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   Chapter 44 THE INTERCEPTED LETTER-BAG

Tom Brown at Oxford By Thomas Hughes Characters: 38294

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:05


"Dear Katie;-At home, you see, without having answered your last kind letter of counsel and sympathy. But I couldn't write in town, I was in such a queer state all the time. I enjoyed nothing, not even the match at Lord's, or the race; only walking at night in the square, and watching her window, and seeing her at a distance in Rotten Row."

"I followed your advice at last, though it went against the grain uncommonly. It did seem so unlike what I had a right to expect from them-after all the kindness my father and mother had shown them when they came into our neighborhood, and after I had been so intimate there, running in and out just like a son of their own-that they shouldn't take the slightest notice of me all the time I was in London. I shouldn't have wondered if you hadn't explained; but after that, and after you had told them my direction, and when they knew that I was within five minutes' walk of their house constantly (for they knew all about Grey's schools, and that I was there three or four times a week), I do think it was too bad. However, as I was going to tell you, I went at last, for I couldn't leave town without trying to see her; and I believe I have finished it all off. I don't know. I'm very low about it, at any rate, and want to tell you all that passed, and to hear what you think. I have no one to consult but you, Katie. What should I do without you? But you were born to help and comfort all the world. I shan't rest till I know what you think about this last crisis in my history."

"I put off going till my last day in town, and then called twice. The first time, 'not at home.' But I was determined now to see somebody and make out something; so I left my card, and a message that, as I was leaving town next day, I would call again. When I called again at 6 o'clock, I was shown into the library, and presently your uncle came in. I felt very uncomfortable, and I think he did too; but he shook hands cordially enough, asked why I had not called before, and said he was sorry to hear I was going out of town so soon. Do you believe he meant it? I didn't. But it put me out, because it made it look as if it had been my fault that I hadn't been there before. I said I didn't know that he would have liked me to call, but I felt that he had got the best of the start."

"Then he asked after all at home, and talked of his boys, and how they were getting on at school. By this time I had got my head again; so I went back to my calling, and said that I had felt that I could never come to their house as a common acquaintance, and, as I did not know whether they would ever let me come in any other capacity, I had kept away till now."

"Your uncle didn't like it, I know; for he got up and walked about, and then said he didn't understand me. Well, I was quite reckless by this time. It was my last chance, I felt; so I looked hard into my hat, and said that I had been over head and ears in love with Mary for two years. Of course there was no getting out of the business after that. I kept on staring into my hat; so I don't know how he took it; but the first thing he said was that he had had some suspicions of this, and now my confession gave him a right to ask me several questions. In the first place, had I ever spoken to her? No; never directly. What did I mean by directly? I meant that I had never either spoken or written to her on the subject-in fact, I hadn't seen her except at a distance for the last two years-but I could not say that she might not have found it out from my manner. Had I ever told anyone else? No. And this was quite true, Katie, for both you and Hardy found it out."

"He took a good many turns before speaking again. Then he said I had acted as a gentleman hitherto and he should be very plain with me. Of course I must see that, looking at my prospects and his daughter's, it could not be an engagement which he could look on with much favor from a worldly point of view. Nevertheless, he had the highest respect and regard for my family, so that, if in some years' time I was in a position to marry, he should not object on this score; but there were other matters which were in his eyes of more importance. He had heard (who could have told him?) that I had taken up very violent opinions-opinions which, to say nothing more of them, would very much damage my prospects of success in life; and that I was in the habit of associating with the advocates of such opinions-persons who, he must say, were not fit companions for a gentleman-and of writing violent articles in low revolutionary newspapers, such as the Wessex Freeman. Yes, I confessed I had written. Would I give up these things? I had a great mind to say flat, no, and I believe I ought to have; but as his tone was kind, I couldn't help trying to meet him. So I said I would give up writing or speaking publicly about such matters, but I couldn't pretend not to believe what I did believe. Perhaps, as my opinions had altered so much already, very likely they might again."

"He seemed to be rather amused at that, and said he sincerely hoped they might. But now came the most serious point; he had heard very bad stories of me at Oxford, but he would not press me with them. There were too few young men whose lives would bear looking into for him to insist much on such matters, and he was ready to let bygones be bygones. But I must remember that he had himself seen me in one very awkward position. I broke in, and said I had hoped that had been explained to him. I could not defend my Oxford life; or could not defend myself as to this particular case at one time; but there had been nothing in it that I was ashamed of since before the time I knew his daughter."

"On my honour, had I absolutely and entirely broken off all relations with her? He had been told that I still kept up a correspondence with her."

"Yes, I still wrote to her, and saw her occasionally; but it was only to give her news of a young man from her village, who was now serving in India. He had no other way of communicating with her."

"It was a most curious arrangement; did I mean that this young man was going to be married to her?"

"I hoped so."

"Why should he not write to her at once, if they were engaged to be married?"

"They were not exactly engaged; it was rather hard to explain. Here your uncle seemed to lose patience, for he interrupted me and said, 'Really, it must be clear to me, as a reasonable man, that, if this connexion were not absolutely broken off, there must be an end of everything, so far as his daughter was concerned. Would I give my word of honor to break it off at once, and completely?' I tried to explain again; but he would have nothing but 'yes' or 'no.' Dear Katie, what could I do? I have written to Patty that, till I die, she may always reckon on me as on a brother; and I promised Harry never to lose sight of her, and to let her know everything that happens to him. Your uncle would not hear me; so I said, "No." And he said, 'Then our interview had better end,' and rang the bell. Somebody, I'm sure, has been slandering me to him; who can it be?"

"I didn't say another word, or offer to shake hands, but got up and walked out of the room, as it was no good waiting for the servant to come. When I got into the hall the front door was open, and I heard her voice. I stopped dead short. She was saying something to some people who had been out riding with her. The next moment the door shut, and she tripped in in her riding-habit, and grey gloves, and hat, with the dearest little grey plume in it. She went humming along, and up six or eight steps, without seeing me. Then I moved a step, and she stopped and looked and gave a start. I don't know whether my face was awfully miserable, but, when our eyes met, her's seemed to fill with pity and uneasiness, and inquiry, and the bright look to melt away altogether; and then she blushed and ran down stairs again, and held out her hand, saying, 'I am so glad to see you, after all this long time.' I pressed it, but I don't think I said anything. I forget; the butler came into the hall, and stood by the door. She paused another moment, looked confused, and then, as the library door opened, went away up stairs, with a kind 'good-bye.' She dropped a little bunch of violets, which she had worn in the breast of her habit, as she went away. I went and picked them up, although your uncle had now come out of the library, and then made the best of my way into the street."

"There, Katie, I have told you everything, exactly as it happened. Do write to me, dear, and tell me, now, what you think. Is it all over? What can I do? Can you do anything for me? I feel it is better in one respect. Her father can never say now that I didn't tell him all about it. But what is to happen? I am so restless. I can settle to nothing, and do nothing, but fish. I moon away all my time by the water-side, dreaming. But I don't mean to let it beat me much longer. Here's the fourth day since I saw her. I came away the next morning. I shall give myself a week; and, dear, do write me a long letter at once, and interpret it all to me. A woman knows so wonderfully what things mean. But don't make it out better than you really think. Nobody can stop my going on loving her, that's a comfort; and while I can do that, and don't know she loves anybody else, I ought to be happier than any other man in the world. Yes, I ought to be, but I ain't. I will be, though; see if I won't. Heigho! Do write directly, my dear counsellor, to your affectionate cousin. T.B.

"P. S.-I had almost forgotten my usual budget. I enclose my last from India. You will see by it that Harry is getting on famously. I am more glad than I can tell you that my friend East has taken him as his servant. He couldn't be under a better master. Poor Harry! I sometimes think his case is more hopeless than my own. How is it to come right? or mine?"

ENGLEBOURN

"DEAR COUSIN,-You will believe how I devoured your letter; though, when I had read the first few lines and saw what was coming, it made me stop and tremble. At first I could have cried over it for vexation; but, now I have thought about it a little, I really do not see any reason to be discouraged. At any rate, Uncle Robert now knows all about it, and will get used to the idea, and Mary seems to have received you just as you ought to have wished that she should. I am thankful that you have left off pressing me to write to her about you, for I am sure that would not be honorable; and, to reward you, I enclose a letter of hers, which came yesterday. You will see that she speaks with such pleasure of having just caught a glimpse of you that you need not regret the shortness of the interview. You could not expect her to say more, because, after all, she can only guess; and I cannot do more than answer as if I were quite innocent too. I am sure you will be very thankful to me some day for not having been your mouthpiece, as I was so very near being. You need not return the letter. I suppose I am getting more hopeful as I grow older-indeed, I am sure I am; for three or four years ago I should have been in despair about you, and now I am nearly sure that all will come right."

"But, indeed, cousin Tom, you cannot, or ought not to wonder at Uncle Robert's objecting to your opinions. And then I am so surprised to find you saying that you think you may very likely change them. Because, if that is the case, it would be so much better if you would not write and talk about them. Unless you are quite convinced of such things as you write in that dreadful paper, you really ought not to go on writing them so very much as if you believed them."

"And now I am speaking to you about this, which I have often had on my mind to speak to you about, I must ask you not to send me that Wessex Freeman any more. I am always delighted to hear what you think; and there is a great deal in the articles you mark for me which seems very fine; and I dare say you quite believe it all when you write it. Only I am afraid lest papa or anyone of the servants should open the papers, or get hold of them after I have opened them; for I am sure there are a great many wicked things in the other parts of the paper. So, please do not send it to me, but write and tell me yourself anything that you wish me to know of what you are thinking about and doing. As I did not like to burn the papers, and was afraid to keep them here, I have generally sent them on to your friend Mr. Hardy. He does not know who sends them; and now you might send them yourself straight to him, as I do not know his address in the country. As you are going up again to keep a term, I wish you would talk them over with him, and see what he thinks about them. You will think this very odd of me, but you know you have always said how much you rely on his judgment, and that you have learnt so much from him. So I am sure you would wish to consult him; and, if he thinks that you ought to go on writing, it will be a great help to you to know it."

"I am so very glad to be able to tell you how well Martha is getting on. I have always read to her the extracts from the letters from India which you have sent me, and she is very much obliged to you for sending them. I think there is no doubt that she is, and always has been, attached to poor widow Winburn's son, and, now that he is behaving so well, I can see that it gives her great pleasure to hear about him. Only, I hope he will be able to come back before very long, because she is very much admired, and is likely to have so many chances of settling in life, that it is a great chance whether attachment to him will be strong enough to keep her single if he should be absent for many years."

"Do you know I have a sort of superstition, that your fate hangs upon theirs in some curious manner-the two stories have been so interwoven-and that they will both be settled happily much sooner than we dare to hope even just now."

"Don't think, my dear cousin, that this letter is cold, or that I do not take the very deepest interest in all that concerns you. You and Mary are always in my thoughts, and there is nothing in the world I would not do for you both which I thought would help you. I am sure it would do you harm if I were only a go-between. Papa is much as usual. He gets out a good deal in his chair in the sun this fine weather. He desires me to say how glad he should be if you will come over soon and pay us a visit. I hope you will come very soon."

"Ever believe me, dear Tom,

"Your affectionate cousin,

"KATIE."

"November.

"DEAR TOM,-I hear that what you in England call a mail is to leave camp this evening; so, that you may have no excuse for not writing to me constantly, I am sitting down to spin you such a yarn as I can under the disadvantages circumstances in which this will leave me.

"This time last year, or somewhere thereabouts, I was enjoying academic life with you at Oxford; and now here I am, encamped at some unpronounceable place beyond Umbala. You won't be much the wiser for that. What do you know about Umbala? I didn't myself know that there was such a place till a month ago, when we were ordered to march up here. But one lives and learns. Marching over India has its disagreeables, of which dysentery and dust are about the worst. A lot of our fellows are down with the former; amongst others my captain; so I am in command of the company. If it were not for the glorious privilege of grumbling, I think that we should all own that we liked the life. Moving about, though one does get frozen and broiled regularly once in twenty-four hours, suits me; besides, they talk of matters coming to a crisis, and no end of fighting to be done directly. You'll know more about what's going on from the papers than we do, but here they say the ball may begin any day; so we are making forced marches to be up in time. I wonder how I shall like it. Perhaps, in my next, I may tell you how a bullet sounds when it comes at you. If there is any fighting, I expect our regiment will make their mark. We are in tip-top order; the colonel is a grand fellow, and the regiment feels his hand down to the youngest drummer boy. What a deal of good I will do when I'm a colonel!

"I duly delivered the enclosure in your last to your convict, who is rapidly ascending the ladder of promotion. I am disgusted at this myself, for I have had to give him up, and there never was such a jewel of a servant; but, of course, it's a great thing for him. He is covering sergeant of my company, and the smartest coverer we have, too. I have got a regular broth of a boy, an Irishman, in his place, who leads me a dog of a life. I took him chiefly because he very nearly beat me in a foot-race. Our senior major is a Pat himself, and, it seems, knew something of Larry's powers. So, one day at mess, he offered to back him against anyone in the regiment for 200 yards. My captain took him up and named me, and the race came off next day; and a precious narrow thing it was, but I managed to win by a neck for the honor of the old school. He is a lazy scatter-brained creature, utterly indifferent to fact, and I am obliged to keep the brandy flask under lock and key; but the humour and absolute good-temper of the animal impose upon me, and I really think he is attached to me. So I keep him on, grumbling horribly at the change from that orderly, punctual, clean, accurate convict. Depend upon it, that fellow will do. He makes his way everywhere, with officers and men. He is a gentleman at heart, and, by the way, you would be surprised at the improvement in his manners and speech. There is hardly a taste of Berkshire left in his deealect. He has read all the books I could lend him or borrow for him and is fast picking up Hindustanee. So you see, after all, I am come round to your opinion that we did a good afternoon's work on that precious stormy common when we carried off the convict from the authorities of his native land, and was first under fire. As you are a performer in that line, couldn't you carry off his sweetheart and send her out here? After the sea voyage there isn't much above 1,000 miles to come by dauk; and tell her, with my compliments, he is well worth coming twice the distance for. Poor fellow! It is a bad lookout for him, I'm afraid, as he may not get home this ten years; and, though he isn't a kind to be easily lolled, there are serious odds against him, even if he keeps all right. I almost wish you had never told me his story.

"We are going into cantonments as soon as this expedition is over, in a splendid pig district, and I look forward to some real sport. All the men who have had any tell me it beats the best fox hunt all to fits for excitement. I have got my eye on a famous native horse, who is to be had cheap. The brute is in the habit of kneeling on his masters, and tearing them with his teeth when he gets them off, but nothing can touch him while you keep on his back. 'Howsumdever,' as your countrymen say, I shall have a shy at him, if I ca

n get him at my price.

"I've nothing more to say. There's nobody you knew here, except the convict sergeant, and it is awfully hard to fill a letter home unless you have somebody to talk about. Yes, by the way, there is one little fellow, an ensign, just joined, who says he remembers us at school. He can't be more than eighteen or nineteen, and was an urchin in the lower school, I suppose, when we were leaving. I don't remember his face, but it's a very good one, and he is a bright gentlemanly youngster as you would wish to see. His name is Jones. Do you remember him? He will be a godsend to me. I have him to chum with me on this march.

"Keep up your letters as you love me. You at home little know what it is to enjoy a letter. Never mind what you put in it; anything will do from home, and I've nobody much else to write to me.

"There goes the 'assembly.' Why, I can't think, seeing that we have done our day's march. However, I must turn out and see what's up."

* * * * * * * * * *

"December.

"I have just fallen on this letter, which I had quite forgotten, or, rather, had fancied I had sent off to you three weeks and more ago. My baggage has just come to hand, and the scrawl turned up in my paper cases. Well, I have plenty to tell you now, at any rate, if I have time to tell it. That 'assembly' which stopped me short sounded in consequence of the arrival of one of the commander-in-chief's aides in our camp with the news that the enemy was over the Sutlej. We were to march at once, with two six-pounders and a squadron of cavalry, on a fort occupied by an outlying lot of them which commanded a ford, and was to be taken and destroyed, and the rascals who held it dispersed; after which we were to join the main army. Our colonel had the command, so we were on the route within an hour, leaving a company and the baggage to follow as it could; and from that time to this, forced marching and hard fighting have been the order of the day.

"We drew first blood next morning. The enemy were in some force outside the fort, and showed fight in very rough ground covered with bushes, out of which we had to drive them, which we did after a sharp struggle, and the main body drew off altogether. Then the fort had to be taken. Our two guns worked away at it till dark. In the night two of the gunners, who volunteered for the service, crept close up to the place, and reported that there was nothing to hinder our running right into it. Accordingly the colonel resolved to rush it at daybreak, and my company was told off to lead. The captain being absent, I had to command. I was with the dear old chief the last thing at night, getting his instructions; ten minutes with him before going into action would make a hare fight.

"There was cover to within one hundred and fifty yards of the place; and there I, and poor little Jones; and the men, spent the night in a dry ditch. An hour before daybreak we were on the alert, and served out rations, and then they began playing tricks on one another as if we were out for a junketing. I sat with my watch in my hand, feeling queer, and wondering whether I was a greater coward than the rest. Then came a streak of light. I put up my watch, formed the men; up went a rocket, my signal, and out into the open we went at the double. We hadn't got over a third of the ground when bang went the fort guns, and the grape-shot were whistling about our ears; so I shouted 'Forward!' and away we went as hard as we could go. I was obliged to go ahead, you see, because every man of them knew I had beaten Larry, their best runner, when he had no gun to carry; but I didn't half like it, and should have blessed any hole or bramble which would have sent me over and given them time to catch me. But the ground was provokingly level; and so I was at the first mound and over it several lengths in front of the men, and among a lot of black fellows serving the guns. They came at me like wild cats, and how I got off is a mystery. I parried a cut from one fellow, and dodged a second; a third rushed at my left side. I just caught the flash of his tulwar, and thought it was all up, when he jumped into the air, shot through the heart by Sergeant Winburn; and the next moment Master Larry rushed by me and plunged his bayonet into my friend in front. It turned me as sick as a dog. I can't fancy anything more disagreeable than seeing the operation for the first time, except being struck oneself. The supporting companies were in in another minute, with the dear old chief himself, who came up and shook hands with me, and said I had done credit to the regiment. Then I began to look about, and missed poor little Jones. We found him about twenty yards from the place with two grape-shot through him, stone dead, and smiling like a child asleep. We buried him in the fort. I cut off some of his hair, and sent it home to his mother. Her last letter was in his breast pocket, and a lock of bright brown hair of some one's. I sent them back, too, and his sword.

"Since then we have been with the army, and had three or four general actions; about which I can tell you nothing, except that we have lost about the third of the regiment, and have always been told we have won. Steps go fast enough; my captain died of wounds and dysentery a week ago; so I have the company in earnest. How long I shall hold it, is another question; for, though there's a slack, we haven't done with sharp work yet, I can see.

"How often we've talked, years ago, of what it must feel like going into battle! Well, the chief thing I felt when the grape came down pretty thick for the first time, as we were advancing, was a sort of gripes in the stomach which made me want to go forward stooping. But I didn't give in to it; the chief was riding close behind us, joking the youngsters who were ducking their heads, and so cheery and cool, that he made old soldiers of us at once. What with smoke, and dust, and excitement, you know scarcely anything of what is going on. The finest sight I have seen is the artillery going into action. Nothing stops those fellows. Places you would crane at out hunting they go right over, guns, carriages, men, and all, leaving any cavalry we've got out here well behind. Do you know what a nullah is? Well, it's a great gap, like a huge dry canal, fifteen or twenty feet deep. We were halted behind one in the last great fight, awaiting the order to advance, when a battery came up at full gallop. We all made sure they must be pulled up the nullah. They never pulled bridle. 'Leading gun, right turn!' sang out the subaltern; and down they went sideways into the nullah. Then, 'Left turn;' up the other bank, one gun after another, the horses scrambling like cats up and down places that my men had to use their hands to scramble up, and away on the other side to within 200 yards of the enemy; and then, round like lightning, and look out in front.

"Altogether, it's sickening work, though there's a grand sort of feeling of carrying your life in your hand. They say the Sepoy regiments have behaved shamefully. There is no sign of anything like funk among our fellows that I have seen. Sergeant Winburn has distinguished himself everywhere. He is like my shadow, and I can see he tries to watch over my precious carcase, and get between me and danger. He would be a deal more missed in the world than I. Except you, old friend, I don't know who would care much if I were knocked over to-morrow. Aunts and cousins are my nearest relations. You know I never was a snuffler; but this sort of life makes one serious, if one has any reverence at all in one. You'll be glad to have this line, if you don't hear from me again. I've often thought in the last month that we shall never see one another again in this world. But, whether in this world or any other, you know I am and always shall be,

"Your affectionate friend,

"H. EAST."

CAMP OF THE SUTLEJ, January.

"DEAR MASTER TOM;-The captain's last words was, if anything happened I was to be sure to write and tell you. And so I take up my pen, though you will know as I am not used to writing, to tell you the misfortune as has happened to our regiment. Because, if you was to ask any man in our regiment, let it be who it would, he would say as the captain was the best officer as ever led men. Not but what there's a many of them as will go to the front as brave as lions, and don't value shot no more than if it was rotten apples; and men as is men will go after such. But 'tis the captain's manners and ways, with a kind word for any poor fellow as is hurt, or sick and tired, and making no account of hisself, and, as you may say, no bounce with him; that's what makes the difference.

"As it might be last Saturday, we came upon the enemy where he was posted very strong, with guns all along his front, and served till we got right up to them, the runners being cut down and bayoneted when we got right up amongst them, and no quarter given; and there was great banks of earth, too, to clamber over, and more guns behind; so, with the marching up in front and losing so many officers and men, our regiment was that wild when we got amongst them, that 'twas awful to see, and, if there was any prisoners taken, it was more by mistake than not.

"Me and three or four more settled, when the word came to prepare for action, to keep with the captain, because 'twas known to everyone as no odds would stop him, and he would never mind hisself. The dust and smoke and noise was that thick you couldn't see nor hear anything after our regiment was in action; but, so far as I seen, when we was wheeled into line and got the word to advance, there was as it might be as far as from our old cottage to the Hawk's Lynch to go over before we got to the guns which was playing into us all the way. Our line went up very steady, only where men was knocked down; and, when we came to within a matter of sixty yards, the officers jumped out and waved their swords, for 'twas no use to give words, and the ranks was broken by reason of the running up to take the guns from the enemy. Me and the rest went after the captain; but he, being so light of foot, was first by maybe ten yards or so, at the mound, and so up before we was by him. But, though they was all round him like bees when we got to him, 'twas not then as he was hit. There was more guns further on, and we and they drove on all together; and, though they was beaten, being fine tall men and desperate, there was many of them fighting hard, and, as you might say, a man scarcely knowed how he got hit. I kept to the captain as close as ever I could, but there was times when I had to mind myself. Just as we came to the last gun's, Larry, that's the captain's servant, was trying by hisself to turn one of them round, so as to fire on the enemy as they took the river to the back of their lines all in a huddle. So I turned to lend him a hand; and, when I looked round next moment, there was the captain a-staggering like a drunken man, and he so strong and lissom up to then, and never had a scratch since the war begun, and this the last minute of it pretty nigh, for the enemy was all cut to pieces and drowned that day. I got to him before he fell, and we laid him down gently, and did the best we could for him. But he was bleeding dreadful with a great gash in his side, and his arm broke, and two gunshot wounds. Our surgeon was killed, and 'twas hours before his wounds was dressed, and 'twill be God's mercy if ever he gets round; though they do say if the fever and dysentery keeps off, and he can get out of this country and home, there's no knowing but that he may get the better of it all, but not to serve with the regiment again for years to come.

"I hope, Master Tom, as I've told you all the captain would like as you should know; only, being not much used to writing, I hope you will excuse mistakes. And, if so be that it won't be too much troubling of you, and the captain should go home, and you could write to say as things was going on at home as before, which the captain always gave to me to read when the mail come in, it would be a great help towards keeping up a good heart and in a foreign land, which is hard at times to do. There is some things which I make bold to send by a comrade going home sick. I don't know as they will seem much, but I hope as you will accept of the sword, which belonged to one of her officers, and the rest to her. Also, on account of what was in the last piece as you forwarded, I send a letter to go along with the things, if Miss Winter, who have been so kind, or you would deliver the same. To whom I make bold to send my respects as well as to yourself, and hoping this will find you well and all friends.

"From your respectful,

"HENRY WINBURN,

"Colour-sergeant. 101st Regiment."

"March.

"My DEAR TOM;-I begin to think I may see you again yet, but it has been a near shave. I hope Sergeant Winburn's letter, and the returns, in which I see I was put down "dangerously wounded," will not have frightened you very much. The war is over; and, if I live to get down to Calcutta you will see me in the summer, please God. The end was like the beginning-going right up to the guns. Our regiment is frightfully cut up; there are only 300 men left under arms-the rest dead or in hospital. I am sick at heart at it, and weak in body, and can only write a few lines at a time, but will get on with this as I can, in time for next mail.

* * * * *

"Since beginning this letter I have had another relapse. So, in case I should never finish it, I will say at once what I most want to say. Winburn has saved my life more than once, and is besides one of the noblest and bravest fellows in the world; so I mean to provide for him in case anything should happen to me. I have made a will, and appointed you my executor, and left him a legacy. You must buy his discharge, and get him home and married to the Englebourn beauty as soon as possible. But what I want you to understand is, that if the legacy isn't enough to do this, and make all straight with her old curmudgeon of a father, it is my first wish that whatever will do it should be made up to him. He has been in hospital with a bad flesh wound, and has let out to me the whole of his story, of which you had only given me the heads. If that young women does not wait for him, and book him, I shall give up all faith in petticoats. Now that's done I feel more at ease.

"Let me see. I haven't written for six weeks and more, just before our last great fight. You'll know all about it from the papers long before you get this-a bloody business; I am loath to think of it. I was knocked over in the last of their entrenchments, and should then and there have bled to death had it not been for Winburn. He never left me, though the killing, and plundering, and roystering afterwards was going on all around, and strong temptation to a fellow when his blood is up, and he sees his comrades at it, after such work as we have had. What's more he caught my Irish fellow and made him stay by me too, and between them they managed to prop me up and stop the bleeding, though it was touch and go. I never thought they would manage it. You can't think what a curious feeling it is, the life going out of you. I was perfectly conscious, and knew all they were doing and saying, and thought quite clearly, though in a sort of dreamy way, about you, and a whole jumble of people and things at home. It was the most curious painless mixture of dream and life, getting more dreamy every minute. I don't suppose I could have opened my eyes or spoken; at any rate I had no wish to do so, and didn't try. Several times the thought of death came close to me; and, whether it was the odd state I was in, or what else I don't know, but the only feeling I had, was one of intense curiosity. I should think I must have lain there, with Winburn supporting my head, and moistening my lips with rum-and-water, for four or five hours, before a doctor could be got. He had managed to drive Larry about till he had found, or borrowed, or stolen the drink, and then kept him making short cruises in search of help in the shape of hospital-staff, ambulances, or doctors, from which Master Larry always came back without the slightest success. My belief is, he employed those precious minutes, when he was from under his sergeant's eye, in looting. At last, Winburn got impatient, and I heard him telling Larry what he was to do while he was gone himself to find a doctor; and then I was moved as gently as if I had been a sick girl. I heard him go off with a limp, but did not know till long after of his wound.

"Larry had made such a wailing and to-do when they first found me, that a natural reaction now set in, and he began gently and tenderly to run over in his mind what could be made out of 'the captin,' and what would become of his things. I found out this, partly through his habit of talking to himself, and partly from the precaution which he took of ascertaining where my watch and purse were, and what else I had upon me. It tickled me immensely to hear him. Presently I found he was examining my boots, which he pronounced 'iligant entirely,' and wondered whether he could get them on. The 'serjint' would never want them. And he then proceeded to assert, while he actually began unlacing them, that the 'captin' would never have 'bet him' but for the boots which 'was worth ten feet in a furlong to any man.' 'Shure, 'tis too late now; but wouldn't I like to run him agin with bare feet?' I couldn't stand that, and just opened my eyes a little, and moved my hand, and said, 'Done.' I wanted to add, 'you rascal,' but that was too much for me. Larry's face of horror, which I just caught through my half-opened eyes, would have made me roar, if I had had strength for it. I believe the resolution I made that he should never go about in my boots helped to pull me through; but, as soon as Winburn came back with the doctor, Master Larry departed, and I much doubt whether I shall ever set eyes on him again in the flesh. Not if he can help it, certainly. The regiment, what's left of it, is away in the Punjaub, and he with it. Winburn, as I told you, is hard hit, but no danger. I have great hopes that he will be invalided. You may depend upon it he will escort me home, if any interest of mine can manage it; and the dear old chief is so kind to me that I think he will arrange it somehow.

"I must be wonderfully better to have spun such a yarn. Writing those first ten lines nearly finished me, a week ago, and now I am scarcely tired after all this scrawl. If that rascal, Larry, escapes hanging another year, and comes back home, I will run him yet, and thrash his head off.

"There is something marvelously life-giving in the idea of sailing for old England again; and I mean to make a strong fight for seeing you again, old boy. God bless you. Write again for the chance, directing to my agents at Calcutta as before.

"Ever your half-alive, but whole-hearted and affectionate friend,

"H. EAST"

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