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The Dynasts by Thomas Hardy

Part 15 out of 16

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colour, but the foreign contingent is darker.

Breakfasts are cooked over smoky fires of green wood. Innumerable
groups, many in their shirt-sleeves, clean their rusty firelocks,
drawing or exploding the charges, scrape the mud from themselves,
and pipeclay from their cross-belts the red dye washed off their
jackets by the rain.

At six o'clock, they parade, spread out, and take up their positions
in the line of battle, the front of which extends in a wavy riband
three miles long, with three projecting bunches at Hougomont, La
Haye Sainte, and La Haye.

Looking across to the French positions we observe that after
advancing in dark streams from where they have passed the night
they, too, deploy and wheel into their fighting places--figures
with red epaulettes and hairy knapsacks, their arms glittering
like a display of cutlery at a hill-side fair.

They assume three concentric lines of crescent shape, that converge
on the English midst, with great blocks of the Imperial Guard at
the back of them. The rattle of their drums, their fanfarades,
and their bands playing "Veillons au salut de l'Empire" contrast
with the quiet reigning on the English side.

A knot of figures, comprising WELLINGTON with a suite of general
and other staff-officers, ride backwards and forwards in front
of the English lines, where each regimental colour floats in the
hands of the junior ensign. The DUKE himself, now a man of forty-
six, is on his bay charger Copenhagen, in light pantaloons, a
small plumeless hat, and a blue cloak, which shows its white
lining when blown back.

On the French side, too, a detached group creeps along the front
in preliminary survey. BONAPARTE--also forty-six--in a grey
overcoat, is mounted on his white arab Marengo, and accompanied
by SOULT, NEY, JEROME, DROUOT, and other marshals. The figures
of aides move to and fro like shuttle-cocks between the group
and distant points in the field. The sun has begun to gleam.]


Discriminate these, and what they are,
Who stand so stalwartly to war.


Report, ye Rumourers of things near and far.


Sweep first the Frenchmen's leftward lines along,
And eye the peaceful panes of Hougomont--
That seemed to hold prescriptive right of peace
In fee from Time till Time itself should cease!--
Jarred now by Reille's fierce foot-divisions three,
Flanked on their left by Pire's cavalry.--
The fourfold corps of d'Erlon, spread at length,
Compose the right, east of the famed chaussee--
The shelterless Charleroi-and-Brussels way,--
And Jacquinot's alert light-steeded strength
Still further right, their sharpened swords display.
Thus stands the first line.


Next behind its back
Comes Count Lobau, left of the Brussels track;
Then Domon's horse, the horse of Subervie;
Kellermann's cuirassed troopers twinkle-tipt,
And, backing d'Erlon, Milhaud's horse, equipt
Likewise in burnished steelwork sunshine-dipt:
So ranks the second line refulgently.


The third and last embattlement reveals
D'Erlon's, Lobau's, and Reille's foot-cannoniers,
And horse-drawn ordnance too, on massy wheels,
To strike with cavalry where space appears.


The English front, to left, as flanking force,
Has Vandeleur's hussars, and Vivian's horse;
Next them pace Picton's rows along the crest;
The Hanoverian foot-folk; Wincke; Best;
Bylandt's brigade, set forward fencelessly,
Pack's northern clansmen, Kempt's tough infantry,
With gaiter, epaulet, spat, and {philibeg};
While Halkett, Ompteda, and Kielmansegge
Prolong the musters, near whose forward edge
Baring invests the Farm of Holy Hedge.


Maitland and Byng in Cooke's division range,
And round dun Hougomont's old lichened sides
A dense array of watching Guardsmen hides
Amid the peaceful produce of the grange,
Whose new-kerned apples, hairy gooseberries green,
And mint, and thyme, the ranks intrude between.--
Last, westward of the road that finds Nivelles,
Duplat draws up, and Adam parallel.


The second British line--embattled horse--
Holds the reverse slopes, screened, in ordered course;
Dornberg's, and Arentsschildt's, and Colquhoun-Grant's,
And left of them, behind where Alten plants
His regiments, come the "Household" Cavalry;
And nigh, in Picton's rear, the trumpets call
The "Union" brigade of Ponsonby.
Behind these the reserves. In front of all,
Or interspaced, with slow-matched gunners manned,
Upthroated rows of threatful ordnance stand.

[The clock of Nivelles convent church strikes eleven in the
distance. Shortly after, coils of starch-blue smoke burst into
being along the French lines, and the English batteries respond
promptly, in an ominous roar that can be heard at Antwerp.

A column from the French left, six thousand strong, advances on
the plantation in front of the chateau of Hougomont. They are
played upon by the English ordnance; but they enter the wood,
and dislodge some battalions there. The French approach the
buildings, but are stopped by a loop-holed wall with a mass of
English guards behind it. A deadly fire bursts from these through
the loops and over the summit.

NAPOLEON orders a battery of howitzers to play upon the building.
Flames soon burst from it; but the foot-guards still hold the



[On a hillock near the farm of Rossomme a small table from the
farmhouse has been placed; maps are spread thereon, and a chair
is beside it. NAPOLEON, SOULT, and other marshals are standing
round, their horses waiting at the base of the slope.

NAPOLEON looks through his glass at Hougomont. His elevated face
makes itself distinct in the morning light as a gloomy resentful
countenance, blue-black where shaven, and stained with snuff, with
powderings of the same on the breast of his uniform. His stumpy
figure, being just now thrown back, accentuates his stoutness.]


Let Reille be warned that these his surly sets
On Hougomont chateau, can scarce defray
Their mounting bill of blood. They do not touch
The core of my intent--to pierce and roll
The centre upon the right of those opposed.
Thereon will turn the outcome of the day,
In which our odds are ninety to their ten!


Yes--prove there time and promptitude enough
To call back Grouchy here. Of his approach
I see no sign.

NAPOLEON (roughly)

Hours past he was bid come.
--But naught imports it! We are enough without him.
You have been beaten by this Wellington,
And so you think him great. But let me teach you
Wellington is no foe to reckon with.
His army, too, is poor. This clash to-day
Is more serious for our seasoned files
Than breakfasting.


Such is my earnest hope.


Observe that Wellington still labours on,
Stoutening his right behind Gomont chateau,
But leaves his left and centre as before--
Weaker, if anything. He plays our game!

[WELLINGTON can, in fact, be seen detaching from his main line
several companies of Guards to check the aims of the French on

Let me re-word my tactics. Ney leads off
By seizing Mont Saint-Jean. Then d'Erlon stirs,
And heaves up his division from the left.
The second corps will move abreast of him
The sappers nearing to entrench themselves
Within the aforesaid farm.

[Enter an aide-de-camp.]


From Marshal Ney,
Sire, I bring hasty word that all is poised
To strike the vital stroke, and only waits
Your Majesty's command,


Which he shall have
When I have scanned the hills for Grouchy's helms.

[NAPOLEON turns his glass to an upland four or five miles off on
the right, known as St. Lambert's Chapel Hill. Gazing more and
more intently, he takes rapid pinches of snuff in excitement.
NEY'S columns meanwhile standing for the word to advance, eighty
guns being ranged in front of La Belle Alliance in support of them.]

I see a darkly crawling, slug-like shape
Embodying far out there,--troops seemingly--
Grouchy's van-guard. What think you?

SOULT (also examining closely)

Verily troops;
And, maybe, Grouchy's. But the air is hazed.


If troops at all, they are Grouchy's. Why misgive,
And force on ills you fear!


It seems a wood.
Trees don bold outlines in their new-leafed pride.


It is the creeping shadow from a cloud.


It is a mass of stationary foot;
I can descry piled arms.

[NAPOLEON sends off the order for NEY'S attack--the grand assault
on the English midst, including the farm of La Haye Sainte. It
opens with a half-hour's thunderous discharge of artillery, which
ceases at length to let d'Erlon's infantry pass.

Four huge columns of these, shouting defiantly, push forwards in
face of the reciprocal fire from the cannon of the English. Their
effrontery carries them so near the Anglo-Allied lines that the
latter waver. But PICTON brings up PACK'S brigade, before which
the French in turn recede, though they make an attempt in La Haye
Sainte, whence BARING'S Germans pour a resolute fire.

WELLINGTON, who is seen afar as one of a group standing by a
great elm, orders OMPTEDA to send assistance to BARING, as may
be gathered from the darting of aides to and fro between the
points, like house-flies dancing their quadrilles.

East of the great highway the right columns of D'ERLON'S corps
have climbed the slopes. BYLANDT'S sorely exposed Dutch are
broken, and in their flight disorder the ranks of the English
Twenty-eighth, the Carabineers of the Ninety-fifth being also
dislodged from the sand-pit they occupied.]


All prospers marvellously! Gomont is hemmed;
La Haye Sainte too; their centre jeopardized;
Travers and d'Erlon dominate the crest,
And further strength of foot is following close.
Their troops are raw; the flower of England's force
That fought in Spain, America now holds.--

[SIR TOMAS PICTON, seeing what is happening orders KEMPT'S
brigade forward. It volleys murderously DONZELOT'S columns
of D'ERLON'S corps, and repulses them. As they recede PICTON
is beheld shouting an order to charge.]


I catch a voice that cautions Picton now
Against his rashness. "What the hell care I,--
Is my curst carcase worth a moment's mind?--
Come on!" he answers. Onwardly he goes!

[His tall, stern, saturnine figure with its bronzed complexion is
on nearer approach discerned heading the charge. As he advances
to the slope between the cross-roads and the sand-pit, riding very
conspicuously, he falls dead, a bullet in his forehead. His aide,
assisted by a soldier, drags the body beneath a tree and hastens
on. KEMPT takes his command.

Next MARCOGNET is repulsed by PACK'S brigade. D'ERLON'S infantry
and TRAVERS'S cuirassiers are charged by the Union Brigade of
Scotch(23) Greys, Royal Dragoons, and Inniskillens, and cut down
everywhere, the brigade following them so furiously the LORD
UXBRIDGE tries in vain to recall it. On its coming near the
French it is overwhelmed by MILHAUD'S cuirassiers, scarcely a
fifth of the brigade returning.

An aide enters to NAPOLEON from GENERAL DOMON.]


The General, on a far reconnaissance,
Says, sire, there is no room for longer doubt
That those debouching on St. Lambert's Hill
Are Prussian files.


Then where is General Grouchy?

[Enter COLONEL MARBOT with a prisoner.]

Aha--a Prussian, too! How comes he here?


Sire, my hussars have captured him near Lasnes--
A subaltern of the Silesian Horse.
A note from Bulow to Lord Wellington,
Announcing that a Prussian corps is close,
Was found on him. He speaks our language, sire.

NAPOLEON (to prisoner)

What force looms yonder on St. Lambert's Hill?


General Count Bulow's van, your Majesty.

[A thoughtful scowl crosses NAPOLEONS'S sallow face.]


Where, then, did your main army lie last night?


At Wavre.


But clashed it with no Frenchmen there?


With none. We deemed they had marched on Plancenoit.

NAPOLEON (shortly)

Take him away. (The prisoner is removed.) Has Grouchy's whereabouts
Been sought, to apprize him of this Prussian trend?


Certainly, sire. I sent a messenger.

NAPOLEON (bitterly)

A messenger! Had my poor Berthier been here
Six would have insufficed! Now then: seek Ney;
Bid him to sling the valour of his braves
Fiercely on England ere Count Bulow come;
And advertize the succours on the hill
As Grouchy's. (Aside) This is my one battle-chance;
The Allies have many such! (To SOULT) If Bulow nears,
He cannot join in time to share the fight.
And if he could, 'tis but a corps the more. . . .
This morning we had ninety chances ours,
We have threescore still. If Grouchy but retrieve
His fault of absence, conquest comes with eve!

[The scene shifts.]



[A hill half-way between Wavre and the fields of Waterloo, five
miles to the north-east of the scene preceding. The hill is
wooded, with some open land around. To the left of the scene,
towards Waterloo, is a valley.]


Marching columns in Prussian uniforms, coming from the direction of
Wavre, debouch upon the hill from the road through the wood.

They are the advance-guard and two brigades of Bulow's corps, that
have been joined there by BLUCHER. The latter has just risen from
the bed to which he has been confined since the battle of Ligny,
two days back. He still looks pale and shaken by the severe fall
and trampling he endured near the end of the action.

On the summit the troops halt, and a discussion between BLUCHER and
his staff ensues.

The cannonade in the direction of Waterloo is growing more and more
violent. BLUCHER, after looking this way and that, decides to fall
upon the French right at Plancenoit as soon as he can get there,
which will not be yet.

Between this point and that the ground descends steeply to the
valley on the spectator's left, where there is a mud-bottomed
stream, the Lasne; the slope ascends no less abruptly on the other
side towards Plancenoit. It is across this defile alone that the
Prussian army can proceed thither- a route of unusual difficulty
for artillery; where, moreover, the enemy is suspected of having
placed a strong outpost during the night to intercept such an

A figure goes forward--that of MAJOR FALKENHAUSEN, who is sent to
reconnoitre, and they wait a tedious time, the firing at Waterloo
growing more tremendous. FALKENHAUSEN comes back with the welcome
news that no outpost is there.

There now remains only the difficulty of the defile itself; and the
attempt is made. BLUCHER is descried riding hither and thither as
the guns drag heavily down the slope into the muddy bottom of the
valley. Here the wheels get stuck, and the men already tired by
marching since five in the morning, seem inclined to leave the guns
where they are. But the thunder from Waterloo still goes on, BLUCHER
exhorts his men by words and eager gestures, and they do at length
get the guns across, though with much loss of time.

The advance-guard now reaches some thick trees called the Wood of
Paris. It is followed by the LOSTHIN and HILLER divisions of foot,
and in due course by the remainder of the two brigades. Here they
halt, and await the arrival of the main body of BULOW'S corps, and
the third corps under THIELEMANN.

The scene shifts.



[WELLINGTON, on Copenhagen, is again under the elm-tree behind La
Haye Sainte. Both horse and rider are covered with mud-splashes,
but the weather having grown finer the DUKE has taken off his cloak.

HERVEY, GORDON, and other of his staff officers and aides are
near him; there being also present GENERALS MUFFLING, HUGEL, and
ALAVA; also TYLER, PICTON'S aide. The roar of battle continues.]


I am grieved at losing Picton; more than grieved.
He was as grim a devil as ever lived,
And roughish-mouthed withal. But never a man
More stout in fight, more stoical in blame!


Before he left for this campaign he said,
"When you shall hear of MY death, mark my words,
You'll hear of a bloody day!" and, on my soul,
'Tis true.

[Enter another aide-de-camp.]


Sir William Ponsonby, my lords, has fallen.
His horse got mud-stuck in a new-plowed plot,
Lancers surrounded him and bore him down,
And six then ran him through. The occasion sprung
Mainly from the Brigade's too reckless rush,
Sheer to the French front line.

WELLINGTON (gravely)

Ah--so it comes!
The Greys were bound to pay--'tis always so--
Full dearly for their dash so far afield.
Valour unballasted but lands its freight
On the enemy's shore.--What has become of Hill?


We have not seen him latterly, your Grace.


By God, I hope I haven't lost him, too?

BRIDGMAN (just come up)

Lord Hill's bay charger, being shot dead, your Grace,
Rolled over him in falling. He is bruised,
But hopes to be in place again betimes.


Praise Fate for thinking better of that frown!

[It is now nearing four o'clock. La Haye Sainte is devastated by
the second attack of NEY. The farm has been enveloped by DONZELOT'S
division, its garrison, the King's German Legion, having fought
till all ammunition was exhausted. The gates are forced open, and
in the retreat of the late defenders to the main Allied line they
are nearly all cut or shot down.]


O Farm of sad vicissitudes and strange!
Farm of the Holy Hedge, yet fool of change!
Whence lit so sanct a name on thy now violate grange?

WELLINGTON (to Muffling, resolutely)

Despite their fierce advantage here, I swear
By every God that war can call upon
To hold our present place at any cost,
Until your force cooperate with our lines!
To that I stand; although 'tis bruited now
That Bulow's corps has only reached Ohain.
I've sent Freemantle hence to seek them there,
And give them inkling we shall need them soon.

MUFFLING (looking at his watch)

I had hoped that Blucher would be here ere this.

[The staff turn their glasses on the French position.]


What movement can it be they contemplate?


A shock of cavalry on the hottest scale,
It seems to me. . . . (To aide) Bid him to reinforce
The front line with some second-line brigades;
Some, too, from the reserve.

[The Brunswickers advance to support MAITLAND'S Guards, and the
MITCHELL and ADAM Brigades establish themselves above Hougomont,
which is still in flames.

NEY, in continuation of the plan of throwing his whole force
on the British centre before the advent of the Prussians, now
intensifies his onslaught with the cavalry. Terrific discharges
of artillery initiate it to clear the ground. A heavy round-
shot dashes through the tree over the heads of WELLINGTON and
his generals, and boughs and leaves come flying down on them.]


Good practice that! I vow they did not fire
So dexterously in Spain. (He calls up an aide.) Bid Ompteda
Direct the infantry to lie tight down
On the reverse ridge-slope, to screen themselves
While these close shots and shells are teasing us;
When the charge comes they'll cease.

[The order is carried out. NEY'S cavalry attack now matures.
MILHAUD'S cuirassiers in twenty-four squadrons advance down the
opposite decline, followed and supported by seven squadrons of
chasseurs under DESNOETTES. They disappear for a minute in the
hollow between the armies.]


Ah--now we have got their long-brewed plot explained!

WELLINGTON (nodding)

That this was rigged for some picked time to-day
I had inferred. But that it would be risked
Sheer on our lines, while still they stand unswayed,
In conscious battle-trim, I reckoned not.
It looks a madman's cruel enterprise!


We have just heard that Ney embarked on it
Without an order, ere its aptness riped.


It may be so: he's rash. And yet I doubt.
I know Napoleon. If the onset fail
It will be Ney's; if it succeed he'll claim it!

[A dull reverberation of the tread of innumerable hoofs comes
from behind the hill, and the foremost troops rise into view.]


Behold the gorgeous coming of those horse,
Accoutered in kaleidoscopic hues
That would persuade us war has beauty in it!--
Discern the troopers' mien; each with the air
Of one who is himself a tragedy:
The cuirassiers, steeled, mirroring the day;
Red lancers, green chasseurs: behind the blue
The red; the red before the green:
A lingering-on till late in Christendom,
Of the barbaric trick to terrorize
The foe by aspect!

[WELLINGTON directs his glass to an officer in a rich uniform
with many decorations on his breast, who rides near the front
of the approaching squadrons. The DUKE'S face expresses


It's Marshal Ney himself who heads the charge.
The finest cavalry commander, he,
That wears a foreign plume; ay, probably
The whole world through!


And when that matchless chief
Sentenced shall lie to ignominious death
But technically deserved, no finger he
Who speaks will lift to save him.!


To his shame.
We must discount war's generous impulses
I sadly see.


Be mute, and let spin on
This whirlwind of the Will!

[As NEY'S cavalry ascends the English position the swish of the
horses' breasts through the standing corn can be heard, and the
reverberation of hoofs increases in strength. The English gunners
stand with their portfires ready, which are seen glowing luridly
in the daylight. There is comparative silence.]


Now, captains, are you loaded?


Yes, my lord.


Point carefully, and wait till their whole height
Shows above the ridge.

[When the squadrons rise in full view, within sixty yards of the
cannon-mouths, the batteries fire, with a concussion that shakes
the hill itself. Their shot punch holes through the front ranks
of the cuirassiers, and horse and riders fall in heaps. But they
are not stopped, hardly checked, galloping up to the mouths of the
guns, passing between the pieces, and plunging among the Allied
infantry behind the ridge, who, with the advance of the horsemen,
have sprung up from their prone position and formed into squares.]


Ney guides the fore-front of the carabineers
Through charge and charge, with rapid recklessness.
Horses, cuirasses, sabres, helmets, men,
Impinge confusedly on the pointed prongs
Of the English kneeling there, whose dim red shapes
Behind their slanted steel seem trampled flat
And sworded to the sward. The charge recedes,
And lo, the tough lines rank there as before,
Save that they are shrunken.


Hero of heroes, too,
Ney, (not forgetting those who gird against him).--
Simple and single-souled lieutenant he;
Why should men's many-valued motions take
So barbarous a groove!

[The cuirassiers and lancers surge round the English and Allied
squares like waves, striking furiously on them and well-nigh
breaking them. They stand in dogged silence amid the French

WELLINGTON (to the nearest square)

Hard pounding this, my men! I truly trust
You'll pound the longest!



MUFFLING (again referring to his watch)

However firmly they may stand, in faith,
Their firmness must have bounds to it, because
There are bounds to human strength! . . . Your, Grace,
To leftward now, to spirit Zieten on.


Good. It is time! I think he well be late,
However, in the field.

[MUFFLING goes. Enter an aide, breathless.]


Your Grace, the Ninety-fifth are patience-spent
With standing under fire so passing long.
They writhe to charge--or anything but stand!


Not yet. They shall have at 'em later on.
At present keep them firm.

[Exit aide. The Allied squares stand like little red-brick castles,
independent of each other, and motionless except at the dry hurried
command "Close up!" repeated every now and then as they are slowly
thinned. On the other hand, under their firing and bayonets a
disorder becomes apparent among the charging horse, on whose
cuirasses the bullets snap like stones on window-panes. At this
the Allied cavalry waiting in the rear advance; and by degrees they
deliver the squares from their enemies, who are withdrawn to their
own position to prepare for a still more strenuous assault. The
point of view shifts.]



[On the sheltered side of a clump of trees at the back of the
English position camp-fires are smouldering. Soldiers' wives,
mistresses, and children from a few months to five or six years
of age, sit on the ground round the fires or on armfuls of straw
from the adjoining farm. Wounded soldiers lie near the women.
The wind occasionally brings the smoke and smell of battle into
the encampment, the noise being continuous. Two waggons stand
near; also a surgeon's horse in charge of a batman, laden with
bone-saws, knives, probes, tweezers, and other surgical instruments.
Behind lies a woman who has just given birth to a child, which a
second woman is holding.

Many of the other women are shredding lint, the elder children
assisting. Some are dressing the slighter wounds of the soldiers
who have come in here instead of going further. Along the road
near is a continual procession of bearers of wounded men to the
rear. The occupants of the camp take hardly any notice of the
thundering of the cannon. A camp-follower is playing a fiddle
near. Another woman enters.]


There's no sign of my husband any longer. His battalion is half-a-
mile from where it was. He looked back as they wheeled off towards
the fighting-line, as much as to say, "Nancy, if I don't see 'ee
again, this is good-bye, my dear." Yes, poor man! . . . Not but
what 'a had a temper at times!


I'm out of all that. My husband--as I used to call him for form's
sake--is quiet enough. He was wownded at Quarter-Brass the day
before yesterday, and died the same night. But I didn't know it
till I got here, and then says I, "Widder or no widder, I mean to
see this out."

[A sergeant staggers in with blood dropping from his face.]


Damned if I think you will see it out, mis'ess, for if I don't
mistake there'll be a retreat of the whole army on Brussels soon.
We can't stand much longer!--For the love of God, have ye got a
cup of water, if nothing stronger? (They hand a cup.)

THIRD WOMAN (entering and sinking down)

The Lord send that I may never see again what I've been seeing while
looking for my poor galliant Joe! The surgeon asked me to lend a
hand; and 'twas worse than opening innerds at a pig-killing! (She

FOURTH WOMAN (to a little girl)

Never mind her, my dear; come and help me with this one. (She goes
with the girl to a soldier in red with buff facings who lies some
distance off.) Ah--'tis no good. He's gone.


No, mother. His eyes are wide open, a-staring to get a sight of
the battle!


That's nothing. Lots of dead ones stare in that silly way. It
depends upon where they were hit. I was all through the Peninsula;
that's how I know. (She covers the horny gaze of the man. Shouts
and louder discharges are heard.)--Heaven's high tower, what's that?

[Enter an officer's servant.(24)]


Waiting with the major's spare hoss--up to my knees in mud from
the rain that had come down like baccy-pipe stems all the night
and morning--I have just seen a charge never beholded since the
days of the Amalekites! The squares still stand, but Ney's cavalry
have made another attack. Their swords are streaming with blood,
and their horses' hoofs squash out our poor fellow's bowels as they
lie. A ball has sunk in Sir Thomas Picton's forehead and killed him
like Goliath the Philistine. I don't see what's to stop the French.
Well, it's the Lord's doing and marvellous in our eyes. Hullo,
who's he? (They look towards the road.) A fine hale old gentleman,
isn't he? What business has a man of that sort here?

[Enter, on the highway near, the DUKE OF RICHMOND in plain clothes,
on horseback, accompanied by two youths, his sons. They draw
rein on an eminence, and gaze towards the battlefields.]

RICHMOND (to son)

Everything looks as bad as possible just now. I wonder where your
brother is? However, we can't go any nearer. . . . Yes, the bat-
horses are already being moved off, and there are more and more
fugitives. A ghastly finish to your mother's ball, by Gad if it

[They turn their horses towards Brussels. Enter, meeting them,
MR. LEGH, a Wessex gentleman, also come out to view the battle.]


Can you tell me, sir, how the battle is going?


Badly, badly, I fear, sir. There will be a retreat soon, seemingly.


Indeed! Yes, a crowd of fugitives are coming over the hill even now.
What will these poor women do?


God knows! They will be ridden over, I suppose. Though it is
extraordinary how they do contrive to escape destruction while
hanging so close to the rear of an action! They are moving,
however. Well, we will move too.

[Exeunt DUKE OF RICHMOND, sons, and MR. LEGH. The point of view



[NEY'S charge of cavalry against the opposite upland has been
three times renewed without success. He collects the scattered
squadrons to renew it a fourth time. The glittering host again
ascends the confronting slopes over the bodies of those previously
left there, and amid horses wandering about without riders, or
crying as they lie with entrails trailing or limbs broken.]

NAPOLEON (starting up)

A horrible dream has gripped me--horrible!
I saw before me Lannes--just as he looked
That day at Aspern: mutilated, bleeding!
"What--blood again?" he said to me. "Still blood?"

[He further arouses himself, takes snuff vehemently, and looks
through his glass.]

What time is it?--Ah, these assaults of Ney's!
They are a blunder; they've been enterprised
An hour too early! . . . There Lheritier goes
Onward with his division next Milhaud;
Now Kellermann must follow up with his.
So one mistake makes many. Yes; ay; yes!


I fear that Ney has compromised us here
Just as at Jena; even worse!


No less
Must we support him now he is launched on it. . . .
The miracle is that he is still alive!

[NEY and his mass of cavalry again pass the English batteries
and disappear amid the squares beyond.]

Their cannon are abandoned; and their squares
Again environed--see! I would to God
Murat could be here! Yet I disdained
His proffered service. . . . All my star asks now
Is to break some half-dozen of those blocks
Of English yonder. He was the man to do it.

[NEY and D'ERLON'S squadrons are seen emerging from the English
squares in a disorganized state, the attack having failed like
the previous ones. An aide-de-camp enters to NAPOLEON.]


The Prussians have debouched on our right rear
From Paris-wood; and Losthin's infantry
Appear by Plancenoit; Hiller's to leftwards.
Two regiments of their horse protect their front,
And three light batteries.

[A haggard shade crosses NAPOLEON'S face.]


What then! That's not a startling force as yet.
A counter-stroke by Domon's cavalry
Must shatter them. Lobau must bring his foot
Up forward, heading for the Prussian front,
Unrecking losses by their cannonade.

[Exit aide. The din of battle continues. DOMON'S horse are soon
seen advancing towards and attacking the Prussian hussars in front
of the infantry; and he next attempts to silence the Prussian
batteries playing on him by leading up his troops and cutting
down the gunners. But he has to fall back upon the infantry
of LOBAU. Enter another aide-de-camp.]


These tiding I report, your Majesty:--
Von Ryssel's and von Hacke's Prussian foot
Have lately sallied from the Wood of Paris,
Bearing on us; no vast array as yet;
But twenty thousand loom not far behind
These vanward marchers!


Ah! They swarm thus thickly?
But be they hell's own legions we'll defy them!--
Lobau's men will stand firm.

[He looks in the direction of the English lines, where NEY'S
cavalry-assaults still linger furiously on.]

But who rides hither,
Spotting the sky with clods in his high haste?


It looks like Colonel Heymes--come from Ney.

NAPOLEON (sullenly)

And his face shows what clef his music's in!

[Enter COLONEL HEYMES, blood-stained, muddy, and breathless.]


The Prince of Moscow, sire, the Marshal Ney,
Bids me implore that infantry be sent
Immediately, to further his attack.
They cannot be dispensed with, save we fail!

NAPOLEON (furiously)

Infantry! Where the sacred God thinks he
I can find infantry for him! Forsooth,
Does he expect me to create them--eh?
Why sends he such a message, seeing well
How we are straitened here!


Such was the prayer
Of my commission, sire. And I say
That I myself have seen his strokes must waste
Without such backing.




Our cavalry
Lie stretched in swathes, fronting the furnace-throats
Of the English cannon as a breastwork built
Of reeking copses. Marshal Ney's third horse
Is shot. Besides the slain, Donop, Guyot,
Lheritier, Piquet, Travers, Delort, more,
Are vilely wounded. On the other hand
Wellington has sought refuge in a square,
Few of his generals are not killed or hit,
And all is tickle with him. But I see,
Likewise, that I can claim no reinforcement,
And will return and say so.


NAPOLEON (to Soult, sadly)

Ney does win me!
I fain would strengthen him.--Within an ace
Of breaking down the English as he is,
'Twould write upon the sunset "Victory!"--
But whom may spare we from the right here now?
So single man!

[An interval.]

Life's curse begins, I see,
With helplessness! . . . All I can compass is
To send Durutte to fall on Papelotte,
And yet more strongly occupy La Haye,
To cut off Bulow's right from bearing up
And checking Ney's attack. Further than this
None but the Gods can scheme!

[SOULT hastily begins writing orders to that effect. The point
of view shifts.]



[The din of battle continues. WELLINGTON, UXBRIDGE, HILL, DE
LANCEY, GORDON, and others discovered near the middle of the line.]


It is a moment when the steadiest pulse
Thuds pit-a-pat. The crisis shapes and nears
For Wellington as for his counter-chief.


The hour is shaking him, unshakeable
As he may seem!


Know'st not at this stale time
That shaken and unshaken are alike
But demonstrations from the Back of Things?
Must I again reveal It as It hauls
The halyards of the world?

[A transparency as in earlier scenes again pervades the spectacle,
and the ubiquitous urging of the Immanent Will becomes visualized.
The web connecting all the apparently separate shapes includes
WELLINGTON in its tissue with the rest, and shows him, like them,
as acting while discovering his intention to act. By the lurid
light the faces of every row, square, group, and column of men,
French and English, wear the expression of that of people in a

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES (tremulously)

Yea, sire; I see.
Disquiet me, pray, no more!

[The strange light passes, and the embattled hosts on the field
seem to move independently as usual.]

WELLINGTON (to Uxbridge)

Manoeuvring does not seem to animate
Napoleon's methods now. Forward he comes,
And pounds away on us in the ancient style,
Till he is beaten back in the ancient style;
And so the see-saw sways!

[The din increases. WELLINGTON'S aide-de-camp, Sir A. GORDON,
a little in his rear, falls mortally wounded. The DUKE turns

But where is Gordon?
Ah--hit is he! That's bad, that's bad, by God.

[GORDON is removed. An aide enters.]


Your Grace, the Colonel Ompteda has fallen,
And La Haye Sainte is now a bath of blood.
Nothing more can be done there, save with help.
The Rifles suffer sharply!

[An aide is seen coming from KEMPT.]


What says he?


He says that Kempt, being riddled through and thinned,
Sends him for reinforcements.

WELLINGTON (with heat)

And where am I to get him reinforcements
In Heaven's name! I've no reinforcements here,
As he should know.

AIDE (hesitating)

What's to be done, your Grace?


Done? Those he has left him, be they many or few,
Fight till they fall, like others in the field!

[Exit aide. The Quartermaster-General DE LANCEY, riding by
WELLINGTON, is struck by a lobbing shot that hurls him over
the head of his horse. WELLINGTON and others go to him.]

DE LANCEY (faintly)

I may as well be left to die in peace!


He may recover. Take him to the rear,
And call the best attention up to him.

[DE LANCEY is carried off. The next moment a shell bursts close

HILL (approaching)

I strongly feel you stand too much exposed!


I know, I know. It matters not one damn!
I may as well be shot as not perceive
What ills are raging here.


Conceding such,
And as you may be ended momently,
A truth there is no blinking, what commands
Have you to leave me, should fate shape it so?


These simply: to hold out unto the last,
As long as one man stands on one lame leg
With one ball in his pouch!--then end as I.

[He rides on slowly with the others. NEY'S charges, though
fruitless so far, are still fierce. His troops are now reduced
to one-half. Regiments of the BACHELU division, and the JAMIN
brigade, are at last moved up to his assistance. They are partly
swept down by the Allied batteries, and partly notched away by
the infantry, the smoke being now so thick that the position of
the battalions is revealed only by the flashing of the priming-
pans and muzzles, and by the furious oaths heard behind the cloud.
WELLINGTON comes back. Enter another aide-de-camp.]


We bow to the necessity of saying
That our brigade is lessened to one-third,
Your Grace. And those who are left alive of it
Are so unmuscled by fatigue and thirst
That some relief, however temporary,
Becomes sore need.


Inform your general
That his proposal asks the impossible!
That he, I, every Englishman afield,
Must fall upon the spot we occupy,
Our wounds in front.


It is enough, your Grace.
I answer for't that he, those under him,
And I withal, will bear us as you say.

[Exit aide. The din of battle goes on. WELLINGTON is grave but
calm. Like those around him, he is splashed to the top of his hat
with partly dried mire, mingled with red spots; his face is grimed
in the same way, little courses showing themselves where the sweat
has trickled down from his brow and temples.]

CLINTON (to Hill)

A rest would do our chieftain no less good,
In faith, than that unfortunate brigade!
He is tried damnably; and much more strained
Than I have ever seen him.


Endless risks
He's running likewise. What the hell would happen
If he were shot, is more than I can say!

WELLINGTON (calling to some near)

At Talavera, Salamanca, boys,
And at Vitoria, we saw smoke together;
And though the day seems wearing doubtfully,
Beaten we must not be! What would they say
Of us at home, if so?

A CRY (from the French)

Their centre breaks!
Vive l'Empereur!

[It comes from the FOY and BACHELU divisions, which are rushing
forward. HALKETT'S and DUPLAT'S brigades intercept. DUPLAT
falls, shot dead; but the venturesome French regiments, pierced
with converging fires, and cleft with shells, have to retreat.]

HILL (joining Wellington)

The French artillery-fire
To the right still renders regiments restive there
That have to stand. The long exposure galls them.


They must be stayed as our poor means afford.
I have to bend attention steadfastly
Upon the centre here. The game just now
Goes all against us; and if staunchness fail
But for one moment with these thinning foot,
Defeat succeeds!

[The battle continues to sway hither and thither with concussions,
wounds, smoke, the fumes of gunpowder, and the steam from the hot
viscera of grape-torn horses and men. One side of a Hanoverian
square is blown away; the three remaining sides form themselves
into a triangle. So many of his aides are cut down that it is
difficult for WELLINGTON to get reports of what is happening
afar. It begins to be discovered at the front that a regiment of
hussars, and others without ammunition, have deserted, and that
some officers in the rear, honestly concluding the battle to be
lost, are riding quietly off to Brussels. Those who are left
unwounded of WELLINGTON'S staff show gloomy misgivings at such
signs, despite their own firmness.]


One needs must be a ghost
To move here in the midst 'twixt host and host!
Their balls scream brisk and breezy tunes through me
As I were an organ-stop. It's merry so;
What damage mortal flesh must undergo!

[A Prussian officer enters to MUFFLING, who has again rejoined
the DUKE'S suite. MUFFLING hastens forward to WELLINGTON.]


Blucher has just begun to operate;
But owing to Gneisenau's stolid stagnancy
The body of our army looms not yet!
As Zieten's corps still plod behind Smohain
Their coming must be late. Blucher's attack
Strikes the remote right rear of the enemy,
Somewhere by Plancenoit.


A timely blow;
But would that Zieten sped! Well, better late
Than never. We'll still stand.

[The point of observation shifts.]



[NEY'S long attacks on the centre with cavalry having failed,
those left of the squadrons and their infantry-supports fall
back pell-mell in broken groups across the depression between
the armies.

Meanwhile BULOW, having engaged LOBAU'S Sixth Corps, carries

The artillery-fire between the French and the English continues.
An officer of the Third Foot-guards comes up to WELLINGTON and
those of his suite that survive.]


Our Colonel Canning--coming I know not whence--


I lately sent him with important words
To the remoter lines.


As he returned
A grape-shot struck him in the breast; he fell,
At once a dead man. General Halkett, too,
Has had his cheek shot through, but still keeps going.


And how proceeds De Lancey?


I am told
That he forbids the surgeons waste their time
On him, who well can wait till worse are eased.


A noble fellow.

[NAPOLEON can now be seen, across the valley, pushing forward a
new scheme of some sort, urged to it obviously by the visible
nearing of further Prussian corps. The EMPEROR is as critically
situated as WELLINGTON, and his army is now formed in a right
angle ("en potence"), the main front to the English, the lesser
to as many of the Prussians as have yet arrived. His gestures
show him to be giving instructions of desperate import to a
general whom he has called up.]


He bids La Bedoyere to speed away
Along the whole sweep of the surging line,
And there announce to the breath-shotten bands
Who toil for a chimaera trustfully,
With seventy pounds of luggage on their loins,
That the dim Prussian masses seen afar
Are Grouchy's three-and-thirty thousand, come
To clinch a victory.


But Ney demurs!


Ney holds indignantly that such a feint
Is not war-worthy. Says Napoleon then,
Snuffing anew, with sour sardonic scowl,
That he is choiceless.


Excellent Emperor!
He tops all human greatness; in that he
To lesser grounds of greatness adds the prime,
Of being without a conscience.

[LA BEDOYERE and orderlies start on their mission. The false
intelligence is seen to spread, by the excited motion of the
columns, and the soldiers can be heard shouting as their spirits

WELLINGTON is beginning to discern the features of the coming
onset, when COLONEL FRASER rides up.]


We have just learnt from a deserting captain,
One of the carabineers who charged of late,
That an assault which dwarfs all instances--
The whole Imperial Guard in welded weight--
Is shortly to be made.


For your smart speed
My thanks. My observation is confirmed.
We'll hasten now along the battle-line (to Staff),
As swiftest means for giving orders out
Whereby to combat this.

[The speaker, accompanied by HILL, UXBRIDGE, and others--all now
looking as worn and besmirched as the men in the ranks--proceed
along the lines, and dispose the brigades to meet the threatened
shock. The infantry are brought out of the shelter they have
recently sought, the cavalry stationed in the rear, and the
batteries of artillery hitherto kept in reserve are moved to the

The last Act of the battle begins.

There is a preliminary attack by DONZELOT'S columns, combined
with swarms of sharpshooters, to the disadvantage of the English
and their Allies. WELLINGTON has scanned it closely. FITZROY
SOMERSET, his military secretary, comes up.]


What casualty has thrown its shade among
The regiments of Nassau, to shake them so?


The Prince of Orange has been badly struck--
A bullet through his shoulder--so they tell;
And Kielmansegge has shown some signs of stress.
Kincaird's tried line wanes leaner and more lean--
Whittled to a weak skein of skirmishers;
The Twenty-seventh lie dead.


Ah yes--I know!

[While they watch developments a cannon-shot passes and knocks
SOMERSET'S right arm to a mash. He is assisted to the rear.

NEY and FRIANT now lead forward the last and most desperate
assault of the day, in charges of the Old and Middle Guard,
the attack by DONZELOT and ALLIX further east still continuing as
a support. It is about a quarter-past eight, and the midsummer
evening is fine after the wet night and morning, the sun approaching
its setting in a sky of gorgeous colours.

The picked and toughened Guard, many of whom stood in the ranks
at Austerlitz and Wagram, have been drawn up in three or four
echelons, the foremost of which now advances up the slopes to
the Allies' position. The others follow at intervals, the
drummers beating the "pas de charge."]

CHORUS OF RUMOURS (aerial music)

Twice thirty throats of couchant cannonry--
Ranked in a hollow curve, to close their blaze
Upon the advancing files--wait silently
Like to black bulls at gaze.

The Guard approaches nearer and more near:
To touch-hole moves each match of smoky sheen:
The ordnance roars: the van-ranks disappear
As if wiped off the scene.

The aged Friant falls as it resounds;
Ney's charger drops--his fifth on this sore day--
Its rider from the quivering body bounds
And forward foots his way.

The cloven columns tread the English height,
Seize guns, repulse battalions rank by rank,
While horse and foot artillery heavily bite
Into their front and flank.

It nulls the power of a flesh-built frame
To live within that zone of missiles. Back
The Old Guard, staggering, climbs to whence it came.
The fallen define its track.

[The second echelon of the Imperial Guard has come up to the
assault. Its columns have borne upon HALKETT'S right. HALKETT,
desperate to keep his wavering men firm, himself seizes and
waves the flag of the Thirty-third, in which act he falls wounded.
But the men rally. Meanwhile the Fifty-second, covered by the
Seventy-first, has advanced across the front, and charges the
Imperial Guard on the flank.

The third echelon next arrives at the English lines and squares;
rushes through the very focus of their fire, and seeing nothing
more in front, raises a shout.


The Emperor! It's victory!


Stand up, Guards!
Form line upon the front face of the square!

[Two thousand of MAITLAND'S Guards, hidden in the hollow roadway,
thereupon spring up, form as ordered, and reveal themselves as a
fence of leveled firelocks four deep. The flints click in a
multitude, the pans flash, and volley after volley is poured into
the bear-skinned figures of the massed French, who kill COLONEL
D'OYLEY in returning fire.]


Now drive the fellows in! Go on; go on!
You'll do it now!

[COLBORNE converges on the French guard with the Fifty-second, and
The former splits into two as the climax comes. ADAM, MAITLAND,
and COLBORNE pursue their advantage. The Imperial columns are
broken, and their confusion is increased by grape-shot from
BOLTON'S battery.]

Campbell, this order next:
Vivian's hussars are to support, and bear
Against the cavalry towards Belle Alliance.
Go--let him know.

[Sir C. CAMPBELL departs with the order. Soon VIVIAN'S and
VANDELEUR'S light horse are seen advancing, and in due time the
French cavalry are rolled back.

WELLINGTON goes in the direction of the hussars with UXBRIDGE. A
cannon-shot hisses past.]

UXBRIDGE (starting)

I have lost my leg, by God!


By God, and have you! Ay--the wind o' the shot
Blew past the withers of my Copenhagen
Like the foul sweeping of a witch's broom.--
Aha--they are giving way!

[While UXBRIDGE is being helped to the rear, WELLINGTON makes a
sign to SALTOUN, Colonel of the First Footguards.]

SALTOUN (shouting)

Boys, now's your time;
Forward and win!


The Guard gives way--we are beaten!

[They recede down the hill, carrying confusion into NAPOLEON'S
centre just as the Prussians press forward at a right angle from
the other side of the field. NAPOLEON is seen standing in the
hollow beyond La Haye Sainte, alone, except for the presence of
COUNT FLAHAULT, his aide-de-camp. His lips move with sudden


He says "Now all is lost! The clocks of the world
Strike my last empery-hour."

[Towards La Haye Sainte the French of DONZELOT and ALLIX, who
are fighting KEMPT, PACK, KRUSE, and LAMBERT, seeing what has
happened to the Old and Middle Guard, lose heart and recede
likewise; so that the whole French line rolls back like a tide.
Simultaneously the Prussians are pressing forward at Papelotte
and La Haye. The retreat of the French grows into a panic.]

FRENCH VOICES (despairingly)

We are betrayed!

[WELLINGTON rides at a gallop to the most salient point of the
English position, halts, and waves his hat as a signal to all
the army. The sign is answered by a cheer along the length of
the line.]


No cheering yet, my lads; but bear ahead,
Before the inflamed face of the west out there
Dons blackness. So you'll round your victory!

[The few aides that are left unhurt dart hither and thither with
this message, and the whole English host and it allies advance
in an ordered mass down the hill except some of the artillery,
who cannot get their wheels over the bank of corpses in front.
Trumpets, drums, and bugles resound with the advance.

The streams of French fugitives as they run are cut down and shot
by their pursuers, whose clothes and contracted features are
blackened by smoke and cartridge-biting, and soiled with loam
and blood. Some French blow out their own brains as they fly.
The sun drops below the horizon while the slaughter goes on.]


Is this the last Esdraelon of a moil
For mortal man's effacement?


Warfare, mere,
Plied by the Managed for the Managers;
To wit: by frenzied folks who profit nought
For those who profit all!


Between the jars
Of these who live, I hear uplift and move
The bones of those who placidly have lain
Within the sacred garths of yon grey fanes--
Nivelles, and Plancenoit, and Braine l'Alleud--
Beneath the unmemoried mounds through deedless years
Their dry jaws quake: "What Sabaoath is this,
That shakes us in our unobtrusive shrouds,
As though our tissues did not yet abhor
The fevered feats of life?"


Mere fancy's feints!
How know the coffined what comes after them,
Even though it whirl them to the Pleiades?--
Turn to the real.


That hatless, smoke-smirched shape
There in the vale, is still the living Ney,
His sabre broken in his hand, his clothes
Slitten with ploughing ball and bayonet,
One epaulette shorn away. He calls out "Follow!"
And a devoted handful follow him
Once more into the carnage. Hear his voice.

NEY (calling afar)

My friends, see how a Marshal of France can die!


Alas, not here in battle, something hints,
But elsewhere! . . . Who's the sworded brother-chief
Swept past him in the tumult?


D'Erlon he.
Ney cries to him:


Be sure of this, my friend,
If we don't perish here at English hands,
Nothing is left us but the halter-noose
The Bourbons will provide!


A caustic wit,
And apt, to those who deal in adumbrations!

[The brave remnant of the Imperial Guard repulses for a time the
English cavalry under Vivian, in which MAJOR HOWARD and LIEUTENANT
GUNNING of the Tenth Hussars are shot. But the war-weary French
cannot cope with the pursuing infantry, helped by grape-shot from
the batteries.

NAPOLEON endeavours to rally them. It is his last effort as a
warrior; and the rally ends feebly.]


They are crushed! So it has ever been since Crecy!

[He is thrown violently off his horse, and bids his page bring
another, which he mounts, and is lost to sight.]


He loses his last chance of dying well!

[The three or four heroic battalions of the Old and Middle Guard
fall back step by step, halting to reform in square when they
get badly broken and shrunk. At last they are surrounded by the
English Guards and other foot, who keep firing on them and smiting
them to smaller and smaller numbers. GENERAL CAMBRONNE is inside
the square.]


Surrender! And preserve those heroes' lives!

CAMBRONNE (with exasperation)

Mer-r-rde! . . . You've to deal with desperates, man, today:
Life is a byword here!

[Hollow laughter, as from people in hell, comes approvingly from
the remains of the Old Guard. The English proceed with their
massacre, the devoted band thins and thins, and a ball strikes
CAMBRONNE, who falls, and is trampled over.]


Observe that all wide sight and self-command
Desert these throngs now driven to demonry
By the Immanent Unrecking. Nought remains
But vindictiveness here amid the strong,
And there amid the weak an impotent rage.


Why prompts the Will so senseless-shaped a doing?


I have told thee that It works unwittingly,
As one possessed, not judging.


Of Its doings if It knew,
What It does It would not do!


Since It knows not, what far sense
Speeds Its spinnings in the Immense?


None; a fixed foresightless dream
Is Its whole philosopheme.


Just so; an unconscious planning,
Like a potter raptly panning!


Are then, Love and Light Its aim--
Good Its glory, Bad Its blame?
Nay; to alter evermore
Things from what they were before.


Your knowings of the Unknowable declared,
Let the last pictures of the play be bared.

[Enter, fighting, more English and Prussians against the French.
NEY is caught by the throng and borne ahead. RULLIERE hides an
eagle beneath his coat and follows Ney. NAPOLEON is involved
none knows where in the crowd of fugitives.

WELLINGTON and BLUCHER come severally to the view. They meet in
the dusk and salute warmly. The Prussian bands strike up "God save
the King" as the two shake hands. From his gestures of assent it
can be seen that WELLINGTON accepts BLUCHER'S offer to pursue.

The reds disappear from the sky, and the dusk grows deeper. The
action of the battle degenerates to a hunt, and recedes further
and further into the distance southward. When the tramplings
and shouts of the combatants have dwindled, the lower sounds are
noticeable that come from the wounded: hopeless appeals, cries
for water, elaborate blasphemies, and impotent execrations of
Heaven and hell. In the vast and dusky shambles black slouching
shapes begin to move, the plunderers of the dead and dying.

The night grows clear and beautiful, and the moon shines musingly
down. But instead of the sweet smell of green herbs and dewy rye
as at her last beaming upon these fields, there is now the stench
of gunpowder and a muddy stew of crushed crops and gore.]


So hath the Urging Immanence used to-day
Its inadvertent might to field this fray:
And Europe's wormy dynasties rerobe
Themselves in their old gilt, to dazzle anew the globe!

[The scene us curtained by a night-mist.(25)]



[It is midnight. NAPOLEON enters a glade of the wood, a solitary
figure on a faded horse. The shadows of the boughs travel over
his listless form as he moves along. The horse chooses its own
path, comes to a standstill, and feeds. The tramp of BERTRAND,
SOULT, DROUOT, and LOBAU'S horses, gone forward in hope to find

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