Part 5 out of 13
you win, do you think we shall let you go off to our enemies? Pas si
"Yes, you will," said the other quietly. "Men who knew what honor
meant enough to redeem Rire-pour-tout's pledge of safety to the
Bedouins, will not take advantage of an openly confessed and unarmed
A murmur of ratification ran through his listeners.
Chanrellon swore a mighty oath.
"Pardieu, no. You are right. If you want to go, you shall go. Hola
there! bring the dice. Champagne, monsieur? Vermouth? Cognac?"
"Nothing, I thank you."
He leaned back with an apathetic indolence and indifference oddly at
contrast with the injudicious daring of his war-provoking words and
the rough campaigning that he sought. The assembled Chasseurs eyed him
curiously; they liked his manner and they resented his first speeches;
they noted every particular about him--his delicate white hands, his
weather-worn and travel-stained dress, his fair, aristocratic
features, his sweeping, abundant beard, his careless, cool, tired,
reckless way; and they were uncertain what to make of him.
The dice were brought.
"What stakes, monsieur?" asked Chanrellon.
"Ten napoleons a side--and--the Arabs."
He set ten napoleons down on the table; they were the only coins he
had in the world; it was very characteristic that he risked them.
They threw the main--two sixes.
"You see," he murmured, with a half smile, "the dice know it is a
drawn duel between you and the Arabs."
"C'est un drole, c'est un brave!" muttered Chanrellon; and they threw
The Chasseur cast a five; his was a five again.
"The dice cannot make up their minds," said the other listlessly,
"they know you are Might and the Arabs are Right."
The Frenchmen laughed; they could take a jest good-humoredly, and
alone amid so many of them, he was made sacred at once by the very
length of odds against him.
They rattled the boxes and threw again--Chanrellon's was three; his
"Ah!" he murmured. "Right kicks the beam and loses; it always does,
The Chasseur leaned across the table, with his brown, fearless sunny
eyes full of pleasure.
"Monsieur! never lament such good fortune for France. You belong to us
now; let me claim you!"
He bowed more gravely than he had borne himself hitherto.
"You do me much honor; fortune has willed it so. One word only in
"Chanrellon assented courteously.
"As many as you choose."
"I have a companion who must be brigaded with me, and I must go on
active service at once."
"With infinite pleasure. That doubtless can be arranged. You shall
present yourself to-morrow morning; and for to-night, this is not the
season here yet; and we are triste a faire fremir; still I can show
you a little fun, though it is not Paris!"
But he rose and bowed again.
"I thank you, not to-night. You shall see me at your barracks with the
"Ah, ah! monsieur!" cried the Chasseur eagerly, and a little annoyed.
"What warrant have we that you will not dispute the decree of the
dice, and go off to your favorites, the Arabs?"
He turned back and looked full in Chanrellon's face his own eyes a
little surprised, and infinitely weary.
"What warrant? My promise."
Then, without another syllable, he lounged slowly out through the
soldiers and the idlers, and disappeared in the confused din and
chiar-oscuro of the gas-lit street without, through the press of
troopers, grisettes, merchants, beggars, sweetmeat-sellers, lemonade-
sellers, curacoa sellers, gaunt Bedouins, negro boys, shrieking
muleteers, laughing lorettes, and glittering staff officers.
"That is done!" he murmured to his own thoughts. "Now for life under
Claude de Chanrellon sat mute and amazed a while, gazing at the open
door; then he drank a fourth beaker of champagne and flung the emptied
glass down with a mighty crash.
"Ventre bleu! Whoever he is, that man will eat fire, bons garcons!"
"DE PROFUNDIS" BEFORE "PLUNGING."
Three months later it was guest-night in the messroom of a certain
famous light cavalry regiment, who bear the reputation of being the
fastest corps in the English service. Of a truth, they do "plunge" a
little too wildly; and stories are told of bets over ecarte in their
anteroom that have been prompt extinction forever and aye to the
losers, for they rarely play money down, their stakes are too high,
and moderate fortunes may go in a night with the other convenient but
fatal system. But, this one indiscretion apart, they are a model corps
for blood, for dash, for perfect social accord, for the finest
horseflesh in the kingdom, and the best president at a mess-table that
ever drilled the cook to matchlessness, and made the ice dry, and the
old burgundies, the admired of all newcomers.
Just now they had pleasant quarters enough in York, had a couple of
hundred hunters, all in all, in their stalls, were showing the Ridings
that they could "go like birds," and were using up their second horses
with every day out, in the first of the season. A cracker over the
best of the ground with the York and Ainsty, that had given two first-
rate things quick as lightning, and both closed with a kill, had
filled the day; and they were dining with a fair quantity of county
guests, and all the splendor of plate, and ceremony, and magnificent
hospitalities which characterize those beaux sabreurs wheresoever they
go. At one part of the table a discussion was going on but they drank
singularly little; it was not their "form" ever to indulge in that
way; and the Chief, as dashing a sabreur as ever crossed a saddle,
though lenient to looseness in all other matters, and very young for
his command, would have been down like steel on "the boys," had any of
them taken to the pastime of overmuch drinking in any shape.
"I can't get the rights of the story," said one of the guests, a
hunting baronet, and M. F. H. "It's something very dark, isn't it?"
"Very dark," assented a tall, handsome man, with a habitual air of the
most utterly exhausted apathy ever attained by the human features, but
who, nevertheless, had been christened, by the fiercest of the warrior
nations of the Punjaub, as the Shumsheer-i-Shaitan, or Sword of the
Evil One, so terrible had the circling sweep of one back stroke of
his, when he was quite a boy, become to them.
"Guard cut up fearfully rough," murmured one near him, known as "the
Dauphin." "Such a low sort of thing, you know; that's the worst of it.
Seraph's name, too."
"Poor old Seraph! He's fairly bowled over about it," added a third.
"Feels it awfully--by Jove, he does! It's my belief he paid those Jew
fellows the whole sum to get the pursuit slackened."
"So Thelusson says. Thelusson says Jews have made a cracker by it. I
dare say! Jews always do," muttered a fourth. "First Life would have
given Beauty a million sooner than have him do it. Horrible thing for
"But is he dead?" pursued their guest.
"Beauty? Yes; smashed in that express, you know."
"But there was no evidence?"
"I don't know what you call evidence," murmured "the Dauphin." "Horses
are sent to England from Paris; clearly shows he went to Paris.
Marseilles train smashes; twenty people ground into indistinguishable
amalgamation; two of the amalgamated jammed head foremost in a
carriage alone; only traps in carriage with them, Beauty's traps, with
name clear on the brass outside, and crest clear on silver things
inside; two men ground to atoms, but traps safe; two men, of course
Beauty and servant; man was a plucky fellow, sure, to stay with him."
And having given the desired evidence in lazy little intervals of
speech, he took some Rhenish.
"Well--yes; nothing could be more conclusive, certainly," assented the
Baronet, resignedly convinced. "It was the best thing that could
happen under the unfortunate circumstances; so Lord Royallieu thinks,
I suppose. He allowed no one to wear mourning, and had his unhappy
son's portrait taken down and burned."
"How melodramatic!" reflected Leo Charteris. "Now what the deuce can
it hurt a dead man to have his portrait made into a bonfire? Old lord
always did hate Beauty, though. Rock does all the mourning; he's cut
up no end; never saw a fellow so knocked out of time. Vowed at first
he'd sell out, and go into the Austrian service; swore he couldn't
stay in the Household, but would get a command of some Heavies, and be
changed to India."
"Duke didn't like that--didn't want him shot; nobody else, you see,
for the title. By George! I wish you'd seen Rock the other day on the
Heath; little Pulteney came up to him."
"What Pulteney?--Jimmy, or the Earl?"
"Oh, the Earl! Jimmy would have known better. These new men never know
anything. 'You purchased that famous steeple-chaser of his from Mr.
Cecil's creditors, didn't you!' asks Pulteney. Rock just looks him
over. Such a look, by George! 'I received Forest King as my dead
friend's last gift.' Pulteney never takes the hint--not he. On he
blunders: 'Because, if you were inclined to part with him, I want a
good new hunting strain, with plenty of fencing power, and I'd take
him for the stud at any figure you liked.' I thought the Seraph would
have knocked him down--I did, upon my honor! He was red as this wine
in a second with rage, and then as white as a woman. 'You are quite
right,' he says quietly, and I swear each word cut like a bullet, 'you
do want a new strain with something like breeding in it, but--I hardly
think you'll get it for the three next generations. You must learn to
know what it means first.' Then away he lounges. By Jove! I don't
think the Cotton-Earl will forget this Cambridgeshire in a hurry, or
try horse-dealing on the Seraph again."
Laughter loud and long greeted the story.
"Poor Beauty," said the Dauphin, "he'd have enjoyed that. He always
put down Pulteney himself. I remember his telling me he was on duty at
Windsor once when Pulteney was staying there. Pulteney's always
horribly funked at Court; frightened out of his life when he dines
with any royalties; makes an awful figure too in a public ceremony;
can't walk backward for any money, and at his first levee tumbled down
right in the Queen's face. Now at the Castle one night he just
happened to come down a corridor as Beauty was smoking. Beauty made
believe to take him for a servant, took out a sovereign, and tossed it
to him. 'Here, keep a still tongue about my cigar, my good fellow!'
Pulteney turned hot and cold, and stammered out God knows what, about
his mighty dignity being mistaken for a valet. Bertie just laughed a
little, ever so softly, 'Beg your pardon--thought you were one of the
people; wouldn't have done it for worlds; I know you're never at ease
with a sovereign!' Now Pulteney wasn't likely to forget that. If he
wanted the King, I'll lay any money it was to give him to some
wretched mount who'd break his back over a fence in a selling race."
"Well, he won't have him; Seraph don't intend to have the horse ever
ridden or hunted at all."
"By Jove, he means it! nobody's to cross the King's back; he wants
weight-carriers himself, you know, and precious strong ones too. The
King's put in stud at Lyonnesse. Poor Bertie! Nobody ever managed a
close finish as he did at the Grand National--last but two--don't you
"Yes; waited so beautifully on Fly-by-Night, and shot by him like
lightning, just before the run-in. Pity he went to the bad!"
"Ah, what a hand he played at ecarte; the very best of the French
"But reckless at whist; a wild game there--uncommonly wild. Drove Cis
Delareux half mad one night at Royallieu with the way he threw his
trumps out. Old Cis dashed his cards down at last, and looked him full
in the face. 'Beauty, do you know, or do you not know, that a whist-
table is not to be taken as you take a timber in a hunting-field, on
the principle of clear it or smash it?' 'Faith!' said Bertie, 'clear
it or smash it is a very good rule for anything, but a trifle too
energetic for me.' "
"The deuce, he's had enough of 'smashing' at last! I wish he hadn't
come to grief in that style; it's a shocking bore for the Guards--such
an ugly story."
"It was uncommonly like him to get killed just when he did--best
"Only thing he could do."
"Better taste would have been to do it earlier. I always wondered he
stopped for the row."
"Oh, never thought it would turn up; trusted to a fluke."
He whom the Punjaub knew as the Sword of the Evil One, but who held in
polite society the title of Lord Kergenven, drank some hock slowly,
and murmured as his sole quota to the conversation, very lazily and
"Bet you he isn't dead at all."
"The deuce you do? And why?" chorused the table; "when a fellow's
body's found with all his traps round him!"
"I don't believe he's dead," murmured Kergenven with closed,
"But why? Have you heard anything?"
"Not a word."
"Why do you say he's alive, then?"
My lord lifted his brows ever so little.
"I think so, that's all."
"But you must have a reason, Ker?"
Badgered into speech, Kergenven drank a little more hock, and dropped
out slowly, in the mellowest voice in the world, the following:
"It don't follow one has reasons for anything; pray don't get logical.
Two years ago I was out in a chasse au sanglier, central France;
perhaps you don't know their work? It's uncommonly queer. Break up the
Alps into little bits, scatter 'em pell-mell over a great forest, and
then set a killing pack to hunt through and through it. Delightful
chance for coming to grief; even odds that if you don't pitch down a
ravine, you'll get blinded for life by a branch; that if you don't get
flattened under a boulder, you'll be shot by a twig catching your
rifle-trigger. Uncommonly good sport."
Exhausted with so lengthened an exposition of the charms of the
venerie and the hallali, he stopped, and dropped a walnut into some
"Hang it, Ker!" cried the Dauphin. "What's that to do with Beauty?"
My lord let fall a sleepy glance of surprise and of rebuke from under
his black lashes, that said mutely, "Do I, who hate talking, ever talk
wide of any point?"
"Why, this," he murmured. "He was with us down at Veille-roc--Louis
D'Auvrai's place, you know; and we were out after an old boar--not too
old to race; but still tough enough to be likely to turn and trust to
his tusks if the pace got very hot, and he was hard pressed at the
finish. We hadn't found till rather late, the limeurs were rather new
to the work, and the November day was short, of course; the pack got
on the slot of a roebuck too, and were off the boar's scent in a
little while, running wild. Altogether we got scattered, and in the
forest it grew almost as dark as pitch; you followed just as you
could, and could only guide yourself by your ear when the hounds gave
cry, or the horns sounded. On you blundered, hit or miss, headlong
down the rocks and through the branches; horses warmed wonderfully to
the business, scrambled like cats, slid down like otters, kept their
footing where nobody'd have thought anything but a goat could stand.
Our hunting bloods wouldn't live an hour in a French forest. You see
we just look for pace and strength in the shoulders; we don't much
want anything else--except good jumping power. What a lot of fellows--
even in the crack packs--will always funk water! Horses will fly, but
they can't swim. Now, to my fancy, a clever beast ought to take even a
swelling bit of water like a duck. How poor Standard breasted rivers
till that fool staked him!"
He dropped more walnuts into his wine, wistfully recalling a mighty
hero of Leicestershire fame, that had given him many a magnificent day
out, and had been the idol of his stables, till in his twelfth year
the noble old sorrel had been killed by a groom's recklessness;
recklessness that met with such chastisement as told how and why the
hill-tribes' sobriquet had been given to the hand that would lie so
long in indolent rest, to strike with such fearful force when once
"Well," he went on once more, "we were all of us scattered; scarcely
two kept together anywhere; where the pack was, where the boar was,
where the huntsmen were, nobody knew. Now and then I heard the hounds
giving tongue at the distance, and I rode after that to the best of my
science; and uncommonly bad was the best. That forest work perplexes
one, after the grass-country. You can't view the beauties two minutes
together; and as for sinning by overriding 'em, you're very safe not
to do that! At last I heard a crashing sound, loud and furious; I
thought they had got him to bay at last. There was a great oak thicket
as hard as iron, and as close as a net, between me and the place; the
boughs were all twisted together, God knows how, and grew so low down
that the naked branches had to be broken though at every step by the
horse's fore hoofs, before he could force a step. We did force it
somehow at last, and came into a green, open space, where there were
fewer trees, and the moon was shining in; there, without a hound near,
true enough was the boar rolling on the ground, and somebody rolling
under him. They were locked in so close they looked just like one huge
beast, pitching here and there, as you've seen the rhinos wallow in
Indian jheels. Of course, I leveled my rifle, but I waited to get a
clear aim; for which was man and which was boar, the deuce a bit could
I tell; just as I had pointed, Beauty's voice called out to me; 'Keep
your fire, Ker! I want to have him myself.' It was he that was under
the brute. Just as he spoke they rolled toward me, the boar foaming
and spouting blood, and plunging his tusks into Cecil; he got his
right arm out from under the beast, and crushed under there as he was,
drew it free, with the knife well gripped; then down he dashed it
three times into the veteran's hide, just beneath the ribs; it was the
coup de grace; the boar lay dead, and Beauty lay half dead too; the
blood rushing out of him where the tusks had dived. Two minutes,
though, and a draught of my brandy brought him all round; and the
first words he spoke were, 'Thanks Ker; you did as you would be done
by--a shot would have spoilt it all.' The brute had crossed his path
far away from the pack, and he had flung himself out of saddle and had
a neck-and-neck struggle. And that night we played baccarat by his
bedside to amuse him; and he played just as well as ever. Now this is
why I don't think he's dead; a fellow who served a wild boar like that
won't have let a train knock him over. And I don't believe he forged
that stiff, though all the evidence says so; Beauty hadn't a touch of
the blackguard in him."
With which declaration of his views, Kergenven lapsed into immutable
silence and slumberous apathy, from whose shelter nothing could tempt
him afresh; and the Colonel, with all the rest, lounged into the
anteroom, where the tables were set, and began "plunging" in earnest
at sums that might sound fabulous, were they written here. The players
staked heavily; but it was the gallery who watched around, making
their bets, and backing their favorites, that lost on the whole the
"Horse Guards have heard of the plunging; think we're going too fast,"
murmured the Chief to Kergenven, his Major, who lifted his brows, and
murmured back with the demureness of a maiden:
"Tell 'em it's our only vice; we're models of propriety."
Which possibly would not have been received with the belief desirable
by the skeptics of Pall Mall.
So the De Profundis was said over Bertie Cecil; and "Beauty of the
Brigades" ceased to be named in the service, and soon ceased to be
even remembered. In the steeple-chase of life there is no time to look
back at the failures, who have gone down over a "double and drop," and
fallen out of the pace.
"L'AMIE DU DRAPEAU."
"Did I not say he would eat fire?"
"Pardieu! C'est un brave."
"Rides like an Arab."
"Smokes like a Zouave."
"Cuts off a head with that back circular sweep--ah--h----h!
"And dances like an Aristocrat; not like a tipsy Spahi!"
The last crown to the chorus of applause, and insult to the circle of
applauders, was launched with all the piquance of inimitable canteen-
slang and camp-assurance, from a speaker who had perched astride on a
broken fragment of wall, with her barrel of wine set up on end on the
stones in front of her, and her six soldiers, her gros bebees, as she
was given maternally to calling them, lounging at their ease on the
arid, dusty turf below. She was very pretty, audaciously pretty,
though her skin was burned to a bright sunny brown, and her hair was
cut as short as a boy's, and her face had not one regular feature in
it. But then--regularity! who wanted it, who would have thought the
most pure classic type a change for the better, with those dark,
dancing, challenging eyes; with that arch, brilliant, kitten-like
face, so sunny, so mignon, and those scarlet lips like a bud of
camellia that were never so handsome as when a cigarette was between
them, or sooth to say, not seldom a short pipe itself?
She was pretty, she was insolent, she was intolerably coquettish, she
was mischievous as a marmoset; she would swear, if need be, like a
Zouave; she could fire galloping, she could toss off her brandy or her
vermouth like a trooper; she would on occasion clinch her little brown
hand and deal a blow that the recipient would not covet twice; she was
an enfant de Paris and had all its wickedness at her fingers; she
would sing you guinguette songs till you were suffocated with
laughter, and she would dance the cancan at the Salle de Mars, with
the biggest giant of a Cuirassier there. And yet with all that, she
was not wholly unsexed; with all that she had the delicious fragrance
of youth, and had not left a certain feminine grace behind her, though
she wore a vivandiere's uniform, and had been born in a barrack, and
meant to die in a battle; it was the blending of the two that made her
piquante, made her a notoriety in her own way; known at pleasure, and
equally, in the Army of Africa as "Cigarette," and "L'Amie du
"Not like a tipsy Spahi!" It was a cruel cut to her gros bebees,
mostly Spahis, lying there at her feet, or rather at the foot of the
wall, singing the praises--with magnanimity beyond praise--of a
certain Chasseur d'Afrique.
"Ho, Cigarette!" growled a little Zouave, known as Tata Leroux. "That
is the way thou forsakest thy friends for the first fresh face."
"Well, it is not a face like a tobacco-stopper, as thine is, Tata!"
responded Cigarette, with a puff of her namesake; the repartee of the
camp is apt to be rough. "He is Bel-a-faire-peur, as you nickname
"A woman's face!" growled the injured Tata; whose own countenance was
of the color and well-nigh of the flatness of one of the red bricks of
"Ouf!" said the Friend of the Flag, with more expression in that
single exclamation than could be put in a volume. "He does woman's
deeds, does he? He has woman's hands, but they can fight, I fancy? Six
Arabs to his own sword the other day in that skirmish! Superb!"
"Sapristi! And what did he say, this droll, when he looked at them
lying there? Just shrugged his shoulders and rode away. 'I'd better
have killed myself; less mischief, on the whole!' Now who is to make
anything of such a man as that?"
"Ah! he did not stop to cut their gold buttons off, and steal their
cangiars, as thou wouldst have done, Tata? Well! he has not learned la
guerre," laughed Cigarette. "It was a waste; he should have brought me
their sashes, at least. By the way--when did he join?"
"Ten--twelve--years ago, or thereabouts."
"He should have learned to strip Arabs by this time, then," said the
Amie du Drapeau, turning the tap of her barrel to replenish the wine-
cup; "and to steal from them too, living or dead. Thou must take him
in hand, Tata!"
Tata laughed, considering that he had received a compliment.
"Diable! I did a neat thing yesterday. Out on the hills, there, was a
shepherd; he'd got two live geese swinging by their feet. They were
screeching--screeching--screeching!--and they looked so nice and so
plump that I could smell them, as if they were stewing in a casserole,
till I began to get as hungry as a gamin. A lunge would just have cut
the question at once; but the orders have got so strict about petting
the natives I thought I wouldn't have any violence, if the thing would
go nice and smoothly. So I just walked behind him, and tripped him up
before he knew where he was--it was a picture! He was down with his
face in the sand before you could sing Tra-la-la! Then I just sat upon
him; but gently--very gently; and what with the sand and the heat, and
the surprise, and, in truth, perhaps, a little too, my own weight, he
was half suffocated. He had never seen me; he did not know what it was
that was sitting on him; and I sent my voice out with a roar--'I am a
demon, and the fiend hath bidden me take him thy soul to-night!' Ah!
how he began to tremble, and to kick, and to quiver. He thought it was
the devil a-top of him; and he began to moan, as well as the sand
would let him, that he was a poor man, and an innocent, and the geese
were the only things he ever stole in all his life. Then I went
through a little pantomime with him, and I was very terrible in my
threats, and he was choking and choking with the sand, though he never
let go of the geese. At last I relented a little, and told him I would
spare him that once, if he gave up the stolen goods, and never lifted
his head for an hour. Sapristi! How glad he was of the terms! I dare
say my weight was unpleasant; so the geese made us a divine stew that
night, and the last thing I saw of my man was his lying flat as I left
him, with his face still down in the sand-hole."
Cigarette nodded and laughed.
"Pretty fair, Tata; but I have heard better. Bah! a grand thing
certainly, to fright a peasant, and scamper off with a goose!"
"Sacre bleu!" grumbled Tata, who was himself of opinion that his
exploit had been worthy of the feats of Harlequin; "thy heart is all
gone to the Englishman."
Cigarette laughed saucily and heartily, tickled at the joke. Sentiment
has an exquisitely ludicrous side when one is a black-eyed wine-seller
perched astride on a wall, and dispensing bandy-dashed wine to half a
dozen sun-baked Spahis.
"My heart is a reveil matin, Tata; it wakes fresh every day. An
Englishman! Why dost thou think him that?"
"Because he is a giant," said Tata.
Cigarette snapped her fingers:
"I have danced with grenadiers and cuirassiers quite as tall, and
twice as heavy. Apres?"
"Because he bathes--splash! Like any water-dog."
"Because he is silent."
"Because he rises in his stirrups."
"Because he likes the sea."
"Because he knows boxing."
"Because he is so quiet, and blazes like the devil underneath."
Under which mass of overwhelming proofs of nationality the Amie du
Drapeau gave in.
"Yes, like enough. Besides, the other one is English. One of the
Chasseurs d'Afrique tells me that the other one waits on him like a
slave when he can--cleans his harness, litters his horse, saves him
all the hard work, when he can do it without being found out. Where
did they come from?"
"They will never tell."
Cigarette tossed her nonchalant head, with a pout of her cherry lips,
and a slang oath.
"Paf!--they will tell it to me!"
"Thou mayest make a lion tame, a vulture leave blood, a drum beat its
own rataplan, a dead man fire a musket; but thou wilt never make an
Englishman speak when he is bent to be silent."
Cigarette launched a choice missile of barrack slang and an array of
metaphors, which their propounder thought stupendous in their
"When you stole your geese, you did but take your brethren home!
Englishmen are but men. Put the wine in their head, make them whirl in
a waltz, promise them a kiss, and one turns such brains as they have
inside out, as a piou-piou turns a dead soldier's wallet. When a woman
is handsome, she is never denied. He shall tell me where he comes
from. I doubt that it is from England! See here--why not!; first, he
never says God-damn; second, he don't eat his meat raw; third, he
speaks very soft; fourth, he waltzes so light, so light! fifth, he
never grumbles in his throat like an angry bear; sixth, there is no
fog in him. How can he be English with all that?"
"There are English, and English," said the philosophic Tata, who
piqued himself on being serenely cosmopolitan.
Cigarette blew a contemptuous puff of smoke.
"There was never one yet that did not growl! Pauvres diables! If they
don't use their tusks, they sit and sulk!--an Englishman is always
boxing or grumbling--the two make up his life."
Which view of Anglo-rabies she had derived from a profound study of
various vaudevilles, in which the traditional God-damn was pre-eminent
in his usual hues; and having delivered it, she sprang down from her
wall, strapped on her little barrel, nodded to her gros bebees, where
they lounged full-length in the shadow of the stone wall, and left
them to resume their game at Boc, while she started on her way, as
swift and as light as a chamois, singing, with gay, ringing emphasis
that echoed all down the hot and silent air.
Hers was a dashing, dauntless, vivacious life, just in its youth,
loving plunder, and mischief, and mirth; caring for nothing; and
always ready with a laugh, a song, a slang repartee, or a shot from
the dainty pistols thrust in her sash, that a general of division had
given her, whichever best suited the moment. She had never shed tears
in her life.
Her mother a camp-follower, her father nobody knew who, a spoiled
child of the Army from her birth, with a heart as bronzed as her
cheek; yet with odd, stray, nature-sown instincts here and there, of a
devil-may-care nobility, and of a wild grace that nothing could kill--
Cigarette was the pet of the Army of Africa, and was as lawless as
most of her patrons.
She would eat a succulent duck, thinking it all the spicier because it
had been a soldier's "loot"; she would wear the gold plunder off dead
Arabs' dress, and never have a pang of conscience with it; she would
dance all night long, when she had a chance, like a little Bacchante;
she would shoot a man, if need be, with all the nonchalance in the
world. She had had a thousand lovers, from handsome marquises of the
Guides to tawny, black-browed scoundrels in the Zouaves, and she had
never loved anything, except the roll of the pas de charge, and the
sight of her own arch, defiant face, with its scarlet lips and its
short jetty hair, when she saw it by chance in some burnished cuirass,
that served her for a mirror. She was more like a handsome, saucy boy
than anything else under the sun, and yet there was that in the
pretty, impudent, little Friend of the Flag that was feminine with it
all--generous and graceful amid all her boldness, and her license, her
revelries, and the unsettled life she led in the barracks and the
camps, under the shadow of the eagles.
Away she went down the crooked windings and over the ruined gardens of
the old Moorish quarter of the Cashbah; the hilts of the tiny pistols
glancing in the sun, and the fierce fire of the burning sunlight
pouring down unheeded on the brave, bright hawk eyes that had never,
since they first opened to the world, drooped or dimmed for the rays
of the sun, or the gaze of a lover; for the menace of death, or the
presence of war.
Of course, she was a little Amazon; of course, she was a little
Guerrilla,; of course, she did not know what a blush meant; of course,
her thoughts were as slang and as riotous as her mutinous mischief was
in its act; but she was "bon soldat," as she was given to say, with a
toss of her curly head; and she had some of the virtues of soldiers.
Soldiers had been about her ever since she first remembered having a
wooden casserole for a cradle, and sucking down red wine through a
pipe-stem. Soldiers had been her books, her teachers, her models, her
guardians, and, later on, her lovers, all the days of her life. She
had had no guiding-star, except the eagles on the standards; she had
had no cradle-song, except the rataplan and the reveille; she had had
no sense of duty taught her, except to face fire boldly, never to
betray a comrade, and to worship but two deities, "la Gloire" and "la
Yet there were tales told in the barrack-yards and under canvas of the
little Amie du Drapeau that had a gentler side. Of how softly she
would touch the wounded; of how deftly she would cure them. Of how
carelessly she would dash through under a raking fire, to take a
draught of water to a dying man. Of how she had sat by an old
Grenadier's death-couch, to sing to him, refusing to stir, though it
was a fete at Chalons, and she loved fetes as only a French girl can.
Of how she had ridden twenty leagues on a saddleless Arab horse, to
fetch the surgeon of the Spahis to a Bedouin perishing in the desert
of shot-wounds. Of how she had sent every sou of her money to her
mother, so long as that mother lived--a brutal, drunk, vile-tongued
old woman, who had beaten her oftentimes, as the sole maternal
attention, when she was but an infant. These things were told of
Cigarette, and with a perfect truth. She was a thorough scamp, but a
thorough soldier, as she classified herself. Her own sex would have
seen no good in her; but her comrades-at-arms could and did. Of a
surety, she missed virtues that women prize; but, not less of a
surety, had she caught some that they miss.
Singing her refrain, on she dashed now, swift as a greyhound, light as
a hare; glancing here and glancing there as she bounded over the
picturesque desolation of the Cashbah; it was just noon, and there
were few could brave the noon-heat as she did; it was very still;
there was only from a little distance the roll of the French kettle-
drums where the drummers of the African regiments were practicing.
"Hola!" cried Cigarette to herself, as her falcon-eyes darted right
and left, and, like a chamois, she leaped down over the great masses
of Turkish ruins, cleared the channel of a dry water-course, and
alighted just in front of a Chasseur d'Afrique, who was sitting alone
on a broken fragment of white marble, relic of some Moorish mosque,
whose delicate columns, crowned with wind-sown grasses, rose behind
him, against the deep intense blue of the cloudless sky.
He was sitting thoughtfully enough, almost wearily, tracing figures in
the dry sand of the soil with the point of his scabbard; yet he had
all the look about him of a brilliant French soldier, of one who,
moreover, had seen hot and stern service. He was bronzed, but scarcely
looked so after the red, brown, and black of the Zouaves and the
Turcos, for his skin was naturally very fair, the features delicate,
the eyes very soft--for which M. Tata had growled contemptuously, "a
woman's face"--a long, silken chestnut beard swept over his chest; and
his figure, as he leaned there in the blue and scarlet and gold of the
Chasseurs' uniform, with his spurred heel thrust into the sand, and
his arm resting on his knee, was, as Cigarette's critical eye told
her, the figure of a superb cavalry rider; light, supple, long of
limb, wide of chest, with every sinew and nerve firm-knit as links of
steel. She glanced at his hands, which were very white, despite the
sun of Algiers and the labors that fall to a private of Chasseurs.
"Beau lion!" she thought, "and noble, whatever he is."
But the best of blood was not new to her in the ranks of the Algerian
regiments; she had known so many of them--those gilded butterflies of
the Chaussee d'Antin, those lordly spendthrifts of the vieille roche,
who had served in the battalions of the demi-cavalry, or the squadrons
of the French Horse, to be thrust, nameless and unhonored, into a
sand-hole hastily dug with bayonets in the hot hush of an African
She woke him unceremoniously from his reverie, with a challenge to
"Ah, ha! Tata Leroux says you are English; by the faith, he must be
right, or you would never sit musing there like an owl in the
sunlight! Take a draught of my burgundy; bright as rubies. I never
sell bad wines--not I! I know better than to drink them myself."
He started and rose; and, before he took the little wooden drinking-
cup, bowed to her, raising his cap with a grave, courteous obeisance;
a bow that had used to be noted in throne-rooms for its perfection of
"Ah, ma belle, is it you?" he said wearily. "You do me much honor."
Cigarette gave a little petulant twist to the tap of her wine-barrel.
She was not used to that style of salutation. She half liked it--half
resented it. It made her wish, with an impatient scorn for the wish,
that she knew how to read and had not her hair cut short like a boy's
--a weakness the little vivandiere had never been visited with before.
"Morbleu!" she said pettishly. "You are too fine for us mon brave. In
what country, I should wonder, does one learn such dainty ceremony as
"Where should one learn courtesies, if not in France?" he answered
wearily. He had danced with this girl-soldier the night before at a
guinguette ball, seeing her for the first time, for it was almost the
first time he had been in the city since the night when he had thrown
the dice, and lost ten Napoleons and the Bedouins to Claude de
Chanrellon; but his thoughts were far from her in this moment.
"Ouf! You have learnt carte and tierce with your tongue!" cried
Cigarette, provoked to receive no more compliment than that. From
generals and staff officers, as from drummers and trumpeters, she was
accustomed to flattery and wooing, luscious as sugared chocolate, and
ardent as flirtation, with a barrack flavor about it, commonly is; she
would, as often as not, to be sure, finish it with the butt-end of her
pistol, or the butt-end of some bit of stinging sarcasm, but still,
for all that, she liked it, and resented its omission. "They say you
are English, but I don't believe it; you speak too soft, and you sound
the double L's too well. A Spaniard?"
"Do you find me so devout a Catholic that you think so?"
She laughed. "A Greek, then?"
"Still worse. Have you seen me cheat at cards?"
"An Austrian? You waltz like a White Coat!"
He shook his head.
She stamped her little foot into the ground--a foot fit for a model,
with its shapely military boot; spurred, too, for Cigarette rode like
"Say what you are, then, at once."
"A soldier of France. Can you wish me more?"
For the first time her eyes flashed and softened--her one love was the
"True!" she said simply. "But you were not always a soldier of France?
You joined, they say, twelve years ago. What were you before then?"
She here cast herself down in front of him, and, with her elbows on
the sand, and her chin on her hands, watched him with all the frank
curiosity and unmoved nonchalance imaginable, as she launched the
"Before!" he said slowly. "Well--a fool."
"You belonged in the majority, then!" said Cigarette, with a piquance
made a thousand times more piquant by the camp slang she spoke in.
"You should not have had to come into the ranks, mon ami; majorities--
specially that majority--have very smooth sailing generally!"
He looked at her more closely, though she wearied him.
"Where have you got your ironies, Cigarette? You are so young."
She shrugged her shoulders.
"Bah! one is never young, and always young in camps. Young? Pardieu!
When I was four I could swear like a grenadier, plunder like a prefet,
lie like a priest, and drink like a bohemian."
Yet--with all that--and it was the truth, the brow was so open under
the close rings of the curls, the skin so clear under the sun-tan, the
mouth so rich and so arch in its youth!
"Why did you come into the service?" she went on, before he had a
chance to answer her. "You were born in the Noblesse--bah! I know an
aristocrat at a glance! Now many of those aristocrats come; shoals of
them; but it is always for something. They all come for something;
most of them have been ruined by the lionnes, a hundred million of
francs gone in a quarter! Ah, bah! what blind bats the best of you
are! They have gambled, or bet, or got into hot water, or fought too
many duels or caused a court scandal, or something; all the
aristocrats that come to Africa are ruined. What ruined you, M.
"Aristocrat? I am none. I am a Corporal of the Chasseurs."
"Diable! I have known a Duke a Corporal! What ruined you?"
"What ruins most men, I imagine--folly."
"Folly, sure enough!" retorted Cigarette, with scornful acquiescence.
She had no patience with him. He danced so deliciously, he looked so
superb, and he would give her nothing but these absent answers.
"Wisdom don't bring men who look as you look into the ranks of the
volunteers for Africa. Besides, you are too handsome to be a sage!"
He laughed a little.
"I never was one, that's certain. And you are too pretty to be a
"A what?" She did not know the word. "Is that a good cigar you have?
Give me one. Do women smoke in your old country?"
"Oh, yes--many of them."
"Where is it, then?"
"I have no country--now."
"But the one you had?"
"I have forgotten I ever had one."
"Did it treat you ill, then?"
"Not at all."
"Had you anything you cared for in it?"
"What was it? A woman?"
He stooped his head a little as he said it, and traced more figures
slowly in the sand.
She drew a short, quick breath. She understood that; she would only
have laughed at him had it been a woman; Cigarette was more veracious
than complimentary in her estimate of her own sex.
"There was a man in the Cuirassiers I knew," she went on softly,
"loved a horse like that;--he would have died for Cossack--but he was
a terrible gambler, terrible. Not but what I like to play myself.
Well, one day he played and played till he was mad, and everything was
gone; and then in his rage he staked the only thing he had left.
Staked and lost the horse! He never said a word; but he just slipped a
pistol in his pocket, went to the stable, kissed Cossack once--twice--
thrice--and shot himself through the heart."
"Poor fellow!" murmured the Chasseur d'Afrique, in his chestnut beard.
Cigarette was watching him with all the keenness of her falcon eyes;
"he had gambled away a good deal too," she thought. "It is always the
same old story with them."
"Your cigars are good, mon lion," she said impatiently, as she sprang
up; her lithe, elastic figure in the bright vivandiere uniform
standing out in full relief against the pearly gray of the ruined
pillars, the vivid green of the rank vegetation, and the intense light
of the noon. "Your cigars are good, but it is more than your company
is! If you had been as dull as this last night, I would not have
danced a single turn with you in the cancan!"
And with a bound to which indignation lent wings like a swallow's, the
Friend of the Flag, insulted and amazed at the apathy with which her
advances to friendship had been received, dashed off at her topmost
speed, singing all the louder out of bravado. "To have nothing more to
say to me after dancing with me all night!" thought Cigarette, with
fierce wrath at such contumely, the first neglect the pet of the
Spahis had ever experienced.
She was incensed, too, that she had been degraded into that momentary
wish that she knew how to read and looked less like a boy--just
because a Chasseur with white hands and silent ways had made her a
grave bow! She was more incensed still because she could not get at
his history, and felt, despite herself, a reluctance to bribe him for
it with those cajoleries whose potency she had boasted to Tata Leroux.
"Let him take care!" muttered the soldier-coquette passionately, in
her little white teeth; so small and so pearly, though they had
gripped a bridle tight before then, when each hand was filled with a
pistol. "Let him take care! If he offend me there are five hundred
swords that will thrust civility into him, five hundred shots that
will teach him the cost of daring to provoke Cigarette!"
En route through the town her wayward way took the pretty brunette
Friend of the Flag as many devious meandering as a bird takes in a
summer's day flight, when it stops here for a berry, there for a grass
seed, here to dip its beak into cherries, there to dart after a
dragon-fly, here to shake its wings in a brook, there to poise on a
She loitered in a thousand places, for Cigarette knew everybody; she
chatted with a group of Turcos, she emptied her barrel for some
Zouaves, she ate sweetmeats with a lot of negro boys, she boxed a
little drummer's ear for slurring over the "r'lin tintin" at his
practice, she drank a demi-tasse with some officers at a cafe; she had
ten minutes' pistol-shooting, where she beat hollow a young dandy of
the Guides who had come to look at Algiers for a week, and made even
points with one of the first shots of the "Cavalry a pied," as the
Algerian antithesis runs. Finally she paused before the open French
window of a snow-white villa, half-buried in tamarisk and orange and
pomegranate, with the deep-hued flowers glaring in the sun, and a
hedge of wild cactus fencing it in; through the cactus she made her
way as easily as a rabbit burrows; it would have been an impossibility
to Cigarette to enter by any ordinary means; and balancing herself
lightly on the sill for a second, stood looking in at the chamber.
"Ho, M. le Marquis! the Zouaves have drunk all my wine up; fill me my
keg with yours for once--the very best burgundy, mind. I'm half afraid
your cellar will hurt my reputation."
The chamber was very handsome, hung and furnished in the very best
Paris fashion, and all glittering with amber and ormolu and velvets;
in it half a dozen men--officers of the cavalry--were sitting over
their noon breakfast, and playing at lansquenet at the same time. The
table was crowded with dishes of every sort, and wines of every
vintage; and the fragrance of their bouquet, the clouds of smoke, and
the heavy scent of the orange blossom without, mingled together in an
intense perfume. He whom she addressed, M. le Marquis de Chateauroy,
laughed, and looked up.
"Ah, is it thee, my pretty brunette? Take what thou wantest out of the
"The best growths?" asked Cigarette, with the dubious air and caution
of a connoisseur.
"Yes!" said M. le Marquis, amused with the precautions taken with his
cellar, one of the finest in Algiers. "Come in and have some
breakfast, ma belle. Only pay the toll."
Where he sat between the window and the table he caught her in his
arms and drew her pretty face down; Cigarette, with the laugh of a
saucy child, whisked her cigar out of her mouth and blew a great cloud
of smoke in his eyes. She had no particular fancy for him, though she
had for his wines; shouts of mirth from the other men completed the
Marquis' discomfiture, as she swayed away from him, and went over to
the other side of the table, emptying some bottles unceremoniously
into her wine-keg; iced, ruby, perfumy claret that she could not have
bought anywhere for the barracks.
"Hola!" cried the Marquis, "thou art not generally so coy with thy
Cigarette tossed her head.
"I don't like bad clarets after good! I've just been with your
Corporal, 'Bel-a-faire-peur'; you are no beauty after him, M. le
Chateauroy's face darkened; he was a colossal-limbed man, whose bone
was iron, and whose muscles were like oak-fibers; he had a dark, keen
head like an eagle's; the brow narrow, but very high, looking higher
because the close-cut hair was worn off the temples; thin lips hidden
by heavy curling mustaches, and a skin burned black by long African
service. Still he was fairly handsome enough not to have muttered so
heavy an oath as he did at the vivandiere's jest.
"Sacre bleu! I wish my corporal were shot! One can never hear the last
Cigarette darted a quick glance at him. "Oh, ho; jealous, mon brave!"
thought her quick wits. "And why, I wonder?"
"You haven't a finer soldier in your Chasseurs, mon cher; don't wish
him shot, for the good of the service," said the Viscount de
Chanrellon, who had now a command of his own in the Light Cavalry of
Algiers. "Pardieu! If I had to choose whether I'd be backed by 'Bel-a-
faire-peur,' or by six other men in a skirmish, I'd choose him, and
risk the odds."
Chateauroy tossed off his burgundy with a contemptuous impatience.
"Diable! That is the exaggerated nonsense one always hears about this
fellow--as if he were a second Roland, or a revivified Bayard! I see
nothing particular in him, except that he's too fine a gentleman for
"Fine? ah!" laughed Cigarette. "He made me bow this morning like a
chamberlain; and his beard is like carded silk, and he has such
woman's hands, mon Dieu! But he is a croc-mitaine, too."
"Rather!" laughed Claude de Chanrellon, as magnificent a soldier
himself as ever crossed swords. "I said he would eat fire the very
minute he played that queer game of dice with me years ago. I wish I
had him instead of you, Chateauroy; like lightning in a charge; and
yet the very man for a dangerous bit of secret service that wants the
softness of a panther. We all let our tongues go too much, but he says
so little--just a word here, a word there--when one's wanted--no more;
and he's the devil's own to fight."
The Marquis heard the praise of his Corporal, knitting his heavy
brows; it was evident the private was no favorite with him.
"The fellow rides well enough," he said, with an affectation of
carelessness; "there--for what I see--is the end of his marvels. I
wish you had him, Claude, with all my soul."
"Oh, ha!" cried Chanrellon, wiping the Rhenish off his tawny
mustaches, "he should have been a captain by this if I had. Morbleu!
He is a splendid sabreur--kills as many men to his own sword as I
could myself, when it comes to a hand-to-hand fight; breaks horses in
like magic; rides them like the wind; has a hawk's eye over open
country; obeys like clockwork; what more can you want?"
"Obeys! Yes!" said the Colonel of Chasseurs, with a snarl. "He'd obey
without a word if you ordered him to walk up to a cannon's mouth, and
be blown from it; but he gives you such a d----d languid grand
seigneur glance as he listens that one would think he commanded the
"But he's very popular with your men, too?"
"Monsieur, the worst quality a corporal can have. His idea of
maintaining discipline is to treat them to cognac and give them
"Pardieu! Not a bad way, either, with our French fire-eaters. He knows
them that he has to deal with; that brave fellow. Your squadrons would
go to the devil after him."
The Colonel gave a grim laugh.
"I dare say nobody knows the way better."
Cigarette, flirting with the other officers, drinking champagne by
great glassfuls, eating bonbons from one, sipping another's soup,
pulling the limbs of a succulent ortolan to pieces with a relish, and
devouring truffles with all the zest of a bon-vivant, did not lose a
word, and catching the inflection of Chateauroy's voice, settled with
her own thoughts that "Bel-a-faire-peur" was not a fair field or a
smooth course with his Colonel. The weather-cock heart of the little
"Friend of the Flag" veered round, with her sex's common custom, to
the side that was the weakest.
"Dieu de Dieu, M. le Colonel!" she cried, while she ate M. le
Colonel's foie gras with as little ceremony and as much enjoyment as
would be expected from a young plunderer accustomed to think a meal
all the better spiced by being stolen "by the rules of war"--"whatever
else your handsome Corporal is, he is an aristocrat. Ah, ha! I know
the aristocrats--I do! Their touch is so gentle, and their speech is
so soft, and they have no slang of the camp, and yet they are such
diablotins to fight and eat steel, and die laughing, all so quiet and
nonchalant. Give me the aristocrats--the real thing, you know. Not the
ginger-cakes, just gilt, that are ashamed of being honest bread--but
the old blood like Bel-a-faire-peur."
The Colonel laughed, but restlessly; the little ingrate had aimed at a
sore point in him. He was of the First Empire Nobility, and he was
weak enough, though a fierce, dauntless iron-nerved soldier, to be
discontented with the great fact that his father had been a hero of
the Army of Italy, and scarce inferior in genius to Massena, because
impatient of the minor one that, before strapping on a knapsack to
have his first taste of war under Custine, the Marshal had been but a
postilion at a posting inn in the heart of the Nivernais.
"Ah, my brunette!" he answered with a rough laugh, "have you taken my
popular Corporal for your lover? You should give your old friends
warning first, or he may chance to get an ugly spit on a saber."
The Amie du Drapeau tossed off her sixth glass of champagne. She felt
for the first time in her life a flush of hot blood on her brown,
clear cheek, well used as she was to such jests and such lovers as
"Ma foi!" she said coolly. "He would be more likely to spit than be
spitted if it came to a duel. I should like to see him in a duel;
there is not a prettier sight in the world when both men have science.
As for fighting for me! Morbleau! I will thank nobody to have the
impudence to do it, unless I order them out. Coqueline got shot for
me, you remember; he was a pretty fellow, Coqueline, and they killed
him so clumsily, that they disfigured him terribly--it was quite a
pity. I said then I would have no more handsome men fight about me.
You may, if you like, M. le Black Hawk."
Which title she gave with a saucy laugh, hitting with a chocolate
bonbon the black African-burnt visage of the omnipotent chief she had
the audacity to attack. High or low, they were all the same to
Cigarette. She would have "slanged" the Emperor himself with the self-
same coolness, and the Army had given her a passport of immunity so
wide that it would have fared ill with anyone who had ever attempted
to bring the vivandiere to book for her uttermost mischief.
"By the way!" she went on, quick as thought, with her reckless, devil-
may-care gayety. "One thing! Your Corporal will demoralize the army of
"He shall have an ounce of cold lead before he does. What in?"
"He will demoralize it," said Cigarette, with a sagacious shake of her
head. "If they follow his example we shan't have a Chasseur, or a
Spahi, or a Piou-piou, or a Sapeur worth anything--"
"Sacre! What does he do?" The Colonel's strong teeth bit savagely
through his cigar; he would have given much to have been able to find
a single thing of insubordination or laxity of duty in a soldier who
irritated and annoyed him, but who obeyed him implicitly, and was one
of the most brilliant "fire-eaters" of his regiment.
"He won't only demoralize the army," pursued the Cigarette, with
vivacious eloquence, "but if his example is followed, he'll ruin the
Prefets, close the Bureaux, destroy the Exchequer, beggar all the
officials, make African life as tame as milk and water, and rob you,
M. le Colonel, of your very highest and dearest privilege!"
"Sacre bleu!" cried her hearers, as their hands instinctively sought
their swords; "what does he do?"
Cigarette looked at them out of her arch black lashes.
"Why, he never thieves from the Arabs! If the fashion comes in, adieu
to our occupation. Court-martial him, Colonel!"
With which sally Cigarette thrust her pretty soft curls back of her
temples, and launched herself into lansquenet with all the ardor of a
gambler and the vivacity of a child; her eyes flashing, her cheeks
flushing, her little teeth set, her whole soul in a whirl of the game,
made all the more riotous by the peals of laughter from her comrades
and the wines that were washed down like water. Cigarette was a
terrible little gamester, and had gaming made very easy to her, for it
was the creed of the Army that her losses never counted, but her gains
were paid to her often double or treble. Indeed, so well did she play,
and so well did the goddess of hazard favor her, that she might have
grown a millionaire on the fruits of her dice and her cards, but for
this fact, that whatever the little Friend of the Flag had in her
hands one hour was given away the next, to the first wounded soldier,
or ailing veteran, or needy Arab woman that required the charity.
As much gold was showered on her as on Isabel of the Jockey Club; but
Cigarette was never the richer for it. "Bah!" she would say, when they
told her of her heedlessness, "money is like a mill, no good standing
still. Let it turn, turn, turn, as fast as ever it can, and the more
bread will come from it for the people to eat."
The vivandiere was by instinct a fine political economist.
Meanwhile, where she had left him among the stones of the ruined
mosque, the Chasseur, whom they nicknamed Bel-a-faire-peur, in a
double sense, because of his "woman's face," as Tata Leroux termed it,
and because of the terror his sword had become through North Africa,
sat motionless with his right arm resting on his knee, and his spurred
heel thrust into the sand; the sun shining down unheeded in its
fierce, burning glare on the chestnut masses of his beard and the
bright glitter of his uniform.
He was a dashing cavalry soldier, who had had a dozen wounds cut over
his body by the Bedouin swords, in many and hot skirmishes; who had
waited through sultry African nights for the lion's tread, and had
fought the desert-king and conquered; who had ridden a thousand miles
over the great sand waste, and the boundless arid plains, and slept
under the stars with the saddle beneath his head, and his rifle in his
hand, all through the night; who had served, and served well, in
fierce, arduous, unremitting work, in trying campaigns and in close
discipline; who had blent the verve, the brilliance, the daring, the
eat-drink-and-enjoy-for-to-morrow-we-die of the French Chasseur, with
something that was very different, and much more tranquil.
Yet, though as bold a man as any enrolled in the French Service, he
sat alone here in the shadow of the column, thoughtful, motionless,
lost in silence.
In his left hand was a Galignani, six months old, and his eye rested
on a line in the obituary:
"On the 10th ult., at Royallieu, suddenly, the Right Hon. Denzil,
Viscount Royallieu; aged 90."
CIGARETTE EN BACCHANTE.
Vanitas vanitatum! The dust of death lies over the fallen altars of
Bubastis, where once all Egypt came down the flood of glowing Nile,
and Herodotus mused under the shadowy foliage, looking on the lake-
like rings of water. The Temple of the Sun, where the beauty of
Asenath beguiled the Israelite to forget his sale into bondage and
banishment, lies in shapeless hillocks, over which canter the mules of
dragomen and chatter the tongues of tourists. Where the Lutetian
Palace of Julian saluted their darling as Augustus, the sledge-hammer
and the stucco of the Haussmann fiat bear desolation in their wake.
Levantine dice are rattled where Hypatia's voice was heard. Bills of
exchange are trafficked in where Cleopatra wandered under the palm
aisles of her rose gardens. Drummers roll their caserne-calls where
Drusus fell and Sulla laid down dominion.
And here--in the land of Hannibal, in the conquest of Scipio, in the
Phoenicia whose loveliness used to flash in the burning, sea-mirrored
sun, while her fleets went eastward and westward for the honey of
Athens and the gold of Spain--here Cigarette danced the cancan!
A little hostelry of the barriere swung its sign of the As de Pique
where feathery palms once had waved above mosques of snowy gleam, with
marble domes and jeweled arabesques, and the hush of prayer under
columned aisles. "Here are sold wine, liquor and tobacco," was written
where once verses of the Koran had been blazoned by reverent hands
along porphyry cornices and capitals of jasper. A Cafe Chantant reared
its impudent little roof where once, far back in the dead cycles,
Phoenician warriors had watched the galleys of the gold-haired
favorite of the gods bear down to smite her against whom the one
unpardonable sin of rivalry to Rome was quoted.
The riot of a Paris guinguette was heard where once the tent of
Belisarius might have been spread above the majestic head that towered
in youth above the tempestuous seas of Gothic armies, as when,
silvered with age, it rose as a rock against the on-sweeping flood of
Bulgarian hordes. The grisette charms of little tobacconists,
milliners, flower-girls, lemonade-sellers, bonbon-sellers, and filles
de joie flaunted themselves in the gaslight where the lustrous
sorceress eyes of Antonina might have glanced over the Afric Sea,
while her wanton's heart, so strangely filled with leonine courage and
shameless license, heroism and brutality, cruelty and self-devotion,
swelled under the purples of her delicate vest, at the glory of the
man she at once dishonored and adored.
Vanitas vanitatum! Under the thirsty soil, under the ill-paved
streets, under the arid turf, the Legions lay dead, with the
Carthaginians they had borne down under the mighty pressure of their
phalanx; and the Byzantine ranks were dust, side by side with the
soldiers of Gelimer. And here, above the graves of two thousand
centuries, the little light feet of Cigarette danced joyously in that
triumph of the Living, who never remember that they also are dancing
onward to the tomb.
It was a low-roofed, white-plastered, gaudily decked, smoke-dried
mimicry of the guinguettes beyond Paris. The long room, that was an
imitation of the Salle de Mars on a Lilliputian scale, had some
bunches of lights flaring here and there, and had its walls adorned
with laurel wreaths, stripes of tri-colored paint, vividly colored
medallions of the Second Empire, and a little pink gauze flourished
about it, that flashed into brightness under the jets of flame--
trumpery, yet trumpery which, thanks to the instinct of the French
esprit, harmonized and did not vulgarize; a gift French instinct alone
possesses. The floor was bare and well polished; the air full of
tobacco smoke, wine fumes, brandy odors, and an overpowering scent of
oil, garlic and pot au feu. Riotous music pealed through it, that even
in its clamor kept a certain silvery ring, a certain rhythmical
cadence. Pipes were smoked, barrack slang, camp slang, barriere slang,
temple slang, were chattered volubly. Theresa's songs were sung by
bright-eyed, sallow-cheeked Parisiennes, and chorused by the lusty
lungs of Zouaves and Turcos. Good humor prevailed, though of a wild
sort; the mad gallop of the Rigolboche had just flown round the room,
like lightning, to the crash and the tumult of the most headlong music
that ever set the spurred heels stamping and grisettes' heels flying;
and now where the crowds of soldiers and women stood back to leave her
a clear place, Cigarette was dancing alone.
She had danced the cancan; she had danced since sunset; she had danced
till she had tired out cavalrymen, who could go days and nights in the
saddle without a sense of fatigue, and made Spahis cry quarter, who
never gave it by any chance in the battlefield; and she was dancing
now like a little Bacchante, as fresh as if she had just sprung up
from a long summer day's rest. Dancing as she would dance only now and
then, when caprice took her, and her wayward vivacity was at the
height, on the green space before a tent full of general officers, on
the bare floor of a barrack-room, under the canvas of a fete-day's
booth, or as here in the music-hall of a Cafe.
Marshals had more than once essayed to bribe the famous little Friend
of the Flag to dance for them, and had failed; but, for a set of
soldiers--war-worn, dust-covered, weary with toil and stiff with
wounds--she would do it till they forgot their ills and got as
intoxicated with it as with champagne. For her gros bebees, if they
were really in want of it, she would do anything. She would flout a
star-covered general, box the ears of a brilliant aid, send killing
missiles of slang at a dandy of a regiment de famille, and refuse
point-blank a Russian grand duke; but to "mes enfants," as she was
given to calling the rough tigers and grisly veterans of the Army of
Africa, Cigarette was never capricious; however mischievously she
would rally, or contemptuously would rate them, when they deserved it.
And she was dancing for them now.
Her soft, short curls all fluttering, her cheeks all bright with a
scarlet flush, her eyes as black as night and full of fire; her gay
little uniform, with its scarlet and purple, making her look like a
fuchsia bell tossed by the wind to and fro, ever so lightly, on its
delicate, swaying stem; Cigarette danced with the wild grace of an
Almeh, of a Bayadere, of a Nautch girl--as untutored and instinctive
in her as its song to a bird, as its swiftness to a chamois. To see
Cigarette was like drinking light, fiery wines, whose intoxication was
gay as mischief, and sparkling as themselves. All the warmth of
Africa, all the wit of France, all the bohemianism of the Flag, all
the caprices of her sex, were in that bewitching dancing. Flashing,
fluttering, circling, whirling; glancing like a saber's gleam, tossing
like a flower's head, bounding like an antelope, launching like an
arrow, darting like a falcon, skimming like a swallow; then for an
instant resting as indolently, as languidly, as voluptuously, as a
water-lily rests on the water's breast--Cigarette en Bacchante no man
When once she abandoned herself to the afflatus of the dance delirium,
she did with her beholders what she would. The famous Cachucha, that
made the reverend cardinals of Spain fling off their pontifical
vestments and surrender themselves to the witchery of the castanets
and the gleam of the white, twinkling feet, was never more
irresistible, more enchanting, more full of wild, soft, bizarre,
delicious grace. It was a poem of motion and color, an ode to Venus
All her heart was in it--that heart of a girl and a soldier, of a hawk
and a kitten, of a Bohemian and an epicurean, of a Lascar and a child,
which beat so brightly and so boldly under the dainty gold aiglettes,
with which she laced her dashing little uniform.
In the Chambers of Zephyrs, among the Douars of Spahis, on sandy soil
under African stars, above the heaped plunder brought in from a
razzia, in the yellow light of candles fastened to bayonets stuck in
the earth at a bivouac, on the broad deal table of a barrack-room full
of black-browed conscrits indigenes, amid the thundering echoes of the
Marseillaise des Bataillons shouted from the brawny chests of Zouaves,
Cigarette had danced, danced, danced; till her whole vivacious life
seemed pressed into one hour, and all the mirth and mischief of her
little brigand's soul seemed to have found their utterance in those
tiny, slender, spurred, and restless feet, that never looked to touch
the earth which they lit on lightly as a bird alights, only to leave
it afresh, with wider, swifter bound, with ceaseless, airy flight.
So she danced now, in the cabaret of the As de Pique. She had a famous
group of spectators, not one of whom knew how to hold himself back
from springing in to seize her in his arms, and whirl with her down
the floor. But it had been often told them by experience that, unless
she beckoned one out, a blow of her clinched hand and a cessation of
her impromptu pas de seul would be the immediate result. Her
spectators were renowned croc-mitaines; men whose names rang like
trumpets in the ear of Kabyle and Marabout; men who had fought under
the noble colors of the day of Mazagran, or had cherished or emulated
its traditions; men who had the salient features of all the varied
species that make up the soldiers of Africa.
There was Ben Arslan, with his crimson burnous wrapped round his
towering stature, from whom Moor and Jew fled, as before a pestilence
--the fiercest, deadliest, most voluptuous of all the Spahis;
brutalized in his drink, merciless in his loves; all an Arab when once
back in the desert; with a blow of a scabbard his only payment for
forage, and a thrust of his saber his only apology to husbands; but to
the service a slave, and in the combat a lion.
There was Beau-Bruno, a dandy of Turcos, whose snowy turban and olive
beauty bewitched half the women of Algeria; who himself affected to
neglect his conquests, with a supreme contempt for those indulgences,
but who would have been led out and shot rather than forego the
personal adornings for which his adjutant and his capitaine du bureau
growled unceasing wrath at him with every day that shone.
There was Pouffer-de-Rire, a little Tringlo, the wittiest, gayest,
happiest, sunniest-tempered droll in all the army; who would sing the
camp-songs so joyously through a burning march that the whole of the
battalions would break into one refrain as with one throat, and press
on laughing, shouting, running, heedless of thirst, or heat, or
famine, and as full of monkey-like jests as any gamins.
There was En-ta-maboull, so nicknamed from his love for that
unceremonious slang phrase--a Zouave who had the history of a Gil Blas
and the talent of a Crichton; the morals of an Abruzzi brigand and the
wit of a Falstaff; aquiline-nosed, eagle-eyed, black-skinned as an
African, with adventures enough in his life to outvie Munchausen; with
a purse always penniless, as the camp sentence runs; who thrust his
men through the body as coolly as others kill wasps; who roasted a
shepherd over a camp-fire for contumacy in concealing Bedouin where-
abouts; yet who would pawn his last shirt at the bazaar to help a
comrade in debt, and had once substituted himself for, and received
fifty blows on the loins in the stead of his sworn friend, whom he
loved with that love of David for Jonathan which, in Caserne life, is
readier found than in Club life.
There was Pattes-du-Tigre, a small, wiry, supple-limbed fire-eater,
with a skin like a coal and eyes that sparkled like the live coal's
flame; a veteran of the Joyeux; who could discipline his roughs as a
sheepdog his lambs, and who had one curt martial law for his
detachment; brief as Draco's, and trimmed to suit either an attack on
the enemy or the chastisement of a mutineer, lying in one single word
There was Barbe-Grise, a grisly veteran of Zephyrs, who held the
highest repute of any in his battalion for rushing on to a foe with a
foot speed that could equal the canter of an Arab's horse; for having
stood alone once the brunt of thirty Bedouins' attack, and ended by
beating them back, though a dozen spearheads were launched into his
body and his pantalons garances were filled with his own blood; and
for framing a matchless system of night plunder that swept the country
bare as a table-rock in an hour, and made the colons surrender every
hidden treasure, from a pot of gold to a hen's eggs, from a caldron of
couscoussou to a tom-cat.
There was Alcide Echauffourees, also a Zephyr, who had his nickname
from the marvelous changes of costume with which he would pursue his
erratic expedition, and deceive the very Arabs themselves into
believing him a born Mussulman; a very handsome fellow, the Lauzun of
his battalion, the Brummel of his Caserne; coquette with his kepi on
one side of his graceful head, and his mustaches soft as a lady's
hair; whose paradise was a score of dangerous intrigues, and whose
seventh heaven was a duel with an infuriated husband; incorrigibly
lazy, but with the Italian laziness, as of the panther who sleeps in
the sun, and with such episodes of romance, mischief, love, and
deviltry in his twenty-five years of existence as would leave behind
them all the invention of Dumas, pere ou fils.
All these and many more like them were the spectators of Cigarette's
ballet; applauding with the wild hurrah of the desert, with the
clashing of spurs, with the thunder of feet, with the demoniac shrieks
of irrepressible adoration and delight.
And every now and then her bright eyes would flash over the ring of
familiar faces, and glance from them with an impatient disappointment
as she danced; her gros bebees were not enough for her. She wanted a
Chasseur with white hands and a grave smile to be among them; and she
shook back her curls, and flushed angrily as she noted his absence,
and went on with the pirouettes, the circling flights, the wild,
resistless abandonment of her inspirations, till she was like a little
desert-hawk that is intoxicated with the scent of prey borne down upon
the wind, and wheeling like a mad thing in the transparent ether and
the hot sun-glow.
L'As de Pique was the especial estaminet of the chasses-marais. He was
in the house; she knew it; had she not seen him drinking with some
others, or rather paying for all, but taking little himself, just as
she entered? He was in the house, this mysterious Bel-a-faire-peur--
and was not here to see her dance! Not here to see the darling of the
Douars; the pride of every Chacal, Zephyr, and Chasseur in Africa; the
Amie du Drapeau, who was adored by everyone, from Chefs de Bataillons
to fantassins, and toasted by every drinker, from Algiers to Oran, in
the Champagne of Messieurs les Generaux as in the Cric of the Loustics
round a camp-fire!
He was not there; he was leaning over the little wooden ledge of a
narrow window in an inner room, from which, one by one, some Spahis
and some troopers of his own tribu, with whom he had just been
drinking such burgundies and brandies as the place could give, had
sloped away, one by one, under the irresistible attraction of the
vivandiere. An attraction, however, that had not seduced them till all
the bottles were emptied; bottles more in number and higher in cost
than was prudent in a corporal who had but his pay, and that scant
enough to keep himself, and who had known what it was to find a roll
of white bread and a cup of coffee a luxury beyond all reach, and to
have to sell his whole effects up to the last thing in his haversack
to buy a toss of thin wine when he was dying of thirst, or a slice of
melon when he was parching with African fever.
But prudence had at no time been his specialty, and the reckless life
of Algeria was not one to teach it, with its frank, brotherly
fellowship that bound the soldiers of each battalion, or each
squadron, so closely in a fraternity of which every member took as
freely as he gave; its gay, careless carpe diem camp-philosophy--the
unconscious philosophy of men who enjoyed, heart and soul, if they had
a chance, because they knew they might be shot dead before another day
broke; and its swift and vivid changes that made tirailleurs and
troopers one hour rich as a king in loot, in wine, in dark-eyed
captives at the sacking of a tribe, to be the next day famished,
scorched, dragging their weary limbs, or urging their sinking horses
through endless sand and burning heat, glad to sell a cartouche if
they dared so break regimental orders, or to rifle a hen-roost if they
came near one, to get a mouthful of food; changing everything in their
haversack for a sup of dirty water, and driven to pay with the thrust
of a saber for a lock of wretched grass to keep their beasts alive
through the sickliness of a sirocco.
All these taught no caution to any nature normally without it; and the
chief thing that his regiment had loved in him whom they named Bel-a-
faire-peur from the first day that he had bound his red waist-sash
about his loins, and the officers of the bureau had looked over the
new volunteer, murmuring admiringly in their teeth "This gallant will
do great things!" had been that all he had was given, free as the
winds, to any who asked or needed.
The all was slender enough. Unless he live by the ingenuity of his own
manufactures, or by thieving or intimidating the people of the
country, a French soldier has but barren fare and a hard struggle with
hunger and poverty; and it was the one murmur against him, when he was
lowest in the ranks, that he would never follow the fashion, in
wringing out by force or threat the possessions of the native
population. The one reproach, that made his fellow soldiers impatient
and suspicious of him, was that he refused any share in those rough
arguments of blows and lunges with which they were accustomed to
persuade every victim they came nigh to yield them up all such
treasures of food, or drink, or riches, from sheep's liver and
couscoussou, to Morocco carpets and skins of brandy and coins hid in
the sand, that the Arabs might be so unhappy as to own in their reach.
That the fattest pullet of the poorest Bedouin was as sacred to him as
the banquet of his own Chef d'Escadron, let him be ever so famished
after the longest day's march, was an eccentricity, and an insult to
the usages of the corps, for which not even his daring and his
popularity could wholly procure him pardon.
But this defect in him was counterbalanced by the lavishness with
which his pay was lent, given, or spent in the very moment of its
receipt. If a man of his tribu wanted anything, he knew that Bel-a-
faire-peur would offer his last sous to aid him, or, if money were all
gone, would sell the last trifle he possessed to get enough to assist
his comrade. It was a virtue which went far to vouch for all others in
the view of his lawless, open-handed brethren of the barracks and the
Camp, and made them forgive him many moments when the mood of silence
and the habit of solitude, not uncommon with him, would otherwise have
incensed a fraternity with whom to live apart is the deadliest charge,
and the sentence of excommunication against any who dare to provoke
One of those moods was on him now.
He had had a drinking bout with the men who had left him, and had
laughed as gayly and as carelessly, if not as riotously, as any of
them at the wild mirth, the unbridled license, the amatory
recitations, and the Bacchic odes in their lawless sapir, that had
ushered the night in while his wines unlocked the tongues and flowed
down the throats of the fierce Arab-Spahis and the French cavalrymen.
But now he leaned out of the casement, with his arms folded on the
sill and a short pipe in his teeth, thoughtful and solitary after the
orgy whose heavy fumes and clouds of smoke still hung heavily on the
The window looked on a little, dull, close courtyard, where the yellow
leaves of a withered gourd trailed drearily over the gray, uneven
stones. The clamor of the applause and the ring of the music from the
dancing-hall echoed with a whirling din in his ear, and made in
sharper, stranger contrast the quiet of the narrow court with its
strip of starry sky above its four high walls.
He leaned there musing and grave, hearing little of the noise about
him; there was always noise of some sort in the clangor and tumult of
barrack or bivouac life, and he had grown to heed it no more than he
heeded the roar of desert beasts about him, when he slept in the
desert or the hills, but looked dreamily out at the little shadowy
square, with the sear gourd leaves and the rough, misshapen stones.
His present and his future were neither much brighter than the gloomy,
walled-in den on which he gazed.
Twelve years before, when he had been ordered into the exercise-ground
for the first time, to see of what mettle he was made, the instructor
had watched him with amazed eyes, muttering to himself, "This is no
raw recruit,--this fellow! What a rider! Dieu de Dieu! he knows more
than we can teach. He has served before now--served in some emperor's
And when he had passed from the exercising-ground to the campaign, the
Army had found him one of the most splendid of its many splendid
soldiers; and in the daily folios there was no page of achievements,
of exploits, of services, of dangers, that showed a more brilliant
array of military deserts than his. Yet, for many years, he had been
passed by unnoticed. He had now not even the cross on his chest, and
he had only slowly and with infinite difficulty been promoted so far
as he stood now--a Corporal in the Chasseurs d'Afrique--a step only
just accorded him because wounds innumerable and distinctions without
number in countless skirmishes had made it impossible to cast him
wholly aside any longer.
The cause lay in the implacable enmity of one man--his Chief.
Far-sundered as they were by position, and rarely as they could come
into actual contact, that merciless weight of animosity, from the
great man to his soldier had lain on the other like iron, and clogged
him from all advancement. His thoughts were of it now. Only to-day, at
an inspection, the accidentally broken saddle-girth of a boy-conscript
had furnished pretext for a furious reprimand, a volley of insolent
opprobrium hurled at himself, under which he had had to sit mute in
his saddle, with no other sign that he was human beneath the outrage
than the blood that would, despite himself, flush the pale bronze of
his forehead. His thoughts were on it now.
"There are many losses that are bitter enough," he mused; "but there
is not one so bitter as the loss of the right to resent!"
A whirlwind of laughter, so loud that it drowned the music of the
shrill violins and thundering drums, echoed through the rooms and
shook him from his reverie.
"They are bons enfants," he thought, with a half smile, as he
listened; "they are more honest in their mirth, as in their wrath,
than we ever were in that old world of mine."
Amid the shouts, the crash, the tumult, the gay, ringing voice of
Cigarette rose distinct. She had apparently paused in her dancing to
exchange one of those passes of arms which were her specialty, in the
Sabir that she, a child of the regiments of Africa, had known as her
"You call him a misanthrope?" she cried disdainfully. "And you have
been drinking at his expense, you rascal?"
The grumbled assent of the accused was inaudible.
"Ingrate!" pursued the scornful, triumphant voice of the Vivandiere;
"you would pawn your mother's grave-clothes! You would eat your
children, en fricassee! You would sell your father's bones for a
draught of brandy!"
The screams of mirth redoubled; Cigarette's style of withering
eloquence was suited to all her auditors' tastes, and under the chorus
of laughs at his cost, her infuriated adversary plucked up courage and
roared forth a defiance.
"White hands and a brunette's face are fine things for a soldier. He
kills women--he kills women with his lady's grace!"
"He does not pull their ears to make them give him their money, and
beat them with a stick if they don't fry his eggs fast enough, as you
do, Barbe-Grise," retorted the contemptuous tones of the champion of
the absent. "White hands, morbleu! Well, his hands are not always in
other people's pockets as yours are!"
This forcible recrimination is in high relish in the Caserne; the
screams of mirth redoubled. Barbe-Grise was a redoubtable authority
whom the wildest dare-devil in his brigade dared not contradict, and
he was getting the worst of it under the lash of Cigarette's tongue,
to the infinite glee of the whole ballroom.
"Dame!--his hands cannot work as mine can!" growled her opponent.
"Oh, ho!" cried the little lady, with supreme disdain; "they don't
twist cocks' throats and skin rabbits they have thieved, perhaps, like
yours; but they would wring your neck before breakfast to get an
appetite, if they could touch such canaille."
"Canaille?" thundered the insulted Barbe-Grise. "If you were but a
"What would you do to me, brigand?" screamed Cigarette, in fits of
laughter. "Give me fifty blows of a stick, as your officers gave you
last week for stealing his gun from a new soldier?"
A growl like a lion's from the badgered Barbe-Grise shook the walls;
she had cast her mischievous stroke at him on a very sore point; the
unhappy young conscript's rifle having been first dexterously thieved
from him, and then as dexterously sold to an Arab.
"Sacre bleu!" he roared; "you are in love with this conqueror of women
--this soldier aristocrat!"
The only answer to this unbearable insult was a louder tumult of
laughter; a crash, a splash, and a volley of oaths from Barbe-Grise.
Cigarette had launched a bottle of vin ordinaire at him, blinded his
eyes, and drenched his beard with the red torrent and the shower of
glass slivers, and was back again dancing like a little Bacchante, and
singing at the top of her sweet, lark-like voice.
At the sound of the animated altercation, not knowing but what one of
his own troopers might be the delinquent, he who leaned out of the
little casement moved forward to the doorway of the dancing room; he
did not guess that it was himself whom she had defended against the
onslaught of the Zephyr, Barbe-Grise.
His height rose far above the French soldiers, and above most even of
the lofty-statured Spahis, and her rapid glance flashed over him at
once. "Did he hear?" she wondered; the scarlet flush of exercise and
excitement deepened on her clear brown cheek, that had never blushed
at the coarsest jests or the broadest love words of the barrack-life
that had been about her ever since her eyes first opened in her
infancy to laugh at the sun-gleam on a cuirassier's corslet among the
baggage-wagons that her mother followed. She thought he had not heard;
his face was grave, a little weary, and his gaze, as it fell on her,
"Oh!" thought Cigarette, with a flash of hot wrath superseding her
momentary and most rare embarrassment. "You are looking at me and not
thinking of me! We will soon change that!"
Such an insult she had never been subjected to, from the first day
when she had danced for sweetmeats on the top of a great drum when she
was three years old, in the middle of a circular camp of Tirailleurs.
It sent fresh nerve into her little limbs. It made her eyes flash like
so much fire, it gave her a millionfold more grace, more abandon, more
heedlessness. She stamped her tiny, spurred foot petulantly.
"Quicker! Quicker!" she cried; and as the musician obeyed her, she
whirled, she spun, she bounded, she seemed to live in air, while her
soft curls blew off her brow, and her white teeth glanced, and her
cheeks glowed with a carmine glow, and the little gold aiglettes broke
across her chest with the beating of her heart that throbbed like a
bird's heart when it is wild with the first breath of Spring.
She had pitted herself against him; and she won--so far.
The vivacity, the impetuosity, the antelope elegance, the voluptuous
repose that now and then broke the ceaseless, sparkling movement of
her dancing, caught his eyes and fixed them on her; it was bewitching,
and it bewitched him for the moment; he watched her as in other days
he had watched the fantastic witcheries of eastern alme, and the
ballet charms of opera dancers.
This young Bohemian of the Barrack danced in the dusky glare and the
tavern fumes of the As de Pique to a set of soldiers in their shirt-
sleeves with their short, black pipes in their mouths, with as
matchless a grace as ever the first ballerinas of Europe danced before
sovereigns and dukes on the boards of Paris, Vienna, or London. It was
the eastern bamboula of the Harems, to which was added all the elastic
joyance, all the gay brilliancy of the blood of France.
Suddenly she lifted both her hands above her head.
It was the signal well known, the signal of permission to join in that
wild vertigo for which every one of her spectators was panting; their
pipes were flung away, their kepis tossed off their heads, the music
clashed louder and faster and more fiery with every sound; the chorus
of the Marseillaise des Bataillons thundered from a hundred voices--
they danced as only men can dance who serve under the French flag, and
live under the African sun. Two, only, still looked on--the Chasseur
d'Afrique, and a veteran of the 10th company, lamed for life at
"Are you a stupid? Don't you dance?" muttered the veteran Zephyr to
his silent companion.
The Chasseur turned and smiled a little.
"I prefer a bamboula whose music is the cannon, bon pere."
"Bravo! Yet she is pretty enough to tempt you?"
"Yes; too pretty to be unsexed by such a life."
His thoughts went to a woman he had loved well: a young Arab, with
eyes like the softness of dark waters, who had fallen to him once in a
razzia as his share of spoil, and for whom he had denied himself
cards, or wine, or tobacco, or an hour at the Cafe, or anything that
alleviated the privation and severity of his lot as "simple soldat,"
which he had been then, that she might have such few and slender
comforts as he could give her from his miserable pay. She was dead.
Her death had been the darkest passage in his life in Africa--but the
flute-like music of her voice seemed to come on his ear now. This
girl-soldier had little charm for him after the sweet, silent, tender
grace of his lost Zelme.
He turned and touched on the shoulder a Chasseur who had paused a
moment to get breath in the headlong whirl:
"Come, we are to be with the Djied by dawn!"
The trooper obeyed instantly; they were ordered to visit and remain
with a Bedouin camp some thirty miles away on the naked plateau; a
camp professedly submissive, but not so much so but that the Bureau
deemed it well to profit themselves by the services of the corporal,
whose knowledge of Arabic, whose friendship with the tribes, and whose
superior intelligence in all such missions rendered him peculiarly
fitted for errands that required diplomacy and address as well as
daring and fire.
He went thoughtfully out of the noisy, reeking ballroom into the warm
luster of the Algerian night; as he went, Cigarette, who had been
nearer than he knew, flashed full in his eyes the fury of her own
sparkling ones, while, with a contemptuous laugh, she struck him on
the lips with the cigar she hurled at him.
"Unsexed? Pouf! If you have a woman's face, may I not have a man's
soul? It is only a fair exchange. I am no kitten, bon zig; take care
of my talons!"
The words were spoken with the fierceness of Africa; she had too much
in her of the spirit of the Zephyrs and the Chacals, with whom her
youth had been spent from her cradle up, not to be dangerous when
roused; she was off at a bound, and in the midst of the mad whirl
again before he could attempt to soften or efface the words she had
overheard, and the last thing he saw of her was in a cloud of Zouaves
and Spahis with the wild uproar of the music shaking riotous echoes
from the rafters.
But when he had passed out of sight Cigarette shook herself free from
the dancers with petulant impatience; she was not to be allured by
flattery or drawn by entreaty back amongst them; she set her delicate
pearly teeth tight, and vowed with a reckless, contemptuous, impetuous
oath that she was tired; that she was sick of them; that she was no
strolling player to caper for them with a tambourine; and with that
declaration made her way out alone into the little open court under
the stars, so cool, so still after the heat, and riot, and turbulence
There she dropped on a broad stone step, and leaned her head on her
"Unsexed! Unsexed! What did he mean?" she thought, while for the first
time, with a vague sense of his meaning, tears welled hot and bitter
into her sunny eyes, while the pained color burned in her face. Those
tears were the first that she had ever known, and they were cruel
ones, though they lasted but a little time; there was too much fire in
the young Bohemian of the Army not to scorch them as they rose. She
stamped her foot on the stones passionately, and her teeth were set
like a little terrier's as she muttered:
"Unsexed! Unsexed! Bah, Monsieur Aristocrat! If you think so, you
shall find your thought right; you shall find Cigarette can hate as
men hate, and take her revenge as soldiers take theirs!"
UNDER THE HOUSES OF HAIR.
It was just sunset.
The far-off summits of the Djurjura were tinted with the intense glare
of the distant pines and cypresses cut sharply against the rose-warmed
radiance of the sky. On the slopes of the hills white cupolas and
terraced gardens, where the Algerine haouach still showed the taste
and luxury of Algerine corsairs, rose up among their wild olive
shadows on the groves of the lentiscus. In the deep gorges that were
channeled between the riven rocks the luxuriance of African vegetation
ran riot; the feathery crests of tossing reeds, the long, floating
leaves of plants, filling the dry water-courses of vanished streams;
the broad foliage of the wild fig, and the glowing, dainty blossoms of
the oleander, wherever a trace of brook, or pool, or rivulet let it
put forth its beautiful coronal, growing one in another in the narrow
valleys, and the curving passes, wherever broken earth or rock gave
shelter from the blaze and heat of the North African day.
Farther inland the bare, sear stretches of brown plain were studded
with dwarf palm, the vast shadowless plateaux were desolate as the
great desert itself far beyond; and the sun, as it burned on them a
moment in the glory of its last glow, found them naked and grand by
the sheer force of immensity and desolation, but dreary and endless,
and broken into refts and chasms, as though to make fairer by their
own barren solitude the laughing luxuriance of the sea-face of the
A moment, and the luster of the light flung its own magic brilliancy
over the Algerine water-line, and then shone full on the heights of El
Biar and Bouzariah, and on the lofty, delicate form of the Italian
pines that here and there, Sicilian-like, threw out their graceful
heads against the amber sun-glow and the deep azure of the heavens.
Then swiftly, suddenly, the sun sank; twilight passed like a gray,
gliding shade, an instant, over earth and sea; and night--the balmy,
sultry, star-studded night of Africa,--fell over the thirsty leafage
longing for its dews, the closed flowers that slumbered at its touch,
the seared and blackened plains to which its coolness could bring no
herbage, the massive hills that seemed to lie so calmly in its rest.
Camped on one of the bare stretches above the Mustapha Road was a
circle of Arab tents; the circle was irregularly kept, and the Krumas
were scattered at will; here a low one of canvas, there one of
goatskin; here a white towering canopy of teleze, there a low striped
little nest of shelter, and loftier than all, the stately beit el shar
of the Sheik, with his standard stuck into the earth in front of it,
with its heavy folds hanging listlessly in the sultry, breathless air.
The encampment stretched far over the level, arid earth, and there was
more than one tent where the shadowing folds of the banner marked the
abode of some noble Djied. Disorder reigned supreme, in all the desert
freedom; horses and mules, goats and camels, tethered, strayed among
the conical houses of hair, browsing off the littered straw or the
tossed-down hay; and caldrons seethed and hissed over wood fires,
whose lurid light was flung on the eagle features and the white haiks
of the wanderers who watched the boiling of their mess, or fed the
embers with dry sticks. Round other fires, having finished the eating
of their couscousson, the Bedouins lay full-length; enjoying the
solemn silence which they love so little to break, and smoking their
long pipes; while through the shadows about them glided the lofty
figures of their brethren, with the folds of their sweeping burnous
floating in the gloom. It was a picture, Rembrandt in color, Oriental
in composition; with the darkness surrounding it stretching out into
endless distance that led to the mystic silence of the great desert;
and above the intense blue of the gorgeous night, with the stars
burning through white, transparent mists of slowly drifting clouds.
In the central tent, tall and crimson-striped, with its mighty
standard reared in front, and its opening free to the night, sat the
Khalifa, the head of the tribe, with a circle of Arabs about him. He
was thrown on his cushions, rich enough for a seraglio, while the rest
squatted on the morocco carpet that covered the bare ground, and that
was strewn with round brass Moorish trays and little cups emptied of
their coffee. The sides of the tent were hung with guns and swords,
lavishly adorned; and in the middle stood a tall Turkish candle-branch
in fretted work, whose light struggled with the white flood of the
moon, and the ruddy, fitful glare from a wood fire without.
Beneath its light, which fell full on him, flung down upon another
pile of cushions facing the open front of the tent, was a guest whom
the Khalifa delighted to honor. Only a Corporal of Chasseurs, and once
a foe, yet one with whom the Arab found the brotherhood of brave men,
and on whom he lavished, in all he could, the hospitalities and honors
of the desert.
The story of their friendship ran thus:
The tribe was now allied with France, or, at least, had accepted
French sovereignty, and pledged itself to neutrality in the
hostilities still rife; but a few years before, far in the interior
and leagued with the Kabailes, it had been one of the fiercest and
most dangerous among the enemies of France. At that time the Khalifa
and the Chasseur met in many a skirmish; hot, desperate struggles,
where men fought horse to horse, hand to hand; midnight frays, when,
in the heart of lonely ravines, Arab ambuscades fell on squadrons of
French cavalry; terrible chases through the heat of torrid suns, when
the glittering ranks of the charging troops swept down after the
Bedouins' flight; fiery combats, when the desert sand and the smoke of
musketry circled in clouds above the close-locked struggle, and the
Leopard of France and the Lion of Sahara wrestled in a death-grip.
In these, through four or five seasons of warfare, the Sheik and the
Chasseur had encountered each other, till each had grown to look for
the other's face as soon as the standards of the Bedouins flashed in
the sunshine opposite the guidons of the Imperial forces; till each
had watched and noted the other's unmatched prowess, and borne away
the wounds of the other's home-strokes, with the admiration of a bold
soldier for a bold rival's dauntlessness and skill; till each had
learned to long for an hour, hitherto always prevented by waves of
battle that had swept them too soon asunder, when they should meet in
a duello once for all, and try their strength together till one bore
off victory and one succumbed to death.
At last it came to pass that, after a lengthened term of this
chivalrous antagonism, the tribe were sorely pressed by the French
troops, and could no longer mass its fearless front to face them, but
had to flee southward to the desert, and encumbered by its flocks and
its women, was hardly driven and greatly decimated. Now among those
women was one whom the Sheik held above all earthly things except his
honor in war; a beautiful antelope-eyed creature, lithe and graceful
as a palm, and the daughter of a pure Arab race, on whom he could not
endure for any other sight than his to look, and whom he guarded in
his tent as the chief pearl of all his treasures; herds, flocks, arms,
even his horses, all save the honor of his tribe, he would have
surrendered rather than surrender Djelma. It was a passion with him; a
passion that not even the iron of his temper and the dignity of his
austere calm could abate or conceal; and the rumor of it and of the
beauty of its object reached the French camp, till an impatient
curiosity was roused about her, and a raid that should bear her off
became the favorite speculation round the picket fires at night, and
in the scorching noons, when the men lay stripped to their waist--
panting like tired dogs under the hot withering breath that stole to
them, sweeping over the yellow seas of sands.
Their heated fancies had pictured this treasure of the great Djied as
something beyond all that her sex had ever given them, and to snare
her in some unwary moment was the chief thought of Zephyr and Spahi
when they went out on a scouting or foraging party. But it was easier
said than done; the eyes of no Frank ever fell on her, and when he was
most closely driven the Khalifa Ilderim abandoned his cattle and
sheep, but, with the females of the tribe still safely guarded, fell
more and more backward and southward; drawing the French on and on,
farther and farther across the plains, in the sickliest times of
Re-enforcements could swell the Imperial ranks as swiftly as they were
thinned, but with the Arabs a man once fallen was a man the less to
their numbers forever, and the lightning-like pursuit began to tell