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edge. Here come the Avengers, a getic gestures, to lie down. We fall stern, silent band, the cross in silver
prone in the thick glutinous slime, under standing out from the sombre fur of their the cover of a little bank. Already dead caps. They have the place of honor in and wounded men lie here thick among the first boat. As it is pulling off, Lieg- the living. Boat after boat disembarks nitz, the gallant German attaché, darts for its freight. At length Yolchine thinks he ward and leaps on board. The stalwart has men enough. He who, with young linesmen of Yolchine's brigade are man- Skobeleff, has never lain down, gives the ning the other boats. The strong strokes word, and the two spring up the ascent ; of the sailors shoot us into the stream. a billow of strong supple Russian soldiers, The gloom of the night is waning fast, released from restraint, surges with resistand now we can faintly discern, across the less rush up the steep bank. The detachbroad swirl of water, the crags of the ment of Turkish militiamen holding the Turkish bank and the steep slope above. post are overwhelmed, but they do not What if the Turks are there in force ? A
No ; they die where they stand, grim precipice that, truly, to carry at the neither quailing nor asking for quarter. bayonet point, in the teeth of a determined For that brave band of Mustaphis, Abdul enemy! And an enemy is there, sure Kerim Pasha unconsciously furnished a enough, and on the alert. There is a There is a noble epitaph.. " They have never been
“ flash out of the gloom, and the near whis- heard of since,” he wrote. No, nor will tle and scream of a shell thrills us, as it they, till the last trumpet sounds ! speeds over us and bursts among the men The day after the passage of the Danube in the willows behind us. There follows had been made good, the Emperor crossed shell after shell, from due opposite, from the river to congratulate and thank his higher up, and from the knoll still higher gallant soldiers. In front of the long, up, close to which the minarets of Sistova massive line formed on the slope below are now dimly visible. The shells are Sistova awaiting the coming of the Great falling and bursting on the surface of the White Czar, stood Dragomiroff, Yolchine, Danube ; they splash us with the spray and Skobeleff, the three generals who had they raise ; their jagged splinters fly yell- been the leaders of the successful attempt. ing by us. There is no shelter ; we must Dragomiroff, the divisional commander, stand here in the open boat, this densely the Emperor embraced, and gave him the packed mass of men, and take what for- Cross of St. George ; he shook hands tune Heaven may send us. The face of warmly with Yolchine, the brigade comthe Danube, pitted with falling shells, is mander, and gave him, too, a St. George flecked, too, with craft crowded to the to add to the decorations which this cheery gunwale. Hark to that crash, the splin- little warrior had been gathering from tering of wood, and the riving of iron, boyhood in the Caucasus and Central there on our starboard quarter ! A huge Asia. Then the Emperor strode to where pontoon, laden with guns and gunners, Skobeleff stood, and men watched the lithas been struck by a shell. It heaves tle scene with intent interest ; for it was heavily twice ; its stern rises ; there are notorious that Skobeleff was in disfavor wild cries—a confused turmoil of men and with his Sovereign, and yet of him the horses struggling in the water ; the guns camps were ringing with the story of his sink, and drowning men drift by us with conduct on the previous morning. Would the current down to their death. From Alexander maintain his umbrage, or would out the foliage, now, in the little cove for he make it manisest that it had been diswhich we are heading, belches forth vol- pelled by Skobeleff's heroism ? For at ley after volley of musketry fire, helping least a minute the Czar hesitated, as the the devilry of the shells. Several men of two tall, proud, soldierly men confronted our company are down ere our craft each other : you could trace in his countouches the mud of the Danube shore. tenance the struggle between disapproval The “ Avengers” are already landed : so and appreciation. It was soon over—and is Yolchine, with a handful of his lines- the wrong way for Skobeleff. The Emmen. As we tumble out of the boats peror frowned, turned short on his heel, with the bullets whizzing about our heads, and strode abruptly away, without a word and swarm up on to the bank, we are bid- or a gesture of greeting or recognition. den, by energetic orders and not less ener- A man of strong prejudices, he was not
yet able to exorcise from his mind the had any experience of domestic poultry as calumnies that had blackened to him the bedfellows ; to any one thinking of makcharacter of Skobeleff. That officer, for ing the experiment, I would give Punch's
, I his part, flushed scarlet, then grew deadly advice to those about to marry—“ Don't." pale, and seemed to conquer an impulse Andreas was a capital cook, but his courses as he set his teeth bard and maintained had a curious habit of arriving at long and his disciplined immobility. It was a fla- uncertain intervals. After a dish of stew, grant insult, in the very face of the army, no other viands appearing to loom in the and a gross injustice ; but Skobeleff en- near future, Villiers and myself would bedured it in a proud silence that seemed to take ourselves to smoking, and perhaps on me very grand, nor did I ever hear him a quiet day would lapse into slumber. allude to the slur. The time soon came From this we would be aroused by Anto that gallant and brilliant soldier when dreas to partake of a second course of roast he could afford to be magnanimous. As chicken, the bird having been alive and the campaign progressed, he distinguished unconscious of its impending fate when himself again and again, so that his name the first course had been served. Another became a synonyme in the army for splen- characteristic of Andreas was his habit of did daring as well as for opportune skill.
for opportune skill. awakening us in the still watches of the On the 3rd of September, Skobeleff, after night for the purpose of imparting his exploit on exploit, devised and led the views on recondite phases of the great storm of the Turkish position in Loftcha, Eastern question. Our coachman was a and drove his adversaries out of that Roumanian Jew, who could survive more strong place. On the following night, at sleep than any human being I ever knew. his own dinner-table in the Gorni Studen Let me describe our travelling equipage. headquarters, the Emperor stood up, and we had found in Bucharest a vehicle
We bade his guests to honor with him the which, when covered with leather and toast of “ Skobeleff, the hero of Loftcha !” fitted with sundry appliances, made a suffiIt is not given to many men to earn a re- cient habitation for two men who could venge so full and so grand as that. pack tight, and give and take one with
In campaigning in Bulgaria we corre- the other. By a simple arrangement the spondents had to rely entirely on our own floor of this carriage became at night a resources ; it was like going a-gypsying, bedplace, the cushions—and the poultry
a with now and then a battle thrown in by -serving for a mattress.
Our wagon was way of variety. When our Russian friends drawn by two sturdy gray horses, one of crossed the Danube, it became necessary which was blind-a characteristic wbich for us to abandon the flesh-pots of Egypt, the man who sold him to us cited as an in the shape of the civilization, beauty, important advantage, as calculated to and good cooking of Bucharest, and to make him steadier in a crowd. The depart, so to speak, into the wilderness, vehicle I have described was not a wag. there to join the army. My companion on only. Cunningly contrived in a roll in this, as in several previous campaigns, fastened to one of its sides, we carried was Frederic Villiers, the artist of the a sort of elementary canvas apartment. Graphic. Villiers is an excellent fellow, Villiers and I have been “at home" in but he has, like the rest of us, his weak canvas drawing-room to some very points. Perhaps his weakest point was distinguished personages.
If you were that he imagined going to bed in his spurs within there was no pleading“ not at contributed to his martial aspect. He home,” for, as the awning was open on may have been right, but as I shared the at least two sides, you were visible to the bedplace on the floor of a narrow wagon, naked eye a long way off. I did not see the matter in that light. Our cooking appliances consisted of a We had for joint attendant my old Servian stewpan and a frying-pan. You don't courier, Andreas. Andreas was a capital require any more weapons than these to servant, but there are spots even on the perform wherewithal the functions of a sun. Andreas had a mania for the pur- plain cook. I am a plain cook myself ; chase of irrelevant poultry, and for accom. perhaps, to be more explicit, I should say modating the fowls in our wagon, tied by a very plain cook. Of one grand disthe legs, against a day of starvation. I covery in culinary science I can boast. don't know whether any reader has ever I have found out that when you attempt
to fry lean meat without fat, lard, oil, or said the officer, were under water, and butter, you not only burn the meat, but there was no thoroughfare ; nobody, he you burn the frying-pan also.
said, was allowed to go upon it. repreIn the early days of this campaign, with sented to him that, as I did not belong to MacGahan away with Gourko and Millet the Russian army, it was nothing to him far off in the Dobrutcha with Ziminer- what might happen to me.
He laughed, mano, the task was mine of covering Bul- said if I drowned it was no affair of his, garia from the right flank to the left flank and, to quote his own lively expression, of the Russian main advance, and I had to that I might go to the devil if I had a be in the saddle morning, noon, and mind. I found the two pontoons subnight, for I had to try at least to see merged as he said, and a fierce current everything, and I had generally to be my running over them, but the hand-rope was own courier back to the telegraph base at above water. This I clutched, and crossed Bucharest. General Ignatieff, the famous the interval hand over hand along it, sloshdiplomatist, was a good friend in giving ing down with the current as the slack of me timely hints of impending events. the rope gave to my weight. Simnitza When we were parting after my first visit reached somehow, there were still about to him, the General said : “ Come to me ninety miles to Bucharest.
Bucharest. Off, then, to when you want anything. I like your Giurgevo, fifty miles' night drive in a paper because it is a Christian paper, and country rattletrap drawn by four halfI am a very Christian man, and if I am broken ponies harnessed abreast. I have not mistaken you are so also.” I regarded been upset freely all along that dreary this last observation as strong proof of the plain ; spilt into a river, capsized into a aphorism that discerning penetration is village, overturned by a dead horse into a one of the leading attributes of a great dismal swamp. During the railway jourdiplomatist.
ney from Giurgevo to Bucharest it was Probably there is no harder toil than possible to begin my round-hand telethat which the earnest war correspondent gram, writing a few words at a time when must undergo in a country destitute of the stoppages occurred. communications and when important Bucharest finally reached, I had to finevents are crowding fast one on the other. ish my message without delaying even to The telegraph wire is his goal ; for us in wash, that it might be in time for next Bulgaria the nearest available telegraph morning's paper in England. I have office was in Bucharest, scores of long reached Bucharest so smeared with mud, miles away. The supply of trustworthy so blackened with powder, so clotted with couriers was scanty, and the best courier inch-deep dust, so blistered with heat, that will not strain ardently when he is the people of the hotel had difficulty in not working for his own hand. I write recognizing me. The telegram finished in constant consciousness of being over- long or short, there was no respite till egotistic ; but one would like the reader that were done-came a bath and then should know bow he is served with war food (they used to charge me double news. To this day I shudder at the recol- price for those meals, and I rather think lection of those long weary rides on dead- they lost money); and then a few hours' tired horses from the Lom, or the Balkans, sleep till the evening train back to Giurgevo or the Plevna country, through the food- should start. Up and off again by it, and less region down to Sistova on the Danube, so back without a halt to the position where the bridge of boats was. It was which I had quitted to despatch the telemostly night when I reached the Danube. gram. Leaving my horses in Sistova, I would Villiers and myself were the only civiltramp in the darkness across the bridge, ian spectators of the desperate and futile and over the islands and flats, ankle-deep attack which the Russian soldiers, comin sand, the three miles trudge to Sim- manded by Krüdener and Schahoffskoy, nitza, the village on the Roumanian side made on that lovely June day of 1877 of the great river. I have reached Sim- upon the girdle of earth works with which nitza so beaten that I could scarcely stag- Osman Pasha had surrounded the obscure ger up the slope. Once when I got to the little Bulgarian town of Plevna. Up bridge I found that it was forbidden to among the oak shrubs on the height of cross it. Two pontoons in the centre, Radischevo, while the Russian cannon thundered over our heads, we watched the The débris straggled sullenly back, comnoble, hopeless assault of the Russian in- panies that had gone down two hundred fantrymen on the Turkish redoubts on the strong returning by fives and tens. For gentle swell of the great central valley. three hours there had been a steady curPlevna lay down yonder to the left front rent of wounded up from out of the battle in its snug hollow among the foliage, to the reverse slope on whose face we quiet and serene like a sleeping babe amid watched, back into comparative safety. a pack of raging wolves, the sun glinting All around as the air was heavy with the on the spires of its minarets. Behind us low moaning of the wounded, who had the Russian cannon belching fire and iron. cast themselves down behind us to gain Close to us the General, with set face and relief from the agony of motion. A terrible eager eyes, the working of his crowd of maimed wretches had gathered lips and fingers belying his forced com- around the fountain at the foot of the posure. And at our feet hell itself, rag- slope, craving with wistful longing for a ing in all its lurid splendor, all its fell few drops of the scanty water.
Bad was horior. A chaos of noises comes back to their plight; but one's blood turned at the us on the light summer wind; the crackle thought of the awful fate of the poor
felof the rifle fire, the ping of bullets, the lows who, too severely wounded to move crash of near exploding shells, loud shouts to the rear, lay on the maize-slopes down of reckless men bent on death or victory, there, waiting for inevitable cruel death shrieks and yells of anguish—aye, 'even at the hands of an enemy who not only groans, so near are we. Look at that gave no quarter but savagely mutilated swift rush ; see the upheaval of the flash- before be slew. ing bayonets ; listen to the roar of tri- The Turks spread over the battle-field umph, sharpened by the clash of steel slaughtering as they advanced, and were against steel! There is an answering hur- threatening to carry the ridge, when the rah from the gunners above us, for the wounded who lay behind it would have Russian infantrymen have carried at the been at their cruel mercy.
Few troops bayonet point the first Turkish position. were available to hold it ; what was left
But they get no further. There are not of the force was mainly dispersed. “Genmen enough for the further enterprise. tlemen,” said Schahoffskoy to his staff, See the stubborn gallant fellows, standing we and the escort must give our aid to leaderless—for nearly all the officers are hold the front; these poor wounded must down-sternly waiting death there for not be abandoned !” We extended along want of leaders either to cheer thein for- that grim ridge, each man moving to and ward or to march them back! Noble fro on a little beat of his own, to show a heroism or sheer stolidity, which ? " For semblance of force against the BashiGod and the Czar !" is the shout of an- Bazouks. Through the growing darkness swer that comes back on the wind, as the one could watch the streaks of flame foregaps torn by the Turkish shell fire are re- shortened close below us ; and nerves stored and the ranks knit themselves closer tried by a long day of foodlessness, exand closer. The utter pity of it! A citement, fatigue, and constant exposure craving that is almost irresistible comes to danger, quivered under the prolonged over one to abandon inaction, and to do tension of endurance as the throbbing something something, no matter what, hum of the bullets sped through or over
— in this acme, this climax, of concentrated the straggling line. "At length dragoons strife. The inad excitement of the battle from the reserve relieved us, and so, folsurges up into the brain like strong drink. lowing the general who had lost an army O reader, calmly perusing these cold lines, going in search of an army which had you cannot realize how hard it is, in such lost its general, we turned the heads of our à convulsion of emotion, to bide at rest jaded horses, and, threading our way and write out a telegram in pencil with through the wounded, rode slowly away industrious accuracy ; how difficult to from the blood-stained ridge. It was only coinpose coherently when the brain is on to spend a night of wretchedness. No fire and the pulses are bounding as if they sooner had we established a bivouac, and would burst!
general and aide-de-camp, Cossack and The sun sank in a glow of lurid crim- correspondent, had thrown themselves on
The Russian defeat was assured. the dewy ground and fallen into slumber,
than the alarm arose that the Bashi. Ba- his residence at Gorni Studen, when the zouks were surrounding us. Again and evil days of misfortune weighed him down, again the little band wearily arose and he suffered from low fever, rheumatism, struggled its way through the loose envi- and asthma. He lived in discomfort there ronment of the Turkish marauders. At in a dismantled Turkish house, in the ballength daylight came, and I rode away on cony of which I had an interview with the journey to Bucharest, the bearer to him late in August, on my return journey the world of the details of the catas. from the Shipka with the tidings that trophe. Mile after mile of that dreary Radetski was holding his own there against road my good horse covered loyally, weary the furious assaults of Mehemet Ali. I and foodless as he was ; but I felt him had a difficulty in recognizing his Majesty, gradually dying away under me. The so changed was he from the early days at stride shortened, and the flanks began to Simnitza and Sistova. He had shrunken beave ominously ; I had to spur him visibly, he stooped, his head had sunk besharply, although I felt every stab as if it tween his shoulders, and his voice was had pierced myself. If he could only broken and tremulous. He was gaunt, hold on to Sistova, rest and food awaited worn, and haggard ; bis nervous system him there. But some three miles short seemed quite shattered.
There was of that place he staggered and went down. hunted expression in his eye, and he I had to leave the pour gallant brute gasped for breath in the spasms of the where he fell, and tramp on into Sistova asthma that afflicted him. I left him with with my saddle on my head.
the vivid apprehension that he was not to The personal aspect and bearing of the break the spell which was said to conRussian Emperor were for me always of demn every Romanoff to the grave
before the deepest interest. No man was so en- the age of sixty. grossed and centred in the varying phases He was in the field during the six days' of the cainpaign as was this puissant mon- struggle around Plevna, in the September arch, whose bodily and inental health vi- of the war. The
had constructed brated to every success and to every re- for him, on a little eminence, a look-out verse. On the day he crossed the Danube, place, from which was visible a great of which I have already spoken, he was a sweep of the scene of action. Behind it singularly imposing figure. Anxiety and was a marquee, in which was a long table ill-health had not then broken him down, continually spread with food and wine, and the most indifferent spectator could where the suite supported nature jovially not but be impressed by the commanding while men in their thousands were dying nobility of his presence as he returned the hard by. As for Alexander himself, after greeting of his victorious soldiers. A the first two days no man saw him either man not far off sixty, he then looked ex- eat or drink. Anxiety visibly devoured ceptionally young for his age ; the long him. He could not be restrained from dark mustache showed scarcely a streak leaving the observatory and going about of gray, the majestic fignre was as straight among the gunners. I watched him in as a pine, and he looked a very king of his strained solitude on the little balcony men. The late Colonel Charles Bracken- of the look-out place, late in the afternoon bury it was who first wrote of him as of the fifth day of the fighting—it was his
The Divine Figure from the North," fête day, save the mark !-as he stood but he did not invent the title. It was there in the sullen autumn weather, gazing the exact translation of the phrase in out with haggard eager eyes at the efforts which the Bulgarians of Sistova hailed the to storm the great Grevitza redoubt. Asmighty potentate who on that afternoon, sault after assault had been delivered ; aswhen first his foot touched their soil, sault after assault had failed : now the shone before their eyes as the more than final desperate struggle was being made, mortal being who was to be their saviour, the forlorn hope of the day. As the their redeemer from their bondage to the Turkish fire crushed down his Russians heathen. The glamour of the hour stirred battling their way up the slope slippery to idealization the stolid Bulgars ; at that already with Roumanian blood, the pale moment they would have worshipped the face on the balcony quivered, and the tall Great White Czar. His health suffered figure winced and cowered. As he stood later from the squalor of Bjela, and during there, bearing his cross in lovely anguish,