Now, brave boys, we’re bound for marchin’,
Both to Portingale and Spain;
Drums are batin’, colours flyin’,
And the divil a back we’ll come again.
So, love, farewell, we’re all for marchin’!
Eighty-eighth and Inniskillin’,
Boys that’s able, boys that’s willin’;
Faugh-a-ballagh and County Down,
Stand by the harp, and stand by the crown.
So, love, farewell, we’re all for marchin’!
The colonel cries, “Boys, are yee’s ready?”
“We’re at your back, sir, firm and steady;
Our pouches filled with balls and poulther,
And a firelock sloped on every shoulther.”
So, love, farewell, we’re all for marchin’!
Such was the doggrel ditty—some camp song of the brave old Peninsular
days—with which I heard my Irish groom, Larity O’Regan, solacing himself
in the grey light of the early morning, as he rubbed down my charger,
and buckled his gay trappings, in the dawn of the, to me, eventful 22nd
of April. How I envied that man’s lightness of heart! Perhaps he had a
mother in a thatched cabin in some brown Irish bog far away; sisters,
too; it might be a sweetheart—some grey-eyed and black-haired Biddy, or
Nora. If so, they occasioned him but little regret then; and
light-hearted Lanty’s queer song and jovial bearing went far to rouse my
own spirit as I mounted the gallant dark horse that was to bear me in
the fields of the future.
The regiment, mustering about three hundred men of all ranks, came
rapidly from the stables, under the eye of Studhome, and that ubiquitous
and indefatigable non-commissioned officer, Sergeant-Major Drillem. The
sun had not yet risen, but the barrack windows were crowded by the men
of other corps to witness our departure. Their own turn would soon
Wilford informed me that the route[*] had come suddenly, when the
regiment was in church, and it was first announced by the chaplain from
the pulpit. The sanctity of the place alone restrained the cheers of
the lancers, but not the sobs of the women; and he added, that by a
singular coincidence, the text the chaplain had chosen for his sermon
was from Proverbs xxvii. 1—”Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou
knowest not what a day may bring forth.”
[*] Order for marching.
As the trumpets blew the assembly on this auspicious morning, their
sound seemed different—more warlike in fact than usual—a portion of the
great movement in which the fate of Europe, and certainly of many a poor
human being, was involved.
As yet Lionel Beverley, our lieutenant-colonel, who wore his Cross of
the Bath, was the only decorated man among us (save a few Indian
medals); but a rich crop of such tributes was to be reaped in the land
to which we were going.
Our plumes had been laid aside, glazed covers were on our square-crowned
caps, and officers and privates alike had canvas havresacks and wooden
canteens slung over the right shoulder; some of the former had
telescopes and courier-bags; but all betokened coming service and
preparation for it.
Our horses were nearly all of a deep dark bay colour, save those of the
band and trumpeters, many of which were white, or spotted grey. The
guidons were all uncased; each was of white silk (the colour of our
facings), embroidered with gold, measuring three feet long by twenty-one
inches on the lance, which was ten feet in length—the regulation for
light cavalry. On the flank of its troop each standard was now flying in
the morning wind.
On this occasion there were, as usual at such times, many of the fair
sex interested in our departure. There was much weeping among many
wives, and certainly among a great number of “very foolish virgins,” as
Studhome designated them. Many of the soldiers’ wives were mingling in
the ranks, and, fearless of the horses’ hoofs, were holding up their
infants for the last kiss of many a poor father who was to find his
grave in the land to which we were departing; and there were many
painful separations among those who were destined never to meet again.
I remember a sergeant of Wilford’s troop, whose wife had recently
presented him with a baby. The latter died suddenly on the night before
we were to march, and, by a singular coincidence, the little thing’s
cradle and coffin were brought into barracks together next morning, but
poor Sergeant Dashwood had to mount and leave his weeping wife and
unburied little one behind him.
He was one of the first who fell at the passage of the Alma.
There was, on the other hand, much heedless jesting and idle levity.
“This time,” said Wilford, to the group of officers who were gathered
round Beverley, “we shall do a portion of the Mediterranean, the entire
Levant, and Dardanelles, at her Majesty’s expense, and without the aid
of Bradshaw or John Murray.”
“So we are actually going at last,” lisped Jocelyn, while playing with
his horse’s mane.
“Ah! but we leave our representatives behind.”
“In a squad of light infantry in arms, no doubt,” replied Travers, a
handsome fellow, with a clear blue eye and long fair moustache. He had
the reputation of being the most rakish fellow in the regiment, and
could not resist perpetrating the old dragoon joke.
“How clumsily we English show grief,” I heard Berkeley say, as he
witnessed a very affecting parting between a mother and her son. “Hear
how that old—aw—woman is permitting herself to howl.”
“Anything is better than having every natural emotion subdued and
snubbed from childhood, as among us in Scotland,” thought I.
Soldiers muster and march at all times merrily. Care cumbers them but
little and briefly, for “with them the present is everything, the past a
point, the future a blank. The greeting of surviving friends is seldom
embittered by the recollection of those who are no more, and in a life
of danger and casualty this is natural.”
Already the advanced guard had been detailed and thrown out, under young
Sir Henry Scarlett. The crowd in and about the barracks was great.
Many carriages full of fashionables from Canterbury, Tunbridge, and
elsewhere, were arriving, for the double purpose of getting up an
appetite for breakfast and seeing us depart; but I saw nothing of my
friends, for whom I was looking anxiously—so much so that Studhome said,
laughingly, as he rode past—
“Come, look alive, Norcliff, and get your troop into shape. There is no
such spoon in the service, or out of it, as an ’engaged man.’”
At another time I might have resented Jack’s banter, but Beverley
wheeled the regiment from open column into line, and opened the ranks,
as the commandant of Maidstone cantered in, with his staff, their plumes
waving and epaulettes glittering. Then, from line, we were formed in
close column in rear of the leading troop, for the delivery of an
address, of which I did not hear one word, for just as the commandant
took off his cocked hat and began his oration Lord Chillingham’s
carriage, preceded by two outriders, drove in, I perceived that it was
occupied by Cora, Lord Chillingham, and Lord Slubber. My uncle and Lady
Louisa, who were on horseback, came at once close up to me.
My pale love looked tenderly at me, and her dark eyes bore unmistakable
traces of recent tears, or was it the long ride in the morning wind
which had inflamed them? All emotion, however, was subdued now, which
was well, as her rare beauty, her bearing and seat in the saddle,
attracted the eyes of half the regiment, seriously damaging the interest
of the old commandant’s address; and my uncle, after warmly shaking my
hand, proceeded to examine, with a critical eye, the mount of our men.
The party in the carriage alighted, so Louisa dismounted and gave her
bridle to her groom.
Our eyes seldom wandered from each other, but we had little to say
beyond a few commonplaces, yet at that bitter hour of parting our hearts
were very full, and she stroked and petted my horse, saying almost to it
the caressing things she dared not address to me.
At last the final moment of departure came, and her eyes filled with
irrepressible tears. Lord Slubber hurried forward to assist her to
remount; but his tremulous hands failed him, or Louisa proved too large
and ample; so I leaped from my horse, and took the office upon myself.
Louisa bit her lip, and smiled at Slubber, with mingled sorrow and
disdain in her expressive eye, as I put one arm caressingly around her,
and swung her up, arranging to her complete satisfaction the ample skirt
and padded stirrup for the prettiest foot and ankle that England ever
produced, and they are better there than in boasted Andalusia.
At that instant a hot tear from under her veil fell on my upturned face;
and then it was that I contrived, unseen, to give her the lock of hair.
It was in a tiny locket, the counterpart of that which I wore at my own
neck. She just touched it with her lips, and slipped it into her bosom.
Save Cora and myself, I think no one noticed the little action.
Another moment, and I found the whole regiment in motion, and, preceded
by the band of a dragoon guard corps, departing from the barrack square.
Many of our men now unslung their lances, and brandished them, while
chorusing, “Cheer, boys, cheer”—a song, the patriotism of which is
somewhat equivocal, though the air is fine and stirring.
Louisa accompanied me, riding by my side, to the gate. What we were
saying, I know not now; but my heart was beating painfully. The scene
around me seemed all confusion and phantasmagoria; the tramp of the
horses, the crash of the band, with cymbals and kettledrums, the cheers
of the soldiers and of the people, seemed faint and far away. I heard
Louisa’s voice alone.
But now a loud and reiterated hurrah—the full, deep, hearty cheer of
warmth and welcome, of joy or triumph, which comes best from English
throats, and from English throats alone—rose from the multitudes
without, as the head of the column defiled slowly through the street;
and I must own that three hundred mounted lancers—all handsome young
men, well horsed, and in gay uniform, blue faced with white, and with
all their swallow-tailed red and white banneroles fluttering in the
wind—presented a magnificent spectacle.
Thousands of handkerchiefs were waved from the windows, and many laurel
branches and flowers were flung among us. Other troops, both horse and
foot, were on the march that morning, and the crash of other bands,
heard at a distance, came over the sprouting cornfields and hop-gardens
of beautiful Kent. I had pressed Louisa’s hand for the last time, and
she had returned to her friends. We had separated at last, and with all
the love that welled up in our hearts, we had parted, as some one says,
“without the last seal upon the ceremony of good-bye, which it is
unlawful to administer in public to any but juvenile recipients.”
I was alone now, and yet not quite alone, for my uncle, though his
military career had been confined to the ranks of the Kirkaldy troop of
Yeomanry, accompanied me for some miles, mounted on a stout cover-hack,
though sorely tempted to spur after some Highland regiment, whose
bagpipes we heard ringing on some parallel road, as we marched along the
highway to Tunbridge, _en route_ for Portsmouth, where our transports
Sir Nigel bade me farewell at Tunbridge, and turned to ride back to
Chillingham Park, whither my heart went with him. The fine old man’s
voice faltered and his eyes grew very moist, as he pressed my hand for
the last time, and reined aside his horse, looking among the troop for
Willie Pitplado, whom he had known from infancy, and with whom he also
“Good-bye, Willie,” said he. “Remember you are your father’s son.
Dinna forget Calderwood Glen, and to stick to my nephew.”
Willie’s heart was full, and as he gnawed his chin-strap to hide his
emotion, I heard him send a farewell message to his father, the old
And then, as the sturdy baronet rode slowly to the rear, adopting at
once the old hunting seat, several of our lancers cheered him, for he
was the last specimen of his class they would probably see for many a
day to come.
I now remembered, with keen reproach, that in the fulness of my emotion
at parting from Louisa—in fact, the selfishness of my love—I had
forgotten to bid adieu to Cora and to Lord Chillingham. About the
latter omission I cared little; but to leave Cora—kind, affectionate
Cora—whose sad and earnest face I seemed still to see, as she gazed so
wistfully from the carriage window, and to leave her, it might be for
ever, without a word of farewell, was a fault almost without remedy now.
However, I lost no time in writing my excuses from our first
halting-place, which was at Mayfield, though some of our troops remained
at Tunbridge Wells, and others had to ride to the market town of
Cranbrook for quarters and stabling. Proceeding through the great
hop-growing district of England, we frequently marched between gardens,
where the little plants were beginning to creep up those tall and
slender poles of ash or chestnut, which (before the hops gain their full
growth, in September) present so singular an appearance to a stranger’s
eye. When those green hops were gathered, and when the hop-queen was
decorated in honour of the harvest home, we were moving towards the
passage of the Alma. Kent was wearing its loveliest aspect now, in the
full glory of hedgerows, copse, and meadows, in the last days of spring,
under a clear blue sunlit sky. The birds, in myriads, filled the hedges
with melody; the purple and white lilacs were already in full bloom, and
the grass was spotted with snow-white daisies and golden buttercups,
while primroses and violets grew wild by the side of the chalky and
The quaint, tumble-down cottages, covered to their chimney tops with
ivy, woodbine, and wild hop-leaves; the fair, smiling faces that peeped
at us from their lozenged lattices; the sturdy fellows who lounged and
smoked at the turnpike; the red wheeled waggons on the road; the laden
wains, and the canvas-frocked yokels far a-field; the lowing cattle that
browsed on the upland slope; the square white tower of the little
village church on one side; the red-brick manor-house on the other, with
all its gables and oriels peeping above the woodlands; the whistle of
the distant railway train, and its white smoke curling up in the
sunshine, were all indicative of happy, peaceful, and prosperous
England, and of a soil long untrodden by a hostile foot. From every
port in the United Kingdom; between Portsmouth and Aberdeen, troops were
quickly departing now. Being cavalry, on our route through Kent,
Sussex, and a little part of Hampshire, we overtook and passed several
corps of infantry and artillery, which were marching by the same roads
for the same place of embarkation, and stirring were the cheers with
which we greeted each other.
We remarked that the bands of the Scottish and Irish regiments were
almost invariably playing the national quick marches peculiar to their
own countries, while those of English corps played German, and even
The Black Watch, the Cameron Highlanders, the Scotch Fusiliers, &c.,
stirred each other’s hearts by such airs as “Scots wha hae,” “Lochaber
no more,” and so forth; the Connaught Rangers and the 97th made the
welkin ring to “Garryowen,” and similar airs, which are more inspiring
to the British soldier than those of Prussia or Austria can ever be;
and, as our colonel remarked it, it would have been better taste had the
English bands played the quicksteps of the sister countries than foreign
airs, with which an Englishman can have no sympathy whatever.[*]
[*] The same defect was observed on that great day when Her Majesty
distributed the Victoria Cross. The bands of the Guards played Scottish
airs for the Highlanders, and “Rule Britannia” for the Marines; but
otherwise “favoured the troops and the people with a great deal of
German music, to which no attention was paid. National airs would have
gratified both, and stirred up the patriotism of the people. The
Enniskilling Dragoons and Rifles were chiefly composed of Irishmen; but
the bands did not venture upon a single air peculiar to
Ireland.”—_Nolan’s History of the War_, p. 770.
I remembered a pleasant little incident during our march through Sussex.
As we passed a village parsonage—a quaint old gable-ended house,
secluded among moss-grown trees—the sound of our kettledrums and
trumpets, the tramp of the horses, and the clatter of the chain bridles
and steel scabbards, drew forth the inmates—an aged clergyman and his
two daughters—to a green wicket in the close-clipped holly-hedge, where
the group stood, as in a green frame of leaves, looking with deep
interest at the passing lancers, who were riding in what was then the
order—sections of three. White-haired and reverend, with his thin locks
shining in the sun, the curate took off his hat, and lifted up his hands
and eyes in a manner there could be no mistaking. The old man was
evidently praying for us. His face was expressive of the finest
emotion; he felt that he was looking on many a man he would never see
again. Perhaps he had a son a soldier, or was himself a soldier’s son;
or he felt that he, though old and stricken with years, was destined to
survive many of the young, the hale and hearty in our ranks, who were
still “on life’s morning march.” Some of our officers lifted their caps
and bowed to the little group, and I am sure that Frank Jocelyn kissed
his hands to the girls, who were waving their handkerchiefs, while more
than one of ours cried, “God bless you, old boy!” and frequently, long
after, in the snows of Sebastopol and the terrors of the valley of
death, the face and form of that good old man, and the kindness of his
mute prayer, came to the memory of some of us. It formed one of our
last and most pleasing incidents connected with England.
In four days we reached Portsmouth, which presented a scene of
indescribable bustle and activity; and the fifth day saw my troop,
consisting of fifty men, with sixty horses, and with the colonel,
Studhome, M’Goldrick, one surgeon, the sergeant-major, and rest of the
staff, embarked from the dockyard jetty at eleven A.M., on board a
splendid clipper ship, the _Pride of the Ocean_, Captain Robert
Binnacle, bound for Turkey. The other five troops of the corps were
embarked on board the transports _Ganges_, _Bannockburn_, and other
We had not been without hope of going in the _Himalaya_, which would
have taken the entire regiment in her capacious womb, and which,
moreover, is our only cavalry ship; but the authorities had declared
The morning of our embarkation was beautiful; the scene animated,
picturesque, and bustling, such as Portsmouth alone could exhibit at
such a time; but we were sorely troubled by our horses. Some were
conveyed on board in stall-boxes, others were lowered down the hatches
by bellybands and slings, in which, being spirited and young, they were
very restive, lashing out, to the imminent danger of the brains and
bones of those in their vicinity, until they found themselves in the
tow-padded stalls below the maindeck.
Adding to the bustle and interest of the scene, several ships of war
were taking in stores and preparing for sea; boats, manned by seamen and
marines in white jackets, were shooting to and fro between Portsmouth on
one side and Gosport on the other. A strong detachment of the 19th (1st
Yorkshire) Regiment was embarking on board the _Melita_, a Cunard
steamer; the _Euxine_, a Peninsular and Oriental liner, was receiving
many of the staff, a number of horses, and nearly twenty tons of ball
cartridges. A squadron of the 8th, or Royal Irish Hussars, under Major
de Salis, were stowing themselves on board of the _Mary Anne_ transport;
and a great body of Woolwich Pensioners, a numerous staff of veterinary
surgeons, members of the ambulance, ordnance, and transport corps, were
all embarking at the same time. Thus the hurly-burly was prodigious, and
the whole of the quays were encumbered by baggage, stores, field-pieces,
mortars, shot and shell, chests of arms, tents and camp equipage,
guarded by marines with fixed bayonets, or seamen with drawn cutlasses.
With all this apparent activity there was, of course, the counteracting
influence of that red-tapism which is the curse of the British service.
When war was declared the Royal Arsenal did not contain a sufficient
quantity of shells to furnish the first battering train that went to
Turkey, and the fuses then issued had been in store ever since the
battle of Waterloo! Even the mattocks and shovels issued to the troops
had been sent home from the Peninsula by the Duke of Wellington as
Here at Portsmouth we saw many a bitter—also to too many it proved a
final—adieu. With all my soul I loved Louisa; and yet, when, standing
on the dockyard jetty there, I saw the partings of husbands from their
wives, and fathers from their children, I thanked Heaven in my heart
that in this, to them, most bitter hour, I had only my good black
charger to care for.
Midday was past ere all the passengers for the _Pride of the Ocean_,
with their baggage, &c., were on board. I had personally to see the
cattle stabled below; the men told off to their messes and watches; the
lances, swords, and other arms stowed away in racks; the valises and
hammocks slung to their cleats, and so forth. In the stables one stall
on each side was left vacant, with spare slings, in case of accidents at
Fortunately, I was spared the annoyance of Berkeley’s society on the
voyage out, as there was not space for more than one troop on board the
clipper; so he was with Wilford’s on board the _Ganges_. He was not
exactly “in Coventry,” but somehow our mess disliked him, and could not
exactly comprehend, as they phrased it, “what was up” between him and
Now that I was again in favour with Louisa Loftus; now that the untoward
affair at the Reculvers had been completely explained, and that the
victory was mine, and his the shame, defeat, and rejection—nearly all
emotion of hostility against him had died away, or been replaced by
settled contempt. Yet the hostile meeting was still looming in the
future, and would have to ensue on the first suitable opportunity.
I was not sorry when the bustle of embarkation was over, and the clipper
was towed out to the famous reach or roadstead at Spithead, where she
came to anchor for a time, under the shelter of the high lands of the
Isle of Wight.
The noblest army that ever left the shores of the British Isles was,
undoubtedly, that which departed under Lord Raglan’s orders for the
It was the carefully-developed army of forty years of peace, during
which the world had made a mighty stride in art, in science, and in
civilization—greater than it had done, perhaps, between the days of the
Twelfth Crusade and the last day of Waterloo.
“War,” says Napier, in his “Peninsular History,” “war tries the military
framework; but it is in peace that the framework itself must be
formed—otherwise barbarians would be the leading soldiers of the world.
A perfect army can only be made by civil institutions.”
The same magnificent writer says elsewhere, with terrible truth, “In the
beginning of each war England has to seek in blood the knowledge
necessary to insure success; and like the fiend’s progress towards Eden,
her conquering course is through chaos, followed by Death!” and that
such was her course in the Crimea, let the errors of general routine,
the trenches of Sebastopol, and the criminal red-tapism at home bear
Of the morale of that army there can be no higher evidence than the
voices that came from the poor fellows in our ranks—the letters with
which they filled the newspapers of the day, detailing with spirit,
simplicity, and pathos their humble experiences in the great events of
All our men loved Beverley, who was a model commanding officer, and my
troop deemed themselves (as I did) peculiarly lucky in being with him
and the head-quarters staff. He took great care of his regiment, and a
strict supervision of the horses.
He had left nothing undone while at home, by the establishment and
encouragement of a school, a library, and so forth, to raise the moral
tone of the lancers, their wives and families; hence some of the
contributions of our privates to the newspapers were fully equal to any
that emanated from Sir Colin’s famous Highland Brigade. Beverley
regularly visited the sick in hospital, and cheered them by his kindly
manner; and all the little ones who played in the barrack square smiled
and welcomed the approach of the colonel, who was seldom without a few
small coins to scatter among them, and cause a scramble; yet, as I have
said, he was somewhat of a dandy, and not without a tinge of affectation
in his tone and manner.
Next evening saw us at sea.
The Nab Light had sunk far astern, and the pale cliffs of the Isle of
Wight had melted into the world of waters.
Old Jack Bloater, the pilot from Selsey, had drunk his last horn of grog
at the binnacle, and left us with every wish for “an ’appy journey—a
bong woyage, as the monseers called it, and that we would soon give them
Roosians a skewerin’.”
And now I knew that many a day, and week, and month, it might be years,
filled up by the perils and stormy passages of a life of campaigning,
must inevitably pass ere I should again hear Louisa’s voice, before I
had her hand in mine, and looked into her tender eyes again—if I was
kindly permitted by Heaven to return at all. But little knew our
departing army of the suffering and horrors that were before it—horrors
and sufferings to which the bayonets and bullets of the Russians were
but child’s play.
I was now away from her finally, and without the least arrangement
having been made for that which alone can soothe the agony and anxiety
of such a separation—correspondence! I clung to the hope that she might
write to me; if not, I could only hear of her from Cora, or perhaps when
Miss Wilford wrote to her brother Fred; and, it might be, from some
stray paragraph in the _Court Journal_ or _Morning Post_, if either ever
found its way beyond the Dardanelles, which seemed doubtful.
I had her treasured lock of hair and the miniature, on which I was never
tired of gazing, especially when I could do so unseen in my swinging
cot, for a crowded transport is the last place in the world for
indulging in lover’s dreams or reveries. It was a poor, feeble
daguerreotype, yet there were times when, by force of imagination, the
pictured face seemed to light up with Louisa’s smile, and when the fine
feminine features became filled by a blaze of light and life, so like
the original that they became perfectly lovely.
Then I would think of Cora, too, and when I reflected over all her
bearing towards me, the light which broke upon me at first became
Her tears when she first told Sir Nigel of her suspicion that I loved
Louisa; her sudden changes of colour, from pallor to ruddy suffusion of
the cheek; her hesitation in addressing me at times, her abruptness at
others, or her silence; her vehemence in defending me against the
accusations of Berkeley, and her joy at my victory; her occasional
coldness to Louisa and her silent sorrow at my departure; all that had
at any time puzzled me was explained now.
Cora loved me with a love beyond that of cousin, and I must often have
stabbed her good little heart by my impertinent confidences regarding my
passion for another.
Well, well, Cora’s love and my regrets were alike vain now, for the
swift clipper ship was running on a taut bowline by the skirts of
Biscay’s stormy bay, as she bore us on “to glory” and Gallipoli.
A wet sheet and a flowing sea,
A wind that follows fast,
And fills the white and rustling sail,
And bends the gallant mast.
And bends the gallant mast, my boys.
While, like the eagle free,
Away the good ship flies, and leaves
Old England on the lee.
The cabin was spacious and comfortable. Binnacle, the skipper, was a
short, thick-set little stump of a fellow, with a round, good-humoured
face, which had become browned by exposure in every climate and on every
sea under the sun. He was very anecdotical, perpetually joking and
laughing, and had one peculiarity, that he never in conversation
inter-larded his remarks with nautical phraseology, like the
conventional or orthodox sailor of romance and the stage.
He had never sailed before with a horse on board, and now that he had
actually one hundred of those useful quadrupeds under his hatches, he
spent a great deal of his spare time among them, tickling their ears and
noses—more, perhaps, than some of them quite relished, if one might
judge of the manner in which they occasionally showed the whites of
their eyes, and lashed out at the rear end of their stall-boxes.
On board we smoked, of course, played chess, loo (_rouge-et-noir_, a
little), and daily watched with interest the steamers which passed us,
full of troops, British or French, all on their way to the East. Some
of us kept diaries and made memoranda for friends at home: but some grew
tired of doing so, or reflected that they might not live to record that,
on such a day, the white cliffs of old England were again in sight.
We had quite a bale of the “Railway Library” on board; but to reading we
preferred telling stories, to kill time, or watching, telescope in hand,
for bits of continental scenery, as we ran along the coast of Portugal,
spanned the Gulf of Cadiz, and hauled up for the Straits of Gibraltar,
after passing the rocky promontory of Cape St. Vincent, which we saw
rising from the sea north-north-east of us, about ten miles distant, on
the fifth day after we sailed from Spithead.
During the day we had not many leisure hours, as there is no situation
in which troops more urgently require the personal superintendence of
their officers than when on board ship.
All the lancers were supplied with white canvas frocks, to save their
uniforms, and were divided into three watches, each of which in turn was
on deck, with at least one officer. We had an officer of the day and
guard, who posted sentinels, armed with the sword, at the breaks of the
poop and forecastle, to maintain order, and, when the weather permitted,
we had an hour of carbine and sword exercise, to the great edification
of Captain Binnacle and his crew. Every morning the bedding was brought
on deck and triced in nettings alongside; no smoking was permitted in
the stables or between decks.
The cattle were of course our chief care, and Beverley was always
particular about his mounts. Experience and theory had long convinced
him that the sire dominated in the breed of chargers; thus he ever
eschewed the produce of half-bred stallions and stud horses. We gave
them mashes dashed with nitre, and mixed bran with their corn; daily we
had their hoofs and fetlocks washed in clean salt water, their eyes and
noses sponged, and when at times the windsails failed to act, and the
hold became close, we washed the mangers with vinegar and water, and
sponged the horses’ nostrils with the same refreshing dilution.
Notwithstanding all our care, however, before we sighted Malta we lost
three—one of which was my uncle’s present, the black cover-hack with the
white star on her counter. It became glandered.
Pitblado, who had seen the nag foaled, and had many a day taken it to
graze in Falkland Park, and on the green slopes of the Mid Lomond,
flatly refused to shoot it when I ordered him to do so, but gave his
loaded carbine to Lanty O’Regan, who had fewer scruples on the subject.
When this episode occurred, Cape Espartel was bearing south-east of us,
about twelve miles distant; and by our glasses we could distinctly see
the features of that remarkable headland of Morocco, the north-western
extremity of the mighty continent of Africa, with its range of basaltic
columns, which nearly rival in magnificence those of Fingal’s Cave at
Staffa; and the noon of the following day, as we bore into the
Mediterranean, saw the great peak of Gibraltar rising from the horizon
like a couchant lion, with its tail turned to Spain.
When my poor nag, previous to its slaughter, was being slung up from the
hold, Beverley was much impressed by the real grief of honest Pitblado
for its loss; and told me an interesting Indian anecdote of a pet horse
that belonged to the 8th Royal Irish Hussars.
Beverley seldom spoke of India, for it was a land that was not without
sorrowful recollections to him; and we all knew that he wore at his neck
a large gold locket, containing a braid of the hair of his intended
bride—a lovely girl, who was shot in his arms, and when seated on his
saddle, as he was spurring with his troop through the horrors and the
carnage of the Khyber Pass—on that day when nearly our whole 44th
Regiment perished—and poor Beverley, with her dead body, fell into the
hands of the Afghans.
“When we last went out to India,” said he, “that was when I was but a
cornet of sixteen, and several years before you joined us, we relieved
the 8th Royal Irish, who had been there long—I know not how many years,
but time enough to gain on their colours _Pristinæ virtutis memores_,
with ’Leswaree,’ and ’Hindostan’—honours which they shared with the old
25th Light Dragoons,[*] for five-and-twenty years was then the common
term of Indian expatriation.
[*] A corps disbanded in 1818; and formerly the 29th Light Dragoons,
were raised in 1795.
“The 8th had been at the storming of Kalunga, where their old and
beloved colonel—then General Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie—was killed at
their head, and fell with that splendid sword, inscribed ’The gift of
the Royal Irish,’ clenched in his hand. His horse was a remarkably
noble animal, which had been foaled of an Irish mare at the Cape of Good
Hope; but he had the beautiful Arabian head, the finely-arched neck,
long oblique shoulders, ample quarters, well-bent legs, and long elastic
pastern of his sire—a splendid Godolphin barb. Black Bob was indeed a
“After the affair at Kalunga he was put up for sale, with his saddle and
housings still spotted with the blood of the gallant Gillespie, who was
so greatly beloved by the brave Irish fellows of the 8th that they
resolved to keep his horse as a memorial of him; but, unfortunately, the
upset price was three hundred guineas.
“Two officers of the 25th Light Dragoons raised it speedily to a hundred
more. But not to be baffled, the poor fellows subscribed among
themselves, and actually raised five hundred guineas, for which the
beautiful black horse, with his housings, was sold to them.
“Black Bob thus became their property, and always preceded the regiment
on the march. He knew the trumpets of the 8th better than those of any
other regiment. The men were wont to affirm that he had a taste for the
Irish brogue, too, and that he pricked his ears always highest at
’Garryowen,’ in regard that his mother was a mare from the Wicklow
“Bob was fed, caressed, petted, and stroked as no horse ever had been
before; and always when in barracks, as the corps proceeded from station
to station where he had been with his old rider, he took the accustomed
position at the saluting base when the troops marched past, just as if
old Rollo Gillespie was still in the saddle, watching the squadrons or
companies defile in succession, and was not lying in his grave, far away
beneath the ramparts of Kalunga, among the Himalaya mountains in Nepaul.
“Well, as I have said, at last we came to relieve the 8th, who were
dismounted, and had their horses turned over to us. They were to go
home, as we had come out, by sea. The funds of the hussars were low
now; pay was spent and prize-money gone. They were in despair at the
prospect of losing their pet horse; but no such passengers ever went
round the Cape, so they had to part with Bob at last.
“A civilian at Cawnpore bought him, and the hussars gave him back more
than half the price, on receiving a solemn promise that Bob was to have
a good stable and snug paddock wherein he was to pass the remainder of
his days in comfort; and this pledge the new proprietor kept faithfully.
But Bob had only been three days in his new quarters, when he heard the
trumpets of the 8th waking the echoes of the compound, as they marched,
dismounted, before daybreak, to embark on the _Ganges_, for Calcutta.
“It was the old air of the regiment, ’Garryowen.’ Then Bob became
frantic. He bit and tore his manger to pieces; he lashed out with his
hoofs and kicked the heel-posts and treviss boards to pieces. He
destroyed his whole stall, and sunk among the straw, bleeding, cut, and
half strangled in his stall collar.
“After a time, when day by day passed, and he saw no more the once
familiar uniforms, and heard no more the voices or the trumpets of his
old friends, he pined away, refused his corn, and even the most tempting
mashes, totally declining all food. So he was turned into the paddock;
but then he leaped the bamboo fence, and with all his remaining speed
rushed direct to the barracks at Cawnpore.
“There he made straight for the cantonment of the European cavalry, and
came whinneying up to the saluting post, where he had so often borne old
Gillespie and seen the squadrons of the 8th defiling past, and there, on
that very spot, the horse fell down and died!”[*]
[*] There was another pet of the 8th Hussars, which met with a different
fate. The jet-black horse, on whose back their colonel, T. P.
Vandeleur, was killed at the battle of Leswaree “long kept his place
with the regiment, and afterwards became the property of Cornet
Burrowes, who took great care of him until the corps left India, when he
was shot, that he might not fall into unworthy hands.”—_Narrative of
Leswaree_. By Dr. Ore.
“I have often heard similar stories of dogs—but never such a yarn of a
horse,” said Captain Binnacle, who was greatly impressed by this
anecdote, and smoked a long time thoughtfully and in silence after it.
“Fact though!” said Beverley, curtly, and rather haughtily, as he tipped
the ashes off his cigar.
“That horse had the heart of a man. But I could spin you a yarn,
colonel, of a man that had the heart of a beast—ay, of a wild wolf; and
it all occurred under my own eye—for I had to shed human blood in the
matter; though I doubt not God above will acquit me therefor, seeing as
how my own conscience acquits me.”
The impressive manner so suddenly adopted by our worthy little skipper
attracted the attention of Beverley, Studhome, and M’Goldrick, and all
the listening group.
Even Jocelyn—a gay fellow, who had more _affaires de fantaisie_ than
_affaires de coeur_, and who never permitted the impulses of that useful
utensil, his heart, to go further than proved convenient or
comfortable—felt himself interested by the gloomy and stern expression
that came into the face of Captain Binnacle.
“Would you like to hear my yarn, gentlemen?” said the latter.
“With pleasure—certainly—by all means—if you please,” said we,
alternately, and all together, for Binnacle was evidently anxious to
He gave a glance aloft, and another at the sky. The evening was fine
and clear. The mate had charge of the deck, the ship was running under
her head-sails, courses, top-sails, and topgallant sails before a fine
strong breeze, which, as she rolled from side to side, made our horses
reel and oscillate in their padded stalls below. The watch of lancers
were all smoking or chatting on the port side; the sail-makers, squatted
under the break of the forecastle, were busy on a set of new
studding-sails; the carpenters were at work repairing the headrails
The result of Binnacle’s glances was satisfactory; and, descending to
the cabin, whither we all followed, he ordered glasses and decanters,
with a case of four square bottles that held something stronger than
decanters usually do. We all betook us to brandy-and-water, except
Frank Jocelyn, who imbibed noyeau and lemonade, a decoction which
Binnacle viewed with sublime contempt; but Frank wore his hair, divided
in the middle, and invariably used _w_ for _r_, so we excused him, as
one might do a young lady.
After a few preliminary coughs and hems, Binnacle told us the following
story, which is so horrible that it fully requires—let us hope
deserves—an entire chapter to itself.