and passed into the beyond. My Hussars,
too--there are not fifty men who are not waiting yonder. I must
go. But on this the last night I will tell you that which is
more than a tale--it is a great historical secret. My lips have
been sealed, but I see no reason why I should not leave behind me
some account of this remarkable adventure, which must otherwise
be entirely lost, since I and only I, of all living men, have a
knowledge of the facts.

I will ask you to go back with me to the year 1821.

In that year our great Emperor had been absent from us for six
years, and only now and then from over the seas we heard some
whisper which showed that he was still alive. You cannot think
what a weight it was upon our hearts for us who loved him to
think of him in captivity eating his giant soul out upon that
lonely island. From the moment we rose until we closed our eyes
in sleep the thought was always with us, and we felt dishonoured
that he, our chief and master, should be so humiliated without
our being able to move a hand to help him. There were many who
would most willingly have laid down the remainder of their lives
to bring him a little ease, and yet all that we could do was to
sit and grumble in our cafes and stare at the map, counting up
the leagues of water which lay between us.

It seemed that he might have been in the moon for all that we
could do to help him. But that was only because we were all
soldiers and knew nothing of the sea.

Of course, we had our own little troubles to make us bitter, as
well as the wrongs of our Emperor. There were many of us who had
held high rank and would hold it again if he came back to his
own. We had not found it possible to take service under the
white flag of the Bourbons, or to take an oath which might turn
our sabres against the man whom we loved. So we found ourselves
with neither work nor money. What could we do save gather
together and gossip and grumble, while those who had a little
paid the score and those who had nothing shared the bottle? Now
and then, if we were lucky, we managed to pick a quarrel with one
of the Garde du Corps, and if we left him on his hack in the Bois
we felt that we had struck a blow for Napoleon once again. They
came to know our haunts in time, and they avoided them as if they
had been hornets' nests.

There was one of these--the Sign of the Great Man --in the Rue
Varennes, which was frequented by several of the more
distinguished and younger Napoleonic officers. Nearly all of us
had been colonels or aides- de-camp, and when any man of less
distinction came among us we generally made him feel that he had
taken a liberty. There were Captain Lepine, who had won the
medal of honour at Leipzig; Colonel Bonnet, aide-de-camp to
Macdonald; Colonel Jourdan, whose fame in the army was hardly
second to my own; Sabbatier of my own Hussars, Meunier of the Red
Lancers, Le Breton of the Guards, and a dozen others.

Every night we met and talked, played dominoes, drank a glass or
two, and wondered how long it would be before the Emperor would
be back and we at the head of our regiments once more. The
Bourbons had already lost any hold they ever had upon the
country, as was shown a few years afterward, when Paris rose
against them and they were hunted for the third time out of
France. Napoleon had but to show himself on the coast, and he
would have marched without firing a musket to the capital,
exactly as he had done when he came back from Elba.

Well, when affairs were in this state there arrived one night in
February, in our cafe, a most singular little man. He was short
but exceedingly broad, with huge shoulders, and a head which was
a deformity, so large was it. His heavy brown face was scarred
with white streaks in a most extraordinary manner, and he had
grizzled whiskers such as seamen wear. Two gold earrings in his
ears, and plentiful tattooing upon his hands and arms, told us
also that he was of the sea before he introduced himself to us as
Captain Fourneau, of the Emperor's navy. He had letters of
introduction to two of our number, and there could be no doubt
that he was devoted to the cause. He won our respect, too, for
he had seen as much fighting as any of us, and the burns upon his
face were caused by his standing to his post upon the Orient, at
the Battle of the Nile, until the vessel blew up underneath him.
Yet he would say little about himself, but he sat in the corner
of the cafe watching us all with a wonderfully sharp pair of eyes
and listening intently to our talk.

One night I was leaving the cafe when Captain Fourneau followed
me, and touching me on the arm he led me without saying a word
for some distance until we reached his lodgings. "I wish to have
a chat with you," said he, and so conducted me up the stair to
his room. There he lit a lamp and handed me a sheet of paper
which he took from an envelope in his bureau. It was dated a few
months before from the Palace of Schonbrunn at Vienna. "Captain
Fourneau is acting in the highest interests of the Emperor

Those who love the Emperor should obey him without
question.--Marie Louise." That is what I read. I was familiar
with the signature of the Empress, and I could not doubt that
this was genuine.

"Well," said he, "are you satisfied as to my credentials?"


"Are you prepared to take your orders from me?"

"This document leaves me no choice."

"Good! In the first place, I understand from something you said
in the cafe that you can speak English?"

"Yes, I can."

"Let me hear you do so."

I said in English, "Whenever the Emperor needs the help of
Etienne Gerard I am ready night and day to give my life in his
service." Captain Fourneau smiled.

"It is funny English," said he, "but still it is better than no
English. For my own part I speak English like an Englishman. It
is all that I have to show for six years spent in an English
prison. Now I will tell you why I have come to Paris. I have
come in order to choose an agent who will help me in a matter
which affects the interests of the Emperor. I was told that it
was at the cafe of the Great Man that I would find the pick of
his old officers, and that I could rely upon every man there
being devoted to his interests. I studied you all, therefore,
and I have come to the conclusion that you are the one who is
most suited for my purpose."

I acknowledged the compliment. "What is it that you wish me to
do?" I asked.

"Merely to keep me company for a few months," said he. "You must
know that after my release in England I settled down there,
married an English wife, and rose to command a small English
merchant ship, in which I have made several voyages from
Southampton to the Guinea coast. They look on me there as an

You can understand, however, that with my feelings about the
Emperor I am lonely sometimes, and that it would be an advantage
to me to have a companion who would sympathize with my thoughts.
One gets very bored on these long voyages, and I would make it
worth your while to share my cabin."

He looked hard at me with his shrewd grey eyes all the time that
he was uttering this rigmarole, and I gave him a glance in return
which showed him that he was not dealing with a fool. He took
out a canvas bag full of money.

"There are a hundred pounds in gold in this bag," said he. "You
will be able to buy some comforts for your voyage. I should
recommend you to get them in Southampton, whence we will start in
ten days. The name of the vessel is the Black Swan. I return to
Southampton to-morrow, and I shall hope to see you in the course
of the next week."

"Come now," said I. "Tell me frankly what is the destination of
our voyage?"

"Oh, didn't I tell you?" he answered. "We are bound for the
Guinea coast of Africa."

"Then how can that be in the highest interests of the Emperor?" I

"It is in his highest interests that you ask no indiscreet
questions and I give no indiscreet replies," he answered,
sharply. So he brought the interview to an end, and I found
myself back in my lodgings with nothing save this bag of gold to
show that this singular interview had indeed taken place.

There was every reason why I should see the adventure to a
conclusion, and so within a week I was on my way to England. I
passed from St. Malo to Southampton, and on inquiry at the docks
I had no difficulty in finding the Black Swan, a neat little
vessel of a shape which is called, as I learned afterward, a
brig. There was Captain Fourneau himself upon the deck, and
seven or eight rough fellows hard at work grooming her and making
her ready for sea. He greeted me and led me down to his cabin.

"You are plain Mr. Gerard now," said he, "and a Channel Islander.
I would be obliged to you if you would kindly forget your
military ways and drop your cavalry swagger when you walk up and
down my deck.

A beard, too, would seem more sailor-like than those moustaches."

I was horrified by his words, but, after all, there are no ladies
on the high seas, and what did it matter? He rang for the

"Gustav," said he, "you will pay every attention to my friend,
Monsieur Etienne Gerard, who makes this voyage with us. This is
Gustav Kerouan, my Breton steward," he explained, "and you are
very safe in his hands."

This steward, with his harsh face and stern eyes, looked a very
warlike person for so peaceful an employment.

I said nothing, however, though you may guess that I kept my eyes
open. A berth had been prepared for me next the cabin, which
would have seemed comfortable enough had it not contrasted with
the extraordinary splendour of Fourneau's quarters. He was
certainly a most luxurious person, for his room was new-fitted
with velvet and silver in a way which would have suited the yacht
of a noble better than a little West African trader.

So thought the mate, Mr. Burns, who could not hide his amusement
and contempt whenever he looked at it.

This fellow, a big, solid, red-headed Englishman, had the other
berth connected with the cabin. There was a second mate named
Turner, who lodged in the middle of the ship, and there were nine
men and one boy in the crew, three of whom, as I was informed by
Mr. Burns, were Channel Islanders like myself. This Burns, the
first mate, was much interested to know why I was coming with

"I come for pleasure," said I.

He stared at me.

"Ever been to the West Coast?" he asked.

I said that I had not.

"I thought not," said he. "You'll never come again for that
reason, anyhow."

Some three days after my arrival we untied the ropes by which the
ship was tethered and we set off upon our journey. I was never a
good sailor, and I may confess that we were far out of sight of
any land before I was able to venture upon deck. At last,
however, upon the fifth day I drank the soup which the good
Kerouan brought me, and I was able to crawl from my bunk and up
the stair. The fresh air revived me, and from that time onward I
accommodated myself to the motion of the vessel. My beard had
begun to grow also, and I have no doubt that I should have made
as fine a sailor as I have a soldier had I chanced to be born to
that branch of the service. I learned to pull the ropes which
hoisted the sails, and also to haul round the long sticks to
which they are attached. For the most part, however, my duties
were to play ecarte with Captain Fourneau, and to act as his
companion. It was not strange that he should need one, for
neither of his mates could read or write, though each of them was
an excellent seaman.

If our captain had died suddenly I cannot imagine how we should
have found our way in that waste of waters, for it was only he
who had the knowledge which enabled him to mark our place upon
the chart. He had this fixed upon the cabin wall, and every day
he put our course upon it so that we could see at a glance how
far we were from our destination. It was wonderful how well he
could calculate it, for one morning he said that we should see
the Cape Verd light that very night, and there it was, sure
enough, upon our left front the moment that darkness came. Next
day, however, the land was out of sight, and Burns, the mate,
explained to me that we should see no more until we came to our
port in the Gulf of Biafra. Every day we flew south with a
favouring wind, and always at noon the pin upon the chart was
moved nearer and nearer to the African coast. I may explain that
palm oil was the cargo which we were in search of, and that our
own lading consisted of coloured cloths, old muskets, and such
other trifles as the English sell to the savages.

At last the wind which had followed us so long died away, and for
several days we drifted about on a calm and oily sea, under a sun
which brought the pitch bubbling out between the planks upon the
deck. We turned and turned our sails to catch every wandering
puff, until at last we came out of this belt of calm and ran
south again with a brisk breeze, the sea all round us being alive
with flying fishes. For some days Burns appeared to be uneasy,
and I observed him continually shading his eyes with his hand and
staring at the horizon as if he were looking for land. Twice I
caught him with his red head against the chart in the cabin,
gazing at that pin, which was always approaching and yet never
reaching the African coast. At last one evening, as Captain
Fourneau and I were playing ecarte in the cabin, the mate entered
with an angry look upon his sunburned face.

"I beg your pardon, Captain Fourneau," said he.

"But do you know what course the man at the wheel is steering?"

"Due south," the captain answered, with his eyes fixed upon his

"And he should be steering due east."

"How do you make that out?"

The mate gave an angry growl.

"I may not have much education," said he, "but let me tell you
this, Captain Fourneau, I've sailed these waters since I was a
little nipper of ten, and I know the line when I'm on it, and I
know the doldrums, and I know how to find my way to the oil
rivers. We are south of the line now, and we should be steering
due east instead of due south if your port is the port that the
owners sent you to."

"Excuse me, Mr. Gerard. Just remember that it is my lead," said
the captain, laying down his cards.

"Come to the map here, Mr. Burns, and I will give you a lesson in
practical navigation. Here is the trade wind from the southwest
and here is the line, and here is the port that we want to make,
and here is a man who will have his own way aboard his own ship."
As he spoke he seized the unfortunate mate by the throat and
squeezed him until he was nearly senseless. Kerouan, the
steward, had rushed in with a rope, and between them they gagged
and trussed the man, so that he was utterly helpless.

"There is one of our Frenchmen at the wheel. We had best put the
mate overboard," said the steward.

"That is safest," said Captain Fourneau.

But that was more than I could stand. Nothing would persuade me
to agree to the death of a helpless man.

With a bad grace Captain Fourneau consented to spare him, and we
carried him to the after-hold, which lay under the cabin. There
he was laid among the bales of Manchester cloth.

"It is not worth while to put down the hatch," said Captain
Fourneau. "Gustav, go to Mr. Turner and tell him that I would
like to have a word with him."

The unsuspecting second mate entered the cabin, and was instantly
gagged and secured as Burns had been.

He was carried down and laid beside his comrade. The hatch was
then replaced.

"Our hands have been forced by that red-headed dolt," said the
captain, "and I have had to explode my mine before I wished.
However, there is no great harm done, and it will not seriously
disarrange my plans.

"Kerouan, you will take a keg of rum forward to the crew and tell
them that the captain gives it to them to drink his health on the
occasion of crossing the line.

"They will know no better. As to our own fellows, bring them
down to your pantry so that we may me sure that they are ready
for business. Now, Colonel Gerard, with your permission we will
resume our game of ecarte."

It is one of those occasions which one does not forget.

This captain, who was a man of iron, shuffled and cut, dealt and
played as if he were in his cafe. From below we heard the
inarticulate murmurings of the two mates, half smothered by the
handkerchiefs which gagged them. Outside the timbers creaked and
the sails hummed under the brisk breeze which was sweeping us
upon our way. Amid the splash of the waves and the whistle of
the wind we heard the wild cheers and shoutings of the English
sailors as they broached the keg of rum. We played half-a-dozen
games and then the captain rose. "I think they are ready for us
now," said he. He took a brace of pistols from a locker, and he
handed one of them to me.

But we had no need to fear resistance, for there was no one to
resist. The Englishman of those days, whether soldier or sailor,
was an incorrigible drunkard.

Without drink he was a brave and good man. But if drink were
laid before him it was a perfect madness-- nothing could induce
him to take it with moderation.

In the dim light of the den which they inhabited, five senseless
figures and two shouting, swearing, singing madmen represented
the crew of the Black Swan. Coils of rope were brought forward
by the steward, and with the help of two French seamen (the third
was at the wheel) we secured the drunkards and tied them up, so
that it was impossible for them to speak or move. They were
placed under the fore-hatch, as their officers had been under the
after one, and Kerouan was directed twice a day to give them food
and drink. So at last we found that the Black Swan was entirely
our own.

Had there been bad weather I do not know what we should have
done, but we still went gaily upon our way with a wind which was
strong enough to drive us swiftly south, but not strong enough to
cause us alarm. On the evening of the third day I found Captain
Fourneau gazing eagerly out from the platform in the front of the
vessel. "Look, Gerard, look!" he cried, and pointed over the
pole which stuck out in front.

A light blue sky rose from a dark blue sea, and far away, at the
point where they met, was a shadowy something like a cloud, but
more definite in shape.

"What is it?" I cried.

"It is land."

"And what land?"

I strained my ears for the answer, and yet I knew already what
the answer would be.

"It is St. Helena."

Here, then, was the island of my dreams! Here was the cage where
our great Eagle of France was confined!

All those thousands of leagues of water had not sufficed to keep
Gerard from the master whom he loved.

There he was, there on that cloud-bank yonder over the dark blue
sea. How my eyes devoured it! How my soul flew in front of the
vessel--flew on and on to tell him that he was not forgotten,
that after many days one faithful servant was coming to his side.
Every instant the dark blur upon the water grew harder and

Soon I could see plainly enough that it was indeed a mountainous
island. The night fell, but still I knelt upon the deck, with my
eyes fixed upon the darkness which covered the spot where I knew
that the great Emperor was. An hour passed and another one, and
then suddenly a little golden twinkling light shone out exactly
ahead of us. It was the light of the window of some
house--perhaps of his house. It could not be more than a mile or
two away. Oh, how I held out my hands to it!--they were the
hands of Etienne Gerard, but it was for all France that they were
held out.

Every light had been extinguished aboard our ship, and presently,
at the direction of Captain Fourneau, we all pulled upon one of
the ropes, which had the effect of swinging round one of the
sticks above us, and so stopping the vessel. Then he asked me to
step down to the cabin.

"You understand everything now, Colonel Gerard," said he, "and
you will forgive me if I did not take you into my complete
confidence before. In a matter of such importance I make no man
my confidant. I have long planned the rescue of the Emperor, and
my remaining in England and joining their merchant service was
entirely with that design. All has worked out exactly as I
expected. I have made several successful voyages to the West
Coast of Africa, so that there was no difficulty in my obtaining
the command of this one. One by one I got these old French
man-of-war's-men among the hands. As to you, I was anxious to
have one tried fighting man in case of resistance, and I also
desired to have a fitting companion for the Emperor during his
long homeward voyage. My cabin is already fitted up for his use.
I trust that before to-morrow morning he will be inside it, and
we out of sight of this accursed island."

You can think of my emotion, my friends, as I listened to these
words. I embraced the brave Fourneau, and implored him to tell
me how I could assist him.

"I must leave it all in your hands," said he. "Would that I
could have been the first to pay him homage, but it would not be
wise for me to go. The glass is falling, there is a storm
brewing, and we have the land under our lee. Besides, there are
three English cruisers near the island which may be upon us at
any moment. It is for me, therefore, to guard the ship and for
you to bring off the Emperor."

I thrilled at the words.

"Give me your instructions!" I cried.

"I can only spare you one man, for already I can hardly pull
round the yards," said he. "One of the boats has been lowered,
and this man will row you ashore and await your return. The
light which you see is indeed the light of Longwood. All who are
in the house are your friends, and all may be depended upon to
aid the Emperor's escape. There is a cordon of English sentries,
but they are not very near to the house. Once you have got as
far as that you will convey our plans to the Emperor, guide him
down to the boat, and bring him on board."

The Emperor himself could not have given his instructions more
shortly and clearly. There was not a moment to be lost. The
boat with the seaman was waiting alongside. I stepped into it,
and an instant afterward we had pushed off. Our little boat
danced over the dark waters, but always shining before my eyes
was the light of Longwood, the light of the Emperor, the star of
hope. Presently the bottom of the boat grated upon the pebbles
of the beach. It was a deserted cove, and no challenge from a
sentry came to disturb us. I left the seaman by the boat and I
began to climb the hillside.

There was a goat track winding in and out among the rocks, so I
had no difficulty in finding my way. It stands to reason that
all paths in St. Helena would lead to the Emperor. I came to a
gate. No sentry--and I passed through. Another gate--still no
sentry! I wondered what had become of this cordon of which
Fourneau had spoken. I had come now to the top of my climb, for
there was the light burning steadily right in front of me. I
concealed myself and took a good look round, but still I could
see no sign of the enemy. As I approached I saw the house, a
long, low building with a veranda. A man was walking up and down
upon the path in front. I crept nearer and had a look at him.

Perhaps it was this cursed Hudson Lowe. What a triumph if I
could not only rescue the Emperor, but also avenge him! But it
was more likely that this man was an English sentry. I crept
nearer still, and the man stopped in front of the lighted window,
so that I could see him. No; it was no soldier, but a priest. I
wondered what such a man could be doing there at two in the
morning. Was he French or English? If he were one of the
household I might take him into my confidence. If he were
English he might ruin all my plans.

I crept a little nearer still, and at that moment he entered the
house, a flood of light pouring out through the open door. All
was clear for me now and I understood that not an instant was to
be lost. Bending myself double I ran swiftly forward to the
lighted window.

Raising my head I peeped through, and there was the Emperor lying
dead before me.

My friends, I fell down upon the gravel walk as senseless as if a
bullet had passed through my brain. So great was the shock that
I wonder that I survived it.

And yet in half an hour I had staggered to my feet again,
shivering in every limb, my teeth chattering, and there I stood
staring with the eyes of a maniac into that room of death.

He lay upon a bier in the centre of the chamber, calm, composed,
majestic, his face full of that reserve power which lightened our
hearts upon the day of battle. A half-smile was fixed upon his
pale lips, and his eyes, half-opened, seemed to be turned on
mine. He was stouter than when I had seen him at Waterloo, and
there was a gentleness of expression which I had never seen in
life. On either side of him burned rows of candles, and this was
the beacon which had welcomed us at sea, which had guided me over
the water, and which I had hailed as my star of hope. Dimly I
became conscious that many people were kneeling in the room; the
little Court, men and women, who had shared his fortunes,
Bertrand, his wife, the priest, Montholon--all were there. I
would have prayed too, but my heart was too heavy and bitter for
prayer. And yet I must leave, and I could not leave him without
a sign. Regardless of whether I was seen or not, I drew myself
erect before my dead leader, brought my heels together, and
raised my hand in a last salute. Then I turned and hurried of
through the darkness, with the picture of the wan, smiling lips
and the steady grey eyes dancing always before me.

It had seemed to me but a little time that I had been away, and
yet the boatman told me that it was hours.

Only when he spoke of it did I observe that the wind was blowing
half a gale from the sea and that the waves were roaring in upon
the beach. Twice we tried to push out our little boat, and twice
it was thrown back by the sea. The third time a great wave
filled it and stove the bottom. Helplessly we waited beside it
until the dawn broke, to show a raging sea and a flying scud
above it. There was no sign of the Black Swan. Climbing the
hill we looked down, but on all the great torn expanse of the
ocean there was no gleam of a sail. She was gone. Whether she
had sunk, or whether she was recaptured by her English crew, or
what strange fate may have been in store for her, I do not know.
Never again in this life did I see Captain Fourneau to tell him
the result of my mission. For my own part I gave myself up to
the English, my boatman and I pretending that we were the only
survivors of a lost vessel--though, indeed, there was no pretence
in the matter. At the hands of their officers I received that
generous hospitality which I have always encountered, but it was
many a long month before I could get a passage back to the dear
land outside of which there can be no happiness for so true a
Frenchman as myself.

And so I tell you in one evening how I bade good-bye to my
master, and I take my leave also of you, my kind friends, who
have listened so patiently to the long- winded stories of an old
broken soldier. Russia, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and
England, you have gone with me to all these countries, and you
have seen through my dim eyes something of the sparkle and
splendour of those great days, and I have brought back to you
some shadow of those men whose tread shook the earth. Treasure
it in your minds and pass it on to your children, for the memory
of a great age is the most precious treasure that a nation can
possess. As the tree is nurtured by its own cast leaves so it is
these dead men and vanished days which may bring out another
blossoming of heroes, of rulers, and of sages. I go to Gascony,
but my words stay here in your memory, and long after Etienne
Gerard is forgotten a heart may be warmed or a spirit braced by
some faint echo of the words that he has spoken. Gentlemen, an
old soldier salutes you and bids you farewell.

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