The Algona Republican from Algona, Iowa on September 25, 1895 · Page 6
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The Algona Republican from Algona, Iowa · Page 6

Algona, Iowa
Issue Date:
Wednesday, September 25, 1895
Page 6
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i 'itottfitirtW "If we found our route unsafe, ate we at liberty to choose anothe*?" said he. "Soldiers do not choose. They obey." He inclined his head to show that we were dismissed and turned round to Berthier. I do not know what he said, but I heard them both laughing. Well, as you may think, we lost little time in getting upon our way. In half an hour we were riding down the high street of Rheims, and it struck twelve o'clock as we passed the cathe- The duke of Tarentum.or McDonald, •as. 'his old comrades preferred to call him, w:v., as I could perceive, in the vilest if tempers. His grim Scotch face was like one of those grotesque door knockers which one sees in the Fa\ibourg St. Germain. We heard afterwards that the emperor had said in jest that ho would have sent hitn» against Wellington in the south, but that he was afraid to trust him within of the pipes. Maj. Charpentier "~ k * 'HE WAS STANDING AT THE KOOM. aud 1 could plainly see smouldering with anger. "lirigadier Gerard, of the Hussars, of tlie Horse said he, with the air of the corporal vwith the recruit. I saluted. "fMaj. Charpentier 'Grenadiers." My companion answered to ^ "The emperor has a mission for you." 'Without more ado he flung open the .door and announced us. I have seen Napoleon ten times on horseback to once on foot, and I think .«hat he does wisely to show himself to | noPTRtOHT, 1894.1 turned upon me in anger, and I had rather ride at a square on a spent horse than face them again. I am not a man that is easily daunted, either. He was standing at the side of the room, away from the window, looking up at a great map of the country, which was hung upon the wall. Berthier stood beside him, trying to look wise, and just as we entered Napoleon snatched his sword impatiently from him, and pointed with it on the map. lie was talking fast and low, but I heard him say: "The valley of the Mouse," and twice he repeated: "Berlin." As we entered his aid-de-camp advanced to us, but the emperor stopped him, and beckoned us to his side. "You have not yet received a cross of honor, Brigadier Gerard?" he asked. I replied that I had not, and was about to add that it was not for one \\l\o hadn't deserved it, when he cut me short in his decided fashion. "And you, major?" he asked. "No. sire." "Then you shall both have your opportunity now." He ied us to the great map upon the wall, and placed the tip of Berthier's sword upon Eheims. "I will be frank with you, gentlemen, as with two comrades. You have both been with me since Marengo, I believe." He had a strangely pleasant smile which used to light up his pale face with a kind of cold sunshine.^ "Here at Rheims aro our present headquarters on this, the 14th of March. Very good. Here is Paris, distant by road a good twenty-five leagues. Blucher lies to the north, Schwarzcn- burg to the south." He prodded at the map with the sword as he spoke. "Now," said he, "the further into the country these people march, tho more completely I shall crush them. They are about to advance upon Paris. Very good. Let them do so. My brother, the king of Spain, will bs there with a hundred thousand men. It is to him that I send you. You will hand him this letter, a copy of which I confide; to each of you. It is to tell him that I am coming at cncc, in two man and horse 6IUE OF THK that he was days' time, with every i and gun, to his relief. I must give them forty-eight hours to recover. Then utraight to Paris. You understand me, gentlemen?" Ah, if I could tell you the glow of pride it gave me to be taken into the great man's confidence in this way. As he handed our letters to us I clicked my spurs and threw out my chest, smiling and nodding to let him know that I saw -what he would be after. Ho dral. I had my little gray mare, Violette, the one which Sebastian! had wished to buy after Dresden. It is the fastest horse in the six brigades of light cavalry, and was only beaten by the duke of Rovigo's racer from England. As to Charpentier he had the kind of horse which a horse grenadier^ or a curassier would be likely to ride, a back like a bedstead, you understand, and legs like the posts. He is a hulking fellow himself, so that they looked a singular pair. And yet in his insane conceit he ogled the girls as they waved their handkerchiefs to me from the windows, and he twirled his ugly red mustache up into his eyes, just as if it were to him that their attention was addressed. When we came out of the town we passed through the French camp and then across the battlefield of yesterday, which was still covered both by our own poor fellows and by the Prussians. But of the two the camp was the sadder sight. Our army was thawing away. The guards were all right, though the young guard wa.s full of conscripts. The artillery and the heavy cavalry were also good if there were more of them, but the infantry privates with their under officers looked like schoolboys with their masters. And we had no reserves. When one considered that there were eighty thousand Prussians to the north and a hundred and fifty thousand Russians and Austrians to the south, it might make even the bravest man grave. For my own part I confess that 1 shed a tear until the thought came that the emperor was s»till with us and that on that very morning he had placed his hand upon my dolman and had promised me a medal of honor. This set me singing end I spurred Violette on until Charpentier had to beg me to have mercy on his great snorting, panting camel. The road was beaten into paste and rutted two feet deep by the artillery, so that he was right in saying that it was not the place for a gallop. I have never been very friendly with this Charpentier, and now for twenty miles of the way I could not draw a word from him. He rode with his brows puckered and his chin upon his breast like a man who is heavy with thought. More than once I asked him what 3 was on his mind, thinking thai perhaps with my quicker intelligence I might set the matter straight. His an swcr always was that it was his mis sion of which he was thinking, whicl surprised mo, because, although I hac never thought much of his intclli gence, still it scorned to me to be im possible that anyone could be puzzle by so simple and soldierly a'task Well, wo came at last to Bazoches, where he was to take the southern road and I the northern. lie half turned in his saddle before he left me and he looked at me with a singular expression of inquiry on his face. "What do you make of it, brigadier?" he asked. "Of what?" "Of our mission." "Surely, it is plain enough." "You think so? Why should the emperor tell us his plans?" "Because he recognized gence." My companion laughed in a manner which I found annoying. "May I ask what you intend to do if you find these villages full of Prussians?" he asked. "I shall obey my orders. "But you will be killed." "Very possibly." He laughed again and so offensively that I clapped my hand to my sword. But before I could tell him what I thought of his stupidity and rudeness lie had wheeled his horse and was lumbering away down the other road. 1 saw his big fur cap vanish over the brow of a hill, and then I rode upon my way wondering at his conduct. From time to time I put my hand to the breast of my tunic and felt the paper crackle beneath my fingers. Ah; my precious, paper which should be turned Ltr, t.i-,0 little silver medal for which I were tfc 9'ofssoM. A sfeall patty 6f their lancers, she said, h><* cotee Ofi that very afternoon and a whole division was espected before midnight. I did not wait to hear the end of he* tale, but clapped spurs into Violette and five minutes later was galloping he? into the town. Three Uhlans were at the tnoUth of the main street, their horses tethered, and they gossiping together, each With a pipe as long as my saber. I saw them well at the light of an open door, but of me they could have seen only the flash of V'ioiette's gray side and the black flutter of my cloak. A moment later I flew through a stream of them rushing from an open gateway. Violette's shoulder sent one of them feeling and I stabbed at another but tnissed him. Pang-, pang,'went two carbines, but I had flown round the curve of the street and never so much as heard the hiss of the balls. Ah, we were great, both Violette and I. She lay down to it, like a coursed hare, the fire flying from her roofs. I stood in my stirrups and brandished my sword. Some one sprang for my bridle. I sliced him through the arm and I heard him howling behind me. Two horsemen closed Upon me. I cut one down and outpaced the other. A minute later I was clear of the town and flying down a broad white road with the black poplars on either side. For a time I heard the rattle of hoofs behind me, but they died and died until I could not tell them from the throbbing of my own heart. Soon I pulled up and listened, but all was silent. They had given up the chase. Well, the first thing that 1 did was to dismount and to lead my marc into a small wood through which a stream ran. There I watered her and rubbed her down, giving her two pieces of sugar soaked in cognac from my flask. She was spent from the sharp cliase, but it was wonderful to sec how she came round with a half hour's rest. When rny thighs closed upon her again I could tell by the spring and swing of her that it would not be her fault if I id not win my way safe to Paris. I must have been well, within the nemy's lines now, for I heard a num- ,„_ ,-,* 4.i-,nvn cii<<r nnn of their roujrh f efteri palette ttotvfi firfiii theft? not Ino ieoglh oi a Tohg" Tariee between the gray tail and the bay mufczlo "Rendez-vous!" he yelled. "1 must compliment monsieur upon his French," said I, resting the barrel bf my pistol upon my bridle arm. which 1 have always found bjpt when shooting from the saddle. I aimed at his face, and could see, even in the moonlight, how white he grew when In? understood that it was all up with him. But even as my finger pressed the trigger 1 thought of his mother and i put my ball through his horse's shoulder. 1 fear he hurt himself in the fall, for it was a fearful crash, but I had my letter to think of, so t stretched the inare Into a gallop once more. Hut they were ttot so easily shaken off, these brigands. The two troopers thought no more of their young officer than if he had been a recruit thrown in the riding school, they left him to the others and thundered on after me. I had pulled Up on the brow of a hill, thinking that I had heard the last of them, but t my faith, 1 soon saw that there was no time for loitering, so away we went» the mare tossing her head and I my busby, to show what we thought of two dragoons who tried to catch a hussar. But at this moment, even while I laughed at the thought, my heart stood still within me, for there at the end of the long, white road was a black patch of cavalry waiting to receive me. to a young soldier it might have seemed the shadow of the trees, but to me it was a troop of hussars, and turn where I would death seemed to be waiting for me. Well, I had the dragoons behind me and the hussars in front. Never since Moscow have I seemed to be in such peril. But for the honor of tho brigade I would rather be cut down by a light cavalryman than by a heavy. I never drew bridle, therefore, or hesitated for a,n instant, but I let Violette have hothead. I remember that I tried to pray T rode, but I arn a little out ruelty 'to our prior cOii&t?% folk waa the talk at every camp fife- \ v f ^ere nto the town like a torrent, hacked down the vedettes, rode orcr the guard and were smashing 1 in the doors of the mayor's house before they understood that there was a frenchman within twenty miles of them. We saw horrid heads'at the windows, heads bearded to the temples, with tangled hair and sheepskin caps, and Silly gaping mouths. "Ikmrra! Ilourra!" they shrieked, and fired With their carbines, but our fellows were into the house and at their throats before they had wiped the sleep out of their 1 eyes. It was dreadful to see how the Poles flung themselves upon them, like starving Wolves upon a herd of fat bucks—for, as you know* the Poles have a blood feud against the Cossacks, the most were killed in the Upper rooms, whither they had fled for shelter, and the blood was pouring down into the hall like bcr of them shouting one of their rougl Irinking songs out of a house by the •oadside, and I went round by the fields to avoid it. At another time two nen came out into the moonlight (for by this time it was a cloudless night) and shouted something in German, but galloped on without heeding them and they were afraid to fire, for their own hussars are dressed exactly as I was. It is best to take no notice at these times and then they put you down as a deaf man. It was a lovely moon and every tree threw a black bar across the road. I could see the country side just as if it were daytime, and very peaceful it looked, save that there was a great fire raging somewhere in the north, the silence of the night time and with the knowledge that danger was in front and behind me, the sight of that great distant fire was very striking and awesome. But I was not easily clouded, for have seen too many singular things, so I hummed a tune between my teetl and thought of little Lisette whom might see iw Paris. My as of practice at such things am 1 the only words I could remember were the prayer for fine weather which we used at the school on the evening before holidays. Even this seemed bet tor than nothing, and I was pattering it out, when suddenly—when suddenly I heard French voices in front of me Ah, mon Dicu, but the joy weni through my heart like a musket ball They were ours—our own dear littl rascals from the corps of Marmont. Round whisked my two dragoons and galloped for their -lives with the moon gleaming on their brass helmets, w' 1 -"I trotted up to my fri.^vV. with no mind was ful roxind 1 I,KT VI01.KTTB HAVE HKAD." while un- rain upon a roof, they are tetrible soldiers, • these Poles, though I think they are a trifle heavy for their horses. Wan for onn they are as big as Kellermann's cuirassiers. Their equipment, however, is of course much lighter, since they arc without tho cuirass, backplate and helmet. Well, it was at this point that 1 made an error— a very serious error, it must be admitted. Up to this moment T had carried out my mission in a manner which only my modesty prevents me from describing as remarkable. But now I did that which an official would condemn and a soldier excuse. There is no doubt that tho mare was spent, but still it is true that I might have galloped on through Senlis and reached the country where I should have had no enemy between me and Paris. But what hussar can ride past a fight and never draw rein? It is to our tntclli- itouu I.IK:: A MAN \vno WAS UK AW his hand for a of my dolman, of THOUGHT. Wit UlSUUit. [ will show youyour route,' B :iiu«- back to the map. "Your said he, orders !',su)ilci.l also and rested .moment upon the c;;;:i I would have (.riven h:ilf r.iy arrears • pay if my mother could luive Keen me :»t that instant. "I ;turoiu e .- are to ride tofycther as tar as Bawdies. ' You will then separate, the ono making for Paris by Oulchy and Iscuilly, i and the other to the north by Brainc, Koissops and Senlis. Have you anything to say, Bngudier Gerard? I am a rough soldier, but I have words and ideas. I had begun. te>speak abou^ glory and the peril of I ranee •*yrh,en ho cut me short. . you.'- Ma*. CUarpontter?' ,,.., t . , in this fashion, for he cuts a very good tigure in the saddle. As we saw him nosv he wa.s the shortest man out of sis, by a good hand's breadth, and yet 1 am no very big man myself, though It ride quite heavy enough for a hussar, is evident, too, that his body is too long for his le;rs. V.HiiUis Ujj round head, his curved nrioulderc fid his cle'ftu-shavcn wee. lie is roort Kke a professor at the Sorlxmne than the fii-st soldier of France. I?very man to his tastes, but it seems to me that if I could clap 11 pair of line light cavalry whiskers like mv own onto \)'m it would do him no harm, He has a firm mouth, however, and his eyes are re* I hav»? seen them , into the little silver medal had yearned so long. All the way from Braine to Sermoise 1 was thinking of what my mother would say when she saw it. I stopped to give Violette a meal at a wayside aubcrge on the side of a hill not far from Soissons—a place surrounded by old oaks, and with so many crows that one could scarce hear one's own voice. It was from the innkeeper that I learned that Marmont had fallen back two days before and that tlje Prussians were over the Aisne. An .hour later in the fading light I saw 'two of their vedettes upon a hill to the rifht and then, as darkness gathered, tlTe heavens to the north were all glim* mering from the lights of a bivouac. When I heard that Blucher had been there for two days 1 was much surprised that the emperor should not have known that the country through which he had ordered me to carry my precious letter was already occupied by the enemy. Still I thought of the tone of his voice when he said to Charpentier that a soldier must not choose but must obey. \ should follw the route he had laid clown to me a. .ong as \ jo- lotte could move a hoof or I a finger upon her bridle. All the way from Sermoise- to Soissons, where the road dips up and dowp, curving among fir woods, i kept my pistol ready and my upon her when, trotting corner, I came straight upon half _ a dozen German dragoons who were sitting round a brushwood fire by the roadside. . . , . I am an excellent soldier. I do not say this because I am prejudiced in my own favor, but because I really am so. 1 can weigh every chance in a moment and decida with as much certainty as though 1 had brooded for a week. Now I saw like a flash that come what rain-lit I should be chased, and on a horse which had already done a long twelve leagues. But it was better to be chased onwards than chased back. On this moonlit night, with fresh horses behind me, I must take my risk in cither case, but if I were to shake them off, I preferred that it should be near Senlis than near Soissons. All this flashed on me, as if by instinct, you understand. My eyes had hardly rested upon the bearded faces under the' brass helmets before my rowels were up to the bosses in Violettc's side and she was off with a rattle like a pas-dechargc. Oh, the shouting and rushing and stamping from behind us! Three of them fired and three swung themselves onto their horses. A bullet rapped on the crupper of the saddle with a noise like a stick on a door. Violette sprang madly forward and I thought she had been wounded, but it was only a graze above the near fore fetlock. Ah, the dear little mare, how I loved her when I felt her settle down into that long easy gallop of hers, her hoofs going like a Spanish .girls castanets. I could not hold myselt. I turned on my saddle and shouted and raved, "Vive L'Empereur!" I screamed, an.d laughed at the gust of oaths that came back to me, Hut it was not over yet, If she had been fresh she might have gamed a mile in five. Now she could only hold her own with a very little over. There was one pf them, a young boy of officer, who was better mounted due haste, for 1 would have them understand that though a hussar may fly it is not in his nature to fly very fast. Yet I fear that Violctto's heaving flanks and foam spattered muzzle gave the lie to my careless bearing. Who should be at the head of the troop but old Bouvet whom I saved at Leipsig. When he saw me his little pink eyes filled with tears, and indeed I could not but shed a few myself at the sight of his joy. I told him of my mission, but he laughed when 1 said I must pass through S.enlis, "The enemy is there," said he. "You cannot go." "I prefer to go where the enemy is," I answered. "I would ride through Berlin if I had the emperor's order." "But why not go straight to Paris with your dispatch? Why should you choose to pass through tho one place where you are almost su^e to be taken or killed?" "A soldier does not choose, fie obeys," said I, just as I had heard Napoleon say it. Old Bouvet laughed in his wheezy way until I had to give my mustache a twirl and look him up and down in a manner which brought him to reason. "Well," said he, "you had best come an sword belt braced, pushing on swiftly where the path was straight and then coming slowly around the corners m the way we learned in Spain. When I came to the farmhouse which lies to the right of the road just after you cross the w<*>4en bridge over the Crise, near'where the great statue Q| the Virgin ttwto,_»; ,™»™J! 1° ~ Q from the 8oW than the others. He drew ahead with every stride, two hundred yards be, hind him were two troopers, but J saw every time that I glanced round that the distance between them was increasing. The other three who bad waited to shoot were a, long way in the rear, The officer's mount was a bay, a nne horse, thought not to be spoken of with Violette. Yet it was a powerful brute, and it seemed to me that in a, few miles. its freshness might tell. I waited until the lad was a long way in front of lus comrades, and then I ease4 my mare, down ft Mtle-» very, very little, so that he might think that he was really catching me- When he camo witjnu pistol shot of me I Ojew and cocked »y own pistol and W4 my chw upon my shoulder to see what he would. 4o. lie 4Jd. not offer to fire an4 J soon discern^ the cause. The silly toy bad totaw hw from fata holsteys. when hehad, ' along with us, for we are all bound for Senlifi. Our orders are to reconnoitre the place. A squadron of Foniatows- ki's Polish lancers are in front of us. If you must ride through it it is possible that we may bo able to go with you," So away we went, jingling and clanking through the quiet night until we came up with the Poles-r-nne' old soldiers, all of them, though a trifle heavy for their horses. It was a .treat to see them, for they could not carried themselves better if they had belonged to my owp brigade, We rode together until in the early morning we saw the lights of Senlis. A pt-asant was coming along with a curt, from him we learned how thing-* goi^g there, _ His information was certain, for me brother was.tho mayor's co;jeh,man ~ he had spoken wHh him lat-e the ja before. There was a single equtulrofl Cossacks—or a polk as they c»ll it their frightful language upon, the mayor's hoW» vvtwh r •' of the marketplace, in the o*~ In YELLED. ask too much of him. Besides 1 thought that if Violette had an hour of rest I might be three hours the better at the other end. Then on the top of it came those heads at tho windows with their sheepskin hats and their barbarous cries. I sprang from my saddle,' threw Violette's bridle over a nail post and ran into tho house with the rest. It is true that I was too late to be of service, and that I was nearly wounded by a lance-thrust from one of these dying savages. Still it is a pity to miss even the smallest affair, for one never knows what opportunity for advancement may present itself. I have seen more soldierly work in outpost skirmishes and little gallop-and-hack affairs of the kind than in any of the emperor's big battles, When the house was cluircd I took a bucket of water out for Violette, and our peasant guide showed me where the good mayor kept his fodder. My faith, but the little sweetheart was ready for jt. Then I sponged down, her legs and leaving her still tethered, I went baok into the house to find a mouthful for myself, so that I should not need to halt again until I was in Paris. And now I come to the part of my story whioh may seem singular to you, although I could tell you ftt least ten thjpgs every bit as. queer which h^ve happened to me in my lifetime. You can understand that .to a/ man who spends bis life in scouting and ved,e. tfp duties on the bloody ground which between two' great armies ther<? many chances of strange I'll tell you, however, exactly ourred, , Old. Bbuvet was waiting in sage wheu I entered, and -he whether wo might not craoH & of w'iao together, "My faith, we pot bg long," said he. H Theye sand of TJwUwfmn'* up yonder-" . ; • "Where is Jhf wtee?" I asked. "AW w way tyu,st,two J M9 wipe ^' »W hf, taking « vmMe m bte J»»4.Jw tefl way down, the stew »t»»« »J»wb '•- m U with Hie a« ee» w a8 .w M gajy, seen by tto brp ."t?j»r) , y'v/<.vi ll S f-'•*• f ' i'- v jV ov'.| '/X;.*'',i<J.t,/ -"-V-i*'^' sm

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