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it not been for the tight grip I had on his mane, he might have pursued his voyage alone.
For some seconds we were both under water, but after great exertions, and having a lively idea of immediate suffocation, I contrived to regain my seat.
At first, I felt so utterly confused and helpless, that I could scarcely comprehend the perils of my position, nor appreciate my escape from the dangers I had surmounted; but after shaking the salt water from my head, which nearly blinded me, consciousness of my situation returned, and I found myself sitting with my face to the animal's tail, thereby affording me an uninterrupted view of the coast fast receding from my sight.
What would I not have given for an opportunity of making some sort of signal of distress,-a handkerchief, a bit of linen, anything in the hope of obtaining relief. But I had nothing, literally nothing, save my forage cap with its shining gold band, which the more I waved in the air, the greater delight I afterwards heard was afforded to those on shore, they supposing it to be emblematical of my perfect contentment and confidence in this noval species of exhibition.
From the distance I had reached from the shore, it was not possible that any of the spectators could identify the fact of my non-costume, and as the gold on my forage cap caught the rays of the sun, it never was imagined I was otherwise arranged than en grande tenue.
What the brute saw, felt, or thought, I know not, but suddenly, without any apparent reason, he wheeled about, nearly capsizing me a second time, and made straight for the shore.
The predicament I now anticipated exceeded in horror all I had previously undergone, for the vile quadruped, in despite of all my caresses, and most endearing terms, swam on as if with renewed vigour, making for the very spot of beach, close approximating to the abode of my beloved, where he had so often been accustomed to be fed from my hand, as encouragement in the performance of the various tricks I taught him, and of which I was now about to reap the fruits.
Forward we sped; no power of mine could retard his progress; on looking over my shoulder, I perceived the balcony, and indeed most of the adjoining houses crowded with spectators.
Against my will was I carried, even like Mazeppa in all and every respect, saving that the future Hetman of the Cossacks had the hope of revenge to look forward to, while I had nothing to anticipate beyond disgrace and misery.
In desperation, I spread my charger's long tail on the surface of the water, in the vain hope, that it might act on the brute's
April, 1849.-Vol. Liv. No. ccxvi.
carcass, as a rudder would to a ship; but in vain. Onward we still went, he plunging, snorting, and breasting the waves, while I, miserable wretch, crouched down as far as possible, screening my person in the water.
Shouts rent the air, voices well known to my ear became awfully distinguishable; laughter, shrieks, and screams mingling together, drove me nearly mad. Yet what could I do to escape? Onward we went-at length the wild brute touched the shingle with his forelegs, with a spring he reached the first shelve of the beach— the second, cleared the next-the third, he stood at the gate of that house which of all habitations in the universe, I had rather should have crumbled to atoms at the instant, burying me in its ruins, than I should have been thus irrevocably disgraced. For an instant, and for one instant only, as if satisfied that he had fully retaliated on me, for all the injury imposed on him during his education, the white charger stood by the balcony; but not feeling the accustomed check of the bit, away he again started towards the town, I, holding on like grim death, clasping tight his tail with both hands, and followed by all the yells that throats rendered hoarse by laughing could utter; and thus with an escort of the sharp bark of curs, and the shrill screams of urchins which my mad career attracted, my horse dashed through the town-rushed past the astonished sentry at the barrack gate, making his maddening career towards the stables ; nor did he for one second slack his impetuous course, till be lost his footing on the slippery stones by the officers' quarters, where providentially his proceedings were abbreviated, and I and the milk-white steed rolled together in the dirty gutter of the barrack-yard.
“A creditable thing for the regiment, you have brought to pass to-day, Captain Lugard !” exclaimed Fred Alwick,.entering my room, where more dead than alive, I was r clining on my couch, cursing in silence the disasters of that dreadful morning. “Not only have you disgraced yourself past all redemption,” he continued, “ but you have affixed an everlasting, and no very creditable stigma on the corps, which neither time nor explanation can by possibility efface. What,” he exclaimed, raising his voice," what on earth, could have induced you so to commit yourself?”
“It was not on earth," I replied testily, “it was at sea.
“ Sea or shore,” interrupted my monitor, “you've done for yourself here, and for me into the bargain; you must be mad, raving, downright mad, to have played so abominable and infamous a joke.
“ Infamous !” I exclaimed, roused to anger as much by the
epithet, as by the tone of voice, and the manner in which the objectionable word was uttered. “Strong language, sir, and not to be tolerated by me, I assure you; yet, considering appearances are certainly somewhat against me, at least to those unacquainted with the facts, I will first take the trouble to explain how the abominable exploit had its origin, and then possibly you will see the desirability of forthwith retracting your expression."
My friend, -who by the way, was no friend apparently at that moment-merely inclined his head, as though prepared to listen ; but before I had an opportunity of commencing the detail of my miseries, my servant entered the apartment, informing me that two gentlemen were waiting below, having requested I would see them without delay.”
“What do they want?” I exclaimed, in no very good humour. “Who are they? Do you know them ?”
“I rather think, sir," replied my batman, “they are what they call civil officers.”
“Civil officers,” I responded, connecting the idea of gentlemen of that peculiar province with indistinct notions of sheriff officers and sponging houses ; "I am not aware, that I owe a shilling to any one here?”
“Oh no, sir,” replied my attendant, “I don't think they are anything of that sort, sir; but I rather imagine they belong to what they call here the “Suppression of Vice Society.” “Shall I turn them out, sir?” and my worthy servitor grinned, as the notion of a salubrious ducking under the pump vividly arose to his imagination.
“Oh, members of the “Society for the Suppression of Vice," you say--why, what can they want with me? However, show them up," I uttered ; and up they came.
A corpulent individual, by no means emblematical of having forsworn the appropriation of the luxuries of good cheer to his own immediate benefit, made his somewhat apparently unwilling appearance, propelled by the aid of the masculine digits of his leap companion, following in his wake; neither of whom gave evidence of anxiety for the interview, however great their wish may have been verbally uttered prior to the meeting taking place.
To abbreviate my story, the two worthies at length made known that they were delegated to call at my quarters, on account of the disgraceful exhibition which, they affirmed, I had thought fit to exhibit in their streets. In vain, I endeavoured to explain ; the dignity and respectability of Deal, they said, had been outraged. Common decency had been lost sight of, for the perpetration of—to say the least of it-an ungentlemanlike
and disgraceful jest. The authorities, they affirmed, were resolved to commence an action against me, forthwith ; added to which it was their fixed resolve to report my dreadful conduct to the commander-in-chief; and, having unbosomed themselves of this to me palatable information, my most agreeable, though uninvited visitors took their leave.
This, however, was nothing to my agony, at finding the door of my adorer's mansion closed against me. I essayed again and again to obtain an entrance, but without effect; the original Cerberus could not have been more determined to prevent egress, than was his modern representative.
Bribes and threats, each in their turn were attempted, but though the janitor took the one, and smiled blandly while listening to the other, still was I as far from gaining an audience with my beloved, as though we had never met.
That failing, I essayed to wield my pen; but, to my utter horror and disgust, the epistle I had worded with such care, and bedewed with tears of contrition and repentance for my unavoidable crime, was returned unopened.
My former acquaintance shunned me. I was cut by every respectable family in the neighbourhood. My wretch of a subaltern wrote his version of the affair to the regiment, which certainly did not tend to my benefit. I published the true statement in the provincial papers, but that only made it worse. No one would credit a syllable in my favour; whereas, the most marvellous fabrications uttered to my disparagement, found ready listeners and unquestioned credence.
I was nearly distracted. From the fêted, the favoured, and honoured guest, I was now looked on as something too infamous to be tolerated; I was met with averted eyes, avoided when possibility offered, and in short, I found myself deserted and despised by all.
To make my misery complete, I received a letter from my commanding officer at Canterbury, expressing his. regret, at having detached an officer from head quarters, who had proved himself so totally incompetent in upholding the honour and respectability of the distinguished regiment to which I belonged ; and after a long and severe lecture on the enormity of my offence, I was informed, that another troop would relieve mine in two days; with a trifling addenda to the same, bearing the pleasing intelligence, that if I could make it convenient to resieve my brother officers of my proximity, by quitting the corps, no objection on the part of the colonel would be started in opposition to such an arrangement.
And who, or what, was the cause of these accumulating miseries? The white horse—the long-tailed, flowing-maned, white
horse. Would that I could have nailed him to the Dorsetshire hills, like the white horse there, and for years past, existing. Would that he had been, since his appearance upon earth, immoveable as the same coloured animal bestrode by the commandant of Don Juan notoriety. But, wherefore wish ? Pshaw! that indeed were worse than folly. So, with a hearty curse by way of a farewell to the brute, I send him to the nearest dealer for sale, while I myself finding matters too uncomfortable to wrestle with, sold out of the service.
Thus were my prospects, not only professional ones, blighted, but in civil life, I found myself avoided, as the man who had done something, though no one seemed clearly aware what awful crime had been committed sufficient to exclude him from society.
Years upon years have rolled by, and most miserable was I during a very considerable period; but time at length assuaged my more poignant regrets at the recollection of the past; and I date my recovered spirits from the hour when, sauntering down Regent Street, I beheld my once cherished pet, and afterwards detested enemy,—the milk-white horse-shorn of his flowing mane and tail; labouring along the slippery wooden pavement, in the performance of the pleasant duty of offside wheeler to a bank omnibus, having the luxury of conveying in the carcass of the vehicle about thirty insides, and not more than about three times that number on the roof.
Above me rise the dark, o'erhanging woods,
Whose pillared vistas, like cathedral aisles,
The thought-dispelling sunlight, that beguiles
Of bright-faced beauty dazzle with their ray
Beckon it from its lore-strewn paths away,
And beam with joy to lead that sober soul astray.
The soft light struggles through the clust'ring leaves ;
In shadowy tracery it deftly weaves.