DISEMBARKATION AND ENCAMPMENT AT VARNA.
"Quanti valorosi uomini li quali non che altri ma Galieno, Ippocrate o Esculapio avrieno giudicati sanissimi, la mattina desinarono co' loro compagni et amici, che poi la sera vegnente appresso nell' altro mondo cenarono colli loro passati!" - BOCCACCIO.
ON Thursday, June 1st, our disembarkation commenced. We came in sight of Varna about nine o'clock. It is a small but clean looking town, and certainly, from the harbour, gives one no idea of the impregnable fortress which resisted the Russians in 1828-29. Here the disembarkation of horses was dangerous and awkward, for they were obliged to lower them into boats, and row them ashore. All were frightened - some very restive. One trooper kicked two men, bit a third, and sent a fourth flying overboard. At half past four Henry and I came ashore in Mr. Coull's gig. We took leave of Captain Fraser and the officers of the "Shooting Star" with great regret, and, as we rowed off, all hands came aft and cheered. It was kindly and heartily done, and I did not expect it; it overcame me, and filled my eyes with tears. The landing-place gave me a greater realisation of the idea of "war time" than any description could do. It was shadowing to twilight The quay was crowded with Turks, Greeks, infantry, artillery, and Hussars; piles of cannon balls and shells all around us; rattle of arms everywhere; horses kicking, screaming, plunging; and "Bob," whom I was to ride, was almost unmanageable from excitement and flies. At length, horses were accoutred, and men mounted, and, nearly in the dark, we commenced our march, Henry and I riding first. Luckily, our camp was merely about a mile off. I looked at the streets, - vilely paved, full of holes, and as slippery as glass; but feeling how useless was any nervousness, now that the die was cast, I gave the dear old horse his head, and he carried me without a trip to the camp. Out tent had to be brought up with the impedimenta.
It was pitch dark, and the dew fell like rain. Major De Salis most kindly came to meet me, and, taking me to his tent, gave me some ham, biscuit, and brandy and water, and allowed me to lie down until my own tent was erected.
Friday, 2nd. - A broiling day. There is no tree or shelter of any sort near our encampment, which is finely situated on a large plain fronting the lake. Artillery, Turkish cavalry, and eight regiments of infantry compose our camp at present, though, through the dust on my right hand, I can discern French troops marching in fast. Some of our infantry tents are pitched on mounds, which mounds are the graves of those Russians who fell in the campaign of 1828-29.
Saturday, 3rd. - About ten o'clock Major De Salis brought us some milk in a bottle, and we broiled a slice of the ham kindly given us by Captain Fraser, of the "Shooting Star," and so, over the camp fire, we made our breakfast. Our dinner at night consisted of the same, as no other rations than bread have been served out; and but for our ham we should have had no meat at all. Later, a welcome sight presented itself in the shape of Captain Fraser and some bottles of beer, one of which I drank like a thirsty horse. The horses are wild with heat and flies, and they scream and kick all day and night.
Lord Cardigan and staff rode into our lines. Henry went into Varna, and bought a very fine grey cob pony, of the British consul, for twenty guineas. Captain Eden, of the "London," called on me and invited me to church and luncheon to-morrow. Captain Tomkinson, Mr. Philips, Dr. Mackay, Henry, and I dine on board the " Shooting Star." Am I not hungry?
Sunday, 4th. - We started on horseback at half-past nine to meet the "gig," which was waiting for us in the harbour. Lady Erroll, whom I am curious to see, was also asked, but as Lord Erroll was detained in camp she could not leave. After service we inspected the ship, a magnificent two-decker of ninety guns, and partook of a most refreshing luncheon. Lord George Paulet, who had written to me in the morning, came and carried us off to the "Bellerophon," and entertained us most hospitably. When we rode home at night, we found the 17th Lancers disembarking.
Captain Wallace, 7th Fusileers, who was killed yesterday by a fall from his pony, was buried to-day - the first-fruits of the sacrifice! We march to-morrow morning at five to Devna, a village about nineteen miles up the country. After I had packed, I sat down outside the tent, and wrapped myself in the novel beauties of the scene - the great plain bordered by the vast lake; the glorious colours of sunset; the warlike confusion of foreground; hussar and artillery horses picketed; infantry encamped; Turkish soldiers galloping here and there on their active little horses; Bashi-Basouks all round us, and the smoke of the camp-fires throwing a blue haze over the whole.
Monday, 5th. - Was awoke by the reveillée at half-past two; rose, packed our bedding and tent, got a stale egg and a mouthful of brandy, and was in my saddle by half-past five.
I never shall forget that march ! It occupied nearly eight hours. The heat intense, the fatigue overwhelming; but the country - anything more beautiful I never saw! - vast plains; verdant hills, covered with shrubs and flowers; a noble lake; and a road, which was merely a cart track, winding through a luxuriant woodland country, across plains and through deep bosquets of brushwood.
A most refreshing river runs near our camp, but we have no trees, no shelter. Captain Tomkinson made me a bed of his cloak and sheepskin; and drawing my hat over my eyes, I lay down under a bush, close to "Bob," and slept till far towards evening.
Tuesday, 6th. - The major was busy in arranging and settling the men; but towards the afternoon, Captain Tomkinson, Henry, and I rode into the village, to try to procure some vin du pays for our dinner (wherein we failed); and to the hills, to try for some green forage for our horses, as the straw brought us by the natives is little else than old bed stuffing, and full of fleas. We met one of the commanders of the Turkish army going with an escort to Schumla. His belt and holsters were most magnificently chased. He was on the small horse of the country, and had just mounted a fresh relay. His escort looked like a collection of beggars on horseback; but the little active horses sprang into a gallop at once, and kept it up over tracks that would puzzle many a clever English hunter. After our horses had fed on long grass and flowers, we came home to our dinner. A French colonel in the Turkish service, Colonel Du Puy, called on us in the evening, and interested us much by his account of his last winter's campaigning in this comfortless country.
Wednesday, 7th. - Captain Tomkinson and Mr. Clutterbuck, each with eight men, went out to patrol: they went about ten miles, in different directions, but saw no Cossacks.
Lord Cardigan joined this detachment of the brigade to-day.
Part of the 17th Lancers also marched in.
Saturday, 10th. - The head quarters and Captain Lockwood's troop have arrived at Varna, and were expected up to-day; but as they had no baggage ponies, nor any means of conveyance for the baggage, they were detained until we could send down our ponies to bring them up. This does not strike me as being well arranged. Whose fault is it? The infantry of the Light Division were also ordered up to Devna to-day, to form a large camp in conjunction with us; but as it poured with rain they could not march. Captain Tomkinson, with a sergeant and nine men, has been away on patrol these three days, but is expected back to-night. Lord Cardigan forbids them to take their cloaks to wrap round them at night, as he considers it "effeminate." Luckily it is summer, though the dews fall like rain. Our camp is most picturesque, in the midst of a large and fertile plain, near a sparkling river, and carpetted with brilliant flowers - burrage, roses, larkspurs, heather, and a lovely flower the name of which I do not know. Henry and I wandered among the hills this afternoon; and Bob sped over the long grass and delicate convolvuli, neighing with delight at being loosed from his picket rope, where he has been rained and blown upon incessantly for two days and nights.
Monday, 12th. - Captain Tomkinson returned to-day from Basardchick, bringing me a handful of roses from the ruined village, observing, as he gave them to me, that I now possessed roses from nearer the enemy than any one else.
Thursday, 15th. - A mail came up to-day, brought up by an orderly from Varna. I received letters from S., F., and E. I also got a Devizes' paper, which pleased me much. The morning wet and chilly; the noon hot and sultry.
Friday, 16th. - A report was rife in camp that 57,000 Austrians were marching to our assistance against the Russians; also that the whole force, English and French, will be under immediate marching orders for Silistria, as 90,000 Russians are investing the town.
Saturday, 17th. - Weather intensely hot - no shade, no breeze. Head quarters marched up to-day from Varna. Mr. Philips left to-day for Tirnova, where he was sent to purchase 500 horses. They inform us to-day that the Austrian force is 300,000, and it is uncertain upon which side they will fight. What a comfort we find in our double marquee tent! The lining excludes the heat more effectually than anything else, and it is so much more easy of ventilation than a bell tent. The Bulgarian pony "Whisker," proving too active with his heels, was obliged to be picketted by himself' and not liking it, amused himself, and bothered us, by untying the knot with his teeth, and scampering all over the country. The Light Division are really expected up on Monday, when it is supposed we shall begin our march in earnest. Such an expectation fills all minds with excitement and hope: I pity the Russian army which encounters our men as they are now. We hear wonders of the valour of the Turks. Every day the Russians make breaches in the walls, and rushing on to the attack, are beaten off every day by these dauntless men at the point of the bayonet. The Russians, a few days since, sent in a flag of truce to bury their dead: the Turks not only agreed, but sent a party to assist.
Wednesday, 21st. - The 5th Dragoon Guards and two troops of the 13th Light Dragoons marched to join our encampment to-day. The former took up a position nearer the river, but the 13th came up on our right, between the 17th Lancers and ourselves. Yesterday we performed a "grand march:" we shifted our ground, and went about 200 yards further up the valley. This movement occupied us from six, A.M., to three, P.M. The ground, which had not been previously marked out, took some time to choose, and Lord Cardigan and aides-de-camp were a wearisome time in arranging it; and when it was arranged, we were put more than a mile from the water; whereas, by a different disposition of the troops, all might have been equally near to the river bank.
Thursday, 22nd. - Henry and I started at half-past twelve to ride over to the Infantry camp; Captain Lockwood mounted me on his roan horse, and Henry rode the grey. We missed our track, and made thirteen miles out of seven. We wandered through most exquisite woodlands, through sunny glades and banks of sweet spring flowers, passed trees through whose green leaves the golden sunlight fell dropping in a shower, and through deep shadows and thickets, beneath which our horses could hardly force their way. Arrived at the camp, we inquired for about a dozen of our friends, and found they had every one, without a single exception, "gone into Varna;" so there was nothing for it but to turn our horses' heads homewards through the weary heat. Hurrying home to be in time for dinner (we had had nothing but a piece of bread and a glass of water, kindly given me by a good commissary), we found only disappointment for the bottom of the pot had come out, and all the stew was in the fire.
Friday, 23rd. - The 17th Lancers got up some pony races to-day, over a tolerable course of a mile. Captain Morgan won gallantly, on a pony for which he had paid 50s.
Sunday, 25th. - Was awoke at four o'clock from a profound sleep, by the words, "A general order for the regiment to be prepared as soon as possible to march thirty miles." All the camp was alive No tents were to be struck, but every one was to move. We could make nothing of the order, until we heard that a courier had arrived to say that the Russians had abandoned the siege of Silistria, and had crossed the Danube. We still dressed in hot haste, wondering at the order, when an aide-de-camp came up to say that only a squadron of the 8th and a squadron of the 13th were to go; and that they were to march towards Silistria to make a reconnaissance of the Russian army. The order to "bridle and saddle'' was given, and all was ready for a start, when a counter-order arrived - "The squadrons are to wait until three days' provisions are cooked ;" so that of the whole regiment roused at four, two troops went away at half-past ten. If it takes six hours and a half to get two squadrons under weigh, how long will it take to move the whole British force? At six o'clock Henry, Major de Salis, and I rode over to the Turkish camp to dine with Colonel Du Puy. We met Mr. G____, the correspondent of the Daily News, also M. Henri, and another officer, aides-de-camp to Marechal St. Arnaud. These two last were returning from Schumla, whither they had conveyed a fine Turkish horse, as a gift from the Maréchal to Omar Pasha. I saw the little horse. He was about fourteen hands, black, with the exception of two white marks and a white foot. Omar Pasha returned him, as a Turkish superstition prevents the soldiers from riding horses not entirely of a colour. He who rides a black, bay, or chestnut horse with white marks, or a white foot behind, will assuredly be slain in battle. A Turkish officer joined our party during the evening; and after sitting for some time in silence, smoking his chibouque, he informed me, through his interpreter (he had been staring at me for half an hour previously) that it was only permitted him to sit in my presence during war-time; under any other circumstances he could not sit down with a woman who was unveiled.
Monday, 26th. - Henry rode into Varna to procure money from the commissariat chest. I went out to meet him in the afternoon, and Captain Chetwode rode with me. We went as far as the Infantry camp at Aladyn, and on our way passed the head-quarters of the 13th, marching up to join our camp. The lovely evening and clear sky induced us to prolong our ride so far, and we found Henry among the officers of the 23rd Welsh Fusiliers, who most hospitably pressed us to stay and partake of their excellent dinner, which we did. On our way home, in the almost impenetrable twilight, we passed close by Captain Tomkinson's poor horse, which fell under him last night as he was returning from Varna. There he lay stark and stiff, a white mass amid the dark shadows - as fine a fencer as ever strained upon the bit on a hunting morning; and, hark! the gallop and baying of the wild dogs, even now trooping over the hills to feed upon his almost palpitating heart! Ah! mournful sight, that he should lie there, so ghastly and so still!
Thursday, 29th. - Two troops of the 11th Hussars joined us to-day. We had no news of Lord Cardigan's patrol until after dinner, when Bowen rode into the lines on Captain Lockwood's roan horse, who bore him feebly to the picket ropes, and then fell down. For many minutes he appeared dying of exhaustion, but eventually we revived him with brandy and water. Bowen tells us that the squadrons will not return for some days; that their fatigue has been excessive, and their hardships very great. They appear to have been marching incessantly, for which hard work neither men nor horses are fit.
A French colonel on his way to Silistria dined with us this afternoon, and interested us much by his accounts of the Turkish army. He told us no army cost so much to maintain, with such infamous results. The soldiers are neither fed nor clothed. All the money which passes through the hands of the pashas sticks to their fingers. Often, when halting after a long march, they inquire whether any meat i8 to be served out to them. " No!" "Any bread ?" "No !" They shrug their shoulders and betake themselves to cold water and a pipe. A more wretched appearance than that which they present cannot be imagined.; but at Silistria they have proved their courage.
Friday, 30th. - Part of the Light Division marched up this morning, and encamped on the opposite side of the valley. The Rifles marched in first; next followed the 33rd, playing "Cheer, boys, cheer;" and cheerily enough the music sounded across our silent valley, helping many a "willing, strong right hand," ready to faint with heat and fatigue. The 88th Connaught Rangers gave a wild Irish screech (I know no better word) as they saw their fellow countrymen, the 8th Royal Irish Hussars, and they played "Garry Owen" with all their might; while the 77th followed with "The British Grenadier." A troop of R.H.A. also came up to Devna. The accession of 7,000 men will be like a plague of locusts: they will eat up our substance. We can get little else but stale eggs, tough chickens, and sour milk, and now we shall not get even that; and the cries of "Yak-mak Johnny!" "Sud Johnny!" "Eur mooytath Johnny !" will be transferred from the cavalry to the "opposition lines."
Sunday, July 2nd. - Captain Tomkinson returned to-day from Silistria, whither he had been sent to ascertain the best road for marching troops. He described the whole Russian force, although they have lately raised the siege of Silistria, as being still in sight of the town, and speaks much of their numerous field pieces. He brought back a Russian round shot, and told me he had seen two of the enemy, but lying cold and still. I hear the Turks are hardly to be restrained from mutilating their dead foes. If they can do so unseen, they will cut off three or four heads, and, stringing them together through the lips and cheeks, carry them over their shoulders, like a rope of onions.* The Turks inform us that the Russians say they will treat the Turks whom they make prisoners, as prisoners of war, but the French and English will be treated as felons, and sent to Siberia; and really, if the Russians are as uncleanly, smell as strong, and eat as much garlic as the Turks, it will be the best thing that can happen to us under the circumstances. We have had a hurricane all day, filling our tents, eyes, dinners, hair, beds, and boxes with intolerable dust. Our chicken for dinner was so tough that not even our daily onions could get it down. We were forced to shake our heads at our plates, and relinquish the dinner. The black bread, which is kneaded on the ground, is a happy mixture of sand, ants, and barley - and it is besides so sour that it makes my eyes water.
Monday, 3rd. - At three o'clock we were ordered to turn out as quickly as possible in light marching order, to receive Omar Pasha, who wished to inspect the troops, and was on his road from Schumla to Varna, where he was to hold a council of war. In ten minutes the cavalry were mounted, and Henry and I started upon Bob and the Great Grey, to see the man whom war had made so famous. His appearance struck me as military and dignified. He complimented all our troops, and insisted on heading the Light Cavalry charge, which made me laugh, for he was on a small Turkish horse, and had to scramble, with the spurs well in, to get out of the way of our long striding English horses. He was loudly cheered; appeared highly gratified; made me a bow and paid me a compliment, and proceeded to his carriage to continue his journey.
Thursday, 6th. - Reports of a more peaceful nature reach us. We hear that Omar Pasha i9 the only counsellor for war. The Russian force is retreating daily. Now the "shave" is, that Austria is beginning to be afraid lest the English and French armies should decline to leave this fertile land, and all the powers, inimical or neutral, appear desirous to hush the matter up. The party which returned today from Silistria inform us of the good feeling shown by the Turks to their Russian prisoners. They feed them with their meat and rice, and treat them with every mark of kindness and consideration. The peaceful reports which reach us give dissatisfaction. We are all for one good fight, to see which is the better man; all for one blow, struck so effectually as to crush all warlike propensities against us for ever. We hear to-day of the terrible fate of the "Europa." Report at present speaks so vaguely that we know not what to believe. At first we were told that every soul had perished, and afterwards that only Colonel Willoughby Moore and the veterinary surgeon fell victims to this terrible catastrophe. A more frightful tragedy could scarcely occur than the burning of a transport ship - soldiers ignorant of seafaring, and horses crammed in the hold! Omar Pasha returned again to-day, and on his way inspected the Heavy Cavalry and Artillery. Lord Raglan also came up, and the staff made a brilliant-display. Omar Pasha again expressed himself in the most complimentary manner; and after it was all over, Henry and I turned our horses' heads and went for a ride.
Tuesday, 11th. - The reconnaissance, under Lord Cardigan, came in this morning at eight, having marched all night. They have been to Rassova, seen the Russian force, lived for five days on water and salt pork; have shot five horses, which dropped from exhaustion on the road, brought back an araba full of disabled men, and seventy-five horses, which will be, as Mr. Grey says, unfit for work for many months, and some of them will never work again. I was out riding in the evening when the stragglers came in; and a piteous sight it was - men on foot, driving and goading on their wretched, wretched horses, three or four of which could hardly stir. There seems to have been much unnecessary suffering, a cruel parade of death, more pain inflicted than good derived; but I suppose these sad sights are merely the casualties of war, and we must bear them with what courage and fortitude we may. One of these unfortunate horses was lucky enough to have his leg broken by a kick, as soon as he came in, and was shot. There is an order that no horse is to be destroyed unless for glanders or a broken leg.
Thursday, 13th. - A long morning was spent in investigating the state of the horses by Colonel Shewell, Lord Cardigan, and Mr. Grey. I despatched letters to Captain Fraser, of the "Shooting Star," and Lady Duberly. A sad event closed this day. One of our sergeants, who had been ill for some days previously, left the hospital tent about three o'clock, A. M., and when our watering parade went down to the river, they found his body in the stream: he was quite dead. He was a steady and most respectable man: could he have had a foreboding of the lingering deaths of so many of his comrades, and so rashly have chosen his own time to appear before God? The band of the Connaught Rangers came at seven o'clock to play him to a quieter resting-place than the bed of the sparkling, babbling stream - a solitary grave dug just in front of our lines, and near enough for us, during our stay, to protect him from the dogs.
Three more of the reconnoitring party's horses are lying in the shadow of death. I had been pained by all this, and Henry and I, ordering our horses, rode out, in the cloudless summer evening, to a quiet little village nestled among the hills, where the storks build their nests on the old tree-tops that shade the trickling fountain where the cattle drink. Colonel Shewell met us as we rode into camp with a radiant face, telling us that all the transports are ordered up from Varna,; and that we are to embark immediately for Vienna, as the Russians are so enraged with Austria for taking part against us that they have determined on besieging that place.
Saturday, 15th.- The Vienna "shave" turned out false; instead, came an order desiring that all our heavy baggage should be sent to Varna, to be forwarded to Scutari. Heavy baggage! when we are already stript of everything but absolute necessaries, and are allowed barely sufficient ponies to transport what we have!
Letters arrived last night, but were not delivered till to-day. Yesterday evening Henry and I took a lovely ride to Kosludsche, a small town about eight miles from the camp. The pastoral scenes, in this land of herds and flocks, speak in flute-like tones of serenity and repose - the calm, unruffled lives of the simple people, the absence of all excitement, emulation, traffic, or noise; valley and hill-side sending home each night its lowing herds, and strings of horses, flocks of sheep and goats. The lives of the inhabitants are little removed above the cattle which they tend; but to one who "has forgotten more life than most people ever knew," the absence of turmoil and all the "stale and unprofitable uses of the world," the calm aspect of the steadfast hills, the quietude of the plains, and the still small voices of the flowers, all tell me, that however worn the mind may be, however bruised the heart, nature is a consoler still; and we who have fretted away our lives in vain effort and vainer show, find her large heart still open to us, and in the shadow of the eternal hills a repose for which earth has no name.
Sunday, 16th. - Henry and I took a new ride this evening. We turned into the gorge to the left of our camp; but leaving the araba track, we struck into a narrow footpath, embowered with trees, and frowned over by stern and perpendicular rocks, at whose foot ran the narrow fissure along which we rode slowly. Emerging at last, we came on an open plain covered with heavy crops of barley; crossing this for a short distance, we came presently into another thick copse of underwood, down which we had to ride, over precipitous and rocky ground, where the horses could barely keep their footing, and where a false step must have been fatal. The stars lighted our track, and we descended safely. We found ourselves on the road to Devna, and, waking up our horses, we cantered over the plain to our camp.
Wednesday, l9th. - I have mentioned nothing that has happened since Sunday; as, except the usual routine of parades and camp. life, and perpetual fresh reports as to our eventual destination, nothing has occurred. But to day we lost one of the poor fellows who had returned ill from the reconnoitring expedition. He came back with low fever, and, after being two days insensible, expired this afternoon. Henry and I, accompanied by Captains Hall Dare and Evans of the 23rd, rode to-day to Pravadi. We started at one o'clock, and returned soon after eight. Next to Silistria, Pravadi is the strongest fortified town in Bulgaria. The town lies in what (approaching from the Devna side) appears to be an abyss. High, perpendicular rocks, like the boundaries of a stern sea-coast, enclose it, east and west. Fortifications protect it on the south, and a fortification and broad lake on the north. We rode. to it through lovely home scenery, softened by the blue range of the Balkan in the distance. We saw almost to Varna. In the town we found shops, and purchased damson-cheese and some Turkish scarfs. My pony, "Whisker," cast a shoe in going, and Captain Hall Dare started without one; so we stopped at a farrier's and had them shod. My saddle excited immense curiosity. They touched and examined it all over; and several men tried to sit in it, but Henry prevented them. We went to a café, where we got a cup of first-rate coffee; and at about half-past four, we started to ride home. Oh, the heat! We made a ride of about twenty-two miles, but its beauty well repaid us for our trouble.
The Turks have a unique way of shoeing horses. One man fastens a cord round the horse's fetlock, and so holds up his leg; a second man holds aside the animal's tail, and with a horse-hair flapper keeps away the flies; a third man holds his head and talks to him; while the fourth, squatting on the ground, with his head on a level with the horse's foot, hammers away with all his might at eight nails, four on each side.
Friday, 21st. - News came that Sir G. Brown had gone to the Crimea, to discover the best place for landing troops, and that we should follow him before long - at which we were glad.
Sunday, 23rd. - The cholera is come amongst us ! It is not in our camp, but is in that of the Light Division, and sixteen men have died of it this day in the Rifles.
We hear the whole camp is to be broken up; the Light Division are to march to Monastir, and we are under orders to march to Issyteppe to-morrow. I regret this move very much, as it will separate me from Lady Erroll, whose acquaintance has been the greatest comfort and pleasure to me; but I trust we shall soon be quartered together again, as no one but myself can tell the advantage I have derived from the friendship of such a woman.
Monday, 24th. - The march is postponed, owing to the difficulty of finding sufficient water at Jeni-bazaar, which is to be our destination. Captain Lockwood volunteered to ascertain for Lord Cardigan what were the supplies of water, and started for that purpose this afternoon. I, acting on Lady Erroll's suggestion, rode down to the 11th lines this evening to call on Mrs. Cresswell, who has arrived with her husband, Captain Cresswell, of the 11th Hussars. I could not but pity the unnecessary discomforts in which the poor lady was living, and congratulated myself and Henry, as we rode away, on our pretty marquee and green bower. Present orders say we do tot march till Wednesday. Lord Cardigan has been searching unsuccessfully for another camping-ground. Mr. Macnaghten, who rode into Varna, tells me that the transports are all being ordered up, but that the "Shooting Star" had been cast on account of defective rigging. Henry rode into Varna. Towards evening I started on horseback with Captain Chetwode to meet him, and we rode to Aladyn. The infantry of our division moved to-day eight miles over the hills. They move, in the hope of averting that fearful malady which has crept among them. We hear it is raging at Varna, and that a quarantine is established between that place and Constantinople. For ourselves, we have hid a solitary case of small-pox; but the poot fellow has been taken to the hospital at Varna to-day.
Tuesday, 25th. - Orders to march to-morrow morning to Issyteppe.
Two o'clock, P.M. - Captain Lockwood having returned, and reported an insufficiency of water, he was ordered to repair again to the place to endeavour to discover water in the neighbourhood.
Three o'clock. - March postponed till to-morrow night at soonest, Lord Cardigan having taken a fancy to a night march. There is no moon just now.
Five o'clock. - March definitely settled for to-morrow morning at six.
Thursday, 27th. - The cavalry of the Light Division, with Captain Maude's troop of Horse Artillery, marched this morning to Issyteppe, - a wretched village, situated in a large plain about twelve miles from Devna.
A most uninteresting country led to it, - flat and bare, destitute of trees or water, except one half-dried fountain, with a rotting carcass lying beside it. When we attempted to water our thirsty horses, only few could drink; the rest had to hold on, as best they could, till they reached their journey's end. A now dry, boggy ditch, which runs through the village, brought a plague of frogs to our camp; and a heavy thunderstorm, rattling on our heads as we sat on the sward at dinner, drove us, drenched and uncomfortable, to our tents, and wetted our boxes. Captain Lockwood and I walked down to the village before sunset, to endeavour to procure an araba wheel (ours had come off), also a chicken for to-morrow's breakfast; but we failed in both: there was nothing but old women, cats, and onions in the place.
Friday, 28th. - My husband's birthday! and he is likely to be, for to-day at least, miserable enough. We were roused, wet and dreary, at three o'clock. At six we were in our saddles; and a very distressing march I found it, though it did not exceed fourteen miles. The heat was intolerable, the sun blinding. The horses again started without water, nor was there any between Issyteppe and Jeni-bazaar. We reached the latter place about half-past eleven; and immediately after the piquet poles were put down, there was a simultaneous rush to the fountains of the town to water the horses. Poor wretches, how they rushed to the water! Poor old Hatchet (Captain Lockwood's horse) nearly went head foremost down the well, while others upset bucket after bucket, by thrusting their heads into them before they reached the ground. There was a fine group of trees near a fountain opposite our lines, and under their refreshing shade the brigadier pitched his tent. A feeling of great dissatisfaction was caused by the troops being forbidden either to water their horses, or to obtain, water for the use of the officers, from the fountain in question, although the other fountains are so far off. The fountain, being so little drained, overflowed in the night, and a fatigue party were put in requisition to make a drain. If Æsop were alive, I wonder f this would inspire him with another fable ? To-night I am thoroughly exhausted with fatigue.
Sunday, 30th. - Lord Cardigan tells us to-day that we shall remain here until we go into winter quarters at Adrianople.
Tuesday, August 1st. - Our tents not being pitched on the right (our place as senior regiment out), Lord Cardigan changed us to-day, causing us to change places with the 13th Light Dragoons. Our tents when changed were not quite in a line, though I confess it Was barely perceptible; but at evening we had to strike and move all our tents about a foot and a half further back. We hear to-day that the Light Division have lost 100 men and 4 officers.
Friday, 4th. - I regret to say that poor Captain Levinge, of the R.H.A., is dead. The report is, that having been suffering from incipient cholera, he took an over-dose of laudanum. He is much regretted. An artilleryman of Captain Maude's troop died of cholera, and was buried yesterday. This is our first case of cholera. Captain Stevenson, 17th Lancers, took me for a ride this evening to a wondrous gorge, about three miles from our camp. We passed suddenly from a sunny landscape, laden with grain, into Arabia Petræa. It was as though the hills had been rifted asunder, so high, narrow, sombre, and stern were the gloomy walls that almost threatened to close over our heads. A small torrent ran at the foot, tumbling over huge masses of rock, which had fallen from the grim heights above. I felt oppressed; and reaching the open fields once more, put Bob into a canter, which he seemed as willing to enjoy as myself.
Saturday, 5th. - "I never watched upon a wilder night." At evening-tide it was hot and sultry, but at midnight up came the wind, sweeping broadly and grandly over the plain. We feared for our tent, although well secured; and presently across the hurricane came booming the great guns of the thunder. The lightning seemed to pierce our eyelids. By morning every trace of storm had vanished, and day looked out smiling as before, though her lashes were gemmed with heavy tear-drops, and the deep trees near us at intervals shivered out a sigh. The adjutant-general came to camp to-day. He says the Infantry are under orders to embark on the 16th for the Crimea. Are we to go too? or are we to be left out here, to constitute a travelling Phnix Park for Lord.....?
Thursday, 10th. - Rose at half-past three, and by five, Henry, Captain Tomkinson, Captain Chetwode, Mr. Mussenden, and I were starting for Schumla. We broke into a canter after leaving the village of Jeni-bazaar, and in two hours and five minutes reached Schumla, a distance of fifteen miles. Here we met Captain Saltmarshe, Mr. Trevelyan, and Mr. Palmer, of the 11th, and Mr. Learmouth of the 17th, and had a joint breakfast, and a very nasty one, at the Locanda, kept by Hungarians. That over, we walked about the town. It is very picturesque; the houses are nestled in trees, but are irregular, dirty, and mean. In the Greek shops we succeeded in making a few purchases, such as a glass tumbler, five-china plates, a soup ladle (tin), and some Turkish towels. I tried hard to procure some tea, lemons, or arrowroot for our sick in hospital, but I might as well have asked for a new-fashioned French bonnet. They did not know what I wanted. I bought a fine Turkish bridle, and we returned to the Locanda, where I lay down on the boards (0h, how hard they were!) to try to sleep for an hour. It was impossible. The bugs took a. lease of me, and the fleas, in innumerable hosts, disputed possession. A bright-eyed little mouse sat demurely in the corner watching me, and twinkling his little black eyes as I stormed at my foes. Our dinner was tough meat and excellent champagne, which we did not spare; and after admiring the sunset tints on the fine forts of the town, we again got into our saddles; and a great moon, with a face as broad, red, round, and honest as a milkmaid's, shed her hearty beams over us and lighted us home, and afterwards to bed.
Poor Major Willett lies sick in the village of Jeni-bazaar, where he has been moved for the sake of quiet.
Friday, 11th. - Ilinsky (or some such name), the Hungarian commandant, came over and dined with us. Two or three funerals to-day. The 5th Dragoon Guards are suffering terribly from cholera. Two days ago eleven men died. The report of the great fire in Varna, which reached us two days since, proves to be quite correct. It seems to have ravaged the town. Various rumours are afloat concerning its origin; some suppose it was set on fire by the Greeks, at Russian instigation. Many shops, and much of the commissariat stores, are burnt; and the plunder during the fire was said to be enormous. Our supplies must in future be drawn from Schumla. Why has there been no branch commissariat at Schumla? Varna is a two days' march from us. It is also a fact, that the commissariat chest in Varna was guarded by one slovenly Turkish sentry. Our sad sickness increases. Our hospital tents are full. Poor Mr. Philips is now attacked with fever; and the sun sets daily on many new-made graves. A second hospital marquee arrived for our regiment to-day.
Wednesday, 16th. - To-day's mail brought us the sad news of the death of Miss D., Henry's step-sister, - loved and regretted by us all. This took away the pleasure we felt in the arrival of our letters.
Thursday, 17th. - Henry and I took a long ride, to-endeavour to shake off the depression which this perpetual sickness forces upon one. We had never before seen suffering that we could not alleviate; but here there are no comforts but scanty medical stores, and the burning, blistering sun glares upon heads already delirious with fever. I am sure that nervous apprehension has much to do with illness; and, indeed, if the mind abandons itself to the actual contemplation of our position, it is enough to make it quail.
Friday, 18th. - Poor Mrs. Blaydes (my servant), after recovering from an attack of fever, brought on a relapse to-day from over-anxiety to attend to my comforts. She endeavoured to work till her health absolutely forbad it; and a great assistance she was to me. Poor woman ! she has been insensible since morning. A woman of the 13th died to-day. Hospital marquees were shifted to fresh ground, as it was observed that men put into them almost invariably died. Henry and I rode to where Captain Chetwode and Mr. Clutterbuck were shooting; and on our return we met Lord Cardigan, who tells me all the talk is of Sebastopol; and he thinks the Light Cavalry will be under orders before long. Another mail, laden with heavy news. Poor little W. ! F.'s only son ! I have so many feelings in my heart; and yet they must all be absorbed in sympathy for the sorrowing father and mourning mother!
Saturday, 1Oth. - Rode with Henry to a village on the left of our camp, about six miles off, the name of which I do not know. What a ride that was !
"What a day it was that day !
Hills and vales did openly
Seem to heave and throb away
At the sight of the great sky;
And the silence, as it stood
In the glory's golden flood,
Audibly did bud and bud."
After climbing up the sides of an interminable hill, we reached the table land - oaks, walnuts, filberts, a very wilderness of trees! We plunged down into a deep and leafy gorge, stopped at the wayside fountain, and finally emerged into the broad plain of the camp.
Sunday, 20th. - Poor Mrs. Blaydes expired this morning! Truly, we are in God's hands, and far enough from the help of man! Insufficient medical attendance (many of the doctors are ill), scanty stores, and no sick diet - we must feed our dying on rations and rum! As far as I am concerned, I feel calm, and filled with a tranquil faith: I have the strongest trust in the wise providence of God.
Monday, 2lst - Went out with Henry over the stubble to shoot quail; Captain Chetwode had the gun, and killed several brace.
Tuesday, 22nd. - Henry made a "salmi" of the quail for breakfast that was truly delicious: I could be a gourmet, if I could always feed on such salmis. Mr. Clowes, Henry, and I went out to-day; Henry shooting, Mr. Clowes and I beating from our ponies with long whips.
Wednesday,23rd. - Mr. Maxse, aide-de-camp to Lord Cardigan, who has returned to-day from Varna (sick-leave), says the troops are embarking fast; that the harbour is filled with transports; that siege guns are being put on board, and every preparation making for an expedition to the Crimea. We are reanimated! The sickness decreases; cooler weather is coming on; things look more cheerily now. We rode to-day with Captain Tomkinson - such a pretty ride! Going south for five miles, we turned to our right on smooth, long turf, by a little stream whose course was only marked by the flowers along its banks. Then came large trees bowed down with foliage, and hill sides matted with creeping plants, clematis and vine. Turning homeward, we saw fields of tobacco and Indian corn. We were a long way from home; so waking up our ponies, we left the Turkish camp and conical hill on our left, and galloped over the turf to Jeni-bazaar, and then uphill to our lines.
Thursday, 24th. - Returning from a ride among the filbert trees - how the nuts fell into our hands and laps! - we met Mr. Maxse riding at a gallop. He bore orders for our immediate embarkation at Varna for Sebastopol. The artillery and 11th Hussars are to march to-morrow; we, and the 13th and 17th, follow on Saturday. The order was heard silently; not a single cheer: we have waited in inaction too long. Sickness and death are uppermost in our thoughts just now. I also am not well - the hard food tells on me; and to become well, rest and change of diet are necessary: but I don't see much chance of getting either.
Saturday, 26th. - We started at ten o'clock on our first day's march. We left our poor colonel on the ground, too ill to be moved. Mr. Philips and Mr. Somers were also left behind in the village, to follow as they best could. We halted at Issyteppe, where we had also stopped on our way up. Here the 13th and 17th remained until Monday; and we fondly hoped to do the same, but are ordered to march on to-morrow to Gottuby. Both our servants, Connell and Hopkins, are ill; and I am very suffering, so much so as to doubt my ability to march to-morrow.
Sunday, 27th. - Marched to Gottuby, and encamped on the cholera-stricken ground just vacated by the Heavies. We had appalling evidence of their deaths! Here and there a heap of loose earth, with a protruding hand or foot, showed where the inhabitants had desecrated the dead, and dug them up to possess themselves of the blankets in which they were buried. Nevertheless, we gladly halted, for the heat was very distressing; though it would have been better if the sick had gone on to Devna, as they will now have no halt in their march to-morrow. The 13th who remained at Issyteppe, lost a man of cholera. He was taken ill at four, and buried at six o'clock. We do not start before nine o'clock to-morrow. I hope to be able to ride.
Monday, 28th. - A cold, showery morning refreshed us all, and made the horses' coats stare. Oh, how much have I, though only slightly ill, felt the miseries attendant on sickness out here ! It depresses one to know that every remedy is out of one's power. Come rain, come heat, on you must go: were it not for my trust in the Great Strength my heart would fail. We reached Devna about eleven, glad to see the old place again. And the river! how we walked the horses up and down in it, and how they thrust their parched heads into the stream, than which no stream ever seemed so limpid or so sweet !
Tuesday, 29th. - "March at half-past six to Varna." March delayed till half-past seven, at which time we started (I with an æther bottle) over the hills to Aladyn, and so to Varna by the upper road. The colonel was unable to-leave his bed, and followed in an araba. The ride was beautiful. We passed a singular geological formation of large rocks, resembling the ruins of a huge temple with many towers. We reached our camping ground (the middle of a stubble field) at twelve o'clock. We passed two camps on the road - one Sir De L. Evans's; the other a part of the Light Division, consisting of the l9th, 77th, and 88th. The 88th seemed in sad spirits: they lost their surgeon yesterday of cholera, and the major was then supposed to be dying. All round us are camped the various regiments - French and English Cavalry, Infantry, and Artillery, and Turkish Infantry and Cavalry. The Rifles embarked to-day. I heard that Lady Erroll was seen riding into Varna, to embark with them. Colonel Yea (7th Fusiliers) called on me, and told me that his regiment was to embark tomorrow in the "Emperor;" he also said his regiment was to be the first to land. At five o'clock we saw no chance of getting anything to eat (we had had nothing since six in the morning), and I could not bear it any longer; so we saddled the ponies, and cantered into Varna. Here of course we found all the shops closed, but at length discovered a small restaurateur in a back street, who gave us some excellent soup, vile cutlets, and good macaroni. In the almost pitchy darkness, we felt for our ponies, and were groping our way home, when we passed the hospital in which Dr. Mackay, who came out with us in the "Shooting Star," and who was appointed to the staff from the 12th regiment, resides. We ran up-stairs, and found him, with one or two brother medicos, drinking rum-and-water, and "smoking a weed." He made us most welcome; and, from his account of his patients, appears to be working hard and most self-sacrificingly in the good work of trying to alleviate pain. We soon left him to continue our way home. Lord Cardigan, immediately on my arriving at Varna, went to head-quarters to ask Lord Raglan's permission for me to accompany the troops to the Crimea. Lord Cardigan was at the trouble of bringing me Lord Raglan's answer himself. It was a decided negative. "But," added Lord Cardigan (touched perhaps by my sudden burst of tears, for I was so worn and weak!), "should you think proper to disregard the prohibition, I will not offer any opposition to your doing so."
Wednesday, 30th. - Too weak to rise. I thank God we remain here to-day, and perhaps to-morrow, as the "Himalaya" has not yet come in. Captain George and Major Eman called on me, but I was not able to see them. Two men who marched in with us yesterday are dead of cholera to-day. "Oh God, in whose hands are the issues of life and death!"
Thursday, 31st. - I was congratulating myself on the chance of another quiet day, when an aide-de-camp galloped up to say that the "Himalaya" had arrived in harbour, and we were to turn out immediately to embark. It was then one o'clock. I tried to rise, but at first could hardly stand, and gave up all hope of packing. As soon as they could be got under weight, the bullock waggons started for the quay. Wrapped in an old hat and shawl, Henry lifted me on my dear, gentle pony's back, and we crept down to Varna. But no embarkation for us that night. Till ten o'clock I waited before our arabas arrived, and our tent was pitched; a kind-hearted woman of the regiment gave me a boa, and at half-past ten we got a little dinner, and turned into bed.