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Tom Burke Of "Ours", Volume II   By: (1806-1872)

Tom Burke Of

First Page:


By Charles Lever

With Illustrations By Phiz.

In Two Volumes, Vol. II.



"What is it, Minette?" said I, for the third time, as I saw her lean her head from out the narrow casement, and look down into the valley beside the river; "what do you see there?"

"I see a regiment of infantry coming along the road from Ulm," said she, after a pause; "and now I perceive the lancers are following them, and the artillery too. Ah! and farther again, I see a great cloud of dust. Mère de Ciél! how tired and weary they all look! It surely cannot be a march in retreat; and, now that I think of it, they have no baggage, nor any wagons with them."

"That was a bugle call, Minette! Did you not hear it?"

"Yes, it's a halt for a few minutes. Poor fellows! they are sadly exhausted; they cannot even reach the side of the way, but are lying down on the very road. I can bear it no longer. I must find out what it all means." So saying, she threw round her a mantle which, Spanish fashion, she wore over her head, and hurried from the room.

For some time I waited patiently for her return; but when half an hour elapsed, I arose and crept to the window. A succession of rocky precipices descended from the terrace on which the house stood, down to the very edge of the Danube, and from the point where I sat the view extended for miles in every direction. What, then, was my astonishment to see the wide plain, not marked by regular columns in marching array, but covered with straggling detachments, hurrying onward as if without order or discipline. Here was an infantry battalion mixed up with a cavalry corps, the foot soldiers endeavoring to keep up with the ambling trot of the dragoons; there, the ammunition wagons were covered with weary soldiers, too tired to march. Most of the men were without their firelocks, which were piled in a confused heap on the limbers of the guns. No merry chant, no burst of warlike music, cheered them on. They seemed like the scattered fragments of a routed army hurrying onward in search of some place of refuge, sad and spiritless.

"Can he have been beaten?" was the fearful thought that flashed across me as I gazed. "Have the bold legions that were never vanquished succumbed at last? Oh, no, no! I'll not believe it." And while a glow of fever warmed my whole blood, I buckled on my sabre, and taking my shako, prepared to issue forth. Scarcely had I reached the door, with tottering limbs, when I saw Minette dashing up the steep street at the top speed of her pony, while she flourished above her head a great placard, and waved it to and fro.

"The news! the news!" cried I, bursting with anxiety. "Are they advancing; or is it a retreat?"

"Read that!" said she, throwing me a large sheet of paper, headed with the words, "Proclamation! la Grande Armée!" in huge letters, "read that! for I've no breath left to tell you."

Soldiers! The campaign so gloriously begun will soon be completed.

One victory, and the Austrian empire, so great but a week since, will be humbled in the dust. Hasten on, then! Forced marches, by day and night, will attest your eagerness to meet the enemy; and let the endeavor of each regiment be to arrive soonest on the field of battle.

"Minette! dearest Minette!" said I, as I threw my arms around her neck, "this is indeed good news." "Gently, gently, Monsieur!" said she, smiling, while she disengaged herself from my sudden embrace. "Very good news, without doubt; but I don't think that there is any mention in the bulletin about embracing the vivandières of the army."

"At a moment like this, Minette "

"The best thing to do is, to make up one's baggage and join the march," said she, very steadily, proceeding at the same time to put her plan into execution.

While I gave her all assistance in my power, the doctor entered to inform us that all the wounded who were then not sufficiently restored to return to duty were to be conveyed to Munich, where general military hospitals had been established; and that he himself had received orders to repair thither with his sick detachment, in which my name was enrolled... Continue reading book >>

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