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Victor's Pony.

all this commotion, old Josephine, the cook, had not neglected to make some hot coffee, which Victor gulped down as he listened to the instructions given him, and he stuffed a roll and a piece of sausage into his pocket to eat on the way. He was told to take his school knapsack, and put a few books in it as usual. The boards of his Virgil had a linen cover sewn over them into this the note was slipped for greater security.

"They won't think of looking there, if they do overhaul you," quoth the Captain, with a grim smile. "My faith! soldiers have no love for school-books." The veteran was thinking more of an older generation of soldiers.) "Then as soon as you get to the town, you must ask for General Douay; tell him who you are, and give him the letter. If the sentries stop you, explain that you have a message for the General. And if you see the enemy, you can give them the slip in the woods. But make all haste!"

"And you had best wear your overcoat, for fear of rain," put in old Josephine, who took a motherly interest in the boy; but he rather resented such a suggestion. As if a messenger to the camp would melt! thought Victor, already entering into the spirit of his mission, and eager to set off, much satisfied to find himself all at once a person of such importance.

But first the pony must be caught. Unfortunately, just when it was specially wanted, Lulu had a way of being provokingly wilful. Now it led its young master a fine dance from one corner of the field to the other, letting him come close up to where it stood grazing with bypocritical quietness, then pricking up its ears and setting off with a playful frisk of its heels. Victor's impatience made it only more unreasonable; it seemed to have a presentiment of the trying service on which it was wanted. He quite lost his temper at the way in which valuable time was thus being wasted; he turned the halter into a whip and beat poor Lulu; but that did not mend matters. He had to call for help; half a dozen ready volunteers ran into the field, and chased his small steed about till they made it wilder than ever. But numbers carried the day, and in the end Lulu had to submit to be caught and saddled.

All now being ready for the start, Victor buckled on his knapsack, with the letter safely stowed away inside. Everybody came out to see him mount; everybody kept urging on him speed, caution, courage, and so on the safety of the village, of the army, of the Emperor might depend upon him! So much talking was enough to bewilder the boy, but at last he got off. Waving his cap to the little crowd that collected before the house, he rode away in a high state of elation.

The morning was gloomy and overcast, though it had ceased raining; but Victor's spirits rose superior to the weather, as he splashed along the muddy roads, between dripping orchards and hop fields. This was, indeed, better than seeing a battle; it might turn out that he was actually helping to win one. He fancied himself one of Sir Walter Scott's gallant youths, Quentin Durward, Roland Græme, Halbert Glendinning; he ran over the whole Waverley history in his mind, trying to recall some hero


spurring hotly upon an errand like his, and though he could not think of a suitable case, he felt a general sense of being employed in a most becoming and chivalrous manner. He waved his riding whip as if it had been a sword, and urged the pony on to a gallop with his heels. Lulu, for its part, was brisk enough, and started off at a great rate, but soon began to grunt and blow, reminding its young master that it was a little short in the wind-the only fault he had to admit in it—so he thought it well to let the gallop drop into a trot, a less romantic, but more business-like pace, at which they got over the ground more rapidly in the end, though not quick enough for the rider's impatience.

He soon left the high road that wound through a deep gorge, following the course of one of Alsace's many streams, and took the cart track, which led him up a thickly-wooded hill side, its top all wreathed as yet in rolling mist. This was not the best way to Weissenburg, but a reconnoitring party of Uhlans were understood to have gone forward on the road, and he had been enjoined to make a détour to avoid the risk of meeting them. Luckily, Victor's rambles had made him acquainted with every path and byeway for many miles round, while Lulu, used to the hills of its native country, could scramble along almost anywhere.

For all his eagerness, the boy kept a good look-out for the enemy, and could not help being a little bit nervous when sometimes he imagined a gleam of bayonets in the underwood, or through the mist took some projecting branch for the lance of a Uhlan. But he reached the top without misadventure; nothing was to be seen or heard of the invaders. Where he got a peep of the high road in the valley below, he could make out an old woman peacefully plodding along it behind a donkey; that was all. The dark wooded hills, shutting in the view on every side, were as still as usual at that hour. A wreath of smoke, here and there, marking some sequestered cottage or farmhouse, was the only sign of life that his eye could detect. What could have become of the enemy ? he asked himself over and over again.

Descending the other side of the hill, he came out on a better road, where he was able to push on faster. He trotted along now for some quarter of an hour without meeting anyone in the solitary valley. In an hour or so, if the pony kept up this pace, he would be at Weissenburg; then perhaps he might actually have the glory of guiding back a regiment to make short work of this marauding band of Prussians.

But what noise was that, joining in like a deep bass to the clattering of the pony's brisk heels! A thunderstorm among the hills? He stopped to listen. Again from the direction of Weissenburg came a peal like distant thunder, but it was not thundera sullen, long-drawn boom, that to practised ears would echo with cries of rage and agony and the moans of dying men. Even Victor guessed what it was, the sound of cannon, dying away for a moment to break out with louder and quicker reverberations. The boy's heart suddenly beat fast. Fighting had begun, and he was on his way to it! There was all the more reason not to lose a moment now. Spurred forward himself by the thought of what was occurring in front of him, he urged Lulu on at full speed, lest

he should be too late to get a glimpse of the scene

of action.


The enemy then must have left Weissenburg, and his message might prove needless after all. Still it might be of consequence; anyhow, he would try and deliver it, even if he had to come under fire. officer's son must not be afraid of venturing near bullets. Every fresh peal of artillery helped to work up Victor's feelings to a higher pitch, far above all ideas of danger. He galloped on, heedless now of the pony's wind, and no longer remembering to look out for the Prussians, till all at once he came upon a party of them-not Prussians, indeed, but Bavarians, only this French boy did not know the difference.

He had turned a sharp corner bringing him full in view of a little hamlet. There, scattered over the road, and upon a meadow beside the church, he saw a number of men in light blue uniforms, plashed with fresh mud, and queer black leather helmets, shaped something like those of the ancient Romans in pictures. Their arms were piled by the road-side, and large fires had been lit, at which the men seemed to be about cooking their breakfast. Standing a little aloof, as if uncertain what to make of it, half curious and half frightened, a group of villagers were staring at this extraordinary spectacle of hostile troops on French soil.

A thrill shot through every vein in Victor's body, as he perceived these soldiers. He pulled up sharp, and would have turned back; but it was too late. A sentinel who, some way behind, must have been concealed in the wood, was now visible by the road-side, cutting off his retreat, and, while he hesitated, one of the Germans ran up, laid his hand on the pony's bridle, and told him he must speak to the Herr Lieutenant.

Victor was in dismay to know that he had fallen into the power of the enemy. All the same, he could hardly realise the position, there was something so homely and commonplace about the whole aspect of matters. The foreigners were lounging and chatting, as if they had nothing out of the way on hand. When he heard a few of them trying to speak French, their bad accent was no worse than that of most of the Alsatian country people; and their faces were mostly of the same type. One bearded warrior might be seen gravely plucking a fowl, another stirring a pot, a third having a good wash at the village pump; some were smoking long porcelain pipes; some seated on a bank with their boots off were adjusting the strips of linen, smeared with lard, that served them instead of stockings. Others were trying to rub the mud from their trousers; two or three mounted upon ladders were robbing a dovecote, like naughty school-boys, with shouts and grins at the fluttering struggles of the poor pigeons; altogether they looked so friendly and so much at ease, that, but for the unfamiliar uniforms, they might have been taken for a pleasure party making a pic-nic.

You need not be afraid," said, in very good French, the officer to whom Victor was brought. "We won't harm you. I have boys of your age at home."


The French boy met this good-natured address with as fierce a look as he could call into his own smooth face. Afraid, indeed! He would have liked to give this German a haughty and defiant answer, but he

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"It would be all the better for you if you were not too conceited to submit to wholesome discipline," remarked the soldier, with imperturbable gravity, as he unsaddled the pony and turned it loose into the meadow. "The school is the foundation of the State, and a nation ill-instructed can never be in a sound condition. The schoolmaster is the true monarch of modern times."

Victor offered no opinion on this sententious remark, and his new acquaintance went on :

"I myself am a schoolmaster, professor at a gymnasium-what you call a college. It is to her schools that Germany owes her superiority; the campaign upon which we are about to enter has already been won upon these humble benches."

"We shall see," muttered Victor to himself; but without taking any notice of his displeasure, this learned soldier, having disposed of the pony, proceeded coolly to rummage the boy's knapsack, all the while catechising him as to his studies.

"Do you learn German, then, at the college?" "I should think not!" snapped Victor, indignant at such free and easy dealing with his possessions.

"Another great mistake! That contempt for everything belonging to foreign countries is the main cause of the weakness of France. Ha! a Greek grammar. Now, will you tell me at what stage you boys begin to learn Greek?"

"No, I can't," said Victor, sullenly.

"You are in Virgil, too, I see. I am curious to know if you could go through a regular Greek verb correctly. Shall we try tupto?"

Victor was furious. It was not only the annoyance of being questioned by this provoking peda

Victor's Pony.

gogue, but he was alarmed at seeing him turn over the leaves of the Virgil, behind the cover of which, as we know, was hid the letter to General Douay.

"How many lines, now, do they give a boy of your age to prepare for a lesson ?" persisted the German, looking critically through his spectacles at certain dog's-ears and smudges with which the volume was too plentifully ornamented. "I see, by the marks here, that you have got into the sixth book. Now, for instance, have your masters called your attention to any relationship between the physical aspects of the country about Naples and the mythological idea of an entrance to the lower regions, fabled to exist


"It isn't any business of yours to ask me about my lessons," interrupted the boy.

"You needn't lose your temper about it. I only wanted to compare the system of French schools with those of our country-that is a subject in which I am naturally interested. I daresay, if you were put into a class of German boys of your own age, you would find some reason to be ashamed of yourself."

"I wouldn't have anything to do with German boys for all the world; they are slaves, like the rest of you!" cried Victor, casting an anxious eye at his Virgil, which the other continued to turn over in an alarming manner.

"I did not suppose that you needed lessons in politeness," said the schoolmaster, sarcastically. But your reputation for that is probably as much humbug as everything else about you. What's this? -an imposition, perhaps. I have no doubt you deserve plenty of them."

Victor was in despair. His inquisitor had noticed the paper stowed away in the book's cover. But here his curiosity fortunately exhausted itself, as one of his comrades was calling him to come to breakfast. He gave the boy back his books, remarking, with a hand laid on his bayonet hilt and a stern look through his spectacles :

"If I had you at our school, my youngster, I would teach you to give civil answers to civil questions, and I have a good mind to box your ears for you as it is. You are to stay here till further orders."

Then the professor in uniform stalked off, carrying Victor's saddle with him, to serve as a seat on which to take his breakfast comfortably.


seriously to make the best of this opportunity for a
good meal, seating themselves by the roadside or on
the steps of the houses. The officer went into the
little inn to have his breakfast in dignified state,
waited on by his own orderly, since the landlord,
like a good patriot, flatly declined to serve an enemy
even in the way of business, and could be heard in
the kitchen loudly storming at his wife for being so
mean-spirited as to cook an omelette for the invader.
Victor drew near the perplexed villagers.
All they
could tell him was, that about an hour ago these
alarming strangers had suddenly issued from the
wood, presented themselves at all the doors of
the hamlet, given orders that no one was to attempt to
escape, demanded whatever the place could afford in
the way of eatables, then, their wants being supplied,
had assured the people that no more harm was in-
tended them, Coffee, black bread, fowls and bacon,
that was all the cottages could supply; but the
Germans were quite content, and, to do them justice,
had not proved such a ruinous visitation as a party
of Douay's troops who passed through a few days

"But I would rather give my last crumb to a French soldier, and gratis too, than let a German taste my meat and drink for payment," declared the innkeeper, with vehement gesticulations when he thought none of the soldiers were looking at him.

Presently however, the worthy host's patriotism was put to a sore trial. He was summoned to supply the thirsty Germans with beer, and durst not refuse. He had to bring a barrel and a tray of glasses to the door of his inn, the only decent room being occupied by the officer. But reckoning on most of them being ignorant of French, he took his revenge for this indignity in a way which made Victor smile, in spite of his own feelings. As he served out the liquor with his own hands, under the stolid eye of a sergeant, who had been a waiter at an inn himself, and grimly enjoyed this chance of domineering over a professional brother, the wrathful host accompanied every glass with a scowl and a left-handed compliment, which it was as well that the recipient did not understand.

And so he continued till all were served perhaps sinking his voice or modifying the character of his remarks when he had to do with any man who looked as if he understood French. Anyhow, the Germans took it all in good part, and wound up by hilariously insisting on the landlord's drinking to them in his own liquor. They crowded round and forced him to swallow every drop, but he made a face as if it were wormwood, and privately vowed among his neighbours that, as soon as these robbers had turned their backs, he would break every glass which their odious beards had polluted. Hearing this threat, his wife came out to implore him, declaring that he would never stop till he got all their thoats cut; and finally the good man was persuaded to go into the house with her, and hide his feelings in retirement and tobacco smoke.

There was a comic side to this conversation, which Victor had hardly been in the humour to notice. He was thinking all the time of the hidden letter, in dread every moment that it would be discovered. It was a relief to get the book back; but what was he to do next? Should he allow himself to be stopped, the bearer of what might prove to be such important news? Why not make a run for it, and escape through the woods? Once under cover, he could trust himself to lead these men a fine hunt, if they tried to pursue him. He had half a mind to try, yet could not all at once find courage for such a His neighbours were not all so resentful, or, at bold enterprise. One boy against three or four least, they thought it necessary to be more civil to dozen armed men, was great odds; and, free as he their powerful visitors. When the soldiers had satis seemed to be, he felt conscious that they were keep-fied their hunger, pipes were lit, and under cover of ing an eye on him. the soothing cloud, they made friendly advances to such of these people as showed any disposition to meet them half way, just as if a battle were not raging

Except their sentinels on watch at each approach to the place, the soldiers now set themselves

within some few miles of them. A light-minded young warrior might now be seen ogling the village maidens, and some grizzly veteran patting the curly head of a child, that ran back with a squall to its mother, but presently ventured on a sly peep from behind her apron at this strange man, who, after all, did not seem to be much of a bogey. Thus a certain half-friendly intercourse began between the two parties brought into such unaccustomed relations.

The Germans, indeed, on first entering France, were noted for the civility and forbearance with which they tried to treat the inhabitants: it was only when the sufferings of war had hardened them that they showed themselves rough, even brutal, though their severities were in truth mild compared with those of which the French had so often set the example in Germany. These soldiers, on their side, hardly knew how to act in the situation. Most of them were kindly, honest lads, who had never before been far from home, and did not readily take to their new part as devastators. They had been trained from childhood not to touch an apple or a plum on the long avenues of fruit-trees that shaded the roads of their native villages. Every woman reminded them of their mothers, their sisters, their blue-eyed sweethearts at home. Except for a cut lip, perhaps, in some boyish quarrel, they had never done or wished to do harm to any fellow-man; and a short time spent in uniform had not yet been able to change the peaceful habits and sentiments of twenty years. How, then, should they not be as friendly as possible under the circumstances with these good folks, their own countrymen, too, in race and language, though a wicked French king had stolen them away from the Fatherland ever so many hundred years ago?

Victor was ill pleased to see that his countrypeople showed themselves, for fear or otherwise, not altogether unwilling to fraternise with the enemy. He turned away and stood apart, surveying the scene with such a frown as he imagined that Fergus McIvor or Richard the Lion Heart might have worn in a similar case. Nobody seemed to mind him, which still further hurt his pride. The irritation and impatience under which he was chafing increased every moment with the boom of artillery, which all the time had been rising and widening, till it seemed to echo from every quarter at once. The villagers, who at first had started and turned pale at every report, would still from time to time huddle together with anxious whispers, as some louder peal recalled their thoughts to what was going on ; but the soldiers showed no surprise, though they, too, gathered now and then in groups to listen and speculate.

Some of them were expressing no less eagerness than Victor to move on to the scene of action; but it was clear that, for some purpose, they had orders to remain here in the meanwhile.

There appeared no signs of departure. The sentries were changed; a small picket of fresh men arrived by one of the roads; and their leader went to make his report to the officer in command, who could be seen outside the inn, smoking a cigar leisurely, while he examined a map and put questions to one after another of the peasants brought before him in fear and trembling, not sure what might be intended them. For a time Victor was left to himself, to turn over in his troubled mind the question of running away or

not. Then his old persecutor, the soldier in spectacles, called out to him from the inn door, and went inside without waiting for an answer:


Ho, there, you beardless Gaul Monsieur Thingamybob !-the Herr Lieutenant is going to talk to you in a few minutes. You have got to be put through an examination in the geography of your native region. A fine young gentleman, who keeps a pony of his own, must know his way all through the woods hereabouts; I daresay you have robbed many a bird's-nest in them."

This decided the boy. He would make off without delay, bullets and bayonets notwithstanding. And why not go on his pony? It was worth trying. He looked cautiously about, to make sure he was not observed. With an air of assumed carelessness, he sauntered into the meadows, and drew gradually nearer the spot where Lulu was grazing peacefully, as well it could for the bridle, which had not been removed.

"Lulu!" he said in a low voice, and the pony pricked up its ears and turned its head, as if expecting to see its young master with a handful of hay or oats. After the brisk run it had already had, Lulu was in no disposition to be unreasonably playful.

Victor stole another look behind. Some great joke was occupying the attention of the soldiers. One of their number had been offering rough gallantries to a farm girl, who repulsed them with a hearty smack on his smooth chubby face. The fellow only laughed good-naturedly, and his comrades roared outright at his discomfiture by the fair enemy, while she stood shaking her red fist, defying any of them to try it again. Then, as all eyes were attracted by this incident, Victor made a rush to his pony, jumped on its back, gave it a cut with his whip, and was off the nearest way over the cabbages of a cottage garden.

It was well for him now that he had learned to stick on barebacked. Lulu, appearing quite to understand that some great exertion was required of it, dashed through the garden, scrambled over a low hedge, got out upon the road beyond, and set off at its best pace. There was a shout from the soldiers. Then came the report of a gun, and a harsh screech close to his ears, which Victor was too excited to mind, even if he had recognised it as the sound of a bullet ricochetting from the ground. In a few seconds he was hidden by a turn of the road. Lulu, startled by the shot, had fairly run off with him, and for a mile or so he could hardly have checked its speed, even had he wished to do so. Here was a thrilling adventure for a school-boy's holidays! (To be continued.)

THE preacher. Whatsoever, true or false, he sends forth, will

SONGS FOR THE PEOPLE. THE man who makes the people's songs is a true popular not be carried home, as a sermon often is, merely in heads, to be forgotten before the week is out; it will ring in the ears, workshop, and the tavern, and the fireside; even to the deathand cling round the imagination, and follow the pupil to the bed, such power is in the magic of rhyme. The emigrant, deep in Australian forests, may take down Chalmers' sermons on Sabbath evenings from the scanty shelf; but the songs of Burns have been haunting his lips, and cheering his heart, and moulding him, unconsciously to himself, in clearing and in pasture all the weary week.—Kingsley.

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