In aught that tries the heart, how few withstand the proof

What is the worst of woes that wait on age?
What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the brow?
To view each loved one blotted from life’s page,
And be alone on earth as I am now?
BYRON.

If Lady Louisa had not mentioned me in her letter to Cora, there was
doubtless a secret and very good reason for the omission; but I thought
it cold, and certainly uncourteous, that the countess, fresh from a long
visit at Calderwood, should omit to invite me to her house; and that the
earl should not have left his card for me at the barracks.

So Cora was going to Chillingham Park! Well, at all events, I would
visit my cousin Cora, were it but to evince my regard for Sir Nigel.
But to know that Louisa was now, and had been for a month past, within a
few miles of me, and that I had neither seen nor heard from her, while
Berkeley was a frequent visitor at her father’s house, filled me with
such mortification that I could barely control my emotion when in his
presence. His silence on the subject, too, added to my suspicions, and
inflamed my smothered wrath; yet it was a matter on which I had no right
to question him.

Wounded vanity and self-esteem also sealed my tongue; and I actually
despised myself when discovering that I could not help remarking his
absence or his presence in quarters, and his going from the barracks to
and fro.

In the old duelling days—ay, had we been so circumstanced only some ten
years before, and ere so decided a change came over public opinion—I
should have made short work of it with my esteemed brother officer, and
unmasked his duplicity. He might be a suitor to whose suit no response
was made, even though Lady Chillingham seconded his intentions; but then
she had, I knew, views regarding Lord Slubber. Louisa, however, could
not have changed; or, if so, why send me the pretty miniature?

Vainly I strove to busy myself with the interior economy of my troop,
its management and discipline. Vainly I sought to kill time by
attending closely to the men’s messes and equipment, their pay-books,
accoutrements, and horses, counting the days as they passed; but no
letters came. I frequently absented myself from the barracks between
the parades, with that strange superstition and hope which many persons
have, that if they go away for a little time they will find the
longed-for answer when they return. But save tradesmen’s bills—missives
which became more urgent as the rumoured day of departure drew nearer—no
enclosures ever came to me.

At last, finding suspense intolerable, one evening—I remember that it
was the last of March—Beverley gave me leave from parades for two days.
I mounted, and took the way by Sittingbourne—a quaint old Kentish town,
which consists of one wide street bordering the highway, and by the
village of Ospringe, to Canterbury, where I put up at the Royal Hotel;
and, after having my horse corned, trotted him along the Margate Road,
till I came to the well-known gate of Chillingham Park.

The lodge—a mimic castle in the Tudor style—was pretty, and already
covered with green climbers; through the bars of the iron gate, which
was surmounted by a gilded earl’s coronet, I could see the
carefully-gravelled avenue winding away with great sweeps between the
stately old trees, and bordered by the smooth, velvet-like lawn of
emerald green, towards the house, a small glimpse of the Grecian
peristyle and the white walls of which were just visible. There she
dwelt; and I gazed wistfully at the white patch that shone in the
sunshine between the gnarled stems of her old ancestral trees. On
hearing a horse reined up without, the lodge-keeper came forth, key in
hand, and politely touched his hat, as if waiting my pleasure; but I
waved my hand, and with a flushing cheek and an anxious heart, let the
reins of my nag drop on his neck, and rode slowly and heedlessly on.

Unvisited and uninvited, I felt that to have left a card at Chillingham
Park would have been an intrusion unwarranted by the rules of good
society—rules which I warmly bequeathed to the infernal gods. I had
come to Canterbury; but to what end?—unless I met Louisa on the road, or
in the city, and such wished-for chances seldom fall to the lot of
lovers.

There was the cathedral, where, doubtless, she and her family would be
on a Sunday, in their luxuriously-cushioned pew, attended by a tall
“Jeames” in plush, carrying a great Bible, a nosegay, and gold-headed
cane; but to thrust myself upon her there was too humble a proceeding
for my then mood of mind.

I longed with all my soul to see her, were it but for a moment; and yet
I also longed for the route to the East, as a relief from my present
torture; and come it soon would now. There was some consolation in that
conviction.

War had already been declared against Russia by the Western Powers of
Europe. On the 23rd of the last month the brigade of guards had
departed from London, after taking farewell of the Queen at Buckingham
Palace; the Baltic fleet had sailed from Spithead; many of our troops
were already embarked; and the French fleet for the North Sea had sailed
from Brest. All betokened earnest and rapid preparations for a
protracted contest; so I felt assured that our days in Maidstone were
numbered now.

How long, or how far I wandered on that evening, full of vague and most
dispiriting thoughts, I know not—near to Margate certainly; and the sun
was setting as I returned, keeping near the sea-shore, and in sight of
the countless white sails and smoky funnels of the craft that were
standing outward or inward about the mouths of the Thames and Medway.

The sun sunk beyond the horizon; but the twilight was strong and clear.
The place was lonely and still; and, save the chafing of the sea on the
rocks at the Reculvers, not a sound came on the calm atmosphere of the
soft spring evening. I was there alone, with my own thoughts for
company, and found it difficult to realise the idea that the roar of
London, with all its mingled myriads of the human race, was but sixty
miles distant from where my horse nibbled the grass that grew by the
sequestered wayside.

The whole scenery was intensely English. Against the rosy flush of the
sunset sky, that old landmark for mariners, the Sisters, as the two
spires of the ancient church are named, stood up sharply and darkly
defined about a mile distant; near me spread an English park, studded
with fine old timber, a model of beauty and fertility, the sward of the
most brilliant green, and closely mown, as if shaved with a huge razor.
The smoke of the quaint old Saxon village curled upwards far into the
still air, and all seemed peaceful and quiet as the shades of evening
deepened—quiet as the dead of ages in the graves that lie about the
basement of the old church that marks the spot where St. Augustine—sent
by Pope Gregory on the errand of conversion—first put his foot upon the
Saxon shore; and as if further to remind me that I was in England, and
not in my native country, the curfew bell now rang out upon the stilly
air, tolling “the knell of parting day,” for, as the Norman power
stopped on the banks of the Tweed, the curfew is, of course, unknown in
Scotland.

I had been lost in reverie for some time—how long I know not, while my
horse shook his bridle and ears ever and anon at the evening flies, and
cropped the herbage that grew under a thick old hedge, which bordered
the flinty and chalky way—when the sound of voices roused me; and close
by a rustic wooden stile, that afforded a passage through the hedge in
question, I suddenly beheld a man and woman in parley—conversation it
could not be termed, as the former was evidently confronting, and rudely
barring, the progress of the latter.

On the summit of the stile her figure was distinctly seen in dark
outline against the twilight sky.

She seemed young and handsome, with a smart little black-velvet hat and
feather. Her small hands were well-gloved; one firmly grasped her
folded parasol and handkerchief, and the other held up her skirt
prettily as she sought to descend the stile, showing more than no doubt
was generally revealed of a well-rounded leg, a taper ankle, and tiny
foot, encased in a fashionable kid boot.

Young and perfectly ladylike, her whole toilette was in keeping with her
lithe and graceful figure; but her face was turned from me.

He who confronted her was a burly, surly, beetle-browed, and
rough-visaged fellow, like a costermonger, with a slouched, broken hat,
which he touched, half ironically, from time to time; a black beard of a
week’s growth bristled on his chin; a patch covered one of his
discoloured eyes; he had a great cudgel under his arm, and an ugly
bull-terrier, with a huge head and close-shorn ears, was close to his
heels. His hand was held forth for charity, and he was fully prepared
to enforce that good quality.

Alarmed by the appearance of the fellow, who might very well have passed
for a twin brother of Bill Sykes, the young lady hovered with
irresolution on the upper step of the stile, and said, timidly—

“Permit me to pass, if you please, sir.”

“Not without giving me summut, marm; and I tell yer I ain’t neither sir
nor mister, but just Bill Potkins,” growled the fellow. “I’ve a darned
good mind to set this ere dog at your ankles!”

“But I repeat to you that I have left my purse at home,” she urged.

“You have left it at whoam have yer; that is all gammon, for I knows
yer, for all yer dainty airs, and the captain too, for the matter o’
that. Shall I tell his name?” he asked with a scowl, while he surveyed
her all over, as if looking for something to snatch ar wrench away; but
she seemed destitute of ornaments.

“Yes, I have indeed left it; but for pity sake allow me to pass,” she
said, faintly, and then, gathering strength, added, “Moreover, fellow,
you must.”

“Criky; that’s a good ’un—must I really now?”

“Yes, please,” returned the young girl, in tears.

“Well, I sha’n’t then—not till I’ve overhauled your pockets, and
rummaged yer a bit, and that’s all about it.”

In a moment his ruffianly hands were upon her; the girl uttered a shrill
scream and he a ferocious oath. I spurred forward my horse, reined him
in with dragoon-like precision, and with the butt-end of my riding-whip
dealt the would-be thief a blow which tumbled him in a heap at the foot
of the stile.

With a terrible malediction, while the blood poured over his face, he
staggered up, stooped his head, and thrusting his hat well over his
eyes, was rushing on with uplifted cudgel, when I dexterously dealt him
cut “one” full on the face, and made my horse rear for the purpose of
riding him down. On this he uttered a yell, forced his way through the
hedge, and taking to flight, disappeared, with his bull terrier barking
furiously at his heels.

The young lady whom I had saved by such timely succour was still
standing, pale and trembling, on the summit of the stile, irresolute
which way to turn, when I dismounted, and throwing the reins over my
arm, lifted my hat, and expressing the great satisfaction it afforded me
to have been of such timely service, I offered my hand and assisted her
to descend.

She thanked me in an agitated voice, and with a hurried manner, in
language which was well chosen, but seemed perfectly natural to her.

I now perceived that she was older than her slender figure at first
suggested. She seemed to be about five-and-twenty years of age, with a
softly feminine and purely English face, long, tremulous eyelashes, and
a perfect nose and chin. She was almost beautiful; but with an air of
sadness in her charming little features, which, when her alarm subsided,
was too apparent to fail to interest me.

“If you will not deem me intrusive,” said I, lifting my hat again, and
drawing back respectfully one pace, “I shall be most happy to escort you
home.”

“I thank you, sir.”

“It is almost dark now, and your friends may be anxious about you.”

“Friends?” she repeated, inquiringly, in a strange voice, while a cough
of a most consumptive sound seemed to rack her slender form.

“Or permit me to escort you to where you were going. It was in this
direction luckily, or I could only have taken my horse over the stile by
a flying leap.”

“But, sir——” she began, and paused.

“Consider, that fellow may be within ear-shot, and he may return again.”

“True, sir. I do thank you very much. There was a time when I was not
wont to be so unprotected; but I am so loth—”

“To incommode me; is it not so?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Oh, do not say so. I am from the barracks at Maidstone, though in
mufti, as you see, and trust you will permit me to be your escort. My
time at present is completely at your disposal.”

“I live about half-a-mile on this side of the village; and if you will
be so very kind——”

“I shall have much pleasure,” I replied, with a respectful bow; and
leading my horse by the bridle, I walked onward by her side.

She conversed with me easily and gracefully on many subjects—of the
oddness of her being abroad at such an hour alone; but in the country
folks thought nothing of it. She had been visiting a sick fisherman’s
wife, or child, or something, at Herne Bay, and been detained; the roads
were not unsafe thereabouts in general; but she must be careful for the
future.

Then we remarked, of course, the beauty of the evening, the romance of
the scenery along the coast, and its associations, by Herne Bay, the
Reculvers, and Birchington; and my fair companion seemed well read, for
she knew all about the old kings of Kent, and, pointing seaward, showed
me that, where now the ocean rolled, there stood in other times a goodly
Saxon town, with something about a king named Ethelbert, whose palace
was close by the Reculvers; and so, chatting away pleasantly in a tone
of voice that was very alluring, for there was a musical chord in it, we
proceeded along the highway, until she suddenly paused at the iron gate
of a pretty little rustic cottage that stood within a garden plot, back
some fifty paces or so from the highway.




“Here, sir,” said she, “is the gate of my home; at least, that which is
now so; and, with my best thanks, I must bid you adieu.”

The girl’s voice, air, and manner were certainly charming, and there was
a plaintive sadness about her that was decidedly interesting; but my
mind was too full of a pure passion, an exalted love for Louisa Loftus,
to have much enthusiasm about pretty girls then, or to have any taste
for running after them, as in the days when I first donned my lancer
trappings. Thus, quite careless of cultivating her acquaintance, I was
about to withdraw with a polite bow, when she added—

“After the great service you have rendered, and so bravely too, I hope
you do not deem me uncourteous in not inviting you to rest for a few
minutes; but—but——”

“Papa might frown, and mamma have some fears of a light dragoon,” said
I, laughing. “Is it not so?”

“My papa!” she replied in a voice that was extremely touching. “Sir, of
course you cannot know; but he is dead, and my dear mamma has lain by
his side these seven years.”

“Pardon me,” said I, “if by a heedless speech I have probed a hidden
wound—a sorrow so deep. But your friends, perhaps, might wish to
discover the sturdy beggar from whom I saved you, and if I can be of any
service, by sending a note to Maidstone barracks, addressed——”

At that moment the door of the cottage opened, and a comely old woman,
dressed in good matronly taste, appeared with a lighted candle in her
hand, and with an expression of alarm in her good-humoured face, as she
exclaimed—

“La, miss! how late you are! I was quite alarmed for fear you had
returned, as you often do, by the sea-shore, and met with an accident
among the rocks.”

“No, my dear friend, I am here in safety, thanks to this kind gentleman;
but for whose fortunate intervention I might have had a very different
thing to say.”

And in a few words she related all that had taken place, caressing my
horse the while kindly and gracefully with her pretty hands, and even
without fear, kissing his nose, for although sad-eyed, the girl seemed
naturally playful.

The woman she addressed had all the appearance of a matronly servant or
elderly nurse; she took the young lady in her arms kindly, kissed her,
and thanked me very earnestly for my service. She then proposed that I
should enter the cottage, and have at least a glass of cowslip or
elder-flower wine, or some such distillation; but the girl looked rather
alarmed. She did not second the invitation, and, finding that I was
becoming _de trop_, I put my foot in the stirrup, and mounted.

“Do not deem us lacking either in courtesy or gratitude, sir,” said she,
presenting her hand, and looking up with her sad, earnest eyes, which
were now full of tears; “but you do not know the—the peculiarity of my
position here.”

I bowed; but of course remained silent.

“She is, perhaps, a governess—some useful young person, some victim of a
stepmother,” thought I.

“I perceived that you were an officer, though out of uniform, and—and——”

“You don’t take every officer for a sad rake, I hope?” said I, laughing.

“Nay, nay, sir; the scarlet coat is very dear to me!”

“Your father, perhaps, was in the army?”

“My poor father was a man of peace, and a man after God’s own heart,
sir. No, no; you mistake me,” she replied, with an air of annoyance and
wounded pride; “but you belong, I presume, to the cavalry?”

“Yes,” said I, as her manner puzzled me more and more.

“The lancers?” she asked, impetuously.

“Yes, the lancers.”

I could see, even in the twilight, that her colour deepened, while a
painful sigh escaped her.

“Do you know any one in my corps?”

“Yes—no; that is, I never saw it; but I did know a—a——”

Who, or what she knew, I was not destined to learn, for, just at that
moment, the postman passed with a lantern glimmering in his hand, a bag
slung over his back.

“A letter. You have one for me, have you not?” she asked, in a clear
and piercing voice, while holding forth her hands.

“No, miss, I am sorry to say,” stammered the man, touching his cap, and
passing abruptly on; “better luck in the morning, I hope.”

“No letter, Nurse Goldsworthy, no letter yet,” she muttered. “How cruel,
how very cruel! or, nursie dear, is this but the way of the world—the
world that he has lived in? Oh, it is cold—cold and selfish!” and,
pressing her hands upon her breast, she tottered against the iron gate,
and then a violent fit of coughing ensued.

“My good woman,” said I, “the chill evening air is unsuited to such a
cough as your young lady seems afflicted with.”

“Yes, sir, yes, I know it,” replied the nurse, while supporting the girl
with one hand, she closed and locked the iron gate with the other; and,
kissing her forehead the while, said, “Patience, my poor suffering
angel, thou wilt get a letter in the morning I tell thee.”

“Pray tell me if I can assist you. I am Captain Norcliff, of the —th
Lancers; do please say if I can be of service?” I urged.

“Oh, no, sir, you cannot serve me in that which afflicts me most,”
replied the girl, weeping; “but a thousand thanks to you; and now, good
evening.”

“Good evening,” I replied, and rode away, feeling strangely puzzled and
interested in this girl, by her beauty, grace, and singular manner.

At the village inn, the signboard of which, I may mention by the way,
actually bears the head of King Ethelbert, whose spirit seems somehow to
hover still about his Anglo-Saxon _ham_ of the Reculvers, I drew up on
pretence of obtaining a light for my cigar, but in reality to make some
inquiry concerning the pretty enigma who dwelt in the cottage on the
Margate-road.

Just as I reined in, a man on horseback passed me at full speed, and
from his figure, seat, and dress, I could have sworn that he
was—Berkeley! And he was riding in the direction of Chillingham Park,
too.

From two to three Kentish yokels, in hobnailed shoes and canvas frocks,
I endeavoured, after the distribution of a few shillings for beer, to
extract some information, and it was yielded cunningly and grudgingly,
and after much leering, grinning, and scratching of uncombed heads.

One informed me that she was “thowt to be, somehow, the wife o’ vun o’
them calavary chaps at Maidstone;” another “thowt as she was the vidder
of a sea hossifer;” and a third, who thrust his tongue into his fat
cheek, remarked “that as I had paid my money I might take my choice,” on
which I gave him a cut over the head with my whip, and rode away,
followed by a shout of derisive laughter from these Anglo-Saxon
chawbacons, who, as far as civilization was concerned, were pretty much
as if his Majesty King Ethelbert were still upon his throne.

It seemed to me also that I heard among their voices that of the fellow
Potkins, whom I had so recently thrashed at the stile.

Continue Reading

And feed upon the shadow of perfection

And why not death, rather than live in torment?
To die is to be banished from myself;
And Sylvia is myself: banished from her
Is self from self; a deadly banishment!
What light is light, if Sylvia be not seen?
What joy is joy, if Sylvia be not by?
Unless it be to think that she is by,
And feed upon the shadow of perfection.
SHAKSPEARE.

While yet half-slept, and wholly unrefreshed, after our long and rapid
journey by train, we donned our uniforms, with sword-belt and
sabretashe, duly reported ourselves to the colonel, who welcomed us
back, and within an hour I found myself established in my old quarters,
and once more falling into the every-day routine of barrack-life, just
as if I had never left Maidstone, and as if my visit to Calderwood and
my engagement with Louisa were all a dream. But I had her pearl ring,
and the lock of jetty hair, which I had cut from her beautiful head in
jest—a gift in solemn earnest now—and I lost no time in procuring a
locket suitable for it, and which I might wear at my neck.

Again I had parades to attend, troop, guard, and stable duties to
perform; but amid these, and all the bustle of Maidstone, the most
tiresome and bustling cavalry barrack in the British empire, my heart
and thoughts were ever with Louisa Loftus, amid the old woods of
Calderwood Glen.

“War is not yet declared against Russia,” said the colonel, the first
evening parade after we joined; “but I have it in confidence from
head-quarters that it will be ere long, and that we shall form part of
the army of the East.”

“Ah, and are there—haw—any infantry to accompany us?” asked Berkeley.

“I should think so,” replied the colonel, laughing at so odd a question,
which, as Berkeley asked it elsewhere, caused some amusement at
Maidstone, as showing either his ideas of war, or of the strange
individualism of the two branches of the service.

“The guards are already under orders, and embark at Southampton in a few
weeks,” resumed the colonel; “and we shall have tough work in getting
ready for departure by the time our turn comes—though I am glad to say
the lancers are in high order and discipline, and fit for anything.”

Our colonel spoke with pride and confidence; and under his orders, I
felt that, with equal confidence, I could really go anywhere or face
anything. I had served under him in India, and he had ever been in my
eyes the model of a British cavalry officer, and of an English
gentleman.

“There is no example of human beauty more perfectly picturesque than a
very handsome man of middle age; not even the same man in his youth,”
writes one of the most graceful female pens of the present day. Most
soothing this to all good-looking fellows, who approach that grand
climacteric; and the idea that she is correct always occurred to me when
I saw Colonel Beverley, for a handsomer man, though his moustache was
becomingly grizzled, never drew a sword, and all the regiment admired
and esteemed him.

In addition to sword and pistols, our corps was armed with the lance,
which the famous Count de Montecuculi of old declared to be “la Reine
des armes pour la cavalerie,” and the adoption of which was vainly urged
by the great Marechal Saxe in his “Reveries;” but it was introduced into
the British army after the peace of 1815. The only regiment armed in
this fashion which previously existed in our service was the British
Uhlans, composed of French emigrants, formed out of the remains of the
lancers of the French Royalist army. They were all destroyed in the
ill-fated expedition to Quiberon, in 1796.

When charging cavalry the bannerofes attached to our lances are
extremely useful in scaring the horses—after which the rider becomes an
easy prey; and the extreme length of the weapon renders it more
effective than the sword when charging a square of infantry; while, in
addition to this, it is a weapon of great show, as all must admit who
have seen a lancer corps, some six hundred strong, riding with all their
red and white swallow-tailed banneroles fluttering in the wind.

We had in our ranks more G. C.[*] men, perhaps, than any other corps in
the service; and, with the exception of one or two of those wealthy
parvenus, like Berkeley, who are to be found in many regiments, but more
especially in the cavalry, and whom I shall simply describe as
yaw-yawing, cold, but fashionable, solemn and unimpressionable military
snobs, the officers of the lancers were unquestionably gentlemen by
birth, breeding, and education, and formed altogether, at mess, on
parade, in the ball-room, or on duty, a class of society far superior in
tone and bearing to any I have ever had the fortune to be among; and
unless it be those of whom I have hinted, every face and name come
pleasantly back to memory now, when I think of my fine regiment as it
prepared for the army of the East.

[*]Good Conduct Ring. We have four regiments of lancers—the 9th, 12th,
16th, and 17th.

We practised daily with our pistols and six-barrelled revolvers; the
sword-blades and lance-heads were pointed and edged anew. Some of our
mess actually tried bivouacking in the fields at night, to test their
hardihood; but, as they were invariably taken for gipsies or
housebreakers by the rural police, laughter on the one hand, and useless
discomfort on the other, cured them of these pranks.

To be ready for anything and everything, and to make his lancers more
active horsemen, Colonel Beverley had us all drilled to dismounting on
the off-side, a practice which increases the skill of the men, and the
steadiness of the horses, and which is simply done by reversing all the
motions of dismounting, after the rider has well secured the lance, the
reins, and mane in the right hand, while the left grasps the sword, and
lays it across the front of the saddle, with the point to the right. He
then dismounts on the off-side, with his lance at the carry in the right
hand.

I remember, too, that he was careful in having the men cautioned against
giving way to the weight of the lance when mounted, as this occasions
bad consequences on long marches; hence it is very requisite to measure
the stirrup leathers frequently, and let the men ride with the lance
slung on the left arm. These items may seem trivial; but a day came
when his instructions and precautions proved of inestimable value, and
that was when we—_the Six Hundred_—made our ever-memorable charge into
the Valley of Death!

A cheque for a handsome sum came from my good old uncle, Sir Nigel, and
it proved most seasonable, as we were beset by London Jews and army
contractors, and I had, as the phrase goes, “no end” of unexpected
things to provide—a few to wit:—

A brace of revolving six-chambered pistols, with spring ramrods, as the
papers said, “the most complete and effective ever offered to the
British public.” A full Crimean outfit, comprising a waterproof cape
and hood, camp-boots, ground-sheet, folding bedstead, mattress, and pair
of blankets, a canteen for self and a friend, sponging-bath, bucket, and
basin, brush-case, lantern, and havresack, all dog-cheap at thirty
guineas, with a pair of bullock-trunks and slings at eight guineas more.
Then there was a portable patent tent, weighing only ten pounds; an
india-rubber boat, and heaven only knows how much more rubbish, all of
which made a terrible hole in my cheque, and all of which were left
behind at Varna, where, doubtless, some enterprising follower of the
Prophet would make them his lawful spoil.

Amid those prosy preparations the month of February slipped away, and
the twenty-eight days of that month seemed like so many years to me, as
I never heard of Louisa Loftus; but, on the first of March, Pitblado
handed me a little packet which had come by the mail from London.

It contained a morocco case with a coloured photograph—a photograph of
Louisa!

It was done in the best style of a good London artist, and my heart
bounded with joy as I gazed on it, studying every feature. The reader
would deem me mad, perhaps, maudlin certainly, if I related all the
extravagances of which I was guilty on receipt of this souvenir, this
minor work of art, with which I was forced to content me, until a
miniature—one of Thorburn’s best—which I was resolved to procure, should
follow.

Was she in London, or had she merely written to the artist (whose name
was on the case) to send me a copy of her miniature, which she knew well
I would prize, even as I prized life or health?

On the same day that this dear memorial came I was gazetted to my troop
in the regiment, by purchase, Captain B——, whose ill health rendered him
totally unfit for foreign service, retiring by the sale of his
commission; and though my heart was full of gratitude to my uncle, I
verily believe that I thought more of Louisa’s miniature than of my
promotion. Both, however, seemed ominous of a happy future. They made a
fortunate coincidence. The same mail had brought them from London, and
I seemed to tread on air, and committed so many extravagances, and
played so many pranks that night at mess, that my old friends, Jack
Studhome and Fred Wilford, had to take what they termed “the strong
hand” with me, and march me off to my quarters.

In answer to my letter of thanks, I received a long and rambling one
from Sir Nigel, whose literary efforts were frequently a curious medley.

The hunt, the county pack, the next meets were, of course, referred to
first, and then came his private troubles. The black-faced sheep had
been leaping the fences and eating in the stackyard of the home-farm;
the Highland goats had been eating the yews in the avenue, and poisoning
themselves; the deer had been overthrowing the beescaps on the lawn, and
the patent powder to fatten the pheasants had been mislaid by old
Pitblado, and was eaten by the rooks instead. Lieutenant James’s famous
horse-blister had been applied without effect to his favourite hunter,
Dunearn, and my old friend Splinterbar had gone dead lame—£300 gone to
the dogs!

He had just had a notice of “augmentation, modification, and locality of
stipend (whatever the deuce it might all mean) before the Tiend Court,”
served on him by a —— Edinburgh writer to the signet, at the instance of
the parish minister, whom he disliked as a sour Sabbatarian, and whom he
had advised in his next sermon to expound and explain how “Jeshurun
waxed fat and kicked.”

Not a word about Louisa! I read on with growing impatience:—

“I have just procured a lot of that stuff the English call
mangel-wurzel, consisting of white globes and long yellows, to plant in
belts about the thickets where the deer are; they are better for feeding
at this time than the best of Swedish turnips, and for drawing the deer
from the cover, for a quiet shot.

“Cora is working all kinds of comforters, cuffs, and muffetees for you
to wear in the Crimea. I asked her to write for me; but she excused
herself, so I have to act as my own secretary. I don’t know what has
come over the girl of late.




“General Rammerscales, the gouty old tiger-hunter, has gone to his place
at the Bridge-of-Allan; and our friend the M.P., like a true Scottish
one, is shieing at his Parliamentary duties, when he can’t get upon a
committee that pays, and takes especial good care never to be in the
House when Scottish interests are on the tapis, unless whipped in when
the Lord Advocate has some party or private end in view.

“Old Binns and Pitblado send you their remembrance. Why did your man
Willie give the two sovereigns I gave him to his father? The old fellow
is well enough off in his cottage, and lives like the son of an Irish
king. He shot a magnificent silver pheasant before the Chillingham
party left (they are gone then!) and Lady Louisa got the wings for her
pork-pie hat.

“Cora seems pining to join the Chillinghams, who, as you, of course,
know, have been for a month past at their place near Canterbury. She is
in low spirits, poor girl, and goes south in a week, when I shall,
perhaps, accompany her. Lady Louisa has written to her thrice since
they left. She says that Mr. Berkeley has been frequently visiting
them; but never mentions you. What is the meaning of that?”

I paused on reading this, for it embodied a vast deal for reflection!
That the Loftuses should be at Chillingham Park unknown to me was not
strange; neither was it strange that, situated as we were, poor Louisa
should not mention me in her letters to Cora; but that Berkeley should
be their frequent visitor, and omit to mention, or conceal that
circumstance from me, was certainly startling!

Berkeley! So this accounted for what the mess had remarked—his frequent
absences from that agreeable board, from parades, and the used-up
condition of his private horses. Was there any sly game afoot? So far
as he was concerned, could I doubt it? His reserve to me declared that
there was; and this game had been played for a month, with or without
success, how was I to learn? Ha! thought I, if they knew about Miss
Auriol, his unfortunate mistress! But noble morality is frequently very
opaque—and my pay and expectations were but moonshine, when opposed to
his solid thousands per annum.

I was sorry to hear that Cora was coming so far south as Canterbury; for
much as I loved and esteemed my cousin, I felt that I should rather
avoid her now. I resume the letter.

“How does your affair with la belle Louisa progress—eh? Well, I hope;
though I think, with Thackeray, that ’every man ought to be in love a
few times in his life, and have a smart attack of the fever. You are
the better after it is over.’

“So we are to have hostilities at last! I was in Edinburgh yesterday,
anent the programme of the spring meeting at Musselburgh, and heard war
declared by Britain against Russia. It was proclaimed at the market
cross by the Rothesay, Albany, and Islay heralds, attended by the
Kintyre, Unicorn, and Ormond pursuivants, all in their tabards, and a
strong guard of Highlanders, with bayonets fixed, and colours flying. It
was a quaint and picturesque sight, that did your old uncle’s heart
good, and set him thinking; for the same trumpets had many a time in the
same place proclaimed war against England in the days of old.”

So ended my uncle’s rambling letter, which certainly had the effect of
setting me to think too, and with a heart full of sudden trouble,
anxiety, and irritation.

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If this thou call’st forgetting, thou, indeed, shall be forgot

Forget thee? If to dream by night, and muse on thee by day;
If all the worship, deep and wild, a poet’s heart can pay;
If prayers in absence, breathed for thee to Heaven’s protecting
power;
If winged thoughts that flit to thee, a thousand in an hour;
If busy Fancy, blending thee with all my future lot;
.
MOULTRIE.

I had but one, only one, meeting more with Lady Louisa, and it was,
indeed, a sad one. We could but hope to meet again—near Canterbury,
perhaps—at some vague period before my regiment marched; and prior to
that I was to write to her, on some polite pretence, under cover to
Cora.

This was certainly somewhat undefined and unsatisfactory for two engaged
lovers, especially for two so ardent as we were, and in the first flush
of a grand passion; but we had no other arrangement to make; and never
shall I forget our last, long, mute embrace on the last evening, when,
scared by footsteps on the garden walk, we literally tore ourselves
away, and separated to meet at the dinner-table, and act as those who
were almost strangers to each other, and to perform the mere
formalities, the politenesses, and cold ceremonies of well-bred life.

I could not help telling my good uncle of my success; but under a solemn
promise of secrecy, for a time at least.

“All right, boy,” said he, clapping me on the shoulder. “Keep her well
in hand, and I’ll back you against the field to any amount that is
possible; but that gouty old peer, my Lord Slubber, is richer than I am;
and then Lady Chillingham has the pride of Lucifer. Draw on me whenever
you want money, Newton. Since Archie died at college, and poor Nigel at
the battle of Goojerat, I have no boy to look after but you.”

The last hour came inexorably. We shook hands with all. When that
solemn snob, my brother officer, Mr. de Warr Berkeley, and I entered the
carriage which was to take us to the nearest railway station, there were
symptoms of considerable emotion in the faces of the kind circle we were
leaving, for the clouds of war had darkened fast in the East during the
month we had spent so pleasantly; and the ladies—the poor girls
especially—half viewed us as foredoomed men.

Louisa was as pale as death; she trembled with suppressed emotion, and
her eyes were full of tears. Even her cold and stately mother kissed me
lightly on the cheek; and at that moment, for Louisa’s sake, I felt my
heart swell with sudden emotion of regard for her.

My uncle’s hard but manly, hand gave mine a hearty pressure, and he
kindly shook the hand of Willie Pitblado, who was bidding adieu to his
father, the old keeper, and slipped a couple of sovereigns into it.

Sir Nigel’s voice was quite broken; but there was no tear in the hot,
dry eyes of poor Cora. Her charming face was very pale, and she bit her
pouting nether lip, to conceal, or to prevent, its nervous quivering.

“An odd girl,” thought I, as I kissed her twice, whispering, “Give the
last one to Louisa.”

But, ah! how little could I read the secret of the dear little heart of
Cora, which was beating wildly and convulsively beneath that apparently
calm and unmoved exterior! But a time came when I was to learn it all.

“Good-bye to Calderwood Glen,” cried I, leaping into the carriage. “A
good-bye to all, and hey for pipeclay again!”

“Pipeclay and gunpowder too, lad,” said my uncle. “Every ten years or
so the atmosphere of Europe requires to be fumigated with it somewhere.
Adieu, Mr. Berkeley. God bless you, Newton!”

“Crack went the whip, round went the wheels;” the group of pale and
tearful faces, the ivy-clad porch, and the turreted façade of the old
house vanished, and then the trees of the avenue appeared to be
careering past the carriage windows in the twilight, as we sped along at
a rapid trot.

For mental worry or depression there is no more certain and rapid cure
than quick travelling and transition from place to place; and assuredly
that luxury is fully afforded by the locomotive appliances of the
present age.

Within an hour after leaving Calderwood, we occupied a first-class
carriage, and were flying by the night express, _en route_ for London,
muffled to the eyes in warm railway-rugs and border plaids, and each
puffing a cigar in silence, gazing listlessly out of the windows, or
doing his best to court sleep, to wile the dreary hours away.

Pitblado was fraternising with the guard in the luggage-van, doubtless
enjoying a quiet “weed” the while.

Berkeley soon slept; but I prayed for the celebrated “forty winks” in
vain; and thus, wakeful and full of exciting thoughts, I pictured in
reverie all that had occurred during the past month.

Gradually the unwilling, but startling, conviction forced itself upon my
mind that my cousin. Cora loved me! This dear and affectionate girl,
from whom I had parted with such a frigid salute as that which Sir
Charles Grandison gave Miss Byron at the end of their dreary seven
years’ courtship, loved me; and yet, blinded by my absorbing passion for
the brilliant Louisa Loftus, I had neither known, seen, or felt it.

Her frequent coldnesses to me, and her ill-concealed irritation at the
cool insolence of Berkeley’s languid bearing, on more than one occasion,
were all explained to me now.

Dear, affectionate, and single-hearted Cora! A hundred instances of her
self-denial now crowded on my memory. I remembered now, at the meet of
the Fifeshire fox-hounds at Largo, that it was she who, by a little
delicate tact and foresight, contrived to give me that which she knew I
so greatly coveted—the drive home in the tandem with Lady Louisa.

What must that act of self-sacrifice have cost her heart, if indeed she
loved me? I could not write to her on such a subject, or even approach
an idea that might, after all, be based on supposition, if not on
vanity. More than this—I felt that the suspicion of having excited this
secret passion must preclude my writing to Louisa under cover to Cora.
Common delicacy and kindness suggested that I should not, by doing so,
further lacerate a good little heart that loved me well.




But the next thought was how to communicate with Louisa, Cora being our
only medium. Nor could I forget that when I was up the Rangoon river,
and when my dear mother died at Calderwood, that it was Cora’s kiss that
was last upon her cold forehead, and Cora’s little hand that closed her
eyes for me.

Swiftly sped the express train while these thoughts passed through my
mind, and agitated me greatly. To sleep was impossible, and ere
midnight I heard the bells of Berwick-upon-Tweed announce that we had
left the stout old kingdom of Scotland far behind us, and were flying at
the rate of fifty miles an hour by Bedford, Alnwick, and Morpeth,
towards the Tyne, and the land of coal and fire.

Every instant bore me farther from Louisa; and I had but one comfort,
that ere long she would be pursuing the same route—perhaps seated in the
same carriage—as she sped to her home in the south of England.

I dearly loved this proud and beautiful girl; and if human language has
a meaning, and if the human eye has an expression, she loved me truly in
return; but though the conviction of this made my heart brim with
happiness, it was a happiness not untinged with fears—fears that her
love was, perhaps, the fancy of the hour, developed by propinquity and
the social circle of a quiet country house; fears that my joy and
success were too bright to last; and that, after a time, she might see
her engagement with a nameless subaltern of cavalry in the light of a
mésalliance, and be dazzled by some more brilliant offer, for the
heiress and only child of the Earl of Chillingham could command many.

War and separation were before us; and if I survived to return, would
she love me still, and still indeed be mine?

Her father’s consent was yet to be obtained. In my impatience to know
the best or the worst, I frequently resolved to break the matter by
letter to his lordship; but, remembering the tears and entreaties of
Louisa, I shrank from the grave responsibility of tampering with our
mutual happiness.

At other times I thought of confiding the management of the affair
entirely to my uncle; but abandoned the idea almost as soon as I
conceived it: knowing that the fox-hunting old baronet was more
hot-headed, proud, and abrupt than politic. In conclusion, I thought it
might be better done by a letter from the East, when the earl might
politely half entertain an engagement which a bullet might dissolve; or,
should I leave the affair over till I returned?

Oh! might I ever return—and if so, how mutilated? And if I died before
the enemy, in imagination I saw, in the long, long years that were to
follow, myself perhaps forgotten, and Louisa, my affianced bride, the
wife of—_another_.

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