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Authors: Baroness Emmuska Orczy

The Bronze Eagle

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Title: The Bronze Eagle

A Story of the Hundred Days

Author: Emmuska Orczy, Baroness Orczy

Release Date: July 2, 2008 [eBook #25955]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

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THE BRONZE EAGLE
BARONESS ORCZY
By BARONESS ORCZY
The Bronze Eagle
A Bride of the Plains
The Laughing Cavalier
"Unto Caesar"
El Dorado
Meadowsweet
The Noble Rogue
The Heart of a Woman
Petticoat Rule
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
NEW YORK
THE BRONZE EAGLE
A STORY OF THE HUNDRED DAYS
BY BARONESS ORCZY

Author of "The Laughing Cavalier," "The Scarlet Pimpernel," Etc., Etc.

NEW YORK
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY

Copyright, 1915,
By Baroness Orczy

Copyright, 1915,
By George H. Doran Company

This novel was published serially, under the title of "Waterloo"

CONTENTS
CHAPTER
 
PAGE
 
The Landing at Jouan
9
I.
The Glorious News
14
II.
The Old Régime
49
III.
The Return of the Emperor
85
IV.
The Empress' Millions
138
V.
The Rivals
196
VI.
The Crime
221
VII.
The Ascent of the Capitol
236
VIII.
The Sound of Revelry by Night
261
IX.
The Tarpeian Rock
285
X.
The Last Throw
305
XI.
The Losing Hands
338
XII.
The Winning Hand
370

[Pg 9]

THE BRONZE EAGLE
THE LANDING AT JOUAN

The perfect calm of an early spring dawn lies over headland and
sea—hardly a ripple stirs the blue cheek of the bay. The softness of
departing night lies upon the bosom of the Mediterranean like the dew
upon the heart of a flower.

A silent dawn.

Veils of transparent greys and purples and mauves still conceal the
distant horizon. Breathless calm rests upon the water and that awed hush
which at times descends upon Nature herself when the finger of Destiny
marks an eventful hour.

But now the grey and the purple veils beyond the headland are lifted one
by one; the midst of dawn rises upwards like the smoke of incense from
some giant censers swung by unseen, mighty hands.

The sky above is of a translucent green, studded with stars that blink
and now are slowly extinguished one by one: the green has turned to
silver, and the silver to lemon-gold: the veils beyond the upland are
flying in the wake of departing Night.

The lemon-gold turns to glowing amber, anon to orange and crimson, and
far inland the mountain peaks, peeping shyly through the mist, blush a
vivid rose to find themselves so fair.

And to the south, there where fiery sea blends and merges with fiery
sky, a tiny black speck has just come
[Pg 10]
into view. Larger and larger it
grows as it draws nearer to the land, now it seems like a bird with
wings outspread—an eagle flying swiftly to the shores of France.

In the bay the fisher folk, who are making ready for their day's work,
pause a moment as they haul up their nets: with rough brown hands held
above their eyes they look out upon that black speck—curious,
interested, for the ship is not one they have seen in these waters
before.

"'Tis the Emperor come back from Elba!" says someone.

The men laugh and shrug their shoulders: that tale has been told so
often in these parts during the past year: the good folk have ceased to
believe in it. It has almost become a legend now, that story that the
Emperor was coming back—their Emperor—the man with the battered hat
and the grey redingote: the people's Emperor, he who led them from
victory to victory, whose eagles soared above every capital and every
tower in Europe, he who made France glorious and respected: her
citizens, men, her soldiers, heroes.

And with stately majesty the dawn yields to day, the last tones of
orange have faded from the sky: it is once more of a translucent green
merging into sapphire overhead. And the great orb in the east rises from
out the trammels of the mist, and from awakening Earth and Sea comes the
great love-call, the triumphant call of Day. And far away upon the
horizon to the south, the black speck becomes more distinct and more
clear; it takes shape, substance, life.

It divides and multiplies, for now there are three or four specks
silhouetted against the sky—not three or four, but five—no! six—no!
seven! Seven black specks which detach themselves one by one, one from
another and from the vagueness beyond—experienced eyes scan the horizon
with enthusiasm and excitement which threaten to blur
[Pg 11]
the clearness of
their vision. Anyone with an eye for sea-going craft can distinguish
that topsail-schooner there, well ahead of the rest of the tiny fleet,
skimming the water with swift grace, and immediately behind her the
three-masted polacca—hm! have we not seen her in these waters
before?—and the two graceful feluccas whose lateen sails look so like
the outspread wings of a bird!

But it is on the schooner that all eyes are riveted now: she skips along
so fast that within an hour her pennant is easily distinguishable—red
and white! the flag of Elba, of that diminutive toy-kingdom which for
the past twelve months has been ruled over by the mightiest conqueror
this modern world has ever known.

The flag of Elba! then it is the Emperor coming back!

A crowd had gathered on the headland now—a crowd made up of bare-footed
fisher-folk, men, women, children, and of the labourers from the
neighbouring fields and vineyards: they have all come to greet the
Emperor—the man with the battered hat and the grey redingote, the
curious, flashing eyes and mouth that always spoke genial words to the
people of France!

Traitors turned against him—Ney! de Marmont! Bernadotte! those on whom
he had showered the full measure of his friendship, whom he had loaded
with honours, with glory and with wealth. Foreign armies joined in
coalition against France and forced the people's Emperor to leave his
country which he loved so well, had sent him to humiliation and to
exile. But he had come back, as all his people had always said that he
would! He had come back, there was the topsail-schooner that was
bringing him home so swiftly now.

Another hour and the schooner's name can be deciphered quite
easily—
L'Inconstant
, and that of the polacca
Le Saint-Esprit
. . .
and beyond these
L'Etoile
and
Saint
[Pg 12]
Joseph
,
Caroline
. And the
entire little fleet flies the flag of Elba.

The Emperor has come back! Bare-footed fisherfolk whisper it among
themselves, the labourers in the valley call the news to those upon the
hills.

Why! after another hour or so, there are those among the small knot who
stand congregated on the highest point of the headland, who swear that
they can see the Emperor—standing on the deck of the
L'Inconstant
.

He wears a black bicorne hat, and his grey redingote: he is pacing up
and down the deck of the schooner, his hands held behind his back in the
manner so familiar to the people of France. And on his hat is pinned the
tricolour of France. Everyone on shore who is on the look-out for the
schooner now can see the tricolour quite plainly. A mighty shout escapes
the lusty throats of the men on the beach, the women are on the verge of
tears from sheer excitement, and that shout is repeated again and again
and sends its ringing echo from cliff to cliff, and from fort to fort as
the red and white pennant of the kingdom of Elba is hauled down from the
ship's stern and the tricolour flag—the flag of Liberty and of
regenerate France—is hoisted in its stead.

The soft breeze from the south unfurls its folds and these respond to
his caress. The red, white and blue make a trenchant note of colour now
against the tender hues of the sea: flaunting its triumphant message in
the face of awakening nature.

The eagle has left the bounds of its narrow cage of Elba: it has taken
wing over the blue Mediterranean! within an hour, perhaps, or two, it
will rest on the square church tower of Antibes—but not for long. Soon
it will take to its adventurous flight again, and soar over valley and
mountain peak, from church belfry to church belfry until it finds its
resting-place upon the towers of Notre Dame.

[Pg 13]
One hour after noon the curtain has risen upon the first act of the most
adventurous tragedy the world has ever known.

Napoleon Bonaparte has landed in the bay of Jouan with eleven hundred
men and four guns to reconquer France and the sovereignty of the world.
Six hundred of his old guard, six score of his Polish light cavalry,
three or four hundred Corsican chasseurs: thus did that sublime
adventurer embark upon an expedition the most mad, the most daring, the
most heroic, the most egotistical, the most tragic and the most glorious
which recording Destiny has ever written in the book of this world.

The boats were lowered at one hour after noon, and the landing was
slowly and methodically begun: too slowly for the patience of the old
guard—the old "growlers" with grizzled moustache and furrowed cheeks,
down which tears of joy and enthusiasm were trickling at sight of the
shores of France. They were not going to wait for the return of those
boats which had conveyed the Polish troopers on shore: they took to the
water and waded across the bay, tossing the salt spray all around them
as they trod the shingle, like so many shaggy dogs enjoying a bath; and
when six hundred fur bonnets darkened the sands of the bay at the foot
of the Tower of la Gabelle, such a shout of "Vive l'Empereur" went forth
from six hundred lusty throats that the midday spring air vibrated with
kindred enthusiasm for miles and miles around.

[Pg 14]

CHAPTER I
THE GLORIOUS NEWS
I

Where the broad highway between Grenoble and Gap parts company from the
turbulent Drac, and after crossing the ravine of Vaulx skirts the
plateau of La Motte with its magnificent panorama of forests and
mountain peaks, a narrow bridle path strikes off at a sharp angle on the
left and in wayward curves continues its length through the woods
upwards to the hamlet of Vaulx and the shrine of Notre Dame.

Far away to the west the valley of the Drac lies encircled by the
pine-covered slopes of the Lans range, whilst towering some seven
thousand and more feet up the snow-clad crest of Grande Moucherolle
glistens like a sea of myriads of rose-coloured diamonds under the kiss
of the morning sun.

There was more than a hint of snow in the sharp, stinging air this
afternoon, even down in the valley, and now the keen wind from the
northeast whipped up the faces of the two riders as they turned their
horses at a sharp trot up the bridle path.

Though it was not long since the sun had first peeped out above the
forests of Pelvoux, the riders looked as if they had already a long
journey to their credit; their horses were covered with sweat and
sprinkled with lather, and they themselves were plentifully bespattered
with mud, for the road in the valley was soft after the thaw. But
[Pg 15]
despite probable fatigue, both sat their horse with that ease and
unconscious grace which marks the man accustomed to hard and constant
riding, though—to the experienced eye—there would appear a vast
difference in the style and manner in which each horseman handled his
mount.

One of them had the rigid precision of bearing which denotes military
training: he was young and slight of build, with unruly dark hair
fluttering round the temples from beneath his white sugar-loaf hat, and
escaping the trammels of the neatly-tied black silk bow at the nape of
the neck; he held himself very erect and rode his horse on the curb, the
reins gathered tightly in one gloved hand, and that hand held closely
and almost immovably against his chest.

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