^MVell," said I, ^Miere has been rather a poor piece of
business, which I daresay you can have no pleasure in call-
ing to mind ; and, to say truth, I would as readily forget
it myself. Suppose we try. Take back your pistol, which
smells very ill ; put it in your pocket or wherever you had
it concealed. There ! Now let us meet for the first time. â
I FOLLOW A COVERED CART 129
Give you good morning, Mr. Fenn ! I hope you do very
well. I come on the recommendation of my kinsman, the
Vicomte de St. Yves.''
"Do you mean it ?'' he cried. "Do you mean you will
pass over our little scrimmage ? "
" Why, certainly ! " said I. "It shows you are a bold
fellow, who may be trusted to forget the business when it
comes to the point. There is nothing against you in the
little scrimmage, unless that your courage is greater than
your strength. You are not so young as you once were,
that is all."
" And I beg of you, sir, don't betray me to the Vis-
count," he pleaded. "Til not deny but what my 'eart
failed me a trifle ; but it was only a word, sir, what any-
body might have said in the 'eat of the moment, and over
" Certainly," said I. " That is quite my own opinion."
" The way I came to be anxious about the V^is-count,"
he continued, " is that I believe he might be induced to
form an 'asty judgment. And the business, in a pecuniary
point of view, is all that I could ask ; only trying, sir â
very trying. It's making an old man of me before my time.
You might have observed yourself, sir, that I 'aven't got
the knees I once 'ad. The knees and the breathing, there's
where it takes me. But I'm very sure, sir, I address a gen-
tleman as would be the last to make trouble between
"I am sure you do me no more than justice," said I ;
'^and I shall think it quite unnecessary to dwell on any of
these passing circumstances in my reiwrt to the Vicomte."
" Which you do favour him (if you'll excuse me being so
bold as to mention it) exac'ly ! " said he. " I should have
known you anywheres. May I offer you a pot of 'ome-
brewed ale, sir ? By your leave ! This way, if you please.
130 ST. IVES
I am 'eartily grateful â 'eartily pleased to be of any service
to a gentleman like you, sir, wliich is related to the Vis-
count, and really a fambly of which you might well be
proud ! Take care of the step, sir. You have good news
of 'is 'ealth, I trust ? as well as that of Monseer the Count ? "
God forgive me ! the horrible fellow was still pufnng and
panting Avith the fury of his assault, and already he had
fallen into an obsequious, wheedling familiarity like that
of an old servant, â already he was flattering me on my fam-
ily connections !
I followed him through the house into the stable-yard,
where I observed the driver washing the cart in a shed.
He must have heard the explosion of the j^istol. He could
not choose but hear it : the thing was shaped like a little
blunderbuss, charged to the mouth, and made a report like
a piece of field artillery. He had heard, he had paid no
attention ; and now, as we came forth by the back door,
he raised for a moment a pale and tell-tale face that was as
direct as a confession. The rascal had expected to see Fenn
come forth alone ; he was waiting to be called on for that
part of sexton, which I had already allotted to him in fancy.
I need not detain the reader very long with any descrip-
tion of my visit to the back-kitchen ; of how we mulled our
ale there, and mulled it very well ; nor of Iioav we sat talk-
ing, Fenn like an old, faithful, affectionate dependant, and
I â well ! I myself fallen into a mere admiration of so much
impudence, that transcended words, and had very soon
conquered animosity. I took a fancy to the man, he was
so vast a humbug. I began to see a kind of beauty in him,
his aploiiib was so majestic. I never knew a rogue to cut
so fat ; his villainy was ample, like his belly, and I could
scarce find it in my heart to hold him responsible for either.
He was good enough to drop into the autobiographical ;
telling me how the farm, in spite of the war and the high
I FOLLOW A COVERED CART 131
prices, had proved a disappointment; how there was ''a
sight of cold, wet land as you come along- the 'igh road " ;
how the winds and rains and the seasons had been misdi-
rected, it seemed ''o' purpose"; how Mrs. Fenn had diedâ
"I lost her coming two year agone; a remarkable fine
woman, my old girl, sir ! if you'll excuse me," he added,
with a burst of humility. In short, he gave me an oppor-
tunity of studying John Bull, as I may say, stuffed nakedâ
his greed, his usuriousness, his hypocrisy, his perfidy of
the back-stairs, all swelled to the superlative â such as was
well worth the little disarray and fluster of our passage in
I MEET TWO OF MY COUNTRYMEN"
As soon as I judged it safe^ and that was not before
Burchell Fenn had talked himself back into his breath and
a complete good humour, I proposed he should introduce
me to the French officers, henceforth to become my fel-
low-passengers. There were two of them, it appeared, and
my heart beat as I approached the door. The specimen
of Perfidious Albion whom I had just been studying gave
me the stronger zest for my fellow-countrymen. I could
have embraced them ; I could have wept on their necks.
And all the time I was going to a disappointment.
It was in a spacious and low room, with an outlook on
the court, that I found them bestowed. In the good days
of that house the apartment had probably served as a li-
brary, for there were traces of shelves along the wainscot.
Four or five mattresses lay on the floor in a corner, with a
frowsy heap of bedding ; near by was a basin and a cube of
soap ; a rude kitchen table and some deal chairs stood to-
gether at the far end ; and the room was illuminated by
no less than four windows, and warmed by a little crazy,
sidelong grate, propped up with bricks in the vent of a
hospitable chimney, in which a pile of coals smoked pro-
digiously and gave out a few starveling flames. An old,
frail, white-haired officer sat in one of the chairs, which
he had drawn close to this apology for a fire. He was
wrapped in a camlet cloak, of which the collar was turned
I MEET TWO OF MY COUNTRYMEN 133
np, his knees touched the bars, his hands were spread in
the very smoke, and yet he shivered for cold. The sec-
ond â a big, florid, fine animal of a man, whose every gest-
ure labelled him the cock of the walk and the admiration
of the ladies â had apparently despaired of the fire, and
now strode up and down, sneezing hard, bitterly blowing
his nose, and proffering a continual stream of bluster, com-
plaint, and barrack-room oaths.
Fenn showed me in, with the brief form of introduction-.
^' Gentlemen all, this here's another fare !" and was gone
again at once. The old man gave me but the one glance
out of lack-lustre eyes ; and even as he looked a shiver
took him as sharp as a hiccough. But the other, who rep-
resented to admiration the j^icture of a Beau in a Catarrh,
stared at me arrogantly.
*' And who are you, sir ?'' he asked.
I made the military salute to my superiors.
" Champdivers, private. Eighth of the Line," said I.
" Pretty business !" said he. *^^ And you are going on
with us ? Three in a cart, and a great trolloping private
at that I And who is to pay for you, my fine fellow ? "
^' If monsieur comes to that," I answered civilly, " who
paid for him ? "
" 0, if you choose to play the wit ! " said he, â and be-
gan to rail at large ujfon his destiny, the weather, the cold,
the danger and the expense of the escape, and above all,
the cooking of the accursed English. It seemed to annoy
him particularly that I should have joined their party.
" If you knew what you were doing, thirty thousand mill-
ions of pigs ! you would keep yourself to yourself ! The
horses can't drag the cart; the roads are all ruts and
swamps. No longer ago than last night the Colonel and I
had to march half the wayâ thunder of God !â half the
134 ' ST. IVES
way to the knees in mudâ and I with this infernal cold â
and the danger of detection ! Happily we met no one : a
desert â a real desert â like the whole abominable country !
Nothing to eat â no, sir, there is nothing to eat but raw
cow and greens boiled in water â nor to drink but Worces-
tershire sauce ! Now I, with my catarrh, I have no appe-
tite ; is it not so ? Well, if I were in France, I should have
a good soup with a crust in it, an omelette, a fowl in rice,
a partridge in cabbages â things to tempt me, thunder of
God ! But here â day of God I â what a country ! And
cold, too ! They talk about Russia â this is all the cold I
want! And the people â look at them ! What a race !
Never any handsome men ; never any fine officers ! " â and
he looked down complacently for a moment at his waist â
'' And the women â what faggots ! No, that is one point
clear, I cannot stomach the English ! "
There was something in this man so antipathetic to me,
as sent the mustard into my nose. I can never bear your
bucks and dandies, even when they are decent-looking and
well dressed ; and the Major â for that was his rankâ was
the image of a flunkey in good luck. Even to be in agree-
ment with him, or to seem to be so, was more than I could
make out to endure.
'' You could scarce be expected to stomach them,'^ said
I, civilly, " after having just digested your parole."
He whipped round on his heel and turned on me a coun-
tenance which I daresay he imagined to be awful ; but an-
other fit of sneezing cut him off ere he could come the
length of speech.
'' I have not tried the dish myself," I took the opportu-
nity to add. '^ It is said to be unpalatable. Did monsieur
find it so ?"
With surprising vivacity the Colonel woke from his
lethargy. He was between us ere another word could pass.
I MEET TWO OF MY COUNTRYMEN 135
'' Shame, gentlemen ! " he said. " Is this a time for
Frenchmen and fellow-soldiers to fall out ? We are in the
midst of our enemies ; a quarrel, a loud word, may suffice
to plunge us back into irretrievable distress. Monsieur le
Commandant, you have been gravely offended. I make it
my request, I make it my prayer â if need be, I give you
my orders â that the matter shall stand by until we come
safe to France. Then, if you please, I will serve you in
any capacity. And for you, young man, you have shown
all the cruelty and carelessness of youth. This gentleman
is your superior ; he is no longer young '' â at which word
you are to conceive the Major's face. ^^ It is admitted he
has broken his parole. I know not his reason, and no
more do you. It might be patriotism in this hour of our
country^s adversity, it might be humanity, necessity ; you
know not what in the least, and you permit yourself to re-
flect on his honour. To break parole may be a subject for
pity and not derision. I have broken mine â I, a colonel
of the Empire. And why ? I have been years negotiating
my exchange, and it cannot be managed ; those who have
influence at the Ministry of War continually rush in be-
fore me, and I have to wait, and my daughter at home is
in a decline. I am going to see my daughter at last, and
it is my only concern lest I should have delayed too long.
She is ill, and very ill,â at death's door. Nothing is left
me but my daughter, my Emperor, and my honour ; and
I give my honour, blame me for it who dare ! ''
At this my heart smote me.
" For God's sake," I cried, '' think no more of what I
have said ! A parole ? what is a parole against life and
death and love ? I ask your pardon ; this gentleman's also.
As long as I shall be with you, you shall not have cause to
complain of me again. I pray God you will find your
daughter alive and restored."
136 ST. IVES
" That is past praying for/' said the Colonel ; and im-
mediately the brief lire died out of him, and returning to
the hearth, he relapsed into his former abstraction.
But I was not so easy to compose. The knowledge of
the poor gentleman's trouble and the sight of his face had
filled me with the bitterness of remorse ; and I insisted
upon shaking hands with the Major (which he did with a
very ill grace), and abounded in palinodes and apologies.
*' After all/' said I, " who am I to talk ? I am in the
luck to be a private soldier ; I have no parole to give or to
keep ; once I am over the rampart, I am as free as air. I
beg you to believe that I regret from my soul the use of
these ungenerous expressions. Allow me .... Is there
no way in this damned house to attract attention ? AVhere
is this fellow, Fenn ? "
I ran to one of the windows and threw it open. Fenn,
who was at the moment passing below in the court, cast
up his arms like one in despair, called to me to keep back,
plunged into the house, and appeared next moment in the
doorway of the chamber.
'' 0, sir ! " says he, â¢' keep away from those there w^in-
dows. A body might see you from the back lane."
'^It is registered," said I. '^ Henceforward I will be a
mouse for precaution and a ghost for invisibility. But in
the meantime, for God's sake, fetch us a bottle of brandy !
Your room is as damp as the bottom of a well, and these
gentlemen are perishing of cold."
So soon as I had paid him (for everything, I found, must
be paid in advance), I turned my attention to the fire,
and whether because I threw greater energy into the
business, or because the coals were now warmed and the
time ripe, I soon started a blaze that made the chimney
roar again. The shine of it, in that dark, rainy day,
seemed to reanimate the Colonel like a blink of sun.
I MEET TWO OF MY COUNTRYMEN 137
With the outburst of the flames, besides, a drauglit was
established, which immediately delivered us from the
plague of smoke ; and by the time Fenn returned, carry-
ing a bottle under his arm and a single tumbler in his
hand, there was already an air of gaiety in the room that
did the heart good.
I poured out some of the brandy.
" Colonel,'' said I, " I am a young man and a private
soldier. I have not been long in this room, and already
I have shown the petulance that belongs to the one char-
acter and the ill manners that you may look for in the
other. Have the humanity to pass these slips over, and
honour me so far as to accept this glass."
''My lad," says he, waking up and blinking at me with
an air of suspicion, "are you sure you can afford it ? "
I assured him I could.
''I thank you, then: I am very cold." He took the
glass out, and a little colour came in his face. ''I thank
you again," said he. " It goes to the heart."
The Major, when I motioned him to help himself, did
so with a good deal of liberality ; continued to do so for
tlie rest of the morning, now with some sort of apology,
now with none at all ; and the bottle began to look fool-
ish before dinner was served. It was such a meal as he
had himself predicted : beef, greens, potatoes, mustard in
a teacup, and beer in a brown jug that was all over
hounds, horses, and hunters, Avith a fox at the far end
and a gigantic John Bull â for all tlie world like Fenn â
sitting in the midst in a bob-wig and smoking tobacco.
The beer was a good brew, but not good enough for the
Major ; he laced it with brandy â for his cold, he said ;
and in this curative design the remainder of the bottle
ebbed away. He called my attention repeatedly to the
circumstance ; helped me pointedly to the dregs, threw
138 ST. IVES
the bottle in the air and played tricks with it ; and at last,
having exhausted his ingenuity, and seeing me remain
quite blind to every hint, he ordered and paid for another
As for the Colonel, he ate nothing, sat sunk in a muse,
and only awoke occasionally to a sense of where he was,
and what he was supposed to be doing. On each of these
occasions he showed a gratitude and kind courtesy that
endeared him to me beyond expression. '^ Champdivers,
my lad, your health !" he would say. ^^The Major and
I had a very arduous march last night, and I positively
thought I should have eaten nothing, but your fortu-
nate idea of the brandy has made quite a new man of
me â quite a new man." And he would fall to with a
great air of heartiness, cut himself a mouthful, and before
he had swallowed it, would have forgotten his dinner, his
company, the place where he then was, and the escape he
was engaged on, and become absorbed in the vision of a
sick room and a dying girl in France. The pathos of this
continual preoccupation, in a man so old, sick, and over-
weary, and whom I looked upon as a mere bundle of dying
bones and death-pains, put me wholly from my victuals :
it seemed there was an element of sin, a kind of rude bra-
vado of youth, in the mere relishing of food at the same
table with this tragic father ; and though I was well
enough used to the coarse, plain diet of the English, I ate
scarce more than himself. Dinner was hardly over before
he succumbed to a lethargic sleep ; lying on one of the
mattresses with his limbs relaxed, and his breath seem-
ingly suspended â the very image of dissolution.
This left the Major and myself alone at the table. You
must not suppose onr tete-a-tete was long, but it was a
lively period while it lasted. He drank like a fish or an
Englishman ; shouted, beat the table, roared out songs,
I MEET TWO OF MY COUNTRYMEN l;39
quarrelled^ made it np again, and at last tried to tlirow
the dinner-plates through the window, a feat of which he
was at that time quite incapable. For a party of fugitives,
condemned to the most rigorous discretion, there was
never seen so noisy a carnival ; and through it all the Col-
onel continued to sleep like a child. Seeing the Major
so well advanced, and no retreat possible, I made a fair
wind of a foul one, keeping his glass full, pushing hiiu
Avith toasts ; and sooner than I could have dared to ho2)c,
he became drowsy and incoherent. With the wrong-head-
edness of all such sots, he would not be persuaded to lie
down upon one of the mattresses until I had stretched
myself upon another. But the comedy was soon over ;
soon he slept the sleep of the just, and snored like a mil-
itary music ; and I might get up again and face (as best I
could) the excessive tedium of the afternoon.
I had passed the night before in a good bed ; I was de-
nied the resource of slumber ; and there was nothing
open for me but to pace the apartment, maintain the fire,
and brood on my position. I compared yesterday and to-
day â the safety, comfort, jollity, open-air exercise and
pleasant roadside inns of the one, with the tedium, anx-
iety, and discomfort of the other. I remembered that I
was in the hands of Fenn, who could not be more false
â though he might be more vindictive â than I fancied
him. I looked forward to nights of pitching in the cov-
ered cart, and days of monotony in I knew not what
hiding-places ; and my heart failed me, and I was in two
minds whether to slink off ere it was too late, and return
to my former solitary way of travel. But the Colonel
stood in the path. I had not seen much of him ; but al-
ready I judged him a man of a childlike nature â with that
sort of innocence and courtesy that, I think, is only to be
found in old soldiers or old priests â and broken with years
140 ST. IVES
and sorrow. I could not turn my back on his distress ;
could not leave him alone with the selfish trooper who
snored on the next mattress. '' Ohampdivers, my lad, your
health ! " said a voice in my ear, and stopped me â and
there are few things I am more glad of in the retrospect
than that it did.
It must have been about four in the afternoon â at least
the rain had taken oif, and the sun was setting with some
wintry pomp â when the current of my reflections was ef-
fectually changed by the arrival of two visitors in a gig.
They were farmers of the neighbourhood, I suppose â big,
burly fellows in great-coats and top-boots, mightily flushed
with liquor when they arrived, and before they left, in-
imitably drunk. They stayed long in the kitchen with
Bur(;hell, drinking, shouting, singing, and keeping it up ;
and the sound of tlieir merry minstrelsy kept me a kind of
company. If it was scarce tuneful, it was at least more
so than the bestial snoring of the Major on the mattress.
The night fell, and the shine of the fire brightened and
blinked on the panelled wall. Our illuminated windows
must have been visible not only from the back lane of
which Fenn had spoken, but from the court where the
farmers' gig awaited them. When they should come forth,
they must infallibly perceive the chamber to be tenanted ;
and suppose them to remark upon the circumstance, it be-
came a question whether Fenn was honest enough to wish
to protect us, or would have sense enough left, after his
long potations, to put their inquiries by. In the far end
of the firelit room lay my companions, the one silent, the
other clamorously noisy, the images of death and drunken-
ness. Little wonder if I were tempted to join in the cho-
ruses below, and sometimes could hardly refrain from
laughter, and sometimes, I believe, from tears â so unmiti-
gated was the tedium, so cruel the suspense, of this period.
I MEET TWO OF MY COUNTRYMEN 141
At last, about six at niglit, I should fancy, the noisy
minstrels appeared in the court, headed by Fenn with a
lantern, and knocking together as they came. The vis-
itors clambered noisily into the gig, one of them shook the
reins, and they were snatched out of sight and hearing
with a suddenness that partook of the nature of prodigy.
I am well aware there is a Providence for drunken men,
that holds the reins for them and presides over their trou-
bles ; doubtless he had his work cut out for him with this
particular gigful ! Fenn rescued his toes with an ejacu-
lation from under the departing wheels, and turned at
once with uncertain steps and devious lantern to the far
end of the court. There, through the open doors of a
coach-house, the shock-headed lad was already to be seen
drawing forth the covered cart. If I wished any private
talk with our host, it must be now or never.
Accordingly I groped my way downstairs, and came to
him as he looked on at and lighted the harnessing of the
" The hour approaches when we have to part," said I ;
'' and I shall be obliged if you will tell your servant to
drop me at the nearest point for Dunstable. I am de-
termined to go so far with our friends. Colonel X and
Major Y, but my business is peremptory, and it takes me
to the neighbourhood of Dunstable."
Orders were given, to my satisfaction, with an obsequi-
ousness that seemed only inflamed by his potations.
TRAVELS OF THE COVERED CART
My companions were aroused with diJSicnlty : tlie Colonel,
poor old gentleman, to a sort of permanent dream, in which
you could say of him only that he was very deaf and anx-
iously polite ; the Major still maudlin drunk. We had a
dish of tea by the fireside, and then issued like criminals
into the scathing cold of the night. For the weather had
in the meantime changed. Upon the cessation of the rain,
a strict frost had succeeded. The moon, being young, was
already near the zenith when we started, glittered every-
where on sheets of ice, and sparkled in ten thousand icicles.
A more unpromising night for a journey it was hard to
conceive. But in the course of the afternoon the horses
had been well rouglied ; and King (for such was the name
of the shock-headed lad) was very positive that he could
drive us without misadventure. He was as good as his
word ; indeed, despite a gawky air, he was simply invalu-
able in his present employment, showing marked sagacity
in all that concerned the care of horses, and guiding us by
one short cut after another for days, and without a fault.
The interior of tliat engine of torture, the covered cart,
was fitted with a bench, on which we took our places ; the
door was shut ; in a moment, 4'he night closed upon us
solid and stifling ; and we felt that we were being driven
carefully out of the courtyard. Careful was the word all
night, and it was an alleviation of our miseries that we did
TRAVELS OF THE COVERED CART 143
not often enjoy. In general, as we were driven the ucttcr
part of the night and day, often at a pretty quick pace and
always through a labyrinth of the most infamous country
lanes and by-roads, we were so bruised upon the bench, so
dashed against the top and sides of the cart, that we reached