The Chartreuse of Parma CHAPTER III

Fabrizio soon came upon some cantinières, and the deep gratitude he felt toward the jailer’s wife incited him to address them. He inquired of one of them as to where the Fourth Regiment of Hussars, to which he belonged, might be.

“You would do much better not to be in such a hurry, my young fellow,” replied the woman, touched by Fabrizio’s pallor and the beauty of his eyes. “Your hand is not steady enough yet for the sword play that this day must see! Now, if you had only a gun, I don’t say but that you might fire it off as well as any other man.”

The advice was not pleasing to Fabrizio, but, however much he pressed his horse, he could not get it to travel any faster than the sutler’s cart. Every now and then the artillery fire seemed to grow closer, and prevented each from hearing what the other said, for so wild was the boy with enthusiasm and delight that he had begun to talk again. Every word the woman dropped increased his joy, by making him realize it more fully. He ended by telling the woman, who seemed thoroughly kind-hearted, the whole of his adventures, with the exception of his real name and his flight from prison. She was much astonished, and could make neither head nor tail of the handsome young soldier’s story.

“I have it!” she cried at last, with a look of triumph. “You are a young civilian, in love with the wife of some captain in the Fourth Hussars! Your ladylove has given you the uniform you wear, and you are tearing about after her. As sure as God reigns above us, you are no soldier; you have never been a soldier! But, like the brave fellow you are, you are determined to be with your regiment while it is under fire rather than be taken for a coward.”

Fabrizio agreed to everything. That was the only method by which he could secure good advice. “I know nothing of these French people’s ways,” said he to himself, “and if somebody doesn’t guide me I shall get myself into prison again, or some fellow will steal my horse from me!”

“In the first place, my boy,” said the cantinière, who was growing more and more friendly, “you must admit you are under twenty—I don’t believe you are an hour over seventeen!”

That was true, and Fabrizio willingly admitted it.

“Then you’re not even a conscript—it’s simply and solely for the lady’s sake that you are risking your bones. Bless me, she’s not oversqueamish! If you still have any of the yellow boys she has given you in your pocket, the first thing you must do is to buy yourself another horse. Look how that brute of yours pricks up her ears whenever the guns growl a little close to her! That’s a peasant’s horse; it’ll kill you the moment you get to the front. See that white smoke yonder, over the hedge? That means musket volleys! Therefore, my fine fellow, make ready to be in a horrible fright when you hear the bullets whistling over your head. You had far better eat a bit now, while you have the time.”

Fabrizio acted on her advice, and, pulling a napoleon out of his pocket, requested the cantinière to pay herself out of it.

“It’s a downright pity!” cried the good woman; “the poor child doesn’t even know how to spend his money! ’Twould serve you right if I pocketed your napoleon and made my Cocotte start off at full trot. Devil take me if your beast could follow her! What could you do, you simpleton, if you saw me make off? Let me tell you that when the big guns begin to grumble nobody shows his gold pieces. Here,” she went on, “I give you back eighteen francs and fifty centimes; your breakfast costs you thirty sous. Soon we shall have horses to sell. Then you’ll give ten francs for a small one, and never more than twenty, not even for the best!”

The meal was over, and the cantinière, who was still holding forth, was interrupted by a woman who had been coming across the fields, and now passed along the road.

“Halloo! Hi!” she shouted. “Halloo, Margot! Your Sixth Light Regiment is on the right!”

“I must be off, my boy,” said the cantinière; “but really and truly I am sorry for you! Upon my soul, I feel friendly to you. You know nothing about anything; you’ll be wiped out, as sure as God is God; come along with me to the Sixth!”

“I understand very well that I know nothing at all,” said Fabrizio; “but I mean to fight, and I am going over there to that white smoke.”

“Just look how your mare’s ears are wagging! The moment you get her down there she’ll take the bit in her teeth, weak as she is, and gallop off, and God knows where she’ll take you to! Take my advice, as soon as you get down to the soldiers, pick up a musket and an ammunition pouch, lie down beside them, and do exactly as they do. But, Lord! I’ll wager you don’t even know how to bite open a cartridge!”

Fabrizio, though sorely galled, truthfully answered that his new friend had guessed aright.

“Poor little chap, he’ll be killed at once! God’s truth, it won’t take long! You must and shall come with me,” she added with an air of authority.

“But I want to fight.”

“So you shall fight! The Sixth is a first-rate regiment, and there’ll be fighting for every one to-day.”

“But shall we soon get to your regiment?”

“In a quarter of an hour, at the outside.”

“If this good woman vouches for me,” reasoned Fabrizio, “I shall not be taken for a spy on account of my universal ignorance, and I shall get a chance of fighting.” At that moment the firing grew heavier, the reports following closely one upon the other, “like the beads in a rosary,” said Fabrizio to himself.

“I begin to hear the volleys,” said the cantinière, whipping up her pony, which seemed quite excited by the noise. She turned to the right, along a cross-road leading through the meadow; the mud was a foot deep, and the little cart almost stuck in it. Fabrizio pushed at the wheels. Twice over his horse fell down. Soon the road grew dryer, and dwindled into a mere foot-path across the sward. Fabrizio had not ridden on five hundred paces when his horse stopped short—a corpse lying across the path had startled both beast and rider.

Fabrizio, whose face was naturally pale, turned visibly green; the cantinière, looking at the dead man, said, as though talking to herself, “Nobody of our division,” and then, raising her eyes to our hero’s face, burst out laughing.

“Ha, ha, my child!” she cried, “here’s a lollypop for you!”

Fabrizio sat on, horror-struck. What most impressed him was the mud on the feet of the corpse, which had been stripped of its shoes, and of everything else, indeed, except a wretched pair of blood-stained trousers.

“Come,” said the cantinière, “tumble off your horse; you must get used to it. Ha,” she went on, “he got it through the head!” The corpse was hideously disfigured. A bullet had entered near the nose and passed out at the opposite temple. One eye was open and staring.

“Now, then, get off your horse, boy,” cried the cantinière, “shake him by the hand, and see if he’ll shake yours back.”

At once, though sick almost to death with horror, Fabrizio threw himself from his horse, seized the dead hand and shook it well. Then he stood in a sort of dream; he felt he had not strength to get back upon his horse; the dead man’s open eye, especially, filled him with horror.

“This woman will take me for a coward,” thought he to himself bitterly. Yet he felt that he could not stir; he would certainly have fallen. It was a terrible moment. Fabrizio was just going to faint dead away. The cantinière saw it, jumped smartly out of her little cart, and without a word proffered him a glass of brandy, which he swallowed at a gulp. After that he was able to remount, and rode along without opening his lips. Every now and then the woman looked at him out of the corner of her eye.

“You shall fight to-morrow, my boy,” she said at last. “To-day you shall stay with me. You see now that you must learn your soldier’s trade.”

“Not at all. I want to fight now, at once,” cried our hero, and his look was so fierce that the cantinière augured well from it. The artillery fire grew heavier, and seemed to draw nearer. The reports began to form a sort of continuous bass, there was no interval between them, and above this deep note, which was like the noise of a distant torrent, the musketry volleys rang out distinctly.

Just at this moment the road turned into a grove of trees. The cantinière noticed two or three French soldiers running toward her as hard as their legs would carry them. She sprang nimbly from her cart, and ran to hide herself some fifteen or twenty paces from the road. There she concealed herself in the hole left by the uprooting of a great tree. “Now,” said Fabrizio to himself, “I shall find out whether I am a coward.” He halted beside the forsaken cart and drew his sword. The soldiers paid no attention to him, but ran along the wood on the left side of the road.

“Those are some of our men,” said the cantinière coolly, as she came back panting to her little cart. “If your mare had a canter in her I would tell you to ride to the end of the wood, and see if there is any one on the plain beyond.” Fabrizio needed no second bidding. He tore a branch from a poplar tree, stripped off the leaves, and belaboured his mount soundly. For a moment the brute broke into a canter, but it soon went back to its usual jog-trot. The cantinière had forced her pony into a gallop. “Stop! stop! I say!” she shouted to Fabrizio. Soon they both emerged from the wood. When they reached the edge of the plain they heard a most tremendous noise. Heavy guns and musketry volleys thundered on every hand—right, left, and behind them—and as the grove from which they had just emerged crowned a hillock some eight or ten feet higher than the plain, they had a fair view of a corner of the battle-field. But the meadow just beyond the wood was empty. It was bounded, about a thousand paces from where they stood, by a long row of very bushy willow trees. Beyond these hung a cloud of white smoke, which now and then eddied up toward the sky.

“If I only knew where the regiment was!” said the woman, looking puzzled. “We can’t go straight across that big meadow. By the way, young fellow,” she said to Fabrizio, “if you see one of the enemy, stick him with the point of your sword; don’t amuse yourself by trying to cut him down.”

Just at that moment she caught sight of the four soldiers of whom we have already spoken. They were coming out of the wood on to the plain to the left of the road. One of them was on horseback.

“Here’s what you want,” said she to Fabrizio. Then, shouting to the mounted man, “Halloo, you! Why don’t you come and drink a glass of brandy?” The soldiers drew nearer.

“Where’s the Sixth Light Regiment?” she called out.

“Over there, five minutes off, in front of the canal that runs along those willows. And Colonel Macon has just been killed.”

“Will you take five francs for that horse of yours?”

“Five francs! That’s a pretty fair joke, my good woman! Five francs for an officer’s charger that I shall sell for five napoleons before the hour’s out!”

“Give me one of your napoleons,” whispered the cantinière to Fabrizio; then, going close up to the man on horseback, “Get off, and look sharp about it!” she said; “here’s your napoleon.”

The soldier slipped off, and Fabrizio sprang gaily into his saddle, while the cantinière unfastened the little valise he had carried on the other.

“Here! why don’t you help me, you fellows?” said she to the soldier. “What do you mean by letting a lady work!” But the captured charger no sooner felt the valise than he began to plunge, and Fabrizio, who was a first-rate horseman, had to use all his skill to retain his seat. “That’s a good sign,” said the cantinière; “the gentleman’s not accustomed to the tickling of valises!”

“It’s a general’s horse,” cried the soldier who had sold it. “That horse is worth ten napoleons if it’s worth a farthing.”

“Here are twenty francs for you,” said Fabrizio, who was beside himself with joy at feeling a spirited animal between his legs.

Just at this moment a round shot came whizzing slantwise through the row of willows, and Fabrizio enjoyed the curious sight of all the little branches flying left and right as if they had been mowed off with a scythe. “Humph!” said the soldier, as he pocketed his twenty francs, “the worry’s beginning.” It was about two o’clock in the day.

Fabrizio was still lost in admiration of this curious spectacle, when a group of generals, escorted by a score of hussars, galloped across one of the corners of the wide meadow on the edge of which he was standing. His horse neighed, plunged two or three times, and pulled violently at the curb. “So be it, then,” said Fabrizio to himself. He gave the animal the rein, and it dashed, full gallop, up to the escort which rode behind the generals.

Fabrizio counted four plumed hats.

A quarter of an hour later he gathered from some words spoken by the hussar next him that one of these generals was the famous Marshal Ney. That crowned his happiness; yet he could not guess which of the four was the marshal. He would have given all the world to know, but he remembered he must not open his lips. The escort halted to cross a large ditch, which the rain of the preceding night had filled with water. It was skirted by large trees, and ran along the left side of the meadow at the entrance of which Fabrizio had bought his horse. Almost all the hussars had dismounted. The sides of the ditch were steep and exceedingly slippery, and the water lay quite three or four feet below the level of the meadow. Fabrizio, wrapped up in his delight, was thinking more about Marshal Ney and glory than about his horse, which, being very spirited, jumped into the water-course, splashing the water up to a considerable height. One of the generals was well wetted, and shouted with an oath, “Devil take the damned brute!” This insult wounded Fabrizio deeply. “Can I demand an explanation?” he wondered. Meanwhile, to prove that he was not so stupid as he looked, he tried to force his horse up the opposite side of the ditch, but it was five or six feet high, and most precipitous. He was obliged to give it up. Then he followed up the current, the water rising to his horse’s head, and came at last to a sort of watering-place, up the gentle slope of which he easily passed into the field on the other side of the cutting. He was the first man of the escort to get across, and trotted proudly along the bank. At the bottom of the ditch the hussars were floundering about, very much puzzled what to do with themselves, for in many places the water was five feet deep. Two or three of the horses took fright and tried to swim, which created a terrible splashing. Then a sergeant noticed the tactics followed by the greenhorn, who looked so very unlike a soldier. “Turn up the stream,” he shouted; “there’s a watering-place on the left!” and by degrees they all got over.

When Fabrizio reached the farther bank, he found the generals there all alone. The roar of the artillery seemed to him louder than ever. He could hardly hear the general he had so thoroughly drenched, who shouted into his ear:

“Where did you get that horse?”

Fabrizio was so taken aback that he answered in Italian:

“L’ho comprato poco fa!” (“I have just bought it.”)

“What do you say?” shouted the general again.

But the noise suddenly grew so tremendous that Fabrizio could not reply. At this moment, it must be acknowledged, our hero felt anything but heroic. Still, fear was only a secondary sensation on his part. It was the noise that hurt his ears and disconcerted him so dreadfully. The escort broke into a gallop. They were crossing a wide stretch of ploughed land, which lay beyond the canal. The field was dotted with corpses.

“The red-coats! the red-coats!” shouted the hussars joyfully. Fabrizio did not understand them at first. Then he perceived that almost all the corpses were dressed in red, and also, which gave him a thrill of horror, that a great many of these unhappy “red-coats” were still alive. They were crying out, evidently asking for help, but nobody stopped to give it to them. Our hero, in his humanity, did all he could to prevent his horse from treading on any red uniform. The escort halted. Fabrizio, instead of attending to his duty as a soldier, galloped on, with his eye on a poor wounded fellow.

“Will you pull up, you idiot?” shouted the troop sergeant-major. Then Fabrizio became aware that he was twenty paces in advance of the generals’ right, and just in the line of their field-glasses. As he rode back to the rear of the escort, he saw the most portly of the officers speaking to his next neighbour, also a general, with an air of authority, and almost of reprimand. He swore. Fabrizio could not restrain his curiosity, and, in spite of the advice of his friend the jailer’s wife, never to speak if he could help it, made up a neat and correct little French sentence. “Who’s that general blowing up the one next him?” he asked.

“Why, that’s the marshal, to be sure!”

“What marshal?”

“Marshal Ney, you fool! Where in thunder have you been serving up to now?”

Touchy though he was by nature, Fabrizio never dreamed of resenting the insult. Lost in boyish admiration, he feasted his eyes on the “bravest of the brave,” the famous Prince of the Moskowa.

Suddenly every one broke into a gallop. In a few minutes Fabrizio saw another ploughed field, about twenty paces in front of him, the surface of which was heaving in a very curious manner. The furrows were full of water, and the damp earth of the ridges was flying about, three or four feet high, in little black lumps. Fabrizio just noticed this odd appearance as he galloped along; then his thoughts flew back to the marshal and his glory. A sharp cry rang out close to him; two hussars fell, struck by bullets, and when he looked at them, they were already twenty paces behind the escort. A sight which seemed horrible to him was that of a horse, bathed in blood, struggling on the ploughed earth, with its feet caught in its own entrails. It was trying to follow the others. The blood was pouring over the mud.

“Well, I am under fire at last,” he thought. “I have seen it!” he reiterated, with a glow of satisfaction. “Now I am a real soldier!” The escort was now galloping at full speed, and our hero realized that it was shot which was tossing up the soil. In vain he gazed in the direction whence the fusillade came. The white smoke of the battery seemed to him an immense way off, and amid the steady and continuous grumble of the artillery fire he thought he could distinguish other reports, much nearer. He could make nothing of it at all.

At that moment the generals and their escort entered a narrow lane, sunk about five feet below the level of the ground. It was full of water.

The marshal halted, and put up his glass again. This time Fabrizio had a good view of him. He saw a very fair man with a large red head. “We have no faces like that in Italy,” he mused. “With my pale face and chestnut hair I shall never be like him,” he added sadly. To him those words meant, “I shall never be a hero!” He looked at the hussars. All of them except one had fair mustaches. If Fabrizio stared at them, they stared at him as well. He coloured under their scrutiny, and, to ease his shyness, turned his head toward the enemy. He saw very long lines of red figures, but what astonished him was that they all looked so small. Those long files, which were really regiments and divisions, seemed to him no higher than hedges. A line of red-coated horsemen was trotting toward the sunken road, along which the marshal and his escort had begun to move slowly, splashing through the mud. The smoke made it impossible to see anything ahead. Only, from time to time, hurrying horsemen emerged from the white smoke.

Suddenly Fabrizio saw four men come galloping as hard as they could tear from the direction in which the enemy lay. “Ah!” said he to himself, “we are going to be attacked!” Then he saw two of these men address the marshal, and one of the generals in attendance upon him galloped off toward the enemy, followed by two hussars of the escort, and the two men who had just ridden up. On the other side of a small water-course, which everybody now crossed, Fabrizio found himself riding alongside a good-natured-looking sergeant. “I really must speak to this man,” he said to himself. “Perhaps if I do that, they’ll stop staring at me.” After considerable meditation he said to the sergeant: “This is the first time I have ever seen a battle. But is it really a battle?”

“I should think so! But who on earth are you?”

“I am brother to a captain’s wife.”

“And what’s the captain’s name?”

Our hero was in a hideous difficulty; he had never expected that question. Luckily for him, the sergeant and the escort began to gallop again.

“What French name shall I say?” he wondered. At last he bethought him of the name of the man who had owned the hotel in which he had lodged in Paris. He brought his horse up close beside the sergeant’s charger, and shouted at the top of his voice:

“Captain Meunier.”

The other, half deafened by the noise of the artillery, answered, “What! Captain Teulier? Well, he’s been killed!”

“Bravo!” said Fabrizio to himself. “Captain Teulier! I must look distressed.”

“Oh, my God!” he cried, and put on a pitiful face. They had left the sunken road, and were crossing a small meadow. Every one tore at full gallop, for the bullets were pelting down again. The marshal rode toward a cavalry division; the escort was surrounded, now, by dead and wounded men, but our hero was already less affected by the sight; he had something else to think about.

While the escort was halting he noticed a cantinière with her little cart; his affection for that excellent class of women overrode every other feeling, and he galloped off toward the vehicle. “Stop here, you——” shouted the sergeant.

“What harm can he do me?” thought Fabrizio, and he galloped on toward the cart. He had felt some hope, as he spurred his horse onward, that its owner might be the good woman he had met in the morning—the horse and cart looked very much like hers. But the owner of these was quite a different person, and very forbidding-looking into the bargain. As he drew close to her he heard her say, “Well, he was a very handsome chap.”

A hideous sight awaited the newly made soldier. A cuirassier, a splendid fellow, nearly six feet high, was having his leg cut off. Fabrizio shut his eyes and drank off four glasses of brandy one after the other. “You don’t stint yourself, my little fellow!” quoth the cantinière. The brandy gave him an idea. “I must buy my comrades’ good-will. Give me the rest of the bottle,” he said to the woman.

“But d’ye know that on such a day as this the rest of the bottle will cost you six francs?”

As he galloped back to the escort, “Aha! you were fetching us a dram. ’Twas for that you deserted!” exclaimed the sergeant. “Hand over!”

The bottle went round, the last man throwing it into the air after he had drained it. “Thankye, comrade,” he shouted to Fabrizio. Every eye looked kindly on him, and these glances lifted a hundred-weight off his heart, one of those overdelicate organs which pines for the friendship of those about it. At last, then, his comrades thought no ill of him; there was a bond between them. He drew a deep breath, and then, turning to the sergeant, calmly inquired:

“And if Captain Teulier has been killed, where am I to find my sister?” He thought himself a young Macchiavelli when he said Teulier instead of Meunier.

“You’ll find that out to-night,” replied the sergeant.

Once more the escort moved forward, in the direction of some infantry divisions. Fabrizio felt quite drunk; he had swallowed too much brandy, and swayed a little in his saddle. Then he recollected, very much in season, a remark he had frequently heard made by his mother’s coachman: “When you’ve lifted your little finger you must always look between your horse’s ears, and do what your next neighbour does.” The marshal halted for some time close to several bodies of cavalry, which he ordered to charge. But for the next hour or two our hero was hardly conscious of what was going on about him; he was overcome with weariness, and when his horse galloped he bumped in his saddle like a lump of lead.

Suddenly the sergeant shouted to his men:

“Don’t you see the Emperor, you——” and instantly the escort shouted “Vive l’Empereur” at the top of their voices. My readers may well imagine that our hero stared with all his eyes, but all he saw was a bevy of generals galloping by, followed by another escort. The long, hanging plumes on the helmets of the dragoons in attendance prevented him from making out any faces. “So, thanks to that cursed brandy, I’ve missed seeing the Emperor on the battle-field.” The thought woke him up completely. They rode into another lane swimming with water, and the horses paused to drink.

“So that was the Emperor who passed by?” he said to the next man.

“Why, certainly; the one in the plain coat. How did you miss seeing him?” answered his comrade good-naturedly.

Fabrizio was sorely tempted to gallop after the Emperor’s escort and join it. What a joy it would have been to serve in a real war in attendance on that hero! Was it not for that very purpose that he had come to France? “I am perfectly free to do it,” he reflected, “for indeed the only reason for my doing my present duty is that my horse chose to gallop after these generals.”

But what decided him on remaining was that his comrades the hussars treated him in a friendly fashion; he began to believe himself the close friend of every one of the soldiers with whom he had been galloping the last few hours; he conceived himself bound to them by the noble ties that united the heroes of Tasso and Ariosto. If he joined the Emperor’s escort he would have to make fresh acquaintances, and perhaps he might get the cold shoulder, for the horsemen of the other escort were dragoons, and he, like all those in attendance on the marshal, wore hussar uniform. The manner in which the troopers now looked at him filled our hero with happiness. He would have done anything on earth for his comrades; his whole soul and spirit were in the clouds. Everything seemed different to him now that he was among friends, and he was dying to ask questions.

“But I am not quite sober yet,” he thought. “I must remember the jailer’s wife.” As they emerged from the sunken road he noticed that they were no longer escorting Marshal Ney; the general they were now attending was tall and thin, with a severe face and a merciless eye.

He was no other than the Count d’A⸺, the Lieutenant Robert of May 15, 1796. What would have been his delight at seeing Fabrizio del Dongo!

For some time Fabrizio had ceased to notice the soil flying hither and thither under the action of the bullets. The party rode up behind a regiment of cuirassiers; he distinctly heard the missiles pattering on the cuirasses, and saw several men fall.

The sun was already low, and it was just about to set, when the escort, leaving the lane, climbed a little slope which led into a ploughed field. Fabrizio heard a curious little noise close to him, and turned his head. Four men had fallen with their horses; the general himself had been thrown, but was just getting up, all covered with blood. Fabrizio looked at the hussars on the ground; three of them were still moving convulsively, the fourth was shouting “Pull me out!” The sergeant and two or three troopers had dismounted to help the general, who, leaning on his aide-de-camp, was trying to walk a few steps away from his horse, which was struggling on the ground and kicking furiously.

The sergeant came up to Fabrizio. Just at that moment, behind him and close to his ear, he heard somebody say, “It’s the only one that can still gallop.” He felt his feet seized and himself lifted up by them, while somebody supported his body under the arms. Thus he was drawn over his horse’s hind quarters, and allowed to slip on to the ground, where he fell in a sitting posture. The aide-de-camp caught hold of the horse’s bridle, and the general, assisted by the sergeant, mounted and galloped off, swiftly followed by the six remaining men. In a fury, Fabrizio jumped up and ran after them, shouting, “Ladri! ladri!” (“Thieves! thieves!”) There was something comical about this running after thieves over a battle-field. The escort and General Count d’A⸺ soon vanished behind a row of willow trees. Before very long Fabrizio, still beside himself with rage, reached a similar row, and just beyond it he came on a very deep water-course, which he crossed. When he reached the other side he began to swear again at the sight—but a very distant sight—of the general and his escort disappearing among the trees. “Thieves! thieves!” he shouted again, this time in French. Broken-hearted—much less by the loss of his horse than by the treachery with which he had been treated—weary, and starving, he cast himself down beside the ditch. If it had been the enemy which had carried off his fine charger he would not have given it a thought, but to see himself robbed and betrayed by the sergeant he had liked so much, and the hussars, whom he had looked on as his brothers, filled his soul with bitterness. The thought of the infamy of it was more than he could bear, and, leaning his back against a willow, he wept hot, angry tears. One by one his bright dreams of noble and chivalrous friendship—like the friendships of the heroes of Jerusalem Delivered—had faded before his eyes! The approach of death would have been as nothing in his sight if he had felt himself surrounded by heroic and tender hearts, by noble-souled friends, whose hands should have pressed his while he breathed out his last sigh. But how was he to keep up his enthusiasm when he was surrounded by such vile rascals? Fabrizio, like every angry man, had fallen into exaggeration. After a quarter of an hour spent in such melancholy thoughts, he became aware that the bullets were beginning to fall among the row of trees which sheltered his meditation. He rose to his feet, and made an effort to discover his whereabouts. He looked at the meadow, bounded by a broad canal and a line of bushy willows, and thought he recognised the spot. Then he noticed a body of infantry which was crossing the ditch and debouching into the meadows some quarter of a league ahead of him. “I was nearly caught napping,” thought he. “I must take care not to be taken prisoner.” And he began to walk forward very rapidly. As he advanced, his mind was relieved; he recognised the uniform. The regiments which he feared might have cut off his retreat belonged to the French army; he bore to the right, so as to reach them.

Besides the moral suffering of having been so vilely deceived and robbed, Fabrizio felt another, the pangs of which were momentarily increasing—he was literally starving. It was with the keenest joy, therefore, that after walking, or rather running, for ten minutes, he perceived that the body of infantry, which had also been moving very rapidly, had halted, as though to take up a position. A few minutes more and he was among the nearest soldiers.

“Comrades, could you sell me a piece of bread?”

“Halloo, here’s a fellow who takes us for bakers!”

The rude speech and the general titter that greeted it overwhelmed Fabrizio. Could it be that war was not, after all, that noble and general impulse of souls thirsting for glory which Napoleon’s proclamations had led him to conceive it? He sat down, or rather let himself drop upon the sward; he turned deadly pale. The soldier who had spoken, and who had stopped ten paces off to clean the lock of his gun with his handkerchief, moved a little nearer, and threw him a bit of bread; then, seeing he did not pick it up, the man put a bit of the bread into his mouth. Fabrizio opened his eyes, and ate the bread without having strength to say a word; when at last he looked about for the soldier, intending to pay him, he saw he was alone. The nearest soldiers to him were some hundred paces off, marching away. Mechanically he rose and followed them; he entered a wood. He was ready to drop with weariness, and was already looking about for a place where he might lay him down, when to his joy he recognized first the horse, then the cart, and finally the cantinière he had met in the morning. She ran to him, quite startled by his looks.

“March on, my boy,” she said. “Are you wounded? and where’s your fine horse?” As she spoke she led him toward her cart, into which she pushed him, lifting him under the arms. So weary was our hero that before he had well got into the cart he had fallen fast asleep.