“You are great warriors,” he cried, in the Sabir tongue; “surrender; we will spare!”
Cecil looked back once more on the fragment of his troop, and raised the Eagle higher aloft where the wings should glisten in the fuller day. Half naked, scorched, blinded; with an open gash in his shoulder where the lance had struck, and with his brow wet with the great dews of the noon-heat and the breathless toil; his eyes were clear as they flashed with the light of the sun in them; his mouth smiled as he answered:
“Have we shown ourselves cowards, that you think we shall yield?”
A hurrah of wild delight from the Chasseurs he led greeted and ratified the choice. “On meurt—on ne se rend pas!” they shouted in the words which, even if they be but legendary, are too true to the spirit of the soldiers of France not to be as truth in their sight. Then, with their swords above their heads, they waited for the collision of the terrible attack which would fall on them upon every side, and strike all the sentient life out of them before the sun should be one point higher in the heavens. It came; with a yell as of wild beasts in their famine, the Arabs threw themselves forward, the chief himself singling out the “fair Frank” with the violence of a lion flinging himself on a leopard. One instant longer, one flash of time, and the tribes pressing on them would have massacred them like cattle driven into the pens of slaughter. Ere it could be done, a voice like the ring of a silver trumpet echoed over the field:
“En avant! En avant! Tue, tue, tue!”
Above the din, the shouts, the tumult, the echoing of the distant musketry, that silvery cadence rung; down into the midst, with the Tricolor waving above her head, the bridle of her fiery mare between her teeth, the raven of the dead Zouave flying above her head, and her pistol leveled in deadly aim, rode Cigarette.
The lightning fire of the crossing swords played round her, the glitter of the lances dazzled her eyes, the reek of smoke and of carnage was round her; but she dashed down into the heart of the conflict as gayly as though she rode at a review—laughing, shouting, waving the torn colors that she grasped, with her curls blowing back in the breeze, and her bright young face set in the warrior’s lust. Behind her, by scarcely a length, galloped three squadrons of Chasseurs and Spahis; trampling headlong over the corpse-strewn field, and breaking through the masses of the Arabs as though they were seas of corn.
She wheeled her mare round by Cecil’s side at the moment when, with six swift passes of his blade, he had warded off the Chief’s blows and sent his own sword down through the chest-bones of the Bedouin’s mighty form.
“Well struck! The day is turned! Charge!”