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Romance of War (or The Highlanders in Spain)
Chapter 59 - The Chateau de Marielle


IMMEDIATELY after parade next day, Ronald departed from Clichy on a visit to Paris, 'the city of delights,' as an enthusiastic French author has termed it—the famous Paris, of which so much has been said, sung, and written. But Ronald was, to a certain degree, disappointed. The look of every man was sad and louring. The armed sentinels of the allies were in every street, their guards on every barrier ; cannon were planted to rake every thoroughfare and avenue, and the artillery-men were around them, match in hand, by day and night. The soldier slept with his accoutrements on, and the horse in his harness; and to ensure the peace of the capital, the whole of the troops were ready to act on a moment's notice. The banner of Blucher waved over Paris, and his advance was in front of it, in position on the Orleans road; a brigade of British occupied the Champs Elysées, and the union-jack and the white standard of Austria waved over the summit of Montmartre. Proud Gaul was completely humbled, and the Parisian had lost all his swagger, his laughter, and lightness of head and heart. Many of the British officers were insulted, abused—I believe were spit upon by the lower classes, when the allies first entered the French metropolis. The people had no other means of giving loose to the sentiments of rage, hatred, and hostility which boiled within them. A resort to open violence in arms would only have ended in the destruction of Paris, and the annihilation of its inhabitants. The defeat on the plains of Waterloo will not be soon forgotten in France. Like the murder of Joan of Arc, it will be handed down from parent to child ; and thus, from one generation to another, the hereditary hatred to 'perfidious Albion' will increase rather than diminish.

In Paris, and in France generally, the Highland garb attracted more attention, and perhaps respect, than that of any other nation. Notwithstanding the bitter hatred which the French avowedly bear to the whole isle of Britain, they sometimes make a distinction between the Scot and his southern neighbour, as if they were now, as of old, politically aliens to each other. At the cafés, the restaurants, the concerts, theatres, promenades, the boulevards, the Jardin des Tuileries, the Champ de Mars, the Bois de Boulogne, and public places of every kind, the officers who wore the Celtic garb found themselves treated with the utmost respect, attention, and even kindness, when their countrymen belonging to regiments 'in breeks' experienced marked coldness and aversion. The figure of a Highland officer passing a milliner's shop invariably brought all the girls in it rushing to the door. ' An officer of the Scots!' was the cry, and all the pretty grisettes were in the street in a moment, to stare at and talk of the stranger until he was out of sight.

Although Ronald had no acquaintances in Paris, excepting those made by frequenting public places, yet he was well pleased with the Parisians, and as long as he had money to spare and to spend, he enjoyed himself in a manner that he had never done before. Through his banker in London he drew many a cool hundred on his Scots agents, Messrs. Diddle and Fleece ; and, for a time, he wasted among grisettes, Frenchmen, and fools rather more than was quite prudent. Being junior major, he had of course nothing to do but to amuse himself, appear on parade once a day, and ride round the guards and posts when on duty ; he spent the whole day in Paris, and generally returned to camp when the reveille was beating, so that his hours were rather early than late.

One evening, when making up a party for the next day, the hard visage of Sergeant Macrone appeared at the door of the tent, announcing that his round of pleasure was closed. The orderly-book—that tome of ill-omen, with its brass clasps and parchment boards, was handed in, while the non-commissioned officer, raising his hand to his sunburnt and wrinkled forehead, conveyed the unpleasant intelligence ' that her honour was for tuty—no the tay pefore the morn, put the fera neist.'

'To-morrow? The devil, Macrone! do you say so?' cried the impatient major, snatching the book from the hand of the Celt, and scanning over the brigade orders. '"Major Ronald Stuart, of the Gordon Highlanders, will take command of the detachment ordered to proceed to—" to where? A cursed cramped hand this. Who wrote these orders, Macrone?—'The orderly sergeant, sir.'

'Who is orderly?—'Just my ainsel, sir. Hoomh!' 'Stupid ! Could you not have said so at once? "—Command of the detachment proceeding to the Chateau de Marielle, to relieve the Hanoverian regiment of Kloster Zeven." Does anybody know where the Chateau de Marielle is?'—'Two days' march from this,' said Macildhui; ' near Melun. I know the place. Archy Douglas and I have shot and coursed over it for a whole week without leave or license. 'Tis the property of the Marquis of Laurieston.'

'What!' exclaimed one, 'old Clappourknuis's brother?'—'The same. You remember him at Merida.'

'And what do the wiseacres at headquarters mean in sending a detachment there?—' I suppose they scarcely know themselves. But obedience—we all know the adage.'

'Wellington is the man to keep us in mind of that; and old Pack too, with his drills for five hours every Sunday after divine service.'

'And so,' said Stuart, 'we must forego all the gay scenes of Paris to live in an old chateau among rooks and ancient elms. Country quarters spoil many a gay fellow : we had better leave our razors at Clichy.'

'Wellington has ordered you on this service as a change, and to cure you of dangling after actresses and grisettes; for in Paris they quite spoil decent Highlandmen like ourselves.'

'There will be neither the first nor the last at Melun,—nothing but brown-visaged and red-haired dairymaids. I hope the chateau contains Laurieston's family—some agreeable young ladies especially, to make us amends for the loss we sustain in being ordered so far from Paris and this agreeable camp of Clichy, where we have always dry canvas, soft grass, and plenty of sunshine and vin ordinaire.'

'Ladies! I hope so,' added Macildhui. 'Pretty faces, guitars, and pianos enliven country quarters amazingly.'

Ronald and the four officers who accompanied him were doomed to be disappointed, for the chateau was occupied only by the regiment of Kloster Zeven, and a few aged servants. The old marchioness and her daughters had retreated to Paris on the first arrival of the lads in scarlet and buff. The Hanoverians inarched out of the court of the chateau, with their bugles playing one of those splendid marches for the production of which Germany is so famous; the Highlanders marched in at the same moment, with carried arms, and their pipes playing ' The wee German Lairdie,' a tune which Macvurich, the playing piper, adopted for the occasion.

The chateau stood close to the margin of the Seine, not far from the quiet and pretty little town of Melun, embowered among aged chestnuts, and surrounded by orchards and groves. It was a large irregular building of the days of Louis XII., and was said to have once been honoured as the residence of the celebrated Lady de Beaujeu. It was covered with carved work in wood and stone, and was surmounted by numerous turrets, vanes, and high roofs, covered with singular round slates, jointed over each other like the scales of a serpent. It was in every respect a mansion of the old school, and would have been the permanent residence of some respectable ghost of the olden time, had it stood in England, or more especially in Scotland.

The soldiers were billeted at free quarters on the tenants, while the officers took up their residence in the chateau, to the servants of which orders had been given by the proprietor to provide them with everything they required. Here they enjoyed themselves much more than at Clichy, and the rickety old house was kept in an uproar the whole day, and sometimes the whole night too, by their merriment, pranks, and folly. Its splendid chambers, saloons, and galleries were a good exchange for a turf floor and canvas tent, which, in rainy weather, was never watertight till it was thoroughly soaked through. The beds, with hangings of silk, ostrich plumes, and silver fringes, for camp shake-downs, and the white satin chairs, stuffed with down, were also a good exchange for stone seats, trunks, cap-cases, knapsacks, ammunition-barrels, or whatever else could be had in the encampment. The mornings were spent in riding, the days in shooting, till the preserves were ruined and the game exterminated; and the evenings were devoted to chess and cigars, moistened with a few bottles of Volnay, Pomard, Lafitte, champagne, port, or sherry, for all the cellars were at their absolute command. A bull-reel generally concluded their orgies, or the sword-dance, performed on the dining-tables; after which they were all carried off to bed by their servants, who, on one occasion, required the aid of a fatigue party.

France is a glorious country in which to live at free quarters, and the Highlanders remained till the end of October completely their own masters, away from old Sir Dennis, from Wellington, and staff-office surveillance, amid merriment and jollity, spending their days and nights as they had never spent them before in country quarters, which are generally so dull and lifeless. In the frolic and festivity of their superiors the privates fully participated, and many a merry though rather confused dance did they enjoy with the cottagers by moonlight on the grassy lawn, where the slender peasant-girl, the agile husbandman, and the strong thick-set clansman mingled together, leaping and skipping, with better will than grace, to the stirring sounds of the warlike bagpipes.

There was one subject alone which kept Ronald in a certain state of uneasiness,—the non-arrival of letters from his father, although he had regular despatches from Alice and her brother, which were brought him every fortnight from the Hotel des Postes at Melun, by Macvurich, who acted as postman for the chateau. He concluded that all were well at the old tower, but that by some strange fatality his father's letters were always destined to miscarry. On the 26th of October they took a sad adieu of the venerable Chateau de Marielle, of its saloons, its parks, its emptied cellars and rifled preserves. Right glad was old Chambertin, the butler, to behold them depart; and I dare say he thanked Providence devoutly when the last gleam of their bayonets flashed down the old gloomy chestnut avenue.

Late on the night of the 25th, an aide-de-camp (Lieutenant D------, of the 22nd Dragoons) brought Stuart an order, directing him to remove his detachment to Clichy, from which the regiment was about to march en route for Calais. It was eleven at night when the order arrived ; and by daybreak next morning they were all on the road, with bag and baggage, and had left Melun far behind them. The soldiers were overjoyed at the prospect of returning home, and they cheered and huzzaed lustily as they marched along, and displayed their handkerchiefs on ramrods, and their bonnets on their bayonets, in the extravagance of their delight. So eager were they to rejoin, that they marched back the twenty-eight miles in one day, and arrived in the camp at Clichy just as the bugles were proclaiming sunset.

On the tented ground all were in a state of commotion and preparation. Many regiments were under orders for England; the brigades were broken up, and many alterations were made regarding those troops that were to remain in France, to form the 'Army of Occupation,' for three years. Next day Ronald mounted and set off for Paris, to pay some of his old haunts a last visit, and to avoid the bustle of the camp, where he left entirely to the care of Warristoun, his servant, the task of packing and arranging his baggage for the cars.


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