Page images

and antagonism, and partly by sectarian differences of creed. From the latter cause arises a bitter hatred. "Turkey," said the old Mollah then prime minister of the Shah," were it twice as large, would be but a small mouthful for Persia." Carried away by his furious zeal, the old fanatic did not perceive that he talked nonsense. Not that such ridiculous rhodomontade is uncommon in that country, whose inhabitants are the very Gascons of the East, with the difference, that Gascons, though they may talk big, usually fight well; whereas the Persians, dispirited and demoralised, and having small inducement to fight in defence of a fallen nationality, and a government alternately barbarous and pusillanimous, are not likely to display much greater prowess and military skill, when next taken into the field, than they did in their contest with the Russians. Individually they may be brave.

M. Flandin

somewhere affirms that they are, although such is hardly the opinion that will be formed from many other passages of his book; but it will be hard to make an efficient Persian army, under the present system by which the country is governed, with officers who are either boys, or enervated by the excesses and shameful vices to which Persians are prone, and who look upon the service merely as a means of gratifying their more than womanish vanity, by wearing fancy uniforms, monster epaulets, and diamond decorations, and have less knowledge of their duty than a European corporal. The private soldiers, upon the other hand, have nothing to fight for. Taken, for the most part, by force, and for perpetual service unless the Shah thinks proper to release them-receiving a little grain for sole rations, they are most irregularly paid, and are often near to starvation. The Shah takes from his coffers the money requisite for the payment of the soldier, and gives it to his prime minister, from whose hand it passes through so many others, that the twelve tomauns (about six pounds), which each man is entitled to annually, dwindle to five or six, before, after long delay, they reach his hands. M. Flandin saw a regiment that had had no pay for two


years. Sometimes their misery drives the poor wretches to mutiny, by which they perhaps obtain a small payment on account; but often it is found more convenient to disband them, and raise a new regiment. Promotion in Persia is obtained neither by merit nor by military knowledge, but solely by birth, caprice, or intrigue. Princes and khans, whatever their age, having never served, totally ignorant of military matters, obtain the most important posts, and are intrusted with commands which they are greatly puzzled how to exercise. The degree of confidence they inspire in their men may be imagined; and the fate of an army thus officered, when opposed to European troops, or even to the more warlike of the Asiatic nations, can hardly be doubtful. M. Flandin gives some diverting but rather highlycoloured sketches of the siege of Herat, and of Hadji Mirza Agassi's (the same fanatical prime minister who was for making a meal of Turkey) celebrated cannon, which he founded in the camp itself, and for which he had but a very limited number of balls. "The artillerymen's practice was so bad that they all flew over the town, and soldiers, enthusiastic admirers of the vizier's balistic skill, volunteered to make the circuit of the fortress to seek and bring home the precious projectiles. It may be imagined how this formidable besieging artillery diverted General Simonitch, the Russian ambassador, an old officer of Napoleon. He derived great amusement, it appears, from the Mollahgunner and his innovations: these puerilities, conceived with all the gravity of an Oriental, helped him to pass the time during that tedious siege, to which the Persians had brought not only an army of soldiers, but another of artisans and traders of all kinds. It seemed as if they were about to found a colony in front of the besieged. place. The royal camp had itself the appearance of a town. It comprised a bazaar and workshops of all kinds. The Persians, lacking confidence, it would seem, either in their strength or in their strategic knowledge, thought the siege might be a long one, and carried foresight so far as to plough and sow the ground around their camp. Their labour was not



A Painter in Persia.

lost; in due time they gathered in the harvest."

Although French and English officers have in turn instructed the Shah's troops, and, for a time, with some show of success, the favourable results they temporarily achieved melted away after their departure. M. Flandin gives a dismal account of the state of the Persian army at the time of his residence in the country, citing, as a specimen-and probably rather a favourable one-of the whole, the six thousand men he saw encamped, under the Shah's immediate command, outside Ispahan. The lines of white tents were most symmetrical; the guns were drawn up in good order, and vigilantly guarded by sentries with bare sabres; the horses were picketed in the rear, at mangers cleverly and cheaply constructed of clay. But on parade, and in the field, the aspect of affairs was far less martial and imposing. Ragged uniforms, dirty belts, wretched muskets, many of them without flints, some without locks, soldiers in a state of misery, and officers who knew but just enough to make their men carry and present arms-such were the elements of the regiments ranged beneath the brilliant banner of the Lion and the Sun. If Russia, as some believe, has designs, resolute, although not yet ripe, on British India, and is bent on discovering a south-east passage to our vast Asiatic possessions, certainly Persia's regular troops would be no serious obstacle to her march. She would have infinitely more to fear from natural difficulties, from the immense tracts of desert her armies must traverse-solitudes where no vegetation or water are found-from disease and climate, and from the harassing attacks of Persia's irregular cavalry, Kourds, Arabs, Turcomans, variously armed and equipped, fighting after the manner of their different tribes,

Parthian-like firing and flying, but
individually brave, skilful with their
weapons, and generally well-mounted.
Led in a body against a disciplined
Russian force, they would probably
be scattered to the winds; distributed
along its line of march, pressing on its
rear, cutting off its stragglers, weary-
ing it by night alarms, intercepting
its supplies, they would form a heavy
addition to the perils and difficulties
it must inevitably brave, by whatever
route it might attempt to reach our
Indian frontier. We have always
considered the apprehensions express-
ed by some few persons, with respect
to Russian views on India, to be, if
not chimerical, at least much exagge-
rated, and entirely premature.
land could hardly have a better bar-
rier between her Eastern possessions
and Russia's ambition than countries
constituted and inhabited as are Inde-
pendent Turkey and Afghanistan, or
Until those
than Persia, with its barren salt wastes
and frequent malaria.
countries are swallowed up, or subju-
gated by the encroaching northern
colossus, there is little chance, we
think, of Cossacks on our Indian fron-
tier. If Russia had Constantinople,
the case would be different. With
the Black Sea all her own, with the
great naval power her vastly ang-
mented trade would speedily give
her, and with the increased weight
she would acquire in Asia, she might
one day attempt a move eastwards.
But these are remote speculations, to
be realised, if ever, only in a very
distant future. If Russia were allow-
ed to get the Dardanelles, which it is
pretty evident she will not be, she
would soon find herself in a position
to push westwards as well as east-
wards, and would be more likely to
trench upon Austrian and Prussian
provinces which lie at her door, than
to traverse half Asia in quest of a dis-
tant foe and a doubtful victory.



"JENNY, Jenny, canna ye open the
door-it's just me."

"It's just you, mischief and mis-
chief-maker as ye are," muttered
Jenny, in answer to Nelly Panton's
soft appeal; "and what are you want-
ing here?"

But Jenny could not be so inhos-
pitable as to shut out with a closed
door the applicant for admission, espe-
cially as a rapid April shower was
just then flashing out of the morning
skies. Nelly came in breathless, shak-
ing some bright raindrops off her
dingy shawl; but neither the rain
upon her cheeks, nor the fresh wind
that carried it, nor even the haste of
her own errand, sufficed to bring any
animating colour to Nelly Panton's

"I'm no to stay a minute," she
said breathlessly. "No a creature
kens I'm here; and you're no to bid
me stay, but just gie me your advice
and let me rin-I maun be hame be-
fore my mother kens."

"I have nae will to keep ye; ye
needna be feared," retorted Jenny.
“And what's your pleasure now, that
you've got so early out to Burn-

"Nane of the ladies 'ill be stirring
yet," said Nelly, looking round cau-
tiously. "It was just a thing I
wanted to ask you, Jenny-I ken
you're aye a guid friend."

"Sorrow!" muttered Jenny be-
tween her teeth-but the end of the
sentence died away; and whether
the word was used as an epithet, or
whether it was "Sorrow take you!"
Jenny's favourite ban, Nelly, inno-
cently confiding, did not pause to

"For I heard in the Brigend that
you had been kent to say that you
wouldna gang a' the gate to London
if the mistress ga'e you triple your
wage," said Nelly, "and that you
would recommend her to a younger
lass. My auntie, Marget Panton,
even gaed the length to say that ye
had been heard to mention my name;

but I wouldna have the face to be-
lieve that, though mony thanks to ye
for the thought; and I just ran out
whenever I rose this morning to say,
do ye think I might put in an appli-
cation, Jenny, aye counting on you
as a guid friend?"

"Wha ever gave ye warrant to be-
lieve that I was a guid friend?" ex-
claimed Jenny. "My patience! you
taking upon you to offer yoursel for
my place. My place! And wha
daured to say I wanted to leave the
mistress? Do ye think wage, or triple
wage, counts with me? Do ye think
I'm just like yoursel, you pitiful self-
seeking creature? Do ye think ony
mortal would ever be the better of
you in ony strait, frae a sair finger to
a family misfortune? Gae way wi'
ye! My place, my certy! Would
naething serve ye but that?"

"Ye see I'm no taking weel wi'
hame," said the undismayed Nelly.
"My mother and me canna put up
right, and me being sae lang away
before, she's got out of the use of my
attentions, and canna understand
them. But I'm real attentive for a'
that, Jenny, and handy in mony a
thing that wouldna be expected frae
the like of you; and I could wait
on Miss Menie, ye ken, being mair
like her ain years, and fleech up the
mistress grand. I ken I could-be-
sides greeing with the stranger ser-
vants, which it's no to be expected
you would do, being aye used to your
ain way. But for my part, I'm real
quiet and inoffensive-folk never ken
me in a house; and I have my ain
reasons for wanting to gang to Lon-
don, baith to look after Johnnie, and
ither concerns of my ain-and I would
aye stand your friend constant, and
be thankful to you for recommending
me-and I'm sure afore the year was
done the mistress would be thankful
too for a guid lass-and I could re-
commend you to a real fine wee cot-
tage atween Kirklands and the Brig-
end, with a very cheery window look-
ing to the road, that would do grand

[blocks in formation]

"Gang out of this house," said Jenny, with quiet fury, holding the door wide open in her hand, and setting down her right foot upon the floor of her own domain, with a stamp of absolute supremacy. "No anither word-gang out of this door, and let me see your face again if ye daur! Gang to London-fleech up the mistress-wait upon Miss Menie! My patience! and you'll ca' a decent woman thrawn to me! Gang out of this house, ye shadow! the sight of you's enough to thraw ony mortal temper. Your mother, honest woman-but I canna forgive her for being art or part in bringing the like of you to this world. Are ye gaun away peaceably-or I'll put ye out by the shouthers with my ain twa hands!"

"Eh, sic a temper!" said Nelly Panton, vanishing from the threshold as Jenny made one rapid step forward. "I'm sure I forgive you, Jenny, though I'm sure as weel, that if the rain hadna laid a' the stour, mony a ane has shaken the dust off their feet for a testimony against less ill usage than you've gi'en me; but I'm thankful for my guid disposition-I'm thankful that there's nae crook in me, and I leave you to your ain thoughts, Jenny Durward; it's weel kent what a life thae twa puir ladies lead with ye through a' the countryside."

The kitchen door violently shut, by good fortune drowned for Jenny this last vindictive utterance, and Nelly Panton, unexcited, drew her shawl again close over her elbows, and went with her stealthy steps upon her way a veritable shadow falling dark across the sunshine, and without a spot of brightness in her, within or without, to throw back reflection, or answer to the sunny morning light which flashed upon all the glistening


But no such quietness possessed the soul of Jenny of Burnside; over the fresh sanded floor of her bright kitchen her short vigorous steps pattered like bail. Cups and saucers came ringing down from her hands

upon the tray, which she was crowding with breakfast "things." The breadbasket quivered upon the table where her excited hand bad set it down. She turned to the hearth, and the poor little copper kettle rang upon the grate-the poker assaulted the startled fire-the very chain quaked and trembled, hanging from the oldfashioned crook far back in the abyss of the chimney. Very conspicuous in this state of the mental atmosphere became Jenny's high_shoulder. It seemed to develop and increase with every additional fuff, and the most liberal and kindly commentator could not have denied this morning the existence of the "thraw."

And not without audible expression, over and above the hard-drawn breath of the "fuff," was Jenny's indignation. "My place, my certy! less wouldna serve her! "_"Handier than could be expected frae the like of me!"-"Stand my friend constant!"-"A cothouse atween Kirklands and the Brigend!" A snort of rage punctuated and separated every successive quotation, till, as Jenny cooled down a little, there came to her relief a variety of extremely complimentary titles, all very eloquent and expressive, conveying in the clearest language Jenny's opinion of the good qualities of Nelly Panton, which last, by- and - by, however, softened still further into the milder chorus of "a bonnie ane!" with which Jenny's wrath gradually wore itself away.

All this time the sunshine lay silent and unbroken upon the paved passage, with its strip of matting, and the light shone quiet in Mrs Laurie's parlour. The petulant rain had ceased to ring upon the panes, though some large drops hung there still, clinging to the framework of the window, and gradually shrinking and drying up before the light. The branches without made a sheen through the air almost as dazzling as if every tree were a Highland dancer with a drawn claymore in his right hand, and the larch flung its spray of rain upon Menie Laurie's chamber window, bidding her down to the new life and the new day which brightened all the watching hills.

And now comes Mrs Laurie steadily

down the stairs with her little shawl in her hand, and traces of a mind made up and determined in her face; and now comes Menie, with a half song on her lips, and a little light of amusement and expectation in her eyes, for Menie has heard afar off the sound of Jenny's excitement. But Jenny, too decorous to invade the dignity of the breakfast-table, says nothing when she brings in the kettle, and does not even add to its fuff the sound of her own, and Menie has time to grow composed and grave, and to hear with a more serious emotion Mrs Laurie's decision. Not without a sigh Mrs Laurie intimates it, though her daughter knows nothing of the one reason which has overweighed all others. But the ruling mind of the household, having decided, loses no time in secondary hesitations. will try to let Burnside as it is, Menie," said Mrs Laurie, looking round upon the familiar room. "If we can get a careful tenant, it will be far better not to remove the furniture. If we make it known at once, the house may be taken before the term; and I will write to your aunt and say that we accept her offer. It is a long journey by land, and expensive. I think we will go to Edinburgh first, Menie. The weather is settled, and should be fine at Whitsunday; and then to London by sea."


Menie did not trust herself to express in words the excitement of hope and pleasure with which she heard this great and momentous change brought down into a matter of sober everyday arrangement; but it was not difficult to understand and translate the varying colour on her cheek, and the sudden gleam of her sunny eyes. As it happened, however, with a natural caprice, the one objection which her mother's will could not set aside suddenly suggested itself to Menie. She looked up with a slight alarm— "But Jenny, mother?" Menie Laurie could not realise the possibility of leaving Jenny behind.

Mrs Laurie's hand had not left the bell. Jenny, at the door, caught the words with satisfaction. But Jenny did not choose to acknowledge herself subject to any influence exercised by the "youngest of the house; " and Jenny, moreover, had come prepared,

and had no time to lose in preliminaries.

"There's twa or three things to be done about the house before onybody can stir out of this," said Jenny emphatically, pausing when she had half cleared the breakfast-table. "I want to ken, mem, if it's your pleasure, what time we're to gang away."

"I have just been thinking-about the term, Jenny," said her mistress, accepting Jenny's adhesion quietly and without remark; "if we can get a tenant to Burnside."

"I thought you would be wanting a tenant to Burnside," muttered Jenny, "to make every table and chair in the house a shame to be seen, and the place no fit to live in when we come back; but it's nane o' Jenny's business if the things maun be spoiled. I have had a woman at me this morning with an offer to gang in my place. I've nae business to keep it out of your knowledge, so you may get Nelly Panton yet, if it's your pleasure, instead of me. I'm speaking to your mother, Miss Menie; the like of you has nae call to put in your word. Am I to tell Nelly you would like to speak to her, mem-or what am I to say?"

And Jenny again planted her right foot firmly before her, again expanded her irascible nostril, and, with comic perversity and defiance, stood and waited for her mistress's answer.

"Away you go, Jenny, and put your work in order," said Mrs Laurie;


get somebody in from the Brigend to help you, and let everything be ready for the flitting-you know I don't want Nelly Pantou-no, you need not interrupt me-nor anybody else. We'll all go to London together, and we'll all come back again some time if we're spared. I don't know how you would manage without us, Jenny; but see, there's Menie with open eyes wondering what we should do without you."

"Na, the bairn has discrimination," said Jenny steadily; "that's just what I say to mysel. Nae doubt it's a great change to a woman at my time of life, but I just say what could the two ladies do, mair especially a young lassie like Miss Menie, and that's enough to reconcile ane to mony a thing. Weel, I'll see the wark

« PreviousContinue »