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Title: One of The Six Hundred
Author: Grant, James, archaeologist
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "One of The Six Hundred" ***

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                                *ONE OF
                            THE SIX HUNDRED*

                               *A Novel*


                             BY JAMES GRANT



                    AUTHOR OF "THE ROMANCE OF WAR."



                     "Half a league, half a league,
                          Half a league, onward,
                       Into the Valley of Death,
                          Rode the Six Hundred!"
                                 TENNYSON.



                                LONDON:
                       GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND SONS
                         THE BROADWAY, LUDGATE
                      NEW YORK: 416 BROOME STREET

                                  1875



                       *ONE OF THE SIX HUNDRED.*



                              *CHAPTER I.*

    To be handsome, young, and twenty-two,
    With nothing else on earth to do;
    But all day long to bill and coo,
      It were a pleasant calling.—THACKERAY.


I was just in the act of humming the above verse, when the following
announcement was put into my hand—


"Regimental Orders.—Head-quarters, Maidstone, December 31st.

"As the regiment is to be held in readiness for foreign service in
spring, captains of troops will report to Lieutenant and Adjutant
Studhome, for the information of the commanding officer, on the state of
the saddlery, the holsters and lance-buckets; and the horses must be all
re-shod under the immediate inspection of the veterinary surgeon and
Farrier-Sergeant Snaffles.

"Leave of absence to the 31st proximo is granted to Lieutenant Newton
Calderwood Norcliff, in consequence of his urgent private affairs."


"Hah! this is what most concerns _me_,"  I exclaimed, as I read the
foregoing, and then handed the order-book, a squat vellum-bound quarto,
to the orderly-serjeant who was in waiting.

"Any idea of where we are likely to go, sir?" he asked.

"The East, of course."

"So say the men in the barracks; for the present, good-bye, sir," said
he, as he wheeled about on his spurred heel, and saluted; "I wish you a
pleasant journey."

"Thanks, Stapylton," said I; "and now to be off by the night train for
London and the north.  Ugh! the last night of December; I shall have a
cold journey of it."

Despatching my man, Willie Pitblado—of whom more hereafter—to the
mess-house to report that I should not dine there that evening, I
proposed at once to start for home, resolved to make the most of the
favour granted me—leave between returns, as it is technically termed.

I propose to give the story of my own adventures, my experiences of
life, or autobiography (what you will); and this I shall do, in the face
of a certain writer, who asserts, with some truth, doubtless, that she
does not "believe that there was, or could be in the world, a wholly
true, candid, and unreserved biography, revealing all the dispositions,
or even, without exception, _all the facts of any existence_.  Indeed,"
she adds, "the thing is next to impossible; since, in that case, the
subject of the biography must be a man or woman without reserve, without
delicacy, and without _those secrets_ which are inevitable even to the
most stainless spirit."

With all due deference to this fair writer, I beg to hope that such a
candid spirit may exist; and that, without violating the delicacy of
this somewhat (externally) fastidious age on the one hand, and without
prudish or hypocritical reserve on the other, I, Mr. Newton Norcliff,
will relate the plain, unvarnished story of a cavalry subaltern’s life
during the stirring events of the last ten years.

My regiment was a lancer one.  I need not designate it further; though,
by the way, it has always struck me as somewhat peculiar in our cavalry
of the line, that while we have our Scottish corps, the famous old
Greys, and no less than three Irish, we have not one English regiment,
provincially designated as such.

I despatched a note of thanks to the colonel, handed over my cattle to
the care of my friend Jack Studhome, the adjutant, and had a hasty
interview with Saunders M’Goldrick, our Scots paymaster—not that I wish
the reader to infer that he was my chief factor and reliance (heaven
help those in a dragoon regiment who find him so!).

Glad to escape, even for the brief period of a month, from the monotony
of routine parades, the stable duty, the barrack life, and useless
hurly-burly of Maidstone—to be free from all bother, mess, band, and
ball committees, courts-martial, and courts of inquiry; from having to
remember when this parade took place, and when that particular drill,
and all that sort of thing—glad, I say, to escape from being saluted by
soldiers and sentinels at every turn and corner, and to be once again
lord of my own proper person, I relinquished my gay lancer trappings,
and resumed the less pretending mufti of the civilian—a suit of warm and
strong heather-mixture tweed—and about nine o’clock P.M. found myself,
with some light travelling baggage, my gun-case, railway rugs, &c. (in
care of Willie Pitblado, who was attired in very orthodox livery—boots,
belt, and cockade), awaiting the up train for London, at the Maidstone
station, and enjoying a last friendly chat and a cigar with Studhome, as
we promenaded to and fro on the platform, and talked of the different
work that would soon be cut out for us, too probably, about the time my
short leave expired.

The British fleet was already in the Bosphorus; the field of Oltenitza
had seen the terrible defeat of the Russians by the troops of Omar
Pasha, generalissimo of the Porte, avenge the recent naval massacre at
Sinope.  Ere long, the Turks were to be again victorious at Citate.
General Luders was about to force his way into the Dobrudcha; Britain,
France, Russia, Turkey, and Sardinia were gathering their hosts for the
strife; and amid these serious events, that absurdity might not be
wanting, the sly broad-brims and popularity-hunters of the Peace Society
sent a deputation to the Emperor Nicholas, to expostulate with him on
the wickedness of his ways.

"Egad! if the weather proves cold here, what will you find it at home,
in Scotland?" said Studhome, as we trod to and fro; for there is no
knocking the idea out of an Englishman’s head that the distance of some
four hundred miles or so must make a more than Muscovite difference in
soil and temperature; but it was cold—intensely so.

The air was clear, and amid the blue ether the stars sparkled brightly.
Snow, white and glistening, covered all the roofs of the houses and the
line of the railway, and the Medway shone coldly, like polished silver,
under the seven arches of its bridge, in the light of the rising moon;
and now, with a shrill, vicious whistle, and many a rapidly iterated
grunt and clank, came the iron horse that was to bear me on my way, as
it tore into the station, with its mane of smoke, and its red
bull’s-eyes that shed two steady flakes of light along the snow-covered
line of rails.

The passengers were all muffled to their noses, and their breath coated
and obscured the glasses of the carefully-closed windows.

Pitblado brought me _Punch_, the _Times_, and "Bradshaw," and then
rushed to secure his second-class seat; Studhome bade me farewell, and
retired to join Wilford, Scriven, and some others of the corps, who
usually met at a billiard-room, near the barracks, leaving me to arrange
my several wrappers, and enjoy the society of one whom he laughingly
termed my railway belle—a stout female with a squalling imp, whom,
notwithstanding my secret and confidential tip of half-a-crown, the
deceitful guard had thrust upon me; and then, with another shriek and a
steady and monotonous clanking, the train swept out of the station.  The
town vanished with its county court house, barracks, river, and the fine
tower of All Saints’ Church; and in a twinkling I could survey the
snow-covered country stretching for miles on each side of me, as we
scoured along the branch line to the Paddock Wood, or Maidstone Road
Junction, of the London and Dover Railway, where I got the up train from
Canterbury.

Swiftly went the first-class express.  The fifty-six miles were soon
done, and in an hour I was amid the vast world, the human wilderness of
London, even while worthy Jack Studhome’s merry smile and hearty
good-bye seemed to linger before me.  How glorious it is to travel thus,
with all the speed and luxury that money in these our days can command!

A hundred years hence how will they travel—our grandchildren?  Heaven
alone knows.

I was now four-and-twenty.  I had been six years with the lancers, and
already the novelty of the service—though loving it not the less—was
gone; and I was glad, as I have said, to escape for a month from a life
of enforced routine, and the nightly succession of balls, card and
supper parties among the garrison hacks or _passé_ belles, whose names
and flirtations are standing jokes at the messes of our ungrateful
lancers, hussars, and dragoon guards, wherever they are stationed, from
Calcutta to Colchester, and from Poonah to Piershill.

A day soon passed amid the whirl of London, and night saw me once more
seated in the _coupé_ of a well-cushioned carriage for the north.

This time I was alone, and had the ample seat all to myself, thereon to
lounge with all the ease of a sybarite; and with the aid of a
brandy-flask, cigars, and warm wrappers and plaids, prepared for the
dreary journey of a winter night.

On, on went the train!

Lights, crimson and green, flashed at times out of the darkness.  Here
and there the tall poplars of the midland counties stood up, like
spectres in the moonlight, above the snow-clad meadows.  Hollowly we
rumbled through the subterranean blackness of a tunnel; out in the snow
and moonlight again, amid other scenes and places.  Anon, a hasty shout
from some pointsman would make me start when just on the eve of dropping
asleep; or it might be a sudden stoppage amid the lurid glare of
furnaces, forges, and coalpits, where, night and day, by spells and
gangs the ceaseless work went on.  Then it was the shrill whistling and
clanking of the train, the bustle, running to and fro of men with
lanterns, the banging of doors, tramping, and voices, with the clink of
hammers upon the iron wheels, as their soundness was tested, which
announced that we were at Peterborough, at York, or Darlington.

But every station, whether we tarried or rushed past it, seemed
wonderfully alike.  There were always repetitions of the same glazed
advertisements in gilt frames; the same huge purple mangold-wurzel, with
its tuft of green leaves; the same man in the hat and surtout, with the
alpaca umbrella, under the ceaseless shower of rain; Lea and Perrin’s
sauce-bottles; somebody else’s patent shirt; the florid posters of
_Punch_, the _Illustrated News_, and the _London Journal_; and the same
parti-coloured volumes of railway literature.

Rapidly we rushed through England.  Yorkshire and its Ridings were left
behind, and now the Borders, the old land of a thousand battles and a
thousand songs, drew near—the brave green Borders, with all their solemn
hills, upheaved in the light of the faded stars.

Grey dawn of the coming day saw us traversing the fertile Merse, with
glimpses of the gloomy German sea, tumbling its whitened waves upon
bleak promontories of rock, such as Dunbar, Fastcastle, and the bare,
black headland of St. Abb. Then, as I neared home, and saw the sun
brightening on the snow-covered summits of Dirlton and Traprainlaw, many
an old and long-forgotten idea, and many a sad and affectionate thought
of the past years, came back to memory, in the dreary hour of the early
winter morning.

I have said I was but four-and-twenty then.  When I had last traversed
that line of rail, it was in the sweet season of summer, when the
heather was purple on the Lammermuirs; and a sea of golden grain clothed
all the lovely valley of the Tyne.  I was proceeding to join my
regiment, a raw, heedless, and impulsive boy, with bright hope and vague
ambition in his heart, and with a poor mother’s tears yet wet upon his
cheek.

I had been six years with the lancers, and four of these were spent in
India.  While there, my dear mother died; and the memory of the last
time when I saw her kind and affectionate face, and heard her broken
voice, as she prayed God to bless my departing steps, came vividly,
powerfully, and painfully before me.

It was on the morning when I was to leave home and her to join the
corps.  Overnight, with all a boy’s vanity and glowing satisfaction, I
had contemplated my gay lancer trappings, had buckled on my sword,
placed the gold cartouche-belt and glittering epaulettes on my
shoulders.

At that moment I would not have exchanged my cornetcy for the kingdom of
Scotland.  These alluring trappings were the last things I thought of
and looked on ere my eyes were closed by slumber, and the grey dawn of
the next eventful day saw them still lying unpacked on the floor, when
my poor mother, pale, anxious, unslept, and with her sad eyes full of
tears, and her heart wrung with sorrow, stole softly into my room, to
look for the last time upon her sleeping boy, and her mournful and
earnest face was the first sight that met my waking eyes, when roused by
a tear that dropped upon my cheek.

I started up, and all the consciousness of the great separation that was
to ensue—the terrible wrench of heart from heart that was to come—burst
upon me.  Then sword and epaulettes, cap and plume, and the lancers,
were forgotten; and throwing my arms around her neck, as I had done in
the days of childish grief, I wept like the boy I was, rather than the
man I had imagined myself to be.

I was going home now; but I should see that beloved face no more, and
her voice was hushed for ever.

In that home were others, who were kind and gentle, and who loved me
well, awaiting my arrival, and to welcome me. And there was my cousin
Cora Calderwood—she was unmarried still.

Cora I was about to see again.  It seemed long, long since we had last
met, though we had frequently corresponded, for my uncle had a horror of
letter-writing; and certain it was that she had inspired the first
emotion of love in my schoolboy heart, and during my sojourn in India,
and amid the whirl and gaiety of barrack-life at Bath, at Maidstone, at
Canterbury and elsewhere, her image had lingered in my mind, more as a
pleasing memory connected with ideas of Scotland and my home, rather
than with those of a passionate or enduring attachment.

Indeed, I had just been on the point of forming that elsewhere; but now,
having no immediate attraction beside me, I began to wonder whether Cora
had grown up a beauty; how tall she was, whether she was engaged, and so
forth; whether she still remembered with pleasure the young playmate who
had left her sorely dissolved in tears, half lover and wholly friend.

As we progressed northward, and crossed the Firth of Forth, the snow
almost entirely disappeared, save on the lofty summits of the Ochil
mountains, whose slopes looked green and pleasant in the meridian sun;
and my friend Studhome, had he been with me, might have been much
surprised in finding the atmosphere warmer north of Stirling Bridge than
we found it at Maidstone—so variable is our climate.

We changed carriages at Stirling, where I was to imbibe some hot coffee,
while Pitblado looked after my baggage, and swore in no measured terms
at the slowness of an old, cynical, and hard-visaged porter, on whose
brass badge was engraved a wolf—the badge of Stirling.

"Now then, look alive, you old duffer!" I heard Willie shouting.

"Ou, aye!" replied the other slowly, with a grin on his weather-beaten
and saturnine face; "ye think yoursel’ a braw chiel in your mustaches
and laced jacket—there was a time when I thocht mysel’ one too."

"What do you mean?" asked Pitblado, whose dragoon air even his livery
failed to conceal.

"Mean!" retorted the other; "why, I mean that at the point o’ the
bayonet I helped to carry Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo to boot; and now,
for sax baubees, I’m thankfu’ to carry your bag.  Sae muckle for
sodgerin’!"

"It is not very encouraging, certainly," said my man, with a smile.

"Ten years’ service, two wounds, and a deferred pension of threepence
per diem," growled the other, as he threw my traps, with an oath, on the
roof of the carriage.

"What regiment, my friend?" I inquired.

"The old Scots brigade, second battalion, sir," he replied, with a
salute, as I slipped a trifle into his hand.

"The weather seems open and fine here."

"Aye," said he, with another saturnine grin; "but a green yule maketh a
fat kirkyard."

In five minutes more we were _en route_, sweeping along the little
lonely branch line, that through grassy glens, where the half-frozen
runnels oozed or gurgled among withered reeds and bracken bushes, led us
into the heart of Fife—"the kingdom," as the Scots call it; not that it
ever was so in any time of antiquity, but because the peninsular county
contains within its compact and industrious self every means and
requisite for the support of its inhabitants, independent of the produce
of the whole external world—at least, such is their boast.

I was drawing nearer and nearer home; and now my heart beat high and
happily.  Every local feature and casual sound, the little thatched
cottages, with rusty, antique risps on their doors,[*] and the clatter
of the wooden looms within, were familiar to me.  We swept past the
quaint town, and the tall, gaunt castle of Clackmannan, where its aged
chatelaine—the last of the old Bruce line—_knighted_ Robert Burns, with
the sword of the victor of Bannockburn, saying, dryly, that she "had a
better right to do it than _some people_," and ere long I saw the spires
that overshadow the graves of Robert I. and many a Scottish monarch, as
we glided past Dunfermline, old and grey, with its glorious ruined
palace, where Malcolm drank the blood-red wine, and where Charles I. was
born, and its steep, quaint streets covering the brow of a sloping ridge
that ends abruptly in the wooded glen of Pittencrief.

[*] The old Scottish tirling-pin—to be found now nowhere save in Fife—in
lieu of bells and knockers.

My delight was fully shared in by Willie Pitblado, my servant, the son
of old Simon, my uncle’s keeper.  He was a lancer in my troop, for whom
I had procured a month’s furlough; thus the hedgerows where he had
bird-nested, the fields where he had sung and whistled at the plough,
the farm-gates on which he had swung for hours—a truant boy from
school—the woods of Pitrearie and Pittencrief, the abbey’s old grey
walls, and the square tower that covers Bruce’s grave, were all hailed
by Willie as old friends; and strange to say, his Doric Scotch came back
to his tongue with the air he breathed, though it had been nearly
well-nigh quizzed out of him by our lancers, nearly all of whom were
English.

He was a smart, handsome, and soldier-like fellow, who bade fair to be
"the rage" among the servant-girls at the old house, the home-farm, and
the adjacent village, and a source of vexation to their hobnailed
country admirers.

A few miles beyond the old city I quitted the train, and leaving him to
follow with my baggage in a dog-cart, I struck across the fields by a
near path that I remembered well, and which I knew would bring me
straight to Calderwood Glen, the residence of my uncle, Sir Nigel—save
Cora, almost the last relation I had now on earth.



                             *CHAPTER II.*


    Pure as the silver wreath of snow
      That lies on yonder wintry hill,
    Are all the thoughts that peaceful flow,
      And with pure joy my bosom fill.

    Soft as the sweet spring’s morning breath,
      Or summer’s zephyr, forth they roam;
    Until my bosom grows more kind,
      And dreams of thee and all at home.


The winter day was cold and clear, but without frost, save on the
mountain tops, where the snow was lying.  Though vegetation should have
been dormant, the swelling uplands, the pastoral hills and braes of
Fife, looked green and fertile; and there was a premature budding of
young shoots, which the bitter frost of to-morrow might totally destroy.

Fires glowed redly through the little square windows of the wayside
cottages, and from their massive stone chimneys the smoke ascended into
the thin air in heavy volumes, that told of warmth, of comfort, and
industry within.  Ere long I could see the woods, all bare and leafless,
that covered the slopes of Calderwood Glen, and the vanes of the old
house shining in the light of the setting sun, which streamed along the
green slope of the western Lomond.

I passed unnoticed through the secluded village which stood, I knew,
upon the verge of my good uncle’s property, and where the old signboards
of the smithy, the bakery, and alehouse were familiar to me.  The clock
of the old Gothic kirk struck the hour of three, slowly and
deliberately, as only such clocks do in the country.

Many years ago, in boyhood, I remembered the familiar voice of that
village monitor.  What changes had taken place since then, in myself and
others, and even in the scene around me!  How many, whose daily routine,
and whose labours—the heritage of toil—were timed by its bell and dial,
were now in other lands, or sleeping in their humble graves beneath the
shadow of the spire, and yet the old moss-grown clock ticked on!

Since then I had grown to manhood, had seen many of the dearest of my
kindred die.  Since then I had become a soldier, and had served in
India, and on the staff in the late Burmese war.  At the bombardment of
Rangoon, I received a wound in the night attack made by the enemy on our
camp at the heights of Prome.

Thousands of stirring scenes and strange faces had flitted before me.  I
had traversed twice the great Atlantic and Indian oceans, and had twice
passed the Cape, on the first occasion looking with anxious eyes and
envious heart at every homeward-bound sail; and now all these events
seemed as a long dream, and as if it were but yesterday when last I
heard the voice of the old village clock.

In that timeworn fane, Row, the Covenanter, had preached, and the great
archbishop, too—Sharpe, the recreant, or the martyr (which you will),
who died on Magus Muir; and, that the marvellous may not be wanting,
there is a legend which tells us that, in the year before the
Covenanters invaded England, and stormed Newcastle, thereby seriously
injuring the London coal market, there used to issue from the empty loft
where, in old Catholic times, the organ stood, the sound of such an
instrument in full play, together with the voices of the choristers
singing a grand old Gregorian chant.  These sounds were only heard in
the night, or at other times when Calderwood kirk was empty, for the
moment any one entered they ceased, and all became still—still as the
dead Calderwoods of the Glen and of Piteadie, stretched in effigy, each
upon his pedestal of stone, in St. Margaret’s aisle; but this marvel was
universally believed to portend the ultimate return of prelacy.

So rapidly and totally does the speed of the railway annihilate alike
the extent of time and space, that it seemed difficult to embody the
fact that, but four-and-twenty hours ago, I had been in my quarters at
Maidstone barracks, or amid the splendour of a fashionable hotel in
London; and yet it was so.

Treading deep among the last year’s crisp and withered leaves, I
proceeded down the sombre and winding avenue, with a heart that beat
quicker as I drew near a man, whose figure I remembered instantly, for
he was my early friend, my second father, my maternal uncle, good old
Sir Nigel Calderwood.  Occupied with a weeder, which he always carried,
and with which the ends of all his walking-sticks were furnished, he was
intent on up-rooting some obnoxious weed; thus I could approach him
unobserved.  He seemed as stout and hale as when I saw him last.  The
grey hair, that was wont to escape under his well-worn wide-awake, was
thinner and more silvery, perhaps; but the old hat had its usual row of
flies and fishhooks, and his face was as ruddy as ever, and spoke of
high health and spirits.  He stooped a little more, certainly; but his
figure was still sturdy, and clad, as usual, in a rough suit of grey
tweed, with his stout legs encased in long brown leather leggings, that
had seen much service in their time among the turnips and heather in the
shooting season, and in the trouting streams that traverse the fertile
Howe of Fife.

An old, half-blind, and wheezing otter terrier crept close to his heels
as I came up.  With a polite bow the worthy baronet surveyed, but failed
to recognise me, and waited, with a glance of inquiry, until I should
speak; for, sooth to say, in the tall, rather well-knit figure, bronzed
face, and heavy moustaches I exhibited, he could scarcely be expected to
recognise the slender and beardless lad, whose heart was so heavy when
he was conveyed away from his mother’s arms, to push his way in the
world as a cornet of cavalry some six years before.

"Uncle—Sir Nigel!" said I, in a voice that became tremulous.

"Newton—my dear boy, Newton—am I blind that I did not recognise you?" he
exclaimed, while he grasped my hand and threw an arm round me; "welcome
back to Calderwood—welcome home—and on the second day of the New Year,
too! may many many joyous returns of the season be yours, Newton!  What
a manly fellow you have become since I saw you last in London—quite a
dragoon!"

"And how is Cora—she is with you, of course?"

"Cora is well; and though not a dashing girl, she has grown up an
amiable and gentle little pet, who is worth her weight in gold; but you
shall see—you shall see, and judge for yourself.  The house is full of
visitors just now—I have some nice people to present you to."

"Thanks, uncle; but you and Cora were all I cared to see."

"But how came you to be here alone, and on foot too?"

"I left the train at Calderwood station, and wished to come quietly back
to the old house, without any fuss."

"To steal a march upon us, in fact?"

"Yes, uncle, you understand me," said I, looking into his clear dark
eyes, which were regarding me with an expression of great affection,
which recalled the memory of my mother, his youngest and favourite
sister.  "Pitblado will drive over with my traps before dinner."

"Ah, Willie, the old keeper’s son?"

"Yes."

"And how is he?"

"Quite well, and become so smart a lancer, that I fear there will be a
great pulling of caps among the housemaids. I am loth to keep him out of
the ranks, but the worthy fellow won’t leave me."

"Many a good bag of grouse from yonder fields and the Lomonds, and many
a good basket of trout from the Eden, has poor Willie carried for me.
But, come this way; we shall take the near cut by the keeper’s lodge to
the house; you have not forgotten the way?"

"I should think not, uncle; by the Adder’s Craig and the old Battle
Stone."

"Exactly.  I am so glad you have come at this time; I have such news for
you, Newton—such news, boy."

"Indeed, uncle?"

"Yes," he continued, laughing heartily.

"How?"

"Calderwood Glen is a mere man-trap at present."

"In what manner?"

"We have here old General Rammerscales, of the Bengal army, who has come
home with the liver complaint, and a face as yellow as a buttercup, and
his pale niece—a girl worth heaven knows how many sacks or lacs of
rupees (though, for the life of me, I never knew what or how much a lac
is.)  We have also Spittal of Lickspittal and that Ilk, M.P. for the
Liberal interest (and more particularly for his own), with his two
daughters, rather pretty girls; and we have that beautiful blonde, Miss
Wilford, who has a cousin in your regiment—a Yorkshire heiress, whom all
the men agree would make such a wife!  We have also the Countess of
Chillingham, and her daughter, Lady Louisa Loftus, really a very
charming girl; so, as I told you, Newton, the old house is baited like a
regular man-trap for you."

Had my uncle’s perception been clearer, or had he been less vigorously
using his weeder, as he ran on thus, he could not have failed to observe
how powerfully the last name he uttered affected me.

After a pause—"In none of your letters," said I, "did you mention that
Lady Loftus was here."

"Did I not?  But Cora is your chief correspondent, and no no doubt she
did."

"On the contrary, my cousin never once referred to her."

"Strange!  Lord Chillingham left us a week ago in haste to attend a
meeting of the Cabinet; but his women folks have been rusticating here
for nearly three months.  Charming person the countess—charming, indeed;
but the daughter is quite a Diana.  You have met her before—she told us
so, and I have made up my mind—ah, you know for what, you rogue—eh?"

What my uncle had made up his mind for was not very apparent; but he
concluded his sentence by poking the weeder under my short ribs.

"To have me marry in haste and repent at leisure, eh, uncle—is it for
this that your mind is made up?"

"I am a man of the old school, Newton; yet I hate proverbs, and
everything old, except wine and good breeding."

"You are aware, uncle," said I, to change the subject, "that the lancers
are under orders for Turkey?"

"Where women are kept under lock and key, bought, and secluded from
society; just as in Britain they are thrust into it for sale."

"And so, my dear uncle, supposing that a lively young lancer will make a
most excellent husband for your noble and beautiful _protégée_, you are
resolved to make a victim of me, is it not so?"

"Precisely; but according to the old use and wont in drama and romance,
you must not be a willing one; you must be prepared to hate her
cordially at first sight, and to prefer some one else—of course, some
amiable village damsel, of humble but respectable parentage," replied
Sir Nigel, laughing.

"Hate _her_—prefer another!" I exclaimed; "on the contrary, I—I——"

I know not what I was about to say, or how far I might have betrayed
myself.  The blood rushed to my temples, and I felt giddy and confused,
for the kind old baronet knew little of the hopeless passion with which
the fair one of whom he spoke had inspired me already.

"You have met the Lady Lousia before, you say?"

"Nay, ’twas she who said she had met me," said I, glad to recall by this
trifling remark that I was not forgotten by her.

"Ah, indeed—indeed; where?"

"Oh, at Canterbury, at Tunbridge Wells, Bath; all those places where
people are to be met.  In London, too, I saw her presented at Court."

"The deuce!  You and she seem to have gone in a leash," said Sir Nigel,
laughing, while the colour deepened on my cheek again; "but you must
look sharp, for one of your fellows who is here is for ever dangling
after her."

"One of _ours_?" I exclaimed, with astonishment.

"Yes; a solemn, dreary, dandified fellow, whom I met at Chillingham’s
shootings in the north, and invited to spend the last weeks of his leave
of absence here, as we were to have you with us; and he spared no pains
to impress upon me that he was a particular chum of yours."

"Is he Captain Travers—Vaughan Travers?  He is on leave."

"No; he is Lieutenant De Warr Berkeley."

"Berkeley!" I repeated, with some disgust, and with an emotion of such
inconceivable annoyance that I could scarcely conceal it; for decidedly
he was the last man of ours whom I should have liked to find
domesticated at Calderwood Glen.

Berkeley was well enough to meet with in men’s society, at mess, on
parade, on the turf, or in the hunting-field; but though handsome and
perfectly well-bred, for his manners were generally unexceptionable, he
was not a man for the drawing-room. He was master of a splendid fortune,
which was left him by his father, a plain old Scotchman, who had begun
life as a drayman, and whose patronymic was simply John Dewar Barclay.
He became a wealthy brewer, and somehow his son like all such
_parvenus_, despising his name, was gazetted to the lancers as De Warr
Berkeley, and as such his name figured in the "Army List."

The carefully-acquired fortune of the plodding old brewer he spent
freely, and without being lavish, though as an Eton boy, and afterwards
as a gentleman commoner of Christchurch, he had plunged into dissipation
that made his name proverbial. He was one of those systematic _roués_
whom prudent mothers would carefully exclude from the society of their
daughters, nathless his commission, his cavalry uniform, his fortune,
his decidedly handsome person and bearing, which had all the "tone of
society"—whatever that may mean.

Hence I was rather provoked to find that the kind and well-meaning but
blundering old baronet had, as a favour to me, installed him at
Calderwood, as a friend for my pretty cousin Cora, and an admirer of
Lady Louisa.  As I thought over all this, her name must have escaped me,
for my uncle roused me from a reverie by saying—

"Yes; she is a charming, a splendid girl, really!  A little too stately,
perhaps; but I would rather have my little rosebud, Cora, with her
peculiar winning ways.  Lady Louisa may be all head—as I believe she is;
but our Cora is all heart, Newton—all heart!"

"And Lady Louisa is all head, you think, uncle?"

"I could see that at a glance—yes, with half an eye; and yet there are
times when I wish Cora had been a boy——"

My uncle leaned on his stick, and sighed.

His eldest son had been killed in the 12th Lancers, at the battle of
Goojerat; the other had died prematurely at College—a double loss, which
had a most fatal effect on their delicate mother, then in the last stage
of a mortal disease.  Now the affection of the lonely Sir Nigel was
centred in Cora, his only daughter, the child of his declining years;
and thus he had a great regard for me as the son of his youngest sister;
but he sorrowed in secret that his baronetcy—one of the oldest in
Scotland, having been created in 1625 by Charles I.—should pass out of
his family.

Sir Norman Calderwood of the Glen, who had attended the Scottish
princess, Elizabeth Stuart, to Bohemia, was the first patented among the
baronets of Nova Scotia; and was therefore styled _Primus Baronettorum
Scotiæ_, a prefix of which my uncle, as his ancestors had been, was not
a little vain.

"The estates are entailed," said he, pursuing this line of thought;
"they were among the first that were so, when the Scottish parliament
passed the Entail Act in 1685; and though they go, as you know, to a
remote collateral branch, the baronetcy ends with myself.  Cora shall be
well and handsomely left; for she shall have the Pitgavel property,
which, with its coal and iron mines, yields two thousand per annum
clear.  And you, my boy, Newton, shall find that, tide what may, you are
not forgotten."

"Uncle, you have already done so much for me——"

"Much, Newton?"

"Yes, my dear sir."

"Stuff! fitted you out for the lancers—that is all."

"You have done more than that, uncle——"

"I have lodged the purchase money for your troop with Messrs. Cox and
Co.; but most of this money must, under other circumstances, have been
spent on your cousins, had they lived.  So, thank fate and the fortune
of war, not me, boy, not me.  But there are times, especially when I am
alone, that it grieves me to think that instead of leaving an heir to
the old title, one boy lies in his grave in the old kirk yonder; and the
other, far, far away on the battle-field of Goojerat."

He shook his white head, and his voice became tremulous, his chin sank
on his breast, and he added—

"My poor Nigel!—my bonnie Archie!"

The baronet was a handsome man, above six feet in height, and, though he
stooped a little now, had been erect as a pike. He possessed fine
aquiline features, a ruddy and healthy complexion; clear, and bright
dark grey eyes; a well-shaped, though not very small, mouth; and a
Scottish chin, of a curve that evinced perseverance and decision.  His
hair was nearly white, but there was plenty of it; his hands, though
browned by exposure and seldom gloved—for the gun, the rod, the
riding-whip, and the curling stone were ever in them by turns—were well
shaped, and showed by their form and nails that he was a gentleman of
good blood and breeding.  His plain costume I have described, and he was
without ornament, save a silver dog-whistle at his button-hole, and a
large gold signet-ring, which belonged to his grandfather, Sir Alexander
Calderwood, who commanded a frigate under Admiral Hawke, in the fleet
which, in 1748, fought and vanquished the Spanish galleons between
Tortuga and the Havannah.

A sturdy old Fifeshire laird, proud of a long line of warlike Scottish
ancestors, uncrossed by any taint of foreign blood, he was fond of
boasting that neither Dane nor Norman—the Englishman’s strange vaunt and
pride—could be found among them; but that he came of a race, which—as
our Highlanders forcibly phrase it—had sprung from the soil, and were
indigenous to it.

But, indeed, the alleged foreign descent of nearly the whole Scottish
aristocracy is a silly sham, existing in their own imagination, having
arisen from the ignorance of the monkish Latin writers, who in rolls and
histories prefixed the Norman _de_ or _le_, in many instances, to the
most common Celtic patronymics and surnames.

Sir Nigel had "paraded," to use a barrack phrase, more than one man in
his youth, and enjoyed the reputation of being an unpleasantly good shot
with his pistol.  He could remember sharing in the rage of the
high-flying Tory party among the Fife lairds, when Sir Alexander
Boswell, of Auchinleck, was shot by James Stuart, of Dunearn, in a
solemn duel, where personal and political rancour were combined, at
Balmuto, for which the victor had to fly to England, and from thence to
France.

"It seemed strange on reflection, Newton," I have frequently heard Sir
Nigel, say, "that poor Boswell was the first to propose in Parliament
the repeal of our old Scottish statutes anent duelling, and that, after
all, he should fall by the pistol for a mere newspaper squib, in which
Sir Walter Scott was, perhaps, as much to blame as he."



                             *CHAPTER III.*


    Sing on, thou sweet mavis, thy song to the ev’ning,
      Thou’rt dear to the echoes of Calderwood Glen;
    Sae dear to this bosom, sae heartless and winning,
      Is charming young Jessie, the flower o’ Dunblane.
        TANNAHILL.


"Here is the old house, and here we are at last, Newton," said my uncle,
as an abrupt turn of the private path through the woodlands brought us
suddenly in front of the ancient mansion, in which, after the early
death of my father, I had spent my boyhood.

It stands in a well-wooded hollow, or glen, overlooked by the three
Lomonds of Fife—a county which, though not renowned for its picturesque
scenery, can show us many peaceful and beautiful landscapes.

Calderwood is simply an old manor-house, or fortalice, like some
thousand others in Scotland, having a species of keep, with adjacent
buildings, erected during quieter or more recent periods of Scottish
history than the first dwelling, which had suffered severely during the
wars between Mary of Guise and the Lords of the Congregation, when the
soldiers of Desse d’Epainvilliers blew up a portion of it by
gunpowder—an act terribly revenged by Sir John Calderwood of the Glen,
who had been chamberlain of Fife and captain of the castle of St.
Andrew’s for Cardinal Beaton.  Overtaking a party of the Bandes
Françaises in Falkland Woods, he routed them with considerable
slaughter, and hung at least a dozen of them on the oak trees in the
park of the palace.

The latest additions had been made under the eye of Sir William Bruce of
Kinross, the architect of Holyrood—the Scottish Inigo Jones—about a
hundred and ninety years before the present period, and thus were
somewhat florid and Palladian in their style, their fluted pilasters and
Roman cornices and capitals contrasting singularly with the grim
severity and strongly-grated windows of the old tower, which was founded
on a mass of grey rock, round which a terraced garden lies.

Within this, the older portion, the rooms were strange and quaint in
aspect, with arched roofs, wainscoted walls, and yawning fireplaces,
damp, rusty, cold, and forlorn, where the atmosphere felt as if the dead
Calderwoods of other times visited them, and lingered there apart from
the fashionable friends of their descendants in the more modern mansion;
and within the tower Sir Nigel treasured many old relics of the palace
of Dunfermline, which, when its roof fell in, in 1708, was literally
plundered by the people.

Thus, in one room, he had the cradle of James VI., and the bed in which
his son, Charles I., had been born; in another, a cabinet of Anne of
Denmark, a chair of Robert III., and a sword of the Regent Albany.

The demesne (Scotice, "policy") around this picturesque old house was
amply studded with glorious old timber, under which browsed herds of
deer, of a size, strength, and ferocity unknown in England.  The stately
entrance-gate, bearing the palm-tree of the Calderwoods, a crusading
emblem, and the long avenue, of two Scottish miles, and the
half-castellated mansion which terminated its leafy vista, well befitted
the residence of one whose fathers had ridden forth to uphold Mary’s
banner at Langside, and that of James VIII. at the battle of Dunblane.

Here was the well where the huntsman and soldier, James V., had slaked
his thirst in the forest; and there was the oak under which his
father—who fell at Flodden—shot the monarch of the herd by a single bolt
from his crossbow.

In short, Calderwood, with all its memories, was a complete epitome of
the past.

The Eastern Lomond (so called, like its brothers, from Laomain, a Celtic
hero), now reddened by the setting sun, seemed beautiful with the green
verdure that at all seasons covers it to the summit, as we approached
the house.

Ascending to the richly-carved entrance-door, where one, whilom of oak
and iron, had given place to another of plate-glass, a footman,
powdered, precise, liveried, and aiguilletted, with the usual amplitude
of calf and acute facial angle of his remarkable fraternity, appeared;
but ere he could touch the handle it was flung open, and a handsome
young girl, with a blooming complexion, sparkling eyes, and a bright and
joyous smile, rushed down the steps to meet us.

"Welcome to Calderwood, Newton," she exclaimed; "may our new year be a
happy one."

"Many happy ones be yours, Cora," said I, kissing her cheek.  "Though I
am changed since we last met, your eyes have proved clearer than those
of uncle, for, really, he did not know me."

"Oh, papa, was it so?" she asked, while her fine eyes swam with fun and
pleasure.

"A fact, my dear girl."

"Ah!  I could never be so dull, though you have those new dragoon
appendages," said she, laughingly, as I drew her arm through mine, and
we passed into a long and stately corridor, furnished with cabinets,
busts, paintings, and suits of mail, towards the drawing-room; "and I am
not married yet, Newton," she added, with another bright smile.

"But there must be some favoured man, eh, Cora?"

"No," she said, with a tinge of hauteur over her playfulness, "none."

"Time enough to think of marrying, Cora; why, you are only nineteen, and
I hope to dance at your wedding when I return from Turkey."

"Turkey," she repeated, while a cloud came over her pure and happy face;
"oh, don’t talk of that, Newton; I had forgotten it!"

"Yes; does it seem a long, or a doubtful time to look forward to?"

"It seems both, Newton."

"Well, cousin, with those soft violet eyes of yours, and those black,
shining braids (the tempting mistletoe is just over your head), and with
loves of bonnets, well-fitting gloves and kid boots, dresses ever new
and of every hue, you cannot fail to conquer, whenever you please."

She gave me a full, keen glance, that seemed expressive of annoyance,
and said, with a little sigh—

"You don’t understand me, Newton.  We have been so long separated that I
think you have forgotten all the peculiarities of my character now."

"What the deuce can she mean?" thought I.

My cousin Cora was in her fullest bloom.  She was pretty, remarkably
pretty, rather than beautiful; and by some women she was quite eclipsed,
even when her cheek flushed and her eyes, a deep violet grey, were most
lighted up.

She was fully of the middle height, and finely rounded, with exquisite
shoulders, arms, and hands.  Her features were small, and perhaps not
quite regular.  Her eyes were alternately timid, inquiring, and full of
animation; but, in fact, their expression was ever varying.  Her hair
was black, thick, and wavy; and while I looked upon her, and thought of
her present charms and of past times—and more than all of my uncle’s
fatherly regard for me—I felt that, though very fond of her, but for
another I might have loved her more dearly and tenderly.  And now, as if
to interrupt, or rather to confirm the tenor of such thoughts as these,
she said, as a lady suddenly approached the door of the drawing-room,
which we were about to enter—

"Here is one, a friend, to whom I must introduce you."

"No introduction is necessary," said the other, presenting her hand.  "I
have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Norcliff before."

"Lady Louisa!" I exclaimed, in a breathless voice, and a heart that
trembled with sudden emotion, as I touched her hand.

"I am so glad you have come before we leave.  I shall have so much to
ask you about our mutual friends—who are engaged, and who have
quarrelled; who have come home, and who gone abroad.  We have been no
less than four months in Scotland.  Meantime," she added, glancing at
her tiny watch, "we must dress for dinner.  Come, Cora; we have barely
half an hour, and old General Rammerscales is so impatient—he studies
’military time,’ and with a ’military appetite.’"

And with a bow and smile of great brightness and sweetness she passed
on, taking with her Cora, who playfully kissed her hand to me as they
glided up the great staircase into which the long corridor opened.

Lady Louisa was taller and larger in person than Cora. Her features were
singularly beautiful, and clearly cut; her forehead was low; and her
nose had the gentlest approach to the aquiline.  She was without colour,
her complexion being pale, perhaps creamy; while in strange contrast to
this aristocratic pallor of delicacy, her thick, wavy hair, her long
double eyelashes, and her ever-sparkling eyes, were black as those of a
Spanish gitano or a Welsh gipsy.

To this pale loveliness was added a bearing alternately haughty and
playful, but at all times completely self-possessed; an exquisite taste
in dress and jewellery; a very alluring voice; a power of investing even
trifles with interest, and of conversing fluently and gracefully on any
subject—whether she was mistress of it or not mattered little to Lady
Louisa.

She was about my own age, perhaps a few months younger; but in
experience of the fashionable world, and in knowledge of the manners and
ideas of the upper ten thousand, she was a hundred years my senior.

Suffice it to say that I had lost my heart to her—that I thought she
knew it well, but feared or disdained to acknowledge a triumph so small
as the conquest of a lieutenant of lancers among the many others she had
won.  So thought I, in the angry humility and jealous bitterness of my
heart.

For a minute I felt as one in a dream.  I was sensible that my uncle had
said something about changing his costume, and, suggesting some change
in mine, had apologised, and left me to linger in the corridor, or in
the drawing-room, as I chose; but now a personage, who had been lounging
on a _fauteuil_ in the latter, intent on a volume of _Punch_, and the
soles of whose glazed boots had been towards me, suddenly rose and
approached, in full evening costume.

He proved to be no other than Berkeley of ours, who had been in the room
alone, or, at least, alone with Lady Louisa Loftus.  He came slowly
forward, with his sauntering air, as if the exertion of walking was a
bore, and with his eyeglass retained in its place by a muscular
contraction of the right eyebrow.  His whole air had the "used-up"
bearing of those miserable Dundrearys who affect to act as if youth,
wealth, and luxury were the greatest calamities that flesh is heir to,
and that life itself was a bore.

"Ah, Norcliff—haw—glad to see you here, old fellow. Haw—heard you were
coming.  How goes it with you, and how are all at Maidstone?"

"Preparing for foreign service," said I, curtly, as the tip of his
gloved hand touched mine.

"Horrid bore!  Too late to send in one’s papers now, or, by Jove, I’d
hook the service.  Don’t think I was ever meant for it."

"Ere long many more will be of your way of thinking," said I, coolly.

Berkeley had a cold and cunning eye, which never smiled, whatever his
mouth might do.  His face was, nevertheless, decidedly handsome, and a
thick, dark moustache concealed a form of lip which, if seen, would have
indicated a thorough sensualist.  His head was well shaped; but the
accurate division of his well-oiled head over the centre of the caput
gave him an air of intense insipidity.  Mr. De Warr Berkeley never was a
favourite of mine, though we had both joined the lancers on the same
day, and it was with very ill-concealed annoyance I found myself
compelled, with some apparent cordiality, to greet him as a brother
officer and an inmate of my uncle’s mansion.

"And—haw—what news from the regiment?" he resumed.

"I really have no news, Berkeley," said I.

"Indeed.  You have got a month’s leave?"

"Between returns, yes."

"Is the route come?"

"A strange question, when you and I are here."

"Haw—yes, of course—how devilish good."

"It has _not_," said I, coldly; "but we are under orders for foreign
service, and may look to have our leaves cancelled by a telegram any day
or hour."

"The devil—really!"

"Fact, though, however unpleasant it may be.  So my uncle, Sir Nigel,
met you at—where was it?"

"Chillingham’s shooting-box, in the Highlands."

"I was not aware that you knew the earl."

"Losing my gillies—I think you call them in Scotland—one evening in the
dark, I lost my way, and luckily stumbled on his lordship’s shooting
quarters, in a wild and savage place, with one of your infernally
unpronounceable Scotch names."

"Oh, you think changes more euphonious at times; but I suppose your
father, honest man, could have pronounced it with ease," said I,
quietly, for Berkeley’s, or Barclay’s affectation of being an Englishman
was to me always a source of amusement.  "You have to learn Russ yet,
and it will prove, doubtless, more unpalatable than the tongue your
father spoke.  In the north, did you appear _en montagnad_?"

"Hey—haw, the devil! no; as the Irish Gil Blas says, ’Every one’s legs
can’t afford publicity,’ and mine are among the number.  Leather
breeches, when I don the pink, must be all the length.  I don’t care
about going, though Lady Louisa pressed me hard to join the Mac Quaig,
the Laird of Mac Gooligan, and other natives in tartan at a gathering.
I had a letter from Wilford yesterday.  He writes of a famous match
between Jack Studhome and Craven, on which the whole mess had a heavy
book, that great stakes were pending, and that Craven won, scoring
forty-two running off the red ball; and considering that the pockets of
the table were not bigger than an egg-cup, I think Craven a trump."

"I heard something of this match at morning parade on the day I left;
but being a bad stroke, you know, I seldom play billiards."

"Why was Howard’s bay mare scratched at the last regimental race?"

"Don’t know," said I, so dryly that he bit his nether lip.

"Some nice people visiting here," said he, staring at me steadily, so
that his eyeglass glared in the light of the lustre, which was now lit;
"and some very odd ones too.  Lady Loftus is here, you see, in all her
glory, and with her usual come-kiss-me-if-you-dare kind of look."

"Berkeley, how can you speak thus of one in her position?"

"Well, you-don’t-dare-to-do-so-again sort of expression."

"She is my uncle’s guest; not a girl in a cigar-shop or a casino!" said
I, with growing _hauteur_.

"Sir Nigel’s guest—haw—so am I, and I mean to make the best use of my
time as such.  Nice girl, Miss Wilford, from York—cousin of Wilford of
ours—a doocid good style of girl; but have no intentions in that
quarter—can’t afford to chuck myself away, as I once heard my groom
observe."

"You must learn to quote another style of people to make yourself
understood here.  You don’t mean to infer that you have any intentions
concerning Lady Louisa!" said I, with an air which was really
impertinent.

"Why not?" he asked, failing completely to see it.  "I have often such
attacks, or affections of the heart, as she has given me."

"How?"

"Just as I had the measles or the chicken-pox in childhood—a little
increase of the pulse, a little restlessness at night, and then one gets
over it."

"Take care how you address her in this bantering fashion," said I,
turning sharply away; "excuse me, but now I must dress for dinner."

And preceded by old Mr. Binns, the white-headed old butler, who many a
time in days of yore had carried me on his back, and who now welcomed me
home with a hearty shake of the hand, in which there was nothing
derogatory to me, though Berkeley’s eyes opened very wide when he saw
our greeting, I was conducted to my old room in the north wing, where a
cheerful fire was blazing, with two lights on each side of the
toilette-table (the manor-house was amply lit with gas from the
village), and there was Willie Pitblado arranging all my traps and
clothes.  But dismissing him to visit his family (to his no small joy),
I was left to my own reflections and proceeded to dress.  A subtle and
subdued tone of insolence and jealousy that pervaded the few remarks
made by Berkeley irritated and chafed me; yet he had said nothing with
which I could grapple, or with which I could openly find fault.  I was
conscious, too, that my own bearing had been the reverse of courteous
and friendly, and that, if I showed my hand thus, I might as well give
up the cards.  Suspicion of his native character, and a foreknowledge of
the man, had doubtless much to do with all this; and while making my
toilet with more than my usual care—conscious that Lady Louisa was
making hers in the next room—I resolved to keep a lynx-like eye upon Mr.
De Warr Berkeley during our short sojourn at Calderwood Glen.  My
irritation was no way soothed, or my pique lessened, by the information
that for some time past, and quite unknown to me, he had been residing
here with Lady Louisa, enjoying all the facilities afforded by hourly
propinquity and the seclusion of a country house.

Had he already declared himself?  Had he already proposed? The deuce!  I
thrust aside the thought, and angrily gave my hair a finishing rasp with
a pair of huge ivory-handled hair-brushes.



                             *CHAPTER IV.*


    And, oh! the memories that cling
      Around this old oak-panelled room!
      The pine logs flashing through the gloom,
    Sun sparkles from life’s early spring.

    After long years I rest again;
      This ancient home it seems to me,
      Wearied with travel o’er the sea.
    Holds anodyne for carking pain.


As I surveyed my old apartment the memories of other years stole over me
with somewhat of a soothing influence, for when I thought of the past,
the littleness of the present, the evanescent nature of all things could
not fail to impress me.

It was in that room I had the last vivid recollection of my dear
mother’s face, on that farewell morning, when with early dawn she stole
in on tiptoe to look for the last time upon her boy as he slept, and
before he went forth into the world beyond her maternal care for ever.

The thunder of a gong in the corridor cut short further reflections,
recalling me to the present; and giving a finishing touch to my costume,
which was not the blue lancer uniform, faced with white, and laced with
gold, but the solemn funereal suit and white necktie of civil life—a
horrid costume that has crept among us, heaven knows how—I descended to
the outer drawing-room, where I found my uncle and cousin marshalling
their guests, of whom there appeared to be a goodly number.

Berkeley had already monopolized Lady Louisa, with whom he was
conversing in a low tone, while busy stroking his moustaches, which were
darkened by the "Guards’ dye," and the pointing and twirling of which
afforded him endless employment.

There was no denying that the fellow looked well, and that the result of
riding, drilling, dancing, and fencing had been to impart to him much of
that unmistakable air which, I may say without vanity, belongs
particularly to the officers of our branch of the service.

The odd minutes which precede dinner are seldom very lively, and rather
depress than raise the spirits.  To Cora I was a species of "lion;" and
as such underwent, through her, a process of introduction to several
people I cared not a jot about, and never would.

I discussed the weather with General Rammerscales, as if I kept a
rain-gauge and barometer, and was own brother to Admiral Fitzroy;
touched on politics with the M.P., and on clerical innovations with a
divine; kissed Cora’s hand in play, and drew near to Lady Louisa, nearer
still to her awful mother, whom I felt the necessity of conciliating to
the utmost.  Every one talked in a monotone, except jovial Sir Nigel,
who was always cheery, brisk and bustling about from guest to guest.

With the Countess of Chillingham (who accorded me a calm, but courteous
bow), my uncle, whose costume was a suit of accurate black, led the way
past Binns and a line of liveried and powered gentlemen drawn up in the
corridor.

She was a stately woman, of ample proportions, with a diamond tiara
glittering on her grey hair.

Her face was fine in feature, and very noble in expression, showing that
in youth she must have been beautiful.  Her costume was magnificent,
being maroon-coloured velvet over white satin, trimmed with the richest
lace.  I rather dreaded her.

She had all the peerage—"the Englishman’s second Bible"—committed to
memory; and, through the pages of Burke and Debrett, knew all the
available and suitable heirs presumptive by rote—their ages, rank,
title, and order of precedence; for it was among the strawberry leaves
she chiefly expected to find a husband for her daughter—a marquis at
least; and as she swept out of the room, with a velvet train like a
coronation robe, she cast a backward glance to see to whose care that
fair lady was confided.

Seeing Berkeley paired off with Miss Wilford, I hastened towards Lady
Louisa.  With her I was sufficiently intimate to have offered my arm.

As I have stated, we had met frequently before, at Canterbury, Bath, and
elsewhere.  Her society had been to me a source of greater pleasure and
excitement than that of any other woman in whose way chance had thrown
me.

Her rank, as the daughter of an earl, and her rare beauty had dazzled
me, while her coquetry had piqued my vanity; though I imagined that,
without discovering the deep interest she excited in my heart, I had
taught her to view me as an object of more interest than other men.

I approached, and she received me calmly, placidly, with a bright but
conventional smile, from which I could augur or gather nothing.

In her there was none of the clamorous tremor which I felt in my own
breast, where something of annoyance at the coldness of her mother’s bow
was rankling.

"Lady Louisa—permit me," said I, proffering my arm.

"Too late, Mr. Norcliff.  I am already engaged," she replied, rising,
and placing her pretty gloved hand on the arm of old General
Rammerscales, who, bowing and smiling with gratified vanity, remarked to
me in passing—

"Been to India, I presume?"

"Yes, general, and Rangoon, too."

"Bah! ’tisn’t what it used to be in my time—the Indian service is going
to the deuce."

"But I belong to the Lancers."

"Ah!"

A daughter of the liberal M.P., Spittal, of Lickspittal, fell to my
lot—a pretty piece of muslin and insipidity; but luckily we were seated
not far from Lady Loftus.  Near us were Miss Wilford and Berkeley, who
proved less inattentive than I during the dinner, which proceeded with
more joviality and laughter than is usual in such society; but the
guests, twenty-four in number, were somewhat varied, for on this
occasion the minister, doctor, and lawyer of the parish, the provost of
a neighbouring burgh, and other persons out of the baronet’s circle,
were present.

In that old Scottish château, the mode of life was deprived of all
ostentation, though luxurious and even fashionable.

The great oak table in the dining-room was covered with plenty, and with
every delicacy of the season; but in its details it partook more of the
baronial hall than such apartments usually do.

It was floored with encaustic tiles, amid the pattern of which the arms
of the Calderwoods were reproduced again and again; and at each end
sparkled and glowed a great fire of coals from the baronet’s own pits,
with the smouldering remains of a great yule log that had grown in his
own woods, and had been perhaps a green sapling when James V. kept court
in Falkland.

In the centre of this dining-hall lay a soft Turkey carpet for the feet
of those who were seated at table.

The chairs were all square backed, well cushioned with green velvet, and
dated from the time of James VII.; the walls were of dark varnished
wainscot, decorated with old portraits and stags’ antlers; for there was
here a curious blending of old baronial state with the comforts and
tastes of modern times and modern luxury.

Above each of the great fireplaces, carved in stone, were the arms of
the Calderwoods of Calderwood and Piteadie; _argent_ a palm-tree growing
out of a mount in base, surmounted by a saltire gules; on a chief azure,
three mullets, the crest being a hand bearing a palm branch, with the
motto, "_Veritas premitur non apprimitur_."

Amid the buzz of tongues around me—for, sooth to say, some of my uncle’s
country guests made noise enough—I looked from time to time beyond the
great épergne to where Lady Louisa sat, evidently bored and amused by
turns with the laboured conversation of the old sepoy general.

It was impossible to refrain from turning again and again to admire that
pale and creamy complexion, those deep black eyes and eyelashes, the
small rosy mouth, the thick dark hair that grew in a downward peak, the
lovely little ears with their diamond pendants, those hands and arms,
which were perfection in colour, delicacy, and symmetry.

Twice her eyes met mine, giving me each time a bright glance of
intelligence, and making my heart beat happily.

I fear that the young lady by whose side I was seated must have found me
anything but a satisfactory companion, and her simple remarks concerning
the coming war, our chances of going abroad, the latest novelty in music
or literature—Bulwer, Dickens, Thackeray, and so forth—fell on a dull or
inattentive ear.

The dinner passed away as others do; the dessert was discussed.  The
fruit came, and now, as this was but the second eve of the new year, the
old family wassail-bowl was placed before my uncle.  Thanks to railway
speed, I was enabled to partake of this old-fashioned libation.  The
great silver vessel in which it was compounded was the pride of Sir
Nigel’s heart, having been taken by an ancestor at the storming of
Newcastle by the Scots in 1640, when the "Fife regiment entered by the
great breach in the fore wall."  It had four handles of chased silver,
each representing a long, lanky hound, with his hind feet on the bulb of
the cup, and his nose and fore paws on the upper rim.

It held four bottles of port, which were spiced with cloves, nutmeg,
mace, and ginger; the whites of six eggs well whisked and sugared; and
six roasted apples were swimming on the top.

To prepare this potent draught was the yearly task of old Mr. Binns, the
butler, and my cousin Cora.  Sir Nigel rose, and filling his glass from
the gigantic tankard, exclaimed, ere he drained it—

"A happy new year to you all, my friends!  May the year that is gone be
the worst of our lives, and may the new one, that opens full of promise,
give joy to all!"

"A happy new year to all, Sir Nigel," went round the table, as we
emptied our glasses; and as Binns replenished them from the
wassail-bowl, the conversation became more free and unrestrained, for
the celebration of the new year is a festival which has not yet fallen
into desuetude in Scotland, though it has nearly done so in the sister
kingdom.

Wherever Scotchmen go, they never forget the associations or the customs
of their fatherland; thus, in England and Ireland, and still more amid
the goldfields of Australia, or the rice-swamps of Hong Kong, in the
cities, camps, and barracks of India and America—ay, and in our ships
far out upon the lonely sea, ten thousand miles, perhaps, from Forth, or
Tay, or Clyde, on New Year’s morning there are claspings of
toil-hardened hands, good wishes exchanged, with the thoughts of home,
its familiar faces, and its old fireside; the heather hills, and the
deep grassy glens, that some may never see more; but still, amid joy and
revelry, and, perhaps, the songs of Burns, the new year is ushered in.

On that morning, as soon as the clocks strike twelve, a cheer passes
over all the towns and hamlets of Scotland, from the German to the
Atlantic sea; many a bottle is broached, and many a bagpipe blown; and
though the wild orgies and uproar, and sometimes the discharge of
firearms, with which it used to be welcomed at every market-cross, are
passing away, still the New Year’s tide is a time of feasting,
merry-making, and congratulations with all.

Even that solemn "Dundreary," my brother officer, Berkeley, thawed under
the jovial influence of the society around him; but I was provoked to
find that it led simply to very animated conversation between himself
and Lady Louisa across the table.  It referred to a past hunting affair,
in which they had had some adventures together.

"We—haw—had not been there more than half an hour before there was a
find," said he; "you remember, Lady Louisa?"

"How could I forget?" she responded, with charming animation.  "The fox,
a dull, reddish fawn one, with black back and shoulders, broke cover
from among some gorse at the foot of the Mid Lomond."

"The hounds were instantly in full cry, and away we went.  By Jove, it
was beautiful!  We cleared some garden-walls, where we left the general
up to the chin in somebody’s hothouse; and after that we took the lead
of the entire field."

"We?" said I, inquiringly.

"Lady Louisa and myself," replied Berkeley, with one of his quiet, deep
smiles; "we were better mounted, and in riding I—haw—flatter myself that
few—few even of your Fifeshire hunt will surpass me."

"Well?" I said, impatiently, crushing a walnut to pieces.

"The meet was at the base of the Mid Lomond; the morning was everything
that could be desired; the field was very small, but select; Sir Nigel,
the general, Mr. Spittal, Lady Louisa, Miss Calderwood, Miss Wilford,
and—haw—a few others.  The pack was in a most workman-like condition,
and, as Lady Louisa remembers, they soon proclaimed a find, with open
mouth."

"Yes," said she, with her dark eyes lighting up; "away we went at racing
speed, through the park of Falkland, a two miles open run at least, on,
on, over ’bank, bush, and scaur——’"

"But the fox was evidently an old one.  He tried some old coal mines,
and then some field drains; but they had been carefully stopped by old
Pitblado, the keeper.  Yet we lost him at a deep pool on the banks of
the Eden."

"But for a time only, Mr. Berkeley," resumed Lady Louisa. "You remember
how oddly he was found in a cabbage-garden, and how we cleared the
hedges at a flying leap, you and I going neck and neck; you must
remember, too, how Sir Nigel’s shout made all our hearts rebound!"

"Quitting the river-side, he broke southward for two fields, and ran
straight through the home farm of Calderwood; on, on we rode, and drove
him right in Kinross-shire; but doubling on the dogs, he led us back.
Doubling again, we pursued him once more into Kinross; what did you
think of that, general?"

"Left to my own reflections among the melon-beds, ten miles in your
rear, I thought it devilish poor work when compared to tiger-hunting,"
growled the general.

"In and out of each county he went no less than three times in as many
half-hours," said Lady Louisa; "and but for the darkness of the December
evening, he would have been compelled to yield up his brush, had we not
lost him in a thicket near Kinies Wood, at Loch Leven side."

"We lost more," said Miss Wilford, with a very decided expression of
mischief in her very beautiful blue eyes; "for when the whole hunt
assembled, Lady Louisa and Mr. Berkeley were nowhere to be found—the
keepers shouted, and horns were blown in vain.  Having taken the wrong
road, they did not reach the Glen till half-past nine, when a storm of
snow was falling."

"Which compelled us, Miss Wilford, to take shelter in wayside cottages
at Balgedie and at Orphil," said Lady Louisa, with a tone of real
annoyance, while her eye, like a gleam of light, dwelt for an instant on
me; but the hunting anecdote and its conclusion piqued—cut me to the
heart.

With such opportunities could Berkeley have failed to press his suit?

I glanced at him.  His temporary animation had subsided; his pale and
impassive face wore its usual quiet and cold expression; yet his eyes
were keen, restless, and watchful, even cunning at times.  He smiled
seldom, and laughed—so to say—never.

Whether it was simply the memory of that winter day’s sport, with all
its excitement and concomitant danger, in counties so rough and hilly as
Fife and Kinross, or whether it was some particular incident connected
therewith that inspired her, I know not; but a flush on the usually pale
cheek of Louisa Loftus made her look radiantly beautiful—like a dash of
rouge, lending a glorious lustre to her deeply-lashed dark eyes.  But
now my Lady Chillingham, who evidently did not share her daughter’s
enthusiasm for field sports, exchanged an expressive glance with Cora,
who, of course, occupied the head of the table, with the parish minister
in the post of honour at her right hand.

Then we all rose like a covey of partridges, while the ladies retired in
single file to the drawing-room, whither I longed to accompany them; but
now the gentlemen drew their chairs closer together, side by side; Sir
Nigel announced that "the business of the evening was only beginning;"
the wine decanters and the claret jugs were replenished; Binns appeared
with water steaming hot in an antique silver kettle, followed by a
servant bearing liqueur-frames, filled with "mountain dew," for those
who preferred toddy, the national beverage, to which fully half the
company, including my jolly old kinsman, at once betook themselves.

Somehow those "trifles light as air," which are the torments of the
jealous and the doubtful, were added to fears, to crush me now.

Even without the danger of a rival, I knew that "La Mère Chillingham,"
as the mess called her, would keep a sharp eye upon me, as the possessor
of only my subaltern’s commission in the lancers, with a couple of
hundred or so per annum; for she believed that all men so circumstanced
were little better than well-accredited sharpers, and, as such, certain
to have nefarious designs upon her wealthy and beautiful
daughter—designs which our plumes, epaulettes, and lancer trappings were
every way calculated to render more dangerous.

I felt sure that, by such as she, even the wealthy parvenu, De Warr
Berkeley, would be less dreaded than I; and as I looked round the old
hall of Calderwood, and saw the grim portraits of those who had preceded
me, looking disdainfully out of their stiff ruffs and long doublets, and
thought of my rival’s puerile character, and his father’s beer vats, an
emotion of real contempt for the cold-blooded and match-making countess
stole into my heart.

Louisa Loftus was, indeed, a proud and glorious beauty.  I knew not yet
what were my chances of success with her, and, in short, I "had nothing
for it but to wait and try my best to be sanguine."

The brave old axiom, that "no fortress is impregnable," is a valuable
worldly lesson, and one ought never to forget that a storming party
rarely fails.

There was some consolation in this reflection.

I took another glass of sparkling hock, another, and another, and
somehow through their medium the world began to look more bright and
cheering.



                              *CHAPTER V.*


    Come, let us enjoy the fleeting day,
      And banish toil, and laugh at care,
      For who would grief and sorrow beat
    When he can throw his griefs away?
    Away, away! begone, I say!
      For mournful thought
      Will come unsought.
        BOWRING’S "POETRY OF SPAIN."


"Provost," said my uncle to the jovial and rubicund magistrate who sat
on his left hand, now that he had taken Cora’s place at the head of the
table, "try the Johannisberg.  It is some given to me by Prince
Metternich when I was at Vienna, and is from grapes raised in his own
vineyards.  Rare stuff it is for those who like such light wines."

"Thank you, Sir Nigel; but Binns, I see, has brought the three elements,
so I’ll e’en brew some whisky-toddy," replied the magistrate.

The conversation now became more noisy and animated. The approaching
war, the treaty of neutrality between the Scandinavian and the Western
Powers, whether our fleet had yet entered the Euxine, or whether Luders
had yet burst into the Dobrudscha, became the prevailing topics, and in
interest seemed fully to rival that never-failing subject at a country
table, fox-hunting.

The county pack, the meet of the Fifeshire hounds at the kennels, or on
the green slopes of Largo; of the Buccleuch pack at Blacklaw, Ancrum,
and so forth; their runs by wood and wold, loch and lee, rock and river,
with many a perilous leap and wild adventure in the field, over a rough
and hilly country, were narrated with animation, and descanted on with
interest, though all such sank into insignificance beside the history of
a hunt in Bengal, where General Rammerscales had figured in pursuit of a
tiger (long the terror of the district), seated in a lofty _howdah_ of
basket-work, strapped on the back of an elephant, twelve feet high to
the shoulder, accompanied by the major of his regiment, each armed with
two double-barrelled guns.

The tiger, which measured nine feet from his nose to the tip of his
tail, and five in height, had been roused from among the jungle grass,
and was a brute of the most ferocious kind, yellow in hide, and striped
with beautiful transverse bars of black and brown.  He was well-known in
that district. With his tremendous jaws he had carried off many a foal
and buffalo; by a single stroke of his claws he had disembowelled and
rent open the body of more than one tall dark sowar of the 3rd Bengal
Light Cavalry; and as for sheep and goats, he made no more account of
them than if they had been so many shrimps.

With a shrill, short scream of rage, on finding that he was brought to
bay at last, he threw himself in cat-fashion on his back, belly upwards,
his small and quivering ears close on the back of his head, his dreadful
claws thrust out, his eyes glaring like two gigantic carbuncles, his
wide, red mouth distended, and every wiry whisker bristling with rage
and fury.

The general fired both barrels of his first gun.  One shot failed; but
the other wounded the tiger in the shoulder, and only served to make him
more savage; though, instead of springing upwards, he lay thus on the
defensive, gathered up in a round ball.

The major, an enormously fat man, weighing more than twenty stone, now
leant over the _howdah_ to take a cool and deliberate aim; but the
elephant in the same moment happened to bend his fore-knees, for the
claws of the tiger were inserted in his trunk.

Losing all balance by this unlucky motion, the poor major toppled
headlong over the _howdah_, just as both barrels of his gun exploded
harmlessly, amid a yell from the Indian hunters as they thought of his
fate.

But, "with a mighty squelch," as the general phrased it, the major, with
his twenty-two stone weight of flesh and bone, fell prone upon the fair,
white, upturned belly of the tiger!

Terrified, breathless, and bewildered by an antagonist so ponderous, and
by such an unexpected mode of attack, the tiger started up, and fled
from the scene, leaving the major untouched and unharmed, but seated
ruefully among the jungle grass, and with considerable doubts as to his
safety and his own identity.

The parish minister fairly overmatched this story by the narrative of a
fox which had been drowned by a mussel.

Prior to being appointed pastor of Calderwood Kirk, through the favour
of its patron, Sir Nigel, he had been an assistant in a parish situated
on the borders of one of the great salt lochs in the western highlands.

When riding one morning along the shore, opposite the Summer Isles, he
was surprised to see a large grey fox busy among the basket-mussels,
thick clusters of which were adhering to the dark whin rocks which the
ebb tide had left dry.  The sea was coming in fast; but, strange to say,
Reynard seemed to be so much engaged in breakfasting on shell-fish that
he was heedless of that important circumstance.

Dismounting, and tying his horse to a tree, the minister made a circuit
to reach the place, and being armed with a heavy-handled riding-whip, he
had no fear of the encounter; but by the time he arrived at the
mussel-beds, the rapid tide had overflowed them, and the fox had
disappeared.  So, remounting, the minister pursued his way into the
mountains.

Returning along the shore by the same path in the evening, when the tide
had ebbed, he again saw Reynard in the same place, but lying quite dead,
and, on examination, discovered that he was held fast by the tongue
between the sharp shells of one of the basket-mussels, which are
sometimes seven inches long, and adhere with intense strength to the
rocks by the beard, known to the learned as a powerful _byssus_.  Seized
and retained thus, as if in the grasp of a steel vice, the fox, which
had been in the habit of seeking the sea shore to feed on the mussels,
had been held fast, until drowned by the advancing tide, which there
flows rapidly in from the Atlantic.

This story elicited roars of laughter from the fox-hunters, who had
never heard of a brush being taken in such a fashion; and Berkeley
expressed astonishment that the anecdote had never found its way into
the columns of _Bell’s Life_, or other sporting journals.

The provost and minister gabbled about presbyteries and synods, the
moderation of calls, elders, deacons, and overtures to the General
Assembly, anent sundry ecclesiastical matters, particularly the adoption
of organs, and other innovations that savoured of prelacy, making up a
jargon which, to many present, and even to me, proved quite
unintelligible; but now, as a military man, old Rammerscales seized me
by a button, for there was no eluding being bored by him.

He had been so many years in India that he found a difficulty in
assuring himself that he was not "up country" and in cantonments still.

Thus, if the rooms were warm, the general grumbled that there was no
_punkah_ to swing over his head, the baldness of which he polished
vigorously, and muttered about "tatties of iced water."

He calculated everything by its value in rupees, and talked much of
compounds and cantonments; of _batta_ and marching money, of _chutney_
and _chunam_, and all manner of queer things, including sepoys and
_sowars_, _subadars_, _havildars_, and _jemidars_; thus the most casual
remark drew forth some Indian reference.

The cold of last night reminded him of what he had endured in the
mountains of Affghanistan; and the dark clouds of this morning were
exactly like some he had seen near Calcutta, when a sepoy was killed by
his side by a stroke of lightning, which twisted up the barrel of his
musket like a screw—"yes, sir, like a demmed corkscrew!"

Next, the gas offended his eyes, which had been so long accustomed to
the oil lamps or oil-shades of his bungalow; and then he spoke to all
the servants, even respectable old Mr. Binns (who had been for forty
years like Sir Nigel’s shadow) as if they had been so many _sycees_,
grass-cutters, or tent-pitchers, making them start whenever he addressed
them; for he seemed to bark or snap out his words and wishes at "the
precious Griffs," as he termed them.

On the other hand, I was bored by the provost, who, like the M.P. (a
peace-at-any-price man), by no means approved of the expected war, and
informed Berkeley and myself that—

"Our trade—soldiering, to wit—was a deuced poor one—a speculation, a
loss, and never profit to any one, individually or collectively."

Berkeley smiled superciliously, eyed the provost through his glass, and
blandly asked him to repeat his remark twice over, professing that he
did not understand the worthy man.

"If you mean that you disapprove of the intended war, my good friend,"
said he, "I—haw—quite agree with you, Why the deuce should I fight for
the ’sick man’ at Constantinople; or for the Turks or the Tartars of the
Crimea? It’s a horrid bore."

Amid all this uncongenial conversation, I longed for the time when the
seniors would move towards the drawing-room, from whence the sounds of
music and of voices sweetly attuned were heard to issue at times; for
there my star was shining—Louisa Loftus, so beautiful to look upon, and
yet whom it seemed so hopeless in me to love!

Lost in reverie, and full of her image, it was some time before I became
aware that my distinguished brother in arms, Mr. De Warr Berkeley, was
addressing me.

"I beg your pardon," said I, nervously; "did you speak?"

"I was remarking," he lisped, languidly, "that these good people here
are—haw—very pleasant, and all that sort of thing; but have little of
the—haw—the—haw——"

"What?"

"Oh—the _odeur de la bonne société_ about them."

"The deuce!" said I, with some annoyance, for I was conscious that at
our end of the table were really gathered the lions of my uncle’s dinner
party.  "I hope you don’t include our host in this—he represents the
oldest line of baronets in Scotland."

"In Scotland—haw—very good," he drawled.

"Sir Nigel is my uncle," said I, pointedly.

"Yes, by the way, I crave pardon; so deuced stupid of me, when I know
well that there are no such sticklers about precedence and dignity as
your little baronets."

Coming from a conceited _parvenu_, the cool impudence of this remark was
so amusing that I burst into a fit of laughter; and at that moment, by a
singular coincidence, Sir Nigel, who had been engaged in an animated
discussion, almost amounting to a dispute, with Spittal of Lickspittal,
the M.P., now suddenly raised his voice, and without at all intending
it, sent one random shot after another at my fashionable comrade.

"I can assure you, sir," he continued, "that such cosmopolitan views as
yours, politically and socially, can never be endorsed by me.  Thackeray
says—and he says truly—that God has created no more offensive creature
than a Scotch snob, and I quite agree with him.  The chief aim of such
is to be thought an Englishman (just as some Englishmen affect the
foreigner), and a deplorable caricature he makes of the Englishman in
language, bearing, and appearance.  An English snob, in whatever his
line may be, is, as Thackeray has shown us, a great and amusing
original; but a Scotch snob is a poor and vile imitation, and like all
counterfeits is easily discernible: Birmingham at once.  I know no
greater hot-bed of snobbery than our law-courts, sir, especially those
of Edinburgh.  Binns, pass the claret."

The M.P. bowed, and smiled deprecatingly, for he had long figured among
the said courts as one who would joyfully have blacked the boots of the
lord advocate or the ministry.

I felt almost sorry for Berkeley while my uncle spurred his hobby
against the M.P.; the ugly cap fitted so exactly.

"I know," resumed Sir Nigel, "that in a nation of tuft-hunters like the
British, whose Bible is the ’Peerage,’ a man with a handle to his name,
however small it may be, is a trump card indeed; hence the adoration of
rank, which, as some one says, ’if folly in London, deepens into
positive vice in the country.’"

"Then what do you say of your poor Scottish metropolis, whose
aristocracy consists of a few psalm-singing—aw—bailies and young legal
prigs of the bar, whose importance is only equalled by their
necessities—boiled mutton and thin Cape Madeira?" said Berkeley, glad of
an opportunity to sneer at something Scotch.

"I have known a few honest fellows—and men of first-rate ability,
too—connected with the Scottish Parliament House," said Sir Nigel.

"But that, I suppose, was in the old Tory days, when all Edinburgh fell
down in the mud to worship George IV., the first gentleman in Europe,"
said the M.P. as a retort, at which my uncle laughed loudly.

But thus, by his remarks at the fag end of some discussion, Sir Nigel
had the effect of completely silencing, and unintentionally mortifying,
Berkeley, who continued to sip his wine in silence, and with something
of malevolence in his eye, till Binns announced coffee, and we repaired
to the drawing-room.



                             *CHAPTER VI.*


    No, tempt me not—love’s sweetest flower
      Hath poison in its smile;
    Love only woos with dazzling power,
      To fetter hearts the while.
    I will not wear its rosy chain,
      Nor e’en its fragrance prove;
    I fear too much love’s silent pain—
      No, no!  I will not love.


Through the cool and airy corridor, with its cabinets full of Sèvres
jars, Indian bowls, and sculptured marble busts—on one side the Marli
horses in full career crowning a buhl pedestal; on the other a bronze
Laocoon, with his two sons, in the coils of the brazen serpents—we
proceeded to the drawing-room, a merry and laughing party, for it was
impossible to resist the influence of a good dinner, good wines, and
jovial company.

On entering we found the ladies variously engaged.  A graceful group was
about the piano; the Countess of Chillingham was half hidden in the soft
arms of a vast velvet chair, where she was playing indolently with her
fan, and watching her daughter; others were busy with books of
engravings, and some were laughing at the pencil sketches of a local
artist, who portrayed the wars of the Celts and Anglo-Saxons, and other
nude barbarians, while old Binns and two powdered lacqueys served the
tea and coffee on silver trays.

I had hoped to meet Lady Louisa’s eye on entering, but the first smile
that greeted me was the sweet one of Cora, who, approaching me, put her
plump little arm through mine, and said, half reproachfully and half
jestingly—

"How long you have lingered over that odious wine, and you have not been
here for six years, Newton.  Think of that—for six years."

"How many may elapse before I am here again?  Do you reproach me, Cora?"
I was beginning, for her voice and smile were very alluring.

"Yes, very much," she said, with playful severity.

"Your papa, my good uncle, is somewhat of a stickler for etiquette,
consequently I could not rise before the seniors; and then this is the
festive season of the year.  But hush; Lady Louisa is about to sing, I
think."

"A duet, too."

"With whom?"

"Mr. Berkeley.  They are always practising duets."

"Always?"

"Yes; she dotes on music."

"Ah, and he pretends to do so, too."

Spreading her ample flounces over the carved walnut-wood piano stool,
Lady Louisa ran her white fingers rapidly and with some brilliancy of
execution—certainly with perfect confidence—over the keys of a sonorous
grand piano; while Berkeley stood near, with an air of considerable
affectation and satisfaction, to accompany her, his delicate hands being
cased in the tightest of straw-coloured kid gloves; and all the room
became hushed into well-bred silence, while they favoured us with the
famous duet by _Leonora_ and the _Conde di Luna_, "Vivra!  Contende il
Guibilo."

Berkeley acquitted himself pretty well; so well, that I regretted my own
_timbre_ tones.  But I must confess to being enchanted while Louisa
sang; her voice was very seductive, and she had been admirably trained
by a good Italian master. I remained a silent listener, full of
admiration for her performance, and not a little for the contour of her
fine neck and snowy shoulders, from which her maize-coloured opera cloak
had fallen.

"Lady Loftus," said Berkeley, "your touch upon the piano is like—like——"

"What, Mr. Berkeley?  Now tax your imagination for a new compliment."

"The fingers—haw—of a tenth muse."

She uttered a merry laugh, and continued to run those fingers over the
keys.

"Homely style of thing, the baronet’s dinner," I heard him whisper, as
he stooped over her, with a covert smile in his eyes.

"Ah, you prefer the continental mode we are adopting so successfully in
England?"

"The dinner _à la Russe_; exactly."

"Ah, you will get dinners enough of that kind in the Crimea, more than
you may have appetite for," she replied, with a manner so quiet, that it
was difficult to detect a little satire.

"Most likely," drawled Berkeley, as he twirled his moustaches, without
seeing the retort to his bad taste; and then, without invitation, the
fair musician gave us a song or two from the "Trovatore;" till her
watchful mother advancing, contrived to end her performance, and,
greatly to my satisfaction, marched her into the outer drawing-room.

"Cora must sing something now," said I; "her voice has long been strange
to me."

"I cannot sing after Lady Loftus’s brilliant performance," she said,
nervously and hurriedly.  "Don’t ask me, pray, Newton, dear."

"Nonsense! she shall sing us something.  We were talking about snobbish
people in the other room," said honest, old blundering Sir Nigel.  "I
have observed it is a peculiarity of that style of society in Scotland
to banish alike national music and national songs.  But such is not our
_rôle_ in Calderwood Glen.  A few of our girls certainly attempt with
success such glorious airs as those we have just heard, or those from
"Roberto il Diavolo" and "Lucia;" but I have heard men, who might sing a
plain Scottish song fairly enough, and with credit, make absolute
maniacs of themselves by attempting to howl like _Edgardo_ in the
churchyard, or like _Manrico_ at the prison-gate—an affectation of
operatic excellence with which I have no patience."

"To take out in fashion what we lose in genuine amusement and enthusiasm
is an English habit becoming more common in Scotland every day," said
the general.

"So, Cora, darling, sing us one of our songs.  Give Newton the old
ballad of ’The Thistle and the Rose.’  I am sure he has not heard it for
many a day."

"Not since I was last under this roof, dear uncle," said I.

This ballad was one of the memories of our childhood, and a great
favourite with the old Tory baronet; so I led Cora to the piano.

"It will sound so odd—so primitive, in fact—to these people, especially
after what we have heard, Newton," she urged, in a whisper; "but then
papa is so obstinate."

"But to please me, Cora."

"To please you, Newton, I would do anything," she replied, with a blush
and a happy smile.

I stood by her side while she sang a simple old ballad, that had been
taught her by my mother.  The air was plaintive, and the words were
quaint.  By whom they were written I know not, for they are neither to
be found in Allan Ramsay’s "Miscellany," or any other book of Scottish
songs that I have seen.  Cora sang with great sweetness, and her voice
awakened a flood of old memories and forgotten hopes and fears, with
many a boyish aspiration, for music, like perfume, can exert a wonderful
effect upon the imagination and on the memory.

    THE THISTLE AND THE ROSE.

    It was in old times,
    When trees composed rhymes,
      And flowers did with elegy flow;
    In an old battle-field,
    That fair flowers did yield,
      A rose and a thistle did grow.

    On a soft summer day,
    The rose chanced to say,
      "Friend thistle, I’ll with you be plain;
    And if you’d simply be
    But united to me,
      You would ne’er be a thistle again."

    The thistle said, "My spears
    Shield me from all fears,
      While you quite unguarded remain;
    And well, I suppose,
    Though I were a rose,
      I’d fain be a thistle again."

    "Dearest friend," quoth the rose,
    "You falsely suppose—
      Bear witness ye flowers of the plain!—
    You’d take so much pleasure
    In beauty’s vast treasure,
      You’d ne’er be a thistle again."

    The thistle, by guile,
    Preferred the rose’s smile
      To all the gay flowers of the plain;
    She threw off her sharp spears,
    Unarmed she appears—
      And then were united the twain.

    But one cold, stormy day,
    While helpless she lay,
      No longer could sorrow refrain;
    She gave a deep moan,
    And with many an "Ohone!
    Alas for the days when a Stuart filled the throne—
      OH! WERE I A THISTLE AGAIN!"


Sir Nigel clapped his hands in applause, and said to the M.P.—

"Lickspittal, my boy, I consider that an anti-centralization song—but,
of course, your sympathies and mine are widely apart."

"It is decidedly behind the age, at all events," said the member,
laughing.

"You have a delightful voice, Cora—soft and sweet as ever," said I in
her ear.

"Thanks, Cora," added Sir Nigel, patting her white shoulder with his
strong embrowned hand.  "Newton seems quite enchanted; but you must not
seek to captivate our lancer."

"Why may I not, papa?"

"Because, as Thackeray says, ’A lady who sets her heart on a lad in
uniform, must prepare to change lovers pretty quickly, or her life will
be but a sad one.’"

"You are always quoting Thackeray," said Cora, with a little perceptible
shrug of her plump shoulders.

"Is such really the case, Mr. Norcliff?" asked Lady Louisa, who had
approached us; "are you gentlemen of the sword so heartless?"

"Nay, I trust that, in this instance, the author of ’Esmond’ rather
quizzes than libels the service," said I.  "How beautiful the
conservatory looks when lighted up," I added, drawing back the crimson
velvet hangings that concealed the door, which stood invitingly open.

"Yes; there are some magnificent exotics here," said the tall, pale
beauty, as she swept through, accompanied by Cora and myself.

I had hoped to have a single moment for a tête-à-tête with her; but in
vain, for the pertinacious Berkeley, with his slow, invariable saunter,
lounged in after us, and, with all the air of a privileged man, followed
us from flower to flower as we passed critically along, displaying much
vapid interest, and some ignorance alike of botany and floriculture.
Without the conservatory, the clear, starry sky of a Scottish winter
night arched its blue dome above the summits of the Lomonds; and within,
thanks to skill and hot-water pipes, were the yellow flowering cactus,
the golden Jobelia, the scarlet querena, the slender tendrils and blue
flowers of the liana, the oranges and grapes of the sunny tropics.

"What is that dangling from the vine branch overhead?" asked Lady
Louisa.

"Just above us?" said Cora, laughing, as she looked up with a charming
smile on her bright girlish face.

"Haw—mistletoe, by Jove!" exclaimed Berkeley, looking up too, with his
glass in his eye, and his hands in his pockets.

I am not usually a very timid fellow in matters appertaining to that
peculiar parasite; yet I must own that when I saw Lady Loftus, in all
the glory of her aristocratic loveliness, so pale and yet so dark, with
cousin Cora standing coquettishly by her side, under the gifted branch,
that my heart failed me, and its pulses fairly stood still.

"My privilege, cousin," said I, and kissed Cora, as I might have done a
sister, ere she could draw back; and the usually laughing girl trembled,
and grew so deadly pale, that I surveyed her with surprise.

Lady Louisa hastily drew aside, as I bent over her hand, and barely
ventured to touch it with my lips; but judge of my rage and her hauteur
when my cool and sarcastic brother officer, Mr. Berkeley, came languidly
forward, and claiming what he termed "the privilege of the season," ere
she could avoid it, somewhat brusquely pressed his well-moustached lip
to her cheek.

Though affecting to smile, she drew haughtily back, with her nether lip
quivering, and her black eyes sparkling dangerously.

"The season, as you term it, for these absurdities is over, Berkeley,"
said I, gravely.  "Moreover, this house is not a casino, and that trophy
should have been removed by the gardener long since."

I twitched down the branch, and tossed it into a corner. Berkeley only
uttered one of his quiet, almost noiseless, laughs, and, without being
in the least put out of countenance, made a species of pirouette on the
brass heels of his glazed boots, which brought him face to face with the
Countess, who at that moment came into the conservatory after her
daughter, whom she rarely permitted to go far beyond the range of her
eyeglass.

"Lady Chillingham," said he, resolved at once to launch into
conversation, "have you heard the rumour that our friend, Lord Lucan, is
to command a brigade in the Army of the East?"

"I have heard that he is to command a division, Mr. Berkeley, but Lord
George Paget is to have a brigade," replied the Countess, coldly and
precisely.

"Ah, Paget—haw—glad to hear it," said he, as he passed loungingly away;
"he was an old chum of my father’s—haw—doocid glad."

It was a weakness of Berkeley’s to talk thus; indeed, it was a common
mess-room joke with Wilford, Scriven, Studhome, and others of ours, to
bring the peerage on the _tapis_, at a certain hour of the evening, and
"trot him out;" but on hearing him speak thus of his father, who—honest
man—began life as a drayman, it was too much for me, and I fairly
laughed aloud.

The salute he had so daringly given Lady Loftus was to me a keen source
of jealous anger and annoyance, which I could neither readily forgive
nor forget, and had the old duelling fashion still been extant, the
penalty might have proved a dear one.  I had the bitter consciousness
that she whose hand I had barely ventured to touch with a lip that
trembled with suppressed emotion had been brusquely saluted—-actually
kissed before my face—by one for whom I had rather more, if possible,
than a profound contempt.

What she thought of the episode I know not.  A horror of what all
well-bred people deem a scene no doubt prevailed, for she took her
mother’s arm, and passed away, while Cora and I followed them.

Jealousy suggested that much must have passed between them prior to my
arrival, otherwise Berkeley, with all his assurance, dared not have
acted as he did.  This supposition was to me a source of real torture
and mortification.

"When love steals into the nature," says a writer, "day by day
infiltrating its sentiments, as it were, through every crevice of the
being, it will enlist every selfish trait into the service, so that he
who loves is half enamoured of himself; but where the passion comes with
the overwhelming force of a sudden conviction, when the whole heart is
captivated at once, self is forgotten, and the image of the loved one is
all that presents itself."

Sleepless that night I lay, tormenting myself with the "trifles light as
air," that to young men in my condition are "confirmations strong as
proofs of Holy Writ."

At last I slept; but my dreams—those visions that come before the
sleeping mind and eye towards the hours of morning—were not of her I
loved, but of my pretty and playful cousin, fair-skinned and dark-haired
Cora Calderwood.



                             *CHAPTER VII.*


    What though our love was never told,
      Or breathed in sighs alone;
    By sighs that would not be controlled
      Its growing strength was shown.
    The touch that thrilled us with delight,
      The glance, by heart untamed,
    In one short moon, as brief as bright,
      That tender truth proclaimed.
        ALARIC WATTS.


Next morning I resolved that, if possible, it should not pass without
some attempt being made to discover the state of Lady Louisa’s heart—how
she was affected towards me, and whether I had any chance, however
remote, of reviving or securing the interest I trusted she had in me
when last we met in England.  But over night the snow had fallen
heavily; it was six inches deep on the lawn, as Willie Pitblado told me.
The Lomonds were clothed in ghastly white to their summits, and as we
seemed fated to be caged up in doors all day, my chances of seeing
Louisa alone would be remote indeed.

In the library and drawing-rooms I found all the guests of last night
assembled, save the minister, doctor, and lawyer, who had ridden home,
and save her I sought.

The snow caused universal regret, for various excursions had been in
progress—some for visiting the ruined castle at Piteadie; some for
riding as far as Lochleven; and others, farther still, to see the
fragments that remain of the old abbey of Balmerino.

The Countess and her daughter, arrayed in a charming morning toilette,
appeared just as the roar of the gong summoned us to a Scottish
breakfast; and of the splendours of such a repast, what gourmand hath
not heard?

There were venison, mutton, cold grouse, and ptarmigan, rizzard haddocks
from the Firth of Forth, salmon from the Tay, and honey from the Lomond
hills; a _liqueur_-stand, containing whisky and brandy, stood at Sir
Nigel’s right hand. At one end of the table was tea, presided over by
Cora; at the other, where Miss Wilford officiated, was coffee.

Over the snowy landscape a glorious flood of sunshine was pouring
through the stone mullions of the oriel windows, casting shadows of the
old and leafless trees far across the waste of dazzling white.

I had the pleasure of being seated by the side of Lady Loftus, and we
chatted away pleasantly of people whom we had met, and places where we
had been.  The links of the old chain were being rapidly taken up, and
every time I looked into the quiet depths of her dark eyes I felt a
strong emotion pass over mine.

Berkeley sat on her other side, but I could perceive that she was
politely reserved with him; so the art of impudence, an art which he had
studied carefully, had availed him but little after the use to which he
had put it last night.

"And you go to the East with pleasure?" she asked, casually, after a
pause.

"With pleasure, and yet with one great regret," said I, as I lightly
touched her hand.

"And this regret, is it a secret?"

"It cannot be spoken of here; and yet a little explanation—one word, it
may be—shall send me away the happiest fellow in the Crimean
expedition."

"Take courage," she said, in a low voice, that made my heart leap with
hope and anticipation.

"Newton, what are you and Lady Loftus talking about so impressively?
But, perhaps, I should not inquire," said my uncle, as he carved the
cold grouse, and a faint shade of annoyance flitted over the pale face
of my companion.

"Well, Sir Nigel," I replied, "I was simply about to say that ere we see
such a breakfast as this again, we shall have had a rough turn with the
Russians, and talked polyglot-wise with fellows of all nations in the
allied camp; have drunk sherbet, perhaps, with the Sultan, ogled his
ladies at the gilded lattices, and smoked a _chibouque_ with Giafar,
Mesrour, and other friends of the Commander of the Faithful."

The flow of my spirits contrasted somewhat with the ebb of Berkeley’s.
He sat silent, and pulled from time to time his long moustaches and
whiskers, which were mingled together—the envy of our apple-cheeked
cornets.

But now Mr. Binns came in with the household letter-bag—a leather case,
which bore Sir Nigel’s name and arms on a brass plate, and its contents
(always so welcome at a country breakfast-table) were distributed
amongst us.

There were newspapers and letters for all present but me, luckily.  I
say luckily, for I was hourly in fear of having my short leave
cancelled, and receiving a summons from the colonel to head-quarters.

"Lord Slubber de Gullion expresses great surprise that we are staying so
long in Scotland," said the Countess of Chillingham, as she rapidly read
over a letter written in a large, round-text hand.

"An old bore, mamma."

"Don’t say so, Louisa."

The name, which is as near the original as I dare give it, sounded
oddly; but there came a time when it was to prove a sad name to me.

"You know Slubber?" said Berkeley, in a low voice, to me.

I shook my head.  On which he resumed—

"He is an old peer of a good Anglo-Norman line, as the name imports;
rich as a Jew, and sails one of the best yachts that ever loosed canvas
at Cowes; a house in Piccadilly; a box at the opera; another of a
different kind in the Highlands; a moor in Ireland—bog, some people call
it; an excellent stud, and pack of hounds; a glorious cellar.  Rich old
fellow, indeed; a great chum of my father’s.  His dinners are said to
be—haw—perfection, from the caviare on sliced bread, _à la Russe_, to
the coffee and curaçoa, the mocha and maraschino."

The ladies were all busy with their crossed and recrossed epistles from
friends, gossips, and correspondents.  My uncle was put in excellent
humour by a missive from a meeting of the heritors and others interested
in the county hunt, assigning to him the mastership of the hounds, with
a couple of thousands per annum towards his expenses, and the defray of
damages, if he undertook to hunt the country between the Firths of Forth
and Tay.

"You have some jolly good hunters in the—haw—stables, Sir Nigel," said
Berkeley, who was somewhat of a sporting man.

"Yes, fairish."

"Dunearn is a clean-limbed animal," said the general.

"Yes; but he was not improved by your gallop among the melon beds,"
replied Sir Nigel, laughing.  "Cost me four hundred and fifty pounds,
that horse did.  Saline, the grey, with the dark fetlocks, is a better
hunter for clearing fences, and crossing a stiff country, and yet cost
me only two hundred and ten pounds."

After opening his third or fourth letter, Berkeley evidently received
news that was not pleasant, for I heard him mutter almost an oath, as he
said, uneasily—

"Jockeyed!  Sold by the jockey, Trayner!  A cheque on his bank for the
amount; about as good as one on the Banks of Newfoundland."

"No bad news, Berkeley, I hope," said my uncle.

"Oh—haw—nothing, Sir Nigel," said he, and retiring into an oriel, he
drew forth a memorandum book, and proceeded to consider the weights for
a forthcoming race; and so absorbed was he that Cora laughed aloud on
hearing him mutter in this fashion, pulling his long moustaches the
while—

"Mail-train, five years, eight stone two pounds.  Swish-tail, three
years, six stone four pounds.  Queen Victorina, aged, rather, six stone
four pounds," and so on.

As we rose from the breakfast-table, and broke into groups, he dropped a
letter in a female handwriting.  I picked it up, and followed him.  It
was open, and the signature, "_Agnes Auriol_," caught my eye.

By that name I knew the writer, and could have crushed Berkeley’s
chances, perhaps, for ever; but as no such use could be honourably made
of it, I touched him on the shoulder, simply saying—

"Pardon me, you have dropped this."

He changed colour painfully as he received the letter, walked to the
fire, cast it in, and carefully waited until it was consumed.

I was not without hopes of luring Lady Louisa into the library, the
conservatory, or some quiet nook, as a ride or a ramble out of doors was
not to be thought of; but my uncle destroyed my chances, by suddenly
announcing, with one of his loud and merry laughs, that the glass was
rising, the day would yet be fine, and that gentlemen must kill their
next day’s dinner or go without.  He was going to beat the thickets for
a few birds, and he had guns for all the party.

The old general grumbled an unmistakable dissent, and Berkeley pocketed
his betting-book, drawling out, as he looked at the snowy landscape and
left the room—

"A horrid bore!"

"Come, general," said my hearty old uncle, who had not heard Berkeley’s
uncivil response, "don’t think yet of substituting flannel bags for
top-boots; Ascension turtle and pink champagne for patience and water
gruel; hot fomentations for hot whisky-toddy!  Come! put on your
shot-belt; the gout is a long way off yet."

"Gad!  I am not so sure of that, Sir Nigel; and then there is this
cursed jungle-fever, which I got when up the country with the 3rd
Bengal, and I have a horror of toast and water, even when flavoured with
pale dry sherry."

"Where is Mr. Berkeley loitering; what is he about?"

"Making up his mind, papa, or what he considers to be such," said Cora.

"Fie, Cora," said the old baronet, "you should never quiz a guest."

Berkeley, re-entering, urged that he had letters to write, and so must
remain behind; so said Mr. Spittal, the M.P.  Thus the shooting party
was reduced to Sir Nigel, the keeper, and myself.

Cora brought us each a flask of brandy, then a little packet of
sandwiches cut by her own pretty hands in the housekeeper’s pantry.
These she stuffed into our pockets, and away we went to the keeper’s
lodge, I, for cogent reasons of my own, most unwillingly, though Lady
Louisa smilingly kissed her hand twice to me from the drawing-room
window; but as Cora and all the ladies did so at the same time, and
waved their handkerchiefs, I could gather but little from that mark of
her attention.

Pitblado’s cottage was more than a mile distant.  The snow was thawing
fast, in the sunshine; but we were accoutred in stout leather leggings,
and thick, warm shooting coats and caps.

My uncle’s manner was fidgety, as we walked onward.  He had evidently
something on his mind, which he could not express in words, and I could
give him no aid.  After a pause—

"Newton, lad," said he, "I don’t think that you take to your gun very
willingly to-day."

"What leads you to think so, uncle?"

"You continued to look back at the house, as long as even the vanes of
it were in view, as if the game there had more attractions than the
birds out of doors."

"I merely looked back to bow to Lady Loftus and the others," said I,
laughing.

"There it is!  Why do you put Lady Loftus first?"

"Perhaps because her figure was tallest—I don’t know—perhaps I should
have named Cora, as the Lady of Calderwood," said I laughing, to hide my
growing confusion.

"Newton Norcliff, you have a tenderness for Lady Chillingham’s
daughter," said Sir Nigel, gravely.

"Have I?  Don’t know that I have, sir," I repeated, actually flushing.

"Of course you have, and you know it," said he, emphatically.

"But who told you of this?"

"Cora."

"Cora?"

"Yes, with tears in her eyes, this morning."

"Tears!  This is incomprehensible.  I have only been a single night
under the same roof with Lady Loftus."

"Yet Cora has discovered your secret.  Girls are quick-sighted in such
matters, I can tell you."

"But why had Cora tears?"

"Don’t for the life of me know, unless it be that she fears your love
will be but moonshine in the water.  They are a cold, calculating, and
ambitious family, Lord Chillingham’s, and will fly their hawk at higher
game than mere landed gentry."

"She is a good girl, Cora," said I, thoughtfully

"If you have any fancy for Louisa Loftus, I will back you to any
amount," said my blunt uncle, stoutly; "but I don’t think my lady mother
would relish such a suitor as a lieutenant of cavalry.  I have already
heard her hint that Lord Slubber has made proposals, with offers of a
brilliant settlement; but the man is older than I, and could no more
hunt a country or march up a snow-covered brae, as we do now, than fly
through the air.  At all events, don’t throw your heart away farther
than is necessary, and what is more, in the meantime, look sharp, I
say."

"Sharp!" I exclaimed, bewildered by this odd jumble of advice.
"How—why?"

"Don’t you perceive what is going on?"

"What, uncle?"

"That yaw-hawing donkey, Berkeley, is doing all he can to take the wind
out of your sails."

"Uncle, I have indeed felt a dread of this.  He has, you know, a
handsome fortune."

"I would not let a fellow like that go neck and neck with me," said Sir
Nigel.  "I’d cut in and win at a hand gallop. It is your talking,
pushing, forward men—seeming always confident of what they say, never
acknowledging an error or confessing a defeat, that are too often
allowed to take the lead in life.  With average ability, and ten times
the average amount of assurance, they often reach the goal that bashful
merit never gets a sight of.  So cut in, I say, and win, if you want
her."

While he was running on thus, I could not but admire, at his years, the
hale, sturdy figure, and bluff, hearty bearing of Sir Nigel, in his old
shooting toggery.  He was always a crack shot, and in youth and middle
life had been one of the keenest curlers and golfers between the West
and East Neuks of Fife.

It was his great boast that he could yet, if he chose, strike a golf
ball from the street over each of the tallest spires of St. Andrew’s.  A
fair hand, too, with the pistol, he had, as I have stated, winged more
than one political antagonist, in squabbles about the old Reform Bill,
in the days of Brougham, Grey, and Russell.  Throw your glove in the
air, and he would shoot any finger off it you named; and he would hit a
cricket ball, were it cast ever so high, with a single rifle bullet.
Thus in his hands I was sent to join the lancers somewhat of a
master-of-arms, and certainly a complete horseman.

Sir Nigel, withal, had much the air of a Scotch man-about-town; in
Edinburgh a different style of man from he of the same genus in
London—he of the glazed boots and carefully-trimmed whiskers,
exquisitely solemn and unimpressionable, as if he had seen all the
world, and found there was nothing in it.

The "dandy" who hovers about the New Club in Princes-street is usually a
six-foot man, bronzed and sunburnt (he has served somewhere—in India
generally), and heavily moustached.  He carries a huge stick; he wears
rough Tweed suits, and double-soled brogues, with toe-pieces and rows of
hobnails, as if ever ready for facing the hills and the frozen heather.
He may be a snob, like his English brother Dundreary; but he has
something rough and service-like in his bearing that is suggestive of
climbing rocks, fishing, hunting, and shooting.

But now Sir Nigel’s warning, Cora’s sharp discovery of my secret, and
the knowledge that Berkeley remained behind in full possession of the
field, filled me with anxiety and annoyance.  The shooting excursion
bored me, and I looked for the end before we had well begun.

What might those hours of absence from her cost me?

We reached the gamekeeper’s cottage, which was situated amid a dense
copsewood, beside a wimpling burn, and near King James’s Well.  Moss of
emerald hue covered all the thatched roof, and in summer green trailers
and scarlet-runners made all the white-washed walls and little windows
gay.

Now the former were ornamented by ghastly rows of half-decayed hawks,
wild cats, fiumarts, and weasels, while the white, bare skull of a stag,
with its gallant antlers outspread, was fixed above the door.  Along the
garden paling the dead hawks hung in dozens, as a regular war was waged
between them and old Pitblado, who spent half his days in baiting traps;
thus the breeze that passed his cottage was laden with odours, but not
those of "a bank of violets."

He was a fine, hale old man, with a weather-beaten aspect, short,
grizzled hair, and keen grey eyes, that glistened and grew moist as he
warmly shook my hand, and welcomed me to the glen again.

Though respectful and kind, his bearing was not without a native
dignity, for he was proud of considering himself the last representative
of an old line of Fifeshire lairds, the Pitblados of Pitblado and that
ilk, who had lost their land and position long ago; but in his old
velveteen coat of no particular colour, his blue bonnet, network
game-bag, and long, greasy overalls, Pitblado looked just as I had seen
him last.  Though "as soldiers in the march of life, we may never learn
to mark time, time never fails to mark us."

"It was kind ond thochtfu’ o’ you, Maister Newton, to bring my laddie,
Willie, hame to see me ere ye baith gaed to the wars; and when there, I
hope you ond he will tak’ a’ the care o’ ilk ither ye can, for I could
as ill spare him as Sir Nigel could spare you; and gang where ye may,
Maister Newton, ye’ll ne’er ha’e a truer or a sibber friend than Willie
Pitblado."

While the old man ran on thus, the dogs came bounding forth.

"Here," said my uncle, "is your old favourite pointer, the white and
tan, alive yet."

"But he’s a _dis_-appointer noo, Maister Newton, being blind, or bleared
a bit; yet I ha’e na the heart, or rather want o’ heart, to put the puir
beast awa’."

"And here is Keeper, too—brave old Keeper, that I played with when a
boy," I exclaimed, as a grand old mastiff, which knew my voice, sprang
upon me with joy, whining and barking the while—a dog that was always
gentle with children; that wagged his aristocratic tail at all ladies
and gentlemen, but howled and growled fearfully at all beggars and
poorly-clad folks.

There in that cottage old Willie now lived alone with his dogs and a
tame otter.  This was a somewhat remarkable animal. He had found it as a
cub in a pond near Calderwood Glen, and gradually made it so
domesticated that it responded to his voice, followed him about, and
employed its talents in fishing for him, bringing each fish regularly to
his feet, and at a signal diving in for more; and, strange enough, the
terriers that hunted other otters never molested this one.

A pair of brisk young pointers were selected.  We loaded, capped,
shouldered our guns, and set forth.  This was but the beginning of the
day’s sport, and I sighed with impatience for the end.

"Shall we try the belt of pines on the Standing Stane Rig?" said I.

"It used to be a braw cover for patricks (partridges), and in my
father’s day for grouse," said Pitblado; "but those Roosians, the
weasels, the piots, the hawks, and the shepherd’s collies, ha’e played
the de’il wi’ it.  At yon belt o’ neeps, where ye see the shaws aboon
the snaw, the deer often come out o’ the pine wood to ha’e a feed, so
that we may chance to get a pot shot at one to-day."

"Come on, then," said Sir Nigel, impatiently.  "Blaze away while you
can, Newton.  In the first week of next month partridge and pheasant
shooting ends."

"By that time, uncle, in these swift days of steam, I may be sabreing or
potting the Russians."

"Then sabre and pot with a will, boy."

It was from old Pitblado I had received all my early lessons in shooting
and fishing, in the art of casting bullets and making flies; and I
remember one special piece of advice he always gave me concerning
salmon.

"Aye _droon_ your salmon before ye land it, Maister Newton, for the dunt
on the heid spyles the quality o’ the fish; ond if ye hook a grilse,
keep its tail up and well in the water till it’s clean deid."

We saw no deer that day, and I shot so wildly and queerly, and generally
bang into the centre of every covey, without selecting or covering the
outside birds, that Sir Nigel was bewildered, and old Pitblado lost all
patience with me.

I traversed the snow-covered fields with them as one might do in a
dream.  I heard an occasional shot from my uncle’s gun, the birds rose
whirring in the air, and then one or two came tumbling down, to beat the
snow with their wings, and stain it with their blood, ere Pitblado
thrust them into his ample bag.

I heard his deep impressive voice saying from time to time, "Mark!" when
the coveys rose, and to watch where they alighted; then "Seek dead" to
the pointers usually followed the bang! bang! of Sir Nigel’s barrels;
but my mind was completely absorbed in reverie.  I saw only the face of
Louisa Loftus, with Berkeley hovering about her.

I imagined him having achieved the tête-à-tête I had failed to procure.
I imagined him opening the trenches by apologies, in set phraseology,
for the offence he had perpetrated in the conservatory; and if he
succeeded with such a basis for his operations, where might the matter
end? Heavens! for all I knew to the contrary, in a solemn engagement,
pending mamma Chillingham’s consent, for his lordship, the earl, was
somewhat of a cypher in these matters, and in his own house generally.
How ingeniously one can torment oneself when afflicted by jealousy! and
thus much real misery was mine during that day’s weary shooting, and
right glad was I when the sun of January, declining beyond the western
Lomond, warned my indefatigable uncle that it was time for us to return
homeward, after having traversed in our peregrinations some fifteen
miles of country.

He had shot four hares, and eighteen brace of birds, four of which were
beautiful golden pheasants; while I had knocked over only two
partridges—a result at which Cora and Lady Louisa laughed excessively,
and each declared they would have the said birds specially cooked for
themselves.



                            *CHAPTER VIII.*


    The heavens were marked by many a filmy streak
      E’en in the Orient, and the sun shone through
    Those lines, as Hope upon a mourner’s cheek
      Sheds, meekly chastened, her delightful hue.
    From groves and meadows, all empearled with dew,
      Rose silvery mist, no eddying wind swept by;
    The cottage chimneys, half concealed from view
      By their embowering foliage, sent on high
      Their pallid wreaths of smoke unruffled to the sky.
        BARTON.


Next day the snow had entirely disappeared; the country again looked
fresh and green; and when we met for breakfast, and while the ladies
were exchanging their morning kisses lightly on each cheek—à la
Française, rather than à l’Ecossaise—various excursions were again
projected.

Among others, Cora urged that we should visit the ruined Castle of
Piteadie, which belonged of old to a branch of my uncle’s family now
extinct.

It stands on the slope of a gentle eminence, some distance westward of
the famous "long town" of Kirkaldy, a pleasant ride of ten miles or so
from the glen; and was a place we frequently rode to in the days of my
boyhood, when my feats in the saddle were performed on a shaggy,
barrel-bellied Shetland pony; so I longed to see the old ruin again.

A message was sent to the stable-yard after luncheon, and horses were
ordered for the party, which was to consist of Lady Louisa, Cora, Miss
Wilford, Berkeley, the M.P., and myself.

The ladies soon appeared in their riding-habits; and, to my perhaps
partial fancy, there seemed something matchless in the grace with which
Louisa Loftus held, or draped up, the gathered folds of her ample dark
blue skirt in her tightly gloved left hand.

There was the faintest flush on her usually pale cheek, a furtive
glancing in her long-lashed dark eyes, as she threw her veil over her
shoulder, gave a last smoothing to the braids of her black hair, and
tripped down the front steps, leaning on the arm of her courteous old
host, to where our cavalry stood, pawing the gravel impatiently, arching
their necks, and champing their bright steel bits.

We were soon mounted and _en route_.  Cora and Lady Louisa, who were
resolved on having a little private gossip, after merrily quizzing me
about my dragoon seat on the saddle, rode at first together; and, as we
paired off down the avenue, followed by my man, Willie Pitblado, and
another well-mounted groom, I found myself alongside of Berkeley, after
Sir Nigel, who had a county meeting to attend at Cupar, left us.

"Your uncle’s stables make a good turn-out of cavalry," said Berkeley;
"this grey is a good bit of horseflesh."

"’Treads well above his pasterns,’ is rather a favourite with Sir
Nigel," said I, coldly, for he had a patronizing tone about him that I
did not relish.  I could laugh with Lady Louisa when she spoke of Sir
Nigel as "a queer old droll," or "a dear old thing;" but I could ill
tolerate Berkeley, when he ran on in the following fashion—

"He is certainly a trump, Sir Nigel, but droll, as Lady Loftus
says—exquisitely droll!  If he—haw—spills salt, no doubt he remembers
Judas, and throws a pinch over his left shoulder; knocks the bottoms out
of his eggs, lest the fairies make tugs of’em; and—haw, haw—would faint,
I suppose, if he dined one of thirteen."

"I am not aware that Sir Nigel has any of the proclivities that you
mention," said I; but, heedless that I was staring at him, Berkeley,
with his bland, insipid smile, continued his impertinence.

"Things have—haw—changed so much within the last few years, that these
old fellows are actually ignorant of the world they live in; and
the—haw, haw—world goes so fast, that in three years _we_ learn more of
it, and of life (Gad! they know nothing of real life), than they did in
thirty.  As a young man, Sir Nigel was, I have no doubt, a buck in
leather breeches and hair powder—haw—drove a Stanhope, perhaps, and wore
a Spenser, _ultimus Romanorum_; paid his first visit to London in the
old mail coach, with a brace of pistols in his pocket, and the thorough
conviction that every second Englishman was a thief."

I listened with growing indignation, for on this man, who quizzed him
thus, my poor uncle was lavishing his genuine, old-fashioned Scottish
hospitality.  I had every disposition to quarrel with Berkeley, and had
we been with the regiment, or elsewhere, would undoubtedly have done so;
but in my uncle’s house, a _fracas_ with a guest, more especially a
brother officer, was the last thing to be thought of.

"You are somewhat unfriendly in your remarks, Mr. Berkeley," said I,
haughtily.

"I am—haw—not much of a reader, Norcliff; but I greatly admire a certain
writer, who says that ’Friendship means the habit of meeting at
dinner—the highest nobility of the soul being his who pays the
reckoning!’" replied Berkeley.

"And you always thought that axiom——"

"To be doocid good!  Slubber is the only old fellow I ever knew who kept
pace with the times."

"Indeed!" said I, with an affected air of perfect unconcern. "I have
heard of him—he is said to have proposed to our fair friend in front."

"Ah, may I ask which of them?"

"For Lady Louisa."

"It is very likely—the families are extremely intimate, and I know that
she has gone twice to the Continent in Slubber’s yacht."

Berkeley said this with a bearing cooler even than mine; but I was aware
that the fellow was scanning me closely through his confounded eyeglass.

"His fortune is, I believe, handsome?"

"Magnificent!  Sixty thousand a year, at least—haw!  His father was a
reckless fellow in the days of the Regency, going double-quick to the
dogs; but luckily died in time to let the estates go to nurse during the
present man’s minority.  I have heard a good story told of the late Lord
Slubber de Gullion, who, having lost a vast sum on the Derby, applied to
a well-known broker in town to give him five thousand pounds on my Lady
Slubber’s jewels.

"’Number the brilliants,’ said he, ’and put false stones in their
places; she will never know the difference.’

"’You are mosh too late, my lord,’ replied he of the three six-pounders,
with a grin.

"’Too late!  What the devil do you mean, Abraham?’

"’My Lady Slubbersh shold the diamonds to me three years ago, and these
stones are all falsh!’

"So my lord retired, collapsed with rage, to find that a march had been
stolen upon him—doocid good, that!"

The snow, I have said, had entirely disappeared, save on the summits of
the hills; but, swollen by its melting, the wayside runnels bubbled
merrily along under the black whins and withered ferns, reflecting the
pure blue of the sky overhead. At a place where the road became wider,
by a dexterous use of the spurs, I contrived to get my horse between the
pads of Cora and Lady Louisa, and so rid myself of Berkeley.

We chatted away pleasantly as we rode on at an easy pace, and ere long,
on ascending the higher ground, saw the wide expanse of the Firth of
Forth shining with all its ripples under the clear winter sun, with the
hills of the Lothians opposite, half shrouded in white vapour.

I would have given all I possessed to have been alone for half an hour
with Louisa Loftus, but no such chance or fortune was given me; and
though our ride to the ruined castle was, in itself, of small
importance, it proved ultimately the means towards an end.

One old woman, wearing one of those peculiar caps which Mary of Gueldres
introduced in Scotland, with a black band—the badge of widowhood—over
it, appeared at the door of a little thatched cottage, and directed us
by a near bridle-path to the ruin, smiling pleasantly as she did so.

"Newton," said Cora, "you remember old Kirsty Jack?"

"Perfectly," said I; "many a luggie of milk I have had from her in past
years."

Cora always wondered why people loved her, and why all ranks were so
kind to her; but the good little soul was all unaware that her girlish
simplicity of manner, her softness of complexion and feature, her
winning sweetness of expression and modulation of voice, were so
alluring.  Had she been so, the charm had, perhaps, vanished, or had
become more dangerous by the exercise of coquetry.  Often when I looked
at her, the idea occurred to me that if I had not been dazzled by Lady
Louisa, I should certainly have loved Cora.

The cottage bore a signboard inscribed, "_Christian Jack—a callender[*]
by the hour or piece_," an announcement which caused some speculation
among our English friends; and ignorant alike of its origin and meaning,
or what is more probable, affecting to be so, Berkeley laughed
immoderately at the word, simply because it was not English.


[*] Literally a mangle, from _calandre_, the French.  The term has been
common all over Scotland for centuries.  In Paris there is a street
named Rue de la Calandre.


"Christian Jack—Presbyterian John, I should suggest," said he, as we
cantered along the bridle-path, in Indian file, Cora at our head, with a
firm little hand on her reins, her blue veil and her skirt, and two long
black ringlets, floating behind her.

Lady Louisa followed close, her jet hair gathered up in thick and
elaborate rolls by the artful fingers of her French _soubrette_; her
larger and more voluptuous figure displayed to the utmost advantage by
her tight riding-habit; and now, in a few minutes, the old ruin, with
all its gaping windows, loomed in sight.

It was not an object of much interest, save to Cora and myself, for it
had been the scene of many a picnic and visit in childhood, and had been
long the seat of a branch of the Calderwoods now extinct and passed
away.

Some strange and quaint legends were connected with it; and Willie
Pitblado, old Kirsty at the Loanend, and Cora’s nurse, had told us tales
of the old lairds of Piteadie, and their "clenched hand," which was
carved above the gate, that made us feel far from comfortable in the
gloomy winter nights, when the vanes creaked overhead, and when the wind
that howled down the wooded glen shook the cawing rooks in their nests
and made the windows of old Calderwood House rattle in their sockets.

The little castle of Piteadie stands on the face of a sloping bank to
the westward of Kirkaldy, and a little to the north of Grange, the old
barony of the last champion of Mary Queen of Scots; and no doubt it is
founded on the basement of a more ancient structure, for in 1530, during
the reign of James V., John Wallanche, Laird of Piteadie, was slain near
it, in a feudal quarrel, by Sir John Thomson and John Melville of the
House of Raith.

The present edifice belongs to the next century, and is a high, narrow,
and turreted pile.  The windows are small, and have all been thickly
grated, and access is given to the various stories by a narrow circular
stair.

Within a pediment, half covered with moss, above the arched gateway in
the eastern wall, is a mouldered escutcheon of the Calderwoods, bearing
a saltire, with three mullets in chief; and a helmet surmounted by a
clenched hand—the initials "W.C." and the date 1686.

Pit is a common prefix to Fifeshire localities.  By some antiquarians it
is thought to mean Pict; by others a grave.

Cora drew our attention to the clenched hand, and assured us that it
grasped something that was meant to represent a lock or ringlet of hair.

Whether this was the case or not, it was impossible for us to say, so
much was it covered by the green moss and russet-hued lichens; but she
added that "it embodied a quaint little legend, which she would relate
to us after dinner."

"And why not now, dear Cora?" said Lady Loftus.  "If it is a legend,
where so fitting a place as this old ruin, with its roofless walls and
shattered windows?"

"We have not time to linger, Louisa," said Cora, pointing with her whip
to the great hill of Largo, the cone of which was rapidly becoming
hidden by a grey cloud; while another mass of vapour, dense and gloomy,
laden with hail or snow, came heavily up from the German Sea, and began
to obscure the sun.  "See, a wintry blast is coming on, and the sooner
we get back to the glen the better.  Lead the way, Newton, and we shall
follow."

"With pleasure," said I; and giving a farewell glance at the old ruin I
might never see again, I turned my horse’s head northward, and led the
way homeward at a smart canter; but we had barely entered Calderwood
avenue when the storm of hail and sleet came down in all its fury.

Dinner over, I joined the ladies early in the drawing-room, leaving the
M.P. to take the place of Sir Nigel, who was still absent.  The heavy
curtains, drawn closely over all the oriels, rendered us heedless of the
state of the weather without; and while Binns traversed the room with
his coffee-trays, a group was gathered in a corner round Cora, from whom
we claimed her story of the old castle we had just visited, and she
related it somewhat in the following manner.



                             *CHAPTER IX.*


    "Is there any room at your head, Emma?
      Is there any room at your feet?
    Is there any room at your side, Emma,
      Where I may sleep so sweet?

    "There is no room at my side, Robin;
      There is no room at my feet.
    My bed is dark and narrow now;
      But, oh! my sleep is sweet."
        OLD BALLAD.


During the time of King Charles I. and the wars of the great Marquis of
Montrose, his captain-general in Scotland—that terrible period when the
civil war was waged in England, and Scotland was rent in twain between
the armies of the Covenant and of the Cavaliers—William Calderwood of
Piteadie was the lover of Annora Moultray,[*] daughter of Symon, the
Laird of Seafield; a tower which stands upon the seashore, not far from
Kinghorn.


[*] Pronounced "Moutrie" in Scotland.


Both were young and handsome; both were the pride of the district at
kirk, market, and merry-meeting; and a time had been fixed for their
marriage when the troubles of the Covenant came.  Calderwood adhered to
the king, and the father of his bride to Cromwell, and the Puritan
English.

So the poor lovers were separated; their engagement deemed broken by the
parents of Annora, who were dark, gloomy, and stern religionists—true
old Whigs of Fife; but on the day before William Calderwood departed to
join the great Marquis, who was advancing from the north at the head of
his victorious Highlanders, he contrived to have a farewell interview
with his mistress at the little ruined chapel of Eglise Marie, which
stood, within a few years ago, at Tyrie, in the fields near Grange.

In those days of ecclesiastical tyranny and social espionage, little
could escape the parish minister; so the Reverend Elijah Howler promptly
apprised Symon of Moultray of his daughter’s "foregathering" with the
ungodly one at that relic of Popery, the chapel of Mary.  They were
surprised by the furious father, who exclaimed—

"Sackcloth and ashes! ye graceless limmer, begone to your spindle, and
thou, mansworn loon, draw!"

Unsheathing his sword, he rushed upon Calderwood, and would have slain
him, notwithstanding the sanctity of the place, but for the interference
of his youngest son, Philip, who accompanied him, and parried the
threatening sword.

He hurled, however, the deepest and most bitter reproaches upon
Calderwood, as "an apostate from the kirk of God; the adherent of a king
who had broken the Covenant; a leaguer with the mansworn and
God-forsaken James Grahame of Montrose, and his murdering gang of
Highland Philistines; the representative of a false brood, among whom no
daughter of his should ever mate without a father’s curse resting on her
bridal-bed," with much more to the same purpose.

The young gentleman strove to deprecate his anger; but, "Away!" the
fiery old man resumed; "hence, ye troubler o’ Israel, who hast hearkened
unto the devil and his prelates; and beware how ye cross the purpose o’
Symon o’ Seafield, for all the powers o’ hell may fail to balk my
vengeance!"

Under his shaggy brows his eyes glared at Calderwood as he spoke; and
fiercely he drew his blue bonnet over them, as he hurled his broadsword
into its scabbard, struck its basket-hilt significantly, and, grasping
his terrified daughter by the wrist, dragged her rudely away.  A
farewell glance, mute and despairing, was all that the parted lovers
could exchange.  As for the injurious reproaches of the irate old man,
Willie Calderwood heeded them not.  He only mourned in his heart this
civil and religious war, that had engendered hate and rancour in the
breasts of those at whose board he had long been a welcome guest, and
who certainly, at one time, loved him well.

If Symon of Seafield was rancorous in his animosity, his wife, the Lady
Grizel Kirkaldie of Abden, was doubly so.  Thus the poor Annora, as she
sat by her side, guiding the whirling spindle, or spinning monotonously
at her wheel, was compelled, in the intervals of prayer, bible reading,
catechizing, and mortification of the body and spirit, to hear the most
insulting epithets heaped upon the name of her young and handsome lover,
whose figure, as she saw him last at Eglise Marie, with his long, black
cavalier plume shading his saddened face, and his scarlet mantle
muffling the hilt of the rapier he dared not to draw on _her_ father,
seemed ever before her.

To prevent their meeting again, Annora was secluded and carefully
watched in the upper storey of Seafield Tower; and by her brothers’
fowling-pieces many a stray pigeon was shot, lest a note might be tied
under its wing.  The tower forms a striking feature on the sea-beaten
shore, midway between the Kirkcaldy and Kinghorn-ness.  It rests on one
side on a mass of red sandstone rock; on the other it was guarded by a
fosse and bridge, the remains of which can yet be traced.  To the
seaward lie the Vows—some dangerous rocks, on which, on a terrific night
in the December of 1800, a great ship of Elbing perished with all her
crew.

A roofless and open ruin now, exposed to the blasts which sweep up the
Firth from the German Sea, it has long been abandoned to the seamew, the
bat, and the owl, or the ugla, as it was named of old in Fifeshire.

But the seclusion of Annora was not required; for, on the very day after
the interview which was so roughly interrupted at Eglise Marie, Willie
Calderwood, at the head of sixteen troopers, all sturdy "Kailsuppers of
Fife," well mounted and accoutred in half armour—_i.e._, back, breast,
and pot, with sword, pistol, and musketoon—had departed for the king’s
host, and joined the Marquis of Montrose, whose troops, flushed with
their victorious battles at Tippermuir, Alford, Aldearn, and the Brig o’
Dee, came pouring over the Ochil mountains, to sack and burn the Castle
of Gloom.

Tidings of this advance spread rapidly from the West to the East Neuk of
Fife.  Great numbers of the Whig lairds repaired to the standard of
Baillie, the covenanting general; and among others who drew their swords
under him at the battle of Kilsythe, were Symon of Seafield and his
three sons.

The latter, fiery and determined youths, had but one object or idea—to
single out and slay without mercy William Calderwood, on the first field
where swords were crossed.

The parting injunction of their father to Dame Grizel was to leave
nothing undone to urge on the marriage of Annora with the Reverend
Elijah Howler, a sour-visaged saint, in Geneva cloak and starched bands,
with the lappets of a calotte cap covering his grizzled hair and
cadaverous cheeks, who, during the troubles that seemed to draw nearer,
had taken up his residence in that gloomy tower, which was half
surrounded by the waves.

At another time, had she dared, Annora, who was really a merry-hearted
girl, with curling chestnut hair and clear bright hazel eyes, might have
laughed at such a lover as this "lean and slippered pantaloon," who now,
in scriptural phraseology, culled chiefly out of the Old Testament,
besought her to share his heart and fortunes; but the dangers that
overhung her affianced husband and her father’s household, whichever
side conquered in the great battle that was impending, and the monotony
of her own existence, which was varied only by the long nasal prayers
and quavering psalmody in which the inhabitants of the tower (chiefly
old women now) lamented the iniquity of mankind, and "warsled wi’ the
Lord"—prayers and psalms that mingled with the cries of the sea-birds,
and the boom of the ocean on the rocks around the tower, all tended to
crush her naturally joyous spirit, and corrode her young heart with
artificial gloom.

She was frequently discovered in tears by Dame Grizel; and then sharp,
indeed, was the rebuke that fell upon her.

"Oh, mother dear," she would exclaim, "pity me!"

"Silence! bairn, and greet nae mair," the lady would reply, sharply.
"Hearken to the voice of ane that loves ye; but not after the fashion of
this miserable world—the Reverend Elijah.  Bethink ye on whom your
hellicate cavalier may e’en the now be showering his ungodly kisses.
Bethink ye—

    That auld love is cauld love,
    But new love is true love.

Elijah loves ye weel, and, though the man be auld, his love is new and
true."

Annora shuddered with anger and grief; while her stern mother, giving
additional impetus to her spinning-wheel, as she sat in the ingle by the
hall fire, eyed her grimly askance, and muttered—

"Calderwood, forsooth!  There never cam’ faith or truth frae one o’ the
line o’ Piteadie since the cardinal was stickit by Norman Leslie, a
hundred years ago.  Are ye a daughter o’ mine and o’ Symon Moultray, and
yet are hen-hearted enough to renounce God and his covenanted kirk, and
adhere to bishops and curates?—to seek the fushionless milk that cometh
frae a yeld bosom, sic as the kirk o’ prelacy hath? Fie! and awa’ wi’
ye!"

"I forsake nae kirk, mother," urged the poor lassie; "but I will adhere
to my Willie.  Falsehood never came o’ his line, and the Calderwoods are
auld as the three trees o’ Dysart."

"And shall be shunned like the de’il o’ Dysart," replied her mother,
beating the hearthstone with the high heel of her red shoe.

The cornfields were yellowing in the fertile Howe of Fife, and the woods
were still green in all their summer beauty, when, about Old Lammas-day,
in the year 1645, there went a vague whisper through the land—none knew
how—that a bloody battle had been fought somewhere about the Fells of
Campsie; that many a helmet had been cloven, many a blue-bonneted head
lay on the purple heather; and that many a Whig Fife laird had perished
with his followers.

Sorely troubled in spirit, the Reverend Elijah Howler took his
ivory-handled staff, adjusted his bands and his beaver above his calotte
cap, and, in quest of sure tidings, set forth to Kinghorn, at the
market-cross of which he had heard the terrible intelligence, that the
sword of the ungodly had triumphed—that Montrose had burst into the
lowlands like a roaring lion, seeking whom he might devour; and all
along the Burntisland Road Elijah saw the Fife troopers come spurring,
with buff-coats slashed, and harness battered, bloody, dusty, and having
all the signs of discomfiture and fear.

Ere long he learned that Symon of Seafield and his three sons were in
safety (thanks to their horses’ heels); but that the Marquis of Montrose
had encountered the army of the covenant on the field of Kilsythe, where
he had gained a great and terrible victory, slaying, by the edge of the
sword, six thousand soldiers; that the killing covered fourteen miles
Scottish—_i.e._, twenty-five miles English—and that on the men of the
Fifeshire regiments had fallen the most serious slaughter.

In fact, very few of them ever returned, for nearly all perished, and
the terror of that day is still a tradition in many a hamlet of Fife.

Annora felt joy in her heart when her father and brothers returned; yet
it was not without alloy, for where was he whom she had sworn to love,
and a lock of whose dark brown hair she wore in secret next her heart?

Lying cold and mangled, perhaps, on the field of Kilsythe!

There one of her father’s men, Roger of Tyrie, had found a relic of
terrible import.  It was a kilmaur’s whittle; the blade was of fine
steel, hafted with tortoiseshell, adorned with silver circlets.  It was
graven with the Calderwood arms, and spotted with blood; but whose
blood?

Symon and his sons came home to the tower crestfallen, and with hearts
full of bitterness.  Symon’s steel cap, with its triple bars, had been
struck from his head by the marquis’s own sword, and now he wore a broad
bonnet, with the blue cockade of the Covenant streaming from it, over
his left ear.

Long, lank, and grizzled, his hair flowed over his shoulders upon his
gorget and cuirass.  His complexion was sallow, his expression fierce,
as he trod, spurred and jack-booted, into the vaulted hall of the tower,
and grimly kissed Dame Grizel on the forehead.

"The godless Philistines have been victorious, and yet ye have a’ come
back to me without scratch or scar," she exclaimed, with Spartan
bitterness.

"Even sae, gudewife—even sae; but for that day at Kilsythe vengeance
shall yet be ours!"

"Yea, verily," groaned Elijah Howler; "for it was a day of woe, a day of
’wailing and of loud lamentation,’ as the weeping of Jazer, when the
lords of the heathen had broken down her principal plants; and as the
mourning of Rachel, who wept for her children, and would not be
comforted."

"Get me a stoup o’ ale," said Symon, with something like an oath, as he
flung aside his sword and gauntlets.  "And thou, minion, after that day
o’ bluid, will ye cling yet to that son o’ Belial, Willie Calderwood?"
asked Symon, sternly, of his shrinking daughter.  "Thrice I saw him in
the charge, and covered him ilk time wi’ my petronel; but lead availed
not, and I hadna about me a siller coin that fitted the muzzle of my
weapon, else he had been i’ the mools this nicht.  But horse and spear
lads!" he added, turning to his sons.  "Ere we sleep, we shall ride by
Grange, and rook out Calderwood Glen wi’ a flaming lunt!"

So Symon and his sons had a deep carouse in the old hall with their
troopers, all sturdy "Kailsuppers of Fife," drinking confusion to their
enemies.

Now it is an open ruin; then it was crossed by a great oak beam, whereon
hung spears and bows.  On the walls were the horns of many a buck from
Falkland Woods.

Many an oak almerie and meal-girnel stood round; and rows of pots and
pans, pell-mell among helmets and corslets, swords and bucklers, spits
and branders, made up the decorations and the furniture; while a great
fire of wood and coal from "my Lord Sinclair’s heughs" blazed day and
night on the stone hearth, making the hall to seem in some places all
red and quivering in red light, or sunk in sable shadow elsewhere.

It had but two chairs—one for the laird, and one for the lady—for such
was then the etiquette in Scotland; thus even the Reverend Elijah had to
accommodate his lean shanks on a three-legged creepie.

Dogs of various kinds were always basking before the fire on dun
deer-skins; but the chief of them was Symon’s great Scottish staghound,
which was exactly of the breed and appearance described in the old
rhyme—

    Headed lyke a snake,
    Neckèd lyke a drake.
    Footed lyke a catte,
    Taylèd lyke a ratte,
    Syded lyke a team,
    Chynèd lyke a beam.


On that night Symon and his sons, with Roger of Tyrie, and other
followers, crossed the hill to Piteadie, and sacked and set on fire the
dwelling of the Calderwoods, who, as adherents of the king, were deemed
beyond the pale of the law by the Scottish government.

In the murk midnight, from the tower head of Seafield, the heart-sticken
Annora could see the red flames of rapine wavering in the sky, beyond
the woods of Grange, in the direction where she knew so well her absent
lover’s dwelling stood; and when her father and brothers came galloping
down the brae, and clattering over the drawbridge of the tower, they
laughingly boasted that, in passing Eglise Marie, they had defaced the
family tomb of the Calderwoods, and overthrown the throchstone that
marked where Willie’s mother lay, under the shadow of an old yew tree.

"The nest is gane, Grizy," said Symon, grimly, as he unclasped his
corslet, and hung his sword on the wall; "the nest is scouthered weel,
and the black rooks can return to it nae mair."

"Would that we could lure the tassel to the gosshawk again," said Lady
Grizel, with a dark glance at her daughter.

"For what end, gudewife?" asked Symon, with surprise.

"To make him a tassel on the dule-tree there without," was the cruel
response.

Annora felt as if her heart was bursting; it seemed so strange and
unnatural that all this savage hate should exist because her poor Willie
adhered to the king rather than to the kirk.

A few weeks passed, and there was loud revelry, and many a stoup and
black-jack of ale and usquebaugh drained joyfully in Seafield, for
tidings came of the total rout of the Scottish Cavaliers at Philiphaugh,
and of the flight of the great marquis and all his followers none knew
whither; but rumour said to High Germanie.

Had Willie Calderwood escaped? asked Annora, in her trembling heart; or
had he fallen at the Slainmanslee, where the Covenanters butchered all
who fell into their hands, even mothers with their babes that hung at
their breasts?

And these acts, and many other such, did her new lover justify by many a
savage quotation from the wars of the Jews in the days of old.  Now the
kirk was triumphant, and, Judas-like, had sold its king, as old Peter
Heylin said, even as it would have sold its Saviour could it have found
a purchaser.

Winter came on—a cold and bitter one—the soft spray of the sea froze on
the tower windows of Seafield, while the moss and the grass grew
together on the hearthstones of Piteadie, and the crows had built their
nests in the old chimneys and nooks of the ruined castle.

Hard strove father and mother with Annora; but—

    If a lass won’t change her mind,
    Nobody can make her.


The Reverend Elijah Howler was a happy man in one sense; the cause of
his beloved kirk was triumphant, though Cromwell’s Puritans, who had
succeeded the Cavaliers of Montrose as antagonists, bade fair to become
sore troublers of Israel; and loud were the lamentations when, by sound
of trumpet, the English sectaries warned the General Assembly to begone
from Edinburgh, and to assemble no more.  Yet the Reverend Elijah was
unhappy in another sense.  Annora heard his pious love-making with
averted ear, and he might as well have poured forth his texts, his
dreary talk, and intoned homilies, to the waves that beat at the rocky
basement of the tower—at once Annora’s prison and her home.

Meanwhile, she grew pale, and thin, and sickly.  Her younger brother,
Philip, pitied her in his heart, and, after making inquiries, learned
that Willie Calderwood was now in France, where he had been wounded in a
duel by the Abbé Gondy, but had become his friend, and now adhered to
him when he had become famous as the Cardinal de Retz; and, as such,
served and defended him in the wars of the Fronde, with a hundred other
cavaliers of Montrose.

"Oh, waly, waly, my mother dear!" she exclaimed, using the bitterest old
Scottish exclamation of grief, as she threw herself on the bosom of the
unflinching Lady Grizel.  "Pity me—pity me, for none love me here, and
Willie is far far awa’ in France owre the sea."

"A’ the better, bairn—a’ the better."

"But I may never see him mair!"

"A’ the better still, bairn."

"Oh, mother dear," urged the weeping girl, "dinna say sae; ye’ll rive my
puir heart in twain amang ye.  And this Fronde, and these Frondeurs,
what is _it_, what are _they_?"

"What would it be but some Papist devilry, or a Calderwood wadna be in
the middle o’t?" was the angry response.

Poor Annora knew not what to think, for there were no newspapers in
those days, and rumours of events in distant lands came vaguely by
chance travellers, and at long intervals. Lothian and Fife were almost
farther apart in those days than Scotland and France are now, in the
matters of news and travel.

She felt like Juliet in the feud between the families—

    "Tis but thy _name_ that is my enemy;—
    Though art thyself though, not a Montague.
    What’s Montague?  It is not hand or foot,
    Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a man.  O, be some other name!
    What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet.
    ——Doff thy name;
    And for that name, which is no part of thee,
    Take all myself.


Even as water dropping on a granite rock will wear that rock away in
course of time, so, by the systematic tyranny of her parents, and by
their reiterated assurances, and even forged proofs, that Willie
Calderwood had fallen, sword in hand, at the battle of the Barricades,
was Annora worn and wearied into a state of acquiescence, in which she
accepted Mr. Elijah Howler as her husband.

This was the climax of years of a gloomy, sabbatical life, during which
the Judaical rigidity of religious observance made Sunday a periodical
horror, and Seafield Tower a daily hell.

So they were married, and he removed her from the tower to the adjacent
manse, from the more cheerful and ungrated windows of which she could
see in the distance the roofless turrets and open walls of Piteadie,
where the crows clustered and flapped their black wings, for the ruin
had become a veritable rookery.

The king was dead; he had perished on the scaffold, and Scotland, under
Cromwell and the false Argyle, was quiet, as we are told in that
poetical romance by Macaulay, entitled "The History of England."

On a Sunday in summer, in the year of Glencairn’s rising in the north
for King Charles II., Annora sat in the Kirk of Calderwood about the
beginning of sermon.  The reverend Elijah, with straight, lank hair, and
upturned eyes, Geneva bands and gown, after a glance at the dark oak pew
where his young bride and victim sat, like the spectre of her former
self, so pale, so crushed and heartbroken, twice repeated, in a dreary
and quavering tone, the text upon which he was about to preach, with
special reference to the rising in the north, inviting all sons of the
Kirk to arm against the loyal Highlanders—

"_He saith among the trumpets, Ha! ha! and he smelleth the battle afar
off, the thunder of the captains and the shouting! He is not affrighted,
neither turneth he back from the sword; he goeth forth to meet the armed
men._"—Job xxxix.

Having given this warlike text, he adjusted his cloak, and turned the
sand-glass, which, according to the fashion of those days, stood on the
reading-desk.  The rustle of Bible leaves, as of those that lie strewn
in autumn, when gently stirred by the wind, passed through all the
church; but from Annora’s trembling and wan fingers, her Bible fell
heavily to the ground.

At that moment a gaily-dressed young man, with the white rose in his
plumed hat and on his laced mantle, with slashed doublet and boots, as
he passed slowly up the aisle—the observed of all observers—as such
cavalier fripperies were supposed to have passed away with Montrose and
the king, stooped, and presented her with the fallen book.

Their haggard eyes met.  He was pale even as death.  A great wound, a
sword-cut that traversed his face like a livid streak, in healing, had
distorted the features; but like a glance of lightning that flashed into
her soul, she recognized Willie Calderwood!

She would have shrieked, but lacked the power; a little sigh could only
escape her, and so she swooned away.

There was a great commotion in the village kirk.  She was borne forth
into the air, and laid for a time upon a throchstane, or altar tomb, and
was then conveyed to the manse, where she remained long as one on the
verge of madness or the grave.  The face of Willie, so sweet, so sad and
earnest, but, alas! so sorely distorted, seemed ever before her,
together with his gallant air and courtly bearing, all of which were so
different from those of the sour-featured Whigs by whom she was
surrounded.

But she was informed by her younger brother, Philip, that she should
never see that face or bearing more, as her lover had come home, sorely
wounded and broken in health, not to seek vengeance on her or hers, but
only to die among his kinsmen, the Calderwoods of the Glen; and that he
had died there, three days after their meeting in the kirk; and was
buried at Eglise Marie, in the tomb of the lairds of Piteadie.

It was in one of the last evenings of autumn, when after hearing this
sorrowful narrative, and with it the knowledge that the only heart that
ever truly loved her was cold in the grave, that Annora—in the craving
for solitude and to be alone, left the old ivy-covered manse, and
passing through the garden, issued into the glebe—a spacious park,
surrounded by venerable trees—and seating herself upon a moss-grown
stile, strove to think calmly, if possible, and pray.

Resplendent in gold and purple, the sky threw out in strong contour the
summits of the Lomonds, from which the last rays of sunset had faded;
and where she sat alone.  The darkness had almost set in, the woods were
so leafy and dense; yet in some places the twilight was liquid and
clear. The trees were already yellowing fast, and the sear and russet
leaves that had fallen before the strong gales that swept through the
Howe, or great midland valley of Fife, were whirling about the place
where she sat, as if to remind her that the year was dying.

Often in happier times had she wandered here with Willie, and the bark
of more than one tree there bore their names and initials cut by his
knife or dagger.  The woodcock was seeking his nest in the hedges, and
the snipe and the wild coot were among the reeds and rushes of the loch
and burn; and Annora, as she gazed around her, thought sadly that it was
the autumn of a year of married misery, and the winter of her aching
heart.

Suddenly some mysterious impulse—for there was no sound but the sense of
something being nigh, made her look round, and then a start, a shudder,
convulsed her, rooting her to the spot; for there by the stile whereon
she sat was Willie Calderwood, looking just as she had seen him last, in
his cavalier dress, with plumed beaver and white cockade, long rapier
and short velvet mantle: but his features, when viewed by the calm,
clear twilight, seemed paler, his eyes sadder, and the sword wound on
his cheek more livid and dark.

He was not dead—he lived yet, and her brother Philip had deceived her!

She made a start forward, and then drew back, withheld by an impulse of
terror, and holding up her poor thin hands deprecatingly, faltered out—

"Oh! come not nigh me, Willie.  I am a wedded wife."

"And false to me, Annora.  Is it not so?" he asked, with a voice that
thrilled through her.

She wept, and laid her hands upon her crushed heart, while Willie’s sad
eyes, that had a glare in them, caused doubtless by his wound, seemed to
pierce her soul; they seemed so bright, so earnest, and beseeching in
the autumn twilight.

"They told you I was false to you, or slain in France, and you believed
them?"

"I did, Willie," she sobbed, as she covered her face.

"I have lain on many a field, lassie, where the rain of heaven and the
wind of night swept over me—fields where the living could scarce be
kenned frae the dead, yet I was never slain."

"But, oh," she urged, "Willie, never, never will ye ken——"

"I ken a’!  They told you that I was dead, too, and graved in yonder
kirk."

"They did, Willie dear—they did."

"Yet I am here before you.  I came home to wed you, lassie, and to join
my Lord Glencairn in the north, and to fight against this accursed
Cromwell and his Puritans, but it maunna be," he added, sadly, in a
hollow tone.

"Oh, leave me, Willie, leave me.  If you should be seen wi’ me——"

"Seen!" he exclaimed, with a bitter laugh.

"Oh, leave me; for what seek ye here?"

"But a lock o’ your bonnie hair, lassie—a lock to lay beside my heart."

Her scissors were at the chatelaine that dangled from her girdle; she
glanced fearfully at the windows of the manse, where lights were
beginning to glimmer; but undoing her hair, she cut a long and ripply
tress, and handed it to Willie.  As she drew near, the expression of his
eyes again froze her blood, they seemed so sadly earnest and glazed; and
as his fingers closed upon the coveted tress, and touched hers, they
felt icy cold and clammy, like those of a corpse.

Then a shriek of terror burst from her, and falling on the grass, she
became senseless, and oblivious of everything.

For days after this she raved of her meeting with Willie Calderwood, and
of the lock of hair she had given him.  Some thought her mind wandered;
but others pointed significantly to the facts that her scissors had been
found by her side, and to where a large tress had been certainly cut
from her left temple.

The young laird of Piteadie was assuredly dead, and buried among his
kindred in St. Mary’s Chapel; but the age was one of superstition, of
wraiths, and omens; and people whispered, and shook their heads, and
knew not what to think, save that she must have seen a spectre.

Ere a week elapsed, Annora died quietly in her mother’s arms, forgiving
and blessing her; but adhering to the story of the gift to her dead
lover.  So strong at last grew the excitement in the neighbourhood that
some began to aver that he was not dead at all, but was leading a troop
of horse, under Glencairn, in the north.

Even those who had seen the funeral cortège issue from the House of the
Glen were so sceptical on the subject, that the tomb was opened by order
of the next heir, and there, sure enough, was the body of Willie
Calderwood; but the leaden cerements were rent from top to bottom, the
grave-clothes were all in disorder, and in the right hand was clenched a
long and silky tress of Annora’s hair![*]

[*] The plough has recently uprooted the last stone of this old chapel;
but its name, corrupted into "Legsmalie," is borne by the field where it
stood.

How it came there none could say, though many averred it had been buried
with him at his own request, and was the gift of other years; but the
next heir, his nephew, William Calderwood, whose initials we may see
above the eastern gate of the old fortalice, when he repaired it in
1686, in lieu of the palm branch of his name, placed above the helmet an
arm and clenched hand, which holds a lock of hair—the same crest we all
saw this morning.

From that time the Moultrays of Seafield never prospered. The last of
the family was killed during the insurrection of 1715.  Their line
passed away.  It was long represented by the Moultrays of Rescobie, also
now extinct, and their tower is a crumbling ruin by the sea-shore.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Such was Cora’s strange story, to which we all, myself included,
listened with attention, though, sooth to say, I had heard it frequently
before.  Berkeley declared it to be "doocid good, but doocid queer."

In another land I was yet to hear a story still more gloomy and
improbable than this—a story to be related in its place, and in some
points not unlike the legend of the clenched hand.

While Cora had been rehearsing her gloomy story of the two ruined
towers, my eyes had scarcely ever wandered from Louisa Loftus, who, with
Miss Wilford and I, was seated in the same flirting, or tête-à-tête
chair, and who, on this night, was in all the pride of her calm, pale,
aristocratic beauty.

She was in the zenith of her charms; her figure, finely rounded, was
full—almost voluptuous; her features were remarkably expressive to be so
regular; and her eyes and glorious hair were wondrously dark when
contrasted with the pure whiteness of her skin.

Seated under the brilliant crystal gaselier, the fine contour of her
head, and the exquisite proportions of her bare shoulders and neck, on
which a circlet of brilliants sparkled, were seen to perfection, and I
felt bewildered while I watched her.  Thus, I fear, Miss Wilford, in
whose blue eyes a mischievous expression was twinkling, did not find me
very entertaining company.

Down that fair neck a long black ringlet wandered, as if to allure, and
at times it almost touched, my hand.  Intoxicated by her beauty and
close vicinity, I determined to do something to express my passion, even
if I should do it—miserable timidity and subterfuge—under cover of a
jest—a mockery.

Tremulously, between my fingers, unnoticed by others, I took the stray
ringlet, and whispered in her ears—

"A strange story, that of my cousin’s, Lady Louisa."

"And the lock of hair! such a terrible idea!" said she, shuddering,
while her white shoulders and brilliants shone in the light together.

"Does it terrify you?"

"More than it gratifies me."

"As the chances are that I may be killed and buried in the East,
will—will you give me _this_ to lie in the trenches with me?" said I,
curling the soft ringlet round my finger, with mock gallantry, while my
heart beat wildly with hope and expectation.

She turned her dark, full eyes to mine, with an expression of mingled
surprise and sweetness.

"Take it _now_, Mr. Norcliff, for heaven’s sake, rather than come for
it, as William Calderwood came," said the sprightly Miss Wilford, taking
a pair of scissors from a gueridon table that stood close by; and ere
Lady Loftus could speak, the dark ringlet was cut off, and consigned to
my pocket-book, while my lips trembled as I whispered my thanks, and
laughingly said—

"What says Pope?

    ’The meeting points the sacred hair dissever,
    From the fair head for ever, and for ever.’"


"This is all very well, Mr. Norcliff," said she, laughing behind her
fan; "but I cannot submit to be shorn in jest, and shall insist on
having that lock of hair from you to-morrow."

She had a lovely smile in her dark eyes, and a half-pout on her
beautiful lip; but Cora—I know not why—looked on me sadly, and shook her
pretty head with an air of warning, that seemed as much as to say I had
erred in my gallantry, if not in my generalship.

That night my heart beat happily; I went to sleep with that jetty tress
beneath my pillow; thus, for me, Cousin Cora had not in vain told her
quaint old legend of "The Clenched Hand."



                              *CHAPTER X.*


    I loved—yes.  Ah, let me tell
    The fatal charms by which I fell!
    Her form the tam’risk’s waving shoot,
    Her breast the cocoa’s youngling fruit.

    Her eyes were jetty, jet her hair,
    O’ershadowing face like lotus fair;
    Her lips were rubies, guarding flowers
    Of jasmine, dimned with vernal showers.
      STONE TALK.


The next day was to see a crisis in my fate which I could not have
anticipated, combined with the narrow escape from mutilation or death of
more than one of our pleasant party assembled at the Glen.

With all the intensity of my soul, I wished to learn my chances of
success with the brilliant Lady Louisa, yet trembled to make the essay.

Why, or how was this?

Timid and irresolute, fearing to know the best or the worst from the
lips of a mere girl, I asked myself was it I—I, who, at the bombardment
of Rangoon, at the storm of the Dagon Pagoda, and in the night attack on
Frome, had feared neither the bullets nor poisoned arrows of the
two-sworded barbarians whom it was our ill-luck to encounter in those
tropical regions; I, who, without fear or flinching, was now ready to
meet the Russians in Turkey, or anywhere else; was it I that could not
muster hardihood to reveal the emotions, the honourable love, of an
honest heart?  It was; and, at times, I felt inclined to utter a malison
on that which General Napier so truly and happily termed, "the cold
shade of aristocracy;" for that it was which chilled and baffled me.

In the drawing-room the first who met me was my Cousin Cora, looking
pale, but bright-eyed, with her pure complexion, and in all her morning
prettiness.

"Lady Loftus, I presume, has not appeared yet?" said I.

"It is always Lady Loftus with you, Cousin Newton," said she, pettishly,
"though you came here to see papa and me. What have you done with that
celebrated lock of hair?  Put it in the fire, eh?"

"In the fire, Cora!  It is here, in my pocket-book."

"Doubtless you are very proud of it?"

"I cannot but be, Cora," said I, taking her hands in mine, and drawing
her into the recess of an oriel window; "and she is herself so proud and
reserved.  I am sure that she knows what you have seen, Cora; at least,
what my uncle says you have detected,—that—that——"

"What, Newton?  How rambling and mysterious you are!"

"That I love her."

"You are sure she knows this?" asked Cora.

"Yes, my dear cousin; it is impossible that the regard with which she
has inspired me could fail to be known, seen, or felt by her—I mean that
it must have been apparent to her, by a thousand mute indications, since
we first met in England. It is so to you, is it not?"

"Ye—yes," replied Cora, with her face averted, for no doubt she was
smiling at my earnest simplicity.

"Do you think she would tolerate attentions that were valueless, or
would trifle with me?"

"I cannot say."

"But you are her particular friend.  Oh, Cora, be mine too!"

"What on earth do you mean?" asked Cora, showing me still only her
pretty profile; "you cannot wish _me_ to propose to her for you?"

"No; but you hide your sweet face, Cora.  You are laughing at me!"

"Oh, no, I am not laughing," replied Cora, in a rich, low tremulous
voice.  "Heaven knows, Newton, how far my thoughts are removed from
laughter."

"And—what is this, Cora dear?  Your eyes are full of tears!"

"Are they?" she exclaimed angrily, as she withdrew her hands from mine.

"Yes—ah, I see it all," said I, bitterly; "you know Lady Louisa’s heart
better than I do, and deem my love for her a hopeless one."

"It is not so," replied Cora, while her cheek flushed, and, though her
long lashes drooped, an air of hauteur stole over her usually gentle and
lovable bearing.  "I know nothing of the matter.  Search her heart for
yourself; assist you I cannot; and what is more, Newton Norcliff," she
added haughtily, "I will not!"

"Cora!" I exclaimed, with surprise; "but be it so.  Myself then must be
my own advocate, and if my love for Lady Louisa——"

What I was about to add, or how I meant to finish the sentence, I know
not, for at that moment she approached, with her calm, somewhat
conventional, but beautiful smile, to kiss Cora, and present her hand to
me.  The rest of our party rapidly assembled.

Had she heard the _last_ words of my interrupted speech? I almost
feared, or rather hoped, that she had.

"This, I find, is to be the day of another expedition, Mr. Norcliff,"
she observed.

"So it appears.  We are to see the Fifeshire hounds throw off at Largo
House; and afterwards we are to drive home by a circuit, through half
the country, to let Lady Chillingham see the scenery."

"In a January day!" drawled Berkeley.  "Do we—aw—start before tiffin?"

"If by that you mean luncheon, I say after it, decidedly," said Lady
Chillingham, in her cool, determined manner, which few—the earl, her
husband, especially—could gainsay. "I have to write to my Lord Slubber
and others."

"Pardon me, my dear Lady Chillingham, but this arrangement is
impossible," said my uncle; "we must leave this in time to see the
hounds throw off."

"And the hour, Sir Nigel?"

"Sharp twelve.  Binns will take luncheon for us in the boot of the drag.
Berkeley, you, I believe, are to don the pink, and ride with me.  I
shall cross the country to-night, but not in my official capacity, as I
have not yet assumed all the duties appertaining to the honourable
office of the master of the Fifeshire hounds.  And now to breakfast.
Lady Chillingham, permit me—your hand, and we shall lead the way."

"When I do take the hunting of the country into my own care," resumed my
uncle, "I shall show you as noble a pack as ever drew cover; ay, dogs as
smart as ever had their tails running after them, even before
cub-hunting begins next season; and so compactly shall they go, that a
tablecloth might cover them all when in full cry."

"By that time, uncle, I shall be testing the mettle of the Russian
cavalry; but my heart will be with you all here in Calderwood Glen."

Lady Louisa’s eyes were upon me as I said this; their expression was
unfathomable, so I was fain to construe it into something sympathetic or
of interest in my fate.

The day was clear and beautiful; the air serene, though cold, and the
swelling outlines of the green and verdant hills were sharply defined
against the blue of the sky, where a few fleecy clouds were floating on
the west wind.

Our party lost no time in preparing for the expedition of the day, and,
ere long, the vehicles, the horses, and even the ladies, were all in
marching order.  I had too much tact to attempt to engross Lady Loftus
at the beginning of the day; but resolved, as she was to be with "mamma"
in the drag, to become one of its occupants when returning home, if I
could achieve nothing better.

My man Pitblado, and other grooms, brought forth the saddled horses, and
my uncle appeared in a red hunting-coat, boots and tops, with whip and
cap complete, his cheek glowing with health and pleasure, and his eyes
sparkling as if he were again sixteen.

"By the way, Newton," said he, slapping his boot-tops, "that lancer
fellow of yours——"

"Willie Pitblado, my servant?"

"Yes, well, he has tumbled Lady Chillingham’s French soubrette about, as
if he had known her from infancy; and what suits the meridian of
Maidstone barracks won’t do at Calderwood Glen, so tell him.  And now,
Mr. Berkeley, here are Dunearn, Saline, and Splinter-bar.  You can have
your choice of cavalry; but shorten your stirrups.  I always take the
leathers up two holes for hunting."

"Aw—haw, thanks," drawled this Dundreary (whose fashionable hunting
suit, in cut and brilliancy of colour, quite eclipsed the well-worn
costume of the jolly old baronet), as he proceeded leisurely to examine
the bridle and girths, observing the while to me—

"Louisa looks well this morning."

"Louisa!" I repeated, with astonishment: "is it the mare—her name is
Saline, so called from some hills in Fife—or whom on earth do you mean?"

"Why, Lady Loftus, to be sure."

"And you speak of her thus freely or familiarly?"

"Ya—haw—yes."

"By Jove, you surprise me!"

"By what, eh?"

"Your perfect assurance, to be plain with you, my friend."

"Don’t deem it such, my dear fellaw, though it is doocid dangerous when
one comes to speak of so charming a girl by her Christian name; it shows
how a fellaw thinks or _feels_, and all that sort of thing; do you
understand?"

"Not very clearly; but consider, Berkeley, what you are about, and don’t
make a deucid fool of yourself," said I, with undisguised anger.

"No danger of that; but—haw—surely you are not spooney in that quarter
yourself?  Eh—haw—if I thought so, curse me if I wouldn’t draw stakes,
and hedge.  You know that I like you, Newton; and your old uncle, Sir
Nigel, is a doocid good kind of fellaw—a trump, in fact," he added,
while lightly vaulting into his saddle, and gathering up his reins, but
eying me like a lynx, through his glass, as if to read my most secret
thoughts.

Disdaining to reply, I drew haughtily back.

"So-oh," said my uncle, who was now mounted.  "I know that grey mare,
Saline, well; so, Mr. Berkeley, by gently feeling her mouth, and
grinding her up to the requisite pitch of speed, she’ll soon leave the
whole field behind her."

Our party was numerous; including my uncle’s guests, some thirty ladies
and gentlemen were about to start from the Glen.  We were well off in
conveyances.  There was the great old family carriage, cosily stuffed,
easily hung, pannelled and escutcheoned, with rumble and hammercloth;
there was a stately drag of a dark chocolate colour, with red wheels,
and a glorious team of greys; a dashing waggonette and tandem, with two
brilliant bays, that, in the shafts, were well worth three hundred
pounds each; and there was a dainty little phaeton, in which the general
was to drive Cora and Miss Wilford, drawn by two of the sleekest,
roundest, and sauciest little ponies that ever came out of Ultima Thule.

I was to drive the drag to the meet; and, after the hunt, Berkeley was
to meet us at a certain point on the Cupar Road, and drive the vehicle
home, if I felt disposed to yield the ribbons to him, which I had quite
resolved to do.

Of the noise and excitement, the spurring, yelping, and hallooing,
sounding of horns, and cracking of whips; the greetings of rough and
boisterous country friends; the criticisms that ensued on dogs, horses,
and harness; of how the cover was drawn, and the fox broke away; how
huntsmen and hounds followed "owre bank, bush, and scaur," as if the
devil had got loose, and life depended on his instant re-capture, and of
all the incidents of the hunt, I need give no relation here.

The afternoon was well-nigh spent before we saw the last of my uncle’s
companions; and to the luncheon provided by Mr. Binns we had done full
justice, the roof of the drag being covered by a white cloth, and
improvised as a dining-table, whereon was spread a _déjeûner_ service of
splendid Wedgwood ware, the champagne sparkling in the sun, and the long
glasses of potash and Beaujolais foaming up for the thirsty; and Largo
Law, a green and conical hill, verdant to its summit a thousand feet
above the waters of the bay, was throwing its shadow to the eastward,
when we made arrangements for our return; and, thanks to dear Cora’s
tact and management, rather than my own—for timidity and doubt
embarrassed me—I contrived to get Lady Louisa into the tandem.  After
which, by giving a hint to Willie Pitblado, he managed to set the horses
kicking and plunging in such an alarming fashion that it was necessary
to give them their heads for a little way, as if to soothe their ruffled
tempers, just as he adroitly had got into the back seat.

Lady Chillingham, the M.P., the Misses Spittal, and Rammerscales were
all bundled into the drag; others were on the roof, great-coated or
well-shawled, for a cool drive home, and the whole party set out for the
Glen, _viâ_ Clatto and Collessie, a twenty-five miles’ drive.

It was past the hour of three before all was packed up and we were all
ready to leave Largo.  The grave old butler, Binns, looked at his watch,
and said—

"Mr. Newton, you know the route we go by."

"Yes; round by Dunnikier Law."

"That is the road Sir Nigel wished us to drive; but you’ll require to
use your whip if we are to be home before dark."

"Never fear for that, Binns," said I, while leading the way in the
tandem with Lady Louisa beside me, and no attendant or other companion,
save Willie Pitblado, who had or had not ears and eyes just as occasion
required, Mamma Chillingham believing the while that she was with other
ladies in the close carriage.

"Keep a tight hand on the leader, sir," whispered Pitblado; "she’s a
blood mare, rather fresh from the stall, and overcorned a bit."

"She is hard-mouthed," said I, "and pulls like the devil."

"As for the wheeler, I think the splinter-bar is too low, and she kicks
and shies at it; but the breeching is as short as we could make it.
Keep a sharp look out on both, sir," said he, warningly, and then
relapsed into apparent immobility.

For the _first_ time since our introduction had I been alone with Lady
Louisa—I say alone, for I did not count on my servant, who seemed wholly
intent on looking anywhere but at us, and chiefly behind, as if to see
how soon we could distance the four-in-hand drag and the rest of our
party.

The vehicle we occupied was a hybrid affair, which my uncle frequently
used, half gig and half dog-cart, four-wheeled, with Collinge’s patent
axles, lever drag, and silver lamps, smart, strong, light, and decidedly
"bang up."

We went along at a spanking pace.  My fair companion was chatty and
delightfully gay; her dark eyes were unusually bright, for the whole
events of the day, and the lunch _al fresco_, had all tended to
exhilaration of spirits.

She forgot what her rigid, aristocratic, and match-making mamma might
think of her being alone thus with a young subaltern of lancers; but
though her white ermine boa was not paler than her complexion usually
was, she had now a tinge, almost a flush, on her soft, rounded cheek
that made her radiantly beautiful, and I felt that now or never was the
time to address her in the language of love.

I knew that the crisis had come; but how was I to approach it?



                             *CHAPTER XI.*


    The rocky guardians of the clime
    Frown on me, as they menaced death;
    While echoing still in measured time
    The gallop of my courser’s hoof,
    They hoarsely bid me stand aloof.
    Where goest thou, madman?  Where no shade
    Of tree or tent shall screen thy head.
    Still on—still on; I turn my eyes—
    The cliffs no longer mock the skies:
    The peaks shrink back, and hide their brow,
    Each other’s lofty peaks below.
      FROM THE POETRY OF MICKIEWICZ.


As if inspired by fortune, or my good genius, Lady Louisa began thus, in
a low voice—

"By the way, Mr. Norcliff, you were to have shown me the house in which
Alexander Selkirk—or Robinson Crusoe—was born in 1676, I think you
said?"

"Oh; it is only a cottage, consisting of one storey and a garret; but
the next time we come to Largo, I shall show you his flip-can, musket,
and a lock of his hair."

"Ah, that reminds me, Mr. Norcliff, that you must return to me the lock
of hair which you obtained when inspired with romance by Miss
Calderwood’s legend last night."

"Lady Louisa, I implore your permission to retain it," said I, in a low
voice.

"To what end, or for what reason?" she asked, with a furtive smile.

"I am going far, far away, and it will serve as a memento of many happy
days, and of one whom I shall never cease to remember, but with——"

"Why, you don’t mean to say that—that you are serious?" she asked, in a
voice that betrayed emotion, while my heart rose to my trembling lips,
and I turned to gaze upon her with an unmistakable expression of love
and tenderness, which made her colour come and go visibly.

Reassuring herself, she began to smile.

"Perhaps your creed is a soldier’s one?" said she, with a little
convulsive laugh, as she tied her veil under her chin.

"A soldier’s!  I hope so; but in what sense do you mean?"

"’To love all that is lovely, and all that you can,’ as the song has
it."

I laid a hand lightly on her soft arm, and was about to say something
there could be no misconstruing, while a film seemed to pass over my
eyes, and my soul rose to my lips; but Pitblado, who, whether he was
listening or not, had a sharp eye on the cattle, now said—

"Beg your pardon, sir, but I don’t like the look of that leader."

"The blood mare with the white star on her forehead," said I, touching
her lightly on the flank with the whip, and making her curvet; "she is
usually very quiet."

"Perhaps so, sir; but she’s always clapping her ears close down—throwing
her eyes backward, and showing the whites. She’s up to mischief, I’m
certain."

"Jump down, then," said I, "shorten the curb, and lengthen the traces by
a hole or two."

This was done in a trice; Willie sprang into his seat like a harlequin,
and away we went from the Kirktoun of Largo at a rasping pace.

"She’s a lovely animal, with pasterns like a girl’s ankles; but she’s
clapping her tail a little too close in for my taste, sir, and she’s up
to some devilry," persisted Pitblado, and ere long his surmises proved
correct.

"We’ve left the drag behind; distanced it clean already," said I.

"It’s a heavier drag than the regimental one at head-quarters, sir,"
said Willie, taking the hint to look back now; but the sound of hoofs or
wheels could no longer be detected in the still evening air behind.

Full of blood and ill-natured, over-corned, and anxious to get back to
their stables, the speed of the animals increased to a pace that soon
became alarming, and the light vehicle to which they were harnessed, as
I have said, a tandem, swept along like a toy at their heels, while we
flew eastward by Halhill; and, ere we reached the woods of Balcarris,
where the road turns due north, and round by the base of Dunnikier Law,
it was evident that they were fairly and undoubtedly off!

The leader had got the bit between her teeth, and, when descending a
hill-side, the splinter-bar goaded the wheeler to madness.  All my
strength, together with Pitblado’s, failed to arrest their mad career,
and, while imploring Lady Louisa, who clung to me, "to hold fast, to sit
still," and so forth, I bent all my energies rather to guide them along,
and avoid collisions, than to attempt to stop them; and, to add to our
troubles, the patent drag gave way.

Luckily, the road was smooth, and free from all obstruction.

"To the left, sir—to the left," shouted Pitblado, as we came to a place
where two roads branched off; "that is Drumhead. Our way lies due west."

Pitblado might as well have shouted to the wind; the infuriated brutes
took their own way, and tore at an awful pace due north.  Horses
pasturing by the wayside trotted to the rear, and sheep browsing in the
fields fled at our approach; cattle kicked up their heels, and scampered
away in herds. House-dogs barked, terriers yelled, and pursued us
open-mouthed; children, ducks, cocks, and hens fled from the village
gutters; peasants, at their cottage doors, held up their hands, with
shouts of fear, while broad fields and lines of leafless trees, turf
dykes, and hedges, drains, and thatched dwellings seemed all to fly past
with railway speed, or to be revolving in a circle round us.

A shriek of commiseration burst from my affrighted companion, when, just
as we swept past the base of Drumcarra Craig, in the cold, bleak, and
elevated district of Cameron, poor Willie Pitblado, who had risen to
give me the assistance of his hands in bearing on the reins, or for the
last time to try and let down the faulty drag, fell out behind, and
vanished in a moment.  And now before us spread Magus Muir, where the
graves of Archbishop Sharpe’s murderers lie in a field that has never
been ploughed even unto this day.

Twilight had come on, and a brilliant aurora, forming great pillars of
variegated light, that shot upward and downward from the horizon to the
dome of heaven, filled all the northern quarter of the sky with singular
but many masses of streamers. Thus, the brilliance of the atmosphere
cast forward in strong and black outline the range of hills that bound
the Howe of Fife, and terminate the valley through which the Ceres flows
to join the Eden; and all this, I think, conduced to add to the terror
of the horses.

Pitblado’s fate greatly alarmed and concerned me, for he was a brave,
handsome, and faithful fellow, and an old acquaintance; but I had
another—a nearer, dearer—and more intense source of anxiety.  If she who
sat beside me, clinging to me, and embracing my left arm with all her
energy—she whom I loved so deeply, and whom I had lured into the tandem,
when she might have been safely in the drag or carriage, should lose her
life that night, of what value would my future existence be, embittered
with such a terrible reflection?

"If a linchpin comes loose, or a trace gives way," thought I, "all will
be over with us both."

"Oh, Mr. Norcliff, Mr. Norcliff!" she exclaimed, while the tears, which
she had no means of wiping away, streamed over her pale and beautiful
face, and while her head half-reclined on my shoulder.  "Heaven help us,
this is terrible—most terrible! We shall certainly be killed!"

"Then I hope it shall be _together_," I exclaimed.  "Lady Loftus—dear
Lady Loftus—dearest Louisa (here was a jump) trust to me, and me only!
(what stuff men will talk; who else could she trust to?) and if it is in
the power of humanity to save you, you shall be saved, or I shall die
with you.  Louisa, oh, Louisa, hear me.  I would not—I could not survive
you; but—but sit still, sit close, grasp me and hold on for Heaven’s
sake.  (D—n that leader!)  Oh, Louisa, I love you, love you dearly and
devotedly.  You must believe me when I say it at a time like this; when
death, perhaps, is staring us face to face. Speak to me, dearest!"

I felt that the day, the hour, the moment of destiny had come; that time
of joy or sorrow forever, and casting all upon it, committing the reins
to my right hand, I threw my left arm round her, and pressing her to my
breast, told her again and again how fondly I loved her, while still our
mad steeds tore on.

"I know that you love me, Mr. Norcliff," she said, in a low and agitated
voice, as her constitutional self-possession returned.  "I have long
seen it—felt it."

"My adorable Louisa!"

"And I will not—will not——"

She paused, painfully.

"What?  Oh, speak."

"Deny that I love you in return."

"Heaven bless you, my darling, for saying so; for lifting a load of
anxiety from my heart, and for making me so happy," I whispered, making
an effectual effort to kiss her forehead.

"But then, Mr. Norcliff——"

"Alas! yes; but what?"

"There is mamma; you know, perhaps, her views concerning me—ambitious
views; but we must take another time, if Heaven spares, to talk of that
matter."

"What time so good as this?" I exclaimed impetuously, as we tore along,
and Magus Muir, the Bishop’s Wood, and Gullane’s gravestone were left
behind.  "Poor me, a lieutenant of the lancers; and the earl, your
father."

"Oh, dear papa—good, easy man—I don’t think he troubles his head much in
the affair; but if mamma knew all this, such a violation of her standing
orders, heaven help us!"

She could almost have laughed but for the peril on which we were
rushing, and a shrill little cry escaped her, as the leader suddenly
quitted the hard highway, and, followed by the wheeler, passed throughan
open field gate, and continued at the same frightful speed across a
large space of pasture land that sloped steeply down to where my
forebodings told me the Eden lay, and there, sure enough, in less than a
minute, we could see the river rolling among the copsewood, with its
waters swollen by the snows that had recently melted among the Lomond
hills.

Though a placid stream usually, and having a pretty level course, in
that quarter the banks were rugged, and the bed full of fallen larches
and large boulder stones.  If the vehicle overturned, what might be the
fate of her who had just acknowledged that she loved me?

A prayer—almost a solemn invocation—rose to my lips, when, with the
rapidity of light, the thought occurred to me of heading the leader
towards a little stone bridge that spanned the stream.  It was a mere
narrow footway for shepherds, sheep, and cattle, and not of sufficient
breadth to permit the passage of a four-wheeled gig; but I knew that if
the latter could be successfully jammed between the walls, the course of
the runaways would be arrested.

There was no alternative between attempting this and risking death from
drowning or mutilation in the rugged bed of the swollen stream.

Down the steep grassy slope our foam-covered cattle rushed straight for
the narrow bridge; I grasped the rail of the seat with one hand and arm;
the other was round Louisa, lest the coming shock might throw us off.
In an instant we felt it, and she clung to me, half-fainting, as there
was a terrible crash, a ripping and splitting sound, as wood was smashed
and harness rent.  Our course was arrested—the wheels and axle of the
fore-carriage wedged between the stone walls of the narrow bridge, the
wheeler kicking furiously at the splinter-bar and splash-board, and the
leader, the blood mare, the source of all the mischief, hanging over the
parapet in the stream, snorting, half-swimming, and for ought I cared,
wholly hanging.

My first thought was my companion.  We both trembled in every limb as I
lifted her gently to the ground, and placed the seat-cushions on a
stone, where she might sit and compose herself till I considered what we
should do next, and where we were.

She was greatly agitated, but passively permitted me to encircle her
with my arms, to assure her that she was safe, to press her hands, and
to wipe away her tears caressingly.  I forgot all about poor Pitblado,
"spilt" on the road, all about my uncle’s best blood mare hanging in the
traces, and all about the half-ruined gig.

In short, I felt only the most exquisite joy that I had gained, as it
were, life and Louisa together.  It was that moment of intense rapture,
when, combined with the natural revulsion of feeling consequent to
escape from a deadly peril, I enjoyed that emotion which a man feels
once, and once only, in a lifetime, when the first woman he loves
confesses to a mutual regard; and, half-kneeling, I stooped over her,
kissing her again and again, assuring her—of I know not what.

From one of her fingers I transferred to mine a ring of small value—a
pearl set in blue enamel, leaving in its place a rose diamond.  It was a
beautiful stone, of the purest water, which I had found when our troops
sacked the great pagoda at Rangoon, and I had it set at Calcutta by a
jeweller, who assured me that it was worth nine hundred rupees, or
ninety pounds, and I only regretted now that it was not worth ten times
as much, to be truly worthy of the slender finger on which I placed it.

She regarded me with a loving smile on her pale face, and in the quiet
depths of her soft dark eyes, as she reclined in my arms.  I gazed on
her with emotions of the purest rapture. She was now humbled, gentle and
loving—this brilliant beauty, this proud earl’s daughter—mine,
indeed—all that a man could dream of as perfection in a woman or as a
wife; at least, I thought so then; and I was not a little proud of the
idea of what our mess would say—the colonel, Studhome, Scriven, Wilford,
Berkeley, and the rest—of a marriage that would certainly be creditable
to the regiment, though we had titles and honourables enough in the
lancers; and already, in fancy, I saw myself "tooling" into Maidstone
barrack-square in a dashing phaeton, with a pair of cream-coloured
ponies, with Norcliff and Loftus quartered on the panels, and silver
harness, and Louisa by my side, in one of the most perfect of morning
toilettes and of marriage bonnets that London millinery could produce.

Poor devil! with only two hundred per annum besides my pay, and the war
before me, I was thus acquiring castles in Airshire, and estates in the
Isle of Sky.

Oblivious of time, while the woods and hills of Dairsie were darkening
against the sky, while the murmuring Eden flowed past towards the Tay,
and the ever-changing spears and streamers of the northern aurora were
growing brighter and more bright, I remained by the side of Louisa,
wholly entranced, and only half-conscious that something should be done
to enable us to return home; for night was coming on—the early night of
the last days of January, when the sober sun must set at half-past
four—and I knew not how far we were from Calderwood Glen.

Suddenly a shout startled us; the hoofs of horses were heard coming
rapidly along the highway, and then three mounted men wheeled into the
field and rode straight towards us.  To my great satisfaction, one
proved to be my faithful fellow, Willie Pitblado, who, not a wit the
worse for his capsize on the road, had procured horses and assistance at
the place called Drumhead, and tracked us to where we lay, wrecked by
the old bridge of the Eden.

"Poor Willie," said Louisa, "I thought you were killed."

"No, my lady," said he, touching his hat; "it’s lang or the de’il dees
by the dykeside."

Of this answer she could make nothing.

The gig was now released and run back, and though scratched, splintered,
and started in many places by the shock to which it had been subjected,
it was still quite serviceable. The wheeler was traced to it again, the
leader, her ardour completely cooled now, was fished out of the stream,
and harnessed again, and in less than half an hour, so able had been the
assistance rendered us, we were bowling along the highway towards my
uncle’s house.

An hour’s rapid driving soon brought us in sight of the long avenue, the
lighted windows, and quaint façade of the old mansion, at the door of
which I drew up; and as I threw the whip and reins to Willie Pitblado,
and, fearless now even of Mamma Chillingham, handed my companion down,
tenderly and caressingly, I found myself an engaged man, and the
_fiancé_ of one of the fairest women in Britain—the brilliant Louisa
Loftus!



                             *CHAPTER XII.*


    It passed—and never marble looked more pale
    Than Lucy, while she listened to his tale.
    He marked her not; his eye was cold and clear,
    Fixed on a bed of withering roses there;
    He marked her not, for different thoughts possessed
    His anxious mind, and laboured in his breast.
      ELLIS.


Notwithstanding all that had passed, and that we had been carried so far
in the wrong direction, we were not long behind the rest of our party in
reaching Calderwood, where the history of our disaster fully eclipsed
for the evening all the exciting details of the fox-hunters, though many
gentlemen in scarlet, with spattered tops and tights, whom Sir Nigel had
brought, made the drawing-room look unusually gay.

Lady Louisa remained long in her own apartment; the time seemed an age
to me; yet I was happy—supremely happy. I had a vague idea of the new
emotions that served, perhaps, to detain her there; but an air of cold
reserve and unmistakable displeasure hovered on the forehead of her
haughty mother.

When Louisa joined us, she had perfectly recovered her usual equanimity
and presence of mind—her calm, pale, and placid aspect.  She was
somewhat silent and reserved; this passed for her natural terror of the
late accident, and though we remained some distance apart, her fine dark
eyes sought mine, ever and anon, and were full of intelligent glances,
that made my heart leap with joy.

Cora, who shrewdly suspected that there had been more in the affair than
what Berkeley called "a doocid spill," regarded us with interest, and
with a tearful earnestness that surprised us, after our return, and
during the explanation which we were pleased to make.  But whatever
tales my face told, Louisa’s was unfathomable, so from its expression
suspicious little Cora could gather nothing; though, had she carried her
scrutiny a little further, she might have detected my famous Rangoon
diamond sparkling on the engaged finger of her friend’s left hand.

Cora was on this night, to me, an enigma!

What had gone wrong with her?  When she smiled, it seemed to several—to
me especially—that the kind little heart from whence these smiles were
wrung was sick.  Why was this, and what or who was the source of her
taciturnity and secret sorrow?—not Berkeley, surely—they had come home
in the drag together—she could never love such an ass as Berkeley; and
if the fellow dared to trifle with her—but I thrust the thought aside,
and resolved to trust the affair to her friend and gossip, the Lady
Loftus.

A few more days glided swiftly and joyously past at Calderwood Glen; we
had no more riding and driving; but, as the weather was singularly open
and balmy for the season, we actually had more than one picnic in the
leafless woods, and I betook me to the study of botany and arboriculture
with the ladies.

I enjoyed all the delicious charm of a successful first love! The last
thought on going to repose; the first on waking in the morning; and the
source of many a soft and happy dream between.

The peculiarity, or partial disparity, of our positions in life caused
secrecy.  Denied, by the presence of others, the pleasure of openly
conversing of our love, at times we had recourse to furtive glances, or
a secret and thrilling pressure of the hand or arm was all we could
achieve.

    Then there were sighs the deeper for suppression,
      And stolen glances sweeter for the theft;
    And burning blushes, though for no transgression,
      Tremblings when met, and restlessness when left.

Small and trivial though these may seem, they proved the sum of our
existence, and even of mighty interest, lighting up the eye and causing
the pulses of the heart to quicken.

We became full of petty and lover-like stratagems, and of enigmatical
phrases, all the result of the difficulties that surrounded our
intercourse when others were present—especially Lady Chillingham, who
was by nature cold, haughty, and suspicious, with, I think, a natural
born antipathy to subalterns of cavalry in particular.  Cora saw through
our little artifices, and Berkeley, that Anglo-Scotch snob of the
nineteenth century, had ever his eyes remarkably wide open to all that
was going on around him, and thus the perils of discovery and instant
separation were great, while our happy love was in the flush.

This danger gave us a common sympathy, a united object, a delicious
union of thought and impulse.  Nor was romance wanting to add zest to
the secrecy of our passion.  Ah, were I to live a thousand years, never
should I forget the days of happiness I spent in Calderwood Glen with
Louisa Loftus.

Our interviews had all the mystery of a conspiracy, though, save Cora,
none as yet suspected our love; and there was a part of the garden,
between two old yew hedges—so old that they had seen the Calderwoods of
past ages cooing and billing, in powdered wigs and coats of mail, with
dames in Scottish farthingales and red-heeled shoes—where, at certain
hours, by a tacit understanding, we were sure of meeting; but with all
the appearance of chance, though occasionally for a time so brief, that
we could but exchange a pressure of the hand, or snatch a caress,
perhaps a kiss, and then separate in opposite directions.

Those were blessed and joyous interviews; memories to treasure and brood
over with delight when alone.  In the society of our friends, my heart
throbbed wildly, when by a glance, a smile, a stolen touch of the hand,
Louisa reminded me of what none else could perceive, the secret
understanding that existed between us.

And yet all this happiness was clouded by a sense of its brevity, and by
our fears for the future; the obstacles that rank and great fortune on
her side, the lack of both on mine, raised between us; and then there
was the certain prospect of a long and dangerous—alas! it might prove, a
final separation.

"They who love," writes an anonymous author, "must ever drink deeply of
the cup of trembling; but, at times, there will arise in their hearts a
nameless terror, a sickening anxiety for the future, whose brightness
all depends upon this one cherished treasure, which often proves a
foreboding of some real anguish looming in the distant hours."

"Where is all this to end?" I asked of myself, as the conviction that
something must be done forced itself upon me, for the happy days were
passing, and my short leave of absence was drawing to a close.

One day, by the absence of some of our friends, and by the occupation of
others, we found ourselves alone, and permitted to have a longer
interview than usual, in our yew-hedge walk, and we were conversing of
the future.

"I have two hundred a year besides my pay, Louisa."  (She smiled sadly
at this, and the smile went doubly to my heart.)  "The money has been
lodged for my troop with Cox and Co., and my good uncle means well
concerning me; yet, I feel all these as being so small, that were I to
address the Earl of Chillingham on the subject of our engagement, it
would seem that I had little to offer, and little to urge, save that
which is, perhaps, valueless in his aristocratic eyes——"

"And that is?"

"My love for you."

"Don’t think of addressing him," said she, weeping on my shoulder; "he
has already views for me in another quarter."

"Views, Louisa!"

"Yes; pardon me for paining you, dearest, by saying so; but it is
nevertheless true."

"And these views?" I asked, impetuously.

"Are an offer made for my hand by Lord Slubber de Gullion."

My heart died within me on hearing this name, which, as I once before
stated, comes as near the original as possible.

"Hence you see, dearest Newton," she resumed, in a mournful and
sweetly-modulated voice, "were you to address my father, it would only
rouse mamma, and have the effect of interrupting our correspondence for
ever."

"Good heavens! what then are we to do?’

"Wait in hope."

"How long?"

"Alas!  I know not; but for the present at least our engagement, like
our meetings and our letters, if we can correspond, must be
secret—secret all.  Were the earl, my father, to know that I loved you,
Newton (how sweetly those words sounded), he and mamma would urge on
Lord Slubber’s suit, and, on finding that I refused, there would be no
bounds to mamma’s wrath.  You remember Cora’s story of the ’Clenched
Hand;’ you remember the ’Bride of Lammermoor,’ and must see what a
determined mother and long domestic tyranny may do."

I clasped my hands, for my heart was wrung; but she regarded me kindly
and lovingly.

"On your return home, as colonel of your regiment, perhaps, we shall
then, at all hazards, bring the matter before him, and treat Slubber’s
offer with contempt, as the senile folly of an old man in his dotage.
You, at least, shall propose for me in form——"

"And if Lord Chillingham refuse?"

"Though we English people can’t make Scotch marriages now, I shall be
yours, dearest Newton, as I am now, only that it shall be irrevocably
and for ever."

A close and mute embrace followed, and then I left her in a paroxysm of
grief, while my head whirled with the combined effects of love and joy,
and of sorrow, not unmixed with anger.

"I wonder what the subjects are that lovers talk of in their
tête-à-têtes," says my brother of the pen and sword, W. H. Maxwell, and
the same surmise frequently occurred to myself, before I met or knew
Louisa Loftus.

We never lacked a subject now.  The peculiarities of our relative
positions, our caution for the present, and our natural anxieties for
the future, afforded us full topics for conversation or surmise; but the
few remaining days of my leave "between returns" glided away at
Calderwood Glen; the time for my departure drew nigh; already had
Pitblado divided a sixpence with my lady’s soubrette, and packed up all
my superfluous traps, and within six and thirty hours Berkeley and I
would have to report ourselves in uniform at head-quarters, or be
returned absent without leave.

It was in the evening, when I had gone as usual to meet Louisa at the
seat where the close-clipped yew hedges formed a pleasant screen, that,
to my surprise, and by the merest chance, I found it occupied by my
cousin Cora.

The January sunset was beautiful; the purple flush of evening covered
all the western sky, and bathed in warm tints the slopes of the Lomond
hills.  The air was still, and we heard only the cawing of the venerable
rooks that perched among the woods of the old manor, or swung to and fro
on its many gilt vanes.

Cora was somewhat silent, and I, being thoroughly disappointed by
finding her there in lieu of Louisa Loftus, was somewhat taciturn, if
not almost sulky.

Somehow—but how, I know not—Cora led me to talk insensibly of our early
days, and as we did so, I could perceive that she regarded me earnestly
from time to time, after I simply remarked that ere long I should be
far, far away from her, and among other scenes.  Her dovelike, dark eye
became suffused, and the tinge on her rounded cheek died away when I
laughingly referred to the days when we had been little lovers, and when
Fred Wilford and I—he was now a captain of ours—used to punch each
other’s heads in pure spite and jealousy about her; but this youthful
jealousy once took a more dangerous turn.

Among the rocks in the glen an adder of vast size took up its residence,
and had bitten several persons.  It had been seen by some to leap more
than seven yards high, and was a source of such terror to the whole
parish, that my uncle, and even the provost of Dunfermline, had offered
rewards for its destruction.

On this I boldly dared my boy-rival to face it; but Fred Wilford, who
was on a visit to us from Rugby, had more prudence, or less love for
little Cora, and so declined the attempt.

Flushed with boyish pride and recklessness, I climbed the steep face of
the rock, stirred up the adder with a long stick, flung it to the
ground, and killed it by repeated blows of an axe, a feat of which my
uncle never grew tired of telling, and the reptile was now in the
library, sealed up in a glass case, being deemed a family trophy, and,
as Binns said, always kept in the best of spirits.

I sat with Cora’s white and slender hand in mine, gazing at her soft and
piquant features, her pouting lips and dimpled chin, and the dark hair
so smoothly braided under her little hat, and over each pretty and
delicate ear.  Cora was very gentle and very charming; she had ever been
to me a kind little playmate, a loving sister, and she sighed deeply
when I spoke of my approaching departure.

"You go by sea?" she asked.

"If we go to Turkey—of course."

"Embarking at Southampton?"

"Embarking at Southampton—exactly, and sailing directly for the East, I
suppose," said I, while leisurely lighting a cigar; "I shall soon learn
all the details and probabilities at head-quarters; but the route may
not come for two months yet, as red-tape goes."

"You will think of us sometimes, Newton, in those strange and dangerous
lands?  Of your poor uncle, who loves you so well, and—and of me?"

"Of course, and of Louisa Loftus.  Don’t you think her very handsome?"

"I think her lovely."

"My cigar annoys you?"

"Not at all, Newton."

"But it makes you turn your face away."

"You met often, I believe, before you came here?"

"Oh, very often.  I used to see her at the cathedral every Sunday in
Canterbury; at the balls at Rochester and Maidstone——"

"And in London?"

"Repeatedly!  I saw her at her first presentation at Court, when the
colonel presented me, on obtaining my lieutenancy, and returning from
foreign service.  She created quite a sensation!"

I spoke in such glowing terms of my admiration for Louisa Loftus, that
some time elapsed before I detected the extreme pallor of Cora’s cheek,
and a peculiar quivering of her under lip.

"Good heavens, my dear girl, you are ill!  It is this confounded
cigar—one of a box that Willie got me in Dunfermline," I exclaimed,
throwing it away.  "Your hand is trembling, too."

"Is it?  Oh, no!  Stay!  I am only a little faint," she murmured.

"Faint!  Why the deuce should you be faint, Cora?"

"This bower of yew hedges is close; the atmosphere is still, or chill,
or something," she said, in a low voice, while pressing a lovely little
hand on her bosom; "and it seems to me that I felt a pang here."

"A pang, Cora?"

"Yes, I feel it sometimes."

"You, one of the best waltzers in the county!  You have no affection of
the heart, or any of that sort of thing?"

She smiled sadly, even bitterly, and rose, saying—

"Here comes Lady Louisa.  Say nothing of this."

Her dark eyes were swimming; but not a tear fell from their long, black,
silky lashes, that lent such softness to her sweet and feminine face.
She abruptly withdrew her tremulous hands from mine, and just as Louisa
approached, hurriedly left me.

What did all this emotion mean?  What did it display or conceal?  I was
thoroughly bewildered.

A sudden light began to break upon me.

"What is this?" thought I.  "Can Cora be in love with me herself?  Oh,
nonsense! she has known me from boyhood. The idea is absurd!  Yet her
manner——.  This will never do.  I must avoid her, and to-morrow I leave
for England!"

Louisa sat beside me, and, save her, Cora and all the world were alike
forgotten.



                            *CHAPTER XIII.*


    Forget thee?  If to dream by night, and muse on thee by day;
    If all the worship, deep and wild, a poet’s heart can pay;
    If prayers in absence, breathed for thee to Heaven’s protecting
            power;
    If winged thoughts that flit to thee, a thousand in an hour;
    If busy Fancy, blending thee with all my future lot;
    If this thou call’st forgetting, thou, indeed, shall be forgot.
      MOULTRIE.


I had but one, only one, meeting more with Lady Louisa, and it was,
indeed, a sad one.  We could but hope to meet again—near Canterbury,
perhaps—at some vague period before my regiment marched; and prior to
that I was to write to her, on some polite pretence, under cover to
Cora.

This was certainly somewhat undefined and unsatisfactory for two engaged
lovers, especially for two so ardent as we were, and in the first flush
of a grand passion; but we had no other arrangement to make; and never
shall I forget our last, long, mute embrace on the last evening, when,
scared by footsteps on the garden walk, we literally tore ourselves
away, and separated to meet at the dinner-table, and act as those who
were almost strangers to each other, and to perform the mere
formalities, the politenesses, and cold ceremonies of well-bred life.

I could not help telling my good uncle of my success; but under a solemn
promise of secrecy, for a time at least.

"All right, boy," said he, clapping me on the shoulder. "Keep her well
in hand, and I’ll back you against the field to any amount that is
possible; but that gouty old peer, my Lord Slubber, is richer than I am;
and then Lady Chillingham has the pride of Lucifer.  Draw on me whenever
you want money, Newton.  Since Archie died at college, and poor Nigel at
the battle of Goojerat, I have no boy to look after but you."

The last hour came inexorably.  We shook hands with all. When that
solemn snob, my brother officer, Mr. de Warr Berkeley, and I entered the
carriage which was to take us to the nearest railway station, there were
symptoms of considerable emotion in the faces of the kind circle we were
leaving, for the clouds of war had darkened fast in the East during the
month we had spent so pleasantly; and the ladies—the poor girls
especially—half viewed us as foredoomed men.

Louisa was as pale as death; she trembled with suppressed emotion, and
her eyes were full of tears.  Even her cold and stately mother kissed me
lightly on the cheek; and at that moment, for Louisa’s sake, I felt my
heart swell with sudden emotion of regard for her.

My uncle’s hard but manly, hand gave mine a hearty pressure, and he
kindly shook the hand of Willie Pitblado, who was bidding adieu to his
father, the old keeper, and slipped a couple of sovereigns into it.

Sir Nigel’s voice was quite broken; but there was no tear in the hot,
dry eyes of poor Cora.  Her charming face was very pale, and she bit her
pouting nether lip, to conceal, or to prevent, its nervous quivering.

"An odd girl," thought I, as I kissed her twice, whispering, "Give the
last one to Louisa."

But, ah! how little could I read the secret of the dear little heart of
Cora, which was beating wildly and convulsively beneath that apparently
calm and unmoved exterior! But a time came when I was to learn it all.

"Good-bye to Calderwood Glen," cried I, leaping into the carriage.  "A
good-bye to all, and hey for pipeclay again!"

"Pipeclay and gunpowder too, lad," said my uncle.  "Every ten years or
so the atmosphere of Europe requires to be fumigated with it somewhere.
Adieu, Mr. Berkeley.  God bless you, Newton!"

"Crack went the whip, round went the wheels;" the group of pale and
tearful faces, the ivy-clad porch, and the turreted façade of the old
house vanished, and then the trees of the avenue appeared to be
careering past the carriage windows in the twilight, as we sped along at
a rapid trot.

For mental worry or depression there is no more certain and rapid cure
than quick travelling and transition from place to place; and assuredly
that luxury is fully afforded by the locomotive appliances of the
present age.

Within an hour after leaving Calderwood, we occupied a first-class
carriage, and were flying by the night express, _en route_ for London,
muffled to the eyes in warm railway-rugs and border plaids, and each
puffing a cigar in silence, gazing listlessly out of the windows, or
doing his best to court sleep, to wile the dreary hours away.

Pitblado was fraternising with the guard in the luggage-van, doubtless
enjoying a quiet "weed" the while.

Berkeley soon slept; but I prayed for the celebrated "forty winks" in
vain; and thus, wakeful and full of exciting thoughts, I pictured in
reverie all that had occurred during the past month.

Gradually the unwilling, but startling, conviction forced itself upon my
mind that my cousin.  Cora loved me!  This dear and affectionate girl,
from whom I had parted with such a frigid salute as that which Sir
Charles Grandison gave Miss Byron at the end of their dreary seven
years’ courtship, loved me; and yet, blinded by my absorbing passion for
the brilliant Louisa Loftus, I had neither known, seen, or felt it.

Her frequent coldnesses to me, and her ill-concealed irritation at the
cool insolence of Berkeley’s languid bearing, on more than one occasion,
were all explained to me now.

Dear, affectionate, and single-hearted Cora!  A hundred instances of her
self-denial now crowded on my memory.  I remembered now, at the meet of
the Fifeshire fox-hounds at Largo, that it was she who, by a little
delicate tact and foresight, contrived to give me that which she knew I
so greatly coveted—the drive home in the tandem with Lady Louisa.

What must that act of self-sacrifice have cost her heart, if indeed she
loved me?  I could not write to her on such a subject, or even approach
an idea that might, after all, be based on supposition, if not on
vanity.  More than this—I felt that the suspicion of having excited this
secret passion must preclude my writing to Louisa under cover to Cora.
Common delicacy and kindness suggested that I should not, by doing so,
further lacerate a good little heart that loved me well.

But the next thought was how to communicate with Louisa, Cora being our
only medium.  Nor could I forget that when I was up the Rangoon river,
and when my dear mother died at Calderwood, that it was Cora’s kiss that
was last upon her cold forehead, and Cora’s little hand that closed her
eyes for me.

Swiftly sped the express train while these thoughts passed through my
mind, and agitated me greatly.  To sleep was impossible, and ere
midnight I heard the bells of Berwick-upon-Tweed announce that we had
left the stout old kingdom of Scotland far behind us, and were flying at
the rate of fifty miles an hour by Bedford, Alnwick, and Morpeth,
towards the Tyne, and the land of coal and fire.

Every instant bore me farther from Louisa; and I had but one comfort,
that ere long she would be pursuing the same route—perhaps seated in the
same carriage—as she sped to her home in the south of England.

I dearly loved this proud and beautiful girl; and if human language has
a meaning, and if the human eye has an expression, she loved me truly in
return; but though the conviction of this made my heart brim with
happiness, it was a happiness not untinged with fears—fears that her
love was, perhaps, the fancy of the hour, developed by propinquity and
the social circle of a quiet country house; fears that my joy and
success were too bright to last; and that, after a time, she might see
her engagement with a nameless subaltern of cavalry in the light of a
mésalliance, and be dazzled by some more brilliant offer, for the
heiress and only child of the Earl of Chillingham could command many.

War and separation were before us; and if I survived to return, would
she love me still, and still indeed be mine?

Her father’s consent was yet to be obtained.  In my impatience to know
the best or the worst, I frequently resolved to break the matter by
letter to his lordship; but, remembering the tears and entreaties of
Louisa, I shrank from the grave responsibility of tampering with our
mutual happiness.

At other times I thought of confiding the management of the affair
entirely to my uncle; but abandoned the idea almost as soon as I
conceived it: knowing that the fox-hunting old baronet was more
hot-headed, proud, and abrupt than politic.  In conclusion, I thought it
might be better done by a letter from the East, when the earl might
politely half entertain an engagement which a bullet might dissolve; or,
should I leave the affair over till I returned?

Oh! might I ever return—and if so, how mutilated?  And if I died before
the enemy, in imagination I saw, in the long, long years that were to
follow, myself perhaps forgotten, and Louisa, my affianced bride, the
wife of—_another_.



                             *CHAPTER XIV.*


    And why not death, rather than live in torment?
    To die is to be banished from myself;
    And Sylvia is myself: banished from her
    Is self from self; a deadly banishment!
    What light is light, if Sylvia be not seen?
    What joy is joy, if Sylvia be not by?
    Unless it be to think that she is by,
    And feed upon the shadow of perfection.
      SHAKSPEARE.


While yet half-slept, and wholly unrefreshed, after our long and rapid
journey by train, we donned our uniforms, with sword-belt and
sabretashe, duly reported ourselves to the colonel, who welcomed us
back, and within an hour I found myself established in my old quarters,
and once more falling into the every-day routine of barrack-life, just
as if I had never left Maidstone, and as if my visit to Calderwood and
my engagement with Louisa were all a dream.  But I had her pearl ring,
and the lock of jetty hair, which I had cut from her beautiful head in
jest—a gift in solemn earnest now—and I lost no time in procuring a
locket suitable for it, and which I might wear at my neck.

Again I had parades to attend, troop, guard, and stable duties to
perform; but amid these, and all the bustle of Maidstone, the most
tiresome and bustling cavalry barrack in the British empire, my heart
and thoughts were ever with Louisa Loftus, amid the old woods of
Calderwood Glen.

"War is not yet declared against Russia," said the colonel, the first
evening parade after we joined; "but I have it in confidence from
head-quarters that it will be ere long, and that we shall form part of
the army of the East."

"Ah, and are there—haw—any infantry to accompany us?" asked Berkeley.

"I should think so," replied the colonel, laughing at so odd a question,
which, as Berkeley asked it elsewhere, caused some amusement at
Maidstone, as showing either his ideas of war, or of the strange
individualism of the two branches of the service.

"The guards are already under orders, and embark at Southampton in a few
weeks," resumed the colonel; "and we shall have tough work in getting
ready for departure by the time our turn comes—though I am glad to say
the lancers are in high order and discipline, and fit for anything."

Our colonel spoke with pride and confidence; and under his orders, I
felt that, with equal confidence, I could really go anywhere or face
anything.  I had served under him in India, and he had ever been in my
eyes the model of a British cavalry officer, and of an English
gentleman.

"There is no example of human beauty more perfectly picturesque than a
very handsome man of middle age; not even the same man in his youth,"
writes one of the most graceful female pens of the present day.  Most
soothing this to all good-looking fellows, who approach that grand
climacteric; and the idea that she is correct always occurred to me when
I saw Colonel Beverley, for a handsomer man, though his moustache was
becomingly grizzled, never drew a sword, and all the regiment admired
and esteemed him.

In addition to sword and pistols, our corps was armed with the lance,
which the famous Count de Montecuculi of old declared to be "la Reine
des armes pour la cavalerie," and the adoption of which was vainly urged
by the great Marechal Saxe in his "Reveries;" but it was introduced into
the British army after the peace of 1815.  The only regiment armed in
this fashion which previously existed in our service was the British
Uhlans, composed of French emigrants, formed out of the remains of the
lancers of the French Royalist army. They were all destroyed in the
ill-fated expedition to Quiberon, in 1796.

When charging cavalry the bannerofes attached to our lances are
extremely useful in scaring the horses—after which the rider becomes an
easy prey; and the extreme length of the weapon renders it more
effective than the sword when charging a square of infantry; while, in
addition to this, it is a weapon of great show, as all must admit who
have seen a lancer corps, some six hundred strong, riding with all their
red and white swallow-tailed banneroles fluttering in the wind.

We had in our ranks more G. C.[*] men, perhaps, than any other corps in
the service; and, with the exception of one or two of those wealthy
parvenus, like Berkeley, who are to be found in many regiments, but more
especially in the cavalry, and whom I shall simply describe as
yaw-yawing, cold, but fashionable, solemn and unimpressionable military
snobs, the officers of the lancers were unquestionably gentlemen by
birth, breeding, and education, and formed altogether, at mess, on
parade, in the ball-room, or on duty, a class of society far superior in
tone and bearing to any I have ever had the fortune to be among; and
unless it be those of whom I have hinted, every face and name come
pleasantly back to memory now, when I think of my fine regiment as it
prepared for the army of the East.


[*]Good Conduct Ring.  We have four regiments of lancers—the 9th, 12th,
16th, and 17th.


We practised daily with our pistols and six-barrelled revolvers; the
sword-blades and lance-heads were pointed and edged anew.  Some of our
mess actually tried bivouacking in the fields at night, to test their
hardihood; but, as they were invariably taken for gipsies or
housebreakers by the rural police, laughter on the one hand, and useless
discomfort on the other, cured them of these pranks.

To be ready for anything and everything, and to make his lancers more
active horsemen, Colonel Beverley had us all drilled to dismounting on
the off-side, a practice which increases the skill of the men, and the
steadiness of the horses, and which is simply done by reversing all the
motions of dismounting, after the rider has well secured the lance, the
reins, and mane in the right hand, while the left grasps the sword, and
lays it across the front of the saddle, with the point to the right.  He
then dismounts on the off-side, with his lance at the carry in the right
hand.

I remember, too, that he was careful in having the men cautioned against
giving way to the weight of the lance when mounted, as this occasions
bad consequences on long marches; hence it is very requisite to measure
the stirrup leathers frequently, and let the men ride with the lance
slung on the left arm.  These items may seem trivial; but a day came
when his instructions and precautions proved of inestimable value, and
that was when we—_the Six Hundred_—made our ever-memorable charge into
the Valley of Death!

A cheque for a handsome sum came from my good old uncle, Sir Nigel, and
it proved most seasonable, as we were beset by London Jews and army
contractors, and I had, as the phrase goes, "no end" of unexpected
things to provide—a few to wit:—

A brace of revolving six-chambered pistols, with spring ramrods, as the
papers said, "the most complete and effective ever offered to the
British public."  A full Crimean outfit, comprising a waterproof cape
and hood, camp-boots, ground-sheet, folding bedstead, mattress, and pair
of blankets, a canteen for self and a friend, sponging-bath, bucket, and
basin, brush-case, lantern, and havresack, all dog-cheap at thirty
guineas, with a pair of bullock-trunks and slings at eight guineas more.
Then there was a portable patent tent, weighing only ten pounds; an
india-rubber boat, and heaven only knows how much more rubbish, all of
which made a terrible hole in my cheque, and all of which were left
behind at Varna, where, doubtless, some enterprising follower of the
Prophet would make them his lawful spoil.

Amid those prosy preparations the month of February slipped away, and
the twenty-eight days of that month seemed like so many years to me, as
I never heard of Louisa Loftus; but, on the first of March, Pitblado
handed me a little packet which had come by the mail from London.

It contained a morocco case with a coloured photograph—a photograph of
Louisa!

It was done in the best style of a good London artist, and my heart
bounded with joy as I gazed on it, studying every feature.  The reader
would deem me mad, perhaps, maudlin certainly, if I related all the
extravagances of which I was guilty on receipt of this souvenir, this
minor work of art, with which I was forced to content me, until a
miniature—one of Thorburn’s best—which I was resolved to procure, should
follow.

Was she in London, or had she merely written to the artist (whose name
was on the case) to send me a copy of her miniature, which she knew well
I would prize, even as I prized life or health?

On the same day that this dear memorial came I was gazetted to my troop
in the regiment, by purchase, Captain B——, whose ill health rendered him
totally unfit for foreign service, retiring by the sale of his
commission; and though my heart was full of gratitude to my uncle, I
verily believe that I thought more of Louisa’s miniature than of my
promotion. Both, however, seemed ominous of a happy future.  They made a
fortunate coincidence.  The same mail had brought them from London, and
I seemed to tread on air, and committed so many extravagances, and
played so many pranks that night at mess, that my old friends, Jack
Studhome and Fred Wilford, had to take what they termed "the strong
hand" with me, and march me off to my quarters.

In answer to my letter of thanks, I received a long and rambling one
from Sir Nigel, whose literary efforts were frequently a curious medley.

The hunt, the county pack, the next meets were, of course, referred to
first, and then came his private troubles.  The black-faced sheep had
been leaping the fences and eating in the stackyard of the home-farm;
the Highland goats had been eating the yews in the avenue, and poisoning
themselves; the deer had been overthrowing the beescaps on the lawn, and
the patent powder to fatten the pheasants had been mislaid by old
Pitblado, and was eaten by the rooks instead.  Lieutenant James’s famous
horse-blister had been applied without effect to his favourite hunter,
Dunearn, and my old friend Splinterbar had gone dead lame—£300 gone to
the dogs!

He had just had a notice of "augmentation, modification, and locality of
stipend (whatever the deuce it might all mean) before the Tiend Court,"
served on him by a —— Edinburgh writer to the signet, at the instance of
the parish minister, whom he disliked as a sour Sabbatarian, and whom he
had advised in his next sermon to expound and explain how "Jeshurun
waxed fat and kicked."

Not a word about Louisa!  I read on with growing impatience:—

"I have just procured a lot of that stuff the English call
mangel-wurzel, consisting of white globes and long yellows, to plant in
belts about the thickets where the deer are; they are better for feeding
at this time than the best of Swedish turnips, and for drawing the deer
from the cover, for a quiet shot.

"Cora is working all kinds of comforters, cuffs, and muffetees for you
to wear in the Crimea.  I asked her to write for me; but she excused
herself, so I have to act as my own secretary.  I don’t know what has
come over the girl of late.

"General Rammerscales, the gouty old tiger-hunter, has gone to his place
at the Bridge-of-Allan; and our friend the M.P., like a true Scottish
one, is shieing at his Parliamentary duties, when he can’t get upon a
committee that pays, and takes especial good care never to be in the
House when Scottish interests are on the tapis, unless whipped in when
the Lord Advocate has some party or private end in view.

"Old Binns and Pitblado send you their remembrance. Why did your man
Willie give the two sovereigns I gave him to his father?  The old fellow
is well enough off in his cottage, and lives like the son of an Irish
king.  He shot a magnificent silver pheasant before the Chillingham
party left (they are gone then!) and Lady Louisa got the wings for her
pork-pie hat.

"Cora seems pining to join the Chillinghams, who, as you, of course,
know, have been for a month past at their place near Canterbury.  She is
in low spirits, poor girl, and goes south in a week, when I shall,
perhaps, accompany her.  Lady Louisa has written to her thrice since
they left.  She says that Mr. Berkeley has been frequently visiting
them; but never mentions you.  What is the meaning of that?"

I paused on reading this, for it embodied a vast deal for reflection!
That the Loftuses should be at Chillingham Park unknown to me was not
strange; neither was it strange that, situated as we were, poor Louisa
should not mention me in her letters to Cora; but that Berkeley should
be their frequent visitor, and omit to mention, or conceal that
circumstance from me, was certainly startling!

Berkeley!  So this accounted for what the mess had remarked—his frequent
absences from that agreeable board, from parades, and the used-up
condition of his private horses. Was there any sly game afoot?  So far
as he was concerned, could I doubt it?  His reserve to me declared that
there was; and this game had been played for a month, with or without
success, how was I to learn?  Ha! thought I, if they knew about Miss
Auriol, his unfortunate mistress!  But noble morality is frequently very
opaque—and my pay and expectations were but moonshine, when opposed to
his solid thousands per annum.

I was sorry to hear that Cora was coming so far south as Canterbury; for
much as I loved and esteemed my cousin, I felt that I should rather
avoid her now.  I resume the letter.

"How does your affair with la belle Louisa progress—eh? Well, I hope;
though I think, with Thackeray, that ’every man ought to be in love a
few times in his life, and have a smart attack of the fever.  You are
the better after it is over.’

"So we are to have hostilities at last!  I was in Edinburgh yesterday,
anent the programme of the spring meeting at Musselburgh, and heard war
declared by Britain against Russia. It was proclaimed at the market
cross by the Rothesay, Albany, and Islay heralds, attended by the
Kintyre, Unicorn, and Ormond pursuivants, all in their tabards, and a
strong guard of Highlanders, with bayonets fixed, and colours flying. It
was a quaint and picturesque sight, that did your old uncle’s heart
good, and set him thinking; for the same trumpets had many a time in the
same place proclaimed war against England in the days of old."

So ended my uncle’s rambling letter, which certainly had the effect of
setting me to think too, and with a heart full of sudden trouble,
anxiety, and irritation.



                             *CHAPTER XV.*


    In aught that tries the heart, how few withstand the proof.
      *      *      *      *      *
    What is the worst of woes that wait on age?
        What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the brow?
    To view each loved one blotted from life’s page,
        And be alone on earth as I am now?
          BYRON.


If Lady Louisa had not mentioned me in her letter to Cora, there was
doubtless a secret and very good reason for the omission; but I thought
it cold, and certainly uncourteous, that the countess, fresh from a long
visit at Calderwood, should omit to invite me to her house; and that the
earl should not have left his card for me at the barracks.

So Cora was going to Chillingham Park!  Well, at all events, I would
visit my cousin Cora, were it but to evince my regard for Sir Nigel.
But to know that Louisa was now, and had been for a month past, within a
few miles of me, and that I had neither seen nor heard from her, while
Berkeley was a frequent visitor at her father’s house, filled me with
such mortification that I could barely control my emotion when in his
presence.  His silence on the subject, too, added to my suspicions, and
inflamed my smothered wrath; yet it was a matter on which I had no right
to question him.

Wounded vanity and self-esteem also sealed my tongue; and I actually
despised myself when discovering that I could not help remarking his
absence or his presence in quarters, and his going from the barracks to
and fro.

In the old duelling days—ay, had we been so circumstanced only some ten
years before, and ere so decided a change came over public opinion—I
should have made short work of it with my esteemed brother officer, and
unmasked his duplicity.  He might be a suitor to whose suit no response
was made, even though Lady Chillingham seconded his intentions; but then
she had, I knew, views regarding Lord Slubber. Louisa, however, could
not have changed; or, if so, why send me the pretty miniature?

Vainly I strove to busy myself with the interior economy of my troop,
its management and discipline.  Vainly I sought to kill time by
attending closely to the men’s messes and equipment, their pay-books,
accoutrements, and horses, counting the days as they passed; but no
letters came.  I frequently absented myself from the barracks between
the parades, with that strange superstition and hope which many persons
have, that if they go away for a little time they will find the
longed-for answer when they return.  But save tradesmen’s bills—missives
which became more urgent as the rumoured day of departure drew nearer—no
enclosures ever came to me.

At last, finding suspense intolerable, one evening—I remember that it
was the last of March—Beverley gave me leave from parades for two days.
I mounted, and took the way by Sittingbourne—a quaint old Kentish town,
which consists of one wide street bordering the highway, and by the
village of Ospringe, to Canterbury, where I put up at the Royal Hotel;
and, after having my horse corned, trotted him along the Margate Road,
till I came to the well-known gate of Chillingham Park.

The lodge—a mimic castle in the Tudor style—was pretty, and already
covered with green climbers; through the bars of the iron gate, which
was surmounted by a gilded earl’s coronet, I could see the
carefully-gravelled avenue winding away with great sweeps between the
stately old trees, and bordered by the smooth, velvet-like lawn of
emerald green, towards the house, a small glimpse of the Grecian
peristyle and the white walls of which were just visible.  There she
dwelt; and I gazed wistfully at the white patch that shone in the
sunshine between the gnarled stems of her old ancestral trees.  On
hearing a horse reined up without, the lodge-keeper came forth, key in
hand, and politely touched his hat, as if waiting my pleasure; but I
waved my hand, and with a flushing cheek and an anxious heart, let the
reins of my nag drop on his neck, and rode slowly and heedlessly on.

Unvisited and uninvited, I felt that to have left a card at Chillingham
Park would have been an intrusion unwarranted by the rules of good
society—rules which I warmly bequeathed to the infernal gods.  I had
come to Canterbury; but to what end?—unless I met Louisa on the road, or
in the city, and such wished-for chances seldom fall to the lot of
lovers.

There was the cathedral, where, doubtless, she and her family would be
on a Sunday, in their luxuriously-cushioned pew, attended by a tall
"Jeames" in plush, carrying a great Bible, a nosegay, and gold-headed
cane; but to thrust myself upon her there was too humble a proceeding
for my then mood of mind.

I longed with all my soul to see her, were it but for a moment; and yet
I also longed for the route to the East, as a relief from my present
torture; and come it soon would now. There was some consolation in that
conviction.

War had already been declared against Russia by the Western Powers of
Europe.  On the 23rd of the last month the brigade of guards had
departed from London, after taking farewell of the Queen at Buckingham
Palace; the Baltic fleet had sailed from Spithead; many of our troops
were already embarked; and the French fleet for the North Sea had sailed
from Brest.  All betokened earnest and rapid preparations for a
protracted contest; so I felt assured that our days in Maidstone were
numbered now.

How long, or how far I wandered on that evening, full of vague and most
dispiriting thoughts, I know not—near to Margate certainly; and the sun
was setting as I returned, keeping near the sea-shore, and in sight of
the countless white sails and smoky funnels of the craft that were
standing outward or inward about the mouths of the Thames and Medway.

The sun sunk beyond the horizon; but the twilight was strong and clear.
The place was lonely and still; and, save the chafing of the sea on the
rocks at the Reculvers, not a sound came on the calm atmosphere of the
soft spring evening.  I was there alone, with my own thoughts for
company, and found it difficult to realise the idea that the roar of
London, with all its mingled myriads of the human race, was but sixty
miles distant from where my horse nibbled the grass that grew by the
sequestered wayside.

The whole scenery was intensely English.  Against the rosy flush of the
sunset sky, that old landmark for mariners, the Sisters, as the two
spires of the ancient church are named, stood up sharply and darkly
defined about a mile distant; near me spread an English park, studded
with fine old timber, a model of beauty and fertility, the sward of the
most brilliant green, and closely mown, as if shaved with a huge razor.
The smoke of the quaint old Saxon village curled upwards far into the
still air, and all seemed peaceful and quiet as the shades of evening
deepened—quiet as the dead of ages in the graves that lie about the
basement of the old church that marks the spot where St. Augustine—sent
by Pope Gregory on the errand of conversion—first put his foot upon the
Saxon shore; and as if further to remind me that I was in England, and
not in my native country, the curfew bell now rang out upon the stilly
air, tolling "the knell of parting day," for, as the Norman power
stopped on the banks of the Tweed, the curfew is, of course, unknown in
Scotland.

I had been lost in reverie for some time—how long I know not, while my
horse shook his bridle and ears ever and anon at the evening flies, and
cropped the herbage that grew under a thick old hedge, which bordered
the flinty and chalky way—when the sound of voices roused me; and close
by a rustic wooden stile, that afforded a passage through the hedge in
question, I suddenly beheld a man and woman in parley—conversation it
could not be termed, as the former was evidently confronting, and rudely
barring, the progress of the latter.

On the summit of the stile her figure was distinctly seen in dark
outline against the twilight sky.

She seemed young and handsome, with a smart little black-velvet hat and
feather.  Her small hands were well-gloved; one firmly grasped her
folded parasol and handkerchief, and the other held up her skirt
prettily as she sought to descend the stile, showing more than no doubt
was generally revealed of a well-rounded leg, a taper ankle, and tiny
foot, encased in a fashionable kid boot.

Young and perfectly ladylike, her whole toilette was in keeping with her
lithe and graceful figure; but her face was turned from me.

He who confronted her was a burly, surly, beetle-browed, and
rough-visaged fellow, like a costermonger, with a slouched, broken hat,
which he touched, half ironically, from time to time; a black beard of a
week’s growth bristled on his chin; a patch covered one of his
discoloured eyes; he had a great cudgel under his arm, and an ugly
bull-terrier, with a huge head and close-shorn ears, was close to his
heels.  His hand was held forth for charity, and he was fully prepared
to enforce that good quality.

Alarmed by the appearance of the fellow, who might very well have passed
for a twin brother of Bill Sykes, the young lady hovered with
irresolution on the upper step of the stile, and said, timidly—

"Permit me to pass, if you please, sir."

"Not without giving me summut, marm; and I tell yer I ain’t neither sir
nor mister, but just Bill Potkins," growled the fellow.  "I’ve a darned
good mind to set this ere dog at your ankles!"

"But I repeat to you that I have left my purse at home," she urged.

"You have left it at whoam have yer; that is all gammon, for I knows
yer, for all yer dainty airs, and the captain too, for the matter o’
that.  Shall I tell his name?" he asked with a scowl, while he surveyed
her all over, as if looking for something to snatch ar wrench away; but
she seemed destitute of ornaments.

"Yes, I have indeed left it; but for pity sake allow me to pass," she
said, faintly, and then, gathering strength, added, "Moreover, fellow,
you must."

"Criky; that’s a good ’un—must I really now?"

"Yes, please," returned the young girl, in tears.

"Well, I sha’n’t then—not till I’ve overhauled your pockets, and
rummaged yer a bit, and that’s all about it."

In a moment his ruffianly hands were upon her; the girl uttered a shrill
scream and he a ferocious oath.  I spurred forward my horse, reined him
in with dragoon-like precision, and with the butt-end of my riding-whip
dealt the would-be thief a blow which tumbled him in a heap at the foot
of the stile.

With a terrible malediction, while the blood poured over his face, he
staggered up, stooped his head, and thrusting his hat well over his
eyes, was rushing on with uplifted cudgel, when I dexterously dealt him
cut "one" full on the face, and made my horse rear for the purpose of
riding him down.  On this he uttered a yell, forced his way through the
hedge, and taking to flight, disappeared, with his bull terrier barking
furiously at his heels.

The young lady whom I had saved by such timely succour was still
standing, pale and trembling, on the summit of the stile, irresolute
which way to turn, when I dismounted, and throwing the reins over my
arm, lifted my hat, and expressing the great satisfaction it afforded me
to have been of such timely service, I offered my hand and assisted her
to descend.

She thanked me in an agitated voice, and with a hurried manner, in
language which was well chosen, but seemed perfectly natural to her.

I now perceived that she was older than her slender figure at first
suggested.  She seemed to be about five-and-twenty years of age, with a
softly feminine and purely English face, long, tremulous eyelashes, and
a perfect nose and chin.  She was almost beautiful; but with an air of
sadness in her charming little features, which, when her alarm subsided,
was too apparent to fail to interest me.

"If you will not deem me intrusive," said I, lifting my hat again, and
drawing back respectfully one pace, "I shall be most happy to escort you
home."

"I thank you, sir."

"It is almost dark now, and your friends may be anxious about you."

"Friends?" she repeated, inquiringly, in a strange voice, while a cough
of a most consumptive sound seemed to rack her slender form.

"Or permit me to escort you to where you were going.  It was in this
direction luckily, or I could only have taken my horse over the stile by
a flying leap."

"But, sir——" she began, and paused.

"Consider, that fellow may be within ear-shot, and he may return again."

"True, sir.  I do thank you very much.  There was a time when I was not
wont to be so unprotected; but I am so loth—"

"To incommode me; is it not so?"

"Yes, sir."

"Oh, do not say so.  I am from the barracks at Maidstone, though in
mufti, as you see, and trust you will permit me to be your escort.  My
time at present is completely at your disposal."

"I live about half-a-mile on this side of the village; and if you will
be so very kind——"

"I shall have much pleasure," I replied, with a respectful bow; and
leading my horse by the bridle, I walked onward by her side.

She conversed with me easily and gracefully on many subjects—of the
oddness of her being abroad at such an hour alone; but in the country
folks thought nothing of it.  She had been visiting a sick fisherman’s
wife, or child, or something, at Herne Bay, and been detained; the roads
were not unsafe thereabouts in general; but she must be careful for the
future.

Then we remarked, of course, the beauty of the evening, the romance of
the scenery along the coast, and its associations, by Herne Bay, the
Reculvers, and Birchington; and my fair companion seemed well read, for
she knew all about the old kings of Kent, and, pointing seaward, showed
me that, where now the ocean rolled, there stood in other times a goodly
Saxon town, with something about a king named Ethelbert, whose palace
was close by the Reculvers; and so, chatting away pleasantly in a tone
of voice that was very alluring, for there was a musical chord in it, we
proceeded along the highway, until she suddenly paused at the iron gate
of a pretty little rustic cottage that stood within a garden plot, back
some fifty paces or so from the highway.

"Here, sir," said she, "is the gate of my home; at least, that which is
now so; and, with my best thanks, I must bid you adieu."

The girl’s voice, air, and manner were certainly charming, and there was
a plaintive sadness about her that was decidedly interesting; but my
mind was too full of a pure passion, an exalted love for Louisa Loftus,
to have much enthusiasm about pretty girls then, or to have any taste
for running after them, as in the days when I first donned my lancer
trappings. Thus, quite careless of cultivating her acquaintance, I was
about to withdraw with a polite bow, when she added—

"After the great service you have rendered, and so bravely too, I hope
you do not deem me uncourteous in not inviting you to rest for a few
minutes; but—but——"

"Papa might frown, and mamma have some fears of a light dragoon," said
I, laughing.  "Is it not so?"

"My papa!" she replied in a voice that was extremely touching.  "Sir, of
course you cannot know; but he is dead, and my dear mamma has lain by
his side these seven years."

"Pardon me," said I, "if by a heedless speech I have probed a hidden
wound—a sorrow so deep.  But your friends, perhaps, might wish to
discover the sturdy beggar from whom I saved you, and if I can be of any
service, by sending a note to Maidstone barracks, addressed——"

At that moment the door of the cottage opened, and a comely old woman,
dressed in good matronly taste, appeared with a lighted candle in her
hand, and with an expression of alarm in her good-humoured face, as she
exclaimed—

"La, miss! how late you are!  I was quite alarmed for fear you had
returned, as you often do, by the sea-shore, and met with an accident
among the rocks."

"No, my dear friend, I am here in safety, thanks to this kind gentleman;
but for whose fortunate intervention I might have had a very different
thing to say."

And in a few words she related all that had taken place, caressing my
horse the while kindly and gracefully with her pretty hands, and even
without fear, kissing his nose, for although sad-eyed, the girl seemed
naturally playful.

The woman she addressed had all the appearance of a matronly servant or
elderly nurse; she took the young lady in her arms kindly, kissed her,
and thanked me very earnestly for my service.  She then proposed that I
should enter the cottage, and have at least a glass of cowslip or
elder-flower wine, or some such distillation; but the girl looked rather
alarmed. She did not second the invitation, and, finding that I was
becoming _de trop_, I put my foot in the stirrup, and mounted.

"Do not deem us lacking either in courtesy or gratitude, sir," said she,
presenting her hand, and looking up with her sad, earnest eyes, which
were now full of tears; "but you do not know the—the peculiarity of my
position here."

I bowed; but of course remained silent.

"She is, perhaps, a governess—some useful young person, some victim of a
stepmother," thought I.

"I perceived that you were an officer, though out of uniform, and—and——"

"You don’t take every officer for a sad rake, I hope?" said I, laughing.

"Nay, nay, sir; the scarlet coat is very dear to me!"

"Your father, perhaps, was in the army?"

"My poor father was a man of peace, and a man after God’s own heart,
sir.  No, no; you mistake me," she replied, with an air of annoyance and
wounded pride; "but you belong, I presume, to the cavalry?"

"Yes," said I, as her manner puzzled me more and more.

"The lancers?" she asked, impetuously.

"Yes, the lancers."

I could see, even in the twilight, that her colour deepened, while a
painful sigh escaped her.

"Do you know any one in my corps?"

"Yes—no; that is, I never saw it; but I did know a—a——"

Who, or what she knew, I was not destined to learn, for, just at that
moment, the postman passed with a lantern glimmering in his hand, a bag
slung over his back.

"A letter.  You have one for me, have you not?" she asked, in a clear
and piercing voice, while holding forth her hands.

"No, miss, I am sorry to say," stammered the man, touching his cap, and
passing abruptly on; "better luck in the morning, I hope."

"No letter, Nurse Goldsworthy, no letter yet," she muttered. "How cruel,
how very cruel! or, nursie dear, is this but the way of the world—the
world that he has lived in?  Oh, it is cold—cold and selfish!" and,
pressing her hands upon her breast, she tottered against the iron gate,
and then a violent fit of coughing ensued.

"My good woman," said I, "the chill evening air is unsuited to such a
cough as your young lady seems afflicted with."

"Yes, sir, yes, I know it," replied the nurse, while supporting the girl
with one hand, she closed and locked the iron gate with the other; and,
kissing her forehead the while, said, "Patience, my poor suffering
angel, thou wilt get a letter in the morning I tell thee."

"Pray tell me if I can assist you.  I am Captain Norcliff, of the —th
Lancers; do please say if I can be of service?" I urged.

"Oh, no, sir, you cannot serve me in that which afflicts me most,"
replied the girl, weeping; "but a thousand thanks to you; and now, good
evening."

"Good evening," I replied, and rode away, feeling strangely puzzled and
interested in this girl, by her beauty, grace, and singular manner.

At the village inn, the signboard of which, I may mention by the way,
actually bears the head of King Ethelbert, whose spirit seems somehow to
hover still about his Anglo-Saxon _ham_ of the Reculvers, I drew up on
pretence of obtaining a light for my cigar, but in reality to make some
inquiry concerning the pretty enigma who dwelt in the cottage on the
Margate-road.

Just as I reined in, a man on horseback passed me at full speed, and
from his figure, seat, and dress, I could have sworn that he
was—Berkeley!  And he was riding in the direction of Chillingham Park,
too.

From two to three Kentish yokels, in hobnailed shoes and canvas frocks,
I endeavoured, after the distribution of a few shillings for beer, to
extract some information, and it was yielded cunningly and grudgingly,
and after much leering, grinning, and scratching of uncombed heads.

One informed me that she was "thowt to be, somehow, the wife o’ vun o’
them calavary chaps at Maidstone;" another "thowt as she was the vidder
of a sea hossifer;" and a third, who thrust his tongue into his fat
cheek, remarked "that as I had paid my money I might take my choice," on
which I gave him a cut over the head with my whip, and rode away,
followed by a shout of derisive laughter from these Anglo-Saxon
chawbacons, who, as far as civilization was concerned, were pretty much
as if his Majesty King Ethelbert were still upon his throne.

It seemed to me also that I heard among their voices that of the fellow
Potkins, whom I had so recently thrashed at the stile.



                             *CHAPTER XVI.*


    Still as a moonlight ruin is thy power,
    Or meekness of carved marble, that hath prayed
    For ages on a tomb; serenely laid
    As some fair vessel that hath braved the storm,
    And passed into her haven, when the noise
    That cheered her home hath all to silence died,
    Her crew have shoreward parted, and no voice
    Troubles her sleeping image in the tide.
      ALFORD.


My mind was a prey to great inquietude—shall I term it undefined
jealousy?—as I galloped back to my hotel.  I had left directions with
Pitblado that, if any letters came for me during the two days I was to
be absent from barracks, he was to mount my spare horse, and bring them
on the spur direct to Canterbury; but none had come, for he had not
appeared.

I lingered over my wine alone, in my solitary room at the Royal,
reflecting on the evening’s adventures.

Was the horseman who had passed me really Berkeley?

If so, he was riding to Chillingham Park, and would just be in time for
dinner—a fact that, if he was uninvited, argued considerable familiarity
with that proud and exclusive family.

Then there was the girl whom I had rescued at the stile. What a puzzle
she was!  I reviewed all her conversation with me, and her strange
bearing.  Her literary information and education seemed to be of a very
superior kind, and her manner was unexceptionable.  She seemed gentle,
too, and to have been on an errand of charity or mercy.  Why was she so
agitated when our corps was mentioned!  Her love for a red coat might be
natural enough; but who was "the captain" to whom the ruffian referred
when threatening her? Then there was undisguised anxiety for a letter.
That was natural also; and it was an emotion in which I could fully
share.

Those yokels in frocks and hobnailed shoes had called her wife, and even
widow; but the servant, or nurse, only named her as "miss."

What if she and her nurse, the old spider-brusher, were but a delusion
and a snare?  What if her modesty and trepidation, and the old woman’s
love and anxiety, were but a specious piece of acting!

Prudence suggested that such things were not uncommon in this good land
of Britain.

Next morning I was up and breakfasted betimes, and the sunny hours of
the forenoon saw me mounted, and, after passing the gate of Chillingham
Park at a quick canter, I know not why, unless to soothe my mental
irritation, slowly walking my horse in the neighbourhood of the
Reculvers, and inhaling the pleasant breeze that came from the sea,
whilom, as my companion of last night said, ploughed by the galleys of
Cæsar, and along the same shore where the Kentish barbarians gathered,
in their war paint, to oppose him.

The sunshine fell redly on the quaint spires of the old church and
picturesque cottages of the secluded village.  I passed the sign of King
Ethelbert, and hovered for a moment at the gate of the cottage ornée,
where I had been overnight. Its blinds were closely drawn; but a bird
was singing gayly in a gilt wire cage that hung in the porch, which was
covered with climbing trailers, already in full flower.

I passed on, and soon reached the rustic stile—the scene of last night’s
encounter with that interesting individual who had solicited alms with
the aid of a black beard and a cudgel. It led to a narrow pathway
through the fields and coppice to the sea.  The birds were chirping, and
some of the trees were already budding.  The yellow blaze of noon
streamed between their stems upon the green grass, and I could see the
blue waves of the sea glittering in the glory of the sunshine far away.

On the summit of the moss-grown stile fancy conjured up the figure of
the young girl; and I had a vague, undefined longing to meet her again,
and learn something of her history, if she had one.

What was this girl to me, or I to her?  Yet I had the desire to see her
once more, and, as luck or fate would have it, something glittering
among the grass caught my eye, and, on dismounting, I found it to be a
little gold locket, containing a lock of brown hair, attached to a black
velvet ribbon.  It bore the initials "J.D.B." and the date, "1st June."

It had, no doubt, fallen, or been torn from the young lady’s neck in the
struggle of the night before.  I resolved at once to restore it, and
turned my horse’s head towards the cottage, not without the unpleasant
reflection that this was the 1st of April—All Fools’ Day—and I might
simply be courting a scrape of some kind.

Leaving my horse at the gate, I rang the bell, and the door was promptly
opened by the old woman (whose face expressed such evident
disappointment that I saw some one else had been expected), and whom I
may as well introduce by name as Mrs. Goldsworthy.

She curtseyed very low, and eyed me doubtfully, as if the words of the
mess-room song occurred to her—

    The scarlet coats! the scarlet coats!
      They are a graceless set,
    From shoulder-strap of worsted lace
      To bullion epaulette.

    The deuce is in those soldiers’ tongues;
      What specious fibs they tell!
    And what is worse, ’tis so perverse,
      The women list as well.


If such were her speculations, I remembered that the lancers wore blue,
and the alleged seductions of the scarlet were inapplicable to one who
was in mufti.

"My dear madam," said I, in my most insinuating tone, "passing by the
stile this morning, where, last night, I had the pleasure of rescuing
your young lady, I found this trinket, which, perhaps, belongs to her?"

"It do, indeed, sir, it do.  Lawkamercy! she has well nigh cried her
poor eyes out about it, the dear soul!  Ah, me, don’t you hear her a
coughing now?" said the worthy woman, sinking her voice.  "’Ow ’appy she
will be to get it back again! ay, main ’appy!  For whether it was lost
by the seashore, or in the fields, or whether the thief had taken it,
she never could ha’ guessed by no means.  Oh, sir, ’ow she would be a
thankin’ you!"

"I hope she has not suffered from her alarm last night?"

"No, sir," said the woman, eyeing me earnestly through a great pair of
spectacles, which she carefully wiped with her apron, and put on for
that purpose; "but she do have such a terrible cough, poor thing!
Please, sir, just to wait a minute."

She hurried away, and returning almost immediately, invited me to enter,
saying—

"My young missus will see you, Mr. Hossifer."

I was ushered into a prettily-papered and airy little parlour, the open
windows of which looked seaward over the green fields.  Another bird in
a gilt wire cage hung chirping at the open sash, where the spotless
white muslin blinds swayed to and fro in the soft breeze of the April
morning.

Everything was scrupulously neat and clean, though plain. There were a
number of books, chiefly novels, on the side-table; a few landscapes in
water-colour, in gilt frames, evinced the taste of the proprietor; an
open workbox of elegant design stood on the centre table; and very tiny
kid gloves with a few shreds of ribbon, showed that a worker had
recently been busy there.

On the wall a garland of artificial flowers encircled the miniature of a
lovely little golden-haired boy, whose face, somehow, seemed familiar to
me.

On a small pianette, which was open, lay a pile of music. The two upper
pieces were "La Forza del Destine," and "La Pluie de Perles," which were
inscribed "To Agnes. From her dear Papa."

Everything bespoke the presence of a neat, brisk, and tidy female
resident of elegant tastes; but in one corner I detected a cavalry
forage cap, pretty well worn, and on the end of the mantelpiece, where
it had evidently eluded Mrs. Goldsworthy’s duster, the fag-end of a
cigar.

I had just made this alarming discovery, when my friend of the last
evening entered, and frankly presented me with her hand, half-smiling,
and thanking me for the locket, which she at once proceeded to suspend
at her neck, saying, as she kissed and hid it in her bosom, that for
worlds she would not have lost it!

Ungloved now, I could perceive the delicate beauty of her small hands,
and, moreover, that on the third finger of the left there was no
marriage ring.  Her face was very pale, but singularly beautiful, and
her tightly-fitting dress revealed the full symmetry of her arms, waist,
and bosom.  Her eyes expressed extreme gentleness and sadness, and
consorted well with the delicacy of her pure complexion.  The extreme
redness of her lips seemed rather unnatural, or at least unhealthy; but
she coughed frequently, and the consumption, under which I greatly
feared she was labouring, made her delicate loveliness still more
alluring, and the earnest and searching gaze of her dark blue eyes more
interesting and touching.

The common phrases incident to first introductions and everyday
conversations were rapidly despatched, and, while I lingered, hat and
whip in hand, I repeated that, but for the purpose of returning her
locket, I, as a total stranger, would not have ventured to intrude upon
a lady.  I begged her to be assured of that.

"Be certain, sir," said she, nervously smoothing the braids of her rich,
thick hair, and adjusting the neat white collar that encircled her
delicate throat, and edged the neck of her plain grey dress; "be certain
that it is no intrusion, but a great kindness, though I do live here
almost alone, and—and——"

She paused, and coloured deeply.

"You were anxious about letters last night.  I hope this morning has
relieved your mind?"

"Alas, no, sir," said she, shaking her pretty head sadly. "The postman
has always letters for every one but me.  I have been forgotten by those
who should have remembered me."

"I can fully share your feelings," said I, with a made-up smile.  "I,
too, am most anxious for letters that seem never likely to come."

"I am sorry to hear this; but I thought that you gay young men of the
world had no sorrows—no troubles, save your debts, and your occasional
headaches in the morning; the first to be cured by post-obits, and the
second by brandy and seltzer-water."

"Is such your idea?" said I, smiling.

"Yes."

"Well, I have other and more heartfelt sorrows than these."

"How often have I wished that I were a man—a strong one, to fight with
the world in all its wiles and strength; to wrestle and grapple with it,
and to feel that I was powerful, great—greater than even destiny—instead
of being the poor and feeble thing I am!  Then could I show mankind——"

What she was about to say I know not.  Her eyes were sparkling, and her
cheek flushing, as she spoke; but a violent fit of coughing came on.
She put her handkerchief to her lips, and when she took it away it was
stained with blood.

"Permit me," said I, with kindness, and handed her to a chair.

This access of coughing so promptly brought Mrs. Goldsworthy in that I
think she must have been listening outside the door.  Her caresses and
care soothed the young lady, though she lapsed into a flood of nervous
tears, and, for a minute or so, withdrew.

"Your mistress seems extremely delicate?" I observed.

"Yes, poor thing!  She will never again be the girl she was."

"Are you, may I ask, her mother?"

"Her mother?  Lawkamercy, no!  I ain’t worthy to be more than what I
am."

"And what is that, my friend?"

"Her servant, poor angel!  Her mother is, I am sure, in Heaven."

"Pardon me.  I remember that she told me last night that she was an
orphan."

"Ay, poor child, a orphan indeed—a orphan of the ’eart," she added,
shaking her head, as she became unintentionally poetic.

"I fear my visit excites you," said I, moving towards the door, as the
young girl reappeared, and seemed to have quite recovered her composure.
"Your cough requires the greatest care, and those open windows——"

"Oh, I should die without air," she exclaimed, while her eyes sparkled;
"for there are times when even my own thoughts seem to stifle me."

"La, miss!" said her attendant, warningly, and glancing impatiently at
me.

"A strange girl," thought I; "but can she be subject to flights of
fancy—insane?"

"If I can at any time be of service, pray command me, though we shall
not be long in Britain now, as we soon start for the Crimea."

"Very soon?" she asked, with her eyes and voice full of earnest inquiry.

"I cannot say exactly when; but soon, certainly."

She pressed her left hand upon her breast, as if to restrain her cough,
and cast down her eyelashes.  At that moment she seemed remarkably
bewitching, soft, modest, and Madonna-like.

I was again about to go, and yet stayed, for I longed to learn, at
least, her name.

"And you go cheerfully forth to face danger and death?" she asked,
looking up with a mournful smile in her pleading eyes.

"Not cheerfully, for my path is not without its thorns; but for all that
I don’t dread death, I hope."

"Death!" she said, musingly, as if to herself, while looking at the
blood spot on her handkerchief.  "Daily I feel myself face to face with
him, and shall bid him welcome when he comes nearer, for death has no
terrors for me."

"Don’t ’ee talk so, darling," said her follower, with a mixture of
sorrow and irritation in her manner; "though he you weeps for is a bad
’un at ’art, and I knows it."

"Oh, don’t break mine by saying so, nurse."

"I trust that you only fancy yourself worse than you really are," said
I, with genuine sympathy in my tone and manner. "Remember, the long and
sweet season of summer is before us.  You are so young, and life must
still be full of hope to you."

"Hope! oh, no, not of hope!  My destiny has already been fulfilled!" she
replied, with a strong bitterness of manner; "so hope has done with me."

"Pardon me; but may I ask your name—I told you mine," said I, laying my
hand on hers.

She coloured deeply, almost painfully.  It was but the hectic flush of a
moment, and when it passed away she became pale as marble.

"Captain Norcliff, I think you said?"

"Yes; Newton Calderwood Norcliff—and yours?"

"Agnes Auriol."

"Good heavens!" I almost exclaimed, as the whole mystery of her life and
manner burst with a new light upon me.

So my mysterious incognita was that poor girl of whom the mess had
whispered.  Berkeley’s mistress—Agnes Auriol—the girl whose letter—a
heart-breaking one, likely—he had dropped at Calderwood, and which he
had burned so carefully when I restored it to him.  So _his_ were the
initials that were on the gold locket at her neck, and _his_ were the
forage cap and cigar which had attracted my attention on first entering
the cottage parlour.

It was certainly an awkward situation for me, this self-introduction and
visit.  If discovered there, I knew not how far it might compromise me
with him, and still more with others whose opinion I valued.

And as thoughts of the Chillinghams and of the mess flashed upon me, I
felt that I would gladly have changed places with Sinbad on the whale’s
back, or Daniel in the lion’s den.



                            *CHAPTER XVII.*


    Oh, for the wings we used to wear,
      When the heart was like a bird,
    And floated through the summer air,
    And painted all it looked on fair,
      And sung to all it heard!
    When fancy put the seal of truth
    On all the promises of youth!
        HERVEY.


To have introduced myself abruptly to Mr. De Warr Berkeley’s wedded
wife, if he had one, might be explained away satisfactorily enough; but
to present myself to Miss Auriol, related as she was to him, there could
be no palliation whatever, and in duelling days could have led to but
one result—the pistol!

Something of what passed in my mind, together with an air of
bewilderment, must have been apparent in my face, for the young lady,
after gazing at me earnestly, as if her clear and bright, but dark blue
eyes would read my very soul, looked suddenly down, and said, while her
colour came and went, and her bosom heaved painfully—

"I can perceive, Captain Norcliff, that my name explains much to you;
but not all—oh no! not all.  There are secrets in my short but wretched
life that you can never learn—secrets known to God and to myself alone!"

"It really explains nothing to me, Miss Auriol," I replied with a smile,
being willing to relieve her embarrassment, by affecting ignorance of
that which the whole mess knew—her ambiguous position; "for I am not
aware that—that we ever met before."

"But you have heard, perhaps—you know Mr. Berkeley?"

"Of ours—yes; he was in Scotland with me a few weeks ago."

"That I know too well for my own peace," said the girl, coughing
spasmodically, and applying her handkerchief to her mouth.

"He is frequently in this quarter, is he not?"

"Yes."

"At this pretty cottage, perhaps?"

"No, sir."

"Where then—the Reculvers?"

"At Chillingham Park.  Since he has begun to visit there he scarcely
ever comes here.  Have you not heard—have you not heard," she repeated,
making a fearful effort at articulation, "that he is to be married to
the only daughter and heiress of Lord Chillingham?"

I felt that I became nearly as pale as herself, while replying—

"I certainly have not heard of such an alliance; it is probably the
silly humour of a gossiping neighbourhood."

She shook her head sadly, and seated herself with an air of lassitude.

"Are you sure that Mr. Berkeley was not here after I escorted you home
last night?"

"I am, unfortunately, but too sure.  Why do you ask?" she inquired,
looking up, while her eyes dilated.

"Because I could have sworn that I passed him on horseback in the dusk."

"Riding in this direction?"

"No, towards Canterbury."

"Ah, towards Chillingham Park, no doubt—there shines his loadstar now!"

"And mine too," thought I, bitterly.

This girl’s intelligence, whether false or true, crushed my heart more
than I can describe.

Aware, however, of the imperative necessity for retiring, I took up my
hat and bade her adieu; but for the purpose of learning more of
Berkeley’s movements, I promised, when riding that way, to call again,
and inquire for her health.

"The locket you have just restored was Mr. Berkeley’s gift to me upon a
fatal day," said she; "and, believe me, sir, that—that, whatever you may
have heard of me, or whatever you may think, I have been ’more sinned
against that sinning.’"

In another minute I was in the saddle, and on my way back to Canterbury.

Though she did not know it, nor could she know it, this unfortunate girl
had been planting thorns in my breast.  I could not believe in the
reality of such perfidy on the part of Louisa—of such facility on the
part of the haughty Countess, her mother—or of such rapid progress on
the part of Berkeley with all his wealth, the hard-won thousands of the
late departed brewer.

How I longed now for the arrival of Cora, who might solve or explain
away some of the doubts that surrounded me!

My heart swelled with rage; and yet I felt that I loved Louisa with a
passion that bade fair to turn my brain!

As Miss Auriol would be certain to know something of Berkeley’s
movements and as she and her faithful follower, old Mrs. Goldsworthy,
might prove invaluable in acquainting me with what passed at Chillingham
Park, for they had jealousy to spur on their espionage, I resolved to
visit once or twice again the cottage at the Reculvers, when I could do
so unseen.  This I did, little knowing how greatly the poor girl would
interest me in her sad fate, and still less foreseeing that the course I
pursued was a perilous one.  But the agony of my anxiety, the bitterness
of my suspicions, and my love for Louisa, overcame every scruple, and
blinded me to everything else.

She, on the other hand, was naturally anxious to learn the movements of
Berkeley, whom, notwithstanding his cold desertion, she loved blindly
and desperately.  Thus we could be useful to each other.

My heart recoiled at times from such a mode of working; but I could have
no other recourse till my cousin Cora came.

As I rode up to the door of the hotel, my heart leaped on seeing Willie
Pitblado awaiting me there.

"A letter at last!" I exclaimed, as he came forward.

"From the colonel, sir," said he, touching his cockaded hat.

"The colonel?" I repeated in disappointment and surprise, as I tore open
the note, the contents of which ran briefly thus:—


"MY DEAR NORCLIFF,—As the barracks here are becoming uncomfortably
crowded, by the Indian depôts and so forth, your troop is detached to
Canterbury for a week or two, to share the quarters of the hussars.  You
will remain there, probably, till the route comes.  You need not return
to head-quarters, unless you choose; but may report yourself to the
lieutenant-colonel commanding the consolidated cavalry depôt at
Canterbury.  This is a stranger-day at mess.  We are to have an unusual
number of guests, and the band.  Wish you were with us.

Believe me, &c., &c.,
LIONEL BEVERLEY, Lieut.-Col.

"P.S.—You will drill the troop once daily to the sword and lance
exercise on horseback."


"How lucky!" thought I.  "I shall have Canterbury for the basis of my
operations, and the Reculvers for an advanced post; quartered here, and
Chillingham close by!—When does the troop march in, Willie."

"To-morrow forenoon, sir, under Mr. Jocelyn."

"Good.  You will take my card to the barrack-master, and my horses to
the stables, and receive over my quarters.  I shall remain at the hotel
until the troop comes in."

I did not ride to the Reculvers on that afternoon, though I scoured
every road in the vicinity of the city, by Sturry, Bramling, and Horton.

Next morning I went for a mile or two in the direction of Ospringe, and
soon saw the troop advancing leisurely, with their horses at a walk,
along the dusty Kentish highway, their keen lance-heads glittering with
all their bright appointments in the sunshine, their scarlet and white
banneroles, and the long plumes in the men’s square-topped caps dancing
in the wind, as I trotted up and joined them, though in mufti.

My lieutenant, Frank Jocelyn, and the cornet, Sir Harry Scarlett, were
both pleasant and gentlemanly young men, and would have been a most
welcome addition to my residence in Canterbury, but for the hopes, the
fears, and plans which occupied me.  They asked me how I liked the
cathedral city, and there was a smile on their faces, which, when taken
in conjunction with my secret thoughts, galled and fretted me. Yet I
could not notice it.

Accompanied by a multitude of the great "unwashed," we proceeded
straight to those spacious barracks which are erected for cavalry,
artillery, and infantry, on the road that leads to the Isle of Thanet,
and there the lancers were rapidly "told off" to their quarters, the
horses stabled, corned, and watered.

We dined that evening with a hussar corps, of whose mess we were made
honorary members while we remained in Canterbury, and from Jocelyn I
learned incidentally that for the last three days Berkeley had scarcely
been in barracks.  The hope that I had harrassed myself in vain passed
away now, and fear alone remained.

While the first set of decanters were traversing the table, I slipped
away unnoticed, and without changing my uniform, took the road at a
rasping pace direct for the Reculvers.  The moon was just rising from
the sea, and the last notes of the curfew were dying away, as I drew up
at the door of Miss Auriol’s cottage.

She was alone, and sitting at tea, to which she bade me welcome, in a
manner that showed she half doubted the honesty of my visit, and
betrayed such emotions of shame, confusion, and awkwardness, I felt
myself quite an intruder. But I simply asked if she had heard more of
Berkeley.

She admitted that she had, and stated mournfully that for the last three
days he had been constantly at the park, thus confirming what Frank
Jocelyn had told me.

In the course of another visit or two, I gradually learned piecemeal all
the poor girl’s unhappy history, and how she became the victim, first of
evil fortune, and afterwards of a cold-blooded man of the world like De
Warr Berkeley.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII.*


    Where are the illusions bright and vain
      That fancy boded forth?
    Sunk to their silent caves again,
      Auroræ of the north!

    Oh! who would live those visions o’er,
      All brilliant though they seem,
    Since earth is but a desert shore,
      And life a weary dream!
        MOIR.


She was the orphan daughter of the poor curate of a secluded village on
the borders of Wales.  Her mother, also the daughter of a curate, had
died when Agnes was very young. She was thus left to be the sole prop
and comfort of the old man’s declining years, and he loved her
dearly—all the more dearly that, with a little brother, a beautiful,
golden-haired boy (the same whose miniature I remarked), she alone
survived of all their children, ten in number.

The rest had perished early; for all possessed that terrible heritage,
the seeds of which Agnes was now maturing in her own bosom—consumption.

One by one the old clergyman had seen them borne forth from his little
thatched parsonage, under the ivy-clad lyke-gate of the village church,
and laid by their mother’s side, a row of little grassy graves, where
the purple and golden crocuses grew in spring, and the white-eyed
marguerites in summer, all as gaily as if the last hopes of a broken
heart were not buried beneath them.

In the fulness of time the shadow of death again fell on the old
parsonage, and the curate’s white hairs were laid in the dust, close by
the quiet little Saxon church in which he had ministered so long; and
now the ten graves of the once loving household lay side by side,
without a stone to mark them.

"In the days before this last calamity befel me, Captain Norcliff," said
Miss Auriol, "when my poor father was wont to take my face caressingly
between his tremulous old hands, and kissing my forehead, and smoothing
my hair, would tell me that my name, Agnes, signified gentleness—a lamb,
in fact—that it came from the Latin word _Agnus_; and when he would
bless me with a heart as pure as ever offered up a prayer to God, how
little could I foresee the creature I was to become!  Oh, my father—oh,
my mother! what a life mine has been; and after my father died, what a
youth!

"I have often thought of the words of Mademoiselle de Enclos, when, in
the flush of her beauty, she exclaimed to the Prince of Condé, ’Had any
one proposed such a life to me at one time, I should have died of grief
and fright!’

"So my father passed away; the new incumbent came to take our mansion,
with its humble furniture at a valuation. After paying a few debts, with
a small sum, I found myself with my little brother, who was sickly and
ailing, in London, seeking subsistence by exerting the talents I
possessed—music, chiefly, for I am pretty well accomplished as a
musician."

She continued to tell me of all her heart-breaking struggles, her perils
and bitter mortifications, and of the acute sufferings of that little
fair-headed brother, on whom all her love and hope were centred; and
how, daily, in the fetid atmosphere of a humble lodging, far away from
the green fields, the bright sunshine and the rustling woods of that
dear old parsonage on the slope of the Denbigh hills, the poor child
grew worse and more feeble; and how her crushed heart was wrung as her
little store of money melted away like snow in spring; her few ornaments
went next, and no employment came.

How misery depressed, and horrible forebodings of the future haunted
her; how she remembered all the harrowing tales she had read—and such as
we may daily read—of the poor in London, and how they perish under the
feet of the vast multitude who rush onward in the race for existence, or
in the pursuit of pleasure; and how thoughts and doubts of God himself,
and of His mercy and justice, at times came over her, even as they came
at times now, when the man she loved and trusted most on earth had
deceived her.

Employed at last as a hired musician, she was out frequently to play the
piano at balls and evening parties, for half a guinea per night, in
London, and thus made a slender subsistence for the suffering child and
for herself.

After receiving her fee from the hand of some sleepy butler or
supercilious upper-servant, as she nightly wrapped her scanty cloak
about her, and, quitting the heated and crowded rooms, hurried through
the dark, wet, and snowy streets, to an almost squalid lodging, which
even her native neatness failed to brighten, and to the couch where the
poor, thin, wakeful boy, with his great, sad, earnest eyes, awaited her;
ere long she began to find a cold and cough settling upon her delicate
chest; and then the terror seized her that if she became seriously ill,
and failed to obey her patrons at the nearest music-shop, where would
the boy get food?  And if she died—in a hospital, perhaps—what would be
his fate, his end, in other and less tender hands than hers?

Then, as she wept over him in the silence of the night, and remembered
the prayers her old father had taught her, she would strive to become
more composed, and to sleep like that child that lay hushed in her
bosom; but her dreams, if not full of terrors for the present, were ever
haunted by the sad memories of the past; for the kind faces and sweet
smiles of the dead came vividly before her, and the familiar sound of
their voices seemed to mingle in the drowsy hum of the London streets
without, or with the murmur of her native Dee, and the pleasant rustle
of the summer leaves in the woods of the old parsonage she would never
see again, or the green hills of Denbigh that overshadowed it.

Foreseeing and fearing that the child would be taken from her, she
assumed her pencil, in the use of which she was very skilful and
accomplished, and thus produced the likeness that hung in her little
parlour.  In this labour of love I was struck by the close resemblance
it bore to herself.

On one occasion, at some West-end party, she remembered having seen me.
On beholding me in uniform now the recollection came fully upon her; and
it would seem that, on the night in question, when all else had
forgotten the pale and weary musician amid the crush and merriment of
the supper-room, I had sent her cake and wine, and the former she had
secretly pocketed for her little brother; but of this casual rencontre I
had no recollection whatever.

On another occasion, it happened that the neglected and lonely, but
useful "young person," past whom youth, beauty, and merriment whirled in
white satin and diamonds, lace and flowers, attracted the attention of
Mr. De Warr Berkeley. Her soft and wistful glances at her former equals
caught his watchful eye; and the graceful politeness with which she
acceded to their contrary suggestions to play quicker or slower,
together with the great brilliance of her execution, were all remarked
by him.

It was on one of those nights, like some others, when old companions
passed her by in the waltz and galop, and former friends too, without a
smile or glance of recognition; yet, as she thought of the child at
home, with a crushed and swollen heart she played on and on
mechanically.

Some unusual slight had been put upon her, and while she played, in the
bitterness of her soul, her hot tears fell upon the keys of the piano.
At that moment for Berkeley to introduce himself was an easy matter.  He
did it so quietly, so respectfully, that the poor girl felt soothed.
She never mistrusted him, and, as her evil fortune would have it, he met
her three nights, almost consecutively, at three different places. An
intimacy was thus established.

On the third, the rain was pouring through the desolate streets of a
suburban district in torrents.  The soaked shrubbery and the railings of
the garden shone flickering through the lamp-light, and the dark clouds
swept past in gloomy masses overhead.  It was a wild night, or morning
rather, and not even a policeman, in his oilskin cape, seemed to be
abroad.

Gathering her threadbare shawl tightly round her, Agnes, terrified and
bewildered, was setting forth afoot, timid and shivering, on her way
home, having some miles of London to traverse, when Berkeley, who had
artfully lingered to the last, respectfully offered her a seat in his
cabriolet, and by setting her down where she mentioned, discovered her
residence, and marked her for his prey.

Berkeley’s attentions filled the girl with gratitude instead of alarm,
and he soon inspired her with a passion for him.  "The more a young girl
believes in purity," says a writer, "the more readily she abandons
herself, if not to her lover, at least to her love; because, being
without distrust, she is without strength; and, to make himself beloved
by such a one, is a triumph which any man of five-and-twenty may secure
himself whenever he pleases.  And this is true, though young girls are
surrounded by extreme vigilance and every possible rampart."

To trace the gradual and downward course she trod, and how artfully
Berkeley gained an ascendancy over her by the interest he affected to
feel in her little ailing brother, and how lavishly he supplied the
means of such comforts as the poor child had never possessed even in his
father’s homely parsonage, can neither be for me to describe, nor my
reader to know.

Suffice that the gentle Agnes fell into the snare, as our common
ancestress did before, and became what I now found her to be.

                     *      *      *      *      *

From that hour she had never known real peace, and the memory of her
parents, blended with the agonies of remorse, haunted her day and night.
As a drowning wretch will cling to straws, so clung she to the desperate
hope that Berkeley would love her while life lasted, and that he would
redeem his promise by marrying her, for she loved him blindly and
devotedly, with all the strength of her young heart, and of a first and
only passion.

The change now, from work all day and music all night, with trudging to
and fro, through rain or sleet, was doubtless great; but the change
brought with it no joy, no peace of mind.

Had she a thousand caprices, in the first flush of her amour, her roué
lover would have gratified them all; but, luckily, her tastes were
simple, and she shrank from proffered boxes at the play or opera, from
rural parties, and everything that made her public.

But retribution was coming now; her tears and sorrow fretted him, and he
began to absent himself.  The luxuries with which he surrounded her
brought to her no happiness, and to her little brother no health, for
the child died, passing peacefully away one night in his sleep, and was
buried—not in the pleasant green village burying-ground where his
kindred lay—but in a horrid fetid London churchyard, amid the human loam
of ages; and when the little silver-mounted coffin was carried away,
Agnes Auriol, as she cast a bouquet of lily-of-the-valley on it, felt
that now she had no real tie on earth, unless it was her lover, and from
him even she shrank at such a time as this.

She stood alone by the little grave, the only mourner there. She had
thought of asking Berkeley to accompany her; but, somehow, his presence
would seem a species of pollution by the grave of the pure and sinless
little boy, and the face of her father seemed ever before her.

Her unwelcome repentance fretted him, and without compunction he saw the
agony of her spirit, and how the lustre faded from her eye, and the
roses died in her cheek. Sedulously she endeavoured to conceal the
sorrow that embittered her existence, as she perceived that it only
served to disgust him.  And as this sorrow grew, so did her strength
diminish, and the hectic flush of consumption and premature decline
spread over her delicate little face.

He was frequently absent from her now for weeks, and those periods
seemed insupportable, for the love of him had become a habit; and to
break that habit seemed as if it would snap the feeble tenure of her
life.

He ceased, too, to supply her with money.  Her former musical
connections were completely broken.  She was frequently without the
means of subsistence save by the sale of her ornaments; and at last she
had parted with all save her mother’s wedding ring, which she wished to
be buried with her.

In January last she discovered that Berkeley was at Calderwood Glen in
Scotland.  She wrote to him a most piteous letter, to which, however, he
accorded no reply; and at that time she must have died, had her nurse,
Goldsworthy—an old and faithful servant of her father’s, not discovered
and brought her to this cottage near the Reculvers.

When the lancers were at Maidstone, Berkeley had visited her from time
to time, and pretended still his old views of marriage to amuse her, but
trammelled with secrecy; and latterly he had derided her letters
entirely.  Moreover, she had come to the bitter and stinging conclusion
that he hated her, as she possessed letters of his which legally
compromised him.

He who does another person an injury never forgives him for what he has
endured.  He alike hates and fears him; and in this spirit did Berkeley
fear and hate the poor girl whom he had wronged.

Such was the plain, unvarnished story of Agnes Auriol, which she related
in the intervals that were unbroken by a hard, consumptive, and
undoubtedly, "churchyard cough."

"I have but one wish now," she added, as she lay back exhausted; "and
that I cannot gratify."

"Is it so difficult to achieve?" I asked, in a low voice.

"There are insuperable difficulties."

"And this desire?"

"Is to leave this place for ever," she said, almost in a whisper, while
the hot tears ran unheeded down her pale cheeks; "and—and——"

"Go where?"

"To look on poor papa’s grave, and on dear mamma’s, and then die."

"No, no, do not speak in this hopeless manner," I urged, feeling that I,
a young officer of cavalry, was a very unfitting comforter or adviser at
such a time; and I rose to retire, for the evening was now far advanced.

"This craving is so strong in the poor lamb’s heart, sir, that she will
be a dyin’ as sure as we look on her, unless it be gratified, and athout
a angel comes from heaven; I don’t know how it is to be done," said Mrs.
Goldsworthy, weeping noisily, like all people of her class, as she
ushered me to the door, and to my horse, which was pawing the ground
impatiently, with the dew on his coat and saddle.

"Take her there without loss of time, my good friend," said I.

"She divided her last crown with a poor fisherman yesterday, to get some
comforts for his sick wife."

"Good heavens!  Is she then without means?"

"Quite, sir; and if Mr. Berkeley——"

I struck my spurred heels into the gravel at the sound of his name, and
exclaimed——

"Poor girl, I shall give her the means."

"You, sir?"

"Yes."

"Oh, sir—sir—but she’ll never take it from you," said Mrs. Goldsworthy,
sobbing into her apron with great vociferation.

"She must; and let her remember me in her prayers when I am far away.
At eight to-morrow evening I shall be here again for the last time, my
worthy friend, and will supply her with what she requires."

Before the nurse could reply I was in my saddle, and had closed the iron
gate; but just as I rode off, I nearly trod down a man who was muffled
in a poncho cloak, and who leant against the gate pillar—whether
listening or asleep, I knew not; yet, had I looked more closely, I might
have detected the moustached face of my quondam friend, Mr. De Warr
Berkeley.  For this loiterer, or eavesdropper, proved in the sequel to
be no other than he.

To outflank me, and to place himself, his fortune (and his debts), at
the complete disposal of Lady Louisa Loftus, was now the plan—the
game—of my friendly brother officer; and with what success we shall see
ere long.

I was full of thought while riding slowly home to the barracks on the
Thanet Road; I longed for Cora’s coming to unravel the mystery of
Louisa’s conduct, and yet dreaded to face my cousin or broach the matter
to her.  I was inspired with sympathy for the poor lost creature I had
just quitted, and full of indulgence for her mode of life, and excuses
for her fate and fall.  Her singular beauty greatly aided emotions such
as these, for the morbid state of her health lent a wondrous lustre to
her dark blue eyes, and marvellous transparency to her lovely
complexion; and I felt extreme satisfaction that it was in my power to
gratify a wish that was, perhaps, her last one—to pay a pilgrimage to
the resting-place of her parents.

The sweet verse of honest Goldsmith occurred to me—

    The only art her guilt to cover,
      To hide her shame from every eye,
    To give repentance to her lover,
      And wring his bosom is—to die!


At the same time I thought it very doubtful whether any such catastrophe
would wring the padded bosom of Berkeley.

Had Agnes Auriol been a wrinkled crone, it may be a matter for
consideration whether I—a young officer of lancers—would have been so
exceedingly philanthropic in her cause. I hope I should.

On arriving at the barracks, my first task was to despatch Pitblado by
the night train to head-quarters, with a note to M’Goldrick, the
paymaster, for at least fifty pounds, saying I wanted the money, and
must have it by noon to-morrow.



                             *CHAPTER XIX.*


    But the spite on’t is, no praise
      Is due at all to me;
    Love with me hath made mad no staies
      Had it any been but she.

    Had it any been but she,
      And that very face,
    There had been at least ere this
      Twelve dozen in her place.
        SIR JOHN SUCKLING.


Promptly, by an early train, Willie Pitblado arrived with the cash from
M’Goldrick, and with that which alike puzzled and provoked me—a brief
note from my friend, Jack Studhome, the adjutant, advising me that, from
rumours he, Scriven, and Wilford had heard—rumours circulated
insidiously, he knew not how or by whom, in the billiard-rooms we
frequented, and indeed about Maidstone barracks generally—my visits to a
certain romantic cottage near the Reculvers were well known.  I might
mean no wrong, certainly; but was it judicious or wise to get myself
into a scrape with a brother officer?

There was no mistaking the object of this friendly epistle of Jack’s,
and it filled me with fresh anger against Berkeley. Who but he could
insidiously spread those reports concerning what he alone knew or could
affect an interest in!  I knew his subtle and crooked mode of working;
and his ultimate object was undoubtedly that this rumour against me
should ere long reach Chillingham Park.

Yet, removed as I was from head-quarters, I could do nothing in the
matter, and for the present had only "to grin and bear it."

Morning parade over, in obedience to Colonel Beverley’s order, I was
putting the troop through a course of sword and lance exercise
personally, and was so earnestly engaged in the work of the moment, that
I did not perceive a dashing phaeton, drawn by a pair of spanking grey
ponies, attended by an outrider in livery, on a showy bay horse, that
entered the barrack-yard, and drew up close by, as if its occupants
wished to observe the progress of the drill.

After the lapse of a few minutes, Troop Sergeant-Major Stapylton trotted
his horse forward, and said—

"Beg pardon, Captain Norcliff, but some friends of yours are waiting for
you, sir."

Turning in my saddle, how great was my surprise to see Lady Louisa and
Cora in the phaeton, which was driven by Berkeley, who was attired in a
very accurate suit of forenoon mufti.  Dismounting, I sheathed my sword,
threw my reins to Stapylton, and saying to my lieutenant, Jocelyn—

"Frank, like a good fellow, finish off this piece of drill for me,
please," advanced at once to greet my fair friends, whose visit, I felt,
was due to Cora.

"How interesting this is!" said Lady Louisa, presenting her
carefully-gloved little hand, with a brilliant smile, as she proceeded
to imitate my last order, "Prepare to dismount! one; the lance to be
raised out of the bucket, by the right hand sliding down to the extent
of the arm; two—ah, I forget two; you are quite an enthusiast."

Under this banter I detected, or thought so, a deep glance of anxiety
and hidden meaning, more especially as she added, "You evidently think
more of this drill-sergeant’s work than of me."

My heart was so filled with sudden joy that I knew not what I said; but
I kissed Cora’s hand to conceal my confusion.

"And what of good Sir Nigel, Cora?" I asked.

"Papa comes to England to see you go away, and to take me home," replied
my cousin, in a calm voice; "home to Calderwood, when all is over."

"All is over?"

"I mean when the army departs."

"And you are on leave, I perceive, Berkeley?"

"Aw—haw—yes, for a day or so.  Doocid bore the work at Maidstone," he
drawled out.

I was obliged as yet to dissemble, though there was an ill-concealed air
of smiling triumph about my comrade that gave me considerable
uneasiness.

"And now, sir, what have you to say for yourself?" said Lady Louisa,
tapping me on the epaulette with her parasol, and speaking with an air
of mock severity.  "So the rules of society are to be inverted to suit
your lancer tastes; the ladies are to wait upon the gentlemen?
Quartered actually in Canterbury, and yet you never came near us."

"Lady Louisa," I was beginning, yet not knowing what to say, as I could
never imagine that she doubted the reason of my non-appearance at
Chillingham.

"What am I to think of it?" she continued, smiling.

Berkeley laughed.  I believe the fellow thought we were on the eve of a
coolness.

"Remember my constitutional timidity," I urged.

"Timidity in a captain of lancers!" she exclaimed, laughing.

"I ventured to hope that the earl, at least, might have remembered me."

"You knew that I was at Chillingham Park, it appears?" she observed,
with a pretty air of pique.

"Yes," said I, soothed by her glance of fond reproach; "Sir Nigel’s
letter told me so."

"Yet you never came even once to visit us, and I longed so much to see
you, for I had a good deal to gossip about concerning our residence at
Calderwood."

"But the earl omitted to leave a card, and your mamma never wrote; and
then the rules of society!" I urged, still harping on my grievance.

"The rules of fiddlesticks!  When did lovers ever heed them?" she asked,
in a rapid whisper, while Berkeley addressed a few words to Jocelyn, and
while her dark and sparkling eyes flashed a glance that made me forget
all. "Well, here are the cards of papa and mamma, with an express
invitation to Chillingham.  You will dine with us this evening, won’t
you?"

"With pleasure."

"Papa and mamma are to dine at the Priory, but on another day you shall
see them."

"And the hour?"

"Eight."

"Eight!" I repeated, for that was the very hour of my appointment with
Agnes Auriol, and the park lay in an opposite direction from the
barracks.  Here was a dilemma!  But I resolved, if possible, to keep
faith with both, and said—

"Excuse me, pray; but on reflection I find it impossible to be present
at that hour."

"Indeed!"

"But I shall present myself soon after in the drawing-room."

"What prevents you?" she asked, raising her dark eyebrows.

"Duty, unfortunately."

"In that case I must excuse you.  Allegiance to me should not precede
that which you owe to the Queen.  Till this evening, then, adieu."

She presented her hand, and bowed with inimitable grace. I took it in
mine, and lingering, would, I am sure, have kissed it, but for the troop
close by, and dozens of idlers who were lolling at the barrack windows
in their shell-jackets or shirt-sleeves.  There was a glorious smile on
her bright face that contrasted strongly with the sad and wistful glance
of Cora’s soft dark eyes; and, as the phaeton swept away from the
barrack-square, I forgot to bid adieu to Berkeley, though I wished him
in very warm quarters indeed.  I forgot even to address Cora, or rejoin
the troop.  I forgot all about Studhome’s letter and its import; and,
leaving Jocelyn to finish the drill as he pleased, walked mechanically
to my quarters, filled by a great revulsion of feeling, and remembering
only that Louisa loved me—loved me still!  Of that day’s close could I
have foreseen the end!  I counted the hours that intervened between the
time that I should be at the park.  I resolved, if possible, to leave
nothing undone to gain the good opinion of the earl and countess; and,
on after thought, I regretted that I had excused my appearance at
dinner, and believed that I might have paid my last visit to the cottage
at the Reculvers an hour or so earlier, and performed my task of
philanthropy, even at the risk of being seen; though, sooth to say, I
rather dreaded that event, circumstanced as I was with Louisa; and since
the clouds that lowered upon my horizon were dispersed now, the
unfortunate victim of Berkeley could be of no further use to me.

Berkeley had been watching my interview with Louisa narrowly, and took
in our whole situation at a glance, or thought he did so.

He feared that Lady Louisa’s gaiety was a little too spasmodic to be
real, in one who was usually calm and reserved; and, hence, that it
cloaked some deeper emotion than met the eye.  My sensation at her
appearance, and during the whole interview, must have been apparent even
to a less interested spectator than Berkeley, and his whole soul became
stirred by emotions of jealousy, rivalry, and revenge!

Having had the full entrée of Chillingham Park for the last month and
more, he had, as he conceived, made a fair lodgment, to use a military
phrase, in the body of the place—that he had the cards in his own hands,
and should lose no time in discovering how Lady Louisa was affected
towards him.

Cool, vain, insolent, and unimpassioned, this blasé parvenu thought over
his plans while the phaeton rolled along the Canterbury Road; and the
aristocratic aspect of the coroneted gate and castellated lodge, the far
extent of green sward stretching under the stately elms, closely shorn
and carefully rolled—sward that had never been ploughed since the days,
perhaps, when the Scot and Englishman measured their swords at Flodden
and Pinkey, kindled brighter the fire of ambition with him, and made him
resolve at all hazards to supplant me.

One fact he had resolved on—that, though the days of bodily
assassination had gone out of English society, or existed only in the
pages of sensational romance, if he failed to obtain Louisa Loftus, that
I should never succeed.



                             *CHAPTER XX.*


    Not thus the shade may pass,
      That is upon thy heart,
    There is no sun in earthly skies
      Can bid its gloom depart;

    For falsehood’s stain is on it,
      And cruelty and guile—
    And these are stains that never pass,
      And shades that never smile.
        MISS LANDON.


The mansion of Chillingham is one of the stateliest in that part of
England.

It consists of a great central block and peristyle, with two wings
coming forward, forming a species of quadrangle. Detailed in the taste
that existed about 1680, and erected by the second peer of the house,
who had been created an earl at the Restoration, it was built entirely
of red brick, save the eight Corinthian columns of the peristyle, the
great flight of steps that ascended thereto, the elaborate cornices,
corners, balustrades, and vases, which were all of white freestone, and
in the style that is denominated Palladian.

Elaborately carved within the central pediment are the arms of the
Loftus family—a chevron engrailed between three trefoils, supported by
two eagles; the crest a hand grasping a battle-axe, with the motto,
"_Prend mot tel que je suis_," or "Take me as I am."

It occupies a gentle eminence in the centre of the spacious park, and
every embellishment has been added around to make the natural beauties
of the somewhat flat and peaceful scene to harmonize.  Though equally
aristocratic in tone, it is very different in aspect from the bold and
quaint, gloomy, embattled, and romantic mansion of Calderwood, with its
turrets and loopholes for bullet or arrow; and is, in fact, a style of
edifice almost entirely peculiar to England and Holland.

Cora and Berkeley were as yet the only guests at the park, and on
handing the ladies from the phaeton, he begged a few minutes’ interview
with Lady Louisa, in the library or the conservatory, whichever she
pleased, after luncheon.

She coloured deeply, almost with annoyance, at a request so odd, and
looking at her watch, said—

"We lunch at two.  Papa and mamma are in Canterbury; I have letters to
write, but shall be in the library at six—that is, two hours before
dinner."

"Thanks; after we have tiffed then," said he, lifting his hat, and
passing after her and Cora into the marble vestibule, with a
self-satisfied smile.

"What on earth can the man have to say in such a solemn fashion, Cora?"
whispered Louisa.

"I cannot conceive," replied my cousin, thinking of something else.

The luncheon, at which those three were present, with a great
whiteheaded and white-waistcoated butler, and three powdered and
liveried servants in attendance, passed over almost in irksome silence,
for all were fully occupied by their own thoughts or plans.

Berkeley, who gazed at Louisa from time to time with ill-concealed
admiration and gratified vanity, felt that the absence of the earl and
countess at this interesting juncture boded well for his success,
opportunities for a tête-à-tête in that usually numerous and always
aristocratic household being few and far between.

Lady Louisa, who more than half divined her admirer’s hopes, was full of
her brief and hurried interview with me, and, in anticipation of a
scene, felt bored and worried; while poor Cora’s thoughts were all her
own; a little—no, it was a great sorrow, which none could know or
sympathize with, filled her heart in secret, for she was not
communicative, and thus, while she shared all the confidences and gossip
of my Lady Louisa, gave but little of her own in return.

So the progress of tiffin was "dooced slow," as Berkeley thought it, and
he felt somewhat relieved when Lady Louisa rose, and, with a smile, said
to Cora—

"Excuse me, I am now going to write my letters;" adding to him, "I shall
not forget," with another smile that, could he have read it aright,
boded but little success to his cherished plans.

Punctually to the time, Lady Louisa sailed into the library, where
Berkeley, whose courage had been alternately ebbing and flowing, was in
waiting.  He handed her a seat, and, after a few deprecatory remarks, by
way of preface, took her right hand between his own, and, as she did not
immediately withdraw it, he assumed fresh courage, and made a formal
declaration of his love and admiration of her, and then, before she
could speak, he rambled on about his finances, his social habits, his
income—some six thousand per annum—his further expectations, and a great
deal more to the same purpose.

Lady Louisa remained perfectly silent, and this silence, as he had
nothing more to say, caused him infinite confusion.

"You do not speak—you do not answer, dear Lady Louisa. Do you not
understand me?  I tell you that I love you with all the devotion of
which the human heart is capable, and I pray you to pardon the—aw,
aw—presumption of one in every respect so unworthy of you, in venturing
to address you in the language of love; but who can control
the—aw—emotions of the heart!"

Still she did not speak.

"Say that you pity—say that you—aw—understand me!" he urged.

"I understand, but cannot pity you," replied Louisa, calmly and without
betraying the slightest flutter or embarrassment. "And I beg to assure
you that—that, in this matter, you must——"

"Address the earl, your father, dearest Lady Louisa—aw, aw—in writing,
or verbally?" was the cool and rapid question.

"Neither verbally nor in writing," said she, rising, and assuming a
dignity of bearing that made Berkeley feel himself intolerably little.

"Aw, aw—the dooce!  Then how?" he asked, having recourse to his
eyeglass.

"I was about to say that I thank you, Mr. Berkeley—thank you very much
indeed—for the great honour you do me in addressing me thus, and in
making me such an offer; but you must strive to dismiss all such
thoughts from your breast in future, as I could never, never love you!
Pardon me an avowal so very painful, and permit me to leave you."

Her coolness, and almost unmoved bearing, piqued Berkeley, and wounded
his self-esteem, which was inordinate.

"Your bridal flowers," said he, with a bitter smile, "must be blended
with the faded strawberry leaves of some Anglo-Norman line, I presume?"

"Not so, sir.  I have hopes, I admit, but they are not quite so high,"
she replied, with a calm and steady glance, though her short upper lip
quivered with suppressed pride and anger.

"In—deed!" sneered Berkeley, as his habitual insolence came now
thoroughly to his aid; "and so you once and for all actually refuse me,
Lady Loftus?"

"I grieve to say, sir, that I do—once and for ever.  Let us endeavour to
forget this very unpleasant scene, and, if possible, be as
before—friends."

"And for whom do you refuse me?" he demanded, as pride and jealousy
rendered him blind to all future consequences.

"For whom, sir, matters not to you."

"I think it matters very much to me."

"Perhaps; but permit me to remind you, Mr. Berkeley, that I am unused to
be questioned thus."

"Oh," said he, bowing low, "doocid good.  I—aw—crave your pardon; but if
you will not tell me your preference, Lady Louisa, shall I have the
honour of telling you?"

"If you please," she replied, turning half away, and shrugging her
shoulders, while her colour deepened, and her dark eyes gleamed with
sudden anger.

"It is for one who is even now, perhaps, with a worthless creature,
whose society he prefers to yours—haw! haw! the cast-off mistress of a
brother officer!"

"It is false, sir!" she exclaimed, in an agitated voice, as she turned
her flashing eyes full upon him, and drew her tall and glorious figure
up like a tragedy queen; "it is false, and cannot be."

"Oh, no, it is not false, my dear madam; but unfortunately, is—aw—too
true."

There was a pause, during which they regarded each other steadily.

"Why could he not dine here at eight this evening?" asked Berkeley.

"Because duty required his attendance elsewhere, if it is Captain
Norcliff to whom you refer, sir; but I shall no longer bandy words here
with you."

"Duty—doocid good!  At that very hour this evening—eight—we shall find
them together, if you choose to accompany me."

"I, sir, accompany you?" she repeated, disdainfully.

"Yes."

"To where he is—with her?"

"Yes."

"Dare you make such a proposition to me?"

"I do dare," he replied, with blind fury; "and I tell you further, Lady
Louisa Loftus, that this fine and moral young gentleman, Captain
Norcliff, has an affair with a girl well known to all our mess; as the
French, happily would term her, _une femme entretenue_, of a brother
officer—one who has a doocid flaw in her fair fame, and most decided
kick in her gallop," he added, coarsely and maliciously, determined at
all hazards to ruin me with Louisa, and even with my uncle and cousin,
though he could gain nothing thereby.

"And you, his friend, tell me of this!" exclaimed Louisa, with withering
scorn in her manner, as she played nervously with the rose diamond ring
I had given her.

"Will you and Miss Calderwood accompany me this evening to the cottage
near the Reculvers, and I shall have the pleasure of showing you how our
modern Captain Bailey solaces himself in ’country quarters.’"

At the mention of this cottage Lady Louisa started, and changed colour
visibly, and it was then Berkeley’s turn to smile, for certain odd
rumours concerning it and its beautiful occupant had reached her through
the servants at the park, and more particularly her own attendant; but
recollecting her position, she said, loftily and decidedly, while
cresting up her haughty head—

"’Tis false, sir!  I am indisposed to act the spy, and he will not be
there."

"Oh, yes, he will be there, be true as a turtle-dove—exact as—haw—the
clock at the Horse Guards.  We shall find him mingling his tears with
those of the Traviata; a philanthropic Howard in a lancer uniform—a very
Joseph—haw—haw—’a man of snow?’"

"Sir!" exclaimed Lady Loftus, stamping her little foot.

"He’s been devilish hard up of late—got fifty pounds this morning from
the paymaster—so his man told mine; the girl’s a dancer, and every one
knows they are doocid expensive cattle to keep and shoe."

"Sir, you forget yourself!" exclaimed Lady Louisa, while her eyes
flashed with an expression of rage, which even her long lashes failed to
soften.  "Papa and mamma are to dine at the Priory—so this evening I am
free, and you shall drive us, that is, Miss Calderwood and me—to that
odious cottage, and with my own eyes I shall prove who is false, you or
he!"

"Agreed, I am quite at your disposal," said he, bowing low.

And so ended this singular interview.  So ended Berkeley’s hopes of all
but gratified malice, and they separated, each with anger against the
other sparkling in their eyes, and burning in their hearts.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Louisa at once sought Cora, and related all that had passed—the abrupt
proposal and its singular sequel—little knowing that the latter portion
of her narrative, like a double-edged sword, cut two ways at once, and
how her words stabbed poor Cora to the heart; for the good girl would
rather have heard that I was steady and faithful in my regard for her
brilliant rival than that I was the creature Berkeley had striven to
make me appear.

"I have loved your cousin Newton too much to cease doing so now, unless
I find him unworthy, when I shall thrust his image from my heart as if I
had never seen or known him! and I feel, Cora Calderwood, that I must
either love or hate him!" exclaimed Louisa, with a strange energy that
quite startled the quiet Scottish girl.  "I have a craving to learn his
truth or his falsehood, personally and undoubtedly.  So you shall come
with me, Cora.  ’Tis only your cousin you seek!"

"Louisa Loftus," she exclaimed.  "I cannot, and will not, believe, in
this duplicity or depravity of my cousin Newton."

"We shall go to this vile woman’s cottage, dear, in secret, and learn
the truth for ourselves."

"Even at the risk of appearing guilty of espionage?"

"At all risks!" was the impetuous reply.  "That cottage by the
Reculvers!  Aha!  I remember that mamma’s _soubrette_ said something
about the young person who resides there with an old woman, her mother,
or aunt, or something equally veritable and creditable; and added that
no one was ever known to visit her, save a gentleman like an
officer—mark that, like an officer—who usually came on horseback, and at
night."

"Oh, Louisa, you do not—you cannot—you shall not believe all those
slanders about dear Newton," said Cora, vehemently, in a passion of
tears, as she threw herself on the heaving bosom of her more fiery and
energetic friend, who, however, wept also. "Did you not remark how pale,
almost haggard, poor Newton looked when we saw him with his troop
to-day?"

"Well, perhaps nocturnal rambles and late rides from the Reculvers——"

"Now peace, Lady Loftus, if you would not break my heart," exclaimed
Cora, arresting a cutting remark by a kiss on her rosy and tremulous
lips.

About twilight the pony phaeton again set forth from Chillingham Park
with the two young ladies.  There was no outrider in attendance on this
occasion; and their well-cloaked charioteer was Mr. De Warr Berkeley,
who was very silent, to whom they never spoke, and who, to tell the
truth, felt somewhat ill at ease now, and scarcely knew where the whole
affair would end.

One fact he was certain of.  He knew, from past experience, and my
general character when serving in India, that I was not to be trifled
with.

He would, perhaps, have backed out of the whole matter, could he have
seen how to do so.  Then Louisa was inflexible, though Cora was almost
passive.

The ladies felt that, even were the information true, they should not
the less hate and despise the informant, who gratified his spite and
malice at the expense of a friend on the one hand, and of their peace on
the other.

"We are doing wrong, dearest Louisa," Cora whispered, as the ponderous
park gates clanked heavily behind them, and they bowled along the
darkening road, towards where the spires of Canterbury were visible
against the flush that lingered in the sky to the westward.

"I know that in one sense we are so," replied Lady Louisa, through her
clenched teeth and closely-drawn veil; "but I am not the less determined
to solve this matter, to probe it to the utmost, and to convict Captain
Norcliff or Mr. Berkeley of perfidy.  So take courage, and _allons_, my
love!"

As they proceeded the April twilight deepened.  Once or twice Cora spoke
of returning; and then it was Berkeley who urged them to proceed.

"Aw—haw, doocid absurd—don’t hang fire now, ladies, please," said he.
"We shall draw the cover directly."

Yet he was not without unpleasant misgiving as to how he might figure
after "the cover" was drawn, unless he could convey the ladies away
instantly, before explanations took place, and this was a part of his
intended programme.

"After having convincing proof that Captain Norcliff is here, you will,
of course, not remain—aw—to upbraid, and all that sort of thing, Lady
Louisa?" he asked, rather nervously.

"Proceed, sir, but do not question me," was the haughty response, which
made his cheek flush with rage in the shade. For now Lady Loftus
remembered, and felt fully, that in her anger and confusion she had been
completely thrown off her guard; and that she had revealed and
acknowledged our mutual engagement, and her passion for me, to Cora
Calderwood (who had always suspected it), and, worse than all, to
Berkeley, whom she heartily despised, and who, she feared, might make a
dangerous use of the information he had won.

She had also been lured into committing an act of espionage, far from
proper or becoming.  But, nevertheless, she resolved to go through it
now, and to probe the ugly affair to the end at all hazards—even to
facing the fiery anger of her mother, the lofty indignation of the earl,
and the vacant and senile astonishment of my Lord Slubber.

"How strange it is, Cora," she whispered, as they sat hand in hand,
"that one impulse leads me still to love Newton, and yet another impulse
lures me to hate him!  Where is my constitutional, and where are my
family pride and womanly modesty, when I stoop to an act like this, and
drag you, poor child, into it, too?  Oh, I must love him very much
surely—and you, Cora—you——"

"I love him, too," was the calm and breathless response, under the
closely-drawn veil.

"Of course you do—he is your cousin, and your old playmate."

Cora assented only by a little sigh.

They both, it appeared afterwards, hoped desperately that Berkeley might
yet be mistaken in the whole affair, so far as I was concerned, for they
felt bitterly the truth of the maxim, that "faith once destroyed is
destroyed for ever, unless in a heart which is in itself intrinsically
faithless."

In the dusk tears rolled unseen down the gentle face of Cora; but Louisa
suppressed all appearance of emotion by biting her nether lip, and
clenching her little white teeth, like the heroine of a French
melodrama.

"Here we are at last!  Hush! let us approach softly," said Berkeley, as
they drew near the little cottage where Miss Auriol resided; and he
turned the phaeton into a grassy lane, and between high hedges close by;
threw open a private wicket, and assisted Cora to alight; but disdaining
the assistance of his proffered arm, Lady Louisa sprang to the ground
alone.

"This way—follow me, and softly, if you please," said Berkeley, as he
drew forth a private latch-key for the back door—a means of entrance
possessed by himself alone—and they traversed the little flower-garden
which lay around the cottage.

My horse stood at the front door, with his bridle fastened to the porch;
and to this circumstance he took care to draw their attention.

"It is Norcliff’s black nag—his cover hack with the white star on the
counter.  You—aw—recognise it, ladies?" he whispered.

"A present to him from my poor papa," said Cora, reproachfully, as her
heart beat painfully, and Louisa bit her lips as the agony of conviction
stole upon her.

"Proceed, sir," said she, haughtily; "what next?"

"Voices in the parlour—it is there our birds must be; this way," said
Berkeley, who, after a rapid inspection of the interior, between the
green trailers, scarlet-runners, and white muslin curtains, had
satisfied himself as to who were within, and felt assured that if he
lost Lady Louisa, I, at least, should never win her, and that if, on one
hand, he made me an enemy, on the other, he got handsomely rid of the
unhappy girl of whose caresses he had long since grown weary, and whose
importunities and reproaches bored and fretted him now.

Between him and me there would be no friendship wasted, no love lost; so
he consoled himself by the dangerous maxim, "that all is fair in love or
war," as he opened the door softly with his latch-key, and led his now
agitated companions into the interior of the cottage.



                             *CHAPTER XXI.*


Such men are always the most unscrupulous in revenge.  I have seen
murder in his eyes a score of times in the last fortnight.  If our lines
had fallen in the pleasant Italian places, he would have invested twenty
scudi long ago in hiring a dagger.  As it is, civilization and the rural
police stand our friends.—GUY LIVINGSTONE.


The day wore away, the shadows of evening came, and all unaware of the
rod that was in pickle for me, and the awkward surprise that was
preparing, after making a most careful toilet at the barracks, that I
might keep my cherished appointment at the park, I stuffed Mr.
Goldrick’s remittance into my porte-monnaie, and set out in mufti for
the cottage near the Reculvers.  As I cantered along, anxious to perform
my duty there, and without loss of time to turn my bridle towards
Chillingham Park, I contrasted the happiness and the hopefulness of
Louisa’s love and mine with the futile passion which the poor lost Agnes
Auriol cherished for the worthless Berkeley; and while my heart,
inspired by new and joyous impulses since the morning interview,
sincerely mourned for her, it was at the same time soothed by the
conviction that I could enable her to depart on that melancholy and
filial pilgrimage to which she had dedicated her failing—it too surely
seemed her last—energies.

I half hoped, too, that I might hear no more of her and her sorrows, and
with the varied contingencies of foreign service in the field before me,
there were ten chances to one against my ever doing so.

I had more than once asked of myself why this unfortunate young lady so
deeply interested me; and with what object, if not pure benevolence, and
to learn something of Berkeley’s movements, I sought or continued her
acquaintance.

To Louisa my love and constancy remained unshaken; and fanned anew by
the morning’s interview, they were stronger now than ever.  Yet,
to-night, some strange impulse urged me on this secret visit—one that I
had already resolved should be the last—-when prudence should have made
me pause, and even at the hazard of wounding Miss Auriol’s feelings,
have sent by the hand of Willie Pitblado the promised money to Mrs.
Goldsworthy.

Berkeley, from the first hour we met together at the mess of the
lancers, I had ever disliked, and I scarcely knew why; but, like the
Chevalier Achille, I felt that, "if I had a star of destiny, and that
man another, my star grew livid and pale when his crossed it."  It was
the old adage of Dr. Fell, and I had a conviction that he was
predestined to work me mischief in some way, or in some fashion, and now
the time had come.

I reached the cottage, left my horse at the little green trellis-work
porch, and was duly ushered into the presence of Miss Auriol by her
anxious and motherly old attendant.  She was seated in an easy-chair,
half propped up by pillows, and so great was the languor oppressing her,
that on this evening (for the air was remarkably close) she could
scarcely rise to greet me.

A small scarlet shawl was spread over her head; and its bright hue, when
taken in concert with the extreme pallor and purity of her complexion,
and the blackness of her smoothly banded hair, made the girl’s strange
beauty more fascinating and piquante than ever.

There was a charm in her half blush, her smiling bow, and the timid
grace with which she received me, which made me feel that, with all the
faults of the past, there was a great degree of worth and sincerity in
Agnes Auriol still, and that she merited a very different fate in life;
but, anxious to keep my appointment at the park, I at once handed her
the porte-monnaie containing the money, and without accepting the chair
proffered to me by Mrs. Goldsworthy, or even laying aside my hat, I
said—

"Miss Auriol, I have come in great haste, and am required elsewhere,
almost at this moment.  There you will find what you require for your
purpose and immediate necessities."

"Captain Norcliff, this kindness is too much—too much. Nurse Goldsworthy
told me that you had promised this gift; but I—I know not if I should
accept—if I dare accept it from you——"

Tears choked her utterance, and then came on a paroxysm of her hard,
dry, and racking cough.

I placed a hand caressingly on her head, and advised her to be careful
of her health, for that terrible cough——"Is all the hope I have now of
ultimate relief," said she, looking up, with her dark eyes swimming in
tears, and with a sublime brightness in them.  "My dear mamma died of
consumption, and with just such a cough; so did all my little brothers
and sisters; and the presentiment is strong within me that I shall join
them ere long—hence my wish, to die near the place where they lie."

"You must not talk in this mournful way, Miss Auriol—you are too
beautiful and too young to court such an early fate," said I.

"Yet my little golden-haired brother, for whom I toiled and starved
myself amid the vast and selfish wilderness of London, died earlier.
Oh, Captain Norcliff, I would that he and I had passed away together,
and now one grave might have held us; but then I had Berkeley to live
for—he had not as yet deceived me.  Love gave me hope, and I had my
father’s fair name to redeem.  I shall die soon—I know and feel it.
Consumption was my only inheritance, and the agony of mind I have so
long endured, since my days of toil and sin, has but served to encourage
and develop that terrible disease."

As she said this, her teeth chattered, as if with cold, and I turned her
chair nearer to the scanty fire that burned in the little grate.

"And this money, which you, sir, so kindly give me; I know not, as I
said before, whether I should accept it—indeed, I should not——"

"Nay, don’t offend me by a refusal," said I, taking her cold and slender
fingers in mine, and closing them over the packet of notes.

"But, sir—sir," she urged plaintively, "even if I am spared to live a
few years, I shall never be able to return it."

"Heed not that, Miss Auriol—you may outlive me; the end of this month
will see me far away from Britain."

She gazed at me earnestly and wistfully, and said—

"Heaven bless and protect you, sir!  My last prayers shall be for you
and for your safety," and bowing her face upon my hand, she kissed it
and wept, while I strove in vain to withdraw it; but at the same time
placed the other kindly on her head, to soothe and reassure her.

At that moment the door of the little parlour was thrown violently open,
and a cry of terror escaped Mrs. Goldsworthy. I looked up, and felt as
if I had been thunderstruck.

There stood Lady Louisa Loftus, and Cora, and Berkeley. Those three
here!  I mentally wondered who the deuce would come next.

I drew hurriedly back from Miss Auriol, who looked up in alarm, and then
her eyes wandered in bewilderment from the faces of her fair visitors,
till they settled with a sad, haggard, and beseeching stare, upon the
well-moustached face of Berkeley, who stood there with his usual
unmeaning smile.

"Doocid good tableau—haw!" he muttered.

"So—so this is the duty which prevented us from having the pleasure of
your company at dinner, Captain Norcliff?" said Lady Louisa.

"A pressing duty, doubtless," added Berkeley.

"Whence this intrusion?" I demanded, perceiving the whole network of
treachery at a glance.  "Whence this intrusion, Mr. Berkeley?" I
fiercely reiterated, while my heart swelled with passion at my equivocal
position, and I felt that my life, certainly the loss of Louisa’s love,
might pay the penalty of my supposed, and, for aught I knew, alleged
intrigue with a poor creature whom I simply pitied.

I felt that I was outwitted and overmatched by a cold-blooded, cunning,
and sarcastic parvenu; one of those padded and perfumed military snobs,
who are among her Majesty’s worst bargains, and who excite alike the
contempt of the soldier and the ridicule of the civilian.  I felt, too,
all the peril of my position, and almost quailed before the strange,
wild glitter of Louisa’s eyes, as she surveyed me.  They wore such a
smile as might have lit up those of Judith, when she writhed her white
fingers in the curly pate of the sleeping Holofernes.

"Did you hear me speak, Mr. Berkeley?" I thundered out.

"Aw—aw——" he was beginning.

"He will absolutely fight for this creature!" said Louisa, "Poor Cora, I
am sorry that you have to blush for your worthy cousin."

Instead of blushing, poor gentle Cora wept profusely, and knew not what
to think; terror seemed to be her prevailing emotion.

"What am I to understand by all this?" I resumed.  "You here, Lady
Loftus, and you, Cora?  Mr. Berkeley’s visit I might expect; but your
appearance here, ladies, and at this hour, is not involuntary.
Speak—explain—or rather, sir, I shall seek another place and time, and
if—as I too surely believe—this scene has been planned and developed by
you, Mr. Berkeley, woe to you, for your life shall pay the penalty."

He grew pale, and winced a little, and then resumed his eternal smile.

"Such a scene to figure in!" said Louisa, with lofty scorn; "but this
cottage shall be pulled down—it stands on papa’s land; and the steward
should be careful whom he permits as tenants in the vicinity of
Chillingham Park."

Crushed to the dust by shame, humiliation, and illness, poor Agnes
Auriol covered her face with her handkerchief, on which the blood-spots
increased with every fresh fit of coughing, and her old nurse, oblivious
of us all, spread her fat arms caressingly and protectingly round her;
but the hateful Berkeley looked coldly and pitilessly on.

"Hear me, Lady Louisa," said I; "and a few words will serve to explain
why I am here."

"Oh, your purse in that creature’s hand explains all, sir!" she replied,
with a cutting smile.

"Oh, Newton, Newton!" sobbed Cora; "it seems all too true—why should you
give that girl money?"

Berkeley was the object on which I should have turned; but Lady Louisa
fascinated me, and her presence and Cora’s alone prevented me from
knocking him down, or giving him a cut across the face with my
riding-whip.  Louisa was, indeed, a picture!

Drawn up to the fullest extent of her tall figure, she stood with her
stately head thrown well back, and her rounded form half turned away, as
if in disdain.  An ample Indian shawl of alternate black, gold, and
scarlet stripes had half fallen from her shoulder; her dress—she had
been preparing for dinner when she started on this unlucky and unseemly
errand—a bright, maize-coloured silk, with trimmings and flounces of
rich black lace, displayed the magnificent development of her bust and
lithe waist, and accorded well with her complexion. Her haughty nose,
with its slender pink nostrils, seemed to curl with anger, and her
forehead appeared lower than usual, so heavily fell the rippling masses
of dark hair over her face, which was paler than ever, though the blood
did flow furiously under that transparent skin as her anger gathered.

Her lips, usually scarlet as the petals of the fuschia, were now
colourless; the short upper one was defined and stern; the lower, full
and pouting, trembled with the emotion which she strove to repress; and
her glorious black eyes had in them a mingled expression of fierce
anger, deep reproach, sorrowing love for me, and shame for the whole
affair—such an expression as I hoped never to see in them again.

When her anger prevailed, it was no summer lightning that flashed from
the dark eyes of Louisa—for even her great Saxon ancestor, Lofthus, who
held that thanedom in Yorkshire, before England’s conqueror came over at
the head of his high-born housebreakers, had not a prouder or more fiery
temper.

She gave me a deep, earnest, silent, and tearful glance, that said more
than a thousand words, and, taking Cora by the hand, turned and retired
from the cottage before I could speak—turned with the air of one alike
convinced and resolved.

Berkeley, usually so cool and blasé, had also a strange light in his
eyes; but it was such a glitter as one might expect to see in the
carbuncly orbs of the hooded snake; and having, evidently, no desire to
be left with me alone, he turned rather precipitately and followed the
ladies.

Just as he was leaving the cottage, however, I made a spring after him,
and grasping his shoulder, wheeled him fiercely round until he faced me.

"Mr. Berkeley," said I, in the hoarse, low voice of concentrated
passion, "to-night, at head-quarters, this matter shall be arranged for
a meeting to-morrow.  Your life or mine must be the penalty of this
little sensation scene, which your infernal malice has so skilfully
contrived!"

"Aw—aw—don’t understand, unless you mean——"

"That you must meet me, sir," said I, as with my leather riding-glove I
struck him full across the face; "meet me on other ground than this."

His eyes flashed now, and he grew very pale, while his fingers twitched
convulsively; but, resuming his smile, he said—

"You are warm, Captain Norcliff—out of temper, and rude, in fact;
but—aw—bah! people don’t fight duels nowadays, in our service, at least.
Since Munro of the Horse Guards fought that doocid duel with Fawcett of
the 55th, a hostile meeting has become a hanging affair—a little matter
for a coroner’s jury and Calcraft’s consideration.  So—aw—keep your
temper, and _au revoir_."

Lady Loftus and Cora, who had already sprung unaided into the phaeton,
were calling upon him—upon him, and not upon me!—so he lifted his hat,
with a bow of ironical politeness, and joined them, after which I soon
heard the sound of the wheels die away in the distance.

For a moment I remained as if stunned by the suddenness and peculiarity
of the whole affair; the next moment all my resolutions were taken.

I returned to the parlour, where Miss Auriol was still sobbing, but not
violently—she was too weak for that.

"Mrs. Goldsworthy," said I, "you must have perceived the false position
in which we have been placed to-night, and must be aware that I can
return no more.  Keep for Miss Auriol the money I have given her, and be
as you have hitherto been, loving and faithful.  So now good-bye."

I felt the impropriety and indelicacy of further protracting so
unpleasant an interview, and, lightly pressing the passive hands of the
girl and of her nurse, before either could speak I had left the cottage,
and was in my saddle, spurring like a madman along the highway towards
the barracks on the Thanet road, intent only on exposing Berkeley and
avenging myself.

My subalterns, Frank Jocelyn and Sir Harry Scarlett, were too young and
inexperienced to be consulted in the matter, so I resolved to start by
the night train for Maidstone, and lay it before my older friends at
head-quarters.

I gave my horse to my groom, Lanty O’Regan, and hurried to my rooms, and
took out my pistol-case, as my only luggage. I felt hot, feverish, mad
almost, and a goblet of well-iced champagne failed to soothe me.  I
heard the laughter, the clinking of glasses, and the joviality of the
hussar mess ringing through the open windows as I crossed the dark
barrack square on my way to the railway station; but when I was about to
issue from the main-guard gate Pitblado placed in my hand a little
packet, which a mounted servant had just brought for me, and which
seemed to contain a little box.

Trembling, I opened it by the light of the main-guard lantern, and found
it to contain my ring—my famous Rangoon ring—_returned_.

I placed it quietly on the finger from whence I had drawn it when at
Calderwood Glen, and thanking the sentry who held the lantern with some
smiling remark, continued my way to the train, which soon bore me to
Maidstone.

Though I knew it not, Berkeley was in another compartment of the
carriage I occupied.



                            *CHAPTER XXII.*


    Your words have took such pains, as if they laboured
    To bring manslaughter into form, set quarrelling
    Upon the head of valour:—
    He’s truly valiant that can wisely suffer
    The worst that man can breathe, and make his wrongs
    His outsides; wear them like his raiment carelessly,
    And ne’er prefer his injuries to his heart,
    To bring it into danger.
    If wrongs be evils, and enforce us kill,
    What folly ’tis to hazard life for ill!
      TIMON OF ATHENS.


To write to Lady Louisa a full explanation of the affair was among the
first of my resolutions; but would she believe me?—one against whom
appearances, already, no doubt, coloured, distorted, and elaborated by
Berkeley’s cunning insinuations, were so strong?

Without a word of inquiry, or hearing any exculpation, she and Cora had
retired together, and with him, under his requested escort.  What fatal
use would he not make of the time thus given him!  On, on went the swift
train; but to me even the express seemed a laggard to-night!

Alas! that she I loved so deeply should think so meanly of me, as she
undoubtedly did now.

If I called Berkeley out, and shot him, risking and breaking alike the
civil and military laws of the land, I knew that my uncle would forgive,
and that Cora would weep for me; I knew how Louisa would nervously
shrink from the publicity of such an affair; but I knew also that none
of them would forgive me for an alleged liaison with a creature
apparently so worthless as the cast-off mistress of another—a liaison by
which I lost the love of one so brilliant as the heiress of Chillingham.
Of all such transactions, the old fox-hunting baronet, the mirror of
honour, had a great horror, and within the seas that wash our shores
there was no nobler heart than his.  As yet, I could not see the end of
the affair; my heart was swollen, and my head giddy, with rage; I longed
only for friendly advice, and swift vengeance!  If the story reached the
ears of Sir Nigel, and he cut off my allowance, my pay as a captain of
cavalry of the line—to wit, fourteen shillings and seven pence per
diem—even with the contingent allowance of seventy or eighty pounds per
annum (for burials and repair of arms, &c.), would never support me,
even on service, in such an expensive corps as ours; thus, if I was a
ruined man, it was all through the wiles of Berkeley!  Pecuniarily I
could not remain, and to retire, sell, resign, or exchange for India at
such a crisis, when war was already declared in Europe, would be only to
court disgrace and destruction.

Under any circumstances, to "send in my papers" was social ruin.  I
would sell my troop, and follow the regiment as a volunteer lancer,
rather than not go to the seat of war in the East; and all this dilemma,
this vortex of tormenting thought, this agony of anticipated shame,
united with the loss of Louisa Loftus, I owed to the machinations, the
hatred, and the jealousy of the only man I really disliked or despised
in the whole regiment.  At last I reached the barracks (where the last
trumpet of tattoo had long since sounded), and sought the quarters of
Jack Studhome, whom, to my confusion, and somewhat to my annoyance, I
found engaged with the colonel on military business.  In fact, with the
aid of a couple of decanters of very unexceptionable mess port, and a
box of cigars, they were going over the "Description Book," which, for
the information of readers not in the cavalry, I may mention is one of
the sixteen ledgers kept by the regimental staff, being a register of
the age, size, and description of the horses in each troop; the names
and residence of the persons from whom they were bought, with the date
of their purchase, and so forth, a column being appropriated for
remarks, to show the manner in which each horse is disposed of.

"You here, Norcliff?" exclaimed Colonel Beverley, with surprise, as he
closed the volume.

"Excuse me, colonel, I know that I should be at Canterbury; but I have
ventured to head-quarters on a matter so very particular——"

"Now, Norcliff, what the devil is up?" interrupted Studhome, getting
fresh glasses the while, and pushing the cigar-box towards me.

"Nothing wrong with your troop, eh?" said our lieutenant-colonel,
lowering his eyebrows.

"No, colonel—a personal matter has brought me here," I replied, while
they, perceiving that I was pale and agitated, exchanged glances of
inquiry.

"We shall soon be off, Norcliff," said the colonel; "Travers and others
have disposed of their spare horses; Scriven has sent his stud to
Tattersall’s; the drag we shall leave here with the depôt.  Wilford’s
yacht rides at Cowes with the symbolical broom at her masthead.  I have
been changing the dismounted men every three days, so that, come what
may, all shall be perfect lancers when the complete mount arrives; and
we have had the horses inspected once in each week by the veterinary
surgeon, to ascertain whether there is among them any contagious
disease, as that, you know, would play the deuce with us on service.
Dragoons without horses (poor Beverley foresaw not the horrors awaiting
the cavalry before Sebastopol) would be like rifles without locks.  I
also wish the corps to be supplied with water-decks,[*] but cannot get
them; and now, Norcliff, that you have drawn breath, empty your glass,
and say in what manner we can assist you."


[*] A piece of painted canvas, to cover the saddle, bridle, and girths
of a cavalry horse, and sometimes pegged to the ground.  The name of the
corps was usually painted on the outside; and when the trooper was
mounted for service, the deck was strapped over his portmanteau.


"You shall hear, colonel," said I, taking his proffered hand; "I sought
Studhome to obtain his advice, as my oldest and one of my most valued
friends in the regiment, and I shall gladly avail myself of yours, under
the pledge of secrecy, as the name of a lady is concerned in what I
shall have the honour to relate to you."

"Ah," said the colonel, throwing open his frogged surtout, and half
closing his eyes, as he lounged on two chairs, with the air of one who
waits and listens, "this prologue bodes something unpleasant."

Beverley’s voice and manner were slightly affected, but withal were very
pleasing.  He was, as I have said elsewhere, a very handsome man, of
middle age, with a keen dark grey eye, and close crisp hair, somewhat of
a drawler in speech, but well and powerfully built, broad-shouldered,
lean-flanked, and a good average dragoon officer.  Under excitement his
features and bearing changed; he became brief and rapid; his lips became
decided, though his very black moustache concealed them.

I related succinctly the story of Miss Auriol, and the slanders
concerning me circulated in Maidstone—slanders of which Studhome was
quite cognizant; I adverted to my engagement with Lady Louisa, and
detailed the trap I had fallen into, and the use Berkeley had made of
it, adding that I had resolved to parade him—to call him out, and had
told him so, face to face.

"Ah, and what did he say?" asked the colonel, knocking the ashes from
his cigar with a jewelled finger.

"If you lived till the age of Methusaleh, Colonel Beverley, you would
never guess."

"Well?"

"Putting his glass in his eye, he lisped out coolly, ’Bah! people don’t
fight duels now.  In our service at least, since Munro’s fatal affair
with Fawcett,[*] hostile meetings have been hanging matters.’"


[*] The disastrous and reckless duel referred to—the last, I think,
fought in our service—occurred in 1844, between the husbands of two
sisters, in a quarrel about monetary matters—Lieutenant-Colonel David L.
Fawcett, C.B., of the 55th Regiment, and Lieutenant and Adjutant
Alexander T. Monro, of the Royal Horse Guards.  The former was killed,
and the latter, after suffering a short imprisonment, was restored to
the service, but not to his regiment.  The circumstances must be fresh
in the memory of some of my readers.


"The greater pity, say I," continued Beverley.

"And he actually replied to you thus?" said Studhome.

"These were his words, or nearly so."

Beverley’s brow knit, and a contemptuous smile curled his proud lip.

"Such cool impudence is delicious," said he, laughing.

"But the matter cannot end thus!" I exclaimed, impetuously.

"Of course not, my dear fellow—of course not.  Yet if the affair comes
before the mess or the public, how are we to keep the name of Lady
Loftus out of it?  Though he might relish the éclât of having his
trumpery cognomen jingled with that of Lord Chillingham’s daughter, and
with yours, it is a very different matter for Lady Louisa.  We must be
cautious and circumspect, or we shall land you between the horns of a
dilemma.  Women make men’s quarrels infernally complicated."

"I shall gladly avail myself of your advice, colonel, and Studhome shall
act as my friend."

Jack summoned his servant by a rapid process peculiar to barracks, and
despatched him to the main guard to inquire whether Mr. Berkeley had
passed in.

The answer came promptly that he was in his quarters.

"How long has he been there?"

"About half an hour, sir."

"Egad, Norcliff, you have come by the same train from Canterbury," said
the colonel, after the servant had withdrawn.  "How if you had been in
the same compartment?"

"I might have been tempted to throw him out of the window."

"Studhome, see Berkeley, and arrange this matter; but remember the
honour of the regiment," said the colonel, "as well as that of your
friend, for at all risks and hazards I will have no public scandal about
us—no handle given to the wretched whipsters of the newspaper press,
when we are on the eve of departure for the seat of war."

"Trust me, colonel," said Jack, as he lit a fresh cigar, donned his
gold-laced forage cap very much over the right ear, took up his
riding-whip from force of habit, and hurried away.

The time of his absence passed slowly.  I was in a dilemma, out of which
I did not clearly see my way; and the colonel continued to punish Jack’s
port, to smoke in silence, and peruse the "Description Book."

Deeply in my heart I cursed alike the amenities of civilized life and
the laws of modern society, which deprived me of the means of swift and
certain retribution, even at the risk of my own life and limbs.  Such
trammels, in these days of well-ordered police, luckily, perhaps, compel
us to conceal our hates and animosities; to submit quietly to wrong,
insult, and obloquy, for which the very laws that pretend to protect and
guide us afford no due reparation; trammels that avail greatly the
coarse, the cowardly, and the mean, who may thus sneer or insult with
impunity, when in the old pistol days their lives would have paid the
forfeit; and whatever may have been the folly, error, or wickedness of
duelling as a system, there can be no doubt that, when men had the test
of moral courage as a last resort, the tone of society was higher,
healthier, and better, especially in the army.  Then practical jokes,
rudeness, and quizzing were unknown at a mess-table; while an open wrong
or insult bore with it the terrible penalty of a human life.

By the rules of the service I knew that no officer or soldier could send
a challenge to any other officer or soldier to fight a duel, lest, if a
commissioned officer, under the pain of being cashiered; if a
non-commissioned officer or soldier, of suffering corporal punishment,
or such other award as a court-martial might inflict.

The penalties of the civil law I knew to be still more severe; and yet
John Selden, one of England’s most able, learned, and patriotic lawyers,
says that "a duel may still be granted by the law of England, and only
then.  That the Church allowed it once appears by this: in their public
liturgies there were prayers appointed for the duellists to say; the
judge used to bid them to go to such a church and pray, &c. But whether
this is lawful?  If you make war lawful, I make no doubt to convince you
of it.  War is lawful because God is the only judge between two that are
supreme.  Now, if a difference happen between two subjects, and it
cannot be decided by human testimony, why may they not put it to God to
judge between them, with the permission of the prince? Nay; what if we
should bring it down—for argument’s sake—to the sword.  One gives me the
lie: it is a great disgrace to take it; the law has made no provision to
give remedy for the injury (if you can suppose anything an injury for
which the law gives no remedy), why am not I, in this case, supreme, and
may, therefore, right myself?"

While Beverley and I began to talk over such things, Studhome was, as he
phrased it, "bringing Berkeley to book" in the affair.

He found that gentleman in rather a perturbed state of mind, soothing
himself with a cigar, as he lounged in his vest and trousers on a
luxurious sofa, in his elegantly-furnished room, the walls of which were
covered with coloured engravings of horses and ballet-girls.  A tall
crystal goblet on the table bore evident traces of brandy and
seltzer-water having been recently imbibed therefrom.

"So, after all that has occurred, you won’t meet Norcliff, as he
wishes?" asked Jack, after the matter had been thoroughly gone into.

"Aw—decidedly not," said he, emitting his words and a slender volume of
smoke slowly together.

"In Britain, at least, as the law stands now, I can scarcely blame you,
Mr. Berkeley," said Studhome, stiffly; "but as the orders from London
stand, we are soon to leave, and something must be done in the matter;
for, as it is at present, you cannot both remain in the same regiment."

"Aw—doocid good that," replied Berkeley, twirling up his moustache;
"but—aw—who is the muff that is to quit it, now that we have orders of
readiness?"

"You, sir," said Jack, rather perplexed.

"Thank you; but—aw—beg to decline.  And this mysterious something which
must be done—aw—eh?"

"I would recommend a candid confession on your part; such an
explanation, in writing, as my friend, Captain Norcliff, may show to
Lady Loftus and then commit to the flames, or return it to you."

"The deuce!" drawled Berkeley, holding his cigar at arm’s length, and
wheeling the sofa half round, to have a better view of our adjutant.
"Is there any other little thing you would like?"

"I think not, sir."

"My good friend, Studhome, you are, I have not a doubt, a very excellent
adjutant, well up in lance, sword, and pistol exercise—knowing how to
’set a squadron in the field,’ like the amiable Othello; but
you—aw—aw—must really permit me to be the best judge of my own affairs."

Studhome bowed haughtily, and then stood, cap and whip in hand, erect;
so Berkeley resumed—

"You are aware of the whispers concerning Norcliff and that girl, Agnes
Auriol—isn’t that her name?"

"Yes, sir; I am aware there have been malicious whispers, and I have my
eyes now on the circulator of them."

"Very good," said Berkeley, colouring slightly; "they are very current
among the 16th Lancers and 8th Hussars.  I have known a little of the
girl; but have—aw—tired of her now.  We all tire, my dear fellow, of
such affairs in time. Take a cigar—aw—you won’t—what a bore! well, so my
advice to your irritated Scotch friend would be that, as she is at
perfect liberty to leave my protection, she may enter quietly upon his;
so there is an end to the doocid affair."

"So you may affect to think," said Studhome, eyeing the lounger with
angry scorn.

"What could be more equivocal, as Lady Loftus admitted, than the
circumstances under which we found them?  He was supporting—actually
caressing her; and then there was his proffered fifty-pound note.  My
dear fellow, people are not such devilish fools as—aw—to give fifty
pounds to such girls for—aw—nothing!"

"Whatever you may pretend to think, or affect to say, of that affair, of
my friend’s ultimate intentions, as a man of spirit, you cannot be
unaware."

"Aw—I don’t choose to speculate upon them."

"This trifling, sir, is insufferable!  He may lash you in the face with
his whip before the whole regiment, when Beverley wheels it into line
to-morrow, and so make you a scandal to us, to Maidstone, and the entire
British Army, from the Life Guards to the Cape Rifles."

"Lash me?"

"Yes; and soundly too!"

"I don’t think he will."

"Why?"

"For then the whole story would come out, there would be an
arrest—aw—and court of inquiry, and my Lady Louisa Loftus would have her
august name paragraphed in every paper, from the _Morning Post_
downwards."

"And under this belief in his forbearance, which pays my friend a high
compliment, you actually shelter yourself?" said worthy Jack Studhome,
with intense scorn.

"I shall take my chance."

"Then, sir, cunning as you are, and though believing that my friend must
submit to lie under a vile imputation, and, if it so happen, be ruined
with Lady Louisa Loftus and his friends, you cannot expect to get off
scot free.  The devil! we live in strange times.  Are we sunk so low
that officers and gentlemen, that honourable and gallant members, that
noble lords, that counsellors learned in the law, and even jolly
students, are to settle their disputes in pothouse fashion, by womanly
vituperation or vulgar fisticuffs, without ever dreaming of a recourse
to the pistol?  Men of all ranks, from the premier peer down to the
anonymous scribblers of the daily press—

    Those grovelling, trodden, whipt, stript, turncoat things,
    Made up of volumes, venom, stains, and stings,—

may now brand each other as liars, cowards, and ruffians, with perfect
impunity.  Do you understand me, sir?"

"Not quite."

"How so?  I speak plain enough!"

"Such fellows are—aw—out of my way."

"Then you will understand this, sir," said Studhome, grasping him
fiercely by the shoulder, and with an expression in his eye which made
even the insouciance of Berkeley to evaporate, "a few weeks must see us
in the Levant, on the shores of Turkey, and before the enemy.  A duel
shall come off there, and to evade alike the laws of Britain and the
rules of the service, the seconds shall bind themselves by a solemn
promise to declare that he who may be wounded, or he who may be killed,
was struck by a chance shot from the enemy. You comprehend this
arrangement, sir?"

"Perfectly."

"And your friend—who is he to be?"

"Captain Scriven, of ours."

"Good—I shall see him instantly."

"So that was your arrangement, Studhome?" asked Beverley.

"Yes; there was no other way.  Scriven promises and agrees, and has
passed his word for secrecy.  Do you approve, colonel?"

"Why, I suppose that I must; and you, Norcliff?" he inquired.

"Wish to Heaven that I saw Malta, or even Gibraltar, sinking into the
sea upon our lee quarter!" said I, with fierce fervour, as I shook
Studhome’s hand, and for that night, at least, was obliged to content
me, and return to my troop at Canterbury.

"If one in our ranks shows the white feather before the Russians, I
believe Berkeley will be the man," said Beverley, as he and Studhome
smoked a last cigar with me on the platform before the down-train
started.



                            *CHAPTER XXIII.*


    Since there’s no help, come let us kisse and part.
    Nay, I have done; you get no more of me;
    And I am glad—yea, glad with all my heart—
    That thus so clearly I myself can free;
    Shake hands for ever.  DRAYTON, 1612.


Unslept and unrefreshed, after returning to Canterbury, I found myself
next day at morning parade, and undergoing all the routine of regimental
drill, by troop and squadron, with the hussar corps to which we were
attached, while my thoughts and wishes were apparently a thousand miles
away from the present time and circumstances.

The prospect of "satisfaction," as it is termed, even in the unusual
mode in which it was to be obtained, and though deferred, soothed me;
but how was I circumstanced with Louisa?  She believed me untrue to her!
I was still under the false colours in which the artful Berkeley had
contrived to show me.

My ring was returned, and though I still wore hers, our engagement
seemed to be silently, tacitly broken; her miniature I would look upon
no more—its features filled me with rage and torture.

Over the day which followed my last unlucky visit to the cottage near
the Reculvers I shall gladly hurry.  Ordering my horse—the black
cover-hack with the white star on its counter—I was about to start for a
ride, before mess, towards Ashford, when Pitblado placed in my hand two
notes, which had just come by post.  On one I recognised the handwriting
of Cora; on the other the coronet and monogram of the Countess of
Chillingham!  My heart leaped to my head, and I tore open the latter
first.

It was simply a card of invitation in the usual form—the Earl and
Countess of Chillingham requested the honour of Captain Norcliff’s
company at a friendly dinner, at eight o’clock on the evening of the
20th inst.—only three days hence, so the time was brief; but then we
were under orders of readiness, and everywhere troops—horse, foot, and
artillery—were pouring towards Southampton and other places for
embarkation.  The note concluded by mentioning that Sir Nigel Calderwood
was expected from Scotland.

The invitation was perplexing; but I reflected that the earl and
Countess were alike ignorant of the relations that had existed between
their daughter and me, and the sharp wrench by which those tender
relations had been so suddenly broken.

I could not refuse; and if I accepted, how was I to meet Louisa?  And
now, what said Cora?

Her dear little note was brief and rapid, but explained all, and more
than I could have hoped for.  Miss Agnes Auriol, on seeing the false
position in which Berkeley had contrived to place me, had generously
transmitted, last night, by her old nurse, all the letters she possessed
of Mr. Berkeley, and these had served completely to explain her
relations with him, and to exonerate me, affording a complete clue to
what had already excited their suspicion and surprise—Berkeley’s
intimate knowledge of the cottage, and the strange fact of his
possessing a latch-key for it.

"Louisa knows everything, and now believes that she has been too
precipitate;" so ran the note.  "Restore her ring when you meet, and I
shall tell you a great deal when we see you here.  It is Louisa’s
request that you meet her as if nothing had taken place.  Will you
believe it, that yesterday morning, before that horrid scene occurred,
Berkeley had actually proposed to her in form, and been
rejected—rejected, dear Newton, and for you?  (This part of the note was
singularly blurred, blotted, and ill-expressed for Cora.)  I need not
tell you to make yourself pleasant, for papa is expected, and Lord
Slubber is to be here."

A postscript added that the packet of letters had been returned to the
cottage that morning by a servant—but he found the place locked up, and
the inmates gone, none could tell him whither; so, in this dilemma, they
had been posted to Berkeley himself, at Maidstone barracks.[*]


[*] When serving in the East, a paragraph in a Welsh newspaper recorded
the death of Agnes Auriol in the parish where her father had been
incumbent.  She was found dead at the stile which led to the village
burying-ground; and the verdict of the jury was "Death by the visitation
of God."


I answered the notes, gave them to Pitblado to post, and turned along
the Ashford Road like one in a dream, letting the reins drop on my
horse’s neck, and having ample food for serious reflection and mature
consideration; for all these meetings, communications, and passages so
momentous to me had been crammed into the short space of barely two
days.

There were yet three days to pass before I should again see Louisa, hear
her voice, and be gladdened by her smile.

Three days were a short invitation to a fashionable household, even to
an officer in country quarters, but they seemed three centuries to me.

I felt, too, that I never enjoyed Louisa’s society less than amid her
own family circle.  True, my name was not recorded in Douglas, Debrett,
or any other _libre d’or_ of Scottish or English nobility, but I was not
the less a gentleman, and my whole soul fired up—almost with red
republicanism—at the cool bearing usually assumed towards me by my Lady
Chillingham.

A few hours since, the idea of being made a mark for a Muscovite bullet,
or a Cossack lance, had not been a matter of much moment; now that the
cloud had dispersed, that I knew Louisa loved me still—now that I felt
once more all the witchery with which the love of such a girl can
enhance existence—now that the sweet dream was no longer, as it had been
at Calderwood, a mere dream, but a delicious reality—I came to the
conclusion that war was an impertinent bore, glory a delusion and a
snare, Mars and Bellona a couple of humbugs—the former a rowdy, and the
latter no better than she should be.

I can really assure the reader that I would have borne the intelligence
of a sudden peace with great Christian fortitude and perfect equanimity
of mind; and had it pleased the Emperor Nicholas and the Western Powers
to shake hands, and leave unmolested the Crimea and the "sick man" at
Stamboul, certainly none would have blessed their quiet intentions more
than I, Newton Norcliff.

But fate had ordained it otherwise; and, like the Roman senator, their
"voice was still for war!"

The eventful evening of the "20th instant" saw me ushered into the
drawing-room at Chillingham Park, and on this occasion I went in full
uniform, knowing well that it enhances the interest with which one is
viewed, in times when the atmosphere is so redolent of gunpowder, as it
certainly was at this period of my story; and when one is made up—

    By youth, by love, and by an army tailor,

the impression is generally favourable.

Circumstances fluttered me, and it was not without an unwonted emotion
of confusion I made my way among ottomans, buhl tables, and
glass-shades, and seeming to see in the reflecting mirrors at least one
hundred figures in lancer uniform traversing the vast perspectives.

Even the usual cold and haughty countess received me with cordiality
(she was soon to be rid of me for ever, perhaps). Lord Chillingham, a
dignified old peer, whom it is difficult to describe, as there was an
absence of characteristics, and nothing remarkable about him, save the
extreme length of his white waistcoat, met me with the polite and
pleasing warmth he accorded to all whom he cared nothing about.

Cora hurried forward to meet me, looking, I thought, very pale, and not
very becomingly dressed—in deep dark blue silk, with black lace
flounces—and beyond her I saw Lady Louisa.  When I approached the
latter, my temples throbbed painfully, and I played nervously with the
tassels of my gold sash, like a raw boy who had just reported his having
joined.

She was calm, collected, and grave—fashionably, painfully so—but then
your well-bred Britons do so hate a scene that they have learned the art
of keeping every emotion under the most complete control, relaxing the
curb only when it suits themselves.

Save Cora, who witnessed our smiling and pleasant meeting, our suave
exchange of bows, and a slight pressure of the hand, none could have
read the thoughts that filled our eyes and hearts, and still less could
they have imagined the stormy adieux of the other evening.  The diamond
drops that glittered in Louisa’s eyes as she met me did not run over;
but were absorbed by her thick dark lashes, as she closed them for an
instant, and then looked down.  She was simply dressed in white silk,
with diamond ornaments, and strings of pearls among the braids of her
magnificent black hair.

"I invited your friend, Mr. De Warr Berkeley, for the evening," said the
countess, "but the invitation, I fear, was too short, and unfortunately,
he pleaded a pre-engagement."

At that moment a bright and intelligent smile flashed in Louisa’s eye.
In fact, the whole of the late affair was known only to the actors
therein—unless I included Beverley and Studhome.

"Captain Calderwood Norcliff—my Lord Slubber," said the earl, as he led
me forward to an old gentleman, who was stooping over the chair of the
countess, with whom he was smiling and conversing in a polite monotone.

"Ah—indeed—have much pleasure," said this personage, bowing, with a
broad conventional smile, and giving two of his withered fingers; "any
relation of Sir Nigel Calderwood?"

"His nephew."

"De-lighted to see you, my dear sir.  Sir Nigel is here—arrived this
morning."

"We but wait his appearance for dinner; our party is small, as you see,
Captain Norcliff," said the countess, who was certainly still beautiful,
being a larger, older, and more stately version of Louisa, and a
powdered toupee would well have suited her face and stature.

Amid vapid discussions or desultory remarks about the probabilities of
the war, the weather, and the crops, with my Lord Aberdeen’s suspicious
policy—ante-dinner remarks—while my eyes from time to time sought those
of Louisa, I studied the aspect of my wealthy rival, who, little
suspecting the secret of my heart, had immediately engaged me in
conversation.

Lord Slubber was not so tall as he had been; his features, though finely
cut, were somewhat flabby now, and had become a mass of undoubted
wrinkles, yet he had been deemed "the handsomest man of his day," a
period on which we shall not venture to speculate.  The veteran roué
considered himself "a lively dog" yet, and hoped to achieve conquests.
Thus his teeth were a brilliant triumph of art over nature, and though
his head was bare and smooth as a billiard-ball, his pendulous cheeks
wore a delicate little pink hue there could be no doubt about.

His face, with its long, aristocratic nose, somewhat prominent chin, and
receding forehead, and his perpetual simpering smile, reminded one of
the portraits of Beau Nash, and made one fancy how well he would have
suited the powder and ruffles, the bagwig and small-sword of the early
days of George III., rather than the odious black swallow-tail and
waiter-like costume of the present age.

And this garrulous old beau—this "lean and slippered pantaloon"—was the
descendant and representative of the great Norman line of Slobar de
Gullion, who had hamstrung the Saxon Kerne in the New Forest, extracted
the grinders of the sons of Judah; who had made their mark (as an Irish
navvy might do) at Magna Charta, and ridden in all their ironmongery in
Edward’s ranks at Bannockburn, and in Henry’s at Agincourt.

My satisfaction in finding myself still the lover of Louisa, and again
the guest of her father, was somewhat dashed by the presence of this, in
some respects, formidable rival, who, as the countess informed me in a
whisper, was about to be created a marquis for his zealous support of
Lord Aberdeen’s administration, and was to be decorated with the Garter,
of which the Emperor Nicholas had just been deprived.

I muttered something by way of reply, and Lady Louisa, who was seated
near us on an ottoman, said, laughingly, behind her fan—

"A marquis and K.G.  Oh, mamma, such an old quiz it is! But, only
imagine, he has been proposing to take us all, and Cora, too, in his
yacht to Constantinople—or even to the Black Sea, if we wish it."

"How kind of him."

"She carries brass guns, and he believes he may assist Admiral Lyons, if
necessary."

"Remember that he is a devoted admirer of yours," I heard Lady
Chillingham whisper, with a glance which repressed her daughter’s desire
to laugh outright.

"Hush, mamma," she replied, shutting her fan sharply; "confidences are
unusual in you; and as for he you speak of, his appearance is quite
enough to make one grow old."

Whether the countess would have checked this unseemly remark, which I
could not help overhearing with joy, I know not, for at that moment the
roar of the dinner-gong was heard in the vestibule, and my uncle, Sir
Nigel, looking hale, hearty, and ruddy, with his silver hair all shining
and waving, entered, and shook hands with all, but with none so warmly
as me. He wore a dark grey riding-coat, top-boots, and white corded
breeches, a costume for which he apologized to the countess, and then
turned again to me.

"Egad, Newton, glad to see you, my dear boy—in uniform, too—how well the
fellow looks in his sash and epaulettes! Your pardon for being so late,
Lady Chillingham; but I rode over to the barracks, thinking to accompany
Newton here. How glad Willie, my old keeper’s son, was to see me!
Returning, I lost my way among a network of green lanes and hedgerows;
but as your Kent here is as flat as a billiard-table, when compared with
Fife and Kinross, the slopes of the Lomonds, and the Saline hills, I
rode straight for Chillingham, rushing my horse at hedges, sunk fences,
and everything that came in its way, in defiance of threats against
trespassers, and so forth, and I am here!"

"Coming as became the master of the Fife hounds, eh, Sir Nigel?" said
the countess; "but now I shall take your arm."

The earl led Cora, Slubber gave his arm to Lady Louisa; and I thought of
honest Chaucer’s "January and May," as I brought up the rear, solus,
playing with the tassels of my sash, and gnawing my moustache, as we
marched through a double line of liveried servants to the dining-room,
where I contrived to seat myself on her other side.

There was an air of propriety about old Slubber, which, though it made
Louisa laugh, was intensely provoking to me, who had to keep my
conventional distance.  However, I could cross a country with her when
riding to hounds, and claim her lithe waist for a waltz when occasion
offered; thank heaven! our senile Anglo-Norman was beyond these, and a
few other things now; and she gave me many a bright and intelligent
glance from under her long black eyelashes, which were almost curled at
the tips—recognitions of which his self-satisfied lordship was in
blissful ignorance.

I had the engagement ring to restore; but in the meantime our
conversation was confined to dinner-table twaddle, and as the dinner was
served up _à la Russe_, and all the carving done aside, even its
courtesies were abolished: so we confabulated with much hollow
earnestness on the prevalent rumour that all the cavalry, light and
heavy, were to march through France to Marseilles, the last batch of
novels from Mudie’s, the race meetings, the future Derby, and other
topics equally far from our hearts; and then we had to laugh at old Lord
Slubber, when he perpetrated the joke that every small wit did at that
time.

"Turkey, my lord?" said a servant.

"Thanks—a slice—just what Nicholas wants."

"And what you, Newton, and other fellows, must prevent him from getting,
eh?" said Sir Nigel.

To return our engagement ring was the chief object that agitated me
during dinner; and, on perceiving that Louisa had drawn the glove off
her lovely left hand, I almost thought the return was thereby invited;
and as we dawdled over the dessert, which was served up on the earl’s
favourite Rose du Barri service of Sèvres china, and while Slubber waxed
eloquent on his friend Lord Aberdeen’s doubtful policy, which my uncle
tore all to fritters, I contrived, unseen, to place my Rangoon diamond
in her hand, which closed upon it and mine, with a rapid, but nervous
pressure, which sent a thrill to my heart, and a flush to my cheek.

It was done!

Recovering—if, indeed, she ever lost it—her complete composure, she
asked me, with a smile, as if casually, how I liked the family motto,
which was graven round the champagne goblets.

"_Prends moi tel que je suis_," she added, reading it.

"I understand it with delight," said I.

"Take me such as I am," she translated, with a glance which filled me
with joy.

Poor old Slubber knew nothing of the little enigma that was being acted
almost under his aristocratic nose, and amid such trivial remarks as
these—

"What bin is this port from, Mr. ——?" naming the butler.

"Good, remarkable port, my Lord—bin ten—vintage, 1820; it is the finest
old wine in the county of Kent."

"Don’t taste so," said Lord Chillingham; in fact, it had been voted out
of the servants’ hall as intolerable.  "And the sherry—eh?"

"Pale, my lord," whispered the butler; "you paid three hundred a butt
for it—from the small bin."

"Good—uncork some of the Moselle."

In the calm, inscrutable face, and tutored bearing of Louisa Loftus, no
one could have read the deep secret we had just shared in—the
reconciliation of two ardent and anxious hearts—the bond of love and
trust renewed; but this strange power of veiling all agitation at times
is incident alike to birth and training, and to the local influences of
these in the present time, when in modern society the human face is too
often a mere mask which conceals every emotion, exhibiting a calm
exterior, however at variance with the mind or disposition of the
person; thus, though her pride and self-esteem had been recently stung
to madness, and her heart had been crushed within her, now, under the
revulsion incident to a great joy, and reunion with me, Louisa was able
to wreathe her sweet face with a quiet and well-bred smile, while she
listened to the senile gabble of my Lord Slubber.

Great emotions, like those excited by the affair of Agnes Auriol, seldom
can remain long, and must subside; Louisa was quite subdued, and sunk in
softness and love to-night. She was all that I could desire—my own
Louisa.

The gentlemen soon joined the ladies in the drawing-room, and I drew at
once near Louisa, who was again seated on the same ottoman with Cora.
Lady Chillingham was idling in an easy-chair, half asleep, near the
fire, with her feet placed on the velvet fender-stool, and a silky
lapdog on her knee; but she roused herself on the approach of Lord
Slubber to whisper one of his old-fashioned compliments, coined in the
age when gallantry was a study.

"And you think the cavalry will not go through France?" said Louisa,
taking up, after a time, the thread of some of her former remarks, while
Cora fixed her tender and beautiful eyes kindly on my face.

"It is extremely doubtful," said I.

"And why so, Newton?" asked Cora.

"Because, cousin, it is feared that the red coats will not be popular in
France; and then there are the Scots Greys, who are literally covered
with trophies of Waterloo;[*] they especially would prove a very
unpalatable spectacle to the men of the Second Empire."


[*] This circumstance delayed for a time the appearance of the Greys in
the ranks of the allied army.  They departed from Nottingham in July,
1854, with their band playing "Scots wha hae," &c.


"Your route will be a long but very pleasant one, by classic seas and
classic shores," said Louisa.  "Shall we trace it on the map of the
Mediterranean, in the library?  Come, Cora."

There was a tremulous change in her voice, and a glance in her eye that
I could not mistake.

Quitting the drawing-room unnoticed by our seniors, we stepped into the
library, the oak shelves of which were loaded with books of all sizes in
glittering bindings, more seemingly for show than use, and approaching
the large stand of maps on horizontal rollers, we drew down that of the
Mediterranean, while Cora, whose good little heart forboded that we
needed not her geographical aid, eyed us wistfully for a second, and
passed out by a door beyond.

The library had green-shaded lamps, which were half lighted; thus we
were almost concealed in shadow, and the huge cloth-mounted map we
affected to examine hung before us like a friendly screen.  We had but a
few stolen moments for conversation, and one impulse animated us.

I turned to Louisa; her face drew closer to mine, and our lips met in
one long, long passionate kiss—such a kiss as if our souls were there.

"You understand all, now, Louisa?" said I.

"All," she said, in the same breathless voice.

"And forgive all—about that poor girl, I mean.  How appearances were
against me!"

"Oh yes, dear, dear Newton."

"And you love me?"

"Oh, Newton!"

"You love me still?"

"Can you ask me while petting me thus?  You have felt our separation
since those few happy days at Calderwood?"

"As a living death, Louisa.  Worse than anticipations of the greater
separation that is to come."

"With all its dangers!" she said, with her eyes now full of tears.

"Yes; for whatever happens I shall feel assured——"

"That your poor Louisa loves you still—loves you dearly, Newton; and ere
you go to-night you must give me a lock of your hair."

Her head on my shoulder; her pale brow against my cheek, her lips were
close to mine.

"Till we are both in our graves, dear Newton, you can never, never know
how much I love you, and the agony that Berkeley’s cunning cost me."

These were blessed words to hear—blessed words to treasure in the
distant land to which I was going; and in a silence more eloquent than
words, I could but press her to my heart.

This was indeed a moment of reunion, never to be forgotten, but to be
treasured in the secret recesses of the soul, and recalled only at
times; and times there were when I recalled it, when far, far away, in
the lonely watches of those dark nights, when the chafing of the Black
Sea was heard afar off on the rocks of Fort Constantine, and the thunder
of Sebastopol was close and nigh; and then the vague, undefined memory
of the place, the time, her voice, her eyes, and her kiss, would come
gradually back, filling my heart with intense melancholy, and my eyes
with tears.

In my doubt of the future, in my fear of ensnarements, and the exercise
of parental authority (a power of which we stand in such awe in
Scotland), and lest, by an unforeseen chance or circumstance, I should
lose her, I actually besought her, in what terms it is impossible to
remember now, to consent to a private marriage; and strange ideas of
written promises and protestations, of blood mingled with wine, and many
other melodramatic absurdities, occurred to me.

"Ah, no, no," said she, rousing herself to the occasion. "There will be
time enough when you return."

"If I ever do return," said I, impetuously, thinking of the chances of
war, and my certain hostile meeting with Berkeley.

"You must return, dear Newton—you shall, and I feel it in my heart."

"And there will be time——"

"For me," she interrupted, "to be cried, as Lydia Languish says, ’three
times in a parish church’, and have an enormously fat parish clerk ask
the consent of every butcher in the parish to join in lawful wedlock
Newton Calderwood Norcliff, bachelor, and Louisa Loftus, spinster;
unless we have a special licence, St. George’s, Hanover Square, and the
Bishop of London in his lawn sleeves, and so forth."

This sudden change of manner at such a time startled and distressed me.

"It is her way—a mistaken lightness of manner," thought I.

But, alas!  I was yet to learn some terrible lessons in the treachery of
the human heart!

Another brief and mute embrace, and we had just time to veil our mutual
agitation and turn our attention to the outspread map of the
Mediterranean, affecting to trace the distance from Cagliari to Malta,
when we heard the voice of Lord Chillingham saying to Sir Nigel—

"Here they are, reviving their geography apparently. Captain Norcliff,"
he added, "here is a note for you which has just been brought by an
orderly dragoon."

"Thanks, my lord.  Is he waiting?"

"No, sir," said the servant, who presented it to me on a chased silver
salver; "he immediately wheeled round his horse and galloped off."

"Permit me," said I, tearing it open.

It had been hurriedly pencilled by Frank Jocelyn, and ran thus:—


"MY DEAR NORCLIFF,—The lieutenant-colonel in command of the consolidated
depôts here informs me that the route for ours is at Maidstone, for
which place the troop must march by daybreak to-morrow.  Sorry to
disturb your dinner-party; but now the word is ’Eastward ho!’"


I handed it first to Louisa, and for a moment my voice failed me; but
rallying, I said—"I have to apologize for a hasty departure, and shall
thank you, my lord, to order my horse."

Much that followed was confusion.  I can remember my good uncle shaking
me repeatedly by the hand, and patting me on the epaulettes (we were
like officers then, and had epaulettes on our shoulders).  Cora wept a
great deal; Louisa was quite silent and very pale.  Our parting scene
passed away like a dissolving view; but the bitterness was somewhat
taken from it by the whole party promising to "drive or ride over to
Maidstone and see us march out;" and so, with a kind adieu from all, I
sprang on my horse, quitted Chillingham Park, and soon reached the
barracks, where I found Jocelyn in my quarters awaiting me, and Willie
Pitblado, who had already relinquished his livery for his lancer
uniform, whistling vigorously as he packed and buckled up my traps.

Away from Louisa, I had no relief now for my mind but intense activity.

In the dull grey light of the next morning I quitted Canterbury with my
troop for Maidstone, into which we were played by our own band, which
came a mile or two on the Rochester Road to meet us.

There I learned from Colonel Beverley that, on the following day, we
should march to join the expedition destined for the defence of Turkey.



                            *CHAPTER XXIV.*


    Now, brave boys, we’re bound for marchin’,
      Both to Portingale and Spain;
    Drums are batin’, colours flyin’,
      And the divil a back we’ll come again.
        So, love, farewell, we’re all for marchin’!

    Eighty-eighth and Inniskillin’,
      Boys that’s able, boys that’s willin’;
    Faugh-a-ballagh and County Down,
      Stand by the harp, and stand by the crown.
        So, love, farewell, we’re all for marchin’!

    The colonel cries, "Boys, are yee’s ready?"
      "We’re at your back, sir, firm and steady;
    Our pouches filled with balls and poulther,
      And a firelock sloped on every shoulther."
        So, love, farewell, we’re all for marchin’!


Such was the doggrel ditty—some camp song of the brave old Peninsular
days—with which I heard my Irish groom, Larity O’Regan, solacing himself
in the grey light of the early morning, as he rubbed down my charger,
and buckled his gay trappings, in the dawn of the, to me, eventful 22nd
of April. How I envied that man’s lightness of heart!  Perhaps he had a
mother in a thatched cabin in some brown Irish bog far away; sisters,
too; it might be a sweetheart—some grey-eyed and black-haired Biddy, or
Nora.  If so, they occasioned him but little regret then; and
light-hearted Lanty’s queer song and jovial bearing went far to rouse my
own spirit as I mounted the gallant dark horse that was to bear me in
the fields of the future.

The regiment, mustering about three hundred men of all ranks, came
rapidly from the stables, under the eye of Studhome, and that ubiquitous
and indefatigable non-commissioned officer, Sergeant-Major Drillem.  The
sun had not yet risen, but the barrack windows were crowded by the men
of other corps to witness our departure.  Their own turn would soon
arrive.

Wilford informed me that the route[*] had come suddenly, when the
regiment was in church, and it was first announced by the chaplain from
the pulpit.  The sanctity of the place alone restrained the cheers of
the lancers, but not the sobs of the women; and he added, that by a
singular coincidence, the text the chaplain had chosen for his sermon
was from Proverbs xxvii. 1—"Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou
knowest not what a day may bring forth."


[*] Order for marching.


As the trumpets blew the assembly on this auspicious morning, their
sound seemed different—more warlike in fact than usual—a portion of the
great movement in which the fate of Europe, and certainly of many a poor
human being, was involved.

As yet Lionel Beverley, our lieutenant-colonel, who wore his Cross of
the Bath, was the only decorated man among us (save a few Indian
medals); but a rich crop of such tributes was to be reaped in the land
to which we were going.

Our plumes had been laid aside, glazed covers were on our square-crowned
caps, and officers and privates alike had canvas havresacks and wooden
canteens slung over the right shoulder; some of the former had
telescopes and courier-bags; but all betokened coming service and
preparation for it.

Our horses were nearly all of a deep dark bay colour, save those of the
band and trumpeters, many of which were white, or spotted grey.  The
guidons were all uncased; each was of white silk (the colour of our
facings), embroidered with gold, measuring three feet long by twenty-one
inches on the lance, which was ten feet in length—the regulation for
light cavalry. On the flank of its troop each standard was now flying in
the morning wind.

On this occasion there were, as usual at such times, many of the fair
sex interested in our departure.  There was much weeping among many
wives, and certainly among a great number of "very foolish virgins," as
Studhome designated them.  Many of the soldiers’ wives were mingling in
the ranks, and, fearless of the horses’ hoofs, were holding up their
infants for the last kiss of many a poor father who was to find his
grave in the land to which we were departing; and there were many
painful separations among those who were destined never to meet again.

I remember a sergeant of Wilford’s troop, whose wife had recently
presented him with a baby.  The latter died suddenly on the night before
we were to march, and, by a singular coincidence, the little thing’s
cradle and coffin were brought into barracks together next morning, but
poor Sergeant Dashwood had to mount and leave his weeping wife and
unburied little one behind him.

He was one of the first who fell at the passage of the Alma.

There was, on the other hand, much heedless jesting and idle levity.

"This time," said Wilford, to the group of officers who were gathered
round Beverley, "we shall do a portion of the Mediterranean, the entire
Levant, and Dardanelles, at her Majesty’s expense, and without the aid
of Bradshaw or John Murray."

"So we are actually going at last," lisped Jocelyn, while playing with
his horse’s mane.

"Ah! but we leave our representatives behind."

"How, Travers?"

"In a squad of light infantry in arms, no doubt," replied Travers, a
handsome fellow, with a clear blue eye and long fair moustache.  He had
the reputation of being the most rakish fellow in the regiment, and
could not resist perpetrating the old dragoon joke.

"How clumsily we English show grief," I heard Berkeley say, as he
witnessed a very affecting parting between a mother and her son.  "Hear
how that old—aw—woman is permitting herself to howl."

"Anything is better than having every natural emotion subdued and
snubbed from childhood, as among us in Scotland," thought I.

Soldiers muster and march at all times merrily.  Care cumbers them but
little and briefly, for "with them the present is everything, the past a
point, the future a blank.  The greeting of surviving friends is seldom
embittered by the recollection of those who are no more, and in a life
of danger and casualty this is natural."

Already the advanced guard had been detailed and thrown out, under young
Sir Henry Scarlett.  The crowd in and about the barracks was great.
Many carriages full of fashionables from Canterbury, Tunbridge, and
elsewhere, were arriving, for the double purpose of getting up an
appetite for breakfast and seeing us depart; but I saw nothing of my
friends, for whom I was looking anxiously—so much so that Studhome said,
laughingly, as he rode past—

"Come, look alive, Norcliff, and get your troop into shape. There is no
such spoon in the service, or out of it, as an ’engaged man.’"

At another time I might have resented Jack’s banter, but Beverley
wheeled the regiment from open column into line, and opened the ranks,
as the commandant of Maidstone cantered in, with his staff, their plumes
waving and epaulettes glittering. Then, from line, we were formed in
close column in rear of the leading troop, for the delivery of an
address, of which I did not hear one word, for just as the commandant
took off his cocked hat and began his oration Lord Chillingham’s
carriage, preceded by two outriders, drove in, I perceived that it was
occupied by Cora, Lord Chillingham, and Lord Slubber. My uncle and Lady
Louisa, who were on horseback, came at once close up to me.

My pale love looked tenderly at me, and her dark eyes bore unmistakable
traces of recent tears, or was it the long ride in the morning wind
which had inflamed them?  All emotion, however, was subdued now, which
was well, as her rare beauty, her bearing and seat in the saddle,
attracted the eyes of half the regiment, seriously damaging the interest
of the old commandant’s address; and my uncle, after warmly shaking my
hand, proceeded to examine, with a critical eye, the mount of our men.

The party in the carriage alighted, so Louisa dismounted and gave her
bridle to her groom.

Our eyes seldom wandered from each other, but we had little to say
beyond a few commonplaces, yet at that bitter hour of parting our hearts
were very full, and she stroked and petted my horse, saying almost to it
the caressing things she dared not address to me.

At last the final moment of departure came, and her eyes filled with
irrepressible tears.  Lord Slubber hurried forward to assist her to
remount; but his tremulous hands failed him, or Louisa proved too large
and ample; so I leaped from my horse, and took the office upon myself.

Louisa bit her lip, and smiled at Slubber, with mingled sorrow and
disdain in her expressive eye, as I put one arm caressingly around her,
and swung her up, arranging to her complete satisfaction the ample skirt
and padded stirrup for the prettiest foot and ankle that England ever
produced, and they are better there than in boasted Andalusia.

At that instant a hot tear from under her veil fell on my upturned face;
and then it was that I contrived, unseen, to give her the lock of hair.
It was in a tiny locket, the counterpart of that which I wore at my own
neck.  She just touched it with her lips, and slipped it into her bosom.
Save Cora and myself, I think no one noticed the little action.

Another moment, and I found the whole regiment in motion, and, preceded
by the band of a dragoon guard corps, departing from the barrack square.
Many of our men now unslung their lances, and brandished them, while
chorusing, "Cheer, boys, cheer"—a song, the patriotism of which is
somewhat equivocal, though the air is fine and stirring.

Louisa accompanied me, riding by my side, to the gate. What we were
saying, I know not now; but my heart was beating painfully.  The scene
around me seemed all confusion and phantasmagoria; the tramp of the
horses, the crash of the band, with cymbals and kettledrums, the cheers
of the soldiers and of the people, seemed faint and far away.  I heard
Louisa’s voice alone.

But now a loud and reiterated hurrah—the full, deep, hearty cheer of
warmth and welcome, of joy or triumph, which comes best from English
throats, and from English throats alone—rose from the multitudes
without, as the head of the column defiled slowly through the street;
and I must own that three hundred mounted lancers—all handsome young
men, well horsed, and in gay uniform, blue faced with white, and with
all their swallow-tailed red and white banneroles fluttering in the
wind—presented a magnificent spectacle.

Thousands of handkerchiefs were waved from the windows, and many laurel
branches and flowers were flung among us. Other troops, both horse and
foot, were on the march that morning, and the crash of other bands,
heard at a distance, came over the sprouting cornfields and hop-gardens
of beautiful Kent.  I had pressed Louisa’s hand for the last time, and
she had returned to her friends.  We had separated at last, and with all
the love that welled up in our hearts, we had parted, as some one says,
"without the last seal upon the ceremony of good-bye, which it is
unlawful to administer in public to any but juvenile recipients."

I was alone now, and yet not quite alone, for my uncle, though his
military career had been confined to the ranks of the Kirkaldy troop of
Yeomanry, accompanied me for some miles, mounted on a stout cover-hack,
though sorely tempted to spur after some Highland regiment, whose
bagpipes we heard ringing on some parallel road, as we marched along the
highway to Tunbridge, _en route_ for Portsmouth, where our transports
lay.

Sir Nigel bade me farewell at Tunbridge, and turned to ride back to
Chillingham Park, whither my heart went with him.  The fine old man’s
voice faltered and his eyes grew very moist, as he pressed my hand for
the last time, and reined aside his horse, looking among the troop for
Willie Pitplado, whom he had known from infancy, and with whom he also
shook hands.

"Good-bye, Willie," said he.  "Remember you are your father’s son.
Dinna forget Calderwood Glen, and to stick to my nephew."

Willie’s heart was full, and as he gnawed his chin-strap to hide his
emotion, I heard him send a farewell message to his father, the old
keeper.

And then, as the sturdy baronet rode slowly to the rear, adopting at
once the old hunting seat, several of our lancers cheered him, for he
was the last specimen of his class they would probably see for many a
day to come.

I now remembered, with keen reproach, that in the fulness of my emotion
at parting from Louisa—in fact, the selfishness of my love—I had
forgotten to bid adieu to Cora and to Lord Chillingham.  About the
latter omission I cared little; but to leave Cora—kind, affectionate
Cora—whose sad and earnest face I seemed still to see, as she gazed so
wistfully from the carriage window, and to leave her, it might be for
ever, without a word of farewell, was a fault almost without remedy now.

However, I lost no time in writing my excuses from our first
halting-place, which was at Mayfield, though some of our troops remained
at Tunbridge Wells, and others had to ride to the market town of
Cranbrook for quarters and stabling. Proceeding through the great
hop-growing district of England, we frequently marched between gardens,
where the little plants were beginning to creep up those tall and
slender poles of ash or chestnut, which (before the hops gain their full
growth, in September) present so singular an appearance to a stranger’s
eye.  When those green hops were gathered, and when the hop-queen was
decorated in honour of the harvest home, we were moving towards the
passage of the Alma. Kent was wearing its loveliest aspect now, in the
full glory of hedgerows, copse, and meadows, in the last days of spring,
under a clear blue sunlit sky.  The birds, in myriads, filled the hedges
with melody; the purple and white lilacs were already in full bloom, and
the grass was spotted with snow-white daisies and golden buttercups,
while primroses and violets grew wild by the side of the chalky and
flinty roads.

The quaint, tumble-down cottages, covered to their chimney tops with
ivy, woodbine, and wild hop-leaves; the fair, smiling faces that peeped
at us from their lozenged lattices; the sturdy fellows who lounged and
smoked at the turnpike; the red wheeled waggons on the road; the laden
wains, and the canvas-frocked yokels far a-field; the lowing cattle that
browsed on the upland slope; the square white tower of the little
village church on one side; the red-brick manor-house on the other, with
all its gables and oriels peeping above the woodlands; the whistle of
the distant railway train, and its white smoke curling up in the
sunshine, were all indicative of happy, peaceful, and prosperous
England, and of a soil long untrodden by a hostile foot.  From every
port in the United Kingdom; between Portsmouth and Aberdeen, troops were
quickly departing now.  Being cavalry, on our route through Kent,
Sussex, and a little part of Hampshire, we overtook and passed several
corps of infantry and artillery, which were marching by the same roads
for the same place of embarkation, and stirring were the cheers with
which we greeted each other.

We remarked that the bands of the Scottish and Irish regiments were
almost invariably playing the national quick marches peculiar to their
own countries, while those of English corps played German, and even
Yankee music.

The Black Watch, the Cameron Highlanders, the Scotch Fusiliers, &c.,
stirred each other’s hearts by such airs as "Scots wha hae," "Lochaber
no more," and so forth; the Connaught Rangers and the 97th made the
welkin ring to "Garryowen," and similar airs, which are more inspiring
to the British soldier than those of Prussia or Austria can ever be;
and, as our colonel remarked it, it would have been better taste had the
English bands played the quicksteps of the sister countries than foreign
airs, with which an Englishman can have no sympathy whatever.[*]


[*] The same defect was observed on that great day when Her Majesty
distributed the Victoria Cross.  The bands of the Guards played Scottish
airs for the Highlanders, and "Rule Britannia" for the Marines; but
otherwise "favoured the troops and the people with a great deal of
German music, to which no attention was paid.  National airs would have
gratified both, and stirred up the patriotism of the people.  The
Enniskilling Dragoons and Rifles were chiefly composed of Irishmen; but
the bands did not venture upon a single air peculiar to
Ireland."—_Nolan’s History of the War_, p. 770.


I remembered a pleasant little incident during our march through Sussex.
As we passed a village parsonage—a quaint old gable-ended house,
secluded among moss-grown trees—the sound of our kettledrums and
trumpets, the tramp of the horses, and the clatter of the chain bridles
and steel scabbards, drew forth the inmates—an aged clergyman and his
two daughters—to a green wicket in the close-clipped holly-hedge, where
the group stood, as in a green frame of leaves, looking with deep
interest at the passing lancers, who were riding in what was then the
order—sections of three. White-haired and reverend, with his thin locks
shining in the sun, the curate took off his hat, and lifted up his hands
and eyes in a manner there could be no mistaking.  The old man was
evidently praying for us.  His face was expressive of the finest
emotion; he felt that he was looking on many a man he would never see
again.  Perhaps he had a son a soldier, or was himself a soldier’s son;
or he felt that he, though old and stricken with years, was destined to
survive many of the young, the hale and hearty in our ranks, who were
still "on life’s morning march."  Some of our officers lifted their caps
and bowed to the little group, and I am sure that Frank Jocelyn kissed
his hands to the girls, who were waving their handkerchiefs, while more
than one of ours cried, "God bless you, old boy!" and frequently, long
after, in the snows of Sebastopol and the terrors of the valley of
death, the face and form of that good old man, and the kindness of his
mute prayer, came to the memory of some of us.  It formed one of our
last and most pleasing incidents connected with England.

In four days we reached Portsmouth, which presented a scene of
indescribable bustle and activity; and the fifth day saw my troop,
consisting of fifty men, with sixty horses, and with the colonel,
Studhome, M’Goldrick, one surgeon, the sergeant-major, and rest of the
staff, embarked from the dockyard jetty at eleven A.M., on board a
splendid clipper ship, the _Pride of the Ocean_, Captain Robert
Binnacle, bound for Turkey.  The other five troops of the corps were
embarked on board the transports _Ganges_, _Bannockburn_, and other
vessels.

We had not been without hope of going in the _Himalaya_, which would
have taken the entire regiment in her capacious womb, and which,
moreover, is our only cavalry ship; but the authorities had declared
otherwise.

The morning of our embarkation was beautiful; the scene animated,
picturesque, and bustling, such as Portsmouth alone could exhibit at
such a time; but we were sorely troubled by our horses.  Some were
conveyed on board in stall-boxes, others were lowered down the hatches
by bellybands and slings, in which, being spirited and young, they were
very restive, lashing out, to the imminent danger of the brains and
bones of those in their vicinity, until they found themselves in the
tow-padded stalls below the maindeck.

Adding to the bustle and interest of the scene, several ships of war
were taking in stores and preparing for sea; boats, manned by seamen and
marines in white jackets, were shooting to and fro between Portsmouth on
one side and Gosport on the other.  A strong detachment of the 19th (1st
Yorkshire) Regiment was embarking on board the _Melita_, a Cunard
steamer; the _Euxine_, a Peninsular and Oriental liner, was receiving
many of the staff, a number of horses, and nearly twenty tons of ball
cartridges.  A squadron of the 8th, or Royal Irish Hussars, under Major
de Salis, were stowing themselves on board of the _Mary Anne_ transport;
and a great body of Woolwich Pensioners, a numerous staff of veterinary
surgeons, members of the ambulance, ordnance, and transport corps, were
all embarking at the same time. Thus the hurly-burly was prodigious, and
the whole of the quays were encumbered by baggage, stores, field-pieces,
mortars, shot and shell, chests of arms, tents and camp equipage,
guarded by marines with fixed bayonets, or seamen with drawn cutlasses.
With all this apparent activity there was, of course, the counteracting
influence of that red-tapism which is the curse of the British service.
When war was declared the Royal Arsenal did not contain a sufficient
quantity of shells to furnish the first battering train that went to
Turkey, and the fuses then issued had been in store ever since the
battle of Waterloo!  Even the mattocks and shovels issued to the troops
had been sent home from the Peninsula by the Duke of Wellington as
worthless!

Here at Portsmouth we saw many a bitter—also to too many it proved a
final—adieu.  With all my soul I loved Louisa; and yet, when, standing
on the dockyard jetty there, I saw the partings of husbands from their
wives, and fathers from their children, I thanked Heaven in my heart
that in this, to them, most bitter hour, I had only my good black
charger to care for.

Midday was past ere all the passengers for the _Pride of the Ocean_,
with their baggage, &c., were on board.  I had personally to see the
cattle stabled below; the men told off to their messes and watches; the
lances, swords, and other arms stowed away in racks; the valises and
hammocks slung to their cleats, and so forth.  In the stables one stall
on each side was left vacant, with spare slings, in case of accidents at
sea.

Fortunately, I was spared the annoyance of Berkeley’s society on the
voyage out, as there was not space for more than one troop on board the
clipper; so he was with Wilford’s on board the _Ganges_.  He was not
exactly "in Coventry," but somehow our mess disliked him, and could not
exactly comprehend, as they phrased it, "what was up" between him and
me.

Now that I was again in favour with Louisa Loftus; now that the untoward
affair at the Reculvers had been completely explained, and that the
victory was mine, and his the shame, defeat, and rejection—nearly all
emotion of hostility against him had died away, or been replaced by
settled contempt. Yet the hostile meeting was still looming in the
future, and would have to ensue on the first suitable opportunity.

I was not sorry when the bustle of embarkation was over, and the clipper
was towed out to the famous reach or roadstead at Spithead, where she
came to anchor for a time, under the shelter of the high lands of the
Isle of Wight.

The noblest army that ever left the shores of the British Isles was,
undoubtedly, that which departed under Lord Raglan’s orders for the
East.

It was the carefully-developed army of forty years of peace, during
which the world had made a mighty stride in art, in science, and in
civilization—greater than it had done, perhaps, between the days of the
Twelfth Crusade and the last day of Waterloo.

"War," says Napier, in his "Peninsular History," "war tries the military
framework; but it is in peace that the framework itself must be
formed—otherwise barbarians would be the leading soldiers of the world.
A perfect army can only be made by civil institutions."

The same magnificent writer says elsewhere, with terrible truth, "In the
beginning of each war England has to seek in blood the knowledge
necessary to insure success; and like the fiend’s progress towards Eden,
her conquering course is through chaos, followed by Death!" and that
such was her course in the Crimea, let the errors of general routine,
the trenches of Sebastopol, and the criminal red-tapism at home bear
witness.

Of the morale of that army there can be no higher evidence than the
voices that came from the poor fellows in our ranks—the letters with
which they filled the newspapers of the day, detailing with spirit,
simplicity, and pathos their humble experiences in the great events of
the war.

All our men loved Beverley, who was a model commanding officer, and my
troop deemed themselves (as I did) peculiarly lucky in being with him
and the head-quarters staff.  He took great care of his regiment, and a
strict supervision of the horses.

He had left nothing undone while at home, by the establishment and
encouragement of a school, a library, and so forth, to raise the moral
tone of the lancers, their wives and families; hence some of the
contributions of our privates to the newspapers were fully equal to any
that emanated from Sir Colin’s famous Highland Brigade.  Beverley
regularly visited the sick in hospital, and cheered them by his kindly
manner; and all the little ones who played in the barrack square smiled
and welcomed the approach of the colonel, who was seldom without a few
small coins to scatter among them, and cause a scramble; yet, as I have
said, he was somewhat of a dandy, and not without a tinge of affectation
in his tone and manner.

Next evening saw us at sea.

The Nab Light had sunk far astern, and the pale cliffs of the Isle of
Wight had melted into the world of waters.

Old Jack Bloater, the pilot from Selsey, had drunk his last horn of grog
at the binnacle, and left us with every wish for "an ’appy journey—a
bong woyage, as the monseers called it, and that we would soon give them
Roosians a skewerin’."

And now I knew that many a day, and week, and month, it might be years,
filled up by the perils and stormy passages of a life of campaigning,
must inevitably pass ere I should again hear Louisa’s voice, before I
had her hand in mine, and looked into her tender eyes again—if I was
kindly permitted by Heaven to return at all.  But little knew our
departing army of the suffering and horrors that were before it—horrors
and sufferings to which the bayonets and bullets of the Russians were
but child’s play.

I was now away from her finally, and without the least arrangement
having been made for that which alone can soothe the agony and anxiety
of such a separation—correspondence! I clung to the hope that she might
write to me; if not, I could only hear of her from Cora, or perhaps when
Miss Wilford wrote to her brother Fred; and, it might be, from some
stray paragraph in the _Court Journal_ or _Morning Post_, if either ever
found its way beyond the Dardanelles, which seemed doubtful.

I had her treasured lock of hair and the miniature, on which I was never
tired of gazing, especially when I could do so unseen in my swinging
cot, for a crowded transport is the last place in the world for
indulging in lover’s dreams or reveries.  It was a poor, feeble
daguerreotype, yet there were times when, by force of imagination, the
pictured face seemed to light up with Louisa’s smile, and when the fine
feminine features became filled by a blaze of light and life, so like
the original that they became perfectly lovely.

Then I would think of Cora, too, and when I reflected over all her
bearing towards me, the light which broke upon me at first became
clearer.

Her tears when she first told Sir Nigel of her suspicion that I loved
Louisa; her sudden changes of colour, from pallor to ruddy suffusion of
the cheek; her hesitation in addressing me at times, her abruptness at
others, or her silence; her vehemence in defending me against the
accusations of Berkeley, and her joy at my victory; her occasional
coldness to Louisa and her silent sorrow at my departure; all that had
at any time puzzled me was explained now.

Cora loved me with a love beyond that of cousin, and I must often have
stabbed her good little heart by my impertinent confidences regarding my
passion for another.

Well, well, Cora’s love and my regrets were alike vain now, for the
swift clipper ship was running on a taut bowline by the skirts of
Biscay’s stormy bay, as she bore us on "to glory" and Gallipoli.



                             *CHAPTER XXV.*


    A wet sheet and a flowing sea,
      A wind that follows fast,
    And fills the white and rustling sail,
      And bends the gallant mast.
    And bends the gallant mast, my boys.
      While, like the eagle free,
    Away the good ship flies, and leaves
      Old England on the lee.


The cabin was spacious and comfortable.  Binnacle, the skipper, was a
short, thick-set little stump of a fellow, with a round, good-humoured
face, which had become browned by exposure in every climate and on every
sea under the sun. He was very anecdotical, perpetually joking and
laughing, and had one peculiarity, that he never in conversation
inter-larded his remarks with nautical phraseology, like the
conventional or orthodox sailor of romance and the stage.

He had never sailed before with a horse on board, and now that he had
actually one hundred of those useful quadrupeds under his hatches, he
spent a great deal of his spare time among them, tickling their ears and
noses—more, perhaps, than some of them quite relished, if one might
judge of the manner in which they occasionally showed the whites of
their eyes, and lashed out at the rear end of their stall-boxes.

On board we smoked, of course, played chess, loo (_rouge-et-noir_, a
little), and daily watched with interest the steamers which passed us,
full of troops, British or French, all on their way to the East.  Some
of us kept diaries and made memoranda for friends at home: but some grew
tired of doing so, or reflected that they might not live to record that,
on such a day, the white cliffs of old England were again in sight.

We had quite a bale of the "Railway Library" on board; but to reading we
preferred telling stories, to kill time, or watching, telescope in hand,
for bits of continental scenery, as we ran along the coast of Portugal,
spanned the Gulf of Cadiz, and hauled up for the Straits of Gibraltar,
after passing the rocky promontory of Cape St. Vincent, which we saw
rising from the sea north-north-east of us, about ten miles distant, on
the fifth day after we sailed from Spithead.

During the day we had not many leisure hours, as there is no situation
in which troops more urgently require the personal superintendence of
their officers than when on board ship.

All the lancers were supplied with white canvas frocks, to save their
uniforms, and were divided into three watches, each of which in turn was
on deck, with at least one officer. We had an officer of the day and
guard, who posted sentinels, armed with the sword, at the breaks of the
poop and forecastle, to maintain order, and, when the weather permitted,
we had an hour of carbine and sword exercise, to the great edification
of Captain Binnacle and his crew.  Every morning the bedding was brought
on deck and triced in nettings alongside; no smoking was permitted in
the stables or between decks.

The cattle were of course our chief care, and Beverley was always
particular about his mounts.  Experience and theory had long convinced
him that the sire dominated in the breed of chargers; thus he ever
eschewed the produce of half-bred stallions and stud horses.  We gave
them mashes dashed with nitre, and mixed bran with their corn; daily we
had their hoofs and fetlocks washed in clean salt water, their eyes and
noses sponged, and when at times the windsails failed to act, and the
hold became close, we washed the mangers with vinegar and water, and
sponged the horses’ nostrils with the same refreshing dilution.

Notwithstanding all our care, however, before we sighted Malta we lost
three—one of which was my uncle’s present, the black cover-hack with the
white star on her counter.  It became glandered.

Pitblado, who had seen the nag foaled, and had many a day taken it to
graze in Falkland Park, and on the green slopes of the Mid Lomond,
flatly refused to shoot it when I ordered him to do so, but gave his
loaded carbine to Lanty O’Regan, who had fewer scruples on the subject.

When this episode occurred, Cape Espartel was bearing south-east of us,
about twelve miles distant; and by our glasses we could distinctly see
the features of that remarkable headland of Morocco, the north-western
extremity of the mighty continent of Africa, with its range of basaltic
columns, which nearly rival in magnificence those of Fingal’s Cave at
Staffa; and the noon of the following day, as we bore into the
Mediterranean, saw the great peak of Gibraltar rising from the horizon
like a couchant lion, with its tail turned to Spain.

When my poor nag, previous to its slaughter, was being slung up from the
hold, Beverley was much impressed by the real grief of honest Pitblado
for its loss; and told me an interesting Indian anecdote of a pet horse
that belonged to the 8th Royal Irish Hussars.

Beverley seldom spoke of India, for it was a land that was not without
sorrowful recollections to him; and we all knew that he wore at his neck
a large gold locket, containing a braid of the hair of his intended
bride—a lovely girl, who was shot in his arms, and when seated on his
saddle, as he was spurring with his troop through the horrors and the
carnage of the Khyber Pass—on that day when nearly our whole 44th
Regiment perished—and poor Beverley, with her dead body, fell into the
hands of the Afghans.

"When we last went out to India," said he, "that was when I was but a
cornet of sixteen, and several years before you joined us, we relieved
the 8th Royal Irish, who had been there long—I know not how many years,
but time enough to gain on their colours _Pristinæ virtutis memores_,
with ’Leswaree,’ and ’Hindostan’—honours which they shared with the old
25th Light Dragoons,[*] for five-and-twenty years was then the common
term of Indian expatriation.


[*] A corps disbanded in 1818; and formerly the 29th Light Dragoons,
were raised in 1795.


"The 8th had been at the storming of Kalunga, where their old and
beloved colonel—then General Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie—was killed at
their head, and fell with that splendid sword, inscribed ’The gift of
the Royal Irish,’ clenched in his hand.  His horse was a remarkably
noble animal, which had been foaled of an Irish mare at the Cape of Good
Hope; but he had the beautiful Arabian head, the finely-arched neck,
long oblique shoulders, ample quarters, well-bent legs, and long elastic
pastern of his sire—a splendid Godolphin barb.  Black Bob was indeed a
beauty!

"After the affair at Kalunga he was put up for sale, with his saddle and
housings still spotted with the blood of the gallant Gillespie, who was
so greatly beloved by the brave Irish fellows of the 8th that they
resolved to keep his horse as a memorial of him; but, unfortunately, the
upset price was three hundred guineas.

"Two officers of the 25th Light Dragoons raised it speedily to a hundred
more.  But not to be baffled, the poor fellows subscribed among
themselves, and actually raised five hundred guineas, for which the
beautiful black horse, with his housings, was sold to them.

"Black Bob thus became their property, and always preceded the regiment
on the march.  He knew the trumpets of the 8th better than those of any
other regiment.  The men were wont to affirm that he had a taste for the
Irish brogue, too, and that he pricked his ears always highest at
’Garryowen,’ in regard that his mother was a mare from the Wicklow
Hills.

"Bob was fed, caressed, petted, and stroked as no horse ever had been
before; and always when in barracks, as the corps proceeded from station
to station where he had been with his old rider, he took the accustomed
position at the saluting base when the troops marched past, just as if
old Rollo Gillespie was still in the saddle, watching the squadrons or
companies defile in succession, and was not lying in his grave, far away
beneath the ramparts of Kalunga, among the Himalaya mountains in Nepaul.

"Well, as I have said, at last we came to relieve the 8th, who were
dismounted, and had their horses turned over to us. They were to go
home, as we had come out, by sea.  The funds of the hussars were low
now; pay was spent and prize-money gone.  They were in despair at the
prospect of losing their pet horse; but no such passengers ever went
round the Cape, so they had to part with Bob at last.

"A civilian at Cawnpore bought him, and the hussars gave him back more
than half the price, on receiving a solemn promise that Bob was to have
a good stable and snug paddock wherein he was to pass the remainder of
his days in comfort; and this pledge the new proprietor kept faithfully.
But Bob had only been three days in his new quarters, when he heard the
trumpets of the 8th waking the echoes of the compound, as they marched,
dismounted, before daybreak, to embark on the _Ganges_, for Calcutta.

"It was the old air of the regiment, ’Garryowen.’  Then Bob became
frantic.  He bit and tore his manger to pieces; he lashed out with his
hoofs and kicked the heel-posts and treviss boards to pieces.  He
destroyed his whole stall, and sunk among the straw, bleeding, cut, and
half strangled in his stall collar.

"After a time, when day by day passed, and he saw no more the once
familiar uniforms, and heard no more the voices or the trumpets of his
old friends, he pined away, refused his corn, and even the most tempting
mashes, totally declining all food.  So he was turned into the paddock;
but then he leaped the bamboo fence, and with all his remaining speed
rushed direct to the barracks at Cawnpore.

"There he made straight for the cantonment of the European cavalry, and
came whinneying up to the saluting post, where he had so often borne old
Gillespie and seen the squadrons of the 8th defiling past, and there, on
that very spot, the horse fell down and died!"[*]


[*] There was another pet of the 8th Hussars, which met with a different
fate.  The jet-black horse, on whose back their colonel, T. P.
Vandeleur, was killed at the battle of Leswaree "long kept his place
with the regiment, and afterwards became the property of Cornet
Burrowes, who took great care of him until the corps left India, when he
was shot, that he might not fall into unworthy hands."—_Narrative of
Leswaree_.  By Dr. Ore.


"I have often heard similar stories of dogs—but never such a yarn of a
horse," said Captain Binnacle, who was greatly impressed by this
anecdote, and smoked a long time thoughtfully and in silence after it.

"Fact though!" said Beverley, curtly, and rather haughtily, as he tipped
the ashes off his cigar.

"That horse had the heart of a man.  But I could spin you a yarn,
colonel, of a man that had the heart of a beast—ay, of a wild wolf; and
it all occurred under my own eye—for I had to shed human blood in the
matter; though I doubt not God above will acquit me therefor, seeing as
how my own conscience acquits me."

The impressive manner so suddenly adopted by our worthy little skipper
attracted the attention of Beverley, Studhome, and M’Goldrick, and all
the listening group.

Even Jocelyn—a gay fellow, who had more _affaires de fantaisie_ than
_affaires de coeur_, and who never permitted the impulses of that useful
utensil, his heart, to go further than proved convenient or
comfortable—felt himself interested by the gloomy and stern expression
that came into the face of Captain Binnacle.

"Would you like to hear my yarn, gentlemen?" said the latter.

"With pleasure—certainly—by all means—if you please," said we,
alternately, and all together, for Binnacle was evidently anxious to
spin it.

He gave a glance aloft, and another at the sky.  The evening was fine
and clear.  The mate had charge of the deck, the ship was running under
her head-sails, courses, top-sails, and topgallant sails before a fine
strong breeze, which, as she rolled from side to side, made our horses
reel and oscillate in their padded stalls below.  The watch of lancers
were all smoking or chatting on the port side; the sail-makers, squatted
under the break of the forecastle, were busy on a set of new
studding-sails; the carpenters were at work repairing the headrails
forward.

The result of Binnacle’s glances was satisfactory; and, descending to
the cabin, whither we all followed, he ordered glasses and decanters,
with a case of four square bottles that held something stronger than
decanters usually do.  We all betook us to brandy-and-water, except
Frank Jocelyn, who imbibed noyeau and lemonade, a decoction which
Binnacle viewed with sublime contempt; but Frank wore his hair, divided
in the middle, and invariably used _w_ for _r_, so we excused him, as
one might do a young lady.

After a few preliminary coughs and hems, Binnacle told us the following
story, which is so horrible that it fully requires—let us hope
deserves—an entire chapter to itself.



                            *CHAPTER XXVI.*


    At length one whispered his companion, who
      Whispered another, and thus it went round,
    And then into a hoarser murmur grew,
      An ominous, and wild, and desperate sound;
    And when his comrade’s thought each sufferer knew,
      ’Twas but his own, suppressed till now, he found,
    And out they spoke of lots for flesh and blood,
    And who should die to be his fellows’ food.—BYRON.


"You must know, gentlemen, that five years ago, come December next, I
was first mate of the _Favourite_, a brig of London, registered at
Lloyd’s as being two hundred tons burden, John Benson, master, with a
crew consisting only of nine men and a boy.  We had run, late in the
year, to Newfoundland for a cargo of salted cod, and sailing later
still, lost a topmast, and had to run up Conception Bay to refit at the
town of Harbour Grace.

"Winter was close at hand now, so we lost no time in getting our gear
ready; but the field ice came down swiftly from the north, and for the
distance of two hundred miles from the mouth of the bay—that is, from
Baccalieu and Cape St. Francis—away towards the Great Bank of
Newfoundland, it covered all the sea, hard and fast, with hundreds of
icebergs wedged amid it; so there was nothing for us now but patience
and flannel, to strip the ship of her canvas and running rigging, to
stow away everything till the spring, to muffle ourselves to the nose,
and try to keep our blood from freezing by sitting close to wood-fires,
and drinking red Jamaica rum mixed with snow-water, or that of the
mineral springs on the hill of Lookout.

"A winter in Harbour Grace is not quite so lovely as one would be in
London, as it is a poor little wooden town, with a few thousand
miserable inhabitants, and a port that is difficult of entrance, though
safe enough when one is fairly in.  Well, everything passes away in
time; so the winter passed, and the spring came; but, as usual in that
imaginary season there, the snow fell heavier, till it was fathoms deep
in the gulleys and flat places; the weather became more wintry than
ever, and though the fierce black frost relaxes a little, it will still
freeze half and half grog as hard as rock crystal.

"Some of our crew bemoaned this unlooked for detention bitterly,
especially the captain, Tom Dacres, and one or two married men, whose
wives, they feared, would deem them lost; but none were more impatient
than the boy I have named.  We called him Scotch Willy, for his name was
William Ormiston, from the village of Gourock, on the Clyde.  Well
educated, with a smattering of Latin and other things, a passion for
wild adventure, and chiefly for the sea—a passion fed by the perusal of
Robinson Crusoe and other romances—made him run from home and ship for
North America, where we picked him up; and often, in the watches of the
night, poor Willy confided to me his remorse and repentance, and wept
for his mother, whose heart he feared he had broken.  Then he used to
show me an advertisement cut from a Glasgow paper, that fell into his
hands in New York:—


"Left his home, ten days ago, a boy fifteen years of age, named William
Ormiston; dressed in a blue jacket and trowsers, with a Glengarry
bonnet; has dark eyes and brown hair.  Any information regarding him
will be most thankfully received by his widowed and afflicted mother, at
the Quayside, Gourock."


"’Such was the notice that caught my eye when I was more than two
thousand miles away from her—with my heart as full of remorse as my
pocket was empty,’ Willy would say, in a voice broken by sobs; but he
hoped yet to get home and cast himself into her arms.

"In his tribulation Willy always thought his mother would be praying for
him, and that her prayers would be more efficacious than his own, and
this conviction always consoled and strengthened him.  He was a handsome
boy, this Willy, with eyes so dark that he might have passed for a
grandson of ’Black-eyed Susan,’ only that she was an English girl, and
our Willy was Scotch to the backbone—he was.

"In March we began to get ready for sea, as there is usually a partial
breaking up of the ice about the middle of that month, so we resolved to
get away if we could, and stand across for Cadiz, if once clear of that
dreary and snow-covered land and the field ice.  In Spain we were to
exchange the salted cod for wine and fruit, and then return to London.

"A Russian whaler, which had been frozen in the same bight, but nearer
the sea, was working out ahead of us some three miles or so, through the
blue water and between the white floating floes, and we gave the greasy
beggar a cheer as he passed out of the bay, made a good offing, and bore
away, east by north, round Baccalieu Island.

"Conception Bay, I should tell you, gentlemen, is a large inlet of the
Newfoundland coast, about fifty-three miles long, by some twenty or so
broad; thus there is plenty of elbow-room for working out, even against
a head-wind.  Its coast is very bold and precipitous, especially about
Point de Grates and Cape St. Francis.  Harbour Grace and Carboniere on
its shore were settlements of the old French times.

"As we followed in the Russian’s wake, Bob Jenner, a fine, handsome
young seaman, from Bristol, had the wheel, steering, with a steady hand,
between the floes of broken ice that were drifting dangerously about the
bay.  We had the brig under easy sail; her fore and main courses,
topsails, jib, and forestay-sail.

"Amid the quiet that prevailed on board, and the satisfaction we felt in
having the blue water rippling alongside again, we were surprised by
hearing a voice hailing us, as it were, from the sea.

"’A man in the water, sir; just abeam of us, to port,’ shouted Scotch
Willy, as he sprang into the main chains.

"And there, sure enough, in the sea, some twenty yards or so from us, we
saw a man’s head bobbing up and down like a fisherman’s float, just as
we neared the mouth of the inlet, where, beyond the headlands, that were
covered with snow, and shining in the sea, we could see the waters of
the Atlantic stretching far away.

"’Rope—a rope!—man overboard, Captain Benson; lay the maincourse to the
wind!’ were now the shouts.

"’Bear a hand—quick—diable!’ cried the man in the water. ’Are you
fellows fit for nothing, in heaven or hell, that you will let me drown
before your eyes, d—n them?’

"Ere this remarkable speech reached us, the sheet was let fly to
starboard, hauled into port, the brig lay to the wind, and the line was
hove to this ill-bred personage in the water.  He caught the bight of it
with difficulty, for he was sorely benumbed, and actually sunk out of
sight as he tied it under his armpits.  However, up he came again, and
we gently hauled him on board, where he fainted for a few minutes; but
recovered when we poured some warm brandy-and-water down his throat,
stripped off his wet clothes, and put him in a cosy spare hammock in the
forecastle.

"By the time all this was done, we had cleared Conception Bay, and, with
flocks of the Baccalieu birds screaming about us, were heading east by
north, to keep clear of the floes, which the current was throwing in
towards the land again, so rapidly, that many of them, like the links of
an icy chain, were already drifting between us and the Russian, who was
hoisting out his studding-sails on both sides, to make as good an offing
as possible, before the sun set upon that frozen shore and tideless sea.

"By midday she was well-nigh hull down; but standing to the southward,
having cleared the outer angle of the ice, while we were standing east
and by north, to turn the end of a long mass, which we hoped to do ere
night fell.  In fact, the Russian had glided through some opening, which
had closed again, for we could see only a line of ice, now stretching to
the northern horizon, shutting us in towards the land.

"By midday our new hand was so far recovered as to be able to tell us
that he was by name Urbain Gautier, a French Canadian, and that he had
been a seaman on board the Russian whaler; that he had resented some
ill-usage, been flogged, and thrown overboard.  In proof of this summary
procedure he showed us his back, which was covered with livid marks,
evidently produced by the hearty application of a cat or knotted rope’s
end, but Scotch Willy lessened the general sympathy by informing me and
Tom Dacres, in a whisper, that when the Canadian’s knife fell from its
sheath as we dragged him on board there was blood on its blade.

"Blood!

"This circumstance was whispered among the crew from ear to ear, and
gave rise to many suspicions in no way favourable to our new
acquisition, whom, however, they cared not to question, as he was a man
singularly repulsive and brutal in aspect, and having a something in his
expression of eye which made all on board shrink from him.

"Urbain Gautier was Herculean in stature and proportion, and most
saturnine and satanic in visage.  His eyes were too near each other, and
too deeply set on each side of his long hooked nose, over which his two
eye-brows met in a straight and black unbroken line.  His mouth, with
its thin lips and serrated fangs, suggested cruelty, and altogether
there was a general and terrible aspect of evil about him.  He spoke
English, but when excited resorted to Canadian-French oaths and
interjections.

"If ’twas he brought us ill-luck we got our first instalment of it that
very night.

"The morning broke cold, grey, and cheerless, amid a storm of snow and
wind, through which, to reduce the ship’s speed, for we could see but
little ahead, we drove under our fore-course and topsails all
close-reefed now, and bitterly did we all regret the impatience which
made us leave our snug moorings in Harbour Grace.

"Now and then the black scud would lift a little, but only to show the
ice-fields drawing nearer and nearer, so, lest we should be crushed or
enclosed amid them hopelessly, and then, it might be, starved to death
when the last of our beef, biscuits, and water were gone, we steered in
for the land, with the wild Arctic tempest—for such it was—increasing
every moment.

"We tried sounding to leeward, but the lead always slipped from my
benumbed hands, and in the end we lost the frozen line, as it parted in
the iron block which was seized to the rigging by a tail-rope.  Ere long
we struck soundings with the hand lead, for the water was beginning to
shoal!

"The brig’s tops and the bellies of the close-reefed topsails became
filled with snow, and now we began to look gloomily at each other,
fearing rather than doubting the end.

"For most of that weary day we held on thus, running alternately west
and north—sea-room was all we wanted till a safe harbourage opened; but
ere long we knew it would be hopeless to look for either if the gale
continued, and the briskest exercise could scarcely keep us from being
frozen.

"We had been driven nor’-west I know not how many miles—for, perhaps,
more than six-and-thirty—when a heavier sea than usual struck the brig
on her starboard side, throwing her over on her beam ends to port,
carrying away the bulwarks, tearing the long-boat from its chocks and
lashings amidships, and making a clean sweep of everything on deck,
buckets, loose spars, and handspikes; and with these went one of our
men, who was never seen again.

"The brig righted, for she was a brave little craft, but with the loss
of her topmasts and jib-boom, all of which, with yards and gearing, were
broken off at the caps, and with hatchets and knives we worked amid the
blinding and benumbing haze of drift and spray, snow, and the darkness
of the coming night, to clear the wreck away—and away it all went astern
with a crash, leaving the _Favourite_ now under only her forecourse and
staysail.

"I shall never forget that night, if I live for a thousand years.

"The pumps were frozen; the boxes a mass of ice; the brakes refused to
work; but I knew there was more water in the hold than was healthy for
us.  We could get no tea, coffee, nor any warm food, for the cook’s
galley had been swept overboard, and the tots of grog, which I served
out from time to time, conduced, I think, rather to stupefy than to
comfort the poor fellows, who were beginning to lose all heart, and to
huddle together for warmth in the forecastle.

"Lightning, green and ghastly, glared forth at times, revealing the
weird aspect of the crippled and snow-covered brig; yet it had the
effect of clearing the atmosphere and enabling us to see the stars; but
still the wind blew fierce and biting over the vast ice-fields, and
still the fated craft flew on—we scarcely knew whither—but as the event
proved, between the headland of Buenovista and the enclosing ice.

"We had the utmost difficulty in keeping a lamp in the binnacle, and by
its light, amid the storm, Urbain Gautier, the French-Canadian, who had
the wheel, was steering; no other man on board but he could have handled
it singly and kept the brig to her course, for he had the strength of
three of us, and seemed alike impervious to cold and to suffering.

"I think I can see him now as he stood then, with his feet firmly
planted on the quarterdeck grating, his hands on the spokes of the
wheel, and the livid lightning seeming to play about him, as the brig
flew on through the storm and the darkness, and with every varying flash
his features changed in hue.  Now they were green, and anon red or blue;
now purple, and then ghastly white; ever and again, as the lightning
flashed forth, this infernal face came out of the gloom with a
diabolical grotesqueness, and a strange smile on it that appalled us
all; and now another day began to break.

"’Mate, that fellow is more like a devil than a human being,’ whispered
Bob Jenner to me, echoing my own thoughts, as we clung together to the
belaying pins abaft the mainmast.

"He spoke in a low whisper; but in an instant the eyes of Urbain were on
him.

"’Ah!’ said he, showing his serrated teeth, ’a _maladroit_ speech,
messmate.’

"’No messmate of yours,’ growled Bob, unwisely.

"’Shipmate, then,’ suggested the other, with a strange glance, between a
grin and a scowl, for his black, glittering eyes wore one expression,
and his cruel mouth another.

"’Well, mayhap, for so it must be,’ said Bob, bluntly.

"’Ah,’ said Urbain, with his horrible smile, as he held the wheel with
one hand, and—even at that terrible time—felt for his sheath-knife with
the other; ’ah! you think me a _mauvais sujet_, do you?"

"’I doesn’t know what "mavy suggey" may be, and I doesn’t care if I
never does,’ replied Bob, sturdily; ’but once I catches you ashore,
mounseer, I’ll teach you not to grip your knife when speaking to me.’

"’No quarrelling, lads,’ said I, while my teeth chattered in the cold of
that awful morning atmosphere.  ’I only wish we were ashore.’

"’Then have your wish.  Land ho!’ sung out Urbain; and at that moment
the grey wrack around us parted like a curtain; there was a dreadful
crash, which tumbled us all right and left; the breakers which he had
seen ahead were now boiling around us; and the brig lay bulged and
broken-backed upon a reef, close to a lofty line of rocky coast, a
helpless wreck, with the ice closing round her; and with a sound between
an oath and a laugh, Urbain quitted the now useless wheel, which
oscillated, as if in mockery, to and fro.

"Captain Benson, who, worn out by toil, had been snatching a few
minutes’ repose under the hood of the companionway, now sprang on deck,
to find the brig totally lost, and that for us there was no resource, if
we would save our lives, but to abandon her and get on shore.

"Broken and bulged, she was too firmly wedged on the reef for us ever to
have the slightest hope of getting her off, save to sink her in deep
water.  As yet she might hold together for some hours, if the fury of
the storm abated, and there were evident signs of such being the case.

"As each successive blast grew less in fury, and as the force and sound
of the sea went down, we heard the wild streaming of the Baccalieu
birds; and now, ere the water, which was rising fast in hold and cabin,
destroyed everything, we procured charts and telescopes, to discover on
what part of that barren, bleak, and most desolate of all the American
shores, our fate had cast us.

"On comparing the outline of the snow-clad coast with the diagrams on
the chart, we found we were stranded somewhere between the Bloody Bay
and the Bay of Fair and False, about one hundred and twenty miles to the
north-westward of the point from whence we had sailed.

"Few or no settlers, even of the most hardy and desperate description,
are to be found thereabout, as the inhabitants between that place and
the Bay of Notre Dame, about one hundred and fifty in number, are poor
wretches who fish for cod and salmon in what they call summer, and for
seals and the walrus in winter, and usually retire for the latter
purpose to St. John’s, or bury themselves in the woods till the snow
disappears, about the month of June.

"We had but a sorry prospect before us; every instant the brig was going
more and more to pieces beneath our feet, and our glasses swept the far
extent of the snow-clad coast in vain, for not a vestige of a human
habitation, or any sign of a human being, could be seen.  No living
thing was there save the Baccalieu birds, which screamed and wheeled in
flocks above the seething breakers.

"Captain Benson’s resolutions were taken at once.  He resolved to
abandon the wreck, and make his way by land at once for Trinity, a
little town on the western side of the great bay that divides Avalon
from the mainland of the island, or for Buenoventura, another settlement
twelve miles to the southward.

"By circumnavigating the numerous bights, bays, and other inlets that
lay between us and Buenoventura—especially the long, narrow, and
provoking reach of Clode Sound—provided we failed to cross it on the
ice, we should have at least a hundred miles to travel over a desolate
and snow-covered waste, without a pathway, and without other guide than
a pocket-compass.

"We set about our preparations at once.  Every man put on his warmest
clothing, and Tom Dacres lent a cosy Petersham jacket to the Canadian,
Gautier.  We greased our boots well, that they might exclude the wet,
and made us long leggings to wear over our trousers by tying pieces of
tarpaulin from the ankle to the knee, and lashing them well round with
spun-yarn.

"For many hours we had been without food, and now examination proved
that, save a few biscuits in the cabin locker, all the bread on board
had been destroyed by the salt water; yet Urbain Gautier was able to
make a meal of it.  We were forced to content ourselves with a half
biscuit each, to be eaten at our first halting place on shore.  Beef or
other provision we had none, and not a drop of rum or any other liquid
could be had, for the brig was going fast to pieces, as the breakers
surged up under her weather-counter, and all the hull abaft the mainmast
was settling rapidly down in the water.

"Luckily we got up six muskets and some dry ammunition through the
skylight.  I say luckily, as we would have to hunt our way to
Buenoventura; and these, with two tin pannikins, wherewith to cook and
melt the snow for water, and a box of lucifer matches for lighting fires
when we squatted in the bush for the night, we made our way ashore in
the quarter-boat, and landed a chilled, wan, haggard, and miserable
little band, consisting of eleven persons in all, including the captain,
Bob Jenner, Tom Dacres, Willy Ormiston, the boy, myself, and five
others.

"We were not without some fears of the Red Indians, though few or none,
I believe, are now to be found on the island.  Thus our first proceeding
was to load and cap our muskets carefully.[*]


[*] It was a tradition, when the author was there, that in 1810 an
exploring party, under Lieutenant Buchan, R.N., was sent to cultivate
friendship with the Red Indians, and left with them, as hostages, two
marines.  Returning to the Bay of Exploits (about seventy miles westward
from Bloody Bay) next summer, he found the savages gone, and the
headless remains of his two marines lying in the bush.


"Captain Benson proceeded in front, with a fowling-piece on his
shoulder, steering the way, with the aid of his pocket compass and a
fragment of a chart; and he, too, was custodian of our box of lucifer
matches.  Just as we reached the top of the cliffs, by a slippery and
dangerous ascent, we heard a sound, which made us all pause and look
back towards the wreck.  The field ice had already closed in upon the
reef; but the last vestiges of the brig had disappeared where the
Baccalieu birds were whirling thickest and screaming loudest.

"From the cliff that overlooked the sea, which was covered to the
horizon with a myriad hummocks of field ice, diversified here and there
by a great iceberg, the view landward differed but little in aspect.
The whole dreary expanse was covered with snow—snow that made the frozen
lakes and bays so blend with the land, that save for the dark groves of
stunted firs and dwarf brushwood that grew in the arid soil, it was
difficult to know where one ended and the other began. The hills were
low, monotonous, and unpleasantly resembled icebergs, without possessing
the altitude, the sharp peaks, and abrupt outlines of the latter.

"In all that wintry waste the most awful silence prevailed, and not a
sound was stirring in the clear blue air, for now the snow-storm had
ceased, the wind had died away, and the sky was all of the purest,
deepest, most intense, and unclouded blue.  Amid it shone the dazzling
sun, causing a reflection from the snow that served partly to blind or
bewilder us; but now, after sharing our tobacco—all save Urbain—for a
friendly whiff, we set resolutely forth upon our journey, in a direction
at first due south-west from Bloody Bay, towards the upper angle of the
long and winding shores of Newman’s Sound.

"Three days we travelled laboriously, each helping his shipmates on, for
our strength was failing fast, and sleeping in the scrubby bush at night
was perilous work, for the cold was beyond all description intense; but
we selected places where the snow was arched and massed over the low
fir-trees, and there we crept in for shelter, running only the risk of
being completely snowed up.  Three days we travelled thus, without a
path, over the white waste, where, in some places, the snow was frozen
hard as flinty rock, and where, in others, we sank to our knees at every
step; and during those three days, save the half biscuit per man which
we had on quitting the wreck, no food passed our lips, and no other
fluid than melted snow; and when the damp destroyed our tiny store of
matches, we had no other means of allaying the agony of our thirst than
by sucking a piece of ice or a handful of snow, and these were sure to
produce bleeding lips and swollen tongues, as they burnt like fire.

"On the third morning, as we turned out, a seaman, whose name I forget,
did not stir; we shook and called him, but there was no response; the
poor fellow had passed away in his sleep, and so we left him there.

"Our fingers and noses were frequently frost-bitten; but when they were
well rubbed in snow, animation returned. Those who had whiskers, found
them more a nuisance than a source of warmth, as they generally became
clogged by heavy masses of ice.  Dread of snow-blindness, after the
glare of the past winter, came on us, too; for each day the sun was
bright and cloudless—a shining globe overhead; but a globe that gave no
heat.

"We met no traces of Red, or of Micmac Indians, or of the wild cariboo
deer; the black bear, the red fox, the broad-tailed musquash, the white
hare, and other game of the country, were nowhere to be seen either, or
else we were not trappers enough to know their lairs or trail.

"Snow-birds, and all other fowl seemed equally scarce: in fact, the
severity of the weather had destroyed, or driven them elsewhere, and
with our hollow and blood-shot eyes we scanned the white wastes in vain
for a shot at anything.

"To add to our troubles, little Scotch Willy fairly broke down, unable
to proceed; and as the boy could not be left to perish, we carried him
by turns—all, save the great and muscular Urbain Gautier, who told us
plainly that he would see the boy and the crew in a very warm climate
indeed before he would add to his own sufferings by becoming a beast of
burden.

"’A beast you will ever be, whether of burden or not,’ said Captain
Benson, as he took the first spell of carrying poor Willy, who like a
child as he was, wept sorely for his mother now.

"’_Tonnerre de Dieu!_’ growled the savage, grinding his teeth and
cocking his musket; but as three of us did the same, he gave one of his
queer grins, and resumed his journey; but kept more aloof from us, for
which we were not sorry.

"By contrast to the icy horrors around us, memory tormented us with
ideas and pictures of blazing fires and festive hearths; of happy homes,
of warm dinners and jugs of hot punch; of steaming coffee and rich
cream; of mulled wines; of chestnuts sputtering amid the embers; of
carpeted rooms and close-drawn curtains, glowing redly in the warm blaze
of a sea-coal fire; of warm feather-beds and cosy English blankets; of
every distant comfort that we had not, and never more might see.

"On the fourth day there was no alleviation to our sufferings; no change
in the weather, save a sharp fall of snow, against which we were
sullenly and blindly staggering on, when a cry of despair escaped from
the blistered lips of Captain Benson.

"The fly and needle of the pocket-compass had given way, and we had no
longer a guide!

"Indeed, we knew not where, or in what direction, we might have been
proceeding with this faulty index since we left the ship.  Long ere the
noon of the fourth day we should have turned the inner angle of Clode
Sound; but now we saw only masses of slaty rocks on every hand, rising
from the snow, with snow on their summits, save towards the west, where
the vast and flat expanse of a frozen and snow-covered sheet of water
spread in distance far away.

"We thought that it was the sea, but it proved eventually to be the
great Unexplored Lake, which is more than fifty miles long, by about
twenty miles broad.

"In this awful condition we found ourselves, while our little strength
was now failing so fast that we could scarcely carry our hitherto
useless muskets; and now another night was closing in.

"Urbain, who was near me, uttered a savage laugh.

"’What are you thinking of?’ I asked with surprise.

"’Of what, eh?’

"’Yes.’

"’_Très bien!_ very good; I was thinking over which is likely to be the
best part of a man.’

"’For what purpose?’

"’_Cordieu!_ for eating,’ said he, with a fiendish grimace.

"After this the imprecations of Urbain, chiefly against the captain,
became loud, deep, and horrible; but luckily for us most of them were
uttered in French.  Ere long the savage fellow’s mood seemed to change;
he wept, and to our surprise offered to carry Willy, on one condition,
that one of us carried his musket; and then once more, guided now by the
direction in which the sun had set, we continued our pilgrimage towards
the south.

"Urbain’s vast strength seemed to have departed now; he was incapable of
keeping up with us, and began to lag more and more behind, so that we
had frequently to wait for him, as we were too feeble to call, and
Willy, who feared him greatly, implored us not to leave them.

"On these occasions Urbain’s old devilish temper became roused, and he
broke forth into oaths, and even threats; so, ultimately, we left him to
proceed at his own slow pace as we struggled towards a wood, dragging
with us a seaman named Tom Dacres, who had been no longer able to
abstain from swallowing snow, by which his mouth was almost immediately
swollen, while he became speechless and all but paralysed.

"Yet on and on we toiled, dragging him by turns, our weary limbs sinking
deep at every step.  When I look back to those sufferings, I frequently
think that I must have been partially insane; but it would seem that,
like one in a dream, I went through all the formula of life like a sane
person.

"On reaching the thicket, it proved to be one of old and half-decayed
firs; then we proceeded to suck portions of the bark greedily.  After
this we became aware, for the first time, of the absence of Urbain
Gautier and little Willy.

"They had disappeared in the twilight!"

Here Captain Binnacle interrupted his narrative by expressing a fear
that he wearied us; but we begged of him to proceed, as we were anxious
to know how those adventures ended by the shore of the Unexplored Lake.



                            *CHAPTER XXVII.*


    A still small voice spoke unto me,
    "Thou art so full of misery,
    Were it not better not to be!"

    Then to the still small voice I said,
    "Let me not cast in endless shade
    What is so wonderfully made."  TENNYSON.


"Nestling close to a rock, from the side of which the snow formed an
arch, we found some moss, which we ate with avidity, and then some
sprigs of savine, which generally grows in the clefts of the rocks all
over the island and the Labrador coast, yielding the berry from which
the spruce beer is made.  With tears of thankfulness we devoured them,
and were surmising what had become of Urbain, when about nine o’clock by
the captain’s watch he appeared, but without Scotch Willy, who had, he
said, died about an hour ago, and been buried by him among the snow.

"’Where?’ asked the captain, in a low voice, for Dacres, and two others
of our famine-stricken band, were in a dying condition.

"’Did you observe an old peeled trunk of a tree about a mile distant?’

"’Yes.’

"’_Très bien_—I buried him there,’ replied Urbain, whose voice sounded
strong and full compared with what it was some hours ago.  Captain
Benson remarked this, and said—

"’You have hunted and found something to eat?’

"’_Tonnerre de ciel_!  Beelzebub—no.  I left my gun with you.’

"True; did poor little Willy die easily?" I asked.

"’I wish we may all die so easily,’ replied Urbain, with an impatient
oath, as he crept close to me for warmth, causing me, I know not why, to
shudder.

"I scarcely slept that night, though our snow cell was not destitute of
heat; but vague suspicions and solid terrors kept me wakeful.  Willy’s
sudden death appalled me; and something in the bearing and aspect of
Urbain filled me with dreadful conjectures, which, in the morning, I
communicated only to Bob Jenner.

"At dawn we found Tom Dacres dead, and two others dying; to leave the
latter would have been inhuman; the poor fellows were quite collected,
shook hands with us all round, shared their tobacco among us equally,
and while we all smoked for warmth, the captain repeated the Lord’s
Prayer. After which, Jenner and I took our guns and went forth to
explore.  With tacit but silent consent, we went straight to the old
bare skeleton tree.  The snow around it was frozen hard, and was pure,
spotless, and untrodden, as when it fell some days before; so Urbain had
told a falsehood, and little Willy was not buried there.  For a little
sustenance we now sucked the rags with which we oiled our guns, and
looked about us, tracing back our trail of the preceding evening a
little way.

"Suddenly we came upon the footmarks of Urbain, which diverged at an
acute angle from our several tracks, and those we followed for about
three hundred yards, to where a great rock rose abruptly from the snow,
which was all disturbed and discoloured about its base—discoloured, and
by—blood.

"Bob Jenner and I looked blankly at each other, and cold as our own
blood was, it seemed to grow colder still.  There, in that awful
solitude of vast and snowy prairies, dwarf forests, unexplored lakes,
and untrodden land, a terrible tragedy had too surely been acted.  He
had killed the boy—but why? Removing the snow with the butts of our
guns, a white man’s hand appeared, an arm, and then we drew forth the
dead body of little Willy Ormiston.  It had a strange and unnaturally
emaciated aspect.  A livid bruise was on the right temple, and there was
a wound, a singular perforation under the right ear.  These were all we
could discover at first; but there was much blood upon the snow around,
and on the poor boy’s tattered clothing.  Then a groan escaped us both,
when we found that his left sleeve had been ripped up, and that a great
piece of the arm was wanting, from the elbow to the shoulder, having
been sliced off literally and close to the bone.

"’A strange mutilation!’ said I, while my teeth chattered with dismay,
and I evaded putting my thoughts in words. ’If wolves——’

"’Wolves never did this,’ replied Jenner in a husky voice; ’but a knife
has been used.’

"’You mean—you mean——’

"’Look ye, shipmate, at that round wound in the neck.’

"’Well?’

"’After stunning him by a blow, Urbain Gautier has punctured the boy’s
throat, and sucked his blood, like a weazel or a vampire, or some such
thing, and ended actually by cutting a slice from his arm!’

"The whole details of this act of horror seemed but too complete, and
gradually we were compelled to accept the fact, the more so when I
recalled his strange remark of the preceding evening.  We became sick
and giddy; the white landscape swam round and round us, and while
covering up the remains with snow we fell repeatedly with excess of
weakness, and then returned to the little thicket—returned slowly, to
find that our band was lessened by three, for in addition to Tom Dacres,
two other poor fellows had just breathed their last.  Urbain’s fierce
black eyes questioned us in stern silence as we approached.

"’Did you find the boy?’ asked Captain Benson, who had been singeing the
hair off a fur cap of Dacres, and cutting it into strips for us to chew,
which we did thankfully.

"’Yes, he is dead.  Let us think no more of it at present,’ said I.

"Black fury gathered in Urbain’s sombre visage as we came close to him,
and he growled out—’I buried him at the foot of the old tree, shipmate;
so, _diable!_ say what you like, or that which is safer, think what you
like.’

"I was too weak to resent this, or to confront him, and so turned away.
The captain divided some of the dead men’s clothes among us, but these
Urbain declined to share, or in the strips of scorched fur, for his
strength seemed to have been completely renovated during the night; and
after covering our poor companions with snow, we again set forth wearily
towards the south-east, and, weak though, we were, we cast many a
backward glance to the thicket where our three dead shipmates lay side
by side.  About noon a covey of white winter grouse were near us; we all
fired at once.  Whether it was that we were bad shots, that our hands
were weak, that our eyes miscalculated the distance, or our aim wavered,
I know not, but every bird escaped, and with moans of despair we
reloaded.  Then, to add to our troubles, it was found that only three of
us, to wit, the captain, Urbain, and myself, had dry powder left.  On
and on yet to the south-east, through the blinding and trackless waste
of snow!

"In a place where a grey scalp of rock was almost bare of drifted snow
we found the skeleton of a cariboo deer.  It was pure white, and coated
with crystal frost.  Wolfishly we eyed it, as if we would have sucked
the dry bones that several winters, perhaps, had bleached, for not a
vestige even of skin remained on them.  Those whose ammunition failed
them, now cast away their guns and powder-horns as useless incumbrances.
We were all reduced to shadows, and two had to support their bending
forms on walking-sticks.  Even our jolly captain was becoming quite
feeble, and the despondency of settled despair was creeping over us all.

"Urbain alone seemed hale, and stepped steadily, when others fell ever
and anon in utter weakness.  There were times when I surveyed his vast
bulk, which loomed greater to my diseased eyesight, and I thought we had
the foul fiend himself journeying with us in the form of a man.

"What if all should perish—all but he and me?  On we toiled towards
another thicket, where we proposed to search for roots or moss, on which
to make a meal, and to light a fire, for evening was approaching; and
now it was that Urbain seated himself on a piece of rock, swearing that
he would proceed no farther then, but would rejoin us in the thicket.
Captain Benson was too weak, or cared too little about him, to
remonstrate, so we passed on in silence to our halting place, where,
most providentially, we found some juniper bushes, which the snow had
preserved, and some soft fir bark, which we devoured greedily.
Refreshed by this, we lighted a fire by means of some gunpowder and a
percussion cap, and heaped the branches on it.  A bird or two twittered
past; I fired mechanically—almost without aim—and was lucky enough to
knock over a large-sized pigeon-eagle, which was speedily divided and
devoured, half broiled, ere we thought that the feathers only had been
left for Urbain, of whose guilt Bob and I had informed our shipmates,
that all might be on their guard, and our narrative added to their
sufferings, for now we all feared to sleep, and had to cast lots for a
watcher.

"About dawn he returned, and when we all set forth again, though we had
been renovated by the heat of our fire and by the savage meal we had
made, he seemed, as usual, the freshest among us, and on this day we
observed, in whispers to each other, that he wore round his neck a
red-spotted handkerchief which we had left tied over the face of Tom
Dacres!

"He must have gone back to the thicket where the three dead men lay, but
for what purpose?

"About noon on this day we found ourselves on the summit of a
mountainous ridge of bare rock; it was without snow, which, however, lay
drifted deep around.  It commanded an extensive view so far as from the
borders of the great Unexplored Lake on our right, to the head of
Smith’s Sound on our left.

"There was no sign of a human habitation to be seen, and our eyes swept
in vain the horizon, where the white snow and blue sky met, for a
smoke-wreath indicating where a squatter’s cabin stood.

"’Malediction!’ said Urbain, hoarsely, ’if this continues I shall have
something to eat, _bon gré malgré!_—if it should be the flesh of a man.
You seem shocked mate,’ said he to me, as I shrank back.

"’I am shocked,’ said, I, quietly.

"’Well—_diable!_ don’t be so,’ he replied, mockingly, ’because it is
wonderful truly what you may bring your mind to, if you put your courage
to the test, and place yourself _en visage_ with your fate like a man.’

"’Or a devil—eh, Urbain Gautier?’ said Captain Benson; ’but no more of
this, or——’

"’Don’t threaten me, _mon petit capitaine_—my nice little man,’
interrupted the giant, with a horrible grimace, ’or——’ and pausing, he
laid his hand significantly on his knife.

"Urbain now became surly, insolent, and ferocious; but knowing his
singular strength, which failed less than ours, and knowing the secret,
the loathsome and terrible means by which he maintained it—aware also
that he had plenty of ammunition—we dissembled alike our fears, our
suspicions, and our abhorrence of him.

"After we had toiled on for two hours in silence, he suddenly stopped us
all by an oath.

"’_Nombril de Belzebub!_’ he exclaimed to Captain Benson, ’what is the
use of looking for food or game in these infernal wastes, into which
your stupidity has led us?  Let us cast lots, and find out who shall be
shot for the food of the rest!’

"’Silence, wretch,’ said Captain Benson.

"’To that it will come at last,’ said Urbain, grinning.

"’Perhaps it has come to it already,’ said Bob Jenner, unwisely.

"’Ah, _sacré_! You think I murdered that boy, do you? And you think so,
too?’ he added to me.

"’I have not said so,’ I replied, evasively.

"’You had better not, or by ——, if you thought me capable of committing
such an act, or if you said it——’ and so on he rambled incoherently,
threatening and bullying; but all the while most surely confirming our
just suspicions.

"’Let us cut him adrift; leave him behind; if we can do so, to-night,’
whispered Jenner to me.

"Low though the whisper was, it caught the huge ears of Urbain, even
while muffled by the lappets of a sealskin cap.

"’Leave me behind, will you?  Well, you may do so; but, diable!  I shall
not be left without food.’

"About an hour after this we met with a terrible but significant
catastrophe.  While we were all proceeding in Indian file behind the
captain, Urbain stumbled on a piece of slippery ice; he fell, and in
doing so, his musket exploded, lodging its contents right in the back of
the head of my poor messmate, Bob Jenner, who fell back, and expired
without a groan.

"We were appalled by the suddenness of this calamity; all, save Urbain,
who rubbed his knees, muttered an oath, and reloaded with all the
rapidity of alarm; while each of us read in his neighbour’s face the
conviction that there was more of design than accident in what had taken
place, though it had all the appearance of a casualty.

"Dissembling still, and having but little time for grief, we covered
poor Bob’s remains with snow, and resumed our melancholy march.

"We were but six now, and five of those were famished scarecrows.

"A mile farther on, we found the ruins of a deserted log hut, which we
hailed with extravagant joy, as our first approach to civilization, and
the abode of human beings.  There we resolved to pass the night, which
was approaching, and there we kindled a fire, and with blocks of snow
filled up the doorway, while the smoke escaped by an aperture in the
roof.

"Oh, how genial was the warmth we felt; and though we had only a few
fragments of moist bark to chew, we would have felt almost happy, but
for the recent catastrophe, and for our dread of Urbain Gautier, who as
soon as twilight fell said he would go in search of a shot, and taking
his gun went away.

"We breathed more freely when he left us; but we shuddered with intense
loathing when we knew that he was returning to the place where our dead
companion—too surely murdered by his hand—lay uncoffined in the snow.

"We felt that we were no longer safe with him, and all were conscious
that he should die, as a judicial retribution.

"Lots were cast for the dangerous office of executioner, and the fate
fell on me.

"Instead of alarm or compunction, I felt as one who had a terrible duty
to perform.  I became conscious that justice to the dead and to the
living, if not my own personal safety, demanded the fulfilment of the
terrible task which had become mine, and with the most perfect coolness
and deliberation I overhauled my gun, examined the charge, carefully
capped it anew, and sleeplessly awaited him I was to destroy—this
wretch—this ghoul or vampire, on his return from his horrid repast amid
the snow—a repast which his own treachery and cruelty had provided; and
as I waited thus the face of poor Willy Ormiston, and the cheery voice
of poor Bob Jenner, as I had often heard it, when he sang at the wheel,
or when sharing the night-watch, came powerfully and distinctly to
memory.

"I threw more dry branches on the fire, and bidding my shipmates sleep,
addressed myself to the task of watching, and half dozing, with my
weapon beside me.

"I felt sure that Urbain hated me; that he knew I suspected him, and
would too probably be his next victim, especially if my shot missed him,
as he might then legally slay me, and would do so by a single blow.

"Already I felt my flesh creep at the idea of its furnishing a collop
for him, perhaps to-morrow night, when he stole back from the next
halting place.

"I shall never forget the weary moments of that exciting night.  I have
somewhere read that ’it is one of the strange instincts of half slumber
to be often more alive to the influence of subdued and stealthy sounds
than of louder noises.  The slightest whisperings, the low murmurings of
a human voice, the creaking of a chair, the cautious drawing back of a
curtain, will jar upon and rouse the faculties that have been insensible
to the rushing flow of a cataract, or the dull booming of the sea.’

"I must have been asleep, however, when a sound startled me, and I could
hear footsteps treading softly over the crisp and frozen snow.  Rousing
myself, I started to the aperture which passed for a doorway, and which,
as I have stated, we had partially blocked up by snow; and through it,
about fifty paces distant, I saw the tall dark form of Urbain towering
between me and the ghastly white waste beyond.  He loomed like a giant
in the bright but waning moon, that was sinking behind the hills that
are as yet unnamed, while a blood-red streak to the westward showed
where the morning was about to break.

"My heart beat fast, every pulse was quickened, and every fibre tingled,
as I raised the musket to my shoulder, took a deliberate aim, and, when
he was within twenty paces of me, fired, and shot him dead!

"The bullet entered his mouth, and passed out of the base of the skull
behind, injuring the brain in its passage, and destroying him instantly.

"So Captain Benson told me, for I never looked on his face again, though
I have often seen it since in my dreams.

"About two hours after this summary act of justice we were found and
relieved by a travelling party of Indians, Micmacs, who come from the
continent of America at times, and domicile themselves chiefly along the
western shore of the island, to hunt the beaver by the banks of the
Serpentine Lake.

"They conveyed us through the fur country of the Buenoventura people to
the miserable little settlement of that name, where we remained till the
ice broke up, when we were taken to St. John’s in a seal-fisher.

"There our perils and suffering ended.  We had shipped on board
different crafts for different countries, and the next year saw me
appointed captain of this clipper-ship, the _Pride of the Ocean_."[*]


[*] A character not unlike Urbain Gautier figures in the account of the
first or second expedition of Sir John Franklin.



                           *CHAPTER XXVIII.*


    Pass we the long, unvarying course, the track
    Oft trod, that never leaves a trace behind;
    Pass we the calm, the gale, the change, the tack,
    And each well-known caprice of wave and wind,
    Cooped in their winged sea-girt citadel;
    The foul, the fair, the contrary, the kind,
    As breezes rise and fall, and billows swell,
    Till on some jocund morn—lo, land! and all is well.
      BYRON.


Pleasantly we traversed the almost tideless waters of the Mediterranean,
the great inland sea of Europe.

We generally had a fair wind; but in our tacks southward and northward
more than once we sighted the shores of Europe on one side, and those of
Africa on the other.

The routine of transport life varied but little, so every passing sail
became an object of speculation and interest.  Day by day, and
frequently night after night, we walked with the same person on the same
side of the quarter-deck, turning short round at the taffrail aft, and
at the break forward, to resume the same pace, without making a remark,
for all our mutual ideas had been interchanged over and over again, and
no tie remained, save that of being comrades, weary and worn alike,
though each had his own thoughts, the mental orbit in which his soul
revolved, and these were, perhaps, three thousand leagues astern.

Every probable and possible phase of the war we had dissected and
discussed, and the future excitement that was to come we contrasted
impatiently with the quiet, inglorious monotony of the present, while
the swift clipper cleft the classic waters of the Mediterranean.

The monotony on board was once varied by a trivial practical joke played
by M’Goldrick, the paymaster, on the colonel and some of the English
officers, who had been deriding Scottish cookery.  He produced at dinner
a valuable preserve, which he had previously had carefully soldered up
in a tin case, by the armourer’s aid, and which he had compounded with
the joint assistance of the ship’s cook and my man, Pitblado.

It was duly boiled, and produced at table in its tin case as a scarce
and rare Parisian decoction—_Farina d’avoine au fromage_, or some such
name; and after being partaken of by Beverley, Studhome, and the rest,
was pronounced excellent, though it proved, after all, to be only a very
ill-made Scotch haggis.

In the Mediterranean we were frequently impressed by the extreme
blueness of the water.  It seemed to have a purer and deeper tint than
we had ever seen it wear even in higher latitudes, especially when the
weather was fine, and light scattered clouds were floating through the
sky.

About a fortnight after passing "old Gib," the outline of Malta and its
sister isle, the abode of Calypso, rose from the morning sea on our lee
bow; and during the whole of a lovely day our eyes were strained in that
direction, watching that rocky shore of so many great and glorious
memories—the last stronghold of Christian chivalry—the link between
Britain and her Indian empire—our "halfway house" to the Bosphorus—with
all its cannon bristling as the mistress of the Mediterranean and
Levant.

As we drew nearer, our field-glasses enabled us to trace the rocky
outline of the greater isle—the hilly range of which is only about a
hundred feet higher than the dome of St. Paul’s—and the steep, rugged
coast to the north-east, beyond which lie the _casals_, or villages of
the lank, yellow-visaged, black-bearded, and malicious-looking Maltese,
concerning whom I do not mean to afflict my reader with either a
description or a dissertation.

The evening gun flashed redly from the Castle of St. Elmo, and the
harbour lights of Valetta were sparkling brightly amid the golden
evening haze, as we ran into the harbour, round which a thousand or more
pieces of cannon were bristling on battery and platform, and on coming
to anchor found that we were only a pistol-shot astern of the _Ganges_,
which had on board Wilford’s troop of ours, and which had come in two
days before us.

We were only to wait the refilling of our tank with fresh water, of
which, being a horse transport, we required an unusual quantity; and now
our poor nags were neighing in concert in the hold, for, as Captain
Binnacle termed it, "they smelt the land."

No officer or soldier was permitted to go on shore, unless on duty, for
already Malta was crowded with troops, so much so that the 93rd
Highlanders were actually bivouacking in a burying-ground.  But these
orders did not prevent us from visiting our comrades in the _Ganges_; so
Binnacle sent off his gig, with the colonel, Studhome, Sir Harry
Scarlett, and me.

We found that all were well on board, and had suffered no casualties,
save the loss of four horses by disease.  Unlike us, however, they had
been favoured by that remarkable illumination known in those waters as
St. Elmo’s light, which had shone on their main-topgallant mast for a
space of three feet below the truck in the night, when they were off the
volcanic isle of Pantalaria.

My old friend Fred Wilford received us with warmth and welcome.  Thus
far our voyages had been equally unmarked by danger or adventure.

In the cabin we found Berkeley, reading one of the London morning
papers, which was only a week or so old.  It had come by the steam
packet from Marseilles.  He addressed a few remarks, in his usual
languid way, to the colonel and to Scarlett, made a pencil-mark on his
paper, as if half casually, and tossing it on the cabin table, retired,
with his strange smile and lounging gait, on deck.

Under other circumstances I should most probably have been awaiting him
at the hotel of M. Dessin, at Calais, for the purpose of giving him a
morning airing on the beach, with the chance of myself being carried
back on a shutter, perhaps, to that famous room, in which, as all the
travelling world know, Lawrence Sterne and Walter Scott have slept. But
fate or duty had arranged it otherwise; so here we were, quietly smoking
cheroots in the harbour of Valetta.  But his voice and presence recalled
all the baseness of his conduct at the Reculvers, and the bitterness of
the time when he involved me in disgrace with Louisa Loftus—a double
piece of treachery for which I had yet to demand satisfaction.

Curious to see the paragraph which had such interest for him, I took up
his paper, and my eye fell at once upon the following paragraph:—


"THE NEW PEERAGE.—Our readers will be glad to perceive that, by last
night’s _London Gazette_, a right honourable lord, long known in the
world of fashion, and latterly in political circles, has been raised to
a marquisate, by the title of Marquis of Slubber de Gullion and Viscount
Gabey of Slubberleigh.  Rumour adds that, lest the newly-won honours
perish, the noble marquis is about to lead to the altar the only
daughter and heiress of one of the greatest of our English families—the
fair maid of Kent."


I knew well that the closing words could only refer to Louisa Loftus.  I
had seen her but a few days before this piece of impertinent twaddle had
been penned, and the memory of our parting hour, and the expression of
her eyes, came vividly before me; but we were far separated now, and it
is difficult to describe how deeply the tenor of that paragraph stung
me.

The drums were beating in barrack and citadel, and the trumpets were
sounding tattoo in the transports, as we were rowed back to our vessel.
Studhome and the colonel were chatting gaily, and Scarlett was humming a
waltz, as he pulled the stroke-oar and thought of past days at Oxford.

I alone was silent and sad.

From violet and purple, the tints of the later evening—the gloaming, as
we call it in Scotland—passed into blue and amber, and the lights of
Valetta rose over each other, glittering in tiers along the slope on
which the city is built, with all its "streets of stairs," which Byron
anathematized.

The band of an infantry regiment was playing in Citta Nuova, and softly
the strains of the music came across the rippling water, over which the
blue and amber tints were swiftly spreading, while in its depths the
stars were shining, and all the shipping were reflected downwards.

Lights glittered gaily all round the harbour; the ramparts of St. Elmo
and of Ricazoli, with the mass of the cathedral, where the knights of
the Seven Nations sleep in their marble tombs, and where hung of old the
silver keys of Acre, Rhodes, and Jerusalem, stood in bold outline
against the ruddy, but deepening, twilight sky.

The scene was lovely and stirring withal; but my heart and thoughts were
far away from Malta, as we were rowed back between crowded transports,
and huge, silent frigates and line-of battle ships, to the _Pride of the
Ocean_.

My good friend, Jack Studhome, who knew the cause of my too apparent
depression, made light of the matter, and endeavoured, in his own
fashion, to soothe and console me while we took a whiff together on
deck, before turning in for the night.

"Consider, Norcliff," said he; "Lady Louisa Loftus, sole heiress of
Chillingham Park!"

"Ay, there’s the rub, Jack—sole heiress.  I would rather that she had
not a shilling in the world."

"Indeed!  Why?"

"Our chances were more equal then."

"Hear me out.  Sole heiress of Lord Chillingham—all save his titles!
What should, what could, tempt her—already too, in the face of her
engagement with you—to throw herself away on old Slubber, who might be
her grandfather?  Where would be her gain?"

"The title of marchioness, with vast estates," said I bitterly. "In my
case, my dear fellow, she would only be Lady Louisa Loftus, wife of a
very poor captain of lancers."

"But those newspaper rumours are frequently such impertinent falsehoods.
Remember that, if their authors get their columns filled, they care
little with what it may be, for a newspaper must contain daily the same
amount of words, whether it give news or not.  So with messieurs the
editors, it is anything for the nonce.  Their best productions are in
the press to-day, and too often, perhaps, we don’t know where to-morrow;
so put not your trust in this, Norcliff.  And now to bed. We have stable
duty at seven, A.M., to-morrow," concluded Studhome.

Next morning, Captain Binnacle, who had been on shore at Valetta,
brought off with him the mail, which came from London _viâ_ Marseilles,
and by it I received a welcome letter from Sir Nigel.

It was long and hurried; but was filled chiefly with hunting
intelligence.  Had Cora written—and why did she not?—I might have had
more interesting tidings.

He had bought a couple of hunters from Lord Chillingham but feared they
wouldn’t do in such a stone-wall county as Fife; and he had secured a
new huntsman—such a tip-top fellow!  He had hunted all the counties on
the Welsh border—could tell the pedigree of a hound at a glance—was
perfect in his work, and rode under ten stone.  Sir Hubert himself was
but a sham when compared to him, and he was sure to figure some day in
the columns of _Bell’s Life_.

I had full permission to draw for whatever I required; but I scanned the
letter in vain for the name of Louisa.  Slubber’s was spoken of only
twice.  Indeed, my hearty old uncle viewed that noble peer of the realm
with no small contempt.

"I am still at Chillingham Park, with our kind friends; but I must be
home in Scotland for the Lanarkshire steeple-chase on Beltane day.
There will be some queer jockeyship in the mounts, I fear.  Four miles
distance will be the run, including thirteen stone walls, four rough
burns, two water leaps, and six-and-twenty most infernal fences.  I know
the course well—by Gryffwraes and Waterlee.  (All this stuff, thought I,
and not one word of Louisa!)  Old Slubber is to be made a marquis, it
seems, so the countess talks nothing but ’peerage’—Douglas and Debrett,
Lodge, and Sir Bernard Burke.  It is all noble ’shop,’ and we poor
commoners have not the shadow of a chance!

"Slubber is an old humbug; I am as old as he is, perhaps; but I don’t
wear my hat in the nape of my neck, or use goloshes and an
umbrella—never had one in all my life.  I don’t mount my horse with the
aid of a groom, and ride him as if I was afraid he’d take it into his
head to run up a tree. I don’t take dinner pills and Seltzer water on
the sly from the butler; and my stomach, thank God, is not like his—a
more delicate piece of machinery than Cora’s French watch; for I can
take a jolly curler’s dinner of salt beef and greens, and can rush my
horse at a six-foot wall neck and neck with the lightest lad in your
troop.

"So why he’s made a marquis, the devil, and that Scoto-Russian, Lord
Aberdeen, on whose policy he always gobbles like a turkey-cock, only
know."

Sir Nigel’s ridicule of Slubber consoled me a little for his omitting
the dear name of Louisa.  I knew that it was my regard for her that
inspired his chief dislike for the lord. But why was the good-hearted
baronet so vituperative?  Was the senile peer really likely to become a
successful lover? Save by the side of his mistress, a lover is never
content.



                            *CHAPTER XXIX.*


    We pass the scattered isles of Cyclades,
    That, scarce distinguished seemed to stud the seas.
    The shouts of sailors double near the shores,
    They stretch their canvas, and they ply their oars.
    Full on the promised land at length we bore,
    With joy descending on the Cretan shore.
      DRYDEN.—_Translation of Æn._ iii.


We were favoured by Æolus.  One might have supposed that Captain Robert
Binnacle had succeeded to the bag of wind which that airy monarch gave
to the wise and gentle king of Ithaca.  Thus a few days more saw our
transport amid the Isles of Greece as she bore through the Archipelago.

One day it was Milo, with Elijah’s lofty peak, its smoky spring, and
hollow, sea-soaked rocks, that rose upon our lee; the next it was
Siphanto’s marble shore, where ireful Apollo flooded the golden mines;
rugged Chios—in pagan times the land of purity, in later days the land
of slaughter; then Mytilene, the most fertile of all the Ægean Isles,
where "burning Sappho loved and sung," and where Terpander strung the
lyre anew.  Now it was Lemnos, where Vulcan fell from heaven, and where
his forges blazed; and the next tack brought us to Tenedos, whose name
has never changed since Priam reigned in Troy—all names that recalled
alike our schoolboy labours, and the departed glories of the Grecian
name.

Off Tenedos the _Himalaya_ steamed past us, with two thousand two
hundred souls in her capacious womb.  Soon after we entered the
Hellespont, between the famous castles of the Dardanelles, where Sestos
and Abydos stood of old, and the cannon of Kelidbahar (the lock of the
sea) on the European side saluted us, while the Turkish sentinels yelled
and brandished their muskets; and amid the haze of a summer evening we
saw the harbour lights of Gallipoli rise twinkling from the waters of
the strait; and when the anchor was let go, the courses were hauled up,
and the transport swung at her moorings, we knew that we were hard by
the shores of Thrace.

"And where the blazes is this same Seblastherpoll?" asked Lanty O’Regan,
my Irish groom, who was taking a survey of the waters where Leander took
his nightly bath.

"That place we sha’n’t see, Lanty, for many a long and weary day," said
his Scotch companion, Pitblado, with more foresight than some of us then
possessed.

Few of us slept that night, and all were busy with preparations for
landing; for, with all its varieties, we were weary of the voyage, the
confinement of the transport, impatient for shore and for action.  So
vague were the ideas our soldiers had of distance and locality, that
most of them expected to find themselves face to face with the Russians
at once.

Beverley and Studhome prepared their "disembarkation returns" for the
information of the adjutant-general; and these were so elaborate that
one might have supposed the worthy man’s peace of mind depended entirely
on their literary productions.  The whole troop had their traps packed,
and were ready to start with the first boat, when the order came to
land; and almost with dawn next morning an aide-de-camp, sent by
Lieutenant-General the Earl of Lucan, commanding the cavalry division,
arrived with orders for our immediate disembarkation, as we were to be
posted in the Light Brigade, which already consisted of the 8th and 11th
Hussars, and the 4th and 13th Light Dragoons.

The news spread through the ship like wildfire, and the cheer which rose
above and below almost drowned the welcome notes of the warning trumpet,
as it blew "boot and saddle"—a sound we had not heard since the day we
marched from Maidstone.

"Gentlemen, welcome to Gallipoli!" said the staff officer, as he
clattered into the cabin, with his steel scabbard and spurs, and
proceeded forthwith to regale himself with a long glass of Seltzer,
dashed with brandy, for the morning breeze was chilly as it swept across
the Hellespont.

"It’s a queer-looking place, this Gallipoli," said Beverley.

"And a queer-looking place you’ll find it, colonel," added the
aide-de-camp, as we gathered round him.  "You will be more given to
airing your clothes than your classics, and won’t be much enchanted with
your quarters in Roumania. In lack of space and cleanliness, and in the
liberal allowance of gnats and fleas, they are all up to Turkish
regulation."

"Any society here?" asked Jocelyn, with his little affected lisp, as he
caressed his incipient moustache.

The aide burst into a hearty fit of laughter, and then replied—

"Plenty, and of the most varied and original character."

"And how about the ladies?"

"Is it true that the Turks still regulate their establishments of
womenkind according to the Koran?" asked the paymaster, with a grin on
his long, thin Scotch face.

"Upon the system of the 4th Veteran Battalion rather," replied the
aide-de-camp.

"Ah, and that——"

"Gave a wife to every private, and three to the adjutant."

"Good Lord deliver us!" exclaimed Studhome, as he doubled his dose of
cognac and Seltzer.

"Is it a good country for hunting hereabouts?" asked Sir Harry Scarlett.

"Can’t say much for that," replied our visitor, shrugging his shoulders.
"Besides, the Earl of Lucan will probably cut out other work for you
than riding across country; but for sportsmen there are plenty of hares,
partridges, and wild duck to keep one’s hand in till we see the
Russians, which I hope will not be long, for we are already all bored
and sick to death of Gallipoli."

"How long have you been here?" asked Beverley.

"A month, colonel.  Another troop has just been signalled off the mouth
of the Dardanelles."

"The _Ganges_, with more of ours, perhaps.

"Likely enough; but they come in here every hour."

"Any word yet of moving to the front—of taking the field?" asked
Beverley.

"No, nothing seems decided on yet.  There are a thousand idle rumours;
but we are all in the dark as to the future—French and British alike."

"A deuced bore!" exclaimed two or three together.

"Ah, you’ll find it when you have been a month or so under canvas at
Gallipoli.  And now, Colonel Beverley, I need not suggest to so
experienced a cavalry officer how the horses are to be got on shore, but
for the time shall take my leave. Some of the cavalry divisional staff
have established a kind of clubhouse in a deserted khan, opposite the
old palace of the Bashaw, or Capudan Pacha, where we shall be glad to
see you, till we can make other arrangements; and so adieu. Should you
look us up, ask for Captain Bolton, of the 1st Dragoon Guards."

In another minute the officer—a purpose-like fellow, in a well-worn blue
surtout, his steel scabbard and spurs already rusted—was down the ship’s
side, and being rowed ashore by eight marines in a man-of-war boat.

We experienced some difficulties in getting our horses slung up and
landed, as, to plunge them into the sea, after being so long in the
close and confined atmosphere of the hold, was not advisable; and after
they were all disembarked (with the assistance of some merry and singing
Zouaves of the 2nd Regiment, while a horde of lazy Turks of the Hadjee
Mehmet’s corps looked idly on), we had to give them a cooling regimen
and gentle exercise, as the best means of restoring them to their wonted
vigour, and preparing them for the strife and service that were to come.
The vessel that was reported as being in sight, proved really to be the
_Ganges_.  We were at last on foreign soil, and Studhome, by a word and
a glance, reminded me that he had not forgotten what was to take place
between me and Berkeley; but immediately after landing, that personage
was reported on the doctor’s list, so we had to let the matter lie over
for a time.  Troop after troop of ours arrived; and gradually Colonel
Beverley had again the whole regiment under his kindly and skilful
command.

Studhome and I, who had frequently chummed together, when in India, had
the good luck to be quartered in the quiet and snug house of Demetrius
Steriopoli, the well-known and industrious miller, at a short distance
from the town. Eighteen thousand British troops were now in Gallipoli,
which, from being a quiet little den of Oriental dirt and Oriental
indolence, Moslem filth and fatuity, became instinct with European life
and bustle, by the presence of the soldiers of the allied armies.  Those
who landed with no other ideas of the Orient than such as were inspired
by the "Arabian Nights," and Byron’s poetry, were somewhat disappointed
on beholding the dingy rows of queer and quaint wooden, rickety and
dilapidated booths which composed the streets of this ancient Greek
episcopal city of Gallipoli.

Narrow, dirty, and tortuous, they were scattered without order on the
slope of a round stony hill; the thoroughfares were made of large round
pebbles, from which the foot slipped ever and anon into the mud, or
those stagnant pools whence the hordes of lean and houseless
dogs—houseless, because declared unclean by the Prophet—slaked their
thirst in the sunshine.  Over these brown, discoloured hovels rose the
tall white minarets of a few crumbling mosques, with cone-shaped roofs
and open galleries, where the muezzin’s shrill voice summons the
faithful to prayer.  A leaden-covered dome of the great bazaar, and the
old square fortress of Badjazet I., with a number of windmills on every
available eminence, were the most prominent features of the view, which
could never have been enchanting, even in its most palmy days—even when
the vaults of Justinian were teeming with wine and oil; for the Emperor
John Palæologus consoled himself for the capture of Gallipoli by the
Turks with saying, "I have only lost a jar of wine and a nasty sty for
hogs."

But now its muddy streets of hovels were swarming with redcoats: the
Scottish bagpipe, the long Zouave trumpet, and the British bugle-horn,
rang there for parade and drill at every hour—even those when the
followers of the Prophet bent their swarthy foreheads on the mosaic
pavement of their mosques; and daily we, the light troops of the cavalry
division, were exercised by squadrons, regiments, and brigades, near
those green and grassy tumuli which lie on the southern side of the
city, and cover the remains of the ancient kings of Thrace.  Now the
waters of the Hellespont were literally alive with war vessels and
transports, belonging to all the allied powers.  They were of every
size, under sail or steam; and amid them, with white pinions outspread,
the swift Greek polaccas sped up or down the strait, which always
presented a lively and stirring scene, with the hills of Asia Minor,
toned down by distance, seeming faint and blue, and far away.  Parade
over, it often amused me to watch the varied groups which gathered about
the doors of the bazaar, the wine and coffee-houses.  There were the
grave Armenian of Turcomania, with his black fur cap, and long, flowing
robe; the black-eyed Greek, in scarlet tarboosh and ample blue breeches;
the dirty, hawk-visaged Jew, attired like a stage Shylock, waiting for
his pound of flesh; the kilted Highlander, in the "garb of old Gaul;"
the smart Irish rifleman; the well-fed English guardsman, _blasé_,
sleek, and fresh from London; the half savage-like Zouave, in his short
bluejacket and scarlet knickerbockers; the bronzed Chasseur d’Afrique;
the rollicking British man-o’-war’s man, in his guernsey shirt and wide
blue collar; the half-naked Nubian slave; the pretty French vivandière,
in her short skirt and clocked stockings, looking like Jenny Lind in
"The Daughter of the Regiment," only twice as piquante and saucy; even a
Sister of Charity, sombre, pale, and placid, would appear at times,
crossing herself as she passed a howling dervish, when seeking milk or
wine for the sick; and amid all these varied costumes and nationalities
were to be seen such heedless fellows as young Rakeleigh, Jocelyn,
Scarlett, Wilford, and Berkeley, of ours, in wideawake hats, all-round
collars, with Tweed shooting suits and flyaway whiskers, hands in
pockets, and cheroot in mouth, as they quizzed and "chaffed" the great
solemn Turk of the old school, with his vast green turban and silver
beard, which steel had never profaned, or drank pale ale with his son of
the new school, in the military fez and frogged surtout, with varnished
boots and shaven chin, who, in his double capacity of a true believer
and a mulazim (or subaltern of Hadjee Mehmet’s regiment), deemed himself
at full liberty to use his whip without mercy among the camel-drivers
and lazy galiondjis (or boatmen), eliciting shrieks, yells, and curses,
which Berkeley, in his languid drawl, considered to be "aw—doocid good
fun."

Many of those smart youths of ours, and other fast Oxford men, had their
constitutional and national conceit somewhat taken out of them before
the war was ended.

"There is nothing more disgusting," says a distinguished writer, with
pardonable severity, "or more intolerable, than a young Englishman
sallying forth into the world, full of his own ignorance and
John-Bullism, judging of mankind by his own petty, provincial, and
narrow notions of fitness and propriety—a mighty observer of effects and
disregarder of causes, and traversing continent and ocean, at once
blinded and shackled by the bigotry and prejudices of a limited and
imbecile intellect."

Much of this was the secret spring of our Indian mutiny, and is the
cause that we are hated and shunned on the Continent.  There are, of
course, exceptions, for in the East I have seen local prejudices so far
respected that we formed an escort when the British colours of the Sepoy
infantry were marched into the _Ganges_, to consecrate them in the eyes
of the Bengalese—the same pampered ruffians who slaughtered our women
and children at Cawnpore and Delhi.

We looked in vain for pretty women, and the reader may be assured that
some of our researches were of the most elaborate description.  Not a
trace of the boasted Grecian beauty was to be found in those
oddly-dressed females, whose costume seemed a mere oval bale of clothing
(the feridjee), surmounted by a white linen veil, and ending in boots of
yellow leather, as they flitted like fat ghosts about the public wells,
or the gates of the great bazaar.  All were, indeed, plain even to
ugliness, save in one instance—pretty little Magdhalini, the daughter of
the miller, Steriopoli.  I remember a charming vivandière, who belonged
to the 2nd Zouaves, for I saw her frequently under circumstances that
could never be forgotten—in fact, under fire, at the head of the
regiment.  She was a smart little Parisienne, possessed of great beauty,
with eyes that sparkled like the diamonds in her ears.  She wore a
pretty blue Zouave jacket, braided with red, over a pretty chemisette,
and had her black hair smoothly braided under a scarlet kepi, which bore
the regimental number.  The first time I saw Sophie she was simply
maintaining a flirtation with one of the corps, to whom she gave a
mouthful of brandy from her barrel, as he stood on sentry under my
window, and their banter rather interfered with the composition of a
letter which I was writing to my cousin Cora.

"Ah, Mademoiselle Sophie," said the Zouave, in his most dulcet tone,
"you—_mon Dieu_—you look so lovely that——"

"That what—what—Jules?"

"Well, so lovely this morning that I am quite afraid——"

"To kiss me—is it not so, Monsieur Jolicoeur?"

"Yes."

"_Très bien_.  Take courage, _mon camarade_."

"Mademoiselle Sophie, you quiz me!"

"A Zouave, and afraid," exclaimed the vivandière; and then followed a
little sound there was no mistaking.

"You are indeed beautiful, Sophie.  There is not a vivandière in the
whole French army like you."

"Yet I may die an old maid," said she demurely.

"May?"

"Yes, Jules."

"Then it will be your own fault, _ma belle coquette_, and not the fault
of others."

"_Parbleu_!  I sha’n’t marry a Zouave, at all events."

"Don’t speak so cruelly, Sophie.  When I look on your charming face, I
always think of glorious Paris.  Paris!  Ah, _mon Dieu!_ shall we ever
see it again?"

"Why did you leave it, Jules, and your studies at the Ecole de Médecin,
to fight and starve here?"

"Why?" exclaimed the student.

"Yes, _mon ami_."

"The old girl at the wheel, Madame Fortune, proved false to me.  I lost
my last money, fifty Napoleons, at the rouge-et-noir table in the Palais
Royal.  I was ruined, Sophie; and as I had no wish to jump into the
Seine, and then to figure next morning on the leaden tables of the
Morgue, like a salmon at the fishmonger’s, I joined the 2nd Zouaves in
the snapping of a flint, and so—am here."

"You will return with your epaulettes and the cross, Jules."

"I don’t think so.  Kiss me, at all events, _ma belle_."

"Well, camarade, if it will console you——"

Here I tried to close the window, on which Jules "carried arms," and
looked very unconscious; while the pretty vivandière gave me a military
salute, and tripped laughingly away, singing—

    Vivandière du régiment,
    C’est Catin qu’on me nomme, &c.


Daily more troops arrived from Britain and France; daily the camps
extended in size, and, notwithstanding the season, we suffered much from
cold, while, so bad were the commissariat arrangements, that, in some
instances, officers and soldiers were alike without beds or bedding, few
having more than a single blanket; so, for warmth, they reversed the
usual order, by dressing in all their spare clothes to go to bed.

Gallipoli became so crowded at last that some of the troops were
despatched towards Constantinople and Scutari.  There the Highland
regiments, beyond all others, excited astonishment and admiration, not
unmixed with fear, their costume seemed so remarkable to Oriental eyes;
and many may yet remember the anecdote current in camp concerning them.

An old Turkish pasha, who had brought the ladies of his harem in a
_caïque_, closely veiled in their _yashmacs_, to see our troops land,
was intensely horrified by the bare brawny legs of the 93rd foot; but
after surveying them, he said, with a sigh, to an English officer—"Ah!
if the Sultan had such fine soldiers as these, we should not need your
aid against the Russians."

"Well, _effendi_," observed the Englishman, who was quizzing, "would it
not be advisable to propagate the species in this country?"

"_Inshallah!_ (please God!) it will be done, whether we advise it or
not," said the old Turk, sighing again, as he ordered his boatload of
_Odalisques_ to shove off for Istamboul with all despatch.

Amid the novelty of our new life at Gallipoli, a week or two passed
rapidly away, ere rumours were heard of our probable advance to Varna;
but, as I do not mean to repeat the well-known details of so recent a
war, rather confining myself to my own adventures, and those of my
regiment, I shall close this chapter by relating an episode which will
serve to illustrate the brutal and lawless character of the Turk, and
the slavery to which ages of conquest and degradation have reduced the
wretched Greek.  I have said that Jack Studhome and I were quartered in
the house of a Greek miller, named Demetrius Steriopoli.  His chief
worldly possessions were a melon-garden, and two ricketty old windmills,
which whirled their brown and tattered sails on the breezes that came
from the Hellespont.  In the basement of these edifices, and in the
walls of his dwelling-house, were—and I have no doubt still are—built
many exquisitely-carved fragments of some old Grecian temple; for there
triglyphs, sculptured metopæ, the honeysuckle, and so forth, with
portions of statues, all of white marble, were used pell mell among the
rough rubble masonry.

These edifices—to wit, the house and mills—stood on an eminence a little
way beyond the ruins of the old wall of Gallipoli, on the side of the
road that leads across the isthmus towards the Gulf of Saros.

His dwelling was picturesque, and that which is better, it was clean and
airy; thus, while Beverley and others of ours were nightly devoured by
gnats and other entomological torments, we slept each in a separate
kiosk, or bedroom, as comfortably as if quartered in the best hotel of
Dover or Southampton—so much for the housewifery of the little
Magdhalini.  Steriopoli was by birth a Cypriote Greek—a handsome and
fine-looking man, about eight-and-thirty, and when armed with sabre,
pistol, and yataghan, had rather more the aspect of a marauder than a
peaceful miller, especially as his attire usually consisted of a scarlet
fez, a large loose jacket of green cloth, a silk sash round his waist, a
capacious pair of blue breeches, his legs being further encased in
sheepskin hose, and his feet in sandals of hide. When the merciless
Turkish troops massacred twenty-five thousand persons in Cyprus,
destroying seventy-four once happy and industrious villages, with all
their monasteries and churches, seizing the young women as slaves, and
casting the male children into the sea, it was his fate, when disposed
of in the latter fashion, to be picked up by the boat’s crew of a
British man-of-war.  Torn from the arms of his shrieking mother, he had
been tossed into the harbour of Larneca, which was filled with the
corpses of poor little infants.  On board the British ship he had been
kept for a time as a species of pet among the sailors.  Hence his regard
for us was great; and his open trust in us was only equalled by his
secret abhorrence of the Turks.  He was a widower, and his family
consisted only of his daughter and a few servants, male and female—the
latter being his assistants at the mills.

After the plain-looking women of Gallipoli, the beauty of the little
Greek maid, Magdhalini, proved an agreeable surprise for us; and within
doors she always laid aside the hideous _yashmac_ which concealed her
features when abroad. She was not much over fifteen, but already fully
developed; she was lively in manner, and graceful in deportment; and her
picturesque costume—a crimson jacket, with short, wide sleeves, open at
the throat, and embroidered at the bosom, her skirt of various colours,
and her hair ornamented with gold coins, all added to the piquancy of
her beauty.  Her features were remarkably regular; her forehead low and
broad; her rich, thick hair was of a bright auburn hue; but her eyes
were of the deepest black.  In the latter, when contrasted with the pale
purity of her complexion, the form of their delicate lids and curled
lashes, I saw—or fancied so—a resemblance to Louisa, which gave the girl
a deeper interest to me; and her appearance frequently recalled to me
Byron’s description of Haidee:—

    "Her hair, I said, was auburn; but her eyes
        Were black as death; their lashes the same hue,
    Of downcast length, in whose silk shadow lies
        Deepest attraction; for when to the view
    Forth from its raven fringe the full glance flies,
        Ne’er with such force the swiftest arrow flew.
      *      *      *      *      *
    Her brow was white and low; her cheek’s pure dye
        Like twilight rosy still with the set sun;
    Short upper lips—sweet lips! that make us sigh
        Ever to have seen such."


In stature she was a foot less than Louisa Loftus; but her form, her
delicate hands, small feet, and rounded arms, might have served as
models for the best sculptors of the old Greek days.  On one occasion I
showed her Louisa’s miniature, and she clapped her hands, and begged
permission to kiss it, like a child, as she was in some respects.  She
was very curious to know why Studhome and I did not wear crucifixes or
holy medals, like all the Christians she knew—even the Russians; and
when I told her that such was not the custom in my country, she shook
her head sadly, and expressed sorrow for its somewhat benighted
condition.

I found a smattering of Italian which I possessed most useful to me now,
for, next to the language of the country, it proves the most available
in Greece or Turkey.  The _divan hanée_, or principal apartment of the
house (from which the doors of all the kiosks and other chambers open),
was handsome, lofty, and airy.  Its lower end was lined by a screen of
trellised woodwork, containing arched recesses, or cupboards for vases
of sherbet, cool water, or fresh flowers.  In the central recess a
miniature fountain spouted from a white marble basin, and a landscape
was painted on the wall beyond. Curtains covered each of the doorways,
and round the room—on three sides, at least—was a long sofa, or
cushioned divan, the height of the window-sills, in the Turkish fashion;
but, as Steriopoli was a Greek, his dwelling had more European
appurtenances, such as a dining-table and chairs; and on its walls were
various coloured prints of Greek saints and bishops, while above the
door of each sleeping kiosk hung a crucifix of carved wood.  In the
divan we took our meals, and there, greatly to our host’s annoyance, we
were joined at times by the Colonel Hadjee Mehmet, who commanded a
battalion of the Turkish line at Gallipoli—an individual with whom
Studhome had become acquainted through some transaction about the
purchase of horses for some of our dismounted men, an affair in which,
though worthy Jack would never admit it, this hook-nosed and keen-eyed
follower of the Prophet jockeyed him and Farrier-sergeant Snaffles as
completely as any groom might have done at Epsom or the Curragh. Now
Demetrius Steriopoli, though he seemed not to care whether Studhome or
I, or any of our brother officers who visited us, saw his daughter,
manifested great uneasiness and irritation when she caught the wicked
and licentious eyes of the Hadjee Mehmet, whose character he knew, whose
power he dreaded, and whose nation and religion he detested; and thus
she had standing orders to seclude herself whenever he came, which was
pretty often now, to smoke his chibouque and drink brandy and water in
secret, though the Prophet only forbade wine.  He was a fat, bloated,
and wicked-looking man, past fifty years of age.  He wore a blue frogged
surtout, scarlet trousers, and a scarlet fez, with the broad, flat,
military button.  He wore also a crooked Damascus sabre and beard, in
virtue of his rank, as straight swords and shaven chins indicate the
subaltern grades of the Turkish army, whose officers are the most
contemptible in Europe.  In boyhood they are generally the pipe-bearers
or carpet-spreaders of the pashas.  In this instance the Hadjee Mehmet
(so named because he had performed the pilgrimage to Mecca, and kissed
the Holy Kaaba) had begun life as a tiruaktzy, or nail-bearer, in the
household of Chosrew Mehmet Pasha, who was the seraskier, or
generalissimo of the forces, and who was supposed to be the gallant
Hadjee’s father, though that honour was usually assigned to a Janizary
who escaped the massacre of that celebrated force by concealing himself;
and by Chosrew he was speedily advanced to the rank of mire-alai, or
colonel of infantry.

He was very careful always to style us "effendi," such being the prefix
for all who are deemed educated; and, as he sat cross-legged on the
divan, with his paunch protruding before him, his ample and well-dyed
beard half hiding the frogged lace of his surtout, the amber mouthpiece
of his long chibouque between his thick lips, with his little scarlet
fez, and sleepy, half-leering black eyes, he seemed the very beau-ideal
of a used-up and sensual Osmanlee.

"_Ev-Allah!_" (praise God!) he said, on one occasion, "I have now seen
all the world."

"Indeed, colonel, I knew not that you had travelled," said I.

"Yes, and I would not give a grush (piastre) to see it again."

"_All_, do you say?" queried I.

"Yes; Mecca, Medina, Bassora, Damascus, Cairo, and Iskandrich—there is
no more to see; and of all the women I have ever beheld," he added, with
one of his wicked little leers, "who can equal the Cockonas of
Bucharest?  Not even the golden-haired Tcherkesses."

"And what think you of the Greeks, colonel?" asked Studhome, rather in a
blundering manner, for Steriopoli’s brows knit unpleasantly.

"_Backallum_" (we shall see), was his reply, as he gave a stealthy
glance at Magdhalini, who was superintending the tandour, the substitute
for a fireplace, consisting of a wooden frame, in which there is placed
a copper vessel, full of charcoal, the whole being covered by a wadded
coverlet, and closely reminding one of the brasseros of the Spaniards.
Swift though the glance, it was not unseen by Steriopoli, whom the
ominous remark which accompanied it sufficiently alarmed, and, with
unwonted abruptness of manner, he requested his daughter to retire and
assume her veil.

On the following day it chanced that he had to visit Alexi (which is
about twenty miles distant from Gallipoli), as he had some flour to
dispose of, and would be absent all night. Whether our Turkish visitor
was aware of this circumstance I cannot say, but in the forenoon I came
suddenly upon him and Magdhalini, whom he had surprised or waylaid in
the pathway near the windmills.  He grasped one of her hands, and she
was struggling to release herself.  I had my sword under my arm, but as
a fracas with a Turkish officer was by no means desirable, I lingered
for a moment before interfering.

"Girl," I heard him say, with a dark scowl, while he grasped her slender
wrist, "for the third time I tell thee not to bite the finger that puts
honey into thy mouth."

"Nonsense, Hadjee; let me go, I say," replied Magdhalini, laughing,
though she was partly frightened.

"I should like to make my home in thy heart, Magdhalini, even as the
bulbul buildeth her nest in the rose-tree," panted the fat Hadjee.

"Oh, thou owl, thou crow of bad omen!" exclaimed the lively Greek girl,
as she wrenched her hand free, and, darting a bright and merry glance at
her enraged and perspiring admirer, drew her yashmac close, and sprang
away, blushing because I had witnessed the scene.

That night Studhome and I had been supping with Beverley at his quarters
near the palace of the Capudan Pasha, and were returning late to the
house of Steriopoli.  The sky was clear and starry; thus we could see
distinctly several Turkish soldiers loitering about near the house and
windmills, and though the hour was an unusual one for them to be absent,
that we deemed no concern of ours, and on entering we retired to our
kiosks, or rooms, and were both soon sound asleep—so sound that we
failed to hear a loud knocking shortly after at the front door.
Magdhalini and two female servants promptly responded to the unusual
summons, but declined to open without further inquiry, on which the door
was beaten in by a large hammer, and a chiaoush, or sergeant, and
several soldiers, all in Turkish uniform, seized Magdhalini, bound,
gagged, and carried her off, despite her cries and resistance.  Roused
by the sudden noise, and suspecting we knew not what, Studhome and I
dragged on our trousers, and came forth both at the same moment, each
with drawn sword and cocked revolver; but before lights were procured,
and ere the terrified servants could make us understand the real state
of affairs, and the catastrophe which had taken place, our pretty Greek
hostess was gone beyond recovery.

I shall willingly hurry over all that followed in this strange episode
of social life in the East.

Poor Steriopoli came back next day to a desolate house—a degraded and
broken home!  He was full of rage and despair, for his daughter was the
pride, the idol of his heart; and suspecting justly the Hadjee Mehmet,
he discovered that this celebrated warrior had gone to Alexi, the very
town from which he, Steriopoli, had returned.

There he traced his daughter, only to find that she had been most
cruelly and shamefully treated.  She was lodged in the house of the
cole-agassi, or major of Mehmet’s regiment—a wretch who had originally
been a channator aga, or chief of the black eunuchs; and on the pretext
that she had renounced Christianity and embraced Islamism, he refused to
give her up.  In compliance with the wish of her sorrowing father, and
the indignant old Bishop of Gallipoli, she was brought before the
vaivode of the district.  She appeared the wreck of her former self,
and, though not present, I afterwards heard that a most affecting scene
took place.

On beholding Steriopoli, whose once coal-black hair was now thickly
seamed with grey, she broke away from the Turkish slaves who held her,
and cast herself into his arms, in a passion of grief, exclaiming—

"My father! oh, my father! after what has taken place, I am no longer
worthy to be in your house, or to pray at my mother’s grave.  We can no
longer be anything to each other."

"Oh, Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy)!" groaned the unfortunate Greek.

Despite her solemn protests that she was still a Christian, the vaivode
would not yield her to her father; but opening the Koran, closed the
case by reading a passage from the sixteenth chapter thereof—a passage
revealed to the Prophet at Medina:—"O Prophet! when unbelieving women
come unto thee, and plight their faith unto thee, that they will not
associate anything with God, nor steal, nor commit sin, nor kill their
children, nor come with a calumny which they have forged between their
hands and feet, nor be disobedient to thee in that which shall be
reasonable: then do plight thy faith unto them, and ask pardon for them,
of One who is inclined to forgive and be merciful.  O true believers!
enter not into friendship with a people against whom God is incensed;
they despair of pardon and the life to come, even as infidels despair of
the resurrection of those who dwell in the grave."

"La-Allah-illah-Allah-Mohammed resoul Allah!"[*] shouted the people.


[*] "There is but one God, and Mahomet is his Prophet."


The poor miller and his daughter were torn asunder, and the former was
driven by blows from the house of the vaivode; while Magdhalini, whom he
was never more permitted to see, was taken again to the house of the
cole-agassi.  By Turkish law, such as it is, any commissioned officer
who kills a man is liable to five years’ slavery in chains, and service
as a private hereafter; but the abduction of a Greek girl, though a
rajah, or Christian subject of the Porte, was a very trivial affair—much
less than stealing a terrier in the streets of London.  The foreign
Consuls took up the matter, and redress was sought of the Stamboul
effendi, or chief of the police at Constantinople, but sought in vain.
The Bishop of Gallipoli applied to the Skeik Islam, also without avail.

The Sheik is a very awful personage, who combines in his own person the
greatest offices of religion, together with the supreme power of the
civil law.  Every new measure, even to naming the streets and numbering
the houses of filthy Stamboul, requires his sanction.  The Sultan alone
has the power of life and death over the Sheik Islam, who can neither be
nobly bowstrung, nor ignobly beheaded, and he enjoys the peculiar
prerogative of being pounded to death in a mortar. A word from the Sheik
would have restored Magdhalini to her father; but Hadjee Mehmet, the
ex-tiruaktzy, had once operated on his holy nails, so a deaf ear was
turned to the prayer of the infidel Bishop, who was seeking the dove in
the net of the fowler long after we had taken our departure for Varna;
and, until the memorable day of Balaclava, I saw no more of the infamous
Hadjee Mehmet.



                             *CHAPTER XXX.*


    Let me see her once again!
    Let her bring her proud dark eyes,
    And her petulant quick replies;
    Let her wave her slender hand,
    With its gesture of command,
    And throw back her raven hair
    With the old imperial air;
      Let her be as she was then—
    The loveliest lady in all the land—
      Iseult of Ireland.


Ere the course of events added to the distance which already lay between
me and Great Britain, I resolved to write to Lady Louisa.  I could no
longer endure the torture of suspense, combined with absence and
gathering doubt.  In common parlance, ages seemed to have elapsed
instead of weeks since the day we marched for embarkation, and when I
beheld her for the last time; and thus, notwithstanding our strange
compact that there should be no correspondence between us, I wrote to
her, even at the hazard of the letter falling into the hands of her I
dreaded most—proud, stately, cold, and unsympathetic "Mamma
Chillingham."

It was about the middle of May, the day before we were to embark again,
for now the Allies were to advance to Varna; and while I wrote, and in
thought addressed Louisa, her presence seemed to come before me in
fancy, and the inner depths of heart and soul were stirred with a
jealous love and sorrowful tenderness that were almost unendurable; but
a summons from Colonel Beverley, regarding the baggage and squad-bags of
my troop, cut short my epistle in a very matter-of-fact way, and I
despatched Pitblado with it to the military post-office.  In that letter
I sent brief remembrances to Fred Wilford’s sister, and to many of our
friends; but of the newly-made marquis I could not trust myself to
write, though I had no doubt as yet of Louisa’s faith and truth.  That
night a letter came to me from Cora, the first I had received since we
landed at Gallipoli.  She and Sir Nigel had returned to Calderwood, and
had just come back from the Lanarkshire steeplechases.

"Oh, Newton," she continued, "how anxious and frightened we have been,
for we heard that cholera had broken out in the British camp, and we
trembled for you—dear papa and I. (There was no doubt the "we" did not
include Louisa, at all events.)  Do you think of us and quiet Calderwood
Glen—of the old house, of papa, and of me?  Are the Oriental ladies so
beautiful as we have been told?  One reads so much about their veiled
forms, their brilliant eyes, and so forth.  Tell us what you have seen
of all this—the mosques, the harems, and the Golden Horn.  You have seen
everything, of course."

There was nothing in Cora’s letter that either flattered my passion or
soothed my apprehension.  Chillingham Park was never once mentioned, and
I could only gather from its abrupt passages and assumed playfulness
that she still loved me, tenderly, truly, and hopelessly.  There were
times when, in her dreams—I learned all this long after, when the
present had become the past, and could be recalled no more—there were
times when, in imagination, she saw Newton Norcliff, safe from wounds
and war, at Calderwood—hers, and hers only—a prize of which none could
rob her, not even the brilliant Louisa Loftus; and in her sleep, tears
of happiness stole down her poor, pale cheeks.

Newton was her cousin, her kinsman, her early playmate and boy lover,
her idol, and her hero!  What right, then, had this stranger, this
Englishwoman, this mere Acquaintance, to seek to rob her of him?  But
she could not do so now. Newton was Cora’s, and in her dreams he was her
lover and her husband, of whom she prayed only to be worthy and more
deserving still; and so the poor girl would dream on till morning
came—the chill, gusty morning of autumn, when the brown leaves were
swept by the cold eastern blast against the windows of the old
manor-house, and down the wooded glen; and with that chill morning would
come the bitter consciousness that it was all a dream—a dream only, and
that he whom she prayed for, and loved so hopelessly, was far, far away
in the land of the savage Tartars, exposed to all the perils of the
Crimean winter and of the Russian war, and that amid them he was
thinking, not of her but of another! But to resume my own story.
Berkeley, who had been on the sick list since our arrival at Gallipoli,
was reported fit for duty on the morning we embarked for Varna.  Most of
the British troops were ordered there, or to Scutari, while the mass of
our allies were to remain about the coast of the Dardanelles.  On this
morning, however, I saw the 2nd Zouaves march, as Studhome said, "with
all their ladies of light virtue and boxes of heavy baggage," for
embarkation; and they presented a stirring spectacle, those swarthy,
lithe, and black-bearded fellows, their breasts covered with medals won
in battles against Bou Maza, and other sheiks of the Arab tribes, and
their faces bronzed almost to negro darkness by the hot sun of Africa.

Their turbans and baggy breeches of scarlet gave them a very Oriental
aspect; but their swinging gait and rollicking air, together with the
remarkably free-and-easy manner in which they "marched at ease," and the
songs they sang, announced them all sons of _la belle France_; and,
singularly enough, every second or third file had a pet cat perched on
the top of his knapsack.  The tricolor was decorated with laurel; their
long brass trumpets played a strange and monotonous, but not unwarlike
measure, to which they all stepped in rapid time; and in the intervals
of the music many of them joined in a song, which was led by
Mademoiselle Sophie, who was riding _à la cavalier_ at their head, in
rear of the staff, with her little brandy-keg slung over her left
shoulder.

I caught just a verse as she passed; but I frequently heard her sing the
same song at a future time—

    Vivandière du régiment,
      C’est Catin qu’on me nomme,
    Je vends, je donne, et bois gaiment,
      Mon vin et mon rogomme.
    J’ai le pied leste et l’oeil mutin.
      Tin-tin, tin, tin, tin, tin, r’lin tin-tin.
    J’ai le pied leste et l’oeil mutin.
    Soldats, voilà Catin!


Above all other voices, I could hear that of her friend, or lover, Jules
Jolicoeur, most lustily—

    Soldats, voilà Catin!

as he marched along with his hands in his pockets, and his musket slung
butt uppermost.  Our transport was taken in tow by a war steamer.  Thus
our progress through the Sea of Marmora was rapid.  We passed
Constantinople in the night, to our great regret; and as no part of it,
save the palace of the Sultan, was then lighted with gas, it was
involved in darkness and silence.  At least, we heard only the voices of
the patrols, and the barking and howling of the thousands of homeless
dogs which prowl through the streets.  Being unclean, they are never
domesticated; yet their litters are never destroyed, and they feed on
the offal of the houses, or on the headless trunks that are at times
washed up from the Golden Horn.  Next day, as we proceeded up the
Bosphorus, a swift (Clyde-built) Turkish steamer was running ahead of
us; and we remarked that, whenever she passed a fort or battery, the
standard with the star and crescent was immediately hoisted, and a
trumpet was heard to sound.

At the Castle of Roumelia, and such places, we saw the slovenly Turkish
guards getting under arms, and also that on each occasion the standards
were dipped or lowered to half-mast three times.  This indicated that
the ship had on board a pasha of three tails, or one of equal rank,
whose standard was flying at the foremast-head; and soon after we
learned that he was the munadjim bashee, or chief astrologer, one of the
first officers of the seraglio, and always consulted by the Sultan
Abd-ul-Medjid.  No public work was ever undertaken until he declared the
stars to be propitious; and now he was steaming ahead to see how they
looked at Varna!  By the letter I had despatched from Gallipoli, I had,
to a certain extent, relieved my mind, as I concluded that at Varna I
should receive the answer, and that then all my suspense and anxieties
would end, in the course of a few weeks at latest.

Against the strong current which sets in from the Black Sea, and which
runs at the rate of four miles an hour down the Bosphorus, we steamed
steadily on; and as the wind was fair, our transport carried a tolerable
spread of canvas.  Our sail was a delightful one!  The weather was calm,
and the scenery and objects on the European and Asian shores were ever
changing and attractive.  The abrupt angles and bends of the coast
seemed to convert the channel into a series of seven charming inland
lakes of the deepest blue—there being seven promontories on one side,
and seven bays on the other, each bay running into a fertile valley,
clothed with the richest foliage of the Oriental clime; and amid that
waving foliage rose the quaint and fantastic country dwellings of the
wealthy Frankish, Greek, or Armenian merchants of Stamboul, with their
painted kiosks, gilded domes, and towering minarets, tall, white, and
slender.

On the left or European shore, the whole panorama was a succession of
beautiful villages, terraced gardens, and groves of chestnut, plane, and
lime trees, with here and there long, sombre, and solemn rows of
gigantic cypresses and poplars. On the right or Asian shore, the objects
of Nature were of greater magnitude.  The groves became forests, and the
hills swelled into mountains; and, towering over Brussa, rose Olympus,
"high and hoar," covered with laurels and other evergreens to its
summit.

Under a salute of cannon from the Castle of Europe, and still preceded
by our Turkish friend, the astrologer with three tails, we hauled up for
Varna, giving a wide berth to the dangerous Cyanean rocks, between which
Jason steered the Argonauts in equally troublesome, but more classic,
times.

From thence a run of about one hundred and fifty miles brought us to the
low flat shore of Varna, where, on the 28th of May, we were all landed
without accident or adventure, and placed under canvas among the rest of
the troops.  The aspect of Varna from the bay was somewhat depressing.
Rising from a bank of yellow sand, a time-worn rampart of stone, ten
feet high, loop-holed and painted white, encloses the town on its four
sides, each of which measures somewhat more than a mile.  This old wall
had witnessed the defeat and death of Uladislaus of Hungary, by the
troops of the Padishah Amurath II., and it yet bore traces of the
cannon-shot of the Scoto-Russian Admiral Greig, who bombarded Varna in
1828.

Before the walls lies a ditch, twelve feet deep, and over both frown a
number of heavy guns, which I found to be chiefly sixty-eight pounders;
and over all rose the countless red-tiled roofs of the houses, with the
slender white minarets and round leaden domes of the mosques, looking
like wax-candles by the side of inverted sugar basins.  Beyond, in the
distance, stretched far away to the base of wooded hills the flat
Bulgarian shore.

Painted with various colours, the tumble-down and rickety houses were
all of wood, and exhibited a rapid state of dilapidation and decay.
Prior to our arrival, the silence must have been oppressive.  Save when
a swallow twittered under the broad eaves, when a saka (or
water-carrier), with his buckets suspended from a leather belt, shambled
along, slipshod or barefoot, with water for sale, a hamal (or porter),
laden with his burden, or when the wild dog that lay panting on a heap
of festering offal uttered a hoarse growl, no sight or sound of life was
there, when the fierce sun of unclouded noon blazed down into the narrow
and tortuous streets.  The place exhibited only Turkish filth,
inactivity, and stupidity, till the arrival of the Allies, when its
wooden jetties opposite the principal gate became piled up with
munitions of war—bales, tents, tumbrils, and cannon; its roadstead
crowded with war-ships, transports, and gunboats, under sail or steam;
its bazaar filled by regimental quartermasters, cooks, and caterers, or
soldiers’ wives in search of food, &c.; its five gates held by military
guards—the merry Zouave, the grave and stern Scottish Highlander, the
showy Coldstream, or the sombre rifleman.

Then its streets became literally alive, and crowded with the British,
who came by sea, and the French, who came pouring over the Balkan.
Their silence was broken by the sharp beat of the brass drum, and the
sound of the ringing bugle every hour or more, and by the measured tramp
of feet, as detachments on every imaginable duty marched to and fro
between the camps, the town, and harbour, scaring the wild dogs from the
streets, and the kites from the roofs and mosque domes, who were alike
unused to such unwonted bustle and activity.

Crowds of Turks and Bulgarians, wearing caps of brown sheepskin, short
jackets of undyed wool, and wide white trousers, with vacant wonder
surveyed us, as brigade after brigade came on shore, our horse, foot,
and artillery; while the little dark Arabs of the Egyptian contingent
viewed with something akin to awe our brigade of Foot Guards, whose
personal bulk and stature, with their white epaulettes and black
bearskin caps, made them seem the veritable sons of Anak to those
shrivelled children of the desert.

Amid the crash of military music, the glitter of arms, and the waving of
silken colours, as regiment after regiment marched to its
camping-ground, were to be seen the woebegone, helpless, miserable, and,
in some instances, still seasick wives of our soldiers, hurrying wearily
after their husbands’ battalions, carrying bundles or children,
sometimes both, while other scared little ones were trotting by their
side, and holding by their ragged and tattered skirts; but there was one
soldier’s wife who appeared to European and Oriental eyes under very
different auspices.

"All these marvels reached a climax," says a writer,[*] "when a boat
from the _Henri IV._, rowed by six dashing French sailors, in snow-white
shirts and coquettish little glazed hats, stuck with a knowing air on
the side of their heads, shot up alongside the landing-place, and in the
stern appeared the Earl and Countess of Errol—the former an officer in
the rifles, and the latter intent upon sharing the campaign with her
husband.  I think the old civil pasha (_mussellem_ of the city?), who
was seated on a chair at a little distance, scarcely knew whether he was
on his head or his heels when the lady was handed up out of the boat,
and made her appearance at the town gate, with a brace of pistols in a
holster at her waist, and followed by a Bulgarian porter, with a shoal
of reticules, carpet-bags, and books, and taking everything as coolly as
if she were an old soldier.  The whole party followed the rifles to the
field, and the countess is at the present moment living under canvas."


[*] In the _Daily News_.


This lady, who excited so much attention was Eliza, Countess of Errol,
and her husband—as my uncle would have reminded me—was hereditary high
constable of Scotland; as such, first subject in the kingdom, and of old
leader of the feudal cavalry.  Now he was a simply major in the Rifle
Brigade, and was after severely wounded at the Alma. Undeterred by the
miseries which he saw the soldiers’ wives enduring, Sergeant Stapylton,
of my troop, had the courage to take unto himself a wife in this land of
the Prophet; but the fate which threw her in his way was somewhat
remarkable, and made some noise at the time.  It came about thus:—The
wife of a soldier of the 28th Regiment, when proceeding through the
corn-fields from our camp to market in Varna, and perhaps considering
how far her little stock of money might go in the purchase of dainty
soochook sausages and cabaubs of herbs, for the delectation of herself
and Private John Smith, was surprised to find herself addressed in
tolerable English by a Greek female slave, who was at work among the
corn, weeding it of the brilliant poppies.

Though fairer skinned than the women of that country, she had the
appearance of a woman of Bulgaria.  On her head a cylindrical bonnet, of
harlequin pattern, was tied by a white handkerchief under her chin.  She
wore a short black gown, with a deep scarlet flounce, on which were sewn
ornamental pieces of variously-coloured stuffs: a broad scarlet sash,
elaborately needleworked, girt her waist; a few coins, of small value,
were woven into her hair, which was of a rich brown hue, and hung in
profusion over her shoulders, and on her wrists were bracelets of
crystal.  She wore the costume of a peasant girl, and her features were
soft and pleasing—even pretty, though very much sunburnt.

In English she begged the soldier’s wife to give her a mouthful of water
from a vessel she carried, saying that she "was sorely athirst, and
weary with her work in the field."

Now, Mrs. John Smith, of the 28th Foot, was greatly surprised on hearing
this humble and gentle request made in the language of her native
England, by one who seemed to all intents and purposes a Bulgarian.  She
entered into conversation with the stranger, and discovered that she was
actually English by birth and blood, and a native of Essex!

She related that her father had been a merchant captain of London, who,
after her mother’s death, had taken her with him in a vessel on a voyage
to the Levant, where they were captured by a Greek pirate.  She was then
a mere child. Her father and his crew were put to death, their vessel
plundered, and then set on fire, in the Gulf of Sidra, and destroyed.
Her captor, a thoroughpaced old rascal, had now settled, with all his
ill-gotten gains, as a small landowner, on the shore of the Bay of
Varna, where she was still his bondswoman—his slave.

The soldier’s wife begged the girl to follow her, and take refuge in the
British camp, and she was about to comply, when the appearance of her
master or owner, a fierce-looking old fellow, clad in a jacket and cap,
both of brown sheepskin, his sash bristling with knives, yataghans, and
pistols, altered her feeble resolution; and though the wife of Private
Smith shook her gingham umbrella with vigour, and threatened him with
the "p’leece," and the main-guard to boot, he, nothing daunted, replied
only by a contemptuous scowl, and dragging the slave girl into his
house, secured the door.

It chanced luckily, however, that Sergeant Stapylton, of ours, with a
mounted party of ten lancers, was returning along the Silistria
road—where he had been sent in search of forage—and to him the soldier’s
wife appealed, and detailed what had taken place.  He at once surrounded
the house, and demanded the girl, in what fashion or language I know
not; but he made the proprietor aware that fire or sword hung over him
if she was not surrendered instantly.

Armed to the teeth, the Greek appeared at the door, and threatened him
with the _vaivode_ of the district, and the _kaimakan_, or deputy of the
Pasha of Roumelia, and of various other dignitaries; but Stapylton put
the point of his lance to the throat of the old pirate, who found in it
an argument so irresistible, that he at once gave up the girl, whom our
fellows brought with them in triumph to the camp, where a subscription
was made for her, and she was a nine days’ wonder; and that this little
bit of romance might not be without its _finale_, she ultimately became
the wife of Sergeant Stapylton.

Our regiment was encamped eighteen miles distant from Varna, in the
lovely vale of Aladyn, surrounded by forests of the finest timber, where
the springs of water were numerous and pure, and where the grass and
verdure were of the richest description; yet there it was that
disease—the fell cholera and dysentery—broke out among us, and decimated
our ranks more surely and more severely than the Russian bullets could
have done.  But amid their horrors folly ever found its way; and several
of our people, French and British, got into scrapes with the Bulgarian
and Turkish damsels, especially the latter, who are rather prone to
intrigue, notwithstanding the dangers attendant on it, in such a land of
jealousy and the prompt use of arms.  Perhaps the _yashmac_, and the
mystery it gave to their faces, of which the ever brilliant eyes alone
were visible, and the mouth—usually its worst feature—was hidden, had
much to do with this.

By the Koran, aged women alone are permitted to "lay aside their outer
garments, and go unveiled."  A very old history of
Constantinople—Delamay’s, I think—relates that a pasha, remarkable for
the size and ugliness of his nose, married, before the kadi, a lady who,
on being unveiled, proved to his great disgust to be exceedingly plain.

"To whom, of all your friends," she asked, with her most winning smile,
"am I to show my face?"

"To all the world," said he; "but hide it from me!"

"My lord, patience," she whispered, humbly.

"Patience have I none!" he exclaimed, wrathfully.

"_Allah kerim!_ you must have a great deal of it to have borne that
great nose so long about you," she retorted, as she hurled her slipper
at his head.

A pair of dark and brilliant eyes, sparkling through the folds of a fine
white muslin _yashmac_, were very nearly the means of ridding me of
Berkeley, and the impending duel, while we lay at Varna.

He and Frank Jocelyn, of my troop, a smart and handsome young fellow,
whilom the prime bowler and stroke oar at Oxford, as good-hearted and
open-handed a lad as any in the service, began an intrigue with two
Turkish damsels, whom they found at prayer before an _aekie_, or
Mahommedan wayside chapel, and whom they followed home to a kiosk in the
vale of Aladyn.

Their love affair did not make much progress, being simply maintained by
tossing oranges in the dusk over a high wall, which was furnished with a
row of vicious-looking iron spikes. The oranges of Jocelyn and Berkeley
contained notes written in French and Italian, of which the girls could
make nothing, of course, the language of the educated Turks being a
mixture of Turkish, Persian, and Arabic, the former being spoken by the
peasantry alone; so the ladies responded by oranges, in which flowers
were stuck, till on the fourth or fifth night, in reply to a very
amatory epistle, souse came over the garden wall an iron six-inch shell,
with its fuse burning!

Our Lotharios had only time to throw themselves flat on the ground, when
it exploded in the dark with a dreadful crash; but without hurting
either of them, and they retired, somewhat crestfallen, while hearing
much loud laughter and clapping of hands within the garden wall.  After
this rough hint, they went no more near the ladies, who proved to be the
wife of a _yuse bashi_, or captain of Turkish artillery, and her female
slave.

While the months we wasted so fruitlessly at Varna crept slowly away,
there occurred to me a singular adventure—in fact, one so remarkable in
its import, and in reference to the future, that it still makes a deep
impression upon me; and this episode I shall detail in the following
chapter.



                            *CHAPTER XXXI.*


      So gaze met gaze,
    And heart saw heart, translucid through the rays,
    One same harmonious universal law,
    Atom to atom, star to star can draw,
    And heart to heart.  Swift darts, as from the sun,
    The strong attraction, and the charm is done.
        THE NEW TIMON.


To the letter I wrote Louisa from Gallipoli no answer was ever returned.

Had it reached her, or been intercepted, and by whom?

I began to associate Berkeley—groundlessly, certainly—with her singular
silence.  All my former animosity to him returned; but, for the personal
safety of the survivor, our strangely deferred meeting could not take
place till we found ourselves in the vicinity of the enemy.  I feared,
too, that he might discover how completely she had ignored—or, to all
appearance, forgotten—my existence.  To me there was pure gall in the
idea that he should have cause for triumph in suspecting it.

I constantly wore her engagement ring—the pearl with the blue enamel.
Did she gaze on my Rangoon diamond as frequently as I did on the tiny
gold hoop which once encircled her finger, and had hence become a holy
thing to me?  I was now beginning to fear that she did not.

The past had but one feature, one which every thought and memory seemed
metaphorically to hinge; and the future but one object—the same—around
which every hope was centred—Louisa. Viâ the Bosphorus, the mail
steamers came puffing regularly into Varna Bay.  They seemed to bring
letters to all but me, and gradually my heart became filled by anxiety
and fear.

Louisa might be ill—_dead_! I thrust aside that thought as impossible; I
must have heard of so terrible a calamity from Cora, or from Wilford,
who was in constant correspondence with his sister.

Her answer to my Gallipoli letter might have miscarried. Why her letter
alone?  Those of my uncle and of cousin Cora came at the requisite time,
and in course of post.  Could it actually be that Louisa was forgetting
me?  Her last look—her eyes so full of grief—her last kiss, so full of
tremulous tenderness, forbade this fear, and yet it was passing strange
that neither Cora nor Sir Nigel ever mentioned her in their
correspondence with me.

I frequently prayed that her love might be as lasting in her as it
proved agonizing to me.

Studhome knew my secret.  To conceal from him that I was miserable was
impossible, but honest Jack’s advice "to take heart of grace—to remember
that there were as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it, that—

    "’There were maidens in Scotland more lovely by far,
    Who would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar,’"

and a great deal more to the same effect and purpose, proved but sorry
comfort and counsel.

On a Saturday evening I had tiffed with him in his tent. We had no
second parade or anything to do.  He vowed that he was tired of his
studies, which generally consisted of the _Racing Calendar_, Hart’s
"Annual Army List," "White’s Farriery," and the "Field Exercise and
Evolutions for the Cavalry," varied by _Punch_ and _Bell’s Life_, so we
ordered our horses, and rode to Varna, the variety and unwonted bustle
of which afforded the means of amusement and relief, after the quiet and
monotony of our camp in the green wooded vale of Aladyn.

We put up our horses at an old rickety Turkish khan, which an
enterprising French sutler had turned into a species of hotel, for over
the door a gay signboard, painted in tricolour, informed us that it was
"_Le restaurant de l’Armée d’Orient, pour messieurs les officiers et
sous-officiers_."

There we had a bottle of excellent Greek wine, in a large whitewashed
room, full of French officers, of every branch of the service and of all
ranks, who received us with great politeness.  They were all smoking
cigarettes, chatting, laughing, playing chess or dominoes, and reading
the _Moniteur_ or _Charivari_, which last caricatured the Russians as
unmercifully as our good friend _Punch_ ever did.

Their gaiety and _étourdi_ fashion of quizzing the women who passed drew
many a scowl of wonder and reprehension from the turbaned, shawled, and
solemn Turks, for few of the believers took kindly to "the sons of
perdition who had come to aid them and the Vicar of God—the refuge of
the world—from the Muscovite dog," as one was heard to say; "and at the
behest of a queen—a woman—_Allah razolsum!_" he added, with special
reference to us.

"What a change all this is from our recent barrack life at Maidstone,"
said Studhome.  "We see such strange scenes—a new world here."

"For our used-up guardsmen and hussars, who have been hitherto bored by
the mere aimlessness and emptiness of their lives, our friend, the
Emperor Nicholas, has certainly provided that which Sir Charles, in
_Used Up_, would call a ’new sensation,’ and a little healthy
excitement."

A young sous-lieutenant of Zouaves was particularly vehement and droll
in describing a certain Egyptian magician, who had shown some wonderful
things to him and his friends.  His words seemed to excite much
laughter, and, on drawing nearer, I discovered him to be Jules
Jolicoeur, the Zouave, who had now been promoted to the rank of
second-lieutenant in his regiment, in the ranks of which the cholera had
already made sad ravages.

"Monsieur Jolicoeur," said I; "a magician, do you say?"

"_Peste!_ you know my name," said he, smiling, while he pirouetted about
and twirled his moustache.

"I have to congratulate you on your promotion.  Better this than poring
over Lemartinière, Ambrose Paré, and so forth, at the Ecole de Médecin,
eh?"

"_Parbleu, monsieur!_ how do you come to know all this?" he asked, with
pardonable surprise.

"Perhaps I am a magician too," said I, laughing.  "But this Egyptian of
whom you tell us—he is a juggler, I presume?"

"_Jouer—joueuse de gobelets_, you mean?  Oh, no.  In a little water or
ink, poured into the hollow of your hand, he will show you the face of
any friend you most desire to see. It is miraculous."

"_Diable!_" exclaimed Victor Baudeuf, a well-decorated captain of a
French line regiment; "then he shall show me Mogador."

The name of this well-known French dancer elicited a burst of laughter;
but Jolicoeur said—

"Monsieur, you should call her Madame la Comtesse de Chabrillan!"

"And where the devil is _monsieur le Comte_?" asked Baudeuf, with a
grimace.

"At the gold-fields, having spent his fortune twice on the girl."

"Well, to a wife in Paris a husband at the gold-fields is just as
valuable as no husband at all.  _Très bon_!  I shall see pretty Mogador,
if your magician has any skill."

"And where does your magician hang out?" asked Studhome.

"Hang—hang—_il mérite la corde_, you mean, monsieur?" asked the puzzled
Frenchman.

"No, no; where is he to be found?"

"_Monsieur le magicien_ holds a spiritual séance to-night," observed a
French hussar, whose gorgeous dolman was almost sword-proof with silver
lace.

"_Très bon!_" exclaimed another; "there are twenty girls in Paris I want
to see."

"What is his time, Jules?"

"Eight o’clock."

"’Tis but twenty minutes from that now."

"We shall go too," said Studhome, "and have our fortunes told; it will
be as good a lark, monsieur, as any other."

"Lark—_aloutte_—oh, yes, _très bon!_" replied Jolicoeur, with a
good-natured smile, though quite at a loss to understand why the bird
was referred to.

"My fortune has often been told me, Newton, by gipsies, at Maidstone and
Canterbury.  By no two alike; but it was magnificent, according to the
fee I gave, and always droll. We shall see what this astrologer—a real
magician—has to show us."

"If he shows us Louisa Loftus, Jack, I’ll forfeit a year’s pay!"

"Come, messieurs, to the séance," shouted Jolicoeur, as he buckled on
his sabre.  "I wish to see Mademoiselle Sophie of ours, who has gone to
Constantinople."

"And I Mogador," said Captain Baudeuf, "the delicious little dancer at
the Mabille."

"And I Rose Pompon!" exclaimed the hussar, tying the cords of his silver
dolman.  "Rose, the heroine of a thousand flirtations."

"Mogador, the empress of ten thousand hearts," added the captain.

"Hearts such as thine, _mon camarade_," said the hussar, laughing.

"And Fleur d’Amour," added another heedless fellow, "the Queen of the
Tourlurous!"[*]


[*] Camp phrase for the French linesmen.


"_Ah, mon capitaine_," said Jules.  "_Peste!_ what a _roué_ it is.  He
has made as many conquests as our good friend Don Juan, in the
delightful opera which bears his name."

"Beware!" said the other, with a mock frown; "I’m an ace of diamonds man
with the pistol, Jules."

"Bah!  Your pistol will never be levelled at me.  Have a cigarette?"

"Thanks.  As for Mogador, her silk tights were a study at the Mabille,
and the grace with which she showed her feet and ankles——"

"_Cordieu, mon ami!_ we haven’t a man in the 2nd Zouaves who has not
appreciated that generous exhibition to the utmost.  I hope she’ll
appear in Baudeuf’s hand as Diana, or the chaste Lucretia!" said
Jolicoeur.

These remarks elicited roars of laughter from the gay Frenchmen.

"By Jove, Newton," whispered Studhome, "our fair friends will be
conjured up in odd company.  These fellows are naming the most notorious
_lorettes_ in Paris!"

With a prodigious clatter of swords and spurs, we all quitted the
restaurant together for the residence of the magician; and Lieutenant
Jolicoeur, who seemed disposed to fraternize with us, informed me that
this personage, who was making so much noise in Varna, was a native of
Al Kosair, on the Egyptian coast of the Red Sea, and that he was now
chief hakim, or senior surgeon, of the 10th Battalion of Egyptian
Infantry, which formed a portion of the Viceroy’s contingent with the
Turkish army.  So we looked forward with some interest to the interview,
as he had a high reputation among the Osmanlees for the marvels he
produced, and was faithfully believed.

After an interview, this magician strongly reminded me of the Sooltan
described by Lane, in his "Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians."

If in England, at this hour, so many persons believe implicitly in
table-turning, spirit-rapping, mesmeric slumber, and mesmeric mediums,
and many other outrageous whim-whams, it can surely be no wonder that
the poor, ignorant soldiers of the Turkish and Egyptian armies should
believe in the magic powers of the hakim Abd-el-Rasig, who, by the
medium of another human soul, could show them whether their friends,
their fathers, and mothers, at Gaza, at Cairo, or on the banks of the
Nile, were still in the land of the living, as clearly as if they peeped
through the magical telescope of the favoured prince in the fairy tale.

It was just about the period of which I write that the public of the
modern Athens—that happy city of bibacious saints and briefless
Solons—was electrified by a series of letters which appeared in one of
her journals, signed by a tolerably well-known historian, occupying,
however a lucrative legal position, to the effect that "he possessed a
peculiar medium," of whose person and spirit he had such entire mesmeric
control that he had sent the latter to the Arctic regions, in search of
Sir John Franklin, whom she saw, accoutred with cocked hat and quadrant,
seated sorrowfully on a heap of snow; next, that he had sent her on a
visit to one of Her Majesty’s ships in the West Indies, where she pryed
into the savoury secrets of the midshipmen’s berth; and, not content
with these wonderful voyages, he actually announced that he sent her
spirit to heaven to visit his friends, and a much warmer climate to
visit his enemies; and this blasphemous rubbish and mid-summer madness
found believers in the Scottish capital, though it excited the laughter
of the masses; but one night the fair medium, "being hot with the Tuscan
grape, and high in blood," or having imbibed over much alcohol, fairly
unmasked the would-be Northern Balsamo as a dupe and fool, by forgetting
to play her assumed character.

"_Allons, mes camarades!_" said Jules, placing his arm through mine and
Studhome’s; "we shall all face this Cagliostro together—one for all, and
all for one, like Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, in ’Les Trois
Mousquetaires.’"

It was impossible not to be pleased with the gaity and winning manner of
this young Frenchman.  His bearing and uniform, half Parisian and half
Oriental, gave him somewhat of the aspect of a dandy brigand; but that
bearing is peculiar to all the officers and men of the regiments of
Zouaves.

Evening was approaching, and the shadows were falling eastward.  Those
of the tall minarets, and the rows of cypress-trees that guard "the City
of the Dead," were cast to a great distance, over the flat ground on
which Varna stands.  Many "true believers" were awaiting the shrill,
boyish voice of the muezzin to call them to prayer; and the tambours of
the French troops were gathering at their places of arms, and bracing up
their drums, preparatory to beating the evening retreat, as we passed
along the strangely-crowded streets, towards the Armenian church.

At a coffee-house, the whole front of which was open, we passed several
of the Colonel Hadjee Mehmet’s soldiers, all drowsy with tobacco or
bang, and seated like so many tailors, each on a scrap of tattered
carpet.  Some were idling over the chequers of a chess-board, and others
were listening to the wild fairy tale of an itinerant dervish, to whom,
from time to time, they tossed a quarter piastre (about a halfpenny) as
it waxed more and more exciting.

Passing through a street which had just been named the Rue des Portes
Franchises—a corporal of sappers being in the act of nailing up that
title on the rickety mansion of a wondering and indignant emir—we
reached the temporary residence of the hakim Abd-el-Rasig, near which
several Turkish women in long caftans, a few hawk-nosed Greeks, and
squalid Jews were loitering, as if pondering whether they dared tempt
his skill by unwisely seeking to probe the future.

To the street the house presented nothing but a small door, having a
curved arch, like a horseshoe, and a low, whitewashed wall.

Passing through, we found ourselves in a cool, shady courtyard,
surrounded, as usual, by those inexplicable Turkish sheds, a well in the
centre, a few rose-trees in tubs, and a few flowers and tiny shrubs
forcing their way up between the slabs of pavement.

The mansion was almost entirely built of wood, and painted saffron and
blue.  We were ushered in by a little tawny Egyptian servant-boy, clad
in baggy blue breeches and a scarlet tarboosh, and whom, to our disgust,
we discovered to be tongueless—a mute!—and found ourselves in the _divan
hanée_, or principal apartment; and now the hitherto ceaseless gabble
and merriment of our French friends became hushed into comparative
silence, as the hakim, who had been smoking his chibouque, with its long
cherry-stick, rose from a luxurious pile of silken cushions to welcome
us.

He was a little man, with Arab features, and a complexion of mahogany.
His bushy beard was of a great amplitude. Time had long since dyed that
appendage white, but the proprietor had turned it to a rich brown.  He
wore a green turban, a long, flowing coat, fashioned like a
dressing-gown, of bright blue cloth, elaborately braided on the breast
and seams with scarlet cord; his vest and trousers were of white linen,
girt by a sash of green silk.  Round his neck hung a comboloio, or
Mahommedan rosary, of ninety-nine sandalwood beads.

Save that his intensely black eyes had under their impending brows a
keen and hawk-like expression, his appearance was neither unpleasing nor
undignified.  His cheekbones were somewhat prominent; he had the organs
of locality largely defined, and his forehead was high, but receding.

A Turkish soldier, an onbashi, or corporal of the Hadjee Mehmet’s corps,
had just preferred some request as we entered; and on learning that we
had come to see a trial of his power at the séance, or whatever else he
was pleased to call it, he invited us all into an inner apartment which
opened off the _divan hanée_.

It was lighted by four lamps, suspended from the ceiling, each with a
large tassel below it.  From these lamps flickered four flames, which
emitted a strange mephitic odour.  The chamber had been recently
whitewashed; the doors and windows were all bordered by arabesques in
black and red, and with elaborate sentences from the Koran, which I
afterwards learned to be the following:—

"If they accuse thee of imposture, the apostles before thee have also
been accounted impostors, who brought evident demonstrations, and the
book which enlighteneth the understanding."

"They will ask thee concerning the spirit; answer, the spirit was
created at the command of my Lord; but ye have no knowledge given unto
you, except a little."

"This is light added unto light.  God will direct His light unto whom He
pleaseth."[*]


[*] Al Koran, chapters iii., xvii., and xxiv.


In the centre was a table covered by a crimson cloth, on which stood a
species of altar, formed of brass, about two feet high, supported by
four monstrous figures, the description of which is beyond the power of
language, and before it lay the Koran, open, and from its leaves
depended fifty-four flesh-coloured ribbons, with leaden seals attached
to them, being one for every two of the chapters of that remarkable
book.

Near this lay a rod of strangely-sculptured bronze, which was known to
have been found in one of the six great cavern tombs that stand in the
pass of Bibou-el-Melek at Thebes, by the side of a mummy, which was
alleged to be that of a royal magician, for in those tombs lie the
Egyptian kings of the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties.

Several bright green chameleons from Alexandria, which were perpetually
crawling about this altar, and turning from their natural colour to red,
blue, and white, according to the hue of anything they approached, added
to the _diablerie_ of this scene, which soon became rather exciting.

My own share in this adventure was so remarkable, that I came away with
but a slight recollection of the part borne in it by my companions.

Indeed, I was the second person on whom he attempted to impose, if his
singular mode of summoning, or spirit rapping, could be termed an
imposition.

The first to whom he addressed himself was the Turkish soldier with whom
we had found him in conversation.

The onbashi wished to know if his mother, Ayesha, widow of Abdallah Ebn
Said, who dwelt at Adramyt, was well, and gave the hakim his fee—ten
piastres—a large sum, no doubt, for the poor Osmanli warrior, who gazed
about with considerable uneasiness, though the unabashed bearing of the
Frenchmen might have reassured him; and I heard Jolicoeur whispering to
Baudeuf that he had a dozen times seen just such a magical tableau at
the Mabille and Porte St. Martin—_diable—oui!_—and had hissed it off,
that he might have Mogador or Fleur d’Amour on with their dances.

"Ayesha, widow of Abdallah Ebn Said," muttered the hakim.  "A lucky
name—it was borne by one of the four perfect women who are now in
Paradise."

Opening a gilt door in his little cabinet or altar, the hakim brought
forth a large clam-shell and two phials of a dark liquid.

He wrote that verse of the Koran which I have quoted from chapter xvii.,
concerning the spirit, on a strip of parchment; then, pouring pure water
over it, he washed it into the hollow of the shell; thus its sentiment
and spirit were supposed to become a component part of the charm about
to be wrought.

He then desired the onbashi to turn to the east, and pray (for religion
evidently bore a great part in all his mummery), and next he summoned me
to look into the shell, which he held in his left hand, while waving
over it his bronze rod seven times—the mystical number.

I steadily gazed into the liquid, which a few drops from the phial had
turned to a pale purple tint, but saw—nothing.

She did not appear.  Thrice she was summoned, but in vain.

The hakim tugged his beard, frowned, and reddened with vexation, and
emptied his shell, pouring the liquid carefully through a hole in the
floor.

"My poor mother, then, is dead?" said the corporal, sadly, crossing his
hands on his breast.

"Stafferillah! nay, do not think so," said the hakim, kindly.

"Why, effendi?"

"Because, in that case, the liquid would become as black as the holy
Kaaba."

"But she did not appear?"

"This is an unlucky day, my son."

"Why so for me, if not for others?  I never omit to wash and pray; and
yesterday, O hakim, you showed strange things to the Franks, filling all
their khans and coffee-houses with wonder."

"True; but go.  Thou art one of the faithful.  To the infidels all days
are alike," replied the hakim, with a very unmistakable scowl at
Jolicoeur and Baudeuf.  "Doth not the Prophet say, ’Their works are like
unto vapour in a plain, which the traveller thinketh to be water, until
when he cometh thereto he findeth it to be nothing?’"

"Allah kerim!" said the onbashi, putting his right hand to his forehead,
his mouth, and his heart, and stalking solemnly away.

Jolicoeur was pressing forward to summon his friend Sophie, no doubt, or
perhaps some other gay damsel, when the hakim, who evidently disliked
his scoffing smile and general bearing, ignored his presence, and said
to me—

"Effendi, in what can I serve you?"

I felt the blood rush to my head, and in a whisper I mentioned to him
Louisa Loftus.  I was loth that my fast companions should hear her name,
and make, perhaps, a jest of it.  The hakim’s fee was, I have said, ten
piastres; but as I gave him above a hundred—or equal to a guinea
sterling—there were no words to express his thanks in Egyptian or
Turkish; he could only mutter, again and again—

"Shookier Allah!  May God reward you!"

Again he produced his clam-shell, the surface of which I carefully
surveyed, while with great alacrity he wrote a verse from the Koran.
The shell was clear and pure; no picture, line, or drawing could be
detected on its pearly surface. Again he went through his mummery with
the phials, and washed off the ink into the shell; again, as before, the
liquid grew purple, and again he waved his rod of bronze.

"You wish to see her you love?" he whispered, with something of a
licentious leer in his keen black eyes; "she who is to be your hanoum
(wife or lady)?"

"Yes, effendi," said I, blushing like a great schoolboy, in spite of
myself, all the more that I saw Jack Studhome’s handkerchief at his
mouth.

Fixing his keen eyes with something of sternness upon Jules Jolicoeur,
whom he had suddenly detected in the act of mimicking him, the bearded
hakim summoned him forward, and desired him to look into the shell, and
tell us what he saw.

Abd-el-Rasig then turned to the east, and proceeded to pray and invoke
in an inaudible voice.

I was four paces from the Zouave lieutenant, whose eyes, as he gazed
into the shell, became dilated and fixed with astonishment, while his
whole features, which were handsome, expressed something akin to fear.

"_Merveilleuse! mon Dieu! merveilleuse!_" he exclaimed.

"Do you see anything, monsieur?" I asked, with growing excitement.

"Yes—yes—_oui, peste_!"

"In heaven’s name what do you see?"

"A lady!"

"A lady?"

"Yes; the face of a lady, young, and very gentle.  It is pale; her eyes
are dark, her hair thick and jetty—it seems almost blue in this purple
shell.  Her eyebrows and lashes are thick," he continued, speaking very
fast.  "She has an expression of intense sadness—ban Dieu!—she is like a
sorrowing angel."

"Her nose is aquiline?" I suggested.

"On the contrary, it is neat and small, but not quite _retroussé_.  She
moves—_merveilleuse!_—tears—she is weeping! On her breast there is a
silver crescent; and now—now—the whole thing fades away!"

I was springing forward, when the hakim waved me imperiously back with
his bronze rod, and instantly poured the contents of the shell on the
tiled floor, from which a strange mephitic odour rose.

This was not the case on the previous unsuccessful occasion.  Jules, who
had become quite grave, now turned eagerly, and full of interest, to me.

"Is this the lady whose face you saw?" I asked, showing him the
miniature of Louisa.

"No, monsieur; there is not the least resemblance."

"Indeed!"

"I am somewhat of an artist, and know."

"You are sure?"

"Sure as I now address you, monsieur."

I began to smile.

"I have said that her eyes seemed dark, nearly as these. Her hair was
black, thick, and wavy, but her nose and features were all smaller—more
(pardon me, monsieur) feminine, perhaps—less decided in character,
certainly; and on her breast she had a crescent of silver."

"A crescent!"

"Yes, monsieur, with a lion above it.  The ornament seemed to fasten or
adorn the dress, and I saw it distinctly till she placed her hand upon
it, and then the water in the shell rippled.  It is positively
miraculous," he added, turning to Captain Baudeuf, who was twirling his
moustache and smiling with obstinate incredulity.

The latter details petrified me.

Jolicoeur’s description was completely that of my cousin, Cora
Calderwood.  The crescent and lion was a gift I had sent her from
India—a double ornament I had picked up in the great pagoda at Rangoon,
and which she always wore, preferring it to her father’s crest and every
other brooch.

"Are you satisfied, effendi?" asked the hakim, quietly, for he seemed
used to astonishment on such occasions.

"I am bewildered, at all events, hakim," said I.

"Why so?"

"It was not she I asked for or whom I named."

"How do you know?  You did not see.  Another looked with your eyes."

"True—but what does the vision portend?"

"You asked to see her——"

"I loved, hakim," said I, emphatically.

"Nay, she who—if Allah and the Muscovite dogs spare you—is to be your
wife, your _hanoum_.  Do you not remember? Go!  _Allah Kerim_! it is
_kismet_—your destiny.  The destinies of all, and the hour in which we
are to die—yea, the very moment—are written by the finger of Azrael on
our foreheads at our birth—on yours also, although you believe neither
in Azrael[*] nor the Prophet.  Go! the mark is there, although we see it
not."


[*] The Mahommedan Angel of Death.


With those rather solemn words ringing in my ears, bewildered and
thoroughly startled, I found myself traversing the streets of Varna with
Studhome, while the French drummers were beating _la retraite_ as the
sun went down beyond those mountains that were then echoing with the
cannon of Silistria, and while the shrill voices of the muezzins
proclaimed the hour of evening prayer from the minarets of the mosques,
into which the Moslems were pouring, with bowed heads and bare feet, to
count their beads.



                            *CHAPTER XXXII.*


    Sleep by evil spirits troubled,
      Fleeing at the matin bell;
    Fears that start to eyes scarce waking,
      Sighs that will not quit her cell.


As from a dream I was roused at last by Jack Studhome proffering his
cigar-case, and saying, with a smile—

"How about the year’s pay, Norcliff, eh?  I owe you that, I suppose?"

"Don’t jest, for Heaven’s sake, Jack," said I; "for I feel faint, queer,
and ill."

All that night we talked over the affair, through the medium of sundry
flasks of iced champagne, without being able to come to any conclusion
about it.

As a piece of trickery, it beat all that we had ever seen performed at
Cawnpore, Delhi, or Benares, by Indian jugglers, though at mess we had
seen those worthies swallow a sword to the hilt, or run it through a
basket, in which was concealed a child, whose blood and screams came
forth together, till the room door opened, and the little one ran in
joyously, unhurt, and without a wound; or the orange seed, which one
placed in my tumbler, where it took root, and in three minutes became a
little tree in full bearing, from which the mess plucked the oranges as
it was handed round.  All such performances were beaten by that of the
hakim Abd-el-Rasig!

That Jules Jolicoeur had seen a female face—a pretty one, too—in the
clam-shell was certain, by whatever art or legerdemain that circumstance
was achieved.  His astonishment was too genuine and too palpable to be
acted.  The detail of the crescent brooch was a coincidence, perhaps;
but then his description of the wearer accorded so well with that of
Cora!

I resolved to seek him next day; but he was despatched on duty along the
road towards the Balkan; and, as the event proved, I became too ill to
follow him.

As we rode home from the Restaurant de l’Armée d’Orient, I was sensible
of extreme giddiness; but attributed it to the champagne.  I could
scarcely guide my horse along the road that led to our camp in the vale
of Aladyn, and felt Studhome repeatedly place his hand upon my bridle to
guide me.  I felt delirious, too, and next day found myself in the pangs
of that foul pest, the cholera.

It seized me at the distance of some ten miles or so from the camp, from
which I had ridden in search of Lieutenant Jolicoeur.  I became so ill
that I had to dismount, and was conveyed to the kiosk of a wealthy
Armenian merchant, and there I remained in great peril for several days,
before my circumstances or my whereabouts became known to my friends or
the regiment.

I endured a severe pain or burning heat in the pit of my stomach,
accompanied by the other symptoms of cholera—cramps in the limbs, and
spasms of the intestines and muscles of the abdomen.

The pulses became faint, and at times scarcely perceptible; my skin grew
cold, and suffused by a clammy perspiration. It was an undoubted case of
spasmodic cholera.

I felt resigned and almost careless of life.  There were times, however,
when I reflected sorrowfully, almost bitterly, that it was not thus I
had wished to die, unnoticed and unknown, among strangers in a foreign
land; but, luckily for myself, I could not have fallen into more worthy
hands.

The proprietor of the kiosk I have mentioned was a wealthy Armenian
merchant, a native of Kars.  Whether he was animated by that inordinate
love of gain which is peculiar to his race, I know not; but he treated
me with extreme kindness and hospitality, yet I never saw either him or
any of his family.  The dangerous nature of my disease was a sufficient
excuse for my being carefully secluded from his entire household, which
was numerous, as it consisted of several sons with their wives and
children, all living together as one great family, but under his own
rule, somewhat in the patriarchal mode of a Scottish clan under its
chief.

In a little airy apartment, which opened upon a high-walled and spacious
garden, I lay for many days, hovering between life and death.  My
medical attendant was an Italian surgeon, attached to the Bashi Bazooks,
and wore a bright green frock-coat, long riding-boots, and a crimson
fez, with a long blue tassel and broad military button.  He looked like
a reckless foreign cut-throat, with a fierce moustache, vast black
beard, and close shorn head; but his exterior belied his character and
skill.

In the old Sangrado fashion he bled me, taking twenty-five ounces of
blood from my left arm, and gave me, I remember, from eighty to a
hundred drops of laudanum, together with a teaspoonful of cayenne
pepper, in a glass of stiff brandy-and-water, steaming hot, ordering me
to drain it almost at a draught.

"Oh, Signor Dottore," said I, "whence come those dreadful spasms?"

"They are rarely accounted for satisfactorily," he replied, with
professional nonchalance; "but, if I were to venture an opinion, I
should say that the _convulsioni_ arise from distended vessels, in the
neighbourhood of the spine, on the origin of the nerves—you understand,
Signor Capitano?"

I was soon past understanding anything; but, after the hot dose, I was
wrapped in hot blankets, friction, with strong stimulating liniments,
being applied along the spine by the hard hands of two black slaves, and
heated bricks were placed to my feet and hands; and under all this
process I fainted away.

For days I was as one who is in a dream, passive in the hands of those
sable assistants, who, doubtless, thought a bowstring would have proved
a "perfect cure," and a saving of considerable trouble.  The green
frogged coat, the crimson fez, and the dark face of the Italian doctor,
as he came from time to time, seemed all a portion of the phantasmagoria
which surrounded me; but there came anon a sweeter, a softer, and more
feminine face, with a lighter and a smaller hand, that seemed to touch
me and smooth my pillow; and with this vision came thoughts of Louisa,
of Cora, of the hakim Abd-el-Rasig and his magic spells, and then I
would close my eyes, wondering whether I was asleep or awake, or if in a
dream, from which I would waken, to find myself in my cool bell-tent in
the green breezy vale of Aladyn, in my familiar quarters at Canterbury,
or it might be in the dear old room of my boyhood, where my mother had
so often hung over me and watched, in Calderwood Glen, and then I seemed
to hear the cawing of the hoodiecrows among the ancient trees that
rustled their green leaves in the summer wind.

The murmuring breeze that came so pleasantly to my dreaming ear passed
over wooded mountains; but, alas! they were those of Bulgaria, and not
my native land.

Amid all the wild ideas induced by my condition was the overpowering
sense of weakness, with intense prostration and lassitude; but now,
thanks to Heaven, to human skill, to my own youth and strength, the
terrible disease was passing away.

While, by a stupidity or treachery closely akin to treason, our army,
during the hot, breathless months of a Bulgarian summer, lay rotting and
inactive at Varna, as if merely waiting the approach of winter to open a
campaign with Russia—hardy Russia, the land of ice and snows, whose rash
emperor boasted that her two most terrible generals were January and
February—the fell disease which prostrated me was making sad havoc among
my brave and patient comrades.

The 7th, 23rd, and 88th regiments, and all the infantry generally—the
Highlanders almost excepted, their Celtic costume being an admirable
safeguard by its warmth about the loins—were decimated by cholera.  The
Inniskillings and 5th Dragoon Guards were reduced to mere skeletons, and
few cavalry colonels could bring more than two hundred and fifty sabres
into the field.

So much was my own corps reduced, that on one parade Beverley only
mustered two hundred lances; but many convalescents joined after.  It
was remarked that many of the ambulance corps, after what was termed
"the great thunder-storm," died within five hours of being assailed by
the plague.

Thus, "hundreds of brave men, who had left the British shores, full of
high hope and manly strength, died in the valley of Aladyn, or on the
hills overlooking Varna!  The army grew discontented.  Though no act
unbecoming British soldiers was committed—though no breach of discipline
could be charged—it was impossible to refrain from discontent. Murmurs,
not loud but deep, made themselves heard.  No man there but burned to
meet the enemy.  The entire army was prepared cheerfully to face death
in the service of the country to which it had sworn allegiance; but to
remain in inactivity, exposed to pestilence, which struck down its
victims as surely, and nearly as speedily, as the rifle-bullet, beneath
a burning sun, with no power of resistance, and no possibility of
evasion, was a fate which might quell the stoutest courage, and raise
discontent in the most loyal bosom."

Seven thousand Russians, who had perished of cholera some time before,
were buried in the vicinity of our camp; and thus the green, smiling
spot which the Bulgarians named the vale of Aladyn, the bearded
Muscovites anathematized as the Valley of the Plague!

While such was the state of our inactive army at Varna, our fleet in the
Black Sea was vainly seeking to lure the Russian vessels from their
secure anchorage under the formidable batteries of Sebastopol; and the
Turkish army was exhibiting a courage which astonished all Europe.

At Giurgevo, a city on the left bank of the Danube, on the 7th of July,
a mere handful of Turks, chiefly led by a gallant Scot, styled Behram
Pasha,[*] defeated a large force of Russians, after a desperate
conflict.  At Kalafat the latter sought in vain to force the passage of
the river, and drive the Osmanlees from their stronghold; and at Citate
and Oltenitza they were routed with disgrace.  For neither their own
native prowess, the prayers of the Bishop of Moscow, nor the miraculous
image of St. Sergius, availed them—the blue cross of St. Andrew and the
Eagle of Muscovy fled alike before the crescent and star of Mahommed.
And now Silistria, on the Danube—"the thundering river"—became the base
of operations; and there Moussa Pasha, Butler, an Irish officer, and my
countryman, Naysmith, covered themselves with glory, while the Hungarian
exile, Omar Pasha, opposed the foe with all his available troops.


[*] Lieutenant-Colonel Cannon.


During this time the French continued pouring into Varna, by marching
across the Balkan, the great mountain barrier of Turkey, the rocky
passes and deep defiles of which are almost impassable in winter.

On the 28th of July the Russians were driven from Wallachia; but the
Turks were utterly defeated by them at Bayazid, on the slopes of Western
Armenia, and again at Kuyukdere. Our fleets bombarded Kola, on the White
Sea, and the 4th of September saw the eagle of victory hovering over the
armies of the Czar at Petropaulovski; but thus the summer passed with us
ingloriously away, and still our army lay inactive amid a hotbed of
fever and suffering at hated Varna.

The most of these stirring events I learned after my recovery from that
illness which so nearly carried me off.  I knew nothing of them while in
the house of the Armenian, and equally little did I know that Mr. De
Warr Berkeley, in the hope that I might never rejoin, was doing all he
could to blot my military reputation in the brigade to which we
belonged.

It was on a morning in June—the 23rd, I think—the same day on which the
Russians raised the siege of Silistria, leaving twelve thousand dead
before its walls—that I seemed to wake from a long and refreshing
slumber.

The vague, drowsy sense of having been surrounded by phantasms and
unrealities, and that it was not Newton Norcliff, but some one else, who
was lying there, sick and weary, had passed away with sleep.  I was
conscious and coherent now, but weak with past suffering.

Through the lattices of a pretty kiosk (for that word signifies alike a
room or a house), I could see the great rose trees, covered with their
fragrant glories, standing in rows, or trained over gilded iron bowers
or arches.  The leaves of the apricot, the purple plum and greengage
trees, rustled pleasantly in the passing breeze, and pleasantly, too,
there came to my ear the plashing of a marble fountain that stood in the
shaded verandah without.

Around that white marble fountain grew the great scarlet pumpkin and the
golden-coloured water-melon, their gaudy brilliance contrasting with the
green leaves amid which they nestled.  The garden was an epitome of
Turkey, for there the blood-red ilex of Italy, the rose tree of Persia,
the palm of Egypt, the Indian fig, and the African aloe, with the tall,
solemn cypress, all grew side by side in the lovely parterres, through
which the sunshine fell aslant in golden flakes.

The kiosk in which I lay was floored with marble slabs. Its walls were
painted gaily with a panoramic view of Constantinople.  I could
recognise the heights of Pera, and all the Propontis, from the Seraglia
point to the Seven Towers, with all the glories of the Golden Horn,
Sophia’s shining cupola, the Serai Bournou, and the cypress groves,
where the dead of ages lie.

I was reposing in a pretty bed, with spotless white hangings, and lace
all so charmingly arranged, that it reminded me of a baby’s cradle.  A
divan of yellow silk cushions surrounded the apartment on three sides.
On the fourth it was entirely open to the verandah and garden.  On this
divan I saw my undress uniform, neatly folded, with my forage-cap,
sword, and cartridge-box placed above it.

My watch and purse, Louisa’s miniature and ring—I felt for the latter
involuntarily—were all lying on a little white marble tripod table by my
side, together with a beautiful china drinking vessel, which seemed
familiar to me.

A sigh of thankfulness that I was conscious, free of pain, and at
comparative ease, escaped me, and I turned to survey again the other
side of my chamber, when a remarkable female figure met my eye.

She was seated on the low divan, quite motionless.  She was reading
intently, and by her costume I knew at once that she was a French sister
of charity—one of those pure in heart, great in soul, and unflinching in
purpose, who, on their saint-like mission of mercy and humanity, had
followed the allies from France.

Her dress was a plain black serge gown, with a spotless white coif,
which fell in soft folds upon her shoulders, pure as the feathers of a
dove.  In her gentle face, which seemed familiar—for doubtless it had
often been before me in the intervals of suffering and delirium—there
was a kind, a peaceful, and divine expression, that underlay the lines
of premature care, suffering, and privation.

She was young; but among the dark brown hair that was braided smoothly
and modestly over her pale, serene brow, I could detect already a silver
thread or two.

So perfectly regular were her features, so straight the lines of eyebrow
and nose, that the dark, speaking eyes, and that drooping form of eyelid
peculiar to the south of Europe, alone relieved them from tameness, for
I had seen more sparkling beauty in a somewhat irregular face; but in
those dark eyes there ever shone the steady light of a soul devoted to
one great purpose; and yet at times, as I afterwards found, her manner
could become merry, almost playful.

Slight though the motion of simply turning my head, she heard it, arose
anxiously, and, coming forward, handed to me a cooling drink.

"Mademoiselle, I thank you!" said I, gratefully.

"You must not thank me, monsieur.  I am simply your nurse."

"And I have disturbed you——"

"At my office—merely, monsieur, at my office, which I can read at any
time within the twenty-four hours."

"And how often do you do this?"

"Every day—all these pages—see!"

Her voice was so very silvery, her eyes so calm and lustrous, her hands
so white and small, that it was impossible not to see that she had been
highly bred, delicately nurtured, and came of some good French family.

"How long have I been here, mademoiselle?" I asked, after a pause.

"I do not know.  Monsieur was here when I came."

"And who brought you to nurse me?"

"Lieutenant Jolicoeur, of the 2nd Zouaves, heard somehow that you were
here, suffering under a perilous illness.  An Italian surgeon chanced to
mention it at the Restaurant de l’Armée d’Orient, and they brought me
here.  We are in the house of a rich Armenian trader—a good Christian,
after his own fashion; but, O Sacre Coeur! what an odd fashion it is!"

"Ah! mademoiselle——"

"I am Archange, of the Order of Charity."

"Well, Sister Archange, you are really an angel!"

"Oh, fie! don’t say so!  You must think very poorly, very meanly, of me
to give me a title I dare not hope to merit, even by a thousand actions
such as attending you."

"Pardon me; I did but—but say what I thought."

"You are a child, and thought wrong," she replied, with playful
asperity.  "But you have already spoken too much for one who is only
beginning to recover; so try to sleep, _mon frère_."

And, waving her hand with a pretty gesture of authority, she resumed her
missal, and read on in silence.

I slept for a time—I know not how long—it might have been an hour, or
perhaps two: but, when I looked up, she was still seated, motionless and
reading.

"_Ma soeur!_" said I, as our eyes met, and my heart swelled with
gratitude for her generous watchfulness; and she came hastily towards
me.

"_Mon frère_, what do you want?"

"You mistook my meaning when I called you an angel, and were angry with
me."

"Angry?—I?  Ah, no! no!  Don’t say so—I am never angry; it would not do
for me to be so now."

"But I think you quite a saint to watch me thus."

"You must not say that either."

"You are so good, and I so unworthy."

"Good I may be thought, monsieur; but I shall never be a saint, like
Father Vincent de Paul—I am too wicked for that," she added, laughing
merrily; "but I try to be as good as I can."

"Have any letters come here for me?"

"Letters!" she said, with alarm in her fine eyes, and withdrawing a
pace.

"Yes; I am so anxious for them."

"Ah! now you are beginning to rave again.  In your pain and delirium you
always raved about letters."

"There are, then, none?" said I, with a groan.

"I shall see, _mon frère_," and, in the kindness of her heart, after
pretending to search for what she too well knew were not to be found,
she came again to my bedside, and said there would, perhaps, be some
to-morrow.

"Still no letter!" I exclaimed, sadly, with tears in my eyes.

She laid a soft hand caressingly on my brow.

I besought her, in the most moving terms, to inquire if there were any
letters for me at our cantonments in the vale of Aladyn, heedless of the
distance and of the trouble I gave her; for I thought only of Louisa
Loftus, and that her answer to my Gallipoli missive might have reached
the regiment during my illness and absence.

"Monsieur, then, belongs to the English service?"

"No."

"The Osmanli army, then?"

"No, mademoiselle; I belong to the British," said I.

"Ah! true.  But your uniform is not red?"

"All our light cavalry wear blue.  Ah, _ma soeur_, seek the quarters of
the lancers serving in the Light Brigade, and see if there is a letter
for me.  It will do me more good than all the doses of our Italian
doctor."

"Ah! you will be dosed by him no more."

"I am truly glad to hear it.  Some of his messes were vile enough."

"Do not speak so ungratefully; but you know not what I mean or what has
happened."

"How?"

"Poor _monsieur le docteur_ is dead."

"Dead!"

"He died of cholera in the cavalry camp yesterday.  He had volunteered
to attend the sick soldiers in the vale of Aladyn, and perished at his
post among them."

I was greatly shocked by this intelligence, which perhaps, it was not
wise in my little nurse to afford me at such a time.

When again I woke from sleep the shadows of evening were darkening the
room; the trellis-work and Venetian lattices that had opened to the
sunlit garden were closed now, and the sun had set.  Sister Archange was
seated in her usual place upon the low divan, but looking pale and
exceedingly fatigued.

She had been at the British cavalry camp, and she had seen my friends,
but no letters had arrived for me, of that she was assured, as she had
taken one of my cards from its case to show the commanding officer.

"No letters?" I repeated, in a hollow tone.

"No; but, _monsieur mon frère_, must take courage.  Many, many ships
have perished in a recent storm in the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmora,
and your letters may have gone to the bottom with the mail steamer.
Monsieur Estoodome—_monsieur l’adjudant_ he is, I think, of your
regiment—and _monsieur le colonel_, too, will ride over here to-morrow
to see you.  And now there must be no more talking, but to sleep, _mon
ami_—to sleep.  I must take care of you now, for _la soeur_ Archange
will not be with you always."

"What are you doing?"

"Making the sign of the cross on your forehead, _mon frère_. To-morrow I
shall tell you what it means, if you will remind me; but, for to-night,
adieu."



                           *CHAPTER XXXIII.*


    O fondest memories! come and go,
      Shine on sad times which are no more,
    As sunbeams gladden waters of snow,
      As wavelets kiss a barren shore:
    And light with love and tenderness
      The happy days which still are ours;
    Whose influence, rich in April showers,
    Casts round us love and tenderness.


The clatter of spurs and scabbards, and the firmer tread of feet than
one usually hears among the slipshod or slippered Moslems, next
forenoon, announced the arrival of my friends, and most welcome to me
was the appearance of Colonel Beverley, Studhome, Wilford, and Jocelyn
of ours, all fearless of cholera, as they came through the verandah of
the kiosk where I lay; and there, too, lingering without, I saw my
faithful follower, Pitblado.

They were all in full uniform and accoutred, for it was the day of a
great review; and all bowed with politeness to the sister of charity,
who immediately withdrew to the shadow of the verandah.

"I rejoice to see you, my dear boy," said the colonel; "we had all given
you up as lost to us and to the regiment."

"Lost, colonel?" I repeated.

"Faith, did we, Newton," said Studhome.  "We concluded that you had been
waylaid—cut off in the flower of your youth and day-dawn of ambition, as
the novels have it—by some Bulgarian footpads or rascally Bashi Bazooks,
for I presume you know that no one can go beyond the advanced posts with
safety without a revolver."

"A rumour reached us of a British cavalry officer being conveyed
seriously ill to the house of an Armenian gentleman," resumed Beverley.
"We strongly suspected that you were the person, and the presumption
became a certainty when yesterday this young lady brought your card to
my tent at the cavalry camp."

"She is a good little saint," said I, with enthusiasm.

"And so, Norcliff, you have actually had cholera—that foul pest which is
destroying our noble army piece-meal?"

"I am recovering, as you see; but pray don’t linger here, colonel.
There is danger by my side."

"Norcliff, the air we breathe is full of cholera," said Beverley,
impatiently twisting his grizzled moustache; "our poor fellows are dying
of it like sheep with the rot!"

"If the Emperor of Russia had planned the whole affair himself, he could
not have taken better measures to weaken and decimate us than this
useless camp at Varna."

"You are right, Studhome—to decimate us before the war begins," added
Jocelyn.

"When do we take the field, colonel?"

"No one knows."

"Then how long are we to remain here?"

"No one can tell.  Satisfactory, isn’t it?  In fact, no one knows
anything."

"Except," said Studhome, "that we are giving the Russians plenty of time
to prepare a hot reception for us, if we venture to seek ’the bubble
reputation’ in the Crimea—or military fame, which, as some one says,
consists of ’a few orders on a tight uniform.’"

"How far am I from the camp, colonel?"

"About five miles."

"Five miles!" I exclaimed, "Then you, my poor friend, Sister Archange,
actually walked for me ten miles under a broiling sun yesterday?"

"Yes, _monsieur le capitaine_," she replied; "and happy would I have
been could I have returned with what you wished for."

"How sorry I am!  How can I ever repay, ever apologize, for the amount
of trouble I have given you?"

"Apologies are not to be thought of," said she, quietly; "and as for
repayment, we do not look for that—here, at least."

She smiled, and looked very beautiful.  Twirling his
carefully-bandolined moustache, Jocelyn, who had been observing her
admiringly, was about to address her in, perhaps, rather a heedless way,
when Beverley said to him pointedly—

"Those French sisters of charity are the admiration of all the troops.
Even the stupid Turks adore them, and are bewildered by a devotion and
purity of purpose which their sensual souls cannot understand.
Mademoiselle, we have no language to describe what we owe to your
order."

The sister of charity gave the colonel a pleasant smile, and a bow full
of grace and good humour.

"Our visit," said he, "is necessarily a hurried one.  We are all in full
puff, as you may see, Norcliff, for this afternoon the cavalry division
is to be reviewed before Omar Pasha and Marshal St. Arnaud."

"Hence my Lord Lucan is most anxious that each and all should appear in
his best bib and tucker," added Studhome.

After they were gone, I turned again to thank the gentle sister of
charity for the journey she had made, on a hot and breathless day,
through a camp of more than eighty thousand foreign troops, to serve me.

She only gave me one of her pleasant smiles, and; taking the miniature
of Louisa from the tripod table, said in a low voice, "Is this the lady
from whom you expect letters?"

"Yes."

She shook her head sadly, as if her survey of the tiny portrait had not
proved satisfactory.

"Why do you look thus, _ma soeur_?  What do you see?"

"Much of dangerous beauty; but more of pride, of caution, tact, and cold
decision.  The eyebrows nearly meet—I don’t like that.  The eyes are
lovely; but—but——"

"What?" I asked, almost imperiously.

"I dare not say it.  I may be guilty of the sin of detraction."

"Nay, speak, I beg of you.  The eyes are lovely, you say, but——"

"Have an untruthful expression."

"Ah, good heavens, don’t say so!"

My heart sank as she spoke, and I sighed deeply.

"I have seen such eyes and brows once before, and I remember the sorrow
they wrought."

The paragraph which I had read in the London morning paper, on board the
_Ganges_, in the harbour of Valetta—that fulsome paragraph, at which
Berkeley had smiled so complacently and covertly—came to my memory word
for word now.  Was it possible that the journal was true, and Louisa
false?  After an uncomfortable pause, I related to the sister the
strange episode which occurred at the house of the hakim Abd-el-Rasig.

"_Magique!_" she exclaimed, while her large eyes became larger still,
and she crossed herself three several times with great earnestness.  "_O
Sainte Dame!_ you tried the art of the great fiend, did you?"

"Who—I?  Not at all!  How could I?  Don’t imagine anything so absurd.
The man is only a trickster, like Houdin or Herr Frickel."

But she seemed so horrified at me, and "the art that none may name,"
that I was fain to explain that the whole affair originated in the
suggestion of Studhome, and some of the officers of the 2nd Zouaves, in
a moment of idleness.

"I can tell you many a tale of the wickedness of having recourse to
magic, and the retribution which falls on those who do so," said she.
"Have you ever read the writings of the fathers?"

"No, I regret exceedingly," I was beginning, when I could not help
laughing at her conceiving such a course of reading palatable to a young
cavalry officer.  Even the pundits who "go in" for cramming, that they
may have the magical letters "P.S.C."[*] after their names in the "Army
List," do not go that length.


[*] Passed (final examination) at the Staff College,


"Have you ever heard of St. Jerome?" she asked, gravely.

"I think so, _ma soeur_."

"Well, I shall tell you a tale he records concerning magic, and one who
resorted thereto.  Once upon a time in France, your odious Abd-el-Rasig
would have been burned alive, for there can be no doubt that, like those
of the Egyptian magicians of old, his operations are conducted with
infernal agency.  Can the accounts we hear of those magicians from Moses
admit of any other construction?"

"Of course not, though I can’t for the life of me see what you are
driving at."

"If ever you see him again, _mon frère_, make the sign of the cross, and
then you will see how he will shrink and whine, like Mephistopheles in
the opera, for it is a sign that always sends the thoughts heavenward.
We are told that, if St. Ephrem saw a little bird fly, he always
remembered that, with pinions outspread, it made the sign of the cross
as it soared towards heaven; but that when it folded those wings the
holy sign was marred, and the poor bird fell at once, grovelling and
fluttering, on the earth."

"Well, _ma soeur_; but the story and St. Jerome?"

"Pardon me, I had forgotten.  He tells, in his life of St. Hilarion the
Hermit—ah, you never heard of him either—that a gay young man of the
town of Gaza, in Syria, fell deeply in love with a young lady, whom he
used to see occasionally in those beautiful gardens of tamarisks, figs,
and olives for which the place is still so famous; but she was pious,
devoted to Heaven and to religion, and, consequently, shunned him—a
course which only added the stings of jealousy and attraction to the
passion which she had inspired.

"His glances, his tender whispers, his presents, and professions she
treated with coldness; his attempted caresses she repulsed with anger
and disdain, till, finding all his attempts baffled and ineffectual, in
a fit of rage and despair he went to Memphis, which was then the
residence of many eminent magicians, all reputed to possess wonderful
power.

"There he remained a whole year, studying the dark mysteries under the
tutelage of the most learned, until he deemed himself sufficiently
instructed; and, exulting in his unholy knowledge, acquired chiefly
among the graves which still lie to the south and westward of Memphis,
and where one may walk for miles and miles amid bones and fragments of
crumbling mummies, he returned to Gaza, confident that now he could bend
the inflexible beauty to his will.

"Beneath the marble peristyle of her father’s house he contrived to
lodge at midnight a plate of brass, whereon he had engraved a potent
spell.  Hence, the first time she passed over it a wondrous illness
seized her!  She became furious, says St. Jerome; she tore her glorious
hair, she gnashed her teeth, and raved over the name and image of the
very youth whom she had so repeatedly driven from her presence in
despair by her coldness and hauteur.

"In sorrow and terror her parents conducted her to the hermitage of St.
Hilarion; and then, when the holy hands of the old man crossed her, the
devil that was within her began to howl, and to confess the truth.

"’I have suffered violence!’ he exclaimed, speaking with _her_ tongue,
to the fear of all.

"St. Hilarion took a branch of blessed palm, and, having dipped it in
holy water as an esperges, threw the sparkling drops profusely over her,
on which the devil exclaimed again—

"’I have been forced here against my inclination! Alas! these drops are
as freezing ice!  Oh, how happy I was at Memphis among the tombs of the
dead!  Oh! the pains, the tortures I suffer!’

"Then the hermit commanded him to come forth; but the devil told him
that he was detained by a brazen spell beneath the peristyle of the
maiden’s house.

"So cautious was the saint, however, that he would not permit the magic
figures to be searched for till he had released the virgin, for fear he
should seem to have intercourse with incantations for the performance of
a cure, or to have believed that a devil could ever speak truth.  He
observed that demons are always liars, and cunning only to deceive."

"So the damsel was released?" said I, who had listened with some
amusement to the story, which was told me with implicit faith in its
veracity.

"Yes; but the devil, ere he went back to Memphis, paid a terrible visit
to his first summoner; for the young man was found in the garden of
olives, strangled, with the marks of talons in his throat.  So, _mon
ami_, never again have recourse to such persons as Abd-el-Rasig.
Promise this to your little sister, Archange!"

"I may well promise you that, or anything else you ask," said I, charmed
by her winning manner.  "How sweetly your name sounds when pronounced by
yourself."

"Do you really think so?" she asked, while her dark eyebrows arched up.
"My godfather named me Archange, that I might be under the protection of
the archangels.  You comprehend me, monsieur?  When I joined the order
of the _soeurs de la charité_ for my noviciate in the Rue du Vieux
Colombier, to share with the Sisters of St. Martha the care of the sick
in the hospitals of Paris, they saw no reason to change it; and hence I
am still, as I was before—before I thought of being a sister of
charity—Archange."

To a sick man’s ear, there was a soothing charm in the girl’s voice and
its intonation.  Then her broken English, her earnestness, truthfulness,
and intense faith in all the little religious legends and anecdotes with
which she amused us, were all fascinating, and there came a time when I
missed her, and then sorely.  Add to all these that, in the girl’s
beautiful but colourless face, there was an expression singularly pure,
noble, and frank, lofty, and at times sublime.  I was very curious to
know her surname, and the reason why she had adopted a life of such
privation and peril as that of a Sister of Charity—an order so severe,
and whose duties were a ceaseless round of privation and peril.  Without
being uncourteously curious, I knew not how to approach the subject; but
next day, after Jack Studhome and Fred Wilford (who rode over from the
camp) had retired, she imparted the little story of her past life of her
own accord, and the circumstance came about very simply, through a mere
remark of mine.  The mail steamer had come in from Constantinople, but
Studhome had no letter for me.

"Ah, _ma soeur_ Archange, I begin to be torn by jealousy," said I.

"Why?" she asked, gently.

"I cannot say why, as the only man in England I have reason to fear is a
creature so contemptible."

"Then wherefore give way to a weakness so odious and so tempting?"

"Tempting?" I repeated.

"Yes; I mean tempting to crime."

"How strangely you speak!"

"But truly," she replied, sadly.

"I do not understand——"

"I can tell you a horrible episode," she began, impetuously; "but no,
’tis better forgotten—forgotten, if possible, than to recollect it now,
in all its sad details," she added, after a pause.

"Why?"

"You have unbosomed yourself to me, and have told to me your only
sorrow; why should I conceal mine? or why be less communicative to you?
Well, I shall tell you why I—for the sake of others, rather than even
for my own soul’s welfare—dedicated myself to God and the order of
charity.  By jealousy, and the revenge it inspired, I lost a brother
whom I idolized, and two friends whom I loved dearly; and, monsieur, it
all happened thus."

After a short pause, with her long dark lashes cast down, and her little
white hands folded on her knees, she told me the following story:—"My
father, M. Marie Anatole Chaverondier, resided in a little antique
château among the mountains of Beaujolais, where we had a property
which, though small, is fertile, and in some places is covered with fine
old wood.  Our château is very ancient, for it had anciently been a
hunting-seat of the illustrious family of Beaujeu, who gave their name
to all that district; and thus we have rooms that many a time were
honoured by the presence of the Great Constable and the Dukes of
Bourbon.

"I can, in fancy, see that dear old château now, with its round turrets,
its gilded vanes, and white façade, rising above the green woodlands,
with the blue Saône flowing in front under an ancient bridge, the
central arch of which had been blown up in the wars of the old
revolution, but was now partly repaired by logs of oak, that were
half-hidden by luxuriant ivy, and beautiful red and white roses.  Ah!"
she exclaimed, while her splendid eyes became suffused with tears,
"shall I ever again see the old Château de Chaverondier?

"My mother was dead.  My father—a gentleman of the _ancien régime_, a
strict legitimist, or adherent of the old monarchy, and a worshipper in
secret of Henri V.—resided there in seclusion with his family, which
consisted of myself, my brother Claude, and three or four servants; and,
save our tutor, who was the old curé of the neighbouring village, or
monsieur le maire of Beaujeu, we had few or no visitors; and our time
glided away amid quiet pleasures, but with no sorrow, till Claude, a
tall and handsome youth, left us for the military school of St. Cyr.

"There he soon received the commission of sous-lieutenant in the 3rd
Light Infantry of the line, then commanded by Colonel François-Certain
de Canrobert, now marshal of our army in the East.

"I sorrowed for my brother, my lost companion, long and earnestly.  We
had no more rambles now by the Sacine, in search of flowers and ferns,
or in the deep dark woodland dells around the old château.  There was a
sad emptiness and loneliness in and around it, too.  I no longer heard
my brother’s clear voice singing merrily as he prepared his flies and
fishing-rod, or the report of his gun waking the echoes of the forest;
and I went to mass, to confession, and to communion alone, for my father
had become too feeble now to leave his apartment, and my chief solace
was in attending him; so, monsieur, you see that I served an early
apprenticeship in the sick chamber.

"But there were others who sorrowed for the absent Claude—the two
daughters of Montallé, the maire of Beaujeu, a wealthy proprietor of
several forges and furnaces, whose alliance my father would have opposed
with disdain and wrath; but that did not prevent us from being great
friends with Lucrece and Cecile, whom we had been in the habit of
meeting so regularly at mass, and with whom we worked in common to
decorate the altar of monsieur le curé on holidays.

"Both were remarkably handsome and sprightly girls. Cecile was fair and
gentle, and Claude, I knew, loved her, and sighed for her, even as a
boy; but Lucrece, the elder, I also knew, loved him in her secret heart,
for she had frequently told me so after his departure for St. Cyr, and
more than once I had seen a dangerous expression in her pale face and
dark eyes when Cecile spoke of him with regret or affection.  Dark as
night were the eyes of Lucrece.  Her nose was aquiline, and over it her
eyebrows nearly met; and she had a general expression not unlike that
which I saw in your miniature.  Letters came at times to our old château
among the mountains of Beaujolais from the absent Claude; but it was
soon too evident that Cecile Montallé was in correspondence with him as
well as I; for she knew quite as soon as we did of Claude’s movements,
and those of the 3rd Light Infantry, with which he was serving in
Africa; and she knew before we did of how he had distinguished himself
in Canrobert’s famous expedition against Ahmed-Sghir, when that chief
rallied the tribes of the Bouaoun in revolt against France.

"In 1850, Claude wrote us that he had been wounded in Canrobert’s
expedition against Narah, that Colonel Canrobert had granted him leave
of absence, and that he was coming home.  No hearts were so happy as
ours at the old château, on learning that Claude was returning, and
covered with honour, too—save, perhaps, the fair-haired Cecile Montallé.
There was a radiance in her pink cheek, a sparkle in her beautiful blue
eyes, when we met at church in Beaujeu, which showed that she, too, was
mistress of the same joyous tidings; and, in the fulness of her heart,
she confessed to me that she and Claude had corresponded long, had
exchanged rings, and were mutually attached and engaged.  I loved my
brother.  Could I wonder that Cecile Montallé did so too? Lucrece, who
stood by us, heard all this with a lowering brow, and there was the old
and strange expression in her face which had terrified me before as I
kissed her, and got into our old-fashioned carriage to return to the
château, which stands some five leagues or so from Beaujeu.

"For days I busied myself, preparing for the reception of Claude.  His
old room was put in order by my own hands. Alas!  I could little foresee
that he was never to tread its floor again!  In fact, the unhappy
Lucrece was the victim of an absorbing and corroding jealousy; and in
her heart she was beginning to hate and to loathe her guileless and
unsuspecting sister.  To add to this evil feature in our mutual
relations, when I ventured timidly to speak of Claude’s engagement to my
father, he became inflamed with sudden fury. All the buried pride of the
old days of the monarchy—the days of periwigs and pasteboard skirts, of
shoe-buckles and rapiers—with the memory of past greatness, and the time
when the Constable and Dukes of Bourbon had joined our forefathers in
the chase, and shared their hospitality in Chaverondier—all this I saw
blazed up within him!  His eyes flashed with fire, and his thin bent
form became erect.  He had been proud of his son’s brilliant career
under Canrobert; he had pictured for him a brilliant future; he already
saw him ranked among the marshals of France, reviving the past glories
of ancestors who had left their bones at Pavia, Rocroi and Ramilies.

"But now he thought all those ancient triumphs and those revived hopes
would be blighted and blotted by a disgraceful marriage with a mere
_bourgeoise_—a vulgar smelter of iron—a man who had begun life with a
hammer and bellows; a grimy manufacturer of spades, ploughs, and
pickaxes for the markets of Beaujeu, Belleville, and Chalieu!

"My father thought of his sixteen heraldic quarters, among which were
the arms of Cressi, Sante-Croix, and Segonzoe, the three noblest
families in Beaujolais, and swore by the souls of his fathers that such
a marriage could never be. He did more.  He wrote a severe and sarcastic
letter to the maire of Beaujeu, warning him of his most severe
displeasure, if the correspondence between his daughter and ’Monsieur my
son, the Captain Chaverondier,’ was not at once and for ever ended.  To
have read that letter might have made one think that the Grand Monarque
was still flirting at the Trianon, and that the fleur-de-lis still waved
above the Bastille of St. Antoine.  On the other hand the maire Montallé
was a sturdy and purse-proud republican; one who in his youth had fought
at the barricades, had sacked the Tuileries, and had actually beaten on
his drum, by order of Santerre, to drown the dying words of the son of
St. Louis!  So he retorted in a manner which I do not choose to repeat;
but therewith ended all the hopes of the sweet and gentle Cecile, and of
my brave brother, who was travelling, as fast as the railway trains
could fly, through the provinces from Marseilles, to see us all, and his
own happy home again.

"At those malignant letters, the dark Lucrece laughed bitterly.  At
Beaujeu poor Claude learned the state of affairs between the families,
and, weak as he had become by hard service in Africa, and the wound he
had received at Narah, he could barely withstand the shock.  It filled
him with despair; but he loved Cecile too well to relinquish her.  They
had many interviews, contrived I know not how, and a secret marriage was
arranged and concluded before even the watchful and jealous Lucrece
could discover them, or interrupt it; so nothing remained now but for
Claude to carry off his bride, to reach the old château among the
mountains of Beaujolais, and trust to his father’s old parental love and
pride in his recent bravery for forgiveness.

"A powerful Arab horse, with which Canrobert had presented him (and
which had borne a warrior of the Kabyles in many a bloody conflict) was
accoutred with a market saddle and pillion to bear the lovers, who were
to be disguised as a farmer and his wife, lest _monsieur le maire_ and
his workmen might assume arms and fire on them; for the Revolution of
two years before had left much bad feeling between the aristocrats and
the _canaille_ (as the former most unwisely termed the latter), and thus
in the provinces many a lawless act was done that never reached Paris,
or figured in the pages of the _Moniteur_.

"So Claude wore a blue blouse over his uniform, a straw hat, in lieu of
the smart scarlet kepi; and Cecile was disguised as a _paysanne_ of
Beaujolais.  All this was achieved with the assistance of Lucrece.  Dull
despair had settled on her heart now, and, finding that Cecile was
irrevocably the wife of Claude Chaverondier, she could only endeavour to
be resigned, and to complete the happiness she had failed to mar or
interrupt, and could never hope to enjoy.

"The night on which they were to set forth was dark and tempestuous.
Near Beaujeu there rolls a mountain torrent, a tributary of the Saône.
It was crossed by a narrow wooden bridge, at a place where, between two
high and impending banks, on this night, it was foaming white and
furiously, as snows were melting in the mountains, and every tiny
rivulet was full to overflowing.

"Lucrece had secured the key of the private gate which closed the end of
this bridge, and she was to lock it after the lovers had passed through,
and thus bar pursuit in that direction.  With a sad heart she issued
forth to undo the barrier. So wild was the tempestuous wind that she
could barely keep afoot, and she felt her aching heart tremble when she
saw the blackness of the fast-flying clouds, between which the pale
stars shone coldly forth at intervals; and now she came to where the
black and hideous chasm yawned in the rocks, and she could see, far down
below, the snow-white flood boiling hoarsely over its stony bed, deep,
fierce, and swollen, as it rushed to join the Saône, hurling rocks and
trees together to the sea.

"The wild winter flood and the stormy night were both in accordance with
the tempestuous spirit that writhed in her bosom.  She heard the hoofs
of Claude’s Arab horse, as their clatter was swept past on the wind,
that blew her black, dishevelled hair in disorder about her pallid face;
and as she unlocked the gate, a sob of astonishment and terror escaped
her.

"The wooden bridge had fallen, or been torn by the tempest from its
posts, and the gulf was impassable.

"To warn the lovers was her first good impulse; to be silent was the
second.

"As they rode up to thank and bid her adieu, she saw their mutual
endearments; she saw the strong arm of Claude caressingly round the
waist of Cecile, and her head reposing trustfully on his shoulder, as
she sat on the saddle before him.  Then a madness seemed to sting the
heart of Lucrece!  She felt herself to the fullest extent the neglected,
the discarded, the unloved one, and revenge and hatred filled her soul
with a dreadful fury.

"’Adieu, dear, dear Lucrece!’ cried Cecile; ’adieu! and pray for us.’

"’Ride on; the way is clear,’ she replied, in a breathless voice.

"And Claude gave the spur to his Arab.  Like an arrow it shot past her.
In another instant a scream rang upward on the stormy wind, as the horse
and its double burden went headlong into the wild abyss of rushing water
far below, and disappeared for ever!

"So perished my dear brother Claude, and with him my friend Cecile.

"Lucrece stood there for a time like one bewildered and aghast, for the
whole episode resembled a sudden and ghastly dream, from which she might
yet awaken.  She saw only the river foaming past like a white flood amid
the blackening gloom, and its roar seemed deafening and stunning, and
she placed her hands on her ears to shut out the sound, as she went
slowly home, and for days and nights the roar of the river seemed never
to leave her.  From that hour she was quite insane, and, if still alive,
is an inmate of the lunatic asylum at Beaujeu.

"This double catastrophe had such an effect upon my spirits that, after
the death of my father, by the advice of _monsieur le curé_, I quitted
the Château de Chaverondier, joined the order to which I now belong, and
was soon after sent hither with the army of the East."

Such, as nearly as I can remember, was the sad story of her early life
told me by Mademoiselle Chaverondier.

It was not until I began to recover that I became fully aware of the
vast debt of gratitude I owed to this good sister of charity, and that I
completely knew how much I owed to her sisterly and motherly care of me
during that perilous and loathsome disease.

But there were no means of repaying her.  Gratitude of the heart was all
she would accept, and that I gave her to the full, but now daily, as I
became convalescent, and as my brother officers cantered over from the
vale of Aladyn to visit me, she left me more and more alone, and there
were three whole days during which she never came at all.

I rather think she was scared by Studhome, who had ridden over with a
couple of champagne bottles in his holsters, and whom she found smoking
in my _kiosk_, with his shell-jacket open, and his stock off, and
singing a song, the first verse of which was something in this style—

    My father cared little for shot or shell,
      He laughed at death and dangers;
    He’d have stormed the very gates of hell,
      At the head of the Connaught Rangers.


How much I missed her!

When she did return it was to bid me adieu, and to say that she had been
ordered to attach herself to the 45th regiment of the French line, where
severe duties awaited her, and that in all human probability I should
never see her more.

Those farewell words sounded sadly.  We shook hands kindly,
affectionately, and parted with tears in our eyes.  In my heart I felt
the love of a brother for that self-devoted French girl, and at that
time she could but little foresee the sad offices I was to render her in
the hour of suffering that was to come.



                            *CHAPTER XXXIV*


    Then sacred be their last repose who fall
    Bravely and greatly at their duty’s call,
    Mix with their country’s cries the parting breath,
    And from the vanguard face her foes in death!
    I, too, have known the hour when friendship’s tear
    Has dewed from British eyes a comrade’s bier,
    When the rough soldier o’er the lowly cell
    Of fallen courage breathed a last farewell,
    Paid the last mournful honours to the brave,
    And left, with heavy heart, the new-closed grave.
      LORD GRENVILLE.


On the 5th of September the allied armies embarked at Varna, and the
14th of the same month saw us landing in the Crimea, on ground near the
Lake of Kamishlu—not that chosen by the gallant Lord Raglan
originally—some miles north of the Bulganak river, at a place where the
cliffs, a hundred feet in height, overhung the beach.  But, save a
boat-load of Zouaves, who were run down by a steam-transport, all were
disembarked safely under cover of the cannon of the allied fleets, and
without molestation from the enemy.  The change of landing-place was
owing to the treachery of the French, who altered the buoys in the
night.

Lord Raglan could scarcely forget, what many an old peninsular veteran
remembered, that the auspicious day on which we made this landing in the
country of the foe was the anniversary of the death of his former
leader, the great Duke of Wellington.

We were exactly thirty miles westward of Sebastopol.  The morning was
fine, and the surface of the Black Sea was smooth as glass.  The whole
of the troops of the light division were in their boats, in heavy
marching order, with sixty rounds per man; packed close, each soldier
sat with his firelock between his knees, and the seamen, with their oars
out in the rowlocks, all motionless, and awaiting the signal.

It was given, and instantly a hum, rising to a cheer, passed over all
that vast array of men and boats; a gleam passed over the bright
accoutrements, and the oars fell plashing into the water.

"Give way, lads—lay out upon your oars!" was the order.

And the whole line of boats—a mile in length—shot off from the fleet;
and at half-past eight A.M. the first, which belonged to the
_Britannia_, landed her living freight.

Mid-leg deep in the surf, the sailors lent us valuable assistance in
getting ashore.  Fusiliers, Highlanders, guardsmen and rifles, lancers
and hussars, all rapidly formed line upon the beach, where the infantry
piled arms, and the cavalry stood by their horses.  Those who may have
witnessed the trouble and care requisite for the landing of one horse
from a vessel, with all the appliances of a spacious quay, can imagine
the difficulties attendant on the disembarkation of one thousand
chargers, armed and accoutred on an open beach.

The French were landing elsewhere, under St. Arnaud and Canrobert; and
ere long, sixty thousand men stood to their arms on that remarkable
peninsula, Crim Tartary—of old, the Isle of Kaffa, and known to recent
fame as the Crimea!

We were entirely without baggage.  Our tents, and everything that might
encumber us in advancing to meet the enemy, had been left on board the
fleet; thus, few of us had cause to forget the night of the 14th of
September, when the army halted to sleep in an open bivouac, on bare
ground, for we had learned nothing in the art of conducting a war since
Moore fought and fell at Corunna.

Without cessation the drenching rain fell down.  Thus our thin uniforms
and blankets were speedily soaked; but all ranks suffered in common.  I
saw the Duke of Cambridge sleeping amid his staff, with his head
protected by a little tilt cart.  For myself, I chiefly passed that
miserable night muffled in my cloak, dismounted, in the ranks beside my
horse, with my right arm twisted in the stirrup-leather for support, and
my head reposing on the holster flap.  Thus I snatched a standing doze,
with the cold rain pouring down the nape of my neck; and in this fashion
most of the cavalry division passed this night, the effects of which
were speedily shown in the ranks of our young and as yet untried army.

Many of our battalions were already in possession of a hill on the right
of our landing place, and commanding it; and all the evening of the 14th
its sides were brightened by the glitter of their arms shining brightly
in the sun (that was then setting in the golden Euxine), as they formed
along its green slope in contiguous close columns of regiments.

"But," says an eye-witness, "what were those long strings of soldiery
now beginning to come down the hillside, and to wind their way back
towards the beach? and what were the long white burdens horizontally
carried by the men? Already—already on this same day?  Yes, sickness
still clung to the army.  Of those who only this morning ascended the
hill with seeming alacrity, many now came down thus sadly borne by their
comrades.  They were carried on ambulance stretchers, and a blanket was
over them.  Those whose faces remained uncovered were still alive.
Those whose faces had been covered by their blankets were dead.  Near
the foot of the hill the men began to dig graves."

Each poor fellow was buried in his uniform and blanket. Thus began our
war in the Crimea!

The reason for our tents being left on board was occasioned by the curse
of the red-tapeism and ignorance in London.  On the outbreak of the
conflict, we were destitute alike of the _materiel_ and the _personnel_
for a transport corps of any description whatever, beyond a few Maltese
mule carts; and had the Russians availed themselves of the ample time so
kindly given them by our ministry, and swept every species of horse and
waggon from the Crimea, our advance upon Sebastopol had been a movement
of greater difficulty than it proved to be.  All our most useful baggage
was thus left at Varna, and there I lost with mine much of the lumber
with which I had provided myself at Maidstone, and at good Sir Nigel’s
expense.  At last we were on Russian ground.  I reminded Studhome of the
conduct of Mr. Berkeley, and urged that now a meeting should be arranged
beyond the outposts.  I remember how palpably Jack changed colour at my
angry suggestion.  He concealed from me a fact, which afterwards came to
my knowledge, that Berkeley had circulated injurious reports concerning
me through not only the lancers, but the hussar corps of our brigade.
But now Studhome put it to me, as a matter of feeling and discretion,
whether I should insist on this secret duel, for a matter that was long
past, when we would soon be face to face with the enemy, and when one of
us, perhaps both, might not be spared to see another muster day.  These
arguments prevailed; I smothered my wrath, and met Mr. De Warr Berkeley
(as he chose to designate himself) on duty with cold civility, but
nothing more.  To be cordial was beyond my powers of acting or
endurance.  And thus, for the time, our quarrel stood.  When those who
were ignorant of the cause of coolness between us remarked it, his
general answer was—

"Aw—haw—don’t know the reason, ’pon my soul; but those Scotsmen are such
doocid awd fellahs."

Our contingent consisted of twenty-six thousand foot, one thousand
mounted cavalry, and sixty pieces of cannon, divided into five divisions
of infantry and one of horse; an absurdly small force to attempt an
invasion of Russia, even with the greater strength of the French and
Turkish allies—the former being thirty thousand, and the latter seven
thousand bayonets.  Our first division, led by his Royal Highness the
Duke of Cambridge, consisted of the Grenadier, Coldstream, and Scots
Fusilier Guards, with three Highland regiments—the Black Watch, the
Cameron, and 93rd Highlanders, all considering themselves the _corps
d’élite_ of the army.  The other divisions, under Sir George Brown, Sir
De Lacy Evans, Sir Richard England, and Sir George Cathcart, were
composed of our splendid infantry of the line—as I have elsewhere
said—the noble and carefully developed army of forty years of peace; and
the Earl of Lucan, who in his youth had served as a volunteer with the
Russians against the Turks in the campaigns under Diebitch, led our
mounted chivalry—the cavalry division—the flower of the British
Isles—yet to be covered with glory in the disastrous Valley of Death!
While the armies were advancing, with my troop I was repeatedly
despatched by the Quarter-master-General, Major-General Richard Airey,
to procure provisions and carriages, for that officer, beyond any other,
had seen from the first the necessity of procuring supplies and means of
transport.  On one of these occasions, by his orders, I had the good
fortune to capture twenty-five _kibitkas_, or waggons, in a village near
our line of march.  On the same day I think it was that his
aide-de-camp, the gallant Nolan, when exploring for water, came upon a
Russian government convoy of eighty waggons laden with flour, and seized
them all, routing the escort.  In all we obtained three hundred and
fifty waggons, with their teams and Tartar drivers.

The chief proprietor of the _kibitkas_ I had taken was the patriarch or
leading man of the village—a Tartar of venerable aspect, wearing a
pelisse or long robe of blue stuff, with a small black lambskin cap, not
unlike an Egyptian tarboosh, from under which his white hair flowed upon
his shoulders.

Accustomed only to the lawless and brutal military tyranny of the
Muscovites and Cossacks, nothing could equal the good man’s astonishment
when I informed him, by means of an interpreter, that we merely required
the loan of the carts, and that he would be duly paid.  Allah, ho
Ackbar!—think of that—actually paid, for any inconvenience or loss the
villagers might suffer by their detention.

On the morning of the 19th we quitted our miserable bivouac, and
commenced our march in search of the enemy, for we were on perilous
ground, and had the Russians come suddenly upon us, we might have been
compelled to risk a battle with our rear to the cliffs which overhung
the Euxine (where the sea-calves basked on the beach a hundred feet
below), and on a field where defeat would have been certain ruin and
death to all.  But, as the French had assumed to themselves the honour
of the right wing, they had thus a greater risk than we British, who had
quietly taken the left flank, as the allies advanced along the coast.

The 11th Hussars and 13th Light Dragoons, under Lord Cardigan, formed an
advanced guard; and in their rear marched a detachment of rifles, in
extended or skirmishing order.  We knew that the enemy was somewhere in
front; but in what force, or where or how posted, we were in perfect
ignorance.  Occasionally an excited voice in the ranks would exclaim
that a Russian vedette was in sight on the distant hills.

The atmosphere was calm, the sky almost cloudless, and high into its
azure ascended the smoke of the allied fleet, which kept moving under
steam far away on the right flank of the French army, which rested on
the shore.  The sun shone hot and brightly; but at times there came
pleasantly a light, fresh breeze from the shining Euxine.

The colours were all uncased and flying; the bands of the cavalry and
infantry, with the merry bugles of the rifles, filled the air with
music; and I could hear the pipes of the Highlanders, under the Duke of
Cambridge, alternately swelling up or dying away upon the ambient air,
as the first division traversed the undulating country in front.

As we proceeded, I could not resist letting my horse’s reins drop upon
his neck, and soaring into dreamland, my thoughts went far away to our
distant home beyond the sea.  Sometimes I imagined how my name would
look in the list of killed or wounded, and of what Louisa Loftus would
think then. And with this morbid fancy came always another idea—was it a
conviction?—that such an announcement would cause a deeper and more
lasting grief in Calderwood Glen than at Chillingham Park; and I thought
of my good uncle reading the heavy news to his two faithful old
henchmen, Binns, the butler, and Pitblado, the keeper.

Louisa’s lock of raven hair which I had received at Calderwood, the
miniature which she had sent to me afterwards at the barracks, were with
me now; and with me, too, was the memory of those delicious words she
had whispered in my ear in the library at Chillingham—

"Till we are both in our graves, dear Newton, you will never, never know
how much I love you, and the agony which Berkeley’s cunning cost me."

This was strong language: yet it would seem now that, amid the whirl of
fashionable life at Chillingham Park, balls, routs, dinners, suppers,
and reviews, the race, and the hunting-field dotted with red coats, she
had been compelled, or had allowed herself, to forget me—I, who thought
of her only.  And amid that more brilliant vortex, the world of London
life, the Queen’s Court, the royal drawing-rooms, the crowded parks, the
gaieties of Rotten Row and the Lady’s Mile, the splendours of the opera,
and the wonders of the Derby, it seemed likely enough that a poor devil
of a lancer serving in the East was to be forgotten, and for ever too!

From such a reverie I would be roused by Jocelyn, Sir Harry Scarlett, or
some other of ours, exclaiming—

"Look out!  By Jove! there’s a Russian vedette!"

Then through my field-glass I might discern, between me and the sky, a
Cossack in a fur cap, riding along the green ridge in the distance, with
his knees up to his girdle, his back bent, his lance-head glinting in
the sunshine, and the snub nose of his Calmuck visage planted almost
between the drooping ears of his shaggy little horse, as he uttered a
shrill whoop and galloped away.

"We seem to be coming closer and closer to those fellows," said the
colonel.  "Every moment I expect to see Cardigan with the advanced guard
draw the cover, and receive a dose of grape from flying artillery."

"And those vedettes seem to be thrown forward from a large force,
colonel," said Studhome.  "I have already detected five or six different
uniforms."

"Yes, Jack.  So I would advise you to write a dutiful letter to your
friends."

"Why, colonel?" said our adjutant, laughing.

"Because we shall certainly be under fire to-morrow."

To-morrow proved to be the day of the Alma—an eventful day for many.

The approach of danger made all who were in health grow high in spirit
and hilarity.

"Rather different work this from the gravelled yards at Canterbury and
Maidstone," said Wilford, joining us at a canter, to share a little
conversation.

"Ay, Fred," said the colonel; "and very different from our daily service
of a year or so ago."

"At Allahabad and Agra—eh?"

"Yes.  Lying half the day on an easy _fauteuil_, in a silk shirt and
cotton drawers, fanned by an Indian girl; or cooled by a punkah, and
guarded by mosquito-curtains, making up our books on the Meerut race
meeting; calculating the rising or falling of the thermometer, and
studying the ’Army List?’"

(Another year or two was to see very different work cut out at Cawnpore
and Delhi for our Indian comrades.)

Five nights spent amid the mud of our bivouac had somewhat tarnished the
finery of our lancer uniforms.  Already the bullion of our large
epaulettes was crushed and torn, our gorgeous lace defaced and frayed;
but our horses were all in high condition, and our arms and appointments
bright enough to have satisfied even Count Tilly himself.

On this short day’s march we lost one lancer of Wilford’s troop.
Passing where a Coldstream guardsman lay by the wayside, black in
visage, and dying of weakness, thirst, and heat, he gave him the entire
contents of his wooden canteen, and falling from his saddle soon after,
died himself for lack of that which he had so generously given another,
as there was not a drop of water with the regiment; for, in the Crimea,
by the end of August, all springs, rivulets, and fountains are alike
dried up; verdure disappears, and the thermometer, even in the shade,
rises to 98 or 100 degrees.

Twice on this march I saw a sister of charity kneeling beside the sick
or dying, and rode on to learn whether she might prove to be
Mademoiselle Chaverondier, or, as I preferred to call her, my dear
sister Archange, but on both occasions I was disappointed.  All were
high in courage, and full of ardour; but their spirit changed and sunk
as the hot and breathless day wore on, and our poor men’s strength
became worn out.  The music ceased, as band after band gave in, and the
drummers slung their drums wearily on their backs.  Even the Scotch
bagpipes died away, and the massed columns, each some five thousand
strong, trod silently over the undulating steppes, with all their sloped
arms, and the glazed tops of their shakos, glittering in the sun.  But
long ere the noon of that first day of toil, many had begun to fall out,
in all the agonies of cholera.  At one place my horse had actually to
pick his way among them.  All looked black in the face, and choking; the
heavy bearskin caps and thick leather stocks were cast aside, and their
jackets were torn open.  Some were writhing in agony, and others,
weakened by toil and thirst, lay still and voiceless.  On we marched, on
and on, and the sufferers were left to the Cossack lances, or a more
lingering death, while the wolves from the groves of the Alma, and the
Alpine vulture and kite from the rocks of Kamishlu, hung on our skirts,
and waited for their prey.  Our thirst was intense and indescribable,
when a shout of joy announced that the advanced guard, under Lord
Cardigan, had reached that long-wished-for river the Bulganak, where we
were to bivouac for the night.  The moment a division came in sight of
the cool stream that rippled between its green banks, and groves of wild
olive and pomegranate trees, the men burst with a shout from the ranks,
and rushed forward to slake their burning and agonizing thirst.[*]


[*] In one brigade a stronger governance was maintained.  Sir Colin
Campbell would not allow that even the rage of thirst should loosen the
discipline of his splendid Highland regiments.  He halted them a little
before they reached the stream, and so ordered it that, by being saved
from the confusion that would have been wrought by their own wild haste,
they gained in comfort, and knew that they were gainers.  When men toil
in organized masses, they owe what well-being they have to wise and firm
commanders."—Kinglake’s "Invasion of the Crimea," vol. ii.


The infantry were speedily bivouacked along the bank of the stream; but
we—the cavalry—were fated to have a little passage at arms with the
Russians before the sun set.



                             *CHAPTER XXXV*


    Sword at my left side gleaming!
    Why is thy keen glance beaming,
      So fondly bent on mine?
      Thanks for that smile of thine.  Hurrah!

    Borne by a trooper daring,
    My looks his fire-glance wearing,
      I arm a freeman’s hand,
      That well delights thy brand!  Hurrah!
        THEODORE KÖRNER.


Physical endurance is not a more necessary quality to the soldier than
mental elasticity.  There seemed to be no want of the latter among our
fellows, when we unbitted our horses and sat down to a meal which was
improvised by our servants near a grove of turpentine and caper trees.
It was a lovely evening now, and many a wreath of purple and golden
cloud lay cradled in the amber sunset.  The infantry had piled their
arms by regiments, brigades, and divisions, and the thousands of our
host lay panting on the sward, or preparing to cook their rations in
such a fashion as suited the emergency or their fancy.  In the distance
were flocks of bustards crossing the now arid plain, which in summer had
been covered by a profusion of aromatic herbs.  Our accoutrements were
cast on the grass, our uniforms were unbuttoned, cigar-cases went from,
hand to hand, freely interchanged, and even the last copies of _Punch_
were conned over and laughed at.

Thanks to me, and the use of a _kabitka_ I procured, we had plenty of
provisions.  A ham, some cold fowls, Bass’s pale ale, sherry, even
champagne, were produced by some of ours; and these, with a few
cucumbers and gourds, medlars, and filberts, which Willie Pitblado had
found in the deserted garden of a Tartar, formed, all things considered,
a sumptuous repast, and what it lacked in style and equipage was amply
made up for in fun and jollity, for "men accommodate themselves
unconsciously to the modes of living that are forced upon them.  It is a
law of our being, and it is well that it should be so.  A bomb bursting
in the midst of a fashionable London dinner party would do no more
mischief than one of the numbers which used to burst daily within the
walls of Lucknow; but assuredly it would produce a far greater
impression."

"This is really the tug of war!" exclaimed Wilford, who, after various
ineffectual efforts to uncork a champagne bottle, adroitly struck off
its head by the stroke of a knife.

"Yes, by Jove! and think of the mess!" added Jocelyn.

"To feel," said the colonel, "that one has a soul—and what is more, an
appetite, a taste, and decided predilection for turtle soup and
_recherché entrées_—and yet compelled to appreciate this style of
thing!"

"I can appreciate everything and anything," exclaimed the paymaster.

"Even an ’aggis, eh?—haw!" said Berkeley.

"Yes, even a haggis.  My stomach is as empty as a kettledrum," replied
the paymaster, as he sliced away at the ham.

"I think there is something going on in front," observed Wilford,
pausing in the act of dissecting a fowl.

"Yes," said Beverley; "Lord Raglan, with some squadrons of the 11th and
13th, has crossed the river to reconnoitre; but let us make the most of
the present, our turn will come all in good time.  Pass the wine,
M’Goldrick; a slice of meat, Studhome—thanks."

"Ugh!" remarked the paymaster; "’the bed of honour,’ as Jean Paul
Richter says, ’since whole regiments lie on it, and frequently have
received their last unction, should really be filled anew, beaten and
sunned.’"

"What—aw, haw—does that quotation mean?" asked Berkeley, adjusting his
eyeglass, contracting the muscles of his eye, and giving our old Scots
paymaster an inquiring and quizzical stare.  "It sounds doocid queer,
and—haw—unpleasant."

"I was thinking of the hard bed I shall sleep on to-night, sir," replied
M’Goldrick, rather sternly.

"By Jove, some of us may sleep sound enough to-night yet," said the
colonel, half starting up.  "There is a decided movement in front, and
here comes a French mounted officer."

At that moment a subaltern of Zouaves, mounted on a French dragoon
horse, in a somewhat excited manner, dashed up to where we lay lounging
on the grass, reined his trooper sharply in on the bit, shouting
something of which I could only make out the prefix, "_Messieurs les
officiers_!"

"_Diable!_ you don’t speak French?" he added, in English, to Travers of
ours.

"No, sir; I am sorry——"

"_Peste!_" interrupted the Frenchman; "every staff officer should speak
at least two European languages."

"_Dioul na bocklish_!  There, I can speak my mother tongue, being an
Irishman; and if that won’t do, the devil is in it.  But I am not a
staff officer," he added, to the stranger, in whom I now recognized M.
Jolicoeur, of the 2nd Zouaves.

"The enemy is in great force in front, and your commander-in-chief, with
the two regiments of your advanced guard, will be surrounded and cut
off."

"Lord Raglan, with the 11th and 13th!" we exclaimed, starting to our
feet; and just at that moment an aide-de-camp, Captain Bolton, of the
1st Dragoon Guards, came galloping up, and exclaimed—

"Boot and saddle, Colonel Beverley; the 11th and 13th, under Lord
Cardigan, are engaged in front.  Cavalry supports and horse artillery
are instantly required."

The trumpets sounded, the regiment formed by troops, and joined the
brigade, which formed in squadrons, and advanced rapidly in search of
the enemy.

"Aw—doocid bore, after our pleasant little tiffin," I heard Berkeley
say, with a bantering air; but I could see that he looked very white for
all that, and Beverley only smiled superciliously, as he twisted his
thick moustaches.

"I wonder Berkeley has not his white gloves on," he whispered to me, and
I saw some of our men smiling, for it was a regimental joke, or
notoriety, that he was in the habit of pencilling on his gloves the
words of command he had to issue in succession.

As the junior regiment, we were in the centre of the brigade, the senior
corps being on the right, and the next in seniority on the left; and we
advanced at a rapid trot, in a column of squadrons at wheeling distance,
while the artillery, making a dreadful clatter, with all their tumbrils
limbered up, their spare wheels, forge waggons, rammers, sponges,
buckets, and other apparatus, went thundering at full gallop to the
front.

"In a few minutes, my lads, we may be hand to hand with the enemy,"
shouted Beverley, as he stood up in his stirrups and brandished his
sword; "let us be true to the old motto of the regiment!"

All knew what he meant, and responded by a long and ringing cheer, for
our lancers had been raised as light dragoons in 1759, by Colonel John
Hale, the officer who came to London with the news of Wolfe’s fall and
victory at Quebec; and in that year it was ordered by his Majesty George
II. that "on the front of the men’s caps, and on the left breast of
their uniforms, there was to be a death’s head, with two crossbones over
it, and underneath the motto, ’_Or Glory_.’"  And this grim but
significant badge we still wear on all our appointments.[*]  It would
appear that, early in the afternoon, and before the whole army had
halted, our old and one-armed leader, the good Lord Raglan, who had
ridden far in advance of the first division of infantry, observed a
group of Cossacks hovering on the brow of a green hill, towards the
south, on which he ordered part of Lord Cardigan’s command, the 11th
Hussars and 13th Light Dragoons, forward to reconnoitre.  On this
occasion Lord Lucan was also present.


[*] Our predecessors in the service were the old Scots 17th Light
Dragoons, raised at Edinburgh in the winter of 1759, during the alarm of
the projected invasion under the Marechal Duc d’Aiguillon, by Sholto,
Lord Aberdour, afterwards sixteenth Earl Morton, who died in Sicily in
1774.  This corps, which never consisted of more than two troops, served
in the Seven Years’ War, and was disbanded in 1763.  One of its
officers, Lieutenant the Honourable Sir T. Maitland, son of the Earl of
Lauderdale, died so lately as 1824, a lieutenant-general, G.C.B.,
governor of Malta and the Ionian Isles.


Where the road from Eupatoria to Sebastopol crosses the Bulganak, the
bank of the river rises for several hundred yards, and then the ground
slopes down into a valley, beyond which rises a succession of grassy
undulations.  The hussars and light dragoons rode boldly forward.
Formed in four squadrons, they splashed through the stream, galloped up
the bank, and descended into the hollow, before they became aware that
no less than two thousand Russian cavalry were advancing to meet them,
with a line of skirmishers in front in extended order.

"Forward, skirmishers!" was now the command.

The trumpet sounded, and from the flanks of each squadron, as it halted
to form line, the few selected men for this duty spread at intervals of
twenty yards from each other, at the distance of two hundred yards from
the column; sheathing their swords and unslinging their carbines, as
they took up their dressing from the right.  Beyond the crest of the
second eminence, a steady glittering in the sunshine revealed to the
keen eyes of General Airey that it came from the points—the mere tips—of
fixed bayonets, and that there were concealed in the hollow way many
battalions of an infantry force, quietly waiting to open a close and
murderous fire upon our little body of cavalry, when they were lured
sufficiently far forward to secure their total destruction.  In fact,
our advanced guard, composed of only two slender regiments, was thus
suddenly opposed to six thousand men of the 17th Russian division,
posted in ambush, with two batteries of artillery, a brigade of regular
cavalry, and nine sotnias of Cossacks, the whole under General
Carlovitch Baur.  It was a perilous—a terrible dilemma!  Lord Raglan
knew that he must avoid an action on one hand, and secure the retreat of
the 11th and 13th with complete honour on the other.  To the
roughly-mounted and loosely-handled Russian horsemen, the beautiful and
ceremonious formation of our gay hussars, with their glittering dolmans,
and our smart light dragoons in blue and buff, with all their swords and
bright appointments flashing in the sunshine, was a cause of hesitation.
They could not suppose but that this slender force had a greater body of
troops at hand, and feared the very snare they were preparing for
others; thus they were quietly and tranquilly confronting each other,
out of musket-range, when we, with the light and second division, the
8th Hussars, and nine-pounder batteries, came up at a gallop, to succour
our comrades, and got into position.  After this, the wily and savage
Muscovites found their opportunity gone, and the gallant Baur was rather
nonplussed.

When the regiments of the infantry divisions came up, they deployed into
line, and all their bright steel ramrods glittered in the sunshine, as
they loaded with ball cartridge and "capped."  We, the cavalry support,
took up a position in the left rear of the advanced force under Lord
Cardigan, and rapidly loaded our pistols and carbines, awaiting further
orders.  In each of my holsters I carried a six-chambered revolver.  So
close were we to our advanced guard, that we could hear the officers of
the 11th and the 13th recalling their skirmishers.

"Retire the skirmishers," rang again and again on the clear air;
"shorten stirrups—girth up—reload and reform."

Every heart was beating high, for we were now face to face with an
enemy—many among us for the first time.

"Keep your dressing, squadron leaders," said Colonel Beverley, whose
eyes were lit up by a strange brightness—indeed, it seemed to spread
over all his handsome and sunburned face; "close up, gentlemen.  We have
all been used to ride to hounds, and that is more than any of those
Russian fellows have done.  By Jove!  I should like to see them crossing
a stiff stone-wall country.  In a few minutes, lancers, I repeat we may
be hand to hand with the enemy; so, when we come to close quarters,
remember the old fencing-school advice, ’Watch your antagonist’s eyes,
not his blade.’"

I was leader of our left squadron, and had my post, of course, half a
horse’s length in front of the standard, which was carried by Sergeant
Stapylton.  It was a white swallow-tailed pennon, with a skull, and the
words, "Or Glory" embroidered beneath—terribly significant at such a
time, as it rustled out in the breeze.  My secret enemy, Mr. Berkeley,
was a troop leader on my left, at some little distance, and at this
exciting moment there was a singular expression in his eyes.  I thought
he was about to ride up and extend his hand to me, for I had known of
forgiveness being often asked and accorded when men were face to face
with death; but if it were so, I was pitiless.  I remembered Lady Louisa
Loftus, and the cottage by the Reculvers, and resolved that the hard
expression of my glance should chill him.  Little did I know the ideas
that were in his mind, and the mischief he was yet to work me, ere we
passed the heights of Alma.  On this evening, so cool were some of our
fellows, that I detected several of the rear-rank men tickling the
front-rank horses, to make them kick.  Lord Raglan now became
apprehensive that the numerous cavalry of General Baur, in their longing
for a little sword exercise, might be tempted to charge the Earl of
Cardigan’s slender force; thus it became necessary to draw it off
without further delay, and to express his desire to that officer,
despatched General Airey, whose movements we watched with irrepressible
excitement.

"Your brigade will immediately retire, my lord, and by alternate
squadrons," said the general, reining in his horse, and saluting.

Lord Cardigan bowed, and gave the necessary orders for throwing back the
squadrons of direction.

"Right squadron and left—threes about—march—trot!"

The remainder of the 11th and 13th remained motionless in their saddles,
with swords drawn, waiting till the flank squadrons halted and fronted,
about a hundred yards in their rear, when their own turn came to retire,
and so the movement of retreating alternately in this fashion went on.
But the moment it began, General Baur’s Russian brigade of horse
artillery came galloping out of the hollow, and were wheeled round and
unlimbered in battery on the ridge.  The red flash of the first
field-piece made every heart bound and every pulse quicken; and ere we
had time for reflection, another and another boomed, with a cloud of
white smoke, from the green eminence.  Then a gap appeared here and
there in the ranks of the 11th and 13th, as a horse, a hussar, or light
dragoon went down, and we saw them rolling in agony on the sward; but
their comrades closed in, holster to holster, and still the retreat by
alternate squadrons went coolly and quietly on.  The six-pounder guns
attached to Cardigan’s force had no power upon the enemy; but the
nine-pounders which accompanied our brigade slew many of the Russians at
their guns.  At every boom that echoed through the still evening air,
the scared birds flew about, screaming and flapping their wings wildly,
till, at last, they actually grovelled among our horses’ hoofs.

The 11th and 13th retired beyond us, and then came our turn to go threes
about, and fall back by squadrons, under cover of our artillery, whose
balls told so well that Beverley mentioned he could reckon through his
glass at least thirty-five Russian dragoons, with their horses, lying
stiff enough on the slope, where our nine-pounders had roughly loosed
their "silver cords" for ever.  Prior to this, we had moved ten paces to
the left—a lucky thing for me, as a shrub which my horse had been
nibbling was torn into pieces by a five-inch shell a second or so after.
Glory apart, I was not sorry when we got the order to retire, for we
could achieve little honour here.  My horse seemed sensible of our
danger, when the balls of the Russian artillery began to plough and tear
up the earth at his feet, or to hum past with a sound that made him
shrink.  He kicked, lashed out behind, pawed with his forefeet, bore
with his teeth on the bit, and uttered strange snorts.

"By heaven! there is one of ours down!" exclaimed Jocelyn, my sub, in an
excited manner, as he turned in his saddle; and we saw a lancer in blue
lying on his back in our rear, his horse galloping away, and three
Russian skirmishers busy about him, while four dragoons were cantering
on to join them.

"’Tis poor Rakeleigh," said Studhome, galloping up; "a shot has just
smashed his right thigh."

"Colonel, may I try to save him—to recover his body?" I asked,
hurriedly.

"Certainly; but, Norcliff, be wary."

"Who will come with me?" cried I, wheeling round my horse.

"I, sir," replied Sergeant Dashwood.

"And I!" added Pitblado.

"And I! and I!" said others, unslinging their lances.

"Thanks, my brave lads!" cried Beverley.  "Go at those devils like
bricks, and show them what true British pluck is!"

Attended by the first six who spoke, I galloped back to where the poor
fellow lay, heedless of the Russian cannon shot, and the three
skirmishers, in long grey coats and flat blue caps, who, after firing
their rifles without effect at us, scampered off to meet their troopers.
We found poor Rakeleigh quite dead, almost stripped already, and
hideously mutilated about the body.  He had always been particular in
his person, and studiously fashionable in his dress.  How often had we
quizzed those bandolined moustaches, now covered with froth and blood
gouts!  His handsome face was terribly distorted, and his uniform was
almost gone—torn from him by those brutal Russian plunderers!  Watch,
purse, and rings were also gone.  We could but cut off a lock of his
rich brown hair to send to his poor mother in Athlone.  He probably had
not been dead when overtaken by the Russians, as a bayonet wound was
perceptible in his breast.  I had barely time to remark this, when a
shot from a Minie rifle whistled past me; and just as I sprang into my
saddle there was a shout and a crash—we were engaged in a _mêlée_ with
the seven Russians.  Sergeant Dashwood pinned an infantry man to the
turf with his lance, and shot a trooper with the pistol which he grasped
in his bridle-hand.  A gigantic Russian dragoon, with a red snub nose, a
thick black beard, and coarse green uniform, all over red braid, cut
through the shaft of Pitblado’s lance, inflicting on his shoulder a
wound which many a volunteer officer would give a good round sum for the
honour of possessing; but, quick as lightning, Willie’s sword was out,
and, after a few passes, he clove him through the glazed helmet down to
the nose.  It was one of those tremendous strokes we read of sometimes,
but seldom see; such a stroke as that which Bruce gave Bohun, when he
"broke his good battle-axe" in front of the Scottish line.  It rather
appalled our new acquaintances, who spurred away, dragging their two
infantry men with them.  We then rode back to the regiment at a
hand-gallop; for we were compelled to leave the body of poor Rakeleigh.
What became of it I know not; but every vestige of it had disappeared
when we marched past that way on the morrow.

And so, as the twilight came down on land and ocean—on the plains of the
Chersonesus Taurica, and the waters of the Black Sea—ended this "first
approach to a passage at arms between Russia and the Western Powers;"
and Lord Raglan rejoiced in the steadiness and coolness displayed by his
slender force of cavalry in the now forgotten skirmish of Bulganak,
which the greater glories of the following day so completely eclipsed.

"Poor Rakeleigh," said Beverley, as we gradually gathered at the place
where we had squatted before the alarm was given, and threw off our
accoutrements, while the grooms were unbitting our horses; "poor
lad—lying yonder to-night, mutilated and unburied—his first engagement,
too!  Thank Heaven, his mother and sister don’t see him as we have done!
But greater work is to come."

"Aw—the dooce, colonel!" said Berkeley, who, after the past danger, was
smoking his cigar vigorously, in a great flow, or rather revulsion, of
spirit; "what do you mean—haw—to infer?"

"That to-morrow we shall see the Russians, where their strength is all
concentrated in position on the heights of Alma!"

His words were rather prophetic; but all knew that matters must come to
the musket ere long.  We passed the wine bottle from hand to hand, and
wrapped our cloaks and blankets about us preparatory to passing the
night as best we could.  We were certainly less chatty and hilarious
than before, and had quite relinquished our jovial friend, _Mr. Punch_.
Doubtless each one was reflecting that poor Jack Rakeleigh’s fate might
have been his own.  If mine, would Louisa have shed a tear for me?  The
doubt was a pang! We saw no more of General Baur, who fell back towards
the river Alma in the night; but long after we thought the affair over,
a shell, the last missile fired, came souse from a long gun into our
bivouac, and caused a new alarm.

Pitblado, after his wound was dressed, was about to feed his horse, and
placed the corn in a tin platter on the ground. While grooming the
charger, he saw a large raven come to feed at the corn.  Twice he threw
a stone at it in vain—the greedy bird continued its repast obstinately.
On the third occasion, armed with another stone, he ran towards it, on
which the raven flew into a tree, where he croaked as angrily as if he
had Elijah to feed as well as himself.  At that moment a shell—a
five-inch one—-came whistling from the other side of the stream, and
exploded on the very place Pitblado had left, disembowelling and killing
his horse; so, in this instance, a raven was not the precursor of evil
fortune, or, as Willie said, sadly, while contemplating his dying
charger, "one hoodiecrow didna bode an ill wind."

At a future period I was fated to see more of the gallant Schleswiger
who commanded the Russian reconnaissance at Bulganak; but there is an
anecdote connected with his origin, and how he became a soldier, so
creditable to human nature, and that which is dying fast among us,
genuine love of home, that I may be pardoned relating it here, just as
Beverley told it in our bivouac—especially as it is only to be found in
the old _Utrecht Gazette_, or the scarcer memoirs of a Scottish soldier
of fortune, Count Bruce, neither of which may be within the reader’s
reach.  Prior to the conclusion of the dispute between Denmark and the
ducal house of Gottorp, when the Muscovite troops were in Schleswig and
Holstein, their cavalry were commanded by a general named Baur—a soldier
of fortune, who had attained his rank by merit and bravery alone, his
family and country being secrets to all save himself.  His troops
occupied Husum, a small seaport at the mouth of the Hever, while he,
with his staff, lived in the old palace of the Duke Karl Peter of
Gottorp, who became Emperor of Russia, and lorded it over the people
with somewhat of a high hand.  The little bailiwick was then a charming
place.  The green meadows were fertile and rich, and spotted by golden
buttercups; the uplands were well tilled, and covered with wavy corn, or
deep rich clover; the farmhouses, of red brick and bright, yellow
thatch, were wondrously clean and pretty, their quaint porches covered
with flowing trailers, and borders gay with gorgeous hollyhocks.

The windmills whirled gaily in the breeze, and the laden boats, their
brown sails shining in the sun, floated lazily down the clear waters of
the river towards the calm and dark blue sea that stretched in the
distance far away—that sea where, as the Schleswigers aver, Waldemar and
Paine Jager, the Wild Huntsman, and Gron Jette, were never tired of
hunting and killing the mermaids, who sat on the slimy rocks, combing
their hair, and singing in the moonshine.  All was peaceful, and all so
calm and rural, that the good men of Schleswig, their plump wives and
pretty daughters, trembled at the woes that might be wrought among them
by their bearded visitors from the Neva and the Wolga; and more than
ever were they alarmed on hearing that the general of the Muscovites had
sent for poor old Michel Baur, the miller by the wooden bridge, and also
for his wife, who went with many misgivings to the palace of the duke,
over which the standard with the cruel double eagle of the Czars was
flying.

"Make yourselves easy, my good people," said the Russian general,
kindly, as they entered the great hall, with eyes abashed and shrinking
hearts; "I mean only to do you a service, so this day you shall dine
with me."

Dine—dine with him—the general of the Muscovites?  Did they hear aright,
or did their ears deceive them?  Then he set the goodman Michel and his
goodwife Gretchen at table among the splendidly attired and brilliantly
accoutred officers of his staff—those counts and colonels of Uhlans,
hussars and cuirassiers, who gnawed their moustaches, and raised their
fierce eyebrows superciliously, with wonder and inquiry, at proceedings
so novel; while some of the younger laughed covertly at the terror and
bewilderment of the worthy couple, who, however, ate heartily of
dainties to which they were all unused, after their first alarm
subsided.  The Muscovite general, who sat between them, at the head of
the table, with a kind smile on his handsome face—for handsome it was,
though his hair was now thin and grey—asked Michel many questions about
his family and household affairs—how the mill prospered and flour sold
in the market.

Then Michel, who scarcely ventured to raise his eyes from the order,
with the cross batons and crown of St. Andrew of Russia, which sparkled
on the general’s breast, told him that he was the eldest son of his
father, who had been a miller at the same mill years and years ago, even
when Frederick V. of Denmark, married to the Princess Louisa of Great
Britain, was a boy.

"The eldest son, say you, Michel?"

"Yes, herr general," replied the miller, smoothing down his white hair
nervously.

"Then you had, at least, a brother?"

"Yes, herr general; poor Karl.  He disappeared."

"How?"

"Some said he became a soldier, others that he was spirited away by the
fairies," said Gretchen.

"Many a prayer my good wife and I have said for Karl, though it is so
long since he was lost; and in his memory we have named our only son
Karl, too."

On hearing this, the Russian general became greatly moved, and, seeing
that the astonishment of his officers at the interest he took in these
humble rustics could no longer be repressed, he rose, and taking Michel
and his wife by the hand—"Gentlemen," said he, "you know me but as a
soldier of fortune, and have often been curious to learn who I am, whose
breast the Emperor has covered with stars and orders, and whence I came.
This village is my native place.  In yonder crumbling mill by the wooden
bridge I was born.  This is my brother Michel, and Gretchen, his wife!
I am Karl Baur, son of old Karl, the miller of Husum.  Here was I
_bairn_ ere I relinquished my miller’s dusty coat to become a soldier.
Oh, brother Michel, who then could have _spaed_[*] the present?" he
added, in their old native dialect, as he embraced the wondering pair.


[*] Foretold.


"I was supposed to have been stolen on St. John’s night by the
golden-haired Stillevolk of the marshes, or the cranky old red-capped
Trolds, who dwelt among the green holms; but it was not so.  I became a
hussar under Duke Karl Peter of Gottorp, and have risen to be what thou
seest—general of cavalry under our father the Emperor!  So drink a deep
becker of our Danish beer, brother Michel; drink to the old times of our
boyhood, and fear not.  I know our patrimony is but one of the poor
_Bauerhafen_, which are divided according to the number of ploughs; but
to-morrow thy _hufe_ shall be a _Freihufen_, Michel, free of all
burdens, even to the duke’s bailiff or the King of Denmark."

Next day the general dined at the old mill, where he sat upon the same
hard stool he had used in boyhood, supping his Schleswig _groute_ with a
horn spoon from a wooden platter. In memory of the olden time, he placed
a marble cross above his parent’s grave.  Three days after the trumpets
were heard, and the army marched from Schleswig to return no more; but
the general—the same General Bauer who served under Suwarrow in the
famous campaigns of Italy—made a plentiful provision for his poor
relatives, and sent the miller’s only son, his namesake, Karl, to Court
for his education, Karl rose to a high place in the household of the
Czar, and it was his son, Karlovitch Bauer, who prepared so specious a
trap for our advanced guard on the Bulganak—a trap happily rendered
useless by the skill and foresight of our leader, the good and brave
Lord Raglan.



                            *CHAPTER XXXVI.*


    Let me go!  The day is breaking,
      Morning bursts upon mine eye,
    Death this mortal frame is shaking;
      But the soul can never die!

    Let me go!  The day-star beaming,
      Gilds the radiant realms above;
    Full its glory on me streaming
      Lights me to the land of love!
        LAYS OF THE PIOUS MINSTRELS.


Wrapped in my cloak and blanket, I had fallen into an uneasy slumber,
close by a fragment of ruined wall, the boundary, perhaps, of a deserted
Tartar garden, when I was roused by Sergeant Stapylton of my troop.

"I beg pardon, sir, for disturbing you," said he, in an apologetic way;
"but as I was returning from the river side with water for some of the
wounded horses, I passed a Frenchwoman, as I take her to be, dying to
all appearance, and thought, as she can’t be left where she is, that if
you would come and speak to her——"

"Of course," said I, springing up; "where is she?"

"Near a grove of olive trees—just a pistol-shot or so beyond our
advanced sentries.  You can pass me to the front, sir, as your guide."

Leaving the sleeping group of my brother officers, I accompanied
Stapylton, with stiffened joints and chattering teeth. The morning was
yet dark, but a red streak of light above the hilly ground that rose
between our left flank and the Perekop road, showed where the dawn was
about to break.  All was still around me.  Save the occasional neigh of
a horse, scarcely a sound broke the silence of that place, where so many
thousands of our soldiers were sleeping, or dozing as men may do, after
reflecting that the night which was passing away might be their last in
the land of the living, and that the coming day must find them face to
face with danger, and—death!  On the chill breeze of the September
morning, I could hear the rush of the Bulganak over its stony bed,
between which and our bivouac could be traced the line of our cavalry
vedettes, seated, cloaked, in their saddles, with carbine on thigh, and
the advanced sentinels, muffled in their great coats, standing
motionless, with "ordered arms," and their faces turned to the
southward, where all knew the enemy lay.  Passing through the Light
Brigade, where each man slept beside his horse, I stumbled over a
sleeper, in whom I recognized a medical officer, and asked him to
accompany us, which he did readily; and, guided by Stapylton, we
proceeded towards the grove of olive trees.

As we quitted the bivouac, the medical officer said—"You perceive that
vapour which is rising so steadily from the ground?"

"Yes," said I, with an irrepressible shudder; "I saw enough of it at
Varna."

"You are right," he continued, in a low and impressive voice; "that
pale, blue, fetid vapour is the cholera mist—always a bad sign.  We
shall have many cases on our lists ere sunset to-morrow, and Heaven
knows they are full enough already.  Nearly all the women and children
of my regiment were buried on the roadside yesterday.  A sick
Frenchwoman, I think you said, sergeant?" he observed, recurring to the
business in hand.

"Yes, sir," replied Stapylton, saluting.

"Strange!  What should bring her here?  The French are at present far
away on our right, and in the rear.  I presume you have heard of what
took place this evening, Captain Norcliff?"

"Where?"

"At head-quarters."

"The little post-house on the Bulganak, where Lord Raglan passes the
night?"

"Exactly.  Marshal St. Arnaud, attended by Colonel Trochier, of the
imperial army, rode up there to concert the plan of an attack to-morrow.
So, whatever it is, our part in the play of to-morrow is already
assigned us; and now, sergeant, your Frenchwoman."

"Is here, sir, to speak for herself, if she can, poor thing."

Close by the grove of olive trees, with a coarse blanket spread over
her, lay the woman of whom Stapylton had spoken.

"Cholera!" said the surgeon, as he turned down the blanket, and knelt
beside her; "cholera, and in the last stages, too. No pulse can be felt,
the extremities cold and rigid, the face ghastly, the strength
exhausted.  I can be of no use here," he added to me, in a low voice.
"A little time and all will be over."

From my hunting flask he poured a little brandy between the lips of the
sufferer, who proved to be a _soeur de charité_, by her white coif and
black serge dress; and, on drawing nearer, imagine what were my
sensations on recognising, through the twilight of the coming day, the
pale and convulsed features of Sister Archange—of Mademoiselle de
Chaverondier!  An exclamation of sorrow and astonishment burst from me.
All the memory of her kindness when I lay sick in the house of the
Armenian merchant at Varna; all her singleness of heart; all her purity
and self-devotion; all the memory of her story, and of her own happy
home amid the mountains of Beaujolais, and how and why she had devoted
herself to Heaven and acts of charity; all her simple belief in magic
and miracles, with her child-like love and piety; her regard for her
brother Claude, the gallant officer of Canrobert’s regiment, his wife,
Cecile Montallé, and the cruel Lucrece, whose revenge wrought all their
sorrow—all the memory of these things, I say, rushed upon me like a
flood, as I stood, bewildered, by the side of the dying girl—dying like
an outcast in that wild and savage place—and they deeply moved me.  To
leave her to die thus, untended and uncared for, was impossible.  Yet
what was to be done?  How was I to succour her?  Already the trumpets of
the cavalry, and the ringing bugles of the infantry, were sounding the
"rouse" and the "assembly," and the army was getting rapidly under
arms—all the more rapidly that there were no tents to strike and no
baggage to pack.  Each man fell into the ranks on the ground where he
had slept; the cavalry were mounting, the artillery were tracing their
horses and limbering up, and long ere the Bay of Kalamita glittered in
the rising sun, the whole British army was on the move towards the Alma.

My friend the surgeon, finding that he could do no more—that he had,
perhaps, patients enough elsewhere—suggested, ere he departed, that she
might be put into one of the _kabitkas_ of the ambulance corps; but, as
he assured me that she could not live above an hour, I despatched
Stapylton to explain the matter to Colonel Beverley; and in a few
minutes he returned with Pitblado, Lanty O’Regan, my groom, and four
other lancers and our horses, and with permission for me "to look after
my sick friend; but, at all risks, not to be ten minutes’ march behind
the rear guard, as General Bosquet’s division was already advancing
rapidly on our right flank, and the French sister might be more properly
handed over to her own people."

We lifted her into the olive thicket, out of the way of the passing
troops; for already our advanced guard, under Lord Cardigan—"Prince
Albert’s Own," with their blue jackets and scarlet pelisses covered with
glittering lace, and the 13th Light Dragoons—were once more splashing
through the Bulganak, laughing and joking merrily, as if it were a fox
that was to break cover in the Lincolnshire fens, and not the hordes of
the southern and western Russias that were before them. By means of
three barrel-hoops and a horse-sheet, we improvised something like that
which the French term a day-tent, to hide her and her sufferings.  Then
the idea occurred to me as to what I could do if she survived beyond the
time allotted to us by the colonel.  Could I leave her in that wild
place to die alone, and to lie unburied, save by the wolves and birds of
prey?  Alas! a very brief time now resolved all my doubts and fears.  A
little way apart from us, a silent and sympathetic group, my seven
lancers stood, each by his horse’s head, leaning on his lance, and
awaiting me.  If they conversed, it was in half whispers, for they
sincerely pitied the girl, those French sisters of charity being the
admiration of the whole army.  I was bathing her lips with some diluted
brandy, when she fully, and for the first time, recognised me.  Then a
little smile of joy passed over her ghastly face, and she began to
speak, painfully, huskily, and at long intervals.

"It is my turn now; but I am dying, you see, _mon frère_," said she,
"dying.  Many of my sisters have died in the camp—but—but few thus."

"Few, indeed," said I, in a low, sad voice.

"In ardent prayers for the repose of my soul you find no solace.  I say
not this upbraidingly, yet the mortuary chants of the ’Dies Iræ’ and the
’De Profundis’ will never be said for me, because I die—die thus!" she
said, in a low and piercing voice, as she closed her eyes.

Perplexity was now added to my sorrow, for I knew not what the poor girl
wished or meant; but I implored her to tell me how she came to be left
thus alone and in illness.  In the night when, asleep and weary, she had
fallen unseen from a French ambulance cart, some scouting Cossacks had
found and carried her off in mocking triumph; but, on finding that the
deadly pestilence had seized her, they barbarously flung her into the
Bulganak.  She had crept ashore, and was making her way to our bivouac,
when the progress of her illness became so rapid and destroying that she
was reduced to the condition in which Stapylton found her.  Such was the
short story she told me, in long and painful intervals, her voice being
at times so low that I had to place my ear close to her lips.

"And now," she added, with a divine smile, which brought back much of
the wonderful beauty of her face, "I am so glad—so happy that I shall
die!"

"Why, _ma soeur_?"

"Lest I should live longer; because, in doing so, I could scarcely fail
in some way to offend heaven," replied the poor girl.  "I confessed me
two days ago—I die in peace, and forgive those Cossaques—_mon ami_—_mon
frère_, I should say—you will close my eyes—you will see me
buried—promise me that you will!"

I could only answer her by my tears; and strange it seemed that all
around the thicket where this solemn scene was acting, and when the
spirit of this good being was hovering between eternity and time, the
thousands of our army, horse, foot, and artillery, with ammunition and
stores, were pouring past in the bright morning sunshine, towards the
passage of the Bulganak.

All around was instinct with the glitter and bustle of martial life; but
within that olive grove was death, sublime humility, and suffering.

"Are you in pain now?" I asked, as this thought occurred to me.

"Oh, no—pain is long since passed away.  If I could but live till three
in the afternoon, I could then die more than ever happily."

"Why at three?"

"For at that time our Blessed Lord yielded up his soul on Calvary!" said
she, with a voice of enthusiasm, while a strange brightness seemed to
pass over all her face.

As she turned restlessly her eyes fell upon Sergeant Stapylton and the
lancers, and beckoning them forward, she bestowed her blessing on each;
and they listened with bowed heads, and took off their caps.  I was
deeply moved, and drew a pace or two aside.

"Heaven has always been so good to me," she muttered, in broken English,
as the sergeant placed his cloak as a pillow under her head; "because,
as you must know, _messieurs les soldats_, my mother dedicated me to
heaven, and I am a child of the Holy Virgin."

Poor Stapylton, a worthy but stolid John Bull, looked rather bewildered
by this information; but my Irish groom understood her.

"Thrue for you, miss," said Lanty, wiping his eyes with the worsted
tassels of his yellow sash.  "Oh, it’s fast she’s goin’ to glory, the
poor cratur.  Oh, never a ha’porth she thinks of herself; but it is us
she’s prayin’ for, boys."

"Other souls than mine shall pass away to-day, for ere nightfall a great
battle is to be fought—I know that."

At that moment, through an opening in the olive trees, we saw a regiment
of infantry marching past in close column of subdivisions, with the band
in front, colours flying, and bayonets gleaming in the sun.  It was our
88th, of gallant memory, with Colonel Shirley riding at the head of the
column, and the drums and fifes made the blue welkin ring to the air of
"The Young May Moon."  She looked wistfully at the defiling ranks; there
was so much of life there, so much of death here!  Then, clasping her
white hands, which were so thin and tremulous, and, closing her eyes,
she began to repeat a little prayer in Latin, for those who were to fall
on both sides—the Russians as well as the English.

Of that prayer I can only remember a single sentence—

"_O clementissime Jesu, amator animarum, lava in sanguine Tuo peccatores
totius mundi, nunc positos in agoniâ et hodie morituros._"[*]


[*] "O most merciful Jesus, lover of souls, wash in Thy blood the
sinners of the whole world who are now in their agony and are to die
this day!"


Then, whispering something of her "mother who was in heaven, kneeling
for her before the Mother of God," the pure spirit of this French girl
passed out into the black night of eternity.  We stood for a time
silent, and nothing roused us but our rear-guard defiling to the front
from the right of troops, and then the orders of the colonel recurred to
me. Were I to live a thousand years I shall never forget the calm and
soothing, yet sorrowful, impression made upon me by this poor girl’s
death.  I closed her eyes, and their long, dark lashes fell over the
pale cheek, from which they never more would rise, and she lay under the
poor horse-rug, looking so calm, with a peaceful and beautiful
expression on her sweet dead face.  Her hands were now folded on her
breast; her black ebony crucifix had fallen from them; but Lanty O’Regan
replaced it gently, and kindly closed the stiffening fingers round it,
and there was a big sob in Lanty’s throat as he did so.  Death brought
back all the strange loveliness of other days to Sister Archange; and I
could not behold her lying there, looking so peaceful, so white and
still, without feeling my heart very full indeed.  For when I saw so
much self-devotion, poverty, and charity united with peace and goodwill
to all mankind—to Christian and Osmanli, to friend and foe alike—it
seemed to me truly that of such as she was the kingdom of God.  I kissed
the dead girl’s forehead as we drew the horse-rug over her, and prepared
for her interment, as we had not a moment to lose.

The soil was soft, and we had only our sword-blades and hands to dig
with; but we contrived to scoop a hole about three feet deep.
Reverently, as if she had been their sister, my comrades laid her in it,
and then we heaped the mould above her.  She lies in that little thicket
of olives, about a mile from Bulganak, and sleeps in what is called
unconsecrated earth; though the ashes of that sister of charity might
bring a blessing on the city of the Sultan.  We now mounted, put our
horses to full speed, and soon passing our rear-guard, came up with our
brigade, and rejoined the regiment.  By this time the whole army was on
the march to force the position of the Alma, and already our right flank
was almost united to the left of the French column under General
Bosquet, as the allies advanced together.



                           *CHAPTER XXXVII.*


    News of battle!—news of battle!
      Hark, ’tis ringing down the street!
    And the archways and the pavement
      Bear the clang of hurrying feet.
    News of battle!—who hath brought it?
      News of triumph!  Who should bring
    Tidings from our noble army?
      Greetings from our gallant king?
        LAYS OF THE SCOTTISH CAVALIERS.


While these events were occurring by the shore of the Euxine, brown
autumn was spreading her sober tints upon the Scottish woods; and one
seldom sees the country more attractive than when its beauty is
decaying, and a soothing sadness mingles with our delight.

The long grass is dank in the shady places, for there the dew falls
early at eve, and lingers long after sunrise; and now in Calderwood Glen
the dark leaves of the chestnuts were varied by the golden yellow of the
lime tree, whose frail leaves are among the earliest to whirl before the
gusty autumn wind.

Already the first leaves—the early spoil of the season—were lying in the
long, shady avenue, or were gathered in heaps, even as the breeze had
swept them, about the well of James V., the yew hedgerows, and the grass
walks of the antique Scottish garden, where tradition avers that Anne of
Denmark flirted with the bonnie Earl of Gowrie.  There the asters and
dahlias still contended for a place with the old-fashioned hollyhock.
Summer had gone; but the corn-marigold and the gorgeous crimson poppy
yet lingered among the yellow stubble, or on the green burn braes;
scarlet hips and haws made gay the hedgerows, and the ladybirds were
pecking at the sweet apples in the orchard.  The shadows of the flying
clouds passed over the green mountain slopes, over Largo’s lofty cone,
the round swelling Lomonds—the Mamelles of Fife, as a French officer not
inaptly termed them—the breeze of the German Sea came up the long,
fertile Howe, and brought softly to the ear the lowing of cattle from
Falkland Woods and many a cosy homestead.  The autumn was lovely in
Calderwood Glen; but the old manor house seemed empty and silent, and
the heart of Cora was sad, for—

    Great events were on the gale,
    And each hour brought a varying tale,

and she knew that the same autumnal sun which was browning the woods of
Scotland was lighting her kilted regiments on their path of death and
peril by the Alma.  There were times when Cora thought that, bitter
though it was, this hopeless sorrow for the absence of one she loved,
how sweet it might have been—how sadly sweet—had Newton loved her in
return.  Ah! it had not been hopeless then; but Newton loved another,
who loved him too.  Yet, did that other love him so well as she, poor
quiet Cora, did?  And would she love him always?  Then, when she heard
the thistlefinch, with its golden wings, singing among the linden trees,
the words of the old, old song seemed to come home truly to her heart as
she hummed them over.

    There sat upon the linden tree
      A bird, and sang its strain;
    So sweet it sang, that, as I heard,
      My heart went back again;
    It went to one remembered spot,
      It saw the rose-trees grow,
    And thought again the thoughts of love
      There cherished long ago.

    A thousand years to me it seems
      Since by my love I sate,
    Yet thus to have been a stranger long,
      Was not my choice, but fate;
    Since then I have not seen the flowers,
      Nor heard the bird’s sweet song,
    My joys have all too briefly passed,
      My griefs have been too long!


Ladies were setting forth to join the army of the East as nurses!  An
idea occurred to her, and then she shrank from it, for Cora was not one
of our strong-minded British females but a good and kind-hearted,
earnest and high-souled Scottish girl; and it is a peculiarity of the
women of Scotland ever to shrink from publicity; and, somehow, public
life seems neither their _forte_ nor their _rôle_.

"Ah, oh!" thought Cora; "what if this is not merely a separation, but a
loss for ever!"

No battle had yet been fought; but already many men had perished at
Varna, at Scutari, and elsewhere, of fever and cholera.  And so, often
as she wandered alone in the garden walks, by the old Battle Stone in
the woods, by the Adder’s Craig, or King James’s Well, she wept, as she
thought of the lively young lancer whom she had last seen marching for
the East, and still more for her early playmate and cousin, who in
boyhood so petted her at home.

And when Cora would say, or old Willie Pitblado would read, that the
lancers had embarked, that they had touched at Gibraltar, at Malta—that
they were at Varna or elsewhere—he would pause, and look up wistfully,
saying—"Nae word yet o’ my Willie?"

"But the papers don’t mention Captain Norcliff either."

"Ay, ay, true, Miss Cora," the old man would mutter, and shake his head
at omissions so strange.

Anxiety, love, and fear injured the poor girl’s health.  She was
alternately resigned and gentle, or short-tempered and irritable.
Though frequently self-absorbed and pre-occupied, she strove, by
affected gaiety, to prove to those about her that she was neither.  By
turns she was grateful for sympathy or irritated by it, while her
craving for news about the army of the East became a source of
speculation—shall we call it friendly?—among such sharp-witted visitors
as the Mesdames Spittal and Rammerscales, the wife of the parish
minister, or the slavishly suave Mrs. Wheedleton, the rib of the village
lawyer.

To add to her annoyances, she had a new admirer in young Mr. Brassy
Wheedleton—a newly-fledged legal prig—who had in his hands a dispute
concerning a bond over a portion of the Calderwood property, and whom,
as Sir Nigel patronized him, being the son of a neighbour, a dependent,
and beginner at the bar, she saw rather oftener than she cared for as a
visitor at the Glen.  Cora was always most irritable when a letter came
from her English friends in Kent.  However, her correspondence with
Chillingham Park had lessened every day since the regiment left England,
why neither could exactly say.  Louisa’s missives were generally full of
gaiety and the world of fashion, with all its tinsel glitter and
heartless frivolity.  As for the war, and our poor soldiers in the East,
she heeded them no more than the clock of St. Paul’s, or the last year’s
snow.  Her last letter had been all concerning the elevation of my Lord
Slubber to a marquisate (skipping the intervening titles of viscount and
earl,) and enclosing a slip from a fashionable morning paper, which
announced that the garter king had given to the noble peer "a coat of
augmentation, in addition to the three guffins’ heads mange, of the
grand Anglo-Norman line of De Gullion, with the cage in chief granted to
the fourth baron of that illustrious name, by the greatest of the
Plantagenets, when that chivalrous monarch hung the Scottish Countess of
Buchan outside the walls of Berwick for four years in an iron cage, and
when ’ye potente and valyant Lord Slobbyr de Gulyone was captain yairof
with CCC archeris.’"

This afforded her father the first hearty laugh in which he had indulged
for some time past, for he, too, had become somewhat dull and peevish.

"Three guffins’ heads; Cora, this is excellent!" said the old baronet,
laughing still; "it is very droll how the English snob of high family
boasts of his descent from the rabble of William the Norman, just as our
Scotch snob likes to deduce his pedigree from those Saxon _hildings_ who
fled from Hastings, or the savage Danes we licked at Luncarty and
elsewhere.  There were Calderwoods in the Glen before either of those
times!  What says the old rhyme?

    Calderwood was fair to see,
    When it gaid to Cameltrie;
    But Calderwood was fairer still,
    When it grew owre Crosswood Hill."


Sir Nigel’s old chum, General Rammerscales, was laid up with the gout
and jungle fever, and their political friend, Lickspittal, was absent in
Parliament—where, like a true Scottish M.P., he served to fill the
house, to vote with the lord advocate or the majority, to work on all
committees (which paid); but, of course, remaining as oblivious of
Scottish interests as of those of the Sioux Indians.

Now that he was residing almost permanently at the old manor house—the
Place of Calderwood, as it was named _par excellence_—Sir Nigel became
somewhat infected by his daughter’s melancholy.  Thoughts of his two
dead sons—Nigel, who fell at Goojerat, of his pet boy Archie, and also
of his nephew, his favourite sister’s only son, exposed to all the
perils of disease and war in Turkey—recurred to him again and again, as
he wandered through the rooms and under the old linden trees that had
often echoed to their voices in infancy; and he thought of how the old
estates, and the title first granted by King Charles to Sir Norman
Calderwood, _Primus Baronettorum Scotiæ_, would go after his death, an
event which he knew must happen some day; for, though hale and hearty
yet, he felt that he rode a stone or two heavier now, was apt to "funk"
at a sunk fence, and was finding that noble brute Splinterbar a trifle
hard in the mouth for his bridle-hand now.

Even Cora’s old song of "The Thistle and Rose" only served to make him
sad—to make him think of those who had sung it long, long ago; and then
he would order another bottle of that rare, creamy old claret, that Mr.
Binns kept among the cobwebs, in a particular corner of the cellar, for
_themselves_.

Faithful old Davie Binns!  He had grown grey, white, and bald in the
service of the Calderwoods, like his fathers before him, and like many
other servants in that kind old Scottish household—one, indeed, "of the
olden time."  If he had been dismissed for a dereliction of duty, he
would have thought the world was coming to an end, and doubtless would
have flatly refused to go; for Davie was one of a class of servitors
that are passing away, even in Scotland and Ireland; and from the
sister-kingdom I fear they have long since vanished.

Accompanied by old Willie, Sir Nigel and a friend or two had
occasionally a shot at the partridges in the stubble or the
turnip-fields; but when the first meet of the hounds took place their
master was absent.

In vain the horns were blown by Largo’s slopes and Balcarris Wood; in
vain the dogs gave mouth, and yelped, and wagged their upright tails.
The cover was drawn, and every spur struck deep, as the huntsmen sped
over dyke and ditch, by loch, and moor, and mountain; but Sir Nigel was
sorrowing at his house in the Glen, and his favourite hunters, Saline
and Splinterbar, were forgotten in their stalls.

Why was this?

On a Sunday towards the end of September—a Sunday which many must recall
with sorrow—mysteriously, as if borne in the air, there passed a whisper
over all the land of a great event that had happened far, far away; and
that whisper found an echo in many a heart and home in England—in many
an Irish mud cabin and Scottish glen—in many a high and many a humble
dwelling.

In the quaint old village kirk of Calderwood, during the morning
service, it passed along the pews from ear to ear among the people, even
to the old haunted aisle of St. Margaret, where Cora sat (her sweet,
earnest eyes intent on the preacher, though her thoughts were far away)
beside her father in his carved oak seat, with all its armorial bearings
overhead; for he was lord of all the glen and manor—a little king, but a
very kind one, among the peasantry there.

So, on this calm, sunny summer morning, when no sound disturbed the
preacher’s voice but the rustle of the oak woods without, or the
twittering of the martins in their nests among the Gothic carvings,
there came vaguely to the pastoral glen—vaguely, wildly, no one knew
how—news that a great battle had been fought far, far away in the East,
and that we had lost four, five, some said even six thousand men; but
that we were, thank God, _victorious_.

Pausing in his sermon, while his eyes kindled and his cheek flushed as
they had never done when detailing the bloody wars of the Jews and
Egyptians, the aged minister announced the tidings from the pulpit,
adding (the first false rumour) "that the Duke of Cambridge had fallen
at the head of the Guards and our own Highland lads, as he led them,
sword in hand, up the braes of the Alma."

Every eye turned to St. Margaret’s aisle, where, through the painted
windows, the yellow sunshine streamed on Sir Nigel’s silver hair and
Cora’s smooth dark braids, for all knew that they had a dear kinsman in
that distant field, and when the minister asked the people to join with
him in prayer for those who might fall, and for the widows and orphans
of the slain, it was with earnest, humble, and contrite hearts that the
startled and anxious rustics added their voices to his.

Cora covered her face with her handkerchief; and old Pitblado looked
round him, grim and sternly as any Covenanter who ever wore a blue
bonnet; but the poor man’s heart was full of tears, as he prayed to
heaven that his Willie might be safe.  Besides, as a native of Fife, he
had much of the old and inbred horror of soldiering peculiar to that
peninsula, since those dark days when the Fifeshire infantry found their
graves on the field of Kilsythe.

Ere the red autumn sun went down beyond the green hills of Clackmannan,
the electric wire had announced the passage of the Alma over all the
length and breadth of the land—flashing over all Europe, from the shores
of the Bosphorus to those of the Shannon.

But in reply to a message sent by Sir Nigel to the War Office—a telegram
despatched to soothe the agony of love—came the brief but terrible
answer—

"_The name of your nephew is among the killed!_"

"Papa—papa—among the killed—among the killed!" Cora exclaimed, after the
first stunning paroxysm of her grief was past.

"Yet I do not despair, Cora," said the old man, in his bewilderment,
caressing her, and not knowing what to say, while remembering the keen
bitterness that the gazette of Goojerat brought to his heart, when there
he read the name of his eldest son and hope—his dark and handsome Nigel.

"Oh, do not speak of hope to me, papa.  Poor Newton, I did so love him!
I cannot dare to hope!"

"Dearest Cora, we have no details.  He may be missing. I have heard of
many returned so in the old Peninsular times. My old friend, Jack
Oswald, of Dunnik, among others; but he was always found under a heap of
dead men, or so forth."

"But the telegram says distinctly, among the killed—his body, his poor,
mangled body, must have been seen——"

"Colonel Beverley will write to me.  In a few days we shall know all the
particulars."

"Even were he only wounded, I should be miserable; but to know that he
is dead—dead—Newton dead—buried far, far away by strangers, and among
strangers, and that I shall never, never see him more!  Oh, papa—my dear
papa!" she exclaimed, as she flung herself upon his breast, "I loved
Newton dearly—far more dearly than life!"

And so the great secret escaped her in her grief.



                           *CHAPTER XXXVIII.*


    The fight’s begun;—in momentary blaze
    Bright o’er the hills the volleying lightning plays,
    Bursts the loud shell, the death shots hiss around,
    And the hoarse cannon adds its heavier sound,
    Till wide the gathering clouds that rise between
    Clothe in a thicker gloom the maddening scene;
    And as the billow’s wild and angry crest,
    That swells in foam on Ocean’s lurid breast,
    Through each long line the curling volumes spread,
    And hang their white wreaths o’er the column’s head.


After the troops crossed the Bulganak, strict silence was enjoined, and
no drum was beaten or bugle blown.  Scattered parties of Russian cavalry
scoured all the ground before us; and as they galloped to and fro, the
gleam of Cossack lances, the flash of a carbine, or the steady glitter
of sword-blades and cuirasses, shone at times from among the groves of
the turpentine trees, and between the rocky undulations of the
landscape.  Thus we, the British, could not make ourselves quite aware
of the nature of the ground we were approaching, while the French
marched straight and confidently towards certain great cliffs, which had
been carefully reconnoitred from the sea on the extreme right, and which
they were to storm, with the village of Almatamack, at the point of the
bayonet.  At nine o’clock, the French on our right—Bosquet’s
column—halted, and quietly cooked their coffee, while our troops were
still moving laboriously over rough ground, to bring our flank closer to
theirs; and now, far beyond the extended columns of the allies—those
long, bright lines of bayonets, sloped barrels, and waving colours that
shone in the sun of a lovely morning—we saw the dark smoke of the
war-steamers towering into the clear air, as they crept in-shore,
seeking opportunities to open fire upon the Russian’s lofty position;
and at twenty minutes past ten we heard the first cannon booming, as
they threw their shot among the imperial troops in rear of the telegraph
station, which was distant nearly five thousand metres from the shore.
Two more protracted halts took place, while final consultations were
made between Lord Raglan and Marshal St. Arnaud; but still we were
drawing nearer the scene of the coming conflict.

Before us rolled the Alma—a picturesque river—which takes its rise among
the western slopes of the Chatyrdagh, in Crim Tartary, and falls into
the Euxine, about twelve miles from Sebastopol.  High rises its southern
bank into picturesque rocks, that in some places are precipitous, and
terminate in a lofty cliff which overhangs the sea; and this formidable
position was to be defended against us by more than thirty-nine thousand
Russians and one hundred and six pieces of cannon, led by Prince
Alexander Menschikoff, one of the Emperor’s most distinguished generals,
who had entered the world as the son of a poor pastrycook, but who now
held the supreme civil and military command in the Crimea.  A round shot
from a Turkish cannon had mutilated him severely at the siege of Varna,
and hence the hatred he bore the race and faith of the Osmanlis was deep
and fierce.  His skill was not equal to his presumption, for he fully
thought—as a letter found in his carriage by Captain Travers of ours,
after the battle, asserted—that if the three invading armies were not
routed at the Alma, he would be fully able to defend its hills for three
weeks, until the Emperor sent him reinforcements from the steppes of
Bessarabia.

Two miles from the mouth of the Alma stood the picturesque little
village of Burliuk.  It was now in flames, and the smoke of the
conflagration was rolling among the vineyards, which covered the slope
that extended between the stream and the base of those cliffs along
which glittered the hostile lines of the Russian army.  Two miles in
length those lines extended along the hills, which were intersected by
deep ravines.  On every ridge strong batteries of cannon swept the
approaches to these; deep trenches were dug along the mountain slopes,
and therein were posted the infantry.  Constructed on the side of the
Kourgané Hill, which rises to the height of six hundred feet above the
Alma, was an enormous battery, forming two sides of a triangle, and
mounting fourteen heavy guns, thirty-two pounders, and twenty-four pound
howitzers. The ascent to this was commanded by three other batteries,
mounting twenty-five guns.  To assail the Kourgané Hill—the right wing
of the Russian army—with all its cannon, howitzers, and trenches, was
the task assigned to the Light Division under Sir George Brown,
supported by the Duke of Cambridge, with the Guards and Highlanders; and
so intent was Menschikoff on its defence, that he had there concentrated
sixteen battalions of regular infantry, two battalions of sailors, and
two brigades of field-pieces.  Near them were many ladies in carriages
from Sebastopol, and elsewhere, waiting to see the "English curs"
beaten.

During one of the protracted halts referred to, I could not help
thinking how lovely was the morning for the unholy work we had in hand!
The sun was without a cloud, and the soft breeze of the September morn
played along the grassy slopes, rustling the leaves of the olive and
turpentine groves, and the broader foliage of the vineyards, till at
last even its breath died away upon the summit of the hostile hills.
"It was then that in the allied armies there occurred," says Kinglake,
"a singular pause of sound—a pause so general as to have been observed
and remembered by many in remote parts of the ground, and so marked that
its interruption by the mere neighing of an angry horse seized the
attention of thousands; and although this strange silence was the mere
result of weariness and chance, it seemed to carry a meaning; for it was
now that, after nearly forty years of peace, the great nations of Europe
were once more meeting for battle!"

The French steamers were now shelling the heights, the Russians making
but a poor response; and just as a bomb, splendidly thrown by the
former, among the smoke wreaths that curled round the brow of the
cliffs, unmasked an ambush which had been prepared for the advancing
Zouaves, after the smoke cleared away, showed by the prostrate forms of
the riflemen it slew, how well it had done its fatal work—just as I was
watching this episode, through my glass, I heard Studhome say,
"Norcliff, we are to go to the front."

"Ours, alone?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Can’t say; but you see the danger of having a reputation, Newton," said
Jack, laughing, for he was in unusual high spirits.  "We lancers served
against the Pindarees in Central India, at Neerbudda, and elsewhere—the
men and horses, poor nags, change; but the name and the number remain.
Thus, you see what the honour of having a good name and gallant number
costs us.  The lancers must advance."

"Only your squadron, Captain Norcliff," said Colonel Beverley, cantering
up to where we were halted in brigade; "you will advance and extend to
double the usual skirmishing distance, simply to feel the enemy."

I saluted and gave the command, "Threes right—left-wheel—forward," and
away we went at a swinging trot, with plumes and pennons glittering in
the air.

"If they hit you, Bill?" cried one of our men to Sergeant Dashwood, of
Wilford’s troop, which formed the left of my squadron.

"Bah!  I escaped often enough in India," said the sergeant, laughing;
"and, please Heaven, were it only for my poor wife’s sake, I shall do so
again."

It did not please Heaven, however, for within one hour after this worthy
Sergeant Dashwood was lying on his back, pale and stiff, with a bullet
in his heart.

As we halted, formed line to the front, and extended from the right at
full speed, I heard Jocelyn of ours, a wild and extravagant fellow, say
to Sir Henry Scarlett, "I wonder how many infernal _post obits_ will be
cancelled to-day!"

We now advanced slowly over the open ground, halting at times, and every
moment gave us a clearer and nearer view of the enemy’s position.

I looked to the rear.  How steadily they were coming on, those splendid
lines of British infantry—the Royal and the Welsh Fusiliers, the 19th,
and 33rd, and Connaught Rangers—stretching far away from flank to flank,
in scarlet—that glorious and historic colour, which fills at once the
eye and the mind—their bayonets flashing in the sun, and their colours
threateningly advanced, but hanging listless, for the wind had died
away.  Thousands of those who were now marching there, in youth, and
pride, and health—whose place at home was still vacant in many a
parent’s heart—were doomed to fatten the earth with their bones, and
make the grass of future summers grow greener on the slopes of the Alma.
Strong memories of my early youth, of my dead mother’s face and voice,
were with me now, and tears came too—I scarcely knew why; but I felt
somewhat as if in a dream.  I had a strong yearning also to see the
proud Louisa, the tender Cora Calderwood, and my kind old uncle—those I
might never see again.

I strove to imagine how Louisa Loftus would bear the shock of hearing
that I had fallen—if fall I should.  When and by whom would the news be
broken to her?  I thought, too, of the quiet old woods of Calderwood
Glen, under the shadow of the greater Lomond.  There, at least, all was
peace, thank Heaven; and in my heart I prayed that long, long might it
be so.  And strange it was, too, that in this exciting time, when so
many thousands of various races were about to close in the shock of
battle—when a few minutes more might see me face to face with
death—death by the cannon, the rifle, or the sabre—even while the
explosion of the French shells rung every instant in the air—there
flickered in my memory snatches of frivolous musical strains, and one or
two trivial mess-room incidents; so that the vast array along the Alma
seemed almost a phantasmagoria.  But here a hand was laid upon my bridle
arm.  It was the hand of my faithful follower, Willie Pitblado, who
slung his lance, and, sinking the soldier in the friend and countryman,
said, while his bright grey eyes sparkled under his lancer cap—

"Hear you that, sir?  It is the pipes of the Highland brigade!"

We were so far to the right of our squadron as to be close to the
division of the Duke of Cambridge, which was composed of the Grenadier,
Coldstream, and Scots Fusilier Guards, with three of the Highland
regiments (the 42nd, 79th, and 93rd), whose pipers were now playing each
the pibroch of their corps during the second halt; and then over all the
field the old wild "memory of a thousand years" was kindled in every
Scotchman’s heart.  I felt his enthusiasm; I saw that Willie felt it
too, and in the kindly smile we exchanged there was conveyed a world of
hidden sentiment.  Wild, barbarous, and uncouth as it may be deemed—an
instrument, perhaps, beyond improvement—the voice of the war-pipe seldom
falls without a strange and stirring effect upon the Scottish ear; and
let neither Englishman nor Irishman ever trust that Scot who hears it
unmoved by the love of country and of home.  There is something rotten
at his heart’s core!  In whatever part of the distant world a Scotchman
hears its strange notes, and the hoarse hum of its deep bass drones, it
sets him dreaming of home; of the old thatched cottage in the
mountain-glen, where the trouting burn gurgles under the long yellow
broom, or "the auld brigstane" where he fished in boyhood; and with its
voice come back the faces of "the loved, the lost, the distant, and the
dead," and the glories and the battles of the years that are gone.  He
sees, too, the old kirk, where he prayed by his mother’s knee; the
graveyard, with all its mossy stones, and the forms of those who are
lying there rise again in memory’s eye.  So the storm-beaten Isleman may
seem to hear once more the waves that lash on Jura’s rocks, or the
scream of the wild birds over Scarba’s shore, when ploughing far away in
the wastes of the Indian Sea.  It is difficult to define what this
influence is; but that Scot is little to be envied who hears the warpipe
unmoved, when far away from home, or as we heard it on that day beside
the Alma; and though proud of his lancer regiment, I could see that my
comrade Willie’s heart was with the Highlanders, whose dark plumes were
tossing on our right.  It was at this time that Sir Colin Campbell, in
his quiet, grave way, said to one of his officers, as the historian
before quoted records, "This will be a good time for the men to get
loose half their cartridges."

"And when the command travelled along the ranks of the Highlanders, it
lit up the faces of the men one after another, assuring them that now,
at length, and after long expectance, they indeed would go into action.
They began obeying the order, and with beaming joy, for they came of a
warlike race; yet not without emotion of a grave kind.  They were young
soldiers, and new to battle."

But now the trumpets recalled us to our brigade in rear of the infantry,
who had the chief work of that bloody day to do.  And just as we wheeled
into our places, a roar of musketry on our right announced that the
impetuous French had commenced the attack!  The enemy’s shot and shell
were coming souse among us now, and many heard for the first time the
fierce rushing sound, and then the mighty shock, as a bullet ripped up
the earth, or swept a man away; while shells that burst in mid-air fell
in hissing showers, that tore our clothing with their jagged edges, when
they failed to wound.  Dashing through the Alma, in front of the steep
cliffs, under a terrific shower of round shot, grape, and musketry,
which clothed the whole face of the slopes with spouting lines of white
smoke, streaked with flashes of fire, waking a thousand echoes in the
sky above and earth below, the French poured forward in yelling and
impetuous masses.  Fresh from their campaigns and conquests in burning
Algeria, those fierce little Zouaves, in their blue jackets, red
breeches, and turbans, active as mountain goats, were seen swarming up
at the point of the bayonet, and forming in two lines, which charged
with headlong rush on the astonished Muscovites, whose general, being
thus completely outflanked on the cliffs being scaled, sought, but
sought in vain, to change his front, and drive the French from those
hills they had taken so rapidly and so gallantly, but at awful loss.

"Allah-Allah Hu!" was now the cry that rent the air, as the Turks
advanced.

Under their green standards—the holy colour—with the crescent and star,
massed in close column at quarter distance, the Turkish troops came on;
and through the sea of red fezzes the cannon balls made many a deadly
lane, until the battalions deployed into line, sending, as Studhome
said, "many a believer to Paradise in a state of mutilation such as the
houris wouldn’t appreciate."  But on they went against that sheet of
lead and iron, shoulder to shoulder with the French; and many a shaven
crown and many a scarlet fez, with its broad military button and blue
tassel, were lying on the turf, while, with visions of the dark-eyed
girls of Paradise waving their green scarves from their couches of
pearl, and crying, "Come, kiss me, for I love thee," many a grim,
Turkish soul passed forth into the night of death.  On the other flank
were the French linesmen, crying on "_Dieu, et la Mère de Dieu_," to
help them in their last agony, while the sisters of charity and the
_vivandières_ rivalled each other in the rear in their attention to the
wounded and dying.



                            *CHAPTER XXXIX.*


    Three hundred cannon threw up their emetic,
      And thirty thousand muskets flung their pills
    Like hail to make a bloody diuretic.
      Mortality! thou hast thy monthly bills;
    Thy plagues, thy passions, thy physicians, yet tick,
      Like the death-watch, within our ears the ills
    Past, present, and to come;—but all may yield
    To the true portrait of one battle-field.  BYRON.


At half-past one the British infantry advanced into action; like
lightning the order flew along the line, for it was borne by Nolan, the
impetuous and the gallant.

The village of Burliuk, the centre of our position, was still in flames
that rose to a vast height, especially from the well-filled stackyards.

To the right of the conflagration, two regiments of Adams’s brigade, the
Welsh[*] and 49th, or Hertfordshire, crossed the river by a deep and
dangerous ford, under a galling fire from the Russian Minie Riflemen,
who were ensconced among the vineyards on the opposite bank.  The
remainder crossed on the left of Burliuk, and, both uniting beyond it,
the whole division of De Lacy Evans found themselves engaged in
sanguinary strife, while we, the cavalry, could but sit in our saddles
and look on, but burning with impatience to advance.


[*] 41st—so called since 1831.


On the extreme left of the British advance, the Light Division, under
Sir George Brown, G.C.B. (a Peninsular veteran of the old fighting
43rd), crossed the stream in their immediate front.  Rugged and
precipitous, the bank rose above them.  So steep was it in some places
that one of our officers, when in the act of climbing, was mortally
wounded by having his entire spinal column traversed by a ball, which
had been fired perpendicularly down from the Russian ranks above.  Dense
vineyards and abattis of felled trees partially obstructed the advance
of our gallant Light Division; but in vain, for the 7th, the 33rd, and
Welsh Fusiliers, the 77th, and Connaught Rangers pressed on under the
volleying fire; and such was their coolness, that the soldiers threw to
each other bunches of the delicious crimson grapes, to quench their
thirst, for they had been long in marching order under a burning morning
sun.  The Minie balls were showering past like hail; caps, epaulettes,
ears, fingers, and teeth were torn away, and every moment the men fell
fast on every hand; but from right to left the cries of "Forward! on!
on! forward!" were incessant, and the human surge of the Light Division
swept on, bearing with it the whole 95th regiment. Rapidly they formed
in line beyond the broken ground—rapidly and magnificently—and threw
their steady fire into the strong redoubts with terrible effect; but
hundreds were falling on both sides, and now commenced that ever
memorable charge up hill by which we won the Alma.  Faintly in the air
came a yell of defiance from the Russians; it was very different from
"the strong-lunged, massive-throated, deep-chested outbursts of
cheering" that ran along the ranks of the British infantry.

Conspicuous on a grey horse, amid the clouds of passing smoke, we could
see old Sir George Brown, riding as he had ridden with the Light
Division of other days, at Busaco and Talavera.  A deadly sheet of fire
now tears through the 7th Fusiliers—led by Lacy Yea—they waver, but
re-form!  By the same fire the 23rd are decimated, and Colonel Chester
falls at their head, shouting, "On, lads, on!"  Relief after relief is
shot down under the colours of the 7th.  One is lost for a time; but,
hurrah! it is safe among the soldiers of the Royal Welsh!

Under their colour, young Anstruther (the son of my uncle’s neighbour,
Balcaskie) is shot dead, and the poor boy rolls down the hill, enveloped
in its silken folds; but again it waves in the wind, as Private Evans
snatches it up, and bears it on towards the Great Redoubt.

Thicker fall the dead on every hand, for it is all musketry, and the
deep, hoarse boom of the cannon, surging like a stormy sea, roll upon
roll.  The wounded are crawling, limping, and streaming to the rear; the
dead lie close as autumn leaves in Vallombrosa.  On stretchers and
crossed muskets, officers and men are borne to the riverside, and,
reeking with blood, the stretchers return for other victims.  Hythe is
forgotten now, and all her science of musketry; for no man thinks of
sighting his Minie rifle, but all load, and cap, and blaze away at
random, though many an officer is shouting, "Steady, men, steady, and
aim below the crossbelts."

On, yet on, rolls the human surge, for what or who could withstand
them—our noble infantry, our 19th and 33rd, our 77th and 88th, as they
rush on, with colours flying and loud hurrahs!

But now there is a louder cry!

Their leader falls!  In a cloud of dust both horse and man go down, and
for a moment the advance is paralyzed—but for a moment only.

Again the grand old soldier is at their head on foot, his sword
glittering above his white head, and, reckless of the tremendous fire
which sweeps through them, our troops dash at the redoubts—a mighty
torrent in scarlet—the flashing bayonets are lowered—man seeks man,
ready to grapple body to body with his foe, and the sparks of fire rise
in the midst as steel clashes on steel, for the Russian hearts are stout
and their hands are strong as ours; the dead and the dying are heaped
over each other, to be trampled on and smothered in their blood.

Nine hundred of our officers and men fell, killed and wounded, amid the
terrible _mêlée_ in the Great Redoubt, and all up the scorched slope
that leads to it.  In the torn vineyards, and among the leafy abbatis,
the poor redcoats are lying thicker than ever I have seen the scarlet
poppies stud the harvest fields in Lothian or the Merse!

The red dragon of the Royal Welsh is flying on that fatal redoubt, but
not yet is the victory ours!

Descending from the higher hills, a mighty column of Russian infantry—a
double column, composed of the Ouglitz and Vladimir battalions, bearing
with them the image of St. Sergius, a solemn trust given to them by the
Bishop of Moscow—a supposed miraculous idol, borne in the wars of the
Emperor Alexis, of Peter the Great, and Alexander I.—came rushing to the
mortal shock, in full confidence of victory.

Deploying into line, the great grey mass, with their flat caps and
spiked helmets—for the corps were various—came boldly on, and followed
up a deadly volley by a powerful bayonet charge.  Then the ranks in
scarlet, exhausted by their toilsome ascent, began to waver and fall
back, followed down hill by the yelling Russian hordes, who had a
perfect belief in their own invincibility, and barbarously bayoneted all
our wounded as they came on.

Terribly fatal was this temporary repulse to the gallant Welsh Fusiliers
in particular; but now the 7th and 33rd, with the Guards and
Highlanders, advanced, and again the struggle was resumed.

Of the 33rd, nineteen sergeants fell, chiefly in defence of the colours;
and fourteen bullet holes in one standard and eleven in the other
attested to the fury of the conflict.

Throwing open his ranks to allow the retreating regiments to re-form and
recover breath, the Duke of Cambridge now brought up his division,
though there was a momentary fear of its success, for an officer high in
rank exclaimed—

"The brigade of Guards will be destroyed.  Ought it not to fall back?"

"Better that every man of her Majesty’s Guards should lie dead upon the
field than turn their backs upon the enemy!" was the stern and proud
response of grim old Colin Campbell, a veteran of the old and glorious
wars of Wellington, as he galloped off to put himself at the head of his
Highlanders, whom he had had skilfully brought on in _échelon_ of
regiments. They reserved their fire, and advanced in solemn silence.

Terribly was our splendid brigade of Guards handled, when the
Highlanders came up, and then, as Kinglake tells us, a man in one of the
regiments re-forming on the slope cried, in the deep, honest bitterness
of his heart, "Let the Scotsmen go on—they’ll do the work!" and, with
three battalions in the kilt, Sir Colin (whose horse was killed under
him) advanced to meet _twelve_ of the flushed and furious enemy.

"Now, men," said he, "you are going into action, and remember this, that
whoever is wounded—I don’t care what his rank is—must lie where he
falls.  No soldier must carry off wounded men.  If any one does such a
thing, his name shall be stuck up in his parish kirk.  Be steady—keep
silence—fire low!  Now, men—the army are watching us—make me proud of my
Highland brigade!"

The brilliant author of "Eöthen," an eye-witness of this part of the
field, describes their movements so beautifully that I cannot resist
quoting him again.

"The ground they had to ascend was a good deal more steep and broken
than the slope close beneath the redoubt. In the land where those Scots
were bred, there are shadows of sailing clouds skimming up the mountain
side; and their paths are rugged and steep; yet their course is smooth,
easy, and swift.  Smoothly, easily, swiftly, the Black Watch seemed to
glide up the hill.  A few instants before, and their tartans ranged dark
in the valley; now their plumes were on the crest."

Another line in _échelon_, and another—the Cameron and the Sutherland
Highlanders; and now, to the eyes of the superstitious Muscovites, the
strange uniform of those troops seemed something terrible; their waving
sporrans were taken for horses’ heads; they cried to each other that the
Angel of Light had departed, and the Demon of Death had come!

Close and murderous was the fire that opened on them; then a wail of
despair floated over the grey masses of the long-coated Russian
infantry, as they broke and fled, casting away knapsacks, and everything
that might encumber their flight, and, for the first time, rose the
Highland cheer. "Then," says the great historian of the war, "along the
Kourgané slopes, and thence west almost home to the Causeway, the
hill-sides were made to resound with that joyous and assuring cry, which
is the natural utterance of a northern people, so long as it is warlike
and free."[*]


[*] Kinglake, vol. ii.


The Heights of the Alma were won!



                             *CHAPTER XL.*


    Had ye no graves at home,
      Across the briny water,
    That hither ye must come,
      Like bullocks to the slaughter?
    If we the work must do,
      Why the sooner ’tis begun,
    If flint and trigger hold but true,
      The quicker ’twill be done,
        By the rifle! the good rifle!
        In our hands it is no trifle!


The battle was fought and won; the thunder had died away along the
heights of the Alma; it was all over now—that "hell of blood and
ferocity" was past; and little more remained but to number the dead, and
lay them in their last ghastly homes.  The agonies even of the
wounded—that terrible grey acre of Russian wounded—were half forgotten
by the untouched; but many a bright-eyed girl in England far away, and
in that northern land which was to me the dearest half of "sea-walled
Albion," who was wearing her gay muslins and flowers, would be coming
forth, ere long, in the crape and sable livery of grief; for many a
father and mother’s hope and pride were among the redcoats that lay so
motionless and still along those fatal slopes.

The sun was verging westward, the smoke of the villanous saltpetre hung
like a lurid canopy over the summit of the Kourgané Hill, and that final
scene of slaughter in the Great Redoubt; and now men, who had been
separated in the confusion and hurry of the conflict, were meeting
again, and congratulating each other that they were spared.

We, the small force of cavalry, a thousand sabres and lancers, who had
hitherto been impatient onlookers, now dashed through the river, without
Lord Raglan’s authority; and, though the upsetting of a field-gun, and
the slippery nature of the ford, were the cause of much delay, we
reached the summit of the Kourgané Hill soon after the Highlanders had
swept the foe from it.  We had six guns with us, and their fire told
fearfully upon the retreating masses of the Russians, who left mangled
piles of dead in their rear.  The battery was divided; one half our
force, led by Lord Cardigan, escorting those on the right, while Lord
Lucan, with the rest, conducted those that were on the left.  Our orders
were, also, to glean up cannon, prisoners, and other trophies.

The earl rode in advance with my squadron of lancers.  We picked up a
good many prisoners, who sullenly threw down their arms and submitted.
These men were all light infantry, wearing flat forage-caps, and long
grey coats that reached to their ankles.

On this duty we had to traverse a great portion of the field, and its
aspect was harrowing; a day of slaughter was to be followed by a night
of agony.

Here and there were pools of blood, in which the flies were battening,
and from whence the honey-bee and the snow-white butterfly strove in
vain to free their tiny pinions; and on the glacis of the Great Redoubt,
where men of all regiments—but chiefly Welsh Fusiliers—lay blended
together, were bodies to be seen without heads, or legs, or arms, bowels
torn out, brains crushed, blood oozing from eyes, or ears, or
mouths—blood, blood everywhere: for it was there that grape, canister,
and round-shot had bowled through the advancing columns.

Among those ghastly piles lay an ensign of one of our line regiments—a
poor boy, fresh from Eton or Harrow, struck down in his first red coat.
He had a miniature in his hand—a young and beautiful girl, thought I.
But Pitblado handed it to me, and then I saw that it represented a
grey-haired woman, of comely and matronly aspect.

She was his mother, no doubt.  Could she have seen him there!

A ball had pierced his chest.  He was not quite dead; for when Pitblado
poured some water between his lips, his eyes opened, and he began to
mutter as if speaking to his mother—that his head lay on her breast, and
he heard, in fancy, her replies.

True, in the end, to the first instinct, or first tender impulse of
nature, as, when a little child, he had, under pain or wrong, hid his
weeping face in his mother’s lap, the old spirit came over him; and as
his dying ear seemed to hear that mother’s voice, a holy light shone
over his livid face, and the poor lad died happily.

He must have been shot under his colours, for the standard belt was yet
over his left shoulder.

The roar of battle was gone now, and the bushes where the dead ensign
lay were literally alive with larks, thrushes, and linnets in full song.

Many of the Russian slain had half-bitten cartridges in their open
mouths.  Many who were shot in the head lay with their faces on the sod,
and their muskets under them; and when struck in the heart, death was so
instantaneous that all retained the position in which they had been
shot.  By their attitudes, we might know the time they had been in
dying.

In one place seven of the Russian 26th—for that number was on their
glazed leather helmets—lay all in a line, with their bayonets at the
charge.  All these men had been slain by a shower of grape, and were
shot in the head or breast.

As we rode on we secured many prisoners and several battery guns; all
the cannon were on stocks of wood, painted green, with white crosses on
the breeches and muzzles.

And now we were traversing the Kourgané Hill, where the fine fellows of
our household brigade, in their bright scarlet and black bearskins, were
lying in great numbers, and close by were many of the Black Watch, but
all dead.  I reined in my horse, and looked at them earnestly.

The countenances of some seemed as if still in life, so far as
expression went.  Some were calm and resigned; some as if in prayer.
Others were fierce and stern; but all were pale and white as the cold
Carrara marble.  The evening breeze passed over them; it lifted their
hair and the black plumes in their bonnets.  Then the dead seemed as if
about to stir. There they lay, with the blood stiffening on their
tartans.  My heart was very full.

In some faces I could read a ghastly and defiant smile, and several were
stretched at length, as if the friends that would ere long be sorrowing
for them in their distant home were about to commit them to their
winding-sheet.

Where our cannon had mauled their retreating cavalry, the horses lay in
close ranks, with their long necks stretched out, and their riders
beneath them, all torn, brained, or disembowelled alike by the iron
storm of grape-shot that had swept through the squadron.  In some places
we saw only a red, muddy pulp, composed of flesh and bones, where the
enemy’s brigade of guns had traversed the ground.

"War!" says a French writer; "those by whose will war comes—those who
make men resemble the savage beasts—will have a fearful account to
render to the righteous Judge above!"

As we passed along with our prisoners, many of our wounded reviled and
execrated them, for on all hands we heard stories of Russian treachery.

Our soldiers, in some instances, when supplying their wounded enemies
with water from their canteens, were shot down by the very wretch whose
thirst they had just quenched. Captain Eddington, of the 95th, was
murdered in this fashion by a Russian rifleman, in sight of the whole
regiment, and of his brother, a lieutenant, who rushed in advance to
avenge him and fell riddled with bullets.  Maddened by several such
incidents, our soldiers, with their musket butts, dashed out the brains
of several of the wounded, slaying them like reptiles, and undeserving
of mercy.

Such details are only calculated to weary and revolt; but the stern
scene was not without its brighter features.

Already the surgeons were busy among the wounded, and our gallant seamen
were all tenderness, sympathy, and activity, as they conveyed them on
board the ships, from the rigging of which the events of that exciting
day had been witnessed by thousands.

"Cheer up, sodjer," I sometimes heard them shout, as they bore a maimed
victim, pale and bloody, to the boats; "we shall all eat our Christmas
duff in Sebastopol."

Many whom they bore away were "booked" for Chelsea, "the poor soldier’s
last home in the land of the living;" but many were fated to die of
their wounds ere the sun of the morrow lit up the waters of the Euxine.

We were now far in the rear of the original Russian position, and were
actually riding along the Sebastopol road, when Captain Bolton, of the
1st Dragoon Guards, whose sword hand was muffled in a bloody
handkerchief, came galloping after us, to explain that Lord Raglan
desired we should fall back at once.

"His lordship fears that you are going too far in advance," said he,
"and that the Russian flying artillery may halt and open on you.  Give
up all pursuit of prisoners; set loose those you have, and simply escort
the guns."

On this we halted and liberated more than a hundred prisoners of all
ranks, several being officers.  Some of the latter shrugged their
shoulders contemptuously at the commiseration we expressed for some of
the Russian wounded, who lay on the road expiring of weakness and
thirst.

"Bah!" said one, in French, to me; "they are only private
soldiers—peasants—and will soon die."

His sentiments were worthy of a Russian aristocrat; but he was a grim,
stern, and white-moustached officer, evidently of high rank, for his
breast was covered from epaulette to epaulette with stars, medals, and
crosses.

I had afterwards reason to know that this officer was General Baur, who
had commanded the reconnaisance at Bulganak.

As we were retiring, we came among some of the French, and I recognised
Mademoiselle Sophie, the _vivandière_ whom I had seen at Gallipoli and
Varna, and who immediately offered me a _petit verre_ of cognac from her
little store, which I gladly accepted.  She looked pale and excited, and
her eyes were bloodshot.

"Our regiment has suffered heavily to-day, monsieur," said she.  "I was
thrice under fire with it; but so many of my comrades
fell—that—that—_mon Dieu!_ it proved too much for me."

"Your friend, M. Jolicoeur, of the 2nd Zouaves," said I; "he, I hope,
has escaped to-day?"

"_Hélas! mon pauvre Jules!_ he is lying yonder with ever so many more of
ours," she replied, pointing with her trembling hand to the Telegraph
Battery.

"Wounded?"

"Dead, monsieur, dead!  He fell when planting the standard of the 2nd
Zouaves on the summit, where you may still see it flying.  Poor Captain
Victor Baudeuf, who used to flirt so terribly with Rigolboche, and pay
such frightful sums for a _fauteuil_ every night she danced, till
Mademoiselle Theresa took her place at the _cafés chantants_—well, he,
too, and two hundred of our rank and file, are lying there."

The _vivandière_ wept and wrung her hands.

All great excitements are followed by a painful reaction; and I shall
not readily forget the dreary night that followed the day of the Alma.

My troop bivouacked near the old ruined walls that lie on the western
flank of the Kourgané Hill.

Vast numbers of dead were lying near; they disturbed us not.  But the
wounded, the dying—ah, their moans and cries were frightful!  I muffled
my head in my cloak, and strove to shut out the piteous-sounds, and
court sleep beside my jaded charger, close to whose side I crept for
warmth.



                             *CHAPTER XLI.*


    Mine own one! years have passed away
      Since I have seen your thoughtful face;
      Yet could I every feature trace—
    Your image haunts me night and day.
    A song brings back the time we walked
      Above the brown cliff’s sloping lawn;
      From music I have even drawn
    The very words we used to talk.
    The crumbling church, the upland lea,
      The river wimpling round the bridge,
      The brave grey wold—the far-off ridge,
    The mournful singing of the sea.


A few days after the startling telegram reached Calderwood, the
newspapers teemed with despatches and details of the victory at the
Alma, the flight of the shattered Russian Army towards Baktchiserai, and
the advance of the Allies on Sebastopol.

Among those details were the official lists of the killed, wounded, and
missing, furnished by the adjutant-general. How many a home in the
British Isles did these fatal lists fill with grief? how many a heart
they wrung?

Cora Calderwood, pale, and still suffering from the recent shock, read
over the lists; but looked in vain for the name of her cousin Newton.
It was not among the killed; neither was it among the wounded or the
missing.  There was no casualty among the officers of the lancers, save
the death of Lieutenant Rakeleigh, who was killed by a cannon shot in
the affair of Bulganak, on the evening preceding the great battle of the
Alma, "and whose body Captain Newton Calderwood Norcliff, with a few
lancers, made a gallant attempt to rescue and carry off."

Poor Rakeleigh!  She remembered how well he waltzed, and what desperate
love he made to her at the lancers’ ball, when flushed by a furious
galop and a bumper of the mess champagne.  What mystery was this?  Dared
she hope? Might papa prove right, after all?  And might Newton "turn up"
as their old friend Dunnikeir had so often done, from under a pile of
dead men and horses, in the old Peninsular days?  Sir Nigel instantly
wrote to the War Office requesting some information regarding Captain
Newton C. Norcliff, and was promptly informed that the telegram should
have been, "_The name of your nephew is_ NOT _among the killed._"

So the omission of those three letters—one little word—made a mighty
difference to poor Cora’s anxious and affectionate heart; but the letter
from the War Office added, after an apology, "_We regret to state that,
a day or two after the passage of the Alma, Captain Norcliff was
severely wounded, mutilated, and taken prisoner in a skirmish with the
enemy’s cavalry—an affair of which no detail has yet reached
headquarters._"

Mutilated and taken!—taken by those odious, savage, and terrible
Muscovites, of whose barbarities the newspapers were daily giving fresh
details!  Here was a new horror—another source of anxiety and grief; and
Cora and Sir Nigel were never tired of surmising or conjecturing what
might be the fate of their kinsman, or of searching the public journals,
and the letters from the army with which their columns teemed, for some
scrap of information regarding the lost one; but they searched in vain.
Time passed on; the Russians sank their fleet across the mouth of the
harbour of Sebastopol; Balaclava was captured by the British; and the
second week of October saw the first bombardment of the beleagured city.
These were important facts; but one was more important still to Cora
Calderwood—there came no tidings of her lost cousin Newton.  Had he died
in the hands of the Russians, or been sent to dig copper in the mines of
Siberia?—a place of which she had rather vague ideas, and of which, with
its capital, Tobolsk, she had read such thrilling accounts, when at
school, in Madame Cottin’s celebrated "Elizabeth, or the Exiles," &c.
Her heart sank within her at this conjecture, and all that such a fate
suggested.  She penned several letters on the subject to Lady Louisa
Loftus.  Now, they could mingle their tears, she wrote; now they could
commune and sorrow in common; now——.  But she could not tell _her_ that
she loved Newton, too, and could only profess a sisterly affection for
Louisa.

The responses of the latter were cold—singularly so.  She was greatly
shocked, no doubt; it made her quite nervous, and all that sort of
thing, to think that Captain Norcliff should be mutilated.  Had he lost
his nose (it was a very handsome one)?—or his ears?—or what had the
Russians cut off?  If it was a leg, Lord Slubber jocularly suggested
that it would mar his fox-hunting and round-dancing for the future; and
to think of a husband with a wooden leg, or an iron hook for an arm,
like the poor old creatures one sees at Chelsea, would be so funny—so
very absurd!

"Oh," exclaimed Cora, "to write thus, how heartless!  To write thus,
when now, of all men in the world, he most requires commiseration!  How
horrible!  How worldly and selfish she is!  She never loved him—never,
never loved him—as—as—I do," she dared not add, even to herself.

Then the letter described the new lining of the carriage; the last thing
in bonnets, and—but here Cora crushed it up in her quick, impatient
little hand, and, with a gesture of impatience, flung it in the fire.
November kept on, and the woods in the old sequestered Glen became
leafless and bare.

The snow powdered white the bare scalps of the hills, and old Willie
Pitblado, the keeper, predicted that the coming winter would be a bitter
one, for numbers of strange aquatic birds had been floating on Lochleven
and in the Forth above Inchcolm; and one morning the woods round the
Adder’s Craig, and all the slopes of the Western Lomond, were covered by
flocks of wild Norwegian pigeons—large white birds, whose appearance in
Scotland always indicates a severe winter in the Scandinavian
peninsula—a winter in which all the north of Europe is sure to share; so
Cora trembled, in her tenderness of heart, as she thought of our poor
soldiers before Sebastopol, and her secret love, Newton, who, if
surviving, was a suffering prisoner in the hands of the Russians.

Cora often visited the cottage of old Willie, in the copse near King
Jamie’s Well (though the rows of half-decayed hawks, wild cats, and
weasels, with which its eaves were garlanded, made the atmosphere
thereabout redolent of anything but perfume), for Willie’s heart, like
her own, was with the army of the East; and he "devoured" all the
newspapers she gave him for intelligence of the war.  But he used to
shake his white head, and speak often of the old times of Wellington and
his boyhood—of the many fine lads who had gone forth to Spain and
Holland—"forth frae the Howe o’ Fife, to return nae mair," and he
greatly feared such would be the fate of his Willie, now that the poor
young master was gone.

The veteran keeper’s spirits had sunk considerably.  He was rheumatic
and ailing now; but he still crept about the woods and preserves with
his old double-barrelled Joe Manton and his favourite dogs, and said
hopefully, at times, "Aye ailing, ye ken, never fills the kirk-yard,
Miss Cora."

But Cora’s visits to the gamekeeper’s lodge, to the Adder’s Craig, the
ruined castle of Piteadie, and other old familiar haunts, became
circumscribed, when she had the annoyance of Mr. Brassy Wheedleton’s
company.  For there were times when that legal sprout came on the
circuit, or visited Sir Nigel on business "anent the bond," or begged
leave to have a few blundering shots at the pheasants; and he seldom
failed to combine these objects with a more ambitious one, by a pretty
close attention upon Cora, and a marked attention, that to her was only
productive of extreme annoyance.

Yule-tide had come and gone at Calderwood; again Cora’s pretty hands had
spiced the great wassail bowl, and all the household had partaken of its
contents; but there were heavy hearts at the Glen, as in many a home
circle elsewhere.  For every icicle that hung from the eaves; every
flake of snow that drifted past; every biting gust that swept through
the bare woods, made old Sir Nigel and his people think of the horrors
our poor fellows were enduring among the frozen trenches of Sebastopol.
The golden pheasants and the brown partridges were alike forgotten, and
old Pitblado wandered about, alone and forlorn, among them, "though sic
a season for breedin’ he couldna ca’ to mind!"

The meets of the county pack took place at Largo, at Falfield, and
elsewhere.  The foxes, tan, grey, and brown, were thick as blackberries
in Calderwood Glen—ay, thick as the black rabbits on the Isles of the
Forth—but the "M.F.H." heeded them little.  He had only ridden to the
hounds once that season, and preferred in the cold evenings his seat by
the ruddy dining-room fire, with his steaming tumbler of toddy on a
gueridon table close at hand; and there he dozed in his cosy easy-chair,
with his favourite dogs at his slippered feet; or he beat time dreamily
to Cora, as she ran her fingers over the keys of the cottage piano, and
sang some such old-fashioned song as the "Thistle and the Rose."



                            *CHAPTER XLII.*


    Alas! what evils I discern in
    Too great an aptitude for learning!
    And fain would all the ills unravel
    That aye ensue from foreign travel.
    Far happier is the man who tarries
    Quiet within his household _lares_.
    Read and you’ll find how virtue vanishes,
    How foreign vice all goodness banishes,
    And how abroad young heads grow dizzy,
    Proved in the under-written Odyssey.
      RELIQUES OF FATHER PROUT.


The letter from the Under Secretary of State for War, which announced my
capture by the Russians, unfortunately proved more correct in its tenor
than the telegram; but the mode in which I fell into their hands,
through the foul treachery of Mr. De Warr Berkeley, shall be detailed by
myself in the following chapter.

On the 23rd of September, early in the morning, we bade adieu to the
Alma, and to all those sad mounds that now lay along its southern bank,
marking where seven thousand seven hundred and eighty soldiers were
taking their last long slumber.

The dying Marshal St. Arnaud—for he took the field literally in a dying
state—wished us to advance on the day immediately after the battle, as
his intention was to be at Sebastopol by the 23rd, at latest.

"If," said he, in one of his letters, "I land in the Crimea, and it
pleases God to give me a smooth sea for a few hours, I shall be master
of Sebastopol and of the whole Crimea; I will push on this war with an
activity and energy that shall strike the Russians with terror!"

But the humane Lord Raglan declined to advance until the wounded of all
countries were attended to; and to that high-spirited hero and Christian
gentleman, Dr. Thompson, of the 44th—still remembered in his native
Scottish village as "the surgeon of the Alma"—was committed the care of
seven hundred and fifty Russian soldiers, who had lain in their blood on
the field for sixty hours.  Accompanied by one attendant, with only a
flag of truce displayed upon a lance to protect him from the savage and
vindictive Cossacks who were hovering about, that self-devoted man
worked without ceasing in the care and cure of those miserable
creatures, who were all lying side by side, collected in one place—the
acre of wounded—a task which proved too great in the end for his
energies, as he died of fatigue and cholera soon after the battle.

The day after we marched, Death, who had hovered beside the great French
marshal, even while his baton directed the movements of his zouaves and
riflemen, seized more firmly on his victim, and on the 29th St. Arnaud
died of cholera—that fatal pest, which still hung upon our skirts.

Our wounded, after the Alma, were conveyed in great numbers in those
_kabitkas_, some of which I had personally secured; and these, after
delivering their suffering and dying loads to the boats’ crews, had to
bring back supplies to the camp.  Many of those open carts broke down,
and were abandoned on the road with their contents; and thus, after we
marched, it was no uncommon event for us to find seven or eight
soldiers, dead, or dying of wounds and cholera, above the bags of
biscuit intended for the use of the troops.

The morning of the 23rd beheld us set forth hopefully on our march to
Sebastopol, where we hoped to crown our efforts by its speedy capture
and destruction.

No enemy was visible to oppose our advance, and save here and there a
broken-down _kabitka_, a dead Russian, who had fallen in his flight, and
lay by the wayside in his leather helmet and long coat, with the
vultures hovering over him; save these, and a deserted cannon, and the
deep wheel-tracks in the rough old Tartar road, no trace remained of the
great host we had swept before us in disorder and dismay.

In the afternoon of that day, we reached the beautiful valley of the
Katcha (seventeen miles from Sebastopol), a river which has its source
among the mountains of Taurida, and flows into the Black Sea, a little
below Mamachai.

The valley is fertile, and we had all the enjoyment of abundant
provender and water.  We occupied the pretty little village of Eskel,
which Baur and Kiriakoff’s retreating Cossacks had plundered and
partially destroyed, and piles of broken furniture around the
tastefully-decorated villas of the more opulent residents evinced their
destructive spirit.

Studhome, Travers, Sir Harry Scarlett, and I possessed ourselves of a
pretty little villa, with painted lattices of coloured glass, and rooms
neatly—even handsomely—furnished. A piano, and some pieces of music from
Rossini’s "Guillaume Tell," Strauss’s waltzes, &c., were scattered
about, showing that the fair occupants had fled at our approach; but
nearly all the furniture and every utensil had been destroyed.

With his carbine, Pitblado had shot a brace of fine fat ducks, just in
time to anticipate those most active of foragers, the Zouaves, and they
were stewed in a warming-pan, which he had luckily discovered, and
utilized for culinary purposes, the fuel used being the front door of
the villa, the wood that came most readily to hand.

We had a comfortable supper, and Travers and Scarlett, who were wont to
be fastidious enough with the mess-waiters about the icing of their
sparkling hock or Moselle, were now content to wash down their stewed
duck with a draught of water from a stale wooden canteen.  But then we
had gorgeous bunches of emerald green and dewy purple grapes, from the
vineyards close by, and melons and peaches, too; and these we ate in
defiance of prudence and the cholera.

We had just lit our cigars, and my cornet, Sir Harry, was trying his
hand on the piano, through which some inquiring Cossack had poked his
lance two or three times, when the trumpet-major arrived with letters
for us all; the mails from England had just come in and been
distributed.  Many a letter was there for those whom we had left in
their graves behind us!

A letter from Sir Nigel!  I recognised his bold, old-fashioned
handwriting.  There was none from Cora (but she had scarcely ever
written to me), and there was none yet from Louisa Loftus!

Alas!  I had ceased to hope for one from her.  Yet I paused with good
Sir Nigel’s letter unopened in my hand, while my friends were busy with
theirs.

How was it that, as doubt, jealousy, and irritation gathered in my mind
concerning Louisa, I thought more of Cora, and that her soft features,
her sweet, earnest expression, her nose, that bordered on the retroussé,
her thick dark hair, and brilliantly fair complexion, came before me?

I opened my uncle’s letter.  It contained little else than country
gossip, and his usual ideas on things in general; but some of these
seemed odd and startling to me then, as I read them in that Russian
villa, far away in Crim Tartary, with the hum of our camp mingling in my
ears with the rush of the mountain Katcha, as it poured through its
stony vale towards the sea.

The letter had been posted before news had reached Calderwood of our
departure from Varna.

"So the army is to remain inactive till half its number die of cholera;
and then the rest are to open a campaign against Russia at the beginning
of winter.  History has no parallel for such—shall I call it madness?
But I tell you," continued the furious old Tory, "that the Whigs—a party
which never yet made war with honour—have sold you to the Russians, and
_Punch_ alone dares boldly to expose it."  (Pleasant, thought I, to read
this within a short ride of Sebastopol!)  "Every Scottish statesman had,
and still has, his price.  In the olden time they were always ready to
sell Scotland to England, and why should one of the same brood hesitate
in selling both to the Russians now?

"My friend, Spittal of Lickspittal, the M.P., of course ridicules this
idea; but that is no proof of our suspicions being incorrect.  He and
the Lord Advocate—that especial ministerial utensil for Scotland—have
put their small brains in steep to prepare some bill for the
assimilation of our laws; but strive though they may, they can never
assimilate them. And while Englishmen may bow with respect to the
decision of Mr. Justice Muggins, to our ears an interlocutor sounds
better when delivered by my Lord Calderwood, Pitcaple, or so forth.

"By the way, Cora has had a dangler, a new admirer, for some time past;
and who the deuce do you think he is? Young Mr. Brassy Wheedleton, son
of old Wheedleton, the village lawyer here—one of those fellows who
should be in front of Sebastopol just now, with sixty rounds of
ammunition at his back, instead of loafing about the Parliament House
with his hands in his pockets.

"He is a greater snob than your brother officer, Mr. De Warr Berkeley
(whose patronymic was Dewar Barclay, and who once asked, when I was
fishing six miles up the Eden, if I ’’ad ’ooked many ’addocks’).
Whenever little Brassy comes here anent that d——d bond, he lays close
siege to Cora, with flowers, books, music, and pretty nothings; but she
only laughs at this Edinburgh goose, who neither speaks English nor
Irish, Scotch nor the unknown tongue; who pronounces lord ’lud,’ and
cat, what, or that as ’ket, whet, or thet,’ and so forth.  Believe me,
Newton, there is no more grotesque piece of human carrion than a genuine
Scotch snob, in a high state of Anglophobia.

"I am sorry to say it, but the honourable position of the Scottish bar
is simply traditional—a thing of the past.  To the English barrister,
the House of Lords, the woolsack, and the highest offices of the state
are open; but to his poor Scotch brother, since the Union, after
blacking the boots of the Lord Advocate, and scribbling in defence of
his party, whatever it may be, a wretched sheriffship is all he may get,
unless, like Mansfield, Brougham, or Erskine, he casts his gown inside
the bar, and crosses the border for ever.

"Any way, I don’t like Cora’s dangler; but the fellow is plausible, and
will be deuced hard to get rid of, unless Pitblado could mistake him for
a partridge, or Splinterbar bolt across country with him, after we have
given her a feed of oats, dashed with brandy.

"I wish you could see Cora, as the good girl sits opposite me just now,
reading.  Her dark hair smoothly braided over her tiny ears; a muslin
dress of pink and white, fastened by your old Rangoon brooch; and she
blushes scarlet with pleasure as she desires me to send her love to
you."

So ended this eccentric letter.

I felt irritated.  But why should I?  Cora might have a lover if she
chose.  But then to throw herself away upon old Wheedleton’s son—old
Wheedleton, whose father was the village tailor!

Something like an oath escaped me; but at that moment Sergeant-Major
Drillem made his appearance, to announce that my squadron, with that of
Captain Travers, was detailed for the advanced guard of cavalry on the
Belbeck road, and that the trumpets would sound "boot and saddle" an
hour before dawn to-morrow.

In the dusk we got under arms, mounted, and, with the troops riding in
sections of threes, I rode from Eskel at a slow pace, crossed the
Katcha—a position stronger, in some respects, than the Alma, and which
the Russians might have disputed by inches, had we not cowed them; and
then we took the road towards Belbeck, while the whole army was getting
under arms.

My orders were simply to be on the alert, to advance in line when the
ground was sufficiently open for such a formation, and to "feel the way"
towards Belbeck, which lay only four miles distant.  Such were the
instructions given to me by Colonel Beverley, whose eyes sparkled at the
coming work, for he was one of that race of men "known by the kindling
grey eye and the light, stubborn, crisping hair—disclosing the rapture
of instant fight."

As we moved off we nearly trampled down a wounded cornet of the 11th
Hussars, who lay under a tree.

"That wretched little cornet of yours," said Berkeley to a captain of
the 11th; "he reminds me—haw—of one of the new Minie rifles."

"How?" asked the other, coldly.

"He is a small bore—haw—what do you think of the pun?"

"That it is poor, and the occasion is bad," replied the hussar, sternly.
"The poor boy will be dead before sunset."

"A doocid good thing for himself, and—haw—for us, too. He always beats
us at billiards," was the heartless response of Berkeley.

"Is it true," said I, "that Lieutenant Maxe, of the navy, has opened a
communication with our fleet at Balaclava?"

"Yes," said Travers.  "Bolton and Nolan informed me that the allied
generals were most anxious to secure it by a flank movement, especially
as it is slightly defended; and to announce this intention to the
fleets, which follow our movements, became the task of Maxe, who rode by
night through a woody district, literally swarming with Cossacks,
skirting Sebastopol; and with no aid but his brave heart, his sword and
pistols, arranged the combined sea and land movements so essential to
our success."

"Gallant, indeed!" we exclaimed, as we rode off.

On our right lay the ocean, its waves, as they rose and fell, beginning
to be tipped with light, as the dawn brightened over the high ground
that rose on our left.  The country became hilly in our front, and, as
it was open for a time, I formed the squadron, and advanced in line,
diverging a little to the east, in the direction of Duvankoi, a village
which is exactly five miles from Belbeck.

In fact, we advanced straight between these two places towards the
valley through which rolls the river that bears the latter name, and
which comes from the lofty table land of the Yaila, fed on its course by
all the mountain streams of the Ousenbakh.

The birds were singing merrily among the trees when the sun burst forth,
to light the glancing bayonets of the advancing columns in our rear; and
now before us opened the vale of the Belbeck, with all its groves of
vine and olive, as we crowned an eminence, from whence we could see the
woody ravines of Khutor-Mackenzie, and, ten miles to the westward, the
gilded dome of Sebastopol shining like a huge inverted bowl.  From this
point the road lay through woods so thick, that we found it impossible
to preserve much military order, and the utmost vigilance was necessary
on the part of our exploring squadron, as scattered troops of the enemy
were supposed to be in our vicinity.

Lord Raglan, with his staff, usually rode in advance of our main body;
but on this morning my little party was in advance of the whole.  As we
defiled between the trees, that covered all the slope, by sections, by
subdivisions, and frequently by single files, struggling along at a slow
pace, but with our horses well in hand, I had repeatedly to address
Berkeley in a tone of reprimand, for the loose and unnecessary manner in
which he was permitting the men to straggle, and his mode of response
was rather sullen, defiant, and, on one occasion, jeering.

"Aw—the dooce! very easy for you to speak.  I didn’t make the road to
Belbeck," he would mutter.  And once he added, "A demmed fool I not to
send in my papers long ago—aw—aw—doocid deal too good-looking to be shot
in a ditch."

Suddenly I called out—

"Front form troops at wheeling distance, and halt!" for now I perceived
that Sir Harry Scarlett, who was in advance with four lancers, halted
them, and sent back a corporal, who came along at a hand-gallop.

"Hullo, Travers, old fellow, what’s up, do you think—aw—aw—what’s the
row in front?" asked Berkeley, with haste and anxiety, as he stuck his
glass in his eye, and fidgeted in his saddle.

"The Russians, no doubt," said Travers, drily, as his handsome face
brightened with courage and excitement.

"Ah, I thought so," said I.  "Are they in force, Corporal Jones?"

"We can’t tell, sir; but lance-heads, and bayonets too, are visible
among the coppice in front."

By this time the two troops had formed, and halted in open column,
quietly and orderly, the leading three files of each having advanced for
three horses’ lengths, and then reined in as if upon parade.

"We can’t well use the lance here.  Unsling carbines! Remain where you
are, Travers," said I.  "Mr. Berkeley and two files from the right,
forward with me—trot!"

I drew my sword, cast loose my holster flaps, and rode on with the
little party, all of whom followed me willingly enough, save one.

On joining the advanced party, we made ten horsemen altogether.
Proceeding farther, to where the ground dipped somewhat suddenly down
towards the Belbeck river, we could see, about a mile distant, a body of
Russian cavalry, whose spiked leather helmets and lance-heads glittered
in the sun. They were drawn up in line, their flanks being covered by
thickets, which concealed their actual strength, so that we knew not
whether they were a mere squadron or an entire brigade.

Berkeley, who was nervously busy with his powerful racing-glass,
muttered—

"I see an officer on a white horse.  By Jove! a doocid swell—aw, aw—all
over decorations."

After using my own telescope, I exclaimed—

"He is the same fellow we released in the evening after the Alma, when
Bolton came up with orders for the cavalry to fall back and abandon
prisoners.  I know him by his grim visage and enormous white moustache."

"Aw—aw—a general officer, I take him to be."

"Now, lads," said I, "be steady.  I think I saw the glitter of a bayonet
among that brushwood in front.  There may be an ambush prepared
thereabout, and into that we must not fall."

I could not help thinking how useful a few hand-grenades would have been
on this occasion, as they would soon have solved our doubts.

To have fallen back would have served only to draw their fire upon us
instantly, if any men were concealed there.

"Follow me, lads!" I exclaimed.  "Mr. Berkeley, keep the rear rank men
in their places."

"Captain Norcliff, asthore!" cried Lanty O’Regan, shaking his lance,
"lead the way, and, be me troth, we’ll ride through the whole rookawn o’
them Roosians!"

Followed by my nine horsemen, I rode resolutely forward a few
lance-lengths, my heart beating wildly with excitement; but a climax was
soon put to that, for a hoarse voice in a strange language suddenly rang
among the underwood; fire flashed redly on both sides of us; I heard the
whistle of passing bullets, and amid the explosion of thirty Minie
rifles a double cry, as Berkeley and one of my men fell heavily on the
turf.  The horse of the former was shot; but the poor lancer was
mortally wounded, and his charger galloped madly away.

"Good-bye, old nag.  You will never carry Bill Jones again, I fear,"
cried the bleeding corporal, as he was hurrying to the rear with his
lance on his shoulder, when a second shot pierced his back, and finished
his career.

"Retire, Travers, retire!" I shouted at the fullest pitch of my voice;
"right about, lads, and away!"

The firing from the thicket was resumed, and another lancer fell dead
from his saddle.

"Aw—aw—for Heaven’s sake, don’t leave me here!" cried Berkeley,
piteously, while we heard the steel ramrods ringing, as the Russians
cast about and reloaded.

While the rest of my party retired at a gallop, I caught the fallen
lancer’s horse by the bridle, and—in less time than I take to write
it—dragged up the pale and crestfallen Berkeley, who scrambled rather
than mounted into the blood-covered saddle, and we galloped off
together, another shot or two adding spurs to our speed, and strewing
the leaves about us. So close were we to this ambush that I heard many
of the percussion caps snapping, as the Russian muskets doubtless
remained foul since the Alma.

Berkeley’s fresh horse carried him half its length before mine; he was
riding with wild despair in his heart; and bitter malice glittering in
his eye, for he felt that I had been heaping coals of fire upon his
head.  I could read the double emotion in his pale face, as he glanced
fearfully back.

He had drawn a pistol from its holster, and, inspired by the spirit of
the devil, the unnatural wretch discharged it full into my horse’s head!

Wildly it plunged into the air, and then fell forward on its head, and,
as its forelegs bent, I toppled heavily over, and fell beneath it.

The whole affair passed in a moment, and the next saw me surrounded by
fierce and exulting Russian riflemen, with muskets clubbed and bayonets
charged.



                            *CHAPTER XLIII.*


    ALBANY.  O save him! save him!

    GONERIL.  This is mere practice, Gloster:
      By the law of arms, thou wast not bound to answer
      An unknown opposite; thou art not vanquished,
      But cozened and beguiled.  SHAKSPEARE.


The prayer of Hezekiah for the prolongation of life flashed on my
memory, and rose to my lips, as with rage, and almost with despair at my
heart, I struggled to my feet, half-stunned, and groping blindly for my
sword-hilt, which hung from my wrist by its gold knot and tassel.

Just as I grasped it firmly, the nearest rifleman charged me with his
fixed bayonet, which ran through the left side of my full-dress jacket,
and came off.  Clutching his weapon by the barrel, I closed in, and
plunged my sword twice into his breast.  As he fell back, groaning
heavily, the bayonet of another struck me; but luckily, those fellows,
who belonged to the Kazan column, had blunted their weapons by broiling
beef on them over their wood fires.

A third rifleman fired full at my head; but, by a singular chance, the
nipple of his rifle was blown out by the explosion, and buried itself in
his forehead, just above the nose, severing the optic nerve, and nearly
forcing his eyes out.  (In two hours after he died, raving mad.)

This incident created, for a moment or two, a diversion in my favour;
but a Cossack officer, armed with a great crooked sabre, assailed me.
Like one of Cæsar’s Legionaries of old, this fellow seemed bent on
cutting only at my face; and having some regard for my personal
appearance, I was not sorry when he fell backwards over my dead horse,
and in doing so, snapped his blade off near the hilt.

Could I have reached my holsters, in which were a pair of six-chambered
Colts, I might have escaped; but now I was hemmed in on all hands by a
band of fierce, ugly, beetle-browed, and snub-nosed Russians, in flat
caps and long great-coats.

In an instant my gold epaulettes, my rings—Louisa’s miniature and her
ring, the treasured pearl in blue enamel—my purse and watch, were rent
from me as if I had been in the hands of common footpads; and one of
those who assisted in such work was the Cossack officer, whose name I
afterwards ascertained to be Lieutenant Adrian Trebitski of the
Tchernimoski corps.

In fact, he made himself very busy about the knees of my trousers in
search of my portmonnaie (as the Russians usually carry their purses
strapped to the knee), while his Corporal found it in my pocket; and
each acquisition was greeted by a torrent of uncouth sounds, expressive,
I presume, of great satisfaction.

My sabretache was torn away.  It contained only my uncle’s letter, which
I afterwards learned, was duly translated into choice French for any
secrets it might contain, and for the information of Princes Menschikoff
and Gortschikoff, who, I hope, were much edified by Sir Nigel’s
description of Mr. Brassy Wheedleton, and of Scotch prigs in general.

Having stripped me of every article of value, and ripped all the gold
lace from my lancer jacket and blue pantaloons, I have no doubt those
savage wretches would soon have despatched me; but a wounded officer
rode up—the same personage with the many decorations and long grim
moustache.  He ordered them to desist, striking those who were near him
with a whip that was attached to his bridle. He then placed me in charge
of his aide-de-camp, Captain Anitchoff, a fashionable-looking young
Muscovite, who wore the light blue and yellow-laced uniform of a hussar
corps (the Princess Maria Paulowna’s), and who has since that time
published a work on the Crimean campaign.  He courteously informed me,
in French, that he was on the general staff of the Russian army, and
that the name of my preserver was Lieutenant-General Karlovitch Baur.

He also desired me to remain close by his side, while we proceeded
quickly to the rear.  By this time, every trace of Travers and my
squadron had disappeared.

And so I was actually a prisoner!

I was, perhaps, the sole trophy of the Russian army, so they were
disposed to make the most of me.  I had a special escort of a corporal
and two well-bearded and ill-washed Cossacks, who rode one on each side
of me, and one in the rear, each trussed up among his forage plunder and
fleas—their shaggy little horses being so laden that little more than
their noses and tails were visible.  If I lagged, the corporal used to
grin and shake his lance ominously; and when not occupied in scratching
themselves, they were very merry and not unpleasant, though totally
incomprehensible companions.

I knew not in what direction they were conveying me, and our mutual
ignorance of each other’s language prevented me from discovering.  I
could but trust to chance and patience.

Meanwhile, my friends were, I am pleased to say, under no small concern
on my account elsewhere.

The army halted at Belbeck, where five hundred sick—among whom were many
of my lancer comrades—were left behind, all ill with cholera.  Lord
Raglan occupied the château of a fugitive Russian noble, and there
Travers rode to report that he had seen the Russians in strength among
the woods between Belbeck and Khutor-Mackenzie, where, as all the world
knows, a sharp engagement took place with them soon after, and where
they were driven back with the loss of baggage and ammunition for more
than twenty-five thousand men.  Among the former were a great quantity
of watches, jewellery, and gay hussar jackets, in which the artillery
and Highlanders masqueraded for a time.

After making his report to Lord Raglan and General Airey, Travers rode
to Colonel Beverley, who occupied a Tartar’s cottage near the river
side.  There he found several of ours, including Fred Wilford, old
M’Goldrick, the paymaster, and Studhome, making a hearty repast on some
well-cooked wild boar, with caviare, biscuits, and plenty of champagne,
which had been found in the broken-down carriage of General Kiriakoff,
whose crest and initials were painted on the lid of his canteen, which
contained a tiny dinner service for four, but all of Dresden china.

"Gentlemen," exclaimed Beverley, starting to his feet, as Travers,
Berkeley, and young Scarlett entered, "I am sorry to see you return
alone.  Where is our friend Norcliff?"

"Gone to the—aw—devil by the down train, probably," muttered Berkeley,
whose teeth chattered as he drained a glass of champagne.

"He has fallen into the enemy’s hands," said Captain Travers; "a rescue
was impossible, as we knew not the extent of the ambush into which we
fell.  I saw him riding after us, with Berkeley——"

"Aw—yes, colonel—we were covering the rear of the squadron, in fact,"
interrupted that personage.

"Suddenly there was heard a single shot, and on looking back, I saw
Berkeley galloping on alone——"

"Alone!"

"And poor Norcliff in the hands of the Russians, who were cutting him to
pieces apparently."

"His horse had been shot under him?" said the colonel.

"Yes—but—aw—not by the Russians," said Berkeley.

"By whom, then?" asked the colonel, sharply.

"By himself," was the unhesitating response.

"Himself?"

"Absurd!"

"Impossible!" exclaimed his hearers, in succession.

"It is neither absurd nor impossible.  The horse was killed by a
pistol-shot, and he fell into the power of the Russians."

"Do you mean to say," asked the colonel, slowly, after a very ominous
and unpleasant pause, during which Berkeley’s paleness increased, and he
tugged his moustache with his effeminate, girlish-like fingers, feeling
evidently the loss of a toothpick, with which, like other fops, he
soothed his leisure moments; "do you mean to say that this event was not
accident, but design?"

"Can’t tell, ’pon my life—aw—haw—would rather not say anything about
it—it was doocid odd, anyway," drawled Berkeley, applying himself to the
champagne again.

"Mr. Berkeley, I must insist upon your explaining."

"Can’t say, I repeat—his pistol exploded—the bullet went through his
horse’s head——"

"Killing it on the spot?"

"Of course—aw—of course."

"What could be his reason——"

"Perhaps he thought—aw—it safer work to fall quietly into the hands of
the Russians thus than to ride back under their fusilade."

"Are you aware, Mr. Berkeley," said the colonel, with increasing
gravity, while all present exchanged some very peculiar glances, "that
this is tantamount to branding our friend with cowardice?"

"I shall—aw—aw—answer that question, Colonel Beverley, when the time
comes, and he returns," replied Berkeley; "but I don’t think those
Russian riflemen were in the mood to show much mercy or quarter to-day."

"And Norcliff was not such a muff as to surrender quietly," said
M’Goldrick.

"You will answer the colonel’s question when Norcliff returns say you?"
exclaimed Studhome, starting forward, pale with passion; "answer it you
shall, and now, to me!"

"Studhome!" said the colonel, interposing angrily, "this is some
mistake—some wretched misconception.  We all know that Captain Norcliff
was incapable of committing the act you, Mr. Berkeley, impute to him."

"I have seen him lead his troop under fire ere now," growled Studhome;
"and lead it when Mr. Berkeley might have thought it unpleasant work to
follow him."

"Aw—haw—well, disprove it if you can," said Berkeley, with one of his
old insufferable smiles, as he stuck his glass in his eye, and lounged
out of the cottage, near which my poor fellow, Willie Pitblado, was
lingering to pick up some certain information about me from the
colonel’s servants.

"Eh, me! this will be sair news for the folk at Calderwood Glen," he
sighed, as he and Lanty O’Regan turned away together.

As Berkeley and I had been in the rear, none save myself could be
cognisant of his foul act of treachery.  He never doubted that I had
been bayoneted by the Russians, and, confident that I should never
return, he thus crowned his villany by attempting to destroy my honour.

Ere long we shall see what this availed him.



                            *CHAPTER XLIV.*


    Yes, thou art gone, sweet friend, my own,
      We miss thee every day,
    And I, yet more than all, alone,
      Can only weep and pray.

    Pray to be rendered meet for heaven,
      And agonize in prayer,
    That if we meet no more below,
      Our meeting may be there.


The first halting-place of my escort was in a wood of wild pear trees,
among some of those ancient burial mounds or green tumuli which stud all
the Crimea, but more particularly the peninsula of Kertch, where one
still marks the tomb of Mithridates.  In that solitude we heard only the
voices of the birds, the lark, the tomtit, and the wren, as they
twittered among the caper bushes.

The Cossacks hobbled their horses, and proceeded to seat themselves on
the green sward that covered the bones of the classic warriors of other
times.  In their havresacks they had some black bread and salt, with a
flask of quass.  These they shared freely with me; and with such coarse
fare I was forced to be content.

The corporal had a Russian poodle, red-eyed, fox-headed, and white as
snow, which he pretentiously named Olga, after the Grand Duchess, and
with this cur, to which he was much attached, he freely shared his
repast, and that piece of felt which serves the Cossack alike for cloak,
tent, and bed.

I could not be prevailed upon to join them in partaking of some wild
horseradish, which Corporal Pugacheff discovered, and unearthed with his
sabre, exhibiting a root as thick as his arm.  After they had smoked for
nearly an hour, during which I was left to my own unpleasant
reflections, the march was once more resumed—leisurely, because I was
afoot—towards the east, as the sun informed me, and that was all I could
learn about it.

The uniforms of these Cossacks were richer than any I had yet seen.
Each had a blue jacket, edged with yellow lace, hooked over a scarlet
silk vest; loose blue trousers, fastened high above the waist; busbies
of black shining wool, terminating in a crimson sack, with a scarlet
sash, cartridge-box, and sabre, completed their costume.  Like
ourselves, they rode with the lance slung, and resting on the right toe.

That night we halted at a Tartar village.  The inhabitants of the
cottage to which we proceeded were somewhat over-awed by the three
Cossacks—a race at all times rather unscrupulous—but were disposed to
view me with a commiseration that made me begin to conceive hopes of
escape.

Escorted by Corporal Pugacheff and his poodle, I was conducted to the
humble apartment used by the males of the family.  A wooden basin,
filled with clear water, and a napkin, were presented to me by the
master of the house—a venerable Tartar of the old nomadic race—that I
might lave my face and hands; a pipe of the cherrywood tree, which grows
in the mountains, was then given me to smoke, while a repast—not of
horseflesh, happily—but of goat’s milk, poached eggs, and cheese, was
prepared; and these we ate with our fingers, seated on mats on the
earthen floor, around the little stool on which the supper-tray was
placed, for, in their household and habits, the poor Tartars are nearly
as primitive as their forefathers were in the days of the valiant Batu
Khan, the destroyer of Moscow.

A dish of sour milk and water—the veritable yaourt of the Osmanlis—was
passed round; the master of the house returned thanks without uncovering
his shaven head, the Cossacks resumed their pipes, the repast was over,
and the day was closing in.

The hope of escape was growing stronger in my heart; but the corporal
crushed it, as if he had divined my thoughts, by quietly securing my
right hand to his left, with the small steel bridle of his horse, before
we lay down to take our repose, and the escort, with their pistols
loaded, slept side by side across the only doorway.  In addition to all
these precautions, if I ventured to move, almost to wink, the poodle,
Olga, was on the alert, with cocked ears and bristling hair, barking
furiously.  How I hated that dog!

Though weary in mind and body, I could not sleep, even if the deep bass
snoring that issued from the snub noses of my three keepers would have
permitted me to doze.

Berkeley’s infamous treachery made my heart glow like a furnace!  How
deeply I repented now that, instead of succouring and remounting him, I
had not left him, as his prior conduct deserved, to the chances of war
and fate, and to take the place now occupied by me!

How long might I be a prisoner!

Of this war with the greatest empire in the world none could foresee or
calculate the end.

Years, perhaps, might pass, and find me still a captive. By the troops
of General Canrobert, some men had been discovered who had been lost by
the French on their fatal retreat from Moscow in 1813, and who had, from
youth to age, been slaves in the Tartar fortresses or the Siberian
mines.

My blood ran cold with this idea.  Oh, if such were to be my fate!

If Berkeley returned to England after all, and married Louisa!  And
then, if this wretched Brassy Wheedleton succeeded in marrying Cora,
while I was industriously quarrying for copper and assafoetida in the
vicinity of that pleasant city, Tobolsk by name!

But what was Cora to me?  She was my cousin, and, of course, my cousin
must not throw herself away and make an unequal marriage.

"There are men in this world," says a female writer, "who are quite
capable of being in love with two women at once."

This was not at all my case; but I fear that Louisa’s cold and cutting
neglect was causing me to think more than I used to do of Cora
Calderwood, who I knew loved me well, and I remembered the strange
episode of the spell, or mesmeric riddle, wrought by the _hakim_
Abd-el-Rasig, the surgeon of the 10th Egyptian Infantry.

But to be a prisoner—the prisoner of these filthy wretches—and to be
conveyed by them, like a helpless Polish exile, I knew not whither!

If in boyhood, and even in infancy, I had ever a horror of study and
restraint; if in later years, even regimental discipline sometimes
galled me by its monotonous trammels, the reader may imagine how I
writhed, how my soul revolted, at the idea of being a Russian captive,
and how I longed for vengeance on Berkeley.  I swore to horsewhip him in
front of the line, and pistol him after!  There was no extravagant
length in punishment to which my fancy did not resort and my fury
indulge in.  No MacGregor with the dirk at his lips, swearing vengeance
for Alaster of Glenstrae; no Corsican De Franchi, vowing a dreadful
_vendetta_ on his foe, could harbour feelings more bitter than I did in
those moments of futile anger in that poor Tartar cottage.

I talked to myself wrathfully and incoherently.

I dozed at last; but my slumber was haunted by dreams and nightmares,
like those of a fevered patient.  I saw Louisa Loftus, with her pale and
lovely features distorted by fear, her black hair floating all
dishevelled about her white shoulders.  She was clinging to the verge of
a lofty rock, towards which an angry tide was advancing, while I,
chained, withheld by some mysterious power, was unable to succour or to
save her.  My voice was gone, and my agonies were unbelieved, as she
only beheld them with proud smiles of scorn and derision.

The scene changed.  Now she had married, or was about to marry the
Marquis of Slubber, believing me dead—that I had perished in the East.
I heard her say so, distinctly and tearlessly, with a calm sympathetic
smile, which my Lady Chillingham, with an impatient motion of her fan
rebuked. Still I was deprived of all power of volition, and a spell tied
up my utterance, till Berkeley—I saw him to the life, in his lancer
uniform, hovering about her, to the evident annoyance of the senile
marquis—told her, in his drawling lisp, that he had seen me killed, and
she quite believed him.  Then a painful cry escaped me, and I awoke.  I
had other dreams, and these were, perhaps, the worst of all.  I was
free!  I had exposed and punished Berkeley.  I was again among my
friends; handsome Beverley, Travers, bluff Jack Studhome, Fred Wilford,
and the others were around me.  The lancers were on parade, I heard the
neighing of the chargers; and saw the long line of glittering lances,
the plumes and banperoles waving in the sunshine; I heard the music of
our band; we were laughing, talking, smoking; we were in the mess or
billiard-room, and I could hear the bells of Canterbury ringing in the
cathedral towers.

At other times I was in Calderwood Glen, under the old, old trees that
had echoed to the hunting-horn of many a kingly Stuart; or I was on the
heather muirs, gun in hand, with old Sir Nigel, knocking over the
whirring partridges and the golden pheasants, the plash of the mountain
burn and the hum of the mountain bee coming together on the balmy
breeze, as I trod the green Lomond side, and saw the grassy glens of
Fife, the blue Forth, and many a village spire among the woodlands far
away.

Then to waken and find myself chained to the Cossack corporal, in that
loathly Russian den, in the wilds of Crim Tartary, was a disappointment
cruel and bitter!

The rising sun saw us once more on the road; but for what place I was
still ignorant.  Before we started Corporal Pugacheff released my hand,
but pointed significantly to his pistols.

On this day, as we proceeded eastward, there rose in the distance on our
right the mountain of the Tents, the highest in the Crimea (the Tchatir
Dagh, a mass of red marble), so named from its resemblance to the
dwellings of the Nogai Tartars.  Five thousand feet it towered above the
Euxine, with its summit crimsoned in the morning sun.

Through a defile, named Demir-Kapon (or the Iron Gate), we entered the
valley of the Angar, a tributary of the Salghir (which flows into the
Putrid Sea); and here, from the slopes of the mountain, the scenes we
saw were full of rural loveliness—picturesque Tartar villages, laden
orchards and blushing vineyards, and flocks and herds without end;
everywhere softness blending with sublimity.  I noted every foot of the
way well, as I had but one thought—escape.

I remember that near the Tartar town of Sivritash, which lies twenty
miles north-east of Sebastopol, we passed a body of Russian recruits for
various regiments, all hastening to get into the latter place before the
Allies could invest it.

These recruits were escorted by a squadron of the hussars of the
Princess Maria Paulowna (sister of the Emperor). They were certainly
gorgeously-equipped and accoutred troopers, mounted on fine Arab horses;
but my admiration for them was not increased by a blow which one of them
dealt me, in mere wantonness, with the flat of his sabre, as I trudged
past wearily and afoot: but this insult honest Pugacheff resented by
laying his lance heavily across the shoulders of the hussar.

Many questions were asked of him by the officers of these troops, who
altogether mustered about five thousand men; and from the frequency with
which the name Kourouk occurred in his replies, as well as the direction
in which we were travelling, I surmised that we were proceeding to the
fortress at that place.

In this conjecture I was right, for on the evening of the third day
after my capture, I found myself a prisoner in the secluded Russian fort
or outpost of Kourouk, which lies on the northern slope of the mountain
of Karaba Yaila, and is distant exactly seventy miles, as a bird flies,
from Sebastopol.

No parole was offered me; I was without money, and my name and rank were
alike unknown; I was clad only in the tatters of my own regimental
finery; and I felt a deep gloom steal over me, when the little wicket
gate in the massive wooden and iron barriers of the fortress was closed
behind me.  And now, cast utterly among strangers, I parted with regret
even from the snub-nosed Corporal Pugacheff, who had been my guide thus
far, and from his red-eyed poodle, Olga, too.

I was the only prisoner of war in the fortress of Kourouk.



                             *CHAPTER XLV.*


      It was at length the same to me,
      Fettered or fetterless to be,
        I learned to love despair.
      And thus when they appeared at last,
      And all my bonds aside were cast,
    Those heavy walls to me had grown
      A heritage—and all my own!
          BYRON.


Situated on a rocky slope, under the shadow of the hills of Karaba
Yaila, stand the town and castle of Kourouk.

Built by the Genoese upon the ruins of a fortress erected by a khan of
the house of Zingis (under whom the Crimea became an independent
monarchy in 1441), the castle had been in its glory in the days when
Genoa the superb was mistress of the coasts of Asia, and the islands of
Cyprus, Lesbos, and Scio; but when Mohammed II. conquered
Constantinople, he destroyed all the colonies of the Genoese republic
upon the shores of the Euxine.

The defenders of the Castle of Kourouk, under a Scottish soldier of
fortune, made a gallant resistance; but were all put to the sword, and
their skulls are now built into a portion of the rampart which faces
Mecca.  The rocks of red and white marble on which it stands have been
excavated, like those of its contemporary, the old Genoese Castle of
Balaclava, into magazines and stately chambers, the sides of which are
covered with coloured designs in stucco.

The two old round towers of the Genoese days were crowned by Russian
cupolas—one striped like a melon, the other cut into facets, like a
pineapple, all red and yellow alternately, and each surmounted by a
glittering cross.  These, with the great white banner of St. Andrew,
with its blue saltire over all, made Kourouk look gay at a distance.

Within all was grim and sombre enough.

The garrison consisted of a four-company battalion of Russian infantry,
under a _chef-de-bataillon_, named Vladimir Dahl, a tall,
grisly-moustached old soldier, who wore on his breast the embroidered
representation of a Turkish standard, which he had taken from the
Infidels, in the days of Navarino. Each of his companies consisted of
two hundred men, and belonged to a regiment three thousand strong.  Such
corps are the usual Russian formation, and are commanded by a
_pulkovnick_, or colonel.

These troops wore long, loose, dirty-grey capotes, reaching to their
ankles.  On their shoulders, and in front of their flat cloth caps, was
sewn a piece of green stuff, with the regimental number, 45; and this
was all their finery.

They were on parade in line as Corporal Pugacheff conducted me into the
fortress; and I thought them a strange array of sorry-looking wretches,
so stolid in aspect, that I was reminded of the traveller, who, on
seeing a Russian and a British regiment under arms in the same square at
Naples, exclaimed—

"There is but one face in that whole regiment, while in this" (pointing
to the British) "every soldier has a face of his own."

I was treated with the greatest respect and kindness by old Vladimir
Dahl and the officers of the 45th, or Tambrov Infantry, for the outrages
of the French at Kertch, and the infamous massacre of our seamen at
Hango, had not yet occurred to impart a bitterness to the war.

Neither he nor I knew the other’s language; his _capitans_,
_fiarooschicks_, and _praperchicks_ (_i.e._, lieutenants and ensigns)
were in the same condition.  Thus we had no means of communication, save
by clinking our glasses, and exchanging cigarettes, nods, winks, and
grins.

An old _Times_ newspaper was given to me.  It was dated months back, and
detailed the battle of Oltenitza; but its columns had been carefully
purged by the censor of everything political—an ingenious process
achieved by gutta-percha and ground glass.

The reader has, perhaps, heard of how a farrier-sergeant of the Emperor
Alexander’s Dragoon Guards predicted the destruction of the grand army
of Napoleon I., on being shown a horseshoe dropped by the retreating
cavalry of France.

"What! not frosted yet," he exclaimed, professionally, "and the snow to
fall to-morrow!  Holy St. Sergius! these fellows don’t know Russia!"

Vladimir Dahl was the son of the farrier-sergeant who thus predicted the
downfall of the enemies of Russia; and he was more proud of his father
than if he had been, like the best of the Muscovite nobles, descended
from Ruric the Norman.

The days passed slowly away.  I might as well have been dumb, having no
one to converse with.  I could not pass the castle gates, as every
avenue, angle, and outlet was guarded by snub-nosed Muscovites, in grey
capotes, with loaded rifles and fixed bayonets.

Hope of escape as yet I had none!

On the morning of the fourth day, a mounted Paulowna hussar delivered at
Kourouk a letter, with a shred of the feather of the quill with which it
had been written inserted among the wax of the seal—a Russian mode of
signifying speed.

It announced the arrival of General Baur, with all his staff. Baur had
been wounded in the encounter with our troops at Khutor-Mackenzie; and I
was very well pleased when the evening of the same day saw him ride into
Kourouk, of which I was heartily weary; and I was not without hopes that
the general, on remembering how we had released him after the Alma,
might do something for me in the way of exchanging or paroling me; and
in his aide-de-camp, the gay young Captain Anitchoff, of the Maria
Paulowna Hussars, I was glad to see a face that I knew, and to meet one
with whom I could converse.

The general had been wounded by a musket shot in the bridle arm.  It was
severely inflamed.  Ease had been recommended, so he had come to spend a
week or so at Kourouk, which was in his own military district; and on
the very evening of his arrival, Anitchoff brought me an invitation to
dine with him.

Anitchoff was eminently a handsome Russian.  His eyes were dark, and had
a latent fire in them that showed some Tartar blood; the lids were full
and white, the lashes long and dark.  His nose was straight and thin,
and his ponderous moustache was as black as his close-shaven hair, or
the wolf’s fur that trimmed his light blue uniform.

My costume was of the most sorry description; but a few discrepancies
were made up by Vladimir Dahl, who, among other things, presented me
with a full uniform, silver epaulettes and all, of the Tambrov infantry.

French is not so much spoken in Russia as people in Britain suppose;
yet, luckily for me, General Baur and Anitchoff could speak it fluently.

Before proceeding to the General’s I asked—

"Can you inform me, Captain Anitchoff, if parole is to be accepted?"

"I cannot say, but rather think not," he replied, with hesitation.

"The deuce!" I exclaimed, haughtily; "then I shall escape, if I can."

"Pray don’t think of it," said he, earnestly.

"Why?" I demanded, with intense chagrin.

"We have rather a summary mode of dealing with prisoners who attempt to
escape.  So be wary, my friend."

"Indeed, summary.  How?"

"We don’t always keep them on our hands," said he, with a smile that was
grimly significant, while he played with the gold tassels of his hussar
busby.

"Well, ’twere better to be shot than kept lingering here."

"Oh, you won’t be kept here, my friend."

"Where then?"

"In a few days you will probably be sent with a convoy of sick and
wounded by the way of Perecop and the desert plains towards
Yekaterinoslav."

"I shall escape by the way," said I, doggedly.

"I repeat, my friend, don’t think of it, for Trebitski, who will
command, does not stand on trifles; and yet," he added, with a smile,
"there are two persons who seldom fail in what they attempt—a prisoner
and a lover."

"Why?"

"Stendahl, a Russian author, says, ’The lover thinks oftener of
obtaining his mistress than the husband does of guarding his wife; the
prisoner thinks oftener of escaping from his prison than the gaoler does
of keeping him safe within its walls.  Therefore, the lover and the
prisoner should succeed.’  You see," he continued, laughing, "we have
some authors in snowy Russia, whatever you Britons may think to the
contrary.  But here is the general."

Passing through the officers of the 45th, who all made way for us, I was
ushered into the presence of General Baur, the grim soldier, who was
related to the hero of Beverley’s interesting anecdote—Karlovitch Baur,
son of Karl, the brother of Michel, the old miller of Husum.

He received me with studious politeness, though he could not help
smiling at my Tambrov uniform.  His left arm was in a sling, and, as he
shook hands with me, I felt that he had but two right fingers remaining.
A Turkish sabre had shorn him of the rest at Kalafat, on the Danube, in
the year before.

Baur was every way a man of a severely impressive presence and aspect.
He had an enormous white moustache, the long, snaky curls of which
floated almost over each of his large silver epaulettes.  His forehead
was high, massive and stern; his hair, shorn short, was rough and
grizly.  His dark eyes were keen, bold, and inquiring at times; but at
others they wore a deep, sombre and melancholy expression, as if he was
always thinking of a world beyond the present—to be looking into it, in
fact—and this was not to be wondered at when we consider that Karlovitch
Baur was the hero of one of the most remarkable episodes ever committed
to paper.

His manner was that of one who is prompt and ready alike in thought and
action, and yet who never unsaid or undid anything.

Over his grass-green and silver-laced uniform, he wore a loose, wide
_souba_, or fur coat with sleeves, for service, and this he cast aside
when the trumpets announced that dinner was served; and then, among many
other orders that glittered on his warlike breast, I saw that of St.
Andrew, which was founded in 1699 by Peter the Great, and is only
bestowed on crowned heads and officers of the highest rank.

It reminded me much of our own Order of the Thistle, being a blue
enamelled saltire; but on the reverse was a Muscovite eagle, with the
initials "S.A.P.R." (_Sanctus Andreas, Patronus Russiæ_).

At the table I was seated between the general and his chief
aide-de-camp, Anitchoff, both of whom conversed with me in French.

"How did it come to pass that you were taken prisoner?" asked the
former.

"My horse was shot under me."

"Near the Belbeck?"

"Yes," said I, blushing like a school-girl, as I could not, for the soul
of me, say that a British officer had degraded his epaulettes by the
perfidy of which Berkeley had been guilty.

"Ah! unlucky; but such things will happen.  Your troops and the French,
with the Turkish dogs, are now almost in front of Sebastopol."

"Indeed!" said I, with a joy which I could not conceal.

"You think, no doubt, to take it under our moustaches, or, as you
Britons say, under our noses; but you won’t," he added with a grave
smile.  "St. Sergius has ordained it otherwise, and Todleben, the wary
old Courlander, is busy fortifying it. His sappers are at work day and
night."

"Pho! don’t talk of Sebastopol, general," said his aide-de-camp,
laughing.  "Our feeding there was so bad that I felt inclined to try
whether the Allies fared better than we did; but after the Alma, I
thought that the less I considered the matter the better."

"Ah, that day at Alma played the deuce with many a family circle in
Sebastopol," said Baur, twisting his moustache angrily.

"Yes," added Anitchoff; "many a widow is there now, weeping for the dear
defunct with one eye, and ogling his successor with the other."

At this jest a dark frown gathered on the long, stern visage of Baur.

Dinner proceeded briskly.  It was served up in a kind of hall, which had
arched and painted windows, flanked by the round Genoese towers, whose
gilt cupolas formed the chief features of the fortress.

The walls were simply whitewashed, and the furniture was somewhat of the
"barrack ordnance" description of our own equipments in quarters at
home.

The repast was rather military in fashion, and by no means a dinner _à
la Russe_, all flower vases, bouquets, and kickshaws; but was composed
of substantial edibles for hungry and soldierly stomachs.

We began with small glasses of kimmel, and then came caviare, made from
the roe of the sturgeon of the Don, spread on thin slices of bread; then
followed the fish—turbot and mackerel from the Black Sea; yellow-fleshed
sterlets from the Volga, salted in oil; wild boar hams from the forest
of Khutor-Mackenzie; mutton fed on the Tauridian steppes; pies of holy
pigeons from the gilt domes I had admired at a distance; piles of
Crimean fruit; the wines of Ac-metchet and Kastropulo, with Cliquot; and
there, too, were London stout and Bass’s pale ale, taken from some of
our wrecks in the Black Sea.

During dinner I was amused by hearing the ideas entertained by the
Russians of our British soldiers, with whom they were now for the first
time in actual conflict; for Prince Menschikoff had industriously spread
among his troops a rumour that we were only beardless seamen, dressed up
as soldiers; and that, however formidable on the ocean, we were
worthless ashore.

To this contemptuous notion was added a sublime faith in their own
valour, and the miracles to be wrought by St. Sergius, whose image they
bore at Alma, and whose fourth reappearance was confidently predicted by
Innocent, Archbishop of Odessa, in his sermon to the garrison of
Sebastopol, for Sergius was a patriotic saint and warrior who defeated
the Tartars—whose "uncorrupted body" lies in a silver shrine, like a
four-post bed, and whose shoes (sorely worn at the heels) are still
preserved in the Troitza, or monastery, of the Holy Trinity at Moscow.

General Baur, a man deeply imbued with the most gloomy superstition,
believed in all these delusions devoutly.  His aide-de-camp and Vladimir
Dahl, however, laughed at him covertly; but admitted that the appearance
of the Highland regiments filled the columns on the Kourgané Hill with a
strange terror; for being, as the author of "Eöthen" records, "men of
great stature, and in a strange garb, their plumes being tall, and the
view of them being broken and distorted by the wreaths of smoke, and
there being, too, an ominous silence in their ranks, there were men
among the Russians who began to conceive a vague terror—the terror of
things unearthly; and some, they say, imagined that they were being
charged by horsemen, strange, silent, and monstrous, bestriding giant
chargers."

Dinner was drawing to a close, or giving place to the dessert, when my
former acquaintance under less pleasant circumstances, Lieutenant Adrian
Trebitski, of the Tchernimoski Cossacks, appeared, travel-stained, and
splashed with the mud of a journey on his boots and sabretache, having
arrived on duty with sick soldiers, and a deserter, who was to be shot
on the morrow.

"Why not to-night?" asked the stern Baur.

"The sentence says to-morrow, general," replied Anitchoff consulting a
despatch.

"Then to-morrow be it—I am not a messman, and so don’t begrudge the poor
wretch his last supper.  Is he one of your corps, Trebitski?"

"Yes, general, I regret to say, a Cossack of our sotnia, from the Lena,
in Siberia," replied Trebitski, who was eyeing me with an aspect of
discomposure, evidently fearing that I might report the pillage I had
undergone at his hands.  But this fear subsided when I drank wine with
him, clinking my glass over and under his, for I felt that my position
was too perilous to make an enemy of this man, especially as Anitchoff
informed me that he was to have command of the convoy which would take
me towards Perecop.

"I hope he will treat me with courtesy," said I, "and remember that I am
a commissioned officer."

"Why do you doubt him?" asked Anitchoff, with a quiet smile.

"I—I don’t like the expression of his eyes."

"They are as keen as those of a Tartar; but, then, he has Tartar blood
in him, for his mother was a woman of the middle Kirghis hordes, lately
added to our empire."

"Are they remarkable for a curious expression of eye?"

"Yes; any Tartar can discern a single Russian horseman at a quarter of
the distance that a Russian will discover a whole troop of Tartars, even
with lances uplifted; hence they make our best vedettes."

I now heard complete details of the defeat of twenty thousand Russians
at Khutor-Mackenzie; and that, on the morning of the 26th September,
Balaclava had been taken, that its safe and secluded harbour was now
full of our war ships and transports, and that already our army was on
the heights above Sebastopol.

And so, while the great game, on which the eyes of all the world were
turned, was being played by my noble comrades, I—the victim of
treachery, ignorant alike of my fate and of the future—was to be marched
towards the desert plains of Yekaterinoslav, in the custody of an
unscrupulous ruffian like Trebitski, _parooschick_ of the Tchernimoski
Cossacks; one who knew as little about the position or feelings of a
British officer as he did about those of the Great Llama.

On my bed that night I tossed restlessly to and fro, revolving a hundred
plans for escape, but could decide on none. Bribery will achieve
anything in Russia; but I had no money. I was also without weapons, a
horse, or knowledge of the language.  I determined, however, to look
well about me; to study a map of the Crimea if I could find one; to act
surely, warily, and resolutely; and to take the first opportunity of
escaping, even if I should be shot down in the attempt.  I was all the
more free to make this essay, that, as yet, not a word had been spoken
either of parole or exchange by the gloomy General Baur, or ’his more
genial aide-de-camp.

By dawn next morning, the hoarse roll of the wooden drums summoned the
garrison of Kourouk to witness the execution of the deserter; and by the
time I came forth, as a spectator, the battalion of the 45th was under
arms, formed in three sides of a hollow square, facing inwards; all
silent, motionless as statues, closely ranked in their grey capotes and
flat blue caps, with rifles shouldered and bayonets fixed.

The fourth side of the square was enclosed by the inner wall of a
rampart, and there stood the culprit, pale and dejected in aspect,
accompanied by a silver-bearded priest of the Greek church in white,
with a gorgeous stole of cloth-of-gold, edged with fine lace.  A dog
bounded towards them—a fox-headed, snow-coloured, and red-eyed Russian
poodle, whose bark was familiar to me; and then I was greatly concerned
to recognise in the deserter, who was stripped of his uniform, and stood
in his loose wide trousers and red flannel shirt, poor Corporal
Pugacheff, who had escorted me from the Belbeck river.

"Had I known your disposition for levanting, my friend," thought I,
"gladly would I have availed myself of it in time."

"Was he deserting towards the Allies?" I inquired of Anitchoff.

"No; he was supposed to be making off to his own country by the
peninsula of Arabat, which encloses the Putrid Sea. Ah, _pardonnez
moi_," added the hussar, and he yawned lazily in the chill air of the
early morning, as he buttoned his well-furred pelisse over his uniform.

"But is not the punishment excessive?"

"Not for a soldier in time of war, surely!  There are two classes in
Russia exempt from all corporal punishment, severe as you may deem
us—nobles, and soldiers who have been honoured with medals.  Pugacheff
served against the Turks at the frontier town of Isaktcha last year.  He
has a medal, so there is no resource but to shoot him; and here comes
the firing company under a _praperchick_?  (This grotesque word in Russ
signifies an ensign.)

"What is he saying?" I asked, as the poor Cossack now threw himself on
his knees, and raised his trembling hands and haggard eyes to heaven in
supplication.

"He is praying to St. Sergius, and saying that, if his life that is to
come in heaven were to be no better than it is on earth, as a corporal
of Cossacks, pain and death would, indeed, be terrible!"

"Poor fellow!"

His sentence had been read over by Vladimir Dahl; and he and General
Baur—both of whom wore cocked hats with immense green plumes, and
well-furred _soubas_—withdrew a little way, and leaned composedly on
their sabres, while the ramrods glittered in the rising sun, as the
stolid-visaged firing party of twelve men loaded their rifles, cast them
about, and capped.  Now the chapel bell began to toll solemnly, and the
standard waved, half-hoisted, in the wind.

The small, keen eyes of Pugacheff seemed fixed on vacancy. The old
priest, in full canonicals, was praying with great earnestness and
devotion; but the prisoner scarcely seemed to hear him.

Perhaps his eyes at that moment saw in fancy his father’s cottage by the
broad waters of the Lena; the grove of dark green pines that cast their
shadows on the deep snow-wreaths, and the sharp, flinty summits of the
distant hills, where the stalwart Siberian Cossack galloped in freedom,
with his long, ready spear at his stirrup.

The fawning of the dog, Olga, now attracted the attention of the doomed
man.  He lifted it up, stroked, caressed, and kissed it tenderly, for
the poor dog was, perhaps, his only friend.  His rugged nature was
melted, and I think there was a tear in his eye, as he looked with a
haggard expression around him.

Suddenly his glance fell on me.  He beckoned me to him, and gave me the
dog, saying something, I know not what, hurriedly, and in a husky
voice—a request, no doubt, that I would keep and be kind to the little
animal when he was gone; and I led it away by its leather collar, just
as the firing party brought their muskets to the "ready" and cocked
them.

The dog whined and struggled fiercely with me.  It broke away at last,
and rushed to the side of its kneeling and blindfolded master, leaping,
frisking, and barking joyously about him, just as the twelve death-shots
flashed from the muzzles of the firing party.

When the smoke cleared away I saw the Cossack and his dog lying dead on
the gravel, side by side.  They had been shot at the same moment.
Pugacheff had several balls in his head and breast, and from the white
coat of the still quivering poodle a crimson current was pouring.

The corporal was buried in the dry ditch of Kourouk, and ere the last
sods were put over his grave by the pioneers, his faithful little
four-footed friend was thrown in beside him, by order of Vladimir Dahl,
and they were covered up together.

The tolling of the chapel bell died away; hoisted to the truck, the
Russian cross streamed out upon the morning wind; and so ended this
little tragedy.



                            *CHAPTER XLVI.*


    BEN. This wind you talk of blows us from ourselves!
      Supper is done, and we shall come too late.

    ROMEO.  I fear too early; for my mind misgives,
      Some consequence, yet hanging in the stars,
      Shall bitterly begin his fearful date
      With this night’s revels; and expire the term
      Of a despised life, closed in my breast,
      By some vile forfeit of untimely death:
      But he that hath the steerage of my course
      Directs the sail!
        SHAKSPEARE.


The noon of the succeeding day saw me several miles from the Castle of
Kourouk, and pursuing the rugged old Tartar highway that was to conduct
me to Yekaterinoslav, under the escort of Trebitski’s Cossacks, about a
hundred of whom, armed with sabres, pistols, and lances, and carrying
their forage, food, and in most instances, plunder, rode in double file
on each side of a train of _kabitkas_, which were filled with sick and
wounded Russian soldiers, and, in a few instances, I saw Frenchmen among
them.

Every jolt of those wretched waggons over the rough and rocky roads
caused wounds to burst out afresh; groans and curses rose in the air,
and blood was soon oozing or dripping through the salt-encrusted
planking on the dusty highway.

These _kabitkas_ are Tartar waggons, which are driven in vast numbers to
Perecop for the conveyance of the salt, which, in the dry season—from
June till August—lies on the plains or steppes so thick that they are
usually driven axle-deep among it for loading.

A number of these waggons had been improvised by General Baur for
ambulance purposes; and now I found myself seated in one, among some
bloody and dirty straw, with three severely wounded men of the 45th, or
Tambrov regiment, and a French officer, whose face was half hidden by a
large bandage, discoloured by the blood of a sword-wound, which had laid
open his right cheek.

Intent upon escape, I looked earnestly and constantly before me; but we
were now traversing an undulating plain, that was dotted by a few trees,
of strange aspect, and the flocks of the Nomadic Tartars.  And as the
path dipped down over an eminence, I took a last farewell, but certainly
not "fond look," of Kourouk, with its two burnished domes, which
glittered brightly in the sunshine, while the Mountain of the Tent
looked faint and blue in distance.

Trebitski, the Cossack officer, had conceived, I knew why, a personal
animosity for me; and ever and anon, as if he would anticipate any
attempt on my part to escape, he hovered about the _kabitka_ in which I
was reclining, and recoiling in disgust from the grey-coated Muscovites
who lay beside me, and whose presence made the air redolent of Stamboul
tobacco, bloody bandages, and the Russian leather of their clumsy boots
and coarse accoutrements.

One of the first acts of the pitiful Trebitski was to deprive me of a
small basket of rations—cold fowl, wine, &c.—provided for me by the
kindness of Vladimir Dahl and Captain Anitchoff, and to substitute in
their place a meagre allowance of the black bread, salt, and _vodka_
used by the half-barbarian escort.

I determined to report this petty theft on reaching his head-quarters;
but where were they?

At Yekaterinoslav, on the banks of the Dnieper, in the territory of the
Cossacks of Azof, far over the desert plains that lie beyond the Isthmus
of Perecop, whose vast fortress bars the way from the Crimea to the
mainland of Europe.

My blood boiled up with vengeance against Berkeley, my betrayer, and my
entire soul revolted at the prospect of such a heartless and hopeless
journey, with a doubtful termination—a captivity, the end of which none
could foresee; and the desire—a deep, clamorous, and heart-burning
desire—of escape at any hazard grew strong within me; but I was without
weapon, money, or a horse.

Oh, that I had but five minutes’ start, with such an animal under me as
that ridden by Trebitski, which was a beautiful and powerful Arab, whose
actions were full of lightness and grace!

To increase my annoyance, this bearded commander got tipsy more than
once on brandy and absinthe; and then he would shake his crooked sabre
at me with many "strange oaths," of which I could make nothing; but I
thought that, if some of those "wives and daughters of England," who
think foreigners so interesting, had been with us in the Crimea, their
ideas of continentals might have changed in favour of their more prosaic
countrymen.

"_Ouf! pst! pst!_" I heard the wounded Frenchman muttering, as he raised
himself from an uneasy doze, and looked about him with one eye, that
glared wildly, for bandages concealed the other.  "But for this devilish
Crimean business, I should have been flirting in the Bois de Boulogne,
lounging in the Gardens of the Tuileries, eating ices at Tortoni’s, or
drinking lemonade at a café chantant with la belle Rogolboche. _Pst!
pst! c’est le diable!_"  Then, addressing himself to me, he said, "_Ah,
le Cossaque!_—yon devil of a Trebitski—is a shocking ruffian—a veritable
brigand!  Luckily, the Russian savage does not understand a word we say.
He has stolen your rations, and left you—pah! what a dog wouldn’t eat;
but I have something better, and you shall dine with me."

"I thank you, monsieur," said I.

"Comrades in glory, we shall be friends in misfortune!" exclaimed the
Frenchman, with great emphasis.  While he ran on thus, something in his
voice seemed familiar to me.

"You are, monsieur—you are——"

"Exactly, my friend; Victor Baudeuf, at your service—Captain of the
French line."

"I thought you were killed at Alma!"

"Only half killed, as you may see.  Pardieu! but who told you so?"

"Mademoiselle Sophie."

"The vivandière of the 2nd Zouaves?"

"Yes."

"Ah! she had always a spite at me—that dear little Sophie.  You should
see her riding at the head of the 2nd, with her canteen slung over her
shoulder, and a cigarette between her little fingers, and a saucy
twinkle in her bright eyes as she sings—

    "Vivandière du régiment
      C’est Catin qu’on me nomme,
    Je vends, je donne, et bois gaiment
      Mon vin et mon rogomme.


"I hope she may escape all this wild work, and see our beautiful France
again.  No, monsieur, I was not killed, but most severely wounded—left
for dead—and thus fell into the hands of these beastly fellows.  I
remember you now, monsieur.  We often met at Varna, at the Restaurant de
l’Armée d’Orient.  A droll den it was!  And you remember Jules
Jolicoeur, of the 2nd Zouaves.  Poor Jules!  A round shot finished him
at Alma.  He has gone to his last account. Heaven rest him!  You are a
Scotsman, I believe, though I always took you for a Jean Boule—à
_biftek_; and so you shall dine with me.  ’_Fier comme un Ecossais_,’ is
still a proverb among us in France, in memory of the old times, which
our Zouaves are about to renew, I think; for they boast themselves ’_les
Ecossais de l’Armée Française_,’ and fraternize like brothers with your
sans culotte regiments, in what you call ’lakeelt.’"

All this sounded so like some of Toole’s "French before breakfast," that
I could almost have laughed at my garrulous friend, who produced from a
small havresack, which he opened with his left hand—the right being
severely shattered by a grape shot—one of those _pâtés de foies gras_
for which Strasbourg is so famous; made from the livers of geese, after
the poor birds have undergone a process there is no use in detailing
here.  Heaven knows how M. Baudeuf came by it, but the pâté, with his
biscuit, he divided very liberally with me, and with the three wounded
Russians, who shared with us the soft comforts of the _kabitka_, and
whose glances of hungry appeal there was no resisting.

Aware that they knew not a word we were saying, we conversed freely; and
I told the Frenchman that, as no parole had been offered us, we should
escape together.  He replied that the hazard was great; yet that he
would have shared it with me, but for his shattered hand, which made him
every way so helpless.  He wished me every success, and gave me secretly
a little map of the Crimea, which he had concealed in the lining of his
tattered uniform; and this on every occasion I studied intently.

"Mutilated as I am, it is of no use to me," said he; "but may serve you,
_mon camarade_, at a pinch."

It was small, and by Huot and Demidoff; but was extremely correct.

On our arrival at Karasu-bazar, sixteen or eighteen miles from Kourouk,
I was separated from this pleasant Frenchman. I never saw him again, and
have too much reason to fear that he perished amid the horrors of a
catastrophe which ensued subsequently.

It was evening when, after traversing a pleasant valley, we entered
Karasu-bazar, so slow had been the progress of our primitive train of
cars, with their melancholy load of human suffering.  Situated on the
Karasu, an affluent of the Salghir, this town is the great wine and
fruit mart of the Crimea; and there a strange rabble of Tartars in short
jackets, with open sleeves, high caps, and high boots; Greeks in scarlet
fez and baggy blue breeches; Russians, with fur caps and canvas
doublets, trimmed with fur; and Armenians, in long, flowing garments,
crowded around us.

These escorted us through the narrow and tortuous streets in the dusk.
To attempt an escape there would be futile, notwithstanding that the
Tambrov uniform which I wore seemed to favour the idea.

Darkness set in.  We were closely guarded; and now I heard the shrill,
vicious whistle of a railway engine, and found the train of _kabitkas_
halted near some wooden booths, where the wires and posts of a
telegraph, a platform, and covered passenger shed, with other familiar
features of the usual kind, indicated a railway station!

In fact, we had reached the head of a single track line of railroad,
which had been hastily constructed for the conveyance of troops and
munition of war a portion of the way towards Perecop; and probably it
might have been carried to Arabat, at the head of the Putrid Sea, or to
Sebastopol itself, but for the rapid advance of the Allies.

Roughly constructed and hastily laid down, it led from the banks of the
Karasu I knew not at the time whither, as it was not depicted in the map
given to me by Captain Baudeuf, from whom I was now, as I have said,
separated.

We were all hurriedly thrust into carriages, or rather trucks, like
those for conveying cattle in Britain, without seat or other
accommodation, save a little straw for the miserable wounded, whose
numbers were greatly augmented by some fugitives from Khutor-Mackenzie.

The line of trucks might be, I suppose, about forty, including one which
bore the gallant Trebitski with his "Araby steed;" and three quaint and
old-fashioned locomotives, with large wheels and high chimneys, were
getting up their steam—one in front, one in rear, and one in the centre;
and these, after much wheezing and puffing, screaming and clanking, with
other discordant noises, got into motion simultaneously, and in the dark
we shot away from the streets and bazaars of the Karasu, for where was
yet a mystery to me.

The Cossack escort was now reduced to twenty dismounted men, who left
their horses and lances behind them, and were distributed among the
carriages; but luckily there were none in mine.

We had scarcely left the lights of the town behind us, when an odour of
burning attracted my attention, and the attention of those who were
penned up like sheep in the same truck with me.  We could only
communicate our fears by signs, and heads were constantly put forth on
both sides of the train, and withdrawn, always with exclamations of
excitement, while the alarming odour increased strongly.

The lines of rail were laid on sleepers of wood, and I imagined that,
perhaps, the hot ashes dropping from the three engines might cause the
smell of burning that was filling the air heavily, as we tore along past
hills and rocks, the domes of village mosques, or churches, tipped with
silver light by the rising moon; along wooden bridges that spanned
hoarse and brawling mountain streams; across open wastes, where the
millet, rye, and hemp had been reaped and gathered, or where the wild
tobacco still grew; past slopes clothed by dark waving woods, the
chestnut, the oak, and the wild pear tree, the rush of the train, and
the scream of the engine scaring away the goshawks, the magpie, and kite
from their nests; past round towers, arches, and aqueducts, the
crumbling ruins of the old Genoese days; past where flocks and herds
were grazing, till they fled on the noise of our approach.

And now the train dashed into a forest of pine and turpentine trees,
through which it seemed to rush for miles upon miles, its speed
augmenting every instant, while the odour of burning increased with
every revolution of the wheels.

Anon, loud cries of terror and agony rang out at times upon the night
breeze; and now a light—actual flames, other than those which came from
the furnaces—occasionally shed its swift red gleam upon the gnarled tree
stems that stood in thick ranks on each side of the way; and then came
the appalling conviction upon all our minds that, in addition to having
run off, or having been abandoned by its stupid Muscovite
engine-drivers, the train was on fire!

In those open and rudely-constructed trucks, there were no windows to
lower.  I thrust my head through the nearest opening, and found that the
two carriages in front of ours were a mass of flames, which burst forth
fiercely from all the apertures, and these, as they rushed in streams
behind, in consequence of the intense draught caused by the wild speed
at which the train careered through the forest, were setting our
carriage on fire also.  Fortunately I was in the rear compartment, and
for a time could look steadily ahead.

Oh, what a sight it was!

The footways on each side of the carriages that were on fire were
literally alive with sick and wounded wretches, who had crept out, and
now clung to the steps and handles, by which the guards usually clamber
about, afraid alike to fall or cast themselves off; but every instant a
shriek was heard, as the grasp of some maimed or feeble unfortunate
relaxed, and he vanished from sight as the train swept on. Some fell
into watercourses, some fell over banks, and were flung into the forest,
the turpentine trees of which, in many places, were now in flames.

The straw amid which the more helpless wounded lay was soon on fire.
Many of them were literally roasted alive, and I heard the pistols of
the Cossacks exploding, as they went off in the heat, or as their
despairing wearers shot themselves or each other.

The engine-drivers, for some reason unknown to me, must have jumped off
and abandoned the train, for it swept through the forest unchecked, a
mass of flames, from which the yells and shrieks were appalling.  More
than one carriage was literally burned down to its iron, all within
perishing miserably.

Even at that desperate time the hope of escape grew strong within me,
for every confusion was favourable.  Being locked in on both sides, I
crept through an aperture which served for a window, and found footing
on the side gangway, with two or three others, who clung to the carriage
and moaned fearfully, for the exertion had made their gunshot wounds
burst out afresh.  They soon dropped off, and I was left alone.

The rush of the glowing flames came hotly aft upon my face and hands.  I
saw the clinging mass ahead, swaying to and fro, their faces and figures
reddened in the scorching glare, which lit up the line of rails like two
red-hot wires that vanished into the forest—all this I saw for a moment,
and a moment only.

I was about to drop off, and trust to Providence for the sequel, when
there was a sudden shout, a crash, a vast shower of ruddy sparks, that
seemed to fill the air with fire, a piercing yell, and then, in silence
and darkness, I found myself rolling down a grassy bank for some twenty
yards or so, until I was arrested from further harm by some soft tobacco
plants, which there grew wild and thickly.

Unhurt, but greatly confused, and completely breathless I staggered up
to look around me.

The coupling of two of the burning carriages had broken; they had
tumbled heavily down the bank, breaking to pieces as they fell,
scattering the brands of their blazing woodwork far and wide, killing
outright some of the scorched and wounded occupants, several of whom I
saw lying near me in the moonlight, blackened and mutilated, while the
remainder of the train, with its three engines, all abandoned by their
cowardly conductors, swept on its errand of destruction and death
through the now flaming forest.

As I rose from amid the strange débris of smouldering wood and shattered
iron, of dead or dying, and half-burned men, and was considering in
which way to turn, I was met face to face by one whose right arm was
broken, but who, nevertheless, uttered a hoarse and guttural
malediction, with which I was not unfamiliar, having heard it frequently
from his lips before.  Drawing a pistol from his belt, with his left
hand he levelled it at my head.

Luckily the percussion cap snapped, and the weapon hung fire.  But to
close with Trebitski—for he it was—to wrench the pistol away, and knock
him mercilessly down with the butt-end, were all the work of a moment,
and then I felt that I was "the monarch of all I surveyed."

I was turning away, when a peculiar snorting sound attracted my
attention, and in a well-padded horse-box, which lay on its side far
down the slope, I saw the head of Trebitski’s Arab charger, as the poor
animal lolled out its red tongue, and threw back its small close ears in
terror and anger, for the sides of the horse-box were all scorched by
flame; and the mere odour of fire is sufficient to inspire a horse with
the most bewildering fear.

Here had Providence given me an additional chance for escape.  But I had
no time to lose; the train might be stopped by this time (though no
sound, save the moans of the maimed, now disturbed the silence of that
woody solitude), and succour might be sent to the sufferers, though
human life is but little valued in Russia, and human suffering is viewed
there with an amount of indifference that savours more of Asia than of
Europe.

My dragoon knowledge served me usefully here.  I contrived to calm and
soothe the Arab horse, to unbuckle the braces that secured it in the
partly-shattered stall, and it came forth, half-scrambling and
half-crawling, trembling in every limb, and every fibre quivering under
its glossy coat, which was flecked with white foam.  Cowed, calmed, and
terrified by the recent catastrophe, the horse was as docile as if Mr.
Rarey had been whispering his magic in its ear.

A noble Arab, with all the peculiarities of its breed—the square
forehead and fine black muzzle, the brilliant eyes and beautiful veins,
the withers high and body light, and standing somewhere about fourteen
hands and a half—it was whinnying, and rubbing its nose on my hand as if
for protection and fellowship.

He was saddled and accoutred, and the bridle was hanging on the pommel.

In a moment I had it over his head, and buckled to perfection, the
bridoon touching the corners of the mouth, but low enough not to wrinkle
them.

I vaulted into the saddle, leaving the adjustment of the stirrups to a
more leisure time, as Trebitski, in Cossack fashion, rode with his knees
up to his elbows; and just as that redoubtable personage was reviving
after his rough tap on the head, I dashed into the forest, and soon left
the scene of suffering far behind me.

In several places the wood was on fire, and, being dry with the heat of
the past summer, the branches and crisp leaves, particularly those of
the turpentine trees, burned briskly. Thus I could see the wavering
flames reddening the clouds above, while riding on, and ignorant of the
route I was pursuing, through this dense old forest, the jungle and
underwood at times completely retarding all progress.

I paused only to lengthen the stirrups, and give my newly-acquired
steed—in which I began to feel all the interest of proprietorship—a
draught at a runnel, and then sought the recesses of the densest thicket
I could find to wait for day, that I might look warily about, and
consider what to do next, for, if taken with the horse of the
Parooschick Adrian Trebitski in my possession, the chances of being
shot, or sent to life-long slavery, were great.  Anyway, I feared there
would be a vacant troop in Her Majesty’s lancers—a troop, perhaps, given
to Berkeley; and I feared that few Russian officers like the gay young
Anitchoff or kind old Vladimir Dahl might come in my way again.

My more immediate fear was for the wolves, which there roam in packs,
and were, no doubt, by this time howling and snarling among the victims
on the railroad.  If any of them scented me, I should have to take
refuge in a pine, where I might be starved to death, after they had
devoured my horse.

Every sound startled me; but I heard only the occasional gobble of the
wild bustards, which usually go in great flocks through all the wild
places of the Crimea.

I unbitted the Arab, and let him graze, but hobbled him so that he could
not escape; and as day began to steal redly through the distant dingles
of the wood, the light slowly descending from the summits to the lower
stems of the lofty pines, I found some wild grapes whereon to breakfast,
and quench the fierce thirst which recent excitement had induced.

When the light sufficed I drew forth the map given me by poor Captain
Baudeuf, and began to study my whereabouts. Through the openings of the
trees I could see, about a mile distant, the current of a broad and
evidently deep river shining in the morning sun.

The railway had not, to my knowledge, crossed such a stream; it flowed
from the west towards the east; hence, from its magnitude, it could only
be the Salghir, which, after being joined by the Karasu, flows into the
Putrid Sea.

This stream has usually little water in its bed, save after the melting
of the winter snows; but recent rains among the mountains of Ac-Metchet
had swollen it beyond its usual size. And now I beheld what must have
been a bend or sweep of it flowing between me and the tract of country
where our armies lay—the tract that stretched away towards Sevastopol,
which I supposed to be at least a hundred miles distant; and that idea
afterwards proved to be correct.

For a time my spirit quailed at the prospect before me.  I was nearly in
the middle of the savage and hostile Crimea, ignorant of the many
languages spoken there, ignorant of the roads, and with no money to
bribe or arms to intimidate.

No house or town was visible, or a sign of any living thing, save the
goldfinches that twittered in the trees, and the heron and wild duck
that waded or squattered among the green weeds and long trailers on the
bank of the rushing stream. The latter was nearly eighty yards broad.  I
knew that it must be crossed, as the south side was the safest.
Crossed! but how?

While considering this, the sound of a Cossack trumpet among the
woodlands in my rear gave me a nervous start, and made me resolve on
instant action.  I put my treasured map carefully away, mounted, and
urged my horse at once to the bank of the river.

I took my feet out of the stirrups, which I then crossed above the
saddle—a precaution no dragoon or other horseman should ever forget when
about to cross a river mounted; for if the horse should sink his
hind-legs to seek for footing, or, worse still, should he "turn a
turtle," while the rider’s feet are in the stirrups, the most fatal
results may ensue, and he will be helplessly drowned.

I was without spurs, yet I rushed him at the stream, for there are times
when rider and horse feel as one.  He took the water well, and struck
out bravely, for I leant well forward, so that my body rested on his
crest.  I had no occasion to touch the rein or use the bit; but steered
him by a switch torn from a tree.

With his neck stretched out like that of a dog, he swam coolly and
steadily across, with the ripples of the water under my armpits.  When
he grounded, and scrambled up the other side, I dismounted, and led him
by the bridle into a thicket beyond.

This was scarcely achieved, when some tall lances glittered on the other
side of the stream, where a party of twelve Cossacks were scouting; and
had my horse neighed they must have discovered me.  However, they all
disappeared in the wood; after which I breathed more freely, and
proceeded to rub down my Arab with tufts of dry grass, and to wring out
my wetted garments.

All that day I travelled through the woods, and at times along the
highways, avoiding even the Tartar herdsmen and field-labourers,
steering in the direction of Sebastopol, guided by my tiny map and the
sun; and towards nightfall I was lucky enough to meet with some French
troops, though at first I narrowly escaped being shot by their advanced
guard—a favour procured me by my Tambrov uniform.  Luckily I could
muster sufficient French to make myself known as an officer of her
Britannic Majesty’s service, and was conducted to the commander.

These troops proved to be the 77th Regiment of the Infanterie de la
Ligne, under Colonel Jean Louis Giomar, Commander of the Legion of
Honour, on their march towards Sebastopol.

I was in safety now, and was treated by him and his officers with every
attention and kindness, and, in truth, after all I had undergone during
the last twenty-four hours, I required both.

The 77th had landed but a few days before from _La Reine Blanche_[*] a
French ship of the line, in which the Emperor had revived the old
Parisian name for Mary Queen of Scots.


[*] Now an armour-clad, of six-inch iron plate.



                            *CHAPTER XLVII.*


In this manner we all sat ruminating upon schemes of vengeance, when our
little boy came running in to tell us that Mr. Burchell was approaching
at the other end of the field.  It is easier to conceive than describe
the complicated sensations which we felt from the pain of a recent
injury and the pleasure of approaching vengeance.—VICAR OF WAKEFIELD.


It was fully three weeks after the affair of the Belbeck river, when I
found myself sharing Jack Studhome’s quarters in Balaclava, after duly
reporting myself to Colonel Beverley, and making special inquiries for
Berkeley, who had already procured a few days’ sick leave, prior to
returning to Britain on "urgent private affairs," and was not with his
regiment, but was very snug on board his own yacht, which for his
convenience had come all the way from Cowes to Balaclava harbour.

"Leave—leave already—when we have barely broken ground before
Sebastopol!" I exclaimed, with profound disgust.

"Already," said Studhome, with a grim smile, as he twisted up a
cigarette, a luxury unknown to the "gentlemen of England" until
introduced by returned Crimeans.  "You may remember that I went home
from India on sick leave, just before that Rangoon business."

"That was annoying."

"Not at all—I thought it would be a stupid concern, and I had a heavy
book on the Oaks."

"But you were, of course, ill."

"What a Griff!  Those who get home on sick leave are always in the best
health.  It is just like the ’urgent private affairs’ of those who have
swell friends in high places. Uncles who are grooms of the backstairs,
and aunts who are ladies of the bedchamber.  Take care of Dowb, you
know, and Dowb will take deuced good care of himself."

"Home to England!"  I was almost stupefied with rage at the prospect of
his escaping the speedy vengeance I had schemed out for him, after
Studhome told me that he had had the daring effrontery to accuse me of
shooting my own horse!

"But now, Newton," said Jack, "for to-night, at least, not a word about
Berkeley.  The colonel, Travers, Wilford, the paymaster, Jocelyn, and
Harry Scarlett are all coming here to sup with us jollily, in honour of
your safe return, providing their own plates and spoons, of course.  I
omitted Scriven, because he is Berkeley’s particular chum.  To-morrow
I’ll get a boat and board his yacht.  Confound the fellow! we must
parade him—we must have him out now?"

"Or I shall shoot him in front of the line!" said I, grinding my teeth.

"Your Russian uniform would be quite in keeping with so melodramatic a
situation.  By Jove, you are a figure!" exclaimed Jack, turning me
round, and surveying my Tambrov uniform with more amusement than
admiration; but his own "turn out" was the most comical of the two, for
the kind of work undergone since we landed had made serious alterations
in the gay uniforms of our troops.

Studhome had not enjoyed the luxury of washing his hands, perhaps, for a
week; and as for shaving, that was never thought of now.  All our
officers had disembarked in their full uniforms.  They had marched,
fought, and slept in them; the lace was frayed, the gorgeous
box-epaulettes all crushed, broken, and torn; the coats and trousers
were a mass of mud; shakos and regulation caps had all disappeared, or,
at least, the fez, the turban, the shawl, and the wide-awake were
rapidly replacing them.

Every officer had a canvas havresack wherein to carry those edibles he
was lucky enough to beg, borrow, or find; a revolver, with belt and
pouch, was strapped to his waist, and all had become bronzed, hairy,
gaunt, and brigand-like in visage and expression.  "Oh for the mantle of
Fortunatus," says one in his letters, "to place such an officer all at
once into his London haunts, and among the old familiar faces.  Put him
down in Pall Mall, or Piccadilly, or on the swelling carpets of the
Junior United Service!"

Such was the aspect of Lionel Beverley, that tall and stately soldier,
and polished English gentleman; of Frank Jocelyn, our lisping dandy; of
the usually clean-shaven M’Goldrick, our quaint old Scotch paymaster; of
dashing young Sir Harry Scarlett, and all the rest of our once splendid
lancer mess, most of whom came crowding into Jack’s very queer bunk at
Balaclava, to welcome me back among them, and hear the story of my
adventures since I fell among the Russians.

Seated on boxes, chests, the camp bed, and even on the floor, they
jested, laughed, and smoked, while the din of the distant cannonade told
how the work of death was going on ceaselessly at Sebastopol.

"We are now, Norcliff, fairly in for the business of the siege," said
the colonel.

"Ugh! and a jolly and lucrative business it is likely to prove," added
the paymaster, with a grimace.

"Welcome back, Norcliff, old fellow!" said Travers, shaking me warmly by
the hand; "we must look up a kit for you somehow, and a remount too.
Beverley has a second horse; but I think its tail was eaten off by
Scarlett’s bay mare when the corn fell short."

"Our horses have no nosebags.  Those infernal red-tape-worms in London
are doing their best to destroy us," said Sir Harry Scarlett.

"Are Sir Nigel’s suspicions to be right, after all?" thought I.

"You forget my Arab horse—my spoil from the enemy."

"Well, gentlemen," said Studhome, who had been uncorking several
bottles, "you shall sup _à la carte_.  I have a hare which is being
jugged in that identical warming-pan which we picked up at Eskel; two
golden plovers and a gallant bustard are being stewed with it.  I shot
the latter; the hare was caught by Travers’ Kurdistan dog—a rough brute,
like your Scotch staghounds, M’Goldrick.  That is my kitchen," he added,
pointing to a hole before the tent, in which some ashes were
smouldering.  "This is true Crimean fashion.  Make a hole as a grate,
and when you have aught to put in your kettle light a fire under it.
’Dost like the picture?’  But here come the viands!"

The stew, which had been prepared by Pitblado and Studhome’s servant
(both of whom officiated in their stablejackets), was certainly savoury
enough in odour, though not quite such as we might have welcomed at the
home mess-table.  It steamed and spattered bravely in two large tin
dishes; and with their contents, and some biscuits of Trieste flour from
the bakery-ship _Abundance_ (on board which twenty thousand pounds of
bread were made daily, and yet the army starved), a piece of cheese,
some fruit, and several bottles of Bass, sherry, and brandy, we resolved
to make a night of it.

"’Od, it’s a queer mess, this!" said that constitutional grumbler,
M’Goldrick, as he fished away with his fork.  "I doubt whether the
mastodon or the megatherium of antediluvian times would have faced it.
What do you call this, Studhome?"

"Come, don’t mock the blessings of war, most learned Scot!  That is the
gizzard of a wild bustard.  Help yourself and pass the sherry.
Pitblado, uncork the Bass."

"Wood is frightfully scarce here," said Travers.  "Our fellows seized
and burnt all the tent-poles and pegs of Hadji Mehmet’s regiment of Bono
Johnnies, and old Raglan made a devil of a row about it."

"We are put to odd shifts, certainly," added the colonel, laughing; "and
it is seldom a supper like this comes our way, Norcliff.  The green
coffee, pounded between two stones, is not the worst thing we have to
encounter; for, after it is pounded, we have no fuel wherewith to boil
it, and men are actually flogged for taking dry-wood from the beach.  We
must do our best to keep ourselves alive, though the Russians and
red-tapists are doing theirs to make an end of us."

"I have actually been thinking of turning Tartar, and speculating
seriously on the merits of horseflesh," said Scarlett, as he tore away
at a drumstick of the bustard.  "I suppose you know that the chargers of
the Heavies are dying like sheep with the rot?"

"Now, M’Goldrick, pass the bottle, will you!" said Jack. "By Jove! you
Scotchmen are such slow fellows!"

"Slow or fast," growled the paymaster, "I don’t know how in this war you
would get on without us.  You have the two Dundases, Charley Napier, Sir
George Cathcart, two Campbells—Sir John and Sir Colin—Jamie Simpson, and
Sir George Browne."

"Anything you like; but pass the wine from right to left," said the
jovial adjutant, who began to sing—

    Right about went horse and foot,
      Artillery and all,
    And as the devil left the house,
      They tumbled through the wall,
        When
    They saw our light dragoons,
    With their long swords, boldly riding,
      Whack! fol de rol, &c.


Amid this kind of merriment and banter, we heard ever and anon the
thunder of the heavy guns from the batteries of Sebastopol, as they
fired on the lines where our brave troops were working to get under
cover—working with old spades and mattocks, which the Iron Duke had sent
home as unserviceable from Spain—and I felt saddened by the idea that
every boom which pealed in the distance was, perhaps, the knell of at
least one human soul.  I had other thoughts that made me grave and
stern.

No letters had reached me from home; nor had anything come, save an old
_Punch_ or two, addressed in my uncle’s handwriting.  Even Cora was
forgetting me!

My blood was boiling against Berkeley.  A long debt of cowardly wrong
was about to be paid off, if he did not elude me by a hasty departure on
leave.  The clear grey eye of the colonel was fixed on me at times.  He
knew my thoughts; but he and the others, with the intuitive delicacy
peculiar to well-educated and highly-bred men, forbore to speak of
Berkeley, and the grave obligation which they were aware I was about to
clear off in a manner that had become unusual now.

"You are listening to the cannon of the siege train," said Beverley.
"We cavalry are in clover here, when compared to our poor infantry, who
are potting the Russians like partridges, from amid the mud of the
trenches."

"Mud, thickened by blood, and fragments of shot and shell—a veritable
Slough of Despond!" added the paymaster.

"There, in the rifle-pits, our advanced parties have fired till the
grooves of their barrels are lined with lead, and their aching shoulders
are black and blue with the kicking of the butt."

"Yes, colonel; and if any one wishes to study the theory of sounds and
atmospheric effects, my wigwam in the cavalry quarter is the very
place," said Studhome.  "Boom! there goes that Lancaster gun again.  It
must be playing old gooseberry with the Russians by moonlight.  Only
think of ten-inch shells, fired at point-blank range!  I was up this
morning at the trenches, and saw a long sixty-eight pounder from the
_Terrible_ brought into position by the blue-jackets, to bear on a heavy
gun on the left embrasure of the Mamelon. It was trained by a naval
officer—a fine young fellow.  The practice he made was perfect!  The
first shot tore away the left of the embrasure; the second struck the
great gun full on the muzzle, shattering it, and then the eyes of the
young officer flashed with delight!  ’Bravo, my lads! load he again!’ he
exclaimed; and with the third shot he dismounted the gun completely.
Lord Raglan then telegraphed to fire the sixty-eight every half hour,
and effectually breach the Mamelon."

"But before the order came, a shot struck our brave young sailor, and
killed him on the spot," added the Colonel.

"His fall was sudden, and his interment as rapid as his demise," said
Studhome; "he was buried beside the gun."

"Poor fellow!" observed the Colonel, thoughtfully; "few would like to
die thus.  Yet that which was his fate to-day may be mine or yours
to-morrow.  This idea makes the memory, the heart, go home.  We number
those who love us there, and those whom we love.  Their faces come
before us, and their voices fall again on the ear.  Little expressions
and little episodes come vividly to mind.  Shall we ever see them again,
those home circles—those loved and treasured ones! Well, well; every
bullet has its billet—duty is duty—(another old saw), and the first
obligation of a soldier is obedience. And so we console ourselves, and
hope on for the best, drowning dull care in the bottle, or boldly
treading him under foot."

The poor Colonel’s words often came back to memory long after he led us
to that terrible charge through the Valley of Death!

Thus their conversation and anecdotes were all connected with the great
siege then in progress; but after they had all retired, Studhome and I
reverted, all at once, to the matter which was uppermost in my mind—the
punishment of Berkeley.

"Take a caulker of cognac, Norcliff, and then turn in. Keep your head
and your hand cool.  I’ll take a boat for his yacht after _reveillez_
to-morrow, and though he has got sick leave for a few days, he is not so
sick that he can’t hold a pistol."

"Arrange this for me, Jack, and you shall win my lasting gratitude,"
said I, fervently.

Jack shook me warmly by the hand, and then we betook us to our not
over-luxurious couches for the night.

When I awoke in the morning, Studhome had mounted and ridden off to the
harbour.



                           *CHAPTER XLVIII.*


    The tattoo beats, the lights are gone,
      The camp around in slumber lies;
    The night with solemn pace moves on,
      The shadows thicken o’er the skies.
    But sleep my weary eyes hath flown,
      And sad, uneasy thoughts arise.
    I think of thee, oh, dearest one,
      Whose love my early life hath blest—
    God of the gentle, frail, and lone,
      Oh, guard the tender sleeper’s rest.


I awaited his return with impatience, while our servants were pounding
the green coffee for breakfast.  After the lapse of an hour or so he
cantered up to the door of our wigwam—for such it was, being half tent
and half hut—sprang off and threw his reins to Lanty O’Regan.

"Berkeley?" I inquired.

"Has given you the slip for this time."

"The devil!—how?"

"Whether he has heard of your return or not I cannot say; but the yacht
has left her moorings, and stood away towards the Straits of Yenikale.
We shall have better luck another time; but meanwhile, here is something
to solace you for your disappointment."

"His sick leave——"

"Was extended to the 17th of this month; but he was not to leave
Balaclava harbour, it was presumed.  I met Beverley as I was riding
back, and he gave one of his quiet and significant laughs, on hearing
that the yacht had put to sea."

"He then divined your errand?"

"Of course—the affair is pretty patent to the whole corps now; but here,
I say, is something to console you in the meantime."

"Something—what?"

"The Sultan Abdul Medjid has already sent several medals for
distribution among the officers of the Allies, and here is an
announcement that to you—you only of all our corps as yet—he has
accorded his star of Medjidie; and here also is the Colonel’s memorandum
concerning it for insertion in this day’s regimental orders, stating
that it is given for the bravery and zeal displayed by you in assisting
the quartermaster-general to procure trains of waggons—those blessed
_kabitkas_—before we advanced on the Alma."

With equal astonishment and pleasure I heard of this unexpected honour,
though no way inclined to indulge in self-glory, when a Turkish officer
of rank, a fat old fellow, wearing a blue surtout, a scarlet fez, and
gold-hilted Damascus sabre—an aide-de-camp of the Seraskier
Pasha—brought me the Order of the Medjidie—a silver star, inscribed, in
Turkish characters, "Zeal and ardent sentiments of Honour and Fidelity,"
around the Sultan’s cypher, which closely resembled the cabalistic
figures on the side of a tea-chest—when he hung it on my breast, I say,
the natural emotions of pride which rose in my heart were blended with
joy at the pure satisfaction it would afford my dear friends at home.

A jolly cooper of old port would be started at Calderwood, and I already
saw in fancy my uncle (to whom I instantly wrote of my safety and
success) receiving the congratulations of his neighbours and old
servants.  And what of Louisa? Surely this would be soothing to her
inordinate pride!

It was accompanied by a little diploma in Turkish, to the effect that
"Captain Newton Calderwood Norcliff, of her Britannic Majesty’s service,
having distinguished himself prior to the battle of the Alma, as a gift
in appreciation of his worthily-performed duty, his Imperial Majesty the
Sultan grants him the fifth degree of the Medjidie medal, together with
this warrant.  Dated in the year of the Hejira, 1271."

Medals, save those of the old Waterloo veterans, were scarcely known in
our service, as yet—thus a decorated man was a man of mark.  Yet, amid
the excitement of campaigning, this gift was but the gratification of an
hour, and the dull craving at my heart to punish Berkeley and to hear
from Louisa still remained unsatisfied.

Reduced by service, sufferings, starvation, and cholera, our regiment
was very weak now, so all servants and grooms were turned into the
ranks.  Our chief duty was to watch the Russian forces that were
gathered for the relief of Sebastopol. Their outposts were only four
miles distant from the little secluded harbour of Balaclava, where under
the shadow of an old round Genoese tower, several line-of-battle ships
(including the gallant _Agamemnon_), and some dozen of transports, were
daily disembarking troops and stores, as they lay within ten yards of
the red and white marble rocks that rise into mountains and overlook the
inlet, as the steep hills enclose a Highland loch at home.

To harass us, the Cossacks frequently galloped forward, causing a
general turn-out of the whole line of British cavalry.  Then the
trumpets blew "Boot and saddle," lance and sabre were assumed, and arms
were loaded; but our ranks would barely be formed, when they would ride
quietly back again.  We swept all the valleys of everything we could
find either to eat or burn, and our patrol duties were incessant. We
always slept in our dress-jackets, with boots and spurs on, our cloaks
over us, and arms and accoutrements at hand, ready to turn out at the
first note of the alarm trumpet: and though the days were sometimes hot,
the nights were cold now, and the dews were chilly and dangerous.

Once I had a narrow escape.

On the hilly grounds above the Monastery of St. George, seeing a Turkish
officer busy with an old rusty bombshell, the fuse of which had long
since burned out, and the contents of which he was investigating by
sedulously poking them with the point of his sabre, as he sat
cross-legged with the missile in his lap, I drew near.  At that moment
it exploded, blowing him nearly to pieces, while a splinter tore away my
left epaulette!

"Allah be praised! so ends thy black and most unholy magic!" exclaimed a
Turkish _onbashi_, who stood near; and then, in the mutilated dead man,
I recognised the _hakim_ Abd-el-Rasig, the magician and chief doctor of
the 10th regiment of the Egyptian Contingent; and in the speaker, who
coolly proceeded to search his remains for coins or valuables, the
corporal whose mother’s image he had failed to produce in the
necromantic shell at Varna!

Squalid, dirty, and miserable, the sentinels of the once splendid 93rd
Highlanders, with frayed tartans, patched jackets, and tattered plumes,
while guarding Balaclava, presented a very different aspect now from
that which they showed when their grand advance along the slopes of the
Kourgané Hill struck terror to the souls of the Muscovites.

The Black Watch and the gay Cameron Highlanders were in the same
condition.  I saw the latter erecting a cairn above the grave of one of
their officers—young Francis Grant, of Kilgraston, who had died at
Balaclava, and it made me think of the words of Ossian: "We raised the
stone, and bade it speak to other times."

So the time passed quickly in our cavalry quarters at Balaclava, while
the siege was being pressed, amid misery, blood, and disaster, by the
infantry of the Allies.  Our duties were the reverse of monotonous, and
were frequently varied by most desperate rows among the Montenegrins,
Albanians, Arnauts, Greeks, and Koords, who all hated each other
cordially, and were always ripe and ready for mischief, as they
swaggered about, each with a barrowful of pistols and yataghans in the
shawl that formed his girdle; or it might be the alarm of fire, broken
out none knew how.  Then the trumpets were blown loudly; the gathering
pipes of the Highland Brigade would send up their yells; and the
fire-drum would be beaten on board the war-ships in the harbour. Then
their boats would come off, full of marines and seamen, chorusing "Cheer
boys, cheer," while rumours were rife of incendiary Greeks hovering
about our stores and powder with lucifer matches and fusees; shots might
be fired, a few men cut down, and then we would all dismiss quietly to
quarters again.

Dreaming of cutting foreign throats, my groom and servant (until they
got a dog tent) slept under a tree close by my tent, each with his
martial cloak around him, as Lanty said, "Like two babbies in the wood,
only the divil a cock robin ever came to cover them up with leaves."

Lying by night in my tent, around which a wall of turf had been raised
for warmth, to sleep after a day of harassing excitement was often
impossible.  Through the open triangular door, I could see the same
bright stars and the same moon that were looking down on the quiet
harvest fields at home, where the brown stubble had replaced the golden
grain; the line of camp fires smoking and reddening in the breeze as it
passed along the hostile hills.  I could hear our horses munching as
they stood unstalled close by in the open air, and the baying of the
wild Kurdistan dogs in the distance far away.

From these, and the nearer objects within the tent, its queer furniture
and baggage-trunks, the varnished tins of preserved fish, flesh, and
fowl, the warming-pan in which Pitblado stewed my beef and boiled my
potatoes (when I had either), hanging with my sword, sash, pistols, and
lancer-cap on the tent-pole; a cheese and a frying-pan, side by side
with a tea-kettle and writing-case; boots and buckets in one corner, a
heap of straw in another; empty Cliquot bottles and a gallant leather
bag for holding six quarts of cognac—from all these my thoughts would
wander away in the hours of the night to home, and all its peace and
comfort.

I thought—I know not why—of the village burying-ground in Calderwood
Glen, where my mother and all my kindred lay, and I shuddered at the
idea of being flung into one of those Crimean hecatombs that studded all
the ground about Sebastopol.  On the grassy graves in Calderwood, how
often had I seen the summer sun shine joyously, and the summer grass
waving in the warm breezes that swept the Lomond hills.  The bluebell
and the white marguerite, the wild gowan and the golden buttercup, were
there growing above the dead; the old kirk walls and its haunted aisle,
covered with ivy and the lettered tombs where laird and lady lay, with
all the humble dwellers of the hamlet near them, came before me in
memory, and I felt intensely sad on reflecting I might be buried here,
so far from where my kindred slept, though

    The stately tomb which shrouds the great
      Leaves to the grassy sod
    The dearer blessing that its dead
      Are nearer to their God.


Often had dear Cora quoted that verse to me at the old kirk stile, when
the rays of a golden sunset were falling on the Falkland woods.

A letter which the Colonel had received from Sir Nigel, had, no doubt,
induced this train of thought.  It was all, however, about the Fifeshire
pack and the Lanark race-meeting, "anent the bond," and Mr. Brassy
Wheedleton and Messrs. Grab and Screwdriver, W.S., Edinburgh; that the
bond had been got rid of, and Mr. Brassy, too, without having recourse
to Splinterbar or old Pitblado’s sparrow-hail—matters beyond the
Colonel’s comprehension, but of which he was to inform me, if he could,
through the Russian lines, and discover whether I was well, as my
friends were sorely afflicted to hear that I had been taken prisoner by
Lord Aberdeen’s friends.

Mail after mail came up per steamer from the Bosphorus; but there never
was a letter for me from Lady Loftus, and my heart grew sick and sore
with its old doubts and apprehensions.  Nor were these natural emotions
untinged by jealous fear that her cold, aristocratic father, or chilly,
imperious mother, had prevailed—or that a more successful suitor had
urged his suit.  The latter seemed not unlikely, as I heard of her
having been seen at the Derby with the marquis, and his party at
Brighton.  That when in London she was still the cynosure of every eye;
that at her opera-box every lorgnette was levelled when she entered;
that she was ever smiling, gay, happy, and beautiful!

Letters to Fred Wilford and others of ours told of these things, and
some hinted that a marriage was on the tapis with several persons as
ineligible as myself; but, save Scriven, none ever hinted at my peculiar
bugbear, the marquis.

When I lay on out-piquet, drenched with rain, and chilled by the early
frosts, half dead with cold and misery of body, the fears her silence
roused within me, added to other discomforts, made me reckless of my
wretched life.

What would I not have given for liberty to return to Britain—the liberty
which so many sought for and obtained, under a military régime so very
different from that of the Iron Duke and the glorious days of Vittoria
and Waterloo, until "urgent private affairs" became a byword and a scoff
in the pages of _Punch_, as before the walls of Sebastopol; but the
liberty for which I panted—liberty to return, and convince myself that I
was not forgotten, and still loved by Louisa—a just sense of honour
restrained me from seeking; so I remained like Prometheus on his rock,
chained to my troop, with its daily round of peril and suffering.

A letter from Cora might have served to soothe me; but Cora never wrote
to me.  With all the love I bore Louisa, for Cora I had ever an
affection that went, perhaps, beyond cousinship; for our regard had
begun as companions in childhood, and no cloud had ever marred or
shadowed it.

Had I loved her as I loved Lady Loftus, how much of sorrow had been
spared me!

So time passed rapidly away until the evening of the 16th of October,
when Studhome came to my tent, with a sparkle in his eye and a flush on
his cheek.

"Jocelyn has been down to the harbour," said he, "and he has seen
Berkeley’s yacht.  She is now at anchor close to the old ruined castle,
and Scriven has boarded her."

"See him at once, Jack, like a good fellow," I exclaimed. "Delay is
fatal with one so slippery."

"All right!  I’m off!" replied Studhome, seizing his forage-cap, and in
a few minutes after I saw him galloping past the redoubts of Kadokoi;
for we, the cavalry, with the Highland brigade, were not exactly
quartered in Balaclava, but among some vineyards two miles distant from
the harbour-head in the direction of Sebastopol.

Lucky for us, too, that we were so, as the harbour of Balaclava was full
of dead troop-horses, whose swollen bodies were used as stepping-stones
in the shallow places, while all the ground about the little town was
full of half-buried soldiers, whose feet, fingers, and fleshless skulls
stuck through their shallow graves.



                            *CHAPTER XLIX.*


    To-morrow?  O, that’s sudden!  Spare him:
    He’s not prepared for death!  Even for our kitchens
    We kill the fowl of season.  Shall we serve Heaven
    With less respect than we do minister
    To our gross selves?  Good, good, my lord, bethink you:
    Who is it that hath died for this offence?
    There’s many have committed it.
      SHAKSPEARE.


"I have been on board the yacht, Newton.  I have seen Berkeley and
Scriven there, and the matter is all but arranged," said Studhome, as he
tossed aside his whip and forage-cap, seated himself on the edge of my
camp bed, and proceeded to light a cigar.

Much though I longed for it, the information gave me a species of
nervous start.

"Thanks, Jack.  He will come to the scratch, then?"

"Like the muff, or rather the knave he is, in a fashion of his own.  I
found him surrounded by every luxury on board his yacht, and she is a
beauty—the _Seapink_ of Cowes.  He was lounging indolently on a rich
sofa, in a velvet smoking-cap and gorgeous brocade dressing-gown, tied
with yellow silk tassels.  By Jove, the fellow was as grandly got up as
a Highland piper, or Solomon in all his glory; and he and Scriven were
having tiffin—not as we do here, on green coffee and pounded biscuit,
but on preserved grouse pie, with iced hock and seltzer water.  They
asked me to join them, and offered me the chair, which had just been
vacated by a—a—pretty Greek girl whom he has on board.  His countenance
fell rather when he heard my spurs rattling on the steps of the
companion-way, and lower still when he discovered my errand.  Before our
Sybarite of a brother officer, with his bandolined moustaches and
exquisite toilette, I was weak enough to feel almost ashamed of my
tattered blue surtout, with its frayed frog lace."

"You reminded him of the arrangement made between you and Scriven at
Maidstone barracks?"

"Word for word."

"And what did he say?"

"He grew rather pale and nervous, and so forth, and muttered,
’Aw—aw—doocid odd sort of thing.  A demmed noosance to fight a fellah
when he had just that morning got his leave to return home on—aw,
aw—urgent private affairs.’  And then he eyed me superciliously and
defiantly through his eyeglass, stroking his bandolined moustache the
while, till I felt inclined to punch his well-oiled head."

"Confounded puppy!" I exclaimed.

"One might as well sing psalms to a dead horse as appeal to the honour
of such as he—the most contemptible fellow one could meet with in the
longest day’s march."

"So he has actually got his leave for England, then?"

"Yes; so I was not a moment too late.  The yacht’s crew were taking in
water, prior to getting under weigh again. He hummed and hawed, and
puffed himself out like a pouter pigeon for a time; but ’a change came
o’er the spirit of his dream,’ when Scriven, his own peculiar chum,
acknowledged that all our mess knew of, and tacitly acquiesced in, the
scheme for a hostile meeting within the French lines, or rather within
range of Sebastopol, to account for any mishap that might occur.  You
should have seen how he winced at the word ’mishap!’  Scriven and I then
retired together on deck for a few minutes, and there arranged that,
after sunset to-morrow night, at seven o’clock, as there will no doubt
be a brilliant moon, we are to meet on the hilly ground midway between
the British left attack and the right of the French entrenchments, about
a mile from the South Fort of Sebastopol. There, if necessary, two shots
are to be exchanged at twelve paces each, after which we will allow no
more firing.  The first shot to be tossed for; the others to follow in
succession."

"Enough, Jack," said I, trembling with fierce eagerness, as I shook his
hand.  "When I remember all his perfidy towards me, his cool insolence
at Calderwood, the mode in which he sought to compromise me with that
poor girl at the Reculvers, his subsequent slanders at Maidstone, his
act of treachery at the Balbeck, and his crowning it by the cool
assertion that I, and not he, shot my own horse, to fall into the
enemy’s hands—I shall shoot him if I can, like the dog he is."

I passed the night as I suppose most men do who have such a dreadful
business as a duel on their hands.  It was all very well for Studhome to
urge me again and again to sleep soundly, to keep my hand steady and my
head cool; but strange thoughts _would_ come unbidden—thoughts of those
who were far away, and from whom I was now, perhaps, on the eve of
parting for ever.  Yet I could not bring myself to wish that Berkeley
had sailed and escaped me.

Next morning ushered in the 17th of October, and with it the first
formal bombardment of Sebastopol, on which the breaching batteries
opened simultaneously from all quarters; and so terrible was the roar of
sound, that in the rifle pits the discharge of the muskets could
scarcely be heard.  It seemed a mere snapping of caps.

I could not help smiling grimly when I heard the storm of war that was
raging in the distance.

"What is one human life amid the numbers that are passing away
there?—and such as Berkeley’s, too!" said I.

"Too true," replied Jack.  "But there go the trumpets for church parade.
We are to have divine service in the cavalry camp, it seems."

"Why?"

"We missed sermon on two Sundays—the chaplains were so busy with burial
services for the cholera dead—so we are to have our minds enlightened
to-day."

As the regiment was for patrol duty, it paraded on horseback, and the
whole formation of the parade—the lancers, with their fluttering
banneroles; the appearance of the chaplain, with his white surplice and
Crimean beard; the Bible on the kettledrums, which were improvised as a
pulpit; and, in short, the entire affair seemed to me a species of
phantasmagoria, for my thoughts and intentions were far away from that
strange and stirring, yet somewhat solemn, scene.  I was rather struck
with the inconsistency of the text, however, on that a day of such
importance to me and to the history of Europe.

"Love thine enemy, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them
which despitefully use you and persecute you."

Such was the text of our chaplain on that morning.  I heard him praying
and expounding amid the thunder of the breaching batteries all round
Sebastopol, from the Tchernaya on the right to the Quarantine Point on
the left; but late events had turned my heart to stone, and with my mind
intent upon a duel to the death, I heard him preach in vain.

Though still unflinching in purpose, he somewhat softened me in one way:
and in the evening, after some reflection, and to be prepared for the
worst, I wrote a farewell letter to Sir Nigel, with a full explanation
of my conduct, and my dearest thanks for all his kindness.  My sword,
pistols, saddle, and the Medjidie medal I left him as souvenirs, and to
Cora some little jewels which I named as remembrances of her old
boy-lover, Newton.

Then I turned me to compose a brief, bitter letter to Louisa. It
contained but two or three lines.  As circumstances stood between us, I
could not trust myself to say more than "that I was called upon by the
rules of honour, and the duty I owed to myself, to have a hostile
meeting with one who had wronged me deeply; that God only could know the
sequel; and while at this moment I committed my soul into His hands, I
entreated her to be assured that, if I fell, I should die loving her,
and her only."

This letter I had just sealed, addressed, and placed beside the other in
my tent, when Studhome arrived, cloaked, and ready to set out.  Our
horses, with pistols in the holsters, were brought to the door.

It was long past five now, and the sun had set.  I gave Pitblado the
letters, saying—

"I am going to the front this evening, Willie, and, as we know not what
may happen, if I don’t return, you will carefully see these letters
posted for Britain."

My voice must have faltered, for Pitblado looked at me earnestly, and
said—

"Of course, sir—of course, sir; but, please, don’t talk that way."

"Good-bye!" said I, clapping him kindly on the shoulder; and, as we
mounted and rode away in the dark, I could see my faithful adherent
looking alternately and wistfully at the superscription of the letters
and after us.

Like a mighty shield of gold, the moon had long since risen from the
Euxine, far across which its brightness came on the ripples, like a
shining path, from the horizon to the red marble cliffs of Balaclava and
Cape Phiolente, and now her disc grew smaller as she ascended into the
more rarefied atmosphere; but her brilliance gave promise of a clear and
lovely night as we quitted the cavalry camp at an easy walk—trotting
might shake my hand, Jack said—and took the road that leads direct from
Balaclava northward to Sebastopol.

High and broken ground rises on each side of that path which so many
trod never to return, and which was now thronged by mounted men pouring
down to Balaclava.  A mile distant on our left, we passed the hamlet of
Karani, and on our right the long line of defence works and redoubts,
which lay two miles in rear of Khutor Karagatch, the British
head-quarters.  Those of France were a mile farther on, to the left; and
then, diverging in the opposite direction, in rear of the breaching
batteries which crossed the roadway, we sought for a quiet path between
them and the extreme left of our army, to reach the broken ground
opposite to the bastions of the South Fort, the proposed scene of our
little operations.

So grand, so wild, and stirring was the scene, that for a moment I
reined in my horse, and, forgetful of the dreadful errand on which we
had come, surveyed it with a curious eye.

As I have said, on this night "the moon, sweet regent of the sky,"
full-orbed and glorious, shone with wonderful brilliance, eclipsing even
the fixed stars in the deep blue vault above, pouring ten thousand
silver rays over everything, bringing out some features in strong light,
or sinking others into deep, dark shadow.

The terrible panorama of Sebastopol lay before us.  The noble harbour,
with its tremendous batteries, its outer and inner booms, and myriad
sunken ships, of all sorts and sizes, the mastheads of some, the mere
stumps, bowsprits, and poops of others, visible, showing where the
_Flora_ of forty-four guns, the _Oriel_ of eighty-four, the _Three
Godheads_ of one hundred and twenty, and all the rest of that vast
scuttled armament, mounting more than one thousand five hundred cannon,
lay, all sunk to bar our entrance.

We could see the white flag of Russia flying on its citadel; the cupola
of the great church; the glass windows of the houses—the entire city,
with all the domes and towers glittering in the moonlight, and girdled
by its vast and formidable bastions of earth and stone, from which, ever
and anon, came a red flash, and the boom of a heavy shot, or the clear,
bright fiery arc described by the whistling shell, as it curved in mid
air, on its ghastly errand, towards the French or British lines.

All this stirring panorama we saw extending for more than four miles,
from the lazaretto on the west to the light of Inkermann on the east,
which was glittering in the distance on its tower, four hundred feet
above the mouth of the Tchernaya.

Several dead bodies lying in the immediate foreground, and the turf all
torn to pieces and studded with cannon-balls and fragments of exploded
shell—a literal pavement of iron—did not "add enchantment to the view."

That softer effects might not be wanting, between the booming of the
half-random cannonade that was dying away for the night, we could hear
the brass band of the Rifle Brigade playing an old familiar air, which
sounded sweetly in the distance.  It was "Annie Laurie"—an air heard
daily and hourly among our tents in the Crimea.

"Of all songs, the favourite song at the camp," says one of the lancers,
in a published letter, "is ’Annie Laurie.’  Words and music combine to
render it popular, for every soldier has a sweetheart, and almost every
soldier possesses the organ of tune.  Every new draft from Britain
marches into camp playing this old Scottish melody.  I once heard a
corporal of the Rifle Brigade start ’Annie Laurie.’  He had a tolerably
good tenor voice, and sang with expression; but the chorus was taken up
by the audience in a much lower key, and hundreds of voices, in the most
exact time and harmony, sang together—

    And for bonnie Annie Laurie
    I’d lay me doon and dee!

The effect was extraordinary.  I never heard any chorus in oratorio
rendered with greater solemnity; and the heart of each singer was
evidently far away over the sea."[*]


[*] Letter from the camp.


Just as we diverged from the main road, we heard the galloping of horses
in our rear.

"Thank God, we are _first_ on the ground," said Studhome. "Here come
Scriven and his man, with our assistant-surgeon, Bob Hartshorn, on his
nagtailed bay."

As he spoke, they reined in their horses a little.  Then we all bowed,
touched our caps, and proceeded slowly along the eminence, towards a
quiet hollow, which Studhome and Scriven had previously inspected.

Berkeley was nervous and restless; his eyes wandered vaguely over the
moonlit scenery.  I could see that he frequently passed his tongue over
his lips, as if to moisten them; he drew his gloves off and on, and
fidgeted with his stock and eyeglass a hundred times; yet he chatted
gaily enough to Scriven and the doctor, who told us that he had quite
patients enough on his list, without having them added to by fighting
duels.

"How romantic!—how terribly grand is all this prospect!" exclaimed
Hartshorn, pointing to Sebastopol.

"Aw—haw—doocid good!" drawled my antagonist; "but, Bob, my dear boy, I
am an Englishman, and England has been too well fed, too d——d cosy, for
centuries, to have much romance about her! and so—aw—aw—I have none,
thank Heaven!  It is behind the age, Bob—behind the age!"

"An Englishman?" said I to Studhome.  "His worthy father was an honest
Scotch tradesman, who could little have foreseen the despicable figure
his son is cutting to-night."

"I was up to the front before to-day," said Scriven, "and got a rifle
ball through my shako."

"It will serve for the—aw—aw—healthy purpose of ventilation," said
Berkeley, with a laugh—a very little one, however.

"My old quarters in Balaclava have been nicely ventilated by three
bullet-holes in the roof," said the doctor, a good-humoured, careless
young fellow.

"Bob is quartered there, on an old Turk, whose third wife is a female so
severely respectable, that she never feeds the hens without a veil on."

"Why?" asked Scriven.

"Can’t you guess?" asked Berkeley.

"No."

"Because there is—aw—aw—a d——d cock among them."

This frivolous conversation was now interrupted by a hoarse voice in
front, challenging—

"Qui va là?"

"Friends!" I replied.

"_Anglaises_," added the other, and we found ourselves face to face with
a French mounted officer and a small party of workmen, with pickaxes and
shovels.  In the horseman I immediately recognised Colonel Giomar, of
the French 77th Regiment, who demanded whither we were going in that
remarkable direction.

"’Tis an affair of honour, _monsieur le colonel_, and we propose to
settle it here," said I.  "May we?"

"_Très bien!_ but you have chosen a droll place and hour," replied the
colonel, a short, pot-bellied little man, in a scarlet kepi, which had a
great square peak, and who wore a frogged surtout, with a sabre in a
brass sheath.

"We cannot fight within our own lines, monsieur."

"I comprehend.  You don’t permit duelling in your service, I believe?"

"No."

"Indeed—singular!"

"Public opinion is against it."

"The King of France, Louis XIV., in 1700, tried to put down duelling, on
which an old field-officer said to him, ’_Tudieu_, sire! you have put
down gaming and stage-playing; now you wish to make an end of duelling.
How the devil are officers and gentlemen to amuse themselves?’  But,
with your permission, messieurs, I shall look and see how this affair
ends.  I haven’t seen one since we marched out of Cambrai."

Berkeley bowed, and gave him a ghastly smile.  When viewed by the
moonlight, his face was so pale that even Scriven, his second, surveyed
him with disgust and annoyance. There was a clamorous fluttering about
my own heart. Thank that Heaven which I was about to face, my bearing
was very different from his!

We dismounted, and the soldiers of the French working-party led our
horses aside, as we had all come without grooms.  The pot-bellied
Colonel Giomar seated himself on the turf, to enjoy a cigar and see the
sport; and the doctor, with professional _sang froid_, opened his case
of instruments, and drew forth lint and bandages from the pocket of the
Inverness cape which he wore over his uniform.

We now threw off our cloaks and swords.  I wore an undress blue surtout;
but Berkeley was dressed in an entire suit of black—a sack-coat,
buttoned up to the neck, so that not a vestige of shirt was visible to
attract my eye, or fix an aim.

Let me hasten over what follows.

Apologies were neither asked nor offered.  The affair was beyond such
amenities in the deadly game we were about to play.  Twelve paces were
measured; we tossed up for the first fire, and it fell to—Berkeley!
Then I saw a smile of savage hope light up his eyes and curl his lip, as
he took his ground and carefully cocked his pistol, just feeling the
percussion-cap for a second with the fore-finger of his left hand.

Steadily I looked at him.  I could see how he restrained his breathing,
lest the aim might waver; how a white glare came into his eye, as it
glanced along the barrel of the pistol, which he levelled full at my
head, in the pale moonlight.

"_Gardez la bombe!_" shouted Colonel Giomar, as he rolled away over the
turf like a butter-firkin.  It was a moment of thrilling suspense, and,
bewildered by the interruption, Berkeley permitted his pistol to
explode, the ball going Heaven knows where!  There was a whistling in
the air overhead, with a rushing sound and then a heavy thud, as there
lighted, almost at Berkeley’s feet, a five-inch shell, shot from the
South Fort by the Russians, who must have seen our group in the
moonlight; and there it lay on the turf, half-imbedded by its own
weight, with its red fuse hissing and burning furiously.

For a moment I saw its upward glare, as it shone on the pale face of the
terrified man, who was too much paralyzed by emotion to move; but, just
as I flung myself flat on the earth to escape the explosion, there was a
blaze of yellow light, a crash as of thunder, and I felt a kind of hot
wind sweep over me.  The shell had burst, and Berkeley lay a heap of
mutilated blood and bones beside it!

We rushed towards him.  Both legs were broken in many places, a large
fragment was buried deep in his chest, and the man was dead!

"Poor fellow!" said I, after our first exclamations of astonishment and
commiseration had subsided.

Berkeley had long and systematically wronged me deeply; and now the
angry lust for vengeance passed away, and I felt ashamed of the
bitterness of the emotions which had inspired me but a few moments
before.  I forgave him all now, and almost felt sorry for the sudden
fate that had, perhaps, saved me—I say sorry, but I could feel no more.

That fate so unlooked for and mysterious freed me from all further
trouble or responsibility.  I could pardon him for all he had ever done
to me, and to his dead victim too—poor Agnes Auriol.

"_C’est la fortune de guerre, camarades_," said Colonel Giomar,
shrugging his shoulders.

Stretched on the grass, which was soaked and sodden with his yet warm
blood, there lay De Warr Berkeley, the coxcomb of Rotten Row, the
epicurean of the mess and dinner-table, the Sybarite of the clubs, the
sensualist whom poor Agnes Auriol loved—not too wisely, but too well;
the sporting man, whose splendid drag presented the gayest show, the
best company, the brightest parasols, bonnets, and fans, with the
loveliest faces and the most expensive champagnes on the Derby-day, or
the yearly inspection at Maidstone—there he lay dead, mangled, like a
very beggar’s dog!

It was the fortune of war, as Giomar said; but a fortune on which he had
never calculated—his mother’s pet from childhood, "clad in purple and
fine linen."

Bundled in a cloak, his remains were borne to the rear by the Frenchmen
of the 77th; and full of much thought, and with many a surmise as to how
the corps would view the story of the night, Studhome, Scriven, the
doctor and I, rode slowly back to quarters, leading with us a riderless
horse.

I entered my tent, bewildered, giddy with the startling episode in which
I had been involved.  I had but one satisfaction—his blood was not on my
hands.  My brain swam, my heart was beating fast, and I had an intense
thirst.  A bottle of Cliquot stood near.  Studhome adroitly struck off
the top with his sword, and gave me a generous draught.

Then, by the light of a stable lantern that hung glimmering on the
tent-pole, I saw the two letters I had so recently penned lying on the
top of a baggage trunk; but a third epistle, addressed to myself, was
beside them.

It was from Sir Nigel: the mail from Constantinople had come in that
afternoon.  I tore my missive open, and almost the first words that met
my eyes were—

"Compose yourself, my dear boy.  Louisa Loftus, the tricky jade, is now
a marchioness.  I send you herewith the _Morning Post_, which details
her marriage at full length."

"Read that, Jack!" said I, in a hoarse voice, while the miserable tent
swam round and round me.

Studhome scanned the letter hurriedly.

"Oh, Jack! what do you think of all this?"

"Think!" said he with an oath.  "I think Sir Walter Scott did well to
call the world ’an admirable compound of folly and knavery.’"

So all her studied silence was accounted for now!



                              *CHAPTER L.*


    The line divides: the right half, which is
    Conspicuous for madder breeches,
    Presses, like flock of hunted sheep,
    Towards yon tower, so grim and steep.
      STONE TALK.


On that day, never to be forgotten in the annals of the British cavalry,
the 25th of October, when we fought the battle of Balaclava, no man in
all the Light Division mounted his horse with a more reckless heart than
I, and no man, perhaps, was personally more careless as to the sequel.
War and its contingent horrors were a relief, congenial to my bitterness
of spirit, and afforded me a relief from myself.

There is probably not a boy in Britain but knows how, on that terrible
day, the six hundred horsemen rode fearlessly into the Valley of Death;
yet I cannot resist the temptation to tell the gallant story once again.

We were roused early in our miserable quarters by tidings that the
Russians, in great force, were menacing Balaclava, the harbour of which
was of vital importance to the allies in their operations against
Sebastopol.  Sir Colin Campbell—Lord Clyde, of glorious memory—had been
appointed governor; and to him and his Highland Brigade had this most
valuable post been intrusted by the allied generals.  On this day he was
reinforced by a few marines from the fleet, and four thousand lubberly
Turks, who occupied four redoubts, which commanded the road to the camp.

The cavalry division—led by Lord Lucan, and composed of the Scots Greys,
the Inniskillins, 1st Royal, 4th and 5th Dragoon Guards, forming the
Heavy Brigade, under General Scarlett; and the 4th and 13th Light
Dragoons, the 8th and 11th Hussars, with the 17th Lancers and ours,
forming the Light Brigade, under the Earl of Cardigan—were to form
between those Turkish redoubts and the Sutherland Highlanders, who were
encamped under the cliffs, where the marines had a battery.

It was seven in the morning, when Captain Nolan, of the 15th Hussars,
Lord Raglan’s gallant aide-de-camp, dashed into our quarters on
horseback.

"Get your men into their saddles, Colonel Beverley," he exclaimed.  "A
strong column of the enemy’s cavalry, supported by artillery and
infantry, some twenty-three thousand of all arms, are now in the valley
before Balaclava.  General Baur has already stormed one of the Turkish
redoubts, and is opening fire on the other three.  The Bono Johnnies are
flying in all directions.  Pass the word along for the whole line to
turn out.  We must floor them instantly!"

The trumpets blew loud and shrill among the tents, just as Studhome and
I were making a hasty breakfast.

"The deuce!" said he.  "So we must take a turn against those troublesome
Cossacks; but if no Russian rifle bullet hath its place allotted in my
proper person, we shall devil those drumsticks, and polish off that
cooper of sherry in the evening."

Poor Jack!

We were soon in our saddles, with pistols loaded and lances slung.  All
were eager for the fray; and just as the sun arose General Bosquet, with
a few pieces of artillery and two hundred Chasseurs d’Afrique, arrived
to join us.

The surface of the valley into which the cavalry division advanced was
undulating, and numerous green grassy hillocks served to conceal the
movements of the various bodies of troops from each other.  Above those
hillocks we could see the light smoke of the distant conflict curling,
as the Russians attacked and took in rapid succession the four redoubts,
turning the guns of each, as they captured it, on the fugitive Turks,
who fled in masses, and were decimated by round-shot and grape from
their own guns, which, in their haste to escape, they forgot to spike.

The last redoubt was speedily abandoned by the brutal Colonel Hadjie
Mehmet, who, bareheaded and without his sabre, was seen galloping
ignominiously over his own men, as they rushed like a flock of sheep
towards the steady line of the 93rd Highlanders, and there, by
superhuman exertions, Sir Colin Campbell formed them in a confused body
on his flank.  But before this bourn was reached a Russian bullet had
sent the soul of Hadjie Mehmet in search of the wonders of Paradise.

In fierce pursuit the Russian horse came dashing on, their polished
lance-heads and black leather helmets shining in the sun, and, like
successive human waves, squadron after squadron came in view.  Pausing
for a moment on the crest of a ridge, they looked with wonder—it might
be scorn—upon the thin red line of Scotsmen, whom, as Campbell said, in
his quaint way, he "did not think it worth while to form four deep or in
square."

On came the Russians, with levelled lances and uplifted swords—on and on
at a gallop, and from thence to racing speed—down like thunder rolling
through the murky air. This sight proved too much for the red-capped
Turks.  Once more their line of red breeches was turned to the enemy, as
they fled _en masse_; but calmly, steadily, and sternly, like their
native rocks, stood the men of the slender Scottish line.

A command is given.  Now the Minie rifles are levelled from the
shoulder, the plumed bonnets seem to droop a little to the right as each
man takes his aim, the withering volley rolls along from flank to flank,
and, as the smoke rises, we see a confused heap of men rolling wildly
over each other, while swords, lances, and caps are scattered far and
near. Beyond these are the retreating squadrons—fugitives, and in utter
rout!

The cowardly Turks were objects of intense derision to our seamen, and
even to the little middies and soldiers’ wives. Many of the latter
kicked and cuffed the "Bono Johnnies" without mercy for their shameless
abandonment of the Highlanders, and for plundering our cavalry camp,
where they gobbled up the porridge which the Scots Greys had been
cooking for breakfast when the alarm sounded.

Many other regiments of cuirassiers and lancers now joined the baffled
horse, as they re-formed on the slope of a hill, from whence, for the
first time to-day, they saw us, the heavy and light divisions of
cavalry, drawn up in the small valley a little to the left of the
Highlanders, and having had enough of them, with us they now resolved
upon a trial of strength.

By many thousands they outnumbered us; but we knew that we were unaided;
that upon our own bravery, discipline, and hardihood depended the honour
and the fortune of the day; and all the many staff officers and other
spectators, who had come from the French camp and the harbour to witness
the result, knew this too, and looked silently and breathlessly on.

In two long, compact, and glittering lines, the Russian horse once more
came on.  Among them were some cuirassier regiments of the Imperial
Guard, with magnificent helmets, adorned with silver eagles.  But now,
without waiting for orders, the two advanced corps of our cavalry—the
Scots Greys and the Inniskillin Dragoons, galloped forward to meet them,
one in heart, in ardour, and in purpose, as when those two noble
regiments had ridden side by side, in the same brigade, in the
Septennial War, a century before, and on the plains of Waterloo.

Overlapped by the vast extent of the first Russian line, we thought they
would be literally swallowed up and exterminated. A ray of light seemed
to pass along the ranks, as all their sword blades flashed in the
sunshine; and then came the shock of battle.

The Scots on the left, the Irish dragoons on the right, broke through
the Russians, cutting and treading them down; then both regiments
actually disappeared!  We held our breath; but anon a shout escaped us,
as we saw them on the crest of an eminence beyond, cutting through the
second Russian line!

All was then a wild and mingled chaos of uniforms, scarlet, blue, and
green; of flashing swords and brandished lances, of floating plumes and
swaying standards; of shrieking men, and horses kicking, plunging, and
rolling on the turf; and many an episode of chivalry and hand-to-hand
combat was there.

Then we heard the shrill trumpets above that infernal din, where no
commands would have availed.  The tall black bearskins of the Scots, and
the brass helmets of the Irish dragoons, began to reappear; and, soon
emerging from that human sea of glory and honour, we saw our gallant
Heavies once more reforming in compact line, and retiring at a hand
gallop, after having taught the thick-skulled Muscovites the strength of
a Briton’s arm, and the temper of our Sheffield steel.

Conspicuous by their colour, we could see that many of the Scots Greys’
horses were covered with blood.

And now came our part in this terrible drama—the disaster of the day!



                             *CHAPTER LI.*


    Half a league, half a league,
      Half a league, onward,
    Into the Valley of Death,
      Rode the Six Hundred!
        TENNYSON.


Recoiling before the glorious charges of our Heavy Brigade, the Russian
horse and foot had retired into a narrow gorge at the head of the long
green valley.  There thirty pieces of cannon were in position, and in
rear of them were formed six solid columns of cavalry and six of
infantry, while other dense masses occupied the slopes beyond.

Notwithstanding this formidable array, in an almost unassailable
position, a message was received by Lord Lucan from Captain Lewis Edward
Nolan, of the 15th Hussars, undoubtedly one of the bravest of the brave,
to the effect that the Light Brigade was to carry those thirty pieces of
cannon. Another account says that he simply pointed to the guns with his
sword, and said, "We should take them," and that the motion was taken
for an order.

Ere many minutes were passed, poor Nolan paid the full penalty of this
misconception or error in judgment—if error it was.

Perilous, rash, and desperate though the attempt, Lord Lucan reluctantly
ordered the Earl of Cardigan to advance with his brigade, and cheerfully
we obeyed the startling order.

We numbered only six hundred and seven horsemen, officers included.

Each officer took up the words in succession—"The brigade will advance.
First squadron, march, trot, gallop!"  And then for the first time, as I
led my squadron on, did I become aware how thirsty we unconsciously
become when under fire. My lips were quite baked, yet the morning air
was moist and cool.  We had before us a mile and a half to gallop over,
level and open ground, encumbered here and there by the dead and wounded
men and horses of the previous encounter; but these we swept over in our
advance towards where the black and grim artillery stood, with round and
gaping muzzles, before the solid array of Russian horse and foot—those
dark columns in long grey capotes, all cross-belted, with fixed bayonets
glittering in the sun; those darker and less distinct clouds of
horsemen, whose forest of lances, sword-blades, and brighter
appointments glittered and flashed from among their umbered masses.

On and on we rode, and faces flushed red, and hearts beat wildly—while
the Earl, brave as every English gentleman should be, with all his
faults of temper—led us on with brandished sword.  Every hand was firm
on the bridle, every grasp was firm on the sword, every knee was pressed
to the saddle-laps, every rowel was tinged with blood; so, holster to
holster and boot to boot, the squadrons were pressing on.

"CHARGE!" escaped me, almost before the time, and then the maddened
horses rushed on at full racing speed, with long, invigorating strides.
Our lances were all unslung, and in the rest, the banneroles fluttering
before the horses’ heads and outstretched necks, from which the manes
were floating backward like smoke.

We were soon within the line of fire.  Like the thunder of heaven the
park of artillery shook the air, as cannon, mortars, and rifles opened
like a fiery hell on front and flanks at once. An iron shower of round
shot and grape, shells, and rockets, with a tempest of conical rifle
bullets, whizzed past our ears, or tore through horses and men, and down
they went on right and left at every stride.

Struck on the breast by a shell, the gallant Nolan fell back on his
saddle, with a wild and harrowing cry, as his horse swept round, and
bore his body to the rear, with his feet still in the stirrups,
vindicating, even in death, his reputation as one of England’s noblest
horsemen.

Man after man, horse after horse, are now going down, thick and fast,
and shrieks, and prayers, and curses rise together to Heaven; but the
rest close in from the flank, and firmer, denser, wilder, and more
resolute than ever we ride the race of death!

On, and on yet, steeds snorting, lances rising and falling, pennons
fluttering, and sabres flashing in the sunshine.

"Steady, lads, steady!" cried Lionel Beverley, as another shower of
grape tore through the squadrons, and many more went down, though some
of the horses remained riderless in the rank, and galloped mechanically
on.  For a moment, amid the confusion, I saw the colonel for the last
time, as he led us—that noble heart, that polished gentleman and gallant
lancer.  He was deadly pale, for he was mortally wounded in the left
side.  His life-blood was ebbing; but his sword was still uplifted, and
a light was flashing in his eyes, which already could see "the glories
and the terrors of the unknown world."

"Close up, gentlemen and comrades!  Keep your horses well in hand; but
spur on—charge, and charge home! Hurrah!"

A ball hummed past—a twenty-four pound shot, apparently—and where was
Lionel Beverley?

Doubled up, a dead and ghastly heap, under a dying and mangled charger!
The next who fell was my friend Wilford. If he was somewhat of a dandy
in England, there was no want of pluck in him here.  Leading his troop,
he fell close by me, and I leaped my horse over him as he rolled past,
churning a mouthful of grass and earth, his features awfully convulsed,
and his limbs trembling in their death agony.  Poor Fred Wilford!

On and on yet!  Many a familiar face is gone now; the gaps are fearful,
and men who were on the flanks now find themselves in the centre.  Yet,
withal, it is impossible not to feel how—

    One crowded hour of glorious life
    Is worth an age without a name.


On we still gallop towards that mouth of fire—on, and fearlessly.  The
best blood of the three kingdoms is in our ranks, all well and nobly
mounted, the flower of our gallant cavalry—on yet like a whirlwind, the
hearty British "Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!" ringing in our ears; the
heart’s blood seems mounting to the brain; and _now_ we are upon
them!—now the red flashing muzzles of the cannon are passed; the gunners
are throwing themselves under the wheels and limbers, where we cut them
down, and spear or pin them to the turf. Others are rushing for shelter
to their squares of infantry, under whose rifles they lie flat and
securely, while sheets of lead are tearing through us!

Oh, the superlative bitterness of that moment, when, with all our horses
blown, I look back and see that we are without supports!

The guns are taken—the gunners almost annihilated; our horses are
breathless.  We have no aid, and no resource but to ride back, under
such a concentrated fire as troops were never before exposed to.

"It’s all up—threes about—retire!"

A single trumpet feebly gives the call, and away we go.

Shot—in the heart, perhaps—my Arab steed sank down gently beneath me;
but I received a severe blow from something, I know not what—the
splinter of a shell, probably, which crushed my lancer cap, and almost
stunned me.  I must have remounted myself mechanically, for when we
hacked our way back, and reached the rear, I was riding a bay horse of
the 11th Hussars, the saddle and holsters of which were slimy with
blood.  The horse fell with me soon after, as it had been disembowelled
by a grape shot.

Of all those glorious regiments who formed the Light Brigade, there came
back but one hundred and ninety-eight men; many of these were wounded,
and many dismounted; and when the rolls were called over at nightfall,
it was found that one hundred and fifty-seven were dead, one hundred and
nineteen were wounded, and that three hundred and thirty fine horses
were killed, leaving more than one hundred and thirty dragoons
unaccounted for.

I had not the heart to number the forty men who represented the two
squadrons which followed Lionel Beverley. There, on the green sward of
that Valley of Death, lay our gallant colonel, cut in two by a round
shot; Travers, torn to pieces by grape shot; Scriven, slain by three
lance wounds; Howard, "the only son of his mother, and she was a widow;"
Frank Jocelyn, our old sergeant-major, and an incredible number of
others killed.  The flower of our lancers were there, and among them my
faithful follower, Pitblado, with a rifle bullet in his leg.

Hot, breathless, stiff, sore, and covered with bruises, I now discovered
that in the _mêlée_—though I was unconscious of having struck a
blow—there were, at least, twenty notches in the blade of my sword, that
I had received three very severe lance prods, two sword cuts, and that
my uniform was torn to rags.  When we halted to girth up, I threw myself
on the rich grass of the valley, and, taking off my battered lancer cap,
felt the cool breeze most grateful, as it came from the distant sea.
Then I buried my face among the verdure, less for coolness than from
excess of weakness, and to hide the sorrow that consumed me for the
losses we had sustained.

From a distance came the cheers of the Heavy Brigade, avenging us, and
completing the work we had begun.  Then the fierce excitement—the devil
that had possessed me—passed away, and I thought only of the dying and
the dead.

                     *      *      *      *      *

"Is that you, Lanty?" said a voice near me.

"Ov coorse it is—barrin’ the tip of an ear."

"Well, thank God, there are at least two of our troop left."

"And the captain here!"

I must have fainted from exhaustion and loss of blood, for after a time
I was surprised to find my jacket open at the neck, and that I was
propped against my dead horse by Dr. Hartshorn, who was binding up my
cuts and scars, while Lanty O’Regan attended, with a short black dudeen
in his mouth, which had been enlarged by a sword cut, and then roughly
patched with plaster, which did not, however, prevent poor Lanty from
talking.

"Me mouth, is it, I’m to take care ov, docthor dear?  Sure, if it is
only for the sake ov the girls, I’ll do that same; but, be gorra!  I
wish that dirty Roosian had been holdin’ on the horns of the new moon
wid his fingers well greased, before I came across him."

"Are you sure the farrier-sergeant is dead?"

"Quite sure, docthor."

"You saw him get the sleeping draught?"

"Sure, the draught it was that finished him right off?"

"What the deuce do you mean?  I took orf his leg successfully in the
Turkish hospital."

"And sure, afther ye war gone, the Turkish Hospital sergeant, who was
blazing drunk with raki, made up a prescription of all the dhrugs in the
place, saying some o’ them would surely compose him."

"Well—well?"

"The farrier-sergeant took it, sir; and he’s now composed enough, poor
man, and laying in the trinches, waitin’ to be covered up wid green
sods, if they can be got in that red valley ov blood and murder."

Some brandy given by Hartshorn now rallied me a little, and I inquired
for Willie Pitblado.  Lanty informed me that he was in a hospital tent,
and enduring great pain.

Pitblado’s sword had broken in his hand; he was looking wildly round him
for another, when poor Studhome, who lay dying beneath ahorse, placed
his own sword in Willie’s hand, saying—

"Use it, and wear it for my sake.  All’s over with me!"

Pitblado cut down two Russian gunners, and actually bore Studhome for
some paces in his arms, before he discovered that he was dead, and then
a rifle bullet stretched him on the field.

A few men were now crawling back from the valley, where several
dismounted guns and dead bodies were all that remained of the Russian
host, which had now fallen back.

Numbers of horses, many of them severely wounded, with bridles hanging
loose, and saddles all bloody, careered along the green ridges, where
they were caught by the Turks. Some came trotting quietly into quarters,
when they heard the trumpet sound for "corn"; others cropped the bloody
herbage in the Valley of Death; and not a few who remained beside their
fallen riders were found by the burial parties.

Beverley’s body was discovered, terribly mutilated, stripped, and
deprived of the locket which contained the hair of his intended—the girl
who was shot in his arms on the retreat through the Khyber Pass.

On surveying the horrors of that day, I asked myself—was it for such
work as this that heaven created us?

But such was that glorious and disastrous episode of the war—the charge
of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava.

In foreign armies—as I once heard a brother officer remark—one would
have found plenty of officers to lead such a charge, but in what other
army would one find soldiers to follow as ours did?  Though surrounded
on every side by the enemy, though apparently all was over with them,
though suffering under a withering fire, and seeing their comrades
falling in heaps around them, not a man flinched, or thought of shifting
for himself; but all looked to their officers, and followed them as if
they had been on an ordinary parade.

"There are eighty-one of ours, sir, to be buried in yonder pit," said a
trumpeter named Jones, as he came to my tent next morning.

"Eighty-one!—my God!—the poor fellows!"

"Yes, sir—eighty-one," repeated Jones, sadly.

"Where are they?"

"Some are in the trenches—others coming."

They were borne from the field, where they had lain all night, and where
the only tears that fell on them were the dews of heaven, and then they
were half lowered, half flung in—eighty-one! all handsome young men—and
the Highlanders began to cover them up.

"God rest them," said I, lifting my cap, as I leaned on the trumpeter’s
arm.

"Ay, sir," said he, sadly; "the next trumpet they hear will be a louder
one than Bill Jones’s!"



                             *CHAPTER LII.*


    Then I thought of one fair spring-time,
      When she placed her hand in mine,
    And, half-silent, said she loved me,
      And, half-blushing, seemed divine.

    Then I thought of that same winter,
      When the earth was dead and cold;
    Fit time, in sooth, to marry one
      She worshipped for his gold.


I had been some days in Messirie’s Hotel, at Pera, before I realized or
quite became reconciled to the idea that I was going home on sick leave,
worn in mind and body, and smarting still with many wounds, for some of
the lance prods had gangrened, the iron having been, perhaps, rusty.
Many other officers were also at Messirie’s, on their way home, some
with amputated limbs, but all leaving the army with regret.  All were
pale and lean enough, with bronzed faces and bushy beards, their red
shell-jackets or blue surtouts out-at-elbows, threadbare, patched, and
stained by the mud of the trenches, and there were one or two lisping
idiots, with flyaway whiskers, hair divided in the centre, and yaw-haw
tones, whose "pwivate affairs had become wemawkably urgent!"

I had with me poor Willie Pitblado, whose left leg was well-nigh useless
now.  No surgeon had succeeded in extracting the ball; their attempts
had produced torture, which brought on a low fever, and Willie was going
home with me now—only, I feared, to die.

And now, on the last evening of this most memorable year, I sat alone,
muffled in my cavalry cloak, looking from the hotel window down a long
and narrow street, paved with rough, round stones, where the _humauls_,
or Turkish porters, British tars, half-furious with raki, Zouaves, with
cigar in mouth and hands in pockets, dragomans, with pistol and sabre,
indolent, sensual, and brutal Osmanli soldiers, and other nationalities
and costumes, made up a strange and varied scene.  From another window I
could see Stamboul, its flat roofs, round domes, its mosques and
minarets, stretching in the distance far away; the Golden Horn; with the
three-deckers of the _Sultan_ lying idly at anchor; and the new bridge
that spans the harbour; and, over all, the weird-like glories of a
crimson moon.

The December twilight stole on, and, as I mused, it seemed but yesterday
since all those lancers who had died of cholera at Varna or elsewhere,
and those whom I had seen cast into the great trench, had been alive,
and riding by my side.

The embarkation of the wounded at Balaclava harbour, whither they had
been borne on stretchers, minus legs and arms, hands and feet, with
faces pale, slashed, gashed, and battered; our British men-of-war, the
_Sanspareil_, _Tribune_, _Sphinx_, and _Arrow_, ranged in line, with
open ports to sweep the valley; all the episodes of our departure—the
somewhat mournful cheers given by the seamen as our transport, the
_Napoleon III._, of Leith, got up her steam and cleared the
harbour—cheers to which we could scarcely respond; the receding shores,
where the iron voice yet rang the knell of many a human life from
battery and bastion; the last rays of the sun, as they lit up the
impending bluffs of Cape Aya, and ruddied all the rocks of red and white
marble that guard the rugged coast, and repel the storms of the Euxine;
all these, as they had melted into sea and sky, seemed like an old dream
now, and, battered in body and broken in spirit, I was seated alone in
Messirie’s Frankish hotel, on my way home!

Well, well!  For weeks past I had been as useless at Balaclava as at the
Hospital of Scutari, from whence I had been transferred to the suburb of
Pera.  I had been unable to share in the two battles of Inkermann, in
both of which the Russians were totally defeated, and in the last of
which our losses were fearful; and I had no share in the battle of the
Ovens, on the 20th of November.  By landing at Scutari on the 13th, I
escaped the terrible hurricane by which so many of the shipping perished
in the Black Sea, and by which the survivors of their crews were
subjected to be mercilessly massacred by the Russians.

My poor comrades!  Be a soldier but for six months, and you will never
forget the new world that is opened to you—a respect for your brother
officers and soldiers, and a kindly feeling for the _old number_ of the
corps; it lasts with life.

But that ghastly trench in the green valley, and the pale, moustached,
and upturned faces!  God bless all who lie there, and green be the
graves of our people in the Crimea!

It was on the second day of the new year that we—Pitblado and I—sailed
in H.M.S. _Blazer_ for Southampton, with many other invalids, and, as we
steamed round the Seraglio Point, and stood away into the Sea of
Marmora, I thought of that day twelvemonth, when I was at Calderwood
Glen, sharing the contents of my good old uncle’s ancestral
wassail-bowl. How much had passed since then!

Trebitski’s Cossacks had taken the miniature, the ring; even Louisa’s
lock of hair was gone too, and luckily now I had nothing to remind me of
the beautiful traitress by whom I had been galled, befooled, hoodwinked,
and so cruelly abandoned!

And Lady Chillingham could witness this horrible sacrifice, this English
_suttee_, or act of immolation, quietly and approvingly.  She had
married without love herself—so had her mother before her—and both had
been happy enough in their own heartless and stupid way.  Such
alliances, made on mere worldly grounds, were part of the system of that
society in which they moved; so Lady Chillingham viewed the whole affair
as a matter of course.

As for Louisa Loftus, why should she be different from other women of
the world, and of her aristocratic class?  I must have been deluded—mad
indeed, to think otherwise for a moment!  And yet she could crash my
hope for the future recklessly, as a child breaks the glittering
soap-bubble he has so carefully developed, or casts aside the plaything
he once treasured.  She could cruelly trample on the best love of a true
and honest heart, to make a marriage that was advantageous only in point
of rank and wealth, both of which she already inherited in the fullest
degree.

Yet something of pity mingled with my fierce and bitter scorn of
Louisa—pity for the dreary years she would have to spend, while tending
a senile dotard, whom she could neither respect nor love.  She would
suffer in secret, or perhaps console herself by some scandalous
flirtation, that Sir Bernard Burke would never record in his usually
flattering pages, though he might have to chronicle the unexpected
appearance of an heir to the noble old Anglo-Norman line of Slubber de
Gullion.

While Louisa, plunged in all the gaiety of London life, forgot all but
it and herself, Cora—I learned this after—had thought it a crime to be
even happy, while I was suffering or absent.  Such was the difference in
the nature of those two girls.

At Stamboul I had procured an inlaid Turkish rifle, a high-peaked
saddle, a cherry-pipe stick, and some yataghans, as trifles for Sir
Nigel; slippers, all sewn with pearls, a shawl, a veil, a little trunk
of essences, and other pretty things, for Cora.

Our homeward voyage was rapid and pleasant, so we steamed steadily on,
passing many a transport hurrying to the seat of war, with her human
freight, ardent and eager to replace the fallen; on by Malta and old
Gib.  I was too ill to land at either; but I was well cared for on
board, for the officers treated me as if I had been their brother, and
were never weary of extolling the terrible charge of the Light Brigade
on the fatal 25th of October.

On an evening about the end of January, we were off Southampton, and ran
into the tidal dock, which has such peculiar advantages for first-class
steamers.  There out of the general traffic, and in the basin of quiet
water, the _Blazer_ could easily land her melancholy freight of wounded
men.  Many poor fellows whom she had embarked had died on the way home,
and found a grave under the waves of the Mediterranean.

We were landed by gaslight.  I must have been very weak at that time.  I
remember the cheers of welcome and the genuine commiseration of the
kindly English folks assembled on the crowded quays as we were borne
tenderly ashore in the arms of our good sailor comrades; and my wasted
appearance was not the least exciting, for I was so worn now that my
face was not unlike the Death’s head on the appointments of the 17th
Lancers—but with a goodly Crimean beard appended to it.

The lieutenant of marines conducted me to a fashionable hotel.

At Southampton I was separated from poor Willie.  With all the other
wounded soldiers, he was transmitted, per third-class train, to Fort
Pitt, at Chatham.  Save once, I never saw the poor affectionate fellow
again.  He became a confirmed invalid, and months passed away, during
which he was neither discharged nor cured, though he longed to get
home—home, that he might die where he first saw the light, in his
father’s cottage, and be laid beside his mother’s grave in the glen.

But there is no cure for the home-sickness in the pharmacopoeia of Her
Majesty’s medical department, at No. 6, Whitehall Yard.

For many days I remained at the hotel, careless how the time passed.  I
had become perfectly listless, and lay on the sofa for hours, less to
nurse my wounds than from pure inertia, and heedless of what might
happen.

Thus, one evening, when the snow lay deep in the streets without,
muffling the footsteps of the passengers and the wheels of the cabs and
omnibuses—when the fire was burning cheerily in the bright bars of the
polished grate—the crimson curtains drawn across the windows—the
crystals of the gaselier glittering with a thousand prisms, and thus
when, after Crimean experiences, it was impossible not to feel intensely
comfortable in the well-carpeted room of a fashionable English hotel, I
was dozing off to sleep, and to dream, perhaps, of other scenes, when a
sound roused me.

An arm—a soft and warm one—was round my neck, and two bright, sad,
earnest, and tearful eyes were beaming affectionately into mine; a
smooth cheek, rendered cold as a winter apple by the frosty air without,
just brushed mine, and a kiss was on my forehead, as a beautiful and
blushing girl threw back her veil, and I found my hands were clasped by
those of Cora Calderwood.

"Dear, dear Cora!" I exclaimed, and pressed her to my breast.

I had longed for sympathy, companionship, friendship—for some one with
whom to share the secret burden that crushed my heart; but I rapidly
found the impossibility of doing this with my beautiful cousin, for now,
as I embraced her, all her long-treasured and long-hidden love gushed up
in her heart.

She smoothed back her thick dark hair with her pretty and tremulous
hands, and then, placing them on my temples, surveyed me again and
again, with eyes full of pity and delight, while half-kneeling beside me
on the low _fauteuil_ on which I lay.

"Cora!"

"Newton!"

She was too full of pure joy to speak; she could only throw her arms
round my neck and whisper, with her rosy lip close to my ear—

"Newton—Newton—my poor Newton! my own love at last—and—and—here comes
papa."

As if to relieve me from a situation that was as embarrassing as it was
pleasing, the affectionate old gentleman hurried forward to meet me.  He
had been less agile than his daughter in springing upstairs, and
threading the mysterious corridors of an English hotel.  He took me in
his sturdy arms. His eyes were sparkling with pleasure; his ruddy cheeks
were now rendered redder than ever by the frosty wind; his white locks
glittered in the light; and his handsome old face was beaming with
pleasure, as it always did when he saw me. Warmly he shook my hands
again and again.  He surveyed my hollow cheeks with commiseration, as
Cora now did with tears; and then, with prodigious bustle, he proceeded
to divest himself of numerous overcoats and wrappers, until he appeared
at last in his black cut-away, with white corded breeches and top-boots,
as of old the _beau idéal_ of the master of the Fifeshire hounds.

"So we have found you at last, my dear boy—fairly run you to earth, eh?
You must come home with us now——"

"To-night, papa?"

"Not exactly to-night, Cora; but as soon as he is fit for travelling.
And a rare cooper of old port Davie Binns shall set abroach when again
Newton is beneath the roof of the house in which his mother was born,
and where she died, too, poor girl!"

My mother was more than forty when she died; but the old baronet only
remembered his favourite sister as "the girl," of whose beauty he was
always so proud.

Cora had now removed her bonnet and cloak.  She was beautiful as ever,
but paler, I thought, for the flush that dyed her soft face at first had
now passed away, and she lowered her dark lashes at times when I looked
at her.  But her secret was out now.  I knew all, but could scarcely
foresee how matters were to end.

Cora wore at her breast the silver crescent and lion I had sent her from
India.  She had more.  She had on her finger my Rangoon diamond, which
the Marchioness had sent to her, and which I desired her to retain for
my sake, till I replaced it by one more valuable still.

We were very happy that night in Southampton; and, with more alacrity
than I thought remained in me, I prepared at once to return to Scotland.

My health was not now what it had been; but my native air in Calderwood
Glen would restore it.  To repine now would have been ungrateful to
heaven and my kind kinsfolk.

I had passed through that dreadful ordeal, the Valley of Death, and had
returned with life and youth before me, when so many better and braver
than I had perished by my side.  So I resolved to return thankfully and
joyfully home, to water my laurels among the heath-clad hills and grassy
glens of my native place.



                            *CHAPTER LIII.*


    Away with my firelock!
      Here, take my red coat!
    On danger and glory
      No longer I’ll dote.
    A train of soft passions
      Now rise in my breast;
    The soldier subsides,
      And ambition’s at rest.
    And no more shall the sound
      Of the trumpet or drum
    Forewarn the poor shepherd
      Of evils to come.
        SOLDIER’S SONG.


Poor Willie Pitblado sank fast after the extraction of the ball, and the
subsequent amputation of his leg.

In the pleasant month of June, when he knew that the golden laburnums
and the hawthorns, pink and white, would be wearing their loveliest hues
among the green hills and burnsides where he had played in boyhood, and
when the summer breeze would be rustling the thick foliage that shaded
his father’s humble cottage in Calderwood Glen, Willie felt that his
hour was coming nigh, and he grew very sad and restless.

On that day, the last he was to spend on earth, there was an unwonted
bustle in and around the great military hospital of Fort Pitt, and,
natheless the sick and wounded, the weary in body and subdued in spirit,
the dying men in the wards, and those whose battles and troubles were
over, and who lay stark and stiff under a white sheet in the deadhouse,
awaiting the muffled drums and the—now daily—funeral party, there had
been a scouring of tins and polishing of wooden tables, a renovation of
sanded floors and white-washed walls; an extra folding and arranging of
knapsacks and bedding.  Staff officers in full uniform, with aiguillette
and plume, galloped to and fro, in and out, up and down the steep hill
from whence the grim old fort looks down upon the quiet and sleepy
Medway, with all its old battered hulks; and then whispers were passed
along the wards that the Queen—Queen Victoria herself—was coming to
visit the poor fellows who had carried her colours in triumph up the
slopes of Alma, through the valley of Inkermann, and in the charges at
Balaclava.

Then pale cheeks flushed and sunken eyes grew bright, and all were in
high expectation, save one who lay in a corner on his iron bed and straw
pallet under a poor rug, with eyes already glazed at times, for the hand
of death was heavy on him; and this was my poor comrade Pitblado, with
no friend near him save the hospital orderlies, who by this time were
pretty well used to suffering and dissolution, and could behold both
with stoical indifference.

It was on a day that many yet remember—Monday, the 18th of June—the
fortieth anniversary of Waterloo, that all Strood, Rochester, and
Chatham were startled from their usual rural tranquillity by the
appearance of the Queen and her retinue, as she swept through their
narrow and tortuous streets, at her usual speed, to visit the wounded
soldiers in Fort Pitt.

The cold-blooded days of the "Four Georges" have passed into the waste
of eternity, and it is our happy fortune to have upon our throne a queen
whose true woman’s heart no glory of station, or fortuitous grandeur of
position, can alter.

On his poor pallet, in the sick ward, Willie heard the cheers in the
streets of Chatham far below; he heard the clash of arms and the rolling
of the drum, as the guard presented arms at the gate, and in his
death-drowsy ear he seemed to hear again the din of battle far away,
Beverley’s voice, and the rush of the charging squadrons; but the sounds
brought him back to the world for a time.

He was too feeble, too far gone, to join the melancholy parade before
the hospital; but the orderlies opened the window of the ward, and
propped him up with pillows and knapsacks, that, like one or two other
wasted creatures, he might see the Queen pass along.

"I wish that God had spared me ance mair to see my puir auld father’s
face," said Willie, whose Scottish dialect came faster back as life
ebbed in his gallant heart; "but His will be done.  It canna be—it canna
be!  I maun e’en bear it, and he that tholes, overcomes."

From the windows on the ground floor he saw the glorious noonday sun, on
which his eyes were soon to close for ever, for the staff-doctor had
rather curtly told him so.  He saw the fertile plains of lovely Kent
stretching far away towards Rainham, and the windmills tossing their
arms on the green upland slopes.  He saw the tower of Rochester
Cathedral half hidden in the sunny haze, and the great square stone
block of the grand old Norman castle towering against the clear blue
sky, and casting a sombre shadow on the winding Medway, and poor Willie
thought the world that God had made looked peaceful and lovely.

Before the hospital he saw paraded some three hundred men.  The front
rank lay mostly on the gravel, for they were unable to stand, either by
debility or amputation; the rear rank was propped against the wall, on
crutches or staves. All wore the light blue hospital gown, trousers, and
cap; but many an empty sleeve and useless trouser-leg were there.

Every man of them has been face to face and foot to foot with death, and
yet withal their hearts are strongly stirred within them by their
Queen’s approach.  Their hair is long, and in elf-locks; their faces are
hollow and pale, and their eyes shine out weirdly, and like bits of
glass, as those of the sick usually do.

"Attention!" cries the sleek and well-fed commandant (who, perhaps, had
not been at Sebastopol), as he comes along in full uniform, with his
cocked hat under his arm, by the side of the Queen, who leans on the arm
of Prince Albert; and as they pass slowly along that remarkable line,
their eyes and faces fill with pity and commiseration.

Mechanically, at the word of command, all the men make a nervous start.
Those who are legless prop themselves on their hands and arms; and some
stand painfully erect on their crutches, and their wasted fingers are
raised in salute, to where the helmet or the Highland bonnet would have
been; but, alas! a hospital nightcap is only there now!

Men of all regiments are there—horse, foot, and artillery, guardsmen,
hussars, and lancers; but all wear one sad uniform now.

That morning was long remembered in Fort Pitt; and it was one which, no
doubt, our good Queen long remembered too.

With a last effort, Willie rallied, and propped himself at the window,
just as a hospital orderly pinned on his blue woollen gown a card like
those worn by all the others, stating the age, name, and corps of the
wearer.  It bore—

"William Pitblado—aged twenty-four—lancer—leg amputated—Battle of
Balaclava."

The card, as it was pinned on, caught the eyes of the royal group, and
the terrible expression that none can mistake—even those who luckily see
it for the first time—was read in Willie’s face.

"Do not speak to him, please, your Majesty," whispered the commandant;
"his aspect must distress you—the man is dying."

"Dying!" exclaimed the Queen; "poor, poor fellow!"

"Pulse sinking—hope all over—will be dead before evening parade,"
muttered a sententious staff surgeon.

The Queen had in her hand a magnificent bouquet, presented to her by the
ladies of those in the high places of Chatham garrison—heads of
departments, and so forth. She detached a white rose, and gave it to the
poor dying lad, whose faculties were making a rally for the last time.

He looked at the high-born donor without shrinking or quailing, and,
with a sad, sad smile on his face, so thin and wan—for the eye of One
who is greater than all the kings of the earth was on him now—the
sufferer spoke, but in long and feeble utterances.

"My auld father aye said I need never—never look for—my reward in this
world; but—but this day I hae gotten it."

And he pressed the rose to his thin blue lips.

"Are you easy, my poor fellow?" asked the commandant.

"Ye-yes, sir—thank you—very easy,"

"Is there anything you would wish?"

"I would wish to be laid—in the old kirk-yard at hame, where my—my
mither lies under a saugh tree—but—but it canna be.  God has been gude
to me—I might hae found a grave for ever far awa’ in the Crimea—and—and
no within the sound o’ a Christian bell."

His head fell back and turned on one side, as the eyes glazed and the
jaw relaxed.  The Queen—good little woman—drew back, with her
handkerchief at her eyes, and the spirit of my faithful comrade—this
poor victim of the war—passed away.

The Queen’s white rose is buried with Poor Willie Pitblado. His grave is
in the military cemetery, under the shadow of the great Spur Battery.

I know the place well, and a stone placed by Sir Nigel Calderwood marks
it.



                             *CHAPTER LIV.*


    Banished every thought of sadness
    In our home of quiet gladness;
    Absence, separation o’er,
    Together, and to part no more.
    United, lovingly we glide,
    Ever going with the tide.

    Storm nor tempest fear we now,
    Love sits watching at the prow;
    Happy, trusting, silently,
    Onward to the shoreless sea,
    Together let us drift or glide,
    Ever going with the tide.
      ST. JAMES’S MAGAZINE.


"And you love me, dear Newton—and—and no one else?"

Soft autumn was in all her beauty; the forest leaves of Fife were
already tinged with yellow; the harvest fields were bare, and the brown
partridges were whirring up in tempting coveys from the hard stubble and
the hedgerows, while the deep, fragrant clover grew green and rich on
the upland slopes.

It was a glorious evening in September, when the days and nights are of
equal length.  The sun was setting beyond the western Lomond, and
casting his dewy shadow far across the woodlands of Calderwood Glen,
when Cora and I lingered, hand in hand, in the old avenue, and she asked
this rather pleasing—I had almost said, perplexing—question, while her
soft and beautiful eyes were turned tenderly upwards to mine.

And dearly I kissed her, for we had been but three days married—so Cora
was my _kismet_, my destiny, after all!

I was lost for a moment in thought—even lance-prods and rifle bullets
had not cured me of my habit of day-dreaming and memory flashed back to
that strange episode in the quarters of the hakim Abd-el-Rasig at Varna,
when poor Jack Studhome, Jules Jolicoeur, and Captain Baudeuf were with
me, and the words of the conjuring Egyptian quack doctor seemed to come
to my ears again—"_Allah kerim_—it is _kismet_—your destiny."

Cora repeated her winning question.

"And you love me, dear Newton—and no one else?"

"Could I fail to love you, Cora—you, who are all affection and
perfection, too?"

"Now, in her memoirs, Mrs. Siddons asserts that ’no woman can ever reach
perfection until the age of nine and twenty or thirty,’ and I require a
few years to reach that mature time," she replied.

Another kiss, and perhaps another—I don’t think we counted them.

"Ah! how happy I am now!" she exclaimed, as she clasped her fair fingers
on my arm, with her cheek reclining on my shoulder.

"And I, too, Cora."

"Shall I sing you a verse of an old song?"

"If you please.  Is it the ’Thistle and Rose’?"

"No."

"What then?"

    "It’s gude to be merry and wise,
      It’s gude to be honest and true;
    It’s gude to be off wi’ the old love
      Before ye are on wi’ the new.

But it is too bad to tease you, Newton dear!"

"My dear little wag of a wife!" I exclaimed; for while Cora’s sweet
voice rippled over the verse, I could smile now, and tenderly too, at
the advice it conveyed.

So much for "Time, the avenger!"

In the second chapter of this long history of myself and my adventures I
have related that the Calderwood estates were entailed, and were thus
destined to enrich a remote collateral branch, which had long since
settled in England, "and lost all locality, and nationality too," as Sir
Nigel had it, the baronetcy ending with himself, to whom long life!

Thanks to the legal acumen of Mr. Brassy Wheedleton, and of Messrs. Grab
and Screwdriver, writers to the signet, Edinburgh, there were "no end"
of flaws discovered in the original entail of 1685, registered when
James VII. was king of the realm.  They boast that they could have
driven a coach-and-six through it; so it was speedily reduced, and the
lands of Calderwood Glen, with the place, fortalice, and manor-house
thereof, and those of Pitgavel, with the mains, woods, and farm touns
thereof, which were Cora’s own portion, were all secured to us, our
heirs—yes, that was the word which made Cora blush—our executors, and
assigns, for ever.

The old title of "_Primus Baronettorum Scotiæ_," the pride of Sir
Nigel’s heart, neither I nor mine could inherit; but I have my star of
Medjidie, a medal and two clasps for the Crimea, with the French Legion
of Honour, and that decoration which I value more than all: the little
black bronze Victoria Cross, inscribed "For valour," which I received
for the rash attempt I made at Bulganak, with a gallant few, to bring
off the mutilated body of poor Rakeleigh, as the reader will find duly
recorded in page 336 of the "Army List" for the month in which it was
given, if he or she choose to look; and those four prized baubles, won
amid blood and danger, shall long be prized as heirlooms in Calderwood
Glen.

With the poet, I may exclaim—

    Yea!  I have found a nobler heart
      That I may love with nobler love:
    True as the trembling stars thou art,
      Pure as the trembling stars above.
    And shall I live a nobler life,
      Come peace or passion, joy or grief?
      Remembrance brings a sweet relief,
    And points me to this nobler life.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The grass was growing green on the graves of the Alma, and where Albyn’s
warpipe sent up its yell of triumph on the Kourgané Hill; greener,
perhaps, on the graves of the light brigade in the Valley of Death,
through which our six hundred chivalry swept like a thunderbolt; and the
sweet spring flowers were blooming in the abandoned trenches of
Sebastopol, when I could hear the angel voices of glad little ones
waking the peaceful echoes in our old woody glen; and there a dark-eyed
Nigel, a golden-haired Newton, and a blooming little Cora, with beaming
eyes and dark brown braids, gambolled round the gaitered legs of old
Willie Pitblado, and the boot-tops of the sturdy old baronet, or were
learning "a taste of the brogue," as they rode on the back of Lanty
O’Regan, now our head groom.

And when winter comes to strip the old woods, and hurl their rustling
foliage before the west wind, seaward, down the lovely Howe of Fife; and
when the snows of Christmas whiten the scalps of Largo and the Lomond
Hills, we never forgot, after Cora has spiced the wassail bowl, to fill
our glasses, and drink in silence—

"To the memory of the brave fellows who died before Sebastopol!"



                                THE END.



             BILLING AND SONS, PRINTERS, GUILDFORD, SURREY.





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