On surveying the horrors of that day

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league, onward,
Into the Valley of Death,
Rode the Six Hundred!
TENNYSON.

Recoiling before the glorious charges of our Heavy Brigade, the Russian
horse and foot had retired into a narrow gorge at the head of the long
green valley. There thirty pieces of cannon were in position, and in
rear of them were formed six solid columns of cavalry and six of
infantry, while other dense masses occupied the slopes beyond.

Notwithstanding this formidable array, in an almost unassailable
position, a message was received by Lord Lucan from Captain Lewis Edward
Nolan, of the 15th Hussars, undoubtedly one of the bravest of the brave,
to the effect that the Light Brigade was to carry those thirty pieces of
cannon. Another account says that he simply pointed to the guns with his
sword, and said, “We should take them,” and that the motion was taken
for an order.

Ere many minutes were passed, poor Nolan paid the full penalty of this
misconception or error in judgment—if error it was.

Perilous, rash, and desperate though the attempt, Lord Lucan reluctantly
ordered the Earl of Cardigan to advance with his brigade, and cheerfully
we obeyed the startling order.

We numbered only six hundred and seven horsemen, officers included.

Each officer took up the words in succession—”The brigade will advance.
First squadron, march, trot, gallop!” And then for the first time, as I
led my squadron on, did I become aware how thirsty we unconsciously
become when under fire. My lips were quite baked, yet the morning air
was moist and cool. We had before us a mile and a half to gallop over,
level and open ground, encumbered here and there by the dead and wounded
men and horses of the previous encounter; but these we swept over in our
advance towards where the black and grim artillery stood, with round and
gaping muzzles, before the solid array of Russian horse and foot—those
dark columns in long grey capotes, all cross-belted, with fixed bayonets
glittering in the sun; those darker and less distinct clouds of
horsemen, whose forest of lances, sword-blades, and brighter
appointments glittered and flashed from among their umbered masses.

On and on we rode, and faces flushed red, and hearts beat wildly—while
the Earl, brave as every English gentleman should be, with all his
faults of temper—led us on with brandished sword. Every hand was firm
on the bridle, every grasp was firm on the sword, every knee was pressed
to the saddle-laps, every rowel was tinged with blood; so, holster to
holster and boot to boot, the squadrons were pressing on.

“CHARGE!” escaped me, almost before the time, and then the maddened
horses rushed on at full racing speed, with long, invigorating strides.
Our lances were all unslung, and in the rest, the banneroles fluttering
before the horses’ heads and outstretched necks, from which the manes
were floating backward like smoke.

We were soon within the line of fire. Like the thunder of heaven the
park of artillery shook the air, as cannon, mortars, and rifles opened
like a fiery hell on front and flanks at once. An iron shower of round
shot and grape, shells, and rockets, with a tempest of conical rifle
bullets, whizzed past our ears, or tore through horses and men, and down
they went on right and left at every stride.

Struck on the breast by a shell, the gallant Nolan fell back on his
saddle, with a wild and harrowing cry, as his horse swept round, and
bore his body to the rear, with his feet still in the stirrups,
vindicating, even in death, his reputation as one of England’s noblest
horsemen.

Man after man, horse after horse, are now going down, thick and fast,
and shrieks, and prayers, and curses rise together to Heaven; but the
rest close in from the flank, and firmer, denser, wilder, and more
resolute than ever we ride the race of death!

On, and on yet, steeds snorting, lances rising and falling, pennons
fluttering, and sabres flashing in the sunshine.

“Steady, lads, steady!” cried Lionel Beverley, as another shower of
grape tore through the squadrons, and many more went down, though some
of the horses remained riderless in the rank, and galloped mechanically
on. For a moment, amid the confusion, I saw the colonel for the last
time, as he led us—that noble heart, that polished gentleman and gallant
lancer. He was deadly pale, for he was mortally wounded in the left
side. His life-blood was ebbing; but his sword was still uplifted, and
a light was flashing in his eyes, which already could see “the glories
and the terrors of the unknown world.”

“Close up, gentlemen and comrades! Keep your horses well in hand; but
spur on—charge, and charge home! Hurrah!”

A ball hummed past—a twenty-four pound shot, apparently—and where was
Lionel Beverley?

Doubled up, a dead and ghastly heap, under a dying and mangled charger!
The next who fell was my friend Wilford. If he was somewhat of a dandy
in England, there was no want of pluck in him here. Leading his troop,
he fell close by me, and I leaped my horse over him as he rolled past,
churning a mouthful of grass and earth, his features awfully convulsed,
and his limbs trembling in their death agony. Poor Fred Wilford!

On and on yet! Many a familiar face is gone now; the gaps are fearful,
and men who were on the flanks now find themselves in the centre. Yet,
withal, it is impossible not to feel how—

One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name.

On we still gallop towards that mouth of fire—on, and fearlessly. The
best blood of the three kingdoms is in our ranks, all well and nobly
mounted, the flower of our gallant cavalry—on yet like a whirlwind, the
hearty British “Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!” ringing in our ears; the
heart’s blood seems mounting to the brain; and _now_ we are upon
them!—now the red flashing muzzles of the cannon are passed; the gunners
are throwing themselves under the wheels and limbers, where we cut them
down, and spear or pin them to the turf. Others are rushing for shelter
to their squares of infantry, under whose rifles they lie flat and
securely, while sheets of lead are tearing through us!

Oh, the superlative bitterness of that moment, when, with all our horses
blown, I look back and see that we are without supports!

The guns are taken—the gunners almost annihilated; our horses are
breathless. We have no aid, and no resource but to ride back, under
such a concentrated fire as troops were never before exposed to.

“It’s all up—threes about—retire!”

A single trumpet feebly gives the call, and away we go.

Shot—in the heart, perhaps—my Arab steed sank down gently beneath me;
but I received a severe blow from something, I know not what—the
splinter of a shell, probably, which crushed my lancer cap, and almost
stunned me. I must have remounted myself mechanically, for when we
hacked our way back, and reached the rear, I was riding a bay horse of
the 11th Hussars, the saddle and holsters of which were slimy with
blood. The horse fell with me soon after, as it had been disembowelled
by a grape shot.

Of all those glorious regiments who formed the Light Brigade, there came
back but one hundred and ninety-eight men; many of these were wounded,
and many dismounted; and when the rolls were called over at nightfall,
it was found that one hundred and fifty-seven were dead, one hundred and
nineteen were wounded, and that three hundred and thirty fine horses
were killed, leaving more than one hundred and thirty dragoons
unaccounted for.

I had not the heart to number the forty men who represented the two
squadrons which followed Lionel Beverley. There, on the green sward of
that Valley of Death, lay our gallant colonel, cut in two by a round
shot; Travers, torn to pieces by grape shot; Scriven, slain by three
lance wounds; Howard, “the only son of his mother, and she was a widow;”
Frank Jocelyn, our old sergeant-major, and an incredible number of
others killed. The flower of our lancers were there, and among them my
faithful follower, Pitblado, with a rifle bullet in his leg.




Hot, breathless, stiff, sore, and covered with bruises, I now discovered
that in the _mêlée_—though I was unconscious of having struck a
blow—there were, at least, twenty notches in the blade of my sword, that
I had received three very severe lance prods, two sword cuts, and that
my uniform was torn to rags. When we halted to girth up, I threw myself
on the rich grass of the valley, and, taking off my battered lancer cap,
felt the cool breeze most grateful, as it came from the distant sea.
Then I buried my face among the verdure, less for coolness than from
excess of weakness, and to hide the sorrow that consumed me for the
losses we had sustained.

From a distance came the cheers of the Heavy Brigade, avenging us, and
completing the work we had begun. Then the fierce excitement—the devil
that had possessed me—passed away, and I thought only of the dying and
the dead.

* * * * *

“Is that you, Lanty?” said a voice near me.

“Ov coorse it is—barrin’ the tip of an ear.”

“Well, thank God, there are at least two of our troop left.”

“And the captain here!”

I must have fainted from exhaustion and loss of blood, for after a time
I was surprised to find my jacket open at the neck, and that I was
propped against my dead horse by Dr. Hartshorn, who was binding up my
cuts and scars, while Lanty O’Regan attended, with a short black dudeen
in his mouth, which had been enlarged by a sword cut, and then roughly
patched with plaster, which did not, however, prevent poor Lanty from
talking.

“Me mouth, is it, I’m to take care ov, docthor dear? Sure, if it is
only for the sake ov the girls, I’ll do that same; but, be gorra! I
wish that dirty Roosian had been holdin’ on the horns of the new moon
wid his fingers well greased, before I came across him.”

“Are you sure the farrier-sergeant is dead?”

“Quite sure, docthor.”

“You saw him get the sleeping draught?”

“Sure, the draught it was that finished him right off?”

“What the deuce do you mean? I took orf his leg successfully in the
Turkish hospital.”

“And sure, afther ye war gone, the Turkish Hospital sergeant, who was
blazing drunk with raki, made up a prescription of all the dhrugs in the
place, saying some o’ them would surely compose him.”

“Well—well?”

“The farrier-sergeant took it, sir; and he’s now composed enough, poor
man, and laying in the trinches, waitin’ to be covered up wid green
sods, if they can be got in that red valley ov blood and murder.”

Some brandy given by Hartshorn now rallied me a little, and I inquired
for Willie Pitblado. Lanty informed me that he was in a hospital tent,
and enduring great pain.

Pitblado’s sword had broken in his hand; he was looking wildly round him
for another, when poor Studhome, who lay dying beneath ahorse, placed
his own sword in Willie’s hand, saying—

“Use it, and wear it for my sake. All’s over with me!”

Pitblado cut down two Russian gunners, and actually bore Studhome for
some paces in his arms, before he discovered that he was dead, and then
a rifle bullet stretched him on the field.

A few men were now crawling back from the valley, where several
dismounted guns and dead bodies were all that remained of the Russian
host, which had now fallen back.

Numbers of horses, many of them severely wounded, with bridles hanging
loose, and saddles all bloody, careered along the green ridges, where
they were caught by the Turks. Some came trotting quietly into quarters,
when they heard the trumpet sound for “corn”; others cropped the bloody
herbage in the Valley of Death; and not a few who remained beside their
fallen riders were found by the burial parties.

Beverley’s body was discovered, terribly mutilated, stripped, and
deprived of the locket which contained the hair of his intended—the girl
who was shot in his arms on the retreat through the Khyber Pass.

On surveying the horrors of that day, I asked myself—was it for such
work as this that heaven created us?

But such was that glorious and disastrous episode of the war—the charge
of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava.

In foreign armies—as I once heard a brother officer remark—one would
have found plenty of officers to lead such a charge, but in what other
army would one find soldiers to follow as ours did? Though surrounded
on every side by the enemy, though apparently all was over with them,
though suffering under a withering fire, and seeing their comrades
falling in heaps around them, not a man flinched, or thought of shifting
for himself; but all looked to their officers, and followed them as if
they had been on an ordinary parade.

“There are eighty-one of ours, sir, to be buried in yonder pit,” said a
trumpeter named Jones, as he came to my tent next morning.

“Eighty-one!—my God!—the poor fellows!”

“Yes, sir—eighty-one,” repeated Jones, sadly.

“Where are they?”

“Some are in the trenches—others coming.”

They were borne from the field, where they had lain all night, and where
the only tears that fell on them were the dews of heaven, and then they
were half lowered, half flung in—eighty-one! all handsome young men—and
the Highlanders began to cover them up.

“God rest them,” said I, lifting my cap, as I leaned on the trumpeter’s
arm.

“Ay, sir,” said he, sadly; “the next trumpet they hear will be a louder
one than Bill Jones’s!”

Continue Reading

Conspicuous by their colour

The line divides: the right half, which is
Conspicuous for madder breeches,
Presses, like flock of hunted sheep,
Towards yon tower, so grim and steep.
STONE TALK.

On that day, never to be forgotten in the annals of the British cavalry,
the 25th of October, when we fought the battle of Balaclava, no man in
all the Light Division mounted his horse with a more reckless heart than
I, and no man, perhaps, was personally more careless as to the sequel.
War and its contingent horrors were a relief, congenial to my bitterness
of spirit, and afforded me a relief from myself.

There is probably not a boy in Britain but knows how, on that terrible
day, the six hundred horsemen rode fearlessly into the Valley of Death;
yet I cannot resist the temptation to tell the gallant story once again.

We were roused early in our miserable quarters by tidings that the
Russians, in great force, were menacing Balaclava, the harbour of which
was of vital importance to the allies in their operations against
Sebastopol. Sir Colin Campbell—Lord Clyde, of glorious memory—had been
appointed governor; and to him and his Highland Brigade had this most
valuable post been intrusted by the allied generals. On this day he was
reinforced by a few marines from the fleet, and four thousand lubberly
Turks, who occupied four redoubts, which commanded the road to the camp.

The cavalry division—led by Lord Lucan, and composed of the Scots Greys,
the Inniskillins, 1st Royal, 4th and 5th Dragoon Guards, forming the
Heavy Brigade, under General Scarlett; and the 4th and 13th Light
Dragoons, the 8th and 11th Hussars, with the 17th Lancers and ours,
forming the Light Brigade, under the Earl of Cardigan—were to form
between those Turkish redoubts and the Sutherland Highlanders, who were
encamped under the cliffs, where the marines had a battery.

It was seven in the morning, when Captain Nolan, of the 15th Hussars,
Lord Raglan’s gallant aide-de-camp, dashed into our quarters on
horseback.

“Get your men into their saddles, Colonel Beverley,” he exclaimed. “A
strong column of the enemy’s cavalry, supported by artillery and
infantry, some twenty-three thousand of all arms, are now in the valley
before Balaclava. General Baur has already stormed one of the Turkish
redoubts, and is opening fire on the other three. The Bono Johnnies are
flying in all directions. Pass the word along for the whole line to
turn out. We must floor them instantly!”

The trumpets blew loud and shrill among the tents, just as Studhome and
I were making a hasty breakfast.

“The deuce!” said he. “So we must take a turn against those troublesome
Cossacks; but if no Russian rifle bullet hath its place allotted in my
proper person, we shall devil those drumsticks, and polish off that
cooper of sherry in the evening.”

Poor Jack!

We were soon in our saddles, with pistols loaded and lances slung. All
were eager for the fray; and just as the sun arose General Bosquet, with
a few pieces of artillery and two hundred Chasseurs d’Afrique, arrived
to join us.

The surface of the valley into which the cavalry division advanced was
undulating, and numerous green grassy hillocks served to conceal the
movements of the various bodies of troops from each other. Above those
hillocks we could see the light smoke of the distant conflict curling,
as the Russians attacked and took in rapid succession the four redoubts,
turning the guns of each, as they captured it, on the fugitive Turks,
who fled in masses, and were decimated by round-shot and grape from
their own guns, which, in their haste to escape, they forgot to spike.

The last redoubt was speedily abandoned by the brutal Colonel Hadjie
Mehmet, who, bareheaded and without his sabre, was seen galloping
ignominiously over his own men, as they rushed like a flock of sheep
towards the steady line of the 93rd Highlanders, and there, by
superhuman exertions, Sir Colin Campbell formed them in a confused body
on his flank. But before this bourn was reached a Russian bullet had
sent the soul of Hadjie Mehmet in search of the wonders of Paradise.

In fierce pursuit the Russian horse came dashing on, their polished
lance-heads and black leather helmets shining in the sun, and, like
successive human waves, squadron after squadron came in view. Pausing
for a moment on the crest of a ridge, they looked with wonder—it might
be scorn—upon the thin red line of Scotsmen, whom, as Campbell said, in
his quaint way, he “did not think it worth while to form four deep or in
square.”

On came the Russians, with levelled lances and uplifted swords—on and on
at a gallop, and from thence to racing speed—down like thunder rolling
through the murky air. This sight proved too much for the red-capped
Turks. Once more their line of red breeches was turned to the enemy, as
they fled _en masse_; but calmly, steadily, and sternly, like their
native rocks, stood the men of the slender Scottish line.

A command is given. Now the Minie rifles are levelled from the
shoulder, the plumed bonnets seem to droop a little to the right as each
man takes his aim, the withering volley rolls along from flank to flank,
and, as the smoke rises, we see a confused heap of men rolling wildly
over each other, while swords, lances, and caps are scattered far and
near. Beyond these are the retreating squadrons—fugitives, and in utter
rout!

The cowardly Turks were objects of intense derision to our seamen, and
even to the little middies and soldiers’ wives. Many of the latter
kicked and cuffed the “Bono Johnnies” without mercy for their shameless
abandonment of the Highlanders, and for plundering our cavalry camp,
where they gobbled up the porridge which the Scots Greys had been
cooking for breakfast when the alarm sounded.

Many other regiments of cuirassiers and lancers now joined the baffled
horse, as they re-formed on the slope of a hill, from whence, for the
first time to-day, they saw us, the heavy and light divisions of
cavalry, drawn up in the small valley a little to the left of the
Highlanders, and having had enough of them, with us they now resolved
upon a trial of strength.

By many thousands they outnumbered us; but we knew that we were unaided;
that upon our own bravery, discipline, and hardihood depended the honour
and the fortune of the day; and all the many staff officers and other
spectators, who had come from the French camp and the harbour to witness
the result, knew this too, and looked silently and breathlessly on.

In two long, compact, and glittering lines, the Russian horse once more
came on. Among them were some cuirassier regiments of the Imperial
Guard, with magnificent helmets, adorned with silver eagles. But now,
without waiting for orders, the two advanced corps of our cavalry—the
Scots Greys and the Inniskillin Dragoons, galloped forward to meet them,
one in heart, in ardour, and in purpose, as when those two noble
regiments had ridden side by side, in the same brigade, in the
Septennial War, a century before, and on the plains of Waterloo.

Overlapped by the vast extent of the first Russian line, we thought they
would be literally swallowed up and exterminated. A ray of light seemed
to pass along the ranks, as all their sword blades flashed in the
sunshine; and then came the shock of battle.

The Scots on the left, the Irish dragoons on the right, broke through
the Russians, cutting and treading them down; then both regiments
actually disappeared! We held our breath; but anon a shout escaped us,
as we saw them on the crest of an eminence beyond, cutting through the
second Russian line!

All was then a wild and mingled chaos of uniforms, scarlet, blue, and
green; of flashing swords and brandished lances, of floating plumes and
swaying standards; of shrieking men, and horses kicking, plunging, and
rolling on the turf; and many an episode of chivalry and hand-to-hand
combat was there.

Then we heard the shrill trumpets above that infernal din, where no
commands would have availed. The tall black bearskins of the Scots, and
the brass helmets of the Irish dragoons, began to reappear; and, soon
emerging from that human sea of glory and honour, we saw our gallant
Heavies once more reforming in compact line, and retiring at a hand
gallop, after having taught the thick-skulled Muscovites the strength of
a Briton’s arm, and the temper of our Sheffield steel.

Conspicuous by their colour, we could see that many of the Scots Greys’
horses were covered with blood.

And now came our part in this terrible drama—the disaster of the day!

Continue Reading

That fate so unlooked for and mysterious freed

To-morrow? O, that’s sudden! Spare him:
He’s not prepared for death! Even for our kitchens
We kill the fowl of season. Shall we serve Heaven
With less respect than we do minister
To our gross selves? Good, good, my lord, bethink you:
Who is it that hath died for this offence?
There’s many have committed it.
SHAKSPEARE.

“I have been on board the yacht, Newton. I have seen Berkeley and
Scriven there, and the matter is all but arranged,” said Studhome, as he
tossed aside his whip and forage-cap, seated himself on the edge of my
camp bed, and proceeded to light a cigar.

Much though I longed for it, the information gave me a species of
nervous start.

“Thanks, Jack. He will come to the scratch, then?”

“Like the muff, or rather the knave he is, in a fashion of his own. I
found him surrounded by every luxury on board his yacht, and she is a
beauty—the _Seapink_ of Cowes. He was lounging indolently on a rich
sofa, in a velvet smoking-cap and gorgeous brocade dressing-gown, tied
with yellow silk tassels. By Jove, the fellow was as grandly got up as
a Highland piper, or Solomon in all his glory; and he and Scriven were
having tiffin—not as we do here, on green coffee and pounded biscuit,
but on preserved grouse pie, with iced hock and seltzer water. They
asked me to join them, and offered me the chair, which had just been
vacated by a—a—pretty Greek girl whom he has on board. His countenance
fell rather when he heard my spurs rattling on the steps of the
companion-way, and lower still when he discovered my errand. Before our
Sybarite of a brother officer, with his bandolined moustaches and
exquisite toilette, I was weak enough to feel almost ashamed of my
tattered blue surtout, with its frayed frog lace.”

“You reminded him of the arrangement made between you and Scriven at
Maidstone barracks?”

“Word for word.”

“And what did he say?”

“He grew rather pale and nervous, and so forth, and muttered,
’Aw—aw—doocid odd sort of thing. A demmed noosance to fight a fellah
when he had just that morning got his leave to return home on—aw,
aw—urgent private affairs.’ And then he eyed me superciliously and
defiantly through his eyeglass, stroking his bandolined moustache the
while, till I felt inclined to punch his well-oiled head.”

“Confounded puppy!” I exclaimed.

“One might as well sing psalms to a dead horse as appeal to the honour
of such as he—the most contemptible fellow one could meet with in the
longest day’s march.”

“So he has actually got his leave for England, then?”

“Yes; so I was not a moment too late. The yacht’s crew were taking in
water, prior to getting under weigh again. He hummed and hawed, and
puffed himself out like a pouter pigeon for a time; but ’a change came
o’er the spirit of his dream,’ when Scriven, his own peculiar chum,
acknowledged that all our mess knew of, and tacitly acquiesced in, the
scheme for a hostile meeting within the French lines, or rather within
range of Sebastopol, to account for any mishap that might occur. You
should have seen how he winced at the word ’mishap!’ Scriven and I then
retired together on deck for a few minutes, and there arranged that,
after sunset to-morrow night, at seven o’clock, as there will no doubt
be a brilliant moon, we are to meet on the hilly ground midway between
the British left attack and the right of the French entrenchments, about
a mile from the South Fort of Sebastopol. There, if necessary, two shots
are to be exchanged at twelve paces each, after which we will allow no
more firing. The first shot to be tossed for; the others to follow in
succession.”

“Enough, Jack,” said I, trembling with fierce eagerness, as I shook his
hand. “When I remember all his perfidy towards me, his cool insolence
at Calderwood, the mode in which he sought to compromise me with that
poor girl at the Reculvers, his subsequent slanders at Maidstone, his
act of treachery at the Balbeck, and his crowning it by the cool
assertion that I, and not he, shot my own horse, to fall into the
enemy’s hands—I shall shoot him if I can, like the dog he is.”

I passed the night as I suppose most men do who have such a dreadful
business as a duel on their hands. It was all very well for Studhome to
urge me again and again to sleep soundly, to keep my hand steady and my
head cool; but strange thoughts _would_ come unbidden—thoughts of those
who were far away, and from whom I was now, perhaps, on the eve of
parting for ever. Yet I could not bring myself to wish that Berkeley
had sailed and escaped me.

Next morning ushered in the 17th of October, and with it the first
formal bombardment of Sebastopol, on which the breaching batteries
opened simultaneously from all quarters; and so terrible was the roar of
sound, that in the rifle pits the discharge of the muskets could
scarcely be heard. It seemed a mere snapping of caps.

I could not help smiling grimly when I heard the storm of war that was
raging in the distance.

“What is one human life amid the numbers that are passing away
there?—and such as Berkeley’s, too!” said I.

“Too true,” replied Jack. “But there go the trumpets for church parade.
We are to have divine service in the cavalry camp, it seems.”

“Why?”

“We missed sermon on two Sundays—the chaplains were so busy with burial
services for the cholera dead—so we are to have our minds enlightened
to-day.”

As the regiment was for patrol duty, it paraded on horseback, and the
whole formation of the parade—the lancers, with their fluttering
banneroles; the appearance of the chaplain, with his white surplice and
Crimean beard; the Bible on the kettledrums, which were improvised as a
pulpit; and, in short, the entire affair seemed to me a species of
phantasmagoria, for my thoughts and intentions were far away from that
strange and stirring, yet somewhat solemn, scene. I was rather struck
with the inconsistency of the text, however, on that a day of such
importance to me and to the history of Europe.

“Love thine enemy, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them
which despitefully use you and persecute you.”

Such was the text of our chaplain on that morning. I heard him praying
and expounding amid the thunder of the breaching batteries all round
Sebastopol, from the Tchernaya on the right to the Quarantine Point on
the left; but late events had turned my heart to stone, and with my mind
intent upon a duel to the death, I heard him preach in vain.

Though still unflinching in purpose, he somewhat softened me in one way:
and in the evening, after some reflection, and to be prepared for the
worst, I wrote a farewell letter to Sir Nigel, with a full explanation
of my conduct, and my dearest thanks for all his kindness. My sword,
pistols, saddle, and the Medjidie medal I left him as souvenirs, and to
Cora some little jewels which I named as remembrances of her old
boy-lover, Newton.

Then I turned me to compose a brief, bitter letter to Louisa. It
contained but two or three lines. As circumstances stood between us, I
could not trust myself to say more than “that I was called upon by the
rules of honour, and the duty I owed to myself, to have a hostile
meeting with one who had wronged me deeply; that God only could know the
sequel; and while at this moment I committed my soul into His hands, I
entreated her to be assured that, if I fell, I should die loving her,
and her only.”

This letter I had just sealed, addressed, and placed beside the other in
my tent, when Studhome arrived, cloaked, and ready to set out. Our
horses, with pistols in the holsters, were brought to the door.

It was long past five now, and the sun had set. I gave Pitblado the
letters, saying—

“I am going to the front this evening, Willie, and, as we know not what
may happen, if I don’t return, you will carefully see these letters
posted for Britain.”

My voice must have faltered, for Pitblado looked at me earnestly, and
said—

“Of course, sir—of course, sir; but, please, don’t talk that way.”

“Good-bye!” said I, clapping him kindly on the shoulder; and, as we
mounted and rode away in the dark, I could see my faithful adherent
looking alternately and wistfully at the superscription of the letters
and after us.

Like a mighty shield of gold, the moon had long since risen from the
Euxine, far across which its brightness came on the ripples, like a
shining path, from the horizon to the red marble cliffs of Balaclava and
Cape Phiolente, and now her disc grew smaller as she ascended into the
more rarefied atmosphere; but her brilliance gave promise of a clear and
lovely night as we quitted the cavalry camp at an easy walk—trotting
might shake my hand, Jack said—and took the road that leads direct from
Balaclava northward to Sebastopol.

High and broken ground rises on each side of that path which so many
trod never to return, and which was now thronged by mounted men pouring
down to Balaclava. A mile distant on our left, we passed the hamlet of
Karani, and on our right the long line of defence works and redoubts,
which lay two miles in rear of Khutor Karagatch, the British
head-quarters. Those of France were a mile farther on, to the left; and
then, diverging in the opposite direction, in rear of the breaching
batteries which crossed the roadway, we sought for a quiet path between
them and the extreme left of our army, to reach the broken ground
opposite to the bastions of the South Fort, the proposed scene of our
little operations.

So grand, so wild, and stirring was the scene, that for a moment I
reined in my horse, and, forgetful of the dreadful errand on which we
had come, surveyed it with a curious eye.

As I have said, on this night “the moon, sweet regent of the sky,”
full-orbed and glorious, shone with wonderful brilliance, eclipsing even
the fixed stars in the deep blue vault above, pouring ten thousand
silver rays over everything, bringing out some features in strong light,
or sinking others into deep, dark shadow.

The terrible panorama of Sebastopol lay before us. The noble harbour,
with its tremendous batteries, its outer and inner booms, and myriad
sunken ships, of all sorts and sizes, the mastheads of some, the mere
stumps, bowsprits, and poops of others, visible, showing where the
_Flora_ of forty-four guns, the _Oriel_ of eighty-four, the _Three
Godheads_ of one hundred and twenty, and all the rest of that vast
scuttled armament, mounting more than one thousand five hundred cannon,
lay, all sunk to bar our entrance.

We could see the white flag of Russia flying on its citadel; the cupola
of the great church; the glass windows of the houses—the entire city,
with all the domes and towers glittering in the moonlight, and girdled
by its vast and formidable bastions of earth and stone, from which, ever
and anon, came a red flash, and the boom of a heavy shot, or the clear,
bright fiery arc described by the whistling shell, as it curved in mid
air, on its ghastly errand, towards the French or British lines.

All this stirring panorama we saw extending for more than four miles,
from the lazaretto on the west to the light of Inkermann on the east,
which was glittering in the distance on its tower, four hundred feet
above the mouth of the Tchernaya.

Several dead bodies lying in the immediate foreground, and the turf all
torn to pieces and studded with cannon-balls and fragments of exploded
shell—a literal pavement of iron—did not “add enchantment to the view.”

That softer effects might not be wanting, between the booming of the
half-random cannonade that was dying away for the night, we could hear
the brass band of the Rifle Brigade playing an old familiar air, which
sounded sweetly in the distance. It was “Annie Laurie”—an air heard
daily and hourly among our tents in the Crimea.

“Of all songs, the favourite song at the camp,” says one of the lancers,
in a published letter, “is ’Annie Laurie.’ Words and music combine to
render it popular, for every soldier has a sweetheart, and almost every
soldier possesses the organ of tune. Every new draft from Britain
marches into camp playing this old Scottish melody. I once heard a
corporal of the Rifle Brigade start ’Annie Laurie.’ He had a tolerably
good tenor voice, and sang with expression; but the chorus was taken up
by the audience in a much lower key, and hundreds of voices, in the most
exact time and harmony, sang together—

And for bonnie Annie Laurie
I’d lay me doon and dee!

The effect was extraordinary. I never heard any chorus in oratorio
rendered with greater solemnity; and the heart of each singer was
evidently far away over the sea.”[*]

[*] Letter from the camp.

Just as we diverged from the main road, we heard the galloping of horses
in our rear.

“Thank God, we are _first_ on the ground,” said Studhome. “Here come
Scriven and his man, with our assistant-surgeon, Bob Hartshorn, on his
nagtailed bay.”

As he spoke, they reined in their horses a little. Then we all bowed,
touched our caps, and proceeded slowly along the eminence, towards a
quiet hollow, which Studhome and Scriven had previously inspected.

Berkeley was nervous and restless; his eyes wandered vaguely over the
moonlit scenery. I could see that he frequently passed his tongue over
his lips, as if to moisten them; he drew his gloves off and on, and
fidgeted with his stock and eyeglass a hundred times; yet he chatted
gaily enough to Scriven and the doctor, who told us that he had quite
patients enough on his list, without having them added to by fighting
duels.

“How romantic!—how terribly grand is all this prospect!” exclaimed
Hartshorn, pointing to Sebastopol.

“Aw—haw—doocid good!” drawled my antagonist; “but, Bob, my dear boy, I
am an Englishman, and England has been too well fed, too d——d cosy, for
centuries, to have much romance about her! and so—aw—aw—I have none,
thank Heaven! It is behind the age, Bob—behind the age!”

“An Englishman?” said I to Studhome. “His worthy father was an honest
Scotch tradesman, who could little have foreseen the despicable figure
his son is cutting to-night.”

“I was up to the front before to-day,” said Scriven, “and got a rifle
ball through my shako.”

“It will serve for the—aw—aw—healthy purpose of ventilation,” said
Berkeley, with a laugh—a very little one, however.

“My old quarters in Balaclava have been nicely ventilated by three
bullet-holes in the roof,” said the doctor, a good-humoured, careless
young fellow.

“Bob is quartered there, on an old Turk, whose third wife is a female so
severely respectable, that she never feeds the hens without a veil on.”

“Why?” asked Scriven.

“Can’t you guess?” asked Berkeley.

“No.”

“Because there is—aw—aw—a d——d cock among them.”

This frivolous conversation was now interrupted by a hoarse voice in
front, challenging—

“Qui va là?”

“Friends!” I replied.

“_Anglaises_,” added the other, and we found ourselves face to face with
a French mounted officer and a small party of workmen, with pickaxes and
shovels. In the horseman I immediately recognised Colonel Giomar, of
the French 77th Regiment, who demanded whither we were going in that
remarkable direction.

“’Tis an affair of honour, _monsieur le colonel_, and we propose to
settle it here,” said I. “May we?”

“_Très bien!_ but you have chosen a droll place and hour,” replied the
colonel, a short, pot-bellied little man, in a scarlet kepi, which had a
great square peak, and who wore a frogged surtout, with a sabre in a
brass sheath.

“We cannot fight within our own lines, monsieur.”

“I comprehend. You don’t permit duelling in your service, I believe?”

“No.”

“Indeed—singular!”

“Public opinion is against it.”

“The King of France, Louis XIV., in 1700, tried to put down duelling, on
which an old field-officer said to him, ’_Tudieu_, sire! you have put
down gaming and stage-playing; now you wish to make an end of duelling.
How the devil are officers and gentlemen to amuse themselves?’ But,
with your permission, messieurs, I shall look and see how this affair
ends. I haven’t seen one since we marched out of Cambrai.”

Berkeley bowed, and gave him a ghastly smile. When viewed by the
moonlight, his face was so pale that even Scriven, his second, surveyed
him with disgust and annoyance. There was a clamorous fluttering about
my own heart. Thank that Heaven which I was about to face, my bearing
was very different from his!

We dismounted, and the soldiers of the French working-party led our
horses aside, as we had all come without grooms. The pot-bellied
Colonel Giomar seated himself on the turf, to enjoy a cigar and see the
sport; and the doctor, with professional _sang froid_, opened his case
of instruments, and drew forth lint and bandages from the pocket of the
Inverness cape which he wore over his uniform.

We now threw off our cloaks and swords. I wore an undress blue surtout;
but Berkeley was dressed in an entire suit of black—a sack-coat,
buttoned up to the neck, so that not a vestige of shirt was visible to
attract my eye, or fix an aim.

Let me hasten over what follows.

Apologies were neither asked nor offered. The affair was beyond such
amenities in the deadly game we were about to play. Twelve paces were
measured; we tossed up for the first fire, and it fell to—Berkeley!
Then I saw a smile of savage hope light up his eyes and curl his lip, as
he took his ground and carefully cocked his pistol, just feeling the
percussion-cap for a second with the fore-finger of his left hand.

Steadily I looked at him. I could see how he restrained his breathing,
lest the aim might waver; how a white glare came into his eye, as it
glanced along the barrel of the pistol, which he levelled full at my
head, in the pale moonlight.

“_Gardez la bombe!_” shouted Colonel Giomar, as he rolled away over the
turf like a butter-firkin. It was a moment of thrilling suspense, and,
bewildered by the interruption, Berkeley permitted his pistol to
explode, the ball going Heaven knows where! There was a whistling in
the air overhead, with a rushing sound and then a heavy thud, as there
lighted, almost at Berkeley’s feet, a five-inch shell, shot from the
South Fort by the Russians, who must have seen our group in the
moonlight; and there it lay on the turf, half-imbedded by its own
weight, with its red fuse hissing and burning furiously.

For a moment I saw its upward glare, as it shone on the pale face of the
terrified man, who was too much paralyzed by emotion to move; but, just
as I flung myself flat on the earth to escape the explosion, there was a
blaze of yellow light, a crash as of thunder, and I felt a kind of hot
wind sweep over me. The shell had burst, and Berkeley lay a heap of
mutilated blood and bones beside it!

We rushed towards him. Both legs were broken in many places, a large
fragment was buried deep in his chest, and the man was dead!

“Poor fellow!” said I, after our first exclamations of astonishment and
commiseration had subsided.

Berkeley had long and systematically wronged me deeply; and now the
angry lust for vengeance passed away, and I felt ashamed of the
bitterness of the emotions which had inspired me but a few moments
before. I forgave him all now, and almost felt sorry for the sudden
fate that had, perhaps, saved me—I say sorry, but I could feel no more.

That fate so unlooked for and mysterious freed me from all further
trouble or responsibility. I could pardon him for all he had ever done
to me, and to his dead victim too—poor Agnes Auriol.

“_C’est la fortune de guerre, camarades_,” said Colonel Giomar,
shrugging his shoulders.

Stretched on the grass, which was soaked and sodden with his yet warm
blood, there lay De Warr Berkeley, the coxcomb of Rotten Row, the
epicurean of the mess and dinner-table, the Sybarite of the clubs, the
sensualist whom poor Agnes Auriol loved—not too wisely, but too well;
the sporting man, whose splendid drag presented the gayest show, the
best company, the brightest parasols, bonnets, and fans, with the
loveliest faces and the most expensive champagnes on the Derby-day, or
the yearly inspection at Maidstone—there he lay dead, mangled, like a
very beggar’s dog!

It was the fortune of war, as Giomar said; but a fortune on which he had
never calculated—his mother’s pet from childhood, “clad in purple and
fine linen.”

Bundled in a cloak, his remains were borne to the rear by the Frenchmen
of the 77th; and full of much thought, and with many a surmise as to how
the corps would view the story of the night, Studhome, Scriven, the
doctor and I, rode slowly back to quarters, leading with us a riderless
horse.

I entered my tent, bewildered, giddy with the startling episode in which
I had been involved. I had but one satisfaction—his blood was not on my
hands. My brain swam, my heart was beating fast, and I had an intense
thirst. A bottle of Cliquot stood near. Studhome adroitly struck off
the top with his sword, and gave me a generous draught.

Then, by the light of a stable lantern that hung glimmering on the
tent-pole, I saw the two letters I had so recently penned lying on the
top of a baggage trunk; but a third epistle, addressed to myself, was
beside them.

It was from Sir Nigel: the mail from Constantinople had come in that
afternoon. I tore my missive open, and almost the first words that met
my eyes were—

“Compose yourself, my dear boy. Louisa Loftus, the tricky jade, is now
a marchioness. I send you herewith the _Morning Post_, which details
her marriage at full length.”

“Read that, Jack!” said I, in a hoarse voice, while the miserable tent
swam round and round me.

Studhome scanned the letter hurriedly.

“Oh, Jack! what do you think of all this?”

“Think!” said he with an oath. “I think Sir Walter Scott did well to
call the world ’an admirable compound of folly and knavery.’”

So all her studied silence was accounted for now!

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