"Don't you be so weak as to pity them," cried the remorselessplebeian. "Why don't they melt their silver into soup, and cut downtheir plate into rashers of bacon? why not sell thchain link or cardanoe superfluous, andbuy the needful, which it is grub? And, above all, why don't theylet their old tumble-down palace to some rich grocer, and thataccursed garden along with it, where I sweat gratis, and live smalland comfortable, and pay honest men for their little odd jobs, and"--Here Riviere interrupted him, and asked if it was really trueabout the beans.
Mr. Snacklit was gratified by this recognition, so that he almost forgot the pains he was enduring as he replied that it was his policy to be ready for all emergencies. There were occasions when a large number of dogs had to be destroyed in a short time. It would be objectionable to keep them lying about, as might happen in smaller and less efficient establishments. And the proportion of large dogs (such as Great Danes and mastiffs) which were offered for his ministrations (probably owing to the cost of their food) was high.bitcoin to usd 1 year chartAs he completed this explanation, they reached the door of the furnace, where the man Wilkes, of whom we have seen nothing except that brief moment when he shared the labour of wheeling the dead taxi-driver across the garden, and of whom we know nothing beyond the negative fact that he had not got red hair, was standing by.
Snacklit asked, "Anything special put into the furnace just lately?"Wilkes may not have known what answer he was expected to give. Anyway, he was discreet in his reply, "I haven't noticed that close."Snacklit didn't press the point. He said, "I think Professor Blinkwell would like to look in."Wilkes picked up a long-handled hook and drew back the sliding door. The furnace roared in their faces.Whether Professor Blinkwell wanted to look or not Snacklit certainly did. He went forward, blinking into the white heat.
"I can't see anything of her," he said. "Or at least, not to be sure. Nothing could last long in that heat."Professor Blinkwell said "No, I suppose not." What he gave Snacklit could not fairly be called a kick. It was a mere push with his foot, well judged and well placed. With a shrill scream the man fell forward into the fire.At last, about four in the afternoon, they threw a forty-eight-poundshot slap into the commander-in-chief's tent, a mile and a halfbehind trenches.
Down comes a glittering aide-de-camp as hard as he can gallop."Colonel Dujardin, what are you about, sir? YOUR BASTION has throwna round shot into the commander-in-chief's tent."The colonel did not appear so staggered as the aide-de-campexpected."Ah, indeed!" said he quietly. "I observed they were tryingdistances.""Must not happen again, colonel. You must drive them from the gun.""How?""Why, where is the difficulty?""If you will do me the honor to step into the battery, I will showyou," said the colonel."If you please," said the aide-de-camp stiffly.
Colonel Dujardin took him to the parapet, and began, in a calm,painstaking way, to show him how and why none of his guns could bebrought to bear upon Long Tom.In the middle of the explanation a melodious sound was heard in theair above them, like a swarm of Brobdingnag bees.
"What is that?" inquired the aide-de-camp."What? I see nothing.""That humming noise.""Oh, that? Prussian bullets. Ah, by-the-by, it is a compliment toyour uniform, monsieur; they take you for some one of importance.Well, as I was observing"--"Your explanation is sufficient, colonel; let us get out of this.Ha, ha! you are a cool hand, colonel, I must say. But your batteryis a warm place enough: I shall report it so at headquarters."The grim colonel relaxed.
"Captain," said he politely, "you shall not have ridden to my postin vain. Will you lend me your horse for ten minutes?""Certainly; and I will inspect your trenches meantime.""Do so; oblige me by avoiding that angle; it is exposed, and theenemy have got the range to an inch."Colonel Dujardin slipped into his quarters; off with his half-dressjacket and his dirty boots, and presently out he came full fig,glittering brighter than the other, with one French and two foreignorders shining on his breast, mounted the aide-de-camp's horse, andaway full pelt.Admitted, after some delay, into the generalissimo's tent, Dujardinfound the old gentleman surrounded by his staff and wroth: nor wasthe danger to which he had been exposed his sole cause of ire.The shot had burst through his canvas, struck a table on which was alarge inkstand, and had squirted the whole contents over thedespatches he was writing for Paris.Now this old gentleman prided himself upon the neatness of hisdespatches: a blot on his paper darkened his soul.
Colonel Dujardin expressed his profound regret. The commander,however, continued to remonstrate. "I have a great deal of writingto do," said he, "as you must be aware; and, when I am writing, Iexpect to be quiet."Colonel Dujardin assented respectfully to the justice of this. Hethen explained at full length why he could not bring a gun in thebattery to silence "Long Tom," and quietly asked to be permitted torun a gun out of the trenches, and take a shot at the offender."It is a point-blank distance, and I have a new gun, with which aman ought to be able to hit his own ball at three hundred yards."The commander hesitated.
"I cannot have the men exposed.""I engage not to lose a man--except him who fires the gun. HE musttake his chance.""Well, colonel, it must be done by volunteers. The men must not beORDERED out on such a service as that."Colonel Dujardin bowed, and retired."Volunteers to go out of the trenches!" cried Sergeant La Croix, ina stentorian voice, standing erect as a poker, and swelling withimportance.
There were fifty offers in less than as many seconds."Only twelve allowed to go," said the sergeant; "and I am one,"added he, adroitly inserting himself.A gun was taken down, placed on a carriage, and posted near Death'sAlley, but out of the line of fire.The colonel himself superintended the loading of this gun; and tothe surprise of the men had the shot weighed first, and then weighedout the powder himself.He then waited quietly a long time till the bastion pitched one ofits periodical shots into Death's Alley, but no sooner had the shotstruck, and sent the sand flying past the two lanes of curiousnoses, than Colonel Dujardin jumped upon the gun and waved hiscocked hat. At this preconcerted signal, his battery opened fire onthe bastion, and the battery to his right opened on the wall thatfronted them; and the colonel gave the word to run the gun out ofthe trenches. They ran it out into the cloud of smoke their ownguns were belching forth, unseen by the enemy; but they had nosooner twisted it into the line of Long Tom, than the smoke wasgone, and there they were, a fair mark."Back into the trenches, all but one!" roared Dujardin.
And in they ran like rabbits."Quick! the elevation."Colonel Dujardin and La Croix raised the muzzle to the mark--hoo,hoo, hoo! ping, ping, ping! came the bullets about their ears.
"Away with you!" cried the colonel, taking the linstock from him.Then Colonel Dujardin, fifteen yards from the trenches, in fullblazing uniform, showed two armies what one intrepid soldier can do.
He kneeled down and adjusted his gun, just as he would have done ina practising ground. He had a pot shot to take, and a pot shot hewould take. He ignored three hundred muskets that were levelled athim. He looked along his gun, adjusted it, and re-adjusted it to ahair's breadth. The enemy's bullets pattered upon it: still headjusted it delicately. His men were groaning and tearing theirhair inside at his danger.At last it was levelled to his mind, and then his movements were asquick as they had hitherto been slow. In a moment he stood erect inthe half-fencing attitude of a gunner, and his linstock at thetouch-hole: a huge tongue of flame, a volume of smoke, a roar, andthe iron thunderbolt was on its way, and the colonel walkedhaughtily but rapidly back to the trenches; for in all this nobravado. He was there to make a shot; not to throw a chance of lifeaway watching the effect.
Ten thousand eyes did that for him.Both French and Prussians risked their own lives craning out to seewhat a colonel in full uniform was doing under fire from a wholeline of forts, and what would be his fate; but when he fired the guntheir curiosity left the man and followed the iron thunderbolt.For two seconds all was uncertain; the ball was travelling.Tom gave a rear like a wild horse, his protruding muzzle went upsky-high, then was seen no more, and a ring of old iron and aclatter of fragments was heard on the top of the bastion. Long Tomwas dismounted. Oh! the roar of laughter and triumph from one endto another of the trenches; and the clapping of forty thousand handsthat went on for full five minutes; then the Prussians, eitherthrough a burst of generous praise for an act so chivalrous and sobrilliant, or because they would not be crowed over, clapped theirtea thousand hands as loudly, and thus thundering, heart-thrillingsalvo of applause answered salvo on both sides that terrible arena.
That evening came a courteous and flattering message from thecommander-in-chief to Colonel Dujardin; and several officers visitedhis quarters to look at him; they went back disappointed. The crywas, "What a miserable, melancholy dog! I expected to see a fine,dashing fellow."The trenches neared the town. Colonel Dujardin's mine was faradvanced; the end of the chamber was within a few yards of thebastion. Of late, the colonel had often visited this mine inperson. He seemed a little uneasy about something in that quarter;but no one knew what: he was a silent man. The third evening, afterhe dismounted Long Tom, he received private notice that an order wascoming down from the commander-in-chief to assault the bastion. Heshrugged his shoulders, but said nothing. That same night thecolonel and one of his lieutenants stole out of the trenches, and bythe help of a pitch-dark, windy night, got under the bastionunperceived, and crept round it, and made their observations, andgot safe back. About noon down came General Raimbaut."Well, colonel, you are to have your way at last. Your bastion isto be stormed this afternoon previous to the general assault. Why,how is this? you don't seem enchanted?""I am not.""Why, it was you who pressed for the assault.""At the right time, general, not the wrong. In five days Iundertake to blow that bastion into the air. To assault it nowwould be to waste our men."General Raimbaut thought this excess of caution a great piece ofperversity in Achilles. They were alone, and he said a littlepeevishly,--"Is not this to blow hot and cold on the same thing?""No, general," was the calm reply. "Not on the same thing. I blewhot upon timorous counsels; I blow cold on rash ones. General, lastnight Lieutenant Fleming and I were under that bastion; and allround it.""Ah! my prudent colonel, I thought we should not talk long withoutyour coming out in your true light. If ever a man secretly enjoyedrisking his life, it is you.""No, general," said Dujardin looking gloomily down; "I enjoy neitherthat nor anything else. Live or die, it is all one to me; but tothe lives of my soldiers I am not indifferent, and never will bewhile I live. My apparent rashness of last night was pureprudence."Raimbaut's eye twinkled with suppressed irony. "No doubt!" said he;"no doubt!"The impassive colonel would not notice the other's irony; he wentcalmly on:--"I suspected something; I went to confute, or confirm thatsuspicion. I confirmed it."Rat! tat! tat! tat! tat! tat! tat! was heard a drum. Relievingguard in the mine.
Colonel Dujardin interrupted himself."That comes apropos," said he. "I expect one proof more from thatquarter. Sergeant, send me the sentinel they are relieving."Sergeant La Croix soon came back, as pompous as a hen with onechick, predominating with a grand military air over a droll figurethat chattered with cold, and held its musket in hands clothed ingreat mittens. Dard.
La Croix marched him up as if he had been a file; halted him like afile, sang out to him as to a file, stentorian and unintelligible,after the manner of sergeants."Private No. 4."DARD. P-p-p-present!
LA CROIX. Advance to the word of command, and speak to the colonel.The shivering figure became an upright statue directly, and carriedone of his mittens to his forehead. Then, suddenly recognizing therank of the gray-haired officer, he was morally shaken, but remainedphysically erect, and stammered,--"Colonel!--general!--colonel!""Don't be frightened, my lad. But look at the general and answerme.""Yes! general! colonel!" and he levelled his eye dead at thegeneral, as he would a bayonet at a foe, being so commanded."Now answer in as few syllables as you can.""Yes! general--colonel.""You have been on guard in the mine.""Yes, general.""What did you see there?""Nothing; it was night down there.""What did you feel?""Cold! I--was--in--water--hugh!""Did you hear nothing, then?""Yes.""What?""Bum! bum! bum!""Are you sure you did not hear particles of earth fall at the end ofthe trench?""I think it did, and this (touching his musket) sounded of its ownaccord.""Good! you have answered well; go.""Sergeant, I did not miss a word," cried Dard, exulting. He thoughthe had passed a sort of military college examination. The sergeantwas awe-struck and disgusted at his familiarity, speaking to himbefore the great: he pushed Private Dard hastily out of thepresence, and bundled him into the trenches."Are you countermined, then?" asked General Raimbaut.
"I think not, general; but the whole bastion is. And we found ithad been opened in the rear, and lately half a dozen broad roads cutthrough the masonry.""To let in re-enforcements?""Or to let the men run out in ease of an assault. I have seen fromthe first an able hand behind that part of the defences. If weassault the bastion, they will pick off as many of us as they canwith their muskets then they will run for it, and fire a train, andblow it and us into the air.""Colonel, this is serious. Are you prepared to lay this statementbefore the commander-in-chief?""I am, and I do so through you, the general of my division. I evenbeg you to say, as from me, that the assault will be mere suicide--bloody and useless."General Raimbaut went off to headquarters in some haste, a thoroughconvert to Colonel Dujardin's opinion. Meantime the colonel wentslowly to his tent. At the mouth of it a corporal, who was also hisbody-servant, met him, saluted, and asked respectfully if there wereany orders."A few minutes' repose, Francois, that is all. Do not let me bedisturbed for an hour.""Attention!" cried Francois. "Colonel wants to sleep."The tent was sentinelled, and Dujardin was alone with the past.
Then had the fools, that took (as fools will do) deep sorrow forsullenness, seen the fiery soldier droop, and his wan face fall intohaggard lines, and his martial figure shrink, and heard his stoutheart sigh! He took a letter from his bosom: it was almost worn topieces. He had read it a thousand times, yet he read it again. Apart of the sweet sad words ran thus:--"We must bow. We can never be happy together on earth; let us makeHeaven our friend. This is still left us,--not to blush for ourlove; to do our duty, and to die.""How tender, but how firm," thought Camille. "I might agitate,taunt, grieve her I love, but I could not shake her. No! God andthe saints to my aid! they saved me from a crime I now shudder at.And they have given me the good chaplain: he prays with me, he weepsfor me. His prayers still my beating heart. Yes, poor sufferingangel! I read your will in these tender, but bitter, words: youprefer duty to love. And one day you will forget me; not yetawhile, but it will be so. It wounds me when I think of it, but Imust bow. Your will is sacred. I must rise to your level, not dragyou to mine."Then the soldier that had stood between two armies in a hail ofbullets, and fired a master-shot, took a little book of offices inone hand,--the chaplain had given it him,--and fixed his eyes uponthe pious words, and clung like a child to the pious words, andkissed his lost wife's letter, and tried hard to be like her heloved: patient, very patient, till the end should come.
"Qui vive?" cried the sentinel outside to a strange officer."France," was his reply. He then asked the sentinel, "Where is thecolonel commanding the brigade?"The sentinel lowered his voice, "Asleep, my officer," said he; forthe new-comer carried two epaulets.