« PreviousContinue »
The gray old manse, endeared by memories
And here I lingered, nested in the shade
I watched the bright king-fisher dart about,
THE RELIEF OF LUCKNOW.
It should be remembered that General Havelock was not an hour too soon in his relief, as the advance of the enemy's batteries and mines had settled the fate of the garrison ; and it should be known that in the continual uproar of the cannonade, and the obstructions of military works and buildings, the beleaguered and devoted garrison did not hear or see ange thing of the advancing relief until the battle had been fought outside, and the relieving force was marching up to the gates.
[From a letter to the London Times, by a lady, the wife of an officer at Lucknow.) On every side death stared us in the face; no human skill could avert it any longer. We saw the moment approach when we must bid farewell to earth, yet without feeling that unutterable horror which must have been experienced by the unhappy victims at Cawnpore. We were resolved rather to die than to yield, and were fully persuaded that in twenty-four hours all would be over. The engineers had said so, and all knew the worst. We women strove to encourage each other, and to perform the light duties which had been assigned to us, such as conveying orders to the batteries, and supplying the men with provisions, especially cups of coffee, which we prepared day and night. I had gone out to try and make myself useful, in company with Jessie Brown, the wife of a corporal in my husband's regiment. Poor Jessie had been in a state of restless excitement all through the siege, and had fallen away visibly within the last few days. A constant fever consumed her, and her mind wandered occasionally, especially that day, when the recollections of home seemed powerfully present to her. At last, overcome with
fatigue, she lay down on the ground, wrapped up in her plaid. I sat beside her, promising to awaken her when, as she said, her “father should return from the ploughing." She fell at length into a profound slumber, motionless, and apparently breathless, her head resting in my lap. I myself could no longer resist the inclination to sleep, in spite of the continual roar of the cannon. Suddenly I was aroused by a wild, unearthly scream close to my ear : my companion stood upright beside me, her arms raised, and her head bent forward in the attitude of listening. A look of intense delight broke over her countenance; she grasped my hand, drew me towards her, and exclaimed, “ Dinna ye hear it? dinna ye hear it? Ay, I'm no dreaming : it's the slogan o' the Highlanders! We're saved ! we're saved !” Then, flinging herself on her knees, she thanked God with passionate fervor. I felt utterly bewildered; my English ears heard only the roar of artillery, and I thought my poor Jessie was still raving ; but she darted to the batteries, and I heard her cry incessantly to the men, “ Courage ! courage! Hark to the slogan to the Macgregor, the grandest of them a'! Here's help at last!”
To describe the effect of these words upon the soldiers would be impossible. For a moment they ceased firing, and every soul listened with intense anxiety. Gradually, however, there arose a murmur of bitter disappointment, and the wailing of the women, who had flocked to the spot, burst out anew as the colonel shook his head. Our dull, Lowland ears heard only the rattle of the musketry. A few moments more of this death-like suspense, of this agonizing hope, and Jessie, who had again sunk on the ground, sprang to her feet, and cried, in a voice so clear and piercing that it was heard along the whole line, “Will ye no believe it noo? The slogan has ceased indeed, but the Campbells are comin'! D’ye hear? d'ye hear ?" At that moment all seemed indeed to hear the voice of God in the distance, when the pibroch of the Highlanders brought us tidings of deliverance ; for now there was no longer any doubt of the fact. That shrill, penetrating, ceaseless sound, which rose above all other sounds, could come neither from the advance of the enemys nor from the work of the sappers. No, it was indeed the blast of the Scottish bagpipes, now shrill and harsh, as threatening vengeance on the foe, then in softer tones, seeming to promise succor to their friends in need. Never, surely, was there such a scene as that which followed. Not a heart in the residency of Lucknow but bowed itself before God. All, by one simultaneous impulse, fell upon their knees, and nothing was heard but bursting sobs and the
murmured voice of prayer. Then all arose, and there rang out from a thousand lips a great shout of joy which resounded far and wide, and lent new vigor to that blessed pibroch. To our cheer of “ God save the Queen” they replied by the well-known strain that moves every Scot to tears, “Should auld acquaintance be forgot.” After that nothing else made any impression on me.
I scarcely remember what followed. Jessie was presented to the general on his entrance into the fort, and at the officers' banquet her health was drank by all present, while the pipers marched round the table playing once more the familiar air of “ Auld Lang Syne."
A CHRISTMAS HYMN.
(Printed as anonymous in Longfellow's "Waif," but now understood to have been written by Alfred Dommett.)
It was the calm and silent night!
Seven hundred years and fifty-three
And now was queen of land and sea.
Peace brooded o'er the hushed domain :
In the solemn midnight
'Twas in the calm and silent night,
The senator of haughty Rome
From lordly revel rolling home :
His breast with thoughts of boundless sway;
Went plodding home a weary boor;
A streak of light before him lay,
Fallen through a half-shut stable door Across his path. He passed, — for nought
Told what was going on within ;
Centuries ago !
Drowsed over common joys and cares ; The earth was still, — but knew not why
The world was listening, unawares. How calm a moment may precede
One that shall thrill the world forever !
Centuries ago !
A thousand bells ring out, and throw
The darkness, - charmed and holy now! The night that erst no shame had worn,
To it a happy name is given ; For in that stable lay, new born, The peaceful Prince of earth and heaven, In the solemn midnight,