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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-06-15 06:43:19
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kt qu s s

“Ah!” he said, and he stood outside the door with his hand at his moustache, reflectively following Jean's movements, “they are singularly careful to keep me out, these people.” He had not long to wait, however, for presently Lory came, stepping quickly over the high threshold and closing the door behind him. But Gilbert was taller than de Vasselot, and could see over his head. He looked right through the house into the little garden on the terrace, and saw someone there who was not Jean. And the light of surprise was still in his eyes as he shook hands with Lory de Vasselot. “You have news for me?” inquired de Vasselot. “News for every Frenchman.” “Ah!” “Yes. The emperor has declared war against Germany.” “War!” echoed Lory, with a sudden laugh. “Yes; and your regiment is the first on the list.” “I know, I know!” cried de Vasselot, his eyes alight with excitement. “But this is good news that you tell me. How can I thank you for coming? I must get home—I mean to France—at once. But this is great news!” He seized the colonel's hand and shook it. “Great news, mon colonel—great news!” “Good news for you, for you are going. But I shall be left behind as usual. Yes; it is good news for you.” “And for France,” cried Lory, with both hands outspread, as if to indicate the glory that was awaiting them. “For France,” said the colonel, gravely, “it cannot fail to be bad. But we must not think of that now.” “We shall never think of it,” answered Lory. “This is Monday; there is a boat for Marseilles to-night. I leave Bastia to-night, colonel.” “And I must get back there,” said the colonel, holding out his hand. He rode thoughtfully back by the shortest route through the Lancone Defile, and, as he approached Bastia, from the heights behind the town he saw the steamer that would convey Lory to France coming northward from Bonifacio. “Yes,” he said; “he will leave Bastia to-night; and assuredly the good God, or the devil, helps me at every turn of this affair.” CHAPTER XIII. WAR. “Since all that I can ever do for thee Is to do nothing, may'st thou never see, Never divine, the all that nothing costeth me!” It is for kings to declare war, for nations to fight and pay. Napoleon III declared war against Russia, and France fought side by side with England in the Crimea, not because the gayest and most tragic of nations had aught to gain, but to ensure an upstart emperor a place among the monarchs of Europe. And that strange alliance was merely one move in a long game played by a consummate intriguer—a game which began disastrously at Boulogne and ended disastrously at Sedan, and yet was the most daring and brilliant feat of European statesmanship that has been carried out since the adventurer's great uncle went to St. Helena. But no one knows why in July, 1870, Napoleon III declared war against Germany. The secret of the greatest war of modern times lies buried in the Imperial mausoleum at Frognal. There is a sort of surprise which is caused by the sudden arrival of the long expected, and Germany experienced it in that hot midsummer, for there seemed to be no reason why war should break out at the moment. Shortly before, the Spanish Government had offered the crown to the hereditary Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern, and France, ever ready to see a grievance, found herself suited. But the hereditary prince declined that throne, and the incident seemed about to close. Then quite suddenly France made a demand, with reference to any possible recurrence of the same question, which Germany could not be expected to grant. It was an odd demand to make, and in a flash of thought the great German chancellor saw that this meant war. Perhaps he had been waiting for it. At all events, he was prepared for it, as were the silent soldier, von Roon, and the gentle tactician, von Moltke. These gentlemen were away for a holiday, but they returned, and, as history tells, had merely to fill in a few dates on already prepared documents. If France was not ready she thought herself so, and was at all events willing. Nay, she was so eager that she shouted when she should have held her tongue. And who shall say what the schemer of the Tuileries thought of it all behind that pleasant smile, those dull and sphinx-like eyes? He had always believed in his star, had always known that he was destined to be great; and now perhaps he knew that his star was waning—that the greatness was past. He made his preparations quietly. He was never a flustered man, this nephew of the greatest genius the world has seen. Did he not sit three months later in front of a cottage at Donchery and impassively smoke cigarette after cigarette while waiting for Otto von Bismarck? He was a fatalist. “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on.” And it must be remembered to his credit that he asked no man's pity—a request as foolish to make for a fallen emperor as for the ordinary man who has, for instance, married in haste, and is given the leisure of a whole lifetime in which to repent. For the human heart is incapable of bestowing unadulterated pity: there must be some contempt in it. If the fall of Napoleon III was great, let it be remembered that few place themselves by their own exertions in a position to fall at all. The declaration of war was, on the whole, acclaimed in France; for Frenchmen are, above all men, soldiers. Does not the whole world use French terms in the technicalities of warfare? The majority received the news as Lory de Vasselot received it. For a time he could only think that this was a great and glorious moment in his life. He hurried in to tell his father, but the count failed to rise to the occasion. “War!” he said. “Yes; there have been many in my time. They have not affected me—or my carnations.” “And I go to it to-night,” announced Lory, watching his father with eyes suddenly grave and anxious. “Ah!” said the count, and made no farther comment. Then, without pausing to consider his own motives, Lory hurried up to the Casa Perucca to tell the ladies there his great news. He must, it seemed, tell somebody, and he knew no one else within reach, except perhaps the Abbé Susini, who did not pretend to be a Frenchman. “Is it peace?” asked Mademoiselle Brun, who, having seen him climbing the steep slope in the glaring sunshine, was waiting for him by the open side-door when he arrived there. He took her withered hand, and bowed over it as gallantly as if it had been soft and young. “What do you mean?” he asked, looking at her curiously. “Well, it seems that the Casa Perucca and the Chateau de Vasselot are not on visiting terms. We only call on each other with a gun.” “It is odd that you should have asked me that,” said Lory, “for it is not peace, but war.” And as he looked at her, her face hardened, her steady eyes wavered for once. “Ah!” she said, her hands dropping sharply against her dingy black dress in a gesture of despair. “Again!” “Yes, mademoiselle,” answered Lory, gently; for he had a quick intuition, and knew at a glance that war must have hurt this woman at one time of her life. She stood for a moment tapping the ground with her foot, looking reflectively across the valley. “Assuredly,” she said, “Frenchwomen must be the bravest women in the world, or else there would never be a light heart in the whole country. Come, let us go in and tell Denise. It is Germany, I suppose?” “Yes, mademoiselle. They have long wanted it, and we are obliging them at last. You look grave. It is not bad news I bring you, but good.” “Women like soldiers, but they hate war,” said mademoiselle, and walked on slowly in silence. After a pause, she turned and looked at him as if she were going to ask him a question, but checked herself. “I almost did a foolish thing,” she explained, seeing his glance of surprise. “I was going to ask you if you were going?” “Ah, yes, I am going,” he answered, with a laugh and a keen glance of excitement. “War is a necessary evil, mademoiselle, and assists promotion. Why should you hate it?” “Because we cannot interfere in it,” replied Mademoiselle Brun, with a snap of the lips. “We shall find Denise in the garden to the north of the house, picking green beans, Monsieur le Comte,” continued Mademoiselle Brun, with a glance in his direction. “Then I shall have time to help with the beans before I go to the war,” answered Lory; and they walked on in silence. The garden was but half cultivated—a luxuriant thicket of fruit and weed, of trailing vine and wild clematis. The air of it was heavy with a hundred scents, and, in the shade, was cool, and of a mossy odour rarely found in Southern seas.


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