« PreviousContinue »
and, finally, retired to bed maudlin drunk, with a sort of vague impression on his mind that he was to be hanged on the following morning.
But where the cornet went to bed, and what were the consequences of choosing the dormitory he did, are matters of such importance to this history, that we must reserve them for the next chapter.
In which the uncertainty of human calculations is very
strikingly and pleasantly exemplified.
It is a fact-and we have kept ourselves to facts in this history, leaving inferences, opinions, sentiments, and other things of that sort to shift for themselves, as well as they can—that her Majesty, though she provides accommodation for her military servants, in all her garrison towns, does not trouble herself, quite so much as she ought to do, about the friends of her military servants, by laying aside any particular quarters for the entertainment of gentlemen, who are either unwilling or unable to go home after they have dined. Thus it happened that Lieutenant Peterkin (the case having been the same in his Majesty's time,) could not very conveniently offer his friend Cornet Drawlincourt a bed, without magnanimously giving up his own, a stretch of disinterestedness upon his part, to which he did not feel disposed to give way. Nor, on the other hand, did Cornet Drawlincourt, who, as our readers will have already discovered, had a tolerable idea of his own self-importance, feel the least inclined to pay any practical attention to the suggestions of Lieutenant Peterkin, concerning “doubling up" and " taking a shake-down," things, as everybody knows, by no means consonant with the dignity of so great a man as the long cornet. Besides, that gentleman had for the last two months been luxuriating in what is called “ a standing berth,” (somewhat in the same way as an army is called standing, because it is always moving about,) at least two feet and a half shorter than his own longitudinal proportions; and so it was but natural that upon going ashore he should sigh for a regular shore-going bed, with white curtains, four posts, live-stock, and all in the regular way.
And so the long cornet ordered a bed at George's, to which he betook himself, as we observed in the last chapter, in a state of maudlin intoxication. He was not very drunk; but this deficiency was by no means attributable to any laxity of endeavour upon his part, for he tried very hard to do the thing genteelly, and to stupify himself into the brute; but there was too much on his mind to admit of its being obscured by any such process; his teeming thoughts, in spite of all his endeavours to “drown them in the bowl,” would assert their supremacy, and loudly; the quantity that he drank that night would at any other time have rolled him under the table, but as it was, with the duel in prospect, the most that he could do was to get maudlin, and this, instead of bettering his condition, only plunged him into deeper misery. He saw nothing but pistols before him, and the reports of the morrow's weapons were ringing prospectively in his ears.
It was about eleven o'clock, when he passed beneath the outer gateway of the fort; he walked rapidly, as though he were trying to walk away from himself; he reached the Heeren-gracht, inquired his way of a patrol, and at last found his way to George's. There he stirred up a lazy waiter, called for soda-water and brandy, desired to be awoke at daybreak, and made his way to his dormitory, along a narrow passage with little rooms on either side.
It was a superfluous request altogether that last; for inasmuch as Cornet Drawlincourt had very little prospect of sleeping a wink all night, there was not much use in, or indeed, to speak the truth, much facility of waking him again in the morning. But it is a remarkable fact, that people who are going to do something they have never done before in their lives, always make a point of conducting themselves precisely as though they had been in the habit of doing it every day. Thus, we have been informed by a very old gentleman, who ought to know something about these matters, that no one was ever known to cut his throat in the morning, without winding up his watch and putting his feet in warm water the over night.
informed ung it every davomey had been in the
But to return to the cornet. He undressed himself as usual, and, as though he were anxious to delude even himself with a show of indifference, he hummed a tune as he was brushing his moustaches, smiled at himself once or twice in the glass, put his patent-leather boots on the trees, from which, except when on service, they were never allowed to be absent for a moment, and jumped into bed, as usual, without saying his prayers. He was resolute to do nothing out of his common routine, lest such should be a tacit acknowledgment to himself that he did not feel quite as usual. We should have thought, that one's ownself is the last person in the world, before whom any one would take the trouble to play the hypocrite; but it is a fact, and a very remarkable one, that we cheat ourselves even more than we cheat our neighbours, and take a deal more trouble to do it.
But there was one point on which the cornet could not deceive himself. He could not imagine himself to be going off soundly to sleep as usual, whilst he was tossing about restlessly on his bed, and sleep fled his pillow like a scarecrow. However, he tried to think that he was kept awake by the wine he had drunk—by the strange bed-by the noise in the street, though that never amounted to any thing more than an occasional caterwauling-in short, by any thing in the world rather than the prospects of the duel he was to fight on the following morning. But in spite of this, morning came