The Roll-call Of The Reef





A. T. QUILLER-COUCH





"Yes, sir," said my host, the quarryman, reaching down the relics from

their hook in the wall over the chimneypiece; "they've hung there all my

time, and most of my father's. The women won't touch 'em; they're afraid

of the story. So here they'll dangle, and gather dust and smoke, till

another tenant comes and tosses 'em out o' doors for rubbish. Whew! 'tis

coarse weather, surely."



He went to the door, opened it, and stood studying the gale that beat

upon his cottage-front, straight from the Manacle Reef. The rain drove

past him into the kitchen, aslant like threads of gold silk in the shine

of the wreck-wood fire. Meanwhile, by the same firelight, I examined the

relics on my knee. The metal of each was tarnished out of knowledge. But

the trumpet was evidently an old cavalry trumpet, and the threads of its

party-coloured sling, though fretted and dusty, still hung together.

Around the side-drum, beneath its cracked brown varnish, I could hardly

trace a royal coat-of-arms and a legend running, "Per Mare Per

Terram"--the motto of the marines. Its parchment, though black and

scented with woodsmoke, was limp and mildewed; and I began to tighten

up the straps--under which the drumsticks had been loosely thrust--with

the idle purpose of seeing if some music might be got out of the old

drum yet.



But as I turned it on my knee, I found the drum attached to the

trumpet-sling by a curious barrel-shaped padlock, and paused to examine

this. The body of the lock was composed of half a dozen brass rings, set

accurately edge to edge; and, rubbing the brass with my thumb, I saw

that each of the six had a series of letters engraved around it.



I knew the trick of it, I thought. Here was one of those word padlocks,

once so common; only to be opened by getting the rings to spell a

certain word, which the dealer confides to you.



My host shut and barred the door, and came back to the hearth.



"'Twas just such a wind--east by south--that brought in what you've got

between your hands. Back in the year 'nine, it was; my father has told

me the tale a score o' times. You're twisting round the rings, I see.

But you'll never guess the word. Parson Kendall, he made the word, and

he locked down a couple o' ghosts in their graves with it; and when his

time came he went to his own grave and took the word with him."



"Whose ghosts, Matthew?"



"You want the story, I see, sir. My father could tell it better than I

can. He was a young man in the year 'nine, unmarried at the time, and

living in this very cottage, just as I be. That's how he came to get

mixed up with the tale."



He took a chair, lighted a short pipe, and went on, with his eyes fixed

on the dancing violet flames:



"Yes, he'd ha' been about thirty year old in January, eighteen 'nine.

The storm got up in the night o' the twenty-first o' that month. My

father was dressed and out long before daylight; he never was one to

bide in bed, let be that the gale by this time was pretty near lifting

the thatch over his head. Besides which, he'd fenced a small 'taty-patch

that winter, down by Lowland Point, and he wanted to see if it stood the

night's work. He took the path across Gunner's Meadow--where they buried

most of the bodies afterward. The wind was right in his teeth at the

time, and once on the way (he's told me this often) a great strip of

oarweed came flying through the darkness and fetched him a slap on the

cheek like a cold hand. He made shift pretty well till he got to

Lowland, and then had to drop upon hands and knees and crawl, digging

his fingers every now and then into a shingle to hold on, for he

declared to me that the stones, some of them as big as a man's head,

kept rolling and driving past till it seemed the whole foreshore was

moving westward under him. The fence was gone, of course; not a stick

left to show where it stood; so that, when first he came to the place,

he thought he must have missed his bearings. My father, sir, was a very

religious man; and if he reckoned the end of the world was at

hand--there in the great wind and night, among the moving stones--you

may believe he was certain of it when he heard a gun fired, and, with

the same, saw a flame shoot up out of the darkness to windward, making a

sudden fierce light in all the place about. All he could find to think

or say was, 'The Second Coming! The Second Coming! The Bridegroom

cometh, and the wicked He will toss like a ball into a large country';

and being already upon his knees, he just bowed his head and 'bided,

saying this over and over.



"But by'm by, between two squalls, he made bold to lift his head and

look, and then by the light--a bluish colour 'twas--he saw all the coast

clear away to Manacle Point, and off the Manacles in the thick of the

weather, a sloop-of-war with topgallants housed, driving stern foremost

toward the reef. It was she, of course, that was burning the fire. My

father could see the white streak and the ports of her quite plain as

she rose to it, a little outside the breakers, and he guessed easy

enough that her captain had just managed to wear ship and was trying to

force her nose to the sea with the help of her small bower anchor and

the scrap or two of canvas that hadn't yet been blown out of her. But

while he looked, she fell off, giving her broadside to it, foot by foot,

and drifting back on the breakers around Carn Du and the Varses. The

rocks lie so thick thereabout that 'twas a toss up which she struck

first; at any rate, my father couldn't tell at the time, for just then

the flare died down and went out.



"Well, sir, he turned then in the dark and started back for Coverack to

cry the dismal tidings--though well knowing ship and crew to be past any

hope, and as he turned the wind lifted him and tossed him forward 'like

a ball,' as he'd been saying, and homeward along the foreshore. As you

know, 'tis ugly work, even by daylight, picking your way among the

stones there, and my father was prettily knocked about at first in the

dark. But by this 'twas nearer seven than six o'clock, and the day

spreading. By the time he reached North Corner, a man could see to read

print; hows'ever, he looked neither out to sea nor toward Coverack, but

headed straight for the first cottage--the same that stands above North

Corner today. A man named Billy Ede lived there then, and when my father

burst into the kitchen bawling, 'Wreck! wreck!' he saw Billy Ede's wife,

Ann, standing there in her clogs with a shawl over her head, and her

clothes wringing wet.



"'Save the chap!' says Billy Ede's wife, Ann. 'What d'ee mean by crying

stale fish at that rate?'



"'But 'tis a wreck, I tell 'e.'



"'I'v a-zeed'n, too; and so has every one with an eye in his head.'



"And with that she pointed straight over my father's shoulder, and he

turned; and there, close under Dolor Point, at the end of Coverack town

he saw another wreck washing, and the point black with people, like

emmets, running to and fro in the morning light. While he stood staring

at her, he heard a trumpet sounded on board, the notes coming in little

jerks, like a bird rising against the wind; but faintly, of course,

because of the distance and the gale blowing--though this had dropped a

little.



"'She's a transport,' said Billy Ede's wife, Ann, 'and full of

horse-soldiers, fine long men. When she struck they must ha' pitched the

horses over first to lighten the ship, for a score of dead horses had

washed in afore I left, half an hour back. An' three or four soldiers,

too--fine long corpses in white breeches and jackets of blue and gold. I

held the lantern to one. Such a straight young man.'



"My father asked her about the trumpeting.



"'That's the queerest bit of all. She was burnin' a light when me an' my

man joined the crowd down there. All her masts had gone; whether they

carried away, or were cut away to ease her, I don't rightly know. Her

keelson was broke under her and her bottom sagged and stove, and she had

just settled down like a setting hen--just the leastest list to

starboard; but a man could stand there easy. They had rigged up ropes

across her, from bulwark to bulwark, an' beside these the men were

mustered, holding on like grim death whenever the sea made a clean

breach over them, an' standing up like heroes as soon as it passed. The

captain an' the officers were clinging to the rail of the quarter-deck,

all in their golden uniforms, waiting for the end as if 'twas King

George they expected. There was no way to help, for she lay right beyond

cast of line, though our folk tried it fifty times. And beside them

clung a trumpeter, a whacking big man, an' between the heavy seas he

would lift his trumpet with one hand, and blow a call; and every time he

blew the men gave a cheer. There (she says)--hark 'ee now--there he goes

agen! But you won't hear no cheering any more, for few are left to

cheer, and their voices weak. Bitter cold the wind is, and I reckon it

numbs their grip o' the ropes, for they were dropping off fast with

every sea when my man sent me home to get his breakfast. Another wreck,

you say? Well, there's no hope for the tender dears, if 'tis the

Manacles. You'd better run down and help yonder; though 'tis little help

any man can give. Not one came in alive while I was there. The tide's

flowing, an' she won't hold together another hour, they say.'



"Well, sure enough, the end was coming fast when my father got down to

the Point. Six men had been cast up alive, or just breathing--a seaman

and five troopers. The seaman was the only one that had breath to speak;

and while they were carrying him into the town, the word went round that

the ship's name was the 'Despatch,' transport, homeward bound from

Corunna, with a detachment of the Seventh Hussars, that had been

fighting out there with Sir John Moore. The seas had rolled her further

over by this time, and given her decks a pretty sharp slope; but a dozen

men still held on, seven by the ropes near the ship's waist, a couple

near the break of the poop, and three on the quarter-deck. Of these

three my father made out one to be the skipper; close to him clung an

officer in full regimentals--his name, they heard after, was Captain

Duncanfield; and last came the tall trumpeter; and if you'll believe me,

the fellow was making shift there, at the very last, to blow 'God Save

the King.' What's more, he got to 'Send us victorious,' before an extra

big sea came bursting across and washed them off the deck--every man but

one of the pair beneath the poop--and he dropped his hold before the

next wave; being stunned, I reckon. The others went out of sight at

once, but the trumpeter--being, as I said, a powerful man as well as a

tough swimmer--rose like a duck, rode out a couple of breakers, and came

in on the crest of the third. The folks looked to see him broke like an

egg at their very feet; but when the smother cleared, there he was,

lying face downward on a ledge below them; and one of the men that

happened to have a rope round him--I forget the fellow's name, if I ever

heard it--jumped down and grabbed him by the ankle as he began to slip

back. Before the next big sea, the pair were hauled high enough to be

out of harm, and another heave brought them up to grass. Quick work, but

master trumpeter wasn't quite dead; nothing worse than a cracked head

and three staved ribs. In twenty minutes or so they had him in bed, with

the doctor to tend him.



"Now was the time--nothing being left alive upon the transport--for my

father to tell of the sloop he'd seen driving upon the Manacles. And

when he got a hearing, though the most were set upon salvage, and

believed a wreck in the hand, so to say, to be worth half a dozen they

couldn't see, a good few volunteered to start off with him and have a

look. They crossed Lowland Point; no ship to be seen on the Manacles nor

anywhere upon the sea. One or two was for calling my father a liar.

'Wait till we come to Dean Point,' said he. Sure enough, on the far side

of Dean Point they found the sloop's mainmast washing about with half a

dozen men lashed to it, men in red jackets, every mother's son drowned

and staring; and a little further on, just under the Dean, three or four

bodies cast up on the shore, one of them a small drummer-boy, side-drum

and all; and nearby part of a ship's gig, with 'H.M.S. Primrose' cut on

the sternboard. From this point on the shore was littered thick with

wreckage and dead bodies--the most of them marines in uniform--and in

Godrevy Cove, in particular, a heap of furniture from the captain's

cabin, and among it a water-tight box, not much damaged, and full of

papers, by which, when it came to be examined, next day, the wreck was

easily made out to be the 'Primrose' of eighteen guns, outward bound

from Portsmouth, with a fleet of transports for the Spanish war--thirty

sail, I've heard, but I've never heard what became of them. Being

handled by merchant skippers, no doubt they rode out the gale, and

reached the Tagus safe and sound. Not but what the captain of the

'Primrose'--Mein was his name--did quite right to try and club-haul his

vessel when he found himself under the land; only he never ought to have

got there, if he took proper soundings. But it's easy talking.



"The 'Primrose,' sir, was a handsome vessel--for her size one of the

handsomest in the King's service--and newly fitted out at Plymouth Dock.

So the boys had brave pickings from her in the way of brass-work, ship's

instruments, and the like, let alone some barrels of stores not much

spoiled. They loaded themselves with as much as they could carry, and

started for home, meaning to make a second journey before the preventive

men got wind of their doings, and came to spoil the fun. 'Hullo!' says

my father, and dropped his gear, 'I do believe there's a leg moving!'

and running fore, he stooped over the small drummer-boy that I told you

about. The poor little chap was lying there, with his face a mass of

bruises, and his eyes closed; but he had shifted one leg an inch or two,

and was still breathing. So my father pulled out a knife, and cut him

free from his drum--that was lashed on to him with a double turn of

Manila rope--and took him up and carried him along here to this very

room that we're sitting in. He lost a good deal by this; for when he

went back to fetch the bundle he'd dropped, the preventive men had got

hold of it, and were thick as thieves along the foreshore; so that 'twas

only by paying one or two to look the other way that he picked up

anything worth carrying off; which you'll allow to be hard, seeing that

he was the first man to give news of the wreck.



"Well, the inquiry was held, of course, and my father gave evidence, and

for the rest they had to trust to the sloop's papers, for not a soul was

saved besides the drummer-boy, and he was raving in a fever, brought on

by the cold and the fright. And the seaman and the five troopers gave

evidence about the loss of the 'Despatch.' The tall trumpeter, too,

whose ribs were healing, came forward and kissed the book; but somehow

his head had been hurt in coming ashore, and he talked foolish-like, and

'twas easy seen he would never be a proper man again. The others were

taken up to Plymouth, and so went their ways; but the trumpeter stayed

on in Coverack; and King George, finding he was fit for nothing, sent

him down a trifle of a pension after a while--enough to keep him in

board and lodging, with a bit of tobacco over.



"Now the first time that this man--William Tallifer he called

himself--met with the drummer-boy, was about a fortnight after the

little chap had bettered enough to be allowed a short walk out of doors,

which he took, if you please, in full regimentals. There never was a

soldier so proud of his dress. His own suit had shrunk a brave bit with

the salt water; but into ordinary frock an' corduroy he declared he

would not get, not if he had to go naked the rest of his life; so my

father--being a good-natured man, and handy with the needle--turned to

and repaired damages with a piece or two of scarlet cloth cut from the

jacket of one of the drowned Marines. Well, the poor little chap chanced

to be standing, in this rig out, down by the gate of Gunner's Meadow,

where they had buried two score and over of his comrades. The morning

was a fine one, early in March month; and along came the cracked

trumpeter, likewise taking a stroll.



"'Hullo!' says he; 'good mornin'! And what might you be doin' here?'



"'I was a-wishin',' says the boy, 'I had a pair o' drumsticks. Our lads

were buried yonder without so much as a drum tapped or a musket fired;

and that's not Christian burial for British soldiers.'



"'Phut!' says the trumpeter, and spat on the ground; 'a parcel of

Marines!'



"The boy eyed him a second or so, and answered up: 'If I'd a tav of turf

handy, I'd bung it at your mouth, you greasy cavalryman, and learn you

to speak respectful of your betters. The Marines are the handiest body

o' men in the service.'



"The trumpeter looked down on him from the height of six-foot-two, and

asked: 'Did they die well?'



"'They died very well. There was a lot of running to and fro at first,

and some of the men began to cry, and a few to strip off their clothes.

But when the ship fell off for the last time, Captain Mein turned and

said something to Major Griffiths, the commanding officer on board, and

the Major called out to me to beat to quarters. It might have been for a

wedding, he sang it out so cheerful. We'd had word already that 'twas to

be parade order; and the men fell in as trim and decent as if they were

going to church. One or two even tried to shave at the last moment. The

Major wore his medals. One of the seamen, seeing I had work to keep the

drum steady--the sling being a bit loose for me, and the wind what you

remember--lashed it tight with a piece of rope; and that saved my life

afterward, a drum being as good as cork until it's stove. I kept beating

away until every man was on deck--and then the Major formed them up and

told them to die like British soldiers, and the chaplain was in the

middle of a prayer when she struck. In ten minutes she was gone. That

was how they died, cavalryman.'



"'And that was very well done, drummer of the Marines. What's your

name?'



"'John Christian.'



"'Mine's William George Tallifer, trumpeter of the Seventh Light

Dragoons--the Queen's Own. I played "God Save the King" while our men

were drowning. Captain Duncanfield told me to sound a call or two, to

put them in heart; but that matter of "God Save the King" was a notion

of my own. I won't say anything to hurt the feelings of a Marine, even

if he's not much over five-foot tall; but the Queen's Own Hussars is a

tearin' fine regiment. As between horse and foot, 'tis a question o'

which gets a chance. All the way from Sahagun to Corunna 'twas we that

took and gave the knocks--at Mayorga and Rueda, and Bennyventy.'--The

reason, sir, I can speak the names so pat, is that my father learnt them

by heart afterward from the trumpeter, who was always talking about

Mayorga and Rueda and Bennyventy.--'We made the rear-guard, after

General Paget; and drove the French every time; and all the infantry did

was to sit about in wine-shops till we whipped 'em out, an' steal an'

straggle an' play the tom-fool in general. And when it came to a

stand-up fight at Corunna, 'twas we that had to stay seasick aboard the

transports, an' watch the infantry in the thick o' the caper. Very well

they behaved, too--'specially the Fourth Regiment, an' the Forty-Second

Highlanders and the Dirty Half-Hundred. Oh, ay; they're decent

regiments, all three. But the Queen's Own Hussars is a tearin' fine

regiment. So you played on your drum when the ship was goin' down?

Drummer John Christian, I'll have to get you a new pair of sticks.'



"The very next day the trumpeter marched into Helston, and got a

carpenter there to turn him a pair of box-wood drumsticks for the boy.

And this was the beginning of one of the most curious friendships you

ever heard tell of. Nothing delighted the pair more than to borrow a

boat off my father and pull out to the rocks where the 'Primrose' and

the 'Despatch' had struck and sunk; and on still days 'twas pretty to

hear them out there off the Manacles, the drummer playing his

tattoo--for they always took their music with them--and the trumpeter

practising calls, and making his trumpet speak like an angel. But if the

weather turned roughish, they'd be walking together and talking;

leastwise the youngster listened while the other discoursed about Sir

John's campaign in Spain and Portugal, telling how each little skirmish

befell; and of Sir John himself, and General Baird, and General Paget,

and Colonel Vivian, his own commanding officer, and what kind of men

they were; and of the last bloody stand-up at Corunna, and so forth, as

if neither could have enough.



"But all this had to come to an end in the late summer, for the boy,

John Christian, being now well and strong again, must go up to Plymouth

to report himself. 'Twas his own wish (for I believe King George had

forgotten all about him), but his friend wouldn't hold him back. As for

the trumpeter, my father had made an arrangement to take him on as

lodger, as soon as the boy left; and on the morning fixed for the start,

he was up at the door here by five o'clock, with his trumpet slung by

his side, and all the rest of his belongings in a small valise. A Monday

morning it was, and after breakfast he had fixed to walk with the boy

some way on the road toward Helston, where the coach started. My father

left them at breakfast together, and went out to meat the pig, and do a

few odd morning jobs of that sort. When he came back, the boy was still

at table, and the trumpeter sat with the rings in his hands, hitched

together just as they be at this moment.



"'Look at this,' he says to my father, showing him the lock. 'I picked

it up off a starving brass-worker in Lisbon, and it is not one of your

common locks that one word of six letters will open at any time. There's

janius in this lock; for you've only to make the rings spell any

six-letter word you please and snap down the lock upon that, and never a

soul can open it--not the maker, even--until somebody comes along that

knows the word you snapped it on. Now Johnny here's goin', and he

leaves his drum behind him; for, though he can make pretty music on it,

the parchment sags in wet weather, by reason of the sea-water gettin' at

it; an' if he carries it to Plymouth, they'll only condemn it and give

him another. And, as for me, I shan't have the heart to put lip to the

trumpet any more when Johnny's gone. So we've chosen a word together,

and locked 'em together upon that; and, by your leave, I'll hang 'em

here together on the hook over your fireplace. Maybe Johnny'll come

back; maybe not. Maybe, if he comes, I'll be dead an' gone, an' he'll

take 'em apart an' try their music for old sake's sake. But if he never

comes, nobody can separate 'em; for nobody beside knows the word. And if

you marry and have sons, you can tell 'em that here are tied together

the souls of Johnny Christian, drummer of the Marines, and William

George Tallifer, once trumpeter of the Queen's Own Hussars. Amen.'



"With that he hung the two instruments 'pon the hook there; and the boy

stood up and thanked my father and shook hands; and the pair went out of

the door, toward Helston.



"Somewhere on the road they took leave of one another; but nobody saw

the parting, nor heard what was said between them. About three in the

afternoon the trumpeter came walking back over the hill; and by the time

my father came home from the fishing, the cottage was tidied up, and the

tea ready, and the whole place shining like a new pin. From that time

for five years he lodged here with my father, looking after the house

and tilling the garden. And all the time he was steadily failing; the

hurt in his head spreading, in a manner, to his limbs. My father watched

the feebleness growing on him, but said nothing. And from first to last

neither spake a word about the drummer, John Christian; nor did any

letter reach them, nor word of his doings.



"The rest of the tale you're free to believe, sir, or not, as you

please. It stands upon my father's words, and he always declared he was

ready to kiss the Book upon it, before judge and jury. He said, too,

that he never had the wit to make up such a yarn, and he defied any one

to explain about the lock, in particular, by any other tale. But you

shall judge for yourself.



"My father said that about three o'clock in the morning, April

fourteenth, of the year 'fourteen, he and William Tallifer were sitting

here, just as you and I, sir, are sitting now. My father had put on his

clothes a few minutes before, and was mending his spiller by the light

of the horn lantern, meaning to set off before daylight to haul the

trammel. The trumpeter hadn't been to bed at all. Toward the last he

mostly spent his nights (and his days, too) dozing in the elbow-chair

where you sit at this minute. He was dozing then (my father said) with

his chin dropped forward on his chest, when a knock sounded upon the

door, and the door opened, and in walked an upright young man in scarlet

regimentals.



"He had grown a brave bit, and his face the colour of wood-ashes; but it

was the drummer, John Christian. Only his uniform was different from the

one he used to wear, and the figures '38' shone in brass upon his

collar.



"The drummer walked past my father as if he never saw him, and stood by

the elbow-chair and said:



"'Trumpeter, trumpeter, are you one with me?'



"And the trumpeter just lifted the lids of his eyes, and answered: 'How

should I not be one with you, drummer Johnny--Johnny boy? If you come, I

count; if you march, I mark time; until the discharge comes.'



"'The discharge has come tonight,' said the drummer; 'and the word is

Corunna no longer.' And stepping to the chimney-place, he unhooked the

drum and trumpet, and began to twist the brass rings of the lock,

spelling the word aloud, so--'C-O-R-U-N-A.' When he had fixed the last

letter, the padlock opened in his hand.



"'Did you know, trumpeter, that, when I came to Plymouth, they put me

into a line regiment?'



"'The 38th is a good regiment,' answered the old Hussar, still in his

dull voice; 'I went back with them from Sahagun to Corunna. At Corunna

they stood in General Eraser's division, on the right. They behaved

well.'



"'But I'd fain see the Marines again,' says the drummer, handing him the

trumpet; 'and you, you shall call once more for the Queen's Own.

Matthew,' he says, suddenly, turning on my father--and when he turned,

my father saw for the first time that his scarlet jacket had a round

hole by the breast-bone, and that the blood was welling there--'Matthew,

we shall want your boat.'



"Then my father rose on his legs like a man in a dream, while the two

slung on, the one his drum, and t'other his trumpet. He took the lantern

and went quaking before them down to the shore, and they breathed

heavily behind him; and they stepped into his boat, and my father pushed

off.



"'Row you first for Dolor Point,' says the drummer. So my father rowed

them past the white houses of Coverack to Dolor Point, and there, at a

word, lay on his oars. And the trumpeter, William Tallifer, put his

trumpet to his mouth and sounded the reveille. The music of it was like

rivers running.



"'They will follow,' said the drummer. 'Matthew, pull you now for the

Manacles.'



"So my father pulled for the Manacles, and came to an easy close outside

Carn Du. And the drummer took his sticks and beat a tattoo, there by the

edge of the reef; and the music of it was like a rolling chariot.



"'That will do,' says he, breaking off; 'they will follow. Pull now for

the shore under Gunner's Meadow.'



"Then my father pulled for the shore and ran his boat in under Gunner's

Meadow. And they stepped out, all three, and walked up to the meadow. By

the gate the drummer halted, and began his tattoo again, looking outward

the darkness over the sea.



"And while the drum beat, and my father held his breath, there came up

out of the sea and the darkness a troop of many men, horse and foot, and

formed up among the graves; and others rose out of the graves and formed

up--drowned Marines with bleached faces, and pale Hussars, riding their

horses, all lean and shadowy. There was no clatter of hoofs or

accoutrements, my father said, but a soft sound all the while like the

beating of a bird's wing; and a black shadow lay like a pool about the

feet of all. The drummer stood upon a little knoll just inside the gate,

and beside him the tall trumpeter, with hand on hip, watching them

gather; and behind them both, my father, clinging to the gate. When no

more came, the drummer stopped playing, and said, 'Call the roll.'



"Then the trumpeter stepped toward the end man of the rank and called,

'Troop Sergeant-Major Thomas Irons,' and the man answered in a thin

voice, 'Here.'



"'Troop Sergeant-Major Thomas Irons, how is it with you?'



"The man answered, 'How should it be with me? When I was young, I

betrayed a girl; and when I was grown, I betrayed a friend, and for

these I must pay. But I died as a man ought. God save the King!'



"The trumpeter called to the next man, 'Trooper Henry Buckingham,' and

the next man answered, 'Here.'



"'Trooper Henry Buckingham, how is it with you?'



"'How should it be with me? I was a drunkard, and I stole, and in Lugo,

in a wine-shop, I killed a man. But I died as a man should. God save the

King!'



"So the trumpeter went down the line; and when he had finished, the

drummer took it up, hailing the dead Marines in their order. Each man

answered to his name, and each man ended with 'God save the King!' When

all were hailed, the drummer stepped backward to his mound, and called:



"'It is well. You are content, and we are content to join you. Wait,

now, a little while.'



"With this he turned and ordered my father to pick up the lantern, and

lead the way back. As my father picked it up, he heard the ranks of the

dead men cheer and call, 'God save the King!' all together, and saw them

waver and fade back into the dark, like a breath fading off a pane.



"But when they came back here to the kitchen, and my father set the

lantern down, it seemed they'd both forgot about him. For the drummer

turned in the lantern-light--and my father could see the blood still

welling out of the hole in his breast--and took the trumpet-sling from

around the other's neck, and locked drum and trumpet together again,

choosing the letters on the lock very carefully. While he did this, he

said:



"'The word is no more Corunna, but Bayonne. As you left out an "n" in

Corunna, so must I leave out an "n" in Bayonne.' And before snapping the

padlock, he spelt out the word slowly--'B-A-Y-O-N-E.' After that, he

used no more speech; but turned and hung the two instruments back on

the hook; and then took the trumpeter by the arm; and the pair walked

out into the darkness, glancing neither to right nor left.



"My father was on the point of following, when he heard a sort of sigh

behind him; and there, sitting in the elbow-chair, was the very

trumpeter he had just seen walk out by the door! If my father's heart

jumped before, you may believe it jumped quicker now. But after a bit,

he went up to the man asleep in the chair and put a hand upon him. It

was the trumpeter in flesh and blood that he touched; but though the

flesh was warm, the trumpeter was dead.



"Well, sir, they buried him three days after; and at first my father was

minded to say nothing about his dream (as he thought it). But the day

after the funeral, he met Parson Kendall coming from Helston market; and

the parson called out: 'Have 'ee heard the news the coach brought down

this mornin'?' 'What news?' says my father. 'Why, that peace is agreed

upon.' 'None too soon,' says my father. 'Not soon enough for our poor

lads at Bayonne,' the parson answered. 'Bayonne!' cries my father, with

a jump. 'Why, yes,' and the parson told him all about a great sally the

French had made on the night of April 13th. 'Do you happen to know if

the 38th Regiment was engaged?' my father asked. 'Come, now,' said

Parson Kendall, 'I didn't know you was so well up in the campaign. But,

as it happens, I do know that the 38th was engaged, for 'twas they that

held a cottage and stopped the French advance.'



"Still my father held his tongue; and when, a week later, he walked into

Helston and bought a 'Mercury' off the Sherborne rider, and got the

landlord of the 'Angel' to spell out the list of killed and wounded,

sure enough, there among the killed was Drummer John Christian, of the

38th Foot.



"After this there was nothing for a religious man but to make a clean

breast. So my father went up to Parson Kendall, and told the whole

story. The parson listened, and put a question or two, and then asked:



"'Have you tried to open the lock since that night?'



"'I haven't dared to touch it,' says my father.



"'Then come along and try.' When the parson came to the cottage here, he

took the things off the hook and tried the lock. 'Did he say "Bayonne"?

The word has seven letters.'



"'Not if you spell it with one "n" as he did,' says my father.



"The parson spelt it out--'B-A-Y-O-N-E'. 'Whew!' says he, for the lock

has fallen open in his hand.



"He stood considering it a moment, and then he says: 'I tell you what. I

shouldn't blab this all round the parish, if I was you. You won't get no

credit for truth-telling, and a miracle's wasted on a set of fools. But

if you like, I'll shut down the lock again upon a holy word that no one

but me shall know, and neither drummer nor trumpeter, dead or alive,

shall frighten the secret out of me.'



"'I wish to heaven you would, parson,' said my father.



"The parson chose the holy word there and then, and shut the lock upon

it, and hung the drum and trumpet back in their place. He is gone long

since, taking the word with him. And till the lock is broken by force,

nobody will ever separate those two."





The River Of Sorrows The Room Beyond An Account Of The Hauntings At Hennersley Near Ayr facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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