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SOME time in the easy days that fell between the close of the Napoleonic Wars and the Crimea, the 7th (the Royal Fusiliers, now the City of London Regiment) was billeted at Islington in order to be out of the way during a Parliamen¬ tary election. While there, a detachment of two hundred men got the route for Chester, and were well pleased at the prospect of a march through the pleasantest counties of England at the best season of the year. But, in the inscrutable wisdom of the War Office, it was suddenly ordained
— [Official photograph.]
Incidentally, this photograph gives an exce’lent Idea of the risks taken dally by the British Official Photographers, as, when It was made, the big blockhouse In the .distance (to the left of the centre) was still In enemy hand«. It will be noted that the blockhouse In the foreground has not been smashed entirely; but Fritz, hurried by our bayorwt-men, decided to quit nevertheless.—
that the party should go by an unusual means of transport—nothing else than canal-boat. The officers were a little disappointed, but they took the affair as a lark; marched to Paddington, and embarked in high spirits. The procession was not exactly military, but it kept some semblance of the usual order. In the first barge went a dépôt band, which played the Fusiliers cheerfully along the waterways, and the troops found various means to beguile the long and tedious voyage. Very often they were allowed to get out and walk on the towpath. The officers’ boat was made luxurious with trusses of straw, and had a tar¬ paulin, rigged overhead to keep off the sun. Summer wat; at its best, and all ranks enjoyed a great deal of do Ice far nicnte. They had also at least one adventure. One day three gay young
sparks of subalterns fell overboard, and one had a narrow shave of drowning. At length they got as far as Nantwich, whence they were to march to Liverpool. They arrived early, and the Captain in command (the Major having preferred a coach to the canal-boat) did not intend to take the road until the following morning. He and his brother-officers, all young, saw to the quartering of the men, and then looked about them for an evening’s amusement, imagining that the Major was by this time safe in barracks
at Chester. They accordingly went to the Red Lion at Nantwich and ordered the best dinner the house could provide, insisting on a gooseberrypudding as the pièce-de-résistance, for it was the height of the gooseberry season. The earlier part of the meal went well, and then came the pudding—a veritable triumph. It was all they had dreamed, and a first helping set them wondering what Peninsular heroes would not have given for such a dish on the banks of the Zadora. Never ‘had there been such a pudding. A second helping was clearly ” indicated,” as the physicians say, arid to that the party was proceed¬ ing with a will when the door opened and in rushed their young Adjutant, kept hitherto from the feast by urgent duties. He was expected to sit down and fall to, but instead he shouted— [Continued overleaf.
” By Job, the Major’s here I We march at once—he’s sent me to bid the officers summon the men.” A roar of derision greeted the words. ” All nonsense and humbug ! Sit down, Mr. Adjutant, and none of your sells.”
F Official Photograph.
” On my word,” he replied, with a long face, ” it’s true.” He hurried out, and his comrades—too old sparrows to be caught with chaff—fell once more upon the delicious pudding. No silly, hoaxing l iff
Adjutant should play it off on them. But now in came a sergeant, with positive orders to attend the C.O. immediately. Fearing the worst, the majority of the party reluctantly got up and departed ; but three stout spirits, still persuaded that the affair was a hoax, resolved to see their blessed pudding .out. Just as the last morsel had disappeared, the Adjutant returned, and in severe tones told the three young scapegraces that they were either to leave the hotel or consider themselves under arrest. Not yet quite persuaded that they were not being victimised, they rose. There could be no great object in further refusal, for the gooseberry pudding was now only a happy memory. The Major was in Nantwich, sure enough. He wigged all ldb
gg three, telling the two elder subs, that he would recommend their immediate attachment to regimental headquarters for neglect of duty on the line of march. The youngest he condemned to take a detachment of eight men and a sergeant
to Liverpool, there to remain until the C.O. thought proper to relieve him. The culprits left the presence, feeling that the joy had gone out of life, that they were broken men, and that goose¬ berry-pudding was a delusion and a snare. The punishments, however, did not prove ie In the case of the
excessive. two elder rebels, nothing was done. It was believed that the Commander-in-Chief had himself a weakness for gooseberry pud¬ ding, and that he secretly sym¬ pathised with the reason for the insubordination. All the culprits, in greater or less degree, enjoyed a score off their martinet of a Major. The-mere youngster, the worst offender, came out of it with flying colours. He felt at first very dull at the prospect of being sent, as he Said, ” to vegetate among a set of heathen merchants,” but all was for the best. In Liverpool he had next to no duty. Part of his little command was constantly away, looking after deserters to and from Ireland ; and, beyond an occasional church parade, he had his time pretty well at his own disposal. ll td h hd dlss
Being very well connected, he endless invitations from the county families ; he never let it be known that he was under official displeasure, and he found that the bearskin cap of the Fusiliers was not without charms
for tne fair. The Major could not have done him a better turn. He spent a glorious three months, devoutly grateful to the gooseberrypudding, of which dish he became the life¬ long slave.