A young French girl’s adventures in the age of Victoria
The adventures of Parisian young lady, Fanny Loviot and her eldest sister began in the Spring of 1852 when they boarded the small French schooner Independence, at Havre bound for California. They spent seven days suffering in the English Channel and a further twenty three days at sea before they arrived at Rio de Janeiro. They rounded Cape Horn, losing a seaman, but eventually arrived at San Francisco. Fanny spent almost two years in America experiencing the far west with all its wonders and diversions, including travelling into the interior and seeing her first native Indians. A house fire became the catalyst that divided the sisters and Fanny decided upon adventure to Java with a female acquaintance. In 1854 they embarked upon the Arcturus bound for China. What befell her now began to take on a far more serious aspect, with many perils, the death of companions, a hostile land and capture by Chinese Pirates awaiting her. This most interesting account of a lady’s adventures in the middle years of the nineteenth century is highly entertaining, but illustrates not only the changes that have taken place in world travel over the last century and a half but also the remarkable resourcefulness the ‘frail sex’ could muster when necessary. Interestingly, this book was translated into English by Amelia B. Edwards, another resourceful Victorian lady and a successful ‘jobbing’ writer who was also very well regarded for her fine supernatural fiction, a collection of which is published by Leonaur.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
The next day, after a somewhat tiring ascent, we crowned the heights of the Waterkloof, without firing a shot or seeing many Kaffirs. I was then ordered to attack the Horse-shoe—a half-circular line of bush that fringed the precipitous heights. This was a difficult task, from the formation of the ground and the disheartening reminiscences, it was murmured, which were attached to the spot. Here it was that Colonel Fordyce had been lately killed, and the 74th fearfully handled. The Honourable R C——, the staff officer who ordered the movement, pointed in a somewhat vague manner to the centre of the half-moon as the place on which I was to begin the attack.<br>
This undefined indication left me a considerable margin; so I managed, in the mile of ground I had to cover before coming within range of the Kaffir guns, to oblique so much to the right, that I came very near that end of the Horse-shoe. As I got within range, my men being in very loose order (this being their first engagement, there was naturally some hesitation and wavering along the line), a shot fired by some good marksman on the enemy’s side, brought my orderly, David McIntyre, to the ground with a ball through the chest.<br>
The whole line stopped as if struck by an electric shock. Another shot as effective as the last would, I felt sure, send them to the right-about; so I ran to the front and shouted out, “We shall all be shot if we remain here in the open! To the bush, my lads! to the bush!”<br>
The sense of this order was obvious. We shouted “Hurrah!” as much to drown our own fears as to frighten the enemy; and amidst a rattling fire, more noisy than dangerous, we, for safety’s sake, gallantly charged the foe. The Kaffirs and Hottentots were evidently taken by surprise at this display of gallantry—latterly all the charges had been on their side. The tables were turned, and instead of red-jackets, it was for black-skins to fall back.<br>
Once in the bush, what with cheering and firing, we kept up such a hullabaloo, that the niggers must have thought all the white devils of Christendom were let loose upon them. I, who knew where the row came from, was astonished at the effect upon my own nerves, as the adjoining rocks reverberated the sound of our advance. We literally chased the foe like rabbits through the bush, and came out at the other end of the Horse-shoe, rather disappointed than otherwise in not meeting with more resistance. We then fell back on the main body, having performed our task with a decided dash and very slight loss—two killed and five wounded.<br>
As we were quite unmolested by the foe, it was admirable to see the cool, collected manner in which my men retired—in fact, I was not at all astonished when General Napier sent a staff officer to thank us for our gallant and orderly bearing. We now proceeded to breakfast, and had hardly begun, when the same officer came back and told me to advance with my men and endeavour to dislodge the Kaffirs from some rough boulders of rock on the edge of the kloof, some two miles on our left. Now this order was unadvisable for many reasons: from the lie of the ground it had no strategical importance; it neither threatened the enemy’s stronghold, nor in any way interfered with movements we might make to carry it.<br>
My men had had a long march, which, combined with the efforts in clearing out the Horse-shoe, had left us without any physical energy; whilst there were whole battalions who had not fired a shot, and were eager for an opportunity to distinguish themselves.<br>
I, however, kept these reasonings to myself; and giving the men orders to prepare for action, they sprang to their feet with far more alacrity than I had a right to expect.<br>
In going to take up the ground assigned to us as the point of attack, we passed in front of the main body, and the general came up and shook hands with me. This cheering token sent us on in good spirits to within about a thousand yards of the rocks above named. I here sent a small detachment down a slope of ground that led somewhat to our left, to threaten, if possible, the flank and rear of the position in our front.<br>
With the rest of the men I obliqued slightly to the right, with the same object of turning the rear in that direction also.<br>
We had advanced about half-way when the guns of Captain Rowley’s battery opened fire over our heads. This caused considerable uneasiness; the men were not accustomed to the hurling noise rushing over their heads from the rear: some ducked, some stopped, others went on; and the line, which hitherto had been so well kept, assumed a most zigzag, mob-looking appearance.<br>
I have often observed that even veterans waver and become confused under this meteor-discharge overhead. The Kaffirs, however, did not seem to be much frightened by the shot or the shell. They fielded for the cannon-shot as they rebounded from the rocks as though they were cricket-balls. These same balls were much prized as pestles for grinding purposes.<br>
As for the shells, they no sooner burst than, in derision, the Kaffirs picked pieces up and pretended to throw them back at us. But now a rocket that was intended to astonish the Kaffirs came so close over us, that the whole line started and ducked their heads in the most ridiculous fashion. This profound salaam, as we faced the foe, elicited from them a tremendous shout of approval in return. I profited by this humility of ours, and as my fellows had their faces so close to the ground, I ordered them to lie down altogether. “Raise the sighting on the rifles for six hundred yards. Take steady aim. Fire!”