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The Girl's Own Paper, Vol. XX. No. 996, January 28, 1899

The Girl's Own Paper, Vol. XX. No. 996, January 28, 1899
Author: Various
Title: The Girl's Own Paper, Vol. XX. No. 996, January 28, 1899
Release Date: 2018-08-13
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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“OUR HERO.”

A TALE OF THE FRANCO-ENGLISHWAR NINETY YEARS AGO.

By AGNES GIBERNE, Author of “Sun, Moonand Stars,” “The Girl at the Dower House,” etc.

“‘POOR FELLOW! HE DOES LOOK DONE!’” (See p. 262.)

All rights reserved.]

CHAPTER XVIII.

ROY’S IMPRUDENCE.

The letter from Mrs. Fairbank toColonel Baron, which Roy undertook toread aloud to Denham, was lengthy andverbose. Some extracts may be givenfrom it, the remainder being, in old-fashionedphrase, “left to the reader’simagination.”

It may be remarked here thatmuch had happened during thelast four years in European history,since the Barons had lefttheir own country. Notable{274}among famous events was the Battle ofTrafalgar in 1805, which crippled forhalf a century to come the naval powerof France.

For three years at least previous tothat date, England had been kept ontenterhooks of expectation, incessantlydreading a French invasion. Napoleonhad talked largely of such an invasion,and had made preparations for it on nomean scale. England also had madeready for it, had feared it, had laughedat it. And at the last, partly throughContinental complications, causingNapoleon to withdraw most of the greatmilitary force which had long sat atBoulogne, waiting for a safe chance ofcrossing the Channel, but much morethrough the magnificent and crushingvictory of Nelson, in the course of whichhe received his death-wound, Englandescaped it.

She escaped it, seemingly, by a verynarrow margin. But for Napoleon’spressing need of more soldiers elsewhere,and but for this crowning victoryof Nelson’s, the attempt might certainlyhave been made. As everybody knows,Nelson chased the combined fleets ofFrance and Spain across the Atlantic tothe West Indies and back again; andhad he, by one little slip, just missedfinding those fleets at the criticalmoment, a landing of French troopsmight actually have taken place.

Whether Napoleon could ever havedone more than land his troops uponthe coast, is a question which cannotnow be answered. It is not absolutelyinconceivable that, through superiornumbers and possibly superior discipline,[1]he might have gained one ortwo small victories, thereby placinghimself in a position to march towardsLondon. Even so much is unlikely;and that he could ever in the endhave conquered Britain is absolutelyinconceivable, despite his own boastfulassurance on that point, which lasted orappeared to last until the end of his life.

But that he might have done a largeamount of damage, that his soldiersmight have pillaged right and left, thatvillages and towns might have beendestroyed, that widespread loss andmisery might have been inflicted, ofall this there can be small question, atleast as to the bare possibility.

These fears, however, were now at anend. Napoleon’s career of conqueston land continued unchecked; but atsea the flag of Great Britain reignedsupreme. Nelson’s body lay beneathSt. Paul’s Cathedral: but before hewent he had done his work. He hadsaved his country from the iron heel ofNapoleon. So Mrs. Fairbank’s lettercontained no further descriptions ofinvasion scares, such as she would havehad to write two or three years earlier,though it did contain certain referencesto the Emperor, not too cautiouslyworded for a letter on its road to France.Some past hopes of a peace betweenEngland and France, now at an end,were alluded to also.

“I’ll read it aloud to you, may I?”asked Roy again, when Captain Ivorhad made his appearance, refreshedand smartened as to the outer man, andhad been made to sit down to a hastily-preparedmeal, to which he failed to dojustice. “And,” Roy added, recallingLucille’s words, “you can get on thesofa, and have a rest.”

Ivor declined to pose as an invalid,and submitted only to being installed inthe Colonel’s large arm-chair, whileRoy plunged into Mrs. Fairbank’sepistle, wading through it on the wholeperseveringly, though not without suggestionsof skippings.

“It’s written, ‘Bath, August 4th,1806,’—ever so long ago,” he remarkedas a preliminary. “But she didn’t getit all done in one day—not near. I canleave out the other dates. They don’tmatter.

“‘My dear Sir,—Though ’tis somewhathopeless work writing, under thepresent aspect of affairs, I will sendanother letter, wishing that it may bysome means reach you in safety. Westill look out perpetually, with ConstantAnxiety, for any sort of news of yourselves,which indeed but seldom arrives.These passing years are tru’ly melancholyto think upon. Molly is nowfifteen, and has not seen Roy for a spaceof three years and more! Who couldhave thought——’ O I say, can’t I skipthis? She does go on so. Well, I won’t,if you’d rather not; but it’s no good,you know. ‘Who could have thoughtit, my dear Sir, when you and your wifeunhappily decided to make that dolefulexcursion to France, intending to staybut one fortnight, which resulted in thiscontinued separation? Alas, how littleman knows ever what lies Before him, inthe Future!’ But what’s the good ofher saying all that?

“‘The late tremendous storms aboutLonn have caused much Alarm, butthese terrors seem to be now somewhatAbating.... I have been to the PumpRoom and to the Circulating Library,and find people are not much elevatedat the prospect of Mr. Fox concluding aPeace in the present dolorous situation,it being confidently said he cannot livea fortnight, and that he knows hissituation.

“‘Mackbeth said Lady Mackbeth
Should have died yesterday.’

“‘I presume that you with ourselvesgreatly lamented the death of Mr. Pittlast spring; a sad event at so criticala period.’ But I don’t see what shemeans about Macbeth—do you, Den?It’s so funny. O do you know, we gotthe Times with all about the ‘obsequies’of Mr. Fox, and a picture of thehearse; and I kept it. I can show it toyou by-and-by.

“‘A laughable jest was not longsince in circulation here, that Bonaparteintended to compel the Pope to marryhis Mother.... There are a societyof monied people in Bath, buying allthe Houses they can meet with, onSpeculation, which raises them and alsoLodgings, which, with the taxes, arehigh beyond any former period, and inthe end will be a disadvantage to Bath;for the Keepers of Lodging-houses, ifthey can’t raise the price of rooms,oblige the strangers to take or at leastpay for more than they want. Thetimes do indeed afford a MelancholyProspect. And still Bonaparte exists![2]

“‘If you have not, do read theSecret History of the Cabinet of St.Cloud.... I have had quite a leveethis morning; two ladies quite in a petthat they cannot get genteel Lodgingsfor themselves and Maids under 80 or90 pounds a year. Bath fills withCompany.... It is rumoured that theCountry Bankers are expected to havea run upon them for a little time; onwhat account I don’t clearly understand;therefore shall endeavour to getas many of their five-pound noteschanged as I can at the Shops, bybuying store of Candles, Sugar, etc., forthey, the Bankers, will not part withany cash....’ O now we’re going toget to something more interesting.

“‘Jack is now with us for a fortnight,and he and Polly went this morningto the Public Library, and heard aGroup of Gentlemen’s very seriousopinions on the condition of Affairs atthe present moment. What a successionof triumphs attends the Corsican,wicked Elf! Poor old England standsalone; but how long——?[2]

“‘General Moore, who as you doubtlessare aware is now Sir John Moore,and has been these two years past,continues to Befriend Jack, when Opportunityoffers. Jack is sorely Disappointedat not being of the number senton this Expedition to Sicily. He hopeshe may yet be ordered thither, if moretroops are wanted. I don’t for my partknow precisely what they may be doingthere; but doubtless the Governmenthas good Reasons for all that’s done.How much you in your long banishmentmay hear of Public News we have nomeans of guessing, my dear Sir, butmost heartily do I wish it were over, andthe Blessings of an assured Peace oncemore restored to Europe. Alas, whilethat persistent Disturber of Peace continuesto flourish, what can be lookedfor but persistent War? ’Tis said thatMr. William Wilberforce declares thatAusterlitz was the death-blow to Mr.Pitt.

“‘Polly desires me to send her dueRemembrances to Captain Ivor, and herhopes that he continues well in health.She writ him but lately a long letter,tho’ ’tis disheartening work, none knowingif ever the letters sent do arrive.Polly is extremely well, and has herRoses in full Bloom, and is in vastlyGood Spirits, albeit she was greatlyDisappointed at the failure of the Peacenegotiations, on which Mr. Fox builtmuch, but without cause. ’Tis saidthat she grows a more elegant youngwoman each year; and for my part Iknow not if this be not the truth. Mollyalso is becoming fast a grown-upyoung woman; and there is in her face—altho’she is not Handsome—an expressionof such fine Moral Sensibilityas cannot but gratify the Beholder.’”

{275}

Roy made a slight pause whenPolly’s name came up, as if wonderingwhether Denham would say anything;but the break was not taken advantageof, and his still face said nothing. SoRoy went on to the end, gabbling ratherhurriedly through Molly’s affectionateand prim little composition to himself,which somehow always gave him asense of stricture in the throat.

“That’s all. Nothing more,” saidRoy.

“There may be scores of letters buriedin official bureaux,” suggested Mrs.Baron. “From—Polly and all of them.”

Denham was looking steadily down,with an expression which to her as toRoy was inscrutable. No responsecame. He merely said, after a pause—

“I think that letter should bedestroyed, Colonel. Unsafe to keep.”

Colonel Baron made a sound of assent.Home subjects then were dropped, andDenham was plied with questions as tohis manner of life at Valenciennes. Hehad a good deal to tell, and his accountof the Commandant there contrastedfavourably with their experiences ofGeneral Wirion.

The next day was by common consentgranted to Roy as a whole holiday.His studies had been carried on partlyunder the young clergyman, Mr. Kinsland,partly under his father, during thelast eighteen months; but a free dayseemed only fair, in honour of Denham’sreturn. The boy was in wild spirits, fullof schemes for hunting up old friendsin Denham’s company, Denham didnot appear at all till after breakfast, justin time to attend appel, and Roy,having been withheld from disturbinghim, was off on some business of hisown. When, after appel, he rushed in,it was to find Denham in the Colonel’schair, with a book open which he wasnot reading, and with the air of a manwho would not be easily dislodged. Hisface told its own tale; and Roy’s lookbecame suddenly blank.

“I’m afraid there is no help for it,Roy. You must give me a day’s grace.I’ve done a good deal of walking, yousee;” which was a mild statement ofthe case.

“I thought you’d be rested by thismorning.”

“Ought! but Morpheus declined tobe courted.”

“Couldn’t you sleep? And you don’twant to go out again?”

“I don’t think a team of horses coulddrag me a mile. But you will look upthe Curtises for me.”

“Yes, of course. Where are they?O you don’t know. I’ll find out. Isthat it?”

“See where Carey is too.”

“Carey? Wasn’t it he that hadyour horse—the horse you ought to haveridden?”

“No ‘ought’ in the question. Don’tsay a word of that sort to him. I wantto know where he is putting up. And—Franklyn——”

“Roy, do not make him talk,” asDenham’s hand went over his eyes.

“No, ma’am, I won’t. Only justto know—but ’tis all right now. I’lllook everybody up, Den, and don’t youmind about anything till your head isbetter.”

Roy went off, and Lucille came softlyto where Mrs. Baron was standing.“So changed!” Mrs. Baron murmured.

Oui,” assented Lucille, underher breath. “There are creatures,Madame, that cannot live in captivity.”

“Somebody over there is talking notvery good sense,” murmured Denham,with a touch of reproof. Lucille stoppedinstantly, with a flush. The remark hadbeen involuntary, and she had notimagined that he could hear.

Roy went the round of a good manyreturned acquaintances, finding out, ashe went, where to go for others. Hediscovered Franklyn and Carey withoutdifficulty, and

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