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In Direst Peril   By: (1847-1907)

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By David Christie Murray




It is not often that an honorable man commits a theft and yet leaves no stain upon his honor. It can happen still less often that a man of honor robs the lady he loves and honors above all womankind, and wins her hand in marriage by the act. Yet before we were married I robbed my wife of forty thousand pounds, breaking into her house to steal it; and here now that we are both old she is still so proud of me for having done that, that she must needs make me tell the story. A better writer would have done it better, but my wife has polished my rough phrases; and, at any rate, the plain truth about the strangest things which have happened in my knowledge is here set plainly down.


John Fyffe,

(Late acting) General of Division

under General Garibaldi.



I have told my wife quite plainly that in my opinion I am as little fitted by nature for the task she has laid upon my shoulders as any man alive. I have spent a great part of my life in action; and though the later part of it has been quieter and more peaceful than the earlier, and though I have enjoyed opportunities of study which I never had before, I am still anything but a bookish man, and I am not at all confident about such essential matters as grammar and spelling. The history I am called upon to tell is one which, if it were put into the hands of a professed man of letters, might be made unusually interesting. I am sure of that, for in a life of strange adventure I have encountered nothing so strange. But, for my own part, the utmost I can do is to tell the thing as it happened as nearly as I can, and if I cannot command those graces of style which would come naturally to a practised pen, I can only ask that the reader will dispense with them.

The natural beginning of the story is that I fell in love with the lady who has now for eight and thirty blessed and happy years been my wife. It may be that I may not again find opportunity to say one thing that should be said. That lady is a pearl among women; and I am prouder of having fallen in love with her at first sight, as I did, than I should be if I had taken a city or won a pitched battle. I have sought opportunities of doing these things far and near, but they have been denied to me. I trust that I have always been on the right side. I know that, except in one case, I have always been on the weaker side; but until my marriage I was what is generally called a soldier of fortune. I am known to this day as Captain Fyffe, though I never held her most sacred Majesty's commission. That I should be delighted to fight in my country's cause goes, I hope, without saying; but I never had the opportunity, and my sword, until the date of my marriage, was always at the service of oppressed nationalities. This, however, is not my story, and I must do my best to hold to that. Should I take to blotting and erasing, there is no knowing when my task would be over. I will be as little garrulous as I can.

It was in the height of the London season of 1847, and I had just got back from the Argentine Republic. I had been fighting for General Rosas, but the man's greed and his reckless ambition had gradually drawn me away from him, and at last, after an open quarrel, I broke my sword across my knee before him, threw the fragments at his feet, and left the camp. I did it at the risk of my life; and if Rosas had cared to lift a hand, his men would have shot me or hanged me from the nearest tree with all the pleasure in the world. An event which has nothing whatever to do with this story had got into the newspapers, and for a time I was made a lion of. I found it agreeable enough to begin with, but I was beginning to get tired of it, when the event of which I have already spoken happened. My poor friend, the Honorable George Brunow, had taken me, at the Duchess's invitation, to Belcaster House, and it was there I met my fate... Continue reading book >>

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