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Becque was pale and puffing like a porpoise. He had not attempted a single thrust or feint, but had merely slashed with tremendous speed, force and orthodoxy.
He was a strong, plain swordsman, but not a really good and pretty fencer. It was like fighting two men at once. Becque instantly cut, with a coup de flanc , and, as I parried, struck at my head. He was fighting even more quickly than in the first round, but with less violence and ferocity. He was tiring, and my chance was coming. I could have touched him a dozen times, but that was not my object.
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Becque was breathing heavily, and it was my turn to attack. Suddenly Becque sprang backward and thrust the point of his sword into the ground. And if you, Becque, retreat again like that, you shall fight with your back to a corner. Becque made another most violent assault. I parried until I judged that his arm was again tired, and then feinted at his head.
France, my beautiful France, my second Mother, had one active enemy the less for quite a good while. There was a most tremendous row, ending in a Conseil de discipline , with myself in the dock, Becque being in the Infirmary. As all was in order, however, and nothing had been irregular except that the duellists had really fought , I was not sent, as my comrades had cheerfully prophesied, to three years' hard labour in the Compagnies de discipline in Algeria. Life, after that promotion, became a little less complex, and improved still further when I headed the list of Volontaires at the October examination, and became a Sergeant.
After hanging between life and death for several weeks, Becque began to mend, and Surgeon-Major Patti-Reville pronounced him to be out of danger. That same day I received an order through Sergeant de Poncey to visit the junior officer of our squadron, Sous-Lieutenant Raoul d'Auray de Redon, in his quarters, after stables.
He has often saved me from suicide--simply by a kind word and his splendid smile. If only our officers were all like him! I, too, had noticed the young gentleman, and had been struck by his beauty. I do not mean prettiness nor handsomeness, but beauty. It shone from within him, and illuminated a perfectly formed face.
A light of truth, strength, courage and gentleness burned like a flame within the glorious lamp of his body. He radiated friendliness, kindness, helpfulness, and was yet the best disciplinarian in the Regiment--because he had no need to "keep" discipline. It kept itself, where he was concerned. And with all his gentle goodness of heart he was a strong man.
Nay, he was a lion of strength and courage. He was seated at a table, and looked up with a long appraising stare, as I saluted and stood at attention. And are you going to start a Clean Finger-nail Crusade in the Blue Hussars, and fight all those who do not join it and live up to its excellent tenets? In addition to his garlic, cast, jerks, German mother, nose-wiping and dog-tooth, he is a seditious scoundrel and a hireling spy and agitator, and is trying to seduce and corrupt foolish troopers.
You have attended his meetings, taken the oath of secrecy and fidelity to his Society, and you have been closeted with him in private at your hotel. I stared at de Redon in astonishment, and said what is frequently an excellent thing to say--nothing. Why did you challenge Becque, after you had joined his little Society for engineering a mutiny in the Regiment, for achieving the destruction of the State, and for encompassing the ruin of France! My idea was to threaten him with a duel for every meeting that he held. Was he--a gentleman--going to demand with threats and menaces that I break my word--even to such a rat as Becque?
Oh, yes, I know all about you, old chap. From de Lannec--though I don't know whether your uncle is aware of the fact. You'll be my 'superior officer' some day, I have no doubt. I must say I admire your pluck in coming to Us by way of the ranks. How soon will you come to Africa? I am off next month. Isn't it a glorious honour to be one of your uncle's picked men? And now about this Becque. You needn't pursue him any more.
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I have been giving myself a little Secret Service practice and experiment. Much easier here in France than it will be in Africa, by Jove! Well, we know all about Becque, and when he leaves hospital he will go where there will be nothing to distract his great mind from his great thoughts for two or three years. He may be a mad dog, as you say, but I fancy that the mad dog has some pretty sane owners and employers.
But some one is going to do so. Some one who attended his last meeting--and who was too drunk to take any oaths.
So drunk that he could only giggle helplessly when invited to swear! You may remember my valuable contribution to the great ideas of the evening. Such was my first encounter with this brilliant and splendid man, whom I came to love as a brother is rarely loved.
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I will tell in due course of my last encounter with him. A letter from de Lannec apprised me of the fact that my uncle had heard of the duel, and seemed amused and far from displeased with me. Poor old de Lannec!
redaberlicols.tk He wrote that his very soul was dead within him, and his life "but dust and ashes, a vale of woe and mourning, a desert of grief and despair in which was no oasis of joy or hope. She had transferred her affections to a colonel of Chasseurs d'Afrique, and departed with him to Fez!
At the end of the year, my uncle was pleased grimly to express himself as satisfied, and to send me forthwith to the Military School of Saumur, where selected Cavalry-Sergeants of good family and superior education are made into officers. I shall never forget my first glimpse of my new home. It is indelibly etched upon the tablets of my memory. I stood at the great gates in the lane that separates the Spahis' barracks from those of the Foreign Legion, and thought of the day--so recently passed--when I had stood, a wretched civilian, at those of the Blue Hussars in St.
Outside the red-white-and-blue-striped sentry-box stood a bearded dusky giant, a huge red turban crowning the snowy linen kafiya that framed his face; a scarlet be-medalled Zouave jacket covering a gaudy waistcoat and tremendous red sash; and the most voluminous skirt-like white baggy trousers almost concealing his great spurred cavalry-boots.
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A huge curved cavalry-sabre hung at his left side, and in his right hand he bore a carbine. He saluted me with faultless smartness and precision, and little guessed how I was thrilled to the marrow of my bones as I returned the first salute I had received from a man of my own Regiment. Standing at the big open window of the Salle de Rapport in the regimental offices near the gate, was a strikingly smart and masculine figure--that of an officer in a gold-frogged white tunic that must surely have covered a pair of corsets , which fitted his wide shoulders and narrow waist as paper fits the walls of a room.
Beneath a high red tarbush smiled one of the handsomest faces I have ever seen. So charming was the smile, so really beautiful the whole man, that it could be none other than Raoul d'Auray de Redon, here a couple of years before me. I know now that one man can really love another with the love that is described as existing between David and Jonathan. I do not believe in love "at first sight," but tremendous attraction, and the strongest liking at first sight, soon came, in this case, to be a case of love at second sight. To this day I can never look upon the portrait of Raoul d'Auray de Redon, of whom more anon, without a pang of bitter-sweet pain and a half-conscious prayer.
June 25, 2011
Beyond this group stood a Lieutenant, examining a horse held by an Arab groom, and I was constrained to stare at this gentleman, for beneath a red tunic he wore a pair of the colossal Spahi white skirt-trousers, and these were gathered in at the ankle to reveal a pair of tiny pointed-toed patent shoes.
I glanced beyond them to the Oriental garden, tree-embowered, which lay between the gates and the distant low-colonnaded stables that housed the magnificent grey Arab horses of the Regiment; and feeling that I could embrace all men, I stepped forward and entered upon my heritage. One quickly grew tired of the mild dissipations of our club, the Cercle Militaire , and of the more sordid ones of the alleged haunts of pleasure boasted by that dull provincial garrison-town. Work saved me from weariness, however, for I worked like a blinded well-camel--at Arabic--in addition to the ordinary duties of a cavalry-officer.
To the Spahis came Dufour, sent by my uncle at my request, and together we pursued our studies in the language and in disguises. Nor was I sorry when, at the earliest possible moment, my uncle again pulled wires, and I was ordered to Morocco. In that fascinating country I was extremely lucky--lucky enough, after weary garrison-duty at Casa Blanca, or rather Ain Bourdja, outside its walls, Rabat, Mequinez, Fez, Dar-Debibagh and elsewhere--to be at the gory fight of R'fakha and to charge at the head of a squadron; and to play my little part in the Chaiova campaigns at Settat, M'koun, Sidi el Mekhi and the M'karto.
After the heavy fighting round, and in, Fez, I was a Captain, and had two pretty little pieces of metal and ribbon to hang on my tunic; and in the nasty little business with the Zarhoun tribe who took it upon them to close the roads between Fez and Tangier and between Meknes and Rabat I was given command of the squadron that formed part of the composite battalion entrusted with the job.
With this squadron was my good Dufour, of course, a non-commissioned officer already wearing the medaille militaire for valour.
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