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Under Two Flags   By: (1839-1908)

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by Ouida [Louise de la Ramee]

TO COLONEL POULETT CAMERON whose family has given so many brilliant soldiers to the armies of France and England and made the battle fields of Europe ring with "The War Cry of Lochiel" this story of a soldier's life is dedicated in sincere friendship.


This Story was originally written for a military periodical. It has been fortunate enough to receive much commendation from military men, and for them it is now specially issued in its present form. For the general public it may be as well to add that, where translations are appended to the French phrases, those translations usually follow the idiomatic and particular meaning attached to these expressions in the argot of the Army of Algeria, and not the correct or literal one given to such words or sentences in ordinary grammatical parlance.





"I don't say but what he's difficult to please with his Tops," said Mr. Rake, factotum to the Hon. Bertie Cecil, of the 1st Life Guards, with that article of hunting toggery suspended in his right hand as he paused, before going upstairs, to deliver his opinions with characteristic weight and vivacity to the stud groom, "he is uncommon particular about 'em; and if his leathers aint as white as snow he'll never touch 'em, tho' as soon as the pack come nigh him at Royallieu, the leathers might just as well never have been cleaned, them hounds jump about him so; old Champion's at his saddle before you can say Davy Jones. Tops are trials, I aint denying that, specially when you've jacks, and moccasins, and moor boots, and Russia leather crickets, and turf backs, and Hythe boots, and waterproofs, and all manner of varnish things for dress, that none of the boys will do right unless you look after 'em yourself. But is it likely that he should know what a worry a Top's complexion is, and how hard it is to come right with all the Fast Brown polishing in the world? How should he guess what a piece of work it is to get 'em all of a color, and how like they are to come mottled, and how a'most sure they'll ten to one go off dark just as they're growing yellow, and put you to shame, let you do what you will to make 'em cut a shine over the country? How should he know? I don't complain of that; bless you, he never thinks. It's 'do this, Rake,' 'do that'; and he never remembers 'tisn't done by magic. But he's a true gentleman, Mr. Cecil; never grudge a guinea, or a fiver to you; never out of temper either, always have a kind word for you if you want, thoro'bred every inch of him; see him bring down a rocketer, or lift his horse over the Broad Water! He's a gentleman not like your snobs that have nothing sound about 'em but their cash, and swept out their shops before they bought their fine feathers! and I'll be d d if I care what I do for him."

With which peroration to his born enemy the stud groom, with whom he waged a perpetual and most lively feud, Rake flourished the tops that had been under discussion, and triumphant, as he invariably was, ran up the back stairs of his master's lodgings in Piccadilly, opposite the Green Park, and with a rap on the panels entered his master's bedroom.

A Guardsman at home is always, if anything, rather more luxuriously accommodated than a young Duchess, and Bertie Cecil was never behind his fellows in anything; besides, he was one of the cracks of the Household, and women sent him pretty things enough to fill the Palais Royal. The dressing table was littered with Bohemian glass and gold stoppered bottles, and all the perfumes of Araby represented by Breidenback and Rimmel. The dressing case was of silver, with the name studded on the lid in turquoises; the brushes, bootjack, boot trees, whip stands, were of ivory and tortoiseshell; a couple of tiger skins were on the hearth with a retriever and blue greyhound in possession; above the mantel piece were crossed swords in all the varieties of gilt, gold, silver, ivory, aluminum, chiseled and embossed hilts; and on the walls were a few perfect French pictures, with the portraits of a greyhound drawn by Landseer, of a steeple chaser by Harry Hall, one or two of Herring's hunters, and two or three fair women in crayons... Continue reading book >>

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