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Romance of War (or The Highlanders in Spain)
Chapter 43 - The Chatelet


I MUST now present the reader with a change of scene, or at least of adventures, in describing those of Louis Lisle ; who, after having been severely wounded in the arm by the sword of De Mesmai, was carried off a prisoner from the skirmish of Fuente Duenna. With a few hundred other captives, gleaned up on different occasions, he had been confined within the strong fortress of Pampeluna until the French army retired beyond it, when, with his comrades in misfortune, he was sent into France and placed in a solitary stronghold on the left bank of the Nive, a few miles from the village of Cambo. This was a gloomy old feudal fortress, the property of the Duke of Alba de T------, who has already figured in preceding chapters. It consisted of a high square keep, a few flanking towers, and a high wall, embattled along the top; and every means had been taken to strengthen the place by stockades, loopholes, cannon, etc. The garrison consisted of two or three companies of the 105th French regiment of the line. Louis, who had been heartily tired of his residence in Pampeluna, was but little pleased when he beheld the gloomy chateau, as the body of prisoners, with an escort of French lancers, marched up the ascent leading to it.

It was on a dark and lowering November morning, when the black towers, the gray palisades, the gloomy court, and muffled-up sentinels appeared more sombre in the dull red light of the sun, which, like a crimson globe, seemed resting on the eastern summits of the Pyrenees, and struggling to show its face through the masses of dun clouds which floated across the sky. The tricoloured standard of the Emperor was drooping on the summit of the keep, and the guard were under arms as the prisoners entered the gate. These consisted principally of Spaniards and Portuguese; there were a few British soldiers, but Louis was the only officer, and a very discontented one he seemed, as he looked forward with considerable repugnance to a long imprisonment in France.

As they halted and formed line in the court of the fortress, Lisle was somewhat surprised to hear himself accosted in Spanish by an officer, who, muffled in a large military cloak, came from the keep. He recognised his friend of Aranjuez, the father of Donna Virginia,—the same traitorous Spanish noble who now openly served Buonaparte ; and, as commandant of a French garrison, wore a staff-uniform embroidered with oak-leaves. Lisle thought of Virginia,—indeed, he never though of aught else: and veiling his dislike to the duke, he answered him as politely as possible. He would fain have asked after the fair donna, but feared to arouse the keen and ready suspicions of the proud and pompous Spaniard, while so completely within his power. The duke behaved to him coldly but courteously; and, after receiving his parole of honour that he would not transgress the bounds of the chatelet, invited him to dinner, and retired. Louis was now his own master, with leave to perambulate as much as he chose the courtyard and palisades of the outworks, while the sentries from every nook and corner kept sharp eyes upon him, and often, when he attempted to pass their posts, barred the way with ported arms, and saying, 'Pardon me, monsieur, you must not pass;' but with a softness of tone and politeness of manner, very different from what those of a British sentinel would be on a similar occasion.

The hours passed slowly away, and Louis began to feel very disconsolate, and very impatient of the monotony and restraint of a prisoner's life, forming as it did so strong' a contrast to the heartstirring excitement of campaigning. As it was contrary to their orders, the sentinels could not converse with him, and in truth his French was none of the best : so he passed the time in sauntering dismally about until the sun began to verge westward, and he knew that the dinner-hour was approaching. In the meantime, he whiled away the hours as well as he could, by whistling a march, humming a waltz, or tossing pebbles and fragments of lime from the ramparts to raise circles and bubbles in the Nive, which swept round an angle of the rocks on which the fortress stood. These employments he varied by watching with an intense interest the distant Pyrenees, in hopes to see the far-away glitter of arms announce the approach of the allies, whose troops he knew to be in that direction. The eagerness of his glance towards Spain did not escape the observation of messieurs the sentries of the 105th, and they twirled their moustaches and regarded each other with a truly French style of hauteur and complaisance, as they strode briskly to and fro on their posts; and one young man, pointing towards the Lower Pyrenees, remarked to him significantly with a smile, 'Ce pays sent la poudre à canon, monsieur!'

About four o'clock in the afternoon (an early hour in 1813) dinner was announced, and Lisle was ushered into an ancient hall, roofed with oak, and floored with stone, but in no way very magnificent. There he was received by the duke and his daughter, Virginia, who, having heard of her friend's arrival, was dressed with unusual care to receive him ; her woman had been occupied two good hours in arranging the massive braids of her glossy hair in a way to please their coquettish owner. A few officers of the French regiment were present, and Louis could have dispensed with their presence very well. He felt jealous at the very sight of them, as they were all handsome fellows, chevaliers of the Legion and many other orders. Besides, a Frenchman makes love as no other man does, and a douce Scot is certainly no match for him in volubility of words and laughter. There was a Spaniard present, who, although not greatly gifted with personal attractions, appeared to pay so much attention to Virginia, that Lisle cursed him in his heart for his impudence, and began to form plans for calling him to a severe account for his presumption.

Like the duke, this unworthy hidalgo was a renegade, and had been created by Joseph Buonaparte Count of Aranjuez, and Colmenare de Orija, and knight of the stole,—an ancient order instituted by the kings of Arragon. He greeted Lisle coldly enough. They had met before at Aranjuez, where he bore the name of Felix Joaquin, of the order of Calatrava; for true Spaniards refused to acknowledge the titles he bore from the usurper's hand. The donna behaved with the same affability to him as to the other guests, being unwilling to let him perceive that she understood his attentions ; but the delight of, Louis at again beholding her and conversing with her was clouded by chagrin and anger. He soon became aware that the open and obtrusive attentions of the ci-devant condé were licensed by the approbation of the old duke.

The dinner passed over quietly enough. Military matters were avoided by all but one little Gascon major, who found it impossible to refrain from detailing to Lisle, with evident exultation, an account of Soult's forcing the passes of Maya and Roncesvalles on the 25th of July,—affairs from which, if the numerical force on each side is considered, but very little honour accrues to France. Encouraged by this applause of his own officers, who were evidently quizzing him, the little Gascon entertained the company with an account of his own particular exploits at Maya, where, by his own tale, he had three horses shot under him. One anecdote did not fail to interest Lisle. He stated, that on a party of a Scots regiment {sans culottes), who hurled large stones on the 105th, he took terrible vengeance, by mounting the rock, which they possessed, and putting them to death with his own hand!

'Sacre!' said he, as he concluded, 'Sauve qui pent was the word; but not one of the fierce sans culottes escaped!'

Donna Virginia said she would excuse the major his ungenerous triumph, as she believed these were the greatest victories the French had ever won in Spain. The duke frowned: the count would have done so too, had gallantry permitted him ; the little major looked big and twirled up his moustaches; while his subs, like well-bred cavaliers, laughed, as in duty bound, at the young lady's retort. On Lisle inquiring for Donna Olivia, Virginia blushed, and tears glittered in her dark eyes; while her father replied coldly that she had retired to a convent in Galicia, but did not add that it was to the monasterio de los Arrepentidas, he had so ruthlessly consigned her.

As soon as dinner was over, Virginia withdrew, and cigars, wine, and gaming-tables were introduced. The duke and his intended son-in-law sat down to chess, at which they were as great enthusiasts as the celebrated Don Pedro Carrera himself, while the Frenchmen took to trictrac, and quickly became absorbed in all the mystery of tour à bas—tour d'une, etc., etc.; but Lisle, who had neither money nor inclination to gamble, begged to be excused, and withdrew, receiving as he retired a keen glance from the count, to whom he replied by another of contempt, for rivals soon discover each other. Louis again returned to his solitary promenade on the lower works of the fortress, and continued to pace among the cannon and pyramids of shot which lined the stockades, until he heard his name called, and by a voice which he should have known amongst ten thousand. 'Luiz! Don Luiz!'

'Virginia!' cried he; and springing to the grated loop at the base of the keep, he kissed the little hand she extended towards him.

'Retire now, senor,' said she.

'Ah, why so soon?' said Louis. 'But you must not senor me—it sounds so distant.'

'Mi querida, then.'

'Ah! that is better, dear Virginia!' and he kissed her hand again. It was indeed such a hand as one would never tire of holding. So tiny, and so delicate,—and set off by the handsome black bracelet round the slender wrist. 'Why would you leave me so soon, Virginia?' said he, gazing on her beautiful Spanish features. 'It is long,—very long since we last met!'

'Only a few months, Luiz; and yet the time does appear very long. But we may be observed; these sharp-sighted French soldados keep guard on every nook and corner, and my father may hear that I have met you.'

'He is busy over the chess-board; and no Frenchman would spoil pleasure such as ours.'

'I must indeed leave you. Alas! I am not so free here as at pleasant Aranjuez.'

'Hear me before you go,—but one word, Virginia!'

'Well, then,—one only.'

'Who is this Don Felix,—this Count of Aranjuez?'

'You have spoken a dozen, and broken your covenant.'

'Who is he?'

'One of whom we had better beware. He is no more a count than the tambour passing yonder with his drum on his back; but he is as false at heart as ever was Rodriguez, or the Counts of Carrion.'

'He is very attentive to you.'

'He is very troublesome,—Santa Maria ! a perfect nuisance. But my father favours him, and as his wrath is terrible, I am forced to dissemble. But ah! retire now, Don Luiz, I beseech you!'

Don Luiz was too much enraptured and bewildered to obey; and putting in his arm, he encircled and drew her close to the bars of the loophole, through which he pressed his glowing lip to her own She yielded to him passively.

'O senor!' 'Senor again! Ah! those infernal bars, Virginia,' he exclaimed. But releasing herself from his grasp, she glided away with the lightness of a fairy, and he saw her no more that night. But there was something so delightful in being near Virginia, and living under the same roof with her, that his feelings underwent an entire change before night closed in, and he looked less anxiously towards the distant positions of Lord Wellington's army on the Pyrenees, and the aspect of his prison appeared less dismal and desolate. The presence of Virginia cast a halo over everything; and new feelings of love, hope, and pleasure began to dawn in his heart.

They met daily, almost hourly, indeed, because in the narrow compass of a fortress or barrack, people encounter each other at every turn and corner; and some weeks passed away with a pleasure to Louis, which nothing seemed to cloud but the chance that Marshal Soult might order the prisoners in the chateau to be conveyed farther into the interior of the country, as vague rumours were afloat that the allied army was about to descend from the mountains and invade France. It was only from the casual observations of the French officers, at whose mess he often dined, that Lisle was able to gather any political intelligence; but that something warlike was expected appeared evident. The garrison of the chateau was strengthened by a company of chasseurs, additional works were erected, and scarcely a day passed without French troops being seen on the march southward; and it was only when Lisle beheld the clouds of dust and flash of steel appearing on the distant roads that he felt himself indeed a prisoner, and all the disagreeable nature of his situation came vividly upon his mind. But again he thought of Virginia, and remembered that a single smile or a soft word from her was well worth all the gloss and glitter of parade, the enthusiasm, the excitement, and the glory of warfare.

Being the only officer among the prisoners, he always dined with the duke, or at the temporary mess of the French. He preferred the former, to be near Virginia, upon whom the ci-devant count kept a jealous eye, —the penetration of which it required all the young lady's art to baffle ; while at the same time it required all her politeness and good-nature to enable her to submit to his attentions, which were now becoming, as she often declared to Louis, 'quite odious and insufferable.' Her cavalier longed to horsewhip the Spanish traitor for his presumption, and on more than one occasion would have given him a morning's airing,— in other words, have 'called him out,' but for fear of an exposé, which he would rather avoid.

Besides, he had a deeper plot laid, and another object in view. He knew that Virginia dreaded the duke for his stern austerity as much as he himself despised him for his treason and falsehood to his native country; and he hoped, by overcoming her scruples, and prevailing upon her to consent to a secret marriage, at once to free her from the insolent perseverance of Don Felix Joaquin and the authority of her father. He had resolved to await some change of circumstances, such as the removal of the whole garrison farther into France, or its being strengthened by the arrival of more troops, as the revengeful dispositions of the duke and Joaquin were to be dreaded while he remained so much at their mercy as his situation of prisoner within the narrow limits of the chatelet placed him. The near approach of the allies had rendered the extension of his parole impossible ; but he soon found that further delay with time or circumstances was fraught with danger, and that if he did not at once secure the hand of Virginia, he might lose it for ever.

With a countenance indicative of much discomposure, and eyes red with weeping, she appeared one evening at the grated loophole, where they usually had a meeting alone after dusk. She had just come from an interview with the duke, who, being resolved to carry to the utmost the authority assumed by Spanish papas, had abruptly commanded her to come to a final arrangement with the mercenary condé, or prepare to join her sister in the monasterio. Louis, who had been long wavering in his plans, was at once decided by this information. He prevailed upon her to consent to an elopement, and have that ceremony performed which would place her beyond the power of her father and the views of Don Felix. To taking such a step, a Spanish damsel has always felt less scruples than a British, and with abundance of tears, fears, agitation, etc., the donna gave her consent, and Lisle retired to arrange matters. The greatest difficulty was the confounded parole of honour, which tied him to the chateau.

In this dilemma he applied to his rival, the count, requesting him to procure leave for him to visit Saint Palais for a day or two, pledging himself solemnly to return within the given time. The Spaniard, although detesting Louis Lisle in his heart, offered readily to befriend him on this occasion—having two ends in view; first, to remove Lisle from the presence of Virginia; and, secondly, to do so effectually, by sending him to his long home by means of some of those Continental assassins, whose daggers are ever at the service of the highest bidder. Through his interest the duke granted the leave, and long before the break of day Louis and the donna were clear of the fortress,—the duke's written order satisfying the scruples of the sub commanding the barrier-guard. At a village inn hard by they procured horses, and took the road direct for Cambo, where they hoped to find the cure of the village. The wily count had previously despatched two of his own servants, Valencians,—rogues who would have sold their chance of salvation for a maravedi,—to post themselves in ambush on the road leading to Saint Palais, whither he believed Lisle to have gone, with orders to shoot him dead the moment he appeared. So full of joy was Don Felix at the expected revenge, that he found it impossible to retire to rest, and continued to pace his chamber all night. With the utmost exultation he heard the noise of his intended victim's departure in the morning, while it was yet dark, and long ere gun-fire. As the challenge of the sentinels and clang of the closing gate echoed through the silent fortress the satisfaction of the Spaniard increased, and he already imagined himself the master of Virginia's broad lands on the Nive, and her rich estates in Valentia, la Hermosa; and long he watched the road to Saint Palais, in hope of seeing the death-shot gleam through the darkness.

An hour elapsed, and he felt certain that the victim must have fallen into the deadly snare; but his anxiety to behold the completion of his plot would not permit him to delay an instant longer. Ordering a soldier of the guard to saddle his horse, he stuck his pistols into his girdle, drew his hat over his eyes, and muffling himself in his mantle, he rode forth, feeling the exhilarating influence of a gallop in the breezy morning air infinitely agreeable, after a night of feverish excitement and drinking in his close chamber. As he approached the spot where he had placed the assassins in ambush, he hid his face in his mantle, and rode more slowly forward, with a beating heart, scanning the roadway in expectation of seeing the corse of his rival stretched upon it. But he looked in vain! The winding road between the thickets was clear, and appeared so for many a mile beyond. Enraged to a pitch of madness at the idea of his escape, he dashed the rowels into his horse and galloped on; when lo! two carbines flashed from adjacent thickets,—one on each side of the way. A sudden exclamation of rage and agony escaped from him; his horse reared up wildly, and, pierced by a two-ounce bullet, the worthy count of Aranjuez and Colmenare de Orija, knight of Calatrava and the Stole, etc., etc., fell to the earth, and almost instantly expired.

While Don Felix fell thus into his own snare, his more fortunate rival, with Donna Virginia, galloped along the bank of the Nive, pursuing the road to Cambo, where they arrived about sunrise, and sought without delay the house, or rather the cottage, of the village pastor. There fresh obstacles arose, as the reverend gentleman pretended to have many conscientious scruples about wedding a Catholic lady to a Briton and a heretic. But a few gold napoleons overcame his qualms, and he consented to perform the important ceremony, with a description of which it is needless to tire the reader. Louis had no ordinary task to accomplish in soothing the hesitation and terrors of Virginia, who was—

Crimsoned with shame, with terror mute,
Dreading alike escape, pursuit;
Till love, victorious o'er alarms,
Hid fears and blushes in his arms.'

There were no witnesses to the ceremony, so important to Louis and his bride, save a stout villager and his wife, who declared that Donna Virginia's black veil and velvet mantilla were contrary to all rule and established custom, as white drapery, pure as the virgin snow, and a coronet of white flowers and orange-buds, formed the bridal garb in France. But there was no help for it, and the donna became the Honourable Mrs. Lisle, in her high comb, braided hair, and long black veil, which swept the ground. Louis now remembered his father, whose existence he had almost forgotten in the excitement of the elopement; but he well knew that his indulgent relative would pardon the hasty union, considering the circumstances which urged it, and he longed for the time when he should present to him, and to his sister Alice, his beautiful Virginia, who, although the daughter of a traitor, was descended from one of the noblest houses in Old Castile.

The bride was too much agitated to return immediately to the chateau, and to encounter the wrath of that terrible old don her father, and so they remained that night at the cottage of the pastor of Cambo.

Early next morning Louis was aroused from the couch of his bride by the sound of French drums near the village. He heard them rattling away quand on battait la retraite (the retreat); then succeeded the 'long roll,' a sound which never fails to rouse a soldier. The noise of distant firing was heard, and he sprung from the side of the blushing and trembling Virginia, and threw open the casement. It was a beautiful morning: the sun shone brightly and the birds chirped merrily; the dew was gleaming like silver from the branches of the leafless trees; the sky was clear and blue, and the bold outlines of the Pyrenees were seen stretching far away in the distance towards Passages and Bayonne. Dense columns of French infantry were crowding in confusion along the road which led to the bridge of Cambo, while the sharpshooters of the advancing allies, hovering on their rear and flanks, kept up an irregular but destructive fire, which their chasseurs, who lined every wall and hedge, endeavoured to return.

Lisle saw that there was no time to be lost, if he would return to the chateau. The discomfited French were pouring across the bridge of Cambo, where a detachment of sapeurs were busy at work, undermining one of the piers. The main body of the allies were already in sight. The green and scarlet uniforms of the light infantry were seen at intervals, appearing and disappearing as they leaped from bush to hedge, and from hedge to wall, firing, and then lying flat on their faces to reload, and avoid the fire of the enemy. Mingled with other sharpshooters, he beheld the light company of his own regiment, and knew their tall green and black plumes as they floated on the morning wind. Wistfully did Lisle look towards them; and it was with no ordinary feelings of chagrin that he beheld his friends so near, and yet found himself under the disagreeable necessity of returning to the chateau, where he would be exposed to the insults and vengeance of an intractable old Spaniard, to whom he now stood in the relation of son-in-law.

Virginia, who was excessively terrified by the noise of the firing, which was now heard around Cambo on all sides, and not less alarmed at the rage and disorder which prevailed among the retreating French, with tears and caresses besought Louis to remain unseen in the little cottage of the curate, until the allies gained possession of the village. But that resolve was impossible. His word was pledged to her father, and he must return—even at the risk of certain death. He prepared without delay to cross the river. On entering the stable to caparison their horses, he found that the worthy pastor had decamped in the night, taking them with him, and everything of any value,—leaving only a stubborn old mule. Venting a bitter malediction on the thief, Lisle tied a halter to the long-eared steed, and led him forth into the yard, just as the gate was dashed open by the French, whose rear-guard had commenced plundering and destroying the houses, to leave no shelter to the allies, who were now become invaders of France.

On beholding his red uniform and plumed bonnet, two charged him with their bayonets, which he had barely time to parry with a hay-fork that he hurriedly snatched up. They called upon him to surrender, and he found himself in imminent peril. Virginia was crying aloud from the interior of the cottage for aid, which it was impossible to yield her, as he was hemmed against the bayonets of a dozen soldiers. From this disagreeable predicament he was relieved by the interference of an officer who, exclaiming, 'Redressez vos armes, messieurs!' struck down their bayonets with his sabre, and compelled them to retire. He then asked Louis, sternly, how he came there. Louis informed him, as briefly and as well as his imperfect knowledge of French would permit, that he was a prisoner of war on his parole of honour, and was only desirous of crossing the Nive with the French forces. He prayed the Frenchman, as an officer and gentilhomme, to rescue the lady, who was now crying aloud for assistance. The officer sheathed his sabre, and rushing into the cottage among the soldiers who thronged it, returned in a minute with Virginia, who was all tears and agitation, leaning on his right arm, while with true French politeness he carried his weather-beaten cocked hat under his left. He relieved poor Lisle from a state of dreadful suspense, by placing her under his protection. She was nearly terrified out of her senses ; and that she might not be subjected to further insult, the officer ordered a corporal breveté, with a file of soldiers, to attend them as a guard. Under their friendly escort, Louis at once prepared to leave the village, which was now enveloped in flames and smoke, and involved in tumult and uproar, while the bullets of the British riflemen came whistling every second among the crowded streets and blazing rafters. Placing Virginia upon the mule, which the honest curate had left behind him as worthless, Louis led it by the bridle,and pressing into the ranks of the French, crossed the bridge, which was no sooner cleared than the sapeurs sprung the mine, and it was reduced to ruins in a moment. The firing now ceased, the rapid and swollen state of the Nive rendering pursuit impossible; and Louis, as he looked back towards Cambo, beheld his own brigade leisurely entering it,—marching along the highway, in close column of subdivisions; but they were soon hidden in the smoke of the village, which was enveloping in a white cloud the whole southern bank of the river. Continuing to lead by the bridle the mule upon which Virginia rode, Louis returned to the chateau, where all was bustle and warlike preparation. The works were bristling with bayonets, the guns were all shotted, and the lighted matches smoked beside them. The chasseurs and the two companies of the 105th were under arms, and the little major was bustling up and down, ordering, directing, and quarrelling with all and each; while his commandant, the duke, looked sullenly around him, scanning through a telescope the advance of the allies.

The death of the count was as yet unknown,—the assassins, on discovering their mistake, having plundered and concealed the body, after which they absconded, and were no more heard of for a time. Such was the posture of affairs when Lisle entered the court of the place, where cannon-shot, bombshells, and casks of ammunition lay strewed about in confusion. He had scarcely reached the spot when he became aware that a scene of high dramatic interest was about to be enacted. He was rudely seized by two soldiers with their swords drawn, while the duke at the same moment violently dragged his daughter from her saddle, ere Lisle could raise a hand to free her from his grasp. So bitterly was he enraged, that the stern reproaches he hurled against the affrighted and sinking Virginia, and the fierce menaces against Louis, were for some time totally incoherent.

'False picaro! I will have your heart thrown to my dogs for this!' he exclaimed, gazing at Louis with an eye of vindictive fury. 'And as for you, most gracios senora, you shall join your sister in the monasterio at Galicia.'

'Stay, my lord!' interposed Lisle, becoming violently excited; 'you somewhat overrate your authority in this matter. She is no longer under your control, and so unhand her instantly. Come to me, Virginia! You are my wedded wife, and no human power can separate us now.' The reply of the fierce Spaniard was a deadly thrust at Louis with his sword. Some fatal work would have ensued, had not the little major struck aside the blade, and desired him to remember that the laws of war must be respected, and that Monsieur Lisle was a prisoner of France. Louis's blood boiled within him, while poor Virginia covered her face with her hands, and shrieked aloud to behold her husband and father glaring at each other with eyes of fire, until by the command of the latter she was borne away to her chamber in the keep.

'Demonios! major, how did you dare to stay my hand?' asked he, turning furiously to the Frenchman.

'Parbleu, Monsieur le Duc!''Do you suppose I will ever permit the honour of my long-descended house to be stained with the pretensions of a base and degenerate fool? a nameless Briton, par Diez!'

'Proud Spaniard!' replied Louis, resentment glowing in his cheek and kindling in his eye; 'my ancestry were not less splendid than your own; but mine is the degradation, in allying myself with a traitor like you, who has abandoned his king and country to serve under the banner of a savage invader! But the virtues of such a woman as Virginia might redeem your whole race from perdition.'

'Parbleu!' said the major again.

'And recollect, gentlemen and soldiers,' continued Lisle, 'that if I am maltreated by any within these walls, you may all smart for it yet. See you, sirs, the allies are close at hand, driving the boasting soldiers of the Emperor before them as the wind drives the mist, and the whole of Gascony will be theirs before another sun sets.'

'Presomption et vanité!' said the major, turning up his eyes and shrugging his shoulder. 'Aha! Les Francais sont au fait du metier de la guerre de terre!' And many officers of the 105th, who crowded round, laughed heartily, and observed, that probably in a week or two the allies would be flying for shelter across the Pyrenees. Lisle blessed his stars that the garrison was not composed entirely of Spaniards; for, assuredly, the duke would have slain him on the spot but for the firm interference of the French officers. He was, however, put under close arrest, and a sentinel placed over him. The place in which he was confined was a projecting turret of the outworks, and there he was left to his own reflections, which were none of the most agreeable. He found himself acting the part of a romantic hero, but certainly little to his own satisfaction. In the same turret was confined a genuine Teague, a soldier of the 88th Regiment, who had been placed in durance for two desperate attempts to escape when the allies appeared in sight. Mister Paddy Mulroony was seated very composedly in a corner, smoking a black pipe about an inch long, while in his cunning but good-natured face was seen that droll curl of the mouth, and keen twinkling of the eye, which are so decidedly Irish.

'Och, tearin' murther! this is a poor case, indeed,' said he, springing up to attention. 'Bad luck to the whole boiling of them! and is it a gintlemin like yer honner that they are afther traitin' this way? Never mind, sir; the allies—the hand iv Saint Pater be over thim!—are in sight, and maybe they will be stormin' this rookery some fine morning, whin, wid the blessin' ov God, we'll see every throat in it cut.'

Lisle was boiling with rage at the treatment to which he was subjected; but that was a slight affair when compared with his anxiety for Virginia, who was now entirely at the mercy of her father, of whose ferocity and remorseless disposition he had seen several examples. For some time he remained immersed in thought, while he strode hastily backward and forward in the narrow compass of their prison : and it was not until 'league's maledictions became very vehement that Lisle found he had a companion in misfortune.

'Well, friend: and what brought you here?'

'Eight French spalpeens, sir, and my fortine or misfortine, and that little baste ov a major, bad luck to him! I was nigh out ov their claws this very mornin', clever and clane; but they clapped me up here, the ill-mannered bog-trotters! And sure, it 'ud vex ould Moses himself to see the rid coats across the river yonder, and yet be caged up here like a rat in a trap.'

'To what regiment do you belong?'

'The Connaught Rangers, yer honner,—the boys that gave Phillipon, the old scrawdon, such a fright at Badajoz.' 'A brave corps. And your name?'

'Pat Mulroony. I come from one side of Dublin, where my father has a beautiful estate, wid deer-parks such as ye never saw on the longest day's march. And though it is meself that siz it, there was not a smarter fellow than me in the whole division, from right to left; no, not one, yer honner! If you plaze, sir, we may yet give the French—bad cess to them!—the slip; and by the mortal! I'll stand by yer honner like steel, for shure I'd do it for love if for nothin' else; for the Scots and the Irish were one man's childer in Noah's day. In ould ancient forren times, the blessed Saint Patrick himself was a Scotsman, until his bad-mannered countrymen, in a fit of unkindness, cut off his head, and he swam oyer wid it under his arm to Donaghadee, and became a good Irishman. Often I have heard old Father O'Rafferty at Dunleary tell us of that, when I used to take him home from Mother Macnoggin's wid a dhrop in his eye. He was the broth of a boy, that ould O'Rafferty, and a riglar devil among the girls, for all that he was a praste; and when the craytur was in, it's little he'd think of giving the best man in his flock a palthog on the ear. But perhaps it's inthrudin' on yer honner I am?' Louis, though pleased with the fellow's humour, was not in a talking mood. ' May my tongue be blistered if I spake any more to ye, or bother ye in the midst of yer throubles!' said Pat in conclusion.

Anxiety and fear for poor Virginia plunged Lisle into deep despondency, and not all the attempts of honest Mulroony could wean him from his melancholy reflections. He could scarcely be in any other than an unpleasant mood, as it was rather annoying for a' newly-married man to spend the time immediately succeeding his nuptial-day in a stone turret, measuring eight feet by six. Two or three days passed away, and Louis found considerable satisfaction in the knowledge that Virginia was yet near him,— that the walls of the fortress still contained her. He had acquainted his humble friend with his story, and Paddy became more eager than before to serve him; and vowed, for his sake, to face ' either man or devil, if he had only an opportunity, bad luck to it!' The place in which they were confined was an échauguette, or small turret, built on an acute angle of a bastion close to the gate of the fortress, and from the loopholes Louis and his friend kept by turns a constant watch, so that it was impossible for Virginia to be carried off without their knowledge; and Lisle would probably have become frantic had he seen her departure, which he hourly expected would take place. One night Mulroony was on sentry at the loophole, watching the gateway, while Louis slept on the floor. The night was intensely dark,—' one on which ye couldn't see yer nose fornenst ye,' as Mulroony himself said.

'Blistheration and blackness be on the day I ever saw ye!' soliloquized he, as he scanned the castle and its defences. 'Shure it 'ud vex Mister Job, let alone a Connaught Ranger, to be caged up here, shaking at ivery puff of wind, like a dog in a wet sack. Bad cess to them, the spalpeens ov blue blazes! Och! how long is this to last, at all, at all?'

'Senor,—Luiz!' said a soft voice, close beside the loophole.

'Hubbuboo, tearin' murther! who are you, misthress?' said Mulroony, starting back in dismay as a dark figure, muffled in a hooded mantilla, appeared at the loophole. 'Is it me you're looking for, darlint? Well thin, honey, it's just right you are, for there is not a smarter man in all the Connaught Rangers than Pat Mulroony,—damn the one from right to left! Ye've just come to the right shop, honey; for, at wake or weddin', who was the jewil ov the young ladies like Mr. Mulroony?'

'O madre Maria!' said poor Virginia, shrinking back in astonishment and grief. Understanding that Louis occupied this turret, she had resolved to pay him a visit, favoured by the darkness of the night and the inattention of her father and the duenna, who were both at that time engaged,—the former at the chessboard with the major, and the latter with her mass-book and brandy-bottle. Trembling with affection, fear, and the chill night wind, which blew roughly on her delicate frame, she sought the place of Lisle's confinement; and great was her dismay at Mulroony's reply, which, although she did not understand, she well knew to be the voice of a stranger; but she implored him in Spanish, por amor de San Juan de Dios, to say where Don Luiz was confined.

'Don't be in such a flustheration, honey,' said Mulroony, putting out his arms to embrace her. The lady shrunk back indignantly, and it now occurred to the egotistical gentleman to awaken Louis, thinking the visit might be intended for him.

'I say, sir ! here's something wantin' to spake wid ye. I can't tell what it says, because it spakes like naythur Frinchman, nor devil, God bless us !' Louis sprung up.

'Virginia!' said he, and gave her his hand through the loophole. But she made no reply, save pressing it to her throbbing breast; her heart was too full to permit her to utter anything. 'Virginia, have you any new distress to tell me of?' 'Oh, Luiz!' said she, sobbing as if her heart would burst, ' we meet for the last time.'

'How!' he exclaimed in distress and alarm, encircling her with his arm as if to keep her with him. 'Who will dare to separate us now?'

'My father. To-morrow I go from this; but whether to Paris of Galicia, I know not. Oh, Luiz! his hatred is terrible. But for the intercession of the major, you would have been in eternity by this time.' The challenge of a sentinel at the other angle of the bastion, and the tread of a foot, now alarmed them.

'Retire, Virginia, for a moment; 'tis only the patrol, or some affair of that sort. I would not have you discovered here for the world.' She had only time to shrink into a corner, and conceal herself behind the carriage of a piece of ordnance, when a man approached the turret. It was the corporal of the guard, who usually came every night before the drums beat, to see that the prisoners were all right. The door was of massive oak, studded with iron nails, and while the corporal was undoing its ponderous fastenings, a sudden thought occurred to Lisle. 'Be on the alert, Mulroony,' said he; 'I will now endeavour to escape, or die in the attempt!'

'Right, yer honour! I'm yer man. Lave me to dale wid that spalpeen ov a corporal, and by the holy Saint Peter! I won't lave a whole bone in his skin.'

'Hush! let us only compel him to give up the watchword, and 'then we will gag and bind him hard and fast. I need keep faith no longer with those who doubt my parole.'

The unsuspecting Frenchman opened the door and looked in, merely to assure himself that the prisoners were in their cage. 'Come in, corporal dear,' said Mulroony, grasping him by the throat, and dragging him into the chamber.

'Sacre—diable!' growled the astonished Gaul, struggling with his athletic adversary, who tripped up his heels, and in a twinkling laid him on his back, and pressed his knees upon his breast.

'Och, honey! don't be in such a devil ov a flustheration! Give but the smallest cry in life, and it's yer neck I'll be dhrawin' like a pullet's!'

'Merci, monsieur! Ah, misericorde!' gasped the half-strangled soldier.

'Come, Monsieur Caporal!' said Louis fiercely; 'surrender the countersign, or expect such treatment as desperate men may yield you. Mulroony, take your hand from his throat. Answer, Frenchman, for your life!'

'MARENGO!' replied the other, and commenced immediately to bellow aloud for his comrades; but his cries were drowned in the singing of the wind and noise of the Nive, which rushed over a steep cascade below the bastion.

'Och, murther! it's all over now; he'll bring the whole pack on us wid his schreechin',—the devil dhraw the tongue out ov ye! Tunder an' oons! Thurf and blazes! what's this he is after now?'

Paddy soon discovered that, and to his cost. The corporal, on getting one hand free, drew his bayonet, and plunged it into the arm of his antagonist, who no sooner found himself wounded than he broke into a tremendous storm of passion. Thundering out one of those formidable curses which come so glibly from an Irish tongue, he wrested the weapon from the Frenchman, and buried it twice in his breast. All this passed in less than a minute, and the Frenchman expired without a groan.

'Mulroony, have you killed him? asked Louis, considerably excited.

'Deed have I, sir,—the murderin' villyan!' answered the other composedly.

'Poor fellow! I had no intention that he should be slain. He was but doing his duty.'

'A purty thing, to make sich a moan for a spalpeen iv a Frencher,' answered the Irishman testily.

'Our lives are now indeed forfeited, if we cannot escape. Virginia!' He went from the turret to where she sat in a sort of stupor with cold and terror, and in a few words informed her that they must escape now, or be for ever lost.

'Blue blazes,.sir!' bawled Paddy from the turret-door; 'is it the wimmen ye're afther? Is this a time to go making love? Musha! musha! sure there's always mischief where they are.'

'Quick now, Mulroony,—follow us!' said Louis, who encircled Virginia with his arm to support her. ' We have not a moment to lose. Heaven grant me firmness now!'

Armed with the bayonet, and grumbling curses at the blood which was flowing freely from his arm, Mulroony followed Lisle and the lady to the barrier-gate, where two sentries were posted. The night was dark and black, and a dismal wind howled between the works and embrasures. The sentinels kept within their turrets, and everything seemed favourable to their escape.

'Qui vive? challenged one fellow at the gate. Louis hesitated a moment,—and the British reply 'Friend,' almost escaped his lips.

'Belzdbuth! Qui va la? cried the gate-ward, again striking the butt of his firelock on the sentry-box floor.

'Make some answer, or we are undone,' whispered Virginia, as she clung in terror to the arm of Louis, who, still advancing towards the gate, replied in a feigned voice : 'Caporal, hors de la garde!

iAha!' replied the sentinel, coming from his box. 'Avance, qui a I'ordre,' 'Marengo,' replied Louis.

'Passe, mon ami! replied the soldier, returning to his box. His suspicions were lulled, and they gained the gate without further molestation, the darkness of the night rendering their figures so indistinct that it was impossible for the sentinels to discover them. The barrier was composed of strong planks, through which a little wicket was cut.

'How fortunate!' said Lisle; ' the passage is open, and the drawbridge down. We are free, and shall soon be safe among the British troops.'

'Huisht, plaze yer honner; its hearin' us they'll be! Be aisy. Help out the lady : will you lane on my arm, too, mem? 'Senor?' She did not understand him.

An exclamation in Spanish caused them all to start. 'Dios mio! my father!' shrieked Virginia, as an officer outside the gate sprung forward and drove his sword through the body of the brave Mulroony, who fell mortally wounded, while the guard and sentries came running from all quarters to the spot. Louis found himself again a prisoner, and when on the very brink of freedom.

'Bring a lantern!' exclaimed the duke, whom Lisle's evil genius had brought to the gate, but on what errand he never discovered. 'Bring a light, and let us see what soldier of the Emperor is base enough to assist prisoners to escape. I surely heard French spoken by some one.'

The drummer of the guard held a lantern to Lisle's face, and his scarlet coat, when it appeared in the light, caused every brow to lour. The countenance of the duke turned pale when he beheld him. His eyes glistened like those of a serpent, as he gazed alternately upon him and Virginia, who, in an agony of horror, sunk down at his feet, close to the body of the gallant Irishman, whose features were now becoming rigid in death. He had expired almost immediately, after receiving the thrust of the Spaniard's sword.

At that moment a soldier came hastily forward, saying that the corporal of the guard lay murdered in the turret from which the prisoners had escaped, and a volley of threats and execrations broke from the men of the 105th, who crowded round.

'Aha!' said the Gascon major, pressing forward. 'Is it thus you slay the soldiers of the Emperor? You shall smart for this night's work, Monsieur Ribaud!''

'Do you dare to apply such an epithet to me?' replied Lisle furiously, spurning the Gascon with his foot, and struggling to free his arms, which were tightly grasped by the soldiers.

'Bind up his eyes, some of ye, and let him be instantly shot! Give not a moment for prayer or supplication. We will have life for life,— blood for blood!' cried the Spaniard.

'Base renegade! I scorn your malice, and defy you to terrify me!' cried Louis, regardless of all consequences, and from despair gathering a courage which gained him the admiration of the French, though it won from them no mercy. The little major was foaming with exasperation at the insult he had received, and made no longer any intercessions. The private soldiers, who were enraged at the death of their comrade, eyed him likewise in malignant silence. Virginia was borne away senseless, and Lisle gazed sadly after her, until he was startled by the sharp words of command given coolly by a sergeant to six soldiers, who were picked out to become his executioners. For a moment his heart grew sick and sunk within him, when he thought of his home and of those brave comrades who were only a few miles distant. But he scorned to ask mercy from the duke, from the father of Virginia, who by the light of a huge lantern (which cast a dull flickering light on the dark groups of armed soldiers, and still darker walls of the fortress) watched the preparations made by the firing party with steady gravity and coolness.

'Chargez vos amies/' cried the sergeant. 'Prenez la cartouche! Amorcez! L'arme à gauche!' etc., and the noise of the steel ramrods ringing in the barrels, as the cartridges were rammed home, fell like a knell upon the ears of Louis. He certainly grew pale, but his heart never quailed as he looked upon the loading of the muskets. He resolved to die with honour to his character and the garb he wore. At that moment, so critical to him, a French cavalry officer, on a panting horse, dashed up to the gate at full gallop, inquiring with all the hurry and importance of an aide-de-camp for the commandant of the place.

'Monsieur le Duc' said he, 'the allies are in motion: their troops have begun to cross the Nive, and Marshal Soult desires that you will be on the alert, and defend the ford, under the guns of this chateau, to the last,' Without waiting for an answer, he wheeled round his horse and galloped out of sight in a moment. The clatter of the hoofs had scarcely died away, before two of the sentinels, posted on the bastion overlooking the ford, fired their muskets. A volley replied, lighting up the whole fortress for an instant, and all became hurry and confusion. Louis was thrust into his old place of confinement,—the castle-gates were secured,—the bridge was drawn up, and in five minutes every man was at his post. From the inmost recesses of his heart Lisle thanked Heaven for his narrow escape; and while in the close compass of his prison he listened to the booming cannon and musketry, which shook the ancient fabric to its foundations, he earnestly prayed that the attack would be successful ; and he well knew, by the hearty British cheers which from time to time came ringing on the wind, even above the noise of the conflict, that his comrades were carrying all before them.


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