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How The Brigadier Bore Himself At Waterloo Arthur Conan Doyle

The Story Of The Forest Inn

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By this time I was sure that the last of the army corps was past, and I went to my loophole confident that I should find the coast clear, save, perhaps, for a few stragglers, whom I could disregard. The first corps was indeed past, and I could see the last files of the infantry disappearing into the wood; but you can imagine my disappointment when out of the Forest of St. Lambert I saw a second corps emerging, as numerous as the first.

There could be no doubt that the whole Prussian army, which we thought we had destroyed at Ligny, was about to throw itself upon our right wing while Marshal Grouchy had been coaxed away upon some fool's errand.

The roar of guns, much nearer than before, told me that the Prussian batteries which had passed me were already in action. Imagine my terrible position! Hour after hour was passing; the sun was sinking toward the west.

And yet this cursed inn, in which I lay hid, was like a little island amid a rushing stream of furious Prussians.

It was all important that I should reach Marshal Grouchy, and yet I could not show my nose without being made prisoner. You can think how I cursed and tore my hair. How little do we know what is in store for us!

Even while I raged against my ill-fortune, that same fortune was reserving me for a far higher task than to carry a message to Grouchy--a task which could not have been mine had I not been held tight in that little inn on the edge of the Forest of Paris.

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Two Prussian corps had passed and a third was coming up, when I heard a great fuss and the sound of several voices in the sitting-room. By altering my position I was able to look down and see what was going on.

Two Prussian generals were beneath me, their heads bent over a map which lay upon the table. Several aides- de-camp and staff officers stood round in silence. Of the two generals, one was a fierce old man, white-haired and wrinkled, with a ragged, grizzled moustache and a voice like the bark of a hound. The other was younger, but long-faced and solemn. He measured distances upon the map with the air of a student, while his companion stamped and fumed and cursed like a corporal of Hussars. It was strange to see the old man so fiery and the young one so reserved. I could not understand all that they said, but I was very sure about their general meaning.

"I tell you we must push on and ever on!" cried the old fellow, with a furious German oath. "I promised Wellington that I would be there with the whole army even if I had to be strapped to my horse. Bulow's corps is in action, and Ziethen's shall support it with every man and gun. Forward, Gneisenau, forward!"

The other shook his head.

"You must remember, your Excellency, that if the English are beaten they will make for the coast. What will your position be then, with Grouchy between you and the Rhine?"

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The Adventures of Gerard
Arthur Conan Doyle

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