Under Two Flags eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 880 pages of information about Under Two Flags.
memorable and worthy of the dignity of the guests whom the Viceroy of the Empire delighted to honor.  Yet she, seated there on his right hand, where the rich skins and cashmeres and carpets were strewn on a dais, saw in reality little save a confused blending of hues, and metals, and orders, and weapons, and snowy beards, and olive faces, and French elegance and glitter fused with the grave majesty of Arab pomp.  For her thoughts were not with the scene around her, but with the soldier who was without in that teeming crowd of tents, who lived in poverty, and danger, and the hard slavery of unquestioning obedience, and asked only to be as one dead to all who had known and loved him in his youth.  It was in vain that she repelled the memory; it usurped her, and would not be displaced.

Meantime, in another part of the camp, the heroine of Zaraila was feasted, not less distinctively, if more noisily and more familiarly, by the younger officers of the various regiments.  La Cigarette, many a time before the reigning spirit of suppers and carouses, was banqueted with all the eclat that befitted that cross which sparkled on her blue and scarlet vest.  High throned on a pyramid of knapsacks, canteens, and rugs, toasted a thousand times in all brandies and red wines that the stores would yield, sung of in improvised odes that were chanted by voices which might have won European fame as tenor or as basso, caressed and sued with all the rapid, fiery, lightly-come and lightly-go love of the camp, with twice a hundred flashing, darkling eyes bent on her in the hot admiration that her vain, coquette spirit found delight in, ruling as she would with jest, and caprice, and command, and bravado all these men who were terrible as tigers to their foes, the Little One reigned alone; and—­like many who have reigned before her—­found lead in her scepter, dross in her diadem, satiety in her kingdom.

When it was over, this banquet that was all in her honor, and that three months before would have been a paradise to her, she shook herself free of the scores of arms outstretched to keep her captive, and went out into the night alone.  She did not know what she ailed, but she was restless, oppressed, weighed down with a sense of dissatisfied weariness that had never before touched the joyous and elastic nature of the child of France.

And this, too, in the moment when the very sweetest and loftiest of her ambitions was attained!  When her hand wandered to that decoration on her heart which had been ever in her sight what the crown of wild olive and the wreath of summer grasses were to the youths and to the victors of the old, dead classic years!  As she stood in solitude under the brilliancy of the stars, tears, unfamiliar and unbidden, rose in her eyes as they gazed over the hosts around her.

“How they live only for the slaughter!  How they perish like the beasts of the field!” she thought.  Upon her, as on the poet or the patriot who could translate and could utter the thought as she could not, there weighed the burden of that heart-sick consciousness of the vanity of the highest hope, the futility of the noblest effort, to bring light into the darkness of the suffering, toiling, blind throngs of human life.

Project Gutenberg
Under Two Flags from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook