Pure as the trembling stars above

Banished every thought of sadness
In our home of quiet gladness;
Absence, separation o’er,
Together, and to part no more.
United, lovingly we glide,
Ever going with the tide.

Storm nor tempest fear we now,
Love sits watching at the prow;
Happy, trusting, silently,
Onward to the shoreless sea,
Together let us drift or glide,
Ever going with the tide.
ST. JAMES’S MAGAZINE.

“And you love me, dear Newton—and—and no one else?”

Soft autumn was in all her beauty; the forest leaves of Fife were
already tinged with yellow; the harvest fields were bare, and the brown
partridges were whirring up in tempting coveys from the hard stubble and
the hedgerows, while the deep, fragrant clover grew green and rich on
the upland slopes.

It was a glorious evening in September, when the days and nights are of
equal length. The sun was setting beyond the western Lomond, and
casting his dewy shadow far across the woodlands of Calderwood Glen,
when Cora and I lingered, hand in hand, in the old avenue, and she asked
this rather pleasing—I had almost said, perplexing—question, while her
soft and beautiful eyes were turned tenderly upwards to mine.

And dearly I kissed her, for we had been but three days married—so Cora
was my _kismet_, my destiny, after all!

I was lost for a moment in thought—even lance-prods and rifle bullets
had not cured me of my habit of day-dreaming and memory flashed back to
that strange episode in the quarters of the hakim Abd-el-Rasig at Varna,
when poor Jack Studhome, Jules Jolicoeur, and Captain Baudeuf were with
me, and the words of the conjuring Egyptian quack doctor seemed to come
to my ears again—”_Allah kerim_—it is _kismet_—your destiny.”

Cora repeated her winning question.

“And you love me, dear Newton—and no one else?”

“Could I fail to love you, Cora—you, who are all affection and
perfection, too?”

“Now, in her memoirs, Mrs. Siddons asserts that ’no woman can ever reach
perfection until the age of nine and twenty or thirty,’ and I require a
few years to reach that mature time,” she replied.

Another kiss, and perhaps another—I don’t think we counted them.

“Ah! how happy I am now!” she exclaimed, as she clasped her fair fingers
on my arm, with her cheek reclining on my shoulder.

“And I, too, Cora.”

“Shall I sing you a verse of an old song?”

“If you please. Is it the ’Thistle and Rose’?”

“No.”

“What then?”

“It’s gude to be merry and wise,
It’s gude to be honest and true;
It’s gude to be off wi’ the old love
Before ye are on wi’ the new.

But it is too bad to tease you, Newton dear!”




“My dear little wag of a wife!” I exclaimed; for while Cora’s sweet
voice rippled over the verse, I could smile now, and tenderly too, at
the advice it conveyed.

So much for “Time, the avenger!”

In the second chapter of this long history of myself and my adventures I
have related that the Calderwood estates were entailed, and were thus
destined to enrich a remote collateral branch, which had long since
settled in England, “and lost all locality, and nationality too,” as Sir
Nigel had it, the baronetcy ending with himself, to whom long life!

Thanks to the legal acumen of Mr. Brassy Wheedleton, and of Messrs. Grab
and Screwdriver, writers to the signet, Edinburgh, there were “no end”
of flaws discovered in the original entail of 1685, registered when
James VII. was king of the realm. They boast that they could have
driven a coach-and-six through it; so it was speedily reduced, and the
lands of Calderwood Glen, with the place, fortalice, and manor-house
thereof, and those of Pitgavel, with the mains, woods, and farm touns
thereof, which were Cora’s own portion, were all secured to us, our
heirs—yes, that was the word which made Cora blush—our executors, and
assigns, for ever.

The old title of “_Primus Baronettorum Scotiæ_,” the pride of Sir
Nigel’s heart, neither I nor mine could inherit; but I have my star of
Medjidie, a medal and two clasps for the Crimea, with the French Legion
of Honour, and that decoration which I value more than all: the little
black bronze Victoria Cross, inscribed “For valour,” which I received
for the rash attempt I made at Bulganak, with a gallant few, to bring
off the mutilated body of poor Rakeleigh, as the reader will find duly
recorded in page 336 of the “Army List” for the month in which it was
given, if he or she choose to look; and those four prized baubles, won
amid blood and danger, shall long be prized as heirlooms in Calderwood
Glen.

With the poet, I may exclaim—

Yea! I have found a nobler heart
That I may love with nobler love:
True as the trembling stars thou art,
Pure as the trembling stars above.
And shall I live a nobler life,
Come peace or passion, joy or grief?
Remembrance brings a sweet relief,
And points me to this nobler life.

* * * * *

The grass was growing green on the graves of the Alma, and where Albyn’s
warpipe sent up its yell of triumph on the Kourgané Hill; greener,
perhaps, on the graves of the light brigade in the Valley of Death,
through which our six hundred chivalry swept like a thunderbolt; and the
sweet spring flowers were blooming in the abandoned trenches of
Sebastopol, when I could hear the angel voices of glad little ones
waking the peaceful echoes in our old woody glen; and there a dark-eyed
Nigel, a golden-haired Newton, and a blooming little Cora, with beaming
eyes and dark brown braids, gambolled round the gaitered legs of old
Willie Pitblado, and the boot-tops of the sturdy old baronet, or were
learning “a taste of the brogue,” as they rode on the back of Lanty
O’Regan, now our head groom.

And when winter comes to strip the old woods, and hurl their rustling
foliage before the west wind, seaward, down the lovely Howe of Fife; and
when the snows of Christmas whiten the scalps of Largo and the Lomond
Hills, we never forgot, after Cora has spiced the wassail bowl, to fill
our glasses, and drink in silence—

“To the memory of the brave fellows who died before Sebastopol!”

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Every man of them has been face to face

Away with my firelock!
Here, take my red coat!
On danger and glory
No longer I’ll dote.
A train of soft passions
Now rise in my breast;
The soldier subsides,
And ambition’s at rest.
And no more shall the sound
Of the trumpet or drum
Forewarn the poor shepherd
Of evils to come.
SOLDIER’S SONG.

Poor Willie Pitblado sank fast after the extraction of the ball, and the
subsequent amputation of his leg.

In the pleasant month of June, when he knew that the golden laburnums
and the hawthorns, pink and white, would be wearing their loveliest hues
among the green hills and burnsides where he had played in boyhood, and
when the summer breeze would be rustling the thick foliage that shaded
his father’s humble cottage in Calderwood Glen, Willie felt that his
hour was coming nigh, and he grew very sad and restless.

On that day, the last he was to spend on earth, there was an unwonted
bustle in and around the great military hospital of Fort Pitt, and,
natheless the sick and wounded, the weary in body and subdued in spirit,
the dying men in the wards, and those whose battles and troubles were
over, and who lay stark and stiff under a white sheet in the deadhouse,
awaiting the muffled drums and the—now daily—funeral party, there had
been a scouring of tins and polishing of wooden tables, a renovation of
sanded floors and white-washed walls; an extra folding and arranging of
knapsacks and bedding. Staff officers in full uniform, with aiguillette
and plume, galloped to and fro, in and out, up and down the steep hill
from whence the grim old fort looks down upon the quiet and sleepy
Medway, with all its old battered hulks; and then whispers were passed
along the wards that the Queen—Queen Victoria herself—was coming to
visit the poor fellows who had carried her colours in triumph up the
slopes of Alma, through the valley of Inkermann, and in the charges at
Balaclava.

Then pale cheeks flushed and sunken eyes grew bright, and all were in
high expectation, save one who lay in a corner on his iron bed and straw
pallet under a poor rug, with eyes already glazed at times, for the hand
of death was heavy on him; and this was my poor comrade Pitblado, with
no friend near him save the hospital orderlies, who by this time were
pretty well used to suffering and dissolution, and could behold both
with stoical indifference.

It was on a day that many yet remember—Monday, the 18th of June—the
fortieth anniversary of Waterloo, that all Strood, Rochester, and
Chatham were startled from their usual rural tranquillity by the
appearance of the Queen and her retinue, as she swept through their
narrow and tortuous streets, at her usual speed, to visit the wounded
soldiers in Fort Pitt.

The cold-blooded days of the “Four Georges” have passed into the waste
of eternity, and it is our happy fortune to have upon our throne a queen
whose true woman’s heart no glory of station, or fortuitous grandeur of
position, can alter.

On his poor pallet, in the sick ward, Willie heard the cheers in the
streets of Chatham far below; he heard the clash of arms and the rolling
of the drum, as the guard presented arms at the gate, and in his
death-drowsy ear he seemed to hear again the din of battle far away,
Beverley’s voice, and the rush of the charging squadrons; but the sounds
brought him back to the world for a time.

He was too feeble, too far gone, to join the melancholy parade before
the hospital; but the orderlies opened the window of the ward, and
propped him up with pillows and knapsacks, that, like one or two other
wasted creatures, he might see the Queen pass along.

“I wish that God had spared me ance mair to see my puir auld father’s
face,” said Willie, whose Scottish dialect came faster back as life
ebbed in his gallant heart; “but His will be done. It canna be—it canna
be! I maun e’en bear it, and he that tholes, overcomes.”

From the windows on the ground floor he saw the glorious noonday sun, on
which his eyes were soon to close for ever, for the staff-doctor had
rather curtly told him so. He saw the fertile plains of lovely Kent
stretching far away towards Rainham, and the windmills tossing their
arms on the green upland slopes. He saw the tower of Rochester
Cathedral half hidden in the sunny haze, and the great square stone
block of the grand old Norman castle towering against the clear blue
sky, and casting a sombre shadow on the winding Medway, and poor Willie
thought the world that God had made looked peaceful and lovely.

Before the hospital he saw paraded some three hundred men. The front
rank lay mostly on the gravel, for they were unable to stand, either by
debility or amputation; the rear rank was propped against the wall, on
crutches or staves. All wore the light blue hospital gown, trousers, and
cap; but many an empty sleeve and useless trouser-leg were there.

Every man of them has been face to face and foot to foot with death, and
yet withal their hearts are strongly stirred within them by their
Queen’s approach. Their hair is long, and in elf-locks; their faces are
hollow and pale, and their eyes shine out weirdly, and like bits of
glass, as those of the sick usually do.

“Attention!” cries the sleek and well-fed commandant (who, perhaps, had
not been at Sebastopol), as he comes along in full uniform, with his
cocked hat under his arm, by the side of the Queen, who leans on the arm
of Prince Albert; and as they pass slowly along that remarkable line,
their eyes and faces fill with pity and commiseration.

Mechanically, at the word of command, all the men make a nervous start.
Those who are legless prop themselves on their hands and arms; and some
stand painfully erect on their crutches, and their wasted fingers are
raised in salute, to where the helmet or the Highland bonnet would have
been; but, alas! a hospital nightcap is only there now!

Men of all regiments are there—horse, foot, and artillery, guardsmen,
hussars, and lancers; but all wear one sad uniform now.

That morning was long remembered in Fort Pitt; and it was one which, no
doubt, our good Queen long remembered too.

With a last effort, Willie rallied, and propped himself at the window,
just as a hospital orderly pinned on his blue woollen gown a card like
those worn by all the others, stating the age, name, and corps of the
wearer. It bore—

“William Pitblado—aged twenty-four—lancer—leg amputated—Battle of
Balaclava.”

The card, as it was pinned on, caught the eyes of the royal group, and
the terrible expression that none can mistake—even those who luckily see
it for the first time—was read in Willie’s face.

“Do not speak to him, please, your Majesty,” whispered the commandant;
“his aspect must distress you—the man is dying.”

“Dying!” exclaimed the Queen; “poor, poor fellow!”

“Pulse sinking—hope all over—will be dead before evening parade,”
muttered a sententious staff surgeon.

The Queen had in her hand a magnificent bouquet, presented to her by the
ladies of those in the high places of Chatham garrison—heads of
departments, and so forth. She detached a white rose, and gave it to the
poor dying lad, whose faculties were making a rally for the last time.

He looked at the high-born donor without shrinking or quailing, and,
with a sad, sad smile on his face, so thin and wan—for the eye of One
who is greater than all the kings of the earth was on him now—the
sufferer spoke, but in long and feeble utterances.

“My auld father aye said I need never—never look for—my reward in this
world; but—but this day I hae gotten it.”

And he pressed the rose to his thin blue lips.

“Are you easy, my poor fellow?” asked the commandant.

“Ye-yes, sir—thank you—very easy,”

“Is there anything you would wish?”

“I would wish to be laid—in the old kirk-yard at hame, where my—my
mither lies under a saugh tree—but—but it canna be. God has been gude
to me—I might hae found a grave for ever far awa’ in the Crimea—and—and
no within the sound o’ a Christian bell.”

His head fell back and turned on one side, as the eyes glazed and the
jaw relaxed. The Queen—good little woman—drew back, with her
handkerchief at her eyes, and the spirit of my faithful comrade—this
poor victim of the war—passed away.

The Queen’s white rose is buried with Poor Willie Pitblado. His grave is
in the military cemetery, under the shadow of the great Spur Battery.

I know the place well, and a stone placed by Sir Nigel Calderwood marks
it.

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She was too full of pure joy to speak

Then I thought of one fair spring-time,
When she placed her hand in mine,
And, half-silent, said she loved me,
And, half-blushing, seemed divine.

Then I thought of that same winter,
When the earth was dead and cold;
Fit time, in sooth, to marry one
She worshipped for his gold.

I had been some days in Messirie’s Hotel, at Pera, before I realized or
quite became reconciled to the idea that I was going home on sick leave,
worn in mind and body, and smarting still with many wounds, for some of
the lance prods had gangrened, the iron having been, perhaps, rusty.
Many other officers were also at Messirie’s, on their way home, some
with amputated limbs, but all leaving the army with regret. All were
pale and lean enough, with bronzed faces and bushy beards, their red
shell-jackets or blue surtouts out-at-elbows, threadbare, patched, and
stained by the mud of the trenches, and there were one or two lisping
idiots, with flyaway whiskers, hair divided in the centre, and yaw-haw
tones, whose “pwivate affairs had become wemawkably urgent!”

I had with me poor Willie Pitblado, whose left leg was well-nigh useless
now. No surgeon had succeeded in extracting the ball; their attempts
had produced torture, which brought on a low fever, and Willie was going
home with me now—only, I feared, to die.

And now, on the last evening of this most memorable year, I sat alone,
muffled in my cavalry cloak, looking from the hotel window down a long
and narrow street, paved with rough, round stones, where the _humauls_,
or Turkish porters, British tars, half-furious with raki, Zouaves, with
cigar in mouth and hands in pockets, dragomans, with pistol and sabre,
indolent, sensual, and brutal Osmanli soldiers, and other nationalities
and costumes, made up a strange and varied scene. From another window I
could see Stamboul, its flat roofs, round domes, its mosques and
minarets, stretching in the distance far away; the Golden Horn; with the
three-deckers of the _Sultan_ lying idly at anchor; and the new bridge
that spans the harbour; and, over all, the weird-like glories of a
crimson moon.

The December twilight stole on, and, as I mused, it seemed but yesterday
since all those lancers who had died of cholera at Varna or elsewhere,
and those whom I had seen cast into the great trench, had been alive,
and riding by my side.

The embarkation of the wounded at Balaclava harbour, whither they had
been borne on stretchers, minus legs and arms, hands and feet, with
faces pale, slashed, gashed, and battered; our British men-of-war, the
_Sanspareil_, _Tribune_, _Sphinx_, and _Arrow_, ranged in line, with
open ports to sweep the valley; all the episodes of our departure—the
somewhat mournful cheers given by the seamen as our transport, the
_Napoleon III._, of Leith, got up her steam and cleared the
harbour—cheers to which we could scarcely respond; the receding shores,
where the iron voice yet rang the knell of many a human life from
battery and bastion; the last rays of the sun, as they lit up the
impending bluffs of Cape Aya, and ruddied all the rocks of red and white
marble that guard the rugged coast, and repel the storms of the Euxine;
all these, as they had melted into sea and sky, seemed like an old dream
now, and, battered in body and broken in spirit, I was seated alone in
Messirie’s Frankish hotel, on my way home!

Well, well! For weeks past I had been as useless at Balaclava as at the
Hospital of Scutari, from whence I had been transferred to the suburb of
Pera. I had been unable to share in the two battles of Inkermann, in
both of which the Russians were totally defeated, and in the last of
which our losses were fearful; and I had no share in the battle of the
Ovens, on the 20th of November. By landing at Scutari on the 13th, I
escaped the terrible hurricane by which so many of the shipping perished
in the Black Sea, and by which the survivors of their crews were
subjected to be mercilessly massacred by the Russians.

My poor comrades! Be a soldier but for six months, and you will never
forget the new world that is opened to you—a respect for your brother
officers and soldiers, and a kindly feeling for the _old number_ of the
corps; it lasts with life.

But that ghastly trench in the green valley, and the pale, moustached,
and upturned faces! God bless all who lie there, and green be the
graves of our people in the Crimea!

It was on the second day of the new year that we—Pitblado and I—sailed
in H.M.S. _Blazer_ for Southampton, with many other invalids, and, as we
steamed round the Seraglio Point, and stood away into the Sea of
Marmora, I thought of that day twelvemonth, when I was at Calderwood
Glen, sharing the contents of my good old uncle’s ancestral
wassail-bowl. How much had passed since then!

Trebitski’s Cossacks had taken the miniature, the ring; even Louisa’s
lock of hair was gone too, and luckily now I had nothing to remind me of
the beautiful traitress by whom I had been galled, befooled, hoodwinked,
and so cruelly abandoned!

And Lady Chillingham could witness this horrible sacrifice, this English
_suttee_, or act of immolation, quietly and approvingly. She had
married without love herself—so had her mother before her—and both had
been happy enough in their own heartless and stupid way. Such
alliances, made on mere worldly grounds, were part of the system of that
society in which they moved; so Lady Chillingham viewed the whole affair
as a matter of course.

As for Louisa Loftus, why should she be different from other women of
the world, and of her aristocratic class? I must have been deluded—mad
indeed, to think otherwise for a moment! And yet she could crash my
hope for the future recklessly, as a child breaks the glittering
soap-bubble he has so carefully developed, or casts aside the plaything
he once treasured. She could cruelly trample on the best love of a true
and honest heart, to make a marriage that was advantageous only in point
of rank and wealth, both of which she already inherited in the fullest
degree.

Yet something of pity mingled with my fierce and bitter scorn of
Louisa—pity for the dreary years she would have to spend, while tending
a senile dotard, whom she could neither respect nor love. She would
suffer in secret, or perhaps console herself by some scandalous
flirtation, that Sir Bernard Burke would never record in his usually
flattering pages, though he might have to chronicle the unexpected
appearance of an heir to the noble old Anglo-Norman line of Slubber de
Gullion.

While Louisa, plunged in all the gaiety of London life, forgot all but
it and herself, Cora—I learned this after—had thought it a crime to be
even happy, while I was suffering or absent. Such was the difference in
the nature of those two girls.

At Stamboul I had procured an inlaid Turkish rifle, a high-peaked
saddle, a cherry-pipe stick, and some yataghans, as trifles for Sir
Nigel; slippers, all sewn with pearls, a shawl, a veil, a little trunk
of essences, and other pretty things, for Cora.

Our homeward voyage was rapid and pleasant, so we steamed steadily on,
passing many a transport hurrying to the seat of war, with her human
freight, ardent and eager to replace the fallen; on by Malta and old
Gib. I was too ill to land at either; but I was well cared for on
board, for the officers treated me as if I had been their brother, and
were never weary of extolling the terrible charge of the Light Brigade
on the fatal 25th of October.

On an evening about the end of January, we were off Southampton, and ran
into the tidal dock, which has such peculiar advantages for first-class
steamers. There out of the general traffic, and in the basin of quiet
water, the _Blazer_ could easily land her melancholy freight of wounded
men. Many poor fellows whom she had embarked had died on the way home,
and found a grave under the waves of the Mediterranean.

We were landed by gaslight. I must have been very weak at that time. I
remember the cheers of welcome and the genuine commiseration of the
kindly English folks assembled on the crowded quays as we were borne
tenderly ashore in the arms of our good sailor comrades; and my wasted
appearance was not the least exciting, for I was so worn now that my
face was not unlike the Death’s head on the appointments of the 17th
Lancers—but with a goodly Crimean beard appended to it.

The lieutenant of marines conducted me to a fashionable hotel.

At Southampton I was separated from poor Willie. With all the other
wounded soldiers, he was transmitted, per third-class train, to Fort
Pitt, at Chatham. Save once, I never saw the poor affectionate fellow
again. He became a confirmed invalid, and months passed away, during
which he was neither discharged nor cured, though he longed to get
home—home, that he might die where he first saw the light, in his
father’s cottage, and be laid beside his mother’s grave in the glen.

But there is no cure for the home-sickness in the pharmacopoeia of Her
Majesty’s medical department, at No. 6, Whitehall Yard.

For many days I remained at the hotel, careless how the time passed. I
had become perfectly listless, and lay on the sofa for hours, less to
nurse my wounds than from pure inertia, and heedless of what might
happen.

Thus, one evening, when the snow lay deep in the streets without,
muffling the footsteps of the passengers and the wheels of the cabs and
omnibuses—when the fire was burning cheerily in the bright bars of the
polished grate—the crimson curtains drawn across the windows—the
crystals of the gaselier glittering with a thousand prisms, and thus
when, after Crimean experiences, it was impossible not to feel intensely
comfortable in the well-carpeted room of a fashionable English hotel, I
was dozing off to sleep, and to dream, perhaps, of other scenes, when a
sound roused me.

An arm—a soft and warm one—was round my neck, and two bright, sad,
earnest, and tearful eyes were beaming affectionately into mine; a
smooth cheek, rendered cold as a winter apple by the frosty air without,
just brushed mine, and a kiss was on my forehead, as a beautiful and
blushing girl threw back her veil, and I found my hands were clasped by
those of Cora Calderwood.

“Dear, dear Cora!” I exclaimed, and pressed her to my breast.

I had longed for sympathy, companionship, friendship—for some one with
whom to share the secret burden that crushed my heart; but I rapidly
found the impossibility of doing this with my beautiful cousin, for now,
as I embraced her, all her long-treasured and long-hidden love gushed up
in her heart.

She smoothed back her thick dark hair with her pretty and tremulous
hands, and then, placing them on my temples, surveyed me again and
again, with eyes full of pity and delight, while half-kneeling beside me
on the low _fauteuil_ on which I lay.

“Cora!”

“Newton!”

She was too full of pure joy to speak; she could only throw her arms
round my neck and whisper, with her rosy lip close to my ear—

“Newton—Newton—my poor Newton! my own love at last—and—and—here comes
papa.”

As if to relieve me from a situation that was as embarrassing as it was
pleasing, the affectionate old gentleman hurried forward to meet me. He
had been less agile than his daughter in springing upstairs, and
threading the mysterious corridors of an English hotel. He took me in
his sturdy arms. His eyes were sparkling with pleasure; his ruddy cheeks
were now rendered redder than ever by the frosty wind; his white locks
glittered in the light; and his handsome old face was beaming with
pleasure, as it always did when he saw me. Warmly he shook my hands
again and again. He surveyed my hollow cheeks with commiseration, as
Cora now did with tears; and then, with prodigious bustle, he proceeded
to divest himself of numerous overcoats and wrappers, until he appeared
at last in his black cut-away, with white corded breeches and top-boots,
as of old the _beau idéal_ of the master of the Fifeshire hounds.

“So we have found you at last, my dear boy—fairly run you to earth, eh?
You must come home with us now——”

“To-night, papa?”

“Not exactly to-night, Cora; but as soon as he is fit for travelling.
And a rare cooper of old port Davie Binns shall set abroach when again
Newton is beneath the roof of the house in which his mother was born,
and where she died, too, poor girl!”

My mother was more than forty when she died; but the old baronet only
remembered his favourite sister as “the girl,” of whose beauty he was
always so proud.

Cora had now removed her bonnet and cloak. She was beautiful as ever,
but paler, I thought, for the flush that dyed her soft face at first had
now passed away, and she lowered her dark lashes at times when I looked
at her. But her secret was out now. I knew all, but could scarcely
foresee how matters were to end.

Cora wore at her breast the silver crescent and lion I had sent her from
India. She had more. She had on her finger my Rangoon diamond, which
the Marchioness had sent to her, and which I desired her to retain for
my sake, till I replaced it by one more valuable still.

We were very happy that night in Southampton; and, with more alacrity
than I thought remained in me, I prepared at once to return to Scotland.

My health was not now what it had been; but my native air in Calderwood
Glen would restore it. To repine now would have been ungrateful to
heaven and my kind kinsfolk.

I had passed through that dreadful ordeal, the Valley of Death, and had
returned with life and youth before me, when so many better and braver
than I had perished by my side. So I resolved to return thankfully and
joyfully home, to water my laurels among the heath-clad hills and grassy
glens of my native place.

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