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With Rifle and Bayonet A Story of the Boer War   By: (1872-)

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With Rifle and Bayonet, by Captain F.S. Brereton, R.A.M.C..

WITH RIFLE AND BAYONET, BY CAPTAIN F.S. BRERETON, R.A.M.C..

CHAPTER ONE.

A SAD MISTAKE.

The last few rays of a cold September sunset were streaming through the High Street of a large and populous village called Redford, in the county of Surrey, lighting up the pretty red brick cottages and casting a deep shadow beyond the quaint and tumble down old porch which led to the church. A few mellow shafts had slipped by it, and, struggling through the iron bars of a massive gate, travelled up a long gravel drive and cast a ruddy glow on the windows of a fine country mansion.

In one of the rooms facing the sunset, a man and a woman were standing opposite one another, engaged in angry conversation, while outside, on the great staircase, the subject of their dispute, a boy of about eleven, was slowly making his way upward, stopping now and again to let his head drop upon his folded arms against the banisters, and sob as if his heart would break. At last, after many stops, he reached a landing midway up, and was just in the act of succumbing once more to his grief when a jeering and unsympathetic laugh from above caught his ear, and caused him to give a violent start. Instantly the lad dried his eyes, and choked back his sobs. Then, with a sudden gesture, as if of determination to forget his sorrow, he crossed the landing, and with his head now held proudly erect in the air, ran up the remaining stairs and was quickly out of sight.

Meanwhile, in the room below, the man and woman faced one another in the gathering gloom, while angry words passed between them.

The former, Captain Charles Somerton by name and title, a lithe and active man of middle age, was evidently ill at ease. He stood close beside his writing desk, shuffling restlessly from one foot to another, and toying with a paper knife. His wife, on the other hand, was apparently calm and self contained, though a careful scrutiny of her features would have shown that passion had almost mastered her. She was a proud, haughty looking woman, and now that her temper had almost got the better of her there was a decidedly evil look upon her face. She listened impatiently to what her husband was saying, glaring spitefully at him, and occasionally opening her lips as if on the point of interrupting.

"My dear," the captain was saying, somewhat nervously, "you really must be more kind to the poor little chap. Scold him if you wish to, for I have no doubt that, like all boys, he is constantly up to some kind of mischief; but if you have occasion to correct him, do so in a more gentle manner. He is quite a young lad, you must remember, and I am sure that his worst deeds cannot merit such punishment. You frighten him out of his life, and you do what I consider an extremely unkind thing you constantly hurt his feelings, well knowing him to be a thin skinned boy. Poor little chap! If you are not more careful he will detest you. You say that he and Frank together smashed a piece of valuable china in your boudoir? How then is it that Frank is forgiven, while Jack, who is the younger by more than a year, has his ears boxed and is spoken to so harshly?"

"There you are again, Charles!" was Mrs Somerton's angry answer. "How often must I tell you that Jack is the ringleader in all the mischief? If it were not for him Frank would never go astray, for he is a quiet and good mannered boy, and, unless led away by the bad example of the other, always conducts himself as I should wish."

"I am much inclined to disagree with you there, Julia," the captain replied, with some show of temper. "It seems to me that there is something of the hypocrite about Frank. His manners may be good, but he can never look one in the face, and he is ready at any moment to snivel and whine... Continue reading book >>




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