Sunday, 4 December 2011

Ongar: An extract from the Commonplace Book of Edward Reeve c1860

Captain Garnham

My friend, and brother officer, Capt. Garnham, was one of the most agreeable, and entertaining companions, when he chose, as the following adventure will prove.  When we were stationed at Liverpool we had permission from Sir Chas. Bunbury to shoot over his Estate near Chester, our shooting expedition did not answer, for the best of reasons, we found little, or no game to shoot, and upon our return we dined at the table d’hote at the Castle Hotel, where the party was rather numerous both of ladies and gentlemen.  We found ourselves seated next to Capt. and Mrs Hoy, with her brother, a very elegant and handsome young officer.  They did not appear by any means inclined to be sociable, but kept themselves quite aloof.  My friend Garnham soon took the hint, and desired the waiter to place his wine and dessert upon a side table at the window, where he placed himself with his favourite little dog upon his lap.  I did all I possibly could to ingratiate myself into their favour, and fortunately succeeded.  I was delighted with their manner, and conversation, particularly relating to India, where they had been stationed for many years.  The young officer addressing his Sister mentioned Sir George August as their Uncle, the Chief in Command at Kingston Barracks Jamaica and it was there that Garnham had the yellow fever with his Regiment the 82nd.  Every one thought he would never recover, and he heard the pleasing order given for the Band, to attend his funeral the following morning.

I observed he appeared to be listening to the conversation with a degree of interest rather unusual and upon hearing the name of Sir Geo. August his former Colonel he became exceedingly agitated, he very nearly knocked down his table, and stamped upon his little dog.  Endeavouring to approach our party, and requesting the young stranger would favor him with his Name, which he very sternly answered by saying, “My name is Captain Meredith, if you wish to know it”.  Garnham immediately, with his usual exclamation “God help me” embraced him most affectionately, and every body thought him labouring under some fit of insanity.  As soon as he had recovered himself he said, “My dear fellow, the last time I saw you was twenty years ago, you were then five years of age, and upon the death of your dear Mother I brought you up with the greatest care, and regard” at Kingston Barracks. 

It’s impossible to describe the effect of this scene, his sister fell into the arms of her husband, many pocket handkerchiefs were in immediately request with the ladies, and many of the gentlemen present, joined in the chorus of sighing, and sobbing, and as soon as the ladies retired to the Drawing Room, “Wine, more Wine, was the order of the Day” and we kept it up until the last half hour, when we were compelled to return again to Liverpool.

I understand afterwards, the Mother of the hero of my tale, was very much beloved of my friend Garnham, when he was a Subaltern he would have married her, but she preferred being united to the Major.  He mentioned her name only once, and then with great emotion he said, “You are indeed my dear boy, very like your blessed Mother”.

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