She is now at anchor close to the old ruined castle

The tattoo beats, the lights are gone,
The camp around in slumber lies;
The night with solemn pace moves on,
The shadows thicken o’er the skies.
But sleep my weary eyes hath flown,
And sad, uneasy thoughts arise.
I think of thee, oh, dearest one,
Whose love my early life hath blest—
God of the gentle, frail, and lone,
Oh, guard the tender sleeper’s rest.

I awaited his return with impatience, while our servants were pounding
the green coffee for breakfast. After the lapse of an hour or so he
cantered up to the door of our wigwam—for such it was, being half tent
and half hut—sprang off and threw his reins to Lanty O’Regan.

“Berkeley?” I inquired.

“Has given you the slip for this time.”

“The devil!—how?”

“Whether he has heard of your return or not I cannot say; but the yacht
has left her moorings, and stood away towards the Straits of Yenikale.
We shall have better luck another time; but meanwhile, here is something
to solace you for your disappointment.”

“His sick leave——”

“Was extended to the 17th of this month; but he was not to leave
Balaclava harbour, it was presumed. I met Beverley as I was riding
back, and he gave one of his quiet and significant laughs, on hearing
that the yacht had put to sea.”

“He then divined your errand?”

“Of course—the affair is pretty patent to the whole corps now; but here,
I say, is something to console you in the meantime.”

“Something—what?”

“The Sultan Abdul Medjid has already sent several medals for
distribution among the officers of the Allies, and here is an
announcement that to you—you only of all our corps as yet—he has
accorded his star of Medjidie; and here also is the Colonel’s memorandum
concerning it for insertion in this day’s regimental orders, stating
that it is given for the bravery and zeal displayed by you in assisting
the quartermaster-general to procure trains of waggons—those blessed
_kabitkas_—before we advanced on the Alma.”

With equal astonishment and pleasure I heard of this unexpected honour,
though no way inclined to indulge in self-glory, when a Turkish officer
of rank, a fat old fellow, wearing a blue surtout, a scarlet fez, and
gold-hilted Damascus sabre—an aide-de-camp of the Seraskier
Pasha—brought me the Order of the Medjidie—a silver star, inscribed, in
Turkish characters, “Zeal and ardent sentiments of Honour and Fidelity,”
around the Sultan’s cypher, which closely resembled the cabalistic
figures on the side of a tea-chest—when he hung it on my breast, I say,
the natural emotions of pride which rose in my heart were blended with
joy at the pure satisfaction it would afford my dear friends at home.

A jolly cooper of old port would be started at Calderwood, and I already
saw in fancy my uncle (to whom I instantly wrote of my safety and
success) receiving the congratulations of his neighbours and old
servants. And what of Louisa? Surely this would be soothing to her
inordinate pride!

It was accompanied by a little diploma in Turkish, to the effect that
“Captain Newton Calderwood Norcliff, of her Britannic Majesty’s service,
having distinguished himself prior to the battle of the Alma, as a gift
in appreciation of his worthily-performed duty, his Imperial Majesty the
Sultan grants him the fifth degree of the Medjidie medal, together with
this warrant. Dated in the year of the Hejira, 1271.”

Medals, save those of the old Waterloo veterans, were scarcely known in
our service, as yet—thus a decorated man was a man of mark. Yet, amid
the excitement of campaigning, this gift was but the gratification of an
hour, and the dull craving at my heart to punish Berkeley and to hear
from Louisa still remained unsatisfied.

Reduced by service, sufferings, starvation, and cholera, our regiment
was very weak now, so all servants and grooms were turned into the
ranks. Our chief duty was to watch the Russian forces that were
gathered for the relief of Sebastopol. Their outposts were only four
miles distant from the little secluded harbour of Balaclava, where under
the shadow of an old round Genoese tower, several line-of-battle ships
(including the gallant _Agamemnon_), and some dozen of transports, were
daily disembarking troops and stores, as they lay within ten yards of
the red and white marble rocks that rise into mountains and overlook the
inlet, as the steep hills enclose a Highland loch at home.

To harass us, the Cossacks frequently galloped forward, causing a
general turn-out of the whole line of British cavalry. Then the
trumpets blew “Boot and saddle,” lance and sabre were assumed, and arms
were loaded; but our ranks would barely be formed, when they would ride
quietly back again. We swept all the valleys of everything we could
find either to eat or burn, and our patrol duties were incessant. We
always slept in our dress-jackets, with boots and spurs on, our cloaks
over us, and arms and accoutrements at hand, ready to turn out at the
first note of the alarm trumpet: and though the days were sometimes hot,
the nights were cold now, and the dews were chilly and dangerous.

Once I had a narrow escape.

On the hilly grounds above the Monastery of St. George, seeing a Turkish
officer busy with an old rusty bombshell, the fuse of which had long
since burned out, and the contents of which he was investigating by
sedulously poking them with the point of his sabre, as he sat
cross-legged with the missile in his lap, I drew near. At that moment
it exploded, blowing him nearly to pieces, while a splinter tore away my
left epaulette!

“Allah be praised! so ends thy black and most unholy magic!” exclaimed a
Turkish _onbashi_, who stood near; and then, in the mutilated dead man,
I recognised the _hakim_ Abd-el-Rasig, the magician and chief doctor of
the 10th regiment of the Egyptian Contingent; and in the speaker, who
coolly proceeded to search his remains for coins or valuables, the
corporal whose mother’s image he had failed to produce in the
necromantic shell at Varna!

Squalid, dirty, and miserable, the sentinels of the once splendid 93rd
Highlanders, with frayed tartans, patched jackets, and tattered plumes,
while guarding Balaclava, presented a very different aspect now from
that which they showed when their grand advance along the slopes of the
Kourgané Hill struck terror to the souls of the Muscovites.

The Black Watch and the gay Cameron Highlanders were in the same
condition. I saw the latter erecting a cairn above the grave of one of
their officers—young Francis Grant, of Kilgraston, who had died at
Balaclava, and it made me think of the words of Ossian: “We raised the
stone, and bade it speak to other times.”

So the time passed quickly in our cavalry quarters at Balaclava, while
the siege was being pressed, amid misery, blood, and disaster, by the
infantry of the Allies. Our duties were the reverse of monotonous, and
were frequently varied by most desperate rows among the Montenegrins,
Albanians, Arnauts, Greeks, and Koords, who all hated each other
cordially, and were always ripe and ready for mischief, as they
swaggered about, each with a barrowful of pistols and yataghans in the
shawl that formed his girdle; or it might be the alarm of fire, broken
out none knew how. Then the trumpets were blown loudly; the gathering
pipes of the Highland Brigade would send up their yells; and the
fire-drum would be beaten on board the war-ships in the harbour. Then
their boats would come off, full of marines and seamen, chorusing “Cheer
boys, cheer,” while rumours were rife of incendiary Greeks hovering
about our stores and powder with lucifer matches and fusees; shots might
be fired, a few men cut down, and then we would all dismiss quietly to
quarters again.

Dreaming of cutting foreign throats, my groom and servant (until they
got a dog tent) slept under a tree close by my tent, each with his
martial cloak around him, as Lanty said, “Like two babbies in the wood,
only the divil a cock robin ever came to cover them up with leaves.”

Lying by night in my tent, around which a wall of turf had been raised
for warmth, to sleep after a day of harassing excitement was often
impossible. Through the open triangular door, I could see the same
bright stars and the same moon that were looking down on the quiet
harvest fields at home, where the brown stubble had replaced the golden
grain; the line of camp fires smoking and reddening in the breeze as it
passed along the hostile hills. I could hear our horses munching as
they stood unstalled close by in the open air, and the baying of the
wild Kurdistan dogs in the distance far away.




From these, and the nearer objects within the tent, its queer furniture
and baggage-trunks, the varnished tins of preserved fish, flesh, and
fowl, the warming-pan in which Pitblado stewed my beef and boiled my
potatoes (when I had either), hanging with my sword, sash, pistols, and
lancer-cap on the tent-pole; a cheese and a frying-pan, side by side
with a tea-kettle and writing-case; boots and buckets in one corner, a
heap of straw in another; empty Cliquot bottles and a gallant leather
bag for holding six quarts of cognac—from all these my thoughts would
wander away in the hours of the night to home, and all its peace and
comfort.

I thought—I know not why—of the village burying-ground in Calderwood
Glen, where my mother and all my kindred lay, and I shuddered at the
idea of being flung into one of those Crimean hecatombs that studded all
the ground about Sebastopol. On the grassy graves in Calderwood, how
often had I seen the summer sun shine joyously, and the summer grass
waving in the warm breezes that swept the Lomond hills. The bluebell
and the white marguerite, the wild gowan and the golden buttercup, were
there growing above the dead; the old kirk walls and its haunted aisle,
covered with ivy and the lettered tombs where laird and lady lay, with
all the humble dwellers of the hamlet near them, came before me in
memory, and I felt intensely sad on reflecting I might be buried here,
so far from where my kindred slept, though

The stately tomb which shrouds the great
Leaves to the grassy sod
The dearer blessing that its dead
Are nearer to their God.

Often had dear Cora quoted that verse to me at the old kirk stile, when
the rays of a golden sunset were falling on the Falkland woods.

A letter which the Colonel had received from Sir Nigel, had, no doubt,
induced this train of thought. It was all, however, about the Fifeshire
pack and the Lanark race-meeting, “anent the bond,” and Mr. Brassy
Wheedleton and Messrs. Grab and Screwdriver, W.S., Edinburgh; that the
bond had been got rid of, and Mr. Brassy, too, without having recourse
to Splinterbar or old Pitblado’s sparrow-hail—matters beyond the
Colonel’s comprehension, but of which he was to inform me, if he could,
through the Russian lines, and discover whether I was well, as my
friends were sorely afflicted to hear that I had been taken prisoner by
Lord Aberdeen’s friends.

Mail after mail came up per steamer from the Bosphorus; but there never
was a letter for me from Lady Loftus, and my heart grew sick and sore
with its old doubts and apprehensions. Nor were these natural emotions
untinged by jealous fear that her cold, aristocratic father, or chilly,
imperious mother, had prevailed—or that a more successful suitor had
urged his suit. The latter seemed not unlikely, as I heard of her
having been seen at the Derby with the marquis, and his party at
Brighton. That when in London she was still the cynosure of every eye;
that at her opera-box every lorgnette was levelled when she entered;
that she was ever smiling, gay, happy, and beautiful!

Letters to Fred Wilford and others of ours told of these things, and
some hinted that a marriage was on the tapis with several persons as
ineligible as myself; but, save Scriven, none ever hinted at my peculiar
bugbear, the marquis.

When I lay on out-piquet, drenched with rain, and chilled by the early
frosts, half dead with cold and misery of body, the fears her silence
roused within me, added to other discomforts, made me reckless of my
wretched life.

What would I not have given for liberty to return to Britain—the liberty
which so many sought for and obtained, under a military régime so very
different from that of the Iron Duke and the glorious days of Vittoria
and Waterloo, until “urgent private affairs” became a byword and a scoff
in the pages of _Punch_, as before the walls of Sebastopol; but the
liberty for which I panted—liberty to return, and convince myself that I
was not forgotten, and still loved by Louisa—a just sense of honour
restrained me from seeking; so I remained like Prometheus on his rock,
chained to my troop, with its daily round of peril and suffering.

A letter from Cora might have served to soothe me; but Cora never wrote
to me. With all the love I bore Louisa, for Cora I had ever an
affection that went, perhaps, beyond cousinship; for our regard had
begun as companions in childhood, and no cloud had ever marred or
shadowed it.

Had I loved her as I loved Lady Loftus, how much of sorrow had been
spared me!

So time passed rapidly away until the evening of the 16th of October,
when Studhome came to my tent, with a sparkle in his eye and a flush on
his cheek.

“Jocelyn has been down to the harbour,” said he, “and he has seen
Berkeley’s yacht. She is now at anchor close to the old ruined castle,
and Scriven has boarded her.”

“See him at once, Jack, like a good fellow,” I exclaimed. “Delay is
fatal with one so slippery.”

“All right! I’m off!” replied Studhome, seizing his forage-cap, and in
a few minutes after I saw him galloping past the redoubts of Kadokoi;
for we, the cavalry, with the Highland brigade, were not exactly
quartered in Balaclava, but among some vineyards two miles distant from
the harbour-head in the direction of Sebastopol.

Lucky for us, too, that we were so, as the harbour of Balaclava was full
of dead troop-horses, whose swollen bodies were used as stepping-stones
in the shallow places, while all the ground about the little town was
full of half-buried soldiers, whose feet, fingers, and fleshless skulls
stuck through their shallow graves.

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