Part 6 out of 13
terribly on them; their herds had fallen into their pursuers' hands,
and famine menaced them. Nevertheless, they were fierce in attack as
tigers, rapid in swoop as vultures, and fought flying in such fashion
that the cavalry lost more in this fruitless, worthless work than they
would have done in a second Hohenlinden or Austerlitz.
Moreover, the heat was intense, water was bad and very rare, dysentery
came with the scorch and the toil of this endless charge; the chief in
command, M. le Marquis de Chateauroy, swore heavily as he saw many of
his best men dropping off like sheep in a murrain, and he offered two
hundred napoleons to whosoever should bring either the dead Sheik's
head or the living beauty of Djelma.
One day the Chasseurs had pitched their camp where a few barren,
withered trees gave a semblance of shelter, and a little thread of
brackish water oozed through the yellow earth.
It was high noon; the African sun was at its fiercest; far as the eye
could reach there was only one boundless, burning, unendurable glitter
of parching sand and cloudless sky--brazen beneath, brazen above--till
the desert and the heavens touched, and blent in one tawny, fiery glow
in the measureless distance. The men lay under canvas, dead-beat,
half-naked, without the power to do anything except to fight like
thirst-maddened dogs for a draught at the shallow stream that they and
their breathless horses soon drained dry.
Even Raoul de Chateauroy, though his frame was like an Arab's, and
knit into Arab endurance, was stretched like a great bloodhound,
chained by the sultry oppression. He was ruthless, inflexible, a
tyrant to the core, and sharp and swift as steel in his rigor, but he
was a fine soldier, and never spared himself any of the hardships that
his regiment had to endure under him.
Suddenly the noon lethargy of the camp was broken; a trumpet-call rang
through the stillness; against the amber transparency of the horizon
line the outlines of half a dozen horsemen were seen looming nearer
and nearer with every moment; they were some Spahis who had been out
sweeping the country for food. The mighty frame of Chateauroy, almost
as unclothed as an athlete's, started from its slumberous, panting
rest; his eyes lightened hungrily; he muttered a fiery oath; "Mort de
Dieu!--they have the woman!"
They had the woman. She had been netted near a water-spring, to which
she had wandered too loosely guarded, and too far from the Bedouin
encampment. The delight of the haughty Sidi's eyes was borne off to
the tents of his foe, and the Colonel's face flushed darkly with an
eager, lustful warmth, as he looked upon his captive. Rumor had not
outboasted the Arab girl's beauty; it was lustrous as ever was that
when, far yonder to the eastward, under the curled palms of Nile, the
sorceress of the Caesars swept through her rose-strewn palace
chambers. Only Djelma was as innocent as the gazelle, whose grace she
resembled, and loved her lord with a great love.
Of her suffering her captor took no more heed than if she were a young
bird dying of shot-wounds; but, with one triumphant, admiring glance
at her, he wrote a message in Arabic, to send to the Khalifa, ere her
loss was discovered--a message more cruel than iron. He hesitated a
second, where he lay at the opening of his tent, whom he should send
with it. His men were almost all half-dead with the sun-blaze. His
glance chanced to light in the distance on a soldier to whom he bore
no love--causelessly, but bitterly all the same. He had him summoned,
and eyed him with a curious amusement--Chateauroy treated his
squadrons with much the same sans-facon familiarity and brutality that
a chief of filibusters uses in his.
"So! you heed the heat so little, you give up your turn of water to a
drummer, they say?"
The Chasseur gave the salute with a calm deference. A faint flush
passed over the sun-bronze of his forehead. He had thought the Sidney-
like sacrifice had been unobserved.
"The drummer was but a child, mon Commandant."
"Be so good as to give us no more of those melodramatic acts!" said M.
le Marquis contemptuously. "You are too fond of trafficking in those
showy fooleries. You bribe your comrades for their favoritism too
openly. Ventre bleu! I forbid it--do you hear?"
"I hear, mon Colonel."
The assent was perfectly tranquil and respectful. He was too good a
soldier not to render perfect obedience, and keep perfect silence,
under any goad of provocation to break both.
"Obey then!" said Chateauroy savagely. "Well, since you love heat so
well, you shall take a flag of truce and my scroll to the Sidi
Ilderim. But tell me, first, what do you think of this capture?"
"It is not my place to give opinions, M. le Colonel."
"Pardieu! It is your place when I bid you. Speak, or I will have the
stick cut the words out of you!"
"I may speak frankly?"
"Ten thousand curses--yes!"
"Then, I think that those who make war on women are no longer fit to
fight with men."
For a moment the long, sinewy, massive form of Chateauroy started from
the skins on which he lay at full length, like a lion started from its
lair. His veins swelled like black cords; under the mighty muscle of
his bare chest his heart beat visibly in the fury of his wrath.
"By God! I have a mind to have you shot like a dog!"
The Chasseur looked at him carelessly, composedly, but with a serene
deference still, as due from a soldier to his chief.
"You have threatened it before, M. le Colonel. It may be as well to do
it, or the army may think you capricious."
Raoul de Chateauroy crushed a blasphemous oath through his clinched
teeth, and laughed a certain short, stern, sardonic laugh, which his
men dreaded more than his wrath.
"No; I will send you instead to the Khalifa. He often saves me the
trouble of killing my own curs. Take a flag of truce and this paper,
and never draw rein till you reach him, if your beast drop dead at the
The Chasseur saluted, took the paper, bowed with a certain languid,
easy grace that camp life never cured him of, and went. He knew that
the man who should take the news of his treasure's loss to the Emir
Ilderim would, a thousand to one, perish by every torture desert
cruelty could frame, despite the cover of the white banner.
Chateauroy looked after him, as he and his horse passed from the
French camp in the full burning tide of noon.
"If the Arabs kill him," he thought, "I will forgive Ilderim five
seasons of rebellion."
The Chasseur, as he had been bidden, never drew rein across the
scorching plateau. He rode to what he knew was like enough to be
death, and death by many a torment, as though he rode to a midnight
love-tryst. His horse was of Arab breed--young, fleet, and able to
endure extraordinary pressure, both of spur and of heat. He swept on,
far and fast, through the sickly, lurid glitter of the day, over the
loose sand, that flew in puffs around him as the hoofs struck it
flying right and left. At last, ere he reached the Bedouin tents, that
were still but slender black points against the horizon, he saw the
Sheik and a party of horsemen returning from a foraging quest, and in
ignorance as yet of the abduction of Djelma. He galloped straight to
them, and halted across their line of march, with the folds of the
little white flag fluttering in the sun. The Bedouins drew bridle, and
Ilderim advanced alone. He was a magnificent man, of middle age, with
the noblest type of the eagle-eyed, aquiline desert beauty. He was a
superb specimen of his race, without the lean, withered, rapacious,
vulture look which often mars it. His white haik floated round limbs
fit for a Colossus: and under the snowy folds of his turban the olive-
bronze of his bold forehead, the sweep of his jet-black beard, and the
piercing luminance of his eyes had a grand and kingly majesty.
A glance of recognition from him on the lascar, who had so often
crossed swords with him; and he waved back the scroll with dignified
"Read it me."
It was read. Bitterly, blackly shameful, the few brutal words were.
They netted him as an eagle is netted in a shepherd's trap.
The moment that he gave a sign of advancing against his ravishers, the
captive's life would pay the penalty; if he merely remained in arms,
without direct attack, she would be made the Marquis' mistress, and
abandoned later to the army. The only terms on which he could have her
restored were instant submission to the Imperial rule, and personal
homage of himself and all his Djouad to the Marquis as the
representatives of France--homage in which they should confess
themselves dogs and the sons of dogs.
So ran the message of peace.
The Chasseur read on to the end calmly. Then he lifted his gaze, and
looked at the Emir--he expected fifty swords to be buried in his
As he gazed, he thought no more of his own doom; he thought only of
the revelation before him, of what passion and what agony could be--
things unknown in the world where the chief portion of his life had
passed. He was a war-hardened campaigner, trained in the ruthless
school of African hostilities; who had seen every shape of mental and
physical suffering, when men were left to perish of gun-wounds, as the
rush of the charge swept on; when writhing horses died by the score of
famine and of thirst; when the firebrand was hurled among sleeping
encampments, and defenseless women were torn from their rest by the
unsparing hands of pitiless soldiers. But the torture which shook for
a second the steel-knit frame of this Arab passed all that he had
dreamed as possible; it was mute, and held in bonds of iron, for the
sake of the desert pride of a great ruler's majesty; but it spoke more
than any eloquence ever spoke yet on earth.
With a wild, shrill yell, the Bedouins whirled their naked sabers
above their heads, and rushed down on the bearer of this shame to
their chief and their tribe. The Chasseur did not seek to defend
himself. He sat motionless. He thought the vengeance just.
The Sheik raised his sword, and signed them back, as he pointed to the
white folds of the flag. Then his voice rolled out like thunder over
the stillness of the plains:
"But that you trust yourself to my honor I would rend you limb from
limb. Go back to the tiger who rules you, and tell him that--as Allah
liveth--I will fall on him, and smite him as he hath never been
smitten. Dead or living, I will have back my own. If he take her life,
I will have ten thousand lives to answer it; if he deal her dishonor,
I will light such a holy war through the length and breadth of the
land that his nation shall be driven backward like choked dogs into
the sea, and perish from the face of the earth for evermore. And this
I swear by the Law and the Prophet!"
The menace rolled out, imperious as a monarch's, thrilling through the
desert hush. The Chasseur bent his head, as the words closed. His own
teeth were tightly clinched, and his face was dark.
"Emir, listen to one word," he said briefly. "Shame has been done to
me as to you. Had I been told what words I bore, they had never been
brought by my hand. You know me. You have had the marks of my steel,
as I have had the marks of yours. Trust me in this, Sidi. I pledge you
my honor that, before the sun sets, she shall be given back to you
unharmed, or I will return here myself, and your tribe shall slay me
in what fashion they will. So alone can she be saved uninjured.
Answer, will you have faith in me?"
The desert chief looked at him long; sitting motionless as a statue on
his stallion, with the fierce gleam of his eyes fixed on the eyes of
the man who so long had been his foe in contests whose chivalry
equaled their daring. The Chasseur never wavered once under the set,
piercing, ruthless gaze.
Then the Emir pointed to the sun, that was not at its zenith:
"You are a great warrior: such men do not lie. Go, and if she be borne
to me before the sun is half-way sunk toward the west, all the
branches of the tribes of Ilderim shall be as your brethren, and bend
as steel to your bidding. If not--as God is mighty--not one man in all
your host shall live to tell the tale!"
The Chasseur bowed his head to his horse's mane; then, without a word,
wheeled round, and sped back across the plain.
When he reached his own cavalry camp, he went straightway to his
chief. What passed between them none ever knew. The interview was
brief; it was possibly as stormy. Pregnant and decisive it assuredly
was; and the squadrons of Africa marveled that the man who dared beard
Raoul de Chateauroy in his lair came forth with his life. Whatever the
spell he used, the result was a marvel.
At the very moment that the sun touched the lower half of the western
heavens, the Sheik Ilderim, where he sat in his saddle, with all his
tribe stretching behind him, full-armed, to sweep down like falcons on
the spoilers, if the hour passed with the pledge unredeemed, saw the
form of the Chasseur reappear between his sight and the glare of the
skies; nor did he ride alone. That night the Pearl of the Desert lay
once more in the mighty, sinuous arms of the great Emir.
But, with the dawn, his vengeance fell in terrible fashion, on the
sleeping camp of the Franks; and from that hour dated the passionate,
savage, unconcealed hate of Raoul de Chateauroy for the most daring
soldier of all his fiery Horse, known in his troop as "Bel-a-faire-
It was in the tent of Ilderim now that he reclined, looking outward at
the night where flames were leaping ruddily under a large caldron, and
far beyond was the dark immensity of the star-studded sky; the light
of the moon strayed in and fell on the chestnut waves of his beard,
out of which the long amber stem of an Arab pipe glittered like a
golden line, and on the skin--fair, despite a warm hue of bronze--and
the long, slumberous softness of the hazel eyes, were in so marked a
contrast of race with the eagle outlines of the Bedouins around.
From the hour of the restoration of his treasure the Sheik had been
true to his oath; his tribe in all its branches had held the French
lascar in closest brotherhood; wherever they were he was honored and
welcomed; was he in war, their swords were drawn for him; was he in
need, their houses of hair were spread for him; had he want of flight,
the swiftest and most precious of their horses was at his service; had
he thirst, they would have died themselves, wringing out the last drop
from the water-skin for him. Through him their alliance, or more
justly to speak, their neutrality, was secured to France, and the
Bedouin Chief loved him with a great, silent, noble love that was fast
rooted in the granite of his nature. Between them there was a
brotherhood that beat down the antagonism of race, and was stronger
than the instinctive hate of the oppressed for all who came under the
abhorred standard of the usurpers. He liked the Arabs, and they liked
him; a grave courtesy, a preference for the fewest words and least
demonstration possible, a marked opinion that silence was golden, and
that speech was at best only silver-washed metal, an instinctive dread
of all discovery of emotion, and a limitless power of resisting and
suppressing suffering, were qualities the nomads of the desert and the
lion of the Chasseurs d'Afrique had in common; as they had in unison a
wild passion for war, a dauntless zest in danger, and a love for the
hottest heat of fiercest battle.
Silence reigned in the tent, beyond whose first division, screened by
a heavy curtain of goat's hair, the beautiful young Djelma played with
her only son, a child of three or four summers; the Sheik lay mute,
the Djouad and Marabouts around never spoke in his presence unless
their lord bade them, and the Chasseur was stretched motionless, his
elbow resting on a cushion of Morocco fabric, and his eyes looking
outward at the restless, changing movement of the firelit, starlit
After the noise, the mirth, the riotous songs, and the gay, elastic
good humor of his French comrades, the silence and the calm of the
Emir's "house of hair" were welcome to him. He never spoke much
himself; of a truth, his gentle, immutable laconism was the only
charge that his comrades ever brought against him. That a man could be
so brief in words, while yet so soft in manner, seemed a thing out of
all nature to the vivacious Frenchmen; that unchanging stillness and
serenity in one who was such a reckless, resistless croc-mitaine,
swift as fire in the field, was an enigma that the Cavalry and the
Demi-cavalry of Algeria never solved. His corps would have gone after
him to the devil, as Claude de Chanrellon had averred; but they would
sometimes wax a little impatient that he would never grow
communicative or thread many phrases together, even over the best wine
which ever warmed the hearts of its drinkers or loosened all rein from
"I wish I had come straight to you, Sidi, when I first set foot in
Africa," he said at last, while the fragrant smoke uncurled from under
the droop of his long, pendent mustaches.
"Truly it had been well," answered the Khalifa, who would have given
the best stallions in his stud to have had this Frank with him in
warfare, and in peace. "There is no life like our life."
"Faith! I think not!" murmured the Chasseur, rather to himself than
the Bedouin. "The desert keeps you and your horse, and you can let all
the rest of the world 'slide.' "
"But we are murderers and pillagers, say your nations," resumed the
Emir, with the shadow of a sardonic smile flickering an instant over
the sternness and composure of his features. "To rifle a caravan is a
crime, though to steal a continent is glory."
Bel-a-faire-peur laughed slightly.
"Do not tempt me to rebel against my adopted flag."
The Sheik looked at him in silence; the French soldiers had spent
twelve years in the ceaseless exertions of an amused inquisitiveness
to discover the antecedents of their volunteer; the Arabs, with their
loftier instincts of courtesy, had never hinted to him a question of
whence or why he had come upon African soil.
"I never thought at all in those days; else, had I thought twice, I
should not have gone to your enemies," he answered, as he lazily
watched the Bedouins without squat on their heels round the huge brass
bowls of couscoussou, which they kneaded into round lumps and pitched
between their open, bearded lips in their customary form of supper.
"Not but what our Roumis are brave fellows enough; better comrades no
man could want."
The Khalifa took the long pipe from his mouth and spoke; his slow,
sonorous accents falling melodiously on the silence in the lingua
sapir of the Franco-Arab tongue.
"Your comrades are gallant men; they are great warriors, and fearless
foes; against such my voice is never lifted, however my sword may
cross with them. But the locust-swarms that devour the land are the
money-eaters, the petty despots, the bribe-takers, the men who wring
gold out of infamy, who traffic in tyrannies, who plunder under
official seals, who curse Algiers with avarice, with fraud, with
routine, with the hell-spawn of civilization. It is the 'Bureaucracy,'
as your tongue phrases it, that is the spoiler and the oppressor of
the soil. But--we endure only for a while. A little, and the shame of
the invader's tread will be washed out in blood. Allah is great; we
And with Moslem patience that the fiery gloom of his burning eyes
belied, the Djied stretched himself once more into immovable and
The Chasseur answered nothing; his sympathies were heartfelt with the
Arabs, his allegiance and his esprit de corps were with the service in
which he was enrolled. He could not defend French usurpation; but
neither could he condemn the Flag that had now become his Flag, and in
which he had grown to feel much of national honor, to take much of
"They will never really win again, I am afraid," he thought, as his
eyes followed the wraith-like flash of the white burnous, as the
Bedouins glided to and fro in the chiar-oscuro of the encampment; now
in the flicker of the flames, now in the silvered luster of the moon.
"It is the conflict of the races, as the cant runs, and their day is
done. It is a bolder, freer, simpler type than anything we get in the
world yonder. Shall we ever drift back to it in the future, I wonder?"
The speculation did not stay with him long; Semitic, Latin, or Teuton
race was very much the same to him, and intellectual subtleties had
not much attraction at any time for the most brilliant soldier in the
French cavalry; he preferred the ring of the trumpets, the glitter of
the sun's play along the line of steel as his regiment formed in line
on the eve of a life-and-death struggle, the wild, breathless sweep of
a midnight gallop over the brown, swelling plateau under the light of
the stars, or,--in some brief interval of indolence and razzia-won
wealth,--the gleam of fair eyes and the flush of sparkling sherbet
when some passionate, darkling glance beamed on him from some Arab
mistress whose scarlet lips murmured to him through the drowsy hush of
an Algerine night the sense, if not the song of Pelagia,
"Life is so short at best!
Take while thou canst thy rest,
Sleeping by me!"
His thoughts drifted back over many varied scenes and changing
memories of his service in Algiers, as he lay there at the entrance of
the Sheik's tent, with the night of looming shadow and reddened
firelight and picturesque movement before him. Hours of reckless,
headlong delight, when men grew drunk with bloodshed as with wine;
hours of horrible, unsuccored suffering, when the desert thirst had
burned in his throat and the jagged lances been broken off at the hilt
in his flesh, while above-head the carrion birds wheeled, waiting
their meal; hours of unceasing, unsparing slaughter, when the word was
given to slay and yield no mercy, where in the great, vaulted,
cavernous gloom of rent rocks, the doomed were hemmed as close as
sheep in shambles. Hours, in the warm flush of an African dawn, when
the arbiter of the duel was the sole judge allowed or comprehended by
the tigers of the tricolor, and to aim a dead shot or to receive one
was the only alternative left, as the challenging eyes of "Zephir" or
"Chasse-Marais" flashed death across the barriere, in a combat where
only one might live, though the root of the quarrel had been nothing
more than a toss too much of brandy, a puff of tobacco smoke construed
into insult, or a fille de joie's maliciously cast fire-brand of taunt
or laugh. Hours of severe discipline, of relentless routine, of bitter
deprivation, of campaigns hard as steel in the endurance they needed,
in the miseries they entailed; of military subjection, stern and
unbending, a yoke of iron that a personal and pitiless tyranny
weighted with persecution that was scarce else than hatred; of an
implicit obedience that required every instinct of liberty, every
habit of early life, every impulse of pride and manhood and freedom to
be choked down like crimes, and buried as though they had never been.
Hours again that repaid these in full, when the long line of Horse
swept out to the attack, with the sun on the points of their weapons;
when the wheeling clouds of Arab riders poured like the clouds of the
simoon on a thinned, devoted troop that rallied and fought as hawks
fight herons, and saved the day as the sky was flushed with that day's
decline; when some soft-eyed captive, with limbs of free mountain
grace, and the warm veins flushing under the clear olive of her
cheeks, was first wild as a young fettered falcon, and then, like the
falcon, quickly learned to tremble at a touch, and grow tame under a
caress, and love nothing so well as the hand that had captured her.
Hours of all the chanceful fortunes of a soldier's life, in hill-wars
and desert raids, passed in memory through his thoughts now where he
was stretched; looking dreamily through the film of his smoke at the
city of tents, and the reclining forms of camels, and the tall, white
slowly moving shapes of the lawless marauders of the sand plains.
"Is my life worth much more under the French Flag than it was under
the English?" thought the Chasseur, with a certain, careless,
indifferent irony on himself, natural to him. "There I killed time--
here I kill men. Which is the better pursuit, I wonder. The world
would rather economize the first commodity than the last, I believe.
Perhaps it don't make an overgood use of either."
The night was someway spent when the talk of wild-pigeon-blue mares
and sorrel stallions closed between the Djied and his guest; and the
French soldier, who had been sent hither from the Bureau with another
of his comrades, took his way through the now still camp where the
cattle were sleeping, and the fires were burning out, and the banner-
folds hung motionless in the luster of the stars, to the black-and-
white tent prepared for him. A spacious one, close to the chief's, and
given such luxury in the shape of ornamented weapons, thick carpets,
and soft cushions, as the tribe's resources could bring together.
As he opened the folds and entered, his fellow-soldier, who was lying
on his back, with his heels much higher than his head, and a short
pipe in his teeth, tumbled himself up; with a rapid somersault, and
stood bolt upright, giving the salute; a short, sturdy little man,
with a skin burnt like a coffee-berry, that was in odd contrast with
his light, dancing blue eyes, and his close, matted curls of yellow
"Beg pardon, sir! I was half asleep!"
The Chasseur laughed a little.
"Don't talk English; somebody will hear you one day."
"What's the odds if they do, sir?" responded the other. "It relieves
one's feelings a little. All of 'em know I'm English, but never a one
of 'em know what you are. The name you was enrolled by won't really
tell 'em nothing. They guess it ain't yours. That cute little chap,
Tata, he says to me yesterday, 'you're always a-treating of your
galonne like as if he was a prince.' 'Damme!' says I, 'I'd like to see
the prince as would hold a candle to him.' 'You're right there,' says
the little 'un. 'There ain't his equal for taking off a beggar's head
with a back sweep.' "
The Corporal laughed a little again, as he tossed himself down on the
"Well, it's something to have one virtue! But have a care what those
chatter-boxes get out of you."
"Lord, sir! Ain't I been a-taking care these ten years? It comes quite
natural now. I couldn't keep my tongue still; that wouldn't be in
anyways possible. So I've let it run on oiled wheels on a thousand rum
tracks and doublings. I've told 'em such a lot of amazing stories
about where we come from, that they've got half a million different
styles to choose out of. Some thinks as how you're a Polish nob, what
got into hot water with the Russians; some as how you're a Italian
prince, what was cleaned out like Parma and them was; some as how
you're a Austrian Archduke that have cut your country because you was
in love with the Empress, and had a duel about her that scandalized
the whole empire; some as how you're a exiled Spanish grandee a-come
to learn tactics and that like, that you may go back, and pitch
O'Donnell into the middle of next week, whenever you see a chance to
cut in and try conclusions with him. Bless you, sir! you may let me
alone for bamboozling of anybody."
The Corporal laughed again, as he began to unharness himself. There
was in him a certain mingling of insouciance and melancholy, each of
which alternately predominated; the former his by nature, the latter
born of circumstances.
"If you can outwit our friends the Zephyrs you have reached a height
of diplomacy indeed! I would not engage to do it myself. Take my word
for it, ingenuity is always dangerous--silence is always safe."
"That may be, sir," responded the Chasseur, in the sturdy English with
which his bright blue eyes danced a fitting nationality. "No doubt
it's uncommon good for them as can bring their minds to it--just like
water instead o' wine--but it's very trying, like the teetotalism. You
might as well tell a Newfoundland not to love a splash as me not to
love a chatter. I'd cut my tongue out sooner than say never a word
that you don't wish--but say something I must, or die for it."
With which the speaker, known to Algerian fame by the sobriquet of
"Crache-au-nez-d'la-Mort," from the hair-breadth escapes and reckless
razzias from which he had come out without a scratch, dropped on his
knees and began to take off the trappings of his fellow-soldier, with
as reverential a service as though he were a lord of the bedchamber
serving a Louis Quatorze. The other motioned him gently away.
"No, no! I have told you a thousand times we are comrades and equals
"And I've told you a thousand times, sir, that we aren't, and never
will be, and don't oughtn't to be," replied the soldier doggedly,
drawing off the spurred and dust-covered boots. "A gentleman's a
gentleman, let alone what straits he fall into."
"But ceases to be one as soon as he takes a service he cannot requite,
or claims a superiority he does not possess. We have been fellow-
soldiers for twelve years--"
"So we have, sir; but we are what we always was, and always will be--
one a gentleman, the other a scamp. If you think so be as I've done a
good thing, side by side with you, now and then in the fighting, give
me my own way and let me wait on you when I can. I can't do much on it
when those other fellow's eyes is on us; but here I can and I will--
begging your pardon--so there's an end of it. One may speak plain in
this place with nothing but them Arabs about; and all the army know
well enough, sir, that if it weren't for that black devil, Chateauroy,
you'd have had your officer's commission, and your troop too, long
"Oh, no! There are scores of men in the ranks merit promotion better
far than I do. And--leave the Colonel's name alone. He is our chief,
whatever else he be."
The words were calm and careless, but they carried a weight with them
that was not to be disputed. "Crache-au-nez-d'la-Mort" hung his head a
little and went on unharnessing his Corporal in silence, contenting
himself with muttering in his throat that it was true for all that,
and the whole regiment knew it.
"You are happy enough in Algeria?" asked the one he served, as he
stretched himself on the skins and carpets, and drank down a sherbet
that his self-attached attendant had made with a skill learned from a
pretty cantiniere, who had given him the lesson in return for a
slashing blow with which he had struck down two "Riz-pain-sels," who,
as the best paid men in the army, had tried to cheat her in the price
of her Cognac.
"I, sir? Never was so happy in my life, sir. I'd be discontented
indeed if I wasn't. Always some spicy bit of fighting. If there aren't
a fantasia, as they call it, in the field, there's always somebody to
pot in a small way; and, if you're lying by in barracks, there's
always a scrimmage hot as pepper to be got up with fellows that love
the row just as well as you do. It's life, that's where it is; it
"Then you prefer the French service?"
"Right and away, sir. You see this is how it is," and the redoubtable,
yellow-haired "Crache-au-nez-d'la-Mort" paused in the vigorous
cleansing and brushing he was bestowing on his Corporal's uniform and
stood at ease in his shirt and trousers; with his eloquence no way
impeded by the brule-gueule that was always between his teeth. "Over
there in England, you know, sir, pipe-clay is the deuce-and-all;
you're always got to have the stock on, and look as stiff as a stake,
or it's all up with you; you're that tormented about little things
that you get riled and kick the traces before the great 'uns come to
try you. There's a lot of lads would be game as game could be in
battle--aye, and good lads to boot, doing their duty right as a trivet
when it came to anything like war--that are clean drove out of the
service in time o' peace, along with all them petty persecutions that
worry a man's skin like mosquito-bites. Now here they know that, and
Lord! what soldiers they do make through knowing of it! It's tight
enough and stern enough in big things; martial law sharp enough, and
obedience to the letter all through the campaigning; but that don't
grate on a fellow; if he's worth his salt he's sure to understand that
he must move like clockwork in a fight, and that he's to go to hell at
double-quick-march, and mute as a mouse, if his officers see fit to
send him. There ain't better stuff to make soldiers out of nowhere
than Englishmen, God bless 'em! But they're badgered, they're horribly
badgered; and that's why the service don't take over there, let alone
the way the country grudge 'em every bit of pay. In England you go in
the ranks--well, they all just tell you you're a blackguard, and
there's the lash, and you'd better behave yourself or you'll get it
hot and hot; they take for granted you're a bad lot or you wouldn't be
there, and in course you're riled and go to the bad according, seeing
that it's what's expected of you. Here, contrariwise, you come in the
ranks and get a welcome, and feel that it just rests with yourself
whether you won't be a fine fellow or not; and just along of feeling
that you're pricked to show the best metal you're made on, and not to
let nobody else beat you out of the race, like. Ah! it makes a
wonderful difference to a fellow--a wonderful difference--whether the
service he's come into look at him as a scamp that never will be
nothing but a scamp, or as a rascal that's maybe got in him, all
rascal though he is, the pluck to turn into a hero. And that's just
the difference, sir, that France has found out, and England hasn't--
God bless her, all the same!"
With which the soldier whom England had turned adrift, and France had
won in her stead, concluded his long oration by dropping on his knees
to refill his Corporal's pipe.
"An army's just a machine, sir, in course," he concluded, as he rammed
in the Turkish tobacco. "But then it's a live machine, for all that;
and each little bit of it feels for itself, like the joints in an
eel's body. Now, if only one of them little bits smarts, the whole
creature goes wrong--there's the mischief."
Bel-a-faire-peur listened thoughtfully to his comrade where he lay
flung full-length on the skins.
"I dare say you are right enough. I knew nothing of my men when--when
I was in England; we none of us did; but I can very well believe what
you say. Yet--fine fellows though they are here, they are terrible
"In course they are, sir; they wouldn't be such larky company unless
they was. But what I say is that they're scamps who're told they may
be great men, if they like; not scamps who're told that, because
they've once gone to the devil, they must always keep there. It makes
all the difference in life."
"Yes--it makes all the difference in life, whether hope is left, or--
The words were murmured with a half smile that had a dash of infinite
sadness in it; the other looked at him quickly with a shadow of keen
pain passing over the bright, frank, laughing features of his
sunburned face; he knew that the brief words held the whole history of
"Won't there never be no hope, sir?" he whispered, while his voice
trembled a little under the long, fierce sweep of his yellow
The Chasseur rallied himself with a slight, careless laugh; the laugh
with which he had met before now the onslaught of charges ferocious as
those of the magnificent day of Mazagran.
"Whom for? Both of us? Oh, yes; very likely we shall achieve fame and
die! A splendid destiny."
"No, sir," said the other, with the hesitation still in the quiver of
his voice. "You know I meant, no hope of your ever being again----"
He stopped, he scarcely knew how to phrase the thoughts he was
The other moved with a certain impatience.
"How often must I tell you to forget that I was ever anything except a
soldier of France?--forget as I have forgotten it!"
The audacious, irrepressible "Crache-au-nez-d'la-Mort," whom nothing
could daunt and nothing could awe, looked penitent and ashamed as a
"I know, sir. I have tried, many a year; but I thought, perhaps, as
how his lordship's death--"
"No life and no death can make any difference to me, except the death
that some day an Arbico's lunge will give me; and that is a long time
"Ah, for God's sake, Mr. Cecil, don't talk like this!"
The Chasseur gave a short, sharp shiver, and started at this name, as
if a bullet had struck him.
"Never say that again!"
Rake, Algerian-christened "Crache-au-nez-d'la-Mort," stammered a
"I never have done, sir--not for never a year; but it wrung it out of
me like--you talking of wanting death in that way----"
"Oh, I don't want death!" laughed the other, with a low, indifferent
laughter, that had in it a singular tone of sadness all the while. "I
am of our friends the Spahis' opinion--that life is very pleasant with
a handsome, well-chosen harem, and a good horse to one's saddle.
Unhappily harems are too expensive for Roumis! Yet I am not sure that
I am not better amused in the Chasseurs than I was in the Household--
specially when we are at war. I suppose we must be wild animals at the
core, or we should never find such an infinite zest in the death
He stretched his long, slender, symmetrical limbs out on the skins
that made his bed, and closed his eyes, with the pipe still in his
mouth, and its amber bowl resting on the carpet which the friendship
and honor of Sidi-Ilderim had strewn over the bare turf on which the
house of hair was raised. He was accustomed to sleep as soldiers
sleep, in all the din of a camp, or with the roar of savage brutes
echoing from the hills around, with his saddle beneath his head, under
a slab of rock, or with the knowledge that at every instant the alarm
might be given, the drums roll out over the night, and the enemy be
down like lightning on the bivouac. But now a name--long unspoken to
him--had recalled years he had buried far and forever from the first
day that he had worn the kepi d'ordonnance of the Army of Algeria, and
been enrolled among its wild and brilliant soldiers.
Now, long after his comrade had slept soundly, and the light in the
single bronze Turkish candle-branch had flickered and died away, the
Chasseur d'Afrique lay wakeful; looking outward through the folds of
the tent at the dark and silent camp of the Arabs, and letting his
memory drift backward to a time that had grown to be to him as a dream
--a time when another world than the world of Africa had known him as
CIGARETTE EN BIENFAITRICE.
"Oh! We are a queer lot; a very queer lot. Sweepings of Europe," said
Claude de Chanrellon, dashing some vermouth off his golden mustaches,
where he lay full-length on three chairs outside the Cafe in the Place
du Gouvernement, where the lamps were just lit, and shining through
the burnished moonlight of an Algerian evening, and the many-colored,
many-raced, picturesque, and polyglot population of the town were all
fluttering out with the sunset, like so many gay-colored moths.
"Hein! Diamonds are found in the rag-picker's sweepings," growled a
General of Division, who was the most terrible martinet in the whole
of the French service, but who loved "my children of hell," as he was
wont to term his men, with a great love, and who would never hear
another disparage them, however he might order them blows of the
stick, or exile them to Beylick himself.
"You are poetic, mon General," said Claude de Chanrellon; "but you are
true. We are a furnace in which Blackguardism is burned into Dare-
devilry, and turned out as Heroism. A fine manufacture that, and one
at which France has no equal."
"But our manufactures keep the original hall mark, and show that the
devil made them if the drill have molded them!" urged a Colonel of
Chanrellon laughed, knocking the ash off a huge cigar.
"Pardieu! We do our original maker credit then; nothing good in this
world without a dash of diablerie. Scruples are the wet blankets,
proprieties are the blank walls, principles are the quickset hedge of
life, but devilry is its champagne!"
"Ventre bleu!" growled the General. "We have a right to praise the
blackguards; without them our conscripts would be very poor trash. The
conscript fights because he has to fight; the blackguard fights
because he loves to fight. A great difference that."
The Colonel of Tirailleurs lifted his eyes; a slight, pale effeminate,
dark-eyed Parisian, who looked scarcely stronger than a hot-house
flower, yet who, as many an African chronicle could tell, was swift as
fire, keen as steel, unerring as a leopard's leap, untiring as an
Indian on trail, once in the field with his Indigenes.
"In proportion as one loves powder, one has been a scoundrel, mon
General," he murmured; "what the catalogue of your crimes must be!"
The tough old campaigner laughed grimly; he took it as a high
"Sapristi! The cardinal virtues don't send anybody, I guess, into
African service. And yet, pardieu, I don't know. What fellows I have
known! I have had men among my Zephyrs--and they were the wildest
insubordinates too--that would have ruled the world! I have had more
wit, more address, more genius, more devotion, in some headlong scamp
of a loustic than all the courts and cabinets would furnish. Such
lives, such lives, too, morbleu!"
And he drained his absinthe thoughtfully, musing on the marvelous
vicissitudes of war, and on the patrician blood, the wasted wit, the
Beaumarchais talent, the Mirabeau power, the adventures like a page of
fairy tale, the brains whose strength could have guided a scepter,
which he had found and known, hidden under the rough uniform of a
Zephyr; buried beneath the canvas shirt of a Roumi; lost forever in
the wild, lawless escapades of rebellious insubordinates, who closed
their days in the stifling darkness of the dungeons of Beylick, or in
some obscure skirmish, some midnight vedette, where an Arab flissa
severed the cord of the warped life, and the death was unhonored by
even a line in the Gazettes du Jour.
"Faith!" laughed Chanrellon, regardless of the General's observation,
"if we all published our memoirs, the world would have a droll book.
Dumas and Terrail would be beat out of the field. The real recruiting
sergeants that send us to the ranks would be soon found to be--"
"Women!" growled the General.
"Cards," sighed the Colonel.
"Absinthe," muttered another.
"A comedy that was hissed."
"The natural desire of humanity to kill or to get killed!"
"Morbleu!" cried Chanrellon, as the voices closed, "all those
mischiefs beat the drum, and send volunteers to the ranks, sure
enough; but the General named the worst. Look at that little Cora; the
Minister of War should give her the Cross. She sends us ten times more
fire-eaters than the Conscription does. Five fine fellows--of the
vieille roche too--joined to-day, because she has stripped them of
everything, and they have nothing for it but the service. She is
"And there is not much to look at in her either," objected a captain,
who commanded Turcos. "I saw her when our detachment went to show in
Paris. A baby face, innocent as a cherub--a soft voice--a shape that
looks as slight and as breakable as the stem of my glass--there is the
The Colonel of Tirailleurs laughed scornfully, but gently; he had been
a great lion of the fashionable world before he came out to his
"The end of Cora! The end of her is--My good Alcide--that 'baby face'
has ruined more of us than would make up a battalion. She is so quiet,
so tender; smiles like an angel, glides like a fawn; is a little sad
too, the innocent dove; looks at you with eyes as clear as water, and
paf! before you know where you are, she has pillaged with both hands,
and you wake one fine morning bankrupt!"
"Why do you let her do it?" growled the vieille moustache, who had
served under Junot, when a little lad, and had scant knowledge of the
ways and wiles of the sirens of the Rue Breda.
"Ah, bah!" said the Colonel, with a shrug of his shoulders; "it is the
thing to be ruined by Cora."
Claude de Chanrellon sighed, stretching his handsome limbs, with the
sigh of recollection; for Paris had been a Paradise Lost to him for
many seasons, and he had had of late years but one solitary glimpse of
it. "It was Coeur d'Acier who was the rage in my time. She ate me up--
that woman--in three months. I had not a hundred francs left: she
stripped me as bare as a pigeon. Her passion was uncut emeralds just
then. Well uncut emeralds made an end of me, and sent me out here.
Coeur d'Acier was a wonderful woman!--and the chief wonder of her was,
that she was as ugly as sin."
"Ugly as sin! But she had the knack of making herself more charming
than Venus. How she did it nobody knew; but men left the prettiest
creatures for her; and she ruined us, I think, at the rate of a score
"Like Loto," chimed in the Tirailleur. "Loto has not a shred of
beauty. She is a big, angular, raw-boned Normande, with a rough voice
and a villainous patois; but to be well with Loto is to have achieved
distinction at once. She will have nothing under the third order of
nobility; and Prince Paul shot the Duc de Var about her the other day.
She is a great creature, Loto; nobody knows her secret."
"Audacity, my friend! Always that!" said Chanrellon, with a twist of
his superb mustaches. "It is the finest quality out; nothing so sure
to win. Hallo! There is le beau corporal listening. Ah! Bel-a-faire-
peur, you fell, too, among the Lotos and the Coeurs d'Acier once, I
The Chasseur, who was passing, paused and smiled a little, as he
"Coeurs d'Acier are to be found in all ranks of the sex, monsieur, I
"Bah! you beg the question. Did not a woman send you out here?"
"No, monsieur--only chance."
"A fig for your chance! Women are the mischief that casts us adrift to
"Monsieur, we cast ourselves sometimes."
"Dieu de Dieu! I doubt that. We should go straight enough if it were
not for them."
The Chasseur smiled again.
"M. le Viscomte thinks we are sure to be right, then, if, for the key
to every black story, we ask, 'Who was she?' "
"Of course I do. Well! who was she? We are all quoting our tempters
to-night. Give us your story, mon brave!"
"Monsieur, you have it in the folios, as well as my sword could write
"Good, good!" muttered the listening General. The soldier-like answer
pleased him, and he looked attentively at the giver of it.
Chanrellon's brown eyes flashed a bright response.
"And your sword writes in a brave man's fashion--writes what France
loves to read. But before you wore your sword here? Tell us of that.
It was a romance--wasn't it?"
"If it were, I have folded down the page, monsieur."
"Open it then! Come--what brought you out among us? Out with it!"
"Monsieur, direct obedience is a soldier's duty; but I never heard
that inquisitive annoyance was an officer's privilege."
These words were calm, cold, a little languid, and a little haughty.
The manner of old habit, the instinct of buried pride spoke in them,
and disregarded the barrier between a private of Chasseurs who was but
a sous-officier, and a Colonel Commandant who was also a noble of
Involuntarily, all the men sitting round the little table, outside the
cafe, turned and looked at him. The boldness of speech and the
quietude of tone drew all their eyes in curiosity upon him.
Chanrellon flushed scarlet over his frank brow, and an instant's
passion gleamed out of his eyes; the next he threw his three chairs
down with a crash, as he shook his mighty frame like an Alpine dog,
and bowed with a French grace, with a campaigner's frankness.
"A right rebuke!--fairly given, and well deserved. I thank you for the
The Chasseur looked surprised and moved; in truth, he was more touched
than he showed. Under the rule of Chateauroy, consideration and
courtesy had been things long unshown to him. Involuntarily, forgetful
of rank, he stretched his hand out, on the impulse of soldier to
soldier, of gentleman to gentleman. Then, as the bitter remembrance of
the difference in rank and station between them flashed on his memory,
he was raising it proudly, deferentially, in the salute of a
subordinate to his superior, when Chanrellon's grasp closed on it
readily. The victim of Coeur d'Acier was of as gallant a temper as
ever blent the reckless condottiere with the thoroughbred noble.
The Chasseur colored slightly, as he remembered that he had forgotten
alike his own position and their relative stations.
"I beg your pardon, M. le Viscomte," he said simply, as he gave the
salute with ceremonious grace, and passed onward rapidly, as though he
wished to forget and to have forgotten the momentary self-oblivion of
which he had been guilty.
"Dieu!" muttered Chanrellon, as he looked after him, and struck his
hand on the marble-topped table till the glasses shook. "I would give
a year's pay to know that fine fellow's history. He is a gentleman--
every inch of him."
"And a good soldier, which is better," growled the General of Brigade,
who had begun life in his time driving an ox-plow over the heavy
tillage of Alsace.
"A private of Chateauroy's?" asked the Tirailleur, lifting his eye-
glass to watch the Chasseur as he went.
"Pardieu--yes--more's the pity," said Chanrellon, who spoke his
thoughts as hastily as a hand-grenade scatters its powder. "The Black
Hawk hates him--God knows why--and he is kept down in consequence, as
if he were the idlest lout or the most incorrigible rebel in the
service. Look at what he has done. All the Bureaux will tell you there
is not a finer Roumi in Africa--not even among our Schaouacks! Since
he joined, there has not been a hot and heavy thing with the Arabs
that he has not had his share in. There has not been a campaign in
Oran or Kabaila that he had not gone out with. His limbs are slashed
all over with Bedouin steel. He rode once twenty leagues to deliver
dispatches with a spear-head in his side, and fell, in a dead faint,
out of his saddle just as he gave them up to the commandant's own
hands. He saved the day, two years ago, at Granaila. We should have
been cut to pieces, as sure as destiny, if he had not collected a
handful of broken Chasseurs together, and rallied them, and rated
them, and lashed them with their shame, till they dashed with him to a
man into the thickest of the fight, and pierced the Arabs' center, and
gave us breathing room, till we all charged together, and beat the
Arbicos back like a herd of jackals. There are a hundred more like
stories of him--every one of them true as my saber--and, in reward, he
has just been made a galonne!"
"Superb!" said the General, with a grim significance. "Twelve years!
In five under Napoleon, he would have been at the head of a brigade;
but then"--and the veteran drank his absinthe with a regretful
melancholy--"but then, Napoleon read his men himself and never read
them wrong. It is a divine gift, that, for commanders."
"The Black Hawk can read, too," said Chanrellon meditatively; but it
was the "petit nom," that Chateauroy had gained long before, and by
which he was best known through the army. "No eyes are keener than his
to trace a lascar kebir. But, where he hates, he strikes beak and
talons--pong!--till the thing drops dead--even where he strikes a bird
of his own brood."
"That is bad," said the old General sententiously. "There are four
people who should have no personal likes or dislikes; they are an
innkeeper, a schoolmaster, a ship's skipper, and a military chief."
With which axiom he called for some more vert-vert.
Meanwhile, the Chasseur went his way through the cosmopolitan groups
of the great square. A little farther onward, laughing, smoking,
chatting, eating ices outside a Cafe Chantant, were a group of
Englishmen--a yachting party, whose schooner lay in the harbor. He
lingered a moment; and lighted a fusee, just for the sake of hearing
the old familiar words. As he bent his head, no one saw the shadow of
pain that passed over his face.
But one of them looked at him curiously and earnestly. "The deuce," he
murmured to the man nearest him, "who the dickens is it that French
The French soldier heard, and, with the cigar in his teeth, moved away
quickly. He was uneasy in the city--uneasy lest he should be
recognized by any passer-by or tourist.
"I need not fear that, though," he thought with a smile. "Ten years!--
why, in that world, we used to forget the blackest ruin in ten days,
and the best life among us ten hours after its grave was closed.
Besides, I am safe enough. I am dead!"
And he pursued his onward way, with the red glow of the cigar under
the chestnut splendor of his beard, and the black eyes of veiled women
flashed lovingly on his tall, lithe form, with the scarlet undress fez
set on his forehead, fair as a woman's still, despite the tawny glow
of the African sun that had been on it for so long.
He was "dead"; therein had lain all his security; thereby had "Beauty
of the Brigades" been buried beyond all discovery in "Bel-a-faire-
peur" of the 2nd Chasseurs d'Afrique. When, on the Marseilles rails,
the maceration and slaughter of as terrible an accident as ever befell
a train rushing through the midnight darkness, at headlong speed, had
left himself and the one man faithful to his fortunes unharmed by
little less than a miracle; he had seen in the calamity the surest
screen from discovery or pursuit.
Leaving the baggage where it was jammed among the debris, he had
struck across the country with Rake for the few leagues that still lay
between them and the city, and had entered Marseilles as weary foot
travelers, before half the ruin on the rails had been seen by the full
As it chanced a trading yawl was loading in the port, to run across to
Algiers that very day. The skipper was short of men, and afraid of the
Lascars, who were the only sailors that he seemed likely to find to
fill up the vacant places in his small crew.
Cecil offered himself and his comrade for the passage. He had only a
very few gold pieces on his person, and he was willing to work his way
across, if he could.
"But you're a gentleman," said the skipper, doubtfully eyeing him, and
his velvet dress, and his black sombrero with its eagle's plume. "I
want a rare, rough, able seaman, for there'll like to be foul weather.
She looks too fair to last," he concluded, with a glance upward at the
He was a Liverpool man, master and owner of his own rakish-looking
little black-hulled craft, that, rumor was wont to say, was not averse
to a bit of slaving, if she found herself in far seas, with a likely
run before her.
"You're a swell, that's what you are," emphasized the skipper. "You
bean't no sort of use to me."
"Wait a second," answered Cecil. "Did you ever chance to hear of a
schooner called 'Regina'?"
The skipper's face lighted in a moment.
"Her as was in the Biscay, July come two years? Her as drove through
the storm like a mad thing, and flew like a swallow, when everything
was splitting and foundering, and shipping seas around her? Her as was
the first to bear down to the great 'Wrestler,' a-lying there hull
over in water, and took aboard all as ever she could hold o' the
passengers; a-pitching out her own beautiful cabin fittings to have as
much room for the poor wretches as ever she could? Be you a-meaning
Cecil nodded assent.
"She was my yacht, that's all; and I was without a captain through
that storm. Will you think me a good enough sailor now?"
The skipper wrung his hand till he nearly wrung it off.
"Good enough! Blast my timbers! There aren't one will beat you in any
waters. Come on, sir, if so be as you wishes it; but never a stroke of
work shall you do atween my decks. I never did think as how one of
your yachting-nobs could ever be fit to lay hold of a tiller; but,
hang me, if the Club make such sailors as you it's a rare 'un! Lord a
mercy! Why, my wife was in the 'Wrestler.' I've heard her tell scores
of times as how she was almost dead when that little yacht came
through a swaling sea, that was all heaving and roaring round the
wreck, and as how the swell what owned it gave his cabin up to the
womenkind, and had his swivel guns and his handsome furniture pitched
overboard, that he might be able to carry more passengers, and fed
'em, and gave 'em champagne all around, and treated 'em like a prince,
till he ran 'em straight into Brest Harbor. But, damn me! that ever a
swell like you should--"
"Let's weigh anchor," said Bertie quietly.
And so he crossed unnoticed to Algeria, while through Europe the
tidings went that the mutilated form, crushed between iron and wood,
on the Marseilles line, was his, and that he had perished in that
awful, ink-black, sultry southern night, when the rushing trains had
met, as meet the thunder-clouds. The world thought him dead; as such
the journals recorded him, with the shameful outlines of imputed
crime, to make the death the darker; as such his name was forbidden to
be uttered at Royallieu; as such the Seraph mourned him with
passionate, loving force, refusing to the last to accredit his guilt:
--and he, leaving them in their error, was drafted into the French
army under two of his Christian names, which happily had a foreign
sound--Louis Victor--and laid aside forever his identity as Bertie
He went at once on service in the interior, and had scarcely come in
any of the larger towns since he had joined. His only danger of
recognition, had been once when a Marshal of France, whom he had used
to know well in Paris and at the court of St. James, held an
inspection of the African troops.
Filing past the brilliant staff, he had ridden at only a few yards'
distance from his old acquaintance, and, as he saluted, had glanced
involuntarily at the face that he had seen oftentimes in the Salles de
Marechaux, and even under the roof of the regiment, ready to note a
chain loose, a belt awry, a sword specked with rust, if such a sin
there were against "les ordonnances" in all the glittering squadrons;
and swept over him, seeing in him but one among thousands--a unit in
the mighty aggregate of the "raw material" of war.
The Marshal only muttered to a General beside him, "Why don't they all
ride like that man? He has the seat of the English Guards." But that
it was in truth an officer of the English Guards, and a friend of his
own, who paced past him as a private of Algerian Horse, the French
leader never dreamed.
From the extremes of luxury, indolence, indulgence, pleasure, and
extravagance, Cecil came to the extremes of hardship, poverty,
discipline, suffering, and toil. From a life where every sense was
gratified, he came to a life where every privation was endured. He had
led the fashion; he came where he had to bear without a word the
curses, oaths, and insults of a corporal or a sous-lieutenant. He had
been used to every delicacy and delight; he came where he had to take
the coarse black bread of the army as a rich repast. He had thought it
too much trouble to murmur flatteries in great ladies' ears; he came
where morning, noon, and night the inexorable demands of rigid rules
compelled his incessant obedience, vigilance, activity, and self-
denial. He had known nothing from his childhood up except an
atmosphere of amusement, refinement, brilliancy, and idleness; he came
where gnawing hunger, brutalized jest, ceaseless toil, coarse
obscenity, agonized pain, and pandemonaic mirth alternately filled the
measure of the days.
A sharper contrast, a darker ordeal, rarely tried the steel of any
man's endurance. No Spartan could have borne the change more mutely,
more staunchly than did the "dandy of the Household."
The first years were, it is true, years of intense misery to him.
Misery, when all the blood glowed in him under some petty tyrant's
jibe, and he had to stand immovable, holding his peace. Misery, when
hunger and thirst of long marches tortured him, and his soul sickened
at the half-raw offal, and the water thick with dust, and stained with
blood, which the men round him seized so ravenously. Misery, when the
dreary dawn broke, only to usher in a day of mechanical maneuvers, of
petty tyrannies, of barren, burdensome hours in the exercise-ground,
of convoy duty in the burning sun-glare, and under the heat of
harness; and the weary night fell with the din and uproar, and the
villainous blasphemy and befouled merriment of the riotous barracks,
that denied even the peace and oblivion of sleep. They were years of
infinite wretchedness oftentimes, only relieved by the loyalty and
devotion of the man who had followed him into his exile. But, however
wretched, they never wrung a single regret or lament from Cecil. He
had come out to this life; he took it as it was. As, having lost the
title to command, the high breeding in him made him render implicitly
the mute obedience which was the first duty of his present position,
so it made him accept, from first to last, without a sign of complaint
or of impatience, the altered fortunes of his career. The hardest-
trained, lowest-born, longest-inured soldier in the Zephyr ranks did
not bear himself with more apparent content and more absolute
fortitude than did the man who had used to think it a cruelty to ride
with his troop from Windsor to Wormwood Scrubs, and had never taken
the trouble to load his own gun any shooting season, or to draw off
his own coat any evening. He suffered acutely many times; suffered
till he was heart-sick of his life; but he never sought to escape the
slightest penalty or hardship, and not even Rake ever heard from him a
single syllable of irritation or of self-pity.
Moreover, the war-fire woke in him.
In one shape or another active service was almost always his lot, and
hot, severe campaigning was his first introduction to military life in
Algeria. The latent instinct in him--the instinct that had flashed out
during his lazy, fashionable calm in all moments of danger, in all
days of keen sport; the instinct that had made him fling himself into
the duello with the French boar, and made him mutter to Forest King,
"Kill me if you like, but don't fail me!"--was the instinct of the
born soldier. In peril, in battle, in reckless bravery, in the rush of
the charge and the excitement of the surprise, in the near presence of
death, and in the chase of a foe through a hot African night when both
were armed to the teeth, and one or both must fall when the grapple
came--in all these that old instinct, aroused and unloosed, made him
content; made him think that the life which brought them was worth the
There had always been in him a reckless dare-devilry, which had slept
under the serene, effeminate insouciance of his careless temper and
his pampered habits. It had full rein now, and made him, as the army
affirmed, one of the most intrepid, victorious, and chivalrous lascars
of its fiery ranks. Fate had flung him off his couch of down into the
tempest of war; into the sternness of life spent ever on the border of
the grave; ruled over by an iron code, requiring at every step self-
negation, fortitude, submission, courage, patience; the self-control
which should take the uttermost provocation from those in command
without even a look of reprisal, and the courageous recklessness which
should meet death and deal death; which should be as the eagle to
swoop, as the lion to rend. And he was not found wanting in it.
He was too thoroughbred to attempt to claim a superiority that fortune
no longer conferred on him; to seek to obtain a deference that he had
no longer the position to demand. He was too quiet, too courteous, too
calmly listless; he had too easy a grace, too soft a voice, and too
many gentleman habits, for them. But when they found that he could
fight like a Zouave, ride like an Arab, and bear shot-wounds or
desert-thirst as though he were of bronze, it grew a delight to them
to see of what granite and steel this dainty patrician was made; and
they loved him with a rough, ardent, dog-like love, when they found
that his last crust, in a long march, would always be divided: that
the most desperate service of danger was always volunteered for by
him; that no severity of personal chastisement ever made him clear
himself of a false charge at a comrade's expense; and that all his pay
went in giving a veteran a stoup of wine, or a sick conscript a
tempting meal, or a prisoner of Beylick some food through the grating,
scaled too at risk of life and limb.
He had never before been called on to exert either thought or action;
the necessity for both called many latent qualities in him into play.
The same nature, which had made him wish to be killed over the Grand
Military course, rather than live to lose the race, made him now bear
privation as calmly, and risk death as recklessly, as the heartiest
and most fiery loustic of the African regiments.
On the surface it seemed as though never was there a life more utterly
thrown away than the life of a Guardsman and a gentleman, a man of
good blood, high rank, and talented gifts--had he ever chosen to make
anything of them--buried in the ranks of the Franco-African army;
risking a nameless grave in the sand with almost every hour,
associated with the roughest riffraff of Europe, liable any day to be
slain by the slash of an Arab flissa, and rewarded for ten years'
splendid service by the distinctive badge of a corporal.
Yet it might be doubted if any life would have done for him what this
had done; it might be questioned if, judging a career not by its
social position, but by its effect on character, any other would have
been so well for him, or would equally have given steel and strength
to the indolence and languor of his nature as this did. In his old
world he would have lounged listlessly through fashionable seasons,
and in an atmosphere that encouraged his profound negligence of
everything; and his natural listlessness would have glided from
refinement to effeminacy, and from lazy grace to blase inertia.
The severity and the dangers of the campaigns with the French army had
roused the sleeping lion in him, and made him as fine a soldier as
ever ranged under any flag. He had suffered, braved, resented, fought,
loved, hated, endured, and even enjoyed, here in Africa, with a force
and a vividness that he had never dreamed possible in his calm,
passionless, insouciant world of other days. It developed him into a
magnificent soldier--too true a soldier not to make thoroughly his the
service he had adopted; not to, oftentimes, almost forget that he had
ever lived under any other flag than that tricolor which he followed
and defended now.
The quaint, heroic Norman motto of his ancestors, carved over the
gates of Royallieu--"Coeur Vaillant Se Fait Royaume"--verified itself
in his case. Outlawed, beggared, robbed at a stroke of every hope and
prospect--he had taken his adversity boldly by the beard, and had made
himself at once a country and a kingdom among the brave, fierce,
reckless, loyal hearts of the men who came from north, south, east,
and west--driven by every accident, and scourged by every fate--to
fill up the battalions of North Africa.
As he went now, in the warmth of the after-glow, he turned up into the
Rue Babazoum, and paused before the entrance of a narrow, dark,
tumble-down, picturesque shop, half like a stall of a Cairo bazaar;
half like a Jew's den in a Florentine alley.
A cunning, wizen head peered out at him from the gloom.
"Ah, ha! Good-even, Corporal Victor!"
Cecil, at the words, crossed the sill and entered.
"Have you sold any?" he asked. There was a slight constraint and
hesitation in the words, as of one who can never fairly bend his
spirit to the yoke of barter.
The little, hideous, wrinkled, dwarf-like creature, a trader in
curiosities, grinned with a certain gratification in disappointing
this lithe-limbed, handsome Chasseur.
"Not one. The toys don't take. Daggers now, or anything made out of
spent balls, or flissas one can tell an Arab story about, go off like
wild-fire; but your ivory bagatelles are no sort of use, M. le
"Very well--no matter," said Cecil simply, as he paused a moment
before some delicate little statuettes and carvings--miniature things,
carved out of a piece of ivory, or a block of marble the size of a
horse's hoof, such as could be picked up in dry river channels or
broken off stray boulders; slender crucifixes, wreathes of foliage,
branches of wild fig, figures of Arabs and Moors, dainty heads of
dancing-girls, and tiny chargers fretting like Bucephalus. They were
perfectly conceived and executed. He had always had a gift that way,
though, in common with all his gifts, he had utterly neglected all
culture of it, until, cast adrift on the world, and forced to do
something to maintain himself, he had watched the skill of the French
soldiers at all such expedients to gain a few coins, and had solaced
many a dreary hour in barracks and under canvas with the toy-
sculpture, till he had attained a singular art at it. He had commonly
given Rake the office of selling them, and as commonly spent all the
proceeds on all other needs save his own.
He lingered a moment, with regret in his eyes; he had scarcely a sou
in his pocket, and he had wanted some money sorely that night for a
comrade dying of a lung-wound--a noble fellow, a French artist, who,
in an evil hour of desperation, had joined the army, with a poet's
temper that made its hard, colorless routine unendurable, and had been
shot in the chest in a night-skirmish.
"You will not buy them yourself?" he asked at length, the color
flushing in his face; he would not have pressed the question to save
his own life from starving, but Leon Ramon would have no chance of
fruit or a lump of ice to cool his parched lips and still his agonized
retching, unless he himself could get money to buy those luxuries that
are too splendid and too merciful to be provided for a dying soldier,
who knows so little of his duty to his country as to venture to die in
"Myself!" screeched the dealer, with a derisive laugh. "Ask me to give
you my whole stock next! These trumperies will lie on hand for a
Cecil went out of the place without a word; his thoughts were with
Leon Ramon, and the insolence scarce touched him. "How shall I get him
the ice?" he wondered. "God! if I had only one of the lumps that used
to float in our claret cup!"
As he left the den, a military fairy, all gay with blue and crimson,
like the fuchsia bell she most resembled, with a meerschaum in her
scarlet lips and a world of wrath in her bright black eyes, dashed
past him into the darkness within, and before the dealer knew or
dreamed of her, tossed up the old man's little shriveled frame like a
shuttlecock, shook him till he shook like custards, flung him upward
and caught him as if he were the hoop in a game of La Grace, and set
him down bruised, breathless, and terrified out of his wits.
"Ah!" cried Cigarette, with a volley of slang utterly untranslatable,
"that is how you treat your betters, is it? Miser, monster, crocodile,
serpent! He wanted the money and you refused it? Ah! son of Satan! You
live on other men's miseries! Run after him, quick, and give him this,
and this, and this, and this; and say you were only in jest, and that
the things were worth a Sheik's ransom. Stay! You must not give him
too much, or he will know it is not you--viper! Run quick, and breath
a word about me, if you dare; one whisper only, and my Spahis shall
cut your throat from ear to ear. Off! Or you shall have a bullet to
quicken your steps; misers dance well when pistols play the minuet!"
With which exordium the little Amie du Drapeau shook her culprit at
every epithet, emptied out a shower of gold and silver just won at
play, from the bosom of her uniform, forced it into the dealer's
hands, hurled him out of his own door, and drew her pretty weapon with
a clash from her sash.
"Run for your life!--and do just what I bid you; or a shot shall crash
your skull in as sure as my name is Cigarette!"
The little old Jew flew as fast as his limbs would carry him,
clutching the coins in his horny hands. He was terrified to a mortal
anguish, and had not a thought of resisting or disobeying her; he knew
the fame of Cigarette--as who did not? Knew that she would fire at a
man as carelessly as at a cat,--more carelessly, in truth,--for she
favored cats; saving many from going to the Zouaves' soup-caldrons,
and favored civilians not at all; and knew that at her rallying cry
all the sabers about the town would be drawn without a second's
deliberation, and sheathed in anything or anybody that had offended
her, for Cigarette was, in her fashion, Generalissima of all the
Regiments of Africa.
The dealer ran with all the speed of terror, and overtook Cecil, who
was going slowly onward to the barracks.
"Are you serious?" he asked in surprise at the large amount, as the
little Jew panted out apologies, entreaties, and protestations of his
only having been in jest, and of his fervently desiring to buy the
carvings at his own price, as he knew of a great collector in Paris to
whom he needed to send them.
"Serious! Indeed am I serious, M. le Caporal," pleaded the curiosity-
trader, turning his head in agonized fear to see if the vivandiere's
pistol was behind him. "The things will be worth a great deal to me
where I shall send them, and though they are but bagatelles, what is
Paris itself but one bagatelle? Pouf! They are all children there--
they will love the toys. Take the money, I pray you; take the money!"
Cecil looked at him a moment; he saw the man was in earnest, and
thought but little of his repentance and trepidation, for the citizens
were all afraid of slighting or annoying a soldier.
"So be it. Thank you," he said, as he stretched out his hand and took
the coins, not without a keen pang of the old pride that would not be
wholly stilled, yet gladly for sake of the Chasseur dying yonder,
growing delirious and retching the blood off his lungs in want of one
touch of the ice, that was spoiled by the ton weight, to keep cool the
wines and the fish of M. le Marquis de Chateauroy. And he went onward
to spend the gold his sculpture had brought on some yellow figs and
some cool golden grapes, and some ice-chilled wines that should soothe
a little of the pangs of dissolution to his comrade.
"You did it? That is well. Now, see here--one word of me, now or ever
after, and there is a little present that will come to you from
Cigarette," said the little Friend of the Flag with a sententious
sternness. The unhappy Jew shuddered and shut his eyes as she held a
bullet close to his sight, then dropped it with an ominous thud in her
"Not a syllable, never a syllable," he stammered; "and if I had known
you were in love with him--"
A box on the ears sent him across his own counter.
"In love? Parbleu! I detest the fellow!" said Cigarette, with fiery
scorn and as hot an oath.
"Truly? Then why give your Napoleons----" began the bruised and
Cigarette tossed back her pretty head that was curly and spirited and
shapely as any thoroughbred spaniel's; a superb glance flashed from
her eyes, a superb disdain sat on her lips.
"You are a Jew trader; you know nothing of our code under the
tricolor. We are too proud not to aid even an enemy when he is in the
right, and France always arms for justice!"
With which magnificent peroration she swept all the carvings--they
were rightfully hers--off the table.
"They will light my cooking fire!" she said contemptuously, as she
vaulted lightly over the counter into the street, and pirouetted along
the slope of the crowded Babazoum. All made way for her, even the
mighty Spahis and the trudging Bedouin mules, for all knew that if
they did not she would make it for herself, over their heads or above
their prostrated bodies. Finally she whirled herself into a dark,
deserted Moresco archway, a little out of the town, and dropped on a
stone block, as a swallow, tired of flight, drops on to a bough.
"Is that the way I revenge myself? Ah, bah! I deserve to be killed!
When he called me unsexed--unsexed--unsexed!"--and with each
repetition of the infamous word, so bitter because vaguely admitted to
be true, with her cheeks scarlet and her eyes aflame, and her hands
clinched, she flung one of the ivory wreathes on to the pavement and
stamped on it with her spurred heel until the carvings were ground
into powdered fragments--stamped, as though it were a living foe, and
her steel-bound foot were treading out all its life with burning hate
and pitiless venom.
In the act her passion exhausted itself, as the evil of such warm,
impetuous, tender natures will; she was very still, and looked at the
ruin she had done with regret and a touch of contrition.
"It was very pretty--and cost him weeks of labor, perhaps," she
Then she took all the rest up, one by one, and gazed at them. Things
of beauty had had but little place in her lawless young life; what she
thought beautiful was a regiment sweeping out in full sunlight, with
its eagles, and its colors, and its kettle-drums; what she held as
music was the beat of the reveille and the mighty roll of the great
artillery; what made her pulse throb and her heart leap was to see two
fine opposing forces draw near for the onslaught and thunder of
battle. Of things of grace she had no heed, though she had so much
grace herself; and her life, though full of color, pleasure, and
mischief, was as rough a one in most respects as any of her comrades'.
These delicate artistic carvings were a revelation to her.
She touched them reverently one by one; all the carvings had their
beauty for her, but those of the flowers had far the most. She had
never noted any flowers in her life before, save those she strung
together for the Zephyrs. Her youth was a military ballad, rhymed
vivaciously to the rhythm of the Pas de Charge; but other or softer
poetry had never by any chance touched her until now--now that in her
tiny, bronzed, war-hardened palms lay the while foliage, the delicate
art-trifles of this Chasseur, who bartered his talent to get a touch
of ice for the burning lips of his doomed comrade.
"He is an aristocrat--he has such gifts as this--and yet he must sell
all this beauty to get a slice of melon for Leon Ramon!" she thought,
while the silvery moon strayed in through a broken arch, and fell on
an ivory coil of twisted leaves and river grasses.
And, lost in a musing pity, Cigarette forgot her vow of vengeance.
THE IVORY SQUADRONS.
The barracks of the Chasseurs was bright and clean in the morning
light; in common with all Algerian barrack rooms as unlike the barrack
rooms of the ordinary army as Cigarette, with her debonair devilry,
smoking on a gun-wagon, was unlike a trim Normandy soubrette, sewing
on a bench in the Tuileries gardens.
Disorder reigned supreme; but Disorder, although a disheveled goddess,
is very often a picturesque one, and more of an artist than her
better-trained sisters; and the disorder was brightened with a
thousand vivid colors and careless touches that blent in confusion to
enchant a painter's eyes. The room was crammed with every sort of
spoil that the adventurous pillaging temper of the troopers could
forage from Arab tents, or mountain caves, or river depths, or desert
beasts and birds. All things, from tiger skins to birds' nests, from
Bedouin weapons to ostrich eggs, from a lion's mighty coat to a
tobacco-stopper chipped out of a morsel of deal, were piled together,
pell-mell, or hung against the whitewashed walls, or suspended by
cords from bed to bed. Everything that ingenuity and hardihood,
prompted by the sharp spur of hunger, could wrest from the foe, from
the country, from earth or water, from wild beasts or rock, were here
in the midst of the soldiers' regimental pallets and regimental arms,
making the barracks at once atelier, storehouse, workshop, and bazaar;
while the men, cross-legged on their little hard couches, worked away
with the zest of those who work for the few coins that alone will get
them the food, the draught of wine, the hour's mirth and indulgence at
the estaminet, to which they look across the long, stern probation of
discipline and maneuver.
Skill, grace, talent, invention whose mother was necessity, and
invention that was the unforced offshoot of natural genius, were all
at work; and the hands that could send the naked steel down at a blow
through turban and through brain could shape, with a woman's
ingenuity, with a craftsman's skill, every quaint device and dainty
bijou from stone and wood, and many-colored feathers, and mountain
berries, and all odds and ends that chance might bring to hand, and
that the women of Bedouin tribes or the tourists of North Africa might
hereafter buy with a wondrous tale appended to them--racy and
marvelous as the Sapir slang and the military imagination could weave
--to enhance the toys' value, and get a few coins more on them for
Ignorance jostled art, and bizarre ran hand in hand with talent, in
all the products of the Chasseurs' extemporized studio; but nowhere
was there ever clumsiness, and everywhere was there an industry, gay,
untiring, accustomed to make the best of the worst; the workers
laughing, chattering, singing, in all good-fellowship, while the
fingers that gave the dead thrust held the carver's chisel, and the
eyes that glared blood-red in the heat of battle twinkled
mischievously over the meerschaum bowl, in whose grinning form some
great chief of the Bureau had just been sculptured in audacious
In the midst sat Rake, tattooing with an eastern skill the skin of a
great lion, that a year before he had killed in single combat in the
heart of Oran, having watched for the beast twelve nights in vain,
high perched on a leafy crest of rock, above a water-course. While he
worked his tongue flew far and fast over the camp slang--the slangs of
all nations came easy to him--in voluble conversation with the
Chasseur next, who was making a fan out of feathers that any Peeress
might have signaled with at the Opera. "Crache-au-nez-d'la-Mort" was
in high popularity with his comrades; and had said but the truth when
he averred that he had never been so happy as under the tricolor. The
officers pronounced him an incurably audacious "pratique"; he was
always in mischief, and the regimental rules he broke through like a
terrier through a gauze net; but they knew that when once the trumpets
sounded Boot and Saddle, this yellow-haired dare-devil of an English
fellow would be worth a score of more orderly soldiers, and that,
wherever his adopted flag was carried, there would he be, first and
foremost, in everything save retreat. The English service had failed
to turn Rake to account; the French service made no such mistake, but
knew that though this British bulldog might set his teeth at the leash
and the lash, he would hold on like grim death in a fight, and live
game to the last, if well handled.
Apart, at the head of the barracks, sat Cecil. The banter, the songs,
the laughter, the chorus of tongues, went on unslackened by his
presence. He had cordial sympathies with the soldiers--with those men
who had been his followers in adversity and danger; and in whom he had
found, despite all their occasional ferocity and habitual
recklessness, traits and touches of the noblest instincts of humanity.
His heart was with them always, as his purse, and his wine, and his
bread were alike shared ever among them. He had learned to love them
well--these wild wolf-dogs, whose fangs were so terrible to their
foes, but whose eyes would still glisten at a kind word, and who would
give a staunch fidelity unknown to tamer animals.
Living with them, one of them in all their vicissitudes; knowing all
their vices, but knowing also all their virtues; owing to them many an
action of generous nobility and watching them in many an hour when
their gallant self-devotion and their loyal friendships went far to
redeem their lawless robberies and their ruthless crimes, he
understood them thoroughly, and he could rule them more surely in
their tempestuous evil, because he comprehended them so well in their
mirth and in their better moods. When the grade of sous-officier gave
him authority over them, they obeyed him implicitly because they knew
that his sympathies were with them at all times, and that he would be
the last to check their gayety, or to punish their harmless
The warlike Roumis had always had a proud tenderness for their "Bel-a-
faire-peur," and a certain wondering respect for him; but they would
not have adored him to a man, as they did, unless they had known that
they might laugh without restraint before him, and confide any dilemma
to him--sure of aid, if aid were in his power.
The laughter, the work, and the clatter of conflicting tongues were at
their height; Cecil sat, now listening, now losing himself in thought,
while he gave the last touch to the carvings before him. They were a
set of chessmen which it had taken him years to find materials for and
to perfect; the white men were in ivory, the black in walnut, and were
two opposing squadrons of French troops and of mounted Arabs.
Beautifully carved, with every detail of costume rigid to truth, they
were his masterpiece, though they had only been taken up at any odd
ten minutes that had happened to be unoccupied during the last three
or four years. The chessmen had been about with him in so many places
and under canvas so long, from the time that he chipped out their
first Zouave pawn, as he lay in the broiling heat of Oran prostrate by
a dry brook's stony channel, that he scarcely cared to part with them,
and had refused to let Rake offer them for sale, with all the rest of
the carvings. Stooping over them, he did not notice the doors open at
the end of the barracks until a sudden silence that fell on the babble
and uproar round him made him look up; then he rose and gave the
salute with the rest of his discomfited and awestricken troopers.
Chateauroy with a brilliant party had entered.
The Colonel flashed an eagle glance round.
"Fine discipline! You shall go and do this pretty work at Beylick!"
The soldiers stood like hounds that see the lash; they knew that he
was like enough to carry out his threat; though they were doing no
more than they had always tacit, if not open, permission to do. Cecil
advanced, and fronted him.
"Mine is the blame, mon Commandant!"
He spoke simply, gently, boldly; standing with the ceremony that he
never forgot to show to their chief, where the glow of African
sunlight through the casement of the barracks fell full across his
face, and his eyes met the dark glance of the "Black Hawk"
unflinchingly. He never heeded that there was a gay, varied, numerous
group behind Chateauroy; visitors who were looking over the barrack;
he only heeded that his soldiers were unjustly attacked and menaced.
The Marquis gave a grim, significant smile, that cut like so much cord
of the scourge.
"Wherever there is insubordination in the regiment, the blame is very
certain to be yours! Corporal Victor, if you allow your Chambre to be
turned into the riot of a public fair, you will soon find yourself
degraded from the rank you so signally contrive to disgrace."
The words were far less than the tone they were spoken in, that gave
them all the insolence of so many blows, as he swung on his heel and
bent to the ladies of the party he escorted. Cecil stood mute; bearing
the rebuke as it became a Corporal to bear his Commander's anger; a
very keen observer might have seen that a faint flush rose over the
sun tan of his face, and that his teeth clinched under his beard; but
he let no other sign escape him.
The very self-restraint irritated Chateauroy, who would have been the
first to chastise the presumption of a reply, had any been attempted.
"Back to your place, sir!" he said, with a wave of his hand, as he
might have waved back a cur. "Teach your men the first formula of
obedience, at any rate!"
Cecil fell back in silence. With a swift, warning glance at Rake,--
whose mouth was working, and whose forehead was hot as fire, where he
clinched his lion-skin, and longed to be once free, to pull his chief
down as lions pull in the death spring,--he went to his place at the
farther end of the chamber and stood, keeping his eyes on the chess
carvings, lest the control which was so bitter to retain should be
broken if he looked on at the man who had been the curse and the
antagonist of his whole life in Algeria.
He saw nothing and heard almost as little of all that went on around
him; there had been a flutter of cloud-like color in his sight, a
faint, dreamy fragrance on the air, a sound of murmuring voices and of
low laughter; he had known that some guests or friends of the Marquis'
had come to view the barracks, but he never even glanced to see who or
what they were. The passionate bitterness of just hatred, that he had
to choke down as though it were the infamous instinct of some nameless
crime, was on him.
The moments passed, the hum of the voices floated to his ear; the
ladies of the party lingered by this soldier and by that, buying half
the things in the chamber, filling their hands with all the quaint
trifles, ordering the daggers and the flissas and the ornamented
saddles and the desert skins to adorn their chateaux at home; and
raining down on the troopers a shower of uncounted Napoleons until the
Chasseurs, who had begun to think their trades would take them to
Beylick, thought instead that they had drifted into dreams of El
Dorado. He never looked up; he heard nothing, heeded nothing; he was
dreamily wondering whether he should always be able so to hold his
peace, and to withhold his arm, that he should never strike his tyrant
down with one blow, in which all the opprobrium of years should be
stamped out. A voice woke him from his reverie.
"Are those beautiful carvings yours?"
He looked up, and in the gloom of the alcove where he stood, where the
sun did not stray, and two great rugs of various skins, with some
conquered banners of Bedouins, hung like a black pall, he saw a
woman's eyes resting on him; proud, lustrous eyes, a little haughty,
very thoughtful, yet soft withal, as the deepest hue of deep waters.
He bowed to her with the old grace of manner that had so amused and
amazed the little vivandiere.
"Yes, madame, they are mine."
"Ah!--what wonderful skill!"
She took the White King, an Arab Sheik on his charger, in her hand,
and turned to those about her, speaking of its beauties and its
workmanship in a voice low, very melodious, ever so slightly languid,
that fell on Cecil's ear like a chime of long-forgotten music. Twelve
years had drifted by since he had been in the presence of a high-bred
woman, and those lingering, delicate tones had the note of his dead
He looked at her; at the gleam of the brilliant hair, at the arch of
the proud brows, at the dreaming, imperial eyes; it was a face
singularly dazzling, impressive, and beautiful at all times; most so
of all in the dusky shadows of the waving desert banners, and the
rough, rude, barbaric life of the Caserne, where a fille de joie or a
cantiniere were all of her sex that was ever seen, and those--poor
wretches!--were hardened, and bronzed, and beaten, and brandy-steeped
out of all likeness to the fairness of women.
"You have an exquisite art. They are for sale?" she asked him. She
spoke with the careless, gracious courtesy of a grande dame to a
Corporal of Chasseurs; looking little at him, much at the Kings and
their mimic hosts of Zouaves and Bedouins.
"They are at your service, madame."
"And their price?" She had been purchasing largely of the men on all
sides as she swept down the length of the Chambre and she drew out
some French banknotes as she spoke. Never had the bitterness of
poverty smitten him as it smote him now when this young patrician
offered him her gold! Old habits vanquished; he forgot who and where
he now was; he bowed as in other days he had used to bow in the circle
of St. James'.
"Is--the honor of your acceptance, if you will deign to give that."
He forgot that he was not as he once had been. He forgot that he stood
but as a private of the French army before an aristocrat whose name he
had never heard.
She turned and looked at him, which she had never done before, so
absorbed had she been in the chessmen, and so little did a Chasseur of
the ranks pass into her thoughts. There was an extreme of surprise,
there was something of offense, and there was still more of coldness
in her glance; a proud languid, astonished coldness of regard, though
it softened slightly as she saw that he had spoken in all courtesy of
She bent her graceful, regal head.
"I thank you. Your very clever work can, of course, only be mine by
And with that she laid aside the White King among his little troop of
ivory Arabs and floated onward with her friends. Cecil's face paled
slightly under the mellow tint left there by the desert sun and the
desert wind; he swept the chessmen into their walnut case and thrust
them out of sight under his knapsack. Then he stood motionless as a
sentinel, with the great leopard skins and Bedouin banners behind him,
casting a gloom that the gold points on his harness could scarcely
break in its heavy shadow, and never moved till the echo of the
voices, and the cloud of draperies, and the fragrance of perfumed
laces, and the brilliancy of the staff officers' uniforms had passed
away, and left the soldiers alone in their Chambre. Those careless
cold words from a woman's lips had cut him deeper than the stick could
have cut him, though it had bruised his loins and lashed his breast;
they showed all he had lost.
"What a fool I am still!" he thought, as he made his way out of the
barrack room. "I might have fairly forgotten by this time that I ever
had the rights of a gentleman."
So the carvings had won him one warm heart and one keen pang that day;
the vivandiere forgave, the aristocrat stung him, by means of those
snowy, fragile, artistic toys that he had shaped in lonely nights
under canvas by ruddy picket-fires, beneath the shade of wild fig
trees, and in the stir and color of Bedouin encampments.
"I must ask to be ordered out of the city," he thought, as he pushed
his way through the crowds of soldiers and civilians. "Here I get
bitter, restless, impatient; here the past is always touching me on
the shoulder; here I shall soon grow to regret, and to chafe, and to
look back like any pining woman. Out yonder there, with no cares to
think of but my horse and my troop, I am a soldier--and nothing else;
so best. I shall be nothing else as long as I live. Pardieu, though! I
don't know what one wants better; it is a good life, as life goes. One
must not turn compliments to great ladies, that is all--not much of a
deprivation there. The chessmen are the better for that; her Maltese
dog would have broken them all the first time it upset their table!"
He laughed a little as he went on smoking; the old carelessness,
mutability, and indolent philosophies were with him still, and were
still inclined to thrust away and glide from all pain, as it arose.
Though much of gravity and of thoughtfulness had stolen on him, much
of insouciance remained; and there were times when there was not a
more reckless or a more nonchalant lion in all the battalions than
"Bel-a-faire-peur." Under his gentleness there was "wild blood" in
him still, and the wildness was not tamed by the fiery champagne-
draught of the perilous, adventurous years he spent.
"I wonder if I shall never teach the Black Hawk that he may strike his
beak in once too far?" he pondered, with a sudden darker, graver touch
of musing; and involuntarily he stretched his arm out, and looked at
the wrist, supple as Damascus steel, and at the muscles that were
traced beneath the skin, as he thrust the sleeve up, clear, firm, and
sinewy as any athlete's. He doubted his countenance then, fast rein as
he held all rebellion in, close shield as he bound to him against his
own passions in the breastplate of a soldier's first duty--obedience.
He shook the thought off him as he would have shaken a snake. It had a
terrible temptation--a temptation which he knew might any day
overmaster him; and Cecil, who all through his life had certain inborn
instincts of honor, which served him better than most codes or creeds
served their professors, was resolute to follow the military religion
of obedience enjoined in the Service that had received him at his
needs, and to give no precedent in his own person that could be
fraught with dangerous, rebellious allurement for the untamed,
chafing, red-hot spirits of his comrades, for whom he knew
insubordination would be ruin and death--whose one chance of reward,
of success, and of a higher ambition lay in their implicit
subordination to their chiefs, and their continuous resistance of
every rebellious impulse.
Cecil had always thought very little of himself.
In his most brilliant and pampered days he had always considered in
his own heart that he was a graceless fellow, not worth his salt, and
had occasionally wondered, in a listless sort of way, why so useless a
bagatelle a la mode as his own life was had ever been created. He
thought much the same now; but following his natural instincts, which
were always the instincts of a gentleman, and of a generous temper, he
did, unconsciously, make his life of much value among its present
His influence had done more to humanize the men he was associated with
than any preachers or teachers could have done. The most savage and
obscene brute in the ranks with him caught something gentler and
better from the "aristocrat." His refined habits, his serene temper,
his kindly forbearance, his high instinctive honor, made themselves
felt imperceptibly, but surely; they knew that he was as fearless in
war, as eager for danger as themselves; they knew that he was no
saint, but loved the smile of women's eyes, the flush of wines, and
the excitation of gaming hazards as well as they did; and hence his
influence had a weight that probably a more strictly virtuous man's
would have strained for and missed forever. The coarsest ruffian felt
ashamed to make an utter beast of himself before the calm eyes of the
patrician. The most lawless pratique felt a lie halt on his lips when
the contemptuous glance of his gentleman-comrade taught him that
falsehood was poltroonery. Blasphemous tongues learned to rein in
their filthiness when this "beau lion" sauntered away from the picket-
fire, on an icy night, to be out of hearing of their witless
obscenities. More than once the weight of his arm and the slash of his
saber had called them to account in fiery fashion for their brutality
to women or their thefts from the country people, till they grew aware
that "Bel-a-faire-peur" would risk having all their swords buried in
him rather than stand by to see injustice done.
And throughout his corps men became unconsciously gentler, juster;
with a finer sense of right and wrong, and less bestial modes of
pleasure, of speech, and of habit, because he was among them.
Moreover, the keen-eyed desperadoes who made up the chief sum of his
comrades saw that he gave unquestioning respect to a chief who made
his life a hell; and rendered unquestioning submission under affronts,
tyrannies, and insults which, as they also saw, stung him to the
quick, and tortured him as no physical torture would have done--and
the sight was not without a strong effect for good on them. They could
tell that he suffered under these as they never suffered themselves,
yet he bore them and did his duty with a self-control and patience
they had never attained.
Almost insensibly they grew ashamed to be beaten by him, and strove to
grow like him as far as they could. They never knew him drunk, they
never heard him swear; they never found him unjust--even to a poverty-
stricken indigene; or brutal--even to a fille de joie. Insensibly his
presence humanized them. Of a surety, the last part Bertie dreamed of
playing was that of a teacher to any mortal thing; yet, here in
Africa, it might reasonably be questioned if a second Augustine or
Francis Xavier would ever have done half the good among the devil-may-
care Roumis that was wrought by the dauntless, listless, reckless
soldier who followed instinctively the one religion which has no cant
in its brave, simple creed, and binds man to man in links that are
true as steel--the religion of a gallant gentleman's loyalty and
CIGARETTE EN CONSEIL ET CACHETTE.
"Corporal Victor, M. le Commandant desires you to present yourself at
his campagne to-night, at ten precisely, with all your carvings; above
all, with your chessmen."
The swift, sharp voice of a young officer of his regiment wakened
Cecil from his musing, as he went on his way down the crowded,
tortuous, stifling street. He had scarcely time to catch the sense of
the words, and to halt, giving the salute, before the Chasseur's
skittish little Barbary mare had galloped past him; scattering the
people right and left, knocking over a sweetmeat seller, upsetting a
string of maize-laden mules, jostling a venerable marabout on to an
impudent little grisette, and laming an old Moor as he tottered to his
mosque, without any apology for any of the mischief, in the customary
insolence which makes "Roumis" and "Bureaucratic" alike execrated by
the indigenous populace with a detestation that the questionable
benefits of civilized importations can do very little to counter-
balance in the fiery breasts of the sons of the soil.
Cecil involuntarily stood still. His face darkened. All orders that
touched on the service, even where harshest and most unwelcome, he had
taught himself to take without any hesitation, till he now scarcely
felt the check of the steel curb; but to be ordered thus like a lackey
--to take his wares thus like a hawker!
"We are soldiers, not traders--aren't we? You don't like that, M.
Victor? You are no peddler. And you think you would rather risk being
court-martialed and shot than take your ivory toys for the Black
Cecil looked up in astonishment at the divination and translation of
his thoughts, to encounter the bright, falcon eyes of Cigarette
looking down on him from a little oval casement above, dark as pitch
within, and whose embrasure, with its rim of gray stone coping, set
off like a picture-frame, with a heavy background of unglazed
Rembrandt shadow, the piquant head of the Friend of the Flag, with her
pouting, scarlet, mocking lips, and her mischievous, challenging
smile, and her dainty little gold-banded foraging-cap set on curls as
silken and jetty as any black Irish setter's.
"Bon jour, ma belle!" he answered, with a little weariness; lifting
his fez to her with a certain sense of annoyance that this young
bohemian of the barracks, this child with her slang and her satire,
should always be in his way like a shadow.
"Bon jour, mon brave!" returned Cigarette contemptuously. "We are not
so ceremonious as all that in Algiers! Good fellow, you should be a
chamberlain, not a corporal. What fine manners, mon Dieu!"
She was incensed, piqued, and provoked. She had been ready to forgive
him because he carved so wonderfully, and sold the carvings for his
comrade at the hospital; she was holding out the olive-branch after
her own petulant fashion; and she thought, if he had had any grace in
him, he would have responded with some such florid compliment as those
for which she was accustomed to box the ears of her admirers, and
would have swung himself up to the coping, to touch, or at least try
to touch, those sweet, fresh, crimson lips of hers, that were like a