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´╗┐Title: A Gallant Grenadier - A Tale of the Crimean War
Author: Brereton, F. S. (Frederick Sadleir), 1872-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "A Gallant Grenadier - A Tale of the Crimean War" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



A Gallant Grenadier, by Captain F.S. Brereton, RAMC.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
A GALLANT GRENADIER, BY CAPTAIN F.S. BRERETON, RAMC.



CHAPTER ONE.

PHILIP WESTERN.

"You positively annoy me, Joseph, and make me feel more angry than I
care to admit.  The matter is a serious one, and I am deeply distressed.
After thirteen years of the most careful bringing-up there is complete
and absolute failure.  It is a miserable reward.  And then, to make
matters worse, you laugh at me, and egg the lad on to even greater
crimes!"

"Fiddlesticks, sir!  Humbug!  A miserable reward indeed!" was the
spirited answer.  "No one but yourself would admit it.  He is a fine
lad, though a little wild I will own; but for all that a generous,
good-hearted boy.  Let him alone!  Don't worry him with all these
goody-goody ideas.  There is plenty of time for him to settle down, and
meanwhile he will come to no harm, and, I'll be bound, will bring no
discredit on you."  The speaker shook his head knowingly, and helped
himself to a large pinch of snuff.

"How can you argue like that, Joseph, when you know what the lad has
done?" the former speaker replied with much sternness.  "I hold
practical joking to be at any time disgraceful, but when one's adopted
son is one of three who actually laid a booby-trap for the mayor of this
town in broad daylight, and made him a laughing-stock for all, then
discreditable is the least one can say of it.  It is positively
scandalous."

"Nonsense, Edward!  Barrington deserved all he got.  He is an odious
man, and the fright those youngsters gave him will teach him to mind his
own business in future, and not meddle with other people's affairs.
Serve him right, I say!  Just because a lad breaks one of his windows
with a catapult, and by pure accident, he gets the following
half-holiday stopped for the whole school.  If he hadn't blustered so
much, and looked so fierce, I've no doubt the culprit would have given
himself up; but he was afraid of the consequences, and most naturally,
too.  Ha, ha, ha!  It was funny!  I saw his worship immediately after he
had fallen a victim to the joke.  He was quivering with mingled fear and
rage, and the laughter of the by-standers did not help to soothe him."

Joseph threw himself violently back in his chair, causing it to creak in
an alarming manner and almost overturn, and gave vent to roars of
laughter, followed by chuckles of intense amusement, produced in such
deep tones that they seemed to come from the smart Wellingtons he wore.
He was a stout, comfortable-looking man of middle height, with a round,
clean-shaven face, which, now that he was laughing, was as red as fire
and wrinkled in all directions.  He had a shiny head, almost devoid of
hair, and a double chin which half hid the wide collar and large bow he
wore, while smartly-cut trousers and coat, a wide expanse of shirt
front, and a double-breasted waistcoat, which seemed almost too small to
reach across his massive chest and "corporation", completed an
appearance which made Joe Sweetman remarkable.  He looked a gentleman
all over, and his merry laugh and jovial manner made one certain at once
that he was a general favourite.

Opposite him, seated in an uncomfortable armchair, and hugging one knee
with his bony hands, was a big, gaunt man, whose heavy face and dull
leaden-looking eyes seemed never to have lightened with a smile.  A
square chin, set off by long Dundreary whiskers, and knitted brows
showed him to be a man of fixed purpose; one who, having made up his
mind upon a subject of any importance, would adhere to his decision with
exasperating stubbornness, refusing to be persuaded by any argument, and
holding firmly to his convictions, though their falseness was apparent
to everyone but himself.

A hard, bigoted man was Edward Western, and even good-natured Joe
Sweetman was often within an ace of losing his temper when conversing
with him.  An educated man, and in his younger days an officer in a line
regiment, Edward had suddenly taken it into his head that a soldier's
life was not the calling he should follow.  Once convinced of this he
sent in his papers, and now for years had acted as the vicar of
Riddington, a town of some importance in Hampshire.  A wife, holding
somewhat similar views to his own, and an adopted son of sixteen
completed his family, while Joe Sweetman, his brother-in-law, was so
constantly at the house that he might be said to form one of the
establishment.

The one great aim and object of Edward Western's life was that his
adopted son, Philip, should follow in his footsteps, and one day fill
his place as vicar of the town.  Fortune had decreed that he should be
childless, and at first this had not been a matter for regret.  But for
many years the vicar of Riddington had declared to all his parishioners,
when lecturing to them and advising them as to the training of their
children, that by careful education they could make them what they
wished.  "Neglect your offspring," he would say solemnly, shaking a
warning finger at his audience, "and they will become the evil-doers of
the future.  They will disgrace you, and even make you almost long to
disown them.  But with diligence, with never-ceasing care, you will
instil into their minds all that is good, and will train them to follow
that profession which you have decided they shall enter.  There should
be no need to worry yourselves in the future as to what your sons should
be.  Choose now, while they are infants, and bring them up according to
your wishes."

This was all, undoubtedly, very true and excellent advice to give, but
Mr Western went further.  "There is no such thing as `breeding' and
`noble blood'," he would declare.  "Take a lad from the gutter, and I
will engage that by using towards him the same amount of care as is
devoted to the child of gentlefolks, you will make him a gentleman."

So strongly did he feel upon the subject that, after mature
consideration, he decided to prove the truth of his sayings to all in
the parish.  To decide was to act.  In spite of Joe Sweetman's
remonstrances he inserted an advertisement in the papers, in which it
was set forth that a certain clergyman, living in a country town, was
anxious to adopt a son.

No difficulty was thrown in his way.  An answer reached him by return of
post, stating that a widow with many children would be glad to dispose
of one of them if a good home were offered.  A hurried visit and a few
questions satisfied the vicar that the woman was truthful, and that to
relieve her of a child would be an act of charity.  A few guineas were
handed to the widow, and Phil Reach, a fair-haired, blue-eyed boy of
two, was hugged in his mother's arms, smothered with kisses and big
tears, and finally, wondering no doubt what all the commotion meant, was
handed over to Mr Western.

He was an interesting little mite too, always happy and bright, and ever
ready for a romp.  And to do them justice, Mr Western and his wife
proved a devoted father and mother to their adopted son.  They lived for
him, and never for a single moment forgot what was the object of their
lives.

When the child was four years old his training commenced, and from that
day it had proceeded unceasingly.  Had his days been made bright and
joyous, success might have attended the efforts of the worthy vicar and
his wife; but Phil Western--as he was now called--seldom knew what it
was to be really happy.  Living with an eccentric couple, whose
austerity would have tried an adult, and deprived of playmates, he soon
began to mope and pine.  So much so, that at last the doctor ordered
home lessons to be given up, and after a good deal of persuasion his
adopted parents were prevailed upon to send him to the local school.
What a change it was!  From sorrow to sunlight.  Phil rapidly picked up
his health, and before long had hosts of friends.  But at home the old
life still continued.  The training was never for one moment forgotten,
and if only the desired end had been attained, Phil would have developed
into one of those abnormally good boys who never do wrong, and whose
lives are a pattern to all others.  But, unfortunately, this was not the
case.

Phil, indeed, grew up to be scarcely the studious and sober-minded lad
his adoptive parents had hoped to see.  Bottled up by the strictness of
life at home, his spirits simply boiled over when once he left the
house, and at school his masters knew him as a mischievous but
good-hearted youngster, whose courage and lively nature often led him
into doing stupid things, for which he was afterwards full of regret.
There was not a prank played of which he was not the ringleader, and any
batch of culprits mustered outside the doctor's study, waiting for
punishment, was certain to number him in its ranks.  And yet he was not
a bad boy.

"He is simply incorrigible.  I can do nothing with him, and you must
take him away at the end of the term," the worthy doctor had said when
discussing with Mr Western the affair of the booby-trap laid for the
mayor.  "I shall be sorry to lose the lad, for he is upright and
truthful, and has done much for the school in the way of sports and
athletics.  But he is never out of mischief, and the example he sets is
simply destroying the discipline of the school.  Be advised by me,
Western, and send him away.  He is by no means dull at his work, and at
a school where there is more opportunity of controlling him, and where
he will be separated from his present companions in mischief, he will do
well, I feel sure, and be a credit to you."

But no amount of reasoning could convince Phil's father that his son was
all that the Doctor had said.

"He has disgraced me," he said bitterly to Joe Sweetman, "and all our
care has been thrown away.  I hoped that he would grow up a quiet and
well-behaved young fellow; but he is never out of mischief, so much so
that I am now obliged to send him to a boarding-school, an institution
of which I have the greatest dislike.  And I suppose he will soon be
sent away from there.  I really am more than grieved, and how I shall
dare to meet his worship the mayor, after what has occurred, I do not
know!"

"Bother the mayor!  He's a prig, and got what he deserved!"  Joe
answered, with a sniff and a snap of his fingers.  "Send Phil away and
I'll swear he'll be thankful to you.  Of course I know it was foolish
and very wrong of those young monkeys to play their tricks on old
Barrington, but then you yourself know what an unpopular man he is.  Did
he not try to put an end to the annual procession of the Riddington boys
through the town, on the plea that they made too much noise?  That put
the youngsters' backs up; and then he must needs force his way into the
school and demand that the lad who broke his miserable window should be
caned, and in the event of his not being found that the whole school
should lose a holiday.  A pig of a fellow, sir, and I'm glad Phil and
his pals paid him out."

This indignant outburst, and the roar of laughter which followed on
Joe's remembering the unhappy mayor's fright, roused Edward Western's
ire.  He sat rigidly in his chair, staring blankly before him, with a
fixed expression of annoyance on his face.

"I cannot compel him to follow the profession I have chosen for him," he
said sternly, "but let him disgrace me again and I will pack him off to
London and there find a position for him as a clerk, where he will be
tied to his desk, and where he will have fewer opportunities of doing
wrong."

"Pooh! pooh!  You're too hard on Phil by a long way," exclaimed Joe
Sweetman earnestly, springing from his chair and pacing up and down the
room.  "Give him a chance.  Every dog must have his day, you know.  Let
him get rid of some of his wild spirits, and then perhaps he will be
quite ready to fall in with your wishes.  You accuse me of constantly
egging the lad on.  I deny that charge, Edward, and I do most sincerely
wish that you could see the facts as they are.  Perhaps I should not
speak, for he is your protege, not mine; but, just for a moment look
squarely at the facts.  Does the lad lead a happy life in his home?  I
tell you that he does not.  He has comfort and plenty of good food, but
the house is not brightened for the boy, and once within its walls he
has learnt to subdue and cloak a naturally sunny nature simply because
gay laughter and light-hearted chatter are disapproved of.  Can you
wonder, then, that he is inclined to run riot outside?  His high spirits
get the better of him, and he is ready for any fun--fun, mark you,
Edward, on which you and I might look and never feel ashamed--for,
mischievous though he is, he has a healthy mind."

Joe tossed his head in the air, thrust his fat hands beneath the tails
of his coat, and leaned against the mantel-piece, staring hard at Mr
Western.  "Come," he continued, with an easy laugh, "think better of it,
Edward.  Pack the lad off to school, and leave him more to himself.
He'll go straight, I'll wager anything upon it."

"Thank you, Joseph!  I do not bet," Mr Western replied.  "But I will do
as you say.  Philip shall go away, and his future must depend upon
himself.  Not all the arguments in the world will persuade me that there
is any truth in the saying that it is good for young fellows to sow
their wild oats before settling down to the serious business of life.
Now let us go into the garden."

Mr Western rose slowly from his chair, and, opening a large glass door,
stepped on to a verandah which surrounded his house and formed a most
charming spot in which to sit during the heat of a summer's day.  Joe
followed him, still chuckling at the memory of the mayor's discomfiture,
and together they stood looking out across the well-kept garden, with
its beds of bright-coloured flowers, its splashing fountain, and its
walls lined by rows of carefully-pruned trees.  It was a scene which
differed greatly from the monotony and lack of joyousness which marked
Phil Western's daily life at home.

Within the house all was dull and sombre.  Scarcely a laugh or a smile
brightened his existence.  Stern and full of earnestness, his adoptive
parents gave themselves up to their work, the religious education of the
parishioners and the careful bringing-up of their son.  Outside there
was a landscape teeming with life and movement; a town of some size in
the hollow below, its streets filled with country folk who had come in
to attend the market, and across the haze caused by the smoke rising
lazily from the chimneys, a huge vista of green trees and fields, broken
here and there by a wide silvery streak which marked the course of the
river, twisting and twining, now hidden by the foliage, and again
running through the open fields, flashing in the brilliant sun, and
bearing upon its smooth surface a host of tiny boats filled with
townspeople out for an afternoon's enjoyment.

A hundred yards or more beyond the outskirts of Riddington was a large,
red-brick building, almost smothered in creeper, and bearing in its
centre a tall tower from the four sides of which the face of a clock
looked out.  It was Riddington High School, and the hands of the clock
were pointing close to the hour of four.  A moment later there was a
loud "whirr", and then the first stroke of the hour, followed almost
instantly by a hubbub in the building below.  Hundreds of shrill voices
seemed to have been let loose, and after them the owners; for from all
sides of the school lads appeared, rushing out in mad haste, some
hatless, others jamming their hats upon their heads, and all in the same
condition of desperate hurry.  A minute later they had streamed across
the playground and were racing towards the river, to a spot where an old
waterman stood guard over some dozen boats.  Charging down the hill the
mob of excited lads swept the old man aside, laughed merrily at his
expostulations, and in a twinkling were aboard and shoving off from the
river-bank.

But not all the scholars of Riddington High School had joined in the
excited rush.  A tall, big-boned lad of some fifteen years, with hair
which was almost red in colour, and a boyish, open face, strode from one
of the doors accompanied by two others.  Flinging his hat jauntily upon
his head, Phil Western, for it was none other than he, walked across the
asphalt which formed the playground of the school, and, putting his two
forefingers in his mouth, produced a loud and prolonged whistle.  Twice
he repeated it, and after a minute's silence shouted "Rags!  Rags! where
are you?"

In the distance a series of short barks answered, and very soon a
fox-terrier dog came racing across the grass.

"Ah, he's waiting all right for his master!" exclaimed Phil, with a
short grunt of satisfaction.  "Good dog!--the best in the whole of
Riddington.  Now, you fellows," he went on, after having greeted his
canine friend with a pat, "what's the order for to-day?  We're all
agreed to give that old concern an airing.  The last time the good
people of this town had a chance of looking at it was in the year of the
queen's coronation; and that was thirteen years ago.  It's getting
musty, and must certainly have an airing."

"That's exactly what we think, Phil," chimed in one of the other lads, a
merry-looking youngster of fifteen.  "Riddington started a state barge a
hundred years ago, to take the mayor and councillors across the river to
the church on great occasions.  On other days they rowed over in
ordinary boats or went by the bridge--when it wasn't washed away by the
floods.  Then a new stone bridge was built, and for a few years they
kept up the old custom.  But for a long while now it has fallen
through--sunk into oblivion, as `old Tommy' would say.  It is clearly
our duty to revive this extremely interesting--I may say this unique--
old custom."

"Bah!  Stop it!" exclaimed Phil, with a laugh, snatching his comrade's
hat from his head and throwing it at his face.  "Tell me what
arrangements you have made."

"Simple.  Simple as daylight, Phil.  We saunter down to the river-side,
and as soon as Peter looks the other way we enter the boat-house.
Here's the key.  It hangs over the pater's mantel-piece, where it has
been for the last two years.  He's keeper of the state barge and the
bargemen's costumes."

"Splendid, Tommy!  Splendid!  We'll be off at once.  Come on, you
fellows.  Here, Rags!"

Phil hurried off with his companions in mischief towards an old and
somewhat dilapidated boat-house.  The lad who had been addressed as
Tommy slipped up to the door, and a few moments later all three entered
and closed it behind them.

A match was produced and a small piece of candle lighted.

"This way, you fellows," cried Tommy, leading the way along a narrow
shelf to the back of the house.  Here there was a small room with a
worm-eaten table and chairs and a heavy oak chest.

"It's no use doing things by halves, is it?" asked Tommy, with a broad
grin on his face.  "Here, in this old chest, are all the costumes, and
if we don't make that old barge look as well as it ever did, I shall be
astonished."

"You'll probably get licked, you mean," laughed Phil.  "But, all the
same, it's a splendid idea.  We won't spoil the show for a ha'porth of
tar.  Let's see how these things fit."

Ten minutes later, had any councillor of Riddington had sufficient
interest to pay a casual visit to the boat-house, he would have seen a
sight which would certainly have given a rude shock to his nerves.  For
in the old and musty building stalked three figures gorgeously attired
in costumes of red velvet, slashed in all directions with what had once
been white, red stockings and big-bowed shoes, heavy chains of brass
round their necks, and huge beef-eater hats upon their heads.  Beneath
the hats, where bearded faces should have been, were the merry
countenances of three boys who were bent upon a piece of mischief.

"Look here, Phil, you boss this show," said Tommy shortly, looking at
the other lad to see if he agreed.  "We're ready.  Give your orders and
we'll get aboard."

"Right, Tommy!  Help with this tarpaulin.  That's right.  Now jump
inside, you fellows, and fish out the rowlocks, and see that a couple of
oars are handy.  The rudder is already there.  Now we can start.  Hop in
there and take your places.  I'll open the gates and push her out."

Waiting to see that all was ready, Phil pulled the bolt of the gates
which closed the exit to the river, and threw them open.  Then he guided
the old state barge, all bedecked with gold and colours and curious
devices, out into the river, giving a lusty push off, and springing in
just at the last moment.

"Out oars!" he cried.  "Tommy, what are you grinning at?  Remember you
are a bargeman."

"Beg pardon, sir.  Sorry, I'm sure," replied the irrepressible Tommy,
with a broad smile on his face.  "I say, Phil, what a sight you do look
in those togs! and sha'n't we catch it when they find out who we are?
Old Barrington will be furious.  He said he'd have our blood--or
something like that--when we held him up the other day."

"Oh, bother Barrington!  I know he said we were a disgrace to the town,
and that he'd keep a special eye upon us in future," answered Phil, with
a laugh.  "But pull hard, you fellows.  I'll run up past the town; there
are lots of boats there that we'll go close to.  Let's make 'em believe
all's correct.  Keep straight faces, and pass them as though nothing
were wrong."

"My eye, what fun!" chuckled Tommy.  "But, all right, Phil! we'll do as
you say."

Slowly, and with a stately stroke, the two lads plied their oars, while
Phil, looking almost double his real size in his strange costume, sat
upright in the stern, the dog Rags by his side, and steered the barge
straight up the centre of the river.  Soon they were close to the boats,
and not many minutes had passed before their presence caused a
sensation.

"Blest if it bain't his wushup, the mayor!" cried a hulking countryman
out for a day on the river.  "Row along, boys, and let's get closer."

From every side cries and shouts of astonishment and pleasure resounded,
and all pressed towards the centre.  And through them all the old barge
swept grandly on its way, while its bargemen and the steersman kept a
rigid silence and hastily jerked down their caps to hide the giggles
which would come in spite of all their efforts.  On they swept, and soon
a throng of boats was following in their wake, while others ahead lay on
their oars and waited.  Suddenly, as they approached one of these, Phil
leant forward and, shading his eyes with his hand, stared at the
occupants.

"Keep on, you fellows," he muttered.  "There's a boat ahead of us with
my pater and mater aboard, and I believe the mayor too.  There'll be
trouble now, I expect."

And this was exactly the case.  It was a lovely day, and, persuaded by
Joe Sweetman, Mr and Mrs Western had engaged a boat, and, happening to
meet the mayor before embarking, had invited him to join the party.
Even as the barge appeared in sight, Mr Western was apologising for his
son's disgraceful behaviour, and telling the mayor what a disappointment
Phil was to him.

"Why, as I live," exclaimed Joe Sweetman suddenly, "that's the old state
barge!  What is happening, Barrington?"

"State barge!  Yes, so it is.  What can it be doing out here?" the
mayor, a fat-faced personage, replied.  "I have not given my permission.
We must see to this, Mr Western."

A moment later the barge slipped past, and in spite of Phil's efforts to
conceal his identity he was recognised.

"It's that rascal Western!" exclaimed the mayor, getting red with anger.
"Stop, sir!  What do you mean?  Are you stealing that barge?"

At the mayor's angry order Tommy and his companion ceased rowing, and,
seeing that all was discovered, Phil swept his hat from his head and
politely wished all "good afternoon."

Mr Barrington almost exploded with rage.  "Take that barge back at
once, you young rascal," he shouted.  "I'll have you up for stealing.
How dare you?  Take it back at once!"

But meanwhile a crowd had gathered, and quickly understanding the joke,
they laughed long and loudly and cheered the three boys.  As for Joe
Sweetman, he was convulsed, and this added not a little to the mayor's
ill-temper.

Mr Western had not spoken a word.  All the while he gazed sternly at
Phil, as though he could not trust himself to speak, and he had landed
at the steps and was on his way home before he opened his lips.

"The mayor is right," he said bitterly.  "Philip is a disgrace, and I
will not allow him to stay at home a single day longer than I can help.
I know an excellent institution where boys of his character can be urged
into obedience.  He shall go there, and nothing shall persuade me to
remove him till he has changed utterly and completely."

"What!  You would send Phil to a school for backward and incorrigible
boys?" exclaimed Joe Sweetman.

"Yes, that is exactly the class of institution I mean.  I know of one
close to London, and will send him there, so that he may be tamed into
obedience."

"Then I tell you that you will do that boy a grievous wrong," cried Joe,
roused to anger by Edward Western's words.  "Only boys of vicious nature
are sent to such schools.  Of the backward ones I say nothing, for
Phil's wits are as ready as any boy's, and he is decidedly not a dunce.
Nor is he vicious, as you seem to think.  For Heaven's sake look with a
more open mind at the matter.  Here is a merry, good-hearted lad whom,
because he gets into mischief, you would pack off to a school for unruly
boys.  I hope you will not insist on sending him to this place, for, as
I have said, he is not so bad as you think."

"Yes, I insist, Joseph, and no amount of argument will alter that
decision."

"Ah, I wish I had the power to compel you to do so!" said Joe bitterly.
"But perhaps it is all for the best.  Such schools, no doubt, are much
as the others, save that a boy starts as it were with a black mark
against his name.  Let us hope that the headmaster of the one in your
thoughts will see at a glance what sort of a lad he has in reality to
deal with, and treat him accordingly."



CHAPTER TWO.

OLD BUMBLE.

Mr Western was as good as his word, and within a week of his last
escapade Phil was despatched to a certain school, situated in the
outskirts of London, where only backward and incorrigible lads were
received.

"I am thoroughly displeased and disappointed with you," said the vicar
severely, as he lectured Phil just before his departure.  "I lifted you
from poverty, provided you with a home, and for years have devoted all
my spare hours to you.  You know what my wishes and hopes were.  They
are still the same.  Disappoint me again, get into further disgrace, and
I will disown you."

"I'll do my best to keep out of trouble," Phil answered, with a catch in
his voice, for the lad was at heart fond of his home and of his
guardians.  "I will not promise to follow your wishes though.  I don't
know why it is, but I loathe the thought of being a clergyman.  I love a
free and open life; and besides, a clever man is required for the
Church, and I am scarcely that.  Still, father, I will try my best, and
should I do anything wrong, it shall not be such as to cause you to feel
any shame."

"Then we shall see, Philip.  But remember my warning," answered the
vicar.

That evening a cab stopped outside a big stone building in Highgate and
deposited Phil and his baggage on the pavement.

For a moment he looked round in bewilderment, for this was the first
time he had been in the neighbourhood of, or in fact, anywhere near, the
great city; but a gruff "Five bob fare, please", and "that there's
Ebden's School", recalled his wandering wits.

Phil paid the money, and then, remembering that he would require someone
to help him with his baggage, asked the surly driver to get off his
seat.

"Not if I knows it, young un," was the answer.  "I've got me fare, and
you've got to yer journey's end.  So good-day to yer!  Hope yer won't
find it too precious warm in there.  I passes by most every day and
hears horrid yells a-coming from the 'ouse.  Get up, won't yer!" and
with a tug and a spiteful lash at his horse, this cheerful Jehu drove
off with such a jerk that the dilapidated top hat he wore started
backward, and, bounding from the box, was crushed beneath the wheels.

Phil, who had for the moment been somewhat taken aback by the man's
ominous words, roared at the cabman's discomfiture and at the rage into
which he promptly worked himself.  Then, taking no notice of his
growling, and seeing no one at hand to help him, he shouldered his box,
pushed open the iron gate which formed the entrance of his new home, and
mounted the steps.  A double knock, sounding hollow and rumbling, was
answered quickly by an individual who performed at once the duties of
butler and general fatigue man of the school.

"Name, sir?" he asked politely.

"Western," answered Phil.

"Ah! you're the new boy, sir!  Glad to see you.  Let me help you with
the box;" and in a twinkling Phil was relieved of his baggage.

Then he was ushered into a big room, where he waited, not without some
feelings of uneasiness, for the appearance of the master.

"I wonder what he'll be like!" he thought.  "I've heard of masters of
his sort before.  I wonder whether that cabby was rotting!  Perhaps he
wasn't, and perhaps I shall really be catching it hot.  Never mind.  I
was happy at Haddington, and will be here too."

Phil was in the act of sketching for himself a big, heavy-looking man,
with a hard unrelenting face, as his master, when there was a quick step
outside, the door burst open, and a clean-shaven little gentleman, with
a smiling, pleasant face, entered the room.

"By Jove!  He's awfully like Uncle Joe, and would be just his image if
he were a little fatter," Phil thought in an instant.

"Ah, Philip Western, the boy who has been in difficulties, I believe!"
said the stranger, extending a hand and shaking Phil's heartily.  "Glad
to see you, my lad.  Let me look at you.  Yes--we shall be good friends,
I hope."  Then, murmuring to himself, he continued, "Larky--
high-spirited--full of go, but no vice--no vice, I will swear.  Yes, we
shall be good friends."

Mr Ebden--for he it was--pushed Phil into the light and rapidly
surveyed him, muttering audibly all the while.

"So you are a disappointment to your father!" he continued.  "Come, tell
me all about it, my lad.  Let there be no secrets between us.  Tell me
the whole trouble; why you have come here, and in what manner you have
proved such a deep worry to your people."

"I can't help it, sir," Phil blurted out.  "I've done my level best to
act as father wished, but somehow or other I am always in trouble.  They
said I was upsetting the discipline of the school, and that is one of
the reasons for which I was sent away."  Then he proceeded to describe
what had happened, and how he had laid a booby-trap for the mayor, and
afterwards played a prank with the town barge.

Mr Ebden listened, and, much to Phil's relief, laughed heartily when he
heard how he and his friends had afforded the townspeople of Riddington
one more glance at an old-fashioned relic.

"That was a piece of pure, boyish mischief," he exclaimed, "and only
deserved a lecture; but the other was bad.  You ought to have been
caned.  You would have caught it severely here.  However, from this day
we start a new book.  Turn over that fresh leaf which one so often hears
about.  I am your friend--remember that, Phil Western.  You will meet
with no harshness here.  A piece of pure frolic I can enjoy; but
anything else, any breach of discipline, shall meet with the punishment
it deserves.  But we will not talk of that.  We shall be excellent
friends, I feel sure.  Now come with me and I will introduce you to your
new school-fellows."

Mr Ebden led Phil along a passage and through another room into a
garden, in which were some twenty boys.

"There they are," he said, giving him a push.  "Go and make friends with
them too."

Somewhat bewildered with the very pleasant greeting he had already
received, and more than pleased with the difference between his
forebodings and the reality, Phil walked forward and looked at the lads
before him, wondering which one he should address first.

And they too stared hard at Phil, and summed him up in a moment.  Here
was a boy with a big loose frame that wanted some filling out, long legs
and arms that looked as though a little exertion would push them far
through his clothing, and a well-tanned and freckled face; not exactly
good-looking, but distinctly pleasing, and possessing eyes which looked
straight at you, and a mouth with a queer little line beneath it, which
told that, though smiling now, it could become hard and stem on
occasion.  The whole, capped by close-cropped, almost reddish hair, made
up an appearance which was taking.

"A decent chap.  He must be a good fellow," was the half-muttered
thought of the boys, the tallest of whom advanced and at once entered
into conversation with Phil.  The others joined in, and in a few minutes
he was quite at his ease, and feeling more certain than ever that the
change of schools was decidedly not for the worst.

Time proved that he was right, for there was no doubt that Mr Ebden had
a wonderful power over his scholars.  From the first he made friends of
them, and endeavoured to keep them so.  Indeed he seldom failed.  A lad
who had elsewhere been sullen and morose, and in many cases
unmanageable, became under the new regime bright and laughing, and ready
at all times to do his best to master his lessons.  It was just the
difference between the careless neglect and misunderstanding that had
been his lot before, and the keen interest in all that concerned him
that was shown in every word and act of his new ruler.  A little
kindness goes a long way with many an awkward, nervous boy, and Mr
Ebden had proved this.

"Make a friend of him," he would say cheerily.  "Forget sometimes that
you are the master and he the boy.  Coax him into trying by taking an
interest in all he does, and you can make a convert anywhere."

He was right, as has been proved over and over again, for nowadays there
is scarcely a school where the masters do not join heart and soul with
the boys in their games, ay, and feel themselves the happier and the
younger for it too?

Thus did Mr Ebden conquer the lads sent to him as a last resource.

Before a week had passed, Phil had become quite popular in the school,
and his love of athletics helped him not a little.  To these a fair
proportion of the day was allotted, and as the school enclosure opened
into a large and well-kept garden, which was the common property of the
row of houses in which Mr Ebden's stood, there was plenty of
opportunity for cricket.  In the centre was a smooth stretch of lawn,
with a carefully-laid pitch, and here Ebden's did battle with sundry
neighbouring teams.

But it is not to be supposed that Phil and his comrades were always out
of mischief.  They were a high-spirited lot, and ever eager for
adventure.  Indeed, our hero had only been a year at his new home when
he was once more in the deepest trouble.  It happened in this way.  The
Highgate Wanderers had taken their departure in high dudgeon at the easy
victory that Ebden's had scored over them, and Phil and his friends lay
on the grass, full length, beneath the shade of a pleasant oak-tree.
They were lolling idly and merely waiting for the hour to strike to go
in and prepare for tea.  Suddenly one of the number, a lad named Fat
Bowen, pointed towards the farther end of the garden and exclaimed in a
high-pitched voice, "Look, you chaps, there's old Bumble inspecting his
statues again!"

All looked in the direction indicated, to see a stout old gentleman
waddling slowly round an artificial lake, and halting at every other
step to inspect and admire two statues which stood on pedestals placed
in the centre of the water.

"Good Old Bumble!" cried Phil, with a laugh; "he spends his days in
admiring that plaster Hercules.  If you were close to him you would hear
him muttering, `Beautiful!  Grand!  Masterpieces!  I will have two like
these in my own garden'.  Poor old boy! he's quite cracked on the
subject.  What would happen if they were to disappear?"

"There'd be a row, that's certain," answered Fred Wheeler, a particular
friend of Phil's.  "Yes, there'd be ructions, I expect.  But what a joke
it would be to take them away for a time!"

"Couldn't be done.  Too heavy to move," answered Phil promptly.  "But we
might do something else," he added, nothing loth for a piece of
mischief.  "Now what could we do, you fellows?"

Various suggestions were offered, but none of them was practicable, and
the hour striking a few moments later, the boys departed to the school
and left the stout gentleman still gazing lovingly at his statues.

"Old Bumble", as he was generally, known to Ebden's boys, was a
gentleman of the name of Workman, Mr Julius Workman, a wealthy merchant
of the city of London, who owned vast property in the neighbourhood of
Highgate, and, indeed, was landlord of the houses which formed the
terrace in which the school stood.  Consequently he was a man of some
position; in fact in Mr Ebden's eyes he was one with whom it was well
to be on the best of terms, and to treat with that amount of deference
due to a man of consequence who holds one's fortune in his hands.  To
tell the truth, Mr Julius Workman was not altogether an agreeable
person.  Fat and ungainly, he was far from being the good-natured
individual one might have expected.  Increasing riches had not softened
his nature, for he was grumpy and fussy, and apt to ride the high horse
on every occasion.  His tenants stood in awe of him, and, strange as it
may seem, Mr Ebden, the strong-minded man, who could successfully rule
a number of high-spirited boys, feared him more than all the rest.  But
there was good reason for this.  For fifteen years Ebden's School had
been in existence, and its increasing popularity had been a source of
satisfaction to its head.  Now to change the locality of the school and
alter that paragraph in the advertisement which ran "at a
charmingly-situated building, in the salubrious neighbourhood of
Highgate" might have been to diminish the popularity of the school.
Highgate was thought much of by fond parents, and more than one pupil
had been sent to Ebden's in order that he might be in that part of
London.  Therefore it was of paramount importance that Mr Julius
Workman should be kept in good-humour.

"Boys are nuisances, terrible nuisances," he had often remarked testily
to Mr Ebden, "and 'pon my word those you have nearly worry me out of my
life.  There is no peace in the terrace.  All day one can hear their
chatter, and, out in the gardens behind, their shouts are simply
unbearable.  Be good enough to see that they are less noisy in future,
please, for not only do they annoy me, but the neighbours complain, and
I have no intention of allowing Silverdale Terrace to be depopulated on
their account."

There was always a scarcely-veiled threat about the man's words.  If he
had put them into plainer sentences they would have run: "Your boys are
nuisances, and if I am worried again, I will give you notice to leave."

"Bother the surly old chap!"  Mr Ebden would exclaim under his breath,
"he has me fairly on the hip.  I am a good tenant and he knows it, but
for all that I can never have a long lease of the house.  Two years is
as much as he will allow; if he were to give me notice to quit, I should
have precious little time to look about me, and then--supposing I had to
go elsewhere--what would become of the school?  I should lose half my
pupils and half my income at one blow."

Consequently Mr Ebden took care to conciliate the old man; but not so
his pupils.  Amongst those mischievous lads Mr Julius Workman was known
as "old Bumble."

"Old Bumble" was voted a bore and a cantankerous Johnny, and each lad,
finding that a shout annoyed him, took particular pains to lift his
voice to the highest pitch whenever "Bumble" was in the vicinity.

Now the old gentleman was inordinately proud of the two plaster statues
in the centre of the lake, and the lads at Ebden's knew it well.  Often
before had they thought of playing some practical joke at "Bumble's"
expense, but never had they given it such deep consideration as upon
this night.  As they filed in to tea each was bothering his brains as to
how a joke could be played upon him, and afterwards, as they sat at
"prep." with their books in front of them, the glorious life and deeds
of Caesar were forgotten in a vision of "Bumble" surveying his statues.

"Wheeler, what are you gazing at?  Go on with your work, sir," Mr
Ebden's voice suddenly rapped out.

Wheeler buried his head in his hands, and pretended to be very deep in
his book.  There was silence in the big room for a few minutes, and Mr
Ebden once more bent over the letter with which he was occupied.  A
faint rustle in a far-off corner then attracted the attention of the
boys, and, looking up, Phil watched a lad named Carrol spell off some
words on his fingers.

"I've got it," they ran.  "It's about Old Bumble's statues."

Then, as the lad's excitement increased, the message became
unintelligible, and Phil sent back, "Can't make it out.  Start again."

By this time all the boys were on the _qui vive_ and staring hard at
Carrol.  But a sudden movement on Mr Ebden's part and a sharp "Go on
with your work, boys!" disturbed them.  Another attempt failed for the
same reason, and then Carrol seemed to give it up altogether.  But a few
minutes later, keeping a wary eye upon the master, who was sitting at
his desk in the centre of the room, Carrol held up a slate upon which
was written in large letters, "We'll tar and feather Old B.'s statues."

Instantly a suppressed giggle went round the room, and the lads looked
at one another with eyes which clearly said: "By Jove! he's got it.
What a joke it will be!"

That night, when Ebden's was supposed to be buried in profound sleep, a
council of war was held in Phil's cubicle, at which the details of the
plot were worked out.

"We're certain to catch it hot," Phil remarked, with a smile, as,
dressed in a flimsy night-gown, he sat on the edge of his bed, and
surveyed the three lads squatting on the floor in front of him.  "Old
Bumble will suspect us at once, and will do his best to find out which
of us played the joke.  But we'll do it, if only to show that we can.
By Jove, I wonder what the old boy will do when he sees Hercules dressed
like a hen?  He'll simply blow up with rage, and I wouldn't miss the
sight for worlds."

"There's safe to be a ruction," Wheeler broke in complacently, "and some
of us will get a licking.  But what does it matter?  Ebden will talk at
us till we feel as limp as rags, and then he'll cane us till we go as
stiff as any poker.  Then it will all be over, and we'll be as good
friends as ever.  It'll be a fine spree, and I vote we see about it
to-morrow."

"I take a share in it at any rate," cried Carrol, looking round at the
others to see if they agreed, for he was usually left in the background.
"I invented the joke, remember that, you chaps."

"We're all four of us in it," Phil answered gaily; "and now how about
the stuff?  The feathers and the tar, I mean.  Then we shall want a
raft.  I know we can buy some tar at Streaker's, and a call at the
poultry shop will get us heaps of feathers.  We'll manage that
to-morrow, and dress our statue in the evening, between tea and prep."

The details of the prank to be played were quickly arranged, and soon
Phil's companions slipped off like ghosts, and he tumbled into bed and
fell into a deep sleep.

The following evening, after dusk had fallen, four figures, each
carrying a long school-form, slipped out through the back gate of
Ebden's, and stole down to the lake.

"Now for the raft," whispered Phil.  "Place them alongside one another
and lash them with the rope."

In a few minutes a raft was constructed, but to the disgust of all the
lads it was so light and frail that it was not even sufficient to
support one of them.

"We're done.  Bother it!" exclaimed Carrol.

The others stood without a word, and stared at the raft in deep
vexation.

"It's all right.  I've got it, you chaps," Phil suddenly cried in tones
of excitement and pleasure.  "The lake's only a foot deep.  We'll shove
one form out, and then put another in front of it, and so on till we
reach the statue.  The bottom is made of stone, so there's no fear of
toppling over or sinking in mud."

A half-suppressed shout of joy answered him, and all at once set to work
to make the bridge.  It was easier than they had hoped, and before very
long, by means of two extra forms, Hercules was reached.  Then began the
work of tar-and-feathering, an act of vandalism for which each and every
one of them deserved a good thrashing, done though it was as a piece of
pure boyish mischief, and in all thoughtlessness.

At length it was finished, and with hands and faces smeared with tar,
and feathers sticking to their clothes, Phil and his boon companions
returned silently to the house, and having hastily washed themselves
took their places in "prep." as though nothing had happened.  But a
scarcely-suppressed bubble of excitement and huge grins of amusement
showed that all at Ebden's were conscious of the prank, save the worthy
head himself, who, if he had only known, would there and then have gone
out and done his best to clean the statue before the light of day
disclosed it to Mr Julius Workman.

On the following afternoon a game of cricket was in progress, when a cry
of "Here's old Bumble!" put a sudden stop to it, and the boys at once
selected the nearest and best hiding-places from which to look on safely
and observe all that happened.

Stalking pompously down the path leading from his own residence, Mr
Julius Workman scarcely deigned to acknowledge the polite salute which
two of the lads gave him.  He walked--or rather waddled--along towards
the lake, and, arrived there, sniffed, drew his snuff-box from a pocket
in the tail of his coat, and helped himself to a liberal pinch.  Then he
drew out a highly-coloured silk handkerchief, and, holding it in one
hand, was in the act of patting it to his nose, when his eye lit upon
the statue.  Unable to believe that what he saw was real, he wiped his
glasses and stared again.  Then his face assumed a livid hue, his cheeks
puffed out, and for the moment he looked as though he were on the point
of exploding, or of having an apoplectic fit.

"Tarred and feathered, as I live!" he shouted, dancing from foot to foot
in his rage, and shaking his stick threateningly.  "Some wretch has
destroyed my statue, the most beautiful I ever saw.  It is a piece of
wickedness; yes, wickedness! and I will search Highgate--ay, and even
the whole of London--to find the culprit."

For a moment he stopped for lack of breath, and behind their shelters
Phil and his friends enjoyed the scene to their hearts' content.

"Ah, I know!" the old gentleman suddenly shouted; "it's one of those
rascally boys.  I know it.  It must be their work.  They shall pay for
it, the young scamps, and so shall Ebden!" and, still shaking his stick,
and in a towering rage, he went off to the school to interview its head.

"By George, the fat's in the fire now!" cried Wheeler, with a laugh
which was not altogether cheerful.  "Phil, there'll be an awful row.
What shall we do?"

"Wait and see," answered Phil easily.  "We've had our joke, and a good
one it was, and perhaps we shall have to pay for it."

Meanwhile Mr Julius Workman had reached the school, and had asked for
Mr Ebden.  He was shown into the library, and there, as he waited and
thought over the matter, his rage, instead of decreasing, grew even more
violent, so that when the pleasant-faced little master entered, and in
his cheery voice said, "Ah, Mr Workman! this is a pleasure I had not
expected," the stout old gentleman was beyond himself, and could
scarcely speak.

"Pleasure, sir!  Pleasure!" he spluttered at last.  "It's no pleasure to
me, sir; let me tell you that.  I have a serious complaint to make.
What have you to say, sir?"

He stared at Mr Ebden as though the latter had had a hand in the prank.

"A complaint, Mr Workman?  I don't understand," said Mr Ebden with
astonishment.

"Yes, you do, sir; yes, you do," the irate old gentleman shouted rudely.
"Why don't you look after your boys?  I told you they were a nuisance,
and now they've played a trick on me and ruined my statue of Hercules."

When Mr Ebden had heard the full details of the prank he too was
extremely angry, or pretended to be so, and at once accompanied Mr
Workman to inspect the ruined statue.  Then, with a heavy frown on his
usually pleasant face, he returned and summoned all the boys before him.
Mr Julius Workman was also present, and glowered round at them as
though he would like to do everyone some mischief.

"You've got to find out who did it, or there'll be trouble," he remarked
significantly to Mr Ebden, as the latter was about to speak.

Now, the boys at Ebden's were, naturally, unaware of the peculiar reason
their master had for keeping on good terms with "Old Bumble", but this
remark struck them as peculiar, and Phil, thinking it over, and being a
quick-witted lad, grasped its meaning, and determined at once to give
himself up.

"I'm the biggest fellow here," he thought, looking round at his
companions, "and though I'm not the eldest by some months, I'm usually
the leader in these scrapes."

"Boys," said Mr Ebden severely, scrutinising each one of them in turn,
and speaking slowly and distinctly, "a foolish and most objectionable
prank has been played upon one of the statues in the gardens.  Mr
Workman declares that one of you is guilty.  Is this so?"

"Of course it is," grunted "Old Bumble" angrily.  "What's the good of
asking if they did it?  Of course they did!"

Mr Ebden took no notice of the interruption, but looked at his pupils,
who stared guiltily at one another, knowing well that each had been a
party to the plot, and yet waiting for one to give the lead before the
others acknowledged.

Phil stepped forward in front of his comrades, and with upright head,
and eyes fixed straight on Mr Ebden's, said:

"Yes, sir, it is so.  I tarred and feathered the statue, and I'm sorry
Old B--Mr Workman--is so angry."

"Old B!  What did the scamp almost call me?" shouted Mr Workman,
working himself into another rage.  "You are a scamp, sir, and a
disgrace to the school!"

"I am sorry, sir," Phil said again.  "I did it for a joke only, and now
I'll clean the statue if Mr Ebden will allow me."

But this was out of the question.  The boys were dismissed, and a long
conversation ensued between Mr Ebden and the irate old gentleman.
After that work proceeded as usual, but, knowing that it was Mr Ebden's
invariable rule to allow twenty-four hours to elapse before deciding
upon the punishment for any serious offence, Phil did not permit his
hopes to rise, or imagine that he was to get off easily.

And, as it turned out, he was right.  After mature consideration Mr
Ebden summoned the boys, and having read them a lecture, gave Phil the
severest caning he had ever experienced in his life, all of which that
high-spirited lad bore without so much as a whimper.  Then he punished
somewhat more mildly the three others who had helped in the prank, and
who, not to be behindhand or allow one to suffer for the fault of all,
had addressed a note to the headmaster the previous evening confessing
their guilt.

"I cannot tell you how annoyed I am," said Mr Ebden in cold tones,
which hurt his pupils far more than the cane.  "You have aided and
abetted one another in destroying a work of art, and you have deeply
offended one with whom it was a matter of policy for me to be on good
terms.  Those four who did the actual tarring will have to pay for
another statue out of their own pockets, and I shall communicate with
their parents.  Now you may go, and let there be no more of this
foolishness."



CHAPTER THREE.

OUT INTO THE WORLD.

Letters did not travel so rapidly in the year 1850 as nowadays, and the
fact that a week elapsed between the despatch of Mr Ebden's note and
its receipt at the vicarage at Riddington was not a matter to lead to
abuse of the postal authorities; for the town in which Mr Western lived
was somewhat remote, and well away from the main line, and epistles
which were addressed to its residents usually lay for a day or more at a
post-office twenty miles away, from which they were removed at most
twice a week.  However, arrive the letter did at last, and Mr Western,
gloomier and more severe if possible than ever, sat in his study reading
it for the second time.

"Look at that," he said icily, tossing it across to Joe, who stood in
his favourite position, leaning against the mantel-piece, with his hands
beneath the tails of his coat.

"Humph!  The young rascal!"  Joe exclaimed with a chuckle, as soon as he
had glanced through it.  "Got himself into trouble, and his master too.
Young donkey!  Mischievous young donkey, that's what he is, Edward; and
now he won't have a penny to bless himself with till his share of the
statue is paid for."  Then aside to himself he muttered as he helped
himself to snuff: "Humph!  Must send him a tip.  A few shillings are
always welcome to a school-boy."

Mr Western stared gloomily at the fire and kept silent for a minute or
more.  Then, bringing his hand down heavily upon the table, he exclaimed
fretfully: "The boy worries me.  What makes him wish to play these
pranks?  I have done my best, and so has your sister.  He has had
warning enough, and surely ought to keep out of these troubles.  I
believe he is wilfully mischievous, yes wilfully mischievous, and a bad
boy at heart, and I will have no more to do with him.  I will give him
one more start, and leave him to make his way in the world as best he
can.  If he fails then he must look to himself, and thank himself alone
for the trouble he has fallen into."

Joe started and looked uneasily at his brother-in-law.

"Nonsense, Edward!  Nonsense!" he said sharply.  "I cannot make you out;
and, to be perfectly candid, you are as much a mystery to me as the lad
seems to be to you.  Cannot you understand that he is simply full of
spirit, and though, no doubt, he is sorry afterwards for the pranks he
plays, yet they are the result of thoughtlessness and an abundance of
good health and animal spirits?  Bless my life! where would England have
been but for lads of his nature?  A sunny, cheerful lad he is, and I
tell you plainly you do him an injustice when you say he is bad at
heart.  Look at the letter again.  Doesn't Mr Ebden admit that he owned
up like a gentleman?  What more do you want?  Would you have the boy a
girl?"

Joe snorted indignantly, and blew his nose so violently that Mr Western
started.

"The misunderstanding is not on my side," he retorted.  "I who have
watched him all these years should know; and it is you, Joseph, who have
helped to ruin him.  You have egged him on, and now, when he should be
quiet and steady, he is simply unmanageable.  But we will not wrangle
about the matter.  Philip shall leave Mr Ebden's house at the end of
this term, and shall take a position as clerk in the office of a friend
of mine.  After that he must look to himself, for I will have no more to
do with him."

"Then I tell you the lad will not submit to your proposal," Joe said
hotly.  "He is too free and easy to love one of your offices, and is not
the one to sit down tamely and have his spirit broken by long hours of
monotonous drudgery, paid for at a rate which would disgust the average
workman.  But I will say nothing to dissuade him, though, mark my words,
he will disappoint you again; and then, if he is thrown on the world, I
will look after him.  It is not for me, Edward, to remind you of your
responsibilities to Phil.  You took him from the gutter, as I have often
heard you say, and it is your duty to bear with him, however troublesome
he may be.  When he reaches man's age he will be well able to look to
himself, but till then he is a boy, just as thoughtless and
high-spirited as I was, and his pranks should not be treated as the
deeds of a criminal.

"He got into mischief at Riddington High School, and you were asked to
remove him, not only that the discipline of the school might not suffer,
but also for the sake of the lad himself.  By separating him from some
high-spirited companions there was a better chance that they and he
might settle down and become more sober, and the headmaster fully
realised it.  But why on that account you should send him to a school
specially set aside for incorrigible lads passed my comprehension, and,
as you will remember, did not meet with my approval.  As a matter of
fact Mr Ebden is a clever man, and took to leading and encouraging Phil
instead of driving him.  And now, merely because the foolish young
fellow is dragged into another piece of mischief--innocent, clean-minded
mischief, mind you--you would punish him severely, and possibly ruin his
future by placing him in a position in which all his energies will be
cramped, and from which he can scarcely hope to rise.  I call it a
short-sighted policy, and most unfair treatment of the boy."

Joe once more dipped into his snuff-box, blew his nose loudly, and then,
seeing that his brother-in-law did not intend to reply, sniffed loudly
and stumped out of the room.  A month later, when the end of the term
arrived, Phil did not return to Riddington for the holidays, but instead
took his box to a dingy lodging in the heart of the city, and
straightway set to work at his new duties.

Mr Western had written a cold and reproving letter to him, warning him
that this was the last he could do for him; while Joe had sent him a few
characteristic lines telling him to do his best, and never to forget
that he had one good friend in the world.

Determined to get on well if possible, Phil was most assiduous in his
duties at the office, and took pains to master the writing put before
him.  His employer he saw little of, but whenever they met he was
greeted politely, so that he had no cause to find fault in that
direction.  But lack of friends and lack of outdoor exercise soon told
upon him.  He lost his healthy looks and became pale and listless, for
in those days cycling was not in vogue, and it was seldom that a city
clerk was able to shake the soot and dirt of the streets from him and
get into the country.

"This won't do," thought Phil one evening as, chained to his desk on
account of unusual business, he drove his pen till the figures were
blurred and his fingers cramped.  "If this is the life before me I had
rather be a soldier or a sailor and earn my shilling a day, and a little
adventure.  Fellows have often told me that a steady young soldier is
bound to rise, and if he works hard and has a little education, may even
reach to commissioned rank.  That takes years, of course, but supposing
it took ten I should be better off than after spending the same time in
this office.  Larking has been here fifteen years, and look what he is!"

Phil raised his eyes from his work and stared thoughtfully at a bent and
prematurely-aged man who sat on his right.  "Yes, I'd sooner see the
world and run the risk of losing my life in some far-off country than
live to grow up like that," he mused pityingly.  "At any rate I'll go
and have a chat with Sergeant-major Williams."

The latter was a veteran of the Foot Guards, who had long ago earned a
pension, and now lived with his wife on the same landing as Phil.

"Tired of your job, lad, are you?" he remarked, when Phil entered his
room that night, saying that he had come for a chat and some advice.
"Well, now, I'm not greatly surprised; though, mind you, there's many a
poor starving chap as would only be too glad to step into your shoes.
What chance has a youngster in the army, you ask?  Every chance, sir;
every chance.  Look at me"--and the old soldier stood upright on the
hearth-rug and threw out his chest, thereby showing the row of medals
pinned to his waistcoat.  "I was your age, my lad, when I first 'listed,
and when I had got my uniform and stood on parade for the first time,
trying to look as though I knew all about it, with my chest somewhere
close to my back and my stomach showing well in front, why, the
sergeant-major came along, and I thought to myself he must be the
colonel, and miles and miles above me.  I never guessed I'd reach his
rank some day; but I did, sure enough, and steady, honest work, and
being sober, was what lifted me there.  But you've got education, and
that's the pull.  I had to teach myself, and a precious grind it was;
but with you it's different, and if you only keep out of scrapes you're
certain to go up."

"But I'm always in trouble and scrapes of one sort or another; at least
I was at school!" exclaimed Phil.

"Yes, I dare say you was, and a precious baby you would be if you hadn't
been; but that sort of thing don't go down in the army.  Discipline's
discipline, and so long as you remember that, and the fact that you're
filling a man's place and are no longer a school-boy, you're all right.
Play your larks in the barrack-room as much as you like, and no one will
mind; but never give cheek back to a non-commissioned officer as orders
you to stop.  It's mighty trying at times, I know.  Some young chap as
has just been made a corporal gets beyond himself, and pitches into you.
Grin and bear it is what you've got to do, and that's discipline, and
it's minding that will help you to get on."

"Then you think I shall do well to enlist?" asked Phil.

"Do well?  Of course you will.  Why, I'd sooner pick rags than be at the
work you're at," answered the sergeant-major.  "How much do you earn a
week, my lad, if it isn't a rude question?"

"Ten shillings, and extra if I'm kept overtime," said Phil.

"Then you'll be no worse off in the army," exclaimed the old soldier.
"A shilling a day, less washing, and your extra messing, is what you'll
have, and it won't be long before you're receiving corporal's pay.  Now
think it over, lad.  I've no wish to persuade you; but if you decide to
'list for the army, I'll put you in the way of joining the finest
regiment in the world."

Phil thanked the sergeant-major, and retired to bed, only to lie awake
thinking the matter over.  By the following morning he had quite made up
his mind to be a soldier, and went in to see his friend.

"Look here, sir," the latter exclaimed, flourishing a morning paper,
"you've made up your mind to leave that musty office and join the army,
but you're barely seventeen yet, you say.  Now, I've something to
propose, and something to show you.  Before you 'list try what it's like
to rough it amongst rough men and earn your own living.  Here's an
advertisement asking for hands in a kind of private zoo.  I know the
show, and a friend of mine, an old soldier like myself, is office-man,
and keeps the books.  Take a job there for a few months and see how you
like the life, and then, if roughing it suits you, join the army.  Even
then you'll be too young; but you're big and strong, and a few months
won't make a great deal of difference."

"But I know nothing about animals," said Phil doubtfully.  "I've ridden
a horse occasionally, and always had a dog when possible.  What does the
advertisement say?  Surely far more experience than I have had is
wanted?"

"Here you are, sir.  Read it, and judge for yourself.  It's as fine an
offer, and as good an opportunity for you to see what life is in the
rough, as you could wish for."

Phil took the paper and read:

_Wanted, a few hands in a large private menagerie.  Applicants must be
young and active, prepared to make themselves useful in any way, and
must not object to travelling_.

Then it concluded by giving the address, which was in the suburbs of
London.

"Well, what do you make of it?" asked the old soldier, who had watched
his face closely all the time.

"It certainly reads in a most inviting manner," Phil replied
hesitatingly; "but still I scarcely think it would suit me, for I really
have had no experience to teach me how to make myself useful.  I should
be a raw hand who was always in the way, and should be dismissed before
a week had passed."

"You've no need to worry about that, I can assure you, sir," the
sergeant-major answered encouragingly.  "My friend will see that you
have a fair chance given you, and I'll wager that a fortnight will set
you on your feet and make you as knowing as those who've been working a
year and longer with the firm.  Mind you, though, I've scarcely more
than an idea what is really required.  Anyone can make himself useful if
shown the way, but there must be a lot of work that's difficult and
p'r'aps dangerous.  One thing I've learnt from Timms, and that is, that
animals has to be taken by road to various parties, and that means kind
of camp or gipsy life at times.  Now look you here, my lad.  Just you go
right off, read the 'vertisement again, and then think the matter over.
It don't do to jump into these affairs, for you might find it a case of
`out of the frying-pan into the fire'.  There's the place; top of the
centre column.  Come back this evening and tell me what you have decided
on."

Phil did as the old soldier suggested.  He took the paper to the office,
and during the day thought the matter out, finally deciding to make the
plunge and find out for himself what roughing it really meant.

"After all," he mused, as he absently traced lines and figures on the
blotting-paper, "I shall be in just the position I might have occupied
had not Father taken me from home.  My mother was a poor widow, and long
ago I should have had to earn my living and help to keep her too.  I'll
do it.  I cannot put up with this office life.  A few years later it
might be different, but now it stifles me."

Many a wiseacre might shake his head at Phil's cogitations, and more
emphatically still at his determination to abandon a certain livelihood
for an extremely uncertain one.  "Do not think of leaving the office,"
some would say, "till a better place offers itself"; or "Remain where
you are till you are thoroughly acquainted with business life, and can
command a higher salary."  Certainly the majority would be strongly
against his applying for the post proposed by the sergeant-major.

But deep in Phil's heart was a desire to show his adoptive parents that
he had profited by their kindness, and was able to work his way up in
the world.  He knew that by leaving his present place he would give
occasion for more disappointment; but then, after many a chat with
others similarly situated, and being, for all his spirits, a thoughtful
young fellow who looked to the future, he came to the conclusion that
here he had no opportunity of rising.  He knew that whenever a vacancy
in some business house did occur there were plenty asking for it, and he
knew, too, that without means at their disposal those who were selected
had prospects none too brilliant.  Many did rise undoubtedly from the
office-stool to the armchair of the manager.  But how many?  Why should
that good fortune come his way?  No, in an office he felt like a canary
in a cage; therefore he determined to forsake the life and seek one with
more of the open air about it, and a spice of danger and hardship thrown
in.  Who could say that luck would not come his way?  If it did, perhaps
it would give him just that necessary heave which would enable him to
set foot upon the first rung of the ladder which leads upward to honour
and glory, and a position of standing in the world.

It was a brilliant prospect, and it must be admitted that Phil built
many castles in the air.  Yet for all that, once he had descended to
_terra firma_, he plainly acknowledged to himself that plenty of hard
work, plenty of rough and tumble, and no doubt a share of privation and
hardship, must be faced before the height of his ambition could be
reached.

"I've read the advertisement through," he said that evening, when once
more seated in front of the sergeant-major, "and if you will introduce
me to your friend I will apply for one of the vacant places.  First of
all, though, I should like to hear whether they will have me, and then I
will give my present employer notice."

"Shake hands on it, lad!  I'm glad you've decided, and I'll be hanged if
you won't make a splendid workman, and one of these days as fine a
soldier as ever stepped.  Here's wishing you the best of luck.  Now
we'll go off to Timms right away and see what he has to say."

Accordingly the two started off, and in due time reached a big building
in which the menagerie had its home.  Phil was introduced to Timms, as
fine an old soldier as the sergeant-major, and was greatly relieved to
hear that his services would be accepted at fifteen shillings a week.

"Come in a week, when your notice is up," Timms said pleasantly, "and
your job will be waiting for you.  You'll look after the horses at
first, and perhaps we'll give you one of the cages later on.  You'll
want rough clothes and strong boots, and, for sleeping, a couple of
thick rugs.  Get a bag to hold your kit, and that will do for your
pillow as well.  Set your mind easy, Williams.  I'll look after the lad
and see that he comes to no harm."

That day week Phil left the office on the expiration of his notice,
having meanwhile written to Mr Western and to Joe.  Then he returned to
his room, packed the few valuables he possessed, and a couple of changes
of clothing in a waterproof bag, and with this under one arm, and a roll
of coarse blankets under the other, set out for the menagerie.

"That you, youngster?"  Timms asked cheerily.  "'Pon my word I hardly
expected you.  Some fellows back out of a job like this at the last
moment.  But come along and I'll show you where you will sleep, and who
will be your mate.  He's a good fellow, and will show you the ropes."

Passing outside the building, Timms led the way to a large yard at the
back in which was an assortment of the caravans which usually accompany
a circus.

"Jim!" he shouted.  "Here, Jim, your new mate's arrived.  Show him
round."

A jovial and dirty face, with a two-days' growth of beard upon it, was
thrust out of a wagon, and a voice called out: "Come right in here,
mate.  Glad to see yer.  Bring your togs along."

Phil scrambled up the steep steps and into the wagon, where, having
grasped the hand extended to him, he looked round with some curiosity,
noticing with much interest the two neat little bunks, one above the
other, at the farther end, the diminutive table close to one
red-curtained window, and the stove on the other side, filled with paper
shavings of all colours, and gold tinsel, with its chimney of
brightly-polished brass.

"Queer little house, mate, ain't it?" sang out the man who went by the
name of Jim, busying himself with a pot of hot water and a shaving-brush
and soap.

"Yes, I've never been in a van of this sort before," said Phil.  "It
looks comfortable, and at any rate must be a good shelter on wet
nights."

"That it is, mate, and you'll find it so precious soon.  We start at
daylight to-morrow on a long trip to the south, and I tell yer it's
mighty pleasant to know as there's a warm fire, and a dry bed to get
into, when the water's coming down in buckets, and the wind's that cold
it freezes yer to the marrer."

Phil noted every little article in the van, and listened to the scrape,
scrape of the razor as Jim removed his bristles.  When this operation
was completed, Jim took him round the horses, and having initiated him
into the mysterious duties of a stableman, invited him back to the wagon
to tea.

"Timms and I sleep here," he remarked, with his pipe firmly clenched
between his teeth, "and you'll put your rugs down on the floor.  We'll
mess together, and you'll find that five bob a week joined to our two
fives will feed us well and leave the rest in our pockets.  The other
chaps has their own messes.  I'll take yer round to see them soon.
They're a queer lot; some has been sailors and soldiers, and some
anything at all.  Others has been at this game all their lives.  You'll
learn to know them all in a few days, and I'll give yer a hint--keep
clear of the rowdy ones.  They soon gets the sack, for the boss is very
particular, and won't have no drinking and such like goings-on.

"Now about your job.  What do you know of animals, and what class are
yer on top of a horse what ain't 'xactly a camel?"

"I am sorry to say I am hopelessly ignorant of the first," Phil
answered.  "I've ridden horses often, and can manage to keep in my
saddle as a rule, but cannot boast that I am a good horseman."

"Oh, you'll do! besides, I can see you're willing to learn and has got
the grit to stick to things that might bother others of your sort.
You're to be my mate, and for a time, at any rate, we shall be on the
move.  The gent who runs this business keeps five and six such vans as
this moving most of the year, besides the cages, of course, which
follow.

"You see, agents in furrin parts collects lions and every sort of animal
down to snakes, and sends them to England.  No sooner does the ship come
alongside the river dock than some of us are there with cages, mounted
on wheels and drawn by horses.  We unload the animals, slip 'em into the
cage, and bring them here.  A day or two later, perhaps a week, or even
as long after as a month, someone wants one or other of them beasts, and
arranges to buy him from the guv'nor.  Then in he goes into the
travelling-cage again, and off we take him to wherever he's been
ordered.  Of course there's railroads nowadays; but they are risky
things at any time, and the wild beasts we deal in catch cold, and fall
sick so easy that it's been found cheaper and safer to take 'em by road.
And a very pleasant life it is, to be sure.  With two of us on the
beat, and drawing our own house, we're as comfortable as chaps could
wish for.  Every day there's something different to look at and ask
questions about, and every evening, when yer pull up on some wayside
piece of ground and start to water and feed the animals, there's new
scenery and new people around yer, the last always ready to be civil and
polite.  Yes, it's a free, easy life, with plenty of change and movement
to make yer work come pleasant and light.  You'll like it, lad.  By the
way--what's yer name?  Ah, Philip Western!  Well, Phil, I've told yer
pretty nigh all I can think about.  Timms and me start early to-morrow,
as I told yer, so turn in soon to-night.  We'll teach yer all yer want
to know while on the road, and if yer only keeps yer eyes open you'll
soon get a hold on the work."  Jim nodded pleasantly, and having invited
Phil to sit down for a short time and rest himself, he ran down the
steps of the van and went to complete his daily work.

"Of course all this is very different from office life," mused Phil,
looking round, and still finding many little things in the quaint
travelling house to interest and amuse him, "I can see that any kind of
work is expected of me, and I must not be afraid of dirtying my hands.
A few months at this will show me whether or not I shall like the army,
for I remember the sergeant-major told me that there too the men have
numerous fatigues to do, cleaning barracks and quarters, carrying coal,
and a hundred-and-one other things.  Yes, I've come to rough it, and
I'll do my utmost to prove useful.  It seems, too, that this travelling
with wild beasts is very much liked by the other men.  It will be funny
to be constantly on the move, and constantly seeing fresh places.  Well,
I think I shall like it.  It will be what I have hankered after--an
open-air life,--and since Jim is to be my companion I feel sure I shall
be happy, for he looks an excellent fellow."

Indeed, though outwardly rough, Jim was a sterling good fellow, with a
kind heart beating beneath his weather-stained jacket.  Already he had
taken a liking to Phil, and seeing that he was altogether different from
the new hands usually employed, and moreover having heard something of
his story from Timms, he determined to look after his charge and make
life as pleasant for him as possible.

That evening the three who were to be companions supped at a little
coffee-stall standing close outside the menagerie, and, having returned
to the van, indulged in a chat before turning-in.  Then Jim and the old
soldier Timms climbed into their bunks, while Phil spread his blankets
on the floor, and with his kit-bag beneath his head soon fell asleep, to
be wakened, however, every now and again by the roaring of a big African
lion, which had arrived two days before, and was caged close at hand.

Day had scarcely dawned when Jim turned over in his bunk, yawned loudly,
and, sitting up with a start, consulted a silver watch, of the
proportions of a turnip, which dangled from the arched roof of the van.
"Five o'clock, and not a soul stirring!" he cried.  "Up, up yer get, all
of yer.  Look lively now, or else we'll be moving before we've had a
morning meal."

"What!  Time for breakfast!  Hullo, where am I?" cried Phil, sitting up
with a start and staring round in bewilderment.  Then the truth dawned
upon him, and, throwing off his blankets, he rose to his feet.

"What orders, Jim?" he asked.

"Come along with me, Phil.  That's the orders.  Timms'll see to the
breakfast, while you and me looks to the horses."

Hurriedly throwing on their coats--for they had discarded nothing more
when they turned in on the previous night--they ran down the steps to
the stables, where they found other men at work busily grooming their
animals.  Instructed by Jim, Phil started with a brush upon the smooth
coat of a fine draught horse which was to form one of their team.  From
that he went to another, while Jim looked to the other two.  That done
the animals were fed, and while Phil returned to the van Jim went to see
that the lion they were to transport was safely caged and fed in
preparation for the journey.

Meanwhile Timms had not been idle.  As Phil reached the van he emerged
from a doorway opposite, bearing a kettle, from the spout of which a
cloud of steam was puffing.  Already he had placed a rough folding-table
on the ground, and now he proceeded to infuse the tea.  Then he dived
into the van, to reappear immediately with plates and knives and enough
cups and saucers.  Ten minutes later Jim had returned, and, sitting
down, the three hastily swallowed thick slices of bread and butter,
washing them down with cups of steaming tea.

"That'll keep us quiet for a few hours, I reckon," exclaimed Jim,
jumping to his feet and hastily filling a pipe in preparation for a
morning smoke.  "Now, young un, you and me'll slip off and harness the
horses, while our mate cleans up the breakfast things."

Half an hour later two fine horses had been yoked to the van, while
another pair had been harnessed to the large boxed-in cage on wheels,
which enclosed the magnificent animal they were to transport.  A sack of
corn was placed on the van, and a large joint of horse-flesh hung
beneath, and then, fully prepared for the journey, the gates were thrown
open, and with nodded adieus from the other hands they issued from the
yard and took the road for Brighton, Jim driving the horses in the van,
with Phil by his side, while Timms went in front in charge of the lion.
Trundling over the London cobbles they crossed one of the bridges, and
before very long were out of the great city and enjoying to the full the
sunshine and sweet breath of the country.



CHAPTER FOUR.

A GALLANT DEED.

The outdoor life agreed with Phil thoroughly, and he had scarcely been
with the menagerie a month before all his paleness had disappeared, and
he felt and looked in the best of health.

Constantly accompanying Jim and the old soldier upon some journey, the
beginning of one week would find them at some sunny spot on the southern
sea-coast, while at the end they would be slowly trudging to the north,
having called _en route_ at the headquarters in London, there to take
possession of some other animal.  And while they carried out this work
others did the same, for the menagerie was a large and profitable
concern.  At the London headquarters there were cages and houses
innumerable, in which the various animals were kept.  But seldom indeed
was any particular one a tenant of his cage for more than a fortnight,
for, much to Phil's surprise, the demand for lions, tigers, and other
wild beasts was extraordinarily large.  Now it was a zoological garden
that wished to replace the lose of one of its show animals, and now some
wealthy nobleman with a fancy for a private menagerie.  Then, too,
demands came from the Continent, and had to be attended to.  The animals
were placed in well-built, warm, but properly ventilated cages, capable
of being lifted from their wheels if necessary, and in these they
journeyed by road to their several destinations.  In no case was the
railroad used, for it was as yet very far from attaining to its present
efficiency, and experience had taught the owner of the menagerie that
beasts from foreign parts required to be treated like hot-house flowers,
and protected from the chills and biting winds met with in England.

Two months and more passed pleasantly, and by that time Phil was quite
accustomed to his work, and moreover, from frequent calls at the
menagerie in London, had met all the other hands.

"I like the life immensely, and am sure it agrees with me," he answered
with enthusiasm one day when Jim suddenly turned upon him and asked him
the question.  "I earn more than I did some weeks ago, and in a very
pleasant manner compared with the other employment.  Besides, I have
been amongst a number of working men and find that I can rub shoulders
with them and not quarrel.  It is just what I wanted to know, and now
that I have had the experience I shall not be long in leaving this
employment and enlisting in the army."

"You must do just as you like there, lad," replied Jim briskly.  "Each
chap settles that kind of thing for hisself.  For my part, though, I've
been too long and too contented at this here work to want to change."

And indeed there was no doubt that Jim enjoyed his life to the full.  A
contented and merry fellow, he was just the one to make his companions
look upon the bright side of things.  Not that Phil was ever inclined to
do otherwise.  Up at daylight, as blithe as a lark, he was off with the
horses to the nearest water so soon as the sun had lifted the mist from
the ground.  Then, tethering them to the wagon shafts again, he would
slip off the thick rugs which covered them and groom them thoroughly,
all the while giving vent to that peculiar "hiss" which seems necessary
for this purpose, in a way that would have aroused the envy of many a
stable lad.

That done, the canvas bin that stretched from the tip of the shaft was
filled with corn, and while the sleek-coated animals set to work to
consume it, Phil produced an iron tripod, gathered a pile of sticks, and
set them alight.  A box placed in proper position kept the breeze away
on a gusty day, and in a twinkling, it seemed, the kettle above was
singing, and a jet of white steam blowing into the cool morning air.

Now came the time he enjoyed most of all.  Armed with a frying-pan, he
sat down to prepare rashers of bacon, and if it were an extraordinary
day, possibly eggs too.  A shout would rouse Jim and the old soldier,
and in five minutes the folding-table was set up, the tea made, and all
three heartily devouring their breakfast.

"We might be in Ameriky, or some such place," remarked Jim one morning.
"It's a treat being in the country this fine weather, and it does yer
good to get up early and prepare yer own grub."

"A precious lot of preparing you do, I notice," laughed Timms.  "Why,
ever since Phil joined us he's done all that."

"You've got me there, mate, I owns," Jim grinned.  "The young un's a
beggar to work, and saves us a deal of trouble.  Before he come I used
to act as cook.  Now I lies abed and takes it easy, as I ought to, on
account of my age."

Phil joined heartily in the laugh, for he knew well how Jim and Timms
could work.  As to his own share, he was glad to have plenty to do, and
especially when he found he could help his two comrades, who had shown
themselves such excellent fellows.

Phil liked the majority of those he met at the menagerie in London, and
as for himself the other hands soon took his measure, and readily
acknowledged that he was a hard-working and straight lad, willing to be
friends with all.  A few, however, were of the opposite opinion.  There
was a small clique of rowdy fellows who took an instant dislike to Phil,
probably because, seeing what they were, he held aloof from them, and
these, and in particular one of them, set themselves to make things
unpleasant for him.

"Ought to ha' been a lord or summat of the sort," this worthy sneered
one day as Phil passed the doorway round which they were lounging.
"Thinks he owns the show--that's what it is.  I'll take the gent down;
see if I don't, and right away too.  Hi, you, Phil Western, or
whatever's yer name," he shouted, "come here!  I want to speak to yer.
Now look here, Mr Dook, you're a pretty fine bird, but where do you
come from?  That's what we're arter.  Chaps of your sort don't take to
being hands in a menagerie every day, and that's the truth, I reckon.  I
suppose yer wanted to hide away.  That's it, ain't it?"

Now Phil had often been annoyed by this same young man, who went by the
name of "Tony", and in particular by the jeering way in which he shouted
names and various other pleasantries after him every time he happened to
pass.

"You want to know where I come from," he replied calmly, standing close
to the circle.  "Then I'm afraid you will have to want."

"Eh!  What!  Have to want, shall I?"  Tony growled.  "Now none of yer
cheek.  You're too proud, that's what you are, my young peacock, and
you've got to get taken down."

"That's possible," Phil rejoined, and was on the point of turning away
to avoid a quarrel when the pleasant Tony sprang to his feet and
shouting "Possible!  Should just about think it is!" grasped him by the
arm and swung him round till they faced one another.

"Leave go!" cried Phil, losing his temper.

"Sha'n't till I've took yer down," Tony snapped.

"Then take that!" and Phil dashed his fist into the young man's face.

A scuffle at once ensued, and after a short and fiercely contested
round, a ring was formed.  But at this moment the owner of the menagerie
put in an appearance and stopped the fight, with the natural result that
there was bad blood between Phil and Tony from that day, and the latter
never ceased to vow that he would have an ample revenge for the black
eye he had received.

Now Tony had another disagreeable trait.  Besides being a bully, he was
also cruel, and took every opportunity of teasing a big brown bear which
happened to be his special charge.  The more Bruin snarled and showed
his teeth, the harder Tony prodded him with his stick, till at times the
poor beast was almost mad with rage.  It was a dangerous game to play,
and could have but one ending, and that was within an ace of being a
fatal one for Tony.

It happened upon a day when Phil and his two companions had returned to
London and were enjoying a well-earned rest after a few longer tramps
than usual.  By the merest chance, too, it was a holiday in the
menagerie, for some valuable animals had recently arrived, and in
consequence, the wives and children and other relatives of the various
hands had gathered, by the owner's special request, to have tea with
their friends and see the wild beasts in their new home.

Phil was sitting in the van with Jim, sipping a cup of tea, and quite
unaware of the fact that Tony was engaged in his usual practice of
stirring up the bear for his own amusement and to excite the fear of a
few by-standers.

Suddenly there was a snarl, a crash, and the sound of breaking woodwork,
and then shrieks of terror and the noise of a wild stampede.

"What's that?  Something's up," cried Phil, and springing down the steps
he ran towards the spot where the animals were kept.

A fearful sight met his eye, for the end of the flimsy cage in which
Bruin was kept a prisoner was splintered, and close beside it.  Tony lay
motionless, and full length upon the ground, with the bear crouching
over him and clutching his head with a paw armed with murderous-looking
claws.

Not a soul was near, for all had fled for their lives.  As Phil ran
forward, the enraged animal crouched lower over its victim, and snarled
fiercely, showing a row of teeth and gums.

"Help, Jim!  The bear is killing Tony," shouted Phil, turning his head
for a moment, but still running towards the scene of the conflict.

As he passed a wagon he snatched up a long pitchfork.  Rushing at the
bear, which reared itself on end, Phil swung the fork above his head and
brought it down with a smash on the animal's nose, shouting at the same
time in the hope of frightening it.

But Bruin was thoroughly aroused, and, stung to further anger by the tap
upon his head, he darted from the prostrate man and came open-mouthed at
Phil.

It was a terrifying sight, and many another might have taken to his
heels and not been called a coward.  But Phil's mouth hardened till it
was a thin, straight line.  Standing with his feet planted wide apart,
and the fork well in front of him, he kept his ground and lunged at the
animal with all his might, driving the prongs well into its chest.

There was a roar of pain and anger, and Bruin drew back for a moment,
but only to rise upon his hind-legs and advance with arms ready to crush
the life out of Phil's body, and gleaming teeth with which to tear his
flesh.

On he came, and, waiting his time, Phil once more plunged the prongs
deep into his chest, where they remained fast.  A second later the bear
had shattered the pole with his paw, and, rushing at his enemy, had
beaten him to the ground and fallen upon him--dead.

It was a narrow shave, as Jim remarked.

"You're the biggest, yes, the biggest idiot I ever see, young un," he
said severely, as Phil lay in his bunk.  "Here you go and attack a bear
as is always pretty wild, and only with a thing as is little better than
a toothpick.  I can't make yer out.  If it was me as was laid under that
there beast I might see some reason for it, though even then you'd be
pretty mad, I reckon; but when it's Tony, who's always a-naggin' at yer,
why, it fairly does for me."

"I didn't think of that, though," answered Phil cheerfully, for by a
piece of good fortune he had escaped with a severe shaking and a fright.
"There was the bear killing someone, and I was the first on the spot
and therefore bound to do something."

"Get on with yer!  Bound to do something!  Yes, it's run away most of us
would do--least--I don't know, though; I expects we'd have had a try to
drive the brute off.  But for you, a kid like you, Phil, to tackle the
job all alone, and with only a pitchfork too, why, it just knocks all
the stuffin' out of me.  Give us yer flipper, mate.  You're a true un,
and don't you go a-telling me yer didn't know it was Tony as lay there.
I heard yer shout it.  So no more of them fibs."

Jim got quite indignant, and then shook Phil's hand, squeezing it so
hard that he could have shouted with the pain.

"And that chap Tony's goin' to live too," he went on.  "If he don't say
summat out o' the ord'nary, blest if I won't set to work and give him
the biggest hidin' he ever had.  That is, when he's strong again.  Now,
young un, turn over and get to sleep.  You've had a roughish time, and a
go of grog ain't sufficient to pull yer round."

Phil obediently curled himself up and promptly fell asleep, but only to
dream that it was.  Joe Sweetman who lay helpless upon the ground, while
the figure that was crouching over him, and that rushed at himself when
he ran to the rescue, was none other than "old Bumble", rendered furious
by the joke played upon his statue.  It was an awful moment when Phil
plunged the fork into the old gentleman's massive chest, and so upset
him that he awoke, to find himself drenched with perspiration, but
decidedly better for all that, while through the open door he could see
Jim, pipe in mouth and in his shirt sleeves, squatting over the fire and
preparing breakfast.

Another month passed, making the third that Phil had spent in his new
employment, and ending also his seventeenth year.  Short as the time had
been it had done much for him.  He had filled out a little, and though
his face was still that of a boy, his limbs and body were big, so that,
if he could only pass inspection, he was quite fitted to take his place
in the ranks as a full-grown man.  By this time he had completed a long
journey into the country, and having returned to London with Jim and the
old soldier, he was not long in looking up his friend, Sergeant-major
Williams.

"Back again, sir, and filled out and healthier-looking, too!  How do you
like the life?" the latter exclaimed.

"I never spent a better or more profitable three months, never in my
life," said Phil emphatically.  "We've had grand weather, and always
fresh scenery.  The work was not too hard, and my comrades were all that
I could wish for.  In addition, I have saved close upon five pounds,
which was simply impossible when I was living here."

"Ah, glad you like it, lad!  But I thought you would; and now I suppose
you'll be off again soon?"

"Yes, but not with the van and my old comrades," said Phil.  "The best I
can do there is to become a foreman in charge of a number of cages.  I
mean to enlist and try my fortune in the army."

"Bless the lad!" exclaimed the sergeant-major.  "He's as long-headed as
a lawyer, and always thinking of the future.  But you couldn't do better
than that.  Keep it always in your mind's eye and you'll get on.  Now,
what regiment will you go for?  I'm from the Guards, and of course I say
there's none to beat them.  It's the truth too, as others can tell you."

"I've been thinking it over," Phil answered, "and I have decided to
become a Grenadier--one of the old Grenadiers."

The sergeant-major's features flushed, and he looked not a little
flattered, for he too was one of the Grenadier Guards, and he knew it
was because of his connection with it that Phil had decided to enlist in
that regiment.

"You couldn't do better, sir," he exclaimed, "and what's more, by
joining them I'll be able to make your start easier.  I am not so old
but that some of the non-commissioned officers--N.C.O.'s as we call
'em--remember Owen Williams.  I've many a pal there, and as soon as
you're ready I'll take you right along to the barracks and see you
'listed myself."

A day was fixed, and having learned a few more details, Phil returned to
his friends.  The latter were genuinely sorry to hear that he was to go,
and of all, Jim was perhaps the saddest.

"No one to cook the breakfast no more, now you're off, young un," he
said, with a ring of true regret in his voice.  "Never mind; that chap
Tony's come back, and I'll turn him on to the job.  If he kicks there'll
be trouble, and then I'll do as I promised yer."

But Jim was disappointed.  For three weeks Tony had lain in bed at a
hospital, and for the first six days it was a matter of life and death.
The bear's claws had lacerated his scalp so severely that it was a
wonder he survived.  But by dint of careful nursing he recovered, and on
the very day that Phil had been to see the sergeant-major he returned to
the menagerie.  But he was a changed man.  A double escape from death
had cured him of his rowdiness, and when he came towards Phil
shamefacedly, offering his hand as though he could not expect it to be
shaken, he was filled with deep gratitude for the truly gallant deed
that had saved his life.

Phil clutched the hand extended and shook it heartily.

"Ah, sir!"  Tony blurted out, with tears in his eyes, "I've been a real
brute, and no one knows it better nor myself.  But yer saved my life,
Phil Western, yer did, and I ain't ungrateful.  If you'd left me to be
torn to pieces it was only what I deserved, for we wasn't the best of
friends, and a chap as can torment a dumb animal must expect something
back in the end.  And now, sir, I hear you're going, and if you'll let
me I'll come too."

"Nonsense, Tony!"  Phil exclaimed.  "You've got a good job, and had
better stick to it."

"I had one, but I ain't now, Phil," Tony replied dolefully.  "The boss
give me the sack, saying I'd cost him a good fifty pounds by causing the
death of the bear.  So I'm out of work now, and if you're for a soldier,
as they tell me, why, so am I too; and I tell yer I'll stick to yer like
a true 'un if you'll let me come, and one day when you're an officer
I'll be yer servant."

Phil laughed good-naturedly, and flushed red when he saw that here was
one who thought it was within the bounds of possibility that he would
attain to the status of officer.

"It will be a long time before I shall be that, Tony," he said, with a
smile; "but if you really have made up your mind to be a soldier, come
with me.  There's been bad blood between us up to this, but now we'll be
good friends and help one another along."

"Ah, we'll be friends, sir, good friends too!  I've had my lesson, and I
sha'n't need another.  I've acted like a brute up to this, but now I
mean to be steady, and I mean to show yer too that I ain't bad
altogether."

Phil was astonished at the turn matters had taken; but he recognised
that Tony had really made up his mind to reform, and at once determined
to help him to adhere to that resolution.

"Very well, Tony," he said, "we'll enlist together.  My month is up
to-morrow, and on the following day we'll take the shilling.  I'm going
to join the Grenadier Guards."

"Grenadier Guards or any Guards for me, Phil.  It don't make a ha'poth
of difference so far as I'm concerned.  Just fix what it's to be, and
I'll be there with yer."

"Then it's settled, Tony.  We're for the Guards.  Come to the house
where Sergeant-major Williams lives, at nine o'clock the day after
to-morrow."

They shook hands, as though to seal the compact, and separated, Phil
returning to the van, where he spent part of the day in writing to Mr
Western and to Joe, informing them of the step he was taking.  To his
previous letter Mr Western had deigned no answer, for he was thoroughly
upset by its contents, and from that day firmly resolved never again to
have any dealings with his adopted son.  He was an utter failure and a
scamp, and it only needed Joe Sweetman's efforts to defend him to settle
the matter.

"It is just what I told you would happen," Joe had said defiantly.  "The
lad has spirit, and far from being the rogue you think him, is filled
with the desire to see life and make his way in the world.  I am not a
great judge of character, but if ever there was a youth unfitted for
office life, that one is Phil.  You have only yourself to thank after
all.  You have endeavoured to force a profession on him, whereas you
should have given the lad an opportunity of selecting one for himself.
Mark my words, Edward: Phil will live to do well and be a credit to you,
and one of these days you will acknowledge that the step he is taking
now was a good one and for the best.  Now I'll write to him, and give
him a few words of advice."

And this Joe did, sending a characteristic letter, written not to damp
Phil's hopes, but to encourage him, and let him see that there was one
old friend at least who still thought well of him.

_Find your own place in the world, Phil_, he wrote; _and if it is a good
one, as I feel sure it will be, there is one who will be proud of you.
You start in the ranks, and so fall into discredit among your friends.
You are on the lowest rung; stick to it, and we will see where you come
out.  Meanwhile, my lad, I will send you ten shillings a week, paid
every month in advance.  You will find it a help, for soldiers want
spare cash as well as other people_.

At last the morning arrived for Phil and Tony to enlist, and, attended
by the sergeant-major, they made their way to Wellington Barracks.  Both
felt somewhat nervous and bashful, especially when they passed the
sentries at the gate.

"My eye!" exclaimed Tony in a whisper, "what swells them coves look!
Shall we wear them hats, do yer think?"

"Of course you will," the sergeant-major, who had overheard the remark,
replied.  "That is the Guards' bearskin, and you'll learn to be proud of
it yet.  It's a grand head-dress, and there isn't another half as good;
at least that's what I think, though chaps in other regiments would
stick up for theirs in just the same way.  And you'll find, too, that
the forage-cap with the red band round it, that's worn well over the
right ear--well over, mind you, youngsters--is as taking a thing as was
ever invented."

Phil and Tony both agreed, for the men walking about in uniform with
forage-caps on did look smart and well dressed.

"Now here we are at the orderly-room," said the old soldier, a moment
later.  "Wait a moment and I'll speak to the sergeant-major."

Phil and Tony stood looking with interest across the parade-ground.
Then they suddenly heard a voice say in a room at the door of which they
were waiting: "Two recruits, and likely-looking fellows, I think you
said, sergeant-major?  March them in."

A moment later a big man with bristling moustache, and dressed in a
tight-fitting red tunic, came to the door, and in a voice that made Phil
and Tony start, and which could easily have been heard across the
square, exclaimed: "Now, you two, get together; yes, just like that.
Right turn!  Quick march!"

It was a new experience, but Phil, who stood nearest the door, carried
out the order smartly, and, snatching his hat from his head, followed
the sergeant-major.  A moment later they were standing in front of a
table covered with green baize, and with a number of books and blue
papers all neatly arranged upon it.  Behind it sat an officer, dressed
in a dark-blue uniform, with braided front, and a peaked cap encircled
with a dark band and bearing a miniature grenade in front.  It was the
adjutant, and he at once cross-questioned the new recruits.

"Both of you have been in a menagerie," he remarked with some
astonishment, "but surely you--and he pointed towards, Phil--have had
some education?"

"Yes, sir, I have been to a good school," Phil answered, "and before I
joined the menagerie I was a clerk in an office for a short time."

"Ah, just the kind of man we want!" exclaimed the officer.  "And both of
you wish to enlist in the Grenadier Guards?  Very well; send them across
to the doctor's."

"Right turn!  Quick march!"  The words almost made Tony jump out of his
skin, but he and Phil obeyed them promptly, and next moment were
breathing a trifle more freely in the open air.  A corporal was now sent
for, and he conducted them across to another room.  Here they were told
to strip, and a few minutes later were ushered into an inner room, in
which were the regimental doctor and a sergeant who sat with a book
before him.  Phil and Tony were sounded and thumped all over, and then
told to hop up and down the floor.  They swung their arms round their
heads till they were red in the face, and swung their legs to and fro to
show that they had free movement of their joints.  Then their eyes were
tested, and these and their hearing having proved satisfactory, they
were declared fit for the army, and were told to dress themselves.

"What's coming next, Phil?" whispered Tony, with a chuckle.  "We've been
interviewed--or whatever they calls it--by the officer, and now we've
been punched all over, like folks used to do with that prize mare the
boss in the old show was so fond of."

"Wait and see," Phil answered, for he too was wondering what their next
experience would be.

They had not long to wait.  The same corporal who had conducted them
before took them round to the back of the building, up a steep flight of
stairs, and showed them into the quarter-master's stores.  And here they
spent almost an hour, during which time a complete set of uniform, with
the exception of a bearskin, was served out to each of them.  Their
civilian clothing was then taken from them and safely packed away, and
feeling remarkably queer, and uncertain how to carry the smart little
cane which had been given them, they were marched away to the
barrack-room, heads in air and chests well to the front, as every new
recruit does when in uniform for the first time, and trying to look as
though they were well used to their new circumstances, whereas every man
they passed grinned, and, nudging his comrade, chuckled: "New uns!  Look
at the chest that redheaded cove's got on 'im, and don't the other hold
his nose up?" or something equally flattering.

But Phil and Tony were blissfully ignorant of these facetious remarks,
and in a few minutes had reached the room in which they were to sleep,
and had taken possession of their cots.

The following day they were once more inspected by the adjutant, and
under his eye the regimental tailor chalk-marked their clothing where
alterations were to be made.

In due time both settled down to their new duties and began to learn
their drill on the parade-ground.  A few days, and they lost all the
slovenliness of recruits and held themselves erect.  Soon they were as
smart as any, and an old friend of Phil's, looking at him now, with his
forage-cap jauntily set over his ear, his tight-fitting tunic and belt,
and the swagger-cane beneath his arm, would scarcely have recognised
him, so much had he altered.  But had he only asked Tony, he would
quickly have learnt the truth.

"Yus, that's Phil Western, you bet!" the latter would exclaim; "and I
tell yer what it is, that young chap is downright the smartest lad in
this lot of recruits, and that's saying a deal, as you'll agree if
you'll only take a look at 'em."

So thought Joe Sweetman too, when he visited London on one occasion and
looked his young friend up.  "He's every inch a soldier," he exclaimed
admiringly to Mr Western, on his return to Riddington.  "As smart and
good-looking a fellow as ever I saw; and that lad means to get on and do
well.  Mark my words!  That's what he means, and he'll do it too, or I'm
a donkey."



CHAPTER FIVE.

A STEP IN RANK.

Whether or not honest kind-hearted old Joe Sweetman was a donkey was yet
to be proved, as the reader will ascertain for himself if he will only
have patience to bear with the narrative till the end; but certain it
was that Joe and Tony were not alone in thinking well of Phil.

"He's a likely youngster," the adjutant had more than once remarked to
the colonel, "and he'll make an excellent N.C.O. once he has sufficient
service.  He's well educated, and always well-behaved, and with your
permission, Colonel, I will give him a trial in the orderly-room."

"Do just as you like," the latter had answered.  "I leave these matters
in your hands; only, if you make him a clerk, do not take him altogether
from his other duties.  He might lose his smartness in the ranks, and
what I want is not alone N.C.O.'s who can write well, but men who can be
an example to the others, and, above all, have authority over them.
Keep your eye on the lad, and let me know how he gets on."

"Certainly, sir.  I'll see how he performs his duties, and mention the
subject to you another day."

Phil had thus already attracted attention, and a hint to that effect,
passed from the sergeant-major through the colour-sergeant to himself,
encouraged him to persevere in his drill.  Not long afterwards the
battalion received orders to proceed to Windsor, and there relieve
another of the Guards regiments.  By that time Phil and Tony had
completed their recruits' course, and had taken their places in a
company of the regiment.

"We couldn't ha' been luckier, Phil, could we?" remarked Tony, with a
grunt of satisfaction, as the two stood on the parade-ground waiting for
the bugle to sound the "Fall in".  "I said weeks back as I'd stick to
yer through thick and thin, and here we are, yer see, both in the same
company, and always falling-in alongside of one another.  But it won't
last long, mate, and don't you go for to try and make believe it will.
I ain't so blind as I can't see that before long you'll wear a
corporal's stripes.  All the fellers says the same, and it's bound to be
true."

"I must say I hope it will," Phil replied cheerfully.  "It is my aim and
object to become an N.C.O.  But we needn't think of parting, Tony.
We'll still be in the same company, and if we don't stand side by side,
we shall be close together in the barrack-room.  Besides, you may get
the stripes sooner than I."

"Me, mate?  That's a good un!  There ain't a chance."

"You never know, Tony; and although it seems far away now, it will come,
especially if you always keep out of trouble, as you have done up to
this."

"Yus, it might," Tony agreed, after a long pause.  "Every chap gets a
chance, they say, and I'll see if I can't win them stripes just to show
yer, Phil, that I've stuck to me oath.  And it won't be getting into
trouble as will lose 'em for me.  I used to be a regular wild un, but
I've given that up months ago; besides, I heerd Sergeant Irving a-saying
only a few days ago that the chap as was quiet was bound to get on.
`What's the good of larking about as some of these idjuts do?' he says.
`Them as drinks is certain to get into trouble, and come before the
colonel, and what good does it do 'em?  They loses their chance of
promotion, and they ruins their health.  Besides that, they goes down
the quickest when the troops is on active service.'"

"Yes, that is very true, I believe," Phil answered.  "But to return to
the stripes.  You must win them, Tony, and if only you stick to your
work I am sure you will succeed.  Then in the course of time you'll be
made sergeant, and later perhaps become sergeant-major.  What a fine
thing it would be!  You would have a good pension to look forward to,
and one of these days could end your service while still a young man,
but with the comfortable feeling that you were provided for for life."

"Hum! that's flying away to the skies, mate," Tony chuckled, "but
there's plenty of time to see, and--look up! there goes the bugle."

Both lads fell in with their company, now dressed in all the pride of
bearskins and whitened belts and pouches, and having been duly
inspected, marched stiffly erect out through the barrack-gate, up Sheet
Street, and into the famous old castle.

Many a time did Phil stand motionless by his sentry-box, looking over
the terrace-wall at a scene not to be surpassed in any other quarter of
Her Majesty's wide dominions--the green fields of Berkshire, with old
Father Thames winding hither and thither amongst them, now flowing
placidly along between banks of shimmering corn and grass, and anon
swirling past with a splash and a gurgle which broke up the reflections
of boats and houses brightly mirrored on its surface.  Then, sloping his
gun, he would march across in front of the terrace gardens and the
windows of the royal apartments, and, turning his eyes in the opposite
direction, admire the three miles of absolutely straight and undulating
road, lined on either side by its double row of grand old oaks and
beeches, and ending in a green knoll, surmounted by a pile of masonry,
on which is set a large equestrian statue familiarly known as "the
Copper Horse".  Away on either side the wide stretches of the park would
attract his attention, while far beyond the town, appeared the faint
blue and reddish band which marks the position of Windsor Forest.

Many times, too, whilst on sentry-go, did he stand as rigid as his own
ramrod, heels close together, and gun at the "present", as the Queen and
the Prince Consort with their children sauntered by.  He had even
exchanged words with them, for, attracted by his height, and possibly
persuaded by the pleading of the infant princes, the Prince had stopped
in front of our hero and questioned him as to his age and his parentage.
The remarkable manner in which he had been adopted appealed to their
curiosity, and before long they had learned Phil's story.

When not for guard, Phil and Tony generally managed to find plenty of
occupation in their spare hours.  In the winter there were long walks to
be taken, and in the summer there was the river, a never-failing source
of enjoyment, and in those days far less crowded than in this twentieth
century, when excursion trains, bicycles, and tooting steam-launches
have done not a little to mar its pleasant peacefulness.  Hard by the
Brocas boats could be obtained, and here a number of soldiers were to be
found every afternoon, idling by the river-side and gazing at the youth
of Eton disporting on the water, or themselves seated in boats sculling
up and down the stream.

Phil and Tony were occupied in this way one hot summer afternoon, and
having sculled up to the Clewer reach, rowed in to the bank, and made
fast there for a while.

"It's mighty hot, young un, ain't it?" remarked Tony, wiping the
perspiration from his forehead.  "Phew! it is hot!  Why, if we was bound
to row these boats, we'd hate the sight of the river.  What do yer say
to a snooze?"

"Just the thing, Tony.  It's too hot for any kind of exercise, so let's
tie up and wait an hour; then we can pull up to the lock and down again.
It'll be time for tea then."

Accordingly the two laid in their paddles, and stretching themselves on
the bottom of the boat beneath the shade of an overhanging tree, soon
fell asleep, lulled by the gentle ripple of the water.  An hour passed,
and still they slumbered placidly, the wash of a big boat as it slipped
by them failed to rouse them.  They heard nothing, and even the hoarse
chuckles of a few comrades on the bank above them did not disturb them.

"What say, Jim?  Shall we let 'em go?" grinned one.

"Yes, send 'em along, Tom.  It'll be a proper joke to watch 'em when
they wakes up and looks about 'em," was the answer.  "Now, shake off
that rope, and pitch it into the boat.  So--oh!  Gently, man!  Shove 'em
off as quiet as if they was babies in a cradle."

It was a huge joke to those upon the bank, but upon the unconscious
occupants of the craft it was wasted.  They stirred neither hand nor
eyelid, but, locked firmly in the arms of Morpheus, glided down the
river, totally unmindful of the shouts which followed them and of the
angry "Boat ahead!  Where are you coming to?  Steer to the left!" which
was hurled at them on more than one occasion.  Suddenly a louder shout
awoke Phil, and, sitting up with a start, he stared around, his eyes
wide-open with astonishment, to find that he and Tony were drifting in
midstream past the Brocas, and were already within 50 feet of the
bridge.

"Why, we're adrift!" he exclaimed in a bewildered tone.  "Here, Tony,
wake up or we shall be on the bridge!"

"Eh, what!" grunted Tony, rubbing his eyes.  "Adrift!  What's that row
about?"

The shout which had aroused Phil was repeated at that moment and, taken
up immediately, assumed a perfect roar, in the intervals of which a loud
clattering as of wheels rapidly passing over cobble stones, and the
stamp of horses' hoofs were heard.

"Sounds like a cart or something coming down the street," said Phil.
"Look out, Tony, something's wrong!"

As Phil spoke the clatter of hoofs and wheels became deafening, and
before either could realise what was happening, two maddened horses
dashed on to the bridge, dragging a carriage after them in which a
gentleman was seated.  On the back of one of the beasts was a postilion,
and before Phil had time to exclaim, "It's a royal carriage!" the
vehicle had collided with a cart coming in the opposite direction, there
was a crash and a sound of breaking woodwork, and next second rider and
passenger were shot as if from a catapult over the low rail of the
bridge into the water.

"Quick! get your paddle out!" cried Phil, snatching one up and plunging
it into the water.

Tony, now fully awake, sprang up and hastily obeyed, but with such
vigour that he swung the boat round till it lay across the stream.  Next
moment, driven by the swirl of the water, it was hurled against a
support of the bridge and capsized immediately.

When Phil rose to the surface a few seconds later, and had shaken the
water from his eyes, he saw the boat shooting bottom-uppermost through
the archway of the bridge, with Tony clinging to it.  The stream had
already swept him through, and just in front of him, splashing
helplessly, was the unfortunate postilion, his eyes glaring round in
search of help, and his mouth wide-open as he shouted to the people on
the bank.

"All right!  I'll be with you in a moment," cried Phil, striking out in
his direction.  A minute later he was by his side, and, grasping him by
the shoulder, supported him till the overturned boat floated past them.

Both clutched it, and hung on for their lives.

"There he is, there's the other!" shouted a crowd of people on the
bridge, and, hearing them, Phil hoisted himself as high as possible and
searched the water carefully.  There was a swirl some fifteen feet away,
and two clutching hands suddenly appeared, to be swallowed up an instant
later.

Leaving the boat Phil struck out with all his might, to find nothing
when he reached the spot; but, plunging beneath the surface, he let the
stream sweep him on, and groped with outstretched hands on either side.
Something touched his fingers, and, grasping it he pulled it to him;
holding tightly with both hands he kicked frantically till his head
appeared above the water.  Another second and the head of the
unconscious passenger was reclining on his shoulder, and a burst of
hearty cheering was ringing in his ears.  Breathless and exhausted after
the struggle, Phil looked round and caught sight of the boat drifting
down to him.  Treading water for a few minutes he supported the figure
in his arms, and at last reached out for and obtained a firm hold of the
keel, to which he clung, unable to make another effort, so much was he
fatigued.

But help was at hand.  A boat had been hastily pushed off from the
river-bank, and before long all four had been lifted from the water and
carried up the steps on to terra firma.  A doctor was hastily summoned,
and meanwhile the gentleman and the postilion were removed to a cottage.

As for Phil, five minutes' rest upon the ground made him feel himself
again.  Then, shaking the water from him, and bashfully exchanging
handshakes with the enthusiastic crowd who surrounded him, and would not
be denied, he slipped away with Tony, and, aided by a waterman, righted
the capsized boat and proceeded to bail the water out.

"Come along, let's get out of this, Tony!" he exclaimed fretfully.  "I
never came across such a bother, and I hate a fuss like this."

"But you'll stop and give yer name, Phil?  They're certain to want it,
'specially as the cove has summat to do with the castle."

"Oh, they can find out later on!  Come along and let's get away,"
repeated Phil, in far more terror now than he had been when the boat
upset.

"Wait a minute, my men," suddenly sang out a voice from the bank.  "I
want to find out who you are."

Phil reluctantly helped to push the boat alongside, while a gentleman
who he knew had some connection with the castle pushed his way to the
front of the crowd and, coming down the steps, held his hand out towards
him.

"Shake hands, my brave young fellow," he said earnestly.  "I never saw a
more gallant deed, and you can have every cause for satisfaction, for
you have saved the life of one of our Queen's most honoured guests.
What is your name?"

"Private Western, sir," answered Phil with flushed cheeks.  "Private
Phil Western, Number 1760."

"Then, Western, you can expect to hear from me again.  You are a credit
to your regiment, and your officers and all your comrades shall know
what a fine lad you are.  Now, I will not detain you.  You had better
get off and change your clothes."

"Three cheers for the sodger boy!" a voice in the crowd shouted; and
these were given with a gusto which made Phil's heart flutter, while
Tony stood upright in the boat, looking more pleased and proud than he
had ever done before.

"Shove off!" cried Phil almost angrily.  "Shove off, or we shall never
get away."  A minute later they were pulling up-stream once more.

"I don't mind guessing them stripes is yours," chuckled Tony over his
shoulder.  "Young un, I knewed you'd have 'em soon, but you've won 'em
now, and no one ought to feel prouder of them than you.  Mate, Tony
Jenkins is more pleased than if he'd got 'em hisself, and he feels just
like a blessed peacock."

Phil made no reply, for he was still confused after his adventure, but
for all that the thought that now there was some possibility of
promotion elated him.  If from this day he was to be known as Corporal
Western he determined that he would do credit to that rank, and make use
of it as a stepping-stone to a higher one.  He wondered what the colonel
would say, and was in the middle of imagining himself being thanked by
that officer in the orderly-room when the boat banged against the bank.

"Come along, mate," cried Tony.  "We'll get along to barracks and change
these wet togs."

Squeezing the water from their garments they left the boat in charge of
its owner, and made the best of their way to the barracks, where they
were not long in getting into dry clothing.

Already a rumour had reached the soldiers, and soon both were surrounded
by an eager crush.

"What's happened?  What have you two chaps been up to?" they asked.

"Oh, an upset in the river, that's all!" said Phil nervously.  "Here,
ask Tony, he knows all about it;" and having transferred their
attentions from himself he slipped away, while Tony, seated comfortably
on the end of a bed, calmly filled and lighted his pipe, and, puffing
big clouds into the air, dilated upon the gallant deed performed by his
chum.

"He's a good plucked un, you chaps, as I has good cause to know," he
concluded.  "Once he saved me from a bear as was near tearing me to
pieces, and now he's fished a gent out of the river that's staying along
with the Queen.  He's made, is Phil Western, and'll get his stripes.
What's more, I'll tell yer now, so as there won't be no mistakes.  When
the young un's corporal, we'll all treat him as such.  Any chap as
doesn't 'll have to square it up with me.  So now yer know what to
expect."

With this final shot Tony pulled hard at his pipe and went off to find
his friend.

Phil had won his stripes without a doubt, but he had yet to go through
the ordeal of receiving them.

The very next day his name was down for commanding officer's orders, and
when he marched into the orderly-room, and stood to attention in front
of the green baize table, there was the colonel looking kindly at him,
while a row of officers, no less interested in the young soldier who had
behaved so gallantly, stood on either side.

"Western, my lad, it is reported to me that you saved two lives from
drowning yesterday," said the colonel.  "I have made enquiries about it
and find that you behaved nobly, and have been a credit to this
regiment.  I may tell you that your name has already been mentioned as
deserving of promotion, and there is no doubt but that you would have
received your stripes ere long.  But now you may feel doubly proud of
them, for you have gained them by an act of bravery, which is seldom the
case unless on active service.  From this date you are a full corporal.
Now, my lad, get your stripes put on, for we shall want to see them on
parade."

Motionless, looking straight to his front, Phil listened as if in a
dream.  Then he blurted out, "Thank you, sir!" and a second later was
obeying the order, "Right turn!  Quick march!"

Outside, by order of the colonel, the tailor was waiting for him, and
within a quarter of an hour Phil was the proud possessor of two stripes
on his right arm, the badge of a full corporal.

"There you are, corporal," said the tailor.  "They're fixed on strong,
and I hope they'll never want to be taken off.  Stick to 'em, and when
the time comes I'll sew on another with all me heart.  Now you'd better
look lively.  The `fall in' goes in a few minutes, and I hear there's
something else for you to listen to."

"Something else?  Why, what?" asked Phil.

"Well, some message came down from the castle, that's all I know of, but
they're rigging up the platform on the square, so it looks like some
show or other."

Phil groaned dismally, and went to his barrack-room to smarten himself
up, hoping that this new "show" could have nothing to do with himself.

But he was disappointed.  The whole battalion fell in, carrying the
colours, and having been duly formed up in review order and inspected,
they stood at ease, wondering what was coming, and looking with curious
eyes at the group of privileged sightseers who had already assembled,
and at the red-carpeted platform which had been placed on the opposite
side of the square.

Suddenly a movement was noticed amidst the crowd outside the gates; they
opened up, and a minute later two royal carriages swept in past the
guard-room.

All eyes were turned towards them, till a hoarse "Battalion, attention.
Royal salute.  Present arms!" was given by the colonel, and as one man
the regiment went through the movement, colours and officers' swords
dropped simultaneously, and a royal personage, dressed in full uniform,
was driven up to the centre, where, the carriage having stopped, he
descended, and returned the salute.

Then followed a minute inspection, during which Phil's heart beat
tumultuously against his ribs.  Afterwards, with colours in air and the
band playing, the regiment marched past in column--a sight worth going
many miles to see--and finally drew up in quarter column and faced
inwards towards the platform.

"Corporal Western!" the colonel cried.

Phil started and flushed crimson.  Then, recovering his composure, he
stepped from the ranks, and, marching forward, halted a few paces in
front of the platform.

"Officers, non-commissioned officers, and men," commenced the royal
personage who had reviewed them, stepping forward, "it has given me
great pleasure to come here to-day and witness the fine way in which you
have marched, and the smart, soldierly appearance you present.  You have
fully upheld the traditions of the regiment to which you belong.  I have
now another pleasant duty.  One of your number performed a gallant act
yesterday.  He was then a private, and is now a corporal.  He has won
his promotion by bravery, as every soldier desires to do, and as a mark
of the Queen's gratitude for saving the life of a distinguished guest,
and in order that he may never forget this day, I now present Corporal
Western with this watch and chain, and I feel sure he will always prize
it.  It comes from his Queen.  May it one day be carried in the fob of
an officer!"

Bewildered, and scarcely knowing whether he stood on his head or his
heels, Phil took the watch handed to him and returned to the ranks.  In
a dream he heard the regiment answer the colonel's call for cheers as
the royal officer stepped into his carriage, and in the same condition
he stood, whilst his comrades tore off their bearskins, and, hoisting
them on their bayonets, shouted cheers at him for his gallantry.

It was a bad half-hour for Phil, but, like all things, it came to an
end.  Soon he was back in the barrack-room, with friends crushing round
and eagerly gazing at the gold watch and chain presented to him.

What Phil valued most was the crown set with brilliants on the back, and
the inscription beneath, which ran:

  "_Presented to Corporal Philip Western, of the Grenadier Guards,
  In recognition of his gallantry,
  By Victoria R_."

Many and many a time did Phil pull out the watch and gaze at that
inscription, and often too did he determine that one day it should lie
in the waistcoat pocket of an officer.

"It's my first step in the regiment," he said quietly to Tony, when
talking over his promotion, "and I hope it will not be the last."

"Never fear, young un!  You'll get higher yet, I know," Tony replied
earnestly.  "In these days of peace it will take a time, no doubt; but
if there's war, as seems likely, then you'll go up, and I don't mind
telling yer it's my opinion you'll be an officer yet afore I gets my
stripes."

"Humbug, Tony!  It takes years and years to get a commission, even when
on active service.  But I mean to have a good try for it, and should
troubles come with some foreign power, then, as you say, there is all
the more chance of my being successful.  Now I am off to the
quarter-master to ask him to put this in his safe and keep it for me.  I
wouldn't lose it for worlds."



CHAPTER SIX.

WAR WITH RUSSIA.

The summer months flew by in the pleasant surroundings of beautiful
Windsor.  Guard duties alternating with drills, and odd hours spent in
the office of the regimental orderly-room, kept Phil pleasantly
occupied, and when off duty he and Tony had always plenty of ways of
amusing themselves, so that the latter days of September found them loth
to leave the garrison and march to London.  But orders had come for the
battalion to go to Wellington Barracks, and in due course they found
themselves once more installed in their old quarters, facing the park
across the celebrated Bird-cage Walk.

"We've had a real good time down there," remarked Tony, some two months
after their arrival, jerking his thumb in the direction of Windsor, "and
it'll be long before we strike against such another.

"What's to be done here?  Nothing--simply nothing!  It's drill and go on
guard nigh every day, and when you're free, kick yer heels in the
square, or go out walking.  I'm getting tired of it already."

"Oh, come, Tony, it isn't quite so bad as that!" laughed Phil.  "We're
no harder worked here than we were during the summer, and in our free
time we can find heaps to do if we only set about it.  They say that
thousands of Londoners know far less about their own surroundings than
do occasional visitors.  Now I propose we get some sort of a guide, and
every day we are able, go off to see some gallery or museum.  It will
cost us little or nothing, and will be good fun.  In any case it would
take weeks to exhaust all the sights, and before that, if all one hears
is true, we are likely to be setting our faces south for some other
country."

"Oh, you mean we'll be off fighting, do you, Phil?  Well, I ain't so
jolly certain.  Seems to me that England ain't keen on a row just now.
It takes a scholar to know anything about it, but I hears that the Queen
and her government want peace, and I suppose what England wants she's
bound to have.  Leastways that's how I reckon it, for we'd whop the
heads off any nation what tried to interfere."

"Ha, ha!  You've rather a big idea of England's power," laughed Phil;
"but there's a good deal of truth in it, I expect.  I must get to know
about this row, and meanwhile we'll do as I said, if you're agreeable."

"Yes, it'll suit me well, young un," answered Tony, who was fond of
addressing his friend in that way.  "I don't drink, and I ain't never in
trouble nowadays, thanks to you, but there's no saying what might happen
if I hadn't anything to do.  What's that kind of saying about idleness?"

"Idleness is the root of all evil."

"Yes, that's it, Phil.  Give me plenty to do, and I'll be better able to
keep that promise I made yer."

Accordingly Phil and Tony laid out a couple of shillings in a guide, and
commenced systematically to investigate the sights of London, commencing
with the Tower, where a regiment of Guards was quartered, and turning
their attention next to the British Museum, which itself occupied
several days.

"We must do the thing thoroughly," said Phil, as, book in hand, he and
Tony strolled through one of the larger rooms.  "I'll tell you what will
be a good plan.  We'll pay a visit to the map room, look up a certain
country, and then investigate whatever curios there happen to be from
that part."

"I'm with yer, Phil," Tony answered cheerfully, wishing to please his
companion, and secretly imbued with a firm determination to make up as
much as possible for his ignorance.  "But you'll have to show me
everything.  I don't suppose I'd be able to tell the difference between
a map of France and one of England.  You'd better start with the lot,
and point 'em out one by one."

Anxious to improve his humble friend, Phil took up his education in this
way with zest, and spent hours in scanning a map of the world.  So
deeply interested did they become that on the second day they did not
observe that a little man, dressed in respectable black, and wearing a
large white stock, had stolen up behind them, and with smiling face, and
eyes which peered through a pair of glasses, was peeping over their
shoulders and listening with interest to the harangue which Phil was
delivering for the benefit of Tony.

"There's the Black Sea, communicating with the Mediterranean by means of
this narrow channel," Phil was remarking, as he placed his finger on the
Dardanelles, and ran it up and down to show the communication between
the two seas.  "There's Turkey, and there's Russia; and it's between
those two countries that war is imminent."

"Then Russia and the Czar, or whatever he's called, ought to be ashamed
of theirselves, that's all I've got to say," answered Tony with disgust.
"See what a size the first one is.  Why, the other's only a baby."

"She'll fight for all that, Tony, so people say, but why or for what I
don't know.  Russia wants something, and Turkey says `No'.  Russia has
answered that she will have it or war, and now I believe the Sultan is
on the point of replying."

"Yus, that's clear enough, young un, but what about Old England?  Where
does she come in?  Why should she fight Russia when the row's between
the Czar and the Sultan?  It beats me altogether."

"And me too, Tony.  I'm in a regular fog."

"Then allow me to help you," came in suave tones from the dapper little
stranger, with such suddenness, that both Tony and Phil started back in
surprise.

"Ah! did not know that I was there, I suppose," remarked the stranger,
with a smile.  "But I've been listening--listening with interest for
some time.  You have had some education, I observe, young sir," he
continued, addressing Phil, "and if you and your companion would really
care, I will clear up this mystery for you."

"Thank you!  It would be very kind, sir," exclaimed Phil.  "We have
bothered about the matter many days."

"And there is no one who ought to be informed more than you, my
friends," the stranger remarked earnestly.  "As sure as my name is
Shelton, you of the Guards, and many another soldier boy, will be off
towards the Black Sea before many weeks have passed.  For war is
practically certain."

"Horroo!  You don't say so, sir!" cried Tony, snapping his fingers with
delight and drawing himself up stiffly as though to show Mr Shelton
what a fight he would make of it.

"But I do, my young friend," the latter replied, with a grave smile.
"War is undoubtedly imminent, and the Powers are about to grapple with
an enemy as subtle and as courageous as exists in any part of the world.
But come, glance at the map and I will try to tell you all about the
trouble, and when I have finished I feel sure that you two will go out
with all the more determination to do your duty for the sake of the
oppressed and for England's honour, for if ever there was an act of
bullying the Czar is guilty of it.

"You must know that Russia's teeming thousands are, as a mass, densely,
hopelessly ignorant.  Peasants for the most part, they live a life of
abject misery.  They are little better than slaves, and, ruled over by
various lords, they one and all look to the Czar as all-powerful,
unconquerable, and as a tyrant whose word is law, and whose hand, lifted
in anger, is worse than death itself.  He is, in other words, an
autocratic ruler, and he, like those who held the throne before him, has
diligently followed out a policy of keeping his poor subjects in a state
of ignorance.  What a work it would be to lift those poor people from
their lifelong condition of serfdom!  A work fit for the best of rulers;
but educate them, teach them to think for themselves, and at once your
autocratic government ceases, for the masses will unite and rise against
a galling system of tyranny and oppression.  They will no longer bow to
the will of one man--to thousands in the far-off districts a ruler only
in name,--but, goaded to rebellion, they will fight for that liberty
sweet to every man.

"Thus, you will follow me, education is opposed to autocratic rule.  But
such a rule, bringing in its train misery and poverty, breeds
discontent, and even the most pitiable of wretches, if sufficiently
ill-treated, will brood over their wrongs till the fury of hate seizes
them, and once more the reign of the absolute ruler is threatened.  So
well is the Czar Nicholas aware of this, that to distract the attention
of his subjects from their grievances he has filled their minds with the
alluring spectacle of foreign conquests.  Look at the map.  See how big
the Russian empire is, and remember how a great part is almost
uninhabitable owing to excessive cold.  Then look at her capital, Saint
Petersburg, and see how far from European ports it is.  How much better
for her if she possessed a town in the position of Constantinople.
Then, with the narrow Dardanelles to guard, she could post a fleet of
war-ships in the Black Sea, and at any moment swoop down into the
Mediterranean.  She would become at once mistress of that sea, and as
such could intimidate her neighbours.  And in peace times what an outlet
the Turkish capital would prove for all Russia's surplus manufactures,
and how easily a vast quantity of stores could be imported through it!
It would be the making of Russia, my young friends, and she knows it,
has known it, and has steadily worked for that end."

Mr Shelton paused, and, drawing the map closer, pointed out the various
points of interest in Russia and Turkey, while Phil and Tony followed
him.

"Ah, now I begin to see!" said the former; "Russia wants Turkey, or
rather that part of it on the Dardanelles, and that I suppose is the
reason for this trouble.  But surely she would not deliberately attempt
to deprive the Sultan of his capital?"

"By no means, young sir; the Czar is far too clever for that.  He wanted
a pretext for war, and one which would appeal to his people; and what
more powerful one could he have found than a religious one, that is, one
in which those of the Greek Church were shown to be the martyrs, for
Russia belongs to that persuasion.

"There was one at hand.  The Holy Land, which of course is under the
Sultan's sway, is the home of large numbers of priests and others
belonging to the Latin and the Greek Churches, and the Czar promptly
demanded that the latter should have more religious privileges than the
former, while France, whose interests are with the Latin Church,
demanded the very opposite.  What was the unhappy Sultan to do?  Himself
a Mahometan, he could not be expected to favour either of the two
infidel sects practising their religion at Jerusalem.

"It was an exceedingly difficult problem, and it is not to be wondered
at that he failed to please both parties.  The Latins were moderately
content, while the Greek Church was roused into a fit of the warmest
indignation, and with it the Czar, who at once despatched two army corps
over the Turkish frontier and occupied the country between it and the
Danube, in the opinion of all right-thinking people an act of monstrous
injustice."

"I should think so indeed!"  Phil blurted out.  "How could the poor
Sultan be expected to satisfy both parties?  It was a regular trap."

"Undoubtedly, undoubtedly, my friend!  It was an example of
high-handedness never before surpassed," remarked Mr Shelton gravely.
"But still war might have been averted, for the Sultan now agreed to the
Czar's demands, and in the eyes of Europe Russia could not but withdraw.

"Such a course, however, was far from her intentions.  With this point
gained, she now demanded a protectorate over all subjects of the Greek
Church, a suggestion which, if complied with, would have at once led
14,000,000 people resident in Turkey to own the Czar as their ruler, and
thus leave the unfortunate Sultan with merely a sprinkling of subjects.

"Turkey might have declared war promptly, but now the Western powers,
much to the Czar's chagrin and anger, intervened.  Look at Austria.  If
Turkey were occupied by Russia, the emperor's territory would be
partially enclosed, and a feeling of insecurity would naturally arise.
Therefore he is opposed to the scheme.  France has perhaps no very
definite reason for opposition, save the upholding of the rights of the
Latin Church.  But we must remember that she has ever been a belligerent
power, and that success in arms would place Louis Napoleon more firmly
on a throne at present in a decidedly shaky condition.  Also, if she
took Russia's part, she would have England and her fleet to cope with,
an item that I can assure you, my young friends, is not to be lightly
thought of.

"And now for England.  Ever the mainstay of justice and right, and the
protector of the oppressed, she has, considerably to the astonishment of
everyone, and particularly of Russia, awakened from that long peace
enjoyed since Waterloo, and, shaking herself free for the moment from
her absorbing interest in trade, has thrown herself heart and soul into
the cause of Turkey.  With the French, some of our ships sailed to the
Bosphorus; and as Russia refused to withdraw her troops from the Danube,
the combined fleets entered the Dardanelles and anchored before
Constantinople.

"And now comes the crux of the whole thing," said Mr Shelton, with
emphasis.  "We are not at war, but our interests are aroused, and our
sympathy with Turkey is deep.  It wanted only a match to set us flaring,
and cause us to engage in a war of what magnitude no one can say, and
that match has been applied.  On the last day of November a small fleet
of Turkish ships, which had anchored at Sinope, close above
Constantinople, was destroyed, together with 4000 men, by a fleet of
Russian war-vessels.  It was a cruel and unnecessary act.  Capture would
have sufficed.  But the fatal deed is done, and now I fancy both England
and France are launched into the struggle, for their peoples are
clamouring for the punishment of the Czar and his subjects.  In any case
a few days will determine the matter, and then, my lads, your country
will have need of you, and thousands more like you."

"Then I for one, sir, shall fight all the better and all the harder now
that I know exactly what the trouble is!" exclaimed Phil; while Tony
gave a grunt of marked approval, showing that if he had failed to grasp
exactly the real reason for war, he had at any rate a decided grudge
against the Czar and his people, which he would endeavour to satisfy at
the earliest opportunity.

"And where do you think the fighting will take place?" continued Phil.
"Shall we invade Russia, or will our fleets go in chase of the Russian
ships?  In that case we soldiers would have precious little to do, and
the sailors would come in for all the honour and glory."

"Rest easy, my young friend," replied Mr Shelton, with a smile.  "Both
services will have their hands full, or I shall be much surprised.  At
present matters point to a campaign on the Danube, while our fleet holds
the Dardanelles and the Black Sea; but for all I know Russia may be
invaded.  In that case Sebastopol is likely to be the port fixed upon
for attack.  Situated in the Crimea, it is an immense naval and military
arsenal, which in itself is a constant menace to Turkey.  Look at the
map once more and note the position of the Danube and of Sebastopol, you
will then more readily see the truth of my words."

"Don't matter to me where it is, sir!" exclaimed Tony bluntly; "if it's
war we'll fight and lick the beggars, see if we don't; and if it comes
to invasion, or whatever yer calls it, well, all the better, I say.
'Tain't nearly such good fun sticking behind stone walls and keeping
fellers out as it is rushing forts and such like things, and turning the
garrison out with the end of a bay'net.  That's the boy for 'em.  Give
me and all my mates a good half-yard of steel at the end of our guns,
and see if we don't make it warm for the Russians.  We'll do as well as
the Froggies at any rate."

"That you will, I am sure," laughed Mr Shelton, patting him on the
back.  "Fancy how strange it is that we who have always been fighting
with France, who is, as I might say, our natural enemy, should now be
side by side with her, and in all probability will soon be fighting for
the same object.  It will lead to tremendous scenes of emulation, for no
British soldier will care to allow a Frenchman to beat him at anything."

"I should think not, indeed," Phil snorted.  "There was a chap at the
school I first went to who was a regular Froggy.  His people had come to
England to save him from conscription; it would have been the making of
him, for he was a regular donkey, conceited and all that; curled his
hair and put scent on his handkerchief.  Pah!  How we disliked that
fellow!"

"It sounds as though you had had something to do with him," said Mr
Shelton, with a quizzical smile, "for we were saying that no Englishman
would suffer a Frenchman to beat him."

"Oh--er, yes, there was something like that!"  Phil replied, with
reddened cheeks.  "You see the beggar got so uppish and disagreeable
there was no doing anything with him; then, when I called him Froggy, in
pure jest, he threw a stump at me, and caught me a crack on the head.  I
didn't like that, and--er--"

"Yes, you did what?" asked Mr Shelton, with the same quizzical smile.

"I licked him till he blubbered," Phil blurted out shamefacedly,
conscious that he had been dragged into saying more than he had at first
intended.

"Ha, ha, ha! you licked him till he blubbered," roared the old
gentleman, losing in a moment his appearance of gravity, and beaming all
over his face.  "You licked him, and a very proper thing too, my friend!
But you must not be trying such games now.  It would mean a
court-martial, or even something more serious.  But I must be going now.
Bear in mind what I have told you, and be sure of this--war--red war--
is at hand.  Now good-bye and good luck!--you are just the class of lads
that England will want."

"Thank you, sir!  Good-bye!" cried Phil and Tony, saluting the old
gentleman.  Then, tucking their canes under their arms, they strode out
of the building and away to the barracks, discussing as they went the
possibility of war, and the share they were likely to take in it.

"I'm going to get a book on Russian!" exclaimed Phil, the day following
their visit to the British Museum.  "People tell me it is the most
difficult of all languages to learn, but I may be able to pick up a few
useful words.  I remember now that the firm I acted as clerk to did
business with another trading with Russian ports, and they had a Russian
clerk.  I met him once or twice, and I'll just go along and see what he
says about the matter."

"It's a good thing, right enough, Phil," Tony replied, with a shrug,
"but it's far beyond me, as far as the clouds; but you have a try at it,
old man, and I'll be bound you'll succeed.  I never knew yer beat yet."

Accordingly Phil went off at the first opportunity to see the clerk he
had mentioned, and after a chat with him bought a book, and was shown
the characters as a first lesson.

"Take my advice," said the clerk, who was the son of a Russian mother
and an English father, and almost entirely English in his ways and
thoughts, "and buy a really good map of the country, and a reliable
compass.  Supposing you get cut off from the troops, it might prove of
the greatest service to you.  As regards the language, come along to my
rooms as often as you like.  I am always in about six o'clock, and will
be glad to give you a lesson."

Phil was not slow to take advantage of the offer.  Every day he was free
from guards and other duties, and had no engagement with Tony to see the
sights of London, he repaired to the rooms of his Russian friend, and
there worked hard at the language.

If Mr Western could have seen him and his earnestness, he would have
been agape with amazement.  This his idle adopted son?  This the wilful
lad who would never settle down to work, and never take a leading place
in his class at school?  Could this young soldier--this fine, stalwart
young fellow (even he would have been obliged to admit it)--who slaved
so many hours day and night at the dryest of dry and uninteresting
subjects, be really the lad who had always gone contrary to his wishes,
the unmanageable boy full of daring and mischief, who had occasioned the
vicar of Riddington so many anxious and bitter thoughts?  To him it
would have been almost beyond belief.  His dull and rigidly narrow mind
could not have grasped the change.  But Joe Sweetman, what would he have
said?  How he would have chuckled, with just a suspicion of pride and
elation, and blurted out: "Didn't I tell you so.  Leave the lad alone.
Wild and unmanageable?  Pshaw!  Look at him now.  His heart's in the
right place.  He's got hold of a subject he's interested in, and he's
got the backbone to stick to it, though it means a lot of hard work."

And Phil had indeed the backbone and perseverance to continue to work at
the language.  A month passed, and he had apparently made no progress,
and the alphabet was still almost a troublesome maze to him.  But when
some weeks more had flown by he could join a few words together in the
semblance of sense, though he was still far from being able to carry on
a conversation.  By the middle of February, 1854, the year in which the
eventful Crimean war began, he could even acknowledge to himself that he
was getting on, and that a little more practice would find him fairly
proficient.  Never for a moment did he forget this ambition of his, this
self-imposed task, to master the most difficult of languages.  Who is
there who cannot imagine the labour it meant, the constant grinding, the
late hours when, beneath a flickering gas-jet or a smoking oil lantern,
he opened his book and devoured its contents till his eyes were almost
falling from his head?  Few, indeed, would saddle themselves willingly
with such a labour, but to Phil to take up a subject, however trivial,
was to succeed, and that very success was the reward he received.  The
alphabet and more difficult words having now been mastered, the work was
far more pleasant, and invited him to persevere.

"There's no doubt about it, it is a grind, an awful grind," he one day
admitted in muttered tones to himself.  "But I'll stick to it.  It comes
easier to me every day, and who knows what the knowledge may do for me?
Interpreters will certainly be required, though to imagine myself one is
flying rather high."

On parade, at musketry practice, everywhere he would repeat sentences in
low tones, and would attempt to put the orders for the soldiers into
Russian.  Then, at the first opportunity, he and the clerk who had so
befriended him would retire to the latter's room and there carry on a
long conversation, in which no English was admitted on pain of a small
fine.  Thus, as the days passed, his proficiency increased, till he was
almost competent to find his way through the heart of Russia without
much difficulty, so far as the language was concerned.

But a far from unexpected interruption occurred.  France and England
were on the eve of despatching an ultimatum to Russia, and the usually
placid life of the Guards was disturbed by orders to embark for active
service.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

GOOD-BYE TO OLD ENGLAND.

What excitement there was!  What bustle and hard work!  Though the
brigade of Guards had for long expected, and indeed anxiously awaited,
orders to prepare for embarkation, when at last the time did actually
arrive, they found still hosts of matters to be dealt with.

Men had to be examined as to their physical fitness for rough work in
the field; kits had to be looked to, new boots issued, and a
hundred-and-one points attended to.  Then there were good-byes to be
said, for many of those fine, brave lads, the last they would ever have
an opportunity of saying, for the Crimea was to claim them, and the
deep-trodden mire and mud of the heights round Sebastopol was destined
to form a covering for thousands--thousands, alas! of England's bravest
soldiers.  And the Queen--God bless her!--she too must take leave of her
Guards, and wish them a safe return.

Ah! it was a grand time, and books on Russian were forgotten in the
whirl Phil had too many other things to think about.  True, he had few
friends to part with, and in that he was to be congratulated, for
partings are ever painful; but he had hosts of duties to carry out, and
his services in the office of the orderly-room were daily in
requisition.

"I never see such a time," grumbled Tony disgustedly.  "I never get a
word with yer now, young un.  You're stuck in that office or on some
other job all day and every day.  I for one shall be jolly glad when
we're off, and then I expect every one of us will be precious sorry for
a time.  The Guards makes a fine show on parade, but aboard a ship,
about the size of one of these here barrack-rooms, they'll have to be
squeezed like herrings, and then if it blows won't there be a scene!  I
remember I went for a week in a fishing-boat once, and spent about as
miserable a time as I ever did.  Lor', how jolly ill and wretched I
was!"

"Yes, I expect it will take a little time to get our sea-legs, Tony,"
Phil replied cheerily; "but once the Bay of Biscay is passed we ought to
have fine weather, I'm told, and then we shall enjoy it.  As to never
seeing me, the job is now practically finished.  To-morrow the Queen
reviews us, and on the twenty-eighth we sail from Southampton.  That's
only a few days away.  Then hurrah for Russia and a campaign!"

How loyal every one of those stalwart Guardsmen felt as he stood paraded
before Queen Victoria on that eventful day.  How he fixed his eyes on
that figure standing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, and swore
silently that he would fight and die if need be for her and for the
country she ruled.  Gone, in the excitement and fervour of the moment,
was all thought of coming misery and privation.  Gone all fear of death
or injury by cannon-shot or bullet.  Before them was the Queen, and
beyond them, far across the sea, the Russian enemy.  Ere they returned
they would humble the Czar's pride, or perish in the attempt.

And the good and beloved Queen Victoria, as she scanned the long lines
before her, did she forget what her soldiers might meet with?  Did she
know of the horrors ever associated with war that must inevitably fall
upon some of the devoted fellows standing proudly erect before her?
Yes, she knew, and she did not forget.  She knew, too, the need for
England to assert herself in support of the oppressed, and though it
filled her heart with grief to think that many of those she looked at,
many of those stalwart officers from amongst the highest in the land,
and lads from amongst the bravest, must fall in the fight, yet she sent
them forth with smiling face and words of God-speed and encouragement,
for such is the duty of a queen.

But at length it was all over.  With colours flying and bands clashing
before them, the Grenadier Guards marched through a seething crowd which
filled the streets of London, and entrained for Southampton.  It was a
day to be remembered.  The masses were full of excitement, and cheered
till they were hoarse.  Those on foot pressed forward, and, defying all
regulations, marched beside their heroes.  Sweethearts struggled to
clutch the arms of lovers, and wives, poor things! held up their babes
and gazed fondly and with tearful eyes at departing husbands.  Ay, and
it was a time full of trials for the higher as well as the humbler in
the land.  How many of those fair damsels, dressed in all the finery
that money could buy, waved a handkerchief to some devoted lover, and
how many women sent all they cared for away to war and duty with dry
eyes and an encouraging smile, while surrounded by their sisters, only
to retire later and weep in private as if their hearts would break?  God
knows!  Only such things are, and ever will be, when men go out to
fight.  But at last it was all done with.  The train was off, and the
din and shouts, the cheers and strains of the National Anthem left far
behind.

"Thank goodness, we're off!" exclaimed one big fellow who happened to be
in the same carriage with Phil and Tony, and who had just waved a last
adieu to quite a number of girls.  "I wouldn't go through it again for
the wealth of the Queen.  It makes yer almost wish there wasn't such
things as sweethearts."

"Get along, George, old man!" another man replied, with a poor attempt
at a laugh, as he hastily drew his sleeve across his eyes.  "Yer know
yer wouldn't be without 'em, bless their little hearts!  It's fine to
think as there'll be someone at home a-thinking of yer; and just yer
wait till we're back again.  My eye, what a time we'll have!  What do
yer say, Corporal Western?"

"I fancy I haven't an opinion to give, Billy," Phil said, with a smile.
"I haven't a sweetheart yet, you see."

"Then yer ought'er, Corporal.  You're smart.  Why, blow me if you aren't
one of the smartest in the regiment, and if yer liked yer could have ten
of 'em, and all thinking they was the only one.  You've been wasting
opportunities."  Billy looked quite reproachfully at Phil.

"Then I'll have to wait, Billy, I expect.  Sweethearts are not to be
found in Russia," was the laughing answer.

"No, I d'say not.  You ought to know, Corporal, for I hear yer can speak
the Russian lingo; and knows lots about the country.  What's all this
row about?  None of us chaps knows, and you'd be doing all of us a good
turn if you'd tell us."

Nothing loth, Phil promptly commenced, and a heated argument following
as to the real intentions of Russia, and as to the merits of the French
soldiery compared, with the British, the time slipped by, and
Southampton was reached before anyone expected it.

The men at once tumbled out, and lined up on the platform, kit-bag and
rifle in hand.  Then in perfect order, and as if performing an every-day
movement, they filed up the gangway on to the decks of the _Orinoco_,
which lay alongside the wharf, with the _Ripon_ and _Manilla_ astern of
her.  Weapons were passed from hand to hand along the decks, down the
gangways, and into the hold, where they were secured in racks.  Then
bearskin helmets were collected and stored in an out-of-the-way room,
and in less than half an hour every man had disappeared into the hold,
and had taken possession of his hammock.

"It's a pretty close fit," remarked Tony, looking round; "but I expect
we shall be comfortable."

"We ought to be, Tony.  I hear the Guards have been given extra room
owing to their size, and as far as I can see, we shall have just
sufficient room to sling our hammocks and lie in them without touching
one another."

This was the case.  From beams screwed to the deck, and supported by
pillars, rows of big iron hooks depended in such a manner that, when
slung, the hammocks were only a few inches apart, while the foot end of
each of the next row just protruded between them as far as the head of
the occupant.

"Now, we'll stow our kits here," said Phil, "and go on deck.  I heard
the captain telling the colonel that he should cast off at once, so we
may as well see as much of the old country as possible.  Who knows when
we shall set eyes on it again?  Perhaps it will be a year or more before
the war is over and we are at liberty to return."

"Then we'll say good-bye to it, though I tell yer, Phil, I'm fair tired
of this yelling.  It makes yer feel curious just here," and he pointed
to his throat.  "I ain't got no friends to bother about, but I feels for
the poor chaps as has, and I hates to see the girls a-blubbering.  Poor
things!  They was just a-crying their pretty eyes out back there in
Lunnon."

"Yes, it's a trying time for sweethearts, husbands, and wives, Tony, but
let's hope all will meet again, though I suppose that isn't possible,
unless we find that the troubles have been settled before we reach the
Black Sea.  It would be a merciful thing, though bad luck for us."

"Bad luck!  I should think it would be, Phil.  Why, remember what we're
after, you and me.  Promotion--quick promotion.  You've got to get that
commission and become a toff of an orfficer, and I've got to win me
stripes; and how's it all to be done unless we smell powder?  No,
there's going to be a jolly war, and we Guards are going to be in the
thick of it;" and having settled the matter, as it were, Tony gave a
grunt, expressive of the disgust he might feel if the troubles really
were to disappear in smoke, and, turning on his heel, climbed up the
gangway ladder to the deck.

There were numbers of soldiers already lining the rails, and a crowd of
people on the quay, all chattering, calling to one another, and
attempting to look cheerful and gay under obviously depressing
circumstances.

Then a man with a grey beard, upright carriage, and a general appearance
which did not need the row of medals displayed on his waistcoat to
proclaim him an old soldier, stepped forward, and, producing a cornet,
played "The British Grenadiers."

Already the hawsers had been cast off.  Two panting little tugs were
slowly towing the paddle-ship into the open water, and hoarse voices
sounded from the bridge.  The tune changed to the National Anthem, and
hats were doffed by the crowd, while every lad on board stood at
attention.  Then the strains of "Auld Lang Syne" came across the water,
at first loud and distinct, but gradually getting fainter, cheers passed
from deck to quay, handkerchiefs and sticks were waved, the
railway-engine screeched a last farewell with its whistle, and the
_Orinoco_ trembled from stem to stern at the beat of her paddles, like
some powerful animal making a terrific struggle to escape its bonds.

The parting was over.  Men gazed at the rapidly receding shore, and then
turning, dived below decks and busied themselves in arranging their
hammocks.  What was the good of being downcast?  Who could look into the
future?  As well make the best of matters and take things cheerfully.
Soon all were laughing and joking, perhaps a little more soberly than
before, but still far more happily than an hour ago.

"Now, my lads," cried the sergeant-major, "each man to his hammock, and
we'll serve out to-day's allowance of rum.  It'll cheer you up and keep
the cold out."

One by one the men were served with the spirit, and soon after, having
been joined by the sailors off duty, Jack Tar and Thomas Atkins sat
themselves down to a convivial evening.  Pipes were produced, and some
thoughtful fellow extracting a concertina from the depths of a kit-bag,
an impromptu concert was commenced and kept up till "lights out."

"This kind of thing won't be allowed every night, I expect," said Phil,
as he sat by Tony's side, for many of the sailors, liberally helped to a
portion of the soldiers' rum, were reeling away to their quarters.

"Ah! well, it's only the first night out, mate, mind that.  The
officers, I expect, knows about it as well as we do, but they knows the
boys want cheering.  But I expects there'll be a change."

And as a matter of fact there was, for on the following day, when the
hour for the serving out of grog came round, the men were drawn up in
their several messes.  Then under the eye of the sergeant-major one mess
was served, and at the order, "Men served one pace forward and swallow,"
the spirit disappeared.

It was a strange feeling to lie for the first time in a hammock, but the
men took to it like ducks to water.

"It's jolly comfortable, and ever so much softer than a barrack-bed,
ain't it, Phil?" remarked Tony, as he lay full length close beside his
friend, with only his face showing, and a pipe projecting from his lips.

"I've slept in a harder bed many a time," laughed Phil.  "But I'm tired;
so good-night, Tony!"

At 6:30 a.m. the next morning _reveille_ sounded through the ship, and
the men tumbled out, to find a fresh, cold breeze blowing and a nasty
sea on.  Faces fell, for soldiers, like other mortals, fall victims to
_mal de mer_.  Breakfasts were looked at askance, and scarcely touched,
and soon the rails were almost as thickly crowded as on the previous
day.

"Lummy!  How jolly bad I feel!" groaned Tony.  "I'm off to me bunk as
fast as me feet will take me."

Phil nodded curtly, and very soon followed his example, for he too was
not exactly enjoying himself.

On the following day the ship was on an even keel once more, and bright
faces and merry jokes were everywhere.  In seven days Gibraltar was
reached, but no one was allowed to land, and no sooner had the ship
coaled than she paddled on to Malta.  Arrived there, the troops
disembarked, to hear the welcome news that France and England had
declared war on Russia on the day after their sailing.

"That's all right, then!" exclaimed Tony with a grunt of satisfaction.
"We shall soon have a taste of fighting, and the sooner it comes the
better.  See them coves over there, Phil?  Ain't they smart, just.
Wonder how they'll tackle the Russians!"

He alluded to a ship-load of French artillery which had arrived only a
few hours before in the harbour.  Smart, athletic men they looked, as
they crowded the decks and shouted back greetings to the British.

"They are said to be amongst the finest gunners trained by any nation,"
answered Phil, "and I've no doubt they will do well.  But look out,
Tony; there goes the bugle.  I expect we shall have to disembark."

The bugle notes rang out clear, waking the harbour of Valetta with the
echo; and the hoarse voice of the sergeant-major penetrated to every
hole and corner of the _Orinoco_.

"Fall in, lads," he shouted.  "Smartly now; by companies."

Phil and Tony soon found their places, and then for half an hour were
busily engaged in passing rifles and bearskin helmets and in securing
their kit.  When all were ready, the disembarkation proceeded apace, and
in an hour the Grenadier Guards were ashore and comfortably housed in
casemates of the forts.

"I wonder how long we shall stay here," remarked Phil about a week
later, as he and Tony stood on the ramparts and gazed at the town.  "The
sooner we leave the better.  Our men are having a splendid time, and
have struck up a great friendship with the Frenchies, but at this rate
it won't do.  Look at those fellows over there."

"They are pretty bad; you're right, Phil," Tony grunted, as he watched a
tiny French artillerist staggering down towards him, with two burly
British linesmen on either side, with arms firmly linked in his, and all
three roaring a refrain to be heard in any _cafe_ in the town.

"Pretty bad!  I should think so, Tony.  But it won't last.  Our officers
know what is going on, and we shall sail very shortly.  The new life and
excitement here and the low price of spirit make it easy for our men to
get intoxicated and behave in a riotous manner.  After all, one cannot
exactly blame them.  They are going to a rough country probably, and are
making the most of the present time.  But much of this sort of thing
will play havoc with them in the end.  Only yesterday I heard our doctor
say that disease was far more dangerous to armies than bullets, and that
men who entered upon a campaign in indifferent health were certain to go
under if hardships had to be faced.  I mean to take plenty of exercise,
and beware of eating too much fruit."

"Then I'm with yer, mate.  Yer know drink ain't nothing to me now, and I
can see as the feller what keeps himself fit, takes walks and plenty of
fresh air, and don't eat nor drink too much, finds himself better able
to enjoy his life.  Why, ever since that ugly old bear gave me a mauling
I've been a different man.  I have, Phil.  A different and a better man.
But come along, mate, let's take a stroll about and see what's
happening.  Some of those French blokes is going to do a gun drill, I
hear, and we may as well look at 'em."

It was a wise resolution on Phil's part to keep himself in good trim,
for no one possessed of common sense can doubt that nothing is more
prejudicial to a young man than riotous living.  For a time an excellent
constitution may stand the unusual strain, but sooner or later health is
shattered, and with additional strain, when met by cold and exposure,
and perhaps insufficient food, disease finds a ready victim, and another
patient falls into the hands of doctors already heavily pressed by work.

Fortunately for all, orders were not long in coming, and soon the
Grenadiers were on the sea again.  A short and most interesting voyage
followed till they reached the entrance to the Dardanelles and dropped
anchor.

It was pitchy dark, and the outlines of the forts which guard the narrow
entrance could not be made out; but excited shouts and an occasional
blue flare which lit up a limited area, showing gesticulating figures
clad in Turkish costume, proved that the coming of the _Orinoco_ had not
passed unnoticed.

On the following morning the ship weighed anchor, and, steaming into the
Bosphorus, drew up opposite Scutari, fated to prove the scene of awful
misery to the British.  That evening Phil and his comrades were ashore,
and were safely housed under canvas.  Two days later they obtained
permission to visit Gallipoli, where the bulk of our army had landed,
with numbers of the French, and, hiring a native craft, were rowed
across.

"Looks like a fairy place, don't it, Phil?" remarked Tony as, seated in
the boat, he gazed at the shore of Gallipoli.  "Look at them things like
white fingers a-sticking up into the sky, and those white houses amongst
the green trees."

And, indeed, seen from a distance, and, above all, from the sea,
Gallipoli with its immediate surroundings is a paradise.  It consists of
a collection of all sorts of houses scattered here and there hap-hazard
on the foreground, other houses built on the hill behind, and the whole
swathed in green patches of luxuriant tree-growth, and backed by the
distant hills.  It was an enchanting spot, and its charm was greatly
increased by the fact that it was situated in a strange land, where
large domed mosques and white-washed minarets reared high in the air,
and reflected the rays of a glorious sun from their glistening surfaces.

Phil and Tony were delighted with it, but as the boat drew nearer, and
dirt and squalor became visible, their faces fell.

"Pah!  It's worse than a farmyard," exclaimed Tony, with disgust, as he
sniffed the air.  "And look at that mud!"

"Wait a minute, and let us see what the streets are like.  Perhaps they
will be interesting," answered Phil, with a laugh.  "Certainly this part
of Gallipoli is rather unsavoury, and the sooner we are away from it the
better."

The boat touched the shore, and, having paid the small sum demanded, the
two set off, and were soon in the centre of the town.  Every moment some
new sight arrested their attention, and in the excitement of the moment
they quickly forgot the dirt and foul gutters to be seen everywhere.
Grave Turks accosted them, politely stepping on one side to allow room
for them to pass; Greeks weighed down with huge baskets of merchandise
staggered past; and ever and anon a swarthy, unclean-looking Armenian
Jew flitted down some by-street as if fearing to be seen.  Soldiers in
every variety of uniform, Highlanders, lithe, plucky-looking little
riflemen, and daintily-dressed Zouaves came by singly and sometimes
arm-in-arm, a burly Englishman fraternising with some dapper little
Frenchman, and endeavouring vainly to carry on a conversation with him.

Phil and Tony were greatly interested, but to their astonishment, though
the sight of foreign soldiers must have been a rare one indeed to the
Turks, not a single inhabitant of this oriental spot showed any
curiosity or looked up when they passed.  In every little shop or
doorway a Turk was seated cross-legged on a low divan, puffing moodily
at his chibouk, each and every one, whether grey-bearded or otherwise,
motionless, immovable, and absolutely uninterested.

"Well, I never!" exclaimed Phil.  "Did you ever see such a sleepy lot,
Tony?  They look as though an earthquake would not move them; and the
children, too, seem just as little upset by the arrival of the troops."

"They are about the sleepiest lot I ever see," growled Tony in reply.
"That old cove over there might be made of wax; and what's this a-coming
down the street?  I suppose it's a woman, but she might just as well be
a sack.  Ugh!  Give me England and English girls!  Let's get on, old
man, and see what these here Frenchmen are up to."

Everywhere the streets were labelled with French names, and indeed the
French seemed to be far more _en evidence_ than the British.  They had
inaugurated a cafe, the best building in the town was utilised as their
hospital, and their general had his quarters in a prominent position.
One might have thought that the British were not there at all, save that
Highlanders stepping briskly along the pavements, and an occasional
infantry-man or a mounted orderly passing through the streets showed
that our forces too were represented.

"It is curious to see so much that is French and so little that is
English," remarked Phil in a disappointed voice.  "Everywhere it's Rue
this or Rue that; never an English name, from the landing-stage to the
edge of the town.  What can our people be doing?"

"They're awake.  You trust 'em for that," Tony answered with conviction,
"Just because they haven't christened all the streets and painted their
names everywhere, don't you think they're not every bit as good as these
here Froggies."

It was almost nightfall when Phil and Tony reached Scutari again and
rejoined their comrades, and there they remained until early in June,
passing the greater part of their days in drills and musketry practice,
and in exploring the surrounding country.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

LOST IN THE CRIMEA.

"Bustle up, you boys!  Put your kit together, Tony, as quickly as you
can, for we are off at last!" cried Phil excitedly, on his return one
morning from the tent which had been set apart for the orderly-room
clerks.  "I have great news for you."

"What is it?  Out with it, Phil!" came in a chorus from the nine men who
shared the tent with him.  "A move at last!  Hurrah!  We're all precious
tired of this place.  Is it Russia we're off to?"

"No, not that, but Varna," answered Phil.  "We sail to-morrow, I have
been told, and with the French march against the Russians.  It will be
the opening scene of a grand campaign, for I hear they are besieging
Silistria, in the province of the Danube."

"Then all them yarns about the Crimea, or whatever they calls it, and
taking Sebastopol, is all wrong 'uns," exclaimed Tony, with disgust.
"Never mind, boys.  I expects Silistria's better than that.  It'll be
warm at any rate; at least that's what people say; and I shall be
precious glad, for if there's anything that upsets me, it's freezing
cold weather, and that's what we'll have in the Crimea."

"Anything's better, I reckon, than sticking in this here place," chimed
in another.  "What have we been doing?  Simply drilling day and night,
it seems, and eating our rations.  Wasting time, I calls it.  Then every
chap has been sick.  See how many of our poor fellows has died.  Let's
get out of this, I says.  Anything's better than sitting still."

There was a grunt of assent from all, for disease had already picked out
many victims from amongst the men of the combined armies, and inaction
amongst a number of troops living in more or less confined quarters had
already had disastrous results.  Accordingly the move to Varna was
hailed with delight, and the men of the Guards embarked with feelings of
unmixed pleasure.

Arrived at Varna, a picturesque spot on the sea-coast, they found the
French already there, and other troops arriving daily.  Not long
afterwards a French force set out to march towards Silistria, but with
terrible results.  Cholera had dogged their footsteps from Marseilles,
and seven days after leaving the coast this dread disease attacked the
two divisions under General Canrobert with malignant fury, bringing no
less than 7000 of the unfortunate men to an untimely end.  It was an
awful example of sudden death, for in three days the divisions crawled
back into Varna more disorganised and downhearted than if they had
sustained a terrible defeat.

"It is terrible!" exclaimed Phil when the news reached him; "and worse
still to think that the epidemic may come into our camps.  If it does,
God help us! for thousands will die.  Remember our rule, Tony, no fruit.
It is the most dangerous article of food at present, and has already
killed many by causing dysentery.  So beware of it, as you value your
life."

Indeed, so certain was this, that the men were warned against
over-indulgence in fruit and vegetables, and the regimental doctor
earnestly advised all to boil any water before drinking it.  In spite of
the warning, however, many were too thoughtless or too careless to heed
it, and scarcely had the shattered ranks of the French crawled into
Varna when cholera broke out amongst the British.  Of these there were
some 22,000, whilst the bulk of the garrison was composed of 50,000
French and 8000 Turks.  As if by the hand of the Destroying Angel the
dread scourge spread through the camp, striking down men on every side,
irrespective of race, creed, or age.  Hundreds died, and the hospitals
were filled to overflowing.  As for the still hale and hearty, they went
about silently, and as if fearing to laugh or sing, for on all sides
their comrades were dying.  Instead they stared moodily at one another
with wide-open eyes which seemed to ask: "How much longer will this
misery last?  When will our turn come to fall victims to this dreadful
scourge--this terrifying sickness which strikes silently and unawares,
and yet so surely and so fatally that he upon whom its grip is fastened
can scarcely hope to see the light of another day?"  Phil often asked
himself these questions.

"The doctor has called for volunteers to nurse the sick," he said one
morning as he sat in the tent and looked at his comrades, whose numbers
were already sadly diminished.

"What?  Volunteers to nurse them with cholera!" exclaimed one in
awe-struck tones.

"Yes, to nurse the cholera patients."

"He'll never get any--never!" said the man moodily.  "It's bad enough to
know it's here amongst us.  But who's going to run against it if he's
able to keep away?  It's like shooting yourself."

"There's risk certainly," remarked Phil calmly, "but the doctors take
it, and so do their orderlies; and after all, one must die some day.
Won't any of you fellows volunteer?"

No answer was returned, though Tony looked up at his friend with a
frightened, half-guilty face, and then, like his comrades, stared
moodily at the ground.

"Well, good-bye, in case!" said Phil shortly, and stepped out of the
tent.

"Here, what's this you're doing, Phil?" gasped Tony hurriedly, following
him, and looking searchingly at him as if to read his inmost thoughts.

"I'm going to help, Tony.  The men are dying like flies, poor fellows!
and the hospital staff is simply overwhelmed.  Volunteers are asked for,
and I'm one.  At any other time I wouldn't dream of it, but now it's
different.  Besides, this inaction is too trying, and I feel that I must
have something to occupy my thoughts."

"Don't say no more, mate, I'm with yer," Tony blurted out, flushing red
with shame and grasping his friend's hand.  "It's just what a chap like
you would do, and I'm blowed if I don't come along too."

It was a desperate undertaking for Tony, for, like all uneducated
people, he had a far greater dread of cholera than others better
informed.  But his friend's decision was enough for him, and, swallowing
his fears with a gulp, he wiped the perspiration from his forehead and
followed Phil to the hospital.

"There, it's not half so bad as you imagined, and, for the matter of
that, not nearly so serious an undertaking as I thought," said Phil,
some two weeks later, as he and Tony sat on the door-step of the
hospital, taking a little fresh air after their unpleasant work.

"No, 'tain't as bad, but it's trying," remarked Tony thoughtfully.

And he was right.  It had been trying work.  Gifted with considerable
common sense and a fair education, Phil had rapidly picked up the duties
of a nurse sufficiently well to be able to render real help to his
comrades who were suffering from cholera, and was now in charge of a
large ward, with Tony to help him.  And together they had worked day and
night, relieving one another, and earning the praise of doctors and
patients alike.

"You shall never regret this sacrifice," said the doctor gratefully.  "I
have already mentioned you to the colonel; and be sure, when honours are
given at the end of the campaign, you will not be overlooked.  I know
what it means to you, and that you would far rather face the guns of the
Russians than this disease."

"It's not so bad, now we're used to it, sir," said Phil; "but I own I'd
far rather be in the fighting-line; not so much because I fear the
disease, as because it is so distressing to see all these poor fellows
die in agony."

"Right, lad, right!  I know what it means," the doctor answered, with a
sigh.  "But, thank Heavens! the epidemic is abating."

By the middle of August there was a considerable decrease, though the
fleet was suffering severely in spite of having severed its connection
with the shore.  A week later the number of cases was infinitesimal
compared with what it had been, and in consequence arrangements were
pushed forward for another move.

"We shall go to the Crimea this time," said the doctor, who seemed to
have taken quite a fancy to Phil, and often indulged in a chat with him.
"Austria has moved 50,000 or more of her troops down Silistria way, and
the Russians have raised the siege and retired.  Now we are going to
show them that war cannot be commenced with impunity on such trivial
grounds.  It is supposed to be a secret, but Sebastopol will undoubtedly
be our object, and we shall endeavour to destroy it."

It was evident to all, in fact, that something was in the wind.  A huge
fleet of East Indiamen and other craft assembled off Varna to act as
transports, and immense barges were prepared for the reception of
artillery.  Stores, too, stood in enormous stacks down by the shore, and
everything pointed to a change of quarters.

The news of a possible move spread like fire through the camp, and at
once the spirits of the soldiers rose.  Despair gave way to
cheerfulness, and whistling and singing were again to be heard.  At last
came the orders to embark, and on September 4th the British fleet, which
stretched away to the horizon, set sail for an unknown port, and with an
agreement to meet the French and Turkish vessels _en route_.  It is
unnecessary to detail the vexatious dallying and delay that occurred.
Had fixed plans been drawn out before the departure from Varna, the
allied armies could have reached the Crimea and landed upon its shores
in three days, but nothing had been arranged.  The fleets sailed hither
and thither aimlessly, it seemed, and finally anchored, while a party
was sent forward to reconnoitre.  The natural result was that the
Russians suspected that a descent was contemplated upon Sebastopol and
at once prepared for emergencies, entrenching the landward face of the
town and fortress, which till then was almost devoid of batteries and
fortifications.

But at last something was decided, and at daybreak on September 14th the
huge fleet of transports, now joined by French and Turks, dropped anchor
off Lake Saki, near Eupatoria, some 34 miles from Sebastopol.

The boom of a gun at once echoed along the shore, followed by a puff of
smoke from a port-hole of the French flagship.  At once a boat shot away
from her stern and made for the beach.

"Ah! the beggars!" exclaimed Phil.  "They will be the first ashore.  Why
does not our general send a boat to race them?"

"Plenty of time, mate," growled Tony, no more pleased than his friend to
see their dapper allies to the front.  "We'll show 'em yet; see if we
don't."

All eyes were fixed on the boat.  It ran gently on to the beach, its
crew sprang out, and within a few minutes a flagstaff was erected, and
the tricolour run up to the accompaniment of a shrill "Vive l'Empereur!"
faintly heard across the water.

"Yes, shout if yer like," cried Tony in disgust.  "See how we'll show
yer.  It don't take much to put up a flag there on the shore, but wait
till it comes to planting it in a fort; we'll be there with yer, and
p'r'aps show yer the way."

"Come, come," laughed Phil.  "It's all your jealousy.  The French are a
brave nation and can fight; though I'm glad to think that we have always
beaten them.  Ah! there goes another gun, and see, they are
disembarking."

"Yes, so they are; but look away over there," exclaimed Tony, pointing
to the shore, where on an upland plateau, above the lake, some two
hundred yards from the sea, stood five shaggy-looking ponies with
figures seated on their backs holding long lances in their hands.

"Cossacks!" remarked Phil.  "They are watching us.  It seems strange
that the Russians have made no preparations to oppose our landing, but I
suppose they were quite uncertain as to the exact spot we should hit
upon."

Transferring their attention from the figures on the shore to the French
fleet, they watched, not without some amount of envy, the rapid
disembarkation of the soldiers.  But very soon another gun boomed out,
and boats dashed from the British men-of-war towards the transports.

"Now our turn has come," remarked Phil.  "Come along, Tony.  We'll get
our kit strapped on, and then we shall be ready at any moment."

"Pass the word along there for Corporal Western," sounded across the
deck at this moment; and, hastily making his canteen fast, Phil
shouldered his Minie rifle and stepped up to the adjutant.

"Take two men," the latter ordered, "and mount guard over the boxes of
ammunition.  You will land with them and see them safely stacked out of
reach of the water, and remain in charge of them till you are relieved."

"I understand, sir," said Phil, saluting smartly by bringing his
disengaged hand across to his rifle and striding away.

"Tony, I want you," he said, "and we'll take Sam Wilson as well.  We're
to mount guard over the ammunition."

It was the first really responsible charge that Phil had had entrusted
to him, and he felt proud of it.  Taking Tony and Sam with him, they
stacked the boxes which had just been hoisted from the hold, and while
one strode up and down in front, the other two sat down and waited for
the order to disembark.  Soon it came, and the men, who had fallen in,
two deep, slowly filed to the gangways.

It was a difficult undertaking to disembark so many, but with the help
of the sailors the greater part of the work was completed by nightfall.

"By Jove, it's really grand to see how those Jack Tars work," remarked
Phil.  "They have made no end of trips to the shore already, and here
they are preparing to tow us."

Honest Jack indeed worked like a slave.  As if to show his
comrade-in-arms what he could do, and that he was master on the sea, he
handed each soldier down into the boats as tenderly as if he were a
child, remarking: "Now sit down there, matey.  It'll soon be over, and
this here swell's simply nothing;" or, "Hang on to that there ladder
with yer eyebrows.  Yer ain't used to these monkey tricks, and I've seen
a better man than you let go and get a sousing."

Thomas Atkins listened to it all good-humouredly, and took his place
obediently, while the sailors pulled the heavy boats and flats ashore.

Phil and his charge were taken in a special boat, and on landing the
boxes were carried up and stacked in the centre of the camp selected for
the Grenadier Guards.  By this time the wind had risen, and rain had
commenced to fall.

"It looks like raining all night, Phil," said Tony ruefully, staring up
at the heavy clouds.  "It's a fine look-out for us, for there ain't a
single tent amongst us."

"Then we're no worse off than our officers, Tony.  I see, though, that
those Frenchies are housed under tiny tents they call `_tentes d'abri_'.
Why shouldn't we make a kind of hutch with these boxes.  One of us must
do sentry-go outside, of course, but the other two may as well keep dry,
and for the matter of that there are sufficient boxes to make a regular
hut big enough to lie down in, and high enough to cover the sentry."

"Lummy, that's a cute dodge!" cried Tony.  "We'll fix it up at once.
Come along, Sam; lend a hand before this rain goes through us."

The boxes were heavy, but within a quarter of an hour quite a
respectable house had been formed, with a blanket for a roof, and the
opening turned away from the wind.  Into this two of them crept, while
the third stood on guard under the covering.  By this means, while
everyone else in the British lines spent a miserable night, and was
drenched to the skin, Phil and his comrades escaped the rain, and awoke
in the morning refreshed by a good sleep.

Phil was not relieved from his charge, but, with the two men helping
him, remained on guard all the following day, when a native cart, called
an "araba", was provided for the carriage of the ammunition, and he was
informed that he would be in charge of it, and must see to having it
loaded before the troops marched.

"A precious nice game," snorted Tony, when he heard the order.  "Here we
are, stuck right in rear of the troops, in charge of a few boxes of
ammunition.  Why couldn't someone else have been chosen?"

"Don't you grumble," replied Phil severely.  "We have a responsible
charge, and for all we know we may have even more fun and adventure than
the others.  Now it's your turn for sentry-go, so out you get.  You can
grumble there to your heart's content."

Tony departed abashed, and Phil and Sam looked on at the debarkation,
which still continued.  By the 17th all were ashore, save the sick, of
whom there were still a large number.  Even to a veteran soldier it was
indeed a most interesting sight to see the huge allied army assembled on
the upland slopes above the lake.  In the distance the Turks, sitting
contentedly and composedly in their tents; the French, like so many
ants, bustling hither and thither and busily superintending the mid-day
meal; and the lines of the British, now provided with tents for the few
days before they marched from the shore.

It was a large force, and as many regiments were to make themselves for
ever famous in the course of the campaign, it will perhaps be advisable
to explain how our army was divided.

In chief command was Lord Raglan, an officer who for many years had
lived a peaceful life, and had therefore little, if any, experience of
warfare.  His army consisted of six divisions, each made up of several
regiments and commanded by a brigadier, or in some cases divided into
two portions under different leaders.

The Light Division consisted of the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade, 7th
Fusiliers, 19th Regiment and 23rd Fusiliers, under Major-general
Codrington, and the 33rd, 77th, and 88th Regiments, under
Brigadier-general Buller.

The First Division, under the Duke of Cambridge, included the Grenadier
Guards, the Coldstream and Scots Fusilier Guards, now the Scots Guards,
with Major-general Bentinck in command, and the 42nd, 79th, and 93rd
Highlanders, fine brawny sons of the heather, under Brigadier Sir C.
Campbell.

The Second Division comprised the 30th, 55th, and 95th Regiments, under
Brigadier-general Pennefather, and the 41st, 47th, and 49th, under
Brigadier-general Adams.

The Third Division, under Sir R. England, was composed of the 1st
Royals, 28th, 38th, 44th, 50th, and 68th Regiments, commanded by
Brigadiers Sir John Campbell and Eyre.

The Fourth Division, under Sir George Cathcart, consisted of the 20th,
21st, and 63rd Regiments and of the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade.  The
46th and 57th Regiments, which were to form part of it, had not yet
arrived, but were _en route_ from England.

The Cavalry Division, under Lord Lucan, was divided into a light
brigade, under Lord Cardigan, which was made up of the 4th light
Dragoons, the 8th and 11th Hussars, the 13th Dragoons, and the 17th
Lancers; and the Heavy Cavalry Brigade, in command of Brigadier-general
Scarlett, which comprised the Scots Greys, 14th Dragoon Guards, 5th
Dragoon Guards, and 6th Dragoons, the first regiment not having yet put
in an appearance.

It was indeed an immense force, and of course needed a huge commissariat
train to feed it.

On the 18th the allied armies moved out of camp towards the Alma, the
French being on the right, next the coast-line, and supported there by
the guns of the fleets, while the brigade of Guards marched in rear.
Phil took his place behind his regiment, and, slinging his rifle, acted
as driver of the araba, while Tony and Sam trudged along on either side.

"It won't be long now before we hear guns," he remarked cheerfully from
his elevated perch on top of the ammunition-boxes.  "The Cossack fires
were only a couple of miles in front of us last night, and it is
scarcely likely that we shall be allowed to advance far without
opposition.  So look out for squalls, you fellows."

"It's what we've come for, mate," Tony replied with a shrug of his broad
shoulders, "but it strikes me as we'll have to be looking out for
trouble with this here old cart afore long.  This wheel won't stand much
of this kind of jolting."

The roads were indeed in places extremely rough, and a foot or more deep
in mud after the recent rains and the trample of the troops in advance.

"Didn't I tell yer so," cried Tony a moment later, as the araba sank
almost axle-deep and stopped abruptly.  "Whip up them horses, Phil, or
we'll get left behind."

Phil promptly applied the whip, but to no effect, and before the cart
was again set in motion by the united efforts of his comrades and the
horses, they had lost a considerable amount of ground.  Then, to their
intense vexation, one of the animals stumbled, and, falling upon the
shaft, snapped it in two.

"What a misfortune!" exclaimed Phil, surveying the wreck.  "But we are
in charge of this ammunition, you fellows, and must bring it through.
It is getting dark already, so I expect the troops will soon be halting.
Lend a hand, both of you, and we'll splice this break, and catch the
regiment up later on."

"You'll have to unload first, mate," Tony answered.  "This weight is too
much for one horse to keep up while we're mending, and besides, we'll
get the job done in half the time if we take 'em both out and empty the
cart."

Accordingly all three set to work and lifted the heavy boxes out.  Then
the horses were unharnessed, and with a length of rope and a batten of
wood a shift was made to mend the break.

"That will do, I think," said Phil at last, surveying the work with
satisfaction.  "Now in with the animals, and let us get along as quickly
as possible.  We must be a couple of miles behind the troops, but
fortunately the road is clear, and though it is a dark night we ought to
reach them without trouble."

Once more they set out on the road, and were congratulating themselves
on the fact that they were close to the camp, when Tony called a halt.

"What are them coves over there?" he asked, pointing ahead to a
collection of camp-fires, in front of which mounted figures were
flitting.  "If them ain't Russians, I'm a Frenchie."

"They look remarkably like Cossacks, I must say, Tony," replied Phil
anxiously.  "Stop here a few moments while I go forward and make
certain."

In another minute he had disappeared in the darkness.  Walking boldly
forward for three hundred yards he then judged it wise to observe some
caution, and, stooping low, crept forward on the turf at the roadside,
which completely muffled his footsteps.  Suddenly a figure loomed up in
front of him, followed by another, and, flinging himself on the ground,
Phil crawled behind a growth of low bush and hastily hid himself from
view.

"There, Petroff," he heard a harsh voice say in Russian, "that is your
post.  Remain there till you are relieved.  If these pigs of Englishmen
advance this way gallop back and warn us.  See that you do not sleep, my
man, or as the Czar, our master, lives, I will hang you to the nearest
tree."

"Excellency, your orders shall be obeyed," the Cossack trooper answered
humbly, and then, as his officer rode off, swore in a low but audible
voice.

"Hang me to the nearest tree!" he muttered angrily.  "Ah!  Will he!
Wait, your most noble excellency.  Who knows how soon a bullet shall put
an end to your threats, and should it come from behind instead of from
these foreign pigs, then--ah, well! the fortune of war."

The man gave a stamp, as if to show his hatred, and, turning his horse,
led it back a few paces.  Phil at once rose to his feet and took to his
heels in the direction of the cart.

"We have lost our way," he said, on rejoining his friends.  "I cannot
imagine how it has happened, but perhaps the British camp lies in a
hollow, and we have mistaken the Russian fires for theirs.  We evidently
went off to the left, and now we must keep to the right."

Whipping up the horses, they pushed on once more, but two hours passed
and still there was no sign of the camp.

"We're lost, that's what it comes to," said Tony calmly.  "What shall we
do, Phil?  Seems to me 'tain't no use going ahead like this, for we
shall be into the middle of the Russian army before long."

"That's what I'm afraid of, Tony.  I think we had better stop here for
to-night, and start again at daylight.  We'll take the horses out and
tie them on behind.  No smoking, you fellows, and keep as quiet as you
can.  A match might lead to our capture, and we don't want to see the
inside of a Russian prison so early in the campaign."

"Then, if we're stopping here, I vote we prepare for the worst," said
Tony.  "Supposing daylight shows us Cossacks all round, we sha'n't stand
a chance.  It won't take no more than an hour to build a wall with these
boxes, and it may come in useful, for it's better to lie behind cover
and fire than stand out in the open."

"That's a good idea, Tony, and we'll see to it," agreed Phil readily.
"Now all together and get these horses out.  Tie them with a long rope.
In that way they will get a feed of grass, and as for water, there is
plenty of dew falling to quench their thirst."

An hour later a wall some six feet long had been built close alongside
the cart, leaving room for Phil and his friends to lie between it and
the wheel.  Then, having done all that was possible, they ate a portion
of the three days' rations which each carried in his haversack, and,
wrapping themselves in their blankets, lay down to sleep, one of their
number, however, being left seated upon the boxes to keep guard.

Three hours later, when Phil's turn came for duty, the sky was already
brightening in the east, and he waited anxiously for daylight.
Gradually the dawn lit up the sky, chasing the dark clouds away, and
finally banishing the grey mist which hung like a pall over the ground.
Phil looked round in search of the British, but there was not a sign of
them.  A moment later a shout from behind attracted his attention, and
turning, his heart leapt into his mouth at the sight of five
wild-looking Cossack horsemen spurring their wiry ponies towards the
cart, with their long lances already lowered and ready for the charge.



CHAPTER NINE.

AN EXCITING ADVENTURE.

"Cossacks, by George!  Wake up, you fellows!" shouted Phil, frantically
kicking his comrades and caring little for the pain he caused, while at
the same moment he saw to the loading of his Minie rifle.

"What's up?  Why are you kicking us like that?" grunted Tony, lazily
sitting up on his elbow.  Then, as he saw Phil's anxious face and his
preparations for defence, he sprang to his feet, and, grasping his
rifle, cried, "Cossacks, is it?  All round us, too, Phil.  I guess we're
trapped.  But we'll make a fight of it."

"Fight!  Of course we will.  Do you think them fluffy-looking beggars is
going to collar us without a little shooting?" growled Sam, grimly
ramming down a charge, while he gazed over the top of the
ammunition-boxes at the advancing enemy.

"Are you all loaded?" asked Phil shortly.  "Then creep under the cart,
Sam, and fire between the spokes of the wheel.  Whatever you do, though,
wait till I give the word.  Our rifles carry a good long way, and we'll
be able to get in a couple of volleys before they reach us."

In a twinkling Sam had dived beneath the cart, and a "Ready, boys!"
shouted in a cheery voice, which scarcely showed a trace of the
excitement he felt, told Phil and Tony he was prepared for any
emergency.

Seeing three heads appear above the boxes, the Cossacks at once spread
out, and completely surrounded the cart.  Then, without pausing in their
headlong gallop, they came full tilt at it, lance heads well in advance,
each with his face close to his pony's neck, and his spurs buried in its
flanks.

Phil and his friends singled out their men, and waited a few moments to
get them well in range; then at the command "Fire!" from the former,
three jets of smoke and flame spurted out from their rifles.  Almost
instantly the man at whom Phil had aimed tossed his arms into the air,
and, falling heavily from his saddle, with one foot jammed in the
stirrup, was dragged across the grass right up to the wall of
ammunition-boxes, where the frightened animal came to a sudden halt, and
having sniffed at it suspiciously, and snorted as if in disdain, lowered
its head and commenced to crop the grass as if nothing out of the usual
had occurred.

Sandy's bullet also found a mark, for another of the shaggy ponies fell
as if struck by a pole-axe, and the rider shot out over its head and
remained stunned and senseless upon the ground.

A grunt of disgust from Tony showed that his shot had missed.

"Well, I'm bothered!  Missed!" he cried.  "But here goes for another."

Reloading as rapidly as possible, they fired again, with the result that
one of the horsemen was hit in the chest, and, doubling up, with arms
hanging limply on either side of his pony's neck, was carried past the
little fort like a whirlwind.

"Load up, boys!" cried Phil excitedly.  "They'll be here in a minute; we
must stop them, or those lances will be into us."

But to fire at a rapidly-moving object, even when coming directly at
one, is no easy matter, particularly when a long, cruel-looking shaft,
armed with a glittering spear-point, is held directed at one's chest.
It takes nerve and coolness to make a careful shot, and it takes real
courage to ride on towards that shot, knowing that it must reach its
mark sooner than the lance can find its home in the enemy's breast.  All
honour therefore to the two gallant Cossacks who still were left.
Without a pull at their reins, and without so much as a shadow of
hesitation, they charged the harrier.  All three rifles spoke out, and
next moment with a crash one of the lances met the piled-up boxes, and,
unable to throw them on one side owing to their weight, or pierce the
thick woodwork, shivered into a thousand splinters, while the brave
Russian who held it glared savagely at Phil, and making an ineffectual
effort to draw a pistol, groaned and fell lifeless from his saddle with
an ugly wound gaping in his neck.

The other Cossack was more successful.  Dropping the point of his lance,
he charged full at Sam, and escaping his bullet by a miracle, pinned him
to the ground by a thrust through the shoulder.

"Bayonets!  Come along, Tony!" shouted Phil, and without waiting to see
if he were followed, he dashed over the wall, and flung himself upon the
Russian, with his drawn bayonet in his hand.  It was a narrow shave for
him, for a pistol exploded almost in his face, and carried his bearskin
away.  Next second he had thrust his weapon through his opponent's body,
and dragged him from his pony.

"Give a hand here, corporal," sang out Sam at this moment.  "This beast
of a spear holds me so tight I can't move.  I feel just like a butterfly
pinned to a board."

"Half a minute, Sam.  Now, hold on," cried Tony, grasping the spear.
Then, with, a sudden tug he wrenched it from the ground.

"My eye, don't it hurt!" groaned poor Sam, suddenly becoming pale.  "Go
easy with it, mate.  Let the corporal have a turn."

Phil crept under the wagon, and finding the spear protruding almost a
foot on the other side of the shoulder, pulled out his clasp-knife, and
opening a small saw, which was a special feature of it, proceeded to cut
the point off.  That done, he grasped the shaft and gently pulled it
from the wound.

"Come and help here, Tony," he cried.  "But--wait a minute.  Have a good
look round first of all, and tell me if you can see any more of those
fellows."

Tony climbed on top of the cart, and gazed all round.

"Not a single one of 'em in sight," he cried; "but they'll be here soon,
you may be sure."

"Then come and give a hand here with Sam," answered Phil, pulling out
his handkerchief.  "I want a pad of linen or something."

"Here's the very thing, Phil;" and, pulling his bearskin off, Tony
produced a large woollen muffler.

Ripping the seams of the coat with his knife, Phil quickly exposed the
wound, and at once bound the muffler round it.  Then with Tony's help he
propped Sam with his back against the wheel, and placed the arm in a
sling.

"Stay there, old boy," he said gently, "and as soon as the pain goes
off, crawl in behind the boxes.  The Russians will not be able to reach
you there."

"Here yer are, mate," said Tony, handing Phil his bearskin.  "It's about
as near a go as you'll ever want.  See, there's a hole bang through it,
and the fur's all singed off the front."

Phil inspected it with an outward show of coolness, but as he jammed it
on his head he muttered beneath his breath a fervent thanksgiving to the
Almighty for his preservation, for had he not ducked at the critical
moment, that hole would not have been blown through the helmet, but
through his head.

"Get up on top, and keep a look-out, Tony," he exclaimed.  "We're in a
tight hole, and it will only be by keeping our eyes well open that we
shall get safely out of it.  First of all, though, break open one of
those boxes, and load the rifles.  We shall want plenty of ammunition,
and had best have it ready and close at hand, in case of a sudden
attack.  I will have a look at these poor fellows."

Crawling from beneath the cart, he knelt beside the Cossack into whose
body he had thrust the bayonet.  The poor fellow was evidently at his
last gasp, but hearing Phil's voice he opened his eyes, and gazed
wonderingly at him.  Then, as he recognised him, he feebly raised his
hand.

A feeling of terrible grief and dismay surged through Phil's heart, for
he was a lad who would sooner have lost his own life than taken that of
another in cold blood.  And yet, though this had been done in war-time,
and whilst battling for life and liberty, a pang of regret oppressed
him, and he felt only as a young man can feel who, for the first time in
his existence, has been the cause of suffering and death to another.

He took the hand of the dying man, and gently pressed it.

"Are you in great pain, my poor fellow?" he whispered.

The wounded Russian shook his head, and answered something.  Phil placed
his ear close to his mouth and listened.

"We were enemies," the Cossack gasped, "bitter enemies, for you have
invaded our country.  But now we are friends, friends until death.  Hold
my hand, brother, and the Virgin will bless you.  Feel round my neck
when I am gone, and you will find a cross.  Take--take it for yourself,
and when you glance at it think sometimes of him who died for his
beloved Czar and country."

"I will, I will!" whispered Phil, with a groan of anguish.

"I see my old peasant home," went on the dying Cossack in a voice that
was scarcely audible.  "Ah, I see it better than ever--ever before.  My
poor mother!--thank God she has long gone to her rest!--and my brother.
The stream in front, and the trees all round.  Hold me, Englishman!
Everything is dancing and blurred before my eyes.  I--I am dying.
Good-bye!  Think some--sometimes of the man who died for his country."

The poor fellow, who had struggled into a sitting position, fell back,
and Phil thought that he was dead.  But he opened his eyes again,
smiled, and with a sigh his spirit fled.

Deeply impressed, Phil knelt by his side and offered up a short prayer.
Then he rose to his feet, and, climbing on to the cart, looked round.

Phit!  A bullet struck the corner of one of the ammunition-boxes, and,
glancing off, buried itself in the heel of his boot.

"That's a close one again, Phil, old boy," laughed Tony, who seemed to
enjoy the risk of being shot.  "It's that fellow over there.  He's just
below the hill, and you can only see him by standing up on top here."

This was the case.  Another Cossack had ridden up, and, choosing a
convenient position within range, sat upon his pony, with only his head
showing above a ridge, and fired at Phil and his friends.

"This won't do," muttered Phil.  "If he were in sight we could make it
warm for him, for our rifles carry farther.  But as it is, he hits us at
every shot, while we might pour volleys in his direction, and only bag
him by the merest chance.  There, didn't I say so?" he exclaimed, as a
second bullet whirred past between himself and Tony.  "Look here, Tony,"
he continued, "climb down behind the boxes, and fire as often as you can
at the beggar.  That will distract his attention."

"Yes, and what game are you up to, mate?" asked Tony wonderingly.

"I'm going to creep round and drive him off," Phil answered with
decision.

"Take my tip then and ride round, Phil.  Soon as he sees you move he'll
change his position, but if you're riding you'll be able to stop his
game.  But anyways I think the job belongs to me," he added, as if the
thought that his friend would be running into greater danger had
suddenly occurred to him.  "You ain't the only chap as can ride, and as
you're boss here, should stay in command of our fort."

Phil looked at Tony sternly, and for the moment was on the point of
ordering him to do as he was told.  But, changing his mind, he picked up
a rifle, and without a word dropped over the wall of boxes.  The pony
was still standing, quietly cropping the grass, and did not move when he
disengaged the foot of the dead man from the stirrup.  A second later he
had mounted, and, picking up the reins and holding his rifle across the
pommel of the saddle, nodded to Tony and cantered off.

Striking away to the left he galloped to the top of the rise, only to
find the Cossack spurring away from him, evidently with the intention of
gaining another post from which to fire.

"By George, I'll bag that chap!" muttered Phil.  "It would be great to
rejoin the regiment with a captive."

Kicking his pony with his heels he was soon flying across the turf, the
nimble and sure-footed little animal leaping the few holes that came in
his path with an ease that showed how accustomed he was to it.  Soon the
flying Cossack had disappeared over another ridge, and Phil was not
surprised to hear the report of a rifle a moment later and an angry hiss
above his head.

"He'll certainly knock me over with one of his shots if I ride on like
this," he thought.  "I'll dismount and stalk him."

Acting on the thought he pulled up sharply and leapt from the saddle,
the pony immediately dropping his head to graze.  Then, flinging himself
on to hands and knees, he scrambled forward until he reached a patch of
long grass, where he lay full length, and, bringing his rifle to his
shoulder, pointed it in the direction of the Cossack and waited
breathlessly.

An instant later the Russian appeared in sight, and Phil pressed the
trigger; then, jumping to his feet, he rushed forward to secure his
prisoner, for the Cossack had dropped like a stone.  He topped the
ridge, and was on the point of running down, when a bullet struck the
butt of his rifle and shattered it, while the Russian, who had been
merely acting, rose on one knee not fifty yards away, and commenced to
rapidly reload.  What was Phil to do?  He hesitated, but the sight of
some eight or nine more Cossacks galloping up to help their comrade
decided him.

"I'm off," he muttered hurriedly, and, dropping his useless rifle, he
took to his heels.  It seemed as though he would never reach the pony,
but at last he did and, flinging himself astride it, galloped madly back
to the fort, glancing anxiously over his shoulder at the Cossacks.  They
had closed together, and, topping the rise at this moment, came
thundering down, shouting encouragement to one another.

Phil reached the cart, and was off the pony's back and in the fort in a
trice.

"Shake hands, old man!" exclaimed Tony grimly.  "This here will be our
last.  There's a hundred or more of these fellows charging."

"Nonsense!  Pick up the rifles," gasped Phil.  "Now get ready to give
them a volley.  Sam, where are you?"

"Here, and ready to lend a hand, mate," the wounded man answered,
crawling from beneath the cart at that moment.  "I've got hold of these
barkers," he said, with a grin, producing two pistols which he had taken
from the Cossacks lying dead close at hand, "and I bet yer if those
Russian coves gets close enough, I'll give 'em some of their own lead to
swallow."

But though the three put the best face on the matter, there was no doubt
that they were in desperate straits.  The first volley failed miserably,
and already the fiery horsemen were within a hundred yards of the cart,
when there was a shout from behind, and to the joy of Phil and his
comrades a patrol of dragoons came cantering across the grass.

"Pals, hooray!" shouted Tony.  "Phil, we'll join 'em.  Get hold of your
nag and I'll take this other here.  Now, up we get; and when the boys
come along, we goes at them beggars with them."

Caught by the excitement of the moment Phil vaulted over the wall, and
just as the dragoons came spurring by with drawn swords poised ready for
the encounter, he and Tony dashed out and joined them.

"What ho, mates!" sang out the troopers.  "Coming for a picnic with us,
are yer?  Good, boys!"

There was no time for more.  Setting spurs to their horses, the troop,
which was only ten strong counting Phil and Tony, went headlong at the
Cossacks.  The latter pulled up immediately, hesitated for a moment, and
were on the point of flying, when the impossibility of getting away from
dragoons mounted on fresh English horses occurred to them.  They threw
down their arms and sullenly waited to be made prisoners.

"Each of you catch hold of one of their reins and come along, quick,"
sang out the non-commissioned officer who was in charge of the dragoons.
"That's it.  Now off we go, back to the cart."

"How far is the camp away?" asked Phil.

"Five miles, I should think, corporal.  We'll have to look precious
smart.  As soon as we get the horses in, and the boxes loaded up, we'll
scatter.  I've enough men to spare--two in front, and two well out on
the flanks.  Then if we're attacked we'll make a running fight of it."

"We've a wounded friend under the cart," replied Phil, "but I expect if
we perch him up on top of the ammunition-boxes he'll be able to drive.
Then Tony and I will give a hand by looking after the prisoners.  It'll
be grand getting back to camp safely with our charge, and with a few of
the Cossacks in addition, though, mind you, we would have been prisoners
if you fellows hadn't ridden up in the nick of time."

"You're right there, corporal.  You chaps made a fine stand of it, we
can all see, and we'll not forget to say something about it when we get
into camp.  But you were fair goners if we hadn't been out and heard the
firing.  Now let's get smartly ahead.  Some more Cossacks will be riding
down before long, and though we're all game for a brush with them, we
don't want to lose this chance of bringing in prisoners."

By this time the cart had been reached, and while half the patrol
guarded the prisoners, the remainder set to work and rapidly loaded it
with the ammunition.  Then the horses were yoked, Sam was placed upon a
folded-up blanket on top of the boxes, and the cavalcade started, Tony
and Phil forming the flank guard, and proudly riding their
newly-acquired steeds.

"I should have liked to give those poor fellows a decent burial," said
Phil with a sigh of regret as they rode away, "but it is impossible.  We
haven't any spades or picks, and, above all, it would not do to wait."

"Don't worry about that, mate," one of the troopers answered.  "Their
chums is certain to come over and see to that, for these Russians ain't
bad chaps when you take 'em all round, and I hear they're as kind as
possible to one another."

An hour later the party rode into camp and caused quite a sensation.

"Why, Corporal Western, we gave you up for lost!" said the adjutant of
the Grenadiers, coming out to meet them.  "We made sure you had been
killed or captured, and now you turn up with prisoners.  How has it
happened?"

"Quite simply, sir," Phil answered, with a smile.  "We were left behind
when the shaft of our cart broke, and then we took the wrong road.  This
morning we were attacked, and beat off five Cossacks.  Then others
appeared, and just as we were thinking of giving in, a patrol of
dragoons rode up."

"Giving in!" exclaimed Sam in high disdain from his elevated seat.
"Tell you what it is, sir.  That Corporal Western don't know when the
time to hoist the white flag arrives.  He meant sticking to it, so we
just backed him up."

"Whoever was the cause of your holding on, my lads, it's much the same
in the end," exclaimed the officer heartily.  "You have done well, and
your names shall be mentioned to the colonel.  Now you had better see
what the cooks have left, while the doctors take your wounded comrade in
charge."

Handing the cart over to the quarter-master, Tony followed Phil to the
cook's fire, and both were soon devouring a meal of bully beef and
bread, for they were almost famished, having been too much engaged and
too highly excited to eat while threatened by the Cossacks.

They found the Allies encamped a few miles from the River Alma, and
almost in sight of the Russian position.

"It'll be hot work to-morrow," said one of the sergeants that evening,
as they sat wrapped in their blankets round the fire.  "The enemy has
chosen a splendid position along the heights the other side of the
river, and I expect our job will be to turn him out.  It will be a big
fight, or I'm mistaken, and as we shall all have plenty to do I'm for
turning-in at once and getting as long a sleep as I can.  Good-night,
you chaps!  Corporal Western, you'll have them three stripes this time
to-morrow if you do only half as well as you and your two mates did
to-day."

The stalwart sergeant laid his blanket on the ground, rolled himself in
it, and, placing his head on his haversack, was very soon in a deep
sleep, untroubled by the fact that to-morrow might be his last day on
earth.

As for Phil and Tony, they sat up an hour or more longer, chatting over
past events and the probabilities of the next day's fight, never
dreaming that it was destined to be on historical one, and one in which
the mettle of British troops was to be tested and found of the
staunchest, by as fierce a storm of shot and shell as ever assailed an
army.



CHAPTER TEN.

THE GLORIOUS ALMA.

The misty grey of early dawn lay over the smooth grassy slopes of the
Crimea when Phil and Tony turned over on the following morning and
looked about them.  Here and there men were moving about like big
ghostly shadows as they trudged down to the banks of the River Bulganak
to fill their water-bottles and mess-tins in preparation for the morning
meal.  Some were crouching over smoking fires, encouraging them to burn
up brightly and give out sufficient heat to cook the food.  Close at
hand others were grooming officers' chargers, and on every side there
was the clatter of an awaking camp, the stamp of restive hoofs, cheery
calls from man to man, and the startling notes of reveille ringing out
clearly in the morning air, and warning all that another day had
arrived, and that it was time to throw off sleep and be ready to try
conclusions with the enemy.

"Lummy, ain't I sleepy just!" yawned Tony, throwing off his blanket and
sitting up to rub his eyes with his knuckles.

"I too could have done with a couple of hours more," answered Phil
peevishly.  Then, springing to his feet, he shook the heavy dew from his
blanket and looked towards the river, the smooth and sluggish surface of
which had just caught the first rays of the rising sun.

"Who's for a dip?" he cried briskly.  "Come along, Tony, boy; we shall
never wake up till we have douched ourselves with water."

"'Tain't a bad idea, Phil, and I'm with yer," exclaimed his friend,
shaking himself like a dog.  "There ain't no towels, as I can see, so I
suppose it's a case of dry as best you can."

"Yes, of course.  The sun will be up in another ten minutes, and will
serve our purpose well.  Come along; we've a clear half-hour before
breakfast."

Another five minutes and Phil, accompanied by many comrades, was hastily
pulling off his boots and clothing close to the bank of the stream.
Then someone waded in and tried the depth, and having found a deep pool
the others dived in, splashing the water in every direction.  The
pastime caught on like fire, and very soon a hundred or more were
enjoying a bathe.  Officers, too, came down to the river, some to look
on, and others to join the men in the water.

By eight o'clock the whole of the Allies were under arms and waiting
anxiously for orders, the French on the right, while the British took
care of the left flank, where danger was to be expected.  In rear of all
were the arabas and cavalry, besides herds of cattle and sheep.  Phil
and Tony had been relieved of their charge, and were in the ranks with
their comrades.

"I ain't sorry to say good-bye to that old cart, araba, or whatever they
call it," exclaimed Tony.  "Yer see, we shall get a chance of seeing
most of the fun if there's a fight, whilst if we was in charge of the
ammunition where should we be?  Right away behind, there ain't a doubt,
kicking our heels and waiting till some chance cannon-shot come bowling
along our way and chopped our heads off.  Halloo! who's that?"

This exclamation was caused by the sudden appearance of a
smartly-dressed officer, with glittering epaulettes and waving plume,
cantering down before the British lines.

"It's Marshal St Arnaud, him as commands the Froggies," shouted someone.
The news spread through the ranks, and at once, lifting their rifles,
the troops greeted the Marshal with three hearty British cheers, a
compliment which evidently caused him much gratification.

"We shall move now, Tony," remarked Phil gravely, "so we'll just shake
hands, old man.  One never knows what may happen.  Perhaps it will be
unnecessary, but we've a big fight before us, and who can say that we
shall both come safely through it?"

"No one, Phil.  No one but Him as sits above," Tony answered earnestly;
"but I tell yer we're coming through it, you and me, and you're going to
do something for them stripes.  I feel it somehow.  But here's my hand,
old pal.  You've been a good 'un to me, and if I go this day, I'll have
a better chance than a year or more ago.  I shall, and yer know it."

Tony grasped Phil's hand and wrung it, while tears stood in his eyes.
Phil returned the pressure earnestly, and then they leant on their
rifles and waited for the word to advance.

Between nine and ten it came, and the Allies trudged forward over a wide
sweeping plain leading to a ridge, beyond which lay the valley of the
Alma, the valley--fair though it looked on that grand morning--of the
shadow of death.  And now guns in front boomed out, answering the shots
of the Russian batteries, and each man grasped his rifle more firmly at
the sound, while a keen, strained look came over his face, as though he
had braced himself for the trial which was coming.

Trudge, trudge, trudge!  On moved the mass of men, looking grand in
their varied uniforms, and all seeming anxious to get more quickly to
that ridge in front and look upon the enemy.

"Ah! there they are," exclaimed Phil with a sigh of relief as his
company topped the rise and came in full view of the Russian position.
"See, they are right in front of us if we only march in the direction we
are taking now, so there will be plenty of work for us, you fellows!
Hurrah for the fight!" and in the excitement of the moment, he snatched
his bearskin from his head, and, tossing it into the air, caught it on
his bayonet with the skill of a juggler.  Instantly a wave of cheering
spread along the British lines, and a forest of bearskins and head-gear
of every description was thrust aloft on the gleaming bayonets, soon--
very soon--to be used in deadly and desperate earnest for another
purpose.  A minute later the answering cheers of the French came echoing
along the lines, their "Vive l'Empereur!" piercing the morning air with
a shrill note, showing that they too were roused to the highest pitch of
enthusiasm.

"Look, Tony!" exclaimed Phil a few minutes later, having calmed down
sufficiently to be able to make a good examination of the Russian
position, "those beggars have chosen a splendid spot on which to
manoeuvre.  You can see them massed on the slope of the hill close upon
the other side of the river, and to reach them we must cross the open
and plunge through the water.  That makes it pretty well impossible for
our cavalry to help us by a flank attack.  But we'll go for them tooth
and nail, in the regular old bull-dog way, and if we don't rout them out
of their position, well, I'll--I'll never speak to you again."

"Yer won't, won't yer?" answered Tony, with a curious grin, staring at
his friend with no small amount of astonishment.  "Young 'un, I never
see yer so wound up afore.  I never thought yer was that bloodthirsty.
Me and all yer mates took yer for one of them quiet kind of coves what
takes a lot of rousing.  But now--blow me--I can see yer monkey's up,
and I'll have to keep an eye on yer, else yer'll be trying to fight the
whole of them Russian coves alone."  Then, having smiled once more at
Phil, the honest fellow's face suddenly assumed a sterner look, his eyes
glistened and his cheeks flushed, while he hurriedly fumbled at the
fastening of his ammunition-pouch.  "Beat 'em, Phil, old boy! in course
we will.  If the Grenadier Guards don't find their way to the top of
that there hill, and take every one of them big guns yer see, it'll be
because there ain't none of 'em left to do it.  We'll manage it or die
on the way."

And indeed, to look at the disposition of the Russian troops and guns
made by General Menschikoff, there was every possibility that before
they were forced to retire many a gallant British and French soldier
would be laid low upon the grass.  In front of the Allies stretched the
river Alma, forming a sharp bend, the apex of which was opposite the
division between French and English troops, and pointed towards the
Russians.  In the bend was the village of Bourliouk, soon to be the
scene of sharp skirmishing, and on the right a road crossed the river
and ascended the opposite bank, which at that point sloped easily
towards a conical hill known as Telegraph Hill.  To the right of this
road, and exactly facing the French and Turkish troops, there was a
steep cliff on the other side of the river.  Up this, however, two roads
ran, one of which was available for guns.

In front of the British, grassy slopes descended to gardens and
vineyards which stretched to the river-bank, and through them passed a
broad post-road from Sebastopol to Eupatoria, crossing the Alma by a
bridge, and ascending between Telegraph Hill and another height known as
Kourgani Hill.  On either side of this road the banks of the river
ascended in easy slopes, and here it was that Menschikoff had disposed
his forces, planting a formidable battery of fourteen guns, of large
calibre, behind an earthwork thrown up on a terrace one hundred yards
from the water, while farther to the left was another battery, the two
supported by nine field-batteries of eight guns each--a truly formidable
armament.

"Heavens! what guns!"  Phil heard one of the officers mutter.  Then,
gripping the colours he bore, the young fellow tossed his head proudly
and added: "By Jove, we'll have the lot before the day is out!"--a
resolution which every soldier had also made.

What it was to cost them only the future could disclose, but those who
had seen war before, who had trained themselves to conduct the movements
of armies, could not but expect a heavy list of casualties; for even an
amateur might have seen that the Russian position was one of
extraordinary strength, while the expert able to grasp its salient
points could tell at a glance that it presented an extremely difficult
and anxious problem to the attacker.  Even Phil, boy though he was and
inexperienced in warfare, could not but be struck by the formidable
works towards which the Allies were advancing.

"They seem impregnable," he muttered.  "Look at the batteries.  They
must have 100 guns at least, and all trained for the slope upon which we
are advancing.  Then there is the river to cross.  It may or may not be
fordable, but in any case it means a disadvantage to us and an advantage
to the Russians.  When that is crossed there is the rush uphill in the
teeth of those guns, and opposed by the enemy's bayonets.  It will be
hot work, Tony, very hot work, for I suppose we shall be compelled to
make a frontal attack."

"If that means marching straight to our front, without turning so much
as an inch, then I says yes, I hope we shall," Tony answered with a
growl, assumed only to cover his excitement.  "How else should
Englishmen attack?  Go straight for them is our way of doing business,
and I reckon it's the best."

And this in fact seemed the only way of attacking the Russians
successfully.  Perhaps a flanking movement to the left might have proved
successful, but even then the river must first be forded, no doubt in
the teeth of a murderous fire.  But this had not struck the British
leader as possible, and the whole force marched on steadily, shoulder to
shoulder, and with a martial tramp which seemed to shake the ground.

And upon them as they advanced was fixed the anxious gaze of some 50,000
Russians, horse, foot, and gunners, who marvelled at their boldness and
seeming unconcern, and waited only for the long red lines of the British
and the brisk-moving masses of French blue to come a little nearer, when
they promised themselves that they would sweep them out of existence
with a tempest of shot and shell the like of which had never been
experienced.  Yes, all was ready.  Their guns were trained for the
ground over which British and French must pass; but not for an instant
did it occur to them that French and Turks might think of attacking the
cliffs on their left.  The narrow road, its steepness, and the proximity
of their guns seemed to make such an attempt impossible, and, safe in
the thought, they brought every piece they possessed to bear upon those
slopes and vineyards across which the British were soon to march.

"Halt!"  The command came hoarsely through the air and was emphasised by
the shrill notes of a bugle.

"Now, what is going to happen?" asked Phil.  "Ah!  I see; we are to get
into our proper formation, ready to march down to the river.  Then I
suppose we shall deploy till we have ample elbow-room, and afterwards
make a dash for the Russian position."

Ten minutes later the British divisions were swinging along over the
green turf, their centre marching almost directly on the village of
Bourliouk, and the whole face to face with Menschikoff's huge army, and
destined to bear the brunt of the fighting.

The French and Turkish troops took but a small part in the battle.
Seeing the difficulty of the two cliff roads ascending the river-bank to
the left of his force, Menschikoff had failed to occupy them, as has
been mentioned, and had placed but few troops in the neighbourhood, for
the guns of the allied fleets commanded the cliffs.  Taking advantage of
this, the lithe and active little Frenchmen were soon crowding the
narrow road in their front, and in an incredibly short space of time
their guns had been hauled to the top of the cliff, and from there
boomed out at the Russian batteries and long lines of massed infantry,
doing much execution and threatening them from their flank.  Farther to
the right the Turks swarmed up the other road, and having gained the
cliffs, took up their position there.

Meanwhile the red lines of the British, who, it had been arranged,
should not be launched at the main army till the French had commenced
their flank attack, moved down the grassy slope, solemn and grand, and
as steadily as a mass of moving rock, the front line composed of the
Second and Light Divisions, the next of the Third and First Divisions,
in column formation, while behind them the Fourth Division marched in
echelon, with five regiments in rear as reserves.

Stretching for nearly two miles, with its right close to the village of
Bourliouk and its left near that of Tarkhaular, the mass of men advanced
slowly and evenly, with a cloud of skirmishers from the rifle battalions
thrown out in front.  Soon these became engaged with the Russian
skirmishers posted in the vineyards and in Bourliouk, and the sharp
rat-a-tat of musketry and an occasional hiss above the heads of the
gallant men in red showed that the battle of the Alma had commenced.  A
grunt, almost a shout, of satisfaction and pent-up excitement, instantly
went down the lines, and the regiments at a sharp order commenced to
open out and deploy, the foremost line, composed of the Second and Light
Divisions, stepping forward at a smart pace, which soon became almost a
double, as the men eagerly advanced against the Russians.

Boom!  The big battery had opened fire, and, as if this had been a
signal, every gun on the Russian side blazed out and covered the slopes
with smoke, while their shot searched the whole British front, tearing
remorselessly through the ranks and crashing into the village houses.

"This is hot!" shouted Phil in Tony's ear, as they squatted with their
comrades upon the grass, awaiting the order to advance.  "I'd rather
march straight against that battery than sit here and be pounded into a
jelly before having a chance of a smack at those beggars."

"'Tain't nothing," grunted Tony reassuringly, tilting his bearskin back
to dash the perspiration from his forehead.  "Ah, that was a bad 'un!"
he muttered hoarsely as, with an awful screech, a cannon-shot plunged
into the men close at hand, laying five of the poor fellows dead and
maiming two others in its flight.

But now the first line had reached the river, and, holding their pouches
and rifles above their heads, they plunged in boldly, and were soon
massed on the other side, where they waited, standing waist-deep in the
water, and sheltered by the steep bank from the fire of the batteries
above.  But it was only a momentary halt.  Dashing through the river,
Sir George Brown put his horse at the bank, and, surmounting it, turned
in his saddle and called upon the brave fellows to follow him, waving
his sword in a manner that showed all who were out of hearing what his
wishes were.  And he had not to call a second time, for, hastily gulping
down a mouthful of water, the thin red line climbed the bank with a
shout, and, falling into their places with as much coolness as though on
a parade-ground, advanced shoulder to shoulder up the slopes.

A glance at them, however, displayed the curious fact that the advancing
troops were in no regular formation.  Compelled to deploy and often make
wide detours in passing through the vineyards on the other bank and in
marching round the village, regiments had been split up into smaller
portions, and in many cases men had lost sight of their comrades
altogether.  But still discipline and coolness were second nature to
them.  Without orders but of their own initiative they fell in, and
forming a double line--the favoured formation for British attack,--they
pressed up the hill; dark-coated riflemen and red linesmen intermingled,
and were swallowed up in the clouds of eddying smoke.

Up, up they climbed, steadily and with heroic bravery, and, passing
through a storm of hurtling iron and lead, at length flung themselves
upon the deep columns of the Russians.

One moment visible, they were seen surging from side to side,
desperately using their bayonets; and next moment, with an appalling
roar, the batteries would open once more, and clouds of white smoke
would swallow them up, only their excited cries, and the hoarse,
encouraging voices of the officers nobly leading them, showing that they
still survived.

"It's grand to see them," cried Phil, carried away by the excitement of
the moment.  "When will our turn come?  They will be swept away by those
crowds of Russian soldiers.  Look at them, Tony!  Now they are at close
quarters, and the enemy is giving back.  Hurrah, now we have them!" and,
springing to his feet, he would have broken from the ranks and rushed to
join the fighting-line had not Tony clutched him by the arm and dragged
him to the ground, while a hoarse and well-timed "Steady, youngster,
you're tiring yourself; keep all your gristle till we come up against
them," from a veteran sergeant who sat close at hand, smoking calmly,
served to quieten him again.  But Phil was not the only man there who
longed to be up and doing.  Not one but was restless and chafing at the
delay, especially at Phil's last shout, for a turn had taken place in
the tide of the battle which indeed gave the British a far better chance
of victory.  Awed by the mass of advancing men, the big Russian battery,
which had done such damage in our ranks, suddenly limbered up and
retired over the hill--a disgraceful retreat which proved disastrous to
the enemy.

But though the attacking force had thus gained an important advantage,
the masses of the Russians now poured down the slope and threw
themselves upon the gallant British line.  Bravely did the latter
resist, and with desperate courage strive to continue their advance; but
the enemy opposing them were equally brave and equally stubborn, and
moreover had the advantage of position and numbers.  For a few moments
there was a seething mixture of red and grey coats, glittering bayonets,
and darts of flame; and then, broken by sheer weight, the British
retired upon the ranks of the now advancing second line.

Side by side Phil and Tony stepped forward with their comrades, and
almost in a dream plunged through the river and climbed the opposite
bank.  But now the voices of their officers recalled their wandering
senses, and, falling into their places, the brigade of Guards pushed on
in perfect formation, with the Highlanders abreast of them.

What a scene it was!  What excitement and what movement!  A double line
of stalwart Guardsmen as well-ordered and as rigidly erect as if
drilling in the green parks at home; and in line with them brawny
Highlanders, all dripping with water, deafened by the crashing
artillery, and yet determined to a man to get to close quarters with the
enemy.  And retiring upon them, war-worn, bedraggled, and bareheaded,
with faces and hands black with the smoke of powder, some limping
heavily, and others even crawling, came the gallant first line, loth to
turn their backs upon the foe, and yet compelled to do so by
overwhelming numbers.  Had the second line advanced earlier it would
have supported them at the critical moment, but owing to the fact that
Lord Raglan and his staff had already crossed the river and ridden close
to Telegraph Hill, it received no direct order from him; and when it did
advance, it was on the responsibility of the division commander.  But
now, opening its ranks for the moment to pass through the broken first
line, it marched at a rapid pace, and immediately plunged into the
tempest of bullets.  Men fell to right and left, biting the dust and
struggling in their agony, while others lay motionless, sometimes with
contorted limbs and faces, and sometimes in peaceful repose as if
asleep, stirring not from the position in which death had found them.
Ah! it was war, red, cruel war, and well might that second line have
wavered and turned back.  But theirs was not that sort of courage.
Determined to be beaten by nothing, they kept steadily marching up the
hill, and soon disappeared, for volumes of smoke were pouring from the
village of Bourliouk, which was now in flames, and, mingling with that
from the guns, enveloped the combatants in a dense cloud.

And as the line advanced into the thick of the fight, and while rifle
fire brought havoc to the ranks, the Russian skirmishers, still clinging
to their positions amongst the trees of the river-bank, picked off all
the stragglers, and even turned their volleys and the fire of a few
light field-guns upon the main body.

"Keep together, mate.  We'll fight 'em side by side," shouted Tony,
closing up to Phil.  "Got yer rifle loaded?  Then keep yer charge till
we gets to close quarters.  It'll come in handy then."

"Right!  I thought of that," Phil shouted back.  Then, closing up to
their comrades, they advanced at a rapid pace and flung themselves upon
the lines of grey-coated Russians.

To this day Phil cannot quite recall what happened.  If you press him he
will perhaps tell you that he recollects a young officer falling at his
feet, while a huge Russian prepared to bayonet him.  Next moment the man
was down and Phil was standing over him, while Tony's rifle laid low
another who was in the act of dashing his friend's head to pieces with
the butt of his weapon.

On pressed the red line resistlessly and with never a pause, leaving
behind them friend and foe strewn upon the grass, and on, ever in front,
went the officers and the colours into the heart of the struggling mass
of grey.  There was no need to call to their men and beg them to follow.
The British lion was aroused in desperate earnestness, and with grim
and awe-inspiring silence the men rushed on headlong and regardless of
bullet or bayonet.  There was a crash, the bang, bang of an occasional
shot, and the clash of steel upon steel, and then the trample of
thousands of feet as the enemy gave way and fled.

Side by side Phil and Tony had fought their way into the middle of the
famous Vladimir regiment, and as the Russians turned, found themselves
mixed up with brawny Highlanders, who, with the light of battle in their
eyes, were pressing resistlessly forward.  Suddenly Phil caught sight of
a figure in advance bearing a British colour.  It swayed this way and
that, now endeavouring to get closer to the Highlanders, and next moment
swept forward as the retreating Russians slowly gave way and drove the
bearer before them.

"The colour! the colour!" he shouted frantically, dashing forward with
Tony at his heels.  Scattering those who barred their path, they made
their way to the flag, and falling-in on either side, fought grimly to
help its bearer back to the ranks of the Highlanders.

"Thanks, my men!" shouted the young officer who supported the flag.
"Now, help me, and we'll get out of this hole.  All together!  Rush!"

With their weapons held well in advance, the three dashed at the enemy,
while the Highlanders, seeing the predicament into which the colour had
fallen, with a shout of wrath flung themselves in their direction.  But
though beaten, the Russians had in no way lost courage, and, turning
fiercely, they bore the gallant Scotsmen back, while others opposed Phil
and his comrades.

"Rally, rally!  The colour!" shouted Phil, thrusting right and left with
his bayonet, and turning just in time to discharge his rifle at a man
who was attacking them in rear.

So fiercely did the little band of three fight that the Russians in
their immediate neighbourhood gave way, and, standing in a circle round
them, glared at the gallant red-coats who had thus far been too much for
them.

A glorious picture they presented.  At bay, with a host of the enemy
surrounding them and glowering at them with fierce hatred, the officer
and his two supporters indeed were men of whom Britain might well feel
proud.  With flushed faces and flashing eyes, which looked into those of
the enemy with no signs of fear, but with keen glances of stem
determination, they stood there a mere drop in an ocean of struggling
men.  Smoke-begrimed, dishevelled, and with bearskins tumbled in the
mud, Phil and Tony clutched their rifles and looked ready and willing to
fall upon the hundreds around them.  Thoughts of home, danger of
capture, or death by bayonet or bullet were lost in the delirious
excitement of the moment.  They thought only of the flag for which they
fought, and, hemmed in and panting with exhaustion, they listened to the
deafening din of the battle still raging a few feet from them, and nobly
determined to die sooner than permit the Russians to capture it.

"We're done, lads," groaned the officer, sinking on his knee.
"Corporal, take the colour.  I'm hit, and can't hold it any longer.
Fight on for it!"

Phil grasped the staff, and, hoisting the flag still higher, looked
round with proud defiance, while Tony, with a grim smile of exultation
on his face, stepped nearer to him.

"Ay, well fight on for it, sir, never fear," he muttered.  "We'll fight
till we're dead."

Phil nodded.

"I'll borrow your sword, sir," he said, grasping the weapon as he spoke.
"A rifle and bayonet are too heavy to use one-handed."

"Look out, lads!  Here come the cavalry!" the officer exclaimed at this
moment; and almost instantly Cossack horses dashed through the Russian
infantry, scattering them and surrounding the colour.  There was one
last desperate fight.  Phil's sword smashed in two at the first vicious
cut, and for a minute he continued the defence by belabouring the
horsemen with the colour-staff.  Then that was dashed to the ground, and
before he was aware of it a lasso-noose had been slipped over his
shoulders, securing his arms to his side, and he was being dragged away.

The last backward glance as he was hurried away showed him a grand rush
by the Highlanders.  The grey-coats retreated precipitately, and amid
hoarse shouts of exultation the rescued colour was borne back to the
British lines.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

A RUSSIAN VILLAIN.

The celebrated, the historical battle of the Alma was over almost as
soon as Phil had been dragged away, for there was no stopping the
British troops, and once the Russians had turned to retreat, our brave
fellows pressed forward till the summit of the slopes was gained.  They
had fought magnificently against desperate odds, and without ever having
need to call upon their reserves.  And while the infantry had been busy,
other arms of the service had been by no means idle.  The cavalry
protected the left, and the guns, after firing for some time across the
river, had limbered up, and while some crossed by the bridge which
carried the post-road, others plunged through the water to its right,
and ascending close to Telegraph Hill, raked the Russian batteries and
struggling infantry with their fire.

It was a sight to see--an example of the dogged pluck which
characterises our nation; and an example which the French, perched upon
the cliff on the right, did not fail to watch with admiration, and with
a secret determination to emulate it on the first occasion.

And now that the enemy had retreated, the British guns still plied them
with shot.  Lord Raglan longed to convert their retirement into a rout,
but the French had discarded their knapsacks before fording the river,
and on the plea, that without their kits it was impossible to pursue,
the marshal refused to agree to the plan.  Consequently a hard-won
victory, which might easily, by energetic action, have been changed into
one of the greatest importance, proved of little use, and hardly
affected the latter part of the campaign at all.  It was a lamentable
mistake, for had the Russian forces been driven pell-mell from the
field, Sebastopol might have surrendered, and thousands of brave and
valuable lives on both sides might have been saved.  As it was, a
glorious victory had been achieved at great cost to British and Russians
alike, and all that could be said was that the Crimean campaign had
opened favourably for the Allies.

The victorious army that defeats one portion of the enemy's troops, and
thereby causes the whole force to retire, achieves a success which,
brilliant though it may be, is as nothing compared with that obtained
when the whole of the opposing force is hopelessly crushed and
afterwards captured or driven, a mere herd of terror-stricken beings,
from the field.  For the Allies the Alma was a glorious victory, but no
more.  The fact that the general and his staff were isolated from the
attacking army at the critical moment, and that in consequence the
troops advanced at wide intervals, while the reserves were never called
into action, ruined all hopes of a really great and telling success.
Had it been otherwise, had the British divisions been poured unceasingly
upon the Russians, they would have engaged the whole of Menschikoffs
great army, and so severely handled it as to hopelessly mar its future
effectiveness.

It was a sad, sad army that bivouacked that night near the river Alma.
Comrades and dear friends were missing; while the flickering lights
hovering over hill and valley showed that the search-parties were at
work, the doctors busy at their merciful and pain-relieving duties, and
the burial-parties delving to prepare huge trenches for the reception of
the dead.  It was a terrible ending indeed to a glorious day, but one
that ever follows the crash and turmoil of a battle.  It is impossible
to realise its sadness, its awful horror, till you stand beside one of
these trenches, and, with helmet in hand and the bright sun overhead,
read the last rites over your comrades of a few hours ago, who have been
called suddenly, and by the aid of your fellow-men, from beside you.

For two days the Allies remained here, and then, loading arabas, they
advanced by easy stages on Sebastopol.  To attack the town and fortress
from the northern side was impossible, for the harbour intervened, and
in consequence the march was resumed till finally the British left
approached the harbour of Balaclava; the rest of the allied forces
extended along the slopes of the Chersonese heights surrounding the
town, and prepared to throw up earthworks in readiness for a gigantic
bombardment.

Meanwhile the Russians in Sebastopol were by no means idle.  All
civilians left the town and forts, and, under the great Todleben, their
engineer, thousands set to work with pick and spade to improve their
defences on the south and mount extra guns, relying on their huge army
in the field to keep the allied enemy busy.  Unlimited supplies poured
into the town, and thus, though the Allies were besieging it on the
southern side, and the harbour-mouth was blockaded by the opposing
fleet, it was in a position to hold out for an indefinite period.

Meanwhile what had become of our hero?

A burly, grey-clad Cossack had charge of Phil, and noticing that he was
exhausted after the struggle in which he had been engaged, he turned and
spoke kindly to him.

"We will go along easily till you have got your wind," he said.  "You
must be tired after such a fight.  My word, what gluttons you English
are for hard knocks and desperate battles!  I watched from the summit of
the hill and saw you and your comrade rush to the rescue of the flag.
It was a mad act, Englishman, but bravely done.  But come, I am
forgetting.  You are a comrade in distress.  Take a sip from this
bottle.  It is vodka with a little water added, and will put new life
into you."

Phil thanked him heartily, and as soon as they were out of range of the
British batteries, sat down on a boulder and took a pull at the
Cossack's flask.

"Thank you, my friend!" he exclaimed earnestly.  "A short rest here will
do me a world of good.  Have we far to go to-night?"

"What!  You speak our language, Englishman!  Good!" and the Russian's
broad and rugged face lit up with a kindly smile.  "Yes," he continued,
"we have a long way to go.  But you are tired.  Give me your word that
you will not attempt to throw me, or get the better of me, and I will
let you mount behind on the crupper.  Come, there is no one about, and
before we join the squadron again you can dismount."

Phil readily gave the required promise, and, vaulting up behind the
friendly Cossack, they pushed on amongst the retreating infantry.

"What has become of my comrades?" asked Phil after a pause, for he was
terribly afraid that Tony and the officer were killed.

"Comfort yourself, Englishman, they too are prisoners, and you will meet
them at the camp; but I doubt whether they will reach there so easily as
you, for Alexoff has charge of your soldier friend, while the brave
wounded officer walks by the side of our commander, who is not too kind
to us, and hates all Englishmen bitterly.  Yes, I fear it will go hard
with him, for we have lost heavily, and Stackanoff will not easily
forget it."

"And is Stackanoff your commander?" asked Phil.

"Yes, that is his name.  His excellency rules us with a rod of iron.
Ah! my English comrade, there is a little girl waiting for me about half
a verst from Moscow town, and I long to break from this life and return
to her.  I have served my time, and should have been free long ago, but
Stackanoff keeps me.  Ah, how I hate him!  Some day, perhaps, I shall
repay him, and meanwhile I will fight for my country, for she has need
of us all."

"Yes, it will be a big struggle," agreed Phil, "and if your comrades
fight as pluckily as they did to-day, Russia will need many brave men to
fill the gaps."

The Cossack gave a hearty grunt of satisfaction, for, though longing to
reach Moscow, he was at heart a patriot, and liked to hear his
brothers-in-arms well spoken of.

"We are friends from this day," he said, grasping Phil's hand.  "But
prepare to get down.  We are nearing our bivouac, and it would not do to
let Stackanoff see you mounted behind me.  Wait, though, I will tell you
when to jump off."

Putting his horse into a gentle trot the Cossack jogged towards a
collection of tents and horsemen.  Suddenly there was a shout from
behind them, and just as Phil and his captor joined a squadron of
Cossacks, a small, fierce-looking man, with a bristling moustache and a
face deeply pitted by smallpox, cantered up, dragging beside him an
unhappy captive, who was scarcely able to retain his feet.

Phil's blood boiled, for he recognised in an instant that the prisoner
was the officer who had so bravely carried the colour.

Pulling his horse in with an angry jerk close alongside Phil's captor,
Stackanoff--for it was none other than he--glared at him, and in a harsh
voice, and with many an oath, snarled: "How is this, Vilnoff!  What do
you mean?  Are these cursed prisoners then to ride upon his majesty's
horses?  Come off, you Englishman!" and, dropping his reins, he
stretched out his hand, and, clutching Phil by the shoulder, hurled him
to the ground.

It was not very far to fall, but Phil came an undoubted cropper, and the
sudden and unlooked-for jar, and a yell of derision which rose from the
Cossack ranks at the sight, set his blood aflame still more, for he had
not yet shaken off the excitement of the recent battle.  His eyes
flashed angrily, and, picking himself up, he was within an ace of
throwing himself upon the brutal Stackanoff when better counsels
prevailed.

The Cossack commander eyed him suspiciously, and then, with a malicious
glance at Vilnoff and the remark, "You, beast that you are, I will deal
with you to-morrow," dug his spurs into his horse with such force that
the animal sprang forward so suddenly as to upset the unhappy English
officer and drag him along the ground.

"Come, get up, you weak-kneed fool," cried Stackanoff, striking at the
poor fellow with his riding-whip.

It was a brutal act, and even the Cossack horsemen were ashamed of it.
As for Phil, a blind and unreasoning rage seized him, and, dragging the
lasso-noose over his head, he sprang at the Russian, and, lifting him
like a child from the saddle, threw him heavily on the ground and stood
over him, ready to knock him down if he should try to rise, or treat any
other in a similar manner who dared to interfere with him.

"Hurrah, well done, Phil, old boy!" came an excited bellow from the
Cossack ranks; and next moment Tony, who was there, a prisoner, had torn
the rope which held him from the hands of the man who was in charge of
him, and, aiming blows right and left with his fists, rushed forward and
joined Phil.

To say that there was a clamour in the camp is to describe the scene
mildly.  For a moment the horsemen were too astonished to move; then,
recovering from their surprise, they lowered their murderous-looking
lances, and would undoubtedly have run all three prisoners through, had
not another officer ridden into the circle at that moment.

He was a tall, dark man, with heavy features and a settled look of
depression on his face.  Mounted on a magnificent horse, and bearing the
badges of a staff-officer, there was no doubt that he was a person of no
little importance and authority.

"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded, quietly looking round with a
cold and gleaming eye, which showed that though outwardly calm he was
more than angry at the incident.  "These are prisoners, by their
uniform, and one an officer too.  Do we then murder captives taken in
battle?  Does our august master, the Czar, will it that we should take
the lives of gallant Englishmen in cold blood?  Answer me, dogs!  Whose
doing is this?"  And, slowly glancing round the circle, he fixed the men
with his eyes, each one trembling in his turn and feeling relieved when
his scrutiny was finished.

Then Vilnoff, who had remained close beside Phil all the time, turned in
his saddle and humbly told the officer what had happened.

"Ah, is it so, man?" the latter replied thoughtfully.  "Stackanoff
captures prisoners, and leads them away in nooses, as he would drag an
ox.  And one is wounded, too.  Get down, man, and shake this commander
of yours."

Vilnoff obeyed, doing as his officer ordered him, and at the same time
administering a sly kick.  Stackanoff at length opened his eyes, and,
struggling to his feet, stared at the new-comer.  Meanwhile Phil and
Tony had relieved their wounded officer of his noose, and were holding
him erect between them.

"Tell me," began the staff-officer, fixing the Cossack commander with a
piercing look, "tell me, my good friend, why you would kill our
prisoners.  Have not the enemy many of our brave comrades in their
hands?  Do they drag them with ropes and fling the wounded ones to the
ground?  Dog!--worse than dog!--your command is taken from you.  This
night our sappers return to the fortress and you with them.  Go now
before I do worse for you!"

Like a beaten cur the Cossack commander saluted, humbly bowed, calling
the staff-officer "Prince", and then retired.

Now was Phil's chance of asking for good treatment for the wounded
officer, and, leaving Tony to support the poor fellow, he advanced to
the Russian prince, and, standing politely at attention, begged that a
doctor might be sent for.

"So it seems that besides doing your best to kill one of my officers,
you are acquainted with our language," said the prince with a smile,
"Yes, my man, your officer shall have good treatment, and so shall you.
Here, you! your name?  Ah--Vilnoff--then you will take charge of these
men for to-night.  Send this wounded gentleman into the fortress with
any of our own that may be leaving.  A column has been ordered to start
soon after daybreak."

Turning his horse, he nodded to Phil and cantered away.

"My word, but there will be trouble!" said Vilnoff after a few moments'
silence.  "That demon Stackanoff is disgraced, and he will never forget.
He will learn that it was I--Vilnoff--who told the prince the whole
truth, and he will repay me.  Ah, he will not forget!  And you, too, you
Englishmen; he will take his revenge on you also.  A Cossack never
forgives.  But there will be time to talk of this.  Come with me.  You
can be free and lie with me beneath my blankets if you will only promise
to stay and not give me the slip."

Phil held a few moments' hurried conversation with Tony before giving
the desired promise.

"We must remember that we are prisoners, Tony," he said, "and though
this good fellow, Vilnoff, is evidently inclined to be most friendly,
and act differently from the majority of his comrades, thereby making
our lot easier, yet we have a duty to perform.  We must escape at the
earliest opportunity and try to rejoin our comrades."

"Should think so," Tony grunted.  "If it hadn't been for this here chap
there's no saying what would have happened.  Most like we should have
been run through with their pig-stickers same as poor old Sam.  Those
Cossacks gave me a taste of their gentle treatment on the way here.
They trotted pretty nearly all the way, and if I dragged a bit on the
rope, the brute who was in charge of me just picked up the slack of his
lasso and whopped me over the shoulders.  I can feel the sting yet.  He
was a big black-bearded chap, and I shall know him and be able to talk
to him in the proper way next time we meets, see if I sha'n't.  Yes,
Phil, we've got to get out of this as quick as we can.  As for the
promise to Vilnoff, you do as you like."

"Very well," said Phil, turning to the Cossack.  "How long are we likely
to be in your charge?" he asked.

"Only till to-morrow, Englishman.  Then we Cossacks will leave the camp
and act as outposts and scouts, while you and your friend may be sent
into the fortress.  In any case, you will be handed over to the
infantry.  Do not fear.  I will speak a word for you."

"Then we promise not to attempt to escape while in your charge,
Vilnoff."

"Good!" exclaimed the Cossack.  "You will promise, and that is enough,
for we have heard that an Englishman prides himself upon his honour.
After I have left you can do as you wish," he added, smiling in their
faces.  "And perhaps it were better that you should risk anything rather
than Stackanoff's vengeance.  Ah, that man is a brute!  Now, follow me,
and I will see what can be done in the way of food."

Following the friendly Russian, Phil and Tony at length entered the
Cossack lines, and, passing between the horses, reached the farther end,
where Vilnoff rapidly removed his saddle and bridle, and, picketing his
shaggy animal, went in search of some grain.

"The sooner we are out of this the better," muttered Phil.  "Just look
round without attracting attention, Tony.  These Cossacks are scowling
at us as if they would like to cut our throats."

Tony drew an extremely black pipe from his pocket, and, holding a cake
of plug tobacco above the bowl, dexterously cut shavings with his knife,
ramming them down with his finger till the pipe was filled.  Then he
placed it in his mouth, and, calmly stepping over to a fire, which was
burning close at hand, he lifted a blazing stick and applied it to the
weed, turning as he did so, and swiftly gazing round the Cossack lines.
A crowd of the horsemen were standing a few yards away, scowling heavily
at their prisoners and muttering amongst themselves.

"Ugh! a bigger set of blackguards I never see," Tony remarked calmly.
"`Git', as the Yankees say, is the word for us, Phil.  It'll be safe
to-night with Vilnoff, but to-morrow, when he's gone, they'll pass on
their tale to the other coves who've got to look after us, and a
precious poor time of it well have."

At this moment Vilnoff returned, and, beckoning to his prisoners, led
them to where his blankets and saddle lay.  The former were spread upon
the ground, and Phil and Tony sat down on them.

"The horse is fed and watered, and now we will look to ourselves," said
Vilnoff, with a friendly smile.  "I have managed to get an extra
allowance of meat, and here is plenty of bread.  Now we will have a fire
to ourselves;" and stepping across he quickly returned with a blazing
stake.  Round this sticks from a bundle tied to his saddle were piled,
and soon a cheerful fire was burning.  Over the blaze was placed an iron
tripod, from which a small kettle full of water was suspended, and into
this the meat was thrown, after having been cut into small pieces.

For an hour the three sat gazing at the blazing embers, while Phil and
Vilnoff discussed the prospects of the campaign.  At last the stew was
ready.  The Russian produced three tin plates and as many mugs, and soon
they were enjoying their meal.  A small tot of vodka, diluted with
water, followed, and then, having smoked a last pipe, and being
thoroughly tired out, Phil and Tony lay full length on the rugs, while
Vilnoff, producing an enormous kaross of sheep-skin, spread it over
them, crawled beneath it himself, and with a guttural "Good-night,
Englishman!" placed his head on his saddle, and was quickly in the land
of dreams.  As for Phil and Tony, they were worn out, and scarcely had
they turned over when they too were asleep, in blissful forgetfulness of
the stirring events of the day, and of the dead and dying, who lay not
ten miles away on the blood-stained slopes of the Alma.

The next morning the Cossack lines were early astir, and horses and men
were fully ready to set out when two officers came towards them, one
dressed as a Cossack, and leading his horse.  The men were quickly drawn
up, and having explained that he was their new commander, the Cossack
officer turned to his companion and formally handed over the two
prisoners.

"There, comrade," he said, "take them and look well after them.  I heat
they have already done harm enough, though, indeed, I cannot say much
against them, for Stackanoff was too harsh with the wounded prisoner,
and, besides, his dismissal has given me this command and a chance of
distinguishing myself, and having my name brought before our master the
Czar."

The infantry officer answered that he hoped the long-looked-for
opportunity would not take long in coming, and beckoning to four men who
had followed him, ordered them to march the prisoners off.

Phil and Tony shook hands heartily with Vilnoff, and the former thanked
him for his kindness.

"If ever we meet again, Vilnoff," he said, "perhaps we shall be able to
do as much for you, and in any case, when we get back to our friends, as
we mean to do, we shall tell them how good one of the Cossack horsemen
has been to us.  Now, good-bye and good luck!  I hope Stackanoff will do
you no harm, and that before long you will be seeking the girl you spoke
of near Moscow."

"Ah!" the Russian grunted, while a broad grin overspread his usually
grave features, "you give me hope, Englishman.  Good-bye, and may the
blessed Virgin see you safely to your friends!"

Phil and Tony were surrounded at this moment by their infantry guard,
and marched smartly away to the rear of the camp.  Here they were
ordered to enter a large shed adjoining a farmhouse, and this they found
was filled with other prisoners like themselves.

"Halloo, mates," voices sang out, "when were you taken?  What's going to
happen to us?"

Phil hastily explained, and then suddenly seeing the wounded officer who
had borne the colour on the previous day, and who had been removed from
the Cossack lines a few minutes after the brutal Stackanoff's dismissal,
he walked over to him and asked him how he felt.

"Much better, thanks to you, Corporal," answered the young fellow.  "The
doctor dressed my wound, and then got this mattress for me.  After all,
it was only a flesh wound, and but for severe loss of blood I should
have been all right and the colour saved.  It is sad to think that it
was captured."

"The colour is all right," answered Phil.  "As I was dragged away I saw
that the Highlanders had rescued it."

"That's good news!  Excellent news!" exclaimed the young officer in
tones of relief.  "Look here, Corporal, my name is McNeil, and I am
sending in an account of our little affair.  The doctor here has
promised to have it taken over to our lines under a flag of truce.  What
is your name and your friend's?  I am going to recommend you both for
distinguished gallantry."

Phil gave the required information, and after a few more words returned
to Tony flushed with happiness and pride that he and his friend had so
early won praise for their deeds.

Half an hour later four Russians entered, and, lifting the wounded
officer, carried him outside, and with great gentleness placed him in an
araba.  The other prisoners were ordered to file out, and in a few
minutes they were marching, surrounded by guards, for the grim fortress
of Sebastopol.  Phil and Tony longed to escape, for once behind the
stone walls of Sebastopol there would be little hope.  But no
opportunity occurred, and by nightfall they, with their comrades, were
safely under lock and key, the officer having been taken to separate
quarters.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

CLOSE PRISONERS.

It was a wearisome time that Phil and his friend spent in prison.
Confined in a huge stone building, they passed the greater part of the
day in a court-yard open to the sky.  Here they discussed with their
comrades every possible means of escape, but they could hit on no plan
that was likely to be successful.  The windows were small and heavily
barred, sentries with loaded weapons stood all round the walls of the
court-yard, and at night occupied a room commanding the prison, being
separated from it by a wall perforated for rifle fire.

"Don't worry, Tony, old chap," said Phil one day, seeing that his friend
was becoming despondent.  "Our chance will come yet, and we shall get
away.  If we don't, the Allies may take the place by storm and set us
free.  After all, we have little to complain of, for our quarters are
moderately comfortable, and our food, though plain, is plentiful."

"Right yer are, Phil!  I'll cheer up," answered Tony brightly.  "When I
comes to think of it, we ain't got much to grumble at.  Think of them
poor chaps as had arms and legs blown off at the Alma--we're far better
off than they.  But I expects this being caged up ain't for long, and
any day the army will be breaking in, as you say, and setting us free."

And indeed, had the prisoners but known it, the Allies were hard at work
preparing to take the fortress and town.  To do so from the north was,
as has already been said, impossible, for the harbour was far too broad
to allow of an effective bombardment, and, moreover, its northern shore
was commanded by heavy batteries.  Therefore, as we have seen, the
Allies marched to the Chersonese heights, the British left resting upon
Balaclava, while the French lay to our right.  Opposite them was the
southern face of Sebastopol, up till then undefended by very formidable
works, though the plan of defences had long ago been sketched and
partially executed.  But no sooner was the object of the allied army
discovered than hordes of Russians quickly transformed this side of the
fortress, throwing up powerful earthworks, and arming them with guns
drawn from the inexhaustible arsenals at the dockyard.  And while they
slaved, the British and French planned their own earthworks, and set
fatigue-parties to work.  By October 16th they were completed, and after
a council of war, in which naval as well as military officers took part,
it was decided that the bombardment should commence on the morrow, the
batteries on the Chersonese heights doing their utmost to reduce the
works in front of them, while the ships engaged the forts on the
sea-face to distract attention.  The cannonade was to be followed by a
general assault.

A moment's reflection will show the reader that nothing could have been
wiser than a preliminary battering with cannon-shot, followed by an
assault; but how the ships could have aided in one or the other it is
difficult to understand.  As the forts were placed on elevated plateaux,
and in some cases on the cliffs, an assault by means of landing-parties
was out of the question.  Therefore the Russian commander would not, and
did not, trouble to garrison them with infantry, but merely assured
their having a sufficiency of gunners to replace possible casualties.
Then again, compared with a heavily-armed stone fort, what is a wooden
ship?  It was a hopeless and a foolish undertaking, and it is not
surprising that the allied fleet retired, having done little damage,
although they had suffered severely themselves.

On shore things were perhaps a little more satisfactory.  Three star
shells fired from Mount Rudolph, the French battery, gave the signal for
the bombardment at an early hour on October 17th, and from that moment
for four awful hours the Allies' combined 126 heavy guns poured a hail
of shell into the Russian defences.  These consisted of outworks and of
various forts of formidable power known as the Flagstaff Bastion, the
Malakoff, and the Redan, the whole armed with 118 guns, not to mention a
thousand and more of lighter casting to be used in case of assault.

But for an untoward event Sebastopol might have fallen on that very day,
and the Crimea as a campaign have sunk into comparative historical
insignificance.  After four hours' firing a shell unluckily struck the
magazine of Mount Rudolph, and with a roar which shook the surrounding
camp the battery was destroyed.  The French fire at once ceased, and was
not renewed for two days.  As for the British, they battered the
Malakoff, reducing the stone-work to ruin, and silenced its guns.  Soon
afterwards the magazine of the Redan exploded, and though our fire still
continued furiously, it was answered only feebly and at intervals,
showing that the enemy too had suffered heavily like the French.

And now let us consider, before returning to Phil and his comrades, why
an assault was not delivered either at once, or on the following
morning.  But for the calamity to the French this would have occurred;
owing, however, to the destruction of their chief battery, and the
consequent failure to destroy the defences in front of them, assault
became almost impracticable, while now that they were to some extent
demoralised, it was utterly hopeless.  Also it must be borne in mind
that the force in Sebastopol was greatly superior in numbers to the
Allies, while an attack in rear by the Russian army in the field was
always to be dreaded, and, as will be seen, was not long in actually
occurring.  As to an assault on the following day, dawn showed that it
was useless to attempt it, for the brave and energetic enemy had already
reconstructed the defences, and made good all the damage that had been
done.

Almost a whole month had passed from the date of their incarceration,
when one morning the prisoners in Sebastopol were awakened by a roar of
exploding artillery.

"What's that?" asked Phil, starting up suddenly and throwing off his
blanket.  "Listen, you fellows!  Yes, there it goes again.  That banging
is the Russian artillery.  Wait a minute and we shall hear our own at
work."

A moment later a distant, muttering growl told them that the Allies were
answering the fire, while, had there been any doubt, a peculiar shriek
overhead, which all had heard before, and the fall of a wall close at
hand, told them that a shell from the far-off guns had found a mark.

"Blow me!" exclaimed Tony excitedly.  "Supposing one of them shells
found its way in here!"

"What, yer ain't afraid!" jeered a big rifleman who was amongst the
prisoners.  "You 'as helped to save the colours, too!"

"Afraid!  Booby!  I'll punch yer head if yer don't mind what yer
saying," retorted Tony hotly.  "It ain't that I was thinking of, but of
trying to get out of this.  Supposing a hole got knocked in the wall,
couldn't we chaps climb through it, and shy bricks at the sentries.
Then we'd make a rush for it.  You may bet all these Russian soldiers
are busy in the forts."

A grunt of assent went round the gathered prisoners, and far from being
nervous or anxious lest a shell should knock the house about their ears,
they sat there longing to hear the crash and make a dash for liberty.

That such an eventuality might occur had evidently struck the Russians,
for that night the doors of the prison were thrown open, and the
prisoners ordered out with their blankets.  Then they were marched under
a strong guard to the harbour and ferried across.

"Where do we go?"  Phil asked the soldier who sat in the boat by his
side.

"That you will see," was the gruff reply.  "But you leave the Crimea at
once, and I do not envy you your long march.  It is fine weather now,
but as you get north you will meet the rains and cold winds, and you
will wish yourself back in Sebastopol."

Arrived on the northern bank of the harbour, the prisoners were grouped
together, and a meal of hot coffee and bread given them.  Then they set
out, two ranks of armed guards marching on either side, while some
twenty fierce-looking Cossacks hovered here and there, only too ready
and willing to transfix any man sufficiently foolhardy to attempt an
escape.

"This won't do," muttered Phil, whose wits had been at work.  "It won't
do," he repeated almost unconsciously.

"What won't?" asked Tony brusquely.  "It ain't over nice, I know, but I
can't see that anything's extra wrong."

"Where do you think we are marching to, Tony?" asked Phil.  "You don't
know.  Then I'll tell you.  We are going due north, out of the Crimea
and into some part of the Russian interior.  Once there, what chance
shall we have of ever getting back?"

"There you puzzle me, Phil," Tony answered, scratching his head.  "I
suppose it's a long way off."

"Yes, a long way, Tony; but that is not the difficulty.  The weather is
on the point of changing, and soon we shall have rain and snow.  We must
get away within the next few days or not at all, so keep your eyes open
for the first chance that comes along."

"Trust me, mate," whispered Tony, unconsciously dropping his voice.  "I
don't want to spend the next year or so in a Russian prison.  A month's
been enough for me.  But it'll be a job to get away from these fellows:
and what shall we do for food once we are free?"

"That we must chance, Tony.  The main thing is to get safely away, and,
of course, we must make the attempt when it is dark.  To-night our
guards, knowing we are close to the allied camp, will be extra watchful,
but a couple of nights later, when we are well on the way, and the
Russian field-army is between us and our friends, they are certain to
become slack and careless about keeping a watch.  That will be our time,
and we must make the best of it.  There are plenty of small farmhouses
scattered about this part of the Crimea, for it is famous for its
vineyards, and if the worst comes to the worst, we must break into one
and obtain food in that way.  In any case there are grapes to be had in
abundance."

Having agreed that it was useless to attempt an escape for two days or
more, and that it was unnecessary to inform their comrades of their
intentions--for where two might chance to slip away, it was hopeless for
fifty or more to make the attempt,--Phil and Tony marched on stolidly.
Amongst the prisoners were Riflemen, Guards, and Highlanders, some
slightly wounded, and all more or less in a tattered and forlorn
condition, for head-gear had been for the most part lost, and the bright
red of tunics had long ago been dulled by lying on the dirt and mud.

That night they pressed on, and halted only when the field-army was
reached.  Then they bivouacked and waited till the following day, when
the march was resumed in a leisurely manner, the guards, however, still
keeping careful watch over their prisoners, while the fierce and
restless Cossacks rode their shaggy ponies on either flank and kept a
scowling eye on the captives.

Phil and Tony saved some portion of their meal of bread daily, cramming
it into their pockets.  But it was not till the third night that they
dared to attempt an escape.

"Keep an eye on those Cossack fellows as we bivouack, Tony," said Phil
in an undertone, as the column came to a halt.  "They are the ones we
have most to fear.  Up to this, I notice that half of them have nightly
gone out as pickets, ready to cut off any escape, while the others have
camped alongside us.  If only we can see the positions the outposts take
up, and get away from here without rousing an alarm, we ought to be able
to hide up in some vineyard."

Lying down on the ground, as if tired out, the two watched eagerly, and
carefully noted the position of the Cossacks.  Riding some three hundred
yards from their comrades, each of these wiry horsemen leapt from his
pony, removed the bit and slipped it under its jaw, and left it there
with the reins on the neck, so that in a few moments it could be
replaced.  Girths were then loosened, and while the animal cropped the
grass its watchful master trudged backwards and forwards, lance in hand,
and with his face always turned towards the distant camp.

"Sebastopol lies over there," said Phil, nodding in the direction they
had come, "and we must make a bolt for it some other way.  The outposts
are certain to be more vigilant behind us.  Look at that fellow over
there on our right.  I have had my eye on him these last two days; he is
evidently lazy and careless of his duties, especially now that no
Cossack officer is with the horsemen guarding us."

Tony glanced in the direction indicated, and noted that the man Phil had
called his attention to was standing by his pony's side, with one elbow
resting on the saddle, and his head on his hand, as if already asleep.

"Yes, that's the beggar for us, Phil," he whispered.  "If we crawl over
there we ought to be able to slip by him unawares.  To-night will be
fairly light--just sufficient for us to spot him at twenty yards,--and
once we know where he is, it won't be much of a job to slip between him
and the next."

At dusk a meal was served, and having eaten their portion, Phil and Tony
threw themselves down upon a blanket, and spread the second over them,
for the nights were already chilly, and they had discovered that with
only one blanket apiece greater warmth and comfort could be obtained in
this way.

"It won't do to fall asleep now," whispered Phil.  "We have had a tiring
uphill march, and are both in need of a snooze and inclined to take it.
Let us talk about something interesting, so as to keep awake."

Tony yawned loudly and rubbed his eyes.

"I was precious near off then," he answered.  "Tell yer what, Phil,
teach me a few words of this Russian lingo.  That'll wake me up."

Accordingly Phil commenced with the simpler words, and when Tony had
heard and repeated as many as he was likely to remember, they commenced
to chat about their life in the menagerie, taking care only to whisper,
and keeping a vigilant watch upon the sentries close at hand.

"We must clear out of this about an hour before midnight," whispered
Phil.  "The sentries are changed at twelve o'clock, and the Cossack
outposts too.  If we wait till then they are all sure to be wide-awake
in expectation of relief, and after midnight there will be little chance
of slipping past the fresh ones.  As it is, I see it will be a far more
difficult job than we had imagined."

"That's so," grunted Tony, staring at the nearest sentry.  "In course if
we could get alongside that feller we could double him up like a rag
before he'd got time to shout, and I doubt that the ones on either side
can see him.  But I fear it would be a failure.  We'd never be able to
get close enough to smash him before he pulled his trigger."

"I have it, Tony," whispered Phil after a few minutes' silence, during
which he cudgelled his brains for a means of escape.  "We should never
get away together, for where one might slip through two would be certain
to be discovered.  Fortunately many of our comrades are still moving
about or sitting up talking, so that my little scheme has a chance of
working.  Tony, we must have a row and separate."

"Have a row, Phil?  That we don't, while I can help it!" exclaimed Tony
hotly.

"Not a real one, Tony," answered Phil, with a smothered laugh.  "We must
pretend.  Listen.  It now wants two hours before we must make our
attempt, and we must do our best to judge that time pretty nearly.  No
doubt the sentry has noticed that we have been lying quietly as if
asleep, for he has passed close by us several times.  Let us peep out,
and wait till he is near again, then you must roll over and pull the
blanket from me as if in your sleep.  The movement is certain to attract
his attention.  I will then start up and tear the blanket away from you,
and after that we can easily come to words and almost to blows.  No
doubt the sentry will watch us and enjoy our quarrel, and as soon as we
have made sufficient noise, I will get up in a regular huff, pull my
blanket from you, and go to the other end of the camp.  Two hours later
I shall do my best to creep between the sentries, and once through I
will imitate the whinny of a horse.  The men on guard will think it
comes from one of the Cossack ponies, and are not likely to stir, while
you, knowing it is my signal, will take the first chance of slipping
through and joining me."

A suppressed chuckle burst from Tony's lips, and the blanket shook as he
attempted to smother his amusement and delight.

"Phil, you're a good 'un," he stuttered.  "Yer fairly walk away with it.
Blest if yer ain't the smartest chap I ever see!  There ain't nothing
more to be said.  It's bound to work is that there scheme, so the sooner
we has that row the better.  But--look here, old man, how do we join one
another out there in the dark?"

"That I was just going to mention, Tony.  Once through, crawl on for a
hundred yards, and then sit down.  You must take care to go straight to
your front.  I am going to lie down over there on the right, and I shall
know you are on the left.  I shall give you a quarter of an hour to get
through, and then I shall crawl over in your direction.  If after a good
search I fail to find you I will give another whinny, and you must crawl
up to me.  Now is everything clear?"

"Everything, mate," answered Tony, with evident delight.  "We just plays
this little game, and then I waits for the signal.  Once through, there
comes that Cossack chap, and if he so much as flickers an eyelid, bust
me if I don't smash him like an egg.  Now, mate, give us yer flipper,
cos, yer know, things might go wrong, and I specks those Russian coves
have a nasty way of shooting if they spots a fellow giving them the
slip."

Phil stretched out his hand, and meeting Tony's, gave it a cordial grip.
Then for some ten minutes the two lay still, Tony snoring heavily,
while the sentry passed them twice on his beat, humming a tune as he did
so.  Close at hand were the other prisoners, some asleep, while others
sat up round a fire smoking a last pipe.

"Now, here goes," whispered Tony, and with a loud snort he rolled over
on his opposite side, clutching the blanket and dragging it from Phil.

The action was beautifully timed, for the sentry was just opposite them
and within a few paces, and halted to see what would happen.

Phil awoke suddenly, sat up, and shivered.  Then he felt for the blanket
as if expecting to find it over his knees, but failing to hit upon it he
looked at his sleeping comrade, and instantly, and with an exclamation
of wrath, seized the blanket and dragged it away.

"Here, what are yer up to?" growled Tony hoarsely, sitting up and
grabbing at the blanket.  "Want it all yerself, yer greedy beggar?  Let
go, will yer?"  They struggled together, while their anger apparently
rose till they were on the point of blows.

"Whose blanket is it then?" cried Phil angrily.  "It's mine, and I mean
to have it.  There's yours; you're lying on it.  Stick to it, and I'll
stick to mine; but not here.  I've had enough of you.  Every night it's
the same.  I'm getting worn out for want of sleep."

"Hurrah! here's them two bosom friends a-fighting," laughed a linesman
who formed one of the number round the fire.  "Have it out, boys.  We're
getting stale for want of a little fun, and now's just the time for a
fight."

Phil and Tony took no notice of this encouragement, but, tearing the
blanket angrily from his friend, Phil trudged away with it to the other
end of the sleeping line, leaving the sentry, who had watched the whole
scene, doubled up with laughter, which was loudly echoed by the men
sitting round the fire.

"Stop that noise," came a harsh voice at this moment from the tent
occupied by the officer in charge of the party; and instantly the sentry
commenced to tramp his beat, while the prisoners rose and went to their
hard and uncomfortable couches.

Phil chose a spot between two sleeping figures on the right, and,
throwing himself down, apparently fell into a deep sleep.  But part of
his face was uncovered, and his eyes were fixed in the direction of the
sentry, whose figure was now indistinguishable in the darkness.  A weary
hour and a half dragged by, and then he prepared to make the attempt.
Leaving his blanket, he crept on all-fours through the grass, and within
five minutes was safely through the sentries, where, having put a
sufficient distance between them and himself he sat down and indulged in
a whinny--a curious collection of sounds which every school-boy is an
adept at, having, no doubt, times out of number, tried the nerves of
some irascible master by repeating them from the remote and unobserved
depths of his class-room, together with cat-calls and other
pleasantries.  Half an hour later Phil and Tony had met, and were
crawling away towards the Cossack outposts.  Stealing through the long
grass, and avoiding stones and small patches of corn which were spread
thereabouts, they were soon near the post occupied by the horsemen.

"We'll get alongside that wall," whispered Phil, pulling Tony's sleeve
in the direction he meant.  "It is not a long one, and by crawling to
the end and squeezing against it, we ought to be able to see our
gentleman without ourselves being observed."

Accordingly they crept to the wall, which surrounded a potato field, and
advancing cautiously were soon at the corner, where, lying side by side,
they searched the darkness for the Cossack horseman.

"Can't see him anywhere," muttered Phil in an undertone.

"Here, what's that?" asked Tony excitedly, pointing in front of him.

Before Phil had time to answer, there was a hoarse cry of astonishment,
and a figure which had been leaning upon the wall just round the corner
started out, and, lowering a lance, rushed at them.  The weapon struck
the ground between them, narrowly missing Phil's arm.  Next moment Tony
had sprung at the Cossack with a low cry, and had felled him to the
ground with a powerful blow from his fist.

"Didn't I say I'd do for yer if yer winked yer blessed eye?" he said
breathlessly.  "Move again and I'll stick yer through with the lance."

But even if the Russian had been able to understand, he was not in the
condition which would allow him to prove offensive, for the fist had
crashed like a sledge-hammer into his face, and he now lay motionless
and stunned upon the ground.  Phil picked up the lance, and while they
lay still, in case the slight noise should have aroused the next outpost
he produced his knife and commenced to cut it in half.  It was soon
done, and, keeping the head armed with the spear-point, he handed the
other to Tony, and they once more rose to their knees and crept
stealthily away into the darkness.  Ten minutes later they were walking
briskly in the direction of Sebastopol.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

THE HIGHROAD TO LIBERTY.

When they had placed half a mile or more between themselves and the
Russian outposts, Phil caught Tony by the sleeve and came to a halt.

"We'll have a breather and a consultation now, old chap," he said with a
cheery note in his voice.  "We're safely through so far, but there's a
lot to be done before we reach our comrades.  It was bad luck our
hitting up against that fellow, for when the outposts are relieved at
midnight he will be found, and our flight discovered.  So we may take it
that we have barely an hour's start."

"It were bad luck," agreed Tony, "but I don't see as though it weren't
worser for him.  We hit up against the beggar, but I can tell yer the
knock he give us wasn't nothing to the smasher I got in on his face.  It
fairly knocked the senses out of him, and will teach him to mind his own
business in future."

"Now, what's to be done, Tony?" asked Phil.  "We have an hour's start,
and barely that.  I am for making across to the road, and trotting along
it at our best pace.  They are sure to send horsemen back by that way,
and we shall be able to hear them if we keep our ears open.  Then we
will slip across the grass and hide up in some vineyard, where I expect
we shall do well to stay until the search is over."

"Look here, Phil, you're bossing this show," said Tony with some
emphasis.  "I haven't a doubt but what yer proposes is the best, so
let's get off at once."

Having settled the point they promptly swung to the right, and soon were
on the post-road.  Then, taking to their heels, they ran steadily along
it.  Every ten minutes they halted for a few moments to listen, but,
hearing nothing, set out again.  In this way they had covered some five
or six miles before shouts and galloping hoofs striking hard upon the
road behind them caught their ears.  Instantly they turned on to the
grass, and, climbing a wall, ran through a large cultivated field and
hid themselves in a patch of corn beyond.  It was well that they did so,
for when opposite the wall the pursuing Cossacks halted, while two of
their number dismounted, and, vaulting over it, searched in its shadow
for them.

Finding nothing they returned to their companions, and soon the beat of
hoofs again resounded along the post-road.  Phil and Tony were
congratulating themselves on their safety thus far, when the latter, who
had pushed his head up through the ears of corn, strained his eyes
towards the road, and clutching Phil by the shoulders, whispered, "Hush!
I hear something."  Both listened intently, but for some minutes could
neither see nor hear anything; the moon, however, was rising, and very
soon they were able to make out a solitary horseman patrolling the road.

"That settles it," muttered Phil.  "Of course by creeping up to the wall
we might manage to silence that fellow, but it would do more harm than
good.  At present they are uncertain of our whereabouts, but his
disappearance would tell them at once that we were in the immediate
neighbourhood.  As it is, I doubt if they will think we have got so far,
for the sentries are certain to declare that they noticed our sleeping
figures up to the last moment.  Tony, we must make a move, and find some
better hiding-place than this."

Stealing through the corn-patch they were not long in reaching its
margin, and then, to their chagrin, nothing but open fields met their
view.

"I fear it means lying where we are," said Phil dejectedly.  "We might
easily slip across unobserved, but as far as one can see in this light
there is not a vineyard or cover of any sort in sight.  We must do
something, for a couple of horsemen would quickly rout us out of this."

"I seem to remember some kind of house along this way," muttered Tony,
trying to recall the spot.  "Yes, I'm sure of it, and it's away over
there, half a mile or more, I should think;" and he stretched his arm
and pointed to the right.

"Then we'll try to find it," said Phil with decision.  "There is nothing
else for it, and we cannot be in a worse spot than we occupy now.  I
blame myself for not having kept a better watch on our surroundings as
we passed along the road with our escort.  That Cossack has ridden away
a little, so now is our time; we'll strike straight across, and trust to
luck.  We haven't time to pick roads, for it will be dawn in another
hour.  If they come over here they are certain to see our footmarks, but
no doubt we shall get on to grassy land soon, and that will throw them
off the scent."

Standing up for a few moments, to make sure that no enemy was near, they
plunged into the fields and walked steadily on for an hour; but still no
house was in sight.  Half an hour later, when they were almost in
despair, and when a faint flush in the east and a waning of the pale,
silvery gleams of the moon heralded the approach of dawn, they caught
sight of some outbuildings on their left, and were hurrying towards
them, when Phil suddenly saw some ghostly-looking horsemen issuing from
behind them, and clutching hold of Tony, dragged him forcibly into a
narrow ditch which he was in the act of crossing.

"What's up?" asked Tony, somewhat nettled; but Phil's whispered reply,
"Cossacks!  Hush!" appeased him.

The ditch was half-filled with water, but a thorough sousing is
preferable to captivity, and the two companions squeezed still closer
into it, wedging themselves into its slime and mud, and thrusting their
bodies as far as possible beneath the long grass and reeds which sprang
from its bank, for a hasty glance and approaching sounds told them that
the Russians would probably pass close at hand.  Five minutes later
their voices were audible, and a series of splashes and thuds told them
that they had leapt the ditch a few yards higher up.

"They are not there, and you have led us a fine goose-chase!"  Phil
heard one of the Russians angrily exclaim.  "What made you take us on
such a fool's errand, Petroff?"

"It is no fool's errand," another voice replied gruffly.  "I distinctly
saw two figures cross the land beyond.  They are not at the farm, that
is clear; but we shall catch them, and then they shall suffer.  Pigs
that all Englishmen are!  I myself will tie them to a wheel and thrash
them before their comrades.  It will be a good example, and our master
the Czar would approve of it."

The speakers passed on, and Phil hastily interpreted what he had
overheard.

"Whack us, will they?" muttered Tony, gritting his teeth.  "That's one
more chalked up against these Cossack chaps.  Pigs, indeed!  Yah!"  And
his indignation being too great for words, he subsided into silence.
Giving the patrol sufficient time to get well away, they sprang from the
ditch, and hastily squeezing the water from their clothes, struck across
to the outhouses.  Beyond them and within fifty paces was a small
farmhouse, standing in absolutely open fields, with not a sign of a
vineyard or patch of cultivated ground, while fenced-in enclosures and
distant bleating and lowing told that this was a grazing-farm, and that
its owner did not trust to crops for his livelihood.

By this time the light was distinctly clearer and the night was rapidly
drawing to a close; so that, if they were to escape observation, it was
necessary that they should hide themselves away.

"The outhouses will be the best for us," said Phil, thinking aloud.
"Come along, Tony; we must see which one will suit us best.  If they are
merely empty huts, meant for cattle, they will be of no use to us, and
we shall have to try the house, or get into an empty pig-sty or
something of the sort."

The first was simply an empty shed, and the second proved equally
useless.  The third was much larger than the others, and the big, closed
doors showed it to be a coach-house.

"That will do, so we'll get inside at once," whispered Phil.  "Just run
round, Tony, and see if there's a window close to the ground."

While Phil knocked out the pin that held the hasp of the door, Tony went
in search of a window, and returned to say that the only opening he
could find was a trap-door high up, evidently leading to a hay-loft.
But there was no ladder.

"Then we must find one," said Phil quickly.  "It will never do to get in
and leave the door open.  If we cannot find a ladder, perhaps there will
be a piece of rope inside, and we can manage it like that."

Tony disappeared again, while Phil, opening one of the huge doors,
entered the shed.  In it were several arabas and heavy carts run close
together, while behind them, and pushed close against the wooden wall,
was a dilapidated and old-fashioned four-wheeled carriage, completely
covered in by an antiquated leather hood, and yet by its mere presence
there proving that the owner was a moderately well-to-do person.

"Just the thing for us," muttered Phil.  "Now for a rope or a ladder."

He hunted about in the dim light, and presently came across some
harness, made of twisted hide, hanging close against the door.  To take
it down and buckle the traces together was only a few minutes' work, and
by that time Tony had returned, to dolefully inform his friend that he
had searched everywhere without discovering a ladder, and that, in
addition, while prowling round the house, he had seen a light moving,
showing that its occupants were already astir.

"How'll this do, Tony?" asked Phil, producing his improvised rope.
"Now, who's to do the climbing?  You--or shall I be the one?"

Tony settled the question by stepping outside and closing the door,
having taken the precaution to leave his stick with Phil.  Then he
jammed the hasp to, and, having replaced the pin, ran round till he was
beneath the trap-door.

A series of niches had been left in the planks which formed the wall,
and up these Phil rapidly swarmed, and gained the loft.  Throwing the
trap-door open, he lowered his rope, and sitting on the floor, with both
feet wedged against the wall, called softly to Tony to climb.  Two
minutes later they were together.

"Now, Tony," said Phil, "pick up a big armful of hay and toss it down.
You will find an old coach in the corner of the shed.  Take the hay
there and make all comfortable, while I close and fasten the door, and
put these traces back."

Working rapidly, for there was no saying when a hot search might be made
for them, it was not long before they were both comfortably ensconsed in
the dilapidated coach, leaving the interior of the shed as they had
found it.

"All we want now is a look-out," said Phil thoughtfully.  "You stay
where you are, Tony, while I search for one.  In any case I shall have
plenty of time to get back to you, for no one could get in here without
giving us plenty of warning."

"Search away, old horse--search till yer find it.  I'm as comfortable
here as a prince in his palace," exclaimed Tony, with a broad grin of
contentment, throwing himself back upon the hay which filled the roomy
carriage.

Phil opened the door and stepped out.  Then he searched the walls
thoroughly, finding many cracks and apertures by which he was able to
obtain a clear view of his surroundings.  Better than all, he discovered
a long crevice between two planks directly behind their hiding-place.

Stepping into the carriage he closed the door, and, opening his knife,
cut a large triangular slit in the leather covering.  Through this, to
Tony's absolute bewilderment, he thrust his head, and stared through the
aperture in the wall, to find that it commanded an excellent view of the
farmhouse and surroundings.

"There you are, Tony," he laughed, withdrawing his head.  "That is our
look-out, and one of us must be stationed there all day.  This slit I
have made is never likely to be noticed.  Have a look yourself."

Tony did so, but withdrew his head almost more quickly than he had
thrust it out.

"Bust me! the Russians are already after us," he cried.  "See for
yourself, Phil.  They are hammering at the door of the farmhouse."

Shouts, shrill hoots, and loud hangings reached their ears, and, glueing
his eyes to the crevice, Phil saw that a party of horsemen had ridden up
and halted before the farmhouse, and within a short distance of the
outhouse in which he and his friend were hidden.  A few moments later
the door of the farmhouse was opened, and a man appeared looking
somewhat startled.

"What do you want?" he asked angrily.  "Am I to have no peace?  It is
scarcely an hour since you roused me in search of some of your beggarly
prisoners who have escaped.  Am I to be disturbed like this because you
do not keep a careful watch?"

"Gently, old man, gently," a rough fellow with a rasping voice answered.
"We are but doing the duty of our country and our master, and you had
better keep a civil and obliging tongue in your head.  We know of farms
very near at hand that are farms no longer.  Don't we, my comrades?" he
asked with a brutal laugh.  "They were burnt--by accident, perhaps--and
their owner hangs to the nearest tree outside.  Perchance--wretched
man--of his own act, and perchance, my surly friend, because he was
indiscreet."

"What do you want, then?" asked the farmer in a more civil tone,
evidently overawed by the black and lowering looks of the Cossacks, and
by the covert threats which their spokesman had uttered.

"Something good and of your beat, my friend, for we are hungry; and
after that we will search the farm once more."

"Very well, come in if you will.  Here, wife," he shouted, "prepare a
meal for these good fellows."

"What's all the noise about," asked Tony impatiently, tugging at Phil's
arm.

Then when he had learnt he grumbled.  "Something to eat.  That's what
they're after now, is it?  Young 'un, the very mention of a meal makes
me as hollow as the drum of our Grenadier band.  Just keep an eye upon
them till they are out of the way, and then we'll fall to ourselves.
We've only bread and water, but I feel like tackling anything."

A little later the Cossacks had entered the house, leaving their ponies
outside, unsaddled, and tied by the halter to a long rope attached to a
ring in the door-post.  A plentiful supply of corn had been given them,
and while their masters were busy with knife and fork, they ate it
hungrily, and having finished it, promptly drooped their heads and fell
asleep, for the Cossack pony, though hardy and full of strength, is a
long-suffering animal, and never knows how soon he may be called upon
for work.  Therefore, having been on the move most of the night, one and
all took immediate advantage of the moment's respite given them.  As for
Phil and Tony, stretching their legs and bunching a thick layer of hay
beneath them, they set to work on the bread they had saved, and enjoyed
their meal in spite of its being so simple.

An hour later there was a commotion outside, and Phil, who was on the
watch, saw the Cossacks emerge from the farmhouse.

Then they separated, and in couples searched every corner of the house
and its surroundings.

"This looks a likely kind of place," said one of them, approaching the
shed in which Phil and Tony were hidden.  "Come, Petroff, we will enter
it together.  I would not for the wealth of the Czar undertake the
search alone, for these English fools, though unarmed, are capable of
killing us.  See how our unlucky comrade was damaged by a blow from one
of their fists.  He says he remembers only thrusting at them with his
lance, and then a flash in his eyes as of a thousand stars.  Truly they
are brutes who learn to strike down men with their clenched hand alone."

"What is the good of entering there?" his companion answered surlily.
"Can you not see, fool, that the door is pinned outside?  There is no
other entrance but the trap-door, so how can they be there, unless,
indeed, they possess wings?  For I know the ladder is within the
farmhouse.  Still, we will search the place, and then can honestly say
that we have used every endeavour."

A grating sound accompanied by loud creaking followed this as both doors
were thrown wide-open to afford a better light.

Crouching close between the seats of their refuge, the two comrades
waited breathlessly, stick in hand, and with fast-beating hearts, while
the two Cossacks searched every corner of the dwelling.

"They are not here, as I said," a voice cried from the loft.  "This
trap-door is bolted on the inside, and the big doors on the outside.  It
is clear that our trouble is for nothing.  Still," he added, having
scrambled down by means of the niches, "were I escaping from our enemies
this is the place I should choose, and that carriage over there is the
roost I should take possession of.  From its size it should form most
comfortable quarters;" and as if to prove the truth of this, he crept
between the carts, and, turning the handle, attempted to open the door.

"Hang on for your life, Tony," whispered Phil, who had overheard all
that passed.  "This fellow is trying to pull the door open."

Both at once clung to it, Phil grasping the handle inside, while Tony
dug his fingers into the window slits and pulled with all his strength.

"Bah!" muttered the Cossack, disappointed in his attempt.  "What is the
use of a carriage with a door that does not open?" and, turning away, he
and his companion left the outhouse.

"That was a near go, Phil, old horse," whispered Tony excitedly.  "I
thought it was all up, and was ready to jump out and tackle the other
beggar while you settled the fellow tugging at the door.  We'd have
downed 'em, too, but I suppose they'd have given warning to the others."

"Certain to have done so, Tony.  You may not know it, but the man who
was doing his best to break in here is the gentleman who proposes to
thrash us when we are captured."

"Oh, he is, is he?" was Tony's grim reply.  "Wait a little while and
I'll settle the hash of that fine chap."

A quarter of an hour later Phil saw the horsemen collect together, and,
having saddled their ponies, they rode away from the farm, evidently to
the no small satisfaction of the farmer.  In half an hour two of them
returned, and having unsaddled they turned their horses into a shed,
and, carrying their saddles, banged at the farmhouse door again.

"What now?" surlily asked the owner, appearing.

"Only a lodging for the two of us," one, a big burly fellow, the same
that had attempted to open the carriage door, answered with an oath.
"Come, master farmer, we want no trouble; accommodation for two, good
feeding, and plenty of that vodka we have already tasted, are what we
desire.  We have been ordered here to keep a look-out for the runaways."

With a growl of displeasure the man bade them enter, and nothing more of
them was seen till the evening, when they appeared, evidently in an
intoxicated condition.

That night Phil was lowered from the trap-door by Tony, and when he
returned he brought a loaf of bread and a joint of meat, which he had
abstracted through an open window of the farmhouse, and in addition, a
pocketful of apples from a tiny orchard growing near.

The following day passed uneventfully.  The two Cossacks made a thorough
search of the surroundings, and once more returned to their beloved
vodka.

That night again Phil went out in search of provender, but, in
endeavouring to reach a plate of provisions which stood upon a shelf
within the window, he upset a dish which clattered to the ground and
smashed into a thousand pieces.  Instantly a window was thrown open and
a head put out.

Phil crept into the shadow and crouched low.

"Who is there?" a drunken voice called.  "Comrade, there are thieves
about.  Rouse yourself."

The window closed with a bang, and, darting across to the outhouse, Phil
rapidly clambered up through the trap-door, and he and Tony having
gained their hiding-place, once more waited anxiously for what was to
follow.  But the Cossacks evidently preferred the comfort of a warm room
to searching for a thief who was, for all they knew, far away already.
So, grumbling that they would see to it on the morrow, they turned in
again, and soon all was quiet.

"We shall have to clear away from here, Tony," said Phil as they waited.
"The disappearance of food is certain to lead to suspicion, and we
shall be caught.  To-morrow night we will make a bolt for it."

On the following morning it was evident that more than suspicion had
been aroused, and a hot search was instituted, for, from what Phil
overheard, none in the farmhouse doubted that the escaped prisoners were
close at hand.  Saddling up, the Cossacks searched every corner of the
fields, and returned utterly baffled at mid-day.  A feed of corn was
tossed into the shed close at hand, and the ponies driven in ready for
an instant start; then the Russians betook themselves to their favourite
bottle, and when they reappeared were evidently the worse for its
contents.  But they were far from giving up the search.

"They must be close at hand," the man, whose voice Phil had heard so
often, exclaimed with an oath.  "We must find them too, comrade, and
then we shall be rewarded.  Where can the fools be?  Ah! let us try the
coach-house again.  These English, I have heard, are dense and slow, but
perhaps these two have more wits than their brothers."

"Tony, we're done for, I fear," said Phil, hastily withdrawing his head.
"This shed is to be searched again."

"We must just chance it then," grunted Tony.  "It's a bad scrape we're
in, but we were lucky the other day.  If this fellow does find us in
here, why, we must just silence the two of them.  It's their lives or
our liberty, and I'm determined to get out of their hands.  Lie low, old
boy, and if these coves spot us it'll be the worse for them."

Tony shook his stick threateningly, and was on the point of launching
into an elaborate explanation of the exact punishment he would mete out
to the Cossack who had promised his friends to thrash the fugitives,
when the door of the shed was thrown open with a bang, and the two
Russians reeled in.

"Search the loft, comrade," said the big man authoritatively.  "This
spirit of our friend's is good and powerful stuff, and my legs are none
too steady."

The man did as he was told, and, peeping through the window, Phil
watched him laboriously climbing to the loft, looking as though he might
lose his grip and fall at any moment.

The big man stood still for a second, stroking his beard.  Then,
evidently struck once more by the appearance of the covered carriage, he
crept towards it.

"What is this?" he muttered loudly when a few paces away.  "Is it the
vodka, or did I turn that handle and leave it so?"  With an effort he
pulled himself together; suddenly remembering that he had indeed turned
the handle and neglected to restore it to its usual position, and
realising that it was now closed, he gave a drunken shout and rushed at
the door.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

ALMOST TRAPPED.

The sight of a burly, black-bearded Russian of forbidding aspect,
half-maddened moreover by drink, rushing at one's hiding-place, is
calculated to inspire the bravest with trepidation, and in the case of
Phil and Tony it can be recorded, without fear of their incurring the
epithet of coward, that both were more than a little alarmed for their
safety.  But they were in a cage--in an extremely tight corner without
doubt--and, rendered desperate by the knowledge, and that recapture
meant, if not death, certainly ill-treatment, they determined to make a
light for it.

"Silence him at all costs," Phil whispered rapidly.  "Let him pull the
door open, and then drag him in.  I leave it to you to silence him,
Tony."

"Ay, I'll do that, never fear," was the hurried answer in a tone which
showed that though a handkerchief as a gag had possibly occurred to the
gallant Tony as a method, yet he knew of other and surer means.

A second later the handle was wrenched open, and the door flew back with
a bang, while the Cossack almost fell into the carriage.

There was a swish and a sounding crash, and he flopped into the hay
limply, stunned by a heavy blow from Tony's club, which, had it not been
for the thick astrakhan hat the Russian wore, would have settled his
fate there and then.

His helpless body was instantly dragged into the corner and a hurried
consultation held.

"We've got to fix up that other chap," said Tony grimly.  "Now his pal's
gone the fat's in the fire."

"No doubt about it, Tony," agreed Phil.  "We must silence both.  Let us
get out and wait near the door for the other fellow.  We can leave this
man for the present, for that crack you gave him will keep him quiet for
a time."

Tony chuckled.

"And he was the chap as was going to tie us up and whop us!" he said,
with huge enjoyment.  "He was going to give us a taste of the rope!  He
shall have some himself soon, but for the present the dose of stick will
suit him."

Shaking his club at the unconscious man, he followed Phil out of the
carriage and closed the door.  Both crawled beneath the cart till close
to the niches down which the Russian must climb, and waited eagerly for
his appearance.  But there was not a sound above, and nothing but the
certainty that he had ascended to the loft to convince them that he was
there still.

"What has happened to him?" asked Phil.  "Do you think he heard the
noise below, and has escaped through the trap-door?"

"Not he," Tony answered with assurance.  "He's up there, p'r'aps hiding,
but most like dead asleep.  Listen.  Perhaps we'll hear him."

There was a minute's silence, when both heard heavy snoring from the
loft, and looked at one another, uncertain how to proceed.

"We're in a fix," said Phil shortly.  "We dare not move out of this till
nightfall, for the surrounding country is open; and we cannot leave this
fellow asleep up there.  He may pull himself together at any moment and
search for his friend.  Also if we climb up to him we are likely to
rouse him, and he will give the alarm before he can be silenced."

"Yes, it's a real fix, Phil; but we've got to get out of it," muttered
Tony, scratching his head in bewilderment.  "Why not sing out to him in
his own lingo and tell him to come down?" he suddenly suggested.  "Then
as he gets close to the ground we can nobble him."

"Of course; just the thing;" and Phil, who had heard Petroff address his
friend as "Nicholas", called to him in a low voice.

At first there was no response; but presently the man above moved, and
they heard him grumble something, and evidently turn over to sleep
again.

"Nicholas, here are the English.  Remember our reward," cried Phil in a
harsh tone.

"Ah, what?" they heard the man say.  Then there were sounds as if he had
risen to his feet and fallen again.  But he was evidently fully aroused,
and soon his legs appeared through the opening above searching for the
first of the niches.  He found it, and commenced to descend, while Phil
and Tony crept a little closer and prepared to dart out from beneath the
shelter of the cart and overpower him.  Suddenly there was an oath as
one foot slipped from its hold, then a sharp cry of fear, and before
either Phil or Tony could utter an exclamation, the unhappy Cossack,
overpowered by drink, had lost his hold and fallen like a sack to the
ground, where he lay huddled in a heap, while a crimson stream ran from
his ears and nose.

Phil crept to his side and found that he was dead.

"We are saved our trouble," he said sorrowfully.  "The poor fellow has
smashed his skull.  What's to be done, Tony?"

His friend looked blankly round and shook his head.

"Blest if I know, Phil!  Here we are with two Russian coves, one of them
dead, and here we've got to stick for a matter of four hours and more.
It beats me.  The farmer chap saw them both come in here, and it won't
take long for him to search.  It's a regular fixer."

"And the worst of it is too, Tony, that if we are found with this dead
man we shall be accused of having killed him.  I have it.  We'll hoist
him to the loft again, and place the other fellow alongside him.  Then
we'll take up our quarters there.  If we are discovered we can make a
good fight for it, and if the farmer comes in search he may think his
unwelcome visitors have left the shed to investigate some other spot and
will return to his house."

Tony looked at his friend as if to say, "Well, you're a good 'un," and,
without venturing on a remark, stepped to the wall and returned with the
traces which had already served as a rope.  One of these was buckled
round the dead man, and the other trace attached.  Then both climbed
into the loft and hoisted their burden after them.  Another trip and the
still unconscious figure of their enemy Petroff was dragged up beside
them.  The harness was returned to its peg, and with a hasty glance
round to make sure that there was nothing about the shed to show that a
struggle had taken place within it, Phil and Tony climbed into the
hay-loft and sat down to regain their breath and rest after their
exertions.

Two hours passed almost in silence, when Phil suddenly slapped his knee
and gave a sharp exclamation of delight.

"We'll reach our friends yet, old man," he said enthusiastically.  "I've
thought the whole thing over and have decided what to do.  At first I
imagined that our best way would be to relieve these gentlemen of their
clothing in exchange for ours.  But it would not do.  If we were
captured it would mean a file of muskets at six in the morning, for we
should certainly be condemned as spies."

Tony grunted hoarsely, showing that he had a decided dislike to this
arrangement.

"But though we do not take their clothes, we will make free with their
swords and ponies," continued Phil, "and so soon as it is dark we will
get away from this.  By riding at night, and making allowances for the
wide detours we shall be compelled to undertake, we should reach our
friends in three days at most.  We have still a large piece of meat
left, and with that and the bread that remains, and an occasional drink
of water, we must be satisfied.  Now we'll secure this fellow.  Slip
down and get some of that harness, like a brick, will you, Tony?"

That evening, soon after dusk had fallen, two stealthy figures crept
from the shed, and stole towards the outhouse in which the Cossack
ponies were kept.  The door was only latched, and, waiting merely to
slip on the bridles and tighten the girths, the two adventurous
Englishmen vaulted into the saddle and rode out into the night.  They
were not gone many minutes when the farmer, wondering at the prolonged
absence of the Cossacks, and having seen them turn their ponies into the
shed, came to see if the animals were still there, and, finding them
gone, returned in anything but a pleasant mood to his house.

"Those two brutes are gone, wife," he said testily.  "They have not even
thanked us for our hospitality, nor paid for the vodka which they drank.
May it kill them then is all that I wish!"

Had he but known it, his unkind thought had already been partially
accomplished, for in his hay-loft one of the Cossacks lay dead, a victim
indeed to the fiery spirit, while the second, destined for many days to
be sick in his house, and demand careful nursing and feeding at his
expense, reclined, unconscious, in a heap of straw, bound hand and foot,
but left ungagged, a circumstance of which he took advantage early in
the morning by screaming for help at the top of his voice.

Once more returning to the post-road, Phil and Tony rode along it
quietly, only the jangle of their Cossack swords breaking the silence.
Three hours later a line of watch-fires in the distance told them that
they were approaching the Russian field-army, and warned them to find
some safe hiding-place.

"They are seven or eight miles away at least," said Tony, "and we are
lucky to have spotted them so soon."

"Yes, Tony, we are," Phil remarked thoughtfully.  "We are still more
lucky, for this side they will have only a few pickets and outposts, and
we must be far outside their circle.  Also they will not be expecting
anything.  I fancy our best course will be to ride to our left, keeping
the lights at the same distance as now.  Then we will choose some sort
of a shelter, on high ground if possible, so that to-morrow we can see
what direction to take.  Once past those troops, Tony, and safely
through the scouts who are certain to be watching our fellows, we shall
be back in the British camp."

"Safe in the British camp.  Yes," echoed Tony, "and I hopes stowing away
the first decent feed for many a long day now.  Coffee and bread's all
right, but my strength is just going for the want of meat."

More than two hours later, and just before the dawn broke, they rode
their ponies into a big vineyard situated on the slope of a hill which
seemed to command the camp.

Daylight discovered a splendid panorama spread out before them, for they
had been unconsciously but steadily ascending all night, and now were at
such an elevation that they could see, beyond the Chersonese heights,
Sebastopol in the far-off distance, merged in a haze of sea and land,
and only distinguishable by the whiteness of its masonry; while directly
beneath them, as it seemed, lay the Russian camp, seething with horses
and troops, which were very soon to try the fortunes of war with their
adversaries.

To the right of the Chersonese heights another line of rugged hills
stretched as far as the river Tchernaya, which could be seen winding
here and there, and flashing back the sun.  Along these heights ran the
Woronzoff road, branching off before it reached the river, and, running
parallel and at some distance from it, deflected by other heights, known
as the Kamara.  To the right of these was a deep valley, the
ever-memorable "Valley of the Shadow of Death", opposite which, by
straining their eyes and shading them with their hands, the broad folds
of the grand flag of England could be distinguished flaunting in the
breeze, even at that distance, so clear was the atmosphere.

Phil pointed it out to Tony.

"That's the place for us," he said shortly, "and we must manage to get
into that valley.  After that all will be plain sailing.  But it's a big
job.  I fancy I can make out earthworks along that road you see upon the
heights, and, if I am not mistaken, there is a large camp to the right,
resting by a collection of houses close to the river."

Tony followed the direction of Phil's finger, and gazed long and
earnestly.

"It's a camp, Phil," he agreed, "and I suppose it ain't likely to lie
British.  Tothers is earthworks, I think, and manned with guns, or I'm a
wrong 'un.  Look! you can see one against the sky-line.  If they are our
batteries, all the better.  But in any case I am for steering clear of
them, and cutting into the valley."

"Yes, I think so too, Tony; and now, how to get there.  We are well to
the left of the Russian camp below us.  By keeping still more so, we
ought to reach that big clump of houses and vineyards you see over there
before the morning, and next time the night falls I hope we shall be
able to answer an English challenge."

Had they but known it, Phil and Tony were to meet with more than one
adventure before the well-known "Halt!  Who goes there?" struck upon
their ears, for this was the 23rd of October, and on the 25th that small
camp down by the river Tchernaya was to be swollen by the emptying of
the one directly below them, and the Russians were to try conclusions
with the Allies.

It was destined to be a brilliant spectacle, and brimful of gallant
deeds--one more striking than all the rest, and to find a lasting place
in the history of our race, a deed of dare-devilry and sheer disregard
of life and limb which Phil and Tony were never to forget, and the
honour of their having taken part in it will ever be cherished by their
descendants.

Having made a thorough survey of the scene below them, Phil and his
friend removed the saddles and bridles from their ponies, and replaced
the latter with a halter attached to the saddle.  Then, finding a stream
near at hand, Tony watered them and led them back to the vineyard, where
he secured them in a part completely obscured from view.  Meanwhile Phil
crept out to a shed at the end of the vines, and returned with a large
armful of hay.  That done they ate some of their bread and meat, and,
flinging themselves down in the shadow of the vines, were soon fast
asleep.

The sun was low down in the heavens and fast sinking when Phil awoke,
and, rubbing his eyes, kicked Tony playfully.

"Up you get, old chap," he cried cheerfully.  "We'll have a meal, and
then make for that clump of trees.  Let us have one more good look at it
before the night falls.  See! by striking a little to the left we shall
get into that narrow valley, and by keeping to it shall be going
directly for our goal."

Tony sprang to his feet, and, thrusting his stout stick through his
belt, joined Phil in an open spot, from which, unseen, they could look
down towards Sebastopol.

A curious figure he was too--more like a scarecrow than a British
soldier.  A short stubbly beard covered his chin, while a flaming red
handkerchief was tied round his head in place of his bearskin, lost long
ago now at the Alma.  His red tunic was tattered and stained with mud,
and his trousers hung in rags round his boots.

As for Phil, he was in no better plight; but still, strange to say, he
looked spruce and neat beside his rough companion, the short fair down
upon his cheeks scarcely showing, and contrasting most favourably with
Tony's spiky beard.

"Right again, young 'un!" agreed the latter, evidently in the highest
spirits.  "We'll lie up over there to-night, and then make a dash for
it.  That sleep has just put new life into me, and now I'm ready for
anything; and I tell yer, Phil, it's got to be five to one afore I gives
in to the Russians.  Let's have a look at this here toothpick;" and he
dragged his sword, a heavy cavalry sabre, from its sheath.  "Sharp as a
razor," he remarked, with a grim smile, feeling the edge.  "All the
better.  It's got plenty of weight too, and once I wants to use it,
blest if I don't make it cut clean through the head of one of our
Cossack friends."

He swished the sword round in the air, narrowly missing Phil in his
eagerness.  Then, thrusting it back into the sheath, he stalked across
to the ponies and commenced to saddle up.

That night they reached the vineyard close against the heights bearing
the Woronzoff road, and in it they passed the following day, devouring
an abundance of grapes, which were perfectly ripe, and served to keep
off the pangs of hunger, now that their bread and meat had disappeared.

When darkness fell again they were fully prepared for the last dash.  A
nek between two stunted hills forming the ridge of heights had been
chosen, and through this they were to ride into the valley, and from
there into the British camp.  Crowning the heights they could discern
three batteries, but no flag flew above them, though the fact that the
guns, which were now clearly distinguishable, were turned towards the
opposite Kamara heights, in occupation by the Russians, pointed
conclusively to the fact that they were manned by the Allies.

"They are our batteries undoubtedly," said Phil when discussing the
question with his friend, "but for all that, I propose we slip between
them, and make for our own camp.  They may be occupied by the French or
Turks, and as we could not answer their challenge, and our speech is as
likely to be taken for Russian as for English, we should run a great
chance of being shot or bayoneted before they discovered which side we
belonged to.  No, decidedly, I am for slipping through."

Tony expressed his approval, and indeed it was the wisest course to
take, for as it turned out the batteries were manned by Turks, who, on
the following day, were to defend them valiantly, and the majority of
whom were to lose their lives in doing so.

At last the moment for setting forth arrived, and the state of
excitement into which Phil and Tony had worked themselves may be
imagined.  This was the last struggle for freedom, the trump card upon
which their fortunes depended.  If they failed to pass unnoticed through
the ground intervening between themselves and the batteries no doubt a
hoard of Cossack scouts would be quickly on their track, like vultures
on their prey, for the waning light had shown numbers of these shaggy
horsemen dotting the plain below.  Still, the risk was no greater than
that which they had already run, and, buoyed with the hope of liberty on
the morrow, and, as Tony did not forget to mention again, a substantial
meal for the first time for many a long day, they vaulted into their
saddles and commenced to ride from the vineyard.

"Hark!  What is that?" asked Phil suddenly, in a subdued tone of alarm.
"I am certain I heard something over there;" and he pointed towards the
Kamara heights.

Both listened intently, and distinctly heard the rumble of distant
wheels, and a dull, heavy sound as though of a large force of men
approaching.

"Back for our lives!" cried Phil excitedly.  "It must be the Russian
troops coming this way.  We must watch them, Tony."

"Ay, it's the enemy right enough," muttered Tony angrily.  "Phil, them
chaps is always coming up against us and spoiling our fun.  First they
stopped us from carrying that colour back, and then blest if a Cossack
cove didn't try for to keep us when we was bolting from the camp.  He
paid for that, he did, and I expect he'll be more careful in the future.
Then them drunken swabs turned us out of what was house and home, if
yer can call an old rickety carriage such.  Law! what a jolly time we
give them too!  And now they are after us again, the brutes!" and with a
grunt of disgust Tony dragged the club from his belt, silently
determining to fight the whole Russian army, if need be, and to help his
comrade back to liberty.

"Hush!  Can't you keep quiet?" whispered Phil sharply.  "Follow me
through the vineyard.  The road runs close beside the farther end, and
we must hide there and watch."

Somewhat abashed, Tony followed, and soon both were crouching within, a
few yards of the road.  A few minutes later a front guard of Cossacks
passed like so many silent ghosts.  Then field-guns and
ammunition-wagons rumbled by, followed by battalions of infantry, and by
regiments of Cossack horse.  It was an impressive sight, especially when
the Russian horsemen filed by, for in front of each regiment rode the
commander, superbly mounted, and chanting a song, while behind him came
other horsemen, clashing cymbals, to the accompaniment of which the
whole regiment took up the refrain, and sang with voices far more
melodious than could be expected from rough soldiers.

"There is some big movement on," whispered Phil, "and I fear our
difficulties in getting through will be vastly increased.  Still, I am
for trying to-night.  To-morrow we might be hunted out of this.  What do
you say to our joining the stragglers, who are certain to follow the
main body?  The night is too dark for them to recognise us except when
close at hand."

"Seems to me a likely way out of the fix," agreed Tony, after a moment's
consideration.  "There won't be many of them, and if one happens to spot
us, why--it'll be his own fault, Phil.  Yes, we'll follow, and by
keeping reasonably near we shall see where these fellows bivouac, and
have a better chance of slipping through."

Accordingly they waited till the army had got a quarter of a mile away,
and then fell in behind.  Occasionally stragglers passed them, and once
a squadron of horsemen galloped by; but, taking the two solitary figures
for scouts, they swept on without a word.  An hour later they were
beyond the Russian camp and ascending the nek.  No one seemed to be
about, and they were not challenged.  Once over the summit they turned
abruptly to the left, and rode down into the valley, keeping close to
the heights.  But here again another difficulty faced them.  Watch-fires
twinkled in every direction, some undoubtedly being Russian, and,
fearful of falling into the enemy's hands, or what would perhaps be
equally bad, stumbling against a French or Turkish outpost, and being
shot before an explanation could be given, they once more selected a
vineyard and bivouacked there till the day broke, hoping to be able then
to make a dash for the British camp.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

BALACLAVA.

The dawn of October 25th broke dull and chill.  Banks of fog hung over
the heights, and the "Valley of the Shadow of Death" lay hidden in mist,
as if cloaked already with a funeral pall.  Blades of grass and leaves
drooped with the added weight of the moisture, and Phil and Tony,
crouching in their vineyard, shivered and longed for the sun to rise and
bring warmth and cheerfulness.

A gentle breeze was blowing, and, freshening, it soon cleared the fog
away, while the mist in the valley disappeared mysteriously a little
later.  It had scarcely done so when the boom of guns on the Russian
side of the heights which the two friends had crossed during the night
broke on their ears, while flashes from four points on the summit, and
still louder reports, showed that the Turkish batteries, between which
they had passed, were hotly engaged.

Situated as they were, close to the end of the Causeway heights, along
which ran the Woronzoff road, Phil and his friend were in an excellent
position to view a large portion of the historical battle which was now
commencing.  Facing across the valley, with the Chersonese height on
their left, they looked towards the river Tchernaya, and a group of low
hills, known as the Fedioukine heights, already manned by Russian guns
and infantry.  And now they gazed upon a wonderful sight.  A Russian
army of 25,000 infantry, 34 squadrons of cavalry, and 78 guns was
commencing its march, intending to cross the Causeway heights, descend
into the valley south of that ridge, and capture the harbour of
Balaclava and all our stores of food and military equipment.  And
between them and their goal were interposed 4 Turkish batteries with 9
guns in all, the foremost being two miles in advance of its nearest
infantry support, which consisted of some 500 of the 93rd Highlanders
under command of the famous Sir Colin Campbell, a few Turks, and a
battery of horse artillery.  In addition, some 600 horsemen, belonging
to Scarlett's Heavy Brigade, lay in the valley south of the Causeway
heights, while 600 sabres, composing the Light Brigade, sat on their
horses at the opening of the Tchernaya valley--the valley now better
known as that of the Shadow of Death, and within a short mile of Phil
and Tony.

"What can be happening?" asked Phil, in a voice scarcely above a
whisper.  "The guns we hear must be those belonging to the army that
marched past us last night, and the cavalry are certainly the same who
sang while they filed by in the darkness.  What does it all mean, Tony?
There must be some huge movement afoot, for I have never seen so many
men marching together, save when the Allies advanced on the Alma."

"And now it's the Russians advancing towards the camp of the Allies,"
Tony answered thoughtfully.  "What's their game? you're asking, Phil.
Why shouldn't it be Balaclava?  The harbour is just chock-full of
British shipping, and, if that was captured, where should we be without
our stores of grub and ammunition?  Nowhere.  That's their plan, I can
tell you.  Depend upon it, that is what they're up to; but you'll see
how it will end.  I give them a couple of hours to play about in, and
after that our chaps will drive 'em off the field."

"Then I hope we shall have a chance of joining friends soon, Tony, for
to be compelled to sit here and watch the battle would be harder luck
than we bargained for.  But look at the Russian army.  What a grand
sight it makes!"

And indeed the greatest enemy of Russia, with mind morbidly awry with
jealousy and dislike, could not look upon that advancing army and fail
to admire.

Steadily, and with a swing which told of long practice in marching, the
infantry advanced in thick columns, rifles at the slope and caps well
set back upon their heads.  And between them and on either flank rumbled
heavy cannon, the drivers holding in their horses as yet, while they
turned eager eyes to the left to watch their more fortunate companions
who at the moment were engaging the Turkish redoubts.  Beyond the guns,
and away in front of all, rode the huge force of cavalry, squadron upon
squadron, riding knee to knee and listening to the music of the guns and
the jingle of their own equipment.

Amidst the cavalry the flash of polished brass would occasionally be
seen, while sometimes, as the squadrons moved apart for the moment, a
battery of small field-guns came to view, the bright metal sparkling in
the sun.  But though a casual glance might suggest the idea that these
were merely toys, given to the cavalry to play with, yet the day was not
to pass before the men who manned these tiny field-guns were to show
that, protected by horsemen and capable of an extremely rapid advance
and retreat, these same batteries became a formidable item when fired at
moderately-close range.

"Yes, they make a very fine sight," Phil admitted, to himself again,
"and I only wish I thought that we could beat them as easily as Tony
suggests.  I wonder what our troops are doing!"

Turning his eyes to the left he swept them along the Chersonese heights,
and saw a long line of infantry there hurrying towards Balaclava, while
on an eminence to the left a brilliantly-dressed group suddenly
appeared, and, lifting telescopes, fixed them upon the Russians.  It was
Lord Raglan and his staff.

Lowering his eyes still more, Phil swept them along the valley, and soon
hit upon the Heavy Brigade, looking, even at that distance, a most
formidable body of men, while their horses, laden with cavalry saddles
of great weight and a considerable amount of kit, seemed huge when
compared to the Cossack animals.

Passing from Scarlett's famous "Heavies", Phil's eyes then lit upon the
600 troopers of the Light Brigade.  Bright, gallant fellows they looked
as they sat there jauntily upon their saddles and slowly rode up the
valley.  And little did Phil and Tony, and for the matter of that
hundreds more who looked upon them in the early hours of that morning,
imagine that, long ere the sun set again and the grey mist fell upon
hill and valley, more than half of those fine horsemen would be silent
and still for ever.

Slowly, and as if careless of the huge mass of the enemy, they rode up
the valley till the mile which separated them from Phil and Tony was
considerably decreased.

There were friends close at hand, and, saddling up hurriedly, the two
prepared to gallop across to them.  But now a turn in the fortune of
battle changed their plans, for, gallantly clinging to their position,
the Turks holding the battery on the extreme left nearest the Russians
had been decimated by a storm of shell, while, before they could think
of retiring, 11,000 grey-coated infantry came rushing up at them.  What
could a mere handful of men do in the circumstances?  They broke and
fled, and, seeing this, their comrades in the other redoubts also took
to their heels.  Instantly a cloud of Russian horse burst from their
ranks, and, sweeping into the plain, made short work of the flying
gunners.

Phil and Tony looked on, disconcerted, for to ride across to the Light
Brigade now would mean almost certain destruction.

"Done again by those Cossacks!" grumbled Tony, who took all the enemy's
horsemen to be Cossacks.  "Done brown this time, Phil!"

"We'll have to wait, that's all," said Phil, with a sigh of resignation.
"We are safe here, and it won't be long before those fellows ride back.
See! they are already riding up the heights on our right after the
Turks who bolted into the other valley."

This was the case, and to follow the movement we must for the moment
leave the valley into which Phil looked, and ride with the Russian
horsemen over the Causeway heights.

Scarcely heard upon the springy turf, the horses' feet strike hard and
ring with a sound of iron upon the beaten path, and then the thunder of
a thousand hoofs dies down again as if by magic, and he who rides with
the fiery Cossack horsemen hears only the dull stamp upon the yielding
grass, and the clatter and jangle of sabres and accoutrements.  And when
the summit is topped, another valley comes into view, running almost
parallel with that just left behind, and merely separated from it by the
Causeway heights, the slopes of which gently fall in rolling stretches
of green till the bottom is reached.  From there the grass runs on,
undulating in big waves, sometimes falling and sometimes rising, till at
last an upward sweep brings the rider to a crest from which the narrow
basin of Balaclava can be seen.

Yes, there it is, a fairy pool set in this wide stretch of green, and
bearing upon its flashing surface a host of vessels, anchored and
crowded close together.  There, too, is its narrow entrance, scarcely
wide enough to pass in two vessels side by side, and there, close beside
its shores, is an array of huts already filled with stores, while
outside, boxes of biscuit and barrels of salt pork are piled in huge
stacks which overtop and completely swamp the dwellings.

And where is the defending force?  Where are the men told off to protect
this most important harbour and its valuable contents?  The rider stares
and gasps with astonishment when all he sees is a handful of kilted men
standing to arms upon the sloping grass leading to the harbour.  Long
ago their paucity of numbers was known to the enemy, and now the Russian
commander sends his Cossacks against them, hoping to sweep them aside
and capture the harbour.

Rallying to their comrades, a thousand lances swept down against the
thin line of 93rd Highlanders.  It was a sufficiently imposing array to
have scattered a stronger body of troops, but the brawny kilted warriors
were maddened by the sight of the unhappy Turks being cut down in their
flight, and moreover, at that moment a ludicrous affair set them roaring
with laughter.  They had received as supports some Turkish troops, and
these, having no stomach for a cavalry encounter, fled from the ranks.

"Let 'em go," muttered one Highlander, with a laugh.  "We come out here
to fight for those chaps, and see how they help us.  We'll turn the
cowards into servants."

But one at least was roused to indignation.  One of the women of the
regiment struggled amongst the Turks, belabouring them with a club, and,
catching one big fellow at this moment, thrashed him soundly, ordering
him between every stroke, and in shrill falsetto, to return to the
fighting-line.

Roars of laughter and cheers ascended from the thin line of Highlanders,
and laughing still they were, and bandying jokes with one another, when
the Russians swept down upon them.

"Back, lads! back!" shouted Sir Colin, waving his sword, and having to
do his utmost to keep his eager men from rushing down upon the enemy.
Then came the sharp command to fire, and, a second discharge following,
the Russians broke and fled.

And meanwhile the widely-separated regiments composing the heavy brigade
of cavalry were quietly riding along the valley, keeping the Causeway
heights on their left.  Suddenly Scarlett, who was in advance with 300
of the Greys and Inniskillings, saw a perfect forest of lances upon the
summit of the heights, and not more than 600 yards away.  Three thousand
Russian cavalry had just come into view, and, seeing the British horse,
their trumpets rang out shrill, and like an avalanche they dashed down
the slopes.  Scarlett's decision was taken in a moment.  "In any case it
must mean death and destruction," he thought.  "Better to meet the enemy
face to face than ride across their front and be cut to pieces."

"Left wheel into line," the gallant old fellow shouted, and as calmly as
if manoeuvring at home the squadrons took up their new position.  And
then--think of the audacity and coolness of the action--they were
halted, while the officers, facing round, dressed the line, which had
been somewhat broken by rough ground.  And a stubborn line it proved to
dress, for not a man but leaned forward in his saddle, cursing the
delay, and eager to fly forward.  Hoarse growls arose from the ranks,
and troopers snatched angrily at their bridles, pulling their horses
back upon their haunches, well knowing all the while that it was
themselves and not the willing animals they bestrode that needed curbing
at that moment.

"Had not Greys and Inniskillings led the field, charging side by side at
Waterloo?" each man asked himself.  "Yes, their ancestors were on that
glorious battle-ground; and were they, their descendants, to be kept
back now? 300 against 3000 charging down upon them.  What mattered the
odds?"

Well was it that Scarlett delayed no longer, for his men were out of
hand.  "Charge!" he roared, his eyes blazing with excitement.

His trumpeter sounded the call, and away went the gallant band, their
fine old colonel fifty yards in advance of them, mounted on a remarkably
big horse.

And the Russians, seeing this spectacle, halted.  Three thousand of them
halted and pondered--almost wavered with doubt.

Crash!  The gallant old colonel had struck the mass and cleft into its
very heart, and following him, with a fierce shout of exultation, 300
men rushed in, and were instantly lost to view, nothing but plunging
horses and flashing swords being visible.  Truly it was a marvellous
sight, and the 93rd, together with the First and Fourth Divisions, who
were marching down in support, held their breath and halted to see what
next would happen.  They had not long to wait.  Gathering pace as they
advanced, the 4th Dragoons, who were some way in rear of Scarlett's 300,
thundered down upon the Russian flank, and with never a pause swept
right through the mass of cavalry from flank to flank, leaving a lane of
wounded and killed and frantically struggling horses in its path.

Ah! it was grand work that Britain's sons were doing for their Queen
that day, but more was yet to follow, for with hoarse shouts and the
fierce lust for battle in their eyes, the Royals, the 5th Dragoons, and
another squadron of Inniskillings burst upon the Russians, cut their way
to join their gallant colonel, and, crumpling the enemy on every side,
finally put them to flight.  Three thousand flying for their lives from
a sixth of their numbers!  Truly it was a great day for Britain, and at
the final act a perfect torrent of hoarse cheers burst from the
onlookers, head-gear was tossed into the air, and men turned and shook
each other heartily by the hand, blessing the fact that these fine
cavalry fellows were their brothers, and that they had the fortune to be
their countrymen.

And now let us return to the valley on the right slope of which Phil and
Tony lay in hiding.  Unconscious of what had happened, and yet aware by
the rattle of distant musketry and the heavy booming of guns that a
battle of large proportions was in progress, they itched to be moving so
as to rejoin the battalion of Grenadier Guards and take their share in
the fight.

"Bother those fellows!  When will they clear off and give us a chance?"
exclaimed Phil impatiently, anathematising the Cossack skirmishers who
still galloped about on the plain beneath in search of more fugitives.

"Why do not our horse attack them?  The Light Brigade might easily sweep
the whole lot up and give us the opportunity of joining them as they
rode by.  And we'd take it, Tony," he added enthusiastically.  "We have
some scores to settle, and once the chance comes we'll have a smack at
those Cossacks."

"Never fear, Phil.  Take it easy, old horse.  The day is only just
beginning, and our chance will come.  Do yer think all them cavalry of
ours will sit still and do nothing?  Bet yer life they'll be sweeping up
here soon.  Ah!  Glad we stuck here so long.  Look at them fellers
returning."

Tony pointed to a horde of mounted Russians, the flower of their
cavalry, which at this moment swarmed in disorder over the Causeway
heights, and swept down into the Tchernaya valley, still too much
unnerved to draw rein after their defeat by the Heavy Brigade.

"That looks well," muttered Phil.  "We saw those fellows ride over half
an hour ago as cocksure of victory as possible.  They've evidently had
rough handling.  Why on earth does not the commander of our Light
Brigade charge them?  He could take them in flank, and, broken as they
are, he could cut them to pieces.  Charge!  Why don't you charge?" he
shouted excitedly, standing up and raising his voice to the highest
pitch as though it could possibly reach right across to the Light
Brigade.

"Come down," cried Tony fiercely, dragging his friend to the ground.
"I'm ashamed of yer, young 'un.  You'll be giving the whole show away,
and one of them Cossack chaps will be riding for us.  Wait and we'll
have a go at 'em yet.  Yah! why don't yer charge?" he said bitterly,
shaking his fist at the distant British cavalry.

But though the Light Brigade were ready enough for anything, as was yet
to be shown, their colonel still held them back.  Posted as they were,
at the mouth of the valley and on some rising ground, they too had
witnessed every incident of the battle.  They had seen the gallant
charge of the `Heavies', and they bit their lips and swore beneath their
breath, itching to be let loose, and show their comrades that they too
could ride straight, ay, and fight too, till death settled their account
if need be.  As the Russian cavalry came flying in clouds over the
Causeway heights, their eagerness made them almost unmanageable, and
loud growls of anger and vexation came from the ranks.  But Lord
Cardigan, who was in command, had orders to defend his position, and to
strike at anything that came within distance of him.  Undoubtedly this
was the opportunity he should have taken, but he chose to forego it, and
thereby allowed the Russians to escape, while his men looked on and
fumed with rage and disappointment, and Tony and Phil hid in the
vineyard and thought all manner of awful things.

But now the enemy commenced to remove the guns from the captured Turkish
redoubt, and an order reached Lord Lucan--who commanded the combined
brigades of cavalry, heavy and light--to recapture the Causeway heights.
Lord Raglan had, however, omitted to provide the necessary infantry
supports, and in consequence the movement was delayed.  Then a second
and more peremptory order was sent to Lord Lucan, by means of Nolan, a
noted cavalry officer, who believed that all things were possible with
that arm of the service.

_Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front_, it
ran, _and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns_.

"To the front?  What front?  Surely not right up the valley and into the
very jaws of the Russian army!" everyone will mutter.

Lord Lucan also was bewildered.  Long ago the captured Turkish redoubts
had sunk into insignificance, and the guns now most in evidence were
those right up the valley.  That too was "front" to Lord Lucan.  Then
what could be the meaning of this message?  "Attack what?  What guns are
we to attack?" he asked anxiously, fixing his eyes upon the batteries on
the Causeway heights, and then upon those at the tip of the valley.

"There," replied Captain Nolan, with something akin to a sneer, and in
tones which angered Lord Lucan.  "There, my lord, is your enemy, and
there your guns."  And he pointed away up the valley to the Russian
batteries occupying a commanding position nearly two miles away.

It was a monstrous error, for how could horsemen hope to live and be
effective after such a ride, when cannon fired directly into their
front, while the heights on either side, converging to the apex occupied
by the battery, were lined by more guns and by infantry in huge numbers.
On whose shoulders rests the onus of the terrible error it is almost
impossible to state.  Had less ambiguous orders been issued it would
never have occurred, and a deed of daring, unparalleled in war, would
never have been recorded in the annals of heroic struggles to which
England is ever adding.

Lord Lucan transmitted the order to Lord Cardigan in person.  The latter
saluted, and pointed out the desperate nature of the undertaking, but
being told that there was no choice but to obey, turned and gave the
command, "The brigade will advance!"

"By George!  They are off," cried Phil, who had been watching the Light
Brigade intently.  "Get ready, Tony.  You were right; our chance has
come at last."

Both tightened their girths and prepared to dash out, for the direction
the cavalry were taking would bring them close at hand.

"It's a charge right enough," cried Tony excitedly, "and I'm going to be
one of 'em!  Come out!" and with a whirr he dragged his sabre out of the
sheath.

"Good heavens! look at what is happening!" cried Phil aghast.  For the
Light Brigade had suddenly swerved away from the Causeway heights.  "I
thought they were to attack the Turkish redoubts, but they are heading
right up to the centre of the Russian army.  It is madness! sheer
suicide!"

At this moment they saw a horseman, the unhappy Nolan, gallop
transversely across the now fast-galloping Light Brigade.  He had
discovered the terrible mistake, and attempted to set it right, but a
shell from the battery in front burst with a roar in front of him, and
killed him instantly.

"Now for it, Tony," shouted Phil, kicking the ribs of his pony.  "We'll
join our friends at all costs, and see more fighting before we die."

"Hurrah!  I'm with yer, young 'un!  Who-hoop! at 'em for all we're
worth!"

Fortunately both ponies were fast and sturdy animals, and, still move
fortunately, Phil and Tony had had good practice on horseback when with
the menagerie.  They thrashed the animals with the flat of their sabres,
and, dashing down the hill, fell in beside the 4th light Dragoons, who,
with the 11th and 8th Hussars, formed the second attacking line, the
first being composed of the 17th Lancers and the 13th Light Dragoons.

Faster grew the pace, and still faster.  Men sat close down on their
saddles, and jerking their sword lanyards higher up their wrists,
clutched the hilts, and stared straight before them with a look of
enthusiasm in their eyes.  The blood of the British cavalry was up, for
as yet they rode silently, a warning sign to those whom they might come
against, for your Englishman does not shriek aloud.  He says things
beneath his breath till the moment comes, and then what a shout he
gives!

And as they charged, from either side and from the front, flame and
smoke belched out, and the valley echoed with the sound of exploding
cannon.  Shells shrieked overhead, rolled like huge cricket-balls along
the turf, and burst in the midst of the gallant horsemen, sweeping
scores to the ground.  And yet they did not flinch.  Instead they dug
their spurs still deeper, till they were actually racing for the Russian
enemy.

What a sight!  A green-clad valley, cloaked in eddying smoke, which was
rent asunder every second by a blinding flash; and through it, all that
remained of that galloping 600 now clearly visible, and a moment later
plunging deep into the reek and smoke of the cannon.

Suddenly the guns in front ceased to fire.  The first line, or rather
what was left of it, rode over them and dashed pell-mell into the
cavalry behind, breaking them and scattering them like chaff.  And now
came the moment for the second line, and for Phil and his friend.  It
was indeed a race, men and officers doing their utmost to outdistance
the others.  Long ago Phil had lost sight of his companion in the smoke,
but now a riderless horse, frenzied by fear, came up and thundered along
on either side of him.  Suddenly a ringing "Tally-ho!" came from some
officer in front, and with a roar of furious excitement the line rode
over the smoking guns and dashed full into a huge mass of Russian
cavalry.

Phil found himself still with the riderless horses alongside, amidst the
men of the 11th Hussars.  Standing in his stirrups, he leant over and
cut savagely at the grey-coats which seemed to rise up on either side of
him, while a loud hissing sound, produced by the excited Russians,
filled the air around.  There was a rush and a crash, and the horse on
his right was swept away.  He scarcely noticed it, but, seeing a comrade
at that moment fall in front of him, he pulled his pony in with a jerk,
and made such good play with his weapon that for a moment he kept the
long Cossack lances from the fallen man.

Whack!  A tremendous blow on his shoulder sent him flying from his
saddle to the ground, where, looking up, he was just in time to see Tony
standing in his stirrups with sabre raised on high.  Down it came on the
head of the man who had just struck him from his pony, and with a groan
the Russian flopped upon his horse's neck.

"Up!  Up yer get!" shouted Tony, laying about him with a will.  "Full
yourself together, old man."

Phil sprang to his feet, and, holding his sabre in his mouth, lifted the
prostrate form of the trooper.

"Hold on here, Tony," he cried.  "That's it.  Now wait a minute.  Those
horsemen have cleared away."

Rent asunder by the terrible British horse, the Russians had in fact
opened out and retired, disclosing the bulk of their army forming into
square close at hand.  Phil took advantage of the lull.

A riderless horse stood close at hand, and in a few seconds he was in
the saddle.  Then he sheathed his sabre, and, riding up to Tony, said:

"Now, hand him up here.  He's stunned by the fall."

"And what about getting back, mate?" asked Tony, still holding the man.
"It'll spoil yer chance.  They are certain to come after us."

"I'll run the risk of that.  Now, up with him, Tony," answered Phil
abruptly.

"Look here, old pal, this is my job," said Tony stubbornly.  "I owe yer
a score, and I'll take this fellow for yer."

It was a generous impulse which prompted the gallant fellow, for to
hamper one's retreat with the body of a comrade was practically certain
to lead to a fatal result.  But Phil ended the matter promptly.  His
eyes gleamed savagely, and though, when all was over, he thanked Tony
with tears in his eyes, yet now that his wishes were opposed, and he had
set his heart on the matter, his temper got the better of him.

"Hand him over," he hissed angrily.  "Come, there is no time to waste;
the men are falling-in again."

Tony looked as though he could have wept, but he helped to pull the
trooper up, and, having seen him into Phil's arms, fell in behind,
determined to bring his friend through or perish in the attempt.

"Rally, men! rally!" the officers were shouting, and at the sound the
troopers came hurrying up.  There was a short pause to allow stragglers
to regain the ranks, and then, setting their heads down the valley, the
remnant of that gallant 600 retreated at full gallop.

Bang! bang!  The guns were blazing at them again; from behind and on
either side grape and shell came shrieking at them.  Then suddenly came
the gleam of lances in front, and there stood a body of cavalry prepared
to hedge them in and make them prisoners.  As well set a mouse to catch
a lion!  These were the men who had ridden into the very "jaws of
death", into "the gates of hell"; and was one single regiment of cavalry
to bar their retreat when they had fearlessly attacked an immense army?
Ridiculous!  And bracing themselves once more, the British horsemen
swept them on either side as if with a broom, and torn, shattered,
bleeding, and exhausted, returned, still exulting, to their friends.

Heroes indeed!  Well has it been said of them, "Honour the Light
Brigade, noble six hundred!"



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

HONOUR FOR THE BRAVE.

Balaclava was saved, and the historical battle, which had, seen two
memorable cavalry charges, ended with the return of the Light Brigade.
But the redoubts on the Causeway heights still remained in the enemy's
hands, and Liprandi at once set about strengthening them, while
battalions of grey-coated infantry bivouacked, there, ready for instant
attack or defence.  The Allies therefore found themselves confronted by
a series of defences of formidable character, and barring their inlet to
Sebastopol, while within the town was an army greater in number than
their own, and from whom a sortie in force might be expected at any
moment, thus pinching them between two bodies of troops, both within
easy striking distance.  And of no less importance to the invaders was
the fact that winter was at hand, to be spent by them--and particularly
by the British, who were to suffer all the torments of starvation and
exposure, and amongst whom disease was destined to find many victims--in
one long struggle with privation and misery.

But to return to Phil and his friend.  Almost falling from their saddles
with fatigue, they rode slowly towards the Chersonese heights when once
they were out of range of the Russian guns.  By a miracle neither had
been hurt during the retreat, but already Phil felt the effects of the
blow across his shoulder.  His arm was stiff and almost powerless, while
the sabre with which he had been struck had cut through his clothing and
inflicted a nasty slash which had bled freely.  However the blood had
long since congealed, and a plentiful supply of strapping later on in
the day did all that was necessary.

At the mouth of the valley an officer dressed in the same uniform, as
the man Phil carried in his arms and accompanied by two troopers rode up
to him.

"You can hand over our comrade to these men," he said.  "Now, corporal,
what is your name and corps.  By your tunics you should be Guardsmen;
but how on earth you came to be with us in that glorious charge is more
than I can understand."

"We were taken prisoners at the Alma, sir," Phil answered, "and were
escaping and hoping to ride into the British lines upon two ponies which
we captured, when the battle commenced.  We both belong to the Grenadier
Guards."

The officer stared at Phil.

"Corporal Western by any chance?" he asked, with a lift of his eyebrows.

"Yes, sir," that is my name, "and this is the friend who was captured
with me."

To the absolute astonishment of the two young soldiers the officer shook
each in turn eagerly by the hand.

"Ah, my lads!" he said gaily, "we have heard of you already, and your
friends, I guarantee, will give you a lively welcome.  Let me tell you
that the affair of the flag has gone through the allied camp.
Lieutenant McNeil wrote a letter with all the particulars, and had it
passed through to as by the courtesy of the Russian general I expect
that there will be something waiting for you, and you thoroughly deserve
it.  As for this other matter, I shall take it in hand.  You are a
gallant fellow, Corporal Western, and saved that man's liberty if not
his life.  Now I must be off, but some day I shall hope to hear all
about the escape."

"Can you tell us where the Guards are?" asked Phil, after having thanked
the officer.

"Over there, Corporal;" and he pointed to a force of men returning along
the Chersonese heights.  "The First Division marched out early in the
morning, and by cutting across here you will reach camp almost as soon
as they do."

The officer rode off, and Phil and his friend turned their tired animals
to the heights and rode for the Guards' camp in silence, their thoughts
too much occupied by what they had heard to allow of speech.  Sundry
deep chuckles, however, told that Tony at least was immensely pleased at
something that had occurred.

Half an hour later, looking more like beggars than Guardsmen, they rode
into the camp.

"Let's ride straight up to our own mess and get something to eat,"
suggested Tony.  "I am fairly empty, and longing for some grub."

But the sight of two tattered Guardsmen riding through their lines was
too much for their comrades.

"Why, who are they?" they shouted, rushing forward to meet them.  Then,
recognising them, a man in Phil's company cried at the top of his voice,
"Hi, come along, mates!  Blow'd if Corporal Western and his pal ain't
come back to us.  Where do yer come from, Corporal?  And what's happened
to yer both since yer was taken?"

Men rushed forward and plied them with questions, and then, becoming
enthusiastic, they lifted the two young fellows from their saddles and
carried them shoulder-high through the camp.

It was a hearty greeting, for the men were anxious to do full honour to
their two comrades who had gained distinction at the Alma.  Very soon
the babel had roused the officers, and before Phil and his friends could
well collect their scattered senses, they were standing stiffly in front
of the colonel and his adjutant, war-worn, weary and bedraggled, but for
all that holding their heads erect, and quivering with excitement.

"What's this?  What is all this noise about?  Who are these two men?"
the former asked abruptly, gazing at them searchingly and failing to
recognise them.

"They are the corporal and man who helped to rescue Lieutenant McNeil's
colours, sir," the adjutant replied, looking at them proudly.  "They
belong to the regiment."

"Ah!" and the colonel's face beamed.  "Two of our brave fellows!  Yes, I
recognise them now.  My lads," he continued earnestly, "many a brave act
was done by our men at the Alma, but of all yours was the most
conspicuous.  We are proud to own you.  You, Corporal, are promoted to
full sergeant, and you," addressing Tony, "to full corporal."

Flushing with pleasure, Phil and his friend thanked the colonel and
retired to their comrades, who had prepared a sumptuous feast for them.

"Here yer are, Corporal!" said one enthusiastic fellow, addressing Tony,
and emphasising the corporal, "take a bite at this;" and he offered him
a helping of a wonderful pie.

Tony blushed, and looked upon the point of exploding, for he was unused
to his new title.  But he took the helping and quickly caused it to
disappear.

"Look here, mates," he said, after a long pause, "I'm promoted corporal,
and yer can call me that as much as yer like to-day, but after that it's
off.  Remember that;" and he glowered round at them.  "This here pal of
mine," he continued, pointing to Phil, "is a full sergeant, but that
ain't all--he's a gent, and this very day he's done what'll bring him
the gold lace of an officer.  I tell yer all he saved a chap right up
there by the Russian guns, when the Light Brigade charged, and brought
him safely out.  That's what he did, and mind what I say, to-morrow or
next day will see him an officer.  Then I chucks the stripe and takes on
as his servant."

The honest fellow's face shone with pleasure, while his comrades looked
on in astonishment.  Phil reached over and grasped his gallant old
friend by the hand.

"Tony," he said with a gulp, "you're talking bosh.  Of course I sha'n't
be an officer; besides, you helped to bring that wounded man out as
well.  But if ever I do get a commission I'd have you as my servant and
true friend sooner than anyone."

The men cheered eagerly.

"Hallo!" said one of them, recovering from his momentary excitement,
"what's this here about bringing a pal out?  Yer talk about the Light
Brigade.  Spin us the yarn, mates, and don't forget to tell us how you
was taken, and how you gave them Russians the slip."

Late that night, when all turned in, Phil and his friend were the heroes
of the camp, and Tony, whose admiration for his friend had increased, if
possible, during the past few trying days, blurted out to the man lying
by his side that Phil would make as fine an officer as ever wore queen's
uniform, and that if anyone dared to gainsay this he would smash him to
pieces.  A loud snore was his only answer; but, relieved to some extent
by this outburst, the noble-hearted fellow fell peacefully asleep.

When the orders for the army were published two days later, there was
one portion which particularly attracted the attention of the Brigade of
Guards.

  _Corporal Western_, the paragraph ran, _is promoted to sergeant for
  gallantry at the Alma in helping to save a colour_.

Then it continued:

  _Sergeant Western, who was captured at the Alma, escaped from the
  enemy, and, taking part with his comrade in the memorable charge of
  the Light Brigade, rescued and brought out a wounded trooper.  For
  this act of bravery he has been appointed an ensign in the 30th Foot_.

The paragraph ended:

  _Lieutenant Western's comrade, who was promoted to corporal, resigns
  that rank_.

In a state of huge excitement Tony managed to secure a copy of the
order, and rushing up to Phil, presented it with an elaborate salute and
a face which worked with emotion.

"Congratulations, sir," he said hoarsely.  "You're ensign in the 30th
Foot."

Phil hastily glanced at the order, and for the moment felt dizzy, for
here, long before he could have expected it, was a commission.

Clutching Tony by the hand, he shook it warmly, while tears rose to his
eyes.

"Thanks, my dear old friend!" he murmured, with a catch in his voice.
"At length I have obtained what I wanted.  But it will make no
difference to us.  Promise me that, Tony.  We have been comrades so
long, let us continue so, and if you still wish to be my servant, as you
have often declared, why, come, by all means; I shall be more than glad
to have you."

"Spoken like a true 'un, mate," growled Tony, sniffing suspiciously, and
glaring round as much as to say that if anyone were even to suggest that
emotion had got the better of him, he would do unutterable things.

"Beg pardon, sir, Colonel's compliments, and will you go over and see
him now," said a stalwart orderly, approaching at this moment and
saluting with such smartness that Phil nearly jumped out of his skin.

It was a moment of intense pleasure to all the fine fellows standing
round.  Here was a comrade who by his own bravery had obtained a
commission from the ranks.  They were intent on doing full honour to
him, and though the strange anomaly of seeing an old friend, bearing
sergeant's stripes, saluted as an officer caused many to indulge in a
secret grin, yet it was his right now, and they were determined upon
seeing he had it.

Utterly bewildered, Phil made his way to the colonel's quarters, where
he received more congratulations.

"There now, we won't worry you any more," said the colonel kindly.  "The
adjutant will tell you what to do in the way of uniform, and, Western,
my lad, remember this, the Grenadier Guards will always welcome a visit
from you."

At this moment the adjutant took Phil into his tent.

"Of course you must get some kind of uniform," he said.  "I dare say
there will be no difficulty in obtaining the kit of one of the officers
of the 30th killed at the Alma.  I will send over and enquire.
Meanwhile you can do as you like: mess with us, or go back to your old
comrades for the night."

Phil looked at his tattered and mud-stained garments.

"I think I'd rather do that," he said.  "Once I have the proper kit I
shall feel more like an officer.  At present I can scarcely believe it."

Accordingly he returned to his messmates, who did full honour to him
that night.  An extra tot of rum had been secured, pipes were set going,
and a pleasant evening was passed with songs round a blazing camp-fire.

The next day he was fortunate enough to obtain a complete kit of an
officer of the 30th, and, buckling on his sword, strode over to their
camp, where he was expected.  His new comrades gave him a cordial
welcome, and recognising that he was a gentleman, and, moreover, one
whose pluck had already been tried, they made the most of him.

From that day Phil was kept remarkably busy.  He had his share of
outpost duty to do, and when not engaged in that he was in the trenches
under continual fire, for the batteries on either side thundered all day
long.  Already the French had recovered from the explosion at Mount
Rudolph, and, increasing their guns, were now ready to rejoin their
allies in another attempt to reduce the fortress.  Once the redoubts
were destroyed, and the enemy's cannon put out of action, there would be
a general combined assault.  November the 5th was settled upon as the
date for the bombardment.

"How it will succeed I scarcely like to guess," remarked Phil to Tony
one afternoon as they trudged back to the camp after a long spell of
duty in the trenches.  "On the last occasion the fire we poured upon
Sebastopol was simply terrific, and one would have thought that not a
living being could have survived.  And yet, though some of the Russian
guns were silenced, the majority hammered away at us in return, and did
no little damage.  Look at the French battery.  Mount Rudolph, as our
allies called it, was simply blown to pieces."

"Yes, sir, it was that," Tony agreed.  "And it was just that fact that
prevented our capturing this place we're sitting down in front of.  That
night we should have assaulted, but the explosion took the heart out of
the Froggies, and when next morning came, and they were feeling a little
more like themselves, why, the fortifications which our guns had knocked
to pieces had been rebuilt.  They're hard-working chaps over there, and
plucky too; but this time it's going to be a case of `all up' with them.
You'll see our guns smash them to pieces.  Why, it was bad enough when
we were prisoners in there, so what will it be how when the Allies have
any number of guns in addition.  Depend upon it, mate, we'll do no end
of damage with shot and shell, and then we'll assault and capture the
place."

"I wish I thought so, Tony," Phil answered doubtfully.  "I cannot forget
that the Russians are at least two to our one, which is just the
opposite of what it should be, for a force assaulting a fortified place
should always be of greater proportions than that defending.  Then look
at our trenches and the distance which intervenes between them and the
Russian earthworks.  Long before we can race across, it seems to me that
the guns, which will be trained to sweep the open, will blow us to
pieces.  Still, we'll have a good try if the orders come for an attack.
But I shall be happier about our success if we can sap still closer,
until little more than two hundred yards separate us from the Russians."

Now the fear that the fortress might be taken at the next attempt had
not failed to rouse the Russians.  They recognised the necessity of
diverting the attention of the Allies, and, moreover, receiving on
November 4th large reinforcements from Odessa, they determined to march
against the positions held by French and English, and if possible
annihilate them, or at least drive them still farther south towards
Balaclava, and so render the causeway leading from Sebastopol over the
Tchernaya river less open to attack.  By means of this causeway they
replenished their garrison, which was daily diminished by the severe
losses it suffered.  This time the wily enemy chose a different field
for their operations.  At dawn on the 5th a huge force left the fortress
and formed up on the Inkermann heights, beyond the Tchernaya.  These
heights, filled with caves, littered by massive boulders, and capped by
grey battlemented walls, formed a background, bounded on the west by the
Careenage ravine leading almost south, and on the north by the great
harbour.  Directly in front of the heights, and separated by a wide
stretch of valley, was a horseshoe-shaped crest, behind which lay the
Second Division.  On its extreme right was the sandbag battery, without
guns, and composed merely of a bank of earth, while between it and the
Russian position was a conical hill, known as Shell Hill, which was very
soon to be manned by some 100 Russian guns.

Combining with another force, the total numbers reaching nearly 40,000,
the enemy advanced against our position, hoping to capture it, while the
remainder of the field-army threatened the French from the Causeway
heights and made a feint of attacking.  The huge garrison within the
fortress, too, were to take a part, for their orders were to fire
steadily at the trenches, and if much confusion was noticed, to make a
sortie and capture them.  Thus it will be seen that nothing short of a
complete and overwhelming defeat of the Allies was aimed at.  Had it not
failed, England's reputation would have gone for ever, but November 5th
was destined to be a glorious day.  Scarcely 4000 were to keep at bay
and cause awful losses to an enemy vastly outnumbering them, and that
4000 was composed of British infantry; alone, almost unaided, they were
to beat back the enemy, and to their dogged pluck, their fierce lust for
battle and disregard of death, and the fortunate assistance of a thick
fog which obscured them and hid from the Russians the thinness of their
ranks, they were to owe this glorious victory.  There was no order, no
scheme of defence.  It was impossible in the circumstances.  It was
essentially a soldiers' battle.  Broken into knots and groups of
anything from 200 to 20, our gallant fellows fought on, at first with a
furious valour, white-hot in its intensity, and later, when almost
dropping with fatigue, with a grim, undaunted firmness of purpose which
stamped them as men--true men--of an unconquerable bull-dog breed.

Phil and Tony bore no small share in the battle, for, on the very
evening before, it fell to the former's lot to be on outpost duty.

"Take your men well up the valley and post them at wide intervals," said
the colonel before he started.  "There is no saying when we may be
attacked by the enemy, and, to tell the truth, I am uneasy.  The
Russians have tried to take Balaclava and failed; but they captured the
Causeway heights, and from there they are constantly menacing the
French.  Supposing they were to take it into their heads to advance from
Inkermann against this ridge here, there is only the Second Division to
bar their progress, and what could we do against a horde when we barely
number 4000?  No, I tell you, Western, I am troubled and uneasy, and
that is why I am so particular as to my orders.  Post your men at wide
intervals, and before leaving them settle upon some rallying-spot.  I
would suggest the barrier at the neck of the valley.  In any case, if
you notice any movement in the enemy's camp, send me word and fall back
slowly.  The longer the delay the better."

"Very well, sir.  I understand perfectly," Phil answered, and, raising
his sword in salute, he turned and strode away to his tent.

"Bring along a rifle for me, Tony," he said.  "We may have trouble this
evening, and if we do I'd rather return to my old friend.  I know it
well, and feel better able, to fight with a bayonet in front of me."

"Right, sir!" was the cheerful answer.  "Glad to hear that you wish to
return to it.  It's won England's battles, I reckon, and, compared to a
sword, why, it's--it's worth a hundred of 'em.  Look at yours.  A
regular toothpick to go out and fight with!"

With a disdainful toss of his head Tony picked up Phil's latest weapon
and drew it from the scabbard.  Then, wiping its blade upon the tail of
his tunic, he thrust it back and set about getting other matters ready.
A handful of dry chips enclosed in a sack were placed in the middle of a
small collection of sauce-pans and cups.  Over these a couple of
blankets and a small sheet of oiled canvas were laid and then rolled
tightly.  That done, the faithful fellow went across, to another tent,
and returned with an extra rifle and bayonet.  A large ammunition-pouch
accompanied it, and in addition Tony provided his master with a
haversack, into which a piece of bread and some half-cooked pork were
thrust, so that, if by chance he were separated from his men and the
bivouac, he would yet have something with which to keep away the pangs
of hunger.

An hour later twenty-five men of the 30th foot fell in, their blankets
over their shoulders, and canteens slung from their belts.  Then Phil
emerged from his tent, looking smart and soldier-like in his new
uniform.  A hasty inspection having satisfied him that each man was
provided with ample ammunition, and prepared for a night's outpost duty,
he gave the order to march, and, slinging his rifle across his shoulder
with a freedom and ease which told his men that he was well used to it,
and had lately been one of themselves, he strode down the hill, and,
crossing a wall of stone known as the "barrier", which practically shut
the mouth of the valley, he led his small command straight on towards
the Russian camp.

"Halt!" he cried as soon as he had reached a spot much broken by
boulders and overgrown by brushwood.  "Now, my men, you will go on duty
every two hours, one half relieving the other at the end of that time.
You will post yourselves in a wide circle, some twenty paces apart from
one another, and stretching well across the valley.  If anyone hears a
noise, he will inform those on his right and left and then come and let
me know.  I may tell you that trouble is expected.  If it comes, stick
to your positions to the last, and then fall back upon the barrier.
That will be our rallying-place.  Now, let the rear rank fall out and
choose a good site on which to bivouac I will take the front rank on and
post the sentries."

Leaving the others to select some comfortable spot, Phil strode on with
the front rank of his command, and only halted them when the brushwood
showed signs of becoming too scanty to act as cover.  Then he took each
man individually, and, repeating his orders to him, placed him in the
position he was to occupy.

That done to his satisfaction, he returned to the camp, to find that
Tony had spread the blankets beneath an overhanging rock, and was
already engaged preparing supper.

But Phil had other matters than his own comfort to think about.

"I am sure the colonel expects an attack," he murmured, as he sat upon a
boulder and gazed at the flames.  "Something is about to happen.  I have
been put in the responsible position of commander of the outposts.  If I
fail in my duty the result might be terrible to the Allies, for if only
the Russians could reach the camp of the Second Division without
observation, nothing could stop them from driving the remaining troops
from their camps and trenches down to Balaclava.  Well, at any rate I am
warned, and to make sure that my sentries are alert I will go round
every hour."

Accordingly, Phil spent a restless and watchful night, constantly
passing from man to man and listening for movements of the enemy.  But
nothing seemed to disturb the silence save the moaning of the wind and
the splash of rain as it beat upon the boulders.

Towards dawn, however, he fancied he heard sounds from the heights of
Inkermann, and, posting himself amongst his men, he waited anxiously,
vainly endeavouring to pierce the thick, white mist which had replaced
the rain, and now filled the valley from end to end.

Tramp, tramp, tramp!  What was that?  The sound rolled dull and muffled
along the valley.  Scarcely had Phil time to ask the question when a
battery of Russian guns, placed on an elevation in front, fired a
perfect salvo, the shells shrieking overhead, and bunting near the camp
of the Second Division; while at the same moment columns of grey-coated
infantry loomed up in front and to either side, marching rapidly towards
him.

Hastily lifting his rifle, Phil sighted for the central one and pulled
the trigger.  There was a flash, a sharp report, and the rattle of other
rifles answering the Russian fire, and telling those in the English camp
that the enemy was upon them, and that the battle of Inkermann had
commenced.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

AGAINST OVERWHELMING ODDS.

Huge indeed was the Russian army which Phil and his outposts saw
advancing upon them through the mists of the valley.  Thousands of
infantrymen were in each of the thick columns, while far behind were
others, resting on their arms and waiting in reserve.  To attempt to
keep back such a force was ridiculous, but much could be done by
resolute men to delay its march, and Phil decided to attempt this with
the handful at his command.

"The columns to right and left I must leave to themselves," he said
hurriedly.  "In any case they will march on and overlap me.  But the
central column is the biggest and most important, and, therefore, I will
concentrate all my fire upon it.  Pass the word along there for the men
to close," he shouted.  Then, turning to his sergeant, he said: "Hurry
back to the camp at once and warn them that three Russian columns are
advancing.  Say I will hold them in check as long as possible."

Saluting hurriedly, the sergeant turned and ran back towards the
barrier, leaving Phil and his handful of men face to face with the
Russians.

Nothing daunted, and well knowing that much depended upon his exertions,
for a long delay would enable the Second Division to get under arms and
take up good positions, Phil concentrated his men, and with a rapid
order formed them into line, the ends of which he swung backwards till
they were in a semicircular formation.

"Now," he said, standing in front of them with rifle at the slope over
his shoulder, "about turn; retire ten yards, and when you are well in
among the bushes, lie down and wait for the order to fire."

Steadied by the example of coolness and determination shown them, the
outpost-party swung about and retired into a thick belt of scrub, which,
with the aid of the dense morning mist and numerous boulders, completely
hid them.  Each man at once threw himself upon the ground and waited,
with rifle resting upon a stone.

Standing in their midst, Phil directed the greater part to pour their
volleys into the central column, while a few files on the flanks engaged
those on either side.  Tingling with excitement, and filled with dogged
determination to harass the Russians to the last, the men levelled their
rifles and waited eagerly for the word.

And as they waited, the tramp of thousands of feet grew nearer and still
nearer, while the low and buzzing hiss of excitement, which Russian
soldiery indulge in when about to attack, seemed already to have passed
beyond them.  Suddenly, however, a puff of wind blew the mist away in
long trailing flakes, and the central column appeared, marching at a
rapid pace, and already within thirty yards of the outpost.  Almost at
the same moment the lateral columns came into sight, but separated by a
little wider interval.

"Fire!" cried Phil in a loud voice.

Instantly a rattling volley was poured into the dense masses of men, who
came to an abrupt halt, while confusion and alarm spread through their
ranks.  Then officers rushed to the front, sword in hand, and called
upon them to charge.

Flash!  Another volley was poured into the struggling ranks, and men
were seen to drop on either side.

Bending down so that the scrub just concealed them, Phil and his men
rapidly reloaded, and had emptied their rifles again before the mist
fell once more and hid the enemy from sight.

"Load again," cried Phil.  "Now, are you ready?  Then follow me to the
right.  We will change our position before these fellows recover
sufficiently to open fire."

Running through the dense growth of bushes, the outpost-party soon took
up a new position in front of one of the other columns, where, spreading
out so as to pour their volleys into all three columns, they waited
again for the command to fire.

Meanwhile shouts and oaths came in a perfect storm from the Russians,
and their hiss of excitement rose to deafening pitch.

Then the mist was suddenly rent asunder by a flash of flame which ran
along their front, and a hail of bullets was poured into the bushes
where Phil and his party had lain not a minute before, sending a shower
of twigs and leaves pattering to the ground, and striking the boulders
with a series of sharp thuds, which told that but for the fortunate
change of position, the outpost-party would have been decimated.

"Now we'll give them another taste," said Phil aloud.  "Then we'll
retire some fifty yards and wait for them again."

The movement proved even more successful than he could have hoped, for,
bewildered by the mist, and fearful that they had stumbled upon a strong
force of the Allies, the Russians still stood rooted to the spot, while
the bullets tore remorselessly through their crowded ranks, doing awful
execution at such close quarters.  Standing in front of them, officers
waved their swords gallantly and called upon them to advance, but,
stricken by the fire and in dread of the British bayonet, the
grey-coated host stood there doubtful and hesitating, and kept from
flying only by the press of men behind, unaware as yet of the trouble
which had befallen their comrades in advance.

"We'll play the same game again, my men," cried Phil coolly, as soon as
the retirement had been carried out.  "Then we'll make for the barrier
and rejoin our friends.  The 80th is there by now, and will be ready to
help us if we are in difficulties."

"What's that there, sir?" asked Tony suddenly, standing by his master's
side and pointing to the left.  "That's a column of Russians, I reckon,
and if we're to get back to friends alive we'd best be quick about it.
See, they're already behind us."

Staring through the mist, Phil recognised with a start that the force of
Russians to the left, suffering less from the galling fire of the
British outposts, had recovered their wits, and, advancing up the
valley, were tramping past him and already deploying between himself and
the "barrier."

"Get together, men," he cried hastily.  "Now, in two lines, and bayonets
to the front!  Keep your fire till at close quarters!"

Springing to their feet, the outpost-party hastily fell in, and,
following Phil, who went some paces in front, retired at a ran, darting
round boulders and clumps of brushwood, and keeping as much under cover
as possible.  But though they retired rapidly, the Russian ranks
deployed even more quickly, and while those to the far left pushed on
directly in their front, taking the course of a narrow ravine, others
spread towards the centre, hoping there to join hands with their
comrades.

And now an additional element of danger presented itself to Phil and his
comrades.  Behind them they had left the bulk of the enemy hesitating
and uncertain how to act, and pouring an aimless and useless fire into
the cover which had concealed those who had done them so great a
mischief.  At first firing independently and wildly, they had soon taken
to well-ordered volleys, and, there being no answer to these and no more
missiles of death flying through their ranks, they took courage and,
coaxed by their officers, advanced.  Arrived at the brushwood cover,
they found not a single British soldier.  Only deep footprints in the
mud, and the litter of twigs brought down by their own bullets, could be
seen, and recognising that they had been duped, they broke from a hiss
of excitement into a roar of fury, and, breaking from control, dashed
forward over boulder and scrub towards the British lines.

"Hark!  What is that?" said Phil, holding up his hand to arrest his men.
"What do those cries mean?"

"It's the Russians coming," answered Tony.  "Listen: you can hear them
tearing through the wood.  Quick, or we'll be taken.  Look, there are
men in front of us."

A hasty glance told Phil that Tony was speaking only the truth, for at
this moment a swarm of grey-coats could be seen between themselves and
the barrier, and one of these, turning round at the moment, caught sight
of the British outposts, and with a shout attracted his comrades'
attention.

"Get together, lads!" said Phil, with coolness and decision.  "There,
that will do.  Now let me take my place on the right.  Remember, keep
your fire till the muzzles almost touch their coats, and then pull the
triggers.  Are you ready?  Then charge!"

In a close and compact mass, and with bayonets well to the front, the
little party dashed forward, and, directed by Phil, charged where the
Russian ranks seemed thinnest.  With eyes flashing, and courage roused
to the highest, the men behaved with a coolness and disregard of danger
which was magnificent.  Waiting till the whites of the Russians' eyes
were distinct, they poured in a terrible volley, and then threw
themselves upon the enemy with a shout.  For five minutes a furious
melee raged.  Bayonets thrust the air wildly on every side, and death
seemed in store for Phil and his small command.  Struck by bullets, or
thrust through by the steel, some of his gallant men fell before a
minute had passed, but, undismayed, and filled only with an enthusiasm
and fury which made them forget all else, the remainder wielded their
weapons unceasingly, and, plunging ever forward, cut their way to the
heart of the enemy, and then through its crowded ranks, until not a
Russian lay between them and the barrier.  Then turning fiercely they
waited only to cast off a few who still clung to them, and, dashing them
to the ground, took to their heels, and within a minute were over the
barrier and lying full length upon the ground, panting and endeavouring
to regain their breath ere the enemy were upon them.

As for Phil, he cast his rifle to the ground, and, seating himself upon
a boulder, waved his arms at the officers surrounding him, and
endeavoured to tell them how vast was the force about to attack the
British camp.

"There, sit still and say nothing," said the colonel who had spoken to
him on the previous evening.  "Thanks to the timely warning you sent by
the sergeant, we are as prepared as it is possible to be, though our
numbers are dangerously small.  Still, we are ready, and we must thank
you, Western, for delaying the enemy and so giving us time.  Let me tell
you you have done a gallant and most useful service for the army.  Now,
I see you are better.  Take a small nip from this flask.  It will help
you to pull round."

Phil did as he was directed, and just as the enemy reached the barrier
had recovered his breath and strength sufficiently to snatch up his
rifle again and join his company.

And now commenced a battle upon the fortunes of which depended the fate
of the Allies.  Here was an immense army marching in three columns upon
a ridge held only by a division scarcely 4000 strong.  In rear of it lay
the French, at present wholly unable to help or reinforce, for, though
not attacked, they sat in their trenches, menaced by Liprandi's large
force from the Causeway heights, captured on "Balaclava" day.  And on
their left the roar of cannon from the fortress could already be heard
as they thundered at the British, while behind the masonry thousands of
Russians were massed in preparation for a gigantic sortie upon the
investing trenches.

No one could help that gallant 4000, for everywhere troops were urgently
needed against threatened attack.  But lack of numbers was fully
compensated for by a courage which becomes even more remarkable as one
thinks of it--courage sufficient to urge them to march over that crest,
and, leaving their tents, amongst which cannon-shot were already
hurtling, to descend the slope and advance against an army of huge
proportions.  Fortune favours the brave, indeed, for where can history
show a brighter example?  Eager for the fight, and reckless of the
consequences, the British troops descended the ridge and threw
themselves upon the enemy.  The mist opened, and the Russians saw a
double line of red, and faces furious with excitement and lust of
battle, charging upon them, but next moment the British ranks were
hidden.  A breath of wind to dispel the vapour would have turned the
fortunes of the battle, and changed glorious victory for the British
into disastrous defeat.  But there was no breeze, no puff of wind to
clear the atmosphere, and, ignorant of the thinness of the opposing
lines, and feeling sure that they were already face to face with the
bulk of the allied army, the Russians came forward slowly and carefully.
There was none of that dash and recklessness which would have brought
them victory; instead, they paused, swayed this way and that, torn
incessantly by volleys from rifles which, far superior to their own,
caused ghastly slaughter in their ranks; and gave way whenever a company
of England's soldiers fell upon them.

Meanwhile what had happened at the barrier?  Two hundred of the 30th
Foot lay behind it, and alone met the central column with their
bayonets.  Rushing at the low wall of stones, swarms of grey-coated
warriors attempted to climb it, only to be hurled back from the
bayonets.  Time and again did they renew the assault, but always with
the same result.  And all the while bullets pelted amongst them, so that
at length, despairing of surmounting the barrier, they turned to the
left and joined one of the lateral columns.  All day long did that
gallant handful of the 80th cling to their position, and almost
incessantly were they called upon to oppose other bodies of Russian
troops, who came to renew the combat.  Worn out with their exertions,
with blackened faces and blood-stained clothing, they threw themselves
upon the miry ground and slept the sleep of exhaustion till another
alarm was given, when, shaking off their drowsiness by an effort of
will, they sprang to their feet once more, and, grasping rifles, again
flung themselves upon the enemy.  Gallant souls indeed they were, but
not more brave and determined than their comrades upon that memorable
battle-field.  Sweeping by them on the right one Russian column fell
upon the flank of the British and hurled it aside by sheer weight of
numbers.  Then, advancing rapidly, they wheeled to the left, and were
within an ace of taking the division in rear.  But again fortune
favoured the British.  Buller hurried up with reinforcements at this
moment, and, falling upon them with bull-dog ferocity, pushed them back,
then rent them in pieces, and sent them hurrying away in disorder.

And on the British right events of no small moment were taking place.
Pushing past the barrier, with the 200 of the 30th growling on their
flank, and constantly hurling volleys at them, an enormous column closed
with the soldiers in red and pressed them up and up the hill till the
crest and the sandbag battery were reached.

And now commenced a stage in the battle that is memorable, that stands
out amongst all the glorious deeds of that splendid day as more glorious
than all the rest.  As if at school and struggling for the possession of
some imaginary castle, British and Russians fought fiercely for the
sandbag battery.  A mere mound of earth, and having no guns, it was but
a mark, a ridge upon the rolling crest, which attracted the eye.  Foiled
in their main attempt to force the enemy back and march on towards
Balaclava, the Russians forgot the object of the day, and those in the
neighbourhood of the battery straggled furiously for its possession.
Frantic with rage and disappointment, and with noble courage, they
hurled themselves upon it time and again, only to be as bravely met and
dashed down the hill once more.  Grim, bareheaded, and full of valour
the Guards clustered round that battery and disputed its ownership with
the Russians.  Undaunted by the numbers advancing, time and again they
hurled them back, and then stood leaning upon their rifles, and between
their gasps for breath called to the Russians to come again, to mount
the slope and capture the position.  And the grey-coated host glared up
at them across a stretch of beautiful green turf now piled high with
poor lads who had fought their last fight.  Yes, hundreds of fine men
lay there, some barely more than boys, others in the prime of life,
gaunt, raw-boned Russian linesmen, with ugly red streaks upon their
faces, or big patches of like colour growing ever larger upon the grey
cloth of their uniforms.  Amongst them, too, still clutching rifles, and
some even with hands clenched and tightly grasping their enemies, lay
fine stalwart Guardsmen, young men in the pride of youth and strength,
and veterans.  Death had called them away, and just as many an eye would
dim, and cheeks be moistened, in far-away Russian cabins for those near
and dear who had gone, so in good old England women and lasses would
soon be weeping for those gallant sons and brothers who had died for the
country's good.

For long hours the conflict raged round the battery, but though the
Russians were in far greater numbers than the British, the Guardsmen
budged not an inch; and when the day was done, stood victorious and
proud owners of the position.

Meanwhile the orderly lines of the Second Division had been broken by
sheer weight of numbers, and pushed back here and there; in other parts
they pressed forward with irresistible valour into the enemy's columns,
and fought on in parties of two hundred, and often less--as few even as
twenty,--with desperate courage and determination, and with a lust of
battle and ferocity that was truly marvellous.  Not once, but many
times, these small groups flung themselves upon the enemy, and,
thrusting and slashing on every side, cut their way to the very centre
of the mass of grey, pushed on with assailants surrounding them, and at
length passed to the other side, only to turn and bury themselves once
more in the Russian ranks.

Late in the day, too, when the fate of the battle still hung in the
balance, more artillery arrived, and, engaging the batteries on Gun
Hill, caused them to retire.  Then slowly and grudgingly the Russian
infantry turned round and retreated in disorder to the heights of
Inkermann, leaving an enormous number of killed and wounded behind them.

Oh for Scarlett's Heavy Brigade, or the remainder even of that glorious
600 horse who had charged into "the gates of hell" on Balaclava day!
One dash, one fierce charge amidst those retreating soldiers, and defeat
would have been a rout, a decisive victory, which even at this date
might well have led to the surrender of the fortress and the humbling of
Russian pride.

But no horse were there, and the retreating forces of the Czar reached
their bivouacs sullen and dispirited at their crushing defeat, but
without suffering further injury save from the shell and plunging shot
as the British guns opened upon the flying mass.

But that deep valley and the slopes leading to the ridge were piled with
dead and wounded innumerable, for both sides had lost heavily, the
Russian casualties amounting to many thousands.

Phil took his full share in the battle, while Tony hovered like a
guardian angel near him, many a time turning aside a flashing bayonet
meant for his friend.

One thrust, indeed, got home, the bayonet transfixing Phil's thigh and
bringing him to the ground.

With a roar Tony was upon the man and had knocked him senseless with a
tremendous blow on the head from the stock of his rifle.  Then, lifting
Phil, he carried him into a safer position behind the barrier of stones.

"It's nothing," exclaimed Phil, with a smile.  "Slit up my trousers and
just tie your handkerchief round.  That's it.  Now I think I shall be
all right.  The pain made me feel a little faint."

Taking a pull at his flask, which contained weak brandy and water, he
was soon on his feet again, and had taken his place in the
fighting-line.  When all was over, Tony helped him back to his tent, and
fetched the regimental doctor, who bandaged the wound.

"It's a simple flesh wound," the latter said encouragingly, "and, if you
rest a little, will give you no trouble beyond a little stiffness.  The
difficulty is to get you young fellows to sit still for a moment.  But
you must rest, and as there happens to be a convoy going to Balaclava in
an hour's time I'll send you with it and have you put on one of the
ships."

"I'd rather stay here and get well," said Phil eagerly.  "After all,
it's only a scratch, and will be right in a week."

"Now, I'm treating you, my boy," the doctor exclaimed shortly, "and for
your own good I shall send you on board ship, so there is an end of the
matter."

Phil resigned himself to what he thought was a hard fate, for he was
anxious to stay with his regiment.  But no doubt rest for a few days was
required, and the doctor was right in insisting upon it.

"Pack up my things, Tony, and we'll see whether I cannot get a lift in
an araba," he said.  "The convoy is to start from the crest, so you
might slip up and see what can be done."

Tony did as he was told, and was able to secure a place for his master.
Phil was then carried to the top of the hill, and, being lifted into the
cart, was driven off.  The convoy reached Balaclava at dawn, and Phil,
with Tony in attendance, and some fifty other wounded men was sent on
board a small schooner, which at once weighed anchor, and sailed out of
the harbour.

"Nasty place that," said the captain, a rough-faced, genial old sea-dog,
jerking his thumb towards the harbour.  "Safe as a house so long as the
wind's off shore; but once it begins to blow the other way, God help
those aboard ship.  There'll be only bare rocky cliffs to welcome them
if the vessels go ashore, and how could they help doing that, for the
anchorage is notoriously unsafe?  Can't imagine why they stick there!
There's many a safer harbour hereabouts."

The captain looked anxiously at the fine transports swinging to their
cables, and then muttering "Thank heavens I shall be at sea and have a
better chance than they!" nodded to Phil and dived below.

He was a knowing man, this sailor, and, being accustomed to the Black
Sea, was well aware that the season for violent gales and storms of rain
and snow had now arrived.  That night indeed, and all the following day,
it blew so fiercely that the vessel's bowsprit carried away, and she was
obliged to put back into Balaclava for repairs.  A few days later she
once more set sail.

"Don't like the look of things," muttered the captain, looking round
anxiously as they sailed from the mouth of the harbour.  "If it comes on
to blow on-shore to-night it'll be bad for them ships in there.  But it
isn't my affair.  The chap as is in command has been warned more than
once already."

"Do you think we are going to catch it again?" asked Phil.

"Can't say for certain, but it looks precious like it; I wonder what the
glass is doing?" and with an anxious expression the captain went to
consult his barometer.

"Falling fast," he said shortly, "and it's getting much colder.  We're
in for a dusting, I think.  Mr King, get those sails taken off her, and
make all taut.  I'll go my rounds in half an hour and see how things
are."  He crossed the deck and fell into earnest conversation with his
mate, leaving Phil to make his way aft and talk matters over with Tony.

The captain's fears were not unfounded.  That evening, November 14th, a
gale of wind sprang up, blowing dead on-shore, and soon a terrific storm
was raging.  With her head jammed close up into it, the _Columbine_
seemed to make fair progress; but soon darkness had obscured the cliffs,
and there was nothing by which to judge their position.

"We're far closer to those cliffs than I like," Phil shouted in Tony's
ear.  "Still, we seem to be getting well out to sea, and if only we can
manage that we ought to be safe."

"I'd rather be fighting the whole Russian army than knocking about
here," Tony roared back.  "'Tain't that only neither.  This sea puts a
chap off his grub, and we ain't had such a lot of late as to let us
afford it.  Look what a rat I'm getting;" and with a comical air of
despair he clutched the tunic he wore, to show that it was too large for
him.

An hour passed, and it was very evident that the fury of the storm
increased rather than diminished.  Phil struggled on to the poop and
found his way to the captain's side.

"We're in the hands of Providence, I reckon," cried the old sailor
reverently.  "Every foot we make we lose to leeward, and away over in
that direction are the cliffs.  We're running a trifle more along the
coast now, for there's not a ship that's built that could face this
gale.  God help us, young man!  We can do nothing more for ourselves."

Three hours later a tremendous sea struck the ill-fated ship and smashed
her rudder to pieces.  Instantly she commenced to broach to.

"Get a grip of something to hold you up," shouted the captain.  "That'll
finish her.  Good-bye, lad!"

Phil grasped his hand for the moment and looked into his face.  It
showed more clearly than a book could how desperate the situation was.

Leaving him, he crawled along to Tony.

"Get hold of a rope, old man," he screamed in his ear.  "She's going
fast towards the rocks."

Whipping out their knives, they soon obtained two long pieces of stout
cordage.  With these they tied two of the large wooden gratings at the
hatchway together, and obtaining some more rope, secured themselves to
the woodwork, so that if the ship went down the hatchings would float
away and support them.

Meanwhile huge billows of green water poured on board, thumping the ship
till every timber quivered.  Then one immense wave curled right over her
and smashed her decks like an egg-shell.  Immediately all was confusion.
Shouts occasionally reached Phil's ear, and he once caught sight of the
grey-headed old captain kneeling in prayer.  A moment later another wave
turned the unfortunate _Columbine_ completely over, and, filling at
once, she sank like a stone.

Phil felt as though he was being smothered.  The din of rushing water
rang in his ears, and intense darkness surrounded him.  He fought and
kicked madly.  Then something struck him sharply on the head, and he
grasped the grating to which he was tied, and with an effort dragged
himself upon it.  Close alongside was the other grating, and upon it,
clinging with all his might, was Tony.  And thus, side by side, one now
dancing on the summit of a wave, while the other hung in the trough,
drenched with water of icy coldness and almost smothered by the surf and
rain, they drifted fast towards those inhospitable black cliffs against
which the tempest thundered.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

SAVED FROM THE DEEP.

More than an hour of misery and terror passed as Tony and Phil clung,
half-submerged, to their gratings, and as they held on, the sound of
huge waves, breaking upon the iron-bound coast to which they were fast
approaching, grew louder.  Phil pulled upon the rope which kept their
fragile rafts together and shortened it, bringing them close alongside
one another.

"Good-bye, old man!" he shouted, between two gusts of wind.

Tony's mouth opened and he bellowed something, but the words were
carried away on the gale.  Conversation, even by shouting, being
hopeless, they once more fell into despairing silence.

"What has happened?" cried Phil half an hour later.  "We seem to have
left the crash of waves on the cliff behind us, and already the sea
seems to be going down."

Tony crept closer.  "The wind ain't going down," he shouted hoarsely.
"It's blowing stronger if anything, and though we lies low in the water,
we're bowling along in fine style.  Can't make it out, mate; this sea
going down looks as if we'd been washed into some sheltered cove.
Anyway we shall know soon," and he jerked his arm to the right, where
already the black clouds were lifting.

Half an hour passed, when Phil suddenly caught sight of high cliffs to
right and left, while on the summit of one of them seemed to be a fort,
for the white masonry was distinctly visible.  He stared through the
gloom and sweeping sheets of spray, and thought he detected another fort
on the opposite side.  A few minutes later they were washed through a
large opening in the cliffs, and the forts flashed by on either side; at
the same moment the sea became still quieter, and the roar of the wind
seemed left behind them.

"I think I saw a fort on either side," cried Phil, "and as I know there
is only one harbour on this coast with high cliffs and forts, I feel
certain that we are drifting into Sebastopol.  Great Scott!  We shall be
made prisoners again."

Tony groaned.  "Can't be helped," he shouted, suddenly brightening.  "If
we are, why, it'll just give us the fun and excitement of escaping
again.  But, old friend, this here's an escape from sudden and horrible
death, and if it hadn't been that the Almighty up there, above them
black clouds, had been keeping His eye on us, we'd have been washing
about amongst the fishes hours ago."

Tony looked upwards to the sky, and his lips moved.  Phil watched him
curiously, and there, tossing on the storm-troubled water, offered up a
prayer for his safety so far.  Nor could he help contrasting Tony's
condition of mind as it was at that moment with what it had been when
first he made his acquaintance in the menagerie many months before.

"Hallo!  What's that over there?" he suddenly shouted, catching sight of
a dark mass in the water.  "It looks like a piece of wreckage.  Perhaps
there is someone on it."

Both stared at the object which, being much larger and higher out of the
water, bore down upon them quickly.  There was no doubt now that it was
a portion of a ship, perhaps of the wrecked _Columbine_, and in the hope
that it was, Phil and his friend dipped their hands in the water and
slowly propelled themselves so as to lie in its path.

"I can see something red on it," said Phil, shading his eyes.  "Can you
make anything out, Tony?"

"There's a chap there in red breeches, or I'm an idiot, Phil.  Yes, I
can see him plainly.  He's tied to the wreckage, and as far as I make
out there isn't a move in him.  Tell yer what, old man, that would be a
safer place than these here gratings, and I advise that we swop."

When the floating mass reached them, Phil and Tony sprang on to it,
securing their gratings to it, and casting off the ropes with which they
had fastened themselves.  Lashed to a ring-bolt was a little,
red-breeched French linesman, apparently dead.

Phil cut his lashings free, and turning him on to his back, tore his
coat open.  "Not dead yet," he cried eagerly.  "Lend a hand here, Tony.
We'll pull this fellow round.  He is as cold as ice, so we'll take his
shirt off and rub his chest and arms.  That ought to restore the
circulation."

Setting to work with a will they tore the clothing from the unconscious
Frenchman, and chafed his body and limbs with such energy that soon
there were obvious signs of returning consciousness, and moreover their
exertions had made both of them thoroughly warm, whereas before they had
been numbed with cold.

Suddenly their ally opened his eyes and stared round wildly.

"Mon Dieu!" he groaned, and seemed to relapse into unconsciousness.
Once more opening his eyes he stared at Phil, and, recognising him as an
English officer, stretched out his hand, while a look of relief and
gladness overspread his face.

"Mon cher, mon cher!" he cried joyfully.  "Ah, zis is ze grand plaisir.
Ah!"

"Cheer up, my good fellow," said Phil kindly, patting him on the
shoulder, for, overcome by emotion, the little man had burst into tears.
"Come, tell us how you came to be wrecked like us.  You speak our
language, so we shall be able to understand."

"Oui, monsieur, I speak ze language of ze English.  Ah, I speak 'im
well!" laughed the Frenchman, with some pride.  "Once I live in England
three months and act as a waiter.  You wish to know how I came here.
Ah, c'est terrible!"  And he covered his face with his hands.

"Now then, pull yerself together, little 'un!" exclaimed Tony
encouragingly.  "We're all in the same box.  Fire away and let's have
the yarn."

"Eh, bien," said the little man, sitting up.  "I leave my beloved France
six months ago, and sail for to fight ze perfide Russian.  Then after ze
battle for Balaclava,--monsieur, what horsemen terrible are yours--I get
ze malade; ze--what you call 'im--ah, ze water and ze cold do catch me
here;" and placing his hands on his stomach, he rolled his eyes till the
whites alone showed, and groaned dismally.  "Ze officer say, `mon pauvre
garcon!'" he continued, "and send me on the ship _Henri Cinq_."

"What! you don't mean to say that that fine boat has gone down?"
interrupted Phil.

"Alas, monsieur, it is true!" the Frenchman answered, lifting his hands.
"Behold, all is peace; ze sun 'e shine so brightly.  Then ze tempest
come, ze ship fight bravely, and then rush on the land.  `Sauve qui
peut', ze captain shout, and I tie myself here.  Then I think of my
country, and all is dark.  I wake, and you are here, mon cher.  Aha!
what does he matter?  Mais--ah, monsieur, mes pauvres camarades!" and
once more the little man relapsed into tears.

Meanwhile the wreckage had been rapidly drifting, and as the darkness
lifted it became perfectly evident that the harbour into which the gale
had swept them was indeed that on the shore of which Sebastopol was
built.  Soon sentries noticed the wreckage, and before long boats had
put off to secure it, for wood was of value for fires.  To offer any
opposition was hopeless; the three were lifted into one of the boats,
and were rowed swiftly into the inner harbour, where they were handed
over to a guard.

"Our second visit to this place," said Tony disgustedly.  "Blow'd if it
ain't the hardest luck as ever was.  But I sha'n't grumble no more.
We've come safe through when other lads have gone to their last.  I say
we was saved by a miracle."

"Yes, indeed," agreed Phil.  "We have much to be thankful for."

"Then you have been prisonaire before?" asked the Frenchman, astonished.

"We only escaped a matter of three weeks ago," answered Phil.

"You make ze escape, monsieur?" the little man repeated, lifting his
eyebrows in his amazement.  "Truly, you Englishmen are brave.  Ha, ha!"
he went on, clapping his hands, "what need I, Pierre Moutard, fear?  We
will make ze escape with each others, and we will snap ze fingers at our
perfide enemy;" and, putting his arms akimbo and throwing his chin
proudly in the air, he frowned at the nearest sentry as though he would
eat him.  The man answered with a hoarse growl, causing the Frenchman to
start and take his place between Phil and Tony rather hurriedly.

"Aha, ze perfide!" they heard him mutter beneath his breath.  "He think
'e frighten me."

"I wonder where they will take us!" mused Phil.  "If only they will be
good enough to put us in the same prison as last time, I think we can
guarantee that we will get out somehow."

"That we will," answered Tony with emphasis.  "But what about this here
Froggy with the red legs?" he asked in a cautious whisper.  "He's kind
of tied himself on to us--made pals of us, yer see,--so I suppose he'll
have to escape with us too?"

He asked the question as though an escape had been already arranged.

"Heaps of time to think of that," said Phil, with a laugh.  "But I must
say the little man seems rather nervous."

"Pah! nervous!  Just fancy getting frightened when one of these
surly-looking guards growls at him.  It's disgusting, that's what it
is."

"Well, we won't worry about it now, Tony.  Look out.  Here come our
orders."

An officer joined the group at this moment, and closely inspected the
prisoners.

"What has happened?" he asked, less gruffly than usual.

"We were wrecked by the storm and blown into the harbour," answered Phil
in his best Russian.

"Ah, you speak our language, sir!  Good!  You were wrecked, you say, and
must therefore be cold and exhausted.  Sergeant, take the prisoners into
the guard-room, and bring this officer to my quarters.  See that coffee
and a glass of vodka are given to the other two.  In half an hour you
will call for my guest and march them all three to the prison-hall."

The man saluted, and led Tony and Pierre away, while, taking Phil's arm,
the Russian led him on one side and asked how he happened to have the
little Frenchman in his company.

A few minutes later he strode away, but rejoined Phil when the latter
had been taken to the quarters set aside for officers.

"Sit down there, sir," said the Russian, politely motioning Phil to a
chair.

"Now we will have breakfast, and I am sure you must be in great need of
food.  You look quite exhausted."

He struck a bell, and a meal of steaming hot fish and coffee was brought
in, to which Phil did ample justice.  Then a cigar was handed him, and
he puffed at it with the greatest pleasure.

"It has been a terrible night, a truly awful gale," remarked the officer
after a few moments' silence.  "Even here we have suffered.  Vessels
have sunk in the harbour, and roofs have been torn from the houses, and
many people killed in consequence.  But at sea the unhappy English have
met with a shocking disaster.  It is said that along our coast and
within the harbour of Balaclava no fewer than twenty-two fine transports
have gone ashore, including the French ship _Henri Cinq_.  Few lives
have been saved, I fear, and how you and your comrades managed to escape
is past belief.  It is the fiercest storm we have experienced for
years."

Phil was struck dumb with consternation.  "Twenty-two ships ashore!" he
murmured in a broken voice.  "How awful!  All those lives lost, not to
mention the stores."

It was only too true.  Twenty-two vessels had been wrecked, and of these
the majority were filled with valuable stores of warm clothing and food,
the former being urgently needed at that moment, for the cold weather
had set in in earnest, and snow and sleet were falling.

"I grieve for you, sir," said the officer kindly.  "It is ill fortune
indeed.  But, if you feel so inclined, tell me how you came to be washed
into our harbour?  It must have been a terrible experience."

Phil described the foundering of the _Columbine_ and their miraculous
escape.

"To be taken prisoner is always painful, Englishman," the officer said
consolingly, "but to be dashed upon the cliffs is to meet with a
reception compared to which your comfort here will be perfect luxury.
It is unfortunate for you, but war is always filled with misfortunes.  I
will see that you and the two men with you are given blankets, and I
will speak to the prison official for you.  For myself, I leave for the
field-army to-night.  Ah, I hear the sergeant!  Farewell, sir, and the
best of fortune!"

Phil thanked him suitably, and half an hour later found himself in his
old prison.  As before, there were a number of other soldiers present,
who greeted them enthusiastically, and eagerly asked for news.

"Some of us have been here since a day or two after the Alma," said
their spokesman, "and we are dying for news.  These Russian beggars
won't even give us a hint.  But we keep our spirits up, and when there's
an extra heavy bombardment, we shout and sing till the guards get angry
and come in and threaten to shoot.  But we only laugh at them.  It is
the same if the food is bad; we kick up as much noise as possible, and
in the end get what we want, for these fellows seem almost afraid of
us."

"Is there no chance of escape then?" asked Phil.

"Not a morsel, sir.  We've had a try all round, but always failed.
There was an officer here named McNeil.  He was wounded, and in trying
to escape got stuck again with a bayonet.  Then an ugly little brute
they call an inspector of the prison came in and struck him with his
whip.  He seemed to know him, too, and accused him of inciting us to
escape.  That afternoon the lieutenant was dragged away, and we have
never seen him since."

"Hum! that looks bad for us, Tony," muttered Phil.  "If it is
Stackanoff, and he recognises us, it will be a bad business.  He is sure
to pay off old scores if possible."

"Trust the brute," growled Tony.  "But if he tries to come any of his
larks on us he'll be getting a tap over the head like that fellow who
found us hidden in the carriage."

At this moment the door of the prison was thrown open, and some blankets
were given to the new prisoners.

"Prepare for a visit from the inspector," said the jailer curtly, "and
see that everything is clean and straight, so that you do not disgrace
me.  It will mean evil for you if his excellency is not pleased."

A yell of derision met this speech, for the English prisoners had
already met with such poor entertainment that they could scarcely
receive worse, and, moreover, finding that a noisy, mutinous line of
conduct overawed their guards, they had long ago got quite out of hand.

"Don't you go for to worry yerself, Whiskers," cried one sturdy
linesman.  "This place ain't no palace, so the cove who expects to find
it such will be a fool.  But it's clean, and always will be, 'cos us
chaps ain't the sort to live in a pig-sty.  Now hop away, Whiskers, and
don't fret.  We'll put it right with the inspector."

The Russian looked round at the grinning faces, while Phil, who had
translated his message, put the last speaker's into Russian, taking the
liberty, however, of making it more polite.

"Very well, do not fail me," growled the jailer, showing his teeth.  "It
will be the worse for you if you do."

"He will discover us as sure as we are alive!" remarked Phil as soon as
the man had gone.  "I mean Stackanoff, of course, for I suppose he is
inspector.  We must try to disguise ourselves."

Accordingly he and Tony ruffled their hair and disarranged their
clothing.  Then they took a place amongst the prisoners, taking care to
keep well in the background.

Suddenly the door was thrown open with a crash, and Stackanoff stalked
in majestically, his little pig-like eyes glaring at the prisoners.

"Line them up," he said, with an angry snap.  "I wish to see if all are
here."

The prisoners fell into line, and Stackanoff slowly inspected them.

"Who is this?" he asked, as he came opposite Pierre.  "This is a
Frenchman."

"He came with two other prisoners this morning, Excellency," answered
the jailer.  "They were wrecked and washed into the harbour."

"Fool!  What do I care about their method of reaching here?" snarled
Stackanoff, turning on the trembling man.  "They are prisoners.  That is
good enough.  Bring them before me."

"It's all up, Tony," whispered Phil.  "We are to be brought before him."

"Let him take care, that's all!" muttered Tony, looking daggers at the
Russian.  "I'll down the fellow yet."

Stackanoff stared at them spitefully when they were marched in front of
him, but for the moment did not recognise them.

"Ha! what is this?" he suddenly exclaimed, gazing at Phil.  "Your face I
know.  Who are you?  Ah!--villain!"  And suddenly realising that Phil
was the Englishman who had thrown him from his saddle and brought him
into disgrace, he drew his sword, and, mad with rage, threw himself upon
him with tigerish fury.

Phil was helpless.  Another moment and he would have been cut down, when
Tony grappled with the angry Russian, and, picking him up like a child,
turned him upside-down, and, using all his strength, held him there,
cursing and screaming with rage, and with his head resting on the floor.

"Get hold of his sword, Phil," he shouted.  "Now I'll let him up if he
promises to behave."

Phil snatched up the weapon, while Tony, now aided by a second prisoner,
clung to the legs of the frantic Stackanoff, while the remainder looked
on and laughed at the ridiculous scene till they were doubled up with
merriment.

"You can let him go now," said Phil quietly.  "If he rushes at me again
I shall set to work with my fists and give the brute a thrashing."

Tony and his helper promptly released the inspector, and he doubled up
in a heap on the floor.  A second later he was on his feet, glaring
savagely at Phil, his lips curling away from his teeth, and his hair and
beard bristling with fury.  But the steady stare with which Phil greeted
him, and his air of preparation, caused the Russian to pause and think
before attacking him again.

"Viper!  Wretched Englishman!" he hissed.  "You shall pay bitterly for
this insult.  Ah, you are dressed now as an officer!  You were a private
before.  Your friend too has different uniform.  You are spies--spies!"
he shrieked, with a hideous laugh.  "Yes, the tale of the shipwreck is a
lie, and you two have been sent here to learn our plans.  Take them
away.  They shall be severely dealt with."

"Where to?" asked the jailer, who had looked on anxiously at the scene,
not knowing how to act.

"Fool!  To the cells, of course," Stackanoff cried.  "We have an empty
one.  Place them there, and take this Frenchman too.  He also is a spy;"
and he glared at poor Pierre as though he would kill him.

"What is it, monsieur?" the little man asked tremulously.  "What are
they about to do to ze prisonaires?"

"He says we are spies," answered Phil.

"Ah, spies!  He make ze lie.  Pierre is no spy.  But they will not
believe, and we shall all die!"  The poor little man threw himself on
the floor and howled dismally.

"Come up, won't yer?" exclaimed Tony with disgust, clutching him by the
seat of his red breeches and hoisting him to his feet.  "Ain't it enough
to know as you're to come along with us?  Ain't that bad enough?  Shout
when you're hurt, but till yer are hold yer tongue, or it'll be the
worse for yer."

Pierre wept softly, his narrow shoulders and baggy breeches shaking with
convulsive sobs.  His chin was bowed upon his breast, and altogether the
unhappy little Frenchman looked the very picture of despair.

"Pshaw!  At least the Englishmen have courage!" scowled Stackanoff
disdainfully.  "Call the guard."

Half a dozen armed Russians marched in and surrounded the prisoners.
Then, followed by shouts of farewell and encouragement from their
comrades, the three prisoners were taken to the opposite side of the
town, close to the fortifications facing the British guns, which could
be heard booming in the distance, while an occasional shell passed
overhead.

"You see that," said Stackanoff maliciously, drawing Phil's attention to
a group of low buildings which in parts were tumbled into ruins.  "The
cells are there, and perhaps a friendly message from your comrades on
the heights may find you out.  It would be best for you, for no man has
yet insulted me and lived to boast of it."

Phil did not deign to answer, but, looking closely at the buildings,
noticed that they had indeed suffered heavily from the British fire.
Walls were lying flat, roofs were broken, and a large brick chimney had
been shorn off like a stick struck by a sword.

The escort halted opposite it, and a door was thrown open by a jailer.

"Place these three in number five cell, and come to me when you have
done so," said Stackanoff.  "I have special instructions to give you as
to their comfort," he added cynically.

He turned on his heel and was gone, while Phil and his comrades followed
the jailer down a steep flight of stone steps and entered a gallery.
They stopped opposite a door studded with big nails.  It was thrown
open, and half a minute later had closed behind them with a harsh clang.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

YOU ARE SPIES.

"We are properly bottled this time," exclaimed Phil, with some concern,
closely examining the cell into which they had been thrust.  "Look at
these walls, all of thick stone, and pierced by two tiny windows with
grilles.  It is a regular cage, and after a first look at it I should
imagine escape will be impossible."

"We was in a worse hole before," cried Tony encouragingly.  "And yer
must remember there's lots of ways of getting out besides digging holes
in the wall.  For instance, we might collar that surly-faced jailer and
make a bolt for it.  But it wants a bit of thinking out."

"Consider now, monsieur," chimed in Pierre in a plaintive voice.  "To
make ze escape from this--ah--I do not know 'is name, mais--maison--oui,
maison--comprenez-vous, monsieur?  To make ze escape will bring ze death
to us, ze bang and ze bullet.  Alas, it will be for ze no good!"

"Nonsense!" said Phil shortly.  "If we want to get out we must chance
that."

"Mais, monsieur, we are so happy.  Why should we make ze escape?  See,
ze wall is strong, and ze cannon will not reach us," Pierre answered,
with a shrug of his shoulders.

"Bah! thought you was for getting out?" cried Tony in disgust.  "Look
here, little 'un, if we tries the game you're welcome to this here cell
to yourself."

Pierre subsided into silence, and commenced to make beds of the
blankets, while Phil and Tony made a thorough inspection of the cell.

"Not a loophole for escape," growled Tony.  "I suppose we'll have to dig
our way out, for get away from here I will."

"And I too, Tony," Phil answered quietly.  "There must be a way.  What
is this?" and he pointed to an open grate, upon the hearthstone of which
were the long-cold embers of a fire.  He put his head into it and looked
up the chimney, but all was black as night.  Suddenly a familiar voice,
sounding a long way off, reached his ear.

"What can it be?" he cried, withdrawing his head.  "I can hear that
brute Stackanoff distinctly.  Hush!  I will get higher up into the
chimney.  Pierre, if you hear footsteps warn me in good time."  Phil
crawled beneath the overhanging lip of the grate, and stood up in the
chimney.  Then, finding a rest for his feet, he gradually ascended.
Suddenly his head struck against some brickwork, and by stretching out
his hands he found that the chimney bent upward at an easy slope.
Surmounting the corner he crept up with some difficulty.  The voice now
sounded much nearer, so he lay still and listened.

"Know, then, that I have set hands on your comrades, beggarly
Englishman!" he heard Stackanoff cry in a cruel voice.  "They have been
taken as spies, and I hope will be shot.  I promise you that you shall
see the fun."

"Wretch!" a weak voice replied, in tones which sounded like Lieutenant
McNeil's, "have you not already ill-treated me sufficiently, and must
you now persecute my poor countrymen?  Were it not for this wound, which
lames me, I would spring upon you and crush the life from your miserable
carcass.  Leave me, you coward!"

A derisive laugh was the only answer, and, having waited in vain to hear
more, Phil slipped back into the cell, looking more like a sweep than a
British officer.  He was greatly excited, and that, together with the
fact that he was partially choked by soot, made it difficult to answer
Tony's eager question.

"What luck!" he cried at last.  "This cell must communicate in some way
with the next one, and in that is Lieutenant McNeil.  Listen, and I will
tell you what happened."

Sitting on his blankets he rapidly communicated the words he had
overheard.

"I'm going up there again," he said, when some ten minutes had elapsed.
"If this chimney allows us to reach the other cell, it will allow us,
perhaps, to escape.  Evidently our pleasant Stackanoff knows nothing
about it.  At any rate, if I can get into McNeil's prison, and can find
some way out for both of us, he comes with me.  Poor chap!  See how long
he has been shut up."

"What, another!" exclaimed Tony aghast.  "Ain't it bad enough to have
this here Froggy? ain't that hard enough?  And now yer wants to take on
another pal?"

Phil glared at him.

"Very well," he said curtly, "we'll not make the attempt.  I am sorry,
for I did not know you were a coward."

"Call me a coward, me a funk!" cried the gallant Tony, springing from
his blanket-bed and striking himself on the chest.  "Me, yer old pal
too!"  He looked half-sorrowfully and half-angrily at Phil.  Then his
face suddenly flushed.

"So I am," he cried hoarsely.  "Ain't the poor young officer in
distress, and me wanting to desert him?  Phil, old friend, here's my
hand.  I won't say another word against it."

"That's right," said Phil, with a smile of relief.  "I knew I had only
to call you names to make you give way.  Now I'll go up again.  Come and
give me a lift."

Climbing into the chimney he worked his way up laboriously.  Soon his
hand caught upon a sharp ridge of brick, and happening to look up at
that moment, he saw a square patch of light with somewhat rugged
margins.

"By George," he muttered, "that must be the broken chimney."

He turned over so as to be able to inspect it the better, and, with an
exclamation of annoyance, noticed that several bars crossed the chimney
some eight feet up.

"That will be our greatest difficulty," he thought.  "Still, they are
only built into brick, and we ought to be able to loosen them.  Now for
the other cell."

He felt the brickwork with his hands, and was delighted to find that it
descended suddenly at an angle, showing that it corresponded to the part
in which he was lying, and that two fireplaces were evidently arranged
to pour their smoke through one common chimney.  The flue down which he
was looking then must communicate with the other cell.

"McNeil!" he cried softly.  "McNeil!"

"Hallo!  Who's that?" came a muffled answer.

Phil repeated his name again more loudly.

"Come to the chimney!" he cried.  "I am up here."

A minute passed, and then the small patch of light which he could just
discern beneath was suddenly obscured.

"Who are you?  Whatever is happening?"  McNeil asked in an eager
whisper.  "Hush!  Speak low.  The jailer lives close outside my cell."

"Do you remember Corporal Western and his friend?  The two who helped
you with the flag?" asked Phil, making a funnel of his hands.

"Yes, of course I do.  But who are you?"

"I am Corporal Western, or rather I was," said Phil.  "I am now a
lieutenant in the 30th.  But I will explain later.  My friend and I,
together with a Frenchman, were wrecked and blown ashore this morning.
That brute Stackanoff recognised us, and has put us in the cell next to
yours, with the accusation that we are spies."

"Stackanoff!  That man must die, Western," the stern answer came.  "He
has treated me with the foulest brutality.  I am half-starved, and
altogether lame, for the second wound I received while trying to escape
has festered, and I am racked with fever.  For God's sake get me out of
this, old chap!"

"I mean to," Phil cried cheerfully.  "We have no idea how we shall get
out yet, but we gave the Russians the slip once before, and will do so
now.  Be ready at any moment.  But I will try to warn you in good time.
Now I will slip back, but to-morrow I will come right down into your
prison."

Carefully lowering himself, it was not long before he was back in his
own cell, and telling Tony all that had happened and what chances there
were of escape.

"Speak low, mate," said Tony cautiously.  "Tell yer what it is.  This
'ere Froggy"--and he nodded contemptuously at Pierre--"ain't worth a bag
of salt.  My advice is, don't tell him what we're up to.  You can see he
ain't got the pluck to get out of this, and he's bound to know he'll
catch it if we get away and leave him.  So he'll round on us if we're
not careful."

"Impossible!" exclaimed Phil.

"Look at the fellow then, and perhaps you'll change your mind," replied
Tony in a whisper.

Pierre was lying disconsolately in his corner, and when Phil glanced at
him the Frenchman's eyes were shifty.  He looked ill at ease, and was
evidently deeply curious as to his fellow-prisoners' movements.

"What for does monsieur mount ze chimney?" he asked peevishly.  "Eef ze
door open, what happen?  Vraiment, ze bang;" and he shuddered at the
thought that all would be shot.

"Look here," said Phil sternly, and with hardly repressed anger and
contempt, "that man Stackanoff has got us in his clutches, and if we are
to live we must escape.  I went up the chimney for that purpose, but
could see no way out in that direction.  If we find a loophole, you must
decide whether to accompany us; but mind me, do not attempt to betray
us, or we will break your neck!"

"Betray monsieur!  Ah, non!" the little man cried, lifting his hands in
expostulation.  "Surely I will come with you.  I will brave ze death."

"Mind yer do then," grunted Tony, looking searchingly at him.

But the incident, small as it was, was sufficient to put Phil and his
friend on their guard, and after that they kept their counsels to
themselves.

At dusk, the sour-faced jailer brought in some bread and a jug of water,
and without answering Phil's remarks that the cell was not fitted for
officer or men, banged the door and locked it.  Before he did so, Tony
caught sight of six Russian soldiers standing in the doorway.

"No chance of rushing that when the jailer comes in," he said shortly.
"Never mind, the chimney's good enough for me."

The bread was now divided up, and they fell to hungrily.  Then, when his
wound had been dressed, Phil and his friends lay down.  Fortunately for
the former, the bayonet had made a clean thrust through the muscles, and
though he suffered some pain, and was stiff, the wound was too slight to
incommode him greatly.

The following morning, just as dawn was breaking, Phil slipped off his
coat, climbed up the chimney, and slid down into the other cell, where
he found McNeil sleeping soundly.  He was shocked at the poor fellow's
appearance.  He was greatly emaciated and intensely pallid.  Phil woke
him gently.

"Hush, keep quiet!" he said.  "Here I am, come to have a chat with you."

McNeil sat up with difficulty.

"Ah, Western!" he cried, grasping Phil by both hands, while his lips
quivered, "yours is the first friendly grasp I have felt since I was
taken prisoner.  So you are now a subaltern, and have been taken
prisoner for the second time?  How did you escape?  I sent a letter to
say how gallantly you and your friend fought by my side for the flag."

"Yes, and it reached the camp safely," said Phil, "and I was promoted to
sergeant, and my friend to corporal.  But I will tell you all about it
later.  Now let me know about this brute Stackanoff."

"Ah, he is a brute!  See here, Western!  He has refused me the help and
advice of a doctor, and my wound daily gets worse and cripples me."

Phil looked at it, and going to a basin in the corner of the cell,
filled it with water and returned.

"I'll set you right in a minute," he said.  "I was for a little while in
the cholera hospital, and know a little about wounds too."

Some linen lay at hand, and with this he cleaned the wound and dressed
it carefully.

"Thank you, Western!" said McNeil gratefully.  "You are my good
Samaritan.  Now what about this escape?  I can just limp along, and
shall be ready at any moment."

"The door is out of the question," Phil replied thoughtfully.  "It is
too strong to break, and a guard accompanies the jailer.  Then the
windows are too small and too high up, while the floor is impossible.
The only way is up the chimney."

"Good heavens! up the chimney?"

"Yes; listen!  Our cells communicate by slanting flues, and above the
junction rises a brick chimney, which is amply wide enough for our
bodies.  At present it has bars across it, but my friend--who, by the
way, is now my servant--will help me to remove them.  Fortunately, a
shot has cut the chimney off short, and I noticed before coming in that
the drop from the top to the roof is not very great."

"And what do you intend doing once you get out?" asked the wounded
officer.  "Remember you are in the fortifications, and the Russians are
as thick as peas all round."

"We must make for the harbour, if possible, and in any case we must
chance it.  I have been thinking it over this morning; and that is the
only way out that I can see.  Of course if we cannot get down to the
shore and secure a boat, we must creep out between the forts and bolt
for our lives.  That would be a desperate undertaking."

Both were thoughtful and silent for a moment.

"Now I think I had better return," said Phil.  "Be prepared at any time,
for the sooner we are away the better.  Our lives are never safe while
Stackanoff has us in his power."

He grasped McNeil's hand and crept into the chimney.

That night, when all was quiet in the cells, and only the distant
booming of the English mortars, and the louder crash of their exploding
shells, broke the silence, Phil and Tony crept into the chimney, leaving
Pierre breathing heavily on his bed.

Phil climbed to the angle and helped Tony to reach his side.  Then,
taking it in turn, they stood on one another's shoulders, and wrenched
at the bars.

They were more solidly-wedged than had at first seemed likely, but the
shell which had struck the stack had cracked the brickwork below, and
this lessened the difficulty of their task.  It was terribly hot work,
however, and by the time two heavy bars had been wrenched free they were
exhausted.

"We'll jam the loose bars here," said Phil in a whisper.  "Who knows
when we shall want weapons with which to defend ourselves!"

Tony chuckled.  "You're a cool hand," he laughed.  "Who'd have thought
of all this if it hadn't been for you.  Now all's plain sailing, and I
prophesies complete success.  Ah, if only that chap Stackanoff would get
in my way I'd smash him into a jelly!"

Cautioning him to keep quiet, for both were by now still more doubtful
of the cringing Pierre, they slipped down to the cell, and were soon
sunk in deep sleep, as though nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

On the following afternoon the cell door was thrown open, and Stackanoff
stalked in with his guard.  He glared at his prisoners in a manner that
showed his temper had not improved since they saw him last.

"Ah!" he said at last, glancing at the trembling Pierre,--who thought
his last hour had come,--and gloating over his terror, "the whole plot
is discovered.  You are all spies."

With a sob the little Frenchman fell on his knees, and with clasped
hands cried, "Mercy, Monsieur ze Russian, je suis innocent!"

"Get up, you little funk," said Phil bitterly, while Tony clasped him by
the collar and jerked him to his feet.

"Yes," continued Stackanoff, "you are all spies.  The tale that you were
washed ashore is exploded.  Confess now, and I will promise to deal
leniently with you."

"Confess!" shouted Phil, roused to anger.  "You know well that we are no
spies.  And let me tell you, you are merely an inspector, and have no
right to punish us.  Is this fit treatment for a British officer?
Wait," and he shook his finger at the Russian, "I will yet communicate
with the gentleman who dismissed you, and probably he will be less
pleased with your conduct than before."

"You will! then I will give you little time, you Englishman," snarled
Stackanoff, beside himself with rage at the mention of his disgrace.
"To-morrow I will have you brought before the military court, and I
myself will swear that you are spies who escaped me once before.  Then
you will be shot.  After all, it is an easy death," he laughed
sardonically.

Phil felt inclined to fly at him, but he kept his temper.

"After all," he answered quietly, "it is more easy than death by the
bayonet, and that perhaps is why so many of your comrades chose death by
the bullet in the fight at Inkermann."

"Ha, you would remind me of our disgrace!" hissed the Russian.  "Listen,
you stubborn English pig.  Once you disgraced me and pulled me,
Stackanoff, leader of a regiment of Cossacks, to the ground.  I did not
forget, and I will repay in full measure.  You shall come before the
military tribunal, as I told you, and that officer for whom you did that
foolish deed shall be evidence against you.  You will be condemned, and
at early dawn, when the cold fog still lies on the ground, you shall be
led out to your doom.  I shall be there.  Do you hear?  I, Stackanoff,
who hate you worse than any, shall be there, and I myself will shoot
you.  You shall hear the word, my brave Englishman; you shall see the
musket raised, and you shall wait.  Ah, yes! you shall have time to
think over and regret your folly.  Then, when your knees give way like
those of this cur of a Frenchman, I will shoot you, and your body shall
be flung into the sea.  Thus you will learn that it is ill to bring
disgrace on the head of a Stackanoff."

Phil laughed in the man's face and looked at him with steady gaze,
before which the fiery Russian's eyes lowered.

"You call this man a cur," said Phil with a smile, nodding his head at
Pierre.  "Believe me, you Russian dog, he is a brave man compared with
you, for he would not murder his fellow-being.  If that time comes of
which you have spoken, I will do my best to bear it; and should your
time to face death come first, I trust you may set me an example.  I
doubt it though.  Bullies, such as you, are ever cowards, and vengeance,
when followed too far, is apt to bring disaster to the avenger.  My only
wish is that I could reach your comrades.  They have proved themselves
brave and honourable men, and would spit on you."

The Russian's face was an ugly picture.  Flushed with hate and rage, he
looked as though he would repeat his former assault.  But, standing
upright and sturdy as he did, his head proudly held in air, Phil did not
look a young man to be trifled with, even by one with weapons in his
hands.  Moreover, Tony was close alongside, his eyes fixed upon the
Russian's face, and clearly showing that at the slightest attempt he
would treat him less gently than before.

"You defy me and laugh at me," said Stackanoff wrathfully.  "Very well,
I will leave you now and visit your friend.  But you shall see me again
very soon."

With a snarl of rage he turned on his heel and left the cell.

"What's it all about?" asked Tony eagerly.  "This lingo's too much for
me, and how you ever picked it up beats me altogether.  Get up, you
sniveller;" and with an angry growl he hoisted Pierre to his feet once
more, for the Frenchman had given way to his fears.

"He's off to McNeil's cell, Tony," Phil answered hurriedly.  "I'll tell
you all that passed in good time, but give me a lift into the chimney.
I must hear all that happens."

He sprang to the grate, and, helped by Tony, was soon at the angle.
Breathless with his exertions, he climbed still higher, leaning his body
well over the sharp edge of brickwork, and listened eagerly.  Suddenly
there was a clash, the dull hollow echo of which came rushing up the
chimney, followed by Stackanoff's voice.

"I shall be with this prisoner some time," he said, evidently addressing
the jailer.  "You and the guards can withdraw.  I will hammer on the
woodwork when I require you to let me out.  Now close the door and
dismiss the guard."

"Now, sir," he continued, harshly addressing McNeil, when the door had
banged.  "I have a proposition to make to you, and consider well before
you answer it.  Liberty is dear to every man, and more so to you, who
are sick and wounded.  You can buy yours at the price of that man's life
who dragged me from my saddle.  Swear that he was a spy then, and that
that is his regular employment, and I will set you free.  I will myself
hand you over to the English sentries."

An inarticulate cry of rage burst from McNeil's throat.  What followed
Phil did not hear, for, suddenly overbalancing in his eagerness, he lost
his hold and slipped headlong into the opposite cell, arriving with a
crash into the open grate and rolling on to the floor before the
astonished eyes of the prisoner and his Russian tempter.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

FROM THE MOUTH OF THE LION'S DEN.

Never before had our hero so much need of courage and quick resolution
as on that occasion, when, helpless to save himself, he slid like a sack
down the chimney, and plumped into the very presence of his bitter
enemy.  But he was the kind of lad to make the best of a difficult
situation.  It was not for nothing that he had joined heart and soul in
cricket and football, and in every manly game.  He had gone through a
schooling indeed which no English lad should neglect, and which no one
ever regrets; for even in later days, when the cares and duties of life
prevent one from indulging in the old games, the quickness and sureness
of eye and the presence of mind still remain, and may at any moment
extricate one from danger or difficulty.

Phil was a young man whose muscles had been hardened in every game, and
whose judgment could be relied on to count the chances of victory in
each.  Here was a game--one, indeed, of life and death--and instantly
recovering from his surprise, and recognising that immediate action was
necessary, he sprang to his feet and hurled himself upon the astonished
Russian before the latter could grasp his sword.  Linked together in a
close embrace they swayed from side to side, but Phil had the advantage
of size, and squeezing his adversary till the breath was driven from his
body, he lifted him in his strong arms and dashed him to the floor.

"Great heavens! you've done for him," cried McNeil, kneeling by the
Russian's side.  "Look, his neck is broken."

"Then his death be on his own head," gasped Phil.  "If I had not killed
him, he would soon have had me shot, and besides, my tumbling down that
chimney would have spoilt all our chances of escape.  Now he's dead, and
if we are to get away, it must be done to-night, for should the guards
discover what has happened it will mean little mercy.  As likely as not
we should be taken out and shot before half an hour had passed."

"But what about the jailer?" asked McNeil.  "We can be sure that he has
heard nothing suspicious or he would have been in here by this.  He is
aware, though, that Stackanoff is with me, and he will be waiting
impatiently for his return?"

"Yes, he will be getting impatient before long," mused Phil.  "There is
nothing else to be done at present.  We will wait till his patience is
exhausted, then my friend and I will knock, and as soon as he comes in
we will collar him."

"It seems desperately risky, but I suppose it is the only way, Western.
If you get hold of him, though, it will save the trouble of climbing
through the chimney, an acrobatic feat which, in my present condition, I
shall not be sorry to be spared."

"Quite so.  I had not thought of that, McNeil," said Phil.  "Now I will
call Tony.  I shall only be gone a few minutes."

Slipping into the chimney, Phil soon regained his own cell.

"Did you hear anything, Tony?" he asked shortly.

"Nothing, mate; but what's been keeping yer so long.  You look flurried
too.  What's happened?"

Phil explained that Stackanoff was dead.

"We must get away to-night, Tony," he said, with decision, "and first of
all we must capture the jailer.  He is to open the door at Stackanoffs
knock, and I propose that we throw ourselves upon him.  Now, listen.
After knocking, I will stand behind the door so that he cannot see me,
and will call to him to come in.  You will crouch behind me, and bang
the door to.  Then we will pull him down and gag him.  Bring your
blanket with you."

Meanwhile Pierre had listened anxiously, his ferrety little eyes
shifting from face to face.

"What is this that happens?" he asked eagerly.  "Monsieur makes ze
disappearance up ze chimney, then he come back again."

"We must get away to-night, do you understand?"  Phil replied, looking
searchingly at him.  "Are you willing to come?"

"Vraiment, I will accompany you, monsieur," answered Pierre
hesitatingly.  "Mais--ah, what will ze Russian with ze face severe do to
us?  Surely he will make ze bang."

"Oh, you little coward!" murmured Phil bitterly, "you will spoil
everything yet.  I tell you, Pierre," he added, clutching him by both
shoulders, "if you wish to stay, do so; but you will probably be shot as
a spy.  That will be your bad luck in having been washed ashore with us.
If you attempt the escape with us, beware how you behave, for should
you make a sound to betray us, I will kill you.  Now, stay here, and
prepare to accompany us.  We shall be back in half an hour.  Come, Tony,
it is already dark, and we must capture that fellow."

"Then in a half of the hour you make ze return," said the little
Frenchman, looking as though he had smothered his fears.  "Bien, I shall
be prepared.

"Aha, my good fellows!" he muttered in his own language a few moments
later, with quivering lips.  "You have gone up the chimney, and will be
back in half an hour.  Why should I die for your foolishness?  It would
be suicide."

Creeping to the chimney, the crafty little coward listened while Phil
and Tony slid into the other cell.  Then he stepped to the door, and
prepared to give the alarm, hoping thereby to escape the fate which
would certainly befall the others if discovered.  But, overcome by
terror of the consequences, he remained irresolute for more than ten
minutes ere he dared to shout, for he had a wholesome terror of the
fair-haired young Englishman who had brought him back to consciousness
when lashed to the wreckage, and moreover there was an ominous look in
Tony's eyes as that burly young giant looked at him for the last time
before entering the chimney.

Meanwhile Phil and Tony had entered the other cell.

"Now for it," said Phil.  "McNeil, you are too lame to help us, so had
better lie down on your blankets.  Tony, tear up the blanket and get the
gag ready.  You quite understand?" he went on, when all was finished.
"You crouch behind me, and slam the door as soon as the fellow comes in.
Then we jump on him.  It is dark enough now, so we'll knock."

Taking the precaution to drag Stackanoff's body into the corner behind
the door, Phil knocked loudly, and, hearing footsteps outside, cried out
in a feigned voice and in the fierce manner in which the dead Russian
seemed to have been in the habit of addressing his subordinates, "Hi,
you, fool that you are!  Why do you not listen, and let me out?"

A second later there was the sound of a key in the lock, and almost at
the same moment a most unearthly scream.

The escaping prisoners looked at one another with doubting eyes, but
before a question could be asked the door was pushed open cautiously.
Phil clutched its edge, so that it could not easily be closed, and
waited.  Then again came the scream, this time more clearly heard, while
the voice of Pierre could be distinguished crying at the top of his
voice, and still in broken English, as if that would be better
understood by the Russians, "Help! help!  Ze English prisonaire make ze
escape!"

"Ah! treachery!" gasped the jailer, stepping back and attempting to
close the door.

Phil darted out and made a grab at the man, but with a cry of terror the
Russian took to his heels, and raced up the steep flight of steps, where
he turned towards the town.

Phil followed him to the top of the stairway, and then returned
hurriedly.

"He has got away, and has gone to call the nearest guard," he cried in
hurried tones.  "Tumble out, you fellows.  They will be back here in a
quarter of an hour or less, and if we are to give them the slip, it must
be now.  What are you doing, Tony?  Come here, you idiot!"

Tony crept from the chimney, into which he was in the act of climbing,
and slunk back to his friend's side abashed, and yet full of
indignation.

"Going to leave that cabbage-eating French monkey?" he asked angrily.
"What's he done?  Why, just spoilt all our chances; that's all."

"It is the very thing you will be doing, old man," answered Phil.  "Now,
give me one of those bars, and keep one yourself.  McNeil, I'm ready, if
you are.  Here is Stackanoff's sword for you.  As for that little
coward, he has done all the harm he can possibly do us, so we will leave
him to his own devices."

They grasped their weapons, and Phil and Tony, placing themselves on
either side of the wounded lieutenant to help him along, hurried out of
the cell, up the stairs, and ran for a deep ditch which they had noticed
as they were marched to prison.  It seemed to be a trench constructed to
command the rear of some of the fortifications, and for the moment would
prove an excellent shelter.

"Listen, I hear the guard returning!" whispered McNeil, "and the bell
that is ringing must be a warning to announce that prisoners have
escaped.  Whew! that was a nasty one!" he exclaimed a moment later, for
the guard had advanced with a blazing torch to assist in the search,
and, the street being visible from the British trenches, and the range
known to a nicety, a shell had been pitched with precision just in front
of the group.  The torch was instantly extinguished and all was darkness
again, but the sound of distant marching, and an occasional order
sharply given, proved that troops were being hastened from their
quarters to patrol the streets and cut off the escaping prisoners.

"They know that the harbour is our only chance," said Phil bitterly.  "I
fear it looks like failure this time, McNeil."

"It does look bad," agreed the latter sadly.  "What hard luck, when we
had all set our hearts so much upon it!"

"Are you game to try the other way?" asked Phil eagerly.

"Game!" answered McNeil enthusiastically; "just you try me.  I've had
enough of Russian prisons for a lifetime, and I tell you I would rather
die than go back."

"Then we go forward," said Phil shortly.  "Keep close together and steer
between the forts.  If anyone challenges, leave me to answer."

Climbing from the ditch, they set their faces for the British camp and
crept forward cautiously till they recognised the Malakoff looming big
and shadowy in front.  Phil led the way and attempted to make out the
position of the earthworks and trenches.  "There--there they are, only a
few yards in front of us!" he whispered eagerly.  "Hush! down for your
lives!"

A figure suddenly rose up in front of them and listened.  Evidently the
man was a sentry, and had heard something suspicious, for next moment he
challenged loudly.

Long ere this Phil had learnt that polite words are not usually wasted
on Russian privates, and he determined to take advantage of the fact.

"Idiot!" he answered roughly.  "Cannot you see that I am your officer,
and can I not give instructions to my lieutenant without your
challenging?"

"My orders are to challenge everyone," the sentry answered humbly.
"Excellency, give the countersign and I shall know you better.  Some
dogs of prisoners have recently escaped, for I heard the bell, therefore
I must be cautious."

"My word, we're done again!" groaned Phil.  Then taking the bull by the
horns, he advanced a pace and said roughly, "How can I remember the word
every night after all these weeks?  Wait, though--ah, was not the first
letter `N'?"

"That is right, excellency; and our master the Czar's name also
commences with that letter," the sentry replied encouragingly.

"Nicolas!" cried Phil boldly.

"Excellency, your pardon on my insisting; pass whither you will.  All is
well."

"That is good, fellow," Phil cried.  "Come, comrades, we have business
with the Malakoff."

Another fire minutes, and the sentry and trench were passed.  Skirting
by the great fortress, they bore up for the British trenches, crossing
as they did so several rows of ditches and earthworks.  Then they lay
down and listened.  Close at hand there was a hum of voices, while away
on the left a sharp musketry fire was being maintained, the flicker of
the exploding powder cutting the darkness at every second.  In front all
was pitch blackness in the valley in which they stood, but higher up on
the elopes beyond fires were burning, and dark figures were occasionally
silhouetted against them as they passed.

"Now for it!" whispered Phil.  "If there is any firing lie on your
faces.  We don't want to be killed by our own side."

Sneaking through the mud and mire on hands and knees the three crept
forward in absolute silence.  Soon the last trench was passed, and the
British earthworks loomed in the distance.  At last they were close to
liberty and friends.  Not more than sixty yards separated them, and
already the murmur of the men's voices could be heard, when, with a
sharp exclamation, Phil disappeared.

There was a scuffle, a startled cry of astonishment and fear, and the
loud report of a musket.

"Quick, help me!"  Phil cried from the rifle-pit into which he had
fallen.  Then there was a choked cry, and all was silence for a few
moments.

With a growl of rage Tony threw himself into the pit, almost smashing
Phil as he fell.

"That you, Tony?" the latter asked coolly.

"Yes, it's me sure enough, mate.  Are yer hurt, old man?"

"Not a bit, but it was a hard struggle.  I fancy the Russian is dead,
for I gave him a tremendous blow on the head with my iron bar.  Now, let
us push on, for the alarm has been given, and it will mean capture if we
stay."

But the Russian sharpshooters had taken the alarm.  Occupying a row of
pits, each of which was sufficiently large to hold one man, they had
orders to worry the besiegers by their fire, and to be always on the
look-out for an assault.  At the report of their comrade's weapon they
imagined that they were about to be attacked, and poured volley after
volley at the British earthworks.  Instantly the sharp crackle of Minie
rifles broke out, and Phil and his friends found themselves in the
awkward position of receiving fire from their friends.

"Down in here for your lives," cried Phil; and within half a minute they
were wedged in the pit, while a perfect hail of bullets swept overhead.
Both sides imagined that a sortie was taking place, and the alarm
spreading, the guns on either side opened fire, and a perfect torrent of
shell hummed in the air and burst with deafening crashes in the
darkness.  A loud scuffling was then heard in the British trenches,
there was a sharp order, and a host of dark figures sprang over the
earthworks and dashed at the Russians.

Phil and his friends lay flat upon their faces, while the Russians in
the other pits for the most part fled for their lives.  Those who did
not were bayoneted.

"Hallo, come out of it, you skulkers!" a voice cried; and, looking up,
Phil caught sight of the figures of English soldiers at the mouth of the
pit.

"Don't fire," he shouted, "we are friends.  We are escaping prisoners."

"Now, then, none of yer sauce," the same voice answered wrathfully.
"Most like you're deserters.  Out yer come and let's take a look at
yer."

In a trice they were dragged ignominiously from the pit.

"Why, what's this?" the sergeant, who had charge of the party,
exclaimed.  "The light's bad, but blow me if there ain't two British
officers here.  Get round 'em, boys, and bring 'em along."

With a rush the group of soldiers returned, bearing Phil and his friends
with them.

"Now, send along that lamp," cried the sergeant, as soon as they were
safely sheltered by the earthworks.  "Blow me, but I'm right.  They're
Britishers or I'm a wrong 'un," he cried, lifting the lantern to their
faces.  "Hi, pass the word to Mr Ellis there."

A moment later an officer came hurrying along.

"What is all this commotion about?" he asked sharply.  "The whole camp
is disturbed, and you seem to have made a sortie, Sergeant."

"Quite right, sir!  There was a bit of a ruction over in them
rifle-pits, and as I knew you was anxious to teach them Russians a
lesson, and the boys was mad to get at 'em, why, we did a rush and
cleared 'em out like rats.  We found these three there.  They said they
were escaping prisoners, so we brought 'em along."

"Who are you, then?" asked the officer, examining them by the aid of his
lantern.

"Why, bless my life if it isn't Western, reported drowned at sea!" he
exclaimed with a start.  "You're like a jack-in-the-box, Western.  Who
are your friends?"

Phil mentioned their names.

"We had a near squeak for it," he said faintly.  "By the way, Ellis, is
there a doctor near?  McNeil is in need of dressing, and I fear I have
got a bullet in my ribs."

That was the case.  At the first outburst of firing, a bullet had struck
him in the side like a sledge-hammer, but Phil kept his groans to
himself.  Now, however, when all need for further silence and exertion
had passed, he sat down suddenly, and went off into a dead faint,
frightening poor Tony almost out of his life.  A few drops of brandy
were forced between his teeth, and by the time he had been placed on a
blanket he was conscious again.  Then he was carried with great
gentleness up to the field-hospital.

"Another bullet wound, my lad," said the surgeon kindly.  "That makes
the fifth I have seen already to-night.  Let me have a look at it;" and
with the greatest sympathy and gentleness he removed Phil's clothing and
examined the wound.

"Ah! a nasty one," he said gravely.  "Two ribs badly smashed, and the
lung injured.  Not fatal, though.  Oh, no! not by any means.  We'll
dress it carefully and get you out of this."

Phil gave an exclamation of disgust.

"It's awfully bad luck, doctor," he said testily.  "Here I am, scarcely
landed on the Crimea, and already I have been captured twice.  And now I
am to be sent away for the second time.  Couldn't I possibly stay?  I am
very anxious to serve to the end of the campaign with my regiment."

"Yes, I know you are, my lad, but Scutari is where you are going," the
doctor answered firmly.  "Twice captured since you landed!  Yes, but you
forget to mention that in the short time that has elapsed, you have
escaped twice from the Russians, taken part in two pitched battles, and
joined in a famous cavalry charge, not to mention having been promoted
to a commission for distinguished gallantry.  Now, no more talking.
To-morrow you go, and your friend too."

Expostulations were unavailing, and on the following day Phil and
Lieutenant McNeil were carried to Balaclava and hoisted on board a ship
bound for the great hospital at Scutari, with her decks full of sick and
wounded soldiers.  As was only natural, Tony accompanied them.

Before the convoy set out from camp the news of their reappearance had
got wind, and many officers of the 30th, besides friends from the
battalion of Grenadier Guards and Lieutenant McNeil's regiment, came
flocking to see them.  Phil was scarcely in a condition to talk, and
Tony, who had, as it were, mounted guard over him, insisted that the
doctor's orders should be obeyed.  But he himself was quite ready to
dilate on their adventures, and he did so in a manner which would have
made the bashful Phil blush.  At length they were on the sea _en route_
for Scutari, and within two days, thanks to the cold and bracing air,
and an excellent constitution, Phil was able to lie in a hammock, on
deck, suspended between the mast and the top of the saloon skylight.

Douglas McNeil had taken the greatest liking for his young friend, and
to the latter's secret astonishment, spent hours in gazing at him
thoughtfully, as though he were trying to recollect something.  Very
soon both were on the closest terms of intimacy.

"What are you troubling about?" asked Phil with a wan smile one day,
noticing the look of perplexity on his friend's face.

Douglas was silent for a few minutes.  "I will tell you," he said at
last.  "From the very first there has been something about you that has
struck me; some strong resemblance to my dear mother.  Sometimes I
think, too, that you and I have features much in common.  You never
speak of your parents, Phil, and I have never liked to ask you, but if
you care to tell me I should be glad to hear."

"Parents!" said Phil, with a short and somewhat bitter laugh.  "I never
knew my real father and mother.  I was sold at the age of two, and
that's a good long time ago."

"Sold!  Who sold you?  Where did it take place, and who paid the money?"
Douglas asked excitedly, coming closer to Phil.

"As far as I have been able to learn from my adopted father, a poor
woman, with many children, sold me.  Where, though, I do not recollect I
was sold to Mr Western, at one time an officer in the army, but for
many years a clergyman."

Douglas McNeil stared at him with wide-open eyes, and seemed strangely
excited.

"Listen, Phil," he said earnestly.  "About twenty years ago my aunt, my
mother's younger sister, fell in love with a poor officer in the navy.
She married him against the wishes of her parents, and my grandfather,
who was a stubborn hard-hearted man, refused to have anything more to do
with her, refused even to hear of her or help her in any way.  A year
later Frank Davidson, the husband, was drowned at sea, and my aunt
brought a boy into the world.  For five years her relatives heard
nothing.  But the old grandfather had already repented of his harshness,
and enquiries were set on foot.  It is an odd story, Phil, and is full
of sadness.  That unhappy aunt of mine was friendless, and to obtain a
post as governess was compelled to part with her child.  You can imagine
the poor thing's grief and loneliness.  She placed the child with a
certain woman who kept a kind of baby-farm in the midlands.  For a year
all went well, but my aunt died very suddenly of fever, and we learnt
afterwards, from people who lived near the baby-farm, that the boy we
were in search of was disposed of to a clergyman.  The neighbours
remembered having seen him.  I suppose one cannot blame the woman in
charge, though the thing sounds hateful and impossible in our free
England.  But, finding there was no yearly instalment coming for the
child's keep, she answered an advertisement and handed him over to a
clergyman.  Unfortunately she herself died a few months before we
instituted the search, and although we advertised widely we never
obtained any more information.  Tell me now, Phil, what you think of
that?"

There was a long silence.

"Could it be possible that, after all, he was indeed the lost child?"
Phil asked himself.  "Was it possible that the story just narrated was
his own, and referred to his father and mother.  Was the vicar's test to
be a useless one, for he had trained an adopted son for one purpose
only?  What joy it would be to have relations of his own?"  The thoughts
crowded through his brain, and his lips trembled with hope and
eagerness.

"Douglas," he said at last, in a voice that was weak and broken with
emotion, "I believe I am your cousin I believe that that unhappy lady
you have spoken of was my dear mother, the mother I never knew.  We
cannot settle the question here, but my adopted father can do so as soon
as we get back to England.  Something tells me that you have helped me
to discover the secret of my birth, and if so, then all I can say is,
that I greet you as a cousin with all my heart.  Providence has thrown
us together, and let us hope that the same guiding hand will keep us
good friends till the last."

The lads shook hands silently, while Tony looked on with a grin of
pleasure on his face.

"Such a one as Phil is for making pals I never see," he muttered.
"Lor', if it was girls around he would be turning their heads, and
getting failed in love with by every one on 'em;" and with a loud guffaw
he dived down the companion ladder.  As for Phil and Douglas McNeil,
they sat discussing the question of their relationship for more than an
hour, and when they retired, it was with the mutual and hearty agreement
that it was one of the happiest days in their lives when the fortune of
war brought them together to fight side by side for the honour of
England's flag.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

A WELCOME DISCOVERY.

It was a new thing indeed for our hero to have real relatives, and those
who may happen to have read these chapters, and are placed in a position
similar to his, will realise with what eagerness he hoped that it should
turn out that he and Douglas McNeil were cousins.

True, Phil had had an adopted father and mother who, if not indulgent,
were at least kind after their own way.  But home life for him had
always lacked that sympathy and that geniality which are the makings of
a happy family circle.  Where all was austerity, Joe Sweetman's ruddy,
smiling face had come like the sun to lighten the gloomy house.  No
wonder that Phil took to him from the first, and no wonder that, now
that the real secret of his birth seemed to be on the point of
discovery, in which case he would have friends, aunts, uncles, and
cousins like others he met every day of his life, he was more than a
little excited.  He and Douglas had many a chat over the possibility of
their being relations, and before Scutari was reached the latter had
written a long letter of explanation to his parents, while Phil wrote to
Joe and to Mr Western, telling of his new life and fortunes, and asking
for particulars of the place and the woman from whose house he had been
brought many years before.  Then, as nothing further could be done to
settle the matter, they dropped the subject by mutual consent.

A week after they left Balaclava the huge barracks which now served as a
hospital for the sick and wounded British hove in sight, and by evening
Phil and his new friend were comfortably quartered in a small ward in
which were three other officers.  Fortunately neither was dangerously or
seriously ill, though their wounds were sufficiently grave to make them
incapable of active service for some time to come.  Thanks, however, to
healthy constitutions they were rapidly recovering strength, and
therefore not in much need of attention.  And it was well for them that
matters were in such a satisfactory state, for the huge hospital, built
on the quadrangular system, and with sides a quarter of a mile long, had
some two miles and more of corridors and wards, all packed to
overflowing.

"I never saw such a thing," remarked Phil sadly, after he and Douglas
had been placed in their cots.  "The men are almost lying on top of one
another, and it cannot possibly be good for them.  This overcrowding
must have a harmful influence on their wounds."

"You are right there," answered one of the other officers bitterly.  "I
am a doctor, and I can tell you that the overcrowding and bad
ventilation are killing the men in scores, and when to that trouble is
added the lamentable fact that the hospital staff is quite inadequate,
and attendants are too few and far between, you can imagine what
suffering there is."

"But surely there should be sufficient orderlies to nurse and look after
the men?" exclaimed Douglas indignantly.

"Undoubtedly there should be," answered the doctor, a man of some fifty
years of age; "but the fact remains that there are not nearly enough.
Who is to blame I do not know.  Probably the lack of system is the chief
cause of all our troubles, for without a regular system everything goes
to the wall.  It must be the case, especially when the strain comes, and
it has come now with a vengeance.  Men are simply falling sick in
hundreds, and really you cannot be surprised, for as Balaclava is eight
miles from the trenches, it is almost impossible to keep up supplies,
and in consequence the men are nearly starved.  Then the storm destroyed
all their warm clothing, and as the rains have now set in, and many
hours have to be spent in the earthworks, it means that our poor fellows
are nearly always wet through.  I can tell you that, after serving in
many parts of the world, I have come to the conclusion that where an
Englishman cannot live it is not worth the while of others to go.  He
can put up with most things in the way of heat or cold, providing he is
well fed and clothed.  But starve the strongest man, and see how quickly
he will succumb to cold and exposure."

That this was true could not be doubted, for, continually drenched as
our soldiers were, cut by icy blasts of wind, and almost starved, they
fell ill in vast numbers.  Overworked by long hours in the damp
trenches, and continually harassed by a musketry fire from the
rifle-pits, they flung themselves down upon the mud and greasy mire at
night, and snatched a few fitful moments of repose, wrapped in a blanket
as worn out as themselves, and almost certainly dripping with moisture.

It was no one's fault, this lack of clothing and supplies.  It was the
absence of a commissariat system of wide teaching power and with ample
funds at its command.  Given a base in England, with men there to choose
and forward the necessary supplies in hired transports, there must still
be others at the base in the invaded country to distribute what is sent,
and yet again there must be more with clear brains and ready hands to
bring those stores of food and clothing, and a thousand-and-one other
things, to the very outskirts of the camp.  Otherwise another burden is
thrown upon your already hardly-taxed fighting regiments.  And to
distribute stores in this thorough manner, horses and carts are
required, and, since the former cannot live on air, forage with which to
feed them.  Horses, too, like men, are apt to sicken and die, especially
if ill-fed and exposed to bitter winds; and therefore remounts are
always required, and these must often be sent for from far-off
countries, and brought in big transports specially fitted for the
purpose.

All this was admirably carried out in the Boer War of 1899-1900.  A
perfect system of transport and supply had long before been arranged,
and officers and men trained to carry it out.  Those who have seen will
give unstinted praise, for supplies, remounts, clothing, every
conceivable thing, were obtainable, often brought to the front at the
cost of no small amount of labour and forethought by those responsible
for the work.

In the days of the Crimea there was no such system, and, to add to
everything, horses were extremely scarce, while eight long miles of mud
intervened between the harbour of Balaclava and the trenches.  Daily,
men made beasts of burden of themselves, waded through the mud to
Balaclava, and struggled back with food, which, when distributed, had
too often to be eaten in an uncooked state, for fuel was at a premium.

It is no wonder, then, that men were incessantly falling ill, and that
the hospital at Scutari was thronged with soldiers, who died at an
alarming rate.  Up to and during that November, one poor wretch died out
of every two, for if there was no transport or supply system, there was
likewise no hospital organisation worthy of the name.  Surgeons were few
and far between, and too much occupied in their work of mercy to be able
to give time to other matters.  Thus, the hospital at Scutari, never
noted for cleanliness, became a hovel of filth and insanitation, to
which the alarming death-rate gave ample, if painful, evidence.

Well was it for our poor soldiers that correspondents accompanied that
army.  By their publications, and by aid of the telegraph, the cry of
the dying soldier smote the heart of the British nation, and roused it
to wrath and pity.  A fund was raised, and, better than all, those sent
out by whose aid it should be rapidly and systematically distributed.

Florence Nightingale, that grand lady of undying fame, instituted her
band of nurses, and by her untiring energy and ready brain brought for
the first time some system and order into the management of the hospital
at Scutari.

With a glance she conquered the whole working staff, doctors readily
gave over the conduct of affairs to her, and in a wonderfully short
space of time the death-rate had fallen vastly, dirt was hustled from
the buildings, unhealthy sanitary arrangements were swept away and more
suitable ones introduced, and last, but not least, a kitchen was built
by means of which a thousand special diets could be prepared.

Those who have fallen ill at home, and never ceased to fill the air with
praises and thanks to the attentive nurse who cared for them so
devotedly, can perhaps imagine what it means to some poor ailing
soldier, sick almost to death, and with only the rough surroundings of
war about him, to have some gentle hand to nurse him.  It is better than
all the delicacies under the sun, for where the womanly mind comes the
material comforts will follow to a certainty.

Phil and Douglas did not stay long at Scutari.  A consultation was held
on their cases, and it was declared that months must pass before they
could be fit for hard work again.  Accordingly they were sent on board a
transport returning to England.

"I'm jolly glad to get away, Phil," exclaimed Douglas with a sigh of
relief.  "Of course I'd rather have been with the regiment, but I fully
realise that our advisers are right, and that we both require a long
rest and change.  To tell you the truth, too, I am not altogether sorry.
All the big affairs in the campaign seem to be over, and now our
fellows are having a miserable time in the trenches, waiting for the
fortress to surrender.  Besides, since we met, that little matter of
your birth has puzzled me, and you can't tell, old fellow, how anxious I
am to have it settled, though I feel quite sure now that you are my
cousin.  Every time I look at you I see the resemblance to my mother and
aunt and to myself."

"I agree with you there," answered Phil.  "I've looked at myself more
attentively in the glass than ever before, and I think it is no fancy,
but that there is in reality a similarity of feature.  I trust it will
be proved that I am your cousin.  I shall be a lucky fellow if it turns
out true."

"Perhaps you will be more fortunate than you imagine," said Douglas,
with a gay laugh.

"Why?  How?" asked Phil inquisitively.

"Oh! if you are my cousin, you will have little need to do hard work in
the future."

"Why?  I don't understand you, Douglas," Phil answered doubtfully.

"Great goodness! old man, you will be quite a Croesus," Douglas replied,
with a laugh.  "To tell you the whole truth, my grandfather was overcome
with remorse, and, believing you would eventually be found, settled a
large sum of money on you--larger than on any of his other children.  My
mother is one of the trustees of that fund, and I happen to know that it
is now considerably swollen, having been most happily invested."

"It would be nice to have an independent income," Phil mused
thoughtfully, "but I think, Douglas, that I would far rather have the
new relations.  See what an interest they would give me in the future."

"Yes, I think they would, Phil, particularly the cousins.  I believe
there are some fifteen of the latter, and ten at least are girls, one
being my sister.  Oh yes, old fellow!  I've no doubt there would be a
great amount of interest; for a young chap who wins his way from the
ranks by a series of plucky acts, and who, moreover, is a gentleman and
a cousin too, must necessarily be of absorbing interest to new
relations."

Douglas laughed merrily, while Phil coloured hotly.

"I'm afraid I'm a shy fellow with girls," he stuttered, "but you'll
stand by me, Douglas, won't you?"

"Rather, old man, and do my best to be of more interest than you,"
laughed his friend.  "Cousins, particularly of the fair sex, are
exceedingly charming company.  It'll be a regular picnic, old man."

And now, before lowering the gangway and landing Phil, Douglas, and Tony
on England's shore, let us briefly glance at the closing scenes of the
Crimean war.  In February, while our poor fellows were beginning to
recover from their misery, and supplies, and even luxuries, were pouring
into the trenches, the Russians attacked the town and port of Eupatoria,
close to which the Allies had first disembarked, and which was now
strongly held by the Turks and commanded by the guns of the fleet.  The
grey-coated battalions were driven back with considerable loss.

And meanwhile, through all the dreary weeks, Allies and Russians crept
towards each other, cutting new trenches, sapping in all directions, and
endeavouring to place their opponents at a disadvantage.  On March 22nd
a huge sortie was made from Sebastopol upon the French line of
earthworks, while another column was launched at our right.  Both
failed, and the Russians retired with a loss of 1300.

Spring found the Allies in far better condition than they were earlier
in the war, and particularly was this the case with the British.
Supplies were now abundant, and, thanks to private enterprise, a railway
extended from Balaclava to the camp, and so saved the labour of
porterage.

Accordingly the siege was prosecuted with renewed energy, and on April
9th another general bombardment of the fortress took place and continued
for ten days, ten awful days for the Russians, for a few hours had been
sufficient to reduce many of the fortifications, and, fearful of an
assault at any moment, large reserves had of necessity to be kept close
at hand.  Through the ranks of these unfortunate but truly devoted men
the iron hail poured, tearing them here and there and toppling masses of
masonry on to them.  In those terrible days 6000 or more of the enemy
were killed or wounded, and if Scutari had been a sight to bring tears
to one's eyes, then the Assembly Rooms and other temporary hospitals in
Sebastopol were perfect shambles, while the streets and the road from
the fortress were lined with unburied dead.

Thankful indeed must we of more modern days be for the safety which the
Geneva Convention gives.  A red-cross flag over a hospital renders it
sacred, and, once wounded, soldiers of all civilised nations can rely
upon rest and freedom from further injury.  Thus out of awful sufferings
and loss of life we have seen that a new era of good has arisen.  A
Geneva Convention has sprung into being, and our army is provided with
special departments for transport, supply, hospitals, and other matters,
each ruled by a well-ordered system.

On May 22nd the French attempted to capture a new line of Russian works
which commanded their own trenches, but were beaten back, though their
losses were considerably less than the enemy's.  On the same date a
combined fleet sailed to the east, entered the sea of Azof, and took the
town of Kertch.  They also destroyed and captured many ships engaged in
bringing supplies to the Russian field-army, and wound up their
operations by taking other towns, and destroying huge depots of
supplies.  On June 6th and 7th the fortress of Sebastopol was again
subjected to a fearful bombardment from 544 guns, and its walls and
forts reduced to masses of debris.  In the evening of the second day the
French attacked and took a position known as the "White" works.  They
then, with the aid of the Turks, captured a fort of great strength, and
now for some time in existence, known as the Mamelon, while the English
stormed and took others known as the "quarries".  Thus the outer line of
Russian forts and trenches was in the hands of the Allies.  But still
the stubborn and unyielding enemy clung to the fortress.  The
bombardment was resumed, and on the 18th the Allies assaulted the main
works of the town, only to be driven back with heavy loss.  After that,
for many a day, they contented themselves with cutting their trenches
and approaches, and slowly approaching to the fortress, the object being
to get so close that their attacking-parties might rush across the open
and reach the enemy before being swept away by the guns.

On 15th August a battle was fought close to the Mackenzie heights, in
which the French proved victorious, the Russian field-army, with whom
they were engaged, retiring with heavy loss.  On the 17th the
bombardment of the fortress commenced again, and continued for some
days.  It was renewed on September 5th, and continued till the 8th, when
a gigantic and combined assault took place.  At a terrible cost in
killed and wounded the Malakoff was taken and held by the French.  The
remainder of the attack failed, the English being forced to retire from
the Redan, while the French were driven from the little Redan and
curtain bastion.  Next morning, after a defence of which all Russia may
well be proud, the enemy marched over a bridge built across the harbour,
and retired in good order, leaving burning fuses to their magazines.  Of
these no fewer than thirty-five exploded with terrific noise and awful
results, keeping the camp in a state of alarm for two whole days and
nights, while fires blazed in every direction and lit the skies with
their lurid flames.

And now a new phase of the campaign opened, for opposed to the Allies
there was only a field-army.  The two armies sat down facing one
another, no battles of importance taking place; but in the meanwhile the
docks and arsenals of Sebastopol were blown up by our engineers.

Russia had lost heavily in men and money, and, moreover, Europe was in
conceit against her.  Nicholas had died on March 2nd, and now the new
czar was prevailed upon to listen to reason.  A treaty was drawn up and
signed in Paris on March 30th, by which, amongst other terms of peace,
the Black Sea should be neutral in future, and no power should interfere
between the Sultan and his subjects.  On April 2nd a last salvo of
artillery from the batteries on the upland slopes announced that the
Crimean war was over.

Phil did not return to Russia, for his wound proved more severe than was
at first imagined, while Douglas was still too lame to be fit for active
service.  They therefore remained in England.

There is little more to tell about them.  Phil did not find Mr Western
altered.  Indeed he seemed more austere than ever, especially as his
adopted son had risen instead of going to the dogs, as he had
prophesied.  But Joe was jubilant.

"Didn't I tell him you'd be no disgrace to him!" he cried, taking up his
favourite position in front of the fireplace.  "You've done well, Phil,
my lad, and I am proud of you.  Fancy, now!  It seems to me only a year
ago since you got into that scrape with the mayor.  Ha, ha! what a
mischievous young monkey you were!  And now you're an ensign in the
30th, and have brave deeds to boast of.  But there, you'll get conceited
if I praise you.  No, my dear boy, old Joe is right glad to witness your
success, and still more pleased to find that your relatives have turned
up.  A year ago you were the adopted son of poor parents.  Now you are
the long-lost orphan, the offspring of gentlefolks, and heir to a tidy
fortune when you come of age.  Besides--I was forgetting--there are the
cousins, the girl cousins, Phil;" and with a roar of laughter he pinched
our hero's ear.

Phil had, indeed, to use a common expression, fallen on his feet.  He
had learnt that he was of no obscure parentage, and in addition, he had
made some excellent friends amongst his relatives, in whose eyes he was
now a young lion, covered with no small amount of glory.

Years rolled on in rapid succession, and in due time Phil reached the
age of twenty-six, when he married his cousin Eva, Douglas McNeil's
sister.

When one meets him now, as he follows the hounds or stalks through the
streets of London, one unconsciously turns round and takes a second
look, with the muttered remark, "What a fine, soldierly-looking fellow!"
For he still stands as straight as an arrow, carrying his years easily,
while his fine face and big, grey moustache give him a most
distinguished appearance.

That Crimean veteran has many scenes to look back upon.  He remembers
his youth, his struggle to rise in the world, and the lifelong friends
he made in achieving his object.  He recollects with a happy smile his
marriage, the toddlers who one by one made their appearance, only to
grow up and flit away like fledglings to form nests of their own.  Yes,
he remembers all--that happy, gay old bachelor Joe, and his staunch,
true-hearted Tony.  Sometimes, too, when he sits in his chair and
slumbers, he dreams that he is once again in the Crimea, and that his
comrades, having heard of the laurels he has won, are still carrying him
shoulder-high, and calling him "A Gallant Grenadier."

The End.





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