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hanging so like a cupola over our heads, assisted, perhaps, by some electrical or other peculiar state of the atmosphere, has repeated or reflected the sound of the ringing of a ship's bell now lying just without the verge of our horizon."
"Very learned, indeed," said the captain.
"And most unsatisfactory," repeated the lieutenant, who felt himself in duty bound to side with his commanding officer.
"But it may be true, nevertheless," replied the purser. "At all events it is a much more rational conclusion than supposing the sounds to be the result of supernatural agency."
It was evident that the hypothesis of Old Nipcheese, as the purser was nicknamed, was scouted by "Jack;" and, indeed, the majority of the "hands" put their heads together and prophesied that evil would come of it. "There never was such a stupid yarn ever spun as the purser's. A cow sticks indeed!—what had that to do with bell-ringing? He'd better attend to his own business, and serve out better baccay and slops." Then followed all manner of absurd predictions; for, like their officers, the men preferred to believe in the impossible rather than in the probable.
However, as the sounds were now discontinued, the frigate's bell was re-hooked, the captain returned to his cabin, and the crew to their respective duties; but it was remarked on that night, that every mess spun more yarns about supernatural events than had been heard for months before.
But the reader demands to know if the hypothesis of the purser was confirmed. Happily it was. After we had been becalmed another day, a stranger hove in sight, borne down to us by a whiffling catspaw that died away just as she reached us. She proved to be an outward-bound Indiaman. If I remember right, her name was the "General Palmer." As the two ships lay becalmed for some hours very near each other, we sent a boat on board for news from England —the frigate having been in the East for three years. While discussing other matters, we heard that the Indiaman had crossed the line on the day of our alarm at the bell-ringing, and that they had performed the usual ceremony of shaving the "greenhorns" on that occasion, accompanied with immense fun.
After the usual compliments, somewhat hastened by an appearance of a breeze, we were about to step over the side, when it suddenly occurred to tho officer in command of the boat to ask the captain of the Indiaman if, during the Saturnalia of crossing the line, his ship's bell had been rung very violently.
"Very," replied the captain; "very; it was one of the main features of our droll pastime. But why do you ask?"
"Oh, nothing particular—at least, not very," he said hesitatingly; "only we fancied we heard it."
"What! on board your frigateV replied the captain; "that's impossible. Why, we never sighted you till this morning."
"Nevertheless, I believe we heard your bell,"
said the lieutenant; and then followed a description of the peculiar manner the bell was rung, which so exactly tallied with what occurred on board the Indiaman, that no doubt any longer existed as to the truth of the hypothesis so cleverly advanced by the purser. But, notwithstanding this explanation, and its singular confirmation, there were scores of sailors in the frigate, bold, hardy, strong-willed men, who resolutely refused to believe; and to the day of their deaths were doubtless prepared to maintain that the ship's bell was rung by supernatural agency.
THREE VISITS TO THE HOTEL DES INVALIDES, 1705, 1806, 1840.
ON the 9th of May, 1705, the soldiers of the Hotel des Invalides were ranged in line in the great Court of Honor. It was touching to sec two thousand brave fellows, all more or less mutilated in war, pressing round the banners which they had won in many a bloody fight. Among these victims of war might be seen soldiers of all ages. Some had fought at Fribourg or Rocroy; others at the passage of the Rhine, or the taking of Maastricht; a few of the oldest bad assisted in the capture of La Rochelle, under Cardinal Richelieu, while one or two could even remember the battle of Mariendal under Turenne. But all alike appeared happy and pleased, waiting for the coming of Louis XIV., who had announced his intention of visiting for the first time these, as he called them, "glorious relies of his battalions."
At length, surrounded by a magnificent cortege of guards and nobles, the royal carriage approached; and, with that delicate courtesy so well understood by the king, the troops in attendance were ordered to sheathe their swords and fall back as he entered the gateway. "M. de Breteuil," said the monarch to the captain of his guard, "the King of France has no need of an escort when ho finds himself in the midst of his brave veterans."
Followed by the Dauphin, the Marquis de Louvais, and other distinguished personages, Louis carefully inspected the invalids, pausing now and then to address a few kind words to those whom he recognized. One very young lad chanced to attract the king's attention. His face was very pale, and he seemed to have received a severe wound in the neck.
"What is your name!" asked Louis.
"In what battle were you wounded?"
"At Blenheim, sirs."
At that word the brow of Louis darkened.
"Under what marshal did you servo?"
"Sire, under Monseigneur de Tallard."
"Messieurs de Tallard and de Marsein," said the monarch, turning to Louvais, "can reckon a sufficient number of glorious days to efface the memory of that one. Even the sun is not without a spot." And again addressing the young soldier, he said, "Aro you happy here!"
"Ah! sire," replied Maurice, "your majesty's goodness leaves us nothing to wish for."
The Marshal tie Urancey, governor of the establishment, advanced and said: "Sire, behold the fruits of your beneficence! Before your accession the defenders of France bad no asylum: now, thanks to your majesty, want or distress can never reach those who have shed their blood for their country. And if that which still runs through our veins can do aught for the safety or glory of our king, doubtless we will yet show our successors what stout hearts and willing hands can do."
Once more Louis looked around, and asked in a loud voice: "Well, my children, are ye happy hero?"
Till that moment etiquette and discipline had imposed solemn silence; but when the king asked a question, must he not be answered! So two thousand voices cried together: "We are! we are!—Long live the king! Long live Louis!"
Accompanied by the governor and a guard of honor chosen from among the invalids, the monarch then walked through the establishment. The guard consisted of twenty men, of whom ten had lost a log, and ten an arm, while the faces of all were scarred and seamed with honorable wounds. One of them, while serving as a subaltern at the battle of Berengen, threw himself before his colonel in time to save him, and received a ricochet bullet in his own leg. Another at the age of seventy-five was still a dandy, and managed to plait a queue with three hairs which yet remained on the top of his head. In one of the battles his arm was carried off by a bullet. "Ah, my ring! my ring!" cried he to a trumpeter next him— "go get me my ring!" It had been a present from a noble lady; and when the trumpeter placed it in his remaining hand, he seemed perfectly contented.
The royal procession quitted the Hotel amidst the saluting of cannon, and the shouting of the inmates; and the next day, in order to commemorate the event, the following words were engraved on a piece of ordnance: "Louis the Great honored with his august presence, for the first time, his Hotel des Invalides, on the 9th May, 1705."
On the afternoon of the 1st September, 1806, Napoleon mounted his horse, and quitted St. Cloud, accompanied only by his grand marshal, his aid-de-camp, Rapp, and a page. After enjoying a brisk gallop through the Bois de Boulogne, he drew up at the gate of Maillot, and dismissed his attendants, with the exception of Rapp, who followed him into the avenue of Neuilly. Galloping by the spot where the triumphal arch was then beginning to rise from its foundations, they reached the grand avenue of the Champs Elysees, and proceeded toward the Hotel des Invalides. There Napoleon stopped and gazed at the splendid edifice, glowing in the beams of the setting sun.
"Fine! very fine!" he repeated several times. "Truly Louis XIV. was a great king!" Then addressing Rapp, he said, "I am going to visit my invalids this evening. Hold my horse—I
shall not stay long." And throwing the bridle to his aid-de-camp, Napoleon passed beneath the principal gateway. Seeing a man dressed in a military hat, and with two epaulets badly concealed by his half-buttoned redingote, the sentry supposed him to be a superior officer, and allowed him to pass without question.
Crossing his arms on his chest, the visitor, having reached the principal court, stopped and looked around him. Suddenly the conversation of two invalids coming out of the building attracted his attention. In order to listen, be walked behind them, regulating his pace by theirs, for they walked very slowly. These two men seemed bowed down with years. The least feeble of them led his companion, and as they tottered on he looked anxiously around.
"Jerome," said the eldest, in a husky voice, "do you see him coming?"
"No, father; but never mind! I'll read him a lecture which he w on't forget in a hurn—careless boy that he is!"
"But, Jcrcme, we must make some allowance for him—we were once young ourselves. Besides, I dare say he thought my prayers would not be finished so soon this evening—the boy has a kind heart."
Napoleon stepped forward, and addressing the old men, said, "Apparently, my friends, you are waiting for some one?"
The youngest looked up and touched his hat, for he saw the gleam of the epaulets.
"Yes, colonel," replied he, "my father Maurice and I have been waiting for my truant son. He knows well that his grandfather requires the support of his aims to reach the dormitory, as one of mine is—" Here he shook his empty'sleeve.
"You are a brave fellow!" said the Emperor, "and your son has done wrong. But how came your father," he continued, as they walked along, "to remain so late out?"
"Because, colonel, he always devctes the afternoon of the 1st of September to con memorate the anniversary of the death of the king under whom he formerly served."
"What king was that?"
"His late majesty, Louis XIV.," said the old man, who had not before joined in the conversation.
"Louis XIV.!" repeated Napoleon in astonishment. "Where can you have seen him?"
"Here, in this place; he spoke to me, and I answered," said Maurice, grandly.
"How old are you?"
"If I live till Candlemas, colonel, I shall be one hundred and twenty-one years old."
"A hundred and twenty-one years!" cried the Emperor. And taking the old man's arm, he said kindly, "Lean on me, old comrade, 1 will support you."
"No, no, colonel; I know too well the respect—"
"Nonsense! I desire it." And the Emperor gently placed the arm within his own, although the veteran still resisted.
"Come, father," said Jerome, " do as the colonel orders you, or else the end of your politeness will be, that you'll have a fine cold to-morrow. And then this young Cyprian is not coming yet!"
"You must have entered this Hotel while very young? " said Napoleon, as they walked along.
"Yes, colonel; I was but eighteen when I fought at Freidlingen, and the next year, at Blenheim, I received a wound in my neck which disabled me, and obtained for me the favor of entering here."
"It was not a favor," interrupted Napoleon— "it was a right."
"I have lived here upward of a hundred years. I was married here, and I have seen all my old comrades pass away. But, although there are only young people now in the Hotel, I am very happy since my children came to join me."
"M. Jerome," said Napoleon, "how old are you? "
"Going on ninety-one, colonel; I was born in 1715."
"Yes," said his father, " the very year that his late majesty, Louis XIV., died. I remember it as well as if it were yesterday."
"What battles have you been in, my friend?"
"At Fontenoy, colonel, at Lamfedl, at Rosbach, at Berghen, and at Fribourg. It was in the last battle I lost my arm. I came here in the year 1763, in the time of Louis XV."
"That poor king," said Napoleon, as if speaking to himself, "who signed a shameful treaty that deprived France of fifteen hundred leagues of coast."
"And for the last forty-three years," said Maurice, "Jerome has watched me like a good and dutiful son. Pity that his should be so forgetful!"
"Well," said Napoleon, " I will do my best to supply M. Cyprien's place. At your age it is not good to be under the night air."
"Here he comes at last!" cried Jerome.
The Emperor looked with some curiosity at this wild boy, for whose youth allowance was to be made, and saw to his astonishment an invalid of some sixty years old, with two wooden legs, but one eye, and a frightfully scarred face, advancing toward them as quickly as his infirmities would permit. Jerome began to reproach his truant son, but the latter interrupted him by holding up a flask, a piece of white bread, and a few lumps of sugar. "See," he said, "it was getting these things that delayed me. I knew grandfather would like a draught of warm wine and sugar after his long stay out; so I went to my old friend Colibert, and persuaded him to give me his allowance of wine in exchange for my mounting guard in his place to-morrow."
"Well, well," said Jerome, " that was thoughtful of youymy boy, but meantime we should have been badly off but for the kindness of this noble colonel, who has made your grandfather lean on him."
Cyprien saluted the Emperor, whom, in the increasing darkness, he did not recognize, and said, "Now then, sir, with your permission I will resume my post."
"And an honorable one it is," said Napoleon. "Pray, in what engagement were you wounded 1"
"At the battle of Fleurus, colonel, gained against the Austrians by General Jourdan, now Marshal of the Empire. A volley of grape-shot knocked out my eye, and carried off both my legs at the same time. But," added Cyprien, striking his powerful chest, "my heart was not touched, nor my stomach either, and they have both, I hope, some good days' work in them yet."
Napoleon smiled. "The battle of Fleurus," he said, "was fought, I think, in 1794?"
"That was already in Bonaparte's time," remarked Maurice.
"Grandfather," replied Cyprien, "please to say the Emperor Napoleon the Great; that is his proper title."
"In the time of his late majesty, Louis XIV.—'"
"Ah, grandfather," interrupted Cyprien, impatiently, "we're tired of hearing about that monarch of the old regime, who used to go to war in a flowing wig and silk stockings! He's not to be mentioned in the same year with the Emperor, who dresses and lives like one of ourselves. Is it not so, colonel? "
Napoleon knitted his brows, and answered coldly: "You are mistaken, M. Cyprien; Louis XIV. was a great king! It was he who raised Franco to the first rank among the nations of Europe; it was he who first marshaled 400,000 soldiers on land, and one hundred vessels on the sea. He added to his dominions Roussillon, Franche-Comte, and Flanders; he seated one of his children on the throne of Spain; and it was he who founded this Hotel des Invalides. Since Charlemagne, there has not been a king in France worthy of being compared to him!"
This eulogium on the monarch whom he almost idolized, caused the dim eyes of old Maurice to sparkle; he tried to straighten himself, and said, in a broken voice: "Bravo! bravo! Ah! colonel, you are worthy to have served his late majesty, Louis XIV. Had you lived in his time he would have made you a field-marshal!"
Somewhat abashed, Cyprien stammered out, "Excuse me, colonel; but you know I never knew this king of grandfather's. I only heard him spoken of by some of the oldest men here."
"And those who spoke disrespectfully of him," said Napoleon, " did wrong. Here, at all events, the memory of Louis XlV. ought to be venerated."
At that moment lights appeared at the end of the court, a sound of voices was heard, and many persons approached. Rapp had waited a long time on the spot where the Emperor had left him; but when it became dark, and his master did not return, he grew uneasy, and giving the horses in charge to a soldier, he entered the Hotel, and told the governor, Marshal Serrurier, that the Emperor had been for the last hour mcogntto within the walls. The news spread quickly among the of ficers; they hastened to look for their beloved master, and found him on the terrace conversing with his three companions.
At the cries of " Here he is! long live the Emperor !"' Cyprien, fixing his eye attentively on the supposed colonel, suddenly recognized him, and clasping his hands, exclaimed: "Ah! Sire, pardon me. Father, grandfather—this is the Emperor himself!"
"You the Emperor, colonel!" cried the two old men.
"Yes, my children," replied Napoleon, kindly holding each by an arm, in order to prevent them from kneeling, "although much younger than you, I am your father, and the father of every soldier who has fought for the honor of France!"
At that moment, Rapp, the governor, and their attendants, came up and saluted Napoleon. With a stern look, he said to his aid-de-camp, in an under tone, "You should have had patience to wait." Then, turning to the others in an affable manner, he said: "Approach, marshal and gentlemen; help me to recompense three generations of heroes. These brave men," pointing to Maurice, Jerome, and Cyprien, "have fought in three glorious battles—Freidlingen, Racours, and Fleurus. Marshal," to Serrurier," lend me your cross; you shall have one in its stead to-morrow," he added, smiling. "Give me yours also, Rapp."
Having received the two crosses, Napoleon gave one to Jerome, the other to Cyprien; and then taking off his own, he fastened it on the breast of the venerable Maurice, saying, as he did so, "My old comrade, I regret that I did not sooner discharge this debt which France owes you."
"Long live the Emperor! long live the Emperor !" shouted all present.
"Sire," said old Maurice, in a voice trembling with rapture, "you have made the remainder of life happy to me and my children."
"My brave fellow," replied Napoleon, giving his hand, which the old man seized and pressed respectfully with his lips, '' I repeat that I am only discharging a debt which our country owes you."
Meantime the news had spread throughout the Hotel that the Emperor was there. All the inmates, disregarding rules and discipline, came out of their rooms, and rushed into the court, crying out, "Long live the Emperor!"
In a moment Napoleon found himself surrounded by a crowd of eager veterans, each trying who could get nearest to his beloved general.
"My Emperor!" cried one, " I was with you at Toulon!" "And I at the passage of St. Bernard!" "And I at Trebia!" "You spoke to me at Aboukir!" "I shared my bread with you at Roveredo!" "I picked up your hat at Marengo!" "I was at Austcrlitz !" etc., etc.
Napoleon smiled at the reminiscences of these extempore Xenophons, and tried to answer each individually, inquiring whether they were content with their position, or wished for any thing with which he could supply them.
At length Napoleon took leave of the governor; and the crowd opening, respectfully made way for him to pass to the gate. Rapp had sent back the horses, and ordered a carriage with an escort
of dragoons to be in attendance. The Emperor got in with his aid-de-camp, while the echoes of the Seine resounded with shouts of " Fire VEmpereur!"
"This has been one of the happiest evenings in my life!" he said to Rapp. "I should like well enough to pass the remainder of my days in the Hotel des Invalides."
"Then I," replied the aid-de-camp, with his usual frankness, "should like to be assured of dying and being buried there."
"Who knows?" said Napoleon; "that may happen; and I myself—who knows—" He did not finish the sentence, but fell into a profound reverie, which lasted during the remainder of the driveiii.
On the 15th of December, 1840, a funeral car, covered with crowns of laurel, preceded by the banner of France, and followed by the surviving relies of her forty armies, passed slowly beneath the Triumphal Arch de l'Etoile. The sarcophagus it bore contained the mortal spoils of him who, in the space of fifteen years, had well-nigh conquered the world. The dead Napoleon was thus tardily bome to his place beneath that dome raised for the shelter of heroes.
Late in the evening, when the crowd had slowly dispersed, when the murmur of its thousand mournful voices was hushed, when the solitude was complete, and the silence unbroken, an invalid, a centegenarian, almost blind, and walking on two wooden legs, entered the chapel where reposed the body of Napoleon. Supported by two of his comrades, he reached with difficulty the foot of the imperial catafalque. Taking off his wooden legs in order to kneel down, he bent his venerable head on the steps; and presently, mingled with sobs, ho uttered in broken accents the words, "Emperor! father!"
At length his companions succeeded in drawing him away; and as he passed out, the superior officers of the Hotel respectfully saluted the old man. He who thus came to render his last homage to his master was Cyprien, the grandson of father Maurice.
A CHAPTER ON ASHES.
SOME of the most beautiful provisions of an Almighty power are lost to our comprehension from the very circumstance of their being so common. If the world's economy had been regulated by the Creator after the fashion of our own imperfect schemes, among which there are various degrees of excellence, then we might have been struck with perfections by comparison with things less perfect; but where all is so perfect, so excellent, the beauty of that excellence is only to be learned by study and attention. •
What can seemingly present so uninteresting a scope for investigation as the theme of ashes? What subject apparently so commonplace, so poor, so uninviting' Yet beautiful considerations spring out of the study of this material, and* proofs of God's benevolence are made evident, as we shall see.
Reader, have you never stood before a blacksmith's forge! Have you never seen a piece of iron, white-hot and glowing, snatched from the forge, and then, when laid on the anvil and struck by a hammer, dart forth in every direction its sparkling coruscations! What do you imagine to be the nature of these metallic coruscations? They are ashes, nothing but ashes—ashes of burning iron; and although such ashes arc dignified by chemists with a peculiar name, being called "oxide of iron," yet they are nevertheless ashes. Let us here pause awhile to create in the reader's mind an idea with which he is perhaps not yet familiar—an idea of the combustibility of iron. Every body knows that candles and coal and wood, and many other things ordinarily termed combustibles, will burn, but every body does not yet know that a piece of iron will in like manner burn, even though they may have seen the operation performed.
Although the heating of a piece of iron in a smith's forge is the instance we have chosen, yet there are far commoner examples than this. Is the circumstance not quite familiar to most of us, that a fire-poker becomes after the lapse of time considerably diminished in size! and do we not even in common languago say that the poker has burned away? The expression is not figurative, it is real; in point of fact, iron is a combustible body, and so, under peculiar circumstances, is every other metal, not even gold being an exception to the rule. Perhaps the reader will like to witness a rather more decided case of iron combustion than any of those we have already cited. Well, his desires can be gratified with much ease. If a very fine sewing needlo be stuck by means of its eye extremity in a piece of cork, and its point inserted into the flame of a candle, the point will take fire, and dart off sparks in evory direction. Presently, however, for some reason not yet evident, although it will be soon, the needle ceases to burn, and now it is time for us to pause, and reflect on what we have seen. The very fact thit iron burns under ordinary circumstances, yet docs not bum well, demonstrates the beauty of that provision by which the Almighty has rendered the metal iron adapted to our wants. Supposing it wero so constituted as not merely to burn, but to burn well in the ordinary manner of combustibles, then we at once see that the metal iron might as well have not existed for aught of service it would have been to man. Who would be thoughtless enough to build fire-stoves of wood! or to make tongs and pokers and shovels of wood \ It is evident such instruments never could be used for their appropriate purposes. They would take fire, and burn, dissipated for the most part into invisible fleeting gases, but leaving a little, a very little, ashes. Well, if iron had been capable of bnrning a little more readily than it does, then we could no more have formed fire-tongs and shovels and grates and pokers of iron than we now can of wood. All this is evident; but a very wonderful fact remains to be told. Although burning wood is dissipated for the most part into gases and smake, leaving but very little ashes, yet iron
when burned yields no gas or smoke, but is converted entirely into ashes; and still more wonderful to relate, the ashes weigh more than the original iron, so that twenty-eight pounds of iron yield after combustion no less than thirty-three pounds of ashes. See what a beautiful provision of nature this circumstance makes known to us. It appears that wood and coal and coke, and every other variety of fuel commonly used by mankind, would have been totally unadapted to our uses, if provision had not been made relative to the quantity of their resulting ashes. Thus, suppose for an instant that every twenty-eight pounds of coals had been so constituted that they must have yielded thirty-three of ashes, it follows that in process of time we could no longer have employed coal as fuel. The constant necessity for clearing away so vast an amount of ashes would have been too much for us. The vicinity of man's dwelling-places would be disfigured by enormous heaps of unsightly cinders. But the mere embarrassment connected with the presence of such a material where not required is not the only disadvantage that would ensue. Providence has so arranged matters, that the ashes of wood and coals, and perhaps of all other bodies commonly employed by man as articles of fuel, shall be advantageous to man's future wants. Thus, for instance, supposing wood to be the combustible under consideration, the resulting ashes are for the most part a mixture of various substances which are soluble in water, and which being dissolved by rain, prove advantageous to the growth of plants. Of this kind is potash, a substance not only useful as a manure, but employed in the manufacture of soap and numerous other articles. All the potash sold in shops was originally produced from woodashes; and in certain places, where soap is dear, water that has been poured over wood-ashes and has extracted the potash is used as a substitute.
At this period of our description, the reader may as well perform an experiment. It will require no costly apparatus, and will teach an important fact; therefore, although not of a very showy character, the experiment will not be devoid of interest. Taking a portion of actually pure water —that is to say, distilled water—the young experimentalist may pour it into a watch-glass, and, placing the watch-glass in a heated oven, the whole may be allowed to remain until perfectly dry. These directions being attended to, it will be found, at the expiration of a certain time—dependent on the quantity of water used, the degree of heat employed, and some other considerations —that the watch-glass is not only perfectly dry, but also quite clean and unsoiled; in other words, that all the water has been driven oft" in the form of steam. But if the experiment be repeated with water that has been allowed to come in contact with wood-ashes, and from which the ashes have been allowed to deposit, then the watch-glass will contain a portion—a small portion it is true—of white solid matter, which, in general terms, may be called "potash;" and in this way potash, sold in commerce under the name of pearlash, is actually made on the large scale.