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´╗┐Title: In the Track of the Troops
Author: Ballantyne, R. M. (Robert Michael), 1825-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the Track of the Troops" ***

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IN THE TRACK OF THE TROOPS, BY R.M. BALLANTYNE.



CHAPTER ONE.

A TALE OF MODERN WAR.

REVEALS THE EXPLOSIVE NATURE OF MY EARLY CAREER.

The remarkable--I might even say amazing--personal adventures which I am
about to relate occurred quite recently.

They are so full of interest to myself and to my old mother, that I
hasten to write them down while yet vivid and fresh in my memory, in the
hope that they may prove interesting,--to say nothing of elevating and
instructive--to the English-speaking portions of the human race
throughout the world.

The dear old lady to whom I have just referred--my mother--is one of the
gentlest, meekest, tenderest beings of my acquaintance.  Her regard for
me is almost idolatrous.  My feelings towards her are tinged with
adoration.

From my earliest years I have been addicted to analysis.

Some of my younger readers may not perhaps know that by analysis is
meant the reduction of compound things to their elements--the turning of
things, as it were, inside out and tearing them to pieces.  All the
complex toys of infancy I was wont to reduce to their elements; I turned
them inside out to see what they were made of, and how they worked.  A
doll, not my own, but my sister Bella's, which had moveable eyelids and
a musical stomach, was treated by me in this manner, the result being
that I learned little, while my poor sister suffered much.  Everything
in my father's house suffered more or less from this inquiring tendency
of my mind.

Time, however, while it did not abate my thirst for knowledge, developed
my constructive powers.  I became a mechanician and an inventor.
Perpetual motion was my first hobby.  Six times during the course of
boyhood did I burst into my mother's presence with the astounding news
that I had "discovered it at last!"  The mild and trustful being
believed me.  Six times also was I compelled to acknowledge to her that
I had been mistaken, and again she believed me, more thoroughly,
perhaps, than at first.  No one, I think, can form the least idea of the
delight with which I pursued this mechanical will-o'-the-wisp.

Growing older, I took to chemistry, and here my love for research and
analysis found ample scope, while the sufferings of my father's
household were intensified.  I am not naturally cruel--far from it.
They little knew how much pain their sufferings caused me; how earnestly
I endeavoured to lessen or neutralise the nuisances which the pursuit of
science entailed.  But I could not consume my own smoke, or prevent
explosions, or convert bad and suffocating odours into sweet smells.

Settling down to this new pursuit with intense enthusiasm, I soon began
to flow in my natural course, and sought to extend the bounds of
chemical knowledge.  I could not help it.  The particular direction in
which my interest ultimately became concentrated was that of explosives.

After becoming acquainted with gun-cotton, nitro-glycerine, dynamite,
lithofracteur, and other combinations of powerfully-explosive agents, I
took to searching for and inventing methods by which these might be
utilised.  To turn everything to good account, is a desire which I
cannot resist.

Explosives naturally drew my attention to mines--tin-mines, coal-mines,
and other commercial enterprises.  They also suggested war and
torpedoes.

At that time I had not reflected on the nature of war.  I merely knew it
to be a science, cultivated chiefly by the human race, and that in its
practice explosives are largely used.  To "blow-up" effectively, whether
in a literal or figurative sense, is difficult.  To improve this power
in war, and in the literal sense, I set myself to work.  I invented a
torpedo, which seemed to me better than any that had yet been brought
out.  To test its powers, I made a miniature fortification, and blew it
up.  I also blew up our groom, Jacob Lancey.

It happened thus:--

The miniature fortress, which was made of cardboard, earth, and bricks,
was erected in a yard near our stables.  Under its walls the torpedo was
placed, and the match lighted.

It was night and very dark.  I had selected the hour as being that most
suitable to the destruction of an enemy's stronghold.  The match was
very slow in burning.  Matches invariably are so in the circumstances.
Suddenly I heard the sound of footsteps.  Next moment, before I had time
to give warning, Jacob Lancey came round the corner of the stables with
a pitchfork on his shoulder, and walked right into the fortress.  He set
his foot on the principal gateway, tripped over the ramparts, and
falling headlong into the citadel, laid its banner in the dust.  At the
same instant there came a terrific flash and crash, and from the midst
of smoke and flames, the groom appeared to shoot into the air!

With feelings of horror I sprang to the rescue and dragged the poor
fellow from the smoking debris.  He was stunned at first, but soon
recovered, and then it was found that one of the fingers of his left
hand had been completely blown off.  Words cannot describe my feelings.
I felt as if I had become next thing to a murderer.  Lancey was a tall
powerful man of about thirty, and not easily killed.  He had received no
other injury worth mentioning.  Although the most faithful of servants,
he was irascible, and I anticipated an explosion of temper when he
recovered sufficiently to understand the nature of his injury, but I was
mistaken.  The blowing-up seemed to have quite cured his temper--at
least as regarded myself, for when I afterwards went to see him, with a
very penitent face, he took my hand and said--

"Don't take on so, Master Jeffry.  You didn't do it a purpus, you know,
and, after all, it's on'y the little finger o' the left hand.  It'll be
rather hout o' the way than otherwise.  Moreover, I was used to make a
baccy stopper o' that finger, an' it strikes me that the stump'll fit
the pipe better than the pint did, besides bein' less sensitive to fire,
who knows?  Any'ow, Master Jeffry, you've got no occasion to grieve over
it so."

I felt a little comforted when the good fellow spoke thus, but I could
not forgive myself.  For some time after that I quite gave up my
chemical and other experiments, and when I did ultimately resume them, I
went to work with extreme caution.

Not long after this event I went to college, and studied medicine.  My
course was nearly completed when my dear father died.  He had earnestly
desired that I should enter the medical profession.  I therefore
resolved to finish my course, although, being left in possession of a
small estate named Fagend, in Devonshire, and an ample income, it was
not requisite that I should practise for a livelihood.

One morning, a considerable time after my studies were completed, I sat
at breakfast with my mother.

"Jeff," she said (my name is Jeffry Childers); "Jeff, what do you think
of doing now?  Being twenty-four, you ought, you know, to have some
fixed idea as to the future, for, of course, though independent, you
don't intend to be idle."

"Right, mother, right," I replied, "I don't mean to be an idler,
nevertheless I don't mean to be a doctor.  I shall turn my mind to
chemistry, and talking of that, I expect to test the powers of a
particular compound today."

"And what," said my mother, with a peculiar smile, "is the nature of
this compound?"

"Violently explosive," said I.

"Ah, of course, I might have guessed that, Jeff, for most of your
compounds are either violently explosive or offensive--sometimes both;
but what is the name of this one?"

"Before answering that," said I, pulling out my watch, "allow me to ask
at what hour you expect Bella home to-day."

"She half promised to be over to breakfast, if cousin Kate would let her
away.  It is probable that she may arrive in less than an hour."

"Curious coincidence," said I, "that her lover is likely to arrive about
the same time!"

"What!  Nicholas Naranovitsch?"

"Yes.  The ship in which he sailed from St. Petersburg arrived late last
night, and I have just received a telegram, saying that he will be down
by the first train this morning.  Love, you know, is said to have wings.
If the pair given to Naranovitsch are at all in keeping with his
powerful frame, they will bear him swiftly to Fagend."

It may interest the reader at this point to know that my only sister,
Bella, had been engaged the previous year to one of my dearest college
friends, a young Russian, whose father had sent him to finish his
education in England.  My own father, having been a merchant, many of
whose dealings were with Russia, had frequently visited St. Petersburg
and twice my mother and sister and I accompanied him thither.  While
there we had met with the Naranovitsch family.

Young Nicholas was now in the army, and as fine-looking a fellow as one
could wish to see.  Not only was he strong and manly, but gentle in
manner and tender of heart.  My sister Bella being the sweetest--no, not
quite that, for there _is_ a pretty young--well, no matter--Bella being,
as I may say, _one_ of the sweetest girls in England, he fell in love
with her, of course.  So did she with him; no wonder!  During a visit to
our place in Devonshire at the end of his college career, he and Bella
became engaged.  Nicholas returned to St. Petersburg to obtain his
parents' consent to the union, and to make arrangements.  He was rich,
and could afford to marry.  At the time I write of, he was coming back,
not to claim his bride, for his father thought him still too young, but
to see her, and to pay us a visit.

"Now you know, mother," said I, "after the young people have seen each
other for half-an-hour or so, they will naturally want to take a walk or
a ride, and--"

"Only half-an-hour?" interrupted my mother, with one of her peculiar
little smiles.

"Well, an hour if you like, or two if they prefer it," I returned; "at
all events, they will want a walk before luncheon, and I shall take the
opportunity to show them some experiments, which prove the power of the
singular compound about which you questioned me just now."

"The explosive?"

"Yes.  Its name is dynamite."

"And what may that be, Jeff?  Something very awful, I daresay," remarked
my mother, with a look of interest, as she sipped her tea.

"Very awful, indeed," said I; "at least its effects are sometimes
tremendous."

"What! worse than gunpowder?"

"Ay, much worse, though I should prefer to say _better_ than gunpowder."

"Dear me!" rejoined my mother, lifting her eyebrows a little, in
surprise.

"Yes, much better," I continued; "gunpowder only bursts things--"

"Pretty well that, Jeff, in the way of violence, isn't it?"

"Yes, but nothing to dynamite, for while powder only bursts things,
dynamite shatters them."

"How very dreadful!  What _is_ dynamite?"

"That is just what I am about to explain," said I.  "You must know,
then, that it is a compound."

"Dear, dear," sighed my mother; "how many compounds you have told me
about, Jeff, since you took to chemistry!  Are there no uncompounded
things--no simple things in the world?"

"Why, yes, mother; _you_ are a simple thing, and I only wish there were
a good many more simple things like you in the world--"

"Don't be foolish, Jeff, but answer my question."

"Well, mother, there are indeed some simple elements in creation, but
dynamite is not one of them.  It is composed of an excessively explosive
oil named nitro-glycerine (itself a compound), and an earth called
kieselguhr.  The earth is not explosive, and is only mixed with the
nitro-glycerine to render that liquid less dangerous; but the compound
is named dynamite, in which form it is made up and sold in immense
quantities for mining purposes.  Here is some of it," I added, pulling
from my pocket a cartridge nearly two inches in length, and about an
inch in diameter.  "It is a soft, pasty substance, done up, as you see,
in cartridge-paper, and this little thing, if properly fired, would blow
a large boulder-stone to atoms."

"Bless me, boy, be careful!" exclaimed my mother, pushing back her chair
in some alarm.

"There is no danger," I said, in reassuring tones, "for this cartridge,
if opened out and set on fire by a spark or flame, would not, in the
first place, light readily, and, in the second place, it would merely
burn without exploding; but if I were to put a detonator inside and fire
it by means of _that_, it would explode with a violence that far exceeds
the force of gunpowder."

"And what is this wonderful detonator, Jeff, that so excites the latent
fury of the dynamite?"

I was much amused by the pat way in which my mother questioned me, and
became more interested as I continued my explanation.

"You must know," I said, "that many powders are violently explosive, and
some more so than others.  This violence of explosion is called
detonation, by which is meant the almost instantaneous conversion of the
ultimate molecules of an explosive compound (i.e. the whole concern)
into gas."

"I see; you mean that it goes off quickly," said my mother, in a simple
way that was eminently characteristic.

"Well, yes; but much more quickly than gunpowder does.  It were better
to say that a powder detonates when it _all_ explodes at the _same_
instant.  Gunpowder appears to do so, but in reality it does not.  One
of the best detonators is fulminate of mercury.  Detonating caps are
therefore made of this, and one such cap put into the middle of that
cartridge of dynamite and set fire to, by any means, would convert the
cartridge itself into a detonator, and explode it with a _shattering_
effect.

"A human being," I continued, "sometimes illustrates this principle
figuratively--I mean the violent explosion of a large cartridge by means
of a small detonator.  Take, for example, a schoolmaster, and suppose
him to be a dynamite cartridge.  His heart is a detonating cap.  The
schoolroom and boys form a galvanic battery.  His brain may be likened
to a conducting-wire.  He enters the schoolroom; the chemical elements
are seething in riot, books are being torn and thrown, ink spilt,
etcetera.  Before opening the door, the good man is a quiet piece of
plastic dynamite, but the instant his eye is touched, the electric
circuit is, as it were, completed; the mysterious current flashes
through the brain, and fires his detonating heart.  Instantly the
gleaming flame shoots with lightning-speed to temples and toes.  The
entire man becomes a detonator, and he explodes in a violent hurricane
of kicks, cuffs, and invective!  Now, without a detonator--a heart--the
man might have burned with moderate wrath, but he could not have
exploded."

"Don't try illustration, Jeff," said my plain-spoken mother, gently
patting my arm; "it is not one of your strong points."

"Perhaps not; but do you understand me?"

"I think I do, in a hazy sort of way."

Dear mother! she always professes to comprehend things hazily, and
indeed I sometimes fear that her conceptions on the rather abstruse
matters which I bring before her are not always correct; but it is
delightful to watch the profound interest with which she listens, and
the patient efforts she makes to understand.  I must in justice add that
she sometimes, though not often, displays gleams of clear intelligence,
and powers of close incisive reasoning, that quite surprise me.

"But now, to return to what we were speaking of--my future plans," said
I; "it seems to me that it would be a good thing if I were to travel for
a year or so and see the world."

"You might do worse, my boy," said my mother.

"With a view to that," I continued, "I have resolved to purchase a
yacht, but before doing so I must complete the new torpedo that I have
invented for the navy; that is, I hope it may be introduced into our
navy.  The working model in the outhouse is all but ready for
exhibition.  When finished, I shall show it to the Lords of the
Admiralty, and after they have accepted it I will throw study overboard
for a time and go on a cruise."

"Ah, Jeff, Jeff," sighed my mother, with a shake of her head, "you'll
never leave off till you get blown up.  But I suppose you must have your
way.  You always had, dear boy."

"But never in opposition to your wishes, had I?  Now be just, mother."

"Quite true, Jeff, quite true.  How comes it, I wonder, that you are so
fond of fire, smoke, fumes, crash, clatter, and explosions?"

"Really," said I, somewhat amused by the question, "I cannot tell,
unless it be owing to something in that law of compensation which
appears to permeate the universe.  You have such an abhorrence of fire,
fumes, smoke, crash, clatter, and explosions, that your only son is
bound, as it were, to take special delight in chemical analysis and
combination, to say nothing of mechanical force and contrivance, in
order that a balance of some sort may be adjusted which would otherwise
be thrown out of order by your--pardon me--comparative ignorance of, and
indifference to such matters."

"Nay, Jeff," replied my mother, gently, with a look of reproof on her
kind face; "ignorance if you will, but not indifference.  I cannot be
indifferent to anything that interests you."

"True; forgive me; I should have said `dislike.'"

"Yes, that would have been correct, Jeff, for I cannot pretend to like
the bursting, smoking, and ill-smelling things you are so fond of; but
you know I am interested in them.  You cannot have forgotten how, when
you were a boy, I used to run at your call to witness your pyrotechnic,
hydraulic, mechanic, and chemic displays--you see how well I remember
the names--and how the--"

"The acids," I interrupted, taking up the theme, "ruined your carpets
and table-cloths, and the smoke stifled and blinded, while the noise and
flames terrified you; no, mother, I have not forgotten it, nor the
patient way you took the loss of your old silk dress, or--"

"Ah! yes," sighed the dear old lady, with quite a pitiful look, "if it
had been any other than my wedding dress, which--but--well, it's of no
use regretting now; and you know, Jeff, I would not have checked you for
worlds, because I knew you were being led in the right way, though, in
my folly, I sometimes wished that the way had been a little further
removed from smoke and smells.  But, after all, you were very careful,
dear boy--wonderfully so, for your years, and your little accidents did
not give me much pain beyond the day of their occurrence.  The poisoning
of the cat, to be sure, was sad, though unavoidable, and so was the
destruction by fire of the cook's hair; but the flooding of the house,
after the repairs you executed on the great cistern, and the blowing out
of the laundry window at the time the clothes-boiler was cracked, with
other trifles of that sort, were--"

The remainder of my mother's speech was cut short by a clattering of
hoofs.

Next moment my sister Bella came round the corner of the house at full
gallop, her fresh face beaming with the exercise, and her golden hair
streaming in the breeze.

She pulled up, leaped off her pony, and ran into the room.  As she did
so, I observed a tall, soldierly man appear in the avenue, advancing
with rapid strides.  Well did I know his grave, handsome face.

"Here comes Nicholas!" said I, turning round; but Bella had fled.

I observed that my friend, instead of coming straight to the room from
the window of which my mother and I had saluted him, turned sharp off to
the library.

I was running to the door to welcome him, when my mother called me back.
I turned and looked at her.  She smiled.  So did I.  Without uttering a
word we both sat down to finish our breakfast.

"Ah!  Jeff," said my mother, with a little sigh, "how I wish you would
fall in love with some one!"

"Fall in love, mother!  What nonsense!  How could I?  No doubt there are
plenty loveable girls, and there _is_ one charming little--well, no
matter--"

At that moment Nicholas entered the room, heartily saluted my mother,
and cut short our conversation.



CHAPTER TWO.

IS STILL MORE EXPLOSIVE THAN THE FIRST.

Much to my surprise, I found that neither Nicholas Naranovitsch nor
Bella nor my mother would consent to witness my experiments with
dynamite that day.

As my old chum approached to greet me on the lawn before breakfast the
day following, I could not help admiring his fine, tall, athletic
figure.  I don't know how it is, but I have always felt, somehow, as if
I looked up at him, although we were both exactly the same height--six
feet one without our boots.  I suppose it must have been owing to his
standing so erect, while I slouched a little.  Perhaps my looking up to
him mentally had something to do with it.

"You'll come to-day, won't you?"  I said, referring to the experiments.

"Of course I will, old boy; but," he added, with a smile, "only on one
condition."

"What may that be?"

"That you don't bother Bella with minute details."

Of course I promised not to say a word unless asked for explanations,
and after breakfast we all went to a part of the grounds which I wished
to bring under cultivation.  It was at that time encumbered with several
large trees, old roots, and a number of boulders.

"Come along with us, Lancey," I said to the groom, who was also my
laboratory assistant, and whom I met in the stable-yard, the scene of
his memorable blowing-up.  "I am about to try the effect of an
explosive, and wish you to understand the details."

"Yes, sir," replied Lancey, with a respectful touch of his cap; "I must
say, sir, if you'll allow me, I never knowed any one like you, sir, for
goin' into details except one, and that one--"

"Ah, yes, I know, that was your friend the Scotch boy," said I,
interrupting; but Lancey was a privileged servant, and would not be
interrupted.

"Yes, sir," he resumed, "the Scotch boy Sandy.  We was at school
together in Edinburgh, where I got the most o' my edication, and I never
did see such a boy, sir, for goin' into--"

"Yes, yes, Lancey, I know; but I haven't time to talk about him just
now.  We are going to the bit of waste ground in the hollow; follow us
there."

I was obliged to cut him short, because this Scotch hero of his was a
subject on which he could not resist dilating on the slightest
encouragement.

Arrived at the waste ground, we met the manager of a neighbouring mine,
who was deeply learned in everything connected with blasting.

"I have brought my mother and sister, you see, Mr Jones," said I, as we
approached.  "They don't quite believe in the giant-power which is under
your control; they seem to think that it is only a little stronger than
gunpowder."

"We can soon change their views on that point," said the manager, with a
slight bow to the ladies, while I introduced Nicholas as an officer of
the Russian army.

"This is one of the stones you wish to blast, is it not?" said Mr
Jones, laying his hand on an enormous boulder that weighed probably
several tons.

"It is," I answered.

The manager was a man of action--grave of countenance and of few words.
He drew a flask from his pocket and emptied its contents, a large
quantity of gunpowder, on the boulder.  Asking us to stand a little
back, he applied a slow match to the heap, and retired several paces.

In a few seconds the powder went off with a violent puff and a vast
cloud of smoke.  The result was a little shriek of alarm from my mother,
and an exclamation from Bella.

"Not much effect from that, you see," said the manager, pointing to the
blackened stone, yet it was a large quantity of powder, which, if fired
in a cavity inside the stone, would have blown it to pieces.  "Here,
now, is a small quantity of dynamite."  (He produced a cartridge about
two inches in length, similar to that which I had shown to my mother at
breakfast.) "Into this cartridge I shall insert a detonator cap, which
is fastened to the end of a Pickford fuse--thus."

As he spoke, he inserted into the cartridge the end of the fuse, to
which was attached a small cap filled with fulminate of mercury, and
tied it tightly up.  This done, he laid the cartridge on the top of the
boulder, placed two or three similar cartridges beside it, and covered
all with a small quantity of sand, leaving the other end of the fuse
projecting.

"Why the sand?" asked Bella.

"Because a slight amount of confinement is advantageous," replied Mr
Jones.  "If I were to bore a short hole in the stone, and put the
dynamite therein, the result would be still more effective; but the
covering I have put on it will suffice, and will serve all the better to
show the great difference between this explosive and gunpowder."

"But," said my mother, who had a tendency to become suddenly interested
in things when she began to have a faint understanding of them; "but,
Mr Jones, you did not give the powder fair play.  If you had covered
_it_ with sand, would not its effect have been more powerful?"

"Not on the stone, madam; it would only have blown off its covering with
violence, that would have been all.  Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you
will retire behind the shelter of that old beech-tree, I will light the
fuse."

We did as we were desired.  The manager lighted the fuse, and followed
us.  In a few moments there occurred an explosion so violent that the
huge boulder was shattered into several pieces, which were quite small
enough to be lifted and carted away.

"Most amazing!" exclaimed Bella, with enthusiasm.

It was quite obvious that she had no anticipation of such a thorough
result.  Nicholas, too, who I may mention had no natural turn of taste
for such matters, was roused to a state of inquiry.

To a question put by him, Mr Jones explained that, taking its powers
into consideration, dynamite was cheaper than gunpowder, and that it
saved much labour, as it would have taken two men a considerable time to
have bored an ordinary blasthole in the boulder he had just broken up.

I now led the way to another part of the ground on which grew a large
beech-tree, whose giant roots took a firm grasp of the ground.  It was a
hundred years old at least; about twelve feet in circumference, and
sixty feet high.  One similar tree I had had cut down; but the labour
had been very great, and the removal of the stump excessively
troublesome as well as costly.

Mr Jones now went to work at the forest-giant.  In the ground
underneath the tree he ordered Lancey to make a hole with a crowbar.
Into this he pressed some cartridges of dynamite with a wooden rammer.
Then the cartridge, with the detonator inside of it; and the fuse,
extending from its mouth, was placed in contact with the charge under
the tree.  The hole was next closed up with some earth, leaving about a
foot of the fuse outside.  The light was then applied, and we retired to
a safe distance.  In a few moments the charge exploded.  The tree seemed
to rise from its bed.  All the earth under it was blown out, and the
roots were torn up and broken, with the exception of four of the
largest, which were fully ten inches in diameter.  A small charge of
dynamite inserted under each of these completed the work, and the old
giant, slowly bowing forward, laid his venerable head upon the ground.

Another charge was next placed in the soil under some loose and decayed
roots, which were easily broken to pieces, so as to permit of their
removal.  Thus, in a short time and at little cost, were trees and roots
and boulders torn up and shattered.

"But is dynamite not very dangerous, Mr Jones?" asked my mother, as we
walked slowly homeward.

"Not at all dangerous,--at least not worth speaking of," replied the
manager; "nitro-glycerine by itself is indeed very dangerous, being
easily exploded by concussion or mere vibration; but when mixed with
infusorial earth and thus converted into dynamite, it is one of the
safest explosives in existence--not quite so safe, indeed, as
gun-cotton, but much more so than gunpowder.  Any sort of fire will
explode gunpowder, but any sort of fire will not explode dynamite; it
will only cause it to burn.  It requires a detonator to explode it with
violence.  Without its detonator, dynamite is a sleeping giant."

"Ay, mother," said I, taking up the subject, "the case stands thus:
gunpowder is a big athlete, who slumbers lightly; any spark can wake him
to violent action: but dynamite is a bigger athlete, who sleeps so
soundly that a spark or flame can only rouse him to moderate rage; it
requires a special shake to make him wide-awake, but when thus roused
his fury is terrific, as you have just seen.  And now," I added, as we
drew near the house, "we will change the subject, because I have this
morning received two letters, which demand the united consideration of
our whole party.  I will therefore call up Bella and Nicholas, who have
fallen behind, as usual.  Mr Jones will excuse my talking of family
matters for a few minutes, as replies must be sent by return of post."

I then explained that one of the letters was an invitation to me and my
mother and sister, with any friends who might chance to be visiting us,
to go to Portsmouth to witness a variety of interesting experiments with
torpedoes and such warlike things; while the other letter was an offer
by a friend, of a schooner-built yacht for a moderate sum.

"Now, Nicholas," said I, apologetically, "I'm sorry to give you such an
explosive reception, but it cannot be helped.  If you don't care about
torpedoes, you may remain here with my mother and Bella; but if you
would like to go, I shall be happy to introduce you to one or two of my
naval friends.  For myself, I must go, because--"

"We will all go, Jeff," interrupted Bella; "nothing could be more
appropriate as a sequel to this morning's experiments.  A day among the
torpedoes will be most interesting, won't it?"

She looked up at Nicholas, on whose arm she leaned.  He looked down with
that peculiar smile of his which seemed to lie more in his eyes than on
his lips, and muttered something about a day anywhere being, etcetera,
etcetera.

My mother remarked that she did not understand exactly what a torpedo
was, and looked at me for an explanation.  I confess that her remark
surprised me, for during the course of my investigations and inventions,
I had frequently mentioned the subject of torpedoes to her, and once or
twice had given her a particular description of the destructive machine.
However, as she had evidently forgotten all about it, and as I cannot
resist the temptation to elucidate complex subjects when opportunity
offers, I began:--

"It is a machine, mother, which--"

"Which bursts," interrupted Bella, with a little laugh.

"But that is no explanation, dear," returned my mother; "at least not a
distinctive one, for guns burst sometimes, and soap-bubbles burst, and
eggs burst occasionally."

"Bella," said Nicholas, who spoke English perfectly, though with a
slightly foreign accent, "never interrupt a philosopher.  Allow Jeff to
proceed with his definition."

"Well, a torpedo," said I, "is an infernal machine--"

"Jeff," said my mother, seriously, "don't--"

"Mother, I use the word advisedly and dispassionately.  It is a term
frequently given to such engines, because of their horrible nature,
which suggests the idea that they were originated in the region of
Satanic influence.  A torpedo, then, is a pretty large case, or box, or
cask, or reservoir, of one form or another, filled with gunpowder, or
gun-cotton, or dynamite, which is used chiefly under water, for
blowing-up purposes.  Sometimes men use torpedoes to blow up rocks, and
sunken wrecks; and sometimes, I grieve to say it, they blow up ships and
sailors."

"Dreadful! my dear," said my mother; "nevertheless I should like to go
with you on this excursion, and see what devices men invent for the
purpose of killing each other."

"Very well, that's settled," said I.  "Now, as to the other letter about
the yacht.  I will buy it, mother, and go on a cruise to the
Mediterranean, on one condition, namely, that you and Nicholas and Bella
go with me."

"Impossible!" exclaimed my mother, firmly; "I never could bear the sea."

"But you've had little experience of it," said I.

"Well, not much--but I cannot bear it."

"Now, mother," said I, coaxingly, "here is Bella dying to go to sea, I
know.  Nicholas has loads of time, and cannot be left behind, and I wish
very much to go; but all will fall to the ground if you refuse to
accompany us.  We cannot leave you in this house alone.  The sea air
will certainly do you good, and if it does not, we can land, you know,
at Lisbon, Gibraltar, Nice,--anywhere, and return home overland."

"Well, then, I will go," returned my pliant mother.

"That's right," said I, sitting down to write.  "Now, then, all of you
get ready to go to London this afternoon.  We shall spend a day or two
there, because, before leaving, I must see the first Lord of the
Admiralty on particular business.  Afterwards we shall run down to
Portsmouth by the afternoon express, spend the night there, and so be
ready to face the torpedoes in the morning."



CHAPTER THREE.

AN INTERVIEW WITH MEN IN POWER.

There is something peculiarly exhilarating in bright sunshine and calm
weather.  This is no doubt a truism; but there are some truths of which
one never tires, and in regard to which one feels ever-recurring
freshness.  Who ever wearied of a balmy breeze, or a bright sunrise?
Even a glorious noon cannot pall upon us unless it be too hot.

When bright sunshine is associated with good health, pleasant company, a
successful courtship, and the prospect of light on a favourite study,
the reader will understand how it was that my mother and I, with
Nicholas and Bella, formed a peculiarly happy quartette as we
perambulated the streets of London prior to my visit to the Admiralty.

It was a Friday forenoon, and there were many holiday-keepers hastening
to trains.  At the corner of one of the main thoroughfares a crowd
partly blocked the road.  The cause of it became apparent to us when the
head and arched neck of a black charger appeared, and then the white
plume and polished cuirass of a Life Guardsman.  We stood on a
door-step, so that Bella might see the troop.

As they passed before us, with that stately bearing of man and horse
which has always seemed to me peculiar to the Life Guards, and the sun
flashed in dazzling gleams from breasts and helmets, I glanced at my
friend Naranovitsch.  His soldierlike form was drawn up to its full
height, while the flashing eye, flushed countenance, distended nostrils,
and compressed but slightly smiling lips told, I thought, of a strong
feeling of martial joy.  Doubtless he was thinking at the moment of his
own regiment, to which he had been but recently appointed, and of his
comrades-in-arms.

"Fine-looking fellows!"  I whispered.

"Splendid! glorious!" he said, in a deep, low voice.

Bella looked quickly up at him, displaying an anxious, sorrowing face,
and bright eyes, dimmed with ill-suppressed tears.

"You are not ill, Bella?" he whispered, bending down with a look of
tenderness, not unmixed with surprise.

"No; oh, no," she replied, in a low tone; "but the sight of the Guards
has made me very sad."

I knew full well the cause of her emotion, but the crowded street was
not a suitable place for explanation.

"Come, follow me," I said, and walked quickly along in the direction of
the Strand, where I turned abruptly into one of those quiet courts which
form, as it were, harbours of refuge from the rattle and turmoil of the
great city.  Here, sauntering slowly round the quiet precincts of the
court, with the roar of the street subdued to a murmur like that of a
distant cataract, Bella told Nicholas, in tones of the deepest pathos,
how a German lady, Elsie Goeben, one of her dearest friends, had been
married to the handsomest and best of men in one of the Prussian cavalry
regiments.  How, only six months after their union, the Franco-Prussian
war broke out, and Elsie's husband Wilhelm was sent with his regiment to
the frontier; how in many engagements he had distinguished himself; and
how, at last, he was mortally wounded during one of the sorties at the
siege of Metz.

"They did not find him till next day," continued my sister, "for he had
fallen in a part of the field so far in advance of the ground on which
his dead comrades lay, that he had been overlooked.  He was riddled with
bullets, they say, and his noble face, which I had so often seen beaming
with affection on his young wife, was so torn and disfigured that his
friends could scarcely recognise him.  He was still alive when found,
and they knew his voice.  When they raised him, he merely exclaimed,
`_At last_, thank God!' with a deep sigh, as if of relief.  The words
were few, but they had terrible significance, for they told of a long,
long night of agony and dreadful solitude; but he was not quite alone,"
my sister added, in a low voice, "for he was a Christian.  He died
before reaching the tents of his division."

Bella's voice faltered as she said, after a moment's pause, "Dear Elsie
never recovered the shock.  She joined her husband in heaven two months
afterwards."

"Truly," said I, "war is a terrible curse."

"I hate it!  I detest it!" cried Bella, with a sudden tone and look of
energy, that was all the more impressive because of her natural
character being gentle and retiring.

I saw that Nicholas was surprised and pained.  He would fain have
comforted Bella, but knew not what to say, for he had been trained to
talk of "martial glory," and to look on war through the medium of that
halo of false glitter with which it has been surrounded by too many
historians in all ages.  The young Russian had hitherto dwelt chiefly on
one aspect of war.  He had thought of noble and heroic deeds in defence
of hearth and home, and all that man holds sacred.  To fight for his
country was to Nicholas an idea that called up only the thoughts of
devotion, self-sacrifice in a good cause, duty, fidelity, courage,
romance; while, in regard to the minor things of a warrior's life, a
hazy notion of dash, glitter, music, and gaiety floated through his
brain.  Of course he was not _ignorant_ of some of the darker shades of
war.  History, which told him of many gallant deeds, also recorded
numberless dreadful acts.  But these latter he dismissed as being
disagreeable and unavoidable accompaniments of war.  He simply accepted
things as he found them, and, not being addicted to very close
reasoning, did not trouble himself much as to the rectitude or wisdom of
war in the abstract.  Neither did he distinguish between righteous and
unrighteous war--war of self-defence and war of aggression.  Sufficient
for him that he served his country faithfully.  This was a good general
principle, no doubt, for a youthful officer; but as one who expected to
rise to power and influence in his native land, something more definite
would ultimately be required of him.  As yet, he had neither experienced
the excitement, beheld the miseries, nor bathed in the so-called "glory"
of war; and now that a corner of the dark cloud was unexpectedly flung
over him in Bella's sorrow, he felt deeply sympathetic but helpless.  A
sad look, however, and a gentle pressure of the hand that rested on his
arm, was quite sufficient for Bella.

To relieve my friend from his embarrassment, I pulled out my watch and
urged that we should walk in the direction of the Admiralty, as the hour
for my interview had nearly arrived.

At Charing-Cross we parted, and I proceeded on my mission with the plan
of my torpedo, which Nicholas styled the "infernal machine," in my
pocket, and a rather anxious heart in my breast, for although I was
quite certain that my invention was superior to all others, inasmuch as
it fulfilled several conditions which were not fulfilled by other
torpedoes, I did not feel sure that the Lords of the Admiralty would
take the same view of it that I did.  Besides, the machine had only been
tried as a model, and might not act perfectly when tested in actual
warfare.  But, of course, I knew that my inventive powers would readily
overcome each weak point as it cropped into view in practice.

I met with a very gracious reception from the first Lord.  Beside him
were seated two elderly gentlemen, whom I judged to be brother Lords.

It were needless to recount all that passed during that memorable
interview.  Suffice it to say, that after I had given a most careful and
clear explanation of my invention, to which the three Lords listened
with marked attention, the first Lord said, with a bland smile--

"But what, Mr Childers, is the peculiar point of superiority over other
torpedoes which you claim for yours?"

I confess that the question damped me a little, for I had been
remarkably explicit in my explanations, which lasted nearly an hour.
However, with the utmost alacrity, I went again over the chief points.

"You observe, my Lord," said I, pointing to my drawing, which lay spread
out on the table, "that this watch-work arrangement in the heart of the
machine is so intimately connected with that lever and screw on its
exterior, that in passing out of the case from which it is launched into
the sea, the machinery is set in motion, and the first act of the
torpedo is to set or regulate itself for the special purpose for which
it is designed.  Thus it may be styled an automatic torpedo.  The
celebrated Whitehead fish-torpedo, beautiful and cleverly contrived
though it be, can only advance straight to its object at a certain depth
below the surface; but mine, as you see, by this arrangement of the main
pneumatic engine, which connects the watch-work regulator with an
eccentric wheel or fin outside, causes the torpedo to describe a curve
of any size, and in any direction, during its progress.  Thus, if you
wish to hit an enemy's vessel, but cannot venture to fire because of a
friendly ship happening to lie between, you have only to set the
eccentric indicator to the required curve, and send the torpedo on its
mission of destruction right under the bottom of the friendly ship; or
by laying the torpedo on its side, it will easily go round it, and
afterwards hit the enemy."

"Ah!  I see," said the first Lord, with a grave nod; "you have at last
succeeded in making that which has so long been held impossible; an
instrument which will shoot round the corner."

"Well, a--; yes, my Lord, although I confess it had not struck me in
that light before.  But," I continued, feeling my enthusiasm rise as the
first Lord became more appreciative, "the weapon may be used even in
attacking fortresses from the sea, for by making what I may call the
inverted trajectory of the curve very high, the torpedo may be made to
rush under the surface of the water, gradually curve upwards, then shoot
right out of its native element, and go straight into a fort or town on
a hill, at least a hundred feet above the level of the sea."

"Indeed!" exclaimed the first Lord.

I observed that the other two Lords were gazing at me, with looks from
which were banished every expression except that of intense surprise.
Regarding this as a sign that the merits of my invention were beginning
to tell on them, I went on--

"Yes, my Lord, the action of the thing is absolutely certain, if the
distance of the object aimed at be ascertained to a nicety, and the
arrangements of the watch-work indicator adjusted to those of the
eccentric wheel and the pneumatic engine with mathematical precision.
This, of course, in these days of thorough education, can be easily done
by even the youngest officer in a ship.  I should have mentioned,
however, that if it were required to send the torpedo into a citadel or
fortress on a hill, it would be necessary to use a stronger explosive
than any yet known,--gun-cotton and dynamite being too weak, and
nitro-glycerine too dangerous, therefore inadmissible."

"Ha!" exclaimed the first Lord, "and where is such an explosive to be
found?"

"In my laboratory down in Devonshire, my Lord," I answered, with a look
of diffidence, feeling uncertain how he would take the announcement.

For a few moments he contemplated me in perfect silence, and I observed
that the other two Lords smiled.  I felt perplexed, but the awkwardness
of the moment was quickly removed by the first Lord asking what my new
compound was made of.

"That, my Lord," said I, "is a secret."

"Just so, and you wish to sell your secret to Government?"

"No, my Lord," I replied, with dignity; "I wish to let my Government
possess any slight gift which it lies in my power to present to it, in
addition to that of a loyal heart; but I cannot afford to let my secret
be known, unless I have some assurance that it shall be held
inviolable."

"That assurance you have," said the first Lord, "but I should have
supposed that to so loyal a subject the character of the British
Admiralty would have been sufficient guarantee, and that nothing further
would have been required from me."

"I do _not_ require further assurance, my Lord," said I, hastily; "I
merely wish you to understand how important it is that secrecy should be
observed.  I will reveal it to you."

Here I rose and whispered in the first Lord's ear.  He turned pale, as I
sat down, and whispered to the other two Lords, who looked very grave,
from which I augured good fortune to my invention.  At the same time I
was surprised, for my communication to him was in no way alarming,
though connected with explosives.

Presently the first Lord touched a bell.  A servant in uniform appeared,
and after a few words, disappeared.  I was puzzled, but silent.

"Mr Childers," said the first Lord, "I shall give your invention my
best attention; but I must tell you that there are many others in this
country, as well as yourself, who are exerting their minds to discover
the most effectual method of spreading wholesale devastation among their
fellow-creatures, and--"

"Forgive my interrupting you, my Lord," I exclaimed, with a look of
horror, "but I repudiate entirely any intention to destroy my
fellow-creatures.  My motives in this matter have been purely
scientific."

"I have no doubt of it," returned the first Lord, with a smile,
"nevertheless the tendency of your labours is towards destruction; and
my reference to the fact is merely for the purpose of informing you that
there are many other inventors who have claimed my attention to their
designs, and that you must not expect an immediate decision in regard to
yours."

With this I was politely bowed out, and as I passed down the corridor, I
could not help feeling disappointed at the rather faint success of my
visit.  The idea, too, that I was a would-be destroyer of my species had
never before occurred to me, my whole soul and faculties having hitherto
been engrossed in the simple idea of perfecting a chemical explosive and
a mechanical contrivance.  Thus, unintentionally, do we sometimes lend
ourselves to that from which our hearts revolt.

I noticed, too, that the servant who had been summoned by the first Lord
while we were discussing the torpedo, was particularly attentive to me,
and very careful in seeing me off the premises; and then, for the first
time, it flashed across my mind that I had been taken for a madman.

I was so tickled with the idea, that I burst into a sudden fit of hearty
laughter, an act which induced a little boy, a policeman, and an old
woman, who chanced to be passing, to imbibe the erroneous view of the
first Lord.

However, although grievously disheartened, I was not subdued.  Hope,
which tells so many flattering tales, told me that after proper
consideration the Admiralty would infallibly perceive the value of my
invention; and in regard to the destruction of my fellow-creatures, I
consoled myself with the reflection that torpedoes were much more
calculated for defensive than offensive warfare.

Before quitting this subject, I may state that from that day to this, I
have never heard from the Admiralty in reference to my invention.  This
fact gives me no pain now, although it did at first.  I will explain
why.

There is a friend of mine--a grave, kindly, young man, yet withal
sarcastic and eccentric--who met me immediately after my visit to the
Admiralty.  He is a strange being this friend, who crops up at all sorts
of unexpected times, and in divers places, when one least expects him.
His name is U. Biquitous.

"My dear Childers," said he, when I had explained matters, "you are a
victim;--you are the victim of self-delusion.  You were victimised by
self-delusion when I first met you, at the time you thought you had
discovered perpetual motion.  Your torpedo, as you have just described
it to me, is an impossibility, and you yourself are--"

"An ass?" said I, looking up in his face.

"No, by no means," returned Biquitous, earnestly; "but you are an
enthusiast without ballast.  Enthusiasm is a fine, noble quality.  The
want of ballast is a grievous misfortune.  Study mechanics, my boy, a
little more than you have yet done, before venturing on further
inventions, and don't theorise too much.  You have been revelling of
late in the regions of fancy.  Take my advice, and don't do it."

"I wont," said I, fervently, "but I cannot give up my cherished
pursuits."

"There is no reason that you should," returned my friend, grasping my
hand, "and my earnest advice to you is to continue them; but lay in some
ballast if possible."

With these cheery words ringing in my ears, I rejoined my mother and
sister, and went off to Portsmouth.

It is well, however, to state here that my personal investigations in
the matter of explosives had at this time received a death-blow.  I
went, indeed, with intense interest to see the display of our national
destructive powers at Portsmouth, but I never again ventured to add my
own little quota to the sum of human knowledge on such subjects; and the
reader may henceforth depend upon it, that in all I shall hereafter
write, there shall be drawn a distinct and unmistakable line between the
region of fact and fancy.



CHAPTER FOUR.

A DAY WITH THE TORPEDOES.

The sentence with which I finished the last chapter appears to me
essential, because what I am now about to describe may seem to many
readers more like the dreams of fancy than the details of sober fact.

When my mother and I, with Nicholas and Bella, arrived at Portsmouth, we
were met by my naval friend, a young lieutenant, who seemed to me the
_beau-ideal_ of an embryo naval hero.  He was about the middle height,
broad, lithe, athletic, handsome, with a countenance beaming with
good-will to, and belief in, everybody, including himself.  He was
self-possessed; impressively attentive to ladies, both young and old,
and suave to gentlemen; healthy as a wild stag, and happy as a young
cricket, with a budding moustache and a "fluff" on either cheek.  Though
gentle as a lamb in peace, he was said to be a very demon in war, and
bore the not inappropriate name of Firebrand.

"Allow me to introduce my friend, Lieutenant Naranovitsch, Mr
Firebrand, my mother and sister; not too late, I hope," said I, shaking
hands.

"Not at all.  In capital time," replied the young fellow, gaily, as he
bowed to each.  "Allow me, Mrs Childers--take my arm.  The boat is not
far off."

"Boat!" exclaimed my mother, "must we then go to sea?"

"Not exactly," replied Firebrand, with a light laugh, "unless you
dignify Portchester Creek by that name.  The _Nettle_ target-ship lies
there, and we must go on board of her, as it is around and in connection
with her that the various experiments are to be tried, by means of
gunboats, launches, steam-pinnaces, and various other kinds of small
craft."

"How very fortunate that you have such a charming day," said my mother,
whose interest was at once aroused by the youth's cheery manner.  "Do
you expect many people to witness the experiments, Mr Firebrand?"

"About five hundred invitations have been issued," answered the
lieutenant, "and I daresay most of those invited will come.  It is an
occasion of some importance, being the termination of the senior course
of instruction in our Naval Torpedo School here.  I am happy to think,"
he added, with an arch smile, "that an officer of the Russian army will
have such a good opportunity of witnessing what England is preparing for
her enemies."

"It will afford me the greatest pleasure to witness your experiments,"
replied Nicholas, returning the smile with interest, "all the more that
England and Russia are now the best of friends, and shall, I hope, never
again be enemies."

In a few minutes we were conveyed on board the _Nettle_, on whose deck
was a most animated assemblage.  Not only were there present hundreds of
gaily-dressed visitors, and officers, both naval and military, in bright
and varied uniforms, but also a number of Chinese students, whose gaudy
and peculiar garments added novelty as well as brilliancy to the scene.

"Delightful!" murmured Bella, as she listened to the sweet strains of
the Commander-in-chief's band, and gazed dreamily at the sun-flashes
that danced on the glassy water.

"Paradise!" replied Naranovitsch, looking down into her eyes.

"What are they going to do?" asked my mother of young Firebrand, who
kept possession of her during the whole of the proceedings, and
explained everything.

"They are going to illustrate the application of torpedo science to
offensive and defensive warfare," said the lieutenant; and just now I
see they are about to send off an outrigger launch to make an attack
with two torpedoes, one on either bow, each being filled with 100 pounds
of gunpowder.  Sometimes gun-cotton is used, but this 100 pounds charge
of powder is quite sufficient to send the vessel in which we stand to
the bottom in five or ten minutes.  Come this way--we shall see the
operations better from this point.  Now, don't be alarmed, there is not
the slightest danger, I assure you.

He spoke in reassuring tones, and led my mother to the side of the ship,
whither I followed them, and became at once absorbed in what was going
on.

The outrigger launch referred to was a goodly-sized boat, fitted with a
small engine and screw propeller.  Its chief peculiarities were two long
poles or spars, which lay along its sides, projecting beyond the bows.
These were the outriggers.  At the projecting end of each spar was fixed
an iron case, bearing some resemblance in shape and size to an elongated
kettle-drum.  These were the torpedoes.  I heard the lieutenant explain
to my mother that if one of these torpedoes chanced to explode where it
hung, it would blow the boat and men to atoms.  To which my mother
replied, "Horrible!" and asked how, in that case, the crew could fire it
and escape.  Whereupon he responded, "You shall see presently."

Another peculiarity in the launch was that it had a species of iron hood
or shield, like a broad and low sentry-box, from behind which protection
the few men who formed her crew could steer and work the outriggers and
the galvanic battery, without being exposed.

This little boat seemed to me like a vicious wasp, as it left the side
of the ship with a rapid throbbing of its engine and twirling of its
miniature screw.

When at a sufficient distance from the ship, an order was given by the
officer in charge.  Immediately the outrigger on the right or starboard
side was run out by invisible hands to its full extent--apparently
fifteen feet beyond the bow of the launch; then the inner end of the
outrigger was tilted violently into the air, so that the other end with
its torpedo was thrust down ten feet below the surface of the water.
This, I was told, is about the depth at which an enemy's ship ought to
be struck.  The launch, still going at full speed, was now supposed to
have run so close to the enemy, that the submerged torpedo was about to
strike her.  Another order was given.  The operator gave the needful
touch to the galvanic battery, which, like the most faithful of
servants, _instantly_ sent a spark to fire the torpedo.

The result was tremendous.  A column of seething mud and water, twenty
feet in diameter, shot full thirty feet into the air, overwhelming the
launch in such a shower that many of the unprofessional spectators
imagined she was lost.  Thus an imaginary ironclad was sent, with a
tremendous hole in her, to the bottom of the sea.

That this is no _imaginary_ result will be seen in the sequel of our
tale.

"Why, the shock has made the _Nettle_ herself tremble!"  I exclaimed, in
surprise.

"Oh, the poor boat!" cried my mother.

"No fear of the boat," said young Firebrand, "and as to the _Nettle_--
why, my good fellow, I have felt our greatest ironclad, the mighty
_Thunderer_, of which I have the honour to be an officer, quiver
slightly from the explosion of a mere five-pounds torpedo discharged
close alongside.  Few people have an adequate conception of the power of
explosives, and still fewer, I believe, understand the nature of the
powers by which they are at all times surrounded.  That 100-pounds
torpedo, for instance, which has only caused us to quiver, would have
blown a hole in our most powerful ship if fired in _contact_ with it,
and yet the _cushion of water_ between it and the tiny launch that fired
it is so tough as to be quite a sufficient protection to the boat, as
you see."

We did indeed "see," for the waspish little boat emerged from the deluge
she had raised and, steaming swiftly on, turned round and retraced her
track.  On reaching about the same position as to the _Nettle_, she
repeated the experiment with her second torpedo.

"Splendid!" exclaimed young Naranovitsch, whose military ardour was
aroused.

"It means, does it not," said Bella, "a splendid ship destroyed, and
some hundreds of lives lost?"

"Well--yes--" said Nicholas, hesitatingly; "but of course it does not
always follow, you know, that so _many_ lives--"

He paused, and smiled with a perplexed look.  Bella smiled dubiously,
and shook her head, for it did not appear to either of them that the
exact number of lives lost had much to do with the question.  A sudden
movement of the visitors to the other side of the ship stopped the
conversation.

They were now preparing to show the effect of a gun-cotton hand-grenade;
in other words, a species of bomb-shell, meant to be thrown by the hand
into an enemy's boat at close-quarters.  This really tremendous weapon
was an innocent-looking disc or circlet of gun-cotton, weighing not more
than eight ounces.  Innocent it would, in truth, have been but for the
little detonator in its heart, without which it would only have burned,
not exploded.  Attached to this disc was an instantaneous fuse of some
length, so that an operator could throw the disc into a passing boat,
and then fire the fuse, which would _instantly_ explode the disc.

All this was carefully explained by Firebrand to my astonished mother,
while the disc, for experimental purposes, was being placed in a cask
floating in the water.  On the fuse being fired, this cask was blown
"into matchwood"--a wreck so complete that the most ignorant spectator
could not fail to understand what would have been the fate of a boat and
its crew in similar circumstances.

"How very awful!" said my mother.  "Pray, Mr Firebrand, what _is_
gun-worsted--I mean cotton."

The young lieutenant smiled rather broadly as he explained, in a glib
and slightly sing-song tone, which savoured of the Woolwich Military
Academy, that, "gun-cotton is the name given to the explosive substance
produced by the action of nitric acid mixed with sulphuric acid, on
cotton fibre."  He was going to add, "It contains carbon, hydrogen,
nitrogen, and oxygen, corresponding to--" when my mother stopped him.

"Dear me, Mr Firebrand, is a _popular_ explanation impossible?"

"Not impossible, madam, but rather difficult.  Let me see.  Gun-cotton
is a chemical compound of the elements which I have just named--a
_chemical compound_, you will observe, not a mechanical _mixture_, like
gunpowder.  Hence it explodes more rapidly than the latter, and its
power is from three to six times greater."

My mother looked perplexed.  "What is the difference," she asked,
"between a chemical compound and a mechanical mixture?"

Firebrand now in his turn looked perplexed.  "Why, madam," he exclaimed,
in modulated desperation, "the ultimate molecules of a mixture are only
placed _beside_ each other, so that an atom of gunpowder may be
saltpetre, charcoal, or sulphur, dependent on its fellow-atoms for power
to act; whereas a chemical compound is such a perfect union of
substances, that each ultimate molecule is complete in its definite
proportions of the four elements, and therefore an _independent_ little
atom."

"Now, the next experiment," continued Firebrand, glad to have an
opportunity of changing the subject, "is meant to illustrate our method
of countermining.  You must know that our enemies may sometimes sink
torpedoes at the entrance of their harbours, to prevent our ships of war
entering.  Such torpedoes consist usually of casks or cases of
explosives, which are fired either by electric wires, like the
telegraph, when ships are seen to be passing over them, or by _contact_.
That is to say, an enemy's ship entering a harbour runs against
something which sets something else in motion, which explodes the
torpedo and blows it and the ship into what natives of the Green Isle
call smithereens.  This is very satisfactory when it happens to an
enemy, but not when it happens to one's-self, therefore when _we_ have
to enter an enemy's harbour we _countermine_.  This operation is now
about to be illustrated.  The last experiments exhibited the power of
offensive torpedoes.  There are several different kinds, such as Mr
Whitehead's fish-torpedo, the Harvey torpedo, and others."

"Dear me," said my mother, with a perplexed air, "I should have thought,
Mr Firebrand, that all torpedoes were offensive."

"By no means; those which are placed at the entrance of harbours and
navigable rivers are defensive.  To protect ourselves from the offensive
weapon, we use crinolines."

My mother looked quickly up at her polite young mentor.  "You play with
the ignorance of an old woman, sir," she said, with a half-jocular air.

"Indeed I do not, madam, I assure you," returned Firebrand, with much
earnestness.  "Every iron-clad is provided with a crinoline, which is a
powerful iron network, hung all round the ship at some distance from
her, like--pardon me--a lady's crinoline, and is intended to intercept
any torpedo that may be discharged against her."

Attention was called, at this point, to the counter-mining experiments.

It may be said, in regard to these, that they can be conducted in
various ways, but always with the same end in view, namely, to destroy
an enemy's mines by exploding others in their midst.

For the sake of illustration, it was supposed that the surrounding
sea-bottom was studded with invisible torpedoes, and that the _Nettle_
was a warship, determined to advance into the enemy's harbour.  To
effect this with safety, and in order to clear away the supposed sunken
torpedoes, a counter-torpedo was floated between two empty casks, and
sent off floating in the desired direction by means of the tide.  This
countermine consisted of an iron cylinder, containing 300 pounds of
powder, and was electrically connected with the _Nettle_.  A small
charge of gun-cotton was fixed to the suspender that held the torpedo to
its casks.  When at a safe distance from the ship, this charge was
fired.  It cut the suspender and let the torpedo sink to the bottom.
There it was exploded with terrific violence, as was quickly shown by
the mighty fountain of mud, water, and smoke that instantly shot up into
the air.  It has been proved by experiment that 500 pounds of gun-cotton
exploded below water, will destroy all the torpedoes that lie within a
radius of 120 yards.  It is obvious, therefore, that a warship could
advance into the space thus cleared and then send a second countermine
ahead of her in the same way.  If neither tide, current, nor wind will
serve to drift the casks, the operation might be accomplished by a small
boat, which could back out of danger after laying each torpedo, and
thus, step by step, or shot by shot, the advance could be made in safety
through the enemy's defences.

After this, twelve small charges of gun-cotton were sunk in various
directions, each representing a countermine of 500 pounds.  These were
discharged simultaneously, to demonstrate the possibility of extending
the operations over a wide area.  These miniature charges were sent down
in small nets, and were quite unprotected from the water, so that the
gun-cotton was wet when fired.

This fact caught the attention of my mother at once.

"How can it go off when _wet_?" she exclaimed, turning her bright little
eyes in astonishment on her young companion.

"Ha, that is one of the strange peculiarities of gun-cotton," replied
Firebrand, with an amused look; "you don't require to keep it dry like
powder.  It is only necessary that there should be one small lump of dry
gun-cotton inside the wet stuff, with a detonator in its heart.  A
detonator, you must know--"

"Oh, I know what a detonator is," said my mother, quickly.

"Well then," continued Firebrand, "the exploding of the detonator and
the dry disc causes the wet gun-cotton also to go off, as you have seen.
Now they are going to exhibit one of the modes of defending harbours.
They have sunk four mines, of 300 pounds of gunpowder each, not far from
where you see yon black specks floating on the water.  The black specks
are buoys, called _circuit-closers_, because they contain a delicate
contrivance--a compound of mechanism and galvanism--which, when the
buoys are bumped, _close_ the electric circuit and cause the mine to
explode.  Thus when a ship-of-war sails against one of these
circuit-closers, she is immediately blown up."

"Is not that rather a sneaking way of killing one's enemies?" asked my
mother.

Young Firebrand laughed, and admitted that it was, but pleaded that
everything was fair in love and war.

In actual warfare the circuit-closers are placed just over the mines
which they are designed to explode, but for safety on this occasion they
were placed at a safe distance from their respective mines.  A
steam-launch was used to bump them, and a prodigious upheaval of water
on each explosion showed clearly enough what would have been the fate of
an iron-clad if she had been over the mine.

"Oh, shade of Nelson!"  I could not help exclaiming, "how shocked you
must be if you are permitted to witness such methods of conducting war."

"Ah, yes!" sighed Firebrand; "the bubble reputation, you see, is being
transferred from the cannon's mouth to the torpedo."

I made no reply, for my mind reverted to my laboratory in Devonshire,
where lay the working-model of the terrible weapon I had spent so much
time in perfecting.  It seemed strange to me now, that, in the eager
pursuit of a scientific object, I had scarcely ever, if at all,
reflected on the dire results that the use of my torpedo involved, and I
felt as if I were really guilty of the intent to murder.  Just before
leaving home I had charged my model, which was quite a large one,
capable of holding about 50 pounds of dynamite, in the hope that I might
prevail on the First Lord of the Admiralty and some of his colleagues to
come down and see it actually fired.  I now resolved to throw the
dynamite into the sea, break up my model, and have done with explosives
for ever.

While my mind was running on this, I was startled by an explosion close
alongside.  On turning towards the side of the ship, I found that it was
caused by the rending of a huge iron chain, the links of which were more
than one and a quarter inch in thickness.  This powerful cable, which
could have held an iron-clad, was snapped in twain like a piece of
thread by the explosion _against_ it of only two and a half pounds of
gun-cotton.

"Very well done," I said to Firebrand, "but I think that a much smaller
quantity of dynamite would have done it as effectively."

"Now, Mrs Childers," said the young lieutenant, "the last experiment is
about to be made, and I think it will interest you even more than the
others.  See, they are about to send off the electrical steam-pinnace."

As he spoke, a boat was being prepared alongside the ship.

"Why!" exclaimed my mother, almost speechless with surprise, "they have
forgotten to send its crew in it."

"No, madam," said Firebrand, with one of his blandest smiles, "they have
not forgotten her crew, but there are services so dangerous, that
although the courage of the British sailor will of course enable him to
face _anything_, it has been thought advisable not to put it to too
severe a test, hence this automatic boat has been invented.  It is
steered, and all its other operations are performed, by means of
electricity, applied not on board the boat but on board of the
_Nettle_."

This was indeed the case.  The electric pinnace went off as he spoke,
her steam-engines, steering-gear, and all the other apparatus being
regulated by electric wires, which were "paid out" from the ship as the
boat proceeded on her mission of supposed extreme danger.  Right under
the withering fire of the imaginary enemy's batteries she went, and
having scorned the rain of small shot that swept over her like hail, and
escaped the plunging heavy shot that fell on every side, she dropped a
mine over her stern, exploded it by means of a slow fuse, turned round
and steamed back in triumph, amid the cheers of the spectators.

This last was really a marvellous sight, and the little boat seemed
indeed to deserve the encomiums of Firebrand, who said, that, "If cool,
calm pluck, in the face of appalling danger, merited anything, that
heroic little steam-pinnace ought to receive the Victoria Cross."

I was still meditating on this subject, and listening to the animated
comments going on around me, when I myself received a shock, compared to
which all the explosions I had that day witnessed were as nothing.

It suddenly recurred to my memory that I had left a compound in my
laboratory at home in a state of chemical preparation, which required
watching to prevent its catching fire at a certain part of the process.
I had been called away from that compound suddenly by Nicholas, just
before we left for London, and I had been so taken up with what he had
to tell me, that I had totally forgotten it.  The mere burning of this
compound would, in itself, have been nothing, for my laboratory was an
old out-house, quite unconnected with the dwelling; but in the
laboratory also lay my torpedo!  The worst of it was that I had inserted
a detonator and affixed a fuse, feeling quite secure in doing so,
because I invariably locked the door and carried the key in my pocket.

My face must have turned very pale, for Nicholas, who came up at the
moment, looked at me with anxious surprise, and asked if I were ill.

"No," said I, hurriedly; "no, not ill--but--yes--it is a slow process at
best, and not always certain--sometimes takes a day or two to culminate.
The fusion may not have been quite completed, or it may have failed
altogether.  Too late, I fear, too late, but I cannot rest till I know.
Tell my mother I'm off home--only business--don't alarm her."

Regardless of the amazed looks of those who stood near me, I broke from
the grasp of Nicholas, leaped into one of the boats alongside, seized
the oars, and rowed ashore in mad haste.

Fortune favoured me.  The train had not left, though it was just in
motion.  I had no time to take a ticket, but leaping upon the moving
footboard, I wrenched open a carriage-door and sprang in.

It was an express.  We went at full sixty miles an hour, yet I felt as
if we moved like a snail.  No words can adequately explain the state of
my mind and body--the almost uncontrollable desire I felt to spring out
of the train and run on ahead.  But I was forced to sit still and think.
I thought of the nearness of the laboratory to our kitchen windows, of
the tremendous energy of the explosive with which the model-torpedo was
charged, of the mass of combustibles of all kinds by which it was
surrounded, of the thousand and one possibilities of the case, and of my
own inexcusable madness in not being more careful.

At last the train pulled up at the town from which our residence is
about two miles distant.  It was now evening; but it was summer, and the
days were long.  Hiring a horse at the nearest hotel, I set off at a
break-neck gallop.

The avenue-gate was open.  I dashed in.  The laboratory was not visible
from that point, being at the back of the house.  At the front door I
pulled up, sprang to the ground, let the horse go, and ran forward.

I was met by Lancey coming round the corner.  I saw at once that all was
over!  His face and hands had been scorched, and his hair singed!  I
gasped for breath.

"No one killed?"  I asked.

"No, sir, nobody killed, but most of us 'orribly scared, sir."

"Nobody hurt, Lancey?"  I asked again, leaning against the side of the
house, and wiping my forehead.

"No, sir, nor 'urt," continued my faithful groom, hastening to relieve
my mind; "you've no need to alarm yourself, sir, for we're all alive and
'earty, though I must say it's about the wust buster, sir, that you've
yet turned out of 'ands.  It sent in the kitchen winders as if they'd
bin made of tissue paper, sir, an' cook she went into highstericks in
the coal-bunker, Margaret she swounded in the scullery, and Mary went
into fits in the wash'us.  But they're all right again, sir,--only
raither skeery ever since.  We 'ad some trouble in puttin' it out, for
the cumbustibles didn't seem to care much for water.  We got it under at
last, early this morning."

"This morning?"

"Yes, sir.  It blow'd up about two hours arter you left for London, an'
we've bin at it ever since.  We _was_ so glad your mother was away, sir,
for it _did_ make an uncommon crack.  I was just sayin' to cook, not
'alf an hour since, the master would have enjoyed that, he would; it was
_such_ a crusher."

"Any of--of--the torpedo left, Lancey?"  I asked, with some hesitation.

"The torpedo, sir.  Bless your 'art, it went up to the 'eavens like a
sky-rocket, an' blowed the out-'ouse about to that extent that you
couldn't find a bit big enough to pick your teeth with."

On hearing this I roused myself, and hastened to the scene of
devastation.

One glance sufficed.  The spot on which my laboratory had stood was a
blackened heap of rubbish!

"Now, mother," said I next day, after relieving her mind by a full and
rapid account of what had happened, "there is nothing that I know of to
detain me at home.  I will therefore see to having the yacht got ready,
and we shall all go to sea without delay."



CHAPTER FIVE.

TERRIBLE TORPEDO TALES, FOLLOWED BY OVERTURNED PLANS.

Change of scene has almost always an invigorating effect on the mind.
Whatever be the nature of your mind, variety, rest assured, will improve
its condition.

So we thought, my mother and I, Nicholas and Bella, as we lay, one
beautiful morning, becalmed in the English Channel.

The yacht turned out to be a most charming vessel.  Schooner-rigged,
with two cabins, one of which formed our _salon_ during the day, and the
gentlemen's bed-room by night, the other being set apart entirely for
the ladies.  It was quite full.  My mother and Bella filled it.  Another
female would have caused it to overflow.

Contrary to all expectation, my mother turned out a capital sailor;
better even than Bella, on whom she attended during the first part of
the voyage when the latter was ill.

"D'you think we shall have a good passage across the far-famed Bay of
Biscay?" asked Nicholas, as he sat on the cabin skylight, smoking a mild
cigar.  Talking of that, smoking was the only thing in which I could not
join my future brother-in-law.  I know not how it is, but so it is that
I cannot smoke.  I have often tried to, but it invariably makes me sick,
for which, perhaps, I ought to be thankful.

"It is to be hoped we shall," I replied to his question; "but I am not a
judge of weather.  What think you, Mr Whitlaw?"  I said, addressing my
skipper.

"I hope we shall, sir," replied the skipper, with a deferential touch of
his cap, and a glance round the horizon; "but I don't feel sure."

Mr Whitlaw was an American, and a splendid specimen of the nation to
which he belonged,--tall, lanky, broad-shouldered, gentlemanly, grave,
self-possessed, prompt, good-humoured: I have seldom met a more
agreeable man.  He had been in the Northern navy of America during the
last war, and had already introduced some of the discipline, to which he
had been accustomed, amongst my small crew.

Bella was up on deck enjoying the sunset; so was my mother.  Lancey was
busy cleaning my fowling-piece, near the companion-hatch.

"It is charming," exclaimed my mother.

"So calm," said Bella.

"And settled-looking," remarked Nicholas, flipping the end of his cigar
over the side.

"Mr Whitlaw does not appear to think so favourably of the weather," I
remarked.

The skipper, looking gravely at a particular point on the horizon, said,
in a quiet tone--

"The clouds are heavy."

"From which you judge that the fine weather may not last?"

"It may be so, but the indications are not certain," was his cautious
reply.

That night we were in a perfect chaos of wind and water.  The
storm-fiend seemed to have reserved all his favours in order to give us
a befitting reception.  The sea roared, the wind yelled, the yacht--but
why repeat the oft-told tale that invariably ends with "Biscay, O!"  A
week later and we were in a dead calm, revelling in warmth, bathed in
sunshine, within the straits of Gibraltar.

It was evening.  All sail was set.  Not a puff of wind rendered that
display available.  The reef-points pattered as the yacht rolled
gracefully from side to side on the gentle heave of the Mediterranean's
bosom.

Sitting on a rug on the deck, between my mother and Nicholas, Bella
said, in a low quiet tone, "This is perfect felicity."

"Agreed," said Nicholas, in a similar tone, with a puff from his cigar.

Bella referred to the calm, of course!

A sea-captain, sitting astride the bulwarks of his ship in the
"Doldrums," far far away from Bella, said, in reference to a similar
calm which had beset him for three weeks, "This is perfectly maddening,"
with many other strong expressions which we would rather not record; but
Bella, of course, did not know that, and could not be expected to
reflect on it.  She was taken up with her own comforts at the time.

"My dear," said Mrs Childers, "I think I shall go to bed.  Come with
me.  Good-night, Nicholas.  Will you keep the skylight off to-night,
Jeffry?  It was too hot in our cabin last night."

"Of course I will," said I; "why did you not ring, and let me know that
you would like fresh air?  But I shall see to it to-night."

About eleven o'clock that night, I lay on one of the lockers of the main
cabin, in a wakeful mood.  Nicholas lay on the other locker, in that
profound slumber which is so characteristic of healthy youth.  His
regular breathing was the only sound I heard, except the soft footfall
of our skipper, as he slowly paced the deck.

Presently I heard another step.  It advanced, and a low "Fine night,
sir," apprised me that it was Lancey, who had come on deck to air
himself after the culinary and other labours of the day, for he served
in the capacity of cook and steward to the yacht.

"I wish you'd tell me about that expedition you was speakin' off to the
master this morning," said Lancey.

"With pleasure," replied the skipper; "sit down here, and I'll spin it
off to you right away."

I knew by the sound of their motions that they had seated themselves at
the foot of the main-mast, just between the skylights of the two cabins,
and feared that their talk might disturb my mother; but, reflecting that
she must have got to sleep long ago, I thought it better not to disturb
them, unless their talk should become too loud.  As for myself, in my
wakeful mood, their converse could not annoy me.  After a time it began
to interest me deeply.

"It was about the blowing-up of Southern ironclads, was it not?" said
the skipper.  As he spoke I could distinctly hear the puff, puff, of his
pipe between each half-dozen words.

"_Just_ so," replied Lancey.  "The master is uncommon fond of
blowin's-up and inquirin' into the natur' of things.  I never know'd
another except one as beat 'im at inwestigation, but that one beat
everybody I ever seen or heard of.  He was a Scotch boy, named Sandy--"

"What was his other name?" asked the skipper.

"'Aven't a notion," replied Lancey.  "We never called 'im anythink else.
I don't believe he 'ad any other name.  He said he was the son of an
apothecary.  No doubt the schoolmaster knew 'is other name, if he 'ad
one, but he never used it, and we boys were content with Sandy.  That
boy, sir, seemed to me to know everythink, and was able, I believe, to
do hanythink.  He was a tremendous fighter, too, though not out o' the
way as regards size.  He could lick the biggest boy in the school, and
when he made up his mind to do a thing, nothin' on earth could stop him
a-doin' of it."

"Good," said the skipper, with an emphatic puff; "that's what we
Americans call the power to go ahead.  Did Sandy become a great man?"

"Don't know," answered Lancey.  "He went a'ead too fast for me to
foller.  One day the master gave 'im a lickin'.  He vowed he'd be
revenged.  Next mornin' early he got up an' smashed the school winders,
redooced the master's desk to matchwood, an' walked away whistlin'.  I
never seed 'im since."

"Nor heard of him?"

"Nor 'eard of 'im."

"That was a pity," said the skipper, with a prolonged whiff.

"It was.  But go on, Mister Whitlaw, with your hanecdotes.  I couldn't
rightly hear all you said to the master."

"It was about torpedo warfare we were talking," said the skipper.  "You
know that sort o' thing is only in its infancy, but the Americans, as
usual, had the honour of starting it fairly into being."

"The `honour,' eh?" said Lancey; "h'm! well, I'm not so sure about the
honour, but go on."

"Well, whether it be an honour or no, I won't dispute," returned the
skipper, with a puff; "but of this I am sure, that during the late war
between the North and South in America, torpedo practice was regularly
brought into play for the first time, and the case which I brought
before Mr Childers yesterday is only one of many which I could
describe.  I'll not relate the same story, but another and a better.

"About the beginning of the war, in 1862, the Confederates--these were
the Southern men--blew up our ironclad, the _Cairo_, in which I lost one
of my most intimate friends; and in 1864 they attempted to blow up the
_Wabash_, and myself along with it.  The _Cairo_ business was caused by
sunk torpedoes.  She was going up the Yazoo river at the time, and had
lowered a boat to search for torpedoes, which were known to be sunk
there.  They succeeded in fishing up one, which was found to be an
exploded one.  Meanwhile the _Cairo_, having got rather too close in
shore, backed out towards the middle of the stream, when two explosions
occurred in quick succession, one close to the port-quarter, the other
under the port-bow.  The effect was tremendous.  Some of the heavy guns
were actually lifted from the deck.  The captain instantly shoved the
_Cairo_ on the bank, and got a hawser out to a tree to keep her, if
possible, from sinking in deep water.  The pumps, steam and hand, were
set going immediately; but her whole frame, ironclad though she was, had
been so shattered, that nothing could save her.  Twelve minutes
afterwards she slipped down into six fathoms water, giving them barely
time to get out the boats and save the sick men aboard, and the arms.
My friend was one of the sick, and the moving was ultimately the death
of him, though no lives were lost at the time."

"You're not tellin' me crackers, are you?" said Lancey, in an
incredulous tone.

"My good fellow," returned the skipper, "I wish that I were.  The story
is only too true, and I would it were the only one of the sort I had to
tell.  You can find a book in London, [see note 1] if you like, which
tells all about this and the other torpedo work done during the late
American war."

"Well, then," said Lancey, in the tone of an eager listener, while, by
the tapping on the combings of the hatchway, I could distinguish that he
was emptying his pipe, with a view, no doubt, to the enjoyment of
another, "and what happened when they tried to blow _you_ up?"

"Well, you must know," resumed the skipper, "it was long afterwards,
near the end of the war.  I was in the US steamer _Wabash_ at the time.
We were at anchor off Charleston, and we kept a sharp look-out at that
time, for it was a very different state of things from the wooden-wall
warfare that Nelson used to carry on.  Why, we never turned in a night
without a half sort of expectation of being blown into the sky before
morning.  It was uneasy work, too, for although American sailors are as
good at _facing_ death as any men, they don't like the notion of death
coming in on them, like a sneak below the waterline, and taking them in
the dark while asleep.  We were always on the alert, and doubly so at
that time, for only a short while previously, the Confederates had sunk
another of our ironclads, the _Housatonic_, with one of their
torpedo-Davids,--little boats that were so called because, compared with
the great ironclads they were meant to attack, they somewhat resembled
David when he went out against Goliath.

"Well, as I said, the _Wabash_ was at anchor, and it was night--not very
late, about ten; but it was very dark.

"Fortunately the deck was in charge that night of a young officer named
Craven, and never was an officer worse named or better deserving to be
called Courage.  He had his wits about him.  At the hour I have named,
he observed something on the starboard-quarter, about 150 yards off.  It
resembled a plank on the water.  In reality it was a torpedo-David.  It
was opposite the main-mast when first observed, going rapidly against
the tide.  At that moment it turned and made straight for the ship.
Craven was up to the mark.  He commenced with volleys of musketry; beat
the gong for the crew to assemble at quarters; rang four bells for the
engine to go ahead; opened fire with the watch and the starboard
battery; and gave orders to slip the cable.

"His orders, you may be sure, were obeyed with promptitude.  The gong
sent every man from his hammock as if he had received an electric shock.
Jack-in-the-box never came out of his box more promptly than each man
shot up the hatchway.  An exaggerated idea of the effect of torpedoes--
if that were possible--had got possession of us.  We were at our
quarters in a moment; the ship moved ahead; the chain slipped; and the
torpedo-boat passed us about forty yards astern.  A round shot from us
at the same moment appeared to strike it.  We cheered.  A second shot
was fired, and appeared to send it to the bottom, for we saw it no more.

"But now _our_ turn came," continued the skipper, refilling his pipe.
"Puff! you see we were not so well situated as the Southerners for the
use of this weapon, for we had to go in to attack their forts, while
they had only to defend themselves, which they did largely with sunk
torpedoes.

"We had long been desirous of revenging their attacks in a similar
fashion, and at last we were successful on the 27th of October.  I had
the good luck to be one of the expedition.  It was risky work, of
course.  We all knew that, but where is the nation worthy of the name
that will not find men for risky work?  People talk about the difference
of courage in nations.  In my opinion that is all gammon.  Most nations
that lie near to one another are pretty much alike as to courage.  In
times of trial among all nations, the men of pluck come to the front,
and the plucky men, be they American, English, French, German, Russian,
or Turk, do pretty much the same thing--they fight like heroes till they
conquer or die."

"Better if they didn't fight at all," remarked Lancey.

"That's true, but if you're attacked you _must_ fight.  Anyhow, on this
particular occasion we attacked the Confederate ironclad ram
_Albemarle_, and sent her to the bottom.  I had volunteered for the duty
with some other men from the squadron, and we started in a steam-launch
under Lieutenant Cushing.  The distance from the mouth of the river to
where the ram lay was about eight miles, the stream averaging 200 yards
in width, and being lined with the enemy's pickets, so that we had to
proceed with the utmost possible caution.  We set out in the dead of
night.  There was a wreck on our way, which was surrounded by schooners,
and we knew that a gun was mounted there to command the bend of the
river.  We had the good luck, however, to pass the pickets and the wreck
without being discovered, and were not hailed until seen by the look-out
of the ram itself.

"Without replying to the hail, we made straight at her under a full head
of steam.  The enemy sprang their rattles, rang their bell, and
commenced firing.  The _Albemarle_ was made fast to a wharf, with a
defence of logs around her about thirty feet from her side.  A chance
fire on the shore enabled us to see this, although the night was
intensely dark, and raining.

"From the report afterwards published by the commander of the
_Albemarle_, it seems that a good look-out had been kept.  The watch
also had been doubled, and when we were seen (about three in the
morning) they were all ready.  After hailing, a brisk fire was opened on
us both by small arms and large guns; but the latter could not be
brought to bear, owing to our being so close, and we partially disturbed
the aim of the former by a dose of canister at close range.  Paymaster
Swan, of the _Otsego_, was wounded near me, and some others.  My own
jacket was cut in many places, and the air seemed full of bullets.

"Our torpedo-boom was out and ready.  Passing close to the _Albemarle_,
we made a complete circle round her, so as to strike her fairly.  Then
Lieutenant Cushing gave the order, and we went straight at her, bows on.
In a moment we struck the logs, just abreast of the quarter-port, with
such force that we leaped half over them, at the same time breasted them
in.  The boom was lowered at once.  `Now, lads, a vigorous pull!' said
Cushing.

"We obeyed, and sent the torpedo right under the overhang of the ship.
It exploded.  At the same instant the _Albemarle's_ great-gun was fired.
A shot seemed to go crashing through the boat, and a dense mass of
water rushed in from the torpedo.  It seemed to me as if heaven and
earth had come together.  Smoke and yells, with continued firing at only
fifteen feet range, followed, in the midst of which I heard the
commander of the ironclad summon us to surrender.  I heard our
lieutenant twice refuse, and then, ordering the men to save themselves,
he jumped into the water.  I followed him, and for some time swam in the
midst of a shower-bath caused by plunging shot and bullets, but not one
of them struck me.  At last I reached the shore, and escaped.

"At the time I thought we must have failed in our purpose, but I was
mistaken.  Though we had lost one boat and some of our men, many of them
being captured, I learned that the _Albemarle_ had sunk in fifteen
minutes after the explosion of the torpedo, only her shield and
smoke-stack being left out of the water to mark the spot where a mighty
iron-clad had succumbed to a few pounds of well-applied gunpowder!"

"If that be so," said Lancey, after a pause and deep sigh, "it seems to
me no manner of use to build ironclads at all, and that it would be
better, as well as cheaper, in time to come, to fight all our battles
with torpedo-boats."

"It may be so," replied the skipper, rising, "but as that is a subject
which is to be settled by wiser heads than ours, and as you have to look
after the ladies' breakfast to-morrow morning, I'd strongly advise you
to turn in."

Lancey took the hint, and as he slept in a berth close to the cabin, I
quickly had nasal assurance that he had thrown care and torpedoes to the
dogs.

It was not so with myself.  Much of the information which Mr Whitlaw
had unconsciously conveyed to me was quite new, for although I had, as a
youth, read and commented on the late American war while it was in
progress, I had not given to its details that amount of close study
which is necessary to the formation of a reasonable judgment.  At first
I could not resist the conviction that my skipper must have been
indulging in a small amount of exaggeration, especially when I reflected
on the great strength and apparent invulnerability of such massive
vessels as our _Thunderer_; but knowing the sedate and truthful
character of Mr Whitlaw, I felt perplexed.  Little did I think at the
time that I should live to see, and that within the year, the truth of
his statements corroborated with my own eyes.  I meditated long that
night on war and its results, as well as the various processes by which
it is carried on; and I had arrived at a number of valuable conclusions,
which I would have given worlds to have been able to jot down at the
moment, when I was overtaken by that which scattered them hopelessly to
the winds: I fell sound asleep!

The rest of this delightful voyage I am compelled to pass over, in order
that I may come to matters of greater importance.

We had reached the neighbourhood of the beautiful town of Nice, when my
dear mother, to my surprise and mortification, suddenly announced that
she could not endure the sea any longer.  She had kept pretty well, she
admitted, and had enjoyed herself, too, except when listening to those
dreadful stories of the captain about the American war, which had
travelled to her down the after-cabin skylight, during wakeful hours of
the night.  Despite appearances, she said she had suffered a good deal.
There was something, she declared, like a dumpling in her throat, which
always seemed about to come up, but wouldn't, and which she constantly
tried to swallow, but couldn't.

In these circumstances, what could I do?  We had meant to land at Nice
in passing.  I now resolved to leave my mother and sister there and
proceed eastward--it might be to Egypt or the Black Sea--with
Naranovitsch.  The latter had ordered his letters to be forwarded to
Nice; we therefore ran into the port, and, while my mother and sister
and I drove to "the Chateau" to see the splendid view from that
commanding position, he went off to the post-office.

On returning to the yacht, we found poor Nicholas in deep distress.  He
had received a letter announcing the death of his father, and requiring
his immediate return to Russia.  As the circumstances admitted of no
delay, and as my mother could not be prevailed on to go farther in the
yacht, it was hastily arranged that she and Bella should return through
France to England, and that Nicholas should take charge of them.

Our plans being fixed, they were at once carried into effect, and the
same evening I found myself alone in my yacht, with no one but the
skipper and crew and the faithful Lancey, to keep me company.

The world was now before me where to choose.  After a consultation with
my skipper, I resolved to go on a cruise in the Black Sea, and perhaps
ascend the Danube, in spite of the rumours of possible war between the
Russians and Turks.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  "A Treatise on Coast-Defence ...  Compiled from official
reports of officers of the United States.  By Von Scheliha,
Lieutenant-Colonel and chief engineer of the department of the Gulf of
Mexico of the army of the late Confederate States of America."



CHAPTER SIX.

TURK AND BULGARIAN--A WRESTLING MATCH AND A DISPUTE.

River navigation is, to my mind, most captivating; but space forbids
that I should enlarge on it, and on many other points of interest in
this eventful voyage.  I shall therefore pass over the Dardanelles and
the Bosporus, leaving the great and classic Stamboul itself behind
untouched, and transport the reader at once to one of those "touches of
nature" which "make the whole world kin."

It is a little village on the Danube river--the mighty Danube, which
bears the fleets of the world on its ample breast.

We had been a considerable time in the river, for we took things very
leisurely, before reaching the village to which I refer.  It was named
Yenilik.  While I had been rejoicing in the varied scenery--the lagoons
and marshes of the several mouths of the great river, and the bolder
prospects of hill and dale higher up--I had not been idling my time or
making entire holiday of it, for I had devoted myself to the study of
the Turkish language.

My powers as a linguist may not perhaps be above the average,
nevertheless I confess to a considerable facility in the acquisition of
languages.  Russian I already knew very well, having, as before
intimated, spent a considerable time in St. Petersburg.

Desiring to perfect myself in Turkish, I undertook to teach my man
Lancey.  Not that I had much opinion of his ability--far from it; but I
entertain a strong belief in the Scriptural idea that two are better
than one.  Of course I do not hold that two fools are better than one
wise man; but two men of average ability are, in nearly all
circumstances, better than one, especially if one of them is decidedly
and admittedly superior to the other.  Lancey's powers were limited, but
his ambition was not so, and I am bound to add that his application was
beyond all praise.  Of course his attainments, like his powers, were not
great.  His chief difficulty lay in his tendency to drop the letter _h_
from its rightful position in words, and to insert it, along with _r_
and _k_, in wrong places.  But my efforts to impress Lancey's mind had
the satisfactory effect of imbedding minute points of the language
deeply in my own memory.

The village to which I have referred was in Bulgaria--on the right or
southern shore of the Danube.  It was a pretty spot, and the bright
sunny weather lent additional charms to water, rock, and tree, while the
twittering of birds, to say nothing of the laughter and song of men,
women, and children working in the fields, or engaged in boisterous
play, added life to it.

Towards the afternoon I landed, and, accompanied by Lancey, went up to
the chief store or shop of the village.  It was a primitive store, in
which the most varied and incongruous articles were associated.

The owner of the shop was engaged in bargaining with, I think, one of
the finest specimens of manhood I ever saw.  His name I accidentally
learned on entering, for the shopman, at that moment, said--

"No, Dobri Petroff, I cannot let you have it for less."

The shopman spoke in the Bulgarian tongue, which, being a kindred
dialect of the Russian language, I understood easily.

"Too dear," said Petroff, as he turned over the article, a piece of
calico, with a good-humoured affectation of contempt.

Dobri Petroff was a young man, apparently not more than twenty-five,
tall, broad, deep-chested, small-waisted--a perfect study for an Apollo.
Both dress and language betokened him an uneducated man of the
Bulgarian peasantry, and his colour seemed to indicate something of
gipsy origin; but there was an easy frank deportment about him, and a
pleasant smile on his masculine countenance, which told of a naturally
free, if not free-and-easy, spirit.  Although born in a land where
tyranny prevailed, where noble spirits were crushed, independence
destroyed, and the people generally debased, there was an occasional
glance in the black eye of Dobri Petroff which told of superior
intelligence, a certain air of natural refinement, and a strong power of
will.

"No, Dobri, no; not a rouble less," repeated the shopman.

Petroff smiled, and shook back his black curly hair, as a lion might in
sporting with an obstinate cub.

At that moment a Turk entered.  His position in society I could not at
the time guess, but he had the overbearing manner of one who might have
been raised by favour from a low to a high station.  He pushed Petroff
rudely out of his way, and claimed the entire attention of the shopman,
which was at once and humbly accorded.

A fine expression of fierce contempt flashed across Petroff's
countenance; but to my surprise, he at once drew aside.

When the Turk was served and had gone out, the shopman turned to me.

"After Petroff," I said, bowing towards the man.

The surprise and pleasure of Petroff was evidently great, but he refused
to take advantage of my courtesy, and seemed so overwhelmed with modest
confusion at my persisting that he should be served before me, that he
ultimately left the shop, much to my regret, without making his
purchase.

To my inquiries, the shopman replied that Dobri was the blacksmith of
the place, and one of its best and steadiest workmen.

After completing my purchases I left, and strolled through the village
towards its further extremity.

"The Turks seem to 'ave it all their own way ere, sir," said Lancey, as
we walked along.

"If the treatment we have seen that man receive were the worst of it," I
replied, "the Bulgarians would not have very much to complain of, though
insolence by superiors to inferiors is bad enough.  They have, however,
more than that to bear, Lancey; the story of Bulgarian wrongs is a long
and a very sad one."

As we strolled beyond the village, and were engaged in earnest converse
on this subject, we suddenly came on a group of holiday-makers.  A
number of the peasantry were assembled in a field, engaged in dances,
games, and athletic sports.  We mingled with the crowd and looked on.
They were engaged at the time in a wrestling match.  Little notice was
taken of our appearing, so intent were they on the proceedings.  Two
strong men were engaged in what I may call a tremendous hug.  Each was
stripped to the waist.  Their muscles stood out like those of Hercules,
as they strained and tugged.  At last they went down, one being
undermost, with both shoulder-blades touching the ground, and a loud
cheer greeted the victor as he stood up.

He was a splendid animal, unquestionably--over six feet, with immense
chest and shoulders, and modest withal; but a man of about five feet
eight stepped into the ring, and overthrew him with such ease that a
burst of laughter mingled with the cheer that followed.  The triumph of
the little man was, however, short-lived, for a Bulgarian giant next
made his appearance--evidently a stranger to those present--and after a
prolonged struggle, laid the little man on his back.

For some time this giant strutted about defiantly, and it appeared as if
he were to remain the champion, for no one seemed fit or willing to cope
with him.  At last some gipsy girls who were sitting in front of the
ring, urged one of their tribe, a tall, strong, young fellow, to enter
the lists against the giant.

The youth consented, and entered the ring; but a quick throw from the
giant sent him sprawling, to the great disappointment of his brunette
friends.

Amongst the girls present, there sat a remarkably pretty young woman,
whom the others endeavoured to urge to some course of action, to which
she at first objected.  After a little persuasion, however, she appeared
to give in, and, rising, left the circle.  Soon after she returned with
a magnificent specimen of humanity, whom she pushed into the ring with
evident pride.

It was Dobri Petroff.  The villagers greeted him by name with a ringing
cheer as he advanced.

With a modest laugh he shook his huge antagonist by the hand.

He stripped to the waist, and each man presented a rounded development
of muscular power, which would have done credit to any of the homeric
heroes; but there was a look of grand intelligence and refinement in
Petroff's countenance, which would probably have enlisted the sympathies
of the villagers even if he had been an utter stranger.

Having shaken hands, the wrestlers began to walk round each other,
eagerly looking for a chance to get the "catch."  It seemed at first as
if neither liked to begin, when, suddenly, the Bulgarian turned sharp on
Petroff, and tried a favourite throw; but with the lithe easy motion of
a panther, the blacksmith eluded his grasp.  The excitement of the
spectators became intense, for it now seemed as if the two huge fellows
were well-matched, and that a prolonged struggle was about to take
place.  This, however, was a mistake.  The villagers apparently had
underrated the powers of their own champion, and the gipsy girls looked
anxious, evidently fearing that the hitherto victorious stranger would
again triumph.

For some moments the cautious walk-round continued, then there was a
sudden exclamation of surprise from the crowd, for the blacksmith seized
his adversary by the waist, and with a quick throw, caused him to turn
almost a somersault in the air, and to come down on his back with
stunning violence.

While the heavy fellow lay, as if slightly stunned, on the ground,
Petroff stooped, again shook hands with him, and then lifting him high
in the air, as though he had been but a boy, set him on his feet, and
turned to resume his jacket, amid the enthusiastic cheers of the people.

Petroff's jacket was handed to him by a pretty dark-eyed girl of about
five years of age, who bore so strong a resemblance to the young woman
who had brought the blacksmith on the scene, that I at once set them
down as sisters.  The child looked up in the champion's face with such
innocence that he could not resist the temptation to stoop and kiss her.
Then, taking the little one's hand, he pushed through the crowd and
left the ring.  I observed that the young woman also rose and went with
them.

Feeling interested in these people.  Lancey and I followed, and overtook
them before they had quitted the field.  I said in Russian:--

"Good-day, Petroff; you overthrew that fellow with greater ease than I
had expected."

The blacksmith gave me a look of pleased recognition as he returned my
salutation.

"Well, sir," he said, "it was not difficult.  The man is strong enough,
but does not understand the art well.  You are an Englishman, I think."

"I am," said I, somewhat surprised as well by the question as by the
superior manner and address of the man.

"It was a man from your land," returned Petroff, with a grave earnest
look, "who taught me to wrestle,--a man from Cornwall.  He was a
sailor--a stout fellow, and a good man.  His vessel had been anchored
off our village for some time, so that we saw a good deal of him.  They
had a passenger on board, who landed and went much about among the
people.  He was a German, and called himself a colporteur.  He taught
strange doctrines, and gave away many Bibles, printed in the Bulgarian
tongue."

"Ah," said I, "no doubt he was an agent of the British and Foreign Bible
Society."

"Perhaps so," returned Petroff, with a somewhat perplexed look, "but he
said nothing about that.  His chief desire seemed to be to get us to
listen to what he read out of his Bible.  And some of us did listen,
too.  He gave one of the Bibles to my wife here, and she has been
reading it pretty eagerly ever since."

"What! this, then, is your wife?"  I exclaimed.

"Yes, Marika is my wife, and Ivanka is my daughter," replied Petroff,
with a tender glance at the little girl that trotted by his side.

"Perhaps, Marika, your Cornish friend may have taught you to speak
English," said I, in my native tongue, turning to the woman.

Marika shook her pretty head, laughed, and blushed.  She seemed to
understand me, but would not consent to reply in English.

"The colporteur of whom you have spoken," said I, turning to the
blacksmith, and again speaking Russian, "did you a great service when he
gave your wife the Word of God."

Dobri Petroff assented, but a frown for a minute overspread his face.
"Yes," he said, "I admit that, but he also taught me to think, and it
might have been better for me--for many of us in this land--if we did
not think; if we could eat and sleep and work like the brutes that
perish."

I feared that I knew too well what the man referred to, and would gladly
have dropped the subject, but could not do so without appearing rude.

"It is always well to think," said I, "when we think rightly, that is,
in accordance with the teachings of the Bible, about which we have just
been speaking.  Marika has read much of it to you, no doubt?"

"She has," said the blacksmith, with a touch of sternness, "and among
other things, she has read to me that `oppression driveth even a wise
man mad.'  Am I to understand that as merely stating the fact, or
justifying the madness?"

Without waiting for a reply to the question, he went on, hurriedly--

"You saw that Turk to-day, who pushed me aside as if I had been a dog?
That showed you the _spirit_ of the men in power here, but you little
know their practices--"

"Petroff," said I, interrupting, and looking at the man earnestly,
"forgive me if I say that we had better not discuss the subject now.  I
have just arrived in your land, and know little about it yet.  When I
have seen and heard and thought much, I will be better able to
understand you."

Petroff admitted with ready grace that I was right, and thrusting his
fingers through the wild clustering curls of his black hair, as if to
let the air circle more freely about his head, he turned sharp round,
and pointed to a cottage which stood at a short distance from the
high-road, at the entrance to the village.

"That is our home, sir; we shall feel happy if you will enter it."

I willingly complied, and turned with them into the by-path that led to
it.

The cottage was a mere hut, long and low, one end of which constituted
the forge, the other end, divided into three compartments, being the
dwelling-house.  Here I found the hand of Marika very evident, in the
neatness and cleanliness of everything in and around the place.  The
owners were very poor, but there was sufficient for comfort and health.
On a shelf in a corner lay the Bible which the family had received from
the colporteur.  It was the only book in the house, and evidently a
cherished treasure.

In another corner, on a rudely-made but warm couch, lay a treasure of a
different stamp--a boy, apparently about two years of age.  As I looked
at the curly black hair, the well-shaped nose, the firm, rosy lips, and
the broad brow, I turned to Petroff with a smile, and said--

"I need not ask if that boy is yours."

The man did not at once reply, but seized the child, which our entrance
had awakened, and raised it high above his head.

"Do you hear that, little Dob?  The gentleman knows who you are by your
mother's eyes."

"Nay," said I, with a laugh, "by its father's nose.  But now that you
mention the eyes, I do recognise the mother's plainly.  How old is he?"

This was the first of a series of questions which opened the hearts of
these people to me.  On the strength of these jet-black eyes and the
well-shaped nose, to say nothing of the colporteur and the Bible, Lancey
and I struck up quite an intimate friendship, insomuch that at parting,
little Dob gave me a familiar dab on the face, and Ivanka turned up her
sweet little mouth to be kissed--quite readily and of her own accord.
There is nothing on earth so captivating as a trustful child.  My heart
was knit to little Ivanka on the spot, and it was plain that little Dob
and Lancey were mutually attracted.

I remained at that village several days longer than I had intended, in
order to cultivate the acquaintance of the blacksmith's family.  During
that time I saw a good deal of the other villagers, and found that
Petroff was by no means a typical specimen.  He was above his compeers
in all respects, except in his own opinion; one of Nature's gentlemen,
in short, who are to be found, not numerously perhaps, but certainly, in
almost every land, with unusual strength of intellect, and breadth of
thought, and power of frame, and force of will, and nobility of
aspiration.  Such men in free countries, become leaders of the good and
brave.  In despotic lands they become either the deliverers of their
country or the pests of society--the terror of rulers, the fomentors of
national discord.  Doubtless, in many cases, where right principles are
brought to bear on them, they learn to submit, and, sometimes, become
mitigators of the evils which they cannot cure.

Most of the other inhabitants of this village, some of whom were
Mohammedans, and some Christians of the Greek Church, were sufficiently
commonplace and uninteresting.  Many of them appeared to be simply lazy
and inert.  Others were kindly enough, but stupid, and some were harsh,
coarse, and cruel, very much as we find the peasantry in other parts of
the world where they are ill-treated or uncared for.

While staying here I had occasion to go on shore one morning, and
witnessed a somewhat remarkable scene in a cafe.

Lancey and I, having made a longer excursion than usual and the day
being rather hot, resolved to refresh ourselves in a native
coffee-house.  On entering we found it already pretty well filled with
Bulgarians, of whom a few were Moslems.  They were apparently of the
poorer class.  Most of them sat on low stools, smoking chibouks--long
pipes, with clay heads and amber mouth-pieces--and drinking coffee.  The
Christians were all engrossed, at the moment of our arrival, with a
stranger, who from his appearance and the package of books which lay
open at his side, I at once judged to be a colporteur.  Dobri Petroff, I
observed, was near him, and interested so deeply in what was going on,
that he did not at first perceive us.

Having selected some New Testaments and Bibles from his pack, the
colporteur handed them round for inspection.  These, I found, were
printed in the modern Bulgarian tongue.  The people greatly admired the
binding of the volumes, and began to evince considerable interest in
what the colporteur said about them.  At last he proposed to read, and
as no objection was made, he read and commented on several passages.
Although a German, he spoke Bulgarian fluently, and ere long had aroused
considerable interest, for the people had little or no knowledge of the
Bible; the only one to which they had access being that which lay on the
pulpit of the Greek Church of the village, and which, being written in
the ancient Slavic language, was incomprehensible by them.

The priests in the Greek Church there are generally uneducated men, and
their intoned services and "unknown tongue" do not avail much in the way
of enlightenment.  The schoolmasters, I was told by those who had good
opportunity of judging, are much better educated than the priests.  I
observed that one of these, who had on a former visit been pointed out
to me by my friend Dobri, sat not far from the colporteur smoking his
chibouk with a grave critical expression of countenance.

At last the colporteur turned to the 115th Psalm, and I now began to
perceive that the man had a purpose, and was gradually leading the
people on.

It is well known that the Greek Church, although destitute of images in
its religious buildings, accords the same reverence, or homage, to
pictures which the Romish Church does to the former.  At first, as the
colporteur read, the people listened with grave attention; but when he
came to the verses that describe the idols of the heathen as being made
of, "silver and gold, the work of men's hands," with mouths that could
not speak, and eyes that could not see, and ears that could not hear,
several of the more earnest listeners began to frown, and it was evident
that they regarded the language of the colporteur's book as applicable
to their sacred pictures, and resented the implied censure.  When he
came to the eighth verse, and read, "They that make them are like unto
them, so is every one that trusteth in them," there were indignant
murmurs; for these untutored peasants, whatever their church might teach
about such subtleties as worshipping God _through_ pictures, accepted
the condemnatory words in simplicity.

"Why are you angry?" asked the colporteur, looking round.

"Because," answered a stern old man who sat, close to me, "your words
condemn _us_ as well as the heathen.  They make out the pictures of our
saints to be idols--images and pictures being one and the same thing."

"But these are not _my_ words," said the colporteur, "they are the words
of God."

"If these words are true," returned the old man, with increasing
sternness, "then _we_ are all wrong; but these words are not true--they
are only the words of _your_ Bible, about which we know nothing."

"My friends," returned the colporteur, holding up the volume from which
he had been reading, "this is not only my Bible, it is also yours, the
same that is read in your own churches, only rendered into your own
modern tongue."

At this point Dobri Petroff, who, I observed, had been listening keenly
to what was said, started up with vehemence, and exclaimed--

"If this be true, we can prove it.  Our Bible lies in the neighbouring
church, and here sits our schoolmaster who reads the ancient Slavic like
his mother-tongue.  Come, let us clear up the matter at once."

This proposal was heartily agreed to.  The Bulgarians in the cafe rose
_en masse_, and, headed by the village schoolmaster, went to the church,
where they found the Bible that the priests were in the habit of
reading, or rather intoning, and turned up the 115th Psalm.  It was
found to correspond exactly with that of the colporteur!

The result was at first received in dead silence, and with looks of
surprise by the majority.  This was followed by murmuring comments and
some disputes.  It was evident that the seeds of an inquiring spirit had
been sown that day, which would bear fruit in the future.  The
colporteur, wisely forbearing to press his victory at that time, left
the truth to simmer.  [See note 1.]

I joined him as he went out of the church, and, during a brief
conversation, learned from him that an extensive work is being quietly
carried on in Turkey, which, although not attracting much attention, is
nevertheless surely undermining the huge edifice of Error by means of
the lever of Truth.

Among other things, he said that in the year 1876 so many as
twenty-eight thousand Bibles, translated into the modern native tongue,
had been circulated in the Turkish Empire and in Greece by the British
and Foreign Bible Society, while the Americans, who are busily engaged
in the blessed work in Armenia, had distributed twenty thousand copies.

Leaving the village of Yenilik and my Bulgarian friends with much
regret, I continued the voyage up the Danube, landing here and there for
a day or two and revelling in the bright weather, the rich prospects and
the peaceful scenes of industry apparent everywhere, as man and beast
rejoiced in the opening year.

Time passed rapidly as well as pleasantly.  Sometimes I left the yacht
in charge of Mr Whitlaw, and in company with my trusty servant
travelled about the country, conversing with Turks wherever I met them,
thus becoming more and more versed in their language, and doing my best,
without much success, to improve Lancey in the same.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  The facts on which the above is founded were given to the
author by the Reverend Doctor Thomson, who has resided in Turkey as the
agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society for upwards of thirty
years.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

THE BLACK CLOUDS GATHER.

While I was enjoying myself thus, among the towns and villages on the
banks of the Danube, admiring the scenery, cultivating the acquaintance
of the industrious rural population of the great river, and making an
occasional trip into the interior, the dogs of war were let loose, and
the curtain rose on the darkest tragedy of the nineteenth century.

The comic and the tragic are inextricably mingled in this world.  I
believe that this is no accident, but, like everything else, a special
arrangement.  "All fun makes man a fool," but "all sorrow" makes him a
desperado.  The feeling of anxiety aroused by the war news was, I may
say, mitigated by the manner of its announcement.

"Sir," cried Lancey, bursting into the cabin one afternoon while I was
preparing for a trip ashore, "the Roossians 'as declared war, an' the
whole country is gettin' hup in harms!"

Of course I had been well aware for some time past that there was a
prospect, nay, a probability, of war; but I had not allowed myself to
believe it, because I have a strong natural tendency to give civilised
men credit for more sense than they appear to possess.  That Russia
would really draw the sword, and sacrifice millions of treasure, and
thousands of her best young lives, to accomplish an object that could be
more easily and surely attained by diplomacy, with the expenditure of
little money and no bloodshed, seemed to me incredible.  That the other
European nations should allow this state of things to come to pass,
seemed so ridiculous that I had all along shut my eyes to facts, and
proceeded on my voyage in the confidence of a peaceful solution of the
"Eastern question."

"In days of old," I said to my skipper, in our last conversation on this
subject, which we were fond of discussing, "the nations were less
educated than now, and less imbued perhaps with the principles of the
peace-teaching gospel, which many of them profess to believe; but now
the Christian world is almost out of its teens; intercommunication of
ideas and interests is almost miraculously facile.  Thought is well-nigh
instantaneously flashed from hemisphere to hemisphere, if not from pole
to pole; commerce is so highly cultivated that international exhibitions
of the raw material and the fabrics of all nations are the order of the
day; while good-will between man and man--to say nothing of woman--is so
prevalent, that I really find it hard to believe in the possibility of a
great European war."

"Nevertheless," replied Mr Whitlaw, in a tone of cynicism, to which at
times he gave pretty free indulgence, "the Crimean war occurred in the
nineteenth century, and the American civil war, and the young widows of
the Franco-Prussian war are not yet grey-haired, while their children
have scarcely reached their teens.  Truly, civilisation and the progress
of knowledge, which men boast of so much, seem to be of little value."

I pointed out to Mr Whitlaw that he was wrong in supposing that
civilisation is of little value.  "If you compare the condition of the
United States or England," I said, "with that of the Red Indians of your
own land, or with the semi-barbarous states of Asia, you must allow that
civilisation has done much.  It seems to me that the fault of mankind
lies in expecting too much of that condition.  Civilisation teaches man
how to make the world most comfortable to himself and to his fellows;
but there is a higher attainment than that, and it is only Christianity
which can teach man how to sacrifice himself for others, and, in so
doing, to attain the same ends as those arrived at by civilisation, with
more important and lasting ends in addition."

"Well, then, on that principle," objected the skipper, "you ought to
expect war just now, for there is very little Christianity going that I
can see, though plenty of civilisation."

"On these points we differ, Mr Whitlaw," said I, "for there seems to me
very little civilisation at present, considering the age of the world;
and, on the other hand, there is much genuine Christianity,--more, I
believe, than meets the careless or the jaundiced eye.  However, now
that war _has_ been declared, it becomes necessary that we should get
out of the Danube as fast as possible."

Accordingly, the yacht's head was turned eastward, and we descended
rapidly with the stream.  My intention was good, but the result was
disastrous; not an unwonted state of things, the best intentions in
human affairs being frequently doomed to miscarry.

I must ask the reader now to turn aside with me from my own personal
adventures, to events which had occurred near the banks of the Pruth,--
the river that divides Russia from Turkey.

Here, on Tuesday, the 24th of April 1877, a scene of the utmost
animation and excitement prevailed.  The Emperor of "all the Russias"
was about to review his troops previous to the declaration of war on
Turkey.  Up to that time, of course, war had been expected--as regards
the army, eagerly desired; but no declaration had absolutely been made.

Ungheni, where the railway crosses the Pruth, and not far from
Kischeneff, the capital of Bessarabia, was fixed on as the spot where
the grand review should take place.

Great were the preparations for the reception of his Majesty, for
whether "majesty" be right or wrong, majesty must be honoured and
cheered.  Majesty, male or female, represents _power_, and power _must_
be treated with respect, nay, ought to be so treated--when it behaves
itself!

There is something overwhelmingly grand in multitude.  Humanity cannot
resist the influence.  It is quite clear that the human race were meant
to be gregarious.  What were the orator without his multitude?  I might
go further, and ask, What were the multitude without its orator?  Flags
and banners waved, and ribbons rippled that day in Bessarabia, for the
serried legions of Russia marched in almost unending columns towards
Ungheni, on the Roumanian frontier, and, after they had passed, the
Emperor himself made for the same point with the Grand Duke Nicholas,
and the Czarewitch, and General Ignatieff, and the Minister of War, and
many other dignitaries of the empire, with a numerous and gorgeous
staff.

The day was magnificent.  The people who streamed out to see the review
were enthusiastic.  Perhaps, if they had been Bulgarian peasantry, and
had been able to foresee the future, their enthusiasm would not have
been so great.  Yet I do not say that their enthusiasm was misplaced.
They saw a nation's chivalry assembled to fight and die, if need be, in
the nation's cause, with its Emperor to patronise, and its nobles to
lead the legions on, in all of which there was ground for real
enthusiasm.

Among the regiments that marched that day to Ungheni was one to which I
would draw special attention.  It was not much better, perhaps, than the
others, but it was a good typical Russian regiment, and had a commander
at its head who looked as if he could do it justice.  They marched at a
smart pace, four miles an hour, with a long, dogged, steady tramp that
was clumsy to look at, but seemed likely to last.  Few of the men were
tall, but they were burly, square-set fellows, broad of shoulder, deep
of chest, and smart of limb.  They wore a French-like blue cap, with a
red band round it, and a blue tunic, with loose blue trousers stuffed
into boots that reached the knee.  Their knapsacks were hairy, and their
belts black, the latter suggesting deliverance from that absurdity of
old, pipeclay.  Their great-coats, heavy and brown, were worn in a roll
over the left shoulder, and each man carried his own kettle, the latter
being suggestive of tea and tuck-in, followed by tobacco and turn-in.

Among these warriors, in his proper position, marched a noteworthy young
lieutenant.  He was my old college chum and brother-in-law to be,
Nicholas Naranovitsch, head and shoulders over his fellows, straight as
a poplar, proud as a peacock, and modest as an untried man ought to be.

The spot for the review was well chosen, on a gentle undulating
hillside, which enabled the spectators to see the whole army at once.
The weather was bright and sunny, as I have said, and the glitter of
uniforms and thousands of bayonets with the broad blaze reflected from a
long line of polished field-pieces, sent a thrill through many a heart,
suggesting "glory."  There were a few hearts also, no doubt, to whom
they suggested the natural end for which these glorious things were
called together--blood and murder, national ruination, broken
constitutions, desolated homes, and sudden death.

Holiday reviews are common enough all over the world, but this was no
holiday review.  Every one knew that it was the prelude to war, and
there was an appropriate gravity and silence in the conduct of
spectators.  It was deeply impressive, too, to watch the long lines and
masses of troops,--each unit full of youth, strength, energy,
enthusiasm, hope,--standing perfectly silent, absolutely motionless,
like statues, for full an hour and a half.  Their deep silence and
immobility seemed to produce a sympathetic condition in the spectators.
There was no laughing, jesting, or "chaff" among them.

Even when the Emperor arrived there was no cheering.  A greater than the
Emperor had overawed them.  They merely swayed open and took off hats
deferentially as he passed.  It was not till he began to ride round the
lines with his brilliant staff that the silence was broken by music and
cheers.

Of the review itself I will not speak.  That, and the three-quarters of
an hour mass which followed, being over, a murmur of expectation ran
through the crowd and along the ranks like a solemn growl.  Then there
was a deep, intense silence, which was faintly broken by the Bishop of
Kischeneff reading the manifesto.  He had not read far, when sobs were
heard.  It was the voice of the Emperor Alexander, who prided himself on
the fact that the glory of his reign had hitherto been its peaceful
character.  They say that it had been his boast and hope that he should
finish it without a war.  Previously he had said to the troops: "I have
done everything in my power to avoid war and bloodshed.  Nobody can say
we have not been patient, or that the war has been of our seeking.  We
have practised patience to the last degree, but there comes a time when
even patience must end.  When that time comes, I know that the young
Russian army of to-day will not show itself unworthy of the fame which
the old army won in days gone by."

What the "young army" thought of the fame of its elder brother, as well
as of the sobs of its present Emperor, may be gathered from the fact
that it went all but mad with enthusiasm!  When the Bishop finished
reading, there went up a wild and universal shout of joy of exultation,
of triumph, of relief, as though a great weight of suspense had been
lifted from the hearts of the multitude.  It spread through the army
like light, and was raised again and again, until the very vault of
heaven seemed to thunder, while the soldiers tossed their caps in the
air, or twirled them on their bayonets for several minutes.

Then the _ordre du jour_ of the Grand Duke Nicholas, commander-in-chief
of the army, was read to every battalion, squadron, and battery, and the
day's work was done.  The right was legally and constitutionally granted
to some hundreds of thousands of young men to go forth and slaughter,
burn, and destroy, to their hearts' content--in other words, to "gather
laurels."

It was a sad day's work--sad for Turkey, sad for Russia, sad for Europe,
and especially sad for the women, children, and old people of the
theatre of the future war.  It was a good day's work for nobody and for
nothing; but it was the legitimate outcome of work that had been going
on for years before.

In pondering over the matter since, I have often been led to ask myself
with considerable surprise, Why did this war occur--who wanted it?  It
is quite plain that Europe did not, equally plain that Turkey did not,
still more plain that the Emperor Alexander did not, for he wept at the
prospect of it "like a child."  Who, then, _did_ desire and cause it?
There are some things in this remarkable world that no man can
understand.  At all events I cannot.  When I put the same question, long
afterwards, to my dear and ever-sagacious mother, she replied, "Do you
not think, Jeff; that perhaps the men in power, somewhere, wanted it and
caused it?  There are some countries, you know, where the _people_ are
mere chessmen, who have nothing whatever to do or say in the management
of their own affairs, and are knocked about, wisely or foolishly as the
case may be, by the _men in power_.  England herself was in that sad
case once, if we are to believe our school histories, and some of the
European nations seem to be only now struggling slowly out of that
condition, while others are still in bondage."

I think my mother was right.  After much consideration, I have come to
the conclusion that war is usually, though not always, caused by a few
ambitious men in power at the head of enslaved or semi-enslaved nations.
Not always, I repeat, because free nations, being surrounded by savage,
barbarous, and semi-free, are sometimes wheedled, dragged, or forced
into war in spite of themselves.

After the review some of the regiments started directly for the
frontier.

Nicholas Naranovitsch was summoned to the presence of his colonel.
Nicholas was very young and inexperienced; nevertheless, during the
brief period in which he had served, he had shown himself possessed of
so much ability and wisdom that he was already selected to go on a
secret mission.  What that mission was he never told me.  One result of
it, however, was, that he and I had a most unexpected meeting on the
Danube in very peculiar circumstances.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

TREATS OF TORPEDOES, TERRIBLE CATASTROPHE, UNEXPECTED MEETINGS, AND SUCH
LIKE.

To return to my personal experiences.  It now became a matter of the
deepest importance that we should get out of the river before the
Russian army reached its banks and stopped the navigation.  The weather,
however, was against us.  It rained a great deal, and the nights were
very dark.  The swollen current, it is true, was in our favour;
nevertheless, as we had already spent several weeks in ascending the
river, it was clear that we should have to race against time in
retracing our course.

One dark night about the end of May, as we were approaching the Lower
Danube, and speculating on the probability of our getting out in time, I
gave orders to run into a creek and cast anchor, intending to land and
procure a supply of fresh meat, of which we had run short.

"Better wait for daylight, sir," suggested my skipper.  "It's not
unlikely, in these days of torpedoes, that the entrance to places may be
guarded by them."

The skipper was so far right.  The entrance to unimportant creeks,
indeed, had not been guarded, but the Russians had already laid down
many torpedoes in the river to protect them from Turkish ironclads while
engaged in constructing their pontoon bridges.  He had scarcely made the
remark, when I was half stunned by a shock under my feet, which seemed
to rend the yacht asunder.  There followed a terrific report, and the
deck was instantly deluged with water.  There could be no doubt what had
occurred.  We had touched a torpedo, and the yacht was already sinking.
We rushed to our little boat in consternation, but before we could lower
it, our trim little vessel went down, stern foremost.

For a few moments there was a horrible rushing sound in my ears, and I
felt that I could hold my breath no longer when my head rose above the
surface.  I struck out with a gasp of relief, which was, as it were,
echoed close to me.  I looked round, as well as darkness and water would
allow, and observed an object floating near me.  I pushed towards it,
and just as I caught hold, I heard a panting voice exclaim--

"'Eaven be praised!"

"Amen," said I; "is that you, Lancey?"

"It is, sir, an' I'm right glad to 'ear your voice.  Cetch a tight 'old,
sir; it's big enough for two."

"What is it?"  I asked.

"One of the 'en-coops," said Lancey.

"It's too small for two, I fear," said I, seizing hold of it.

"Hall right, sir; it'll 'old us both.  I can swim."

Clinging to our frail support we were hurried by the rapid current we
knew not whither, for, although the moon was in the sky, it was so
covered with black clouds that we could not see whether we were being
swept towards the shore or into the middle of the stream.  Besides this,
the wind was driving the rain and dashing the water into our eyes
continuously.

"Lancey," I gasped, "it is u-useless to let ourselves be--swe--swept
about at the will of chance currents.  The river is very wi-wide.  Let
us place ourselves side by side--and--strike--out--in--the--same--
d'rection.  Uniformity of action--necessary--in desp'r't situations!"

Lancey at once acted on my suggestion, gasping that, "Haction of--of--
hany kind would tend to--to--k-p limbs warm."

We proceeded in silence for some minutes, when I observed the masts and
rigging of several vessels drawn faintly against the dark sky.  They
were considerably to our right, and the current was evidently bearing us
away from them.

"A strong effort now, Lancey," said I, "and we may reach them."

I could feel, as well as see, that my faithful servant exerted himself
to the utmost.

As we approached the vessels, their huge black hulls loomed up out of
the dark surroundings, and were pictured against the sky, which, dark
though it was, had not the intense blackness of the vessels themselves.

We passed the nearest one within twenty yards.

"Let go, sir, and swim for it," cried Lancey.

"No, no!"  I cried earnestly, "never let go your--"

I stopped, for Lancey had already let go, and made a dash for the
nearest ship.  I heard him hail, and saw the flashing of lights for a
moment, then all was dark again and silent, as I was hurried onward.
The feeling of certainty that he could not have been saved with so rapid
a current sweeping him past, filled my mind with intense anxiety.  Just
then I felt a shock.  The hen-coop had been driven against another
vessel, which I had not observed.

I tried to grasp her, but failed.  I uttered a loud cry, not with the
expectation that the crew of the vessel could save me,--that I knew to
be impossible,--but in the hope that they might be ready for Lancey
should he be carried close to them.

Then I was dragged onward by the powerful current, and tossed like a
cork on the river.  I had observed in passing that the vessel was a
Turkish ironclad, and came to the conclusion that I had passed the
Turkish flotilla, which I knew was at that time lying near the fortress
of Matchin.

At the very time that I was being thus driven about by the wild waters,
and praying to God for the deliverance of my comrades and myself--
sometimes audibly, more frequently in spirit--another and a very
different scene was taking place, not far off, on the Roumanian shore.

The wind had fallen; the clouds that covered the moon had just thinned
enough to render darkness visible, and nothing was to be heard save the
continual croaking of the frogs, which are very large and numerous in
the marshes of the Danube, when four boats pushed off and proceeded
quickly, yet quietly, up the river.

No men were visible in these boats, no sails, no oars.  They were "steam
launches," and were destined for a night attack on the flotilla which I
had just passed.  Their crews were covered nearly from stem to stern by
iron bullet-proof awnings, which, as well as the boats, were painted
black.  The engines were so constructed as to make the least possible
amount of noise, and when speed was reduced no sound was heard save a
dull throbbing that was almost drowned by the croaking frogs.

It was a little after midnight when these boats set out--two being meant
to attack, and two to remain in support.  They had seven miles of river
to traverse before reaching the enemy, and it was while they were in the
midst of their voyage that I chanced to meet them, clinging to my
hen-coop.  They came so straight at me that I was on the point of being
run down by the leading boat, when I gave a sharp "halloo!"

It was replied to by one that indicated surprise, and was decidedly
English in tone.  Next moment the launch scraped violently against my
raft, and I saw a hand extended.  Grasping it, I was drawn quickly into
the boat.  Another hand instantly covered my mouth, and I was thrust
down into the bottom of the boat with considerable violence.  Being
allowed to raise myself a little, the chink of a dark lantern was
opened, and the light streamed full upon me.  It at the same time
lighted up several faces, the inquiring eyes of which gazed at me
intently.  A stern voice demanded who I was.

Just then a gleam of light fell on a countenance which gazed at me with
open-mouthed and open-eyed amazement.  It was that of Nicholas
Naranovitsch!  I was just going to answer, when the sight of him struck
me dumb.

Nicholas touched the officer who had questioned me on the shoulder, and
whispered in his ear.  He at once closed the lantern, leaving us all in
total darkness, while Nicholas caught me by the arm, and, making me sit
down on a box of some kind beside him, gave vent to his surprise in
hurried, broken whispers.

A short time sufficed to explain how it was that I came to be there.
Then he began to tell me about his being sent on a secret expedition,
and his having obtained leave to join in this midnight attack by
torpedo-boats, when a low stern order to be silent compelled him to
stop.

From that moment he and I remained perfectly quiet and observant.

After an hour's steaming the Russian launches came to the immediate
neighbourhood of the enemy's flotilla, and the engines were slowed.

Each boat was armed with two torpedoes attached to the end of two long
spars, which moved on pivots, and could also be dipped so that the
torpedoes should be sunk ten feet under water at any moment.  These
torpedoes--each being about twenty inches long, by about fifteen in
diameter--had a double action.  They could be fired by "contact," or, in
the event of that failing, by electricity.  The latter mode could be
accomplished by an electric battery in a little box in the stern of each
boat, with which a long cable, a quarter of an inch thick, of fine wires
twisted together, connected each torpedo.

All this, of course, I learned afterwards.  At the time, sitting in
almost total darkness, I knew nothing more than that we were bound on a
torpedo expedition.  I could scarcely persuade myself that it was not a
dream, but my numbed frame and drenched garments were too real to be
doubted, and then I fancied it must be a special judgment to punish me
for the part I had taken in the improvement of these terrible implements
of war.

Despite the slowing of the engines, and the dead silence that prevailed,
the boats were observed by the Turkish sentinels as we approached.

"Who goes there?" was demanded in the Turkish language.

The launch in which I sat was the first to approach, but the officer in
command took no notice and made no reply.

Again the sentinel challenged--perhaps doubting whether in the darkness
his eyes had not deceived him as well as his ears.  Still no answer was
given.

The darkness was not now quite so intense, and it was evident that
longer concealment was impossible; when, therefore, the challenge was
given a third time, our Russian commander replied, and I thought I
observed a grim smile on his countenance as he said in Turkish,
"Friends!"

The sentinel, however, seeing that we continued to advance, expressed
his disbelief in our friendship by firing at us.

Then there began an uproar the like of which I had never before
conceived.  Being very near the Turkish monitor at the time, we
distinctly heard the clattering of feet, the shout and rush of sailors,
and the hurried commands to prepare for action.  There was no lack of
promptitude or energy on board the vessel.  There was some lack of care
or discipline, however, for I heard the order for the bow gun to be
fired given three times, and heard the click of the answering hammer
three times in little more than as many seconds, betokening a determined
miss-fire.  But if the bow gun _had_ gone off, and sent one of us to the
bottom, there would still have been three boats left to seal the
vessel's fate.

At the fourth order a globe of flame leaped from the iron side of the
monitor and a heavy shot went harmlessly over our heads.  Shouts and
lights in the other vessels showed that the entire flotilla was aroused.

I observed that the launch next to ours drew off and we advanced alone,
while the other two remained well behind, ready to support.  A sharp
fusillade had now been opened on us, and we heard the bullets pattering
on our iron screen like unearthly hail, but in spite of this the launch
darted like a wasp under the monitor's bow.  The torpedoes were arranged
so as to be detached from their spars at any moment and affixed by long
light chains to any part of an attacked ship.  Round a rope hanging from
the bow of the vessel one of these chains was flung, and the torpedo was
dropped from the end of the spar, while the launch shot away, paying out
the electric cable as she went.  But this latter was not required.  The
torpedo swung round by the current and hit the ship with sufficient
violence.  It exploded, and the column of water that instantly burst
from under the monitor half filled and nearly swamped us as we sped
away.  The noise was so great that it nearly drowned for an instant the
shouts, cries, and firing of the Turks.  The whole flotilla now began in
alarm to fire at random on their unseen foes, and sometimes into each
other.

Meanwhile the launches, like vicious mosquitoes, kept dodging about,
struck often, though harmlessly, by small shot, but missed by the large
guns.

Our commander now perceived that the monitor he had hit was sinking,
though slowly, at the bows.  He shouted, therefore, to the second launch
to go at her.  She did so at once; slipped in, under the fire and smoke
that belched from her side, and fixed another torpedo to her stern in
the same manner as the former.  The officer in charge perceived,
however, that the current would not drive it against the ship.  He
therefore shot away for a hundred yards,--the extent of his electric
cable,--and then fired the charge.  A terrible explosion took place.
Parts of the ship were blown into the air, and a huge plank came down on
the Russian launch, like an avenging thunderbolt, pierced the iron
screen, which had so effectually resisted the bullets, and passed
between two sailors without injuring either.  It did no further damage,
however, and when the crew turned to look at their enemy, they saw the
great ironclad in the act of sinking.  In a few minutes nothing of her
was left above water except her masts.  The crew were drowned, with the
exception of a few who escaped by swimming.

By this time it was daybreak, and our danger, within near range of the
other monitors, of course became very great.  Just then an incident
occurred which might have proved fatal to us.  Our screw fouled, and the
boat became unmanageable.  Observing this, a Turkish launch from one of
the monitors bore down upon us.  One of our sailors, who chanced to be a
good diver, jumped over the side and cleared the screw.  Meanwhile the
men opened so heavy fire on the enemy's launch that she veered off, and
a few minutes later we were steaming down the Danube towards the place
from which the boats had set forth on their deadly mission.

"That was gloriously done, wasn't it?" said Nicholas to me with
enthusiasm, after the first blaze of excitement began to abate;--"one of
the enemy's biggest ironclads sent to the bottom, with all her crew, at
the trifling expense of two or three hundred pounds' weight of powder,
and not a man injured on our side!"

I looked earnestly in my friend's handsome face for a few seconds.

"Yes," said I, slowly; "many thousands of pounds' worth of human
property destroyed, months of human labour and ingenuity wasted, and
hundreds of young lives sacrificed, to say nothing of relatives bereaved
and souls sent into eternity before their time--truly, if _that_ is
glory, it has been gloriously done!"

"Bah!  Jeff," returned Nicholas, with a smile; "you're not fit to live
in this world, you should have had a special one created for yourself.
But come, let me hear how you came to be voyaging _a la Boyton_ on the
Danube."

We at once began a rapid fire of question and reply.  Among other
things, Nicholas informed me that the two boats which had accomplished
this daring feat were commanded by Lieutenants Dubasoff and Thestakoff,
one with a crew of fourteen, the other of nine, men.

"The world is changing, Nicholas," said I, as we landed.  "That the
wooden walls of Old England have passed away has long been acknowledged
by every one, but it seems to me now that her iron walls are doomed to
extinction, and that ere long the world's war-navies will consist of
nothing but torpedo-boats, and her wars will become simply tournaments
therewith."

"It may be so," said Nicholas gaily, as he led the way to his quarters.
"It may be that extremes shall meet at last, and we shall be reduced by
sheer necessity to universal peace."

"That would be glorious indeed," said I, "though it would have the
uncomfortable effect of leaving you without employment."

"Well, in the meantime," he rejoined, "as you are without employment
just now, you must consider yourself my prisoner, for of course you
cannot remain among us without passport, profession, purpose, or
business of any kind.  To be shot for a spy is your legitimate due just
now.  But we shall want surgeons soon, and newspaper correspondence is
not a bad business in these times; come, I'll see what can be done for
you."



CHAPTER NINE.

IN WHICH LANCEY IS TRIED, SUSPECTED, BLOWN UP, CAPTURED, HALF-HANGED,
DELIVERED, AND ASTONISHED.

We must turn now to poor Lancey, from whom I parted in the waters of the
Danube, but with whose fate and doings I did not become acquainted until
long afterwards.

As I had anticipated, he missed the vessel of the Turkish flotilla
towards which he had struck out, but fortunately succeeded in grappling
the chain cable of that which lay next to it, and the crew of which, as
the reader will recollect, I had roused by a shout in passing.

Lancey soon let the Turks know where he was.  A boat being lowered, he
was taken on board, but it was clear to him that he was regarded with
much suspicion.  They hurried him before the officer in charge of the
deck, who questioned him closely.  The poor fellow now found that his
knowledge of the Turkish language was much slighter than, in the pride
of his heart, while studying with me, he had imagined.  Not only did he
fail to understand what was said to him, but the dropping of h's and the
introduction of r's in wrong places rendered his own efforts at reply
abortive.  In these circumstances one of the sailors who professed to
talk English was sent for.

This man, a fine stalwart Turk, with a bushy black beard, began his
duties as interpreter with the question--

"Hoosyoo?"

"Eh? say that again," said Lancey, with a perplexed look.

"Hoosyoo?" repeated the Moslem, with emphasis.

"Hoosyoo," repeated Lancey slowly.  "Oh, I see," (with a smile of sudden
intelligence,) "who's you?  Just so.  I'm Jacob Lancey, groom in the
family of Mrs Jeff Childers, of Fagend, in the county of Devonshire,
England."

This having been outrageously misunderstood by the Turk, and
misinterpreted to the officer, the next question was--

"Wessyoocumfro?"

"Wessyoocumfro?"

Again Lancey repeated the word, and once more, with a smile of sudden
intelligence, exclaimed, "Ah, I see: w'ere's you come from?  Well, I
last come from the water, 'avin' previously got into it through the
hupsettin' of our boat."

Lancey hereupon detailed the incident which had left him and me
struggling in the water, but the little that was understood by the Turks
was evidently not believed; and no wonder, for by that time the Russians
had been laying down torpedoes in all directions about the Danube, to
prevent the enemy from interfering with their labours at the pontoon
bridges.  The Turkish sailors were thus rendered suspicious of every
unusual circumstance that came under their notice.  When, therefore, a
big, powerful, and rather odd-looking man was found clinging to one of
their cables, they at once set him down as an unsuccessful torpedoist,
and a careful search was instantly made round the vessel as a
precaution.

Meanwhile Lancey was led rather roughly down to the cabin to be
questioned by the captain.

The cabin, although very luxurious in its fittings, was not so richly
ornate as had been anticipated by the English groom, whose conceptions
of everything had been derived from the Arabian Nights' Entertainments,
or rather from a fanciful imagination fed by that romantic work.  The
appearance of the Turkish captain, however, and the brightly-coloured
costume of an officer who sat by his side, were sufficiently striking
and Oriental.

On Lancey being placed before him, the captain turned and said a few
words to the officer at his side, who was a splendid fellow, in the
prime of life, with a square bony frame and red beard, which harmonised,
if it did not contrast, with his scarlet fez and blue tassel.  A rich
Eastern shawl encircled his waist, from the folds of which peeped the
handles of a brace of pistols.

He looked at the dripping Englishman earnestly and sternly for a few
moments, and the slightest tinge of a smile lighted his grave
countenance as he said in broken, but sufficiently fluent English--

"The captin do want you to repeat vat you have say on deck."

Lancey repeated it, with a considerable number of additions, but no
variations.

After translating it all, and listening to something in reply, the
officer turned again to Lancey.

"The captin," he said, with quiet gravity, "bids me tell to you that you
is a liar."

Lancey flushed deeply.  "I would tell _you_," he said, with a frown, "to
tell the captain that 'e's another, on'y that would show I was as
bad-mannered as 'imself."

"If I do tells him zat," returned the officer, "you should have your
head cutted off immediately."

Lancey's indignation having already half-cooled, and his memory being
refreshed just then with some vivid remembrances of the Eastern mode of
summoning black slaves by the clapping of hands, followed by the flying
off of heads or the prompt application of bowstrings to necks, he said,
still however with an offended air--

"Well then, tell 'im what you like, hall I've got to say is that I've
told the plain truth, an' 'e's welcome to believe it or not as 'e
likes."

Without the slightest change in his grave countenance, or his appearing
in the least degree offended by Lancey's free-and-easy manner, the
red-bearded officer again turned to address the captain.  Lancey now
observed that the latter replied with a degree of deferential respect
which seemed unnatural in mere brother officers.

"You is regarded as a spy," said the red-beard, turning once more to
Lancey, and fixing his cold grey eye intently on him, as if to read his
thoughts.

"No, I ain't a spy," returned the unfortunate man, somewhat bitterly,
"nor never mean to be.  'Ang me if you like.  I've nothink more to say."

Neither the captain nor the red-bearded officer replied, but the former
waved his hand, and the two sailors who had led Lancey to the cabin
again seized him and led him away, more roughly than before.  The free
spirit of my poor servant resented this unnecessary rudeness, and he
felt a strong inclination to fight, but discretion, or some faint
remembrance of scimitars and bowstrings, induced him to submit.

Full well did he know what was the fatal doom of a spy, and a sinking of
the heart came over him as he thought of immediate execution.  At the
very least, he counted on being heavily ironed and thrust into the
darkest recesses of the hold.  Great, then, was his surprise when the
man who had at first acted as interpreter took him below and supplied
him with a dry shirt and a pair of trousers.

Thankfully accepting these, and standing between two guns, he put them
on.

"Who is the hofficer with the red beard?" he asked, while thus engaged.

The interpreter seemed unwilling to answer at first, but, on a
repetition of the question replied--

"Pasha."

"Pasha, eh?  Ah, that accounts for the respect of the cap'n--rather
shorter in the legs these 'ere than I could 'ave wished; 'owever,
beggars, they say, mustn't be--well, they're wide enough anyhow.--A
Pasha, is 'e?  Don't look like a sailor, though.  Is 'e a sailor?"

"No," replied the interpreter sharply.

"Well, well, no offence meant," said Lancey, buttoning his shirt.  "If
you don't feel commoonicative _I_ won't trouble you, no more than to
thank 'ee for the shirt an' trousers, which the latter bein' dry is a
blessin', though they air a trifle short in the legs an' wide in the
'ips."

After this Lancey was supplied with food.

While he was eating it he was startled by sudden rushing and shouting,
which was immediately followed by the discharge of musketry on deck.  He
sprang up, and seeing that the Turkish sailors were grasping their arms
and swarming up the hatchways, he mingled with one of the streams.  No
one paid any attention to him.  At that moment he felt a shock which he
afterwards described as resembling an earthquake or the blowing up of a
powder-magazine.  Part of the planking near to where he stood was
shattered.  Some of the guns appeared almost to leap for an instant a
few inches into the air.  Gaining the deck he ascertained that an attack
of Russian torpedo-boats was going on.  It was, in fact, the attack
which I have already described, the monitor by which Lancey was rescued
being that which had been selected by the Russian commander as his
victim.

When the second torpedo exploded, as already described, Lancey was
standing near the gangway, and saw that the men were lowering the boats
in urgent haste, for the vessel was evidently sinking.

"Yoos know 'bout dat," said a stern voice near him.  At the same moment
he was seized by the interpreter and another man, who made an effort to
hurl him into the sea.  But Lancey was strong, and tenacious of life.
Before a third sailor, who was about to aid his comrades, could act, the
red bearded officer appeared with the captain and was about to descend
into the boat when he observed Lancey struggling in the grasp of the
sailors.

"Spy!" he exclaimed in the Turkish tongue, "you must not escape.  Get
into the boat."

The sailors fell back.  Lancey, not sure whether to regard this as
temporary deliverance or his death-warrant, hesitated, but at a sign
from the Pasha he was collared by five or six men and hurled into the
bottom of the boat, where he lay, half-stunned, while they rowed towards
the shore.  Before reaching it, however, he was still doomed to rough
handling, for one of the shots from the large guns, which were fired
almost at random from the flotilla, accidentally struck the boat and
sent it to the bottom.

Lancey was a good swimmer.  The cold water restored him to full vigour,
and he struck out boldly for the shore.  He soon left the boat's crew
behind, with the exception of one man who kept close to his side all the
way.  As they neared the shore, however, this man suddenly cried out
like one who is drowning.  A second time he cried, and the gurgling of
his voice told its own tale.  The stout Englishman could not bear to
leave a human being to perish, whether friend or foe.  He swam towards
the drowning man and supported him till their feet touched bottom.

Then, perceiving that he was able to stagger along unassisted, Lancey
pushed hurriedly from his side in the hope of escaping from any of the
crew who might reach land, for they were evidently the reverse of
friendly.

He landed among a mass of bulrushes.  Staggering through them, and
nearly sinking at every step, he gradually gained firmer footing.

"Ah, Jacob," he muttered to himself, pausing for a few minutes' rest,
"little did you think you'd git into such an 'orrible mess as this w'en
you left 'ome.  Sarves you right for quittin' your native land."

With this comforting reflection he pushed on again, and soon found
himself on a road which led towards a town, or village, whose lights
were distinctly visible.

What should he do?  The village was on the Bulgarian side, and the
natives, if not enemies, would of course become so on learning from any
of the saved men of the monitor who he was.  To swim across the Danube
he felt was, after his recent exertions, impossible.  To remain where he
was would be to court death among the frogs.

Lancey was a prompt man.  Right or wrong, his conclusions were soon come
to and acted on.  He decided to go straight to the village and throw
himself on the hospitality of the people.  In half an hour he found
himself once more a prisoner!  Worse than that; the interpreter, who was
among the men saved from the wreck, chanced to discover him and
denounced him as a spy.  The mood in which the Turks then were was not
favourable to him.  He was promptly locked up, and about daybreak next
morning was led out to execution.

Poor Lancey could scarcely credit his senses.  He had often read of such
things, but had never fully realised that they were true.  That he, an
innocent man, should be hung off-hand, without trial by jury or
otherwise, in the middle of the nineteenth century, was incredible!
There was something terribly real, however, in the galling tightness of
the rope that confined his arms, in the troop of stern horsemen that
rode on each side of him, and in the cart with ropes, and the material
for a scaffold, which was driven in front towards the square of the
town.  There was no sign of pity in the people or of mercy in the
guards.

The contrivance for effecting the deadly operation was simple in the
extreme,--two large triangles with a pole resting on them, and a strong
rope attached thereto.  There was no "drop."  An empty box sufficed, and
this was to be kicked away when the rope was round his neck.

Even up to the point of putting the rope on, Lancey would not believe.

Reader, have you ever been led out to be hanged?  If not, be thankful!
The conditions of mind consequent on that state of things is appalling.
It is also various.

Men take it differently, according to their particular natures; and as
the nature of man is remarkably complex, so the variation in his feeling
is exceedingly diverse.

There are some who, in such circumstances, give way to abject terror.
Others, whose nervous system is not so finely strung and whose sense of
justice is strong, are filled with a rush of indignation, and meet their
fate with savage ferocity, or with dogged and apparent indifference.
Some, rising above sublunary matters, shut their eyes to all around and
fix their thoughts on that world with which they may be said to be more
immediately connected, namely, the next.

Lancey went through several of these phases.  When the truth first
really came home to him he quailed like an arrant coward.  Then a sense
of violated justice supervened.  If at that moment Samson's powers had
been his, he would have snapped the ropes that bound him like
packthread, and would have cut the throat of every man around him.  When
he was placed upon the substitute for a "block," and felt by a motion of
his elbows his utter powerlessness, the dogged and indifferent state
came on, but it did not last.  It could not.  His Christian training was
adverse to it.

"Come," he mentally exclaimed, "it is God's will.  Quit you like a man,
Jacob--and die!"

There is no doubt that in this frame the brave fellow would have passed
away if he had not been roused by the loud clattering of horses' feet as
a cavalcade of glittering Turkish officers dashed through the square.
In front of these he observed the red-bearded officer who had acted as
interpreter in the cabin of the Turkish monitor.

There came a sudden gush of hope!  Lancey knew not his name, but in a
voice of thunder he shouted--

"'Elp! 'elp! 'allo!  Pasha!  Redbeard!--"

The executioner hastened his work, and stopped the outcry by tightening
the rope.

But "Redbeard" had heard the cry.  He galloped towards the place of
execution, recognised the supposed spy, and ordered him to be released,
at the same time himself cutting the rope with a sweep of his sword.

The choking sensation which Lancey had begun to feel was instantly
relieved.  The rope was removed from his neck, and he was gently led
from the spot by a soldier of the Pasha's escort, while the Pasha
himself galloped coolly away with his staff.

If Lancey was surprised at the sudden and unexpected nature of his
deliverance, he was still more astonished at the treatment which he
thereafter experienced from the Turks.  He was taken to one of the best
hotels in the town, shown into a handsome suite of apartments, and
otherwise treated with marked respect, while the best of viands and the
choicest of wines were placed before him.

This made him very uncomfortable.  He felt sure that some mistake had
occurred, and would willingly have retired, if possible, to the hotel
kitchen or pantry; but the waiter, to whom he modestly suggested
something of the sort, did not understand a word of English and could
make nothing of Lancey's Turkish.  He merely shook his head and smiled
respectfully, or volunteered some other article of food.  The worthy
groom therefore made up his mind to hold his tongue and enjoy himself as
long as it lasted.

"When I wakes up out o' this remarkable and not unpleasant dream," he
muttered, between the whiffs of his cigarette, one evening after dinner,
"I'll write it out fair, an' 'ave it putt in the _Daily Noos_ or the
_Times_."

But the dream lasted so long that Lancey began at last to fear he should
never awake from it.  For a week he remained at that hotel, faring
sumptuously, and quite unrestrained as to his movements, though he could
not fail to observe that he was closely watched and followed wherever he
went.

"Is it a Plenipotentiary or a furrin' Prime Minister they take me for?"
he muttered to himself over a mild cigar of the finest quality, "or
mayhap they think I'm a Prince in disguise!  But then a man in disguise
ain't known, and therefore can't be follered, or, if he was, what would
be the use of his disguise?  No, I can't make it out, no'ow."

Still less, by any effort of his fancy or otherwise, could he make out
why, after a week's residence at the village in question, he was ordered
to prepare for a journey.

This order, like all others, was conveyed to him by signs.  Some parts
of his treatment had been managed otherwise.  When, for instance, on the
night of his deliverance, it had been thought desirable that his
garments should be better and more numerous, his attendants or keepers
had removed his old wardrobe and left in its place another, which,
although it comprehended trousers, savoured more of the East than the
West.  Lancey submitted to this, as to everything else, like a true
philosopher.  Generally, however, the wishes of those around him were
conveyed by means of signs.

On the morning of his departure, a small valise, stuffed with the few
articles of comfort which he required, and a change of apparel, was
placed at his bed-side.  The hotel attendant, who had apparently
undertaken the management of him, packed this up in the morning, having
somewhat pointedly placed within it his _robe de nuit_.  Thereafter the
man bowed, smiled gravely, pointed to the door, beckoned him to follow,
and left the room.

By that time Lancey had, as it were, given himself up.  He acted with
the unquestioning obedience of a child or a lunatic.  Following his
guide, he found a native cart outside with his valise in it.  Beside the
cart stood a good horse, saddled and bridled in the Turkish fashion.
His hotel-attendant pointed to the horse and motioned to him to mount.

Then it burst upon Lancey that he was about to quit the spot, perhaps
for ever, and, being a grateful fellow, he could not bear to part
without making some acknowledgment.

"My dear Turk, or whatever you are," he exclaimed, turning to his
attendant, "I'm sorry to say good-bye, an' I'm still more sorry to say
that I've nothin' to give you.  A ten-pun-note, if I 'ad it, would be
but a small testimony of my feelin's, but I do assure you I 'av'n't got
a rap."

In corroboration of this he slapped his empty pockets and shook his
head.  Then, breaking into a benignant smile, he shook hands with the
waiter warmly, turned in silence, mounted his horse and rode off after
the native cart, which had already started.

"You don't know where we're goin' to, I s'pose?" said Lancey to the
driver of the cart.

The man stared, but made no reply.

"Ah, I thought not!" said Lancey; then he tried him in Turkish, but a
shake of the head intimated the man's stupidity, or his interrogator's
incapacity.

Journeying in silence over a flat marshy country, they arrived about
mid-day at a small village, before the principal inn of which stood a
number of richly-caparisoned chargers.  Here Lancey found that he was
expected to lunch and join the party, though in what capacity he failed
to discover.  The grave uncommunicative nature of the Turks had
perplexed and disappointed him so often that he had at last resigned
himself to his fate, and given up asking questions, all the more
readily, perhaps, that his fate at the time chanced to be a pleasant
one.

When the party had lunched, and were preparing to take the road, it
became obvious that he was not regarded as a great man travelling
incognito, for no one took notice of him save a Turk who looked more
like a servant than an aristocrat.  This man merely touched him on the
shoulder and pointed to his horse with an air that savoured more of
command than courtesy.

Lancey took the hint and mounted.  He also kept modestly in rear.  When
the cavalcade was ready a distinguished-looking officer issued from the
inn, mounted his charger, and at once rode away, followed by the others.
He was evidently a man of rank.

For several days they journeyed, and during this period Lancey made
several attempts at conversation with the only man who appeared to be
aware of his existence--who, indeed, was evidently his guardian.  But,
like the rest, this man was taciturn, and all the information that could
be drawn out of him was that they were going to Constantinople.

I hasten over the rest of the journey.  On reaching the sea, they went
on board a small steamer which appeared to have been awaiting them.  In
course of time they came in sight of the domes and minarets of Stamboul,
the great city of the Sultans, the very heart of Europe's apple of
discord.

It was evening, and the lights of the city were everywhere glittering
like long lines of quivering gold down into the waters of the Bosporus.
Here the party with which Lancey had travelled left him, without even
saying good-bye,--all except his guardian, who, on landing, made signs
that he was to follow, or, rather, to walk beside him.  Reduced by this
time to a thoroughly obedient slave, and satisfied that no mischief was
likely to be intended by men who had treated him so well, Lancey walked
through the crowded streets and bazaars of Constantinople as one in a
dream, much more than half-convinced that he had got somehow into an
"Arabian Night," the "entertainments" of which seemed much more real
than those by which his imagination had been charmed in days of old.

Coming into a part of the city that appeared to be suburban, his keeper
stopped before a building that seemed a cross between a barrack and a
bird-cage.  It was almost surrounded by a wall so high that it hid the
building from view, except directly in front.  There it could be seen,
with its small hermetically-closed windows, each covered with a wooden
trellis.  It bore the aspect of a somewhat forbidding prison.

"Konak--palace," said the keeper, breaking silence for the first time.

"A konak; a palace! eh?" repeated Lancey, in surprise; "more like a
jail, _I_ should say.  'Owever, customs differ.  Oos palace may it be,
now?"

"Pasha; Sanda Pasha," replied the man, touching a spring or bell in the
wall; "you goes in."

As he spoke, a small door was opened by an armed black slave, to whom he
whispered a few words, and then, stepping back, motioned to his
companion to enter.

"Arter you, sir," said Lancey, with a polite bow.

But as the man continued gravely to point, and the black slave to hold
the door open, he forbore to press the matter, and stepped in.  The gate
was shut with a bang, followed by a click of bolts.  He found, on
looking round, that the keeper had been shut out, and he was alone with
the armed negro.

"You're in for it now, Jacob my boy," muttered Lancey to himself, as he
measured the negro with a sharp glance, and slowly turned up the
wristband of his shirt with a view to prompt action.  But the sable
porter, far from meditating an assault, smiled graciously as he led the
way to the principal door of the palace, or, as the poor fellow felt
sure it must be, the prison.



CHAPTER TEN.

INVOLVES LANCEY IN GREAT PERPLEXITIES, WHICH CULMINATE IN A VAST
SURPRISE.

No sooner did the dark and unpretending door of Sanda Pasha's konak or
palace open than Lancey's eyes were dazzled by the blaze of light and
splendour within, and when he had entered, accustomed though he was to
"good society" in England, he was struck dumb with astonishment.
Perhaps the powerful contrast between the outside and the interior of
this Eastern abode had something to do with the influence on his mind.

Unbridled luxury met his eyes in whatever direction he turned.  There
was a double staircase of marble; a court paved with mosaic-work of
brilliant little stones; splendid rooms, the walls of which were covered
with velvet paper of rich pattern and colour.  Gilding glittered
everywhere--on cornices, furniture, and ceilings, from which the eyes
turned with double zest to the soft light of marble sculpture
judiciously disposed on staircase and in chambers.  There were soft
sofas that appeared to embrace you as you sank into them; pictures that
charmed the senses; here a bath of snow-white marble, there gushing
fountains and jets of limpid water that appeared to play hide-and-seek
among green leaves and lovely flowers, and disappeared mysteriously,--in
short, everything tasteful and beautiful that man could desire.  Of
course Lancey did not take all this in at once.  Neither did he realise
the fact that the numerous soft-moving and picturesque attendants, black
and white, whom he saw, were a mere portion of an army of servants,
numbering upwards of a thousand souls, whom this Pasha retained.  These
did not include the members of his harem.  He had upwards of a hundred
cooks and two hundred grooms and coachmen.  This household, it is said,
consumed, among other things, nearly 7000 pounds of vegetables a day,
and in winter there were 900 fires kindled throughout the establishment.
[See note 1.]

But of all this, and a great deal more, Lancey had but a faint
glimmering as he was led through the various corridors and rooms towards
a central part of the building.

Here he was shown into a small but comfortable apartment, very Eastern
in its character, with a mother-of-pearl table in one corner bearing
some slight refreshment, and a low couch at the further end.

"Eat," said the black slave who conducted him.  He spoke in English, and
pointed to the table; "an' sleep," he added, pointing to the couch.
"Sanda Pasha sees you de morrow."

With that he left Lancey staring in a bewildered manner at the door
through which he had passed.

"Sanda Pasha," repeated the puzzled man slowly, "will see me `de
morrow,' will he?  Well, if `de morrow' ever comes, w'ich I doubt, Sanda
Pasha will find 'e 'as made a most hegragious mistake of some sort.
'Owever that's _'is_ business, not mine."

Having comforted himself with this final reflection on the culminating
event of the day, he sat down to the mother-of-pearl table and did full
justice to the Pasha's hospitality by consuming the greater part of the
viands thereon, consisting largely of fruits, and drinking the wine with
critical satisfaction.

Next morning he was awakened by his black friend of the previous night,
who spread on the mother-of-pearl table a breakfast which in its
elegance appeared to be light, but which on close examination turned
out, like many light things in this world, to be sufficiently
substantial for an ordinary man.

Lancey now expected to be introduced to the Pasha, but he was mistaken.
No one came near him again till the afternoon, when the black slave
reappeared with a substantial dinner.  The Pasha was busy, he said, and
would see him in the evening.  The time might have hung heavily on the
poor man's hands, but, close to the apartment in which he was confined
there was a small marble court, open to the sky, in which were
richly-scented flowers and rare plants and fountains which leaped or
trickled into tanks filled with gold-fish.  In the midst of these things
he sat or sauntered dreamily until the shades of evening fell.  Then the
black slave returned and beckoned him to follow.

He did so and was ushered into a delicious little boudoir, whose
windows, not larger than a foot square, were filled with pink, blue, and
yellow glass.  Here, the door being softly shut behind him, Lancey found
himself in the presence of the red-bearded officer whom he had met on
board the Turkish monitor.

Redbeard, as Lancey called him, mentally, reclined on a couch and smoked
a chibouk.

"Come here," he said gravely, in broken English.  Lancey advanced into
the middle of the apartment.  "It vas you what blew'd up de monitor," he
said sternly, sending a thick cloud of smoke from his lips.

"No, your--."  Lancey paused.  He knew not how to address his
questioner, but, feeling that some term of respect was necessary, he
coined a word for the occasion--

"No, your Pashaship, I did nothink of the sort.  I'm as hinnocent of
that ewent as a new-born babe."

"Vat is your name?"

"Lancey."

"Ha! your oder name."

"Jacob."

"Ho!  _My_ name is Sanda Pasha.  You have hear of me before?"

"Yes, on board the Turkish monitor."

"Just so; but before zat, I mean," said the Pasha, with a keen glance.

Lancey was a bold and an honest man.  He would not condescend to
prevaricate.

"I'm wery sorry, your--your Pashaship, but, to tell the plain truth, I
never _did_ 'ear of you _before_ that."

"Well, zat matters not'ing.  I do go now to sup vid von friend, Hamed
Pasha he is called.  You go vid me.  Go, get ready."

Poor Lancey opened his eyes in amazement, and began to stammer something
about having nothing to get ready with, and a mistake being made, but
the Pasha cut him short with another "Go!" so imperative that he was
fain to obey promptly.

Having no change of raiment, the perplexed man did his best by washing
his face and hands, and giving his hair and clothes an extra brush, to
make himself more fit for refined society.  On being called to rejoin
the Pasha, he began to apologise for the style of his dress, but the
peremptory despot cut him short by leading the way to his carriage, in
which they were driven to the konak or palace of Hamed Pasha.

They were shown into a richly-furnished apartment where Hamed was seated
on a divan, with several friends, smoking and sipping brandy and water,
for many of these _eminent_ followers of the Prophet pay about as little
regard to the Prophet's rules as they do to the laws of European
society.

Hamed rose to receive his brother Pasha, and Lancey was amazed to find
that he was a Nubian, with thick lips, flat nose, and a visage as black
as coal.  He was also of gigantic frame, insomuch that he dwarfed the
rest of the company, including Lancey himself.

Hamed had raised himself from a low rank in society to his present high
position by dint of military ability, great physical strength, superior
intelligence, reckless courage, and overflowing animal spirits.  When
Sanda Pasha entered he was rolling his huge muscular frame on the divan,
and almost weeping with laughter at something that had been whispered in
his ear by a dervish who sat beside him.

Sanda introduced Lancey as an Englishman, on hearing which the black
Pasha seized and wrung his hands, amid roars of delight, and torrents of
remarks in Turkish, while he slapped him heartily on the shoulder.
Then, to the amazement of Lancey, he seized him by the collar of his
coat, unbuttoned it, and began to pull it off.  This act was speedily
explained by the entrance of an attendant with a pale blue loose
dressing-gown lined with fur, which the Pasha made his English guest put
on, and sit down beside him.

Having now thoroughly resigned himself to the guidance of what his
Turkish friends styled "fate," Lancey did his best to make himself
agreeable, and gave himself up to the enjoyment of the hour.

There were present in the room, besides those already mentioned, a
Turkish colonel of cavalry and a German doctor who spoke Turkish
fluently.  The party sat down to supper on cushions round a very low
table.  The dervish, Hadji Abderhaman, turned out to be a gourmand, as
well as a witty fellow and a buffoon.  The Pasha always gave the signal
to begin to each dish, and between courses the dervish told stories from
the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, or uttered witticisms which kept the
Nubian Pasha in roars of laughter.  They were all very merry, for the
host was fond of boisterous fun and practical jokes, while his guests
were sympathetic.  Lancey laughed as much as any of them, for although
he could not, despite his previous studies, follow the conversation, he
could understand the pantomime, and appreciated the viands highly.  His
red-bearded friend also came to his aid now and then with a few
explanatory remarks in broken English.

At such times the host sat with a beaming smile on his black face, and
his huge mouth half-expanded, looking from one to another, as if
attempting to understand, and ready at a moment's notice to explode in
laughter, or admiration, or enthusiasm, according to circumstances.

"Hamed Pasha wants to know if you is in do army," said Sanda Pasha.

"Not in the regulars," replied Lancey, "but I _'ave_ bin, in the
militia."

The Nubian gave another roar of delight when this was translated, and
extended his great hand to one whom he thenceforth regarded as a
brother-in-arms.  Lancey grasped and shook it warmly.

"Let the Englishman see your sword," said Sanda in Turkish to Hamed.

Sanda knew his friend's weak point.  The sword was at once ordered in
for inspection.

Truly it was a formidable weapon, which might have suited the fist of
Goliath, and was well fitted for the brawny arm that had waved it aloft
many a time in the smoke and din of battle.  It was blunt and hacked on
both edges with frequent use, but its owner would not have it sharpened
on any account, asserting that a stout arm did not require a keen
weapon.

While the attention of the company was taken up with this instrument of
death, the dervish availed himself of the opportunity to secure the
remains of a dish of rich cream, to which he had already applied himself
more than once.

The Nubian observed the sly and somewhat greedy act with a twinkling
eye.  When the dervish had drained the dish, the host filled a glass
full to the brim with vinegar, and, with fierce joviality, bade him
drink it.  The poor man hesitated, and said something about wine and a
mistake, but the Pasha repeated "Drink!" with such a roar, and threw his
sword down at the same time with such a clang on the marble floor, that
the dervish swallowed the draught with almost choking celerity.

The result was immediately obvious on his visage; nevertheless he bore
up bravely, and even cut a sorry joke at his own expense, while the
black giant rolled on his divan, and the tears ran down his swarthy
cheeks.

The dervish was an adventurer who had wandered about the country as an
idle vagabond until the war broke out, when he took to army-contracting
with considerable success.  It was in his capacity of contractor that he
became acquainted with the boisterous black Pasha, who greatly
appreciated his low but ready wit, and delighted in tormenting him.  On
discovering that the dervish was a voracious eater, he pressed--I might
say forced--him with savage hospitality to eat largely of every dish, so
that, when pipes were brought after supper, the poor dervish was more
than satisfied.

"Now, you are in a fit condition to sing," cried Hamed, slapping the
over-fed man on the shoulder; "come, give us a song: the Englishman
would like to hear one of your Arabian melodies."

Redbeard translated this to Lancey, who protested that, "nothink would
afford 'im greater delight."

The dervish was not easily overcome.  Despite his condition, he sang,
well and heartily, a ditty in Arabic, about love and war, which the
Nubian Pasha translated into Turkish for the benefit of the German
doctor, and Sanda Pasha rendered into broken English for Lancey.

But the great event of the evening came, when the English guest, in
obedience to a call, if not a command, from his host, sang an English
ballad.  Lancey had a sweet and tuneful voice, and was prone to indulge
in slow pathetic melodies.  The black Pasha turned out to be intensely
fond of music, and its effect on his emotional spirit was very powerful.
At the first bar of his guest's flowing melody his boisterous humour
vanished: his mouth and eyes partly opened with a look of pleased
surprise; he evidently forgot himself and his company, and when,
although unintelligible to him, the song proceeded in more touching
strains, his capacious chest began to heave and his eyes filled with
tears.  The applause, not only of the host, but the company, was loud
and emphatic, and Lancey was constrained to sing again.  After that the
colonel sang a Turkish war-song.  The colonel's voice was a tremendous
bass, and he sang with such enthusiasm that the hearers were effectively
stirred.  Hamed, in particular, became wild with excitement.  He
half-suited his motions, while beating time, to the action of each
verse, and when, as a climax in the last verse, the colonel gave the
order to "charge!"  Hamed uttered a roar, sprang up, seized his great
sabre, and caused it to whistle over his friends with a sweep that might
have severed the head of an elephant!

At this point, one of the attendants, who appeared to be newly appointed
to his duties, and who had, more than once during the feast, attracted
attention by his stupidity, shrank in some alarm from the side of his
wild master and tumbled over a cushion.

Hamed glared at him for a moment, with a frown that was obviously not
put on, and half-raised the sabre as if about to cut him down.
Instantly the frown changed to a look of contempt, and almost as quickly
was replaced by a gleam of fun.

"Stand forth," said Hamed, dropping the sabre and sitting down.

The man obeyed with prompt anxiety.

"Your name?"

"Mustapha."

"Mustapha," repeated the Pasha, "I observe that you are a capable young
fellow.  You are a man of weight, as the marble floor can testify.  I
appoint you to the office of head steward.  Go, stand up by the door."

The man made a low obeisance and went.

"Let the household servants and slaves pass before their new superior
and do him honour."

With promptitude, and with a gravity that was intensely ludicrous--for
none dared to smile in the presence of Hamed Pasha--the servants of the
establishment, having been summoned, filed before the new steward and
bowed to him.  This ceremony over, Mustapha was ordered to go and make a
list of the poultry.  The poor man was here obliged to confess that he
could not write.

"You can draw?" demanded the Pasha fiercely.

With some hesitation the steward admitted that he could--"a little."

"Go then, draw the poultry, every cock and hen and chicken," said the
Pasha, with a wave of his hand which dismissed the household servants
and sent the luckless steward to his task.

After this pipes were refilled, fresh stories were told, and more songs
were sung.  After a considerable time Mustapha returned with a large
sheet of paper covered with hieroglyphics.  The man looked timid as he
approached and presented it to his master.

The Pasha seized the sheet.  "What have we here?" he demanded sternly.

The man said it was portraits of the cocks and hens.

"Ha!" exclaimed the Pasha, "a portrait-gallery of poultry--eh!"

He held the sheet at arm's-length, and regarded it with a fierce frown;
but his lips twitched, and suddenly relaxed into a broad grin, causing a
tremendous display of white teeth and red gums.

"Poultry! ha! just so.  What is this?"

He pointed to an object with a curling tail, which Mustapha assured him
was a cock.

"What! a cock? where is the comb?  Who ever heard of a cock without a
comb, eh?  And that, what is that?"

Mustapha ventured to assert that it was a chicken.

"A chicken," cried the Pasha fiercely; "more like a dromedary.  You
rascal! did you not say that you could draw?  Go! deceiver, you are
deposed.  Have him out and set him to cleanse the hen-house, and woe
betide you if it is not as clean as your own conscience before to-morrow
morning--away!"

The Pasha shouted the last word, and then fell back in fits of laughter;
while the terrified man fled to the hen-house, and drove its occupants
frantic in his wild attempts to cleanse their Augean stable.

It was not until midnight that Sanda Pasha and Lancey, taking leave of
Hamed and his guests, returned home.

"Come, follow me," said the Pasha, on entering the palace.

He led Lancey to the room in which they had first met, and, seating
himself on a divan, lighted his chibouk.

"Sit down," he said, pointing to a cushion that lay near him on the
marble floor.

Lancey, although unaccustomed to such a low seat, obeyed.

"Smoke," said the Pasha, handing a cigarette to his guest.

Lancey took the cigarette, but at this point his honest soul recoiled
from the part he seemed to be playing.  He rose, and, laying the
cigarette respectfully on the ground, said--

"Sanda Pasha, it's not for the likes o' me to be sittin' 'ere smokin'
with the likes o' you, sir.  There's some mistake 'ere, hobviously.
I've been treated with the consideration doo to a prince since I fell
into the 'ands of the Turks, and it is right that I should at once
correct this mistake, w'ich I'd 'ave done long ago if I could 'ave got
the Turks who've 'ad charge of me to understand Hinglish.  I'm bound to
tell you, sir, that I'm on'y a groom in a Hinglish family, and makes no
pretence to be hanythink else, though circumstances 'as putt me in a
false position since I come 'ere.  I 'ope your Pashaship won't think me
ungracious, sir, but I can't a-bear to sail under false colours."

To this speech Sanda Pasha listened with profound gravity, and puffed an
enormous cloud from his lips at its conclusion.

"Sit down," he said sternly.

Lancey obeyed.

"Light your cigarette."

There was a tone of authority in the Pasha's voice which Lancey did not
dare to resist.  He lighted the cigarette.

"Look me in the _face_," said the Pasha suddenly, turning his piercing
grey eyes full on him guest.

Supposing that this was a prelude to an expression of doubt as to his
honesty, Lancey did look the Pasha full in the face, and returned his
stare with interest.

"Do you see this cut over the bridge of my nose?" demanded the Pasha.

Lancey saw it, and admitted that it must have been a bad one.

"And do you see the light that is blazing in these two eyes?" he added,
pointing to his own glowing orbs with a touch of excitement.

Lancey admitted that he saw the light, and began to suspect that the
Pasha was mad.  At the same time he was struck by the sudden and very
great improvement in his friend's English.

"But for _you_," continued the Pasha, partly raising himself, "that cut
had never been, and the light of those eyes would now be quenched in
death!"

The Pasha looked at his guest more fixedly than ever, and Lancey, now
feeling convinced of his entertainer's madness, began to think uneasily
of the best way to humour him.

"Twenty years ago," continued the Pasha slowly and with a touch of
pathos in his tone, "I received this cut from a boy in a fight at
school," (Lancey thought that the boy must have been a bold fellow),
"and only the other day I was rescued by a man from the waters of the
Danube."  (Lancey thought that, on the whole, it would have been well if
the man had left him to drown.) "The name of the boy and the name of the
man was the same.  It was Jacob Lancey!"

Lancey's eyes opened and his lower jaw dropped.  He sat on his cushion
aghast.

"Jacob Lancey," continued the Pasha in a familiar tone that sent a
thrill to the heart of his visitor, "hae ye forgotten your auld Scotch
freen' and school-mate Sandy?  In Sanda Pasha you behold Sandy Black!"

Lancey sprang to his knees--the low couch rendering that attitude
natural--grasped the Pasha's extended hand, and gazed wistfully into his
eyes.

"Oh Sandy, Sandy!" he said, in a voice of forced calmness, while he
shook his head reproachfully, "many and many a time 'ave I prophesied
that you would become a great man, but little did I think that you'd
come to this--a May'omedan and a Turk."

Unable to say more, Lancey sat down on his cushion, clasped his hands
over his knees, and gazed fixedly at his old friend and former idol.

"Lancey, my boy--it is quite refreshing to use these old familiar words
again,--I am no more a Mohammedan than you are."

"Then you're a 'ypocrite," replied the other promptly.

"By no means,--at least I hope not," said the Pasha, with a smile and a
slightly troubled look.  "Surely there is a wide space between a
thoroughly honest man and an out-and-out hypocrite.  I came here with no
religion at all.  They took me by the hand and treated me kindly.
Knowing nothing, I took to anything they chose to teach me.  What could
a youth do?  Now I am what I am, and I cannot change it."

Lancey knew not what to reply to this.  Laying his hand on the rich
sleeve of the Pasha he began in the old tone and in the fulness of his
heart.

"Sandy, my old friend, as I used to all but worship, nominal May'omedan
though you be, it's right glad I am to--" words failed him here.

"Well, well," said the Pasha, smiling, and drawing a great cloud from
his chibouk, "I'm as glad as yourself, and not the less so that I've
been able to do you some small service in the way of preventing your
neck from being stretched; and that brings me to the chief point for
which I have brought you to my palace, namely, to talk about matters
which concern yourself, for it is obvious that you cannot remain in this
country in time of war with safety unless you have some fixed position.
Tell me, now, where you have been and what doing since we last met in
Scotland, and I will tell you what can be done for you in Turkey."

Hereupon Lancey began a long-winded and particular account of his life
during the last twenty years.  The Pasha smoked and listened with grave
interest.  When the recital was finished he rose.

"Now, Lancey," said he, "it is time that you and I were asleep.  In the
morning I have business to attend to.  When it is done we will continue
our talk.  Meanwhile let me say that I see many little ways in which you
can serve the Turks, if you are so minded."

"Sandy Black," said Lancey, rising with a look of dignity, "you are very
kind--just what I would 'ave expected of you--but you must clearly
understand that I will serve only in works of 'umanity.  In a milingtary
capacity I will serve neither the Turks nor the Roossians."

"Quite right, my old friend, I will not ask military service of you, so
good-night.  By the way, it may be as well to remind you that, except
between ourselves, I am not Sandy Black but Sanda Pasha,--you
understand?"

With an arch smile the Pasha laid down his chibouk and left the room,
and the black attendant conducted Lancey to his bedroom.  The same
attendant took him, the following morning after breakfast, to the
Pasha's "Selamlik" or "Place of Salutations," in order that he might see
how business matters were transacted in Turkey.

The Selamlik was a large handsome room filled with men, both with and
without turbans, who had come either to solicit a favour or a post, or
to press on some private business.  On the entrance of the Pasha every
one rose.  When he was seated, there began a curious scene of bowing to
the ground and touching, by each person present, of the mouth and head
with the hand.  This lasted full five minutes.

Sanda Pasha then received a number of business papers from an officer of
the household, to which he applied himself with great apparent
earnestness, paying no attention whatever to his visitors.  Lancey
observed, however, that his absorbed condition did not prevent a few of
these visitors, apparently of superior rank, from approaching and
whispering in his ear.  To some of them he was gracious, to others cool,
as they severally stated the nature of their business.  No one else
dared to approach until the reading of the papers was finished.
Suddenly the Pasha appeared to get weary of his papers.  He tossed them
aside, ordered his carriage, rose hastily, and left the room.  But this
uncourteous behaviour did not appear to disconcert those who awaited his
pleasure.  Probably, like eels, they had got used to rough treatment.
Some of them ran after the Pasha and tried to urge their suits in a few
rapid sentences, others went off with a sigh or a growl, resolving to
repeat the visit another day, while Sanda himself was whirled along at
full speed to the Sublime Porte, to hold council with the Ministers of
State on the arrangements for the war that had by that time begun to
rage along the whole line of the Lower Danube--the Russians having
effected a crossing in several places.

After enjoying himself for several days in the palace of his old
school-mate, my worthy servant, being resolved not to quit the country
until he had done his utmost to discover whether I was alive or drowned,
accepted the offer of a situation as cook to one of the Turkish
Ambulance Corps.  Having received a suitable change of garments, with a
private pass, and recommendations from the Pasha, he was despatched with
a large body of recruits and supplies to the front.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  A similar establishment to this was, not long ago, described by
the "correspondent" of a well-known Journal.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

REFERS TO TWO IMPORTANT LETTERS, AND A SECRET MISSION.

It is a curious coincidence that, about the very time when my servant
was appointed to serve in the Turkish Ambulance Corps, I received
permission to act as a surgeon in the Russian army.  Through the
influence of Nicholas Naranovitsch, I was attached to his own regiment,
and thus enjoyed the pleasure of his society for a considerable time
after the breaking out of the war.

I preferred this course to that of returning home, because, first, I
could not bear the thought of leaving the country without making every
possible exertion to ascertain the fate of my yacht's crew, and
rendering them succour if possible; and, secondly, because I felt an
irresistible desire to alleviate, professionally, the sufferings of
those who were certain to be wounded during the war.  I also experienced
much curiosity to know something more of the power and influence of
modern war-engines.  Perhaps some people will think this latter an
unworthy motive.  It may have been so; I cannot tell.  All I can say is
that it was a very secondary one, and would not, of itself, have been
sufficient to induce me to remain for an hour to witness the horrors and
carnage of battle-fields.  Still, putting the various motives together,
I felt justified in remaining.

In order that I might render still more effective service to the cause
of humanity, I wrote, immediately after my appointment as surgeon, to an
intimate friend, north of the Tweed, offering my services as war
correspondent to a paper of which he was editor, namely, the _Scottish
Bawbee_.

That celebrated journal,--well known on the east, west, and north coasts
of Scotland, and extensively circulated in the centre and south of the
country, including England,--is liberal in its principles, conservative
in reference only to things that are good, and violently radical when
treating of those that are bad.  It enjoys the credit of being curt in
its statements, brief in the expression of its opinions, perfectly
silent in reference to its surmises, distinctly repudiative of the gift
of prophecy, consistently averse to the attribution of motives,
persistently wise in giving the shortest possible account of murders and
scandalous cases, and copious in its references to literature, art, and
religious progress, besides being extremely methodical in its
arrangement.

In regard to the latter quality, I cannot refrain from referring to its
sensible mode of treating births, marriages, and deaths, by putting the
Christian and surname of the born, married, or defunct as the _first_
words in each announcement, so that one's digestion at breakfast is
aided by reading with some comfort of the joys and sorrows of one's
friends, instead of having incipient dyspepsia engendered by a painful
search for the main facts in confusing sentences.

The editor's reply came by return of post.  It contained the acceptance
of my services, and a proposal of extremely liberal terms, allowing me,
besides a handsome retaining fee, two horses, and such travelling
attendants as might be found necessary.  There were also certain
emphatic stipulations which are worth recording.  I was not, on any
pretext whatever, to attempt the divination, much less the revelation,
of the future.  I was never, upon any consideration, to be seduced into
lengthy descriptions of things that I did not see, or minute particulars
about matters which I did not know.  I was utterly to ignore, and refuse
to be influenced by, personal predilections or prejudices in regard to
either combatant.  I was to say as little about scenery as was
consistent with a correct delineation of the field of war, and never to
venture on sentimental allusions to sunsets, moonlights, or
water-reflections of any kind.  I was not to forget that a newspaper was
a vehicle for the distribution of news, the announcement of facts and
the discussion thereof, not a medium for the dissemination of fancies
and fiddlededee.  Above all, I was never to write a column and a half of
speculation as to the possible and _probable_ movements of armies; to be
followed "in our next" by two columns of the _rumoured_ movements of
armies; to be continued "in our next" by two columns and a half of the
_actual_ movements of armies; to wind up "in our next" with three
columns of retrospective consideration as to what might, could, would,
or _should_ have been the movements of armies; but that I was, on the
contrary, to bear in remembrance the adage about "brevity" being the
"soul of wit," and, when I had nothing to write, to write nothing.  By
so doing, it was added, I should please the editor and charm the public,
one of whose minor griefs is, as regards newspapers, that it is brought
into a state of disgust with every event of this life long before it has
happened, and thoroughly nauseated with it long after it is past,--to
say nothing of the resulting mental confusion.

In case any gentleman of the press should feel injured by these
statements, I must remind him that I am not responsible for them.  They
are the sentiments of the _Scottish Bawbee_, which must be taken for
what they are worth.  It is true, I heartily agree with them, but that
is an entirely different subject, on which I do not enter.

I readily agreed to fall in with the wishes of the editor, and
thenceforward devoted myself, heart and soul, to correspondence and
surgery.  In both fields of labour I found ample scope for all the
powers of body and mind that I possessed.

Just about this time I received a letter from my dear mother, who was
aware of my plans.  It cost me some anxiety, as it was utterly
impossible that I should comply with the injunctions it contained.
"Jeffry, my dear boy," she wrote, "let me entreat you, with all the
solemnity of maternal solicitude, to take care of your health.  Let
Russians and Turks kill and expose themselves as they please, but ever
bear in remembrance that it is your duty to avoid danger.  Whatever you
do, keep your feet dry and your--I need not go further into particulars;
medical allusions cannot always be couched in language such as one
desires.  Never sleep on damp ground, nor, if possible, without a roof
or a covering of some sort over your head.  Even a parasol is better
than nothing.  If, despite your precautions, you should catch cold, tie
a worsted sock--one of the red and black striped ones I have knitted for
you--round your neck, and take one drop of aconite--only one, remember--
before going to bed.  I know how, with your allopathic notions, you will
smile at this advice, but I assure you, as your mother, that it will
prove an infallible cure.  Never sit in a draught when you can avoid it.
If you ever come under fire, which I trust you never may, be sure to
get behind a house, or a wall, or a stone, if possible; if you cannot do
so, get behind a soldier, one larger than yourself would be preferable
of course, but if you have not the opportunity of doing this, then turn
your side to the enemy, because in that position you are a much narrower
target, and more likely to escape their bullets.  I need not caution you
not to run away.  I would rather see you, dear boy, in a premature
grave, than hear that you had run away.  But you _could not_ run away.
No Childers ever did so--except from school.

"Let the phial of globules which I gave you at parting be your bosom
friends, till their friendship is required in another and a lower
region.  They are a sovereign remedy against rheumatism, catarrh,
bronchitis, dyspepsia, lumbago, nervous affections, headaches, loss of
memory, debility, monomania, melancholia, botherolia, theoretica, and,
in short, all the ills that flesh is heir to, if only taken in time."

It struck me, as I folded my mother's letter and that of the editor,
that there never was a man who went into any course of action better
guarded and advised than myself.  At the moment when this thought
occurred to me, my friend Nicholas burst into my room in a state of
unusual excitement.

"Come, Jeff," he said, "I'm detailed for another secret duty.  People
seem to have inordinate faith in me, for all my duties are secret!  Are
you willing to go with me?"

"Go where?"  I asked.

"That I may not tell," he replied; "anywhere, or nowhere, or everywhere.
All I can say is, that if you go, it will be to act as surgeon to a
squadron of cavalry.  I see you have letters.  Good news from home--eh?
What of Bella?"

"Yes" I replied, "good news and good advice--listen."

I reopened the letters and read them aloud.

"Capital!" exclaimed Nicholas, "just the thing for you.  No doubt my
expedition will furnish a column and a half, if not more, of
unquestionable facts for the _Scottish Bawbee_.  Get ready, my boy; I
start in half-an-hour."

He swung off in the same hearty, reckless manner with which he had
entered; and I immediately set about packing up my surgical instruments
and note-books, and making other preparations for a journey of unknown
extent and duration.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

MY FIRST EXPERIENCE OF ACTUAL WAR, AND MY THOUGHTS THEREON.

We set out by the light of the moon.  Our party consisted of a small
force of Russian light cavalry.  The officer in command was evidently
well acquainted with our route, for he rode smartly ahead without
hesitation or sign of uncertainty for several hours.

At first Nicholas and I conversed in low tones as we cantered side by
side over hill and dale, but as the night advanced we became less
communicative, and finally dropped into silence.  As I looked upon
village and hamlet, bathed in the subdued light, resting in quietness
and peace, I thought sadly of the evils that war would surely bring upon
many an innocent and helpless woman and child.

It was invariably in this course that my thoughts about war flowed.  I
was, indeed, quite alive to the national evils of war, and I will not
admit that any man-of-peace feels more sensitively than I do the fact
that, in war, a nation's best, youngest, and most hopeful blood is
spilled, while its longest lives and most ardent spirits are ruthlessly,
uselessly sacrificed--its budding youths, its strapping men, its
freshest and most muscular, to say nothing of mental, manhood.  Still,
while contemplating war and its consequences, I have always been much
more powerfully impressed with the frightful consequences to women and
children, than anything else.  To think of our wives, our little ones,
our tender maidens, our loving matrons, and our poor helpless babes,
being exposed to murder, rapine, torture, and all the numerous and
unnameable horrors of war, for the sake of some false, some fanciful,
some utterly ridiculous and contemptible idea, such as the connection of
one or two provinces of a land with this nation or with that, or the
"integrity of a foreign empire," has always filled me with sensations of
indignation approaching to madness, not unmingled, I must add, with
astonishment.

That savages will fight among themselves is self-evident; that Christian
nations shall defend themselves from the assaults of savages is also
obvious; but that two Christian nations should go to war for anything,
on any ground whatever, is to my mind inexplicable and utterly
indefensible.

Still, they do it.  From which circumstance I am forced to conclude that
the Christianity as well as the civilisation and common-sense of one or
the other of such nations is, for the time, in abeyance.

Of course I was not perplexed in regard to the Turks.  Their religion is
not Christian.  Moreover, it was propagated by the sword, and teaches
coercion in religious matters; but I could not help feeling that the
Russians were too ready to forsake diplomacy and take to war.

"My dear fellow," said Nicholas, rousing himself, when I stated my
difficulty, "don't you see that the vacillating policy of England has
driven us to war in spite of ourselves?  She would not join the rest of
Europe in compelling Turkey to effect reforms which she--Turkey--had
promised to make, so that nothing else was left for us but to go to
war."

"My dear fellow," I retorted, somewhat hotly, "that Turkey has behaved
brutally towards its own subjects is a well-known fact.  That she has
treated the representatives of all the great powers of Europe with
extreme insolence is another well-known fact, but it is yet to be proved
that the efforts of diplomacy were exhausted, and even if they were, it
remained for Europe, not for Russia, to constitute herself the champion
of the oppressed."

"Jeff, my boy," returned Nicholas, with a smile, "I'm too sleepy to
discuss that subject just now, further than to say that I don't agree
with you."

He did indeed look sleepy, and as we had been riding many hours I
forbore to trouble him further.

By daybreak that morning we drew near to the town of Giurgevo, on the
Roumanian--or, I may say, the Russian--side of the Danube, and soon
afterwards entered it.

Considerable excitement was visible among its inhabitants, who, even at
that early hour, were moving hurriedly about the streets.  Having parted
from our escort, Nicholas and I refreshed ourselves at the Hotel de
l'Europe, and then went to an hospital, where my companion wished to
visit a wounded friend--"one," he said, "who had lately taken part in a
dashing though unsuccessful expedition."

This visit to Giurgevo was my first introduction to some of the actual
miseries of war.  The hospital was a clean, well-ventilated building.
Rows of low beds were ranged neatly and methodically along the
whitewashed walls.  These were tenanted by young men in every stage of
suffering and exhaustion.  With bandaged heads or limbs they sat or
reclined or lay, some but slightly wounded and still ruddy with the hue
of health on their young cheeks; some cut and marred in visage and
limbs, with pale cheeks and blue lips, that told of the life-blood
almost drained.  Others were lying flat on their backs, with the soft
brown moustache or curly brown hair contrasting terribly with the grey
hue of approaching death.

In one of the beds we found the friend of Nicholas.

He was quite a youth, not badly wounded, and received us with
enthusiasm.

"My dear Nicholas," he said, in reply to a word of condolence about the
failure of the expedition, "you misunderstand the whole matter.
Doubtless it did not succeed, but that was no fault of ours, and it was
a glorious attempt.  Come, I will relate it.  Does your friend speak
Russian?"

"He at all events understands it," said I.

On this assurance the youth raised his hand to his bandaged brow as if
to recall events, and then related the incident, of which the following
is the substance.

While the Russians were actively engaged in preparing to cross the
Danube at a part where the river is full of small islands, the Turks
sent monitors and gunboats to interrupt the operations.  The Russians
had no vessels capable of facing the huge ironclads of the enemy.  Of
the ten small boats at the place, eight were engaged in laying torpedoes
in the river to protect the works, and two were detailed to watch the
enemy.  While they were all busily at work, the watchers in a boat named
the _Schootka_ heard the sound of an approaching steamer, and soon after
descried a Turkish gunboat steaming up the river.  Out went the little
_Schootka_ like a wasp, with a deadly torpedo at the end of her spar.
The gun-boat saw and sought to evade her, put on full steam and hugged
the Turkish shore, where some hundreds of Circassian riflemen kept up an
incessant fire on the Russian boat.  It was hit, and its commander
wounded, but the crew and the second in command resolved to carry out
the attack.  The _Schootka_ increased her speed, and, to the
consternation of the Turks, succeeded in touching the gun-boat just
behind the paddle-boxes, but the torpedo refused to explode, and the
_Schootka_ was compelled to haul off, and make for shelter under a heavy
fire from the gun-boat and the Circassian riflemen, which quite riddled
her.  While she was making off a second Turkish gun-boat hove in sight.
The _Schootka_ had still another torpedo on board, one on the Harvey
principle.  This torpedo may be described as a somewhat square and flat
case, charged with an explosive compound.  When used it is thrown into
the sea and runs through the water on its edge, being held in that
position by a rope and caused to advance by pulling on it sidewise.
Anglers will understand this when I state that it works on the principle
of the "otter," and, somewhat like the celebrated Irish pig going to
market, runs ahead the more it is pulled back by the tail.  With this
torpedo the daring Russians resolved to attack the second gunboat, but
when they threw it overboard it would not work; something had gone wrong
with its tail, or with the levers by which, on coming into contact with
the enemy, it was to explode.  They were compelled therefore to abandon
the attempt, and seek shelter from the Turkish fire behind an island.

"So then," said I, on quitting the hospital, "torpedoes, although
_terrible_ in their action, are not always _certain_."

"Nothing is always certain," replied Nicholas, with a smile, "except the
flight of time, and as the matter on which I have come requires
attention I must now leave you for a few hours.  Don't forget the name
of our hotel.  That secure in a man's mind, he may lose himself in any
town or city with perfect safety--_au revoir_."

For some time I walked about the town.  The morning was bright and calm,
suggesting ideas of peace; nevertheless my thoughts could not be turned
from the contemplation of war, and as I wandered hither and thither,
looking out for reminiscences of former wars, I thought of the curiously
steady way in which human history repeats itself.  It seems to take
about a quarter of a century to teach men to forget or ignore the
lessons of the past and induce them to begin again to fight.  Here, in
1829, the Russians levelled the fortifications which at that time
encircled the town; here, in 1854, the Russians were defeated by the
Turks; and here, in 1872, these same Russians and Turks were at the same
old bloody and useless game--ever learning, yet never coming to a
knowledge of the great truth, that, with all their fighting, nothing has
been gained and nothing accomplished save a few changes of the men on
the chess-board, and the loss of an incalculable amount of life and
treasure.

As the day advanced it became very sultry.  Towards the afternoon I
stopped and gazed thoughtfully at the placid Danube, which, flowing
round the gentle curve of Slobosia, reflected in its glittering waters
the white domes and minarets of the opposite town of Rustchuk.  A low,
rumbling sound startled me just then from a reverie.  On looking up I
perceived a small puff of smoke roll out in the direction of the Turkish
shore.  Another and another succeeded, and after each shot a smaller
puff of smoke was seen to hang over the Turkish batteries opposite.

A strange conflicting rush of feelings came over me, for I had awakened
from dreaming of ancient battles to find myself in the actual presence
of modern war.  The Russian had opened fire, and their shells were
bursting among the Turks.  These latter were not slow to reply.  Soon
the rumbling increased to thunder, and I was startled by hearing a
tremendous crash not far distant from me, followed by a strange humming
sound.  The crash was the bursting of a Turkish shell in one of the
streets of the town, and the humming sound was the flying about of
ragged bits of iron.  From the spot on which I stood I could see the
havoc it made in the road, while men, women, and children were rushing
in all directions out of its way.

Two objects lay near the spot, however, which moved, although they did
not flee.  One was a woman, the other a boy; both were severely wounded.

I hurried through the town in the direction of the Red-Cross hospital,
partly expecting that I might be of service there, and partly in the
hope of finding Nicholas.  As I went I heard people remarking excitedly
on the fact that the Turks were firing at the hospital.

The bombardment became furious, and I felt an uncomfortable disposition
to shrink as I heard and saw shot and shell falling everywhere in the
streets, piercing the houses, and bursting in them.  Many of these were
speedily reduced to ruins.

People hurried from their dwellings into the streets, excited and
shouting.  Men rushed wildly to places of shelter from the deadly
missiles, and soon the cries and wailing of women over the dead and
wounded increased the uproar.  This was strangely and horribly
contrasted with the fiendish laughter of a group of boys, who, as yet
unhurt, and scarcely alive to the real nature of what was going on, had
taken shelter in an archway, from which they darted out occasionally to
pick up the pieces of shells that burst near them.

These poor boys, however, were not good judges of shelter-places in such
circumstances.  Just as I passed, a shell fell and burst in front of the
archway, and a piece of it went singing so close past my head that I
fancied at the first moment it must have hit me.  At the same instant
the boys uttered an unearthly yell of terror and fled from under the
archway, where I saw one of their number rolling on the ground and
shrieking in agony.

Hastening to his assistance, I found that he had received a severe flesh
wound in the thigh.  I carried him into a house that seemed pretty well
protected from the fire, dressed his wound, and left him in charge of
the inmates, who, although terribly frightened, were kind and
sympathetic.

Proceeding through the marketplace, I observed a little girl crouching
in a doorway, her face as pale as if she were dead, her lips perfectly
white, and an expression of extreme horror in her eyes.  I should
probably have passed her, for even in that short sharp walk I had
already seen so many faces expressing terror that I had ceased to think
of stopping, but I observed a stream of blood on her light-coloured
dress.

Stooping down, I asked--

"Are you hurt, dear?"

Twice I repeated the question before she appeared to understand me;
then, raising a pair of large lustrous but tearless eyes to my face, she
uttered the single word "Father," and pointed to something that lay in
the gloom of the passage beyond her.  I entered, lifted the corner of a
piece of coarse canvas, and under it saw the form of a man, but there
was no countenance.  His head had been completely shattered by a shell.
Replacing the canvas, I returned to the child.  Her right hand was
thrust into her bosom, and as she held it there in an unnatural
position, I suspected something, and drew it gently out.  I was right.
It had been struck, and the middle finger was hanging by a piece of
skin.  A mere touch of my knife was sufficient to sever it.  As I
bandaged the stump, I tried to console the poor child.  She did not
appear to care for the pain I unavoidably caused her, but remained quite
still, only saying now and then, in a low voice, "Father," as she looked
with her tearless eyes at the heap that lay in the passage.

Giving this hapless little one in charge of a woman who seemed to be an
inhabitant of the same building, I hurried away, but had not gone a
hundred yards when I chanced to meet Nicholas.

"Ha! well met, my boy!" he exclaimed, evidently in a state of suppressed
excitement; "come along.  I expected to have had a long hunt after you,
but fortune favours me, and we have not a moment to lose."

"Where are you going?"  I asked.

"Just think," he said, seizing my arm and hurrying me along, but taking
no heed of my question; "we are fairly over the Danube in force!  The
night before last three thousand men, Cossacks and infantry, crossed
from Galatz in boats and rafts, and gained the heights above Matchin.
Zoukoff has beaten the enemy everywhere, and Zimmermann is reported to
have driven them out of Matchin--in fact we have fairly broken the ice,
and all that we have now to do is to go in and win."

I saw by the flush on his handsome countenance that the martial ardour
of Nicholas was stirred to its depths.  There was a noble look of daring
in his clear grey eye, and a smile of what seemed like joy on his lips,
which I knew well were the expression of such sentiments as love of
country, desire to serve, like a brave son, that Emperor whom he
regarded as a father, hatred of oppression, belief in the righteousness
of the cause for which he fought, and delight in the prospect of wild
animal excitement.  He was full of high hopes, noble aspirations,
superabundant energy, and, although not a deep thinker, could tell
better than most men, by looking at it, whether the edge of a grindstone
were rough or smooth.

We walked smartly to our hotel, but found that our servant had fled, no
one knew whither, taking our horses with him.  The landlord, however,
suggested the railway station, and thither we ran.

A train was entering when we arrived.  It was full of Russian soldiers.
On the platform stood a Jew, to whom Nicholas addressed himself.  The
Jew at first seemed to have difficulty in understanding him, but he
ultimately said that he had seen a man who must be the one we were in
search of, and was about to tell us more, when a Turkish shell burst
through the roof of the station, and exploded on the platform, part of
which it tore up, sending splinters of iron and wood in all directions.
The confused noise of shout and yell that followed, together with the
smoke, prevented my observing for a moment or two what damage had been
done, but soon I ascertained that Nicholas and myself were unhurt; that
the Jew had been slightly wounded, and also several of the people who
were waiting the arrival of the train.

The groans of some of the wounded, and the cursing and shouting of the
soldiers just arrived, made a powerful impression on me.

"Come, I see our fellow," cried Nicholas, seizing me suddenly by the arm
and hurrying me away.

In a few minutes we had caught our man, mounted our horses, rejoined our
cavalry escort, which awaited us in the marketplace, and galloped out of
the town.

It is a fact worthy of record that of all the people killed and hurt
during this bombardment of Giurgevo, not one was a Russian!  This arose
from the fact that the soldiers were under the safe cover of their
batteries.  The Turkish shells did not produce any real damage to works
or men.  In short, all that was accomplished in this noisy display of
the "art of war" was the destruction of many private houses, the killing
and maiming of several civilians, including women and children, and a
shameful waste of very expensive ammunition, partly paid for by the
sufferers.  In contemplating these facts, the word "glory" assumed a
very strange and quite a new meaning in my mind.

Soon we were beyond the reach of Turkish missiles, though still within
sound of the guns.  Our pace showed that we were making what I suppose
my military friends would style a forced march.  Nicholas was evidently
unwilling to converse on the object of our march, but at length gave way
a little.

"I see no harm," he said, "in telling you that we are about to cross the
Danube not far from this, and that at least one of my objects is to
secure a trustworthy intelligent spy.  You know--perhaps you don't
know--that such men are rare.  Of course we can procure any number of
men who have pluck enough to offer themselves as spies, for the sake of
the high pay, just as we can get any number of men who are willing to
jump down a cannon's throat for the honour and glory of the thing."

"Yes," said I, interrupting, "men like our friend Nicholas
Naranovitsch!"

"Well, perhaps," he replied, with a light laugh, "but don't change the
subject, Jeff, you've got a bad tendency to do so.  I say there is no
difficulty in getting spies; but it is not easy to find men well
qualified for such work.  Now one has been heard of at last, and, among
other things, I am commissioned to secure him for the purpose of leading
our troops across the Balkans."

"The Balkans!" said I, in surprise; "you are a long way from that
range."

"The length of any way, Jeff, depends not so much upon the way as on the
spirit of him who measures it.  Ten miles to one man is a hundred miles
to another, and _vice versa_."

I could make no objection to that, for it was true.  "Nevertheless,"
said I, after a pause, "there may be spirits among the Turks who could
render that, which is only a few days' journey in ordinary
circumstances, a six months' business to the Russians."

"Admitted heartily," returned Nicholas, with animation; "if the Turk
were not a brave foe, one could not take so much interest in the war."

This last remark silenced me for a time.  The view-point of my future
kinsman was so utterly different from mine that I knew not what to
reply.  He evidently thought that a plucky foe, worthy of his steel, was
most desirable, while to my mind it appeared obvious that the pluckier
the foe the longer and more resolute would be the resistance, and, as a
consequence, the greater the amount of bloodshed and of suffering to the
women, children, and aged, the heavier the drain on the resources of
both empires, and of addition to the burdens of generations yet unborn.

When, after a considerable time, I put the subject in this light before
Nicholas, he laughed heartily, and said--

"Why, Jeff, at that rate you would knock all the romance out of war."

"That were impossible, Nick," I rejoined quickly, "for there is no
romance whatever in war."

"No romance?" he exclaimed, opening his eyes to their widest, and
raising his black brows to their highest in astonishment.

"No," said I, firmly, "not a scrap.  All the romance connected with war
is in spite of it, and by no means the result of it.  The heroism
displayed in its wildest sallies is true heroism undoubtedly, but it
would be none the less heroism if it were exercised in the rescue of men
and women from shipwreck or from fire.  The romance of the bivouac in
the dark woods or on the moonlit plains of foreign lands, with the
delights of fresh air and life-giving exercise and thrilling adventure,
is not the perquisite of the warrior; it is the privilege, quite as
much, if not more, of the pioneer in the American backwoods and
prairies, and of the hunter in the wilds of Africa.  The romance of
unexpected meetings with foreign `fair ones' in out-o''-the-way
circumstances, with broken bones, perhaps, or gunshot wounds, to lend
pathos to the affair, and necessitate nursing, which may lead to
love-making,--all that is equally possible to the Alpine climber and the
chamois-hunter, to the traveller almost anywhere, who chooses to indulge
in reckless sport, regardless of his neck.--Of course," I added, with a
smile, for I did not wish to appear too cynical in my friend's eyes,
"the soldier has a few advantages in which the civilian does not quite
come up to him, such as the glorious brass band, and the red coat, and
the glittering lace."

"Jeff," said Nicholas, somewhat gravely, "would you then take all the
glory out of war, and reduce soldiers to a set of mere professional and
legalised cut-throats, whose duty it is callously to knock over so many
thousand men at the command of governments?"

"Bear with me a little," said I, "and hear me out.  You misunderstand
me.  I speak of war, not of warriors.  As there is no `romance,' so
there is no `glory' in war.  Many a glorious deed may be, and often is,
done _in connection with_ war.  Such a deed is done when a handful of
brave men sacrifice their lives at the call of duty, and in defence of
country, as at Thermopylae.  Such a deed is done when a wounded Prussian
soldier, dying of thirst on the battle-field, forgets the accursed
custom--war--which has brought him to that pass, and shares the last
drops of his water-flask with a so-called French enemy.  And such a deed
is done, still more gloriously, when a soldier, true to his Queen and
country, is true also to his God, and preaches while he practises the
principles and gospel of the Prince of Peace, in the presence of those
with whom he acts his part in this world's drama.  There is indeed much
that is glorious in the conduct of many warriors, but there is no glory
whatever in war itself.  The best that can be said of it is, that
sometimes it is a stern yet sad necessity."

We dropped the subject here, having reached the point of the river where
our party was to cross to the Turkish shore.

The passage was soon accomplished by means of rafts, and many thousands
of Russians having already preceded us we experienced no opposition.  It
was daylight when we rode into a village on the Bulgarian shore, and I
looked up sleepily at the cottages as we passed.

"We halt here," said Nicholas, with a yawn as he drew rein.

The officer in command of our party had already halted his men, who,
gladly quitting their saddles, streamed after us into the courtyard of
the village.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

SHEWS WHAT SOMETIMES HAPPENS IN THE TRACK OF TROOPS.

"Why, Nicholas," I exclaimed, looking round the inn, "I have been here
before.  It is--it must be--the very place where, on my way up, I saw a
famous wrestling-match.  Did I ever tell you about it?"

"Never; but come along, I must finish one part of my duty here without
delay by paying a visit.  You can tell me about the wrestling-match as
we walk together."

I described the match with great interest, for my heart warmed towards
the chief actor and his family, and as I proceeded with the narration I
observed with some satisfaction that the road we were following led in
the direction of the cottage of Dobri Petroff.  As we drew near to the
path that diverged to it I resolved, if possible, to give Nicholas, who
was evidently interested in my narrative, a surprise by confronting him
unexpectedly with the blacksmith and his family.

"Nicholas," I said, "you see that cottage on the hillside?  I have a
great desire to pay its inmates a visit.  Have you any objection to turn
aside just for a few minutes?"

Nicholas gave me a look of surprise and laughed.

"None in the world, Jeff, for it happens that I particularly wish to
visit the cottage myself."

"You do?  Why--what--"

"Well, finish your question, Jeff; why should it seem strange to you
that I want to visit a Bulgarian family?"

"Why, because, Nick, this is the cottage of the very blacksmith about
whom I have been speaking, and I wanted to give you a surprise by
introducing him to you."

"His name?" asked Nicholas quickly.

"Dobri Petroff."

"The very man.  How strange!  You have already given me a surprise,
Jeff, and will now add a pleasure and a service by introducing me to
him, and, perhaps, by using your powers of suasion.  It is no breach of
confidence to tell you that part of my business here is to secure the
services of this man as a guide over the Balkans, with the passes of
which we have been told he is intimately acquainted.  But it is said
that he is a bold independent fellow, who may dislike and refuse the
duty."

"He won't dislike it at all events," said I.  "He has no love for the
Turks, who have treated him shamefully, just because of that same bold
and independent spirit."

"Well, come, we shall see," rejoined my friend.

In a few minutes we had come to a turn in the path which brought the
cottage full into view, and I experienced a sudden shock on observing
that part of it--that part which had been the forge--was a blackened
ruin.  I was at the same moment relieved, however, by the sight of
Ivanka and little Dobri, who were playing together in front of the
uninjured part of the cottage.

Next moment the tall handsome form of the blacksmith appeared stooping
under the doorway as he came out to receive us.  I noticed that there
was an expression of trouble on his countenance, mingled with a look of
sternness which was not usual to him.  He did not recognise me at first,
and evidently eyed Nicholas--as a Russian officer--with no favour.

As we drew near, the stern look vanished, and he sprang forward with a
glad smile to seize and shake my hand.  At the same moment Ivanka's
black eyes seemed to blaze with delight, as she ran towards me, and
clasped one of my legs.  Little Dobri, bereft of speech, stood with legs
and arms apart, and mouth and eyes wide open, gazing at me.

"All well?"  I asked anxiously.

"All well," said the blacksmith; then, with a glance at the
forge--"except the--; but that's not much after all.--Come in,
gentlemen, come in."

We entered, and found Marika as neat and thrifty as ever, though with a
touch of care about her pretty face which had not been there when I
first met her.

A few words explained the cause of their trouble.

"Sir," said Petroff, addressing me, but evidently speaking at Nicholas,
"we unfortunate Bulgarians have hard times of it just now.  The Turk has
oppressed and robbed and tortured and murdered us in time past, and now
the Russian who has come to deliver us is, it seems to me, completing
our ruin.  What between the two we poor wretches have come to a
miserable pass indeed."

He turned full on Nicholas, unable to repress a fierce look.

"Friend," said Nicholas gently, but firmly, "the chances of war are
often hard to bear, but you ought to recognise a great difference
between the sufferings which are caused by wilful oppression, and those
which are the unavoidable consequences of a state of warfare."

"Unavoidable!" retorted the blacksmith bitterly.  "Is it not possible
for the Russians to carry supplies for their armies, instead of
demanding all our cattle for beef and all our harvests for fodder?"

"Do we not pay you for such things?" asked Nicholas, in the tone of a
man who wishes to propitiate his questioner.

"Yes, truly, but nothing like the worth of what you take; besides, of
what value are a few gold pieces to me?  My wife and children cannot eat
gold, and there is little or nothing left in the land to buy.  But that
is not the worst.  Your Cossacks receive nothing from your Government
for rations, and are allowed to forage as they will.  Do you suppose
that, when in want of anything, they will stop to inquire whether it
belongs to a Bulgarian or not?  When the war broke out, and your troops
crossed the river, my cattle and grain were bought up, whether I would
or no, by your soldiers.  They were paid for--underpaid, I say--but that
I cared not for, as they left me one milch-cow and fodder enough to keep
her.  Immediately after that a band of your lawless and unrationed
Cossacks came, killed the cow, and took the forage, without paying for
either.  After that, the Moldavians, who drive your waggon-supplies for
you--a lawless set of brigands when there are no troops near to watch
them,--cleaned my house of every scrap that was worth carrying away.
What could I do?  To kill a dozen of them would have been easy, but that
would not have been the way to protect my wife and children."

The man laid his great hand tenderly on Ivanka's head, while he was
speaking in his deep earnest voice; and Nicholas, who was well aware of
the truth of his remarks about the Cossacks and the waggon-drivers of
the army, expressed such genuine feeling and regret for the sufferings
with which the household had been visited, that Petroff was somewhat
appeased.

"But how came your forge to be burned?"  I asked, desiring to change the
drift of the conversation.

The question called up a look of ferocity on the blacksmith's face, of
which I had not believed it capable.

"The Turks did it," he hissed, rather than said, between his teeth.
"The men of this village--men whom I have served for years--men by whom
I have been robbed for years, and to whose insults I have quietly and
tamely submitted until now, for the sake of these," (he pointed to his
wife and children)--"became enraged at the outbreak of the war, and
burned my workshop.  They would have burned my cottage too, but luckily
there is a good partition-wall between it and the shop, which stayed the
flames.  No doubt they would have despoiled my house, as they have done
to others, but my door and windows were barricaded, and they knew who
was inside.  They left me; but that which the Turks spared the Russians
have taken.  Still, sir," (he turned again full on Nicholas), "I must
say that if your Government is honest in its intentions, it is far from
wise in its methods."

"You hate the Turks, however, and are willing to serve against them?"
asked Nicholas.

The blacksmith shook his shaggy locks as he raised his head.

"Ay, I hate them, and as for--"

"Oh, husband!" pleaded Marika, for the first time breaking silence, "do
not take vengeance into your own hands."

"Well, as to that," returned Dobri, with a careless smile, "I have no
particular desire for vengeance; but the Turks have taken away my
livelihood; I have nothing to do, and may as well fight as anything
else.  It will at all events enable me to support you and the children.
We are starving just now."

Nicholas hastened to assure the unfortunate man that his family would be
specially cared for if he would undertake to guide the Russian columns
across the Balkan mountains.  Taking him aside he then entered into
earnest converse with him about the object of his mission.

Meanwhile I had a long chat with his wife and the little ones, from whom
I learned the sad details of the sufferings they had undergone since we
last met.

"But you won't leave us now, will you?" said little Ivanka pitifully,
getting on my knee and nestling on my breast; "you will stay with
father, won't you, and help to take care of us?  I'm _so_ frightened!"

"Which do you fear most, dear?" said I, smoothing her hair--"the Turks
or the Cossacks?"

The child seemed puzzled.  "I don't know" she said, after a thoughtful
pause.  "Father says the Turks are far, far worst; but mother and I fear
them both; they are so fierce--so _very_ fierce.  I think they would
have killed us if father had been away."

Nicholas did not find it hard to persuade the blacksmith.  He promised
him a tempting reward, but it was evident that his assurance that the
wife and family would be placed under the special care of the
authorities of the village, had much greater effect in causing the man
to make up his mind than the prospect of reward.

It was further arranged that Petroff should accompany us at once.

"Ready," he said, when the proposal was made.  "I've nothing left here
to pack up," he added, looking sadly round the poor and empty room.  In
less than an hour arrangements had been made with the chief man of the
village for the comfort and safeguard of the family during the
blacksmith's absence.

It was bright noontide when we were again prepared to take the road.

"Oh, Dobri," said Marika, as in an angle of the inn-yard she bade her
husband farewell, "don't forget the Saviour--Jesus--our one hope on
earth."

"God bless you, Marika; I'll never forget _you_," returned Petroff,
straining his young wife to his heart.

He had already parted from the children.  Next moment he was in the
saddle, and soon after was galloping with the troop to which we were
attached towards the Balkan mountains.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

TELLS MORE OF WHAT OCCASIONALLY HAPPENS IN THE TRACK OF TROOPS.

As we advanced towards the high lands the scenery became more beautiful
and picturesque.  Rich fields of grain waved on every side.  Pretty
towns, villages, and hamlets seemed to me to lie everywhere, smiling in
the midst of plenty; in short, all that the heart of man could desire
was there in superabundance, and as one looked on the evidences of
plenty, one naturally associated it with the idea of peace.

But as that is not all gold which glitters, so the signs of plenty do
not necessarily tell of peace.  Here and there, as we passed over the
land, we had evidences of this in burned homesteads and trampled fields,
which had been hurriedly reaped of their golden store as if by the sword
rather than the sickle.  As we drew near to the front these signs of war
became more numerous.

We had not much time, however, to take note of them; our special service
required hard riding and little rest.

One night we encamped on the margin of a wood.  It was very dark, for,
although the moon was nearly full, thick clouds effectually concealed
her, or permitted only a faint ray to escape now and then, like a gleam
of hope from the battlements of heaven.

I wandered from one fire to another to observe the conduct of the men in
bivouac.  They were generally light-hearted, being very young and
hopeful.  Evidently their great desire was to meet with the enemy.
Whatever thoughts they might have had of home, they did not at that time
express them aloud.  Some among them, however, were grave and sad; a few
were stern--almost sulky.

Such was Dobri Petroff that night.  Round his fire, among others, stood
Sergeant Gotsuchakoff and Corporal Shoveloff.

"Come, scout," said the corporal, slapping Petroff heartily on the
shoulder, "don't be down-hearted, man.  That pretty little sweetheart
you left behind you will never forsake such a strapping fellow as you;
she will wait till you return crowned with laurels."

Petroff was well aware that Corporal Shoveloff, knowing nothing of his
private history, had made a mere guess at the "little sweetheart," and
having no desire to be communicative, met him in his own vein.

"It's not that, corporal," he said, with a serious yet anxious air,
which attracted the attention of the surrounding soldiers, "it's not
that which troubles me.  I'm as sure of the pretty little sweetheart as
I am that the sun will rise to-morrow; but there's my dear old mother
that lost a leg last Christmas by the overturning of a sledge, an' my
old father who's been bedridden for the last quarter of a century, and
the brindled cow that's just recovering from the measles.  How they are
all to get on without me, and nobody left to look after them but an old
sister as tall as myself, and in the last stages of a decline--"

At this point the scout, as Corporal Shoveloff had dubbed him, was
interrupted by a roar of laughter from his comrades, in which the
"corporal" joined heartily.

"Well, well," said the latter, who was not easily quelled either
mentally or physically, "I admit that you have good cause for
despondency; nevertheless a man like you ought to keep up his spirits--
if it were only for the sake of example to young fellows, now, like
Andre Yanovitch there, who seems to have buried all his relatives before
starting for the wars."

The youth on whom Shoveloff tried to turn the laugh of his own
discomfiture was a splendid fellow, tall and broad-shouldered enough for
a man of twenty-five, though his smooth and youthful face suggested
sixteen.  He had been staring at the fire, regardless of what was going
on around.

"What did you say?" he cried, starting up and reddening violently.

"Come, come, corporal," said Sergeant Gotsuchakoff, interposing, "no
insinuations.  Andre Yanovitch will be ten times the man you are when he
attains to your advanced age.--Off with that kettle, lads; it must be
more than cooked by this time, and there is nothing so bad for digestion
as overdone meat."

It chanced that night, after the men were rolled in their cloaks, that
Dobri Petroff found himself lying close to Andre under the same bush.

"You don't sleep," he said, observing that the young soldier moved
frequently.  "Thinking of home, like me, no doubt?"

"That was all nonsense," said the youth sharply, "about the cow, and
your mother and sister, wasn't it?"

"Of course it was.  Do you think I was going to give a straight answer
to a fool like Shoveloff?"

"But you _have_ left a mother behind you, I suppose?" said Andre, in a
low voice.

"No, lad, no; my mother died when I was but a child, and has left naught
but the memory of an angel on my mind."

The scout said no more for a time, but the tone of his voice had opened
the heart of the young dragoon.  After a short silence he ventured to
ask a few more questions.  The scout replied cheerfully, and, from one
thing to another, they went on until, discovering that they were
sympathetic spirits, they became confidante, and each told to the other
his whole history.

That of the young dragoon was short and simple, but sad.  He had been
chosen, he said, for service from a rural district, and sent to the war
without reference to the fact that he was the only support of an invalid
mother, whose husband had died the previous year.  He had an elder
brother who ought to have filled his place, but who, being given to
drink, did not in any way fulfil his duties as a son.  There was also,
it was true, a young girl, the daughter of a neighbour, who had done her
best to help and comfort his mother at all times, but without the aid of
his strong hand that girl's delicate fingers could not support his
mother, despite the willingness of her brave heart, and thus he had left
them hurriedly at the sudden and peremptory call of Government.

"That young girl," said Petroff, after listening to the lad's earnest
account of the matter with sympathetic attention, "has no place _there_,
has she?"--he touched the left breast of Andre's coat and nodded.

The blush of the young soldier was visible even in the dim light of the
camp-fire as he started up on one elbow, and said--

"Well, yes; she _has_ a place there!"

He drew out a small gilt locket as he spoke, and, opening it, displayed
a lock of soft auburn hair.

"I never spoke to her about it," he continued, in a low tone, "till the
night we parted.  She is very modest, you must know, and I never dared
to speak to her before, but I became desperate that night, and told her
all, and she confessed her love for me.  Oh, Petroff, if I could only
have had one day more of--of--but the sergeant would not wait.  I had to
go to the wars.  One evening in paradise is but a short time, yet I
would not exchange it for all I ever--" He paused.

"Yes, yes, _I_ know all about that," said the scout, with an encouraging
nod; "I've had more than one evening in that region, and so will you,
lad, after the war is over."

"I'm not so sure of that," returned the dragoon sadly; "however, she
gave me this lock of her hair--she is called `Maria with the auburn
hair' at our place--and mother gave me the locket to put it in.  I
noticed that she took some grey hair out when she did so."

"Keep it, lad; keep it always near your heart," said the scout, with
sudden enthusiasm, as the youth replaced and buttoned up his treasure;
"it will save you, mayhap, like a charm, in the hour of temptation."

"I don't need _that_ advice," returned the soldier, with a quiet smile,
as he once more laid his head on his saddle.

Soon the noise in our little camp ceased, and, ere long, every man was
asleep except the sentinels.

Towards morning one of these observed a man approaching at full speed.
As he came near the sentinel threw forward his carbine and challenged.
The man stopped and looked about him like a startled hare, then, without
reply, turned sharply to the left and dashed off.  The sentinel fired.
Of course we all sprang up, and the fugitive, doubling again to avoid
another sentinel, almost leaped into the arms of Andre Yanovitch, who
held him as if in a vice, until he ceased his struggles, and sank
exhausted with a deep groan.

On being led to one of the fires in a half-fainting condition, it was
found that he was covered with blood and wounds.  He looked round him at
first with an expression of maniacal terror, but the moment he observed
Petroff among his captors he uttered a loud cry, and, springing forward
seized his hand.

"Why, Lewie," exclaimed the scout, with a gleam of recognition, "what
has happened?"

"The Bashi-Bazouks have been at our village!" cried the man wildly, as
he wiped the blood out of his eyes.

"Ha!" exclaimed Dobri, with a fierce look; "we can succour--"

"No, no, no," interrupted the man: with a strange mixture of horror and
fury in his blood-streaked face; "too late! too late!"

He raised his head, stammered as if attempting to say more, then,
lifting both arms aloft, while the outspread fingers clutched the air,
uttered an appalling cry, and fell flat on the ground.

"Not too late for revenge," muttered the officer commanding the
detachment.  "Dress his wounds as quickly as may be, Mr Childers."

He gave the necessary orders to get ready.  In a few minutes the horses
were saddled, and I had done what I could for the wounded man.

"You know the village he came from, and the way to it?" asked the
commanding officer of Petroff.

"Yes, sir, I know it well."

"Take the man up behind you, then, and lead the way."

The troop mounted, and a few minutes later we were galloping over a wide
plain, on the eastern verge of which the light of the new day was slowly
dawning.

An hour's ride brought us to the village.  We could see the smoke of the
still burning cottages as we advanced, and were prepared for a sad
spectacle of one of the effects of war; but what we beheld on entering
far surpassed our expectations.  Harvests trampled down or burned were
bad enough, so were burning cottages, battered-in doors, and smashed
windows, but these things were nothing to the sight of dead men and
women scattered about the streets.  The men were not men of war; their
peasant garbs bespoke them men of peace.  Gallantly had they fought,
however, in defence of hearth and home, but all in vain.  The trained
miscreants who had attacked them form a part of the Turkish army, which
receives no pay, and is therefore virtually told that, after fighting,
their recognised duty is to pillage.  But the brutes had done more than
this.  As we trotted through the little hamlet, which was peopled only
by the dead, we observed that most of the men had been more or less
mutilated, some in a very horrible manner, and the poor fellow who had
escaped said that this had been done while the men were alive.

Dismounting, we examined some of the cottages, and there beheld sights
at the mere recollection of which I shudder.  In one I saw women and
children heaped together, with their limbs cut and garments torn off,
while their long hair lay tossed about on the bloody floors.  In
another, which was on fire, I could see the limbs of corpses that were
being roasted, or had already been burnt to cinders.

Not one soul in that village was left alive.  How many had escaped we
could not ascertain, for the wounded man had fallen into such a state of
wild horror that he could not be got to understand or answer questions.
At one cottage door which we came to he stood with clasped hands gazing
at the dead inside, like one petrified.  Some one touched him on the
shoulder, when we were ready to leave the place, but he merely muttered,
"My home!"

As we could do no good there, and were anxious to pursue the fiends who
had left such desolation behind them, we again urged the man to come
with us, but he refused.  On our attempting to use gentle force, he
started suddenly, drew a knife from his girdle, and plunging it into his
heart, fell dead on his own threshold.

It was with a sense of relief, as if we had been delivered from a dark
oppressive dungeon, that we galloped out of the village, and followed
the tracks of the Bashi-Bazouks, which were luckily visible on the
plain.  Soon we traced them to a road that led towards the mountainous
country.  There was no other road there, and as this one had neither
fork nor diverging path, we had no difficulty in following them up.

It was night, however, before we came upon further traces of them,--
several fires where they had stopped to cook some food.  As the sky was
clear, we pushed on all that night.

Shortly after dawn we reached a sequestered dell.  The road being curved
at the place, we came on it suddenly, and here, under the bushes, we
discovered the lair of the Bashi-Bazouks.

They kept no guard, apparently, but the sound of our approach had roused
them, for, as we galloped into the dell, some were seen running to catch
their horses, others, scarcely awake, were wildly buckling on their
swords, while a few were creeping from under the low booths of brushwood
they had set up to shelter them.

The scene that followed was brief but terrible.  Our men, some of whom
were lancers, some dragoons, charged them in all directions with yells
of execration.  Here I saw one wretch thrust through with a lance,
doubling backward in his death-agony as he fell; there, another turned
fiercely, and fired his pistol full at the dragoon who charged him, but
missed, and was cleft next moment to the chin.  In another place a
wretched man had dropped on his knees, and, while in a supplicating
attitude, was run through the neck by a lancer.  But, to say truth,
little quarter was asked by these Bashi-Bazouks, and none was granted.
They fought on foot, fiercely, with spear and pistol and short sword.
It seemed to me as if some of my conceptions of hell were being
realised: rapid shots; fire and smoke; imprecations, shouts, and yells,
with looks of fiercest passion and deadly hate; shrieks of mortal pain;
blood spouting in thick fountains from sudden wounds; men lying in
horrible, almost grotesque, contortions, or writhing on the ground in
throes of agony.

"O God!" thought I, "and all this is done for the amelioration of the
condition of the Christians in Turkey!"

"Ha! ha-a!" shouted a voice near me, as if in mockery of my thought.  It
was more like that of a fiend than a man.  I turned quickly.  It was
Andre Yanovitch, his young and handsome face distorted with a look of
furious triumph as he wiped his bloody sword after killing the last of
the Bashi-Bazouks who had failed to escape into the neighbouring woods.
"_These_ brutes at least won't have another chance of drawing blood from
women and children," he cried, sheathing his sword with a clang, and
trotting towards his comrades, who were already mustering at the bottom
of the dell, the skirmish being over.

The smooth-faced, tender-hearted youth, with the lock of auburn hair in
his bosom, had fairly begun his education in the art of war.  His young
heart was bursting and his young blood boiling with the tumultuous
emotions caused by a combination of pity and revenge.

The scout also galloped past to rejoin our party.  I noticed in the
_melee_ that his sword-sweep had been even more terrible and deadly than
that of Andre, but he had done his fearful work in comparative silence,
with knitted brows, compressed lips, and clenched teeth.  He was a
full-grown man, the other a mere boy.  Besides, Dobri Petroff had been
born and bred in a land of rampant tyranny, and had learned, naturally
bold and independent though he was, at all times to hold himself, and
all his powers, well in hand.

Little did the scout imagine that, while he was thus inflicting
well-deserved punishment on the Turkish Bashi-Bazouks, the Cossacks of
Russia had, about the same time, made demands on the men of his own
village, who, resisting, were put to the sword, and many of them
massacred.  Strong in the belief that the country which had taken up
arms for the deliverance of Bulgaria would be able to fulfil its
engagements, and afford secure protection to the inhabitants of Yenilik,
and, among them, to his wife and little ones, Dobri Petroff went on his
way with a comparatively easy mind.

It was evening when we reached another village, where the people had
been visited by a body of Russian irregular horse, who had murdered some
of them, and carried off whatever they required.

Putting up at the little hostelry of the place, I felt too much fatigued
to talk over recent events with Nicholas, and was glad to retire to a
small room, where, stretched on a wooden bench, with a greatcoat for a
pillow, I soon forgot the sorrows and sufferings of Bulgaria in profound
slumber.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

SIMTOVA--NEW VIEWS OF WAR--LANCEY GOES TO THE FRONT, AND SEES SERVICE,
AND GETS A SCARE.

Shortly afterwards our detachment reached the headquarters of General
Gourko, who, with that celebrated Russian general, Skobeleff the
younger, was pressing towards the Balkans.

Here changes took place which very materially altered my experiences.

Nicholas Naranovitsch was transferred to the staff of General Skobeleff.
Petroff was sent to act the part of guide and scout to the division,
and I, although anxious to obtain employment at the front, was obliged
to content myself with an appointment to the army hospitals at Sistova.

As it turned out, this post enabled me to understand more of the true
nature of war than if I had remained with the army, and, as I afterwards
had considerable experience in the field, the appointment proved to be
advantageous, though at the time I regarded it as a disappointment.

When I had been some weeks at Sistova I wrote a letter to my mother,
which, as it gives a fair account of the impressions made at the time, I
cannot do better than transcribe:--

  "Dearest Mother,--I have been in the hospitals now for some weeks, and
  it is not possible for you to conceive, or me to convey, an adequate
  description of the horrible effects of this most hideous war.  My
  opinions on war--always, as you know, strong--have been greatly
  strengthened; also modified.  Your heart would bleed for the poor
  wounded men if you saw them.  They are sent to us in crowds daily,
  direct from the battle-fields.  An ordinary hospital, with its clean
  beds, and its sufferers warmly housed and well cared for, with which
  you are familiar enough, gives no idea of an army hospital in time of
  war.

  "The men come in, or are carried in, begrimed with powder, smoke, and
  dust; with broken limbs and gaping wounds, mortifying and almost unfit
  for inspection or handling until cleansed by the application of
  Lister's carbolic acid spray.  Some of these have dragged themselves
  hither on foot from that awful Shipka Pass--a seven days' journey,--
  and are in such an abject state of exhaustion that their recovery is
  usually impossible.  Yet some do recover.  Some men seem very hard to
  kill.  On the other hand, I have seen some men whose hold on life was
  so feeble as to make it difficult to say which of their comparatively
  slight wounds had caused death.

  "I am now, alas! familiar with death and wounds and human agony in
  every form.  Day and night I am engaged in dressing, operating, and
  tending generally.  The same may be said of all connected with the
  hospital.  The doctors under Professor Wahl are untiring in their
  work.  The Protestant sisters of mercy, chiefly Germans, and the
  `Sanitaires,' who take the weary night-watches, are quite worn out,
  for the number of sick and wounded who pour in on us has far exceeded
  the computations formed.  Everything in this war has been
  under-estimated.  What do you think of this fact--within the last
  fifty days 15,000 men have been killed, and 40,000 sick and wounded
  sent to Russian hospitals?  This speaks to 55,000 Russian homes
  plunged into mourning,--to say nothing of similar losses, if not
  greater, by the Turks,--a heavy price to pay for improving the
  condition of Bulgaria,--isn't it?

  "There is a strong feeling in my mind that this is a war of
  extermination.  `No quarter' is too frequently the cry on either side.
  I do not say that the Russians mean it to be so, but when
  Bashi-Bazouks torture their prisoners in cold blood, and show fiendish
  delight in the most diabolical acts of cruelty, even going the length
  of roasting people alive, is it strange that a brutalising effect is
  produced on the Russians, and that they retaliate in a somewhat
  similar spirit at times?  The truth is, mother, that one of the direct
  and most powerful effects of war is to dehumanise, and check the
  influence of, the good men engaged, while it affords a splendid
  opportunity to the vicious and brutal to give the rein to their
  passions, and work their will with impunity.

  "But, while this is so with the combatants, many of those outside the
  ring are stirred to pity and to noble deeds.  Witness the
  self-sacrificing labours of the volunteer heroes and heroines who do
  their work in an hospital such as this, and the generous deeds evoked
  from the peoples of other lands, such as the sending of two splendid
  and completely equipped ambulance trains of twenty-five carriages
  each, by the Berlin Central Committee of the International Association
  for the Relief of Sick and Wounded Soldiers in the field, the
  thousands of pounds that have been contributed by the Russians for the
  comfort of their sick and wounded, and the thousands contributed by
  England for that fund which embraces in its sympathies both Russian
  and Turk.  It seems to me that a great moral war is going on just
  now--a war between philanthropy and selfishness; but I grieve to say
  that while the former saves its thousands, the latter slays its tens
  of thousands.  Glorious though the result of our labours is, it is as
  nothing compared with the torrent of evil which has called us out, and
  the conclusion which has been forced upon me is, that we should--every
  one of us, man, woman, and child--hold and pertinaciously enforce the
  precept that war among civilised nations is outrageous and
  intolerable.  Of course we cannot avoid it sometimes.  If a man _will_
  insist on fighting _me_, I have no resource left but to fight _him_;
  but for two CIVILISED nations to go to war for the settlement of a
  dispute is an unreasonable and childish and silly as it would be for
  two gentlemen, who should differ in opinion, to step into the middle
  of a peaceful drawing-room, button up their coats, turn up their
  wristbands, and proceed to batter each other's eyes and noses,
  regardless of ladies, children, and valuables.  War would be a
  contemptible farce if it were not a tremendous tragedy."

My mother's reply to this letter was characteristic and brief.

  "My dear Jeff," she wrote, "in regard to your strictures on war I have
  only to say that I agree with you, as I have always done on all
  points, heart and soul.  Don't forget to keep your feet dry when
  sleeping out at nights, and never omit to take the globules."

While I was busy at Sistova--too busy with the pressing duties of my
post to think much of absent friends, my poor servant Lancey was going
through a series of experiences still more strange and trying than my
own.

As I have said, he had been appointed by Sanda Pasha to a post in
connection with a Turkish ambulance corps.  He was on his way to the
front, when the detachment with which he travelled met with a reverse
which materially affected his fortunes for some time after.

There were two Turkish soldiers with whom Lancey was thrown much in
contact, and with whom he had become very intimate.  There was nothing
very particular in the appearance of the two men, except that they
formed contrasts, one being tall and thin, the other short and thick.
Both were comrades and bosom friends, and both took a strong fancy to
their English comrade.  Lancey had also taken a fancy to them.  It was,
in short, the old story of "kindred souls," and, despite the fact that
these Turks were to Lancey "furriners" and "unbelievers," while he was
to them a "giaour," they felt strong human sympathies which drew them
powerfully together.  The name of the thick little man was Ali Bobo,
that of the tall comrade Eskiwin.

That these two loved each other intensely, although Turks, was the first
thing that touched Lancey's feelings.  On discovering that Ali Bobo
happened to have dwelt for a long time with an English merchant in
Constantinople, and could speak a little of something that was
understood to be English, he became intimate and communicative.

Not more tender was the love of David and Jonathan than was that of
Eskiwin and Ali Bobo.  As the screw to the nut, so fitted the one to the
other.  Eskiwin was grave, his friend was funny.  Ali Bobo was smart,
his comrade was slow.  They never clashed.  Jacob Lancey, being quiet
and sedate, observed the two, admired each, philosophised on both and
gained their esteem.  Their friendship, alas! was of short duration.

"You's goodish sorro man," said Ali Bobo to Lancey one evening, as they
sat over the camp-fire smoking their pipes in concert.

Lancey made no reply, but nodded his head as if in approval of the
sentiment.

"Heskiwin, 'e's a good un too, hain't 'e, Bobo?" asked Lancey, pointing
with his thumb to the tall Turk, who sat cross-legged beside him smoking
a chibouk.

Ali Bobo smiled in the way that a man does when he thinks a great deal
more than he chooses to express.

At that moment the officer in command of the detachment galloped
furiously into the camp with the information that the Russians were upon
them!

Instantly all was uproar, and a scramble to get out of the way.
Eskiwin, however, was an exception.  He was a man of quiet promptitude.
Deliberately dropping his pipe, he rose and saddled his horse, while his
more excitable comrades were struggling hurriedly, and therefore slowly,
with the buckles of their harness.  Ali Bobo was not less cool, though
more active.  Lancey chanced to break his stirrup-leather in mounting.

"I say, Bobo," he called to his stout little friend, who was near, "lend
a 'and, like a good fellow.  This brute won't stand still.  Give us a
leg."

The little Turk put his hand on Lancey's instep and hoisted him into the
saddle.  Next moment the whole party was in full retreat.  Not a moment
too soon either.  A scattering volley from the Russians, who were coming
on in force, quickened their movements.

The faint moonlight enabled the Turks to distance their pursuers, and
soon the chase appeared to be given up.  Still, most of the detachment
continued its headlong retreat for a considerable time.

Suddenly Eskiwin observed that Ali Bobo swayed from side to side as he
rode, and then fell heavily to the ground.  He pulled up at once and
dismounted.  Lancey, who saw what had happened, also dismounted.  The
rest of the detachment was out of sight in a moment.  There was no sound
of pursuers, and they found themselves left thus in a lonely spot among
the hills.

On examining the fallen Turk it was found that he had been hit by two
balls.  One had apparently penetrated his shoulder, the other had grazed
his temple.  It was the latter which had brought him to the ground, but
the shoulder-wound seemed to be the more dangerous.

"Dead!" said Lancey solemnly, as he kneeled beside the body.

Eskiwin made no answer, his grave countenance expressed nothing but
stern decision.  His friend's face was colourless, motionless, and
growing cold.  He raised Bobo's hand and let it drop as he gazed
mournfully into his face.

Just then the sound of the pursuers was heard, as if searching the
neighbouring thicket.

Eskiwin rose slowly, and, with his bayonet, began to dig a grave.  The
soil was soft.  A hollow was soon scooped out, and the dead Turk was put
therein.  But while the two men were engaged in burying it, the Russians
were heard still beating about in the thicket, and apparently drawing
near.  Lancey felt uneasy.  Still Eskiwin moved with slow deliberation.
When the grave was covered he kneeled and prayed.

"Come, come; you can do that on horseback" said Lancey, with impatience.

Eskiwin took no notice of the irreverent interruption, but calmly
finished his prayer, cast one sorrowful glance on the grave, and
remounted his charger.

Lancey was about to do the same, being retarded by the broken
stirrup-leather, when a tremendous shout caused his horse to swerve,
break its bridle, and dash away.  At the same moment a band of Don
Cossacks came swooping down the gorge.  Lancey flung himself flat
beneath a mass of underwood.  The Cossacks saw only one horseman, and
went past the place with a wild yell.  Another moment and Lancey was
left alone beside the grave.

To find his way out of the thicket was now the poor man's chief care,
but this was difficult, for, besides being ignorant of the road, he had
to contend with darkness, the moon having become obscured.

It is a well-known fact that when a lost man wanders he does so in a
circle.  Twice, during that night, did Lancey start with a view to get
away from that spot, and twice did he find himself, after two hours'
wandering, at the side of Ali Bobo's grave.  A third time he set out,
and at the end of that effort he not only came back to the same spot,
but chanced, inadvertently, to plant his foot over the stomach of the
luckless Turk.

This was too much, even for a dead man.  Ali Bobo turned in his shallow
grave, scattered the sod, and, sitting up, looked round him with an
expression of surprise.  At that moment the moon came out as if
expressly for the purpose of throwing light on the dusty, blood-stained,
and cadaverous visage of the Turk.

Jacob Lancey, although a brave man, was superstitious.  On beholding the
yellow countenance and glaring eyeballs turned full upon him, he uttered
a yell of deadly terror, turned sharp round and fled, stumbling over
stumps and stones in his blind career.  The Don Cossacks heard the yell,
and made for the spot.  Lancey saw them coming, doubled, and eluded
them.  Perceiving only a wounded man sitting on the ground, the foremost
Cossack levelled his lance and charged.  Ali Bobo's stare of surprise
developed into a glare of petrified consternation.  When the Cossack
drew near enough to perceive an apparently dead man sitting up in his
grave, he gave vent to a hideous roar of horror, turned off at a
tangent, and shot away into the bushes.  Those in rear, supposing that
he had come on an ambuscade, followed his example, and, in another
moment, Ali Bobo was left alone to his moonlight reflections.

That these were of a perplexing nature was evident from his movements.
Allowing his eyes to resume their ordinary aspect, he looked round him
with a troubled expression, while his fingers played slowly with the
loose earth that still covered his legs.  Then he shook his head, after
that he scratched it, and put on his fez, which had fallen off.
Finding, apparently, that meditation was of no avail, he finally heaved
a deep sigh, rose, shook off the dust, picked up his rifle and marched
away.

He had not gone far when he came upon Lancey, who, having fled with such
haste that he could scarcely breathe, had been fain to lie down and rest
for a few minutes.  Hearing a step behind him, he started up.  One
glance sufficed.  The dead Turk again!  With another horrific howl he
plunged headlong into the nearest thicket and disappeared.

A humorous smile stole over the features of Ali Bobo as he began to
understand the situation.  He searched the thicket, but his late
companion was not to be found.  Continuing his march, therefore, he
travelled all night.  Next morning he found his detachment, and
introduced himself to his friend Eskiwin, whose astonishment, I need
scarcely say, was great, but his joy was greater.

Ali Bobo's wounds turned out after all to be slight, and were not
permitted by him to interfere long with his service in the field.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

LANCEY GETS EMBROILED IN TROUBLES, AND SEES SOME PECULIAR SERVICE.

Meanwhile Jacob Lancey, impressed with the belief that the Turkish
detachment had taken to the mountains, travelled as rapidly as possible
in that direction.

Next morning at daybreak he found himself so thoroughly exhausted as to
be unable to proceed.  With difficulty he climbed a neighbouring
eminence, which, being clear of bushes, gave him a view of the country
around.  There was a small village, or hamlet, within a stone's throw of
him.  The sight revived his drooping spirits.  He descended to it at
once, but found no one stirring--not even a dog.  Perceiving a small
outhouse with its door ajar, he went to it and peeped in.  There were a
few bundles of straw in a corner.  The temptation was irresistible.  He
entered, flung himself on the straw, and fell sound asleep almost
immediately.

The sun was shining high in the heavens when he was awakened by a rude
shake.  He started up and found himself in the rough grasp of a
Bulgarian peasant.

Lancey, although mentally and morally a man of peace, was physically
pugnacious.  He grappled at once with the Bulgarian, and being, as we
have said, a powerful fellow, soon had him on his back with a hand
compressing his windpipe, and a knee thrust into his stomach.  It would
certainly have fared ill with the Bulgarian that day if a villager had
not been attracted to the hut by the noise of the scuffle.  Seeing how
matters stood, he uttered a shout which brought on the scene three more
villagers, who at once overwhelmed Lancey, bound him, and led him before
the chief man of the place.

This chief man was a Turk with a very black beard.  Lancey of course
expected to receive severe punishment without trial.  But, on hearing
that he had merely attacked a Bulgarian, the Turk seemed rather inclined
to favour the prisoner than otherwise.  At all events, after
ascertaining that he could not communicate with him by any known
language, he sent him to his kitchen to obtain a meal, and afterwards
allowed him to depart, to the evident indignation of the Bulgarian and
his friends, who did not, however, dare to show their feelings.

For some time Lancey wandered about endeavouring to make friends with
the people, but without success.  As the day advanced, the men, and most
of the women, went to work in the fields.  Feeling that he had not
obtained nearly enough of sleep, our wanderer took an opportunity of
slipping into another outhouse, where he climbed into an empty loft.
There was a small hole in the loft near the floor.  As he lay down and
pillowed his head on a beam, he found that he could see the greater part
of the village through the hole, but this fact had barely reached his
brain, when he had again fallen into the heavy slumber of an exhausted
man.

His next awakening was caused by shouts and cries.  He raised himself on
one elbow and looked out of his hole.  A large body of Russian soldiers
had entered the village, and were welcomed with wild joy by the
Bulgarians, while the Turkish inhabitants--those of them who had not
been able or willing to leave--remained quiet, but polite.  The column
halted.  The men swarmed about the place and "requisitioned," as the
phrase goes, whatever they wanted--that is, they took what they chose
from the people, whether they were willing or not.  To do them justice,
they paid for it, though in most cases the payment was too little.

There was a good deal of noisy demonstration, and some rough treatment
of the inhabitants on the part of those who had come to deliver them,
but beyond being "cleaned out," and an insufficient equivalent left in
money, they were not greatly the worse of this visit from the regulars.

The loft where Lancey had ensconced himself did not attract attention.
He felt, therefore, comparatively safe, and, while he watched the doings
of the soldiery, opened his wallet and made a hearty meal on the debris
of his rations.

Before he had finished it the trumpets sounded, the troops fell in, and
the column left the place.

Then occurred a scene which astonished him not a little.  No sooner were
the troops out of sight than the Bulgarian population, rising _en
masse_, fell upon their Turkish brethren and maltreated them terribly.
They did not, indeed, murder them, but they pillaged and burned some of
their houses, and behaved altogether in a wild and savage manner.
Lancey could not understand it.  Perhaps if he had known that these
Bulgarians had, for many years, suffered horrible oppression and
contemptuous treatment from the Turks under whose misrule they lay, he
might have felt less surprise, though he might not have justified the
act of revenge.  If it be true that the worm turns on the foot that
crushes it, surely it is no matter of wonder that human beings, who have
long been debased, defrauded, and demoralised, should turn and bite
somewhat savagely when opportunity offers!

It had occurred to Lancey, when the Russians had arrived, that it would
be well for him to descend and join these troops, so as to get out of
his present predicament; but, remembering that he had actually accepted
service with the Turks, and that, being clothed in a semi-Turkish
costume, he might be taken for a spy, he resolved to remain where he
was.  The riot in the village after the Russian column had left
confirmed him in his intention to remain quiet.

"Your wisest plan, Jacob," he soliloquised, "is to 'old on and bide your
time.  Don't 'urry yourself on any account."

Scarcely had he made this resolve when, looking through his hole of
observation, he observed a body of spearmen galloping along the road
that led to the village.  The inhabitants also observed them with some
anxiety, for by that time they had come to know the difference between
regular and irregular troops.

The horsemen proved to be Cossacks.  The Bulgarians, of course, regarded
them as friends.  They formed a portion of the army of deliverers from
Turkish misrule.  As such they were received with cheers.  The cheers
were returned heartily--in some cases mingled with laughter--by the gay
cavaliers, who had also come to make "requisitions."  Their mode of
proceeding, however, was quite different from that of their "regular"
brethren.  Leaping from their saddles, they set about the business
without delay.  Some went to the fields and cut grain for fodder.
Others entered the houses and carried off victuals and wine, while many
chased and caught pigs and poultry.

They were evidently in a hurry.  So much so, that they had no time to
put off in making payment!  It was obviously to be regarded as an
outstanding debt against them by the villagers.  As the rear-guard
passed out of the place, the corporal in command observed a fat young
pig in the middle of a by-road.  He turned aside sharply, charged,
picked the pig neatly up on the point of his lance, and galloped after
his friends, accompanied by a tune that would have done credit to a
Scotch bagpipe.

All this did Lancey see from his secret point of observation, and deeply
did his philosophic mind moralise on what he saw.

The village in which he had sought shelter was in the very heart of the
district swept by the wave of war.  The panorama of incidents commenced
to move again at an early hour.

When morning light had just begun to conquer night, Lancey was once more
awakened from a refreshing sleep by a noise in the room below.  He
looked down and saw an old, old woman, with bent form, tottering step,
and wrinkled brow.  She was searching for something which, evidently,
she could not find.  Scraping various things, however, and tasting the
ends of her thin fingers, suggested that she was in search of food.
Lancey was a sympathetic soul.  The old woman's visage reminded him of
his own mother--dead and gone for many a day, but fresh and beautiful as
ever in the memory of her son.

He descended at once.  The old woman had flung herself down in despair
in a corner of the hovel.  Lancey quickly emptied the remnants of food
in his wallet into her lap.

It would have saddened you, reader, to have seen the way in which that
poor old thing hungrily munched a mouthful of the broken victuals
without asking questions, though she glanced her gratitude out of a pair
of large black eyes, while she tied up the remainder in a kerchief with
trembling haste.

"No doubt," soliloquised Lancey, as he sat on a stool and watched her,
"you were a pretty gal once, an' somebody loved you."

It did not occur to Lancey, for his philosophy was not deep, that she
might have been loved more than "once," even although she had _not_ been
a "pretty gal;" neither did it occur to him--for he did not know--that
she was loved still by an old, old man in a neighbouring hut, whose
supper had been carried off by the Cossacks, and whose welfare had
induced her to go out in search of food.

While the two were thus engaged their attention was attracted by a noise
outside.  Hastening to the door Lancey peeped out and beheld a band of
Bashi-Bazouks galloping up the road.  The Turks of the village began to
hold up their heads again, for they regarded these as friends, but scant
was the courtesy they received from them.  To dismount and pillage, and
to slay where the smallest opposition was offered, seemed the order of
the day with these miscreants.  For some time none of them came near to
the hut where Lancey and the old woman were concealed, as it stood in an
out-of-the-way corner and escaped notice.

While the robbers were busy, a wild cheer, accompanied by shots and
cries, was heard some distance along the road.  The Bashi-Bazouks heard
it and fled.  A few minutes later Lancey saw Turkish soldiers running
into the village in scattered groups, but stopping to fire as they ran,
like men who fight while they retreat.  Immediately after there was a
rush of men, and a column of Turkish infantry occupied the village in
force.  They were evidently hard pressed, for the men ran and acted with
that quick nervous energy which denotes imminent danger.

They swarmed into the houses, dashed open the windows, knocked out
loop-holes in the walls, and kept up a furious fusillade, while
whistling balls came back in reply, and laid many of them low.

One party of Turks at last made a rush to the hut where Lancey sat with
the old woman.  There was no weapon of any sort in the hut, and as
Lancey's arms had been taken from him when he was captured, he deemed it
the wisest policy to sit still.

Leaping in with a rush, the Turks shut and barred the door.  They saw
Lancey, but had evidently no time to waste on him.  The window-frame was
dashed out with rifle-butts, and quick firing was commenced by some,
while others made loop-holes in the mud walls with their bayonets.
Bullets came pinging through the window and brought down masses of
plaster from the walls.  Suddenly a terrible yell rang in the little
room, and the commander of the party, raising both hands above him,
dropped his sword and fell with a terrible crash.  He put a hand to his
side and writhed on the floor in agony, while blood flowed copiously
from his wound.  The poor fellow's pain lasted but a moment or two.  His
head fell back suddenly, and the face became ashy pale, while his
glaring eyeballs were transfixed in death.

No notice was taken of this except by a man who sat down on the floor
beside his dead commander, to bandage his own wounded arm.  Before he
had finished his task, a shout from his comrades told that danger
approached.  Immediately the whole party rushed out of the hut by a back
door.  At the same instant the front door was burst open, and a soldier
leaped in.

It was evident to Lancey that, in the midst of smoke and turmoil, a
mistake had been made, for the man who appeared was not a Russian but a
Turk.  He was followed by several companions.

Casting a savage piercing look on Lancey, and apparently not feeling
sure, from his appearance, whether he was friend or foe, the man
presented his rifle and fired.  The ball grazed Lancey's chest, and
entering the forehead of the old woman scattered her brains on the wall.

For one moment Lancey stood horror-struck, then uttered a roar of rage,
rose like a giant in his wrath, and seized a rifle which had been
dropped by one of the fugitive soldiers.  In an instant the bayonet was
deep in the chest of his adversary.  Wrenching it out, he swung the rile
round and brought the butt down on the skull of the man behind, which it
crushed in like an egg-shell.  Staggered by the fury of the onslaught,
those in rear shrank back.  Lancey charged them, and drove them out
pell-mell.  Finding the bayonet in his way, he wrenched it off, and,
clubbing the rifle, laid about him with it as if it had been a
walking-cane.

There can be no question that insanity bestows temporary and almost
supernatural power.  Lancey was for the time insane.  Every sweep of the
rifle stretched a man on the ground.  There was a wavering band of Turks
around him.  The cheers of victorious Russians were ringing in their
ears.  Bullets were whizzing, and men were falling.  Shelter was
urgently needful.  Little wonder, then, that one tall sturdy madman
should drive a whole company before him.  The Russians saw him as they
came on, and cheered encouragingly.  He replied with savage laughter and
in another moment the Turks were flying before him in all directions.

Then Lancey stopped, let the butt of his rifle drop, leaned against the
corner of a burning house, and drew his left hand across his brow.  Some
passing Russians clapped him on the back and cheered as they ran on to
continue the bloody work of ameliorating the condition of the Bulgarian
Christians.

Nearly the whole village was in flames by that time.  From the windows
of every house that could yet be held, a continuous fire was kept up.
The Russians replied to it from the streets, rushing, in little bands,
from point to point, where shelter could be found, so as to escape from
the withering shower of lead.  Daring men, with apparently charmed
lives, ran straight up in the face of the enemy, sending death in
advance of them as they ran.  Others, piling brushwood on a cart, pushed
the mass before them, for the double purpose of sheltering themselves
and of conveying combustibles to the door of the chief house of the
town, to which most of the inhabitants, with a company of Turks, had
retired.

But the brushwood proved a poor defence, for many of those who stooped
behind it, as they ran, suddenly collapsed and dropped, as men are wont
to do when hit in the brain.  Still, a few were left to push the cart
forward.  Smoke disconcerted the aim of the defenders to some extent,
and terror helped to make the firing wild and non-effective.

Against the town-house of the village some of the Russians had already
drawn themselves up so flat and close that the defenders at the windows
could not cover them with their rifles.  These ran out ever and anon to
fire a shot, and returned to reload.  Meanwhile the brushwood was
applied to the door and set on fire, amid yells of fiendish joy.

Lancey had followed the crowd almost mechanically.  He had no enemy--no
object.  The Turk, as it happened, was, for the time being, his friend.

The Muscovite was not, and never had been, his foe.  After the first
deadly burst of his fury on seeing the innocent old woman massacred had
passed, his rage lost all point.  But he could not calm his quivering
nerves or check the fierce flow of his boiling blood.  Onward he went
with the shouting, cheering, yelling, and cursing crowd of soldiery, his
clothes cut in many places with bullets, though flesh and bone were
spared.

Close to the town-house stood the dwelling of the Turk who had released
him, and shown him hospitality when he was seized by the inhabitants.
The door of the house was being burst open by clubbed rifles.  The
memory of a "helping hand," however slight, was sufficient to give
direction to the rage of the madman, for such he still undoubtedly was
at the moment--like many another man who had become sane enough the
following day when the muster-roll was called.

Up to that moment he had been drifting before the gale.  He now seized
the helm of his rage, and, upsetting two or three of the men who stood
in his way, soon drew near to the front.  As he came forward the door
gave way.  A tremendous discharge of fire-arms laid low every man in
advance; but of what avail is it to slay hundreds when thousands press
on in rear?

Lancey sprang over the dead and was met by the points of half a dozen
bayonets,--the foremost man being his deliverer with the black beard.

Grounding his rifle with a crash, and holding up his left hand, he
shouted--"A friend!"

At the same moment he was thrown down and leaped over by the soldiers
behind, who were stabbed by the Turks and fell on him.  But Lancey
staggered again to his feet, and using his superior strength to push
aside and crush through those in front, he gained an empty passage
before the others did, and rushed along towards a door at the end of it.

Opening the door and entering he was arrested by the sight of a
beautiful Turkish girl, who stood gazing at him in horror.  Before he
had time to speak or act, a door at the other end of the room opened,
and the Turk with the black beard entered sword in hand.  The girl
rushed into his arms, with a cry of joy.  But this was changed into
alarm as the Turk flung her off and ran at Lancey.

There was no time for explanation.  The Russians were already heard
coming along the passage by which he had reached the apartment.  Lancey
felt intuitively that a brave man would not stab him in the back.
Instead of defending himself he dropped his rifle, turned, and hastily
shut and bolted the door, then, turning towards the Turk, held aloft his
unarmed hands.  The Turk was quick to understand.  He nodded, and
assisted his ally to barricade the door with furniture, so that no one
could force a passage for a considerable time.  Then they ran to the
other door, which had not yet been menaced.  They were almost too late,
for shouts and tramping feet were heard approaching.

Lancey caught up his rifle, stepped out of the room, shut the door, and,
locking it on the Turk and his daughter, commenced to pace calmly up and
down in front of it like a sentinel.  Another moment and the Russians
rushed up, but halted and looked surprised on beholding a sentinel
there, who did not even condescend to stop in his slow measured march,
or to bring his arms to the charge to stop them.

One of them advanced to the door, but Lancey grasped his waist with one
hand, gently, almost remonstratively, and shook his head.  As the man
persisted, Lancey gave him a throw which was peculiarly Cornish in its
character--he slewed his hip round under the Russian's groin and hurled
him back heels over head amongst his comrades, after which feat he
resumed the sedate march of a sentinel.

By this time he had been recognised as the man who had routed a whole
Turkish company, and was greeted with a laugh and a loud cheer, as the
men turned away and ran to effect some other work of destruction.

"Now, my fine fellow," said Lancey, opening the door and entering.
"You'll 'ave to defend yourself, for I'm neither a friend o' the Turk
nor the Rooshian.  They're fools, if not worse, both of 'em, in my
opinion; but one good turn desarves another, so now you an' I are quits.
Adoo!"

Hurrying out of the house, Lancey picked up a Russian cap and greatcoat
as he ran, and put them on, having a vague perception that they might
help to prevent his being made prisoner.

He was right.  At all events, in the confusion of the moment, he passed
through the village, and escaped unnoticed into a neighbouring thicket,
whence he succeeded in retiring altogether beyond the range of the
assailed position.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

IN WHICH SOME DESPERATE ENTERPRISES ARE UNDERTAKEN.

At this time the Russians had taken up a strong position in the Balkan
mountain range, and entrenched themselves within a short distance of the
enemy.

After a night and a day of aimless wandering, Jacob Lancey found himself
at last in a rocky defile between the hostile lines.  How he got there
he could not tell, but there he was, in a position of imminent danger,
with the sentinels of the belligerent armies on either side of him.

Evening was setting in when he made this discovery, and recoiled,
happily without having been seen, into a narrow rocky place where the
fast-failing light had already deepened into gloom.  A cold white fog
was slowly creeping up from the valleys and covering the hill-sides.

It is in such places and circumstances that men conceive and execute
designs, which, according to their nature, are deeds of recklessness or
of heroism.  Two such ventures were afoot that night.

In the Russian camp preparations were being made for a night attack on a
village in possession of the Turks, and out of which, with a view to
future movements, it was deemed necessary to drive them.  In this
village there dwelt a youth, an intimate friend of Dobri Petroff.  The
two had played with each other in childhood, had roamed about the
country together in boyhood, and, when they reached man's estate, had
become faster friends than ever, being bound by the ties of intellectual
as well as physical sympathy.  When this friend, Petko Borronow, left
Yenilik at the death of his mother, it was to take charge of the little
farm in the Balkan mountains,--the desolate home where his sister
Giuana, an invalid, and a beautiful girl, was now left in solitude.

In his capacity of scout, Petroff was always in the neighbourhood of
headquarters, and was frequently summoned to the tent of the general
commanding, to be interrogated.  Thus he chanced to overhear occasional
remarks and hints which, when pieced together by his intelligent mind,
showed him pretty clearly what was pending.

He sat by the camp-fire that night, buried in meditation, with a series
of troubled wrinkles on a brow that was usually open and unclouded.
Many a time did he light his pipe and forget to smoke it, and relight
it, and again let it die out, until his comrades were impressed by his
absence of mind.  Well did the scout know by that time the certain fate
of a village which was to be fought for by contending armies.  To warn
his friend Borronow in time to remove his sister from the doomed village
became to the scout a duty which must be performed at all hazards, but
how to do this without deserting his post, and appearing to go over to
the enemy, was the difficulty.

"Something troubles you," said his young friend Andre Vanovitch, who had
for some time sat smoking quietly at his side, gazing into the fire, and
thinking, no doubt, of the girl with the auburn hair, far away in the
land of the Muscove.

"Yes, I'm troubled about friends," was the scout's laconic answer.

"Oh! they're all right, you may be sure, now that our fellows have
crossed the Danube in such force," said Andre, supposing that the other
referred to his family.

"Perhaps!" returned Petroff, and relapsed into silence.

Suddenly it occurred to him that he had overheard some expression among
the officers around the General of a desire to know more particularly
about the disposition of the Turkish force, and the suggestion that a
spy should be sent out.  His brow cleared at once; with almost a
triumphant look on his countenance, he turned sharply to Andre, and
seized his arm.

"Well, Dobri," said the latter, with a smile and look of surprise, "I
have had perfect faith in the strength of your grip without requiring
positive proof."

"Listen," said the scout earnestly.  "I have a job to do, and a risk to
run."

"That is obvious to every one in the division," returned Andre, with a
touch of the smile still curling his young moustache.

"Ay, but I mean a private job, and a great risk--the risk of being shot
as a traitor or a spy, and I want you, Andre, to clear my character with
the Russians if it fares ill with me."

Petroff's unwonted energy of action and earnestness of look and tone
produced their effect on the young dragoon.  He listened intently while
his friend told him of his intended plan.

"But why go into the enemy's lines without permission?" objected Andre.
"Why risk being thought a deserter when you have only to go and ask
leave?  It seems to me they would be only too glad to accept your
services as a spy."

"I'm not certain that they would accept them," replied the scout, with a
return of the perplexed look; "and if they chanced to refuse leave, my
case would be hopeless, because I could not and would not dare to act in
opposition to positive orders; whereas, if I go off without leave, I
shall only be blamed for undertaking a foolish or reckless act; that is,
if I return in safety.  If I don't return at all, it won't matter what
is said or done, but I should count on you, Andre, explaining that I did
not desert."

"But," returned Andre, "if you merely go to warn and save your friends,
I think the General won't think much of your spying."

"You do me injustice, lad," said Petroff quietly.  "I shall enter the
enemy's lines as a real spy.  I will visit every point of his position,
ascertain the number of his troops, count his guns, and bring in such
information as will make the General wink, I hope, at my having acted
without orders.  It would please me better to go with permission, but I
cannot allow the lives of my friends to hang upon the chance humour of a
Russian general.  You must remember, Andre, that I am not a Russian
soldier, and may therefore take upon me to exercise a little more
personal liberty than you can.  Why, you know," continued the scout,
with a touch of humour in his glance, as he rose and made some
preliminary preparations, "I might refuse to lead you Russians, or might
lead you to your destruction."

"You would be shot if you did," returned the dragoon quietly.

"And what if I am willing to be shot in a good cause?  I should be no
greater hero than every man in your armies.  But now, Andre, one more
shake of your hand.  We may never meet again, and I won't part without
saying I've taken a fancy to you."

"God knows I can truly say the same to you," cried Andre, leaping up
with enthusiasm, and seizing the scout's hand with a grasp as powerful
as his own.

"And don't be angry," added Petroff, in a gentle tone, as he tightened
his belt, "if I again urge you to keep the locket always in remembrance.
You're not likely ever to forget the auburn hair, but you _may_, lad,
you may, for there is no perfection in this world, and soldiering is a
dangerous life."

Andre smiled half-contemptuously.  He _felt_ that the advice was
needless.  Petroff also smiled kindly, for he knew that it might be
needful.

Neither of these men was very deeply impressed with the fact that
keeping before the mental eye the Maker of the "auburn hair," and of all
other blessed human influences, was a better and safer refuge.  But what
matter?  Does not our Creator in all His dealings make use of means?
Does He not lead us step by step from a lower to a higher level?  There
are no ready-made human angels in this life, male or female, with
full-grown wings to bear them over the troubles of earth to a state of
sudden sanctification.  We are in a rebel world, and, when lifted from
the pit by a Saviour's hand, the steps by which the Spirit of God leads
us upwards are numerous as well as varied, including sometimes--I write
without irreverence--such footholds as "auburn hair."

Disguised as a Bulgarian rustic, Dobri Petroff left the Russian camp,
passed the outposts, and, under cover of the fog, gained the neutral
ground between the two armies.

Of course the sentries on both sides were numerous as well as vigilant--
especially so on such a night.  It therefore behoved him to advance with
extreme caution.  Creeping from mound to rock, and bush to knoll, he
reached a small clump of bushes, into which he entered for the purpose
of resting a few minutes and considering well his future movements.

A thrill of excitement ran through his frame when he discovered that he
was not alone in this thicket.  A man sat there leaning against a tree
as if asleep.  The scout crouched and drew a revolver.  A moment
sufficed to show that his arrival had not been observed.  No wonder, for
his approach had been like that of a cat!  He was now in great
perplexity.  The man was evidently not a sentinel of either
belligerent--that was plain, but it was equally plain that he was armed.
To shoot him would be impossible without putting the sentries of both
sides on the alert.  To pass him in so small a thicket, without
attracting attention, would be difficult.  To draw back would
necessitate a long detour, involving loss of precious time and increase
of risk.  A thought occurred to him.  Many a time had he hunted among
these mountains, and well accustomed was he to glide with serpentine
caution towards his game.  He would stalk him!  Petroff seldom thought
twice in cases of emergency.  He unbuckled his sword quietly and hung it
on a branch, and leant his carbine against a tree, resolving to trust to
his great personal strength alone, for he did not mean to sacrifice life
if he could avoid it.  In case of being driven to extremity, his knife
and revolver would suffice.

Then, sinking down until he became lost among the deep shadows of bush
and brake, he began the slow, laborious, and silent process of gliding
towards his unconscious victim.

This was one of those ventures to which we have referred as being afoot
on that foggy night.  The other venture had some points of similarity to
it, though the end in view was different.

Let us turn aside for a little to the Turkish camp.

There, round one of the watch-fires, a considerable distance to the
rear, stood a group of Turkish soldiers chatting and smoking.  Although
not so noisy as the Russians round their camp-fires, these Turks were by
no means taciturn.  There was a touch, now and then, of dry humour in
the remarks of some, and a sedate chuckle occasionally.  Among them
stood Eskiwin and his resuscitated friend Ali Bobo.  The latter,
although not naturally boastful, had been so nettled by a big comrade
underrating his courage and muscular power, in regard to which latter
he, Bobo, was rather vain, that he vowed he would prove both by going to
the front and bringing in, single-handed, a live Russian sentinel!

The big comrade laughed contemptuously, whereupon Ali Bobo rose to carry
out his threat, but was warned by his mates of the danger of being shot
by his own commander for going on such an errand without leave.  Bobo
replied that his captain would forgive him when he presented his Russian
prisoner.  As it was clear that the angry little man was in earnest, his
friend Eskiwin vowed he would go with him, and the big comrade agreed to
regard the deed as a sufficient proof of Ali Bobo's strength and prowess
if a Russian should be brought in by the two of them.  Bobo would have
preferred to go alone, but Eskiwin would take no denial.

Accordingly the two adventurous fellows went off and were soon lost in
the fog.  In a short time they reached the front, and began to move with
excessive caution in order to pass their own sentries unobserved.

Ali Bobo, it must be remarked, had not originated this idea of stalking
sentinels.  Some Albanians in the army had already done so with great
success; but these ferocious murderers had done it for the mere pleasure
of killing their enemies, without any other end in view.  Their method
was to creep towards a wearied sentinel, which they did with comparative
ease, being expert mountaineers.  Each man on reaching his victim sprang
on him from behind, clapped a hand on his mouth, crushed his neck, after
the manner of garrotters, with his strong left arm, and drawing a long
keen knife thrust it into his heart.

But our adventurers had no such murderous design as this.  To capture a
live Russian was their aim.

The front reached, and the Turkish line of sentries safely passed in the
fog, they came unexpectedly on two Russian horsemen who were cautiously
riding towards the Turkish lines.  These horsemen were Sergeant
Gotsuchakoff and Corporal Shoveloff.  They had been visiting the
outposts, and, before returning, were making a little private
reconnaissance of the enemy's disposition, for Gotsuchakoff and
Shoveloff were enthusiasts in their way, and fond of adventure.

The ground at the spot being much broken, and affording facility for
concealment, especially to men on foot, Eskiwin and Ali Bobo crept
unseen upon a low cliff, and lay down behind a mass of rocks.

The Russians chanced to select the same spot as a point of observation,
but, instead of riding to the top of the eminence, where they would have
been rather conspicuous, they rode under the cliff and halted just
below,--not far distant from the spot where the Turks lay, so that
Eskiwin, craning his long neck over the rocks, could look down on the
helmets of the Russian cavaliers.

For some minutes the sergeant and corporal conversed in whispers.  This
was exceedingly tantalising to the friends above!  The hiss of their
voices could be distinctly heard.  Eskiwin's long arm could almost have
reached them with a lance.  Presently the corporal rode slowly away,
became dim in the fog, and finally disappeared, while the sergeant
remained immoveable like an equestrian statue.

"This," whispered Ali Bobo solemnly, "is more than I can stand."

Eskiwin whispered in reply that he would have to stand it whether he
could or not.

Bobo didn't agree with him (not an unusual condition of mind with
friends).  He looked round.  A huge stone lay at his elbow.  It seemed
to have been placed there on purpose.  He rose very slowly, lifted the
stone, held it in a position which is familiar to Scotch Highlanders,
and hurled it with tremendous force down on the head of Sergeant
Gotsuchakoff.

The sergeant bowed to circumstances.  Without even a cry, he tumbled off
his horse and laid his helmet in the dust.

The Turks leaped down, seized him in their powerful arms, and carried
him away, while the frightened horse bolted.  It followed, probably, an
animal instinct, and made for the Russian lines.

The corporal chanced to return at that moment.  The Turks dropped their
burden and lay flat down beside it.  Seeing that his friend was gone,
and hearing the clatter of his retreating charger, Corporal Shoveloff
put spurs to his steed and followed.

The Turks then rose, tied the legs of the sergeant with his own
sword-belt, lest he should recover inopportunely, and bore him to a
neighbouring thicket which loomed darkly through the fog.

"Fate smiles upon us," whispered Ali Bobo, as the comrades entered the
bushes and laid their burden down.

If Bobo had known that he had laid that burden down within ten yards of
the spot where Dobri Petroff was preparing, as I have described, to
stalk the figure he had discovered in the same thicket, he might have
recalled the sentiment in reference to Fate.  But Bobo did not know.

Suddenly, however, he discovered the figure that Petroff was stalking.
It was leaning against a tree.  He pointed it out to Eskiwin, while the
scout, interrupted in his plans, sank into darkness and watched the
result with much curiosity and some impatience.

Just then the figure roused itself with a heavy sigh, looked sleepily
round, and, remarking in an undertone, "It's an 'orrible sitooation,"
turned itself into a more comfortable position and dropped off again
with another sigh.

But Ali Bobo did not allow it to enjoy repose.  He glided forward, and,
with a spring like that of a cat, laid his hand upon its mouth and threw
it violently to the ground.  With the aid of Eskiwin he pinned it, and
then proceeded to gag it.

All this Dobri Petroff observed with much interest, not unmingled with
concern, for he perceived that the new-comers were Turks, and did not
like the idea of seeing a man murdered before his eyes.  But the thought
of his friend Petko Borronow, and what he had at stake, restrained him
from action.  He was however at once relieved by observing that, while
the short Turk kneeled on the prisoner's chest and kept his mouth
covered, so as to prevent his crying out, the tall Turk quickly tied his
legs and hands.  It was thus clear that immediate death was not
intended.

The scout's interest, to say nothing of surprise, was increased by what
followed.  When the short Turk, pointing a revolver at the prisoner's
head, removed his hand so as to admit of speech, that prisoner's first
utterance was an exclamation of astonishment in tones which were
familiar to Petroff's ear.  This was followed by exclamations of
recognition from the Turks, and the short man seizing one of victim's
tied hands shook it warmly.

At that moment the scout's eyes were opened still wider with amazement,
for the unfortunate Sergeant Gotsuchakoff--who, as I have said, had been
laid down a few yards from him, and whom he had almost forgotten--began
to recover consciousness and growled something in an undertone about its
being "far too soon to turn out."

Petroff recognised the well-known growl of the sergeant.  In an instant
he glided to his side, laid his hand on his mouth, and whispered--

"Gotsuchakoff, be still for your life!  I am Dobri Petroff.  Do you
understand?"

He looked close to the sergeant's eyes, and saw that he was understood.
At once he removed his hand, and untied the belt which fastened the
sergeant's feet.

Gotsuchakoff was too well used to war's alarms to give way to
unreasonable curiosity.  He instantly perceived that the scout required
of him the utmost circumspection for some reason or other, and, in the
spirit of a true soldier, awaited orders in total silence, ready for
prompt action.

This was well, because there was little time to spare.  When Petroff
directed the sergeant's attention to the Turks they were busy undoing
the bonds of their prisoner.

Without saying another word, the scout glided swiftly forward.  He was
promptly followed by the sergeant.  Next moment both men leaped on the
Turks and had them by their throats.

Eskiwin was no match for Gotsuchakoff, who bore him back and held him
like a vice.  As for Ali Bobo, strong though he was, he felt himself to
be a perfect baby in the grasp of the scout.  The two men submitted at
once, and while Petroff ordered them in a low tone to keep silence,
enforcing the order with the touch of a revolver's muzzle, the sergeant
quickly bound their arms behind them.

The scout turned to the prisoner, who was sitting on the ground with
eyes dilated to the uttermost, and mouth wide open.  He sat perfectly
speechless.

There was just light enough to make darkness visible.  Petroff looked
close in to the face of the man whom he had been about to stalk.

"Lancey!" he exclaimed.

"Dobri Peterhuff," gasped the other.

"Why, where _did_ you come from?" asked the scout in Turkish, which he
was aware Lancey had been attempting to learn.

"Dobri, my friend," replied the other solemnly, in English, "if this is
a dream, it is the most houtrageous dream that I've 'ad since I was a
babby.  But I'm used to 'em now--only I do wish it was morning."

The scout smiled, not because of what was said, which of course he did
not understand, but because of the Englishman's expression.  But time
pressed; too much had already been lost.  He therefore contented himself
by giving Lancey a friendly slap on the shoulder and turned to the
sergeant.

"Gotsuchakoff," said he, "I'm out on special service, and have already
been delayed too long.  This man," pointing to Lancey, "is an Englishman
and a friend--remember that.  The others are Turks.  You know what to do
with them.  I cannot help you, but you won't need help."

"Just so," replied Gotsuchakoff, with an intelligent nod, "only lend a
hand to tie them together and then be off about your business."

"Lancey," said Ali Bobo, while the operation was being performed, "zat
big Bulgar beast he say you's his friend."

"Big he is, a beast he's not, and a friend he was," replied Lancey, with
a dazed look.

Further conversation was cut short by the sergeant ordering the trio to
move on.  He led them towards the Russian lines by a cord passed round
Bobo's neck, and carried a revolver in his right hand.  Dobri Petroff
immediately disappeared in the opposite direction.

At a later hour that night he entered the cottage of young Borronow.
Giuana, Petko's sister, reclined on a rude but comfortable couch.  She
was singularly pretty and innocent-looking, but very delicate and young.
Her friends called her Formosa Giuana or Pretty Jane.  Petko had been
seated beside her, talking about the war, when his friend entered with a
quick stealthy motion and laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Dobri!" exclaimed the youth.

"Petko, there is danger at hand.  Mischief is in the air.  Time is
precious.  I may not say what it is, but you know me--I am not easily
alarmed.  You must promise me to quit this village with your sister
within one hour."

"But, Dobri, why?--what?--"

"Petko, no questions.  More than that, no remarks," interrupted the
scout earnestly and firmly.  "Another time I will explain.  At present I
ask you to trust, believe, and obey your friend.  If you would save your
life and that of Giuana leave this village within an hour.  Go where you
will, but leave it."

"I will both trust and obey you, Dobri," said Petko, returning the
squeeze of his friend's hand, which he had not yet let go.

"I said that time pressed, Petko; God be with you!  Farewell."

The scout turned, stooped to kiss Giuana on her pale cheek, and before
either could utter another word was gone.

By midnight Dobri Petroff had made his rounds--now as a carter gruffly
and clumsily driving a cart and horse of which he had managed to possess
himself; anon as a stupid countryman belonging to the village on the
height, noisily wanting to know why the Turks had robbed him of the said
cart and horse, which he had conveniently tipped over a precipice, and
vowing that he would carry his complaint against the army to the Sultan
himself; once he was fain to act the part of a drunk man, almost
incapable of taking care of himself.

During his perambulations he ran frequent risk of being shot by
irascible Bashi-Bazouks or wearied Albanians; was more than once looked
on with suspicion, and frequently suffered rough treatment, but he acted
his part well.  Nothing could draw from him a word or look beyond
average intelligence.

No indignity could rouse him to more than the warfare of abuse, and the
result was that long before dawn he found himself once more close to the
front.

But fortune seemed inclined to fail him here.  He was creeping
cautiously among a heap of rocks when a sentinel of the advanced line of
the Turks discovered and challenged him.  Petroff knew well that escape
by running would be impossible, for he was only six yards distant.  He
made therefore no reply, but sank on the ground, keeping his eye,
however, sharply on the advancing sentinel.  His only cause of anxiety
was that the Turk might fire at him, in which case his doom would have
been sealed.  The Turk, however, preferred to advance and thrust his
bayonet into him.

Petroff had calculated on and was prepared for this.  He caught the
bayonet and checked its progress between his ribs.  Another moment and
the Turk lay on his back with the stock of his own rifle broken over his
skull.  The scuffle had attracted the next sentry, who ran to his
comrade's assistance.  The scout instantly made the best use of his
legs.  He was as fleet as a mountain deer, but the rifle-ball was
fleeter.  He felt a sharp pain in his left arm, and almost fell.  The
alarm was given.  Sentries on both sides fired, and another bullet
grazed his temple, causing blood to flow freely down his face.  Still he
ran steadily on, and in a few minutes was safe within the Russian lines.

He was seized, of course, by those who first met him, and, not being
known to them, was at once carried before a captain of dragoons, who
knew him.

By the captain he was sent to the tent of the General--the younger
Skobeleff,--to whom he related the important information which he had
obtained at so great risk.

"Thank you, my fine fellow," said the General, when Petroff had
finished; "you have done good service--are you badly wounded?"

"No--nothing worth mentioning," replied the scout, but as he spoke a
feeling of giddiness oppressed him.  He fainted and fell as he left the
General's tent, and was carried on a stretcher to the rear.

Before the grey dawn had dissipated the mists of morning, the village on
the height was fought for, lost, and won; its dwellings were reduced to
ashes, and those of its inhabitants who had escaped massacre were
scattered like sheep among the gorges of their native hills; but Petko
and Giuana Borronow were safe--at least for the time--with a kinsman,
among the higher heights of the Balkan range.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

TREATS OF ONE OF OUR GREAT IRONCLADS.

While these stirring events were taking place among the mountains, I had
made arrangements to quit the hospitals at Sistova and proceed with a
detachment of Russian troops to the front.

The evening before my departure I received a most unexpected and
interesting letter from my friend U. Biquitous, the effects of which
were so surprising, and I may add unparalleled, that I cannot forbear
quoting it.  After a few of those sage reflections in which Biquitous is
prone to indulge, he went on to say:--

  "You will be surprised to hear that there is some probability of my
  meeting you shortly, as I have become a special correspondent, like
  yourself.  My paper, however, is an illustrated one, an Irish weekly
  of some merit, named the _Evergreen Isle_, which will now, it is
  expected, advance to the front rank of such periodicals.  I purpose
  using the pencil as well as the pen, and, unlike you, and subject to
  no restrictions of any kind.  I have _carte-blanche_, in fact, to draw
  what I like, write what I please, go where I feel inclined, stay as
  long as I may, and quit when I must.  Veracity is no object.  I am
  told to keep as many servants and as large a retinue as I find
  convenient, and to spare no expense.  For the duties of this situation
  I am to receive no salary, but am at liberty to pay my own expenses.
  The honour of the thing is deemed more than sufficient compensation.

  "In virtue of this appointment I went recently to see and take notes
  of Her Majesty's famous ironclad turret-ship, the _Thunderer_.
  Knowing how much you are interested in the navy of England, I will
  relate a little of what I saw, premising, how ever, that although
  strict veracity is not required of me, I am, as you know, a man of
  principle, and therefore impose it on myself, so that whatever I say
  in this letter in regard to this splendid man-of-war may be relied on
  as absolutely true.

  "Well, then, the gallant captain of the _Thunderer_, who is said to be
  one of the best disciplinarians in the service, and to have done many
  a deed of daring in the course of his adventurous career, received me
  very kindly.  He is every inch a sailor, and as there are full
  seventy-three inches of him, I may be excused for styling him a
  splendid specimen.  In consequence of my being a friend of a friend of
  his, the captain invited me to spend several days on board.  During my
  stay I inhabited the captain's `fighting cabin,'--and this, by the
  way, reminds me that I was introduced to a young lieutenant on board,
  named Firebrand, who says he met you not long ago at Portsmouth, and
  mortally offended your mother by talking to her about the
  _Thunderer's_ crinoline!  The `fighting cabin' is so styled because it
  may be inhabited in safety while the ship is in action, being within
  the ship's tremendous armour plating.  In times of peace the captain
  occupies a large handsome cabin on the deck, which, although made of
  iron capable of resisting winds and waves, and beautifully furnished,
  is nevertheless liable to be swept bodily into the sea if hit by the
  giant shot of modern days.  A corresponding cabin on the port side of
  the ship constitutes the ward-room.  This also might be blown to
  atoms, with the officers and all their belongings, if a shell were to
  drop into it.  But the officers also have places of refuge below while
  in action.

  "A large proportion of what meets the eye above the water-line of this
  ironclad, and looks solid enough, is of this comparatively flimsy
  build; not meant to resist shot or shell; willing, as it were, to be
  blown away, if the enemy can manage it, though proof against
  rifle-bullets.  There is a huge central erection, styled the `flying'
  or `hurricane' deck, from which enormous davits project with several
  boats pendent therefrom.  Out of this flying structure rise the great
  iron mast--with a staircase inside leading to the `top'--and the two
  smoke-funnels of the engines.  In the heart of it rises `the fighting
  tower,' an armoured core, as it were, from which the captain and
  officers may survey the aspect of affairs while fighting, steer, and,
  by means of electricity, etcetera, work the monster guns of the ship.
  If all the flimsy work about the vessel were blown into the sea, her
  vitality would not be affected, though her aspect would indeed be
  mightily changed for the worse, but the _Thunderer_ in her entirety,
  with her low-armoured hull, her central fighting-tower, her
  invulnerable turrets with their two 35-ton and two 38-ton guns, and
  all her armament and men, would still be there, as able and ready for
  action as ever.

  "Very simply yet very tastefully arranged did the captain's fighting
  cabin seem to me as I lay down on its narrow but comfortable bed, the
  first night of my visit, and looked around me.  Besides a commodious
  little chest of drawers, there were on one wall telescopes, swords,
  and naval caps; on another a compact library.  Above my head,
  stretching diagonally across the bed, was an object which caused me no
  little surprise and much speculation.  In appearance it resembled a
  giant flute with finger holes that no man of mortal mould could have
  covered.  Not till next morning did I discover that this tube was part
  of a system of air-distributing pipes, supplied by fanners worked by
  steam, whereby fresh air is driven to every part of the vessel.

  "`So,' said I to myself, turning to the prettily-painted wall at my
  side, and giving it a slight tap, `the proverbial two-inch plank
  between me and death is here increased to somewhere about thirty
  inches.'

  "In this soliloquy I referred to the _Thunderer's_ armour-plates, of
  from ten to twelve inches thick, which are affixed to a timber backing
  of eighteen inches in two layers.  With such a backing of solid
  comfort between me and `death,' I felt soothed, and dropped asleep.

  "It was Saturday night.  On Sunday morning I was awakened by a rushing
  of water so furious that I fancied the sea must have proved more than
  a match for the 12-inch armour and 18-inch backing; but a moment or
  two of attentive reflection relieved me.  Your friend Firebrand's
  voice was audible.  I listened.  He muttered something, and yawned
  vociferously, then muttered again--`Splend--propns--a--yi--a--ou!'

  "`Splendid proportions!' he resumed again, after a pause, during which
  the rush of water became more alarming, sundry gasps and much hard
  breathing being mingled with it,--`Mag-nificent,' continued Firebrand
  in the low calm tone of a contemplative connoisseur; `couldn't have
  believed it if I hadn't seen it.  Quite Herculean!'

  "From all this I came gradually to understand that some of the
  officers were performing their morning ablutions with sponge and
  towel, while Firebrand was looking languidly over the edge of his
  hammock, indulging in a critical commentary.

  "Just then I was surprised to hear a muffled thunderous bang!  It was
  the big drum, and, next moment, the ship's band announced itself with
  a single bar, excellently played, of `God Save the Queen.'

  "Every Sunday, I found, was begun by a careful and minute inspection
  of the crew and ship.  After breakfast the captain, followed by all
  his chief officers, went through every hole and corner of the mighty
  iron fabric.  I followed in his wake.  At first the thought did not
  occur to me, but after all was over it struck me that this act was
  somewhat appropriate to the day.  The great _Thunderer_ had, as it
  were, gone into a condition of introspection.

  "It was a species of self-examination on the part of the great
  war-ship, through the medium of its mind--the captain.  Here was the
  father of a tremendously large family going the rounds on Sunday
  morning to observe whether his moral precepts and personal example
  during the week had been attended with appropriate results--to see
  that his `boys' were neat and clean, and ready for church, and that
  they had arranged their rooms before breakfast.

  "First of all, the men were mustered (by bugle) on the upper deck,--
  marines on one side, blue-jackets on the other.  Then we walked slowly
  along the front ranks and down the rear, with critical eyes.  I
  observed a crooked collar; the captain observed it too, and put it
  straight: I saw an ill-put-on belt; the captain also saw it, pointed
  and referred to it in an undertone.  A hole in a pair of trousers I
  did not observe, but the captain saw it, and commented on it in a
  somewhat severer manner.  Nothing was passed over.  Every brawny,
  powerful, broad-shouldered blue-jacket there was, in nautical
  phraseology, overhauled from stem to stern.  A comment here, a word of
  approval there, or a quiet reprimand, was all that passed, but, being
  uttered to the attentive ears of the responsible officers, this was
  sufficient.  After inspection, the men were dismissed, and the captain
  with his following descended to the interior of the ship.  It would
  take reams of paper, my dear Jeffry, to refer to all that was said and
  done.  I must give you but a brief outline.  We went along the sides
  of the vessel, where the arms were ranged, and any speck of rust or
  appearance of careless treatment of the polished and glittering
  weapons was noted, and the responsible officer called then and there
  to account.  So was it in every department.  The _Thunderer_ lies low,
  as I have said; much of her is below water, therefore light is scarce
  and valuable.  During our perambulation we came to some machinery and
  bulkheads, etcetera, which were dingy in colour.  `Paint them white,'
  said the captain to the officer of each department; `I don't point out
  details, but use as much white paint as you can.  It makes the ship
  look light and cheerful.'  Every order given was emphatic yet
  considerate; given to the officer in whose department the hitch
  occurred, and retailed by him to subordinates who knew well that they
  would come to grief if they did not make a note of it.  Many of the
  `departments' were so well managed that no fault at all could be
  found, and it was evident that the captain, in such cases, found a
  pleasure in `giving honour to whom honour was due.'

  "`Some men,' said Firebrand, who chanced to be close to me, and to
  whom I commented on the advantage of thorough obedience, `some men,
  however, carry this quality a little too far.  I knew of a man once,
  named Billy Ewart, who prided himself greatly on the care with which
  he fulfilled every part of his duty, so that it was impossible for the
  strictest disciplinarian to find fault with him.  He had charge of the
  main deck.  One day the Admiral inspected the ship, and took occasion
  to praise Billy Ewart for cleaning so well the main deck and
  everything connected with it.  "The only dirty things I see," he said,
  pointing to a hen-coop, "are the legs of your geese."  This was, of
  course, a joke, but it preyed on Billy's mind, and at next inspection
  he had the geese whitewashed and their legs and bills blackleaded.
  Poor Billy had no peace after that; even at the theatres, when he
  chanced to be observed there by his mates, one would call to another,
  "I say, Jack, who whitewashed the geese!"'

  "As Firebrand concluded, we had completed the inspection of the main
  deck, and descended to the lower deck, where the men lived and messed,
  and where a clean and trim blue-jacket--`cook of the mess' for the
  day--stood at the head of each table.  The tables and cans and tins
  and platters and men were required to be as clean and bright as a new
  pin.  Then on we went to the berth of the warrant-officers, and after
  that down still lower to the engine-room.  There the chief engineer
  came to the front and became responsible for the mighty cranks and
  gigantic cylinders and awe-inspiring beams, and complicated mazes of
  machinery, which raised him, in my mind, to little short of a
  demigod--for you must know that I, like yourself, am full of
  admiration and ignorance in regard to engineering forces.  Next we
  went to the lowest depths of all, among the boilers, which appeared to
  me like an avenue--a positive street, sir--in Pandemonium.  It was
  here that the tremendous explosion occurred in July 1876, when upwards
  of forty men were killed and many wounded, the captain himself (who
  was in the engine-room at the time) having narrowly escaped
  suffocation.  Thereafter, the magazines of shot and shell were
  visited, and, in short, every hole and corner of the ship, and thus in
  an hour or so it was ascertained that the Nelsonian demand, and
  England's expectation, had been fulfilled,--`every man' had done `his
  duty,' and the great ironclad was pronounced to be in a healthy,
  Sabbatic state of mind and body.

  "In this satisfactory frame we finally went to the fore part of the
  ship, where we found the crew assembled, and where, standing at the
  capstan, the captain read the Church of England service, the responses
  being effectively rendered by the stalwart crew.  In regard to this
  service I will only remark that I observed the introduction of a
  prayer which was entirely new to me, namely, that for the blessing of
  God on the ship, its crew, its duties, and its destination, to which I
  could and did, with all heartiness, respond `Amen,' because as long as
  God's blessing rests on the _Thunderer_ she will not be sent out to do
  battle in an unrighteous cause.

  "Next morning I had an opportunity of witnessing the big-gun turret
  drill.

  "It was an imposing spectacle, a fine display of the power of mind
  over matter.  Force, might, weight, appeared to have attained their
  culminating exemplification here, and yet the captain said to me that
  his 35-ton and 38-ton guns are mere pistols to the things which are
  being prepared for vessels of our navy yet to come.

  "My dear fellow, do you know what a 38-ton gun means?  Have you ever
  seen one?  Can you appreciate the fact that its weight is equal to
  thirty-eight carts of coals?  Did you ever see the powder with which
  it is fed?  One grain of it was given to me as a great favour, by the
  chief gunner's mate--I think that is his correct title, but am not
  quite sure.  He presented it in a cardboard box.  I now send you its
  portrait."

  [_Facsimile of a grain of powder for the 38-ton guns of the
  Thunderer--actual size_.]

  "Here it is, as large as life--really so, without a touch of
  exaggeration.  I have measured it carefully with a tape foot-rule, and
  I find the dimensions to be five inches and a quarter in
  circumference.

  "It is a solid cube of gunpowder.  The cartridge which holds this
  powder is a pillow, an absolute bolster, of some three feet in length
  and twelve inches in diameter.  It had need be, for the shell which it
  is meant to propel is the size of a small boy and the weight of an
  average ox, namely 814 lbs.  The length of each 38-ton gun is nineteen
  feet, and its range about 6000 yards.  Just try to imagine an ox being
  propelled through space, between three and four miles, at a rate which
  I don't recollect, and which doesn't signify.  Try also to remember
  that each gun costs between 2000 pounds and 3000 pounds, and that,
  every time a turret lets fly a shot from one of her guns, the expense
  is 12 pounds, 10 shillings.  The 80-ton guns which are to supersede
  these will, it is said, cost upwards of 10,000 pounds each.  This will
  enable you to form some idea of England's `greatness.'

  "The drill and working of these guns is magnificent.  Nearly
  everything in the fore-turret is worked by steam and hydraulic power,
  so that comparatively few men are required to move the iron monsters.
  Let me ask you to imagine the men at their stations.  Some are inside
  the turret, and as guns and turret move in concert the men inside move
  with them.  Those outside the turret stand at its base, and are
  therefore below the iron deck and protected by the iron sides of the
  ship.  The insiders revolve, aim, and fire the gun; the outsiders
  load.  The first lieutenant, standing at the base of the tower, close
  to the hole by which it is entered, so that he may be heard by both
  out and insiders, shouts, `Close up,' in the voice of a Stentor.  At
  this some men grasp levers, others stand by wheels which let on
  respectively hydraulic power and steam.  The captain of the tower,
  seated on an elevated position, puts his head through a man-hole in
  the roof of the turret, which hole is covered with a bullet-proof iron
  hood, having a narrow opening in front.  He surveys the supposed
  enemy, and his duty is to revolve the tower, take aim, and let go the
  firing machinery, i.e. pull the trigger.  The outsiders stand by the
  locking bolt, levers, shot-racks, etcetera.  Then, in the attitude of
  ready-for-action, all become motionless attentive statues--a regular
  _tableau-vivant_.

  "Stentor again shouts, `Cast loose.'  To my ignorant eye energetic
  confusion ensues.  The captain of the turret is causing it to revolve
  this way and that, with its crew and guns, by a mere touch of his
  finger.  Lever and wheel-men do their duty; the guns are run in (or
  out when required) with the ease of pop-guns, till certain marks on
  carriages and slides correspond; then they are laid, firing-gear is
  cleared and made ready, while the outsiders take out the tompion, open
  the port and scuttle of the gun about to be loaded, bring forward a
  bolster of powder (or a representative mass of wood), and place a
  giant shot on a `trolly,' which is just a little railway-carriage to
  convey the shot on rails from its rack to the gun.  Meanwhile the
  captain of the turret gives the order, `Starboard (or port) loading
  position,' turns the turret until the gun is opposite its
  `loading-hole,' and then depresses its muzzle to the same point, jams
  it against the hole, and the turret is `locked.'

  "`Sponge and load,' is now given--but not by Stentor.  The forces at
  work are too great in some cases to be left to the uncertain human
  voice.  A piece of mechanism, called a `tell-tale,' communicates with
  infallible certainty that the monster is quite ready to feed!  A
  hydraulic ramrod thereupon wets his whistle with a sponge, on the end
  of which is a small reservoir of water.  The monster is temperate.
  This withdrawn, a wad is placed on the end of the ramrod.  Three men
  shove a bolster of powder into the gun's mouth.  The huge shot is then
  hydraulically lifted to the muzzle.  No mortal man could move that
  shot a hair's-breadth in the right direction, but the hydraulic ram is
  brought to bear, and shoves the delicious _morceau_ not _down_ but
  _up_ his throat with an ease that would be absurd if it were not
  tremendous.  The tell-tale now intimates to the insiders, `Gun
  loaded.'  The captain of the turret gives the order, `Run out.'
  Hydraulic at work again.  In a few seconds the gun muzzle is raised,
  and projects through its port-hole.  When the object and distance are
  named, the captain of the turret takes aim, and then follows, in more
  or less rapid succession, `Elevate,' `Depress,' `Extreme elevation,'
  or the reverse, `Ready!'--`Fire!' when the _Thunderer_ is shaken to
  her centre, and twelve pounds ten shillings sterling go groaning
  uselessly into the deep, or crashing terrifically through the
  armour-plates of an unfortunate enemy.

  "My dear fellow, this gives you but a faint outline of it, but time
  and paper would fail me if I were to tell in detail of the mode by
  which all this can be done by the captain of the _Thunderer_ himself,
  by means of speaking-tubes and electricity and a `director,' so that
  he can, while standing in the fighting tower, aim, point, and fire, as
  if with his own hand, guns which he cannot see, and which are forty
  feet or so distant from him.  Would that I could relate to you a tithe
  of what I have seen!--the day, for instance, when the blue-jackets, to
  the number of one hundred and fifty, had a field-day on shore, and
  went through infantry drill--skirmishing and all--as well, to my
  unpractised eye, as if they had been regular `boiled lobsters,' to say
  nothing of their manoeuvres with the Gatling gun.  This latter weapon,
  perhaps you don't know, is simply a bundle of gigantic muskets which
  load and fire themselves by the mere turning of a handle--a martial
  barrel-organ, in short, which sends a continuous shower of balls in
  the face of an advancing or on the back of a retreating foe.  The
  greater involves the less.  No one can deny that, and it is my opinion
  that in the British navy the sailor now includes the soldier.  He is,
  as it were, a bluejacket and a boiled lobster rolled into one
  tremendous sausage--a sausage so tough that would be uncommonly
  difficult for any one, in Yankee phrase, to `chaw him up.'

  "Then there is the Whitehead torpedo.

  "`A thing of beauty,' says the poet, `is a joy for ever.'  The poet
  who said it was an--no, I won't go that length, but it is clear that
  he had not seen a Whitehead torpedo.  That delicate instrument is
  indeed a thing of beauty, for it is elegantly formed of polished
  steel, but when it happens to stick its head into a ship's stern, it
  is not a `joy' even for a moment, and it effectually stops, for ever,
  all consideration of its qualities by those who chance to feel them.
  It is shaped like a fish, and has a tail.  Its motive power is in its
  tail, which is a screw propeller.  It has lungs, consisting of a tank
  for holding compressed air.  It has a stomach, composed of a pair of
  pneumatic engines which drive it through the water.  Its body is
  fourteen feet long, more or less.  Its head contains an explosive
  charge of 110 pounds of wet gun-cotton, with a dry disc of the same in
  its heart.  It goes off by concussion, and could sink our largest
  ironclad--there is no doubt whatever about that.  Its cost is between
  four and five hundred pounds sterling.  One of the peculiarities of
  this celebrated torpedo is, that it can be regulated so as to travel
  at a given depth below water.  This is not so much to conceal its
  course, which is more or less revealed by the air-bubbles of its
  atmospheric engine, as to cause it to hit the enemy ten or twelve feet
  below her waterline.  What the effect of this new war-monster shall be
  is at present in the womb of futurity.  I hope sincerely that the
  world may suffer no greater loss from it than its cost.

  "By the way, I must not forget to tell you that I have grown at least
  an inch since I saw you last, in consequence of having been mistaken
  for the captain of the _Thunderer_!  That the mistake was made by a
  pretty, innocent, sweet, ignorant young girl, with intensely blue
  eyes, does not abate my vanity one jot.  That such a mistake should be
  made by _anybody_ was complimentary.  It happened thus:--I was seated
  alone in the captain's cabin, writing for the _Evergreen Isle_, when a
  party of ladies and gentlemen passed the door and looked in.  They
  were being shown over the ship.  `That,' said the blue-jacket who
  conducted them, `is the captain's cabin.'  `And is that,' whispered
  blue-eyes, in the sweetest of voices, `the captain?'  My heart
  stopped!  U. Biquitous the captain of the _Thunderer_!  I felt
  indignant when blue-jacket replied, with a contemptuous growl--`No,
  miss, 'taint.'  They passed on, but I could not rest.  I rose and
  followed blue-eyes about the ship like a loving dog, at a respectful
  distance.  I tried to find out her name, but failed--her address, but
  failed again.  Then they left, and she vanished from my sight--for
  ever.

  "But enough of this.  Adieu, my dear Jeffry, till we meet.--Yours
  affectionately, U.B.

  "P.S.--I mentioned you to the captain as a friend of mine, and an
  enthusiastic torpedoist.  Be sure you call on him if you should ever
  find yourself in the neighbourhood of the mighty _Thunderer_."



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

DESCRIBES A STIRRING FIGHT.

It was late when I folded this letter, about the surprising effects of
which I have yet to speak.

Having been very much overwrought in the hospitals that day, I flung
myself on my bed and fell into a sound sleep, having previously
cautioned my assistant, who occupied a couch opposite mine, not to
disturb me except in a case of necessity.

It could not have been long afterwards when I was awakened by him
violently, and told that a telegram had just arrived summoning me home!
I sprang up and read it anxiously.  There was no explanation.  The
telegram was simple but urgent.  My mother, my sister, Nicholas,
illness, death, disaster of some sort, filled my mind as I huddled on my
clothes and made hurried preparations to obey the summons.  Of course no
inquiries could be made.  The telegram was peremptory.  I crushed a few
things into a portmanteau, and, obtaining permission, left the hospital
without a moment's delay.

The distance to the coast was considerable, but I had ample means, and
found no difficulties in the way.  It is always so in this life--at
least in regard to ordinary things--when one possesses unlimited means.

Now I must pause at this point, and beg the reader to bear with me while
I relate a few things that may appear at first sight overdrawn.  Let
judgment be suspended until all has been told.

There was no difficulty whatever, I repeat, in reaching Varna.  From
thence to Constantinople was merely a matter of a few hours' in an
ordinary steamer.  My personal acquaintance with several European
ambassadors enabled me to pass the lines and travel in the enemy's
country without obstruction or delay.  My position as occasional
war-correspondent of the _Scottish Bawbee_ would have procured me
interviews with many celebrities, but anxiety prevented my taking
advantage of this.

In process of time I arrived at Besika Bay, and here I found the British
fleet at anchor.  Of course I had been aware of its presence there, and
felt some pleasure in contemplating a visit to some of the ships, in
several of which I had friends.  It was with great surprise that I found
the _Thunderer_ among the war-ships assembled in the Bay.  I had never
heard of her having left England, though I had been told that her
sister-ship the _Devastation_ was at Besika.

Remembering the injunction of my friend Biquitous, I went on board the
_Thunderer_, and was hospitably received by the captain.  He had only
time, however, to shake hands and beg me to make myself at home.  There
was obviously something of importance about to happen, for great
activity prevailed among officers and men.  It seemed to my untutored
eye as if they were getting up steam and preparing for some sort of
expedition.  The captain did not invite me to accompany them;
nevertheless I went.  It was not long before the object of the
expedition was revealed.  A monster Russian ironclad, it was said, lay
somewhere "outside."  We were sent to observe her.  In the evening we
sighted her.  There was another Russian war-ship--a frigate--close to
her.  The ironclad was similar to ourselves: a long low hull--a couple
of turrets with a central "flying" structure or "hurricane-deck."  We
made straight towards her.  The bugle sounded and the crew was called to
quarters.

"My dear sir," said I to the captain, "has war been declared between
England and Russia?"

The captain made no reply.  On repeating the question anxiously he
merely said--

"Never mind!"

I was surprised, almost hurt, and greatly perplexed, for the captain was
noted for politeness and urbanity, but of course I retired at once.

Next moment I saw a puff of smoke burst from the side of the Russian
ironclad, and a shot leaped towards us.  Its size was such that we could
trace it from the muzzle of the gun.  Describing, as I thought (for
strange is the power of thought), a rather high trajectory, it passed
over us and plunged into the sea with a swish that sent hundreds of tons
of water like an inverted cascade into the air.  A gush of indignation
filled my breast.  That the warship of a nation with which we were at
peace should fire at us without provocation was more than I could
endure.

"Are you going to stand _that_, captain?"  I asked, with an
uncontrollable gush of indignation at the Russian's audacity.

The captain gave one sardonic laugh, and a shrug of his shoulders, but
vouchsafed no reply.

Hearing one of the officers give some order about Whitehead torpedoes, I
ran to the room where these monsters were kept.  I was just in time to
see one lifted on to a species of carriage and wheeled to the side of
the ship.  Here a powerful air-pump was set to work, and the torpedo's
lungs were filled almost to the bursting point.  Its deadly head--
brought from the magazine--was at the same time attached to its body.
Another instant and a port was thrown open in the _Thunderer's_ side,
through which the Whitehead was launched.  It went with a sluggish
plunge into the sea.  While it was in the act of passing out a trigger
was touched which set the pneumatic engines agoing.  The
screw-propelling tail twirled, and the monster, descending ten feet
below the surface, sped on its mission.  I rushed on deck.  The
air-bubbles showed me that the engine of destruction had been aimed at
the Russian frigate.  In a few seconds it had closed with it.  I could
see that there was terrible consternation on board.  Next moment a
fountain of foam shot from the deep and partially obscured the frigate.
I saw men leaping overboard and spars falling for a few moments, then
the frigate lurched heavily to port and went head foremost to the
bottom.

I stood gazing in a species of horrified abstraction, from which I was
recalled by some of our men running to the side of the vessel.  They
were about to lower the steam-launch.  It was to be sent out as a
torpedo-boat, and young Firebrand, whom I now observed for the first
time, took command.

Just then a torpedo-boat was seen to quit the side of the Russian.  We
were ready for her.  Our largest Gatling gun had been hoisted to that
platform on our mast which is styled the "top."

When within range this weapon commenced firing.  It was absolutely
horrible.  One man turned a handle at the breech, another kept supplying
the self-acting cartridge-box.  As the handle was turned the cartridges
dropped into their places and exploded.  Six or nine tubes, I forget
which, were thus made to rain bullets without intermission.  They fell
on the screen of the advancing torpedo-boat like hail, but quite
harmlessly.  Then I heard a voice within the fore-turret give a command
which sounded like "Extreme depression."  It was quickly followed by
"Fire!" and the _Thunderer_ quivered from keel to truck under the mighty
explosion.  The great 38-ton gun had been splendidly served, for the
monster ball hit the boat amidships and crushed the bow under water, at
the same instant the stern leaped into the air, and she went down with a
dive like a Greenland whale.

Hearty cheers burst from the men in the "top."  These were echoed with a
muffled sound from the men shut up in the armoured hull below--for it
must be remembered that not a soul had been visible all this time on the
_Thunderer_ except the men in the "top" and those who had been sent to
lower the steam-launch.

Apparently rendered savage by this event, the Russians let fly a volley
from their four great-guns, but without serious result.  They had been
admirably pointed, however, for the two outer shots hit our turrets,
deeply indented them, and glanced off, while the inner shots went slap
through the flying structure as if it had been made of pasteboard,
leaving clean-cut holes, which, of course, only made the place more
airy.

Night had now fallen.  The danger of attack by torpedo-boats having been
recognised, both ironclads had let down their crinolines.  But the
captain of the _Thunderer_ had resolved on a--a--what shall I call it?--
a "dodge," which would probably deceive the enemy.  He had an electric
light on board.  Every one knows nowadays that this is an intense light,
which, being thrown on a given point, illuminates it with a glare equal,
almost, to that of day.  After dark the captain shot this light from his
mast-head straight at the enemy, and in the full glare of it our
steam-launch or torpedo-boat was sent out!

I was amazed beyond measure.  Forgetting myself for a moment, I
exclaimed, "Captain, you are mad!"

As might have been expected, the captain made no reply.

The steam-launch carried two torpedoes, each containing 100 pounds of
powder.

"Be careful to sheer off quickly after exploding," said the captain to
Firebrand quietly.

Firebrand replied, "Yes, sir," respectfully, but I heard him distinctly
add, in a low tone, to himself, "I'll run slap into her and blow her to
atoms as well as myself.  _Somebody_ must fail in every action.  It's a
forlorn hope at sea, that's all.--Full steam!" he added aloud to the
engineer.

As the boat rushed away in the blaze of the electric light, the
captain's _ruse_ suddenly dawned on my mind.  The Russian at once saw
the boat, and, with naturally nervous haste, knowing the terrible nature
of such boats, made preparations to thwart her.  Close in the wake of
the boat the _Thunderer_ followed with the intent to run the Russian
down with her ram, which is a tremendous iron beak projecting, below
water, from her bow.  The "dodge" was to dazzle the enemy with the
electric light, and, while her attention was concentrated on the
torpedo-boat, to "ram" her!

"Steady!" said Firebrand, in a deep voice.

Something else was replied by somebody in a deeper voice.

The boat ploughed on its way like a furious hornet.

"Fire!" shouted the Russians.

Instantly, from turret, bulwark, and mast-head leaped livid flames of
fire, and the sea was torn up by bullets, while fearful spouts were here
and there raised by shots from the heavy guns.  Everything was
concentrated on the torpedo-boat.  It was obvious that the dazzling
light at the mast-head of the _Thunderer_ had blinded her adversary as
to her own movements.

"Let drive!"

I heard the order of the Russian captain as distinctly as if I had been
on board his own ship, and was somewhat surprised at its being given in
slang English.

The result was a rain of musketry, which rattled on the iron armour of
the launch's protecting screen as the sticks rattle on a kettle-drum.

"Ready!" said Firebrand, with suppressed intensity.

As the boat drew near the Russian small shot was tearing up the sea like
a wintry storm.  The order having been given, the torpedo-spars were
lowered, so that each torpedo sank ten feet under water.

"Fire!" yelled Firebrand.

Electricity was applied, both torpedoes exploded, and the launch sheered
off gallantly in cataracts of foam.

At the same moment the Russians observed us not ten yards distant,
coming stem on at full speed.  Her turret guns were concentrated and
fired; so were ours.  The crash was indescribably hideous, yet it was as
nothing compared with that which followed a few seconds later.  Our ram,
entering the Russian fairly amidships, cut her almost in two.  We backed
out instantly, intending to repeat the operation.  Well was it for us
that we did so.  We had just backed a few hundred yards astern, and
given the order to go ahead full steam, when the Russian's magazine
exploded.  Our charge had somehow fired it.  Instantly there was a
crashing roar as if heaven and earth had met in chaotic conflict.  The
air was darkened with bursting clouds of blackest smoke, in the midst of
which beams, guns, pistons, boilers, armour-plates, human limbs and
heads were seen hurling about like the debris of a wrecked universe.
Much of this came down upon our iron deck.  The clatter was appalling.
It was a supreme moment!  I was standing on the flying structure beside
one of the officers.  "Glorious!" he muttered, while a pleasant smile
played upon his lips.  Just then I chanced to look up, and saw one of
the Russian fore-turret 85-ton guns falling towards me.  It knocked me
off the flying structure, and I fell with an agonising yell on the deck
below.

"Hallo!" exclaimed a familiar voice, as a man stooped to raise me.

I looked up.  It was my hospital-assistant.  I had fallen out of bed!

"You seem to have had a night of it, sir--cheering and shouting to such
an extent that I thought of awaking you once or twice, but refrained
because of your strict orders to the contrary.  Not hurt, I hope?"

"So, then," I said, with a sigh of intense relief, as I proceeded to
dress, "the whole affair has been--A DREAM!"

"Ah!" thought I, on passing through the hospital for the last time
before quitting it, and gazing sadly on the ghastly rows of sick and
wounded, "well were it for this unfortunate world if war and all its
horrors were but the phantasmagoria of a similar dream."



CHAPTER TWENTY.

TREATS OF WAR AND SOME OF ITS "GLORIOUS" RESULTS.

In process of time I reached the front, and chanced to arrive on the
field of action at a somewhat critical moment.

Many skirmishes, and some of the more important actions of the war, had
been fought by that time--as I already knew too well from the hosts of
wounded men who had passed through my hands at Sistova; and now it was
my fate to witness another phase of the dreadful "game."

Everywhere as I traversed the land there was evidence of fierce combats
and of wanton destruction of property; burning villages, fields of
produce trodden in the earth, etcetera.  Still further on I encountered
long trains of wagons bearing supplies and ammunition to the front.  As
we advanced these were met by bullock-trains bearing wounded men to the
rear.  The weather had been bad.  The road was almost knee-deep in mud
and so cut up by traffic that pools occurred here and there, into which
wagons and horses and bullocks stumbled and were got out with the
greatest difficulty.  The furious lashing of exhausted and struggling
cattle was mingled with the curses and cries of brutal drivers, and the
heartrending groans of wounded soldiers, who, lying, in many cases with
undressed wounds, on the hard, springless, and jolting vehicles,
suffered excruciating agony.  Many of these, unable to endure their
sufferings, died, and thus the living and the dead were in some cases
jolted slowly along together.  The road on each side was lined with dead
animals and men--the latter lying in a state of apparent _rest_, which
called forth envious looks from the dying.

But a still sadder spectacle met my eye when, from another road which
joined this one, there came a stream of peasantry, old men, women, and
children, on foot and in country carts of all kinds, flying from the
raging warriors who desolated their villages, and seeking, they knew not
where--anywhere--for refuge.  Too often they sought in vain.  Many of
these people had been wounded--even the women and little ones--with
bullet, sword, and spear.  Some carried a few of their most cherished
household articles along with them.  Others were only too glad to have
got away with life.  Here an old man, who looked as if he had been a
soldier long before the warriors of to-day were born was gently
compelled by a terror-stricken young woman with a wounded neck to lay
his trembling old head on her shoulder as they sat on a little straw in
the bottom of a native cart.  He had reached that venerable period of
life when men can barely totter to their doors to enjoy the sunshine,
and when beholders regard them with irresistible feelings of tenderness
and reverence.  War had taught the old man how to stand erect once
more--though it was but a spasmodic effort--and his poor fingers were
clasped round the hilt of an old cavalry sabre, from which female hands
had failed to unclasp them.  There, in another cart, lay an old woman,
who had been bed-ridden and utterly helpless for many a year, but war
had wrought miracles for her.  It had taught her once again to use her
shrunken limbs, to tumble out of the bed to which she had been so long
accustomed, and where she had been so lovingly nursed, and to crawl in a
paroxysm of terror to the door, afraid lest she should be forgotten by
her children, and left to the tender mercies of Cossack or Bashi-Bazouk.
Needless fear, of course, for these children were only busy outside
with a few absolute necessaries, and would sooner have left their own
dead and mangled bodies behind than have forgotten "granny"!  Elsewhere
I saw a young woman, prone on her back in another cart, with the pallor
of death on her handsome face, and a tiny little head pressed tenderly
to her swelling breast.  It was easy to understand that war had taught
this young mother to cut short the period of quiet repose which is
deemed needful for woman in her circumstances.  Still another cart I
must mention, for it contained a singular group.  A young man, with a
powerfully-made frame, which must once have been robust, but was now
terribly reduced by the wasting fires of a deadly fever, was held
forcibly down by a middle-aged man, whose resemblance to him revealed
his fatherhood.  Two women helped the man, yet all three were barely
able to restrain the youth, who, in the fury of his delirium, gnashed
with his teeth, and struggled like a maniac.  I knew nothing about them,
but it was not difficult to read the history of one who had reached a
critical period in a fell disease, who had, perchance, fallen into a
long-desired and much-needed slumber that might have turned the scale in
his favour, when the hope of parents and the chances of life were
scattered suddenly by the ruthless trump of war.  War had taught him how
to throw off the sweet lethargy that had been stealing over him, and to
start once again on that weary road where he had been grappling in
imagination with the brain-created fiends who had persecuted him so
long, but who in reality were gentle spirits compared with the human
devils by whom he and his kindred were surrounded.

On this journey, too, I met many brethren of the medical profession,
who, urged by the double motive of acquiring surgical skill and
alleviating human woe, were pressing in the same direction.  Some had
been fortunate enough, like myself, to obtain horses, others, despising
difficulties, were pushing forward through the mud on foot.  I need
scarcely add that some of us turned aside from time to time, as
opportunity offered, to succour the unfortunates around us.

At last I reached the front, went to headquarters, presented my
credentials, and was permitted to attach myself to one of the regiments.
At once I made inquiries as to the whereabouts of Nicholas
Naranovitsch, and was so fortunate as to find him.  He was in the act of
mounting his horse as I reached his quarters.

It is impossible to describe the look of surprise and delight with which
he greeted me.

"My dear fellow!" said he, turning at once to his girths and stirrups
after the first hearty squeeze, "what breeze of good fortune has blown
you here?  Any news from home?"

"Yes, all well, and a message--by the way, I had almost forgot it,"
fumbling in my pocket, "for you."

"Almost forgot it!" echoed Nicholas, looking round with a smile and a
glance which was meant for one of withering rebuke.

"Here it is," I exclaimed, handing him a three-cornered note, which had
come in my mother's letter.  He seized it eagerly and thrust it into the
breast-pocket of his coat.

"Now look here, Jeff," he said, having seen to the trappings of his
steed, "you know what war is.  Great things are at stake.  I may not
delay even to chat with _you_.  But a few words will suffice.  Do you
know anything about your servant Lancey?"

"Nothing.  I would give anything to hear that the poor fellow was alive.
Have you--"

"Yes, I have seen him.  I chanced this very morning, while galloping
across country with an order from the General, to see him among the
camp-followers.  Why there I know not.  To search for him now would be
like looking for a needle in a haystack, but I observed that he was in
company with our Bulgarian friend the scout Dobri Petroff, who is so
well known that he can easily be found, and will probably be able to
lead you to him.  Now, only one word for myself: don't forget a message
to Bella--say--say--bah!  You English are such an undemonstrative set
that I don't like to put it in words, but--you ought to know what to
say, and when you've said it, just add, like a good fellow, that I would
have said a great deal more if I had had the saying of it myself.  D'you
understand?"

"All right," said I, with a laugh.  "We English _feel_, although we
don't demonstrate much, and can act when occasion requires it with as
much energy as Russians I'll say all you could wish, and some things,
mayhap, that you couldn't have said yourself.--But where are you going
in such haste?"

"To battle, Jeff," he replied, with one of those proud glances of the
eyes which must be somewhat akin to the expanded nostrils of the
warhorse when he scents the battle from afar.  "At least," he added, "to
convey orders which will have some bearing on what is about to follow.
The Turk is brave.  We find that he fights well."

"Ha!" said I quickly, "you find him a plucky fellow, and begin to
respect him?"

"Yes, truly, he is a worthy foe," returned Nicholas with animation.

"Just so," I rejoined, unable to repress a feeling of bitterness, "a
worthy foe simply because he possesses the courage of the bull-dog; a
_worthy_ foe, despite the fact that he burns, pillages, violates,
murders, destroys, and tortures in cold blood.  What if Bella were in
one of these Bulgarian villages when given over to the tender mercies of
a troop of Bashi-Bazouks?"

Nicholas had his left hand on the reins and resting on the pommel of his
saddle as I said this.  He turned and looked at me with a face almost
white with indignation.

"Jeff, how _can_ you suggest?  Bashi-Bazouks are devils--"

"Well, then," said I, interrupting, "let us suppose Cossacks, or some
other of your own irregulars instead--"

I stopped, for Nicholas had vaulted on his horse, and in another second
was flying at full speed over the plain.  Perhaps I was hard on him, but
after the miseries I witnessed that day I could not help trying to send
the truth _home_.

Time pressed now.  The regiment to which I was attached had received
orders to march.  I galloped off in search of it.  At first I had
thought of making a hurried search for Lancey or the scout, but gave up
the idea, well content to have heard that the former was alive.

The Turks at this time were advancing under Mahomet Ali Pasha on the
position occupied by the Russians on the Lom river.  As I joined my
regiment and reported myself, I heard distant cannonading on the left,
and observed troops moving off in all directions.  We soon got the order
to march, and, on going to the top of a small eminence, came in sight of
the field of action.

To my unaccustomed eyes the country appeared to be alive with confused
masses of moving men, from some of which masses there burst at intervals
the rolling smoke of rifle-firing.  Of course I knew that there was
order and arrangement, but the only order that impressed itself on me
was that of the Russian regiment at my side, as the men strode steadily
forward, with compressed lips and stern yet eager glances.

The Turkish troops had moved out and taken up a position on the face of
a hill under cover of some woods.  As battalion after battalion marched
away, I, for the first time, became impressed with the multitudes of men
who constitute an army, and, at the same time, with the feeling that
something like a pitched battle was about to be fought.  From the
elevated position on which we stood, I could see that numbers of Russian
cavalry were prowling about over the plain, as if watching the movements
of the enemy.  The intention of the Turks soon became evident, for they
suddenly swarmed out of the woods and advanced to the attack.  A Russian
battery on our right instantly opened on them.  This was replied to
vigorously by a Turkish battery opposite.  While these two turned their
attention on each other, the troops in the plain below came into action.
They swarmed over the numerous undulations, skirmished through the
scrub and the fields of corn and maize, attacked a village in a hollow,
and charged on various batteries and positions of strength,--sometimes
one side, sometimes the other, being successful.  The thunder of the
great guns increased, the tremendous rattle of small arms became
continuous, with now and again exceptionally strong bursts, when whole
battalions fired in volleys.  The smoke soon became so dense as partly
to obscure the vision.

At that moment a Turkish battalion was seen to approach the mound on
which we stood, with the evident intention of storming it.  At the same
time I observed a squadron of Russian cavalry trot smartly round the
skirt of a wood on our left and take up a position.  They were not fifty
yards from the spot where I stood.  I could even see the expression of
their faces, and I fancied that the figure and countenance of the
right-hand man of the troop were familiar to me.

"He's a fine-looking man, sir, is he not?" said a voice at my elbow.

I turned in amazement.  It was Dobri Petroff!  There was no room for
more than a squeeze of the hand at such a moment.

"That is our friend Andre Vanovitch, sir."

As he spoke I saw the captain of the troop fall from his horse.  A stray
ball had killed him, and this was the first thing that drew my attention
to the fact that bullets were whistling over our own heads now and then.

This happened at the very moment when a staff officer galloped up to the
troop with an order.  Seeing what had happened, this officer put himself
at the head of the troop and gave the command to advance.

I recognised the voice at once as that of Nicholas.  They swept past
close in front of us at full gallop, and I could see on the face of
Nicholas and on that of the stalwart Andre the same open, gladsome,
noble expression, suggestive of high chivalrous sentiment, and a desire
to do noble self-sacrificing deeds for fatherland.  My own heart bounded
within me as I looked at them, and I could not resist bursting into a
cheer, which was taken up and prolonged wildly by the troops around.

The squadron came upon the Turks unexpectedly, but they stood like true
men.  Courage, however, was of no avail.  The dragoons were heavy and
irresistible.  They cut right through the Turks; turned, charged again,
and scattered them like chaff.  I could perceive, in the midst of the
fray, the lithe forms of Nicholas and Andre laying about them with
tremendous impetuosity.

Personal valour is necessary, but it is not omnipotent nowadays.  When
the squadron returned, reduced almost to a skeleton, the Turks had
reformed, were largely reinforced, and came at us again with steady
determination.  At the same time reinforcements came pouring in on our
side, and I soon found that the position we occupied was deemed one of
considerable importance.

The Turks came on steadily, and now I learned, for the first time, the
power of modern weapons.  Our men were armed with breech-loaders, so
that no time was lost in loading.

Our commander acted on a principle which is said to be usually adopted
by General Skobeleff.  He reserved his fire until the Turks were within
a hundred yards, and then gave the order to commence.  The scene that
followed is indescribable.  Eight hundred men fell at once before the
withering blast of lead.  The firing was continuous.  No troops on earth
could have stood it.  The Turks were instantly shattered and repulsed.

When they had retired, and the smoke had partially cleared away, I saw
the plain covered with slaughtered men.  Some were prone and motionless
in death.  Some were moving slightly.  Others were struggling, as if in
a delirium of agony, which it was frightful to witness.  A few had life
enough to rise, stagger forward several paces, fall and rise again to
repeat the process until death ensued.

I stood fascinated.

"God help us!"  I exclaimed aloud; "these murdered hundreds represent
thousands of bleeding hearts AT HOME, and yet the maniacs continue to
kill each other as if human lives were of no account and human souls not
worth a thought."

"Pardon me, sir," said a voice at my side, "the maniacs who cause all
this are not here, but at the place you mentioned just now--_at home_.
These fine fellows are their unhappy tools, who, with untold depths of
enthusiasm and kindliness in their nature, and a good deal of devilment
too, are compelled, willing or not willing, to fight for what is called
`religion and country'!"

I found that the speaker was the special correspondent of a Scotch
newspaper.  As brother "specials" we fraternised immediately; but we had
scarcely had time to exchange a few rapid queries and replies when our
men were ordered to advance to the attack.

Very soon the ambulance corps was busily employed, and I had to devote
my entire energies to the wounded who came pouring in.

Oh! it was pitiful to see the hundreds of strong and stalwart youths,
who might have been the glory of succeeding generations, brought in with
frames shattered beyond recovery, with brave lip compressed to check the
rising cry of agony, with eyes glaring in the terrible conflict between
lusty manhood and sudden death, or, with nerves utterly unstrung, giving
vent to the shrieks of the maniac.

Several surgeons and students among us had extemporised an hospital in
the shelter of a cliff.

One of the students, whose mind was in advance of his years and whose
spirit seemed roused, came suddenly to me, during a brief interval in
our labours.

"Our rulers are fools, or worse," said he, with indignation; "what is
the use of diplomacy if it cannot prevent _this_?"

I remonstrated with the youth on the impropriety of his language, but my
new friend the "special" broke in with--

"Ah! young man, you have not yet seen enough of life to understand it.
A man is a machine which regulates itself, more or less, for its own
interests.  A household does the same; a town does likewise; so does a
state.  No doubt a man sometimes fights with himself--so, too,
households are addicted to disagreement, and towns are often afflicted
with difference of opinion, while a state is not unacquainted with
internal commotions, but, in each and all of these cases, reason and
common sense prevent the people from degenerating into pure savages.  It
is reserved for governments alone, when they come into collision with
each other, to do that.  _Peoples_ don't desire war, my good sir, it is
government--in other words, the non-combatant gentlemen at the head of
the world's affairs--who thirst for blood, backed up, of course, by such
of the people as are more or less interested in the breaking out of war.
In all ordinary matters humanity is satisfied to submit its cases to
courts of law, to umpires, to individual or collective arbitrators.  If
things don't go right, it is usually understood among Christian men and
women that a little touch of forbearance here, of self-sacrifice there,
of pocketing of slight affronts elsewhere, will bring things into the
best possible condition, and, where these plans won't do,--as in the
case of drunkards, maniacs, and villains,--they understand and quietly
practise the power of _overwhelming constraint_.  If the Turks had been
overwhelmingly constrained by Europe during the late Conference at
Constantinople, we should have had no war."

I never met with any nation so fond of argument as the Scotch!
Surrounded as we were by dead and dying men, the "special" and the
student (who was also Scotch) sat down and lighted their pipes to have
it out.  To do them justice, there was a lull at the time in the arrival
of wounded men.

"But," said the student, in that tone which is so well known to the
argumentative, "is not overwhelming constraint tyranny?"

"My friend," replied the special, lighting his pipe at the other's
cigar, "if a blackguard stole a poor widow's purse, and six policemen
took him up, compelled him to restore it, and put him in limbo, would
you call that tyranny?"

"Of course not."

"But it would be overwhelming constraint, would it not?"

"Well--ah!--yes--I see--but--"

"Of course there's a _but_.  Quite right.  That is the word by which it
is conveniently stated that the mind is not yet clear.  Far be it from
me to coerce you.  I would, if I could, clear you.  Listen, then:--

"Has not the Turk treated his Christian subjects in a way that can only
be expressed as diabolical?"

"Unquestionably.  Every one admits that: but he promises to govern them
better in future."

"If a thief," said the special, "were to promise amendment and
restoration of stolen property, would you let him off with the stolen
property in his pocket?"

"Certainly not," answered the student.

"Well, then, the Turk has stolen the _liberty_ of his Christian
subjects--to say nothing of his own subjects--and he only _promises_ to
give it back.  He promised that more than twenty years ago, but has not
done it yet.  Ought he not to have been overwhelmingly constrained by
the European Conference to fulfil his promises?  And if he had been thus
constrained, would not war have been avoided?"

"But perhaps he would have resisted," said the student.

"No, the Turk is not mad, therefore he would not have resisted united
Europe," returned the special; "and, even suppose that he had, his
resistance could not have produced such a frightful war as this, for
Europe would have crushed him _at once_, with comparatively little
bloodshed.  As it is, we have left the Muscovite (with good or bad
intentions, I know not which) to tackle him alone,--and the result is
before you.  If the Russian is upright in his intentions we have treated
him shabbily, if he is false we have given him a splendid opportunity to
carry out his plans.  I pronounce no opinion on Russia; the sin of this
war lies with Europe; certainly not with England, for, whether she
behaved rightly or wrongly, she was not omnipotent at the Conference.
Perhaps I should say that the sin lies with the members of that
Conference who misrepresented Europe, and allowed a notorious criminal
to escape."

"There are various opinions on that subject," said the student.

"There are various opinions on every subject," replied the special, "but
that is no reason why men and women should be content to have _no_
opinion at all, or a bigoted one--which latter means an opinion founded
largely on feeling, and formed before both sides of a question have been
considered."

An ambulance-wagon drove up at this moment.  The student and I,
forgetting the subject of discussion, hastened with our brethren to
attend to the wretched beings who were laid shattered, bleeding, and
dying on the ground before us, while the special, seeing that we had run
short of water, caught up a couple of buckets and ran to a neighbouring
spring.  It chanced that the ground between our place of shelter and the
spring was at that time swept by the fire of contending troops, but in
spite of this the special coolly filled his buckets and brought them
in--happily without being injured.

The battle raged during the whole of that day all over the plain.  Being
taken up almost exclusively with our duties, we surgeons had little time
to observe the progress of the fight; nevertheless, mindful of my
character as a reporter, I took advantage of an occasional moment of
relaxation to jot down a few notes.

There was a hill not far from that on which we stood which was held by a
Russian regiment.  Around it the fight appeared to rage very fiercely.
The roar of artillery and the incessant rattle of small arms had by this
time gathered in force until it resembled a storm.  Hundreds of white
puffs all over the field told of death from shots which were too far off
to be heard, while the belching of a battery on the hill just mentioned
caused the very earth to tremble.

The Turks at this point executed a flank movement, and attempted to take
the hill by storm.  At the same time one of their batteries appeared on
the top of a ridge opposite, and began to play on the hill with terrible
precision.  To counteract this a Russian battery of three guns was
despatched.  I saw the horses come galloping in from the rear; one of
the guns was limbered up, and off they went like the wind.  At that
moment a shell from the Turkish battery fell right under the gun, and,
exploding, blew it, with the men and horses, into the air.  The other
guns reached the hill in safety, wheeled into position, and, for a time,
checked the Turkish fire.  Nevertheless, undeterred by the withering
salvos, the Turks came on in powerful columns till they drew near to the
hotly contested point.

At the foot of it the Russians had dug trenches and thrown up
earth-works the night before.  I observed with surprise that, as the
attacking columns advanced, the Russian rifle-fire ceased, though the
battery continued to cut lanes in the living masses.  It occurred to me
that our men were reserving fire according to the Skobeleff plan.  In
this I was right.  When the Turks were within a hundred yards of the
trenches the defenders fired as one man.  The front ranks of the enemy
fell like corn before the scythe; those in rear charged with
irresistible impetuosity over their dead comrades.  But the Russians had
anticipated such an event.  They had placed mines in the ground, which,
when the Turks passed over them, were fired, and hundreds of men were
blown into the air.  This checked them.  For a time they recoiled and
were thrown into disorder.  At that moment a young officer rallied them
and charged again.  The trenches were entered and a hand-to-hand
conflict ensued.  With my field-glass I could see the fierce expressions
of the men as they drove their reeking bayonets right through their
enemies, and the appalling gasp and glare of eye in those whose mortal
career had been thus suddenly brought to a close.  Yells of fury,
shouts, curses, clubbed rifles, battered skulls, unearthly shrieks,
smoke and blood--who can imagine or describe such a scene!

The Russian soldier fights well.  His courage is equal to that of the
men of other nations, and his weight gives him the advantage over some,
but nothing can resist the power of overwhelming numbers.

Sitting on a height, and comfortably watching the battle through
telescopes, the Turkish generals quietly move the "men" on the bloody
board.  Hundreds of Turks have perished.  What matter? there are
thousands on thousands ready to follow.  Turkey must maintain her
"integrity."  Pashas must wallow in wealth.  Millions of peasants must
toil to accomplish these ends; if need be, they must die.  The need at
present is--to die.  "Push on more battalions to reinforce them" is the
order.  No doubt the hundreds who have fallen, and the thousands who
must yet fall, will leave hundreds of wives and thousands of children to
hopeless mourning; but what of that? they are only _canaille_, cared for
by nobody in particular, but God.  No doubt the country must suffer for
it.  We must pay for war.  We shall have an enormous national debt--that
can't be helped, and other countries have the same,--besides, we can
borrow from rich trusting nations, and repudiate our debts; our land
shall feel the drain of its best young blood for generations yet to
come, but time heals most sores; people will multiply as heretofore;
fate is unavoidable, and Allah is great!  Moreover, what does it all
matter to us so long as our integrity is maintained, our seraglios
remain intact, and our coffers are filled?  That hillock _must_ be
taken.  It is a priceless hillock.  Like other hillocks, no doubt, and
not very promising in an agricultural point of view, but still a
priceless hillock, which must be carried at any cost, for on our
obtaining it depends somehow (we can't say exactly how) the honour of
our name, the success of our arms, the weal of the Turkish empire.

And so another order is given; fresh troops are hurled into the
trenches, already filled with dead and dying; and the hillock is carried
by storm, swept over with fierce cries of "Allah!  Allah!" which mingle
strangely with Russian curses, and is then left behind and regarded with
as much indifference as if it were the most insignificant mass of earth
and stone in all Bulgaria!

Flying backwards, the beaten Russians come panting towards the hill on
which we stand, and rally, while our men advance, meet and stop the
enemy, charge and overthrow them, turn the tide of battle, retake the
hillock which has cost so much, and ultimately things remain _in statu
quo_ when the blessed shades of evening put an end to the frightful
scene--leaving nothing whatever accomplished on either side, except the
legitimate and ordinary end of most wars, namely--death and destruction!

I had just finished dressing the wounds of a soldier, at the end of this
terrible episode, when a touch on my shoulder caused me to look up.  It
was Dobri Petroff.

"Have you seen your servant Lancey?" he asked quickly.

"No.  I had intended to ask if you knew anything about him when the
beginning of this carnage drove him and everything else out of my mind.
Do you know where he is?"

"I saw him not five minutes since, looking wildly for you."

While Petroff was speaking, Lancey appeared, running towards me,
bloodstained, blackened with powder, and with a rifle on his shoulder.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

MORE OF THE RESULTS OF WAR.

I need not trouble the reader with an account of the meeting with my
faithful servant.  While we were still engaged in questioning each
other, I noticed that the countenance of our friend the scout wore an
anxious and almost impatient expression.

"Anything wrong, Dobri?"  I inquired.

"God knows!" he replied in a solemn tone, which impressed me much.  "A
rumour has come that the Circassians or the Bashi-Bazouks--I know not
which, but both are fiends and cowards--have been to Venilik, and--"

He stopped abruptly.

"But that village was in the hands of the Russians," I said, at once
understanding his anxiety.

"It may be so, but I go to see without delay," he replied, "and have
only stopped thus long to know if you will go with me.  These brutes
kill and wound women and children as well as men.  Perhaps your services
may--Will you go?"

He spoke so earnestly, and his face looked so deadly pale, that I felt
it impossible to refuse him.  I was much exhausted by the prolonged
labours of the day, but knew that I had reserve strength for an
emergency.

"Give me a few minutes," said I,--"just to get leave, you know.  I can't
go without leave."

The scout nodded.  In ten minutes I had returned.  Meanwhile, Lancey had
prepared my horse and his own.  Swallowing a can of water, I vaulted
into the saddle.  It was very dark, but Petroff knew every foot of the
country.  For several hours we rode at a smart gallop, and then, as day
was breaking, drew near to Venilik.  As we approached, I observed that
the bold countenance of the scout became almost pinched-looking from
anxiety.  Presently we observed smoke against the sky, and then saw that
the village had undoubtedly been burned.  I glanced at Petroff
nervously.  There was no longer a look of anxiety on his face, but a
dark vindictive frown.

He increased his pace to racing speed.  As we followed close at his
heels, I observed that he drew a knife from his belt, and with that as a
spur urged on his jaded steed.  At last we reached the outskirts of the
village, and dashed through.  Blackened beams, ruined houses, dead men
and women, met our horrified gaze on every side.

At the well-known turn of the road, where the bypath joined it, Dobri
vaulted from his horse, and let the animal go, while he ran towards his
dwelling.  We also dismounted and followed him.  Then a great and
terrible shout reached our ears.  When we came to the cottage we found
the scout standing motionless before his old home, with his hands
clasped tightly, and his eyes riveted to the spot with a glare of horror
that words cannot describe.

Before him all that had been his home was a heap of blackened ashes, but
in the midst of these ashes were seen protruding and charred bones.  It
did not require more than one glance to show that recognition of the
remains was impossible.  Everything was reduced to cinders.

As we gazed an appalling cry rang in our ears, and next moment a young
woman darted out from behind a piece of the blackened walls with a knife
in her hand.

"Hah! are you come back, you devils?" she shrieked, and flew at Dobri,
who would certainly have been stabbed, for he paid no attention to her,
if I had not caught her wrist, and forced the knife from her grasp.
Even then she sprang at him and fastened her fingers in his neck while
she cried, "Give me back my child, I say! give me my child, you fiend!"

She stopped and looked earnestly in his face, then, springing back, and
standing before him with clenched hands, she screamed--

"Ha, haa! it is you, Dobri! why did you not come to help us? traitor--
coward--to leave us at such a time!  Did you not hear the shrieks of
Marika when they dragged her from your cottage?  Did you not see the
form of little Dobri quivering on the point of the Circassian's spear?
Were you deaf when Ivanka's death-shriek pierced my ears like--.  Oh!
God forgive me, Dobri, I did not mean to--"

She stopped in the torrent of her wrath, stretched both arms
convulsively towards heaven, and, with a piercing cry for "Mercy!" fell
dead at our feet.

Still the scout did not move.  He stood in the same half-shrinking
attitude of intense agony, glaring at the ruin around him.

"Dobri," said I at last, gently touching his arm, and endeavouring to
arouse him.

He started like one waking out of a dream, hurled me aside with such
violence that I fell heavily to the ground, and rushed from the spot at
full speed.

Lancey ran after him, but soon stopped.  He might as well have chased a
mountain hare.  We both, however, followed the track he had pursued,
and, catching our horses, passed into the village.

"It's of no use to follow, sir," said Lancey, "we can't tell which way
'e's gone."

I felt that pursuit would indeed be useless, and pulled up with the
intention of searching among the ruins of the village for some one who
might have escaped the carnage, and could give me information.

The sights that met our eyes everywhere were indeed terrible.  But I
pass over the sickening details with the simple remark, that no ordinary
imagination could conceive the deeds of torture and brutality of which
these Turkish irregulars had been guilty.  We searched carefully, but
for a long time could find no one.

Cattle were straying ownerless about the place, while dogs and pigs were
devouring the murdered inhabitants.  Thinking it probable that some of
the people might have taken refuge in the church, we went to it.
Passing from the broad glare of day into the darkened porch, I stumbled
over an object on the ground.  It was the corpse of a young woman with
the head nearly hacked off, the clothes torn, and the body half burnt.
But this was as nothing to the scene inside.  About two hundred
villagers--chiefly women, children, aged, and sick--had sought refuge
there, and been slaughtered indiscriminately.  We found the dead and
dying piled together in suffocating heaps.  Little children were
crawling about looking for their mothers, wounded mothers were
struggling to move the ghastly heaps to find their little ones.  Many of
these latter were scarce recognisable, owing to the fearful sword-cuts
on their heads and faces.  I observed in one corner an old man whose
thin white hair was draggled with blood.  He was struggling in the vain
endeavour to release himself from a heap of dead bodies that had either
fallen or been thrown upon him.

We hastened to his assistance.  After freeing him, I gave him a little
brandy from my flask.  He seemed very grateful, and, on recovering a
little, told us, with many a sigh and pause for breath, that the village
had been sacked by Turkish irregular troops, Circassians, who, after
carrying off a large number of young girls, returned to the village, and
slaughtered all who had not already fled to the woods for refuge.

While the old man was telling the mournful tale I observed a little girl
run out from behind a seat where she had probably been secreting
herself, and gaze wildly at me.  Blood-stained, dishevelled, haggard
though she was, I instantly recognised the pretty little face.

"Ivanka!"  I exclaimed, holding out my arms.

With a scream of delight she rushed forward and sprang into them.  Oh
how the dear child grasped me,--twined her thin little arms round me,
and strained as if she would crush herself into my bosom, while she
buried her face in my neck and gave way to restful moans accompanied by
an occasional convulsive sob!

Well did I understand the feelings of her poor heart.  For hours past
she had been shocked by the incomprehensible deeds of blood and violence
around her; had seen, as she afterwards told me, her brother murdered,
and her mother chased into the woods and shot by a soldier; had sought
refuge in the church with those who were too much taken up with their
own terrible griefs to care for her, and, after hours of prolonged agony
and terror, coupled with hunger and thirst, had at last found refuge in
a kindly welcome embrace.

After a time I tried to disengage her arms, but found this to be
impossible without a degree of violence which I could not exert.
Overcome by the strain, and probably by long want of rest, the poor
child soon fell into a profound slumber.

While I meditated in some perplexity as to how I should act, my
attention was aroused by the sudden entrance of a number of men.  Their
dress and badges at once told me that they formed a section of that
noble band of men and women, who, following close on the heels of the
"dogs of war," do all that is possible to alleviate the sufferings of
hapless victims.--God's work going on side by side with that of the
devil!  In a few minutes surgeons were tenderly binding up wounds, and
ambulance-men were bearing them out of the church from which the dead
were also removed for burial.

"Come, Lancey," said I, "our services here are happily no longer
required.  Let us go."

"Where to, sir?" said Lancey.

"To the nearest spot," I replied after a moment's thought, "where I can
lie down and sleep.  I am dead beat, Lancey, for want of rest, and
really feel unable for anything.  If only I can snatch an hour or two,
that will suffice.  Meanwhile, you will go to the nearest station and
find out if the railway has been destroyed."

We hurried out of the dreadful slaughter-house, Ivanka still sound
asleep on my shoulder, and soon discovered an outhouse in which was a
little straw.  Rolling some of this into a bundle for a pillow, I lay
down so as not to disturb the sleeping child.  Another moment and I too
was steeped in that profound slumber which results from thorough
physical and mental exhaustion.

Lancey went out, shut the door, fastened it, and left us.



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

THE FALL OF PLEVNA.

The events which followed the massacre in the Bulgarian village remain
in my mind, and ever must remain as a confused dream, for I was smitten
that night with a fever, during the course of which--part of it at
least--I was either delirious or utterly prostrate.

And who can tell, save those who have passed through a similar
condition, the agonies which I endured, and the amazing fancies by which
I was assailed at that time!  Of course I knew not where I was, and I
cared not.  My unbridled fancy led me everywhere.  Sometimes I was in a
bed, sometimes on horseback; now in hospital attending wounded people,
most of whom I noticed were women or little children; then on a
battle-field, cheering the combatants with all my power, or joining
them, but, when I chanced to join them, it was never for the purpose of
taking, but of saving life.  Often I was visited by good spirits, and
also by bad.  One of these latter, a little one, made a deep impression
on me.  His particular mission seemed to lie in his power to present
before me, within a flaming frame, pictures of whatever I wished to
behold.  He was wonderfully tractable at first, and showed me whatever I
asked for,--my mother, Bella, Nicholas, and many of my friends,--but by
degrees he insisted on showing what I did not wish to see, and among
these latter pictures were fearful massacres, and scenes of torture and
bloodshed.  I have a faint recollection of being carried somewhere in a
jolting wagon, of suffering from burning thirst which no one seemed to
care to relieve, of frequent abrupt stoppages, while shouts, shrieks,
and imprecations filled my ears; but whether these things were realities
or fancies, or a mingling of both, I cannot tell, for assuredly the bad
spirit never once succeeded in showing me any picture half so terrible
as those realities of war which I had already beheld.

One day I felt a peculiar sensation.  It seemed to me that my
intellectual faculties became more active, while those of my body
appeared to sink.

"Come," said I to the demon who had wearied me so much; "come, you
troublesome little devil, and show me my man Lancey.  I can see better
than usual; present him!"

Immediately Lancey stood by my side.  He looked wonderfully real, and I
noticed that the fiery frame was not round him as it used to be.  A
moment later, the pretty face of Ivanka also glided into the picture.

"Hallo!"  I exclaimed, "I didn't ask you to send _her_ here.  Why don't
you wait for orders--eh?"

At this Lancey gently pushed Ivanka away.

"No, don't do that," I cried hastily; "I didn't mean that; order her
back again--do you hear?"

Lancey appeared to beckon, and she returned.  She was weeping quietly.

"Why do you weep, dear?"  I asked in Russian.

"Oh! you have been _so_ ill," she replied, with an anxious look and a
sob.

"So, then," I said, looking at Lancey in surprise, "you are not
delusions!"

"No, sir, we ain't; but I sometimes fancy that everythink in life is
delusions since we comed to this 'orrible land."

I looked hard at Ivanka and Lancey again for some moments, then at the
bed on which I lay.  Then a listless feeling came over me, and my eyes
wandered lazily round the chamber, which was decidedly Eastern in its
appearance.  Through a window at the farther end I could see a garden.
The sun was shining brightly on autumnal foliage, amidst which a tall
and singular-looking man walked slowly to and fro.  He was clad in
flowing robes, with a red fez on his head which was counterbalanced by a
huge red beard.

"At all events _he_ must be a delusion," said I, pointing with a hitch
of my nose to the man in question.

"No, sir, 'e ain't; wery much the rewerse.--But you mustn't speak, sir;
the doctor said we was on no account to talk to you."

"But just tell me who he is," I pleaded earnestly; "I can't rest unless
I know."

"Well, sir, I s'pose it won't do no 'arm to tell you that 'e's a Pasha--
Sanda Pasha by name--a hold and hintimate friend of mine,--the Scotch
boy, you know, that I used to tell you about.  We are livin' in one of
'is willas.  'E's in disgrace, is Sanda Pasha, just now, an' superseded.
The day you was took bad, sir, Russians came into the willage, an' w'en
I come back I found 'em swarmin' in the 'ouses an' loop-'oling the walls
for defence, but Sanda Pasha came down on 'em with a harmy of Turks an'
drove 'em out.  'E's bin a-lickin' of 'em all up an' down the country
ever since, but the other Pashas they got jealous of 'im, specially
since 'e's not a real Turk born, an' the first rewerse that come to
'im--as it will come to every one now an' again, sir--they left 'im in a
fix instead of sending 'im reinforcements, so 'e was forced to retreat,
an' the Sultan recalled 'im.  It do seem to me that the Turkish
Government don't know good men when they've got 'em; an', what's more,
don't deserve to 'ave 'em.  But long before these things 'appened, w'en
'e found that you was my master an' Ivanka our friend, 'e sent us to the
rear with a strong guard, an' 'ere we are now in one of 'is willas, in
what part o' the land is more than I can tell--near Gallipopolly, or
somethink like that, I believe."

"So, then, we are prisoners?" said I.

"Well, I s'pose we are, sir, or somethink o' the sort, but, bless your
'art, sir, it's of no manner of consiquence.  We are treated like
princes and live like fighting-cocks.--But you mustn't talk, sir, you
mustn't indeed, for the doctor gave strict orders that we was to keep
you quiet."

Lancey's communications were of so surprising a nature, so varied and so
suggestive, that my mind was overwhelmed in the mere attempt to recall
what he had said; in another moment I had forgotten all, and dropped
into a deep, dreamless, refreshing slumber.

During the period that I was thus fighting, as it were, with death--in
which fight, through God's blessing, I finally gained the victory--the
fight between the Russians and the Turks had progressed apace; victory
leaning now to the former, now to the latter.  Many bloody engagements
had taken place on the plains of Bulgaria and among the Balkan
mountains, while Osman Pasha had carried on for some time that
celebrated defence of Plevna which afterwards carried him to the front
rank of the Turkish generals, and raised him, in the world's estimation,
above them all.  Everywhere breech-loading weapons, torpedoes,
telegraphs, monster cannon, and novel appliances of modern warfare, had
proved that where hundreds fell in the days of our fathers, thousands
fall in our own--that the bloody game is immensely more expensive and
deadly than it used to be, and that if war was folly before, it is sheer
madness now.

The first great attack had been made on the redoubts in front of Plevna,
and in assaulting one of these poor Dobri Petroff distinguished himself
so highly for desperate, reckless courage, that he drew the special
attention of General Skobeleff, who sent for him, probably to offer him
some appointment, but whatever it might be the scout declined promotion
or reward.  His object was to seek what he styled honourable death in
the front of battle.  Strange to say, he led a sort of charmed life, and
the more he sought death the more it appeared to avoid him.  Somewhat
like Skobeleff himself, he stood unhurt, many a time, when balls were
whistling round him like hail, and comrades were mown down in ranks and
heaps around him.

In all armies there are men who act with heroic valour and desperate
daring.  Some are urged thereto by calm contempt of danger, coupled with
a strong sense of duty.  It was something like this, probably, that
induced Skobeleff to expose himself so recklessly on almost all
occasions.  It was simply despair, coupled with natural lion-like
courage, that influenced the wretched scout.

Nicholas Naranovitsch had also acquired a name among his fellows for
that grand sweeping fervour in attack which we are wont to associate
with the heroes and demigods of ancient story.  But Nicholas's motive
was a compound of great physical strength, hot-blooded youth, and a
burning desire to win distinction in the path of duty.

One consequence of the scout's return to headquarters was that he
frequently met Nicholas, and felt an intense drawing towards him as
being one who had shown him sympathy and kindness in that home which was
now gone for ever.  Deep was the feeling of pity which Nicholas felt
when the scout told him, in a few sternly-uttered sentences, what had
occurred at Venilik; and when Dobri expressed a desire to attach himself
to Nicholas as his servant, the latter was only too glad to agree.  Each
knew the other well by report, and felt that the connection would be
mutually agreeable.

At last one of the greatest events of the war approached.  Plevna had
been so closely hemmed in by Russian troops, and cut off from supplies,
that the garrison was reduced to starvation.  In this extremity, as is
well known, Osman Pasha resolved on the desperate attempt to cut his way
out of the beleaguered position.

Snow had fallen heavily, and the ground was white with it--so were the
huts of the Russian soldiers, who, welcoming the snowfall as a familiar
reminiscence of home, went about cooking their food and singing
joyously.  The houses of Plevna, with blue lines of smoke curling above
them, were faintly visible through the driving snow.  Now and then the
sullen boom of a great gun told of the fell work that the forces had
assembled there to execute.

"We are ordered to the front to-night, Dobri," said Nicholas, as he
entered his tent hurriedly, unbuckled his sword, and sat down to a hasty
meal.  "Our spies have brought information that Osman means to play his
last card.  Our field telegraphs have spread the news.  We even know the
particular point where the attempt to cut through our lines is to be
made.  The troops are concentrating.  I have obtained leave to join the
advance columns.  Just see that my revolvers are in order, and look to
your own.  Come after that and feed.  Without food a man can do
nothing."

The scout made no reply.  Ever since the terrible calamity that had
befallen him he had been a taciturn semi-maniac, but there was a glitter
in his black eye that told of latent fires and deadly purpose within.

During the night another spy came in, reporting that Osman was
concentrating his men near the bridge over the Vid, and that he had
issued three days' rations to the troops, with a hundred and fifty
cartridges and a new pair of sandals to each man.  About the same time
there came a telegram to the effect that lights were moving about with
unwonted activity in Plevna, and something unusual was evidently afoot.
Thus the report of the first spy was partly corroborated.

Meanwhile Nicholas and Dobri Petroff, mounting in the dark hours of
morning, rode through the snowstorm--which was gradually abating--in the
direction of the bridge over the Vid, while Skobeleff himself proceeded
towards the Krishina redoubts, which, it was reported, were being
abandoned.  The report was true; he took possession of these redoubts
unopposed, and instantly put them in a state of defence.

Meanwhile Osman, with his brave but worn-out band, made his last sortie
from Plevna.

The grey light of a dull wintry morning broke and revealed masses, like
darker clouds of the threatening storm, driving across the plain.  These
were the Ottoman troops--some say 20,000 men--rushing like baited tigers
towards the trenches.  Suddenly there came the thunderous roar of a
hundred heavy guns, followed by the crash and incessant rattle of the
rifles.  The deciding battle had begun.  The mists of early morning
mingled with the smoke of fire-arms, so that the movements of men were
not visible in many places.  In others a few fighting companies were
just visible, showing indistinctly through the haze for a minute or two,
while sheets of flame played in front of their rifles like trickling
lines of electric light.  Elsewhere, from the cliffs above the Vid,
globes of fire were seen to rend the mists, as cannon played their part
in the deadly game, while the fearful cries of maddened and wounded men
mingled with the crashing of artillery.  Here and there numerous
bullock-wagons were seen rolling slowly along, and horses and cattle
were galloping wildly about the plain.  It was a scene that might have
made the flesh of the most callous people creep with pitying horror.

Advancing as far as possible under cover of their bullock-wagons, the
Turks began to play their part with vigour, but the Russians opened on
them from one of their batteries with shell and shrapnel, whilst the men
in the trenches sent a rain of bullets from their Berdan breech-loaders.
The terrified oxen, tearing about madly, or falling, soon rendered the
wagon-cover useless.  Then the Turks forsook it, and, with a wild shout,
charged the first line of trenches.  These were held by a Siberian
regiment.  The Turks swept over them like a tornado, poured into the
battery, where the artillerymen, who stood to their guns like heroes,
were bayoneted almost to a man.  Thus the first investing circle was
broken, but here Ottoman courage was met by irresistible force, and
valour quite equal to its own, and here the tide of battle turned.

Nicholas Naranovitsch, despatched by General Strukoff, galloped towards
the scene of action.

"Come, Dobri!" he cried, with blazing eyes that told of excitement
almost too strong to be mastered, "there is work for you and me now."

Petroff, mounted and ready, awaiting the orders of his master, sprang
out at the summons from a troop of the first brigade of grenadiers, who
were at she moment preparing to advance.  They dashed forward.  An order
had been intrusted to Nicholas, but he never delivered it.  He was met
by advancing hosts of the enemy.  He turned aside, intending to execute
his mission, if possible, by a detour.  In this effort he was caught up,
as it were, and carried on by the Russian grenadiers, who flung
themselves on the Turks with irresistible fury.  In another moment his
horse fell under him.  Dobri instantly dismounted, but the horse which
he meant to offer to his master also fell, and the two were carried
onward.  The opposing forces met.  A hand-to-hand fight ensued--man to
man, bayonet to bayonet.  The Turks clung to the guns in the captured
battery with obstinate bravery.  Nicholas and Dobri having both broken
their sabres at the first onset, seized the rifles of fallen men and
laid about them with a degree of overpowering energy, which, conserved
and expended rightly for the good of man, might have made each a noted
benefactor of the human race, but which, in this instance, resulted only
in the crushing in of a few dozen Turkish skulls!

Gradually the stabbing and smashing of "God's image," on the part of the
Russians, began to tell.  The Turks gave way, and finally took to
flight.

But shortly before this occurred there was a desperate effort made by a
handful of Turks to retrieve the fortunes of the day.  It was personally
led by Sanda Pasha, who, reinstated by the vacillating and contemptible
powers at Constantinople, had been sent--too late--to the relief of
Plevna.

At the first rush the Pasha fell.  He was only wounded, but his
followers thought he was killed, and, stung with rage and despair,
fought like fiends to avenge him.  At that moment the Russian general
rode up to a neighbouring eminence and had his attention drawn to this
point in the battle.

He ordered up reinforcements.  Nicholas and his man now seemed on the
point of having their wishes gratified.  Poor Petroff's desire to meet
an honourable death had every chance of being realised, while the thirst
for military distinction in Nicholas had at last a brilliant opportunity
of being quenched.

As the fight in this part of that bloody field progressed, it
concentrated into a knot around the two heroes.  Just then a fresh body
of Turkish infantry charged, led by the Nubian, Hamed Pasha, whose horse
had been killed under him.  Dobri Petroff and Hamed rushed at one
another instantly; each seemed at once to recognise the other as a
worthy foeman.  The great hacked sword whistled for a few minutes round
the scout's head so fast that it required his utmost agility to parry
cut and thrust with his rifle, but a favourable chance soon offered, and
he swung the stock of his piece at his adversary's head with such force
as to break the sword short off at the hilt.  The Nubian sprang at Dobri
like a tiger.  They grappled, and these men of herculean mould were so
well matched that for a few seconds they stood quivering with mighty but
fruitless efforts to bear each other down.  It was at this moment that
the Russian reinforcements came up, fired a volley, and charged.  Dobri
and Hamed dropped side by side, pierced with bullets.  Nicholas also
fell.  The raging hosts passed over them, and the Turks were driven over
the plain like autumn leaves before the gale.

Immediately after, a battery of horse artillery swept across the
hotly-contested ground, the wheels of the heavy ordnance and the hoofs
of the half-mad horses crashing over the heads said limbs of all who
chanced to lie in their way.

Oh! it is _bitter_ to reflect on the grand courage that is mis-displayed
in the accursed service of war!  Beaten, overwhelmed, crushed, all but
annihilated, the poor peasant-soldiers of Turkey, who probably knew
nothing whatever about the cause for which they fought, took shelter at
last behind the broken wagons under which they had advanced, and then
turned at bay.  Others made for the deep banks of the Vid, where they
re-formed, and instantly began to return the Russian fire.

The sortie was now virtually repulsed.  It was about half-past eight.
The Turks, evidently apprehensive that the enemy would charge and drive
them back into the gorge which led to Plevna, remained on the defensive.
The Russians, obviously afraid lest the enemy should attempt another
sortie, also remained on the defensive.  For four hours they continued
in this condition, "during which period the battle raged," it was said,
"with the utmost fury," but it is also admitted that very little damage
was done to either side, "for both armies were under cover!"  In other
words, the belligerents remained for four hours in the condition of a
couple of angry costermongers, hooting and howling at each other without
coming to blows, while shot and shell and powder and lead were being
expended for nothing, at a rate which added thousands sterling to the
burdens of the peace-loving members of both countries!

"About twelve o'clock," according to an eye-witness, "the firing began
to diminish on both sides, as if by mutual agreement."

I have a very thorough appreciation of this idea of "mutual agreement."
It is well known among schoolboys.  When two of these specimens of the
rising generation have been smashing each other's faces, blackening each
other's eyes, and bleeding each other's noses for three-quarters of an
hour, without having decided a victory, they both feel a strong desire
to stop, are ready to "give in," and, on the smallest encouragement from
"seconds," will shake hands.  Indeed, this well-known and somewhat
contemptible state of mind is familiar to a larger growth of boys--
happily not in England--called duellists.  We deliberately call the
state of mind "contemptible," because, if a matter is worth fighting for
(physically), it ought to be fought for to the "bitter end."  If it is
not worth fighting for, there should be no fighting at all!

However, as I have said, the fire began to slacken about mid-day, and
then gradually ceased.  The silence that succeeded was deeply
impressive--also suggestive.  Half-an-hour later a white flag was seen
waving from the road that ran round the cliffs beyond the bridge.

Plevna had fallen.  Osman Pasha and his army had surrendered.  In other
words--the fate of the Turkish Empire was sealed!



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

WOE TO THE "AUBURN HAIR!"  AFTER THE BATTLE--PROWLING VILLAINS PUNISHED.

When the white flag was seen a loud shout went up from the Russian army.
Then a party of officers rode forward, and two Turkish horsemen were
seen advancing.  They stated that Osman himself was coming to treat with
the Russians.

The spot on which they stood was covered with the grim relics of battle.
The earth had been uptorn by exploding shells.  Here lay a horse
groaning and struggling in its agony.  Close to it lay an ox, silently
bleeding to death, his great, round, patient eyes looking mournfully at
the scene around him.  Close by, was a cart with a dead horse lying in
the yoke as he had fallen, and a Turkish soldier, stretched alongside,
whose head had been carried away by a cannon shot.  Under the wagon was
a wounded man, and close to him four others, who, drained of nearly all
their life-blood, lay crouched together in helplessness, with the hoods
of their ragged grey overcoats drawn down on their faces.  These latter
gazed at the murky sky in listless indifference, or at what was going on
in a sort of weary surprise.  Among them was Nicholas Naranovitsch.

Russian surgeons were already moving about the field of battle, doing
what they could, but their efforts were trifling compared with the vast
necessity.

At last there was a shout of "Osman!"  "He comes!"

"We will give him a respectful reception," exclaimed one Russian
officer, in what is supposed by some to be the "gallant spirit of true
chivalry."

"That we will," cried another; "we must all salute him, and the soldiers
must present arms."

"He is a great soldier," exclaimed a third, "and has made a heroic
defence."

Even Skobeleff himself seems to have been carried away by the feeling of
the moment, if we may credit report, for he is said to have exclaimed--

"He is the greatest general of the age, for he has saved the honour of
his country: I will proffer him my hand and tell him so."

"So," thought I, when afterwards meditating on this subject, "the Turks
have for centuries proved themselves to be utterly unworthy of
self-government; they have shown themselves to be ignorant of the first
principles of righteousness,--_meum_ and _tuum_; they (or rather their
rulers) have violated their engagements and deceived those who trusted
them; have of late repudiated their debts, and murdered, robbed,
violated, tortured those who differed from them in religious opinions,
as is generally admitted,--nevertheless now, because one of their
generals has shown somewhat superior ability to the rest, holding in
check a powerful enemy, and exhibiting, with his men, a degree of
bull-dog courage which, though admirable in itself, all history proves
to be a common characteristic of all nations--that `honour,' which the
country never possessed, is supposed to have been `saved'!"

All honour to the brave, truly, but when I remember the butcheries that
are admitted, by friend and foe of the Turk, to have been committed on
the Russian wounded by the army of Plevna (and which seem to have been
conveniently forgotten at this dramatic incident of the surrender),--
when I reflect on the frightful indifference of Osman Pasha to his own
wounded, and the equally horrible disregard of the same hapless wounded
by the Russians after they entered Plevna,--I cannot but feel that a
desperate amount of error is operating here, and that multitudes of
mankind, especially innocent, loving, and gentle mankind, to say nothing
of tender, enthusiastic, love-blinded womankind, are to some extent
deceived by the false ring of that which is not metal, and the falser
glitter of a tinsel which is anything but gold.

However, Osman did not come after all.  He had been wounded, and the
Russian generals were obliged to go to a neighbouring cottage to
transact the business of surrender.

As the cavalcade rode away in the direction of the cottage referred to,
a Russian surgeon turned aside to aid a wounded man.  He was a tall
strapping trooper.  His head rested on the leg of his horse, which lay
dead beside him.  He could not have been more than twenty years of age,
if so much.  He had carefully wrapped his cloak round him.  His carbine
and sabre were drawn close to his side, as if to protect the weapons
which it had always been his pride to keep bright and clean.  He was a
fresh handsome lad, with courage and loveableness equally stamped upon
his young brow.  He opened his eyes languidly as the doctor attended to
him.

"Come, my fine fellow, keep up your heart," said the doctor tenderly;
"you will perhaps--that is to say, the ambulance-wagons will be round
immediately, and--"

"Thank you," interrupted the trooper quietly, "God's blessing rest upon
you.  I know what you mean.--Look, sir."

He tried to take a locket from his neck as he spoke, but could not.  The
doctor gently assisted him.  "See," he said, "take this to Dobri
Petroff--the scout.  You know him?  Every one knows dashing Dobri!"

"I know him.  Well?"

"Tell him to give it to her--he knows who--and--and--say it has kept me
in--in heaven when sometimes it seemed to me as if I had got into hell."

"From whom?" asked the doctor, anxiously, as the youth's head sank
forward, and the terrible pallor of approaching death came on.

"From Andre--"

Alas! alas for Maria with the auburn hair!

The doctor rose.  His services were no longer needed.  Mounting his
horse, he rode away.

The ground over which he galloped was strewn with weapons.  The formal
surrender had been made, and each Turk, obeying literally the order to
lay down his arms, had deposited his rifle in the mud where he stood.

That night a faint light shone through the murky clouds, and dimly
illumined the grim battle-field.

It was deserted by all but the dead and dying, with now and then a
passing picket or fatigue-party.  As the night advanced, and the cold
became piercing, even these seemed to have finally retired from the
ghastly scene.  Towards morning the moon rose high, and, piercing the
clouds, at times lit up the whole battle-field.  Ah! there was many a
pale countenance turned wistfully on the moon that night, gazing at it
until the eyes became fixed in death.  There was one countenance, which,
deadly white, and gashed by a Turkish sabre, had been ruddy with young
life in the morning.  It was that of Nicholas Naranovitsch.  He lay on
his back near his dead horse, and close to a heap of slaughtered men.
He was so faint and so shattered by sabre-cuts and bullets as to be
utterly unable to move anything but his eyes.  Though almost in a state
of stupor, he retained sufficient consciousness to observe what went on
around him.  The night, or rather the early morning, had become very
still, but it was not silent, for deep sighs and low moanings, as of men
suffering from prolonged and weary pain, struck on his listening ear.
Now and then some wretch, unable to bear his misery, would make a
desperate effort to rise, only, however, to fall back with a sharp cry
or a deep-despairing groan.  Here and there a man might be seen creeping
a few paces on his hands and knees, and then dropping to rest for a
time, after which the creeping was resumed, in the vain hope, no doubt,
that some place of shelter or an ambulance might be reached at last.
One of these struggling men passed close to Nicholas, and stopped to
rest almost at his side.  In a few minutes he rose again, and attempted
to advance, but instead of doing so writhed in a hideous contortion over
on his back, and stretching himself with a convulsive shudder, died with
his teeth clenched and his protruding eyeballs glaring at the sky.

Suddenly a low sweet sound broke on Nicholas's ear.  It swelled
gradually, and was at length recognised as a hymn with which he had been
familiar in childhood.  Some dying Christian soldier near him had
apparently sought relief in singing praise to God.  Nicholas wept as he
listened.  He soon found that there were sympathetic listeners besides
himself, for the strains were taken up by one and another, and another,
until the hymn appeared to rise from all parts of the battle-field.  It
was faint, however, and tremulous, for the life-blood was draining
rapidly from the hearts of those who raised it.  Ere long it altogether
ceased.

For some time Nicholas had been aware that a wounded man was slowly
gasping out his life quite close to him, but, from the position in which
he lay, it was not possible to see more than his red fez.  Presently the
man made a powerful effort, raised himself on one elbow, and displayed
the ghastly black countenance of Hamed Pasha.  He looked unsteadily
round him for a moment, and then sank backward with a long-drawn sigh.

Close to him, under a heap of slain, Dobri Petroff himself lay.  For a
long time he was unconscious, and had been nearly crushed to death by
the weight of those above him.  But the life which had been so strong in
his huge body seemed to revive a little, and after a time he succeeded
in freeing himself from the load, and raising himself on his hands, but
he could not get up on his feet.  A wound in the neck, which had partly
closed while he was in a recumbent position, now burst out afresh.  He
looked at the blood with a faint sad smile, and sank down again.

Nicholas recognised him, and tried to speak, but he could neither speak
nor move.  It seemed to him that every part of his frame had been
paralysed except his brain and eyes.

Presently the scout felt for something at his side.  His flask was
there; putting it to his lips he drank a little and was evidently
refreshed, for he raised himself again and began to look about him.

Another moment and Petroff had discovered the Pasha, who lay near him
with a look of intense longing in his eyes as he saw the flask and heard
the gurgling water.  A fierce frown crossed the scout's brow for a
moment, but it was instantly chased away by a look of pity.  He dragged
himself slowly towards the dying Turk, and held the flask to his lips.

With a murmur of thankfulness and a look of gratitude at his late enemy,
the Pasha uttered a faint sigh and closed his eyes in the last long
sleep of death.

The effort to drag himself even a few paces served to show Petroff how
severely he had been wounded.  He was in the act of raising the flask to
his lips a second time, when Nicholas, by a desperate effort, succeeded
in uttering a low groan.

The scout turned quickly, observed his master, and crept to his side.

"Drink, sir," he said, knowing well that water was what Nicholas
required most at such a time.

The avidity with which the latter obeyed prevented him observing that
the scout was almost sinking.  The successive efforts he had made had
caused the blood to pour copiously from his wounds.

"You are badly hurt, Dobri, I fear," he said, when the life-giving
draught had sent new vigour into his frame, and loosed his tongue.

"Ay," replied the scout, with a faint smile.--"I shall soon be with you
now, Marika, and with the little ones and the dear Lord you loved so
well and tried so hard to make me follow too.  And you succeeded,
Marika, though you little th--"

He stopped abruptly, swayed a moment to and fro, then fell heavily
forward with his head on the bosom of his friend.

"Take some more water, Dobri," said Nicholas anxiously.  "Quick, before
you lose consciousness.  I have not power to move a limb to help you.--
Dobri!"

He called in vain,--the scout had fainted.

Nicholas had not power at first to remove the poor fellow's head from
his chest, and he felt as if he should be suffocated.  By degrees,
however, he managed to roll it slightly to one side, and, at the same
time, returning vigour enabled him to raise his right arm.  He observed
that his hand still grasped a revolver, but for some time he had no
power to unclasp it.  At last he succeeded, and raising Petroff's flask
with difficulty to his lips obtained another draught.

Just at that moment the moon, which had passed behind a dark cloud,
shone through an opening, and he saw three men not far off searching
among the dead.  He was about to call to them, but a thought occurred
and he restrained himself.

He was right; the three men, one of whom was habited like a priest, were
rifling the dead.  He saw them come up to a prostrate form which
struggled on being touched.  One of the three men instantly drew a knife
and stabbed the wounded man.  When they had searched the body and taken
from it what they required they came towards the spot where Nicholas
lay.

A feeling of horror came over him for a moment, but that seemed to give
him strength, for he instantly grasped his revolver.  Hoping, however
that they might pass without observing him, he shut his eyes and lay
quite still.

The three murderers drew near, talking in low tones, and seemed about to
pass, when one of them stopped.

"Here's a big-looking fellow whose boots will just fit me," he said,
stooping and seizing the scout's leg.

"There's an officer behind him," said the villain in the priest's dress;
"he will be more worth stripping."

Nicholas pointed his revolver full in the man's face and fired, but his
aim was unsteady.  He had missed.  Again he pulled the trigger, but it
had been the last shot.  The man sprang upon him.  The report, however,
had attracted the notice of a picket of Russian soldiers, who, well
aware of the deeds of foul villainy that are practised by the followers
of an army on battle-fields at night, immediately rushed up and secured
the three men.

"They are murderers," exclaimed Nicholas in reply to a question from the
sergeant in command.

"Lead them out," said the sergeant promptly.

The men were bound and set up in a row.

"Ready--present!"

A volley rang out in the night air, and three more corpses were added to
the death-roll of the day.

It was summary justice, but richly deserved.  Thereafter the soldiers
made a rough-and-ready stretcher of muskets, on which Nicholas, who had
fainted, was carefully laid and borne from the field.



CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

FAREWELL TO SANDA PASHA--A SCUFFLE, AND AN UNEXPECTED MEETING.

Some time after the events narrated in the last chapter I was seated in
an apartment of Sanda Pasha's residence in Adrianople, the Turkish city
next in importance to Constantinople.

My health had returned, and, although still somewhat weak, I felt
sufficiently strong to travel, and had once or twice urged my kind host,
who was fast recovering from his wound, to permit me, if possible, to
return to the Russian lines.  I had had from him, of course, a full
account of the fall of Plevna, and I had also learned from another
source that Nicholas had been desperately wounded; but the latter
information was a mere rumour, which only rendered me the more anxious
to get away.

The Pasha's chief secretary, who spoke Russian well, informed me at this
time of some of the doings of his countrymen in the city and
neighbourhood.  I could hardly credit him, but English "correspondents"
afterwards confirmed what he said.  The daily executions of Bulgarians
on the slightest pretexts, without trial, were at that time so numerous
that it seemed as if the Turks had determined to solve the question of
Bulgarian autonomy by killing or banishing every male in the province.
In one instance fifteen Bulgarian children, the youngest of whom was ten
years of age, and the eldest fifteen, were condemned to hard labour for
life.  It was said, but not proved I believe, that these young people
had committed murder and contributed to the insurrection.  At this time
there were over 20,000 refugees in Adrianople, all of whom were women
and children whose protectors had either been massacred or forced to
join the army.

The secretary evidently rejoiced in the slaying and otherwise getting
rid of Bulgarian men, but he seemed to have a slight feeling of
commiseration for the helpless refugees, among whom I had myself
witnessed the most heart-rending scenes of mental and physical
suffering.

Wherever I wandered about the town there were groups of these trembling
ones, on whose pallid faces were imprinted looks of maniacal horror or
of blank despair.  Little wonder!  Some of them had beheld the fathers,
brothers, lovers, around whom their heart-strings twined, tortured to
death before their eyes.  Others had seen their babes tossed on
spear-points and bayonets, while to all the future must have appeared a
fearful prospect of want and of dreary sighing for a touch of those
"vanished hands" that had passed from earth for ever.

"Philanthropic societies," said the secretary, "have done great things
for Turkey and for Russia too.  Had it not been for the timely aid sent
out by the charitable people in England and other countries, it is
certain that many thousands of these refugees would already have been in
their graves."

I did not like the tone or looks of this secretary.  He was an oily man,
with a touch of sarcasm.

"Doubtless there are many of them," I returned sharply, "who wish that
they had fallen with their kindred.  But you say truth: the
tender-hearted and liberal ones of England and elsewhere have done
something to mitigate the horrors of war, and yet there is a party among
us who would draw the sword, if they were allowed, and add to the number
of these wretched refugees.  A pretty spectacle of consistency, truly,
is presented by war!  If we English were to join the Turks, as of course
you wish us to do, and help you to maintain your misrule, to say nothing
of the massacres which have been and still are going on around us, we
should have to keep our philanthropic societies at work still longer,
and thus we should be seen cutting men down with one hand and binding
them up with the other,--roaring like fiends as we slaughter sires, and
at the same time, with the same voice, softly comforting widows and
fatherless children.  Oh, sir, if there is a phrase of mockery on the
face of this earth, it is the term `civilised warfare'!"

Before the secretary had time to reply the Pasha entered, accompanied by
Lancey.

"Mr Childers," said the Pasha, sitting down on a cushion beside me, "I
have managed it at last, though not without difficulty, but when a man
wants to help an old school-mate in distress he is not easily put down.
You have to thank Lancey for anything I have done for you.  There is, it
seems, to be an exchange of prisoners soon, and I have managed that you
and Lancey shall be among the number.  You must be ready to take the
road to-morrow."

I thanked the Pasha heartily, but expressed surprise that one in so
exalted a position should have found difficulty in the matter.

"Exalted!" he exclaimed, with a look of scorn, "I'm so exalted as to
have very narrowly missed having my head cut off.  Bah! there is no
gratitude in a Turk--at least in a Turkish grandee."

I ventured to suggest that the Pasha was in his own person a flat--or
rather sturdy--contradiction of his own words, but he only grinned as he
bowed, being too much in earnest to smile.

"Do you forget," he continued, "that I am in disgrace?  I have served
the Turk faithfully all my life, and now I am shelved at the very time
my services might be of use, because the Sultan is swayed by a set of
rascals who are jealous of me!  And is it not the same with better men
than myself?  Look at Mehemet Ali, our late commander-in-chief, deposed
from office by men who had not the power to judge of his capacities--for
what?  Did he not say with his own lips, to one of your own
correspondents, that although he had embraced the religion of Mohammed
they never could forget or forgive the fact that he was not born a Turk,
but regarded him as a Giaour in disguise; that his elevation to power
excited secret discontent among the Pashas, which I know to be true;
that another Pasha thwarted instead of aiding him, while yet another was
sent to act the spy on him.  Is not this shameful jealousy amongst our
leaders, at a time when all should have been united for the common weal,
well known to have operated disastrously in other cases?  Did not Osman
Pasha admit as much, when he complained bitterly, after the fall of
Plevna, that he had not been properly supported?  Our rank and file are
lions in the field--though I cannot allow that they are lambs anywhere
else--but as for our--Bah!  I have said enough.  Besides, to tell you
the truth, I am tired of the Turks, and hate them."

Here my servant interrupted the Pasha with a coolness and familiarity
that amused me much.

"Sandy," said he, with a disapproving shake of the head, "you oughtn't
to go an' speak like that of your hadopted nation."

The Pasha's indignation vanished at once.  He turned to Lancey with a
curious twinkle in his eye.

"But, my good fellow," he said, "it isn't my hadopted nation.  When I
came here a poor homeless wanderer the Turks adopted _me_, not I _them_,
because they found me useful."

"That," returned Lancey, "should 'ave called hout your gratitood."

"So it did, Lancey.  Didn't I serve them faithfully from that day to
this, to the best of my power, and didn't I shave my head and wear their
garb, and pretend to take to their religion all out of gratitude?"

"Worse and worse," retorted Lancey; "that was houtrageous 'ypocrisy.
I'm afraid, Sandy, that you're no better than you used to be w'en you
smashed the school-windows an' went about playin' truant on the Scottish
'ills."

"No better indeed," returned the Pasha, with a sudden touch of sadness;
"that is true, but how to become better is the difficulty.  Islamism
fills a land with injustice, robbery, and violence; while, in order that
such things may be put right, the same land is desolated, covered with
blood, and filled with lamentation, in the name of Christianity."

Here I could not refrain from reminding the Pasha that the professors of
religion did not always act in accordance with their profession, and
that the principles of the "Prince of Peace," when carried out, even
with average sincerity, had an invariable tendency to encourage peace
and good-will among men, which was more than could be said of the
doctrines of Mohammed.

"It may be so," said the Pasha, with a sigh.

"Meanwhile, to return to our point, you will find everything ready for
your journey at an early hour to-morrow."

"But what of little Ivanka Petroff?"  I asked.  "She must go with us."

The Pasha seemed a little perplexed.  "I had not thought of that," he
said; "she will be well-cared for here."

"I cannot go without her," said I firmly.

"No more can I," said Lancey.

"Well, that shall also be arranged," returned the Pasha, as he left us.

"Never saw nothink like 'im," observed Lancey; "'e sticks at nothink,
believes nothink, cares for nothink, an' can do hanythink."

"_You_ are showing want of gratitude now, Lancey, for it is plain that
he cares a good deal for you."

Lancey admitted that he might, perhaps, have been a little harsh in
expressing himself, and then went off to prepare for the journey.

"We are going back again to your own country, Ivanka," said I, gently
stroking the child's head, as we sat together in the same room, some
hours later.

Ivanka raised her large eyes to mine.

"There is no _home_ now," she said, in a mournful voice.

"But we shall find father there, perhaps."

The child dropped her eyes, and shook her head, but made no further
remark.  I saw that tears were trickling down her cheeks, and, feeling
uncertain as to how far she realised her forlorn condition, refrained
from further speech, and drew her little head upon my breast, while I
sought to comfort her with hopes of soon meeting her father.

Snow lay on the ground when we bade farewell to our kind host.
"Good-bye, Sanda Pasha; I shall hope to see you in England one of these
days," said I at parting.

"Farewell, Sandy," said my man, grasping the Pasha's hand warmly, and
speaking in a deeply impressive tone; "take the advice of a wery old
friend, who 'as your welfare at 'art, an' leave off your evil ways,
w'ich it's not possible for you to do w'ile you've got fifty wives, more
or less, shaves your 'ead like a Turk, and hacts the part of a
'ypocrite.  Come back to your own land, my friend, w'ich is the only one
I knows on worth livin' in, an' dress yourself like a Christian."

The Pasha laughed, returned the squeeze heartily, and said that it was
highly probable he would act upon that advice ere another year had
passed away.

Half an hour later we were driving over the white plains, on which the
sun shone with dazzling light.

I felt unusual exhilaration as we rattled along in the fresh frosty air,
and crossed the fields, which, with the silvered trees and bushes,
contrasted so pleasantly with the clear blue sky.  I began to feel as if
the horrible scenes I had lately witnessed were but the effects of a
disordered imagination, which had passed away with fever and bodily
weakness.

Ivanka also appeared to revive under those genial influences with which
God surrounds His creatures, for she prattled a little now and then
about things which attracted her attention on the road; but she never
referred to the past.  Lancey, too, was inspirited to such an extent
that he tackled the Turkish driver in his own tongue, and caused the
eyes of that taciturn individual occasionally to twinkle, and his
moustache to curl upwards.

That night we slept at a small road-side inn.  Next day we joined a
group of travellers, and thus onward we went until we reached the region
where the war raged.  Here we were placed under escort, and, with some
others, were exchanged and set free.

Immediately I hired a conveyance and proceeded to the Russian rear,
where I obtained a horse, and, leaving Ivanka in charge of Lancey at an
inn, hastened to headquarters to make inquiries about Nicholas and
Petroff.

On the way, however, I halted to telegraph to the _Scottish Bawbee_, and
to write a brief account of my recent experiences among the Turks.

I was in the midst of a powerful article--powerful, of course, because
of the subject--on one of the war-episodes, when I heard a foot on the
staircase.  I had placed my revolver on the table, for I was seated in a
room in a deserted village.  One wall of the room had been shattered by
a shell, while most of the furniture was more or less broken by the same
missile, and I knew well that those sneak-marauders who infest the rear
of an army were in the habit of prowling about such places.

Suddenly I heard a loud shout on the staircase, followed by the clashing
of swords.  I leaped up, seized the revolver, and ran out.  One man
stood on the stair defending himself against two Circassians.  I knew
the scoundrels instantly by their dress, and not less easily did I
recognise a countryman in the grey tweed shooting coat, glengarry cap,
and knickerbockers of the other.  At the moment of my appearance the
Englishman, who was obviously a dexterous swordsman, had inflicted a
telling wound on one of his adversaries.  I fired at the other, who,
leaping nearly his own height into the air, fell with a crash down the
staircase.  He sprang up, however, instantly, and both men bolted out at
the front door and fled.

The Englishman turned to thank me for my timely aid, but, instead of
speaking, looked at me with amused surprise.

"Can it be?"  I exclaimed; "not possible! _you_, Biquitous?"

"I told you we should probably meet," he replied, sheathing his sword,
"but I was not prophetic enough to foretell the exact circumstances of
the meeting."

"Come along, my dear fellow," said I, seizing his arm and dragging him
up-stairs; "how glad I am! what an unexpected--oh! never mind the look
of the room, it's pretty tight in most places, and I've stuffed my
overcoat into the shell-hole."

"Don't apologise for your quarters, Jeff," returned my friend, laying
his sword and revolver on the table; "the house is a palace compared
with some places I've inhabited of late.  The last, for instance, was so
filthy that I believe, on my conscience, an irish pig, with an average
allowance of self-respect, would have declined to occupy it.--Here it
is, you'll find it somewhere near the middle."

He handed me a small sketch-book, and, while I turned over the leaves,
busied himself in filling a short meerschaum.

"Why, how busy you must have been!" said I, turning over the well-filled
book with interest.

"Slightly so," he replied.  "Some of these will look pretty well, I
flatter myself, in the _Evergreen Isle_, if they are well engraved; but
that is the difficulty.  No matter how carefully we correspondents
execute our sketches, some of these engravers--I won't say all of them--
make an awful mess of 'em.

"Yes, you may well laugh at that one.  It was taken under fire, and I
can tell you that a sketch made under fire is apt to turn out defective
in drawing.  That highly effective and happy accidental touch in the
immediate foreground I claim no credit for.  It was made by a bullet
which first knocked the pencil out of my hand and then terminated the
career of my best horse; while that sunny gleam in the middle distance
was caused by a piece of yellow clay being driven across it by the
splinter of a shell.  On the whole, I think the sketch will hardly do
for the _Evergreen_, though it is worth keeping as a reminiscence."

My friend and I now sat down in front of a comfortable fire, fed with
logs from the roof of a neighbouring hut, but we had not chatted long
before he asked me the object of my visit to headquarters.

"To inquire about my friend Nicholas Karanovitsch," I said.

From the sudden disappearance of the look of careless pleasantry from my
friend's face, and the grave earnest tone in which he spoke, I saw that
he had bad news to tell.

"Have you not heard--" he said, and paused.

"Not dead?"  I exclaimed.

"No, not dead, but desperately wounded."  He went on in a low rapid
voice to relate all the circumstances of the case, with which the reader
is already acquainted, first touching on the chief points, to relieve my
feelings.

Nicholas was not dead, but so badly wounded that there was no chance of
his ever again attaining to the semblance of his old self.  The doctors,
however, had pronounced him at last out of danger.  His sound
constitution and great strength had enabled him to survive injuries
which would have carried off most men in a few days or hours.  His whole
frame had been shattered; his handsome face dreadfully disfigured, his
left hand carried away, and his right foot so grievously crushed by a
gun-carriage passing over it that they had been obliged to amputate the
leg below the knee.  For a long time he had lain balancing between life
and death, and when he recovered sufficiently to be moved had been taken
by rail to Switzerland.  He had given strict orders that no one should
be allowed to write to his friends in England, but had asked very
anxiously after me.

Biquitous gave me a great many more particulars, but this was the gist
of his sad news.  He also told me of the fall of Dobri Petroff.

"Nicholas had fainted, as I told you," he said, "just before the picket
by which he had been rescued lifted him from the ground, and he was
greatly distressed, on recovering, to find that his faithful follower
had been left behind.  Although he believed him to be dead, he
immediately expressed an earnest wish that men should be sent to look
for and recover the body.  They promised that this should be done, but
he never learned whether or not they had been successful."

"And you don't know the name of the place in Switzerland to which
Nicholas has been sent?"  I asked.

"Not sure, but I think it was Montreux, on the Lake of Geneva."

After all this sad news I found it impossible to enjoy the society of my
eccentric friend, and much though I liked him, resolved to leave the
place at once and make arrangements to quit the country.

I therefore bade him farewell, and hastened back to the inn where I had
left Ivanka and Lancey.

The grief of the dear child, on hearing that her father had fallen on
the battle-field, was for a time uncontrollable.  When it had abated, I
said:--

"There is no one here to love you now, my little darling, but God still
loves you, and, you see, has sent me and Lancey to take care of you.--
Come, we will return to Venilik."

I did not dare at this time to raise hopes, which might soon be dashed
to pieces, in the heart of the poor forlorn child, and therefore did not
say all that was in my mind; but my object in returning to Venilik was
to make inquiry after her mother.  My own hopes were not strong, but I
did not feel satisfied that we had obtained sufficient proof that Marika
had been killed.

Our search and inquiries, however, were vain.  Venilik was almost
deserted.  No one could tell anything about the Petroff family that we
did not already know.  It was certainly known that many persons--men and
women--had fled to the neighbouring woods, and that some had escaped,
but it was generally believed that Marika had been burnt in her own
cottage.  No doubt, however, was entertained as to the fate of her
little boy; for there were several people who had seen him thrust
through and held aloft on the point of a Circassian spear.  When I told
of Dobri Petroff having fallen by the side of Nicholas, several of the
villagers said they had heard of that from other sources.

As nothing further could be done, I resolved to adopt Ivanka, and take
her away with me.

My preparations were soon made, a conveyance was obtained, and before
many days were over I found myself flying by road and rail far from the
land where war still raged, where the fair face of nature had been so
terribly disfigured by human wrath--so fearfully oppressed with human
woe.



CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

DESCRIBES A WRECK, AND THE TRIUMPH OF LOVE.

A Swiss chalet on a woody knoll, high up on the grand slopes that bathe
their feet in the beautiful Lake of Geneva.

It is evening--a bright winter evening--with a golden glory in the sky
which reminds one powerfully of summer, and suggests the advent of
spring.

In the neighbouring town of Montreux there are busy people engaged in
the labours of the day.  There are also idlers endeavouring to "kill"
the little span of time that has been given them, in which to do their
quota of duty on the earth.  So, also, there are riotous young people
who are actively fulfilling their duty by going off to skate, or slide
down the snow-clad hills, after the severer duties connected with book
and slate have been accomplished.  These young rioters are aided and
abetted by sundry persons of maturer years, who, having already finished
the more important labours of the day of life, renew their own youth,
and encourage the youngsters by joining them.

Besides these there are a few cripples who have been sent into the world
with deficient or defective limbs--doubtless for wise and merciful ends.
Merciful I say advisedly, for, "shall not the Judge of all the earth do
right?"  These look on and rejoice, perchance, in the joy of the
juveniles.

Among them, however, are some cripples of a very different stamp.  The
Creator sent these into the world with broad shoulders, deep chests,
good looks, gladsome spirits, manly frames, and vigorous wills.  War has
sent them here--still in young manhood--with the deep chests pierced by
bullets or gashed by sabres, with the manly frames reduced to skeletons,
the gladsome spirits gone, the ruddy cheeks hollow and wan, and the
vigorous wills--subdued _at last_.

A few of these young cripples move slowly about with the aid of stick or
crutch, trying to regain, in the genial mountain air, some of the old
fire which has sunk so low--so very low.  Others, seated in
wheel-chairs, doubled up like old, old men, are pushed about from point
to point by stalwart mountaineers, while beside them walk sisters,
mothers, or, perchance, young wives, whose cheery smiles and lightsome
voices, as they point out and refer to the surrounding objects of
nature, cannot quite conceal the feelings of profound and bitter sorrow
with which they think of the glorious manhood that has been lost, or the
tender, pitiful, heart-breaking solicitude with which they cherish the
poor shadow that remains.

In a large airy apartment of the chalet on the woody knoll, there is one
who occupies a still lower level than those to whom we have just
referred--who cannot yet use the crutch or sit in the wheelchair, and on
whose ear the sounds of glee that enter by the open window fall with
little effect.

He reclines at full length on a bed.  He has lain thus, with little
effort to move, and much pain when such effort was made, for many weary
weeks.  Only one side of his face is visible, and that is scarred and
torn with wounds, some of which are not yet healed.  The other side is
covered with bandages.

I am seated by his side, Ivanka is sitting opposite, near to the
invalid's feet, listening intently, if I may be allowed to say so, with
her large black eyes, to a conversation which she cannot understand.

"You must not take so gloomy a view of your case, Nicholas.  The doctors
say you will recover, and, my good fellow, you have no idea what can be
done by surgery in the way of putting a man together again after a
break-down.  Bella would be grieved beyond measure if I were to write as
you wish."

I spoke cheerily, more because I felt it to be a duty to do so, than
because I had much hope.

The invalid paused for a few minutes as if to recover strength.  Then he
said--

"Jeff, I insist on your doing what I wish.  It is unkind of you to drag
me into a dispute when I am so weak.  Tell the dear girl that I give her
up--I release her from our engagement.  It is likely that I shall die at
any rate, which will settle the question, but if I do recover--why, just
think, my dear fellow, I put it to you, what sort of husband should I
make, with my ribs all smashed, my right leg cut off, my left hand
destroyed, an eye gone, and my whole visage cut to pieces.  No, Jeff--"

He paused; the light vein of humour which he had tried to assume passed
off, and there was a twitching about the muscles of his mouth as he
resumed--

"No, Bella must never see me again."

Ivanka looked from the invalid's face to mine with eyes so earnest,
piercing, and inquiring, that I felt grieved she did not understand us.

"I'm sorry, Nicholas, very sorry," said I, "but Bella has already been
written to, and will certainly be here in a day or two.  I could not
know your state of mind on my first arrival, and, acting as I fancied
for the best, I wrote to her."

Nicholas moved uneasily, and I observed a deep flush on his face, but he
did not speak.

That evening Ivanka put her arms round my neck, told me she loved
Nicholas because of his kindness to her father, and besought me
earnestly to tell her what had passed between us.

A good deal amused, I told her as much as I thought she could
understand.

"Oh!  I should so like to see Bella," she said.

"So you shall, dear, when she comes."

"Does she speak Russian?"

"Yes.  She has been several times in Russia, and understands the
language well."

As I had predicted, Bella arrived a few days after receiving my letter.
My mother accompanied her.

"Oh, Jeff, this is dreadful!" said my poor mother, as she untied her
bonnet-strings, and sat down on the sofa beside Bella, who could not for
some time utter a word.

"What child is that?" added my mother quickly, observing Ivanka.

"It is the daughter of Dobri Petroff.--Let me introduce you, Ivanka, to
my mother, and to my sister Bella--you know Bella?"

I had of course written to them a good deal about the poor child, and
Bella had already formed an attachment to her in imagination.  She
started up on hearing Ivanka's name, and held out both hands.  The child
ran to her as naturally as the needle turns to the pole.

While my mother and I were talking in a low tone about Nicholas, I could
not avoid hearing parts of a conversation between my sister and Ivanka
that surprised me much.

"Yes, oh! yes, I am quite sure of it.  Your brother told me that he said
he would never, never, never be so wicked as to let you come and see
him, although he loved you so much that he--"

"Hush, my dear child, not so loud."

Bella's whisper died away, and Ivanka resumed--

"_Yes_, he said there was almost nothing of him left.  He was joking,
you know, when he said that, but it is not so much of a joke after all,
for I saw--"

"Oh! hush, dear, hush; tell me what he said, and speak lower."

Ivanka spoke so low that I heard no more, but what had reached my ear
was sufficient to let me know how the current ran, and I was not sorry
that poor Bella's mind should be prepared for the terrible reality in
this way.

The battle of love was fought and won that day at Nicholas's bedside,
and, as usual, woman was victorious.

I shall not weary the reader with all that was said.  The concluding
sentences will suffice.

"No, Nicholas," said Bella, holding the right hand of the wounded
soldier, while my mother looked on with tearful, and Ivanka with eager,
eyes, "no, I will not be discarded.  You must not presume, on the
strength of your being weak, to talk nonsense.  I hold you, sir, to your
engagement, unless, indeed, you admit yourself to be a faithless man,
and wish to cast me off.  But you must not dispute with me in your
present condition.  I shall exercise the right of a wife by ordering you
to hold your tongue unless you drop the subject.  The doctor says you
must not be allowed to talk or excite yourself, and the doctor's orders,
you know, must be obeyed."

"Even if he should order a shattered man to renounce all thoughts of
marriage?" asked Nicholas.

"If he were to do that," retorted Bella, with a smile, "I should
consider your case a serious one, and require a consultation with at
least two other doctors before agreeing to submit to his orders.  Now,
the question is settled, so we will say no more about it.  Meanwhile you
need careful nursing, and mother and I are here to attend upon you."

Thus with gentle raillery she led the poor fellow to entertain a faint
hope that recovery might be possible, and that the future might not be
so appallingly black as it had seemed before.  Still the hope was
extremely faint at first, for no one knew so well as himself what a
wreck he was, and how impossible it would be for him, under the most
favourable circumstances, ever again to stand up and look like his
former self.  Poor Bella had to force her pleasantry and her lightsome
tones, for she also had fears that he might still succumb, but, being
convinced that a cheerful, hopeful state of mind was the best of all
medicines, she set herself to administer it in strong doses.

The result was that Nicholas began to recover rapidly.  Time passed, and
by slow degrees he migrated from his bed to the sofa.  Then a few of his
garments were put on, and he tried to stand on his remaining leg.  The
doctor, who assisted me in moving and dressing the poor invalid,
comforted him with the assurance that the stump of the other would, in
course of time, be well enough to have a cork foot and ankle attached to
it.

"And do you know," he added, with a smile, "they make these things so
well now that one can scarcely tell a false foot from a real one,--with
joint and moveable instep, and toes that work with springs, so that
people can walk with them quite creditably--indeed they can; I do not
jest, I assure you."

"Nothing, however, can replace the left hand or the lost eye," returned
Nicholas, with a faint attempt at a smile.

"There, my dear sir," returned the doctor, with animation, "you are
quite wrong.  The eye, indeed, can never be restored, though it will
partially close, and become so familiar to you and your friends that it
will almost cease to be noticed or remembered; but we shall have a stump
made for the lower arm, with a socket to which you will be able to fix a
fork or a spoon, or--"

"Why, doctor," interrupted Nicholas, "what a spoon _you_ must be to--"

"Come," returned the doctor heartily, "that'll do.  My services won't be
required here much longer I see, for I invariably find that when a
patient begins to make bad jokes, there is nothing far wrong with him."

One morning, when we had dressed our invalid, and laid him on the sofa,
he and I chanced to be left alone.

"Come here, Jeff," he said, "assist me to the glass--I want to have a
look at myself."

It was the first time he had expressed such a desire, and I hesitated
for a moment, not feeling sure of the effect that the sight might have
on him.  Then I went to him, and only remarking in a quiet tone, "You'll
improve, you know, in the course of time," I led him to the
looking-glass.

He turned slightly pale, and a look of blank surprise flitted across his
face, but he recovered instantly, and stood for a few seconds surveying
himself with a sad expression.

Well might he look sad, for the figure that met his gaze stooped like
that of an aged man; the head was shorn of its luxuriant curls; the
terrible sabre-cut across the cheek, from the temple to the chin, which
had destroyed the eye, had left a livid wound, a single glance at which
told that it would always remain as a ghastly blemish; and there were
other injuries of a slighter nature on various parts of the face, which
marred his visage dreadfully.

"Yes, Jeff," he said, turning away slowly, with a sigh, and limping back
to his couch, "there's room for improvement.  I thought myself not a
bad-looking fellow once.  It's no great matter to have that fancy taken
out of me, perhaps, but I grieve for Bella, and I really do think that
you must persuade her to give up all idea of--"

"Now, Nic," said I, "don't talk nonsense."

"But I don't talk nonsense," he exclaimed, flushing with sudden energy,
"I mean what I say.  Do you suppose I can calmly allow that dear girl to
sacrifice herself to a mere wreck, that cannot hope to be long a
cumberer of the ground?"

"And do you suppose," I retorted, with vehemence, "that I can calmly
allow my sister to be made a widow for life?--a widow, I say, for she is
already married to you in spirit, and nothing will ever induce her to
untie the knot.  You don't know Bella--ah! you needn't smile,--you don't
indeed.  She is the most perversely obstinate girl I ever met with.
Last night, when I mentioned to her that you had been speaking of
yourself as a mere wreck, she said in a low, easy-going, meek tone,
`Jeff, I mean to cling to that wreck as long as it will float, and
devote my life to repairing it.'  Now, when Bella says anything in a
low, easy-going, and especially in a meek tone, it is utterly useless to
oppose her: she has made up her mind, drawn her sword and flung away the
scabbard, double-shotted all her guns, charged every torpedo in the
ship, and, finally, nailed her colours to the mast."

"Then," said Nicholas, with a laugh, "I suppose I must give in."

"Yes, my boy, you had better.  If you don't, just think what will be the
consequences.  First of all, you will die sooner than there is any
occasion for; then Bella will pine, mope, get into bad health, and
gradually fade away.  That will break down my mother, whose susceptible
spirit could not withstand the shock.  Of course, after that my own
health would give way, and the hopes of a dear little--well, that is to
say, ruination and widespread misery would be the result of your
unnatural and useless obstinacy."

"To save you all from that," said Nicholas, "_of course_ I must give
in."

And Nicholas did give in, and the result was not half so disastrous as
he had feared.



CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

SOME MORE OF WAR'S CONSEQUENCES.

Let us turn once more to the Balkan Mountains.  Snow covers alike the
valley and the hill.  It is the depth of that inhospitable season when
combative men were wont, in former days, to retire into winter quarters,
repose on their "laurels," and rest a while until the benign influences
of spring should enable them to recommence the "glorious" work of
slaying one another.

But modern warriors, like modern weapons, are more terrible now than
they used to be.  They scout inglorious repose--at least the great
statesmen who send them out to battle scout it for them.  While these
men of super-Spartan mould sit at home in comfortable conclave over mild
cigar and bubbling hookah, quibbling over words, the modern warrior is
ordered to prolong the conflict; and thus it comes to pass that
Muscovite and Moslem pour out their blood like water, and change the
colour of the Balkan snows.

In a shepherd's hut, far up the heights, which the smoke of battle could
not reach, and where the din of deadly strife came almost softly, like
the muttering of distant thunder, a young woman sat on the edge of a
couch gazing wistfully at the beautiful countenance of a dead girl.  The
watcher was so very pale, wan, and haggard, that, but for her attitude
and the motion of her great dark eyes, she also might have been mistaken
for one of the dead.  It was Marika, who escaped with only a slight
flesh-wound in the arm from the soldier who had pursued her into the
woods near her burning home.

A young man sat beside her also gazing in silence at the marble
countenance.

"No, Petko, no," said Marika, looking at the youth mournfully, "I cannot
stay here.  As long as the sister of my preserver lived it was my duty
to remain, but now that the bullet has finished its work, I must go.  It
is impossible to rest."

"But, Marika," urged Petko Borronow, taking his friend's hand, "you know
it is useless to continue your search.  The man who told me said he had
it from the lips of Captain Naranovitsch himself that dear Dobri died at
Plevna with his head resting on the captain's breast, and--"

The youth could not continue.

"Yes, yes," returned Marika, with a look and tone of despair, "I know
that Dobri is dead; I saw my darling boy slain before my eyes, and heard
Ivanka's dying scream; no wonder that my brain has reeled so long.  But
I am strong now.  I feel as if the Lord were calling on me to go forth
and work for Himself since I have no one else to care for.  Had Giuana
lived I would have stayed to nurse her, but--"

"Oh that the fatal ball had found my heart instead of hers!" cried the
youth, clasping his hands and gazing at the tranquil countenance on the
bed.

"Better as it is," said Marika in a low voice.  "If you had been killed
she would have fallen into the hands of the Bashi-Bazouks, and that
would have been worse--far worse.  The Lord does all things well.  He
gave, and He has taken away--oh let us try to say, Blessed be His name!"

She paused for a few minutes and then continued--

"Yes, Petko, I must go.  There is plenty of work in these days for a
Christian woman to do.  Surely I should go mad if I were to remain idle.
You have work here, I have none, therefore I must go.  Nurses are
wanted in the ambulance corps of our--our--deliverers."

There was no sarcasm in poor Marika's heart or tone, but the slight
hesitation in her speech was in itself sarcasm enough.  With the aid of
her friend Petko, the poor bereaved, heart-stricken woman succeeded in
making her way to Russian headquarters, where her sad tale, and the
memory of her heroic husband, at once obtained for her employment as a
nurse in the large hospital where I had already spent a portion of my
time--namely, that of Sistova.

Here, although horrified and almost overwhelmed, at first, at the sight
of so much and so terrible suffering, she gradually attained to a more
resigned and tranquil frame of mind.  Her sympathetic tenderness of
heart conduced much to this, for she learned in some degree to forget
her own sorrows in the contemplation of those of others.  She found a
measure of sad comfort, too, while thus ministering to the wants of
worn, shattered, and dying young men, in the thought that they had
fought like lions on the battle-field, as Dobri had fought, and had lain
bleeding, crushed, and helpless there, as Dobri had lain.

Some weeks after her arrival there was a slight change made in the
arrangements of the hospital.  The particular room in which she served
was selected as being more airy and suited for those of the patients
who, from their enfeebled condition, required unusual care and nursing.

The evening after the change was effected, Marika, being on what may be
called the night-shift, was required to assist the surgeons of the ward
on their rounds.  They came to a bed on which lay a man who seemed in
the last stage of exhaustion.

"No bones broken," said one surgeon in a low tone to another, to whom he
was explaining the cases, "but blood almost entirely drained out of him.
Very doubtful his recovery.  Will require the most careful nursing."

Marika stood behind the surgeons.  On hearing what they said she drew
nearer and looked sadly at the man.

He was gaunt, cadaverous, and careworn, as if from long and severe
suffering, yet, living skeleton though he was, it was obvious that his
frame had been huge and powerful.

Marika's first sad glance changed into a stare of wild surprise, then
the building rang with a cry of joy so loud, so jubilant, that even
those whose blood had almost ceased to flow were roused by it.

She sprang forward and leaped into the man's outstretched arms.

Ay, it was Dobri Petroff himself--or rather his attenuated shadow,--with
apparently nothing but skin and sinew left to hold his bones together,
and not a symptom of blood in his whole body.  The little blood left,
however, rushed to his face, and he found sufficient energy to exclaim
"Thank the Lord!" ere his senses left him.

It is said that joy never kills.  Certainly it failed to do so on this
occasion.  Dobri soon recovered consciousness, and then, little by
little, with many a pause for breath, and in tones that were woefully
unlike to those of the bold, lion-like scout of former days, he told how
he had fainted and fallen on the breast of his master, how he had lain
all night on the battle-field among the dead and dying, how he had been
stripped and left for dead by the ruffian followers of the camp, and how
at last he had been found and rescued by one of the ambulance-wagons of
the Red Cross.

When Marika told him of the death of their two children he was not so
much overwhelmed as she had anticipated.

"I'm not so sure that you are right, Marika," he said, after a long sad
pause.  "That our darling boy is now in heaven I doubt not, for you saw
him killed.  But you did not see Ivanka killed, and what you call her
death-shriek may not have been her last.  We must not be too ready to
believe the worst.  If I had not believed you and them to have been all
murdered together, I would not have sought death so recklessly.  I will
not give up hope in that God who has brought _you_ back, and saved _me_
from death.  I _think_ that darling Ivanka is still alive."

Marika was only too glad to grasp at and hold on to the hope thus held
out--feeble though the ground was on which it rested, and it need
scarcely be said that she went about her hospital duties after that with
a lightness and joy of heart which she had not felt for many a day.

Dobri Petroff's recovery was now no longer doubtful.  Day by day his
strength returned, until at last he was dismissed cured.

But it must not be supposed that Dobri was "himself again."  He stood as
erect, indeed, and became as sturdy in appearance as he used to be, but
there was many a deep-seated injury in his powerful frame which damaged
its lithe and graceful motions, and robbed it of its youthful spring.

Returning to the village of Venilik at the conclusion of the armistice,
the childless couple proceeded to rebuild their ruined home.

The news of the bold blacksmith's recovery, and return with his wife to
the old desolated home, reached me at a very interesting period of our
family history--my sister Bella's wedding day.

It came through my eccentric friend U. Biquitous, who, after going
through the Russo-Turkish war as correspondent of the _Evergreen Isle_,
had proceeded in the same capacity to Greece.  After detailing a good
many of his adventures, and referring me to the pages of the _EI_ for
the remainder of his opinions on things in general, he went on, "By the
way, in passing through Bulgaria lately, I fell in with your friend
Dobri Petroff, the celebrated scout of the Balkan army.  He and his
pretty wife send their love, and all sorts of kind messages which I
totally forget.  Dobri said he supposed you would think he was dead, but
he isn't, and I can assure you looks as if he didn't mean to die for
some time to come.  They are both very low, however, about the loss of
their children, though they still cling fondly to the belief that their
little girl Ivanka has not been killed."

Here, then, was a piece of news for my mother and family!--for we had
regularly adopted Ivanka, and the dear child was to act that very day as
one of Bella's bridesmaids.

I immediately told my mother, but resolved to say nothing to Ivanka,
Nicholas, or Bella, till the ceremony was over.

It was inexpressibly sad to see Nicholas Naranovitsch that day, for,
despite the fact that by means of a cork foot he could walk slowly to
the church without the aid of a crutch, his empty sleeve, marred visage,
and slightly stooping gait, but poorly represented the handsome young
soldier of former days.

But my sister saw none of the blemishes--only the beauties--of the man.

"You've only got quarter of a husband, Bella," he said with a sad smile
when the ceremony was over.

"You were unnecessarily large before," retorted Bella.  "You could stand
reducing; besides, you are doubled to-day, which makes you equal to two
quarters, and as the wife is proverbially the better half, that brings
you up nearly to three quarters, so don't talk any more nonsense, sir.
With good nursing I shall manage, perhaps, to make a whole of you once
more."

"So be it," said Nicholas, kissing her.  When they had left us, my
mother called me--

"Jeff," she said, with a look of decision in her meek face which I have
not often observed there, "I have made up my mind that you must go back
to Turkey."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, Jeff.  You had no right, my dear boy, to bring that child away
from her home in such a hurry."

"But," said I remonstratively, "her home at the time I carried her off
was destroyed--indeed, most of the village was a smoking ruin, and
liable at any moment to be replundered by the irregular troops of both
sides, while Ivanka's parents were reported dead--what could I do?"

"I don't know what you could do in those circumstances, but I know what
you can do now, and that is, pack your portmanteau and prepare to take
Ivanka to Venilik.  The child must be at once restored to her parents.
I cannot bear to think of their remaining in ignorance of her being
alive.  Very likely Nicholas and Bella will be persuaded to extend their
honeymoon to two, or even three, months, and join you in a tour through
the south of Europe, after which you will all come home strong and well
to spend the winter with me."

"Agreed, mother; your programme shall be carried out to the letter, if I
can manage it."

"When," asked my mother, "did your friend say he passed through that
village?"

I opened his letter to ascertain, when my eye fell on a postscript which
had escaped me on the first perusal.  It ran thus--

  "P.S. I see no reason why I should not ask you to wish me joy.  I'm
  going to be married, my boy, to Blue-eyes!  I could not forget her.  I
  had no hope whatever of discovering her.  I had settled in my mind to
  live and die an old bachelor, when I suddenly met her.  It was in
  Piccadilly, when I was home, some months ago, in reference to an
  increase of my nominal salary from the _EI_ (which by the way came to
  nothing--its original figure).  I entered a 'bus and ran my head
  against that of a lady who was coming out.  I looked up to apologise,
  and was struck dumb.  It was Blue-eyes!  I assisted her to alight, and
  stammered, I know not what, something like--`A thousand pardons--
  surely we have met--excuse me--a mistake--_Thunderer_--captain, great
  guns, torpedoes, and blazes--' in the midst of which she smiled,
  bowed, and moved on.  I moved after her.  I traced her (reverentially)
  to a house.  It was that of a personal friend!  I visited that friend,
  I became particularly intimate with that friend, I positively bored
  that friend until he detested me.  At last I met her at the house of
  that friend and--but why go on?  I am now `captain' of the Blue-eyes,
  and would not exchange places with any officer in the Royal Navy; we
  are to be married on my return, if I'm not shot, assassinated, or
  hanged in the meantime.  U.B."

"Ah, Jeff," said my mother, "how I wish that you would--"

She stopped.

"I know what you're going to say," I returned, with a smile; "and there
_is_ a charming little--"

"Well, Jeff, why don't you go on?"

"Well, I don't see why I should not tell you, mother, that there _is_ a
charming little woman--the very best woman in the world--who has
expressed herself willing to--you understand?"

"Yes, I understand."

Reader, I would gladly make a confidant of yourself in this matter, and
tell you all about this charming little woman, if it were not for the
fact that she is standing at my elbow at this very minute, causing me to
make blots, and telling me not to write nonsense!

Before dismissing U. Biquitous, I may as well introduce here the last
meeting I had with him.  It was a considerable time after the war was
over--after the "Congress" had closed its labours, and my friend had
settled--if such a term could be applied to one who never settled--near
London.  Nicholas and I were sitting in a bower at the end of our
garden, conversing on the war which had been happily brought to a close.
Bella and my mother were seated opposite to us, the latter knitting a
piece of worsted-work, the size of whose stitches and needles was suited
to the weakness of her eyes, and the former busy with a pencil sketch of
the superb view of undulating woodland which stretched away for miles in
front of our house.

"No doubt it is as you state, Jeff," said Nicholas, in reply to my last
remark; "war is a miserable method of settling a dispute, quite unworthy
of civilised, to say nothing of Christian, men; but, then, how are we to
get along without it?  It's of no use saying that an evil must be put
down--put a stop to--until you are able to show _how_ it is to be
stopped."

"That does not follow," said I, quickly; "it may be quite possible for
me to see, point out, and condemn an evil although I cannot suggest a
remedy and my earnest remonstrances regarding it may be useful in the
way of helping to raise a general outcry of condemnation, which may have
the effect of turning more capable minds than my own to the devising of
a remedy.  Sea-sickness is a horrible malady; I perceive it, I know it
to be so.  I loudly draw attention to the fact; I won't be silenced.
Hundreds, thousands, of other miserables take heart and join me.  We
can't stand it! we shan't! is the general cry.  The attention of an able
engineer is attracted by the noise we make, and the _Calais-Douvre_
steamboat springs into being, a vessel which is supposed to render
sea-sickness an impossibility.  Whether it accomplishes this end or not
is beside the question.  The point is, that, by the vigorous use of our
tongues and pens in condemnation of an admitted evil, we have drawn
forth a vigorous _attempt_ to get the better of it."

"But you don't expect to do away with war altogether?" said Nicholas.

"Certainly not; I am not mad, I am only hopeful.  As long as sin reigns
in this world we shall have more or less of war, and I don't expect
universal peace until the Prince of Peace reigns.  Nevertheless, it is
my duty to `seek peace,' and in every way to promote it."

"Come, now, let us have this matter out," said Nicholas, lighting a
cigar.

"You are as fond of argument as a Scotsman, Nic," murmured Bella,
putting a powerful touch in the foreground of her sketch.

"Suppose, now," continued Nicholas, "that you had the power to influence
nations, what would you suggest instead of war?"

"Arbitration," said I, promptly; "I would have the nations of Europe to
band together and agree _never_ to fight but _always_ to appeal to
reason, in the settlement of disputes.  I would have them reduce
standing armies to the condition of peace establishments--that is, just
enough to garrison our strongholds, and be ready to back up our police
in keeping ruffians in order.  This small army would form a nucleus
round which the young men of the nation would rally in the event of
_unavoidable_ war."

"Ha!" exclaimed Nicholas, with a smile of sarcasm, "you would then have
us all disarm, beat our swords into reaping-hooks, and melt our bayonets
and cannon into pots and pans.  A charming idea!  Now, suppose there was
one of the nations--say Russia or Turkey--that declined to join this
peaceful alliance, and, when she saw England in her disarmed condition,
took it into her head to pay off old scores, and sent ironclads and
thousands of well-trained and well-appointed troops to invade you, what
would you do?"

"Defend myself," said I.

"What! with your peace-nucleus, surrounded by your rabble of untrained
young men?"

"Nicholas," said my mother, in a mild voice, pausing in her work, "you
may be as fond of argument as a Scotsman, but you are not quite as fair.
You have put into Jeff's mouth sentiments which he did not express, and
made assumptions which his words do not warrant.  He made no reference
to swords, reaping-hooks, bayonets, cannon, pots or pans, and did not
recommend that the young men of nations should remain untrained."

"Bravo! mother; thank you," said I, as the dear old creature dropped her
mild eyes once more on her work; "you have done me nothing but justice.
There is one point, however, on which I and those who are opposed to me
coincide exactly; it is this, that the best way to maintain peace is to
make yourself thoroughly capable and ready for war."

"With your peculiar views, that would be rather difficult, I should
fancy," said Nicholas, with a puzzled look.

"You fancy so, because you misunderstand my views," said I; "besides, I
have not yet fully explained them--but here comes one who will explain
them better than I can do myself."

As I spoke a man was seen to approach, with a smart free-and-easy air.

"It is my friend U. Biquitous," said I, rising and hastening to meet
him.

"Ah, Jeff, my boy, glad I've found you all together," cried my friend,
wringing my hand and raising his hat to the ladies.  "Just come over to
say good-bye.  I'm engaged again on the _Evergreen Isle_--same salary
and privileges as before--freer scope, if possible, than ever."

"And where are you going to, Mr Biquitous?" asked my mother.

"To Cyprus, madam,--the land of the--of the--the something or other; not
got coached up yet, but you shall have it all _in extenso_ ere long in
the _Evergreen_, with sketches of the scenery and natives.  I'll order a
copy to be sent you."

"Very kind, thank you," said my mother; "you are fond of travelling, I
think?"

"Fond of it!" exclaimed my friend; "yes, but that feebly expresses my
sentiments,--I _revel_ in travelling, I am mad about it.  To roam over
the world, by land and sea, gathering information, recording it,
collating it, extending it, condensing it, and publishing it, for the
benefit of the readers of the _Evergreen Isle_, is my chief terrestrial
joy."

"Why, Mr Biquitous," said Bella, looking up from her drawing, with a
slight elevation of the eyebrows, "I thought you were a married man."

"Ah!  Mrs Naranovitsch, I understand your reproofs; but _that_, madam,
I call a celestial joy.  Looking into my wife's blue eyes is what I call
star-gazing, and that is a celestial, not a terrestrial, occupation.
Next to making the stars twinkle, I take pleasure in travelling--flying
through space,--

  "Crashing on the railroads,
  Skimming on the seas,
  Bounding on the mountain-tops,
  Battling with the breeze.
  Roaming through the forest,
  Scampering on the plain,
  Never stopping, always going,
  Round and round again."

"How very beautiful,--so poetical!" said Bella.

"So suggestively peaceful," murmured Nicholas.

"Your own composition?" asked my mother.

"A mere _morceau_," replied my friend, modestly, "tossed off to fill up
a gap in the _Evergreen_."

"You should write poetry," said I.

"Think so?  Well, I've had some notion at times, of trying my hand at an
ode, or an epic, but, man, I find too many difficulties in the way.  As
to `feet,' now, I can't manage feet in poetry.  If it were inches or
yards, one might get along, but feet are neither one thing nor another.
Then, rhyme bothers me.  I've often to run over every letter in the
alphabet to get hold of a rhyme--click, thick, pick, rick, chick,
brick--that sort of thing, you know.  Sentiment, too, is very
troublesome.  Either I put too much or too little sentiment into my
verses; sometimes they are all sentiment together; not unfrequently they
have none at all; or the sentiment is false, which spoils them, you
know.  Yes, much though I should like to be a poet, I must content
myself with prose.  Just fancy, now, my attempting a poem on Cyprus!
What rhymes with Cyprus?  Fyprus, gyprus, highprus, kyprus, lyprus,
tryprus, and so on to the end.  It's all the same; nothing will do.  No
doubt Hook would have managed it; Theodore could do anything in that
way, but _I_ can't."

"Most unfortunate!  But for these difficulties you might have been a
second Milton.  You leave your wife behind, I suppose," said Bella,
completing her sketch and shutting the book.

"What!" exclaimed my volatile friend, becoming suddenly grave, "leave
Blue-eyes behind me! leave the mitigator of my woes, the doubler of my
joys, the light of my life behind me!  No, Mrs Naranovitsch, Blue-eyes
is necessary to my existence; she inspires my pen and corrects my
spelling; she lifts my soul, when required, above the petty cares of
life, and enables me to take flights of genius, which, without her, were
impossible, and you know that flights of genius are required,
occasionally, of the correspondent of a weekly--at least of an Irish
weekly.  Yes, Blue-eyes goes with me.  We shall levant together."

"Are bad puns allowed in the _Evergreen_?"  I asked.

"Not unless excessively bad," returned my friend; "they won't tolerate
anything lukewarm."

"Well, now, Biquitous," said I, "sit down and give Nicholas, who is hard
to convince, your opinion as to the mode in which this and other
countries ought to prepare for self-defence."

"In earnest, do you mean?"

"In earnest," said I.

"Well, then," said my friend, "if I were in power I would make every man
in Great Britain a trained soldier."

"Humph!" said Nicholas, "that has been tried by other nations without
giving satisfaction."

"But," continued U. Biquitous, impressively, "I would do so without
taking a single man away from his home, or interfering with his duties
as a civilian.  I would have all the males of the land trained to arms
in boyhood--during school-days--at that period of life when boys are
best fitted to receive such instruction, when they would `go in' for
military drill, as they now go in for foot-ball, cricket, or
gymnastics--at that period when they have a good deal of leisure time,
when they would regard the thing more as play than work--when their
memories are strong and powerfully retentive, and when the principles
and practice of military drill would be as thoroughly implanted in them
as the power to swim or skate, so that, once acquired, they'd never
quite lose it.  I speak from experience, for I learned to skate and swim
when a boy, and I feel that nothing--no amount of disuse--can ever rob
me of these attainments.  Still further, in early manhood I joined the
great volunteer movement, and, though I have now been out of the force
for many years, I know that I could `fall in' and behave tolerably well
at a moment's notice, while a week's drill would brush me up into as
good a soldier as I ever was or am likely to be.  Remember, I speak only
of rank and file, and the power to carry arms and use them
intelligently.  I would compel boys to undergo this training, but would
make it easy, on doctor's certificate, or otherwise, for anxious parents
to get off the duty, feeling assured that the fraction of trained men
thus lost to the nation would be quite insignificant.  Afterwards, a few
days of drill each year would keep men well up to the mark; and even in
regard to this brushing-up drill I would make things very easy, and
would readily accept every reasonable excuse for absence, in the firm
belief that the willing men would be amply sufficient to maintain our
`reserve force.'  As to the volunteers, I would encourage them as
heretofore, and give them more honour and privileges than they possess
at present.  Thus would an army be ever ready to spring into being at a
day's notice, and be _thoroughly_ capable of defending hearths and homes
in a few weeks.

"For our colonies and our authority at home, I would have a very small,
_well-paid_, and thoroughly efficient standing army, which would form a
perfect model in military matters, and a splendid skeleton on which the
muscle and sinew of the land might wind itself if invasion threatened.
For the rest, I would keep my bayonets and artillery in serviceable
condition, and my `powder dry.'  If all Europe acted thus, she would be
not less ready for war than she is now, and would have all her vigorous
men turned into producers instead of consumers, to the immense advantage
of the States' coffers, to the great comfort of the women and children,
to the lessening of crime and poverty, and to the general well-being of
the world at large."

"My dear sir," said Nicholas, with a laugh, "you were born before your
time."

"It may be so," returned the other, lightly, "nevertheless I will live
in the hope of seeing the interests of peace more intelligently advanced
than they have been of late; and if the system which I suggest is not
found to be the best, I will rejoice to hear of a better, and will do my
best to advocate it in the _Evergreen Isle_.  But now I must go;
Blue-eyes and Cyprus await me.  Farewell."

U. Biquitous shook hands heartily, and walked rapidly away down the
avenue, where he was eventually hidden from our view by a bush of
laurel.

To return from this digression.

It is not difficult in these days to "put a girdle round the world."
Ivanka and I soon reached the village of Venilik.

It was a sad spectacle of ruin and desolation, but we found Dobri
Petroff and Marika in the old home, which had been partially rebuilt.
The blacksmith's anvil was ringing as merrily as ever when we
approached, and his blows appeared to fall as heavily as in days gone
by, but I noticed, when he looked up, that his countenance was lined and
very sad, while his raven locks were prematurely tinged with grey.

Shall I describe the meeting of Ivanka with her parents?  I think not.
The imagination is more correct and powerful than the pen in such cases.
New life seemed from that moment to be infused into the much-tried
pair.  Marika had never lost her trust in God through all her woes, and
even in her darkest hours had refused to murmur.  She had kissed the rod
that smote her, and now she praised Him with a strong and joyful heart.

Alas! there were many others in that village, and thousands of others
throughout that blood-soaked land, who had no such gleam of sunshine
sent into the dark recesses of their woe-worn hearts--poor innocent
souls these, who had lost their joy, their possessions, their hope,
their all in this life, because of the mad, unreasonable superstition
that it is necessary for men at times to arrange their differences by
war!

War! what is it?  A monster which periodically crushes the energies,
desolates the homes, swallows thousands of the young lives, and sweeps
away millions of the money of mankind.  It bids Christianity stand aside
for a time.  It legalises wholesale murder and robbery.  It affords a
safe opportunity to villainy to work its diabolic will, so that some of
the fairest scenes of earth are converted into human shambles.  It
destroys the labour of busy generations, past and present, and saddles
heavy national debt on those that are yet unborn.  It has been estimated
that the national debts of Europe now amount to nearly 3000 millions
sterling, more than three-fourths of which have been required for war
and warlike preparations, and that about 600 millions are annually taken
from the capital and industry of nations for the expense of past, and
the preparation for future wars.  War tramples gallantry in the dust,
leaves women at the mercy of a brutal soldiery, slaughters old men, and
tosses babes on bayonet-points.  All this it does, and a great deal
more, in the way of mischief; what does it accomplish in the way of
good?  What has mankind gained by the wars of Napoleon the First, which
cost, it is said, two million of lives, to say nothing of the
maimed-for-life and the bereaved?  Will the gain or the loss of Alsace
and Lorraine mitigate or increase in any appreciable degree the woe of
French and Prussian widows?  Will the revenues of these provinces pay
for the loss consequent on the stagnation of trade and industry?  What
has been gained by the Crimean war, which cost us thousands of lives and
millions in money?  Nothing whatever!  The treaties which were to secure
what had been gained have been violated, and the empire for which we
fought has been finally crushed.

When waged in self-defence war is a sad, a horrible necessity.  When
entered into with a view to national aggrandisement, or for an _idea_,
it is the greatest of crimes.  The man who creeps into your house at
night, and cuts your throat while you are asleep in bed, is a sneaking
monster, but the man who sits "at home at ease," safe from the
tremendous "dogs" which he is about to let loose, and, with diplomatic
pen, signs away the peace of society and the lives of multitudes without
serious cause, is a callous monster.  Of the two the sneak is the less
objectionable, because less destructive.

During this visit to Venilik, I spent some time in renewing my inquiries
as to the fate of my yacht's crew, but without success, and I was forced
to the sad conclusion that they must either have been drowned or
captured, and, it may be, killed after reaching the land.  Long
afterwards, however, I heard it rumoured that Mr Whitlaw had escaped
and returned to his native country.  There is, therefore, some reason to
hope that that sturdy and true-hearted American still lives to relate,
among his other stirring narratives, an account of that memorable night
when he was torpedoed on the Danube.

Before finally bidding adieu to the Petroff family, I had many a talk
with Dobri on the subject of war as we wandered sadly about the ruined
village.  The signs of the fearful hurricane by which it had been swept
were still fresh upon it, and when I looked on the burnt homesteads, the
trampled crops, and neglected fields, the crowds of new-made graves, the
curs that quarrelled over unburied human bones, the blood-stained walls
and door-posts, the wan, almost bloodless, faces of the few who had
escaped the wrath of man, and reflected that all this had been brought
about by a "Christian" nation, fighting in the interests of the Prince
of Peace, I could not help the fervent utterance of the prayer: "O God,
scatter thou the people that delight in war!"

THE END.





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