Although the writing was, as usual, sharp and biting, there was nothing especially notable in this magazine. Coleridge, Shelley, Conrad and Eliot, and many, many famous others had been or would be published in Blackwood’s. Not in this issue. There was no great literary work waiting to be found behind it’s stern cover.
It was thick, though. Plenty of material to keep a lonely man far from home occupied for days at a time. Now, as William, assistant surgeon for the Army of the British East India Company, lay on the operating table receiving stitches for the gash on his head, he was certain he’d gotten his full use out of it.
Just over a week before, William was among a contingent of British soldiers retreating from Kabul under what they thought to be safe passage. William stuffed his copy of Blackwood’s Magazine under his hat to help against the biting wind, and he and fifteen thousand other men, women and children departed in the winter cold for Jalalabad, 90 miles away. Over the next week, nearly every single one of them died at the hands of raiding Afghani tribesmen.
When the reaper came wielding a sword and hacked down upon the crown of William’s head, the secreted copy of Blackwood’s absorbed the blow.
On January 13th, 1842, William Brydon arrived, alone, alive, at the gates of Jalalabad. His horse fell dead beneath him.