Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Short Stories > Won by the Sword > CHAPTER XX: AN OLD SCORE
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
 Hector was not present with the army during the last three campaigns of the war. He had joined Turenne in April, 1646, and shared in the general disappointment when the order was received that the army was not to cross the Rhine, because Bavaria had promised to remain neutral if it did not do so. “I cannot think,” the marshal said to him a day or two after he received the order—for he had always maintained the same pleasant relations with Hector that had subsisted between them in Italy, and placed the most entire confidence in the discretion of the young colonel—“how Mazarin can allow Bavaria to hoodwink him. Indeed, I cannot believe that he is really deceived; he must know that that crafty old fox the duke is not to be relied upon in any way, and that he is merely trying to save time. 'Tis hard indeed to see us powerless to move, now that the season for campaigning is just opening, and when by advancing we could cut the Bavarians off from Austria. As to besieging Luxembourg, it would be but a waste of time, for before we could open a trench we should hear that the duke has again declared against us, and we should have to hurry back with all speed.”
It was, indeed, but a fortnight later that the news came that the Bavarians were on the move to join the Imperialists, and a fortnight later it was known that the two armies had effected their junction. Turenne at once collected his troops from the towns and villages where they were placed, and marched to Mayence.
“I am going to send you to Paris, Campbell,” he said on the evening of their arrival there. “All is lost if the enemy, now united, throw themselves upon the Swedes, and I have resolved to take upon myself the responsibility of marching round through Holland and joining Wrangel. There is, of course, risk in such an expedition, and the cardinal may object very strongly to my undertaking such a movement, especially as it will leave the frontier of France virtually unguarded, but I have no fear that evil consequences will arise. The enemy will not hear of my march until ten days after I have started, and even then they will probably suppose that we have gone to Flanders. By the time they find out what my intentions are, it will be too late for them to take advantage of my absence.
“Even then they would have to storm Philippsburg or some other strong place before they could cross the Rhine, and before they could do that Wrangel and I would be at their heels. Moreover, as they would know that, instead of pursuing them, we might, after effecting a junction, make straight for Vienna, and that no army could be got together to oppose us, I consider that the movement is a perfectly safe one. Now, I am going to send you to Mazarin with my despatch telling him of my intention. I am choosing you for the purpose, because you will be able to explain and enforce the reasons that I have given him. He has a high opinion of you, and will listen to you when perhaps he would not pay any regard to Rosen or any other of these Weimar officers I might send. Remember that there is no occasion for extreme hurry,” and he smiled. “Of course it is necessary that you should travel with a certain amount of speed, but do not founder your horse. Every day is of value to me, and if I am once well on my way north Mazarin could hardly recall me.
“Say that you take five days to get to Paris, by that time I should be north of Cologne, and a courier from Mazarin can hardly overtake me until I am in Holland, I should then feel justified in disregarding the order, seeing that I should by pushing on effect a junction with the Swedes quite as quickly as I could return here. Of course it would be too late for you to overtake me, and I shall give you a written order to remain in Paris until I am again so near the Rhine that you can join your regiment. I consider that it will be an advantage to have you near the cardinal, as, knowing my intentions and methods as you do, you would be able to so explain matters to him that he will understand the reasons for my various movements.”
“Very well marshal, I am ready to start as soon as you hand me the despatch.”
“I will do that tomorrow morning, and you will then be able to tell Mazarin that we were just setting out when you left us.”
“As it will be some time before I shall rejoin my regiment, may I ask you to appoint Captain de Thiou as second colonel? He has now served as senior captain of the regiment for three years. He aided me heartily and cordially in organizing it. He has seconded me throughout in a manner of which I cannot speak too highly, and distinguished himself greatly at Freiburg, and on every occasion in which we have been in contact with the enemy. I think it very desirable that there should be an officer of rank superior to the others while I am away; and both for the sake of the regiment, and as a reward for the merit and conduct of Captain de Thiou himself, I should be very glad were he promoted and should feel that the regiment would in no way deteriorate during my absence.”
“Certainly, Campbell, I will carry out your recommendation. He has fairly earned his promotion, and as you say, it is better in your absence that the regiment should be led by an officer of rank above the others, and not by a captain having but a very slight seniority to some of them. Doubtless you will be saying goodbye to the officers tonight. I authorize you to inform de Thiou that he will be placed in orders tomorrow morning as second colonel of the regiment.”
“I did not think that we were likely to be back in Paris before next winter, master,” Paolo said rather discontentedly when Hector told him that they were to start early next morning.
“Nor did I, Paolo, and I should very much rather have remained with the regiment; but as the marshal is good enough to consider that my presence there may be of advantage to him, I have of course nothing to say against it.”
There was great regret among the officers when they heard that their colonel was not going to lead them, but all were pleased that de Thiou, who was a general favourite, had obtained promotion. That officer was at once surprised and gratified at the news, for it was not often that men without strong family interest rose to the rank of colonel.
“I know that this is your doing,” he said gratefully. “I never expected to get above my present rank, and I am sure that I should never have done so had it not been for you.”
“You thoroughly deserve it, de Thiou, for it was by your support that I was enabled, when I first joined, to introduce reforms, and get the officers to take upon themselves more work and responsibilities, and thus make the regiment what it is. I hope I shall rejoin before the end of the campaign. This may be the last, for now that they have begun the peace conference at Munster, something must surely come of it sooner or later, for all parties must be thoroughly sick of this long and terrible war, which has ruined Germany and impoverished France, and from which neither party, after nigh thirty years of fighting, has gained any material advantage. At any rate it will be a great satisfaction to me to know that the regiment is in your hands. I know that during the time that I have been away this winter things have gone on satisfactorily; but it is clearly impossible for an officer to keep a regiment well in hand when, as in your case, your appointment was only a day or two earlier than that of some of the others. You are likely to have some stiff marching now, for only one other infantry regiment besides ours will accompany the cavalry, the rest will remain here until they get an opportunity of rejoining. Of course I shall take Paolo and my four mounted troopers back with me to Paris. I may probably send them on to la Villar, as it is not likely that I shall need them at court.”
On the evening of the fifth day after leaving Mayence Hector arrived in Paris, and alighted at the cardinal's hotel.
“So you are again a bearer of despatches, Monsieur Campbell,” the cardinal said, as Hector entered his apartment. “They need be important, or the marshal would hardly have sent you with them.”
“They are, as you will see, important, your eminence, but I am sent rather to explain further than the marshal could do in a letter his reasons for the step that he has taken. As you have learned long before this, the Duke of Bavaria has proved false to his promises. He has effected a junction with the Imperialist army, and the marshal has news that both are marching against the Swedes, who are in no strength to show fight against so great a force.”
The cardinal opened the despatch, and read it in silence.
“'Tis a grave step for the marshal to have taken without orders,” he said, frowning; “and do you mean to say that he has already started on this expedition?”
“The troops had fallen into their ranks when I started, and by this time they must be well on their way towards Holland. There was no time, sir, for the marshal to await a reply to the despatch. The matter was most urgent, every day was of importance, for if the Swedes fell back, as they might do, before the archduke, the latter would be able to overrun all northern Germany, to capture the towns of the Protestant princes, break up their confederation, and compel them to give in their submission; for Turenne with his small force would be powerless to interfere with their operations, even if by pressing after them with all speed he arrived within striking distance.”
“And think you that he will reach Wrangel in time?”
“He hopes so, sir. He sent off a messenger before starting, with orders to buy fresh horses at all cost at each halting place, to carry the news as quickly as possible to Wrangel that he was on his way to join him, and imploring him to intrench himself in some strong position until he should come up.
“How long hence will that be?”
“The march will be pressed forward with all speed, your eminence, with such delays only as may be needed to keep the horses in such a state that they may be ready for fighting as soon as they join the Swedes. He hopes to be there in a month from the day of starting.”
“And in the meantime,” Mazarin said, “France is open to invasion. He says, indeed, that the Imperialists would hardly venture to march hitherward, as thereby they in turn would leave it open to him and the Swedes to march into the heart of Austria.”
“Assuredly that is so, sir. The archduke will hardly get news that Marshal Turenne has moved until he has been some ten or twelve days on his march, and even when he hears it he will not know in what direction he has gone, but may think it likely that he either intends to seize Luxembourg or to reinforce your army in Flanders. By the time they discover his true object he will be within a week's march of the Swedes, possibly less than that. It will be too late for them then to think of marching to the Rhine. If they consider themselves strong enough to fight the marshal and the Swedes together, they will do so at once; if they fear to give battle, still more would they fear to be attacked by him when entering a country where they would have him in their rear, and be hemmed in between him and the Rhine, not to speak of the risk of leaving Austria open to invasion, should he, instead of pursuing them, direct his march thither. If I might presume to judge, I should say that the expedition that the marshal has undertaken is at once worthy of his military genius, and will at the same time do far more to ensure the safety of the Rhine provinces than he could do were he to remain there with his small army until the Imperialists, having chased the Swedes out of the country and reduced northern Germany, turned their whole forces against him.”
“I see, Monsieur Campbell,” the cardinal said, turning the subject, “that you have been five days coming here from Mayence. It is a very different rate of speed to that at which you traveled from Rocroi.”
“It is so, your eminence; but on that occasion the Duc d'Enghien had placed relays of his best horses all along the road, so that we were enabled to travel without making a halt.”
“And moreover, my dear colonel,” Mazarin said, “Turenne, far from urging you to haste, was desirous of getting so far before he received my answer as to render it impossible for me to recall him.”
“I cannot think that your eminence would do that. It is a grand enterprise, and almost without precedent in point both of daring and in the great advantages to be gained from it.”
“And Turenne thought that by sending you, you would be able to assist him in persuading me to regard it favourably. Well, well, it is certainly too late to recall him now. He has taken the responsibility upon himself, and must stand or fall by the result. And now in the first place are you going to hurry back again or are you going to remain here?”
“My regiment is one of those that he has taken with him, sir, and as I could not hope to overtake him he has requested me to remain here until I receive orders from him.”
“We shall be gainers so far,” the cardinal said cordially, “and I am sure that from your knowledge of the country and of Turenne's methods your advice upon military matters will be of great service to us. I must now go and report to the queen this sudden change in the situation, and if she disapproves of it I shall tell her that if she will but listen to you, you will convert her to the view that this escapade of the marshal's is all for the best, and seems likely indeed to retrieve the position that has been caused by the treachery of Bavaria.”
During his stay in Paris Hector soon found that intrigue was more rampant than ever. The Duke of Beaufort and others who had been implicated in the plot on Mazarin's life had been pardoned and had returned to Paris, and as the lesson that had been given them had taught them prudence, they were now openly on good terms with the court. They were secretly, however, intriguing with the parliament of Paris, which was now bitterly opposed to Mazarin, had refused to register some of his decrees, and had even forced him to dismiss his superintendent of finance, an Italian named Emeri. The latter had imposed taxes at his will to satisfy his extravagance and avarice, had raised the octroi duty, made the sale of firewood a monopoly, and in various ways had incurred the indignation and hatred of the Parisians.
Mazarin's own greed had been in no slight degree the cause of his unpopularity; he who had come to France a penniless priest was now the owner of great estates. It was even said that much of the money that should have been devoted to the needs of the army had been privately sent into Italy by him, and throughout the country it was felt to be scandalous that while the deepest distress was universal on account of the weight of taxation, these two Italians should be piling up wealth for themselves. But, avaricious as he was, the cardinal was lavish in his expenditure among his friends and adherents; honours, titles, dignities, and estates were freely bestowed upon them, and he did not hesitate to pay any sum that would gain him the support of those whose aid he deemed to be essential. Madame de Chevreuse was again at court, and was, as she had always been, the centre of the intrigues that were going on. One evening she made a sign for Hector to take a place by her side. She had taken a fancy to the young Scottish colonel on the evening when he had been first introduced to her, and was always gracious to him now.
“Monsieur le baron,” she said in a low tone, “do you think that the air of Paris agrees with you as well as that of the army?”
He felt from the manner in which she spoke, that she meant more than she said.
“So far, madam, it has not disagreed with me,” he said; “and even did it do so I should not be able to leave it, as I have orders to remain here.”
“By the way, monsieur,” she said, changing the subject of conversation, “it is whispered that that party of pleasure to which you took the officers of your regiment at St. Germain did not come off, at least none of the landlords of the hotels there can recall any such gathering, and it is even said that your falling in with the carriage of the Duke of Orleans was not altogether an accident. I only mention the reports; of course, it was a matter of no moment whether your party dined at St. Germain or at Sevres. But sometimes misapprehensions of this kind lead to trouble, especially when they happe............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved