Page images
PDF
EPUB

than upheld, in a remote, exposed, and forageless station in the Crimea. To the same feeling many are prone, with too much probability in their favour, to attribute the neglect experienced by the brave General Williams and his coadjutors at the hands of the ambassador and the military authorities. After remedying the disasters of last year by fortifying, with the assistance of Colonel Lake, the two Armenian capitals-Erzeroum and Kars; after, with less than a handful of British officers, driving back the Russians during a sanguinary assault upon the latter city, he and his devoted companions in arms were left to surrender from sheer starvation, because no real and sincere interest was felt in their success, and nothing was done in earnest to assist them during the long summer that has passed. The existence of such a feeling is a disgrace to the profession of arms, which has always claimed preeminence in honour. The world will give credit to skill and bravery, no matter in what service it is found; and the man who, to thwart an opponent, or to uphold a custom, impedes the efficiency of our forces, is unworthy of office or esteem.

Omar Pasha was no sooner released from the extraordinary incubus that seems to trammel all independent spirit of enterprise in the Crimea than he set an example of successful operations, which it is much to be wished was more frequently seen at headquarters. Without any basis of operations, except that he held the coast at no considerable distance, he pushed his way through forests, over mountains and rivers, till he found a Russian army strongly entrenched at a pass of the river Ingour. These he drove before him with great slaughter and little loss, and he has since followed his first victory by a second, which it is to be hoped will carry him triumphantly into the capital of Imeritia.

It has been argued that Omar Pasha ought to have carried relief in a less indirect manner to the besieged of Kars; but there were only two roads to enable him to do somone by Trebizond, the other by Batum! The first of these is so mountainous and bad that the troops could not have got even to Erzeroum before the snow had rendered it impassable. But supposing they had got to Erzeroum, they could no more than Selim Pasha have forced the formidable passes of the Soghanli Tagh, which are held by the Russians, and present the most remarkable natural difficulties, rendered almost insuperable when held by an intelligent enemy. As to the road from Batum to Kars, the difficulties of the country are very great indeed, the mountain-paths being impracticable to artillery. Added to this, there are two fortified towns on the way-Artvin and Ardahan ; and these the Russians took care to garrison before they laid siege to Kars. Omar Pasha has, it is also said, no transport corps or resources for such an expedition; be this as it may, it is obvious that he could not have relieved Kars by way of Erzeroum this season, and that by way of Batum he would have met with greater obstacles in two fortified towns to

besiege and capture than were presented by the entrenched positions of the Russians on the tributaries to the Phasis. Steps for the relief of Kars ought to have been taken long ago, when Armenia was still bathed in a summer sun, and the Russians had not

entrenched themselves in the passes of the Soghanli Tagh.

The position of the Turks in Imeritia, especially if, as there are some distant grounds of hope, Omar Pasha can obtain possession of Kutais before Mouravieff's corps can come to its relief, is such as to render the tenure of Kars by the Russians of no strategic importance whatsoever. In Imeritia the Turks are almost in immediate contact with the Circassians; they are advancing to the heart of the Transcaucasian provinces and their capital Tiflis by the line pursued from time immemorial—that of the Phasis, with the mountains and their friendly host to back them; and the Russians will not be able to maintain outlying positions in Armenia while threatened in the very centre of their Asiatic possessions.

Rumours of peace have come this month to gladden the hearts of many. The origin and real import of these rumours are somewhat difficult to make out. It seems certain, however, that propositions from Vienna, which were partially admitted by France, but demurred to in England, have ultimately been adopted by the Three Powers, and that Count Valentine Esterhazy has borne them to St. Petersburg. Some wary politicians insinuate that Russia took the initiative, others as boldly assert that Russia will listen to no propositions whatever so long as an enemy remains in arms on its territory. The question as to what Austria will do in case of any such an exhibition of Muscovite bearishness is involved in the same obscurity. It is said that she will recal her ambassador from St. Petersburg, and politely furnish Prince Gortschakoff with his passports: there is a wide difference between such a demonstration and actual war. The reasons assigned for Austria not declaring war with Russia are, that Russia would instantly attack her on all her vulnerable and unprotected points. The state of the Austrian frontier is too tempting to an invader not to inspire apprehension, and if she took the initiative it would leave her without succour from the German States, who are bound by treaty to defend her only in the event of attack. Neither could she hope for assistance from her allies, France and England, as the present is not a most convenient period to send a French force sufficiently great to afford efficient service. Austria, then, would have to face the Russians single-handed, who might easily march on her unfortified capital and take it. We put no faith in these representations. We do not believe that the Russians, after losing 300,000 men, are so strong on the Austrian frontier as is imagined. As to an effective force, it could always be raised in Austria itself, if the “ sinews of war” were supplied from without, and that is probably what Austria is looking to.

France could also send by the existing railways a powerful auxiliary army at any time of the year into Austria,

As to the part played by Germany in the same contingency, it cannot be too strongly impressed upon those temporising states that their interests are really more concerned than those of England and France, and as much so as Austria. Let us suppose for a moment that peace were concluded on the most advantageous conditions ; that Russia should pay the expenses of the war, and abandon the Crimea; and that that peninsula should be restored to the Sultan, who is alone able to keep it;-suppose that, to strengthen the line of the Pruth, the Danubian Provinces, united under the rule of a single hospodar, should remain subject to the Porte, without its authority being weakened by any sort of protectorate, and that fortified places and good Turkish garrisons should again defend that frontier -suppose all this, and the Ottoman Empire once more placed in a position of safety from its formidable neighbour. Would the danger to Europe be less ? The Russians would only change their direction. For, if the events which have taken place for the last two years have exhibited to us Turkey as stronger and more capable of resistance than was supposed, they have also proved the excessive weakness of Germany, and of most of the secondary states.

Meantime, if the position of the Allies in the Crimea is much improved beyond what it was last winter-although all that has been done in the Chersonesus, at Eupatoria, or at Kertch, is not equal to what the world had a right to expect—if the surrender of Kars has come to counterbalance the victorious advance of Omar Pasha in Imeritia, the position of Russia is becoming almost deplorable. Experience has shown that in as far as her troops are concerned, any European soldiers might face with assurance of success an equal force of the Czar. "It is estimated that more than 300,000 Russians have fallen since the Pruth was passed. The recruiting for fresh levies becomes every day more difficult. The nobles are discontented and disloyal. The serfs begin sullenly to mutter that they were not created to be food for powder in a cause in which they have not the most remote interest. Even religion, appealed to for want of reason or cause, ceases to inspire them with enthusiasm enough to do away with the necessity for chains and handcuffs. The finances of the empire are wasted; the revenues of the Church and the savings of the State are nearly gone; national banks, as at Odessa, are breaking up; manufactures have ceased for want of material; agriculture and mining are at an end, and commerce is only carried on by the surreptitious aid of neutral ports or railways. Russia may well put forward Austria to pave the way for deliberations !

THE SPENDTHRIFT.

A TALE OF THE LAST CENTURY.*

By W. HARRISON AINSWORTH, Esq.

XX.

THE TWO PAGES.

MR. BRISCOE thought all the guests must have arrived, but he was mistaken. Soon after Gage's disappearance three fresh masquers presented themselves, cards in hand, at the outer door of the ante-chamber. At sight of them the landlord was quite startled, and the usher and other attendants were equally amazed. The cause of this general astonishment was the remarkable resemblance offered by the new comers to three personages who had recently preceded them, and who had attracted particular attention on their entrance. Here was a second Spanish hidalgo and his dame followed by a dainty little page. Not only was hidalgo number two attired exactly like hidalgo number one-certain minutiæ of costume being carefully observed in both cases,—but he appeared to be just the same height, just as well-proportioned, and just as haughty of carriage as his predecessor. Like him, too, he wore a collar of gold with an order attached to it, and had the cross of Santiago embroidered on his mantle. The second doña looked quite as bewitching as the first, and was arrayed in the same style, with a black mantilla and basquiña--moving with equal grace, and managing her fan with equal coquetry. There was not a pin to choose between them. Then the page was the very double of the pretty little coxcomb who had gone before, and might have been his twinbrother. Blond ringlets, white satin habiliments, limbs of almost feminine beauty, foppish and forward manners-all were the same, The flower-girls simpered as he approached them, and pressed their bouquets upon him, hoping he would treat them as the first young rogue had done, and they were not disappointed. Mr. Briscoe was bewildered. Who were they?

Who were they? What could it mean? Could they be the original hidalgo and his companions? Impossible! Nevertheless, in his perplexity, the landlord went to the open door of the ball-room, and satisfied himself that the others were there, amidst the crowd.

But the mystery increased. The tickets were delivered, and proved to be marked exactly in the same way the others had been. After all, then, these might be the very persons his honoured patron expected. Who could tell ?

The Author of this Tale reserves the right of translation.

room,

At the risk of appearing intrusive, Mr. Briscoe begged the hidalgo would do him the favour to step behind the screen for a moment, and take off his mask. But the don declined, and the señora, tapping the host playfully with her fan, inquired if he was master of the revel, that he presumed to question them. At the same time the page, disengaging himself from the flower-girls, who had crowded round him, came up, and with a wave of his hand pushing Briscoe aside, all three passed on and entered the ball

Here they presently mingled with the crowd, and nothing was left the host but to take an early opportunity of informing his honoured patron of the trick that had been played with the tickets.

Half the ball-room was in motion when Gage returned to it, and he could only, now and then, catch a glimpse of the lovely figure of the first señora as she flew past with her partner--the stately hidalgo -in a gavot. However, he did not give himself much concern. He had but to wait a few minutes, and th edance would be over. She would then be disengaged, and he mighty, without impropriety, claim. her hand for a rigadoon or a jig, and so obtain the interview he sought.

While he was looking on, much amused by the efforts of a cumbrously-clad Dutchman to keep pace with the brisk strains from the orchestra,

he felt his mantle gently plucked, and turning beheld the page. The youth beckoned to him to withdraw a little from the crowd, and when they were sufficiently removed to be out of hearing, said archly: “ Šo you are in pursuit of the fair dame I serve? Nay, it will be useless to deny it. I know your design, but am not going to betray it, either to her brother, or a certain lady, who would be sure to thwart you, if she had the least inkling of it. I can help you if you choose to confide in me.”

Upon my word I am greatly indebted to you, young sir," Gage replied. " But as mistakes are not uncommon at a maskedball, let me ask whom you take me for ?”

" I take you for one who may be better and happier than he is now, if he does not throw

his

present chance. "You would have me reform and marry—eh ?" Gage rejoined, with a laugh.

away

"I would; and if you will promise to turn over a new leaf, I will engage to find you a charming wife.”

" Egad, I thought so. But to tell you the truth, my young Mentor, I have abandoned all idea of matrimony. It is not the least to my taste.

Amusement is all I want, and in seeking an interview with your captivating mistress I have no further thought than to pass half an hour agreeably.”

“I am out of all patience with you," the page cried, " and shall caution my lady's brother not to let you approach her."

« PreviousContinue »