She is now at anchor close to the old ruined castle

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

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

“Berkeley?” I inquired.

“Has given you the slip for this time.”

“The devil!—how?”

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

“His sick leave——”

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

“He then divined your errand?”

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

“Something—what?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once I had a narrow escape.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

You are listening to the cannon of the siege train

In this manner we all sat ruminating upon schemes of vengeance, when our
little boy came running in to tell us that Mr. Burchell was approaching
at the other end of the field. It is easier to conceive than describe
the complicated sensations which we felt from the pain of a recent
injury and the pleasure of approaching vengeance.—VICAR OF WAKEFIELD.

It was fully three weeks after the affair of the Belbeck river, when I
found myself sharing Jack Studhome’s quarters in Balaclava, after duly
reporting myself to Colonel Beverley, and making special inquiries for
Berkeley, who had already procured a few days’ sick leave, prior to
returning to Britain on “urgent private affairs,” and was not with his
regiment, but was very snug on board his own yacht, which for his
convenience had come all the way from Cowes to Balaclava harbour.

“Leave—leave already—when we have barely broken ground before
Sebastopol!” I exclaimed, with profound disgust.

“Already,” said Studhome, with a grim smile, as he twisted up a
cigarette, a luxury unknown to the “gentlemen of England” until
introduced by returned Crimeans. “You may remember that I went home
from India on sick leave, just before that Rangoon business.”

“That was annoying.”

“Not at all—I thought it would be a stupid concern, and I had a heavy
book on the Oaks.”

“But you were, of course, ill.”

“What a Griff! Those who get home on sick leave are always in the best
health. It is just like the ’urgent private affairs’ of those who have
swell friends in high places. Uncles who are grooms of the backstairs,
and aunts who are ladies of the bedchamber. Take care of Dowb, you
know, and Dowb will take deuced good care of himself.”

“Home to England!” I was almost stupefied with rage at the prospect of
his escaping the speedy vengeance I had schemed out for him, after
Studhome told me that he had had the daring effrontery to accuse me of
shooting my own horse!

“But now, Newton,” said Jack, “for to-night, at least, not a word about
Berkeley. The colonel, Travers, Wilford, the paymaster, Jocelyn, and
Harry Scarlett are all coming here to sup with us jollily, in honour of
your safe return, providing their own plates and spoons, of course. I
omitted Scriven, because he is Berkeley’s particular chum. To-morrow
I’ll get a boat and board his yacht. Confound the fellow! we must
parade him—we must have him out now?”

“Or I shall shoot him in front of the line!” said I, grinding my teeth.

“Your Russian uniform would be quite in keeping with so melodramatic a
situation. By Jove, you are a figure!” exclaimed Jack, turning me
round, and surveying my Tambrov uniform with more amusement than
admiration; but his own “turn out” was the most comical of the two, for
the kind of work undergone since we landed had made serious alterations
in the gay uniforms of our troops.

Studhome had not enjoyed the luxury of washing his hands, perhaps, for a
week; and as for shaving, that was never thought of now. All our
officers had disembarked in their full uniforms. They had marched,
fought, and slept in them; the lace was frayed, the gorgeous
box-epaulettes all crushed, broken, and torn; the coats and trousers
were a mass of mud; shakos and regulation caps had all disappeared, or,
at least, the fez, the turban, the shawl, and the wide-awake were
rapidly replacing them.

Every officer had a canvas havresack wherein to carry those edibles he
was lucky enough to beg, borrow, or find; a revolver, with belt and
pouch, was strapped to his waist, and all had become bronzed, hairy,
gaunt, and brigand-like in visage and expression. “Oh for the mantle of
Fortunatus,” says one in his letters, “to place such an officer all at
once into his London haunts, and among the old familiar faces. Put him
down in Pall Mall, or Piccadilly, or on the swelling carpets of the
Junior United Service!”

Such was the aspect of Lionel Beverley, that tall and stately soldier,
and polished English gentleman; of Frank Jocelyn, our lisping dandy; of
the usually clean-shaven M’Goldrick, our quaint old Scotch paymaster; of
dashing young Sir Harry Scarlett, and all the rest of our once splendid
lancer mess, most of whom came crowding into Jack’s very queer bunk at
Balaclava, to welcome me back among them, and hear the story of my
adventures since I fell among the Russians.

Seated on boxes, chests, the camp bed, and even on the floor, they
jested, laughed, and smoked, while the din of the distant cannonade told
how the work of death was going on ceaselessly at Sebastopol.

“We are now, Norcliff, fairly in for the business of the siege,” said
the colonel.

“Ugh! and a jolly and lucrative business it is likely to prove,” added
the paymaster, with a grimace.

“Welcome back, Norcliff, old fellow!” said Travers, shaking me warmly by
the hand; “we must look up a kit for you somehow, and a remount too.
Beverley has a second horse; but I think its tail was eaten off by
Scarlett’s bay mare when the corn fell short.”

“Our horses have no nosebags. Those infernal red-tape-worms in London
are doing their best to destroy us,” said Sir Harry Scarlett.

“Are Sir Nigel’s suspicions to be right, after all?” thought I.

“You forget my Arab horse—my spoil from the enemy.”

“Well, gentlemen,” said Studhome, who had been uncorking several
bottles, “you shall sup _à la carte_. I have a hare which is being
jugged in that identical warming-pan which we picked up at Eskel; two
golden plovers and a gallant bustard are being stewed with it. I shot
the latter; the hare was caught by Travers’ Kurdistan dog—a rough brute,
like your Scotch staghounds, M’Goldrick. That is my kitchen,” he added,
pointing to a hole before the tent, in which some ashes were
smouldering. “This is true Crimean fashion. Make a hole as a grate,
and when you have aught to put in your kettle light a fire under it.
’Dost like the picture?’ But here come the viands!”

The stew, which had been prepared by Pitblado and Studhome’s servant
(both of whom officiated in their stablejackets), was certainly savoury
enough in odour, though not quite such as we might have welcomed at the
home mess-table. It steamed and spattered bravely in two large tin
dishes; and with their contents, and some biscuits of Trieste flour from
the bakery-ship _Abundance_ (on board which twenty thousand pounds of
bread were made daily, and yet the army starved), a piece of cheese,
some fruit, and several bottles of Bass, sherry, and brandy, we resolved
to make a night of it.

“’Od, it’s a queer mess, this!” said that constitutional grumbler,
M’Goldrick, as he fished away with his fork. “I doubt whether the
mastodon or the megatherium of antediluvian times would have faced it.
What do you call this, Studhome?”

“Come, don’t mock the blessings of war, most learned Scot! That is the
gizzard of a wild bustard. Help yourself and pass the sherry.
Pitblado, uncork the Bass.”

“Wood is frightfully scarce here,” said Travers. “Our fellows seized
and burnt all the tent-poles and pegs of Hadji Mehmet’s regiment of Bono
Johnnies, and old Raglan made a devil of a row about it.”

“We are put to odd shifts, certainly,” added the colonel, laughing; “and
it is seldom a supper like this comes our way, Norcliff. The green
coffee, pounded between two stones, is not the worst thing we have to
encounter; for, after it is pounded, we have no fuel wherewith to boil
it, and men are actually flogged for taking dry-wood from the beach. We
must do our best to keep ourselves alive, though the Russians and
red-tapists are doing theirs to make an end of us.”

“I have actually been thinking of turning Tartar, and speculating
seriously on the merits of horseflesh,” said Scarlett, as he tore away
at a drumstick of the bustard. “I suppose you know that the chargers of
the Heavies are dying like sheep with the rot?”

“Now, M’Goldrick, pass the bottle, will you!” said Jack. “By Jove! you
Scotchmen are such slow fellows!”

“Slow or fast,” growled the paymaster, “I don’t know how in this war you
would get on without us. You have the two Dundases, Charley Napier, Sir
George Cathcart, two Campbells—Sir John and Sir Colin—Jamie Simpson, and
Sir George Browne.”

“Anything you like; but pass the wine from right to left,” said the
jovial adjutant, who began to sing—

Right about went horse and foot,
Artillery and all,
And as the devil left the house,
They tumbled through the wall,
When
They saw our light dragoons,
With their long swords, boldly riding,
Whack! fol de rol, &c.

Amid this kind of merriment and banter, we heard ever and anon the
thunder of the heavy guns from the batteries of Sebastopol, as they
fired on the lines where our brave troops were working to get under
cover—working with old spades and mattocks, which the Iron Duke had sent
home as unserviceable from Spain—and I felt saddened by the idea that
every boom which pealed in the distance was, perhaps, the knell of at
least one human soul. I had other thoughts that made me grave and
stern.

No letters had reached me from home; nor had anything come, save an old
_Punch_ or two, addressed in my uncle’s handwriting. Even Cora was
forgetting me!

My blood was boiling against Berkeley. A long debt of cowardly wrong
was about to be paid off, if he did not elude me by a hasty departure on
leave. The clear grey eye of the colonel was fixed on me at times. He
knew my thoughts; but he and the others, with the intuitive delicacy
peculiar to well-educated and highly-bred men, forbore to speak of
Berkeley, and the grave obligation which they were aware I was about to
clear off in a manner that had become unusual now.

“You are listening to the cannon of the siege train,” said Beverley.
“We cavalry are in clover here, when compared to our poor infantry, who
are potting the Russians like partridges, from amid the mud of the
trenches.”

“Mud, thickened by blood, and fragments of shot and shell—a veritable
Slough of Despond!” added the paymaster.

“There, in the rifle-pits, our advanced parties have fired till the
grooves of their barrels are lined with lead, and their aching shoulders
are black and blue with the kicking of the butt.”

“Yes, colonel; and if any one wishes to study the theory of sounds and
atmospheric effects, my wigwam in the cavalry quarter is the very
place,” said Studhome. “Boom! there goes that Lancaster gun again. It
must be playing old gooseberry with the Russians by moonlight. Only
think of ten-inch shells, fired at point-blank range! I was up this
morning at the trenches, and saw a long sixty-eight pounder from the
_Terrible_ brought into position by the blue-jackets, to bear on a heavy
gun on the left embrasure of the Mamelon. It was trained by a naval
officer—a fine young fellow. The practice he made was perfect! The
first shot tore away the left of the embrasure; the second struck the
great gun full on the muzzle, shattering it, and then the eyes of the
young officer flashed with delight! ’Bravo, my lads! load he again!’ he
exclaimed; and with the third shot he dismounted the gun completely.
Lord Raglan then telegraphed to fire the sixty-eight every half hour,
and effectually breach the Mamelon.”

“But before the order came, a shot struck our brave young sailor, and
killed him on the spot,” added the Colonel.

“His fall was sudden, and his interment as rapid as his demise,” said
Studhome; “he was buried beside the gun.”

“Poor fellow!” observed the Colonel, thoughtfully; “few would like to
die thus. Yet that which was his fate to-day may be mine or yours
to-morrow. This idea makes the memory, the heart, go home. We number
those who love us there, and those whom we love. Their faces come
before us, and their voices fall again on the ear. Little expressions
and little episodes come vividly to mind. Shall we ever see them again,
those home circles—those loved and treasured ones! Well, well; every
bullet has its billet—duty is duty—(another old saw), and the first
obligation of a soldier is obedience. And so we console ourselves, and
hope on for the best, drowning dull care in the bottle, or boldly
treading him under foot.”

The poor Colonel’s words often came back to memory long after he led us
to that terrible charge through the Valley of Death!

Thus their conversation and anecdotes were all connected with the great
siege then in progress; but after they had all retired, Studhome and I
reverted, all at once, to the matter which was uppermost in my mind—the
punishment of Berkeley.

“Take a caulker of cognac, Norcliff, and then turn in. Keep your head
and your hand cool. I’ll take a boat for his yacht after _reveillez_
to-morrow, and though he has got sick leave for a few days, he is not so
sick that he can’t hold a pistol.”

“Arrange this for me, Jack, and you shall win my lasting gratitude,”
said I, fervently.

Jack shook me warmly by the hand, and then we betook us to our not
over-luxurious couches for the night.

When I awoke in the morning, Studhome had mounted and ridden off to the
harbour.

Continue Reading

Now an armour-clad, of six-inch iron plate

BEN. This wind you talk of blows us from ourselves!
Supper is done, and we shall come too late.

ROMEO. I fear too early; for my mind misgives,
Some consequence, yet hanging in the stars,
Shall bitterly begin his fearful date
With this night’s revels; and expire the term
Of a despised life, closed in my breast,
By some vile forfeit of untimely death:
But he that hath the steerage of my course
Directs the sail!
SHAKSPEARE.

The noon of the succeeding day saw me several miles from the Castle of
Kourouk, and pursuing the rugged old Tartar highway that was to conduct
me to Yekaterinoslav, under the escort of Trebitski’s Cossacks, about a
hundred of whom, armed with sabres, pistols, and lances, and carrying
their forage, food, and in most instances, plunder, rode in double file
on each side of a train of _kabitkas_, which were filled with sick and
wounded Russian soldiers, and, in a few instances, I saw Frenchmen among
them.

Every jolt of those wretched waggons over the rough and rocky roads
caused wounds to burst out afresh; groans and curses rose in the air,
and blood was soon oozing or dripping through the salt-encrusted
planking on the dusty highway.

These _kabitkas_ are Tartar waggons, which are driven in vast numbers to
Perecop for the conveyance of the salt, which, in the dry season—from
June till August—lies on the plains or steppes so thick that they are
usually driven axle-deep among it for loading.

A number of these waggons had been improvised by General Baur for
ambulance purposes; and now I found myself seated in one, among some
bloody and dirty straw, with three severely wounded men of the 45th, or
Tambrov regiment, and a French officer, whose face was half hidden by a
large bandage, discoloured by the blood of a sword-wound, which had laid
open his right cheek.

Intent upon escape, I looked earnestly and constantly before me; but we
were now traversing an undulating plain, that was dotted by a few trees,
of strange aspect, and the flocks of the Nomadic Tartars. And as the
path dipped down over an eminence, I took a last farewell, but certainly
not “fond look,” of Kourouk, with its two burnished domes, which
glittered brightly in the sunshine, while the Mountain of the Tent
looked faint and blue in distance.

Trebitski, the Cossack officer, had conceived, I knew why, a personal
animosity for me; and ever and anon, as if he would anticipate any
attempt on my part to escape, he hovered about the _kabitka_ in which I
was reclining, and recoiling in disgust from the grey-coated Muscovites
who lay beside me, and whose presence made the air redolent of Stamboul
tobacco, bloody bandages, and the Russian leather of their clumsy boots
and coarse accoutrements.

One of the first acts of the pitiful Trebitski was to deprive me of a
small basket of rations—cold fowl, wine, &c.—provided for me by the
kindness of Vladimir Dahl and Captain Anitchoff, and to substitute in
their place a meagre allowance of the black bread, salt, and _vodka_
used by the half-barbarian escort.

I determined to report this petty theft on reaching his head-quarters;
but where were they?

At Yekaterinoslav, on the banks of the Dnieper, in the territory of the
Cossacks of Azof, far over the desert plains that lie beyond the Isthmus
of Perecop, whose vast fortress bars the way from the Crimea to the
mainland of Europe.

My blood boiled up with vengeance against Berkeley, my betrayer, and my
entire soul revolted at the prospect of such a heartless and hopeless
journey, with a doubtful termination—a captivity, the end of which none
could foresee; and the desire—a deep, clamorous, and heart-burning
desire—of escape at any hazard grew strong within me; but I was without
weapon, money, or a horse.

Oh, that I had but five minutes’ start, with such an animal under me as
that ridden by Trebitski, which was a beautiful and powerful Arab, whose
actions were full of lightness and grace!

To increase my annoyance, this bearded commander got tipsy more than
once on brandy and absinthe; and then he would shake his crooked sabre
at me with many “strange oaths,” of which I could make nothing; but I
thought that, if some of those “wives and daughters of England,” who
think foreigners so interesting, had been with us in the Crimea, their
ideas of continentals might have changed in favour of their more prosaic
countrymen.

“_Ouf! pst! pst!_” I heard the wounded Frenchman muttering, as he raised
himself from an uneasy doze, and looked about him with one eye, that
glared wildly, for bandages concealed the other. “But for this devilish
Crimean business, I should have been flirting in the Bois de Boulogne,
lounging in the Gardens of the Tuileries, eating ices at Tortoni’s, or
drinking lemonade at a café chantant with la belle Rogolboche. _Pst!
pst! c’est le diable!_” Then, addressing himself to me, he said, “_Ah,
le Cossaque!_—yon devil of a Trebitski—is a shocking ruffian—a veritable
brigand! Luckily, the Russian savage does not understand a word we say.
He has stolen your rations, and left you—pah! what a dog wouldn’t eat;
but I have something better, and you shall dine with me.”

“I thank you, monsieur,” said I.

“Comrades in glory, we shall be friends in misfortune!” exclaimed the
Frenchman, with great emphasis. While he ran on thus, something in his
voice seemed familiar to me.

“You are, monsieur—you are——”

“Exactly, my friend; Victor Baudeuf, at your service—Captain of the
French line.”

“I thought you were killed at Alma!”

“Only half killed, as you may see. Pardieu! but who told you so?”

“Mademoiselle Sophie.”

“The vivandière of the 2nd Zouaves?”

“Yes.”

“Ah! she had always a spite at me—that dear little Sophie. You should
see her riding at the head of the 2nd, with her canteen slung over her
shoulder, and a cigarette between her little fingers, and a saucy
twinkle in her bright eyes as she sings—

“Vivandière du régiment
C’est Catin qu’on me nomme,
Je vends, je donne, et bois gaiment
Mon vin et mon rogomme.

“I hope she may escape all this wild work, and see our beautiful France
again. No, monsieur, I was not killed, but most severely wounded—left
for dead—and thus fell into the hands of these beastly fellows. I
remember you now, monsieur. We often met at Varna, at the Restaurant de
l’Armée d’Orient. A droll den it was! And you remember Jules
Jolicoeur, of the 2nd Zouaves. Poor Jules! A round shot finished him
at Alma. He has gone to his last account. Heaven rest him! You are a
Scotsman, I believe, though I always took you for a Jean Boule—à
_biftek_; and so you shall dine with me. ’_Fier comme un Ecossais_,’ is
still a proverb among us in France, in memory of the old times, which
our Zouaves are about to renew, I think; for they boast themselves ’_les
Ecossais de l’Armée Française_,’ and fraternize like brothers with your
sans culotte regiments, in what you call ’lakeelt.’”

All this sounded so like some of Toole’s “French before breakfast,” that
I could almost have laughed at my garrulous friend, who produced from a
small havresack, which he opened with his left hand—the right being
severely shattered by a grape shot—one of those _pâtés de foies gras_
for which Strasbourg is so famous; made from the livers of geese, after
the poor birds have undergone a process there is no use in detailing
here. Heaven knows how M. Baudeuf came by it, but the pâté, with his
biscuit, he divided very liberally with me, and with the three wounded
Russians, who shared with us the soft comforts of the _kabitka_, and
whose glances of hungry appeal there was no resisting.

Aware that they knew not a word we were saying, we conversed freely; and
I told the Frenchman that, as no parole had been offered us, we should
escape together. He replied that the hazard was great; yet that he
would have shared it with me, but for his shattered hand, which made him
every way so helpless. He wished me every success, and gave me secretly
a little map of the Crimea, which he had concealed in the lining of his
tattered uniform; and this on every occasion I studied intently.

“Mutilated as I am, it is of no use to me,” said he; “but may serve you,
_mon camarade_, at a pinch.”

It was small, and by Huot and Demidoff; but was extremely correct.

On our arrival at Karasu-bazar, sixteen or eighteen miles from Kourouk,
I was separated from this pleasant Frenchman. I never saw him again, and
have too much reason to fear that he perished amid the horrors of a
catastrophe which ensued subsequently.

It was evening when, after traversing a pleasant valley, we entered
Karasu-bazar, so slow had been the progress of our primitive train of
cars, with their melancholy load of human suffering. Situated on the
Karasu, an affluent of the Salghir, this town is the great wine and
fruit mart of the Crimea; and there a strange rabble of Tartars in short
jackets, with open sleeves, high caps, and high boots; Greeks in scarlet
fez and baggy blue breeches; Russians, with fur caps and canvas
doublets, trimmed with fur; and Armenians, in long, flowing garments,
crowded around us.

These escorted us through the narrow and tortuous streets in the dusk.
To attempt an escape there would be futile, notwithstanding that the
Tambrov uniform which I wore seemed to favour the idea.

Darkness set in. We were closely guarded; and now I heard the shrill,
vicious whistle of a railway engine, and found the train of _kabitkas_
halted near some wooden booths, where the wires and posts of a
telegraph, a platform, and covered passenger shed, with other familiar
features of the usual kind, indicated a railway station!

In fact, we had reached the head of a single track line of railroad,
which had been hastily constructed for the conveyance of troops and
munition of war a portion of the way towards Perecop; and probably it
might have been carried to Arabat, at the head of the Putrid Sea, or to
Sebastopol itself, but for the rapid advance of the Allies.

Roughly constructed and hastily laid down, it led from the banks of the
Karasu I knew not at the time whither, as it was not depicted in the map
given to me by Captain Baudeuf, from whom I was now, as I have said,
separated.

We were all hurriedly thrust into carriages, or rather trucks, like
those for conveying cattle in Britain, without seat or other
accommodation, save a little straw for the miserable wounded, whose
numbers were greatly augmented by some fugitives from Khutor-Mackenzie.

The line of trucks might be, I suppose, about forty, including one which
bore the gallant Trebitski with his “Araby steed;” and three quaint and
old-fashioned locomotives, with large wheels and high chimneys, were
getting up their steam—one in front, one in rear, and one in the centre;
and these, after much wheezing and puffing, screaming and clanking, with
other discordant noises, got into motion simultaneously, and in the dark
we shot away from the streets and bazaars of the Karasu, for where was
yet a mystery to me.

The Cossack escort was now reduced to twenty dismounted men, who left
their horses and lances behind them, and were distributed among the
carriages; but luckily there were none in mine.

We had scarcely left the lights of the town behind us, when an odour of
burning attracted my attention, and the attention of those who were
penned up like sheep in the same truck with me. We could only
communicate our fears by signs, and heads were constantly put forth on
both sides of the train, and withdrawn, always with exclamations of
excitement, while the alarming odour increased strongly.

The lines of rail were laid on sleepers of wood, and I imagined that,
perhaps, the hot ashes dropping from the three engines might cause the
smell of burning that was filling the air heavily, as we tore along past
hills and rocks, the domes of village mosques, or churches, tipped with
silver light by the rising moon; along wooden bridges that spanned
hoarse and brawling mountain streams; across open wastes, where the
millet, rye, and hemp had been reaped and gathered, or where the wild
tobacco still grew; past slopes clothed by dark waving woods, the
chestnut, the oak, and the wild pear tree, the rush of the train, and
the scream of the engine scaring away the goshawks, the magpie, and kite
from their nests; past round towers, arches, and aqueducts, the
crumbling ruins of the old Genoese days; past where flocks and herds
were grazing, till they fled on the noise of our approach.

And now the train dashed into a forest of pine and turpentine trees,
through which it seemed to rush for miles upon miles, its speed
augmenting every instant, while the odour of burning increased with
every revolution of the wheels.

Anon, loud cries of terror and agony rang out at times upon the night
breeze; and now a light—actual flames, other than those which came from
the furnaces—occasionally shed its swift red gleam upon the gnarled tree
stems that stood in thick ranks on each side of the way; and then came
the appalling conviction upon all our minds that, in addition to having
run off, or having been abandoned by its stupid Muscovite
engine-drivers, the train was on fire!

In those open and rudely-constructed trucks, there were no windows to
lower. I thrust my head through the nearest opening, and found that the
two carriages in front of ours were a mass of flames, which burst forth
fiercely from all the apertures, and these, as they rushed in streams
behind, in consequence of the intense draught caused by the wild speed
at which the train careered through the forest, were setting our
carriage on fire also. Fortunately I was in the rear compartment, and
for a time could look steadily ahead.

Oh, what a sight it was!

The footways on each side of the carriages that were on fire were
literally alive with sick and wounded wretches, who had crept out, and
now clung to the steps and handles, by which the guards usually clamber
about, afraid alike to fall or cast themselves off; but every instant a
shriek was heard, as the grasp of some maimed or feeble unfortunate
relaxed, and he vanished from sight as the train swept on. Some fell
into watercourses, some fell over banks, and were flung into the forest,
the turpentine trees of which, in many places, were now in flames.

The straw amid which the more helpless wounded lay was soon on fire.
Many of them were literally roasted alive, and I heard the pistols of
the Cossacks exploding, as they went off in the heat, or as their
despairing wearers shot themselves or each other.

The engine-drivers, for some reason unknown to me, must have jumped off
and abandoned the train, for it swept through the forest unchecked, a
mass of flames, from which the yells and shrieks were appalling. More
than one carriage was literally burned down to its iron, all within
perishing miserably.

Even at that desperate time the hope of escape grew strong within me,
for every confusion was favourable. Being locked in on both sides, I
crept through an aperture which served for a window, and found footing
on the side gangway, with two or three others, who clung to the carriage
and moaned fearfully, for the exertion had made their gunshot wounds
burst out afresh. They soon dropped off, and I was left alone.

The rush of the glowing flames came hotly aft upon my face and hands. I
saw the clinging mass ahead, swaying to and fro, their faces and figures
reddened in the scorching glare, which lit up the line of rails like two
red-hot wires that vanished into the forest—all this I saw for a moment,
and a moment only.

I was about to drop off, and trust to Providence for the sequel, when
there was a sudden shout, a crash, a vast shower of ruddy sparks, that
seemed to fill the air with fire, a piercing yell, and then, in silence
and darkness, I found myself rolling down a grassy bank for some twenty
yards or so, until I was arrested from further harm by some soft tobacco
plants, which there grew wild and thickly.

Unhurt, but greatly confused, and completely breathless I staggered up
to look around me.

The coupling of two of the burning carriages had broken; they had
tumbled heavily down the bank, breaking to pieces as they fell,
scattering the brands of their blazing woodwork far and wide, killing
outright some of the scorched and wounded occupants, several of whom I
saw lying near me in the moonlight, blackened and mutilated, while the
remainder of the train, with its three engines, all abandoned by their
cowardly conductors, swept on its errand of destruction and death
through the now flaming forest.

As I rose from amid the strange débris of smouldering wood and shattered
iron, of dead or dying, and half-burned men, and was considering in
which way to turn, I was met face to face by one whose right arm was
broken, but who, nevertheless, uttered a hoarse and guttural
malediction, with which I was not unfamiliar, having heard it frequently
from his lips before. Drawing a pistol from his belt, with his left
hand he levelled it at my head.

Luckily the percussion cap snapped, and the weapon hung fire. But to
close with Trebitski—for he it was—to wrench the pistol away, and knock
him mercilessly down with the butt-end, were all the work of a moment,
and then I felt that I was “the monarch of all I surveyed.”

I was turning away, when a peculiar snorting sound attracted my
attention, and in a well-padded horse-box, which lay on its side far
down the slope, I saw the head of Trebitski’s Arab charger, as the poor
animal lolled out its red tongue, and threw back its small close ears in
terror and anger, for the sides of the horse-box were all scorched by
flame; and the mere odour of fire is sufficient to inspire a horse with
the most bewildering fear.

Here had Providence given me an additional chance for escape. But I had
no time to lose; the train might be stopped by this time (though no
sound, save the moans of the maimed, now disturbed the silence of that
woody solitude), and succour might be sent to the sufferers, though
human life is but little valued in Russia, and human suffering is viewed
there with an amount of indifference that savours more of Asia than of
Europe.

My dragoon knowledge served me usefully here. I contrived to calm and
soothe the Arab horse, to unbuckle the braces that secured it in the
partly-shattered stall, and it came forth, half-scrambling and
half-crawling, trembling in every limb, and every fibre quivering under
its glossy coat, which was flecked with white foam. Cowed, calmed, and
terrified by the recent catastrophe, the horse was as docile as if Mr.
Rarey had been whispering his magic in its ear.

A noble Arab, with all the peculiarities of its breed—the square
forehead and fine black muzzle, the brilliant eyes and beautiful veins,
the withers high and body light, and standing somewhere about fourteen
hands and a half—it was whinnying, and rubbing its nose on my hand as if
for protection and fellowship.

He was saddled and accoutred, and the bridle was hanging on the pommel.

In a moment I had it over his head, and buckled to perfection, the
bridoon touching the corners of the mouth, but low enough not to wrinkle
them.

I vaulted into the saddle, leaving the adjustment of the stirrups to a
more leisure time, as Trebitski, in Cossack fashion, rode with his knees
up to his elbows; and just as that redoubtable personage was reviving
after his rough tap on the head, I dashed into the forest, and soon left
the scene of suffering far behind me.

In several places the wood was on fire, and, being dry with the heat of
the past summer, the branches and crisp leaves, particularly those of
the turpentine trees, burned briskly. Thus I could see the wavering
flames reddening the clouds above, while riding on, and ignorant of the
route I was pursuing, through this dense old forest, the jungle and
underwood at times completely retarding all progress.

I paused only to lengthen the stirrups, and give my newly-acquired
steed—in which I began to feel all the interest of proprietorship—a
draught at a runnel, and then sought the recesses of the densest thicket
I could find to wait for day, that I might look warily about, and
consider what to do next, for, if taken with the horse of the
Parooschick Adrian Trebitski in my possession, the chances of being
shot, or sent to life-long slavery, were great. Anyway, I feared there
would be a vacant troop in Her Majesty’s lancers—a troop, perhaps, given
to Berkeley; and I feared that few Russian officers like the gay young
Anitchoff or kind old Vladimir Dahl might come in my way again.

My more immediate fear was for the wolves, which there roam in packs,
and were, no doubt, by this time howling and snarling among the victims
on the railroad. If any of them scented me, I should have to take
refuge in a pine, where I might be starved to death, after they had
devoured my horse.

Every sound startled me; but I heard only the occasional gobble of the
wild bustards, which usually go in great flocks through all the wild
places of the Crimea.

I unbitted the Arab, and let him graze, but hobbled him so that he could
not escape; and as day began to steal redly through the distant dingles
of the wood, the light slowly descending from the summits to the lower
stems of the lofty pines, I found some wild grapes whereon to breakfast,
and quench the fierce thirst which recent excitement had induced.

When the light sufficed I drew forth the map given me by poor Captain
Baudeuf, and began to study my whereabouts. Through the openings of the
trees I could see, about a mile distant, the current of a broad and
evidently deep river shining in the morning sun.

The railway had not, to my knowledge, crossed such a stream; it flowed
from the west towards the east; hence, from its magnitude, it could only
be the Salghir, which, after being joined by the Karasu, flows into the
Putrid Sea.

This stream has usually little water in its bed, save after the melting
of the winter snows; but recent rains among the mountains of Ac-Metchet
had swollen it beyond its usual size. And now I beheld what must have
been a bend or sweep of it flowing between me and the tract of country
where our armies lay—the tract that stretched away towards Sevastopol,
which I supposed to be at least a hundred miles distant; and that idea
afterwards proved to be correct.

For a time my spirit quailed at the prospect before me. I was nearly in
the middle of the savage and hostile Crimea, ignorant of the many
languages spoken there, ignorant of the roads, and with no money to
bribe or arms to intimidate.

No house or town was visible, or a sign of any living thing, save the
goldfinches that twittered in the trees, and the heron and wild duck
that waded or squattered among the green weeds and long trailers on the
bank of the rushing stream. The latter was nearly eighty yards broad. I
knew that it must be crossed, as the south side was the safest.
Crossed! but how?

While considering this, the sound of a Cossack trumpet among the
woodlands in my rear gave me a nervous start, and made me resolve on
instant action. I put my treasured map carefully away, mounted, and
urged my horse at once to the bank of the river.

I took my feet out of the stirrups, which I then crossed above the
saddle—a precaution no dragoon or other horseman should ever forget when
about to cross a river mounted; for if the horse should sink his
hind-legs to seek for footing, or, worse still, should he “turn a
turtle,” while the rider’s feet are in the stirrups, the most fatal
results may ensue, and he will be helplessly drowned.

I was without spurs, yet I rushed him at the stream, for there are times
when rider and horse feel as one. He took the water well, and struck
out bravely, for I leant well forward, so that my body rested on his
crest. I had no occasion to touch the rein or use the bit; but steered
him by a switch torn from a tree.

With his neck stretched out like that of a dog, he swam coolly and
steadily across, with the ripples of the water under my armpits. When
he grounded, and scrambled up the other side, I dismounted, and led him
by the bridle into a thicket beyond.

This was scarcely achieved, when some tall lances glittered on the other
side of the stream, where a party of twelve Cossacks were scouting; and
had my horse neighed they must have discovered me. However, they all
disappeared in the wood; after which I breathed more freely, and
proceeded to rub down my Arab with tufts of dry grass, and to wring out
my wetted garments.

All that day I travelled through the woods, and at times along the
highways, avoiding even the Tartar herdsmen and field-labourers,
steering in the direction of Sebastopol, guided by my tiny map and the
sun; and towards nightfall I was lucky enough to meet with some French
troops, though at first I narrowly escaped being shot by their advanced
guard—a favour procured me by my Tambrov uniform. Luckily I could
muster sufficient French to make myself known as an officer of her
Britannic Majesty’s service, and was conducted to the commander.

These troops proved to be the 77th Regiment of the Infanterie de la
Ligne, under Colonel Jean Louis Giomar, Commander of the Legion of
Honour, on their march towards Sebastopol.

I was in safety now, and was treated by him and his officers with every
attention and kindness, and, in truth, after all I had undergone during
the last twenty-four hours, I required both.

The 77th had landed but a few days before from _La Reine Blanche_[*] a
French ship of the line, in which the Emperor had revived the old
Parisian name for Mary Queen of Scots.

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