My narrative must now go a little way back in time, and a long way from the region of heather and snow, to India in the year of the mutiny. The regiment in which Francis Gordon served, his father's old regiment, had lain for months besieged in a well-known city by the native troops, and had begun to know what privation meant, its suffering aggravated by that of not a few women and children. With the other portions of the Company's army there shut up, it had behaved admirably. Danger and sickness, wounds and fatigue, hunger and death, had brought out the best that was in the worst of them: when their country knew how they had fought and endured, she was proud of them. Had their enemies, however, been naked Zulus, they would have taken the place within a week.

Francis Gordon had done his part, and well.

It would be difficult to analyze the effect of the punishment Kirsty had given him, but its influence was upon him through the whole of the terrible time — none the less beneficent that his response to her stinging blows was indignant rage. I dare hardly speculate what, had she not defended herself so that he could not reach her, he might not have done in the first instinctive motions of natural fury. It is 208 possible that only Kirsty's skill and courage saved him from what he would never have surmounted the shame of taking revenge on a woman avenging a woman's wrong: from having deserved to be struck by a woman, nothing but repentant shame could save him.

When he came to himself, the first bitterness of the thing over, he could not avoid the conviction, that the playmate of his childhood, whom once he loved best in the world, and who when a girl refused to marry him, had come to despise him, and that righteously. The idea took a firm hold on him, and became his most frequently recurrent thought. The wale of Kirsty's whip served to recall it a good many nights; and long after that had ceased to either smart or show, the thought would return of itself in the night-watches, and was certain to come when he had done anything his conscience called wrong, or his judgment foolish.

The officers of his mess were mostly men of character with ideas better at least than ordinary as to what became a man; and their influence on one by no means of a low, though of an unstable nature, was elevating. It is true that a change into a regiment of jolly, good-mannered, unprincipled men, would within a month have brought him to do as they did; and in another month would have quite silenced, for a time at least, his poor little conscience; but he was at present rising. Events had been in his favor; after reaching India, he had no time to be idle; the mutiny broke out, he must bestir himself, and, as I have said, the best in him was called to the front.


He was especially capable of action with show in it. Let the eyes be bent upon him, and he would go far. The presence of his kind to see and laud was an inspiration to him. Left to act for himself, undirected and unseen, his courage would not have proved of the highest order. Throughout the siege, nevertheless, he was noted for a daring that often left the bounds of prudence far behind. More than once he was wounded -- once seriously; but even then he was in four days again at his post. His genial manners, friendly carriage, and gay endurance, rendered him a favorite with all.

The sufferings of the besieged at length grew such, and there was so little likelihood of the approaching army being able for some time to relieve the place, that orders were issued by the commander-in-chief to abandon it: every British person must be out of the city before the night of the day following. The general in charge thereupon resolved to take advantage of the very bad watch kept by the enemy, and steal away in silence the same night. The order was given to the companies, to each man individually, to prepare for the perilous attempt, but to keep it absolutely secret save from those who were to accompany them; and so cautious was the little English colony as well as the garrison, that not a rumor of the intending evacuation reached the besiegers, while, throughout the lines and in the cantonments, it was thoroughly understood that, at a certain hour of the night, without call of bugle or beat of drum, every one should be ready to march. Ten minutes after that hour the garrison was in motion. With difficulty, yet with sufficing silence, 210 the gates were passed, and the abandonment effected.

The first shot of the enemy's morning salutation, earlier than usual, went tearing through a bungalow within whose shattered walls lay Francis Gordon. In a dining-room, whose balcony and window-frame had been smashed the day before, he still slumbered wearily, when close past his head rushed the eighteen-pounder with its infernal scream. He started up, to find the blood flowing from a splinter wound on his temple and cheek-bone. A second shot struck the foot of his long chair. He sprang from it, and hurried into his coat and waistcoat.

How was all so still inside? Not one gun answered! Firing at such an hour, he thought, the rebels must have got wind of their intended evacuation. It was too late for that, but why did not the garrison reply? Between the shots he seemed to hear the universal silence. Heavens! were their guns already spiked? If so, all was lost! It was daylight! He had overslept himself! He ought to have been with his men — how long ago he could not tell, for the first shot had taken his watch. A third came and broke his sword, carrying the hilt of it through the wall on which it hung. Not a sound, not a murmur reached him from the fortifications. Could the garrison be gone? Was the hour past? Had no one missed him? Certainly no one had called him! He rushed into the compound. Not a creature was there! He was alone — one English officer amid a revolted army of hating Indians!

They did not yet know that their prey had slid from their grasp, for they were going on with their 211 usual gun-reveillé, instead of rushing on flank and rear of the retreating column! He might yet elude them and overtake the garrison! Half-dazed, he hurried for the gate by which they were to leave the city. Not a live thing save two starved dogs did he meet on his way. One of them ran from him; the other would have followed him, but a ball struck the ground beween them, raising a cloud of dust, and he saw no more of the dog.

He found the gate open, and not one of the enemy in sight. Tokens of the retreat were plentiful, making the track he had to follow plain enough.

Now an enemy he had never encountered before — a sense of loneliness and desertion and helplessness, rising to utter desolation, all at once assailed him. He had never in his life congratulated himself on being alone — not that he loved his neighbor, but that he loved his neighbor's company, making him less aware of an uneasy self. Now first he realized that he had seen his sword hilt go off with a round shot, and had not caught up his revolver that he was, in fact, absolutely unarmed.

He quickened his pace to overtake his comrades. On and on he trudged through nothing but rice-fields, the day growing hotter and hotter, and his sense of desolation increasing. Two or three natives passed him, who looked at him, he thought, with sinister eyes. He had eaten no breakfast, and was not likely to have any lunch. He grew sick and faint, but there was no refuge: he must walk, walk until he fell and could walk no more! With the heat and his exertion, his hardly healed wound began to assert itself; and by and by he felt so ill, that he 212 turned off the road, and lay down. While he lay, the eyes of his mind began to open to the fact that the courage he had hitherto been so eager to show, could hardly have been of the right sort, seeing it was gone — evaporated clean.

He rose and resumed his walk, but at every smallest sound started in fear of a lurking foe. With vainest regret he remembered the long-bladed dagger-knife he had when a boy carried always in his pocket. It was exhaustion and illness, true, that destroyed his courage, but none the less was he a man of fear, none the less he felt himself a coward. Again he got into a damp brake and lay down, in a minute or two again got up and went on, his fear growing until, mainly through consciousness of itself, it ripened into abject terror. Loneliness seemed to have taken the shape of a watching omnipresent enemy, out of whose diffusion death might at any moment break in some hideous form.

It was getting toward night when at length he saw just ahead of him, and soon after, he described the straggling rear of the retreating English. Before he reached it a portion had halted for a little rest, and he was glad to lie down in a rough cart. Long before the morning the cart was on its way again, Gordon in it, raving with fever, and unable to tell who he was. He was soon in friendly shelter, however, under skilful treatment, and tenderly nursed.

When at length he seemed to have almost recovered his health, it was clear that he had in great measure lost his reason.

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