HOW I BECAME A YEOMAN
BY PROFESSOR AYTOUN
[MAGA. September 1846.]
Had the royal army of Israel been accoutred after the colour and fashion
of the British battalions, I am quite satisfied that another enigma
would have been added by King Solomon to his special list of
incomprehensibilities. The extraordinary fascination which a red coat
exercises over the minds and optics of the fair sex, appears to me a
greater phenomenon than any which has been noticed by Goethe in his
Theory of the Development of Colours. The same fragment of ensanguined
cloth will irritate a bull, charm a viper, and bewitch the heart of a
woman. No civilian, however good-looking or clean-limbed—and I rather
pique myself upon my pins—has the ghost of a chance when opposed in the
lists of love to an officer, a mail-guard, a whipper-in, or a postman.
You may be as clever a fellow as ever coopered up an article for the
Magazine, as great a poet as Byron, in beauty an Antinous, in wit a
Selwyn, in oratory a Canning—you may dance like Vestris, draw like
Grant, ride like Alexander; and yet, with all these accomplishments, it
is a hundred chances to one that your black coat, although fashioned by
the shears and polished by the goose of Stultz, will be extinguished by
the gaudy scarlet habiliments of a raw-boned ensign, emancipated six
months ago, for the first time in his life, from the wilderness of a
Highland glen, and even now as awkward a cub as ever presumed to plunge
into the perils of a polka.
Let no man, nor woman either, consider these observations flummery or
verbiage. They are my calm deliberate opinions, written, it is true,
under circumstances of considerable irritation, but nevertheless
deliberate. I have no love to the army, for I have been sacrificed for a
dragoon. My affections have been slighted, my person vilified, my
professional prospects damaged, and my constitution fearfully shaken in
consequence of this military mania. I have made an idiot of myself in
the eyes of my friends and relatives. I have absolutely gone upon the
turf. I have lost some valuable inches of epidermis, and every bone of
my body feels at the present moment as sore as though I were the sole
survivor of a terrific railway collision. A more injured individual than
myself never mounted upon a three-legged stool, and from that high
altitude I now hurl down defiance and anathemas upon the regulars, be
they horse or foot, sappers or miners, artillery, pioneers, or marines!
It was my accursed fate to love, and love in vain. I do not know whether
it was the eye or the instep, the form or the voice, of Edith Bogle,
which first drew my attention, and finally fascinated my regards, as I
beheld her swimming swan-like down the Assembly Rooms at the last
Waverley Ball. A more beautiful representative of Die Vernon could not
have been found within the boundary of the three kingdoms. Her rich
auburn hair flowed out from beneath the crimson network which strove in
vain to confine within its folds that bright luxuriant sea—on her brow
there lay one pearl, pure as an angel’s tear—and oh! sweet even to
bewilderment was the smile that she cast around her, as, resting upon
the arm of the moody Master of Ravenswood, she floated away—a thing of
light—in the mazy current of the waltz! I shall not dwell now upon the
circumstances of the subsequent introduction; on the delicious hour of
converse at the supper-table; or on the whispered, and—as I flattered
myself—conscious adieux, when, with palpitating heart, I veiled her
fair shoulders with the shawl, and felt the soft pressure of her fingers
as I tenderly assisted her to her chair. I went home that night a
love-sick Writer to the Signet. One fairy form was the sole subject of
my dreams, and next morning I woke to the conviction, that without Edith
Bogle earth would be a wilderness, and even the bowers of Paradise damp,
chilly, and uncomfortable.
There is no comfort in looking back upon a period when hope was high and
unchecked. I have met with men who, in their maudlin moments—usually
towards the close of the evening—were actuated by an impulse similar to
that which compelled the Ancient Mariner to renew his wondrous tale: and
I have heard them on such occasions recount the whole circumstances of
their unfortunate wooing, with voices choked by grief, and with tears of
tender imbecility. I have observed, however, that, on the morrow
succeeding such disclosures, these gentlemen have invariably a shy and
sheepish appearance, as though inwardly conscious that they had extended
their confidence too far, and rather dubious as to the sincerity of
their apparent sympathisers. Warned by their example, I hold it neither
profitable nor wise to push my own confessions too far. If Edith gave me
at the outset more encouragement than she ought to have done—if she
systematically led me to believe that I had made an impression upon her
heart—if she honoured me with a preference so marked, that it deceived
not only myself, but others—let the blame be hers. But why should I go
minutely into the courtship of half a year? As difficult, indeed, and
as futile, would it be to describe the alternations of an April day,
made up of sunshine and of shower, of cloud and rainbow and
storm—sometimes mild and hopeful, then ominous of an eve of tempest.
For a long time, I had not the slightest suspicion that I had a rival. I
remarked, indeed, with somewhat of dissatisfaction, that Edith appeared
to listen too complacently to the commonplace flatteries of the officers
who are the habitual haunters of private ball and of public assembly.
She danced too often with Ensign Corkingham, flirted rather openly with
Major Chawser, and certainly had no business whatever to be present at a
military fête and champagne luncheon given at the Castle by these brave
defenders of their country. I was not invited to that fête, and the
circumstance, as I well remember, was the cause of a week’s coolness
between us. But it was not until Lieutenant Roper of the dragoons
appeared in the field that I felt any particular cause for uneasiness.
To give the devil his due, Roper was a handsome fellow. He stood upwards
of six feet in his boots, had a splendid head of curling black hair, and
a mustachio and whiskers to match. His nose was beautifully aquiline,
his eyes of the darkest hazel, and a perpetual smile, which the puppy
had cultivated from infancy, disclosed a box of brilliant dominoes. I
knew Roper well, for I had twice bailed him out of the police-office,
and, in return, he invited me to mess. Our obligations, therefore, to
each other might be considered as nearly equal—in fact, the balance, if
any, lay upon his side, as upon one occasion he had won from me rather
more than fifty pounds at ecarté. He was not a bad fellow either, though
a little slap-dash in his manner, and somewhat supercilious in his cups;
on which occasions—and they were not unfrequent—he was by far too
general in his denunciation of all classes of civilians. He was, I
believe, the younger son of a Staffordshire baronet, of good
connections, but no money—in fact, his patrimony was his commission,
and he was notoriously on the outlook for an heiress. Now, Edith Bogle
was rumoured to have twenty thousand pounds.
Judge then of my disgust, when, on my return from a rent-gathering
expedition to Argyllshire, I found Lieutenant Roper absolutely domiciled
with the Bogles. I could not call there of a forenoon on my way from the
Parliament-House, without finding the confounded dragoon seated on the
sofa beside Edith, gabbling away with infinite fluency about the last
ball, or the next review, or worsted-work, or some similar abomination.
I question whether he had ever read a single book since he was at
school, and yet there he sat, misquoting Byron to Edith—who was rather
of a romantic turn—at no allowance, and making wild work with passages
out of Tom Moore’s Loves of the Angels. How the deuce he got hold of
them, I am unable up to this day to fathom. I suspect he had somehow or
other possessed himself of a copy of the “Beauties,” and dedicated an
hour each morning to committing extracts to memory. Certainly he never
opened his mouth without enunciating some rubbish about bulbuls,
gazelles, and chibouques; he designated Edith his Phingari, and swore
roundly by the Koran and Kiebaubs. It was to me perfectly inconceivable
how any woman of common intellect could listen to such egregious
nonsense, and yet I could not disguise from myself the consciousness of
the fact, that Miss Bogle rather liked it than otherwise.
Roper had another prodigious advantage over me. Edith was fond of
riding, an exercise to which, from my earliest years, I have had the
utmost abhorrence. I am not, I believe, constitutionally timid, and yet
I do not know almost any ordeal which I would not cheerfully undergo, to
save me from the necessity of passing along a stable behind the heels of
half-a-dozen stationary horses. Who knows at what moment the concealed
demon may be awaked within them? They are always either neighing, or
pulling at their halters, or stamping, or whisking their tails, in a
manner which is absolutely frightful; and it is impossible to predict
the exact moment they may select for lashing out, and, it may be,
scattering your brains by the force of a hoof most murderously shod
with half a hundredweight of iron. The descent of Hercules to Hades
seems to me a feat of mere insignificance compared with the cleaning out
of the Augean stables, if, as I presume, the inmates were not previously
Roper, on the contrary, rode like a Centaur, or the late Ducrow. He had
several brutes, on one or other of which you might see him every
afternoon prancing along Princes Street, and he presently contrived to
make himself the constant companion of Edith in his daily rides. What
took place on these occasions, of course I do not know. It was, however,
quite clear to me, that the sooner this sort of thing was put an end to
the better; nor should I have cared one farthing had a civil war broke
out, if that event could have insured to me the everlasting absence of
the pert and pestilential dragoon.
In this dilemma I resolved to make a confidante of my cousin Mary
Muggerland. Mary and I were the best possible friends, having flirted
together for five successive seasons, with intermissions, on a sort of
general understanding that nothing serious was meant, and that either
party was at liberty at any time to cry off in case of an extraneous
attachment. She listened to the history of my sorrows with infinite
“I am afraid, George,” she said, “that you have no chance whatever; I
know Edith well, and have heard her say, twenty times over, that she
never will marry any man unless he belongs to the army.”
“Then I have been exceedingly ill-used!”
“O fie, George—I wonder at you! Do you think that nobody besides
yourself has a right to change their mind? How often, I should like to
know, have you varied your attachments during the last three years?”
“That is a very different matter, Mary.”
“Will you have the kindness to explain the difference?”
“Pshaw! is there no distinction between a mere passing flirtation and a
deep-rooted passion like mine?”
“I understand—this is the first time there has been a rival in the
case. Well—I am sorry I cannot help you. Rely upon it that Roper is the
man; and, to be plain with you, I am not at all surprised at it.”
“Mary!—what do you mean?”
“Do you really know so little of the sex as to flatter yourself that a
lively girl like Edith, with more imagination than wit, would prefer
you, who—pardon me, dear cousin—are rather a commonplace sort of
personage, to a gay young officer of dragoons? Why, don’t you see that
he talks more to her in one hour than you do in four-and-twenty? Are
not his manners more fascinating—his attentions more pointed—his
“Upon my word, Miss Mary!” I exclaimed, “this is going rather too far.
Do you mean to say that in point of personal appearance”—
“I do, indeed, George. You know I promised you to be candid.”
“Say no more. I see that you women are all alike. These confounded
“Are remarkably becoming; and really I am not sure that in one of
them—if it were particularly well made—you might not look almost as
well as Roper.”
“I have half a mind to turn postman.”
“Not a bad idea for a man of letters. But why don’t you hunt?”
“I dislike riding.”
“You stupid creature! Edith never will marry you: so you may just as
well abandon the idea at once.”
So ended my conference with my cousin. I had made it a rule, however,
never to believe above one half of what Miss Mary Muggerland said; and,
upon the whole, I am inclined to think that was a most liberal allowance
of credulity. A young lady is not always the safest depositary of such
secrets, or the wisest and most sound adviser. A little spice of spite
is usually intermingled with her counsels; and I doubt whether in one
case out of ten they sincerely wish success to their simple and
confiding clients. On one point, however, I was inclined to think her
right. Edith certainly had a decided military bias.
I begin to hold the doctrine that there is more in judicial astrology
than most people are inclined to admit. To what other mysterious fount
than the stars can we trace that extraordinary principle which regulates
men in the choice of their different professions? Take half-a-dozen lads
of the same standing and calibre; give them the same education;
inculcate them with the same doctrines; teach them the identical
catechism; and yet you will find that in this matter of profession there
is not the slightest cohesion among them. Had I been born under the
influence of Mars, I too might have been a dragoon—as it was, Saturn,
my planetary godfather, had devoted me to the law, and here I stood a
discomfited concocter of processes, and a botcher of deeds and titles.
Pondering these things deeply, I made my way to the Parliament-House,
then in the full hum attendant upon the close of the Session. The usual
groups of the briefless were gathered around the stoves. As I happened
to have a paper in my hand, I was instantly assailed by half-a-dozen
“Hallo, M’Whirter, my fine fellow—d’ye want a counsel? Set you down
cheap at a condescendence,” cried Mr Anthony Whaup, a tall barrister of
“I say, M’Whirter, is it a semiplena? Hand it over to Randolph; he has
lots of experience in that line.”
“Get out, you heretical humbug! Never mind these fellows, George. Tip,
and I’m your man,” said Randolph.
“Can anybody tell me who is pleading before the Second Division just
now?” asked a youth, looking rather white in the gills.
“Old Windlass. He’s good for three quarters of an hour at least, and
then the judges have to give their opinions.”
“I’m devilish glad to hear it. I think I shall bolt. This seems a fine
afternoon. Who’s for Musselburgh?”
“I can’t go to-day,” said Whaup. “I was tempted yesterday with a
shilling, and sold myself.”
“Who is the unfortunate purchaser?”
“Tom Hargate, crimp-general to the yeomanry.”
“I’m delighted to hear it, old fellow! We have been wanting you for two
years back in the corps. ’Gad! won’t we have fun when we go into
quarters. I say, M’Whirter—why don’t you become a yeoman?”
I started at the suggestion, which, strange to say, had never crossed my
mind before. There was a way then open to me—a method left by which I
might satisfy, without compromising my professional character, the
scruples of Edith, and become a member of the military service without
abandoning the pen. The man that hesitates is lost.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I think I should rather like it. It seems a
“Pretty!” said Randolph. “By the Lord Harry, it’s the splashest affair
possible! I’ll tell you what, M’Whirter, I’ll back you in the yeoman’s
jacket and pantaloons against the Apollo Belvidere.”
“It is regular Queen’s service, isn’t it?”
“Of course it is. Only we have no flogging.”
“That’s no great disadvantage. Well, upon my word, I have a great
“Then, by Jove, there goes the very man! Hallo—Hargate, I say—Tom
“What’s the row?”
“Here’s a new recruit for you. George M’Whirter, W.S. Book him down, and
credit me with the bounty money.”
“The Edinburgh squadron, of course,” said Hargate, presenting me with a
“Don’t be in a hurry,” said one of my friends. “There are better lancers
than the Templars. The Dalmahoy die, but they never surrender!”
“Barnton à la rescousse!” cried another.
“No douking in the Dalkeith!” observed a third.
“Nonsense, boys! you are confounding him. M’Whirter and Anthony Whaup
shall charge side by side, and woe betide the insurgent who crosses
their path!” said Randolph. “So the sooner you look after your
equipments the better.”
In this identical manner was I enrolled as a full private in the
Edinburgh squadron of the Mid-Lothian Yeomanry Cavalry.
I confess that a thrill of considerable exultation pervaded my frame, as
I beheld one morning on my dressing-table a parcel which conscience
whispered to me contained the masterpiece of Buckmaster. With
palpitating hand I cut the cord, undid the brown paper foldings, and
feasted my eyes in a trance of ecstasy upon the pantaloons, all gorgeous
with the red stripe; upon the jacket glittering with its galaxy of
buttons, and the polished glory of the shoulder-scales. Not hurriedly,
but with a protracted sense of keen enjoyment, I cased myself in the
military shell, slung on the pouch-belt, buckled the sabre, and finally
adjusted the magnificent helmet on my brows. I looked into the mirror,
and scarcely could recognise the counterpart of Mars which confronted
“’Od’s scimitars!” cried I, unsheathing my Bilboa, and dealing, with a
reckless disregard to expense, a terrific cut at the bed-post—“Let me catch any fellow saying that the yeomanry is not a constitutional
And so I strode into the breakfast-room, where my old housekeeper was
adjusting the materials for the matutinal meal.
“Lord save us a’!” cried Nelly, dropping in her astonishment a platter
of finnans upon the floor—“Lord save us a’, and keep us frae the sin o’
bluid-shed! Dear-a-me, Maister George, can that really be you! Hae ye
turned offisher, and are ye gaun oot to fecht!”
“To be sure, Nelly. I have joined the yeomanry, and we shall turn out
next week. How do you like the uniform?”
“Dinna speak to me o’ unicorns! I’m auld enough to mind the days o’ that
bluidy murderin’ villain Bonyparty, wha was loot loose upon huz, as a
scourge and a tribulation for the backslidings o’ a sinfu’ land: and,
wae’s me! mony a mither that parted frae her son, maybe as bonny, or a
hantle bonnier than yoursel’, had sair een, and a broken heart, when she
heard that her laddie was streekit cauld and stiff on the weary field o’
Waterloo! Na—for gudeness sake, dinna draw yer swurd or I’ll swarff! O,
pit it aff—pit it aff, Maister George—There’s a dear bairn, bide at
hame, and dinna gang ye a sodgerin’! Think o’ the mither that lo’es ye,
forbye yer twa aunties. Wad ye bring doun their hairs—I canna ca’ them
a’ grey, for Miss Kirsty’s is as red as a lobster—in sorrow to the
“Why, you old fool, what are you thinking of? We are not going out to
fight—merely for exercise.”
“Waur and waur! Can ye no tak’ yer yexerceese at hame, or doun at the
Links wi’ golf, or gang awa’ to the fishin’? Wadna that be better than
stravagin’ through the streets, wi’ a lang swurd harlin’ ahint ye, and
consortin’ wi’ deboshed dragoons, and drinkin’ the haill nicht, and
rinnin’ wud after the lasses? And if ye’re no gaun out to fecht, what’s
the use o’ ye? Are ye gaun to turn anither Claverse, and burn and hang
puir folk like the wicked and bluid-thirsty troopers lang syne?
Yexerceese indeed! I wonder, Maister George, ye’re no just ashamed o’
“Hold your tongue, you old fool, and bring the tea-pot.”
“Fule! ’Deed I’m maybe just an auld fule to gang on clattering that
gate, for I never kent ye tak’ gude advice sin’ ye were a wean. Aweel!
He that will to Cupar maun to Cupar. Ye’se hae it a’ yer ain way; but
maybe we’ll see some day sune, when ye’re carried hame on a shutter wi’
a broken leg, or a stab in the wame, or a bullet in the harns, whilk o’
us twa is the greater fule!”
“Confound that woman!” thought I, as I pensively buttered my roll. “What
with her Cameronian nonsense and her prophecies, she is enough to
disband a regiment.”
And, to say the truth, her last hint about a broken leg was not
altogether foreign to my own apprehensions. I had recollected of late,
with no slight uneasiness, that for this sort of service a horse was
quite as indispensable as a man; and, as already hinted, I had more than
doubts as to my own equestrian capabilities. However, I comforted myself
with the reflection, that out of the fifty or sixty yeomen whom I knew,
not one had ever sustained any serious injury; and I resolved, as a
further precaution against accident, to purvey me the very quietest
horse that could be found anywhere. Steadiness, I have always
understood, is the characteristic feature of the British cavalry.
My correspondence that morning was not of the legal kind. In the first
place, I received a circular from the commanding-officer, extremely
laudatory of the recruits, whose zeal for the service did them so much
credit. We were called upon, in an animated address, to maintain the
high character of the regiment—to prove ourselves worthy successors of
those who had ridden and fought before us—to turn out regularly and
punctually to the field, and to keep our accoutrements in order. Next
came a more laconic and pithy epistle from the adjutant, announcing the
hours of drill, and the different arrangements for the week; and
finally, a communication from the convener of the mess committee.
To all these I cordially assented, and having nothing better to do,
bethought me of a visit to the Bogles. I pictured to myself the surprise
of Edith on beholding me in my novel character.
“She shall see,” thought I, “that years of dissipation in a barrack or
guardroom are not necessary to qualify a high-minded legal practitioner
for assuming his place in the ranks of the defenders of his country. She
shall own that native valour is an impulse, not a science. She shall
confess that the volunteer who becomes a soldier, simply because the
commonwealth requires it, is actuated by a higher motive than the
regular, with his prospects of pay and of promotion. What was Karl
Theodore Körner, author of the Lyre and Sword, but a simple Saxon
yeoman? and yet is there any name, Blucher’s not excepted, which stirs
the military heart of Germany more thrillingly than his? And, upon my
honour, even as a matter of taste, I infinitely prefer this blue uniform
to the more dashing scarlet. It is true they might have given us tails
to the jacket,” continued I soliloquising, as a young vagabond who
passed, hazarded a contumelious remark regarding the symmetry of my
nether person. “But, on the whole, it is a manly and a simple garb, and
Edith cannot be such a fool as not to appreciate the motives which have
led me to assume it.”
So saying, I rung the Bogles’ bell. Edith was in the drawing-room, and
there also, to my no small mortification, was Lieutenant Roper. They
were sitting together on the sofa, and I rather thought Miss Bogle
started as I came in.
“Goodness gracious! Mr M’Whirter,” cried she with a giggle—Edith never
looked well when she giggled—“What have you been doing with
“I am not aware, Miss Bogle, that there is anything very
“O dear, no! I beg your pardon for laughing, but really you look so
funny! I have been so used, you know, to see you in a black coat, that
the contrast is rather odd. Pray forgive my ignorance, Mr M’Whirter, but
what is that dress?”
“The uniform of the Mid-Lothian Yeomanry Cavalry, madam. We are going
into quarters next week.”
“How very nice! Do you know it is one of the prettiest jackets I ever
saw? Don’t you think so, Mr Roper?”
“Veway much so,” replied Roper, reconnoitring me calmly through his
eyeglass. “A veway handsome turn-out indeed. ’Pon my honour, I had no
idea they got up things so cleverly in the fencibles”——
“Yeomanry, if you please, Lieutenant Roper!”
“Ah, yes! Yeomanry—so it is. I say, M’Whirter, ’pon my soul, do you
know, you look quite killing! Do, like a good fellow, just march to the
corner of the room, and let us have a look at you on the other side.”
“Oh do, Mr M’Whirter!” supplicated, or rather supplemented Edith.
I felt as if I could have shot him.
“You’ll excuse me, Roper, for not going through drill just now. If you
like to come to the review, you shall see how our regiment can behave.
At any rate, we shall be happy to see you at mess.”
“Oh suttingly, suttingly! Veway good things those yeomanry messes.
Always a deal of claret, I believe.”
“And pray, Mr M’Whirter, what rank do you hold in that distinguished
corps?” asked Edith.
“A full private, Miss Bogle.”
“Goodness gracious!—then you’re not even an officer!”
“A private of the yeomanry, Miss Bogle, is, let me inform you, totally
independent of rank. We enrol ourselves for patriotism, not for pay. We
are as honourable a body as the Archers of the Scots Guard, the
Cavaliers of Dundee, or the Mousquetaires”——
“How romantic and nice! I declare, you are quite a D’Artagnan!” said
Edith, who had just read the Trois Mousquetaires.
“Don’t they pay you?” said Roper. “’Pon my honour that’s too bad. If I
were you I’d memorialise the Horse Guards. By the way, M’Whirter, what
sort of a charger have you got?”
“Why, to say the truth,” replied I, hesitatingly, “I am not furnished
with a horse as yet. I am just going to look out for one at some of the
“My dear friend,” said Roper, with augmented interest, “I strongly
recommend you to do nothing of the kind. These fellows will, to a dead
certainty, sell you some sort of a brute that is either touched in the
wind or dead lame; and I can tell you it is no joke to be spilt in a
charge of cavalry.”
I felt a sort of sickening sensation as I recalled the lines of
“Young Piccolomini, known by his plume
And his long hair, gave signal for the trenches;
Himself leapt first, the regiment all plunged after.
His charger, by a halbert gored, reared up,
Flung him with violence off, and over him
The horses, now no longer to be curbed”——
The fate of Max might be mine, and Edith might be left, a mournful
Thekla, to perform a moonlight pilgrimage to my grave in the solitary
churchyard of Portobello!
“Do you really think so, Roper?” said I.
“Think so! I know it,” replied the dragoon. “Never while you live trust
yourself to the tender mercies of a livery stable. It’s a wegular maxim
in the army. Pray, are you a good rider?”
“Pretty—fairish—tolerable. That is, I can ride.”
“Ah! I see—want of practice merely—eh?”
“Well, then, it’s a lucky thing that I’ve seen you. I have just the sort
of animal you want—a wegular-bred horse, sound as a roach, quiet as a
lamb, and quite up to the cavalry movements. Masaniello will suit your
weight to an ounce, and you shall have him for seventy guineas.”
“That’s a very long price, Roper!”
“For Masaniello? I assure you he’s as cheap as dirt. I would not sell
him for twice the sum: only, you see, we are limited in our number, and
my father insists upon my keeping other two which he bred himself. If
you like to enter Masaniello for the races, I’ll insure your winning the
“Oh do, Mr M’Whirter, take Mr Roper’s advice!” said Edith. “Masaniello
is such a pretty creature, and so quiet! And then, after the week is
over, you know you can come and ride with us.”
“Won’t you take sixty, Roper?”
“Not a penny less than seventy,” replied the dragoon.
“Well, then, I shall take him at that Pounds?”
“Guineas. Call down to-morrow forenoon at Piershill, and you shall have
delivery. Now, Miss Bogle, what do you say to a canter on the sands?”
I took my leave rather satisfied than otherwise with the transaction.
Edith evidently took a warm interest in my welfare, and her suggestion
as to future expeditions was quite enchanting. Seventy guineas, to be
sure, was a deal of money, but then it was something to be assured of
safety for life and limb. On the street I encountered Anthony Whaup.
“Well, old fellow,” quoth Anthony, “how are you getting on? Pounding
away at drill, eh?”
“Faith, you had better look sharp about it, then. I’ve been down twice
at Canonmills of a morning, and I can tell you the facings are no joke.
Have you got a horse yet?”
“Yes; a regular dragoon charger—and you?”
“A beast from Wordsworth. He’s been out regularly with the squadron for
the last ten years; so it is to be presumed he knows the manœuvres.
If not, I’m a spilt yeoman!”
“I say, Anthony—can you ride?”
“No more than yourself, but I suppose we shall contrive to stick on
“Would it not be as well to have a trial?” said I, with considerable
intrepidity. “Suppose we go together to the riding-school, and have an
hour or two’s practice.”
“I have no earthly manner of objection,” said Anthony. “I presume
there’s lots of sawdust there and the exhibition will, at any rate, be a
private one. Allons!” and we departed for the amphitheatre.
We inquired for a couple of peaceable hacks, which were forthwith
furnished us. I climbed up with some difficulty into the saddle, and
having submitted to certain partial dislocations of the knee and ankle,
at the hands of the master of the ring (rather a ferocious Widdicomb, by
the way), and having also been instructed in the art of holding the
reins, I was pronounced fit to start. Anthony, whose legs were of a
parenthetical build, seemed to adapt himself more easily to his seat.
“Now then, trot!” cried the sergeant, and away we went with a wild
expenditure of elbow.
“Toes in, toes in, gentlemen!” bellowed our instructor; “blowed but
you’d drive them wild if you had spurs on! You ain’t been at the
dancing-school lately, have you? Steady—steady—very good. Down your
elbows, gentlemen, if you please! them bridles isn’t pumps. Heads up!
now gallop! Bravo! very good. Screw in the knees a little. Hold on—hold
on, sir, or damme you’ll be off!”
And sure enough I was within an ace of canting over, having lost a
stirrup, when the sergeant caught hold of me by the arm.
“I’ll tell you what, gents,” he said, “you’ll never learn to ride in
this ’varsal world, unless you tries it without the irons. Nothing like
that for giving a man a sure seat So, Bill, take off the stirrups, will
you! Don’t be afeard, gentlemen. I’ll make riders of you yet, or my name
Notwithstanding the comforting assurances of Kickshaw, I felt
considerably nervous. If I could not maintain my seat with the
assistance of the stirrups, what the mischief was I to do without them?
I looked rebelliously at Anthony’s stirrup, but that intrepid individual
seemed to have nerved himself to meet any possible danger. His enormous
legs seemed calculated by nature to embrace the body of his charger, and
he sat erect like an overgrown Bacchus bestriding a kilderkin of beer.
“Trot, gentlemen!” and away we went. I shall never forget the agony of
that hour! The animal I rode was peculiarly decided in his paces; so
much so that at each step my os coccygis came down with a violent
thump upon the saddle, and my teeth rattled in my head like dice in a
backgammon-box. How I managed to maintain my posture I cannot clearly
understand. Possibly the instinct of self-preservation proved the best
auxiliary to the precepts of Sergeant Kickshaw; for I held as tight a
hold of the saddle as though I had been crossing the bridge of Al Sirat,
with the flames of the infernal regions rolling and undulating beneath.
“Very good, gentlemen—capital!—you’re improving vastly!” cried the
complimentary sergeant. “Nothing like the bare saddle after all—damme
but I’ll make you take a four-barred gate in a week! Now sit steady.
Croton oil was a joke to it! I thought my whole vitals were flying to
pieces as we bounded round the oval building, the speed gradually
increasing, until my diseased imagination suggested that we were going
at the pace of Lucifer. My head began to grow dizzy, and I clutched
convulsively at the pommel.
“An-tho-ny!” I gasped in monosyllables.
“Monstrous—shakey,” replied Anthony in dis-syllables.
“I’m off!” cried I; and, losing my balance at the turn, I dropped like a
sack of turnips.
However, I was none the worse for it. Had it not been for Anthony, and
the dread of his report, I certainly think I should have bolted, and
renounced the yeomanry for ever. But a courageous example does wonders.
I persevered, and in a few days really made wonderful progress. I felt,
however, considerably sore and stiff—straddled as I walked along the
street, and was compelled to have recourse to diachylon. What with
riding and the foot-drill I had hard work of it, and earnestly longed
for the time when the regiment should go into quarters. I almost forgot
to mention that Masaniello turned out to be an immense black brute,
rather aged, but apparently sound, and, so far as I could judge, quiet.
There was, however, an occasional gleam about his eye which I did not
“He’ll carry you, sir, famously—no doubt of it,” said Kickshaw, who
inspected him; “and, mind my words, he’ll go it at the charge!”
It was a brilliant July morning when I first donned my regimentals for
actual service. Dugald M’Tavish, a caddy from the corner of the street,
had been parading Masaniello, fully caparisoned for action, before the
door at least half an hour before I was ready, to the no small
delectation of two servant hizzies who were sweeping out the stairs, and
a diminutive baker’s boy.
“Tak’ a cup o’ coffee afore ye get up on that muckle funking beast,
Maister George,” said Nelly; “and mind ye, that if ye are brocht hame
this day wi’ yer feet foremost, it’s no me that has the wyte o’t.”
“Confound you, Nelly! what do you keep croaking for in that way?”
“It’s a’ ane to me; but, O man, ye’re unco like Rehoboam! Atweel ye
needna flounce at that gate. Gang yer wa’s sodgerin’, and see what’ll
come o’t. It’s ae special mercy that there’s a hantle o’ lint in the
hoose, and the auld imbrocation for broken banes; and, in case o’ the
warst, I’ll ha’e the lass ready to rin for Doctor Scouther.”
This was rather too much; so, with the reverse of a benediction on my
gouvernante, I rushed from the house, and, with the assistance of
Dugald, succeeded in mounting Masaniello, a task of no small difficulty,
as that warlike quadruped persisted in effecting a series of
“And whan wull ye be back, and what wall ye ha’e for denner?” were the
last words shouted after me as I trotted off to the rendezvous.
It was still early, and there were not many people abroad. A few faces,
decorated with the picturesque mutch, occasionally appeared at the
windows, and one or two young rascals, doubtless descendants of the
disaffected who fell at Bonnymuir, shouted “Dook!” as I rode along.
Presently I fell in with several of my comrades, amongst whom I
recognised with pleasure Randolph and Anthony Whaup.
“By Jove, M’Whirter!” said the former, “that’s a capital mount of yours.
I don’t think there is a finer horse in the troop; and I say, old chap,
you sit him as jauntily as a janissary!”
“He has had hard work to do it though, as I can testify,” remarked
Anthony, whose gelding seemed to be an animal of enviable placidity. “I
wish you had seen us both at Kickshaw’s a week ago.”
“I dare say, but there’s nothing like practice. Hold hard, M’Whirter!
If you keep staring up that way, you may have a shorter ride of it than
you expect. Easy—man—easy! That brute has the mettle of Beelzebub.”
The remark was not uncalled for. We were passing at that moment before
the Bogles’ house, and I could not resist the temptation of turning
round to gaze at the window of Edith, in the faint hope that she might
be a spectator of our expedition. In doing so, my left spur touched
Masaniello in the flank, a remembrancer which he acknowledged with so
violent a caper, that I was very nearly pitched from the saddle.
“Near shave that, sir!” said Hargate, who now rode up to join us; “we’ll
require to put you into the rear rank this time, where, by the way,
you’ll be remarkably comfortable.”
“I hope,” said Anthony, “I may be entitled to the same privilege.”
“Of course. Pounset, I think, will be your front-rank man. He’s quite up
to the whole manœuvre, only you must take care of his mare. But here
we are at Abbey-hill gate, and just in time.”
I was introduced in due form to the officers of the squadron, with none
of whom I was previously acquainted, and was directed to take my place
as Randolph’s rear-rank man, so that in file we marched together. Before
us were two veteran yeomen, and behind were Anthony and Pounset.
Nothing particular occurred during our march to Portobello sands.
Masaniello behaved in a manner which did him infinite credit, and
contributed not a little to my comfort. He neither reared nor plunged,
but contented him at times with a resolute shake of the head, as if he
disapproved of something, and an occasional sniff at Randolph’s filly,
whenever she brought her head too near.
On arriving at the sands we formed into column, so that Anthony and I
were once more side by side. The other squadrons of the regiment were
already drawn up, and at any other time I should no doubt have
considered the scene as sufficiently imposing. I had other things,
however, to think of besides military grandeur.
“I say, Anthony,” said I, somewhat nervously, “do you know anything
about these twistified manœuvres?”
“Indeed I do not!” replied Whaup, “I’ve been puzzling my brains for the
last three days over the Yeomanry Regulations, but I can make nothing
out of their ‘Reverse flanks’ and ‘Reforming by sections of threes?’”
“And I’m as ignorant as a baby! What on earth are we to do? That big
fellow of a sergeant won’t let us stand quietly, I suppose.”
“I stick to Pounset,” said Whaup. “Whatever he does I do, and I advise
you to do the same by Randolph.”
“But what if they should ride away? Isn’t there some disgusting nonsense
about forming from threes?”
“I suppose the horses know something about it, else what’s the use of
them? That brute of yours must have gone through the evolutions a
thousand times, and ought to know the word of command by
heart—Hallo!—I say, Pounset, just take care of that mare of yours,
will ye! She’s kicking like the very devil, and my beast is beginning to
“I wouldn’t be Pounset’s rear-rank for twenty pounds,” said a stalwart
trooper to the left. “She has the ugliest trick of using her heels of
any mare in Christendom.”
“Much obliged to you, sir, for the information,” said Whaup,
controlling, with some difficulty, the incessant curveting of his steed.
“I say, Pounset, if she tries that trick again I’ll hamstring her
without the slightest ceremony.”
“Pooh—nonsense!” replied Pounset. “Woa, Miss Frolic—woa, lass!—she’s
the gentlest creature in the creation—a child might ride her with a
feather. Mere playfulness, my dear fellow, I assure you!”
“Hang her playfulness!” cried Anthony; “I’ve no idea of having my brains
made a batter pudding for the amusement of a jade like that.”
“Are you sure, Whaup, that you did not tickle her tail?” asked Pounset,
with provoking coolness. “She’s a rare ’un to scatter a crowd.”
“Hang me if I’d come within three yards of her if I possibly could help
it,” quoth Anthony. “If any gentleman in the neighbourhood has a fancy
to exchange places, I’m his man.”
“Threes right!” cried the commanding-officer, and we executed a movement
of which I am wholly unconscious; for, to the credit of Masaniello be it
said, he took the direction in his own mouth, and performed it so as to
save his rider from reproach.
Then came the sword exercise, consisting of a series of slashes, which
went off tolerably well—then the skirmishing, when one of our flank men
was capsized—and at last, to my great joy, we were permitted to sit at
ease; that is, as easily as our previous exertions would allow. I then
learned to appreciate the considerate attention of the authorities in
abrogating the use of pistols. In each man’s holsters were a soda-water
bottle, filled for the nonce with something more pungent than the
original Schweppe, and a cigar-case. These were now called into
requisition, and a dense wreath of smoke arose along the lines of the
squadron. The officer then in command embraced the opportunity of
addressing us in a pithy oration.
“Gentlemen!” said he, “I would not be performing my duty to my Queen and
my country, (cheers), if I did not express to you my extreme surprise
and satisfaction at the manner in which the new recruits have gone
through the preliminary drill. Upon my honour I expected that more than
one half of you would have been spilt—a spectacle which might possibly
have been pleasing to those veteran warriors of Dalmahoy, but which I
should have witnessed with extraordinary pain. As it is, you rode like
bricks. However, it is my duty to inform you, that a more serious trial
of your fortitude is about to come. The squadrons will presently form
together, and you will be called upon to charge. Many of you know very
well how to do that already”—
“Especially the Writers to the Signet,” muttered Anthony.
“But there are others who are new to the movement. To those gentlemen,
therefore, I shall address a few words of caution; they are short and
simple. Screw yourselves tight in your saddles—hold hard at first—keep
together as you best can—think that the enemy are before you—and go at
it like blazes!”
A shout of approval followed this doughty address, and the heart of
every trooper burned with military ardour. For my own part, I was
becoming quite reconciled to the thing. I perfectly coincided with my
commanding-officer in his amazement at the adhesive powers of myself and
several others, and with desperate recklessness I resolved to test them
to the utmost. The bugle now sounded the signal to fall in. Soda bottles
and cigar-cases were returned to their original concealment, and we
once more took our respective places in the ranks.
“Now comes the fun,” said Randolph, after the leading squadron had
charged in line. “Mind yourselves, boys!”
On we went like waves of the sea, regularly enough at first, then
slightly inclining to the line of beauty, as some of the weaker hacks
began to show symptoms of bellows.
“Go ahead!” cried Randolph, sticking his spurs into his Bucephalus.
Masaniello, with a snort, fairly took the bridle into his teeth, and
dashed off with me at a speed which threatened to throw the ranks into
utter confusion. As for Pounset, he appeared to be possessed with the
fury of a demon. His kicking mare sent up at every stride large clods of
sand in the teeth of the unfortunate Anthony Whaup, whose presence of
mind seemed at last to have forsaken him.
“What the mischief are you after, Whaup?” panted the trooper on his
left. “Just take your foot out of my stirrup, will you?”
“Devil a bit!” quoth Anthony, “I’m too glad to get anything to hold on
“If you don’t, you’re a gone ’coon. There!—I told you.” And the steed
of Anthony was rushing riderless among the press.
I don’t know exactly how we pulled up. I have an indistinct notion that
I owed my own arrest to Neptune, and that Masaniello was chest deep in
the sea before he paid the slightest attention to my convulsive tugs at
the bridle. Above the rush of waves I heard a yell of affright, and
perceived that I had nearly ridden over the carcass of a fat old
gentleman, who, in puris naturalibus, was disporting himself in the
water, and who now, in an agony of terror, and apparently under the
impression that he was a selected victim for the tender mercies of the
yeomanry, struck out vigorously for Inchkeith. I did not tarry to watch
his progress, but returned as rapidly as possible to the squadron.
By this time the shores of Portobello were crowded with habitual
bathers. There is a graceful abandon, and total absence of prudery,
which peculiarly characterise the frequenters of that interesting spot,
and reminds one forcibly of the manners of the Golden Age. Hirsute
Triton and dishevelled Nereid there float in unabashed proximity; and,
judging from the usual number of spectators, there is something
remarkably attractive in the style of these aquatic exercises.
The tide was pretty far out, so that of course there was a wide tract of
sand between the shingle and the sea. Our squadron was again formed in
line, when a bathing-machine was observed leisurely bearing down upon
our very centre, conveying its freight towards the salubrious waters.
“Confound that boy!” cried the commanding-officer; “he will be among the
ranks in a minute. Sergeant! ride out, and warn the young scoundrel off
at his peril.”
The sergeant galloped towards the machine.
“Where are you going, you young scum of the earth? Do you not see the
troops before you? Get back this instant!”
“I’ll do naething o’ the kind,” replied the urchin, walloping his bare
legs, by way of encouragement, against the sides of the anatomy he
bestrode. “The sands is just as free to huz as to ony o’ ye, and I would
like to ken what richt ye have tae prevent the foulks frae bathin’.”
“Do you dare to resist, you vagabond?” cried the man of stripes, with a
terrific flourish of his sabre. “Wheel back immediately, or”——and he
went through the first four cuts of the sword exercise.
“Eh man!” said the intrepid shrimp, “what wull ye do? Are ye no ashamed,
a great muckle fellie like you, to come majoring, an’ shakin’ yer swurd
at a bit laddie? Eh, man, if I was ner yer size, I’d gie ye a licking
mysel’. Stand oot o’ the gate, I say, an’ I’ll sune run through the
haill o’ ye. I’m no gaun to lose a saxpence for yeer nonsensical
“Cancel my commission!” said the lieutenant, “if the brat hasn’t
bothered the sergeant! The bathing-machine is coming down upon us like
the chariot of Queen Boadicea! This will never do. Randolph—you and
M’Whirter ride out and reinforce. That scoundrel is another Kellerman,
and will break us to a dead certainty!”
“Twa mair o’ ye!” observed the youth with incredible nonchalance, as we
rode up with ferocious gestures. “O men, but ye’re bauld bauld the day!
Little chance the Frenchies wad hae wi’ the like o’ you ’gin they were
comin’! Gee hup, Bauldy!”
“Come, come, my boy,” said Randolph, nearly choking with laughter, “this
is all very well, but you must positively be off. Come, tumble round, my
fine fellow, and you shall have leave to pass presently.”
“Aum no gaun to lose the tide that way,” persevered the urchin. “The
sands is open to the haill o’ huz, and I’ll no gang back for nane o’ ye.
Gin ye offer tae strike me, I’ll hae the haill squad o’ ye afore the
Provost o’ Portobelly, and, ma certie, there’ll be a wheen heels sune
coolin’ in the jougs!”
“By heavens! this is absolutely intolerable!” said the
sergeant—“M’Whirter, order the man in the inside to open the door, and
come out in Her Majesty’s name.”
I obeyed, as a matter of course.
“I say—you, sir, inside—do you know where you are going? Right into
the centre of a troop of the Royal Yeomanry Cavalry! If you are a
gentleman and a loyal subject, you will open the door immediately, and
desire the vehicle to be stopped.”
In order to give due effect to this remonstrance, and also to impress
the inmate with a proper sense of the consequences of interference with
martial discipline, I bestowed cut No. Seven with all my might upon the
machine. To my horror, and that of my companions, there arose from
within a prolonged and double-voiced squall.
“Hang me, if it isn’t women!” said the sergeant.
“Yer mither wull be proud o’ ye the nicht,” said the Incubus on the
atomy, “when it’s tell’t her that ye hae whanged at an auld machine, and
frichtet twa leddies to the skirlin’! Ony hoo, M’Whirter, gin that’s
your name, there’ll be half-a-croun to pay for the broken brodd!”
The small sliding-panel at the back of the machine was now cautiously
“Goodness gracious, Mr M’Whirter!” said a voice which I instantly
recognised to be that of Edith Bogle, “is it possible that can be you?
Is it the custom, sir, of the Scottish yeomen to break in upon the
privacy of two young defenceless females, and even to raise their
weapons against the place which contains them? Fie, sir! is this your
“O George—go away, do! I am really quite ashamed of you!” said the
voice of my cousin, Mary Muggerland.
I thought I should have dropped from my saddle.
“Friends of yours, eh, M’Whirter?” said Randolph. “Rather an awkward
fix, I confess. What’s to be done?”
“Would the regulars have behaved thus?” cried Edith, with increased
animation. “Would they have insulted a woman? Never. Begone, sir—I am
afraid I have been mistaken in you”——
“By my honour, Edith!—Miss Bogle, I mean—you do me gross injustice! I
did not know—I could not conceive that you, or Mary, or any other lady,
were in the machine, and then—consider my orders”——
“Orders, sir! There are some orders which never ought to be obeyed. But
enough of this. If you have delicacy enough to feel for our situation,
you will not protract this interview. Drive on, boy! and you, Mr
M’Whirter, if you venture to interrupt us further, never expect my
“Nor mine!” added Mary Muggerland.
“Who the mischief cares for yours, you monkey!” muttered I sotto voce.
“But Edith—one other word”——
“Don’t call me Edith, sir! This continued importunity is insufferable!
If you have any explanation to make, you must select a fitter time,” and
the sliding-panel was instantly closed.
“Ye’ve cotohed it ony hoo!” said the shrimp, with a malignant leer.
“Wauken up, Bauldy, my man, and let’s see how cleverly ye’ll gae through
A few words of explanation satisfied our commanding-officer, and the
victorious machine rolled insultingly through the lines. I have not
spirits to narrate the further proceedings of that day. My heart was not
in the squadron; and my eyes, even when ordered to be directed to the
left, were stealthily turned in the other direction towards two distant
figures in bathing-gowns, sedulously attempting to drown one another in
fun. Shortly afterwards we dispersed, and returned to Edinburgh. I
attempted a visit of explanation, but Miss Bogle was not at home.
I messed that evening for the first time with the squadron. Judging from
the laughter which arose on all sides, it was a merry party; but my
heart was heavy, and I could hardly bring myself to enter cordially into
the festivities. I was also rather uneasy in person, as will happen to
young cavalry soldiers. I drank, however, a good deal of wine, and, as I
was afterwards informed, recovered amazingly towards the close of the
sederunt. They also told me, next morning, that I had entered Masaniello
to run for the Squadron Cup.
“And so you really forgive me, Edith!” said I, bending over the lady of
my love, as she sate creating worsted roses in a parterre of gossamer
canvass: “You are not angry at what happened the other day at that
unlucky encounter on the sands?”
“Have I not said already that I forgive you?” replied Edith. “Is it
necessary that I should assure you twice?”
“Charming Miss Bogle! you do not know how happy you have made me.”
“Pray, don’t lean over me so, or you’ll make me spoil my work. See—I
have absolutely put something like a caterpillar into the heart of this
“Never, dearest Edith, may any caterpillar prey upon the rosebud of your
happiness. How curious! Do you know, the outline of that sketch reminds
me forcibly of the countenance of Roper?”
“Nay, I was merely jesting. Pray, Miss Bogle, what are your favourite
“Peach-blossom and scarlet; but why do you ask?”
“Do not press me for an explanation—it will come early enough. And now,
Edith, I must bid you adieu.”
“So soon? Cannot you spare a single hour from your military duties?
Bless me, how pale you are looking! Are you sure you are quite well?”
“Quite—that is to say a little shaken in the nerves or so. This
“Do you mean at mess? Mr Roper told me sad stories about your
proceedings two nights ago.”
“Oh, pooh—nonsense! You will certainly then appear at the races?”
“You may depend upon me.”
And so I took my leave.
The reader will gather from this conversation, which took place four
days after the events detailed in last chapter, that I had effectually
made my peace with Miss Bogle. For this arrangement Mary Muggerland took
much more credit than I thought she was entitled to; however, it is of
no use quarrelling with the well disposed, especially if they are
females, as, in that case, you are sure to have the worst of it in the
long run. I did not feel quite easy, however, regarding, the
insinuations thrown out upon my unusually pallid appearance. The fact
is, that the last week had rather been a fast one. The mess was
remarkably pleasant, and all would have been quite right had we stopped
there. But I had unfortunately yielded to the fascinations of Archy
Chaffinch and some of the younger hands, who, being upon the loose,
resolved to make the very most of it, and the consequence was, that, to
the great scandal of Nelly, we kept highly untimeous hours. In fact, one
night I made a slight mistake, which I have not yet, and may never hear,
the last of, by walking, quite accidentally, into the house of my
next-door neighbour—a grave and reverend signior—instead of my own,
and abusing him like a pickpocket for his uncalled-for presence within
the shade of my patrimonial lobby. It therefore followed that sometimes
of a morning, after mounting Masaniello, I had a strong suspicion that a
hive of bees had taken a fancy to settle upon my helmet—a compliment
which might have been highly satisfactory to the infant Virgil, but was
by no means suited to the nerves or taste of an adult Writer to the
Roper had been my guest at one of the late messes. His speech in
returning thanks for the health of his regiment was one of the richest
specimens of oratory I ever had the good fortune to hear, and ought to
be embalmed for the benefit of an aspiring posterity. It ran somewhat
“I assure you, sir, that the honour you have just conferred upon ours,
is—yas—amply appweciated, I assure you, sir, by the wegular army. It
gives us, sir—yas—the hiwest gwatification to be pwesent at the mess
of such a loyal body as the South-Lothian Yeomanry Cavalry. The
distinguished services of that gallant corps, both at home and abwoad,
are such as—yas—to demand the admiwation of their country,
and—yas—in short, I feel compwetely overpowared. The bwoad banners of
Bwitain floating over land and sea—chalk cliffs of old Albion, if I may
be allowed the simile—wight hand of the service and left—wegulars and
yeomanry—and the three corners of the world may come at once in arms,
and be considewably shocked for their pains. Permit me again to expwess
my extweme thanks for the honour you have done to ours.”
Now, on that evening, as I can conscientiously vouch, Roper contrived to
deposit at least two bottles of claret beneath his belt. Any
revelations, therefore, of what took place at our hospitable board,
amounted to a gross breach of confidence, and were quite unpardonable;
more especially when our relative situations with regard to the
affections of Miss Bogle are considered. But Punic faith is the very
least that one can expect from a rival.
On the review day, the whole regiment turned out under auspices of
unusual smartness. We were to be inspected by a veteran officer of high
rank and reputation, and, under those circumstances, we all thought
ourselves bound in honour to support the credit of the corps. That was
not remarkably difficult. You will hardly see anywhere a finer-looking
set of fellows than the Mid-Lothian yeomanry, and our discipline,
considering the short period of exercise, was really praiseworthy. In
the words of our commanding-officer, he was justly proud of his
recruits, and I can answer for it, that the recruits most cordially
reciprocated the sentiment.
“Now, Anthony,” said Pounset, as we formed into line, “I shall really be
obliged to you to make less clatter with that scabbard of yours when we
charge. My mare is mad enough with the music, without having the
additional impetus of supposing that a score of empty kettles are tied
to her tail.”
“By jove, that’s a good one!” replied Anthony. “Here have you been
bunging up my eyes and making attempts upon my ribs for the last week,
and yet you expect me to have no other earthly consideration beyond your
personal comfort! How the deuce am I to manage my scabbard when both
hands are occupied?”
“Can’t you follow the example of Prince Charles, and throw it away?”
“Thank you for nothing! But, I say that sort of madness seems
contagious. Here’s M’Whirter’s horse performing a fandango, which is far
more curious than agreeable.”
“What’s the matter with Masaniello?” cried Archy Chaffinch; “he looks
seriously inclined to bolt.”
I had awful suspicions of the same nature. No sooner had the regimental
band struck up, than my charger began to evince disagreeable signs of
impatience; he pawed, pranced, snorted, curveted, and was utterly deaf
to the blandishments with which I strove to allay his irritability. I
was even thankful when we were put into motion preparatory to the
charge, in the belief that action might render him less restive; and so
it did for a time. But no sooner had we broke into a gallop, than I felt
it was all up with me. I might as well have been without a bridle. The
ungovernable brute laid back his ears like a tiger, and I shot past
Randolph in an instant, very nearly upsetting that judicious warrior in
Nor was I alone. Pounset’s mare, who never brooked a rival, and who,
moreover, had taken umbrage at the sonorous jolting of Anthony, was
resolved not to be outstripped; and, taking the bridle between her
teeth, came hard and heavy on my flank. The cry of “halt!” sounded far
and faint behind us. We dashed past a carriage, in which, from a
momentary glimpse, I recognised the form of Edith; while a dragoon
officer—I knew intuitively it was Roper—had drawn up his horse by the
side. They were laughing—yes! by heavens they were laughing—at the
moment I was borne away headlong, and perhaps to destruction. My sword
flew out of my hand—I had need of both to hold the reins. I shouted to
Pounset to draw in, but an oath was the only reply!
I heard the blast of the recall bugle behind us, but Masaniello only
stretched out more wildly. We splashed through the shallow pools of
water, sending up the spray behind us; and onwards—onwards we went
towards Joppa, with more than the velocity of the wind.
“Have a care, M’Whirter!” shouted Pounset. “Turn his head to the sea if
you can. There’s a quicksand right before you!”
I could as easily have converted a Mussulman. I saw before me a dark
streak, as if some foul brook were stagnating on the sands. There was a
dash, a splash, a shock, and I was catapulted over the ears of
I must have lost consciousness, I believe, for the next thing I remember
was Pounset standing over me, and holding my quadruped by the bridle.
“We may thank our stars it is no worse,” said he; “that stank fairly
took the shine out of your brute, and brought him to a stand-still. Are
“Not much. But I say, what a figure I am!”
“Not altogether adapted for an evening party, I admit. But never mind.
There’s a cure for everything except broken bones. Let’s get back again
as fast as we can, for the captain will be in a beautiful rage!”
We returned. A general acclamation burst from the squadron as we rode
up, but the commanding officer looked severe as Draco.
“Am I to conclude, gentlemen,” said he, “that this exhibition was a
trial of the comparative merits of your horses preparatory to the
racing? Upon such an occasion as this I must say”——
“Just look at M’Whirter, captain,” said Pounset, “and then judge for
yourself whether it was intentional. The fact is, my mare is as hot as
ginger, and that black horse has no more mouth than a brickbat!”
“Well, after all, he does seem in a precious mess. I shall pass it
over as a mere accident, but don’t let it happen again. Fall in,
There was, however, as regarded myself, considerable opposition to this
“Why, M’Whirter, you’re not going to poison us to death, are you?” said
Anthony Whaup. “Pray keep to the other side, like a good fellow—you’re
not just altogether a bouquet.”
“Do they gut the herrings down yonder, M’Whirter?” asked Archy
Chaffinch. “Excuse me for remarking that your flavour is rather full
“I wish they had allowed smoking on parade!” said a third. “It would
require a strong Havannah to temper the exhalations of our comrade.”
“Hadn’t you better go home at once?” suggested Randolph. “My horse is
beginning to cough.”
“Yes—yes!” cried half-a-dozen. “Go home at once.”
“And if you are wise,” added Hargate, “take a dip in the sea—boots,
helmet, pantaloons, and all.”
I obtained permission to fall out, and retired in a state of
inconceivable disgust. Towards the carriage where Edith was seated I
dared not go; and with a big and throbbing heart I recollected that she
had witnessed my disgrace.
“But she shall yet see,” I mentally exclaimed, “that I am worthy of her!
Once let me cast this foul and filthy slough—let me don her favourite
colours—let me win the prize, as I am sure I ought to do, and the
treasure of her heart may be mine!—You young villain! if you make faces
at me again, I shall fetch you a cut over the costard!”
“Soor dook!” shouted the varlet. “Eh! see till the man that’s been
coupit ower in the glaur!”
I rode home as rapidly as possible. I throw a veil over the triumphant
ejaculations of Nelly at the sight of my ruined uniform, and the
personal allusions she made to the retreat and discomfiture of the
Philistines. That evening I avoided mess, and courted a sound sleep to
prepare me for the fatigues of the ensuing day.
“Here is a true, correct, and particular account, of the noblemen,
gentlemen, and yeomen’s horses, that is to run this day over the course
of Musselburgh, with the names, weights, and liveries of the riders, and
the same of the horses themselves!”
Such were the cries that saluted me, as next day I rode up to the
race-course of Musselburgh. I purchased a card, which, among other
entries, contained the following:—
Edinburgh Squadron Cup, 12 Stone.
Mr A. Chaffinch’s br. g. Groggyboy—Green and White Cap.
Mr Randolph ns. b. g. Capsicum—Geranium and French Grey.
Mr M’Whirter’s bl. g. Masaniello—Peach-blossom and Scarlet.
Mr Hargate ns. ch. m. Loupowerher—Fawn and Black Cap.
Mr Pounset’s b. m. Miss Frolic—Orange and Blue.
Mr Shakerley ns. b. g. Spontaneous Combustion—White body
and Liver-coloured Sleeves.
I made my way to the stand. Miss Bogle and Mary Muggerland were there,
but so also was the eternal Roper.
“Ah, M’Whirter!” said the latter. “How do you feel yourself this
morning? None the worse of your tumble yesterday, I hope? Mere accident,
you know. Spiwited cweature Masaniello, it must be confessed. ’Gad, if
you can make him go the pace as well to-day, you’ll distance the whole
of the rest of them.”
“Oh, Mr M’Whirter! I’m so glad to see you!” said Edith. “How funny you
looked yesterday when you were running away! Do you know that I waved my
handkerchief to you as you passed, but you were not polite enough to
take any notice?”
“Indeed, Miss Bogle, I had something else to think of at that particular
“You were not thinking about me, then?” said Edith. “Well, I can’t
call that a very gallant speech.”
“I’ll lay an even bet,” said Roper, “that you were thinking more about
“Were you ever wounded, Mr Roper?” said I.
“Once—in the heart, and incurably,” replied the coxcomb, with a glance
“Pshaw! because, if you had been, you would scarce have ventured to
select the surgeon as the subject of a joke. But I forgot. These are
times of peace.”
“When men of peace become soldiers,” retorted Roper.
“I declare you are very silly!” cried Edith; “and I have a good mind to
send both of you away.”
“Death rather than banishment!” said Roper.
“Well, then, do be quiet! I take such an interest in your race, Mr
M’Whirter. Do you know I have two pairs of gloves upon it? So you must
absolutely contrive to win. By the way, what are your colours?”
“Peach-blossom and scarlet.”
“How very gallant! I take it quite as a compliment to myself.”
“M’Whirter! you’re wanted,” cried a voice from below.
“Bless me! I suppose it is time for saddling. Farewell, Edith—farewell,
Mary! I shall win if I possibly can.”
“Good-by!” said Roper. “Stick on tightly and screw him up, and there’s
no fear of Masaniello.”
“Where the deuce have you been, M’Whirter?” said Randolph. “Get into the
scales as fast as you can. You’ve been keeping the whole of us waiting.”
“I’ll back Masaniello against the field at two to one,” said Anthony
“Done with you, in ponies,” said Patsey Chaffinch, who was assisting his
brother from the scales.
“Do you feel nervous, M’Whirter?” asked Hosier, a friend who was backing
me rather heavily. “You look a little white in the face.”
“To tell you the truth—I do.”
“That’s awkward. Had you not better take a glass of brandy?”
“Not a bad idea;” and I took it.
“That’s right. Now canter him about a little, and you’ll soon get used
I shall carefully avoid having any future occasion to make use of my
dear-bought experience. I felt remarkably sheepish as I rode out upon
the course, and heard the observations of the crowd.
“And wha’s yon in the saumon-coloured jacket?”
“It’ll be him they ca’ Chaffinch.”
“Na, man—yon chield wad make twa o’ Chaffinch. He’s but a feather-wecht
o’ a cratur.”
“Wow, Jess! but that’s a bonnie horse!”
“Bonnier than the man that’s on it, ony how.”
“Think ye that’s the beast they ca’ Masonyellow?”
“I’m thinkin’ sae. That man can ride nane. He’s nae grupp wi’ his
These were the kind of remarks that met my ears as I paced along, nor,
as I must confess, was I particularly elated thereby. Pounset now rode
“Well, M’Whirter, we are to have another sort of race to-day. I half
fear, from the specimen I have seen of Masaniello, that my little mare
runs a poor chance; but Chaffinch will give you work for it—Groggyboy
was a crack horse in his day. But come, there goes the bell, and we are
wanted at the starting-post.”
The remainder of my story is short.
“Ready, gentlemen?—Off!” and away we went, Spontaneous Combustion
leading, Miss Frolic and Groggyboy next, Randolph and myself following,
and Hargate bringing up the rear on Loupowerher, who never had a chance.
After the first few seconds, when all was mist before my eyes, I felt
considerably easier. Masaniello was striding out vigorously, and I
warmed insensibly to the work. The pace became terrific. Spon. Bus.
gradually gave way, and Groggyboy took the lead. I saw nothing more of
Randolph. On we went around the race-course like a crowd of motley
demoniacs, whipping, spurring, and working at our reins as if thereby we
were assisting our progression. I was resolved to conquer or to die.
Round we came in sight of the assembled multitude. I could even hear
their excited cries in the distance. Masaniello was now running neck and
neck with Groggyboy—Miss Frolic half-a-length before!
And now we neared the stand. I thought I could see the white fluttering
of Edith’s handkerchief—I clenched my teeth, grasped my whip, and
lashed vigorously at Masaniello. In a moment more I should have been
ahead—but there was a crash, and then oblivion.
Evil was the mother that whelped that cur of a butcher’s dog! He ran
right in before Masaniello, and horse and man were hurled with awful
violence to the ground. I forgive Masaniello. Poor brute! his leg was
broken, and they had to shoot him on the course. He was my first and
As for myself, I was picked up insensible, and conveyed home upon a
shutter, thereby fulfilling to the letter the ominous prophecies of
Nelly, who cried the coronach over me. Two of my ribs were fractured,
and for three weeks I was confined to bed with a delirious fever.
“What noise is that below stairs, Nelly?” asked I on the second morning
of my convalescence.
“’Deed, Maister George, I’m thinking it’s just the servant lass chappin’
coals wi’ yer swurd.”
“Serve it right. And what parcel is that on the table?”
“I dinna ken: it came in yestreen.”
“Give it me.”
“Heaven and earth! Wedding-cake and cards! Mr and Mrs Roper!”