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The Great White Army   By: (1863-1950)

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THE GREAT WHITE ARMY

By

Max Pemberton

CASSELL AND COMPANY, LTD

London, New York, Toronto & Melbourne

1916

Works by the same Author

MILLIONAIRE'S ISLAND THE IRON PIRATE WHITE MOTLEY THE VIRGIN FORTRESS WAR AND THE WOMAN CAPTAIN BLACK. A sequel to "The Iron Pirate" THE GIRL WITH THE RED HAIR THE SHOW GIRL THE HOUSE UNDER THE SEA THE SEA WOLVES THE IMPREGNABLE CITY THE GIANT'S GATE A PURITAN'S WIFE THE GARDEN OF SWORDS KRONSTADT. A Novel THE LITTLE HUGUENOT RED MORN THE HUNDRED DAYS THE DIAMOND SHIP WHEELS OF ANARCHY SIR RICHARD ESCOMBE

CASSELL AND CO., LTD.,

LONDON, NEW YORK, TORONTO AND MELBOURNE.

AUTHOR'S NOTE

The greatest military tragedy in history is the retreat of Napoleon's Grand Army from Moscow. Napoleon set out to invade Russia in the spring of the year 1812. In the month of June 600,000 men crossed the River Niemen. Of this vast army, but 20,000 "famished, frost bitten spectres" staggered across the Bridge of Kovno in the month of December.

Many pens have described, with more or less fidelity, the details of this unsurpassable tragedy. The story which we are now about to represent to our readers is that of Surgeon Major Constant, a veteran who accompanied Napoleon to Moscow, and was one of the survivors who returned ultimately to Paris. Constant had fled from Paris at the beginning of the French Revolution in the year 1792. He lived for a while at Leipsic, where he gave lessons in French and studied medicine. His nephew, Captain Léon de Courcelles, was one of the famous Vélites of the Guard. It is with the exploits of this young and daring soldier that the veteran's narrative is often concerned.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

1. THE WOMAN ON THE STAIRS 2. THE GUILLOTINE 3. THE TREASURE IN THE WOODS 4. PHANTOM MUSIC 5. THE CAMP BY THE RIVER 6. THE WITCH IN ERMINE 7. LITTLE PETROVKA 8. THE AFFAIR AT THE POST HOUSE 9. WE CROSS THE BÉRÉZINA 10. THE LAST REVIEW

THE GREAT WHITE ARMY

CHAPTER I

THE WOMAN ON THE STAIRS

I

I, Janil de Constant, remember very well the moment when we first beheld the glorious city of Moscow, which we had marched twelve thousand leagues to take.

It would have been the fourteenth day of September. The sun shone fiercely upon our splendid cavalcade, and even in the forests, which we now quitted very willingly, there were oases of light like golden lakes in a wonderland.

It was half past three o'clock when I myself reached the Mont du Salut, a hill from whose summit the traveller first looks down upon the city.

And what a spectacle to see! What domes and minarets and mighty towers! What a mingling of East and West, of Oriental beauty and the stately splendour of a European capital! You will not wonder that our men drew rein to gaze with awe upon so transcendent a spectacle. This was Mecca truly. Here they would end their labours and here lay their reward.

We thought, with reason surely, that there would be no more talk of war. The Russians had learned their lesson at Borodino, and all that remained for the Russian Tsar to do was to make peace with our Emperor. Meanwhile there would be many days of holiday such as we had not known since we left France. The riches of this city passed the fables, they told us. You will imagine with what feelings the advance posts of the Guard set out to descend the hill and take up their quarters in the governor's palace.

I had hoped to enter Moscow with my nephew Léon, who is one of the Vélites of the Guard. I wished to be near that young man at so critical a moment. Even old soldiers lose their heads when they enter an enemy's city, and what could one expect of the young ones? Léon, however, had ridden on with Major Pavart, of the chasseurs à cheval , and so it was with old Sergeant Bourgogne, of the Vélites, that I entered Moscow and began to think of quarters.

We heard some shots as we went down into the town, and when we came to that broad street which leads to the Place du Gouvernement, a soldier of the line told us that the governor had released the convicts and that they were holding the palace against our outposts... Continue reading book >>




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