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A Rent In A Cloud by Charles James Lever

Produced by David Widger


By Charles Lever


OUT of a window of the Weissen Ross, at Coblentz, looking upon the rapid Rhine, over whose circling eddies a rich sunset shed a golden tint, two young Englishmen lounged and smoked their cigars; rarely speaking, and, to all seeming, wearing that air of boredom which, strangely enough, would appear peculiar to a very enjoyable time of life. They were acquaintances of only a few days. They had met on an Antwerp steamer--rejoined each other in a picture-gallery--chanced to be side by side at a table d'hote at Brussels, and, at last, drifted into one of those intimacies which, to very young men, represents friendship. They agreed they would travel together, all the more readily that neither cared very much in what direction. "As for me," said Calvert, "it doesn't much signify where I pass the interval; but, in October, I must return to India and join my regiment."

"And I," said Loyd, "about the same time must be in England. I have just been called to the bar."

"Slow work that must be, I take it."

"Do you like soldiering?" asked Loyd, in a low quiet voice.

"Hate it! abhor it! It's all very well when you join first You are so glad to be free of Woolwich or Sandhurst, or wherever it is. You are eager to be treated like a man, and so full of Cox and Greenwood, and the army tailor, and your camp furniture, and then comes the depot and the mess. One's first three months at mess seemed to be the cream of existence."

"Is it really so jolly? Are the fellows good talkers?"

"About the worst in the universe; but to a young hand, they are enchantment All their discourse is of something to be enjoyed. It is that foot-race, that game of billiards, that match at cricket, that stunning fine girl to ride out with, those excellent cigars Watkins is sending us; and so on. All is action, and very pleasant action too. Then duty, though it's the habit to revile and curse it, duty is associated with a sense of manhood; a sort of goosestep chivalry to be sure, but still chivalry. One likes to see the sergeant with his orderly book, and to read, 'Ensign Calvert for the main guard.'"

"And how long does all this last?"

"I gave it three months, some have been able to prolong it to six. Much depends upon where the depot is, and what sort of corps you're in."

"Now for the reaction! Tell me of that."

"I cannot; it's too dreadful. It's a general detestation of all things military, from the Horse Guards to the mess waiter. You hate drill--parade--inspection--the adjutant--the wine committee--the paymaster--the field-officer of the day--and the major's wife. You are chafed about everything--you want leave, you want to exchange, you want to be with the depot, you want to go to Corfu, and you are sent to Canada. Your brother officers are the slowest fellows in the service; you are quizzed about them at the mess of the Nine Hundred and Ninth--"Yours" neither give balls nor private theatricals. You wish you were in the Cape Coast Fencibles--in fact, you feel that destiny has placed you in the exact position you are least fitted for."

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