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A Tale of Waterloo



Author of _Bonnie Prince Charlie_, _With Clive in India_, _The Dragon
and the Raven_, _The Young Carthaginian_, _The Lion of the North_


A.L. Burt Company
Publishers, New York


Although in the present story a boy plays the principal part, and
encounters many adventures by land and sea, a woman is the real
heroine, and the part she played demanded an amount of nerve and
courage fully equal to that necessary for those who take part in
active warfare. Boys are rather apt to think, mistakenly, that their
sex has a monopoly of courage, but I believe that in moments of great
peril women are to the full as brave and as collected as men. Indeed,
my own somewhat extensive experience leads me to go even further, and
to assert that among a civil population, untrained to arms, the
average woman is cooler and more courageous than the average man.
Women are nervous about little matters; they may be frightened at a
mouse or at a spider; but in the presence of real danger, when shells
are bursting in the streets, and rifle bullets flying thickly, I have
seen them standing kitting at their doors and talking to their friends
across the street when not a single man was to be seen.

There is no greater mistake than to think women cowards because they
are sometimes nervous over trifles. Were it necessary, innumerable
cases could be quoted from history to prove that women can, upon
occasion, fight as courageously as men. Cæsar found that the women of
the German tribes could fight bravely side by side with the men, and
the Amazons of the King of Dahomey are more feared by the neighboring
tribes than are his male soldiers. Almost every siege has its female
heroines, and in the Dutch War of Independence the female companies at
Sluys and Haarlem proved themselves a match for the best soldiers of
Spain. Above all, in patient endurance of pain and suffering, women
are immeasurably superior to men. I emphasize this point because I
know that many boys, simply because they are stronger than girls, are
apt to regard them with a sort of contempt, and to fancy themselves
without the least justification, not only stronger but braver and more
courageous - in fact superior beings in every way.



Unexpected News

A Country Visit

Run Down

The Privateer's Rendezvous

The British Cruisers

Home Again

A Commission

Startling News

Mr. Tallboys' Visitor

On Detachment


The Cave Among the Rocks

More Startling News

The New Housemaid

In Belgium

Found at Last

Quatre Bras


The Rout



"I have written to ask Ralph Conway to come and stay for a time with
me." The announcement was a simple one, but it fell like a bombshell
in the midst of the party at breakfast at Penfold Hall. The party
consisted only of the speaker, Herbert Penfold, and his two sisters.
The latter both exclaimed "Herbert!" in a tone of shocked surprise.
Mr. Penfold was evidently prepared for disapprobation; he had spoken
in a somewhat nervous tone, but with a decision quite unusual to him.
He had finished his last piece of toast and emptied his last cup of
tea before making the announcement, and he now pushed back his chair,
rose to his feet, and said: "Yes; I have been thinking of having him
here for some time, and I suppose that as master of this house I am at
liberty to ask whom I like; at any rate I would rather have no
discussion on the subject."

So saying, without giving his sisters time to reply, he walked hastily
to the door and went out. Miss Penfold and Miss Eleanor Penfold gazed
at each other in speechless astonishment. So accustomed were they to
settle everything that took place at Penfold Hall, that this sudden
assumption of authority on the part of their brother fairly staggered
them. Miss Penfold was the first to speak:

"This is terrible, Eleanor! To think that after all these years
Herbert's thoughts should still be turning toward that woman. But it
is only what might be expected. The ingratitude of men is terrible.
Here we have for the last twenty years been devoting our lives to
him - not only keeping his house for him, but seeing that he did not
fall a victim to any of the designing women who would have insinuated
themselves into his good graces, and preventing him from indulging in
all sorts of foolish tastes and bringing himself to ruin; and now you
see he turns again to that artful woman, and, without saying a word to
us, invites her son to come here. It is monstrous, sister!"

"It is monstrous," Miss Eleanor Penfold repeated, with tears in her
eyes. "It is like flying in the face of Providence, sister."

"It is flying in our faces," Miss Penfold replied sharply; "and just
at the present moment that is of more importance. To think that that
man must have been brooding over this, and making up his mind to act
in this way for weeks perhaps, and never to say a word to us upon the
subject. I wonder he didn't ask the woman herself down!"

"He never could have done such a shameless thing, Charlotte," her
sister said much shocked. "Of course, we must have left the house

"I should not have left the house," Miss Penfold said firmly. "If the
woman comes - and now he has asked the boy it is quite possible that he
may ask the mother - our duty will be to remain here. You know we have
been uneasy ever since her husband died. Herbert's infatuation
concerning her has been pitiable, and we have always believed it has
been that alone which has caused him to refuse so obstinately to enter
into our plans, or to pay even decent courtesy to the various
excellent young women we have from time to time asked down here, and
who were in every way suitable for the position of mistress of this
house - women full of sense, and who, with right guidance, would have
made him perfectly happy. And now he flies in our faces and asks the
boy down. I have had an idea for some little time that he has had
something on his mind; he has been more nervous and fidgety than
usual, and several times he has seemed to be on the point of saying
something, and then changed his mind. Of course, one can understand it
all now. No wonder he was ashamed to look us in the face when he was
meditating such a step as this. The duplicity of man is something

It was not surprising that Herbert Penfold's sudden assertion of his
will was a shock to his sisters. These ladies had so long been
accustomed to rule absolutely at Penfold Hall that Mr. Penfold's
assertion of his right to act as he pleased in his own house came upon
them like an act of absolute rebellion. At their father's death they
were women of twenty-seven and twenty-six years old respectively.
Herbert was a lad of sixteen. He was of a gentle and yielding
disposition; and as their father for some years previous to his death
had been a confirmed invalid, and they had had the complete management
of the house, it was but natural that at his death they should
continue in the same position.

Owing to weak health, Herbert had not been sent to school, but had
been educated under the care of a tutor. He had wished when he reached
the age of nineteen to enter one of the universities; but his sisters
had been so opposed to the idea, and had represented so strongly to
him his unfitness to take part in the rough sports of the young men,
and how completely he would feel out of place in such companionship,
that he had abandoned the idea, and had traveled on the Continent for
three years with his tutor, his sisters being for most of the time of
the party. Soon after his return he had fallen in love with the
daughter of Colonel Vernon, an officer living on half-pay at Poole,
which was the nearest town to Penfold Hall. The announcement of his
engagement came like a thunder-clap upon his sisters, who had agreed
that it would be in all respects desirable that Herbert should not
marry for some years.

They had, however, been wise enough not to offer any open opposition
to the match. Three months later the engagement was broken off. How it
came about no one exactly knew. Unpleasant reports were set on foot;
there were misunderstandings which should easily have been cleared up,
but which grew until they gave rise to serious quarrels. Letters which
might have set matters straight somehow failed to come to hand; and so
at last things went from bad to worse until there was a final quarrel,
a return of letters and presents on both sides, and a final breaking
off of the engagement. A year later Mary Vernon married Mr. Conway, an
architect, resident in London.

Mr. Penfold had before this become convinced that Mary Vernon had not
been to blame in the matter, and that he had in some way or other
taken an altogether mistaken view of the subject. He knew by the
comments of such friends as were intimate enough to speak, and the
coolness of many others, that he was considered to have behaved very
badly toward her. And this thought was a most distressing one, for he
was deeply attached to Mary; and had he not been convinced that from
some reason or other she herself had ceased to care for him, and was
anxious to break off the engagement, he would have gone any length
towards healing the breach. When it was too late he bitterly regretted
his own weakness in submitting to the domination of his sisters, and
felt a deep though silent resentment against them for the share that
he was convinced they had taken in causing the breach between himself
and Mary Vernon; but although he resented, he had neither the will nor
firmness to free himself from their domination.

At times he struggled feebly against it; and on two or three occasions
had suddenly gone up to town, and thence on to the Continent, and had
traveled there for weeks. On one of these occasions he had written to
them saying that he thought it would be for the happiness of them all
if they were to leave Penfold Hall and set up an establishment of
their own. But upon his return he found things going on exactly as
before, and Miss Penfold had spoken somewhat severely of the silly
letter he had written to them, a letter displaying at once such
ingratitude and folly that it had been beneath them to notice it. As
Herbert Penfold was in a way really fond of his sisters, who spared no
effort in making his home comfortable for him, and who allowed him to
have his own way in all minor matters, he could not bring himself to
repeat when face to face with them the opinion he had expressed in
writing; and so things had gone on for years.

The Miss Penfolds were really anxious to see their brother married.
Provided only that it was to a lady who would be, in their estimation,
fitted for him, and who would also have a feeling of gratitude towards
themselves for their share in installing her as mistress of the Hall,
they were quite prepared to abdicate in her favor, and to retire to
some pretty house near a pleasant watering-place, paying visits once
or twice a year to the Hall.

The listless life their brother led was a source of grief to them; for
they were really attached to him, and believed that they had in every
way been working for his happiness.

They had no shadow of regret for the part they had played in breaking
off his engagement with Mary Vernon. Having once convinced themselves
that she was a frivolous girl, quite unsuited for the position of
mistress of Penfold Hall, they had regarded it as an absolute duty to
protect Herbert from the consequences of what they considered his
infatuation. Consequently, for years they were in the habit of
inviting for long visits young ladies whom they considered in every
way eligible as their successor, and had been much grieved at their
want of success, and at the absolute indifference with which Herbert
regarded the presence of these young women. When, four years after his
marriage to Mary Vernon, Mr. Conway had died suddenly they had been
seized with a vague disquiet; for they believed that the remembrance
of his first love was the real cause of Herbert's indifference to
others, and considered it probable he might still be sufficiently
infatuated with her to attempt to undo the past.

To their gratification Herbert never alluded to the subject, never, so
far as they knew, made the slightest effort to renew her acquaintance.
In fact, Herbert Penfold was a diffident as well as a weak man. Once
convinced that he had acted badly toward Mary Vernon, he was equally
convinced that she must despise him and that he was utterly unworthy
of her. Had it been otherwise he would have again entered the lists
and tried to recover the love he had thrown away.

Although he occasionally yielded to the entreaties of his sisters and
showed himself with them at county gatherings, gave stately
dinner-parties at regular intervals, and accepted the invitations of
his neighbors, he lived the life almost of a recluse.

His sole companion and friend was the rector of the parish, who had
been his tutor during his Continental tour, and whom he had presented
with the living which was in his gift, to the secret dissatisfaction
of his sisters, who had always considered that Herbert's tutor had
endeavored to set him against them. This had to some extent been the
case, in so far, at least, that Mr. Withers, who had left college only
a short time before starting with Herbert, had endeavored to give him
habits of self-reliance and independence of thought, and had quietly
striven against the influence that his sisters had upon his mind. It
was not until after the Mary Vernon episode that the living had fallen
vacant; had it been otherwise things might have turned out
differently, for Herbert would certainly have sought his friend's
advice in his troubles.

After that it was too late for his interference. Mr. Withers had
watched the state of matters at the Hall, and his young wife had often
urged him to try to induce Herbert Penfold to rouse himself and assert
himself against his sisters, but the vicar remained neutral. He saw
that though at times Herbert was a little impatient at the domination
of his sisters, and a chance word showed that he nourished a feeling
of resentment toward them, he was actually incapable of nerving
himself to the necessary effort required to shake off their influence
altogether, and to request them to leave the Hall.

Nothing short of this would suffice to establish his independence; for
after a mere temporary assertion of authority he would, if they
remained there, assuredly speedily allow affairs to lapse into their
present state, and the vicar thought that harm rather than good would
be caused by his interference, and that, as his influence would be
sure to be suspected, there would be a breach between the Hall and the
Rectory. As it was the connection was an intimate one. Herbert was
always glad to see him when he came in for a talk in the course of his
rounds, or when he and his wife would come up to dine quietly. The
Miss Penfolds were always ready with their purses to aid him to carry
out his schemes for the good of the parish, and to sympathize with his
young wife in her troubles; for of these she had a large share - all
her children, save one girl, having been carried off in their infancy.

Mabel Withers was as much at home at the Hall as at the Rectory. She
was chief pet and favorite with Mr. Penfold; and although his sisters
considered that the rector allowed her to run wild, and that under
such license she was growing up a sad tomboy, they could not withstand
the influence of the child's happy and fearless disposition, and were
in their way very kind to her.

Such was the state of things at Penfold Hall when its owner's sudden
announcement that he had invited young Ralph Conway to come to stay
there had fallen like a bombshell upon his sisters.

The invitation had caused almost as much surprise to Mrs. Conway as to
the Miss Penfolds. Her father had died a few months after her
marriage, and at the death of her husband she found herself left with
an income of about a hundred a year - the interest of the sum for which
he had insured his life.

To her surprise she had a month or two later received an intimation
from the lawyer who managed her business that a friend had arranged to
pay the sum of a hundred pounds every quarter to her account, on
condition only that no inquiry whatever should be made as to his or
her identity. Mary Conway had thankfully accepted the gift, which had,
however, caused her intense wonderment and curiosity. So far as she
knew neither her father nor her husband had any relations who could
have afforded so handsome a gift. She knew that Colonel Vernon had
been most popular with his regiment, and the supposition at which she
finally arrived was that some young officer whom he had befriended in
difficulties had, on coming into a large property, determined
similarly to befriend the daughter of his former colonel.

Had she been alone in the world she would have declined to accept this
aid from an unknown benefactor, but for her son's sake she felt that
it would be wrong to do so. The idea that the money might come from
Herbert Penfold had once or twice occurred to her, only to be at once
dismissed, for had she really believed that it came from him she could
not, even for Ralph's sake, have accepted it. He had, as she believed,
quarreled with her altogether without cause, her letters had been
unanswered, and she considered the quarrel to have been simply a
pretext upon the part of Herbert to break off an engagement of which
he was tired. Words dropped, apparently by accident, by Herbert's
sisters had, before the misunderstanding commenced, favored this idea,
and although she had really loved him her disposition was too spirited
to allow her to take the steps she otherwise might have done to set
herself right with him.

At any rate she had no ground whatever for believing that Herbert,
after the breach of the engagement, entertained any such feelings
toward her as would have led him to come forward to assist her in any
way after she had become the wife of another; and so for twelve years
she had continued to receive her quarterly income. She had established
herself in a pretty little house near Dover, where several old friends
of her father resided, and where she had plenty of pleasant society
among the officers of the regiments stationed there. Although far from
rivaling Portsmouth or Plymouth in life and bustle, Dover was a busy
town during the time of the great war. The garrison was a large one,
the channel cruisers often anchored under the guns of the castle, and
from the top of the hills upon a clear day for months a keen lookout
was kept for the appearance from the port of Boulogne of the
expedition Napoleon had gathered there for the invasion of England.

The white sails of the English cruisers as they sailed up or down the
channel were clearly visible, and occasionally a privateer could be
seen making its way westward with a prize it had picked up off Texel.
Military and naval matters were the sole topics of conversation, and
by the time he was fifteen Ralph had fully determined to follow in his
grandfather's footsteps and to become a soldier. Having passed almost
all her life among military men Mrs. Conway had offered no objections
to his wishes, and as several of her father's old friends had promised
to use their influence on his behalf, there was little doubt that he
would be enabled to procure a commission as soon as he reached the
regulation age.

It was not often that the postman called at Mrs. Conway's with
letters; for postage was expensive, and the people in those days only
wrote when they had something particular to say. Mrs. Conway had just
made breakfast when Ralph came in with a letter in his hand.

"Here is a letter for you, mother; but please don't open it until you
have given me my breakfast. I am very late now, and shall barely have
time to get through with it and be there before the gates close."

"Your porridge is quite ready for you, Ralph; so if you are late it
will be your own fault not mine. The eggs will be in before you have
eaten it. However, I won't open the letter until you have gone,
because you will only waste time by asking questions about it."

Ralph began his bread and milk, and Mrs. Conway, stretching out her
hand, took the letter he had laid beside his plate, and turning it
over glanced at the direction to ascertain from which of her few
correspondents it came. For a moment she looked puzzled, then, with a
little start, she laid it down by the side of her plate. She had
recognized the handwriting once so familiar to her.

"What is it, mother? You look quite startled. Who is it from?"

"It is from no one you know, Ralph. I think it is from a person I have
not heard from for some years. At any rate it will keep until you are
off to school."

"It's nothing unpleasant, I hope, mother. Your color has quite gone,
and you look downright pale."

"What should be the matter, you silly boy?" Mrs. Conway said, with an
attempt to smile. "What could there be unpleasant in a letter from a
person I have not heard from for years? There, go on with your
breakfast. I expect you will hear some news when you get down into the
town, for the guns in the castle have been firing, and I suppose there
is news of a victory. They said yesterday that a great battle was
expected to be fought against Napoleon somewhere near Leipzig."

"Yes; I heard the guns, mother, and I expect there has been a victory.
I hope not."

"Why do you hope not, Ralph?"

"Why, of course, mother, I don't want the French to be beaten - not
regularly beaten, till I am old enough to have a share in it. Just
fancy what a nuisance it would be if peace was made just as I get my

"There will be plenty of time for you, Ralph," his mother said
smiling. "Peace has been patched up once or twice, but it never lasts
long; and after fighting for the last twenty years it is hardly
probable that the world is going to grow peaceful all at once. But
there, it is time for you to be off; it only wants ten minutes to nine
and you will have to run fast all the way to be in time."

When Mrs. Conway was alone she took up the letter, and turned it over
several times before opening it.

What could Herbert Penfold have written about after all these years?
Mrs. Conway was but thirty-six years old now, and was still a pretty
woman, and a sudden thought sent a flush of color to her face.
"Never!" she said decidedly. "After the way in which he treated me he
cannot suppose that now - " and then she stopped. "I know I did love
him once, dearly, and it nearly broke my heart; but that was years and
years ago. Well, let us see what he says for himself," and she broke
open the letter. She glanced through it quickly, and then read it
again more carefully. She was very pale now, and her lips trembled as
she laid down the letter.

"So," she said to herself in a low tone, "it is to him after all I owe
all this," and she looked round her pretty room; "and I never once
really suspected it. I am glad now," she went on after a pause, "that
I did not; for, of course, it would have been impossible to have taken
it, and how different the last twelve years of my life would have
been. Poor Herbert! And so he really suffered too, and he has thought
of me all this time."

For fully half an hour she sat without moving, her thoughts busy with
the past, then she again took up the letter and reread it several
times. Its contents were as follows:

"Dear Mrs. Conway: You will be doubtless surprised at seeing my
handwriting, and your first impulse will naturally be to put this
letter into the fire. I am not writing to ask you to forgive my
conduct in the old days. I am but too well aware how completely I
have forfeited all right to your esteem or consideration. Believe
me that I have suffered for my fault, and that my life has been a
ruined one. I attempt to make no excuses. I am conscious that
while others were to blame I was most of all, and that it is to my

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