Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

came other business misfortunes. Last girl, running in at her father's call, of all, he himself sickened unto death, stopped short half way, at seeing the and found himself dying without hav- tall, strange lady. ing been able to make more than the “So said her mither, and was proud very slenderest provision for his little o it; though I would leaver have Elsie. He had named her after a had mair blink of the mither's eye in sister, his special friend and playmate the lassie's. in the old days at the Keep of “What, your wife, Janet Muirhead, M'Cauldie. He had seen no more of proud to think her bairn a true her, for years, than of his other kins- M'Cauldie ?” folk; but the warming, of his own He nodded an affirmative. heart towards her in his dire extre- “ Then there was some sense in mity seemed to promise that some your Janet after a’, maybe.” tenderness for him might lurk in hers. “Some !" smiled the sick man,

He wrote accordingly, in simple, with ineffable expression of a love touching terms, to crave her guardian- that would not sicken and die with ship for the little girl, her namesake, him. and signed the letter with the full “I'll see to the bairn, Fergus," said signature, so long disused, “Your his sister : “mair less, that is,” dying brother, Fergus M'Cauldie." she added, with characteristic caution. Well was it for his suit he did so. "The Lord reward you," he replied, The Honourable Mrs. Gillespie, such as you shall deal wi' hér." was now sister Elsie's name, had nei- The Honourable Alexander Gilther a very good heart nor a very bad; lespie was almost as well descended but she was well astride of the fa- as his wife. He was a man of unidmily hobby. The curtailment of his dling ability and easy character, over honoured patronymic had been in her whom she exercised a temperate eyes all along an offence less pardon- but unquestioned sway. Their coinable in her once dear brother Fergus bined family connexions, and her enthan even the mésalliance with Miss ergetic use of their interest, had obMuirhead. She, therefore, noted the tained for him a lucrative appointreinstated letter and apostrophe as ment on the outskirts of official signs of contrition and returning grace. grandeur. He was permanent in a A little lassie bearing name Elsie department whose heads were flucM'Cauldie must neither be left upon tuating, and high enough up to come the wide world, nor even intrusted often into official contact with his to the mercies of some stray Muir- chiefs. His social points of contact head cousin. No letter came, how- with them were not a few, hers with ever, and Fergus' sick heart grew their wives and kinswomen more fresicker. But one day, waking from a quent, and more carefully cultivated feverish doze, he was aware of a tall still

. So Mrs. Anderson said truly, female figure by his bedside, sur- that her friend, Elsie Grant, the mounted by a face whose features paymaster's wife, had been brought showed familiar through their strange- up among great folks. Dess. He turned more fully round in But the Honourable Alexander had bed, stretched out a thin hand, and a paralytic stroke in course of time,

so severe as to disqualify him for far“Is that you, Sister Elsie?" ther discharge of his official duties. “Ay, just so, Brother Fergris." The retiring pension was but small,

"God bless you, then, you'll tak' and the narrowed income drove the the mitherless bairn when I'm gone, Gillespies from the great metropolis Elsie !"

to its northern sister. “ Bide a wee till I speer at her, The younger Elsie was the good Fergus.”

angel of the house in Edinburgh, the Both brother and sister had gone kindest of nurses to her aunt's husback to words and accent in use in band, and the most considerate of "auld lang syne" at the Keep. companions to herself, whose temper

Elsie, dear! Elsie !" cried the fa- was not sweetened, nor her mind melther, louder than his voice had rung lowed, by the change in her outward for many a day:

circumstances. “Ah, weel, she's a true M'Cauldie, Though Mrs. Gillespie never ceased Pergus,” said her aunt, as the little to regret London society, nor spared

a

said:

a

disparagement, upon occasion, of such No word had passed between him substitute for it as Edinburgh could and Elsie, so he applied first for leave, afford, she nevertheless availed her- then for exchange into a regiment self to the utmost of the advantages on active service abroad. Years went which her Scotch parentage and noble by. He had gotten a wound and a extraction gave her, for access to the medal; three varieties of fever; two "superior circles” of Auld Reekie. of ague ; much commendation as an Her niece must, of necessity, often active and efficient officer; frequent accompany her to public or private sciatica; and very grizzled hair. He entertainments; and at one of the was moreover, Lieutenant, without former made acquaintance with an purchase, in a company commanded ensign of a Highland regiment quar- by a puppy having less then onetered in the Castle. Mr. Grant was third of his own time of service, when not meanly gifted by nature in mind news came that Elsic M'Cauldie was or body, and personally was not un- an orphan again: for both her uncle deserving of any young lady's regard. and her aunt were dead. The regiWhat drew Elsie towards him, strong- ment was, happily, no farther off than ly and specially, from the very first, Ireland, otherwise his purse might was the circumstance that he was not have allowed of the journey to from Aberdeen, and knew some of Edinburgh. her mother's friends, one which, by The bloom was off her beauty cersome instinct, she never mentioned to tainly; but that assurance of loving; her aunt. But that keen-witted lady kindness which Ned Locksley could did not need the additional reason read on it some years later kept a which such knowledge might have wondrous loveliness on every feature. afforded, for discouraging, as soon as And the poor lieutenant read a speshe perceived it, the growing intimacy cial love-look through the lovingbetween Elsie and Mr. Grant. She kindness which smiled on all. Elsie ascertained that he had committed was glad to see him-almost delighted the rash act of entering the British-spite of what she must have thought army without any farther qualifica- his long and fickle desertion of her. tions than high courage, fair talents, "Your aunt said, Miss M'Cauldie, and an earnest admiration for a sol- that a baggage-waggon wife would dier's career. He had little more have but a weary life of it, and with money than sufficed for the purchase that word warned me off. For your of his first commission, and was en- sake I took the warning, hoping and tirely without family interest of any striving through bitter years to win kind or degree. Now, the Honourable some other thing to offer you. I have Mrs. Gillespie knew enough of the no more now than I had then: less, War Office, as of other offices, in for I was then young and hopeful. But those good old unreformed times, to you are lonely, and I have brought perceive at once how high the young you back one thing increased-a luckensign was likely to reach in the mili- less soldier's love." tary hierarchy; and she determined, Elsie thought it wealth, and took neither unkindly nor unwisely, to put the treasure for better or worse. The him at once upon his honour with few pounds her father had left her Elsie. Mr. Grant, therefore, waited were but little increased by a legacy on her, at her own request, to receive from her aunt. Lieutenant Grant "an intimation upon an important applied for a paymastership by matter."

which to add a few pounds to his “Would you make a baggage-wag- annual pay. He was actually apgon wife of the puir lassie, Mr. Grant? pointed on the sole score of his chaI'm tauld it's but a weary way of life,” racter; and a brevet on a birthday she said, reverting, as she always did, made him Captain. What can the when moved, to the old pronunciation. vulgar outcry mean about deserving

“Ah, but I hope, dear madam" officers overlooked in our army! “Weel, young gentleman, bide till Ned's

new little acquaintance, Amy, your hopes are hatched a bit.” was, as she had told him, her parents'

That was fair and forcible he could only child, born and bred, as her dolls not deny. Poor lad. They were demonstrated, at a time when the staaddled in one way before hatched in tions of her father's regiment had another.

been shifting with more than usual

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

66

un-

rapidity. Having once visited the “Come in.”
Paymaster's quarters, and having done In came Milward, rather pale, but
80, thanks to Miss Amy, in the cha- with a flush on his cheek bones.
racter of a house-friend, Ned often Hulloa, Milward ! Sit down in
found his way there again; most of the big chair whilst I put the books
his evenings being spent either with away.
the Grants or with his first friends, "Thank you. Hush! Is that them?”
the Andersons.

“Is that who? What's up, old
Personally, therefore, he was not fellow ?”
much affected by the evening amuse-

“To tell

you the truth," said Mil-
ments of his comrades in barracks, ward, turning red all over now, “I
nor disturbed by the "skylarking, took the liberty of running in here
of which he heard either in O'Brien's because there was a threat of 'spung-
rollicking brogue, or in the Major's ing me with my clothes on.”
wrathful murinuring against

Whose threat-Rufford and that
seemly practical jokes."

Captain lot's ?
Rafford, indeed, by way of daring his

“ Yes."
dependent, Jones, had suggested to Well, that romping is bad enough
that officer-since Mansfield had been when O'Brien and his set are at it;
dipped in a solution of liquid black- but they do it for fun. As for that
ing and water, and Garrett had an brute, Rufford, and that fool, Jones,
eyebrow shaved, his dress-boots filled they are unbearable. I'm glad you
with the contents of a mustard pot came in here. I'll give them a lesson
--that it was hardly fair to let the if they follow you.
third "griff” off unscathed. But “It's very kind of you,” said Mil-
Jones fought shy of the suggestion, ward. “I was ashamed of bolting
alleging Ned's intimacy with the in, because I know you hate this kind
Major, “who'll make the confound- of thing."
edest kick-up about conduct unbe- “I do; but I wasn't eight years at
coming a gentleman and an officer, Eton without being equal to this
if there's a scrimmage with his friend emergency, mind you, Master Mil-

ward. Ain't they whitewashing the
In truth, Ned was known to share corridor up here
his senior's aversion to the noble “Hardly whitewashing. It's a dirty
sport of “badger-baiting,” and looked yellow ochre in the pots outside.”
him as if his teeth, albeit unofficial, All the better. Just pick the
muight meet through where they bit, stoutest sticks out of the faggot in
as well as the Major's. He, there- my coal-bunk, will you, and look in
fore

, enjoyed immunity from annoy- the right-hand corner of the cupboard
ance, until the arrival of a fourth below for a coil of rope there is, I
youngster, who had been prevented think. I'll be back in a second.”
by illness from joining on the same In he came again accordingly, with

as himself and the other two. two big pots of the dismal ochre
This Milward was a lad of gentle- wash.
manly appearance; of well-propor- “What on earth are you at?" asked
tioned, but very slender frame of Milward.
handsome, but very delicate features ; “You'll see time enough. But be
with a mouth which might have quick : I heard them banging open
been reckoned pretty in a girl, but your door downstairs as I went out.”
betrayed in one of the ruder sex Ned produced a hammer and a few
symptoms of weakness and irresolu- stout nails out of the miscellaneous
tion. He showed the same distaste stores of his cupboard. Then mount-
as Ned for stupid and noisy rioting; ing on a chair he nailed three or four
but with a shrinking very different stout sticks at right angles to the
from the masterful bearing of the lintel. They made a sort of project-
self-possessed Etonian. The latter, ing platform, to the edge of which he
who had left the mess early one fastened a length of rope nailed at

was at work some hours one end to the woodwork of the
later over his Hindustani, when he door. Then he poised the pots upon
heard a light, quick step run along the sticks so nicely that the door in
the passage, and a hurried, hesitating opening must jerk the rope's end, and
knock against his door.

an avalanche fall.

Locksley."

day

evening,

“A very neat booby-trap," said he. the Captain reeling into the passage, “Let the stormers assault.”

followed by a volley of potsherds. He He put a bolt across the door, re- slammed, and double-locked the door. marking as he did so :

Rufford was furious; but the laugh “Staple won't hold long. Hon. was loud against him, not only among Company's barrackmaster is not much the strangers, well soaked with claret, of an ironmonger.”

but even among his own admiring They heard two or three doors jackals. He put the best face upon opened and shut with a bang along the matter that he could, and beat a the passage. Then came a knock at hasty retreat to change his drenched his.

regimentals before seeking consolation “ Hulloa !"

in cards and broiled bones. Thence“Seen Milward anywhere?” in- forward he watched, with not unquired the voice of Jones.

natural eagerness, for some opportu“Oh dear, yes! He's in here. We're nity of turning the tables upon his having tea and muffins," quoth Ned, antagonist : but came to the sulin modulated tones.

len, though sound, conclusion, that he Jones was at a nonplus. He had was, in most things, more than a suggested that Milward might have match for himself. He changed his taken refuge in some other officer's tactics; took no notice of Ned; but quarters; but had not reckoned upon instead of attempting to bully young finding him with Locksley.

Milward any more, treated him with There was a noisy deliberation out- studied politeness and cordiality, payside, then another knock, and a more ing him many little attentions, which decided voice than the lieutenant's, began insensibly to win the weak lad's cried, insolently,

confidence. “None of your nonsense, youngster, Jones, as usual, took his cue from come out !"

the Captain; and pasty-faced Mans“Who, I ?” said Ned, blandly still. field, the “griff" with a turn for

“No! that milksop of a Milward, cards, took his from Jones. Milwaru quick now!"

soon began to fancy that he could do “Not till we've done the muffins," no better than conquer his first prequoth Ned in reply.

judices, rub off his home fastidiousThe answer came in a savage kick, ness, and prove his manhood by conwhich made the colour pots tremble; forming to the customs of such kind but could not dislodge them, so crafty comrades. This somewhat nettleu was their adjustment.

Ned; but, absorbed in his sorrow Ned took no notice. A second and his studies, he could not afford kick followed, and a rush against the the matter more than a passing door.

thought upon occasion. "You had better not, gentlemen, These studies he cherished no less for your own sake,” cried Ned, with as a present solace than as a preparaperfect good-humour; "I can't abear tion for the future, and found in them being disturbed at tea.”

escape from thoughts and feelings There was laughter outside, appa- which the mechanical duties of the rently at baffled assailant, drill-ground left aciive still. Thougi whose wrath, waxing hotter, vented not popular with comrades of his ovu itself in another kick, which almost age and standing, from whom he kept, upset the pots, and loosened the in some respects, aloof, his good sense treacherous staple alarmingly. his good-humour, and his proficiency

"Pray don't, sir ; you'll disturb in all manly exercises, fruit of his your digestion by such strong exer- double training on Cransdale Moors cise after meals."

and in the playing-fields at Eton, ker Crash went the staple. In rushed him from the invidiousness of actual Rufford. Smash went the pots upon unpopularity. His chiefs formed from his head; and his best uniform--they the first the highest opinion of hin, had dined in full-dress that evening and the Major had already caused was dripping and done for.

his name to reach the superior author “There! My best milk-jug broke!” rities, as that of a young officer of t <said Ned. "Beg pardon, gentlemen, traordinary promise. For some change you may pick up the bits outside."

reason, the stay of his batch at the With one vigorous shove, he sent Chatterham depôt was unusually pre

the

longed ; but the time at last came but I have a considerable power of in view when they must proceed to concentration:'' said the silly lad, their distant destination, Messrs. drawing his lips tighter across his Rufford and Jones, who had early in- teeth, as if with instinctive conscioustimation of the fact, felt, that if ness of the feeble point of his handprofit was to be made out of any of some countenance. them, it must be made without farther “Yes, you command your attention delay. The design upon Garrett had better than Rufford, I think," anbeen abandoned. He really was too swered the other; "which is strange stupid to learn play, too little spirited enough, seeing what an old hand he to play without learning. Milward is.” gave better hopes; weak enough to be "I'll tell you what, Jones, it's all led, he was quick enough to learn, bosh about not getting old heads on and conceited enough to be coaxed or young shoulders. Some youngsters carried beyond his depth. The worthy are born with young heads on; but pair found Mansfield an admirable, others with old ones all along; don't though unconscious, assistant in their you see, eh?” design. He had a very tolerable taste Jones did see, very plain. for gambling, with not much more At the bottom of the long messacquired knowledge of play than room, at the Company's barracks, Milward's superior wit soon en- Chatterham, were two little sittingabled him to gain ; and he being rooms, right and left. One was in pitted against Mansfield, nothing general use as a smoking-room, the loath, learned confidence in his own other, comfortably furnished, was but skill and judgment.

seldom used, except as a kind of So they fooled him on; sometimes drawing-room, when there were many in fair duel, so to speak, sometimes in seniors, or distinguished visitors,' square games, where the presence of at the depôt mess. Rufford and Jones a confederate, as partner on either had weighed very deliberately the arside, made the direction of matters guments for or against making this both easy and unsuspicious. Rufford room the scene of the gambling tourhad poor luck at play, and was sub-. nament. ject, though he handled his cards well “It was one of the scaliest points upon the whole, to unaccountable in- about young Archer's_affair, Jones, advertencies, which would sweep off that Plumer of 'the Dashers,' held in a turn the previous gains of steady the party in his own rooms. Floods skill and equable fortune., Milward of bosh were poured out upon it. We was sharp enough, as he thought, to can't afford "ugly circumstances' so take special note of this; and hav- soon after. Now, the little room to ing had some unexpected minor suc- the left is public, though private to cesses to whet his appetite, deter- all intents and purposes, for there's mined on a regular set-to with the not a fellow

goes

in there once in Captain. To beat the man who ha three months.' bullied him at first, and then had “No, that there isn't,” said Jones; come round and acknowledged his “and its fusty enough in consesocial and manly qualities, would quence.” he greater glory than even gain. “Never mind that, my boy; we Jones made some apparent attempt can leave the door open to air the to dissuade him from this rash pur- atmosphere, which will look fair, pose.

and above board, you know, in case "Old Rufford knew a thing or two. of impertinent inquiries. The odds When put upon his mettle, he was an are 'any thing to one' against any ugly customer. In fact, he shouldn't fellow lounging in, as we shan't play himself half like a stand-up fight till very late, eh?” with him-if it wasn't, that's to say, "All right then. Its a judicious for those absent fits of his, which idea enough." inade such 'mulls' of his play now Next morning, Ned, who by chance and then."

had got up unusually early, took it “Ah, but that's the very thing, you into his head to breakfast before, see, Jones. I own I am an inferior instead of after parade. To the displayer, in some respects, to Rufford; comfiture of the messman, he en

« VorigeDoorgaan »