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That article not being producible, the Colonel proceeded-" Consider yourself spat upon, Viscount; and, let me add, you are a coward!"
"Mort de ma vie," screamed the Frenchman, whipping out his sabre like lightning. "Peaugout coward, say you? Peaugout poltroon? Peaugout spittoon? Ha! sa! sa!" With the last words he made a terrific lunge at the Colonel, who evaded it with agility, and flew shrieking round the table, hotly pressed by the Viscount, who deftly worked his sabre in the "pursuing exercise."
"Help!" screamed the Colonel. "Murder! police! fire! thieves!" "Rendez! rendez !" shouted the Viscount, thrusting away like a maniac, now and then jumping forward into the air, with a sweep of his weapon, as if trying to slice the fugitive's head off.
"Cut him down! cut him down!" shouted the chief; "cut the assassin down!" but no one stirred. "A pistol, M'Lean-a pistol, sir. Thanks" (receiving it). "Full cock ?" Bang!
The Colonel had turned and fired; the Viscount clapped his hand hastily to his forehead, and when he withdrew it, his face was covered with blood. He made no observation, however, but continued the pursuit with unabated vigour, and now began to gain on Colonel.
"The other pistol, M'Lean," exclaimed the latter, a good deal blown. "Quick! Quick!" Bang! Again the Viscount quickly raised his hand to his neck, which, on its withdrawal, appeared to stream with blood. This only seemed, however, to increase his activity.
"This is diablerie! this is legerdemain ! He is a French magician," gasped the Colonel. "Grapple him, some one, for heaven's sake, or he'll be the death of me. Are ye all cowards ?" Puff! puff! puff!
"Dod, Caurnel," said the Snorter, who was leisurely taking snuff, and observing the chase, "as the auld cock craws, the young anes larn."
At last the Viscount got close up, and was gathering himself together for a final effort, when I stepped forward to the rescue.
"Gentlemen!" I screamed, in the manner of a tragedy queen; "where is your chivalry? your honour? Do ye stand tamely by and see an old man disgraced and perhaps murdered? Will no one lift a hand in his defence? and it is in my cause, too! M'Alister, I blush for you!"
"Well, Selina," replied my spouse, "it's rather hard lines if the senior lieutenant is never to get a chance of a death-vacancy."
"Base! mercenary !" I hissed. "But oh! there is surely some brave, young, generous heart that can feel for age dishonoured, and beauty in distress!" Still all were silent, and hung their heads. "What! all dumb? Must I then ring for a menial ?"
"No!" shouted M'Nish, leaping forward; "I am here-command
'Grapple me this French parricide, and save your chief!"
M'Nish at once sprang upon him, and had little difficulty in overpowering the Viscount in his exhausted condition. As soon as he was fairly down, he had no lack of captors, who buzzed about him, and affected to maltreat him, which he bore with serenity.
The Colonel, apparently wild with terror, continued to pant round the table, until he was shouted to that his pursuer was hors de combat. He then fell with a bang on the floor, which he proceeded to hammer with his heels, like a hysterical cab-horse. "Where is he ?" he cried. "Am I safe? Crowd round me, and keep him off. Did the shots do him no harm? Say he is wounded—the infernal cannibal; say he is dying!"
"He is perfectly secure, sir," said the adjutant, soothingly; "and as he was hit both in the forehead and in the neck, although externally, the bleeding seems to have ceased, we are sanguine that internal hæmorrhage is going on; besides, M'Duff kicked him, he says, heavily in the ribs, and thought he felt several of them give way."
The Viscount, who had been lying quite quiet and prostrate, with his eyes closed, now opened them, and emitted a very clearly jödled "Tooralietee!"
"Help! help!" screamed the Colonel again. "Get round me, gentlemen, all of you, close, close-the pistols, load them; four bullets in each? Murder! help!"
"Tooralietee," sang the Viscount again. "Vare are ze balls through hedd and neck? Ah, bah! I had speeceefick for zem. Les voici !" and he raised himself on his elbow, and threw a couple of bullets at the Colonel, exclaiming, "Take zat, vieux dindon!”
The Colonel again roared lustily for assistance.
M'Nish, flushed and triumphant from his tussle with the Viscount, glared on the Colonel with ineffable horror and contempt, and muttered (sotto voce), "I was sure such a bully could scarcely be very brave. But, oh! with all these medals, to be a real coward!"
"Have him away!" cried the Colonel.
"Four, six, eight of you take this French charlatan away, and lock him up in some secure
place." He was accordingly led out of the room, kissing his hands to me, and addressing paternal advices to the Colonel. When it was announced that he was fairly incarcerated, and Dugald posted sentry over his door, poker in hand, to brain him should he attempt an escape, the Colonel's dignity returned at once. He rose from the ground, and seating himself pompously, "Now, gentlemen," he said, "a word of explanation may be due to you. Do not imagine when I fled before the murderous weapon of yonder assassin, that I was actuated by fears for personal safety; I may as well say that I turned sharply to avoid his thrust, and the springs of my new leg are really so strong and active, that I-a-a-a-in short, a- -lost command of them, and was unable to halt and administer to the miscreant the mortal chastisement he merited. But, hist! hist! what is that?" he cried, in a voice of agony, relapsing on the floor as a tremendous disturbance suddenly arose in the corridor. "Crowd round me, gentle
men-for heaven's sake, crowd round me!"
“Oh! Colonel,” cried an adept rushing into the room, "an unfortunate circumstance has occurred; the Viscount's Moorish attendant just now made a desperate effort to rescue his master, and Dugald has despatched him with a poker. The Moor is dead, sir."
"Heaven be praised!" said the Colonel, rising briskly. "And now a thought strikes me. This Viscount is a dangerous murderer. I am in bodily— that is, Mrs. M'Alister is in bodily terror; under these circumstances, the law justifies his despatch. And the question just rises whether it would not be well to try a shot at him through the keyhole, and, by taking him unawares, deprive him of the advantage of his diablerie. How say you, Mr. M'Nish? Will you take the pistol, and see what you can make of him? Such practice ought to
be child's play to a Tipperary man-hem ?"
"Oh, sir," interrupted M'Lean, "I think, being in the position of a prisoner of war, as he is, his despatch would be unjustifiable
"Well, perhaps," said the Colonel, "but it is a pity to lose the chance."
"Ahem! and now to business. Mr. M'Nish, as you, to a certain extent, captured the Viscount, flagrante delicto, it will be well that you now step down to the Procurator-Fiscal and give him a resumé of the case, requesting the civil power at once to take over the body of this French swashbuckler, who is frightening-the ladies up in the Castle here. I would give him a rough outline of the
Just say that the Viscount drew his sword, and attempted to
stab me-that I at once crossed weapons with him, and speedily disarmed him, and that you, then, threw yourself upon him, and secured him. You may add any comments your own good taste suggests; perhaps you would remark (as from yourself) that it was something wonderful to see how quickly British nerve and skill, though combined with years and many honourable wounds, baffled the savage onslaught of the foreigner; and you might, perhaps, say that my magnanimity prompted me to forgive the Viscount, and suppress proceedings, but that you, in the sacred discharge of a public duty, had felt bound to resist my pathetic entreaties. You understand me? these are a few hints to refresh a memory clouded with excitement. Now, off with you!" M'Nish stood transfixed and open-mouthed, staring at the Colonel. "I cannot tell a lie, Colonel M'Alpine," he said, bluntly, at last.
"Better not, sir; better not, I should say," cried the Colonel. "We have such things as drum-heads and cat-o'-nine tails, even for officers who are detected in such vile conduct."
"But if I say that—”
"Silence, sir! Obedience to orders is your first duty. To the Procurator sir! To the Fiscal! Double!"
At this moment, another adept entered, hastily. "Colonel M'Alpine, I am sorry," he said, "to report that the Viscount is becoming very violent in his language; he says, through the keyhole, 'that he must have immediate satisfaction from yourself or some one in the corps,' and adds that 'if this is denied him, he will' (I blush to use the words) 'denounce you to the Horse-Guards as a coward.' He also expresses a wish to drink Mr. M'Nish's blood."
"Denounce me! Ha! ha! ha! but, hum! perhaps, after all, it would be better that some one should meet him. I myself (an old man) feel too jaded to undertake him to-night, but it will be a pleasure to resign that privilege to a younger officer."
"Mr. M'Alister, as you are to a certain extent an aggrieved party, I shall select you for the honour of meeting this French officer. You are prepared, of course, M'Alister ?"
"Oh, yes, sir! I am quite ready."
"No, M'Alister; never! never!" I exclaimed, and fainted again. The usual restoratives having been applied, I came to myself, and the Colonel then impressed upon me that I was a soldier's wife, and should be above such weakness. "You forget," he said, "his fine alternatives-death or glory-the former, too, under such comfortable circumstances."
"Is it necessary for his honour, Colonel, that he should do this thing ?"
“Madam, it is a sacred obligation," was the reply.
"Then I submit, and will even go down to the scene of conflict, and support dear Jack if he falls."
"A noble sentiment," said the Colonel; "Helen sitting on the windy towers of Troy, gazing on the conflict between her husband and her lover-this is the heroic age again. Ha! my soul is in arms! M'Lean, lights at once in the long stone hall, and tell M'Leary, the carpenter, to have plenty of sawdust laid down in it, or we shall have the Snorter making difficulties about the blood; and he may as well get a coffin into hands at once, as it is safe to end fatally for one or other. Stay-say three or four coffins; one thing of this sort often leads to another, and I have no doubt we shall have a rare night of it."
"And you, M'Duff, you go now and enlarge the Viscount, and explain matters to him. You are detailed as his second, and we shall consider him the challenged party, I think, as he insulted Mrs. M'Alister; it will read better so. He has thus the choice of weapons; let him make his selection, and take him to the hall at once. Jack M'Alister, I will second you; and though I say it, you could not be in better hands."
"I know that, Colonel; many thanks to you," said Jack.
"If you fall, Jack, I will be your executor; I will see your effects sealed up and delivered to the beautiful relic, with the exception of the watch and appendages and the purse, and such clothing as may be on the body at the time of demise; these, by the fifty-first article of war, fall to me; and I shall have, I assure you, a melancholy pleasure in appropriating them. Are these your best trousers, Jack ?"
"No, sir, I have on my second suit of everything."
"You must change them, John M'Alister-you must change them, sir; a soldier always goes into action in his Sunday clothes. Off with you, and jump into them, and put your watch on; the firing should always be timed from a principal's watch; and, stay, if you have a very good greatcoat, you may as well put it on over all, as it will save the underclothing; and if you stuffed a dozen pair of socks between it and your jacket, they might stop a bullet-who knows? Take every advantage of the rascal, Jack; and now off with you."
Jack speedily returned, accoutred as directed.
"And now," said the Colonel, "they must be ready for us below;