Past, present, and to come;—but all may yield

At half-past one the British infantry advanced into action; like
lightning the order flew along the line, for it was borne by Nolan, the
impetuous and the gallant.

The village of Burliuk, the centre of our position, was still in flames
that rose to a vast height, especially from the well-filled stackyards.

To the right of the conflagration, two regiments of Adams’s brigade, the
Welsh[*] and 49th, or Hertfordshire, crossed the river by a deep and
dangerous ford, under a galling fire from the Russian Minie Riflemen,
who were ensconced among the vineyards on the opposite bank. The
remainder crossed on the left of Burliuk, and, both uniting beyond it,
the whole division of De Lacy Evans found themselves engaged in
sanguinary strife, while we, the cavalry, could but sit in our saddles
and look on, but burning with impatience to advance.

[*] 41st—so called since 1831.

On the extreme left of the British advance, the Light Division, under
Sir George Brown, G.C.B. (a Peninsular veteran of the old fighting
43rd), crossed the stream in their immediate front. Rugged and
precipitous, the bank rose above them. So steep was it in some places
that one of our officers, when in the act of climbing, was mortally
wounded by having his entire spinal column traversed by a ball, which
had been fired perpendicularly down from the Russian ranks above. Dense
vineyards and abattis of felled trees partially obstructed the advance
of our gallant Light Division; but in vain, for the 7th, the 33rd, and
Welsh Fusiliers, the 77th, and Connaught Rangers pressed on under the
volleying fire; and such was their coolness, that the soldiers threw to
each other bunches of the delicious crimson grapes, to quench their
thirst, for they had been long in marching order under a burning morning
sun. The Minie balls were showering past like hail; caps, epaulettes,
ears, fingers, and teeth were torn away, and every moment the men fell
fast on every hand; but from right to left the cries of “Forward! on!
on! forward!” were incessant, and the human surge of the Light Division
swept on, bearing with it the whole 95th regiment. Rapidly they formed
in line beyond the broken ground—rapidly and magnificently—and threw
their steady fire into the strong redoubts with terrible effect; but
hundreds were falling on both sides, and now commenced that ever
memorable charge up hill by which we won the Alma. Faintly in the air
came a yell of defiance from the Russians; it was very different from
“the strong-lunged, massive-throated, deep-chested outbursts of
cheering” that ran along the ranks of the British infantry.

Conspicuous on a grey horse, amid the clouds of passing smoke, we could
see old Sir George Brown, riding as he had ridden with the Light
Division of other days, at Busaco and Talavera. A deadly sheet of fire
now tears through the 7th Fusiliers—led by Lacy Yea—they waver, but
re-form! By the same fire the 23rd are decimated, and Colonel Chester
falls at their head, shouting, “On, lads, on!” Relief after relief is
shot down under the colours of the 7th. One is lost for a time; but,
hurrah! it is safe among the soldiers of the Royal Welsh!

Under their colour, young Anstruther (the son of my uncle’s neighbour,
Balcaskie) is shot dead, and the poor boy rolls down the hill, enveloped
in its silken folds; but again it waves in the wind, as Private Evans
snatches it up, and bears it on towards the Great Redoubt.

Thicker fall the dead on every hand, for it is all musketry, and the
deep, hoarse boom of the cannon, surging like a stormy sea, roll upon
roll. The wounded are crawling, limping, and streaming to the rear; the
dead lie close as autumn leaves in Vallombrosa. On stretchers and
crossed muskets, officers and men are borne to the riverside, and,
reeking with blood, the stretchers return for other victims. Hythe is
forgotten now, and all her science of musketry; for no man thinks of
sighting his Minie rifle, but all load, and cap, and blaze away at
random, though many an officer is shouting, “Steady, men, steady, and
aim below the crossbelts.”

On, yet on, rolls the human surge, for what or who could withstand
them—our noble infantry, our 19th and 33rd, our 77th and 88th, as they
rush on, with colours flying and loud hurrahs!

But now there is a louder cry!

Their leader falls! In a cloud of dust both horse and man go down, and
for a moment the advance is paralyzed—but for a moment only.

Again the grand old soldier is at their head on foot, his sword
glittering above his white head, and, reckless of the tremendous fire
which sweeps through them, our troops dash at the redoubts—a mighty
torrent in scarlet—the flashing bayonets are lowered—man seeks man,
ready to grapple body to body with his foe, and the sparks of fire rise
in the midst as steel clashes on steel, for the Russian hearts are stout
and their hands are strong as ours; the dead and the dying are heaped
over each other, to be trampled on and smothered in their blood.

Nine hundred of our officers and men fell, killed and wounded, amid the
terrible _mêlée_ in the Great Redoubt, and all up the scorched slope
that leads to it. In the torn vineyards, and among the leafy abbatis,
the poor redcoats are lying thicker than ever I have seen the scarlet
poppies stud the harvest fields in Lothian or the Merse!

The red dragon of the Royal Welsh is flying on that fatal redoubt, but
not yet is the victory ours!




Descending from the higher hills, a mighty column of Russian infantry—a
double column, composed of the Ouglitz and Vladimir battalions, bearing
with them the image of St. Sergius, a solemn trust given to them by the
Bishop of Moscow—a supposed miraculous idol, borne in the wars of the
Emperor Alexis, of Peter the Great, and Alexander I.—came rushing to the
mortal shock, in full confidence of victory.

Deploying into line, the great grey mass, with their flat caps and
spiked helmets—for the corps were various—came boldly on, and followed
up a deadly volley by a powerful bayonet charge. Then the ranks in
scarlet, exhausted by their toilsome ascent, began to waver and fall
back, followed down hill by the yelling Russian hordes, who had a
perfect belief in their own invincibility, and barbarously bayoneted all
our wounded as they came on.

Terribly fatal was this temporary repulse to the gallant Welsh Fusiliers
in particular; but now the 7th and 33rd, with the Guards and
Highlanders, advanced, and again the struggle was resumed.

Of the 33rd, nineteen sergeants fell, chiefly in defence of the colours;
and fourteen bullet holes in one standard and eleven in the other
attested to the fury of the conflict.

Throwing open his ranks to allow the retreating regiments to re-form and
recover breath, the Duke of Cambridge now brought up his division,
though there was a momentary fear of its success, for an officer high in
rank exclaimed—

“The brigade of Guards will be destroyed. Ought it not to fall back?”

“Better that every man of her Majesty’s Guards should lie dead upon the
field than turn their backs upon the enemy!” was the stern and proud
response of grim old Colin Campbell, a veteran of the old and glorious
wars of Wellington, as he galloped off to put himself at the head of his
Highlanders, whom he had had skilfully brought on in _échelon_ of
regiments. They reserved their fire, and advanced in solemn silence.

Terribly was our splendid brigade of Guards handled, when the
Highlanders came up, and then, as Kinglake tells us, a man in one of the
regiments re-forming on the slope cried, in the deep, honest bitterness
of his heart, “Let the Scotsmen go on—they’ll do the work!” and, with
three battalions in the kilt, Sir Colin (whose horse was killed under
him) advanced to meet _twelve_ of the flushed and furious enemy.

“Now, men,” said he, “you are going into action, and remember this, that
whoever is wounded—I don’t care what his rank is—must lie where he
falls. No soldier must carry off wounded men. If any one does such a
thing, his name shall be stuck up in his parish kirk. Be steady—keep
silence—fire low! Now, men—the army are watching us—make me proud of my
Highland brigade!”

The brilliant author of “Eöthen,” an eye-witness of this part of the
field, describes their movements so beautifully that I cannot resist
quoting him again.

“The ground they had to ascend was a good deal more steep and broken
than the slope close beneath the redoubt. In the land where those Scots
were bred, there are shadows of sailing clouds skimming up the mountain
side; and their paths are rugged and steep; yet their course is smooth,
easy, and swift. Smoothly, easily, swiftly, the Black Watch seemed to
glide up the hill. A few instants before, and their tartans ranged dark
in the valley; now their plumes were on the crest.”

Another line in _échelon_, and another—the Cameron and the Sutherland
Highlanders; and now, to the eyes of the superstitious Muscovites, the
strange uniform of those troops seemed something terrible; their waving
sporrans were taken for horses’ heads; they cried to each other that the
Angel of Light had departed, and the Demon of Death had come!

Close and murderous was the fire that opened on them; then a wail of
despair floated over the grey masses of the long-coated Russian
infantry, as they broke and fled, casting away knapsacks, and everything
that might encumber their flight, and, for the first time, rose the
Highland cheer. “Then,” says the great historian of the war, “along the
Kourgané slopes, and thence west almost home to the Causeway, the
hill-sides were made to resound with that joyous and assuring cry, which
is the natural utterance of a northern people, so long as it is warlike
and free.”

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Through each long line the curling volumes spread

After the troops crossed the Bulganak, strict silence was enjoined, and
no drum was beaten or bugle blown. Scattered parties of Russian cavalry
scoured all the ground before us; and as they galloped to and fro, the
gleam of Cossack lances, the flash of a carbine, or the steady glitter
of sword-blades and cuirasses, shone at times from among the groves of
the turpentine trees, and between the rocky undulations of the
landscape. Thus we, the British, could not make ourselves quite aware
of the nature of the ground we were approaching, while the French
marched straight and confidently towards certain great cliffs, which had
been carefully reconnoitred from the sea on the extreme right, and which
they were to storm, with the village of Almatamack, at the point of the
bayonet. At nine o’clock, the French on our right—Bosquet’s
column—halted, and quietly cooked their coffee, while our troops were
still moving laboriously over rough ground, to bring our flank closer to
theirs; and now, far beyond the extended columns of the allies—those
long, bright lines of bayonets, sloped barrels, and waving colours that
shone in the sun of a lovely morning—we saw the dark smoke of the
war-steamers towering into the clear air, as they crept in-shore,
seeking opportunities to open fire upon the Russian’s lofty position;
and at twenty minutes past ten we heard the first cannon booming, as
they threw their shot among the imperial troops in rear of the telegraph
station, which was distant nearly five thousand metres from the shore.
Two more protracted halts took place, while final consultations were
made between Lord Raglan and Marshal St. Arnaud; but still we were
drawing nearer the scene of the coming conflict.

Before us rolled the Alma—a picturesque river—which takes its rise among
the western slopes of the Chatyrdagh, in Crim Tartary, and falls into
the Euxine, about twelve miles from Sebastopol. High rises its southern
bank into picturesque rocks, that in some places are precipitous, and
terminate in a lofty cliff which overhangs the sea; and this formidable
position was to be defended against us by more than thirty-nine thousand
Russians and one hundred and six pieces of cannon, led by Prince
Alexander Menschikoff, one of the Emperor’s most distinguished generals,
who had entered the world as the son of a poor pastrycook, but who now
held the supreme civil and military command in the Crimea. A round shot
from a Turkish cannon had mutilated him severely at the siege of Varna,
and hence the hatred he bore the race and faith of the Osmanlis was deep
and fierce. His skill was not equal to his presumption, for he fully
thought—as a letter found in his carriage by Captain Travers of ours,
after the battle, asserted—that if the three invading armies were not
routed at the Alma, he would be fully able to defend its hills for three
weeks, until the Emperor sent him reinforcements from the steppes of
Bessarabia.

Two miles from the mouth of the Alma stood the picturesque little
village of Burliuk. It was now in flames, and the smoke of the
conflagration was rolling among the vineyards, which covered the slope
that extended between the stream and the base of those cliffs along
which glittered the hostile lines of the Russian army. Two miles in
length those lines extended along the hills, which were intersected by
deep ravines. On every ridge strong batteries of cannon swept the
approaches to these; deep trenches were dug along the mountain slopes,
and therein were posted the infantry. Constructed on the side of the
Kourgané Hill, which rises to the height of six hundred feet above the
Alma, was an enormous battery, forming two sides of a triangle, and
mounting fourteen heavy guns, thirty-two pounders, and twenty-four pound
howitzers. The ascent to this was commanded by three other batteries,
mounting twenty-five guns. To assail the Kourgané Hill—the right wing
of the Russian army—with all its cannon, howitzers, and trenches, was
the task assigned to the Light Division under Sir George Brown,
supported by the Duke of Cambridge, with the Guards and Highlanders; and
so intent was Menschikoff on its defence, that he had there concentrated
sixteen battalions of regular infantry, two battalions of sailors, and
two brigades of field-pieces. Near them were many ladies in carriages
from Sebastopol, and elsewhere, waiting to see the “English curs”
beaten.

During one of the protracted halts referred to, I could not help
thinking how lovely was the morning for the unholy work we had in hand!
The sun was without a cloud, and the soft breeze of the September morn
played along the grassy slopes, rustling the leaves of the olive and
turpentine groves, and the broader foliage of the vineyards, till at
last even its breath died away upon the summit of the hostile hills.
“It was then that in the allied armies there occurred,” says Kinglake,
“a singular pause of sound—a pause so general as to have been observed
and remembered by many in remote parts of the ground, and so marked that
its interruption by the mere neighing of an angry horse seized the
attention of thousands; and although this strange silence was the mere
result of weariness and chance, it seemed to carry a meaning; for it was
now that, after nearly forty years of peace, the great nations of Europe
were once more meeting for battle!”

The French steamers were now shelling the heights, the Russians making
but a poor response; and just as a bomb, splendidly thrown by the
former, among the smoke wreaths that curled round the brow of the
cliffs, unmasked an ambush which had been prepared for the advancing
Zouaves, after the smoke cleared away, showed by the prostrate forms of
the riflemen it slew, how well it had done its fatal work—just as I was
watching this episode, through my glass, I heard Studhome say,
“Norcliff, we are to go to the front.”

“Ours, alone?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Can’t say; but you see the danger of having a reputation, Newton,” said
Jack, laughing, for he was in unusual high spirits. “We lancers served
against the Pindarees in Central India, at Neerbudda, and elsewhere—the
men and horses, poor nags, change; but the name and the number remain.
Thus, you see what the honour of having a good name and gallant number
costs us. The lancers must advance.”

“Only your squadron, Captain Norcliff,” said Colonel Beverley, cantering
up to where we were halted in brigade; “you will advance and extend to
double the usual skirmishing distance, simply to feel the enemy.”

I saluted and gave the command, “Threes right—left-wheel—forward,” and
away we went at a swinging trot, with plumes and pennons glittering in
the air.

“If they hit you, Bill?” cried one of our men to Sergeant Dashwood, of
Wilford’s troop, which formed the left of my squadron.

“Bah! I escaped often enough in India,” said the sergeant, laughing;
“and, please Heaven, were it only for my poor wife’s sake, I shall do so
again.”

It did not please Heaven, however, for within one hour after this worthy
Sergeant Dashwood was lying on his back, pale and stiff, with a bullet
in his heart.

As we halted, formed line to the front, and extended from the right at
full speed, I heard Jocelyn of ours, a wild and extravagant fellow, say
to Sir Henry Scarlett, “I wonder how many infernal _post obits_ will be
cancelled to-day!”

We now advanced slowly over the open ground, halting at times, and every
moment gave us a clearer and nearer view of the enemy’s position.

I looked to the rear. How steadily they were coming on, those splendid
lines of British infantry—the Royal and the Welsh Fusiliers, the 19th,
and 33rd, and Connaught Rangers—stretching far away from flank to flank,
in scarlet—that glorious and historic colour, which fills at once the
eye and the mind—their bayonets flashing in the sun, and their colours
threateningly advanced, but hanging listless, for the wind had died
away. Thousands of those who were now marching there, in youth, and
pride, and health—whose place at home was still vacant in many a
parent’s heart—were doomed to fatten the earth with their bones, and
make the grass of future summers grow greener on the slopes of the Alma.
Strong memories of my early youth, of my dead mother’s face and voice,
were with me now, and tears came too—I scarcely knew why; but I felt
somewhat as if in a dream. I had a strong yearning also to see the
proud Louisa, the tender Cora Calderwood, and my kind old uncle—those I
might never see again.




I strove to imagine how Louisa Loftus would bear the shock of hearing
that I had fallen—if fall I should. When and by whom would the news be
broken to her? I thought, too, of the quiet old woods of Calderwood
Glen, under the shadow of the greater Lomond. There, at least, all was
peace, thank Heaven; and in my heart I prayed that long, long might it
be so. And strange it was, too, that in this exciting time, when so
many thousands of various races were about to close in the shock of
battle—when a few minutes more might see me face to face with
death—death by the cannon, the rifle, or the sabre—even while the
explosion of the French shells rung every instant in the air—there
flickered in my memory snatches of frivolous musical strains, and one or
two trivial mess-room incidents; so that the vast array along the Alma
seemed almost a phantasmagoria. But here a hand was laid upon my bridle
arm. It was the hand of my faithful follower, Willie Pitblado, who
slung his lance, and, sinking the soldier in the friend and countryman,
said, while his bright grey eyes sparkled under his lancer cap—

“Hear you that, sir? It is the pipes of the Highland brigade!”

We were so far to the right of our squadron as to be close to the
division of the Duke of Cambridge, which was composed of the Grenadier,
Coldstream, and Scots Fusilier Guards, with three of the Highland
regiments (the 42nd, 79th, and 93rd), whose pipers were now playing each
the pibroch of their corps during the second halt; and then over all the
field the old wild “memory of a thousand years” was kindled in every
Scotchman’s heart. I felt his enthusiasm; I saw that Willie felt it
too, and in the kindly smile we exchanged there was conveyed a world of
hidden sentiment. Wild, barbarous, and uncouth as it may be deemed—an
instrument, perhaps, beyond improvement—the voice of the war-pipe seldom
falls without a strange and stirring effect upon the Scottish ear; and
let neither Englishman nor Irishman ever trust that Scot who hears it
unmoved by the love of country and of home. There is something rotten
at his heart’s core! In whatever part of the distant world a Scotchman
hears its strange notes, and the hoarse hum of its deep bass drones, it
sets him dreaming of home; of the old thatched cottage in the
mountain-glen, where the trouting burn gurgles under the long yellow
broom, or “the auld brigstane” where he fished in boyhood; and with its
voice come back the faces of “the loved, the lost, the distant, and the
dead,” and the glories and the battles of the years that are gone. He
sees, too, the old kirk, where he prayed by his mother’s knee; the
graveyard, with all its mossy stones, and the forms of those who are
lying there rise again in memory’s eye. So the storm-beaten Isleman may
seem to hear once more the waves that lash on Jura’s rocks, or the
scream of the wild birds over Scarba’s shore, when ploughing far away in
the wastes of the Indian Sea. It is difficult to define what this
influence is; but that Scot is little to be envied who hears the warpipe
unmoved, when far away from home, or as we heard it on that day beside
the Alma; and though proud of his lancer regiment, I could see that my
comrade Willie’s heart was with the Highlanders, whose dark plumes were
tossing on our right. It was at this time that Sir Colin Campbell, in
his quiet, grave way, said to one of his officers, as the historian
before quoted records, “This will be a good time for the men to get
loose half their cartridges.”

“And when the command travelled along the ranks of the Highlanders, it
lit up the faces of the men one after another, assuring them that now,
at length, and after long expectance, they indeed would go into action.
They began obeying the order, and with beaming joy, for they came of a
warlike race; yet not without emotion of a grave kind. They were young
soldiers, and new to battle.”

But now the trumpets recalled us to our brigade in rear of the infantry,
who had the chief work of that bloody day to do. And just as we wheeled
into our places, a roar of musketry on our right announced that the
impetuous French had commenced the attack! The enemy’s shot and shell
were coming souse among us now, and many heard for the first time the
fierce rushing sound, and then the mighty shock, as a bullet ripped up
the earth, or swept a man away; while shells that burst in mid-air fell
in hissing showers, that tore our clothing with their jagged edges, when
they failed to wound. Dashing through the Alma, in front of the steep
cliffs, under a terrific shower of round shot, grape, and musketry,
which clothed the whole face of the slopes with spouting lines of white
smoke, streaked with flashes of fire, waking a thousand echoes in the
sky above and earth below, the French poured forward in yelling and
impetuous masses. Fresh from their campaigns and conquests in burning
Algeria, those fierce little Zouaves, in their blue jackets, red
breeches, and turbans, active as mountain goats, were seen swarming up
at the point of the bayonet, and forming in two lines, which charged
with headlong rush on the astonished Muscovites, whose general, being
thus completely outflanked on the cliffs being scaled, sought, but
sought in vain, to change his front, and drive the French from those
hills they had taken so rapidly and so gallantly, but at awful loss.

“Allah-Allah Hu!” was now the cry that rent the air, as the Turks
advanced.

Under their green standards—the holy colour—with the crescent and star,
massed in close column at quarter distance, the Turkish troops came on;
and through the sea of red fezzes the cannon balls made many a deadly
lane, until the battalions deployed into line, sending, as Studhome
said, “many a believer to Paradise in a state of mutilation such as the
houris wouldn’t appreciate.” But on they went against that sheet of
lead and iron, shoulder to shoulder with the French; and many a shaven
crown and many a scarlet fez, with its broad military button and blue
tassel, were lying on the turf, while, with visions of the dark-eyed
girls of Paradise waving their green scarves from their couches of
pearl, and crying, “Come, kiss me, for I love thee,” many a grim,
Turkish soul passed forth into the night of death. On the other flank
were the French linesmen, crying on “_Dieu, et la Mère de Dieu_,” to
help them in their last agony, while the sisters of charity and the
_vivandières_ rivalled each other in the rear in their attention to the
wounded and dying.

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Greetings from our gallant king?

While these events were occurring by the shore of the Euxine, brown
autumn was spreading her sober tints upon the Scottish woods; and one
seldom sees the country more attractive than when its beauty is
decaying, and a soothing sadness mingles with our delight.

The long grass is dank in the shady places, for there the dew falls
early at eve, and lingers long after sunrise; and now in Calderwood Glen
the dark leaves of the chestnuts were varied by the golden yellow of the
lime tree, whose frail leaves are among the earliest to whirl before the
gusty autumn wind.

Already the first leaves—the early spoil of the season—were lying in the
long, shady avenue, or were gathered in heaps, even as the breeze had
swept them, about the well of James V., the yew hedgerows, and the grass
walks of the antique Scottish garden, where tradition avers that Anne of
Denmark flirted with the bonnie Earl of Gowrie. There the asters and
dahlias still contended for a place with the old-fashioned hollyhock.
Summer had gone; but the corn-marigold and the gorgeous crimson poppy
yet lingered among the yellow stubble, or on the green burn braes;
scarlet hips and haws made gay the hedgerows, and the ladybirds were
pecking at the sweet apples in the orchard. The shadows of the flying
clouds passed over the green mountain slopes, over Largo’s lofty cone,
the round swelling Lomonds—the Mamelles of Fife, as a French officer not
inaptly termed them—the breeze of the German Sea came up the long,
fertile Howe, and brought softly to the ear the lowing of cattle from
Falkland Woods and many a cosy homestead. The autumn was lovely in
Calderwood Glen; but the old manor house seemed empty and silent, and
the heart of Cora was sad, for—

Great events were on the gale,
And each hour brought a varying tale,

and she knew that the same autumnal sun which was browning the woods of
Scotland was lighting her kilted regiments on their path of death and
peril by the Alma. There were times when Cora thought that, bitter
though it was, this hopeless sorrow for the absence of one she loved,
how sweet it might have been—how sadly sweet—had Newton loved her in
return. Ah! it had not been hopeless then; but Newton loved another,
who loved him too. Yet, did that other love him so well as she, poor
quiet Cora, did? And would she love him always? Then, when she heard
the thistlefinch, with its golden wings, singing among the linden trees,
the words of the old, old song seemed to come home truly to her heart as
she hummed them over.

There sat upon the linden tree
A bird, and sang its strain;
So sweet it sang, that, as I heard,
My heart went back again;
It went to one remembered spot,
It saw the rose-trees grow,
And thought again the thoughts of love
There cherished long ago.

A thousand years to me it seems
Since by my love I sate,
Yet thus to have been a stranger long,
Was not my choice, but fate;
Since then I have not seen the flowers,
Nor heard the bird’s sweet song,
My joys have all too briefly passed,
My griefs have been too long!

Ladies were setting forth to join the army of the East as nurses! An
idea occurred to her, and then she shrank from it, for Cora was not one
of our strong-minded British females but a good and kind-hearted,
earnest and high-souled Scottish girl; and it is a peculiarity of the
women of Scotland ever to shrink from publicity; and, somehow, public
life seems neither their _forte_ nor their _rôle_.

“Ah, oh!” thought Cora; “what if this is not merely a separation, but a
loss for ever!”

No battle had yet been fought; but already many men had perished at
Varna, at Scutari, and elsewhere, of fever and cholera. And so, often
as she wandered alone in the garden walks, by the old Battle Stone in
the woods, by the Adder’s Craig, or King James’s Well, she wept, as she
thought of the lively young lancer whom she had last seen marching for
the East, and still more for her early playmate and cousin, who in
boyhood so petted her at home.

And when Cora would say, or old Willie Pitblado would read, that the
lancers had embarked, that they had touched at Gibraltar, at Malta—that
they were at Varna or elsewhere—he would pause, and look up wistfully,
saying—”Nae word yet o’ my Willie?”

“But the papers don’t mention Captain Norcliff either.”

“Ay, ay, true, Miss Cora,” the old man would mutter, and shake his head
at omissions so strange.

Anxiety, love, and fear injured the poor girl’s health. She was
alternately resigned and gentle, or short-tempered and irritable.
Though frequently self-absorbed and pre-occupied, she strove, by
affected gaiety, to prove to those about her that she was neither. By
turns she was grateful for sympathy or irritated by it, while her
craving for news about the army of the East became a source of
speculation—shall we call it friendly?—among such sharp-witted visitors
as the Mesdames Spittal and Rammerscales, the wife of the parish
minister, or the slavishly suave Mrs. Wheedleton, the rib of the village
lawyer.

To add to her annoyances, she had a new admirer in young Mr. Brassy
Wheedleton—a newly-fledged legal prig—who had in his hands a dispute
concerning a bond over a portion of the Calderwood property, and whom,
as Sir Nigel patronized him, being the son of a neighbour, a dependent,
and beginner at the bar, she saw rather oftener than she cared for as a
visitor at the Glen. Cora was always most irritable when a letter came
from her English friends in Kent. However, her correspondence with
Chillingham Park had lessened every day since the regiment left England,
why neither could exactly say. Louisa’s missives were generally full of
gaiety and the world of fashion, with all its tinsel glitter and
heartless frivolity. As for the war, and our poor soldiers in the East,
she heeded them no more than the clock of St. Paul’s, or the last year’s
snow. Her last letter had been all concerning the elevation of my Lord
Slubber to a marquisate (skipping the intervening titles of viscount and
earl,) and enclosing a slip from a fashionable morning paper, which
announced that the garter king had given to the noble peer “a coat of
augmentation, in addition to the three guffins’ heads mange, of the
grand Anglo-Norman line of De Gullion, with the cage in chief granted to
the fourth baron of that illustrious name, by the greatest of the
Plantagenets, when that chivalrous monarch hung the Scottish Countess of
Buchan outside the walls of Berwick for four years in an iron cage, and
when ’ye potente and valyant Lord Slobbyr de Gulyone was captain yairof
with CCC archeris.’”

This afforded her father the first hearty laugh in which he had indulged
for some time past, for he, too, had become somewhat dull and peevish.

“Three guffins’ heads; Cora, this is excellent!” said the old baronet,
laughing still; “it is very droll how the English snob of high family
boasts of his descent from the rabble of William the Norman, just as our
Scotch snob likes to deduce his pedigree from those Saxon _hildings_ who
fled from Hastings, or the savage Danes we licked at Luncarty and
elsewhere. There were Calderwoods in the Glen before either of those
times! What says the old rhyme?

Calderwood was fair to see,
When it gaid to Cameltrie;
But Calderwood was fairer still,
When it grew owre Crosswood Hill.”

Sir Nigel’s old chum, General Rammerscales, was laid up with the gout
and jungle fever, and their political friend, Lickspittal, was absent in
Parliament—where, like a true Scottish M.P., he served to fill the
house, to vote with the lord advocate or the majority, to work on all
committees (which paid); but, of course, remaining as oblivious of
Scottish interests as of those of the Sioux Indians.




Now that he was residing almost permanently at the old manor house—the
Place of Calderwood, as it was named _par excellence_—Sir Nigel became
somewhat infected by his daughter’s melancholy. Thoughts of his two
dead sons—Nigel, who fell at Goojerat, of his pet boy Archie, and also
of his nephew, his favourite sister’s only son, exposed to all the
perils of disease and war in Turkey—recurred to him again and again, as
he wandered through the rooms and under the old linden trees that had
often echoed to their voices in infancy; and he thought of how the old
estates, and the title first granted by King Charles to Sir Norman
Calderwood, _Primus Baronettorum Scotiæ_, would go after his death, an
event which he knew must happen some day; for, though hale and hearty
yet, he felt that he rode a stone or two heavier now, was apt to “funk”
at a sunk fence, and was finding that noble brute Splinterbar a trifle
hard in the mouth for his bridle-hand now.

Even Cora’s old song of “The Thistle and Rose” only served to make him
sad—to make him think of those who had sung it long, long ago; and then
he would order another bottle of that rare, creamy old claret, that Mr.
Binns kept among the cobwebs, in a particular corner of the cellar, for
_themselves_.

Faithful old Davie Binns! He had grown grey, white, and bald in the
service of the Calderwoods, like his fathers before him, and like many
other servants in that kind old Scottish household—one, indeed, “of the
olden time.” If he had been dismissed for a dereliction of duty, he
would have thought the world was coming to an end, and doubtless would
have flatly refused to go; for Davie was one of a class of servitors
that are passing away, even in Scotland and Ireland; and from the
sister-kingdom I fear they have long since vanished.

Accompanied by old Willie, Sir Nigel and a friend or two had
occasionally a shot at the partridges in the stubble or the
turnip-fields; but when the first meet of the hounds took place their
master was absent.

In vain the horns were blown by Largo’s slopes and Balcarris Wood; in
vain the dogs gave mouth, and yelped, and wagged their upright tails.
The cover was drawn, and every spur struck deep, as the huntsmen sped
over dyke and ditch, by loch, and moor, and mountain; but Sir Nigel was
sorrowing at his house in the Glen, and his favourite hunters, Saline
and Splinterbar, were forgotten in their stalls.

Why was this?

On a Sunday towards the end of September—a Sunday which many must recall
with sorrow—mysteriously, as if borne in the air, there passed a whisper
over all the land of a great event that had happened far, far away; and
that whisper found an echo in many a heart and home in England—in many
an Irish mud cabin and Scottish glen—in many a high and many a humble
dwelling.

In the quaint old village kirk of Calderwood, during the morning
service, it passed along the pews from ear to ear among the people, even
to the old haunted aisle of St. Margaret, where Cora sat (her sweet,
earnest eyes intent on the preacher, though her thoughts were far away)
beside her father in his carved oak seat, with all its armorial bearings
overhead; for he was lord of all the glen and manor—a little king, but a
very kind one, among the peasantry there.

So, on this calm, sunny summer morning, when no sound disturbed the
preacher’s voice but the rustle of the oak woods without, or the
twittering of the martins in their nests among the Gothic carvings,
there came vaguely to the pastoral glen—vaguely, wildly, no one knew
how—news that a great battle had been fought far, far away in the East,
and that we had lost four, five, some said even six thousand men; but
that we were, thank God, _victorious_.

Pausing in his sermon, while his eyes kindled and his cheek flushed as
they had never done when detailing the bloody wars of the Jews and
Egyptians, the aged minister announced the tidings from the pulpit,
adding (the first false rumour) “that the Duke of Cambridge had fallen
at the head of the Guards and our own Highland lads, as he led them,
sword in hand, up the braes of the Alma.”

Every eye turned to St. Margaret’s aisle, where, through the painted
windows, the yellow sunshine streamed on Sir Nigel’s silver hair and
Cora’s smooth dark braids, for all knew that they had a dear kinsman in
that distant field, and when the minister asked the people to join with
him in prayer for those who might fall, and for the widows and orphans
of the slain, it was with earnest, humble, and contrite hearts that the
startled and anxious rustics added their voices to his.

Cora covered her face with her handkerchief; and old Pitblado looked
round him, grim and sternly as any Covenanter who ever wore a blue
bonnet; but the poor man’s heart was full of tears, as he prayed to
heaven that his Willie might be safe. Besides, as a native of Fife, he
had much of the old and inbred horror of soldiering peculiar to that
peninsula, since those dark days when the Fifeshire infantry found their
graves on the field of Kilsythe.

Ere the red autumn sun went down beyond the green hills of Clackmannan,
the electric wire had announced the passage of the Alma over all the
length and breadth of the land—flashing over all Europe, from the shores
of the Bosphorus to those of the Shannon.

But in reply to a message sent by Sir Nigel to the War Office—a telegram
despatched to soothe the agony of love—came the brief but terrible
answer—

“_The name of your nephew is among the killed!_”

“Papa—papa—among the killed—among the killed!” Cora exclaimed, after the
first stunning paroxysm of her grief was past.

“Yet I do not despair, Cora,” said the old man, in his bewilderment,
caressing her, and not knowing what to say, while remembering the keen
bitterness that the gazette of Goojerat brought to his heart, when there
he read the name of his eldest son and hope—his dark and handsome Nigel.

“Oh, do not speak of hope to me, papa. Poor Newton, I did so love him!
I cannot dare to hope!”

“Dearest Cora, we have no details. He may be missing. I have heard of
many returned so in the old Peninsular times. My old friend, Jack
Oswald, of Dunnik, among others; but he was always found under a heap of
dead men, or so forth.”

“But the telegram says distinctly, among the killed—his body, his poor,
mangled body, must have been seen——”

“Colonel Beverley will write to me. In a few days we shall know all the
particulars.”

“Even were he only wounded, I should be miserable; but to know that he
is dead—dead—Newton dead—buried far, far away by strangers, and among
strangers, and that I shall never, never see him more! Oh, papa—my dear
papa!” she exclaimed, as she flung herself upon his breast, “I loved
Newton dearly—far more dearly than life!”

And so the great secret escaped her in her grief.

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