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culiar manner described by accurate writers as gingerly; and as they approached the long cornet, that personage, with a dignified gesture that would have become a monarch, waved his sable attendant away, tossed his miniature-whisker brush after the servant, folded his arms, and looked fiercely at his visiters.
Peregrine could not help smiling, as he neared the bed, at the stately efforts of the long cornet; but his better nature was speedily touched by the lamentable sight, that presented itself; for never had a sadder change been wrought upon the person of a human being—at least, never had Peregrine witnessed a sadder one. The long cornet's face, which, when Peregrine last saw it, was about the colour of the Bengal army list, (for he was one of those fresh-looking young gentlemen with white teeth and black whiskers, whose likenesses we see in the hair-dressers' shops,) was now somewhat paler than a table-cloth, and about the shape of a vertical section of a wall-shade. His head had been shaved, quite close to his scalp, and his temples were of course spotted with leech-marks; but his whiskers and moustaches either were, or appeared to be, longer and blacker than ever; for although he had submitted to the loss of his hair, after ascertaining from unquestionable authority that he could procure a first-rate wig in Calcutta, with curls of any pattern he liked, no powers of persuasion on the part of others, and no fear of consequences on
his own, could induce him to give up the lip and cheek treasures which he had been hoarding up for the last three years. A friend of his, with very red whiskers, had declared to him that they had originally been black, but that after being shaved down in a fever, they had sprung up again about the tint of a two-penny postman's coat-collar; and the long cornet, having placed implicit confidence in the veracity of his friend's statement, had resolved never to run the risk of entailing upon himself a similar misfortune. Our readers will, no doubt, hesitate as to which they ought most to admire—the confiding nature of the long cornet, or the excessive strength of his resolutions, from which even the near prospect of death could not drive him into the least deviation.
Our hero, as we have said, was moved by the sad change which he beheld in the long cornet, for a thought flashed across his brain at that moment, that he himself might have been the cause of it. There was a chair beside the sufferer's bed, and Peregrine, having previously removed from off it a tumbler of lemonade and some lint, was just about to seat himself on it, under an impression that by so doing his appearance in the sick chamber would assume a more friendly aspect, and testify that he had come thither to comfort or console, when he saw that the right arm of the cornet was crimson with blood, which was oozing out from under his shirt-sleeves, and soaking through spreadingly to the sheets. He had been bled that morning, and the bungling fellow who had performed the operation, had fastened the band agesin such a manner as would have disgraced the clumsiest apothecary's apprentice. The least motion of the patient's arm would have been sufficient to slacken them, and the moustache-brushing was therefore utterly fatal—the ass of a doctor having taken into his head, as an improvement upon the general practice, to make a puncture in the right arm of the
But as Peregrine Pultuney was a young gentleman who rarely lacked presence of mind, the bandages were soon replaced, and if not in a very scientific manner, at all events in a very effectual one, as his best broad-brimmed beaver abundantly testified, for before Peregrine had done his work; it looked as though it had been moulting to supply styptics to one who was indeed little deserving of such kindness. Our hero, however, did not care for that; he knew the fellow was a scoundrel, but he was come to save him if he could.
“You had better lie down now," said Peregrine, when the ligatures had been settled to the best of his non-professional abilities, which, indeed, very far surpassed the professional abilities of the “experienced surgeon” of the Wellesley. “You had better lie down and be quiet.”
“You had better not dictate to me,” replied Drawlincourt.
Taking into consideration all the circumstances of the case, it will be acknowledged that this response was indicative of a very deep sense of the obligation just conferred on him. The long cornet had his own way of testifying his gratitude, and though it was a little singular, it must be respected, for it was very sincere.
“You had better not dictate to me,” said Cornet Drawlincourt, endeavouring to look very fierce indeed, but of course failing utterly in the attempt.
“I was not dictating," rejoined Peregrine; “I was only suggesting for your own good.”
“My own good—very likely indeed,” snarled the cornet; “just like such a d-d fine fellow, come to insult me in every way you can, when you see that I can't help myself—can't cr-cr-cr-crush
“ Upon my word,” replied Peregrine, keeping his temper in a most creditable manner, “I came here out of pure kindness, to be of use to you if I could; but neither to insult nor be crushed by you. I have too much regard for my own honour and my own person to wish for the one or the other."
“ Your honour," sneered Drawlincourt; "just like you—I suppose you have come about your honour, and to talk about satisfaction, now that you know I am hors-de-combat. Just like you; but you shall have it—that you shall, if I drop down dead on the way to the ground.”
Peregrine was a little taken aback by these feer
cious demonstrations of hostility on the part of the long cornet, as he thought that Julian Jenks had forewarned the dragoon that they had come expressly to offer him an apology-a circumstance which, if Peregrine Pultuney had known Mr. Drawlincourt a little better than he did, would have been more than sufficient to account for his present exhibition of pugnacity.
But Peregrine was determined not to give way beneath any such assaults upon his patience, so he merely remarked that he was sorry the cornet had mistaken the object of his visit, for that it was one most entirely of peace, and if it were possible, of consolation.
"Peace,- is it?" snarled the amiable cavalry. officer; "a very likely thing indeed, after the insults you have put upon me--you want to back out of it now-do you? a very likely thing, indeed.”
“Well,” said Peregrine, “ you may take your choice."
“Oh! I may, may I? Thank you very muchI thank you very much for your condescension-I may let you off if I like, or I may ho-ho-ho-horsewhip you if I like. I would soon let you know what I do like, if I were all well and strong againbut it don't matter, to-morrow morning will do.”
“Why, what are you thinking of ?" interposed Julian Jenks, who had been all this time teaching a khitmudgar (valet) to make some lemonade that, would not resemble the rincings of a vinegar-bottle.