Charles James Lever.

The adventures of Arthur O'Leary online

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was safe to swallow, and looked npon the inventor of blue
pill as the greatest benefactor of mankind. He had the
analysis of every well and spring in Germany at his fin-
ger's end, and could tell you the temperature and atomic
proportions like his alphabet. But his great system was a
kind of reciprocity treaty between health and sickness, by
which a man could commit any species of gluttony ho
pleased Avhen he knew the peculiar antagonist principle ;


and tlius lie ate — I was going to say like a sliark, but let me
not in my ignorance calumniate the fish — for I know not
if anything" that ever swam could cat a soup with a cus-
tard pudding, followed by beef and beetroot, stewed mack-
erel and treacle, pickled oysters and preserved cherries,
roast hare and cucumbei', venison, salad, prunes, hashed
mutton, omelettes, pastry ; and finally, to wind up with
eflect, a sturgeon baked with brandy-peaches in his abdo-
• nen — a thing to make a cook weep and a German blessed,
^uch was m.y poor friend, Mr. Bartholomew Catei-, tha
most thin, spare, emaciated, and miserable-looking man
that ever sipped at Schwalbach or shivered at Kissingen.

To permit these extravagancies in diet, however, he had
concocted a code of reprisals, consisting in the various
mineral waters of Germany, and the poisonous metals of
modern pharmacy ; and having estabh'shed the fact that
"bitter wasser " and "Carlsbad," the " Powon " and
"Piinitz," combined with blue pill, were the natural ene-
mies of all things eatable, he swallowed these freely, and
then left the matter to the rebellious ingredients, pretty
much as the English used to govern Ireland in times gone
by, set both parties by the ears and wait the result in
peace, well aware that a slight derangement of the balance,
from time to time, would keep the contest in motion.
Such was the state policy of Mr. Cater, and I can only say
that his "constitution" survived it, though that of Ireland
seems to sufler grievously from the experiment.

This lively gentleman was then my companion; indeed,
■with that cohesive property of your true bore, he was ever
beside me, relating some little interesting anecdote of a
jaundice or a dropsy, a tertian or a typhus, by which agree*
aljle souvenirs he preserved the memory of Athens or
Naples, Homo or Dresden, fresh and unclouded in his mind.
Kot satisfied, however, with narration, like all enthusiasts,
lie would be proselytizing ; and whether from the foi'ce of
Jiis arguments or the weakness of wy nature, found a ready
victim in mc — insomuch, that under his admirable instruc-
tion I was already beginning to feel a dislike and disgust to
all things eatable, with an appetite only grown more raven-
ous ; while my reverence for all springs of unsavoury taste
andsracll — once, I must confess, at a deplorably low ebb—


was gradually becoming more developed. It was only by the
accidental discovery that my waistcoat could be made to
fit, by putting it twice round mc, and that my coat was a
dependency, of which I was scarcely the nucleus, that I
really became frightened.

What! thought I, can this be that Arthur O'Lcary
whom men jested on his rotundity ? Is this me, around
whom children ran, as they would about a pillar or a menu-
raent, and thought it exercise to circumambulate ? Arthur,
this will be the death of thee ; thou wert a happy man
and a fat before thou knevvest Koch brunnens and thermo-
meters ; run while it is yet time, and be thankful at least
that thou art in racing condition.

With noiseless step and cautious gesture, I crept down
stairs one morning at daybi'cak. My enemy was still
asleep. I heard him muttering as I passed his door;
doubtless he was dreaming of some new combination of
horrors, some infernal alliance of cucumbers and quinine.
I passed on in silence ; my very teeth chattered with fear
■ — happy was I to have them to chattel' — another fortnight
of his intimacy, and they would have trembled from blue
pill as well as panic.

With a heavy sigh I paid my bill, and crossed the street
towards the diligence office. One place only i-emained
vacant, it was in the banquette. No matter, thought I,
anywhere will do at present,

" Where is monsieur going ? for there will be a place
vacant in the coupe at "

" I have not thought of that yet," said I ; "but when wo
reach Vervier we'll see."

" Aliens, then," said the conducteur, while he whispered
to the clerk of the office a few words I could not catch.
"You are mistaken, friend," said I; "it's not creditors,
they are only chalybcates I'm running from ;" and so wo

Before I follow out any farther my own ramblings, I
should like to acquit a debt I owe my reader — if I daro
flatter myself that he cares for its discharge — by returning
to the story of the poor shepherd of the mountains, and
which I cannot more seasonably do than at this place ;
although the details I am about to relate were furnished t<>


me a great many years after tliis, and during a visit I paid
to Lyons in 1828.

In the Cafe de la Coupe d'Or, so conspicuous in the
Place dcs Terveaux, where I usually resorted to pass my
evcniTifs, and indulge in the cheap luxuries of my coffee
and cheroot, I happened to make a bowing acquaintance
with a venerable elderly gentleman, who each night
resorted there to read the papers, and amuse himself by
lookin"" over the chess-players, with which the room was
crowded. Some accidental interchange of newspapers led
to a recognition, and that again advanced to a few words.
each time we met, till one evening, chance placed us at
the same table, and we chatted away several hours, and
parted in the hope, mutually expressed, of renewing our
acquaintance at an early period.

1 had no difHculty in interrogating the Dame du Cafe
aDout my new acquaintance. He was a striking and
remarkable-looking personage, tall, and military-looking,
with an air of " Grand Seigneur," which in a Frenchman.
is never deceptive ; certainly I never saw it successfully
assumed by any w'ho had no right to it. lie wore his hair
" en queue," and in his dress evinced, in several trifling
matters, an adherence to the habitudes of the old regime ;
so, at least, I interpreted his lace ruffles and silk stockings,
with his broad buckles of brilliants in his shoes ; the
ribbon of St. Louis, whicli he wore unostentatiously on hia
waistcoat, was his only decoration.

" That is the Vicomte de Berlemont, ancien colcnel-en-
chef," said she, with an accent of pride at the mention of
BO distinguished a frequenter of the cafe; "he has not
missed an evening here for yeai'S past."

A few more words of inquiry elicited from her the
information that the Vicomte had served in all the wars
of the Empire up to the time of the abdication — that on
the restoration of the Bourbons he had received his rank
in the service from them, and, faithful to their fortunes,
had followed Louis XVIII. in exile to Ghent.

" He has seen a deal of the world, then, Madame, ii»
would appear ? "

" That he has, and loves to speak about it, too ; time-
y/BS when they reckoned the Vicomte the pleasantest


persons in Lyons ; but they say he has grown old now,
and contracted a habit of repeating his stories. I can't
tell how that may be, but I tliink him always aimahle.^'
A delightful word that same aimable is ! and so thinkincr,
I wished Madame good-night, and departed.

The next evening I lay in wait for the old colonel, and
was flattered to see that he was taking equal pains to
discover me. We retired to a little table, ordered our
coffee and chatted away till midnight. Such was the com-
mencement, such the course, of one of the pleasantest
intimacies 1 ever formed.

The Yicorate Avas unquestionably the most agreeable
specimen of his nation I had ever met ; easy and un-
affected in his manner; he had seen much, and observed
shrewdly; not much skilled in book learning, but deeply
read in mankind ; his views of politics were of tliafe
unt'xaggerated character which are so often found correct ;
while of his foresight I can give no higher token, than that
he then predicted to me the events of the year 18.30, only
erring as to the time, which he deemed might not be so
far distant. The Empire, however, and Napoleon, were
his favourite topics. Bourbonist as he was, the splendour
of France in 1810 and 1811, the greatness of the mighty
man whose genius then ruled its destinies, had captivated
his imagination, and he would talk for hours over tlie
events of Parisian life at that period, and the more bril-
liant incidents of the campaigns.

It was in one of our conversations, prolonged beyond
the usual time, in discussing the characters of those imme-
diately about the person of the Emperor, that I felt some-
what struck by the remark he made, that, while " Napo-
leon did meet unquestionably many instances of deep
ingratitude from those whom he had covered with honours
and heaped with favours, still nothing ever equalled tlie
attachment the oflBcers of the army generally bore to his
person, and the devotion they felt for his gloiy and his

" It was not a sentiment, it was a religious belief among
the j^oung men of my day, that the Emperor could do no
wrong. What you assume in your country by courtesy,
Ive believed do facto. So many times had events, seeming


most disastrous, turned out pregnant with advantage and
success, that a dilemma was rather a subject of amusing
speculation amongst us, than a matter of doubt and

"There came a terrible i-everse to all this, however,"
said he, as his voice fell to a lower and sadder key ; " a
fearful lesson was in store for us. Poor Aubuisson ■"

" Aubuisson ! " said I, starting; "was that the name
you mentioned ? "

"Yes," said he, in amazement; "have you heard the
story, then ? "

" No," said I, " I know of no story; it was the name
alone struck me. Was it not one of that name who was
mentioned in one of Bonaparte's despatches from Egypt ? "

" To be sure it was, and the same man, too ; he was
the first in the trenches at Alexandria ; he carried off a
]\ramcluke chief his prisoner, at the battle of the Pyra-

" What manner of man was he ? "

"A powerful fellow, one of the largest of his regiment,
and they were a Grenadier battalion ; he had black hair
and black moustache, which he wore long and drooping,
in En;yptian fashion."

" The same — the very same! " cried I, carried away by
my excitement.

" What do you mean ? " said the colonel ; " you've never
seexT him, surely ; he died at Charenton the same year
Waterloo was fought."

" No such thing," said I, feeling convinced that Lazare
was the person. " I saw him alive long since ; " and with
that I related the story I have told my readci', detailing
minutely every little particular which might serve t'>
confirm my impression of the identity.

"No, no," said the Vicomtc, shaking his head, "you
are mistaken ; Aubuisson was a patient at Charenton for
ten years, when he died. The circumstances you mention
are certaiidy both curious and strange, but I cannot think
they have any connection with the fortunes of poor Gus-
tavo ; at all events, if you like to hear the story, coma
home with me, and Pll tell it; the cafe is about to close
now, and v/c must leave."


I gladly a(;cepted the offer, for whatever doubts he had
conceruing Lazare's identity with Aubuisson, mi/ convic-
tions were complete, and I longed to hear the solution of
a mystery over which I had pondered many a day of
march, and many a sleepless night.

I could scarcely contain my impatience during supper.
The thought of Lazare absorbed everything in my mind,
and I fancied the old colonel's appetite knew no bounds
when the meal had lasted about a quarter of an hour. At
last he finished, and having devised his modest glass of
weak wine and water, began the story, of which I present
the leading features to my readers, omitting, of course,
those little occasional digressions and reflections by which
the narrator himself accompanied his tale.



The third day of the disastrous battle of Leipsic was
drawing to a close, as the armies of the coalition made
one terrible and fierce attack, in concert, against the Im-
perial forces. Never was anj-thing before heard like the
deafening thunder, as three hundred guns of heavy artil-
lery opened their fire at once, from end to end of the line,
C^id three hundred thousand men advanced, wildly cheer-
. fr^g, to the attack.

Wearied, worn out, and exhausted, the French army
neld their gi'ound, like men prepared to die befoi'e their
Emperor, but never desert him, Avhen the fearful intelli-
gence was brought to Napoleon, that in three days the
army had fired ninety-five thousand cannon balls,* that
the reserve ammunition was entirely consumed, and but
sixteen thousand cannon balls remained, barely sufficient

* Historical.


to maintain the fire two hours longer ! What was to
he done ? No resources lay ne^.rer than Magdeburg' or
Erfurt. To the latter place the Emperor at once decided on
retiring, and at seven o'clock the order was given for the
artillery waggons and baggage to pass the defile of Lin-
denau, and retreat over the El^ter ; the same order being
transmitted to the cavalry and the other coi-ps of the
army. The defile was a long and difficult one, extending
for two leagues, and traversing several bridges. To accom-
plish the j-etreat in safety, Napoleon was counselled to
hold the allies in check by a strong force of artillery, and
then set fire to the faubourg ; but the conduct of the
Saxon troops, however deserving of his anger, could not
warrant a punishment so fearful on the monarch of that
country, who, through, every change of fortune, had stood
steady in his friendship : he rejected the course at once,
and determined on retreating as best he might.

The movement was then begun at once, and every
avenue that led to the faubourg of Lindenau was crowded
by troops of all arms, eagerly pressing onward — a fearful
scene of confusion and dismay, for it was a beaten armv
who fled, and one which until now never had thoroughly
felt the horrors of defeat. From seven until nine the
columns came on at a quick step, the cavalry at a trot ;
defiling along the narrow gorge of Lindenau, they passed
a mill at the roadside, where, at a window, stood one
with arms crossed and head bent upon his bosom. He
gazed steadfastly at the long train beneath, but never
noticed the salutes of the general officers as they passed
along. It was the Emperor himself! pale and careworn,
his low chapcau pressed down far on his brows, and his
uniform splashed and travel-stained. For above an hour
lie stood thus silent and motionless, then throwing him-
self upon a bed he slept. Yes! amid all the terrible
events of that disastrous retreat, when the foundations of
the niiglity empire he had created were crumbling beneath
him, when the great army he had so often led to victory
was defiling beaten before him, he laid him wearied upon
a pillow and slept !

A terrible cannonade, the fire of seventy large guns,
brought to i;ear upon the ramparts, shook the very earth.


and at length awoke him, who through all the din and
clamour slept soundly and tranquilly.

" What is it, Duroc ? " said he, raising himself upon
one arm, and looking up.

" It is Swartzenberg's attack, sire, on the rampart of

" Ha ! so near ? " said he, springing up and approaching
the window, from which the bright flashes of the artillery
were each moment discernible in the dark sky. At tlie
same moment an aide-de-camp galloped up, and dis-
mounted at the door : in another minute he was in tl e

The Saxon troops, left by the Emperor as a guard of
honour and protection to the unhappy monarch, had
opened a fire on the retreating columns, and a fearful
confusion was the result. The Emperor spoke not a word.
Macdonald's corps and Poniatowski's division were still in
Leipsic ; but already they had commenced their retiring
movement on Lindenau. Lauriston's brigade was also
rapidly approaching the bridge over the Elster, to which
now the men were hurrying madly on, intent alone on
flight. The bridge — the only one by which the troops
could pass — had laeen mined, and committed to the charge
of Colonel Montfort, of the Engineers, with directions to
blow it up when the enemy appeared, and thus gain time
for the baggage to retreat.

As the aide-de-camp stood awaiting Napoleon's orders
to a few lines written in pencil by the Duke of Tarento,
another staff officer arrived, breathless, to say that the
allies had carried the rampart, and were already in Leipsic.

Napoleon became deadly pale ; then, with a motion of
his hand, he signed to the officer to withdraw. " Duroc,"
said he, when they were alone, " where is Nansouty ? "

" With the eighth corps, sire. They have passed an
hour since."

" Who commands the picquet without? "

" Aubuissou, sire."

" Send him to rae, and leave us alone."

In a few moments Colonel Aubuisson entered. His
arm was in a sling from a sabre wound he had received
the morning before, but which did not prevent his remain-


ing on duty. The stout soldier seemed as unconcei'nod
and fcnrlcss in that dreadful moment as though it were a
day of gala manoeuvres, and not one of disaster and defeat.

" Aubuisson," said the Emperor, "you were with us at
Alexandria? "

" I was, sire," said he, as a deeper tinge coloured his
bronzed features.

" The first in the rampart — I remember it well," said
Napoleon; "the ordre dio jour commemorates the deed.
It was at Moscowa you gained the cross, I believe ? "
continued he, after a slight pause.

*' I never obtained it, sire," replied Aubuisson, with a
struggle to repress some disappointment in his tone.

" How — never obtained it ! — you, Aubuisson, an ancient
* brave ' of the Pyramids. Come, come, there has been
a mistake somewhere — we must look to this. Meanwhile,
General Aubuisson, take mine."

With that he detached his cordon from the breast of
his uniform, and fastened it on the coat of the astonished
officer, who could only mutter the words, " Sire — sire ! '*
in reply.

*' Now, then, for a service you must render me, and
speedily, too," said Napoleon, as he laid his hand on the
general s shoulder.

The Emperor whispered for some seconds in his ear,
then looked at him fixedly in the face. " What ! " cried
he, " do you hesitate ? "

" Hesitate, sire ! " said Aubuisson, starting back.
" Never! If your majesty had ordered me to the mouth
of a mortar — but I wish to know "

Napoleon did not permit him to conclude, but drawing
him closer, whispered again a few words in his ear.
" And, mark me," said he, aloud, as he finished, " mark
me, Aubuisson — silence, 2x1s itn mot — silence, a la mort! "

" A la onort, sire ! " repeated the general, while at the
same moment Duroc hurried into the room, and cried out —

"They are advancing towards the Elster — Macdonald's
rear-guard is engaged "

A motion of Napoleon's hand towards the dooi. and a
look at Aubuisson, was the only notice he took ©f the
intelligence, and the officer was gone.


While Duroc continued to detail the disastrous events
the last arrived news had announced, the Emperor
approaclwjd the -window, which was still open, and looked
out. All was in darkness towards that part of the city
near the defile. The attack was on the distant rampart,
near which the sky was red and lurid. Still it was
towards that dark and gloomy part Napoleon's eyes were
turned, and not in the direction where the fight was still
raging. Peering into the dense blackness, he stood with-
out speaking, when suddenly a bright gleam of light shot
up from the gloom, and then came three tremendous
reports, so rapidly, one after the other, as almost to seem
like one. The same instant a blaze of fire flashed upwards
towards the sky, and glittering fragments of burning
timber wei-e hxirled into the air. Napoleon covered his
eyes with his hand, and leaned against the side of the

" It is the bridge over the Elster ! " cried Duroc, in a
voice half-wild with passion. " They've blown up the
bridge before Macdonald's division have crossed."

" Impossible ! " said the Emperor. " Go see, quickly,
Duroc, what has happened."

But before the general could leave the room, a wounded
officer rushed in, his clothes covered with the marks of
recent fire.

" The Sappers, sire — the Sappers "

" What of them ? " said the Emperor.

" They've blown up the bridge, and the fourth corps
are still in Leipsic."

The next moment Napoleon w^as on his horse, sur-
rounded by his staff", and galloping furiously towards the

Never was a scene more awful than that which now
presented itself there. Hundreds of men had thrown
themselves headlong into the rapid river, where masses
of burning timber w^ere falling on every side — horse and
foot all mixed up in fearful confusion, struggled madly in
the stream, mingling" their cries with the shouts of those
who came on from behind, and who discovei'ed for the
first time that the retreat was cut off". The Duke of
Tarento crossed, holding by his horse's mane. Lauristou


bad nearly reached the bank, when he sunk to rise no
more ; and Poniatowski, the chivalrous Pole, the last
hope of bis nation, was scon for an instant, struggling
•with the waves, and then disappeared for ever.

Twenty thousand men, sixty great guns, and above two
hundred waggons, were thus left in the power of the
enemy. Few who sought refuge in flight ever reached
the opposite bank, and for miles down, the shores of the
Elster were marked by the bodies of French soldiei-s, who
thus met their death on that fearful night.

Among the disasters of this terrible retreat, was the
fate of Reynier, of whom no tidings could be had, nor
was it known whether he died in battle, or fell a prisoner
into the hands of the enemy. He was the personal fi-iend
of the Emperor, who in his loss deplored not only the
brave and valorous soldier, but the steady adherent to his
fortunes, through good and evil.

No more striking evidence of the amount of this mis-
fortune can be had, than the bulletin of Napoleon himself.
That document, usually devoted to the expression of vain-
glorious and exaggerated descriptions of the triumphs of
the army — full of those highflown narratives by which
the glowing imagination of the Emperor conveyed the
deeds of his soldiers to the wondering ears of France,
was now a record of mournful depression and sad reverse
of fortune.

" The French army," said he, " continues its march on
Erfurt — a beaten army ; after so many brilliant successes,
it is now in retreat."

Every one is already acquainted with the disastrous
career of that array, the greatest that ever marched from
France. Each step of their return, obstinately contested
against overwhelming superiority of force, however it
might evidence the chivalrous spirit of a nation who
would not confess defeat, brought them only nearer to
their own frontiers, pursued by those whose countries they
had violated, whose kings they had dethroned, whose
liberties they had trampled on.

The fearful Nemesis of war had come, the hour was
arrived when all the wrongs they had wreaked on others
wore to be tenfold inflicted on themselves — when the


plains of that " belle France," of whicli they were so
prond, were to be trampled beneath the feet of insulting
conquerors — when the Cossack and the Hulan were to
bivouac in that capital which they so arrogantly styled
" the centre of European civilization."

I need not dwell on these things, I will but ask you ta
accompany me to Erfurt where the army arrived five
days after. A court-martial was there summoned for the
trial of Colonel Montfort, of the Engineers, and the party
under his command, who, in violation of their orders, had
prematurely blown up the bridge over the Elster, and
were thus the cause of that fearful disaster, by which so
many gallant lives were sacrificed, and the honour of a
French army so grievously tarnished.

Contrary to the ordinary custom, the proceedings of

Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe adventures of Arthur O'Leary → online text (page 24 of 40)