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Arthur Conan Doyle
The Adventures of Gerard
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THE ADVENTURES OF GERARD
A. Conan Doyle
Il etait brave mais avec cette graine de follie dans sa bravoure que les Français aiment. -
I hope that some readers may possibly be interested in these little tales of the Napoleonic
soldiers to the extent of following them up to the springs from which they flow. The age was
rich in military material, some of it the most human and the most picturesque that I have ever
read. Setting aside historical works or the biographies of the leaders there is a mass of evidence
written by the actual fighting men themselves, which describes their feelings and their
experiences, stated always from the point of view of the particular branch of the service to
which they belonged. The Cavalry were particularly happy in their writers of memoirs. Thus
De Rocca in his Memoires sur la guerre des Francais en Espagne has given the narrative of a
Hussar, while De Naylies in his Memoires sur la guerre d Espagne gives the same campaigns
from the point of view of the Dragoon. Then we have the Souvenirs Militaires du Colonel de
Gonneville, which treats a series of wars, including that of Spain, as seen from under the steel-
brimmed hair-crested helmet of a Cuirassier. Pre-eminent among all these works, and among
all military memoirs, are the famous reminiscences of Marbot, which can be obtained in an
English form. Marbot was a Chasseur, so again we obtain the Cavalry point of view. Among
other books which help one to an understanding of the Napoleonic soldier I would specially
recommend Les Cahiers du Capitaine Coignet, which treat the wars from the point of view of
the private of the Guards, and Les Memoires du Sergeant Bourgoyne, who was a non-
commissioned officer in the same corps. The Journal of Sergeant Fricasse and the Recollections
of de Fezenac and of de Segur complete the materials from which I have worked in my
endeavour to give a true historical and military atmosphere to an imaginary figure.
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.
This is the first in the series of stories by Arthur Conan Doyle called The Adventures of Gerard.
How Brigadier Gerard Lost His Ear
It was the old Brigadier who was talking in the cafe.
I have seen a great many cities, my friends. I would not dare to tell you how many I have entered
as a conqueror with eight hundred of my little fighting devils clanking and jingling behind me.
The cavalry were in front of the Grande Armee, and the Hussars of Conflans were in front of
the cavalry, and I was in front of the Hussars. But of all the cities which we visited Venice is
the most ill-built and ridiculous. I cannot imagine how the people who laid it out thought that
the cavalry could manoeuvre. It would puzzle Murat or Lassalle to bring a squadron into that
square of theirs. For this reason we left Kellermann s heavy brigade and also my own Hussars
at Padua on the mainland. But Suchet with the infantry held the town, and he had chosen me as
his aide- de-camp for that winter, because he was pleased about the affair of the Italian fencing-
master at Milan. The fellow was a good swordsman, and it was fortunate for the credit of French
arms that it was I who was opposed to him. Besides, he deserved a lesson, for if one does not
like a prima donna s singing one can always be silent, but it is intolerable that a public affront
should be put upon a pretty woman. So the sympathy was all with me, and after the affair had
blown over and the man s widow had been pensioned Suchet chose me as his own galloper, and
I followed him to Venice, where I had the strange adventure which I am about to tell you.
You have not been to Venice? No, for it is seldom that the French travel. We were great
travellers in those days. From Moscow to Cairo we had travelled everywhere, but we went in
larger parties than were convenient to those whom we visited, and we carried our passports in
our limbers. It will be a bad day for Europe when the French start travelling again, for they are
slow to leave their homes, but when they have done so no one can say how far they will go if
they have a guide like our little man to point out the way. But the great days are gone and the
great men are dead, and here am I, the last of them, drinking wine of Suresnes and telling old
tales in a cafe.
But it is of Venice that I would speak. The folk there live like water-rats upon a mud-bank, but
the houses are very fine, and the churches, especially that of St. Mark, are as great as any I have
seen. But above all they are proud of their statues and their pictures, which are the most famous
in Europe. There are many soldiers who think that because one s trade is to make war one should
never have a thought above fighting and plunder. There was old Bouvet, for example--the one
who was killed by the Prussians on the day that I won the Emperor s medal; if you took him
away from the camp and the canteen, and spoke to him of books or of art, he would sit and stare
at you. But the highest soldier is a man like myself who can understand the things of the mind
and the soul. It is true that I was very young when I joined the army, and that the quarter- master
was my only teacher, but if you go about the world with your eyes open you cannot help learning
a great deal.
Thus I was able to admire the pictures in Venice, and to know the names of the great men,
Michael Titiens, and Angelus, and the others, who had painted them. No one can say that
Napoleon did not admire them also, for the very first thing which he did when he captured the
town was to send the best of them to Paris. We all took what we could get, and I had two pictures
for my share.
One of them, called Nymphs Surprised, I kept for myself, and the other, Saint Barbara, I
sent as a present for my mother.
It must be confessed, however, that some of our men behaved very badly in this matter of the
statues and the pictures. The people at Venice were very much attached to them, and as to the
four bronze horses which stood over the gate of their great church, they loved them as dearly
as if they had been their children. I have always been a judge of a horse, and I had a good look
at these ones, but I could not see that there was much to be said for them. They were too coarse-
limbed for light cavalry charges and they had not the weight for the gun-teams.
However, they were the only four horses, alive or dead, in the whole town, so it was not to be
expected that the people would know any better. They wept bitterly when they were sent away,
and ten French soldiers were found floating in the canals that night. As a punishment for these
murders a great many more of their pictures were sent away, and the soldiers took to breaking
the statues and firing their muskets at the stained-glass windows.
This made the people furious, and there was very bad feeling in the town. Many officers and
men disappeared during that winter, and even their bodies were never found.
For myself I had plenty to do, and I never found the time heavy on my hands. In every country
it has been my custom to try to learn the language. For this reason I always look round for some
lady who will be kind enough to teach it to me, and then we practise it together. This is the most
interesting way of picking it up, and before I was thirty I could speak nearly every tongue in
Europe; but it must be confessed that what you learn is not of much use for the ordinary
purposes of life. My business, for example, has usually been with soldiers and peasants, and
what advantage is it to be able to say to them that I love only them, and that I will come back
when the wars are over?
Never have I had so sweet a teacher as in Venice. Lucia was her first name, and her second--
but a gentleman forgets second names. I can say this with all discretion, that she was of one of
the senatorial families of Venice and that her grandfather had been Doge of the town.
She was of an exquisite beauty--and when I, Etienne Gerard, use such a word as exquisite,
my friends, it has a meaning. I have judgment, I have memories, I have the means of
comparison. Of all the women who have loved me there are not twenty to whom I could apply
such a term as that. But I say again that Lucia was exquisite.
Of the dark type I do not recall her equal unless it were Dolores of Toledo. There was a little
brunette whom I loved at Santarem when I was soldiering under Massena in Portugal--her name
has escaped me. She was of a perfect beauty, but she had not the figure nor the grace of Lucia.
There was Agnes also. I could not put one before the other, but I do none an injustice when I
say that Lucia was the equal of the best.
It was over this matter of pictures that I had first met her, for her father owned a palace on the
farther side of the Rialto Bridge upon the Grand Canal, and it was so packed with wall-paintings
that Suchet sent a party of sappers to cut some of them out and send them to Paris.
I had gone down with them, and after I had seen Lucia in tears it appeared to me that the plaster
would crack if it were taken from the support of the wall. I said so, and the sappers were
withdrawn. After that I was the friend of the family, and many a flask of Chianti have I cracked
with the father and many a sweet lesson have I had from the daughter. Some of our French
officers married in Venice that winter, and I might have done the same, for I loved her with all
my heart; but Etienne Gerard has his sword, his horse, his regiment, his mother, his Emperor,
and his career. A debonair Hussar has room in his life for love, but none for a wife. So I thought
then, my friends, but I did not see the lonely days when I should long to clasp those vanished
hands, and turn my head away when I saw old comrades with their tall children standing round
their chairs. This love which I had thought was a joke and a plaything--it is only now that I
understand that it is the moulder of one s life, the most solemn and sacred of all things-- Thank
you, my friend, thank you! It is a good wine, and a second bottle cannot hurt.
And now I will tell you how my love for Lucia was the cause of one of the most terrible of all
the wonderful adventures which have ever befallen me, and how it was that I came to lose the
top of my right ear. You have often asked me why it was missing. To-night for the first time I
will tell you.
Suchet s head-quarters at that time was the old palace of the Doge Dandolo, which stands on
the lagoon not far from the place of San Marco. It was near the end of the winter, and I had
returned one night from the Theatre Goldini, when I found a note from Lucia and a gondola
waiting. She prayed me to come to her at once as she was in trouble. To a Frenchman and a
soldier there was but one answer to such a note. In an instant I was in the boat and the gondolier
was pushing out into the dark lagoon.
I remember that as I took my seat in the boat I was struck by the man s great size. He was not
tall, but he was one of the broadest men that I have ever seen in my life. But the gondoliers of
Venice are a strong breed, and powerful men are common enough among them. The fellow
took his place behind me and began to row.
A good soldier in an enemy s country should everywhere and at all times be on the alert. It has
been one of the rules of my life, and if I have lived to wear grey hairs it is because I have
observed it. And yet upon that night I was as careless as a foolish young recruit who fears lest
he should be thought to be afraid. My pistols I had left behind in my hurry. My sword was at
my belt, but it is not always the most convenient of weapons. I lay back in my seat in the
gondola, lulled by the gentle swish of the water and the steady creaking of the oar. Our way lay
through a network of narrow canals with high houses towering on either side and a thin slit of
star-spangled sky above us. Here and there, on the bridges which spanned the canal, there was
the dim glimmer of an oil lamp, and sometimes there came a gleam from some niche where a
candle burned before the image of a saint. But save for this it was all black, and one could only
see the water by the white fringe which curled round the long black nose of our boat. It was a
place and a time for dreaming. I thought of my own past life, of all the great deeds in which I
had been concerned, of the horses that I had handled, and of the women that I had loved. Then
I thought also of my dear mother, and I fancied her joy when she heard the folk in the village
talking about the fame of her son. Of the Emperor also I thought, and of France, the dear
fatherland, the sunny France, mother of beautiful daughters and of gallant sons. My heart
glowed within me as I thought of how we had brought her colours so many hundred leagues
beyond her borders. To her greatness I would dedicate my life. I placed my hand upon my heart
as I swore it, and at that instant the gondolier fell upon me from behind.
When I say that he fell upon me I do not mean merely that he attacked me, but that he really
did tumble upon me with all his weight. The fellow stands behind you and above you as he
rows, so that you can neither see him nor can you in any way guard against such an assault.
One moment I had sat with my mind filled with sublime resolutions, the next I was flattened
out upon the bottom of the boat, the breath dashed out of my body, and this monster pinning
me down. I felt the fierce pants of his hot breath upon the back of my neck. In an instant he had
torn away my sword, had slipped a sack over my head, and had tied a rope firmly round the
outside of it.
There I was at the bottom of the gondola as helpless as a trussed fowl. I could not shout, I could
not move; I was a mere bundle. An instant later I heard once more the swishing of the water
and the creaking of the oar.
This fellow had done his work and had resumed his journey as quietly and unconcernedly as if
he were accustomed to clap a sack over a colonel of Hussars every day of the week.
I cannot tell you the humiliation and also the fury which filled my mind as I lay there like a
helpless sheep being carried to the butcher s. I, Etienne Gerard, the champion of the six brigades
of light cavalry and the first swordsman of the Grand Army, to be overpowered by a single
unarmed man in such a fashion! Yet I lay quiet, for there is a time to resist and there is a time
to save one s strength. I had felt the fellow s grip upon my arms, and I knew that I would be a
child in his hands. I waited quietly, therefore, with a heart which burned with rage, until my
opportunity should come.
How long I lay there at the bottom of the boat I can not tell; but it seemed to me to be a long
time, and always there were the hiss of the waters and the steady creaking of the oar. Several
times we turned corners, for I heard the long, sad cry which these gondoliers give when they
wish to warn their fellows that they are coming. At last, after a considerable journey, I felt the
side of the boat scrape up against a landing-place. The fellow knocked three times with his oar
upon wood, and in answer to his summons I heard the rasping of bars and the turning of keys.
A great door creaked back upon its hinges.
Have you got him? asked a voice, in Italian.
My monster gave a laugh and kicked the sack in which I lay.
Here he is, said he.
They are waiting. He added something which I could not understand.
Take him, then, said my captor. He raised me in his arms, ascended some steps, and I was
thrown down upon a hard floor. A moment later the bars creaked and the key whined once
more. I was a prisoner inside a house.
From the voices and the steps there seemed now to be several people round me. I understand
Italian a great deal better than I speak it, and I could make out very well what they were saying.
You have not killed him, Matteo?
What matter if I have?
My faith, you will have to answer for it to the tribunal.
They will kill him, will they not?
Yes, but it is not for you or me to take it out of their hands.
Tut! I have not killed him. Dead men do not bite, and his cursed teeth met in my thumb as I
pulled the sack over his head.
He lies very quiet.
Tumble him out and you will find that he is lively enough.
The cord which bound me was undone and the sack drawn from over my head. With my eyes
closed I lay motionless upon the floor.
By the saints, Matteo, I tell you that you have broken his neck.
Not I. He has only fainted. The better for him if he never came out of it again.
I felt a hand within my tunic.
Matteo is right, said a voice. His heart beats like a hammer. Let him lie and he will soon find
I waited for a minute or so and then I ventured to take a stealthy peep from between my lashes.
At first I could see nothing, for I had been so long in darkness and it was but a dim light in
which I found myself. Soon, however, I made out that a high and vaulted ceiling covered with
painted gods and goddesses was arching over my head. This was no mean den of cut-throats
into which I had been carried, but it must be the hall of some Venetian palace. Then, without
movement, very slowly and stealthily I had a peep at the men who surrounded me. There was
the gondolier, a swart, hard-faced, murderous ruffian, and beside him were three other men,
one of them a little, twisted fellow with an air of authority and several keys in his hand, the
other two tall young servants in a smart livery. As I listened to their talk I saw that the small
man was the steward of the house, and that the others were under his orders.
There were four of them, then, but the little steward might be left out of the reckoning. Had I a
weapon I should have smiled at such odds as those. But, hand to hand, I was no match for the
one even without three others to aid him. Cunning, then, not force, must be my aid. I wished to
look round for some mode of escape, and in doing so I gave an almost imperceptible movement
of my head. Slight as it was it did not escape my guardians.
Come, wake up, wake up! cried the steward.
Get on your feet, little Frenchman, growled the gondolier. Get up, I say, and for the second
time he spurned me with his foot.
Never in the world was a command obeyed so promptly as that one. In an instant I had bounded
to my feet and rushed as hard as I could to the back of the hall. They were after me as I have
seen the English hounds follow a fox, but there was a long passage down which I tore.
It turned to the left and again to the left, and then I found myself back in the hall once more.
They were almost within touch of me and there was no time for thought. I turned toward the
staircase, but two men were coming down it. I dodged back and tried the door through which I
had been brought, but it was fastened with great bars and I could not loosen them. The gondolier
was on me with his knife, but I met him with a kick on the body which stretched him on his
back. His dagger flew with a clatter across the marble floor. I had no time to seize it, for there
were half a dozen of them now clutching at me. As I rushed through them the little steward
thrust his leg before me and I fell with a crash, but I was up in an instant, and breaking from
their grasp I burst through the very middle of them and made for a door at the other end of the
hall. I reached it well in front of them, and I gave a shout of triumph as the handle turned freely
in my hand, for I could see that it led to the outside and that all was clear for my escape. But I
had forgotten this strange city in which I was. Every house is an island. As I flung open the
door, ready to bound out into the street, the light of the hall shone upon the deep, still, black
water which lay flush with the topmost step.
I shrank back, and in an instant my pursuers were on me.
But I am not taken so easily. Again I kicked and fought my way through them, though one of
them tore a handful of hair from my head in his effort to hold me. The little steward struck me
with a key and I was battered and bruised, but once more I cleared a way in front of me.
Up the grand staircase I rushed, burst open the pair of huge folding doors which faced me, and
learned at last that my efforts were in vain.
The room into which I had broken was brilliantly lighted. With its gold cornices, its massive
pillars, and its painted walls and ceilings it was evidently the grand hall of some famous
Venetian palace. There are many hundred such in this strange city, any one of which has rooms
which would grace the Louvre or Versailles. In the centre of this great hall there was a raised
dais, and upon it in a half circle there sat twelve men all clad in black gowns, like those of a
Franciscan monk, and each with a mask over the upper part of his face.
A group of armed men--rough-looking rascals--were standing round the door, and amid them
facing the dais was a young fellow in the uniform of the light infantry. As he turned his head I
recognised him. It was Captain Auret, of the 7th, a young Basque with whom I had drunk many
a glass during the winter.
He was deadly white, poor wretch, but he held himself manfully amid the assassins who
surrounded him. Never shall I forget the sudden flash of hope which shone in his dark eyes
when he saw a comrade burst into the room, or the look of despair which followed as he
understood that I had come not to change his fate but to share it.
You can think how amazed these people were when I hurled myself into their presence. My
pursuers had crowded in behind me and choked the doorway, so that all further flight was out
of the question. It is at such instants that my nature asserts itself. With dignity I advanced toward
the tribunal. My jacket was torn, my hair was dishevelled, my head was bleeding, but there was
that in my eyes and in my carriage which made them realise that no common man was before
them. Not a hand was raised to arrest me until I halted in front of a formidable old man, whose
long grey beard and masterful manner told me that both by years and by character he was the
man in authority.
Sir, said I, you will, perhaps, tell me why I have been forcibly arrested and brought to this
place. I am an honourable soldier, as is this other gentleman here, and I demand that you will
instantly set us both at liberty.
There was an appalling silence to my appeal. It was not pleasant to have twelve masked faces
turned upon you and to see twelve pairs of vindictive Italian eyes fixed with fierce intentness
upon your face. But I stood as a debonair soldier should, and I could not but reflect how much
credit I was bringing upon the Hussars of Conflans by the dignity of my bearing. I do not think
that anyone could have carried himself better under such difficult circumstances. I looked with
a fearless face from one assassin to another, and I waited for some reply.
It was the grey-beard who at last broke the silence.
Who is this man? he asked.
His name is Gerard, said the little steward at the door.
Colonel Gerard, said I. I will not deceive you. I am Etienne Gerard, THE Colonel Gerard,
five times mentioned in despatches and recommended for the sword of honour. I am aide-de-
camp to General Suchet, and I demand my instant release, together with that of my comrade in
The same terrible silence fell upon the assembly, and the same twelve pairs of merciless eyes
were bent upon my face. Again it was the grey-beard who spoke.
He is out of his order. There are two names upon our list before him.
He escaped from our hands and burst into the room.
Let him await his turn. Take him down to the wooden cell.
If he resist us, your Excellency?
Bury your knives in his body. The tribunal will uphold you. Remove him until we have dealt
with the others.
They advanced upon me, and for an instant I thought of resistance. It would have been a heroic
death, but who was there to see it or to chronicle it? I might be only postponing my fate, and
yet I had been in so many bad places and come out unhurt that I had learned always to hope and
to trust my star. I allowed these rascals to seize me, and I was led from the room, the gondolier
walking at my side with a long naked knife in his hand. I could see in his brutal eyes the
satisfaction which it would give him if he could find some excuse for plunging it into my body.
They are wonderful places, these great Venetian houses, palaces, and fortresses, and prisons all
in one. I was led along a passage and down a bare stone stair until we came to a short corridor
from which three doors opened. Through one of these I was thrust and the spring lock closed
behind me. The only light came dimly through a small grating which opened on the passage.
Peering and feeling, I carefully examined the chamber in which I had been placed. I understood
from what I had heard that I should soon have to leave it again in order to appear before this
tribunal, but still it is not my nature to throw away any possible chances.
The stone floor of the cell was so damp and the walls for some feet high were so slimy and foul
that it was evident they were beneath the level of the water. A single slanting hole high up near
the ceiling was the only aperture for light or air. Through it I saw one bright star shining down
upon me, and the sight filled me with comfort and with hope. I have never been a man of
religion, though I have always had a respect for those who were, but I remember that night that
the star shining down the shaft seemed to be an all-seeing eye which was upon me, and I felt as
a young and frightened recruit might feel in battle when he saw the calm gaze of his colonel
turned upon him.
Three of the sides of my prison were formed of stone, but the fourth was of wood, and I could
see that it had only recently been erected. Evidently a partition had been thrown up to divide a
single large cell into two smaller ones. There was no hope for me in the old walls, in the tiny
window, or in the massive door. It was only in this one direction of the wooden screen that there
was any possibility of exploring. My reason told me that if I should pierce it--which did not
seem very difficult--it would only be to find myself in another cell as strong as that in which I
then was. Yet I had always rather be doing something than doing nothing, so I bent all my
attention and all my energies upon the wooden wall. Two planks were badly joined, and so
loose that I was certain I could easily detach them. I searched about for some tool, and I found
one in the leg of a small bed which stood in the corner. I forced the end of this into the chink of
the planks, and I was about to twist them outward when the sound of rapid footsteps caused me
to pause and to listen.
I wish I could forget what I heard. Many a hundred men have I seen die in battle, and I have
slain more myself than I care to think of, but all that was fair fight and the duty of a soldier. It
was a very different matter to listen to a murder in this den of assassins. They were pushing
someone along the passage, someone who resisted and who clung to my door as he passed.
They must have taken him into the third cell, the one which was farthest from me. Help! Help!
cried a voice, and then I heard a blow and a scream. Help! Help! cried the voice again, and
then Gerard! Colonel Gerard! It was my poor captain of infantry whom they were
Murderers! Murderers! I yelled, and I kicked at my door, but again I heard him shout and
then everything was silent. A minute later there was a heavy splash, and I knew that no human
eye would ever see Auret again. He had gone as a hundred others had gone whose names were
missing from the roll-calls of their regiments during that winter in Venice.
The steps returned along the passage, and I thought that they were coming for me. Instead of
that they opened the door of the cell next to mine and they took someone out of it. I heard the
steps die away up the stair.
At once I renewed my work upon the planks, and within a very few minutes I had loosened
them in such a way that I could remove and replace them at pleasure. Passing through the
aperture I found myself in the farther cell, which, as I expected, was the other half of the one in
which I had been confined. I was not any nearer to escape than I had been before, for there was
no other wooden wall which I could penetrate and the spring lock of the door had been closed.
There were no traces to show who was my companion in misfortune. Closing the two loose
planks behind me I returned to my own cell and waited there with all the courage which I could
command for the summons which would probably be my death knell.
It was a long time in coming, but at last I heard the sound of feet once more in the passage, and
I nerved myself to listen to some other odious deed and to hear the cries of the poor victim.
Nothing of the kind occurred, however, and the prisoner was placed in the cell without violence.
I had no time to peep through my hole of communication, for next moment my own door was
flung open and my rascally gondolier, with the other assassins, came into the cell.
Come, Frenchman, said he. He held his blood- stained knife in his great, hairy hand, and I
read in his fierce eyes that he only looked for some excuse in order to plunge it into my heart.
Resistance was useless. I followed without a word. I was led up the stone stair and back into
that gorgeous chamber in which I had left the secret tribunal. I was ushered in, but to my surprise
it was not on me that their attention was fixed. One of their own number, a tall, dark young
man, was standing before them and was pleading with them in low, earnest tones. His voice
quivered with anxiety and his hands darted in and out or writhed together in an agony of
entreaty. You cannot do it! You cannot do it! he cried.
I implore the tribunal to reconsider this decision.
Stand aside, brother, said the old man who presided.
The case is decided and another is up for judgment.
For Heaven s sake be merciful! cried the young man.
We have already been merciful, the other answered.
Death would have been a small penalty for such an offence. Be silent and let judgment take its
I saw the young man throw himself in an agony of grief into his chair. I had no time, however,
to speculate as to what it was which was troubling him, for his eleven colleagues had already
fixed their stern eyes upon me.
The moment of fate had arrived.
You are Colonel Gerard? said the terrible old man.
Aide-de-camp to the robber who calls himself General Suchet, who in turn represents that
It was on my lips to tell him that he was a liar, but there is a time to argue and a time to be
I am an honourable soldier, said I. I have obeyed my orders and done my duty.
The blood flushed into the old man s face and his eyes blazed through his mask.
You are thieves and murderers, every man of you, he cried. What are you doing here? You
Why are you not in France? Did we invite you to Venice? By what right are you here? Where
are our pictures? Where are the horses of St. Mark? Who are you that you should pilfer those
treasures which our fathers through so many centuries have collected? We were a great city
when France was a desert. Your drunken, brawling, ignorant soldiers have undone the work of
saints and heroes. What have you to say to it?
He was, indeed, a formidable old man, for his white beard bristled with fury and he barked out
the little sentences like a savage hound. For my part I could have told him that his pictures
would be safe in Paris, that his horses were really not worth making a fuss about, and that he
could see heroes--I say nothing of saints--without going back to his ancestors or even moving
out of his chair. All this I could have pointed out, but one might as well argue with a Mameluke
about religion. I shrugged my shoulders and said nothing.
The prisoner has no defence, said one of my masked judges.
Has any one any observation to make before judgment is passed? The old man glared round
him at the others.
There is one matter, your Excellency, said another.
It can scarce be referred to without reopening a brother s wounds, but I would remind you that
there is a very particular reason why an exemplary punishment should be inflicted in the case
of this officer.
I had not forgotten it, the old man answered.
Brother, if the tribunal has injured you in one direction, it will give you ample satisfaction in
The young man who had been pleading when I entered the room staggered to his feet.
I cannot endure it, he cried. Your Excellency must forgive me. The tribunal can act without
me. I am ill.
I am mad. He flung his hands out with a furious gesture and rushed from the room.
Let him go! Let him go! said the president. It is, indeed, more than can be asked of flesh and
blood that he should remain under this roof. But he is a true Venetian, and when the first agony
is over he will understand that it could not be otherwise.
I had been forgotten during this episode, and though I am not a man who is accustomed to being
overlooked I should have been all the happier had they continued to neglect me. But now the
old president glared at me again like a tiger who comes back to his victim.
You shall pay for it all, and it is but justice that you should, he said. You, an upstart
adventurer and foreigner, have dared to raise your eyes in love to the grand daughter of a Doge
of Venice who was already betrothed to the heir of the Loredans. He who enjoys such privileges
must pay a price for them.
It cannot be higher than they are worth, said I.
You will tell us that when you have made a part payment, said he. Perhaps your spirit may
not be so proud by that time. Matteo, you will lead this prisoner to the wooden cell. To-night is
Monday. Let him have no food or water, and let him be led before the tribunal again on
Wednesday night. We shall then decide upon the death which he is to die.
It was not a pleasant prospect, and yet it was a reprieve. One is thankful for small mercies when
a hairy savage with a blood-stained knife is standing at one s elbow. He dragged me from the
room and I was thrust down the stairs and back into my cell. The door was locked and I was
left to my reflections.
My first thought was to establish connection with my neighbour in misfortune. I waited until
the steps had died away, and then I cautiously drew aside the two boards and peeped through.
The light was very dim, so dim that I could only just discern a figure huddled in the corner, and
I could hear the low whisper of a voice which prayed as one prays who is in deadly fear. The
boards must have made a creaking. There was a sharp exclamation of surprise.
Courage, friend, courage! I cried. All is not lost.
Keep a stout heart, for Etienne Gerard is by your side.
Etienne! It was a woman s voice which spoke--a voice which was always music to my ears. I
sprang through the gap and I flung my arms round her.
Lucia! Lucia! I cried.
It was Etienne! and Lucia! for some minutes, for one does not make speeches at moments
like that. It was she who came to her senses first.
Oh, Etienne, they will kill you. How came you into their hands?
In answer to your letter.
I wrote no letter.
The cunning demons! But you?
I came also in answer to your letter.
Lucia, I wrote no letter.
They have trapped us both with the same bait.
I care nothing about myself, Lucia. Besides, there is no pressing danger with me. They have
simply returned me to my cell.
Oh, Etienne, Etienne, they will kill you. Lorenzo is there.
The old greybeard?
No, no, a young dark man. He loved me, and I thought I loved him until--until I learned what
love is, Etienne. He will never forgive you. He has a heart of stone.
Let them do what they like. They cannot rob me of the past, Lucia. But you--what about you?
It will be nothing, Etienne. Only a pang for an instant and then all over. They mean it as a
badge of infamy, dear, but I will carry it like a crown of honour since it was through you that I
Her words froze my blood with horror. All my adventures were insignificant compared to this
terrible shadow which was creeping over my soul.
Lucia! Lucia! I cried. For pity s sake tell me what these butchers are about to do. Tell me,
I will not tell you, Etienne, for it would hurt you far more than it would me. Well, well, I will
tell you lest you should fear it was something worse. The president has ordered that my ear be
cut off, that I may be marked for ever as having loved a Frenchman.
Her ear! The dear little ear which I had kissed so often. I put my hand to each little velvet shell
to make certain that this sacrilege had not yet been committed.
Only over my dead body should they reach them. I swore it to her between my clenched teeth.
You must not care, Etienne. And yet I love that you should care all the same.
They shall not hurt you--the fiends!
I have hopes, Etienne. Lorenzo is there. He was silent while I was judged, but he may have
pleaded for me after I was gone.
He did. I heard him.
Then he may have softened their hearts.
I knew that it was not so, but how could I bring myself to tell her? I might as well have done
so, for with the quick instinct of woman my silence was speech to her.
They would not listen to him! You need not fear to tell me, dear, for you will find that I am
worthy to be loved by such a soldier. Where is Lorenzo now?
He left the hall.
Then he may have left the house as well.
I believe that he did.
He has abandoned me to my fate. Etienne, Etienne, they are coming!
Afar off I heard those fateful steps and the jingle of distant keys. What were they coming for
now, since there were no other prisoners to drag to judgment? It could only be to carry out the
sentence upon my darling.
I stood between her and the door, with the strength of a lion in my limbs. I would tear the house
down before they should touch her.
Go back! Go back! she cried. They will murder you, Etienne. My life, at least, is safe. For
the love you bear me, Etienne, go back. It is nothing. I will make no sound. You will not hear
that it is done.
She wrestled with me, this delicate creature, and by main force she dragged me to the opening
between the cells. But a sudden thought had crossed my mind.
We may yet be saved, I whispered. Do what I tell you at once and without argument. Go into
I pushed her through the gap and helped her to replace the planks. I had retained her cloak in
my hands, and with this wrapped round me I crept into the darkest corner of her cell. There I
lay when the door was opened and several men came in. I had reckoned that they would bring
no lantern, for they had none with them before.
To their eyes I was only a dark blur in the corner.
Bring a light, said one of them.
No, no; curse it! cried a rough voice, which I knew to be that of the ruffian, Matteo. It is not
a job that I like, and the more I saw it the less I should like it. I am sorry, signora, but the order
of the tribunal has to be obeyed.
My impulse was to spring to my feet and to rush through them all and out by the open door.
But how would that help Lucia? Suppose that I got clear away, she would be in their hands until
I could come back with help, for single-handed I could not hope to clear a way for her. All this
flashed through my mind in an instant, and I saw that the only course for me was to lie still,
take what came, and wait my chance. The fellow s coarse hand felt about among my curls--
those curls in which only a woman s fingers had ever wandered. The next instant he gripped my
ear and a pain shot through me as if I had been touched with a hot iron. I bit my lip to stifle a
cry, and I felt the blood run warm down my neck and back.
There, thank Heaven, that s over, said the fellow, giving me a friendly pat on the head. You re
a brave girl, signora, I ll say that for you, and I only wish you d have better taste than to love a
Frenchman. You can blame him and not me for what I have done.
What could I do save to lie still and grind my teeth at my own helplessness? At the same time
my pain and my rage were always soothed by the reflection that I had suffered for the woman
whom I loved. It is the custom of men to say to ladies that they would willingly endure any pain
for their sake, but it was my privilege to show that I had said no more than I meant. I thought
also how nobly I would seem to have acted if ever the story came to be told, and how proud the
regiment of Conflans might well be of their colonel. These thoughts helped me to suffer in
silence while the blood still trickled over my neck and dripped upon the stone floor. It was that
sound which nearly led to my destruction.
She s bleeding fast, said one of the valets. You had best fetch a surgeon or you will find her
dead in the morning.
She lies very still and she has never opened her mouth, said another. The shock has killed
Nonsense; a young woman does not die so easily. It was Matteo who spoke. Besides, I did
but snip off enough to leave the tribunal s mark upon her. Rouse up, signora, rouse up!
He shook me by the shoulder, and my heart stood still for fear he should feel the epaulet under
How is it with you now? he asked.
I made no answer.
Curse it, I wish I had to do with a man instead of a woman, and the fairest woman in Venice,
said the gondolier. Here, Nicholas, lend me your handkerchief and bring a light.
It was all over. The worst had happened. Nothing could save me. I still crouched in the corner,
but I was tense in every muscle, like a wild cat about to spring.
If I had to die I was determined that my end should be worthy of my life.
One of them had gone for a lamp and Matteo was stooping over me with a handkerchief. In
another instant my secret would be discovered. But he suddenly drew himself straight and stood
motionless. At the same instant there came a confused murmuring sound through the little
window far above my head. It was the rattle of oars and the buzz of many voices. Then there
was a crash upon the door upstairs, and a terrible voice roared: Open! Open in the name of the
The Emperor! It was like the mention of some saint which, by its very sound, can frighten the
Away they ran with cries of terror--Matteo, the valets, the steward, all of the murderous gang.
Another shout and then the crash of a hatchet and the splintering of planks. There were the rattle
of arms and the cries of French soldiers in the hall. Next instant feet came flying down the stair
and a man burst frantically into my cell.
Lucia! he cried, Lucia! He stood in the dim light, panting and unable to find his words.
Then he broke out again. Have I not shown you how I love you, Lucia? What more could I do
to prove it? I have betrayed my country, I have broken my vow, I have ruined my friends, and
I have given my life in order to save you.
It was young Lorenzo Loredan, the lover whom I had superseded. My heart was heavy for him
at the time, but after all it is every man for himself in love, and if one fails in the game it is
some consolation to lose to one who can be a graceful and considerate winner.
I was about to point this out to him, but at the first word I uttered he gave a shout of
astonishment, and, rushing out, he seized the lamp which hung in the corridor and flashed it in
It is you, you villain! he cried. You French coxcomb. You shall pay me for the wrong which
you have done me.
But the next instant he saw the pallor of my face and the blood which was still pouring from
What is this? he asked. How come you to have lost your ear?
I shook off my weakness, and pressing my handkerchief to my wound I rose from my couch,
the debonair colonel of Hussars.
My injury, sir, is nothing. With your permission we will not allude to a matter so trifling and
But Lucia had burst through from her cell and was pouring out the whole story while she clasped
Lorenzo s arm.
This noble gentleman--he has taken my place, Lorenzo! He has borne it for me. He has suffered
that I might be saved.
I could sympathise with the struggle which I could see in the Italian s face. At last he held out
his hand to me.
Colonel Gerard, he said, you are worthy of a great love. I forgive you, for if you have
wronged me you have made a noble atonement. But I wonder to see you alive. I left the tribunal
before you were judged, but I understood that no mercy would be shown to any Frenchman
since the destruction of the ornaments of Venice.
He did not destroy them, cried Lucia. He has helped to preserve those in our palace.
One of them, at any rate, said I, as I stooped and kissed her hand.
This was the way, my friends, in which I lost my ear. Lorenzo was found stabbed to the heart
in the Piazza of St. Mark within two days of the night of my adventure. Of the tribunal and its
ruffians, Matteo and three others were shot, the rest banished from the town.
Lucia, my lovely Lucia, retired into a convent at Murano after the French had left the city, and
there she still may be, some gentle lady abbess who has perhaps long forgotten the days when
our hearts throbbed together, and when the whole great world seemed so small a thing beside
the love which burned in our veins. Or perhaps it may not be so. Perhaps she has not forgotten.
There may still be times when the peace of the cloister is broken by the memory of the old
soldier who loved her in those distant days. Youth is past and passion is gone, but the soul of
the gentleman can never change, and still Etienne Gerard would bow his grey head before her
and would very gladly lose his other ear if he might do her a service.
This is the second in a series of stories by Arthur Conan Doyle called The Adventures of Gerard
How the Brigadier Captured Saragossa
Have I ever told you, my friends, the circumstances connected with my joining the Hussars of
Conflans at the time of the siege of Saragossa and the very remarkable exploit which I
performed in connection with the taking of that city? No? Then you have indeed something still
to learn. I will tell it to you exactly as it occurred. Save for two or three men and a score or two
of women, you are the first who have ever heard the story.
You must know, then, that it was in the Second Hussars--called the Hussars of Chamberan--
that I had served as a lieutenant and as a junior captain. At the time I speak of I was only twenty-
five years of age, as reckless and desperate a man as any in that great army.
It chanced that the war had come to a halt in Germany, while it was still raging in Spain, so the
Emperor, wishing to reinforce the Spanish army, transferred me as senior captain to the Hussars
of Conflans, which were at that time in the Fifth Army Corps under Marshal Lannes.
It was a long journey from Berlin to the Pyrenees.
My new regiment formed part of the force which, under Marshal Lannes, was then besieging
the Spanish town of Saragossa. I turned my horse s head in that direction, therefore, and behold
me a week or so later at the French headquarters, whence I was directed to the camp of the
Hussars of Conflans.
You have read, no doubt, of this famous siege of Saragossa, and I will only say that no general
could have had a harder task than that with which Marshal Lannes was confronted. The
immense city was crowded with a horde of Spaniards--soldiers, peasants, priests --all filled with
the most furious hatred of the French, and the most savage determination to perish before they
would surrender. There were eighty thousand men in the town and only thirty thousand to
besiege them. Yet we had a powerful artillery, and our engineers were of the best. There was
never such a siege, for it is usual that when the fortifications are taken the city falls, but here it
was not until the fortifications were taken that the real fighting began. Every house was a fort
and every street a battle-field, so that slowly, day by day, we had to work our way inwards,
blowing up the houses with their garrisons until more than half the city had disappeared. Yet
the other half was as determined as ever and in a better position for defence, since it consisted
of enormous convents and monasteries with walls like the Bastille, which could not be so easily
brushed out of our way. This was the state of things at the time that I joined the army.
I will confess to you that cavalry are not of much use in a siege, although there was a time when
I would not have permitted anyone to have made such an observation. The Hussars of Conflans
were encamped to the south of the town, and it was their duty to throw out patrols and to make
sure that no Spanish force was advancing from that quarter. The colonel of the regiment was
not a good soldier, and the regiment was at that time very far from being in the high condition
which it afterwards attained. Even in that one evening I saw several things which shocked me,
for I had a high standard, and it went to my heart to see an ill- arranged camp, an ill-groomed
horse, or a slovenly trooper. That night I supped with twenty-six of my new brother-officers,
and I fear that in my zeal I showed them only too plainly that I found things very different to
what I was accustomed in the army of Germany.
There was silence in the mess after my remarks, and I felt that I had been indiscreet when I saw
the glances that were cast at me. The colonel especially was furious, and a great major named
Olivier, who was the fire-eater of the regiment, sat opposite to me curling his huge black
moustaches, and staring at me as if he would eat me. However, I did not resent his attitude, for
I felt that I had indeed been indiscreet, and that it would give a bad impression if upon this my
first evening I quarrelled with my superior officer.
So far I admit that I was wrong, but now I come to the sequel. Supper over, the colonel and
some other officers left the room, for it was in a farm-house that the mess was held. There
remained a dozen or so, and a goat-skin of Spanish wine having been brought in we all made
merry. Presently this Major Olivier asked me some questions concerning the army of Germany
and as to the part which I had myself played in the campaign. Flushed with the wine, I was
drawn on from story to story. It was not unnatural, my friends.
You will sympathise with me. Up there I had been the model for every officer of my years in
the army. I was the first swordsman, the most dashing rider, the hero of a hundred adventures.
Here I found myself not only unknown, but even disliked. Was it not natural that I should wish
to tell these brave comrades what sort of man it was that had come among them? Was it not
natural that I should wish to say, Rejoice, my friends, rejoice! It is no ordinary man who has
joined you to-night, but it is I, THE Gerard, the hero of Ratisbon, the victor of Jena, the man
who broke the square at Austerlitz ? I could not say all this. But I could at least tell them some
incidents which would enable them to say it for themselves. I did so. They listened unmoved. I
told them more. At last, after my tale of how I had guided the army across the Danube, one
universal shout of laughter broke from them all. I sprang to my feet, flushed with shame and
anger. They had drawn me on. They were making game of me. They were convinced that they
had to do with a braggart and a liar. Was this my reception in the Hussars of Conflans?
I dashed the tears of mortification from my eyes, and they laughed the more at the sight.
Do you know, Captain Pelletan, whether Marshal Lannes is still with the army? asked the
I believe that he is, sir, said the other.
Really, I should have thought that his presence was hardly necessary now that Captain Gerard
Again there was a roar of laughter. I can see the ring of faces, the mocking eyes, the open
mouths-- Olivier with his great black bristles, Pelletan thin and sneering, even the young sub-
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