Your words have took such pains, as if they laboured
To bring manslaughter into form, set quarrelling
Upon the head of valour:—
He’s truly valiant that can wisely suffer
The worst that man can breathe, and make his wrongs
His outsides; wear them like his raiment carelessly,
And ne’er prefer his injuries to his heart,
To bring it into danger.
If wrongs be evils, and enforce us kill,
What folly ’tis to hazard life for ill!
TIMON OF ATHENS.
To write to Lady Louisa a full explanation of the affair was among the
first of my resolutions; but would she believe me?—one against whom
appearances, already, no doubt, coloured, distorted, and elaborated by
Berkeley’s cunning insinuations, were so strong?
Without a word of inquiry, or hearing any exculpation, she and Cora had
retired together, and with him, under his requested escort. What fatal
use would he not make of the time thus given him! On, on went the swift
train; but to me even the express seemed a laggard to-night!
Alas! that she I loved so deeply should think so meanly of me, as she
undoubtedly did now.
If I called Berkeley out, and shot him, risking and breaking alike the
civil and military laws of the land, I knew that my uncle would forgive,
and that Cora would weep for me; I knew how Louisa would nervously
shrink from the publicity of such an affair; but I knew also that none
of them would forgive me for an alleged liaison with a creature
apparently so worthless as the cast-off mistress of another—a liaison by
which I lost the love of one so brilliant as the heiress of Chillingham.
Of all such transactions, the old fox-hunting baronet, the mirror of
honour, had a great horror, and within the seas that wash our shores
there was no nobler heart than his. As yet, I could not see the end of
the affair; my heart was swollen, and my head giddy, with rage; I longed
only for friendly advice, and swift vengeance! If the story reached the
ears of Sir Nigel, and he cut off my allowance, my pay as a captain of
cavalry of the line—to wit, fourteen shillings and seven pence per
diem—even with the contingent allowance of seventy or eighty pounds per
annum (for burials and repair of arms, &c.), would never support me,
even on service, in such an expensive corps as ours; thus, if I was a
ruined man, it was all through the wiles of Berkeley! Pecuniarily I
could not remain, and to retire, sell, resign, or exchange for India at
such a crisis, when war was already declared in Europe, would be only to
court disgrace and destruction.
Under any circumstances, to “send in my papers” was social ruin. I
would sell my troop, and follow the regiment as a volunteer lancer,
rather than not go to the seat of war in the East; and all this dilemma,
this vortex of tormenting thought, this agony of anticipated shame,
united with the loss of Louisa Loftus, I owed to the machinations, the
hatred, and the jealousy of the only man I really disliked or despised
in the whole regiment. At last I reached the barracks (where the last
trumpet of tattoo had long since sounded), and sought the quarters of
Jack Studhome, whom, to my confusion, and somewhat to my annoyance, I
found engaged with the colonel on military business. In fact, with the
aid of a couple of decanters of very unexceptionable mess port, and a
box of cigars, they were going over the “Description Book,” which, for
the information of readers not in the cavalry, I may mention is one of
the sixteen ledgers kept by the regimental staff, being a register of
the age, size, and description of the horses in each troop; the names
and residence of the persons from whom they were bought, with the date
of their purchase, and so forth, a column being appropriated for
remarks, to show the manner in which each horse is disposed of.
“You here, Norcliff?” exclaimed Colonel Beverley, with surprise, as he
closed the volume.
“Excuse me, colonel, I know that I should be at Canterbury; but I have
ventured to head-quarters on a matter so very particular——”
“Now, Norcliff, what the devil is up?” interrupted Studhome, getting
fresh glasses the while, and pushing the cigar-box towards me.
“Nothing wrong with your troop, eh?” said our lieutenant-colonel,
lowering his eyebrows.
“No, colonel—a personal matter has brought me here,” I replied, while
they, perceiving that I was pale and agitated, exchanged glances of
“We shall soon be off, Norcliff,” said the colonel; “Travers and others
have disposed of their spare horses; Scriven has sent his stud to
Tattersall’s; the drag we shall leave here with the depôt. Wilford’s
yacht rides at Cowes with the symbolical broom at her masthead. I have
been changing the dismounted men every three days, so that, come what
may, all shall be perfect lancers when the complete mount arrives; and
we have had the horses inspected once in each week by the veterinary
surgeon, to ascertain whether there is among them any contagious
disease, as that, you know, would play the deuce with us on service.
Dragoons without horses (poor Beverley foresaw not the horrors awaiting
the cavalry before Sebastopol) would be like rifles without locks. I
also wish the corps to be supplied with water-decks,[*] but cannot get
them; and now, Norcliff, that you have drawn breath, empty your glass,
and say in what manner we can assist you.”
[*] A piece of painted canvas, to cover the saddle, bridle, and girths
of a cavalry horse, and sometimes pegged to the ground. The name of the
corps was usually painted on the outside; and when the trooper was
mounted for service, the deck was strapped over his portmanteau.
“You shall hear, colonel,” said I, taking his proffered hand; “I sought
Studhome to obtain his advice, as my oldest and one of my most valued
friends in the regiment, and I shall gladly avail myself of yours, under
the pledge of secrecy, as the name of a lady is concerned in what I
shall have the honour to relate to you.”
“Ah,” said the colonel, throwing open his frogged surtout, and half
closing his eyes, as he lounged on two chairs, with the air of one who
waits and listens, “this prologue bodes something unpleasant.”
Beverley’s voice and manner were slightly affected, but withal were very
pleasing. He was, as I have said elsewhere, a very handsome man, of
middle age, with a keen dark grey eye, and close crisp hair, somewhat of
a drawler in speech, but well and powerfully built, broad-shouldered,
lean-flanked, and a good average dragoon officer. Under excitement his
features and bearing changed; he became brief and rapid; his lips became
decided, though his very black moustache concealed them.
I related succinctly the story of Miss Auriol, and the slanders
concerning me circulated in Maidstone—slanders of which Studhome was
quite cognizant; I adverted to my engagement with Lady Louisa, and
detailed the trap I had fallen into, and the use Berkeley had made of
it, adding that I had resolved to parade him—to call him out, and had
told him so, face to face.
“Ah, and what did he say?” asked the colonel, knocking the ashes from
his cigar with a jewelled finger.
“If you lived till the age of Methusaleh, Colonel Beverley, you would
“Putting his glass in his eye, he lisped out coolly, ’Bah! people don’t
fight duels now. In our service at least, since Munro’s fatal affair
with Fawcett,[*] hostile meetings have been hanging matters.’”
[*] The disastrous and reckless duel referred to—the last, I think,
fought in our service—occurred in 1844, between the husbands of two
sisters, in a quarrel about monetary matters—Lieutenant-Colonel David L.
Fawcett, C.B., of the 55th Regiment, and Lieutenant and Adjutant
Alexander T. Monro, of the Royal Horse Guards. The former was killed,
and the latter, after suffering a short imprisonment, was restored to
the service, but not to his regiment. The circumstances must be fresh
in the memory of some of my readers.
“The greater pity, say I,” continued Beverley.
“And he actually replied to you thus?” said Studhome.
“These were his words, or nearly so.”
Beverley’s brow knit, and a contemptuous smile curled his proud lip.
“Such cool impudence is delicious,” said he, laughing.
“But the matter cannot end thus!” I exclaimed, impetuously.
“Of course not, my dear fellow—of course not. Yet if the affair comes
before the mess or the public, how are we to keep the name of Lady
Loftus out of it? Though he might relish the éclât of having his
trumpery cognomen jingled with that of Lord Chillingham’s daughter, and
with yours, it is a very different matter for Lady Louisa. We must be
cautious and circumspect, or we shall land you between the horns of a
dilemma. Women make men’s quarrels infernally complicated.”
“I shall gladly avail myself of your advice, colonel, and Studhome shall
act as my friend.”
Jack summoned his servant by a rapid process peculiar to barracks, and
despatched him to the main guard to inquire whether Mr. Berkeley had
The answer came promptly that he was in his quarters.
“How long has he been there?”
“About half an hour, sir.”
“Egad, Norcliff, you have come by the same train from Canterbury,” said
the colonel, after the servant had withdrawn. “How if you had been in
the same compartment?”
“I might have been tempted to throw him out of the window.”
“Studhome, see Berkeley, and arrange this matter; but remember the
honour of the regiment,” said the colonel, “as well as that of your
friend, for at all risks and hazards I will have no public scandal about
us—no handle given to the wretched whipsters of the newspaper press,
when we are on the eve of departure for the seat of war.”
“Trust me, colonel,” said Jack, as he lit a fresh cigar, donned his
gold-laced forage cap very much over the right ear, took up his
riding-whip from force of habit, and hurried away.
The time of his absence passed slowly. I was in a dilemma, out of which
I did not clearly see my way; and the colonel continued to punish Jack’s
port, to smoke in silence, and peruse the “Description Book.”
Deeply in my heart I cursed alike the amenities of civilized life and
the laws of modern society, which deprived me of the means of swift and
certain retribution, even at the risk of my own life and limbs. Such
trammels, in these days of well-ordered police, luckily, perhaps, compel
us to conceal our hates and animosities; to submit quietly to wrong,
insult, and obloquy, for which the very laws that pretend to protect and
guide us afford no due reparation; trammels that avail greatly the
coarse, the cowardly, and the mean, who may thus sneer or insult with
impunity, when in the old pistol days their lives would have paid the
forfeit; and whatever may have been the folly, error, or wickedness of
duelling as a system, there can be no doubt that, when men had the test
of moral courage as a last resort, the tone of society was higher,
healthier, and better, especially in the army. Then practical jokes,
rudeness, and quizzing were unknown at a mess-table; while an open wrong
or insult bore with it the terrible penalty of a human life.
By the rules of the service I knew that no officer or soldier could send
a challenge to any other officer or soldier to fight a duel, lest, if a
commissioned officer, under the pain of being cashiered; if a
non-commissioned officer or soldier, of suffering corporal punishment,
or such other award as a court-martial might inflict.
The penalties of the civil law I knew to be still more severe; and yet
John Selden, one of England’s most able, learned, and patriotic lawyers,
says that “a duel may still be granted by the law of England, and only
then. That the Church allowed it once appears by this: in their public
liturgies there were prayers appointed for the duellists to say; the
judge used to bid them to go to such a church and pray, &c. But whether
this is lawful? If you make war lawful, I make no doubt to convince you
of it. War is lawful because God is the only judge between two that are
supreme. Now, if a difference happen between two subjects, and it
cannot be decided by human testimony, why may they not put it to God to
judge between them, with the permission of the prince? Nay; what if we
should bring it down—for argument’s sake—to the sword. One gives me the
lie: it is a great disgrace to take it; the law has made no provision to
give remedy for the injury (if you can suppose anything an injury for
which the law gives no remedy), why am not I, in this case, supreme, and
may, therefore, right myself?”
While Beverley and I began to talk over such things, Studhome was, as he
phrased it, “bringing Berkeley to book” in the affair.
He found that gentleman in rather a perturbed state of mind, soothing
himself with a cigar, as he lounged in his vest and trousers on a
luxurious sofa, in his elegantly-furnished room, the walls of which were
covered with coloured engravings of horses and ballet-girls. A tall
crystal goblet on the table bore evident traces of brandy and
seltzer-water having been recently imbibed therefrom.
“So, after all that has occurred, you won’t meet Norcliff, as he
wishes?” asked Jack, after the matter had been thoroughly gone into.
“Aw—decidedly not,” said he, emitting his words and a slender volume of
smoke slowly together.
“In Britain, at least, as the law stands now, I can scarcely blame you,
Mr. Berkeley,” said Studhome, stiffly; “but as the orders from London
stand, we are soon to leave, and something must be done in the matter;
for, as it is at present, you cannot both remain in the same regiment.”
“Aw—doocid good that,” replied Berkeley, twirling up his moustache;
“but—aw—who is the muff that is to quit it, now that we have orders of
“You, sir,” said Jack, rather perplexed.
“Thank you; but—aw—beg to decline. And this mysterious something which
must be done—aw—eh?”
“I would recommend a candid confession on your part; such an
explanation, in writing, as my friend, Captain Norcliff, may show to
Lady Loftus and then commit to the flames, or return it to you.”
“The deuce!” drawled Berkeley, holding his cigar at arm’s length, and
wheeling the sofa half round, to have a better view of our adjutant.
“Is there any other little thing you would like?”
“I think not, sir.”
“My good friend, Studhome, you are, I have not a doubt, a very excellent
adjutant, well up in lance, sword, and pistol exercise—knowing how to
’set a squadron in the field,’ like the amiable Othello; but
you—aw—aw—must really permit me to be the best judge of my own affairs.”
Studhome bowed haughtily, and then stood, cap and whip in hand, erect;
so Berkeley resumed—
“You are aware of the whispers concerning Norcliff and that girl, Agnes
Auriol—isn’t that her name?”
“Yes, sir; I am aware there have been malicious whispers, and I have my
eyes now on the circulator of them.”
“Very good,” said Berkeley, colouring slightly; “they are very current
among the 16th Lancers and 8th Hussars. I have known a little of the
girl; but have—aw—tired of her now. We all tire, my dear fellow, of
such affairs in time. Take a cigar—aw—you won’t—what a bore! well, so my
advice to your irritated Scotch friend would be that, as she is at
perfect liberty to leave my protection, she may enter quietly upon his;
so there is an end to the doocid affair.”
“So you may affect to think,” said Studhome, eyeing the lounger with
“What could be more equivocal, as Lady Loftus admitted, than the
circumstances under which we found them? He was supporting—actually
caressing her; and then there was his proffered fifty-pound note. My
dear fellow, people are not such devilish fools as—aw—to give fifty
pounds to such girls for—aw—nothing!”
“Whatever you may pretend to think, or affect to say, of that affair, of
my friend’s ultimate intentions, as a man of spirit, you cannot be
“Aw—I don’t choose to speculate upon them.”
“This trifling, sir, is insufferable! He may lash you in the face with
his whip before the whole regiment, when Beverley wheels it into line
to-morrow, and so make you a scandal to us, to Maidstone, and the entire
British Army, from the Life Guards to the Cape Rifles.”
“Yes; and soundly too!”
“I don’t think he will.”
“For then the whole story would come out, there would be an
arrest—aw—and court of inquiry, and my Lady Louisa Loftus would have her
august name paragraphed in every paper, from the _Morning Post_
“And under this belief in his forbearance, which pays my friend a high
compliment, you actually shelter yourself?” said worthy Jack Studhome,
with intense scorn.
“I shall take my chance.”
“Then, sir, cunning as you are, and though believing that my friend must
submit to lie under a vile imputation, and, if it so happen, be ruined
with Lady Louisa Loftus and his friends, you cannot expect to get off
scot free. The devil! we live in strange times. Are we sunk so low
that officers and gentlemen, that honourable and gallant members, that
noble lords, that counsellors learned in the law, and even jolly
students, are to settle their disputes in pothouse fashion, by womanly
vituperation or vulgar fisticuffs, without ever dreaming of a recourse
to the pistol? Men of all ranks, from the premier peer down to the
anonymous scribblers of the daily press—
Those grovelling, trodden, whipt, stript, turncoat things,
Made up of volumes, venom, stains, and stings,—
may now brand each other as liars, cowards, and ruffians, with perfect
impunity. Do you understand me, sir?”
“How so? I speak plain enough!”
“Such fellows are—aw—out of my way.”
“Then you will understand this, sir,” said Studhome, grasping him
fiercely by the shoulder, and with an expression in his eye which made
even the insouciance of Berkeley to evaporate, “a few weeks must see us
in the Levant, on the shores of Turkey, and before the enemy. A duel
shall come off there, and to evade alike the laws of Britain and the
rules of the service, the seconds shall bind themselves by a solemn
promise to declare that he who may be wounded, or he who may be killed,
was struck by a chance shot from the enemy. You comprehend this
“And your friend—who is he to be?”
“Captain Scriven, of ours.”
“Good—I shall see him instantly.”
“So that was your arrangement, Studhome?” asked Beverley.
“Yes; there was no other way. Scriven promises and agrees, and has
passed his word for secrecy. Do you approve, colonel?”
“Why, I suppose that I must; and you, Norcliff?” he inquired.
“Wish to Heaven that I saw Malta, or even Gibraltar, sinking into the
sea upon our lee quarter!” said I, with fierce fervour, as I shook
Studhome’s hand, and for that night, at least, was obliged to content
me, and return to my troop at Canterbury.
“If one in our ranks shows the white feather before the Russians, I
believe Berkeley will be the man,” said Beverley, as he and Studhome
smoked a last cigar with me on the platform before the down-train
Since there’s no help, come let us kisse and part.
Nay, I have done; you get no more of me;
And I am glad—yea, glad with all my heart—
That thus so clearly I myself can free;
Shake hands for ever. DRAYTON, 1612.
Unslept and unrefreshed, after returning to Canterbury, I found myself
next day at morning parade, and undergoing all the routine of regimental
drill, by troop and squadron, with the hussar corps to which we were
attached, while my thoughts and wishes were apparently a thousand miles
away from the present time and circumstances.
The prospect of “satisfaction,” as it is termed, even in the unusual
mode in which it was to be obtained, and though deferred, soothed me;
but how was I circumstanced with Louisa? She believed me untrue to her!
I was still under the false colours in which the artful Berkeley had
contrived to show me.
My ring was returned, and though I still wore hers, our engagement
seemed to be silently, tacitly broken; her miniature I would look upon
no more—its features filled me with rage and torture.
Over the day which followed my last unlucky visit to the cottage near
the Reculvers I shall gladly hurry. Ordering my horse—the black
cover-hack with the white star on its counter—I was about to start for a
ride, before mess, towards Ashford, when Pitblado placed in my hand two
notes, which had just come by post. On one I recognised the handwriting
of Cora; on the other the coronet and monogram of the Countess of
Chillingham! My heart leaped to my head, and I tore open the latter
It was simply a card of invitation in the usual form—the Earl and
Countess of Chillingham requested the honour of Captain Norcliff’s
company at a friendly dinner, at eight o’clock on the evening of the
20th inst.—only three days hence, so the time was brief; but then we
were under orders of readiness, and everywhere troops—horse, foot, and
artillery—were pouring towards Southampton and other places for
embarkation. The note concluded by mentioning that Sir Nigel Calderwood
was expected from Scotland.
The invitation was perplexing; but I reflected that the earl and
Countess were alike ignorant of the relations that had existed between
their daughter and me, and the sharp wrench by which those tender
relations had been so suddenly broken.
I could not refuse; and if I accepted, how was I to meet Louisa? And
now, what said Cora?
Her dear little note was brief and rapid, but explained all, and more
than I could have hoped for. Miss Agnes Auriol, on seeing the false
position in which Berkeley had contrived to place me, had generously
transmitted, last night, by her old nurse, all the letters she possessed
of Mr. Berkeley, and these had served completely to explain her
relations with him, and to exonerate me, affording a complete clue to
what had already excited their suspicion and surprise—Berkeley’s
intimate knowledge of the cottage, and the strange fact of his
possessing a latch-key for it.
“Louisa knows everything, and now believes that she has been too
precipitate;” so ran the note. “Restore her ring when you meet, and I
shall tell you a great deal when we see you here. It is Louisa’s
request that you meet her as if nothing had taken place. Will you
believe it, that yesterday morning, before that horrid scene occurred,
Berkeley had actually proposed to her in form, and been
rejected—rejected, dear Newton, and for you? (This part of the note was
singularly blurred, blotted, and ill-expressed for Cora.) I need not
tell you to make yourself pleasant, for papa is expected, and Lord
Slubber is to be here.”
A postscript added that the packet of letters had been returned to the
cottage that morning by a servant—but he found the place locked up, and
the inmates gone, none could tell him whither; so, in this dilemma, they
had been posted to Berkeley himself, at Maidstone barracks.[*]
[*] When serving in the East, a paragraph in a Welsh newspaper recorded
the death of Agnes Auriol in the parish where her father had been
incumbent. She was found dead at the stile which led to the village
burying-ground; and the verdict of the jury was “Death by the visitation
I answered the notes, gave them to Pitblado to post, and turned along
the Ashford Road like one in a dream, letting the reins drop on my
horse’s neck, and having ample food for serious reflection and mature
consideration; for all these meetings, communications, and passages so
momentous to me had been crammed into the short space of barely two
There were yet three days to pass before I should again see Louisa, hear
her voice, and be gladdened by her smile.
Three days were a short invitation to a fashionable household, even to
an officer in country quarters, but they seemed three centuries to me.
I felt, too, that I never enjoyed Louisa’s society less than amid her
own family circle. True, my name was not recorded in Douglas, Debrett,
or any other _libre d’or_ of Scottish or English nobility, but I was not
the less a gentleman, and my whole soul fired up—almost with red
republicanism—at the cool bearing usually assumed towards me by my Lady
A few hours since, the idea of being made a mark for a Muscovite bullet,
or a Cossack lance, had not been a matter of much moment; now that the
cloud had dispersed, that I knew Louisa loved me still—now that I felt
once more all the witchery with which the love of such a girl can
enhance existence—now that the sweet dream was no longer, as it had been
at Calderwood, a mere dream, but a delicious reality—I came to the
conclusion that war was an impertinent bore, glory a delusion and a
snare, Mars and Bellona a couple of humbugs—the former a rowdy, and the
latter no better than she should be.
I can really assure the reader that I would have borne the intelligence
of a sudden peace with great Christian fortitude and perfect equanimity
of mind; and had it pleased the Emperor Nicholas and the Western Powers
to shake hands, and leave unmolested the Crimea and the “sick man” at
Stamboul, certainly none would have blessed their quiet intentions more
than I, Newton Norcliff.
But fate had ordained it otherwise; and, like the Roman senator, their
“voice was still for war!”
The eventful evening of the “20th instant” saw me ushered into the
drawing-room at Chillingham Park, and on this occasion I went in full
uniform, knowing well that it enhances the interest with which one is
viewed, in times when the atmosphere is so redolent of gunpowder, as it
certainly was at this period of my story; and when one is made up—
By youth, by love, and by an army tailor,
the impression is generally favourable.
Circumstances fluttered me, and it was not without an unwonted emotion
of confusion I made my way among ottomans, buhl tables, and
glass-shades, and seeming to see in the reflecting mirrors at least one
hundred figures in lancer uniform traversing the vast perspectives.
Even the usual cold and haughty countess received me with cordiality
(she was soon to be rid of me for ever, perhaps). Lord Chillingham, a
dignified old peer, whom it is difficult to describe, as there was an
absence of characteristics, and nothing remarkable about him, save the
extreme length of his white waistcoat, met me with the polite and
pleasing warmth he accorded to all whom he cared nothing about.
Cora hurried forward to meet me, looking, I thought, very pale, and not
very becomingly dressed—in deep dark blue silk, with black lace
flounces—and beyond her I saw Lady Louisa. When I approached the
latter, my temples throbbed painfully, and I played nervously with the
tassels of my gold sash, like a raw boy who had just reported his having
She was calm, collected, and grave—fashionably, painfully so—but then
your well-bred Britons do so hate a scene that they have learned the art
of keeping every emotion under the most complete control, relaxing the
curb only when it suits themselves.
Save Cora, who witnessed our smiling and pleasant meeting, our suave
exchange of bows, and a slight pressure of the hand, none could have
read the thoughts that filled our eyes and hearts, and still less could
they have imagined the stormy adieux of the other evening. The diamond
drops that glittered in Louisa’s eyes as she met me did not run over;
but were absorbed by her thick dark lashes, as she closed them for an
instant, and then looked down. She was simply dressed in white silk,
with diamond ornaments, and strings of pearls among the braids of her
magnificent black hair.
“I invited your friend, Mr. De Warr Berkeley, for the evening,” said the
countess, “but the invitation, I fear, was too short, and unfortunately,
he pleaded a pre-engagement.”
At that moment a bright and intelligent smile flashed in Louisa’s eye.
In fact, the whole of the late affair was known only to the actors
therein—unless I included Beverley and Studhome.
“Captain Calderwood Norcliff—my Lord Slubber,” said the earl, as he led
me forward to an old gentleman, who was stooping over the chair of the
countess, with whom he was smiling and conversing in a polite monotone.
“Ah—indeed—have much pleasure,” said this personage, bowing, with a
broad conventional smile, and giving two of his withered fingers; “any
relation of Sir Nigel Calderwood?”
“De-lighted to see you, my dear sir. Sir Nigel is here—arrived this
“We but wait his appearance for dinner; our party is small, as you see,
Captain Norcliff,” said the countess, who was certainly still beautiful,
being a larger, older, and more stately version of Louisa, and a
powdered toupee would well have suited her face and stature.
Amid vapid discussions or desultory remarks about the probabilities of
the war, the weather, and the crops, with my Lord Aberdeen’s suspicious
policy—ante-dinner remarks—while my eyes from time to time sought those
of Louisa, I studied the aspect of my wealthy rival, who, little
suspecting the secret of my heart, had immediately engaged me in
Lord Slubber was not so tall as he had been; his features, though finely
cut, were somewhat flabby now, and had become a mass of undoubted
wrinkles, yet he had been deemed “the handsomest man of his day,” a
period on which we shall not venture to speculate. The veteran roué
considered himself “a lively dog” yet, and hoped to achieve conquests.
Thus his teeth were a brilliant triumph of art over nature, and though
his head was bare and smooth as a billiard-ball, his pendulous cheeks
wore a delicate little pink hue there could be no doubt about.
His face, with its long, aristocratic nose, somewhat prominent chin, and
receding forehead, and his perpetual simpering smile, reminded one of
the portraits of Beau Nash, and made one fancy how well he would have
suited the powder and ruffles, the bagwig and small-sword of the early
days of George III., rather than the odious black swallow-tail and
waiter-like costume of the present age.
And this garrulous old beau—this “lean and slippered pantaloon”—was the
descendant and representative of the great Norman line of Slobar de
Gullion, who had hamstrung the Saxon Kerne in the New Forest, extracted
the grinders of the sons of Judah; who had made their mark (as an Irish
navvy might do) at Magna Charta, and ridden in all their ironmongery in
Edward’s ranks at Bannockburn, and in Henry’s at Agincourt.
My satisfaction in finding myself still the lover of Louisa, and again
the guest of her father, was somewhat dashed by the presence of this, in
some respects, formidable rival, who, as the countess informed me in a
whisper, was about to be created a marquis for his zealous support of
Lord Aberdeen’s administration, and was to be decorated with the Garter,
of which the Emperor Nicholas had just been deprived.
I muttered something by way of reply, and Lady Louisa, who was seated
near us on an ottoman, said, laughingly, behind her fan—
“A marquis and K.G. Oh, mamma, such an old quiz it is! But, only
imagine, he has been proposing to take us all, and Cora, too, in his
yacht to Constantinople—or even to the Black Sea, if we wish it.”
“How kind of him.”
“She carries brass guns, and he believes he may assist Admiral Lyons, if
“Remember that he is a devoted admirer of yours,” I heard Lady
Chillingham whisper, with a glance which repressed her daughter’s desire
to laugh outright.
“Hush, mamma,” she replied, shutting her fan sharply; “confidences are
unusual in you; and as for he you speak of, his appearance is quite
enough to make one grow old.”
Whether the countess would have checked this unseemly remark, which I
could not help overhearing with joy, I know not, for at that moment the
roar of the dinner-gong was heard in the vestibule, and my uncle, Sir
Nigel, looking hale, hearty, and ruddy, with his silver hair all shining
and waving, entered, and shook hands with all, but with none so warmly
as me. He wore a dark grey riding-coat, top-boots, and white corded
breeches, a costume for which he apologized to the countess, and then
turned again to me.
“Egad, Newton, glad to see you, my dear boy—in uniform, too—how well the
fellow looks in his sash and epaulettes! Your pardon for being so late,
Lady Chillingham; but I rode over to the barracks, thinking to accompany
Newton here. How glad Willie, my old keeper’s son, was to see me!
Returning, I lost my way among a network of green lanes and hedgerows;
but as your Kent here is as flat as a billiard-table, when compared with
Fife and Kinross, the slopes of the Lomonds, and the Saline hills, I
rode straight for Chillingham, rushing my horse at hedges, sunk fences,
and everything that came in its way, in defiance of threats against
trespassers, and so forth, and I am here!”
“Coming as became the master of the Fife hounds, eh, Sir Nigel?” said
the countess; “but now I shall take your arm.”
The earl led Cora, Slubber gave his arm to Lady Louisa; and I thought of
honest Chaucer’s “January and May,” as I brought up the rear, solus,
playing with the tassels of my sash, and gnawing my moustache, as we
marched through a double line of liveried servants to the dining-room,
where I contrived to seat myself on her other side.
There was an air of propriety about old Slubber, which, though it made
Louisa laugh, was intensely provoking to me, who had to keep my
conventional distance. However, I could cross a country with her when
riding to hounds, and claim her lithe waist for a waltz when occasion
offered; thank heaven! our senile Anglo-Norman was beyond these, and a
few other things now; and she gave me many a bright and intelligent
glance from under her long black eyelashes, which were almost curled at
the tips—recognitions of which his self-satisfied lordship was in
I had the engagement ring to restore; but in the meantime our
conversation was confined to dinner-table twaddle, and as the dinner was
served up _à la Russe_, and all the carving done aside, even its
courtesies were abolished: so we confabulated with much hollow
earnestness on the prevalent rumour that all the cavalry, light and
heavy, were to march through France to Marseilles, the last batch of
novels from Mudie’s, the race meetings, the future Derby, and other
topics equally far from our hearts; and then we had to laugh at old Lord
Slubber, when he perpetrated the joke that every small wit did at that
“Turkey, my lord?” said a servant.
“Thanks—a slice—just what Nicholas wants.”
“And what you, Newton, and other fellows, must prevent him from getting,
eh?” said Sir Nigel.
To return our engagement ring was the chief object that agitated me
during dinner; and, on perceiving that Louisa had drawn the glove off
her lovely left hand, I almost thought the return was thereby invited;
and as we dawdled over the dessert, which was served up on the earl’s
favourite Rose du Barri service of Sèvres china, and while Slubber waxed
eloquent on his friend Lord Aberdeen’s doubtful policy, which my uncle
tore all to fritters, I contrived, unseen, to place my Rangoon diamond
in her hand, which closed upon it and mine, with a rapid, but nervous
pressure, which sent a thrill to my heart, and a flush to my cheek.
It was done!
Recovering—if, indeed, she ever lost it—her complete composure, she
asked me, with a smile, as if casually, how I liked the family motto,
which was graven round the champagne goblets.
“_Prends moi tel que je suis_,” she added, reading it.
“I understand it with delight,” said I.
“Take me such as I am,” she translated, with a glance which filled me
Poor old Slubber knew nothing of the little enigma that was being acted
almost under his aristocratic nose, and amid such trivial remarks as
“What bin is this port from, Mr. ——?” naming the butler.
“Good, remarkable port, my Lord—bin ten—vintage, 1820; it is the finest
old wine in the county of Kent.”
“Don’t taste so,” said Lord Chillingham; in fact, it had been voted out
of the servants’ hall as intolerable. “And the sherry—eh?”
“Pale, my lord,” whispered the butler; “you paid three hundred a butt
for it—from the small bin.”
“Good—uncork some of the Moselle.”
In the calm, inscrutable face, and tutored bearing of Louisa Loftus, no
one could have read the deep secret we had just shared in—the
reconciliation of two ardent and anxious hearts—the bond of love and
trust renewed; but this strange power of veiling all agitation at times
is incident alike to birth and training, and to the local influences of
these in the present time, when in modern society the human face is too
often a mere mask which conceals every emotion, exhibiting a calm
exterior, however at variance with the mind or disposition of the
person; thus, though her pride and self-esteem had been recently stung
to madness, and her heart had been crushed within her, now, under the
revulsion incident to a great joy, and reunion with me, Louisa was able
to wreathe her sweet face with a quiet and well-bred smile, while she
listened to the senile gabble of my Lord Slubber.
Great emotions, like those excited by the affair of Agnes Auriol, seldom
can remain long, and must subside; Louisa was quite subdued, and sunk in
softness and love to-night. She was all that I could desire—my own
The gentlemen soon joined the ladies in the drawing-room, and I drew at
once near Louisa, who was again seated on the same ottoman with Cora.
Lady Chillingham was idling in an easy-chair, half asleep, near the
fire, with her feet placed on the velvet fender-stool, and a silky
lapdog on her knee; but she roused herself on the approach of Lord
Slubber to whisper one of his old-fashioned compliments, coined in the
age when gallantry was a study.
“And you think the cavalry will not go through France?” said Louisa,
taking up, after a time, the thread of some of her former remarks, while
Cora fixed her tender and beautiful eyes kindly on my face.
“It is extremely doubtful,” said I.
“And why so, Newton?” asked Cora.
“Because, cousin, it is feared that the red coats will not be popular in
France; and then there are the Scots Greys, who are literally covered
with trophies of Waterloo;[*] they especially would prove a very
unpalatable spectacle to the men of the Second Empire.”
[*] This circumstance delayed for a time the appearance of the Greys in
the ranks of the allied army. They departed from Nottingham in July,
1854, with their band playing “Scots wha hae,” &c.
“Your route will be a long but very pleasant one, by classic seas and
classic shores,” said Louisa. “Shall we trace it on the map of the
Mediterranean, in the library? Come, Cora.”
There was a tremulous change in her voice, and a glance in her eye that
I could not mistake.
Quitting the drawing-room unnoticed by our seniors, we stepped into the
library, the oak shelves of which were loaded with books of all sizes in
glittering bindings, more seemingly for show than use, and approaching
the large stand of maps on horizontal rollers, we drew down that of the
Mediterranean, while Cora, whose good little heart forboded that we
needed not her geographical aid, eyed us wistfully for a second, and
passed out by a door beyond.
The library had green-shaded lamps, which were half lighted; thus we
were almost concealed in shadow, and the huge cloth-mounted map we
affected to examine hung before us like a friendly screen. We had but a
few stolen moments for conversation, and one impulse animated us.
I turned to Louisa; her face drew closer to mine, and our lips met in
one long, long passionate kiss—such a kiss as if our souls were there.
“You understand all, now, Louisa?” said I.
“All,” she said, in the same breathless voice.
“And forgive all—about that poor girl, I mean. How appearances were
“Oh yes, dear, dear Newton.”
“And you love me?”
“You love me still?”
“Can you ask me while petting me thus? You have felt our separation
since those few happy days at Calderwood?”
“As a living death, Louisa. Worse than anticipations of the greater
separation that is to come.”
“With all its dangers!” she said, with her eyes now full of tears.
“Yes; for whatever happens I shall feel assured——”
“That your poor Louisa loves you still—loves you dearly, Newton; and ere
you go to-night you must give me a lock of your hair.”
Her head on my shoulder; her pale brow against my cheek, her lips were
close to mine.
“Till we are both in our graves, dear Newton, you can never, never know
how much I love you, and the agony that Berkeley’s cunning cost me.”
These were blessed words to hear—blessed words to treasure in the
distant land to which I was going; and in a silence more eloquent than
words, I could but press her to my heart.
This was indeed a moment of reunion, never to be forgotten, but to be
treasured in the secret recesses of the soul, and recalled only at
times; and times there were when I recalled it, when far, far away, in
the lonely watches of those dark nights, when the chafing of the Black
Sea was heard afar off on the rocks of Fort Constantine, and the thunder
of Sebastopol was close and nigh; and then the vague, undefined memory
of the place, the time, her voice, her eyes, and her kiss, would come
gradually back, filling my heart with intense melancholy, and my eyes
In my doubt of the future, in my fear of ensnarements, and the exercise
of parental authority (a power of which we stand in such awe in
Scotland), and lest, by an unforeseen chance or circumstance, I should
lose her, I actually besought her, in what terms it is impossible to
remember now, to consent to a private marriage; and strange ideas of
written promises and protestations, of blood mingled with wine, and many
other melodramatic absurdities, occurred to me.
“Ah, no, no,” said she, rousing herself to the occasion. “There will be
time enough when you return.”
“If I ever do return,” said I, impetuously, thinking of the chances of
war, and my certain hostile meeting with Berkeley.
“You must return, dear Newton—you shall, and I feel it in my heart.”
“And there will be time——”
“For me,” she interrupted, “to be cried, as Lydia Languish says, ’three
times in a parish church’, and have an enormously fat parish clerk ask
the consent of every butcher in the parish to join in lawful wedlock
Newton Calderwood Norcliff, bachelor, and Louisa Loftus, spinster;
unless we have a special licence, St. George’s, Hanover Square, and the
Bishop of London in his lawn sleeves, and so forth.”
This sudden change of manner at such a time startled and distressed me.
“It is her way—a mistaken lightness of manner,” thought I.
But, alas! I was yet to learn some terrible lessons in the treachery of
the human heart!
Another brief and mute embrace, and we had just time to veil our mutual
agitation and turn our attention to the outspread map of the
Mediterranean, affecting to trace the distance from Cagliari to Malta,
when we heard the voice of Lord Chillingham saying to Sir Nigel—
“Here they are, reviving their geography apparently. Captain Norcliff,”
he added, “here is a note for you which has just been brought by an
“Thanks, my lord. Is he waiting?”
“No, sir,” said the servant, who presented it to me on a chased silver
salver; “he immediately wheeled round his horse and galloped off.”
“Permit me,” said I, tearing it open.
It had been hurriedly pencilled by Frank Jocelyn, and ran thus:—
“MY DEAR NORCLIFF,—The lieutenant-colonel in command of the consolidated
depôts here informs me that the route for ours is at Maidstone, for
which place the troop must march by daybreak to-morrow. Sorry to
disturb your dinner-party; but now the word is ’Eastward ho!’”
I handed it first to Louisa, and for a moment my voice failed me; but
rallying, I said—”I have to apologize for a hasty departure, and shall
thank you, my lord, to order my horse.”
Much that followed was confusion. I can remember my good uncle shaking
me repeatedly by the hand, and patting me on the epaulettes (we were
like officers then, and had epaulettes on our shoulders). Cora wept a
great deal; Louisa was quite silent and very pale. Our parting scene
passed away like a dissolving view; but the bitterness was somewhat
taken from it by the whole party promising to “drive or ride over to
Maidstone and see us march out;” and so, with a kind adieu from all, I
sprang on my horse, quitted Chillingham Park, and soon reached the
barracks, where I found Jocelyn in my quarters awaiting me, and Willie
Pitblado, who had already relinquished his livery for his lancer
uniform, whistling vigorously as he packed and buckled up my traps.
Away from Louisa, I had no relief now for my mind but intense activity.
In the dull grey light of the next morning I quitted Canterbury with my
troop for Maidstone, into which we were played by our own band, which
came a mile or two on the Rochester Road to meet us.
There I learned from Colonel Beverley that, on the following day, we
should march to join the expedition destined for the defence of Turkey.