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I had except my father; but he
I told her how, while I was
'I admire your enthusiasm,' she said, 'one sees so little of it now; and I think that every man ought to be enthusiastic about some one thing. I do hate men who take everything as it comes, and seem to
care about nothing. And now I am afraid that we must but first of all I must tell you home go e; give me to hear that you have how much real pleasure it will been successful, for your ambition is a noble one. again before you go, I hope. Jack We shall see you and Bessie will miss you very much. I suppose you are going
to the ball to-night?'
'Perhaps; but I have hardly
'I do wish you were coming.'
Then she turned to me, and good-bye with a half smile that gave me her dear hand, and said seemed to have something of pity in it.
If I had been asked what I most wished then I should have might come over again. I would, answered, that the last six weeks I think, have chosen that before a commission in the army. In a fade away, when I thought of the moment all my ambition seemed to dreaded solitude that would come when months and perhaps years passed by without seeing her.
Near the seashore at Varnestone there is a building which, under the comprehensive title of the Establishment, 'contrives a dozen debts to pay.' Once upon a time an idea sprang up and attacked a committee, whom the local papers afterwards called enterprising, that the ocean was either not clean enough or not select enough for the people of Varnestone and their ming bath with hot towels would summer visitors, and that a swimsuit them better than the buffeting waves. So they dug out a tank and built a house over it. Then a kind-hearted shark thought he
would do the committee a good turn; so he appeared near the bathing-machines, and while the panic lasted which he caused the swimming-bath was crowded. But the people soon went back to the sea. So the shark appeared again; but this time the committee caught him, and tried to make an aquarium of him by turning him into their deserted swimming-bath. And the dimpled face of ocean smiled to see such sport. And there is a tradition that many months afterwards a weary traveller wanted to bathe in the swimming-bath, and the attendants gave him towels and a ticket; but they had forgotten that the shark was still there, and the traveller was never heard of again.
Over the swimming-bath and the shark there was a room which various associations used as their place of meeting. A few old gentlemen haunted it in the morning to read the papers; the literary institute of Varnestone assembled there once a week for mutual admiration; the itinerant lecturers of crazy societies harangued there when they had not been able to obtain possession of the townhall; while at night the balcony which ran outside the windows, and afforded such splendid views of the moon and the stars, made the room most admirably adapted for balls. Experts like the Mocking Bird declared that no conservatory possessed the advantages of a balcony which overlooked the sad sea-waves. Here I went to a ball which vouchers were supposed to have made select; but everybody was as usual soon complaining how 'mixed' it was; and this was attributed to a lady-patroness with a fatal facility of saying yes; who, when the daughter, perfectly dressed, of the chief grocer of the place called upon her to ask for a voucher, had not strength of mind
to refuse her. Being remonstrated with by a stern aristocrat, she said pathetically, 'I am very sorry, my dear, and I won't do it again if I can help it; but I told you how it would be if you made me a lady-patroness: I do hate saying no to anybody. But I am not quite so bad as you all think me; for yesterday morning who should I see coming up the steps but that actress creature who has been here for the last fortnight. I guessed what she wanted; so I ran up to my room and rang for my maid, and told her to say that I was very ill and unable to see anybody. It is very silly of me, I know; but I am sure I should have given her a voucher if I had seen her.'
I felt restless and unsettled; I could not spend a long evening alone, so I went in for a few hours, perhaps with an unacknowledged hope that something at the last moment might have taken Aline there. But that faint hope, if it ever was one, was unfulfilled. I didn't dance, but joined the noble band of bored young men who stand at the doors and refuse to be introduced to any one. The Mocking Bird stopped to speak to me as soon as she saw me, and, after some chaff about my not dancing, said, 'I have got up a picnic for to-morrow, and I want you to come to it. Miss Mortimer, who I find is an old acquaintance of mine, is coming, and Jack and Bessie; so I suppose I need not caution you not to forget all about it. Come to our house at twelve; we are going over in the regimental coach from the camp. And then I hope we shall be able to congratulate you on having passed. All right, Dickie, I am ready now.' And with the latest victim she went away to worship the moon in the balcony.
I left soon after two o'clock, and, lighting a cigar, went down
to the beach. How soothing the fresh night air was after the heated glaring room! The sea was in one of its dissembling moods. The little innocent waves stooped so gently down to kiss the silent shore, as if they had never been guilty of treachery to the ships that trusted them. I sat down on the shingle by the side of a fishing-boat. Just opposite to me, and seeming so near that it might have been the light of a vessel at anchor in the bay, was the bright ray that came from the lighthouse on the French coast, thirty miles across the sea.
While I was listening to the musical ripple of the waves on the shore, I thought I saw a little boat at the end of the broad path of light which the moon had thrown over the sea. Nearer and nearer it approached, a dark form in the bright avenue whose quivering edges it never touched, and soon I could hear the severed waters splashing at the bow. No oars were out at the sides, no sail was hoisted to catch the gentle breeze, and yet that magic boat glided slowly onwards until it came within a few yards of the shore. Then for a little while no wave at all seemed to break against the stones, the dancing moonbeams stood still upon the deep, and from the boat I heard an unknown voice calling out:
'With a heart of furious fancies
Whereof thou art commander; With a golden spear and a horse of air Thou to the wilderness must wander; With a knight of ghosts and shadows, Thou summoned art to tourney Ten leagues beyond the wide world's end; Methinks it is no journey!'
The boat drifted away into the darkness, and I heard no more.
I suppose I must have been sleeping for more than an hour on the beach; for when I awoke the incarnadine glow of the sunrise had spread all over the east.
I returned slowly to my lodgings on the cliff, and went to bed for a few hours.
I went out after breakfast, and wandered about the town with the restless feeling of expectation upon me. I bought some newspapers, and tried to get interested in them. It was a fresh and beautiful morning: the oppressive stillness and languor of the day before had passed away, and now a pleasant breeze from the sea cooled the burning midsummer sun. Aline very often came out in the morning with Jack and Bessie; but I could not see her anywhere.
About noon I went back to my lodgings, as I knew that the telegram would come some time not later than one o'clock. I tried to sit down and read a book; but I soon found that impossible. I got up and stood by the window, so as to catch sight of the telegraph-boy as soon as he turned the corner of the street.
There he comes at last, sauntering along the road, stopping at one place to exchange a word with a grocer's boy, and at another to watch a dog chasing a cat.
Ages seemed to pass before he reached the gate at the bottom of the little garden in front of the house. I rushed out to meet him, and soon I knew that the first and most bitter disappointment of my life had come. List just out. You haven't passed: sorry,' the laconic telegram said. I stood transfixed at the gate; I could not move away.
A few minutes afterwards, as if to tantalise me, a battery of Horse Artillery from the camp marched past, followed by an infantry regiment. How superb they seemed to my longing eyes! how the bayonets glittered in the sun! how proudly those plumes nodded as the guns went
by how brilliant were the red lines of the infantry which followed them! Soon they had gone by, and my wistful eyes saw them no more. And my disappointment seemed harder to bear than ever. Following the troops came the Mocking Bird in an open carriage, with an officer whom she had captured riding by her side. As she passed she called out to me,
'Aren't you coming to the picnic? You will be late; we are going to start almost directly.'
Then Aline and Jack and Bessie went by on the other side of the road. She gave me a kind smile when she saw me. When they had gone on a little way Jack came running back to me.
'Aunt Aline says that you are to be very quick indeed, or you will be late, and then we shall go without you.'
'Will you tell her that I am not quite ready yet, but that I will come in a few minutes; and if I am not at the house in time that they are not to wait for me? I will join them in the wood. Wait a minute, Jack.'
I saw a few forget-me-nots growing by the side of the path ; I picked one and gave it to Jack.
There, she is waiting for you at the corner; run away, and give this to her, Jack.'
He ran back, and I saw her take the flower from him.
I went indoors and packed up a few things. I saw the coach drive by laden with the merry party going to the picnic, and then I went by train over to Castle Dean, and enlisted in the Lancer regiment whose dépôt was stationed there.
HAVE the women of Great Britain ever been thanked for the
thousands of recruits they enlist annually into the English army? Deferred pay, and the chance of some day occupying a position of trust as watchman in a city warehouse-the soldier's apotheosis according to some enthusiastic colonels-may tempt a few; but for one who enlists with a coldblooded regard to the loaves and fishes of the service there are two who become soldiers because some daughter of Eve has been unkind or too kind.
I stayed five months at the dépôt, and was taught the alphabet of drill by sergeants who were glad of the opportunity to bully one whom they saw was a gentleman by birth, and by officers who looked upon enlisted soldiers as a class of beings only a little higher than the brutes. I hardly had time to regret the step I had taken, or to look back upon the past; and perhaps I might have even become proud of myself if I could have thrust aside the phantom that ever sprang up before me of the days that were no more. I envied my comrade Stephen Hodge, who had enlisted because his sweetheart Sally Ives had not worn the ribbons he had bought for her at the fair. No longer an agricultural boor, whose ideas never travelled beyond the village beershop, he was now on being dismissed recruit-drill a smart swaggering trooper, with a superb contempt for civilians and the infantry. But while he had risen in the world, I had fallen.
Just before Christmas I left England with a draft to join the regiment in India. We sailed out of Portsmouth harbour in the troopship Coromandel as a winter's afternoon was closing in. Southsea Common looked cold and dreary in the failing light as we steamed slowly along the beach; the hills of the Isle of Wight
were almost hidden in the haze of smoke which had drifted over the narrow channel from the town; and snow was begining to fallit had already whitened the glacis of the fort close to the shore. Such was the last sad sight which showed itself to me as I left England, a melancholy expanse of almost colourless land and water seen through the falling snow. Then darkness hid even this from our eyes; the cheerless wind whistled mournfully through the rigging; the women and children were crying with the cold on the lower deck; and we poor recruits, all leaving home for many years, and some for ever, tried to comfort ourselves as best we could.
In the teeth of a south-westerly gale we crossed the Bay of Biscay, that corner in the ocean where all the storms of the world are huddled up, and no fine weather came until we had passed Gibraltar. We had steamed a few hundred miles into the Mediterranean, when an Italian admiral, who had been
'Hailing, hailing, hailing;
in search of a squadron which he had lost, came in sight in his flagship, and boarded us to ask if we had seen the missing fleet anywhere. We stayed a few hours at Malta, but were put into quarantine. Some of the officers of the garrison came off in boats, which were not allowed to approach the ship nearer than hailing distance; but a few who had friends on board managed to keep up a shouting conversation across the belt of water which was supposed to preserve the island from infection. We saw the barren sands which the books in the library told us were Egypt, and by the time we had reached the Indian
Ocean the men had overcome the depression which sea-sickness and the thoughts of leaving home had caused; they began to think more about the future and less about the past, and many wrote letters to their sweethearts and mothers and sisters, telling them of the strange lands and seas they had passed through. And one day I thought I would write a few lines to Aline; but I tore the letter up almost as soon as it was finished; for what was the good of listening to the mere romantic instinct of the moment, when I knew that it would be far better that I should be utterly lost to her? Just before sunset one evening the long line of the morning we landed at Bombay. Ghauts came into sight, and next The cherished ambition of my life was fulfilled, and I was at last in India. We left Bombay the same day for Poonah, where the regiment was stationed.
I soon settled down into the ordinary routine of barrack life; I had passed through the early drudgery of a soldier's career, and was no longer an awkward recruit. The regiment had four more years of Indian service to complete ; and a few months before the time came for us to return to jeant-major, having been fortunEngland I was made troop serate in my progress through the lower ranks of non-commissioned officers. I was now comparatively free. I began to feel a sort of hardly wished to return to Engpassive content with my lot. I land, and I intended to volunteer into the regiment which would relieve us when our Indian service was over. I looked upon that summer at Varnestone almost unreal mirage-some valley of as if it had been a beautiful but gardens which the magic of the desert had conjured up to mock