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There is a cloud of doubt resting on a few of the tales, which it may be honest to mention, though they were far too beautiful not to tell. These are the details of the Gallic occupation of Rome, the Legend of St. Geneviève, the Letter of Gertrude von der Wart, the stories of the Keys of Calais, of the Dragon of Rhodes, and we fear we must add, both Nelson's plan of the battle of the Nile, and likewise the exact form of the heroism of young Casabianca, of which no two accounts agree.
But it was not possible to give up such stories as these, and the thread of truth there must be in them has developed into such a beautiful tissue, that even if unsubstantial when tested, it is surely delightful to contemplate.
Some stories have been passed over as too devoid of foundation, in especial that of young Henri, Duke of Nemours, who, at ten years old, was said to have been hung up with his little brother of eight in one of Louis XI.'s cages at Loches, with orders that two of the children's teeth should daily be pulled out and brought to the king. The elder child was said to have insisted on giving the whole supply of teeth, so as to save his brother ; but though they were certainly imprisoned after their father's execu
tion, they were released after Louis's death in a condition which disproves this atrocity.
The Indian mutiny might likewise have supplied glorious instances of Christian self-devotion, but want of materials has compelled us to stop short of recording those noble deeds by which delicate women and light-hearted young soldiers showed, that in the hour of need there was not wanting to them the highest and deepest “spirit of self-sacrifice.”
At some risk of prolixity, enough of the surrounding events have in general been given to make the situation comprehensible, even without knowledge of the general history. This has been done in the hope that these extracts may serve as a mother's storehouse for reading aloud to her boys, or that they may be found useful for short readings to the intelligent, though uneducated classes.