CHAPTER I: A STROKE OF GOOD FORTUNE
A mounted officer, followed by two orderlies, was proceeding at a brisk trot from Paris to St. Denis, in October, 1639, when he came upon a large party of boys, who, armed with sticks, were advancing in something like military order against a wall on the top of a low hill.
"What are you doing?" he asked the lad who appeared to be the leader.
"We are playing at war, sir. We are advancing against the fortress of La Motte. This is the regiment of Turenne."
"And who are you at other times?" the officer asked with a smile.
"My name is Hector Campbell, sir."
"Then you are not French?"
"No, sir; my father was an officer in the Scotch regiment. He was killed at the siege of La Rochelle."
"And who is taking care of you?"
"I live with Angus MacIntosh. He was a sergeant in my father's company. He was badly wounded at La Rochelle, and not being fit for further service, he took a cabaret near the barracks. The officers are very kind. They allow him a sum for taking care of me. Of course I am often in barracks, and have learned the drill, and I have heard and read about battles and sieges, so I am chosen to command."
"And so you know something of the battles in which Turenne was engaged?"
"I think I know about them all, sir, both in Holland and on the Rhine, and have seen plans of the battles. Of course this is not at all like La Motte, which was on the top of a high rock, so that when Turenne was ordered to attack with his regiment after the general's son had failed, he had to pass not only through a heavy fire, but through the huge stones that the enemy hurled down. It was grand; and he did well at all the other sieges. Then, again, there was Saverne. See how he fought there, and stormed the place when even the Swedes, who are good soldiers, had failed. I think he is going to be the greatest of our captains."
"Turenne is only a learner in the art of war," the other said gravely.
"I think he has learnt more than any of the rest," the boy said boldly; "and all the soldiers love him more than any of the other generals, for he takes such care of them, and does not treat them as if they were dirt under his feet, only meant to obey orders, and go and get killed when told."
"You have heard him very much over praised," the officer said quietly. "I think that he does his best; but he is a young man yet, not older than I am. His advance has been due to fortune rather than to his own merits."
"I don't think so," the boy said sturdily. "Do you think that he would be a lieutenant general at twenty-eight, and that all the soldiers would speak of him as they do, if it were only fortune? Look how he captured Landrecies and Solre, and drove the Austrians back from Maubeurge, and aided the Duke of Weimar to thrash them at Weilenweir, and stormed the main fort of Breisach! He has been successful in all his enterprises, and now it is said he is to command in Italy, where things have been going on badly. The cardinal would not have chosen him had he not considered that no one could do better than he."
The officer laughed....