Blue Lights

Robert Michael Ballantyne
Blue Lights, by R.M. Ballantyne

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Title: Blue Lights Hot Work in the Soudan
Author: R.M. Ballantyne
Release Date: June 7, 2007 [EBook #21719]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England


There is a dividing ridge in the great northern wilderness of America,
whereon lies a lakelet of not more than twenty yards in diameter. It is
of crystal clearness and profound depth, and on the still evenings of the
Indian summer its surface forms a perfect mirror, which might serve as
a toilet-glass for a Redskin princess.
We have stood by the side of that lakelet and failed to note the slightest
symptom of motion in it, yet somewhere in its centre there was going
on a constant and mysterious division of watery particles, and those of
them which glided imperceptibly to the right flowed southward to the
Atlantic, while those that trembled to the left found a resting-place by
the frozen shores of Hudson's Bay.
As it is with the flow and final exit of those waters, so is it, sometimes,
if not always, with the spirit and destiny of man.
Miles Milton, our hero, at the age of nineteen, stood at the dividing
ridge of his life. If the oscillating spirit, trembling between right and
wrong, had decided to lean to the right, what might have been his fate
no one can tell. He paused on the balance a short time, then he leaned
over to the left, and what his fate was it is the purpose of this volume to
disclose. At the outset, we may remark that it was not unmixed good.
Neither was it unmitigated evil.
Miles had a strong body, a strong will, and a somewhat passionate
temper: a compound which is closely allied to dynamite!
His father, unfortunately, was composed of much the same materials.
The consequences were sometimes explosive. It might have profited
the son much had he studied the Scripture lesson, "Children, obey your
parents in the Lord." Not less might it have benefited the father to have
pondered the words, "Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath."
Young Milton had set his heart on going into the army. Old Milton had
resolved to thwart the desire of his son. The mother Milton, a meek and
loving soul, experienced some hard times between the two. Both loved
her intensely, and each loved himself, not better perhaps, but too much!

It is a sad task to have to recount the disputes between a father and a
son. We shrink from it and turn away. Suffice it to say that one day
Miles and his father had a Vesuvian meeting on the subject of the army.
The son became petulant and unreasonable; the father fierce and
tyrannical. The end was that they parted in anger.
"Go, sir," cried the father sternly; "when you are in a better frame of
mind you may return."
"Yes, father, I will go," cried the son, starting up, "and I will never
Poor youth! He was both right and wrong in this prophetic speech. He
did return home, but he did not return to his father.
With fevered pulse and throbbing heart he rushed into a plantation that
lay at the back of his father's house. He had no definite intention save
to relieve his feelings by violent action. Running at full speed, he came
suddenly to a disused quarry that was full of water. It had long been a
familiar haunt as a bathing-pool. Many a time in years past had he
leaped off its precipitous margin into the deep water, and wantoned
there in all the abandonment of exuberant youth. The leap was about
thirty feet, the depth of water probably greater. Constant practice had
rendered Miles so expert at diving and swimming that he had come to
feel as much at home in the water as a New-Zealander.
Casting off his garments, he took the accustomed plunge by way of
cooling his heart and brain. He came up from the depths refreshed, but
not restored to equanimity. While dressing, the sense of injustice
returned as strongly as before, and, with it, the hot indignation, so that,
on afterwards reaching the highway, he paused only for a few moments.
This was the critical point. Slowly but decidedly he leaned
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