Page images

to remain in it, where she lived solitary, and almost helpless. The few wants of nature were chiefly supplied from the scanty productions of her little garden, which the neighbours would now and then cultivate for her. It was but a few days before the time at which these circumstances were told me, that she was gathering some vegetables for her repast, when she heard the cottagedoor which faced the garden suddenly opened. А stranger came out, and seemed to be looking eagerly and wildly around. He was dressed in seaman's clothes, was emaciated and ghastly pale, and bore the air of one broken by sickness and hardships. He saw her, and hastened towards her, but his steps were faint and faltering; he sank on his knees before her, and sobbed like a child. The poor woman gazed upon him with a vacant and wandering eye. 'Oh, my dear, dear mother, don't you know your son, your poor boy, George?' It was, indeed, the wreck of her once noble lad, who, shattered by wounds, by sickness, and foreign imprisonment, had at length dragged his wasted limbs homeward, to repose among the scenes of his childhood.

I will not attempt to detail the particulars of such a meeting, where joy and sorrow were so completely blended. Still he was alive! he was come home! he might yet live to comfort and cherish her old age ! Nature, however, was exhausted in him, and if anything had been wanting to finish the work of fate, the desolation of his native cottage would have been sufficient. He stretched himself on the pallet, on which his widowed mother had passed many a sleepless night, and he never rose from it again.

The villagers, when they heard that George Somers had returned, crowded to see him, offering every comfort


and assistance that their humble means afforded. He was too weak, however, to talk ; he could only look his thanks. His mother was his constant attendant; and he seemed unwilling to be helped by any other hand.

There is something in sickness that breaks down the pride of manhood, that softens the heart, and brings it back to the feelings of infancy. Who that has languished, even in advanced life, in sickness and despondency; who that has pined on a weary bed in the neglect and loneliness of a foreign land, but has thought on the mother that looked on his childhood,' that smoothed his pillow, and administered to his helplessness ? Oh! there is an enduring tenderness in the love of a mother to a son that transcends all other affections of the heart. It is neither to be chilled by selfishness, nor daunted by danger, nor weakened by worthlessness, nor stifled by ingratitude. She will sacrifice every comfort to his convenience; she will surrender every pleasure to his enjoyment; she will glory in his fame, and exult in his prosperity; and if misfortune overtake him, he will be dearer to her from misfortune ; and if disgrace settle upon his name, she will still love and cherish him in spite of his disgrace; and if all the world beside cast him off, she will be all the world to him.

Poor George Somers had known what it was to be in sickness, and none to soothe ; lonely and in prison, and none to visit him. He could not endure his mother from his sight; if she moved away, his eye would follow her. She would sit for hours by his bed, watching him as he slept. Sometimes he would start from a feverish dream, and look anxiously up until he saw her bending over him, when he would take her hand, lay it on his bosom,

and fall asleep with the tranquillity of a child. In this way

he died. My first impulse, on hearing this humble tale of affliction, was to visit the cottage of the mourner, and administer pecuniary assistance, and, if possible, comfort. I found, however, on inquiry, that the good feelings of the villagers had prompted them to do everything that the case admitted, and as the poor know best how to console each other's sorrows; I did not venture to intrude.

The next Sunday I was at the village church, when, to my surprise, I saw the poor old woman tottering down the aisle to her accustomed seat on the steps of the altar.

She had made an effort to put on something like mourning for her son ; and nothing could be more touching than this struggle between pious affection and utter poverty : a black ribbon or so, a faded black handkerchief, and one or two more such humble attempts to express by outward signs that grief which passes show. When I looked round upon the storied monuments, the stately hatchments, the cold marble pomp, with which grandeur mourned magnificently over departed pride, and turned to this poor widow, bowed down by age and sorrow at the altar of her God, and offering up the prayers and praises of a pious, though a broken heart, I felt that this living monument of real grief was worth them all.

I related her story to some of the wealthy members of the congregation, and they were moved by it. They exerted themselves to render her situation more comfort able, and to lighten her afflictions. It was, however, but smoothing a few steps to the grave. In the course of a Sunday or two after, she was missed from her usual seat at church, and before I left the neighbourhood I heard, with a feeling of satisfaction, that she had quietly breathed her last, and had gone to rejoin those she loved in that world where sorrow is never known, and friends are never parted.


[ArmisticeMarch, 1855.] On Saturday, during the armistice, I came out upon the advanced French trench, within a few hundred yards of the Mamelon. The sight was strange beyond description. French, English, and Russian officers were walking about saluting each other courteously as they passed, and occasionally entering into conversation, and a constant interchange of little civilities, such as offering and receiving cigar-lights, was going on in each little group. Some of the Russian officers were evidently men of high rank and breeding. Their polished manners contrasted remarkably with their plain, and rather coarse clothing. They wore, with few exceptions, the invariable long gray coat over their uniforms. The French officers were all in full uniform, and offered a striking contrast to many of our own officers, who were dressed Balaklava fashion, and wore uncouth head-dresses, catskin coats, and nondescript paletots.

Many of the Russians looked remarkably like English gentlemen in style of face and bearing. One tall, finelooking old man, with a long gray beard and strangelyshaped cap, was pointed out to us as Hetman of the Cossacks in the Crimea, but it did not appear as if there were many men of very high military rank present. The Russians were rather grave and reserved, but they seemed to fraternise with the French better than with ourselves, and the men certainly got on better with our allies than with the few privates of our own regiments who were down towards the front.

While all this civility was going on, we were walking among the dead, over blood-stained ground, covered with evidences of recent fight. Broken muskets, bayonets, cartridge-boxes, caps, fragments of clothing, straps and belts, pieces of shell, little pools of clotted blood, shotround and grape-shattered gabions and sandbags, were visible around us on every side, and through the midst of the crowd stalked a solemn procession of soldiers bearing their departed comrades to their long home.

I counted seventy-seven litters borne past me in fifteen minutes, each filled with a dead enemy. The contortions of the slain were horrible, and recalled the memories of the fields of Alma and Inkermann. Some few French were lying far in advance towards the Mamelon and Round Tower, among the gabions belonging to the French advanced trenches, which the Russians had broken down. They had evidently been slain in pursuit of the enemy. The Russians appeared to treat their dead with great respect. The soldiers I saw were white-faced, and seemed ill-fed, though many of them had powerful frames, square shoulders, and broad chests. All their dead who fell within and near our lines were stripped of boots and stockings. The cleanliness of their feet, and, in most cases, of their coarse linen shirts, was remarkable. Several sailors of the equipages' of the fleet of Sebastopol were killed in the attack. They were generally muscular, fine, stout fellows, with rough, soldierly faces.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »