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my father. He had two children,—myself, and my sister Annie, who was a year younger than I was; and as we lost our mother while very young, we were thrown on each other almost entirely for company; and I loved her more than brothers often do their sisters, I think, for I was so fond of her it seemed just like selfishness. You see, we were never separated. I have not got a single childish reminiscence unconnected with my sister. The bond between us got no weaker as we imperceptibly grew up, and we took—I to the farming, she to the dairy and general housekeeping. Of course, when I was about twenty, I had a sweetheart; but that made no difference, for Annie was fond of her too, and liked to hear me talk about her. She had no lover of her own; for though many young farmers in the neighbourhood tried to make up to her, she did not think them good enough; and the only young fellow who seemed to hit her fancy was a Mr. Ashley, a friend of our landlord's, who used to come down into those parts for the shooting. He was a boy of about fifteen when I first remember seeing him, and then he came to our house to lunch, and my father went with him over the farm to show him where the game lay. He returned every year after this, and always called on us when he shot over that part of the estate, and seemed very fond of chatting with Annie. I did not quite like it: he was so polite and attentive, and she seemed so taken with him; but I could not say any thing, as he was quite respectful, and my father did not see any harm. And yet I began to hate the sight of the gentleman.
When I was twenty-two, my father died, and I took on the farm, Annie keeping house for me till I should be married, which was not to be for a couple of years, my sweetheart being a good deal younger than I was, and her parents not wishing her to marry until I had proved that I could manage the farm. I was content to wait, with a sister I was so fond of to make a home for me; and after we had recovered from the shock of our father's death, all went on happily enough till the shooting season came round, and with it Mr. Ashley, who was now always beating over our farm, and whom I suspected of prowling about the house while I was away; for Annie became nervous and absent, and often had a forced manner about her when I came in of an evening. At the end of October, however, be left the county, and during the following winter I forgot all about him, and was happy. Ah! that was the last bappy—I have had plenty of merry ones—the last happy Christmas I have ever spent.
One afternoon in the following May, I had started off on horseback for the town, intending to spend the evening with the family of the girl I was courting; but happening to meet a neighbouring farmer, who wanted to see some very fine barley I had for seed, I rode back for a sample of it. The house was, as I said, an old-fashioned building, surrounded by a moat, and was situated at some little distance from the farm-yard, from which it was hidden by a copse, so that my return to the stables was unnoticed. Being in a hurry, I did not call for any one to hold my horse, but dismounted, threw my reins on to a hook in the stable-wall, and
walked up to the house. As I passed the bridge crossing the moat, I saw a woman's dress through the shrubbery of the little garden, and, looking after it, perceived that it was my sister, walking with a man. Thinking that perhaps some one had called whom I might wish to see, I struck into the same path, and soon came up with them. Annie's companion was sauntering along with his arm round her waist, his head bent over her, talking low; in another moment they stopped, and their lips met. At the sound of my footsteps they sprang asunder, and I was face to face with Mr. Ashley. He was rather disconcerted at first, but soon recovered himself, and said, “Ah! how are you? You did not expect to see me, eh? I am staying in this neighbourhood, and thought I would just look you up. How are the young birds getting on ?”
“Annie !” said I," you had better go in;" and she went towards the house, her face hidden in her hands, taking no notice of Ashley, who called after her, “Don't go, Annie; what right has your brother over you? Do you know,” he added to me, as she disappeared, “ your manner is very offensive ?”
“One word,” I answered. “Are you here as my sister's accepted lover ?” :
“ That is rather a delicate question;" and he shrugged his shoulders.
“Come, no evasion,” said I. “Are you going to take my sister for your lawful wife 2-yes, or no."
He looked me full in the face, and burst into a sneering laugh, which made my temples throb again with passion, as he replied, “ Well, upon my word; I have heard that you and your family thought no small beer of yourselves; but I did not think you would carry conceit so far as that, either !"
“Come, hands off !”—I had seized him by the collar. 2“ It is a mere question of damages; how much—"
He did not complete the sentence; for, unable to contain myself any longer, I struck him with the hunting-whip I held in my hand, doublethonged. Do you think, sir, that a man in a very violent rage is possessed with a devil ? I have often fancied that I was at that time; my eyes swam, my brain reeled, my right arm seemed somehow to swing independently of my will as I went on flogging him. He swore, threatened, entreated, grovelled before me,-oh, how delicious that was !and still I lashed on, till his clothes were cut to ribbons. Once, in the strength of his pain, he tore hiinself from my grasp, and sprang at me; but I knocked him down with my fist, and he lay faint and motionless. Then a feeling of shame came over me at beating one who was helpless in my hands so mercilessly; and I threw cold water over his face, helped him to his dogcart, which was waiting for him in a lane skirting the farm, and slunk home like a criminal. There was one comfort,—such a thrashing would probably keep the young puppy off for the future; but still, I need not have gone so far.
When I reached the house, I found Annie in hysterics-crying, very low. I did what I could to rouse her, and showed her that Ashley was a rascal, whom she was not to think about any more; but that only made her worse, so I left her alone, thinking she would come round in a day or two. But time passed, and her melancholy increased. It is a dreadful thing, sir, to see the face of one you love getting thin and pale and pareworn, and not to know what to do to help her; for I could not understand it. That she should have taken a fancy to this fellow was perhaps. natural, “but that she should not have spirit enough to fight against a love which was an insult to her pride, was what I could not imagine.
I never guessed the truth till it was thrust upon me. You will understand what I mean when I say that, had I known it a couple of months earlier, I should not have horsewhipped Ashley, I should have cut his throat. • I was nearly mad with shame and wounded pride. Stopping in the old farm was out of the question; to meet any of those people over whom we had held ourselves so high, would have been insufferable torture. I never again communicated with one of them, except the girl I was engaged to, and I wrote her a farewell letter, lest the breaking-off of the match should come from her side, and not from mine. Perhaps I was hasty; perhaps she would have married me, in spite of all, and I have sacrificed my life to Pride. Well, if so, I am not the first who has done that, and shall not, I reckon, be the last.
I took my sister away to London, by night, and settling in a small lodging there, proceeded to dispose by agent of the remainder of my lease, together with the stock, &c. of the farm; and this brought us enough to live on for the present. Though I did not desert my sister, I fear that my manner towards her was cold and harsh, especially when I was half drunk, which was often the case now; for I found that spirits made me feel as if I did not care; and on one occasion, when she lost her baby, I told her-God forgive me !—that it was a good job. She never forgave me for that, and one day she answered me back when I spoke crossly to her, and I saw that she had discovered and bad recourse to my remedy for the blue-devils. After this, we had several quarrels, and—enough, enough—she grew weary, and left me. Utterly unsettled and reckless, I too went to the bad, and, when all my money was drunk out, enlisted. Being a smart young fellow, and pretty well educated, I soon got made lance-corporal, corporal, lance-sergeant, sergeant; for though I never lost the propensity for drink which I got while in London, I was not so infatuated as to be unable to restrain my appetite when it could not be indulged with safety. For the rest, a soldier's life suited me well enough, though it was not so stirring at that time as I should have liked; still, there was a good deal of change of scene, moving about as we did from place to place, and country to country; and as time went on I thought less of what had passed, until the year 18—, when we were ordered out to
Canada, and my captain, who had been living beyond his means, exchanged into a regiment going to India.
We were on parade at Plymouth, and I had just finished calling over the names of my company, when my new captain came up, and I faced and saluted him. It was Ashley! He turned deadly pale on recognising me, and an expression of intense hate passed over his eyes and mouth; but he soon recovered himself, and neither then nor afterwards, with the exception of one occasion, did he ever utter a word of reference to the past.
But after a few weeks had passed, I saw that he was spiting me; for though I had hitherto got on well enough under an officer who saw that I knew my duty, and did it well as a whole, still a man given to pleasure and jollity as I was could not avoid a few slips, and of these my new captain took advantage with devilish ingenuity; so that I, who until now had borne as good a character as any non-commissioned officer in the regiment, was always in hot water, and began to be looked upon as a man who was going wrong. This was the more marked, because a sergeant in my company, named Smith, who had struck up a great friendship with me, who shared all my scrapes, and led me into the most serious of them, was a special favourite of Captain Ashley's, and never came in for a reprimand. It was safe to be a losing game for the inferior, this match between master and man; but still it was upwards of a year before I made a fatal error.
It was one night in Halifax, when the weather was very cold, the fire bright, the grog hot, good, and plenty of it, the company jolly, and no prospect of duty, that I forgot my usual caution, and got regularly drunk. The news was taken to my enemy, who did not let such an opportunity slip. On some pretext, he sent for me to the mess-room, where the colonel and all the officers were assembled after dinner ; and the night-air made me so helpless, that I disgraced myself, got put under arrest, tried by court-martial, and reduced to the ranks. I was now delivered over, bound hand and foot, as it were, to my enemy; for Sergeant Smith, who had before appeared to be my friend, turned openly against me, and played into his officer's hands; and you may imagine what chance a private has with his sergeant and captain plotting his ruin. Why, if I had been white, they would have found some way of painting me black; but white was not my colour, and it got less so than ever now that I grew reckless, and indulged myself in drink whenever I could get the opportunity, so that my name was perpetually in the defaulters' book; and when I was had up in the orderly-room before the colonel, the sergeant-major introduced me with, “Brown again, sir!" and the good old colonel used to sbake his head and say, “Ah, drink, drink, that bane of the British soldier !" mistaking an effect for a cause. Not but what he was right enough in the main: English soldiers have perhaps a greater tendency to get drunk than any other class of men, except sailors, and this must be so as long as the natural reaction towards license from strict discipline is sharpened and directed by the craving in the stomach caused by insufficient food. If you were to go round a barrack-room at the dinnerhour, sir, you would see set out for each man a mess of weak broth, with a few potatoes, and a bit of sodden meat about the size of your thumb in it,-a better dinner than many a poor fellow who has been driven to enlist by want has been used to, it is true, but still not enough to silence a voice inside him which keeps calling out “Give, give;" for military exercises, taking place in the open air, and expressly calculated to bring all the muscles into healthy play, have a wonderful effect upon the appetite, I assure you. Suppose, sir, a party of gentlemen, dining together, were told, when they had done their soup and fish, that there was nothing else coming, they would find an extra glass of sherry very comforting, and yet they have probably had a good meat lunch or breakfast, perhaps both. I say this, however, for others, not for myself, who took my dram for mental, not physical relief.
There was a man in our regiment named Harrison, a wild, devil-maycare sort of fellow, but shrewd and well-educated, for he had been a medical student at one time; and as he and I were of a better class, and had more conversation than others, we were a good deal together. This man asked me to take a walk with him one afternoon, and when we were quite alone, turned round upon me, and said abruptly, “Brown, what have you done to Captain Ashley ?"
“What do you mean ?" I asked.
“Well, you know that I acted as his servant last week, while Jones was in hospital. On Saturday afternoon, when the captain was out, I went up to his barrack-room to see if he wanted any thing.".
“ While he was out ?"
“Hum! I also thought I might see if there was a spare drop of any thing to be got at easy, and while I was looking in the cupboard I heard footsteps outside the door, and had just time to slip into the bedroom, when Captain Ashley and Sergeant Smith entered, and began talking about you. I did not catch all that was said, but I heard the captain say this distinctly, “Well, then, Smith, it is agreed; you shall have a hundred pounds down on the day Brown is seized up at the triangles.' And soon after they went away, without discovering me. Now, I ask, what have you done to him ?”
“I had a quarrel with him, years ago, before I enlisted, and I gave him a thrashing," I replied.
“Whew! He has made up his mind to have his revenge, and he will, too, if you don't take care; what do you intend to do ?”
“I don't know; take my chance, I suppose.” “Better take a trip to the States." “I have thought of that, too, only I hate deserting my colours." “Nonsense! I am going, and want a companion. Come with me."
We were quartered just then within a hundred miles of the boundary between Canada and the United States, and desertions were frequent, and generally successful. The temptation was great, and I soon made up my