What are you doing?

Sleep by evil spirits troubled,
Fleeing at the matin bell;
Fears that start to eyes scarce waking,
Sighs that will not quit her cell.

As from a dream I was roused at last by Jack Studhome proffering his
cigar-case, and saying, with a smile—

“How about the year’s pay, Norcliff, eh? I owe you that, I suppose?”

“Don’t jest, for Heaven’s sake, Jack,” said I; “for I feel faint, queer,
and ill.”

All that night we talked over the affair, through the medium of sundry
flasks of iced champagne, without being able to come to any conclusion
about it.

As a piece of trickery, it beat all that we had ever seen performed at
Cawnpore, Delhi, or Benares, by Indian jugglers, though at mess we had
seen those worthies swallow a sword to the hilt, or run it through a
basket, in which was concealed a child, whose blood and screams came
forth together, till the room door opened, and the little one ran in
joyously, unhurt, and without a wound; or the orange seed, which one
placed in my tumbler, where it took root, and in three minutes became a
little tree in full bearing, from which the mess plucked the oranges as
it was handed round. All such performances were beaten by that of the
hakim Abd-el-Rasig!

That Jules Jolicoeur had seen a female face—a pretty one, too—in the
clam-shell was certain, by whatever art or legerdemain that circumstance
was achieved. His astonishment was too genuine and too palpable to be
acted. The detail of the crescent brooch was a coincidence, perhaps;
but then his description of the wearer accorded so well with that of
Cora!

I resolved to seek him next day; but he was despatched on duty along the
road towards the Balkan; and, as the event proved, I became too ill to
follow him.

As we rode home from the Restaurant de l’Armée d’Orient, I was sensible
of extreme giddiness; but attributed it to the champagne. I could
scarcely guide my horse along the road that led to our camp in the vale
of Aladyn, and felt Studhome repeatedly place his hand upon my bridle to
guide me. I felt delirious, too, and next day found myself in the pangs
of that foul pest, the cholera.

It seized me at the distance of some ten miles or so from the camp, from
which I had ridden in search of Lieutenant Jolicoeur. I became so ill
that I had to dismount, and was conveyed to the kiosk of a wealthy
Armenian merchant, and there I remained in great peril for several days,
before my circumstances or my whereabouts became known to my friends or
the regiment.

I endured a severe pain or burning heat in the pit of my stomach,
accompanied by the other symptoms of cholera—cramps in the limbs, and
spasms of the intestines and muscles of the abdomen.

The pulses became faint, and at times scarcely perceptible; my skin grew
cold, and suffused by a clammy perspiration. It was an undoubted case of
spasmodic cholera.

I felt resigned and almost careless of life. There were times, however,
when I reflected sorrowfully, almost bitterly, that it was not thus I
had wished to die, unnoticed and unknown, among strangers in a foreign
land; but, luckily for myself, I could not have fallen into more worthy
hands.

The proprietor of the kiosk I have mentioned was a wealthy Armenian
merchant, a native of Kars. Whether he was animated by that inordinate
love of gain which is peculiar to his race, I know not; but he treated
me with extreme kindness and hospitality, yet I never saw either him or
any of his family. The dangerous nature of my disease was a sufficient
excuse for my being carefully secluded from his entire household, which
was numerous, as it consisted of several sons with their wives and
children, all living together as one great family, but under his own
rule, somewhat in the patriarchal mode of a Scottish clan under its
chief.

In a little airy apartment, which opened upon a high-walled and spacious
garden, I lay for many days, hovering between life and death. My
medical attendant was an Italian surgeon, attached to the Bashi Bazooks,
and wore a bright green frock-coat, long riding-boots, and a crimson
fez, with a long blue tassel and broad military button. He looked like
a reckless foreign cut-throat, with a fierce moustache, vast black
beard, and close shorn head; but his exterior belied his character and
skill.

In the old Sangrado fashion he bled me, taking twenty-five ounces of
blood from my left arm, and gave me, I remember, from eighty to a
hundred drops of laudanum, together with a teaspoonful of cayenne
pepper, in a glass of stiff brandy-and-water, steaming hot, ordering me
to drain it almost at a draught.

“Oh, Signor Dottore,” said I, “whence come those dreadful spasms?”

“They are rarely accounted for satisfactorily,” he replied, with
professional nonchalance; “but, if I were to venture an opinion, I
should say that the _convulsioni_ arise from distended vessels, in the
neighbourhood of the spine, on the origin of the nerves—you understand,
Signor Capitano?”

I was soon past understanding anything; but, after the hot dose, I was
wrapped in hot blankets, friction, with strong stimulating liniments,
being applied along the spine by the hard hands of two black slaves, and
heated bricks were placed to my feet and hands; and under all this
process I fainted away.

For days I was as one who is in a dream, passive in the hands of those
sable assistants, who, doubtless, thought a bowstring would have proved
a “perfect cure,” and a saving of considerable trouble. The green
frogged coat, the crimson fez, and the dark face of the Italian doctor,
as he came from time to time, seemed all a portion of the phantasmagoria
which surrounded me; but there came anon a sweeter, a softer, and more
feminine face, with a lighter and a smaller hand, that seemed to touch
me and smooth my pillow; and with this vision came thoughts of Louisa,
of Cora, of the hakim Abd-el-Rasig and his magic spells, and then I
would close my eyes, wondering whether I was asleep or awake, or if in a
dream, from which I would waken, to find myself in my cool bell-tent in
the green breezy vale of Aladyn, in my familiar quarters at Canterbury,
or it might be in the dear old room of my boyhood, where my mother had
so often hung over me and watched, in Calderwood Glen, and then I seemed
to hear the cawing of the hoodiecrows among the ancient trees that
rustled their green leaves in the summer wind.

The murmuring breeze that came so pleasantly to my dreaming ear passed
over wooded mountains; but, alas! they were those of Bulgaria, and not
my native land.

Amid all the wild ideas induced by my condition was the overpowering
sense of weakness, with intense prostration and lassitude; but now,
thanks to Heaven, to human skill, to my own youth and strength, the
terrible disease was passing away.

While, by a stupidity or treachery closely akin to treason, our army,
during the hot, breathless months of a Bulgarian summer, lay rotting and
inactive at Varna, as if merely waiting the approach of winter to open a
campaign with Russia—hardy Russia, the land of ice and snows, whose rash
emperor boasted that her two most terrible generals were January and
February—the fell disease which prostrated me was making sad havoc among
my brave and patient comrades.

The 7th, 23rd, and 88th regiments, and all the infantry generally—the
Highlanders almost excepted, their Celtic costume being an admirable
safeguard by its warmth about the loins—were decimated by cholera. The
Inniskillings and 5th Dragoon Guards were reduced to mere skeletons, and
few cavalry colonels could bring more than two hundred and fifty sabres
into the field.

So much was my own corps reduced, that on one parade Beverley only
mustered two hundred lances; but many convalescents joined after. It
was remarked that many of the ambulance corps, after what was termed
“the great thunder-storm,” died within five hours of being assailed by
the plague.

Thus, “hundreds of brave men, who had left the British shores, full of
high hope and manly strength, died in the valley of Aladyn, or on the
hills overlooking Varna! The army grew discontented. Though no act
unbecoming British soldiers was committed—though no breach of discipline
could be charged—it was impossible to refrain from discontent. Murmurs,
not loud but deep, made themselves heard. No man there but burned to
meet the enemy. The entire army was prepared cheerfully to face death
in the service of the country to which it had sworn allegiance; but to
remain in inactivity, exposed to pestilence, which struck down its
victims as surely, and nearly as speedily, as the rifle-bullet, beneath
a burning sun, with no power of resistance, and no possibility of
evasion, was a fate which might quell the stoutest courage, and raise
discontent in the most loyal bosom.”

Seven thousand Russians, who had perished of cholera some time before,
were buried in the vicinity of our camp; and thus the green, smiling
spot which the Bulgarians named the vale of Aladyn, the bearded
Muscovites anathematized as the Valley of the Plague!

While such was the state of our inactive army at Varna, our fleet in the
Black Sea was vainly seeking to lure the Russian vessels from their
secure anchorage under the formidable batteries of Sebastopol; and the
Turkish army was exhibiting a courage which astonished all Europe.

At Giurgevo, a city on the left bank of the Danube, on the 7th of July,
a mere handful of Turks, chiefly led by a gallant Scot, styled Behram
Pasha,[*] defeated a large force of Russians, after a desperate
conflict. At Kalafat the latter sought in vain to force the passage of
the river, and drive the Osmanlees from their stronghold; and at Citate
and Oltenitza they were routed with disgrace. For neither their own
native prowess, the prayers of the Bishop of Moscow, nor the miraculous
image of St. Sergius, availed them—the blue cross of St. Andrew and the
Eagle of Muscovy fled alike before the crescent and star of Mahommed.
And now Silistria, on the Danube—”the thundering river”—became the base
of operations; and there Moussa Pasha, Butler, an Irish officer, and my
countryman, Naysmith, covered themselves with glory, while the Hungarian
exile, Omar Pasha, opposed the foe with all his available troops.

[*] Lieutenant-Colonel Cannon.

During this time the French continued pouring into Varna, by marching
across the Balkan, the great mountain barrier of Turkey, the rocky
passes and deep defiles of which are almost impassable in winter.

On the 28th of July the Russians were driven from Wallachia; but the
Turks were utterly defeated by them at Bayazid, on the slopes of Western
Armenia, and again at Kuyukdere. Our fleets bombarded Kola, on the White
Sea, and the 4th of September saw the eagle of victory hovering over the
armies of the Czar at Petropaulovski; but thus the summer passed with us
ingloriously away, and still our army lay inactive amid a hotbed of
fever and suffering at hated Varna.





The most of these stirring events I learned after my recovery from that
illness which so nearly carried me off. I knew nothing of them while in
the house of the Armenian, and equally little did I know that Mr. De
Warr Berkeley, in the hope that I might never rejoin, was doing all he
could to blot my military reputation in the brigade to which we
belonged.

It was on a morning in June—the 23rd, I think—the same day on which the
Russians raised the siege of Silistria, leaving twelve thousand dead
before its walls—that I seemed to wake from a long and refreshing
slumber.

The vague, drowsy sense of having been surrounded by phantasms and
unrealities, and that it was not Newton Norcliff, but some one else, who
was lying there, sick and weary, had passed away with sleep. I was
conscious and coherent now, but weak with past suffering.

Through the lattices of a pretty kiosk (for that word signifies alike a
room or a house), I could see the great rose trees, covered with their
fragrant glories, standing in rows, or trained over gilded iron bowers
or arches. The leaves of the apricot, the purple plum and greengage
trees, rustled pleasantly in the passing breeze, and pleasantly, too,
there came to my ear the plashing of a marble fountain that stood in the
shaded verandah without.

Around that white marble fountain grew the great scarlet pumpkin and the
golden-coloured water-melon, their gaudy brilliance contrasting with the
green leaves amid which they nestled. The garden was an epitome of
Turkey, for there the blood-red ilex of Italy, the rose tree of Persia,
the palm of Egypt, the Indian fig, and the African aloe, with the tall,
solemn cypress, all grew side by side in the lovely parterres, through
which the sunshine fell aslant in golden flakes.

The kiosk in which I lay was floored with marble slabs. Its walls were
painted gaily with a panoramic view of Constantinople. I could
recognise the heights of Pera, and all the Propontis, from the Seraglia
point to the Seven Towers, with all the glories of the Golden Horn,
Sophia’s shining cupola, the Serai Bournou, and the cypress groves,
where the dead of ages lie.

I was reposing in a pretty bed, with spotless white hangings, and lace
all so charmingly arranged, that it reminded me of a baby’s cradle. A
divan of yellow silk cushions surrounded the apartment on three sides.
On the fourth it was entirely open to the verandah and garden. On this
divan I saw my undress uniform, neatly folded, with my forage-cap,
sword, and cartridge-box placed above it.

My watch and purse, Louisa’s miniature and ring—I felt for the latter
involuntarily—were all lying on a little white marble tripod table by my
side, together with a beautiful china drinking vessel, which seemed
familiar to me.

A sigh of thankfulness that I was conscious, free of pain, and at
comparative ease, escaped me, and I turned to survey again the other
side of my chamber, when a remarkable female figure met my eye.

She was seated on the low divan, quite motionless. She was reading
intently, and by her costume I knew at once that she was a French sister
of charity—one of those pure in heart, great in soul, and unflinching in
purpose, who, on their saint-like mission of mercy and humanity, had
followed the allies from France.

Her dress was a plain black serge gown, with a spotless white coif,
which fell in soft folds upon her shoulders, pure as the feathers of a
dove. In her gentle face, which seemed familiar—for doubtless it had
often been before me in the intervals of suffering and delirium—there
was a kind, a peaceful, and divine expression, that underlay the lines
of premature care, suffering, and privation.

She was young; but among the dark brown hair that was braided smoothly
and modestly over her pale, serene brow, I could detect already a silver
thread or two.

So perfectly regular were her features, so straight the lines of eyebrow
and nose, that the dark, speaking eyes, and that drooping form of eyelid
peculiar to the south of Europe, alone relieved them from tameness, for
I had seen more sparkling beauty in a somewhat irregular face; but in
those dark eyes there ever shone the steady light of a soul devoted to
one great purpose; and yet at times, as I afterwards found, her manner
could become merry, almost playful.

Slight though the motion of simply turning my head, she heard it, arose
anxiously, and, coming forward, handed to me a cooling drink.

“Mademoiselle, I thank you!” said I, gratefully.

“You must not thank me, monsieur. I am simply your nurse.”

“And I have disturbed you——”

“At my office—merely, monsieur, at my office, which I can read at any
time within the twenty-four hours.”

“And how often do you do this?”

“Every day—all these pages—see!”

Her voice was so very silvery, her eyes so calm and lustrous, her hands
so white and small, that it was impossible not to see that she had been
highly bred, delicately nurtured, and came of some good French family.

“How long have I been here, mademoiselle?” I asked, after a pause.

“I do not know. Monsieur was here when I came.”

“And who brought you to nurse me?”

“Lieutenant Jolicoeur, of the 2nd Zouaves, heard somehow that you were
here, suffering under a perilous illness. An Italian surgeon chanced to
mention it at the Restaurant de l’Armée d’Orient, and they brought me
here. We are in the house of a rich Armenian trader—a good Christian,
after his own fashion; but, O Sacre Coeur! what an odd fashion it is!”

“Ah! mademoiselle——”

“I am Archange, of the Order of Charity.”

“Well, Sister Archange, you are really an angel!”

“Oh, fie! don’t say so! You must think very poorly, very meanly, of me
to give me a title I dare not hope to merit, even by a thousand actions
such as attending you.”

“Pardon me; I did but—but say what I thought.”

“You are a child, and thought wrong,” she replied, with playful
asperity. “But you have already spoken too much for one who is only
beginning to recover; so try to sleep, _mon frère_.”

And, waving her hand with a pretty gesture of authority, she resumed her
missal, and read on in silence.

I slept for a time—I know not how long—it might have been an hour, or
perhaps two: but, when I looked up, she was still seated, motionless and
reading.

“_Ma soeur!_” said I, as our eyes met, and my heart swelled with
gratitude for her generous watchfulness; and she came hastily towards
me.

“_Mon frère_, what do you want?”

“You mistook my meaning when I called you an angel, and were angry with
me.”

“Angry?—I? Ah, no! no! Don’t say so—I am never angry; it would not do
for me to be so now.”

“But I think you quite a saint to watch me thus.”

“You must not say that either.”

“You are so good, and I so unworthy.”

“Good I may be thought, monsieur; but I shall never be a saint, like
Father Vincent de Paul—I am too wicked for that,” she added, laughing
merrily; “but I try to be as good as I can.”

“Have any letters come here for me?”

“Letters!” she said, with alarm in her fine eyes, and withdrawing a
pace.

“Yes; I am so anxious for them.”

“Ah! now you are beginning to rave again. In your pain and delirium you
always raved about letters.”

“There are, then, none?” said I, with a groan.

“I shall see, _mon frère_,” and, in the kindness of her heart, after
pretending to search for what she too well knew were not to be found,
she came again to my bedside, and said there would, perhaps, be some
to-morrow.

“Still no letter!” I exclaimed, sadly, with tears in my eyes.

She laid a soft hand caressingly on my brow.

I besought her, in the most moving terms, to inquire if there were any
letters for me at our cantonments in the vale of Aladyn, heedless of the
distance and of the trouble I gave her; for I thought only of Louisa
Loftus, and that her answer to my Gallipoli missive might have reached
the regiment during my illness and absence.

“Monsieur, then, belongs to the English service?”

“No.”

“The Osmanli army, then?”

“No, mademoiselle; I belong to the British,” said I.

“Ah! true. But your uniform is not red?”

“All our light cavalry wear blue. Ah, _ma soeur_, seek the quarters of
the lancers serving in the Light Brigade, and see if there is a letter
for me. It will do me more good than all the doses of our Italian
doctor.”

“Ah! you will be dosed by him no more.”

“I am truly glad to hear it. Some of his messes were vile enough.”

“Do not speak so ungratefully; but you know not what I mean or what has
happened.”

“How?”

“Poor _monsieur le docteur_ is dead.”

“Dead!”

“He died of cholera in the cavalry camp yesterday. He had volunteered
to attend the sick soldiers in the vale of Aladyn, and perished at his
post among them.”

I was greatly shocked by this intelligence, which perhaps, it was not
wise in my little nurse to afford me at such a time.

When again I woke from sleep the shadows of evening were darkening the
room; the trellis-work and Venetian lattices that had opened to the
sunlit garden were closed now, and the sun had set. Sister Archange was
seated in her usual place upon the low divan, but looking pale and
exceedingly fatigued.

She had been at the British cavalry camp, and she had seen my friends,
but no letters had arrived for me, of that she was assured, as she had
taken one of my cards from its case to show the commanding officer.

“No letters?” I repeated, in a hollow tone.

“No; but, _monsieur mon frère_, must take courage. Many, many ships
have perished in a recent storm in the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmora,
and your letters may have gone to the bottom with the mail steamer.
Monsieur Estoodome—_monsieur l’adjudant_ he is, I think, of your
regiment—and _monsieur le colonel_, too, will ride over here to-morrow
to see you. And now there must be no more talking, but to sleep, _mon
ami_—to sleep. I must take care of you now, for _la soeur_ Archange
will not be with you always.”

“What are you doing?”

“Making the sign of the cross on your forehead, _mon frère_. To-morrow I
shall tell you what it means, if you will remind me; but, for to-night,
adieu.”