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On the 18th June, 1815, at the very moment when the destiny of Europe was being
decided at Waterloo, a man dressed like a beggar was silently following the road from
Toulon to Marseilles.
Arrived at the entrance of the Gorge of Ollioulles, he halted on a little eminence from
which he could see all the surrounding country; then either because he had reached the
end of his journey, or because, before attempting that forbidding, sombre pass which is
called the Thermopylae of Provence, he wished to enjoy the magnificent view which
spread to the southern horizon a little longer, he went and sat down on the edge of the
ditch which bordered the road, turning his back on the mountains which rise like an
amphitheatre to the north of the town, and having at his feet a rich plain covered with
tropical vegetation, exotics of a conservatory, trees and flowers quite unknown in any
other part of France.
Beyond this plain, glittering in the last rays of the sun, pale and motionless as a mirror
lay the sea, and on the surface of the water glided one brig-of-war, which, taking
advantage of a fresh land breeze, had all sails spread, and was bowling along rapidly,
making for Italian seas. The beggar followed it eagerly with his eyes until it disappeared
between the Cape of Gien and the first of the islands of Hyeres, then as the white
apparition vanished he sighed deeply, let his head fall into his hands, and remained
motionless and absorbed in his reflections until the tramplings of a cavalcade made him
start; he looked up, shook back his long black hair, as if he wished to get rid of the
gloomy thoughts which were overwhelming him, and, looking at the entrance to the
gorge from whence the noise came, he soon saw two riders appear, who were no doubt
well known to him, for, drawing himself up to his full height, he let fall the stick he was
carrying, and folding his arms he turned towards them. On their side the new-comers
had hardly seen him before they halted, and the foremost dismounted, threw his bridle
to his companion, and uncovering, though fifty paces from the man in rags, advanced
respectfully towards him. The beggar allowed him to approach with an air of sombre
dignity and without a single movement; then, when he was quite near--
"Well, marshal, have, you news for me?" said the beggar.
"Yes, sire," said the other sadly.