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- Won by the Sword - 10/68 -
to search me they would rip all the linings open."
"That would be a better way certainly, Campbell; I see that you have thought the matter over thoroughly. Of course, you will take no arms with you."
"Nothing but a long knife each. Every peasant carries one, and it may be possible that we shall be compelled to silence a sentinel. If you would not mind, sir, I should like to have six copies of your letter to the commandant. I could manage to swallow six as well as one, and as it is not likely that I shall be able to enter the citadel it would be as well to give them a better chance of finding the letter if I have to try to shoot or throw it in."
"That shall be done; we will use the thinnest paper, so that if you have to swallow them you can do so without difficulty."
"If I find that I cannot by any possibility get my message in through the town, sir, I shall try to cross the river and so make my way in on that side."
"That would be even more dangerous than the other," Turenne said. "On that side an even stricter watch is likely to be kept than on that facing the town, for the Spaniards know that the garrison is not strong enough to attempt any enterprise against the city, while it might at any moment attempt to break out and march away on the other side.
"I own that I do not see myself how you can possibly succeed in either case, but assuredly there must be more chance on the side of the town. I have been thinking it over, and will order a troop of cavalry to ride with you to Chivasso, for the Spanish horse from time to time make forays from Turin, carry off prisoners, and burn villages. Until we are in a position to make a general advance it is impossible to check these attacks without keeping the whole of our cavalry massed near Turin, and wearing out horses and men by the necessity for perpetual vigilance. And now, goodbye; may fortune attend you! Do not be too rash. The letters shall be sent you in an hour's time."
As they issued out from Susa they found the troop of cavalry awaiting them. The officer in command was well known to Hector, and said:
"So it is you that I am to escort to Chivasso, Monsieur Campbell?"
"Yes; I am sorry to give you occasion for so much trouble."
"No trouble at all; we have not been in the saddle for the past week, and a ride to Chivasso will make a pleasant change. Besides, I have a brother in the garrison there, so that altogether I shall be your debtor. You see, we are not allowed to ride beyond St. Ambrogio, or Rivoli at farthest, for once beyond that, we should be liable to be caught by the enemy's scouting parties. Of course we have a strong force at Rivoli, but except to drive off small parties of the enemy who may venture to come up too close, they are forbidden to engage in any affairs. It is annoying, but one can understand that the general is anxious to avoid encounters in which the enemy is sure to be superior in force, until his reinforcements come up and we are able to take the field in earnest."
"I do not think we shall be otherwise than inferior in force even when our last regiment comes up," Hector said. "What with Holland and the Rhine and the frontier of Spain, it is clear that the cardinal must have as much as he can do to enable all our commanders to make head against the enemy, and it is no secret that beyond one more regiment of cavalry that will arrive with Count d'Harcourt, no other reinforcements are likely to reach us for some time to come. But then, you see, we have Turenne as well as d'Harcourt, and each of them ought to count for two or three thousand men."
"Well, I would rather fight against long odds," the officer said, "than be kept here month after month doing nothing. Here is winter coming on, and I suppose that will put a stop to everything."
"I should hardly think so," Hector replied. "I am sure that the viscount is as eager for action as we are, and winter here is not the same thing as in Holland or on the Rhine. From what I hear there is very little snow in the plains; and as the country is generally flat, an army could march almost as easily as in summer, and in some respects they would be better off."
"How do you mean?"
"I mean that in summer the barns would be all empty of food until filled again by the harvest, whereas in winter they would be all well stocked with forage for the cattle and horses."
"You are right, Monsieur Campbell. Certainly there should be nothing to prevent our operating through the winter, and I shall look forward even more eagerly than I did before for d'Harcourt's return. Will you come back with us tomorrow from Chivasso?"
"That will depend upon circumstances. I think it is more probable that I shall not return to Susa for a few days; my orders are to report myself to the governor."
No bodies of the enemy's cavalry were met with on the way, and at four o'clock in the afternoon they rode into Chivasso. They alighted at the commandant's, and on stating that he was the bearer of a despatch from the general Hector was at once shown in. As he had more than once ridden there with despatches from Turenne, he was known to the officer.
"We heard of the victory three days since," the latter said, as Hector handed him the despatch, "and fired a salvo of guns in honour of it. An Italian deserter from the other side brought the news. The two generals were unwounded, I hope?"
"Yes, colonel, and our losses were altogether slight."
The commandant opened the despatch. He looked a little surprised at its contents. "So you are going to endeavour to pass a message into the citadel. It is a difficult undertaking. The enemy's watch is a very vigilant one. Once or twice during the siege men have succeeded in swimming the Po and evading the enemy's guards, but of late these have been doubled, for it is thought that the garrison may attempt to break out. On the town side the firing has all but ceased; they know that the store of provisions is almost exhausted, and regard it as a waste of powder and shot to continue their cannonade, which only results in the citadel answering it, and that with very much more effect than the Spanish guns produce. May I ask if you have any plan of getting in?"
"No, sir, we must decide upon that when we see how matters stand."
"Who is the we?" the colonel asked.
"Myself and my servant, who is a very sharp and intelligent lad whom I can thoroughly trust. Alone I could do nothing, for I have only picked up a few phrases in Italian yet, and should be detected at once; so anything that has to be said must be said by him. May I ask, sir, if the enemy are in force on the other side of the bridge? if so, we must cross by swimming, either above or below it."
"No; there was a regiment there until three days ago, but they marched away, and no doubt formed a portion of Prince Thomas's force. They know well enough that although our garrison can hold the walls, we are not strong enough to undertake any enterprise."
"Then, sir, we have only to ask for an escort for a mile or so beyond the other side of the bridge, in case a company should have been left to watch the road. Beyond that we will dismount and proceed on foot. We will, if you please, put on our disguises here, with the exception of our hats, and perhaps you will lend us a couple of long cloaks, so that our appearance may not be noticed. Although we shall not start until after dark, it is as well to be upon the safe side. Maybe the enemy have spies in the town, and were it noticed that two young peasants rode out under the escort of a troop of cavalry news might be sent to Turin. In that case we might be arrested as soon as we entered the city. I should be obliged if you would give orders to the officer in command that one of the troopers should bring the horses, cloaks, and hats back here with him."
The governor rang a bell, and on an orderly entering said: "Tell Captain Sion to have his troop in readiness to start in an hour's time, in order to form an escort for one of Viscount Turenne's officers, and tell him that when he has the troop ready to start he is to come to me for detailed orders. I have said an hour, Monsieur Campbell," he went on, after the orderly had left the room, "because, in the first place, it is not yet dark, and in the second, it will take some twenty minutes to prepare a meal. You will have a long night's work before you, and I dare say you have had nothing since you halted for breakfast."
"Thank you, colonel, I had not thought of it; but I should certainly have remembered it before tomorrow morning. We halted for breakfast at eleven, and if it had not been for your kind offer we should have had no chance of getting anything till we entered Turin, and even there the less we go into any cabarets the better."
"That is true. I have sent a message to the cook that twenty minutes is the utmost we can give for the preparation of a meal."
CHAPTER IV: SUCCESS
Although the governor apologized to Hector for the poorness of the repast and the haste with which it had been prepared, it was really excellent, consisting of soup, some fish fresh from the river, a cutlet, and an omelette, with a bottle of good wine of Asti. Paolo's wants had been attended to in the kitchen. It was six o'clock when they started. The officer in command had already received his instructions, and the governor accompanied Hector to the door, where two horses were standing saddled.
"They are not your own," he said, "but are two of mine. I thought that yours had made a sufficiently long journey today."
Thanking him for his kindness, Hector mounted, and took his place by the side of Captain Simon, while Paolo fell in with the orderlies riding close behind.
"I presume, monsieur, that you are going to obtain some information for Viscount Turenne. I don't want to ask any questions as to the nature of your mission, but as I have orders to bring back with
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