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第一卷滑铁卢 第09章不测

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CHAPTER IX THE UNEXPECTED



There were three thousand five hundred of them. They formed a front a quarter of a league in extent. They were giant men, on colossal horses. There were six and twenty squadrons of them; and they had behind them to support them Lefebvre-Desnouettes's division,--the one hundred and six picked gendarmes, the light cavalry of the Guard, eleven hundred and ninety-seven men, and the lancers of the guard of eight hundred and eighty lances. They wore casques without horse-tails, and cuirasses of beaten iron, with horse-pistols in their holsters, and long sabre-swords. That morning the whole army had admired them, when, at nine o'clock, with braying of trumpets and all the music playing "Let us watch o'er the Safety of the Empire," they had come in a solid column, with one of their batteries on their flank, another in their centre, and deployed in two ranks between the roads to Genappe and Frischemont, and taken up their position for battle in that powerful second line, so cleverly arranged by Napoleon, which, having on its extreme left Kellermann's cuirassiers and on its extreme right Milhaud's cuirassiers, had, so to speak, two wings of iron.

Aide-de-camp Bernard carried them the Emperor's orders. Ney drew his sword and placed himself at their head. The enormous squadrons were set in motion.

Then a formidable spectacle was seen.

All their cavalry, with upraised swords, standards and trumpets flung to the breeze, formed in columns by divisions, descended, by a simultaneous movement and like one man, with the precision of a brazen battering-ram which is effecting a breach, the hill of La Belle Alliance, plunged into the terrible depths in which so many men had already fallen, disappeared there in the smoke, then emerging from that shadow, reappeared on the other side of the valley, still compact and in close ranks, mounting at a full trot, through a storm of grape-shot which burst upon them, the terrible muddy slope of the table-land of Mont-Saint-Jean. They ascended, grave, threatening, imperturbable; in the intervals between the musketry and the artillery, their colossal trampling was audible. Being two divisions, there were two columns of them; Wathier's division held the right, Delort's division was on the left. It seemed as though two immense adders of steel were to be seen crawling towards the crest of the table-land. It traversed the battle like a prodigy.

Nothing like it had been seen since the taking of the great redoubt of the Muskowa by the heavy cavalry; Murat was lacking here, but Ney was again present. It seemed as though that mass had become a monster and had but one soul. Each column undulated and swelled like the ring of a polyp. They could be seen through a vast cloud of smoke which was rent here and there. A confusion of helmets, of cries, of sabres, a stormy heaving of the cruppers of horses amid the cannons and the flourish of trumpets, a terrible and disciplined tumult; over all, the cuirasses like the scales on the hydra.

These narrations seemed to belong to another age. Something parallel to this vision appeared, no doubt, in the ancient Orphic epics, which told of the centaurs, the old hippanthropes, those Titans with human heads and equestrian chests who scaled Olympus at a gallop, horrible, invulnerable, sublime--gods and beasts.

Odd numerical coincidence,--twenty-six battalions rode to meet twenty-six battalions. Behind the crest of the plateau, in the shadow of the masked battery, the English infantry, formed into thirteen squares, two battalions to the square, in two lines, with seven in the first line, six in the second, the stocks of their guns to their shoulders, taking aim at that which was on the point of appearing, waited, calm, mute, motionless. They did not see the cuirassiers, and the cuirassiers did not see them. They listened to the rise of this flood of men. They heard the swelling noise of three thousand horse, the alternate and symmetrical tramp of their hoofs at full trot, the jingling of the cuirasses, the clang of the sabres and a sort of grand and savage breathing. There ensued a most terrible silence; then, all at once, a long file of uplifted arms, brandishing sabres, appeared above the crest, and casques, trumpets, and standards, and three thousand heads with gray mustaches, shouting, "Vive l'Empereur!" All this cavalry debouched on the plateau, and it was like the appearance of an earthquake.

All at once, a tragic incident; on the English left, on our right, the head of the column of cuirassiers reared up with a frightful clamor. On arriving at the culminating point of the crest, ungovernable, utterly given over to fury and their course of extermination of the squares and cannon, the cuirassiers had just caught sight of a trench,-- a trench between them and the English. It was the hollow road of Ohain.

It was a terrible moment. The ravine was there, unexpected, yawning, directly under the horses' feet, two fathoms deep between its double slopes; the second file pushed the first into it, and the third pushed on the second; the horses reared and fell backward, landed on their haunches, slid down, all four feet in the air, crushing and overwhelming the riders; and there being no means of retreat,-- the whole column being no longer anything more than a projectile,-- the force which had been acquired to crush the English crushed the French; the inexorable ravine could only yield when filled; horses and riders rolled there pell-mell, grinding each other, forming but one mass of flesh in this gulf: when this trench was full of living men, the rest marched over them and passed on. Almost a third of Dubois's brigade fell into that abyss.

This began the loss of the battle.

A local tradition, which evidently exaggerates matters, says that two thousand horses and fifteen hundred men were buried in the hollow road of Ohain. This figure probably comprises all the other corpses which were flung into this ravine the day after the combat.

Let us note in passing that it was Dubois's sorely tried brigade which, an hour previously, making a charge to one side, had captured the flag of the Lunenburg battalion.

Napoleon, before giving the order for this charge of Milhaud's cuirassiers, had scrutinized the ground, but had not been able to see that hollow road, which did not even form a wrinkle on the surface of the plateau. Warned, nevertheless, and put on the alert by the little white chapel which marks its angle of junction with the Nivelles highway, he had probably put a question as to the possibility of an obstacle, to the guide Lacoste. The guide had answered No. We might almost affirm that Napoleon's catastrophe originated in that sign of a peasant's head.

Other fatalities were destined to arise.

Was it possible that Napoleon should have won that battle? We answer No. Why? Because of Wellington? Because of Blucher? No. Because of God.

Bonaparte victor at Waterloo; that does not come within the law of the nineteenth century. Another series of facts was in preparation, in which there was no longer any room for Napoleon. The ill will of events had declared itself long before.

It was time that this vast man should fall.

The excessive weight of this man in human destiny disturbed the balance. This individual alone counted for more than a universal group. These plethoras of all human vitality concentrated in a single head; the world mounting to the brain of one man,--this would be mortal to civilization were it to last. The moment had arrived for the incorruptible and supreme equity to alter its plan. Probably the principles and the elements, on which the regular gravitations of the moral, as of the material, world depend, had complained. Smoking blood, over-filled cemeteries, mothers in tears,-- these are formidable pleaders. When the earth is suffering from too heavy a burden, there are mysterious groanings of the shades, to which the abyss lends an ear.

Napoleon had been denounced in the infinite and his fall had been decided on.

He embarrassed God.

Waterloo is not a battle; it is a change of front on the part of the Universe.




九 不 测




他们是三千五百人。前锋排列到四分之一法里宽。那是些骑着高头大马的巨人。他们分为二十六队,此外还有勒费弗尔-德努埃特师,一百六十名优秀宪兵,羽林军的狙击队,一千一百九十七人,还有羽林军的长矛队,八百八十支长矛,全都跟在后面,随时应援。他们头戴无缨铁盔,身穿铁甲,枪橐里带着短枪和长剑。早晨全军的人已经望着他们羡慕过一番了。那时是九点钟,军号响了,全军的乐队都奏出了“我们要卫护帝国”,他们排成密密层层的行列走来,一队炮兵在他们旁边,一队炮兵在他们中间,分作两行散布在从热纳普到弗里谢蒙的那条路上,他们的阵地是兵力雄厚的第二道防线,是由拿破仑英明擘画出来的,极左一端有克勒曼的铁甲骑兵,极右一端有米约的铁甲骑兵,我们可以说,他们是第二道防线的左右两铁翼。

副官贝尔纳传达了命令。内伊拔出了他的剑,一马当先。

大队出动了。

当时的声势真足丧人心胆。

那整队骑兵,长刀高举,旌旗和喇叭声迎风飘荡,每个师成一纵队,行动一致,有如一人,准确得象那种无坚不摧的铜羊头①,从佳盟坡上直冲下去,深入尸骸枕藉的险地,消失在烟雾中,继又越过烟雾,出现在山谷的彼端,始终密集,相互靠拢,前后紧接,穿过那乌云一般向他们扑来的开花弹,冲向圣约翰山高地边沿上峻急泥泞的斜坡。他们由下上驰,严整,勇猛,沉着,在枪炮声偶尔间断的一刹那间,我们可以听到那支大军的踏地声。他们既是两个师,便列了两个纵队,瓦蒂埃师居右,德洛尔师居左。远远望去,好象两条钢筋铁骨的巨蟒爬向那高地的山脊。有如神兽穿越战云。

①古代攻坚的长木柱,柱端冠以铜羊头,用以冲击城门等。 

自从夺取莫斯科河炮台以来,还不曾有过这种以大队骑兵冲杀的战争,这次缪拉不在,但是内伊仍然参与了。那一大队人马仿佛变成了一个怪物,并且只有一条心。每个分队都蜿蜒伸缩,有如腔肠动物的环节。我们可以随时从浓烟的缝隙中发现他们。无数的铁盔、吼声、白刃,还有马尻在炮声和鼓乐声中的奔腾,声势猛烈而秩序井然,显露在上层的便是龙鳞般的胸甲。

这种叙述好象是属于另一时代的。类此的景物确在古代的志异诗篇中见过,那种马人,半马半人的人面马身金刚,驰骋在奥林匹斯山头,丑恶凶猛,坚强无敌,雄伟绝伦,是神也是兽。

数字上的巧合也是稀有的,二十六营步兵迎战二十六分队骑士。在那高地的顶点背后,英国步兵在隐伏着的炮队的掩护下,分成十三个方阵,每两个营组成一个方阵,分列两排,前七后六,枪托抵在肩上,瞄着迎面冲来的敌人,沉着,不言不动,一心静候,他们看不见铁甲骑兵,铁甲骑兵也看不见他们。他们只听见这边的人浪潮似的涌来了。他们听见那三千匹马的声音越来越大,听见马蹄奔走时发出的那种交替而整齐的踏地声、铁甲的磨擦声、刀剑的撞击声和一片粗野强烈的喘息声。一阵骇人的寂静过后,忽然一长列举起钢刀的胳膊在那顶点上出现了,只见铁盔、喇叭和旗帜,三千颗有灰色髭须的人头齐声喊道:“皇帝万岁!”全部骑兵已经冲上了高地,并且出现了有如天崩地裂的局面。

突然,惨不忍睹,在英军的左端,我军的右端,铁骑纵队前锋的战马,在震撼山岳的呐喊声中全都直立起来了。一气狂奔到那山脊最高处,正要冲去歼灭那些炮队和方阵的铁骑军时,到此突然发现在他们和英军之间有一条沟,一条深沟,那便是奥安的凹路。

那一刹那是惊天动地的。那条裂谷在猝不及防时出现,张着大口,直悬在马蹄下面,两壁之间深达四公尺,第二排冲着第一排,第三排冲着第二排,那些马全都立了起来,向后倒,坐在臀上,四脚朝天往下滑,骑士们全被挤了下来,垒成人堆,绝对无法后退,整个纵队就象一颗炮弹,用以摧毁英国人的那种冲力却用在法国人身上了,那条无可飞渡的沟谷不到填满不甘休,骑兵和马匹纵横颠倒,一个压着一个,全滚了下去,成了那深渊中的一整团血肉,等到那条沟被活人填满以后,余下的人马才从他们身上踏过去。杜布瓦旅几乎丧失了三分之一在那条天堑里。

从此战争开始失利了。

当地有一种传说,当然言过其实,说在奥安的那条凹路里坑了二千匹马和一千五百人。如果把在战争次日抛下去的尸体总计在内,这数字也许和事实相去不远。

顺便补充一句,在一个钟头以前,孤军深入,夺取吕内堡营军旗的,正是这惨遭不测的杜布瓦旅。

拿破仑在命令米约铁骑军冲击之先,曾经估量过地形,不过没有看出那条在高地上连一点痕迹也不露的凹路。可是那所白色小礼拜堂显示出那条凹路和尼维尔路的差度,提醒过他,使他有了警惕,因此他向向导拉科斯特提了个问题,也许是问前面有无障碍。向导回答没有。我们几乎可以这样说,拿破仑的崩溃是由那个农民摇头造成的。

此外也还有其他非败不可的原因。

拿破仑这次要获胜,可能吗?我们说不可能。为什么?由于威灵顿的缘故吗?由于布吕歇尔的缘故吗?都不是。天意使然。

如果拿破仑在滑铁卢胜利,那就违反了十九世纪的规律。一系列的事变早已在酝酿中,迫使拿破仑不能再有立足之地。

形势不利,由来已久。

那巨人败亡的时候早已到了。

那个人的过分的重量搅乱了人类命运的平衡。他单独一人较之全人类还更为重大。全人类的充沛精力要是都集中在一个人的头颅里,全世界要是都萃集于一个人的脑子里,那种状况,如果延续下去,就会是文明的末日。实现至高无上、至当不移的公理的时刻已经来到了。决定精神方面和物质方面必然趋势的各种原则和因素都已感到不平。热气腾腾的血、公墓中人满之患、痛哭流涕的慈母,这些都是有力的控诉。人世间既已苦于不胜负荷,冥冥之中,便会有一种神秘的呻吟上达天听。

拿破仑已在天庭受到控告,他的倾覆是注定了的。

他使上帝不快。

滑铁卢绝不是一场战斗,而是宇宙面貌的更新。
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