Excerpt from “Vanity Fair” by William Makepeace Thackeray ~~Waterloo~~

picture-VanityFair-ThackerayThey did not hear the noise which disturbed our little congregation at Brussels. Much louder than that which had interrupted them two days previously, as Mrs. O’Dowd was reading the service in her best voice, the cannon of Waterloo began to roar.
When Jos heard that dreadful sound, he made up his mind that he would bear this perpetual recurrence of terrors no longer, and would fly at once. He rushed into the sick man’s room, where our three friends had paused in their prayers, and further interrupted them by a passionate appeal to Amelia.
“I can’t stand it any more, Emmy,” he said; “I won’t stand it; and you must come with me. I have bought a horse for you–never mind at what price–and you must dress and come with me, and ride behind Isidor.”
“God forgive me, Mr. Sedley, but you are no better than a coward,” Mrs. O’Dowd said, laying down the book.
“I say come, Amelia,” the civilian went on; “never mind what she says; why are we to stop here and be butchered by the Frenchmen?”
“You forget the –th, my boy,” said the little Stubble, the wounded hero, from his bed–“and and you won’t leave me, will you, Mrs. O’Dowd?”
“No, my dear fellow,” said she, going up and kissing the boy. “No harm shall come to you while I stand by. I don’t budge till I get the word from Mick. A pretty figure I’d be, wouldn’t I, stuck behind that chap on a pillion?”
This image caused the young patient to burst out laughing in his bed, and even made Amelia smile. “I don’t ask her,” Jos shouted out–“I don’t ask that–that Irishwoman, but you Amelia; once for all, will you come?”
“Without my husband, Joseph?” Amelia said, with a look of wonder, and gave her hand to the Major’s wife. Jos’s patience was exhausted.
“Good-bye, then,” he said, shaking his fist in a rage, and slamming the door by which he retreated. And this time he really gave his order for march: and mounted in the court-yard. Mrs. O’Dowd heard the clattering hoofs of the horses as they issued from the gate; and looking on, made many scornful remarks on poor Joseph as he rode down the street with Isidor after him in the laced cap. The horses, which had not been exercised for some days, were lively, and sprang about the street. Jos, a clumsy and timid horseman, did not look to advantage in the saddle. “Look at him, Amelia dear, driving into the parlour window. Such a bull in a china-shop I never saw.” And presently the pair of riders disappeared at a canter down the street leading in the direction of the Ghent road, Mrs. O’Dowd pursuing them with a fire of sarcasm so long as they were in sight.
All that day from morning until past sunset, the cannon never ceased to roar. It was dark when the cannonading stopped all of a sudden.
All of us have read of what occurred during that interval. The tale is in every Englishman’s mouth; and you and I, who were children when the great battle was won and lost, are never tired of hearing and recounting the history of that famous action. Its remembrance rankles still in the bosoms of millions of the countrymen of those brave men who lost the day. They pant for an opportunity of revenging that humiliation; and if a contest, ending in a victory on their part, should ensue, elating them in their turn, and leaving its cursed legacy of hatred and rage behind to us, there is no end to the so-called glory and shame, and to the alternations of successful and unsuccessful murder, in which two high-spirited nations might engage. Centuries hence, we Frenchmen and Englishmen might be boasting and killing each other still, carrying out bravely the Devil’s code of honour.
All our friends took their share and fought like men in the great field. All day long, whilst the women were praying ten miles away, the lines of the dauntless English infantry were receiving and repelling the furious charges of the French horsemen. Guns which were heard at Brussels were ploughing up their ranks, and comrades falling, and the resolute survivors closing in. Towards evening, the attack of the French, repeated and resisted so bravely, slackened in its fury. They had other foes besides the British to engage, or were preparing for a final onset. It came at last: the columns of the Imperial Guard marched up the hill of Saint Jean, at length and at once to sweep the English from the height which they had maintained all day, and spite of all: unscared by the thunder of the artillery, which hurled death from the English line–the dark rolling column pressed on and up the hill. It seemed almost to crest the eminence, when it began to wave and falter. Then it stopped, still facing the shot. Then at last the English troops rushed from the post from which no enemy had been able to dislodge them, and the Guard turned and fled.
No more firing was heard at Brussels–the pursuit rolled miles away. Darkness came down on the field and city: and Amelia was praying for George, who was lying on his face, dead, with a bullet through his heart.

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1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature

One response to “Excerpt from “Vanity Fair” by William Makepeace Thackeray ~~Waterloo~~

  1. William Makepeace Thackeray was born in Calcutta, British India on 18 July 1911 and died on 24 December 1863, aged 52 years.
    “Vanity Fair” was first published as a serial in 20 parts between January 1847 and July 1848.

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