When I had to leave the Plevna front, my colleagues temporarily took charge of my field equipment. But I had brought back to Bucharest my best riding horse, and during my illness he had been standing at livery in the stables of the English Tramway Company. Determining now on the melancholy necessity of selling an animal which had on many a hard day and many a long night-ride served me staunchly, I drove to the stables, and instructed the manager to sell my horse. “Your horse!” he exclaimed, in evident surprise; “your horse was sold weeks ago! Your man, Andreas, came here with a message that we were to dispose of it; and I sold it next day to General Todleben on his way through Bucharest to take the command before Plevna. It fetched a good price, 105 ducats, more than you gave for it; Andreas called for the money, and, of course, I gave it to him.”
So Andreas was thief and rogue—deliberate thief and rogue. I was angry, but I was yet more heart-sorry that so fine and true a native should have thus fallen. Just as I was leaving Bucharest for England, a letter came to me from a friend in Galatz, a commercial city of Roumania, near the mouth of the Danube. Its P.S. only is worth quoting. “So you have parted with your man, Andreas. I thought from what you had told me that you would retain him for life. He is here now, I saw him drunk in the street yesterday. He told Kennedy that he believed you were dead.”
[Illustration: “ANDREAS DROPPED ON HIS KNEES.”]
I went straight to Galatz, a long half-day’s journey. Andreas was not hard to find; he was smoking in the “Concordia” saloon. I saw him before he saw me; he had a furtive air, he was pallid and his lips twitched; he looked to me on the verge of delirium tremens. I approached him from behind, and uttered the one word, “Andreas!” At the word, he started as if he had been shot, spun round, dropped on his knees, with his hands raised beseechingly, and cried in a broken voice, “Before God, master, I thought you were dead, else I should never have done it! I have not had a happy moment since I threw away my good name—I could not go home! Kill me, send me to prison, punish me how you choose. I shall rejoice to suffer!” And the poor wretch grovelled before me on his stomach.
I had meant to punish him; but he was too broken for chastisement. I could not send to prison the man who had saved my life among the pine-trees of Djunis. I wonder if he really thought me dead—not that, if so, his act was thereby materially palliated. And I thought of two little sentences which my mother taught me when I was a child: “Judge not that ye be not judged,” and “Lead us not into temptation.” I pulled the man on to his feet and grasped his hand, then with the words, “Give me my father’s watch—good-bye, Andreas. I shall remember all the good in you, and forget those last bad days.” I turned from him, and quitted the “Concordia” with a lump in my throat that I could not swallow down.