The Chartreuse of Parma CHAPTER IV

Nothing woke him, neither the shots that rang out close to the little cart, nor the jolting of the horse, which the good woman whipped up with all her might. The regiment, after having believed all day long that victory was on its side, had been unexpectedly attacked by clouds of Prussian cavalry, and was retreating, or rather flying, toward the French border.

The colonel, a handsome, well-set-up young man, who had succeeded to Macon’s command, was cut down. The major who took his place, an old fellow with white hair, halted the regiment. “Come,” he shouted to his men, “in the days of the Republic none of us ran away till the enemy forced us to it. You must dispute every inch of the ground, and let yourselves be killed!” he added with an oath. “It’s our own country that these Prussians are trying to invade now.”

The little cart stopped short, and Fabrizio woke with a jump. The sun had disappeared long ago, and he noticed to his surprise that it was almost dark. The soldiers were running hither and thither in a state of confusion, which greatly astonished our hero. It struck him that they all looked very crestfallen.

“What’s the matter?” said he to the cantinière.

“Nothing at all. The matter is that we’re done for, my boy; that the Prussian cavalry is cutting us down—that’s all. The fool of a general took it for our own at first. Now then, look sharp! Help me to mend the trace; Cocotte has broken it!”

Several musket shots rang out ten paces off. Our hero, now thoroughly rested, said to himself: “But really, all this whole day through I have never fought at all! All I have done was to ride escort to a general. I must go and fight,” said he to the woman.

“Make your mind easy; you’ll fight more than you want. We’re all done for!”

“Aubry, my boy,” she shouted to a corporal who was passing by, “give an eye to the little cart now and then.”

“Are you going to fight?” said Fabrizio to Aubry.

“No; I’m going to put on my pumps and go to the ball.”

“I’m after you.”

“Look after the little hussar,” shouted the cantinière; “he’s a plucky young chap.”

Corporal Aubry marched on without saying a word; eight or ten soldiers ran up and joined him. He led them up behind a big oak with brambles growing all round it. Once there, he stationed them, still without opening his lips, in a very open line, along the edge of the wood, each man at least ten paces from his neighbour.

“Now, then, you fellows,” he said, and it was the first time his voice had been heard, “don’t you fire until you hear the word of command. Remember, you’ve only three cartridges apiece.”

“But what is happening?” wondered Fabrizio to himself. At last, when he was alone with the corporal, he said, “I have no musket.”

“Hold your tongue, to begin with. Go forward fifty paces beyond the wood; you’ll find some of our poor fellows who’ve just been cut down. Take a musket and ammunition-pouch off one of them. But mind you don’t take them from a wounded man; take the gun and pouch from some man who is quite dead. And look sharp, for fear you should get shot at by our own people!”

Fabrizio started off at a run, and soon came back with a musket and ammunition-pouch.

“Load your musket, and get behind this tree; and above all, don’t fire till I give the word.”

“Great God!” said the corporal, breaking off, “he doesn’t even know how to load his weapon!” He came to Fabrizio’s rescue, and went on talking as he did it. “If any of the enemy’s cavalry ride at you to cut you down, slip round your tree, and don’t fire your shot till your man’s quite close—not more than three paces off; your bayonet must almost touch his uniform. But will you chuck that great sword of yours away?” exclaimed the corporal. “Do you want it to throw you down? ’Sdeath, what soldiers they send us nowadays!” And as he spoke he snatched at the sword himself and threw it angrily away. “Here, wipe the flint of your gun with your handkerchief. But have you ever fired a gun off?”

“I am a sportsman.”

“God be praised!” said the corporal, with a sigh of relief. “Well, mind you don’t fire till I give the word,” and he departed.

Fabrizio was filled with joy. “At last,” said he to himself, “I am really going to fight and kill an enemy! This morning they were shooting at us, and all I did was to expose myself—a fool’s errand!” He looked about in every direction with the most eager curiosity. After a moment seven or eight musket shots rang out close to him, but as he received no order himself he stood quietly behind his tree. It had grown almost quite dark; he could have fancied he was hunting bears in the Tramezzina, above Grianta. He bethought him of a hunter’s trick: took a cartridge from his pouch and extracted the ball. “If I get a sight of him,” said he, “I mustn’t miss him,” and he slipped the extra ball down the barrel of his gun. He heard two shots fired close to his tree, and at the same moment he beheld a trooper dressed in blue galloping in front of him from right to left. “He’s more than three paces off,” said he, “but at this distance I can’t well miss him.” He covered the horseman with his musket, and pulled the trigger. The horse fell, and his rider with him. Our hero fancied he was hunting, and ran joyfully up to the quarry he had just bagged. He had got quite close to the man, who seemed to him to be dying, when two Prussian troopers rode down upon him at the most astounding rate, with their swords lifted to cut him down. Fabrizio took to his heels, and ran for the wood, throwing away his gun so that he might run the quicker. The Prussian troopers were not more than three paces behind him when he reached a plantation of young oaks, very straight growing, and about as thick as a man’s arm, which skirted the wood. The little oaks checked the horsemen for a moment, but they soon got through them and pursued Fabrizio across a clearing. They were quite close on him again when he managed to slip between seven or eight big trees. Just at that moment his face was almost scorched by the fire from five or six muskets just in front of him. He lowered his head, and when he raised it again he found himself face to face with the corporal.

“Have you killed yours?” said the corporal.

“Yes, but I’ve lost my musket.”

“Muskets are not the thing we are short of. You’re a good chap, though you do look like a muff. You’ve done well to-day, and these fellows have just missed the two who were after you, and were riding straight upon them. I didn’t see them.

“Now we must make off. The regiment must be half a mile away; and, besides, there’s a little bit of meadow to cross, where we may be taken in flank.” As he talked the corporal marched swiftly along at the head of his ten men, some two hundred paces farther on. As he entered the little meadow of which he had spoken they came upon a wounded general supported by his aide-de-camp and a servant. “You must give me four men,” said he to the corporal, and his voice was faint. “I must be carried to the ambulance; my leg is shattered.”

“You may go to the devil,” replied the corporal; “you and all the rest of the generals. You’ve all of you betrayed the Emperor this day.”

“What!” cried the general in a fury; “you won’t obey my orders? Do you know that I am General Count B⸺, commanding your division?” and so forth, with a string of invectives.

The aide-de-camp rushed at the soldier. The corporal thrust at him with his bayonet, and then made off at the double, followed by his men.

“May they all be like you!” he repeated with an oath. “With their legs shattered and their arms too! A pack of rascals, sold to the Bourbons and traitors to the Emperor, every one of them!”

Fabrizio heard the hideous accusation with astonishment.

Toward ten o’clock in the evening the little party came upon the regiment, at the entrance to a big village consisting of several narrow streets. But Fabrizio noticed that Corporal Aubry avoided speaking to any of the officers. “It’s impossible to get on!” cried the corporal. Every street was crowded with infantry, cavalry, and especially with artillery caissons and baggage wagons. The corporal tried to get up three of these streets, but after about twenty paces he was forced to stop. Everybody was swearing, and everybody was in a rage.

“Some other traitor must be in command!” cried the corporal. “If the enemy has the sense to move round the village we shall all be taken like dogs. Follow me, men!” Fabrizio looked; there were only six soldiers left of the corporal’s party. Through a big, open doorway they passed into a great poultry-yard, and thence into a stable, from which a little door admitted them into a garden. Here they lost their way for a moment, and wandered hither and thither. But at last, climbing over a hedge, they found themselves in a huge field of buckwheat, and within less than half an hour, following the noise of shouting and other confused sounds, they had got back into the high-road on the other side of the village.

The ditches on either side of the road were full of muskets which had been thrown away, and Fabrizio took one for himself. But the road, broad as it was, was so crowded with carts and fugitives that in half an hour the corporal and Fabrizio had hardly got five hundred paces forward. They were told that the road would lead them to Charleroi. As the village clock struck eleven—

“Let us strike across country again,” cried the corporal. The little band now only consisted of three privates, the corporal, and Fabrizio. When they had got about a quarter of a league from the high-road—

“I’m done up!” said one of the soldiers.

“And so am I,” said another.

“That’s fine news! We’re all in the same boat,” said the corporal. “But do as I tell you, and you’ll be the better for it.” He caught sight of five or six trees growing beside a little ditch in the middle of an immense field of corn.

“Make for the trees,” said he to his men. “Lie down here,” he added when they had reached them, “and, above all, make no noise. But before we go to sleep, which of you has any bread?”

“I have,” said one of the soldiers.

“Hand it over,” commanded the corporal, with a masterful air. He divided the bread into five pieces, and took the smallest for himself.

“A quarter of an hour before daybreak,” he said as he munched, “you’ll have the enemy’s cavalry upon you. The great point is not to get yourselves run through. On these great plains one man alone with cavalry at his heels is done for, but five men together may save themselves. All of you stick faithfully to me, don’t fire except at close quarters, and I’ll undertake to get you into Charleroi to-morrow night.” An hour before daybreak the corporal roused them; he made them reload their weapons. The noise on the highway still continued; it had been going on all night, like the noise of a distant torrent.

“It’s like the noise sheep make when they are running away,” said Fabrizio to the corporal, with an artless air.

“Will you hold your tongue, you greenhorn?” said the corporal angrily, and the three privates, who, with Fabrizio, composed the whole of his army, looked at our hero with an expression of indignation, as if he had said something blasphemous. He had insulted the nation!

“This is rather strong,” thought our hero to himself. “I noticed the same sort of thing at Milan under the viceroy. They are not running away—oh, dear, no! With these Frenchmen you must never tell the truth if it hurts their vanity. But as for their angry looks, I don’t care a farthing for them, and I must make them understand it.” They were still marching along some five hundred paces from the stream of fugitives which blocked the high-road. A league farther on the corporal and his party crossed a lane running into the high-road, in which many soldiers were lying. Here Fabrizio bought a tolerable horse for forty francs, and from among the numerous swords that were lying about he carefully chose a long, straight weapon. “As I am told I must thrust,” he thought, “this will be the best.” Thus equipped, he put his horse into a canter, and soon came up with the corporal, who had gone forward; he settled himself in his stirrups, seized the sheath of his sword with his left hand, and addressed the four Frenchmen. “These fellows who are fleeing along the highway look like a flock of sheep; they move like frightened sheep!”

In vain did he dwell upon the word sheep; his comrades had quite forgotten that only an hour previously it had kindled their ire. Here we perceive one of the contrasts between the French and the Italian character; the Frenchman is doubtless the happier of the two—events glide over him; he bears no spite.

I will not conceal the fact that Fabrizio was very much pleased with himself after he had talked about those sheep. They marched along, keeping up a casual conversation. Two leagues farther on the corporal, who was very much astonished at seeing nothing of the enemy’s cavalry, said to Fabrizio:

“You are our cavalry, so gallop toward that farm on the hillock yonder, and ask the peasant if he’ll sell us some breakfast. Be sure you tell him there are only five of us. If he demurs, give him five francs of your money, on account; but make your mind easy, we’ll take the silver piece back after we’ve had our breakfast.”

Fabrizio looked at the corporal; his gravity was imperturbable, and he really wore an appearance of moral superiority. He obeyed, and everything fell out just as the commander-in-chief had foretold, only Fabrizio insisted the peasant should not be forced to return the five-franc piece he had paid him.

“The money is my own,” said he to his comrades. “I’m not paying for you; I’m paying for the corn he has given my horse.”

Fabrizio’s French was so bad that his comrades thought they detected a tone of superiority about his remark; they were very much offended, and from that instant they began to hatch a quarrel with him. They saw he was very different from themselves, and that fact displeased them. Fabrizio, on the contrary, began to feel exceedingly friendly toward them. They had been marching along silently for about two hours when the corporal, looking toward the high-road, shouted in a transport of delight, “There’s the regiment!” They were soon on the high-road themselves, but alas, there were not two hundred men round the eagle! Fabrizio soon caught sight of the cantinière; she was walking along with red eyes, and every now and then her tears overflowed. In vain did Fabrizio peer about, looking for Cocotte and the little cart.

“Pillaged! lost! stolen!” cried the poor woman, in answer to our hero’s inquiring glance. Without a word he threw himself from his horse, took him by the bridle, and said to her, “Get on his back!” She didn’t wait for a second invitation. “Shorten the stirrups for me,” she said. Once she was comfortably settled on horseback, she began to tell Fabrizio all the disasters of the preceding night.

After an endless story, eagerly listened to, however, by our hero, who could make nothing of it, we must admit, but who had a deep feeling of regard for the good-natured cantinière, she added, “And to think that it should be Frenchmen who have robbed, and beaten, and ruined me!”

“What! it wasn’t the enemy?” cried Fabrizio, with an artlessness which made his handsome face, so grave and pale, look more charming than ever.

“What a silly you are, my poor child!” returned the woman, smiling through her tears; “and silly as you are, you are a very good fellow.”

“And however silly he may be, he pulled his Prussian down well yesterday,” added Corporal Aubry, who had happened to find his way through the crowd to the other side of the horse on which the good woman was riding. “But he’s proud,” said the corporal. Fabrizio started a little. “And what’s your name?” continued he. “For, after all, if any report is sent in, I should like to give it.”

“My name is Vasi,” answered Fabrizio, with rather an odd look. “I mean,” correcting himself hastily, “Boulot.”

Boulot had been the name of the owner of the route papers the jailer’s wife had given him. Two nights before, as he marched along, he had studied them carefully, for he was beginning to reflect a little, and was not so astonished by everything that happened to him as he had been at first. In addition to poor Boulot’s papers he had also carefully kept the Italian passport according to which he claimed the noble name of Vasi, dealer in barometers. When the corporal had taxed him with being proud it had been on the tip of his tongue to reply, “Proud! I, Fabrizio Valserra, Marchesino del Dongo, who is willing to bear the name of a dealer in barometers called Vasi?”

While he was considering all this and saying to himself, “I must really remember that my name is Boulot, or I shall find myself in the prison with which Fate threatens me,” the corporal and the cantinière had been exchanging ideas about him.

“Don’t take what I say for mere curiosity,” said the cantinière, and she dropped the second person singular, which, in her homely fashion, she had hitherto been using. “I’m going to ask you these questions for your own good. Who are you, really and truly?”

Fabrizio was silent for a moment; he was considering that he might never come across better friends from whom to ask advice, and advice he sorely needed. “We are going into a fortified town; the governor will want to know who I am, and if my answers show that I know nothing about the hussar regiment, the uniform of which I wear, I shall be thrown into prison at once.” Being an Austrian subject, Fabrizio realized all the importance of his passport. The members of his own family, highly born and religious as they were, had suffered frequent annoyance in this particular. The good woman’s questions were not, therefore, the least displeasing to him, but when he paused before replying to choose out his clearest French expressions, the cantinière, pricked with eager curiosity, added by way of encouragement, “We’ll give you good advice about your behaviour, Corporal Aubry and I.”

“I’m sure of that,” answered Fabrizio. “My name is Vasi, and I belong to Genoa; my sister, who was a famous beauty, married a captain. As I am only seventeen, she sent for me that I might see France and improve myself. I did not find her in Paris, and knowing she was with this army I followed it, and have hunted in every direction without being able to find her. The soldiers, struck by my foreign accent, had me arrested. I had money at that time; I gave some to the gendarme in charge of me. He gave me papers and a uniform, and said, ‘Be off with you, and swear you’ll never mention my name to a living soul.’”

“What was his name?” said the cantinière.

“I gave my word,” said Fabrizio.

“He’s right,” said the corporal. “The gendarme was a blackguard, but our comrade mustn’t tell his name. And what was the name of the captain who married your sister? If we knew his name we might find him.”

“Teulier, of the Fourth Hussars,” answered our hero.

“Then,” said the corporal rather sharply, “your foreign accent made the soldiers take you for a spy?”

“That’s the vile word!” cried Fabrizio, and his eyes flamed. “I, who worship the Emperor and the French—that insult hurts me more than anything!”

“There’s no insult; there’s where you’re mistaken,” replied the corporal gravely. “The soldiers’ mistake was very natural.”

Then he explained, with more than a little pedantry, that in the army every man must belong to a regiment and wear a uniform, and, failing that, would certainly be taken for a spy.

“The enemy,” he said, “has sent us heaps of them. In this war traitors abound.”

The scales fell from Fabrizio’s eyes, and for the first time he understood that in everything that had happened to him during the past two months he himself had been at fault.

“But the boy must tell us the whole story,” said the cantinière, whose curiosity was momentarily growing keener.

Fabrizio obeyed, and when he had finished—

“The fact is,” said she seriously, and addressing the corporal, “the child knows nothing about soldiering. This war will be a wretched war, now that we are beaten and betrayed. Why should he get his bones broken, gratis pro Deo!”

“And with that,” said the corporal, “he doesn’t even know how to load his gun, either in slow time or in quick! It was I who put in the bullet that killed his Prussian for him.”

“And, besides,” added the cantinière, “he lets everybody see his money, and he’ll be stripped of everything as soon as he leaves us.”

“And the first cavalry sergeant he comes across,” the corporal went on, “will take possession of him and make him pay for his drinks, and he may even be recruited for the enemy, for there’s treachery everywhere. The first man he meets will tell him to follow him, and follow him he will! He would do much better to enlist in our regiment.”

“Not so, I thank you, corporal,” cried Fabrizio eagerly. “I’m much more comfortable on horseback; and, besides, I don’t know how to load a musket, and you’ve seen that I can manage a horse.”

Fabrizio was very proud of this little speech of his. I will not reproduce the long discussion as to his future which ensued between the corporal and the cantinière.

Fabrizio remarked that in the course of it they repeated all the incidents of his story three or four times over—the soldiers’ suspicions; the gendarme who sold him the uniform and the papers; the manner in which he had fallen in with the marshal’s escort on the previous day; the story of the horse, etc. The cantinière, with feminine curiosity, constantly harked back to the manner in which he had been robbed of the good horse she had made him buy.

“You felt somebody seize your feet, you were drawn gently over your horse’s tail, and were left sitting on the ground.”

“Why is it,” wondered Fabrizio, “that they keep going over things which we all know perfectly well!” He had not yet learned that this is the method whereby the humbler folk in France think a matter out.

“How much money have you?” inquired the cantinière of him. Fabrizio answered unhesitatingly; he was sure of this woman’s noble-heartedness—that is the finest side of the French character.

“I may have about thirty napoleons in gold, and eight or ten five-franc pieces, altogether.”

“In that case your course is clear,” cried the cantinière. “Get yourself out of this routed army, turn off to one side, take the first tolerable road you can find on the right, ride steadily forward, away from the army always. Buy yourself civilian clothes at the first opportunity. When you are eight or ten leagues off, and you see no more soldiers about you, take post-horses, get to some good town, and rest there for a week, and eat good beefsteaks. Never tell any one that you have been with the army; the gendarmes would take you up at once as a deserter, and, nice fellow as you are, my boy, you are not sharp enough yet to take in the gendarmes. Once you have civilian clothes upon your back, tear your route papers into little bits, and take back your real name. Say you’re Vasi—and where should he say he comes from?” she added, appealing to the corporal.

“From Cambray, on the Scheldt—it’s a good old town, very small, do you hear? with a cathedral—and Fénelon.”

“That’s it,” said the cantinière, “and never let out that you’ve been in the battle, never breathe a word about B⸺ nor the gendarme who sold you the papers. When you want to get back to Paris, go first of all to Versailles, and get into the city from that side, just dawdling along on your feet as if you were out for a walk. Sew your money into your trousers, and when you have to pay for anything, mind you only show just the money you need for that. What worries me is that you’ll be made a fool of, and you’ll be stripped of everything you have. And what is to become of you without money, seeing you don’t even know how to behave?”

The good woman talked on and on, the corporal backing her opinions by nodding his head, for she gave him no chance of getting in a word. Suddenly the crowd upon the high-road quickened its pace, and then, like a flash, it crossed the little ditch on the left-hand side and fled at full speed.

“The Cossacks, the Cossacks!” rang out on every side.

“Take back your horse,” cried the cantinière.

“God forbid!” said Fabrizio. “Gallop! be off! I give him to you. Do you want money to buy another little cart? Half of what I have is yours.”

“Take back your horse, I say,” said the good woman in a rage, and she tried to get off. Fabrizio drew his sword. “Hold on tight!” he cried, and he struck the horse two or three times with the flat of the blade. It broke into a gallop and followed the fugitives.

Our hero looked at the high-road. Only a few minutes before it had been crowded with some two or three thousand people, packed like peasants in a religious procession.

Since that cry of “Cossacks” there was not a soul upon it. The fugitives had thrown away their shakos, their muskets, and their swords.

Fabrizio, thoroughly astonished, climbed about twenty or thirty feet into a field on the right of the road; thence he looked up and down the high-road and across the plain. There was not a sign of any Cossack. “Queer people, these Frenchmen,” said he to himself. Then he went on: “As I am to go to the right, I may as well start at once. These people may have had some reason for bolting which I don’t know.” He picked up a musket, made sure it was loaded, shook the powder in the priming, cleaned the flint, then chose himself a well-filled cartridge pouch and looked all round him again. He stood literally alone in the middle of the plain, which had lately been so packed with people. In the far distance he saw the fugitives still running along and beginning to disappear behind the trees. “This really is very odd,” he said. And remembering the corporal’s manœuvre on the preceding night, he went and sat down in the middle of a cornfield. He would not go far away, because he hoped to rejoin his friends the corporal and the cantinière.

Sitting in the corn, he discovered he had only eighteen napoleons left, instead of thirty, but he had a few little diamonds which he had hidden in the lining of his hussar boots on the morning of his parting with the jailer’s wife. He concealed his gold pieces as best he could, and pondered deeply the while over this sudden disappearance of his fellow-travellers.

“Is it a bad omen for me?” he wondered. His chief vexation was that he had not asked Corporal Aubry the following question: “Have I really been in a battle?” He thought he had, and he would have been perfectly happy if he could have been quite certain of it.

“In any case,” he said, “I was present at it under a prisoner’s name, and I had the prisoner’s route papers in my pocket, and even his coat upon my back. All that is fatal for my future. What would Father Blanès have said of it? And that unlucky Boulot died in prison, too. It all looks very ominous. My destiny will lead me to a prison!” Fabrizio would have given anything in the world to know whether Boulot had really been guilty. He had a recollection that the jailer’s wife had told him the hussar had been locked up, not only for stealing spoons and forks, but for having robbed a peasant of his cow, and further beaten the said peasant unmercifully. He had no doubt that he himself would some day find himself in prison for misdoings of the same nature as those of the hussar. He thought of his friend the priest. What would he not have given to be able to consult him! Then he recollected that he had not written to his aunt since he left Paris. “Poor Gina!” he said, and the tears rose to his eyes. All at once he heard a slight noise close to him. It was a soldier feeding three horses, whose bridles he had removed and who seemed half dead with hunger, on the growing corn.

He was holding them by the snaffle. Fabrizio flew up like a partridge, and the soldier was startled. Our hero, perceiving it, could not resist the pleasure of playing the hussar for a moment. “Fellow,” he shouted, “one of those horses is mine, but I will give you five francs for the trouble you’ve taken to bring it to me!” “I wish you may get it,” said the soldier. Fabrizio, who was within six paces, levelled his musket at him. “Give up the horse, or I’ll blow your brains out!” The soldier had his musket slung behind him; he twisted his shoulder back to get at it. “If you stir a step you’re a dead man!” shouted Fabrizio, rushing at him. “Well, well! hand over the five francs, and take one of the horses,” said the soldier, rather crestfallen, after glancing regretfully up and down the road, on which not a soul was to be seen. Fabrizio, with his gun still raised in his left hand, threw him three five-franc pieces with the right. “Get down, or you’re a dead man! Put the bit on the black horse, and move off with the others. I’ll blow your brains out if you shuffle!” With an evil glance the man obeyed. Fabrizio came close to the horse and slipped the bridle over his left arm without taking his eyes off the soldier, who was slinking slowly away. When he saw he was about fifty paces off our hero sprang upon the horse’s back. He had hardly got into the saddle, and his foot was still searching for the right stirrup, when a bullet whistled close beside his head; it was the soldier who had fired his musket at him. Fabrizio, in a fury, galloped toward him. He took to his heels, and was soon galloping away on one of his horses. “Well, he’s out of range now,” said Fabrizio to himself. The horse he had just bought was a splendid animal, but it seemed to be almost starving. Fabrizio went back to the high-road, which was still quite deserted; he crossed it, and trotted on toward a little undulation in the ground on the left, where he hoped he might find the cantinière, but when he reached the top of the tiny eminence he could only see a few scattered soldiers more than a league away. He sighed. “It is written,” he said, “that I am never to see that good kind woman again!” He went to a farm which he had noticed in the distance, on the right of the road. Without dismounting he fed his poor horse with oats, which he paid for beforehand. It was so starving that it actually bit at the manger. An hour later he was trotting along the high-road, still in the vague hope that he might find the cantinière, or at all events come across Corporal Aubry. As he pushed steadily forward, looking about on every side, he came to a marshy stream, spanned by a narrow wooden bridge. Near the entrance to the bridge and on the right-hand side of the road stood a lonely house, which displayed the sign of the White Horse. “I’ll have my dinner there,” said Fabrizio to himself. Beside the bridge was a cavalry officer with his arm in a sling. He was sitting on his horse and looked very sad. Ten paces from him three dismounted troopers were busy with their pipes.

“Those fellows,” said Fabrizio to himself, “look very much as if they might be inclined to buy my horse even cheaper than the price I’ve paid for him.” The wounded officer and the three men on foot were watching him, and seemed to be waiting for him. “I really ought to avoid that bridge and follow the river bank on the right; that’s what the cantinière would advise me to do, to get out of the difficulty. Yes,” said our hero to himself, “but if I take to flight I shall be ashamed of it to-morrow. Besides, my horse has good legs, and the officer’s horse is probably tired out. If he tries to dismount me I’ll take to my heels.” Reasoning thus, Fabrizio shook his horse together and rode on as slowly as possible.

“Come on, hussar!” shouted the officer, with a voice of authority. Fabrizio came on a few steps, and then halted. “Do you want to take my horse from me?” he called out.

“Not a bit of it! Come on!”

Fabrizio looked at the officer. His mustache was white, he had the most honest face imaginable, the handkerchief which supported his left arm was covered with blood, and his right hand was also wrapped in a bloody bandage. “It’s those men on foot who will snatch at the horse’s bridle,” thought Fabrizio; but when he looked closer he saw that the men on foot were wounded as well.

“In the name of all that’s honourable,” said the officer, who wore a colonel’s epaulettes, “keep watch here, and tell every dragoon, light-cavalry man, and hussar you may see that Colonel Le Baron is in the inn there, and that he orders them to report themselves to him.” The old colonel looked broken-hearted. His very first words had won our hero’s heart, and he replied very sensibly, “I’m very young, sir; perhaps nobody would listen to me. I ought to have a written order from you.”

“He’s right,” said the colonel, looking hard at him. “Write the order, La Rose; you can use your right hand.” Without a word, La Rose drew a little parchment-covered book from his pocket, wrote a few words, tore out the leaf, and gave it to Fabrizio. The colonel repeated his orders, adding that Fabrizio would be relieved after two hours, as was only fair, by one of the wounded soldiers who were with him. This done, he went into the tavern with his men. Fabrizio, so greatly had he been struck by the silent and dreary sorrow of the three men, sat motionless at the end of the bridge, watching them disappear. “They were like enchanted genii,” said he to himself. At last he opened the folded paper, and read the following order:

“Colonel Le Baron, Sixth Dragoons, commanding the Second Brigade of the First Cavalry Division of the Fourteenth Corps, orders all cavalry, dragoons, light-cavalry men, and hussars not to cross the bridge, and to report themselves to him at his headquarters, the White Horse Tavern, close to the bridge.

“Dated. Headquarters, close to the bridge over the Sainte. June 19, 1815.

“Signed for Colonel Le Baron, wounded in the right arm, and by his orders.

“Sergeant La Rose.”

Fabrizio had hardly kept guard on the bridge for half an hour when six light-cavalry men mounted, and three on foot, approached him. He gave them the colonel’s order. “We are coming back,” said four of the mounted men, and they crossed the bridge at full trot. By that time Fabrizio was engaged with the two others. While the altercation grew warmer the three men on foot slipped over the bridge. One of the two remaining mounted men ended by asking to see the order, and carried it off, saying, “I’ll take it to my comrades, who are sure to come back; you wait patiently for them,” and he galloped off with his companion after him. The whole thing was done in an instant.

Fabrizio, in a fury, beckoned to one of the wounded soldiers who had appeared at one of the tavern windows. The man, whom Fabrizio observed to be wearing a sergeant’s stripes, came downstairs, and shouted, as he drew near him, “Draw your sword, sir! Don’t you know you’re on duty?” Fabrizio obeyed, and then said, “They’ve carried off the order!”

“They’re still savage over yesterday’s business,” answered the other drearily. “I’ll give you one of my pistols. If they break through again fire it in the air, and I’ll come down, or the colonel will make his appearance.”

Fabrizio had noticed the gesture of surprise with which the sergeant had received the intelligence that the order had been carried off. He had realized that the incident was a personal insult to himself, and was resolved that nothing of the sort should happen in future. He had gone back proudly to his post, armed with the sergeant’s pistol, when he saw seven hussars come riding up. He had placed himself across the entrance to the bridge. He gave them the colonel’s order, which vexed them very much. The boldest tried to get across. Fabrizio, obeying the wise advice of his friend the cantinière, who had told him the previous morning that he must cut and not thrust, lowered the point of his big straight sword, and made as though he would have run through anybody who disobeyed the order.

“Ha! the greenhorn wants to kill us, as if we had not been killed enough yesterday!” They all drew their swords, and fell upon Fabrizio. He gave himself up for dead, but he remembered the look of surprise on the sergeant’s face, and resolved he would not be despised a second time. He backed slowly over his bridge, trying to thrust with his point as he went. He looked so queer, with his great straight cavalry sword, much too heavy for him, and which he did not know how to handle, that the hussars soon saw who they had to do with. Then they tried not to wound him, but to cut his coat off his back. He thus received three or four small sword cuts on the arm. Meanwhile, faithful to the cantinière’s advice, he kept on thrusting with all his might. Unluckily one of his lunges wounded a hussar in the hand. The man, furious at being touched by such a soldier, replied with a violent thrust which wounded Fabrizio in the thigh. The wound was all the deeper because our hero’s charger, instead of escaping from the mêlée, seemed to delight in it, and to throw himself deliberately on the assailants. The hussars, seeing Fabrizio’s blood running down his right arm, were afraid they had gone too far, and, forcing him over to the left parapet of the bridge, they galloped off. The instant Fabrizio was free for a moment he fired his pistol in the air to warn the colonel.

Four mounted hussars and two on foot belonging to the same regiment as the last had been coming toward the bridge, and were still two hundred paces off when the pistol shot rang out. They were carefully watching what happened on the bridge, and thinking Fabrizio had fired upon their comrades, the four mounted men galloped down upon him, brandishing their swords; it was a regular charge. Colonel Le Baron, summoned by the pistol shot, opened the tavern door, rushed on to the bridge just as the hussars galloped up to it, and himself ordered them to halt.

“There’s no colonel here,” cried one of the men, and he spurred his horse. The colonel in his anger broke off his remonstrance, and seized the rein of the horse on the off side with his wounded hand. “Halt, sir!” he cried to the hussar. “I know you. You belong to Captain Henriet’s company.”

“Well, then, let the captain give me his orders! Captain Henriet was killed yesterday,” he added with a sneer, “and you may go and be damned!” As he spoke he tried to force his way through, and knocked over the old colonel, who fell in a sitting posture on the floor of the bridge. Fabrizio, who was two paces farther on the bridge, but facing the tavern, urged his horse furiously forward, and while the hussar’s horse overthrew the colonel, who still clung to the off rein, he thrust vehemently and angrily at its rider. Luckily the man’s horse, which was dragged downward by the bridle, on to which the colonel was still hanging, started to one side, so that the long blade of Fabrizio’s heavy cavalry sword slipped along the hussar’s waistcoat and came right out under his nose. The hussar, in his fury, turned round and hacked at Fabrizio with all his strength, cutting through his sleeve and making a deep wound in his arm. Our hero tumbled off his horse. One of the dismounted hussars, seeing the two defenders of the bridge lying on the ground, seized his opportunity, sprang on to Fabrizio’s horse, and would have galloped it off the bridge and away, but the sergeant, who had hurried up from the tavern, had seen his colonel fall, and believed him to be seriously wounded. He ran after Fabrizio’s horse, and plunged the point of his sword into the thief’s back, so that he, too, fell. Then the hussars, seeing nobody but the sergeant standing on the bridge, galloped across it and rode rapidly away.

The sergeant went to look after the wounded. Fabrizio had already picked himself up; he was not in much pain, but he was losing a great deal of blood. The colonel rose to his feet more slowly; he was quite giddy from his fall, but he was not wounded at all.

“The only thing that hurts me,” he said to his sergeant, “is the old wound in my hand.” The hussar whom the sergeant had wounded was dying.

“The devil may take him!” cried the colonel. “But,” said he to the sergeant and the two other troopers who now hurried up, “look after this boy, whose life I did wrong to endanger. I will stay at the bridge myself, and try to stop these madmen. Take the young fellow to the inn and dress his arm. Use one of my shirts for bandages.”