Yes, thou art gone, sweet friend, my own,
We miss thee every day,
And I, yet more than all, alone,
Can only weep and pray.
Pray to be rendered meet for heaven,
And agonize in prayer,
That if we meet no more below,
Our meeting may be there.
The first halting-place of my escort was in a wood of wild pear trees,
among some of those ancient burial mounds or green tumuli which stud all
the Crimea, but more particularly the peninsula of Kertch, where one
still marks the tomb of Mithridates. In that solitude we heard only the
voices of the birds, the lark, the tomtit, and the wren, as they
twittered among the caper bushes.
The Cossacks hobbled their horses, and proceeded to seat themselves on
the green sward that covered the bones of the classic warriors of other
times. In their havresacks they had some black bread and salt, with a
flask of quass. These they shared freely with me; and with such coarse
fare I was forced to be content.
The corporal had a Russian poodle, red-eyed, fox-headed, and white as
snow, which he pretentiously named Olga, after the Grand Duchess, and
with this cur, to which he was much attached, he freely shared his
repast, and that piece of felt which serves the Cossack alike for cloak,
tent, and bed.
I could not be prevailed upon to join them in partaking of some wild
horseradish, which Corporal Pugacheff discovered, and unearthed with his
sabre, exhibiting a root as thick as his arm. After they had smoked for
nearly an hour, during which I was left to my own unpleasant
reflections, the march was once more resumed—leisurely, because I was
afoot—towards the east, as the sun informed me, and that was all I could
learn about it.
The uniforms of these Cossacks were richer than any I had yet seen.
Each had a blue jacket, edged with yellow lace, hooked over a scarlet
silk vest; loose blue trousers, fastened high above the waist; busbies
of black shining wool, terminating in a crimson sack, with a scarlet
sash, cartridge-box, and sabre, completed their costume. Like
ourselves, they rode with the lance slung, and resting on the right toe.
That night we halted at a Tartar village. The inhabitants of the
cottage to which we proceeded were somewhat over-awed by the three
Cossacks—a race at all times rather unscrupulous—but were disposed to
view me with a commiseration that made me begin to conceive hopes of
Escorted by Corporal Pugacheff and his poodle, I was conducted to the
humble apartment used by the males of the family. A wooden basin,
filled with clear water, and a napkin, were presented to me by the
master of the house—a venerable Tartar of the old nomadic race—that I
might lave my face and hands; a pipe of the cherrywood tree, which grows
in the mountains, was then given me to smoke, while a repast—not of
horseflesh, happily—but of goat’s milk, poached eggs, and cheese, was
prepared; and these we ate with our fingers, seated on mats on the
earthen floor, around the little stool on which the supper-tray was
placed, for, in their household and habits, the poor Tartars are nearly
as primitive as their forefathers were in the days of the valiant Batu
Khan, the destroyer of Moscow.
A dish of sour milk and water—the veritable yaourt of the Osmanlis—was
passed round; the master of the house returned thanks without uncovering
his shaven head, the Cossacks resumed their pipes, the repast was over,
and the day was closing in.
The hope of escape was growing stronger in my heart; but the corporal
crushed it, as if he had divined my thoughts, by quietly securing my
right hand to his left, with the small steel bridle of his horse, before
we lay down to take our repose, and the escort, with their pistols
loaded, slept side by side across the only doorway. In addition to all
these precautions, if I ventured to move, almost to wink, the poodle,
Olga, was on the alert, with cocked ears and bristling hair, barking
furiously. How I hated that dog!
Though weary in mind and body, I could not sleep, even if the deep bass
snoring that issued from the snub noses of my three keepers would have
permitted me to doze.
Berkeley’s infamous treachery made my heart glow like a furnace! How
deeply I repented now that, instead of succouring and remounting him, I
had not left him, as his prior conduct deserved, to the chances of war
and fate, and to take the place now occupied by me!
How long might I be a prisoner!
Of this war with the greatest empire in the world none could foresee or
calculate the end.
Years, perhaps, might pass, and find me still a captive. By the troops
of General Canrobert, some men had been discovered who had been lost by
the French on their fatal retreat from Moscow in 1813, and who had, from
youth to age, been slaves in the Tartar fortresses or the Siberian
My blood ran cold with this idea. Oh, if such were to be my fate!
If Berkeley returned to England after all, and married Louisa! And
then, if this wretched Brassy Wheedleton succeeded in marrying Cora,
while I was industriously quarrying for copper and assafoetida in the
vicinity of that pleasant city, Tobolsk by name!
But what was Cora to me? She was my cousin, and, of course, my cousin
must not throw herself away and make an unequal marriage.
“There are men in this world,” says a female writer, “who are quite
capable of being in love with two women at once.”
This was not at all my case; but I fear that Louisa’s cold and cutting
neglect was causing me to think more than I used to do of Cora
Calderwood, who I knew loved me well, and I remembered the strange
episode of the spell, or mesmeric riddle, wrought by the _hakim_
Abd-el-Rasig, the surgeon of the 10th Egyptian Infantry.
But to be a prisoner—the prisoner of these filthy wretches—and to be
conveyed by them, like a helpless Polish exile, I knew not whither!
If in boyhood, and even in infancy, I had ever a horror of study and
restraint; if in later years, even regimental discipline sometimes
galled me by its monotonous trammels, the reader may imagine how I
writhed, how my soul revolted, at the idea of being a Russian captive,
and how I longed for vengeance on Berkeley. I swore to horsewhip him in
front of the line, and pistol him after! There was no extravagant
length in punishment to which my fancy did not resort and my fury
indulge in. No MacGregor with the dirk at his lips, swearing vengeance
for Alaster of Glenstrae; no Corsican De Franchi, vowing a dreadful
_vendetta_ on his foe, could harbour feelings more bitter than I did in
those moments of futile anger in that poor Tartar cottage.
I talked to myself wrathfully and incoherently.
I dozed at last; but my slumber was haunted by dreams and nightmares,
like those of a fevered patient. I saw Louisa Loftus, with her pale and
lovely features distorted by fear, her black hair floating all
dishevelled about her white shoulders. She was clinging to the verge of
a lofty rock, towards which an angry tide was advancing, while I,
chained, withheld by some mysterious power, was unable to succour or to
save her. My voice was gone, and my agonies were unbelieved, as she
only beheld them with proud smiles of scorn and derision.
The scene changed. Now she had married, or was about to marry the
Marquis of Slubber, believing me dead—that I had perished in the East.
I heard her say so, distinctly and tearlessly, with a calm sympathetic
smile, which my Lady Chillingham, with an impatient motion of her fan
rebuked. Still I was deprived of all power of volition, and a spell tied
up my utterance, till Berkeley—I saw him to the life, in his lancer
uniform, hovering about her, to the evident annoyance of the senile
marquis—told her, in his drawling lisp, that he had seen me killed, and
she quite believed him. Then a painful cry escaped me, and I awoke. I
had other dreams, and these were, perhaps, the worst of all. I was
free! I had exposed and punished Berkeley. I was again among my
friends; handsome Beverley, Travers, bluff Jack Studhome, Fred Wilford,
and the others were around me. The lancers were on parade, I heard the
neighing of the chargers; and saw the long line of glittering lances,
the plumes and banperoles waving in the sunshine; I heard the music of
our band; we were laughing, talking, smoking; we were in the mess or
billiard-room, and I could hear the bells of Canterbury ringing in the
At other times I was in Calderwood Glen, under the old, old trees that
had echoed to the hunting-horn of many a kingly Stuart; or I was on the
heather muirs, gun in hand, with old Sir Nigel, knocking over the
whirring partridges and the golden pheasants, the plash of the mountain
burn and the hum of the mountain bee coming together on the balmy
breeze, as I trod the green Lomond side, and saw the grassy glens of
Fife, the blue Forth, and many a village spire among the woodlands far
Then to waken and find myself chained to the Cossack corporal, in that
loathly Russian den, in the wilds of Crim Tartary, was a disappointment
cruel and bitter!
The rising sun saw us once more on the road; but for what place I was
still ignorant. Before we started Corporal Pugacheff released my hand,
but pointed significantly to his pistols.
On this day, as we proceeded eastward, there rose in the distance on our
right the mountain of the Tents, the highest in the Crimea (the Tchatir
Dagh, a mass of red marble), so named from its resemblance to the
dwellings of the Nogai Tartars. Five thousand feet it towered above the
Euxine, with its summit crimsoned in the morning sun.
Through a defile, named Demir-Kapon (or the Iron Gate), we entered the
valley of the Angar, a tributary of the Salghir (which flows into the
Putrid Sea); and here, from the slopes of the mountain, the scenes we
saw were full of rural loveliness—picturesque Tartar villages, laden
orchards and blushing vineyards, and flocks and herds without end;
everywhere softness blending with sublimity. I noted every foot of the
way well, as I had but one thought—escape.
I remember that near the Tartar town of Sivritash, which lies twenty
miles north-east of Sebastopol, we passed a body of Russian recruits for
various regiments, all hastening to get into the latter place before the
Allies could invest it.
These recruits were escorted by a squadron of the hussars of the
Princess Maria Paulowna (sister of the Emperor). They were certainly
gorgeously-equipped and accoutred troopers, mounted on fine Arab horses;
but my admiration for them was not increased by a blow which one of them
dealt me, in mere wantonness, with the flat of his sabre, as I trudged
past wearily and afoot: but this insult honest Pugacheff resented by
laying his lance heavily across the shoulders of the hussar.
Many questions were asked of him by the officers of these troops, who
altogether mustered about five thousand men; and from the frequency with
which the name Kourouk occurred in his replies, as well as the direction
in which we were travelling, I surmised that we were proceeding to the
fortress at that place.
In this conjecture I was right, for on the evening of the third day
after my capture, I found myself a prisoner in the secluded Russian fort
or outpost of Kourouk, which lies on the northern slope of the mountain
of Karaba Yaila, and is distant exactly seventy miles, as a bird flies,
No parole was offered me; I was without money, and my name and rank were
alike unknown; I was clad only in the tatters of my own regimental
finery; and I felt a deep gloom steal over me, when the little wicket
gate in the massive wooden and iron barriers of the fortress was closed
behind me. And now, cast utterly among strangers, I parted with regret
even from the snub-nosed Corporal Pugacheff, who had been my guide thus
far, and from his red-eyed poodle, Olga, too.
I was the only prisoner of war in the fortress of Kourouk.