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Title: A Son of Mars, volume 1
Author: Griffiths, Arthur
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.

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  TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE

  This novel was published in two volumes. This is volume 1; the second

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

  Some minor changes in the text are noted at the end of the book.



A SON OF MARS.



_At every Library_,

  THE FIFTH EDITION OF

  PARIS HERSELF AGAIN.

  BY

  GEORGE AUGUSTUS SALA.

  _Illustrated by the first French Artists._

  Demy 8vo, handsomely bound, 25_s._

  REMINGTON & CO. 133 NEW BOND STREET, W.

_Of every Bookseller._



  A SON OF MARS.

  BY

  MAJOR ARTHUR GRIFFITHS,

  AUTHOR OF
  ‘THE QUEEN’S SHILLING,’ ‘LOLA,’ ‘A WAYWARD WOMAN,’ ETC.

  VOL. I.

  _ALL RIGHTS RESERVED._

  LONDON:

  REMINGTON AND CO.

  133 NEW BOND STREET, W.
  [_Removed from 5 Arundel Street, Strand, W.C._]

  1880.



  LONDON
  ROBSON AND SONS, PRINTERS, PANCRAS ROAD, N.W.



CONTENTS OF VOL. I.


  CHAP.                                            PAGE

     I. IN THE MILITARY CRADLE                        1

    II. THE FARRINGTON FAMILY                        16

   III. ’TWIXT CUP AND LIP                           36

    IV. TAKING THE SHILLING                          55

     V. A CRACK CORPS                                74

    VI. IN THE BARRACK-ROOM                          94

   VII. A FRENCH LESSON                             112

  VIII. THE ORDER BOOK                              130

    IX. A BALL IN BARRACKS                          148

     X. MUTINY IN THE RANKS                         166

    XI. SOME OLD FRIENDS MEET                       184

   XII. REVELATIONS                                 202

  XIII. FARRINGTON S’AMUSE                          219



A SON OF MARS.



CHAPTER I.

IN THE MILITARY CRADLE.


To the right, under the arch leading to the casemate barracks at
Triggertown, dwelt Jonadab Larkins, a deserving public servant
who had enjoyed the proud position of barrack sergeant for some
years. He was like the old lady who lived in the shoe. He had more
children than he could do with comfortably, so he gave it up as a
bad job, and let them do for themselves. Mrs. Larkins, what with
cooking, cleaning, and the family washing, had no spare time on
her hands; and except to yell out shrill cautions which no one
heeded, or threats of corporal punishment which were forgotten as
soon as uttered, allowed her brood to risk their lives as freely
as they pleased. They had many outlets of this kind; one favourite
amusement was to hang themselves to the chains of the drawbridge
leading to the barracks; another to walk along the brick edge of
the counterscarp; but that which all enjoyed most was to watch the
approach of vehicles in the main thoroughfare, and to rush madly
across the road right under the horses’ feet. It was often a very
near thing; and the nearer they went to self immolation the better
they were pleased. But the pitcher goes once too often to the well.
One fine day there was a tremendous disturbance in the street;
a crowd gathered quickly, and presently a message reached Mrs.
Larkins that one of her bairns had been driven over and was killed.

‘Which on ’em is it?’ shrieked the red-armed but pleasant-visaged
dame. ‘Not Rechab, nor yet Sennacherib, nor yet Jemimer Ann?’

No; it was Hercules Albert, the eldest of the family, who was just
then carried in and laid upon the bed.

A lady--a middle-aged lady, with silver white hair and a worn
emaciated face--followed, and looking round with a strange wild
look in her eyes, asked almost hysterically:

‘Is he much injured? Will he live? Where are the people who call
themselves his parents?’

The lad was only stunned, and a little water quickly brought him to.

‘I should have been so grieved had he come to harm,’ went on the
lady. ‘It was my coachman’s fault. It has been a terrible shock to
me; quite terrible. But tell me--’

She looked hastily round, then whispered to Larkins--

‘How did you come by this child?’

The Sergeant stared at her in amazement--

‘Honestly! Why, it’s our own--leastways it’s the mother’s.’

‘Do you mean that you are its mother?’ she asked of Mrs. Larkins.

‘Certainly I do! Do you dispute it?’

‘Mother? Yes. It may be so. But you, you man, you are not his
father? You cannot be. It is impossible, simply impossible. Why,
the child has _his_ eyes; his own dear eyes, I could swear to them
among a thousand. You cannot, you shall not deceive me. How came
you by this child?’

‘He’s not my own son, that I won’t deny,’ said the Sergeant. ‘But
he is my missus’s; she was a widow when I married her, and--’

‘I must have the boy. You cannot refuse him to me. I will buy him
of you; will pay you any price you please. But he must leave this
place. It is no place for _him_.’

And she gazed scornfully at the humble surroundings. The little
dark vaulted room with its one deep recessed window, its inner
space curtained off to form a second bedroom, the litter and mess
about the floor.

‘This is no place for--’

She paused suddenly, and a wild scared look came over her face.
A footman, one of her own people, a tall, black-whiskered and
pompous Jeames, was standing in the doorway, and the sudden
apparition seemed to put a seal upon her tongue.

‘The horses, m’lady,’ said the man respectfully enough, although
there was an accent of authority in his voice. ‘The horses have
been standing nearly half an hour, m’lady, and the coachman says--’

‘Yes, yes, I’ll come at once--at once, Robert. Good people, you
will understand my anxiety for the boy. The blame rested so
entirely upon us. It is an immense relief to know that he is not
injured.’

Then watching her opportunity, she hissed out with frenzied
eagerness--

‘Not a word to a soul; not a syllable, as you value _his_ future
and my peace. I will come again to-morrow, or sooner, unattended.
H--sh, for heaven’s sake, h--sh,’ and she hurriedly left the room.

‘Well, I’m blowed,’ said the Sergeant, drawing a long breath. ‘If
that ain’t the rummest game. What does it mean, missus? Can you
tell?’

Mrs. Larkins met his inquiring eyes quite steadily, and if she was
conscious of any mystery no suspicion of it could be traced in her
voice and manner.

‘She must be off her head--that’s my notion--clean, stark, staring
mad.’

‘And mine too. Yon flunkey was her keeper, I expect. Bound to look
after her and keep her out of mischief. It’ll make a fine talk in
the barracks, this will.’

‘I don’t see why it should. I wouldn’t let on if I was you; don’t
gossip about it at the canteen, Sergeant, or at the sergeants’
mess. What’s the good?’

A docile and obedient husband was Sergeant Larkins, who, through
all the years of his married life, had accepted his wife’s will as
law. Mrs. Larkins was a buxom, bright-eyed dame, who made a man’s
home comfortable for him, so long as he allowed her to rule.

‘You’re right. It’s a folly always to talk, leastways when you’ve
nothing to talk about, and the freaks of a mad woman don’t amount
to much. We shan’t hear no more about _her_.’

Nor did they for days, nay, weeks, but months, and the episode was
fading from their memories, at least from that of the Sergeant,
when the lady suddenly re-appeared unattended and alone.

She looked suspiciously about her as she entered the room.

‘I could not come before. I have been watched. Even now I fear they
are on my track. Quick! Where is the boy?’

Hercules Albert was where he and his brothers generally were--in
mischief.

‘I must see him; my heart yearns for him. And to think that I
should find him thus! How inscrutable are the ways of Providence!
My sweet, my pet, it is balm to my wounded heart!’ And she kissed
and fondled the boy, regardless of the mud with which his dirty
face was encrusted, and of his own evident perturbation and
objection to these endearments.

‘But I must not waste time. I may be disturbed before I have said
my say. Listen: you will let me have the child? You shall name your
own price. I will ask no questions. Keep your own counsel. You
shall not divulge your secrets.’

‘There ain’t no secrets to divulge,’ said the Sergeant stoutly.
‘And you shan’t buy a brat of mine, as though he were a
full-blooded Congo on the West coast.’

‘Wait, Larkins--let’s see what the lady means,’ the practical wife
interposed. Mrs. Larkins was quite quiet and self-possessed, as
she looked her strange visitor full in the face. ‘Perhaps she will
explain. Do you wish to adopt the child?’

‘I do--and more. I wish to educate him to be worthy of his birth,
and of that position which he must some day come to, in spite of
all. He shall have all my love while I live, all my possessions
after death. They are his by right, indefeasible. Has he not
Herbert’s eyes? Is he not my--?’

‘Say no more, Madam,’ Mrs. Larkins interrupted her. ‘If you are in
sober, serious earnest, if you mean what you say--’

‘Surely you would not part with the child, not like this?’

‘We have seven, Jonadab, and it is a fine chance for one. If you
are in earnest, Madam--’

‘Will this prove to you that I am in earnest?’ said the lady,
taking from her purse a roll of bank notes. ‘Here are fifty pounds.
Spend it in outfit; get him proper clothes, books, boxes, all that
a boy wants when he is going to a school. Within a fortnight you
shall hear from me through a lawyer. I will send full instructions,
and a confidential messenger, who shall take Herbert--Herbert he
must be called, not Hercules--Herbert Farrington.’

‘Is that your own name?’ asked Mrs. Larkins, rather hurriedly.

‘Certainly, I am Lady Farrington. You have then heard the name
before? You know me? Say you know me, that you knew Herbert.
Confess that Herbert was--’

‘My lady, you are mistaken; I never knew any Herbert
Farrington--never in all my life!’

Lady Farrington shook her head sadly.

‘If you know, and will not speak, you may do the child irreparable
harm. No matter. It is sufficient for the present that he is mine;
that he passes into my keeping; that I am free to lavish upon him
the whole of my pent-up yearning affection. The rest will come--all
in good time. Heaven bless you, Herbert, and prosper you, and bring
you some day to your own.’

She kissed the bewildered boy repeatedly, shook hands with his
father and mother, and then left the place.

‘I don’t like it, I don’t; blowed if I do,’ said the Sergeant. ‘It
ain’t fair on the youngster, it ain’t--to give him over to that
crack-brained old idiot! Why, you may tell she is mad by her talk
and her ways. Maybe she’ll fatten him up and eat him; or perhaps
she’ll turn him into a Papist or a Frenchman. He shan’t go.’

‘You’re a fool, Larkins! But it’s more my business than it is yours
after all. And where’s the harm? Doesn’t she promise fair enough,
and ain’t these notes a pretty certain proof that she is all above
board? We won’t lose sight of the boy--not altogether. We’ll
stipulate that we are to see him sometimes, and then he can’t go
far wrong. But you hold your tongue, that’s what you’ve got to do.
None of your blabbing or gossipping about. If they ask you what’s
become of Herkles, why say he’s got into the Duke of York’s school,
and won’t be back for ever so long.’

‘I wish he had. I could see my way then. But I can’t now, and it
beats me how you can take it all so coolly.’

The honest Sergeant was chiefly concerned as to the little
chap’s future prospects. But although he was not a man of keen
intelligence or of suspicious nature, he was also a little
exercised as to the strangeness of the whole affair. He might
explain the lady’s conduct by calling it eccentricity or madness,
but he could not quite understand the part his wife had played.

He would have been still more perplexed had he returned
unexpectedly from the canteen that evening after all the children
were in bed. He would have found his wife engrossed with the
treasures of a little box which she had emptied on her lap. A few
gilt buttons, a lock of fair hair, a bow of ribbon--that was all.

Yet she wept bitterly as she kissed them again and again, and
restored them one by one to the sacred box reverentially, as though
each was a relic in her eyes.



CHAPTER II.

THE FARRINGTON FAMILY.


Farrington Court was the dower-house of the Farrington family,
where dowagers and heirs apparent resided, according as it might
happen to suit. The Lady Farrington mentioned in the last chapter
had occupied it for years--ever since the death of her husband and
her sons, when the bulk of the property, with the title, had passed
to Rupert Farrington, the late baronet’s nephew. Sir Rupert lived
now at Farrington Hall, with his wife and one son of his own.

Old Lady Farrington, in her losses and her loneliness, was a woman
much to be pitied. She had seen her children die, all of them but
one. He also was dead, but miserably, and at a distance probably
from home. Her husband she had mourned last of all, at a time when
she had most needed strength and support. The new baronet did not
treat her well. She was no doubt fortified by ample settlements.
Farrington Court was hers also, by right inalienable, during her
lifetime. Yet Sir Rupert had had it in his power to put her to
infinite pain, and wittingly or unwittingly had not spared her in
the least. The ejectment from the Hall--her once happy home, the
scene of her married life, where all her children had been born,
and where all were buried, save one--had been carried out with an
almost brutal abruptness, which cut the poor afflicted soul to the
quick. Sir Rupert had driven hard bargains with her also in taking
over the house and the estate; had insisted upon the uttermost
farthing, had denied her many possessions, small and great, which
she valued as reminding her of the past, but which were his,
according to the strict letter of the law. His unkindness pursued
her even to the house which she might still call her own. But hers
was only a life-interest, after all; and, as Farrington Court must
in due course lapse back to the family, Sir Rupert felt bound, he
said, for his own and his son’s sake, to see that the place came to
no harm. His interference and inquisitiveness were, in consequence,
constant and vexatious. He insisted upon inspecting the house
regularly; he must satisfy himself that the repairs were duly
executed, that the gardens and glass houses were properly kept up,
and that no timber was cut down. He did not scruple to tell Lady
Farrington that he looked upon her as a tenant, and by no means a
good one, to whom he would gladly give notice to quit if he could.

These first causes for irritation and dislike deepened in time to
positive hatred. Lady Farrington came by degrees to fear Sir Rupert
with a terror that was almost abject; and when we fear others to
this extent we undoubtedly hate them very cordially too. Her terror
was not difficult to explain. It had its grounds in the conviction
that she was more or less in his power. There was a secret which
she had as she thought kept hitherto entirely to herself, but
which he, as time passed and brought him opportunities for close
observation, had eventually discovered. She herself knew, and by
degrees she felt that he also knew that her mind was a little
unsound.

Lady Farrington had been an eccentric woman even in her husband’s
lifetime. Her ways had been odd; her manners strange. She was
given to curious likes and dislikes, which showed themselves in
extraordinary ways. Thus she hated the wife of a neighbouring
squire--an upstart woman, certainly, but nothing worse than
_gauche_ or ill-bred. Whenever this lady called at the hall the
chair on which she had sat was sent to the upholsterers to be
re-covered. On one occasion, when she came at the time of afternoon
tea, Lady Farrington threw the cup and saucer her visitor had used
into the fire, declaring it should never be drunk out of again. A
more unnatural antipathy was that which she long entertained for
her second son--a dislike which had caused him much misery, and
her much subsequent anguish of mind. As against all this, she had
been extravagantly fond of her husband and her first-born. When
the former left her even for a few hours, she kept his hat and
walking-stick in the room with her, as though to cheat herself into
the belief that he was really in the house; the latter she coddled
and cossetted to such an extent that he grew up weakly and died
young.

But after all her bitter trials and heavy blows, her eccentricity
had developed so rapidly that it might fairly be called by a
stronger name. At first she shut herself up in a private chamber,
surrounded by the relics of happier days, and brooded sorrowfully
over riding-whips, cricket-bats, and all manner of childish toys.
Then she went to the other extreme; threw off her widow’s weeds
and decked out in gay colours, and with a long white veil, drove
about the country lanes in a carriage with grey horses, as though
she were a newly-married bride. When Sir Rupert’s persecution
had grown into a serious annoyance, she concentrated upon him all
the aversion she had once levelled at more innocent objects of
dislike. She never would have admitted him to the house, but as he
would take no denial she consoled herself by throwing open all the
windows and doors, whatever the weather, directly he had left the
house, insisting that the place was unfit for habitation until it
had been thoroughly aired. Then, saying his threats and menaces put
her in bodily fear, she got into the habit of packing all her most
treasured belongings in one or two trunks which she kept locked
in her bedroom, under her own eye, in readiness as it were for
immediate flight.

For a long time Sir Rupert seemed to take but little notice of her
vagaries. When the county folk commiserated him, and inquired
after poor Lady Farrington, he merely shrugged his shoulders and
touched his forehead in a melancholy pitying way. She had had
so much trouble in her time, poor soul. It was very dreadful of
course. But what could be done? She had every care and attention he
could secure for her. He went to see her frequently in spite of her
strange dislike, so did his wife. He did his duty by her as well as
he possibly could. She was harmless, and as he thought perfectly
safe. She had good servants about her; he himself saw to that, and
there was no necessity to put her under restraint--unless indeed,
she became very much worse. If her malady increased to the extent
of endangering the safety of those about her or of the house--by
no means a secondary consideration with him--why then, as a last
alternative, she must be shut up.

He did not conceal from her, however, that this would ultimately be
her fate. More than once he warned her that he knew her condition,
and would some day be compelled to take steps to make her secure.
But he said this with no object but to prove his power, and Lady
Farrington would probably have been left to pursue the curious
tenour of her ways, had not her mania taken a direction which
threatened to be distinctly inconvenient to Sir Rupert.

Of all the woes which Lady Farrington suffered, the keenest perhaps
was remorse for her treatment of her second son. As has been said,
she had looked upon him always with disfavour; Herbert never could
please. Where another more tenderly cared for would have been
gently corrected, he was called wilful, obstinate, perverse, and
sharply chicled and admonished. He it was who was always in the
wrong; he it was who led the other boys into mischief. It was
his fault, or said to be his, when the boat upset, or the ice
broke, or the gun went off, or any mishap occurred. As he grew
to man’s estate his mother’s indifference did not soften into
warmer feelings. Poor Herbert failed at school and college, the
obvious consequence of early neglect. He could not pass the army
examination, although he longed to wear a red coat. All he could do
was to roam the woods with dog and gun at Farrington, consorting
with grooms and keepers, enjoying an open air life the more because
he thereby escaped from the house and his mother’s sneers. But
these last, although thus rarely encountered, became at length
unbearable, and one fine morning Herbert was not to be found.
He had gone off, leaving a note to say that pursuit or inquiry
would be fruitless, as he meant to leave England for good and all;
nothing should induce him to return to Farrington Hall.

The blow fell heaviest upon Lady Farrington, who felt that she
had been principally to blame. Prompt search was accordingly
instituted, but all to no purpose.

Some said that he had emigrated, some that he had enlisted, others
that he had gone to sea. No one ever saw him in the flesh again.
Only Lady Farrington, in whom the catastrophe had worked a strong
revulsion of feeling, was positive that she had seen him in the
spirit more than once. He had appeared to her, last of all, just
after the death of Algernon, the eldest son. Nor had he appeared
alone. Hand-in-hand with him was a comely fair-haired girl, with a
baby in her arms. Herbert had pointed significantly to the child,
and Lady Farrington interpreted the gesture to mean that he and
his son were now the rightful heirs of the Farrington title and
estates. This vision she tremulously described to her husband and
to others, but it was treated even by Sir Algernon as a mere dream,
or the hallucination of an over-wrought brain.

Nothing more would have been thought of the circumstances of
Herbert’s disappearance and shadowy return, except as a great and
irreparable sorrow, but for the arrival of a mysterious packet,
a year or two later, which contained a lock of light curly
hair--Herbert’s?--and a scrap of paper, on which was written, in
Herbert’s handwriting, ‘Be kinder to my boy.’

After this, a frantic desire to discover and do justice to her
injured son possessed Lady Farrington, to the exclusion of
all other objects in life. The family lawyers were called in;
detectives, public and private, were employed; advertisements were
inserted in the agony columns of the journals with the largest
circulation in the world. As substantial rewards were offered,
numbers of sons were promptly forthcoming. But not one of them
was the right one; nor was any information which could be relied
upon obtained, neither as to whether Herbert Farrington himself
was alive or dead, or whether, in the latter case, he had left
any heirs. Lady Farrington endured another and a more bitter
disappointment than any she had hitherto experienced in life.

It was not till long after the death of her husband and her
occupation of Farrington Court, that the old theory as to the
existence of a grandson was revived by her. Why or wherefore no one
could understand. Had she come upon any traces of the long-lost
son? Or was it merely that her mind, in its increasing weakness,
worked back into old grooves? Be the cause what it might, Lady
Farrington seemed at times strangely positive that she should find
the missing dear one, or his representative, after all. She often
hinted, darkly and mysteriously, that there was a great surprise in
store for Sir Rupert. Something he little expected would assuredly
come to pass when matters were properly ripe. There was no hurry.
It was better to make all sure before the mine was sprung. No link
in the chain must be wanting. But all would be ready ere long. Then
let Sir Rupert look to himself.

All this gave the baronet, who was really the man in possession,
but little uneasiness. As the next heir, he had heard long ago
of the eager inquiries for the missing Herbert; and although he
had resented them then, he had accepted their impotent conclusion
as an unanswerable proof that his presumptive rights were not
to be impugned. On the death of Sir Algernon his title had not
been disputed, and he had succeeded, as a matter of course. Lady
Farrington had made no protest. There was no shadow of foundation
for a protest. And if not then, would any person in his sober
senses think of disputing his rights now, when he had a firm grip
of the title, property, and place? Only an old mad woman would
harbour such an idea. Even she would hardly dare to raise the
question openly, after such a lapse of years. And who would believe
her if she did?

He told her so, very roughly, when her allusions became more
and more significant. He warned her too that ‘she had better be
careful what she said or did. It was a fact well known to the whole
country-side that she was quite unable to take care of herself,
that she was not responsible for her actions, that her proper place
was an asylum, and she might come to that yet if--’

One day, when he had been taunting thus longer and more bitterly
than usual, she was goaded into making an incautious reply.

‘The cup is nearly full to the brim, Rupert. Your time is fast
drawing to a close.’

‘What new craze is this, Lady Farrington?’ he said, laughing
scornfully, but with a black look on his face.

Sir Rupert’s was a hard dark face, with full eyes rather
prominent, and a long, drooping, black moustache. When he looked
black it was not a pleasant face to see.

‘It is nothing new, Rupert. I have waited patiently, hopefully. I
thought the end would never come. It is near at hand now, although
the consummation has been long delayed.’

‘Your ladyship’s language is, as usual, clear and perspicuous, yet
you will forgive me if I ask you to explain.’

‘Listen,’ she said, as she laid her hand upon his arm, and hissed
out her words slowly one by one. ‘Within a few short months, nay
weeks, whenever I choose, I can produce the rightful heir of the
Farringtons; and he shall come to his own.’

‘This is mere rhapsody, mere raving. You cannot touch me, you know
that.’

‘I can, ay, and I will, miserable fool! You have not the shadow
of a claim to the title and estates. My grandson, Herbert’s son,
lives, and you must make way for him.’

‘Psha! Herbert’s son? How do you know that? What proof have you?’

‘The youth himself. He has been under my charge these five years
past, and more. I found him--I myself found him. I knew I could not
err. He had Herbert’s eyes, he is Herbert’s image; he--’

‘He must have more proof than this if he is to make good his case
in a court of law,’ said Sir Rupert coolly.

‘I know it, and the proof shall be forthcoming. Every link in the
chain.’

‘All right. If it is to be war to the knife, so let it be. But I
tell you plainly that no one will believe a word you say.’

‘They will believe my beautiful boy, my own Herbert’s boy, when
they hear his story from his own sweet lips. He shall come forward
himself when the occasion is ripe for him to speak.’

‘Where is he now?’ asked Sir Rupert, carelessly, but with deeply
cunning intent.

She laughed in his face.

‘No, no, Sir Rupert, I am not to be so easily beguiled. He is safe,
quite safe, to be produced at exactly the right time.’

Sir Rupert gave her another fierce look, which boded her no good,
but he said nothing more. He was not exactly disconcerted by her
positive assertions, which he only half believed, yet his peace
of mind had been rudely assailed. That he must discover the
whereabouts of this mysterious claimant, and test the accuracy
of Lady Farrington’s far-fetched statements, was clear. It was
equally clear that he must, if possible, put a gag upon the old
woman, and remove her where she could work no further harm.



CHAPTER III.

’TWIXT CUP AND LIP.


Hercules Albert--or Herbert, as he was henceforth to be called--was
not a little taken aback by the sudden change in his circumstances,
which followed Lady Farrington’s supposed recognition of him. To
be measured for a suit of black cloth, which befitted best the
Larkins’ notion of gentility; to have a brand new box, painted
green, with sundry new shirts, new boots, and a broad-brimmed
wide-awake hat, all his own; these were so many delicious
surprises, the full effect of which was fully borne in upon him by
the openly-expressed envy of the rest of the family. But it was a
wrench to him when the time came to leave his home--the only one
he had ever known--to lose the companionship of his playmates, and
the warm, though roughly-expressed, affection of the sergeant and
his wife.

‘Be a man, Herkles,’ the sergeant had said, as the boy stood
snivelling at the door of the casemated room, which represented
the whole of the Larkins’ establishment. ‘Eat your cake.’ They
had provided him with a huge slice of bun-loaf, upon which little
Sennacherib Larkins, a freebooter like his Assyrian sponsor, had
made many inroads while Herbert’s attention was distracted by the
new cares of property and the pangs of making his adieux.

‘Eat your cake, and keep up your heart; me and the missus’ll be
over to see you before the month’s out, and we’ll bring Rechab and
Senn and Jemimer Ann.’

‘It’s all for your own good, Herbert,’ said Mrs. Larkins. ‘They’re
going to make a gentleman of you. You’ll get learning, and Latin,
and French mathematics; and by and by you’ll be an officer,
perhaps, and live like a lord.’

The prospect was brilliant, but remote. Herbert, as a child of the
barracks, had been brought up to believe that officers were almost
superior beings. He saw his father, the sergeant, and all soldiers
salute them always, and pay them extraordinary deference. When in
uniform they were resplendent in crimson and gold; when out of it
they drove dog-carts and played cricket and owned dogs, all of
which Herbert would have liked to have done too. Yet the off-chance
of some day becoming an officer himself did not reconcile him to
separation from the best friends he had in the world; and as he
left Triggertown casemates, he wept bitterly, and refused to be
comforted.

If life looked black and forbidding then, it was a thousand times
worse when he got to school. A cross-grained old man--it was Mr.
Bellhouse, Lady Farrington’s solicitor--escorted him thither, and
snubbed him all the way. The old lawyer was a little sick of her
ladyship’s caprices, and considered this last the most serious of
all. But it was none of Herbert’s fault, and the poor woe-begone
home-sick lad did not deserve to be made to answer for Lady
Farrington’s sins. At school he was left stranded, like a waif
of the sea upon an unknown shore. Presently the natives, troops
of little savage school-boys, swooped down upon him to scalp and
torture him. He was pestered with questions, and his hair pulled,
his strange wide-awake was jeered at, and given to the winds.

But the instincts of self-defence are strong, and Herbert, if new
to school life, was not new to the use of his fists. His tormentors
were numerous, but with one or two exceptions were not much older
or bigger than himself, and when it came to a question of blows and
hard knocks he was physically well able to take care of himself.
Presently a ‘straight un’ from the shoulder relieved him of the
most troublesome of his assailants, and a second, planted upon
the nose of a tall bully, proved that Herbert thought nothing of
disparity in height when disposing of his foes. Boys are sensibly
affected by the display of pluck, especially against superior
odds, and Herbert soon gained for himself the respect due to his
prowess, and immunity from further annoyance.

He was vexed and irritated no more, but he went to his bed, a
far more cleanly and luxurious couch than that which he had been
accustomed to in the crowded casemate at Triggertown, with a sad
and sorrowful heart. There are no woes so acute as those of early
youth. Happily they are as transient as they are intense. Herbert
at night was in the depths of woe; next morning he was already in
a fair way to recover his spirits, and before the day was out, in
the excitement of the new life opening before him, he had forgotten
his sorrows and was as happy as a bird. He was just the boy to get
on at school. Brisk and buoyant in disposition, with a well-knit
vigorous frame, a predilection for games of every kind in which,
with a little experience, he soon excelled, he rapidly advanced in
the estimation of his fellows. He was liberal and free-handed too,
which did not make him the less appreciated, and he had plenty to
give away. ‘His people,’ as boys call their friends, were evidently
of the right sort. The old lady with the snow-white hair and large
mournful eyes, who came to see him regularly every month, was right
royal in her tips, and not to him alone, but to any whom he called
particular friends. He got tuck baskets continually and presents of
all kinds to which others administered as freely as himself. These
are substantial grounds for school popularity, and Herbert enjoyed
it in the highest degree.

As he grew in years and developed in strength and good looks, Lady
Farrington’s affectionate admiration knew no bounds. She lavished
caresses on him without ceasing, declaring that he was daily
becoming more and more fitted for the station which would some day
be his.

‘Yes, yes, the end cannot be far off now,’ she said one day as
she sat in the headmaster’s drawing-room, holding Herbert’s hand
in hers and patting it from time to time in the fulness of her
contentment. ‘Who shall gainsay your claim when they see you thus,
my Herbert’s living image? my son! My son, my lost unhappy son!’
and in a moment she was in a paroxysm of tears.

Herbert was quite accustomed to her now. At first he had been
dismayed by her sudden outbursts. The rapid transition from joy
to sorrow, from smiles to hysterical tears, were sufficient to
frighten him, and when to these were added her wild talk, her
bitter self-reproaches, her mysterious hints of his coming
greatness, he scarcely knew what to do or say. But by degrees he
became familiar with her eccentricities, and he felt that although
she might be queer, she was certainly uncommonly kind.

‘I cannot control myself when I think of the miserable past. But,
please God, in you I shall make some atonement for my sins, and
soon, soon,--for the time draws nigh. You are equal, Herbert, I
trust, to a great and arduous trial?’

He was now nearly seventeen, tall and well-built for his age; and
as he shook his light curls and looked steadily at her with his
clear, honest eyes, he seemed the incarnation of youth and hope.

‘I am game for anything, Lady Farrington, only try me. I’d face the
whole world if you asked me.’

‘My own brave boy! The struggle may be sharp, but with such a
spirit the victory is certain to be ours.’

‘When may I know what it is that I have to do?’

‘The time draws nigh. It depends only on you and your fitness to
play your part. You have not neglected your opportunities I know.
Dr. Jiggs gives you a high character. You have profited by his
studies, you have learnt to ride and shoot, and when you come to
your own you will comport yourself as an English gentleman should.’

‘I am a gentleman born, then?’

‘Of the best,’ she replied proudly. ‘You are--why conceal it
longer? Here you have for reasons been still known as Herbert
Larkins, my ward, but you are really my grandson, the only child
of Herbert, my second boy. You are Sir Herbert Farrington, the
rightful heir of the family honours of an old name and wide
estates.’

‘Is this certain, quite certain?’

‘Absolutely--at least to me. I have never doubted from the first.
My instinct assured me I was right when I recognised you in
Triggertown. But as the world needs more material proof I have
sought them out, and hold them now all but one. This also I should
have possessed had not one person failed me.’

‘Who was that?’

‘Mrs. Larkins. She alone can tell us what we want to know, and she
has most unaccountably hesitated or refused to speak. This is why I
have broken with her--why I have forbidden them to come and see you
again.’

These honest people had paid several visits to Herbert at school,
visits he had received with delight. They had ceased suddenly, and
he had wondered greatly thereat.

‘But if my mother--if Mrs. Larkins--’

‘Mrs. Larkins is not your mother, Herbert, of that you may rest
assured.’

‘She was as good as one to me always, I know that. But if she is
the only person who can help us in this matter, was it prudent to
break with her altogether?’ Herbert asked very pertinently.

‘I was annoyed, angry, and they were proud--I will seek them out
again. They are necessary to us. Mrs. Larkins shall speak, and
we will proceed at once to establish your claim. My patience is
exhausted and Rupert’s cup is full.’

This conversation occurred at a time mentioned in a previous
chapter when her relations with Sir Rupert had become more and
more constrained. War had long been imminent between them, but a
rupture had been precipitated by the overbearing harshness of his
ways. She had spoken, therefore, a little rashly and prematurely
perhaps, and in doing so had shown her hand. She had practically
thrown down the glove, daring him to do his worst. He accepted the
challenge, and acted with a promptitude and determination for which
the poor cracked-brained old lady was certainly no match.

His first step was to put a watch upon Lady Farrington’s movements.
Mr. Oozenam, the well-known private detective, was employed, who
set about his task with his usual skill and despatch. Within a week
or two he came with his first report.

‘Lady Farrington goes once every month, often twice, to Deadham
School, in Essex. She has done so these five years past and more.’

‘Of course. The cub, her _protégé_, is there. Well?’

‘A ward of her ladyship’s, Herbert Larkins, is at school there. He
is now seventeen years of age, is tall and well grown, has fair
curly hair and greyish blue eyes. Her ladyship is said to take an
immense interest in him. Their interviews are long. She must be
very liberal to him; the lad is always well provided with money
which he spends freely. He is a fair scholar, has been taught
especially to ride and shoot, has learnt foreign languages and all
extras.’

‘That is enough, Mr. Oozenam. You have handsomely earned your fee.’

‘It has gone very far,’ Sir Rupert said to himself as soon as he
was alone. ‘What an idiot I have been not to have observed her
more closely! But let us hope it is not too late even now.’

And then, after a long cogitation, he called for his carriage, and
driving first into the neighbouring country town, where he made one
or two calls, he bade the coachman next proceed to Farrington Court.

He asked for Lady Farrington, and was in due course ushered into
her private boudoir.

‘The time has come, Lady Farrington, as you were good enough to
say some time back--the time for plain speaking. I mean to put an
end to your tomfooleries once for all. So long as they merely made
you appear ridiculous I could have borne with you, although you
scandalized our name. But I cannot permit you to plot against me
and mine without protest and something more.’

‘Plot?’ she asked, in a voice which anger and agitation combined
to make nearly inarticulate.

‘I have discovered all. You have kept your secret well, but I have
found it out. This base-born pretender--’

‘He is my own grandson. I have the proofs.’

‘They will not bear the test of legal scrutiny, you know that. On
the contrary, I can show that the whole affair is a conspiracy from
beginning to end. That this Larkins is an adventurer--’

‘You will not harm him, surely? It is I, only I, who am to blame.’

‘I shall hand him over to the police, prosecute him, and make him
pay dearly for his attempt to defraud.’

‘You would not dare,’ she cried aghast. Surprise and indignation
combined to confuse her mind, and she did not pause to consider
that he had no grounds of procedure; that his threats were vain,
and could never be put into execution.

‘I shall not spare him nor you.’

‘Then you shall take the consequences. I will proclaim you to be
the villain that you are; will tear you from your present exalted
station, and will send you back to your former poverty and rags.
You shall be dispossessed. You shall disgorge the rents and all
that you have improperly acquired. You--’

He merely laughed at her, mockingly and rudely, which exasperated
her beyond all bounds.

‘Begone, sir! You shall not remain here another second to insult
me. Begone! or--’

He only laughed more loudly and mockingly than before. Instantly
her rage passed into fury which seemed uncontrollable.

‘Begone!’ she cried again, snatching up a sharp-pointed paper
knife and rushing on him with so much intention that Sir Rupert
precipitately retired. She followed him downstairs with a wild
shriek, little recking how completely she was playing into his
hands.

The butler had just admitted several other visitors, who heard and
saw all that passed. Sir Rupert went up to them apparently for
protection, but his first words showed that he was eager for more
than this.

‘Gentlemen, you have arrived most opportunely. You can see for
yourselves. It is clearly not safe to leave her any longer at
large.’

The butler had quelled poor Lady Farrington almost instantly, but
although he held her back she was still furious and foamed at the
mouth.

‘Scarcely. We cannot refuse the certificate,’ said Mr. Burkinshaw,
of Bootle, a local magistrate and magnate. ‘Sir Henry quite agrees
with me, and the doctors have no manner of doubt. Poor woman, she
ought clearly to be put under restraint.’

And she was, without unnecessary delay.

Thus Herbert Larkins lost his protectress just when his fortune
seemed close at hand. The cup was dashed away just before he had
lifted it to his lips, with consequences which were by no means
pleasant to himself, as will be seen in the next chapter.



CHAPTER IV.

TAKING THE SHILLING.


Herbert Larkins was in the class-room when he was summoned to see a
gentleman who had called.

‘I come from Lady Farrington,’ said his visitor, rather abruptly.

He was a tall, dark-eyed man, with a sinister look upon his face.

‘She is well, I hope? Nothing has happened? I half expected her
to-day or to-morrow.’

‘She is well, but she cannot come here, and wishes you to go to her
at once. You are aware, no doubt--’

‘The time then has arrived?’ Herbert said, a little incautiously.

‘It has arrived. You are ready, I presume?’

‘I must speak to Dr. Jiggs. I cannot leave the school without his
permission, of course.’

‘That is all arranged. When you have got your belongings together,
we will start. You are not to return here. You know that, I
presume?’

‘We are going to join Lady Farrington?’

The visitor bowed assent.

An hour or two later they were in the train and on the road to
London.

There was little conversation between them. Herbert was shy, and
his companion by no means talkative or sociable.

‘Where does Lady Farrington live?’ Herbert asked.

‘You really don’t know?’

‘She never told me,’ Herbert replied, looking rather shamefaced.

‘She is a strange person, of that you must be aware. It is
impossible to account for all she says and does.’

‘She has always been most kind to me,’ Herbert said, stoutly.

‘No doubt,’ the other replied, drily. ‘But perhaps that was a form
of eccentricity. People are sometimes too affectionate by half.’

Herbert would have liked some explanation of this speech, but he
could not bring himself to ask for it. He only knew that he began
to dislike this man excessively, and hoped they might never have
much to say to each other.

Arrived in London, they drove from one terminus to another. Fresh
tickets were taken, for which his companion made Herbert pay;
and after a hasty meal at the refreshment-room, they were again
seated in a railway carriage, travelling westward. This second was
a wearisome journey, which continued far into the chill autumn
night. Towards nine they alighted at a station, where their baggage
was transferred to a fly, into which they entered, and were driven
half-a-dozen miles or more. At length they reached a small country
inn, had some supper, and were shown to their rooms.

‘Remember,’ said his companion, as he bade him good-night, ‘our
affair is secret. Keep your own counsel; do not gossip with any one
you may meet here. Lady Farrington does not wish her name bandied
about; so mind you do not mention it to a soul.’

Herbert slept late next morning, and when he went downstairs
he found himself alone. The other gentleman had gone out, they
told him, and would not return till late. Breakfast--what would
he like? He might like what he pleased, but all he could get was
cold bacon and bread, with thin cider to drink. A school-boy has
a fine appetite, and is nowise particular. Herbert enjoyed his
breakfast, as he did also his lunch and his dinner. He felt jolly
enough. He asked where he was, and they told him King’s Staignton
in Devonshire. Was there anything to do in the place? Yes, he
might fish the trout stream, which he did, very much to his own
satisfaction, and spent a thoroughly pleasant day.

But when night fell, and his companion did not return, he began
to feel the least bit uneasy. He ate his trout, however, and his
bacon and bread, and slept the sleep of the young, undismayed by
fears of to-morrow. To-morrow came, but no companion. A third and
a fourth day, and Herbert was still alone. What could it mean? He
felt absolved from the necessity of holding his tongue, and he
asked the landlady if she knew any one of the name of Farrington
in the country round about. He was resolved to go to her ladyship
himself.

‘No, they had never heard the name before.’

He now became more than puzzled. He was filled with an inexplicable
but increasing dread of coming trouble, and he was just beginning
his preparations for returning at once to Deadham, when the
absentee suddenly reappeared.

Herbert was young, inexperienced, and terribly shy. But his was
no craven spirit, and he had enough of school-boy plain-speaking
frankness about him to say,

‘Come, this is a fine lark. You would not have kept me waiting here
much longer, I can tell you. I was just going to cut and run.’

‘You may cut and run as soon as you please,’ said the other
gruffly. ‘The sooner the better.’

‘And what would Lady Farrington say?’

‘Lady Farrington is not in a position to say much.’

‘I should like to see her.’

‘You can’t. She’s gone off in a hurry.’

‘She never was here, or near here. I know that much, for I have
enquired.’

‘You broke through my instructions, did you? Not that it matters
much; and it is time you should know all. Lady Farrington has been
put under restraint. You do not understand? Locked up in an asylum,
I mean. She is mad, insane; and of all her ravings, the wildest
were those which led you to suppose you were somebody, instead of a
beggar’s brat picked up out of the mire.’

‘That I’m not, I’ll swear, and no one shall call me so,’ cried
Herbert, hotly. He looked so fierce, with his clenched fists, broad
shoulders, and light active figure, that the man for the moment was
cowed.

‘I don’t know who you are, or where you came from. But you’re not
what you think you are, nor what Lady Farrington has made you
believe. That is enough for me.’

‘I have her word.’

‘That of a mad woman!’

‘And she has proofs.’

‘Which exist only in her own distraught brain.’

‘That remains to be seen. But who are you? Why are you so bitter
against me? Why did you bring me here?’

‘I am Sir Rupert Farrington. It is I whom this mad old lady wishes
to wrong. She has been seeking what she calls a rightful heir all
these years--only that she may dispossess me. You are not the first
pretender she has set up. But I think it is not unlikely you will
be the last.’

Had he brought Herbert there to injure him? The thought suddenly
flashed across the young man’s mind. But then there were other
people at the inn; the landlady, ostlers, keepers, police not far
off, none of these would knowingly suffer any foul play to be done.

‘I defy you and your threats,’ said Herbert. ‘If I am in a false
position it was none of my seeking, but I prefer to believe Lady
Farrington rather than you. There are others who know of my claims,
and with their help I shall yet put them forward as you will see.’

Sir Rupert snapped his fingers at him. ‘How do you propose to live
meanwhile? Remember you can get nothing from Lady Farrington now.
You cannot go back to the school; I brought you all this way on
purpose that you should not. Besides, I have written to Dr. Jiggs
to put him on his guard.’

‘He would still help me if I asked him; but I do not need to do
that.’

‘You cannot have money hoarded? That would be very unlike a
school-boy. You must be nearly cleaned out by this time. I made you
pay your own expenses on purpose; and there will be the bill here.
You ought to be nearly penniless. You will have to remain here, and
turn farm labourer or starve.’

‘I shall not do that, you may depend. I have been well educated,
thanks to Lady Farrington. I am not afraid of work, and I am well
able to take care of myself. At any rate I look to you for nothing,
and all I wish now is to get away from you and this place.’

Herbert called for his bill, paid it with his last sovereign,
asked the way to the nearest railway station--Newton Abbot--and
started off on foot, determined to get back to London as soon as
he could. Thence he would find his way to Triggertown. The Larkins
were the only friends left in the world; and Mrs. Larkins, as Lady
Farrington had said, was the person who possessed the only link
wanting in the chain of proofs which was to establish his claims.

At Newton Abbot he sold his watch, and had money for his ticket to
London and to spare. Parting with other articles of his apparel
to supply his necessities upon the road, he found himself at
Triggertown upon the third day. How familiar the place seemed!
Six years since he left it--a child, and now returning as a man
he found everything unchanged. He passed up the covered way,
across the drawbridge under the arch, and stood at the door of
the casemate, expecting next moment to see the sergeant and Mrs.
Larkins, and the whole of the brood.

But it was a stranger who came to answer his knock; a small
vixenish woman with a shrewish tongue. She gave him a very short
answer.

‘Larkinses? They don’t stop here. Been gone these years. Where? How
do I know? They got the route right enough; that’s all I can tell
you.’

‘Was there no one in the barracks who could tell him?’ Herbert
asked.

‘No,’ said the woman, abruptly, and shut the door in his face.

The sentry would not let him pass the inner gates. The gate
sergeant, who came up, peremptory and consequential, was still more
inhospitable. Whom did Herbert want? A barrack sergeant of the name
of Larkins? There was no such name in the garrison.

‘Better write to the Secretary of State for War, my man,’ said the
gate sergeant with gruff condescension, ‘or to the Archbishop of
Canterbury. One’s as likely to tell you as another. But you must
clear out of this. Can’t have no loiterers about here. Them’s my
orders. May be the adjutant or the sergeant-major’ll come this way,
and I don’t choose to be blamed for you.’

‘What regiment do you belong to?’ asked Herbert.

‘Can’t you see for yourself?’ Where could this young man have been
raised not to recognise the uniform of the Duke’s Own Fusiliers?

‘Is it a good corps?’

The sergeant was aghast at the fellow’s impudence. Like every
soldier of the old school, he had been brought up to believe that
his regiment was not only a good one, but the very best in the
service.

‘G’long; I want no more truck with you. Clear out, or you’ll be put
out.’

‘What’s your colonel’s name? I want to see him.’

‘You can’t want to see him if you don’t know his name.’

‘I do, though, on business.’

‘Pretty business! A tramp like you can’t have no business here at
all, much less with the colonel or any other officer of ours.’

‘Won’t you pass me in?’

‘I won’t, there, that’s flat.’

‘All right; I’ll wait till some one comes out.’

Herbert coolly seated himself a little way down upon the slope of
the glacis. If the sergeant meant to dislodge him it could only be
by force.

The fact was our hero was meditating a serious step. The
disappointment of not finding his old friends where he had left
them was great. He had perhaps overrated the assistance which Mrs.
Larkins could give him in substantiating his claims, but he had
looked for advice from them as to the disposal of his immediate
future. How was he now, unknown and seemingly without a friend in
the world, to find employment? That was the serious question he
was called upon to solve, and that without unnecessary delay. His
pockets were empty, his clothes--such as he had not pawned--had
reached that stage of irretrievable seediness which clothes worn
uninterruptedly for weeks will always assume. He might or might not
be the heir of the Farringtons. What did it matter who he was or
might be if he died of starvation before he could prove his case?

These wholesome reflections led him to accept the only means of
livelihood which offered just then. He would enlist. Why not?
He had been brought up within sound of the drum; his earliest
recollections and associations were connected with the barrack. The
life might be rough compared to the luxury of Deadham, but at least
he would be fed, clothed and housed, and he need not stand still.
The theory of the marshal’s baton, which every knapsack is said to
contain, is not exactly supported by fact in the British Army, but
times were not what they had been, and he might now hope to rise
rapidly enough. Yes, he would take the shilling and join the Duke’s
Own Fusiliers.

These were the words he addressed to the first officer who issued
from the gates.

It happened to be the adjutant himself. Mr. Wheeler was the beau
ideal of a smart young soldier, quick and energetic in movement,
with an eagle eye to take in the ‘points’ of a possible recruit.

‘Want to enlist, do you? Hey, what, what, what? Where do you come
from? Won’t say, I suppose? Where do you belong to? Don’t know, of
course. What’s your age? You won’t tell the truth. Height? we can
see to that. Health? are you sound in wind and limb? hey, what,
what, what?’

All this time he had been appraising Herbert’s value, had noted his
broad shoulders, thin flanks, his seventy-two inches, and his erect
bearing, as keenly as though he were a slave merchant about to
turn a penny on a deal. The scrutiny was satisfactory. The medical
examination confirmed it, the nearest magistrate sanctioned the
enlistment, and before sundown, Herbert Larkins had joined the
Duke’s Own and had sworn to serve Her Majesty and her heirs for a
term of years.

By a strange coincidence, within a week or two, Ernest Farrington,
Sir Rupert’s only son, was gazetted to the same regiment, and the
two young men presently found themselves in the same squad at
recruit’s drill.



CHAPTER V.

A CRACK CORPS.


The Duke’s Own Fusiliers had the credit of being one of the most
distinguished regiments in the service of the Queen. Its colours
were emblazoned with the victories in which it had shared; its mess
plate was rich in gifts from the great captains and men of mark who
had held commissions in its ranks. It considered itself in every
respect a crack corps, and held its head high always on account of
its thorough efficiency and undeniably ‘good form.’ Its claims to
the latter could not be denied; but its rights to the former were
sometimes questioned by keen-eyed critics and people behind the
scenes. The regiment no doubt turned out smartly upon parade; it
always looked well, and was fairly well-behaved. But there were
flaws and short-comings in its system, hidden a little below the
surface, which in the crucial test of emergency would probably be
laid bare. The gulf between officers and men was a little too wide;
inferiors had no great confidence in those above them, the latter
were generally indifferent, taking but little interest in their
business, as though soldiering was not their profession, but a
chance employment to fill up their hours when not otherwise engaged.

A certain Colonel Prioleau commanded the regiment at the time when
Herbert Larkins enlisted into it; a soldier of the old school, at
times fussy, testy, and sharp-spoken, but really a good-natured
easy-going man. He was without much strength of character however,
and not over-burthened with brains. It was not strange, therefore,
that he should suffer his authority to slip a little out of his
own hands. He was far from supreme in the body of which he was the
ostensible head. English regiments are very variously governed.
This is ruled by the sergeant-major, that by the colonel’s wife;
in another, the general of the brigade or district, with his
staff-officers, works his own wicked will. Some are, so to speak,
self-governed, and the Duke’s Own was one of these. In it, the
will of the body corporate, of the officers banded together like a
joint-stock company, and trading under the name of ‘the regiment’
was absolute law. By and for ‘the regiment,’ everything was settled
and decided. The regimental idea was a species of impalpable
but all-pervading essence, which no one could resist. To quote
regimental custom; to invoke regimental prestige; to talk of the
credit of the regiment; to insist upon the maintenance of _esprit
de corps_, were so many irresistible appeals, so many precepts of
a powerful unwritten code universally accepted, and admitted to be
binding upon all. In its highest form, this thorough-going devotion
might be productive, as indeed it has often proved to be, of
extraordinary good; but it was possible to develop it in the wrong
direction, and this was to some extent the case with the Duke’s Own
Fusiliers. It was generally understood in the regiment that its
credit depended less upon its military proficiency than upon the
dash it cut in the world.

Military matters, in fact, were not held in the highest esteem in
the Duke’s Own. Nobody cared much about them. They were left to be
managed by anybody, anyhow. Now and again Colonel Prioleau raised
a feeble protest, but nobody listened to him or cared. He was told
that the regiment wished this, or thought that, and he immediately
succumbed. Those next senior to him, his two majors, were of little
assistance to him in driving the coach. One, Major Diggle, of whom
more directly, did not pretend to be a soldier at all. According
to his own ideas, he was always much better engaged. The other,
Major Byfield, had, unfortunately, been raised in another regiment,
and was so unpopular that he was worse than a cipher; the Duke’s
Own knew too well what was due to itself to allow an outsider to
dictate to it or interfere in its affairs. The only person who
did anything in the regiment was the adjutant, and he had come by
degrees to monopolise the whole of the power. The colonel gave in
to him more and more, till presently he abdicated his functions to
him altogether. After all, Mr. Wheeler was a smart young gentleman,
not without military aptitudes. He had no dread of responsibility,
and having a fair knowledge of the red-books and routine, disposed
of his work daily in an airy off-hand fashion which was always
refreshing, and which, in the face of any serious difficulty,
would have been absolutely sublime. He pulled all the strings,
decided all the moot points, gave all orders, drafted all letters,
which his humble slave, the colonel, obediently signed; it was he,
practically, who manœuvred the battalion, although his puppet, the
colonel, nominally gave the word of command. It saved everybody
else a great deal of trouble. The men perhaps were not quite as
well cared for and commanded as they ought to have been, the
sergeants looking to the adjutant rather than to their officers,
sometimes exceeded their powers, and carried matters with rather
a high hand. Complaints of tyranny and ill-usage, however, seldom
cropped up, and no suspicion ever arose that the condition of the
regiment was otherwise than perfectly sound.

It was not difficult to understand why the officers as a body
rather neglected their duties. They were too fully occupied
in maintaining the credit of the regiment according to their
own interpretation of the phrase. This meant that it should
be renowned--not for marching and manœuvres, for demeanour,
discipline, and drill--but for its ostentation and display, for the
grand balls and entertainments it gave, for its mess perfectly
appointed, its artistic _chefs_, its exquisite wines. It was for
the credit of the regiment that it should keep up a regimental
drag, a cricket and lawn tennis club, and give weekly afternoon
teas; that during the season six or seven at least of the Duke’s
Own should turn out in scarlet to hunt with the nearest hounds,
that some one amongst their number should take a shooting or a
river, which the regimental sportsmen might honour in turn; that
half the regiment at least should rush up to town from Friday to
Monday every week, and enjoy themselves in loafing about the park
and the Burlington Arcade, or idling away the hours at the club,
and devoutly wishing they were back at their own regimental mess.

These high-flown ideas very rapidly developed into extravagant
tastes, which had reached their highest point about the time when
Herbert Larkins became one of the Duke’s Own. The regiment had only
returned a year or two previously from a lengthened tour of foreign
service, and after their long exile in outer darkness everyone with
any spirit or capacity for enjoyment had been resolved to take
his pleasure to the full. It was expected of the officers of the
Duke’s Own to come well to the front, and this they pretended was
a more potent inducement to them to spend money than any hankering
after personal gratification. So, with but few exceptions, they
launched forth freely enough. It was, with many, a case of the
earthen pots swimming with the brass; but all, or nearly all, were
determined to do their duty to the regiment and go the pace, or
as Mr. Crouch, the sporting quartermaster styled it, ‘go to the
devil hands down.’ What if any serious financial crisis supervened?
Their people would have to stump up; their fathers--probably by
drawing upon a wife’s provision or daughter’s portion, and always
by impoverishing themselves--would pay their debts, but they would
have had ‘a high old time,’ and the imperishable credit of the
Duke’s Own Fusiliers would have been most brilliantly maintained.

The leading spirit and showman of the regiment at this particular
epoch was the junior major Cavendish-Diggle. Diggle was, in his
way, a man of parts, young, pushing, ambitious, passably rich. No
one knew exactly where he came from, or who were his belongings or
his people. One of his patronymics was decidedly patrician, the
other as unmistakeably commonplace. He might be a cousin of the
Duke of Devonshire; and again he might not. When anyone asked him
the question--and it was one he liked to have put to him--he smiled
pleasantly, and said that the Cavendishes were all related, as
everybody knew. But he was not so well pleased when people, envious
or cynical, or both, remarked casually that Diggle was the name of
the great grocers in Cheapside. There was no connection on that
side of course, but the allusion was far from agreeable to him, as
a shrewd observer might have noticed from his face and his avowed
hostility to anyone who dared to make the remark.

There were not many who were bold enough to attack him however.
He could hold his own always. Nature had endowed him with a good
presence and abundance of self-confidence; he could talk well,
had a good voice, and was an excellent _raconteur_. These gifts
were naturally of great service to him; not alone for purposes
of repartee and self-defence; they were also exceedingly useful
in assisting him to obtain that social success which had ever
been one of the principal aims of his life. In his boyhood, when
he had made his _début_ as a second lieutenant in the Duke’s Own
Fusiliers, he had had an uphill game to play. The regiment was
then, as it still aspired to be, eminently aristocratic, and no one
was disposed to welcome a Diggle with rapturous effusion. There was
nothing against the lad, however, except the possible obscurity of
his origin; on the contrary, there was much in his favour. He was
modest and unpretending, fully impressed with the ‘greatness’ of
‘the regiment’ he had joined, falling down readily to worship the
principal personages who were its idols at the time. He sought to
attach himself to one or two of the most distinguished cadets of
noble houses, who were nobodies at home, but made a good deal of
in the Duke’s Own. Diggle’s hero worship, accompanied as it was
by a willingness to bet, play _écarté_, and do good turns to his
superiors--he thought them so himself--met with its reward, and he
soon found himself in the position to enjoy the daily companionship
and friendship of one or two baronets and several lords’ sons. It
was long, however, before he advanced himself beyond the rather
undignified status of a ‘hanger-on.’ His friends and comrades were
very affectionate--with the regiment--but they were not so fond
of him in town; nor did they help him into society, or get him
invitations to their homes. But as time passed, and he gained
promotion and seniority, his persistent efforts gradually achieved
a certain success. He now took a prominent part in regimental
entertainments, was willing to accept all the drudgery of managing
balls and parties, because he thus came more to the front. At
one rather dull country station he struck out the happy idea of
giving dances on his account in his own quarters, which happened
to be large, and at his own expense, and this gained for him
great popularity in the neighbourhood. It was about this time
that he began to lay much stress upon the Cavendish prefix to his
proper name; he always called himself Cavendish-Diggle, had it
so put in the _Army List_ and upon his cards. Then the regiment
went on foreign service, and while stationed in an out-of-the-way
colony, he had the good fortune to be selected to act upon the
personal staff of the governor and commander-in-chief. He turned
this appointment to excellent account. He was soon the life and
soul of Government House, developing at once into a species of
diplomatic major-domo, who was simply indispensable to his chief.
In this way he made many new and valuable friends; a young royalty
on his travels, who was charmed with Captain Cavendish-Diggle’s
devotion to his person; several heirs apparent also, and itinerant
legislators, who took Barataria in their journey round the world,
and who could not be too grateful for all he did for them, or too
profuse in their promises of civilities whenever he might be in
England. All this bore fruit in the long run, when the regiment
returned. He experienced many disappointments, no doubt; for your
notable on his travels, so cordial and so gushing, is apt to give
you the cut direct if you meet him in his own hunting-grounds, at
home. Still there were some did not quite forget the hospitable and
obliging A.D.C.; and Major Cavendish-Diggle, at the invitation of
one, went into Norfolk to shoot; of another to Scotland to fish; in
the London season he found several houses open to him; and he was
finally raised to a pinnacle of satisfaction by Royal commands to
attend a garden party and a court ball.

In the Duke’s Own he was now a very great personage indeed. As both
the Colonel and Major Byfield were married he was the senior member
of the mess; always its most prominent figure; the chief host in
all impromptu parties at home; the great man at all entertainments
abroad. He had now a following of his own; a band of personal
adherents who imitated him in his dress and talk and ways, who
deferred to him, flattered him, and admired him fully as much as
he had the shining lights around which he had himself revolved
when he was young. This homage did not do him any great good. It
confirmed him in the high opinion he had formed of himself: it
indorsed and justified his aspirations, which were now by no means
unambitious, although very carefully concealed. Why should he not
make a brilliant marriage? There were plenty of heiresses about; if
he could but find one in whom the charms of blood and beauty were
united, why should he not go in and win? He was still comparatively
young; he had kept his figure; he was _répandu_ in the best society
and appreciated wherever he went. Who should have a better chance?
And what might he not achieve in the way of future distinction
with a rich and well-born wife to help him in climbing the tree?

These ideas had been uppermost in his mind for some time past.
It was in obedience to them that he had been at some pains to
inform himself whether any likely _partis_ were running loose
about Triggertown or in the country round. But he had so far met
with little success. Hopshire is a county owning many families of
antiquity and repute, but none were especially renowned for their
wealth. Diggle would have gone further afield and commenced his
chase in London, or at one of the great watering places, but he
wished first to exhaust the resources of the neighbourhood. The gay
major was not wrong in supposing that he showed off to the best
advantage upon his own territory, doing the honours of his own
mess, backed up and supported by so many brilliant comrades and
disciples. Just when he began to despair of finding any young lady
who from substantial reasons was entitled to receive his addresses,
he came across the Farringtons. They lived at the other end of
the county. There was a daughter in the house--a very charming
girl, he thought, who, having one brother only and no sisters,
would assuredly be well portioned. This led him to consolidate his
acquaintance with Sir Rupert, to accept many invitations and pay
frequent visits to Farrington Hall.

It was entirely through his advice and intervention that Sir Rupert
sent young Ernest into the Duke’s Own. The regiment would probably
remain at Triggertown for a year or two longer, and this would
break Lady Farrington gradually to the separation from her beloved
son. Besides, Major Cavendish-Diggle would have the young fellow
especially under his wing--a precious advantage no doubt, as we
shall presently see.



CHAPTER VI.

IN THE BARRACK-ROOM.


Within twenty-four hours of his arrival in barracks, Herbert
Larkins was bathed, cropped, clothed, numbered, and, so to
speak, put away. His ‘rags,’ in plain English, his civilian
clothes--invariably so called whether undeniable garments or
veritable rags--had been exchanged for uniform, such as it was. A
recruit, and especially in the fall of the year, when the annual
issue of new clothing is near at hand, gets only things ‘part
worn.’ So Herbert’s shell jacket, his regimental trousers, and his
ammunition boots, were all of them palpable misfits.

He said as much to the corporal of the pioneers, who helped the
quartermaster-sergeant in rigging out recruits.

‘Too large?’ replied the corporal, contemptuously. ‘Wait till
you’re at the extension motions, or at club drill, and you’ll wish
they were more than twice as big.’

‘But my trousers are too long, and--’

‘It’ll be longer before you get another pair. Besides, you ain’t
done growing yet. Two months on full rations, and you’ll be as tall
as a hop-pole. How do you think your legs ’d look then? Showing
half a yard of sock above the high-lows, and the captain ’d be safe
to put you down for a new pair of bags.’

‘And these boots are far too loose. I can’t feel the sides even.’

‘You’ll feel something else afore long, I can tell you, and not
half so soft as leather. Them boots! Why, flash Alick Nokes wore
them till he went “out”--and it ’d take a dozen Johnny Raws like
you to make half a soldier such as him.’

Yet Herbert had really some reason to be discontented with his
personal appearance. Always a trim and dapper youth, his patroness,
Lady Farrington, had loved to see him neatly dressed, and had
cheerfully paid his tailor’s bills when at Deadham school. But
now, speaking exactly, he was not dressed at all; his figure was
only concealed with clothes. His jacket was baggy at the back;
the arms were so long that the cuffs came as far as his knuckles;
his trousers, if they had been tied in at the ankle, would have
suited a Janissary Turk; his forage-cap--it was before the days
of smart glengarries--not yet ‘blocked’ and set up, fell like a
black pudding-bag, over one forehead and one ear. His boots were
quite amorphous, quite without form, and they might have been
void were it not probable they encased a pair of feet shaped like
wedges of Cheshire cheese. So deteriorating was the effect of these
incongruous habiliments, that Herbert Larkins seemed to lose his
erect bearing and springy step; and as he reached the barrack-room,
to which he was presently marched, carrying his kit-bag full of
cleaning utensils under one arm, and his new knapsack under the
other, he hung his head and looked utterly ashamed of himself.

‘Oh! it’s you is it?’ said the sergeant in charge of the room, who
took him over from the corporal of the pioneers.

Herbert recognised the sergeant with whom he had had the colloquy
at the barrack-gate.

‘So you got past the gate, did you? Mind you stop, now you’ve got
in. Don’t try and run off again with your bounty and kit.’

The suspicious sergeant scented a probable deserter.

‘I shouldn’t have come in if I’d wanted to go out directly
afterwards,’ Herbert plucked up courage to say; but the scene was
so new, and he felt so forlorn in his loneliness and his strange
new clothes, that he had not much spirit left in him.

‘Don’t answer me with cheek,’ cried the sergeant, very sharply. ‘I
want none of your slack jaw or back jaw. Hold your tongue, that’s
what you’ve got to do, and do as you’re bid.’

‘Now look here,’ he went on, after a pause; ‘there’s your bed, and
that’s your shelf; mind you keep them clean and proper. Don’t you
try to lie down on the one before the right time, nor put what
ain’t authorised on the other. You’ll be for recruits’ drill
at six sharp to-morrow; don’t let me have to tell you twice to
turn out, and mind you don’t get straying away so that you can’t
answer your name at tattoo roll-call to-night. Mind, too, what
your comrade says; I’ll tell you off to Boy Hanlon because you’re
much of an age; mind him and what he tells you, and he’ll keep you
straight. Lads’--this to the room--‘have any of you seen “the Boy”?’

‘No, sergeant, not these hours past. He’s in the usual place, I’ll
go bail.’

‘The canteen?’

Some of the men laughed and nodded, and the sergeant went off in
search.

No one took any notice of Herbert, as he sat upon the edge of his
iron cot at the far end of the room. Everybody seemed busy with his
own affairs.

But presently some one near the door shouted, ‘Why, here’s “the
Boy”! Duke’s Own! “’Tchun,”’ giving the word of command as though
an officer was approaching.

It was only a wizened little man, who might have been fifty or
barely five. He hadn’t a hair on his fresh coloured cheeks, but
they were much wrinkled as though he were prematurely aged.

Boy Hanlon was one of the oldest soldiers in the regiment. He had
been in it all his life from the time they had picked him up like a
waif or stray on the line of march between Exeter and Plymouth till
now, when he had upwards of twenty years’ service, and was growing
grey-haired. He had begun as a boy in the band, thence he went to
the drums; by-and-bye he became a bugler, from which, although
barely of the standard height, he had been passed into the ranks.
Now, as a veteran who knew his rights and what was due to himself,
he gave himself great airs. No one was half so well acquainted as
he was with professional topics. He could tell you the names of all
the officers past and present, in the Duke’s Own; he was a keen
critic upon drill from his own point of view--somewhere in the
rear rank of one of the central companies; he could pipeclay belts
to perfection, and had not his equal with brass ball, heel ball,
boot-blacking, button stick and brush. But the chief source of his
pride were his confidential relations with Colonel Prioleau, the
present commanding officer. The two had ‘soldiered’ together all
these years, in every clime, and knew each other thoroughly. More,
they had stood side by side at the battle of Goojerat, where the
Duke’s Own had fought remarkably well, and they were the only two
survivors of that glorious day. ‘Boy’ Hanlon--he got his soubriquet
of course from his insignificant size--traded a good deal on that
battle of Goojerat. He was perpetually celebrating the victory. For
one single battle it had an extraordinary number of anniversaries.
Whenever ‘the Boy’ was thirsty--and with him drought was
perennial--he turned up at the orderly room and told the colonel it
was a fine morning ‘for the day.’

‘What day?’ old Prioleau would ask with pretended ignorance,
although he knew and really enjoyed the joke.

‘The great day, of course, colonel; the day of Goojerat.’

‘Why, it was that only three weeks ago; surely--’

‘Well, sir, we’re the only two Goojeraties left, you know, sir, and
I’d like to drink your health.’

It always ended in the same way--the transfer of half-a-crown from
the colonel to ‘the Boy;’ the speedy exchange of the whole sum into
liquor, the most potent description preferred, a free fight, for
‘the Boy’ was quarrelsome in his cups, a temporary relegation to
the guard-room, from which he was sure to be immediately released
by the officer of the day. When Hanlon misconducted himself he
always got off scot free. Colonel Prioleau would never punish ‘the
Boy.’

‘Where’s my towney?’ Hanlon asked directly he entered the room.

They pointed to where Herbert sat disconsolate; and the dapper
little soldier, who was still trim in figure, and straight as a
dart, walked over to the lad and gave him a friendly pat on the
back.

‘Now, young chap, you must brush up, brush up, and show yourself
a man. We’ve to be comrades, you and I, and it won’t suit me to
consort with a chap as is given to peek and pine. What do you call
yourself?’

This was delicately put. Recruits do not always enlist under their
own names; so Hanlon asked, not what Herbert was called, but what
he called himself.

‘Herbert Larkins.’

‘Good; and not a bad looking chap either. Too tall--leastwise I’m
afraid you’re going to grow--’

Hanlon, like many little men, hated those whose inches far exceeded
his own. In the days when there had been grenadiers, it was his
favourite pastime, when at all the worse for liquor, to beard
the giants in their own barrack-room. He called them ‘hop-poles,’
‘sand-bags,’ ‘wooden ramrods,’ and other opprobrious names, and
his onslaughts generally ended in his being carried, bodily, to
the guard-room, under some stalwart soldier’s arm. Now that the
grenadier company was abolished, he disseminated his dislike, and
abused every private who was more that five feet six in height.

‘Too tall, unless you stop as you are. Gin perhaps’d do it; or
whiskey; or perhaps “four” ale--if you took enough of it. Fond of
“four” ale, eh?’

Hanlon’s eyes glistened with a toper’s joy as he mentioned his
favourite fluid.

‘Ah! there’s nothing like “four” ale. I’m under stoppages myself,’
he went on, meditatively, ‘or I’d stand treat. But you’ll have got
your bounty, and the money for your “coloured” clothes. You ain’t
got the price of a glass about you?’

Herbert admitted readily enough that he had the price of several.
He had lost none of his schoolboy freehandedness, and he had
moreover the wit to see that his new comrade might, if propitiated,
prove an uncommonly useful friend.

Hanlon first made Herbert swallow some piping hot tea which was
brought in just then, and gave him the whole of his ‘tea’ bread;
Hanlon’s own appetite was indifferent; and then the two, amid the
winks and jeers of the rest, strolled over to the canteen. The
place was not over full. Nothing stronger than ale and porter
could be sold in it, and the Duke’s Own generally preferred the
Triggertown taverns. So would Hanlon, but he knew that a newly
enlisted recruit would not be permitted to leave barracks.

They had a quart ‘of the best;’ Hanlon called for it--and drank
it, all but a glass; a second quart followed, and a third; and
as the little veteran became more and more steeped in liquor he
grew more and more communicative. He told Herbert all about the
regiment; who were the chief personages in it; he spoke with awe
of the sergeant-major, but of the colonel as a familiar friend.
He described the ways of the officers, the habits and customs of
the regiment, the chances there were of promotion for a smart lad
who’d had any schooling and knew how to keep himself straight. ‘Can
you read? good--and write? better still. If you can only cipher
and do accounts you won’t have long to wait for a lance stripe.
I’ll get it for you, aye and more too. I’ll get you put in the
orderly-room as a clerk, or perhaps the pay office. You shall be a
colour-sergeant before you’re many years older; who knows, perhaps
you’ll be sergeant-major afore you die. All through Joe Hanlon;
poor old Joe Hanlon--Letshavesmoreale.’

From Hanlon drunk to Hanlon sober there was a great distance.
The big promises he made so freely in his cups were all of
them forgotten next day. Yet the little man was, in his way, a
good friend to Herbert Larkins. In the days, arduous and often
wearisome, of the recruit’s novitiate, the old soldier acted always
as mentor and adviser. He taught Herbert all he knew. He helped
him with his exercises, rehearsing the manual and platoon in the
privacy of the citadel ditch, so that Herbert soon won especial
favour with the drill instructor of his squad; he took a pride in
Herbert’s personal appearance, arranged a ‘swop’ for the misfitting
jacket and highlows, contracted with one of the regimental tailors
to alter the baggy trousers in his spare hours.

‘I’ll make you the smartest soldier in the Duke’s Own,’ said ‘the
Boy’ enthusiastically. ‘You’re the right stuff; you’ve got it in
you; you’re a soldier born, every inch. I don’t ask no questions. I
don’t want to know who you are, or where you comes from, but you’ve
got soldier’s blood in you; you come of a soldier’s stock, I’ll
wager a gallon of the best four ale. I like you, lad. You’re free
handed and open spoken, and you’ve got an honest mug of your own. I
like you, and I’ll stick to you through thick and thin.’

The advantages of Boy Hanlon’s counsel and protection were soon
apparent. Herbert, thanks to Hanlon’s coaching, but aided not a
little by his own native intelligence, and the excellent education
he had received, proved an apt scholar in the military school.
He soon learnt his drill, and was passed for duty much more
quickly than was usually the case with recruits. Mr. Farrington,
who had commenced drill at the same time, but who enjoyed the
officer’s privilege of taking it easy, and who was somewhat slow
of apprehension to boot, was still at company drill when Private
Larkins, fully accoutred, and admirably ‘turned out,’ took his
place in the ranks on guard, mounting parade.

It was with a beating heart that he found Mr. Wheeler, the
adjutant, in making his minute and critical inspection, pause just
in front of him.

‘Fall out,’ said the adjutant curtly; and Herbert scarcely knew
whether to expect praise or blame.

‘Colonel’s orderly. Report yourself at his quarters after parade.’

Here was an honour indeed! To be selected on his first
guard-mounting parade, as commanding officer’s orderly--a post
which, apart from the privileges it brought of immunity from
‘sentry go’ and a sure night’s rest in bed, every private soldier
in the regiment coveted and esteemed--was a compliment which
Herbert, and Hanlon also, appreciated to the full.

What befell the young orderly at Colonel Prioleau’s quarters must
be reserved for another chapter.



CHAPTER VII.

A FRENCH LESSON.


Herbert Larkins presented himself with some trepidation at the
commanding officer’s quarters, a house outside, but not far from
the barracks. The hall door was wide open, but he did not go in.
The man whom he relieved told him ‘to patrol up and down in front
of the house--that was all he had to do.’

This he did religiously for half an hour or more, and then he heard
himself called from within.

‘Orderly!’ A clear, sweet voice it was; very musical in its
intonation and very different from the gruff accents to which he
had most recently been accustomed.

‘Orderly!’ again; this time much more sharply spoken, and with
undoubted petulance. ‘How stupid! Why don’t you come when you’re
called?’ and then the owner of the voice appeared. Mahomet had come
to the mountain.

A bright-faced beautiful child; a fair golden-haired girl, not
yet in her teens, wearing a fresh pink and white frock, with pink
ribbons in her sunny locks, and a pink silk handkerchief tied like
a shawl over her shoulders and neck. Herbert took it all in at a
glance, and remembered the picture for the rest of his life.

A very imperious young person, evidently; she had honest kindly
eyes, but her small nose slightly ‘tip tilted,’ and the upward
curve of scorn in her lip indicated a proud, haughty nature, and
the wilfulness of one who, though still a child, had everything
always her own way. An only child, born late in their married
life, Edith Prioleau ruled languid mother and doting father with a
despotism against which they had neither the inclination nor power
to protest.

‘Are you the orderly?’ she asked, almost stamping her foot.

‘Yes.’

‘Yes? Yes--what?’

‘Yes, I am.’

‘Yes, _Miss_, you should say when you speak to me. Do you know who
_I_ am? I am the colonel’s daughter.’

Whereat Herbert drew himself up, and saluted her formally with hand
to cap, as though she were the commander-in-chief.

‘You’re only a recruit, I suppose?’ She spoke quite contemptuously.
‘I never saw you before. I don’t like strangers. I shall speak to
Mr. Wheeler about it. How long have you been dismissed drill?’

Herbert smiled at her intimate acquaintance with military details,
and the smile seemed to give her fresh annoyance.

‘You’re a rude soldier. You shan’t come as orderly again. But
here’--she remembered what she wanted--‘take this list to the
barrack library; be quick, please, and bring me all those books. I
want them at once, please, all. You understand? At once, and all;
and when you come back bring them in to me--there in the back room.’

‘Edith!’ said another voice just then, faintly and querulously,
‘you are losing the whole morning. Your French--’

‘Oh, bother!’ cried Edith, and retired, dragging one foot after the
other, as though loth to return to her studies.

Herbert executed his commission promptly enough, and presently
returned laden with books--some, but not all, of those for which
Edith had sent. He carried them straight into the back room.

‘I am sorry to say, miss, that the “Loss of the Wager” is out,
and so is Maxwell’s “Stories of Waterloo,” but I have brought you
“Thaddeus of Warsaw” and the “Romance of War.”’

Then he stopped short, for he saw that the young lady was not
attending to him in the least. Her head was buried in her hands,
and when she eventually looked up her eyes were suffused with tears.

‘Oh, dear, it is so hard. I can’t make head or tail of it.’

It was only a French exercise after all, about which there was all
this coil. But Edith was not an industrious scholar. In plain
English, she hated books, and would any day throw them aside to get
on her pony to scamper across the Hopshire downs, or ride out to
the drill-field with her father, or to stand by at band practice,
or accompany the regiment when it marched out.

‘I know a little French,’ said Herbert diffidently; ‘perhaps I can
help?’

Edith stared at him through her tears. A private soldier know
French! More, probably, than she knew herself! The notion filled
her with amazement--with gratitude, perhaps, but also with chagrin.

But when, after a few minutes’ close application, he untied the
terrible knot, gratitude overpowered all other sentiments, and she
could have shaken hands with him--almost--in her glee.

‘It’s most extraordinary,’ she cried, dancing about the room with
delight. ‘I never heard of such a thing; you’re the most wonderful
orderly--’

‘You seem very merry, Miss E.,’ said an officer who put his head
into the room just then.

‘Oh, Major Diggle! Just look here.’ And in a few words, volubly
spoken, she explained what had occurred.

‘So you know French, do you?’ said the major to Herbert, in a
supercilious tone impossible to describe. ‘And Latin and Greek
perhaps, and Hebrew?’

‘No, sir, not Hebrew.’ Herbert had drawn himself up straight, and
stood correctly at ‘attention.’ He had already learnt the lesson
of respect due to an officer, and was fully conscious of the great
gulf which separated the major from the private soldier.

‘What’s your name? Larkins? Where were you at school? When did you
enlist? And why?’

Herbert answered all these questions except the last.

‘You don’t choose to tell that, eh? Oh, with all my heart. It’s
none of my business. But now, if Miss Prioleau does not want
you--that will do; you can go.’

Herbert saluted, and walked off.

Directly the door was shut, the major turned to Edith, and said,

‘You ought not to be so familiar with private soldiers. You mustn’t
do that again, Miss E.’

‘I shall do as I please, and don’t choose to be called Miss E.,
Major Diggle.’

He equally hated to be called Diggle without the Cavendish.

‘I shall tell the colonel,’ he said rather angrily, as he left the
room.

She only made a face after him when he had gone, as though she did
not care a bit what he did. There was no love lost between these
two. The child, with intuitive perception, disliked the _parvenu’s_
pretentious airs. He thought her, _en revanche_, a very pert and
forward child, who ought to be snubbed and kept in her place. There
were one or two old feuds between them, too. He had accused her,
although she hotly repudiated the charge, of telling tales. He had
caught her, he declared, looking out of the windows, to see and
tell her father what officers came late for parade. She, on the
other hand, had discovered, and had announced her discovery openly,
that he wore--not a wig--but one of Unwin and Albert’s coverings
for bald heads; and Diggle, who was proud of his looks, did not
like it at all.

It was not likely, therefore, that any friend of Edith’s would find
much favour with the major. But even if she had been disposed to
champion the erudite recruit, so young and obscure a soldier was
really beneath the notice of the great Cavendish Diggle. By-and-bye
Herbert might prove a thorn in the major’s side, and give him many
anxious hours--but that time was still to come.

Meanwhile, Herbert Larkins pursued the even tenour of his ways,
taking the rough with the smooth, but finding that the first
considerably preponderated. What he lacked most were congenial
companions and agreeable occupation for his idle hours. Herbert
found the time hang very heavy on his hands. He could not bring
himself to spend hours with Joe Hanlon in the canteen; nor,
indeed, did ‘the Boy’ wish him to do so. Hanlon was ambitious
for his young comrade, and he knew the way to preferment too well
to encourage Herbert to take to drink. There was nothing left by
way of amusement, after all needful polishing and cleaning-up was
done, but patrolling the Triggertown streets, and frequenting
such ginshops and music-halls as suffered private soldiers in the
Queen’s uniform to pass their doors.

Herbert, as a last resource, turned bookworm. He had attended the
regimental school as in duty bound; but it was soon very clear
that a regimental schoolmaster, however well certificated, could
not teach an ex-sixth-form boy very much. Herbert passed all the
required standards, and was very quickly dismissed as a prodigy of
learning. He might indeed have obtained a billet as an assistant
teacher in the school, but Joe Hanlon supported him in his refusal
of the post. There would be much better openings for him later on,
and in the regular line. All he had to do was to wait patiently for
his ‘lance stripe,’ and this he was certain to obtain so soon as he
had completed the twelve months’ service from the time of joining,
which was the usual time of probation in the Duke’s Own.

The books he read he got from the barrack library, a place well
stocked enough, but not with volumes covering a wide range of
subjects. After exhausting the list of good works of fiction and
travel, he felt himself fortunate at finding ‘Lecky’s Rise and
Progress of Rationalism in Europe.’

One day when Herbert was absent on guard, a volume of this was
lying upon his shelf--in the wrong place--and the captain, who was
inspecting the rooms, noticed it.

‘It’s that Larkins, sir.’ His old enemy the gate sergeant, Sergeant
Pepper, spoke. ‘A young soldier, sir. Very careless young fellow,
sir. No use _my_ speaking to him, sir. Better have his name put on
the gate, sir?’

‘Let me see the book. “Lecky”? Strange! a recruit, do you say?
What’s he like? Smart? Send him over to my quarters to-morrow.’

Captain Greathed was an officer of a somewhat uncommon type.
Thoughtful, studious, steady, he concealed under a quiet demeanour
a true soldierly spirit and keen professional ambition. He yearned
secretly for military distinction, and only bided his time.
Meanwhile he read and pondered deeply the lessons of the past.
He had mastered military literature in all its branches. Had he
chosen, he might have entered the Staff College with ease, and
would certainly have passed through it with distinction; but he was
too fond of his regiment to care to leave it even to study or to
serve upon the staff. He took an interest too in his men, which was
more than many of his brother officers did.

‘I sent for you, Larkins,’ he said to Herbert, ‘to see what you are
made of. You are reading “Lecky;” do you understand it? Have you
read any other books of the kind?’

‘I was always fond of philosophic reading.’

‘You have been well educated, then? You are the man, I suppose, who
did Miss Prioleau’s French lesson for her?’ That story had soon got
about. ‘Well, that’s not everything; let’s see how much you know,’
and Captain Greathed put a series of questions to him which soon
tested the extent of his learning.

‘You ought to do well enough, but book-lore is not everything. You
look strong. Are you active? Are you good at gymnastics? Can you
play cricket, and walk and run well? Try you? We will. Meanwhile
keep straight and steady, and you’ll do. It’ll be your own fault if
you don’t get on.’

From that time forth Captain Greathed took especial notice of
Herbert, spoke to him frequently--an honour highly prized by the
private soldier--advised him as to his reading, and lent him
military books. All this did not pass unobserved in the company,
and it soon became evident that his comrades rather resented the
captain’s undisguised preference for Larkins. The body of the
men in the Duke’s Own were not particularly attached to their
officers, and to be a favourite with superiors was not a certain
passport to popularity with the rank and file. Herbert, in spite
of Boy Hanlon’s championship, found himself kept at arm’s length
rather, and often subjected to innuendoes and sneers.

One day there was some commotion in the barrack-room. Several men
who had been slovenly on parade had had their ‘passes’ stopped.
These permits to be absent from quarters after hours are much
appreciated, and those who had forfeited them were naturally
sore. Herbert, who wished to attend a lecture at the Mechanics’
Institute, had also ‘put in a pass,’ backed by the captain, which
had been granted, much to the disgust of the other men.

It’s a burning shame,’ said one; and others followed on the same
side, but with louder and coarser expletives.

‘A young jiggermy-dandy like you,’ cried a big soldier, Jubbock
by name, who had the reputation of being cock and bully of the
company. ‘What right have you to what’s denied your betters? A
sneaking young lickspittle, who’s got the length of the captain’s
foot. I’ll teach you to--’

Jubbock advanced towards him with a threatening air.

‘Well?’ said Herbert coolly, ‘what’ll you teach me?’

‘To know your master. Take that,’ and Jubbock aimed a tremendous
blow at Herbert, which the latter promptly parried, and with a
smart ‘one--two’ put the great fellow flat on his back.

There was a shout in the barrack-room as Jubbock rose furious and
closed with his opponent. Then came a hubbub of voices. ‘The
sergeant, the sergeant! Sergeant Pepper, the “Real Cayenne!”’ as he
was commonly called when he looked like mischief.

‘What’s this? Quarrelling in the barrack-room? I’ll not have it.
Drop it. Who began it? You, Larkins? Then to the guard-room you’ll
go, double quick. Here, Corporal Smirke, get a file of men.’

‘But t’other chap rasperated him,’ Hanlon put in. ‘Jubbock’s more
to blame than Larkins. If you shop one you must shop the other.’

‘So I will. I’ll run them both in--march them off.’

And so Herbert, with a smarting sense of injustice, found himself
relegated to the guard-house, and locked up for the night.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE ORDER BOOK.


Herbert woke after a troubled night’s rest, disturbed by the
occasional irruption of comrades brought in by the piquet and
patrols, in various stages of intoxication, and the visits of the
sergeant of the guard. The bare boards had been his bed, and he
ached in every limb. It was with a sense of relief almost, although
he dreaded the ordeal before him, that he washed and cleaned
himself up preparatory to taking his place in the ranks with the
rest of ‘the prisoners.’ With them, under escort of the guard, he
was presently marched to the orderly-room, and then, after waiting
half-an-hour for his turn, he was marched into the presence of his
commanding officer, to answer for his alleged crime.

He and Jubbock appeared together before their judge, Colonel
Prioleau. The sergeant, who was the only witness, gave his evidence
fairly, although not without a bias against Herbert, but the
Colonel withheld judgment till he heard the defence.

‘What have you got to say?’ he asked of both abruptly.

‘Please, your honour,’ began Jubbock, ‘we wasn’t fighting at all;
we was only wrastling. This young chap says, says he, he knew a
thing or two about the Cumberland cropper, and I, says I, know’d
more about the Hampshire hug; and with that we had a set-to, and
the sergeant found us at it.’

The old soldier’s tendency to misstatement--to call it by no
stronger name--was very repugnant to honest Herbert.

‘I beg your pardon, sir,’ he put in, ‘he is not telling you the
truth. We _were_ fighting. He struck me, and I knocked him down.’

Colonel looked up a little curiously. Herbert’s accent and his
language were both more accurate than one is accustomed to find in
a private soldier.

‘You did, did you? And would you do it again?’

‘I would, sir, if he provoked me; I’m not afraid of him,’ cried
Herbert, hotly.

‘He’d better try,’ Jubbock said, growing also warm, notwithstanding
the awe inspired by the great man in whose presence he stood.

‘It’s quite evident you can’t agree. There’s bad blood between you
still. Well, you know the old rule--no, Captain Greathed, I won’t
hear a word--young soldiers must find their level, and hold their
own. Besides, there is the old regimental custom. You must fight
it out. Send them down to the main ditch, as usual, and let the
orderly sergeant go with them to see fair play. It’s no use talking
to me, Captain Greathed; I shall stick to the old rule of the
Duke’s Own so long as I am commanding the corps.’

Captain Greathed thought it wisest to let matters take their
course. Any further interference to protect Herbert might have
looked like favouritism, and have done the young fellow more harm
than good. He may have thought, too, that Herbert could give a good
account of his antagonist.

The mill was conducted according to custom, in semi-official
fashion. The orderly sergeant, as before said, and two
bottle-holders--Hanlon was Herbert’s--were the only spectators.

For a long time it seemed a close affair. Jubbock’s weight and
great reach of arm were immensely in his favour. But Herbert had
more science. Self-defence, although fast becoming an old-fashioned
art, was not unknown at Deadham School, and he had grown into an
accomplished practitioner in it. He was lighter, too, and far more
active than Jubbock, and this told in the long run. His adversary
tried in vain to get at him; but Herbert danced around him like
a cork, till by degrees Jubbock lost all patience and struck out
wildly. The wily Herbert promptly seized his advantage, and began
to punish Jubbock severely. After this the victory was not long in
doubt. At the end of the fourteenth round, Jubbock threw up the
sponge, and Herbert was declared, officially, to have won the day.

The result of the fight, noised about as it was in the company,
naturally added greatly to Herbert’s prestige. Jubbock was a
coarse, rough fellow, inclined to be brutal and overbearing, and he
had so long tyrannised over his comrades that his defeat was hailed
with much satisfaction. ‘The Boy’--old Joe Hanlon--was wild with
delight. He was never tired of expatiating upon Herbert’s prowess,
and talked so much about it, taking so much credit to himself, that
you might have thought it was he who had won the fight.

Herbert received even higher approval.

‘So I hear you held your own,’ the captain had said to him one day.
‘I thought it was not unlikely you would. But don’t be puffed up
by your victory. Take heed to your going--Jubbock’s not likely to
love you the more because you have shown yourself the better man.’

There was wisdom in this advice. Jubbock bore malice, as Herbert
soon found, from his sulky demeanour and the way he scowled when he
dared. Hanlon too reported that Jubbock had sworn to be even with
young Larkins yet. But what could he do? Herbert laughed such vague
threats to scorn.

It was not long after this that unpleasant rumours became rife in
the barrack-room. It was clear that the occupants thereof were
not all loyal to one another. The men missed things. First, odds
and ends disappeared. A button-brush, a comb, a tin of blacking
or a red herring bought for tea. Then money went--pence, not too
plentiful with soldiers, and hoarded up between pay-days, in
cleaning bag or knapsack, to be drawn upon as required for the
men’s _menus plaisirs_.

There was evidently a thief in the room.

‘Yes: and he’s got to be found out too,’ said Joe Hanlon. ‘There
ain’t been such a thing known in the Duke’s Own these years past.’

‘No, nor wouldn’t be now,’ said another, ‘if we got honest lads as
recruits. We want no swell-mobsmen and high-falutin dandies with
their grand airs, and their fine talk, who come from no one knows
where.’

‘What d’ye mean?’ asked Hanlon sharply. ‘If that’s a slap at my
towney, I give you the lie, and no two words about it. Larkins is
as honest a young chap as ever took the shilling.’

‘Well, Jubbock said--’

‘It’s just what I thought,’ said ‘the Boy.’ ‘Jubbock means
mischief, but I’ll circumvent him, or my name’s not Joe Hanlon.’

Matters were presently brought to a crisis. Two half-crowns, a
shilling and some coppers were stolen on the day following pay-day,
and the men were growing furious.

‘I’d swear to my half-crown anywhere,’ said one victim. ‘It had a
twist at the edges and a scar on the Queen’s nose.’

‘Let’s all agree to be searched--our kits, and packs, and all.’

‘Yes, yes,’ everybody cried. ‘We’ll call the colour-sergeant, and
do it all regular and proper, so we will.’

There was a general stampede out of the room. Jubbock only was left
in it, and Hanlon, who had been shaving behind the door, and was
not visible.

The men came trooping back, headed by the colour-sergeant--a stout,
consequential little man, who felt that his position was only
second in dignity to that of the commander-in-chief.

‘No man must leave the room. You, Corporal Closky, see to that.
Now, Sergeant Limpetter, we’ll take the beds with their kits as
they come.’

The search was regularly and carefully conducted amid a decorous
silence.

All at once there was a loud shout. The money had been discovered
in one of the packs.

It was Herbert’s.

‘Larkins,’ cried the colour-sergeant, ‘I’d never have believed it.’

There was a hubbub of voices, the prominent expressions being, ‘I
told you so,’ or ‘What did I say?’ followed by a hoarse shout for
vengeance, for condign punishment of the despicable thief.

‘A court-martial! a barrack-room court-martial,’ cried several men
in a breath, and the cry was taken up by the room.

‘Stop! Give the lad fair play,’ said a new voice, and Joe Hanlon
stepped from behind the door.

‘Why, what do you know about it?’ the colour-sergeant asked. ‘Isn’t
the evidence as straight as it can be? He was all but taken in the
act. The money, which is sworn to, is found in his pack.’

‘Aye, but who put it there?’

‘Himself, of course. Who else?’ It was Jubbock who spoke.

‘You did. I saw you.’

The shot told. Jubbock visibly quailed.

‘It’s a lie. I’ll swear I never touched the pack; I’m ready to take
my dying oath--’

‘I saw you, man; I was there, behind the door, shaving, and you
thought you was all alone’st in the room. I saw you go to Larkins’
bed, take the money out of your pocket, wrap it in a rag, and put
it in Larkins’ pack.’

‘I didn’t, I swear.’

‘After all, it’s only one man’s word against another’s,’ said the
colour-sergeant, magisterially.

‘How else could it have got there? Don’t you know,’ Hanlon asked
of Jubbock, ‘don’t you know that Larkins is in hospital, and been
there these three days past? How could he have touched the pack?
He’s not been in the room for three days or more.’

‘That’s right,’ said the colour-sergeant. ‘There’s no more to be
said. Jubbock, I would not be in your shoes. You must go to the
guard-room.’

‘No, no, no;’ the men were all furious. ‘He’s the thief, the mean
hound. Let’s settle it ourselves. A court-martial, a barrack-room
court-martial, sergeant.’

‘Well, have it your own way. Here, Snaggs, Cusack, Hippisley, and
Muldoon, you’re the four oldest soldiers in the company; go into my
bunk and talk it over. Say what’s to be done with him.’

They came back presently.

‘He’s guilty. Three dozen with the sling of his own rifle; that’s
our sentence--’

‘Which I approve,’ said the colour-sergeant, and the informal
punishment was forthwith administered in a way which would have
gladdened the heart of the fiercest old martinet who ever told the
drummer to lay on.

Herbert heard all about it, as soon as he came out of hospital,
and was not sorry for the villain who had so nearly led him into a
terrible scrape. Had the case been proved against him it would have
ruined him utterly, for now at length promotion, humble enough,
but still advancement, was close at hand. Within a week or two the
regimental orders contained a notification that Private Herbert
Larkins, of F company, was appointed a lance-corporal.

This raised him at once above the malevolence of enemies such
as Jubbock. But it gave him work enough for half a dozen. The
lance-corporal, the junior grade of non-commissioned officer, is
a sort of general utility man, whose duties begin at daylight and
do not end at night. He must be always clean and well dressed, or
adieu to hope of further promotion. He must be at the beck and call
of the company sergeants, and ready to fly for the sergeant-major.
He must be peremptory yet judicious with the privates, whom,
although he was one himself yesterday, he is called upon now to
command. Difficult, not to say arduous, as were his functions,
Herbert managed to discharge them to the satisfaction of his
superiors, and soon became known in the regiment as a smart and
intelligent young man.

One evening it fell to his lot to take the ‘order book’ round for
the perusal of the officers of the company. Ernest Farrington was
one of them, and in due course Herbert came to his quarters. He
knocked and heard the usual ‘Come in.’

‘Orders, sir.’

‘Orders! All right. One moment--’ ‘Yes, sir; that’s all I know
about it,’ went on young Farrington, in continuation evidently of
a previous talk. His interlocutor was Major Cavendish-Diggle.

‘You don’t know what became of Lady Farrington? Where is she?’

‘At a private asylum--Dr. Plum’s, at Greystone, the other end of
the county, you know.’

‘To be sure. It must have given Sir Rupert great annoyance. But now
it’s all happily settled, of course?’

Diggle was just then making the running for Miss Farrington,
and wished to be quite certain that there was no fear of future
disinheritance.

‘Absolutely,’ said Ernest. ‘The crazy old creature won’t be heard
of again, probably.’

‘Shall I leave the order book, sir?’ Herbert then asked, and they
remembered they were not alone. They little guessed who their
listener was, and how much they had inadvertently revealed to him.

He had long wished to ascertain the whereabouts of his kind
patroness, and now he knew. What use he might make of the
information did not occur to him. After all, what could a poor
soldier do against such a powerful enemy as Sir Rupert Farrington?
Still the mouse helped the lion. And it was something to know
exactly what had become of poor Lady Farrington. If he could
but come across the Larkins, there might be some hope of his
re-establishing himself, perhaps of again putting forward his
claims. But the only reply he received from the War Office, to
which he had written, was that Sergeant Larkins was employed as a
barrack-sergeant abroad, and could not at the moment be traced.
He must wait, that was clear. But everything comes to him who can
wait, and Herbert was still young enough to be sanguine and full of
hope.



CHAPTER IX.

A BALL IN BARRACKS.


The first of September was a great day always at Farrington Hall.
Sir Rupert preserved very strictly; he was fond of shooting, and
his coverts were always well stocked. They had a large party in the
house; men chiefly, good guns who could be relied upon to do their
share in swelling the Farrington ‘bag.’

This year several of Ernest’s brother officers were to have been
invited, but Major Diggle manœuvred so cleverly that none of them
were asked but himself. He had his own reasons for keeping men away
from the Hall. He was not afraid of rivals, of course--who among
the Duke’s Own was there to compete with him? Still they might
inadvertently interfere with his little game; and he preferred, at
least for the present, to have the field all to himself.

Major Cavendish-Diggle was much appreciated at the Hall. Lady
Farrington, a foolish, inconsequent woman, who was entirely
wrapped up in Ernest, her only son, received the Major almost with
effusion. He had been, oh, so kind to Ernest! She knew it; it was
no use his disclaiming it, and she was deeply grateful to him.

‘Ith thutch a trial joining a regiment; everything tho thrange, and
Erney tho young, tho inexperienced; he would have been mitherable,
quite mitherable, but for _you_.’

Lady Farrington was a large fair woman; so fair as to be almost
colourless. Her manner was not without distinction, and would have
been impressive but for the vapidity of her remarks, and a trick
of utterance due, seemingly, to her having too many teeth in her
mouth, which robbed her words of anything like expression, and
sometimes made them unintelligible. Ernest, her son, greatly took
after her. He was tall, but rather shambling in gait, and still
excessively thin. In voice and manner of speech he reproduced Lady
Farrington exactly. His mouth also seemed full of hot potatoes, or
too full of teeth; and as he had a trick of keeping it constantly
open, as though to cool the potatoes, or air his teeth, his general
expression was vacuous in the extreme. A rather full lower lip
and a very receding chin did not add to his personal charms.
You gathered at once from his face and air that he was weak,
irresolute, easily led, and that he might, if misled, slide soon
into vicious ways.

But he had improved wonderfully since he had joined the Duke’s Own.
They all said so. Even Sir Rupert, dark and undemonstrative as he
was generally, thawed enough to say that he thought soldiering
would make a man of Ernest--if anything would. Letitia, as Miss
Farrington was called, and who in many respects resembled her
father, changed her tone on seeing how much Ernest was changed
for the better. Her attitude towards him had hitherto been one
of patronage mixed with spite. Although outwardly she was very
affectionate--in her heart she bore him a grudge because he was one
of the sex commonly called superior to her own. She was the elder
by three or four years; she had far more brains--‘not that that was
surprising’--as she said when she was more than usually venomous,
seeing that Ernest had next to none. She was a Farrington, as was
evident from her likeness to her father, while her brother was
clearly a Burdakin, like his mother. Why should an absurd and
monstrously unfair custom constitute him the heir and future head
of the family, while she must be satisfied with what her father
might choose to give her as a marriage portion or as a settlement
for life? She had always bitterly resented the Salic law as it
obtained in England with regard to the succession of estates and
titles.

Letitia was, however, much more civil to Ernest now. There may be
many subtle reasons for such sudden changes of demeanour. Major
Cavendish-Diggle was perhaps not remotely connected with Letitia’s.
He was Ernest’s bosom friend; what if he presently developed
into a friend and admirer of her own? Letitia was not exactly
ill-favored, but she was certainly not a beauty in the strict sense
of the term. Dark complexioned and thin lipped, but with a nose
too sharp, and cheek bones too high, her face was not strikingly
attractive to say the least of it; and the fact was being gradually
borne in upon her, as she grew on in years, by the slackness with
which suitors sought her hand. Major Cavendish-Diggle was one of
the first who showed better taste. Why should not men admire her?
She had a neat well-proportioned figure. Her eyes were good, of the
deep brown piercing order; her dark hair was abundant and rich. She
was a good talker, had all the accomplishments of a well-educated
young lady, and a large share of that indescribable air of good
breeding, of that perfect ease in manner and thorough _savoir
faire_, which are only to be seen in women of good station--all of
which Diggle felt would be extremely becoming in a colonel’s or
general officer’s wife. If the thin lips and fierce eyes foretold a
vixenish temper when thwarted, or if the world went wrong with her,
these were bad points still in embryo, little likely to deter so
matter of fact a wooer as Diggle from prosecuting his suit.

Not that he precipitated matters. He could see, with half an eye,
that Miss Farrington accepted his attentions cheerfully enough;
but he was very doubtful whether her parents would look upon him
with equal favour. Indeed, Sir Rupert had more than once spoken in
a way to damp Diggle’s hopes. The baronet held his head high. He
evidently knew what was due to himself. Having passed his early
years as a struggling solicitor, barely able to keep the wolf
from his door, he was now very eloquent about _mésalliances_, and
the proper maintenance of distinctions of class. The major’s heart
misgave him, for reasons best known to himself, when he heard Sir
Rupert inveighing against the annoyance of upstart tradesmen, who,
on the strength of fortunes amassed by not too reputable business
(so he said), aped the manners of their betters, and tried to push
themselves forward into the front rank of society. This very visit
to Farrington Hall, a crusty old county magnate to whom Diggle had
been formally introduced, had remarked rather pointedly upon the
major’s name.

‘Diggle, Diggle, I know the name. To be sure. Get my tea from
Diggle’s. Devilish good tea too--no connection, major, eh?’

At which Major Cavendish-Diggle inwardly shuddered, although he
replied promptly enough.

‘Come and taste our champagne at Triggertown, Mr. Burkinshaw;
it’s far better than the best tea in the world.’ Whereby the
inconvenient question was for the moment satisfactorily shelved.

Diggle knew, therefore, that much circumspection would be necessary
if he aspired to Letitia’s hand. All he could hope to gain was the
girl’s good-will and co-operation, and this, by his assiduous,
although diplomatically veiled attentions, he secured in due course.

Meanwhile he sought and entirely succeeded in making himself
agreeable to all in the house. He talked ‘central fire’ with
Sir Rupert, parochial business and district visiting with Lady
Farrington, who pretended to play the Dorcas in the parish; he
discussed turnips and quarter sessions with the squires and local
magnates, who thought that such matters comprised the whole duty of
man; last of all, he played duets and danced with Miss Farrington
after dinner, in a way she called, and really felt to be divine.

‘It does not bore you to dance?’ she asked him one evening.

‘And with _you_? No, indeed, and really I am passionately devoted
to it.’

‘Some men now-a-days are so fine. They stand about the doors at a
dance like farm servants at a fair waiting to be hired.’

‘That’s not the way with the Duke’s Own,’ said Diggle, laughing.
‘No idlers are allowed when we give a ball. You should see our
youngsters dance; and we have a string band on purpose for dance
music.’

‘Delightful! Do give us a ball, Major Diggle.’

‘With all my heart; when you like. You shall fix the day, and it
shall be the finest Triggertown has ever seen.’

The subject was re-opened another day, when Diggle was not by.

‘Does it rest with him?’ incredulous Sir Rupert asked of Ernest.
‘What does your colonel say?’

‘Oh, Colonel Prioleau’s “not in it” compared to Major Cavendish. We
always call him Major Cavendish, he likes it better. The Major’s
the leading man in the regiment. He does just as he pleases.
There’s nobody like him.’

And Ernest went off into pæans of praise, expatiating upon Diggle’s
innumerable good qualities with all the eloquence (it was not much)
he could command.

But he did not exaggerate the Major’s influence in the regiment.
The ball, which came off a month or so later, was on a scale of
unprecedented splendour, mainly because Diggle had resolved that
it should be so. He had taken the affair altogether into his own
hands. It was he who insisted that the ices should come straight
from Gunter’s, that there should be _foie gras_, plovers’ eggs,
and fresh truffles at supper; it was he who had conceived the
brilliant idea of placing silver-hooped barrels in the tea rooms,
full of champagne constantly on tap. He had commissioned the best
decorators in London to do up the ball rooms; one built, contiguous
to the mess-house, a boudoir, intended for the sole use of ladies,
which was furnished with ivory toilet appliances, and lined with
amber satin throughout; another designed an artificial grotto
filled with blocks of real ice, which, as they melted, fed a
number of fountains, whose waters fell in showers of sweet-scented
spray; a third, entrusted with the floral decorations, grouped
great masses of tropical plants, a wealth of rich variegated
colours in the corridors, before the fireplaces, and in all the
best points of view. There were two rooms for dancing; in one the
inimitable string band of the Duke’s Own performed, in the other a
detachment of Coote and Tinney’s was specially engaged.

‘Ith moth wontherful, thertainly,’ said Lady Farrington, in
raptures, as Diggle received her; and having presented her to quiet
Mrs. Prioleau, who was in duty bound to do the honours, but who was
utterly bored and worn out after the first five minutes, led her to
a seat of state on a sort of dais at the top of the room.

‘Oh, Major Cavendish-Diggle!’ cried Letitia, ‘you have indeed
achieved a most triumphant success. It’s like a scene in
fairy-land. The flowers, and the innumerable lights, the falling
waters. Exquisite, enchanting;’ and she half closed her eyes, as in
an ecstasy of bliss.

‘I wonder what it will all cost?’ growled Sir Rupert, _sotto voce_.
‘A pretty penny. I shall have Ernest overdrawing again.’

The fact being that, although Ernest received a handsome allowance,
his account was perpetually overdrawn. Constant association with
Diggle did not tend to economical ways. What with grouse for
breakfast, and hot-house fruits for lunch; what with great guest
nights, and expensive wines flowing freely, his mess bills were
enormous. Then there were his horses, his dog-cart to take him to
the station, his chambers in the neighbourhood of St. James’s,
his boot varnish, and his new hats once a fortnight, and his fresh
‘button-holes’ every two or three hours. Sir Rupert hardly knew how
the money went, but he knew that the six hundred a year he allowed
his son, which was more than he had enjoyed for years until he
came into the title, did not go half as far as it should, and he
grumbled at the extravagance and ostentation of this great ball.

The baronet was not in the best of humours, therefore, as he
stood upon one of the two raised platforms which had been erected
on each side of the regimental colours, for the accommodation
of the most distinguished guests. The colours were uncased, and
drooped gracefully over a trophy of swords and bayonets, the
whole being under the protection of two stalwart sentries in
full uniform, who stood erect and impassive, like stone statues,
perfectly unmoved by the revels in progress around. It was a
signal honour to be permitted to mount guard in the ball-room,
and only the finest-looking and the steadiest men were selected
for the duty. But the duty was fatiguing, and the sentries were
relieved every hour, the relief being carried out quietly, but
strictly in accordance with the regulations, by non-commissioned
officers carefully selected, like the sentries, on account of their
smartness and gallant bearing.

While Sir Rupert was standing scowling at the entertainment, for
which, without sharing in the honour and glory, he would probably
have to pay, the relief marched in. He looked on at the ceremony
without interest, heard with indifferent ears the trite words of
command, ‘Port arms, take post, shoulder, order,’ and the rest,
when something in the aspect of the corporal in command attracted
his attention, and he found himself looking curiously at the
soldier’s face.

Surely he knew it? Where had he seen it before?

Then with a sudden start he remembered. The man was the living
image of cracked Lady Farrington’s _protégé_--of that lad whom he,
Sir Rupert, had inveigled down into Devonshire, and left there to
starve. Could it possibly be the same man? Did the fellow know him?
Apparently not.

He was still debating the point as the relief marched away, when
all doubts were set at rest by hearing a very young lady, a child,
in fact (it was Edith Prioleau), say laughingly, and with the
accents of Stratford-le-Bow, as she touched the corporal on the arm
with her fan,

‘_En bien, Caporal Larkins, comment vous portez-vous?_’

To which the corporal replied, with a smile,

‘_Très bien, mademoiselle. Et vous?_’

There could be no mistake. Look, name, voice, all were the same.
What a curious fatality! In the same regiment as his son--the true
heir and the false serving side by side. Should he tell Ernest?
Then Sir Rupert, pondering much, came to the conclusion that it
would be best to keep his own counsel, but resolved to put, if
possible, a watch upon the young man.



CHAPTER X.

MUTINY IN THE RANKS.


There was great grief in the Duke’s Own. Colonel Prioleau was
about to leave the regiment. He had commanded it for a number of
years, and would have liked to have gone on commanding it to the
end of the chapter, but promotion to the rank of general was fast
approaching him, and he felt that he must ‘realise’ at least a
part of his cash. Colonels of regiments in old days served for
about tenpence a-day. The rest of their pay barely represented the
interest upon the capital sum they had sunk in purchasing their
rank. By exchanging to half-pay before promotion, a regimental
lieutenant-colonel was able to pull a few thousands out of the
fire; and this Colonel Prioleau did.

There was great grief in the regiment at his approaching
retirement. It was not so much on account of his personal
qualities, although these--more particularly his easy-going
_laissez aller_ system--had long gained him great popularity, but
because the command was to pass into the hands of one who was not,
as the saying is, a ‘Duke’s Own man.’ Major Byfield had exchanged
into the corps some few years previously, very much against the
will of the regiment. Not that there was anything against him.
Appearances were indeed in his favour. He was a quiet gentlemanly
little person, with that slightly apologetic manner, and hesitating
air, which often earn a man appreciation from his fellows, because
they indicate a tacit acknowledgment of his inferiority. Major
Byfield showed himself still more nervous and undecided on joining
the Duke’s Own. Although as a field officer his position was
assured, and entitled him to considerable deference from all, he
seldom claimed it or asserted himself more than he could help. His
brother officers tolerated him, and were civil to him when they
saw him, which was not often; but they yielded him no respect,
and suffered him to interfere very little in the discipline and
management of the corps. What could he know about the Duke’s Own,
or its regimental ‘system?’ He had come from the 130th which,
it was well known, had a very different ‘system,’ although both
were, in fact, ruled by the Queen’s Regulations, and should have
been governed on precisely the same lines. There is a good deal
of mystery made and much stress laid upon the ‘system’ in force
in a regiment. No doubt in many minor details there is a marked
difference, but the broad outlines are, or ought to be, the same.
But it is a favourite dogma, especially with officers in whom
_esprit de corps_ is strong, that no one can understand this system
unless he has been trained in a regiment and assimilated it with
his earliest ideas. So when the major spoke even in a whisper, or
made the faintest hint of a suggestion, he was pooh-poohed and put
down. Diggle, his fellow, although junior field officer, quietly
said that it was all nonsense, that Byfield misunderstood the
situation, that he had better wait till he had longer experience in
the regiment before he presumed to put forward his views.

Major Byfield was thus satisfactorily repressed--but only for the
time. He had views and opinions of his own upon soldiering, and
he was determined when opportunity came to give them full play.
They had long persistently preached up and paraded before him
the system in force in the Duke’s Own, but he had for as long
come to the conclusion that the system was a bad one, and was
resolved to reform it should he ever come into power. His character
was a strange medley of opposite qualities. Behind the nervous
diffidence, which being upon the surface seemed his most prominent
trait, was an amount of quiet self-opinionated obstinacy which
boded ill for those under his orders should he ever have much
authority in his hands. Mrs. Byfield could have opened people’s
eyes had she been permitted to disclose the secrets of the Byfield
_ménage_. The major was as narrow-minded as a woman, and as
prone to mistake the relative proportion of things, to entirely
ignore the main issues, to neglect or overlook broad questions,
and concentrate himself with much tenacity upon comparatively
unimportant details.

These peculiarities began to develop themselves very soon after
he obtained the command. It became evident that the new colonel
was a different man from what was supposed. He had been deemed a
cipher--one who could hardly call his soul his own; but he proved a
fussy, fidgetty, anxious creature, who from nervous apprehension,
backed up by no small amount of self-conceit, promised to make
everybody’s life a burden to him. The officers as a body began to
fear that the good old times were on the wane. The decadence of
the Duke’s Own must have fairly commenced when leave for hunting
was refused and there were two commanding officers’ parades on
the same day. The fact was, the Colonel had resolved to reform the
regiment according to his own ideas, and had already set to work
with a will. The points on which it fell short of perfection were
very clear to his own mind--a weak, but extremely active mind. He
thought the officers neglected their business and knew too little
of it--facts incontrovertible no doubt, although the remedy was
not easy to discover, and needed stronger treatment than Colonel
Byfield was in a position to apply. He felt dissatisfied, too,
with the demeanour of the men in quarters and on parade, and if it
was more within his compass to bring about improvement in these
respects, his task was likely to be surrounded with the greater
difficulty if his officers were discontented and soured. But the
Colonel could not see much beyond the end of his nose, and rushed
forward blindly to his fate.

To come in for a large share of criticism, not to say abuse, from
those under his orders, is too commonly the lot of the regimental
lieutenant-colonel. Colonel Byfield was no exception to the general
rule. Before he had been in command a month, his officers generally
began to disapprove of his proceedings; after three, they disliked
him cordially; and this grew into positive hatred at the end of
six. Of course they kept their opinions very much to themselves.
English officers, however grievous their wrongs, whether real
or fancied, never overstep the bounds of due subordination; and
however much those of the Duke’s Own may have chafed at their
commanding officer’s trying ways and irksome rule, they did no
more than call him a ‘beast’ to one another, and utter frequent
and fervid, but private prayers for his translation to some
other sphere in this world or the next. They bore their burden
bravely enough, silently too and without protest, except when some
graceless subaltern or more artful captain wilfully exhibited an
utter ignorance of the very rudiments of drill by clubbing his
company upon parade, or comported himself disgracefully at the
weekly examinations--offences especially heinous in the eyes of
a Colonel whose greatest ‘fad’ was to make his officers walking
_vade mecums_ or living encyclopædias of military knowledge. The
schoolmaster was abroad in the Duke’s Own, very much to everyone’s
discomfort and dissatisfaction.

Excessive timidity, an exaggerated fear of constituted authority,
were the secrets of Colonel Byfield’s irritating line of conduct.
He was for ever invoking the distant deities of the Horse Guards,
and deprecating their wrath. As for their local chief priest,
the general officer commanding the Triggertown district, whose
authority was much more tangible and near at hand, Colonel Byfield
had for him the most wholesome and abject apprehension. It was to
appease the possible fury of this awful functionary that he worried
and harassed the regiment from morning till night.

‘What will the general say?’ or ‘What will the general do?’ were
phrases continually on his lips. He forgot that, as a matter of
fact, the general, who was an ordinary general, would probably say
or do nothing at all. But this professional ‘Jorkins’ was quoted on
every occasion.

‘I cannot overlook your misconduct,’ he would say to Joe Hanlon,
when brought up for the thousandth time for being drunk. ‘The
general won’t let me.’

‘As if the general cared,’ muttered ‘the Boy’ to himself.

‘I must punish you; I must, indeed.’

‘Colonel Prioleau never did, sir; and I hope, sir--’

‘Colonel Prioleau is not here now, and I don’t choose to be spoken
to in that way. Fourteen days’ marching order drill; and if you
come here again, I’ll try you for “Habitual”--I will, mark my
words.’

‘What’s the good of serving on in the old corps now?’ said Hanlon,
very wroth, after he had done his defaulter’s drill. ‘It’s not what
it used to be. I’ll put in for my discharge.’

He was fully entitled to it. Twenty-one years’ service, all told.
Five good-conduct badges, less one, which his recent misconduct
had robbed him of; for with old soldiers it is strength of head, or
immunity from punishment that brings reputation; and Hanlon, thanks
to Colonel Prioleau’s good nature, had the credit of being one of
the best behaved men in the regiment.

‘I won’t stay to be humbugged about,’ he said, indignantly, to his
comrade Herbert. ‘I’ll take my pension and look out for a billet in
civil life.’

‘What can you get to do?’

‘Lots of things. Commissionaire, prison warder, attendant in a
lunatic ’sylum.’

Herbert pricked up his ears.

‘Do you think you could get the last? I wish you would, and I’ll
tell you why You’ve never heard my story?’

Whereupon Herbert told it all.

‘I knew you was a nob from the first. I saw it in your talk and in
the cut of your jib. Dr. Plum’s of Greystone, you say. Right you
are. That’s where I’ll go. To-morrow, if not sooner, and I’ll give
you the office--double quick. Hold on a bit, that’s all you’ve got
to do; hold on, and do your duty, and it’ll all come right in the
end. And see here--’

Hanlon looked about him, as if afraid of listeners.

‘Things ain’t comfortable in the old corps, not just now; and
there’s going to be a row. They won’t let on to you,’cos you’re
a non-com, and what’s more, only a recruit. There’s men in the
regiment mean mischief, if they only get the chance; and if they
don’t, they’ll make it, sure as my name’s Joe.’

‘What can they do?’

‘They don’t think or care. All they want is a rumpus, so as to get
old Byfield in trouble and make him leave, and that they’ll be
able to do. Don’t join them, not whatever they say. Keep your ears
cocked, and nip in--only on the right side.’

Hanlon had taken his discharge and got the promise of a billet at
Dr. Plum’s, when the storm actually broke in the Duke’s Own.

Colonel Byfield had been agitated beyond measure at the news of the
approaching move of his regiment to one of the large camps, and
in view of the scrutiny which there awaited him his petty tyranny
had passed all bounds. He had parades morning, noon, and night.
He exercised the men _ad nauseam_ at squad drill, goose step, and
the manual and platoon. He marched them perpetually in battalion
up and down the barrack yard, and he took them out day after day
upon Triggertown Common for light infantry drill. All this, albeit
torture of the most painful description, they could have tolerated
probably without a murmur had not the Colonel, dissatisfied with
the progress made, sentenced the regiment to be deprived of all
leave in all ranks.

This was the point at which the worm turned. One fine morning,
long after the ‘dressing’ bugle had sounded, followed by the
‘non-commissioned officers call’ and the ‘fall-in,’ not a man made
his appearance upon parade. Colonel Byfield and the officers had
the whole square to themselves. The rest of the regiment with the
exception of a number of men belonging to one company, F, formed
up in the ditch, and while the commanding officer was whistling at
vacancy, marched off in excellent order to a distant part of the
glacis, where they piled arms and refused to return.

It would be tedious, and it indeed forms no part of this history to
narrate, except in the briefest terms, the progress of this very
serious military _lâche_. The men, as is usual in such cases, went
to the wall. The ringleaders were hunted out, tried and severely
punished, and the whole regiment was ordered to proceed on foreign
service forthwith. The causes which had led to the disturbance were
closely investigated, and as a natural consequence Colonel Byfield
was placed upon half-pay.

It was for a long time doubtful whether Diggle, who was the next
senior, should be allowed to succeed to the command; but he brought
all the interest he could to bear, and he eventually won the day.

As Colonel Diggle, commanding a corps really distinguished,
although temporarily under a cloud, he found Sir Rupert Farrington
not indisposed to accept his proposals for Letitia; and the
marriage came off just before the regiment embarked for Gibraltar.

It was at Farrington Hall that the conversation turning, as it had
done more than once before, upon the recent mutiny, brought our
hero, Herbert Larkins, prominently to the front.

‘The movement was not general, certainly not,’ Diggle had said.
‘One of the companies, F, Ernest’s in fact, did not take any share
in it.’

‘Does Ernest deserve the credit of that?’

‘Not exactly. It was due rather to an astute young corporal, who
quietly locked the doors of the men’s rooms. They couldn’t get out
to join.’

‘Really? He was promoted, of course?’

‘Yes; he is now a sergeant, and is sure to get on. Oh yes, young
Larkins is sure to get on.’

‘It was young Larkins, was it?’

‘Do you know him?’

‘I think I do. I will tell you about it one of these days.’

Diggle, as one of the Farrington family, would soon have a right to
know.



CHAPTER XI.

SOME OLD FRIENDS MEET.


For some time after their arrival on the Rock, the officers of the
Duke’s Own called it a detestable hole. They were sore at their
expatriation and the manner of it; they regretted the joys they
had left behind, and could see no good thing in the much vaunted
station where they were now relegated for their sins. There was
nothing to be done in the place; the climate was intolerable, and
there was nothing to eat. They had arrived towards the end of the
summer, and the season, never cool, had been unusually sultry.
They came in too for the tail end of a long visitation of the
‘Levanter,’ the much dreaded east wind, which caps the Rock with
a perpetual cloud and makes life miserable to all; and the welcome
change, when it came at length, was heralded by a tremendous
thunderstorm and drenching rains. The Duke’s Own were still under
canvas at the North Front, waiting till the outgoing regiment
vacated its quarters at Windmill Hill, and their encampment was
nearly swept away by the storm. Officers lost baggage, the men
their kits, and the whole regiment united in deep denunciations of
the inhospitable Rock.

Nor did Gibraltar seem to improve upon a closer acquaintance. Its
joys and amusements, what were they after London and the shires?
Racing! the idea was too preposterous. Half-a-dozen tinpot nags
without pace or breeding, cantering round a Graveyard and finishing
in a trot. What sort of sport was that to offer the Duke’s Own,
which had always had its own regimental drag to witness the great
events at home, and which kept open house in its luncheon tent at
Ascot and Goodwood and upon Epsom Downs? The hunting too! heaven
save the mark! To talk of hunting with the sweepings of a few
second-rate kennels, dignified with the name of a pack, when the
huntsman was a local genius, and foxes were said to be so scarce
or so little enterprising that it was often necessary to have
recourse to a red herring! What was such hunting to men who had
been constantly out (so they said) with the Heythorp, the Bramham
Moor, the Pytchley and Quorn?

These were the earliest impressions of Gibraltar prevailing among
the officers of the Duke’s Own. But our friends eventually changed
their tone. By their first contemptuous abstention, they found, in
the first place, that they lost all the fun that was going, and,
next, that, although the sport was second-rate, they could not
excel in it even when they tried. One or two of the Duke’s Own, who
were said to be in all the secrets of the Dawson and John Scott
stables, went in for some of the plates and cups at the autumn
meeting, and signally failed in everything. Later on, when the
hunting season really began, and they turned out in a body in red
coats and the most undeniable tops, to cut everybody down, they
were chagrined to find that it was much more difficult to follow
than they supposed. Red coats and mahogany tops were nowhere at
the end of the first burst. One or two men were completely thrown
out; a few tried the breakneck country between ‘the Rivers’
only to crane at length and turn back from the precipices and
steep inclines. After that first day the Duke’s Own spoke more
respectfully of the Calpe Hunt. By and bye they became less
critical in other respects, and at length, when they had been some
six months on the Rock, entered as fully into its amusements, and
enjoyed them as thoroughly as the oldest stagers in the place.

There was one person, however, connected with the Duke’s Own who
highly appreciated Gibraltar from the first. Mrs. Cavendish-Diggle
found the station extremely to her taste. A bride still in the
hey-day of her married life, full of satisfaction at the importance
of her position as the commanding officer’s wife, with the
attention she thereby received from all the Duke’s Own, Letitia
found soldiering, particularly at Gibraltar, everything that could
be desired. But what she enjoyed most of all was the chance she
now had of bullying the brother who hitherto had had it all his
own way at home. Ernest might be the most worthy at Farrington
Hall, but in the Duke’s Own he was under Colonel Diggle’s command,
and Colonel Diggle was now unquestionably under that of his wife.
How the exquisite and self-sufficient Diggle had succumbed was a
mystery which will probably remain unexplained till the curtain
lectures of the Diggle couple are given to the world. Then it will
no doubt transpire that in the exercise of those inquisitorial
functions which every wife naturally arrogates to herself, Letitia
had come across certain damaging facts connected with the Colonel’s
antecedents which put him completely under his partner’s thumb.
That Mrs. Diggle would come ere long to command the regiment was
already plainly apparent to all, and the fact was not hailed with
particular joy in the corps. Petticoat government in a regiment
is not the most successful with, nor is it the most palatable to,
those most closely concerned. Letitia’s temper was a little too
imperious to be pleasant. She made nipping remarks, and snubbed and
put people down in a way they hated but were powerless to resent.
‘Oh! how can you say so, Major Greathed! You are wrong, _quite_
wrong. She married Lord Chigford’s second son. But then you can’t
be expected to know;’ or ‘It’s not what I have been accustomed
to, Mrs. Moxon. In my father’s house the housekeeper looked to
these things. But then of course you--’ which might be taken to
imply that Mrs. Moxon had been brought up very differently, and
could not be expected to know what was what. Or she lectured
the youngsters when they came within her reach, which was only
when they wanted leave, knowing that without her good word they
could not expect an hour. ‘I hear you are getting sadly in debt,
Mr. Mauleverer. I shall write to Sir George.’ ‘So you were not
at church parade last Sunday, Mr. Smythe. The Colonel was quite
cross.’ ‘Don’t get entangled by any of these bright-eyed scorpions,
Mr. Curzon. You see I know all about it. Carmen Molinaro would
never do for you.’ All of which irritated and exasperated the
officers of the Duke’s Own very considerably.

The man who most cordially hated her, however, was the adjutant,
Mr. Wheeler. He was chafed perpetually by her interference. Nothing
was sacred to her. She rushed into professional matters with all
the effrontery of the fool. So long as she contented herself with
favouring her pets among the soldiers’ wives Wheeler did not care.
It was when she presumed to advise as to the orderly room work,
the correspondence, promotions, and daily routine, that he not
unnaturally turned rusty. Whether or not she read the colonel’s
letters he scarcely cared, but he did resent having to prepare
important despatches from her notes, or send out letters which
she had obviously drafted with her own hand. Nor could he, after
so many years of nearly absolute authority, readily or cheerfully
resign his power in the regiment. Hitherto advancement for the
non-commissioned officers had depended mainly upon his good word.
Now it was becoming evident that their promotion would depend
in future upon that of the colonel’s wife. In one particular
case which nearly affected a friend of ours they had fought
a sharp battle; the adjutant was obstinate, but the lady was
more so, and in the end the latter won the day. It was entirely
through Letitia’s good offices that Herbert Larkins became a
colour-sergeant long before the ordinary time. She had taken a
fancy to the young man--not, you may be sure, because of his
presumed connection with the family, for of that she had not the
slightest inkling--but because it had lain within his power to
do her important service, and because he was a smart, well-grown
fellow to boot. Letitia, like many other ill-favoured women, had a
keen eye for manly beauty.

But she had really reason to be grateful to Herbert. One day,
when he was on guard upon the Upper Road, Mrs. Cavendish-Diggle,
followed by her groom, passed on their way towards the town.
Something startled Letitia’s horse, and, although an excellent
rider, she found he was more than she could manage. After passaging
like a crab along the road for some hundred yards, he took to
plunging and rearing in a way to dislodge the most accomplished
horse-woman from her seat. The groom had ridden up alongside, but
he was able to render little assistance, and his best efforts only
made Letitia’s horse worse. Had not Herbert promptly supervened,
Mrs. Diggle would undoubtedly have been thrown, and probably badly
hurt. But with firm hand on the rein he soon mastered the horse,
then gradually pacified him.

‘I’m sure, sergeant, I’m extremely obliged to you,’ said Mrs.
Cavendish, directly she recovered her breath. ‘What is your name?
I must speak of you specially to the Colonel--Colonel Diggle--you
know me, I presume? and I see you belong to “us.”’

‘Herbert Larkins, Madam, F company,’ said our hero briefly, as he
saluted.

‘Thank you again, so much.’ And with that the Colonel’s wife rode
off.

She did speak of him and his conduct in the most glowing terms.

‘You must do something for him, Conrad.’

‘Certainly, I’ll make him a present; or, better still, you shall--a
watch, or a pencil-case, or something.’

‘No, no; something in the regiment, I mean. Promote him.’

‘He’s very young. Barely a year a sergeant. I don’t see my way, I
don’t indeed.’

‘There are those vacant colours in G company,’ she said, displaying
a curiously intimate acquaintance with regimental news.

‘Colour-sergeant! Impossible!’

‘Surely not, when I ask it.’

‘It would be grossly unfair. Promotions must not go by favour.’

‘Kissing does,’ she replied, as though he might expect no such
reward unless he were more obliging. It was just possible that
by this time Diggle could have deprived himself of the pleasure
without any acute pang.

‘What would Mr. Wheeler say?’

‘That’s where it is. You think far more of displeasing Mr. Wheeler
than of pleasing me. I feel hurt, Conrad; it’s not what I have a
right to expect, considering--’

When she got on this tack the Colonel threw up the sponge. He gave
in about the promotion, although the adjutant, thereby making
Letitia his enemy for life, tried hard to keep him up to the mark.

The whole thing would have been a job of the worst kind had Herbert
been less worthy. But he had really developed into an excellent
soldier, smart, personable, and thoroughly well up in his work. He
had his drill-book at his fingers’ ends, and could handle a squad
as well as any man in the corps. He had learnt by heart all the
details of interior economy, and was fully competent to take the
charge and payment of a company, or to do credit to his regiment in
any position in which he might be placed. All this Mr. Wheeler was
forced to admit; and although he cherished a grudge against Herbert
on account of what had passed, he so loved a good soldier that he
could not bear malice long.

Colour-Sergeant Larkins was indeed fast becoming a very prominent
person in the corps. Some backbiting and no little jealousy
existed, no doubt, but he was the sort of man to soon outgrow and
outlive such feelings. There was much in his manner and address to
make him generally popular. His bright face, his cheerful voice,
his manly straightforward ways, commended him of themselves. But
he had other claims to the suffrages of his fellows. His old
skill in games had not deserted him, and soldiers are very like
schoolboys in their admiration and respect for personal prowess.
The Duke’s Own eleven, thanks to Herbert’s batting and bowling,
won every match always at the North Front. His brother sergeants
felt lucky if they could secure him for a hand of fives. In all
other gymnastic exercises he came equally well to the front. At the
garrison athletic sports, which presently came off, as they always
do, upon the racecourse at the North Front, he carried everything
before him, to the intense gratification of his comrades in the
corps.

The name of Sergeant Larkins was indeed on every lip that day. All
the world of Gibraltar was present. His Excellency the Governor
came in state, so did the general, second in command, and officers
of all grades with their wives; crowds of soldiers of all the
regiments in garrison were there, and all cheered Herbert to the
echo as he carried off the hurdle-race in magnificent style. As
for the Duke’s Own, a lot of them, frantic with delight, got him on
their shoulders, and were carrying him about in triumph, when some
one came up, and with a hurried nervous manner, said,

‘Sergeant Larkins; where’s Sergeant Larkins?’

‘Who wants him?’ said a dozen voices, thinking perhaps the governor
had asked him to dinner, or the Queen had sent to make him a
general on the spot.

‘An old friend. The oldest he’s got, I think he’ll say, when he
sees me and hears my name.’

His enthusiastic supporters dropped Herbert, who came forward to
speak to the inquirer.

‘It’s himself, himself, by all that’s holy! Hercules Albert, don’t
you remember me?’ cried the man, as he seized both Herbert’s
hands, shaking them furiously, and seeming to wish to hug him in
his arms.

It was the old Sergeant Larkins, his stepfather, for whom he had so
long searched in vain.

‘I heard them calling out the name, and it sounded so queer that I
thought I’d have a look at you. How you’ve grown! But tell me all
about yourself. Quick, lad. I want to hear, and the mother she--’

‘She’s all right and well, I hope,’ Herbert asked, as soon as he
could put in a word. ‘Let’s go to her at once. How comes it I’ve
never seen you before?’

‘Only landed from Malta on transfer last week, myself, the missus,
and three of the bairns, that’s how it was. But come along, come to
the mother at once; she’ll be crazy with delight when she sees you,
and so will all the rest.’



CHAPTER XII.

REVELATIONS.


The Larkins family had taken up their residence in a small cottage
on the road to the Moorish Castle. Larkins _père_ was now principal
barrack-sergeant, and as such was entitled to fairly good quarters.
He had aged considerably since our first acquaintance with him. His
hair was grizzled, his gait was stiff as though his ankle-joints
were affected by innumerable barrack inspections, and his eyes were
weak from constant search for nail-holes or other barrack damages,
or the continuous appraisement of fair wear and tear. Mrs. Larkins
had also changed appreciably. She was still buxom, however, and her
voice had lost none of its shrill power when she was aroused. This
was more seldom than of yore. Her children were no longer the trial
they had once been. The two eldest boys were out in the world;
Sennacherib was in the band of a regiment at Malta, and Rechab was
at the same place on board a man-of-war. Two younger ones, Ascanius
and Leonora, were still at home, and so was Jemima Ann, familiarly
called Mimie, now a blooming maiden of nineteen, with a soft voice,
a sweet face, and eyes bright enough to give the heart-ache to half
the young fellows of the place.

The old sergeant preceded Herbert into the cottage, to prepare his
wife for a surprise.

‘Some one I know, Jonadab? Some one I’ve not seen these years? A
colour-sergeant in the Duke’s Own? What are you driving at? I know
no colour-sergeants; for the matter of that none of the Duke’s
Own,’ Herbert heard her say as she came to the door.

The moment she set eyes upon her visitor she started and shook all
over. She seemed dazed, and could frame no word of speech. Then all
at once she gave way, and taking Herbert’s hands in hers, drew him
towards her, kissing him again and again, while tears of joy ran
down her cheeks.

‘What, Hercules, boy! My boy, my own sweet boy! This is a sight for
sore eyes. Where have you dropped from, and in this dress? Come in,
boy, come in and tell us all your news.’

And Herbert was led into the house.

Mimie came shyly forward when she was called to add her welcome
to the brother she had almost forgotten. But she offered him her
cheek quite naturally, and received a sister’s salute, which,
nevertheless, sent the warm blood tingling through her veins.

‘You are a sister to be proud of,’ said Herbert. ‘What a beauty you
have grown!’

‘Grown!’ interrupted Mrs. Larkins. ‘It’s you who’ve grown out
of all memory almost, except to those who love you. But now sit
down and let’s know all about it. What brought _you_ to take the
shilling? and you never let on, not one word. You might have
written to us, Hercules. We, Jonadab and me, have had you always
in our thoughts, thinking you were getting to be a fine gentleman
who’d have nothing to do with the likes of us.’

‘As if I could ever forget my mother.’

Mrs. Larkins made a gesture which might have meant a strong
negative to the expression.

‘When did you leave school? Why did you enlist! You never wrote to
us.’

‘Four years ago. I was turned adrift in the world, that was why. I
wrote over and over again to the Horse Guards, but could not hear
where you were.’

‘And Lady Farrington, did she change her mind, or what?’

‘She went mad, so they said, and they locked her up in an asylum.’

‘Mad!’ shouted the sergeant. ‘Didn’t I always tell you so? mad? She
were madder than Mike Horniblow who shot the Maltee, and as mad as
our old colonel on an inspection parade.’

‘How was she locked up? who did it? Let’s know all that,’ said Mrs.
Larkins.

Herbert recounted fully all that had occurred. His leaving Deadham
School, the visit to the west country, Sir Rupert Farrington’s
ill-treatment.

‘So that’s what the poor soul was after! Searching for a grandson
to succeed to the title and estates,’ cried the sergeant. ‘And you
were the last that she found. Well: it’s an ill wind, you know;
leastways you got the schooling, even if you are none of her kith
or kin.’

‘I suppose I am not, really?’ Herbert asked, looking very hard
at Mrs. Larkins, who met the glance without lowering her eyes.
There was something in her expression which Herbert immediately
understood. There must be an explanation between them, but it could
not take place then and there.

‘How should you be?’ asked the sergeant. ‘Didn’t I take you over
with the mother when I married her at York? The widow Conlan, she
was then, and you her only child.’

‘Conlan is my name then?’

‘By rights, yes; but you’ve took that of Larkins now, and you are a
credit to it; so you may take it for what it’s worth, and keep it
till you can find a better.’

Was there ever a chance of that? Was he really a Farrington after
all, and might he yet prove his claims? Of this no one could give
him a clue but Mrs. Larkins, and he gathered from her manner that
the subject was one which she would only discuss when they were
alone. He had no chance that time of speaking to her on this the
subject nearest his heart. The rest of the evening was spent in
the interchange of personal news, as is the case when friends and
relatives meet after a long separation, and there is so much on
both sides to tell and hear.

But Herbert went to the cottage next day. The sergeant,
fortunately, was at the barrack-office; Mimie was out of the way,
and Mrs. Larkins had the house all to herself.

‘I want to know all you can tell me, mother. Is it not natural? To
whom else should I come? For you _are_ my mother, are you not?’

‘No mother could feel more warmly for her child than I do for you,
Hercules.’

‘Do but tell me, plainly--I am really your son?’

Mrs. Larkins was silent.

‘It is cruel to keep me in this suspense, mother,--for you have
been one to me always. I implore you to tell me the whole truth.’

‘I will, Hercules, or Herbert as you ought by rights to be called.
It is a hard matter to tell you all the tale, for there is shame
and sorrow in it enough, and that for both you and me.

‘I must begin at the beginning. Years, years ago when I was
a bit of a girl in my father’s house, I and my twin sister
Annie--whom I loved dearly, as the apple of my eye--father lived
at Newark-on-Trent; he was a small tradesman, but well enough to
do. Mother died when we were quite chicks, and we grew up to have
things much our own way. Annie was a real beauty, and had dozens
of lads after her always, but she never fancied none of them. At
last luck sent a recruiting party of the 12th Lancers to Newark.
One of them was a young corporal, as proper a chap as ever took the
shilling, fair spoken, well educated, and superior to the common
run. He soon got courting our Annie, and he was the first she
favoured. Father did not like it--not a bit. He hated soldiers, and
was very rough about Corporal Smith. Annie and he had high words
over it, and one day she was not to be found.

‘The recruiters had left the town too.

‘I won’t tell you what grief there was at home. Father was like a
madman, and I was little better. He tried hard to get her back. He
went miles--to the other end of England--after the regiment, but
he never caught them up. He was too late. The regiment had been
ordered off to the Cape of Good Hope. Through the rector, father
wrote to the War Office, inquiring after Corporal Smith and his
wife. The answer came months later, to say that the corporal was
alive and well, but that he had no wife--at least no one according
to the regimental books.

‘Father never held up his head after that, and within the year he
died. I was nearly heart-broken too; but I was young, and I bore
up better. As I was all alone in the world, and had the shop on my
hands, I took a husband, who offered just then--Michael Conlan, a
clerk in a maltster’s at Newark. He was a kindly soul, not over
strong, but he helped me in the business, and we managed to get
along.

‘One night Annie returned--not alone--she had a child with her,
her own, a few months old only, and the two came, seeking shelter
and rest. It was as I thought at first--the old story--betrayed,
neglected, left.’

‘But you took her in?’ Herbert asked, eagerly.

‘Of course. Neither Michael nor myself asked any questions; our
duty was plain, and it was one of love besides for me. All I know
is what Annie herself told me, and that was not much. The corporal,
it seems, belonged really to a higher station in life. He had
quarrelled with his friends and left his home, and wanted never to
see or hear of them again. But when Annie’s child was born--’

‘He had married her?’

‘Annie would not acknowledge it; although her silence told only
against her own sweet name. She wore a ring, but so may any one;
and as to all other proofs she obstinately refused to speak. I
pointed out the hardship to her boy. She admitted that, but said
she had promised and could not break her word. So I did not worry
her, but left her to speak in her own good time. That time never
came. Before Annie had been back a week I saw she was not long
for this world. She pined and pined. She looked eagerly for news
from abroad, but none came from where she sought it, and the
disappointment helped the disease in bringing on the end.

‘On her death-bed I swore to be a mother to her boy--’

‘To me?’ said Herbert, no longer in doubt; and as she nodded
assent, he took her hard hand and kissed it again and again.

‘And nobly you have fulfilled your oath.’

‘I did my best, Herbert. But I have more to tell you. Your mother,
just before she died, gave me a letter. It was from your father
to his friends, and was only to be sent to them at Annie’s death,
or if she was in dire distress. The letter was addressed to Lady
Farrington of Farrington Hall. It was not sealed, and I thought
I might read what was inside. There were only a few words: “From
Herbert to his mother--Be kinder to my boy.” I added a few of your
bright curls, Herbert, and sent the letter on at once. But I gave
no clue as to where it had come from. I wanted no answer. I was
resolved to take no help from any one in doing my duty by you. I
hated the whole of the Farringtons. I so hated the name of Herbert
even, that we called you Hercules Albert instead.

‘Later on I lost Michael, my first husband; and I could not bear
to remain in Newark alone. I sold up the shop and my belongings,
and moved to York. It was there, as Mrs. Conlan, a widow, with one
boy--you, Herbert--I met the Sergeant. Things were not prospering
with me. I married him gladly, and he has been a thorough good man
to me.’

Herbert’s heart was too full for him to speak for some time. Anger,
disappointment, anguish--all three feelings possessed him. He was
angry with his father, sore at heart for his mother’s sorrow,
disappointed that there was no more to tell him.

‘Do you think there was a marriage, mother?’

‘I do. I always did.’

‘It all turns upon that. I may have Farrington blood in me; but
whether or no would matter little if I was not entitled to bear the
name.’

‘You must make up your mind to your disappointment, Herbert. What
clue can we get to the marriage after all these years? Everybody
who could speak to it is probably dead.’

‘My father--perhaps he is still alive.’

‘Would he not have sought us out before this if he had been? But
he has never made a sign. Nothing but a miracle could do you any
good, my boy. Better be contented as you are. And why should you be
cast down? You are young and strong. You have been educated like a
gentleman; have made a first-rate start, and have everything before
you. Make a name for yourself in the world if you can, and don’t
pine after what others might have given you.’

‘How is a mere sergeant to make himself a name?’

‘By sticking to his colours and doing his duty like a man.
Non-commissioned officers have got to the top of the tree before
now. Why should not you?’

‘If we could only have a chance of service--there’s no other hope
for a soldier. But we never have any fighting in these days.’

‘How do you know? You be ready for the chance when it offers,
that’s all you’ve got to do. Get a commission, and you’ll hold
yourself as high as Sir Rupert then, and meet him on equal terms.’



CHAPTER XIII.

FARRINGTON S’AMUSE.


It seemed as if fate had resolved to make Gibraltar the
gathering-place of those with whom Herbert Larkins was destined to
be most closely concerned. Not long after the rencontre with his
best friends, the Larkins’, the news came that General Prioleau
had been appointed to the command of the Infantry Brigade upon the
Rock. Before the year was out, the former colonel of the Duke’s Own
arrived with his wife and little Edith, now fast growing into a
beautiful and attractive girl.

It was not long before Herbert saw her, and had an opportunity of
noticing the change.

General Prioleau, like many others of his rank, had a strong
affection for his old corps, a sort of sneaking regard which,
although it did him all honour, led him to wish that he still
commanded it, and to act very much as if he did. He was not the
first general officer who, entrusted with the charge of several
battalions, narrowed his interest to the one in which he had
himself served. To dry-nurse the Duke’s Own on field days, to take
an active share in its interior economy, to watch over its mess and
all that appertained to the credit of the regiment, and generally
to be as intimately associated with it as though he were still its
colonel, were delights he could not forego. He was continually
sending for Colonel Diggle to talk matters over, an interference
which the great Cavendish resented, but was prohibited from
protesting against, by the rules of the service. Mrs. Diggle was
not, and took full advantage of her exemption from the restrictions
of military etiquette, to the extent of soundly abusing the general
upon every occasion. Not that General Prioleau much cared. He did
not command Mrs. Cavendish-Diggle, and directly he had made her
acquaintance in her new character, he was heartily glad that he did
not.

The general also visited the barracks of his old regiment
repeatedly, on one excuse or another, but always with the avowed
and really sincere intention of doing it a good turn. Now it was
the reappropriation of quarters. Now the examination of drainage.
Now the inspection of the married quarters or the canteen. Edith
almost invariably accompanied him. She was in her element out
here upon the Rock. The _rôle_ she now played was even more
delightful than that of daughter of the regiment. There was much
more importance and more movement in it. More variety too, and
more power. Instead of knowing one regiment only, she now knew
half a dozen. The circle of her acquaintance widened, and her
military knowledge, such as it was. But her heart was with her
first love always--the Duke’s Own. When the general inspected the
old regiment, she stayed by his side through it all. They made her
go in to lunch, much to quiet Mrs. Prioleau’s indignation when she
heard of it; she sat on her pony close by the general, and, to
judge by her remarks, seemed to take an active part in the whole
proceedings. She kept up a running fire of comments.

‘There’s Mr. Wheeler; why, he’s getting quite old. And the
sergeant-major, he’s gray; why do they keep him so long, father?
He must be past his work before this. And Colonel Diggle--is he
a _good_ colonel, father? _I_ don’t think so. Well, as you say,
perhaps I’m not a judge of colonels, but I am of gentlemen, and I
don’t call him a gentleman--not a real gentleman--do you?’

‘My dear,’ the general said reprovingly, ‘you are a little too
fast. Please remember--’

‘He’s not a gentleman according to my ideas. There are lots of
better gentlemen in the ranks--why,’ almost with a shriek, ‘there’s
my friend the learned pig--I mean the learned orderly. And, father,
look! do look! They’ve made him a colour-sergeant--already!’

But her father was not attending.

‘Be good enough to form open column, pile arms, and lay out kits,’
he was saying to Colonel Diggle, which manœuvre satisfactorily
carried out, the general continued his inspection on foot,
accompanied by his daughter, who tripped along, holding up her
habit, nodding to old friends as she went along, and so deeply
interested in holdalls, tins of blacking, and pairs of socks, that
you might have thought kit inspection was the one joy of her life.

‘I am very glad to see you’ve got on so quickly,’ she said gravely
to young Colour-Sergeant Larkins, as she touched him on the arm
with her whip by way of emphasis. ‘You promised well, and I am
pleased to think I was not disappointed,’ went on the young
personage, with the air of a queen-regnant reviewing her troops.

It was a gracious sight, and one no man--an impressionable young
sergeant like Larkins least of all--was likely to forget. The trim
figure in its snow-white habit, the pretty bright face and its
framework of light curls, surmounted with a coquettish little white
hat; the air with which she pointed with her whip to his chevrons
and the bright colours surmounting them, as she tripped daintily
along. Never before or afterwards did Edith Prioleau seem more
bewitching, and Herbert Larkins felt that he could lay down his
life for her then and there.

Perhaps he talked a little more about her than he need have done
when he next visited the cottage near the Moorish Castle. The
Larkins’ house had come to be quite his home, and he went there
whenever he was off duty and could spare time. Life upon the Rock
was a little monotonous for all below the rank of officer, and
Herbert was thankful that he had friends in the place. The narrow
limits of the fortress, beyond which none but the commissioned may
pass except on rare occasions, and then only by special permission,
forbade any great variety of amusement or much change of scene.
The rank and file rung the changes upon guard-house and drinking
shop; when the first was done with for a time they identified
themselves with the other. After twenty-four hours on Ragged
Staff or New Mole, at Landport, Waterport, or the North Front,
there was an especial sweetness for the soldier in ‘black strap’
or ‘partridge eye’--variations of the local wine; while for the
fireproof head which craved for the strongest stimulants, there
was the _aguardiente_, or burning water, a title this engaging
but curiously potent liquid richly deserved. For the sergeants,
in whom steadiness and sobriety were indispensable traits, these
delights were forbidden, and they had but little relaxation after
they had completed their day’s routine, including the preparation
of small returns, the responsibilities of minor commands, beyond a
stroll upon the Alameda when the band played, or the perusal of the
newspapers in the mess.

Herbert was more fortunate. Fond of books, Major Greathed supplied
him with plenty, mainly of professional character, for although
still in subordinate grades, soldiering was becoming more and more
to our hero’s taste, and he was eager to qualify for higher charges
should it ever be his good fortune to rise. But it was greater
pleasure to him still to talk at the cottage over what he had read;
to pour forth to his mother, as he still called her, his ambitious
yearnings, to express with increasing vehemence his vain regrets
that he had not lived in another country and another age.

‘I wish I had been a Frenchman in the last century! No soldiers had
such chances! One day a private, the next commanding a brigade.
You’ll never see such things in our service.’

‘Don’t be cast down, Herbert,’ said warm-hearted sympathetic Mrs.
Larkins. ‘Your chance will come if you’ll only wait.’

‘Yes, wait till I’m grey-haired. And when it comes what’ll it be?
They may make me a quartermaster at fifty, or a second lieutenant
at forty-five. I want my cake now, when it’s sweet and I am fit to
enjoy it.’

‘And offer half to some one else? Is that what you’re dreaming
about?’ asked Mrs. Larkins, with a sigh.

‘Psha! A general’s daughter, a mere child too! What absurdity to
talk like that! No; I prefer to keep to my own station.’

Mrs. Larkins said nothing, but silence is sometimes more eloquent
than words; and Mimie Larkins, who was present, looked up with
a quick blush, which any man whose heart was touched would have
interpreted his own way. The fiction of the relationship between
these two had long since melted away. Good Mrs. Larkins, who had
hated herself for keeping a secret from her husband, had told him
the whole story very soon after Herbert had learnt the truth.
Mimie, too, soon knew that the handsome sergeant who had kissed her
and called her sister was really only a cousin, and as things went
a very eligible _parti_.

Perhaps Mrs. Larkins, womanlike, was a matchmaker too. Why should
she not encourage it? Herbert and her Mimie were cut out for each
other; and if in the long run he should come into his own, why
should not her daughter share his good fortune? Herbert was himself
on the point of accepting the situation and succumbing to his fate.
Mimie was attractive in no ordinary degree. She was a bright-eyed,
sweet-voiced girl, with a gentle confiding manner, and very
light-hearted ways. But then Herbert thought of his great aims, of
the object of his life. To marry at all, at his age, would be to
tie a millstone around his neck, a folly from which he would never
recover.

When a man thinks thus, there is but little fear of his falling
desperately in love. Then came the vision of the little lady, at
present so far above him in station, and he found himself drawing
comparisons in which poor Mimie Larkins came off second-best.

For a time she resented it very bitterly. Mimie’s was a simple
impulsive nature; she was of a yielding malleable disposition,
readily amenable to better influences, but she was also, like every
daughter of Eve, fond of admiration and grieved when it was denied.
Her heart was ready to go out to Herbert the moment she knew he was
not her brother, and as time passed and he made no sign, she grew
more and more discontented and cross. Now, his loud praises of this
Miss Prioleau made her angrier than ever. Little minx, why did she
come poaching upon other people’s preserves? Oh, for a chance of
showing Herbert that others were not so blind as he!

The chance came--all too soon. It was at a sergeants’ ball that
Ernest Farrington first crossed her path, and threw himself at
once, metaphorically, at her feet. His attentions were perfectly
respectful, but very marked, and Mimie was more than flattered by
them. Here indeed was a chance of spiting Herbert! and she availed
herself of it to the full, forgetting, in the pleasure it gave
her, the terrible risk she ran. Her clandestine relations with
young Farrington, who was not slow to follow up his advantage, had
already become far too intimate to promise well for her peace of
mind, when Herbert discovered all.

He taxed her with meeting Mr. Farrington alone upon the Alameda.

She tossed her head, first disdaining to reply, then saucily asking
what business it was of his.

‘I shall tell your mother at once.’

‘Oh, don’t, don’t, please don’t do that! It would kill her if she
knew. I’ll promise never to meet him again. Oh, Herbert, do not get
me into such terrible trouble--you, of all people, to do it too! I
didn’t think you could be so mean.’

Herbert was over-persuaded; at least, he was induced to spare Mrs.
Larkins for the present and determined to try first an appeal to
the other side.

He went to the colonel, Diggle, and told him all.

‘Really, my good fellow,’ said the colonel, ‘it’s no affair
of mine. They don’t belong to the regiment, you see. I cannot
interfere. I am not answerable for Mr. Farrington’s morals. I’m not
indeed.’

Herbert was not to be done. He spoke next to Ernest, the first
time he got a chance.

‘Damn it, sir, what business is it of yours?’ asked the officer
hotly.

‘It’s very much my business. She is my sister--at least we were
brought up together as such,’ the sergeant no less hotly replied.

‘Then why don’t you speak to her instead of to me?’

‘Because I thought an appeal to you as a gentleman,’--there was a
plain sneer in his intonation--‘which I fancied you were, would
have the desired effect.’

‘Do you dare to say I am not a gentleman? By George, I’ll--’

‘I dare do more than that. Listen to me, Mr. Farrington; I swear
you shall not do her harm. I’ll break every bone in your body.’

‘This is rank mutiny, by George. I’ve a good mind to put you in
arrest. Do you dare to threaten your superior officer, sir?’ and
Ernest walked off as the simplest way of ending the discussion.

Herbert had one other card to play. He wrote a full account of the
whole affair to Sir Rupert Farrington, and signed his name.

Sir Rupert would probably have cared as little for Ernest’s
proceedings, from the moral point of view, as did Diggle, but he
had a not unnatural dread of entanglements, especially where so
weak a person as his son was concerned. Moreover, although enraged
against Larkins, and somewhat uneasy at the tone of the letter in
which Herbert made pointed reference to his claims, and hinted
mysteriously at certain close relations between the Larkins’
and Farringtons, Sir Rupert felt it wisest not to enlighten
Diggle further. He satisfied himself with writing at once to his
son-in-law, begging him to let Ernest have leave and send him home.
This Diggle did, without other reason than that Sir Rupert wished
it, and Ernest, very obediently as it seemed, fell into the trap.

The young gentleman was, however, deeper than they gave him credit
for being. He went home by the next mail, but Mimie Larkins
followed him within a week, as soon as she could give her unhappy
parents the slip; and thus, for the second time, Mrs. Larkins had
reason to curse the Farrington name.


END OF VOL. I.


  LONDON:
  ROBSON AND SONS, PRINTERS, PANCRAS ROAD, N.W.



  TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE

  Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errors have been
  corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within
  the text and consultation of external sources.

  Except for those changes noted below, all misspellings in the text,
  and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained. For example,
  schoolboy, school-boy; anyone, any one; highlows, high-lows;
  wilfulness; ostler; irruption.

  Pg 59: ‘eat his trout’ replaced by ‘ate his trout’.
  Pg 171: ‘began to develope’ replaced by ‘began to develop’.





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