The Denvilles were always passionately fond of field sports. At the age of four, I was already the boldest rider and the best shot in the country. When only eight, I won the St. Remy Cup at the Pilwiddle races,—riding my favorite blood-mare Hellfire. As I approached the stand amidst the plaudits of the assembled multitude, and cries of, “Thrue for ye, Mashter Terence,” and “oh, but it’s a Dinville!” there was a slight stir among the gentry, who surrounded the Lord Lieutenant and other titled personages whom the race had attracted thither. “How young he is,—a mere child, and yet how noble-looking,” said a sweet low voice, which thrilled my soul.
I looked up and met the full liquid orbs of the Hon. Blanche Fitzroy Sackville, youngest daughter of the Lord Lieutenant. She blushed deeply. I turned pale and almost fainted. But the cold, sneering tones of a masculine voice sent the blood back again into my youthful cheek.
“Very likely the ragged scion of one of these banditti Irish gentry, who has taken naturally to ‘the road.’ He should be at school—though I warrant me his knowledge of Terence will not extend beyond his own name,” said Lord Henry Somerset, aid-de-camp to the Lord Lieutenant.
A moment and I was perfectly calm, though cold as ice. Dismounting, and stepping to the side of the speaker, I said in a low firm voice:—
“Had your lordship read Terence more carefully, you would have learned that banditti are sometimes proficient in other arts beside horsemanship,” and I touched his holster significantly with my hand. I had not read Terence myself, but with the skillful audacity of my race I calculated that a vague allusion, coupled with a threat, would embarrass him. It did.
“Ah—what mean you?” he said, white with rage.
“Enough, we are observed,” I replied; “Father Tom will wait on you this evening; and to-morrow morning, my lord, in the glen below Pilwiddle, we will meet again.”
“Father Tom—glen!” ejaculated the Englishman, with genuine surprise. “What? do priests carry challenges and act as seconds in your infernal country?”
“Yes,” I answered scornfully; “why should they not? Their services are more often necessary than those of a surgeon,” I added significantly, turning away.
The party slowly rode off, with the exception of the Hon. Blanche Sackville, who lingered for a moment behind. In an instant I was at her side. Bending her blushing face over the neck of her white filly, she said hurriedly:—
“Words have passed between Lord Somerset and yourself. You are about to fight. Don’t deny it—but hear me. You will meet him—I know your skill of weapons. He will be at your mercy. I entreat you to spare his life!”
I hesitated. “Never!” I cried passionately; “he has insulted a Denville!”
“Terence,” she whispered, “Terence—for my sake?”
The blood rushed to my cheeks, and her eyes sought the ground in bashful confusion.
“You love him then?” I cried bitterly.
“No, no,” she said agitatedly,—“no, you do me wrong. I—I—cannot explain myself. My father!—the Lady Dowager Sackville—the estate of Sackville—the borough—my uncle, Eitzroy Somerset. Ah! what am I saying? Forgive me. Oh, Terence,” she said, as her beautiful head sank on my shoulder, “you know not what I suffer!”
I seized her hand and covered it with passionate kisses.
But the high-bred English girl, recovering something of her former hauteur, said hastily, “Leave me, leave me, but promise!”
“I promise,” I replied enthusiastically; “I will spare his life!”
“Thanks, Terence,—thanks!” and disengaging her hand from my lips she rode rapidly away.
The next morning, the Hon. Captain Henry Somerset and myself exchanged nineteen shots in the glen, and at each fire I shot away a button from his uniform. As my last bullet shot off the last button from his sleeve, I remarked quietly, “You seem now, my lord, to be almost as ragged as the gentry you sneered at,” and rode haughtily away.
THE FIGHTING FIFTY-SIXTH
When I was nineteen years old my father sold the Chateau d’ Enville, and purchased my commission in the “Fifty-sixth” with the proceeds. “I say, Denville,” said young McSpadden, a boy-faced ensign, who had just joined, “you’ll represent the estate in the Army, if you won’t in the House.” Poor fellow, he paid for his meaningless joke with his life, for I shot him through the heart the next morning. “You’re a good fellow, Denville,” said the poor boy faintly, as I knelt beside him; “good-by!” For the first time since my grandfather’s death I wept. I could not help thinking that I would have been a better man if Blanche—But why proceed? Was she not now in Florence—the belle of the English embassy?
But Napoleon had returned from Elba. Europe was in a blaze of excitement. The Allies were preparing to resist the Man of Destiny. We were ordered from Gibraltar home, and were soon again en route for Brussels. I did not regret that I was to be placed in active service. I was ambitious, and longed for an opportunity to distinguish myself. My garrison life in Gibraltar had been monotonous and dull. I had killed five men in duel, and had an affair with the colonel of my regiment, who handsomely apologized before the matter assumed a serious aspect. I had been twice in love. Yet these were but boyish freaks and follies. I wished to be a man.
The time soon came,—the morning of Waterloo. But why describe that momentous battle, on which the fate of the entire world was hanging? Twice were the Fifty-sixth surrounded by French cuirassiers, and twice did we mow them down by our fire. I had seven horses shot under me, and was mounting the eighth, when an orderly rode up hastily, touched his cap, and, handing me a dispatch, galloped rapidly away.
I opened it hurriedly and read:—
|“LET PlCTON ADVANCE IMMEDIATELY ON THE RIGHT.”|
I saw it all at a glance. I had been mistaken for a general officer. But what was to be done? Picton’s division was two miles away, only accessible through a heavy cross-fire of artillery and musketry. But my mind was made up.
In an instant I was engaged with an entire squadron of cavalry, who endeavored to surround me. Cutting my way through them, I advanced boldly upon a battery and sabred the gunners before they could bring their pieces to bear. Looking around, I saw that I had in fact penetrated the French centre. Before I was well aware of the locality, I was hailed by a sharp voice in French,—
“Come here, sir!”
I obeyed, and advanced to the side of a little man in a cocked hat.
“Has Grouchy come?”
“Not yet, sire,” I replied,—for it was the Emperor.
“Ha!” he said suddenly, bending his piercing eyes on my uniform; “a prisoner?”
“No, sire,” I said proudly.
I placed my hand upon my sword, but a gesture from the Emperor bade me forbear.
“You are a brave man,” he said.
I took my snuff-box from my pocket, and, taking a pinch, replied by handing it, with a bow, to the Emperor.
His quick eye caught the cipher on the lid.
“What! a D’Enville? Ha! this accounts for the purity of your accent. Any relation to Roderick d’Enville?”
“My father, sire.”
“He was my schoolfellow at the Ecole Polytechnique. Embrace me!” And the Emperor fell upon my neck in the presence of his entire staff. Then, recovering himself, he gently placed in my hand his own magnificent snuff-box, in exchange for mine, and hanging upon my breast the cross of the Legion of Honor which he took from his own, he bade one of his marshals conduct me back to my regiment.
I was so intoxicated with the honor of which I had been the recipient, that on reaching our lines I uttered a shout of joy and put spurs to my horse. The intelligent animal seemed to sympathize with my feelings, and fairly flew over the ground. On a rising eminence a few yards before me stood a gray-haired officer, surrounded by his staff. I don’t know what possessed me, but putting spurs to my horse, I rode at him boldly, and with one bound cleared him, horse and all. A shout of indignation arose from the assembled staff. I wheeled suddenly, with the intention of apologizing, but my mare misunderstood me, and, again dashing forward, once more vaulted over the head of the officer, this time unfortunately uncovering him by a vicious kick of her hoof. “Seize him!” roared the entire army. I was seized. As the soldiers led me away, I asked the name of the gray-haired officer. “That—why, that’s the DUKE OF WELLINGTON!”
For six months I had brain fever. During my illness ten grapeshot were extracted from my body which I had unconsciously received during the battle. When I opened my eyes I met the sweet glance of a Sister of Charity.
“Blanche!” I stammered feebly.
“The same,” she replied.
“Yes, dear; but hush! It’s a long story. You see, dear Terence, your grandfather married my great-aunt’s sister, and your father again married my grandmother’s niece, who, dying without a will, was, according to the French law”—
“But I do not comprehend,” I said.
“Of course not,” said Blanche, with her old sweet smile; “you’ve had brain fever; so go to sleep.”
I understood, however, that Blanche loved me; and I am now, dear reader, Sir Terence Sackville, K. C. B., and Lady Blanche is Lady Sackville.