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In this little town, Prussian lancers made love to their entertainers' daughters; in that cottage the kilted Highlander rocked the cradle of the Dutch boor; in yonder tavern some harebrained son of the Emerald Isle caroused with the heavier spirits of the Teuton race.* But more stirring events were rapidly hatching. France was pregnant with projects; her manufactories and workshops were full of energy in the preparation of arms; raw conscripts were once more torn from their mothers and sisters; pensioners were called out; and in a few weeks hundreds of thousands of men assumed the defensive.
Well may historians admire the creative genius of that powerful mind, which could, as by an enchanter's wand, make the earth give out glittering columns, and corps of accoutred heroes !
Such is a rapid glance of the state of things, at the particular period spoken of in this story.
One evening in the middle of June, 1815, there were seated in a back chamber of an
Gleig's “Story of the Battle of Waterloo." Alison, Scott, &c.
obscure inn at Brussels, two military men engaged in 'earnest conversation. the hour of twilight, and only the general outline of the speakers could be discerned, as the vague-mestre entered and placed in the hand of one, a parcel which had come by the last mail. The receiver glanced at it for a moment, and then, as if recognising the address, carelessly threw it into a chair by which he was sitting, and muttered, “A letter from my sister.”
“ You think lightly, I fear, of our deed to-morrow," said the other; “but I wished to meet you here this evening for a few moments, not to discuss warfare, but to make one or two requests, to be fulfilled in the event of my fall. These I know you will promise to see executed, should you be my survivor. A soldier's life is at the best an uncertain one, but how much more so at a crisis like the present.
This document you will have the kindness to put into your pocket, it contains my last wishes, and if I die, then open it; its contents might interest you. If we live through the fight, restore
it to me unopened. This ring and this locket I will sew in the skirts of my coat, and ere my corse is laid beneath the turf, secure them.
These are the requests I make. I have made such before—in India, Egypt, or the plains of the Peninsula I have felt, too, the peculiar feelings consequent on such instructions, but never was I so unnerved as now; a presentiment hangs forebodingly over me. You will smile when I tell you—laugh at my folly, but last night my slumber-thoughts were borne back with strange and seeming reality to days gone by, and my spirit communed with shadowy beings, whom it once loved on earth, but whose frail tenements have long been dust. I thought they pointed, with inviting hand, to bright and distant lands, seen beaming beyond regions of far-outstretched darkness, where the blessed did summer high upon the hills of God. I am not so superstitious as Nicias, and have often ridiculed those who dreamed dreams, yet a whispering voice within tells me my days are numbered.”
The cheek of the addressed, could it have been seen more distinctly in the evening gloom, grew paler. The reciter of the foregoing incident fancied he had produced an unwonted emotion in his listener's bosom; he then observed, in a tone of cheerfulness,
'Tis indeed foolish in one like myself, who hath often vaunted that his arm was brave, to think of the silly vagaries of the drowsy god.”
"A wise man derides such phantoms, yet I have often thought these sleepy visions sybils of the future, and there is an ancient saying-"Όναρ έστι Διοσ.”
The dreamer briefly resumed his remarks associated with the probabilities of the coming campaign, and in iteration concluded: “I hope, my lad, you will live through this and many a coming fight-aye, and that you are destined to taste more of life's happiness than has been my own lot. May honours be your portion as well as wealth.”
“If, sir, Providence permit me to tell the tale of the impending action, I will with pleasure execute your commands with all fidelity—methinks, however, the chances of war are greater against me than yourself. I am young, untried, unknown; have honours to win, all to gain, nothing to lose. You, sir, have long shown to the world you wear no craven heart. You have passed a period long enough in your country's service to merit its gratitude and insure its applause. Your transient despondency is corporeal, 'tis rather from some peccant humour in your blood, than any dread of strife. My own feelings are, or ought to be, different. I joy that a field is at hand where glory or death await the brave. Yes! I have honours to win; my comfort now is to climb the slippery heights of dread ambition. As you recollect, Themistocles could not sleep for thinking of the triumphs of Miltiades, so ought I to be watchful when I recount your own illustrious career on the paths of fame. Aye! to many a troubled and distracted spirit, long fretted by this world's jars and disquietudes, the din of combat and the clash of arms will be welcome to the ear as the melodies of youthful days.' Where rolls the tide of battle