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LITTLE GRAND AND THE MARCHIONESS;

OR,

OUR MALTESE PEERAGE.

PART I.

It was a raw night before Sebastopol. We were sick to death of watching and waiting, seeing other men go down in the trenches and never getting another row with the Muscovite devils, drinking chopped hay for coffee, and never coming across our foe. We were sick to death of it, and pining for action, like harriers kept in kennel, listening to the baying of luckier hounds drawing the covert near by.

We had had a paper hunt in the morning, that had done us a little good; and now we were sitting, half a dozen of us, of all three arms, round Fred Powell's fire, drinking some splendid Glenlivet his brother had sent out to him (and that, wonderful to relate, had come to hand); talking over the girls at home; of how the Villersley had done poor Fitz into matrimony, and Loo Montressor been jilted by Tom Batson; of the October Meetings, and the pot of money Brandy Bailey, the leg, had made on Queen of the May, and what Belgrave, of the Guards, had dropped backing Britomart; chatting of all the old folks at home; of bygone fun among the stubble and turnips; of the Grand Military across Brixenham Brook; of Woolwich and Chatham luncheons; of bright, gay London drawing-rooms, and hospitable country-houses in the hunting season, talking of them all over our short clays, till we swore in hearty earnest of having no better news to send home. We talked of them till we almost saw the bright eyes and smelt the sweet scent of the freshturned furrows, and heard "Yo-i-icks!" ring over the wide Northamptonshire pasture land. We talked of them till Powell got a fit of the blues, and smoked in silence. (He is a stern, strong fellow, is Fred. We call him Dare Devil in Ours, but he is as spooney as a boy over a girl he is engaged to a pretty little thing he could put in his pocket.) The whisky went round gloomily, while our camp fire crackled, and the wind roared, and Chapman's Battery boomed out into the night.

"By George, I like campaigning very well!" cried Vavasour, of the light division, stretching himself, "but I just wish I could knock the balls about for an hour or two.

Oh dear, what will become of us?

Oh dear, what shall we do?

We shall get the blue devils if some of us

Don't find out something that's new!"

"I wish we were at the Café Régence," suggested Hamilton, of the 100th P. W. O.'s Hussars.

"Or waltzing dear little Ponsonby down Woolwich mess-room," said Hardinge, of the Horse Artillery.

"Or rattling the ivories in Leon Deval's sanctum," observed Joueur, of Ours.

"As we can't be in any or either," began Stuart, of the Rifles, “and

there are no women for Dare Devil to make love to, which he'd like best of all, let's do something or other. Can't we fish up some stories as that cute young lady Fatima did? Anything's better than silence. There's lots more whisky, and it's too early to turn in. Come, Gus, find up something-no matter what. Tell us, if you don't know anything better, of your first love, or the first time you made a fool of yourself. They're synonymous, though, I believe. Fill your glass, and fire away, old boy, pro bono publico, as the man may say who'll have pluck enough to shoot Nap. III."

I did as I was told (I leave the thirst for "pressing" to young ladies who pique themselves on their voice, and, to draw attention to it, declare they have such a cold they could not get a note out), filled my pipe, drank some more whisky, and raked up a tale of my puppyhood, which, with a few interpolations, I tell as I told it round Powell's tent fire.

All first things are voted the best: first kisses, first toga virilis, first hair of the first whisker; first speeches are often so superior that members subside after making them, fearful of eclipsing themselves; first money won at play must always be best, as it is always the dearest bought; and first wives are always so super-excellent that, if a man loses one, he is generally as fearful of hazarding a second as a trout of biting twice.

But of all first things commend me to one's first uniform. No matter that we get sick of harness, and get into mufti as soon as we can now; there is no more exquisite pleasure than the first sight of oneself in shako and sabretasche. How we survey ourselves in the glass, and ring for hot water, that the handsome housemaid may see us in all our glory, and lounge accidentally into our sisters' schoolroom, that the governess, who is nice-looking and rather flirty, may go down on the spot before us and our blue and gold, spurs and buttons! One's first uniform! Oh! you must remember, old fellows, the exquisite sensation locked up for us in that first box from Sagnarelli, or Bond-street.

I remember my first uniform. I was eighteen-as raw a young cub as you could want to see. I had not been licked into shape by a public school, whose tongue may be rough, but cleans off grievances and nonsense better than anything else. I had been in that hotbed of effeminacy, Church principles and weak tea, a private tutor's, where mamma's darlings are wrapped up and stuffed with a little Terence and Horace to show grand at home; and upon my life I do believe my sister Julia, aged thirteen, was more wide awake and up to devilry than I was, when the governor, an old rector, who always put me in mind of the Vicar of Wakefield, got me gazetted to the old Five Hundredth, as crack a corps as any in the service, as you do not want to be told. By George! I've seen a trifle of life since that. However, that is not to the point. I had seen little enough then, locked up in the doctor's study, and I joined, one of the most green young innocents that ever rubbed macassar into his upper lip futilely, but with maniacal perseverance, hoping against hope for the down that would not come.

The Five Hundredth were just then at Malta, and with, among other trifles, a chest protector from my father, and a recipe for milk-arrowroot from my Aunt Matilda, who lived in a constant state of catarrh and of cure for the same, tumbled across the Bay of Biscay, and found myself

in Byron's confounded "little military hothouse," where all of you, some time or other, have roasted yourselves to death, climbing its hilly streets, flirting with its Valetta belles, drinking Bass in its hot verandahs, clanking spurs in its palace, cursing its sirocco, and being done by its Jew sharpers.

From a private tutor's to a crack mess at Malta! from a convent to a casino could hardly be a greater change. Just at first I was as much astray as a young pup taken into a stubble-field, and wondering what the deuce he is to do there; but as it is a pup's nature to sniff at birds and start them, so is it a boy's nature to snatch at the champagne of life as soon as he catches sight of it, though you may have brought him up on water from his cradle. I took to it, at least, like a retriever to water-ducks, though I was green enough to be a first-rate butt for the other young chaps for many a day, and the practical jokes I had passed on me would have furnished the Times with food for crushers on "The Shocking State of the Army" for a twelvemonth. My chief chum, tormentor, and initiator was a little fellow, Cosmo Grandison I believe his correct cognomen to have been, but in Ours he was Little Grand to everybody, from the Colonel to the baggage-women. He was seventeen, and had joined about a year. What a pretty boy he was, too! Such a handsome young dog, with his fair curls and his blue eyes, with all the devilry imaginable in them. All the fair ones in Valetta, from his Excellency's wife to our washerwomen, admired that boy, and spoilt him and petted him, and I do not believe there was a man of Ours who would have had heart to sit in court-martial on Little Grand if he had broken every one of the Queen's regulations, and set every general order at defiance. I think I see him now he was new to Malta as I, having just landed with the Five Hundredth, en route from Scinde to Portsmouth-as he sat one day on the table in the mess-room as cool as a cucumber, in spite of the broiling sun, smoking, and swinging his legs, and settling his forage-cap on one side of his head, as pretty-looking, plucky, impudent a young monkey as ever piqued himself on being an old hand, and a knowing bird not to be caught by any chaff, however ingeniously prepared.

"Simon," began Little Grand (my St. John, first barbarised by Mr. Pope for the convenience of his dactyles and hexameters into Sinjin, being further barbarised by the little imp into Simon)" Simon, do you want to see the finest woman in this confounded little pepper-box? You're no judge of a woman, though, you muff-taste been warped, perhaps, by constant contemplation of that virgin Aunt Minerva-Matilda, is it? all the same."

"Hang your chaff," said I, "you'd make one out a fool."

"Precisely, my dear Simon; just what you are!" responded Little Grand, pleasantly. "Bless your heart, I've been engaged to half a dozen women since I joined. A man can hardly help it, you see; they've such a way of drawing you on, you don't like to disappoint them, poor little dears, and so you compromise yourself out of sheer benevolence. There's such a run on a handsome man-it's a great bore. Sometimes I think I shall shave my head, or do something to disfigure myself, as Spurina did. Poor fellow, I feel for him! Well, Simon, you don't seem curious to know who my beauty is ?"

"One of those Mitchell girls of the Twenty-first? You waltzed with 'em all night; but they're too tall for you, Grand."

"Great On

"The Mitchell girls!" ejaculated he, with supreme scorn. maypoles! they go about with the Fusiliers like a pair of colours. every ball-room battle-field one's safe to see them flaunting away, and as everybody has a shot at 'em, their hearts must be pretty well riddled into holes by this time. No, mine's rather higher game than that. My mother's brother-in-law's aunt's sister's cousin's cousin once removed was Viscount Twaddle, and I don't go anything lower than the peerage." "What, is it somebody you've met at his Excellency's ?",

"Wrong again, beloved Simon. It's nobody I've met at old Stars and Garters', though his lady-wife could no more do without me than without her sal volatile and flirtations. No, she don't go there; she's too high for that sort of thing-sick of it. After all the European courts, Malta must be rather small and slow. I was introduced to her yesterday, and," continued Little Grand, more solemnly than was his wont, "I do assure you she's superb, divine; and I'm not very easy to please." "What's her name ?" I asked, rather impressed with this view of a lady too high for old Stars and Garters, as we irreverently termed her Majesty's representative in her island of Malta.

Little Grand took his pipe out of his lips to correct me with more dignity.

"Her title, my dear Simon, is the Marchioness St. Julian." "Is that an English peerage, Grand?" "Hum! What! Oh yes, of course! owl?"

What else should it be, you

Not being in a condition to decide this point, I was silent, and he went on, growing more impressive at each phrase:

"She is splendid, really! And I'm a very difficile fellow, you know; but such hair, such eyes, as one doesn't see every day in those sun-dried Mitchells or those little pink Bovilliers. (By the way, the champagne those girls drank at luncheon yesterday was enough for a mess-table; but girls always do go into champagne, especially those delicate ones who take a quantity of ham-sandwiches at home that abroad they may not be able to manage the wing of a partridge.) However, I'm digressing, as that old boy James says when he keeps his two cavaliers waiting on the high road while he describes the shoe-buckles of the coming heroine. Well, yesterday, after that confounded luncheon (how I hate all those complimentary affairs!-one can't enjoy the truffles for talking to the ladies, nor enjoy the ladies for discussing the truffles), I went for a ride with Conran out to Villa Neponte (Mrs. Maberly's, you know). I left him there, sitting in the verandah with Lucy and Adela, and went down to see the overland steamers come in; I half thought my brother Tom might come by 'em, but he didn't. While I was waiting, I got into talk, somehow or other, with a very agreeable, gentleman-like fellow, who asked me if I'd only just come to Malta, and all that sort of thingyou know the introductory style of action-till we got quite good friends, and he told me he was living outside this wretched little hole at the Casa di Fiori, and said-wasn't it civil of him?-said he should be very happy to see me if I'd call any time. He gave me his cardLord Adolphus Fitzhervey—and a man with him called him 'Dolph'

Baron Guatamara, I think he said he was. As good luck had it, my weed went out just while we were talking, and Fitzhervey was monstrously pleasant, searched all over him for a fusee, couldn't find one, and asked me to go up with him to the Casa di Fiori and get a light. Of course I did, and he and I and Guatamara had some sherbet and a smoke together, and then he introduced me to the Marchioness St. Julian, his sister-by Jove! such a magnificent woman, Simon, you never saw one like her, I'll wager. She was uncommonly agreeable, too, and such a smile, my boy! She seemed to like me wonderfully-not rare that, though, you'll say-and asked me to go and take coffee there to-night after mess, and take one of my chums with me; and as I like to show you life, young one, and your taste wants improving after Aunt Minerva, you may come with me, if you like. Hallo! there's Conran. I say, don't tell him. He's such a deuced fellow for the beaux yeux, all the girls in Calcutta were mad about him, though he didn't care a button for any one of 'em, and I don't want any poaching on my

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Conran came in at that minute; he was then a Captain in Ours, and one of the older men who spoilt Little Grand in one way, as much as the women did in another. He was a fine, powerful fellow, with eyes like an eagle's, and pluck like a lion's; he had a grave, stern, haughty look, and had been of late more silent and self-reticent than the other roystering, débonnaire, light-hearted Five Hundredth; but though, perhaps, tired, on the principle of toujours perdrix, of the wild escapades, which reputation attributed to him, was always the most lenient to the boy's monkey tricks, and always the one to whom he went if his larks had cost him too dear, or if he was in a scrape from which he saw no exit. Conran had plenty of tin of his own, and there were few bright eyes in Malta that would not have smiled kindly on him; but he did not care much for any of them. There was some talk of a love affair before he went to Scinde, that was the cause of his hard-heartedness, though I must say, to me he did not look much like a victim to the grande passion, with his iron muscle, and cœur de bronze, and cordial attachment to his rifle, and his horses, Loo, Burgundy, and other ingredients that "donnent la pointe" to the otherwise remarkably flavourless "sauce" of life. I was a green bird then; my ideas of the "god invincible" were drawn from valentines and odes in the "Woman, thou fond and fair deceiver" style; in love that turned its collars down and let its hair go uncut and refused to eat, and recovered with a rapidity proportionate to its ostentation; and I did not know that, if a man has lost his treasure, he may mourn it so deeply that he may refuse to run about like Harpagon, crying for his cassette to an audience that only laughs at his miseries.

"Well, young ones," said Conran, as he came in and threw down his cap and whip, "here you are, spending your hours in pipes and bad wine. What a blessing it is to have a palate that isn't blasé, and that will swallow all wine just because it is wine! That South African goes down with better relish, Little Grand, than you'll find in Château Margaux ten years hence. As soon as one begins to want touching up with olives, one's real gusto is gone."

"Hang olives! they're beastly," said Little Grand; "and I don't care who pretends they're not. Olives are like sermons and wives,

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