Chapter 52282225

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Chapter NumberXIV
Chapter TitleRONALD IS OFFERED A COMMISSION.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52282225
Full Date1889-08-21
Page Number0
Corrections0
Word Count4131
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleMorning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)
Trove TitleThe Curse of Carne's Hold, a Tale of Adventure
article text

Mt* ml gkúát».

[NOW FIRST FOBLUHED.]

THE

CURSE OF CARNE'S HOLD.

A TALK OF ADVENTURE.

BY G. A. HENTY,

Author of " Under Orake'e Flag," " With

Clive in louis," &c.t fcc

[ALL BIGHTS RESERVED.]

CHAPTER XIV.-RONALD IS OFFERED . A

COMMISSION.

Aa soon as olary Armstrong reached the Hospital, the trooper wuo had accompanied her took her to the. auraeon'a quarters. The officer, oo hearing that a Lady wished to speak

to him, at once came ont.

"1 un Mary Armstrong," the girl asid aa she clipped down from the horse. 1 think my father ie here, wounded, fie came np in the woggoon the day before yesterday, I believed

" oh yes, he ia here, Miss Armstrong. I had him put in one of the othoer'a wards that ls otherwise empty at present."

" How is be, doctor ? '

" Well, I am sorry to say that jost at pri sent he ie very ill. '1 be wounds are not, I bope, likely to prove tatal, though un- doubtedly they are very aerioua ( but be ia in a state ot high fever-in fact he is délirions, principally, 1 think, ewing to bis anxiety about you, at leant so i gathered from the officer who brought him in, for he wet already delirious when he arrived uere."

" 1 oan go to him, 1 hope ?"

"Certainly, you cao, Mira Armstrong. Your presence ia likely to soothe him. The ward will be entirely at your disposal. I congratulate you mott heartily upon getting out cf the banda of the Katbre. Mr. Nolan told ut of the gallant attempt which a ser- geant of the Cape Mounted Klflee waa going tc make to rescue you, but I don't, think that anyone tbougbt he had the ahvedow of a

chance of success."

"He succeeded, doctor, as you see ; but he was wounded lo-d.y just.at we wert in eight of towu. They are bringing bim here, will you let me know when ne comet in and bow

he ls?"

" I will let you know at once. Misa Arm- strong ; and now I will take yon to your

father."

one of the hospital orderllee were standing by tbe bedside of Mr. Armstrong at his daughter and the eurgeou entered. The patient waa talking loudly.

"I tell you I will go. They have carried off Mary. I aaw them du it, and could not help her, but I will gc now."

Mary walked to the bedside and bent down

and kitted her father.

" I am bera, father, hy your aide, I have got away from them, tnd here I am to nurse you."

The patient ceased talking, and a quieter expression came over hie face. Mary took his hand in hera, and quietly stroked it.

" That's right, Mary," he murmured ; " are the bars of the cattle kraal up ! See that all the abutter* are closed, wo cannot be too careful, you know."

" I will sea to it all, father," sbe said, cheerfully ; " now try to go to sleep."

A few m. .re words passed from the wounded man's lips, and then he lay quiet with closed

eyes

" That is exoellent, Miss Armstrong," the surgeon said ; " the consciousness that you are with bim has, you see, soothed him at once If he moves, get bim to drink a little of ibis lemonade, and I will send yon in some medicine for him shortly."

" How are the wounds, doctor ?"

" Oh, I thick the wounds will do," the sur- geon replied ; " so far as I can tell, the aaaegat has just missed the top of the lung by a hair's breadth. Two inches lower and it would have been fatal. Aa for the wounds in the legs, I don't anticipate much trouble with them. They have missed both bones and arteries and are nothing but fiesh wounds, aaalafter the active healthy life your father baa been living, I do not think we need be uneasy about them."

In half an boor the surgeon looked in again.

"Sergeant Blunt hie arrired," he said. " You can eet your mind at ease about bim ¡ lt ls a tia«ty gaeh, but ot no real importaboe whatever. I have drawn the edges together and sewn them up ; hs le quite in good spirits, and laughed and aald that a wound In the back could scarcely be called an honourable soar. I can sature you that in ten days or to be will be about again."

.' Would you mind telluig him," Mary aaked, " that I would come to see him at once but my father is holding my band ao tight that I oould not draw it away without rousing him ?"

"1 will tell bim/' tba eurgeon eald. "Oh, here ia the orderly with your medicine at well as your father'*.*

'1 be orderly brought in a tray with a bowl of beef tea and a gliaa of wine. " You will

take both these, if yon piesse. Mia* Arm- ' ?troug, and I will bave the other bad placed by the ebie of your lather, ao that you ctn lie down with him holding vonr hand, You are looking terribly pale abd tired, and I dc not want you an my hand« too."

The tray waa planed upon the table within Mary's reach, and th* nargoon ttood by and taw that ehe drank the wine and l eef tea. He and the orderly then moved the other couch po the tide of Mr. Armstrong* bed, and. arranged it eo that Mary could lie down with

her hand attll in her father'e.

"Now," heaaid, "I recommend you to go off to aleep soon. I am happy to say that your father it Bleeping naturally, and it may be hours before he wakes. When he does so, he will be sure to wake you, and the eight of yon will, if he ie seneible, aa I expect he wHI be, go a long way towards bi* our*."

Captain Twentymau,- when he returned io

the afternoon from a reoonnaiaanoe that he

had been making with a portion of the troops, called at once to aa* Ronald, but wat 'told that he waa aeund «sleep, »nd to left word that he would come again In the morning.

Th* new* of Sergeant Blent** desperate i attempt to reeene tb iee white women who i were carried off by the Keilira had, wheo I reported by Lieutenant Nolan, b-en the

aubject of muob talk in the camp. Every one admitted that it wa* a breach of discipline thua to leave the party of which he wa* in commatad when upon apeciai eervioe, but no one teemed to have seriously blamed him for this. Admiration for the daring action and regret for the lost of ao brave a toldier, for none thought that there waa the albibieat chance of ever teeing bim again, overpowered all other feeling« Mr. Nolan stated that the sergeant bad told him that one of the three women wal the daughter of the wounded mao he had brought io with him, and that he bad known her and her father before, and it was generally agreed that there moat have been tome thing more than mere acquaintance in the case to induce the sergeant to undertake auch a desperate enterprise, tirent interest wa* therefore excited when upon the return of Lieutenant Lianiala' party it became known that he bed falito in with Sergeant Blunt and a young lady, and that the sergeant was severely wounded. All sorts of question* were asked the lieutenant.

" Ten to one she's pretty. Daniell," a young

subaltern laid.

" She it pretty, Mellor ; aa pretty a girl aa I have aeen in the Colony, though, of coarte, ?be i* looking utterly worn out, and no wonder. But ahe'e mon than pretty-aha ia a lady If ever I (aw ona."

" He ie a gentleman," another officer who had just come up, said. " 1 have jost been talking to Nolan, and he tells me that Sergeant Brant (poke of ber aa a lady, and said that her father h»d aervsd lu the army and fought ea a young Kneign at Waterloo."

" Mr. Armstrong la a gentleman," Lieu- tenant Daniela said. " He had a farra on ¿be Kabouale tirar, that b Whare Blunt got to

know alex He bad the fwfe^ííbW a I wealthy man. Blunt wu Íik,f^fj/mi:i3íj^.

party who earns op and saved them when they were attacked by the Kaffirs on Christ- mas Day. So this b the second time he bas rescued the youag lady."

" I hope Mr. Armstrong isn't going to be a etem father, and spoil the whole romance of the business," young Mellor laughed. " Une of your troopers, Daniels, however brave a fellow, can hardly be considered as a good match for an heiress."

" Blunt is as much a gentleman as I am,"

Lieutenant Daniels said quietly. " 1 know : nothing whatever of bis history or what bis real name is, for I expect that Blunt is only a nom-de-guem, but I do know that he is a gentleman, and I am sure that he served ss an officer. More than that I do not want to know, unless be chooses to tell me himself. I suppose he got into aome scrape or other at home ; but I wouldn't mind mading a heavy bet teat, whatever it waa, it was nothing dis-

honourable."

"But, how did he get her away from the Kaffirs ? It seems'almost an impossibility. I asked the head man of the Fingoes, who was with him," the lieutenant said, " but he had already got three parta drunk, so I did not

get much cot of him ; but as tar as I could make ont, they carried her off from Macomo's kraal in the heart cf the Amatólas,"

"Oh, come now, that seems altogether absurd," two or three of the officers standing round said, and Mellor laughed, "Orpbeua going down to fetch Eurydice back from Badea had an easy task of it in comparison."

" 1 am glad to ese that you have not for- gotten your ciaasioal learning, Mellor," one of the older officers said, " but certainly of the two I would rather undertake the task of Orpheus, who was pretty decently treated after all, tban go to Macomo's kraal to fetch back a lady love. Well, I suppose we shall hear about it to-morrow, but I can hardly believe this story to be true. The natives are euch liars that tbere'e no believing what they say."

The next morning, after breakfast, Captain Twentyman and Lieutenant Daniels walked across to the Hospital. Ihcy first saw tbe

surgeon.

" Well, doctor, how U my sergeant ?"

" On the high way to recovery," the «or geon «aid, cheerfully. " Of coarse, toe wound will be s fortnight, perhaps three week«, before it ia healed up aufficiently for him to return to duty, but otherwise there ia nothing the matter with him, Â long night's rest baa pulled bim round completely. He ia a little weak from lota of blood ; but there is no harm in that. There ia, I think, no fear whatever of fever or other complications. It ie simply a question of the wound bealing up."

" And the colonist-Armstrong bis name ie, I think, whose daughter was carried away bow is be going on ?"

*. Much better. His daughter's presence at once calmed his delirium, and thia muralug, when he woke after a good night's sleep, he waa oorucioua, and will uow, I think, do well. He is very weak, bot that does not matter, and be is perfectly content, lying there holding bis daughter's band. He has asked no questions as to how she got back again, and, of course, I have told ber not to alinde to the euujeot, and to check him at once il be does. The poor girl looks all the better for her night's rest. She was a wan-looking creature when she arrived yesterday morning, but is fifty per cent, better already, and with another uay or two'a teat, and the comfort of seeing her father going ou well, ehe will soon get her colour and tone back again."

" I euopose we can go up and eee Blunt, and bear about bis adventures."

" Oh, yes, talking will do him no harm. I will come with you, for 1 was too busy this morning, when I went my round«, to have auy conversation with him exoept as to bb

wound."

" My inquiries are partly personal and partly offioial," Captain Twentyman said. " Colonel Somerset asked me this morning to see Blunt, and gather any information ai to the Kaffirs' positions that might be useful. I went yesterday, evening to question the

Pingo bead man who went with him, but be ! and all Ms men were as drunk ss pig«. I bear

that when they first arrived they said they j had carried the girl off from Macomo's kraal, but of course there must be some mistake ; they never could have ventured Into the heart of the Amatólas and come out alive."

The three officers proceeded together to the ward in which rionaid was lying.

" Well, aergeant, how do yon feel yourself?"

Captain Twenty man asked.

"Ob, I am all right, sir," Donald answered, cheerfully. "My back smarts a bit, of course, but that is nothing, I hope I shall be in tbs saddle again before long-at any rate before the ádranos ia made."

" I hope ao, Blunt. And now, if you feel np to telling it, 1 want to bear about your ad- venture, Colonel Somerset asked me to inqaire, as it will throw some light on the numbers and position of the Kaffire ; besides, the whole camp is wanting to know now you succeeded in getting Mies Armstrong out of tue hands of the Kaffirs, I can aesure you that there is nothing else talked about,"

" There is nothing much to talk abont, as far aa I am concerned, sir," Ronald aaid. '. It was the Fiugoee doing altogether, and they could have managed at well, indeed better, without me."

" l xoept that they would not have done it, unless you bad been with them,"

*' No, perhaps nut " Ronald admitted. " I was lucky enough down at Fort Kliiabeth to fish out the son cf Kreta, the head man of the party, who bad been washed off hit feet In the eurf : and it was gratitude for that that induced him to follow me."

"Yee, we heard about that business from Mr. Nolan, and although yon speak lightly of it, lt « as, he tells us, a very gallant affair in- deed. But now as to this other matter."

"In the first place. Captain Twentymsn, I admit thai goiug off aa I did waa a great breach of duty. 1 can only say that I shall be willing, cheerfully, to submit to aoy penalty the colonel may think fit to inflict. I bad no right whatever to leave my detachment on what was really private butin els ; bnt even if I had been certain that I abould have been shot aa a deserter on my return to the regiment, I should not have hesitated in acting as I did."

" We all understand your feelings, Blunt," Captain Twentynian said, Kindly, "and you have no need to make yourself uneasy cu that Bcore. To punish a mau for acting aa you have done would be as bad as the eea story of the captain who flogged a seaman, who jumprd overboard to save a comrade, for leaving the ship without orders. Now for your story : all we have heard i« that your Fingo ttyt you carried off the young lady from Macomo's kraal, but, ef course, that is not believed."

"It ts quite true, nevertheless," Rootld ?aid. " Well, this is how it was, eir," tnd he gave a full account of the whole adventure.

" Well, I congratulate you mott heartily," Captain Twenty man said when he finished ; " It ia a really wonderiul adventure-a moat gallant butioesa iudeed, and the whole corp*, orbcert tod men, wi.l be proud of it."

" I ehould be glad, air, if there could be some reward given to Kreta and bis men ; aa you will have seen from my story, and credit that there is io the matter ie certainly their

due."

" I will see to that," the office* replied. "The King» desire» are, happily, easily aatisfie i ; a good rifle, a lew cows, and . barrel of whisky make up his ideal of happiness. I think I can promise yon they

shall have all these."

In tbe afternoon, Mr. Arsastrong again dropped off to a quiet sleep. Thia time he waa not holding his daughter's hand, and as

soon as abe saw that bs waa fairly off she stol* out of the room, and finding the surgeon, asked if he wnuld tah« her np to the ward where Sergeant Blunt waa lying.

" Vea, I shall be happy to take you np at once Miss Armstrong. Everything ia tidy jost at preseutiuc I have a message from Colonel Somerset that ba aud the general are oooing around the warda. I don't suppose they will be bars for balt-an-bonr, ao yon oas come np at oboe."

The slok men in the wards were surprised

I when the surgeon entered, aoooropanied by a j

yoong lady. Sh« pasted shyly along batmen the rows ot beds until the reached tbatof Bonald. She put bar hand« tn bl», ont for a moment Wes unable to speak. Bonald «aw ber agitation, and aaid cheerfully, " I am heartily glad, Misa Armstrong, to hear from .the doctor auch a good account of your father. Aa for me, I shall not be in bis bands many days. I told you it waa a mere scratch, and I believe that a good-aired piece of sticking plaster was all that wa« wanted."

" You haven't thought me unkind for not ooming to see you before, I hope," the girl eaid : " but I have not been able till now to leave my fatber'a room for a moment."

" I quite understand that, Miss Armstrong, and indeed there was no occasion for you to come to me at all. It would have been quite time enough when I waa up and about again. I only wlah that lt waa likely that Mr. ArmetroDg would be on his feet aa Boon as I

abell."

" Ob, be is going on very well," Mary eaid. " I consider that you have saved his life ss well as mine. I feel sure that it is only having me with him again that bsa made suoh a change in bim as has taken place aluce yesterday. The doctor says so, too. I have not told him yet bow it baa all come about, but I hope ere very long he may be able to thank you for both of us."

"You thanked me more than enough yesterday. Miss Armstrong, and I'm not going to listen to any more of it. Aa far as I can eeo, you oould sot have dons me any greater service than by giving me the opportunity you have. Every ooe eeems disposed to take quite a ridiculoue view of the matter, and I may look forward to getting a troop-aergeant eblp when there ia a vacancy."

The girl shook her head. 8he waa too much in earnest even to pretend to take a light view of the matter. Just st that moment there waa a trampling cf horses out side, and the sharp soondol sentries presenting

arms.

" Here it the general," Bonald said, with a emile, " and although I don't wish to hurry you away, Misa Armstrong, I think that you had better go back to your father. I don't know whether be would approve cf ltdy visitors in the hospital."

" Uood-bye," the girl said, giving bim ber hand. "You won't let me thank you, but you know."

" I know," Ronald replied. " Good bye." She looked round for the surgeon, who had, after taking her up to Ronald, moved away for a «hort distance, but he waa gone, having hurried off to meet the general below, tod with t laet nod to Ronald, the left tbe ward. She paaaed out through the door Into tht court yard jutt aa the group of office re were

entering.

"That it Mles Armstrong," the snrgeoi said, aa ahe passed out.

"What, the girl who wat rescued?' Colonel Somerset said ; " a very pretty lady like-looking young woman. I am nol surprised now that I see ber at this deapertti exploit of my sergeant."

" No, Indeed, the general said, «miling " It'« enriout, Colonel, whet men will do toi a pretty face. Those other two poor creature) who were carried off were both murdered and 1 don't euppoie that their death« havi greatly distressed this young fellow one wa] or the other. No doubt be would have beei glad to retoñe them, but I Imagine that thei death« have sot in any way canted bim t< regard blt million aa a failure. I toppo* thtt it'a human nature, Colonel."

Colonel Somerset laughed.

" Yon and I would hava seen the matte in the same light when we were youngsters

General."

The officers went through the wardi stopping tarerai times to «peak a few word

to thenatienta.

! " So thia is tb« deserter," Colonel Somerset

said, with some assumed sterooess, as they stopped by Ronald'« bedside. " Well, air, we hare had a good many of those black rascals desert from oar ranks, bot you are the first white soldier who has deserted siooe the war began. Of coarse, you expect a drum- head court martial and ahooting as coon at tbe doctor lets yon out of bis hand«."

Rooald taw that the old colonel waa not in

earnest.

" It was very bad, Colonel," he eaid, "and I oan only throw myaelf on your mercy."

" You have done well, my lad, very well," the oolonel taid, laylog bis hand on blt shoulder. " There are some occasions when even military lawt give place to questions of humanity, and thia waa essentially one of them. You are a fine fellow, sir ; and I am proud that you belong to my oorps."

The general, who bad stopped behind speaking to another patient, now came up.

"You have done a very gallant aotion, Sergeant Blunt," he eaid. "Captain Twenty man baa reportad the circumstances to me ; bot when you are oat af hospital yon mutt come to my headquarter« ana tell me your own atory. Will you tee to this,

Colonel borne ri et t"

"Certainly, sir. I will tend him over, or rather brine bim over to you, at toon aa be'« about, for I tboutd like to bear the story

also."

In ten dayt Ronald Mervyn wat about again, although not yet fit fer duty ; the wound bad healed rapidly, but the aurgeou tald it woold beat least another fortnight before be would be fit for antive servios. Ai toon aa be wat able to go out and tit on the beochee in tbe botpital yard, many of hit oomr&des came to ace him, and there waa a warmth ti.d earnestness in their congratu- la tiona which showed that short as bil time had been In the corps, be was thoroughly popular with them. Sergeant Menzies wat particularly hearty in hie greeting.

" I knew you were the right tort, Harry Blunt, as soon as I set eyes upon you," he eaid, " but 1 did not expect that you were going to out us nil out to toon."

" How it my borte, Sergeant?"

"Ob. he'a none the worse for it, I think. He has been taking walking exerciae, and bit stiffness ia wearing «ff fast. I think he misset you very muon, and he wouldn't take blt food the first day or two. He bat got over it now, but I know be long« to hear your voioe airain."

Sometimes, too, Mary Armetrong would come out and alt for a time with Ronald. Her father waa progressing favourably, and though still extremely weak, waa in a lair way towan)« recovery

( 7 o be continued.)