His sentence had been read over

It was at length the same to me,
Fettered or fetterless to be,
I learned to love despair.
And thus when they appeared at last,
And all my bonds aside were cast,
Those heavy walls to me had grown
A heritage—and all my own!
BYRON.

Situated on a rocky slope, under the shadow of the hills of Karaba
Yaila, stand the town and castle of Kourouk.

Built by the Genoese upon the ruins of a fortress erected by a khan of
the house of Zingis (under whom the Crimea became an independent
monarchy in 1441), the castle had been in its glory in the days when
Genoa the superb was mistress of the coasts of Asia, and the islands of
Cyprus, Lesbos, and Scio; but when Mohammed II. conquered
Constantinople, he destroyed all the colonies of the Genoese republic
upon the shores of the Euxine.

The defenders of the Castle of Kourouk, under a Scottish soldier of
fortune, made a gallant resistance; but were all put to the sword, and
their skulls are now built into a portion of the rampart which faces
Mecca. The rocks of red and white marble on which it stands have been
excavated, like those of its contemporary, the old Genoese Castle of
Balaclava, into magazines and stately chambers, the sides of which are
covered with coloured designs in stucco.

The two old round towers of the Genoese days were crowned by Russian
cupolas—one striped like a melon, the other cut into facets, like a
pineapple, all red and yellow alternately, and each surmounted by a
glittering cross. These, with the great white banner of St. Andrew,
with its blue saltire over all, made Kourouk look gay at a distance.

Within all was grim and sombre enough.

The garrison consisted of a four-company battalion of Russian infantry,
under a _chef-de-bataillon_, named Vladimir Dahl, a tall,
grisly-moustached old soldier, who wore on his breast the embroidered
representation of a Turkish standard, which he had taken from the
Infidels, in the days of Navarino. Each of his companies consisted of
two hundred men, and belonged to a regiment three thousand strong. Such
corps are the usual Russian formation, and are commanded by a
_pulkovnick_, or colonel.

These troops wore long, loose, dirty-grey capotes, reaching to their
ankles. On their shoulders, and in front of their flat cloth caps, was
sewn a piece of green stuff, with the regimental number, 45; and this
was all their finery.

They were on parade in line as Corporal Pugacheff conducted me into the
fortress; and I thought them a strange array of sorry-looking wretches,
so stolid in aspect, that I was reminded of the traveller, who, on
seeing a Russian and a British regiment under arms in the same square at
Naples, exclaimed—

“There is but one face in that whole regiment, while in this” (pointing
to the British) “every soldier has a face of his own.”

I was treated with the greatest respect and kindness by old Vladimir
Dahl and the officers of the 45th, or Tambrov Infantry, for the outrages
of the French at Kertch, and the infamous massacre of our seamen at
Hango, had not yet occurred to impart a bitterness to the war.

Neither he nor I knew the other’s language; his _capitans_,
_fiarooschicks_, and _praperchicks_ (_i.e._, lieutenants and ensigns)
were in the same condition. Thus we had no means of communication, save
by clinking our glasses, and exchanging cigarettes, nods, winks, and
grins.

An old _Times_ newspaper was given to me. It was dated months back, and
detailed the battle of Oltenitza; but its columns had been carefully
purged by the censor of everything political—an ingenious process
achieved by gutta-percha and ground glass.

The reader has, perhaps, heard of how a farrier-sergeant of the Emperor
Alexander’s Dragoon Guards predicted the destruction of the grand army
of Napoleon I., on being shown a horseshoe dropped by the retreating
cavalry of France.

“What! not frosted yet,” he exclaimed, professionally, “and the snow to
fall to-morrow! Holy St. Sergius! these fellows don’t know Russia!”

Vladimir Dahl was the son of the farrier-sergeant who thus predicted the
downfall of the enemies of Russia; and he was more proud of his father
than if he had been, like the best of the Muscovite nobles, descended
from Ruric the Norman.

The days passed slowly away. I might as well have been dumb, having no
one to converse with. I could not pass the castle gates, as every
avenue, angle, and outlet was guarded by snub-nosed Muscovites, in grey
capotes, with loaded rifles and fixed bayonets.

Hope of escape as yet I had none!

On the morning of the fourth day, a mounted Paulowna hussar delivered at
Kourouk a letter, with a shred of the feather of the quill with which it
had been written inserted among the wax of the seal—a Russian mode of
signifying speed.

It announced the arrival of General Baur, with all his staff. Baur had
been wounded in the encounter with our troops at Khutor-Mackenzie; and I
was very well pleased when the evening of the same day saw him ride into
Kourouk, of which I was heartily weary; and I was not without hopes that
the general, on remembering how we had released him after the Alma,
might do something for me in the way of exchanging or paroling me; and
in his aide-de-camp, the gay young Captain Anitchoff, of the Maria
Paulowna Hussars, I was glad to see a face that I knew, and to meet one
with whom I could converse.

The general had been wounded by a musket shot in the bridle arm. It was
severely inflamed. Ease had been recommended, so he had come to spend a
week or so at Kourouk, which was in his own military district; and on
the very evening of his arrival, Anitchoff brought me an invitation to
dine with him.

Anitchoff was eminently a handsome Russian. His eyes were dark, and had
a latent fire in them that showed some Tartar blood; the lids were full
and white, the lashes long and dark. His nose was straight and thin,
and his ponderous moustache was as black as his close-shaven hair, or
the wolf’s fur that trimmed his light blue uniform.

My costume was of the most sorry description; but a few discrepancies
were made up by Vladimir Dahl, who, among other things, presented me
with a full uniform, silver epaulettes and all, of the Tambrov infantry.

French is not so much spoken in Russia as people in Britain suppose;
yet, luckily for me, General Baur and Anitchoff could speak it fluently.

Before proceeding to the General’s I asked—

“Can you inform me, Captain Anitchoff, if parole is to be accepted?”

“I cannot say, but rather think not,” he replied, with hesitation.

“The deuce!” I exclaimed, haughtily; “then I shall escape, if I can.”

“Pray don’t think of it,” said he, earnestly.

“Why?” I demanded, with intense chagrin.

“We have rather a summary mode of dealing with prisoners who attempt to
escape. So be wary, my friend.”

“Indeed, summary. How?”

“We don’t always keep them on our hands,” said he, with a smile that was
grimly significant, while he played with the gold tassels of his hussar
busby.

“Well, ’twere better to be shot than kept lingering here.”

“Oh, you won’t be kept here, my friend.”

“Where then?”

“In a few days you will probably be sent with a convoy of sick and
wounded by the way of Perecop and the desert plains towards
Yekaterinoslav.”

“I shall escape by the way,” said I, doggedly.

“I repeat, my friend, don’t think of it, for Trebitski, who will
command, does not stand on trifles; and yet,” he added, with a smile,
“there are two persons who seldom fail in what they attempt—a prisoner
and a lover.”

“Why?”

“Stendahl, a Russian author, says, ’The lover thinks oftener of
obtaining his mistress than the husband does of guarding his wife; the
prisoner thinks oftener of escaping from his prison than the gaoler does
of keeping him safe within its walls. Therefore, the lover and the
prisoner should succeed.’ You see,” he continued, laughing, “we have
some authors in snowy Russia, whatever you Britons may think to the
contrary. But here is the general.”

Passing through the officers of the 45th, who all made way for us, I was
ushered into the presence of General Baur, the grim soldier, who was
related to the hero of Beverley’s interesting anecdote—Karlovitch Baur,
son of Karl, the brother of Michel, the old miller of Husum.

He received me with studious politeness, though he could not help
smiling at my Tambrov uniform. His left arm was in a sling, and, as he
shook hands with me, I felt that he had but two right fingers remaining.
A Turkish sabre had shorn him of the rest at Kalafat, on the Danube, in
the year before.

Baur was every way a man of a severely impressive presence and aspect.
He had an enormous white moustache, the long, snaky curls of which
floated almost over each of his large silver epaulettes. His forehead
was high, massive and stern; his hair, shorn short, was rough and
grizly. His dark eyes were keen, bold, and inquiring at times; but at
others they wore a deep, sombre and melancholy expression, as if he was
always thinking of a world beyond the present—to be looking into it, in
fact—and this was not to be wondered at when we consider that Karlovitch
Baur was the hero of one of the most remarkable episodes ever committed
to paper.

His manner was that of one who is prompt and ready alike in thought and
action, and yet who never unsaid or undid anything.

Over his grass-green and silver-laced uniform, he wore a loose, wide
_souba_, or fur coat with sleeves, for service, and this he cast aside
when the trumpets announced that dinner was served; and then, among many
other orders that glittered on his warlike breast, I saw that of St.
Andrew, which was founded in 1699 by Peter the Great, and is only
bestowed on crowned heads and officers of the highest rank.

It reminded me much of our own Order of the Thistle, being a blue
enamelled saltire; but on the reverse was a Muscovite eagle, with the
initials “S.A.P.R.” (_Sanctus Andreas, Patronus Russiæ_).

At the table I was seated between the general and his chief
aide-de-camp, Anitchoff, both of whom conversed with me in French.

“How did it come to pass that you were taken prisoner?” asked the
former.

“My horse was shot under me.”

“Near the Belbeck?”

“Yes,” said I, blushing like a school-girl, as I could not, for the soul
of me, say that a British officer had degraded his epaulettes by the
perfidy of which Berkeley had been guilty.

“Ah! unlucky; but such things will happen. Your troops and the French,
with the Turkish dogs, are now almost in front of Sebastopol.”

“Indeed!” said I, with a joy which I could not conceal.

“You think, no doubt, to take it under our moustaches, or, as you
Britons say, under our noses; but you won’t,” he added with a grave
smile. “St. Sergius has ordained it otherwise, and Todleben, the wary
old Courlander, is busy fortifying it. His sappers are at work day and
night.”




“Pho! don’t talk of Sebastopol, general,” said his aide-de-camp,
laughing. “Our feeding there was so bad that I felt inclined to try
whether the Allies fared better than we did; but after the Alma, I
thought that the less I considered the matter the better.”

“Ah, that day at Alma played the deuce with many a family circle in
Sebastopol,” said Baur, twisting his moustache angrily.

“Yes,” added Anitchoff; “many a widow is there now, weeping for the dear
defunct with one eye, and ogling his successor with the other.”

At this jest a dark frown gathered on the long, stern visage of Baur.

Dinner proceeded briskly. It was served up in a kind of hall, which had
arched and painted windows, flanked by the round Genoese towers, whose
gilt cupolas formed the chief features of the fortress.

The walls were simply whitewashed, and the furniture was somewhat of the
“barrack ordnance” description of our own equipments in quarters at
home.

The repast was rather military in fashion, and by no means a dinner _à
la Russe_, all flower vases, bouquets, and kickshaws; but was composed
of substantial edibles for hungry and soldierly stomachs.

We began with small glasses of kimmel, and then came caviare, made from
the roe of the sturgeon of the Don, spread on thin slices of bread; then
followed the fish—turbot and mackerel from the Black Sea; yellow-fleshed
sterlets from the Volga, salted in oil; wild boar hams from the forest
of Khutor-Mackenzie; mutton fed on the Tauridian steppes; pies of holy
pigeons from the gilt domes I had admired at a distance; piles of
Crimean fruit; the wines of Ac-metchet and Kastropulo, with Cliquot; and
there, too, were London stout and Bass’s pale ale, taken from some of
our wrecks in the Black Sea.

During dinner I was amused by hearing the ideas entertained by the
Russians of our British soldiers, with whom they were now for the first
time in actual conflict; for Prince Menschikoff had industriously spread
among his troops a rumour that we were only beardless seamen, dressed up
as soldiers; and that, however formidable on the ocean, we were
worthless ashore.

To this contemptuous notion was added a sublime faith in their own
valour, and the miracles to be wrought by St. Sergius, whose image they
bore at Alma, and whose fourth reappearance was confidently predicted by
Innocent, Archbishop of Odessa, in his sermon to the garrison of
Sebastopol, for Sergius was a patriotic saint and warrior who defeated
the Tartars—whose “uncorrupted body” lies in a silver shrine, like a
four-post bed, and whose shoes (sorely worn at the heels) are still
preserved in the Troitza, or monastery, of the Holy Trinity at Moscow.

General Baur, a man deeply imbued with the most gloomy superstition,
believed in all these delusions devoutly. His aide-de-camp and Vladimir
Dahl, however, laughed at him covertly; but admitted that the appearance
of the Highland regiments filled the columns on the Kourgané Hill with a
strange terror; for being, as the author of “Eöthen” records, “men of
great stature, and in a strange garb, their plumes being tall, and the
view of them being broken and distorted by the wreaths of smoke, and
there being, too, an ominous silence in their ranks, there were men
among the Russians who began to conceive a vague terror—the terror of
things unearthly; and some, they say, imagined that they were being
charged by horsemen, strange, silent, and monstrous, bestriding giant
chargers.”

Dinner was drawing to a close, or giving place to the dessert, when my
former acquaintance under less pleasant circumstances, Lieutenant Adrian
Trebitski, of the Tchernimoski Cossacks, appeared, travel-stained, and
splashed with the mud of a journey on his boots and sabretache, having
arrived on duty with sick soldiers, and a deserter, who was to be shot
on the morrow.

“Why not to-night?” asked the stern Baur.

“The sentence says to-morrow, general,” replied Anitchoff consulting a
despatch.

“Then to-morrow be it—I am not a messman, and so don’t begrudge the poor
wretch his last supper. Is he one of your corps, Trebitski?”

“Yes, general, I regret to say, a Cossack of our sotnia, from the Lena,
in Siberia,” replied Trebitski, who was eyeing me with an aspect of
discomposure, evidently fearing that I might report the pillage I had
undergone at his hands. But this fear subsided when I drank wine with
him, clinking my glass over and under his, for I felt that my position
was too perilous to make an enemy of this man, especially as Anitchoff
informed me that he was to have command of the convoy which would take
me towards Perecop.

“I hope he will treat me with courtesy,” said I, “and remember that I am
a commissioned officer.”

“Why do you doubt him?” asked Anitchoff, with a quiet smile.

“I—I don’t like the expression of his eyes.”

“They are as keen as those of a Tartar; but, then, he has Tartar blood
in him, for his mother was a woman of the middle Kirghis hordes, lately
added to our empire.”

“Are they remarkable for a curious expression of eye?”

“Yes; any Tartar can discern a single Russian horseman at a quarter of
the distance that a Russian will discover a whole troop of Tartars, even
with lances uplifted; hence they make our best vedettes.”

I now heard complete details of the defeat of twenty thousand Russians
at Khutor-Mackenzie; and that, on the morning of the 26th September,
Balaclava had been taken, that its safe and secluded harbour was now
full of our war ships and transports, and that already our army was on
the heights above Sebastopol.

And so, while the great game, on which the eyes of all the world were
turned, was being played by my noble comrades, I—the victim of
treachery, ignorant alike of my fate and of the future—was to be marched
towards the desert plains of Yekaterinoslav, in the custody of an
unscrupulous ruffian like Trebitski, _parooschick_ of the Tchernimoski
Cossacks; one who knew as little about the position or feelings of a
British officer as he did about those of the Great Llama.

On my bed that night I tossed restlessly to and fro, revolving a hundred
plans for escape, but could decide on none. Bribery will achieve
anything in Russia; but I had no money. I was also without weapons, a
horse, or knowledge of the language. I determined, however, to look
well about me; to study a map of the Crimea if I could find one; to act
surely, warily, and resolutely; and to take the first opportunity of
escaping, even if I should be shot down in the attempt. I was all the
more free to make this essay, that, as yet, not a word had been spoken
either of parole or exchange by the gloomy General Baur, or ’his more
genial aide-de-camp.

By dawn next morning, the hoarse roll of the wooden drums summoned the
garrison of Kourouk to witness the execution of the deserter; and by the
time I came forth, as a spectator, the battalion of the 45th was under
arms, formed in three sides of a hollow square, facing inwards; all
silent, motionless as statues, closely ranked in their grey capotes and
flat blue caps, with rifles shouldered and bayonets fixed.

The fourth side of the square was enclosed by the inner wall of a
rampart, and there stood the culprit, pale and dejected in aspect,
accompanied by a silver-bearded priest of the Greek church in white,
with a gorgeous stole of cloth-of-gold, edged with fine lace. A dog
bounded towards them—a fox-headed, snow-coloured, and red-eyed Russian
poodle, whose bark was familiar to me; and then I was greatly concerned
to recognise in the deserter, who was stripped of his uniform, and stood
in his loose wide trousers and red flannel shirt, poor Corporal
Pugacheff, who had escorted me from the Belbeck river.

“Had I known your disposition for levanting, my friend,” thought I,
“gladly would I have availed myself of it in time.”

“Was he deserting towards the Allies?” I inquired of Anitchoff.

“No; he was supposed to be making off to his own country by the
peninsula of Arabat, which encloses the Putrid Sea. Ah, _pardonnez
moi_,” added the hussar, and he yawned lazily in the chill air of the
early morning, as he buttoned his well-furred pelisse over his uniform.

“But is not the punishment excessive?”

“Not for a soldier in time of war, surely! There are two classes in
Russia exempt from all corporal punishment, severe as you may deem
us—nobles, and soldiers who have been honoured with medals. Pugacheff
served against the Turks at the frontier town of Isaktcha last year. He
has a medal, so there is no resource but to shoot him; and here comes
the firing company under a _praperchick_? (This grotesque word in Russ
signifies an ensign.)

“What is he saying?” I asked, as the poor Cossack now threw himself on
his knees, and raised his trembling hands and haggard eyes to heaven in
supplication.

“He is praying to St. Sergius, and saying that, if his life that is to
come in heaven were to be no better than it is on earth, as a corporal
of Cossacks, pain and death would, indeed, be terrible!”

“Poor fellow!”

His sentence had been read over by Vladimir Dahl; and he and General
Baur—both of whom wore cocked hats with immense green plumes, and
well-furred _soubas_—withdrew a little way, and leaned composedly on
their sabres, while the ramrods glittered in the rising sun, as the
stolid-visaged firing party of twelve men loaded their rifles, cast them
about, and capped. Now the chapel bell began to toll solemnly, and the
standard waved, half-hoisted, in the wind.

The small, keen eyes of Pugacheff seemed fixed on vacancy. The old
priest, in full canonicals, was praying with great earnestness and
devotion; but the prisoner scarcely seemed to hear him.

Perhaps his eyes at that moment saw in fancy his father’s cottage by the
broad waters of the Lena; the grove of dark green pines that cast their
shadows on the deep snow-wreaths, and the sharp, flinty summits of the
distant hills, where the stalwart Siberian Cossack galloped in freedom,
with his long, ready spear at his stirrup.

The fawning of the dog, Olga, now attracted the attention of the doomed
man. He lifted it up, stroked, caressed, and kissed it tenderly, for
the poor dog was, perhaps, his only friend. His rugged nature was
melted, and I think there was a tear in his eye, as he looked with a
haggard expression around him.

Suddenly his glance fell on me. He beckoned me to him, and gave me the
dog, saying something, I know not what, hurriedly, and in a husky
voice—a request, no doubt, that I would keep and be kind to the little
animal when he was gone; and I led it away by its leather collar, just
as the firing party brought their muskets to the “ready” and cocked
them.

The dog whined and struggled fiercely with me. It broke away at last,
and rushed to the side of its kneeling and blindfolded master, leaping,
frisking, and barking joyously about him, just as the twelve death-shots
flashed from the muzzles of the firing party.

When the smoke cleared away I saw the Cossack and his dog lying dead on
the gravel, side by side. They had been shot at the same moment.
Pugacheff had several balls in his head and breast, and from the white
coat of the still quivering poodle a crimson current was pouring.

The corporal was buried in the dry ditch of Kourouk, and ere the last
sods were put over his grave by the pioneers, his faithful little
four-footed friend was thrown in beside him, by order of Vladimir Dahl,
and they were covered up together.

The tolling of the chapel bell died away; hoisted to the truck, the
Russian cross streamed out upon the morning wind; and so ended this
little tragedy.

Continue Reading

The rising sun saw us once more on the road

Yes, thou art gone, sweet friend, my own,
We miss thee every day,
And I, yet more than all, alone,
Can only weep and pray.

Pray to be rendered meet for heaven,
And agonize in prayer,
That if we meet no more below,
Our meeting may be there.

The first halting-place of my escort was in a wood of wild pear trees,
among some of those ancient burial mounds or green tumuli which stud all
the Crimea, but more particularly the peninsula of Kertch, where one
still marks the tomb of Mithridates. In that solitude we heard only the
voices of the birds, the lark, the tomtit, and the wren, as they
twittered among the caper bushes.

The Cossacks hobbled their horses, and proceeded to seat themselves on
the green sward that covered the bones of the classic warriors of other
times. In their havresacks they had some black bread and salt, with a
flask of quass. These they shared freely with me; and with such coarse
fare I was forced to be content.

The corporal had a Russian poodle, red-eyed, fox-headed, and white as
snow, which he pretentiously named Olga, after the Grand Duchess, and
with this cur, to which he was much attached, he freely shared his
repast, and that piece of felt which serves the Cossack alike for cloak,
tent, and bed.

I could not be prevailed upon to join them in partaking of some wild
horseradish, which Corporal Pugacheff discovered, and unearthed with his
sabre, exhibiting a root as thick as his arm. After they had smoked for
nearly an hour, during which I was left to my own unpleasant
reflections, the march was once more resumed—leisurely, because I was
afoot—towards the east, as the sun informed me, and that was all I could
learn about it.

The uniforms of these Cossacks were richer than any I had yet seen.
Each had a blue jacket, edged with yellow lace, hooked over a scarlet
silk vest; loose blue trousers, fastened high above the waist; busbies
of black shining wool, terminating in a crimson sack, with a scarlet
sash, cartridge-box, and sabre, completed their costume. Like
ourselves, they rode with the lance slung, and resting on the right toe.

That night we halted at a Tartar village. The inhabitants of the
cottage to which we proceeded were somewhat over-awed by the three
Cossacks—a race at all times rather unscrupulous—but were disposed to
view me with a commiseration that made me begin to conceive hopes of
escape.

Escorted by Corporal Pugacheff and his poodle, I was conducted to the
humble apartment used by the males of the family. A wooden basin,
filled with clear water, and a napkin, were presented to me by the
master of the house—a venerable Tartar of the old nomadic race—that I
might lave my face and hands; a pipe of the cherrywood tree, which grows
in the mountains, was then given me to smoke, while a repast—not of
horseflesh, happily—but of goat’s milk, poached eggs, and cheese, was
prepared; and these we ate with our fingers, seated on mats on the
earthen floor, around the little stool on which the supper-tray was
placed, for, in their household and habits, the poor Tartars are nearly
as primitive as their forefathers were in the days of the valiant Batu
Khan, the destroyer of Moscow.

A dish of sour milk and water—the veritable yaourt of the Osmanlis—was
passed round; the master of the house returned thanks without uncovering
his shaven head, the Cossacks resumed their pipes, the repast was over,
and the day was closing in.

The hope of escape was growing stronger in my heart; but the corporal
crushed it, as if he had divined my thoughts, by quietly securing my
right hand to his left, with the small steel bridle of his horse, before
we lay down to take our repose, and the escort, with their pistols
loaded, slept side by side across the only doorway. In addition to all
these precautions, if I ventured to move, almost to wink, the poodle,
Olga, was on the alert, with cocked ears and bristling hair, barking
furiously. How I hated that dog!

Though weary in mind and body, I could not sleep, even if the deep bass
snoring that issued from the snub noses of my three keepers would have
permitted me to doze.

Berkeley’s infamous treachery made my heart glow like a furnace! How
deeply I repented now that, instead of succouring and remounting him, I
had not left him, as his prior conduct deserved, to the chances of war
and fate, and to take the place now occupied by me!

How long might I be a prisoner!

Of this war with the greatest empire in the world none could foresee or
calculate the end.

Years, perhaps, might pass, and find me still a captive. By the troops
of General Canrobert, some men had been discovered who had been lost by
the French on their fatal retreat from Moscow in 1813, and who had, from
youth to age, been slaves in the Tartar fortresses or the Siberian
mines.

My blood ran cold with this idea. Oh, if such were to be my fate!

If Berkeley returned to England after all, and married Louisa! And
then, if this wretched Brassy Wheedleton succeeded in marrying Cora,
while I was industriously quarrying for copper and assafoetida in the
vicinity of that pleasant city, Tobolsk by name!

But what was Cora to me? She was my cousin, and, of course, my cousin
must not throw herself away and make an unequal marriage.

“There are men in this world,” says a female writer, “who are quite
capable of being in love with two women at once.”

This was not at all my case; but I fear that Louisa’s cold and cutting
neglect was causing me to think more than I used to do of Cora
Calderwood, who I knew loved me well, and I remembered the strange
episode of the spell, or mesmeric riddle, wrought by the _hakim_
Abd-el-Rasig, the surgeon of the 10th Egyptian Infantry.

But to be a prisoner—the prisoner of these filthy wretches—and to be
conveyed by them, like a helpless Polish exile, I knew not whither!

If in boyhood, and even in infancy, I had ever a horror of study and
restraint; if in later years, even regimental discipline sometimes
galled me by its monotonous trammels, the reader may imagine how I
writhed, how my soul revolted, at the idea of being a Russian captive,
and how I longed for vengeance on Berkeley. I swore to horsewhip him in
front of the line, and pistol him after! There was no extravagant
length in punishment to which my fancy did not resort and my fury
indulge in. No MacGregor with the dirk at his lips, swearing vengeance
for Alaster of Glenstrae; no Corsican De Franchi, vowing a dreadful
_vendetta_ on his foe, could harbour feelings more bitter than I did in
those moments of futile anger in that poor Tartar cottage.

I talked to myself wrathfully and incoherently.

I dozed at last; but my slumber was haunted by dreams and nightmares,
like those of a fevered patient. I saw Louisa Loftus, with her pale and
lovely features distorted by fear, her black hair floating all
dishevelled about her white shoulders. She was clinging to the verge of
a lofty rock, towards which an angry tide was advancing, while I,
chained, withheld by some mysterious power, was unable to succour or to
save her. My voice was gone, and my agonies were unbelieved, as she
only beheld them with proud smiles of scorn and derision.

The scene changed. Now she had married, or was about to marry the
Marquis of Slubber, believing me dead—that I had perished in the East.
I heard her say so, distinctly and tearlessly, with a calm sympathetic
smile, which my Lady Chillingham, with an impatient motion of her fan
rebuked. Still I was deprived of all power of volition, and a spell tied
up my utterance, till Berkeley—I saw him to the life, in his lancer
uniform, hovering about her, to the evident annoyance of the senile
marquis—told her, in his drawling lisp, that he had seen me killed, and
she quite believed him. Then a painful cry escaped me, and I awoke. I
had other dreams, and these were, perhaps, the worst of all. I was
free! I had exposed and punished Berkeley. I was again among my
friends; handsome Beverley, Travers, bluff Jack Studhome, Fred Wilford,
and the others were around me. The lancers were on parade, I heard the
neighing of the chargers; and saw the long line of glittering lances,
the plumes and banperoles waving in the sunshine; I heard the music of
our band; we were laughing, talking, smoking; we were in the mess or
billiard-room, and I could hear the bells of Canterbury ringing in the
cathedral towers.

At other times I was in Calderwood Glen, under the old, old trees that
had echoed to the hunting-horn of many a kingly Stuart; or I was on the
heather muirs, gun in hand, with old Sir Nigel, knocking over the
whirring partridges and the golden pheasants, the plash of the mountain
burn and the hum of the mountain bee coming together on the balmy
breeze, as I trod the green Lomond side, and saw the grassy glens of
Fife, the blue Forth, and many a village spire among the woodlands far
away.

Then to waken and find myself chained to the Cossack corporal, in that
loathly Russian den, in the wilds of Crim Tartary, was a disappointment
cruel and bitter!

The rising sun saw us once more on the road; but for what place I was
still ignorant. Before we started Corporal Pugacheff released my hand,
but pointed significantly to his pistols.

On this day, as we proceeded eastward, there rose in the distance on our
right the mountain of the Tents, the highest in the Crimea (the Tchatir
Dagh, a mass of red marble), so named from its resemblance to the
dwellings of the Nogai Tartars. Five thousand feet it towered above the
Euxine, with its summit crimsoned in the morning sun.

Through a defile, named Demir-Kapon (or the Iron Gate), we entered the
valley of the Angar, a tributary of the Salghir (which flows into the
Putrid Sea); and here, from the slopes of the mountain, the scenes we
saw were full of rural loveliness—picturesque Tartar villages, laden
orchards and blushing vineyards, and flocks and herds without end;
everywhere softness blending with sublimity. I noted every foot of the
way well, as I had but one thought—escape.

I remember that near the Tartar town of Sivritash, which lies twenty
miles north-east of Sebastopol, we passed a body of Russian recruits for
various regiments, all hastening to get into the latter place before the
Allies could invest it.

These recruits were escorted by a squadron of the hussars of the
Princess Maria Paulowna (sister of the Emperor). They were certainly
gorgeously-equipped and accoutred troopers, mounted on fine Arab horses;
but my admiration for them was not increased by a blow which one of them
dealt me, in mere wantonness, with the flat of his sabre, as I trudged
past wearily and afoot: but this insult honest Pugacheff resented by
laying his lance heavily across the shoulders of the hussar.

Many questions were asked of him by the officers of these troops, who
altogether mustered about five thousand men; and from the frequency with
which the name Kourouk occurred in his replies, as well as the direction
in which we were travelling, I surmised that we were proceeding to the
fortress at that place.

In this conjecture I was right, for on the evening of the third day
after my capture, I found myself a prisoner in the secluded Russian fort
or outpost of Kourouk, which lies on the northern slope of the mountain
of Karaba Yaila, and is distant exactly seventy miles, as a bird flies,
from Sebastopol.

No parole was offered me; I was without money, and my name and rank were
alike unknown; I was clad only in the tatters of my own regimental
finery; and I felt a deep gloom steal over me, when the little wicket
gate in the massive wooden and iron barriers of the fortress was closed
behind me. And now, cast utterly among strangers, I parted with regret
even from the snub-nosed Corporal Pugacheff, who had been my guide thus
far, and from his red-eyed poodle, Olga, too.

I was the only prisoner of war in the fortress of Kourouk.

Continue Reading

Ere long we shall see what this availed him.

ALBANY. O save him! save him!

GONERIL. This is mere practice, Gloster:
By the law of arms, thou wast not bound to answer
An unknown opposite; thou art not vanquished,
But cozened and beguiled. SHAKSPEARE.

The prayer of Hezekiah for the prolongation of life flashed on my
memory, and rose to my lips, as with rage, and almost with despair at my
heart, I struggled to my feet, half-stunned, and groping blindly for my
sword-hilt, which hung from my wrist by its gold knot and tassel.

Just as I grasped it firmly, the nearest rifleman charged me with his
fixed bayonet, which ran through the left side of my full-dress jacket,
and came off. Clutching his weapon by the barrel, I closed in, and
plunged my sword twice into his breast. As he fell back, groaning
heavily, the bayonet of another struck me; but luckily, those fellows,
who belonged to the Kazan column, had blunted their weapons by broiling
beef on them over their wood fires.

A third rifleman fired full at my head; but, by a singular chance, the
nipple of his rifle was blown out by the explosion, and buried itself in
his forehead, just above the nose, severing the optic nerve, and nearly
forcing his eyes out. (In two hours after he died, raving mad.)

This incident created, for a moment or two, a diversion in my favour;
but a Cossack officer, armed with a great crooked sabre, assailed me.
Like one of Cæsar’s Legionaries of old, this fellow seemed bent on
cutting only at my face; and having some regard for my personal
appearance, I was not sorry when he fell backwards over my dead horse,
and in doing so, snapped his blade off near the hilt.

Could I have reached my holsters, in which were a pair of six-chambered
Colts, I might have escaped; but now I was hemmed in on all hands by a
band of fierce, ugly, beetle-browed, and snub-nosed Russians, in flat
caps and long great-coats.

In an instant my gold epaulettes, my rings—Louisa’s miniature and her
ring, the treasured pearl in blue enamel—my purse and watch, were rent
from me as if I had been in the hands of common footpads; and one of
those who assisted in such work was the Cossack officer, whose name I
afterwards ascertained to be Lieutenant Adrian Trebitski of the
Tchernimoski corps.

In fact, he made himself very busy about the knees of my trousers in
search of my portmonnaie (as the Russians usually carry their purses
strapped to the knee), while his Corporal found it in my pocket; and
each acquisition was greeted by a torrent of uncouth sounds, expressive,
I presume, of great satisfaction.

My sabretache was torn away. It contained only my uncle’s letter, which
I afterwards learned, was duly translated into choice French for any
secrets it might contain, and for the information of Princes Menschikoff
and Gortschikoff, who, I hope, were much edified by Sir Nigel’s
description of Mr. Brassy Wheedleton, and of Scotch prigs in general.

Having stripped me of every article of value, and ripped all the gold
lace from my lancer jacket and blue pantaloons, I have no doubt those
savage wretches would soon have despatched me; but a wounded officer
rode up—the same personage with the many decorations and long grim
moustache. He ordered them to desist, striking those who were near him
with a whip that was attached to his bridle. He then placed me in charge
of his aide-de-camp, Captain Anitchoff, a fashionable-looking young
Muscovite, who wore the light blue and yellow-laced uniform of a hussar
corps (the Princess Maria Paulowna’s), and who has since that time
published a work on the Crimean campaign. He courteously informed me,
in French, that he was on the general staff of the Russian army, and
that the name of my preserver was Lieutenant-General Karlovitch Baur.

He also desired me to remain close by his side, while we proceeded
quickly to the rear. By this time, every trace of Travers and my
squadron had disappeared.

And so I was actually a prisoner!

I was, perhaps, the sole trophy of the Russian army, so they were
disposed to make the most of me. I had a special escort of a corporal
and two well-bearded and ill-washed Cossacks, who rode one on each side
of me, and one in the rear, each trussed up among his forage plunder and
fleas—their shaggy little horses being so laden that little more than
their noses and tails were visible. If I lagged, the corporal used to
grin and shake his lance ominously; and when not occupied in scratching
themselves, they were very merry and not unpleasant, though totally
incomprehensible companions.

I knew not in what direction they were conveying me, and our mutual
ignorance of each other’s language prevented me from discovering. I
could but trust to chance and patience.

Meanwhile, my friends were, I am pleased to say, under no small concern
on my account elsewhere.

The army halted at Belbeck, where five hundred sick—among whom were many
of my lancer comrades—were left behind, all ill with cholera. Lord
Raglan occupied the château of a fugitive Russian noble, and there
Travers rode to report that he had seen the Russians in strength among
the woods between Belbeck and Khutor-Mackenzie, where, as all the world
knows, a sharp engagement took place with them soon after, and where
they were driven back with the loss of baggage and ammunition for more
than twenty-five thousand men. Among the former were a great quantity
of watches, jewellery, and gay hussar jackets, in which the artillery
and Highlanders masqueraded for a time.

After making his report to Lord Raglan and General Airey, Travers rode
to Colonel Beverley, who occupied a Tartar’s cottage near the river
side. There he found several of ours, including Fred Wilford, old
M’Goldrick, the paymaster, and Studhome, making a hearty repast on some
well-cooked wild boar, with caviare, biscuits, and plenty of champagne,
which had been found in the broken-down carriage of General Kiriakoff,
whose crest and initials were painted on the lid of his canteen, which
contained a tiny dinner service for four, but all of Dresden china.

“Gentlemen,” exclaimed Beverley, starting to his feet, as Travers,
Berkeley, and young Scarlett entered, “I am sorry to see you return
alone. Where is our friend Norcliff?”

“Gone to the—aw—devil by the down train, probably,” muttered Berkeley,
whose teeth chattered as he drained a glass of champagne.

“He has fallen into the enemy’s hands,” said Captain Travers; “a rescue
was impossible, as we knew not the extent of the ambush into which we
fell. I saw him riding after us, with Berkeley——”

“Aw—yes, colonel—we were covering the rear of the squadron, in fact,”
interrupted that personage.

“Suddenly there was heard a single shot, and on looking back, I saw
Berkeley galloping on alone——”

“Alone!”

“And poor Norcliff in the hands of the Russians, who were cutting him to
pieces apparently.”

“His horse had been shot under him?” said the colonel.

“Yes—but—aw—not by the Russians,” said Berkeley.

“By whom, then?” asked the colonel, sharply.

“By himself,” was the unhesitating response.

“Himself?”

“Absurd!”

“Impossible!” exclaimed his hearers, in succession.

“It is neither absurd nor impossible. The horse was killed by a
pistol-shot, and he fell into the power of the Russians.”

“Do you mean to say,” asked the colonel, slowly, after a very ominous
and unpleasant pause, during which Berkeley’s paleness increased, and he
tugged his moustache with his effeminate, girlish-like fingers, feeling
evidently the loss of a toothpick, with which, like other fops, he
soothed his leisure moments; “do you mean to say that this event was not
accident, but design?”

“Can’t tell, ’pon my life—aw—haw—would rather not say anything about
it—it was doocid odd, anyway,” drawled Berkeley, applying himself to the
champagne again.

“Mr. Berkeley, I must insist upon your explaining.”

“Can’t say, I repeat—his pistol exploded—the bullet went through his
horse’s head——”

“Killing it on the spot?”

“Of course—aw—of course.”

“What could be his reason——”

“Perhaps he thought—aw—it safer work to fall quietly into the hands of
the Russians thus than to ride back under their fusilade.”

“Are you aware, Mr. Berkeley,” said the colonel, with increasing
gravity, while all present exchanged some very peculiar glances, “that
this is tantamount to branding our friend with cowardice?”

“I shall—aw—aw—answer that question, Colonel Beverley, when the time
comes, and he returns,” replied Berkeley; “but I don’t think those
Russian riflemen were in the mood to show much mercy or quarter to-day.”

“And Norcliff was not such a muff as to surrender quietly,” said
M’Goldrick.

“You will answer the colonel’s question when Norcliff returns say you?”
exclaimed Studhome, starting forward, pale with passion; “answer it you
shall, and now, to me!”

“Studhome!” said the colonel, interposing angrily, “this is some
mistake—some wretched misconception. We all know that Captain Norcliff
was incapable of committing the act you, Mr. Berkeley, impute to him.”

“I have seen him lead his troop under fire ere now,” growled Studhome;
“and lead it when Mr. Berkeley might have thought it unpleasant work to
follow him.”

“Aw—haw—well, disprove it if you can,” said Berkeley, with one of his
old insufferable smiles, as he stuck his glass in his eye, and lounged
out of the cottage, near which my poor fellow, Willie Pitblado, was
lingering to pick up some certain information about me from the
colonel’s servants.

“Eh, me! this will be sair news for the folk at Calderwood Glen,” he
sighed, as he and Lanty O’Regan turned away together.

As Berkeley and I had been in the rear, none save myself could be
cognisant of his foul act of treachery. He never doubted that I had
been bayoneted by the Russians, and, confident that I should never
return, he thus crowned his villany by attempting to destroy my honour.

Continue Reading

Proved in the under-written Odyssey

The letter from the Under Secretary of State for War, which announced my
capture by the Russians, unfortunately proved more correct in its tenor
than the telegram; but the mode in which I fell into their hands,
through the foul treachery of Mr. De Warr Berkeley, shall be detailed by
myself in the following chapter.

On the 23rd of September, early in the morning, we bade adieu to the
Alma, and to all those sad mounds that now lay along its southern bank,
marking where seven thousand seven hundred and eighty soldiers were
taking their last long slumber.

The dying Marshal St. Arnaud—for he took the field literally in a dying
state—wished us to advance on the day immediately after the battle, as
his intention was to be at Sebastopol by the 23rd, at latest.

“If,” said he, in one of his letters, “I land in the Crimea, and it
pleases God to give me a smooth sea for a few hours, I shall be master
of Sebastopol and of the whole Crimea; I will push on this war with an
activity and energy that shall strike the Russians with terror!”

But the humane Lord Raglan declined to advance until the wounded of all
countries were attended to; and to that high-spirited hero and Christian
gentleman, Dr. Thompson, of the 44th—still remembered in his native
Scottish village as “the surgeon of the Alma”—was committed the care of
seven hundred and fifty Russian soldiers, who had lain in their blood on
the field for sixty hours. Accompanied by one attendant, with only a
flag of truce displayed upon a lance to protect him from the savage and
vindictive Cossacks who were hovering about, that self-devoted man
worked without ceasing in the care and cure of those miserable
creatures, who were all lying side by side, collected in one place—the
acre of wounded—a task which proved too great in the end for his
energies, as he died of fatigue and cholera soon after the battle.

The day after we marched, Death, who had hovered beside the great French
marshal, even while his baton directed the movements of his zouaves and
riflemen, seized more firmly on his victim, and on the 29th St. Arnaud
died of cholera—that fatal pest, which still hung upon our skirts.

Our wounded, after the Alma, were conveyed in great numbers in those
_kabitkas_, some of which I had personally secured; and these, after
delivering their suffering and dying loads to the boats’ crews, had to
bring back supplies to the camp. Many of those open carts broke down,
and were abandoned on the road with their contents; and thus, after we
marched, it was no uncommon event for us to find seven or eight
soldiers, dead, or dying of wounds and cholera, above the bags of
biscuit intended for the use of the troops.

The morning of the 23rd beheld us set forth hopefully on our march to
Sebastopol, where we hoped to crown our efforts by its speedy capture
and destruction.

No enemy was visible to oppose our advance, and save here and there a
broken-down _kabitka_, a dead Russian, who had fallen in his flight, and
lay by the wayside in his leather helmet and long coat, with the
vultures hovering over him; save these, and a deserted cannon, and the
deep wheel-tracks in the rough old Tartar road, no trace remained of the
great host we had swept before us in disorder and dismay.

In the afternoon of that day, we reached the beautiful valley of the
Katcha (seventeen miles from Sebastopol), a river which has its source
among the mountains of Taurida, and flows into the Black Sea, a little
below Mamachai.

The valley is fertile, and we had all the enjoyment of abundant
provender and water. We occupied the pretty little village of Eskel,
which Baur and Kiriakoff’s retreating Cossacks had plundered and
partially destroyed, and piles of broken furniture around the
tastefully-decorated villas of the more opulent residents evinced their
destructive spirit.

Studhome, Travers, Sir Harry Scarlett, and I possessed ourselves of a
pretty little villa, with painted lattices of coloured glass, and rooms
neatly—even handsomely—furnished. A piano, and some pieces of music from
Rossini’s “Guillaume Tell,” Strauss’s waltzes, &c., were scattered
about, showing that the fair occupants had fled at our approach; but
nearly all the furniture and every utensil had been destroyed.

With his carbine, Pitblado had shot a brace of fine fat ducks, just in
time to anticipate those most active of foragers, the Zouaves, and they
were stewed in a warming-pan, which he had luckily discovered, and
utilized for culinary purposes, the fuel used being the front door of
the villa, the wood that came most readily to hand.

We had a comfortable supper, and Travers and Scarlett, who were wont to
be fastidious enough with the mess-waiters about the icing of their
sparkling hock or Moselle, were now content to wash down their stewed
duck with a draught of water from a stale wooden canteen. But then we
had gorgeous bunches of emerald green and dewy purple grapes, from the
vineyards close by, and melons and peaches, too; and these we ate in
defiance of prudence and the cholera.

We had just lit our cigars, and my cornet, Sir Harry, was trying his
hand on the piano, through which some inquiring Cossack had poked his
lance two or three times, when the trumpet-major arrived with letters
for us all; the mails from England had just come in and been
distributed. Many a letter was there for those whom we had left in
their graves behind us!

A letter from Sir Nigel! I recognised his bold, old-fashioned
handwriting. There was none from Cora (but she had scarcely ever
written to me), and there was none yet from Louisa Loftus!

Alas! I had ceased to hope for one from her. Yet I paused with good
Sir Nigel’s letter unopened in my hand, while my friends were busy with
theirs.

How was it that, as doubt, jealousy, and irritation gathered in my mind
concerning Louisa, I thought more of Cora, and that her soft features,
her sweet, earnest expression, her nose, that bordered on the retroussé,
her thick dark hair, and brilliantly fair complexion, came before me?

I opened my uncle’s letter. It contained little else than country
gossip, and his usual ideas on things in general; but some of these
seemed odd and startling to me then, as I read them in that Russian
villa, far away in Crim Tartary, with the hum of our camp mingling in my
ears with the rush of the mountain Katcha, as it poured through its
stony vale towards the sea.

The letter had been posted before news had reached Calderwood of our
departure from Varna.

“So the army is to remain inactive till half its number die of cholera;
and then the rest are to open a campaign against Russia at the beginning
of winter. History has no parallel for such—shall I call it madness?
But I tell you,” continued the furious old Tory, “that the Whigs—a party
which never yet made war with honour—have sold you to the Russians, and
_Punch_ alone dares boldly to expose it.” (Pleasant, thought I, to read
this within a short ride of Sebastopol!) “Every Scottish statesman had,
and still has, his price. In the olden time they were always ready to
sell Scotland to England, and why should one of the same brood hesitate
in selling both to the Russians now?

“My friend, Spittal of Lickspittal, the M.P., of course ridicules this
idea; but that is no proof of our suspicions being incorrect. He and
the Lord Advocate—that especial ministerial utensil for Scotland—have
put their small brains in steep to prepare some bill for the
assimilation of our laws; but strive though they may, they can never
assimilate them. And while Englishmen may bow with respect to the
decision of Mr. Justice Muggins, to our ears an interlocutor sounds
better when delivered by my Lord Calderwood, Pitcaple, or so forth.

“By the way, Cora has had a dangler, a new admirer, for some time past;
and who the deuce do you think he is? Young Mr. Brassy Wheedleton, son
of old Wheedleton, the village lawyer here—one of those fellows who
should be in front of Sebastopol just now, with sixty rounds of
ammunition at his back, instead of loafing about the Parliament House
with his hands in his pockets.

“He is a greater snob than your brother officer, Mr. De Warr Berkeley
(whose patronymic was Dewar Barclay, and who once asked, when I was
fishing six miles up the Eden, if I ’’ad ’ooked many ’addocks’).
Whenever little Brassy comes here anent that d——d bond, he lays close
siege to Cora, with flowers, books, music, and pretty nothings; but she
only laughs at this Edinburgh goose, who neither speaks English nor
Irish, Scotch nor the unknown tongue; who pronounces lord ’lud,’ and
cat, what, or that as ’ket, whet, or thet,’ and so forth. Believe me,
Newton, there is no more grotesque piece of human carrion than a genuine
Scotch snob, in a high state of Anglophobia.

“I am sorry to say it, but the honourable position of the Scottish bar
is simply traditional—a thing of the past. To the English barrister,
the House of Lords, the woolsack, and the highest offices of the state
are open; but to his poor Scotch brother, since the Union, after
blacking the boots of the Lord Advocate, and scribbling in defence of
his party, whatever it may be, a wretched sheriffship is all he may get,
unless, like Mansfield, Brougham, or Erskine, he casts his gown inside
the bar, and crosses the border for ever.

“Any way, I don’t like Cora’s dangler; but the fellow is plausible, and
will be deuced hard to get rid of, unless Pitblado could mistake him for
a partridge, or Splinterbar bolt across country with him, after we have
given her a feed of oats, dashed with brandy.

“I wish you could see Cora, as the good girl sits opposite me just now,
reading. Her dark hair smoothly braided over her tiny ears; a muslin
dress of pink and white, fastened by your old Rangoon brooch; and she
blushes scarlet with pleasure as she desires me to send her love to
you.”

So ended this eccentric letter.

I felt irritated. But why should I? Cora might have a lover if she
chose. But then to throw herself away upon old Wheedleton’s son—old
Wheedleton, whose father was the village tailor!

Something like an oath escaped me; but at that moment Sergeant-Major
Drillem made his appearance, to announce that my squadron, with that of
Captain Travers, was detailed for the advanced guard of cavalry on the
Belbeck road, and that the trumpets would sound “boot and saddle” an
hour before dawn to-morrow.




In the dusk we got under arms, mounted, and, with the troops riding in
sections of threes, I rode from Eskel at a slow pace, crossed the
Katcha—a position stronger, in some respects, than the Alma, and which
the Russians might have disputed by inches, had we not cowed them; and
then we took the road towards Belbeck, while the whole army was getting
under arms.

My orders were simply to be on the alert, to advance in line when the
ground was sufficiently open for such a formation, and to “feel the way”
towards Belbeck, which lay only four miles distant. Such were the
instructions given to me by Colonel Beverley, whose eyes sparkled at the
coming work, for he was one of that race of men “known by the kindling
grey eye and the light, stubborn, crisping hair—disclosing the rapture
of instant fight.”

As we moved off we nearly trampled down a wounded cornet of the 11th
Hussars, who lay under a tree.

“That wretched little cornet of yours,” said Berkeley to a captain of
the 11th; “he reminds me—haw—of one of the new Minie rifles.”

“How?” asked the other, coldly.

“He is a small bore—haw—what do you think of the pun?”

“That it is poor, and the occasion is bad,” replied the hussar, sternly.
“The poor boy will be dead before sunset.”

“A doocid good thing for himself, and—haw—for us, too. He always beats
us at billiards,” was the heartless response of Berkeley.

“Is it true,” said I, “that Lieutenant Maxe, of the navy, has opened a
communication with our fleet at Balaclava?”

“Yes,” said Travers. “Bolton and Nolan informed me that the allied
generals were most anxious to secure it by a flank movement, especially
as it is slightly defended; and to announce this intention to the
fleets, which follow our movements, became the task of Maxe, who rode by
night through a woody district, literally swarming with Cossacks,
skirting Sebastopol; and with no aid but his brave heart, his sword and
pistols, arranged the combined sea and land movements so essential to
our success.”

“Gallant, indeed!” we exclaimed, as we rode off.

On our right lay the ocean, its waves, as they rose and fell, beginning
to be tipped with light, as the dawn brightened over the high ground
that rose on our left. The country became hilly in our front, and, as
it was open for a time, I formed the squadron, and advanced in line,
diverging a little to the east, in the direction of Duvankoi, a village
which is exactly five miles from Belbeck.

In fact, we advanced straight between these two places towards the
valley through which rolls the river that bears the latter name, and
which comes from the lofty table land of the Yaila, fed on its course by
all the mountain streams of the Ousenbakh.

The birds were singing merrily among the trees when the sun burst forth,
to light the glancing bayonets of the advancing columns in our rear; and
now before us opened the vale of the Belbeck, with all its groves of
vine and olive, as we crowned an eminence, from whence we could see the
woody ravines of Khutor-Mackenzie, and, ten miles to the westward, the
gilded dome of Sebastopol shining like a huge inverted bowl. From this
point the road lay through woods so thick, that we found it impossible
to preserve much military order, and the utmost vigilance was necessary
on the part of our exploring squadron, as scattered troops of the enemy
were supposed to be in our vicinity.

Lord Raglan, with his staff, usually rode in advance of our main body;
but on this morning my little party was in advance of the whole. As we
defiled between the trees, that covered all the slope, by sections, by
subdivisions, and frequently by single files, struggling along at a slow
pace, but with our horses well in hand, I had repeatedly to address
Berkeley in a tone of reprimand, for the loose and unnecessary manner in
which he was permitting the men to straggle, and his mode of response
was rather sullen, defiant, and, on one occasion, jeering.

“Aw—the dooce! very easy for you to speak. I didn’t make the road to
Belbeck,” he would mutter. And once he added, “A demmed fool I not to
send in my papers long ago—aw—aw—doocid deal too good-looking to be shot
in a ditch.”

Suddenly I called out—

“Front form troops at wheeling distance, and halt!” for now I perceived
that Sir Harry Scarlett, who was in advance with four lancers, halted
them, and sent back a corporal, who came along at a hand-gallop.

“Hullo, Travers, old fellow, what’s up, do you think—aw—aw—what’s the
row in front?” asked Berkeley, with haste and anxiety, as he stuck his
glass in his eye, and fidgeted in his saddle.

“The Russians, no doubt,” said Travers, drily, as his handsome face
brightened with courage and excitement.

“Ah, I thought so,” said I. “Are they in force, Corporal Jones?”

“We can’t tell, sir; but lance-heads, and bayonets too, are visible
among the coppice in front.”

By this time the two troops had formed, and halted in open column,
quietly and orderly, the leading three files of each having advanced for
three horses’ lengths, and then reined in as if upon parade.

“We can’t well use the lance here. Unsling carbines! Remain where you
are, Travers,” said I. “Mr. Berkeley and two files from the right,
forward with me—trot!”

I drew my sword, cast loose my holster flaps, and rode on with the
little party, all of whom followed me willingly enough, save one.

On joining the advanced party, we made ten horsemen altogether.
Proceeding farther, to where the ground dipped somewhat suddenly down
towards the Belbeck river, we could see, about a mile distant, a body of
Russian cavalry, whose spiked leather helmets and lance-heads glittered
in the sun. They were drawn up in line, their flanks being covered by
thickets, which concealed their actual strength, so that we knew not
whether they were a mere squadron or an entire brigade.

Berkeley, who was nervously busy with his powerful racing-glass,
muttered—

“I see an officer on a white horse. By Jove! a doocid swell—aw, aw—all
over decorations.”

After using my own telescope, I exclaimed—

“He is the same fellow we released in the evening after the Alma, when
Bolton came up with orders for the cavalry to fall back and abandon
prisoners. I know him by his grim visage and enormous white moustache.”

“Aw—aw—a general officer, I take him to be.”

“Now, lads,” said I, “be steady. I think I saw the glitter of a bayonet
among that brushwood in front. There may be an ambush prepared
thereabout, and into that we must not fall.”

I could not help thinking how useful a few hand-grenades would have been
on this occasion, as they would soon have solved our doubts.

To have fallen back would have served only to draw their fire upon us
instantly, if any men were concealed there.

“Follow me, lads!” I exclaimed. “Mr. Berkeley, keep the rear rank men
in their places.”

“Captain Norcliff, asthore!” cried Lanty O’Regan, shaking his lance,
“lead the way, and, be me troth, we’ll ride through the whole rookawn o’
them Roosians!”

Followed by my nine horsemen, I rode resolutely forward a few
lance-lengths, my heart beating wildly with excitement; but a climax was
soon put to that, for a hoarse voice in a strange language suddenly rang
among the underwood; fire flashed redly on both sides of us; I heard the
whistle of passing bullets, and amid the explosion of thirty Minie
rifles a double cry, as Berkeley and one of my men fell heavily on the
turf. The horse of the former was shot; but the poor lancer was
mortally wounded, and his charger galloped madly away.

“Good-bye, old nag. You will never carry Bill Jones again, I fear,”
cried the bleeding corporal, as he was hurrying to the rear with his
lance on his shoulder, when a second shot pierced his back, and finished
his career.

“Retire, Travers, retire!” I shouted at the fullest pitch of my voice;
“right about, lads, and away!”

The firing from the thicket was resumed, and another lancer fell dead
from his saddle.

“Aw—aw—for Heaven’s sake, don’t leave me here!” cried Berkeley,
piteously, while we heard the steel ramrods ringing, as the Russians
cast about and reloaded.

While the rest of my party retired at a gallop, I caught the fallen
lancer’s horse by the bridle, and—in less time than I take to write
it—dragged up the pale and crestfallen Berkeley, who scrambled rather
than mounted into the blood-covered saddle, and we galloped off
together, another shot or two adding spurs to our speed, and strewing
the leaves about us. So close were we to this ambush that I heard many
of the percussion caps snapping, as the Russian muskets doubtless
remained foul since the Alma.

Berkeley’s fresh horse carried him half its length before mine; he was
riding with wild despair in his heart; and bitter malice glittering in
his eye, for he felt that I had been heaping coals of fire upon his
head. I could read the double emotion in his pale face, as he glanced
fearfully back.

He had drawn a pistol from its holster, and, inspired by the spirit of
the devil, the unnatural wretch discharged it full into my horse’s head!

Wildly it plunged into the air, and then fell forward on its head, and,
as its forelegs bent, I toppled heavily over, and fell beneath it.

The whole affair passed in a moment, and the next saw me surrounded by
fierce and exulting Russian riflemen, with muskets clubbed and bayonets
charged.

Continue Reading

The mournful singing of the sea

A few days after the startling telegram reached Calderwood, the
newspapers teemed with despatches and details of the victory at the
Alma, the flight of the shattered Russian Army towards Baktchiserai, and
the advance of the Allies on Sebastopol.

Among those details were the official lists of the killed, wounded, and
missing, furnished by the adjutant-general. How many a home in the
British Isles did these fatal lists fill with grief? how many a heart
they wrung?

Cora Calderwood, pale, and still suffering from the recent shock, read
over the lists; but looked in vain for the name of her cousin Newton.
It was not among the killed; neither was it among the wounded or the
missing. There was no casualty among the officers of the lancers, save
the death of Lieutenant Rakeleigh, who was killed by a cannon shot in
the affair of Bulganak, on the evening preceding the great battle of the
Alma, “and whose body Captain Newton Calderwood Norcliff, with a few
lancers, made a gallant attempt to rescue and carry off.”

Poor Rakeleigh! She remembered how well he waltzed, and what desperate
love he made to her at the lancers’ ball, when flushed by a furious
galop and a bumper of the mess champagne. What mystery was this? Dared
she hope? Might papa prove right, after all? And might Newton “turn up”
as their old friend Dunnikeir had so often done, from under a pile of
dead men and horses, in the old Peninsular days? Sir Nigel instantly
wrote to the War Office requesting some information regarding Captain
Newton C. Norcliff, and was promptly informed that the telegram should
have been, “_The name of your nephew is_ NOT _among the killed._”

So the omission of those three letters—one little word—made a mighty
difference to poor Cora’s anxious and affectionate heart; but the letter
from the War Office added, after an apology, “_We regret to state that,
a day or two after the passage of the Alma, Captain Norcliff was
severely wounded, mutilated, and taken prisoner in a skirmish with the
enemy’s cavalry—an affair of which no detail has yet reached
headquarters._”

Mutilated and taken!—taken by those odious, savage, and terrible
Muscovites, of whose barbarities the newspapers were daily giving fresh
details! Here was a new horror—another source of anxiety and grief; and
Cora and Sir Nigel were never tired of surmising or conjecturing what
might be the fate of their kinsman, or of searching the public journals,
and the letters from the army with which their columns teemed, for some
scrap of information regarding the lost one; but they searched in vain.
Time passed on; the Russians sank their fleet across the mouth of the
harbour of Sebastopol; Balaclava was captured by the British; and the
second week of October saw the first bombardment of the beleagured city.
These were important facts; but one was more important still to Cora
Calderwood—there came no tidings of her lost cousin Newton. Had he died
in the hands of the Russians, or been sent to dig copper in the mines of
Siberia?—a place of which she had rather vague ideas, and of which, with
its capital, Tobolsk, she had read such thrilling accounts, when at
school, in Madame Cottin’s celebrated “Elizabeth, or the Exiles,” &c.
Her heart sank within her at this conjecture, and all that such a fate
suggested. She penned several letters on the subject to Lady Louisa
Loftus. Now, they could mingle their tears, she wrote; now they could
commune and sorrow in common; now——. But she could not tell _her_ that
she loved Newton, too, and could only profess a sisterly affection for
Louisa.




The responses of the latter were cold—singularly so. She was greatly
shocked, no doubt; it made her quite nervous, and all that sort of
thing, to think that Captain Norcliff should be mutilated. Had he lost
his nose (it was a very handsome one)?—or his ears?—or what had the
Russians cut off? If it was a leg, Lord Slubber jocularly suggested
that it would mar his fox-hunting and round-dancing for the future; and
to think of a husband with a wooden leg, or an iron hook for an arm,
like the poor old creatures one sees at Chelsea, would be so funny—so
very absurd!

“Oh,” exclaimed Cora, “to write thus, how heartless! To write thus,
when now, of all men in the world, he most requires commiseration! How
horrible! How worldly and selfish she is! She never loved him—never,
never loved him—as—as—I do,” she dared not add, even to herself.

Then the letter described the new lining of the carriage; the last thing
in bonnets, and—but here Cora crushed it up in her quick, impatient
little hand, and, with a gesture of impatience, flung it in the fire.
November kept on, and the woods in the old sequestered Glen became
leafless and bare.

The snow powdered white the bare scalps of the hills, and old Willie
Pitblado, the keeper, predicted that the coming winter would be a bitter
one, for numbers of strange aquatic birds had been floating on Lochleven
and in the Forth above Inchcolm; and one morning the woods round the
Adder’s Craig, and all the slopes of the Western Lomond, were covered by
flocks of wild Norwegian pigeons—large white birds, whose appearance in
Scotland always indicates a severe winter in the Scandinavian
peninsula—a winter in which all the north of Europe is sure to share; so
Cora trembled, in her tenderness of heart, as she thought of our poor
soldiers before Sebastopol, and her secret love, Newton, who, if
surviving, was a suffering prisoner in the hands of the Russians.

Cora often visited the cottage of old Willie, in the copse near King
Jamie’s Well (though the rows of half-decayed hawks, wild cats, and
weasels, with which its eaves were garlanded, made the atmosphere
thereabout redolent of anything but perfume), for Willie’s heart, like
her own, was with the army of the East; and he “devoured” all the
newspapers she gave him for intelligence of the war. But he used to
shake his white head, and speak often of the old times of Wellington and
his boyhood—of the many fine lads who had gone forth to Spain and
Holland—”forth frae the Howe o’ Fife, to return nae mair,” and he
greatly feared such would be the fate of his Willie, now that the poor
young master was gone.

The veteran keeper’s spirits had sunk considerably. He was rheumatic
and ailing now; but he still crept about the woods and preserves with
his old double-barrelled Joe Manton and his favourite dogs, and said
hopefully, at times, “Aye ailing, ye ken, never fills the kirk-yard,
Miss Cora.”

But Cora’s visits to the gamekeeper’s lodge, to the Adder’s Craig, the
ruined castle of Piteadie, and other old familiar haunts, became
circumscribed, when she had the annoyance of Mr. Brassy Wheedleton’s
company. For there were times when that legal sprout came on the
circuit, or visited Sir Nigel on business “anent the bond,” or begged
leave to have a few blundering shots at the pheasants; and he seldom
failed to combine these objects with a more ambitious one, by a pretty
close attention upon Cora, and a marked attention, that to her was only
productive of extreme annoyance.

Yule-tide had come and gone at Calderwood; again Cora’s pretty hands had
spiced the great wassail bowl, and all the household had partaken of its
contents; but there were heavy hearts at the Glen, as in many a home
circle elsewhere. For every icicle that hung from the eaves; every
flake of snow that drifted past; every biting gust that swept through
the bare woods, made old Sir Nigel and his people think of the horrors
our poor fellows were enduring among the frozen trenches of Sebastopol.
The golden pheasants and the brown partridges were alike forgotten, and
old Pitblado wandered about, alone and forlorn, among them, “though sic
a season for breedin’ he couldna ca’ to mind!”

The meets of the county pack took place at Largo, at Falfield, and
elsewhere. The foxes, tan, grey, and brown, were thick as blackberries
in Calderwood Glen—ay, thick as the black rabbits on the Isles of the
Forth—but the “M.F.H.” heeded them little. He had only ridden to the
hounds once that season, and preferred in the cold evenings his seat by
the ruddy dining-room fire, with his steaming tumbler of toddy on a
gueridon table close at hand; and there he dozed in his cosy easy-chair,
with his favourite dogs at his slippered feet; or he beat time dreamily
to Cora, as she ran her fingers over the keys of the cottage piano, and
sang some such old-fashioned song as the “Thistle and the Rose.”

Continue Reading