Thou art so full of misery

At length one whispered his companion, who
Whispered another, and thus it went round,
And then into a hoarser murmur grew,
An ominous, and wild, and desperate sound;
And when his comrade’s thought each sufferer knew,
’Twas but his own, suppressed till now, he found,
And out they spoke of lots for flesh and blood,
And who should die to be his fellows’ food.—BYRON.

“You must know, gentlemen, that five years ago, come December next, I
was first mate of the _Favourite_, a brig of London, registered at
Lloyd’s as being two hundred tons burden, John Benson, master, with a
crew consisting only of nine men and a boy. We had run, late in the
year, to Newfoundland for a cargo of salted cod, and sailing later
still, lost a topmast, and had to run up Conception Bay to refit at the
town of Harbour Grace.

“Winter was close at hand now, so we lost no time in getting our gear
ready; but the field ice came down swiftly from the north, and for the
distance of two hundred miles from the mouth of the bay—that is, from
Baccalieu and Cape St. Francis—away towards the Great Bank of
Newfoundland, it covered all the sea, hard and fast, with hundreds of
icebergs wedged amid it; so there was nothing for us now but patience
and flannel, to strip the ship of her canvas and running rigging, to
stow away everything till the spring, to muffle ourselves to the nose,
and try to keep our blood from freezing by sitting close to wood-fires,
and drinking red Jamaica rum mixed with snow-water, or that of the
mineral springs on the hill of Lookout.

“A winter in Harbour Grace is not quite so lovely as one would be in
London, as it is a poor little wooden town, with a few thousand
miserable inhabitants, and a port that is difficult of entrance, though
safe enough when one is fairly in. Well, everything passes away in
time; so the winter passed, and the spring came; but, as usual in that
imaginary season there, the snow fell heavier, till it was fathoms deep
in the gulleys and flat places; the weather became more wintry than
ever, and though the fierce black frost relaxes a little, it will still
freeze half and half grog as hard as rock crystal.

“Some of our crew bemoaned this unlooked for detention bitterly,
especially the captain, Tom Dacres, and one or two married men, whose
wives, they feared, would deem them lost; but none were more impatient
than the boy I have named. We called him Scotch Willy, for his name was
William Ormiston, from the village of Gourock, on the Clyde. Well
educated, with a smattering of Latin and other things, a passion for
wild adventure, and chiefly for the sea—a passion fed by the perusal of
Robinson Crusoe and other romances—made him run from home and ship for
North America, where we picked him up; and often, in the watches of the
night, poor Willy confided to me his remorse and repentance, and wept
for his mother, whose heart he feared he had broken. Then he used to
show me an advertisement cut from a Glasgow paper, that fell into his
hands in New York:—

“Left his home, ten days ago, a boy fifteen years of age, named William
Ormiston; dressed in a blue jacket and trowsers, with a Glengarry
bonnet; has dark eyes and brown hair. Any information regarding him
will be most thankfully received by his widowed and afflicted mother, at
the Quayside, Gourock.”

“’Such was the notice that caught my eye when I was more than two
thousand miles away from her—with my heart as full of remorse as my
pocket was empty,’ Willy would say, in a voice broken by sobs; but he
hoped yet to get home and cast himself into her arms.

“In his tribulation Willy always thought his mother would be praying for
him, and that her prayers would be more efficacious than his own, and
this conviction always consoled and strengthened him. He was a handsome
boy, this Willy, with eyes so dark that he might have passed for a
grandson of ’Black-eyed Susan,’ only that she was an English girl, and
our Willy was Scotch to the backbone—he was.

“In March we began to get ready for sea, as there is usually a partial
breaking up of the ice about the middle of that month, so we resolved to
get away if we could, and stand across for Cadiz, if once clear of that
dreary and snow-covered land and the field ice. In Spain we were to
exchange the salted cod for wine and fruit, and then return to London.

“A Russian whaler, which had been frozen in the same bight, but nearer
the sea, was working out ahead of us some three miles or so, through the
blue water and between the white floating floes, and we gave the greasy
beggar a cheer as he passed out of the bay, made a good offing, and bore
away, east by north, round Baccalieu Island.

“Conception Bay, I should tell you, gentlemen, is a large inlet of the
Newfoundland coast, about fifty-three miles long, by some twenty or so
broad; thus there is plenty of elbow-room for working out, even against
a head-wind. Its coast is very bold and precipitous, especially about
Point de Grates and Cape St. Francis. Harbour Grace and Carboniere on
its shore were settlements of the old French times.

“As we followed in the Russian’s wake, Bob Jenner, a fine, handsome
young seaman, from Bristol, had the wheel, steering, with a steady hand,
between the floes of broken ice that were drifting dangerously about the
bay. We had the brig under easy sail; her fore and main courses,
topsails, jib, and forestay-sail.

“Amid the quiet that prevailed on board, and the satisfaction we felt in
having the blue water rippling alongside again, we were surprised by
hearing a voice hailing us, as it were, from the sea.

“’A man in the water, sir; just abeam of us, to port,’ shouted Scotch
Willy, as he sprang into the main chains.

“And there, sure enough, in the sea, some twenty yards or so from us, we
saw a man’s head bobbing up and down like a fisherman’s float, just as
we neared the mouth of the inlet, where, beyond the headlands, that were
covered with snow, and shining in the sea, we could see the waters of
the Atlantic stretching far away.

“’Rope—a rope!—man overboard, Captain Benson; lay the maincourse to the
wind!’ were now the shouts.

“’Bear a hand—quick—diable!’ cried the man in the water. ’Are you
fellows fit for nothing, in heaven or hell, that you will let me drown
before your eyes, d—n them?’

“Ere this remarkable speech reached us, the sheet was let fly to
starboard, hauled into port, the brig lay to the wind, and the line was
hove to this ill-bred personage in the water. He caught the bight of it
with difficulty, for he was sorely benumbed, and actually sunk out of
sight as he tied it under his armpits. However, up he came again, and
we gently hauled him on board, where he fainted for a few minutes; but
recovered when we poured some warm brandy-and-water down his throat,
stripped off his wet clothes, and put him in a cosy spare hammock in the
forecastle.

“By the time all this was done, we had cleared Conception Bay, and, with
flocks of the Baccalieu birds screaming about us, were heading east by
north, to keep clear of the floes, which the current was throwing in
towards the land again, so rapidly, that many of them, like the links of
an icy chain, were already drifting between us and the Russian, who was
hoisting out his studding-sails on both sides, to make as good an offing
as possible, before the sun set upon that frozen shore and tideless sea.

“By midday she was well-nigh hull down; but standing to the southward,
having cleared the outer angle of the ice, while we were standing east
and by north, to turn the end of a long mass, which we hoped to do ere
night fell. In fact, the Russian had glided through some opening, which
had closed again, for we could see only a line of ice, now stretching to
the northern horizon, shutting us in towards the land.

“By midday our new hand was so far recovered as to be able to tell us
that he was by name Urbain Gautier, a French Canadian, and that he had
been a seaman on board the Russian whaler; that he had resented some
ill-usage, been flogged, and thrown overboard. In proof of this summary
procedure he showed us his back, which was covered with livid marks,
evidently produced by the hearty application of a cat or knotted rope’s
end, but Scotch Willy lessened the general sympathy by informing me and
Tom Dacres, in a whisper, that when the Canadian’s knife fell from its
sheath as we dragged him on board there was blood on its blade.

“Blood!

“This circumstance was whispered among the crew from ear to ear, and
gave rise to many suspicions in no way favourable to our new
acquisition, whom, however, they cared not to question, as he was a man
singularly repulsive and brutal in aspect, and having a something in his
expression of eye which made all on board shrink from him.

“Urbain Gautier was Herculean in stature and proportion, and most
saturnine and satanic in visage. His eyes were too near each other, and
too deeply set on each side of his long hooked nose, over which his two
eye-brows met in a straight and black unbroken line. His mouth, with
its thin lips and serrated fangs, suggested cruelty, and altogether
there was a general and terrible aspect of evil about him. He spoke
English, but when excited resorted to Canadian-French oaths and
interjections.

“If ’twas he brought us ill-luck we got our first instalment of it that
very night.

“The morning broke cold, grey, and cheerless, amid a storm of snow and
wind, through which, to reduce the ship’s speed, for we could see but
little ahead, we drove under our fore-course and topsails all
close-reefed now, and bitterly did we all regret the impatience which
made us leave our snug moorings in Harbour Grace.

“Now and then the black scud would lift a little, but only to show the
ice-fields drawing nearer and nearer, so, lest we should be crushed or
enclosed amid them hopelessly, and then, it might be, starved to death
when the last of our beef, biscuits, and water were gone, we steered in
for the land, with the wild Arctic tempest—for such it was—increasing
every moment.

“We tried sounding to leeward, but the lead always slipped from my
benumbed hands, and in the end we lost the frozen line, as it parted in
the iron block which was seized to the rigging by a tail-rope. Ere long
we struck soundings with the hand lead, for the water was beginning to
shoal!

“The brig’s tops and the bellies of the close-reefed topsails became
filled with snow, and now we began to look gloomily at each other,
fearing rather than doubting the end.

“For most of that weary day we held on thus, running alternately west
and north—sea-room was all we wanted till a safe harbourage opened; but
ere long we knew it would be hopeless to look for either if the gale
continued, and the briskest exercise could scarcely keep us from being
frozen.

“We had been driven nor’-west I know not how many miles—for, perhaps,
more than six-and-thirty—when a heavier sea than usual struck the brig
on her starboard side, throwing her over on her beam ends to port,
carrying away the bulwarks, tearing the long-boat from its chocks and
lashings amidships, and making a clean sweep of everything on deck,
buckets, loose spars, and handspikes; and with these went one of our
men, who was never seen again.

“The brig righted, for she was a brave little craft, but with the loss
of her topmasts and jib-boom, all of which, with yards and gearing, were
broken off at the caps, and with hatchets and knives we worked amid the
blinding and benumbing haze of drift and spray, snow, and the darkness
of the coming night, to clear the wreck away—and away it all went astern
with a crash, leaving the _Favourite_ now under only her forecourse and
staysail.

“I shall never forget that night, if I live for a thousand years.

“The pumps were frozen; the boxes a mass of ice; the brakes refused to
work; but I knew there was more water in the hold than was healthy for
us. We could get no tea, coffee, nor any warm food, for the cook’s
galley had been swept overboard, and the tots of grog, which I served
out from time to time, conduced, I think, rather to stupefy than to
comfort the poor fellows, who were beginning to lose all heart, and to
huddle together for warmth in the forecastle.

“Lightning, green and ghastly, glared forth at times, revealing the
weird aspect of the crippled and snow-covered brig; yet it had the
effect of clearing the atmosphere and enabling us to see the stars; but
still the wind blew fierce and biting over the vast ice-fields, and
still the fated craft flew on—we scarcely knew whither—but as the event
proved, between the headland of Buenovista and the enclosing ice.

“We had the utmost difficulty in keeping a lamp in the binnacle, and by
its light, amid the storm, Urbain Gautier, the French-Canadian, who had
the wheel, was steering; no other man on board but he could have handled
it singly and kept the brig to her course, for he had the strength of
three of us, and seemed alike impervious to cold and to suffering.

“I think I can see him now as he stood then, with his feet firmly
planted on the quarterdeck grating, his hands on the spokes of the
wheel, and the livid lightning seeming to play about him, as the brig
flew on through the storm and the darkness, and with every varying flash
his features changed in hue. Now they were green, and anon red or blue;
now purple, and then ghastly white; ever and again, as the lightning
flashed forth, this infernal face came out of the gloom with a
diabolical grotesqueness, and a strange smile on it that appalled us
all; and now another day began to break.

“’Mate, that fellow is more like a devil than a human being,’ whispered
Bob Jenner to me, echoing my own thoughts, as we clung together to the
belaying pins abaft the mainmast.

“He spoke in a low whisper; but in an instant the eyes of Urbain were on
him.

“’Ah!’ said he, showing his serrated teeth, ’a _maladroit_ speech,
messmate.’

“’No messmate of yours,’ growled Bob, unwisely.

“’Shipmate, then,’ suggested the other, with a strange glance, between a
grin and a scowl, for his black, glittering eyes wore one expression,
and his cruel mouth another.

“’Well, mayhap, for so it must be,’ said Bob, bluntly.

“’Ah,’ said Urbain, with his horrible smile, as he held the wheel with
one hand, and—even at that terrible time—felt for his sheath-knife with
the other; ’ah! you think me a _mauvais sujet_, do you?”

“’I doesn’t know what “mavy suggey” may be, and I doesn’t care if I
never does,’ replied Bob, sturdily; ’but once I catches you ashore,
mounseer, I’ll teach you not to grip your knife when speaking to me.’

“’No quarrelling, lads,’ said I, while my teeth chattered in the cold of
that awful morning atmosphere. ’I only wish we were ashore.’

“’Then have your wish. Land ho!’ sung out Urbain; and at that moment
the grey wrack around us parted like a curtain; there was a dreadful
crash, which tumbled us all right and left; the breakers which he had
seen ahead were now boiling around us; and the brig lay bulged and
broken-backed upon a reef, close to a lofty line of rocky coast, a
helpless wreck, with the ice closing round her; and with a sound between
an oath and a laugh, Urbain quitted the now useless wheel, which
oscillated, as if in mockery, to and fro.

“Captain Benson, who, worn out by toil, had been snatching a few
minutes’ repose under the hood of the companionway, now sprang on deck,
to find the brig totally lost, and that for us there was no resource, if
we would save our lives, but to abandon her and get on shore.

“Broken and bulged, she was too firmly wedged on the reef for us ever to
have the slightest hope of getting her off, save to sink her in deep
water. As yet she might hold together for some hours, if the fury of
the storm abated, and there were evident signs of such being the case.

“As each successive blast grew less in fury, and as the force and sound
of the sea went down, we heard the wild streaming of the Baccalieu
birds; and now, ere the water, which was rising fast in hold and cabin,
destroyed everything, we procured charts and telescopes, to discover on
what part of that barren, bleak, and most desolate of all the American
shores, our fate had cast us.

“On comparing the outline of the snow-clad coast with the diagrams on
the chart, we found we were stranded somewhere between the Bloody Bay
and the Bay of Fair and False, about one hundred and twenty miles to the
north-westward of the point from whence we had sailed.

“Few or no settlers, even of the most hardy and desperate description,
are to be found thereabout, as the inhabitants between that place and
the Bay of Notre Dame, about one hundred and fifty in number, are poor
wretches who fish for cod and salmon in what they call summer, and for
seals and the walrus in winter, and usually retire for the latter
purpose to St. John’s, or bury themselves in the woods till the snow
disappears, about the month of June.

“We had but a sorry prospect before us; every instant the brig was going
more and more to pieces beneath our feet, and our glasses swept the far
extent of the snow-clad coast in vain, for not a vestige of a human
habitation, or any sign of a human being, could be seen. No living
thing was there save the Baccalieu birds, which screamed and wheeled in
flocks above the seething breakers.

“Captain Benson’s resolutions were taken at once. He resolved to
abandon the wreck, and make his way by land at once for Trinity, a
little town on the western side of the great bay that divides Avalon
from the mainland of the island, or for Buenoventura, another settlement
twelve miles to the southward.

“By circumnavigating the numerous bights, bays, and other inlets that
lay between us and Buenoventura—especially the long, narrow, and
provoking reach of Clode Sound—provided we failed to cross it on the
ice, we should have at least a hundred miles to travel over a desolate
and snow-covered waste, without a pathway, and without other guide than
a pocket-compass.

“We set about our preparations at once. Every man put on his warmest
clothing, and Tom Dacres lent a cosy Petersham jacket to the Canadian,
Gautier. We greased our boots well, that they might exclude the wet,
and made us long leggings to wear over our trousers by tying pieces of
tarpaulin from the ankle to the knee, and lashing them well round with
spun-yarn.

“For many hours we had been without food, and now examination proved
that, save a few biscuits in the cabin locker, all the bread on board
had been destroyed by the salt water; yet Urbain Gautier was able to
make a meal of it. We were forced to content ourselves with a half
biscuit each, to be eaten at our first halting place on shore. Beef or
other provision we had none, and not a drop of rum or any other liquid
could be had, for the brig was going fast to pieces, as the breakers
surged up under her weather-counter, and all the hull abaft the mainmast
was settling rapidly down in the water.

“Luckily we got up six muskets and some dry ammunition through the
skylight. I say luckily, as we would have to hunt our way to
Buenoventura; and these, with two tin pannikins, wherewith to cook and
melt the snow for water, and a box of lucifer matches for lighting fires
when we squatted in the bush for the night, we made our way ashore in
the quarter-boat, and landed a chilled, wan, haggard, and miserable
little band, consisting of eleven persons in all, including the captain,
Bob Jenner, Tom Dacres, Willy Ormiston, the boy, myself, and five
others.

“We were not without some fears of the Red Indians, though few or none,
I believe, are now to be found on the island. Thus our first proceeding
was to load and cap our muskets carefully.[*]

[*] It was a tradition, when the author was there, that in 1810 an
exploring party, under Lieutenant Buchan, R.N., was sent to cultivate
friendship with the Red Indians, and left with them, as hostages, two
marines. Returning to the Bay of Exploits (about seventy miles westward
from Bloody Bay) next summer, he found the savages gone, and the
headless remains of his two marines lying in the bush.

“Captain Benson proceeded in front, with a fowling-piece on his
shoulder, steering the way, with the aid of his pocket compass and a
fragment of a chart; and he, too, was custodian of our box of lucifer
matches. Just as we reached the top of the cliffs, by a slippery and
dangerous ascent, we heard a sound, which made us all pause and look
back towards the wreck. The field ice had already closed in upon the
reef; but the last vestiges of the brig had disappeared where the
Baccalieu birds were whirling thickest and screaming loudest.

“From the cliff that overlooked the sea, which was covered to the
horizon with a myriad hummocks of field ice, diversified here and there
by a great iceberg, the view landward differed but little in aspect.
The whole dreary expanse was covered with snow—snow that made the frozen
lakes and bays so blend with the land, that save for the dark groves of
stunted firs and dwarf brushwood that grew in the arid soil, it was
difficult to know where one ended and the other began. The hills were
low, monotonous, and unpleasantly resembled icebergs, without possessing
the altitude, the sharp peaks, and abrupt outlines of the latter.

“In all that wintry waste the most awful silence prevailed, and not a
sound was stirring in the clear blue air, for now the snow-storm had
ceased, the wind had died away, and the sky was all of the purest,
deepest, most intense, and unclouded blue. Amid it shone the dazzling
sun, causing a reflection from the snow that served partly to blind or
bewilder us; but now, after sharing our tobacco—all save Urbain—for a
friendly whiff, we set resolutely forth upon our journey, in a direction
at first due south-west from Bloody Bay, towards the upper angle of the
long and winding shores of Newman’s Sound.

“Three days we travelled laboriously, each helping his shipmates on, for
our strength was failing fast, and sleeping in the scrubby bush at night
was perilous work, for the cold was beyond all description intense; but
we selected places where the snow was arched and massed over the low
fir-trees, and there we crept in for shelter, running only the risk of
being completely snowed up. Three days we travelled thus, without a
path, over the white waste, where, in some places, the snow was frozen
hard as flinty rock, and where, in others, we sank to our knees at every
step; and during those three days, save the half biscuit per man which
we had on quitting the wreck, no food passed our lips, and no other
fluid than melted snow; and when the damp destroyed our tiny store of
matches, we had no other means of allaying the agony of our thirst than
by sucking a piece of ice or a handful of snow, and these were sure to
produce bleeding lips and swollen tongues, as they burnt like fire.

“On the third morning, as we turned out, a seaman, whose name I forget,
did not stir; we shook and called him, but there was no response; the
poor fellow had passed away in his sleep, and so we left him there.

“Our fingers and noses were frequently frost-bitten; but when they were
well rubbed in snow, animation returned. Those who had whiskers, found
them more a nuisance than a source of warmth, as they generally became
clogged by heavy masses of ice. Dread of snow-blindness, after the
glare of the past winter, came on us, too; for each day the sun was
bright and cloudless—a shining globe overhead; but a globe that gave no
heat.

“We met no traces of Red, or of Micmac Indians, or of the wild cariboo
deer; the black bear, the red fox, the broad-tailed musquash, the white
hare, and other game of the country, were nowhere to be seen either, or
else we were not trappers enough to know their lairs or trail.

“Snow-birds, and all other fowl seemed equally scarce: in fact, the
severity of the weather had destroyed, or driven them elsewhere, and
with our hollow and blood-shot eyes we scanned the white wastes in vain
for a shot at anything.

“To add to our troubles, little Scotch Willy fairly broke down, unable
to proceed; and as the boy could not be left to perish, we carried him
by turns—all, save the great and muscular Urbain Gautier, who told us
plainly that he would see the boy and the crew in a very warm climate
indeed before he would add to his own sufferings by becoming a beast of
burden.

“’A beast you will ever be, whether of burden or not,’ said Captain
Benson, as he took the first spell of carrying poor Willy, who like a
child as he was, wept sorely for his mother now.

“’_Tonnerre de Dieu!_’ growled the savage, grinding his teeth and
cocking his musket; but as three of us did the same, he gave one of his
queer grins, and resumed his journey; but kept more aloof from us, for
which we were not sorry.

“By contrast to the icy horrors around us, memory tormented us with
ideas and pictures of blazing fires and festive hearths; of happy homes,
of warm dinners and jugs of hot punch; of steaming coffee and rich
cream; of mulled wines; of chestnuts sputtering amid the embers; of
carpeted rooms and close-drawn curtains, glowing redly in the warm blaze
of a sea-coal fire; of warm feather-beds and cosy English blankets; of
every distant comfort that we had not, and never more might see.

“On the fourth day there was no alleviation to our sufferings; no change
in the weather, save a sharp fall of snow, against which we were
sullenly and blindly staggering on, when a cry of despair escaped from
the blistered lips of Captain Benson.




“The fly and needle of the pocket-compass had given way, and we had no
longer a guide!

“Indeed, we knew not where, or in what direction, we might have been
proceeding with this faulty index since we left the ship. Long ere the
noon of the fourth day we should have turned the inner angle of Clode
Sound; but now we saw only masses of slaty rocks on every hand, rising
from the snow, with snow on their summits, save towards the west, where
the vast and flat expanse of a frozen and snow-covered sheet of water
spread in distance far away.

“We thought that it was the sea, but it proved eventually to be the
great Unexplored Lake, which is more than fifty miles long, by about
twenty miles broad.

“In this awful condition we found ourselves, while our little strength
was now failing so fast that we could scarcely carry our hitherto
useless muskets; and now another night was closing in.

“Urbain, who was near me, uttered a savage laugh.

“’What are you thinking of?’ I asked with surprise.

“’Of what, eh?’

“’Yes.’

“’_Très bien!_ very good; I was thinking over which is likely to be the
best part of a man.’

“’For what purpose?’

“’_Cordieu!_ for eating,’ said he, with a fiendish grimace.

“After this the imprecations of Urbain, chiefly against the captain,
became loud, deep, and horrible; but luckily for us most of them were
uttered in French. Ere long the savage fellow’s mood seemed to change;
he wept, and to our surprise offered to carry Willy, on one condition,
that one of us carried his musket; and then once more, guided now by the
direction in which the sun had set, we continued our pilgrimage towards
the south.

“Urbain’s vast strength seemed to have departed now; he was incapable of
keeping up with us, and began to lag more and more behind, so that we
had frequently to wait for him, as we were too feeble to call, and
Willy, who feared him greatly, implored us not to leave them.

“On these occasions Urbain’s old devilish temper became roused, and he
broke forth into oaths, and even threats; so, ultimately, we left him to
proceed at his own slow pace as we struggled towards a wood, dragging
with us a seaman named Tom Dacres, who had been no longer able to
abstain from swallowing snow, by which his mouth was almost immediately
swollen, while he became speechless and all but paralysed.

“Yet on and on we toiled, dragging him by turns, our weary limbs sinking
deep at every step. When I look back to those sufferings, I frequently
think that I must have been partially insane; but it would seem that,
like one in a dream, I went through all the formula of life like a sane
person.

“On reaching the thicket, it proved to be one of old and half-decayed
firs; then we proceeded to suck portions of the bark greedily. After
this we became aware, for the first time, of the absence of Urbain
Gautier and little Willy.

“They had disappeared in the twilight!”

Here Captain Binnacle interrupted his narrative by expressing a fear
that he wearied us; but we begged of him to proceed, as we were anxious
to know how those adventures ended by the shore of the Unexplored Lake.

A still small voice spoke unto me,
“Thou art so full of misery,
Were it not better not to be!”

Then to the still small voice I said,
“Let me not cast in endless shade
What is so wonderfully made.” TENNYSON.

“Nestling close to a rock, from the side of which the snow formed an
arch, we found some moss, which we ate with avidity, and then some
sprigs of savine, which generally grows in the clefts of the rocks all
over the island and the Labrador coast, yielding the berry from which
the spruce beer is made. With tears of thankfulness we devoured them,
and were surmising what had become of Urbain, when about nine o’clock by
the captain’s watch he appeared, but without Scotch Willy, who had, he
said, died about an hour ago, and been buried by him among the snow.

“’Where?’ asked the captain, in a low voice, for Dacres, and two others
of our famine-stricken band, were in a dying condition.

“’Did you observe an old peeled trunk of a tree about a mile distant?’

“’Yes.’

“’_Très bien_—I buried him there,’ replied Urbain, whose voice sounded
strong and full compared with what it was some hours ago. Captain
Benson remarked this, and said—

“’You have hunted and found something to eat?’

“’_Tonnerre de ciel_! Beelzebub—no. I left my gun with you.’

“True; did poor little Willy die easily?” I asked.

“’I wish we may all die so easily,’ replied Urbain, with an impatient
oath, as he crept close to me for warmth, causing me, I know not why, to
shudder.

“I scarcely slept that night, though our snow cell was not destitute of
heat; but vague suspicions and solid terrors kept me wakeful. Willy’s
sudden death appalled me; and something in the bearing and aspect of
Urbain filled me with dreadful conjectures, which, in the morning, I
communicated only to Bob Jenner.

“At dawn we found Tom Dacres dead, and two others dying; to leave the
latter would have been inhuman; the poor fellows were quite collected,
shook hands with us all round, shared their tobacco among us equally,
and while we all smoked for warmth, the captain repeated the Lord’s
Prayer. After which, Jenner and I took our guns and went forth to
explore. With tacit but silent consent, we went straight to the old
bare skeleton tree. The snow around it was frozen hard, and was pure,
spotless, and untrodden, as when it fell some days before; so Urbain had
told a falsehood, and little Willy was not buried there. For a little
sustenance we now sucked the rags with which we oiled our guns, and
looked about us, tracing back our trail of the preceding evening a
little way.

“Suddenly we came upon the footmarks of Urbain, which diverged at an
acute angle from our several tracks, and those we followed for about
three hundred yards, to where a great rock rose abruptly from the snow,
which was all disturbed and discoloured about its base—discoloured, and
by—blood.

“Bob Jenner and I looked blankly at each other, and cold as our own
blood was, it seemed to grow colder still. There, in that awful
solitude of vast and snowy prairies, dwarf forests, unexplored lakes,
and untrodden land, a terrible tragedy had too surely been acted. He
had killed the boy—but why? Removing the snow with the butts of our
guns, a white man’s hand appeared, an arm, and then we drew forth the
dead body of little Willy Ormiston. It had a strange and unnaturally
emaciated aspect. A livid bruise was on the right temple, and there was
a wound, a singular perforation under the right ear. These were all we
could discover at first; but there was much blood upon the snow around,
and on the poor boy’s tattered clothing. Then a groan escaped us both,
when we found that his left sleeve had been ripped up, and that a great
piece of the arm was wanting, from the elbow to the shoulder, having
been sliced off literally and close to the bone.

“’A strange mutilation!’ said I, while my teeth chattered with dismay,
and I evaded putting my thoughts in words. ’If wolves——’

“’Wolves never did this,’ replied Jenner in a husky voice; ’but a knife
has been used.’

“’You mean—you mean——’

“’Look ye, shipmate, at that round wound in the neck.’

“’Well?’

“’After stunning him by a blow, Urbain Gautier has punctured the boy’s
throat, and sucked his blood, like a weazel or a vampire, or some such
thing, and ended actually by cutting a slice from his arm!’

“The whole details of this act of horror seemed but too complete, and
gradually we were compelled to accept the fact, the more so when I
recalled his strange remark of the preceding evening. We became sick
and giddy; the white landscape swam round and round us, and while
covering up the remains with snow we fell repeatedly with excess of
weakness, and then returned to the little thicket—returned slowly, to
find that our band was lessened by three, for in addition to Tom Dacres,
two other poor fellows had just breathed their last. Urbain’s fierce
black eyes questioned us in stern silence as we approached.

“’Did you find the boy?’ asked Captain Benson, who had been singeing the
hair off a fur cap of Dacres, and cutting it into strips for us to chew,
which we did thankfully.

“’Yes, he is dead. Let us think no more of it at present,’ said I.

“Black fury gathered in Urbain’s sombre visage as we came close to him,
and he growled out—’I buried him at the foot of the old tree, shipmate;
so, _diable!_ say what you like, or that which is safer, think what you
like.’

“I was too weak to resent this, or to confront him, and so turned away.
The captain divided some of the dead men’s clothes among us, but these
Urbain declined to share, or in the strips of scorched fur, for his
strength seemed to have been completely renovated during the night; and
after covering our poor companions with snow, we again set forth wearily
towards the south-east, and, weak though, we were, we cast many a
backward glance to the thicket where our three dead shipmates lay side
by side. About noon a covey of white winter grouse were near us; we all
fired at once. Whether it was that we were bad shots, that our hands
were weak, that our eyes miscalculated the distance, or our aim wavered,
I know not, but every bird escaped, and with moans of despair we
reloaded. Then, to add to our troubles, it was found that only three of
us, to wit, the captain, Urbain, and myself, had dry powder left. On
and on yet to the south-east, through the blinding and trackless waste
of snow!

“In a place where a grey scalp of rock was almost bare of drifted snow
we found the skeleton of a cariboo deer. It was pure white, and coated
with crystal frost. Wolfishly we eyed it, as if we would have sucked
the dry bones that several winters, perhaps, had bleached, for not a
vestige even of skin remained on them. Those whose ammunition failed
them, now cast away their guns and powder-horns as useless incumbrances.
We were all reduced to shadows, and two had to support their bending
forms on walking-sticks. Even our jolly captain was becoming quite
feeble, and the despondency of settled despair was creeping over us all.

“Urbain alone seemed hale, and stepped steadily, when others fell ever
and anon in utter weakness. There were times when I surveyed his vast
bulk, which loomed greater to my diseased eyesight, and I thought we had
the foul fiend himself journeying with us in the form of a man.

“What if all should perish—all but he and me? On we toiled towards
another thicket, where we proposed to search for roots or moss, on which
to make a meal, and to light a fire, for evening was approaching; and
now it was that Urbain seated himself on a piece of rock, swearing that
he would proceed no farther then, but would rejoin us in the thicket.
Captain Benson was too weak, or cared too little about him, to
remonstrate, so we passed on in silence to our halting place, where,
most providentially, we found some juniper bushes, which the snow had
preserved, and some soft fir bark, which we devoured greedily.
Refreshed by this, we lighted a fire by means of some gunpowder and a
percussion cap, and heaped the branches on it. A bird or two twittered
past; I fired mechanically—almost without aim—and was lucky enough to
knock over a large-sized pigeon-eagle, which was speedily divided and
devoured, half broiled, ere we thought that the feathers only had been
left for Urbain, of whose guilt Bob and I had informed our shipmates,
that all might be on their guard, and our narrative added to their
sufferings, for now we all feared to sleep, and had to cast lots for a
watcher.

“About dawn he returned, and when we all set forth again, though we had
been renovated by the heat of our fire and by the savage meal we had
made, he seemed, as usual, the freshest among us, and on this day we
observed, in whispers to each other, that he wore round his neck a
red-spotted handkerchief which we had left tied over the face of Tom
Dacres!

“He must have gone back to the thicket where the three dead men lay, but
for what purpose?

“About noon on this day we found ourselves on the summit of a
mountainous ridge of bare rock; it was without snow, which, however, lay
drifted deep around. It commanded an extensive view so far as from the
borders of the great Unexplored Lake on our right, to the head of
Smith’s Sound on our left.

“There was no sign of a human habitation to be seen, and our eyes swept
in vain the horizon, where the white snow and blue sky met, for a
smoke-wreath indicating where a squatter’s cabin stood.

“’Malediction!’ said Urbain, hoarsely, ’if this continues I shall have
something to eat, _bon gré malgré!_—if it should be the flesh of a man.
You seem shocked mate,’ said he to me, as I shrank back.

“’I am shocked,’ said, I, quietly.

“’Well—_diable!_ don’t be so,’ he replied, mockingly, ’because it is
wonderful truly what you may bring your mind to, if you put your courage
to the test, and place yourself _en visage_ with your fate like a man.’

“’Or a devil—eh, Urbain Gautier?’ said Captain Benson; ’but no more of
this, or——’

“’Don’t threaten me, _mon petit capitaine_—my nice little man,’
interrupted the giant, with a horrible grimace, ’or——’ and pausing, he
laid his hand significantly on his knife.

“Urbain now became surly, insolent, and ferocious; but knowing his
singular strength, which failed less than ours, and knowing the secret,
the loathsome and terrible means by which he maintained it—aware also
that he had plenty of ammunition—we dissembled alike our fears, our
suspicions, and our abhorrence of him.

“After we had toiled on for two hours in silence, he suddenly stopped us
all by an oath.

“’_Nombril de Belzebub!_’ he exclaimed to Captain Benson, ’what is the
use of looking for food or game in these infernal wastes, into which
your stupidity has led us? Let us cast lots, and find out who shall be
shot for the food of the rest!’

“’Silence, wretch,’ said Captain Benson.

“’To that it will come at last,’ said Urbain, grinning.

“’Perhaps it has come to it already,’ said Bob Jenner, unwisely.

“’Ah, _sacré_! You think I murdered that boy, do you? And you think so,
too?’ he added to me.

“’I have not said so,’ I replied, evasively.

“’You had better not, or by ——, if you thought me capable of committing
such an act, or if you said it——’ and so on he rambled incoherently,
threatening and bullying; but all the while most surely confirming our
just suspicions.

“’Let us cut him adrift; leave him behind; if we can do so, to-night,’
whispered Jenner to me.

“Low though the whisper was, it caught the huge ears of Urbain, even
while muffled by the lappets of a sealskin cap.

“’Leave me behind, will you? Well, you may do so; but, diable! I shall
not be left without food.’

“About an hour after this we met with a terrible but significant
catastrophe. While we were all proceeding in Indian file behind the
captain, Urbain stumbled on a piece of slippery ice; he fell, and in
doing so, his musket exploded, lodging its contents right in the back of
the head of my poor messmate, Bob Jenner, who fell back, and expired
without a groan.

“We were appalled by the suddenness of this calamity; all, save Urbain,
who rubbed his knees, muttered an oath, and reloaded with all the
rapidity of alarm; while each of us read in his neighbour’s face the
conviction that there was more of design than accident in what had taken
place, though it had all the appearance of a casualty.

“Dissembling still, and having but little time for grief, we covered
poor Bob’s remains with snow, and resumed our melancholy march.

“We were but six now, and five of those were famished scarecrows.

“A mile farther on, we found the ruins of a deserted log hut, which we
hailed with extravagant joy, as our first approach to civilization, and
the abode of human beings. There we resolved to pass the night, which
was approaching, and there we kindled a fire, and with blocks of snow
filled up the doorway, while the smoke escaped by an aperture in the
roof.

“Oh, how genial was the warmth we felt; and though we had only a few
fragments of moist bark to chew, we would have felt almost happy, but
for the recent catastrophe, and for our dread of Urbain Gautier, who as
soon as twilight fell said he would go in search of a shot, and taking
his gun went away.

“We breathed more freely when he left us; but we shuddered with intense
loathing when we knew that he was returning to the place where our dead
companion—too surely murdered by his hand—lay uncoffined in the snow.

“We felt that we were no longer safe with him, and all were conscious
that he should die, as a judicial retribution.

“Lots were cast for the dangerous office of executioner, and the fate
fell on me.

“Instead of alarm or compunction, I felt as one who had a terrible duty
to perform. I became conscious that justice to the dead and to the
living, if not my own personal safety, demanded the fulfilment of the
terrible task which had become mine, and with the most perfect coolness
and deliberation I overhauled my gun, examined the charge, carefully
capped it anew, and sleeplessly awaited him I was to destroy—this
wretch—this ghoul or vampire, on his return from his horrid repast amid
the snow—a repast which his own treachery and cruelty had provided; and
as I waited thus the face of poor Willy Ormiston, and the cheery voice
of poor Bob Jenner, as I had often heard it, when he sang at the wheel,
or when sharing the night-watch, came powerfully and distinctly to
memory.

“I threw more dry branches on the fire, and bidding my shipmates sleep,
addressed myself to the task of watching, and half dozing, with my
weapon beside me.

“I felt sure that Urbain hated me; that he knew I suspected him, and
would too probably be his next victim, especially if my shot missed him,
as he might then legally slay me, and would do so by a single blow.

“Already I felt my flesh creep at the idea of its furnishing a collop
for him, perhaps to-morrow night, when he stole back from the next
halting place.

“I shall never forget the weary moments of that exciting night. I have
somewhere read that ’it is one of the strange instincts of half slumber
to be often more alive to the influence of subdued and stealthy sounds
than of louder noises. The slightest whisperings, the low murmurings of
a human voice, the creaking of a chair, the cautious drawing back of a
curtain, will jar upon and rouse the faculties that have been insensible
to the rushing flow of a cataract, or the dull booming of the sea.’

“I must have been asleep, however, when a sound startled me, and I could
hear footsteps treading softly over the crisp and frozen snow. Rousing
myself, I started to the aperture which passed for a doorway, and which,
as I have stated, we had partially blocked up by snow; and through it,
about fifty paces distant, I saw the tall dark form of Urbain towering
between me and the ghastly white waste beyond. He loomed like a giant
in the bright but waning moon, that was sinking behind the hills that
are as yet unnamed, while a blood-red streak to the westward showed
where the morning was about to break.

“My heart beat fast, every pulse was quickened, and every fibre tingled,
as I raised the musket to my shoulder, took a deliberate aim, and, when
he was within twenty paces of me, fired, and shot him dead!

“The bullet entered his mouth, and passed out of the base of the skull
behind, injuring the brain in its passage, and destroying him instantly.

“So Captain Benson told me, for I never looked on his face again, though
I have often seen it since in my dreams.

“About two hours after this summary act of justice we were found and
relieved by a travelling party of Indians, Micmacs, who come from the
continent of America at times, and domicile themselves chiefly along the
western shore of the island, to hunt the beaver by the banks of the
Serpentine Lake.

“They conveyed us through the fur country of the Buenoventura people to
the miserable little settlement of that name, where we remained till the
ice broke up, when we were taken to St. John’s in a seal-fisher.

“There our perils and suffering ended. We had shipped on board
different crafts for different countries, and the next year saw me
appointed captain of this clipper-ship, the _Pride of the Ocean_.”[*]

[*] A character not unlike Urbain Gautier figures in the account of the
first or second expedition of Sir John Franklin.

Continue Reading

A wind that follows fast

Now, brave boys, we’re bound for marchin’,
Both to Portingale and Spain;
Drums are batin’, colours flyin’,
And the divil a back we’ll come again.
So, love, farewell, we’re all for marchin’!

Eighty-eighth and Inniskillin’,
Boys that’s able, boys that’s willin’;
Faugh-a-ballagh and County Down,
Stand by the harp, and stand by the crown.
So, love, farewell, we’re all for marchin’!

The colonel cries, “Boys, are yee’s ready?”
“We’re at your back, sir, firm and steady;
Our pouches filled with balls and poulther,
And a firelock sloped on every shoulther.”
So, love, farewell, we’re all for marchin’!

Such was the doggrel ditty—some camp song of the brave old Peninsular
days—with which I heard my Irish groom, Larity O’Regan, solacing himself
in the grey light of the early morning, as he rubbed down my charger,
and buckled his gay trappings, in the dawn of the, to me, eventful 22nd
of April. How I envied that man’s lightness of heart! Perhaps he had a
mother in a thatched cabin in some brown Irish bog far away; sisters,
too; it might be a sweetheart—some grey-eyed and black-haired Biddy, or
Nora. If so, they occasioned him but little regret then; and
light-hearted Lanty’s queer song and jovial bearing went far to rouse my
own spirit as I mounted the gallant dark horse that was to bear me in
the fields of the future.

The regiment, mustering about three hundred men of all ranks, came
rapidly from the stables, under the eye of Studhome, and that ubiquitous
and indefatigable non-commissioned officer, Sergeant-Major Drillem. The
sun had not yet risen, but the barrack windows were crowded by the men
of other corps to witness our departure. Their own turn would soon
arrive.

Wilford informed me that the route[*] had come suddenly, when the
regiment was in church, and it was first announced by the chaplain from
the pulpit. The sanctity of the place alone restrained the cheers of
the lancers, but not the sobs of the women; and he added, that by a
singular coincidence, the text the chaplain had chosen for his sermon
was from Proverbs xxvii. 1—”Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou
knowest not what a day may bring forth.”

[*] Order for marching.

As the trumpets blew the assembly on this auspicious morning, their
sound seemed different—more warlike in fact than usual—a portion of the
great movement in which the fate of Europe, and certainly of many a poor
human being, was involved.

As yet Lionel Beverley, our lieutenant-colonel, who wore his Cross of
the Bath, was the only decorated man among us (save a few Indian
medals); but a rich crop of such tributes was to be reaped in the land
to which we were going.

Our plumes had been laid aside, glazed covers were on our square-crowned
caps, and officers and privates alike had canvas havresacks and wooden
canteens slung over the right shoulder; some of the former had
telescopes and courier-bags; but all betokened coming service and
preparation for it.

Our horses were nearly all of a deep dark bay colour, save those of the
band and trumpeters, many of which were white, or spotted grey. The
guidons were all uncased; each was of white silk (the colour of our
facings), embroidered with gold, measuring three feet long by twenty-one
inches on the lance, which was ten feet in length—the regulation for
light cavalry. On the flank of its troop each standard was now flying in
the morning wind.

On this occasion there were, as usual at such times, many of the fair
sex interested in our departure. There was much weeping among many
wives, and certainly among a great number of “very foolish virgins,” as
Studhome designated them. Many of the soldiers’ wives were mingling in
the ranks, and, fearless of the horses’ hoofs, were holding up their
infants for the last kiss of many a poor father who was to find his
grave in the land to which we were departing; and there were many
painful separations among those who were destined never to meet again.

I remember a sergeant of Wilford’s troop, whose wife had recently
presented him with a baby. The latter died suddenly on the night before
we were to march, and, by a singular coincidence, the little thing’s
cradle and coffin were brought into barracks together next morning, but
poor Sergeant Dashwood had to mount and leave his weeping wife and
unburied little one behind him.

He was one of the first who fell at the passage of the Alma.

There was, on the other hand, much heedless jesting and idle levity.

“This time,” said Wilford, to the group of officers who were gathered
round Beverley, “we shall do a portion of the Mediterranean, the entire
Levant, and Dardanelles, at her Majesty’s expense, and without the aid
of Bradshaw or John Murray.”

“So we are actually going at last,” lisped Jocelyn, while playing with
his horse’s mane.

“Ah! but we leave our representatives behind.”

“How, Travers?”

“In a squad of light infantry in arms, no doubt,” replied Travers, a
handsome fellow, with a clear blue eye and long fair moustache. He had
the reputation of being the most rakish fellow in the regiment, and
could not resist perpetrating the old dragoon joke.

“How clumsily we English show grief,” I heard Berkeley say, as he
witnessed a very affecting parting between a mother and her son. “Hear
how that old—aw—woman is permitting herself to howl.”

“Anything is better than having every natural emotion subdued and
snubbed from childhood, as among us in Scotland,” thought I.

Soldiers muster and march at all times merrily. Care cumbers them but
little and briefly, for “with them the present is everything, the past a
point, the future a blank. The greeting of surviving friends is seldom
embittered by the recollection of those who are no more, and in a life
of danger and casualty this is natural.”

Already the advanced guard had been detailed and thrown out, under young
Sir Henry Scarlett. The crowd in and about the barracks was great.
Many carriages full of fashionables from Canterbury, Tunbridge, and
elsewhere, were arriving, for the double purpose of getting up an
appetite for breakfast and seeing us depart; but I saw nothing of my
friends, for whom I was looking anxiously—so much so that Studhome said,
laughingly, as he rode past—

“Come, look alive, Norcliff, and get your troop into shape. There is no
such spoon in the service, or out of it, as an ’engaged man.’”

At another time I might have resented Jack’s banter, but Beverley
wheeled the regiment from open column into line, and opened the ranks,
as the commandant of Maidstone cantered in, with his staff, their plumes
waving and epaulettes glittering. Then, from line, we were formed in
close column in rear of the leading troop, for the delivery of an
address, of which I did not hear one word, for just as the commandant
took off his cocked hat and began his oration Lord Chillingham’s
carriage, preceded by two outriders, drove in, I perceived that it was
occupied by Cora, Lord Chillingham, and Lord Slubber. My uncle and Lady
Louisa, who were on horseback, came at once close up to me.

My pale love looked tenderly at me, and her dark eyes bore unmistakable
traces of recent tears, or was it the long ride in the morning wind
which had inflamed them? All emotion, however, was subdued now, which
was well, as her rare beauty, her bearing and seat in the saddle,
attracted the eyes of half the regiment, seriously damaging the interest
of the old commandant’s address; and my uncle, after warmly shaking my
hand, proceeded to examine, with a critical eye, the mount of our men.

The party in the carriage alighted, so Louisa dismounted and gave her
bridle to her groom.

Our eyes seldom wandered from each other, but we had little to say
beyond a few commonplaces, yet at that bitter hour of parting our hearts
were very full, and she stroked and petted my horse, saying almost to it
the caressing things she dared not address to me.

At last the final moment of departure came, and her eyes filled with
irrepressible tears. Lord Slubber hurried forward to assist her to
remount; but his tremulous hands failed him, or Louisa proved too large
and ample; so I leaped from my horse, and took the office upon myself.

Louisa bit her lip, and smiled at Slubber, with mingled sorrow and
disdain in her expressive eye, as I put one arm caressingly around her,
and swung her up, arranging to her complete satisfaction the ample skirt
and padded stirrup for the prettiest foot and ankle that England ever
produced, and they are better there than in boasted Andalusia.

At that instant a hot tear from under her veil fell on my upturned face;
and then it was that I contrived, unseen, to give her the lock of hair.
It was in a tiny locket, the counterpart of that which I wore at my own
neck. She just touched it with her lips, and slipped it into her bosom.
Save Cora and myself, I think no one noticed the little action.

Another moment, and I found the whole regiment in motion, and, preceded
by the band of a dragoon guard corps, departing from the barrack square.
Many of our men now unslung their lances, and brandished them, while
chorusing, “Cheer, boys, cheer”—a song, the patriotism of which is
somewhat equivocal, though the air is fine and stirring.

Louisa accompanied me, riding by my side, to the gate. What we were
saying, I know not now; but my heart was beating painfully. The scene
around me seemed all confusion and phantasmagoria; the tramp of the
horses, the crash of the band, with cymbals and kettledrums, the cheers
of the soldiers and of the people, seemed faint and far away. I heard
Louisa’s voice alone.

But now a loud and reiterated hurrah—the full, deep, hearty cheer of
warmth and welcome, of joy or triumph, which comes best from English
throats, and from English throats alone—rose from the multitudes
without, as the head of the column defiled slowly through the street;
and I must own that three hundred mounted lancers—all handsome young
men, well horsed, and in gay uniform, blue faced with white, and with
all their swallow-tailed red and white banneroles fluttering in the
wind—presented a magnificent spectacle.

Thousands of handkerchiefs were waved from the windows, and many laurel
branches and flowers were flung among us. Other troops, both horse and
foot, were on the march that morning, and the crash of other bands,
heard at a distance, came over the sprouting cornfields and hop-gardens
of beautiful Kent. I had pressed Louisa’s hand for the last time, and
she had returned to her friends. We had separated at last, and with all
the love that welled up in our hearts, we had parted, as some one says,
“without the last seal upon the ceremony of good-bye, which it is
unlawful to administer in public to any but juvenile recipients.”

I was alone now, and yet not quite alone, for my uncle, though his
military career had been confined to the ranks of the Kirkaldy troop of
Yeomanry, accompanied me for some miles, mounted on a stout cover-hack,
though sorely tempted to spur after some Highland regiment, whose
bagpipes we heard ringing on some parallel road, as we marched along the
highway to Tunbridge, _en route_ for Portsmouth, where our transports
lay.

Sir Nigel bade me farewell at Tunbridge, and turned to ride back to
Chillingham Park, whither my heart went with him. The fine old man’s
voice faltered and his eyes grew very moist, as he pressed my hand for
the last time, and reined aside his horse, looking among the troop for
Willie Pitplado, whom he had known from infancy, and with whom he also
shook hands.

“Good-bye, Willie,” said he. “Remember you are your father’s son.
Dinna forget Calderwood Glen, and to stick to my nephew.”

Willie’s heart was full, and as he gnawed his chin-strap to hide his
emotion, I heard him send a farewell message to his father, the old
keeper.

And then, as the sturdy baronet rode slowly to the rear, adopting at
once the old hunting seat, several of our lancers cheered him, for he
was the last specimen of his class they would probably see for many a
day to come.

I now remembered, with keen reproach, that in the fulness of my emotion
at parting from Louisa—in fact, the selfishness of my love—I had
forgotten to bid adieu to Cora and to Lord Chillingham. About the
latter omission I cared little; but to leave Cora—kind, affectionate
Cora—whose sad and earnest face I seemed still to see, as she gazed so
wistfully from the carriage window, and to leave her, it might be for
ever, without a word of farewell, was a fault almost without remedy now.

However, I lost no time in writing my excuses from our first
halting-place, which was at Mayfield, though some of our troops remained
at Tunbridge Wells, and others had to ride to the market town of
Cranbrook for quarters and stabling. Proceeding through the great
hop-growing district of England, we frequently marched between gardens,
where the little plants were beginning to creep up those tall and
slender poles of ash or chestnut, which (before the hops gain their full
growth, in September) present so singular an appearance to a stranger’s
eye. When those green hops were gathered, and when the hop-queen was
decorated in honour of the harvest home, we were moving towards the
passage of the Alma. Kent was wearing its loveliest aspect now, in the
full glory of hedgerows, copse, and meadows, in the last days of spring,
under a clear blue sunlit sky. The birds, in myriads, filled the hedges
with melody; the purple and white lilacs were already in full bloom, and
the grass was spotted with snow-white daisies and golden buttercups,
while primroses and violets grew wild by the side of the chalky and
flinty roads.

The quaint, tumble-down cottages, covered to their chimney tops with
ivy, woodbine, and wild hop-leaves; the fair, smiling faces that peeped
at us from their lozenged lattices; the sturdy fellows who lounged and
smoked at the turnpike; the red wheeled waggons on the road; the laden
wains, and the canvas-frocked yokels far a-field; the lowing cattle that
browsed on the upland slope; the square white tower of the little
village church on one side; the red-brick manor-house on the other, with
all its gables and oriels peeping above the woodlands; the whistle of
the distant railway train, and its white smoke curling up in the
sunshine, were all indicative of happy, peaceful, and prosperous
England, and of a soil long untrodden by a hostile foot. From every
port in the United Kingdom; between Portsmouth and Aberdeen, troops were
quickly departing now. Being cavalry, on our route through Kent,
Sussex, and a little part of Hampshire, we overtook and passed several
corps of infantry and artillery, which were marching by the same roads
for the same place of embarkation, and stirring were the cheers with
which we greeted each other.

We remarked that the bands of the Scottish and Irish regiments were
almost invariably playing the national quick marches peculiar to their
own countries, while those of English corps played German, and even
Yankee music.

The Black Watch, the Cameron Highlanders, the Scotch Fusiliers, &c.,
stirred each other’s hearts by such airs as “Scots wha hae,” “Lochaber
no more,” and so forth; the Connaught Rangers and the 97th made the
welkin ring to “Garryowen,” and similar airs, which are more inspiring
to the British soldier than those of Prussia or Austria can ever be;
and, as our colonel remarked it, it would have been better taste had the
English bands played the quicksteps of the sister countries than foreign
airs, with which an Englishman can have no sympathy whatever.[*]

[*] The same defect was observed on that great day when Her Majesty
distributed the Victoria Cross. The bands of the Guards played Scottish
airs for the Highlanders, and “Rule Britannia” for the Marines; but
otherwise “favoured the troops and the people with a great deal of
German music, to which no attention was paid. National airs would have
gratified both, and stirred up the patriotism of the people. The
Enniskilling Dragoons and Rifles were chiefly composed of Irishmen; but
the bands did not venture upon a single air peculiar to
Ireland.”—_Nolan’s History of the War_, p. 770.

I remembered a pleasant little incident during our march through Sussex.
As we passed a village parsonage—a quaint old gable-ended house,
secluded among moss-grown trees—the sound of our kettledrums and
trumpets, the tramp of the horses, and the clatter of the chain bridles
and steel scabbards, drew forth the inmates—an aged clergyman and his
two daughters—to a green wicket in the close-clipped holly-hedge, where
the group stood, as in a green frame of leaves, looking with deep
interest at the passing lancers, who were riding in what was then the
order—sections of three. White-haired and reverend, with his thin locks
shining in the sun, the curate took off his hat, and lifted up his hands
and eyes in a manner there could be no mistaking. The old man was
evidently praying for us. His face was expressive of the finest
emotion; he felt that he was looking on many a man he would never see
again. Perhaps he had a son a soldier, or was himself a soldier’s son;
or he felt that he, though old and stricken with years, was destined to
survive many of the young, the hale and hearty in our ranks, who were
still “on life’s morning march.” Some of our officers lifted their caps
and bowed to the little group, and I am sure that Frank Jocelyn kissed
his hands to the girls, who were waving their handkerchiefs, while more
than one of ours cried, “God bless you, old boy!” and frequently, long
after, in the snows of Sebastopol and the terrors of the valley of
death, the face and form of that good old man, and the kindness of his
mute prayer, came to the memory of some of us. It formed one of our
last and most pleasing incidents connected with England.

In four days we reached Portsmouth, which presented a scene of
indescribable bustle and activity; and the fifth day saw my troop,
consisting of fifty men, with sixty horses, and with the colonel,
Studhome, M’Goldrick, one surgeon, the sergeant-major, and rest of the
staff, embarked from the dockyard jetty at eleven A.M., on board a
splendid clipper ship, the _Pride of the Ocean_, Captain Robert
Binnacle, bound for Turkey. The other five troops of the corps were
embarked on board the transports _Ganges_, _Bannockburn_, and other
vessels.

We had not been without hope of going in the _Himalaya_, which would
have taken the entire regiment in her capacious womb, and which,
moreover, is our only cavalry ship; but the authorities had declared
otherwise.

The morning of our embarkation was beautiful; the scene animated,
picturesque, and bustling, such as Portsmouth alone could exhibit at
such a time; but we were sorely troubled by our horses. Some were
conveyed on board in stall-boxes, others were lowered down the hatches
by bellybands and slings, in which, being spirited and young, they were
very restive, lashing out, to the imminent danger of the brains and
bones of those in their vicinity, until they found themselves in the
tow-padded stalls below the maindeck.

Adding to the bustle and interest of the scene, several ships of war
were taking in stores and preparing for sea; boats, manned by seamen and
marines in white jackets, were shooting to and fro between Portsmouth on
one side and Gosport on the other. A strong detachment of the 19th (1st
Yorkshire) Regiment was embarking on board the _Melita_, a Cunard
steamer; the _Euxine_, a Peninsular and Oriental liner, was receiving
many of the staff, a number of horses, and nearly twenty tons of ball
cartridges. A squadron of the 8th, or Royal Irish Hussars, under Major
de Salis, were stowing themselves on board of the _Mary Anne_ transport;
and a great body of Woolwich Pensioners, a numerous staff of veterinary
surgeons, members of the ambulance, ordnance, and transport corps, were
all embarking at the same time. Thus the hurly-burly was prodigious, and
the whole of the quays were encumbered by baggage, stores, field-pieces,
mortars, shot and shell, chests of arms, tents and camp equipage,
guarded by marines with fixed bayonets, or seamen with drawn cutlasses.
With all this apparent activity there was, of course, the counteracting
influence of that red-tapism which is the curse of the British service.
When war was declared the Royal Arsenal did not contain a sufficient
quantity of shells to furnish the first battering train that went to
Turkey, and the fuses then issued had been in store ever since the
battle of Waterloo! Even the mattocks and shovels issued to the troops
had been sent home from the Peninsula by the Duke of Wellington as
worthless!

Here at Portsmouth we saw many a bitter—also to too many it proved a
final—adieu. With all my soul I loved Louisa; and yet, when, standing
on the dockyard jetty there, I saw the partings of husbands from their
wives, and fathers from their children, I thanked Heaven in my heart
that in this, to them, most bitter hour, I had only my good black
charger to care for.

Midday was past ere all the passengers for the _Pride of the Ocean_,
with their baggage, &c., were on board. I had personally to see the
cattle stabled below; the men told off to their messes and watches; the
lances, swords, and other arms stowed away in racks; the valises and
hammocks slung to their cleats, and so forth. In the stables one stall
on each side was left vacant, with spare slings, in case of accidents at
sea.

Fortunately, I was spared the annoyance of Berkeley’s society on the
voyage out, as there was not space for more than one troop on board the
clipper; so he was with Wilford’s on board the _Ganges_. He was not
exactly “in Coventry,” but somehow our mess disliked him, and could not
exactly comprehend, as they phrased it, “what was up” between him and
me.

Now that I was again in favour with Louisa Loftus; now that the untoward
affair at the Reculvers had been completely explained, and that the
victory was mine, and his the shame, defeat, and rejection—nearly all
emotion of hostility against him had died away, or been replaced by
settled contempt. Yet the hostile meeting was still looming in the
future, and would have to ensue on the first suitable opportunity.

I was not sorry when the bustle of embarkation was over, and the clipper
was towed out to the famous reach or roadstead at Spithead, where she
came to anchor for a time, under the shelter of the high lands of the
Isle of Wight.

The noblest army that ever left the shores of the British Isles was,
undoubtedly, that which departed under Lord Raglan’s orders for the
East.

It was the carefully-developed army of forty years of peace, during
which the world had made a mighty stride in art, in science, and in
civilization—greater than it had done, perhaps, between the days of the
Twelfth Crusade and the last day of Waterloo.

“War,” says Napier, in his “Peninsular History,” “war tries the military
framework; but it is in peace that the framework itself must be
formed—otherwise barbarians would be the leading soldiers of the world.
A perfect army can only be made by civil institutions.”

The same magnificent writer says elsewhere, with terrible truth, “In the
beginning of each war England has to seek in blood the knowledge
necessary to insure success; and like the fiend’s progress towards Eden,
her conquering course is through chaos, followed by Death!” and that
such was her course in the Crimea, let the errors of general routine,
the trenches of Sebastopol, and the criminal red-tapism at home bear
witness.

Of the morale of that army there can be no higher evidence than the
voices that came from the poor fellows in our ranks—the letters with
which they filled the newspapers of the day, detailing with spirit,
simplicity, and pathos their humble experiences in the great events of
the war.

All our men loved Beverley, who was a model commanding officer, and my
troop deemed themselves (as I did) peculiarly lucky in being with him
and the head-quarters staff. He took great care of his regiment, and a
strict supervision of the horses.

He had left nothing undone while at home, by the establishment and
encouragement of a school, a library, and so forth, to raise the moral
tone of the lancers, their wives and families; hence some of the
contributions of our privates to the newspapers were fully equal to any
that emanated from Sir Colin’s famous Highland Brigade. Beverley
regularly visited the sick in hospital, and cheered them by his kindly
manner; and all the little ones who played in the barrack square smiled
and welcomed the approach of the colonel, who was seldom without a few
small coins to scatter among them, and cause a scramble; yet, as I have
said, he was somewhat of a dandy, and not without a tinge of affectation
in his tone and manner.

Next evening saw us at sea.

The Nab Light had sunk far astern, and the pale cliffs of the Isle of
Wight had melted into the world of waters.

Old Jack Bloater, the pilot from Selsey, had drunk his last horn of grog
at the binnacle, and left us with every wish for “an ’appy journey—a
bong woyage, as the monseers called it, and that we would soon give them
Roosians a skewerin’.”

And now I knew that many a day, and week, and month, it might be years,
filled up by the perils and stormy passages of a life of campaigning,
must inevitably pass ere I should again hear Louisa’s voice, before I
had her hand in mine, and looked into her tender eyes again—if I was
kindly permitted by Heaven to return at all. But little knew our
departing army of the suffering and horrors that were before it—horrors
and sufferings to which the bayonets and bullets of the Russians were
but child’s play.

I was now away from her finally, and without the least arrangement
having been made for that which alone can soothe the agony and anxiety
of such a separation—correspondence! I clung to the hope that she might
write to me; if not, I could only hear of her from Cora, or perhaps when
Miss Wilford wrote to her brother Fred; and, it might be, from some
stray paragraph in the _Court Journal_ or _Morning Post_, if either ever
found its way beyond the Dardanelles, which seemed doubtful.

I had her treasured lock of hair and the miniature, on which I was never
tired of gazing, especially when I could do so unseen in my swinging
cot, for a crowded transport is the last place in the world for
indulging in lover’s dreams or reveries. It was a poor, feeble
daguerreotype, yet there were times when, by force of imagination, the
pictured face seemed to light up with Louisa’s smile, and when the fine
feminine features became filled by a blaze of light and life, so like
the original that they became perfectly lovely.

Then I would think of Cora, too, and when I reflected over all her
bearing towards me, the light which broke upon me at first became
clearer.

Her tears when she first told Sir Nigel of her suspicion that I loved
Louisa; her sudden changes of colour, from pallor to ruddy suffusion of
the cheek; her hesitation in addressing me at times, her abruptness at
others, or her silence; her vehemence in defending me against the
accusations of Berkeley, and her joy at my victory; her occasional
coldness to Louisa and her silent sorrow at my departure; all that had
at any time puzzled me was explained now.

Cora loved me with a love beyond that of cousin, and I must often have
stabbed her good little heart by my impertinent confidences regarding my
passion for another.

Well, well, Cora’s love and my regrets were alike vain now, for the
swift clipper ship was running on a taut bowline by the skirts of
Biscay’s stormy bay, as she bore us on “to glory” and Gallipoli.

A wet sheet and a flowing sea,
A wind that follows fast,
And fills the white and rustling sail,
And bends the gallant mast.
And bends the gallant mast, my boys.
While, like the eagle free,
Away the good ship flies, and leaves
Old England on the lee.

The cabin was spacious and comfortable. Binnacle, the skipper, was a
short, thick-set little stump of a fellow, with a round, good-humoured
face, which had become browned by exposure in every climate and on every
sea under the sun. He was very anecdotical, perpetually joking and
laughing, and had one peculiarity, that he never in conversation
inter-larded his remarks with nautical phraseology, like the
conventional or orthodox sailor of romance and the stage.

He had never sailed before with a horse on board, and now that he had
actually one hundred of those useful quadrupeds under his hatches, he
spent a great deal of his spare time among them, tickling their ears and
noses—more, perhaps, than some of them quite relished, if one might
judge of the manner in which they occasionally showed the whites of
their eyes, and lashed out at the rear end of their stall-boxes.

On board we smoked, of course, played chess, loo (_rouge-et-noir_, a
little), and daily watched with interest the steamers which passed us,
full of troops, British or French, all on their way to the East. Some
of us kept diaries and made memoranda for friends at home: but some grew
tired of doing so, or reflected that they might not live to record that,
on such a day, the white cliffs of old England were again in sight.

We had quite a bale of the “Railway Library” on board; but to reading we
preferred telling stories, to kill time, or watching, telescope in hand,
for bits of continental scenery, as we ran along the coast of Portugal,
spanned the Gulf of Cadiz, and hauled up for the Straits of Gibraltar,
after passing the rocky promontory of Cape St. Vincent, which we saw
rising from the sea north-north-east of us, about ten miles distant, on
the fifth day after we sailed from Spithead.

During the day we had not many leisure hours, as there is no situation
in which troops more urgently require the personal superintendence of
their officers than when on board ship.

All the lancers were supplied with white canvas frocks, to save their
uniforms, and were divided into three watches, each of which in turn was
on deck, with at least one officer. We had an officer of the day and
guard, who posted sentinels, armed with the sword, at the breaks of the
poop and forecastle, to maintain order, and, when the weather permitted,
we had an hour of carbine and sword exercise, to the great edification
of Captain Binnacle and his crew. Every morning the bedding was brought
on deck and triced in nettings alongside; no smoking was permitted in
the stables or between decks.

The cattle were of course our chief care, and Beverley was always
particular about his mounts. Experience and theory had long convinced
him that the sire dominated in the breed of chargers; thus he ever
eschewed the produce of half-bred stallions and stud horses. We gave
them mashes dashed with nitre, and mixed bran with their corn; daily we
had their hoofs and fetlocks washed in clean salt water, their eyes and
noses sponged, and when at times the windsails failed to act, and the
hold became close, we washed the mangers with vinegar and water, and
sponged the horses’ nostrils with the same refreshing dilution.

Notwithstanding all our care, however, before we sighted Malta we lost
three—one of which was my uncle’s present, the black cover-hack with the
white star on her counter. It became glandered.

Pitblado, who had seen the nag foaled, and had many a day taken it to
graze in Falkland Park, and on the green slopes of the Mid Lomond,
flatly refused to shoot it when I ordered him to do so, but gave his
loaded carbine to Lanty O’Regan, who had fewer scruples on the subject.

When this episode occurred, Cape Espartel was bearing south-east of us,
about twelve miles distant; and by our glasses we could distinctly see
the features of that remarkable headland of Morocco, the north-western
extremity of the mighty continent of Africa, with its range of basaltic
columns, which nearly rival in magnificence those of Fingal’s Cave at
Staffa; and the noon of the following day, as we bore into the
Mediterranean, saw the great peak of Gibraltar rising from the horizon
like a couchant lion, with its tail turned to Spain.

When my poor nag, previous to its slaughter, was being slung up from the
hold, Beverley was much impressed by the real grief of honest Pitblado
for its loss; and told me an interesting Indian anecdote of a pet horse
that belonged to the 8th Royal Irish Hussars.

Beverley seldom spoke of India, for it was a land that was not without
sorrowful recollections to him; and we all knew that he wore at his neck
a large gold locket, containing a braid of the hair of his intended
bride—a lovely girl, who was shot in his arms, and when seated on his
saddle, as he was spurring with his troop through the horrors and the
carnage of the Khyber Pass—on that day when nearly our whole 44th
Regiment perished—and poor Beverley, with her dead body, fell into the
hands of the Afghans.

“When we last went out to India,” said he, “that was when I was but a
cornet of sixteen, and several years before you joined us, we relieved
the 8th Royal Irish, who had been there long—I know not how many years,
but time enough to gain on their colours _Pristinæ virtutis memores_,
with ’Leswaree,’ and ’Hindostan’—honours which they shared with the old
25th Light Dragoons,[*] for five-and-twenty years was then the common
term of Indian expatriation.

[*] A corps disbanded in 1818; and formerly the 29th Light Dragoons,
were raised in 1795.

“The 8th had been at the storming of Kalunga, where their old and
beloved colonel—then General Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie—was killed at
their head, and fell with that splendid sword, inscribed ’The gift of
the Royal Irish,’ clenched in his hand. His horse was a remarkably
noble animal, which had been foaled of an Irish mare at the Cape of Good
Hope; but he had the beautiful Arabian head, the finely-arched neck,
long oblique shoulders, ample quarters, well-bent legs, and long elastic
pastern of his sire—a splendid Godolphin barb. Black Bob was indeed a
beauty!

“After the affair at Kalunga he was put up for sale, with his saddle and
housings still spotted with the blood of the gallant Gillespie, who was
so greatly beloved by the brave Irish fellows of the 8th that they
resolved to keep his horse as a memorial of him; but, unfortunately, the
upset price was three hundred guineas.

“Two officers of the 25th Light Dragoons raised it speedily to a hundred
more. But not to be baffled, the poor fellows subscribed among
themselves, and actually raised five hundred guineas, for which the
beautiful black horse, with his housings, was sold to them.

“Black Bob thus became their property, and always preceded the regiment
on the march. He knew the trumpets of the 8th better than those of any
other regiment. The men were wont to affirm that he had a taste for the
Irish brogue, too, and that he pricked his ears always highest at
’Garryowen,’ in regard that his mother was a mare from the Wicklow
Hills.

“Bob was fed, caressed, petted, and stroked as no horse ever had been
before; and always when in barracks, as the corps proceeded from station
to station where he had been with his old rider, he took the accustomed
position at the saluting base when the troops marched past, just as if
old Rollo Gillespie was still in the saddle, watching the squadrons or
companies defile in succession, and was not lying in his grave, far away
beneath the ramparts of Kalunga, among the Himalaya mountains in Nepaul.

“Well, as I have said, at last we came to relieve the 8th, who were
dismounted, and had their horses turned over to us. They were to go
home, as we had come out, by sea. The funds of the hussars were low
now; pay was spent and prize-money gone. They were in despair at the
prospect of losing their pet horse; but no such passengers ever went
round the Cape, so they had to part with Bob at last.

“A civilian at Cawnpore bought him, and the hussars gave him back more
than half the price, on receiving a solemn promise that Bob was to have
a good stable and snug paddock wherein he was to pass the remainder of
his days in comfort; and this pledge the new proprietor kept faithfully.
But Bob had only been three days in his new quarters, when he heard the
trumpets of the 8th waking the echoes of the compound, as they marched,
dismounted, before daybreak, to embark on the _Ganges_, for Calcutta.

“It was the old air of the regiment, ’Garryowen.’ Then Bob became
frantic. He bit and tore his manger to pieces; he lashed out with his
hoofs and kicked the heel-posts and treviss boards to pieces. He
destroyed his whole stall, and sunk among the straw, bleeding, cut, and
half strangled in his stall collar.

“After a time, when day by day passed, and he saw no more the once
familiar uniforms, and heard no more the voices or the trumpets of his
old friends, he pined away, refused his corn, and even the most tempting
mashes, totally declining all food. So he was turned into the paddock;
but then he leaped the bamboo fence, and with all his remaining speed
rushed direct to the barracks at Cawnpore.

“There he made straight for the cantonment of the European cavalry, and
came whinneying up to the saluting post, where he had so often borne old
Gillespie and seen the squadrons of the 8th defiling past, and there, on
that very spot, the horse fell down and died!”[*]

[*] There was another pet of the 8th Hussars, which met with a different
fate. The jet-black horse, on whose back their colonel, T. P.
Vandeleur, was killed at the battle of Leswaree “long kept his place
with the regiment, and afterwards became the property of Cornet
Burrowes, who took great care of him until the corps left India, when he
was shot, that he might not fall into unworthy hands.”—_Narrative of
Leswaree_. By Dr. Ore.

“I have often heard similar stories of dogs—but never such a yarn of a
horse,” said Captain Binnacle, who was greatly impressed by this
anecdote, and smoked a long time thoughtfully and in silence after it.

“Fact though!” said Beverley, curtly, and rather haughtily, as he tipped
the ashes off his cigar.

“That horse had the heart of a man. But I could spin you a yarn,
colonel, of a man that had the heart of a beast—ay, of a wild wolf; and
it all occurred under my own eye—for I had to shed human blood in the
matter; though I doubt not God above will acquit me therefor, seeing as
how my own conscience acquits me.”

The impressive manner so suddenly adopted by our worthy little skipper
attracted the attention of Beverley, Studhome, and M’Goldrick, and all
the listening group.

Even Jocelyn—a gay fellow, who had more _affaires de fantaisie_ than
_affaires de coeur_, and who never permitted the impulses of that useful
utensil, his heart, to go further than proved convenient or
comfortable—felt himself interested by the gloomy and stern expression
that came into the face of Captain Binnacle.

“Would you like to hear my yarn, gentlemen?” said the latter.

“With pleasure—certainly—by all means—if you please,” said we,
alternately, and all together, for Binnacle was evidently anxious to
spin it.

He gave a glance aloft, and another at the sky. The evening was fine
and clear. The mate had charge of the deck, the ship was running under
her head-sails, courses, top-sails, and topgallant sails before a fine
strong breeze, which, as she rolled from side to side, made our horses
reel and oscillate in their padded stalls below. The watch of lancers
were all smoking or chatting on the port side; the sail-makers, squatted
under the break of the forecastle, were busy on a set of new
studding-sails; the carpenters were at work repairing the headrails
forward.

The result of Binnacle’s glances was satisfactory; and, descending to
the cabin, whither we all followed, he ordered glasses and decanters,
with a case of four square bottles that held something stronger than
decanters usually do. We all betook us to brandy-and-water, except
Frank Jocelyn, who imbibed noyeau and lemonade, a decoction which
Binnacle viewed with sublime contempt; but Frank wore his hair, divided
in the middle, and invariably used _w_ for _r_, so we excused him, as
one might do a young lady.

After a few preliminary coughs and hems, Binnacle told us the following
story, which is so horrible that it fully requires—let us hope
deserves—an entire chapter to itself.

Continue Reading

If wrongs be evils, and enforce us kill

Your words have took such pains, as if they laboured
To bring manslaughter into form, set quarrelling
Upon the head of valour:—
He’s truly valiant that can wisely suffer
The worst that man can breathe, and make his wrongs
His outsides; wear them like his raiment carelessly,
And ne’er prefer his injuries to his heart,
To bring it into danger.
If wrongs be evils, and enforce us kill,
What folly ’tis to hazard life for ill!
TIMON OF ATHENS.

To write to Lady Louisa a full explanation of the affair was among the
first of my resolutions; but would she believe me?—one against whom
appearances, already, no doubt, coloured, distorted, and elaborated by
Berkeley’s cunning insinuations, were so strong?

Without a word of inquiry, or hearing any exculpation, she and Cora had
retired together, and with him, under his requested escort. What fatal
use would he not make of the time thus given him! On, on went the swift
train; but to me even the express seemed a laggard to-night!

Alas! that she I loved so deeply should think so meanly of me, as she
undoubtedly did now.

If I called Berkeley out, and shot him, risking and breaking alike the
civil and military laws of the land, I knew that my uncle would forgive,
and that Cora would weep for me; I knew how Louisa would nervously
shrink from the publicity of such an affair; but I knew also that none
of them would forgive me for an alleged liaison with a creature
apparently so worthless as the cast-off mistress of another—a liaison by
which I lost the love of one so brilliant as the heiress of Chillingham.
Of all such transactions, the old fox-hunting baronet, the mirror of
honour, had a great horror, and within the seas that wash our shores
there was no nobler heart than his. As yet, I could not see the end of
the affair; my heart was swollen, and my head giddy, with rage; I longed
only for friendly advice, and swift vengeance! If the story reached the
ears of Sir Nigel, and he cut off my allowance, my pay as a captain of
cavalry of the line—to wit, fourteen shillings and seven pence per
diem—even with the contingent allowance of seventy or eighty pounds per
annum (for burials and repair of arms, &c.), would never support me,
even on service, in such an expensive corps as ours; thus, if I was a
ruined man, it was all through the wiles of Berkeley! Pecuniarily I
could not remain, and to retire, sell, resign, or exchange for India at
such a crisis, when war was already declared in Europe, would be only to
court disgrace and destruction.

Under any circumstances, to “send in my papers” was social ruin. I
would sell my troop, and follow the regiment as a volunteer lancer,
rather than not go to the seat of war in the East; and all this dilemma,
this vortex of tormenting thought, this agony of anticipated shame,
united with the loss of Louisa Loftus, I owed to the machinations, the
hatred, and the jealousy of the only man I really disliked or despised
in the whole regiment. At last I reached the barracks (where the last
trumpet of tattoo had long since sounded), and sought the quarters of
Jack Studhome, whom, to my confusion, and somewhat to my annoyance, I
found engaged with the colonel on military business. In fact, with the
aid of a couple of decanters of very unexceptionable mess port, and a
box of cigars, they were going over the “Description Book,” which, for
the information of readers not in the cavalry, I may mention is one of
the sixteen ledgers kept by the regimental staff, being a register of
the age, size, and description of the horses in each troop; the names
and residence of the persons from whom they were bought, with the date
of their purchase, and so forth, a column being appropriated for
remarks, to show the manner in which each horse is disposed of.

“You here, Norcliff?” exclaimed Colonel Beverley, with surprise, as he
closed the volume.

“Excuse me, colonel, I know that I should be at Canterbury; but I have
ventured to head-quarters on a matter so very particular——”

“Now, Norcliff, what the devil is up?” interrupted Studhome, getting
fresh glasses the while, and pushing the cigar-box towards me.

“Nothing wrong with your troop, eh?” said our lieutenant-colonel,
lowering his eyebrows.

“No, colonel—a personal matter has brought me here,” I replied, while
they, perceiving that I was pale and agitated, exchanged glances of
inquiry.

“We shall soon be off, Norcliff,” said the colonel; “Travers and others
have disposed of their spare horses; Scriven has sent his stud to
Tattersall’s; the drag we shall leave here with the depôt. Wilford’s
yacht rides at Cowes with the symbolical broom at her masthead. I have
been changing the dismounted men every three days, so that, come what
may, all shall be perfect lancers when the complete mount arrives; and
we have had the horses inspected once in each week by the veterinary
surgeon, to ascertain whether there is among them any contagious
disease, as that, you know, would play the deuce with us on service.
Dragoons without horses (poor Beverley foresaw not the horrors awaiting
the cavalry before Sebastopol) would be like rifles without locks. I
also wish the corps to be supplied with water-decks,[*] but cannot get
them; and now, Norcliff, that you have drawn breath, empty your glass,
and say in what manner we can assist you.”

[*] A piece of painted canvas, to cover the saddle, bridle, and girths
of a cavalry horse, and sometimes pegged to the ground. The name of the
corps was usually painted on the outside; and when the trooper was
mounted for service, the deck was strapped over his portmanteau.

“You shall hear, colonel,” said I, taking his proffered hand; “I sought
Studhome to obtain his advice, as my oldest and one of my most valued
friends in the regiment, and I shall gladly avail myself of yours, under
the pledge of secrecy, as the name of a lady is concerned in what I
shall have the honour to relate to you.”

“Ah,” said the colonel, throwing open his frogged surtout, and half
closing his eyes, as he lounged on two chairs, with the air of one who
waits and listens, “this prologue bodes something unpleasant.”

Beverley’s voice and manner were slightly affected, but withal were very
pleasing. He was, as I have said elsewhere, a very handsome man, of
middle age, with a keen dark grey eye, and close crisp hair, somewhat of
a drawler in speech, but well and powerfully built, broad-shouldered,
lean-flanked, and a good average dragoon officer. Under excitement his
features and bearing changed; he became brief and rapid; his lips became
decided, though his very black moustache concealed them.

I related succinctly the story of Miss Auriol, and the slanders
concerning me circulated in Maidstone—slanders of which Studhome was
quite cognizant; I adverted to my engagement with Lady Louisa, and
detailed the trap I had fallen into, and the use Berkeley had made of
it, adding that I had resolved to parade him—to call him out, and had
told him so, face to face.

“Ah, and what did he say?” asked the colonel, knocking the ashes from
his cigar with a jewelled finger.

“If you lived till the age of Methusaleh, Colonel Beverley, you would
never guess.”

“Well?”

“Putting his glass in his eye, he lisped out coolly, ’Bah! people don’t
fight duels now. In our service at least, since Munro’s fatal affair
with Fawcett,[*] hostile meetings have been hanging matters.’”

[*] The disastrous and reckless duel referred to—the last, I think,
fought in our service—occurred in 1844, between the husbands of two
sisters, in a quarrel about monetary matters—Lieutenant-Colonel David L.
Fawcett, C.B., of the 55th Regiment, and Lieutenant and Adjutant
Alexander T. Monro, of the Royal Horse Guards. The former was killed,
and the latter, after suffering a short imprisonment, was restored to
the service, but not to his regiment. The circumstances must be fresh
in the memory of some of my readers.

“The greater pity, say I,” continued Beverley.

“And he actually replied to you thus?” said Studhome.

“These were his words, or nearly so.”

Beverley’s brow knit, and a contemptuous smile curled his proud lip.

“Such cool impudence is delicious,” said he, laughing.

“But the matter cannot end thus!” I exclaimed, impetuously.

“Of course not, my dear fellow—of course not. Yet if the affair comes
before the mess or the public, how are we to keep the name of Lady
Loftus out of it? Though he might relish the éclât of having his
trumpery cognomen jingled with that of Lord Chillingham’s daughter, and
with yours, it is a very different matter for Lady Louisa. We must be
cautious and circumspect, or we shall land you between the horns of a
dilemma. Women make men’s quarrels infernally complicated.”

“I shall gladly avail myself of your advice, colonel, and Studhome shall
act as my friend.”

Jack summoned his servant by a rapid process peculiar to barracks, and
despatched him to the main guard to inquire whether Mr. Berkeley had
passed in.

The answer came promptly that he was in his quarters.

“How long has he been there?”

“About half an hour, sir.”

“Egad, Norcliff, you have come by the same train from Canterbury,” said
the colonel, after the servant had withdrawn. “How if you had been in
the same compartment?”

“I might have been tempted to throw him out of the window.”

“Studhome, see Berkeley, and arrange this matter; but remember the
honour of the regiment,” said the colonel, “as well as that of your
friend, for at all risks and hazards I will have no public scandal about
us—no handle given to the wretched whipsters of the newspaper press,
when we are on the eve of departure for the seat of war.”

“Trust me, colonel,” said Jack, as he lit a fresh cigar, donned his
gold-laced forage cap very much over the right ear, took up his
riding-whip from force of habit, and hurried away.

The time of his absence passed slowly. I was in a dilemma, out of which
I did not clearly see my way; and the colonel continued to punish Jack’s
port, to smoke in silence, and peruse the “Description Book.”

Deeply in my heart I cursed alike the amenities of civilized life and
the laws of modern society, which deprived me of the means of swift and
certain retribution, even at the risk of my own life and limbs. Such
trammels, in these days of well-ordered police, luckily, perhaps, compel
us to conceal our hates and animosities; to submit quietly to wrong,
insult, and obloquy, for which the very laws that pretend to protect and
guide us afford no due reparation; trammels that avail greatly the
coarse, the cowardly, and the mean, who may thus sneer or insult with
impunity, when in the old pistol days their lives would have paid the
forfeit; and whatever may have been the folly, error, or wickedness of
duelling as a system, there can be no doubt that, when men had the test
of moral courage as a last resort, the tone of society was higher,
healthier, and better, especially in the army. Then practical jokes,
rudeness, and quizzing were unknown at a mess-table; while an open wrong
or insult bore with it the terrible penalty of a human life.

By the rules of the service I knew that no officer or soldier could send
a challenge to any other officer or soldier to fight a duel, lest, if a
commissioned officer, under the pain of being cashiered; if a
non-commissioned officer or soldier, of suffering corporal punishment,
or such other award as a court-martial might inflict.

The penalties of the civil law I knew to be still more severe; and yet
John Selden, one of England’s most able, learned, and patriotic lawyers,
says that “a duel may still be granted by the law of England, and only
then. That the Church allowed it once appears by this: in their public
liturgies there were prayers appointed for the duellists to say; the
judge used to bid them to go to such a church and pray, &c. But whether
this is lawful? If you make war lawful, I make no doubt to convince you
of it. War is lawful because God is the only judge between two that are
supreme. Now, if a difference happen between two subjects, and it
cannot be decided by human testimony, why may they not put it to God to
judge between them, with the permission of the prince? Nay; what if we
should bring it down—for argument’s sake—to the sword. One gives me the
lie: it is a great disgrace to take it; the law has made no provision to
give remedy for the injury (if you can suppose anything an injury for
which the law gives no remedy), why am not I, in this case, supreme, and
may, therefore, right myself?”

While Beverley and I began to talk over such things, Studhome was, as he
phrased it, “bringing Berkeley to book” in the affair.

He found that gentleman in rather a perturbed state of mind, soothing
himself with a cigar, as he lounged in his vest and trousers on a
luxurious sofa, in his elegantly-furnished room, the walls of which were
covered with coloured engravings of horses and ballet-girls. A tall
crystal goblet on the table bore evident traces of brandy and
seltzer-water having been recently imbibed therefrom.

“So, after all that has occurred, you won’t meet Norcliff, as he
wishes?” asked Jack, after the matter had been thoroughly gone into.

“Aw—decidedly not,” said he, emitting his words and a slender volume of
smoke slowly together.

“In Britain, at least, as the law stands now, I can scarcely blame you,
Mr. Berkeley,” said Studhome, stiffly; “but as the orders from London
stand, we are soon to leave, and something must be done in the matter;
for, as it is at present, you cannot both remain in the same regiment.”

“Aw—doocid good that,” replied Berkeley, twirling up his moustache;
“but—aw—who is the muff that is to quit it, now that we have orders of
readiness?”

“You, sir,” said Jack, rather perplexed.

“Thank you; but—aw—beg to decline. And this mysterious something which
must be done—aw—eh?”

“I would recommend a candid confession on your part; such an
explanation, in writing, as my friend, Captain Norcliff, may show to
Lady Loftus and then commit to the flames, or return it to you.”

“The deuce!” drawled Berkeley, holding his cigar at arm’s length, and
wheeling the sofa half round, to have a better view of our adjutant.
“Is there any other little thing you would like?”

“I think not, sir.”

“My good friend, Studhome, you are, I have not a doubt, a very excellent
adjutant, well up in lance, sword, and pistol exercise—knowing how to
’set a squadron in the field,’ like the amiable Othello; but
you—aw—aw—must really permit me to be the best judge of my own affairs.”

Studhome bowed haughtily, and then stood, cap and whip in hand, erect;
so Berkeley resumed—

“You are aware of the whispers concerning Norcliff and that girl, Agnes
Auriol—isn’t that her name?”

“Yes, sir; I am aware there have been malicious whispers, and I have my
eyes now on the circulator of them.”

“Very good,” said Berkeley, colouring slightly; “they are very current
among the 16th Lancers and 8th Hussars. I have known a little of the
girl; but have—aw—tired of her now. We all tire, my dear fellow, of
such affairs in time. Take a cigar—aw—you won’t—what a bore! well, so my
advice to your irritated Scotch friend would be that, as she is at
perfect liberty to leave my protection, she may enter quietly upon his;
so there is an end to the doocid affair.”

“So you may affect to think,” said Studhome, eyeing the lounger with
angry scorn.

“What could be more equivocal, as Lady Loftus admitted, than the
circumstances under which we found them? He was supporting—actually
caressing her; and then there was his proffered fifty-pound note. My
dear fellow, people are not such devilish fools as—aw—to give fifty
pounds to such girls for—aw—nothing!”

“Whatever you may pretend to think, or affect to say, of that affair, of
my friend’s ultimate intentions, as a man of spirit, you cannot be
unaware.”

“Aw—I don’t choose to speculate upon them.”

“This trifling, sir, is insufferable! He may lash you in the face with
his whip before the whole regiment, when Beverley wheels it into line
to-morrow, and so make you a scandal to us, to Maidstone, and the entire
British Army, from the Life Guards to the Cape Rifles.”

“Lash me?”

“Yes; and soundly too!”

“I don’t think he will.”

“Why?”

“For then the whole story would come out, there would be an
arrest—aw—and court of inquiry, and my Lady Louisa Loftus would have her
august name paragraphed in every paper, from the _Morning Post_
downwards.”

“And under this belief in his forbearance, which pays my friend a high
compliment, you actually shelter yourself?” said worthy Jack Studhome,
with intense scorn.

“I shall take my chance.”

“Then, sir, cunning as you are, and though believing that my friend must
submit to lie under a vile imputation, and, if it so happen, be ruined
with Lady Louisa Loftus and his friends, you cannot expect to get off
scot free. The devil! we live in strange times. Are we sunk so low
that officers and gentlemen, that honourable and gallant members, that
noble lords, that counsellors learned in the law, and even jolly
students, are to settle their disputes in pothouse fashion, by womanly
vituperation or vulgar fisticuffs, without ever dreaming of a recourse
to the pistol? Men of all ranks, from the premier peer down to the
anonymous scribblers of the daily press—

Those grovelling, trodden, whipt, stript, turncoat things,
Made up of volumes, venom, stains, and stings,—

may now brand each other as liars, cowards, and ruffians, with perfect
impunity. Do you understand me, sir?”

“Not quite.”

“How so? I speak plain enough!”

“Such fellows are—aw—out of my way.”

“Then you will understand this, sir,” said Studhome, grasping him
fiercely by the shoulder, and with an expression in his eye which made
even the insouciance of Berkeley to evaporate, “a few weeks must see us
in the Levant, on the shores of Turkey, and before the enemy. A duel
shall come off there, and to evade alike the laws of Britain and the
rules of the service, the seconds shall bind themselves by a solemn
promise to declare that he who may be wounded, or he who may be killed,
was struck by a chance shot from the enemy. You comprehend this
arrangement, sir?”

“Perfectly.”

“And your friend—who is he to be?”

“Captain Scriven, of ours.”

“Good—I shall see him instantly.”

“So that was your arrangement, Studhome?” asked Beverley.

“Yes; there was no other way. Scriven promises and agrees, and has
passed his word for secrecy. Do you approve, colonel?”

“Why, I suppose that I must; and you, Norcliff?” he inquired.

“Wish to Heaven that I saw Malta, or even Gibraltar, sinking into the
sea upon our lee quarter!” said I, with fierce fervour, as I shook
Studhome’s hand, and for that night, at least, was obliged to content
me, and return to my troop at Canterbury.

“If one in our ranks shows the white feather before the Russians, I
believe Berkeley will be the man,” said Beverley, as he and Studhome
smoked a last cigar with me on the platform before the down-train
started.

Since there’s no help, come let us kisse and part.
Nay, I have done; you get no more of me;
And I am glad—yea, glad with all my heart—
That thus so clearly I myself can free;
Shake hands for ever. DRAYTON, 1612.

Unslept and unrefreshed, after returning to Canterbury, I found myself
next day at morning parade, and undergoing all the routine of regimental
drill, by troop and squadron, with the hussar corps to which we were
attached, while my thoughts and wishes were apparently a thousand miles
away from the present time and circumstances.

The prospect of “satisfaction,” as it is termed, even in the unusual
mode in which it was to be obtained, and though deferred, soothed me;
but how was I circumstanced with Louisa? She believed me untrue to her!
I was still under the false colours in which the artful Berkeley had
contrived to show me.

My ring was returned, and though I still wore hers, our engagement
seemed to be silently, tacitly broken; her miniature I would look upon
no more—its features filled me with rage and torture.

Over the day which followed my last unlucky visit to the cottage near
the Reculvers I shall gladly hurry. Ordering my horse—the black
cover-hack with the white star on its counter—I was about to start for a
ride, before mess, towards Ashford, when Pitblado placed in my hand two
notes, which had just come by post. On one I recognised the handwriting
of Cora; on the other the coronet and monogram of the Countess of
Chillingham! My heart leaped to my head, and I tore open the latter
first.

It was simply a card of invitation in the usual form—the Earl and
Countess of Chillingham requested the honour of Captain Norcliff’s
company at a friendly dinner, at eight o’clock on the evening of the
20th inst.—only three days hence, so the time was brief; but then we
were under orders of readiness, and everywhere troops—horse, foot, and
artillery—were pouring towards Southampton and other places for
embarkation. The note concluded by mentioning that Sir Nigel Calderwood
was expected from Scotland.

The invitation was perplexing; but I reflected that the earl and
Countess were alike ignorant of the relations that had existed between
their daughter and me, and the sharp wrench by which those tender
relations had been so suddenly broken.

I could not refuse; and if I accepted, how was I to meet Louisa? And
now, what said Cora?

Her dear little note was brief and rapid, but explained all, and more
than I could have hoped for. Miss Agnes Auriol, on seeing the false
position in which Berkeley had contrived to place me, had generously
transmitted, last night, by her old nurse, all the letters she possessed
of Mr. Berkeley, and these had served completely to explain her
relations with him, and to exonerate me, affording a complete clue to
what had already excited their suspicion and surprise—Berkeley’s
intimate knowledge of the cottage, and the strange fact of his
possessing a latch-key for it.

“Louisa knows everything, and now believes that she has been too
precipitate;” so ran the note. “Restore her ring when you meet, and I
shall tell you a great deal when we see you here. It is Louisa’s
request that you meet her as if nothing had taken place. Will you
believe it, that yesterday morning, before that horrid scene occurred,
Berkeley had actually proposed to her in form, and been
rejected—rejected, dear Newton, and for you? (This part of the note was
singularly blurred, blotted, and ill-expressed for Cora.) I need not
tell you to make yourself pleasant, for papa is expected, and Lord
Slubber is to be here.”

A postscript added that the packet of letters had been returned to the
cottage that morning by a servant—but he found the place locked up, and
the inmates gone, none could tell him whither; so, in this dilemma, they
had been posted to Berkeley himself, at Maidstone barracks.[*]

[*] When serving in the East, a paragraph in a Welsh newspaper recorded
the death of Agnes Auriol in the parish where her father had been
incumbent. She was found dead at the stile which led to the village
burying-ground; and the verdict of the jury was “Death by the visitation
of God.”

I answered the notes, gave them to Pitblado to post, and turned along
the Ashford Road like one in a dream, letting the reins drop on my
horse’s neck, and having ample food for serious reflection and mature
consideration; for all these meetings, communications, and passages so
momentous to me had been crammed into the short space of barely two
days.

There were yet three days to pass before I should again see Louisa, hear
her voice, and be gladdened by her smile.

Three days were a short invitation to a fashionable household, even to
an officer in country quarters, but they seemed three centuries to me.

I felt, too, that I never enjoyed Louisa’s society less than amid her
own family circle. True, my name was not recorded in Douglas, Debrett,
or any other _libre d’or_ of Scottish or English nobility, but I was not
the less a gentleman, and my whole soul fired up—almost with red
republicanism—at the cool bearing usually assumed towards me by my Lady
Chillingham.

A few hours since, the idea of being made a mark for a Muscovite bullet,
or a Cossack lance, had not been a matter of much moment; now that the
cloud had dispersed, that I knew Louisa loved me still—now that I felt
once more all the witchery with which the love of such a girl can
enhance existence—now that the sweet dream was no longer, as it had been
at Calderwood, a mere dream, but a delicious reality—I came to the
conclusion that war was an impertinent bore, glory a delusion and a
snare, Mars and Bellona a couple of humbugs—the former a rowdy, and the
latter no better than she should be.

I can really assure the reader that I would have borne the intelligence
of a sudden peace with great Christian fortitude and perfect equanimity
of mind; and had it pleased the Emperor Nicholas and the Western Powers
to shake hands, and leave unmolested the Crimea and the “sick man” at
Stamboul, certainly none would have blessed their quiet intentions more
than I, Newton Norcliff.

But fate had ordained it otherwise; and, like the Roman senator, their
“voice was still for war!”

The eventful evening of the “20th instant” saw me ushered into the
drawing-room at Chillingham Park, and on this occasion I went in full
uniform, knowing well that it enhances the interest with which one is
viewed, in times when the atmosphere is so redolent of gunpowder, as it
certainly was at this period of my story; and when one is made up—

By youth, by love, and by an army tailor,

the impression is generally favourable.

Circumstances fluttered me, and it was not without an unwonted emotion
of confusion I made my way among ottomans, buhl tables, and
glass-shades, and seeming to see in the reflecting mirrors at least one
hundred figures in lancer uniform traversing the vast perspectives.

Even the usual cold and haughty countess received me with cordiality
(she was soon to be rid of me for ever, perhaps). Lord Chillingham, a
dignified old peer, whom it is difficult to describe, as there was an
absence of characteristics, and nothing remarkable about him, save the
extreme length of his white waistcoat, met me with the polite and
pleasing warmth he accorded to all whom he cared nothing about.

Cora hurried forward to meet me, looking, I thought, very pale, and not
very becomingly dressed—in deep dark blue silk, with black lace
flounces—and beyond her I saw Lady Louisa. When I approached the
latter, my temples throbbed painfully, and I played nervously with the
tassels of my gold sash, like a raw boy who had just reported his having
joined.

She was calm, collected, and grave—fashionably, painfully so—but then
your well-bred Britons do so hate a scene that they have learned the art
of keeping every emotion under the most complete control, relaxing the
curb only when it suits themselves.

Save Cora, who witnessed our smiling and pleasant meeting, our suave
exchange of bows, and a slight pressure of the hand, none could have
read the thoughts that filled our eyes and hearts, and still less could
they have imagined the stormy adieux of the other evening. The diamond
drops that glittered in Louisa’s eyes as she met me did not run over;
but were absorbed by her thick dark lashes, as she closed them for an
instant, and then looked down. She was simply dressed in white silk,
with diamond ornaments, and strings of pearls among the braids of her
magnificent black hair.

“I invited your friend, Mr. De Warr Berkeley, for the evening,” said the
countess, “but the invitation, I fear, was too short, and unfortunately,
he pleaded a pre-engagement.”

At that moment a bright and intelligent smile flashed in Louisa’s eye.
In fact, the whole of the late affair was known only to the actors
therein—unless I included Beverley and Studhome.

“Captain Calderwood Norcliff—my Lord Slubber,” said the earl, as he led
me forward to an old gentleman, who was stooping over the chair of the
countess, with whom he was smiling and conversing in a polite monotone.

“Ah—indeed—have much pleasure,” said this personage, bowing, with a
broad conventional smile, and giving two of his withered fingers; “any
relation of Sir Nigel Calderwood?”

“His nephew.”

“De-lighted to see you, my dear sir. Sir Nigel is here—arrived this
morning.”

“We but wait his appearance for dinner; our party is small, as you see,
Captain Norcliff,” said the countess, who was certainly still beautiful,
being a larger, older, and more stately version of Louisa, and a
powdered toupee would well have suited her face and stature.

Amid vapid discussions or desultory remarks about the probabilities of
the war, the weather, and the crops, with my Lord Aberdeen’s suspicious
policy—ante-dinner remarks—while my eyes from time to time sought those
of Louisa, I studied the aspect of my wealthy rival, who, little
suspecting the secret of my heart, had immediately engaged me in
conversation.

Lord Slubber was not so tall as he had been; his features, though finely
cut, were somewhat flabby now, and had become a mass of undoubted
wrinkles, yet he had been deemed “the handsomest man of his day,” a
period on which we shall not venture to speculate. The veteran roué
considered himself “a lively dog” yet, and hoped to achieve conquests.
Thus his teeth were a brilliant triumph of art over nature, and though
his head was bare and smooth as a billiard-ball, his pendulous cheeks
wore a delicate little pink hue there could be no doubt about.

His face, with its long, aristocratic nose, somewhat prominent chin, and
receding forehead, and his perpetual simpering smile, reminded one of
the portraits of Beau Nash, and made one fancy how well he would have
suited the powder and ruffles, the bagwig and small-sword of the early
days of George III., rather than the odious black swallow-tail and
waiter-like costume of the present age.

And this garrulous old beau—this “lean and slippered pantaloon”—was the
descendant and representative of the great Norman line of Slobar de
Gullion, who had hamstrung the Saxon Kerne in the New Forest, extracted
the grinders of the sons of Judah; who had made their mark (as an Irish
navvy might do) at Magna Charta, and ridden in all their ironmongery in
Edward’s ranks at Bannockburn, and in Henry’s at Agincourt.

My satisfaction in finding myself still the lover of Louisa, and again
the guest of her father, was somewhat dashed by the presence of this, in
some respects, formidable rival, who, as the countess informed me in a
whisper, was about to be created a marquis for his zealous support of
Lord Aberdeen’s administration, and was to be decorated with the Garter,
of which the Emperor Nicholas had just been deprived.

I muttered something by way of reply, and Lady Louisa, who was seated
near us on an ottoman, said, laughingly, behind her fan—

“A marquis and K.G. Oh, mamma, such an old quiz it is! But, only
imagine, he has been proposing to take us all, and Cora, too, in his
yacht to Constantinople—or even to the Black Sea, if we wish it.”

“How kind of him.”

“She carries brass guns, and he believes he may assist Admiral Lyons, if
necessary.”

“Remember that he is a devoted admirer of yours,” I heard Lady
Chillingham whisper, with a glance which repressed her daughter’s desire
to laugh outright.

“Hush, mamma,” she replied, shutting her fan sharply; “confidences are
unusual in you; and as for he you speak of, his appearance is quite
enough to make one grow old.”

Whether the countess would have checked this unseemly remark, which I
could not help overhearing with joy, I know not, for at that moment the
roar of the dinner-gong was heard in the vestibule, and my uncle, Sir
Nigel, looking hale, hearty, and ruddy, with his silver hair all shining
and waving, entered, and shook hands with all, but with none so warmly
as me. He wore a dark grey riding-coat, top-boots, and white corded
breeches, a costume for which he apologized to the countess, and then
turned again to me.

“Egad, Newton, glad to see you, my dear boy—in uniform, too—how well the
fellow looks in his sash and epaulettes! Your pardon for being so late,
Lady Chillingham; but I rode over to the barracks, thinking to accompany
Newton here. How glad Willie, my old keeper’s son, was to see me!
Returning, I lost my way among a network of green lanes and hedgerows;
but as your Kent here is as flat as a billiard-table, when compared with
Fife and Kinross, the slopes of the Lomonds, and the Saline hills, I
rode straight for Chillingham, rushing my horse at hedges, sunk fences,
and everything that came in its way, in defiance of threats against
trespassers, and so forth, and I am here!”

“Coming as became the master of the Fife hounds, eh, Sir Nigel?” said
the countess; “but now I shall take your arm.”

The earl led Cora, Slubber gave his arm to Lady Louisa; and I thought of
honest Chaucer’s “January and May,” as I brought up the rear, solus,
playing with the tassels of my sash, and gnawing my moustache, as we
marched through a double line of liveried servants to the dining-room,
where I contrived to seat myself on her other side.

There was an air of propriety about old Slubber, which, though it made
Louisa laugh, was intensely provoking to me, who had to keep my
conventional distance. However, I could cross a country with her when
riding to hounds, and claim her lithe waist for a waltz when occasion
offered; thank heaven! our senile Anglo-Norman was beyond these, and a
few other things now; and she gave me many a bright and intelligent
glance from under her long black eyelashes, which were almost curled at
the tips—recognitions of which his self-satisfied lordship was in
blissful ignorance.

I had the engagement ring to restore; but in the meantime our
conversation was confined to dinner-table twaddle, and as the dinner was
served up _à la Russe_, and all the carving done aside, even its
courtesies were abolished: so we confabulated with much hollow
earnestness on the prevalent rumour that all the cavalry, light and
heavy, were to march through France to Marseilles, the last batch of
novels from Mudie’s, the race meetings, the future Derby, and other
topics equally far from our hearts; and then we had to laugh at old Lord
Slubber, when he perpetrated the joke that every small wit did at that
time.

“Turkey, my lord?” said a servant.

“Thanks—a slice—just what Nicholas wants.”

“And what you, Newton, and other fellows, must prevent him from getting,
eh?” said Sir Nigel.

To return our engagement ring was the chief object that agitated me
during dinner; and, on perceiving that Louisa had drawn the glove off
her lovely left hand, I almost thought the return was thereby invited;
and as we dawdled over the dessert, which was served up on the earl’s
favourite Rose du Barri service of Sèvres china, and while Slubber waxed
eloquent on his friend Lord Aberdeen’s doubtful policy, which my uncle
tore all to fritters, I contrived, unseen, to place my Rangoon diamond
in her hand, which closed upon it and mine, with a rapid, but nervous
pressure, which sent a thrill to my heart, and a flush to my cheek.

It was done!

Recovering—if, indeed, she ever lost it—her complete composure, she
asked me, with a smile, as if casually, how I liked the family motto,
which was graven round the champagne goblets.

“_Prends moi tel que je suis_,” she added, reading it.

“I understand it with delight,” said I.

“Take me such as I am,” she translated, with a glance which filled me
with joy.

Poor old Slubber knew nothing of the little enigma that was being acted
almost under his aristocratic nose, and amid such trivial remarks as
these—

“What bin is this port from, Mr. ——?” naming the butler.

“Good, remarkable port, my Lord—bin ten—vintage, 1820; it is the finest
old wine in the county of Kent.”

“Don’t taste so,” said Lord Chillingham; in fact, it had been voted out
of the servants’ hall as intolerable. “And the sherry—eh?”

“Pale, my lord,” whispered the butler; “you paid three hundred a butt
for it—from the small bin.”

“Good—uncork some of the Moselle.”

In the calm, inscrutable face, and tutored bearing of Louisa Loftus, no
one could have read the deep secret we had just shared in—the
reconciliation of two ardent and anxious hearts—the bond of love and
trust renewed; but this strange power of veiling all agitation at times
is incident alike to birth and training, and to the local influences of
these in the present time, when in modern society the human face is too
often a mere mask which conceals every emotion, exhibiting a calm
exterior, however at variance with the mind or disposition of the
person; thus, though her pride and self-esteem had been recently stung
to madness, and her heart had been crushed within her, now, under the
revulsion incident to a great joy, and reunion with me, Louisa was able
to wreathe her sweet face with a quiet and well-bred smile, while she
listened to the senile gabble of my Lord Slubber.

Great emotions, like those excited by the affair of Agnes Auriol, seldom
can remain long, and must subside; Louisa was quite subdued, and sunk in
softness and love to-night. She was all that I could desire—my own
Louisa.

The gentlemen soon joined the ladies in the drawing-room, and I drew at
once near Louisa, who was again seated on the same ottoman with Cora.
Lady Chillingham was idling in an easy-chair, half asleep, near the
fire, with her feet placed on the velvet fender-stool, and a silky
lapdog on her knee; but she roused herself on the approach of Lord
Slubber to whisper one of his old-fashioned compliments, coined in the
age when gallantry was a study.

“And you think the cavalry will not go through France?” said Louisa,
taking up, after a time, the thread of some of her former remarks, while
Cora fixed her tender and beautiful eyes kindly on my face.

“It is extremely doubtful,” said I.

“And why so, Newton?” asked Cora.

“Because, cousin, it is feared that the red coats will not be popular in
France; and then there are the Scots Greys, who are literally covered
with trophies of Waterloo;[*] they especially would prove a very
unpalatable spectacle to the men of the Second Empire.”

[*] This circumstance delayed for a time the appearance of the Greys in
the ranks of the allied army. They departed from Nottingham in July,
1854, with their band playing “Scots wha hae,” &c.

“Your route will be a long but very pleasant one, by classic seas and
classic shores,” said Louisa. “Shall we trace it on the map of the
Mediterranean, in the library? Come, Cora.”

There was a tremulous change in her voice, and a glance in her eye that
I could not mistake.

Quitting the drawing-room unnoticed by our seniors, we stepped into the
library, the oak shelves of which were loaded with books of all sizes in
glittering bindings, more seemingly for show than use, and approaching
the large stand of maps on horizontal rollers, we drew down that of the
Mediterranean, while Cora, whose good little heart forboded that we
needed not her geographical aid, eyed us wistfully for a second, and
passed out by a door beyond.

The library had green-shaded lamps, which were half lighted; thus we
were almost concealed in shadow, and the huge cloth-mounted map we
affected to examine hung before us like a friendly screen. We had but a
few stolen moments for conversation, and one impulse animated us.

I turned to Louisa; her face drew closer to mine, and our lips met in
one long, long passionate kiss—such a kiss as if our souls were there.

“You understand all, now, Louisa?” said I.

“All,” she said, in the same breathless voice.

“And forgive all—about that poor girl, I mean. How appearances were
against me!”

“Oh yes, dear, dear Newton.”

“And you love me?”

“Oh, Newton!”

“You love me still?”

“Can you ask me while petting me thus? You have felt our separation
since those few happy days at Calderwood?”

“As a living death, Louisa. Worse than anticipations of the greater
separation that is to come.”

“With all its dangers!” she said, with her eyes now full of tears.

“Yes; for whatever happens I shall feel assured——”

“That your poor Louisa loves you still—loves you dearly, Newton; and ere
you go to-night you must give me a lock of your hair.”

Her head on my shoulder; her pale brow against my cheek, her lips were
close to mine.

“Till we are both in our graves, dear Newton, you can never, never know
how much I love you, and the agony that Berkeley’s cunning cost me.”

These were blessed words to hear—blessed words to treasure in the
distant land to which I was going; and in a silence more eloquent than
words, I could but press her to my heart.

This was indeed a moment of reunion, never to be forgotten, but to be
treasured in the secret recesses of the soul, and recalled only at
times; and times there were when I recalled it, when far, far away, in
the lonely watches of those dark nights, when the chafing of the Black
Sea was heard afar off on the rocks of Fort Constantine, and the thunder
of Sebastopol was close and nigh; and then the vague, undefined memory
of the place, the time, her voice, her eyes, and her kiss, would come
gradually back, filling my heart with intense melancholy, and my eyes
with tears.

In my doubt of the future, in my fear of ensnarements, and the exercise
of parental authority (a power of which we stand in such awe in
Scotland), and lest, by an unforeseen chance or circumstance, I should
lose her, I actually besought her, in what terms it is impossible to
remember now, to consent to a private marriage; and strange ideas of
written promises and protestations, of blood mingled with wine, and many
other melodramatic absurdities, occurred to me.

“Ah, no, no,” said she, rousing herself to the occasion. “There will be
time enough when you return.”

“If I ever do return,” said I, impetuously, thinking of the chances of
war, and my certain hostile meeting with Berkeley.

“You must return, dear Newton—you shall, and I feel it in my heart.”

“And there will be time——”

“For me,” she interrupted, “to be cried, as Lydia Languish says, ’three
times in a parish church’, and have an enormously fat parish clerk ask
the consent of every butcher in the parish to join in lawful wedlock
Newton Calderwood Norcliff, bachelor, and Louisa Loftus, spinster;
unless we have a special licence, St. George’s, Hanover Square, and the
Bishop of London in his lawn sleeves, and so forth.”

This sudden change of manner at such a time startled and distressed me.

“It is her way—a mistaken lightness of manner,” thought I.

But, alas! I was yet to learn some terrible lessons in the treachery of
the human heart!

Another brief and mute embrace, and we had just time to veil our mutual
agitation and turn our attention to the outspread map of the
Mediterranean, affecting to trace the distance from Cagliari to Malta,
when we heard the voice of Lord Chillingham saying to Sir Nigel—

“Here they are, reviving their geography apparently. Captain Norcliff,”
he added, “here is a note for you which has just been brought by an
orderly dragoon.”

“Thanks, my lord. Is he waiting?”

“No, sir,” said the servant, who presented it to me on a chased silver
salver; “he immediately wheeled round his horse and galloped off.”

“Permit me,” said I, tearing it open.

It had been hurriedly pencilled by Frank Jocelyn, and ran thus:—

“MY DEAR NORCLIFF,—The lieutenant-colonel in command of the consolidated
depôts here informs me that the route for ours is at Maidstone, for
which place the troop must march by daybreak to-morrow. Sorry to
disturb your dinner-party; but now the word is ’Eastward ho!’”

I handed it first to Louisa, and for a moment my voice failed me; but
rallying, I said—”I have to apologize for a hasty departure, and shall
thank you, my lord, to order my horse.”

Much that followed was confusion. I can remember my good uncle shaking
me repeatedly by the hand, and patting me on the epaulettes (we were
like officers then, and had epaulettes on our shoulders). Cora wept a
great deal; Louisa was quite silent and very pale. Our parting scene
passed away like a dissolving view; but the bitterness was somewhat
taken from it by the whole party promising to “drive or ride over to
Maidstone and see us march out;” and so, with a kind adieu from all, I
sprang on my horse, quitted Chillingham Park, and soon reached the
barracks, where I found Jocelyn in my quarters awaiting me, and Willie
Pitblado, who had already relinquished his livery for his lancer
uniform, whistling vigorously as he packed and buckled up my traps.

Away from Louisa, I had no relief now for my mind but intense activity.

In the dull grey light of the next morning I quitted Canterbury with my
troop for Maidstone, into which we were played by our own band, which
came a mile or two on the Rochester Road to meet us.

There I learned from Colonel Beverley that, on the following day, we
should march to join the expedition destined for the defence of Turkey.

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