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They had reached the brow of the hill overlooking the town. Captain Pond halted and gazed for a moment on the veil of smoke above the peaceful chimneys, then into the sunset fading far down the Channel. A sudden moisture clouded his gaze, but in the moisture quivered a new-born light of pride.

Yes, it was true. He–he in five years’ command–had never lost a man!

The discovery elated and yet humbled him. His was a simple soul, and took its responsibilities seriously. He sought not to inquire for what high purpose Providence had so signally intervened to stave off from the East and West Looe Artillery the doom of common men. He only prayed to be equal to it. The Doctor’s statistics had, in fact, scared him a little. I am positive that he never boasted.

And yet–I will say this for the credit of us Cornishmen, that we rejoice one in another’s good fortune. Captain Pond might walk humbly and ‘touch wood’ to avert Nemesis: he could not prevent the whisper spreading, nor, as it spread, could he silence the congratulations of his fellow-townsmen. ‘One and All’ is our motto, and Looe quickly made Captain Pond’s singular distinction its own–

There’s Horse, there’s Foot, there’s Artiller-y,
Yet none comes up with Looe;
For the rest of the Army never says die,
But our chaps never

You may realise something of the public enthusiasm when I tell you that it gave an entirely new trend to the small-talk on the Town Quay. Hitherto, the male population which resorted there had admitted but four subjects as worthy of sensible men’s discussion–the weather, the shipping intelligence, religion, and politics: but in a few days the health of the ‘Die-hards’ took precedence of all these, and even threatened to monopolise public gossip. Captain Pond, as the first reward of notoriety, found himself severely criticised for having at the outset enlisted a dozen gunners of ripe age, although he had chosen them for no worse reason than that they had served in his Majesty’s Navy and were by consequence the best marksmen in the two towns. Not even this excuse, however, could be pleaded on behalf of Gunner Israel Spettigew (commonly known as Uncle Issy), a septuagenarian who owed his inclusion entirely to the jokes he cracked. They had been greatly relished on parade: as indeed they had made him for forty years past the one indispensable man at Mayor-choosings, Church-feasts, Carol-practices, Guise-dancings, and all public occasions; and because they varied little with the years, no one had taken the trouble to remark until now that Uncle Issy himself was ageing. But now the poor old fellow found himself the object of a solicitude which (as he grumbled) made the Town Quay as melancholy as a house in a warren.

The change in the public attitude came on him with a sudden shock. “Good-mornin’, Uncle,” said Sergeant Pengelly of the Sloop Inn, as the veteran joined the usual group on the Quay for the usual ‘crack’ after breakfast. “There was a touch o’ frost in the air this mornin’. I hope it didn’t affect you.”

“What?” said Uncle Issy.

“We’re in for a hard winter this season,” went on Sergeant Pengelly lugubriously. “A touch o’ frost so early in October you may take as one o’ Natur’s warnings.”

“Ay,” chimed in Gunner Tripconey, shaking his head. “What is man, when all’s said an’ done? One moment he’s gallivantin’ about in beauty and majesty, an’ the next–phut! as you might say.”

Uncle Issy stared at him with neighbourly interest. “Been eatin’ anything to disagree with you, Tripconey?” he asked.

“I have not,” Mr. Tripconey answered; “and what’s more, though born so recent as the very year his Majesty came to the throne, I’ve ordained to be extry careful over my diet this winter an’ go slow over such delicacies as fried ‘taties for breakfast. If these things happen in the green tree, Mr. Spettigew, what shall be done in the dry?”