But the baroness had not the clew we have; and what a differencethat makes! Howbitcoin news latest news small an understanding, put by accident orinstruction on the right track, shall run the game down! How greata sagacity shall wander if it gets on a false scent!
"Believing that something was wrong is about all the attention my neighbors have given me, as far as I can see," Holcroft remarked bitterly.solana defi tvl"Well, you see, Holcroft, you've kept yourself so inside your shell that people don't know what to believe. Now, the thing to do is to change all that. I know how hard it is for a man, placed as you be, to get decent help. My wife was a-wondering about it the other day, and I shut her up mighty sudden by saying, 'You're a good manager, and know all the country side, yet how often you're a-complaining that you can't get a girl that's worth her salt to help in haying and other busy times when we have to board a lot of men.' Well, I won't beat around the bush any more. I've come to act the part of a good neighbor. There's no use of you're trying to get along with such haphazard help as you can pick up here and in town. You want a respectable woman for housekeeper, and then have a cheap, common sort of a girl to work under her. Now, I know of just such a woman, and it's not unlikely she'd be persuaded to take entire charge of your house and dairy. My wife's cousin, Mrs. Mumpson--" At the mention of this name Holcroft gave a slight start, feeling something like a cold chill run down his back.
Mr. Weeks was a little disconcerted but resumed, "I believe she called on your wife once?""Yes," the farmer replied laconically. "I was away and did not see her.""Well, now," pursued Mr. Weeks, "she's a good soul. She has her little peculiarities; so have you and me, a lot of 'em; but she's thoroughly respectable, and there isn't a man or woman in the town that would think of saying a word against her. She has only one child, a nice, quiet little girl who'd be company for her mother and make everything look right, you know.""I don't see what there's been to look wrong," growled the farmer."Nothing to me and my folks, of course, or I wouldn't suggest the idea of a relation of my wife coming to live with you. But you see people will talk unless you stop their mouths so they'll feel like fools in doing it. I know yours has been a mighty awkward case, and here's a plain way out of it. You can set yourself right and have everything looked after as it ought to be, in twenty-four hours. We've talked to Cynthy--that's Mrs. Mumpson--and she takes a sight of interest. She'd do well by you and straighten things out, and you might do a plaguey sight worse than give her the right to take care of your indoor affairs for life."
"I don't expect to marry again," said Holcroft curtly."Oh, well! Many a man and woman has said that and believed it, too, at the time. I'm not saying that my wife's cousin is inclined that way herself. Like enough, she isn't at all, but then, the right kind of persuading does change women's minds sometimes, eh? Mrs. Mumpson is kinder alone in the world, like yourself, and if she was sure of a good home and a kind husband there's no telling what good luck might happen to you. But there'll be plenty of time for considering all that on both sides. You can't live like a hermit."Half the Prussian force went at them, the rest swept the trenches:
the French company delivered a deadly volley, and the next momentclash the two forces crossed bayonets, and a silent deadly stabbingmatch was played: the final result of which was inevitable. ThePrussians were five to one. The gallant officer and the poorfellows who did their duty so stoutly, had no thought left but todie hard, when suddenly a roaring cheer seemed to come from the rearrank of the enemy. "France! France!" Half the 24th brigade cameleaping and swarming over the trenches in the Prussian rear. ThePrussians wavered. "France!" cried the little party that were beingoverpowered, and charged in their turn with such fury that in twoseconds the two French corps went through the enemy's centre likepaper, and their very bayonets clashed together in more than onePrussian body.Broken thus in two fragments the Prussian corps ceased to exist as amilitary force. The men fled each his own way back to the fort, andmany flung away their muskets, for French soldiers were swarming infrom all quarters. At this moment, bang! bang! bang! from thebastion."They are firing on my brigade," said our colonel. "Who has led hiscompany there against my orders? Captain Neville, into the battery,and fire twenty rounds at the bastion! Aim at the flashes fromtheir middle tier.""Yes, colonel."The battery opened with all its guns on the bastion. The rightattack followed suit. The town answered, and a furious cannonaderoared and blazed all down both lines till daybreak. Hell seemedbroken loose.Captain Jullien had followed the flying foe: but could not come upwith them: and, as the enemy had prepared for every contingency, thefatal bastion, after first throwing a rocket or two to discovertheir position, poured showers of grape into them, killed many, andwould have killed more but that Captain Neville and his gunnershappened by mere accident to dismount one gun and to kill a coupleof gunners at the others. This gave the remains of the company timeto disperse and run back. When the men were mustered, CaptainJullien and twenty-five of his company did not answer to theirnames. At daybreak they were visible from the trenches lying all bythemselves within eighty yards of the bastion.
A flag of truce came from the fort: the dead were removed on bothsides and buried. Some Prussian officers strolled into the Frenchlines. Civilities and cigars exchanged: "Bon jour," "Gooten daeg:"then at it again, ding dong all down the line blazing and roaring.At twelve o'clock the besieged had got a man on horseback, on top ofa hill, with colored flags in his hand, making signals.
"What are you up to now?" inquired Dard."You will see," said La Croix, affecting mystery; he knew no morethan the other.Presently off went Long Tom on the top of the bastion, and the shotcame roaring over the heads of the speakers.The flags were changed, and off went Long Tom again at an elevation.
Ten seconds had scarcely elapsed when a tremendous explosion tookplace on the French right. Long Tom was throwing red-hot shot; onehad fallen on a powder wagon, and blown it to pieces, and killed twopoor fellows and a horse, and turned an artillery man at somedistance into a seeming nigger, but did him no great harm; only tookhim three days to get the powder out of his clothes with pipe clay,and off his face with raw potato-peel.When the tumbril exploded, the Prussians could be heard to cheer,and they turned to and fired every iron spout they owned. Long Tomworked all day.They got into a corner where the guns of the battery could not hitthem or him, and there was his long muzzle looking towards the sky,and sending half a hundredweight of iron up into the clouds, andplunging down a mile off into the French lines.And, at every shot, the man on horseback made signals to let thegunners know where the shot fell.
At last, about four in the afternoon, they threw a forty-eight-poundshot slap into the commander-in-chief's tent, a mile and a halfbehind trenches.Down comes a glittering aide-de-camp as hard as he can gallop.
"Colonel Dujardin, what are you about, sir? YOUR BASTION has throwna round shot into the commander-in-chief's tent."The colonel did not appear so staggered as the aide-de-campexpected."Ah, indeed!" said he quietly. "I observed they were tryingdistances.""Must not happen again, colonel. You must drive them from the gun.""How?""Why, where is the difficulty?""If you will do me the honor to step into the battery, I will showyou," said the colonel.
"If you please," said the aide-de-camp stiffly.Colonel Dujardin took him to the parapet, and began, in a calm,painstaking way, to show him how and why none of his guns could bebrought to bear upon Long Tom.In the middle of the explanation a melodious sound was heard in theair above them, like a swarm of Brobdingnag bees."What is that?" inquired the aide-de-camp."What? I see nothing.""That humming noise.""Oh, that? Prussian bullets. Ah, by-the-by, it is a compliment toyour uniform, monsieur; they take you for some one of importance.Well, as I was observing"--"Your explanation is sufficient, colonel; let us get out of this.
Ha, ha! you are a cool hand, colonel, I must say. But your batteryis a warm place enough: I shall report it so at headquarters."The grim colonel relaxed."Captain," said he politely, "you shall not have ridden to my postin vain. Will you lend me your horse for ten minutes?""Certainly; and I will inspect your trenches meantime.""Do so; oblige me by avoiding that angle; it is exposed, and theenemy have got the range to an inch."Colonel Dujardin slipped into his quarters; off with his half-dressjacket and his dirty boots, and presently out he came full fig,glittering brighter than the other, with one French and two foreignorders shining on his breast, mounted the aide-de-camp's horse, andaway full pelt.
Admitted, after some delay, into the generalissimo's tent, Dujardinfound the old gentleman surrounded by his staff and wroth: nor wasthe danger to which he had been exposed his sole cause of ire.The shot had burst through his canvas, struck a table on which was alarge inkstand, and had squirted the whole contents over thedespatches he was writing for Paris.
Now this old gentleman prided himself upon the neatness of hisdespatches: a blot on his paper darkened his soul.Colonel Dujardin expressed his profound regret. The commander,however, continued to remonstrate. "I have a great deal of writingto do," said he, "as you must be aware; and, when I am writing, Iexpect to be quiet."Colonel Dujardin assented respectfully to the justice of this. Hethen explained at full length why he could not bring a gun in thebattery to silence "Long Tom," and quietly asked to be permitted torun a gun out of the trenches, and take a shot at the offender.
"It is a point-blank distance, and I have a new gun, with which aman ought to be able to hit his own ball at three hundred yards."The commander hesitated."I cannot have the men exposed.""I engage not to lose a man--except him who fires the gun. HE musttake his chance.""Well, colonel, it must be done by volunteers. The men must not beORDERED out on such a service as that."Colonel Dujardin bowed, and retired."Volunteers to go out of the trenches!" cried Sergeant La Croix, ina stentorian voice, standing erect as a poker, and swelling withimportance.There were fifty offers in less than as many seconds.
"Only twelve allowed to go," said the sergeant; "and I am one,"added he, adroitly inserting himself.A gun was taken down, placed on a carriage, and posted near Death'sAlley, but out of the line of fire.
The colonel himself superintended the loading of this gun; and tothe surprise of the men had the shot weighed first, and then weighedout the powder himself.He then waited quietly a long time till the bastion pitched one ofits periodical shots into Death's Alley, but no sooner had the shotstruck, and sent the sand flying past the two lanes of curiousnoses, than Colonel Dujardin jumped upon the gun and waved hiscocked hat. At this preconcerted signal, his battery opened fire onthe bastion, and the battery to his right opened on the wall thatfronted them; and the colonel gave the word to run the gun out ofthe trenches. They ran it out into the cloud of smoke their ownguns were belching forth, unseen by the enemy; but they had nosooner twisted it into the line of Long Tom, than the smoke wasgone, and there they were, a fair mark.
"Back into the trenches, all but one!" roared Dujardin.And in they ran like rabbits.
"Quick! the elevation."Colonel Dujardin and La Croix raised the muzzle to the mark--hoo,hoo, hoo! ping, ping, ping! came the bullets about their ears."Away with you!" cried the colonel, taking the linstock from him.Then Colonel Dujardin, fifteen yards from the trenches, in fullblazing uniform, showed two armies what one intrepid soldier can do.He kneeled down and adjusted his gun, just as he would have done ina practising ground. He had a pot shot to take, and a pot shot hewould take. He ignored three hundred muskets that were levelled athim. He looked along his gun, adjusted it, and re-adjusted it to ahair's breadth. The enemy's bullets pattered upon it: still headjusted it delicately. His men were groaning and tearing theirhair inside at his danger.
At last it was levelled to his mind, and then his movements were asquick as they had hitherto been slow. In a moment he stood erect inthe half-fencing attitude of a gunner, and his linstock at thetouch-hole: a huge tongue of flame, a volume of smoke, a roar, andthe iron thunderbolt was on its way, and the colonel walkedhaughtily but rapidly back to the trenches; for in all this nobravado. He was there to make a shot; not to throw a chance of lifeaway watching the effect.Ten thousand eyes did that for him.
Both French and Prussians risked their own lives craning out to seewhat a colonel in full uniform was doing under fire from a wholeline of forts, and what would be his fate; but when he fired the guntheir curiosity left the man and followed the iron thunderbolt.For two seconds all was uncertain; the ball was travelling.
Tom gave a rear like a wild horse, his protruding muzzle went upsky-high, then was seen no more, and a ring of old iron and aclatter of fragments was heard on the top of the bastion. Long Tomwas dismounted. Oh! the roar of laughter and triumph from one endto another of the trenches; and the clapping of forty thousand handsthat went on for full five minutes; then the Prussians, eitherthrough a burst of generous praise for an act so chivalrous and sobrilliant, or because they would not be crowed over, clapped theirtea thousand hands as loudly, and thus thundering, heart-thrillingsalvo of applause answered salvo on both sides that terrible arena.That evening came a courteous and flattering message from thecommander-in-chief to Colonel Dujardin; and several officers visitedhis quarters to look at him; they went back disappointed. The crywas, "What a miserable, melancholy dog! I expected to see a fine,dashing fellow."The trenches neared the town. Colonel Dujardin's mine was faradvanced; the end of the chamber was within a few yards of thebastion. Of late, the colonel had often visited this mine inperson. He seemed a little uneasy about something in that quarter;but no one knew what: he was a silent man. The third evening, afterhe dismounted Long Tom, he received private notice that an order wascoming down from the commander-in-chief to assault the bastion. Heshrugged his shoulders, but said nothing. That same night thecolonel and one of his lieutenants stole out of the trenches, and bythe help of a pitch-dark, windy night, got under the bastionunperceived, and crept round it, and made their observations, andgot safe back. About noon down came General Raimbaut.