When once more questioned as to his country and his past by the president, he briefly declined to give answer. When asked if the names by which he was enrolled were his own, he replied that they were two of his baptismal names, which had served his purpose on entering the army. When asked if he accepted as true the charge of exciting sedition among the troops, he replied that it was so little true that, over and over again, the men would have mutinied if he had given them a sign, and that he had continually induced them to submit to discipline sheerly by force of his own example. When interrogated as to the cause of the language he had used to his commanding officer, he said briefly that the language deserved the strongest censure as for a soldier to his colonel, but that it was justified as he had used it, which was as man to man, though he was aware the plea availed nothing in military law, and was impermissible for the safety of the service. When it was inquired of him if he had not repeatedly inveighed against his commanding officer for severity, he briefly denied it; no man had ever heard him say a syllable that could have been construed into complaint; at the same time, he observed that all the squadrons knew perfectly well personal enmity and oppression had been shown him by his chief throughout the whole time of his association with the regiment. When pressed as to the cause that he assigned for this, he gave, in a few comprehensive outlines, the story of the capture and the deliverance of the Emir’s bride; this was all that could be elicited from him; and even this was answered only out of deference to the authority of the court, and from his unwillingness, even now, to set a bad example before the men with whom he had served so long. When it was finally demanded of him if he had aught to urge in his own extenuation, he paused a moment, with a gaze under which even the hard, eagle eyes grew restless, looked across to Chateauroy, and addressed his antagonist rather than the president.
“Only this: that a tyrant, a liar, and a traducer cannot wonder if men prefer death to submission beneath insult. But I am well aware this is no vindication of my act as a soldier, and I have no desire to say words which, whatever their truth, might become hereafter dangerous legacies, and dangerous precedents to the army.”
That was all which he answered, and neither his counsel nor his accusers could extort another syllable from him.
He knew that what he had done was justified to his own conscience, but he did not seek to dispute that it was unjustifiable in military law. True, had all been told, it was possible enough that his judges would exonerate him morally, even if they condemned him legally; his act would be seen blameless as a man’s, even while still punishable as a soldier’s; but to purchase immunity for himself at the cost of bringing the fairness of her fame into the coarse babble of men’s tongues was an alternative, craven and shameful, which never even once glanced across his thoughts.