The Bronze Eagle
by Emmuska Orczy
The perfect calm of an early spring dawn lies over headland and sea—hardly a ripple stirs the blue cheek of the bay. The softness of departing night lies upon the bosom of the Mediterranean like the dew upon the heart of a flower.A silent dawn.Veils of transparent greys and purples and mauves still conceal the distant horizon. Breathless calm rests upon the water and that awed hush which at times descends upon Nature herself when the finger of Destiny marks an eventful hour.But now the grey and the purple veils beyond the headland are lifted one by one; the midst of dawn rises upwards like the smoke of incense from some giant censers swung by unseen, mighty hands.The sky above is of a translucent green, studded with stars that blink and now are slowly extinguished one by one: the green has turned to silver, and the silver to lemon-gold: the veils beyond the upland are flying in the wake of departing Night.The lemon-gold turns to glowing amber, anon to orange and crimson, and far inland the mountain peaks, peeping shyly through the mist, blush a vivid rose to find themselves so fair.And to the south, there where fiery sea blends and merges with fiery sky, a tiny black speck has just come into view. Larger and larger it grows as it draws nearer to the land, now it seems like a bird with wings outspread—an eagle flying swiftly to the shores of France.In the bay the fisher folk, who are making ready for their day's work, pause a moment as they haul up their nets: with rough brown hands held above their eyes they look out upon that black speck—curious, interested, for the ship is not one they have seen in these waters before."'Tis the Emperor come back from Elba!" says someone.The men laugh and shrug their shoulders: that tale has been told so often in these parts during the past year: the good folk have ceased to believe in it. It has almost become a legend now, that story that the Emperor was coming back—their Emperor—the man with the battered hat and the grey redingote: the people's Emperor, he who led them from victory to victory, whose eagles soared above every capital and every tower in Europe, he who made France glorious and respected: her citizens, men, her soldiers, heroes.