Do your bestâ€” â€”â€” the rest!"
Beneath his varnish of chivalry, it cannot be gainsayed that the knight was often a bloody and ferocious barbarian. There was little quarter in his wars, save when a ransom might be claimed. But with all his savagery, he was a light-hearted creature, like a formidable boy playing a dreadful game. He was true also to his own curious code, and, so far as his own class went, his feelings were genial and sympathetic, even in warfare. There was no personal feeling or bitterness as there might be now in a war between Frenchmen and Germans. On the contrary, the opponents were very softspoken and polite to each other. "Is there any small vow of which I may relieve you?" "Would you desire to attempt some small deed of arms upon me?" And in the midst of a fight they would stop for a breather, and converse amicably the while, with many compliments upon each other's prowess. When Seaton the Scotsman had exchanged as many blows as he wished with a company of French knights, he said, "Thank you, gentlemen, thank you!" and galloped away. An English knight made a vow, "for his own advancement and the exaltation of his lady," that he would ride into the hostile city of Paris, and touch with his lance the inner barrier. The whole story is most characteristic of the times. As he galloped up, the French knights around the barrier, seeing that he was under vow, made no attack upon him, and called out to him that he had carried himself well. As he returned, however, there stood an unmannerly butcher with a pole-axe upon the side-walk, who struck him as he passed, and killed him. Here ends the chronicler; but I have not the least doubt that the butcher had a very evil time at the hands of the French knights, who would not stand by and see one of their own order, even if he were an enemy, meet so plebeian an end.
"Not far off Macconochie was standing with his tongue out of
Let me hark back for a moment to the subject with which I began, the romance of travel and the frequent heroism of modern life. I have two books of Scientific Exploration here which exhibit both these qualities as strongly as any I know. I could not choose two better books to put into a young man's hands if you wished to train him first in a gentle and noble firmness of mind, and secondly in a great love for and interest in all that pertains to Nature. The one is Darwin's "Journal of the Voyage of the Beagle." Any discerning eye must have detected long before the "Origin of Species" appeared, simply on the strength of this book of travel, that a brain of the first order, united with many rare qualities of character, had arisen. Never was there a more comprehensive mind. Nothing was too small and nothing too great for its alert observation. One page is occupied in the analysis of some peculiarity in the web of a minute spider, while the next deals with the evidence for the subsidence of a continent and the extinction of a myriad animals. And his sweep of knowledge was so greatâ€”botany, geology, zoology, each lending its corroborative aid to the other. How a youth of Darwin's ageâ€”he was only twenty-three when in the year 1831 he started round the world on the surveying ship Beagleâ€”could have acquired such a mass of information fills one with the same wonder, and is perhaps of the same nature, as the boy musician who exhibits by instinct the touch of the master. Another quality which one would be less disposed to look for in the savant is a fine contempt for danger, which is veiled in such modesty that one reads between the lines in order to detect it. When he was in the Argentina, the country outside the Settlements was covered with roving bands of horse Indians, who gave no quarter to any whites. Yet Darwin rode the four hundred miles between Bahia and Buenos Ayres, when even the hardy Gauchos refused to accompany him. Personal danger and a hideous death were small things to him compared to a new beetle or an undescribed fly.
There is a little vignette of Napoleon's men in captivity. Here is another which is worth preserving of the bearing of his veterans when wounded on the field of battle. It is from Mercer's recollections of the Battle of Waterloo. Mercer had spent the day firing case into the French cavalry at ranges from fifty to two hundred yards, losing two-thirds of his own battery in the process. In the evening he had a look at some of his own grim handiwork.