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Enough, perhaps, has been written to convince all who care to read that the National Rifle Association is worthy of support. It has accomplished for Britain what but for it would never have been done. To this Association we owe the perfection to which our rifles have been brought; to the annual trials held of rifles by the Council, we owe the improvements that have been made in the Whitworth; these trials set to work the fertile brains of our inventors, and actually produced the small-bores of Henry, of Rigby, and of Metford; and the way has been paved for the introduction of the breech-loader. The influence which the National Rifle Association has in the rifle world is best proved by General Peel's recent act, by which has perhaps for ever been destroyed much of the red tape of the War Office. That most bold Secretary for War, in selecting a Military Committee, whose duty is to report on the breech-loading rifles which are now competing for the high prize of being selected as the British service arm, has placed on the Committee the best shot of the country, Mr. Edward Ross, and Earl Spencer as Chairman of the National Rifle Association.
The offices of the Association are, moreover, the central offices for the transaction of most of the unofficial business connected with the Volunteer service. It shelters gratuitously its younger sister, the National Artillery Association; there meet the Cambridge Rifle Club, the Long Range Club, the Middlesex Shooting Committee, and the metropolitan commanding officers; and
the commanding officers throughout the country recently held there the meetings at which they considered the necessity for asking still further assistance from the Parliament. In any country but ours this work would be dignified into a State department, or would at any rate be carried out by a royal commission, while the National Rifle Association actually is compelled to subsidize the army-the pay of the soldiers on duty at the meeting of 1866 costing more than 1,4007.
Those who have followed us thus far must surely, one and all, join in the praise, "Well done, Lord Elcho." All must hope, too, that the same success, the same happy combination of financial soundness and well-done work, may be the result of Lord Spencer's term of office, in which we may rest assured that nobleman will spare no pains, no labour. If Lord Elcho must go, where could we find a better successor than in the nobleman who fostered the Association in its helpless infancy, who has given the place of its meeting, who has attended its meetings with regularity, and proved his own skill by being honoured with the National Rifle Association badge for successful shooting for the Queen's Prize? And, if we must say "Farewell to Lady Elcho," who by her kindness, her presence, and her beauty, has done so much to make the social part of the meeting a real success, we must also say, "Welcome to Lady Spencer," who is no stranger at Wimbledon, and who will doubtless dispense a generous hospitality in her most genial and most charming manner.
SILCOTE OF SILCOTES.
BY HENRY KINGSLEY, AUTHOR OF
THE DESERTION OF THE BOYS.
"RAVENSHOE," THE HILLYARS AND THE BURTONS," ETC.
"LET me introduce my friend and travelling companion, Count Boginsky," said Arthur to his father.
"I am delighted to know you, sir," said Silcote, frankly and pleasantly. "I hear from Arthur that you are actually good enough to come to the war with us as cicerone. It is a piece
of good luck on which we could not possibly have reckoned."
"Nor I either," said Boginsky. shall really believe that times are going to change for the better with me."
"They are, sir, they are," said the Squire." Believe it, sir, that these great concussions shake things into their places. We are going to see a very great thing, sir. I begin to imagine, a very great thing indeed. I am sorry for poor Austria, for I tell you honestly that, with all her political folly, I have a sneaking kindness for Austria. the world will gain."
case of the devil among the tailors, then?"
"I beg pardon?" said the puzzled Boginsky.
"My father means that there will be a great struggle," explained Arthur. "Undoubtedly," said Boginsky. "Taking the Austrian army altogether, and considering the wonderful mixture of tribes, almost of nations, in its ranks, I rank its personal valour higher than that of any army in Europe. Of the Prussian army I can say nothing, as it has not been mobilized for above forty years; but, looking at the performances of other European armies, I rank the personnel of the Austrian army as high as any, even as high as the British."
"Do you rank us first, then?" said the Squire.
"It is our habit to do so. Your little army is always in practice. Your nation is never at peace. Amongst your little army of 140,000, there are in each regiment at least ten men to each company who have been under fire. You fail in handling large bodies of men, because none but your Indian officers ever have the chance of doing that, and they seem to be carefully shelved. But I rank the personnel of your army as the first in Europe; with them I put the pick of the French and Russians, and the whole of the Austrians. England and Austria have no inferior regiments, and no men whom they will use able to lead their armies. France and Russia would beat them by generalship."
"And Italy?" said Silcote, pleased and interested.
"Italia is not yet," said Boginsky; "she may be next month, next year, fifty years hence; but she is not yet. We go to see the dice thrown for her."
"I should like to have seen a red
coated regiment or two in the hurlyburley," said the Squire. "Merely on sentimental grounds."
"One would have liked to see the red-coats also, we democrats," said Boginsky, "but it is not expected of England. England has accepted Democracy as the breath of her nostrils only in a modified form as yet, but the sacred spirit will show itself perfect. England's mission is to disseminate democracy in new lands; with regard to the old ones, we dispense with her. It is I, and such as I, who carry the fiery cross over land. We are contented
with her, and we love her, if she will fulfil her special mission of carrying it by sea."
"Do you know," said the Squire, "that this is wonderfully interesting? But it is sad nonsense, I doubt, Archy; is it not?"
"I pointed out to your grandson, and to James Sugden, that they were not behaving well, but I could make no impression on them whatever. Mr. Sugden was spokesman, and gave me my commission to Mr. Arthur. He said that they were exceedingly sorry to cause any annoyance, but that they had made up their minds, and, to save words, had done it secretly, because they knew that James's mother (the beautiful greyhaired lady, I believe) and the Squire would have objected to it, and would not have permitted it for a moment."
"What have the two young fools done now, then, in the name of confusion?" demanded the Squire.
"They requested me to point out the fact," continued Boginsky, unheeding him, but going through his commission, "that women would be in the way, and that they were determined to see it; and also that they had plenty of money for the present, and that, when it ran short, they would send to you for more."
"This story begins to hold together,” said the Squire; "I can quite under stand this part of it. No doubt they will. But what have they done?" "Then, as a last resource, having used all my own arguments, I appealed to the Colonel himself. I pointed out to him that Reginald was risking your good favour by taking such a step, and that James Sugden's mother had only just arrived from England. He laughed at me. He said that it was good for them, and took them away. I never yet got the best of my friend Frangipanni."
"Frangipanni!" exclaimed the Squire. "What on earth has he been doing with my boys? What Midsummer madness is this?"
"Count Frangipanni is colonel of the 18th regiment of the Sardinian light horse, which marched last night. Reginald Silcote and James Sugden were
1 Not to deprive brave men of their glory, even for a moment, in a work of fiction, it is necessary to say that the men of Genestrello were the regiment at Montferrat (with sonie squadrons of other regiments) under command of General Sonnaz.
his two favourite pupils in his Italian class at St. Mary's Hospital. He has seduced them away with him to go and make sketches of the war, and has promised to take them under fire; which he probably will do, as he is one of the bravest men in Europe, and as they would follow him down the crater of Vesuvius."
"This is very pleasant, Arthur," said Silcote. "This is thoroughly pleasant."
"Lucky young dog," aaid Arthur ; "they promised to stick by me. I would go after them if I could get franked by a colonel."
"They will be killed," said the Squire.
"Most likely," said Arthur. they will have taken some bad sketches first, which we shall find on corpses."
"How shall we break it to Mrs. Tom?" said the Squire.
"Tell her all about it the next time she comes into the room," replied Arthur; "I should say that was the best way. If you are afraid, let me."
"It will be a terrible shock to her," said the Squire.
"She has been under fire herself in the Crimea more than once," said Arthur. "She will not care much. They might have taken me with them, I think. Here she is. Mrs. Tom, James has bolted to the front, and is going under fire. Hallo, what is this?"
"Only my old dress as field nurse in the Crimea," she said quietly. “I found out why he was gone, and where, and I got ready to go after him. should suggest marching myself, if we are to see anything at all. The last regiment goes to-morrow; and, as far as I can gather from the soldiers, the causeways are narrow, and our carriages will get hampered among the commissariat waggons if we delay. I should have proposed marching in the rear of Frangipanni's regiment if I had known that the boys were to give us the slip. We had better order the carriages at eight to-morrow morning."
From this time she and Boginsky took the lead. She dressed in
a modest hood, looking so much like some sort of sœur de charité that she got the route everywhere, and carried her train with her. Miss Lee carried her silks and satins through the scenes which came afterwards, attended by Arthur, who kept the dress of an English parson.
THE FAMILY BEGINS TO DRAW TOGETHER, WHETHER it was the fault of Count Frangipanni, or of James, that the latter. took the extraordinary step of running away from the newly-united party, is one of those things which it is hardly necessary to make clear. Whichever of them originated the idea, it was soon acted on. There is one thing certainthat the Count took the most elaborate pains to point out to James that if he stayed with the carriages he would see absolutely nothing. James did not want much encouraging. "If we argue and ask leave, Reggy," he said, "we shall never have leave to go. Let us bolt."
'Certainly," said Reginald. they commissioned Boginsky, whom they met in the crowd, to arrange matters for them in the best way he could.
When they commissioned him to say that they had money enough for the present, they spoke the truth. Their money, however, looked a great deal smaller after they had bought a couple of little horses. But, as James said, they were going with the winning army, and would make requisitions on the conquered territory. Besides, they had their watches, and at least ten pounds a piece. A real schoolboy will go into any adventure with a pound in his pocket.
Boginsky might have supplemented his commission from them to Arthur by mentioning that he had bought their horses and saddles for them, getting these articles for them, by means of his democratic connexion, at about half the price they could have got them for themselves; moreover, that he had spent
the evening of the previous day in getting away their painting tackle, money, and clothes, and conveying them to the little café at which they were rebelliously lodging. He suppressed these latter facts entirely. The fact is that he would have liked to go himself, but felt bound in honour to stay by Arthur. And, indeed, with his political character, he was much safer in the rear than in the front; so, under the civis Romanus ægis, he travelled in Silcote's barouche.
The boys were pleased at their escapade. The troopers liked them, and they liked the troopers. England, said the Italians, the free country of Europe, sympathised with the cause, although political complications elsewhere happened to prevent her assisting in it, as they had assisted in the Crimea. Yet she had sent her best blood (according to Frangipanni) to look on, even if they could not fight. They were in perfect goodhumour with the English, these troopers, and considered James in the light of a political demonstration. To him personally they were devoted, like every one else; "the only agreeable person which your family has ever produced," said Miss Raylock of him afterwards to the assembled Silcotes.
They went on under the bright May weather, fast and far, through pleasant ways across the lower slopes of the Apennines. But few people were about, and those got fewer as they went on. Our two friends could make little or nothing of the plans of the campaign, and indeed cared little whether the Austrians would test the right or the left of their position; all they cared about were the incidents.
They had a very pleasant incident one warm May day. Travelling over nearly plain open meadows, planted here and there with mulberries, keeping the green, abrupt hills on their right, they came to a stream by a village, and by this stream lay a battalion of French soldiers, some of whose officers came and fraternized, but the body of which lay and sat still. The stream in which these two audacious youths
watered their horses was the Forsagazzo, the village was Genestrello. The French battalion which lay on the grass was a battalion of the 74th, under General Cambriels; but little they knew or cared about these details. The two simple-minded youths were at the extreme breaking-point of a great wave, the foremost wave of a sea which was to burst over, and to regenerate, nay make, a kingdom; but they were utterly unconscious of it. The place was picturesque, and the day warm. Further
on the scenery seemed to promise better. They rode in advance of the troops along the broad dusty road, and turned off into a hedgeless field on the left, lay down on the grass, and, letting their tired horses graze, took their dinner of sausage, bread, and wine.
Then they began sketching. The field was wide and open, with here and there a tree. Before, and close to them, was the broad and dusty highway, separated from them by a long ditch and a few shaped stones at regular intervals. Beyond, and close to them, was a handsome collection of Italian buildings; a church notably; an inn; a larger building than either of these, probably a country gentleman's house; all noblelooking, of yellow stone, with red roofs and dormer windows; behind all a wooded hill. It was a place which the idlest tourist would like to sketch, with or without an incident. They were lucky enough to see a remarkable incident, but were much too scared to introduce it into their landscape.
Their friends were well in sight on their right, and it was dinner-time with them as with James and Reginald; yet their friends were taking no dinner whatever. Their friends the Sardinian cavalry were on the move again, and soon passed them along the road at a foot pace.
"Shall we go with them?" said Regi nald.
"We can soon catch them up," said James. "We will finish our sketches." And so they finished them.
It was late when they had finished them, and they wanted their supper.