Chapter 15 The Day-Book of John Berthier Heatherstone
Thull Valley, Oct. 1, 1841.—The Fifth Bengal and Thirty-third Queen's passe_hrough this morning on their way to the Front. Had tiffin with the Bengalese.
Latest news from home that two attempts had been made on the Queen's life b_emi-maniacs named Francis and Bean.
It promises to be a hard winter. The snow-line has descended a thousand fee_pon the peaks, but the passes will be open for weeks to come, and, even i_hey were blocked, we have established so many depots in the country tha_ollock and Nott will have no difficulty in holding their own. They shall no_eet with the fate of Elphinstone's army. One such tragedy is enough for _entury.
Elliott of the Artillery, and I, are answerable for the safety of th_ommunications for a distance of twenty miles or more, from the mouth of th_alley to this side of the wooden bridge over the Lotar. Goodenough, of th_ifles, is responsible on the other side, and Lieutenant-Colonel Sidne_erbert of the Engineers, has a general supervision over both sections.
Our force is not strong enough for the work which has to be done. I have _ompany and a half of our own regiment, and a squadron of Sowars, who are o_o use at all among the rocks. Elliott has three guns, but several of his me_re down with cholera, and I doubt if he has enough to serve more than two.
[Note: capsicum for cholera—tried it]
On the other hand, each convoy is usually provided with some guard of its own, though it is often absurdly inefficient. These valleys and ravines whic_ranch out of the main pass are alive with Afridis and Pathans, who are kee_obbers as well as religious fanatics. I wonder they don't swoop down on som_f our caravans. They could plunder them and get back to their mountai_astnesses before we could interfere or overtake them. Nothing but fear wil_estrain them.
If I had my way I would hang one at the mouth of every ravine as a warning t_he gang. They are personifications of the devil to look at, hawk-nosed, full- lipped, with a mane of tangled hair, and most Satanic sneer. No news toda_rom the Front.
October 2.—I must really ask Herbert for another company at the very least. _m convinced that the communications would be cut off if any serious attac_ere made upon us.
Now, this morning two urgent messages were sent me from two different point_ore than sixteen miles apart, to say that there were signs of a descent o_he tribes.
Elliott, with one gun and the Sowars, went to the farther ravine, while I, with the infantry, hurried to the other, but we found it was a false alarm. _aw no signs of the Hillmen, and though we were greeted by a splutter o_ezail bullets we were unable to capture any of the rascals.
Woe betide them if they fall into my hands. I would give them as short _hrift as ever a Highland cateran got from a Glasgow judge. These continue_larms may mean nothing or they may be an indication that the Hillmen ar_ssembling and have some plan in view.
We have had no news from the Front for some time, but to-day a convoy o_ounded came through with the intelligence that Nott had taken Ghuznee. I hop_e warmed up any of the black rascals that fell into his hands.
No word of Pollock.
An elephant battery came up from the Punjab, looking in very good condition.
There were several convalescents with it going up to rejoin their regiments.
Knew none of them except Mostyn of the Hussars and young Blakesley, who was m_ag at Charterhouse, and whom I have never seen since.
Punch and cigars al fresco up to eleven o'clock.
Letters to-day from Wills & Co. about their little bill forwarded on fro_elhi. Thought a campaign freed a man from these annoyances. Wills says in hi_ote that, since his written applications have been in vain, he must call upo_e in person. If he calls upon me now he will assuredly be the boldest an_ost persevering of tailors.
A line from Calcutta Daisy and another from Hobhouse to say that Matilda come_n for all the money under the will. I am glad of it.
October 3.—Glorious news from the Front today. Barclay, of the Madras Cavalry, galloped through with dispatches. Pollock entered Cabul triumphantly on th_6th of last month, and, better still, Lady Sale has been rescued b_hakespear, and brought safe into the British camp, together with the othe_ostages. Te Deum laudamus!
This should end the whole wretched business—this and the sack of the city. _ope Pollock won't be squeamish, or truckle to the hysterical party at home.
The towns should be laid in ashes and the fields sown with salt. Above all, the Residency and the Palace must come down. So shall Burnes, McNaghten, an_any another gallant fellow know that his countrymen could avenge if the_ould not save him!
It is hard when others are gaining glory and experience to be stuck in thi_iserable valley. I have been out of it completely, bar a few pett_kirmishes. However, we may see some service yet.
A jemidar of ours brought in a Hillman today, who says that the tribes ar_assing in the Terada ravine, ten miles to the north of us, and inten_ttacking the next convoy. We can't rely on information of this sort, bu_here may prove to be some truth in it. Proposed to shoot our informant, so a_o prevent his playing the double traitor and reporting our proceedings.
If you are making war you should throw no chance away. I hate half-and- hal_easures. The Children of Israel seem to have been the only people who eve_arried war to its logical conclusion—except Cromwell in Ireland. Made _ompromise at last by which the man is to be detained as a prisoner an_xecuted if his information prove to be false. I only hope we get a fai_hance of showing what we can do.
No doubt these fellows at the Front will have C.B.'s and knighthoods showerin_pon them thick and fast, while we poor devils, who have had most of th_esponsibility and anxiety, will be passed over completely. Elliott has _hitlow.
The last convoy left us a large packet of sauces, but as they forgot to leav_nything to eat with them, we have handed them over to the Sowars, who drin_hem out of their pannikins as if they were liqueurs. We hear that anothe_arge convoy may be expected from the plains in the course of a day or two.
Took nine to four on Cleopatra for the Calcutta Cup.
October 4.—The Hillmen really mean business this time, I think. We have ha_wo of our spies come in this morning with the same account about th_athering in the Terada quarter. That old rascal Zemaun is at the head of it, and I had recommended the Government to present him with a telescope in retur_or his neutrality! There will be no Zemaun to present it to if I can but la_ands upon him.
We expect the convoy tomorrow morning, and need anticipate no attack until i_omes up, for these fellows fight for plunder, not for glory, though, to d_hem justice, they have plenty of pluck when they get started. I have devise_n excellent plan, and it has Elliott's hearty support. By Jove! if we ca_nly manage it, it will be as pretty a ruse as ever I heard of.
Our intention is to give out that we are going down the valley to meet th_onvoy and to block the mouth of a pass from which we profess to expect a_ttack. Very good. We shall make a night-march to-night and reach their camp.
Once there I shall conceal my two hundred men in the waggons and travel u_ith the convoy again.
Our friends the enemy, having heard that we intended to go south, and seein_he caravan going north without us, will naturally swoop down upon it unde_he impression that we are twenty miles away. We shall teach them such _esson that they would as soon think of stopping a thunderbolt as o_nterfering again with one of Her Britannic Majesty's provision trains. I a_ll on thorns to be off.
Elliott has rigged up two of his guns so ingeniously that they look more lik_ostermongers' barrows than anything else. To see artillery ready for actio_n the convoy might arouse suspicion. The artillerymen will be in the waggon_ext the guns, all ready to unlimber and open fire. Infantry in front an_ear. Have told our confidential and discreet Sepoy servants the plan which w_o not intend to adopt. N.B.—If you wish a thing to be noised over a whol_rovince always whisper it under a vow of secrecy to your confidential nativ_ervant.
8.45 P.M.—Just starting for the convoy. May luck go with us!
October 5.—Seven o'clock in the evening. Io triumphe! Crown us wit_aurel—Elliott and myself! Who can compare with us as vermin killers?
I have only just got back, tired and weary, stained with blood and dust, but _ave sat down before either washing or changing to have the satisfaction o_eeing our deeds set forth in black and white—if only in my private log for n_ye but my own. I shall describe it all fully as a preparation for an officia_ccount, which must be drawn up when Elliott gets back. Billy Dawson used t_ay that there were three degrees of comparison—a prevarication, a lie, and a_fficial account. We at least cannot exaggerate our success, for it would b_mpossible to add anything to it.
We set out, then, as per programme, and came upon the camp near the head o_he valley. They had two weak companies of the 54th with them who might n_oubt have held their own with warning, but an unexpected rush of wild Hillme_s a very difficult thing to stand against. With our reinforcements, however, and on our guard, we might defy the rascals.
Chamberlain was in command—a fine young fellow. We soon made him understan_he situation, and were all ready for a start by daybreak though his waggon_ere so full that we were compelled to leave several tons of fodder behind i_rder to make room for my Sepoys and for the artillery.
About five o'clock we inspanned, to use an Africanism, and by six we were wel_n our way, with our escort as straggling and unconcerned as possible—a_elpless-looking a caravan as ever invited attack.
I could soon see that it was to be no false alarm this time, and that th_ribes really meant business.
From my post of observation, under the canvas screens of one of the waggons, _ould make out turbaned heads popping up to have a look at us from among th_ocks, and an occasional scout hurrying northward with the news of ou_pproach.
It was not, however, until we came abreast of the Terada Pass, a gloomy defil_ounded by gigantic cliffs, that the Afridis began to show in force, thoug_hey had ambushed themselves so cleverly that, had we not been keenly on th_ook-out for them, we might have walked right into the trap. As it was, th_onvoy halted, upon which the Hillmen, seeing that they were observed, opene_ heavy but ill-directed fire upon us.
I had asked Chamberlain to throw out his men in skirmishing order, and to giv_hem directions to retreat slowly upon the waggons so as to draw the Afridi_n. The ruse succeeded to perfection.
As the redcoats steadily retired, keeping behind cover as much as possible, the enemy followed them up with yells of exultation, springing from rock t_ock, waving their jezails in the air, and howling like a pack of demons.
With their black, contorted, mocking faces, their fierce gestures, and thei_luttering garments, they would have made a study for any painter who wishe_o portray Milton's conception of the army of the damned.
From every side they pressed in until, seeing, as they thought, nothin_etween them and victory, they left the shelter of the rocks and came rushin_own, a furious, howling throng, with the green banner of the Prophet in thei_an.
Now was our chance, and gloriously we utilised it.
From every cranny and slit of the waggons came a blaze of fire, every shot o_hich told among the close-packed mob. Two or three score rolled over lik_abbits and the rest reeled for a moment, and then, with their chiefs at thei_ead, came on again in a magnificent rush.
It was useless, however, for undisciplined men to attempt to face such a well- directed fire. The leaders were bowled over, and the others, after hesitatin_or a few moments, turned and made for the rocks.
It was our turn now to assume the offensive. The guns were unlimbered an_rape poured into them, while our little infantry force advanced at th_ouble, shooting and stabbing all whom they overtook.
Never had I known the tide of battle turn so rapidly and so decisively. Th_ullen retreat became a flight, and the flight a panic-stricken rout, unti_here was nothing left of the tribesmen except a scattered, demoralised rabbl_lying wildly to their native fastnesses for shelter and protection.
I was by no means inclined to let them off cheaply now that I had them in m_ower. On the contrary, I determined to teach them such a lesson that th_ight of a single scarlet uniform would in future be a passport in itself.
We followed hard upon the track of the fugitives and entered the Terada defil_t their very heels. Having detached Chamberlain and Elliott with a company o_ither side to protect my wings, I pushed on with my Sepoys and a handful o_rtillerymen, giving the enemy no time to rally or to recover themselves. W_ere so handicapped, however, by our stiff European uniforms and by our wan_f practice in climbing, that we should have been unable to overtake any o_he mountaineers had it not been for a fortunate accident.
There is a smaller ravine which opens into the main pass, and in their hurr_nd confusion some of the fugitives rushed down this. I saw sixty or sevent_f them turn down, but I should have passed them by and continued in pursui_f the main body had not one of my scouts come rustling up to inform me tha_he smaller ravine was a cul-de-sac, and that the Afridis who had gone up i_ad no possible means of getting out again except by cutting their way throug_ur ranks.
Here was an opportunity of striking terror into the tribes. Leavin_hamberlain and Elliott to continue the pursuit of the main body, I wheeled m_epoys into the narrow path and proceeded slowly down it in extended order, covering the whole ground from cliff to cliff. Not a jackal could have passe_s unseen. The rebels were caught like rats in a trap.
The defile in which we found ourselves was the most gloomy and majestic that _ave ever seen. On either side naked precipices rose sheer up for a thousan_eet or more, converging upon each other so as to leave a very narrow slit o_aylight above us, which was further reduced by the feathery fringe of pal_rees and aloes which hung over each lip of the chasm.
The cliffs were not more than a couple of hundred yards apart at the entrance, but as we advanced they grew nearer and nearer, until a half company in clos_rder could hardly march abreast.
A sort of twilight reigned in this strange valley, and the dim, uncertai_ight made the great, basalt rocks loom up vague and fantastic. There was n_ath, and the ground was most uneven, but I pushed on briskly, cautioning m_ellows to have their fingers on their triggers, for I could see that we wer_earing the point where the two cliffs would form an acute angle with eac_ther.
At last we came in sight of the place. A great pile of boulders was heaped u_t the very end of the pass, and among these our fugitives were skulking, entirely demoralised apparently, and incapable of resistance. They wer_seless as prisoners, and it was out of the question to let them go, so ther_as no choice but to polish them off.
Waving my sword, I was leading my men on, when we had a most dramati_nterruption of a sort which I have seen once or twice on the boards of Drur_ane, but never in real life.
In the side of the cliff, close to the pile of stones where the Hillmen wer_aking their last stand, there was a cave which looked more like the lair o_ome wild beast than a human habitation.
Out of this dark archway there suddenly emerged an old man—such a very, ver_ld man that all the other veterans whom I have seen were as chickens compare_ith him. His hair and beard were both as white as snow, and each reached mor_han half-way to his waist. His face was wrinkled and brown and ebony, a cros_etween a monkey and a mummy, and so thin and emaciated were his shrivelle_imbs that you would hardly have given him credit for having any vitalit_eft, were it not for his eyes, which glittered and sparkled with excitement, like two diamonds in a setting of mahogany.
This apparition came rushing out of the cave, and, throwing himself betwee_he fugitives and our fellows, motioned us back with as imperious a sweep o_he hand as ever an emperor used to his slaves.
"Men of blood," he cried, in a voice of thunder, speaking excellent English, too—"this is a place for prayer and meditation, not for murder. Desist, les_he wrath of the gods fall upon you."
"Stand aside, old man," I shouted. "You will meet with a hurt if you don't ge_ut of the way."
I could see that the Hillmen were taking heart, and that some of my Sepoy_ere flinching, as if they did not relish this new enemy. Clearly, I must ac_romptly if I wished to complete our success.
I dashed forward at the head of the white artillerymen who had stuck to me.
The old fellow rushed at us with his arms out as if to stop us, but it was no_ime to stick at trifles, so I passed my sword through his body at the sam_oment that one of the gunners brought his carbine down upon his head. H_ropped instantly, and the Hillmen, at the sight of his fall, set up the mos_nearthly howl of horror and consternation.
The Sepoys, who had been inclined to hang back, came on again the moment h_as disposed of, and it did not take us long to consummate our victory. Hardl_ man of the enemy got out of the defile alive.
What could Hannibal or Caesar have done more? Our own loss in the whole affai_as been insignificant—three killed and about fifteen wounded. Got thei_anner, a green wisp of a thing with a sentence of the Koran engraved upon it.
I looked, after the action, for the old chap, but his body had disappeared, though how or whither I have no conception. His blood be upon his own head! H_ould be alive now if he had not interfered, as the constables say at home,
"with an officer in the execution of his duty."
The scouts tell me that his name was Ghoolab Shah, and that he was one of th_ighest and holiest of the Buddhists. He had great fame in the district as _rophet and worker of miracles—hence the hubbub when he was cut down. The_ell me that he was living in this very cave when Tamerlane passed this way i_399, with a lot more bosh of that sort.
I went into the cave, and how any man could live in it a week is a mystery t_e, for it was little more than four feet high, and as damp and dismal _rotto as ever was seen. A wooden settle and a rough table were the sol_urniture, with a lot of parchment scrolls with hieroglyphics.
Well, he has gone where he will learn that the gospel of peace and good wil_s superior to all his Pagan lore. Peace go with him.
Elliott and Chamberlain never caught the main body—I knew they wouldn't—so th_onours of the day rest with me. I ought to get a step for it, anyhow, an_erhaps, who knows? some mention in the Gazette. What a lucky chance! I thin_emaun deserves his telescope after all for giving it to me. Shall hav_omething to eat now, for I am half starved. Glory is an excellent thing, bu_ou cannot live upon it.
October 6, 11 A.M.—Let me try to set down as calmly and as accurately as I ca_ll that occurred last night. I have never been a dreamer or a visionary, so _an rely upon my own senses, though I am bound to say that if any other fello_ad told me the same thing I should have doubted him. I might even hav_uspected that I was deceived at the time had I not heard the bell since.
However, I must narrate what happened.
Elliott was in my tent with me having a quiet cheroot until about ten o'clock.
I then walked the rounds with my jemidar, and having seen that all was right _urned in a little before eleven.
I was just dropping off to sleep, for I was dog-tired after the day's work, when I was aroused by some slight noise, and, looking round, I saw a ma_ressed in Asiatic costume standing at the entrance of my tent. He wa_otionless when I saw him, and he had his eyes fixed upon me with a solemn an_tern expression.
My first thought was that the fellow was some Ghazi or Afghan fanatic who ha_tolen in with the intention of stabbing me, and with this idea in my mind _ad all the will to spring from my couch and defend myself, but the power wa_naccountably lacking.
An overpowering languor and want of energy possessed me. Had I seen the dagge_escending upon my breast I could not have made an effort to avert it. _uppose a bird when it is under the influence of a snake feels very much as _id in the presence of this gloomy-faced stranger. My mind was clear enough, but my body was as torpid as though I were still asleep.
I shut my eves once or twice and tried to persuade myself that the whole thin_as a delusion, but every time that I opened them there was the man stil_egarding me with the same stony, menacing stare.
The silence became unendurable. I felt that I must overcome my languor so fa_s to address him. I am not a nervous man, and I never knew before what Virgi_eant when he wrote "adhoesit faucibus ora." At last I managed to stammer ou_ few words, asking the intruder who he was and what he wanted.
"Lieutenant Heatherstone," he answered, speaking slowly and gravely, "you hav_ommitted this day the foulest sacrilege and the greatest crime which it i_ossible for man to do. You have slain one of the thrice blessed and reveren_nes, an arch adept of the first degree, an elder brother who has trod th_igher path for more years than you have numbered months. You have cut him of_t a time when his labours promised to reach a climax and when he was about t_ttain a height of occult knowledge which would have brought man one ste_earer to his Creator. All this you have done without excuse, withou_rovocation, at a time when he was pleading the cause of the helpless an_istressed. Listen now to me, John Heatherstone.
"When first the occult sciences were pursued many thousands of years ago, i_as found by the learned that the short tenure of human existence was to_imited to allow a man to attain the loftiest heights of inner life. Th_nquirers of those days directed their energies in the first place, therefore, to the lengthening of their own days in order that they might have more scop_or improvement.
"By their knowledge of the secret laws of Nature they were enabled to fortif_heir bodies against disease and old age. It only remained to protec_hemselves against the assaults of wicked and violent men who are ever read_o destroy what is wiser and nobler than themselves. There was no direct mean_y which this protection could be effected, but it was in some measur_ttained by arranging the occult forces in such a way that a terrible an_navoidable retribution should await the offender.
"It was irrevocably ordained by laws which cannot be reversed that any one wh_hould shed the blood of a brother who had attained a certain degree o_anctity should be a doomed man. Those laws are extant to this day, Joh_eatherstone, and you have placed yourself in their power. King or empero_ould be helpless before the forces which you have called into play. Wha_ope, then, is there for you?
"In former days these laws acted so instantaneously that the slayer perishe_ith his victim. It was judged afterwards that this prompt retributio_revented the offender from having time to realise the enormity of hi_ffence.
"It was therefore ordained that in all such cases the retribution should b_eft in the hands of the chelas, or immediate disciples of the holy man, wit_ower to extend or shorten it at their will, exacting it either at the time o_t any future anniversary of the day when the crime was committed.
"Why punishment should come on those days only it does not concern you t_now. Suffice it that you are the murderer of Ghoolab Shah, the thric_lessed, and that I am the senior of his three chelas commissioned to aveng_is death.
"It is no personal matter between us. Amid our studies we have no leisure o_nclination for personal matters. It is an immutable law, and it is a_mpossible for us to relax it as it is for you to escape from it Sooner o_ater we shall come to you and claim your life in atonement for the one whic_ou have taken.
"The same fate shall be meted out to the wretched soldier, Smith, who, thoug_ess guilty than yourself, has incurred the same penalty by raising hi_acrilegious hand against the chosen of Buddha. If your life is prolonged, i_s merely that you may have time to repent of your misdeed and to feel th_ull force of your punishment.
"And lest you should be tempted to cast it out of your mind and to forget it, our bell—our astral bell, the use of which is one of our occult secrets—shal_ver remind you of what have been and what is to be. You shall hear it by da_nd you shall hear it by night, and it will be a sign to you that do what yo_ay and go where you will, you can never shake yourself clear of the chelas o_hoolab Shah.
"You will never see me more, accursed one, until the day when we come for you.
Live in fear, and in that anticipation which is worse than death."
With a menacing wave of the hand the figure turned and swept out of my ten_nto the darkness. The instant that the fellow disappeared from my sight _ecovered from my lethargy which had fallen upon me. Springing to my feet, _ushed to the opening and looked out. A Sepoy sentry was standing leaning upo_is musket, a few paces off.
"You dog," I said in Hindustani. "What do you mean by letting people distur_e in this way?"
The man stared at me in amazement. "Has any one disturbed the sahib?" h_sked.
"This instant—this moment. You must have seen him pass out of my tent."
"Surely the Burra Sahib is mistaken," the man answered, respectfully bu_irmly. "I have been here for an hour, and no one has passed from the tent."
Puzzled and disconcerted, I was sitting by the side of my couch wonderin_hether the whole thing were a delusion, brought on by the nervous excitemen_f our skirmish, when a new marvel overtook me. From over my head ther_uddenly sounded a sharp, tinkling sound, like that produced by an empty glas_hen flipped by the nail, only louder and more intense.
I looked up, but nothing was to be seen. I examined the whole interior of th_ent carefully, but without discovering any cause for the strange sound. A_ast, worn out with fatigue, I gave the mystery up, and throwing myself on th_ouch was soon fast asleep.
When I awoke this morning I was inclined to put the whole of my yesternight'_xperiences down to imagination, but I was soon disabused of the idea, for _ad hardly risen before the same strange sound was repeated in my very ear a_oudly, and to all appearance as causelesly, as before. What it is or where i_omes from I cannot conceive. I have not heard it since.
Can the fellow's threats have something in them and this be the warning bel_f which he spoke? Surely it is impossible. Yet his manner was indescribabl_mpressive.
I have tried to set down what he said as accurately as I can, but I fear _ave omitted a good deal. What is to be the end of this strange affair? I mus_o in for a course of religion and holy water. Not a word to Chamberlain o_lliott. They tell me I am looking like a ghost this morning.
_Evening_.—Have managed to compare notes with Gunner Rufus Smith of th_rtillery, who knocked the old fellow over with the butt of his gun. Hi_xperience has been the same as mine. He has heard the sound, too. What is th_eaning of it all? My brain is in a whirl.
Oct. 10 (four days later).—God help us!
This last laconic entry terminated the journal. It seemed to me that, comin_s it did after four days' complete silence, it told a clearer tale of shake_erve and a broken spirit than could any more elaborate narrative. Pinned o_o the journal was a supplementary statement which had evidently been recentl_dded by the general.
"From that day to this," it said, "I have had no night or day free from th_ntrusion of that dreadful sound with its accompanying train of thought. Tim_nd custom have brought me no relief, but on the contrary, as the years pas_ver my head my physical strength decreases and my nerves become less able t_ear up against the continual strain.
"I am a broken man in mind and body. I live in a state of tension, alway_training my ears for the hated sound, afraid to converse with my fellows fo_ear of exposing my dreadful condition to them, with no comfort or hope o_omfort on this side of the grave. I should be willing. Heaven knows, to die, and yet as each 5th of October comes round, I am prostrated with fear becaus_ do not know what strange and terrible experience may be in store for me.
"Forty years have passed since I slew Ghoolab Shah, and forty times I hav_one through all the horrors of death, without attaining the blessed peac_hich lies beyond.
"I have no means of knowing in what shape my fate will come upon me. I hav_mmured myself in this lonely country, and surrounded myself with barriers, because in my weaker moments my instincts urge me to take some steps for self- protection, but I know well in my heart how futile it all is. They must com_uickly now, for I grow old, and Nature will forestall them unless they mak_aste.
"I take credit to myself that I have kept my hands off the prussic-acid o_pium bottle. It has always been in my power to checkmate my occul_ersecutors in that way, but I have ever held that a man in this world canno_esert his post until he has been relieved in due course by the authorities. _ave had no scruples, however, about exposing myself to danger, and, durin_he Sikh and Sepoy wars, I did all that a man could do to court Death. H_assed me by, however, and picked out many a young fellow to whom life wa_nly opening and who had everything to live for, while I survived to wi_rosses and honours which had lost all relish for me.
"Well, well, these things cannot depend upon chance, and there is no doub_ome deep reason for it all.
"One compensation Providence has made me in the shape of a true and faithfu_ife, to whom I told my dreadful secret before the wedding, and who nobl_onsented to share my lot. She has lifted half the burden from my shoulders, but with the effect, poor soul, of crushing her own life beneath its weight!
"My children, too, have been a comfort to me. Mordaunt knows all, or nearl_ll. Gabriel we have endeavoured to keep in the dark, though we cannot preven_er from knowing that there is something amiss.
"I should like this statement to be shown to Dr. John Easterling", o_tranraer. He heard on one occasion this haunting sound. My sad experience ma_how him that I spoke truth when I said that there was much knowledge in th_orld which has never found its way to England.
"J. B. HEATHERSTONE."
It was going on for dawn by the time that I had finished this extraordinar_arrative, to which my sister and Mordaunt Heatherstone listened with the mos_bsorbed attention. Already we could see through the window that the stars ha_egun to fade and a grey light to appear in the east. The crofter who owne_he lurcher dog lived a couple of miles off, so it was time for us to be o_oot. Leaving Esther to tell my father the story in such fashion as she might, we thrust some food in our pockets and set off upon our solemn and eventfu_rrand.