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walked the length of the saloon, and proceeded on deck, leaving me staring through my goggles in the same pleasing state of wonder, as Gravesend had been somewhere about three times a week for the last two months, as to who Mr. Amyere Cumming could possibly be.
So warm was the weather that few had come below, and now even those few had departed. It was that unpleasant hour of the day for the steward who speculated in the edibles when it was neither breakfast. time, nor luncheon-time, nor dinner-time. Nobody seemed to like anything stronger, or more solid, than ginger-beer or soda-water, except two or thee farmers imbibing ale on deck, and a roystering-looking sea. character, who, after my first group departed, walked into the saloon, and there drank strong brandy.grog, and made quite as strong love to the stewardess.
“ Then you're not married, my dear ?" said he of the pea-jacket, for such was the garb worn by this despiser of summer-clothing. “Should you like to be ?"
“ That depends," replied the modest damsel, taking hold of the corner of her apron.
Oh, does it, my dear? Then, how should you like me? I've only got two wives already," facetiously remarked my new acquaint
“ For shame, sir! I wonder how you can talk so! I don't think that old gentleman 's asleep, and he's one of the proprietors.
This was said in an under tone of voice, but I heard it. I have often thought that my blue spectacles are not only great assistance to sight. but excellent conductors of sound.
“ Where's the other stewardess, my dear ?". “She's in the Ruby. Thank you,
sir !" “ Thank your own pretty face? I should like to take the change out of it,” said the gentleman in the salamander jacket, in which he now thrust his hands, and swaggered on deck. The stewardess went into the ladies' apartment, after having made threepence by the gentleman's impudence, and the saloon was all mine own for awhile, when in stept the steward, and a flauntily dressed young man, with a hat on one side of his head, and a bunch of curls on the other.
" What would you like to take, Wilkins ?"
* Why, I don't much mind for a bit of dinner, or a lunch, or what. ever you
choose to call it,” replied Mr. Wilkins, eyeing the viands, which, in all the proud solidity of ham and beef, fantastically garnished with double parsley, adorned the tables ; with here and there an oasis in the shape of a lettuce-piled salad-bowl, showing that neat arrange. ment and attention to the wants of the passengers which is always conspicuous in our boats."
Wilkins,” said the steward, “I meant what would you take to drink ? eating is paying, you know ; but I don't mind a glass for old acquaintance sake.
“ Then I'll take a bottle of ale with you,” replied the disappointed candidate for a dinner. “ There doesn't seem much going on here, Bill.”
To which his friend responded, that it was a dull time of the day.
“ To be sure it is, and you don't go the right way to work, or people would eat luncheons.”
got now ?”
“ How do you mean, Wilkins ? What Merriker trick have you
“ Ay, ay, Bill ! you may laugh at what I saw in America ; but I learnt more there than would set a dozen men up in business one way or another. Now if I was steward of this here boat, I should do as they do on the Mississippi ; if the people did'nt take naturally to eating, I'd get a good looking, hearty kind of cock to begin. Let him call about him, praise everything, speak to two or three gentlemen looking on, and say what an accommodation it is to get these things in a steamer, and very reasonable too, and all really so good. Steward stands treat to one, d’ye see, and gets twenty customers.”
I here lost the remainder of this conference by the entrance of several passengers, who had descended from the deck, and now passed and re-passed between me and the speakers. Its result was, however, apparent. The steward soon after was smiling and bowing to his quondam chum, before whom there was a fine ham, and a magnificent piece of beef; to say nothing of ale and salad. Wilkins was evidently eatting his lunch, and earning it at the same time. Who could resist the appearance of appetite with which he attacked each edible in its turn ? If his hunger was really feigned, it was the best imitation I ever saw in my life, Slice after slice of beef and ham vanished from his plate“one down, and another on,”-the joints stood no chance with him, nor was he now eating alone.
" Better follow my example, sir. Every thing excellent. Always made a point of taking lunch. Shan't dine till eight o'clock.”
Such had been his insidious attacks on his fellow passengers, and not without due effect. The tables began to fill. Even I, who was let into the secret, felt a craving come over me in seeing him eat, for he was a perfect master of his art. The man handled his knife and fork well, filled his mouth with propriety, and enjoyed, rather than gormandized.
Thus, though he had during the last three quarters of an hour eaten enough for three excellent dinners, his renewed attacks at the joints was only discernible from the modified appetites of the assemblage around him, to those who, like myself, had watched him from the first. The steward at length, ungratefully removed both ham and beef beyond the reach of his friend. Such is the way of the world! The purpose was answered, and the hollow-hearted fellow disregarded the continued calls of the man who had obliged him.
“ Steward, I'll trouble that gentleman for a slice more of the ham ; just a small bit.”
“ Yes, sir,” would reply the faithless fellow. Won't you take cheese sir ? That will do, Tom,” whispered he to the benefactor who had filled his table with customers : but he did not hand poor “ Tom's" plate.
I was indignant at such ingratitude : the ham was near me, and, though I am the most wretched
carver in the world, I seized the large knife, and, calling to one of the waiters, told him to “bring me the gen. tleman's plate.”
I was hacking away famously, when a suppressed groan caused me to look up. There was my old acquaintance, Mr, Amyere Cumming, standing in the middle of the saloon, the image of despair ; or I should rather say, just about to take that awful step which separates passive despair from active desperation. Had Miss Julia
fallen overboard? or had she, smiling upon another, driven her fond admirer mad ? Neither of these dreadful events had occurred; but I was the unhappy cause of his present distress of mind. The catastro. phe was not long in arriving. In an instance he was by my side. The wildness of his eye was gone ; his stern features had softened into a smile.
“ You will excuse me, sir. I beg yonr pardon, sir ; but that's not the way to carve a 'am! Hand me the knife, sir.”
In another second I was disarmed, and the long blade, waving through the air, descended gently as a snow flake on the surface of the meat. Slices now fell in red and white shavings on either side the dish.
“That's the way to carve a 'am !” exclaimed Mr. Amyere Cum. ming, the cuff of his coat turned up nearly to the elbow; his face beaming with delight.
“ Bring the gentleman's plates, waiter! Any gentleman say 'am ?"
Many were the gentleman that said “ham ;" and busy was Mr. Cumming in his pleasing task.
“ You seem to understand carving,” remarked I, who, since my abdication of the big knife, sat wonderingly regarding the intimate friend of our noblesse standing beside me, not eating, but, con amore, helping the passengers.
“Many is the thousand ’ams I've cut up,” replied Mr. Amyere Cum. ming, intent on his occupation
“ Thousands ?" exclaimed I. “ Thousands ?"
“ Yes old gentlemen ; and no mistake. Only come to “The gardens,' and I'll shew you what flare-up carving is !”
The truth burst on me at once. Mr. Amyere Cumming was a Vaux. hall carver! My gaucherie in murdering the ham had betrayed him. There was a scream at the end of the saloon—a lady had fainted. Mr Cumming dashed down the carving knife, d-d himself for a fool, and rushed towards Miss Julia Maria, who was the fair sufferer.
“ My daughter doesn't want assistance, sir!" said Mrs. Aldgate ; “and we shall be too unwell and out of sorts to see you at dinner in the Crescent."
“ What do you mean, ma'am ?” stammered Mr. Cmmming.
“ That strangers should not intrude on their betters !” scornfully re. plied Mrs. Aldgate.
Miss Julia Maria was borne into the ladies' cabin. The Vauxhall functionary, who had refined slang into gentility, and learnt grace from the late Mr. Simpson, audibly cursed " blue goggles,” and rushed on deck. Tom Willkins, the ingenious traveller, got another cut at the ham in the confusion, and just then the steamer reached Graves. end.
THE LOSS OF MY LEG.
It was a lovely evening in the month of February 182–, that a fleet of boats, containing the battalion of the regiment of Bengal infantry, to which I belonged, after following the whole day the tor. tuous course of the then unexplored Soormah, came to anchor on the southern bank of the river, immediately beneath the strong but deserted position of T-ne.
Much had been heard regarding the strength of this place, which was reported to be garrisoned by five thousand Burmese warriors, under a celebrated bundoolah, or chief; and rumour, we found, had been far from exaggerating the means of defence it possessed.
Young as I was at that time, one glance at the stupendous height before me carried conviction to my breast, that it would have been next to an impossibility for a small force like ours, so ill supplied with artillery as we were, for we had only three old six-pounders, without a single artilleryman to work them, to dislodge even a few determined men from so strong a hold, so admirably was the spot fortified by nature ; besides, we had no reason to doubt the resolution of the enemy. Recent encounters had taught us that the Burmese, though but indifferent soldiers in the field, were cool, resolute fellows, when fighting behind their favourite species of fortification, (their stockades,) which they defended with considerable skill as well as bravery.
Not a heart amongst us, therefore, from the colonel down to the junior ensign, which latter grade I filled at that period, but felt more buoyant at finding ourselves at liberty to make a peaceable journey to the summit of the crag, without a single foe to dispute our progress in crawling up its abrupt and rugged sides.
Although our commandant was supposed to be desirous of reaping as many laurels as possible before he should be superseded by the brigadier-general appointed to command the expedition against the Burmese in this part of the world, still it was reasonable to conclude that, had the bundoolah with his five thousand men kept possession of the place, he would have hesitated in attacking him with so inferior a force as our single battalion, under circumstances so highly disadvantageous. In that case, we must have waited the arrival of the reinforcement, consisting of artillery and infantry, expected under the brigadier, which was nearly a month's march in the rear.
To have been inactive in such a country would have been dread. ful; for it was truly a valley of the shadow of death, requiring the excitement of the most active employment to prevent our sympa. thising in the gloom that enveloped us, and thus falling easy victims to che pestilence that hovered around. Dense jungle of long coarse grass, attaining not unfrequently the height of ten feet, covered, with scarcely any intermission, the banks of the river. Beyond that, were swamps and marshy ground, abounding in rank vegetation, and swarming with horse-leeches of an enormous size, which often fastened themselves on the limbs of our men, when not protected by their clothing. If occasionally a village was seen on the higher spots, it was generally devoid of inhabitants as well as sup. plies. The villagers had fled at the approach of the Burmese army, whose foraging parties had swept off every article in the shape of provisions ; not even a grain of the coarse watery rice of the country was procurable. It would have been difficult to suppose the country had been recently inhabited, so desolate, so dreary was the wilderness around us, but for the murdered remains of some of the miserable na. tives which occasionally met our sight, either lying near their own huts, or hanging up by their hair in the stockades we had taken from the enemy; and in one of which we had also liberated a number of unfor. tunate women they had most brutally abused.
The wound I had received in my right foot in the beginning of the month had kept me on my back till three days before, when I left my bed for the first time to be present at an attack on two of the enemy's stockades, both of which we carried. After the affair was over, I had been obliged to return to my couch once more, and my foot was still troublesome ; but so beautifully serene was the even. ing, so cool and refreshing the light breeze that was superseding the sultry heat of the day, and above all, so strong was my curiosity to see a place that had engrossed so much of the conversation, and been the source of so many speculations to our little society of late, that I determined, like the others off duty, to employ the two hours' halt, allowed for the sepoys and boatmen to refresh themselves, in examin. ing the place.
It rose directly from the banks of the Soormah to the height of some hundred feet; no other rising ground was to be seen for miles around; the river washed more than half its base, and the approach by land was low and marshy. There was but one pathway that led to the summit, and that was barely wide enough to admit of two or three of us mounting abreast. As we wound round the hillock, at every jutting point and abrupt turn our admiration burst forth afresh at the amazing strength of the position ; and as we paused occasionally to draw breath, we expatiated again and again on the facility of pouring in a deadly fire on an attacking party from one spot, and of over. whelming them from another by hurling down loose masses of rock and soil upon their heads. At length we neared the summit. The last stage we mounted by a bamboo ladder, and found ourselves on a level spot, on which were erected temporary huts, bearing evident signs of having lately been occupied by an enemy's force.
Here we took breath again, and, as we contemplated the scene below us, we flattered ourselves the war was ended by our sole exertions ; for all came to the conclusion, that if the Burmese chief. tain had meditated facing us at all, he would never have evacuated the stronghold of T-ne, which, besides its other advantages, commanded the passage of the river completely ; nor to this day can I even venture a surmise as to the cause that led the bundoolah to adopt so strange a measure, since he afterwards returned, with his army considerably weakened, and held good the place against the brigadier and his whole force, compelling him to retire with preci. pitation.
We had been but a few minutes on the height when our patroles sent up a couple of Burmese they had surprised in the jungle. This had been hitherto a war of extermination ; no quarter had been asked or expected by either party; and being the first prisoners taken, we gazed on the two men before us with a considerable