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the kindness to state positively, most positively, that
Juliet Donnertronk, nee Ventrebleu, has not taken,
and never will take, any vows whatever ! "

" Not even those of marriage, Juliet ? " asked I.

She laughed, and patted my burning head, with
" Ah, vous etes bien bon ! Ah, inoqueur Anglais ! "
finishing with all the pantomime of blushing confu-
sion, and starting away like a fluttered pigeon.

As soon as I felt able to move, Avhich was not till
some days after ; my first effort was to reach the man-
sion in which Clotilde resided. But, there I received
the startling intelligence, that on the evening of the
day of my first and last visit, she had left the town
with the superior of the convent. She had made
such urgent entreaties to the governor, to be per-
mitted to leave Valenciennes, that he had obtained
a passport for her from the general commanding the


trenches ; and not only for her, but also for the
nuns ; the burning of whose convent had left them

Painful as it was thus to lose her, it was, on con-
sideration^ a relief, to find that she was under the
protection of her relative ; and when I saw, from day
to day, the ravage that was committed by the tre-
mendous weight of fire, I rejoiced that she was no
longer exposed to its perils.

But it was my fate, or perhaps my good fortune,
never to be suffered to brood long over my own
calamities. My life has been spent in the midst of
tumults, which, if they did not extinguish— and
what could extinguish ? — the sense of my mental
trials, at least prevented the echo of my complaints
from returning to my ears. Before the midnight, of
the very day in which I had lost the only being, for
whom I now lived ; the whole city was alarmed by
the intelligence, that the besiegers were evidently
preparing for an assault. I listened undisturbed.
Even this could scarcely add to the horrors in which
the inhabitants lived from hour to hour ; and to me
it was the hope of a rescue; unless I should be
struck by some of the shells, which now were per-
petually bursting in the streets, or .should even fall
a victim to the wrath of the incensed garrison.

But, an order came suddenly to the engineer, in
command of the quarter, to send all the patients into
the vaults, and throw all the beds on the roof, to
deaden the weight of the fire. He was a man of
gentlemanlike manners, and had been attentive to
me, in the shape of many of those minor civilities


which a man of severe authority might have refused,
but which mark kindhness of disposition. On this
night he told me, that he had orders to put all the
prisoners in arrest ; but that, regarding me more as
a friend than a prisoner ; I was at liberty to take any
precaution for my security which I thought proper.
My answer was, " that I hoped, at all events, not to
be shut into the vaults, but, to take my chance above
ground." To compromise the difficulty, I proposed
to assist in carrying the mattresses to the roof, and to
remain there until the night was over. " But you
may be hit," said my friend. " So be it," was my
answer. " It is the natural fate of my profession ;
but, at least, I shall not be buried alive."

" It will be soon over with us all, and with Va-
lenciennes," said the officer; "though whether to-
night or not, is a question. We have seen new
batteries raised, within the last twenty-four hours.
The enemy have now nearly three hundred heavy
guns in full play ; and, to judge from the quantity
of shells, they must have a hundred mortars besides.
No fortress can stand this ; and, if it continues, we
shall soon be ground into dust." He took his
leave ; and, with my mattress on my shoulder, I
mounted the numberless and creaking staircases,
until the door of the roof and the landscape opened
on me together; never was a landscape less tempt-

The night was excessively dark, but perfectly
calm ; and, except where the fire from the batteries
marked their position, all objects beyond the ramparts
were nearly invisible. The town around me lay silent,


and looking more like a vast grave, than a place of
human existence. Now and then, the light of a
lantern gliding along the ruined streets, showed me
a group of wretched beings hurrying a corpse to the
next churchyard ; or a priest seeking his way over
the smoking ruins, to attend some dying soldier or
citizen. All was utter desolation.

But a new scene — a terrible and yet a superb
one — suddenly broke upon me. A gleam of lights
from various points of the allied lines, showed that
a general movement was begun. The batteries now
opened along the whole extent of the trenches, and
by their blaze I was able to discern, formed in their
rear, and advancing, two immense columns, which,
however, in the distance and the fitfulness of the
glare, looked more like huge clouds than living
beings. The guns of the ramparts soon replied, and
the roar was deafening ; while the plunging of shot
along the ramparts and roofs made our situation
perilous in no slight degree. But, in the midst of
this hurricane of fire, I saw a single rocket shoot up
from the camp, and the whole range of the batteries
ceased at the instant. The completeness of the
cessation was scarcely less appalling than the

While every telescope was instantly turned to the
spot, where the columns and batteries seemed to have
sunk together into the earth ; a pyramid of blasting
flame burst up to the very clouds, carrying with it
huge fragments of beams and masonry. The explosion
rent the air, and shook the building on which I stood?


as if it had been a house of sand. A crowd of engi-
neer and staff officers now rushed on the roof, and
their alarm at the results of the concussion was un-
disguised. "This is what we suspected," said the
chief to me ; " but it was impossible to discover where
the gallery of their mine was run. Our counter-
mine has clearly failed." He had scarcely spoken
the Avords, before a second and still broader explosion
tore up the ground to a great extent, and threw the
counterscarp for several hundred yards into the
ditch. The drums of the columns were now dis-
tinctly heard, beating the "advance;" but darkness had
again fallen, and all was invisible. A third explosion
followed, still closer to the ramparts, which blew up
the face of the grand bastion. The stormers now
gave a general shout, and I saw them gallantly dash-
ing across the ditch and covered way, tearing down
the palisades, fighting hand to hand, clearing the out-
works with the bayonet, and finally making a lodge-
ment on the bastion itself. The red-coats, which
now swarmed through the works, and the colours
planted on the rampart, showed me that my country-
men had led the assault, and my heart throbbed with
envy and admiration. " Why am T not there ?" was
my involuntary cry ; as I almost wished that some of
the shots, which were now flying about the roofs,
would relieve me from the shame of being a helpless
spectator. " Mon ami" said the voice of the brave
and good-natured Frenichman, who had overheard
me — " if you wish to rejoin your regiment, you will
not have long to wait. — Yet, this affair will not be


decided to-night, as I thought that it would, half an
hour ago. I see that they have done as much as
they intended for the time, and mean to leave the
rest to fright and famine. To-morrow will tell us
something. — Pack up your valise. Bo7i soir /"


"He til at outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a-tiptoe, when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name :
He that shall live this day, and see old age.
Will yearly on this vigil feast his friends.
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
Old men forget ; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day."


Valenciennes was now captured. The sagacity
of my friend, the French engineer, had not been
deceived. The explosion of the three great mines ;
an operation, from its magnitude, almost new to war,
and in its effects irresistible, had thrown open the
fortress. The garrison had done their duty gal-
lantly, and the result was a capitulation, hastened
by the outcry of the famishing inhabitants. I hast-
ened to the quarters of my regiment, was received with
all cordiality ; and had the honour of an interview
with the royal duke, who, at all times affable, was
now in peculiar good- humour, and who led me into
a long detail of such public matters as might be


o-athered from my intercourse with the garrison.
At the close of our interview he gave me a note,
which was to be forwarded to the adjutant-general.
I made my bow, and retired.

All in the camp was now festivity. A great achieve-
ment had been accomplished, and the barriers of
France were broken down. Yet, in the midst of
national triumph, I felt a depression which rendered
me almost incapable of sharing it. The wounds of
the spirit are not to be healed like those of the frame ;
and with the recollection of the noble creature whom
I had lost, bitterness mingled in every sound, and
sight, and exultation. My first request would have
been, for leave of absence ; that I might follow her, if
she were still in France, or in the world. But the
bustle at head-quarters told me that some movement
was about to take place ; and, under those circum-
stances, a request for leave was impossible. Still I con-
tinued, making every imaginable enquiry, dispatching
letters, and feeing postmasters, to obtain intelligence
of the route which Clotilde had taken. But, after
tracing her for the first few leagues, all tidings were
lost ; and I had only to trust to that hope which was
a part of my sanguine nature, and which was sus-
tained, by a kind of consciousness, that a being so
superior could not be flung away in the chances
which visit the multitude.

While I was thus pondering and perplexed, I was
summoned to attend one of the principal officers of
the staff. "We are sending despatches of some
importance to London," said he, "and it is the wish
of the commander-in-chief, that you should be their


bearer. I have the pleasure to tell you, that he feels
an interest in you, from the opportunities which you
have had of distinguishing yourself in the campaign ;
and that hehas appointed you one of his extra aides-
de-camp. — Your service begins soon," added my in-
formant with a smile, " for you must set off to-night.
The despatch announcing the capitulation of the
fortress was, of course, sent at once ; but as the state-
ment, in those cases, is necessarily brief, it is always
desirable to have some one in London, capable of ex-
plaining the 'explanation,' or, on emergency, taking the
place of the personage who has been made the official
bearer of the despatch. His royal highness is satis-
fied, from his conversation with you, that you will
be perfectly fit for this purpose ; and here is the
letter ; with which you are to make all expedition to
the Horse Guards."

After making my preparations for the journey, I
hastened to take leave of the man whom I most hon-
oured and esteemed, my unfailing friend Guiscard. To
my surprise,he received the intelligence of my appoint-
ment with scarcely a word of congratulation. Little
as I myself was now excitable by any thing in the
shape of human fortune, I was chagrined by his
obstinate gravity. He observed it, and started from
his seat. " Come," said he, " let us take a walk, and
get out of the sight of mankind, if we can." He
took my arm, and we strayed along the banks of the
Scheldt ; where, however, his purpose was unattain-
able, for the whole breadth of the river was covered
with the provision barges of the troops. The barge-
men were enjoying the fine July evening, in the


national style — swilling the worst beer that ever
punished the taste for that barbarian beverage, and
filling the fresh breeze with the fumes of tobacco,
worthy of the beer. Guiscard stopped to gaze at

" I envy those fellows," said he, " not merely
for their escaping all care, and being able to extract
enjoyment out of their execrable drink and pipes,
but from their being exempt from all contact with

" But such enjoyment is only that of the swine."

"Well, and is not that of the swine perfect? —
and what would you have more than perfection ?"

A huge herd of those creatures, coming along the
miry edge of the river, helped his illustration. " Mr.
Marston, you have not been for the last month on the
staff of the commander-in-chief of the allied armies,
or you would not look so incredulous. Sir, I allow,
that man's senses may be as suitable for his purposes,
as those of the animals which we see wallowing there."
I stared, waiting for the conclusion. He proceeded.
" But man has drawbacks on his natural faculties,
which they have not. Nature possibly intended, that
we should be as happy as they. But, make nine-
tenths of them hewers of wood and drawers of water,
send some of them to dungeons, enforce a con-
scription among the rest, and order them to use their
tusks upon each other ; and the most complacent of
them would rebel : or, as the last trial of temper,
put the meekest of the race into a cabinet of princes
and general-officers, themselves controlled by a cabi-
net five hundred miles oiF; and if they do not growl



as I do now, I shall give up all my knowledge of
quadruped nature."

" Why, Guiscard, what is the matter with you to-
night ? Have we not gained our point ? You are
like the Thracians, who always mourned at the birth
of a child."

" And the Thracians were perfectly right, if the
child were to be reared a diplomatist. You talk of
success!" Our path had led to where a view of
Valenciennes opened on us through the trees ; and
its shattered ramparts and curtains, the trees felled
along its glacis, and its bastions stripped and broken
by our cannon-balls, certainly presented a rueful
spectacle. The Austrian flag was flying on the

"There," said he, "is our prize. It is not worth
the loading of a single gun ; but it has cost us more
millions to ruin, than it took francs to build — it
has cost us the conquest of France ; and will cost
Europe the war, which we might have extinguished
three months ago, if we had but left it behind. I
acknowledge, that I speak in the bitterness of my
heart ; delay has ruined every thing. Our march to
Paris, and our march to Georgium Sidus, will now
be finished on the same day."

I attempted to laugh off his predictions, but he
was intractable. "The business," said he, " is
over. That flag is the signal of European jealousy and
the pledge of French triumph. You are going to
England ; and if you have any regard for my opinion,*
tell your friends there, to withdraw their troops as soon
as they can. That flag, which pretends to partition


France, will unite it as one man. Our sages here are
actually about to play its game. — Orders have come, to
divide the army. What folly 1 What inconceivable in-
fatuation ! In the very face of the most fantastic and
most furious population of mankind, a race whom the
most trivial success inflames into enthusiasts ; they
are going to break up their force, and seek adventures,
by brigades and battalions."

He stamped on the ground with indignation ; but,
suddenly recovering his calmness, he turned to me
with his grave smile. "I am ashamed,Marston,of thus
betraying a temper, which time ought to have cooled.
But, after all, what is public life but a burlesque ; a
tissue of ludicrous disappointments ; a tragedy, w ith
a farce always at hand, to relieve the tedium and the
tinsel ; the fall of kingdoms made laughable by the
copper lace of the stage wardrobe ?"

" Do you object to our Duke ?"

" Not in the least. He is personally a gallant
fellow; and if he wants experience, so does every
man, at one time or other. His only error, hitherto,
has been his condescending to come at all, with so
small a force under his command. No English army
should ever plant its foot upon the Continent, with
less than fifty thousand men on its muster-roll. The
duke's being put at the head of your troops — only
a division after all — seems to me the only wise
thing that has been done. It was a declaration of
the heartiness of your alliance ; and I honour your
country for the distinctness of the avowal. Your
king gives his son, as your country gives her soldiers,
and your people give their money. The whole was
c 2


manly, magnanimous, or, as the highest panegyric, it
was English all over."

This language at once put an end to all my reserv'e.
I shook his hand in the spirit of old friendship ; and,
on our parting, extracted a promise of keeping up
our communication on all possible opportunities.
We had already separated, when I heard my name
called again, and Guiscard returned. " I had for-
gotten," said he, " to tell you, what I was most anxi-
ous to say. If I had seen no other prospect for you,
I should be the last man to make you discontented
with your profession. My only request now is, that
when you once more tread on English ground you will
seriously consider, whether you will continue in the
army. If I know you at all, I think that you would
not be altogether satisfied with wearing your epau-
lettes at reviews and parades. And, if I am not
entirely mistaken, you will have nothing else to do,
for the next dozen years. — Your army are moving
homewards already. You are now in the secret."

" But, is the campaign absolutely coming to an
end? Are the hopes of attacking the French so
suddenly given up ? Is France always to baffle us ?"
was my vexed question.

" As to the fate of France, you should consult a
prophet, not a Prussian engineer — and one terribly
tired of his trade besides," was the reply. We parted ;
but the conversation was not lost upon me.

By midnight I was on my journey. My rout lay
through the Flemish provinces, which had now re-
covered all their luxuriance, if not derived additional
animation from the activity which every where fol-


lows the movements of a successful army. Troops
marching to join the general advance frequently and
strikingly diversified the scene. Huge trains of the
commissariat were continually on the road. The
little civic authorities were doubly conscious of the
dignity of functions which brought them into con-
tact with soldiership, from the quartermaster up to
the general. But the contrast of the tumult which I
left behind, with the quietness of the scenes around
me — the haste, the anxiety, and the restlessness of a
huge camp, with the calm of the fields, with the regu-
larity which seemed to govern all the operations of
farming life, and with the grave opulence of the old
mansions, which seemed to be formed for the natural
receptacles of the wealth of Flemish fields ; at once
refreshed me, after the mental fever in which I had
tossed so long, and perhaps impressed on me more
deeply the parting advice of my friend the philo-

But, from the moment when I touched British
ground, the whole sleepy tranquillity which gathers
over every sense in the quietude of Flanders ; where
the same man seems to have followed the same
plough, from the deluge, had utterly vanished. I was
in the midst of a nation in a ferment. The war was
the universal topic ; party was in full life ; from the
inn at Dover, up to the waiting-room at the Horse-
Guards, I heard nothing but politics. — The conduct
of our army — the absurdity of every thing that had
been done, or left undone — the failures of the Allies
— the fanaticism of the French — the hopes of popular
liberty on one side, and the indignation of established
c 3


power on the other — came echoing and re-echoing in
a clamour of discordant conceptions, that for the time
bewildered me. How simple was the gossip of the
camp to this heterogeneous mass of struggling topics !
How straightforward was even the wild haranguing
of the Palais Royal, to the thousand reports and pro-
tests, remonstrances and replications, of the whole
ringing and raging public mind of England ! This
was the age of pamphleteering. Every sage who
could, or could not, write, flung his pamphlet in the
teeth of the party whose existence he conceived to be
ruinous to his country — or perhaps prejudicial to his
own prospect of a sinecure. The journals printed
their columns in gall ; the satirists dipped their pens
in concentrated acid ; the popular haranguers dashed
the oil of vitriol of contempt in each other's faces.
The confusion, the collision, the uproar, was inde-

But my whole experience of public life has told nie,
that however the popular opinion may be wrong, the
public opinion is right ; and I felt that the nation was
already adverse to the conduct of the campaign. The
utmost skill of the cabinet was required, to prevent a
dangerous reaction. The member of administration
with whom my chief intercourse now officially existed,
was the same manly and kind-natured individual to
whom I had formerly been indebted for so much civi-
lity; and, as if proud of his own work, his official civility
now took the form of friendship. Ill news came from
abroad ; and I expressed my impatience of remaining
with the pen in my hand, when I should have worn
my sword. To all my suggestions on the subject.


the good-humoured answer was, " that my services
were still necessary at home." At length, on my
making a decided request, that I should be permitted
to return to my regiment ; he told me in confidence,
that the campaign was probably at an end ; that the
British commander-in-chief was about to return ;
and that, in fact, the strength of England would be
turned to the naval war. At the close of one of those
conversations, fixing his keen grey eye upon me, he
said, " Pray, what think you of Parliament?" My
answer was, " That mediocrity was more contempti-
ble there, than any where else ; while success was
more difficult."

" Oh, you mean such success as Pitt's : you mean
triumph. But you must get those Greek and Roman
notions out of your head. An English House does
not want orators. One on a side is quite enough.
They are like the gold plate on a sideboard; it is
well to show that we have such things, for the honour
of our establishment ; but no one thinks of making
every day use of them at table — Pitt is an exception; he
is equal to every thing ; an incomparable man of busi-
ness. Burke, or some other man of metaphor, com-
pared him justly to the falcon ; which, however high
it may soar, always follows the prey with its eye
along the ground. But, two Pitts, if nature could
be prolific of such magnificent monsters, would abso-
lutely perplex us. What could be more confusing
than to have two suns shining at the same time ?"

" But is Fox nothing?" I asked.

" A great deal," was the answer. ^' He is the finest
c 4


talker, I suppose, in the world.— The first of bab-

" Of babblers ! " I repeated, in surprise !

" Yes ; for what is babbling, but speaking in vain ;
pouring out endless speculations without a purpose,
or the hope of a purpose ; indulging a remarkably
powerful and productive mind with the waste of its
own conceptions ; lavishing a whole coinage of splen-
did thoughts, with no more expectancy of a practical
result, than if he flung the mint into the Thames ?
You may rely upon it, that such is the opinion of the
House, as it will be yours when you get there ; and
such will be that of posterity, if they shall ever take
the trouble to think about any of us."

This conversation was evidently more than acci-
dental ; and I gave to it some of my most perplexing
hours. I had an original fondness for the life of arms.
I was of the age to feel its variety, animation, and
ardour. My experience had been fortunate ; I had
seen nothing but victory, and had been flattered by
personal distinctions. But, then came the reverse of
the medal. I remembered the opinion of the most
sagacious and penetrating spirit, which it had been
my lot ever to know ; and I felt that the Continent
was to be our field of battle no longer. The languor
of home service, to one who had seen war in its state-
liest shape, and in its most powerful activity ; rose
before my mind with an inexpressible sense of weari-
ness. On the other hand, supposing that I possessed
the faculties for political life, was I possessed of the

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Online LibraryGeorge CrolyMarston, or, The soldier and statesman (Volume 3) → online text (page 2 of 19)