BLTC Press Titles

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My Man Jeeves

P. G. Wodehouse

Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite

The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas

How we got to Pekin

by Robert James Leslie M'Ghee


During the last Cafifre war, some companies of the second battalion of the Sixtieth Eifles, and a squadron of the Twelfth Lancers, were sent up the country on an expedition without tents or baggage, and a hard time they had of it. It was during the wet season, and one day in a pour of rain, when the men were trying in vain to light their cooking-fires, the following dialogue was overheard between two Light Dragoons.

" The Sergeant-major's words has come true; he says to me the day I volunteered from my old regiment, the Fifth Dragoon Guards, he says to me, as I was leaving the gate of Portobello barracks, in Dublin, ' Jinkins,' he says, ' this is the worst day's work as ever you done in the whole course of your life;' and so it was, I wish I was back again."


" Yes," was the reply from his comrade. " They say ill my troop as I'm a bad 'un, and I know any how as I'm a great blackguard, but there's one thing as is a balm to my conscience, and that is, that Tm not a volunteer"

I can enter into the feelings of the Light Dragoon as to volunteering. It is a great point when you find yourself where you would rather not be, if you are able to console yourself with the recollection that " you are not a volunteer." If you are ordered anywhere, then it is your duty to go, and to take whatever comes, and make the best of it; the path of duty is in the long run always the best, but if a man volunteers his services, he takes the responsibility of his fortunes upon his own shoulders.

During the winter of 1859-60, I was sitting one evening reading, with a companion, by a comfortable fire, in my quarters at home, feeling very well contented with the world at large and with my own lot, though not without my share of the ordinary trials of life, when the post arrived; I opened one letter, the handwriting of which I knew well as that of a good and firm friend, when, to my dismay, I discovered in the first few lines that I was to join the Chinese expedition (then being organized at Hong Kong) by the Overland route.

If a shell had fallen at my feet through the roof, I could hardly have been more startled. " China for me." I said, holding up the letter; my companion


shut his book and looked up, scarcely less startled than I was ; neither of us spoke for some minutes; what a crowd of thoughts and feelings rushed through my mind and heart! I have not forgotten them yet. I felt at once that it was the path of duty for me that I should without hesitation accept the appointment. I had "taken the shilling," and was under orders; and I felt a confidence which is worth a world of human hopes, and overrules all human fears, that the unseen Hand which had guided me in many a difficulty, and had steered my frail bark through more than one troubled sea, was still at the helm; I bowed my head and said, " Thy will be done." And I felt at peace, though sore troubled.

My hardest task was to make light of the matter, to treat it rather as a good joke, a pleasant trip, and so forth, in order to prevent others from exhibiting any signs of sorrow, which would have been difficult to bear. I had some weeks before me yet ere I was to start; I often wished that the time had come, much as I dreaded its arrival.

Like all days, whether good or evil . it came at last, and not long afterwards I found myself on board the 'Valetta,' at Marseilles, and steaming into the Gulf of Lyons, where it was rough enough to make most of the passengers very unhappy; but as sea-sickness is one of those evils from which I am exempt, I had not that additional ill to bear, not that I should have cared in the least about it. I felt too much alone and broken-hearted to think of any lesser ill . I had a major, a Scotchman, in the same cabin with me, a very good fellow, though a little " crankey," as the weather got hot (for we stuck together all through to Galle). . In three days we arrived at Malta late in the evening; it was dark, and as the anchor was dropped, I heard a wellknown friendly voice call out, "Halloa, M'Ghee, where are you?" "Here I am, where are you?" "Here, I've got a boat, come along." My friend had seen my name down as to be expected in the ' Valetta,' and, like a good warm-hearted fellow, had come off to meet me. We rowed across the harbour to the house of another military friend, who was stationed at Malta, and it seemed to look homelike to meet with those from whom I had parted not many months before, at the station where we had been quartered together; but such must militar}^ life always be. You are constantly losing your friends, by other means besides the ordinary casualties of this world; still they are not lost altogether, they are sown over every quarter of the globe, and turn up sometimes when least expected, and most wanted. Four hours saw us out of Malta harbour, on our way to Alexandria; we just missed a heavy storm, in which the sister-ship to ours (the ' Vectis') left Alexandria, although no pilot would venture to bring her out, so much for the enterprise of her commander (his brother commanded the ' Valetta') ;

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