Page images

trived to escape down the left bank, in the obscurity and confusion of the night; but a horrible scene of carnage marked the complete defeat of Benningsen's army, and as a military force it was utterly broken up. Nearly the whole Russian artillery was captured, and 25,000 Russians were killed or wounded, while the losses of the victors do not appear to have exceeded 7000 men.

Such was the decisive battle of Friedland, which brought the campaign at once to a close; for the allies had spent their last resources, and carried the Grand Army to the banks of the Niemen, to be stopped only by the humiliation of Tilsit. The victory of Napoleon was mainly caused by the inexcusable fault of Benningsen in crossing the Alle, and venturing to fight an enemy on the whole much superior in force with a river immediately in the rear; and perhaps no more signal tactical mistake was made during the revolutionary wars. Though as splendid in its results as Austerlitz, the issue of the battle depended much less on the dispositions of the French Emperor than in the case of that field of fame; indeed, Napoleon had not made any preparations to fight that day; and the placing Lannes so near Friedland, though at no great distance from his supports, was not altogether beyond criticism, even if this arrangement caused the false movement that involved in ruin the Russian commander. After the failure, too, of Benningsen on the Passarge, Napoleon's ultimate success was certain ; he had such a preponderance of force that he must have made his way to the Niemen; and for this reason the day of Friedland is less interesting than others of his battles. Yet in the distribution of the Grand Army in its advance on Königsberg and down the Alle, we see the hand of the great captain ; and Napoleon's insight is conspicuous in the manner in which he took advantage of his antagonist's error in forcing the Alle, and cut him off from all hope of escape. As we have said, however, the long campaign, of which we have briefly sketched the events, does not seem at first sight to illustrate, as strikingly as its predecessors, the brilliancy of Napoleon's powers; and, in fact, it teaches a different lesson. In the operations immediately before Friedland, we see, indeed, the daring conception and execution of 179–67 ; but during the contest that ended at Eylau, the Grand Army and its chief alike seem suddenly somewhat wanting to themselves; and we find tardiness, occasional false movements, and bloody but indecisive battles, replace the profound and dazzling strategy that hitherto had been the pledge of victory. The reason, we have endeavoured to show, was not that Napoleon's genius and skill was, so to speak, under temporary eclipse, but that the Napoleonic system of war, when subjected to new and untried conditions, was perilous and exposed to failure ; and that the difficulties of natural obstacles, of a contest waged at a great distance, and of a theatre incompatible with rapid invasions,


2 N

might prove insuperable to the ablest commander, and make his daring projects fruitless. This, in truth, is the most valuable moral to be deduced from this protracted struggle; it points to the causes which, ere long, were to baffle Napoleon in Spain and Russia ; and it shows how vain are the efforts of man, however transcendental his capacity, when he contends against overpowering circumstances. For the rest, Napoleon's faculty of organisation and of conducting war on a great scale were shown conspicuously during the contest; and as he did not yet surpass his means, his energy and constancy in the long run triumphed. Of the operations of his antagonists, little need be said ; that they were enabled to continue in the field was due far more to their enemy's situation than to any merits or skill of their own; and though the Russians proved themselves good soldiers, and Lestocq was a capable chief, not much can be urged in praise of Benningsen, who had the supreme command of the Allied army. Looking back, however, at the incidents of the campaigns which, beginning at Jena, ended at Friedland, and at the dangers incurred by Napoleon, it is impossible not to see that, had the Prussians retreated at the outset and not courted fate, the French eagles, humanly speaking, could never have reached the banks of the Niemen.

Uncle John.




WHEN Lexley, bound on his professional mission, parted from her at the stile under the oak tree, his wife sauntered slowly homeward, enjoying with all the appreciation of a vigorous nature the glittering sunshine, woodland music and balmy odours of that bright summer afternoon. She had been perfectly sincere when she told him how infinitely she preferred the climate and scenery of England to all she had visited elsewhere. Coming in sight of her own pretty house with its trim lawn, blazing flower-beds, and rose-curtained windows, she could not forbear a quiet smile of heartfelt happiness and content. “What a dear little harbour of refuge it is !" she murmured.

“How peaceful, how orderly, how thoroughly English and comfortable ! Nothing to worry or disturb one. No near neighbours to intrude at unseasonable hours. Mrs. Dennison goes to London to-day. I never want to see London again! Yes, I am as happy as anybody can expect to be. I have everything I used to wish for-rest, security, enough to live on, and a husband, poor dear, who worships the very ground I tread. How kind he is, and unselfish-how honest and brave, and strong! Am I in love with him ? I almost think I amat least, I should be, if I were a little less certain of his liking me, or if I had the slightest fear of losing him. Happily there is no chance of that. As I told him in the garden, we shall probably twaddle away the rest of our lives together, without change or interruption. Not an exciting future! But I have had enough of excitement. I hope I may never know what that hateful word means again. I hope I may never leave my dear little home till they carry me out of it to the"

She stopped and tottered as if she had been shot, turning sick and faint, so that she must have fallen, had not a man, dressed in black, caught her in his arms and propped her against the gate, at which he seemed to have been waiting her arrival.

On no previous occasion in the whole of her unhappy life had she such need of that courage and fortitude on which she prided herself. Those qualities now stood her in good stead. She confronted the man, with a face from which every vestige of colour had departed, but that was yet calm, resolute, and unmoved, while, though she gasped for breath, moistening her dry lips with her tongue before she could get out the words, there was the old hard ring in them he remembered so well, as she demanded fiercely,

“Ferdinand! Mr. Delancy! What do you want with me? and why are you here ?"

For one wild moment the fancy crossed her brain that this might be the disembodied spirit of her husband, returned from its appointed place. It is not too much to say that, facing him with scornful and defiant eyes, she wished it could be so. His answer—of the earth, earthy-sufficiently dispelled such an illusion.

“What do I want, Laura ? Come, that's putting rather too much side on! What do you suppose a man wants when he travels from the other end of everywhere to find his own wife ?"

“Don't dare to call me Laura !” she flashed out, goaded by the thought of that other voice, resting so fondly on the familiar name. “Don't dare to say I am your wife! As God shall judge me, that accursed contract was dissolved for ever when we parted in the States ! Have you no pity ?—no sense of right—no spark of honour—no selfrespect ? Man! For the love of heaven go your way, and let me go mine!”

He lit a cigar, very carefully, and with the fixed smile she so hated about his lips. The accustomed action, the scar on his left hand, the ring she remembered he had always worn, the various details of his dress and person, affected her with a horror and loathing that almost mastered reason. In such a mood women have done murder, from a mere animal impulso of escape.

“ I'm not much of a lawyer,” said he, puffing a volume of smoke in her face with perfect composure, “but neither am I quite such a fool as I look. When people are legally married, I've always understood they remain man and wife till they are legally divorced.

I may be wrong–I generally am—but that's my opinion, and I mean to act upon it. You're not listening, Mrs. Delancy.”

She was not. With an effort of which few natures would have been capable, she had summoned all her powers of heart and brain to confront the position and make the best of it. Not for herself—that was past and done with now—but for another-for the man she loved -how dearly, till this miserable moment, she had never realised !

Leaning on the gate, for her knees still trembled, she passed her hand across her face, and mastering with admirable courage the emotions of horror, disgust and despair that racked her to the core, turned calmly to her tormentor, and spoke in her ordinary quiet tones.

“Forgive me. You know as well as I do that I never expected to see you again. Your apparition for I can call it nothing else-upset me, and I dare say I said all sorts of things I didn't mean. I had heard nothing of you since we parted, till that ship drifted ashore without a soul on board. I thought that you—you had not escaped with your life.”

Thought I was dead, and a good job too ?” he answered, with his mocking laugh. “I must say you did look disappointed, and skeered as well. However, business is business. Here's a precious muddle you've been and made! Married again, as I understand! A parson, too! and me not rubbed out after all! It's as good as a play. I couldn't help laughing when I read it in the English papers; but I thought I'd take an early opportunity of looking in after I got home, just to see how you were getting along."

“My life is tolerably comfortable,” she answered, with little outward show of emotion. “Mine has been an uneventful career since we parted. Yours, I suppose, a constant succession of ups and downs, terminating, as usual, with a run of ill luck ?"

“That's about it,” said he, not without a sense of gratification that she should care to ask, “More downs than ups, and more bad luck than good. When I left New York I made tracks at once for 'Frisco. Bless ye, I'd better have gone to the only place I ever heard of that could be hotter. I was no more use there than a baby. Fellows loafing round, before, behind, all about you, the moment you touched a card, and every second player with one bower at least in his sleeve, and a couple of aces in his hat-not to mention the Derringer ready to loose off at sight if you ventured to object. They'd have cleared away the whole of my pile, only I wouldn't give 'em a show. I saw with half an eye that I should be played out before I'd been a week in the town, so I up stick and away for Sacramento. I did well there, and might have done better if only I'd been a bigger rogue than my partner. You remember him—the long yellow chap we had such a shine about? One blazing hot morning I missed him from breakfast, and the first news I got of the skunk was to tell me he had been seen on the stage for North Fork at daybreak, with as many traps on board as would have foundered a steamboat. I confess I was fairly treed then. Beyond a five-dollar note, the clothes I stood upright in and a diamond breast-pin, I hadn't a blessed cent in the world. I wanted you, my dear, and the old piano, very bad. Ah ! you never know the worth of a thing till you've lost it.”

She darted at him one glance of concentrated bate and scorn. Great heavens! Could this mean heartless villain belong to the same creation as that other man with whom she had parted a few short hours ago ? She wondered vaguely how she could ever have borne her lot in the old miserable days; but she commanded herself with a power of repression and self-restraint beyond all praise. That other, she thought, must be spared at any sacrifice. There was no duty, no interest, left for her on earth but this.

« PreviousContinue »