Part 10 out of 13
Cigarette; you are too generous ever to be vindictive."
"Pooh! Revenge is one's right."
"I doubt that. We are none of us good enough to claim it, at any
Cigarette shrugged her shoulders in silence; then, posing herself on
the wheel, she sprang from thence on to the back of her little mare,
which she had brought up; having the reins in one of her hands and the
wine-bowl in the other, and was fresh and bright after the night's
"I will ride with you, with my Spahis," she said, as a young queen
might have promised protection for her escort. He thanked her, and
sank back among the straw, exhausted and worn out with pain and with
languor; the weight that seemed to oppress his chest was almost as
hard to bear as when the actual pressure of his dead charger's body
had been on him.
Yet, as he had said, it was but a bagatelle, beside the all but mortal
wounds, the agonizing neuralgia, the prostrating fever, the torture of
bullet-torn nerves, and the scorching fire of inflamed sword-wounds
that had in their turn been borne by him in his twelve years of
African service--things which, to men who have never suffered them,
sound like the romanced horrors of an exaggerated imagination; yet
things which are daily and quietly borne, by such soldiers of the
Algerian Army, as the natural accompaniments of a military life--
borne, too, in brave, simple, unconscious heroism by men who know well
that the only reward for it will be their own self-contentment at
having been true to the traditions of their regiment.
Four other troopers were placed on the straw beside him, and the mule-
carts with their mournful loads rolled slowly out of camp, eastward
toward the quarters of the main army; the Spahis, glowing red against
the sun, escorting them, with their darling in their midst; while from
their deep chests they shouted war songs in Sabir, with all the wild
and riotous delight that the triumph of victory and the glow of
bloodshed roused in those who combined in them the fire of France and
the fanaticism of Islamism--an irresistible union.
Though the nights were now cold, and before long even the advent of
snow might be looked for, the days were hot and even scorching still.
Cigarette and her Spahis took no heed of it; they were desert born and
bred; and she was well-nigh invulnerable to heat as any little
salamander. But, although they were screened as well as they could be
under an improvised awning, the wounded men suffered terribly. Gnats
and mosquitoes and all the winged things of the African air tormented
them, and tossing on the dry, hot straw they grew delirious; some
falling asleep and murmuring incoherently, others lying with wide-open
eyes of half-senseless, straining misery. Cigarette had known well how
it would be with them; she had accompanied such escorts many a time;
and ever and again when they halted she dismounted and came to them,
and mixed wine with some water that she had slung a barrel of to her
saddle, and gave it to them, and moved their bandages, and spoke to
them with a soft, caressing consolation that pacified them as if by
some magic. She had led them like a young lion on to the slaughter in
the past day; she soothed them now with a gentleness that the gentlest
daughter of the Church could not have surpassed.
The way was long; the road ill formed, leading for the most part
across a sear and desolate country, with nothing to relieve its
barrenness except long stretches of the great spear-headed reeds. At
noon the heat was intense; the little cavalcade halted for half an
hour under the shade of some black, towering rocks which broke the
monotony of the district, and commenced a more hilly and more
picturesque portion of the country. Cigarette came to the side of the
temporary ambulance in which Cecil was placed. He was asleep--sleeping
for once peacefully, with little trace of pain upon his features, as
he had slept the previous night. She saw that his face and chest had
not been touched by the stinging insect-swarm; he was doubly screened
by a shirt hung above him dexterously on some bent sticks.
"Who has done that?" thought Cigarette. As she glanced round she saw--
without any linen to cover him, Zackrist had reared himself up and
leaned slightly forward over against his comrade. The shirt that
protected Cecil was his; and on his own bare shoulders and mighty
chest the tiny armies of the flies and gnats were fastened, doing
their will, uninterrupted.
As he caught her glance a sullen, ruddy glow of shame shown through
the black, hard skin of his sun-burned visage--shame to which he had
been never touched when discovered in any one of his guilty and
"Dame!" he growled savagely--"he gave me his wine; one must do
something in return. Not that I feel the insects--not I; my skin is
leather, see you! they can't get through it; but his is white and soft
--bah! like tissue-paper!"
"I see, Zackrist; you are right. A French soldier can never take a
kindness from an English fellow without outrunning him in generosity.
Look--here is some drink for you."
She knew too well the strange nature with which she had to deal to say
a syllable of praise to him for his self-devotion, or to appear to see
that, despite his boast of his leather skin, the stings of the cruel,
winged tribes were drawing his blood and causing him alike pain and
irritation which, under that sun, and added to the torment of his
gunshot-wound, were a martyrdom as great as the noblest saint ever
"Tiens--tiens! I did him wrong," murmured Cigarette. "That is what
they are--the children of France--even when they are at their worst,
like that devil, Zackrist. Who dare say they are not the heroes of the
And all through the march she gave Zackrist a double portion of her
water dashed with red wine, that was so welcome and so precious to the
parched and aching throats; and all through the march Cecil lay
asleep, and the man who had thieved from him, the man whose soul was
stained with murder, and pillage, and rapine, sat erect beside him,
letting the insects suck his veins and pierce his flesh.
It was only when they drew near the camp of the main army that
Zackrist beat off the swarm and drew his old shirt over his head. "You
do not want to say anything to him," he muttered to Cigarette. "I am
of leather, you know; I have not felt it."
She nodded; she understood him. Yet his shoulders and his chest were
well-nigh flayed, despite the tough and horny skin of which he made
"Dieu! we are droll!" mused Cigarette. "If we do a good thing, we hide
it as if it were a bit of stolen meat, we are so afraid it should be
found out; but, if they do one in the world there, they bray it at the
tops of their voices from the houses' roofs, and run all down the
streets screaming about it, for fear it should be lost. Dieu! we are
And she dashed the spurs into her mare and galloped off at the height
of her speed into camp--a very city of canvas, buzzing with the hum of
life, regulated with the marvelous skill and precision of French
warfare, yet with the carelessness and the picturesqueness of the
desert-life pervading it.
"C'est la Cigarette!" ran from mouth to mouth, as the bay mare with
her little Amazon rider, followed by the scarlet cloud of the Spahis,
all ablaze like poppies in the sun, rose in sight, thrown out against
the azure of the skies.
What she had done had been told long before by an orderly, riding hard
in the early night to take the news of the battle; and the whole host
was on watch for its darling--the savior of the honor of France. Like
wave rushing on wave of some tempestuous ocean, the men swept out to
meet her in one great, surging tide of life, impetuous, passionate,
idolatrous, exultant; with all the vivid ardor, all the uncontrolled
emotion, of natures south-born, sun-nurtured. They broke away from
their midday rest as from their military toil, moved as by one swift
breath of fire, and flung themselves out to meet her, the chorus of a
thousand voices ringing in deafening vivas to the skies. She was
enveloped in that vast sea of eager, furious lives; in that dizzy
tumult of vociferous cries and stretching hands and upturned faces. As
her soldiers had done the night before, so these did now--kissing her
hands, her dress, her feet; sending her name in thunder through the
sunlit air; lifting her from off her horse, and bearing her, in a
score of stalwart arms, triumphant in their midst.
She was theirs--their own--the Child of the Army, the Little One whose
voice above their dying brethren had the sweetness of an angel's song,
and whose feet, in their hours of revelry, flew like the swift and
dazzling flight of gold-winged orioles. And she had saved the honor of
their Eagles; she had given to them and to France their god of
Victory. They loved her--O God, how they loved her!--with that
intense, breathless, intoxicating love of a multitude which, though it
may stone to-morrow what it adores to-day, has yet for those on whom
it has once been given thus a power no other love can know--a passion
unutterably sad, deliriously strong.
That passion moved her strangely.
As she looked down upon them, she knew that not one man breathed among
that tumultuous mass but would have died that moment at her word; not
one mouth moved among that countless host but breathed her name in
pride, and love, and honor.
She might be a careless young coquette, a lawless little brigand, a
child of sunny caprices, an elf of dauntless mischief; but she was
more than these. The divine fire of genius had touched her, and
Cigarette would have perished for her country not less surely than
Jeanne d'Arc. The holiness of an impersonal love, the glow of an
imperishable patriotism, the melancholy of a passionate pity for the
concrete and unnumbered sufferings of the people were in her,
instinctive and inborn, as fragrance in the heart of flowers. And all
these together moved her now, and made her young face beautiful as she
looked down upon the crowding soldiery.
"It was nothing," she answered them--"it was nothing. It was for
For France! They shouted back the beloved word with tenfold joy; and
the great sea of life beneath her tossed to and fro in stormy triumph,
in frantic paradise of victory, ringing her name with that of France
upon the air, in thunder-shouts like spears of steel smiting on
shields of bronze.
But she stretched her hand out, and swept it backward to the desert-
border of the south with a gesture that had awe for them.
"Hush!" she said softly, with an accent in her voice that hushed the
riot of their rejoicing homage till it lulled like the lull in a
storm. "Give me no honor while they sleep yonder. With the dead lies
BY THE BIVOUAC FIRE.
"Hold!" cried Cigarette, interrupting herself in her chant in honor of
the attributes of war, as the Tringlo's mules which she was driving,
some three weeks after the fray of Zaraila, stopped, by sheer force of
old habit, in the middle of a green plateau on the outskirts of a camp
pitched in its center, and overlooked by brown, rugged scarps of rock,
with stunted bushes on their summits, and here and there a maritime
pine clinging to their naked slopes. At sight of the food-laden little
beasts, and the well-known form behind them, the Tirailleurs,
Indigenes, and the Zouaves, on whose side of the encampment she had
approached, rushed toward her with frantic shouts, and wild delight,
and vehement hurrahs in a tempest of vociferous welcome that might
have stunned any ears less used, and startled any nerves less steeled,
to military life than the Friend of the Flag. She signed back the
shouting, disorderly crowd with her mule-whip, as superbly as though
she were a Marshal of France signing back a whole army's mutiny.
"What children you are! You push, and scramble, and tear, like a set
of monkeys over a nut. Get out of my way, or I swear you shall none of
you have so much as a morsel of black bread--do you hear!"
It was amusing to see how they minded her contemptuous orders; how
these black-bearded fire-eaters, the terror of the country, each one
of whom could have crushed her in his grasp as a wolf crushes a lamb,
slunk back, silenced and obedient, before the imperious bidding of the
little vivandiere. They had heeded her and let her rule over them
almost as much when she had been seven years old, and her curls, now
so dark, had been yellow as corn in the sun.
"Ouf!" growled only one insubordinate, "if you had been a day and
night eating nothing but a bit of moist clay, you might be hungry
The humiliated supplication of the reply appeased their autocratic
sovereign. She nodded her head in assent.
"I know; I know. I have gone days on a handful of barley-ears. M. le
Colonel has his marmitons, and his fricassees, and his fine cuisine
where he camps--ho!--but we soldiers have nothing but a hunch of baked
chaff. Well, we win battles on it!"
Which was one of the impromptu proverbs that Cigarette was wont to
manufacture and bring into her discourse with an air of authority as
of one who quotes from profound scholastic lore. It was received with
a howl of applause and of ratification. The entrails often gnaw with
bitter pangs of famine in the Army of Algiers, and they knew well how
sharp an edge hunger gives to the steel.
Nevertheless, the sullen, angry roar of famished men, that is so
closely, so terribly like the roar of wild beasts, did not cease.
"Where is Biribi?" they growled. "Biribi never keeps us waiting. Those
are Biribi's beasts."
"Right," said Cigarette laconically, with a crack of her mule-whip on
to the arm of a Zouave who was attempting to make free with her convoy
and purloin a loaf off the load.
"Where is Biribi, then?" they roared in concert, a crowd of eager,
wolfish, ravenous, impatient men, hungry as camp fasting could make
them, and half inclined even to tear their darling in pieces, since
she kept them thus from the stores.
Cigarette uncovered her head with a certain serious grace very rare in
"Biribi had made a good end."
Her assailants grew very quiet.
"Shot?" they asked briefly. Biribi was a Tringlo well beloved in all
Cigarette nodded, with a gesture outward to the solitary country. She
was accustomed to these incidents of war; she thought of them no more
than a girl of civilized life thinks of the grouse or the partridges
that are killed by her lovers and brothers.
"I was out yonder, two leagues or more away. I was riding; I was on my
own horse; Etoile-Filante. Well I heard shots; of course I made for
the place by my ear. Before I got up I saw what was the mischief.
There were the mules in a gorge, and Biribi in front of them,
fighting, mon Dieu!--fighting like the devil--with three Arbis on him.
They were trying to stop the convoys, and Biribi was beating them back
with all his might. I was too far off to do much good; but I shouted
and dashed down to them. The Arbis heard, Biribi heard; he flew on to
them like a tiger, that little Tringlo. It was wonderful! Two fell
dead under him; the third took fright and fled. When I got up, Biribi
lay above the dead brutes with a dozen wounds in him, if there were
one. He looked up, and knew me. 'Is it thee, Cigarette?' he asked; and
he could hardly speak for the blood in his throat. 'Do not wait with
me; I am dead already. Drive the mules into camp as quick as thou
canst; the men will be thinking me late.' "
"Biribi was always bon enfant," muttered the listening throng; they
forgot their hunger as they heard.
"Ah! he thought more of you than you deserve, you jackals! I drew him
aside into a hole in the rocks out of the heat. He was dead; he was
right. No man could live, slashed about like that. The Arbicos had set
on him as he went singing along; if he would have given up the brutes
and the stores, they would not have harmed him; but that was not
Biribi. I did all I could for him. Dame! It was no good. He lay very
still for some minutes with his head on my lap; then he moved
restlessly and tossed about. 'They will think me so late--so late,' he
muttered; 'and they are famished by this. There is that letter, too,
from his mother for Petit-Pot-de-Terre; there is all that news from
France; I have so much for them, and I shall be so late--so late!' All
he thought was that he should be so late into camp. Well, it was all
over very soon. I do not think he suffered; but he was so afraid you
should not have the food. I left him in the cave, and drove the mules
on as he asked. Etoile-Filante had galloped away; have you seen him
There broke once more from the hearkening throng a roar that shook the
echoes from the rocks; but it was not now the rage of famished
longing, but the rage of the lust for vengeance, and the grief of
passionate hearts blent together. Quick as the lightning flashes,
their swords leaped from their scabbards and shook in the sun-lighted
"We will avenge him!" they shouted as with one throat, the hoarse cry
rolling down the valley like a swell of thunder. If the bonds of
discipline had loosed them, they would have rushed forth on the search
and to the slaughter, forgetful of hunger, of heat, of sun-stroke, of
self-pity, of all things, save the dead Tringlo, whose only fear in
death had been lest they should want and suffer through him.
Their adjutants, alarmed by the tumult, hurried to the spot, fearing a
bread riot; for the camp was far from supplies, and had been ill
victualed for several days. They asked rapidly what was the matter.
"Biribi had been killed," some soldier answered.
"Ah! and the bread not come."
"Yes, mon adjutant; the bread is there, and Cigarette too."
"There is no need for me, then," muttered the adjutant of Zouaves;
"the Little One will keep order."
The Little One had before now quelled a mutiny with her pistol at the
ringleader's forehead, and her brave, scornful words scourging the
insubordinates for their dishonor to their arms, for their treason to
the Tricolor; and she was equal to the occasion now. She lifted her
"We will avenge him. That is of course. The Flag of France never hangs
idly when there is a brave life's loss to be reckoned for; I shall
know again the cur that fled. Trust to me, and now be silent. You bawl
out your oath of vengeance, oh, yes! But you bawled as loud a minute
ago for bread. Biribi loved you better than you deserved. You deserve
nothing; you are hounds, ready to tear for offal to eat as to rend the
foe of your dead friend. Bah!"
The roar of the voices sank somewhat; Cigarette had sprung aloft on a
gun-carriage, and as the sun shone on her face it was brilliant with
the scorn that lashed them like whips.
"Sang de Dieu!" fiercely swore a Zouave. "Hounds, indeed! If it were
anyone but you! When one has had nothing but a snatch of raw bullock's
meat, and a taste of coffee black with mud, for a week through, is one
a hound because one hungers?"
"No," said the orator from her elevation, and her eyes softened
wonderfully. In her heart she loved them so well, these wild, barbaric
warriors that she censured--"no, one is not a hound because one
hungers; but one is not a soldier if one complains. Well! Biribi loved
you; and I am here to do his will, to do his work. He came laden; his
back was loaded heavier than the mules'. To the front, all of you, as
I name you! Petit-Pot-de-Terre, there is your old mother's letter. If
she knew as much as I do about you, scapegrace, she would never
trouble herself whether you were dead or alive! Fagotin! Here is a
bundle of Paris newspapers for you; they are quite new--only nine
months old! Potele! Some woman has sent you a love-scrawl and some
tobacco; I suppose she knew your passions all ended in smoke! Rafle!
Here is a little money come for you from France; it has not been
stolen, so it will have no spice for you! Racoleur! Here is a love-
billet from some simpleton, with a knife as a souvenir; sharpen it on
the Arbicos. Poupard, Loup-terrible, Jean Pagnote, Pince-Maille, Louis
Magot, Jules Goupil--here! There are your letters, your papers, your
commissions. Biribi forgot nothing. As if you deserved to be worked
for, or thought of!"
With which reproach Cigarette relieved herself of the certain pain
that was left on her by the death of Biribi; she always found that to
work yourself into a passion with somebody is the very best way in the
world to banish an unwelcome emotion.
The men summoned by their camp-sobriquets, which were so familiar that
they had, many of them, fairly forgotten their original names, rallied
around her to receive the various packets with which a Tringlo is
commonly charged by friends in the towns, or relatives away in France,
for the soldiers of African brigades, and which, as well as his convoy
of food and his budget of news, render him so precious and so welcome
an arrival at an encampment. The dead Biribi had been one of the
lightest, brightest, cheeriest, and sauciest of the gay, kindly,
industrious wanderers of his branch of the service; always willing to
lead; always ready to help; always smoking, singing, laughing,
chattering; treating his three mules as an indulgent mother her
children; calling them Plick, Plack, et Plock, and thinking of Plick,
Plack, et Plock far beyond himself at all times; a merry, busy,
smiling, tender-hearted soul, who was always happy, trudging along the
sunburned road, and caroling in his joyous voice chansonnettes and
gaudrioles to the African flocks and herds, amid the African
solitudes. If there were a man they loved, it was Biribi; Biribi,
whose advent in camp had always been the signal for such laughter,
such abundance, such showers of newspapers, such quantities of
intelligence from that France for tidings of which the hardest-
featured veteran among them would ask with a pang at the heart, with a
thrill in the words. And they had sworn, and would keep what they had
sworn in bitter intensity, to avenge him to the uttermost point of
vengeance. Yet five minutes afterward when the provisions Plick,
Plack, et Plock had brought were divided and given out, they were
shouting, eating, singing, devouring, with as eager a zest, and as
hearty an enjoyment, as though Biribi were among them, and did not lie
dead two leagues away, with a dozen wounds slashed on his stiffening
"What heartless brutes! Are they always like that?" muttered a
gentleman painter who, traveling through the interior to get military
sketches, had obtained permission to take up quarters in the camp.
"If they were not like that they could not live a day," a voice
answered curtly, behind him. "Do you know what this service is, that
you venture to judge them? Men who meet death in the face every five
minutes they breathe cannot afford the space for sentimentalism which
those who saunter at ease and in safety can do. They laugh when we are
dead, perhaps, but they are true as steel to us while we live--it is
the reverse of the practice of the world!"
The tourist started, turned, and looked aghast at the man who had
reproved him; it was a Chasseur d'Afrique, who, having spoken, was
already some way onward, moving through the press and tumult of the
camp to his own regiment's portion of it.
Cigarette, standing by to see that Plick, Plack, and Plock were
property baited on the greenest forage to be found, heard, and her
eyes flashed with a deep delight.
"Dame!" she thought, "I could not have answered better myself! He is a
true soldier, that." And she forgave Cecil all his sins to her with
the quick, impetuous, generous pardon of her warm little Gallic heart.
Cigarette believed that she could hate very bitterly; indeed, her
power of resentment she rated high among her grandest qualities. Had
the little leopard been told that she could not resent to the death
what offended her, she would have held herself most infamously
insulted. Yet hate was, in truth, foreign to her frank, vivacious
nature; its deadliness never belonged to her, if its passion might;
and at a trait akin to her, at a flash of sympathetic spirit in the
object of her displeasure, Cigarette changed from wrath to friendship
with the true instinct of her little heart of gold. A heart which,
though it had been tossed about on a sea of blood, and had never been
graven with so much as one tender word or one moral principle from the
teachings of any creature, was still gold, despite all; no matter the
bruises and the stains and the furnace-heats that had done their best
to harden it into bronze, to debase it into brass.
The camp was large, and a splendid picture of color, movement,
picturesque combination, and wonderful light and shadow, as the sun-
glow died out and the fires were lighted; for the nights were now
intensely cold--cold with the cutting, icy, withering bise, and clear
above as an Antarctic night, though the days were still hot and dry as
On the left were the Tirailleurs, the Zouaves, the Zephyrs; on the
right were the Cavalry and the Artillery; in the center of all was the
tent of the chief. Everywhere, as evening fell, the red warmth of
fires rose; the caldron of soup or of coffee simmered, gypsy-like,
above; the men lounged around, talking, laughing, cooking, story-
telling at their pleasure; after the semi-starvation of the last week,
the abundance of stores that had come in with other Tringlos besides
poor Biribi caused a universal hilarity. The glitter of accouterments,
the contents of open knapsacks, the skins of animals just killed for
the marmite, the boughs of pines broken for firewood, strewed the
ground. Tethered horses, stands of arms, great drums and eagle-
guidons, the looming darkness of huge cannon, the blackness, like
dromedaries couched, of caissons and ambulance-wagons, the whiteness
of the canvas tents, the incessant movement as the crowds of soldiery
stirred, and chattered, and worked, and sang--all these, on the green
level of the plain, framed in by the towering masses of the rugged
rocks, made a picture of marvelous effect and beauty.
Cecil, looking at it, thought so; though the harsh and bitter misery
which he knew that glittering scene enfolded, and which he had
suffered so many years himself--misery of hunger, of cold, of shot-
wounds, of racking bodily pains--stole from it, in his eyes, that
poetry and that picturesque brilliancy which it bore to the sight of
the artist and the amateur. He knew the naked terrors of war, the
agony, the travail, the icy chills, the sirocco heats, the grinding
routine, the pitiless chastisements of its reality; to those who do,
it can no longer be a spectacle dressed in the splendid array of
romance. It is a fearful tragedy and farce woven close one in another;
and its sole joy is in that blood-thirst which men so lustfully share
with the tiger, and yet shudder from when they have sated it.
It was this knowledge of war, in its bitter and deadly truth, which
had made him give the answer that had charmed Cigarette, to the casual
visitor of the encampment.
He sat now, having recovered from the effects of the day of Zaraila,
within a little distance of the fire at which his men were stewing
some soup in the great simmering copper bowl. They had eaten nothing
for nigh a week, except some moldy bread, with the chance of a stray
cat or a shot bird to flavor it. Hunger was a common thorn in Algerian
warfare, since not even the matchless intendance of France could
regularly supply the troops across those interminable breadths of arid
land, those sun-scorched plains, swept by Arab foragers.
"Beau Victor! You took their parts well," said a voice behind him, as
Cigarette vaulted over a pile of knapsacks and stood in the glow of
the fire, with a little pipe in her pretty rosebud mouth and her cap
set daintily on one side of her curls.
He looked up, and smiled.
"Not so well as your own clever tongue would have done. Words are not
"No! You are as silent as the grave commonly; but when you do speak,
you speak well," said the vivandiere condescendingly. "I hate silence
myself! Thoughts are very good grain, but if they are not whirled
round, round, round, and winnowed and ground in the millstones of
talk, they keep little, hard, useless kernels, that not a soul can
With which metaphor Cigarette blew a cloud of smoke into the night
air, looking the prettiest little genre picture in the ruddy firelight
that ever was painted on such a background of wavering shadow and
"Will your allegory hold good, petite?" smiled Cecil, thinking but
little of his answer or of his companion, of whose service to him he
remained utterly ignorant. "I fancy speech is the chaff most
generally, little better. So, they talk of you for the Cross? No
soldier ever, of a surety, more greatly deserved it."
Her eyes gleamed with a luster like the African planets above her; her
face caught all the fire, the light, the illumination of the flames
flashing near her.
"I did nothing," she said curtly. "Any man on the field would have
done the same."
"That is easy to say; not so easy to prove. In all great events there
may be the same strength, courage, and desire to act greatly in those
who follow as in the one that leads; but it is only in that one that
there is also the daring to originate, the genius to seize aright the
moment of action and of success."
Cigarette was a little hero; she was, moreover, a little desperado;
but she was a child in years and a woman at heart, valiant and
ruthless young soldier though she might be. She colored all over her
mignonne face at the words of eulogy from this man whom she had told
herself she hated; her eyes filled; her lips trembled.
"It was nothing" she said softly, under her breath. "I would die
twenty deaths for France."
He looked at her, and for the hour understood her aright; he saw that
there was the love for her country and the power of sacrifice in this
gay-plumaged and capricious little hawk of the desert.
"You have a noble nature, Cigarette," he said, with an earnest regard
at her. "My poor child, if only----" He paused. He was thinking what
it was hard to say to her--if only the accidents of her life had been
different, what beauty, race, and genius might have been developed out
of the untamed, untutored, inconsequent, but glorious nature of the
As by a fate, unconsciously his pity embittered all the delight his
praise had given, and this implied regret for her stung her as the
rend of the spur a young Arab colt--stung her inwardly into cruel
wrath and pain; outwardly into irony, deviltry, and contemptuous
"Oh! Child, indeed! Was I a child the other day, my good fellow, when
I saved your squadron from being cut to pieces like grass with a
scythe? As for nobility? Pouf! Not much of that in me. I love France--
yes. A soldier always loves his country. She is so brave, too, and so
fair, and so gay. Not like your Albion--if it is yours--who is a great
gobemouche stuffed full of cotton, steaming with fog, clutching gold
with one hand and the Bible with the other, that she may swell her
money-bags, and seem a saint all the same; never laughing, never
learning, always growling, always shuffling, who is like this spider--
look!--a tiny body and huge, hairy legs--pull her legs, the Colonies,
off, and leave her little English body, all shriveled and shrunk
alone, and I should like to know what size she would be then, and how
she would manage to swell and to strut?"
Wherewith Cigarette tossed the spider into the air, with all the
supreme disdain she could impel into that gesture. Cigarette, though
she knew not her A B C, and could not have written her name to save
her own life, had a certain bright intelligence of her own that caught
up political tidings, and grasped at public subjects with a skill
education alone will not bestow. One way and another she had heard
most of the floating opinions of the day, and stored them up in her
fertile brain as a bee stores honey into his hive by much as nature-
given and unconscious an instinct as the bee's own.
Cecil listened, amused.
"You little Anglophobist! You have the tongue of a Voltaire!"
"Voltaire?" questioned Cigarette. "Voltaire! Let me see. I know that
name. He was the man who championed Calas? Who had a fowl in the pot
for every poor wretch that passed his house? Who was taken to the
Pantheon by the people in the Revolution?"
"Yes. And the man whom the wise world pretends still to call without a
heart or a God!"
"Chut! He fed the poor, and freed the wronged. Better than pattering
Paters, that!" said Cigarette, who thought a midnight mass at Notre
Dame or a Salutation at the Madeleine a pretty coup de theatre enough,
but who had for all churches and creeds a serene contempt and a fierce
disdain. "Go to the grandams and the children!" she would say, with a
shrug of her shoulders, to a priest, whenever one in Algiers or Paris
attempted to reclaim her; and a son of the Order of Jesus, famed for
persuasiveness and eloquence, had been fairly beaten once when, in the
ardor of an African missionary, he had sought to argue with the little
Bohemian of the Tricolor, and had had his logic rent in twain, and his
rhetoric scattered like dust, under the merciless home-thrusts and the
sarcastic artillery of Cigarette's replies and inquiries.
"Hola!" she cried, leaving Voltaire for what took her fancy. "We talk
of Albion--there is one of her sons. I detest your country, but I must
confess she breeds uncommonly handsome men."
She was a dilettante in handsome men; she nodded her head now to
where, some yards off, at another of the camp-fires, stood, with some
officers of the regiment, one of the tourists; a very tall, very fair
man, with a gallant bearing, and a tawny beard that glittered to gold
in the light of the flames.
Cecil's glance followed Cigarette's. With a great cry he sprang to his
feet and stood entranced, gazing at the stranger. She saw the startled
amaze, the longing love, the agony of recognition, in his eyes; she
saw the impulse in him to spring forward, and the shuddering effort
with which the impulse was controlled. He turned to her almost
"He must not see me! Keep him away--away, for God's sake!"
He could not have leave his men; he was fettered there where his
squadron was camped. He went as far as he could from the flame-light
into the shadow, and thrust himself among the tethered horses.
Cigarette asked nothing; comprehended at a glance with all the tact of
her nation; and sauntered forward to meet the officers of the regiment
as they came up to the picket-fire with the yellow-haired English
stranger. She knew how charming a picture there, with her hands
lightly resting on her hips, and her bright face danced on by the
ruddy fire-glow, she made; she knew she could hold thus the attention
of a whole brigade. The eyes of the stranger lighted on her, and his
voice laughed in mellow music to his companions and ciceroni.
"Your intendance is perfect; your ambulance is perfect; your camp-
cookery is perfect, messieurs; and here you have even perfect beauty,
too! Truly, campaigning must be pleasant work in Algeria!"
Then he turned to her with compliments frank and gay, and full of a
debonair grace that made her doubt he could be of Albion.
Retort was always ready to her; and she kept the circle of officers in
full laughter round the fire with a shower of repartee that would have
made her fortune on the stage. And every now and then her glance
wandered to the shadow where the horses were tethered.
Bah! why was she always doing him service? She could not have told.
Still she went on--and did it.
It was a fantastic picture by the bright scarlet light of the camp-
fire, with the Little One in her full glory of mirth and mischief, and
her circle of officers laughing on her with admiring eyes; nearest her
the towering height of the English stranger, with the gleam of the
flame in the waves of his leonine beard.
From the darkness, where the scores of gray horses were tethered,
Cecil's eyes were riveted on it. There were none near to see him; had
there been, they would have seen an agony in his eyes that no physical
misery, no torture of the battlefield, had brought there. His face was
bloodless, and his gaze strained through the gleam on to the fire-lit
group with a passionate intensity of yearning--he was well used to
pain, well used to self-control, well used to self-restraint, but for
the first time in his exile the bitterness of a struggle almost
vanquished him. All the old love of his youth went out to this man, so
near to him, yet so hopelessly severed from him; looking on the face
of his friend, a violence of longing shook him. "O God, if I were
dead!" he thought, "they might know then----"
He would have died gladly to have had that familiar hand once more
touch his; those familiar eyes once more look on him with the
generous, tender trust of old.
His brain reeled, his thoughts grew blind, as he stood there among his
horses, with the stir and tumult of the bivouac about him. There was
nothing simpler, nothing less strange, than that an English soldier
should visit the Franco-Arab camp; but to him it seemed like a
resurrection of the dead.
Whether it was a brief moment, or an hour through, that the circle
stood about the great, black caldron that was swinging above the
flames, he could not have told; to him it was an eternity. The echo of
the mellow, ringing tones that he knew so well came to him from the
distance, till his heart seemed breaking with but one forbidden
longing--to look once more in those brave eyes that made every coward
and liar quail, and say only, "I was guiltless."
It is bitter to know those whom we love dead; but it is more bitter to
be as dead to those who, once having loved us, have sunk our memory
deep beneath oblivion that is not the oblivion of the grave.
A while, and the group broke up and was scattered; the English
traveler throwing gold pieces by the score among the waiting troopers.
"A bientot!" they called to Cigarette, who nodded farewell to them
with a cigar in her mouth, and busied herself pouring some brandy into
the old copper caldron in which some black coffee and muddy water,
three parts sand, was boiling. A few moments later, and they were out
of sight among the confusion, the crowds, and the flickering shadows
of the camp. When they were quite gone, she came softly to him; she
could not see him well in the gloom, but she touched his hand.
"Dieu! how cold you are! He is gone."
He could not answer her to thank her, but he crushed in his the
little, warm, brown palm. She felt a shiver shake his limbs.
"Is he your enemy?" she asked.
"The man I love best on earth."
"Ah!" She had felt a surprise she had not spoke that he should flee
thus from any foe. "He thinks you dead, then?"
"And must always think so?"
"Yes." He held her hand still, and his own wrung it hard--the grasp of
comrade to comrade, not of man to woman. "Child, you are bold,
generous, pitiful; for God's sake, get me sent out of this camp
to-night. I am powerless."
There was that in the accent which struck his listener to the heart.
He was powerless, fettered hand and foot as though he were a prisoner;
a night's absence, and he would be shot as a deserter. He had grown
accustomed to this rendering up of all his life to the rules of
others; but now and then the galled spirit chafed, the netted stag
strained at the bonds.
"I will try," said Cigarette simply, without any of her audacity or of
her vanity in the answer. "Go you to the fire; you are cold."
"Are you sure he will not return?"
"Not he. They are gone to eat and drink; I go with them. What is it
"My own weakness."
She was silent. She could just watch his features by the dim light,
and she saw his mouth quiver under the fullness of his beard. He felt
that if he looked again on the face of the man he loved he might be
broken into self-pity, and unloose his silence, and shatter all the
work of so many years. He had been strong where men of harder fiber
and less ductile temper might have been feeble; but he never thought
that he had been so; he only thought that he had acted on impulse, and
had remained true to his act through the mere instinct of honor--an
instinct inborn in his blood and his Order--an instinct natural and
unconscious with him as the instinct by which he drove his breath.
"You are a fine soldier," said Cigarette musingly; "such men are not
"Why? We are only strong as tigers are strong--just the strength of
the talon and fang. I do not know. I was weak as water once; I may be
He scarcely knew that he was speaking aloud; he had forgotten her! His
whole heart seemed burned as with fire by the memory of that one face
so familiar, so well loved, yet from which he must shrink as though
some cowardly sin were between them. The wretchedness on him seemed
more than he could bear; to know that this man was so near that the
sound of his voice raised could summon him, yet that he must remain as
dead to him--remain as one dead after a craven and treacherous guilt.
He turned suddenly, almost violently, upon Cigarette.
"You have surprised my folly from me; you know my secret so far; but
you are too brave to betray me, you are too generous to tell of this?
I can trust you to be silent?"
Her face flushed scarlet with astonished anger; her little, childlike
form grew instinct with haughty and fiery dignity.
"Monsieur, that question from one soldier of France to another is
insult. We are not dastards!"
There was a certain grave reproach that mingled with the indignant
scorn of the answer, and showed that her own heart was wounded by the
doubt, as well as her military pride by the aspersion. Even amid the
conflict of pain at war in him he felt that, and hastened to soothe
"Forgive me, my child; I should not have wronged you with the
question. It is needless, I know. Men can trust you to the death, they
"To the death--yes."
The answer was thoughtful, dreamy, almost sad, for Cigarette. His
thoughts were too far from her in their tumult of awakened memories to
note the tone as he went rapidly on:
"You have ingenuity, compassion, tact; you have power here, too, in
your way. For the love of Heaven get me sent out on some duty before
dawn! There is Biribi's murder to be avenged--would they give the
errand to me?"
She thought a moment.
"We will see," she said curtly. "I think I can do it. But go back, or
you will be missed. I will come to you soon."
She left him, then, rapidly; drawing her hand quickly out of the clasp
Cigarette felt her heart aching to its core for the sorrow of this man
who was nothing to her. He did not know what she had done for him in
his suffering and delirium; he did not know how she had watched him
all that night through, when she was weary, and bruised, and thirsting
for sleep; he did not know; he held her hand as one comrade another's,
and never looked to see if her eyes were blue or were black, were
laughing or tear-laden. And yet she felt pain in his pain; she was
always giving her life to his service. Many besides the little Friend
of the Flag beat back as folly the noblest and purest thing in them.
Cecil mechanically returned to the fire at which the men of his tribe
were cooking their welcome supper, and sat down near them; rejecting,
with a gesture, the most savory portion which, with their customary
love and care for him, they were careful to select and bring to him.
There had never been a time when they had found him fail to prefer
them to himself, or fail to do them kindly service, if of such he had
a chance; and they returned it with all that rough and silent
attachment that can be so strong and so stanch in lives that may be
black with crime or red with slaughter.
He sat like a man in a dream, while the loosened tongues of the men
ran noisily on a hundred themes as they chaffed each other, exchanged
a fire of bivouac jokes more racy than decorous, and gave themselves
to the enjoyment of their rude meal, that had to them that savor which
long hunger alone can give. Their voices came dull on his ear; the
ruddy warmth of the fire was obscured to his sight; the din, the
laughter, the stir all over the great camp, at the hour of dinner were
lost on him. He was insensible to everything except the innumerable
memories that thronged upon him, and the aching longing that filled
his heart with the sight of the friend of his youth.
"He said once that he would take my hand before all the world always,
come what would," he thought. "Would he take it now, I wonder? Yes; he
never believed against me."
And, as he thought, the same anguish of desire that had before smitten
him to stand once more guiltless in the presence of men, and once more
bear, untarnished, the name of his race and the honor of his fathers,
shook him now as strong winds shake a tree that yet is fast rooted at
its base, though it sway a while beneath the storm.
"How weak I am!" he thought bitterly. "What does it matter? Life is so
short, one is a coward indeed to fret over it. I cannot undo what I
did. I cannot, if I could. To betray him now! God! not for a kingdom,
if I had the chance! Besides, she may live still; and, even were she
dead, to tarnish her name to clear my own would be a scoundrel's
baseness--baseness that would fail as it merited; for who could be
brought to believe me now?"
The thoughts unformed drifted through his mind, half dulled, half
sharpened by the deadly pain, and the rush of old brotherly love that
had arisen in him as he had seen the face of his friend beside the
watch-fire of the French bivouac. It was hard; it was cruelly hard; he
had, after a long and severe conflict, brought himself into
contentment with his lot, and taught himself oblivion of the past, and
interest in the present, by active duties and firm resolve; he had
vanquished all the habits, controlled most of the weaknesses, and
banished nearly all the frailties and indulgences of his temperament
in the long ordeal of African warfare. It was cruelly hard that now
when he had obtained serenity, and more than half attained
forgetfulness, these two--her face and his--must come before him; one
to recall the past, the other to embitter the future!
As he sat with his head bent down and his forehead leaning on his arm,
while the hard biscuit that served for a plate stood unnoticed beside
him, with the food that the soldiers had placed on it, he did not hear
Cigarette's step till she touched him on the arm. Then he looked up;
her eyes were looking on him with a tender, earnest pity.
"Hark! I have done it," she said gently. "But it will be an errand
very close to death that you must go on--"
He raised himself erect, eagerly.
"No matter that! Ah, mademoiselle, how I thank you!"
"Chut! I am no Paris demoiselle!" said Cigarette, with a dash of her
old acrimony. "Ceremony in a camp--pouf! You must have been a court
chamberlain once, weren't you? Well, I have done it. Your officers
were talking yonder of a delicate business; they were uncertain who
best to employ. I put in my speech--it was dead against military
etiquette, but I did it. I said to M. le General: 'You want the best
rider, the most silent tongue, and the surest steel in the squadrons?
Take Bel-a-faire-peur, then.' 'Who is that?' asked the general; he
would have sent out of camp anybody but Cigarette for the
interruption. 'Mon General,' said I, 'the Arabs asked that, too, the
other day, at Zaraila.' 'What!' he cried, 'the man Victor--who held
the ground with his Chasseurs? I know--a fine soldier. M. le Colonel,
shall we send him?' The Black Hawk had scowled thunder on you; he
hates you more still since that affair of Zaraila, especially because
the general has reported your conduct with such praise that they
cannot help but promote you. Well, he had looked thunder, but now he
laughed. 'Yes, mon General,' he answered him, 'take him, if you like.
It is fifty to one whoever goes on that business will not come back
alive, and you will rid me of the most insolent fine gentleman in my
squadrons.' The general hardly heard him; he was deep in thought; but
he asked a good deal about you from the Hawk, and Chateauroy spoke for
your fitness for the errand they are going to send you on, very
truthfully, for a wonder. I don't know why; but he wants you to be
sent, I think; most likely that you may be cut to pieces. And so they
will send for you in a minute. I have done it as you wished."
There was something of her old brusquerie and recklessness in the
closing sentences; but it had not her customary debonair lightness.
She knew too well that the chances were as a hundred to one that he
would never return alive from this service on which he had entreated
to be dispatched. Cecil grasped both her hands in his with warm
gratitude, that was still, like the touch of his hands, the gratitude
of comrade to comrade, not of man to woman.
"God bless you, Cigarette! You are a true friend, my child. You have
done me immeasurable benefits--"
"Oh! I am a true friend," said the Little One, somewhat pettishly. She
would have preferred another epithet. "If a man wants to get shot as a
very great favor, I always let him pleasure himself. Give a man his
own way, if you wish to be kind to him. You are children, all of you,
nothing but children, and if the toy that pleases you best is death,
why--you must have it. Nothing else would content you. I know you. You
always want what flies from you, and are tired of what lies to your
hand. That is always a man."
"And a woman, too, is it not?"
Cigarette shrugged her shoulders.
"Oh, I dare say! We love what is new--what is strange. We are humming-
tops; we will only spin when we are fresh wound up with a string to
"Make an exception of yourself, my child. You are always ready to do a
good action, and never tire of that. From my heart I thank you. I wish
to Heaven I could prove it better."
She drew her hands away from him.
"A great thing I have done, certainly! Got you permission to go and
throw a cartel at old King Death; that is all! There! That is your
The orderly approached, and brought the bidding of the general in
command of the Cavalry for Cecil to render himself at once to his
presence. These things brook no second's delay in obedience; he went
with a quick adieu to Cigarette, and the little Friend of the Flag was
left in his vacant place beside the fire.
And there was a pang at her heart.
"Ten to one he goes to his death," she thought. But Cigarette, little
mischief-maker though she was, could reach very high in one thing; she
could reach a love that was unselfish, and one that was heroic.
A few moments, and Cecil returned.
"Rake," he said rapidly, in the French he habitually used, "saddle my
horse and your own. I am allowed to choose one of you to accompany
Rake, in paradise, and the envied of every man in the squadron, turned
to his work--with him a task of scarce more than a second; and Cecil
approached his little Friend of the Flag.
"My child, I cannot attempt to thank you. But for you, I should have
been tempted to send my lance through my own heart."
"Keep its lunge for the Arbicos, mon ami," said Cigarette brusquely--
the more brusquely because that new and bitter pang was on her. "As
for me, I want no thanks."
"No; you are too generous. But not the less do I wish I could render
them more worthily than by words. If I live, I will try; if not, keep
this in my memory. It is the only thing I have."
He put into her hand the ring she had seen in the little bon-bon box;
a ring of his mother's that he had saved when he had parted with all
else, and had put off his hand and into the box of Petite Reine's gift
the day he entered the Algerian army.
Cigarette flushed scarlet with passions he could not understand, and
she could not have disentangled.
"The ring of your mistress! Not for me, if I know it! Do you think I
want to be paid?"
"The ring was my mother's," he answered her simply. "And I offer it
only as souvenir."
She lost all her color and all her fiery wrath; his grave and gentle
courtesy always strangely stilled and rebuked her; but she raised the
ring off the ground where she had flung it, and placed it back in his
"If so, still less should you part with it. Keep it; it will bring you
happiness one day. As for me, I have done nothing!"
"You have done what I value the more for that noble disclaimer. May I
thank you thus, Little One?"
He stooped and kissed her; a kiss that the lips of a man will always
give to the bright, youthful lips of a women, but a kiss, as she knew
well, without passion, even without tenderness in it.
With a sudden impetuous movement, with a shyness and a refusal that
had never been in her before, she wrested herself from him, her face
burning, her heart panting, and plunged away from him into the depth
of the shadow; and he never sought to follow her, but threw himself
into saddle as his gray was brought up. Another instant, and, armed to
the teeth, he rode out of the camp into the darkness of the silent,
melancholy, lonely Arab night.
SEUL AU MONDE.
The errand on which he went was one, as he was well aware, from which
it were a thousand chances to one that he ever issued alive.
It was to reach a distant branch of the Army of Occupation with
dispatches for the chief in command there, and to do this he had to
pass through a fiercely hostile region, occupied by Arabs with whom no
sort of peace had ever been made, the most savage as well as the most
predatory of the wandering tribes. His knowledge of their tongue, and
his friendship with some men of their nation, would avail him nothing
here; for their fury against the Franks was intense, and it was said
that all prisoners who had fallen into their hands had been put to
death with merciless barbarities. This might be true or not true; wild
tales were common among Algerian campaigners; whichever it were, he
thought little of it as he rode out on to the lonely plains. Every
kind of hazardous adventure and every variety of peril had been
familiar with him in the African life; and now there were thoughts and
memories on him which deadened every recollection of merely physical
"We must ride as hard and as fast as we can, and as silently," were
the only words he exchanged with Rake, as he loosened his gray to a
"All right, sir," answered the trooper, whose warm blood was dancing,
and whose blue eyes were alive like fire with delight. That he had
been absent on a far-away foraging raid on the day of Zaraila had been
nothing short of agony to Rake, and the choice made of him for this
duty was to him a gift of paradise. He loved fighting for fighting's
sake; and to be beside Cecil was the greatest happiness life held for
They had two hundred miles to traverse, and had received only the
command he had passed to Rake, to ride "hard, fast, and silently." To
the hero of Zaraila the general had felt too much soldierly sympathy
to add the superfluous injunction to do his uttermost to carry safely
and successfully to their destination the papers that were placed in
his care. He knew well that the errand would be done, or the Chasseur
would be dead.
It was just nightfall; the after-glow had faded only a few moments
before. Giving their horses, which they were to change once, ten hours
for the distance, and two for bait and for rest, he reckoned that they
would reach the camp before the noon of the coming day, as the beasts,
fresh and fast in the camp, flew like greyhounds beneath them.
Another night ride that they had ridden together came to the minds of
both; but they spoke not a word as they swept on, their sabers shaken
loose in their sheaths, their lances well gripped, and the pistols
with which they had been supplied sprung in their belts, ready for
instant action if a call should come for it. Every rood of the way was
as full of unseen danger as if laid over mines. They might pass in
safety; they might any moment be cut down by ten score against two.
From every hanging scarp of rugged rock a storm of musket-balls might
pour; from every screen of wild-fig foliage a shower of lances might
whistle through the air; from every darkling grove of fir trees an
Arab band might spring and swoop on them; but the knowledge scarcely
recurred to the one save to make him shake his sword more loose for
quick disengagement, and only made the sunny blue eyes of the other
sparkle with a vivid and longing zest.
The night grew very chill as it wore on; the north wind rose, rushing
against them with a force and icy touch that seemed to freeze their
bones to the marrow after the heat of the day and the sun that had
scorched them so long. There was no regular road; they went across the
country, their way sometimes leading over level land, over which they
swept like lightning, great plains succeeding one another with
wearisome monotony; sometimes on the contrary, lying through ravines,
and defiles, and gloomy woods, and broken, hilly spaces, where rent,
bare rocks were thrown on one another in gigantic confusion, and the
fantastic shapes of the wild fig and the dwarf palm gathered a hideous
grotesqueness in the darkness. For there was no moon, and the stars
were often hidden by the storm-rack of leaden clouds that drifted over
the sky; and the only sound they heard was the cry of the jackal, or
the shriek of the night bird, and now and then the sound of shallow
water-courses, where the parched beds of hidden brooks had been filled
by the autumnal rain.
The first five-and-twenty miles passed without interruption, and the
horses lay well and warmly to their work. They halted to rest and bait
the beasts in a rocky hollow, sheltered from the blasts of the bise,
and green with short, sweet grass, sprung up afresh after the summer
"Do you ever think of him, sir?" said Rake softly, with a lingering
love in his voice, as he stroked the grays and tethered them.
"Of the King, sir. If he's alive, he's getting a rare old horse now."
"Think of him! I wish I did not, Rake."
"Wouldn't you like to see him agen, sir?"
"What folly to ask! You know--"
"Yes, sir, I know," said Rake slowly. "And I know--leastways I picked
it out of a old paper--that your elder brother died, sir, like the old
lord, and Mr. Berk's got the title."
Rake had longed and pined for an opportunity to dare say this thing
which he had learned, and which he could not tell whether or no Cecil
knew likewise. His eyes looked with straining eagerness through the
gloom into his master's; he was uncertain how his words would be
taken. To his bitter disappointment, Cecil's face showed no change, no
"I have heard that," he said calmly--as calmly as though the news had
no bearing on his fortunes, but was some stranger's history.
"Well, sir, but he ain't the lord!" pleaded Rake passionately. "He
won't never be while you're living, sir!"
"Oh, yes, he is! I am dead, you know."
"But he won't, sir!" reiterated Rake. "You're Lord Royallieu if ever
there was a Lord Royallieu, and if ever there will be one."
"You mistake. An outlaw has no civil rights, and can claim none."
The man looked very wistfully at him; all these years through he had
never learned why his master was thus "dead" in Africa, and he had too
loyal a love and faith ever to ask, or ever to doubt but that Cecil
was the wronged and not the wrong-doer.
"You ain't a outlaw, sir," he muttered. "You could take the title, if
"Oh, no! I left England under a criminal charge. I should have to
disprove that before I could inherit."
Rake crushed bitter oaths into muttered words as he heard. "You could
disprove it, sir, of course, right and away, if you chose."
"No; or I should not have come here. Let us leave the subject. It was
settled long ago. My brother is Lord Royallieu. I would not disturb
him, if I had the power, and I have not it. Look, the horses are
taking well to their feed."
Rake asked him no more. He had never had a harsh word from Cecil in
their lives; but he knew him too well, for all that, to venture to
press on him a question thus firmly put aside. But his heart ached
sorely for his master; he would so gladly have seen "the king among
his own again," and would have striven for the restoration as
strenuously as ever a Cavalier strove for the White Rose; and he sat
in silence, perplexed and ill satisfied, under the shelter of the
rock, with the great, dim, desolate African landscape stretching
before him, with here and there a gleam of light upon it when the wind
swept the clouds apart. His volatile speech was chilled, and his
buoyant spirits were checked. That Cecil was justly outlawed he would
have thought it the foulest treason to believe for one instant; yet he
felt that he might as soon seek to wrench up the great stones above
him from their base as seek to change the resolution of this man, whom
he had once known pliant as a reed and careless as a child.
They were before long in saddle again and off, the country growing
wilder at each stride the horses took.
"It is all alive with Arabs for the next ten leagues," said Cecil, as
he settled himself in his saddle. "They have come northward and been
sweeping the country like a locust-swarm, and we shall blunder on some
of them sooner or later. If they cut me down, don't wait; but slash my
pouch loose and ride off with it."
"All right, sir," said Rake obediently; but he thought to himself,
"Leave you alone with them demons? Damn me if I will!"
And away they went once more, in speed and in silence, the darkness of
full night closing in on them, the skies being black with the heavy
drift of rising storm-clouds.
Meanwhile Cigarette was feasting with the officers of the regiment.
The dinner was the best that the camp-scullions could furnish in honor
of the two or three illustrious tourists who were on a visit to the
headquarters of the Algerian Army; and the Little One, the heroine of
Zaraila, and the toast of every mess throughout Algeria, was as
indispensable as the champagnes.
Not that she was altogether herself to-night; she was feverish, she
was bitter, she was full of stinging ironies; but that delicious
gayety, like a kitten's play, was gone from her, and its place, for
the first time in her life was supplied by unreal and hectic
excitation. In truth, while she laughed, and coquetted, and fenced
with the bright two-edged blade of her wit, and tossed down the wines
into her little throat like a trooper, she was thinking nothing at all
of what was around her, and very little of what she said or she did.
She was thinking of the starless night out yonder, of the bleak, arid
country, of the great, dim, measureless plains; of one who was passing
through them all, and one who might never return.
It was the first time that the absent had ever troubled her present;
it was the first time that ever this foolish, senseless, haunting,
unconquerable fear for another had approached her: fear--she had never
known it for herself, why should she feel it now for him--a man whose
lips had touched her own as lightly, as indifferently, as they might
have touched the leaves of a rose or the curls of a dog!
She felt her face burn with the flash of a keen, unbearable passionate
shame. Men by the score had wooed her love, to be flouted with the
insouciant mischief of her coquetry, and forgotten to-morrow if they
were shot to-day; and now he--he whose careless, calm caress would
make her heart vibrate and her limbs tremble with an emotion she had
never known--he valued her love so little that he never even knew that
he had roused it! To the proud young warrior of France a greater
degradation, a deadlier humiliation, than this could not have come.
Yet she was true as steel to him; true with the strong and loyal
fealty that is inborn with such natures as hers. To have betrayed what
he had trusted to her, because she was neglected and wounded by him,
would have been a feminine baseness of which the soldier-like soul of
Cigarette would have been totally incapable. Her revenge might be
fierce, and rapid, and sure, like the revenge of a soldier; but it
could never be stealing and traitorous, and never like the revenge of
Not a word escaped her that could have given a clew to the secret with
which he had involuntarily weighted her; she only studied with
interest and keenness the face and the words of this man whom he had
loved, and from whom he had fled as criminals flee from their
"What is your name?" she asked him curtly, in one of the pauses of the
amorous and witty nonsense that circulated in the tent in which the
officers of Chasseurs were entertaining him.
"Well--some call me Seraph."
"Ah! you have petite names, then, in Albion? I should have though she
was too somber and too stiff for them. Besides?"
"What a droll name! What are you?"
"Good! What grade?"
"A Colonel of Guards."
Cigarette gave a little whistle to herself; she remembered that a
Marshal of France had once said of a certain Chasseur, "He has the
seat of the English Guards."
"My pretty catechist, M. le Duc does not tell you his title," cried
one of the officers.
Cigarette interrupted him with a toss of her head.
"Ouf! Titles are nothing to me. I am a child of the People. So you are
a Duke, are you, M. le Seraph? Well, that is not much, to my thinking.
Bah! there is Fialin made a Duke in Paris, and there are aristocrats
here wearing privates' uniforms, and littering down their own horses.
Bah! Have you that sort of thing in Albion?"
"Attorneys throned on high, and gentlemen glad to sweep crossings? Oh,
yes!" laughed her interlocutor. "But you speak of aristocrats in your
ranks--that reminds me. Have you not in this corps a soldier called
He had turned as he spoke to one of the officers, who answered him in
the affirmative; while Cigarette listened with all her curiosity and
all her interest, that needed a deeper name, heightened and tight-
"A fine fellow," continued the Chef d'Escadron to whom he had
appealed. "He behaved magnificently the other day at Zaraila; he must
be distinguished for it. He is just sent on a perilous errand, but
though so quiet he is a croc-mitaine, and woe to the Arabs who slay
him! Are you acquainted with him?"
"Not in the least. But I wished to hear all I could of him. I have
been told he seems above his present position. Is it so?"
"Likely enough, monsieur; he seems a gentleman. But then we have many
gentlemen in the ranks, and we can make no difference for that.
Cigarette can tell you more of him; she used to complain that he bowed
like a Court chamberlain."
"Oh, ha!--I did!" cried Cigarette, stung into instant irony because
pained and irritated by being appealed to on the subject. "And of
course, when so many of his officers have the manners of Pyrenean
bears, it is a little awkward for him to bring us the manner of a
Which effectually chastised the Chef d'Escadron, who was one of those
who had a ton of the roughest manners, and piqued himself on his
powers of fence much more than on his habits of delicacy.
"Has this Victor any history?" asked the English Duke.
"He has written one with his sword; a fine one," said Cigarette
curtly. "We are not given here to care much about any other."
"Quite right; I asked because a friend of mine who had seen his
carvings wished to serve him, if it were possible; and--"
"Ho! That is Milady, is suppose!" Cigarette's eyes flashed fire
instantly, in wrath and suspicion. "What did she tell you about him?"
"I am ignorant of whom you speak?" he answered, with something of
surprise and annoyance.
"Are you?" said Cigarette, in derision. "I doubt that. Of whom should
I speak but of her? Bah? She insulted him, she offered him gold, she
sent my men the spoils of her table, as if they were paupers, and he
thinks it all divine because it is done by Mme. la Princesse Corona
d'Amague! Bah! when he was delirious, the other night, he could babble
of nothing but of her--of her--of her!"
The jealous, fiery impatience in her vanquished every other thought;
she was a child in much, she was untutored in all; she had no thought
that by the scornful vituperation of "Milady" she could either harm
Cecil or betray herself. But she was amazed to see the English guest
change color with a haughty anger that he strove to subdue as he half
rose and answered her with an accent in his voice that reminded her--
she knew not why--of Bel-a-faire-peur and of Marquise.
"Mme. la Princess Corona d'Amague is my sister; why do you venture to
couple the name of this Chasseur with hers?"
Cigarette sprang to her feet, vivacious, imperious, reckless, dared to
anything by the mere fact of being publicly arraigned.
"Pardieu! Is it insult to couple the silver pheasant with the Eagles
of France?--a pretty idea, truly! So she is your sister, is she?
Milady? Well, then, tell her from me to think twice before she
outrages a soldier with 'patronage'; and tell her, too, that had I
been he I would have ground my ivory toys into powder before I would
have let them become the playthings of a grande dame who tendered me
gold for them!"
The Englishman looked at her with astonishment that was mingled with a
vivid sense of intense annoyance and irritated pride, that the name he
cherished closest should be thus brought in, at a camp dinner, on the
lips of a vivandiere and in connection with a trooper of Chasseurs.
"I do not understand your indignation, mademoiselle," he said, with an
impatient stroke to his beard. "There is no occasion for it. Mme.
Corona d'Amague, my sister," he continued, to the officers present,
"became accidentally acquainted with the skill at sculpture of this
Corporal of yours; he appeared to her a man of much refinement and
good breeding. She chanced to name him to me, and feeling some pity--"
"M. le Duc!" cried the ringing voice of Cigarette, loud and startling
as a bugle-note, while she stood like a little lioness, flushed with
the draughts of champagne and with the warmth of wrath at once jealous
and generous, "keep your compassion until it is asked of you. No
soldier of France needs it; that I promise you. I know this man that
you talk of 'pitying.' Well, I saw him at Zaraila three weeks ago; he
had drawn up his men to die with them rather than surrender and yield
up the guidon; I dragged him half dead, when the field was won, from
under his horse, and his first conscious act was to give the drink
that I brought him to a wretch who had thieved from him. Our life here
is hell upon earth to such as he, yet none ever heard a lament wrung
out of him; he is gone to the chances of death to-night as most men go
to their mistresses' kisses; he is a soldier Napoleon would have
honored. Such a one is not to have the patronage of a Milady Corona,
nor the pity of a stranger of England. Let the first respect him; let
the last imitate him!"
And Cigarette, having pronounced her defense and her eulogy with the
vibrating eloquence of some orator from a tribune, threw her champagne
goblet down with a crash, and, breaking through the arms outstretched
to detain her, forced her way out despite them, and left her hosts
alone in their lighted tent.
"C'est Cigarette!" said the Chef d'Escadron, with a shrug of his
shoulders, as of one who explained, by that sentence, a whole world of
"A strange little Amazon!" said their guest. "Is she in love with this
Victor, that I have offended her so much with his name?"
The Major shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't know that, monsieur," answered one. "She will defend a man in
his absence, and rate him to his face most soundly. Cigarette whirls
about like a little paper windmill, just as the breeze blows; but, as
the windmill never leaves its stick, so she is always constant to the
Their guest said little more on the subject; in his own thoughts he
was bitterly resentful that, by the mention of this Chasseur's
fortunes, he should have brought in the name he loved so well--the
purest, fairest, haughtiest name in Europe--into a discussion with a
vivandiere at a camp dinner.
Chateauroy, throughout, had said nothing; he had listened in silence,
the darkness lowering still more heavily upon his swarthy features;
only now he opened his lips for a few brief words:
"Mon cher Duc, tell Madame not to waste the rare balm of her pity. The
fellow you inquire for was an outcast and an outlaw when he came to
us. He fights well--it is often a blackguard's virtue!"
His guest nodded and changed the subject; his impatience and aversion
at the introduction of his sister's name into the discussion made him
drop the theme unpursued, and let it die out forgotten.
Venetia Corona associated with an Algerian trooper! If Cigarette had
been of his own sex he could have dashed the white teeth down her
throat for having spoken of the two in one breath.
And as, later on, he stretched his gallant limbs out on his narrow
camp pallet, tired with a long day in saddle under the hot African
sun, the Seraph fell asleep with his right arm under his handsome
golden head, and thought no more of this unknown French trooper.
But Cigarette remained wakeful.
She lay curled up in the straw against her pet horse, Etoile Filante,
with her head on the beast's glossy flank and her hand among his mane.
She often slept thus in camp, and the horse would lie still and
cramped for hours rather than awaken her, or, if he rose, would take
the most watchful heed to leave unharmed the slender limbs, the
flushed cheeks, the frank, fair brow of the sleeper beneath him, that
one stroke of his hoof could have stamped out into a bruised and
To-night Etoile Filante slept, and his mistress was awake--wide-awake,
with her eyes looking out into the darkness beyond, with a passionate
mist of unshed tears in them, and her mouth quivering with pain and
with wrath. The vehement excitation had not died away in her, but
there had come with it a dull, spiritless, aching depression. It had
roused her to fury to hear the reference to her rival spoken--of that
aristocrat whose name had been on Cecil's lips when he had been
delirious. She had kept his secret loyally, she had defended him
vehemently; there was something that touched her to the core in the
thought of the love with which he had recognized this friend who, in
ignorance, spoke of him as of some unknown French soldier. She could
not tell what the history was, but she could divine nearly enough to
feel its pathos and its pain. She had known, in her short life, more
of men and of their passions and of their fortunes than many lives of
half a century in length can ever do; she could guess, nearly enough
to be wounded with its sorrow, the past which had exiled the man who
had kept by him his lost mother's ring as the sole relic of years to
which he was dead so utterly as though he were lying in his coffin. No
matter what the precise reason was--women, or debt, or accident, or
ruin--these two, who had been familiar comrades, were now as strangers
to each other; the one slumbered in ignorance near her, the other had
gone out to the close peril of death, lest the eyes of his friend
recognize his face and read his secret. It troubled her, it weighed on
her, it smote her with a pang. It might be that now, even now--this
very moment, while her gaze watched the dusky shadows of the night
chase one another along the dreary plains--a shot might have struck
down this life that had been stripped of name and fame and country;
even now all might be over!
And Cigarette felt a cold, sickly shudder seize her that never before,
at death or danger, had chilled the warm, swift current of her bright
French blood. In bitter scorn at herself, she muttered hot oaths
between her pretty teeth.
Mere de Dieu! he had touched her lips as carelessly as her own kiss
would have touched the rose-bud, waxen petals of a cluster of
oleander-blossoms; and she cared for him still!
While the Seraph slept dreamlessly, with the tents of the French camp
around him, and the sleepless eyes of Cigarette watched afar off the
dim, distant forms of the vedettes as they circled slowly round at
their outpost duty--eight leagues off, through a vast desert of shadow
and silence, the two horsemen swept swiftly on. Not a word had passed
between them; they rode close together in unbroken stillness; they
were scarcely visible to each other for there was no moon, and storm-
clouds obscured the skies. Now and then their horses' hoofs struck
fire from a flint-stone, and the flash sparkled through the darkness;
often not even the sound of their gallop was audible on the gray, dry,
Every rood of the road was sown thick with peril. No frowning ledge of
rock, with pine-roots in its clefts, but might serve as the barricade
behind which some foe lurked; no knot of cypress-shrubs, black even on
that black sheet of shadow, but might be pierced with the steel tubes
of leveled, waiting muskets.
Pillaging, burning, devastating wherever they could, in what was to
them a holy war of resistance to the infidel and the invader, the
predatory tribes had broken out into a revolt which the rout of
Zaraila, heavy blow though it had been to them, had by no means ended.
They were still in arms, infesting the country everywhere southward;
defying regular pursuit, impervious to regular attacks; carrying on
the harassing guerilla warfare at which they were such adepts. And
causing thus to their Frankish foe more irritation and more loss than
decisive engagements would have produced. They feared nothing, had
nothing to lose, and could subsist almost upon nothing. They might be
driven into the desert, they might even be exterminated after long
pursuit; but they would never be vanquished. And they were scattered
now far and wide over the country; every cave might shelter, every
ravine might inclose them; they appeared here, they appeared there;
they swooped down on a convoy, they carried sword and flame into a
settlement, they darted like a flight of hawks upon a foraging party,
they picked off any vedette, as he wheeled his horse round in the
moonlight; and every yard of the sixty miles which the two gray
chargers of the Chasseurs d'Afrique must cover ere their service was
done was as rife with death as though its course lay over the volcanic
line of an earthquake or a hollow, mined and sprung.
They had reached the center of the plain when the sound they had long
looked for rang on their ears, piercing the heavy, breathless
stillness of the night. It was the Allah-il-Allah of their foes, the
war-cry of the Moslem. Out of the gloom--whether from long pursuit or
some near hiding-place they could not tell--there broke suddenly upon
them the fury of an Arab onslaught. In the darkness all they could see
were the flash of steel, the flame of fierce eyes against their own,
the white steam of smoking horses, the spray of froth flung off the
snorting nostrils, the rapid glitter of the curved flissas--whether
two, or twenty, or twice a hundred were upon them they could not know
--they never did know. All of which they were conscious was that in an
instant, from the tranquil melancholy around them of the great, dim,
naked space, they were plunged into the din, the fury, the heat, the
close, crushing, horrible entanglement of conflict, without the power
to perceive or to number their foes, and only able to follow the
sheer, simple instincts of attack and of defense. All they were
sensible of was one of those confused moments, deafening, blinding,
filled with violence and rage and din--an eternity in semblance, a
second in duration--that can never be traced, never be recalled; yet
in whose feverish excitement men do that which, in their calmer hours,
would look to them a fable of some Amadis of Gaul.
How they were attacked, how they resisted, how they struck, how they
were encompassed, how they thrust back those who were hurled on them
in the black night, with the north sea-wind like ice upon their faces,
and the loose African soil drifting up in clouds of sand around them,
they could never have told. Nor how they strained free from the armed
ring that circled them, and beat aside the shafts of lances and the
blades of swords, and forced their chargers breast to breast against
the fence of steel and through the tempest of rage, and blows, and
shouts, and wind, and driven sand, cut their way through the foe whose
very face they scarce could see, and plunged away into the shadows
across the desolation of the plain, pursued, whether by one or by the
thousand they could not guess; for the gallop was noiseless on the
powdered soil, and the Arab yell of baffled passion and slaughterous
lust was half drowned in the rising of the wind-storm. Had it been
day, they would have seen their passage across the level table-land
traced by a crimson stream upon the sand, in which the blood of Frank
and Arab blended equally.
As it was, they dashed headlong down through the darkness that grew
yet denser and blacker as the storm rose. For miles the ground was
level before them, and they had only to let the half-maddened horses,
that had as by a miracle escaped all injury, rush on at their own will
through the whirl of the wind that drove the dust upward in spiral
columns and brought icy breaths of the north over the sear, sunburned,
For a long space they had no sense but that of rapid, ceaseless motion
through the thick gloom and against the pressure of the violent
blasts. The speed of their gallop and the strength of the currents of
air were like some narcotic that drowned and that dizzied perception.
In the intense darkness neither could see, neither hear, the other;
the instinct of the beasts kept them together, but no word could be
heard above the roar of the storm, and no light broke the somber veil
of shadow through which they passed as fast as leopards course through
the night. The first faint streak of dawn grew gray in the east when
Cecil felt his charger stagger and sway beneath him, and halt, worn
out and quivering in every sinew with fatigue. He threw himself off
the animal in time to save himself from falling with it as it reeled
and sank to the ground.
"Massena cannot stir another yard," he said. "Do you think they follow
There was no reply.
He strained his sight to pierce the darkness, but he could distinguish
nothing; the gloom was still too deep. He spoke more loudly; still
there was no reply. Then he raised his voice in a shout; it rang
through the silence, and, when it ceased, the silence reigned again.
A deadly chill came on him. How had he missed his comrade? They must
be far apart, he knew, since no response was given to his summons; or
--the alternative rose before him with a terrible foreboding.
That intense quiet had a repose as of death in it, a ghastly
loneliness that seemed filled with desolation. His horse was stretched
before him on the sand, powerless to rise and drag itself a rood
onward, and fast expiring. From the plains around him not a sound
came, either of friend or foe. The consciousness that he was alone,
that he had lost forever the only friend left to him, struck on him
with that conviction which so often foreruns the assurance of
calamity. Without a moment's pause he plunged back in the direction he
had come, leaving the charger on the ground to pant its life out as it
must, and sought to feel his way along, so as to seek as best he could
the companion he had deserted. He still could not see a rood before
him, but he went on slowly, with some vague hope that he should ere
long reach the man whom he knew death or the fatality of accident
alone would keep from his side. He could not feel or hear anything
that gave him the slightest sign or clew to aid his search; he only
wandered farther from his horse, and risked falling afresh into the
hands of his pursuers; he shouted again with all his strength, but his
own voice alone echoed over the plains, while his heart stood still
with the same frozen dread that a man feels when, wrecked on some
barren shore, his cry for rescue rings back on his own ear over the
waste of waters.
The flicker of the dawn was growing lighter in the sky, and he could
see dimly now, as in some winter day's dark twilight, though all
around him hung the leaden mist, with the wild winds driving
furiously. It was with difficulty also that he kept his feet against
their force; but he was blown onward by their current, though beaten
from side to side, and he still made his way forward. He had repassed
the ground already traversed by some hundred yards or more, which
seemed the length of many miles in the hurricane that was driving over
the earth and sky, when some outline still duskier than the dusky
shadow caught his sight; it was the body of a horse, standing on guard
over the fallen body of a man.
Another moment and he was beside them.
"My God! Are you hurt?"
He could see nothing but an indistinct and shapeless mass, without
form or color to mark it out from the brooding gloom and from the
leaden earth. But the voice he knew so well answered him with the old
love and fealty in it; eager with fear for him.
"When did you miss me, sir? I didn't mean you to know; I held on as
long as I could; and when I couldn't no longer, I thought you was safe
not to see I'd knocked over, so dark as it was."
"Great Heavens! You are hurt, then?"
"Just finished, sir. Lord! It don't matter. Only you ride on, Mr.
Cecil; ride on, I say. Don't mind me."
"What is it? When were you struck? O Heaven! I never dreamt----"
Cecil hung over him, striving in vain through the shadows to read the
truth from the face on which he felt by instinct the seal of death was
"I never meant you should know, sir. I meant just to drop behind and
die on the quiet. You see, sir, it was just this way; they hit me as
we forced through them. There's the lance-head in my loins now. I
pressed it in hard, and kept the blood from flowing, and thought I
should hold out so till the sun rose. But I couldn't do it so long; I
got sick and faint after a while, and I knew well enough it was death.
So I dropped down while I'd sense left to check the horse and get out
of saddle in silence. I hoped you wouldn't miss me, in the darkness
and the noise the wind was making; and you didn't hear me then, sir. I
His voice was checked in a quick, gasping breath; his only thought had
been to lie down and die in the solitude so that his master might be
A great sob shook Cecil as he heard; no false hope came to him; he
felt that this man was lost to him forever, that this was the sole
recompense which the cruelty of Africa would give to a fidelity
passing the fidelity of woman; these throes of dissolution the only
payment with which fate would ever requite a loyalty that had held no
travail weary, no exile pain, and no danger worthy counting, so long
as they were encountered and endured in his own service.
"Don't take on about it, sir," whispered Rake, striving to raise his
head that he might strain his eyes better through the gloom to see his
master's face. "It was sure to come some time; and I ain't in no pain
--to speak of. Do leave me, Mr. Cecil--leave me, for God's sake, and
"Did you leave me?"
The answer was very low, and his voice shook as he uttered it; but
through the roar of the hurricane Rake heard it.
"That was different, sir," he said simply. "Let me lie here, and go
you on. It'll soon be over, and there's naught to be done."
"O God! is no help possible?"
"Don't take on, sir; it's no odds. I always was a scamp, and scamps
die game, you know. My life's been a rare spree, count it all and all;
and it's a great, good thing, you see, sir, to go off quick like this.
I might have been laid in hospital. If you'd only take the beast and
ride on, sir--"
"Hush! hush! Would you make me coward, or brute, or both?"
The words broke in an agony from him. The time had been when he had
been himself stretched in what he had thought was death, in just such
silence, in just such solitude, upon the bare, baked earth, far from
men's aid, and near only to the hungry eyes of watching beasts of
prey. Then he had been very calm, and waited with indifference for the
end; now his eyes swept over the remorseless wastes, that were growing
faintly visible under the coming dawn, with all the impatience, the
terror, of despair. Death had smitten down many beside him; buoyant
youth and dauntless manhood he had seen a thousand times swept under
the great waves of war and lost forever, but it had an anguish for him
here that he would never have known had he felt his own life-blood
well out over the sand. The whole existence of this man had been
sacrificed for him, and its only reward was a thrust of a lance in a
midnight fray--a grave in an alien soil.
His grief fell dully on ears half deafened already to the sounds of
the living world. the exhaustion that follows on great loss of blood
was upon the soldier who for the last half hour had lain there in the
darkness and the stillness, quietly waiting death, and not once
seeking even to raise his voice for succor lest the cry should reach
and should imperil his master.
The morning had broken now, but the storm had not lulled. The northern
winds were sweeping over the plains in tenfold violence, and the rains
burst and poured, with the fury of water-spouts on the crust of the
parched, cracked earth. Around them there was nothing heard or seen
except the leaden, angry mists, tossed to and fro under the hurricane,
and the white light of the coming day breaking lividly through the
clouds. The world held no place of more utter desolation, more
unspeakable loneliness; and in its misery Cecil, flung down upon the
sands beside him, could do nothing except--helpless to aid, and
powerless to save--watch the last breath grow feebler and feebler,
until it faded out from the only life that had been faithful to him.
By the fitful gleams of day he could see the blood slowly ebbing out
from the great gap where the lance-head was still bedded with its
wooden shaft snapped in two; he could see the drooped head that he had
raised upon his knee, with the yellow, northern curls that no desert
suns had darkened; and Rake's eyes, smiling so brightly and so bravely
still, looked up from under their weary lids to his.
"I'd never let you take my hand before, sir; just take it once now--
will you?--while I can see you still."
Their hands met as he asked it, and held each other close and long;
all the loyal service of the one life, and all the speechless
gratitude of the other, told better than by all words in that one
A light that was not from the stormy dusky morning shone over the
"Time was, sir," he said, with a smile, "when I need to think as how,
some day or another, when I should have done something great and
grand, and you was back among your own again, and they here had given
me the Cross, I'd have asked you to have done that before all the
Army, and just to have said to 'em, if so you liked, 'He was a scamp,
and he wasn't thought good for naught; but he kept true to me, and you
see it made him go straight, and I aren't ashamed to call him my
friend.' I used to think that, sir, though 'twas silly, perhaps. But
it's best as it is--a deal best, no doubt. If you was only back safe
"O God! cease! I am not worthy one thought of love like yours."
"Yes, you are, sir--leastways, you was to me. When you took pity on
me, it was just a toss-up if I didn't go right to the gallows. Don't
grieve that way, Mr. Cecil. If I could just have seen you home again
in your place, I should have been glad--that's all. You'll go back one
day, sir; when you do, tell the King I ain't never forgot him."
His voice grew faint as the last sentence stole from his lips; he lay
quite still, his head leaned back against his mater; and the day came,
with the north winds driving over the plains and the gray mists tossed
by them to and fro like smoke.
There was a long silence, a pause in which the windstorm ceased, and
the clouds of the loosed sands sunk. Alone, with the wastes stretching
around them, were the living and the dying man, with the horse
standing motionless beside them, and, above, the gloom of the sullen
sky. No aid was possible; they could but wait, in the stupefaction of
despair, for the end of all to come.
In that awful stillness, in that sudden lull in the madness of the
hurricane, death had a horror which it never wore in the riot of the
battlefield, in the intoxication of the slaughter. There was no pity
in earth or heaven; the hard, hot ground sucked down its fill of
blood; the icy air enwrapped them like a shroud.
The faithfulness of love, the strength of gratitude, were of no avail;
the one perished in agony, the other was powerless to save.
In that momentary hush, as the winds sank low, the heavy eyes, half
sightless now, sought with their old wistful, doglike loyalty the face
to which so soon they would be blind forever.
"Would you tell me once, sir--now? I never asked--I never would have
done--but may be I might know in this last minute. You never sinned
that sin you bear the charge on?"
"God is my witness, no."
The light, that was like sunlight, shone once more in the aching,
"I knew, I knew! It was--"
Cecil bowed his head over him, lower and lower.
"Hush! He was but a child; and I--"
With a sudden and swift motion, as though new life were thrilling in
him, Rake raised himself erect, his arms stretched outward to the
east, where the young day was breaking.
"I knew, I knew! I never doubted. You will go back to your own some
day, and men shall learn the truth--thank God! thank God!"
Then, with that light still on his face, his head fell backward; and
with one quick, brief sigh his life fled out forever.
The time passed on; the storm had risen afresh; the violence of the
gusts blew yellow sheets of sand whirling over the plains. Alone, with
the dead one across his knees, Cecil sat motionless as though turned
to stone. His eyes were dry and fixed; but ever and again a great,
tearless sob shook him from head to foot. The only life that linked
him with the past, the only love that had suffered all things for his
sake, were gone, crushed out as though they never had been, like some
insect trodden in the soil.
He had lost all consciousness, all memory, save of that lifeless thing
which lay across his knees, like a felled tree, like a broken log,
with the glimmer of the tempestuous day so chill and white upon the
He was alone on earth; and the solitudes around him were not more
desolate than his own fate.
He was like a man numbed and stupefied by intense cold; his veins
seemed stagnant, and his sight could only see those features that
became so terribly serene, so fearfully unmoved with the dread calm of
death. Yet the old mechanical instincts of a soldier guided him still;
he vaguely knew that his errand had to be done, must be done, let his
heart ache as it would, let him long as he might to lie down by the
side of his only friend, and leave the torture of life to grow still
in him also for evermore.
Instinctively, he moved to carry out the duty trusted to him. He
looked east and west, north and south; there was nothing in sight that
could bring him aid; there were only the dust clouds hurled in billows
hither and thither by the bitter winds still blowing from the sea. All
that could be done had to be done by himself alone. His own safety
hung on the swiftness of his flight; for aught he knew, at every
moment, out of the mist and the driven sheets of sand there might rush
the desert horses of his foes. But this memory was not with him; all
he thought of was that burden stretched across his limbs, which laid
down one hour here unwatched, would be the prey of the jackal and the
vulture. He raised it reverently in his arms, and with long, laborious
effort drew its weight up across the saddle of the charger which stood
patiently waiting by, turning its docile eyes with a plaintive,
wondering sadness on the body of the rider it had loved. Then he
mounted himself; and with the head of his lost comrade borne up upon
his arm, and rested gently on his breast, he rode westward over the
great plain to where his mission lay.
The horse paced slowly beneath the double load of dead and living; he
would not urge the creature faster on; every movement that shook the
drooping limbs, or jarred the repose of that last sleep, seemed
desecration. He passed the place where his own horse was stretched;
the vultures were already there. He shuddered; and then pressed faster
on, as though the beasts and birds of prey would rob him of his burden
ere he could give it sanctuary. And so he rode, mile after mile, over
the barren land, with no companion save the dead.
The winds blew fiercely in his teeth; the sand was in his eyes and
hair; the way was long, and weary, and sown thick with danger; but he
knew of nothing, felt and saw nothing save that one familiar face so
strangely changed and transfigured by that glory with which death had
"JE VOUS ACHETE VOTRE VIE."
Thus burdened, he made his way for over two leagues. The hurricane
never abated, and the blinding dust rose around him in great waves.
The horse fell lame; he had to dismount, and move slowly and painfully
over the loose, heavy soil on foot, raising the drooping head of the
lifeless rider. It was bitter, weary, cruel travail, of an intolerable
labor, of an intolerable pain.
Once or twice he grew sick and giddy, and lost for a moment all
consciousness; but he pressed onward, resolute not to yield and leave
the vultures, hovering aloft, their prey. He was still somewhat
weakened by the wounds of Zaraila; he had been bruised and exhausted
by the skirmish of the past night; he was weary and heart-broken; but
he did not yield to his longing to sink down on the sands, and let his
life ebb out; he held patiently onward through the infinite misery of
the passage. At last he drew near the caravanserai where he had been
directed to obtain a change of horses. It stood midway in the distance
that he had to traverse, and almost alone when the face of the country
changed, and was more full of color, and more broken into rocky and
As a man walks in a dream, he led the sinking beast toward its
shelter, as its irregular corner towers became dimly perceptible to
him through the dizzy mists that had obscured his sight. By sheer
instinct he found his route straight toward the open arch of its
entrance-way, and into the square courtyard thronged with mules and
camels and horses; for the caravanserai stood on the only road that
led through that district to the south, and was the only house of call
for drovers, or shelter for travelers and artists of Europe who might
pass that way. The groups in the court paused in their converse and in
their occupations, and looked in awe at the gray charger with its
strange burden, and the French Chasseur who came so blindly forward
like a man feeling his passage through the dark. There was something
in the sight that had a vague terror for them before they clearly saw
what this thing was which was thus brought into their presence. Cecil
moved slowly on into their midst, his hand on the horse's rein; then a
great darkness covered his sight; he swayed to and fro, and fell
senseless on the gray stone of the paved court, while the muleteer and
the camel-drivers, the Kabyls and the French, who were mingled there,
crowded around him in fear and in wonder. When consciousness returned
to him he was lying on a stone bench in the shadow of the wall, and a
throng of lean, bronzed, eager faces about him in the midday sunlight
which had broken through the windstorm.
Instantly he remembered all.
"Where is he?" he asked.
They knew he meant the dead man, and answered him in a hushed murmur
of many voices. They had placed the body gently down within, in a
A shiver passed over him; he stretched his hand out for water that
they held to him.
"Saddle me a fresh horse; I have my work to do."
He knew that for no friendship, or grief, or suffering, or self-pity
might a soldier pause by the wayside while his errand was still
undone, his duty unfulfilled.
He drank the water thirstily; then, reeling slightly still, from the
weakness that was still upon him, he rose, rejecting their offers of
aid. "Take me to him," he said simply. They understood him; there were
French soldiers among them, and they took him, without question or
comment, across the court to the little square stone cell within one
of the towers, where they had laid the corpse, with nothing to break
the quiet and the solitude except the low, soft cooing of some doves
that had their homes in its dark corners, and flew in and out at
pleasure through the oval aperture that served as window.
He motioned them all back with his hand, and went into the gloom of
the chamber alone. Not one among them followed.