An Incident of Napoleon's time.
The French army lay encamped only about a day's march from Berlin
It was on the 23d of October. The sentinels were doubled and the most strict orders given, for the Prussian and Austrian
spies were plenty and troublesome.
At midnight, Pierre Sancoin
was stationed at one of the outposts.
He was a stout, bold, shrewd man, and a good soldier.
The colonel of the regiment was with the sergeant on this'bout, having requested to be called at midnight, that he might visit the outposts.
,"’ he said, after the man had been posted, ‘"you must keep your eyes open.
Don't let even a stray horse go in or out without a pass.
Do you understand?"’
‘"Ay, mon, colonel, I shall be prompt."’
‘"The dogs are around us,"’ continued the officer, ‘"and you cannot be too careful.--Don't trust men, nor brutes, without good proof."’
‘"Never fear, sir,"’ was Pierre
's answer, as he brought his firelock to his shoulder and moved back a pace.
After this they moved on to the next post, and Pierre Sancoin
was left alone.
's post was one of the most important in the camp, or rather around it, and he had been placed there for that reason.
The ground over which he had to walk was a long knoll, bounded at one end by a huge rock, and at the other sloping away into a narrow ravine, in which was a copse of willows.
Beyond this copse the ground was low and boggy, so that a man could not pass it. The rock was to the westward, and Pierre
's walk was to its outer side.
The night was quite dark, huge masses of clouds floating overhead, and shutting out the stars; and a sort of fog seemed to be rising almost from the marsh.
The winds moaned through the corpse in the ravine, and the air was damp and chilly; with a slow, steady tread, the soldier paced his ground, ever and anon stopping to listen, as the willows in the ravine rattled their leaves, or some night bird flew out with its quick flapping.
An hour had passed away, and the sentinel had seen nothing to excite his suspicion.
He had stopped for a moment close by the rock, when he was startled by a quick, wild screech from the woods; and in a moment more a large bird flew over his head.
‘"Pablieu!"’ he uttered, after the night bird had flown over; ‘"could mortal man have stopped that fellow from passing."’
He satisfied himself that he had done nothing in suffering the bird to pass.
He had walked the length of his way two or three times, when he was sure he saw a dark object just crossing the line toward the corpse.
‘"Hold!"’ he cried, bringing the musket quick to his shoulder: ‘"Hold or 1 fire!"’
And, with his piece at aim, he advanced towards the spot where the object had stopped; as he came to within a few yards of it, it started again toward the camp.
‘"Diable!"’ cried Pierre; ‘"move any further and I fire.
ho! why, Prince
The animal turned and made a motion as though he would leap up on to the sentinel's bosom, but he motioned him off.
cried, reaching forth his hand and patting the head of the shagg beast, which had now sat upon his haunches.
recognized the intruder now as a great dog, of the breed of St. Bernard
, which had been owned in the regiment for over a year, and which had now been missing for over week.
He had disappeared one night from the pickets, and all search for him had been unavailing.
mon grand Prince
uttered, as though the dog could understand every word, ‘"the men will be glad to see you. Where have you been for so long?"’
The dog made no answer to this, save a low whine, and familiar nodding of the head.
‘"Now, mon ami, you just keep your sitting there till the guard comes, and then we will go to the camp together.
Mind that, will you?"’
And with these words, uttered with solemn emphasis and due meaning, Pierre
started on his route again.
He had got half way to the rock, when the idea of looking around struck him, and he did so. Le Prince
was moving toward the camp again.
, that won't do. Stop, stop, or I'll shoot!
Diable! the colonel was positive in his orders.
I was to let nothing pass my post without the countersign.
A dog is something: you can't go, Prince
, so now lie down.
Down! Down! I say!"’
With this the dog lay flat down on his belly, and stretched out his fore paws.
patted him upon the head again, and, having duly urged upon him the necessity of remaining where he was, he resumed his march once more.
During the next fifteen minutes the animal lay perfectly quiet, and ever and anon the sentinel, by way of being sociable, would speak to him. But at length the dog made another attempt to go to the camp.
had nearly reached the rock, when he heard the movement, and, on turning, could just see his uneasy companion making off.
‘"Diable!"’ the honest fellow uttered; ‘"I must obey orders.
The colonel's word was plain.
! You must die if you don't."’
With a few quick bounds the soldier had got near enough to the dog to fire, and as the latter stopped he stopped.
‘"Mon cher ami, you must stay with me!
I must shoot if you don't. Parblieu!
what a thing to start a whole camp for, to shoot a dog."’
But, by coaxing and threatening, the sentinel got the dog back to his post, and there he made him lie down once more.
And thus matters rested till the tramp of the coming guard was heard.
‘"Ah, now, Prince
, he'll be relieved,"’ the soldier said, stopping near the dog. ‘"You shall go and see your old friends."’
The tramp of the coming guards drew near, and Pierre was preparing to hail them when the dog took a new start, and in a new direction, this time starting towards the copse.
‘"Here, here, Prince
Parblieu, don't you run off again."’
But the dog took no other notice of the call than to quicken his speed.
!"’ This last expression was forced from Fierre's lips, by seeing the dog leap to his hind legs and run thus!
In an instant the truth burst upon him. Quick as thought he clapped his gun to his shoulder and took aim. He could just distinguish the outlines now, and then he fired.
There was a sharp cry, and Pierre had to turn, for the guards were approaching.
est la?"’ (‘"Who is there?"’) He cried.
‘"Relief guard,"’ was the answer.
And having obtained the countersign, he informed the officer of what had happened.
‘"A dog?"’ cried the officer.
, did you say?"’
‘"He looked like Prince
, but, Diable, you should have seen him run off on his legs!"’
‘"Then come; show us where he was."’
With this the officer of the mounted guard pulled his lantern from his breast, and having removed the shade, he started on. Pierre
led the way to the copse, and there the dog was found in the last struggles of death.--The officer stooped down and turned him over.
!"’ he cried; ‘"what legs for a dog, oh!"’
And no wonder he said so. The hind legs of the dog were booted, and had every appearance of the pedal extremities of the genius man. But all doubts were removed very quickly, for as the officer turned, the words ‘"God take me!"’ in the Prussian tongue, followed.
here's an adventure!"’ uttered the officer, and he made Pierre hold the lantern while he ripped open enough of the dog's skin to find the face.
But they concluded not to stop there to investigate; so they formed a litter by crossing their muskets, and, having lifted the strange animal upon it, they proceeded on their way. When they reached the camp they found half the soldiers up, waiting to find out why the gun was fired.
Lights were brought, and the body placed upon the ground.
The dog's skin was removed and within was found a Prussian drummer.
He was a small fellow, though apparently some twenty years of age, but he was dead — Pierre
's ball having touched his heart, or somewhere very near it. His pockets were overhauled, and in one of them was found a cipher but no one of them could make anything out of it. The colonel took it, and directed that the body he placed out of sight for burial on the morrow.
But this was not the end. About four o'clock, just before daylight, another gun was fired on the same post where Pierre had been; and this time a man was shot who was trying to make his escape from camp.
He was shot through the head.
When the body was brought into camp, it was found to be that of a Bavarian trooper, who had been suspected of treachery, though no proof had ever been found against him. On his person was found the key to the cipher which had been taken from the person of the drummer; and now that the colonel had them both, he could translate the mystic scroll.
It proved to be a direction to the Bavarian to lay his plans for keeping as near Napoleon
's person as possible, after he should enter Berlin
, and then wait for further orders.
The mystery was explained.
had contrived to call the great dog away from the regiment, and deliver him up to the enemy, and his skin was to be made the cover for a spy to enter the camp, and the spy would have got in, too, but for the sportive order of the colonel, and the willfully faithful obedience of Pierre Sancoin
On the next day Pierre was promoted to the rank of sergeant, and the Emperor
said to him, as he bestowed the boon: ‘"If you only make as faithful an officer as you have proved yourself faithful as a sentinel, I ask no more."’