THIS is a part of one of Byron's finest poems, "Childe Harold." It relates the events of the night before the battle of Quatre Bras, which was fought near Brussels, the capital of Belgium, on June 16, 1815, and was the preliminary of the great battle of Waterloo, fought two days later. Three nights before the battle of Waterloo the English Duchess of Richmond gave a ball in Brussels, and invited many of the officers of the allied English and Prussian armies, which were at war with the French. The Duke of Wellington, commander-in-chief of the English army, was said to have been one of the guests. While the ball was at its height a messenger brought word to Wellington that the French under Napoleon were advancing towards the city. He did not wish to alarm the people, and so kept the information secret, but he sent the officers one by one to their regiments, and finally left for the field himself. In the poem, however, the dancers at the ball heard a distant booming. At first they paid little heed to it, and went on with the dancing; but presently the sound grew louder and clearer, and they recognized it as the roar of cannon. The first to hear it was Frederick William, Duke of Brunswick, whose father had been killed in battle. He left for the front at once, and was killed the next day, June 16th, in the battle of Quatre Bras. The officers said farewell to the ladies, and hurried from the ball to mount and ride against the French; while the frightened citizens crowded the streets, fearing that Napoleon was about to enter Brussels. Waterloo was a great victory for the English and Prussian armies. It was the real end of Napoleon's all-conquering career, and led to his capture and banishment to the island of St. Helena.
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