Under Two Flags eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 880 pages of information about Under Two Flags.

“In course they are, sir; they wouldn’t be such larky company unless they was.  But what I say is that they’re scamps who’re told they may be great men, if they like; not scamps who’re told that, because they’ve once gone to the devil, they must always keep there.  It makes all the difference in life.”

“Yes—­it makes all the difference in life, whether hope is left, or—­left out!”

The words were murmured with a half smile that had a dash of infinite sadness in it; the other looked at him quickly with a shadow of keen pain passing over the bright, frank, laughing features of his sunburned face; he knew that the brief words held the whole history of a life.

“Won’t there never be no hope, sir?” he whispered, while his voice trembled a little under the long, fierce sweep of his yellow mustaches.

The Chasseur rallied himself with a slight, careless laugh; the laugh with which he had met before now the onslaught of charges ferocious as those of the magnificent day of Mazagran.

“Whom for?  Both of us?  Oh, yes; very likely we shall achieve fame and die!  A splendid destiny.”

“No, sir,” said the other, with the hesitation still in the quiver of his voice.  “You know I meant, no hope of your ever being again——­”

He stopped, he scarcely knew how to phrase the thoughts he was thinking.

The other moved with a certain impatience.

“How often must I tell you to forget that I was ever anything except a soldier of France?—­forget as I have forgotten it!”

The audacious, irrepressible “Crache-au-nez-d’la-Mort,” whom nothing could daunt and nothing could awe, looked penitent and ashamed as a chidden spaniel.

“I know, sir.  I have tried, many a year; but I thought, perhaps, as how his lordship’s death—­”

“No life and no death can make any difference to me, except the death that some day an Arbico’s lunge will give me; and that is a long time coming.”

“Ah, for God’s sake, Mr. Cecil, don’t talk like this!”

The Chasseur gave a short, sharp shiver, and started at this name, as if a bullet had struck him.

“Never say that again!”

Rake, Algerian-christened “Crache-au-nez-d’la-Mort,” stammered a contrite apology.

“I never have done, sir—­not for never a year; but it wrung it out of me like—­you talking of wanting death in that way——­”

“Oh, I don’t want death!” laughed the other, with a low, indifferent laughter, that had in it a singular tone of sadness all the while.  “I am of our friends the Spahis’ opinion—­that life is very pleasant with a handsome, well-chosen harem, and a good horse to one’s saddle.  Unhappily harems are too expensive for Roumis!  Yet I am not sure that I am not better amused in the Chasseurs than I was in the Household—­specially when we are at war.  I suppose we must be wild animals at the core, or we should never find such an infinite zest in the death grapple.  Good-night!”

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Under Two Flags from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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