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|The Adventures of Gerard||Arthur Conan Doyle|
How The Brigadier Saved The Army
|Page 10 of 16||
"Gerard!" said he; "Gerard!"
I could but look my sympathy, but he, though the life was ebbing swiftly out of him, still kept his duty before him, like the gallant gentleman he was.
"The beacon, Gerard! You will light it?"
"Have you flint and steel?"
"It is here!"
"Then I will light it to-night."
"I die happy to hear you say so. They shot me, Gerard.
But you will tell the Marshal that I did my best."
"He was less fortunate. He fell into their hands and died horribly. If you see that you cannot get away, Gerard, put a bullet into your own heart. Don't die as Cortex did."
I could see that his breath was failing, and I bent low to catch his words.
"Can you tell me anything which can help me in my task?" I asked.
"Yes, yes; de Pombal. He will help you. Trust de Pombal." With the words his head fell back and he was dead.
"Trust de Pombal. It is good advice." To my amazement a man was standing at the very side of me.
So absorbed had I been in my comrade's words and intent on his advice that he had crept up without my observing him. Now I sprang to my feet and faced him. He was a tall, dark fellow, black-haired, black-eyed, black-bearded, with a long, sad face. In his hand he had a wine-bottle and over his shoulder was slung one of the trabucos or blunderbusses which these fellows bear. He made no effort to unsling it, and I understood that this was the man to whom my dead friend had commended me.
"Alas, he is gone!" said he, bending over Duplessis.
"He fled into the wood after he was shot, but I was fortunate enough to find where he had fallen and to make his last hours more easy. This couch was my making, and I had brought this wine to slake his thirst."
"Sir," said I, "in the name of France I thank you. I am but a colonel of light cavalry, but I am Etienne Gerard, and the name stands for something in the French army. May I ask----"
"Yes, sir, I am Aloysius de Pombal, younger brother of the famous nobleman of that name. At present I am the first lieutenant in the band of the guerilla chief who is usually known as Manuelo, 'The Smiler.' "
My word, I clapped my hand to the place where my pistol should have been, but the man only smiled at the gesture.
"I am his first lieutenant, but I am also his deadly enemy," said he. He slipped off his jacket and pulled up his shirt as he spoke. "Look at this!" he cried, and he turned upon me a back which was all scored and lacerated with red and purple weals. "This is what 'The Smiler' has done to me, a man with the noblest blood of Portugal in my veins. What I will do to 'The Smiler' you have still to see."
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|The Adventures of Gerard
Arthur Conan Doyle
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