How the Sergeant went upon his guard
The Arcadians, one and all, generally follow that excellent maxim which runs:
“Early to bed, and early to rise Makes a man healthy, and wealthy, and wise.”
Healthy they are, beyond a doubt, and, in their quaint, simple fashion, profoundly wise. If they are not extraordinarily wealthy, yet are they generally blessed with contented minds which, after all, is better than money, and far more to be desired than fine gold.
Now whether their general health, happiness, and wisdom is to be attributed altogether to their early to bed proclivities, is perhaps a moot question. Howbeit, to-night, long after these weary Arcadians had forgotten their various cares, and troubles in the blessed oblivion of sleep, (for even Arcadia has its troubles) Bellew sat beneath the shade of “King Arthur” alone with his thoughts.
Presently, however, he was surprised to hear the house-door open, and close very softly, and to behold—not the object of his meditations, but Miss Priscilla coming towards him.
As she caught sight of him in the shadow of the tree, she stopped and stood leaning upon her stick as though she were rather disconcerted.
“Aunt Priscilla!” said he, rising.
“Oh!—it’s you?” she exclaimed, just as though she hadn’t known it all along. “Dear me! Mr. Bellew,—how lonely you look, and dreadfully thoughtful,—good gracious!” and she glanced up at him with her quick, girlish smile. “I suppose you are wondering what I am doing out here at this unhallowed time of night—it must be nearly eleven o’clock. Oh dear me!—yes you are!—Well, sit down, and I’ll tell you. Let us sit here,—in the darkest corner,—there. Dear heart!—how bright the moon is to be sure.” So saying, Miss Priscilla ensconced herself at the very end of the rustic bench, where the deepest shadow lay.
“Well, Mr. Bellew,” she began, “as you know, to-day is my birthday. As to my age, I am—let us say,—just turned twenty-one and, being young, and foolish, Mr. Bellew, I have come out here to watch another very foolish person,—a ridiculous, old Sergeant of Hussars, who will come marching along, very soon, to mount guard in full regimentals, Mr. Bellew,—with his busby on his head, with his braided tunic and dolman, and his great big boots, and with his spurs jingling, and his sabre bright under the moon.”
“So then—you know he comes?”
“Why of course I do. And I love to hear the jingle of his spurs, and to watch the glitter of his sabre. So, every year, I come here, and sit among the shadows, where he can’t see me, and watch him go march, march, marching up and down, and to and fro, until the clock strikes twelve, and he goes marching home again. Oh dear me!—it’s all very foolish, of course,—but I love to hear the jingle of his spurs.”