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قراءة كتاب Won By the Sword : a tale of the Thirty Years' War

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‏اللغة: English
Won By the Sword : a tale of the Thirty Years' War

Won By the Sword : a tale of the Thirty Years' War

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 2

learned the drill, and I have heard and read about battles and sieges, so I am chosen to command."

"And so you know something of the battles in which Turenne was engaged?"

"I think I know about them all, sir, both in Holland and on the Rhine, and have seen plans of the battles. Of course this is not at all like La Motte, which was on the top of a high rock, so that when Turenne was ordered to attack with his regiment after the general's son had failed, he had to pass not only through a heavy fire, but through the huge stones that the enemy hurled down. It was grand; and he did well at all the other sieges. Then, again, there was Saverne. See how he fought there, and stormed the place when even the Swedes, who are good soldiers, had failed. I think he is going to be the greatest of our captains."

"Turenne is only a learner in the art of war," the other said gravely.

"I think he has learnt more than any of the rest," the boy said boldly; "and all the soldiers love him more than any of the other generals, for he takes such care of them, and does not treat them as if they were dirt under his feet, only meant to obey orders, and go and get killed when told."

"You have heard him very much over praised," the officer said quietly. "I think that he does his best; but he is a young man yet, not older than I am. His advance has been due to fortune rather than to his own merits."

"I don't think so," the boy said sturdily. "Do you think that he would be a lieutenant general at twenty-eight, and that all the soldiers would speak of him as they do, if it were only fortune? Look how he captured Landrecies and Solre, and drove the Austrians back from Maubeurge, and aided the Duke of Weimar to thrash them at Weilenweir, and stormed the main fort of Breisach! He has been successful in all his enterprises, and now it is said he is to command in Italy, where things have been going on badly. The cardinal would not have chosen him had he not considered that no one could do better than he."

The officer laughed. "Well, young sir, I see that you are so well acquainted with the sieges and battles of our time that I cannot argue with you."

"I did not mean that, sir," the boy said in some confusion. "I was only saying what our soldiers think, and it is natural that I, being only a boy, should make him my hero, for he went to the wars when he was a year younger than I am, and at fourteen carried a musket as a volunteer under Maurice of Nassau, and for five years he was in all the battles in Holland, and raised the first battery that opened on Bois-le-duc."

"And do you receive no pension as the son of an officer killed in battle?"

"No, sir. When the living soldiers often have to go months without their pay, the sons of dead ones can hardly expect to be thought of. But I don't care; in two years I shall be old enough to enlist, and I shall go to the frontier and join Hepburn's Scottish brigade, who are now, they say, in the French service."

"They are fine soldiers—none better," the officer said. "But why does not the colonel of your father's regiment ask for a commission for you?"

"The regiment is not in favour with the cardinal," the boy replied with a smile. "They are too Protestant for his eminence, and the colonel is not a man to ask favours if he is likely to be refused."

"Well," the officer said, "it is clear to me that you are a lad of spirit, and that you have done your best to prepare yourself for your profession as a soldier by studying military history, and I think it hard that, as the son of an officer who died in battle for France, France should have done nothing for you. I have some little influence myself. What is the name of this cabaret that Sergeant MacIntosh keeps?"

"The Scottish Soldier, sir. It is near the gate of the barracks of St. Denis."

"Do not go out tomorrow afternoon. I will have a talk with him, and maybe I can be of some assistance to you."

So saying, he touched his horse's flank with his heel and rode on, while the boys continued their play. The next afternoon the lad remained at home, to the surprise of the sergeant.

"What keeps you in today, Hector? It is rare indeed that you are indoors in the afternoon."

"An officer came along while we were playing," the lad said, "and asked me some questions. I told him who I was. He said that he had some influence, and might be able to assist me."

"What sort of assistance?" the sergeant grumbled. "He must have influence indeed if he can get you a pension."

"I don't think it was that," the boy said. "I said that I should like to enlist as a volunteer."

The sergeant laughed. "Well, they do take volunteers as young as you are, Hector, but they must be cadets of a noble family. You will have to wait another couple of years before they will enlist you, much less take you as a volunteer."

There were a good many Scottish soldiers sitting in the room, when an officer rode up to the door and dismounted.

"It is a general officer," one of the men said, looking out of the window, and as the door opened and the officer entered, all stood up and saluted.

"Sit down, men," he said. "I am not here to disturb you, but to have a talk with Sergeant MacIntosh. Have you a room, sergeant, where we can speak privately?"

"Yes, general," the sergeant said, saluting again, and led the way into a little room generally devoted to the use of noncommissioned officers. The officer caught Hector's eye, and beckoned to him to follow.

"Do you know me, sergeant?"

"Yes, general, you are Viscount Turenne."

Hector gave an involuntary exclamation of horror at the thought of the freedom with which he had the day before discoursed with this famous commander. Military officers at that time did not wear any set uniforms, and indeed there was very considerable latitude among the soldiers, and it was only because he was followed by two attendants that the boy had taken him to be an officer, probably a young captain. The quietness of his dress had not even led him to believe that he belonged to a noble family.

"This lad tells me that he is the son of Captain Campbell of the Scottish regiment?"

"That is so, general."

"And also that you were a sergeant in his father's company, and have since taken care of him."

"I have done the best I could for him, general; but indeed the officers of the regiment allow me quite as much as the lad's food costs."

"He seems to be a careful student of military history, sergeant?"

"That he is, sir. I don't think there has been a battle, or even a skirmish, in the past ten years which he cannot tell you the ins and outs of. He will sit here for hours as quiet as a mouse when some soldiers from the wars come in, and sometimes he gets books lent him with the plans of battles and sieges, and when he is not doing that he is in the barrack yard watching the men drill. I believe he knows all the words of command as well as any captain in the Scottish regiment. As to handling his musket, I have taught him that myself, and the use of a sword, too, since he was ten years old, and the men of his father's company have taken pleasure in teaching the lad all they knew in that way."

"He reminds me of my own boyhood," the general said. "I like his looks, and it seems to me that he has the making of a good officer. All the officers of the regiment are men of good Scottish families, and as such can serve in any capacity. I have often need of a young officer who can carry my messages on a field of battle, and can be trusted to understand their import and deliver them faithfully. Now, Campbell," he said, turning to the lad, who was standing with flushed face and eyes beaming with delight and gratitude, "I will give you the choice. I will either appoint you a volunteer for a year, in which time, if your conduct is satisfactory, I will name you lieutenant, or I will take you directly into my own household. My object in either case would be to produce an officer likely to be useful to his