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THE Clock of the little town of Menda had just struck midnight. At that moment, a young French officer was leaning over the parapet of a terrace which bordered the gardens of the castle of Menda, plunged in a profounder depth of abstraction than seemed habitual to the thoughtlessness of military life,but never were hour, site and circumstances more propitious to meditation. Above his head, the beautiful sky of Spain stretched its dome of dark azure. The twinkling of the stars and the soft radiance of the moon cast a capricious light over an exquisite valley which lay in all its wealth of loveliness at his feet. Resting upon an orange-tree in full blosson, the young chef-de-bataillon could see, a hundred feet below, the town of Menda, which seemed to have nestled itself for shelter from the north winds at the foot of the cliff on which the castle was built. Turning his head, he could behold the sea, whose sparkling waters enclosed the landscape like a broad belt of silver. The castle itself was illuminated. The joyous confusion of sounds from a ball, the music of the orchestra, the laughter of some of the officers and their partners in the dance, reached his ear, softened into harmony by the distance, and blended with the far-off murmur of the waves. The fresh coolness of the night infused a new energy into his frame exhausted by the heat of the day; while the gardens were planted with trees so odoriferous and flowers of such exquisite sweetness, that the young man fancied himself, as it were, plunged in a bath of every delicious perfume.

The castle of Menda belonged to a grandee of Spain, who, at that period, was residing in it with his whole family. During the whole of this evening, the eldest of his daughters had directed her looks towards the officer with an interest blended with so deep a sadness, that the sentiment of pity expressed by the beautiful Spanish girl might well have given rise to the

young Frenchman's revery. Yet how dare to imagine the possibility that the daughter of the most haughty and fastidious noble in Spain could ever be bestowed on the son of a Parisian shop-keeper!

The French were held in detestation. The marquis having been suspected by General G, the governor of the province, of being engaged in plotting an insurrection in favor of Ferdinand VII., the battalion commanded by Victor Marchand had been placed in cantonments in the little town of Menda, to hold in check the surrounding country, which belonged to the Marquis de Léganès. A recent despatch from Marshal Ney gave reason even to apprehend that the English might shortly land on the coast, and pointed out the marquis as a man engaged in correspondence with the cabinet of London. So that, notwithstanding all the hospitable welcome with which the latter had received Victor Marchand and his soldiers, the young officer kept himself vigilantly on his guard.

While directing his steps towards that terrace, to which he went for the purpose of observing the state of the town and the country entrusted to his supervision, he had meditated on the problem how he ought to interpret the friendship which the marquis had never ceased to manifest towards him, and how to reconcile the tranquillity of the country with the anxieties of his general; but, for the last few minutes, all these thoughts had been driven from the mind of the young commandant by a feeling of prudential caution and by a very legitimate curiosity.

He had just observed a considerable number of lights in the town. Now, notwithstanding it was the festival of St. James, he had that very morning commanded that every fire should be extinguished at the usual hour prescribed by his general regulations. The castle alone had been exempted from that order. He could perceive,

* From the French of Balzac.

indeed, here and there the gleam of his sentries' bayonets at their accustomed posts; but there was something solemn in the silence that prevailed, and nothing announced that the Spaniards were plunged in the intoxication of a festival.

After seeking in vain to explain this general violation of his orders on the part of the inhabitants, the offence seemed to him the more strangely mysterious as he reflected that he had entrusted to some officers the charge of the police and the rounds of the night. With the impetuosity of youth, he was about to leap down by a breach in the terrace to effect more rapidly the descent of the rocks, and the sooner reach a little post of the guard which was stationed at the entrance of the town, on the side next the castle, when he was arrested by the sound of a slight noise. He fancied that he heard the gravel of the alleys grate beneath the light step of a woman. He turned his head back, but saw nothing; his eyes were struck, however, by the extraordinary whiteness of the ocean. He suddenly perceived there so fatal a spectacle, that he stood motionless with surprise, accusing even his senses of deception. The glancing rays of the moon enabled him to distinguish a crowd of sails at a considerable distance. A thrill shot through his frame, and he tried to convince himself that this terrible vision was only some optical illusion produced by the capricious play of the waves and the moonlight.

At that moment a hoarse voice uttered his name. The officer looked toward the breach, and he there saw the head of the soldier by whom he had been attended to the castle raised slowly and cautiously in the air.

"Is that you, mon commandant ?" "Yes. Well, what?" answered the young man in a low tone, warned by a sort of presentiment to act with mystery. "Those scamps down there are twisting about like worms!-and I have hastened to communicate to you, if you will permit me, the little observations I have made."

sion to light pious tapers at this hour of the night. They want to devour us, said I to myself, and I set about eyeing him pretty closely. And so, mon commandant, I discovered, hardly three paces from here, on a platform of rock, a certain pile of faggots

A terrible cry echoed through the town and interrupted the soldier. A sudden glare flashed over the face of the commandant. The poor grenadier at the same instant received a bullet in his head and fell dead. A fire of straw and dry wood blazed like a conflagration within ten steps of the young man. The musical instruments and the laughing voices were hushed in the saloon of the ball. The festal gaiety had suddenly given place to a silence as of death, interrupted only by groans. The report of a cannon boomed over the ocean's plain of light. A cold sweat started to the young officer's forehead. He was unarmed. He understood at once that all his soldiers had perished and that the English were about to land. He saw himself dishonored if he survived-he saw himself dragged before a council of war-and then he measured with his eye the depth of the valley. He was in the act of plunging off, when his hand was seized by that of Clara.

"Speak," replied Victor Marchand. "I have just been following one of the people of the castle who directed his steps this way with a lantern in his hand. Now a lantern is a devilishly suspicious thing, for I have no idea that that good Christian there has any occa

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"Fly!" she said, "my brothers are behind me. At the foot of the rock, down there, you will find Juanito's swift Andalusian. Fly!"

She pushed him forward. The young man, half stupified, looked at her for a moment. But presently, yielding to the instinct of self-preservation which never abandons even the strongest man, he plunged among the trees in the direction indicated, and sprang across the wall, before trodden by no other feet than those of the wild goats. He heard Clara crying to her brothers to pursue him he heard the steps of his assassins-he heard the bullets of several shots whizzing by his ears-but he succeeded in reaching the valley, found the horse, leaped upon him, and disappeared with the rapidity of lightning.

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He sat down, and related the horrible adventure. His narrative was received with a fearful silence.

"You have been more unfortunate than criminal," at last replied the terrible general. "You are not responsible for the crime of the Spaniards; and unless the marshal shall decide differently, I acquit you of blame."

These words afforded but feeble consolation to the wretched officer.

"When the Emperor shall come to know this!"-he exclaimed.

"He will want to have you shot," said the general; "but we shall see. However, no more of this,” he added, in a severe tone, "except to draw from it a vengeance which shall strike a salutary terror upon this country of treachery."

An hour after, a whole regiment, a detachment of cavalry, and a train of artillery, were on their march. The general and Victor marched at the head of this column. The soldiers, informed of the massacre of their comrades, were filled with an unexampled fury. The distance that separated the town of Menda from the headquarters was traversed with a miraculous rapidity. On the route the general found whole villages in arms. Every one of these miserable hamlets was reduced to ashes, and their inhabitants decimated. By some inexplicable fatality, the English vessels had remained lying to, without advancing,* so that the town of Menda was surrounded by the French troops with scarcely a blow struck. The inhabitants, seized with consternation, and seeing themselves destitute of that aid which the appearance of the English sails had seemed to promise them, offered to surrender at discretion. By one of those acts of self-devotion which have not been rare in the Peninsula, those concerned in the assassination of the French, foreseeing, from the well-known cruelty of the general, that Menda would probably be given to the flames, and its whole population put to the sword, proposed to the general to give information against themselves. He accepted their offer, adding to it the condition that all the inhabitants of the castle, from the lowest valet to the marquis, should be delivered into his

hands. This capitulation being agreed upon, the general promised to pardon the rest of the people of the town, and to prevent his soldiers from sacking or setting it on fire. An enormous contribution was imposed on it, and the richest inhabitants surrendered themselves as prisoners to guaranty its payment, which was to be consummated within twenty-four hours.

The general, having taken every precaution necessary for the safety of his troops, and provided for the defence of the country, refused to billet his soldiers in the houses. He encamped them, and then ascended to the castle, of which he took military possession. All the members of the family of Léganès, consisting of his wife, two daughters and three sons, together with the servants, were placed under careful guard, and pinioned. The general ordered the prisoners to be shut up in the saloon in which the ball had taken place. The windows of that apartment embraced a view of the terrace that overhung the town. The staff was established in a neighboring gallery, where the general first held a council of war on the measures to be taken to oppose the landing of the English.

After having despatched an aide-decamp to Marshal Ney, and given orders for the erection of batteries on the coast, the general and his staff turned their attention to the prisoners. Two hundred Spaniards whom the inhabitants had delivered up were immediately shot upon the terrace. After this military execution, the general commanded as many scaffolds to be planted on the terrace as there were persons in the saloon, and the executioner of the town to be brought to the spot.

Taking advantage of the interval to elapse before the service of dinner for the staff in the gallery of the castle, Victor Marchand went to see the prisoners. Presently he returned to the general.

"I come," he said in a voice of strong emotion, " to ask favors."

"You!" answered the general, with a tone of bitter irony.

"Alas!" replied Victor, "they are

It was afterwards ascertained that these vessels carried only artillery, and that they had outsailed the rest of the transports.



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"Spaniards! I bestow upon my son my paternal blessing! May it ever be with him! Now, marquis, strike without fear, as you are without reproach!"

But when Juanito beheld his mother approach, supported by the confessor:

"Ah! you weep, Mariquita ?”—said Juanito to his sister.

"She nourished me!" he cried, and his voice wrung a cry of horror from the assembly. The noise of the feast, and the gay laughter of the officers were hushed at that fearful cry.

The marchioness, comprehending that Juanito's strength was exhausted, sprang at a bound over the balustrade, plunging down to be crushed to death upon the rocks. A cry of admiration arose. Juanito had fallen in a swoon.

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"General," said an officer, half-intoxicated, "Marchand has just been telling me about that execution.-I bet that you did not command it.”

"Do you forget, gentlemen," exclaimed General G"that in a month five hundred French families will be in tears, and that we are in Spain? Do you want to leave our bones here?"

After this speech, not a single officer was found, not even a sous-lieutenant, who dared to empty his glass.

Nothwithstanding all the respect with which he is surrounded; notwithstanding the title of EL Verdugo,* with which the King of Spain is said to have enriched the name of the Marquis de Léganès, he remains a prey to grief, living in solitude, and rarely allowing himself to be seen. Bowed down beneath the burthen of his sublime crime, he seems to await with impatience the time when the birth of a second son will give him the right to rejoin the shadows by whom he walks

"Oh! yes!" answered the young girl; "I am thinking of you, poor Juanito. Ah! how unhappy you are going to be without us!"

Presently appeared the tall figure of the marquis. He looked at the blood of his children; he turned towards the mute and motionless spectators; he stretched out his hands toward Juanito, fore ver surrounded. and said with a strong voice :

El Verdugo, the executioner.

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