Uncle Bernac eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 171 pages of information about Uncle Bernac.

But sorrow clears from the mind of youth like the tarnish of breath upon glass, and who could carry a heavy heart upon so lightfooted a horse and through so sweet an air?  The white glimmering road wound over the downs with the sea far upon the left, and between lay that great salt-marsh which had been the scene of our adventures.  I could even see, as I fancied, a dull black spot in the distance to mark the position of that terrible cottage.  Far away the little clusters of houses showed the positions of Etaples, Ambleterre, and the other fishing villages, whilst I could see that the point which had seemed last night to glow like a half-forged red-hot sword-blade was now white as a snow-field with the camp of a great army.  Far, far away, a little dim cloud upon the water stood for the land where I had spent my days—­the pleasant, homely land which will always rank next to my own in my affections.

And now I turned my attention from the downs and the sea to the hussars who rode beside me, forming, as I could perceive, a guard rather than an escort.  Save for the patrol last night, they were the first of the famous soldiers of Napoleon whom I had ever seen, and it was with admiration and curiosity that I looked upon men who had won a world-wide reputation for their discipline and their gallantry.  Their appearance was by no means gorgeous, and their dress and equipment was much more modest than that of the East Kent Yeomanry, which rode every Saturday through Ashford; but the stained tunics, the worn leathers, and the rough hardy horses gave them a very workmanlike appearance.  They were small, light, brown-faced fellows, heavily whiskered and moustached, many of them wearing ear-rings in their ears.  It surprised me that even the youngest and most boyish-looking of them should be so bristling with hair, until, upon a second look, I perceived that his whiskers were formed of lumps of black wax stuck on to the sides of his face.  The tall young lieutenant noticed the astonishment with which I gazed at his boyish trooper.

‘Yes, yes,’ said he, ’they are artificial, sure enough; but what can you expect from a lad of seventeen?  On the other hand, we cannot spoil the appearance of the regiment upon parade by having a girl’s cheeks in the ranks.’

‘It melts terribly in this warm weather, lieutenant,’ said the hussar, joining in the conversation with the freedom which was one of the characteristics of Napoleon’s troops.

‘Well, well, Caspar, in a year or two you will dispense with them.’

’Who knows?  Perhaps he will have dispensed with his head also by that time,’ said a corporal in front, and they all laughed together in a manner which in England would have meant a court-martial.  This seemed to me to be one of the survivals of the Revolution, that officer and private were left, upon a very familiar footing, which was increased, no doubt, by the freedom with which the Emperor would chat with

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Uncle Bernac from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.