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reflection brought on a fit of profound despondency, and the wish, heartfelt for the moment, that I had met death at the side of my cousin. I
was aroused, after a little while, from the morbid feeling of gloom that had taken possession of me by a sudden and loud firing, apparently not more than half a mile distant. At the same moment that the noise fell upon my ear, the mass of soldiers in the room rushed away, leaving behind none but a sentinel at the door, and
man outstretched in a corner opposite to that which I filled, who seemed to be badly wounded.
Deep silence now reigned all around, and I listened with eager attention to the sounds without, which got louder and louder.
There was clearly an engagement taking place in the neighbourhood, and I fancied that I could distinguish amidst the far-off tumult the shouts of my old comrades in the Light Brigade.
The hope of being rescued put me into a high state of agitation, and almost involuntarily I raised myself against the wall, attempting to look through a narrow latticed window that was close above me. But a shout from behind made me turn back immediately, and looking round, I saw the sentinel at the door lifting up
and quietly levelling it at my head. There was too much eloquence in the movement that I could pretend to misunderstand it, and, resigning myself to fate, I humbly sank back into my dark corner.
The firing, for the next ten minutes or quarter of an hour, seemed to approach nearer and nearer; but then came a short lull, and after that a fresh discharge of carbines and rifles, more rapid than before, but evidently much farther away. All died off in another ten minutes, when there was once more deep silence, interrupted by nothing but the measured step of the sentinel at the door, and an occasional feeble groan from the wounded soldier opposite
The quiet did not last long, brought to an end by the return of the Russians, who announced their arrival from a distance by uproarious shouts, sounding not very dissimilar to an English hurrah. It was to all appearance denoting a success on their side, the fact of which remained no longer doubtful to me, when I saw the troop which had left before, pushing, in wild impetuosity and as wild disorder, into the room. In the
midst of them was an English prisoner, whose face I could not distinguish at once, but who seemed to be handled somewhat roughly, as he kept remonstrating with energy against the treatment he received.
Keep your hands off, I say!” the prisoner cried, on crossing the threshold, “or, sure and faith, 'twill be the worse for you.”
The tone and mode of utterance sounded familiar to me; nevertheless, I could not make out for the moment who was the speaker, his uniform being partly gone and partly torn to pieces, and his face and neck besmeared with blood. But repeating once more, “Keep your hands off !” I all at once recognised the voice of an old friend.
“Mike,” I exclaimed, “is it you?”
The prisoner rushed forward, and having stared at me for a moment with wide-open eyes, bent down over me, grasped my hand with vehement affection, cried, “Why, who would have thought to meet you here, Alec !”
The meeting with my old companion was so entirely unexpected that I scarcely knew for the moment what to say or do. Mike, on his
part, kept silent for a few minutes, his mind apparently filled with doubt as to whether our gaolers would allow us to converse freely. His anxiety in this respect was only dispelled on perceiving that the fellows, whose previous treatment had raised his indignation, paid no further attention to him, engaged in a pursuit infinitely more interesting to them, that of dividing a quantity of plunder which they had brought, consisting mainly of torn uniforms and odds and ends of accoutrements.
Having watched our enemies for a short while, and seeing my comrade still perplexed and anxious, I could restrain my impatience to converse no longer. “Sit down, Mike, close to me, and let me know how you came here," I cried, and he instantly did what I desired.
“My story is a very short one, Alec," he muttered, after giving another side glance at the soldiers behind, “and it will not take me minute to tell it. I was on vedette this morning, when these devils of Russians broke in upon us unawares, and got us into a fight, their numbers being to ours as twenty to one. How it happened, I do not know; but our sergeant and three of
us were cut off from the picket, and in the twinkling of an eye found ourselves right in the midst of a regiment of foot of the enemy. Of course, we did our best to cut our way through them, but to no purpose, for the sergeant and the other two were dragged from their saddles and made prisoners before they could look about much, and as for me I had but the benefit of a short race.
After galloping for about half a mile, turning my lance into a good broom, I was stopped by another lot of these rascals."
Here Mike interrupted himself, turning his head over his shoulders.
“ Do you think it likely they understand English ?” he asked, looking at his captors with a comical grimace.
“ There is no officer among them," I made haste to reply, to stay his apprehensions ; " and I do not think for a moment they know any other language but their own.”
“Well, then,” continued Mike, “when advancing, in full gallop, I suddenly got among a swarm of these beggars, who had no sooner seen me when they pitched into me with their bayonets. My poor horse was brought to the ground at once, and though I tried to defend myself as