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manæuvres enacted as did the biped who bestrode him for the purpose of directing the movements.
Well; the charger was dead and gone, and another was to be procured forth with—but from where? Of the four horses remaining in my stables there was not one sufficiently handsome for escort duty or review. It was therefore evident I must look elsewhere for that most necessary adjunct to a cavalry officer's appearance on parade, and accordingly I ordered my cab, and drove immediately to Bartlett's.
At the moment of my entering the yard, a splendid-looking animal was led out for the inspection of a gentleman who had remarked him when walking round the stables; and assuredly, when I beheld the horse, he appeared at the first glance to be the very personification of a charger, and exactly what I wanted. Little did I then anticipate how bitterly I should rue my acquaintance with the brute in after years; but who can foretell his destiny? Better would it have been for me had I ridden at the coming review on a jackass, than have bought that magnificent looking quadruped.
The horse then under criticism was apparently perfect in all his points,—-milk-white, without spot or blemish, and in possession of that sine qua non in the opinion of all fair equestrians, a long flowing mane and tail.
“On my word, sir, the os is dirt cheap at £200,” exclaimed the dealer, while his helper trotted him up the yard; “Sir Lubin Leathers would have given £300 for him, last week.” “ Then why didn't you let the baronet have him?" I asked.
Oh, there's more reasons than one for that, sir," replied the owner, with a significant chuckle. “But trot him up again, Jem," he exclaimed, addressing the groom. « Give him his head," and in accordance with his master's instructions, off went the milk-white steed up the tan-strewed yard, and certainly he was a beautiful creature.
“There's action, gentlemen," cried Bartlett. " See how his head's put on. He's well worth £300 any day. Beautiful,” he continued, by way of soliloquy. “Now, sir,” he again exclaimed, exalting his voice, “pass your hand down his forelegs," he continued, as the rider pulled up suddenly, bringing the horse well nigh on his haunches. "Clean as a lady's new kid glove; warranted sound in all his paces ; five year old ; never done a day's hard work; free from vice, spavine, wind-gall; never meet his match-never. The very thing for a charger, sir,” added Bartlett, turning to me.
“ What's the figure ?" I replied.
“ The very least I could take, sir, is £200; he cost me more than that, upon my honour.”'
“Oh, of course," I observed. “All
horses somehow or other do cost you more than you sell them for. But never mind that come in doors and see if we can make a deal.”
I was accordingly ushered into the small room off the stables, an apartment well known possibly to many of my readers, and after sundry trials of the quadruped in the yard, and long conversations with the dealer, I wrote a cheque for £200, which he sent to the city, while I, claiming the horse, sent him to the barracks.
Nothing could more fully have answered my expectations than the progress my new purchase made in his military education, and I had every reason at being pleased with my bargain.
The horse was admired by all who beheld him, and if vanity is allowable in beasts, as it is sometimes affirmed to be pardonable among ladies, the white charger might have found excuse in pourtraying a self-satisfied air, as he stepped proudly along Rotten Row, his ears regaled with the unsparing encomiums lavished on his beauty. Numerous were the offers,—I mean of money-made for my handsome companion, but they were all refused, though more than once I was sadly puzzled how to retain the friendship of an extremely pretty woman, and at the same time keep possession of my horse.
When a man fancies a violent predilection for another person's property, which, though in utter disregard of the tenth commandment, is of no unfrequent occurrence, he can put the question, “Are you disposed to part with her?” without intending or conveying offence, and, on receiving a reply in the negative, he may perhaps ask you to give him the refusal, in case you should change your mind; and there the matter rests.
Not so, however, with a lady. If a pretty woman, she thinks herself slighted, should her request be not instantly complied with ; but if, on the contrary, the fair petitioner cannot claim the distinction of being pointed out as "the Belle of the Season," nothing will convince her but that the horse is destined for “that odious Lady Arabella,” or “ that affected Julia Telverly,' both of whom she detests.
Should you hear one of the gentler portion of creation exclaim, in an ecstasy of surprise and rapture, “Oh, what a lovely mane and tail !” take my advice, that is, if you do not wish to make a present of the animal to the fair admirer, and canter off. Unless, indeed, you have the fortune-good or bad, I don't pretend to know which—of having it in your power to say “no," in reply to a boon requested from the lips of a pretty woman. Some men can evince that strength of mind; at least, so I am told; but not ranking myself among those favoured few, and considering that in similar cases discretion is the better part of
valour, I should never dream of standing the bewitching appeals of a lady's supplication, but on the sure forerunner of a coming attack being opened, I should decidedly depart, taking my quadruped with me.
However, my horse and I, or, as my friends who wished to purchase the animal worded it, “I and my horse," were the admiration of London during the season, though, in my own opinion, I am somewhat convinced that had it not been for my stable adjunct his master might have readily been passed by uuheeded.
Time Aew on, as, indeed, when does it not, except in the opinion of lovers separated from each other, and according to the prejudiced views of gentlemen at the treadmill ? but as usual, the scythe of the ancient gentleman gradually and surely progressed, and, among other changes which his unsparing hand inflicted, came the alteration in my locality from Hounslow to Canterbury.
That was a change, indeed: to leave Hounslow, so contigusous to London; to lose the honour of royal escorts; bid fare. well to clubs, parks, and the innumerable gaieties of the metropolis, was indeed appalling to contemplate.
And then my charger, my milk-white steed, equal, I'll be bound, to Richard the Third's famed “White Surry," of Shaksperian memory; nay, I should opine, far superior, for though the said “ White Surry” was ordered to “be saddled for the field to-morrow," we have no authentic record to show that the identical favourite did carry his master on the morning alluded to, while mine indisputably had his share of work, as many a long drill can testify. However that may be, certes, in the days of the Plantagenets, horses must have been extremely scarce, since we have it from the same undoubted authority already quoted, that the third Richard was so passionately fond of equestrian exercise that he was induced, when in Leicestershire, to go as high as offering his “ kingdom for a horse.” But sportive as the offer undoubtedly must have been considered even in those days, the present and all future generations are doomed to remain in the dark as to whether any spirited gentleman closed with the proposal, though in my own mind, I am strongly inclined to favour the supposition that no bargain was definitively arrived at; since, from the same source, we find the husband of Lady Ann informing his friends one evening that he would “stand the hazard of the die,” which resolution must of course have had reference either to the French or English game so called. What he threw, the bard of Avon withholds from our knowledge; but his antagonist, anxious to become the seventh Henry, called “seven,” and, as he instantly took up a “crown” from a tent
at Bosworth, where they were playing, it is more than probable that the gentleman just arrived from abroad rose from the table a winner.
But this has nothing to do with my horse, so now a truce to digression.
The edict for Canterbury having been issued, it only remained for those commanded to obey, and accordingly in due course of time we marched into that ancient city, as much celebrated in modern days for the excellence of Wright's cuisine at the Fountain, as it was in times gone by, through the notoriety afforded at the unenviable expense of Thomas á Becket.
Everybody knows Canterbury, for everybody has passed through it en route to Dover; it is not my province therefore to enter on an elaborate description of its cathedral and catch clubs, nor dwell on its hospitalities and amusements.
Canterbury was not a bad place by any means to exist in, but as that city did not furnish the scene of my catastrophe, I will forthwith proceed with my narrative, as in truth I did with my troop, to Deal; whence I was ordered by way of a support to the coast blockade service, though of what use Hussars could be turned to on such a duty, has never been made clearly comprehensible to my limited imagination.
Although, as I said before, everybody has been at Canterbury, I much doubt, if the same assumption can be jumped at regarding Deal; at any rate, as effecting my own knowledge, it was perfectly novel, and previously unvisited either by myself, or my cornet who was with me; the other subaltern being at the time on leave.
No cavalry, nor indeed soldiers of any description, had for some time past been quartered in Deal at the period I write of. The consequence was, we were considered for the time as a novelty, and as it is generally admitted that “novelty is always pleasing,” no exception appeared to have been formed in our particular persons; for the kindness and unbounded hospitality bestowed upon us, partook more of the unaccountable enthusiasm with which John Bull is accustomed to hail a successful general returning—from the mob knows not where, and from achieving, the great unwashed, knows not what.
We had not occupied our new quarters beyond a few hours, when the paternities of the neighbouring families called on the two strangers, and after the first introduction, invitations to dinner, pic-nics, and dances fell as fast as snow at Kamtschatka, and extremely pleasant those meetings were. The old “Rama. lies” was then stationed off Deal, and many were the jovial festivities, and numerous the balls, enjoyed by the surrounding gentry, at the instance of the hospitable occupants of the fiue
old “man of war.” As for driving forty or fifty miles to a ballthat was nothing then ; I know not the reason, but certainly every one appeared during that summer, pleasure-seeking mad. Archery meetings, races, sailing matches, excursions on the Downs to Dover, followed each other in startling propinquity; those who parted at evening, after a day of delightful excitement, were confident when uttering the farewell “ good night,” that ere a few hours should elapse, all would be re-assembled for some fresh project of amusement.
Oh, those were jovial times. My brother officer and myself, never having been so much made of in any previous quarter, were in no slight degree delighted at not having others of the regiment to deprive us of even a portion of the good fortune so unexpectedly thrown in our way. Our military duties we contrived to make easy enough, and assuredly no two men could have been better fêted, or more willing to be noticed, than our most worthy selves. But this could not last-like all good things, our prosperity was destined to have a check, and thus it came to pass.
Not far from Walmer, a family had taken a residence, and an extremely pretty spot they had chosen ; it was close to the sea, and here, for the better elucidation of my tale, it may as well be noticed, that the beach on that part of the coast is what is termed shelving--that is, it had been so washed up, as to form a succession of banks of shingle, each raising above, and reaching behind the other. At this distance of time, I cannot bring to mind the name by which the edifice was designated, but well can I recall to memory each window, and particular feature in the formation of the building, the grouping of the trees around, the neatly trimmed parterres in the garden, blooming under the green painted balcony, surmounting the door facing the ocean; all placed within a very short distance from the beach.
If I can recollect the locality, with all its inanimate features, so distinctly, it may not appear strange to the reader, that my memory is equally tenacious of an impression received from contemplating a living object, by whose presence the mansion was illumined- and few could have beheld the beautiful countenance of the possessor without being struck with admiration of its loveliness.
I am fully aware, that at this particular point of my narrative, I ought, in accordance with the custom of writers in like cases, to furnish a correct inventory of my enslaver's charms, faithfully pourtraying the colour of her hair, eyes, and skin, the shape of her nose, mouth, head, feet, hands, and waist; concluding with assimilating her teeth to pearls, and her graceful