“However, I fancy the worst of the fighting will be over by the time we get there. It seems almost certain that it will be so, if Delhi is captured and Lucknow relieved. The Sepoys thought that they had the game entirely in their hands, and that they would sweep us right out of India almost without resistance. They have failed, and when they see that every day their chances of success diminish, their resistance will grow fainter.
“I expect that we shall have many long marches, a great many skirmishes, and perhaps two or three hard fights; but I have not a shadow of fear of a single reverse. We are going out at the best time of year, and with cool weather and hard exercise there will be little danger of fevers; therefore the chances are very strongly in favour of my returning safe and sound. It may take a couple of years to stamp it all out, but at the end of that time I hope to return here for good.
“I shall find you a good deal more altered, Miss Greendale, than you will find me. You will have become a dignified young lady. I shall be only a little older and a little browner. You see, I have never been stationed in India since I joined, for the regiment had only just come home, and I am looking forward with pleasurable anticipation to seeing it. Ordinary life there in a hot cantonment must be pretty dull, though, from what I hear, people enjoy it much more than you would think possible. But at a time like the present it will be full of interest and excitement.”
“You will write to us sometimes, I hope,” Sir John said, when Mallett rose to leave.
“I won’t promise to write often, Sir John. I expect that we shall be generally on the move, perhaps without tents of any kind, and to write on one’s knee, seated round a bivouac fire, with a dozen fellows all laughing and talking round, would be a hopeless task; but if at any time we are halted at a place where writing is possible, I will certainly do so. I have but few friends in England—at any rate, only men, who never think of expecting a letter. And as you are among my very oldest and dearest friends, it will be a pleasure for me to let you know how I am getting on, and to be sure that you will feel an interest in my doings.”
There was a warm goodbye, and all went to the door for a few last words. Frank’s portmanteau was already in the dog cart, for he had arranged to drive straight from Greendale to Chippenham, where he would dine at an hotel and then go on by the mail to Exeter.
It was three o’clock when he drove into the barracks there. Early as the hour was, the troops were already up and busy. Wagons were being loaded, the long lines of windows were all lighted up, and in every room men could be seen moving about. He drove across the barrack yard to his own quarters, left his portmanteau there, and then walked to the mess room. As he had expected, he found several officers there.
“Ah, Mallett, there you are. You are the last in; the others all turned up by the evening train, but we thought that as you were comparatively near you would come on by the mail.”