Infomotions, Inc.The Young Buglers / Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902



Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902
Title: The Young Buglers
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): tom; sam; captain manley; peter; wellington; colonel tritton; miss scudamore; colonel; regiment; british; ciudad rodrigo; troops; division; peter scudamore; massa tom; norfolk rangers; lord beresford; army; lord wellington
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Title: The Young Buglers

Author: G.A. Henty

Release Date: January, 2006 [EBook #9613]
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[This file was first posted on October 10, 2003]

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*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE YOUNG BUGLERS ***




Produced by Ted Garvin, Suzanne Shell, William Flis,
and PG Distributed Proofreaders




THE YOUNG BUGLERS

by G.A. Henty




PREFACE


To my Young Readers.

I remember that, as a boy, I regarded any attempt to mix instruction
with amusement as being as objectionable a practice as the
administration of powder in jam; but I think that this feeling arose
from the fact that in those days books contained a very small share
of amusement and a very large share of instruction. I have endeavored
to avoid this, and I hope that the accounts of battles and sieges,
illustrated as they are by maps, will be found as interesting
as the lighter parts of the story. As in my tale, "_The Young
Franc-Tireurs_," I gave the outline of the Franco-German war, so
I have now endeavored to give the salient features of the great
Peninsular struggle. The military facts, with the names of generals
and regiments, the dates and places, are all strictly accurate, and
any one who has read with care the story of "The Young Buglers" could
pass an examination as to the leading events of the Peninsular war.

Yours truly,

THE AUTHOR.




CONTENTS


      CHAPTER I. A Coaching Adventure

     CHAPTER II. The Young Pickles

    CHAPTER III. Enlisted

     CHAPTER IV. A Tough Customer

      CHAPTER V. Overboard

     CHAPTER VI. Portugal

    CHAPTER VII. The Passage of the Douro--Talavera

   CHAPTER VIII. A Pause in Operations

     CHAPTER IX. "With the Guerillas"

      CHAPTER X. Madrid

     CHAPTER XI. The Fight on the Coa

    CHAPTER XII. Busaco and Torres Vedras

   CHAPTER XIII. Albuera

    CHAPTER XIV. Invalided Home

     CHAPTER XV. Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajos

    CHAPTER XVI. Salamanca

   CHAPTER XVII. Caught in a Trap

  CHAPTER XVIII. Just in Time

    CHAPTER XIX. Vittoria

     CHAPTER XX. Toulouse




THE YOUNG BUGLERS.




CHAPTER I.

A COACHING ADVENTURE.


Had any of the boys in the lower forms of Eton in the year 1808, been
asked who were the most popular boys of their own age, they would have
been almost sure to have answered, without the slightest hesitation,
Tom and Peter Scudamore, and yet it is probable that no two boys
were more often in disgrace. It was not that they were idle, upon the
contrary, both were fairly up in their respective forms, but they were
constantly getting into mischief of one sort or another; yet even
with the masters they were favorites, there was never anything low,
disgraceful, or ungentlemanly in their escapades, and they could be
trusted never to attempt to screen themselves from the consequences
by prevarication, much less by lying. If the masters heard that a
party of youngsters had been seen far out of bounds, they were pretty
sure that the Scudamores were among them; a farmer came in from a
distance to complain that his favorite tree had been stripped of
its apples--for in those days apples were looked upon by boys as
fair objects of sport,--if the head-master's favorite white poodle
appeared dyed a deep blue, if Mr. Jones, the most unpopular master
in the school, upon coming out of his door trod upon a quantity of
tallow smeared all over the doorstep, and was laid up for a week in
consequence, there was generally a strong suspicion that Tom and Peter
Scudamore were concerned in the matter. One of their tricks actually
came to the ears of the Provost himself, and caused quite a sensation
in the place, but in this case, fortunately for them, they escaped
undetected.

One fine summer afternoon they were out on the water with two or three
other boys of their own age, when a barge was seen ahead at some short
distance from the shore. She was apparently floating down with the
stream, and the fact that a horse was proceeding along the towing-path
a little way ahead was not noticed, as the rope was slack and was
trailing under water. The boys, therefore, as they were rowing against
stream, steered their boat to pass inside of her. Just as they came
abreast of the horse a man on the barge suddenly shouted to the rider
of the horse to go on. He did so, the rope tightened, rose from the
water just under the bow of the boat, and in another minute the boys
were struggling in the water. All were good swimmers, and would
have cared little for the ducking had it occurred accidentally, but
the roars of laughter of the bargeman, and the chaff with which he
assailed them as they scrambled up the bank, showed clearly enough
that they had been upset maliciously. The boys were furious, and one
or two proposed that they should report the case, but Tom Scudamore
pointed out that the bargeman would of course declare that it was
a pure accident, and that the boys were themselves in fault in not
looking out whether the barge was being towed, before going inside
her, and so nothing would come of reporting.

The boat was dragged ashore and emptied, and in a few minutes they
were rowing back towards the town. The distance was but short, and
they did not repass the barge before they reached their boat-house.
The brothers had exchanged a few words in a low voice on the way, and
instead of following the example of the others, and starting at a run
for the house where they boarded to change their clothes, they walked
down by the river and saw that the barge had moored up against the
bank, at a short distance below the bridge. They watched for a time,
and saw the bargeman fasten up the hatch of the little cabin and go
ashore.

That night two boys lowered themselves with a rope from the window
of one of the dames-houses, and walked rapidly down to the river.
There were a few flickering oil lamps burning, and the one or two
old watchmen were soundly asleep in their boxes. They did not meet a
soul moving upon their way to the object of the expedition, the barge
that had run them down. Very quietly they slipped on board, satisfied
themselves by listening at the half-open hatch to the snoring within
that their enemy was there, then loosened the moorings so that they
could be thrown off at a moment's notice.

"Now, Peter," the elder brother said, "open our lantern. The night is
quite still. You hold your hand behind it, so that the light will not
fall on our faces, and I will look whether he is only wrapped up in a
blanket or has a regular bed; we must not risk setting the place on
fire. Get the crackers ready."

A dark lantern was now taken out from under Tom's jacket, and was
found to be still alight, an important matter, for striking a light
with flint and steel was in those days a long and tedious business,
and then opening it Tom threw the light into the cabin. It was a
tiny place, and upon a bench, wrapped up in a blanket, the bargeman
was lying. As the light fell on his eyes, he moved, and a moment
afterwards started up with an oath, and demanded who was there.

No answer came in words, but half a dozen lighted crackers were thrown
into the cabin, when they began to explode with a tremendous uproar.
In an instant the hatch was shut down and fastened outside. The rope
was cast off, and in another minute she was floating down stream with
the crackers still exploding inside her, but with their noise almost
deadened by the tremendous outcry of shouts and howls, and by a
continued and furious banging at the hatch.

"There is no fear of his being choked, Tom, I hope?"

"No, I expect he's all right," Tom said, "it will be pretty stifling
for a bit no doubt, but there's a chimney hole and the smoke will find
its way out presently. The barge will drift down to the weir before it
brings up, there is not enough stream out for there to be any risk of
her upsetting, else we daren't have turned her adrift."

The next day the whole town was talking of the affair, and in the
afternoon the bargeman went up to the head-master and accused one of
the boys of an attempt to murder him.

Greatly surprised, the Provost demanded what reason the man had for
suspecting the boys, and the bargeman acknowledged that he had that
afternoon upset a boat with four or five boys in her. "They would not
bear you malice on that account," the Provost said; "they don't think
much of a swim such weather as this, unless indeed you did it on
purpose."

The man hesitated in his answer, and the Provost continued, "You
evidently did do it on purpose, and in that case, although it was
carried too far, for I hear you had a very narrow escape of being
stifled, still you brought it upon yourself, and I hope it will be a
lesson to you not to risk the lives of Eton boys for your amusement. I
know nothing about this affair, but if you can point out the boys you
suspect I will of course inquire into it."

The bargeman departed, grumbling that he did not know one of the young
imps from another, but if he did find them, he'd wring their necks for
them to a certainty. The Provost had some inquiries made as to the
boys who had been upset, and whether they had all been in at lock-up
time; finding that they had all answered to their names, he made no
further investigation.

This affair had taken place in the summer before this story begins,
on the 15th of October, 1808. On that day a holiday was granted in
consequence of the head-master's birthday, and the boys set off, some
to football, some for long walks in the country.

The Scudamores, with several of their friends, strolled down the
towing-path for some miles, and walked back by the road. As they
entered their dames-house on their return, Tom Scudamore said for the
twentieth time, "Well, I would give anything to be a soldier, instead
of having to go in and settle down as a banker--it's disgusting!"

As they entered a boy came up. "Oh, Scudamore, Jackson's been asking
for you both. It's something particular, for he has been out three or
four times, and he wanted to send after you, but no one knew where you
had gone."

The boys at once went into the master's study, where they remained all
the afternoon. A short time after they went in, Mr. Jackson came out
and said a word or two to one of the senior boys, and the word was
quickly passed round, that there was to be no row, for the Scudamores
had just heard of the sudden death of their father. That evening, Mr.
Jackson had beds made up for them in his study, so that they might not
have the pain of having to talk with the other boys. The housekeeper
packed up their things, and next morning early they started by the
coach for London.

Mr. Scudamore, the father of the young Etonians, was a banker. He was
the elder of two brothers, and had inherited his father's business,
while his brother had gone into the army. The banker had married the
daughter of a landowner in the neighborhood, and had lived happily and
prosperously until her death, seven years before this story begins.
She had borne him three children, the two boys, now fifteen and
fourteen years old respectively, and a girl, Rhoda, two years younger
than Peter. The loss of his wife afflicted him greatly, and he
received another shock five years later by the death of his brother,
Colonel Scudamore, to whom he was much attached. From the time of his
wife's death he had greatly relaxed in his attention to his business,
and after his brother's death he left the management almost entirely
in the hands of his cashier, in whom he had unlimited confidence.
This confidence was wholly misplaced. For years the cashier had
been carrying on speculation upon his own account with the monies
of the bank. Gradually and without exciting the least suspicion he
had realized the various securities held by the bank, and at last
gathering all the available cash he, one Saturday afternoon, locked up
the bank and fled.

On Monday it was found that he was missing; Mr. Scudamore went down
to the bank, and had the books taken into his parlor for examination.
Some hours afterwards a clerk went in and found his master lying back
in his chair insensible. A doctor on arriving pronounced it to be
apoplexy. He never rallied, and a few hours afterwards the news spread
through the country that Scudamore, the banker, was dead, and that the
bank had stopped payment.

People could believe the former item of news, but were incredulous as
to the latter. Scudamore's bank was looked upon in Lincolnshire as at
least as safe as the Bank of England itself. But the sad truth was
soon clear to all, and for awhile there was great distress of mind
among the people, for many miles round, for most of them had entrusted
all their savings of years to the Scudamores' bank. When affairs were
wound up, however, it was found that things were not quite so bad as
had been feared. Mr. Scudamore had a considerable capital employed
in the bank, and the sale of his handsome house and estate realized
a large sum, so that eventually every one received back the money
they had entrusted to the bank; but the whole of the capital and the
profits of years of successful enterprise had vanished, and it was
calculated by the executors that the swindler must have appropriated
at least 80,000_l._

For the first month after their father's death the boys stayed with
the doctor who had long attended the family and had treated all their
ailments since they were born. In the great loss of their father the
loss of their fortune affected them but little, except that they were
sorry to be obliged to leave Eton; for the interest of the little
fortune which their mother had brought at her marriage, and which was
all that now remained to them, would not have been sufficient to pay
for their expenses there, and indeed such an education would have been
out of place for two boys who had to make their own way in life. At
the end of this month it was arranged that they were to go to their
only existing relative, an elder sister of Mr. Scudamore. The boys had
never seen her, for she had not for many years been friends with her
brother.

The letter which she had written to the doctor, announcing her
willingness to receive them, made the boys laugh, although it did not
hold out prospects of a very pleasant future. "I am, of course," she
said, "prepared to do my duty. No one can say that I have ever failed
in my duty. My poor brother quarreled with me. It was his duty to
apologize. He did not do so. Had it been my duty to apologize I should
have done so. As I was right, and he was wrong, it was clearly not my
duty. I shall now do my duty to my niece and nephews. Yet I may be
allowed to say that I regret much that they are not all nieces. I do
not like boys. They are always noisy, and not always clean. They do
not wipe their shoes, they are always breaking things, they go about
with all sorts of rubbish and dirt in their pockets, their hair is
always rough, they are fond of worrying cats, and other cruel games.
Altogether they are objectionable. Had my brother made up his mind to
leave his children in my charge, it was clearly his duty to have had
girls instead of boys. However, it is not because other people fail
in their duty that I should fail in mine. Therefore, let them come to
me this day fortnight. By that time I shall have got some strong and
suitable furniture in the room that my nephews will occupy, and shall
have time to make other arrangements. This letter will, if all goes
well, reach you, I believe, in three days after the date of posting,
and they will take the same time coming here. Assure them that I am
prepared to do my duty, and that I hope that they will make a serious
effort at doing theirs. Ask my nephews, upon the occasion of their
first arrival, to make as little noise as they can, because my cat,
Minnie, is very shy, and if she is scared at the first meeting,
she will take a very long time to get accustomed to them. I also
particularly beg that they do not, as they come up to the house, throw
stones at any of the pigeons who may be resting upon the roof, for the
slates were all set right a few weeks ago, and I am sure I do not wish
to have the slater here again; they were hanging about for ten days
the last time they came. I do not know that I have anything else to
say."

The boys received the reading of this singular epistle with shouts of
laughter.

"Poor aunt," Tom said. "What does she think of us that she can suppose
that, upon our very first arrival, we should come in like wild
Indians, throwing stones at her pigeons, and frightening her Minnie
into fits. Did you ever hear such an extraordinary idea, Doctor
Jarvis?"

"At any rate, boys," the doctor said, when the laughter had ceased,
"you may find your aunt a little peculiar, but she is evidently
determined to do her duty to you, and you must do yours to her, and
not play more pranks than you can help. As to you, Rhoda, you will
evidently be in high favor, and as you are fortunately a quiet little
lady, you will, I have no doubt, get on with her very well."

"I hope so," Rhoda said, smiling, "you see she means to be kind,
though she does write funny letters, and, at any rate, there are
Minnie and the pigeons; it sounds nice, you know. Do you know what
aunt's place is like, Dr. Jarvis, and how to get there from here."

"No, my dear, I never was in that part of England. It is close to
Marlborough that she lives, a very pretty country, I believe. There
is, of course, no way to go across from here. You must go up to London
by coach from here, and then to Marlborough by the western coach. I
will write to my brother James in town, where you stopped at night as
you came through, boys, and I know that he will take you all in for
the night, and see that you go off right in the morning."

"You're very kind, indeed, Doctor Jarvis. I do not know how to thank
you for all you have done for us," Tom said earnestly, and the others
cordially echoed the sentiment.

The day before starting the doctor had a long talk with the boys. He
pointed out to them that their future now depended upon themselves
alone. They must expect to find many unpleasantnesses in their way,
but they must take their little trials pleasantly, and make the best
of everything. "I have no fear as to Rhoda," their kind friend said.
"She has that happy, amiable, and quiet disposition that is sure to
adapt itself to all circumstances. I have no doubt she will become a
favorite with your aunt. Try to keep out of scrapes, boys. You know
you are rather fond of mischief, and your aunt will not be able to
understand it. If you get into any serious difficulty write to me, you
can rely upon always finding a friend in me."

The journey to London was no novelty to the boys, but Rhoda enjoyed it
immensely. Her place had been taken inside, but most of the journey
she rode outside with her brothers. She was greatly amazed at the
bustle and noise of London, and was quite confused at the shouting and
crowd at the place where the coach drew up, for two or three other
coaches had just arrived from other directions. Mr. Jarvis had sent
his man-servant to meet them, their luggage was sent direct to the
booking-office from which the coach started for Marlborough, and the
servant carried a small bag containing their night things. It was
evening when they got in, and Rhoda could scarcely keep her eyes open
long enough to have tea, for the coach had been two days and nights
upon the road. The next day they stayed in town, and Mrs. Jarvis took
them out to see the sights of London--the Tower and St. Paul's, and
Westminster Abbey, and the beasts at Exeter Change. The boys had twice
before spent a whole day in London, their father having, upon two
occasions, made his visits to town to fit in with their going up to
school, but to Rhoda it was all new, and very, very wonderful.

The next day the coach started early for Marlborough. It was to
take rather over twenty-four hours on the way. As before, Rhoda rode
outside with her brothers until the evening, but then, instead of
going inside, where there were five passengers already, she said, as
the night was so fine and warm, she would rather remain with them.
They were sitting behind the coachman, there were two male passengers
upon the same seat with them, and another in the box seat by the
coachman. The conversation turned, as in those days it was pretty sure
to turn, upon highwaymen. Several coaches had been lately stopped by
three highwaymen, who worked together, and were reported to be more
reckless than the generality of their sort. They had shot a coachman
who refused to stop, the week before on Hounslow Heath, they had
killed a guard on the great north road, and they had shot two
passengers who resisted, near Exeter.

Tom and Peter were greatly amused by observing that the passenger who
sat next to them, and who, at the commencement of the conversation,
showed a brace of heavy pistols with which he was provided, with much
boasting as to what he should do if the coach were attacked, when he
heard of the fate of the passengers who had resisted, became very
quiet indeed, and presently took an opportunity, when he thought that
he was not observed, of slipping his pistols under the tarpaulin
behind him.

"I hope those dreadful men won't stop our coach," Rhoda said.

"They won't hurt you if they do, Rhoda," Tom said assuringly. "I think
it would be rather a lark. I say, Peter," he went on in a whisper, "I
think we might astonish them with those pistols that coward next to
you has hid behind him."

"I should just think so," Peter said; "the bargee at Eton would be
nothing to it."

The hours went slowly on. Rhoda and the boys dozed uncomfortably
against each other and the baggage behind them, until they were
suddenly roused by a shout in the road beside them: "Stand for your
lives!"

The moon was up, and they could see that there were three horsemen.
One galloped to the horses' heads, and seized the rein of one of the
leaders, the others rode by the coach.

The first answer to the challenge was a discharge from the blunderbuss
of the guard, which brought one of the highwaymen from his horse.

The other, riding up to the side of the coach, fired at the guard, and
a loud cry told that the shot had taken effect. In another moment the
fellow was by the side of the coachman.

"Hold up!" he said, "or I will blow your brains out!"

The coachman did as he was ordered, and indeed the man at the leader's
head had almost succeeded in stopping them. The passenger next to the
boys had, at the first challenge, again seized his pistols, and the
boys thought that he was going to fire after all.

"Lie down at our feet, Rhoda, quick!" Tom said, "and don't move
till I tell you." The fate of the guard evidently frightened away
the short-lived courage of the passenger, for, as the coachman again
pulled up, he hastily thrust the pistols in behind him.

"Get down, every one of you," the highwayman shouted.

"Lie still, Rhoda," Tom whispered. "Now, Peter, get in underneath the
tarpaulin."

This was done as the passengers descended. The luggage was not so
heavily piled as usual, and the boys found plenty of room beneath the
tarpaulin.

"Now, Peter, you take one of these pistols and give me the other. Now
peep out. The moon is hidden, which is a good thing; now, look here,
you shall shoot that fellow standing down below, who is swearing at
the ladies inside for not getting out quicker. I'll take a shot at
that fellow standing in front of the horse's heads."

"Do you think you can hit him, Tom?"

"I have not the least idea, but I can try; and if you hit the other
one, the chances are he'll bolt, whether I hit him or not. Open the
tarpaulin at the side so as to see well, and rest the pistol upon
something. You must take a good shot, Peter, for if you miss him we
shall be in a mess."

"All right," Peter said, in a whisper, "I can almost touch him with
the pistol."

In loud and brutal tones the highwayman now began to order the
frightened ladies to give up their watches and rings, enforcing his
commands with terrible curses. When suddenly a pistol flashed out
just behind him, and he fell off his horse with a ball through his
shoulder.

Tom's shot, though equally well intended, was not so truly aimed.
The highwayman had dismounted, and was standing just in front of the
leaders, so that Tom had a fair view of him between them. The boys had
both occasionally fired their father's pistols, for, in those days,
each householder in the country always kept loaded pistols in his
room, but his skill was not sufficient to make sure of a man at that
distance. The bullet flew past at two feet to the left of his head.
But its effect was scarcely less startling than if it had actually hit
him, for, in its passage, it passed through the ear of the off leader.
The horse made a start at the sudden pain, and then dashed forward.
The rest of the team, already alarmed by the shot, followed her lead;
before the startled highwayman could get out of the way they were upon
him, in another instant he was under their heels, and the coach gave a
sudden lurch as it passed over his body.

"Lie still, Rhoda, a little longer; it's all right, but the horses
have run away," Tom exclaimed, as he scrambled forward, and caught
hold of the reins, which the coachman had tied to the rail of the seat
as he got down. "Catch hold of the reins, Peter, and help me pull."

Peter did so; but the united strength of the boys was wholly unequal
to arresting the headlong flight of the horses.

Fortunately the highwaymen had chosen a low bottom between two hills,
to arrest the coach, consequently the road was up a hill of moderate
steepness. The boys hoped that the horses would stop when they got to
the top; but they went on with redoubled speed.

"This is something like going it," Peter said.

"Isn't it, Peter? They know their way, and we ain't lively to meet
anything in the road. They will stop at their stable. At any rate,
it's no use trying to steer them. Here, Rhoda dear, get up; are you
very much frightened?"

Rhoda still lay quite still, and Peter, holding on with difficulty,
for the coach quite rocked with the speed at which they were going,
climbed over to her, and stooped, down. "Shall I help you up, Rhoda?"

"No, please, I would rather stop here till it's all over."

Fortunately the hill, up to the Tillage where they made the change,
was a steep one, and the horses broke into a trot before they reached
the top, and, in another minute drew up at the door of the inn.
The astonishment of the ostlers at seeing the horses covered with
lather, and coachbox tenanted only by two boys, behind whom a little
white face now peered out, was extreme, and they were unable to get
beyond an ejaculation of hallo! expressive of a depth of incredulous
astonishment impossible to be rendered by words.

"Look here," Tom said, with all the composure, and much of the
impudence, which then, as now, characterized the young Etonian, "don't
be staring like a pack of stuck pigs. You had better get the fresh
horses in, and drive back to the bottom, about four miles from here.
There has been regular row with some fellows, and I expect two or
three are killed. Now, just put up the ladder; I want to get my sister
down."

Almost mechanically the men put the ladder up to the coach, and the
boys and Rhoda got down.

"Do you say the coach has been attacked by highwaymen in Burnet
bottom?"

"I don't know anything about Burnet bottom," Tom said. "It was a
bottom about four miles off. There were three of them. The guard shot
one of them, and the others shot the guard. Then we were stopped by
them, and every one had to get down. Then the horses ran away, and
here we are."

"Then there are two of those highwayman chaps with the passengers,"
one of the men said.

"You need not be afraid of them," Tom said carelessly; "one got shot,
and I don't know about the other, but the wheel of the coach went over
him, so I do not suppose he will be much trouble. Now, if I were you,
I should not stand staring any more, but should make haste and take
the coach back."

"Hullo, look at this grey," one of the men exclaimed, as, at last
understanding what had taken place, they began to bustle about to
change horses. "He's got blood all over the side of his head. One of
those scoundrels has shot him through the ear."

Tom burst out laughing. "I am the scoundrel!" he said. "Peter, that
explains why we went off so suddenly. I missed the fellow, and hit the
leader in the ear. However, it comes to the same thing. By the way, we
may as well take the pistols."

So saying, he ran up the ladder and brought down the pistols. By this
time the fresh horses were in.

"I can't make nought of it," one of the ostlers said, climbing up into
the coachman's seat. "Jump up, Bill and Harry. It's the rummiest go I
ever heard of in coaching."

"Landlady, can you get us some tea at once, please," Tom said, going
up to the landlady, who was looking on from the door of the house
with an astonishment equal to that of the men at the whole affair;
"as quickly as you can, for my sister looks regularly done up with
fatigue, and then, please let her lie down till the coach is ready to
start again. It will be three quarters of an hour before it is back,
and then, I daresay, there will be a lot of talking before they go on.
I should think they will be wanting breakfast. At any rate, an hour's
rest will do you good, Rhoda."

Rhoda was too worn out with the over-excitement even to answer.
Fortunately there was hot water in order to make hot grog for the
outriders of the coach, some tea was quickly made, and in ten minutes
Rhoda was fast asleep on the landlady's bed.

Tom and Peter expressed their desire for something substantial in the
way of eating, for the morning had now fairly broken. The landlady
brought in some cold meat, upon which the boys made a vigorous attack,
and then, taking possession of two benches, they dozed off until the
coach arrived.

It had but three horses, for one had been sent off to carry Bill,
the ostler, at full speed to the town at which they had last changed
horses, to fetch a doctor and the constable. The other two men had
remained with the guard, who was shot in the hip, and the highwayman,
whose collar-bone was broken by Peter's shot. The fellow shot by the
guard, and the other one, whom the coach wheels had passed over, were
both dead.

"There's the coach, Tom."

"What a nuisance, Peter, they'll all be wanting to talk now, and I am
just so comfortably off. Well, I suppose it's no use trying to get any
more sleep."

So saying, they roused themselves, and went out to the door just as
the coach drew up.

There was a general shout of greeting from the passengers, which was
stopped, however, by a peremptory order from the coachman.

He was a large, stout man, with a face red from the effects of wind
and exposure. "Jack," he said, to a man who was standing near, for
the news of the attack upon the coach had quickly spread, and all
the villagers were astir to see it come in. "Jack, hold the leader's
head. Thomas, open the door, and let the insides out. Gents," he said
solemnly, when this was done, "I'm going to do what isn't a usual
thing by no means, in fact, I ain't no precedence for doing it; but
then, I do not know any precedence for this here business altogether.
I never did hear of a coachman standing up on his box to give a cheer,
no, not to King George himself; but, then, King George never polished
off two highwaymen all to himself, leastway, not as I've heard tell
of. Now, these two young gents have done this. They have saved my
coach and my passengers from getting robbed, and so I'm going to give
'em three cheers. I'll trouble you to help me up into the box seat,
gentlemen."

Assisted by the other passengers, the driver now gravely climbed up
into the box seat, steadied himself there by placing one hand upon
the shoulder of the passenger next him, took off his low-crowned hat,
and said. "Follow me, gents, with three cheers for those young gents
standing there; better plucked ones I never came across, and I've
traveled a good many miles in my day."

So saying, he gave three stentorian cheers, which were echoed by all
the passengers and villagers.

Then there was a momentary silence, and Tom, who, with his brother,
had been feeling very uncomfortable, although rather inclined to
laugh, seeing that he was expected to say something, said, "Thank you
all very much; but we'd much rather you hadn't done it."

Then there was a general laugh and movement, and a general pressing
forward of the passengers to shake the boys by the hand. The driver
was assisted down from his elevated position, and got off the coach
and came up to them. "That's the first speech I ever made, young
gentlemen, and, if I know myself, it will be the last; but, you see,
I was druv to it. You're a good sort, that's certain. What will you
drink?"

The boys declared for beer, and drank solemnly with the driver,
imitating him in finishing their mugs at a draught, and turning them
topsy-turvy. There was now a great deal of talking, and many questions
were asked. Tom and Peter modestly said that there was really nothing
to tell. They saw that the gentleman next to them intended to use his
pistols; but, not seeing a good opportunity, put them down behind the
tarpaulin, and the thought occurred to them that, by slipping behind
it, they would get a good chance of a certain shot. Accordingly, they
had fired, and then the horse had run away; and there was an end of
it. There was nothing extraordinary in the whole matter.

"At any rate, my boys, you have saved me from a loss of a couple
of hundred pounds which I had got hid in my boots, but which those
fellows would have been sure to have have discovered," one of the
passengers said.

There was a general chorus of satisfaction at many watches and
trinkets saved, and then the first passenger went on,--

"I propose, gentlemen and ladies, that when we get to the end of our
journey we make a subscription, according to the amount we have saved,
and that we get each of these young gentlemen a brace of the very best
pistols that can be bought. If they go on as they have begun, they
will find them useful."

There was a general exclamation of approval, and one of the ladies,
who had been an inside passenger, said, "And I think we ought to give
a handsome ring to their sister as a memorial through life. Of course,
she had not so much to do as her brothers, but she had the courage to
keep still, and she had to run the risk, both of being shot, and of
being upset by the coach just as they did."

This also was unanimously approved, and, after doing full justice to
the breakfast set before them, the party again took their places.
Rhoda being carried down asleep, by the landlady, and placed in the
coach, one of the inside passengers getting out to make room for her,
and she was laid, curled up, on the seat, with her head in a lady's
lap, and slept quietly, until, to her astonishment, she was woke up,
and told that she was in Marlborough.




CHAPTER II.

TWO YOUNG PICKLES.


An old-fashioned open carriage, drawn by a stiff, old-fashioned horse,
and driven by a stiff, old-fashioned man, was in waiting at the inn at
which the coach drew up at Marlborough. Into this the young Scudamores
were soon transferred, and, after a hearty good-bye from their
fellow-passengers, and an impressive one from the coachman, they
started upon the concluding part of their journey.

"How far is it to aunt's?" Tom asked.

"About six miles, young sir," the driver said gravely.

The young Scudamores had great difficulty to restrain their laughter
at Tom's new title; in fact, Peter nearly choked himself in his
desperate efforts to do so, and no further questions were asked for
some time.

The ride was a pleasant one, and Rhoda, who had never been out of
Lincolnshire before, was delighted with the beautiful country through
which they were passing. The journey, long as it was--for the road
was a very bad one, and the horse had no idea of going beyond a slow
trot--passed quickly to them all; but they were glad when the driver
pointed to a quaint old-fashioned house standing back from the road,
and said that they were home.

"There are the pigeons, Rhoda, and there is Minnie asleep on that open
window-sill."

Very many times had the young Scudamores talked about their aunt, and
had pictured to themselves what she would be like; and their ideas of
her so nearly approached the truth, that she almost seemed to be an
old acquaintance as she came to the door as the carriage stopped. She
was a tall, upright, elderly lady, with a kind, but very decided face,
and a certain prim look about her manner and dress.

"Well, niece Rhoda and nephews, I am glad to see that you have arrived
safely," she said in a clear, distinct voice. "Welcome to the Yews. I
hope that we shall get on very well together. Joseph, I hope that you
have not driven Daisy too fast, and that you did not allow my nephews
to use the whip. You know I gave you very distinct instructions not to
let them do so."

"No, my lady, they never so much as asked."

"That is right," Miss Scudamore said, turning round and shaking hands
with the boys, who had now got out of the carriage and had helped
Rhoda down. "I am glad to hear what Joseph tells me, for I know that
boys are generally fond of furious driving and like lashing horses
until they put them into a gallop. And now, how are you, niece Rhoda!
Give me a kiss. That is right. You look pale and tired, child; you
must have something to eat, and then go to bed. Girls can't stand
racketing about as boys can. You look quiet and nice, child, and I
have no doubt we shall suit very well. It is very creditable to you
that you have not been spoilt by your brothers. Boys generally make
their sisters almost as noisy and rude as they are themselves."

"I don't think we are noisy and rude, aunt," Tom said, with a smile.

"Oh, you don't, nephew?" Miss Scudamore said, looking at him sharply,
and then shaking her head decidedly two or three times. "If your looks
do not belie you both sadly, you are about as hair-brained a couple of
lads as my worst enemies could wish to see sent to plague me; but,"
she added to herself, as she turned to lead the way indoors, "I must
do my duty, and must make allowances; boys will be boys, boys will be
boys, so they say at least, though why they should be is more than I
can make out. Now, Rhoda, I will take you up with me. Your bedroom
leads out of mine, dear. Hester," she said to a prim-looking servant
who had come out after her to the door; "will you show my nephews to
their room? Dinner will be ready at two; it is just a quarter to the
hour now. I see that you have got watches, so that you will be able
to be punctual; and I must request you, when you have done washing,
not to throw the water out of the window, because my flower-beds are
underneath."

Tom had great difficulty in keeping his countenance, while he assured
his aunt that his brother and himself never did empty their basins out
of the window.

"That is right," Miss Scudamore said doubtfully; "but I have heard
that boys do such things."

Once fairly in their room and the door shut, the boys had a great
laugh over their aunt's ideas as to boys.

"There is one comfort," Tom said at last; "whatever we do we shall
never surprise her."

"I think we shall get on very well with her," Peter said. "She means
to be kind, I am sure. This is a jolly room, Tom."

It was a low wainscoted room, with a very wide window divided into
three by mullions, and fitted with latticed panes. They were open, and
a delicious scent of flowers came in from the garden. The furniture
was all new and very strong, of dark stained wood, which harmonized
well with the paneling. There were no window curtains, but a valance
of white dimity hung above the window. There was a piece of carpet
between the beds; the rest of the floor was bare, but the boards were
of old oak, and looked as well without it. Several rows of pegs had
been put upon the walls, and there was a small chest of drawers by
each bed.

"This is very jolly, Peter; but it is a pity that there are bars to
the window."

When they came down to dinner they found that Rhoda, quite done up
with her journey, had gone to bed.

"You like your room, I hope, nephews," Miss Scudamore said, after they
had taken their seats.

"Yes, aunt, very much. There is only one drawback to it."

"What is that, Thomas?"

"Oh, please, aunt, don't call me Thomas; it is a dreadful name; it is
almost as bad as Tommy. Please call me Tom. I am always called Tom by
every one."

"I am not fond of these nicknames," Miss Scudamore said. "There is a
flippancy about them of which I do not approve."

"Yes, aunt, in nicknames; but Tom is not a nickname; it is only a
short way of speaking. We never hear of a man being called Thomas,
unless he is a footman or an archbishop, or something of that sort."

"What do you mean by archbishop?" Miss Scudamore asked severely.

"Well, aunt, I was going to say footman, and then I thought of Thomas
a Becket; and there was Thomas the Rhymer. I have heard of him, but
I never read any of his rhymes. I wonder why they did not call them
poems. But I expect even Thomas a Becket was called Tom in his own
family."

Miss Scudamore looked sharply at Tom, but he had a perfect command of
his face, and could talk the greatest nonsense with the most serious
face. He went on unmoved with her scrutiny.

"I have often wondered why I was not christened Tom, It would have
been much more sensible. For instance, Rhoda is christened Rhoda and
not Rhododendron."

"Rhododendron?" Miss Scudamore said, mystified.

"Yes, aunt, it is an American plant, I believe. We had one in the
green-house at home; it was sent poor papa by some friend who went out
there, I don't see anything else Rhoda could come from."

"You are speaking very ignorantly, nephew," Miss Scudamore said
severely. "I don't know anything about the plant you speak of, but the
name of Rhoda existed before America was ever heard of. It is a very
old name."

"I expect," Peter said, "it must have meant originally a woman of
Rhodes. You see Crusaders and Templars were always having to do with
Rhodes, and they no doubt brought the name home, and so it got settled
here."

"The name is mentioned in Scripture," Miss Scudamore said severely.

"Yes, aunt, and that makes it still more likely that it meant a woman
of Rhodes; you see Rhodes was a great place then."

Miss Scudamore was silent for some time. Then she went back to the
subject with which the conversation had commenced. "What is the
objection you spoke of to the room?"

"Oh! it is the bars to the window, aunt."

"I have just had them put up," Miss Scudamore said calmly.

"Just put up, aunt!" Tom repeated in surprise, "what for?"

"To prevent you getting out at night."

The boys could not help laughing this time, and then Peter said, "But
why should we want to get out at night, aunt?"

"Why should boys always want to do the things they ought not?" Miss
Scudamore said. "I've heard of boys being let down by ropes to go and
buy things. I dare say you have both done it yourselves."

"Well, aunt," Tom said, "perhaps we have; but then, you see, that was
at school."

"I do not see any difference, nephew. If you will get out at one
window, you will get out at another. There is mischief to be done in
the country as well as in towns; and so long as there is mischief to
do, so long will boys go out of their way to do it. And now I will
tell you the rules of this house, to which you will be expected to
adhere. It is well to understand things at once, as it prevents
mistakes. We breakfast at eight, dine at two, have tea at half-past
six, and you will go to bed at half-past eight. These hours will be
strictly observed. I shall expect your hands and faces to be washed,
and your hairs brushed previous to each meal. When you come indoors
you will always take off your boots and put on your shoes in the
little room behind this. And now, if you have done dinner I think
that you had better go and lie down on your bed, and get two or three
hours' sleep. Take your boots off before you get into the bed."

"She means well, Peter," the elder brother said, as they went
upstairs, "but I am afraid she will fidget our lives out."

For two or three days the boys wandered about enjoying the beautiful
walks, and surprising and pleasing their aunt by the punctuality
with which they were in to their meals. Then she told them that she
had arranged for them to go to a tutor, who lived at Warley, a large
village a mile distant, and who had some eight or ten pupils. The very
first day's experience at the school disgusted them. The boys were
of an entirely different class to those with whom they had hitherto
associated, and the master was violent and passionate.

"How do you like Mr. Jones, nephews?" Miss Scudamore asked upon their
return after their first day at school.

"We do not like him at all, aunt. In the first place, he is a good
deal too handy with that cane of his."

"'He who spares the rod--'"

"Yes, we know that, aunt, 'spoils the child,'" broke in Tom, "but we
would not mind so much if the fellow were a gentleman."

"I don't know what you may call a gentleman," Miss Scudamore said
severely. "He stands very high here a schoolmaster, while he visits
the vicar, and is well looked up to everywhere."

"He's not a gentleman for all that," Tom muttered; "he wouldn't be if
he visited the Queen. One does not mind being trashed by a gentleman;
one is used to that at Eton; but to be knocked about by a fellow like
that! Well, we shall see."

For a week the boys put up with the cruelty of their tutor, who at
once took an immense dislike to them on finding that they did not,
like the other boys, cringe before him, and that no trashing could
extract a cry from them.

It must not be supposed that they did not meditate vengeance, but they
could hit upon no plan which could be carried out without causing
suspicion that it was the act of one of the boys; and in that case
they knew that he would question them all round, and they would not
tell a lie to screen themselves.

Twice they appealed to their aunt, but she would not listen to them,
saying that the other boys did not complain, and that if their master
was more severe with them than with others, it could only be because
they behaved worse. It was too evident that they were boys of very
violent dispositions, and although she was sorry that their master
found it necessary to punish them, it was clearly her duty not to
interfere.

The remark about violence arose from Miss Scudamore having read in the
little paper which was published once a week at Marlborough an account
of the incident of the stopping of the coach, about which the boys
had agreed to say nothing to her. The paper had described the conduct
of her nephews in the highest terms, but Miss Scudamore was terribly
shocked. "The idea", she said, "that she should have to associate with
boys who had take a fellow-creature's life was terrible to her, and
their conduct in resisting, when grown-up men had given up the idea
as hopeless, showed a violent spirit, which, in boys so young, was
shocking."

A few days after this, as the boys were coming from school, they
passed the carrier's cart, coming in from Marlborough.

"Be you the young gentlemen at Miss Scudamore's?" the man asked.
"Because, if you be, I have got a parcel for you."

Tom answered him that they were, and he then handed them over a heavy
square parcel. Opening it after the cart had gone on, the boys, to
their great delight, found that it consisted of two cases, each
containing a brace of very handsome pistols.

"This is luck, Peter," Tom said. "If the parcel had been sent to the
house, aunt would never have let us have them; now we can take them in
quietly, get some powder and balls, and practice shooting every day in
some quiet place. That will be capital. Do you know I have thought of
a plan which will enrage old Jones horribly, and he will never suspect
us?"

"No; have you, Tom? What is that?"

"Look here, Peter. I can carry you easily standing on my shoulders. If
you get a very long cloak, so as to fall well down on me, no one would
suspect in the dark that there were two of us; we should look like
one tremendously tall man. Well, you know, he goes every evening to
Dunstable's to sing with Miss Dunstable. They say he's making love to
her. We can waylay him in the narrow lane, and make him give up that
new watch he has just bought, that he's so proud of. I heard him say
he had given thirty guineas for it. Of course, we don't want to keep
it, but we would smash it up between a couple of big stones, and send
him all the pieces."

"Capital, Tom; but where should we get the cloak?"

"There is that long wadded silk cloak of aunt's that she uses when she
goes out driving. It always hangs up in the closet in the hall."

"But how are we to get in again, Tom? I expect that he does not come
back till half-past nine or ten. We can slip out easily enough after
we are supposed to have gone to bed; but how are we to get back?"

"The only plan, Peter, is to get in through Rhoda's window. She is
very angry at that brute Jones treating us so badly, and if I take her
into the secret I feel sure she will agree."

Rhoda was appealed to, and although at first she said it was quite,
quite impossible, she finally agreed, although with much fear and
trembling, to assist them. First, the boys were to buy some rope and
make a rope ladder, which Rhoda was to take up to her room; she was to
open the window wide when she went to bed, but to pull the blind down
as usual, so that if her aunt came in she would not notice it. Then,
when she heard her aunt come tip to bed at half-past nine, she was to
get up very quietly, drop the rope ladder out, fastening it as they
instructed her, and then get into bed again, and go to sleep if she
could, as the boys would not try to come in until after Miss Scudamore
was asleep.

Two nights after this the schoolmaster was returning from his usual
visit to Mr. Dunstable, when, to his horror, he saw a gigantic figure
advance from under a tree which overshadowed the lawn, and heard a
deep voice say, "Your money or your life!"

Like all bullies, the schoolmaster was a coward, and no sooner did he
see this terrible figure, and his ears caught the ominous click of
a pistol which accompanied the words, than his teeth chattered, his
whole figure trembled with fear, and he fell on his knees, crying,
"Spare my life!--take all that I have, but spare my life!"

"You miserable coward!" the giant said, "I do not want to take your
wretched life. What money have you?"

"I have only two shillings," he exclaimed; "I swear to you that I have
only two shillings."

"What is the use of two shillings to me?--give them to the first
beggar you see."

"Yes, sir," the schoolmaster said; "I swear to you that I will."

"Give me your watch."

The schoolmaster took out his watch, and, getting upon his feet,
handed it to the giant.

"There now, you can go; but see," he added, as the schoolmaster turned
with great alacrity to leave--"look here."

"Yes, sir."

"Look here, and mark my words well. Don't you go to that house where
you have been to-night, or it will be the worse for you. You are a
wretch, and I won't see that poor little girl marry you and be made
miserable. Swear to me you will give her up."

The schoolmaster hesitated, but there was again the ominous click of
the pistol.

"Yes, yes, I swear it," he said hastily. "I will give her up
altogether."

"You had better keep your oath," the giant said, "for if you break it,
if I hear you go there any more--I shall be sure to hear of it--I will
put an ounce of lead in you, if I have to do it in the middle of your
school. Do you hear me? Now you may go."

Only too glad to escape, the schoolmaster walked quickly off, and in a
moment his steps could be heard as he ran at the top of his speed down
the lane.

In a moment the giant appeared to break in two, and two small figures
stood where the large one had been.

"Capital, Peter. Now, I'll take the cloak, and you keep the pistol,
and now for a run home--not that I'm afraid of that coward getting
up a pursuit. He'll be only too glad to get his head under the
bedclothes."

Rhoda had carried out her brother's instructions with great exactness,
and was in a great fright when her aunt came in to see her in bed,
lest she should notice that the window was open. However, the night
was a quiet one, and the curtains fell partly across the blind, so
that Miss Scudamore suspected nothing, but Rhoda felt great relief
when she said good-night, took the candle, and left the room. She had
had hard work to keep herself awake until she heard her aunt come up
to bed; and then, finding that she did not again come into the room,
she got up, fastened one end of the rope ladder to a thick stick long
enough to cross two of the mullions, let the other end down very
quietly, and then slipped into bed again. She did not awake until
Hester knocked at her door and told her it was time to get up. She
awoke with a great start, and in a, fright at once ran to the window.
Everything looked as usual. The rope ladder was gone, the window was
closed, and Rhoda knew that her brothers must have come in safely.

Great was the excitement in Warley next day, when it became known that
the schoolmaster had been robbed of his watch by a giant fully eight
feet high. This height of the robber was, indeed, received with much
doubt, as people thought that he might have been a tall man, but
that the eight feet must have been exaggerated by the fear of the
schoolmaster.

Two or three days afterwards the surprise rose even higher, when a
party of friends who had assembled at Mr. Jones' to condole with him
upon his misfortune, were startled by the smashing of one of the
windows by a small packet, which fell upon the floor in their midst.

There was a rush to the door, but the night was a dark one, and no one
was to be seen; then they returned to the sitting-room, and the little
packet was opened, and found to contain some watchworks bent and
broken, some pulverized glass, and a battered piece of metal, which,
after some trouble, the schoolmaster recognized as the case of his
watch. The head-constable was sent for, and after examining the relics
of the case, he came to the same conclusion at which the rest had
already arrived, namely, that the watch could not have been stolen by
an ordinary footpad, but by some personal enemy of the schoolmaster's,
whose object was not plunder, but annoyance and injury.

To the population of Warley this solution was a very agreeable one.
The fact of a gigantic footpad being in the neighborhood was alarming
for all, and nervous people were already having great bolts and bars
placed upon their shutters and doors. The discovery, therefore, that
the object of this giant was not plunder, but only to gratify a spite
against the master, was a relief to the whole place. Every one was, of
course, anxious to know who this secret foe could be, and what crime
Mr. Jones could have committed to bring such a tremendous enemy upon
him. The boys at the school assumed a fresh importance in the eyes of
the whole place, and being encouraged now to tell all they knew of
him, they gave such a picture of the life that they had led at school,
that a general feeling of disgust was aroused against him.

The parents of one or two of the boys gave notice to take their sons
away, but the rest of the boys were boarders, and were no better off
than before.

Miss Scudamore was unshaken in her faith in Mr. Jones and considered
the rumor current about him to be due simply to the vindictive nature
of boys.

"Well, aunt," Tom said one day, after a lecture of this sort from her,
"I know you mean to be kind to us, but Peter and I have stood it on
that account, but we can't stand it much longer, and we shall run away
before long."

"And where would you run to, nephew?" Miss Scudamore said calmly.

"That is our affair," Tom said quite as coolly, "only I don't like to
do it without giving you warning. You mean kindly, I know, aunt, but
the way you are always going on at us from morning to night whenever
we are at home, and the way in which you allow us to be treated by
that tyrannical brute, is too much altogether."

Miss Scudamore looked steadily at them.

"I am doing, nephew, what I consider to be for your good. You are
willful, and violent, and headstrong. It is my duty to cure you, and
although it is all very painful to me, at my time of life, to have
such a charge thrust upon me, still, whatever it costs, it must be
done."

For the next month Mr. Jones' life was rendered a burden to him. The
chimney-pots were shut up with sods placed on them, and the fireplaces
poured volumes of smoke into the rooms and nearly choked him. Night
after night the windows of his bedroom were smashed; cats were let
down the chimney; his water-butts were found filled with mud, and the
cord of the bucket of his well was cut time after time; the flowers
in his garden were dug up and put in topsy-turvy. He himself could not
stir out after dark without being tripped up by strings fastened a
few inches above the path; and once, coming out of his door, a string
fastened from scraper to scraper brought him down the steps with such
violence that the bridge of his nose, which came on the edge of a
step, was broken, and he was confined to his bed for three or four
days. In vain he tried every means to discover and punish the authors
of these provocations. A savage dog, the terror of the neighborhood,
was borrowed and chained up in the garden, but was found poisoned next
morning.

Watchmen were hired, but refused to stay for more than one night, for
they were so harassed and wearied out that they came to the conclusion
that they were haunted. If they were on one side of the house a voice
would be heard on the other. After the first few attempts, they no
longer dared venture to run, for between each round strings were tied
in every direction, and they had several heavy falls, while as they
were carefully picking their way with their lanterns, stones struck
them from all quarters. If one ventured for a moment from the other's
side his lantern was knocked out, and his feet were struck from under
him with a sharp and unexpected blow from a heavy cudgel; and they
were once appalled by seeing a gigantic figure stalk across the grass,
and vanish in a little bush.

At the commencement of these trials the schoolmaster had questioned
the boys, one by one, if they had any hand in the proceeding.

All denied it. When it came to Tom Scudamore's turn, he said. "You
never do believe me, Mr. Jones, so it is of no use my saying that I
didn't do it; but if you ask Miss Scudamore, she will bear witness
that we were in bed hours before, and that there are bars on our
windows through which a cat could hardly get."

The boys had never used Rhoda's room after the first night's
expedition, making their escape now by waiting until the house was
quiet, and then slipping along the passage to the spare room, and
thence by the window, returning in the same way.

Under this continued worry, annoyance, and alarm, the schoolmaster
grew thin and worn, his school fell off more and more; for many of
the boys, whose rest was disturbed by all this racket, encouraged by
the example of the boys of the place who had already been taken away,
wrote privately to their friends.

The result was that the parents of two or three more wrote to say
that their boys would not return after the holidays, and no one was
surprised when it became known that Mr. Jones was about to close his
school and leave the neighborhood.

The excitement of the pranks that they had been playing had enabled
the boys to support the almost perpetual scoldings and complaints of
their aunt; but school once over, and their enemy driven from the
place, they made up their minds that they could no longer stand it.

One day, therefore, when Rhoda had, as an extraordinary concession,
been allowed to go for a walk with them, they told her that they
intended to run away.

Poor Rhoda was greatly distressed.

"You see, Rhoda dear," Tom said, "although we don't like leaving you,
you will really be happier when we are gone. It is a perpetual worry
to you to hear aunt going on, on, on--nagging, nagging, nagging for
ever and ever at us. She is fond of you and kind to you, and you
would get on quietly enough without us, while now she is in a fidget
whenever you are with us, and is constantly at you not to learn
mischief and bad ways from us. Besides you are always in a fright now,
lest we should get into some awful scrape, as I expect we should if
we stopped here. If it weren't for you, we should not let her off as
easily as we do. No, no, Rhoda, it is better for us all that we should
go."

Poor Rhoda, though she cried bitterly at the thought of losing her
brothers, yet could not but allow to herself that in many respects she
should be more happy when she was freed from anxiety, lest they should
get into some scrape, and when her aunt would not be kept in a state
of continued irritation and scolding. She felt too that, although she
herself could get on well enough in her changed life, that it was very
hard indeed for the boys, accustomed as they had been to the jolly and
independent life of a public school, and to be their own master during
the holidays, with their ponies, amusements, and their freedom to come
and go when they chose. Rhoda was a thoughtful child, and felt that
nothing that they could go through could do them more harm or make
them more unhappy than they now were. She had thought it all over day
after day, for she was sure that the boys would, sooner or later come
to it, and she had convinced herself that it was better for them.
Still it was with a very sad heart that she found that the time had
come.

For some time she cried in silence, and then, drying her eyes, she
said, trying to speak bravely, though her lips quivered.

"I shall miss you dreadfully, boys; but I will not say a word to keep
you here, for I am sure it is very, very bad for you. What do you mean
to do? Do you mean to go to sea?"

"No, Rhoda; you see uncle was in the army, and used to talk to us
about that; and, as we have never seen the sea, we don't care for it
as some boys do. No, we shall try and go as soldiers."

"But my dear Tom, they will never take you as soldiers; you are too
little."

"Yes, we are not old enough to enlist at present," Tom said; "but we
might go in as buglers. We have thought it all over, and have been
paying old Wetherley, who was once in the band of a regiment, to teach
us the bugle, and he says we can sound all the calls now as well as
any bugler going. We did not like to tell you till we had made up our
minds to go; but we have gone regularly to him every day since the
first week we came here."

"Then you won't have to fight, Tom," Rhoda said joyfully.

"No," Tom said, in a rather dejected tone; "I am afraid they won't let
us fight; still we shall see fighting, which is the next best thing."

"I heard in Warley yesterday that there will be a movement of the
army in Spain soon, and that some more troops will be sent out, and
we shall try and get into a regiment that is going."

They talked very long and earnestly on their plans, and were so
engrossed that they quite forgot how time went, and got in late for
tea, and were terribly scolded in consequence. For once none of
them cared for the storm; the boys exulted over the thought that it
would be the last scolding they would have to suffer; and Rhoda had
difficulty in gasping down her tears at the thought that it was the
last meal that she would take with them, for they had settled that
they would start that very night.




CHAPTER III.

ENLISTED.


It was a bright moonlight night when the boys, after a sad farewell
from Rhoda, let themselves down from the window, and started upon
their journey. Each carried a bundle on a stick; each bundle contained
a suit of clothes, a few shirts and stockings, a pair of shoes, and a
pistol. The other pistols were carried loaded inside their jackets,
for there was no saying whom they might meet upon the road. They had
put on the oldest suit of clothes they possessed, so as to attract as
little attention as possible by the way. After they had once recovered
from their parting with Rhoda their spirits rose, and they tramped
along lightly and cheerfully. It was eleven o'clock when they started,
and through the night they did not meet a single person. Towards
morning they got under a haystack near the road, and slept for some
hours; then they walked steadily on until they had done twenty miles
since their start. They went into a small inn, and had some breakfast,
and then purchasing some bread and cold ham, went on through the town,
and leaving the London road, followed that leading to Portsmouth, and
after a mile or two again took up their quarters until evening, in a
haystack.

It is not necessary to give the details of the journey to Portsmouth.
After the first two days' tramp, having no longer any fear of the
pursuit, which, no doubt, had been made for them when first missed,
they walked by day, and slept at night in sheds, or under haystacks,
as they were afraid of being questioned and perhaps stopped at inns.
They walked only short distances now, for the first night's long
journey had galled their feet, and, as Tom said, they were not pressed
for time, and did not want to arrive at Portsmouth like two limping
tramps. Walking, therefore, only twelve miles a day after the first
two days, they arrived at Portsmouth fresh and in high spirits.
They had met with no adventures upon the road, except that upon one
occasion two tramps had attempted to seize their bundles, but the
production of the pistols, and the evident determination of the boys
to use them if necessary, made the men abandon their intention and
make off, with much bad language and many threats, at which the boys
laughed disdainfully.

Arrived at Portsmouth, their first care was to find a quiet little
inn, where they could put up. This they had little difficulty in
doing, for Portsmouth abounded with public-houses, and people were so
much accustomed to young fellows tramping in with their bundles, to
join their ships, that their appearance excited no curiosity whatever.
Tom looked older than he really was, although not tall for his age,
while Peter, if anything, overtopped his brother, but was slighter,
and looked fully two years younger. Refreshed by a long night's sleep
between sheets, they started out after breakfast to see the town, and
were greatly impressed and delighted by the bustle of the streets,
full of soldiers and sailors, and still more by the fortifications and
the numerous ships of war lying in the harbor, or out at Spithead.
A large fleet of merchantmen was lying off at anchor, waiting for a
convoy, and a perfect fleet of little wherries was plying backwards
and forwards between the vessels and the shore.

"It makes one almost wish to be a sailor," Peter said, as they sat
upon the Southsea beach, and looked out at the animated ocean.

"It does, Peter; and if it had been ten years back, instead of at
present, I should have been ready enough to change our plans. But what
is the use of going to sea now? The French and Spanish navies skulk in
harbor, and the first time our fellows get them out they will he sure
to smash them altogether, and then there is an end to all fighting.
No, Peter, it looks tempting, I grant, but we shall see ten times as
much with the army. We must go and settle the thing to-morrow. There
is no time to be lost if the expedition starts in a fortnight or three
weeks."

Returning into the town, the boys were greatly amused at seeing a
sailor's wedding. Four carriages and pair drove along; inside were
women, while four sailors sat on each roof, waving their hats to the
passers-by, and refreshing themselves by repeated pulls at some black
bottles, with which they were well supplied. Making inquiries, the
boys found that the men belonged to a fine frigate which had come in a
day or two before, with several prizes.

The next morning they went down to the barracks. Several
non-commissioned officers, with bunches of gay ribbons in their caps,
were standing about. Outside the gates were some boards, with notices,
"Active young fellows required. Good pay, plenty of prize-money, and
chances, of promotion!"

The boys read several of these notices, which differed only from each
other in the name of the regiment; and then Tom gave an exclamation of
satisfaction as he glanced at a note at the foot of one of them, "Two
or three active lads wanted as buglers."

"There we are, Peter; and, oh, what luck! it is Uncle Peter's
regiment! Look here, Peter," he said, after a pause, "we won't say
anything about being his nephews, unless there is no other way of
getting taken; for if we do it won't be nice. We shall be taken notice
of, and not treated like other fellows, and that will cause all sorts
of ill-feeling and jealousy, and rows. It will be quite time to say
who we are when we have done something to show that we shan't do
discredit to him. You see it isn't much in our favor that we are here
as two runaway boys. If we were older we could go as volunteers, but
of course we are too young for that."

It should be mentioned that in those days it was by no means unusual
for young men who had not sufficient interest to get commissions to
obtain permission to accompany a regiment as volunteers. They paid
their own expenses, and lived with the officers, but did duty as
private soldiers. If they distinguished themselves, they obtained
commissions to fill up vacancies caused in action.

"There is our sergeant, Tom; let's get it over at once."

"If you please," Tom said, as they went up to the sergeant, "are you
the recruiting sergeant of the Norfolk Rangers?"

"By Jove, Summers, you are in luck to-day," laughed one of the other
sergeants; "here are two valuable recruits for the Rangers. The
Mounseers will have no chance with the regiment with such giants as
those in it. Come, my fine fellows, let me persuade you to join the
15th. Such little bantams as you are would be thrown away upon the
Rangers."

There was a shout of laughter from the other non-commissioned
officers.

Tom was too much accustomed to chaffing bargees at Eton to be put out
of countenance.

"We may be bantams," he said, "but I have seen a bantam lick a big
dunghill cock many a time. Fine feathers don't always make fine birds,
my man."

"Well answered, young one," the sergeant of the Rangers said, while
there was a general laugh among the others, for the sergeant of the
15th was not a favorite.

"You think yourself sharp, youngster," he said angrily. "You want a
licking, you do; and if you were in the 15th, you'd get it pretty
quickly."

"Oh! I beg your pardon," Tom said gravely; "I did not know that the
15th were famous for thrashing boys. Thank you; when I enlist it shall
be in a regiment where men hit fellows their own size."

There was a shout of laughter, and the sergeant, enraged, stepped
forward, and gave Tom a swinging box on the ear.

There was a cry of "shame" from the others; but before any of them
could interfere, Tom suddenly stooped, caught the sergeant by the
bottom of the trousers, and in an instant he fell on his back with a
crash.

For a moment he was slightly stunned, and then, regaining his feet, he
was about to rush at Tom, when the others threw themselves in between
them, and said he should not touch the boy. He struck him first, and
the boy had only given him what served him right.

The sergeant was furious, and an angry quarrel was going on, when an
officer of the Rangers came suddenly out of barrack.

"Hullo, Summers, what is all this about? I am surprised at you. A lot
of non-commissioned officers, just in front of the barrack gates,
quarreling like drunken sailors in a pothouse. What does it all mean?"

"The fact is this, Captain Manley," the sergeant said, saluting,
"these two lads came up to speak to me, when Sergeant Billow chaffed
them. The lad gave the sergeant as good as he got, and the sergeant
lost his temper, and hit him a box on the ear, and in a moment the
young one tripped him up, and pretty nigh stunned him; when he got up
he was going at the boy, and, of course, we wouldn't have it."

"Quite right," Captain Manley said. "Sergeant Billow, I shall forward
a report to your regiment. Chaffing people in the street, and then
losing your temper, striking a boy, and causing a disturbance. Now,
sergeant," he went on, as the others moved away, "do you know those
boys?"

"No, sir; they are strangers to me."

"Do you want to see the sergeant privately, lads, or on something
connected with the regiment?"

"I see that you have vacancies for buglers, sir," Tom said, "and my
brother and myself want to enlist if you will take us."

Captain Manley smiled. "You young scamps, you have got 'runaway from
home' as plainly on your faces as if it was printed there. If we
were to enlist you, we should be having your friends here after you
to-morrow, and get into a scrape for taking you."

"We have no friends who will interfere with us, sir, I can give you my
word of honor as a gentleman." Captain Manley laughed. "I mean," Tom
said confused, "my word of honor, as--as an intending bugler."

"Indeed we have no one to interfere with us in any way, sir," Peter
put in earnestly. "We wouldn't tell a lie even to enlist in the
Rangers."

Captain Manley was struck by the earnestness of the boys' faces, and
after a pause he said to the sergeant,--

"That will do, Summers; I will take these lads up to my quarters and
speak to them."

Then, motioning to the boys to follow him, he re-entered the barracks,
and led the way up to his quarters.

"Sit down," he said, when they had entered his room. "Now, boys, this
is a foolish freak upon your part, which you will regret some day. Of
course you have run away from school."

"No, sir, we have run away from home," Tom said.

"So much the worse," Captain Manley said gravely. "Tell me frankly,
why did you do so? No unkindness at home can excuse boys from running
away from their parents."

"We have none, sir," Tom said. "We have lost them both--our mother
many years ago, our father six months. Our only living relation,
except a younger sister, is an aunt, who considers us as nuisances,
and who, although meaning to do her duty, simply drives us out of our
minds."

Captain Manley could not resist a smile. "Do you not go to school?"

"We did go to a school near, but unfortunately it is broken up."

Captain Manley caught a little look of amusement between the boys. "I
should not be surprised if you had something to do with its breaking
up," he said with a laugh. "But to return to your coming here. There
is certainly less reason against your joining than I thought at first,
but you are too young."

"We are both strong, and are good walkers," Tom said.

"But you cannot be much over fifteen," Captain Manley said, "and your
brother is younger."

"We are accustomed to strong exercise, sir, and can thrash most
fellows of our own size."

"Very likely," Captain Manley said, "but we can't take that into
consideration. You are certainly young for buglers for service work;
however, I will go across with you to the orderly-room, and hear what
the colonel says."

Crossing the barrack-yard, they found the colonel was in and
disengaged.

"Colonel Tritton," Captain Manley said, "these lads want to enlist as
buglers."

The colonel looked up and smiled. "They look regular young pickles,"
he said. "I suppose they have run away from school."

"Not from school, colonel. They have lost both parents, and live with
an aunt, with whom they don't get on well. There does not seem to be
much chance of their being claimed."

"You are full young," the colonel said, "and I think you will be
sorry, boys, for the step you want to take."

"I don't think so, sir," Tom said.

"Of course, you don't at present," the colonel said. "However, that is
your business. Mind, you will have a rough time of it; you will have
to fight your way, you know."

"I'll back them to hold their own," Captain Manley said, laughing.
"When I went out at the barrack-gate just now there was a row among a
lot of recruiting sergeants, and when I went up to put a stop to it, I
found that a fellow of the 15th had chaffed these boys when they went
up to speak to Summers, and that they had got the best of it in that
line; and the fellow having lost his temper and struck one of them, he
found himself on his back on the pavement. The boy had tripped him up
in an instant."

The colonel laughed, and then said suddenly and sharply to Peter,
"Where did you learn that trick, youngster?"

"At Eton," Peter answered promptly, and then colored up hotly at his
brother's reproachful glance.

"Oh, ho! At Eton, young gentlemen, eh!" the colonel said. "That
alters the matter. If you were at Eton your family must be people of
property, and I can't let you do such a foolish thing as enlist as
buglers."

"Our father lost all his money suddenly, owing to a blackguard he
trusted cheating him. He found it out, and it killed him," Tom said
quietly.

The colonel saw he was speaking the truth. "Well, well," he said
kindly, "we must see what we can do for you, boys. They are young,
Manley, but that will improve, and by the time that they have been a
year at the depot--"

"Oh, if you please, colonel," Tom said, "we want to go on foreign
service, and it's knowing that your regiment was under orders for
foreign service we came to it."

"Impossible!" the colonel said shortly.

"I am very sorry for that, sir," Tom said respectfully, "for we would
rather belong to this regiment than any in the service; but if you
will not let us go with it we must try another."

"Why would you rather belong to us than to any other?" the colonel
asked, as the boys turned to leave the room.

"I had rather not say, sir," Tom said. "We have a reason, and a very
good one, but it is not one we should like to tell."

The colonel was silent for a minute. He was struck with the boys'
appearance and manner, and was sorry at the thought of losing them,
partly from interest in themselves, partly because the sea service was
generally so much more attractive to boys, that it was not easy to get
them to enlist as buglers and drummers.

"You see, lads, I should really like to take you, but we shall be
starting in a fortnight, and it would be altogether impossible for you
to learn to sound the bugle, to say nothing of learning the calls, by
that time."

"We can't play well, sir," Tom answered, his spirits rising again,
"but we have practiced for some time, and know a good many of the
calls."

"Oh, indeed!" the colonel said, pleased; "that alters the case. Well,
lads, I should like to take you with the regiment, for you look
straightforward, sharp young fellows. So I will enlist you. Work hard
for the next fortnight, and if I hear a favorable report of you by
that time, you shall go."

"Thank you very much," the boys said warmly, delighted to find their
hopes realized.

"What are your names?" the colonel asked.

"Tom and Peter," Tom answered.

"Tom and Peter what?" the colonel said.

The boys looked at each other. The fact that they would of course
be asked their names had never occurred to them, and they not had
therefore consulted whether to give their own or another name.

"Come, boys," Colonel Tritton said good-temperedly, "never be ashamed
of your names; don't sail under false colors, lads. I am sure you will
do nothing to disgrace your names."

Tom looked at Peter, and saw that he agreed to give their real names,
so he said, "Tom and Peter Scudamore."

"Peter Scudamore! Why, Manley, these boys must be relations of the
dear old colonel. That explains why they chose the regiment. Now,
boys, what relation was he of yours?"

"I do not admit that he was a relation at all, colonel," Tom said
gravely, "and I hope that you will not ask the question. Supposing
that he had been a relation of ours, we should not wish it to be
known. In the first place, it would not be altogether creditable to
his memory that relations of his should be serving as buglers in
his old regiment; and in the second place, it might be that, from
a kindness towards him, some of the officers might, perhaps, treat
us differently to other boys, which would make our position more
difficult by exciting jealousy among others. Should there be any
relation between him and us, it will be time enough for us to claim
it when we have shown ourselves worthy of it."

"Well said, boys," the officers both exclaimed. "You are quite right,"
the colonel went on, "and I respect your motive for keeping silence.
What you say about jealousy which might arise is very sensible and
true. At the same time, I will promise you that I will keep my eye
upon you, and that if an opportunity should occur in which I can give
you a chance of showing that there is more in you than in other boys,
be sure you shall have the chance."

"Thank you very much indeed, colonel," both boys exclaimed.

"Now, Manley, I shall be obliged if you will take them to the
adjutant, and tell him to swear them in and attest them in regular
form; the surgeon will, of course, examine them. Please tell the
quartermaster to get their uniforms made without loss of time; and
give a hint to the bugle-major that I should be pleased if he will pay
extra attention to them, and push them on as fast as possible."

Captain Manley carried out these instructions, the boys were duly
examined by the surgeon and passed, and in half an hour became His
Majesty's servants.

"Now, boys," Captain Manley said as he crossed with them to the
quarters of the bandmaster, "you will have rather a difficult course
to steer, but I have no doubt you will get through it with credit.
This is something like a school, and you will have to fight before you
find your place. Don't be in a hurry to begin; take all good-natured
chaff good-naturedly; resent any attempt at bullying. I have no doubt
you will be popular, and it is well that you should be so, for then
there will be no jealousy if your luck seems better than that of
others. They will, of course, know that you are differently born and
educated to themselves, but they will not like you any the worse for
that, if they find that you do not try to keep aloof from them or give
yourselves airs. And look here, boys, play any tricks you like with
the men, but don't do it with the non-commissioned officers. There is
nothing they hate so much as impudence from the boys, and they have
it in their power to do you a great deal of good or of harm. You will
not have much to do with the bandmaster. Only a portion of the band
accompanies us, and even that will be broken up when we once enter
upon active campaigning. Several of the company buglers have either
left lately, or have got their stripes and given up their bugles, and
I do not fancy that their places will be filled up before we get out
there. Now, your great object will be to get two of these vacancies. I
am afraid you are too young, still there will be plenty more vacancies
after we are once in the field, for a bullet has no respect for
buglers; and you see the better you behave the better your chance of
being chosen."

"What is the difference exactly, sir?" Tom asked.

"The company bugler ranks on the strength of the company, messes,
marches, and goes into action with them; the other buglers merely form
part of the band, are under the bandmaster, play at the head of the
regiment on its march, and help in the hospitals during a battle."

"Macpherson," he said as he entered the bandmaster's quarters, where a
number of men and a few lads were practicing, "I have brought you two
lads who have entered as buglers."

The bandmaster was a Scotchman--a stiff-looking, elderly man.

"Weel, Captain Manley, I'm wanting boys, but they look vera young, and
I misdoubt they had better have been at school than here. However,
I'll do my best with them; they look smart lads, and we shall have
plenty of time at the depot to get them into shape."

"Lots of time, Macpherson, lots of time. They say they know a few
calls on the bugle, so perhaps they had better stick to the calls at
present; you will have plenty of time to begin with them regularly
with the notes when all the bustle is over."

"Eh, ye know the calls, boys? Hardy and Graves, give them your bugles,
and let us hear them. Now for the advance."

Tom and Peter felt very nervous, but they had really practiced hard
for an hour a day for the last four months, and could play all the
calls they knew steadily and well. The bandmaster made no remark until
they had sounded some half a dozen calls as he named them, and then
he said, "The lads have a vera gude idea of it, Captain Manley. They
are steadier and clearer than mony a one of the boys already. Will ye
begin at once, lads, or will ye wait till ye get your uniform?"

"We had rather begin at once," the boys answered together.

"Vera gude. Hardy, take two bugles out of the chest, and then take
these lads--What's your name, boys? Eh? Scudamore? A vera gude
name--take them over to Corporal Skinner, he will be practicing with
the others on the ramp."

With a word of grateful thanks to Captain Manley as he went out before
them, the boys followed their new guide out to the ramparts. A guide
was hardly necessary, for an incessant bugling betokened the place,
where, in one of the bastions behind the barracks, seven or eight
buglers were sounding the various calls under the direction of
Corporal Skinner.

The corporal was a man of few words, for he merely nodded when the
boy--who had not opened his lips on the way, indeed, he was too busy
wondering who these young swells were, and what they had run away for,
to say a word--gave the bandmaster's message to the effect that the
new-comers knew some of the calls and were to be under his tuition for
the present, pointed to them where to stand, and in another minute Tom
and Peter were hard at work adding to the deafening din. After half
an hour's practice they were pleased at seeing Captain Manley stroll
up and call their instructor aside, and they felt sure that he was
speaking to him of them. This was so, for the officer was carrying out
the instructions he had received from Colonel Tritton.

"Corporal," he said, "I want to say a word to you about those boys who
have just joined. They seem to have a fair idea of the calls."

"Yes, sir, they only know a few, but those they do know they can sound
as well as any of them."

"That is right, corporal. Now look here, what I am going to say is not
to go farther, you understand."

"Yes, sir, I will keep my mouth shut."

"Very well. You can see the lads are not like most of our band boys.
They are a gentleman's sons who have got into some scrape or other and
run away from school."

"I was thinking as much, sir."

"The colonel believes that he knows their family, Skinner; but of
course, that will not make any difference in regard to them. Still he
would be pleased, I know, if they could sound the calls well enough to
go with the regiment. They are most anxious to learn. Now I shall be
glad if you can get them up to the mark. It will, of course, entail a
lot of extra trouble upon you, but if you can get them fit in time, I
will pay you a couple of guineas for your extra time."

"Thank you, sir," the corporal saluted. "I think I can manage it--at
any rate if I don't it won't be for want of trying."

"Who are those nice-looking lads I saw with you, Manley?" Major James
asked as the captain came into the messroom to lunch.

"Those are two buglers in his Majesty's Norfolk Rangers."

There was a general laugh.

"No, but really, Manley, who are they? I was quite struck with them;
good style of boys."

"It is a fact, major. Harding will tell you so," and he nodded to the
adjutant.

"Yes, Manley is saying the thing that's right," the adjutant answered.
"The doctor passed them, and I swore them in."

"I am sorry for it," the major said. "There were three or four of us
standing on the mess-room steps and we all noticed them. They were
gentlemen, if I ever saw one, and a hard life they will have of it
with the band boys. However, they are not likely to stay there. They
have run away from school, of course, and will be claimed. I wonder
you enlisted them."

"The colonel's orders, major," the adjutant said. "Manley took them to
him, I believe, and then brought them to me."

"I don't think you need feel anxious about them among the boys,
major," Captain Manley said. "I fancy they can hold their own. I
found them outside the gate where a row was going on among some of
the recruiting sergeants, and one of those boys had just tripped up
a sergeant of the 15th and nearly broken his head."

There was a general laugh.

"They are quite interesting, these prodigies of yours, Manley. How did
the boy do it? I should not have thought him strong enough to have
thrown a man off his balance."

"I asked Summers about it afterwards," Captain Manley said, "the
fellow gave one of the boys a box on the ear, and in an instant the
boy stooped, caught his foot and pulled it forward and up. The thing
was done in a moment, and the sergeant was on his back before he knew
what's what."

"By Jove," a young ensign said, "I have seen that trick done at Eton."

"That is just where the boy said he learnt it," Captain Manley said.
"The colonel asked him suddenly, and it slipped out."

"If they're Etonians, I ought to know them," the ensign said. "I only
left six months ago. What are their names?"

"Their name is Scudamore."

"By Jove, they were in the same house with me. Uncommonly sharp little
fellows, and up to no end of mischief. It was always believed, though
no one could prove it, that they were the boys who nearly suffocated
the bargee."

There was a roar of laughter.

"Tell us all about, Carruthers."

"Well, there was not very much known about it. It seems the fellow
purposely upset a boat with four or five of our fellows in it, and
that night a dozen lighted crackers were thrown down into the little
cabin where the fellow was asleep; the hatch was fastened and he
was sent drifting down stream with the crackers exploding all about
him. The smoke nearly suffocated the fellow, I believe There was a
tremendous row about it, but they could not bring it home to any one.
We always put it down to the Scudamores, though they never would own
to it; but they were the only fellows in the boat who would have done
it, and they were always up to mischief."

"But what makes them come here as buglers?" the major asked.

"Their father was a banker, I believe, down in the Eastern Counties
somewhere. He died suddenly in the middle of the half before I left,
and they went away to the funeral and never came back again."

"The fact is," Captain Manley said, "I fancy by what they say, though
they did not mention their father was a banker, that he lost all his
money suddenly and died of the shock. At any rate they are alone
in the world, and the colonel has no doubt that they are some
relation--nephews, I should imagine--of Peter Scudamore, who was our
colonel when I joined. One of them is called Peter. They acknowledged
that they had a particular reason for choosing this regiment; but
they would neither acknowledge or deny that he was a relation. Now
that we know their father was a banker, we shall find out without
difficulty--indeed I have no doubt the colonel will know whether Peter
Scudamore had a brother a banker."

"What's to be done, Manley?" Major James said. "I don't like the
thought of poor old Peter's nephews turning buglers. All of us field
officers, and the best part of you captains, served under him, and
a better fellow never stepped. I think between us we might do
something."

"I would do anything I could," Carruthers said, "and there are Watson
and Talbot who were at Eton too. Dash it, I don't like to think of two
Etonians in a band," "You are all very good," Captain Manley said,
"but from what I see of the boys they will go their own way. They have
plenty of pride, and they acknowledge that their reason for refusing
to say whether they are any relation of the colonel was that they
did not want to be taken notice of or treated differently from other
boys, because it would cause jealousy, and make their position more
difficult. All they asked was that they might accompany the regiment,
and not remain behind at the depot; and as, fortunately, they have
both been practising with the bugle, and can sound most of the calls
as well as the others, the colonel was able to grant their request.
Had they been older, of course, we could have arranged for them to go
with us as volunteers, we who knew the colonel, paying their expenses
between us: as it is, the only thing we can do for them--and that is
what they would like best is to treat them just like the other boys,
but to give them every chance of distinguishing themselves. If they
don't get knocked over, they ought to win a commission before the
campaign is over."

In the meantime Tom and Peter had been introducing themselves to the
regiment. The exercise over, they had returned to dinner. It was a
rough meal, but the boys enjoyed it, and after it was over a number
of the men of the band, with whom they messed, crowded round to ask
the usual questions of new-comers--their curiosity heightened in the
present instance by the fact that the boys differed so widely from
ordinary recruits.

"Look here," Tom said, laughing, "I can't answer you all at once, but
if you put me on the table I will tell you all about us."

There was a general laugh, and many of the soldiers other than the
band sauntered up to see what was going on.

"The first thing to tell you," Tom said, "is our names. We go by the
names of Tom and Peter Scudamore, but I need scarcely tell you that
these are not our real names. The fact is--but this is quite a
secret--we are the eldest sons of Sir Arthur Wellesley--"

Here Tom was interrupted by a shout of laughter.

"Sir Arthur," Tom went on calmly, "wished to make us colonels of two
of the Life Guard regiments, but as they were not going on foreign
service we did not see it, and have accordingly entered the regiment
which Sir Arthur, our father, in speaking to a friend, said was the
finest in the service--namely, the Norfolk Rangers. We believe that
it is the custom, upon entering a regiment, to pay our footing, and I
have given a guinea to Corporal Skinner, and asked him to make it go
as far as he could."

There was great laughter over Tom's speech, which was just suited to
soldiers, and the boys from that moment were considered part of the
regiment.

"There's good stuff in those boys," an old sergeant said to another,
"plucky and cool. I shouldn't be surprised if what Tom Dillon said
was about right; he was waiting at mess just now, and though he didn't
hear all that was said, he picked up that there was an idea that
these boys are related to the old colonel. He was a good fellow, he
was, and, though I say nothing against Colonel Tritton, yet we missed
Colonel Scudamore terribly. Strict, and yet kind, just the sort of
fellow to serve under. If the boys take after him they will be a
credit to the regiment, and mark my words, we shan't see them in the
band many years."




CHAPTER IV.

A TOUGH CUSTOMER.


Like most boys who are fond of play, Tom and Peter Scudamore were
capable of hard work at a pinch, and during the three weeks that
they spent at Portsmouth they certainly worked with a will. They had
nothing to do in the way of duty, except to practice the bugle, and
this they did with a zeal and perseverance that quite won the heart
of Corporal Skinner, and enabled him to look upon Captain Manley's
two guineas as good as earned. But even with the best will and the
strongest lungs possible, boys can only blow a bugle a certain number
of hours a day. For an hour before breakfast, for two hours before
dinner, and for an hour and a half in the evening they practiced, the
evening work being extra, alone with their instructor. There remained
the whole afternoon to themselves. Their employment of those hours had
been undertaken at Peter's suggestion.

"Look here, Tom," he said, at the end of the first day's work, "from
what the corporal says, we shall have from one till about five to
ourselves. Now, we are going to Spain, and it seems to me that it
would be of great use to us, and might do us a great deal of good, to
know something of Spanish. We have got four pounds each left, and I
don't think that we could lay it out better than in getting a Spanish
master and some books, and in setting to in earnest at it. If we work
with all our might for four hours a day with a master, we shall have
made some progress, and shall pick up the pronunciation a little. I
dare say we shall be another ten days or a fortnight on the voyage,
and shall have lots of time on our hands. It will make it so much
easier to pick it up when we get there if we know a little to start
with."

"I think it is a capital idea, Peter; I should think we are pretty
sure to find a master here."

There was no difficulty upon that score, for there were a large number
of Spanish in England at the time; men who had left the country rather
than remain under the French yoke, and among them were many who were
glad to get their living by teaching their native language. There were
two or three in this condition in Portsmouth, and to one of these the
boys applied. He was rather surprised at the application from the two
young buglers--for the uniforms were finished twenty-four hours after
their arrival--but at once agreed to devote his whole afternoons to
them. Having a strong motive for their work, and a determination
to succeed in it, the boys made a progress that astonished both
themselves and their teacher, and they now found the advantage of
their grounding in Latin at Eton. Absorbed in their work, they saw
little of the other boys, except at meals and when at practice.

One evening when at supper, one of the buglers, named Mitcham, a lad
of nearly eighteen, made some sneering remark about boys who thought
themselves above others, and gave themselves airs. Tom saw at once
that this allusion was meant for them, and took the matter up.

"I suppose you mean us, Mitcham. You are quite mistaken; neither my
brother nor myself think ourselves better than any one, nor have we
any idea of giving ourselves airs. The fact is--and I am not surprised
that you should think us unsociable--we are taking lessons in Spanish.
If we go with the regiment it will be very useful, and I have heard
it said that any one who lands in a foreign country, and who knows a
little of the grammar and pronunciation, will learn it in half the
time that he would were he altogether ignorant of both. I am sorry
that I did not mention it before, because I can understand that it
must seem as if we did not want to be sociable. I can assure you that
we do; and that after this fortnight is over we shall be ready to be
as jolly as any one. You see we are altogether behindhand with our
work now, and have got to work hard to put ourselves on your level."

Tom spoke so good-temperedly that there was a general feeling in his
favor, and several of them who had before thought with Mitcham, that
the new-comers were not inclined to be sociable, felt that they had
been mistaken. There was, however, a general feeling of surprise
and amusement at the idea of two boys voluntarily taking lessons in
Spanish. Mitcham, however, who was a surly-tempered young fellow, and
who was jealous of the progress which the boys were making, and of the
general liking with which they seemed to be regarded, said,--

"I believe that's only an excuse for getting away from us."

"Do you mean to say that you think that I am telling a lie?" Tom asked
quietly.

"Yes, if you put it in that way, young 'un," Mitcham said.

"Hold your tongue, Mitcham, or I'll pull your ears for you," Corporal
Skinner said: but his speech was cut short by Tom's putting one hand
on the barrack table, vaulting across it, and striking Mitcham a heavy
blow between the eyes.

There was a cry of "a fight!" among the boys, but the men interfered
at once.

"You don't know what you are doing, young 'un," one said to Tom;
"when you hit a fellow here, you must fight him. That's the rule, and
you can't fight Mitcham; he's two years older, at least, and a head
taller."

"Of course I will fight him," Tom said. "I would fight him if he were
twice as big, if he called me a liar."

"Nonsense, young 'un!" another said, "it's not possible. He was wrong,
and if you had not struck him I would have licked him myself; but as
you have done so, you had better put up with a thrashing, and have
done with it."

"I should think so, indeed!" Tom said disdainfully. "I may get a
licking; I dare say I shall; but it won't be all on one side. Look
here, Mitcham, we will have it out to-morrow, on the ramparts behind
the barracks. But, if you will apologize to me for calling me a liar,
I'll say I am sorry I hit you."

"Oh, blow your sorrow!" the lad said. "I'll give you the heartiest
licking you ever had in your life, my young cock."

"Oh, all right," Tom said cheerfully. "We will see all about it when
the time comes."

As it was evident now that there was no way out of it, no one
interfered further in the matter. Quarrels in the army are always
settled by a fair fight, as at school; but several of the older men
questioned among themselves whether they ought to let this go on,
considering that Tom Scudamore was only between fifteen and sixteen,
while his opponent was two years older, and was so much heavier and
stronger. However, as it was plain that Tom would not take a thrashing
for the blow he had struck, and there did not seem any satisfactory
way out of it, nothing was done, except that two or three of them went
up to Mitcham, and strongly urged him to shake hands with Tom, and
confess that he had done wrong in giving him the lie. This Mitcham
would not hear of, and there was nothing further to be done.

"I am afraid, Tom, you have no chance with that fellow." Peter said,
as they were undressing.

"No chance in the world, Peter; but I can box fairly, you know, and am
pretty hard. I shall be able to punish him a bit, and you may be sure
I shall never give in. It's no great odds getting a licking, and I
suppose that they will stop it before I am killed. Don't bother about
it. I had rather get knocked about in a fight than get flogged at Eton
any day. I would rather you did not come to see it, Peter, if you
don't mind. When you fought Evans it hurt me ten times as much as if I
had been fighting, and, although you licked him, it made me feel like
a girl. I can stand twice the punishment if I don't feel that any blow
is hitting you as well as myself."

Tom's prediction about the fight turned out to be nearly correct. He
was more active, and a vastly better boxer than his antagonist, and
although he was constantly knocked down, he punished him very heavily
about the face. In fact, the fight was exactly similar to that great
battle, fifty years afterwards, between Sayers and Heenan. Time after
time Tom was knocked down, and even his second begged him to give in,
but he would not hear of it. Breathless and exhausted, but always
cool and smiling, he faced his heavy antagonist, eluding his furious
rushes, and managing to strike a few straight blows at his eyes before
being knocked down. By the time that they had fought a quarter of
an hour half the regiment was assembled, and loud were the cheers
which greeted Tom each time he came up, very pale and bleeding, but
confident, against his antagonist.

At last an old sergeant came forward. "Come," he said, "there has been
enough of this. You had better stop."

"Will he say he was sorry he called me a liar?" Tom asked.

"No, I won't," Mitcham answered.

The sergeant was about to use his authority to stop it, when Tom said
to him, in a low voice:

"Look, sergeant! please let us go on another five minutes. I think I
can stand that, and he can hardly see out of his eyes now. He won't
see a bit by that time."

The sergeant hesitated, but a glance at Tom's antagonist convinced him
that what he said was correct. Mitcham had at all times a round and
rather puffy face, and his cheeks were now so swollen with the effect
of Tom's straight, steady hitting, that he could with difficulty see.

It was a hard five minutes for Tom, for his antagonist, finding that
he was rapidly getting blind, rushed with fury upon him, trying to end
the fight. Tom had less difficulty in guarding the blows, given wildly
and almost at random, but he was knocked down time after time by the
mere force and weight of the rush. He felt himself getting weak, and
could hardly get up from his second's knee upon the call of time.
He was not afraid of being made to give in, but he was afraid of
fainting, and of so being unable to come up to time.

"Stick a knife into me; do anything!" he said to his second, "if I go
off, only bring me up to time. He can't hold out much longer."

Nor could he. His hitting became more and more at random, until at
last, on getting up from his second's knee, Mitcham cried in a hoarse
voice, "Where is he? I can't see him!"

Then Tom went forward with his hands down. "Look here, Mitcham, you
can't see, and I can hardly stand. I think we have both done enough.
We neither of us can give in, well because--because I am a gentleman,
you because you are bigger than I am; so let's shake hands, and say no
more about it."

Mitcham hesitated an instant, and then held out his hand. "You are a
good fellow, Scudamore, and there's my hand; but you have licked me
fairly. I can't come up to time, and you can. There, I am sorry I
called you a liar."

Tom took the hand, and shook it, and then a mist came over his eyes,
and his knees tottered, as, with the ringing cheers of the men in his
ears, he fainted into his second's arms.

"What a row the men are making!" the major said, as the sound of
cheering came through the open window of the mess-room, at which the
officers were sitting at lunch. "It's a fight of course, and a good
one, judging by the cheering. Does any one know who it is between?"

No one had heard.

"It's over now," the adjutant said, looking out of the window, "Here
are the men coming down in a stream. They look very excited over it. I
wonder who it has been. Stokes," he said, turning to one of the mess
servants, "go out, and find out who has been fighting, and all about
it."

In a minute or two the man returned. "It's two of the band boys, sir."

"Oh, only two boys! I wonder they made such a fuss over that. Who are
they?"

"One was one of the boys who have just joined, sir. Tom Scudamore,
they call him."

"I guessed as much," Captain Manley laughed; "I knew they would not be
long here without a fight. Who was the other?"

"Well, sir, I almost thought it must be a mistake when they told me,
seeing they are so unequally matched, but they all say so, so in
course it's true--the other was Mitcham, the bugler of No. 3 Company."

"What a shame!" was the general exclamation, while Captain Manley got
up and called for his cap.

"A brutal shame, I call it," he said hotly. "Mitcham's nearly a man.
It ought not to have been allowed. I will go and inquire after the
boy. I will bet five pounds he was pretty nearly killed before he gave
in."

"He didn't give in, Captain Manley," the servant said. "He won the
fight. They fought till Mitcham couldn't see, and then young Scudamore
went up and offered to draw it, but Mitcham acknowledged he was fairly
licked. It was a close thing, for the boy fainted right off; but he's
come round now, and says he's all right."

"Hurrah for Eton!" Carruthers shouted enthusiastically. "Hurrah! By
Jove, he is game, and no mistake. He won a hard fight or two at Eton,
but nothing like this. I call it splendid."

"The boy might have been killed," the major said gravely; while the
younger officers joined in Carruthers's exclamation at Tom's pluck.
"It is shameful that it was allowed. I suppose the quarrel began in
their quarters. Sergeant Howden is in charge of the room, and ought to
have stopped it at once. Every non-commissioned officer ought to have
stopped it. I will have Howden up before the colonel to-morrow."

"I think, major," Captain Manley said, "if you will excuse me, the
best plan, as far as the boy is concerned, is to take no notice of
it. As it is, he must have won the hearts of all the regiment by his
pluck, and if he is not seriously hurt, it is the very best thing, as
it has turned out, that could have happened. If any one gets into a
scrape about it, it might lessen the effect of the victory. I think if
you call Howden up, and give him a quiet wigging, it will do as well,
and won't injure the boys. What do you think?"

"Yes, you are right, Manley, as it has turned out; but the boy might
have been killed. However, I won't do more than give Howden a hearty
wigging, and will then learn how the affair begun. I think, Dr.
Stathers, that it would be as well if you went round and saw both of
them. You had better, I think, order them into hospital for the night,
and then the boy can go to bed at once, and come out again to-morrow,
if he has, as I hope, nothing worse than a few bruises. Please come
back, and tell us how you find them."

The report was favorable, and the next morning Tom came out of
hospital, and took his place as usual, with the party upon the
ramparts--pale, and a good deal marked, but not much the worse for his
battle; but it was some days before the swelling of his adversary's
face subsided sufficiently for him to return to duty.

Tom's victory--as Captain Manley had predicted--quite won the hearts
of the whole regiment, and the nicknames of "Sir Tom," and "Sir
Peter"--which had been given to them in jest after Tom's speech
about Sir Arthur Wellesley--were now generally applied to them. The
conversation in the mess-room had got about, and the old soldiers who
had served under Colonel Scudamore would have done anything for the
lads, although, as yet, they were hardly known personally except to
the band, as their devotion to work kept them quite apart from the
men.

It was just three weeks after they had joined before the order came
for embarkation, and a thrill of pleasure and excitement ran through
the regiment when it was known that they were to go on board in four
days. Not the least delighted were Tom and Peter. It had already been
formally settled that they were to accompany the regiment, and it
was a proof of the popularity that they had gained, that every one
looked upon their going as a matter of course, and that no comment
was excited even among those who were left behind. Three days before
starting they had met Captain Manley in the barrack-yard, and after
saluting, Tom said, "If you please, sir, we wanted to ask you a
question."

"What is that, lads?"

"If you please, sir, we understand that the boys of the band have
their bags carried for them, but the company buglers carry knapsacks,
like the men?"

"Yes, boys; the company buglers carry knapsacks and muskets."

"I am afraid we could not carry muskets and do much marching, sir, but
we have each a brace of pistols."

Captain Manley smiled. "Pistols would not look the thing on a
parade-ground, boys; but in a campaign people are not very particular,
and I have no doubt the colonel will overlook any little breach of
strict uniformity in your cases, as it is evident you can't carry
muskets. You can use your pistols, I hope," he said with a smile. "Hit
a penny every time at twenty paces!"

"No, sir, we can't do that," Tom said seriously. "We can hit a
good-sized apple nineteen times out of twenty."

"The deuce you can!" Captain Manley said. "How did you learn to do
that?"

"We have practiced twelve shots a day for the last six months, sir. We
were thinking of asking you, sir, if you would like to carry a brace
of them through the campaign. They are splendid weapons; and we shall
only carry one each. They would get rusty and spoil, if we left them
behind, and we should be very pleased to think they might be useful to
you, after your great kindness to us."

"It is not a very regular thing, boys," Captain Manley said, "for a
captain to be borrowing a brace of pistols from two of his buglers;
but you are exceptional buglers, and there is something in what you
say about rusting. Besides, it is possible you may lose yours, so I
will accept your offer with thanks, with the understanding that I will
carry the pistols, and you shall have them again if anything happens
to yours. But how about the knapsacks?"

"We were thinking of having two made of the regimental pattern, sir,
but smaller and lighter, if you think that it would be allowed."

"Well, I think, boys, if you are allowed to carry pistols instead of
muskets, no great objection will be made as to the exact size of the
knapsacks. Yes, you can get them made, and I will speak to the colonel
about it."

"Perhaps," he hesitated, "you may be in want of a little money; do
not hesitate if you do. I can let you have five pounds, and you
can pay me," he said with a laugh, "out of your share of our first
prize-money."

The boys colored hotly.

"No, thank you, Captain Manley; we have plenty of money. Shall we
bring the pistols to your quarters?"

"Do, lads, I am going in to lunch now, and will be in in half an
hour."

The boys at once went out and ordered their knapsacks. They had just
sold their watches, which were large, handsome, and of gold, and had
been given to them by their father when they went to Eton. They were
very sorry to part with them, but they agreed that it would be folly
to keep gold watches when the twenty pounds which they obtained for
them would buy two stout and useful silver watches and would leave
them twelve pounds in money. They then returned to barracks, took out
a brace of their pistols, carefully cleaned them, and removed the
silver plates upon the handles, and then walked across to Captain
Manley's quarters.

Rather to their surprise and confusion they found five or six other
officers there, for Captain Manley had mentioned at lunch to the
amusement of his friends that he was going to be unexpectedly provided
with a brace of pistols, and several of them at once said that they
would go up with him to his quarters, as they wanted to see the boys
of whom they had spoken so much during the last fortnight. Tom and
Peter drew themselves up and saluted stiffly.

"You need not be buglers here, boys," Captain Manley said. "This is
my room, we are all gentlemen, and though I could not, according
to the regulations, walk down the street with you, the strictest
disciplinarian would excuse my doing as I like here."

The boys flushed with pleasure at Captain Manley's kind address, and
as he finished Carruthers stepped forward and shook them warmly by the
hand.

"How are you both?" he said. "You have not forgotten me, I hope."

"I had not seen you before. I did not know you were in the regiment,
Carruthers," the boys said warmly, pleased to find a face they
had known before; and then breaking off:--"I beg your pardon--Mr.
Carruthers."

"There are no misters here as far as I am concerned, Scudamore. There
were no misters at Eton. This is a change, isn't it? Better than
grinding away at Greek by a long way. Well, I congratulate you on your
fight. You showed there was some good in dear old Eton still. I wish
you had let me know it was coming off. I would have given anything
to have seen it--from a distance, you know. If it had been the right
thing, I would have come and been your backer."

There was a general laugh, and then the officers all began to talk to
the boys. They were quiet and respectful in their manners, and fully
confirmed the favorable report which Captain Manley had given of them.

"Where are the pistols, boys?" their friend asked presently.

"Here, sir," and the boys produced them from under their jackets. "We
have no case, sir; we were obliged to leave it behind us when we--"

"Ran away," one of the officers said, laughing.

"They are a splendid pair of pistols," Captain Manley said, examining
them; "beautifully finished, and rifled. They look quite new, too,
though, of course, they are not."

"They are new, sir," Tom said; "we have only had them six months, and
they were new then."

"Indeed," Captain Manley said surprised; "I thought, of course, they
were family pistols. Why, how on earth, if it is not an impertinent
question, did you boys get hold of two brace of such pistols as these?
I have no right to ask the question, boys. I see there has been a
plate on the handles. But you said you had no relations, and I was
surprised into asking."

The boys colored.

"The question was quite natural, sir; the pistols were presented to us
by some people we traveled with once; we took the plates off because
they made a great fuss about nothing, and we thought that it would
look cockey."

There was a laugh among the officers at the boys' confusion.

"No one would suspect you of being cockey, Scudamore," Captain Manley
said kindly; "come, let me see the plates."

The boys took the little silver plates from their pockets and handed
them silently to Captain Manley, who read aloud, to the surprise of
those around him,--"'To Tom' and 'Peter,' they are alike except the
names. 'To Tom Scudamore, presented by the passengers in the Highflyer
coach on the 4th of August, 1808, as a testimony of their appreciation
of his gallant conduct, by which their property was saved from
plunder.' Why, what is this, you young pickles, what were you up to on
the 4th of August last year?"

"There was nothing in it at all, sir," Tom said; "we were on the coach
and were stopped by highwaymen. One of the passengers had pistols,
but was afraid to use them, and hid them among the boxes. So when the
passengers were ordered to get down to be searched, we hid ourselves,
and when the highwaymen were collecting their watches, Peter shot one,
and I drove the coach over another. The matter was very simple indeed;
but the passengers saved their money, so made a great fuss about it."

There was much laughter over Tom's statement, and then he had to
give a detailed account of the whole affair, which elicited many
expressions of approval.

"It does you credit, boys," Captain Manley said, "and shows that you
are cool as well as plucky. One quality is as valuable as the other.
There is every hope that you will do the regiment credit, boys, and
you may be sure that we shall give you every chance. And now good-bye
for the present."

"Good-bye, sir," Tom and Peter again drew themselves up, gave the
military salute, and went off to their comrades.

For when the order came to prepare for the embarkation, both Spanish
and bugling were given up, and the boys entered into the pleasure
of the holiday with immense zest. They had no regimental duties to
perform beyond being present at parade. They had no packing to do, and
fewer purchases to make. A ball or two of stout string, for, as Peter
said, string is always handy, and a large pocket-knife, each with
a variety of blades, were the principal items. They had a ring put
to the knives, so that they could sling them round the waist. They
had, therefore, nothing to do but to amuse themselves, and this they
did with a heartiness which astonished the other boys, and proved
conclusively that they did not want to be unsociable. They hired a
boat for a sail and took five or six other boys across to Ryde, only
just returning in time for tattoo, and they played such a number of
small practical jokes, such as putting a handful of peas into the
bugles and other wind instruments, that the band-master declared that
he thought that they were all bewitched, and he threatened to thrash
the boys all round, because he could not find out who had done it.

Especially angry was the man who played the big drum. This was a
gigantic negro, named Sam, a kind-hearted fellow, constantly smiling,
except when the thought of his own importance made him assume a
particularly grave appearance. He was a general favorite, although the
boys were rather afraid of him, for he was apt to get into a passion
if any jokes were attempted upon him, and of all offences the greatest
was to call him Sambo. Now none of the men ventured upon this, for
when he first joined, Sam had fought two or three desperate battles on
this ground, and his great strength and the insensibility of his head
to blows had invariably given him the victory. But, treated with what
he conceived proper respect, Sam was one of the best-tempered and
best-natured fellows in the regiment; and he himself, when he once
cooled down, was perfectly ready to join in the laugh against himself,
even after he had been most put out by a joke.

The day before the regiment was to embark, the officers gave a lawn
party; a large number of ladies were present, and the band was, of
course, to play. The piece which the bandmaster had selected for the
commencement began with four distinct beats of the big drum. Just
before it began, Captain Manley saw Tom and Peter, who with some of
the other boys had brought the music-stands into the ground, with
their faces bright with anticipated fun.

"What is the joke, boys?" he asked good-humoredly, as he passed them.

"I can't tell you, sir," Tom said; "but if you walk up close to the
band, and watch Sam's face when he begins, you will be amused, I
think."

"Those are regular young pickles," Captain Manley said to the lady
he was walking with; "they are Etonians who have run away from home,
and are up to all kinds of mischief, but are the pluckiest and most
straightforward youngsters imaginable. I have no doubt that they are
up to some trick with our black drummer."

On their way to where the band was preparing to play, Captain Manley
said a word or two to several of the other officers, consequently
there was quite a little party standing watching the band when their
leader lifted his baton for the overture to begin.

There was nothing that Sam liked better than for the big drum to
commence, and with his head thrown well back and an air of extreme
importance, he lifted his arm and brought it down with what should
have been a sounding blow upon the drum. To his astonishment and to
the surprise of all the band, no deep boom was heard, only a low
muffled sound. Mechanically Sam raised his other arm and let it fall
with a similar result. Sam looked a picture of utter astonishment and
dismay, with his eyes opened to their fullest, and he gave vent to a
loud cry, which completed the effect produced by his face, and set
most of those looking on, and even the band themselves, into a roar of
laughter. Sam now examined his sticks, they appeared all right to the
eye, but directly he felt them his astonishment was turned into rage.
They were perfectly soft. Taking out his knife he cut them open, and
found that the balls were merely filled with a wad of soft cotton, the
necessary weight being given by pieces of lead fastened round the end
of the stick inside the ball with waxed thread.

Sam was too enraged to say more than his usual exclamation of
astonishment, "Golly!" and he held out his drumsticks to be examined
with the face of a black statue of surprise.

Even the band-master was obliged to laugh as he took the sticks from
Sam's hand to examine them.

"These are not your sticks at all, Sam," he said, looking closely at
them. "Here, boy," he called to Tom, who might have been detected from
the fact of his being the only person present with a serious face,
"run to the band-room and see if you can find the sticks."

In a few minutes Tom returned with the real drumsticks, which, he
said truly, he had found on the shelf where they were usually kept.
After that things went on as usual; Sam played with a sulky fury. His
dignity was injured, and he declared over and over again that if he
could "find de rascal who did it, by jingo, I pound him to squash!"
and there was no doubt from his look that he thoroughly meant what he
said. However, no inquiries could bring to light the author of the
trick.




CHAPTER V.

OVERBOARD.


There were no lighter hearts than those of Tom and Peter Scudamore
on board the transport "Nancy," as, among the hearty cheers of the
troops on board, and the waving of hats and handkerchiefs from friends
who had come out in small boats to say good-bye for the last time,
she weighed anchor, and set sail in company with some ten or twelve
other transports, and under convoy of two ships of war. It would be
difficult to imagine a prettier scene. The guns fired, the bands of
the various regiments played, and the white sails opened out bright
in the sun as the sailors swarmed into the rigging, anxious to outvie
each other. Even the soldiers pulled and hauled at the ropes, and ran
round with the capstan bars to get the anchors apeak. Tom and Peter,
of course, had, like the other boys, got very much in the way in their
desire to assist, and, having been once or twice knocked over by the
rush of men coming along with ropes, they wisely gave it up, and
leaned over the side to enjoy the scene.

"This is splendid, Tom, isn't it?"

"Glorious, Peter; but it's blowing pretty strong. I am afraid that we
sha'n't find it quite so glorious when we get out of the shelter of
the island."

Peter laughed. "No; I suppose we sha'n't all look as jolly as we do
now by night-time. However, the wind is nor'-westerly, which will help
us along nicely, if, as I heard one of the sailors say just now, it
does not go round to the south."

"Bugler, sound companies one, two, and three to breakfast."

The order interrupted the conversation, and, for the next hour,
the boys had little time for talk. Half the regiment was on board
the "Nancy," and, after breakfast, the men were divided into three
watches, of which one was always to be on deck, for the ship was very
crowded, and there was scarcely room for all the men to be below
together. The boys were in the same watch, for the day previous to
starting Tom had been appointed bugler to the 2d Company, Peter to the
3d. The 1st Company, or Grenadiers, were in the watch with the band,
the 2d and 3d Companies were together, and the 4th and 5th.

Tom was very ill for the first two days of the voyage, while Peter did
not feel the slightest effects from the motion. Upon the third day the
wind dropped suddenly, and the vessels rolled heavily in the swell,
with their sails flapping against the masts. Tom came up that morning
upon deck feeling quite well again, and the boys were immensely amused
at seeing the attempts of the soldiers to move about, the sudden
rushes, and the heavy falls. A parade had been ordered to take place;
but as no one could have stood steady without holding on, it was
abandoned as impossible. The men sat about under the bulwarks, and a
few amused themselves and the rest by trying to play various games,
such as laying a penny on the deck, and seeing which would pitch
another to lay nearest to it, from a distance of five yards. The
difficulty of balancing oneself in a heavily rolling vessel, and of
pitching a penny with any degree of accuracy, is great, and the manner
in which the coins, instead of coming down flat and remaining there,
rolled away into the scuppers, the throwers not unfrequently following
them, produced fits of laughter.

Tom was still feeling weak from his two days' illness, and was not
disposed actively to enter into the fun; but Peter enjoyed the heavy
rolling, and was all over the ship. Presently he saw Sam, the black
drummer, sitting in a dark corner below quietly asleep; his cap was
beside him, and the idea at once occurred to Peter that here was a
great opportunity for a joke. He made his way to the caboose, and
begged the cook to give him a handful of flour. The cook at first
refused, but was presently coaxed into doing so, and Peter stole to
where Sam was asleep, and put the flour into his cap, relying that, in
the darkness, Sam would put it on without noticing it. Then, going up
to the deck above, Peter put his head down the hatchway, and shouted
loudly, "Sam!"

The negro woke at the sound of his name. "What is it?" he asked.
Receiving no reply, he got on to his feet, muttering, "Some one call
Sam, that for certain, can't do without Sam, always want here, want
there. I go up and see."

So saying, he put on his cap, and made his way up to the upper deck.
As he stood at the hatchway and looked round, there was, first a
titter, and then a roar of laughter from the men sitting or standing
along by the bulwarks. In putting on his cap some of the flour had
fallen out, and had streaked his face with white. Sam was utterly
unconscious that he was the object of the laughter, and said to one of
the men nearest to him, "Who call Sam?"

The man could not reply, but Tom, who was sitting close by, said, "It
was no one here, Sam, it must have been the bandmaster; there he is,
close to the quarter-deck."

Sam made his way along towards the point indicated, and as he did so
some of the officers upon the quarter-deck caught sight of him. "Just
look at Sambo," Carruthers exclaimed, "somebody has been larking with
him again. Look how all the men are laughing, and he evidently has no
suspicion of the figure he is."

The sergeant, who, the bandmaster having remained at the depot, was
now acting as chief of the band, did not see Sam until the latter was
close to him. "You want me, sergeant?"

Sergeant Wilson looked up, and was astonished.

"What on earth have you been doing to yourself, Sam?" he asked.

"Me been having little nap down below," Sam said.

"Yes; but your face, man. What have you been doing to your face?"

Sam, in his turn, looked astonished. "Nothing whatsomeber, sargeant."

"Take off your cap, man, and look inside it." Sam did as ordered; and
as he removed the cap, and the powder fell from it all over his face
and shoulders, there was a perfect shout of laughter from the soldiers
and crew, who had been looking on, and the officers, looking down from
the rail of the quarter-deck, retired to laugh unnoticed.

The astonishment and rage of Sam were unbounded, and he gave a perfect
yell of surprise and fury. He stamped wildly for a minute or two, and
then, with a sudden movement rushed up on to the quarter-deck with
his cap in his hand. The colonel, who was holding on by the shrouds,
and talking with the major, in ignorance of what was going on, was
perfectly astounded at this sudden vision of the irate negro, and
neither he nor the major could restrain their laughter.

"Scuse me, colonel, sah, for de liberty," Sam burst out; "but look at
me, sah; is dis right, sah, is it right to make joke like dis on de
man dat play de big drum of de regiment?"

"No, no, Sam; not at all right," the colonel said, with difficulty.
"If you report who has played the trick upon you, I shall speak to him
very seriously; but, Sam, I should have thought that you were quite
big enough to take the matter in your own hands."

"Me big enough, Massah Colonel, me plenty big; but me not able to find
him."

"Well, Sam, it is carrying a joke too far; still, it is only a trick
off duty, and I am afraid that it is beyond my power to interfere."

Sam thought for a moment, and, having by this time cooled down from
his first paroxysm of rage, he said, "Beg pardon, massa, you quite
right, no business of any one but Sam; but Sam too angry to 'top to
think. Scuse liberty, colonel," and Sam retired from the quarter-deck,
and made a bolt below down the nearest hatchway, when he plunged his
head into a bucket of water, and soon restored it to its usual ebony
hue.

Then he went to the cook and tried to find out to whom he had given
flour, but the cook replied at once, "Lor, I've given flour to the men
of each mess to make puddings of, about thirty of them," and Sam felt
as far off as ever.

Presently, however, a big sailor began to make fun of him, and Sam
retorted by knocking him down, after which there was a regular fight,
which was carried on under the greatest difficulty, owing to the
rolling of the ship. At last Sambo got the best of it, and this
restored him so thoroughly to a good temper that he was able to join
in the laugh at himself, reserving, however, his right to "knock de
rascal who did it into a squash."

The following day the weather changed, a wind sprang up nearly from
the north, which increased rapidly, until toward afternoon it was
blowing half a gale, before which the whole fleet, with their main
and topsails set, ran southward at great speed. A heavy cross sea was
running, the wares raised by the gale clashing with the heavy swell
previously rolling in from the westward, and so violent and sudden
were the lurches and rolls of the "Nancy" that the master feared that
her masts would go.

"How tremendously she rolls, Tom."

"Tremendously; the deck seems almost upright, and the water right
under our feet each time she goes over. She feels as if she were going
to turn topsy-turvy each roll. It's bad enough on deck; but it will be
worse down below."

"A great deal worse, Peter, it's nearly dark already; it will strike
eight bells in a minute or two, and then we shall have to go down.
There's no danger, of course, of the ship turning over, but it won't
be pleasant down below. Look out, Peter!"

The exclamation was caused by an awful crash. The ship had given a
tremendous lurch, when the long-boat, which was stowed amidships,
suddenly tore away from its fastenings and came crashing down.
It passed within three feet of where the boys were sitting, and
completely tore away the bulwark, leaving a great gap in the side,
where it had passed through. "Look, Tom, Sam's overboard!" Peter
exclaimed.

Sam had been sitting on the bulwark, a few feet from them, holding on
by a shroud, when the boat came down upon him; with a cry he had let
go of the shroud and started back, falling into the water just as the
boat struck the bulwark. "There he is, Tom," Peter said, as he saw the
black only a few yards from the side. "He is hurt, come on," catching
up the end of a long rope coiled up on the deck close to their feet,
the boys jumped overboard together. A dozen strokes took them up to
Sam; but the black hull of the ship had already glanced past them.
They could hear loud shouts, but could not distinguish a word.

"Quick, round him, Peter!" and, in a moment, the boys twisted the rope
round the body of the black, and knotted it just as the drag of the
ship tightened it. Thus Sam's safety was secured, but the strain was
so tremendous as they tore through the water, that it was impossible
for the boys to hold on, and, in a moment, they were torn from their
hold.

"All right, Peter," Tom said cheerily, as they dashed the water from
their eyes, "there is the boat."

The remains of the boat were not ten yards distant, and in a few
strokes they had gained it. It was stove in and broken, but still held
together, floating on a level with the water's edge. With some trouble
the boys got inside her, and sat down on the bottom, so that their
heads were just out of water.

Then they had time to look round. The ship was already disappearing in
the gathering darkness.

"This boat will soon go to pieces, Tom," was Peter's first remark.

"I expect it will, Peter; but we must stick to its pieces. We had
better get off our boots. The water is pretty warm, that's one
comfort."

"Do you think the ship will come back for us, Tom?"

"I don't think she can, Peter; at any rate, it is certain she can't
find us, it would take a long time to bring her round, and then, you
see, she could not sail straight back against the wind."

"Look here, Tom, I remember when I climbed up to look into the boats
yesterday that there were some little casks lashed under the seats,
and a sailor told me they were always kept full of water in case the
boats were wanted suddenly. If they are still there we might empty
them out, and they could keep us afloat any time."

"Hurrah! Peter, capital, let's see."

To their great delight the boys found four small water-kegs fastened
under the seats. Three of these they emptied, and fastening one of
them to that which they had left full, and then each taking hold of
one of the slings which were fastened to the kegs for convenience of
carriage, they waited quietly. In less than ten minutes from the time
when they first gained their frail refuge, a great wave broke just
upon them, and completely smashed up the remains of the boat. They had
cut off some rope from the mast, which they found with its sail furled
ready for use in the boat, and now roughly lashed themselves together,
face to face, so that they had a keg on each side. They had also
fastened a long piece of rope to the other kegs, so that they would
float near them.

It was a long and terrible night for them, generally their heads and
chests were well above the water, but at times a wave would break with
its white crest, and, for a time, the foam would be over their heads.
Fortunately the water was warm, and the wind fell a good deal. The
boys talked occasionally to each other, and kept up each other's
courage. Once or twice, in spite of the heavy sea, they were so much
overcome with exhaustion that they dozed uneasily for a while, with
their heads upon each other's shoulders, and great was their feeling
of relief and pleasure when morning began to break.

"It is going to be a splendid day, Peter, and the wind is dropping
fast."

"Look, Tom," Peter said, "there are some of the planks of the boat
jammed in with the kegs."

It was as Peter said; the two kegs, one empty and the other full, were
floating about ten yards off, at the length of the rope by which they
were attached to the boys, while with them was a confused mass of
wreckage of the boat.

"That is capital, Peter, we will see if we can't make a raft
presently."

As the sun rose and warmed the air, the boys strength and spirits
revived, and in a few hours they were so refreshed that they
determined to set about their raft. The wind had now entirely dropped,
the waves were still very high, but they came in long, smooth, regular
swells, over which they rose and fell almost imperceptibly.

"They must be rolling a good deal more in the 'Nancy' than we are
here, Peter. Now, the first thing is to have a drink. What a blessing
it is we have water." With their knives they soon got the bung out of
the water-keg, and each took a long drink, and then carefully closed
it up again.

"There, Peter, we have drunk as much as we wanted this time; but we
must be careful, there is no saying how long we may be before we are
picked up. Hurrah, Peter, here are the masts and sails, so we shall
have plenty of cord."

It took the boys nearly three hours to complete their task to their
satisfaction. When it was concluded they had the three empty kegs
lashed in a triangle about five feet apart, while two planks crossing
the triangle, assisted to keep all firm and tight; floating in the
center of the triangle was the keg of water. "There, I don't think
we can improve that, Peter," Tom said at last, "now, let us get on
and try it." They did so, and, to their great delight, found that
it floated a few inches above water. "We may as well get the masts
on board, Peter, and let the sails tow alongside. They may come in
useful; and now the first thing is to dry ourselves and our clothes."

The clothes were soon spread out to dry, and the boys luxuriated in
the warmth of the sun.

"What great, smooth waves these are, Tom, sometimes we are down in a
valley which runs miles long, and then we are up on a hill."

"Here we lay, all the day, in the bay of Biscay, oh!" Tom laughed.
"I only hope that the wished-for morrow may bring the sail in sight,
Peter. However, we can hold on for a few days, I suppose. That is a
four-gallon keg, so that we have got a quart of water each for eight
days, and hunger isn't so bad to bear as thirst. We have pretty well
done for our uniforms, our bugles are the only things that have not
suffered."

For the boys' companies being on deck at the time of the accident,
they both had their bugles on when they jumped overboard.

"Our last upset was when that bargee canted us over at Eton, rather a
different business that, Peter."

"My shirt is not dry yet, Tom; but I shall put it on again, for the
sun is too hot to be pleasant."

Tom followed Peter's example.

"Do you think, Tom, that we had better try to get up a sort of sail
and make for land, or remain where we are?"

"Remain where we are, Peter, I should say. I suppose we must be a
hundred miles from the French coast, and even if the wind blew fair
we should be a long time getting there, and with the certainty of a
prison when we arrived. Still, if there were a strong west wind, I
suppose it would be our best way; as it is we have nothing to do but
to wait quietly, and hope for a ship. We are in the right line, and
there must be lots of vessels on their way, besides those which sailed
with us, for Portsmouth. So we must keep watch and watch. Now, Peter,
you lie down on that plank, it is just about long enough, you shall
have two hours' sleep, and then I'll have two, after that we will have
four hours each."

"How are we to count time?" Peter said laughing.

"I never thought of that," Tom said, looking at his watch. "Of course
it has stopped. We must guess as near as we can; at any rate, you go
to sleep first, and, when I am too sleepy to keep watch any longer, I
will wake you up."

So passed that day and the next night. A light breeze sprung up from
the southwest, and the sun again shone out brightly.

"I feel as if I wanted breakfast horribly," Peter said, with an
attempt at a smile. "Do you think that there is any possibility of
catching anything?"

"We have nothing to make hooks with, Peter, and nothing to bait them
with if we had."

"There are lots of tiny fish swimming all about, Tom, if we could but
catch them."

Tom was silent for awhile; then he said, "Look here, Peter. Let us cut
a piece off the sail about five feet long, and say three feet wide,
double it longways, and sew up the ends so as to make a bag; we can
unravel some string, and make holes with our knives. Then we can sink
it down two or three feet, and watch it; and when we see that some
little fish have got in it, we can draw it up very gently, and, by
raising it gradually from the sea, the water will run out, and we
shall catch the fish."

Peter agreed that at any rate it was worth trying; for, even if it did
not succeed, it was better for them to be doing something than sitting
idle. The sail and the floating wreckage were pulled alongside, and
the boys set to work. In three hours a large and shallow bag was made,
with some improvements upon Tom's original plan. The mouth was kept
open by two crossed pieces of wood, and four cords from the corners
were attached to the end of the oar which formed their fishing-rod. At
last it was finished, and the bag lowered.

To the horror of the boys, it was discovered that it would not sink.
They were ready to cry with vexation, for the want of food had made
them feel faint and weak.

"What have we got that is heavy?" Tom asked in despair.

"I have got fourpence in halfpence, Tom, and there are our knives and
watches."

Their pockets were ransacked, and the halfpence, knives, and watches
were placed in the bottom of the bag and lowered. Still the wood-work
kept afloat.

"There are the bugles, Tom," Peter cried in delight. These had been
fastened to the raft, and were now hastily untied and placed in the
canvas bag.

It sank now, and the boys lowered it five or six feet, so that they
could partly see into it. "There are lots of little fish swimming
about, Tom," Peter said in a whisper. "Some are almost as long as
one's hand. Do you think that they will go in, Tom?"

"I hope the glitter of the bugles and watches will attract them,
Peter."

"There, Tom, there--I saw a whole swarm of little ones go in."

"Wait a minute or two, Peter, to let them get well down, and then draw
up as quietly as possible."

Very cautiously the boys raised the point of their rod until the
top of the square-mouthed bag was level with the surface; then they
brought it close to them and looked in, and as they did so gave a
simultaneous cheer. There, in the bottom of the canvas, two feet below
them, were a number of little fish moving about. Raising the rod
still higher, they gradually lifted the net out of the sea, the water
running quickly off as they did so, and then they proceeded to examine
their prize.

"We will take out one and one, Peter; give them a nip as you take them
up, that will kill them." There were two fish of about three inches
long, another three or four of two inches, and some thirty or forty
the size of minnows. It was scarcely more than a mouthful each, but
it was a stay for a moment to their stomachs, and no one ever said a
thanksgiving with deeper feeling and heartiness than did the boys when
they had emptied their canvas net.

"We need not be anxious about food now, Peter; if we can catch these
in five minutes, we can get enough each day to satisfy us. They quench
the thirst too. We must limit ourselves to half a pint of water a day,
and we can hold on for a fortnight. We are safe to be picked up before
that."

All the afternoon and evening the boys continued to let down and draw
up their net, sometimes bringing in only a few tiny fish, sometimes
getting half a dozen of the larger kind. By nightfall they had
satisfied the cravings of hunger, and felt stronger and better. One or
two sails had been seen during the day, but always at such distances
that it was evident at once that they could not pass within hail. That
night, fatigued with their exertions, both laid down and went to sleep
until morning, and slept more comfortably than before; for they had
fastened a piece of the sail tightly on the top of the raft, and lay
softly suspended in that, instead of being balanced upon a narrow and
uncomfortable plank. They felt new creatures when they woke, pulled
up their net, had a mouthful of raw fish, took off their clothes, and
had a swim, and then set to earnestly to fish. The sun was brighter,
and the fish in consequence kept deeper than upon the preceding day;
still by evening they had caught enough to take the edge off, if not
to satisfy, their hunger. The fishing, however, during the last hours
of daylight was altogether neglected, for behind them they could see
a sail, which appeared as if it might possibly come close enough to
observe them. There was still the long, steady swell coming in from
the Atlantic, and a light breeze was blowing from the north. The boys
had been so intent upon their fishing, that they had not noticed her
until she was within nine or ten miles of them. "She will not be up
for an hour and a half, Peter," Tom said, "and the sun will be down
long before that. I fear that the chance of their seeing us is very
small indeed. However, we will try. Let us get the net out of the
water, and hold it and the oar up. It is possible that some one may
see the canvas with a telescope before the sun goes down. Take the
things out of the net."

The oar with the canvas bag was elevated, and the boys anxiously
watched the course of the vessel. She was a large ship, but they could
only see her when they rose upon the top of the long smooth waves. "I
should think that she will pass within a mile of us, Peter," Tom said,
after half an hour's watching, "but I fear that she will not be much
closer. How unfortunate she had not come along an hour earlier. She
would have been sure to see us if it had been daylight. I don't think
that there is much chance now, for there is no moon. However, thank
God, we can hold on very well now, and next time we may have better
luck."

The sun had set more than half an hour before the ship came abreast of
them. They had evidently not been seen.

"Now, Peter," Tom said, "let us both hallo together; the wind is very
light, and it is just possible they may hear us."

Again and again the boys shouted, but the ship sailed steadily on.
Peter dashed the tears aside, and Tom said, with a quiver in his
voice, "Never mind, Peter; better luck next time, old boy. God has
been so good to us, that I feel quite confident we shall be saved."

"So do I, Tom," Peter said. "It was only a disappointment for a
minute. We may as well put the oar down, for my arm and back ache
holding it."

"Mind how you do it, Peter. If we let the end go through the canvas,
we shall lose our watches and bugles, and then we shall not be able to
fish."

"Oh, Tom, the bugles!"

"What, Peter?" Tom said, astonished.

"We can make them hear, Tom, don't you see?"

"Hurrah, Peter! so we can. What a fool I was to forget it!"

In a moment the bugles rang out the assembly across the water. Again
and again the sharp, clear sound rose on the quiet evening air.

"Look, Peter, there are men going up the rigging to look round. Sound
again!"

Again and again they sounded the call, and then they saw the ship's
head come round, and her bow put towards them, and then they fell on
their knees and thanked God that they were saved.

In ten minutes the ship was close to them, thrown up into the wind, a
boat was lowered, and in another minute or two was alongside.

"Hallo!" the officer in charge exclaimed, "two boys, all alone. Here,
help them in, lads--that's it; now pull for the ship. Here, boys, take
a little brandy from this flask. How long have you been on that raft?"

"It is three days since we went overboard, sir; but we were in the
water for about eighteen hours before we made the raft."

Tom and Peter drank a little brandy, and felt better for it; but they
were weaker than they thought, for they had to be helped up the side
of the ship. A number of officers were grouped round the gangway, and
the boys saw that they were on board a vessel of war.

"Only these boys?" asked the captain in surprise of the officer who
had brought them on board.

"That is all, sir."

"Doctor, you had better see to them," the captain said. "If they are
strong enough to talk, after they have had some soup, let them come
to my cabin; if not, let them turn in in the sick bay, and I will see
them in the morning. One question though, boys. Are there any others
about--any one for me to look for or pick up?"

"No one else, sir," Tom said, and then followed the doctor aft. A
basin of soup and a glass of sherry did wonders for the boys, and in
an hour they proceeded to the captain's cabin, dressed in clothes
which the doctor had borrowed from two of the midshipmen for them,
for their own could never be worn again; indeed, they had not brought
their jackets from the raft, those garments having shrunk so from the
water, that the boys had not been able to put them on again, after
first taking them off to dry.

The doctor accompanied them, and in the captain's cabin they found the
first lieutenant, who had been in charge of the boat which picked them
up.

"I am glad to see you looking so much better," the captain said as
they entered. "Sit down. Do you know," he went on with a smile, "I
do not think that any of us would have slept had you not recovered
sufficiently to tell your story to-night. We have been puzzling over
it in vain. How you two boys came to be adrift alone on a raft, made
up of three water-kegs, as Mr. Armstrong tells me, and how you came to
have two bugles with you on the raft, is altogether beyond us."

"The last matter is easily explained, sir," Tom said. "My brother and
myself are buglers in H.M.'s Regiment of Norfolk Rangers, and as we
were on duty when we went overboard, we had our bugles slung over our
shoulders."

"Buglers!" the captain said in surprise. "Why from your appearance and
mode of expressing yourselves, I take you to be gentlemen's sons."

"So we are, sir," Tom said quietly, "and I hope gentlemen--at any
rate we have been Etonians. But we have lost our father, and are now
buglers in the Rangers."

"Well, lads," the captain said after a pause, "and now tell us how you
came upon this little raft?"

Tom related modestly the story of their going overboard from the
"Nancy," of the formation of the raft, and of their after proceedings.
Their hearers were greatly astonished at the story; and the captain
said, "Young gentlemen, you have done a very gallant action, and have
behaved with a coolness and bravery which would have done credit to
old sailors. Had your father been alive he might have been proud
indeed of you. I should be proud had you been my sons. If you are
disposed to change services I will write directly we reach the Tagus
to obtain your discharge, and will give you midshipmen's berths on
board this ship. Don't answer now; you can think it over by the time
we reach Portugal. I will not detain you now; a night's rest will set
you up. Mr. Armstrong will introduce you to the midshipmen to-morrow;
you are passengers here now, and will mess with them. Good-night."

It was not many minutes before the boys were asleep in their hammocks.
If people's ears really tingle when they are being spoken about,
Tom and Peter would have had but little sleep that night. The first
lieutenant related the circumstances to the other lieutenants; the
second lieutenant, whose watch it was, told the gunner, who related
it to the petty officers; the doctor told his mates, who retailed the
story to the midshipmen; and so gradually it went over the whole ship,
and officers and men agreed that it was one of the pluckiest and
coolest things ever done.

The boys slept until nearly breakfast time, and were just dressed when
Mr. Armstrong came for them and took them to the midshipmen's berth,
where they were received with a warmth and heartiness which quite
surprised them. The midshipmen and mates pressed forward to shake
hands with them, and the stiflingly close little cock-pit was the
scene of an ovation. The boys were quite glad when the handshaking was
over, and they sat down to the rough meal which was then usual among
midshipmen. As the vessel had only left England four days before,
the fare was better than it would have been a week later, for there
was butter, cold ham and tongue upon the table. After breakfast they
were asked to tell the story over again, and this they did with great
modesty. Many questions were asked, and it was generally regretted
that they were not sailors. Upon going up on deck there was quite an
excitement among the sailors to get a look at them, and the gunner and
other petty officers came up and shook hands with them heartily, and
the boys wished from the depths of their hearts that people would not
make such a fuss about nothing; for, as Tom said to Peter, "Of course
we should not have jumped overboard if we had thought that we could
not have kept hold of the rope."

That day they dined in the cabin with the captain, who, after the
officers present had withdrawn, asked them if they would tell him
about their past lives. This the boys did frankly, and took the
opportunity of explaining that they had chosen the army because the
enemies' fleet having been destroyed, there was less chance of active
service in the navy than with the army just starting for Lisbon, and
that their uncle having commanded the regiment that they were in, they
had entered it, and had received so much kindness that they had fair
reason to hope that they would eventually obtain commissions. Hence,
while thanking him most warmly for his offer, they had decided to go
on in the path that they had chosen.

The captain remarked that, after what they had said, although he
should have been glad to have them with him, he thought that they had
decided rightly.

The next morning, when the boys woke, they were surprised at the
absence of any motion of the vessel, and upon going on deck they found
that they were running up the Tagus, and that Lisbon was in sight.




CHAPTER VI.

PORTUGAL.


The boys were delighted with the appearance of the Tagus, covered as
it now was with a fleet of transports and merchantmen. As they were
looking at it, the officer commanding the marines on board, who had
talked a good deal to them upon the preceding day, came up to them. "I
thought that you would be in a fix about clothes, my lads," he said.
"You could not very well join in these midshipman's uniforms, so I set
the tailor yesterday to cut down a couple of spare suits of my corps.
The buttons will not be right, but you can easily alter that when you
join. You had better go below at once and see if the things fit pretty
well. I have told the tailor to take them to the cock-pit and if they
do not fit they can alter them at once."

Thanking the officer very much for his thoughtful kindness, and much
relieved in mind--for they had already been wondering what they should
do--the boys ran below, and found that the tailor had guessed their
sizes pretty correctly, aided as he had been by the trousers they
had worn when they came on board. A few alterations were necessary,
and these he promised to get finished in a couple of hours. They had
scarcely gone on deck again when the anchor was let fall, and a boat
was lowered, in order that the captain might proceed to shore with the
despatches of which he was the bearer.

Just as he was upon the point of leaving the deck, his eye fell upon
the boys. "I shall be back again in an hour or two," he said; "do not
leave until I return. I will find out where your regiment is, and if
it has marched I will give you a certificate of how I picked you up,
otherwise you may be stopped on the way, and get into a scrape as two
boys who have strayed away from their regiment."

So saying, the captain got into his boat and rowed to shore. It was
one o'clock before he returned. The boys had dinner with the gunroom
officers, then changed their dress, and had now the appearance of
buglers in the marines.

The captain at once sent for them. "Your regiment went on yesterday
with the rest of the division. It halts to-day ten miles out of the
town. There is the certificate I spoke of. Mr. Armstrong is just going
off with two boats' crew to assist in unloading stores; I have asked
him to hand you over to the charge of some officer going up with a
convoy. And now good-bye, lads. I wish you every luck, and hope that
some day or other you may win your epaulets."

With renewed thanks for his kindness, the boys went up on deck. There
they shook hands and said good-bye to all the officers and midshipmen.
As they were waiting while the boats were being lowered, two of the
sailors went aft to the captain, who had come up from below and was
walking alone on the quarter-deck, and, with a touch of the hat, the
spokesman said, "Your honor, we're come to ax as how, if your honor
has no objection, we might just give a parting cheer to those 'ere
youngsters."

"Well, Jones," the captain said, smiling, "it's rather an unusual
thing for the crew of one of His Majesty's ships to cheer two young
soldiers."

"It is unusual, your honor, mighty unusual, because soldiers ain't in
general of much account at sea; but you see, your honor, this ain't a
usual circumstance, nohow. These here boys, which ain't much more than
babbies, have done what there ain't many men, not even of those who
are born and bred to the sea, would have done; and we should just like
to give them a bit of a cheer for good luck."

"Very well, Jones, tell the men they can do as they like."

Accordingly, as the boys took their seats in the boat they were
surprised at seeing the crew clustering to the side of the ship, while
some of the men ran up the rigging.

"What can the men be up to?" Tom asked Mr. Armstrong in surprise.

The lieutenant smiled, for he knew what was coming.

"Sheer off, men," he said, and as he did so the boatswain of the ship
gave the word, "Now, lads, three cheers for them boys; may they have
the luck they deserve."

Three thundering cheers burst from the whole crew, the men in the
boats tossing their oars in the naval fashion of acknowledgment of
the salute. Tom and Peter, astonished and affected, stood up, took
off their caps, and waved their hands in thanks to the crowd of faces
looking down upon them, and then sat down again and wiped their eyes.

"Row on," the lieutenant said, and the oars fell in the water with
a splash; one more cheer arose, and then the boats rowed for the
landing-place. The boys were too much affected to look up or speak,
until they reached the shore, nor did they notice a boat which rowed
past them upon its way to the vessel they had left, just after they
had started. It contained an officer in a general's uniform. The boat
steered to the ship's side, and the officer ascended the ladder. The
captain was on deck. "Ah, Craufurd," he said, "this is an unexpected
pleasure."

"I have just come back from my division for a few hours, Merivale;
there are a lot of stores which are essential, and some of my
artillery is not landed, so I thought I could hurry things up a bit.
My spare charger, and most of the chargers of my staff, are being
landed, too; the ship they came in was a day or two late; and as I had
to confer with the Portuguese Minister of War, I am killing a good
many birds with one stone. I heard you had just come in, and as I was
on board the "Clio" about my charger, I thought it would not be much
out of my way to run round and shake hands with you."

"I am very glad you did. Come into my cabin; you can spare time to
take some lunch, I hope."

While they were at lunch General Craufurd remarked, "So you have just
lost one of your officers, I see; promoted to another ship, eh?"

"Lost an officer!" Captain Merivale said in surprise. "No, not that I
have heard of. What makes you think so?"

"I thought so by the cheering the ship's crew gave that boat that left
the ship just before I came up. There was only a naval lieutenant in
her, and I supposed that he had just got his ship, and I thought by
the heartiness of the cheering what a good fellow he must be."

"But it was not the lieutenant the men were cheering," Captain
Merivale said with a smile.

"No!" General Craufurd said, surprised. "Why, there was no one else
in the boat. I looked attentively as I passed. There was only a
lieutenant, a midshipman who was steering, the men rowing, and two
little marine buglers, who had their handkerchiefs up to their faces.
So you see I took a very minute survey."

"You did indeed," Captain Merivale said, laughing. "Well, it was just
these little buglers that the crew of the ship were cheering."

General Craufurd looked up incredulously. "You're joking, Merivale.
The crew of His Majesty's frigate 'Latona' cheer two buglers of
marines! No, no, that won't do."

"It is a fact, though, Craufurd, unlikely as it seems, except that the
buglers belong to the Norfolk Rangers, and not to the Marines."

"The Rangers! They are in Hill's division. What is it all about? There
must be something very strange about it."

"There is indeed," Captain Merivale said, "very strange." And he then
related the whole story to his visitor.

"They are trumps indeed," the general said when the narrative was
ended, "and I am very glad that I happened to hear it. I will speak to
Hill about it, and will keep my eye upon them. Be assured they shall
have their epaulets as soon as possible--that is, if their conduct is
at all equal to their pluck. It is the least we can do when, as you
say, they have refused midshipmen's berths to stick to us. And now I
must be off."

The boat landed General Craufurd at the same landing-place at which
Tom and Peter had disembarked half an hour before. Lieutenant
Armstrong had spoken a few words to the officer who was superintending
the landing of stores and horses, and he, being far too busy to stop
to talk, briefly said that the boys could go up to join their regiment
with a convoy of stores which would start that night.

After saying good-bye to their friend the lieutenant, the boys sat
down upon some bales, and were watching with much amusement and
interest the busy scene before them. As General Craufurd passed they
rose and saluted.

"You are the boys from the 'Latona,' are you not?"

"Yes, sir," the boys answered in surprise.

"Can you ride?"

"Yes, sir."

"Follow me, then."

Much surprised, the boys followed the general until he made his way
through the confusion to a group of newly landed horses. Near them
were a couple of mounted Hussars, who, at the sight of the general,
rode forward with his charger. He made a sign to them to wait a
moment, and walked up to the men who were holding the newly landed
horses.

"Which of you have got charge of two horses?"

Several of the men answered at once.

"Which of you are servants of officers on my staff?"

Three of those who had answered before replied now.

"Very well; just put saddles on to two of them. These lads will ride
them; they are going out with me at once; they will hand them over to
your masters."

In another five minutes Tom and Peter, to their surprise and
delight, were clattering along through the streets of Lisbon upon
two first-rate horses in company with the two Hussars, while, twenty
lengths ahead, trotted General Craufurd with two officers who had been
down to Lisbon upon duty similar to his own. Once outside the town,
the general put his horse into a gallop, and his followers of course
did the same. Once or twice General Craufurd glanced back to see how
the boys rode, for a doubt had crossed his mind as to whether he had
been wise in putting them upon such valuable horses, but when he saw
that they were evidently accustomed to the work, he paid no further
attention to them.

The officers riding beside him, however, looked back several times.

"What luck we have, to be sure, Tom," Peter said, "and I can't
understand this a bit. How could the general know that we came from
the 'Latona'; as he evidently did, and by the way these officers have
looked back twice, I can't help thinking that he is talking about us."

Tom was as puzzled as Peter, but they soon forgot the subject, and
engaged in an animated conversation with the Hussars as to the
situation and position of the army, and the supposed strength and
locality of the French, concerning which they were, of course, in
complete ignorance. An hour and a half's sharp riding took them to
Torres Vedras, a small town which afterwards became celebrated for
the tremendous lines which Wellington erected there. The troops were
encamped in its vicinity, the general having his quarters at the house
of the Alcalde, or Mayor.

"Your regiment is a mile and a half distant, lads," General Craufurd
said as they drew up at his quarters; "you will have difficulty in
finding it this evening. Sergeant, take these lads round to the house
where my orderlies are quartered, and give them some supper. They can
join their regiment in the morning. I have heard of you, lads, from
Captain Merivale, and shall mention your conduct to General Hill, and
be assured I will keep my eye upon you."

The boys were soon asleep upon a heap of straw, and at six next
morning were upon the road, having already had some coffee and bread
for breakfast. They had no difficulty in finding their way, for
orderlies were already galloping about, and the bugle calls came sharp
upon their ears. The division was to march at seven. The Rangers
happened to be the first in advance, so that they passed through the
other regiments to arrive at theirs.

The tents were down when they arrived, and packed in readiness for the
bullock carts which stood by. The boys paused a little distance off,
and looked on with delight at the busy scene. At a note on the bugle
the tents and other baggage were stowed in the carts, and then the men
hitched on their knapsacks, unpiled arms, and began to fall into rank.

No one noticed the boys as they passed between the groups and
approached the band, who were mustering by the colors, which were as
usual placed in front of the guard tent.

"There's Sambo," Tom said; "I am glad they got him safe on board."

The negro was the first to perceive the boys as they came close up
to him. As he saw them he gave a sudden start, his eyes opened wider
and wider until the whites showed all round, his teeth chattered, the
shiny black of his face turned to a sort of dirty gray, and he threw
up his hands with a loud cry, "oh, golly, here's dose boys' spirits!"

He stepped back, heedless that the big drum was behind him, and the
next moment went back with a crash into it, and remained there with
his knees doubled up and his face looking out between them, too
frightened and horror-struck to make the least movement to extricate
himself.

For a moment no one noticed him, for at his cry they had all turned to
the boys, and stood as if petrified at seeing those whom they believed
had been drowned before their eyes a week before. The silence did
not last long, the boys bursting into a shout of laughter at Sam's
appearance.

"Spirits! Sam," Tom said; "not by a long way yet, man. How are you
all? Come, get out of that, Sam and shake hands." And as the band with
a shout crowded round them, the boys helped Sam, who was trembling all
over from the shock and fright, from the drum.

For a moment the boys were quite confused and bewildered, for as they
hauled Sam to his feet their comrades of the band pressed round them
cheering, every one trying to shake them by the hand.

The news spread like wildfire among the troops, and there was at once
a general rush to the spot. The boys were seized in an instant, and
each raised on the shoulders of two of the grenadiers, and as they
made their appearance above the heads of the crowd a tremendous cheer
broke from the whole regiment.

"What can be the matter?" was the general exclamation of the colonel
and officers, who were just finishing their breakfasts in a cottage
which stood close behind the spot where their tents had been pitched
in the rear of the regiment. "What can be the matter?"--and as the
cheering continued there was a general rush to the door. There they
stood astonished at seeing the whole of the men clustered in one spot,
shouting and waving their caps.

"What can be the matter?" the colonel said again; "the whole regiment
seems to have gone mad."

"We shall know in a minute," Captain Manley said; "they are coming in
this direction."

"Look at that fellow Sambo," exclaimed Carruthers; "he looks madder
than all the rest."

In spite of the intense surprise which all were feeling, there was a
general laugh, for the black was performing antics like one possessed;
his cap was gone, he jumped, he yelled, he waved his arms, with a
drumstick in each hand, wildly over his head, he twisted round and
round; he seemed really out of his mind. Suddenly he left the crowd,
and rushed on ahead at full speed towards the group of officers, still
leaping and yelling and waving his drumsticks.

The officers instinctively drew together as he approached, for they
thought that the gigantic negro was really out of his mind. He stopped
suddenly as he came up to them, and tried to fall into his usual
attitude of attention.

"Oh, Massa Colonel," he said in hoarse, sobbing tones, "only to
think, only to think. Scuse Sam, sar, but Sam feel he's going to bust
right up wid joy, massa. Dat no matter, but only to think. Bress de
Almighty, sar! only to think!"

None of the officers spoke for a minute in answer to these disjointed
exclamations. They were affected at the man's great emotion. His black
skin was still strangely pale, his eyes were distended, his lips
quivered, tears were rolling down his cheeks, and his huge frame was
shaken with sobs.

"Calm yourself, Sam--be calm, my man," the colonel said kindly. "Try
and tell us what has happened. What are the men so excited about? What
is the matter with them?"

"Oh, Massa Colonel," Sam said, "me try tell you all 'boat it. Only to
think, sar, dose boys cum back again; dose boys, sar, bress dem, dat
jumped into de water and got drowned just to save dis poor niggar,
sar. Dey cum back again; only tink ob dat!"

The officers looked at one another in surprise.

"I do believe he means the Scudamores! colonel," Captain Manley
exclaimed; "but no, it is impossible, no one could have lived five
minutes in that sea, and we know that they could not have been picked
up, for we were the last ship in the fleet."

"Yes, yes, sar, dat's dem, dey cum back sure enuff," Sam said.

Then Carruthers exclaimed, "I do believe it is so; there are a couple
of boys on the shoulders of the men in the middle of the crowd. Yes,
and, by Jove, it is the Scudamores. Hurrah! I am glad."

There was a general exclamation of pleasure from the whole group, for
the regret for the boys, who had, as was believed, perished in the
performance of such a gallant action, had been general and sincere,
and Captain Manley lifted his cap and said reverently, "Thank God,
these gallant lads are saved;" and those around, although some of them
were but little addicted to prayer, repeated the words and imitated
the action.

Carruthers would have stepped forward in his eagerness to greet his
former school-fellows, but Captain Manley laid his hand quietly on his
shoulder and said in a low tone, "Wait, Carruthers, let the colonel
welcome them."

And now the crowd came up to the cottage, those in front falling back
as they approached, so as to let the grenadiers come forward with
their burden. The boys were lowered to the ground, and stood at once
at attention; their faces were both flushed with excitement, and their
eyes swollen with tears, so much were they both moved by the welcome
which had greeted them.

There was a dead silence for a moment, and then Colonel Tritton said
in a loud, clear voice, which was heard all over the throng of men, "I
am glad, lads, to see you back again. I never expected to have seen
you again after we caught a glimpse of you as the sea washed you away.
You have seen how the men have welcomed you, and I can assure you
that the pleasure of the officers that two such gallant young fellows
should have been saved is no less than that of your comrades. A braver
act than that which you performed was never done. I shake hands with
you, and congratulate you in the name of the whole regiment." And,
suiting the action to the words, Colonel Tritton stepped forward and
shook the boys warmly by the hand, amidst a great cheer upon the part
of the whole regiment. Then he held up his hand for silence again.
"Bugler, sound the assembly; fall in, my lads, or we shall be late.
Come in here, boys; you can get something to eat, and tell us in a few
words how you were saved, for, even now that I see you it seems almost
impossible."




CHAPTER VII.

THE PASSAGE OF THE DUORO--TALAVERA.


Very severe was the drill and discipline, and not very abundant was
the food, and there was a general feeling of pleasure when, by the
general concentration of the army at Coimbra, it was evident that
active operations were about to commence. On the 5th of May 9000
Portuguese, 3000 Germans, and 13,000 British troops were assembled.
Sir Arthur was already there, and upon the 6th General Beresford
marched with 10,000 men, and orders were issued for the rest of the
army to march out early the next day.

The Norfolk Rangers were in high glee that night, and many were the
tales told by the old soldiers of former engagements in which they
had taken part. Next morning, at daybreak, the tents were struck, the
baggage packed, and the wagons loaded. The people of Coimbra came out
in crowds to see the troops march, and many were the blessings and
good wishes poured out as the long line wound through the streets of
the city.

Hill's division was the last, and the rain was pouring down with great
force by the time they started. The march, however, was not a very
long one, for Beresford's division, which was to operate upon the
Upper Duoro, had a long distance to make, and it was necessary that
all should be ready for simultaneous action. For this purpose the army
halted the next day, and upon the 9th marched to Aveiro on the River
Vonga. Here a large flotilla of boats was found, and the Norfolk
Rangers with two other regiments were ordered to embark at once. The
Portuguese fishermen entered heart and soul into the business, and in
perfect silence the little flats were rowed up the lake of Ovar.

The soldiers were greatly crowded in the boats, and were glad, indeed,
when just as morning dawned they landed at the town of Ovar.

By this movement they were placed upon the right flank of Francheschi,
the general who commanded the advanced division of the French army.
Soon after they had landed the French were attacked in front, and
finding their flank turned, and the whole British force, which they
had believed to be seven days' march away, in their front, they fell
back hastily.

To their great disappointment, the Rangers took no share in this the
first skirmish of the war. But Hill's orders were not to press on the
enemy's rear. Three days more of marching and skirmishing brought them
close to the Duoro on the evening of the 11th. The enemy crossed that
evening and destroyed the bridge, and during the night the British
troops were all brought up, and massed behind the hill called the
Serra. This hill stood upon a sharp elbow which the river makes just
above the town of Oporto, and the British were here completely hidden
from Marshal Soult, who had no idea that they were so close at hand.
Indeed, knowing that the bridge was broken and that all the boats
had been carefully taken over to that side of the river, the Marshal
dreamt not that Sir Arthur would attempt to cross, but imagined that
he would take boats lower down near the mouth of the river and there
endeavor to cross. To prevent such an attempt Soult had massed his
army below Oporto.

The troops were ordered to pile arms, and eat their breakfast, but to
keep in position. "I wonder how we are to cross the river, Tom?" Peter
said. "It is three hundred yards across, with a rapid current, no man
in the world could swim that, and carry his musket and ammunition
across."

"I expect Sir Arthur is reconnoitering, Peter; I saw him go up the
hill to that convent there; he must be able to see from there right
over Oporto."

An hour passed, and then two or three officers were seen coming down
from the hill; one went up to General Hill, who happened at that
moment to be talking to Colonel Tritton. "You are to prepare to cross,
sir, Colonel Waters has discovered a small boat brought across by a
Portuguese in the night. They are going to cross to that great convent
you see upon the other side. They will bring back boats with them, and
you will cross at once, take possession of the convent, and hold it
against any force that may be brought against you until reinforcements
arrive."

Very quickly were the orders passed, and with a smile of satisfaction
the men took their arms and fell in. They were moved near the river,
and kept under shelter of some houses.

"Keep near me," Colonel Tritton said to Tom and Peter, "I may want you
to carry messages, there will be no sounding of bugles to-day."

Keeping under the shade of some trees so that they could command a
view of the river without being seen from the opposite side, Colonel
Tritton with two of his officers and his two buglers, watched what
was going on. A few paces ahead of them were Generals Paget and Hill,
like themselves, watching the daring experiment. Behind, under shelter
of the houses, were the troops in dense masses. The Rangers, as the
first regiment in General Hill's division, were in front, and would
naturally be the first to cross. It was a most anxious moment, as
Colonel Waters and two Portuguese pushed the tiny boat from shore and
pulled across stream. The bulk of the Serra Hill hid the river at this
point, and even the convent opposite, from the sight of the French
army formed up below the town, but there were no doubt stragglers all
over the city, and the whole baggage of the French army was in retreat
by the road to Valarga which ran at a short distance behind the
convent.

Most anxiously their eyes were strained upon the opposite bank, from
which they expected to see the flash of musketry, as the little boat
neared the convent. All, however, was as still as death. Behind them
they heard a rumble, and looking round saw eighteen guns on their way
up the hill. From this eminence they could command the ground around
the Seminary, as the convent across the water was called, and thus
afford some aid to the troops as they crossed.

There was a murmur of satisfaction as the boat neared the opposite
shore, and after lying still for a moment to reconnoiter the convent,
pulled boldly up to the landing-place, where its occupants disembarked
and entered the Seminary. Their absence was not long. In a few minutes
they reappeared with eight or ten men, and then at once entered and
cast off three large boats moored along side.

The boys could hardly repress a cheer as they saw them fairly under
weigh. An officer now left the side of the General, and came to
Colonel Tritton, "You will get your first company in readiness to
embark, sir; do not let them show themselves until the last moment."

Colonel Tritton joined his men. "Captain Manley, take your company
forward, when the first boat touches the shore embark. Let there be no
noise or confusion."

"God bless you, Peter," Tom said, as they separated; "your company
won't be many minutes after us;" for the bugler of the first company
was ill, and Tom was ordered to take his place.

As the boat touched the shore Captain Manley ordered the leading files
of his company to come from under cover and take their place in the
boat. Twenty-four men entered, and when the other boats were also full
Captain Manley took his place, followed by his bugler, and the boats
pushed off again.

There was a dead silence in the boat, broken only by the sound of
the oars as the Portuguese tugged manfully at them, each oar being
double-banked by a soldier. The rest sat with their muskets in their
hands, their pouches open ready for use, and their eyes fixed upon the
shore. All was quiet, and with a sigh of relief, and a hearty hurrah
muttered under their breath, the men leapt from the boat and ran up to
the Seminary.

It was a large building with a flat roof, and the enclosure around it
was surrounded by a high wall which swept round to the water's edge
on either side. The only entrance was through a stout gate studded
with iron. This was already closed and barred; the captain at once
distributed his men at the upper windows of the Seminary, with orders
not to show themselves until the alarm was given.

They had scarcely taken their places when they were joined by the
occupants of the second boat, while those of the third, in which
General Paget himself crossed, were but a minute or two later. Just as
they touched the shore, however, there was a sudden shout heard, this
was followed by others, and in five minutes a wild hubbub was heard in
the town. Drums beat to arms, and it was evident that the enemy were
at last awake to the fact that the British had effected a lodgment
upon their side of the stream.

"We shall have it hot presently," Captain Manley said to Tom. "They
will be a quarter of an hour before they can get round here, and we
shall have the three boats back by that time. The one we came in is
half-way across already."

Seven or eight minutes later a heavy column of men was seen pouring
out of the upper gate of the town. As they got into the open ground,
they threw out clouds of skirmishers, and pushed down towards the
convent. A heavy fire was at once opened upon them by the English guns
upon the Serra Hill. There was no longer any need for concealment. The
soldiers in the convent took their places at the windows, and as they
did so could hear the loud hurrahs of their comrades as they crowded
down to the bank upon the other side of the river to await their turn
to embark. Before the enemy were within musket-shot, three boat loads
more had been landed, and there were, therefore, 150 men now in the
convent. From the gates of the city the French artillery came pouring
out, and, taking up a position upon an eminence, opened fire upon the
convent just as the infantry had got within musket-range.

So suddenly did the noise of the enemy's cannonade, the crashing of
the balls against the thick walls of the Seminary, the rattle of the
enemy's musketry, and the louder roar of the muskets of the defenders,
blended on both sides with shouts and cheers, break out, that for a
minute or two Tom felt almost bewildered. He had no time, however, to
think, for an officer came up to Captain Manley. "The general is up on
the roof; he wants a bugler sent up to him."

Captain Manley nodded to Tom, who followed the aide-de-camp on to the
roof. Here he could see all that was passing, and an exciting sight
it was. Crowds of French soldiers were approaching the wall, keeping
up a tremendous musketry fire, whilst behind them three batteries of
field-guns were sending their messengers of death. From every upper
window of the convent the answering flashes came thick and fast, while
overhead hummed the shot from the British guns, on the Serra Hill.
Oporto itself was in a state of uproar. Drums were beating, trumpets
sounding, bells clanging, while from the house-tops the population,
men and women, were waving their handkerchiefs to the English,
gesticulating and making all sorts of pantomimic expression of joy.

Looking at the river behind, Tom saw with pleasure that some more
boats had been obtained, and that strong reinforcements would soon be
across. The whistling of the bullets and the hum of the round shot
were incessant, and Tom acknowledged to himself that he felt horribly
uncomfortable--much more uncomfortable than he had any idea that he
should feel under fire. Had he been actively engaged, he would have
hardly experienced this feeling; but to stand impassive under a heavy
fire is trying to the nerves of the oldest soldier. He was angry with
himself that he was not more indifferent to the whizzing of the balls;
but the sensation of discomfort under fire is beyond the control of
the will, and it is no unusual thing to see a young soldier who, later
in the day, may display an almost reckless courage, yet at first
flinch whenever balls hiss close by him, in spite of all his efforts
to the contrary. Tom was able, however, to control any outward
manifestation of his feelings, and took his place a few paces behind
General Paget, who was standing with one of his officers by his side,
watching the force which, momentarily increasing, was, in spite of the
British fire, making its way onward towards the gate.

It was evident that the general considered the danger to be pressing,
as he once or twice looked back to see how quickly the reinforcements
were crossing the river. The first time that he did so, his eye fell
on Tom. "Get behind those big chimneys, lad. There is no use in
exposing yourself unnecessarily."

Tom obeyed the order with alacrity, and, once in shelter, was soon
able to bring his nerves under control, and to look round the corner
of his shelter without flinching when the bullets sang past. In five
minutes General Hill joined Paget on the roof, and just as he did so
the latter was severely wounded and fell.

Tom ran forward to assist him, and, kneeling beside him, partially
supported him until four men came up and carried him below. The
position of the little garrison was now very precarious, the artillery
fire concentrated upon them was heavy, and the French swarmed up
to the wall, which they in vain endeavored to climb. The English
kept up a tremendous fire upon them, cheering constantly as fresh
reinforcements arrived, or as the enemy was momentarily repulsed.

Tom had now lost all nervousness, and was standing eagerly watching
the fight, when a ball knocked his shako off. The general happened to
turn around at the moment. "That was a narrow escape," he said with a
smile. "What is your name, lad?"

"Scudamore, sir," Tom answered.

"Scudamore--Scudamore. Yes, I remember the name now. You are one of
the lads General Craufurd spoke to me about. I want to see you. Come
to me to-morrow with your brother. Go down now and join your company;
I do not want you here."

Tom gladly went down, for he longed to be doing something. He soon
found his company, and, taking up a firelock of one of the men who had
fallen, was soon hard at work loading and firing into the assailants.
For an hour the strife continued. Fortunately General Murray had
found some boats three miles higher up the stream, and had crossed,
thus menacing the enemy's line of retreat. Suddenly a great pealing
of bells were heard in Oporto, with shouting and cheering, and the
house-tops were covered with people waving their handkerchiefs. The
French were evacuating the town. The inhabitants at once took across
some large barges to Villa Neva, a suburb lying across the river and
just below the Serra Hill. Here Sherbrooke began to cross.

It was now the time for the English to take the offensive. There were
now three battalions in the seminary, and as the French drew sullenly
off to join the column now flowing steadily out from Oporto along the
Valonga road, the gates were thrown open, and the English passing out
formed outside the walls, and poured volley after volley into the
retreating foe. Had Murray fallen upon their flank, the disaster of
the French would have been complete; but this general feared that the
enemy would turn upon him, and destroy his division before assistance
could arrive, and he therefore remained inactive, and allowed the long
column of fugitives to pass unmolested.

For the next eight days the English army followed hotly in pursuit,
and several skirmishes occurred; but Soult effected a most masterly
retreat, saving his army, when it seemed upon the brink of
destruction, by leaving his guns and baggage behind him, and leading
his men by paths over mountains supposed to be impassable for any
large body of men. He lost altogether 6000 men in this short campaign.
This included 3600 prisoners either captured in action or left behind
in the hospitals, and 1400 killed. The number of guns left behind was
fifty-eight. The English had only 300 killed and wounded.

Sir Arthur's plans for the invasion of Spain were not yet
complete, and he accordingly halted his army to await supplies and
reinforcements. During this time the young buglers had no opportunity
of calling upon Major-General Hill. The transport supplied by the
Spanish Government had failed grossly, and the troops were badly fed
at a time when, taking long marches, they most required support. The
first day after they halted the boys determined that they would, as
soon as they were off duty, call upon General Hill. While parade was
going on, however, they saw the general ride up to Colonel Tritton,
and enter into conversation with him. The bugler, who was standing
near, was ordered to sound the call for the officers to assemble in
front; and when they did so, Colonel Tritton left the general's side
and spoke a few words with them. There was a short conversation,
and then the colonel rejoined the general's side, and the officers
returned to their places. The colonel now rode forward to the center
of the line, and said in loud tones, "Men, I have a piece of news to
tell you which I think that you will be glad to hear. Upon my arrival
at Lisbon I reported the gallant conduct of Tom and Peter Scudamore
in rescuing one of their comrades when washed overboard in the Bay
of Biscay. Captain Merivale, of the "Latona," also reported it, and
General Hill, when he heard the circumstances, was also good enough to
send home a report recommending them for promotion. He has received
an answer from the Commander-in-Chief announcing that they are both
granted commissions in this regiment as a reward for their act of
distinguished gallantry. The regiment is dismissed."

As the men fell out they gave a loud and general cheer, and Tom and
Peter were surrounded by their comrades, who shook them by the hand,
and congratulated them upon their promotion. The boys were too much
surprised and affected to speak, and they had scarcely recovered from
their bewilderment, when Carruthers came up to them, and led them
to the colonel. Here General Hill first, and then all the officers,
warmly shook hands with them. The boys were much touched by the warmth
with which they were received, and were soon hurried off to the tents
of the officers. Several of the ensigns were slight young men, and
they insisted upon rigging the boys out in uniform, and the boys
had the less scruple in accepting the kind offer, inasmuch as they
expected every day to enter Spain, when the baggage would be cut down
to the smallest possible proportion, and the officers as well as
the men be obliged to leave almost everything behind them. Sam was
delighted at the promotion of his friends, and asked to be appointed
their servant, a request which was at once acceded to. The regiment
had now been three months in Spain, and the boys had continued to
work hard at Spanish, devoting several hours a day to its study, and
talking it whenever they could find an opportunity--no difficult
matter, as Portugal was full of Spanish who had crossed the frontier
to avoid the hated yoke of the French.

The delay in invading Spain was caused partly from want of
transport, but more by the utter incapacity of the Spanish Junta or
government, and by the arrogance and folly of Cuesta, the Spanish
Commander-in-Chief, who was always proposing impracticable schemes to
Wellington, and, inflated with Spanish pride and obstinacy, believed
that his own worthless troops were fully a match for the French, and
was jealous in the highest degree of the British general.

At last, on the 27th of June, the British army advanced. Scarcely had
they made a day's march, however, when the utter faithlessness of the
Spaniards became manifest. The provisions and transport promised were
not forthcoming, and from the very day of their advance the British
were badly fed, and indeed often not fed at all; and so great were
their sufferings during the campaign--sufferings caused by the
heartlessness of the people whom they had come to deliver from a
foreign yoke, that the British soldiers came to cherish a deep and
bitter hatred against the Spanish; and it was this intense feeling of
animosity which had no little to do with the cruel excesses of the
English soldiery upon the capture of Burgos and San Sebastian.

After many delays from these causes, the British army reached Oropesa
upon the 20th July, and there formed a junction with Cuesta's army.
Upon the 22d the allied armies moved forward, and upon the same
day the Spaniards came in contact with the French, and should have
inflicted a severe blow upon them, but the ignorance and timidity of
the Spanish generals enabled the enemy to draw off and concentrate
without loss.

The British troops had now been for many days upon half rations, and
Sir Arthur gave notice to the Junta, that unless his requisitions were
complied with, he should retire from Spain. Cuesta, however, believing
that the French were retreating in haste, pushed his army across the
river Alberche, with the vain idea of defeating them, and entering
Madrid in triumph. Sir Arthur, seeing the fatal consequences which
would ensue, were the Spaniards attacked alone, laid aside his
previously-formed resolution, and put his army in motion across
the Alberche. The position of the allied armies was now most
dangerous--far more so, indeed, than the English general supposed.
Badly informed by the Spanish, he greatly underrated the enemy's
forces. Taking advantage of the delay caused by the want of provisions
and carriage, Soult, Victor, and Ney were marching their forces from
various points, and concentrating to crush the invading army. Upon the
26th the French met the Spanish army. General Zayas, who commanded
the Spanish advance of 4000 infantry and 2000 cavalry, scarcely
offered any resistance, his men broke and fled in disorder, and the
panic would have spread to the whole Spanish army, had not General
Albuquerque brought up 3000 more cavalry and held the French at
bay, while Cuesta retreated in great disorder. The Spanish loss by
dispersion and flight was no less than 4000 men, and the whole army
would have been broken up had not General Sherbrooke advanced with his
division, and placed it between the French and the flying Spaniards.

The allies now recrossed the Alberche and took up a position to cover
Talavera. Sir Arthur chose a strong defensive position, as it was
evident that the Spanish were worse than useless in the open field.
The Spaniards were placed with their right resting upon Talavera,
their left upon a mound whereon a large field-redoubt was constructed.
Their front was covered by a convent, by ditches, stone walls,
breastworks, and felled trees; and thus, worthless as were the troops,
they could scarcely be driven from a position almost impregnable.

The line beyond the Spanish was continued by Campbell's division, next
to which came that of Sherbrooke, its left extending to a steep hill.
Mackenzie and Donkin had not yet fallen hack from the Alberche. Hill
was in rear. The British troops, including the German legion, were
19,000 strong, with thirty guns. The Spaniards had 33,000 men and
seventy guns. The Spanish contingent could, however, be in no way
relied upon, and were, indeed, never seriously engaged. The real
battle was between the 19,000 British troops and 50,000 French.
The French attacked the British outposts with great impetuosity,
and Mackenzie and Donkin were driven in with a loss of 4000 men.
The latter took up his position with his brigade on the hill on
Sherbrooke's left; the former took post with Campbell's division, to
which he belonged. The French cavalry now galloped up towards the
portion of the line held by the Spanish, and discharged their pistols
at them, whereupon 10,000 Spanish infantry and the whole of their
artillery broke and fled in wild confusion. For miles they continued
their flight, but in the evening the Spanish cavalry were sent round
in pursuit, and drove some 4000 of these cowards back to their lines.
Seeing the wild confusion which was raging on the allies' right,
Victor resolved, although evening was at hand, to make a sudden dash
upon the hill upon their left, which, held only by Donkin's brigade,
was the key of the position. The hill was very steep upon the front,
or French side, while towards the rear it sloped gradually. Ruffin's
division was ordered to the attack, followed by Villette in support,
while Lapisse was ordered to engage the German legion, which was on
the left of Sherbrooke's division.

Hill's division was lying down behind the hill when Ruffin's troops
advanced to the attack. There was no expectation of an attack that
evening, and the woods and increasing darkness covered the movements
of the French troops. Weary and hungry, the English soldiers,
disgusted at the inhuman neglect of the Spaniards, and furious
at their cowardice, were chatting over the events of the day and
discussing the chances, by no means bright, of the expected battle
to-morrow. All that day they had had no food whatever save a small
portion of grain, served out raw and unground. Tom and Peter had been
chatting with the officers, who were grouped under a tree, when Sambo
came up to them and beckoned them aside.

"Look here, Massa Tom, here six eggs; tree for you, tree for Massa
Peter."

"Thank you, Sam, that is capital; but you know you will get into a row
if you get caught taking things."

"Me no take 'em, massa. Old hen give them to me."

Tom laughed.

"How was that, Sam?"

"Well, Massa, me saw her sitting on nest. Me went up and said to her,
'Give me some eggs, old girl.' She say 'Cluck.' I says, 'Cluck means
yes, I suppose?' She say 'Cluck' again. Clear 'nuff that, so me take
eggs, eat tree, bring six, young massa."

"I am afraid, Sam," Tom said, laughing, "your story would hardly save
you from the triangles, if you had been caught. However, as it is rude
to return a present, of course you cannot take them back to the hen. I
suppose they are raw?"

"Yes, massa; no good make fire; make hole bofe ends, suck 'em."

"All right, Sam; it is not the nicest way, but, under the
circumstances, perhaps it is the best; at any rate, I am too hungry to
wait till we can get a fire lighted."

So saying, the boys sucked the raw eggs, and then joined the men,
when, just as they did so, first a dropping rifle shot, and then a
perfect roar of musketry broke out upon the hill above them. It needed
no order to be given. The men fell into their places and prepared to
climb the hill and assist Donkin's brigade, which was evidently unable
alone to resist the attack. Knapsacks were thrown off, firelocks
tightly grasped, and the regiment impatiently awaited orders to
advance. None were more impatient than the colonel, who after a few
minutes, seeing by the fire that the English were falling back, and
that the French had gained the crest of the hill, waited no longer for
orders, but gave the word for the regiment to advance. They were but
half way up the hill when General Hill himself galloped down to meet
them, and then turning, led the way beside Colonel Tritton.

General Hill had had a narrow escape. Donkin had repulsed the French
who attacked him in front, but his force was insufficient to guard the
whole crest of the hill. Consequently, the enemy had come up round
his flank, and were now in actual possession of the crest. General
Hill, ignorant of this, had ridden with his brigade-major right
into the midst of the French before he found out his mistake. His
brigade-major, Fordyce, was killed, his own horse wounded, and his
bridle seized by a French grenadier. He had, however, broken away, and
had ridden off under a storm of bullets.

With a cheer the Norfolk Rangers followed their gallant leader. They
reached the crest, poured a tremendous volley into the enemy, and
charged with the bayonet. The French, of whom but a small portion
had as yet gained the crest, were unable to resist the impetuous
onslaught, and at once gave way.

The Rangers were now joined by the 48th and the 29th, so that these,
with Donkin's brigade, formed a strong body of troops. The French,
who had fallen back, now united with their main body, and the attack
was renewed with all the force of Ruffin's division. The heavy mass
pressed upwards, in spite of the destructive fire of the British, and
were within twenty yards of the crest, when, with a hearty cheer, the
English troops burst upon them with the bayonet, and the French again
fell back, broken and disheartened.

This ended the fighting on the 27th of July. Long lines of bivouac
fires soon blazed upon either side. The wounded were carried down the
hill to the field-hospital, which had been erected under its cover,
and the men, eating their scanty supper, wrapped themselves in their
great coats, and were soon asleep. The officers chatted for a short
time longer, but as all were tired, and the next day was sure to be a
severe one, they, too, soon lay down by their fire.

When morning broke, it was seen that the enemy had massed a large
force of artillery upon a hill just opposite to the one held by the
English. Soon afterwards Ruffin's division, as before supported by
Villette, advanced to the attack, covered by the tremendous fire from
his artillery. The British had no adequate force of artillery to reply
to the iron storm, and the balls swept through their lines, mowing
down their ranks, and causing great loss. The regiments in reserve lay
down to avoid the iron shower, while the Rangers and 48th prepared to
resist the French when they came within fighting distance.

As their men approached the summit of the hill, the French artillery
was obliged to cease playing in that direction, and turned its
attention to the British center, while a fierce musketry contest took
place between the French and Hill and Donkin's men.

The ground was rough, and the troops on both sides, broken up into
small bodies, fought desperately. General Hill was wounded, and the
British troops fell fast. The French, however, suffered even more,
and, as Hill brought up his reserve, the English gained ground foot by
foot, until they drove them again down the steep side of the hill. As
the French retired, their artillery once more opened fire to cover
their retreat.

A pause now ensued; the French in this brief contest had lost 1400
men, and the British had suffered severely. The French then held a
council of war, and determined to attack along the whole line in
force. Hours passed away; the English munched their corn, smoked their
pipes, and watched the enemy scattered over the plain. The weather
was very hot, and the men of both sides went down to a little stream
which divided their positions, drank, and filled their water-bottles
in perfect amity. Some of the officers, who spoke French conversed
with the French officers, exchanged cigars for brandy, and joked and
laughed as if they had been the best of friends.

At one o'clock the French drums were heard to beat, and the men were
soon formed in order. Tom and Peter stood with a group of officers on
the brow of the hill. Nothing could be finer than the sight. Far away
the view stretched over the country, thickly wooded, and with chateau
and farm-houses scatted here and there. Through the trees the dense
masses of the French could be seen, as they moved in columns towards
the positions from which they were to attack. Upon an eminence,
nearly opposite to their position, the boys could see a long line of
the French artillery. Far away, to the right, rose the churches of
Talavera, while behind the hill were the British and Spanish cavalry,
ready to charge should the French endeavor to turn the British left by
pushing round its foot. Fifty paces from the officers of the Norfolk
Rangers sat Sir Arthur Wellesley, on horseback, watching attentively
through a field-glass the movements of the enemy, and at a short
distance behind him were his staff. The British troops were standing
in easy order, a little behind the crest of the hill, so as to be
sheltered from the artillery fire with which the French were sure to
cover the advance of their column of attack.

"This is a grand sight, Peter," Tom said, "but I wish they would
begin; it makes one fidgety waiting for it."

Scarcely had Tom spoken when, as if in answer to his wish, a series
of jets of white smoke puffed out from the opposite hill, and two or
three seconds later came the thunder of eighty guns, and the whizzing
sound of as many balls. Instinctively the group drew back a pace, but
it was not upon them that this tremendous fire was opened. It was
directed against the right of the British line, and almost at the same
moment a cloud of skirmishers appeared among the trees, followed by
the dark columns of Sebastiani's division.

Upon these the English guns at once opened fire; but rushing forward
with their usual impetuosity, they cleared away the obstacles which
had been raised across the British front, and charged with fury
against the British position. Campbell's division, however, assisted
by Mackenzie's brigade and two Spanish battalions, stood firm, and
driving back the skirmishers, advanced in line, cheering loudly. The
head of the French column withered away under their tremendous fire,
and, pushing forward, they overlapped it, and drove them back with
terrible loss, capturing ten guns. Then Campbell prudently recalled
his men to their first position, and the British artillery, which had
necessarily been silent while friend and foe were mingled together,
opened furiously upon the French as they tried to re-form upon their
supports. A Spanish cavalry regiment dashed down upon their flank, and
they retired again in great disorder.

Every incident of the fight could be seen from the British position on
the hill, and the troops almost held their breath with excitement as
the British lines clashed against the head of the French column, and a
loud shout of triumph burst out spontaneously as the French broke and
fled.

But it was now the turn of the left. Already Villette's division,
preceded by the Grenadiers and supported by Ruffin's division, was
advancing, and the British cavalry were ordered to charge them. The
ground was, however, quite unfit for cavalry. Colonel Arentschild, a
very experienced officer, who commanded the German Hussars, drew up
his regiment at the edge of a deep cleft which crossed their front,
and refused to take his men to certain destruction. The 23d Dragoons,
however, dashed into the ravine. Men and horses rolled over in all
directions; still, they got across, and, charging furiously between
the French infantry regiments, which poured in a terrible fire,
fell upon a brigade of Chasseurs in their rear. Victor sent up his
Polish lancers and Westphalian light horse to the assistance of the
Chasseurs, who already outnumbered the 23d, and this gallant regiment
was completely broken, the survivors escaping to the shelter of
Bassecourt's Spanish division, which lay beyond the hill, having lost
257 men and officers.

Tom and Peter did not see this disastrous affair, for on the approach
of the enemy's column they fell into their places in the ranks. It
was, however, in vain that the French tried to gain the crest of the
hill, their efforts at this point being indeed far more feeble than
they had been either in the morning or upon the previous night. It was
in the center that their great effort was made. Here Lapisse threw his
division against that of Sherbrooke, and, covered by his own artillery
and by the guns upon the hill, charged right up to the position. The
British, however, repulsed them, and the guards, carried away by the
excitement of the moment, followed them with reckless ardor. The
French reserves of infantry and cavalry came up, the artillery plied
the British with shot and shell, the fugitives rallied and again came
to the attack, and the Guards fell back in confusion. The Germans next
to them, severely pressed, began to waver, and for a time it seemed
that the British, victorious upon both flanks, were yet to lose the
battle by being broken in the center.

Now, however, the 48th, which Sir Arthur had ordered down from the
hill when he saw the rash advance of the Guards, was seen advancing
in line through the disordered masses. Wheeling back, it allowed the
retreating regiments to pass through it and then again formed and fell
upon the flank of the victorious French column. The French paused in
their advance, the Guards and Germans rallied and came back again to
the fight, the shots of the British guns plowed lines in the column,
the French wavered, and, as the British light cavalry trotted up with
the intention of charging them, fell back, and drew off to their
first position amidst shouts of victory along the whole length of the
British line.

Thus the battle ceased, each party occupying the ground it had held in
the morning. The British loss in killed, wounded, and missing, in the
two days' fighting, was 6200; that of the French 7400. Had the British
been in a condition to have sallied from their position and pursued
the retiring enemy, the victory would have had far greater results;
but, exhausted and half-starved, the British were incapable of
following up their advantage.

The next morning at daybreak, the French army quitted its position,
and, retiring across the Alberche, formed line of battle there, and
awaited the attack, should the English take the offensive. This they
were in no position to do, although in the course of the day Craufurd
had come up with the 43d, 52d, and 95th Regiments. These three
regiments had heard of the first day's fighting from the Spanish
fugitives, and had marched with all speed to the assistance of their
friends. They had, carrying their kit and ammunition, weighing from 50
lb. to 60 lb., actually marched sixty-two miles in twenty-six hours in
the hottest season of the year, one of the greatest feats recorded in
military history.

The Rangers had suffered heavily, and in the two days' fighting had
lost thirty-eight killed and 109 wounded. Among the former were two
officers, while several others were wounded. The Scudamores had,
fortunately, both escaped without a scratch. The inhumanity of the
Spaniards was now more markedly shown than ever. Although both in
Cuesta's army, and in the town of Talavera provisions were abundant,
yet the inhabitants carefully concealed them, while both the wounded
and fighting men of the British army were in want. So great was the
misery and indignation of the soldiers at this shameful treatment,
from those for whom they were doing so much, that they would willingly
have attacked the Spanish army and plundered the town; and from this
period to the end of the war the British hated the Spanish with a deep
and bitter hatred.

Wellesley now received news that Soult had crossed the mountains
through the pass of Banos, which had been left undefended by the
Spanish, and was marching upon his rear. Believing that Soult had only
13,000 men with him--whereas in fact, he had 50,000--Sir Arthur left
the Spanish army at Talavera in charge of the hospitals, with 6000
sick and wounded, and retraced his steps, with the intention of giving
battle to this new enemy.

Upon the 3d, however, he learned the real strength of Soult's army,
and upon the same day heard that General Cuesta had basely retreated
from Talavera, without having provided any transport whatever,
according to his promise, for the British sick and wounded. All of
these who had strength to crawl rejoined the British army, but 1500,
who were unable to walk, were left behind, and fell into the hands
of the French, by whom they were treated with far greater kindness
and attention than they had been by the Spanish. Upon the 4th Cuesta
joined Sir Arthur, and at six o'clock next morning the only possible
course for safety was adopted. Victor was advancing from Talavera,
Soult was hurrying from Placentia to cut off the retreat of the
British, and accordingly Sir Arthur fell back upon Arzobispo, on the
Tagus.

The artillery, the baggage and wounded, first crossed the bridge, and
at two o'clock the entire army was across. So great was the hunger of
the men that a herd of swine happening to be seen close to the line
of march, the soldiers ran upon them, shot and bayoneted them, and
devoured them raw. Taking up a strong position, guarding the bridges
of the Tagus, the British army remained quiet until the end of August.
During this time they became so weakened by starvation that they could
scarcely walk; a great portion of the cavalry horses, and nearly all
the baggage animals died of hunger, and at last, Sir Arthur, finding
that no remonstrances availed with the Junta, fell back again to the
Portuguese frontier by slow marches, for the army was so utterly
enfeebled that it resembled a vast body of invalids, rather than an
army of unbeaten soldiers.




CHAPTER VIII.

A PAUSE IN OPERATIONS.


Talavera was fought in July, 1809, and for four months longer Sir
Arthur Wellesley kept his troops on the Spanish frontier, where his
presence served as a check against any invasion, even by a very
formidable army, of Portugal. After the utter bad faith and cowardice
shown by the Spanish, the great commander was determined never again
to trust in their promises, or to undertake any movement dependent
for success upon their co-operation. The Junta then declared that
the Spaniards would alone and unaided sweep the French beyond the
Pyrenees, and a Spanish army of 45,000 infantry, 7000 cavalry, and 60
guns advanced in November against Madrid. It was met by a French army
of 24,000 infantry, 5000 cavalry, and 50 guns. The battle began at
eleven in the morning, and by three the French, with a loss of only
1700 killed and wounded, had utterly routed the Spanish, with a loss
of 5000 killed and wounded, 45 guns, and 26,000 prisoners! After this
signal and disgraceful defeat, Lord Wellington--for he had now been
raised to the peerage--felt that nothing whatever could be done at
present in Spain, and so fell back into Portugal, where for many
months he occupied himself in preparing to meet the storm which would,
he knew, fall ere long upon that country. The Portuguese authorities
were as incapable, as untrustworthy, and as intractable as were those
of Spain; but here, happily, Lord Wellington had more power. England
was paying large subsidies towards keeping up the Portuguese army,
which was commanded by Lord Beresford, having under him many British
officers. The Portuguese troops were hardy, obedient, and far braver
than the Spaniards; but difficulties often arose in keeping the army
together, because the Portuguese Government, although England was
paying the principal expenses of the army, yet starved their soldiers,
and often kept them for months without pay. It was only by the
strongest remonstrances, and by the oft-repeated threat that he would
embark the British troops, and abandon Portugal altogether, unless
these and other abuses were done away with, that Lord Wellington
succeeded in reducing this incapable and insolent Government to
reason.

Reinforcements arrived but slowly from England, for a considerable
portion of the available troops of England were frittered away in
holding Cadiz and in an expedition to Sicily. In these two places some
25,000 English troops were wasted--a force, which, had it been added
to Wellington's army, would have enabled him to take the field against
the French, instead of being forced to remain in Portugal for upwards
of a year without discharging a single shot against the enemy. Tom and
Peter Scudamore, however, were not destined to remain inactive all
these weary months. One day in November, just before the army fell
back from the Spanish frontier, General Hill was dining at mess with
the regiment; for, rough as was the accommodation, the officers had
succeeded in establishing a general mess. The conversation turned upon
the difficulty of discovering what force the various French generals
had at their disposal, the reports received by the Commander-in-Chief
being often ridiculously incorrect. There was also an immense
difficulty in communicating with the guerilla chiefs who, almost
always beaten when they came to blows with any considerable bodies
of the French, yet managed to harass them terribly by cutting off
convoys, falling upon small parties, and attacking outposts and bands
of foragers. Knowing every mountain pass and road, these men could,
if they would, keep Lord Wellington informed of every considerable
movement of the enemy, and might in return receive instruction for
acting, when required, in concert before the communication of an
advancing army, or might create a diversion by uniting their bands,
and threatening some important post.

The next day the boys went to Colonel Tritton's quarters, and,
referring to the conversation of the day before, said that they were
willing to carry any messages that the general might require sent, and
to obtain any information wanted.

"Nonsense, boys, you would be hung as spies before you had been gone a
week."

"I don't think so, sir," Tom said; "we have had very little to do
during the six months we have been out here except to learn the
language of the country, and I think now we could pass very well as
Spanish boys. Besides, who would suspect boys? We are quite ready to
chance detection if we can be allowed to go."

"I don't like it, boys; you are too young. Well, if not too young," he
said, in answer to a movement of Tom's to speak, "we all like you too
well to run the risk of hearing you have been hung like a couple of
young puppies."

"You are very kind, colonel; but you know you promised to give us a
chance if you could, and having a chance of course means having extra
danger; but I really don't think that there would be any great danger
in it."

"Well, boys," Colonel Tritton said, after a few moments' thought, "I
do not feel justified in refusing your application, and will mention
it to General Hill. There are very few officers in the army who
speak Spanish fluently, and you being boys would, as you say, avert
suspicion. But I tell you fairly that I hope General Hill will at once
refuse to entertain the idea."

"Thank you, sir," the boys said. "Of course that is all we could ask
you to do."

The next day, after parade was over, Colonel Tritton walked on
to General Hill's quarters at a sort of half farm-house, half
country-seat, a short distance from the village, round which the
Rangers were encamped. As he came up to the house, General Hill came
out from his door talking to a Spanish officer, who had the day before
brought some despatches from one of the Spanish generals to Lord
Wellington.

Colonel Tritton joined them, and they stood talking together upon the
state of affairs in Spain, and of the advance of the Spanish army on
Madrid, which was then just taking place. As they did so two very
ragged, unkempt Spanish boys, shoeless and wretched-looking, limped
up, and began to beg. General Hill shook his head, and the Spaniard
impatiently motioned them away.

"Por Dios," one whined; "give us something; we are starving. The
French have burnt down our houses, and killed our fathers and
mothers--we are starving. 'Por l'amor de Dios!'"

"What's the poor little beggar say?" General Hill asked the Spaniard.

"The usual story--house burnt, father and mother killed, starving. I
dare say it's all a lie."

"Where did you live?" he asked in Spanish.

"In the village of Oros, near Valencia."

"And how did you come here?"

"The French burnt the village because the guerillas had killed a party
of theirs in it, and they killed all the people, and then carried off
the mules and horses, and took us to drive some of them. That was four
months ago. We had to drive till the other day at Tamanes, when our
men beat the French; our mules were taken, and, as they did not want
us as drivers we had nothing to do but to come on in hopes that the
kind English would give us food."

The Spanish officer translated what the boy said, and General Hill
remarked, "Yes, that was a brilliant affair of the Duke del Pasque's.
Here," he called to an orderly, "give these boys some bread. I will
see what can be done for them afterwards. I am afraid nothing. Poor
little wretches! their story is a very common one."

The boys received the bread with a great show of thankfulness, and,
sitting down by the roadside, began to munch it with great appetite.
The Spanish officer now mounted his horse and rode off, while General
Hill and Colonel Tritton remained standing where he had left them.
Colonel Tritton then told General Hill of the Scudamores' request to
be allowed to penetrate into Spain as spies or with dispatches.

"The young pickles!" General Hill laughed. "What will they be wanting
to do next? Pooh, pooh! it would be out of the question."

"I believe they do really speak Spanish exceedingly well." Colonel
Tritton said. "They generally act as interpreters for us, and none of
the officers speak Spanish with anything like the same fluency."

"As far as the language goes, they might get on, perhaps," General
Hill said; "but they look as thorough English boys as you could see.
They would be detected at once."

"Yes," Colonel Tritton said, "they are both thorough English boys; I
should know them anywhere. What a contrast to the miserable, limping,
hang-dog lads there! Poor little chaps! Why, upon my word, I believe
the fellows are laughing."

General Hill looked sharply at them, and, as he looked from one to the
other, he said sarcastically, "Poor little chaps indeed! You said that
very naturally, Tritton. It really does you credit as an actor."

Colonel Tritton looked at the general with an expression of blank
astonishment.

"What," said the general, "were you really taken in too"

"Taken in?" repeated Colonel Tritton vaguely.

"Don't you see, Tritton, those poor little chaps you are pitying so
are those two young scamps we were talking about."

Colonel Tritton stared in astonishment at the boys, and then, as he
recognized them, he joined the general in a shout of laughter, while
the two boys stood up and saluted with an attempt at gravity which was
only partially successful, so amused were they at the astonishment of
their colonel, as well as pleased at the success of their disguise.

Just at this moment there was a sound of tramping horses, and directly
afterwards an officer rode up, followed by four or five others, and
at a short distance in the rear by an escort of orderlies. The boys
needed not the exclamation of General Hill, "Here is Wellington." They
knew who the rider was, who checked his horse as he reached the gate,
for they had often seen him as he rode through the camp. A slight man,
very careful and neat in his dress, with an aquiline nose and piercing
eyes. Peter was rising as he drew up his horse, when Tom said, "Don't
get up, Peter; go on with your bread. It would look absurd for us
to salute now, and would draw attention to us," he went on, as Lord
Wellington dismounted, threw the bridle off his horse to an orderly,
and saying to General Hill, "I wanted to see you; come in." Colonel
Tritton went into the house, followed by the two officers. "We'll
stop here till they come out again, Peter. Perhaps General Hill may
speak to him about us. At any rate, we will keep up our disguise till
they've gone. Let us play at odd and even." It was a game of which
Spanish boys are very fond, and they may be seen in any of the Spanish
towns sitting by the houses on door-steps in the sun playing. It was
half an hour before the general came out again. He was about to mount
his horse, when he glanced at the boys, who were sitting against the
wall a few paces off, seemingly absorbed in their play, and paying no
attention whatever to him. Suddenly he changed his mind, dropped his
rein, and walked up to them.

"What are you playing for?" he asked abruptly in Spanish.

"Reals, senor," Tom said looking up, but not moving.

"You are poor; how can you pay?" asked the general.

"Oh! we don't pay," Tom laughed. "We keep count. I owe him twelve
thousand now. I will pay him when I get rich. He can wait." And he
held out his closed hand again for Peter to guess the number of stones
it contained.

"Come inside," Lord Wellington said abruptly, and, turning led the way
into the house again, followed by General Hill, Colonel Tritton, and
the two boys.

"It is not often I change my mind," he said to General Hill; "but for
once I do so now. When you told me about these lads, I refused to
employ them on such dangerous service, even when you told me of the
courage and coolness which they exhibited on the voyage. Now I have
tried them myself, I see that they will do. If they could keep up
their disguise when I spoke to them suddenly, and answer without
hesitation or any excitement which could have shown that they were
not what they pretended to be, they can do so with a French general.
I am no judge of the purity of their Spanish; but as you tell me they
deceived a Spanish officer just now, they will be able to pass with
Frenchmen. Now, lads," he went on turning to them, "you have thought
over, of course, the risks you are going to run, and are prepared, if
detected, to be hung like dogs." The boys bowed.

"You will receive detailed instructions through Colonel Tritton,
together with such despatches as I may wish sent. They will be written
as small as possible. You will not go for a week; devote all your time
to studying the map. The largest size we have shall be sent to your
colonel this afternoon. Of course you will be supplied with money, and
for anything you can think of likely to assist you, speak to Colonel
Tritton. You are beginning well, young sirs. If you like, you ought to
made a noise in the world. Now, Hill, I must be off."

And the general left the room with the officers, while the boys were
stammering out their thanks.

"Where did you dress up, boys?" Colonel Tritton asked them after the
general had ridden off. "You did not come out from camp like this I
hope?"

"No, colonel; we changed in that little wood there."

"What have you colored your skins with?"

"We got some iodine from the doctor, sir, and mixed it with water till
it was just thick enough to tinge our skin. It will wash pretty well
off with plenty of scrubbing, but we mean to use walnut juice when we
start; it lasts much longer, and is a better brown."

"I am not sure, boys, that you had not better leave your faces alone,
they and your hands are so sunburnt that you would pass well enough,
though you must dye your arms and legs. Fortunately, your hair is
pretty dark, for you can't well carry dye. Think well over all these
things, for your lives may depend on some trifle of this kind. I shall
see you at mess."

So saying, Colonel Tritton walked on, leaving the boys to follow at
their leisure. Just as they were about to turn off to make for the
woods they saw a soldier coming along the road.

"That's Sam, if I am not mistaken, Peter, we will have some fun with
him. We can trust him to say nothing in the regiment about meeting us
like this."

The two boys accordingly sat down by a low wall by the roadside, and
as Sam came up talked away to each other in Spanish. He passed without
paying any attention to them. After he had gone a few yards, Tom said
in a deep, loud voice, "Sambo." The black halted suddenly, and turned
round. First he looked angrily at the boys, then he went to the side
of the road and looked over the wall. Then with a very perplexed air
he looked up and down the road.

"Who dat have impudence to call dis colored gentleman Sambo," he said
to himself. "Some fellow did, dat for sartin, not dose little Spanish
trash, dey not know Sam's name, some rascal in regiment; he's hid
somewhere. I pound him to squash when I find him."

Muttering thus he turned to proceed on his way, but before he had gone
twenty yards, he again heard a deep shout. "Here, you, Sambo."

The black jumped as if he was shot, "My golly," he exclaimed, and then
walked back to the boys, who were talking together, shook his head
and again looked over the wall. Then he stooped down to the boys, and
shook his fist in their faces, "You little debils, you call Sambo, I
pound you to squash." The boys both leapt to their feet with an air of
intense surprise and alarm, and began to cry out in Spanish.

"No, can't be you," Sam said, "dis chile must be witched, no place for
men to hide, sartin not dem boys. Stone wall can't call Sambo all by
self, Sam's going out of mind. Oh! Lor, dis berry bad affair," and Sam
sat down by the roadside with a face of such perfect bewilderment and
dismay that the boys could stand it no longer, but went off together
into a scream of laughter, which caused Sam to jump to his feet again.
"What you larf for, what you larf for, you little rascals, you play
trick, eh? you call Sambo, who taught you dat name?" and he seized the
two boys and shook them furiously.

"Oh! Sam, Sam, you will kill us with laughing," Tom got out at last.
"Do leave go, man, or we shall choke," and as Sam, astonished, loosed
his hold, the boys sat down and laughed till their sides ached.

"Golly," exclaimed the negro, as he looked at them, "Dose boys again.
What on earth you do, Massa Tom, Massa Peter, in dose ragged close,
what you dress up like two beggars for? Lor! how you take in dis
chile, me tink you little Spanish trash, sure enuff." It was some time
before the boys could compose themselves, and then Tom made Sam sit
close by his side.

"Look here, Sam, this isn't a joke, this is a serious business and
before I tell you anything about it, you must promise to keep the
secret strictly, as it would do us a great deal of harm if it was
known." Sam declared at once that if they tore him to pieces with wild
horses he would say nothing. Tom then explained the whole thing to him
and Sam at once declared that he would go too.

"Quite impossible, Sam. You do not speak a word of Spanish and
although at any of the seaport towns you could pass as a runaway
sailor, there could be no possible reason for your wandering about the
country with two Spanish boys."

Sam thought for some time. "Now dat berry unlucky Massa Tom, dat Sam
play big drum. Big drum fine music, but big drum not go well by self.
If Sam had played fiddle, Sam could go, but Sam couldn't go nohow with
big drum."

"I should think not, Sam, with the name of the regiment painted on it.
No, no, you must stay behind. There won't be any fighting now till the
spring, and by that time we shall be back with the regiment."

"But what you do without Sam? who black Massa's boots? who brush his
clothes?"

Tom laughed. "These clothes would fall all to pieces, if they were
brushed much, Sam, and at present we have no boots to be blacked."

"Where you get dose clothes, Massa Tom," Sam asked, examining with
great disgust the rags the boys had on.

"We bought some peasant's clothes about our size, and the first beggar
boys we saw we offered to exchange. You should have seen their faces
of astonishment. When we got the clothes we made them into a bundle,
and took them to the bakehouse, and got the baker to put them into
the oven for a few hours to kill anything there might be in them.
Now, Sam, it is time for us to be going. It will take us an hour's
scrubbing to get the color off us. Be sure you keep our secret."




CHAPTER IX.

WITH THE GUERILLAS.


It was on a fine morning at the end of March that a cortege of
muleteers and mules left the little town of Alonqua. It was now four
months since the Scudamores left the army, and in the intervening time
they had tramped through a large portion of Spain. They had carried
with them only a dozen or so little despatches done up in tiny rolls
of the length and about the thickness of a bodkin, These were sewn
inside the lining of their coats, in the middle of the cloth where
it was doubled in at the seams, so that, even were the clothes to be
examined carefully and felt all over, the chances of detection were
slight indeed. They had each, on starting, half a dozen pieces of
Spanish gold coin sewn between the thicknesses of leather of the soles
of each of their shoes, for they did not start in the beggar clothes
in which they had first disguised themselves. Their clothes were,
indeed, worn and somewhat patched, but were of stout material, and
they wore shoes, but no stockings. They had, indeed, the appearance of
Spanish boys of the peasant class. The weather in the north of Spain
is often very cold in winter, and the boys felt that, with rags and
bare feet, they should suffer severely. All that they had to say and
do had been learned by heart. The names and addresses of the agents
of the British Government at every town had been laboriously learned
before starting, and, as Peter said ruefully, it was worse than a
dozen Greek impositions.

At each place of any importance they would find the person to whom
they were instructed to apply, would accost him with some password,
and would be put up by him while they remained there. When they had
gained the intelligence they required--of the number of French troops
in the place and its neighborhood, a knowledge always obtained by
going round, counting the men on parade, or, in the case of small
villages, finding out easily enough from a peasant the number,
quartered there, they would write a report on the number the
intentions as far as they could learn them, the amount of food
in store, and the sentiments of the population, would enclose
the despatch in a goose-quill and give it to their host, who was
responsible for forwarding it.

In a great number of cases, indeed, the man to whom they were
accredited was a muleteer. These men hated the French with a hatred
even more deep and deadly than that of other Spaniards, for, in
addition to the national causes of hatred, their mules were constantly
being requisitioned or seized by the troops and they themselves forced
to accompany the army for long distances at a nominal rate of pay for
themselves and their animals. Then, too, they were in close connection
with the guerillas, for whom they carried goods up into the mountains
from the towns, and when the chance came would leave their animals in
the mountains and join in cutting off an enemy's convoy. They acted as
messengers and spies too, and took their friends in the hills early
news of intended movements of the enemy. Many a day had the boys
traveled in the company of these muleteers, merry, careless fellows,
singing and talking to their mules, apparently the best-natured of
men, until something would be said which would recall the hated foe,
and then their black eyes would flash, their fingers clutch their
knife-handles, and they would pour out long strings of deep Spanish
oaths. Great was the surprise of these men on receiving the password
from two boys, but they never hesitated an instant in taking them in,
in giving them hospitality as long as they remained, and in either
accompanying them to the next town, or handing them over to the charge
of some comrade going in that direction. Not even to them did the
Scudamores ever betray that they were not what they were taken to be,
two Spanish boys employed by the English commander as messengers.
Often they were questioned how the English had come to entrust
important communications to two boys, and their reply always was that
their father and mother had fled to Portugal from the French, and were
living there near the English lines, and that they had offered their
lives in case of their sons' treachery.

This system of hostages seemed probable enough to their questioners,
and if the boys' fare was rather harder, and their treatment more
unceremonious than it would have been had they said that they were
British officers in disguise, they ran far less risk of detection
from an accidental word or sign. Indeed it would have been next to
impossible for them, had they desired it, to convince any one of their
identity. There was no fear now of their accent betraying them. Since
they had left the army they had never, even when alone together,
spoken in English. They made the rule and kept to it for two reasons,
the one being that they found that if they did not get into this habit
of always speaking Spanish, they might inadvertently address each
other in English, and thus betray themselves; the second, that they
wanted to learn to speak absolutely like natives. This they had in the
four months thoroughly learned to do. At first their pronunciation
and occasional mistakes excited curiosity when asked questions as
to the part of Spain from which they had come, but their constant
communication with their muleteer friends had quite removed this, and
for the last two months not one person had doubted that they were not
only Spanish, but that they came from the northern provinces.

Hitherto they had journeyed principally between large towns and over
country held by the French, but that part of their work was finished;
they had accurately computed the number of the army with which Massena
was to advance shortly to besiege Ciudad Rodrigo, and they had now to
carry the despatches to the guerilla leaders. Hitherto they had not in
a single instance excited suspicion. Not a Frenchman had asked them
a question, and no adventure of anything like an exciting nature had
taken place. They were now, however, entering into a country entirely
different from that which they had hitherto traversed. The northeast
of Spain is wild and mountainous, and offers immense natural
facilities for irregular warfare. Through the various passes of the
Pyrenees lead all the roads from France, whether to Vittoria on the
great road to Madrid, or through Navarre to Catalonia. Here and there
fortified towns still held out against the French, and the town of
Gerona, in Catalonia, had only fallen after a six months' regular
siege, and a desperate defense which fully rivals that of Saragossa.
Is it not a little singular that the Spaniards, who in the open field
were, with a few remarkable exceptions, absolutely contemptible, yet
frequently defended towns with wonderful fortitude, courage, and
desperation. It may, indeed, be said that in every siege where the
Spaniards were commanded by brave and resolute chiefs they behaved
admirably. This great range of hill country was the stronghold of the
guerillas, and every convoy from France had to be protected by a large
force, and even then often suffered greatly from the harassing attacks
of their active enemies.

The bands of the guerilla chiefs differed greatly in strength, varying
from merely ten or a dozen men to three or four thousand, and indeed
each band varied continually. The men, when not required, would
scatter to their homes, cultivate their little patches of ground, and
throw down the spade and take up the rifle again when they heard of a
convoy to cut off, or an invading column to beat back. The bands, too,
would vary in proportion to the renown of their chiefs. An energetic
man, who, at the head of a handful, had performed some daring feats,
would find himself a week afterwards the leader of many hundreds,
while a chief who was slow and dilatory would find his band melt away
like snow in summer.

The character of the warfare depended much upon the character of the
French generals. A few of these kept the troops under their command
sternly in hand, would permit no plundering, and insisted upon their
fair treatment of the Spaniards. These in turn wanted nothing better
than to remain quietly in their homes, and the guerilla bands would
melt away to nothing. Other generals, furious at the savage nature
of the warfare, and the incessant toil and loss entailed upon their
troops, allowed the latter to do as they pleased, and burning houses
and dead bodies marked their course. Then the peasantry, now turned
guerillas, retaliated as savagely, giving no quarter, sacrificing all
prisoners, and putting the wounded to death, sometimes with torture.
On both sides horrible atrocities were committed.

The guerillas were armed partly with rifles and carbines, partly with
muskets landed on the coast by the British Government, who also, from
time to time, sent powder and money to assist them to continue their
resistance to the French. Although nowhere really formidable, yet,
being scattered over a great extent of country, these bands occupied
very large bodies of French troops, who would otherwise have
been disposable for general operations in the field. The English
commander-in-chief had, of course, no shadow of authority over the
guerillas, or, indeed, over any of the Spanish troops, and his
communication to them simply asked what arms and ammunition they
required, and begged them to send him a list of the number of men they
could each throw on the French communications and lines of retreat in
case he should find himself in a position to make a general advance
against them. He also recommended most strongly the bearers of the
despatch to their care. It was to the chief known as Nunez that they
were now bound. The mule train was nominally destined for Vittoria, to
which town the leader had got a pass, specifying the number of mules
and the nature of the goods they carried, from the French commandant
at Alonqua, for no one was allowed to take the goods about the country
without a pass, in order to prevent supplies being forwarded to the
mountains. This pass, however, only mentioned twelve mules with four
drivers, and this was the number which started from Alonqua. Another
score of mules, however, joined them at a short distance from the town
where a by-road turned off. Some of these had gone out from the town
unloaded, as if taken out to graze, others had not entered the town,
but had come direct from the sea-coast by by-paths with powder, and
had been awaiting the departure of Garcias, the name of the leader of
the party. They had eight men with them, all armed to the teeth.

"Is it all right, Garcias?"

"All right," the leader said; "they have sent out their squadrons on
the other road, so I think we are safe for to-day."

"What boys have you got there with you?"

"They have business with Nunez; letter from the coast."

The cavalcade was now in motion again, and wound gradually up into the
hills. Presently they came to a point where four roads met. A clump of
trees grew hard by, and the boys gave a start of horror at seeing the
bodies of six French soldiers swinging from them. "Ay, that's Nunez's
work, I expect," Garcias said coolly. "There were three of his men
swinging there last week, so as a lesson he has hung up six of the
French. He is a rough boy to play with, is Nunez."

At sunset the party slept in a small farm, and at daybreak continued
their journey. They were now in the heart of the mountains, and their
path lay sometimes up deep ravines, sometimes along rocky ledges.
At last, about midday, they entered a valley in which stood a small
village. "That's Nunez's head-quarters to-day," Garcias said;
"to-morrow he may be no one knows where."

"But does he have to sally out by the wretched road by which we have
come?" Tom asked.

"No, no," Garcias replied; "he would not catch much prey that way.
There are three other ways out of the valley. That winding path you
see there leads up to Santona. That road on the other side leads out
on to the plain, and thence to Vittoria; while the footpath over the
brow opposite leads right down into the wide valley through which the
main north road runs. So you see this is a handy spot. From that brow
we can see the convoys going to and from France, and can pour down
upon them if they are weak; while, if a column is sent in search of
us, we can vanish away long before they can catch us. Nunez does not
use the direct road over the brow for his attack, but follows the
Santona or Vittoria road for a while, and then makes a swoop round. He
does not want to bring the French up to this village, for his family
and the families of many of the men live here."

As they approached the village, they found that there was a good deal
of bustle going on. Armed men were coming out of the cottages, and
gathering in a group round a rough stone cross, which stood in the
center of a sort of green. "We are just in time," Garcias said; "Nunez
is starting on some expedition or other."

When they reached the spot there were nearly two hundred men
assembled. They greeted Garcias with shouts of welcome as he arrived.
"Ah, ah! Garcias, just in time. Our last skin of wine was emptied last
night; we will bring some more up to-morrow; but if you had not come
we should have had to start thirsty, and that's unlucky besides being
unpleasant."

"Where is Nunez!" Garcias asked.

"Here he comes," was the reply; and the boys turning saw a figure
approaching, which by no means answered to the expectation of the
celebrated guerilla chief. He was small and almost humpbodied, but
very broad. His head seemed too large for his body, and a pair of
fierce eyes gleamed out from beneath his shaggy eyebrows. His mustache
was thin and bristly and his month wide, but with thin lips. The boys
could understand the reputation for cruelty and mercilessness which
attached to this sinister-looking figure, but there was none of the
savage power which they had expected to see in so celebrated a leader.

"Any news, Garcias?" he asked shortly, as he came up.

"None, captain, except that these boys have brought some despatches
for you from the English Lord."

Nunez looked sharply at them, and held out his hand without speaking.
Tom gave him the little quill.

The guerilla opened it, read the contents, and, saying briefly, "An
answer to-morrow," strode on to his men, and in a few minutes they
were defiling out at the end of the valley.

"That hardly seems a strong enough body to attack a French convoy,
Garcias," Tom remarked.

"No, it would not be, but there is only a part of his band here; the
rest will join him at some place agreed on--perhaps ten miles from
here. I believe he has about thousand men under his orders. Now come
along; we shall be none the worse for dinner," and, leaving his men to
unload the mules, he led the way into the little posada, or inn.

"Ah! Mother Morena," he said to an old woman who was crouching near a
blazing wood fire, "warming yourself as usual; it's well you've a good
fire, for you will be able to get us some dinner all the more quickly.
Twelve of us altogether, and all as hungry as wolves."

"Ah!" exclaimed the old woman crossly; "it seems as if I were never to
have an hour's quiet, just as all that roaring, greedy lot, with their
Mother Morena here and Mother Morena there, and their grumbling at
the olla, and their curses and their quarrels, are off, and I think I
am going to have a quiet afternoon, then you come in with your twelve
hungry wolves."

"Ah! mother, but wolves don't pay, and we do, you see."

The frugal supper over, the boys laid down on the benches, and were
soon asleep. The next day passed slowly, for the band were not
expected to return until late at night--perhaps not until the next
morning, as the pass where the attack would be made was some fifteen
miles off, and the convoy might not pass there until late in the
afternoon. The boys soon made friends with some of the women and
children of the place, to whom they told stories of the great cities
of the plain, and of the great water which washed the shores of Spain.
The greater portion of the Spanish peasantry are incredibly ignorant,
and very few of the inhabitants of this village had ever gone beyond
the mountains. Walking about in the village, but apparently mixing but
very little in the games of the other children, were two little girls,
whose gay dress of rich silk seemed strangely out of place in such a
spot.

Tom asked one of the women who they were, and she replied, with a toss
of the head, "They are the captain's children. The last time the band
went out they found among the baggage and brought up here, the dresses
of the children of some fine lady, and the captain kept them all as
part of his share, just as if there were no children in the village
whom it would become a great deal better than those stuck-up little
things. Not," she said, softening a little, "that they were not nice
enough before they got these things; but since they came their heads
have been quite turned by the finery and they are almost too grand to
speak to their old playfellows."

"Is their mother alive?"

"No, poor thing, she was killed by the French when the village she
lived in was burned by them, because some of them were found hung in
the neighborhood. The captain was away at the time and the children
were out in the woods. When he came back he found them crying by the
side of their mother's body, in the middle of the burning village. So
then he took to the mountains, and he never spares a Frenchman who
falls into his hands. He has suffered, of course, but he brought it
upon himself, for he had a hand in hanging the French soldiers, and
now he is a devil. It will be bad for us all; for some day, when the
French are not busy with other things, they will rout us out here, and
then who can blame them if they pay us for all the captain's deeds?
Ah! me, they are terrible times, and Father Predo says he thinks the
end of the world must be very near. I hope it will come before the
French have time to hunt us down."

The boys had a hard struggle not to smile, but the woman spoke so
earnestly and seriously, that they could only shake their heads in
grave commiseration for her trouble; and then Tom asked, "Is the
captain very fond of the children?"

"He worships them," the woman said; "he has no heart and no pity for
others. He thinks no more of blood than I do of water; but he is as
tender as a woman with them. One of them was ill the other day--a mere
nothing, a little fever--and he sat by her bedside for eight days
without ever lying down."

"I suppose," Tom said, "they never bring prisoners up here?"

"Yes, they do," the woman said; "not common soldiers; they kill them
at once; but sometimes officers, if they want to exchange them for
some of ours who may have been taken, or if they think they are likely
to get a high ransom for them. But there, it always comes to the same
thing; there, where you see that mound on the hillside, that's where
they are. They blindfold them on their way up here, lest they might
find their way back after all. Only one or two have ever gone down
again. I wish they would finish with them all down below; they are
devils and heretics these French; but I don't care about seeing them
killed. Many of us do, though, and we have not many diversions up
here, so I suppose it's all for the best."

"I wish that fellow had given us our answer before he went away,"
Tom said to Peter when they were alone. "I hope he won't bring any
prisoners up here; these massacres are frightful, and one side seems
as bad as the other. Well, in another month we shall have finished
with all this work, and be making for the frontier again. Shan't I be
glad when we catch sight of the first red-coats!"

In the middle of the night the boys were roused by a general bustle,
and found that a messenger had just arrived, saying that the
expedition had been successful, that a portion of the enemy had been
cut off, their rear-guard destroyed, and that the whole band would be
up soon after daylight. The village was astir early, but it was not
until nine o'clock that the guerilla band arrived. The boys saw at a
glance that they were stronger in numbers than when they started, and
that with them were some twenty or thirty baggage animals.

The women flocked out to meet them with shrill cries of welcome. The
booty taken was not of any great value in money, but was more valuable
than gold to the guerillas.

Each one of the band carried, in addition to his own piece, a new
French musket, while in the barrels on the mules were powder and ball;
there were bales of cloth, and some cases of brandy and champagne, and
a few boxes and portmanteaus of officers' baggage. In the rear of all,
under a strong guard, were two French officers, both wounded, a lady
and a child of some seven or eight years old.

After a boisterous greeting to their wives, the band broke up, and
scattered over the village, three or four men remaining to guard the
captives, who were told to sit down against a wall.

The whole band were soon engaged in feasting, but no one paid the
least attention to the prisoners. The lady had sunk down exhausted,
with the little girl nestled close to her, the officers faint and pale
from loss of blood, leaned against the wall. One of them asked the
guards for some water, but the men paid no attention to the request,
answering only with a savage curse. Tom and Peter, who were standing
by, immediately went to the inn, filled a jug with water, and, taking
a drinking horn and some bread, went back. One of the guards angrily
ordered them back as they approached.

"I am not going to free them," Tom said, soothingly; "there can be no
reason why they should die of thirst, if they are enemies."

"I am thirsty myself," one of the guard said, "and it does us good to
see them thirst."

"What, has no one brought you anything to drink?" Tom said, in a tone
of surprise. "Here, Peter, you give this bread and water to these
prisoners; I will run to Mother Morena's and bring some wine for the
guard."

The guard would not allow Peter to approach the captives until Tom
arrived with a large jug of wine, and a cold fowl, which he had
obtained at the inn. These the Spaniards accepted, and allowed the
boys to give the water to the prisoners. All drank eagerly, with every
expression of thankfulness, the lady seizing Peter's hand and kissing
it as he handed the horn to the child. The lady was a very bright,
pretty woman, though now pale and worn with fatigue and emotion, and
the child was a lovely little creature.

The boys, on leaving the prisoners, hurried to Garcias.

"What are they going to do with the prisoners, Garcias?"

"They have brought them up here to exchange for Nunez's lieutenant,
who was taken last week. One of the men went off last night to
Vittoria with a letter to offer to exchange. One of the officers is a
colonel, and the young one a captain. The lady is, they say, the wife
of General Reynier."

"Then they are safe," Tom said joyfully, "for, of course the French
would exchange a guerilla against three such prisoners."

"Yes," Garcias said, "they are safe if Vagas has not been shot before
the messenger gets to Vittoria. The messenger will hear directly he
gets there, and if they have finished Vagas, he will come straight
back, for his letter will be of no use then."

"But the French would pay a ransom for them."

"Yes; but the captain is never fond of ransoming, and if the news
comes that Vagas is shot it is all up with them."

"But they will never murder a woman and child in cold blood!" Tom
said, in tones of indignant horror.

"Women are killed on both sides," the muleteer said, placidly. "I
don't hold to it myself, but I don't know, after all, why a woman's
life is a bit more precious than a man's. Vagas's wife and children
are here, too, and if the news comes of his death, she would stir the
band up to kill the prisoners, even if the captain wanted to save
them, which he certainly will not do."

"When is the messenger expected back?"

"If he goes to Vittoria and finds Vagas is alive, and arranges for
the exchange, he won't be back till late to-night, perhaps not till
to-morrow; but, if he hears, either on the way or directly he gets
there, that he is dead, he may be back this afternoon." Soon after
this conversation Garcias was sent for to the chief, and returned
with a small note, which he handed to the boys as the answer to the
despatch, and urged them to go at once. The boys said that they could
not leave until they saw the end of this terrible drama which was
passing before their eyes. It was early in the afternoon when a man
was seen coming along the path from Vittoria. A hundred eager eyes
examined him, and ere long it was declared as certain that it was the
messenger. The boys' heart sank within them as they saw the fierce
look cast by the Spaniards in the direction of the prisoners, for
every one in the village was well aware of the meaning of this early
return. The boys had arranged upon the course they would pursue, and
they at once hurried to Garcias.

"Please come with us at once to Nunez. We want to see him before the
messenger arrives."

"I will come with you," Garcias said; "but if you think that any
talking of yours will persuade Nunez to move out of his way, you are
mistaken. It is more likely to cost you your own lives, I can tell
you; however, I gave you the promise I would do my best for you when
you started with me, and I will go with you now, though what you want
to interfere for here is more than I can make out. Pshaw! what matters
two or three of these accursed French, more or less?"

As they neared the chief's house they saw him coming towards them. His
brow was as black as thunder; he was evidently prepared for the news
of his lieutenant's death.

"These messengers want to speak to you for a moment," Garcias said.

The chief stopped with an impatient gesture.

"Senor," Tom said, with a dignity which surprised the chief; "we are
not what we seem. We are two English officers, and we have come to beg
of you, to implore you, not to tarnish the cause for which you fight
by shedding the blood of women and children."

The boys had agreed that it would be altogether hopeless to try to
save the French officers.

"British officers, indeed," exclaimed Nunez, "a likely story. Do you
know them as such, Garcias?"

"No," Garcias said bluntly, "I never guessed at it; but now they say
so, I think it's likely enough, for they don't seem to see things in
the same way as other people."

"I can give you proof of it," Tom said, calmly, pulling up the sleeve
of his coat, and showing a cicatrix in his forearm. Taking a knife
from his pocket, he cut into the skin, and drew forth a tiny silver
tube. This he opened, and handed to Nunez a paper signed by Lord
Wellington, declaring the bearers to be British officers, and
requesting all loyal Spaniards to give them every assistance.

The captain read it through, and flung it down. "You may be officers,"
he said contemptuously; "but if you were Lord Wellington himself, I
would not spare these accursed French. Listen!" and as he spoke a howl
of rage ran from the other end of the village, and told too plainly
the nature of the tidings the messenger had brought.

"I again protest," Tom said firmly. "I protest, as a British officer,
and in the name of humanity, against this cold-blooded murder of a
woman and child. It is a disgrace to Spain, a disgrace to the cause,
it is a brutal and cowardly act."

The guerilla furiously drew a pistol; but Garcias placed himself
between him and Tom. "I have promised him a safe conduct," he said,
"and have given my word for his safety. He is only a boy, and a young
fool; don't trouble with him."

Fortunately at this moment, for the guerilla was still irresolutely
handling his pistol, a crowd was seen coming towards them, headed by
a woman who seemed frantic with rage and grief. All were shouting,
"Death to the assassins! death to the French!" The chief at once moved
forward to meet them.

Tom and Peter gave a significant glance towards each other, and then
Tom turned to go back towards the house which Nunez inhabited, while
Peter hurried towards the spot where the prisoners were kept. Already
a crowd was assembling who were talking threateningly at the French
officers. Peter made his way through them until he stood by the lady,
who, with her child clinging to her neck, looked in terror at the
angry crowd, whose attention, however, was directed to the officers,
who stood looking calmly indifferent to their threats and insults.

"Do you speak Spanish, madam?" Peter asked, leaning over her.

She shook her head.

"Do you speak English?" he asked, in that tongue.

"Yes, yes, a little." the lady said, eagerly; "who are you? What is
this fierce crowd about?"

"Hush!" Peter said. "I am a friend. Listen. In a few minutes they are
going to shoot you all." The lady gave a stifled cry, and pressed
her child close to her. "Remember, when they come to you, ask for a
priest; gain a few minutes, and I hope to save you and the child."

So saying, he slipped away into the crowd again. He had scarcely done
so when Nunez arrived, accompanied by many of his men. The crowd fell
back, and he strode up to the French officers. "French dogs," he said,
"you are to die. I spared you to exchange, but your compatriots have
murdered my lieutenant, and so now it's your turn. You may think
yourselves lucky that I shoot you, instead of hanging you. Take them
to that wall," he said, pointing to one some twenty yards off.

The Frenchmen understood enough Spanish to know that their fate was
sealed. Without a word they took each other's hands, and marched
proudly to the spot pointed out. Here, turning round, they looked with
calm courage at the Spaniards, who formed up with leveled muskets at
a few paces distance. "Vive la France! Tirez," said the elder, in a
firm, voice, and in a moment they fell back dead, pierced with a dozen
balls.

Peter had turned away when Nunez appeared on the scene, to avoid
seeing the murder, and with his eyes fixed in the direction in which
Tom had gone, he listened almost breathlessly to what should come.
The French lady had sat immovable, cowering over her child, while her
countrymen were taken away and murdered. As Nunez passed where she
crouched, he said to two of his men, "Put your muskets to their heads,
and finish them!" As the men approached, she lifted up her face, pale
as death, and said,--

"Un pretre, uno padre!"

"She wants a priest," the men said, drawing back; "she has a right to
absolution."

There was a murmur of assent from those around, and two or three
started to the priest's house, situated only a few yards away, being
one of the end houses of the village. The priest soon appeared, came
up to the spot, and received orders to shrive the Frenchwoman. He
attempted a remonstrance, but was silenced by a threat from Nunez,
and knowing from experience of such scenes that his influence went
for nothing with Nunez and his fierce band, he bent over her, and the
crowd drew back, to let them speak unheard. At this moment, to Peter's
intense relief, he saw Tom approaching with the captain's two children
walking beside him. Absorbed in what was passing before them, no one
else looked round, and Peter slipped away and joined his brother. They
came within twenty yards of the crowd, and then paused.

"Wait a minute," Tom said to the children, "your father is busy."

In another minute Nunez shouted roughly, "There that will do; finish
with it and have done! I want to be off to my dinner."

Tom and Peter simultaneously drew out a large Spanish knife, and each
took one of the children firmly by the shoulder.

"Stop! Senor Nunez!" Tom shouted in a loud, clear tone. "Stop! or by
heaven there will be four victims instead of two! Let one of you lift
a finger against these captives--let one of you come one step nearer
to us--and, by the Holy Virgin, we will drive our knives into these
children's hearts!"

A cry of astonishment broke from the crowd, and one of agony and rage
from Nunez, who tottered against a wall in horror at the danger in
which his daughters were placed.

"Listen! all of you," Tom said, "we are English officers, we have
shown our papers to Nunez, and he knows it is so. We will not suffer
this murder of a mother and her child. If they are to die, we will die
with them; but these two children shall die too! Now, what is it to
be?"

A dozen of the guerillas leveled their guns at the two daring boys.

"No! no!" Nunez shrieked; "lower your guns. Don't hurt the children,
senors. The captives shall not be hurt; I swear it! They shall go
free. Give me my children."

"Not if I know it," Tom said; "Do you think I could trust the word of
a man who would murder women and children in cold blood? No; these
girls shall go with us as hostages, till we are safe under French
guard."

"They will tell them the way up here," said one of the woman in the
group, "and then we shall be all killed."

"No," Tom said; "the lady shall swear not to tell the way up here. She
shall swear on your priest's crucifix. We will give you our words as
British officers."

"But how are the children to get back here again?" another asked, for
Nunez was so paralyzed that he could only gaze on the children, who
were crying bitterly, and implore them to stand quiet, and not try to
get away. After more parleying the arrangements were completed. The
crowd fell back on either side, so as to leave a large space round the
French lady. Tom and Peter then went up to them with the little girls.
The lady was sobbing with joy and excitement at this unexpected
relief.

"Can you walk?" Tom asked her in English.

"Yes," she said, getting up hastily, but almost falling again.

"Garcias will go first, as guide. The priest will give you his arm,"
Tom went on, "these two young women will go with you and carry your
child if necessary. You will walk on, twenty yards ahead of us. We
follow with these girls. No one is to follow us, or accompany us. We
are to go on like that till we come upon your outposts, and then the
priest and the two women will bring back Nunez's children."

"You will send them safe back, you swear?" asked Nunez, in tremulous
tones.

"Psha!" Tom said contemptuously, "you don't suppose we are
child-murderers, like yourself."

"Remember!" the guerilla said, in a sudden burst of passion, "if you
ever cross my path again, I will--"

"Do terrible things no doubt," Tom said scornfully; "and do you
beware, too. It is wild beasts like yourself who have brought disgrace
and ruin on Spain. No defeat could dishonor and disgrace her as much
as your fiendish cruelty. It is in revenge for the deeds that you and
those like you do, that the French carry the sword and fire to your
villages. We may drive the French out, but never will a country which
fights by murder and treachery become a great nation. Are you ready,
Garcias!"

"I am ready," the muleteer said, stepping forward from the silent and
scowling throng.

"We can trust you," Tom said heartily; "take us the short way straight
down into the valley; we may have the luck to come upon a passing
French troop in an hour. Think of that, madam," he said to the French
lady, "let that give you strength and courage."

So saying, the procession set out in the order Tom had indicated,
amidst the curses of the guerillas, who were furious at seeing
themselves thus bearded. At the brow of the hill Tom looked back, and
saw that the guerillas were still standing in a group, in front of
which he could distinguish the figure of Nunez. Taking off his hat,
he waved an ironical farewell, and then followed the party down
the hillside into the broad valley below. They could see the road
stretching like a thread along it, but to their disappointment, not
a figure was visible upon it. Now that there was no longer danger of
treachery, the party closed up together.

"How far is it to Vittoria, Garcias?"

"Twenty good miles, senor."

"But we shall never get there," Tom said in dismay. "I am sure the
lady could not walk another five miles; she is quite exhausted now."

"You will not have to go five miles, senor. There is a body of four
or five hundred French in that large village you see there; it is not
more than three miles at most."

It was a weary journey, for the French lady, exhausted by fatigue
and excitement, was often obliged to stop and sit down to rest, and,
indeed, could not have got on at all had not Garcias on one side and
the padre on the other helped her on. At last, just as the sun was
setting, they approached the village, and could see the French
sentries at its entrance. When within a hundred yards they paused.

"We are safe now," Tom said; "it is not necessary for you to go
farther. Good-by, little ones; I am sorry we have given you such a
fright, but it was not our fault. Good-by, padre; I know that you will
not grudge your walk, for the sake of its saving the lives of these
unfortunates. Good-by, Garcias; thanks for your kindness and fidelity.
I will report them when I return, and will, if I get a chance, send
you a remembrance of our journey together."

"Good-by, senors," Garcias said, shaking them by the hand; "you
English are different to us, and I am not surprised now at your
General holding Portugal against all the French armies." Then he
lowered his voice, so that the Spanish women standing by could not
hear him. "Be on your guard, senors; don't move on from the village
without a strong convoy is going on; change your disguise, if
possible; distrust every one you come across, and, in heaven's name,
get back to your lines as soon as possible, for you may be assured
that your steps will be dogged, and that you will be safe nowhere in
Spain from Nunez's vengeance. The guerillas communicate with each
other, and you are doomed if you fall into the hands of any, except,
perhaps, one or two of the greater chiefs. Be always on your guard;
sleep with your eyes open. Remember, except in the middle of a French
regiment, you will never be really safe."

"Thanks, Garcias!" the boys said earnestly, "we will do our best to
keep our throats safe. At any rate, if we go down, it shall not be for
want of watchfulness!"

Another shake of the hands, and the party separated. The Spanish woman
who was carrying the sleeping French child handed her over to Tom, who
took her without waking her while Peter lent his arm to the French
lady.

"Madam," Tom said in English, "you will soon be among your friends. I
know that you will keep your promise not to divulge the situation of
the village you have left. I must ask you, also, to promise me not
to say that we speak English, or to say anything which may create a
suspicion that we are not what we seem. You will, of course, relate
your adventures, and speak of us merely as Spanish boys, who acted as
they did being moved by pity for you. We must accompany you for some
time, for Nunez will move heaven and earth to get us assassinated, and
all we want is that you shall obtain permission for us to sleep in the
guard-room, so as to be under shelter of French bayonets until we can
decide upon our course of action."

The lady assented with a gesture, for she was too exhausted to speak,
and as they reached the French sentries she tottered and sank down on
the ground insensible.




CHAPTER X.

MADRID.


The French sentries, who had been watching with surprise the slow
approach of two peasant boys, the one carrying a child, the other
assisting a woman clad in handsome, but torn and disheveled clothes,
on seeing the latter fall, called to their comrades, and a sergeant
and some soldiers came out from a guard-room close by.

"Hallo!" said the sergeant. "What's all this? Who is this woman? And
where do you come from?"

The boys shook their heads.

"Of course," the sergeant said, lifting the lady, "they don't
understand French; how should they? She looks a lady, poor thing. Who
can she be, I wonder?"

"General Reynier," Tom said, touching her.

"General Reynier!" exclaimed the sergeant to his comrades. "It must be
the general's wife. I heard she was among those killed or carried off
from that convoy that came through last night. Jacques, fetch out
Captain Thibault, and you, Noel, run for Dr. Pasques."

The officer on guard came out, and, upon hearing the sergeant's
report, had Madame Reynier at once carried into a house hard by, and
sent a message to the colonel of the regiment. The little girl, still
asleep, was also carried in and laid down, and the regimental doctor
and the colonel soon arrived. The former went into the house, the
latter endeavored in vain to question the boys in French. Finding it
useless, he walked up and down impatiently until a message came down
from the doctor that the lady had recovered from her fainting fit, and
wished to see him at once.

Tom and Peter, finding that no one paid any attention to them, sat,
quietly down by the guard-house.

In a few minutes the French colonel came down. "Where are those boys?"
he exclaimed hastily. There was quite a crowd of soldiers round the
house, for the news of the return of General Reynier's wife and child
had circulated rapidly and created quite an excitement. "Where are
those boys?" he shouted again.

The sergeant of the guard came forward.

"I had no orders to keep them prisoners, sir," he said in an
apologetic tone, for he had not noticed the boys, and thought that
he was going to get into a scrape for not detaining them; but he
was interrupted by one of the soldiers who had heard the question,
bringing them forward.

To the astonishment of the soldiers, the colonel rushed forward, and,
with a Frenchman's enthusiasm, actually kissed them. "Mes braves
garcons!" he exclaimed. "Mes braves garcons! Look you, all of you,"
he exclaimed to the soldiers, "you see these boys, they are heroes,
they have saved, at the risk of their own lives, mark you, General
Reynier's wife and daughter; they have braved the fury of that
accursed Nunez and his band, and have brought them out from that den
of wolves." And then, in excited tones, he described the scene as he
had heard it from Madame Reynier.

At this relation the enthusiasm of the French soldiers broke out in
a chorus of cheers and excited exclamations. The men crowded round
the boys, shook them by the hands, patted them on the back, and in a
hundred strange oaths vowed an eternal friendship for them.

After a minute or two, the colonel raised his hand for silence. "Look
you," he said to the men. "You can imagine that, after what these boys
have done, their life is not safe for a moment. This accursed Nunez
will dog them and have them assassinated if he can. So I leave them to
you; you will take care of them, my children, will you not?"

A chorus of assurances was the reply, and the boys found themselves as
it were adopted into the regiment. The soldiers could not do enough
for them, but, as neither party understood the other's language,
the intercourse did not make much progress. They had, however, real
difficulty in refusing the innumerable offers of a glass of wine or
brandy made to them by every group of soldiers as they moved about
through the village.

The boys felt that their position was a false one; and although, in
point of fact, they had no report to make upon the regiment, still
the possibility that if discovered they might be thought to have been
acting as spies on men who treated them with so much friendliness was
repugnant to them. However, their stay was not to be prolonged, for
the regiment had already been stationed for a month at the village,
and was to be relieved by another expected hourly from France, and was
then to go on to Madrid. This they learned from one of the soldiers
who could speak a few words of Spanish.

It was upon the third day after their arrival that the expected
regiment came in, and next morning the boys started soon after
daybreak with their friends. They had not seen Madame Reynier during
their stay in the village, for she was laid up with a sharp attack of
illness after the excitement she had gone through. She was still far
from fit to travel, but she insisted on going on, and a quantity of
straw was accordingly laid in a cart, pillows and cushions were heaped
on this, and an awning was arranged above to keep off the sun. The
regiment had taken on the transport animals which had come in with the
baggage of the troops the night before; hence the mule drivers and
other followers were all strangers. The boys were marching beside the
regiment, talking with one of the sergeants who had been previously
for two years in Spain, and spoke a little Spanish, when the colonel,
who had been riding alongside Madame Reynier, told them as he passed
on to the head of the regiment, that she wished to speak to them.

The boys fell out, and allowed the troops and the line of baggage
animals and carts to pass them. As the latter came along, Tom observed
one of the Spanish drivers glance in their direction, and immediately
avert his head.

"Peter, that fellow is one of Nunez's band; I will almost swear to his
face. No doubt he has joined the convoy for the purpose of stabbing us
on the first opportunity. I expected this. We must get rid of them at
once."

The boys had both been furnished with heavy cavalry pistols by order
of the colonel, to defend themselves against any sudden attack, and,
placing his hand on the butt in readiness for instant use, Tom,
accompanied by his brother walked up to the Spaniard.

"You and those with you are known," he said. "Unless you all fall out
at the next village we come to, I will denounce you, and you haven't
five minutes to live after I do so. Mind, if one goes on you all
suffer."

The Spaniard uttered a deep execration, and put his hand on his knife,
but seeing that the boys were in readiness, and that the French
baggage guard marching alongside would certainly shoot him before he
could escape, he relinquished his design.

"Mind," Tom said, "the first village; it is only a mile ahead, and
we shall probably halt there for five minutes; if one of you goes a
single foot beyond it, you will swing in a row."

So saying, the boys dropped behind again until Madame Reynier's cart
came along. The sides were open, and the lady, who was sitting up,
supported by pillows, with her child beside her, saw them, and called
to them to climb up to her. They did so at once, and she then poured
forth her thanks in tones of the deepest gratitude.

"My husband is not at Madrid," she said when she saw by the boys'
confusion that they would be really glad if she would say no more;
"but when he hears of it he will thank you for saving his wife and
child. Of course," she went on, "I can see that you are not what you
seem. Spanish boys would not have acted so. Spanish boys do not speak
English. That makes it impossible for me in any way to endeavor to
repay my obligation. Had you been even Spanish peasants, the matter
would have been comparatively easy; then my husband could have made
you rich and comfortable for life; as it is--"

She paused, evidently hoping that they would indicate some way in
which she could serve them.

"As it is, madam," Tom said, "you can, if you will, be of great
service to us by procuring for us fresh disguises in Madrid, for I
fear that after what happened with Nunez our lives will not be safe
from his vengeance anywhere in Spain. Already we have discovered that
some of his band are accompanying this convoy with the intention of
killing us at the first opportunity."

"Why do you not denounce them instantly?" Madame Reynier said, rising
in her excitement and looking round.

"We cannot well do that," Tom said, "at least not if it can be
avoided. They know already that we have recognized them, and will
leave at the next village; so we are safe at present, but in Madrid we
shall be no longer so. We cannot remain permanently under the guard of
the bayonets of the 63d Line; and indeed our position is as you may
guess, a false and unpleasant one, from which we would free ourselves
at the first opportunity. We shall therefore ask you, when you get to
Madrid, to provide us with fresh disguises and a pass to travel west
as far as the limits of the French lines."

"You can consider that as done," Madame Reynier answered; "I only
regret that it is so slight a return. And now," she said lightly, to
change the conversation, "I must introduce you to this young lady.
Julie," she asked in French, "do you remember those boys?"

"Yes," Julie said; "these are the boys who gave mamma and Julie water
when those wicked men would not give us anything to drink when we were
thirsty; and it was these boys that mamma said prevented the wicked
men from killing us. They are good boys, nice boys, but they are very
ragged and dirty."

Madame Reynier smiled, and translated Julie's answer.

"You know," she went on, hesitatingly, "that I know that--that you are
English officers. I heard you say so when you saved us. But how is it
that you can be officers so very young?"

Tom explained that in England the officers entered for the most part
directly, and not, as in the French army, by promotion from the ranks,
and that, consequently, the junior officers were much younger than
those of equal rank in the French service.

The convoy had now reached the village, and a halt was ordered,
and the boys alighting, walked forward to see that their unwelcome
attendants quitted them. As the soldiers fell out from their order of
march and sat down under the shade of the houses many of the Spaniards
with the baggage-train followed their example, and the boys saw the
man to whom they had spoken go up to four others, and in a short time
these separated themselves from the rest, went carelessly round a
corner, and when the order came to continue the march, failed to make
their appearance. Their absence passed unnoticed save by the boys,
for the natives frequently took advantage of the passage of troops
and convoys to travel from one part of the country to another, for
the guerillas were for the most part little better than brigands,
and would plunder their own countrymen without scruple whenever the
opportunity was favorable.

The march to Madrid was accomplished without adventure, and the boys
improved the occasion by endeavoring to pick up as many French phrases
as they could, as they marched along by the side of the sergeant who
had specially taken them under his charge. He knew a little Spanish,
so they managed to keep up a conversation with him in a strange medley
of the two languages, which helped to pass the time away merrily. At
Madrid they took up their quarters in the barracks with the regiment;
they had already explained their plan of disguise to Madame Reynier,
and she had promised to provide all that was necessary and to obtain
the military pass for them.

They had soon reason to congratulate themselves that their stay
in Madrid was under the protection of French bayonets. During the
day after their arrival they remained quietly in barracks, as the
appearance of two Spanish peasants walking about the street with
French soldiers would have excited comments. In the evening, however,
they agreed with their friend the sergeant, who was going into the
town with three or four of his comrades, that they should accompany
them, not, however, walking actually with them, but following a few
paces behind, so as to be within reach of their assistance should any
one molest them.

They reached the Piazza del Sol, the great central square of Madrid,
without incident, and amused themselves with the sight of the constant
stream of people passing to and fro, the ladies in their graceful
black mantillas, the men in cloaks and Spanish sombreros, or round
felt hats. Presently the sergeant and his companions left the square,
and turning down one of the narrow streets which run into it, amused
themselves by looking into the shops, with their gay fans, bright
handkerchiefs, and other articles of Spanish manufacture.

Tom and Peter followed their example, keeping some ten paces behind
them. It was now nearly dark, and the streets were but badly lighted
except by the lamps in the shop windows.

"It may be all fancy, Tom," Peter said, "but I can't help thinking
that we are followed. There are three follows who have passed us
twice, and I am pretty sure they are particularly noticing us. Keep
your hand on your pistol."

As the boys paused at another shop window, the three men again
approached, this time from ahead.

"Look out, Tom," Peter said sharply.

As the men came up to them, one of them exclaimed,

"Now!"

The boys faced round, pistol in hand, with a cry to their friends,
just as the three Spaniards, with drawn knives, were upon them.

The sudden movement disconcerted them, and two sprang back from the
leveled tubes of the pistols, with fierce oaths of surprise, the
third, however, rushed in and struck at Tom; the latter instinctively
moved aside, and the knife inflicted a heavy gash on the shoulder, and
almost at the same moment Peter's bullet crashed through the fellow's
skull.

His comrades, with a cry of rage, rushed in, but before they could
strike, the sergeant was up and ran one through the body with his
sword, whereon the other fled. The whole affair lasted only three
or four seconds. In less than a minute the street was absolutely
deserted, for rows and fights were so common between the soldiers and
the people, that all prudent people got out of the way the moment a
knife was drawn.

"Well done, lad," the sergeant said to Peter, "I thought your brother
was done for. Luckily I had faced your way when the fellow attacked
you, and was on my way to help you before they began, but I feared I
should be too late. That was a wonderfully pretty snap shot of yours,
and you were as cool as old hands. Peste! I don't know what to make
of you boys. Now come along, we had better get away from this carrion
before any one comes up and asks questions. First, though, let me tie
up your shoulder."

This was soon done, and while the sergeant was engaged upon it, his
comrades, old soldiers, turned over the dead Spaniards, searched their
pockets, and chuckled as they found several gold pieces.

One or two French soldiers alone came near them before they left the
spot, attracted by the sound of the pistol. A word from the sergeant,
"These scoundrels attacked us, they have got their _coup_," satisfied
them, and the boys and their friend soon regained the crowded main
street, leaving the bodies for the watch to find and bury.

Arrived at the barracks, Tom's arm was examined by the surgeon, and
the cut pronounced a deep flesh wound, but of no consequence; it was
soon strapped up, and with his arm in a sling Tom went down to the
sergeant's quarters, where they slept. Here they had to go through
much patting on the back, for their friend had described the readiness
and coolness with which they stood at bay, and popular as they were
before they were now more so than ever. For the rest of their stay in
Madrid the boys did not stir out of barracks. One at least of Nunez's
envoys they knew to be alive, and he could enlist any number of the
lower class against them, so they resolved not to go out until they
should finally start.

After a fortnight's stay they were sent for to the colonel's quarters,
where they found Madame Reynier and her child. "I had a letter from my
husband this morning," she said, "from his camp near Cordova, thanking
you with all his heart for the inestimable service you rendered him,
and begging me to tell you that you can count on his gratitude to the
extent of his life at any and all times. You need no assurance of
mine. And now about your journey. All is prepared for you to leave
to-morrow morning. You are to come here to the colonel's quarters soon
after daybreak. Here are your two disguises, for the one as a young
bachelor of medicine, for the other as a young novice. Here is your
pass, signed by the minister, authorizing you both to pass on to your
relations at Ciudad Rodrigo, and to go unmolested thence where you
choose, also recommending you to the care of all French and Spanish
authorities. A regiment marches to-morrow morning for the frontier;
the colonel is a cousin of my husband. I have told him that some
friends of yours rendered me much kindness and service on my way down,
and that I particularly commend you to his care. He has promised to
allow you to follow the regiment, and to see that you get quarters at
each halting-place. He does not know you for anything but what you
appear to be. When you have put on these dresses to-morrow morning,
step out by the private door from these quarters, looking carefully
when you start to see that there is no one in the street. Then go
boldly to No. 15, Rue St. Geronimo; go into the courtyard, there you
will see two stout mules with all necessaries, under charge of a
soldier, who will have instructions to hand them over to you without
asking any questions; then go down to the Retiro and wait till the
16th come along. The Colonel will be on the look-out for you, and you
will ride up to him and hand him this note. And now farewell, dear
boys; never shall I forget you, or cease to pray for you, and may be
when this terrible war is over we may meet as friends again. Keep
these little tokens of remembrance of your grateful friends." So
saying, Madame Reynier pressed into the boys' hands two magnificent
gold watches and chains, held her child up for each of them to kiss,
threw her arms round their necks and kissed them herself, and then
drawing down her veil to conceal the tears which were standing in her
eyes, left them hastily.

That night the boys said good-by to their friend the sergeant, and
to those soldiers with whom they had most companionship. "You have
guessed, no doubt, sergeant," Tom said, in his mixture of Spanish and
French, "that we are not exactly what we seem to be, but if we should
ever meet again, under different circumstances, I want you to remember
that our connection with the regiment has been in a way forced upon
us. I should not like you to think, that is that under the pretence
of friendship, we have been treacherously learning things. Do you
understand?"

"I understand, mes braves," the sergeant said, "Jacques Pinteau is no
fool, and he saw from the first that you were not two ragged Spanish
peasant boys by birth. I daresay I can guess what you are, but there
need be no ill-will for that, and as you only came among us by
accident, as it were, there is no more to be said either way. There is
one thing certain, wherever or however we meet, we shall be friends."

So well were Madame Reynier's plans arranged that the boys passed from
Madrid to the frontier without a single hitch or unpleasantness. Tom
was soberly attired as a student at the university, Peter was muffled
up to the eyes as a timid young novice, going from school to enter a
convent, of which his aunt was lady superior, at Ciudad Rodrigo. The
colonel, and, following his example, the officers of the regiment were
polite and civil. The marches were of easy length, the mules stout
and smooth-going, with well-filled traveling sacks. The weather was
delightful, and the boys enjoyed the fortnight's march exceedingly.
Upon the road they learned that Massena had laid siege to Ciudad
Rodrigo, and that the 16th was on its way to join the besieging army.

It was the end of June, 1810, when the 16th joined Massena's force
before Ciudad Rodrigo. The siege had continued for some time, the
British light division, under General Craufurd, lay upon the other
side of the river Agueda, which separated them alike from the town and
the French army. The colonel of the 16th politely expressed to Tom his
regret that he could not, for the present, conduct them to their final
destination, but that he hoped that the gate would soon be open for
them. Tom thanked him for the civility which he had shown them upon
the road, and said that he would, with his sister, take up his abode
for the present a few miles from the beleaguered fortress. On leaving
the regiment the boys went higher up the Agueda to the little town of
Villar, where there was a bridge. This however, was watched by the
troops of both armies, and there was, at present, no chance of
affecting a passage.




CHAPTER XI.

THE FIGHT ON THE COA.


All through the winter of 1809-1810, Wellington had remained quietly
on the frontier of Portugal, engaged in disciplining his troops, many
of whom were raw drafts from the militia, in urging upon the home
Government the necessity of fresh reinforcements, if the war was to be
carried on with the smallest hopes of success, and in controversies
and disputes with the Portuguese regency. This body of incapables
starved their own army, refused supplies and transport to the British,
and behaved with such arrogance and insolence that Wellington was
several times driven to use the threat that, unless measures were
taken to keep the Portuguese troops from starving, and to supply food
to the British, he would put his army on board the transports at
Lisbon, and give up the struggle altogether.

Spring found the army still on the frontier, and when the French
advanced in force in May to lay siege to the Spanish frontier fortress
of Ciudad Rodrigo, Wellington to the intense disappointment of his own
troops, and the bitter anger of the Portuguese and Spaniards, refused
to fight a battle to save the fortress, which, under its gallant old
governor, Andrea Hernati, was defending itself nobly.

Wellington's position was, however, a very difficult one, and his
responsibilities were immense. Allowing for the detachments which were
massing to check three other French columns advancing in different
directions, he had but 25,000 men with which to attempt to raise the
siege of Ciudad Rodrigo, or to draw off the besieged garrison. Massena
had under him 60,000 French veterans, and was desiring nothing more
than that Wellington should attack him. The chances of victory then
were by no means strong, and in any case victory could only have been
purchased by a loss of men which would have completely crippled the
British general, and would have rendered it absolutely necessary for
him to fall back again at once. A defeat or even a heavy loss of
men, would have so dispirited the faint-hearted Government at home
that they would undoubtedly have recalled the whole expedition, and
resigned Portugal to its fate. Thus Wellington decided not to risk the
whole fate of the British army and of Portugal for merely a temporary
advantage, and so stood firm against the murmurs of his own troops,
the furious reproaches of the Portuguese and Spaniards, and the moving
entreaties for aid of the gallant governor of the besieged town.

At the same time that he refused to risk a general battle, he kept
Craufurd's division in advance of the Coa, and within two hours' march
of the enemy, thereby encouraging the garrison of Ciudad Rodrigo, and
preventing Massena from pushing forward a portion of his army while
the rest pursued the siege.

Craufurd's front was guarded by the Agueda, a river only passable by
two or three bridges and fords in wet weather, but fordable in many
places in the dry season. At the commencement of June the Agueda
fell, and the French crossed in strength at various places. Craufurd,
however, still maintained his position in front of the Coa with great
skill and boldness. He had under his command only 4000 infantry, 1100
cavalry, and six guns, and his maintenance of his position, almost
within gun-shot of an enemy's army, 60,000 strong, for three months,
is one of the finest feats of military audacity and ability ever
performed.

Until the 11th of July the boys remained quietly at a cottage occupied
by peasants, who believed their story that they were only waiting
to proceed when the French army advanced. They were freed from
molestation or inquiry upon the part of the French by the pass with
which Madame Reynier had supplied them.

Upon that day Ciudad Rodrigo surrendered, and Massena prepared at once
to enter Portugal. Upon the 21st the cavalry advanced in great force,
and upon the following day the boys resolved upon endeavoring to
rejoin the British army. The Agueda was now easily fordable in many
places, but the boys determined to swim across, at a distance from the
point at which the French army was now pouring forward.

As evening came on they left the cottage, and walked two miles up
the stream, and, as soon as night fell, took off the costumes which
had proved of such service to them and left them on the bank; then
fastening their peasants' suits upon two bundles of rushes to keep
them dry, entered the little river, and were soon upon the opposite
shore. They knew, from what they had heard in the afternoon, that
Craufurd had fallen back upon Almeida, a fortified town, and that it
was probable he would at once cross the Coa, as resistance to the
force now approaching him seemed nothing short of madness.

No good, indeed, could be gained by a fight in such a position, with a
deep river in the rear, crossed by only a narrow bridge, and commanded
by both banks, and Wellington's orders had been imperative "that, upon
no account whatever was Craufurd to fight beyond the Coa."

Craufurd, however, a rash and obstinate, although a skilful general,
was determined upon having a brush with the enemy before he fell back.
He anticipated, no doubt, that only an advanced guard of the enemy
would come up at first, and his intention was to inflict a severe
check upon them with the magnificent little division under his
command, and then fall back triumphantly across the Coa. Massena,
however, was well aware of the fighting powers of the light division,
and was preparing to hurl suddenly upon him a force more than
sufficient to crush it.

The Scudamores had but little fear of meeting with any large body of
the enemy, as the main French advance was direct from Ciudad Rodrigo;
their cavalry would, however, be scattered all over the country, and
were they to fall into the hands of any of these parties they would
have been shot instantly, upon suspicion of endeavoring to convey news
of the French movements to Craufurd.

The point where they crossed the river was between Villar and Naves
Frias, and, after an hour's walking, they struck the little rivulet
called Duas Casas. This they crossed at once, as they knew that by
following its southern bank until they saw some high ground to their
left they would find themselves near Almeida, which they hoped to
reach before the English retreated.

All night they tramped through the fields of stubble, where the corn
had been long since cut for the use of Craufurd's cavalry, but walking
at night through an unknown country is slow work, and when day began
to break they entered a small wood just beyond the point where the
Turones, as the southern arm of the Duas Casas is called, branches off
from the main stream. Several times in the course of the day bodies
of the enemy's cavalry came near their place of concealment, and the
Scudamores congratulated themselves that they had not given way to
their impatience, and tried to push on across the twenty miles that
alone separated them from their friends.

At nightfall the wind rose, and a heavy rain began to fall. They had
no stars by which to steer their course, and were, therefore, forced
to follow the bank of the Turones, although they knew that it would
lead them some distance to the north of Almeida. It was slow work,
indeed, for they had to grope their way along in the storm, following
every turn and bend of the river, which formed their only guide. After
several hours' toil they came into a road running north and south.
This they knew was the road leading from Guarda to Almeida, and it
gave them a clue as to the distance they had come. Still following the
river, they continued their course until they approached San Pedro,
whence they knew that a road ran directly to the British position
in front of Almeida, that is if the British still maintained their
position there.

As they approached the village, they heard a deep, hollow sound,
and stopping to listen, and laying their ears to the ground, could
distinguish the rumble of heavy carriages.

"The French are advancing in force, Peter; we are just in time;
they are going to attack us in the morning at daybreak. We know the
direction now; let us turn to the left, and try to get on in advance
of them. They probably will not push on much farther until there
is light enough to permit them to form order of battle; they are
evidently, by the sound, going to the left, rather than straight on."

The Scudamores now hurried on, and presently the rumbling of the
artillery died away, and they ventured to push to their left, and to
get on the road, which they found deserted. Half an hour's run, for
they knew that every minute was of importance, and they heard the
welcome challenge, "Who comes there?" "Two British officers," they
answered, and in a few minutes they were taken to the officer in
charge of the picket, and having once convinced him of their identity,
were heartily greeted and welcomed.

"The French are advancing in great force to attack," Tom said; "please
forward us instantly to the general."

The matter was too important for an instant's delay, and a sergeant
was at once told off to accompany them.

The first faint blush of daylight was in the east when they arrived
at the cottage which served as General Craufurd's quarters, and, upon
their speaking to the sentinel at the door, a window was thrown open,
and a deep voice demanded "What is it?"

"We have just arrived through the French lines," Tom said, "the enemy
are at hand in force."

The casement closed, and an instant afterwards the general came out.
"Who are you?"

"We belong to the Norfolk Rangers, general, and have been detached on
service in the interior; we have only just made our way back."

"How am I to know your story is true?" the general asked sharply.

"You may, perhaps, remember, sir, we landed from the 'Latona,' and you
kindly lent us horses to accompany you."

"Aha! I remember," the general said. "Well, your news?"

"The French have crossed the Turones in force, sir; at least they have
a good many guns with them."

"Which way were they going?"

"As far as we could judge by the sound, sir, they were taking up a
position between Villa Formosa and Fort Conception."

"Good," the general said shortly; then turning to three or four of his
staff who had followed him from the cottage, "Get the troops under
arms at once. Come in here, gentlemen."

The Scudamores entered, and as they came into the light of a candle
which stood on the table the general smiled grimly.

"It is lucky you were able to recall yourselves to my memory, for
I should have needed some strong evidence to persuade me you were
British officers had I seen you before you spoke. You are wet to the
skin; there is a brandy bottle, and you will find some bread and cold
fowl in that cupboard."

Five minutes later the boys followed General Craufurd from his hut.

Short as was the time which had elapsed since their arrival, the
troops were already under arms, for three months of incessant alarm
and watchfulness had enabled this splendid division to act as one man,
and to fall in at any hour of the day or night in an incredibly short
time. Ten minutes later and the ramble of the baggage wagons was
heard along the road towards the bridge. The morning was clearing
fast, the clouds lifted, and the daylight seemed to break with unusual
suddenness.

The dark masses of the French became visible forming up before the
Turones, and Craufurd hurried forward his cavalry and guns to check
their advance.

"Hurry the infantry up, hurry them up," the general said urgently to
the officers by him. "Let them take post along the ridge, and then
fall back fighting towards the bridge. Major MacLeod," he said to an
officer of the 43d, "take these gentlemen with you; they are officers
of the Norfolk Rangers. They will join your regiment for the present.
When your regiment falls back, occupy that stone inclosure a little
way down the slope at the left of the road, and hold the enemy in
check while the troops file over the bridge."

The officer addressed looked with surprise at the boys, and signing to
them to follow, hurried off to his regiment, which was on the left of
the British line.

Next to them came a regiment of Portuguese riflemen, with a wing of
the 95th upon either flank, while the 52d formed the right of the
line.

Upon reaching the regiment, Major MacLeod briefly introduced the boys
to the colonel, who said, "As you have no arms, gentlemen, I think you
had better make for the bridge at once."

"Thank you, sir," Tom replied, "there will be some muskets disposable
before long, and directly they are so we will take our place in the
ranks."

They had now leisure to look round and examine their position, and a
glance was sufficient to show how great was the peril in which General
Craufurd's obstinacy had placed his little force. In front of them
were 24,000 French infantry, 5000 cavalry, and 30 pieces of artillery.
An overwhelming force indeed, and one which could scarcely have been
withstood by the 4000 British infantry, even under the most favorable
conditions of position. The position, however, was here wholly against
the British. They stood at the edge of a plateau, and behind them the
ground fell away in a steep hillside to the Coa, a mile distant, and
across the Coa there was but a single bridge.

The enemy was approaching fast. Ney's great brigade of cavalry swept
the British horse before them, and the infantry were following at a
run.

Resistance on the edge of the plateau was hopeless, and Craufurd
ordered the infantry to fall back at once. The 43d filed into the
inclosure, rapidly cut loopholes in the wall, and as the enemy
appeared on the crest above opened a tremendous fire, under cover of
which the cavalry and artillery trotted briskly and in good order down
the road to the bridge.

The Scudamores, having no duty, stood at the entrance to the inclosure
and watched the fight on their right. As the masses of French infantry
appeared on the edge of the plateau they made no pause, but opening
a heavy fire pressed forward on the retiring British troops, who
were falling back in open order, contesting every inch of ground. So
rapidly and hotly, however, did the French press after them that the
British were soon pushed back beyond the line of the inclosure, and as
the French followed closely, it was evident that the 43d would be cut
oft and surrounded.

Their colonel saw their danger, and called upon them to fall in and
retreat, but the entrance was so narrow that it was clear at a glance
that ere one company could pass through it the French would be upon
them, and the regiment caught like rats in a trap.

Officers and men alike saw the danger, and there was a pause of
consternation.

Peter was standing next to the colonel, and said suddenly as the idea
flashed across him, "The wall is not very strong, sir, if the men mass
against it and push together I think it will go."

The colonel caught at the idea. "Now, lads, steady, form against the
rear wall four deep, close together, shoulder to shoulder, as close
as you can pack; now get ready, one, two, three!" and at the word the
heavy mass of men swung themselves against the wall; it swayed with
the shock, and many stones were displaced; another effort and the
wall tottered and fell, and with a glad shout the 43d burst out, and
trotting on at the double soon joined the rifles and 95th.

The ground was rough and broken with rocks, vineyards and inclosures,
and the troops, fighting with admirable coolness and judgment, took
advantage of every obstacle and fell back calmly and in good order
before the overwhelming force opposed to them.

Fortunately the jealousies of the French generals, which throughout
the campaign contributed in no slight degree to the success of
the British, was now the cause of their safety, for Montbrun, who
commanded the French heavy cavalry, refused to obey Ney's order to
charge straight down to the bridge, in which case the whole English
infantry would have been cut off; the French hussars, however, being
on the British rear, charged among them whenever the ground permitted
them to do so.

Upon the British right the ground was more open than upon the left,
and the 52d was therefore obliged to fall back more quickly than the
rest of the line, and were the first to arrive at the bridge head,
which was still choked with artillery and cavalry. This was the most
dangerous moment, the rest of the infantry could not retreat until the
bridge was clear, and the French with exulting shouts pressed hard
upon them to drive them back upon the river.

Major MacLeod, seeing the urgent danger, rallied four companies of his
regiment upon the little hill on the right of the road, while Major
Rowan collected two companies on another to the left. Here they were
joined by many of the riflemen, and for a while the French advance was
checked.

The Scudamores had remained throughout close to Major MacLeod, and had
long since armed themselves with the muskets and pouches of fallen
men, and with 43d shakoes on their heads, were fighting among the
ranks.

The cloud of French skirmishers pressed hotly forward, and MacLeod,
seeing that the bridge was still blocked, resolved suddenly upon
a desperate measure. Taking off his cap, he pointed to the enemy,
and calling upon his men to follow him, rode boldly at them. Peter
Scudamore caught up a bugle which had fallen from a dead bugler by his
side, blew the charge, and the soldiers, cheering loudly, followed
MacLeod against the enemy.

Astounded at this sudden and unexpected attack, the French skirmishers
paused, and then fell back before the furious charge of the 43d, who
pressed after them with loud and continuous cheering. Looking back,
MacLeod saw that the bridge was now clear, and recalled the troops,
who fell back rapidly again before the French infantry had recovered
sufficiently from their surprise to press them.

The hussars were, however, again forward, and were galloping down the
road, which was here sunken between somewhat high banks. Tom and Peter
were with the last company, which turned and prepared to receive them,
when Tom, pointing to a coil of rope upon a cart which had broken
down, shouted, "Quick, tie it to these posts across the road." Two or
three men sprang to assist him, and in a minute the rope was stretched
across the road at a foot from the ground, and fastened round a stone
post on either side. They had scarcely seized their muskets and leapt
on the bank again, when the French cavalry came thundering down the
road. "Fire, a few of you," Tom said, "so as to call their attention
up here," and in accordance with his order a dropping fire was opened.
The French came along at a gallop; a few of the leading horses saw
the rope and leapt it, but those behind caught it and fell, the mass
behind pressed on, and in an instant the lane was choked with a
confused mass of men and horses. "Now a volley," Tom cried, "and then
to the bridge."

Every musket was emptied in to the struggling mass, and then with a
cheer, the men ran briskly down to the bridge, and crossed--the last
of the British troops over the Coa.

The rest of the infantry and artillery had already taken ground on the
heights behind the river, and these opened fire upon the French as
they approached the head of the bridge in pursuit. The British were
now, however, safe in the position which they ought to have taken up
before the advance of the French, and had General Craufurd obeyed his
orders not to fight beyond the Coa, the lives of 306 of his gallant
troops, including the officers, would have been saved.

The battle, however, was not yet over. The artillery on both sides
played across the ravine, the French skirmishers swarmed down to the
river bank, and between them and the British infantry a rapid fire was
exchanged, while a heavy column marched down to the bridge. With a
deep-sounding cheer they advanced upon it, while with answering cheers
the British opened fire upon them. The depth of the ravine at first
deceived the British marksmen, and the column pressed on until its
head was three-quarters across the bridge. Then the shower smote it,
and beneath that terrible fire the head of the column melted away.
Still it pressed on until across the bridge the corpses lay piled in a
mass as high as the parapet, and beyond this heap, this terrible line,
there was no living. Then sullenly and slowly the French fell back,
while the British cheers rose exultingly along the hillside.

Twice again did fresh columns pour on to the bridge, but only to melt
away under the British fire, neither of them reaching the dreadful
line which marked the point reached by the head of the first. The
artillery and musketry fire on both sides continued until four in the
afternoon, when a heavy rain set in, and the fire ceased altogether.

As the Coa was fordable at several points lower down, and the French
could therefore have turned the position next day, the British troops
fell back during the night behind the Pinhel river, where Picton's
division was also encamped.

Next morning the boys exchanged their Spanish suits for the uniform
of British officers, which they obtained from the effects of some of
those who had fallen upon the previous day, these being, as is usual
in a campaign, at once sold by auction, the amount realized being
received by the paymaster for the benefit of the dead men's relatives.
Major MacLeod had witnessed their ready presence of mind in throwing
the rope across the road, and so checking the French charge, and
giving time to the rear-guard to cross the bridge, and had made a very
favorable report upon the subject.

Two days later and they joined the Rangers, who were stationed at
Guarda, and were received with the greatest heartiness by their
brother officers, with warm but respectful greetings by the men, and
with uproarious demonstrations of gladness on the part of Sambo.

"The betting was two to one that you had gone down, boys," Captain
Manley said, after the first greetings; "but Carruthers and myself
have taken up all offers, and win I don't know how many dinners and
bottles of wine. I had the strongest faith you would get through
somehow. You will take up your quarters with me. I have two bedrooms
upstairs there, which Sam has taken possession of in your name. He
would have it that you were sure to be back in time for the first
fight. Dinner will be ready at six, and after that there will be a
general gathering round the fire in the open to hear your adventures.
No doubt you would be dining with the colonel, but I know he is
engaged to the general."

"Yes, he told us so," Tom said, "and we are to dine with him
to-morrow."

"All right, then; we'll make a night of it. Carruthers is coming to
dine, and Burke and Lethbridge; but the room won't hold more than six.
We are going to have a feast, for Sam has got hold of a sucking-pig;
where he got it from I dare not inquire, and Lethbridge said his
fellow had, somehow or other, found a turkey; as to wine, we shall
have it of the best, for Burke is quartered at the monastery, and the
monks are so delighted at finding him a good Catholic that they have
given him the run of their cellar."

It was a jovial dinner, and no words can express the satisfaction and
delight which beamed on Sam's face as he stood behind his master, or
the grin of pride with which he placed the sucking-pig on the table.

"Sam, Sam!" Captain Manley said reprovingly, "I fear that pig is not
honestly come by, and that one of these days we shall hear that you
have come to a bad end."

"No, no, Massa Captain Manley, sar," Sam said, "dat pig come quite
honest, dat pig made present to Sam."

"A likely story that, Sam. Come, out with it. I have no doubt it was
quite as honest as Lethbridge's turkey anyhow. Come, tell us how it
was."

Thus invoked, Sam's face assumed the pompons air with which he always
related a story, and he began,--

"Well, sar, de affair happened in dis way. When de massas arribe, two
o'clock, and went in for long talk wid de colonel, dis chile said to
himself, 'Now what am I going to get them for dinner?' De rations
sarve out dis morning war all skin and bone, and war pretty nigh
finished at lunch. Sam say to himself, 'Captain Manley's sure to say,
'You dine wid me;' but as Captain Manley hadn't got no food himself,
de invitation was berry kind, berry kind indeed; but massa wasn't
likely to get fat on dat invitation."

Sam's narrative was interrupted by a perfect shout of laughter upon
the part of all at table, Captain Manley joining heartily in the laugh
against himself. When they had a little recovered again, Sam went on
as gravely as ever. "Dis struck Sam berry serious, not to have nothing
for dinner after being away seben months; presently idea occur to dis
chile, and he stroll permiscuous up to big farm-house on hill. When
Sam got near house, kept out of sight of window; at last got quite
close, took off shako, and put head suddenly in at window. Sure
enough, just what Sam expected, dere sat missus of farm, fat ole
woman, wid fat ole servant opposite her. De door was open, and dis
little pig and several of his broders and sisters was a frisking in
and out. De old women look up bofe togeder, and dey give a awful
shriek when dey saw dis chile's head; dey fought it were de debil,
sure enough. Dey drop down on dere knees, and begin to pray as fast as
maybe. Den I give a loud 'Yah! yah!' and dey screams out fresh. 'Oh!
good massa debil!' says the ole woman, 'what you want? I been berry,
berry bad, but don't take me away.' You see, Massa Tom, I pick up
little Spanish, 'nuff to understand since you been gone. I not say
nuffin, and de ole woman den go on, 'If you want one soul Massa Debil,
take dis here,' pointing to her serbant;' she been much more wicked
nor me.' Den de serbant she set up awful shriek, and I says, 'Dis time
I hab pity on you, next time I come, if you not good I carry you bofe
away. But must take soul away to big debil 'else he neber forgibe me.
Dere, I will carry off soul of little pig. Gib it me.' De serbant she
gives cry ob joy, jump up, seize little pig, and berry much afraid,
bring him to window. Before I take him I say to old missus, 'Dis a
free gibt on your part?' and she say, 'Oh, yes, oh, yes, good Massa
Debil, you can take dem all if you like.' I say, 'No; only one--and
now me gib you bit advice. My Massa down below hear you very bad ole
women, never gib noting to de poor, berry hard, berry hard. Me advise
you change your conduct, or, as sure as eggs is eggs, he send me up
again for you no time.' Den I gave two great 'Yah! yah's!' again berry
loud, and showed de white ob my eyes, and dey went down on to knees
again, and I go quietly round corner ob house, and walk home wid de
pig which was giben to me. Noting like stealing about dat, Massa
Manley, sar!"

Sam's story was received with roars of laughter, and when they had
recovered themselves a little, Captain Manley said, "It is lucky we
march to-morrow, Sam, for if the good woman were to catch a glimpse of
you in uniform, and were to find she had been tricked, she might lay
a complaint against you, and although, as you say, the pig was freely
given to you, I imagine the Provost Marshal might consider that it was
obtained under false pretences. But here are the other men outside, we
had better adjourn, for every one is longing to hear your adventures."

It was a lovely evening, and as the officers of the Norfolk Rangers
sat or lay round the fire, which was lit for light and cheerfulness
rather than warmth, the boys, after their long wanderings among
strangers, felt how pleasant and bright life was among friends
and comrades. They had first to relate their adventures with the
guerillas, after which it was agreed that they had earned the right to
be silent for the rest of the evening, and song, and jest, and merry
story went round the ring.

Sam was installed under the direction of the doctor, a jovial
Irishman, as concocter of punch, and his office was by no means a
sinecure.

"Now, major, give us the song of the regiment," Captain Manley said,
and, as he spoke, there was a general cry round the circle of "The
Rangers, the Rangers." "I'm agreeable," the major said. "Give me
another tumbler of punch to get my pipes in order. Make it a little
sweeter than the last brew, Sam; yes, that's better. Well, here
goes--full chorus, and no shirking."

THE RANGERS.

  "Hurrah for the Rangers, hurrah! hurrah!
    Here's to the corps that we love so well;
  Ever the first in the deadly fray,
    Steady and firm amid shot and shell.
  Scattered as skirmishers out in the front,
    Contesting each foot of the ground we hold,
  Nor yielding a step though we bear the brunt
    Of the first attack of the foeman bold.

      Hurrah for the Rangers, hurrah! hurrah!
      Here's to the corps that we love so well;
      Ever the first in the deadly fray,
      Steady and firm amid shot and shell.

  "Steady boys, steady, the foe falls back,
    Sullenly back to the beat of the drum,
  Hark to the thunder that nears our flank
    Rally in square, boys, their cavalry come.
  Squadron on squadron, wave upon wave,
    Dashing along with an ocean's force,
  But they break into spray on our bayonets' points,
    And we mock at the fury of rider and horse.

      Hurrah for the Rangers, &c.

  "The gunner may boast of the death he deals
    As he shatters the foe with his iron hail,
  And may laugh with pride as he checks the charge,
    Or sees the dark column falter and quail.
  But the gunner fights with the foe afar,
    In the rear of the line is the battery's place,
  The Ranger fights with a sterner joy
    For he strives with his foemen face to face.

      Hurrah for the Rangers, &c.

  "The cavalry man is dashing and gay,
    His steed is fast, and his blade is fine,
  He blithely rides to the fiercest fray,
    And cuts his way through the foeman's line,
  But the wild, fierce joys of the deadly breach,
    Or the patient pluck of the serried square
  Are far away from the horseman's reach,
    While the Norfolk Rangers are sure to be there.

      Hurrah for the Rangers, &c."

Long, loud, and hearty was the cheering as the last chorus concluded.
"Very good song, very well sung, jolly companions every one," shouted
the doctor. "Now, Manley, keep the ball rolling, give us the 'The
Bivouac,'" Captain Manley emptied his glass, and, without hesitation,
began--

THE BIVOUAC.

  "The weary march is over, boys, the camp fire's burning bright,
  So gather round the blazing logs, we'll keep high feast to-night,
  For every heart is full of joy, and every cheek aglow,
  That after months of waiting, at last we meet the foe.
  To-morrow's sun will see the fight, and ere that sun goes down,
  Our glorious flag another wreath of victory shall crown.

    Hurrah, hurrah for the bivouac,
    With comrades tried and true,
    With faces bright, and spirits light,
    And the foemen's fires in view.

  "Then fill your cups with Spanish wine, and let the toast go round,
  Here's a health to all who love us on dear old England's ground.
  Be their tresses gold or auburn, or black as ebon's hue,
  Be their eyes of witching hazel, loving gray, or heaven's blue,
  Here's to them all, the girls we love, God bless them every one;
  May we all be here to toast them when to-morrow's work is done.

    Hurrah, hurrah, &c.

  "But whate'er to-morrow bring us, it shall shed no gloom to-night,
  For a British soldier does not flinch from thought of death in fight;
  No better ending could we wish, no worthier do we know,
  Than to fall for King and country, with our face towards the foe;
  And if we go, our friends who stay will keep our memory bright,
  And will drink to us in silence by many a camp-fire's light.

    Hurrah, hurrah, &c."

When the last chorus had ceased, the boys, who had had a long march
that morning, and were thoroughly tired, stole quietly off to bed,
but it was not till long after they had gone to sleep that the jovial
party round the fire broke up, and that Sam was relieved from his
duties of concocter of punch.




CHAPTER XII.

BUSACO AND TORRES VEDRAS.


Instead of pressing forward upon his invasion of Portugal, Massena
prepared to besiege Almeida, and for a month the British and
Portuguese army remained in their position within a few hours' march
of that town. Wellington expected that Almeida would be able to
resist for two months, and hoped to find some opportunity for falling
suddenly upon the besiegers; but even a resistance of two months would
have made it so late in the season that Massena must have postponed
his invasion until the next spring.

Upon the morning of the 26th of August the French batteries opened
fire, and from Guarda the dull, heavy roar of artillery could be heard
all day. As darkness fell, the officers of the Rangers were, as usual,
assembling round their fire, when the earth seemed to shake beneath
their feet, and a flash like that of summer lightning lit the eastern
sky. "What can that be?" was the general exclamation. A minute later,
and a deep, heavy, prolonged roar sounded in their ears--then all was
quiet.

"That is a big magazine," Captain Manley said, "and I'm afraid it's
the town, for it sounded too heavy for a mere field magazine. If it be
the town, you'll see it won't hold out much longer; even if the actual
damage is not very great, a great explosion always damages the morale
of a defense, and in that case we shall have Massena upon us, and
there will be wigs on the green ere many days are over."

Captain Manley's conclusions were correct. The magazine of Almeida had
exploded with terrific effect. Only six houses were left standing in
the town, a considerable portion of the ramparts was thrown down, and
five hundred people killed on the spot. The stones were hurled in all
directions with such force that forty of the besiegers were hurt in
the trenches.

Colonel Cox, who commanded, endeavored to rally the panic-stricken
garrison, and upon the following morning attempted to negotiate with
Massena, who sent an officer to demand instant surrender.

Defense was, in fact, impossible, but Colonel Cox attempted to
negotiate, because he hoped that Wellington would at once advance to
his rescue. His intentions were frustrated, however, by the treachery
and mutiny of the principal Portuguese officers under him, and the
French at once took possession of the ruins.

The British army fell back a short distance when the news of the
disaster arrived, and a fortnight of great anxiety and watchfulness
passed, as it was not certain by which road or roads Massena would
advance.

It was not until the 18th of September that Massena fairly commenced
his march, having chosen the road from Visen through Martagoa, and the
next day the news reached the Rangers that the British army was to
concentrate on the heights of Busaco.

"So we are going to have a fight for it," Carruthers said to the boys,
as the officers assembled in readiness to take their places when the
troops had fallen in. "What will be the end of it?"

"We shall lick them," an old captain said, "though they are two to
one, and then they will march round us somehow, and then we shall have
to fall back in all haste on Lisbon, and embark there, and we shall
eat our Christmas dinner in England."

There was a general murmur of assent, for at that time the belief was
almost universal in the British army that they would be forced to
abandon Portugal.

"I do not know," Major Fanshawe said. "I heard last night, from a
man who has just returned from sick leave at Lisbon, that there are
thousands of peasants employed under our engineers in getting up some
tremendous works some fifteen miles this side of Lisbon. I should not
be surprised yet if Massena finds the chief a nut too hard to crack,
with all his force."

"I have heard something about these works at Torres Vedras," Captain
Manley said, "a mere rumor; still I believe there must be something in
it. Wellington has only some twenty-five thousand British troops, and
as many Portuguese, while Massena has over a hundred thousand veterans
at his command. Our game would be hopeless unless we have something to
fall back on. No; I have every faith in our general. But there goes
the bugle."

On the 24th the Rangers, with the rest of Picton's division, arrived
on the crest of Busaco, where Cole's and Craufurd's divisions arrived
on the same day. This position was one of immense strength, being a
long ridge, with a very deep valley in front. Upon the opposite side
of this ravine the slope was as steep and sharp as that of Busaco
itself, so that the opposite crest was within easy cannon shot.
The enemy, in order to attack the British position, would have to
descend into the bottom of this steep ravine, and then climb up the
precipitous ascent, to meet the British soldiers awaiting them, fresh
and unshaken, at the top. So strong, indeed, was the position that
the English generals were doubtful whether Massena would venture to
attack.

Upon the 25th Craufurd moved his division forward, and would have
repeated his mistake of the Coa had not Wellington himself gone
forward and recalled the troops, bringing them off with difficulty
in the face of the advancing masses of the French. By three in the
afternoon, 40,000 French infantry were on the ridge opposite Busaco,
and it appeared probable that the battle would take place that
afternoon, in which case the British position would have been
precarious, for neither Spencer's, Hill's, nor Leith's divisions were
up.

Massena, however, was miles behind, and Ney, who commanded the
advance, could not attack without orders; thus, the moment favorable
for the French passed by. When Massena arrived next day, the British
divisions were all up and in their places, and the long crest of
Busaco swarmed with troops. Hill occupied the right across the road to
Pena Cova, then came Leith's 5th division, then came Picton with the
3d division, with Spencer's division, the 1st, next to him. On a
plateau in front of a convent lay Craufurd and Pack, while Cole, with
the 4th division, was on the left.

The 27th and 28th were passed in comparative tranquillity, the rival
armies surveying each other across the chasm. From the woods far below
came up the constant crack of the rifle, as the skirmishers on either
side pushed each other backwards; and on the evening of the 28th this
fighting increased so much in strength and intensity, that the British
troops were some time under arms in expectation of a night attack, for
the enemy's riflemen had pressed far up on the hill-side towards the
British lines. As the night went on, however, the fire ceased, and the
dark ravine between the two long lines of bright watch-fires became
hushed and still.

The Rangers were with Picton's division, and were out as an advance
half way down the ravine, two companies being down in the bottom as
skirmishers. Morning was but just breaking when a heavy fire burst out
in front. The regiment sprang to its feet, and prepared for action.
It was not long in coming, for the fire rolled rapidly up the hill
towards them, and the skirmishing companies came running back, pressed
by a heavy column of the enemy. Reynier had formed in two divisions,
one of which was now pressing forward against Picton's right, while
the object of the other was to gain the crest still farther to the
right, and so place themselves between Picton and Leigh. The whole
regiment was at once engaged, but the French assault was too powerful
to be resisted, and the Rangers and the other regiments of the
advanced brigade gave way sullenly, while the French eagerly pressed
up the hill, although a battery opened upon them from the crest, while
they were unsupported by their own artillery.

"Golly, Massa Peter, dese fellows fight berry hard; look as if dey
lick us dis time," the black, who was in Peter's company, said to him
as the regiment retreated.

"The battle has only begun yet, Sam. We have plenty of fresh troops at
the top of the hill."

"Good ting, dat, Massa Peter. Berry hard work, dis--climb hill, carry
kit, fire gun, dodge de bullets, all sam time."

"You didn't dodge that bullet sharp enough, Sam," Peter said with a
laugh, as the negro's shako was carried off with a ball.

"Him cum too fast. Dere, you frog-eating thief." he said angrily as he
fired his musket at an advancing foe. "Dat serve you right," he went
on to himself as the Frenchman fell. "You spoil Sam's hat. Dis colored
gentleman catch cold first time him come on to rain."

The French continued their impetuous advance. Picton's right, as they
climbed the hill, fell back towards his center, and in half an hour
from the first shot being fired the head of the French column had won
the crest, and, being between Leigh and Picton's divisions, had cut
the British position. Then the column nearest to Picton's division
began to wheel to its right, so as to sweep the crest.

"Lie down, the Rangers; every man down," shouted the colonel, and the
breathless men threw themselves panting on the ground. A wild Irish
shout was heard behind them as they did so, and a tremendous volley of
musketry rang over their heads, and then the 88th and a wing of the
45th dashed across them, and, with fierce cheers, charged that portion
of the column engaged in wheeling. Breathless and in disorder from
their prodigious efforts, the French were unable to resist this fresh
attack. In an instant the British were among them, and mixed up in
wild confusion, fighting hand to hand, the mass of combatants went
mingled together down the hill. Nor was the success of the French
column which had gained the crest of long duration, for Leith brought
up one of his brigades; Colonel Cameron, with the 9th Regiment, dashed
at the enemy with the bayonet, without firing a single shot, while
the 38th attacked their flank; and the French, unable to resist the
onslaught, relinquished their position and retreated down the hill.
Nor upon the French right had Ney's attack proved more successful.

Napier thus describes the combat in this quarter of the field:--"When
the light broke, three heavy masses detached from the sixth corps were
seen to enter the woods below, and to throw forward a profusion of
skirmishers; one of them, under General Marchand, emerging from the
dark chasm and following the main road, seemed intent to turn the
right of the light division; a second, under Loison, made straight up
the mountain against the front; the third remained in reserve. Simon's
brigade, leading Loison's attack, ascended with a wonderful alacrity,
and though the light troops plied it incessantly with musketry, and
the artillery bullets swept through it from the first to the last
section, its order was never disturbed, nor its speed in the least
abated. Ross's guns were worked with incredible quickness, yet their
range was palpably contracted every round; the enemy's shots came
ringing up in a sharper key, the English skirmishers, breathless
and begrimed with powder, rushed over the edge of the ascent, the
artillery drew back, and the victorious cries of the French were heard
within a few yards of the summit. Craufurd, standing alone on one of
the rocks, had been intently watching the progress of their attack,
and now, with a shrill tone, ordered the two regiments in reserve to
charge. The next moment a horrid shout startled the French column, and
eighteen hundred British bayonets went sparkling over the hill. Yet so
brave, so hardy were the leading French, that each man of the first
section raised his musket, and two officers and ten men fell before
them. Not a Frenchman had missed his mark. They could do no more. The
head of their column was violently thrown back upon the rear, both
flanks were overlapped at the same time by the English wings, three
terrible discharges at five yards' distance shattered the wavering
mass, and a long line of broken arms and bleeding carcases marked the
line of flight."

Ney did not renew the attack, and with some desultory skirmishing the
battle ended at two o'clock, and an hour's truce enabled both parties
to carry off their wounded.

Small parties of the French came in contact with the English
skirmishers during the afternoon, but the battle of Busaco was over.

"Don't call dat much of battle," Sam said discontentedly. "Just little
fierce fight, berry out of bref, and den, just as second wind came,
all ober."

The battle of Busaco was indeed one of secondary importance. The
losses were not great on either side, although that of the French was
fully threefold greater than that of the British, as the former were
exposed during their attack to the grape and shell of the British
guns, while the French guns afforded no assistance to their infantry.
The French loss, in killed and wounded and prisoners, did not exceed
4000, of which only 800 were killed. Nor was any strategical advantage
gained by the battle, for the French, upon the following day, found
a road across the hills to the British left from Martagoa through
Bonzalva.

Throughout the day they made feints of renewing the attack upon the
English position, and it was not until late in the afternoon that long
columns of men were seen crossing the hill to the left; and Wellington
discovered that Busaco had been won in vain, for that his flank was
turned, and there was nothing for it but to fall back upon Torres
Vedras. Before night the whole British army was in retreat.

"What a horrible scene of confusion," Tom remarked, as they marched
into the town of Coimbra next day.

"Confusion!" Captain Manley said; "it is enough to drive a
commander-in-chief out of his mind. Here Wellington has for weeks
been endeavoring to get the Portuguese Government to compel all the
population to retire upon Lisbon, carrying all they can, destroying
the mills, and burning all the corn they could not carry off. The
Government did issue the order, but it has taken no steps whatever to
carry it out, although they knew all along that we could never repel
the invasion in the open. As it is, the greater portion of these poor
wretches will lose all they possess, which they might have carried
off quietly enough during the last two months. Many of them will lose
their lives, and they will block the roads so that we shall have the
French down on us to a certainty."

Nothing could be more sad than the scene. The streets of Coimbra were
crowded with fugitives from the country round, and these, as well as
the inhabitants, were all preparing to push onwards towards Lisbon.
Bullock carts and carriages, mules, donkeys, and horses were crowded
together, all laden with the aged, the children, the sick, and such
property as was most portable and valuable. Happily Massena had
a circuitous detour to make; the road in the mountain defile was
scarcely passable, and throughout the march he displayed but little
energy; consequently it was not until the morning of the first of
October that his cavalry engaged those of the light division which was
covering the retreat. The division fell back through the town, and the
inhabitants, who had lingered to the last in some vague hope that the
French would not come, now rushed out again. The bridge behind the
town was choked, and the troops had to halt for some time. In the rear
the pistol shots of the cavalry told of the approach of the French,
and the din made by the panic-stricken fugitives was increased by the
yells of the prisoners shut up and forgotten in the prison hard by.
Their cries and supplications were too painful to be resisted, and the
British forced the prison doors and let them free. Once across the
bridge, the troops found the defile of Condeixa so choked up that it
was impossible to effect a passage, and, had the French pressed them
the division must have been destroyed.

The French infantry, however, had not arrived, and by night the road
was cleared, and the troops passed on.

There was no pursuit, for Massena allowed his troops to halt and
plunder Coimbra, and the British by easy marches, fell back to
Torres Vedras; but though unpursued, the disorder and relaxation of
discipline which always marks a retreat, showed itself, and Wellington
was obliged to hang several plunderers, and to resort to other severe
measures to restore to discipline that army which, only a week before,
had repulsed the best troops of France. Towards the end of the march
the French pressed them again, and Craufurd, with his light division,
had a narrow escape of being cut off.

Great was the satisfaction of the British troops when they took up the
position so carefully prepared for them; equally great the surprise of
Massena and the French army when they beheld the almost impregnable
line of redoubts and fortresses of whose very existence they had only
heard a confused rumor two or three days before. And yet formidable
as was the chain of forts occupied by the British, this was weak in
comparison to the second line, some five or six miles in the rear,
to which Wellington would have fallen back if driven from his first
position. This second position was indeed that which he had originally
intended to have taken up, the redoubts on the exterior range of hills
being intended as outposts; but, while Massena delayed his advance,
the outside line of fortifications had so grown and increased in
strength, that Wellington resolved to hold them in the first place.

There were, therefore, as will be seen by the plan, three lines of
defense. The first from Alhandra on the Tagus to Zizandre on the
sea-coast. This, following the windings of the hills, was twenty-nine
miles long; the second and main line was from Quintella on the Tagus
to the mouth of the San Lorenza, twenty-four miles in length; the
third, intended to cover an embarkation, in case of necessity,
extended from Passo d'Arcos on the Tagus to the town of Junquera on
the coast.

Massena spent some days in surveying the British position, and came to
the conclusion that it was too strong to be attacked. Had the order
of Wellington been carried out, and the whole country wasted of
provisions, the French army must have made a precipitate retreat to
avoid starvation, for they had no provisions or connection with Spain.
Wilson and Trant, with Portuguese levies, hung upon their rear, and
captured Coimbra, where Massena had left his sick and wounded, 5000 in
number, upon the very day after the main French army advanced from the
town. So vast were the supplies, however, left in the country that
Massena was able to take up his position, first immediately in front
of the British lines, and afterwards at Santarem, within a day's march
of them, and to maintain his army in food throughout the winter until
the beginning of March.

"Have you seen the _Gazette_, Scudamore?" Carruthers asked, rushing
into the tent one morning about a week after the regiment had settled
down in its tents on the heights of Torres Vedras.

"No; what's up?" Tom replied.

"There you are; you have both got your steps. Thomas Scudamore,
ensign, Norfolk Rangers, to be lieutenant, for distinguished services
in the field. Peter Scudamore, ditto, ditto. I wondered the chief had
done nothing for you after your journey through Spain."

"I am sure I did not expect anything," Tom answered, "and was quite
content when the colonel told us that Lord Wellington had said he was
pleased with the manner we had done our work. However, I am very glad;
but it is not pleasant going over five or six fellows' heads."

"Fortune of war," Carruthers said laughing. "Besides, two of them are
at the depot, Sankey is away on sick leave, and none of the three who
are senior to you here will ever set the Thames on fire. No, no, you
have fairly earned your step and no one can say a word against it."

The news soon spread, and the boys were heartily congratulated by all
the officers of the regiment on their promotion, which placed them
next on the list to Carruthers, who had previously been the junior
lieutenant. Promotion in those days was rapid, and after a severe
engagement an ensign only joined upon the previous week might find
himself a lieutenant, from the number of death vacancies caused in
the ranks above him. The Norfolk Rangers had not suffered heavily at
Talavera, or the boys might have had their lieutenant's rank before
this, without performing any exceptional services.

"I wish we could get two months' leave, Tom," Peter said that night.
"Of course it is impossible, but it would be jolly to drop in upon
Rhoda. By her letter she seems well and happy, and aunt is very kind
to her. It would be nice; and now we are lieutenants, aunt wouldn't
tell us to rub our shoes."

"No," Tom laughed, "or be afraid of our pelting her pigeons and
Minnie."

"No," Peter said. "Evidently she is coming round. Rhoda said that
since she has heard that we have got our commissions she has given
up prophesying once or twice a day that we shall come to a bad
end--probably hanging."

"Yes, and Rhoda said in her letter yesterday that aunt was quite
touched with those lace mantillas we got at Madrid, and sent off the
day after we rejoined, and actually remarked that, although we could
no longer be looked upon as boys, and seemed really as hair-brained
and fond of getting into scrapes as ever, yet it was evident that we
were good, kindly lads, and meant well at heart."

"I wish," Tom said, with a sudden burst of laughter, "that we could
dress in our old disguises, I as a student of theology you as a mild
young novice; what a lark we would have with her!" and the boys went
off into such shouts of laughter, that their aunt would have thought
them more scatter-brained than ever if she had heard them, while from
the tent of Captain Manley on one side, and of Carruthers and another
young officer on the other, came indignant expostulations, and
entreaties that they would keep quiet, and let other people go to
sleep.




CHAPTER XIII.

ALBUERA.


Very heavily did five months in the lines of Torres Vedras pass to the
Norfolk Rangers. When, in the beginning of November, Massena fell back
to Sautarem, the greater portion of the army followed him in readiness
for attack should any openings be found. Massena, however, entrenched
himself in a very strong position, and Wellington could no more attack
him than he could attack the lines of Torres Vedras; so that both
armies faced each other in inactivity until the beginning of March,
when Massena broke up his camp and began to retreat.

The Norfolk Rangers had been one of the regiments which had remained
in their quarters on Torres Vedras throughout the winter, and great
was the joy with which they received orders to strike their tents
and push on in pursuit. The retreat of Massena was masterly. Ney's
division covered the rear, and several sharp fights took place which
are known in history as the combats of Pombal, Redinha, Cazal Nova,
Foz d'Aronce, and Sabugal.

In most of these the enemy were driven from their position by the
British outflanking them and threatening their line of retreat; but in
the last, by a mistake of General Erskine, a portion of his division
attacked the enemy in rear, and, although vastly outnumbered, drove
him off from the crest he held with desperate valor. Wellington
himself said, "This was one of the most glorious actions British
troops were ever engaged in."

The next day the French crossed the Coa and Turones, and took up their
position under the guns of Ciudad Rodrigo, which they had left six
months before with the full assurance that they were going to conquer
Portugal, and drive the British into the sea. The invasion cost
Massena thirty thousand men, killed in battle, taken prisoners, or
dead from hardships, fatigues and fevers.

The Scudamores were not present at the battle of Sabugal, for on the
afternoon after the combat of Foz d'Aronce an orderly rode up to the
regiment and handed a note to the colonel. He read it, and at once
summoned the Scudamores at his side.

"An order from the commander-in-chief," he said, "for you to go to him
at once."

Following the orderly, the boys soon arrived at the cottage at which
Lord Wellington had established his headquarters.

"His lordship is with Lord Beresford," the aide-de-camp to whom they
gave their names said, "but the orders are that you are to be shown in
at once."

The lads were ushered into a small room, where, seated at a table,
were the commanders-in-chief of the British and the Portuguese troops.

"Young gentlemen," the former said, looking up with his keen piercing
eyes, "I have not seen you since your return from Spain. I am content
with what you did, and with the detailed report you sent me in. I
shall keep my eye upon you. Lord Beresford has asked me for two
officers as aides-de-camp, and he specially requires them to have a
perfect knowledge of Spanish. I have mentioned your names to him. It
is not often that I confidently recommend young officers, but from
what I know of you I have felt able to do so in the present case. You
will, with him, have opportunities of distinguishing yourselves
such as you could not have with your regiment. You accept the
appointments?"

Tom and Peter would far rather have remained with their regiment,
but they felt that, after what Lord Wellington had said, they could
not refuse; they consequently expressed at once their willingness
to serve, and their thanks to the general for his kindness in
recommending them.

"You can ride, I hope?" Lord Beresford, a powerfully-built,
pleasant-looking man, said.

"Yes, sir, we can both ride, but at present--"

"You have no horses, of course?" Lord Beresford put in. "I will
provide you with horses, and will assign servants to you from one of
the cavalry regiments with me. Will you join me at daybreak to-morrow?
we shall march at once."

There was a general expression of regret when the Scudamores informed
their comrades that they were again ordered on detached duty. As
to Sam, when Tom told him that he could not accompany them, he was
uproarious in his lamentations, and threatened to desert from his
regiment in order to follow them. At this the boys laughed, and told
Sam that he would be arrested and sent back before he had gone six
hours.

"I tink, Massa Tom, dat you might hab told de general dat you hab got
an fust-class serbent, and dat you bring him wid you."

"But we shall be mounted now, Sam, and must have mounted men with us.
You can't ride, you know."

"Yes, massa, dis child ride first-rate, he can."

"Why, Sam, I heard you say not long ago you had never ridden on a
horse all your life."

"Never hab, massa, dat's true 'nuff; but Sam sure he can ride. Berry
easy ting dat. Sit on saddle, one leg each side--not berry difficult
dat. Sam see tousand soldiers do dat ebery day; dey sit quite easy on
saddle; much more easy dat dan beat big drum."

The boys laughed heartily at Sam's notion of riding without practice,
and assured him that it was not so easy as he imagined.

"Look here, Sam," Peter said at last, "you practice riding a little,
and then next time we get away we will ask for you to go with us." And
with this Sam was obliged to be content.

Half an hour later, when the boys were chatting with Captain Manley,
Carruthers, and two or three other officers, in the tent of the
first-named officer, they heard a commotion outside, with shouts of
laughter, in which they joined as soon as they went out and saw what
was going on.

Sam, upon leaving the Scudamores, determined at once upon trying the
experiment of riding, in order that he might--for he had no doubt all
would be easy enough--ride triumphantly up to his masters' tent and
prove his ability to accompany them at once. He was not long before
he saw a muleteer coming along sitting carelessly on his mule, with
both legs on one side of the animal, side-saddle fashion, as is the
frequent custom of muleteers. It was evident, by the slowness of his
pace, that he was not pressed for time.

Sam thought that this was a fine opportunity.

"Let me have a ride?" he said to the muleteer in broken Portuguese.

The man shook his head. Sam held out a quarter of a dollar. "There,"
he said, "I'll give you that for a hour's ride."

The muleteer hesitated, and then said, "The mule is very bad tempered
with strangers."

"Oh, dat all nonsense," Sam thought, "he only pretend dat as excuse;
any one can see de creature as quiet as lamb; don't he let his master
sit on him sideways?"

"All right," he said aloud, "I try him."

The muleteer dismounted, and Sam prepared to take his place on the
saddle. By this time several of the Rangers had gathered round, and
these foreseeing, from the appearance of the mule and the look of sly
amusement in the face of the muleteer, that there was likely to be
some fun, at once proposed to assist, which they did by giving advice
to Sam of the most opposite nature. Sam was first going to mount on
the off side, but this irregularity was repressed, and one wag, taking
the stirrup of the near side in his hand, said, "Now, Sam, up you go,
never mind what these fellows say, you put your right foot in the
stirrup, and lift your left over the saddle."

Sam acted according to these instructions, and found himself, to his
intense amazement and the delight of the bystanders, sitting with his
face to the mule's tail.

"Hullo," he exclaimed in astonishment, "dis all wrong; you know noting
about de business, you Bill Atkins."

And Sam prepared to descend, when, at his first movement, the mule put
down his head and flung his heels high in the air. Sam instinctively
threw himself forward, but not recovering his upright position before
the mule again flung up her hind quarters, he received a violent
blow on the nose. "Golly!" exclaimed the black in a tone of extreme
anguish, as, with water streaming from his eyes, he instinctively
clutched the first thing which came to hand, the root of the mule's
tail, and held on like grim death. The astonished mule lashed out
wildly and furiously, but Sam, with his body laid close on her back,
his hands grasping her tail, and his legs and feet pressing tight to
her flanks, held on with the clutch of despair.

"Seize de debil!--seize him!--he gone mad!"--he shouted frantically,
but the soldiers were in such fits of laughter that they could do
nothing.

Then the mule, finding that he could not get rid of this singular
burden by kicking, started suddenly off at full gallop.

"Stop him--stop him," yelled Sam. "Gracious me, dis am drefful."

This was the sight which met the eyes of the Scudamores and their
brother officers as they issued from their tents. The soldiers were
all out of their tents now, and the air rang with laughter mingled
with shouts of "Go it, moke!" "Hold on, Sam!"

"Stop that mule," Captain Manley shouted, "or the man will be killed."

Several soldiers ran to catch at the bridle, but the mule swerved and
dashed away out of camp along the road.

"Look, look," Tom said, "there are the staff, and Lord Wellington
among them. The mule's going to charge them."

The road was somewhat narrow, with a wall of four feet high on either
side, and the general, who was riding at the head of the party, drew
his rein when he saw the mule coming along at a furious gallop. The
staff did the same, and a general shout was raised to check or divert
her wild career. The obstinate brute, however, maddened by the shouts
which had greeted her from all sides, and the strange manner in which
she was being ridden, never swerved from her course. When she was
within five yards of the party, the general turned his horse, touched
him with his spur, and leaped him lightly over the wall; one or two
others followed his example, but the others had not time to do so
before the mule was among them. Two horses and riders were thrown
down, one on either side, with the impetus of the shock, and then,
kicking, striking and charging, the animal made its way past the
others and dashed on in despite of the attempts to stop her, and
the cries of "Shoot the brute," "Ride him down," and the angry
ejaculations of those injured in its passage. Thirty yards behind the
group of officers were the escort, and these prepared to catch the
mule, when turning to the left she leaped the wall, eliciting a scream
of terror from Sam, who was nearly shaken from his hold by the sudden
jerk.

The anger of the officers was changed into a burst of amusement at
seeing Sam's dark face and staring eyes over the mule's crupper, and
even Lord Wellington smiled grimly. An order was hastily given, and
four troopers detached themselves from the escort and started off in
pursuit. The mule was, however, a fast one, and maddened by fright,
and it was some time before the foremost of the troopers was up to
her. As he came alongside, the mule suddenly swerved round and lashed
out viciously, one of her heels coming against the horse's ribs, and
the other against the leg of the rider, who, in spite of his thick
jack-boot, for some time thought that his leg was broken.

He fell behind, and the others, rendered cautious by the lesson, came
up but slowly, and prepared to close upon the animal's head, one
from each side. Just as they were going to do so, however, they were
startled by a scattered fire of musketry, and by the sound of balls
whizzing about their ears, and discovered that in the ardor of the
chase they had passed over the space which separated the French from
the English lines, and that they were close to the former. At the same
moment they saw a party of cavalry stealing round to cut off their
retreat. Turning their horses, the dragoons rode off at full speed,
but the French cavalry, on fresher horses, would have caught them
before they reached the English lines had not a troop of British horse
dashed forward to meet them upon seeing their danger. As to the mule,
she continued her wild gallop into the French lines, where she was
soon surrounded and captured.

The boys were greatly vexed at the loss of their faithful black, but
they had little time for grieving, for an hour after they rode off
with General Beresford's division. Three days' march brought them
to Campo Mayor, a town which had, two days before, surrendered to
the French, who, surprised by the sudden appearance of the British,
evacuated the place hastily and retreated, after suffering much from
a brilliant charge of the 13th Hussars, who, although unsupported,
charged right through the French cavalry, and Beresford then prepared
to lay siege to Badajos. Had he pushed forward at once, he would have
found the place unprepared for a siege, but, delaying a few days at
Elvas to give his tired troops repose, the French repaired the walls,
and were in a position to offer a respectable defense, when he made
his appearance under its walls. The army was very badly provided with
heavy guns, but the approaches were opened and the siege commenced in
regular form, when the news arrived that Soult was marching with a
powerful army to its relief. The guns were therefore withdrawn, the
siege raised, and Beresford marched to meet Soult at Albuera.

On the 15th of May he took up his position on rising ground looking
down on Albuera, having the river in his front. Acting with him, and
nominally under his orders, was a Spanish force under Blake. This
was intended to occupy the right of the position, but with the usual
Spanish dilatoriness, instead of being upon the ground, as he had
promised, by noon, Blake did not arrive until past midnight; the
French accordingly crossed the river unmolested, and the British
general found his right turned.

Beresford's position was now a very faulty one, as the woods
completely hid the movements of the enemy, and a high hill, which they
had at once seized, flanked the whole allied position and threatened
its line of retreat.

When the morning of the 16th dawned the armies were numerically very
unequal. The British had 30,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry, and 38 guns;
the French, 19,000 infantry, 4,000 cavalry, and 40 guns; but of these
the French were all veteran troops, while Beresford had but 6,000
British troops, the remainder being Spanish and Portuguese, upon
whom no reliance whatever was to be placed. The British officers
present were all of opinion that their chances of success, under
the circumstances, were slight indeed.

The battle commenced at nine in the morning by an attack by the French
general Godinot upon the bridge of Albuera. Their columns were,
however, so completely plowed by the guns of the Portuguese upon
the eminence behind it, that they made no progress, and Beresford
perceived at once that the main attack would be made on his right. He
despatched Tom Scudamore with orders to Blake to throw back his troops
at right angles to the main front. The pig-headed Spaniard refused to
obey, asserting that the main attack was in front. Colonel Hardinge
was sent to insist upon the order being carried out, but Blake still
refused, and Beresford himself rode furiously across and took the
command just as the French column debouched from the wood on the
right.

Before the Spanish movement was completed the French were among them.
Their cavalry swept round to the right rear, and menaced the line of
retreat, the infantry charged the wavering Spanish battalions, and the
latter at once fell into confusion and began to fall back. William
Stewart now arrived with a brigade of the second division to endeavor
to retrieve the day; but as they were advancing into position, four
regiments of French cavalry, whose movements were hidden in the
driving rain until they were close at hand, fell upon them and rode
down two-thirds of the brigade, the 31st regiment alone having time
to form square and repulse the horsemen.

Beresford himself, with his staff, was in the middle of the melee, and
the lads found themselves engaged in hand-to-hand combats with the
French troopers. All was confusion. Peter was unhorsed by the shock
of a French hussar, but Tom shot the trooper before he could cut Peter
down. Free for a moment, he looked round, and saw a French lancer
charging, lance at rest, at Lord Beresford. "Look out, sir!" he
shouted, and the general, turning round, swept aside the lance thrust
with his arm; and as the lancer, carried on by the impetus of his
charge, dashed against him, he seized him by the throat and waist,
lifted him bodily from his saddle, and hurled him insensible to
the ground. Just at this moment General Lumley arrived with some
Portuguese cavalry, and the French lancers galloped off.

The Spanish cavalry, who had orders to charge the French cavalry in
flank, galloped up until within a few yards of them, and then turned
and fled shamefully.

Beresford, now furious at the cowardice of the Spanish infantry,
seized one of their ensigns by the shoulder, and dragged him, with his
colors, to the front by main force, but the infantry would not even
then advance.

The driving rain saved the allied army at this critical moment, for
Soult was unable to see the terrible confusion which reigned in their
ranks, and kept his heavy columns in hand when an attack would have
carried with it certain victory.

In the pause which ensued, the British regiments began to make their
way to the front. Colbourn, with the 31st Regiment, was already there;
Stewart brought up Haughton's brigade; and the 29th burst its way
through the flying Spaniards and joined the 31st, these movements
being made under a storm of shot and shell from the French artillery.
Colonel Hartman brought up the British artillery, and the Spanish
generals Zayas and Ballesteros succeeded in checking and bringing
forward again some of the Spanish infantry.

The French advanced in great force, the artillery on both sides poured
in grape at short distance, and the carnage was terrible. Still the
little band of British held their ground. Stewart was twice wounded,
Haughton and Colonels Duckworth and Inglis slain. Of the 57th Regiment
twenty-two officers and four hundred men fell out of the five hundred
that had mounted the hill, and the other regiments had suffered nearly
as severely. Not a third were standing unhurt, and fresh columns of
the French were advancing.

The battle looked desperate, and Beresford made preparations for a
retreat. At this moment, however, Colonel Hardinge brought up General
Cole with the fourth division, and Colonel Abercrombie with the third
brigade of Colbourn's second division. Beresford recalled his order
for retreat, and the terrible fight continued. The fourth division was
composed of two brigades, the one, a Portuguese under General Harvey,
was pushed down to the right to keep off the French cavalry, while the
Fusilier brigade, composed of the 7th and 23rd fusilier regiments,
under Sir William Myers, climbed the desperately contested hill, which
Abercombie ascended also, more on the left.

It was time, for the whole of the French reserves were now coming into
action; six guns were already in the enemy's possession, the remnant
of Haughton's brigade could no longer sustain its ground, and the
heavy French columns were advancing exultantly to assured victory.

Suddenly, through the smoke, Cole's fusilier brigade appeared on
the right of Haughton's brigade, just as Abercrombie came up on its
left. Startled by the sight, and by the heavy fire, the French column
paused, and, to quote Napier's glowing words, "hesitated, and then,
vomiting forth a storm of fire, hastily endeavored to enlarge their
front, while a fearful discharge of grape from all their artillery
whistled through the British ranks. Myers was killed, Cole and the
three colonels, Ellis, Blakeney and Hawkshawe, fell wounded; and the
fusilier battalions, struck by the iron tempest, reeled and staggered
like sinking ships; but suddenly and sternly recovering, they closed
with their terrible enemies, and then was seen with what a strength
and majesty the British soldier fights. In vain did Soult with voice
and gesture animate his Frenchmen; in vain did the hardiest veterans
break from the crowded columns and sacrifice their lives to gain time
for the mass to open out on such a fair field; in vain did the mass
itself bear up, and, fiercely striving, fire indiscriminately upon
friends and foes, while the horsemen hovering on its flank threatened
to charge the advancing line. Nothing could stop that astonishing
infantry; no sudden burst of undisciplined valor, no nervous
enthusiasm weakened the stability of their order; their flashing eyes
were bent on the dark columns in their front, their measured tread
shook the ground, their dreadful volleys swept away the head of every
formation, their deafening shouts overpowered the dissonant cries that
broke from all parts of the tumultuous crowd, as, slowly and with
horrid carnage, it was pushed by the incessant vigor of the attack to
the farthest edge of the hill. In vain did the French reserves mix
with the struggling multitude to sustain the fight; their efforts only
increased the irremediable confusion, and the mighty mass breaking off
like a loosened cliff, went headlong down the steep; the rain flowed
after in streams discolored with blood, and eighteen hundred unwounded
men, the remnant of six thousand unconquerable British soldiers, stood
triumphant on the fatal hill."

While this dreadful fight was going on, Hamilton's and Collier's
Portuguese divisions, ten thousand strong, marched to support the
British, but they did not reach the summit of the hill until the
battle was over; they suffered, however, a good deal of loss from the
French artillery, which, to cover the retreat, opened furiously upon
them.

The French were in no position to renew the attack, the allies quite
incapable of pursuit, and when night fell the two armies were in the
same position they had occupied twenty-four hours before.

Never was British valor more conspicuously displayed than at the
battle of Albuera. Out of 6,000 infantry they lost 4,200 killed and
wounded, while the Spanish and Portuguese had but 2,600 killed and
wounded out of a total of 34,000; the French loss was over 8,000.

This desperate fight had lasted but four hours, but to all engaged
it seemed an age. The din, the whirl, the storm of shot, the fierce
charges of the cavalry, the swaying backwards and forwards of the
fight, the disastrous appearance of the battle from the first, all
combined to make up a perfectly bewildering confusion.

The Scudamores, after its commencement, had seen but little of each
other. Whenever one or other of them found their way to the general,
who was ever in the thickest of the fray, it was but to remain there
for a moment or two before being despatched with fresh messages.

Tom's horse was shot under him early in the day, but he obtained a
remount from an orderly and continued his duty until, just as the day
was won, he received a musket ball in the shoulder. He half fell, half
dismounted, and, giddy and faint, lay down and remained there until
the cessation of the fire told him that the battle was over. Then he
staggered to his feet and sought a surgeon. He presently found one
hard at work under a tree, but there was so large a number of wounded
men lying or sitting round, that Tom saw that it would be hours before
he could be attended to. As he turned to go he saw an officer of the
staff ride by.

"Ah, Scudamore! Are you hit too?--not very badly, I hope? The chief
was asking after you just now."

"My shoulder is smashed, I think," Tom said, "and the doctor has his
hands full at present; but if you will tie my arm tight across my
chest with my sash, I shall be able to get on."

The officer at once leapt from his horse, and proceeded to bind Tom's
arm in the position he requested.

"Have you seen my brother," Tom asked.

"No, I have not; he was close to Beresford when the fusiliers dashed
up the hill; his horse fell dead, but he was not hit, for I saw him
jump up all right. I did not see him afterwards. As he could not have
got a fresh mount then, I expect he joined the fusiliers and went up
the hill."

"Is the loss heavy?" Tom asked.

"Awful--awful," the officer said. "If it had lasted another quarter of
an hour, there would have been nobody left alive; as it is, there are
not 2,000 men at the outside on their feet."

"What, altogether?" Tom exclaimed.

"Altogether," the officer answered sadly. "We have lose two men out of
every three who went into it."

"Thank you," Tom said. "Now where shall I find the general?"

"Up on the hill. I shall see you there in a few minutes. I hope you
will find your brother all right."

Very slowly did Tom make his way up the steep slope, sitting down to
rest many times, for he was faint from loss of blood and sick with the
pain of his wound, and it was a long half hour before he joined the
group of officers clustered round the commander-in-chief.

He was heartily greeted; but in answer to his question as to whether
any one had seen his brother, no one could give a satisfactory reply.
One, however, was able to confirm what had been before told to him,
for he had seen Peter on foot advancing with the fusilier brigade.
Tom's heart felt very heavy as he turned away towards the front, where
the fusiliers were standing on the ground they had so hardly won.
The distance he had to traverse was but short, but the journey was a
ghastly one. The ground was literally heaped with dead. Wounded men
were seen sitting up trying to stanch their wounds, others lay feebly
groaning, while soldiers were hurrying to and fro from the water
carts, with pannikins of water to relieve their agonizing thirst.

"Do you know, sergeant, whether they have collected the wounded
officers, and, if so, where they are?"

"Yes, sir, most of them are there at the right flank of the regiment."

Tom made his way towards the spot indicated, where a small group of
officers were standing, while a surgeon was examining a long line of
wounded laid side by side upon the ground. Tom hardly breathed as
he ran his eye along their faces, and his heart seemed to stop as
he recognized in the very one the surgeon was then examining the
dead-white face of Peter.

He staggered forward and said in a gasping voice, "He is my
brother--is he dead?"

The surgeon looked up. "Sit down," he said sharply, and Tom, unable to
resist the order, sank rather than sat down, his eyes still riveted on
Peter's face.

"No," the surgeon said, answering the question, "he has only fainted
from loss of blood, but he is hit hard, the bullet has gone in just
above the hip, and until I know its course I can't say whether he has
a chance or not."

"Here, sergeant, give me the probe," and with this he proceeded
cautiously to examine the course of the ball. As he did so his anxious
face brightened a little.

"He was struck slantingly," he said, "the ball has gone round by the
back; turn him over, sergeant. Ah, I thought so; it has gone out on
the other side. Well, I think it has missed any vital part, and in
that case I can give you hope. There," he said after he had finished
dressing the wound and fastening a bandage tightly round the body;
"now pour some brandy-and-water down his throat, sergeant, and
sprinkle his face with water. Now, sir, I will look at your shoulder."

But he spoke to insensible ears, for Tom, upon hearing the more
favorable report as to Peter's state, had fainted dead off.

The surgeon glanced at him. "He'll come round all right," he said.
"I will go on in the mean time," and set to work at the next in the
ghastly line.

It was some time before Tom recovered his consciousness; when he did
so, it was with a feeling of intense agony in the shoulder.

"Lie quiet," the surgeon said, "I shan't be long about it."

It seemed to Tom, nevertheless, as if an interminable time passed
before the surgeon spoke again.

"You'll do," he said. "It is an awkward shot, for it has broken the
shoulder bone and carried a portion away, but with quiet and care you
will get the use of your arm again. You are lucky, for if it had gone
two inches to the left it would have smashed the arm at the socket,
and two inches the other way and it would have been all up with you.
Now lie quiet for awhile; you can do nothing for your brother at
present. It may be hours before he recovers consciousness."

Tom was too faint and weak to argue, and a minute later he dropped off
to sleep, from which he did not wake until it was dusk. Sitting up, he
saw that he had been aroused by the approach of an officer, whom he
recognized as one of General Beresford's staff.

"How are you, Scudamore?" he asked. "The general has just sent me to
inquire."

"He is very kind," Tom said. "I think that I am all right, only I am
horribly thirsty."

The officer unslung a flask from his shoulder. "This is weak
brandy-and-water. I have brought it over for you. I am sorry to hear
your brother is so bad, but the doctor gives strong hopes of him in
his report."

Tom bent down over Peter. "He is breathing quietly," he said. "I hope
it is a sort of sleep he has fallen into. What are we doing?"

"Nothing," the officer answered; "there is nothing to do; every
unbounded man is under arms in case the French attack us in the night.
I expect, however, they will wait till morning, and if they come on
then, I fear our chance is a slight one indeed. We have only 1,800 of
our infantry; the German regiments and the Portuguese will do their
best; but the Spanish are utterly useless. Soult has lost more men
than we have, but we are like a body which has lost its back-bone; and
if the French, who are all good soldiers, renew the battle, I fear it
is all up with us."

"Have you got all our wounded in?" Tom asked.

"No," the officer said bitterly. "Our unwounded men must stand to
arms, and Lord Beresford sent over to Blake just now to ask for the
assistance of a battalion of Spaniards to collect our wounded, and the
brute sent back to say that it was the custom in allied armies for
each army to attend to its own wounded."

"The brute!" Tom repeated with disgust. "How the poor fellows must be
suffering!"

"The men who are but slightly wounded have been taking water to all
they can find, and the doctors are at work now, and will be all night
going about dressing wounds. The worst of it is, if the fight begins
again to-morrow, all the wounded who cannot crawl away must remain
under fire. However, the French wounded are all over the hill too, and
perhaps the French will avoid a cannonade as much as possible, for
their sake. It is a bad look-out altogether; and between ourselves,
Beresford has written to Lord Wellington to say that he anticipates a
crushing defeat."

"Is there any chance of reinforcements?" Tom asked.

"We hope that the third brigade of the fourth division will be up
to-morrow by midday; they are ordered to come on by forced marches.
If Soult does not attack till they arrive, it will make all the
difference, for 1,500 fresh men will nearly double our strength. But I
must be going now. Good-bye."

The surgeon presently came round again to see how the wounded officers
were getting on. Tom asked him whether there was anything he could do
for Peter; but the surgeon, after feeling his pulse, said: "No, not as
long as he breathes quietly like this; but if he moves pour a little
brandy-and-water down his throat. Now gentlemen, all who can must look
after the others, for there is not an available man, and I must be at
work all night on the field."

There were many of the officers who were not hit too severely to move
about, and these collected some wood and made a fire, so as to enable
them to see and attend to their more severely wounded comrades.
Tom took his place close to Peter, where he could watch his least
movement, and once or twice during the night poured a little
brandy-and-water between his lips. The other officers took it by turns
to attend to their comrades, to keep up the fire, and to sleep. Those
whose turn it was to be awake sat round the fire smoking, and talking
as to the chances of the morrow, getting up occasionally to give drink
to such of the badly wounded as were awake.

Tom, faint with his wound, found it, towards morning, impossible to
keep awake, and dozed off, to wake with a start and find that it was
broad daylight. Soon afterwards, to his intense satisfaction, Peter
opened his eyes. Tom bent over him. "Don't try to move, Peter; lie
quiet, old boy."

"What's the matter?" Peter asked with a puzzled look.

"You have been hit in the body, Peter, but the doctor means to get you
round in no time. Yes," he continued, seeing Peter's eyes fixed on his
bandaged shoulder, "I have had a tap too, but there's no great harm
done. There, drink some brandy-and-water, and go off to sleep again,
if you can."

The morning passed very slowly, the troops being all under arms,
expecting the renewed attack of Soult, but it came not; and when early
in the afternoon, the third brigade of the fourth division marched
into camp, they were received with general cheering. A heavy load
seemed taken off every one's heart, and they felt now that they could
fight, if fight they must, with a hope of success.

The new-comers, wearied as they were with their long forced marches,
at once took the outpost duties, and those relieved set about the duty
of collecting and bringing in all the wounded.

Next morning the joyful news came that Soult was retiring, and all
felt with a thrill of triumph that their sacrifices and efforts had
not been in vain, and that the hard-fought battle of Albuera was
forever to take its place among the great victories of the British
army.




CHAPTER XIV.

INVALIDED HOME.


Two days after the battle of Albuera, Lord Wellington himself arrived,
and from the officers of his staff Tom heard the details of the battle
of Fuentes d'Onoro, which had been fought a few days previously, and
which had been nearly as hardly contested as had Albuera itself, both
sides claiming the victory.

The next day, the bulk of Beresford's army returned to the
neighborhood of Badajos, which they again invested, while a long
convoy of wounded started for Lisbon. The Scudamores accompanied it
as far as Campo Major, where a large hospital had been prepared for
those too ill to bear the journey. Peter was still unconscious. Fever
had set in upon the day after the battle, and for three weeks he lay
between life and death. Tom's arm was mending very slowly, and he
would have had hard work indeed in nursing Peter had it not been for
the arrival of unexpected assistance. A large villa had been taken
close to the main hospital for the use of officers, and one of the
rooms was allotted to the Scudamores.

Upon the evening of the second day after their arrival, Tom was
sitting by Peter's bedside, when, after a preliminary tap, the door
opened, and to Tom's perfect amazement Sambo entered. The negro
hurried forward, threw himself on his knees, seized Tom's hand and
kissed it passionately, and then looking at the thin and fever-flushed
face of Peter, he hid his face in his hands and sobbed unrestrainedly.

"Hush, Sam, hush," Tom said soothingly. "My poor fellow, why, where
have you come from? I thought you were a prisoner with the French."

"I knew how it would be, Massa Tom," the black said, paying no
attention to the questions. "First thing Sam said to himself when he
got among French fellows, 'Dere, dose young gentlemen dey get into
all sorts of danger widout Sam, sartin sure dey get hurt widout Sam
to look after dem.' Dat idea troubled Sam berry much, took away Sam's
sleep altogether."

"Well it turned out so, as you see, Sam," Tom said with a smile, "but
tell me how did you get away? But first give me some lemonade out of
that jug, then you can tell me all about it."

"Why, Massa Tom," Sam said, when he had complied with the request,
"you didn't think dat dis chile was going to stop prisoner with dose
French chaps; Sam not such a fool as dat, nohow. When dat cussed
mule--I tell you fair, Massa Tom, dis chile conclude dat riding not
such a berry easy ting after all--when dat cussed mule ran into French
camp, de soldiers dey catch him, and dey take Sam off, and den dey
jabber and laugh for all de world like great lots of monkeys. Well,
for some time Sam he didn't say nothing, all de wind shook out of his
body. Besides which he couldn't understand what dey say. Den all of
a sudden, to Sam's surprise, up came a colored soldier, and he speak
to Sam in de English tongue. 'Holla, broder, how you come here?" I
ask. 'I been cook on board English merchant ship,' he say. 'Ship she
taken by French privateer. When dey come to port dey say to me, "You
not Englishman, you hab choice, you go to prison, or you be French
soldier." Natural, I not want go prison, so I conclude be French
soldier. I daresay dey gib you choice too.' Well, massa, a wink as
good as a nod to blind hoss. So dey take me to tent, put me under
guard, and next day a French officer come dat speak English. He ask
me all sorts ob questions, and at last he ask me why I list English
soldier. So you see I had got a little lie all ready, and me tell him,
me one poor Melican negro man, cook on board Melican ship. Ship taken
by English man-ob-war. Put Sam in prison and give him choice to go as
soldier. "Den you not care about English,' de officer say, and Sam
draw hisself up and pat his chest and say, 'Me Melican citizen, me no
Britisher's slave, some day me go back States, go on board Melican
man-ob-war, me pay out dese Britishers for make Sam slave.' Den de
officer laugh, and say dat if I like I could fight dem now; and if I
prefer French uniform to French prison, me could have him. Ob course
I accep' offer, and harp an hour after me in French uniform. French
officer try to make joke ob Sam, and ask whether I like cavalry or
foot soldier. Sam say he had enuff of quadruples at present. Me remain
French soldier three weeks, den cum great battle, dey call him Fuentes
donory. Sam's regiment fight. Sam not like fire at red coats, so break
bullet off catridge, neber put him in gun. We charge right into middle
of village full of English soldiers, de bullets fly all about. Sam not
see de point ob getting kill by mistake, so he tumble down, pretend to
be dead. Presently French beaten back; when English soldier wid doctor
cum look at wounded, dey turn Sam ober, and dey say, 'Hullo, here dead
nigger.' 'Nigger yourself, John Atkins,' I say for sure enuff it's de
ole regiment--'you say dat once again me knock your head off;' me jump
up, and all de world call out, 'Hullo, why it's Sam.' Den me splain
matter, and all berry glad, cept John Atkins, and next morning me gib
him licking he member all his life, me pound him most to a squash.
Four days ago colonel send for Sam, say, 'Sam, berry bad job, bofe
Massas wounded bad, send you to nurse dem;' so dis chile come. Dat
all, Massa Tom. Here letter for you from colonel, now you read dis
letter, den you get in bed, you sleep all night, Sam watch Massa
Peter."

Greatly relieved to have his faithful servant again, and to know that
Peter would be well cared for, instead of being left in charge of the
Spanish hospital orderly, whenever weakness and pain obliged him to
lie down, Tom abandoned his place by the bedside, and prepared for a
tranquil night's rest, first reading the colonel's letter.

"We are all grieved, my dear Scudamore, at hearing that you are both
wounded, and that your brother is at present in a serious state. We
trust, however, that he will pull through. I hear that Beresford has
praised you both most highly in despatches, and that your names are
sent home for companies. I heartily congratulate you. We have had some
tough work at Fuentes d'Onoro, although nothing to what yours must
have been at Albuera, still it was hot enough in all conscience, and
we had over a hundred casualties in the regiment. Carruthers and
Manley were both slightly wounded. Jones, Anstruther, Palmer, and
Chambers were killed, and several of the others hit more or less hard.
Sam has leave to remain with you until you rejoin, which will not, I
fear, be for some little time. Every one sends kind messages. Yours
truly, J. Tritton."

Nothing could exceed the care and devotion with which Sam nursed his
two masters, and Tom had the greatest difficulty in persuading him to
lie down and get a short sleep each day while he sat by Peter's bed.
At the end of three weeks Peter took a favorable turn. His fever
abated, and he awoke to consciousness. Another fortnight and he was
sufficiently convalescent to be moved, and accordingly they started to
travel by very easy stages to Lisbon, there to take ship for England,
as the doctor ordered Tom as well as his brother to go home for a
while to recruit. Tom was the less reluctant to do so, as it was
evident that with the force at his command Wellington would not be
able to undertake any great operation, and that the siege and capture
of Badajoz was the utmost likely to be accomplished in that season's
campaign. The mails in due course had brought out the _Gazette_,
and in it Tom and Peter Scudamore were promoted to be captains,
unattached.

Colonel Tritton, upon being applied to, readily gave leave for Sam
to accompany his masters. It was a long journey to Lisbon, but the
jolting of the country cart was made bearable by a layer of hay,
two feet deep, upon which the mattresses were laid, Sam seeing that
at each night's halt the hay was taken out, well shaken, and then
returned to the cart, so as to preserve it light and elastic. A thick
canopy of boughs kept off the heat of the sun, and under it, within
reach of the invalids hung a gourd of fresh water, and a basket of
fruit. Several other cart-loads of wounded officers accompanied them,
and at night they would draw up by a grove of trees where water was
handy, those who could walk would get out, the others would be lifted
out on their mattresses, a great fire made, and round it the beds laid
in a circle, and then the evening would be spent in pleasant chat,
with many an anecdote and an occasional song, until the fire burnt
low, the talk died away, and each, covered in his blankets to keep off
the night dew, fell asleep. Pleasant as was the journey, however, it
was with a thrill of delight that they caught their first sight of
Lisbon, with its broad river, and the blue line of the sea beyond. A
few days later, and they embarked on board a transport, which seven
days afterwards, after a calm passage, arrived at Spithead.

Peter was by this time gaining strength fast, but his back was so
stiff and sore that he was unable to move it, and was obliged to swing
himself along on crutches. The next day the coach took them to London,
and they started the morning after for Marlborough. This time they had
to go inside the coach, two gentlemen, who had previously secured the
seats, kindly giving them up in favor of the wounded young officers,
while Sam took his place on the roof, and amused his fellow-passengers
with wonderful accounts of his adventures at the war. At the inn
at which they took dinner, they alighted, and Tom recognized in the
driver the same coachman who had driven them upon the memorable
occasion of their being stopped by highwaymen three years before. "You
don't remember us, coachman, do you?"

"No, gentlemen, I can't say as how,--but eh! no, why you're the werry
boys as shot the highwaymen. Well, I am glad to see you again, though
you do look white and bad, both of you. I heard as how there were
two wounded officers inside, and that black soldier has been telling
all sorts of tales of the wonderful things as his masters had done,
but not knowing as how it was you, I didn't much believe all he was
telling. Now I quite see as how it was true; and how are you both?"

"Getting on all right," Tom said, returning the warm shake of the
coachman's hand, "and do you know, those pistols have saved our lives
more than once."

"Have they now," the coachman said, in high admiration, "but there, we
most be moving, we are three minutes after time as it is; I shall see
you again next time we stop, gentlemen."

During the next stage the coachman and guard recounted to the outside
passengers the affair of the stopping the coach, and Sam's black face
shone with delight at the tale. Then he had his say, and related the
story of his falling overboard and being rescued, and in consequence
the lads were quite embarrassed when they next halted, by the
attention of their fellow-travelers, who could scarcely understand how
it was possible that two mere boys should have performed such feats of
bravery.

Arrived at Marlborough they looked round in vain for the one-horsed
vehicle which had before met them. "I expect that aunt has not got
our letter, Peter," Tom said. "It would probably go up to town in the
coach with us, and is likely enough in the letter-bag in the boot.
Well, we must have a post-chaise. Won't aunt and Rhoda be surprised;
but they must be expecting us, because they will have had our letter
from Lisbon."

The horses were soon in, Sam took his seat in the rumble, and in a few
minutes they were bounding over the road at a very different pace to
that at which they had before traversed it. "There's the house among
the trees," Peter said at last, "with aunt's pigeons on the roof as
usual, and there's Minnie asleep on the window-sill, and there! yes,
there's Rhoda."

As he spoke a girl, who was sitting reading under a tree, leapt to her
feet, on hearing a carriage stop, and then, catching sight of Peter
waving his hat, while Tom made frantic efforts to open the door, gave
a scream of delight, and rushed towards them, threw her arms round
Tom's neck as he jumped out, and then leapt into the chaise and hugged
and cried over Peter. He was soon helped out, and as they turned to go
towards the house they saw their aunt coming out to meet them.

Tom ran forward and throwing his arms round her neck kissed her
heartily, and before she could recover from her surprise, Peter was
alongside. "Please, aunt, you must kiss me," he said, "for I want my
arms for my crutches." His aunt leaned forward and kissed him, and
then wiped the tears from her eyes.

"I am glad to see you back, my dear nephews," she said. "We did not
understand each other very well before, but we shan't make any more
mistakes. This is your black servant, I suppose," she said, as Sam
came along, with a trunk in each hand. "Dear! dear! what a dreadfully
ugly man."

"How do you do, Sam?" Rhoda said, when he came up. "We have heard so
much of you, and how kindly you nursed my brothers."

"Sam quite well, tank you, little missy," Sam said, grinning all over
his face and showing his white teeth.

Miss Scudamore shrank towards Tom as Sam passed on, "Dear me, what
sharp-looking teeth he has, Tom. They don't eat curious things, these
black men, do they?"

"What sort of curious things, aunt?"

"Well, my dear, I know that these outlandish people do eat strange
things, and I have heard the Chinese eat dogs and cats. Now, if he has
a fancy for cats, I daresay I could buy him some in the village, only
he will have to cook them himself, I could never ask Hannah to cook
cats; but please ask him not to touch Minnie."

Peter had to stop in his walk and grasp his crutches tightly, not
to burst into a scream of laughter, while Tom answered with great
gravity, "My dear aunt, do not alarm yourself, I will answer for the
safety of Minnie as far as Sam is concerned."

When they reached the house, Miss Scudamore said--

"I think you young people will enjoy yourselves more if you go and sit
under the shade of the elm there, you will have a deal to say to each
other, and had better be alone." They were all glad at the suggestion,
as they were longing to be alone together.

Sam, by Miss Scudamore's directions, carried out a great easy chair,
of which Peter took possession. Rhoda sat on the grass at his feet,
and Tom threw himself down at full length. They were all too happy
to speak much for a time, and could only look fondly at each other.
"You have grown a great deal, Rhoda, but I do not think that you are
altered a bit otherwise."

"You are neither of you altered so much as I expected," Rhoda said. "I
had made up my mind that you would be changed a great deal. It sounds
so grand--Captains, indeed! I expected to have curtsey to you and
treat you with great respect; instead of that you look regular boys,
both of you. Of course you are big, and Peter looks very tall; how
tall are you, Peter?"

"Just over six feet," Peter said.

"Yes," Rhoda said, "you are tall enough, and Tom is broad enough for
men, but somehow you look regular boys still."

"This is very disrespectful Rhoda, to two Captains in His Majesty's
service."

"It seems ridiculous, doesn't it," Rhoda said.

"It does," Tom said heartily, and the three went off into a shout of
laughter.

"It isn't really ridiculous you know," Rhoda said, when they had
recovered their gravity. "To think of all the dangers you have gone
through. Aunt was as proud as could be when she saw your names over
and over again in despatches, and I have been like a little peacock.
Your doings have been the talk of every one round here, and I am sure
that if they had known you had been coming, the village would have put
up a triumphal arch, and presented you with an address."

"Thank goodness, they did not know it then," Tom said, "for it would
have been a deal worse to stand than the fire of a French battery.
Well, Rhoda, and now as to yourself; so you have really been always
very happy with aunt?"

"Very happy," Rhoda said; "she is most kind and indulgent, and so that
I attend to her little fancies, I can do just as I like. I have had
lessons regularly from the rector's eldest daughter, who has been
educated for a governess; and in every respect, aunt is all that is
kind. Fancy her being afraid of Sam eating Minnie."

After chatting for upwards of an hour, they went into the house, and
the rest of the day was spent in talking over all that had happened
since they left. Sam was in the kitchen where he made himself very
much at home, and although Hannah and the cook were at first rather
awed by his size, his black face and rolling eyes, they were soon
pacified by his good humor and readiness to make himself useful, and
were wonderfully interested by his long stories about what "Massas"
had done in the war.

Miss Scudamore, who was a little uneasy as to how things would go on
in the kitchen, made some excuse for going in once or twice in the
course of the evening. She found things going on much better that she
had expected, indeed so much better, that after Rhoda had gone up to
bed, where Peter had two hours before betaken himself, she said to Tom
as he was lighting his candle, "One minute, nephew; I could not speak
before Rhoda, but I wanted to say something to you about your negro.
I have heard that all soldiers are very much given to make love, and
we know from Shakespeare, that Othello, who was black too, you will
remember, nephew, made love to Desdemona, which shows that color does
not make so much difference as one would think. Now I do hope your
man will not make love to Hannah, I don't think she would like it,
my dear, and yet you know she might; one never knows what women will
do; they are always making fools of themselves," she added angrily,
thinking at the moment how a young girl she had trained up as a cook
had, after being with her three years, left a few weeks before to
marry the village blacksmith, "and I should be sorry to lose Hannah.
She has been with us more than twenty years. If he must fall in love
with one, my dear, let it be the cook."

Tom had a great command of his countenance, but he had great
difficulty in steadying his muscles. After a moment or two he said,
"I will give Sam a hint, aunt, if it becomes necessary, but I do not
think you need fear. I do not fancy Sam is matrimonially inclined at
present, and he wouldn't leave us even to marry Desdemona herself.
Good night, aunt."

So saying, Tom went upstairs, where he repeated to Peter, who was
still awake, his conversation with his aunt, and the two went into
shouts of laughter over the idea of Sam making love to the prim
Hannah.

The next six months passed over quietly and happily. The boys
were made a great deal of by the whole county, and Miss Scudamore
was greatly gratified at the name and credit they had gained for
themselves. She no longer worried about them, but as Rhoda declared,
quite spoiled them, and as Sam made no attempt to win the love of
the faithful Hannah, there was no cloud to mar the pleasure of the
holiday.




CHAPTER XV.

CIUDAD RODRIGO AND BADAJOS.


It was in the beginning of December, 1811, that the Scudamores again
sailed up the Tagus to Lisbon, after an absence of just six months.
When they had passed the medical board, they were transferred from the
unattached list to the 52d Regiment, which was, fortunately for them,
also in Spain. No events of great importance had taken place during
their absence. Wellington, after the battles of Fuentes d'Onoro and
Albuera, had been compelled to fall back again to the frontier in the
face of greatly superior forces, and had maintained his old position
on the Coa till the approach of winter compelled the French to retire
into the interior, where they had their magazines and depots.

The Scudamores found that the 52d were encamped on the Agueda,
and they at once prepared to go up country to join them. Their
chargers--presents from their aunt on leaving--were fresh and
vigorous, and they purchased a strong country horse for Sambo, who,
thanks to some practice which he had had in England, was now able to
cut a respectable figure on horseback. A few hours were sufficient to
make their preparations, and at noon on the day after landing, they
mounted, and, followed by Sam, accompanied by a muleteer and two mules
carrying their baggage, they started from the hotel at which they had
put up.

As they rode down the main street they saw several mounted
officers approaching, and at once recognized in the leader the
commander-in-chief, who had just arrived from the front to pay one
of his flying visits, to endeavor to allay the jealousies in the
Portuguese Council, and to insist upon the food which the British
Government was actually paying for, being supplied to the starving
Portuguese soldiers. Drawing their horses aside, they saluted Lord
Wellington as he rode past. He glanced at them keenly, as was his
custom, and evidently recognized them as he returned the salute.

When he had passed, they turned their horses and continued their way.
They had not gone fifty yards, however, when an officer came up at
a gallop. Lord Wellington wished them to call at his quarters in an
hour's time.

There are few things more annoying than, after having got through all
the trouble of packing and getting fairly on the road, to be stopped;
but there was no help for it, and the boys rode back to their hotel
again, where, putting up their horses, they told Sam not to let the
muleteer leave, for they should probably be on the road again in an
hour.

At the appointed time they called at the head-quarters, and giving
their cards to two officers on duty, took their seats in the anteroom.
It now became evident to them that their chance of an early interview
was not great, and that they would in all probability be obliged to
pass another night in Madrid. Portuguese grandees passed in and out,
staff officers of rank entered and left, important business was being
transacted, and the chance of two Line captains having an interview
with the commander-in-chief appeared but slight. Two hours passed
wearily, and then an orderly sergeant came into the room and read out
from a slip of paper the names "Captain Thomas Scudamore; Captain
Peter Scudamore. This way, if you please," he added, as the boys rose
in answer to their names, and he led the way into a room where a
colonel on the staff was seated before a table covered with papers.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I have news which I think will be pleasant to
you both. Lord Wellington has not forgotten the services you rendered
in carrying his communications to the guerilla chiefs. Your reports
were clear and concise, and your knowledge of Spanish especially
valuable. Lord Beresford, too, has reported most favorably of your
conduct while with him. There happen to be two vacancies on his staff,
and he has desired me to fill them up with your names."

Although the Scudamores would in some respects rather have remained
with their regiment, yet they could not refuse an honor which was
generally coveted as being a post in which an active officer had
plenty of opportunities of distinguishing himself, and which was
certain to lead to speedy promotion. They accordingly expressed their
warm thanks for the honor which Lord Wellington had done them.

"Are you well mounted?" Colonel Somerset asked.

"We have one capital charger each," Tom said.

"You will want another," Colonel Somerset remarked. "There are a lot
of remounts landed to-day. Here is an order to Captain Halket, the
officer in charge. Choose any two you like. The amount can be stopped
from your pay. How about servants; you are entitled to two each?"

"We have one man of the Norfolk Rangers--a very faithful fellow, who
has returned with us from leave; if he could be transferred, he would
do for us both if we had a cavalry man each for our horses."

The colonel at once wrote an order for Sam's transfer from his
regiment on detached service, and also one to the officer commanding a
cavalry regiment stationed in Madrid, to supply them with two troopers
as orderlies.

"May I ask, sir, if we are likely to stay in Madrid long--as, if so,
we will look out for quarters?" Tom asked.

"No; the general returns to-morrow, or next day at latest, to Almeida,
and of course you will accompany him. Oh, by-the-by, Lord Wellington
will be glad if you will dine with him to-day--sharp six. By-the-way,
you will want to get staff uniform. There is the address of a Spanish
tailor, who has fitted out most of the men who have been appointed
here. He works fast, and will get most of the things you want ready
by to-morrow night. Don't get more things than are absolutely
necessary--merely undress suits. Excuse my asking how are you off for
money? I will give you an order on the paymaster if you like."

Tom replied that they had plenty of money, which indeed they had,
for their aunt had given them so handsome a present upon starting,
that they had tried to persuade her to be less generous, urging that
they really had no occasion for any money beyond their pay. She had
insisted, however, upon their accepting two checks, saying that one
never knew what was wanted, and it was always useful to have a sum to
fall back on in case of need.

Two days later the Scudamores, in their new staff uniforms, were,
with some six or eight other officers, riding in the suite of Lord
Wellington on the road to the Coa. The lads thought they had never
had a more pleasant time, the weather was fine and the temperature
delightful, their companions, all older somewhat than themselves, were
yet all young men in high health and spirits. The pace was good, for
Lord Wellington was a hard rider, and time was always precious with
him. At the halting-places the senior officers of the staff kept
together, while the aides-de-camp made up a mess of their own, always
choosing a place as far away as possible from that of the chief, so
that they could laugh, joke, and even sing, without fear of disturbing
his lordship.

Sam soon became a high favorite with the light-hearted young fellows,
and his services as forager for the mess were in high esteem.

Three days of hard riding took them to Almeida, where the breaches
caused by the great explosion had been repaired, and the place put
into a defensible position. Tom and Peter had been afraid that
there would be at least four months of enforced inactivity before
the spring; but they soon found that the post of aide-de-camp to
Wellington was no sinecure. For the next month they almost lived in
the saddle. The greater portion of the English army was indeed lying
on the Agueda, but there were detached bodies of British and large
numbers of Portuguese troops at various points along the whole line
of the Portuguese frontier, and with the commanders of these Lord
Wellington was in constant communication.

Towards the end of December some large convoys of heavy artillery
arrived at Almeida, but every one supposed that they were intended to
fortify this place, and none, even of those most in the confidence of
the commander-in-chief, had any idea that a winter campaign was about
to commence. The French were equally unsuspicious of the truth. Twice
as strong as the British, they dreamt not that the latter would take
the offensive, and the French marshals had scattered their troops at
considerable distances from the frontier in winter quarters.

Upon the last day of the year the Scudamores both happened to have
returned to the front--Tom from Lisbon, and Peter from a long ride to
a distant Portuguese division. There was a merry party gathered round
a blazing fire in the yard of the house where they, with several other
aides-de-camp, were quartered. Some fifty officers of all ranks were
present, for a general invitation had been issued to all unattached
officers in honor of the occasion. Each brought in what liquor he
could get hold of, and any provisions which he had been able to
procure, and the evening was one of boisterous fun and jollity. In
the great kitchen blazed a fire, before which chickens and ducks
were roasting, turkeys and geese cut up in pieces for greater
rapidity of cooking, were grilling over the fire, and as they came
off the gridiron they were taken round by the soldier-servants to
their masters as they sat about on logs of wood, boxes, and other
substitutes for chairs. Most of the officers present had already
supped, and the late-comers were finishing their frugal meal, after
which the soldiers would take their turn. There was a brewing of punch
and an uncorking of many a bottle of generous wine; then the song and
laugh went round, and all prepared to usher in the new year joyously,
when a colonel of the staff, who had been dining with Lord Wellington,
entered. "Here's a seat, colonel," was shouted in a dozen places, but
he shook his head and held up his hand.

"Gentlemen, I am sorry to disturb you, but orders must be obeyed.
Villiers, Hogan, Scudamores both, Esdaile, Cooper, and Johnson, here
are despatches which have to be taken off at once. Gentlemen, I
should recommend you all to look to your horses. All attached to the
transport had better go to their head-quarters for orders."

"What is up, colonel?" was the general question.

"The army moves forward at daybreak. We are going to take Ciudad."

A cheer of surprise and delight burst from all. There was an emptying
of glasses, a pouring out of one more bumper to success, and in
five minutes the court was deserted save by some orderlies hastily
devouring the interrupted supper, and ere long the tramp of horses
could be heard, as the Scudamores and their comrades dashed off in
different directions with their despatches.

The next morning a bridge was thrown over the Agueda at Marialva,
six miles below Ciudad, but the investment was delayed, owing to the
slowness and insufficiency of the transport. Ciudad Rodrigo was but
a third-class fortress, and could have been captured by the process
of a regular siege with comparatively slight loss to the besiegers.
Wellington knew, however, that he could not afford the time for a
regular siege. Long before the approaches could have been made, and
the breaches effected according to rule, the French marshals would
have been up with overwhelming forces.

Beginning the investment on the 7th, Wellington determined that it
must be taken at all costs in twenty-four days, the last day of
the month being the very earliest date at which, according to his
calculations, any considerable body of French could come up to its
relief.

Ciudad lies on rising ground on the bank of the Agueda. The
fortifications were fairly strong, and being protected by a very high
glacis, it was difficult to effect a breach in them. The glacis is the
smooth ground outside the ditch. In well-constructed works the walls
of the fortification rise but very little above the ground beyond,
from which they are separated by a broad and deep ditch. Thus the
ground beyond the ditch, that is, the glacis, covers the walls from
the shot of a besieger, and renders it extremely difficult to reach
them. In the case of Ciudad, however, there were outside the place
two elevated plateaux, called the great and small Teson: Guns placed
on these could look down upon Ciudad, and could therefore easily
breach the walls. These, then, were the spots from which Wellington
determined to make the attack. The French, however, were aware of the
importance of the position, and had erected on the higher Teson an
inclosed and palisadoed redoubt, mounting two guns and a howitzer. A
great difficulty attending the operation was that there were neither
fuel nor shelter to be obtained on the right bank of the river, and
the weather set in very cold, with frost and snow, at the beginning
of the siege. Hence the troops had to be encamped on the left bank,
and each division, as its turn came, to occupy the trenches for
twenty-four hours, took cooked provisions with it, and waded across
the Agueda.

On the 8th, Pack's division of Portuguese and the light division waded
the river three miles above the fortress, and, making a circuit took
up a place near the great Teson. There they remained quiet all day.
The French seeing that the place was not yet entirely invested paid
but little heed to them. At nightfall, however, Colonel Colborne,
with two companies from each of the regiments of the light division,
attacked the redoubt of San Francisco with such a sudden rush that it
was carried with the loss of only twenty-four men, the defenders, few
and unprepared, being all taken prisoners. Scarcely, however, was the
place captured than every gun of Ciudad which could be brought to bear
upon it opened with fury. All night, under a hail of shot and shell,
the troops labored steadily, and by daybreak the first parallel, that
is to say, a trench protected by a bank of earth six hundred yards
in length was sunk three feet deep. The next day the first division,
relieved the light division.

Tom and Peter, now that the army was stationary, had an easier time of
it, and obtained leave to cross the river to see the operations. The
troops had again to wade through the bitter cold water, and at any
other time would have grumbled rarely at the discomfort. When they
really engage in the work of war, however, the British soldier cares
for nothing, and holding up their rifles, pouches and haversacks, to
keep dry, the men crossed the river laughing and joking. There was but
little done all day, for the fire of the enemy was too fast and deadly
for men to work under it in daylight. At night the Scudamores left
their horses with those of the divisional officers, and accompanied
the troops into the trenches, to learn the work which had there to
be done. Directly it was dusk twelve hundred men fell to work to
construct their batteries. The night was dark, and it was strange to
the Scudamores to hear the thud of so many picks and shovels going,
to hear now and then a low spoken order, but to see nothing save when
the flash of the enemy's guns momentarily lit up the scene. Every half
minute or so the shot, shell, and grape came tearing through the air,
followed occasionally by a low cry or a deep moan. Exciting as it was
for a time, the boys having no duty, found it difficult long to keep
awake, and presently dozed off--at first to wake with a start whenever
a shell fell close, but presently to sleep soundly until dawn. By that
time the batteries, eighteen feet thick, were completed.

On the 10th the fourth division, and on the 11th the third, carried
on the works, but were nightly disturbed, not only by the heavy fire
from the bastions, but from some guns which the French had mounted on
the convent of San Francisco in the suburb on the left. Little was
effected in the next two days, for the frost hardened the ground and
impeded the work. On the night of the 13th the Santa Cruz convent was
carried and the trenches pushed forward, and on the next afternoon the
breaching batteries opened fire with twenty-five guns upon the points
of the wall at which it had been determined to make the breaches,
while two cannons kept down the fire of the French guns at the convent
of San Francisco. The French replied with more than fifty pieces,
and all night the tremendous fire was kept up on both sides without
intermission. Just at daybreak the sound of musketry mingled with the
roar of cannon, as the 40th Regiment attacked and carried the convent
of San Francisco. Through the 16th, 17th, and 18th the artillery
duel continued, some times one side, sometimes the other obtaining
the advantage; but during each night the trenches of the besiegers
were pushed forward, and each day saw the breaches in the ramparts
grow larger and larger. On the 19th the breaches were reported as
practicable--that is, that it would be possible for men to scramble up
the fallen rubbish to the top, and orders were therefore given for the
assault for that night.

The attack was to be made at four points simultaneously; the 5th,
94th, and 77th were to attack from the convent of Santa Cruz, to make
for the ditch, enter it, and work their way along to the great breach;
Mackinnon's brigade of the third division was to attack the great
breach from the front; the light division posted behind the convent
of San Francisco were to attack from the left, and make their way to
the small breach; while a false attack, to be converted into a real
one if the resistance was slight, was to be made by Pack's Portuguese
at the St. Jago gate at the opposite side of the town. As night fell
the troops moved into their position, and Lord Wellington went to
the convent of San Francisco, from whose roof he could survey the
operations. The Scudamores, with the rest of the staff, took up
their places behind him. Suddenly there was a shout on the far right,
followed by a sound of confused cheering and firing, while flashes of
flame leapt out along the walls, and the guns of the place opened fire
with a crash. Now the 5th, 94th, and 77th rushed with great swiftness
along the ditch, when, at the foot of the great breach, they were
met by the third division. Together they poured up the breach, and
the roar of musketry was tremendous. Once at the top of the breach,
however, they made no progress. From a trench which had been cut
beyond it, a ring of fire broke out, while muskets flashed from every
window in the houses near. It was evident that some serious obstacle
had been encountered, and that the main attack was arrested.

"This is terrible," Peter said, as almost breathless they watched the
storm of fire on and around the breach. "This is a thousand times
worse than a battle. It is awful to think how the shot must be telling
on that dense mass. Can nothing be done?"

"Hurrah! There go the light division at the small breach," Tom
exclaimed, as the French fire broke out along the ramparts in that
quarter. A violent cheer came up even above the din from the great
breach, but no answering fire lights the scene, for Major Napier,
who commanded, had forbidden his men to load, telling them to trust
entirely to the bayonet. There was no delay here; the firing of the
French ceased almost immediately, as with a fierce rush the men of the
light division bounded up the ruins and won the top of the breach. For
a moment or two there was a pause, for the French opened so fierce a
fire from either side, that the troops wavered. The officers sprang
to the front, the soldiers followed with the bayonet, and the French,
unable to stand the fierce onslaught, broke and fled into the town.
Then the men of the light division, rushing along the walls, took
the French who were defending the great breach in rear, and as these
gave way, the attacking party swept across the obstacles which, had
hitherto kept them, and the town was won. Pack's Portuguese had
effected an entrance at the St. Jago gate, which they found almost
deserted, for the garrison was weak, and every available man had been
taken for the defence of the breaches.

Thus was Ciudad Rodrigo taken after twelve days' siege, with a loss
of twelve hundred men and ninety officers, of which six hundred and
fifty men and sixty officers fell in that short, bloody fight at the
breaches. Among the killed was General Craufurd, who had commanded at
the fight on the Coa.

Upon entering the town three days afterwards, at the termination of
the disgraceful scene of riot and pillage with which the British
soldier, there as at other places, tarnished the laurels won by his
bravery in battle, the boys went to the scene of the struggle, and
then understood the cause of the delay upon the part of the stormers.
From the top of the breach there was a perpendicular fall of sixteen
feet, and the bottom of this was planted with sharp spikes, and strewn
with the fragments of shells which the French had rolled down into
it. Had it not been for the light division coming up, and taking the
defenders--who occupied the loopholed and fortified houses which
commanded this breach--in rear, the attack here could never have
succeeded.

The next few days were employed in repairing the breaches, and putting
the place again in a state of defence, as it was probable that Marmont
might come up and besiege it. The French marshal, however, when
hurrying to the relief of the town, heard the news of its fall, and
as the weather was very bad for campaigning, and provisions short,
he fall back again to his winter quarters, believing that Wellington
would, content with his success, make no fresh movement until the
spring. The English general, however, was far too able a strategist
not to profit by the supineness of his adversary, and, immediately
Ciudad Rodrigo was taken, he began to make preparations for the siege
of Badajos, a far stronger fortress than Ciudad, and defended by
strong detached forts. Three days after the fall of Rodrigo General
Hill came up with his division; to this the Norfolk Rangers now
belonged, and the Scudamores had therefore the delight of meeting all
their old friends again. They saw but little of them, however, for
they were constantly on the road to Lisbon with despatches, every
branch of the service being now strained to get the battering-train
destined for the attack on Badajos to the front, while orders were
sent to Silviera, Trant, Wilson, Lecca, and the other partisan
leaders, to hold all the fords and defiles along the frontier, so as
to prevent the French from making a counter-invasion of Portugal.

On the 11th of March the army arrived at Elvas, and on the 15th a
pontoon bridge was thrown across the Guadiana. The following day the
British troops crossed the river, and invested Badajos, with fifteen
thousand men, while Hill and Graham, with thirty thousand more moved
forward, so as to act as a covering army, in case the French should
advance to raise the siege. Badajos was defended by five thousand men,
under General Phillipson, a most able and energetic commander, who had
in every way strengthened the defences, and put them in a position to
offer an obstinate resistance.

Before attacking the fortress it was necessary to capture one of the
outlying forts, and that known as the Picurina was selected, because
the bastion of the Trinidad, which lay behind it, was the weakest
portion of the fortress. The trenches were commenced against this on
the night of the 17th, and, although the French made some vigorous
sorties, the works progressed so rapidly that all was ready for an
assault on the forts on the 25th, a delay of two days having been
occasioned by the French taking guns across the river, which swept
the trenches, and rendered work impossible, until a division was sent
round to drive in the French guns and invest the fortress on that
side. The Picurina was strong, and desperately defended, but it was
captured after a furious assault, which lasted one hour, and cost
nineteen officers and three hundred men. It was not, however, until
next evening that the fort could be occupied, for the guns of the town
poured such a hail of shot and shell into it, that a permanent footing
could not be obtained in it. Gradually, day by day, the trenches were
driven nearer to the doomed city, and the cannon of the batteries
worked day and night to establish a breach. Soult was known to be
approaching, but he wanted to gather up all his available forces, as
he believed the town capable of holding out for another month, at
least. Still he was approaching, and, although the three breaches
were scarcely yet practicable, and the fire of the town by no means
overpowered, Wellington determined upon an instant assault, and on the
night of the 6th of April the troops prepared for what turned out to
be the most terrible and bloody assault in the annals of the British
army. There were no less than six columns of attack, comprising in all
eighteen thousand men. Picton, on the right with the third division
was to cross the Rivillas and storm the castle. Wilson, with the
troops in the trenches, was to attack San Roque. In the center the
fourth and light division, under Colville and Barnard, were to assault
the breaches; and on the left Leith, with the fifth division, was to
make a false attack upon the fort of Pardaleras, and a real attack
upon the bastion of San Vincente by the river side. Across the river
the Portugese division, under Power, was to attack the works at the
head of the bridge. The night was dark and clouded, and all was as
still as death outside the town, when a lighted carcass, that is a
large iron canister filled with tar and combustibles, fell close to
the third division, and, exposing their ranks, forced them to commence
the attack before the hour appointed. Crossing the Rivillas by a
narrow bridge, under a tremendous fire, the third division assaulted
the castle, and, although their scaling-ladders were over and over
again hurled down, the stormers at last obtained a footing, and the
rest of the troops poured in and the castle was won. A similar and
more rapid success attended the assault on San Roque, which was
attacked so suddenly and violently, that it was taken with scarce
any resistance. In the mean time the assaults upon the breaches had
commenced, and it is best to give the account of this terrible scene
in the words of its eloquent and graphic historian, as the picture is
one of the most vivid that was ever drawn.

"All this time the tumult at the breaches was such as if the very
earth had been rent asunder, and its central fires bursting upwards
uncontrolled. The two divisions had reached the glacis just as the
firing at the castle commenced, and the flash of a single musket,
discharged from the covered-way as a signal, showed them that the
French were ready; yet no stir was heard and darkness covered the
breaches. Some hay-packs were thrown, some ladders placed, and the
forlorn hopes and storming parties of the light division, five hundred
in all, descended into the ditch without opposition; but then a bright
flame shooting upwards displayed all the terrors of the scene. The
ramparts, crowded with dark figures and glittering arms were on one
side, on the other the red columns of the British, deep and broad,
were coming on like streams of burning lava. It was the touch of the
magician's wand, for a crash of thunder followed, and with incredible
violence the storming parties were dashed to pieces by the explosion
of hundreds of shells and powder-barrels. For an instant the light
division stood on the brink of the ditch, amazed at the terrific
sight; but then, with a shout that matched even the sound of the
explosion, the men flew down the ladders, or, disdaining their aid,
leaped, reckless of the depth, into the gulf below--and at the same
moment, amidst a blaze of musketry that dazzled the eyes, the fourth
division came running in, and descended with a like fury. There were
only five ladders for the two columns, which were close together;
and a deep cut, made in the bottom of the ditch as far as the
counter-guard of the Trinidad, was filled with water from the
inundation. Into that watery snare the head of the fourth division
fell, and it is said above a hundred of the fusiliers, the men of
Albuera, were there smothered. Those who followed checked not, but,
as if such a disaster had been expected, turned to the left, and thus
came upon the face of the unfinished ravelin, which, being rough and
broken, was mistaken for the breach, and instantly covered with men;
yet a wide and deep chasm was still between them and the ramparts,
from whence came a deadly fire, wasting their ranks. Thus baffled,
they also commenced a rapid discharge of musketry and disorder ensued;
for the men of the light division, whose conducting engineer had been
disabled early and whose flank was confined by an unfinished ditch
intended to cut off the bastion of Santa Maria, rushed towards the
breaches of the curtain and the Trinidad, which were, indeed, before
them, but which the fourth division had been destined to storm. Great
was the confusion, for the ravelin was quite crowded with men of both
divisions; and while some continued to fire, others jumped down and
ran towards the breach; many also passed between the ravelin and
the counterguard of the Trinidad, the two divisions got mixed, the
reserves, which should have remained at the quarries, also came
pouring in, until the ditch was quite filled, the rear still crowding
forward, and all cheering vehemently. The enemy's shouts also were
loud and terrible, and the bursting of shells, and of grenades, and
the roaring of guns from the flanks, answered by the iron howitzers
from the battery of the parallel, the heavy roll, and horrid explosion
of the powder-barrels, the whizzing flight of the blazing splinters,
the loud exhortations of the officers, and the continual clatter
of the muskets, made a maddening din. Now a multitude bounded up
the great breach, as if driven by a whirlwind, but across the top
glittered a range of sword-blades, sharp-pointed, keen-edged on both
sides, and firmly fixed in ponderous beams chained together, and set
deep in the ruins; and for ten feet in front the ascent was covered
with loose planks, studded with sharp iron points, on which, feet
being set, the planks moved, and the unhappy soldiers, falling forward
on the spikes, rolled down upon the ranks behind. Then the Frenchmen,
shouting at the success of their stratagem, and, leaping forward,
plied their shot with terrible rapidity, for every man had several
muskets, and each musket, in addition to its ordinary charge,
contained a small cylinder of wood, stuck full of wooden slugs,
which scattered like hail when they were discharged. Once and again
the assailants rushed up the breaches, but always the sword-blades,
immovable and impassable, stopped their charge, and the hissing shells
and thundering powder-barrels exploded unceasingly. Hundreds of men
had fallen, hundreds more were dropping, still, the heroic officers
called aloud for new trials, and sometimes followed by many, sometimes
by a few, ascended the ruins; and so furious were the men themselves,
that, in one of these charges, the rear strove to push the foremost on
to the sword-blades, willing even to make a bridge of their writhing
bodies, but the others frustrated the attempt by dropping down; and
men fell so fast from the shot, it was hard to know who went down
voluntarily, who were stricken and many stooped unhurt that never rose
again. Vain also would it have been to break through the sword-blades,
for the trench and parapet behind the breach were finished, and the
assailants, crowded into even a narrower space than the ditch was,
would still have been separated from their enemies, and the slaughter
would have continued. At the beginning of this dreadful conflict
Andrew Barnard had, with prodigious efforts, separated his division
from the other, and preserved some degree of military array; but now
the tumult was such, no command would be heard distinctly except by
those close at hand, and the mutilated carcasses heaped on each other,
and the wounded struggling to avoid being trampled upon, broke the
formations; order was impossible! Officers of all ranks, followed more
or less numerously by the men, were seen to start out as if struck
by sudden madness, and rash into the breach, which, yawning and
glittering with steel, seemed like the mouth of a huge dragon belching
forth smoke and flame. In one of these attempts, Colonel Macleod, of
the 43rd, a young man whose feeble body would have been quite unfit
for war if it had not been sustained by an unconquerable spirit, was
killed; wherever his voice was heard his soldiers had gathered, and
with such a strong resolution did he lead them up the fatal ruins
that, when one behind him, in falling, plunged a bayonet into his
back, he complained, not; but, continuing his course, was shot dead
within a yard of the sword-blades. Yet there was no want of gallant
leaders, or desperate followers, until two hours passed in these
vain efforts had convinced the troops the breach of the Trinidad was
impregnable; and, as the opening in the curtain, although less strong,
was retired, and the approach to it impeded by deep holes and cuts
made in the ditch, the soldiers did not much notice it after the
partial failure of one attack which had been made early. Gathering in
dark groups, and leaning on their muskets, they looked up with sullen
desperation at the Trinidad, while the enemy, stepping out on the
ramparts, and aiming their shots by the light of the fire-balls which
they threw over, asked, as their victims fell, 'Why they did not come
into Badajos?' In this dreadful situation, while the dead were lying
in heaps, and others continually falling, the wounded crawling about
to get some shelter from the merciless shower above, and withal a
sickening stench from the burnt flesh of the slain, Captain Nicholas,
of the engineers, was observed by Lieutenant Shaw, of the 43rd, making
incredible efforts to force his way with a few men into the Santa
Maria Bastion. Shaw immediately collected fifty soldiers, of all
regiments, and joined him, and although there was a deep cut along
the foot of that breach also, it was instantly passed, and these two
young officers led their gallant band, with a rush, up the ruins; but
when they had gained two-thirds of the ascent, a concentrated fire
of musketry and grape dashed nearly the whole dead to the earth.
Nicholas was mortally wounded, and the intrepid Shaw stood alone! With
inexpressible coolness he looked at his watch, and saying it was too
late to carry the reaches, rejoined the masses at the other attack.
After this no further effort was made at any point, and the troops
remained passive but unflinching beneath the enemy's shot, which
streamed without intermission; for, of the riflemen on the glacis many
leaped early into the ditch and joined in the assault, and the rest,
raked by a cross-fire of grape from the distant bastions, baffled in
their aim by the smoke and flames from the explosions, and too few in
number, entirely failed to quell the French musketry. About midnight,
when two thousand brave men had fallen, Wellington, who was on a
height close to the quarries, ordered the remainder to retire and
re-form for a second assault; he had heard the castle was taken,
but thinking the enemy would still resist in the town, was resolved
to assail the breaches again. This retreat from the ditch was not
effected without further carnage and confusion. The French fire never
slackened. A cry arose that the enemy was making a sally from the
distant flanks, and there was a rush towards the ladders. Then the
groans and lamentations of the wounded, who could not move and
expected to be slain, increased, and many officers who had not heard
of the order, endeavored to stop the soldiers from going back; some
would even have removed the ladders but were unable to break the
crowd."

While this terrible scene was passing, the victory had been decided
elsewhere. The capture of the castle by Picton would, in itself, have
caused the fall of the town upon the following day, but Leith, with
the fifth division, after hard fighting, scaled the St. Vincente
bastion, and came up through the town and took the defenders of the
breaches in the rear. Then the French gave way, the British poured in,
and the dreadful scenes which had marked the fall of Ciudad Rodrigo
were repeated, and even surpassed. Up to the present day the name of
an Englishman is coupled with a curse in the town of Badajos. At this
siege, as at the last, the Scudamores acted the part of lookers on,
and although they bitterly regretted it, it was well for them that it
was so. The capture of Badajos cost the allied army five thousand men,
of whom three thousand five hundred fell on the night of the assault.
Each of the divisions which attacked the breaches lost over twelve
hundred men, and the 52nd Regiment, who formed part of the light
division, lost their full share. Among the ranks of the officers the
slaughter was particularly great, and scarce one escaped without
a wound. The Scudamores would fain have volunteered to join their
regiment in the assault, but it was well known that Lord Wellington
would not allow staff officers to go outside their own work. Therefore
they had looked on with beating hearts and pale faces, and with
tears in their eyes, at that terrible fight at the Triudad, and had
determined that when morning came they would resign their staff
appointments and ask leave to join their regiment. But when morning
came, and the list of the killed and wounded was sent in, and they
went down with a party to the breach to collect the wounded, they
could not but feel that they had in all probability escaped death, or
what a soldier fears more, mutilation. "After all, Tom," Peter said,
"we have done some active service, and our promotion shows that we
are not cowards; there can be no reason why we should not do our duty
as the chief has marked it out for us, especially when it is quite
as likely to lead to rapid promotion as is such a murderous business
as this." After this no more was said about resigning the staff
appointment, which gave them plenty of hard work, and constant change
of scene, whereas had they remained with the regiment they would often
have been stationed for months in one place without a move.




CHAPTER XVI.

SALAMANCA.


The great triumphs of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajos did not lead to the
rapid successes which Wellington had hoped. The French generals,
on hearing of the loss of the latter fortress, again fell back,
and Wellington was so much hampered by shortness of money, by the
inefficiency, obstinacy, and intrigues of the Portuguese Government,
and by want of transport, that it was nearly three months before he
could get everything in readiness for an advance into Spain. At last
all was prepared, and on the 13th of June the army once more crossed
the Agueda and marched towards the Tamar in four columns. On the 17th
it was within six miles of Salamanca, and Marshal Marmont, unable for
the moment to stem the tide of invasion, evacuated the city, which
that evening blazed with illuminations, the people being half wild
with joy at their approaching deliverance. The French, however, had
not entirely departed, for eight hundred men still held some very
strong forts overlooking and guarding the city.

These forts held out desperately; the British battering train
was weak, and upon the 23d Marmont, having received considerable
reinforcements, advanced to raise the siege. Wellington, however,
refused to be tempted to leave his trenches to deliver a general
battle, but faced the enemy with a portion of his army while he
continued the siege.

Marmont, upon his part, believing that the forts could hold out for
fifteen days, put off the attack, as he knew that large reinforcements
were coming up. His calculations were frustrated by one of the forts
taking fire on the 27th, when an assault was delivered, and the whole
of the forts surrendered; Marmont at once fell back across the Douro,
there to await the arrival of his reinforcements.

Wellington, on his part, followed slowly, and his army took up a
position between Canizal and Castrejon, thereby covering the roads
from Toro and Tordesillas, the only points at which the French could
cross the river. The reports of the spies all agreed that the former
was the place at which the crossing would be made.

On the 16th of July an officer rode into Canizal, at headlong pace,
with the news that a reconnoitering party had crossed the Douro that
morning near Tordesillas, and had found that place deserted, except by
a garrison; and an hour later the news came in that three divisions of
the enemy were already across the river at Toro. Five minutes later
the Scudamores were on horseback, carrying orders that the whole of
the army, with the exception of the fourth and light divisions, which
were on the Trabancos, under General Cotton, were to concentrate at
Canizal that night. By the morning the movement was accomplished.

The day wore on in somewhat anxious expectation, and towards afternoon
Wellington, accompanied by Lord Beresford, and escorted by Alten's,
Bock's and Le Marchant's brigades of cavalry, started to make a
reconnaissance of the enemy's movements. Caution was needed for the
advance, as it was quite uncertain whether the French were pushing
on through the open country towards Canizal, or whether they were
following the direct road from Toro to Salamanca. Evening closed in,
but no signs of the French army were seen, and the party halted about
six miles from Toro, and small parties of cavalry were despatched
right and left to scour the country, and find out where the enemy had
gone.

"It's very strange where the French can have got to," was the remark
made, for the fiftieth time among the staff.

The detached parties returned, bringing no news whatever, and Lord
Wellington again advanced slowly and cautiously towards Toro. Small
parties were pushed on ahead, and presently an officer rode back
with the news that he had been as far as the river, and that not a
Frenchman was to be seen. It was too late to do any more, and they
remained in uncertainty whether the enemy had recrossed the river
after making a demonstration, or whether they had marched to their
right, so as to make a circuit, and throw themselves between Ciudad
Rodrigo and Salamanca, upon the line of communication of the British
army.

Lord Wellington, with his staff, took possession of a deserted
farm-house, the cavalry picketed their horses round it, and the
Scudamores, who had been more than twenty-four hours in the saddle,
wrapped themselves in their cloaks, and stretching themselves on the
floor, were soon asleep. Just at midnight the sound of a horse's
footfall approaching at a gallop was heard, and an officer, who had
ridden, without drawing rein, from Canizal, dashed up to the farm.

Five minutes later the whole party were in the saddle again. The news
was important, indeed. Marmont had drawn his whole army back across
the Toro on the night of the 16th, had marched to Tordesillas, crossed
there, and in the afternoon, after a march of fifty miles, had fallen
upon Cotton's outposts, and driven them across the Trabancos.

Not a moment's time was lost by Wellington after he received the news;
but, unfortunately, six precious hours had already been wasted, owing
to the despatches not having reached him at Canizal. With the three
brigades of cavalry he set off at once towards Alaejos, while an
officer was despatched to Canizal, to order the fifth division to
march with all speed to Torrecilla de la Orden, six miles in the rear
of Cotton's position at Castrejon.

Four hours' riding brought them to Alaejos, where a halt for two or
three hours was ordered, to rest the weary horses and men. Soon after
daybreak, however, all thought of sleep was banished by the roar of
artillery, which told that Marmont was pressing hard upon Cotton's
troops. "To horse!" was the cry, and Lords Wellington and Beresford,
with their staff, rode off at full speed towards the scene of action,
with the cavalry following hard upon their heels. An hour's ride
brought them to the ground. Not much could be seen, for the country
was undulating and bare, like the Brighton Downs, and each depression
was full of the white morning mist, which wreathed and tossed
fantastically from the effects of the discharges of firearms, the
movements of masses of men, and the charges of cavalry hidden within
it. Upon a crest near at hand were a couple of British guns, with a
small escort of horse.

Suddenly, from the mist below, a party of some fifty French horsemen
dashed out and made for the guns. The supporting squadron, surprised
by the suddenness of the attack, broke and fled; the French followed
hard upon them, and just as Lord Wellington, with his staff, gained
the crest, pursuers and pursued came upon them, and in pell-mell
confusion the whole were borne down to the bottom of the hill. For
a few minutes it was a wild melee. Lords Wellington, Beresford, and
their staff, with their swords drawn, were in the midst of the fight,
and friends and foes were mingled together, when the leading squadrons
of the cavalry from Alaejos came thundering down, and very few of the
Frenchmen who had made that gallant charge escaped to tell the tale.

The mists were now rapidly clearing up, and in a short time the whole
French army could be seen advancing. They moved towards the British
left, and Wellington ordered the troops at once to retire. The British
fell back in three columns, and marched for the Guarena, through
Torrecilla de la Orden. The French also marched straight for the
river, and now one of the most singular sights ever presented in
warfare was to be seen.

The hostile armies were marching abreast, the columns being but a few
hundred yards apart, the officers on either side waving their hands to
each other. For ten miles the armies thus pressed forward the officers
urging the men, and these straining every nerve to get first to the
river. From time to time the artillery of either side, finding a
convenient elevation, would pour a few volleys of grape into the
opposing columns, but the position of the two armies, did not often
admit of this. Gradually Cotton's men, fresher than the French, who
had, in the two previous days, marched fifty miles, gained ground,
and, reaching the river, marched across by the ford, the winners of
the great race by so little that one division, which halted for a
moment to drink, was swept by forty pieces of French artillery, which
arrived on the spot almost simultaneously with it.

On the Guarena the British found the remaining divisions of the army,
which had been brought up from Canizal. These checked Marmont in an
attempt to cross at Vallesa, while the 29th and 40th Regiments, with
a desperate bayonet charge, drove Carier's French division back as it
attempted to push forward beyond Castrillo. Thus the two armies faced
each other on the Guarena, and Marmont had gained absolutely nothing
by his false movement at Toro, and his long and skillful detour by
Tordesillas.

Quickly the rest of the day passed, as did the one which followed, the
troops on both sides resting after their fatigues. Wellington expected
to be attacked on the next morning and his army was arranged in two
lines ready for the combat. At daybreak, however, Marmont moved his
army up the river, crossed at a ford there, and marched straight
for Salamanca, thus turning Wellington's right, and threatening his
communications. The British at once fell back, and the scene of the
previous day was repeated the armies marching along the crest of two
parallel hills within musket shot distance of each other.

This time however, the French troops, although they had marched
considerably farther than the English proved themselves the best
marchers, and when night fell Wellington had the mortification of
seeing them in possession of the ford of Huerta on the Tormes, thus
securing for Marmont the junction with an army which was approaching
under King Joseph, and also the option of either fighting or refusing
battle. Wellington felt his position seriously threatened, and sent
off a despatch to the Spanish General Castanos, stating his inability
to hold his ground, and the probability that he should be obliged to
fall back upon Portugal. This letter proved the cause of the victory
of Salamanca for it was intercepted by the French, and Marmont,
fearing that Wellington would escape him, prepared at once to throw
himself upon the road to Ciudad Rodrigo, and thus cut the British line
of retreat, in spite of the positive order which he had received from
King Joseph not to fight until he himself arrived with his army.

Upon the 21st both armies crossed the Tormes, the French at Alba and
Huerta, the British at Aldea Lengua, and San Marta. Upon that day the
news reached Wellington that General Chauvel, with 2000 cavalry, and
20 guns, would reach Marmont on the evening of the 22d, or the morning
of the 23d, and the English general therefore resolved to retreat,
unless Marmont should, by some mistake, give him a chance of fighting
to advantage.

Close to the British right, and the French left, were two steep and
rugged hills, called the Hermanitos, or Brothers, and soon after
daybreak on the 22d, the French seized upon the one nearest to them,
while the British took possession of the other. Then, watching each
other, the two armies remained until noon, for Wellington could not
commence his retreat by daylight; but a long cloud of dust along the
road to Ciudad Rodrigo showed that the baggage of the army was already
_en route_ for Portugal. Marmont now determined to make a bold stroke
to cut off Wellington's retreat, and, although all his troops had not
yet arrived, he ordered Maucune, with two divisions, to march round by
the left and menace the Ciudad road. It was at three o'clock in the
afternoon, and Wellington, who had been up all night, thinking that
Marmont would make no move that day, had gone to lie down for an hour
or two, when Tom Scudamore who, from an elevated point, was watching
the movements of the enemy, hurried in with the news that the French
were pushing their left round towards the Ciudad Road.

Wellington leaped to his feet, and hurried to the high ground, where
he beheld, with stern satisfaction, that Marmont, in his eagerness
to prevent the British escape, had committed the flagrant error of
detaching his wing from his main body. Instantly he issued orders
for an attack, and the great mass of men upon the British Hermanito
moved down upon the plain to attack Maucune in flank, while the third
division was ordered to throw itself across his line of march, and to
attack him in front. As the advance across the plain would be taken in
flank by the fire from the French Hermanito, General Pack was ordered
to assail that position directly the British line had passed it.

Marmont, standing on the French Hermanito, was thunder-struck at
beholding the plain suddenly covered with enemies, and a tremendous
fire was at once opened upon the advancing British. Officer after
officer was despatched to hurry up the French troops still upon the
march, and when Marmont saw the third division dash across Maucune's
path, he was upon the point of hurrying himself to the spot, when a
shell burst close to him, and he was dashed to the earth with a broken
arm, and two deep wounds in his side.

Thus, at the critical point of the battle, the French army was left
without a head.

It was just five o'clock when Pakenham, with the third division, fell
like a thunderbolt upon the head of Maucune's troops. These, taken by
surprise by this attack, on the part of an enemy whom they had thought
to see in full flight, yet fought gallantly, and strove to gain time
to open out into order of battle. Bearing onwards, however, with
irresistible force, the third division broke the head of the column,
and drove it back upon its supports. Meanwhile, the battle raged all
along the line; in the plain the fourth division carried the village
of Arapiles, and drove back Bonnet's division with the bayonet, and
the fifth division attacked Maucune's command in flank, while Pakenham
was destroying its front.

Marmont was succeeded in his command by Bonnet, who was also wounded,
and Clausel, an able general, took the command. He reinforced Maucune
with his own divisions, which had just arrived, and, for a while,
restored the battle. Then, past the right and left of Pakenham's
division, the British cavalry, under Le Marchant, Anson, and D'Urban,
burst through the smoke and dust, rode down twelve hundred of the
French infantry, and then dashed on at the line behind. Nobly the
charge was pressed, the third division following at a run, and the
charge ceased not until the French left was entirely broken and five
guns, and two thousand prisoners taken.

But forty minutes had passed since the first gun was fired, and the
French defeat was already all but irretrievable, and the third,
fourth, and fifth divisions now in line, swept forward as to assured
victory. Clausel, however, proved equal to the emergency. He
reinforced Bonnet's division with that of Fereij, as yet fresh and
unbroken, and, at the same moment, Sarrut's and Brennier's divisions
issued from the forest, and formed in the line of battle. Behind them
the broken troops of Maucune's two divisions re-formed, and the battle
was renewed with terrible force.

Pack, at the same moment, attempted unsuccessfully to carry the French
Hermanito by assault with his Portuguese division, and the fate of the
battle was again in the balance; the British divisions outnumbered,
and outflanked, began to fall back, Generals Cole, Leith, and Spry,
were all wounded, and the French cavalry threatened the flank of the
line. Wellington, however, had still plenty of reserves in hand, and
at this critical moment he launched them at the enemy. The sixth
division was brought up from the second line, and hurled at the center
of the enemy in a fierce and prolonged charge, while the light and
first divisions were directed against the French divisions which were
descending from the French Hermanito, and against that of Foy, while
the seventh division and the Spaniards were brought up behind the
first line. Against so tremendous an assault as this the French could
make no stand, and were pushed back in ever increasing disorder to the
edge of the forest, where Foy's and Maucune's divisions stood at bay,
and covered their retreat in the fast gathering darkness.

Wellington believed that he should capture a great portion of the
beaten army, for he relied upon the Castle of Alba de Formes,
commanding the ford at that place, being held by the Spaniards, but
these had evacuated the place on the preceding day, and had not even
informed Wellington that they had done so.

Thus, hidden by the night, the French retreated with but slight loss
from the pursuing columns. In the battle the French had forty-two
thousand men and seventy-four guns; the Allies forty-six thousand and
sixty guns, but of the infantry a division were composed of Spaniards,
and these could not be relied upon in any way. It was probably the
most rapidly fought action ever known, and a French officer described
it as the defeat of forty thousand men in forty minutes. The French
loss was over twelve thousand in killed, wounded, and prisoners, and
so completely were they dispersed that Clausel a week afterwards
could only collect twenty thousand to their standards. It was a great
victory, and celebrated as the first which Wellington had gained over
the French, for although at Talavera and Busaco he had repulsed the
French attack, he was not in either case in a position to do more than
hold his ground.

Throughout this short and desperate fight the Scudamores had been
fully engaged in conveying orders from one part of the field to
another. Shot and shell flew around them in all directions, and yet
when they met at the end of the action they found that they had
escaped without a scratch. The day following the battle the pursuit
began. Had King Joseph's advancing army united with Clausel's broken
troops, he could have opposed Wellington's advance with a force far
superior in numbers to that defeated at Salamanca. But Joseph, after
hesitating, fell back in one direction, Clausel retreated in another,
the opportunity for concentration was lost, and Wellington found no
foe to bar his way on his triumphant march upon Madrid.

Joseph fell back from the capital as the English approached, leaving
some thousands of men in the strong place known as the Retiro,
together with an immense amount of arms, ammunition, and military
stores of all kinds, all of which, including the troops, fell into the
hands of the English within a few days of their arrival at Madrid.

It was a proud moment for the Scudamores, as riding behind Lord
Wellington they entered Madrid on the 14th August.

The city was half mad with joy. Crowds lined the streets, while every
window and balcony along the route was filled with ladies, who waved
their scarves, clapped their hands, and showered flowers upon the
heads of their deliverers. Those below, haggard and half-starved,
for the distress in Madrid was intense, thronged round the general's
horse, a shouting, weeping throng, kissing his cloak, his horse, any
portion of his equipments which they could touch. Altogether it was
one of the most glorious, most moving, most enthusiastic welcomes ever
offered to a general.

The next fortnight was spent in a round of fetes, bull fights, and
balls, succeeding each other rapidly, but these rejoicings were but a
thin veil over the distress which was general throughout the town. The
people were starving, and many deaths occurred daily from hunger. The
British could do but little to relieve the suffering which they saw
around them, for they themselves were--owing to the utter breakdown of
all the arrangements undertaken by the Portuguese government, and to
the indecision and incapacity of the Home Government--badly fed, and
much in arrears of their pay. Nevertheless, the officers did what they
could, got up soup kitchens, and fed daily many hundreds of starving
wretches.

The heat was excessive and a very great deal of illness took place
among the troops. The French were gathering strength in the South,
and Wellington determined upon marching north and seizing Burgos, an
important place, but poorly fortified. Leaving General Hill with two
divisions at Madrid, he marched with the rest of the army upon Burgos.




CHAPTER XVII.

CAUGHT IN A TRAP.


So much had passed between the first visit of the Scudamores to Madrid
as Spanish peasant boys, and their second entry as captains upon Lord
Wellington's staff, that they had scarcely given a thought to the
dangers they had at that time run, or to the deadly hatred with which
they had inspired the guerilla chief Nunez. When they first rode
into the town, indeed, they had spoken of it one to the other, and
had agreed that it would be pleasant to be able to walk through the
streets without fear of assassination; for even, as Tom said, if the
scoundrel had any of his band there, they would not be likely to
recognize them in their uniforms.

One evening, however, when they had been in Madrid about a fortnight,
an incident happened which caused them to doubt whether their security
from the hatred of the guerilla was as complete as they had fancied.
They were sitting with a number of other officers in a large cafe in
the Puerta del Sol, the principal square in Madrid, when a girl came
round begging; instead of holding out her hand silently with a murmur
for charity in the name of the holy Virgin, she began a long story,
poured out in rapid language.

Several of the officers present knew more or less Spanish, but they
were unable to follow her quick utterances, and one of them said
laughingly, "Scudamore, this is a case for you, she is beyond us
altogether."

The girl followed the direction of the speaker's eye, and moved across
to the brothers, who happened to be sitting next to each other, and
began her story again. It was a complicated tale of French oppression,
and the boys, interrupting her here and there to ask for details,
talked with her for some minutes.

"I believe she is lying," Tom said, in English, "she tells her story
as if she had learned it by heart, and gets confused whenever we
cross-question her; there, give her a few coppers, I am out of
change."

As Peter put his hand into his pocket for the money, Tom glanced
up sharply at the girl. She was not, as might have been expected,
watching Peter's movements with interest, but was looking inquiringly
at some one in the crowd of promenaders. Tom followed her glance, and
saw a peasant, standing half-hidden behind a group of passers, nod to
her, and motion her to come to him. She waited until Peter put the
coins into her hand; then, with a brief word of thanks, she moved away
into the crowd.

"Peter, I believe those scoundrels are up to their old game, and
that we are watched. Once or twice since we have been sitting here I
have noticed a heavy-looking fellow glance at us very closely as he
passed, and I just saw the same fellow, who was evidently hiding from
observation, nod to that girl, and beckon her away."

"Her story was a lie from beginning to end," Peter said, "and it is
quite possible that it was a got-up thing, on purpose to see whether
we could talk Spanish well. I don't think any one could swear to us
who only saw us then; but the fact of our speaking Spanish so well
would go a long way towards settling the point in the mind of any one
who suspected us!"

"We must be careful in future, Peter, and avoid quiet streets after
dark, and keep a sharp look-out at all times, or we shall get a knife
between our ribs, as sure as fate."

Time, however, passed on without anything occurring to give any
support to their suspicion, they could not discover that they were
being watched, or their footsteps dogged. They, nevertheless,
continued to be, to a certain extent, upon their guard after dark; in
the daytime the number of English soldiers about the streets was so
large that there was very little danger of any attack.

On the evening before the army marched for Burgos, Tom, whose turn it
was for duty at head-quarters, received a despatch, to carry to one of
the generals of division encamped a mile or two out of the town. He
did not need to go round to his quarters, as his horse was standing
saddled in readiness in the courtyard. He was but an hour away, and,
as he knew that he would not be farther required, he rode round to the
house where he was quartered. His orderly came forward at his shout,
and took his horse, and he mounted the broad stairs of the house,
which was a very handsome one, and rang at the door on the second
floor; for in Spain, as indeed almost all over the Continent, each
floor is a separate dwelling.

Sam opened it.

"Nothing new, Sam?"

"No, sar, nothing new."

Tom passed through the sitting-room, and entered Peter's bedroom. It
was in darkness.

"Asleep, old man?" he asked.

There was no answer. He came back into the sitting room, where two
lamps were burning, and looked at his watch. "Half-past eleven. He is
off to bed early. Sam, bring me some supper if you have got anything,
I am hungry."

Sam came in, in a minute, with a small tray.

"How long has my brother been gone to bed?"

"Me did not know he gone to bed at all," Sam said, in surprise. "Me
thought Massa Peter been reading book."

Tom took up a light, and went into the bedroom, it was empty. "Sam,
there's something wrong here!" Tom said sharply, for a sudden
sensation of alarm seized him. "Peter is not here."

Sam came into the bedroom, and looked round in astonishment. "What
become of him?" he said. "Where de debil he got to?"

"That's what I want to know, Sam. Now, then, just give all your
attention. What time did he come in?"

"He came in at about nine o'clock, sar, with three other officers,
Captain Farquharson, Major Heriot, and Captain Brown. Dey have bottle
wine, and sit here and smoke. Well, Massa Tom, Sam sit in his room,
and smoke him pipe, and he doze off a little; after a bit, may be
ten o'clock, Sam hear dem move, and go to door; they were saying
good-night, when Massa Peter said, 'I will just go down to see that
the horses are all right.' Den dey all go down togeder."

"Did they shut the door?" Tom asked.

"No, Massa Tom, dey did not shut de door, because, a little while
after, Sam, he wake up wid little start; he hear de door bang, and
'spose Massa Peter come back. Sam go off to sleep again till you ring
bell."

Tom looked very grave. "What can Peter have gone off with Farquharson
at this time of night for?"

Then he looked round the room, and said, almost with a cry, "Sam,
look there, there are his cap and sword. He has not gone out with the
others at all. What can have happened?"

Tom first glanced into his own room, and then ran downstairs in haste,
followed by Sam, who was now also thoroughly alarmed. The orderly had
just made the horse comfortable for the night, and was leaving the
stable.

"Johnstone, when did you see my brother?"

"Well, it may be an hour, or an hour and a half back, sir. He came
down with some other officers; I did not see them, but I heard them
talking for a minute or two before he came in to look at the horses,
and he asked if they were all right, and said they must be saddled by
half-past five, and then he went up again--at least, I suppose he went
up, for he had not got his cap on. Is anything wrong, sir?"

"I don't know, I am afraid to think," Tom said, in a dazed way. "He is
not upstairs; he has not gone out; what can have become of him?"

He stood quiet for a minute or two, and then, with a great effort,
brought his thoughts within control again. "The first thing is to
assure ourselves whether he returned upstairs. Sam, fetch a lamp, the
stairs are not lighted, and I want to examine them."

Sam soon returned with the lamp, and Tom, beginning at the street
door, examined every step carefully all the way up, Sam and the
soldier following him.

"There has been no scuffle on the stairs," he said; then he went
through the little hall into the sitting-room again. Nothing appeared
to have been disturbed. Then he looked at the floor, which was of
polished oak, and knelt down to examine it more closely. "There have
been men with dirty shoes standing here," he cried. "Do you see the
marks on each side of the door, and there, do you see that scratch and
that? There has been a scuffle. Good heavens! what has taken place
here?"

Sam's face was pale with apprehension that something had happened to
Peter; but, he said, "How dat be, Massa Tom, with Sam in the next room
all the time?"

Tom made no reply; but was closely examining the floor--back across
the hall. "There is a mark; there is another," he said, "not made by
boots, but by their native sandals." Then he went out from the door,
and up the next flight of stairs.

"There," he said, "just as I thought." Just round the angle of the
stairs two steps were dirty and stained, as if dirty feet had been
trampling upon them for some time. "I suppose they knew I was out, and
watched here, for hours, perhaps. Then, when Peter went down, they
slipped in through the open door, and then"--without completing the
sentence, Tom went back into the room, and threw himself into a chair
in tearless despair.

Sam sobbed loudly. For some time there was silence. "There is no
blood, sir, that I can see, not a speck," the orderly said. "They
can't have killed Captain Scudamore, and, if they had, why should they
have carried his body away?"

This was the question Tom had been asking himself. Assassinations
were, in Madrid, every-day occurrences, and that Peter and he were
especially liable to be murdered, owing to the hatred of Nunez and his
gang, was clear; but, so far as he could see, not a drop of blood had
been shed here. Presently Sam began to sob more loudly. "Dis break
my heart, Massa Tom, to tink dat Sam be next door all de time, and,
instead of watching, he sleep so sound dat Massa Peter carried
straight away."

"You are not to blame, Sam, there was, probably, no noise whatever.
But, what can it all mean? Johnstone, you had better go to bed, you
can do no good now. Sam, give me my pistols; take that big stick of
yours, and come round with me to head-quarters, we will call in at
Captain Farquharson's on the way."

That officer, on being roused, and made to understand what was the
matter, confirmed the account given by the orderly; he and his
companions had parted at the street door, and Peter had gone down the
yard to the stable.

"It is clear that Peter has been carried off," Tom said, "and I have
not the least doubt that it has been done by some of the band of
Nunez. As you have heard me say, they owe us a grudge, and have, no
doubt, been on the look-out ever since we came here. We have been
on guard, and never gave them a chance, and, I suppose, they got
desperate when they found the army was moving again, and so carried
out this audacious plan."

"If your brother had been found murdered I should understand it,"
Captain Farquharson said; "but, what on earth did they carry him off
for?"

Tom was silent for a minute.

"That fiend, Nunez, would have had us stabbed if he could do nothing
else; but he would, if I judge him rightly, be really contented with
nothing short of putting us to death himself in some horrible manner.
My own idea is, that Peter is hidden away somewhere near, will be kept
in concealment until the road is clear, and will then be taken to
Nunez. I must go off and try and save him at all hazards."

Captain Farquharson was silent, while Tom walked up and down the room
thoughtfully.

"I don't suppose the chief would refuse me leave," Tom said. "If he
does, I must throw up my commission."

"No, no; you are sure to get leave for such a thing as this, but the
difficulty of the affair will be to know how to proceed. The country
will swarm with French, the guerillas are sure to keep a sharp
look-out, and if you find him, how are you going to rescue him?"

"I don't know," Tom said, "but it's got to be done; that's clear. I
can't set out as a Spanish peasant," he went on after a pause. "They
know me as that now. At least, if I do I must get up as an old man
and change my appearance. I might go as a woman, but I am too tall in
the first place, and then women don't go wandering over the country
in such times as this. But there, I have time to think it over before
morning. I suppose the general will be moving about five o'clock;
I will see him the first thing, and tell him the whole story.
Good-night."

And so Tom went back to his quarters, and sat thinking deeply until
morning, while Sam sat gloomily in his little room, sometimes with
tears rolling down his cheeks, sometimes muttering terrible threats
against the guerillas, at other times cursing himself for having been
asleep instead of watching over his young master's safety. Tom had
briefly told him that he intended to get leave in order to search
for Peter. At daybreak, when he heard Tom moving, he went into the
sitting-room.

"Look here, Massa Tom, Sam only one word to say. He going to look for
Massa Peter. Sam know dat him color berry spicuous, dat people look
at him and tink he de debil. Sam don't spect he going wid you. Dat
wouldn't do. Dese fellows watch him, know dat black fellow here. Only
Sam go somehow. He trabel night, hide up at day time. He join you de
last ting when you go to mash up dem guerillas like squash. Anyhow,
Sam must go. If can get leave, berry well, if not he desert. Anyhow he
go, dat sartin. Sam kill himself if he stay behind."

Tom had already thought over this. He was sure that the faithful negro
would not remain behind, but he had seen that his companionship would
be fatal. He had, therefore, formed some plan in his head similar to
that which Sam proposed, and he knew that when the moment for action
came his courage, strength, and devotion would be invaluable.

"You shall go, Sam," he said, holding out his hand to his attached
follower. "As you say, you can't go with me, but you shall go
somehow."

"Thank you, Massa Tom," the negro said gratefully, "You berry sure if
Massa Peter die Sam die too."

Tom now went to head-quarters, and found that Lord Wellington was
just up. Sending in to say that he wished to speak with him for a few
minutes on a matter of urgent personal importance, he was admitted,
and related as concisely as he could Peter's disappearance, and told
the story of the affair with the guerillas, which accounted for the
intense desire for vengeance on the part of Nunez. He ended by asking
for leave of absence.

The general heard him to the end, asking a brief question here and
there.

"You can have the leave certainly, Captain Scudamore, I know that it
is needless for me to point out the risks that you will run, both from
the French and guerillas. I think that it might be an advantage if I
give you a note which you can, in case of absolute necessity, show to
any French officer."

So saying, the general sat down and wrote as follows:--

"To the French officer commanding.--The Earl of Wellington,
commander-in-chief of His Britannic Majesty's forces in Spain, gives
his assurance that the bearer of this, Captain Scudamore, although not
in English uniform, is not engaged upon any mission connected with the
army, or to obtain information respecting the strength and position of
the French forces. His business is entirely private, and he is engaged
in an attempt to discover and rescue a brother who has been carried
off by the guerilla chief Nunez in order to gratify private vengeance.
The Earl of Wellington, confiding in the natural courtesy of the
French nation, trusts that officers of that service will, if applied
to, assist Captain Scudamore in any way in their power, and he will
feel personally obliged to them by their so doing."

Tom expressed his deep gratitude for this, which might, he foresaw, be
of inestimable advantage to him.

"I am taking my servant with me, sir--the negro; he will not travel
with me by day, but will join me wherever I tell him; he is very
strong and brave, and is deeply attached to us."

"Yes, I remember," the general said; "that is the man whose life you
saved. Do you leave at once?"

"No, sir; I am thinking of riding with you to-morrow at any rate. The
route lies on the way I have to go, and I am sure to be watched here."

"Very well," the general said; "I wish you good fortune; but you have
a difficult, almost a desperate, service before you."

Upon leaving head-quarters, Tom again called on Captain Farquharson.

"Farquharson, I hear that it will be eleven before the chief leaves. I
wish you would go to that little shop opposite the opera-house; they
have got wigs and all that sort of thing there. Please get me two
old men's wigs and beards, and one set of those mutton-chop shaped
whiskers, and a woman's wig. I haven't made up my mind yet what I am
going to wear, but I want these things to choose from. I am sure to be
watched, and if I were to go there they would find out, five minutes
afterwards, what I had bought. In the meantime I am going to the head
of the police to give notice of Peter's disappearance, and to ask him
to have the carts leaving the town for the next few days searched.
I have no doubt the fellows will outwit the police, but it's no use
throwing away a chance."

It was six days after this that an old man, with long white hair
and gray beard, and with a box containing cheap trinkets, beads,
necklaces, earrings, knives, scissors, and other like articles, was
sitting at the junction of two roads near the lower slopes of the
Pyrenees, some twenty miles north of Vittoria. He had one of his
sandals off, and appeared to have just risen from a bed of leaves in
the forest behind him. The dawn had broken, but it was still twilight.
Presently he heard a footstep coming along the road, and at once
applied himself to wrapping the bandages, which serve for stockings
to the Spanish peasant, round his leg, looking eagerly from under his
wide sombrero to see who was approaching. As the new-comer came in
sight, the pedlar at once ceased his employment and rose to meet him.
He had recognized the figure, but the face was hidden, the Spanish
cloak, worn as is usual by peasant and noble alike, with one end
thrown over the shoulder, hiding the chin and lower part of the face,
while the wide felt hat, pressed well down in front, allowed scarcely
a glimpse even of the nose. That, however, would have been sufficient
in the present case, for the man was a negro.

Upon seeing the pedlar rise, he ran forward to meet him.

"Ah, Massa Tom, tank de Lord me find you safe and sound. I always
keep on tinking you taken prisoner or killed eider by de French or de
robbers--one as bad as de oder."

"I have thought the same of you, Sam, for your risk has been far
greater than mine. Well, thank God, it is all right thus far. But come
back into the wood, I have got some food there, and here any one might
come along."

They were soon deep in the wood, where, by a pile of grass and leaves
which had evidently been used as a bed, was an open wallet, with some
bread, cheese, cold meat and a small skin of wine.

"Are you hungry, Sam?"

"Downright starving, sar; dis chile eat noting for two days."

"Why, how is that, Sam; you had six days' provision with you when you
started?"

"Dat true enough, sar, but Sam's appetite bigger than usual, noting to
do all day sitting in de woods, waiting for night to come so as to go
on again; so had to eat, and de food all went before Sam thought dat
dere was two more days before he meet you."

"Well, sit down now, Sam, and eat away; we have plenty of time."

They had much to tell each other. They had traveled by the same road,
one by night, the other by day--Sam passing the days sleeping in the
woods, his master traveling by day and at night sleeping in wretched
village posadas. He, too, would far rather have slept in the woods,
for the insects and filth made sleep almost impossible in these
places, besides which he ran a good deal of risk as to the discovery
of his disguise. He had, however, chosen the inns in hopes of hearing
something which might give him a clue as to the object of his search.
The only information, which he had gained was to the effect that Nunez
still had his quarters at the old place. He had been driven out of it,
and the village had been burned by the French, but the position was
a convenient one, and the houses had been cleared and roughly roofed
with boughs of trees and straw, and the band was still there. This
much was satisfactory, and he could hardly have expected to learn
more, unless he had happened to meet some of the members of the band
itself. They had not traveled by the main road, as upon that large
forces of the French were collected; and even if Tom could have
passed through, boldly, Sam could not have made his way. Even by the
road they had chosen Tom had met several bodies of French, while at
Vittoria a very large force was assembling, destined for the relief of
Burgos.

Sam had but few incidents to relate. He had been carefully instructed
by Tom before starting as to the road he should take, and the position
and distances apart of the towns and villages upon it. He had traveled
only at night, and had but once or twice exchanged a word with passers
by. People did not travel much at night in so disturbed a country,
and when Sam heard a foot-passenger approaching, or, as was more
frequently the case, a party of French cavalry, he left the road and
lay down, until they had passed. The one or two foot-passengers he had
met suddenly he had passed with the usual Spanish muttered salutation,
and the darkness and the disguise prevented any recognition of his
color.

"Now, sar," Sam said, when they had finished breakfast, "what am to be
done next?"

"I do not think, Sam, that the party who have got Peter have arrived
yet. They could only have started on the day that we did; they have as
long a road to go, and most likely they have got a bullock-cart, which
won't travel more than fifteen miles a day at the outside. They have
got Peter in a cart covered up with something, we may be sure. I don't
think they will be here for another day or so at the earliest. If we
knew what sort of cart it was, we could attack them on the way if
there are not too many of them; but unfortunately we don't know that;
and as there are three or four roads up to the village, and they are
sure to make a detour, we don't know which they will come by. I hope
to learn at the village. We will stay where we are till dark, then we
will push on; it is only a couple of miles or so from here. I will
steal into the place after dark, and try and overhear what is going
on. You shall remain at a point where you can see down into the
village and can hear a shout. I will give you this letter of Lord
Wellington, and if you hear a pistol shot and hear me shout 'Sam!' you
will know I am caught, and must make off as hard as you can to that
small town in the plain, where there is a French garrison; ask for the
commanding-officer, show this letter, and offer to guide them so as
to surprise Nunez and his band. That is our sole chance. But I don't
think there is much risk of being caught. I shall be very careful, you
may rely upon it; and as I know the position of the house, I shall be
able to make my way about. Once night has fallen they go off to bed;
and even if I walked boldly about the place I should likely enough
meet no one all night."

That evening Tom entered the village as soon as it was fairly dark. He
knew, from his former experience, that sentries were always placed at
points whence they could get a view of the roads, and he made his way
so as to avoid any risk of observation by them; but when he reached a
place whence he could in turn view the posts of the watchers, he found
that they were deserted, and concluded that the brigands had become
careless, from the belief that, now the French had once destroyed the
village, they would not be likely to come up to search for them there
a second time; besides which, they might reckon that the French had
their hands much too full with the advance of the Allied Army to spare
either men or time in raids upon the guerillas. In this particular,
indeed, they would have argued wrongly, for the French during the
whole war, however much they were pressed by Wellington, always kept
sufficient forces in hand to scatter the guerillas as fast as they
become formidable.

Tom had now taken off his beard and wig, and had put on the small
whisker, which is the general fashion of wearing the hair throughout
Spain. Thus he trusted, if surprised in the dark, to pass as one of
the band. So quiet was the village when he entered, that he at first
thought it was deserted; at last, however, he saw a light in one of
the houses in the center of the village. Approaching carefully and
noiselessly he saw a group of five men sitting and drinking round a
fire made on the ground, in the center of one of the windowless rooms,
the smoke finding its way out through the roof.

"I tell you," one said, "I am getting sick of this life; I am ready to
go and kill the French, but to be left up here, where there is nothing
to do, no one to talk to, not a roof to cover one; bah! I am sick of
it. But Nunez will be back in three days, and we shall be merry enough
then."

"Not we," another said, "this was a pleasant village in the old days,
what is it now? There are no women, not even old mother Morena, who
used to cook well, if she was free of her tongue. There is not even a
priest now to shrive us if one is brought in to die."

"Nunez will come back in a good temper if it is true what Lope said
yesterday when he came through, that the lads at Madrid had got one
of those English boys who made a fool of him two years ago. That was
a go. Demonio! but it was a fine thing. If it is true that they have
got him and are bringing him here I would not be in his skin for all
the treasures of King Joseph. Yes, Nunez was always a devil, but he is
worse now. Somehow we always have bad luck, and the band gets smaller
and smaller, I don't suppose there's above fifty with him now. I
expect we shall have them pretty well all here this week."

"No fear of a visit from the French?"

"None; Reynier at Vittoria is busy now in sending every man he can
spare forward to the army that's gathering near Burgos."

This was enough for Tom, who stole silently away to the spot where Sam
was anxiously awaiting him.




CHAPTER XVIII.

JUST IN TIME.


"I shall go straight back to Vittoria, Sam. By what they say, General
Reynier is in command there, and as it was through his wife that all
this terrible business has come about, we have a right to expect him
to do his best to get us out of it. I will start at once. Now look
here, Sam. You must put yourself where you can keep watch over the
village. If you see any party come in, either to-night or to-morrow,
you must try and discover if Peter is among them. If he is, light a
fire down in that hollow where it can't be seen from above, but where
we can see it on that road. It's twenty miles to Vittoria; if I can
get to see General Reynier to-morrow, I may be back here with cavalry
by night; if he is out or anything prevents it, I will be here next
night, as soon after dusk as it will be safe. I will dismount the men
and take them over the hill, so as to avoid the sentinel who is sure
to be posted on the road when Nunez arrives. If they come in the
afternoon, Sam, and you find that anything is going to be done at
once, do everything you can to delay matters."

"All right, Massa Tom, if, when you come back you find Massa Peter
dead, you be berry sure you find dis chile gone down too."

It was seven o'clock next morning when Tom entered Vittoria, and
a few cautious inquiries proved the fact that General Reynier was
really in command of the French division there. He at once sought his
head-quarters, and after some talk with a woman selling fruit near the
house, heard that the general and his staff had started at daybreak,
but whither of course she knew not. Tom hesitated for some time, and
then, seeing an officer standing at the door, went up to him and asked
if the general would be back soon.

"He will be back in an hour or two," the officer replied in Spanish,
"but it is no use your waiting to see him. He has his hands full and
can't be bothered with petitions as to cattle stolen or orchards
robbed. Wait till we have driven the English back, and then we shall
have time to talk to you."

"Your pardon," Tom said humbly. "It is not a complaint that I have to
make, it is something of real importance which I have to communicate
to him."

"You can tell me, I am Colonel Decamps; it will be all the same thing
if your news is really important."

"Thank you very kindly, senor, it must be the general himself; I will
wait here." Thereupon Tom sat down with his back to the wall a short
distance off, pulled out some bread and fruit he had bought in the
town, and began quietly to eat his breakfast. An hour later a pretty
carriage with two fine horses drew up to the door. It was empty,
and was evidently intended for some one in the house. Suddenly, the
thought flashed across his mind, perhaps Madame Reynier and her child
were there. It was curious that the thought had not occurred to him
before, but it had not, and he drew near, when a sentry at the door
roughly ordered him to stand further back. Presently a lady came to
the door, accompanied by a little girl. There she stood for a minute
talking with the officer with whom Tom had spoken. At the moment a
young officer passed Tom on his way to the house.

"Monsieur," Tom said, in French, "do me the favor to place that ring
in the hands of Madame Reynier. It is a matter of life and death.
She will recognize the ring, it is her own," he added, as the young
officer in surprise hesitated. He was a bright handsome young fellow,
and after a moment's, pause, he went up to the lady. "My dear aunt,"
he said, "here is a mystery. An old Spanish beggar speaks French, not
very good French, but enough to make out, and he begs me to give you
this ring, which he says is yours, and which, by the way, looks a
valuable one." Madame Reynier, in some surprise, held out her hand
for the ring. "It is not mine," she began, when a sudden thought
struck her, and turning it round she saw "a Louise Reynier, tumors
reconnaissance," which she had had engraved on it, before giving it to
Tom. "Who gave it to you, Jules?" she asked eagerly.

"That old pedler," Jules said.

"Bring him in," Madame Reynier said, "the carriage must wait; I must
speak to him and alone."

"My dear aunt," began her nephew.

"Don't be afraid, Jules, I am not going to run away with him, and if
you are a good boy you shall know all about it afterwards, wait here,
Louise, with your cousin;" and beckoning to Tom to follow her, she
went into the house, the two officers looking astounded at each other
as the supposed Spanish pedler followed her into her sitting-room.

"What is your message?" she asked.

Tom's answer was to remove his wide hat, wig, and beard.

"Himself!" Madame Reynier exclaimed, "my preserver," and she held out
both her hands to him. "How glad I am, but oh! how foolish to come
here again, and--and"--she hesitated at the thought that he, an
English spy, ought not to come to her, the wife of a French general.

Tom guessed her thought. "Even General Reynier might succor us without
betraying the interests of his country. Read that, madame; it is an
open letter," and he handed her Lord Wellington's letter.

She glanced through it and turned pale. "Your brother! is he in the
hands of the guerillas? Where? How?"

"He is in the hands of that scoundrel Nunez; he swore he would be
revenged for that day's work, and he has had Peter carried off. No
doubt to kill him with torture."

"Oh! and it is through me," Madame Reynier exclaimed, greatly
distressed. "What can we do! Please let me consult with my friends,
every soldier shall be at your service," and she opened the door.
"Colonel Deschamps, Jules, come here directly, and bring Louise with
you." These officers, on entering, were struck dumb with astonishment
on finding a young peasant instead of an old pedler, and at seeing
tears standing in Madame Reynier's eyes. "Louise," she said to her
daughter, "look at this gentleman, who is he?"

The child looked hard at Tom; he was dressed nearly as when she first
saw him--and as he smiled she recognized him. "Oh, it is the good
boy!" she cried, and leaped into Tom's arms, and kissed him heartily.

"Do you think we have gone mad, Jules, Louise and I? This is one of
the young English officers who saved our lives, as you have often
heard me tell you."

Jules stepped forward, and shook Tom's hand heartily, but Colonel
Deschamps looked very serious. "But, madame," he began, "you are wrong
to tell me this."

"No, Colonel;" Madame Reynier said, "here is a letter, of which this
gentleman is the bearer, from Lord Wellington himself, vouching for
him, and asking for the help of every Frenchman."

Colonel Deschamps read it, and his brow cleared, and he held out his
hand to Tom. "Pardon my hesitation, sir," he said in Spanish; "but I
feared that I was placed in a painful position, between what I owe
to my country, and what all French soldiers owe to you, for what you
did for Madame Reynier. I am, indeed, glad to find that this letter
absolves me from the former duty, and leaves me free to do all I can
to discharge the latter debt. Where is your brother, and why has he
been carried off? I have known hundreds of our officers assassinated
by these Spanish wolves, but never one carried away. An English
officer, too, it makes it the more strange!"

Tom now related the story of Peter's abduction; the previous attempts
of members of Nunez's band to assassinate them, and the reasons he
had for believing that Peter was close to, if not already at, the
headquarters of that desperado.

"Is he still there?" Jules asked. "We routed him out directly the
general came up here. My aunt declared herself bound by a promise, and
would give us no clue as to the position of the village, but he had
made himself such a scourge, that there were plenty of others ready to
tell; if we had known the roads, we would have killed the whole band,
but unfortunately they took the alarm and made off. So he has gone
back there again. Ah! there is the general."

Madame Reynier went out to meet her husband, and drawing him aside
into another room, explained the whole circumstance to him, with
difficulty detaining him long enough to tell her story, as the moment
he found that his wife and child's deliverer was in the next room, he
desired to rush off to see him. The story over, he rushed impetuously
into the room, where Tom was explaining his plans to his French
friends, seized him in his arms, and kissed him on both cheeks, as if
he had been his son.

"I have longed for this day!" he said, wiping his eyes. "I have prayed
that I might some day meet you, to thank you for my wife and child,
who would have been lost to me, but for you. And now I hear your
gallant brother is paying with his life for that good deed. Tell me
what to do, and if necessary I will put the whole division at your
orders."

"I do not think that he will have above fifty men with him, general;
say eighty, at the outside. Two squadrons of cavalry will be
sufficient. They must dismount at the bottom of the hill, and I will
lead them up. We must not get within sight of the hill till it is too
dark for their look-out to see us, or the alarm would be given, and we
should catch no one. We shall know if they have arrived, by a fire my
man is to light. If they have not come, then I would put sentries on
guard upon every road leading there, and search every cart that comes
up; they are sure to have got him hid under some hay, or something of
that sort, and there are not likely to be more than two or three men
actually with it, so as not to attract attention. It will be all right
if they do not arrive there to-day."

"It is about five hours' ride for cavalry," the general said, "that
is at an easy pace; it will not be dark enough to approach the hill
without being seen till eight o'clock. Two squadrons shall be paraded
here at three o'clock. I will go with you myself; yes, and you shall
go too, Jules," he said, in answer to an anxious look from his nephew.
"In the mean time you can lend our friend some clothes; you are about
the same size."

"Come along," Jules said laughing; "I think we can improve your
appearance," and, indeed, he did so, for in half an hour Tom returned
looking all over a dashing young French hussar, and little Louise
clapped her hands and said--

"He does look nice, mamma, don't he? Why can't he stay with us always,
and dress like that? and we know he's brave, and he would help papa
and Jules to kill the wicked English."

There was a hearty laugh, and Jules was about to tell her that Tom was
himself one of the wicked English, but Madame Reynier shook her head,
for, as she told him afterwards, it was as well not to tell her, for
little mouths would talk, and there was no occasion to set everyone
wondering and talking about the visit of an English officer to General
Reynier. "There is no treason in it, Jules, still one does not want to
be suspected of treason, even by fools."

Sam watched all night, without hearing any sound of vehicles, but in
the morning he saw that several more guerillas had come in during the
night. In the morning parties of twos and threes began to come in
from the direction of Vittoria, and it was evident from the shouting
and noise in the village that these brought satisfactory news of
some kind. In the afternoon most of them went out again in a body
to the wood at the foot of the hill, and soon afterwards Sam saw a
cart coming along across the plain. Two men walked beside it, and
Sam could see one, if not two more perched upon the top of the load.
Three others walked along at a distance of some fifty yards ahead, and
as many more at about the same distance behind. He could see others
making their way through the fields. "Dis berry bad job," Sam said
to himself; "me berry much afraid dat Massa Tom he not get back in
time. Der's too many for Sam to fight all by himself, but he must
do someting." Whereupon Sam set to to think with all his might, and
presently burst into a broad grin. "Sure enough dat do," he said; "now
let me arrange all about what dey call de pamerphernalia." First, he
emptied out the contents of a couple of dozen pistol cartridges; he
wetted the powder and rolled it up in six cartridges, like squibs,
three short ones and three much longer. Then he opened Tom's kit,
and took out a small box of paints, which Tom had carried with him
for making dark lines on his face, and in other ways to assist his
disguise. Taking some white paint, Sam painted his eyelids up to his
eyebrows, and a circle on his cheeks, giving the eyes at a short
distance the appearance of ghastly saucers.

"Dat will do for de present," he said; "now for business. If dey wait
till it get dark, all right; if not, Sam do for Nunez and two or three
more, and den go down with Massa Peter!"

Then carefully examining the priming of the pair of pistols, which
he carried--the very pistols given to Peter by the passengers of the
Marlborough coach--he prepared to set out.

It was now six o'clock, and he calculated that the waggon would by
this time have mounted the hill, and reached the village; he had
already collected a large heap of dry sticks and some logs, at the
point Tom had pointed out, these he now lit, and then started for the
top of the hill. Looking back, just as he reached the crest, he could
see, knowing where it was, a very light smoke curling up over a clump
of trees which intervened between him and the fire, but it was so
slight that he was convinced that it would not be noticed by an
ordinary observer. Sam saw at once, on reaching the top of the hill,
that the guerillas were crowded round the waggon, which stood at the
edge of a small clump of trees in the middle of the village. The
moment was favourable, and he at once started forward, sometimes
making a detour, so as to have the shelter of a tree, sometimes
stooping behind a low stone wall, until he reached the first house
in the village. It was now comparatively easy work, for there were
enclosures and walls, the patches of garden-ground were breast-high
with weeds, and, stooping and crawling, Sam soon reached a house close
to the waggon. It was a mere hut, and had not been repaired. The roof
was gone, but the charred shutters and doors still hung on their
hinges. It was the very place from which to see without being seen.
Sam entered by a door from behind, and found that, through a slight
opening in the window-shutter, he could see all that was going on.
Some fifty guerillas were standing or sitting in groups at a distance
of twenty yards.

In the centre of the groups, lying on the ground, was a figure which
he at once recognized as Peter. It was wound round and round with
ropes; beside it stood, or rather danced, Nunez pouring forth strings
of abuse, of threats, and of curses, and enforcing them with repeated
kicks at the motionless figure.

"De debil!" muttered Sam, "me neber able to stand dis. If you not stop
dat, Massa Nunez, me put a bullet through dat ugly head of yours, as
sure as you stand dere. But me mustn't do it till last ting; for,
whether I kill him or not, it's all up with Massa Peter and me if I
once fire."

Fortunately Nunez was tired, and in a short time he desisted, and
threw himself down on the ground. "Take off his ropes, one of you," he
said: "there would be no fear of his running away had he three or four
days to live, instead of as many hours. Take the gag out of his mouth,
throw some water over him to bring him round, and pour some wine down
his throat. I want him to be fresh, so as to be able to enjoy the
pleasure we have in store for him. And now let's have dinner."

Sam felt that for another hour at least Peter was safe, and
therefore, with the same precaution as before, he crept away from his
hiding-place, through the village, and over the hill-crest, to the
place where he had made his fire. The logs were burning well, but gave
out but little smoke. Sam looked at the sky. "Dusk cum on berry fast,"
he said; "another hour Massa Tom come on with soldiers. If he see
fire, he hurry up sharp." So saying, Sam heaped on a pile of wood,
and then made his way back. He knew that Tom would not approach until
it was too dark for the movements of the troops to be seen by the
look-outs, and that he could not be expected to reach the village
until fully an hour after dark. "Just another hour and a half," he
said to himself; "ebery thing depend upon what happen before dat
time." It was quite dusk before he regained the shelter of the
cottage. He had gone round by the wagon, and had taken from it a large
stable-fork, muttering as he did so. "Golly! dis de berry ting."
Close by he saw the carcase of a bullock which the guerillas had just
slaughtered, and from this he cut off the horns and tail.

When Sam peeped out through the shutter he saw that something was
going to be done. Nunez was sitting smoking a cigarette, with a look
of savage pleasure in his face, while the men heaped up a large fire
in front of the trees.

"I don't like dat gentleman's look," Sam said to himself. "It's time
dis chile begin to dress for de pantomime, dat quite plain. Massa Tom
get here too late." Thus saying, Sam began to deliberately undress.

Peter, his arms and feet still bound, was sitting with his back
against a tree, watching what were, he was convinced, the preparations
for his death. For the last ten days he had lived in a sort of
confused and painful dream. From the moment, when, upon entering his
room two hands suddenly gripped his throat, others thrust a gag in the
mouth, and then blindfolded him, while some one from behind lashed his
arms to his side, and then altogether, lifting him like a log, carried
him downstairs and threw him into a cart, he had not till now seen
anything. The bandage had never been removed from his eyes, or the
cords from his limbs. Sometimes he had been made to sit up, and soup
and wine had been poured down his throat, or a piece of bread thrust
into his mouth; then he had been again gagged and thrown into a cart.
Over him brushwood and fagots had been piled, and there he had lain,
until at night a stop was made, when he was taken out, fed, and then
thrust back again and covered over.

From the first he had never doubted who were his captors, or what was
his destination, and he therefore experienced no surprise whatever,
when, on his arrival at the village, on the bandage being taken off
his eyes, he saw where he was. That it was useless to beg for mercy of
the savages into whose power he had fallen he knew well enough, and he
looked as calm and indifferent, as if he did not hear a word of the
threats and imprecations which Nunez was heaping on him.

"You see that fire," the enraged guerilla said, "there you shall be
roasted! English pig that you are! But not yet. That were too quick
a death! Here," he said to his followers, "make a little fire by the
side of the big one--there under the arm of that tree; and put on
plenty of green leaves: we will smoke our pig a bit before we roast
him!"

Peter still eyed him unflinchingly. He was determined that no pain
should wring a complaint or prayer for mercy. Even now he did not
quite despair, for he thought that he had just one chance of life. He
was sure that Tom would move heaven and earth to save him. He reckoned
that he would at once guess who had carried him off, and with what
object; and he felt that Tom would be certain to set off to his
rescue. All this he had reflected over in his long days of weary
suffering, and from the moment that he was unbandaged, and propped
against the tree, he had listened attentively for any unusual sound.
How Tom could rescue him he did not see. He was so utterly crippled,
from his long confinement, that he knew that it would be hours,
perhaps days, before he could walk a step; yet, still he thought it
possible that Tom might try; and he feared more than he hoped, for he
trembled lest, if Tom were really there, that he would do some rash
thing, which would involve him in his fate. "Whether Tom is here or
not," Peter thought as he looked unflinchingly at Nunez, "one thing
is certain, if I know my brother, you will not have many days to live
after me, for Tom will follow you all over Spain, but he will avenge
me at last!" Such were Peter's thoughts, and so likely did he think it
that Tom was present, that he was scarcely surprised when he heard, as
from the ground behind him, a well-known voice.

"Massa Peter, you keep up your heart. Sam here, Massa Tom he be here
in another half hour with French soldiers. If dey go to kill you
before dat, Sam play dem trick. Can you run, Massa Peter, if I cut de
cord?"

"No, Sam."

"Dat bad job. Neber mind, Massa Peter, you keep up your heart. Sam
keep quiet as long as he can, but when de worst come Sam do de trick
all right."

"Don't show yourself, Sam. It would only cost you your life, and
couldn't help me; besides, it would put them on their guard. They
won't kill me yet. They will smoke me, and so on, but they will make
it last as long as they can."

Peter was able to say this, for at the moment Nunez was occupied in
rolling and lighting a second cigarette. Peter received no answer, for
Sam, seeing some guerillas bringing sticks and leaves to make a fire,
as Nunez, had ordered, crept back again into the deep shadow behind.
The fire was now giving out volumes of smoke, a guerilla climbed up
the tree and slung a rope over it, and three others approached Peter.
His heart beat rapidly; but it was with hope, not fear. He knew, from
the words of Nunez, that at present he was not going to be burned,
but, as he guessed, to be hung over the smoke until he was insensible,
and then brought to life again with buckets of water, only to have the
suffocation repeated, until it pleased Nunez to try some fresh mode of
torture.

It was as he imagined. The rope was attached to his legs, and amid
the cheers of the guerillas, two men hauled upon the other end until
Peter swung, head downwards, over the fire. There was no flame, but
dense volumes of pungent smoke rose in his face. For a moment his eyes
smarted with agony, then a choking sensation seized him, his blood
seemed to rush into his head, and his veins to be bursting: and there
was a confused din in his ears and a last throb of pain, and then he
was insensible.

"That's enough for the present," Nunez said; "cut him down."

The men advanced to do so, but paused, with astonishment, for from
behind the great fire was a loud yell--"Yah, yah, yah!"--each louder
than the last, and then, leaping through the flames appeared, as they
supposed, the devil. Sam's appearance was indeed amply sufficient to
strike horror in the minds of a band of intensely superstitious men.
He had entirely stripped himself, with the exception of his sandals,
which he had retained in order to be able to run freely; on his head
were two great horns; in one hand he held a fork, and in the other
what appeared to be his tail, but which really belonged to the
slaughtered bullock. From his month, his horns, and the end of his
tail poured volumes of fire, arising, it needs not to say, from the
squibs he had prepared. The great white circles round the eyes added
to the ghastliness of his appearance, and seeing the terrible figure
leap apparently from the flames, it is no wonder that a scream of
terror rose from the guerillas. Whatever a Spanish peasant may believe
about saints and angels, he believes yet more implicitly in a devil.
Black, with horns, and a tail--and here he was--with these appendages
tipped with fire! Those who were able turned and fled in terror, those
who were too frightened to run fell on their knees and screamed for
mercy, while one or two fell insensible from fear. Taking the squibs
from his mouth, and giving one more startling yell, to quicken the
fugitives, Sam made two strides to where Peter was hanging, cut the
rope, and lowered him down.

Nunez had at first joined in the flight, but looking over his shoulder
he saw what Sam was doing. His rage and frenzy, at the thought of
being cheated of his victim, even by the evil one himself, overcame
his fear, and he rushed back, shouting, "He is mine! He is mine! I
won't give him to you!" and fired a pistol almost in Sam's face. The
ball carried away a portion of one of Sam's ears, and with a yell,
even more thrilling than those he had given before, he plunged his
pitchfork into the body of the guerilla, then, exerting all his
immense strength, he lifted him upon it, as if he had been a truss of
straw, took three steps to the great bonfire and cast the brigand into
it.

There was a volume of sparks, a tumbling together of big logs, and the
most cruel of the Spanish guerillas had ceased to exist.

This awful sight completed the discomfiture of the guerillas--some
hearing their chief's shouts and the sound o his pistol had looked
round, but the sight of the gigantic fiend casting him into the fire
was too much for them. With cries of horror and fear they continued
their flight; a few of them, who had fallen on their knees, gained
strength enough, from fear, to rise and fly; the rest lay on their
faces. Sam saw that for the present all was clear, and lifting up
Peter's still insensible body, as if it had no weight whatever, he
turned and went at a brisk trot out of the village, then over the
crest and down towards the fire.

Then he heard a ring of metal in front of him, and a voice said, "_Qui
vive_!" while another voice said, "Is that you, Sam?"

"Bress de Lord! Massa Tom, dis is me sure enough: and what is much
better, here is Massa Peter."

"Thank God!" Tom said fervently. "Is he hurt? Why don't you speak,
Peter?"

"He all right, Massa Tom. He talk in a minute or two. Now smoke choke
him, he better presently. Here, massa, you take him down to fire, pour
a little brandy down his throat. Now, massa officer, I lead de way
back to village."

As Tom took Peter in his arms a sudden fire of musketry was heard down
on the road.

"Our fellows have got them," Jules said. "I don't know what has
alarmed them, but they are running away!"

"Push forward," General Reynier said, "and give no quarter! Jules,
keep by the negro, and see that he comes to no harm. The men might
mistake him for a guerilla."

The night was pitch dark, and the extraordinary appearance of Sam
could not be perceived until after scouring the village and shooting
the few wretches whom they found there, they gathered round the
fire. Before reaching it, however, Sam had slipped away for a moment
into the hut where he had stripped; here he quickly dressed himself,
removed the paint from his face, and rejoined the group, who were not
a little surprised at seeing his black face.

In a short time the parties who had been posted on all the various
roads came in, and it was found that they had between them killed
some thirty or forty of the brigands, and had brought in two or three
prisoners.

"Have you killed or taken Nunez?" General Reynier asked. "Our work is
only half done if that scoundrel has escaped."

"I have asked the prisoners," one of the officers said, "and they tell
an extraordinary story, that the devil has just thrown him into the
fire!"

"What do they mean by such folly as that," the general asked angrily.
"Were they making fun of you?"

"No, sir, they were certainly serious enough over it, and they were
all running for their lives when they fell into our hands; they had
been horribly frightened at something."

"Ask that fellow there," the general said, pointing to a prisoner who
had been brought in by another detachment, "he cannot have spoken to
the others."

The man was brought forward, and then Jules asked him in Spanish:
"What were you all running away for?"

The man gave a glance of horror at the fire. "The devil came with his
pitchfork, fire came out of his mouth, his tail and his horns were
tipped with sparks, the captain fired at him, of course the bullet did
no good, and the devil put his fork into him, carried him to the fire,
and threw him in."

Jules and some of the other young officers burst out laughing, but the
general said:--

"Humph! We can easily prove a portion of the story. See if there are
any human remains in that fire."

The wind was blowing the other way, but as a sergeant went up to the
fire in obedience to the general's order, he said:--

"There is a great smell of burnt flesh here, and, sapristi, yes," as
he tossed over the logs with his foot "there is a body here, sir,
pretty well burnt up."

"It's a curious story," the general said. "Where is that negro,
perhaps he can enlighten us?"

But Sam had already left to look after Peter.

"Jules, put these fellows against that wall and give them a volley,
then march the men down to the wood where their horses are. We will
bivouac here for the night."

A party now brought up Peter, who had quite come round, but was unable
to stand, or indeed to move his arms, so injured was he by the ropes,
which had completely cut their way into his flesh. However, he was
cheerful and bright, and able really to enjoy the supper which was
soon prepared. That done, General Reynier said:--

"Captain Scudamore, will you call your black man when he has finished
his supper, which, no doubt, he needs? I want him to tell me what took
place before we arrived. The prisoners were full of some cock-and-bull
story, that the devil had stuck his fork into their captain and
pitched him into the fire, and the story is corroborated, at least to
the extent of the fact that, on turning the fire over, we found a body
there."

Sam, called and questioned, told the whole story, which Tom translated
as he went on to the French officers, and it was received with a
chorus of laughter at the thought of the oddity of Sam's appearance,
and of the brigands' terror, and with warm admiration for the able
stratagem and courage shown by the black.

Tom was delighted, and Peter, who had until now been entirely ignorant
of the manner in which he had been saved, feebly pressed Sam's hand
and said a few words of gratitude and thanks, which so delighted Sam
that he retired to cry quietly.

The next day they moved down to Vittoria, where Peter was tenderly
nursed by Madame Reynier. A week later he was fit to sit on horseback,
and the next day, after a hearty and affectionate parting, they
started to rejoin their own army. Both were now dressed as Spanish
gentlemen, and Jules, with four troopers accompanied them as an
escort.

They made a long detour to avoid the French army in the field under
Clausel, and at last came within sight of the British outposts. Here
Jules and his escort halted, and after a warm embrace with the merry
young Frenchman, they rode forward, and, after the usual parleying
with the pickets, were passed forward to the officer commanding the
post. He happened to be well known to them, and after the first
surprise, and a few words of explanation, they rode on towards the
head-quarters of the army besieging Burgos.




CHAPTER XIX.

VITTORIA.


General Clausel fell back as Wellington advanced to Burgos, and the
British laid siege to the castle of that place. Like all Wellington's
sieges this was commenced with a wholly insufficient train of
artillery, and without the time necessary to carry out regular siege
operations. A considerable portion of the army were posted so as to
watch Clausel. The place was badly fortified, but the French under
Governor Dubreton defended themselves with immense skill and courage,
the English assaults were repulsed, successful sorties were made by
the garrison, and at last, after the failure of the fourth assault,
the siege was given up, and the allied armies turned their faces once
more towards Portugal.

It was time; the operations in the south upon which Wellington had
relied to keep at least a portion of the French forces engaged, had
failed signally, and the French generals were bringing up their
troops from all parts of Spain, and General Souham, having under him
Generals Clausel, Maucune, and Foy, with a force far superior to
that of the British, advanced to give battle. Then Wellington, whose
Anglo-Portuguese troops were much weakened by sickness, fell back
rapidly, sending orders to General Hill, who commanded the troops left
behind in Madrid, to evacuate that city, and to fall back and unite
with him on the Tormes.

It was only by some masterly maneuvering and some stiff fighting at
Venta de Pozo, on the Carrion, and on the Huebra, that Wellington drew
off his army to Ciudad Rodrigo.

During the retreat the British suffered very severely, and the
discipline of the army became greatly impaired, so much so that Lord
Wellington issued a general order rebuking the army, saying that
"discipline had deteriorated during the campaign in a greater degree
than he had ever witnessed or read of in any army, and this without
any unusual privation or hardship, or any long marches."

The number of stragglers may be imagined by the fact that the loss of
the allied army was upwards of nine thousand, of whom not more than
two thousand were killed and wounded at Burgos, and in the combats
during the retreat. This number includes the Spanish as well as the
Anglo-Portuguese loss.

It was the beginning of December when the allied army reached their
winter quarters around Ciudad Rodrigo. It was fortunate that the
season of the year, and the necessity which the French had to refill
their magazines, and collect food, gave breathing time and rest to
the British. Although strengthened by his junction with Hill, and by
the arrival of reinforcements from the coast, Wellington was not in a
position to have made a stand against such a force as the French could
have brought against him.

Tom and Peter Scudamore had rejoined the army at the hottest part
of the siege of Burgos, and had taken up their work at once. Lord
Wellington heard from Tom a brief account of what had taken place,
and said a few kind words expressive of his pleasure at their both
having escaped from so great a peril, and, grave and preoccupied as
he was with the position of his army, he yet laughed at the account
of the scare Sam had given the guerillas. Among their friends nothing
was talked of for a day or two but their adventure. The times were
stirring, however, and one event rapidly drove out another. Sam
became a greater favorite than ever among the officers of the staff,
while the orderlies were never tired of hearing how he pretty nearly
frightened a band of guerillas to death by pretending to be the evil
one in person.

The next four months were passed in preparations for the grand attack
with which Wellington confidently hoped to drive the French out of
Spain. The news of the defeat of Napoleon in Russia had cheered the
hearts of the enemies of France, and excited them to make a great
effort to strike a decisive blow. The French army was weakened by the
withdrawal of several corps to strengthen the armies which Napoleon
was raising for his campaign in Germany, and British gold had been so
freely spent, that the Portuguese army was now in a really efficient
state; a portion of the Spanish army had been handed over to
Wellington, and were now in a far more trustworthy condition than
they had been heretofore, while the whole of the north of Spain was
in a state of insurrection, which the French, in spite of all their
efforts, were unable to repress.

The invasion was delayed until the end of May, in order that the crops
might be in a fit state for the subsistence of the cavalry and baggage
animals; but in the last week in that month all was ready, and, in
several columns, the allied army poured into Spain nearly a hundred
thousand strong. The French, ignorant alike of Wellington's intentions
and preparations, were in no position to stem effectually this mighty
wave of war, and were driven headlong before it, with many fierce
skirmishes, until their scattered forces were, for the most part,
united on the Ebro.

Here Joseph occupied a strong position, which he thought to hold until
the whole of his troops could come up; but Wellington made a detour,
swept round his right, and the French fell back in haste, and took
up their position in the basin of Vittoria, where all the stores and
baggage which had been carried off as the army retreated from Madrid,
Valladolid, Burgos, and other towns, were collected. At Vittoria were
gathered the Court, and an enormous mass of fugitives, as all the
Spaniards who had adhered to the cause of Joseph had, with their
wives and families, accompanied the French in their retreat. Hence
the accumulation of baggage animals, and carts, of stores of all
descriptions, of magazines, of food and artillery, of helpless,
frightened people, was enormous, and, for the retreat of the army in
case of defeat, there was but one good road, already encumbered with
baggage and fugitives!

This terrible accumulation arose partly from the fault of Joseph, who
was wholly unequal to the supreme command in an emergency like the
present. Confused and bewildered by the urgency of the danger, he had
hesitated, wavered, and lost precious time. By resistance at any of
the rivers, which Wellington had passed unopposed, he might easily
have gained a few days, and thus have allowed time for the great mass
of fugitives to reach the French frontier, and for Foy and Clausel,
each of whom were within a day's march upon the day of the battle, to
have arrived with a reinforcement of 20,000 good fighting men. Instead
of this, he had suffered himself to be outflanked day after day, and
his army forced into retreat, without an effort at resistance--a
course of action irritating and disheartening to all troops, but
especially to the French, who, admirable in attack, are easily
dispirited, and are ill suited to defensive warfare.

The position which he had now chosen for the battle, on which his
kingdom was to be staked, was badly selected for the action. The front
was, indeed, covered by the river Zadora, but this was crossed by
seven available bridges, none of which had been broken down, while
there was but the one good line of retreat, and this, besides being
already encumbered with baggage-wagons, could be easily turned by the
allies. The French army, weakened by 5000 men, who had marched upon
the preceding days, in charge of convoys for France, were still about
70,000 strong, the allies--British, Portuguese, and Spanish--about
80,000. The French were the strongest in artillery.

Wellington, seeing that Joseph had determined to stand at bay, made
his arrangements for the battle. On the left, Graham, with 20,000 men,
was to attempt to cross the Zadora at Gamara Mayor, when he would
find himself on the main road, behind Vittoria, and so cut the French
line of retreat. Hill, with a like force, was to attack on the right,
through the defile of Puebla, and so, entering the basin of Vittoria,
to threaten the French right, and obtain possession of the bridge of
Nanclares. In the center, Wellington himself, with 30,000 troops,
would force the four bridges in front of the French center, and attack
their main position.

At daybreak on the 21st of June, 1813, the weather being rainy with
some mist, the troops moved from their quarters on the Bayas, passed
in columns over the bridges in front, and slowly approached the
Zadora. About ten o'clock, Hill seized the village of Puebla, and
commenced the passage of the defile, while one of the Portuguese
battalions scaled the heights above. Here the French met them, and a
fierce fight ensued; the French were reinforced on their side, while
the 71st Regiment and a battalion of light infantry joined the
Portuguese.

Villette's division was sent from the French center to join the fray,
while Hill sent up reinforcements. While the fight on the heights
still raged, the troops in the defile made their way through, and,
driving the French back, won the village of Subijano de Alava, in
front of the French main position.

Meanwhile, far to the left, Graham came into action with Reille's
division at Gamara Mayor. The French here, knowing the vital
importance of the position, fought desperately, and the village of
Gamara was taken and retaken several times, but no effort upon the
part of the allies sufficed to carry either the bridge at this place
or that by which the main road crossed the river higher up. A force,
however, was pushed still farther to the left, and there took up a
position on the road at Durana, drove back a Franco-Spanish force
which occupied it, and thus effectively cut the main line of retreat
to France for Joseph's army. The main force under Wellington himself
was later in coming into action, the various columns being delayed by
the difficulties of making their way through the defiles.

While waiting, however, for the third and seventh divisions, which
were the last to arrive, a peasant informed Wellington that the bridge
of Tres Puentes was unbroken and unguarded. Kempt's brigade of the
light division were immediately ordered to cross, and, being concealed
by the inequalities of the ground, they reached it and passed over
unobserved, taking their place under shelter of a crest within a few
hundred yards of the French main line of battle, and actually in rear
of his advanced posts.

Some French cavalry now advanced, but no attack was made upon this
isolated body of British troops, for the French were virtually without
a commander.

Joseph, finding his flank menaced by the movements of Graham and Hill,
now ordered the army to fall back to a crest two miles in the rear,
but at this moment the third and seventh divisions advanced at a run
towards the bridge of Mendoza, the French artillery opened upon them,
the British guns replied, a heavy musketry fire broke out on both
sides, and the battle commenced in earnest. Now the advantage gained
by the passage of Kempt's brigade became manifest, for the riflemen
of his division advanced and took the French advanced cavalry and
artillery in flank. These, thus unexpectedly attacked, fell back
hastily, and a brigade of the third division took advantage of the
moment and crossed the bridge of Mendoza. The other brigade forded the
river a little higher up, the seventh division and Vandeleur's brigade
of the light division followed, Hill pushed the enemy farther back,
and the fourth division crossed by the bridge of Nanclares; other
troops forded the river, and the battle became general all along the
line.

Seeing that the hill in front of Arinez was nearly denuded of troops
by the withdrawal of Villette's division earlier in the day to oppose
Hill, Wellington launched Picton with the third division and Kempt's
brigade against it, and the French, thus attacked with great strength
and fury, and dispirited by the order to retreat, began to fall back.
Fifty pieces of artillery and a cloud of skirmishers covered the
movement, and the British guns answering, the whole basin became
filled with a heavy smoke, under cover of which the French retired
to the heights in front of Gomecha, upon which their reserves were
posted. Picton and Kempt carried the village of Arinez with the
bayonet, Vandeleur captured the village of Margarita, and the 87th
Regiment won that of Hermandad.

This advance turned the flank of the French troops near Subijana de
Alava, and of those on the Puebla mountain, and both fell back in
disorder for two miles, until they made a junction with the main body
of their army. Still the British troops pressed forward, the French
again fell back, and for six miles a running fight of musketry and
artillery was kept up, the ground being very broken, and preventing
the concerted action of large bodies of troops. At six o'clock in the
afternoon the French stood at bay on the last heights before Vittoria,
upon which stood the villages of Ali and Armentia. Behind them was
the plain upon which the city stood, and beyond the city thousands
of carriages, animals, and non-combatants, women, and children, were
crowded together in the extremity of terror as the British shots rang
menacingly over their heads.

The French here defended themselves desperately, and for a while the
allied advance was checked by the terrible fire of shot and shell.
Then the fourth division with a rush carried a hill on the left, and
the French again commenced their retreat. Joseph, finding the great
road absolutely blocked up, gave orders for a retreat by the road to
Salvatierra, and the army, leaving the town of Vittoria on its left,
moved off in a compact mass towards the indicated road. This, however,
like the other, was choked with carriages. It led through a swamp,
and had deep ditches on each side; the artillery, therefore, had to
cut their traces and leave their guns behind them, the infantry and
cavalry thrust aside the encumbrances and continued their march.
Reille, who had defended the upper bridges nobly until the last
moment, now came up, and his division acting as a rear guard, covered
the retreat, and the French retired with little further loss.

They had lost the battle solely and entirely from the utter incapacity
of their general, for their loss had been but little greater than
that of the allies, and they fell back in perfect order and full of
fighting. The French loss, including prisoners, was not more than
6000, and that of the allies exceeded 5000. The French loss, however,
in material was enormous. They carried off two guns only, and 143
fell into the hands of the British. They lost all their parks of
ammunition, all their baggage, all their stores, all their treasures,
all their booty. Last of all, they lost Spain.

The British pursued the French army for some days, and then invested
the two fortresses of San Sebastian and Pampeluna.

Ten days after the battle of Vittoria, Napoleon despatched Soult, one
of the best of his generals, to displace Joseph and assume the supreme
command of the French troops. Traveling with great speed, he reached
the frontier upon the 11th of July and took command. He soon collected
together the divisions which had retired beaten but not routed from
Vittoria, drew together the troops from Bayonne and the surrounding
towns, and in a few days found himself at the head of an army,
including the garrisons, of 114,000 men. Besides these there were the
armies of Aragon and Catalonia, numbering 60,000 men.

After spending a few days in organizing the army, Soult moved forward
to relieve Pampeluna, and then in the heart of the Pyrenees were
fought those desperate combats at Maya, Roncevalles, Buenza, Sauroren,
and Dona Maria, which are known in history as the battles of the
Pyrenees. In these terrible nine days' fighting there were ten serious
combats, in which the allies lost 7300 men, the French, including
prisoners, over 15,000, and Soult fell back baffled and beaten across
the frontier.

Throughout this account of the short and sanguinary campaign by which
in two short months Wellington shattered the power of the French and
drove them headlong from the Peninsula, but little has been said
respecting the doings of the Scudamores. Their duties had been heavy,
but devoid of any personal achievements or events. Wellington, the
incarnation of activity himself, spared no one around him, and from
early dawn until late at night they were on horseback, carrying orders
and bringing back reports. At night their quarters were sometimes
in a village hut, sometimes in a straggling chateau, which afforded
accommodation to the commander-in-chief and his whole staff.

Sam, a good horseman now, was in the highest of spirits at being able
to accompany his masters, and, although the Spanish women crossed
themselves in horror when they first saw his black face, the boys
would hear shouts of laughter arising before they had been a quarter
of an hour in fresh quarters. He was a capital cook, and a wonderful
hand at hunting up provisions.

There might not be a sign of a feathered creature in a village when
the staff came in, but in half an hour Sam would be sure to return
from foraging with a couple of fowls and his handkerchief full of
eggs. These were, of course, paid for, as the orders against pillaging
were of the strictest character, and the army paid, and paid
handsomely for everything it ate.

It was, however, difficult to persuade the peasants that payment was
intended, and they would hide everything away with vigilant care at
the approach of the troops. When by the display of money they were
really persuaded that payment was intended, they would produce all
that they had willingly enough, but the number of officers wanting
to purchase was so great and the amount of live stock so small in
the war-ravaged country, that few indeed could obtain even for money
anything beside the tough rations of freshly-killed beef issued by the
commissariat.

Let the supply be ever so short, however, Sam never returned
empty-handed, and the fowls were quickly plucked and on the fire
before any one else had succeeded in discovering that there was a bird
in the village.

Sam's foraging powers passed into a joke with the staff, and the
Scudamores became so curious to discover the reason of his success,
that after repeated questioning they persuaded him to tell them.

"Well, massa, de matter berry simple--just easy as fallin' off log.
Sam go along, look into yard ob de cottages, presently see feather
here, feather there. Dat sign ob fowl. Den knock at door. Woman open
always, gib little squeak when she see dis gentleman's colored face.
Den she say, 'What you want? Dis house full. Quarter-master take him
up for three, four officer.' Den Sam say, 'Illustrious madam, me want
to buy two fowls and eggs for master,' and Sam show money in hand. Den
she hesitate a little, and not believe Sam mean to pay. Den she say,
'No fowls here.' Den Sam point to de feathers. Den she get in rage and
tell lie and say, 'Dem birds all stole yesterday.' Den Sam see it time
to talk to de birds--he know dem shut up somewhere in de dark, and Sam
he begin to crow berry loud; Sam berry good at dat. He crow for all
de world like de cock. Dis wake dem up, and a minute one, two, three,
half a dozen cock begin to answer eider from a loft ober house, or
from shed, or from somewhere. Den de woman in terrible fright, she
say, 'Me sell you two quick, if you will go away and swear you tell no
one.' Den Sam swear. Den she run away, come back wid de fowls and some
eggs, and always berry much astonished when Sam pay for dem. After dat
she lose her fear, she see me pay, and she sells de chickens to oders
when they come till all gone. Dat how dis chile manage de affairs,
Massa Tom."

The Scudamores had a hearty laugh, and were well pleased to find that
Sam's method was one to which not even the strictest disciplinarian
could object, a matter concerning which they had previously had grave
doubts.

While the battles of the Pyrenees were being fought, the siege of
St. Sebastian had continued, and once again the British troops had
suffered a terrible loss, from the attempt to carry a fortress with
an insufficient siege-train, and without the time necessary to drive
the trenches forward in regular form. St. Sebastian stood upon a
peninsula. In front of the neck of this peninsula was the hill of San
Bartholomeo, on which stood the convent of that name. At the narrowest
part of the neck stood a redoubt, which was called the Cask Redoubt,
because it was constructed of casks filled with stand. Behind this
came the horn-work and other fortifications. Then came the town, while
at the end of the peninsula rose a steep rock, called Mount Orgullo,
on which stood the citadel. Upon its left side this neck of land was
separated from the mainland by the River Urumea; and upon the heights
of Mount Olia and the Chofres, across the Urumea, were placed the
British batteries, which breached the fortifications facing the river.

General Graham commanded the allied forces, which were detached to
undertake the siege, and on the 10th of July batteries were commenced
against the convent of San Bartholomeo, which had been fortified by
the French. On the 17th the convent was in ruins, and an assault was
made upon the position. The 9th Regiment took the place in gallant
style, but an attempt being made to carry the cask redoubt, with a
rush, the assault was repulsed, the British remaining possessors of
San Bartholomeo.

On the 24th the batteries on Mount Olia, having effected what was
believed to be a practicable breach, 2000 men of the fifth division,
consisting of the 3d battalion of the Royals, the 38th, and the 9th,
made an assault at night. To arrive at the breach they had to make
their way along the slippery rocks on the bed of the Urumea, exposed
to a flank-fire from the river-wall of the town. The breachers had
been isolated from the town, and guns placed to take the stormers in
flank. The confusion and slaughter were terrible, and at daybreak the
survivors fell back, with a loss of forty-nine officers and 520 men.

The whole arrangement of the siege was bad. The plan of Major Smith,
of the engineers, a most excellent officer, which had been approved
by Wellington, was not followed, and the assault, contrary to
Wellington's explicit order, took place at night, instead of by day,
the consequence being confusion, delay, and defeat. The total loss to
the allies of this first siege of St. Sebastian was 1300 men.

Neither of the Scudamores were present at the first siege, but both
witnessed the second assault, of the 31st of August, as Wellington
himself was present on the 30th, to see to the execution of the
preparation for attack, and they obtained leave to remain for the next
day to witness the assault. The siege had been resumed on the 5th of
that month, and on the 23d the batteries had opened fire in earnest,
and immense damage was done to the defenses and garrison. But upon
this occasion, as upon the former one, the proper precautions were not
taken; no lodgment had been effected in the horn-work, and, worst of
all, the blockade had been so negligently conducted by the fleet, that
large bodies of fresh troops, guns, and ammunition had been passed
in, and the defense was even stronger than it had been when the first
assault was delivered.

General Graham took up his position on the heights of the Chofres to
view the assault, and the Scudamores stationed themselves near him.
A dense mist hid the fortress from view, and it was not until eight
o'clock that the batteries were able to open. Then for three hours
they poured a storm of shot and shell upon the defences. The
Scudamores sat down in one of the trenches, where they were a little
sheltered from the blazing heat of the sun, and Sam took his place at
a short distance from them.

As the clock struck eleven the fire slackened, and at that moment Sam
exclaimed, "Grolly, Massa Tom, dere dey go." As he spoke Robinson's
brigade poured out from the trenches, and, passing through the
openings in the sea-wall, began to form on the beach.

It was known that the French had mined the angle of the wall
overhanging the beach, and a sergeant, followed by twelve men, dashed
gallantly forward to try to cut the train leading to the mine. He was
unsuccessful, but the suddenness of the rush startled the French, who
at once fired the mine, which exploded, destroying the brave sergeant
and his party, and thirty of the leading men of the column, but not
doing a tithe of the damage which it would have inflicted had the
column been fairly under it.

"Hurrah! dere dey go," Sam exclaimed as the column clambered over
the ruins and pursued its way unchecked along the beach. They had,
however, to make their way under a storm of fire.

The French, as before, lined the wall, and poured a tremendous
musketry fire into their flank, and the batteries of Mount Orgullo and
St. Elmo plied them with shot and shell, while two pieces of cannon on
the cavalier and one on the horn-work raked them with grape.

Still the column neither halted nor faltered, but dashed, like a wave,
up the breach. When, however, they reached the top they could go no
farther. A deep gulf separated them from the town, while from every
loop-hole and wall behind, the French musketry swept the breach. The
troops could not advance and would not retreat, but sullenly stood
their ground, heaping the breach with their dead. Fresh bodies of men
came up, and each time a crowd of brave men mounted the breach, only
to sink down beneath the storm of fire.

"This is awful, horrible, Tom!" Peter said in a choked voice. "Come
away, I can't look at this slaughter, it is a thousand times worse
than any battle."

Tom made no reply, his own eyes were dim with tears, and he rose to
go, taking one more look at the deadly breach, at whose foot the
survivors of the last attempt had sunk down, and whence the mass of
soldiers were keeping up a musketry fire against the guns and unseen
foes who were sweeping them away, when an officer ran up from General
Graham's side, and in a minute fifty guns from the Chofres batteries
opened a storm of fire upon the curtain and the traverses behind the
breach.

It was a terrible trial to the nerves of the assaulting columns when
this terrific fire was poured upon a spot only twenty feet above them;
but they were not men to shrink, and the men of the light division
seized the opportunity to pull up the broken masonry and make a
breastwork, known in military terms as a lodgment.

For half an hour the iron storm poured overhead unchecked, smashing
the traverse, knocking down the loop-holed walls, and killing numbers
of the defenders. Then it ceased, and the troops leapt to their feet,
and again rushed up the breach, while the 13th Portuguese Regiment,
followed by a detachment of the 24th, waded across the Urumea under a
heavy fire from the castle, and attacked the third breach.

But still no entry could be effected. The French fire was as heavy as
ever, and the stormers again sank baffled to the foot of the great
breach. The assault seemed hopeless, the tide was rising, the reserves
were all engaged, and the men had done all that the most desperate
courage could do. For five hours the battle had raged, when, just as
all appeared lost, one of those circumstances occurred which upset all
calculations and decide the fate of battles.

Behind the traverses the French had accumulated a great store of
powder barrels, shells, and other combustibles. Just at this moment
these caught fire. A bright flame wrapped the whole wall, followed by
a succession of loud explosions; hundreds of French grenadiers were
destroyed, and before the smoke had cleared away, the British burst
like a flood through the first traverse.

Although bewildered by this sudden disaster, the French rallied, and
fought desperately; but the British, desperate with the long agony
of the last five hours, would not be denied; the light division
penetrated on the left, the Portuguese on the right. The French, still
resisting obstinately, were driven through the town to the line of
defense at the foot of Mount Orgullo, and the town of St. Sebastian
was won.

"Will you go across, Peter, and enter the town?"

"No, no, Tom; the sight of that horrible breach is enough for me.
Let us mount, and ride off at once. I am quite sick after this awful
suspense."

It was as well that the Scudamores did not enter the town, as, had
they done so, they might have shared the fate of several other
officers, who were shot down while trying to stop the troops in their
wild excesses. No more disgraceful atrocities were ever committed by
the most barbarous nations of antiquity than those which disgraced the
British name at the storming of St. Sebastian. Shameful, monstrous as
had been the conduct of the troops at the storming of Ciudad Rodrigo
and at Badajos, it was infinitely worse at St. Sebastian. As Rapin
says, hell seemed to have broken loose.

The castle held out until the 9th, when it surrendered, and the
governor and his heroic garrison marched out with the honors of war.
The British loss in the second siege exceeded 2500 men and officers.

There was a pause of two months after the fall of St. Sebastian,
and it was not until the 10th of November that Wellington hurled
his forces against the lines which, in imitation of those of Torres
Vedras, Soult had formed and fortified on the river Nivelle to
withstand the invasion of France. After a few hours' desperate
fighting the French were turned out of their position with a loss of
killed, wounded, and prisoners, of 4265 men and officers, the loss of
the allies being 2694.

Now the army of invasion poured into France. The French people,
disheartened by Napoleon's misfortunes in Germany, and by the long and
mighty sacrifices which they had for years been compelled to make, in
order to enable Napoleon to carry out his gigantic wars, showed but
slight hostility to the invaders.

Wellington enforced the severest discipline, paid for everything
required for the troops, hanging marauders without mercy, and, finding
that it was impossible to keep the Spanish troops in order, he sent
the whole Spanish contingent, 20,000 strong, back across the Pyrenees.

He then with the Anglo-Portuguese army moved on towards Bayonne, and
took up a position on both sides of the river Nive, driving the French
from their position on the right bank on December 9th. On the 13th,
however, Soult attacked that portion of the army on the right of the
river, and one of the most desperate conflicts of the war took place,
known as the battle of St. Pierre. General Hill commanded at this
battle, and with 14,000 Anglo-Portuguese, with 14 guns, repulsed the
furious and repeated attacks of 16,000 French, with 22 guns.

In five days' fighting on the river the French lost more than as many
thousand men.

The weather now for a time interrupted operations, but Wellington was
preparing for the passage of the Adour. Soult guarded the passages
of the river above Bayonne, and never dreamed that an attempt would
be made to bridge so wide and rough a river as is the Adour below
the town. With the assistance of the sailors of the fleet the great
enterprise was accomplished on the 13th of February, and leaving
General Hope to contain the force in the entrenched camp at Bayonne,
Wellington marched the rest of the army to the Gave.

Behind this river Soult had massed his army. The British crossed by
pontoon bridges, and before the operation was concluded, and the
troops united, Soult fell upon them near Orthes.

At first the French had the best of the fight, driving back both
wings of the allied forces, but Wellington threw the third and sixth
divisions upon the left flank of the attacking column and sent the
52nd Regiment to make a detour through a marsh and fall upon their
other flank. Taken suddenly between two fires the French wavered,
the British pressed forward again, and the French fell back fighting
obstinately, and in good order. The allies lost 2300 men, and the
French 4000. Soult fell back towards Toulouse, laying Bordeaux open to
the British.




CHAPTER XX.

TOULOUSE.


Promotion for those who have the good fortune to have a post upon the
commander-in-chief's staff is rapid. They run far less risk than do
the regimental officers, and they have a tenfold better chance of
having their names mentioned in despatches. The Scudamores were so
mentioned for their conduct at Vittoria, the Pyrenees, and Orthes,
and shortly after the last-named battle the _Gazette_ from England
announced their promotion to majorities. This put an end to
their service as aides-de-camp, and they were attached to the
quarter-master's branch of the staff of Lord Beresford, who was upon
the point of starting with a small force to Bordeaux, where the
authorities, thinking more of party than of patriotism, had invited
the English to enter and take possession, intending to proclaim their
adhesion to the Bourbon dynasty.

The boys were sorry at the exchange, as they feared that they should
lose the crowning battle of the campaign. It was evident that the
resistance of France was nearly at an end, the allies were approaching
Paris in spite of the almost superhuman efforts of Napoleon; the
people, sick of the war, refused all assistance to the military
authorities, and were longing for peace, and the end of the struggle
was rapidly approaching.

Lord Beresford, however, divining their thoughts, assured them that
his stay at Bordeaux would be but short, and that they might rely
upon being present at the great battle which would probably be fought
somewhere near Toulouse, towards which town Soult had retreated after
the battle of Orthes.

Upon the 8th of March, Beresford marched with 12,000 men for Bordeaux,
and meeting with no opposition by the way, entered that city on the
12th. The mayor, a royalist, came out to meet them, and by the upper
classes of the town they were received as friends rather than foes.
Handsome quarters were assigned to Lord Beresford and his staff, and
the Scudamores for a day or two enjoyed the luxury of comfortable
apartments and of good food after their hard fare for nine months.

The day after they entered Bordeaux Tom had occasion to call at
the office of a banker in order to get a government draft cashed,
to pay for a number of wagons which had been purchased for the
quarter-master's department. The banker's name was Weale, an American,
said to be the richest man in Bordeaux. His fortune had been made, it
was said, by large government contracts.

When Tom returned, Peter was surprised to see him looking pale and
excited.

"What is the matter, Tom?"

"Do you know, Peter, I am convinced that that American banker I have
been to see to-day is neither more nor less than that scoundrel,
Walsh, who bolted with all the bank funds, and was the cause of our
father's death."

"You don't say so, Tom."

"It is a fact, Peter, I could swear to him."

"What shall we do, Tom?"

"I only cashed one of the two drafts I had with me this morning;
Peter, you go this afternoon with the other, and, if you are as
certain as I feel about it, we will speak to Beresford at dinner."

Peter returned in the afternoon satisfied that his brother's surmises
were correct, and that in the supposed American Weale they had really
discovered the English swindler Walsh.

After dinner they asked Lord Beresford to speak to them for a few
minutes alone.

The general was greatly surprised and interested at their
communication.

"Of how much did this fellow rob your father's bank?" he asked.

"The total defalcation, including money borrowed on title-deeds
deposited in the bank, which had to be made good, was, I heard, from
75,000_l._ to 80,000_l._," Tom said.

"Very well," said Lord Beresford, "we will make the scoundrel pay up
with interest. Order out thirty men of the 13th."

While the men were mustering, the general returned to the dining-room
and begged the officers who were dining with him to excuse him for
half an hour, as he had some unexpected business to perform. Then he
walked across with the Scudamores to the banker's house, which was
only in the next street.

Twenty of the men were then ordered to form a cordon round the house
and to watch the various entrances. The other ten, together with the
officer in command, the general told to follow him into the house. The
arrangements completed, he rang at the bell, and the porter at once
opened the gate.

He started and would have tried to shut it again, on seeing the armed
party. But Lord Beresford said, "I am the general commanding the
British troops here. Make no noise, but show me directly to your
master."

The man hesitated, but seeing that the force was too great to be
resisted, led the way through the courtyard into the house itself.

Some servants in the hall started up with amazement, and would have
run off, but Lord Beresford cried, "Stay quiet for your lives. No one
will be hurt; but if any one moves from the hall, he will be shot."
Then, followed by Tom and Peter only, he opened the door which the
porter pointed out to him as that of the room where the banker was
sitting.

He was alone, and started to his feet upon beholding three British
officers enter unannounced. "What means this?" he demanded angrily.
"I am a citizen of the United States, and for any outrage upon me
satisfaction will be demanded by my Government."

"I am Lord Beresford," the general said quietly, "and quite know what
I am doing. I do not quite agree with you that the Government of the
United States will make any demand for satisfaction for any outrage
upon your person, nor, if they do so, will it benefit you greatly;
for I am about, in five minutes' time, to order you to be shot, Mr.
Walsh."

As the name was uttered the banker, who had listened with increasing
pallor to the stern words of the general, started violently, and
turned ghastly white. For a minute or so he was too surprised and
confounded to speak. Then he said, in a husky tone, "It is false; I am
an American citizen. I know nothing whatever about James Walsh."

"James Walsh!" the general said; "I said nothing about James. It is
you who have told us his Christian name, which is, I have no doubt,
the correct one."

He looked to Tom, who nodded assent.

"I know nothing about any Walsh," the banker said doggedly. "Who says
I do?"

"We do, James Walsh," Tom said, stepping forward. "Tom and Peter
Scudamore, the sons of the man you robbed and ruined."

The banker stared at them wildly, and then, with a hoarse cry, dropped
into his chair.

"James Walsh," the general said sternly, "your life is doubly forfeit.
As a thief and a swindler, the courts of law will punish you with
death;" for in those days death was the penalty of a crime of this
kind. "In the second place, as a traitor. As a man who has given aid
and assistance to the enemies of your country, your life is forfeit,
and I, as the general in command here, doom you to death. In five
minutes you will be shot in your courtyard as a thief and a traitor."

"Spare me!" the wretched man said, slipping off his chair on to his
knees. "Spare my life, and take all that I have. I am rich, and can
restore much of that which I took. I will pay 50,000_l._"

"Fifty thousand pounds!" the general said; "you stole 80,000_l._,
which, with interest, comes up to 100,000_l._, besides which you must
pay for acting as a traitor. The military chest is empty, and we want
money. I will value your wretched life at 25,000_l._ If you make that
sum a present to our military chest, and pay Major Scudamore the
100,000_l._ of which you swindled his father, I will spare you."

"One hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds!" the banker said
fiercely. "Never, I will die first."

"Very well," Lord Beresford said quietly. "Major Scudamore, please
call in the officer and four men." Tom did as requested, and Lord
Beresford then addressed the officer. "You will take this man, who is
an Englishman, who has been acting as a traitor, and giving assistance
to the French army, you will take a firing party, place him against
the wall of the yard, give him five minutes to make his peace with
God, and when the five minutes are up, unless he tells you before that
that he wishes to see me, shoot him."

Pale and desperate, the banker was led out.

"He will give way, I hope," Tom said, as the door closed behind him.

"He will give way before the time is up," Lord Beresford said. "He is
a coward; I saw it in his face."

Four minutes passed on, the door opened again, and the officer
returned with his prisoner. "He says he agrees to your terms, sir"

"Very well" Lord Beresford answered; "remain outside with your men;
they may be wanted yet."

The prisoner, without a word, led the way into an adjoining room,
which communicated with the public office. This was his private
parlor, and in a corner stood a safe. He unlocked it, and, taking out
some books and papers, sat down to the table.

His mood had evidently changed. "I was a fool to hold out," he said,
"for I had my name for wealth against me, and might have known you
would not give way. After all, I do not know that I am altogether
sorry, for I have always had an idea that some day or other the thing
would come out, and now I can go back and be comfortable for the rest
of my life. How will you have the money, gentlemen? I have 50,000_l._
in cash, and can give you a draft on the Bank of England for the rest.
You look surprised, but I have always been prepared to cut and run
from this country at the shortest notice, and every penny I have
beyond the cash absolutely required is in England or America."

"I will take 25,000_l._ in cash for the use of the army," Lord
Beresford said. "I will send an officer of the commissariat to-morrow
for it. The 100,000_l._ you may pay these gentlemen in drafts on
England. Until I hear that these drafts are honored, I shall keep you
under surveillance, and you will not be suffered to leave your house."

"It will be all right," Walsh said. "There--is my Bank of England
pass-book; you will see that I have 120,000_l._ standing to the credit
of J. Weale there. I have as much in America. I should not tell you
this did I not know that you are a gentleman, and therefore will not
raise terms now that you see I can pay higher. There, Mr. Scudamore,
is the draft, and, believe me or not, I am glad to repay it, and to
feel, for the first time for many years, a free man. Please to give
me a receipt for the 80,000_l._ due by me to the Bank, and for
20,000_l._, five years' interest on the same."

Tom did as he was desired without speaking. There was a tone of
effrontery mingled with the half-earnestness of this successful
swindler that disgusted him.

"There," the general said, as the receipts were handed over; "come
along, lads, the business is over, and I do not think that we have any
more to say to Mr. Weale."

So saying, without further word, the three went out.

Upon rejoining the officer without, Lord Beresford directed that a
sergeant and ten men were to be quartered in the house, and that a
sentry was to be placed at each entrance night and day, and that the
banker was not to be permitted to stir out under any pretence whatever
until further orders.

"There, lads, I congratulate you heartily," he said as they issued
from the gate, in answer to the warm thanks in which the boys
expressed their gratitude to him; "it is a stroke of luck indeed that
you came with me to Bordeaux. It was rough-and-ready justice, and I
don't suppose a court of law in England would approve of it; but we
are under martial law, so even were that fellow disposed to question
the matter, which you may be very sure he will not, we are safe
enough. They say 'ill-gotten gains fly fast' but the scamp has
prospered on the money he stole. He owned to having another hundred
thousand safe in the States, and no doubt he has at least as much more
in securities of one sort or other here. I daresay he was in earnest
when he said that he did not mind paying the money to get rid of the
chance of detection and punishment, which must have been ever in his
mind. The best thing you can do, Scudamore, is to write to James
Pearson--he's my solicitor in London--and give him authority to
present this draft, and invest the sum in your joint names in good
securities. Inclose the draft. I shall be sending off an orderly with
despatches and letters at daybreak, and if you give me your letter
to-night, I will inclose it in a note of my own to Pearson."

Five days later an order arrived for Lord Beresford to leave the
seventh division under Lord Dalhousie, in Bordeaux, and to march with
the fourth division to join the Commander-in-Chief, who was gradually
drawing near to Toulouse, beneath whose walls Soult was reorganizing
his army. The position was a very strong one, and had been rendered
almost impregnable by fortifications thrown upon the heights.
Wellington had, too, the disadvantage of having to separate his army,
as the town lay upon both sides of the Garonne.

On the 10th of April the allied army attacked. Hill attacked the
defences of the town on the left bank, while Freyre's Spaniards,
Picton, with the third and light divisions, and Beresford with the
fourth and the sixth divisions, assaulted a French position. The
entrenchments in front of Picton were too strong to be more than
menaced. Freyre's Spaniards were repulsed with great loss, and the
brunt of the battle fell upon Beresford's division, which nobly
sustained the character of the British soldier for stubborn valor
in this the last battle of the war. The French fought stubbornly
and well, but fort by fort the British drove them from their strong
positions, and at five in the afternoon Soult withdrew the last of his
troops in good order across the canal which separated the position
they had defended from the town itself. The French lost five generals
and 3000 killed and wounded; the allies four generals and 4659 killed
and wounded, of which 2000 were Spaniards, for they upon this occasion
fought bravely, though unsuccessfully.

On the 11th all was quiet, Wellington preparing for an attack upon the
city on the following day. Soult, however, finding that the British
cavalry had been sent off so as to menace his line of retreat,
evacuated the city in the night, drew off his army with great order
and ability, and by a march of twenty-two miles placed it in safety.
Upon the morning of the 12th Wellington entered Toulouse, and the
same afternoon two officers, one British, the other French, arrived
together from Paris, with the news of the abdication of Napoleon, and
the termination of the war.

These officers had been detained for two days at Blois by the
officials there, and this delay had cost the blood of 8000 men, among
whom was Tom Scudamore, who had his left arm carried away by a cannon
ball. Sam, in the act of carrying his master from the field, was also
severely wounded in the head with a musket ball.

Before the battle was fought they had received news from England that
the draft had been paid at the Bank of England, and that their future
was in consequence secure. The war being over, officers unattached to
regiments had little difficulty in getting leave of absence, as the
troops were to be embarked for England as soon as possible. Peter's
application, therefore, to accompany his brother was acceded to
without hesitation, and ten days after the battle of Toulouse he was
on board ship with Tom and Sam, both of whom were doing well. Three
days afterwards they landed in England.

Rhoda met them, with Miss Scudamore, at Portsmith, having received a
letter telling them of Tom's wound, and of their being upon the point
of sailing. There was a great reduction of the army at the end of the
war, and the Scudamores were both placed upon half pay. This was a
matter of delight to Rhoda, and of satisfaction to themselves. They
had had enough of adventure to last for a life-time; and with the
prospect of a long peace the army no longer offered them any strong
attraction.

When they returned to Miss Scudamore's their old friend Dr. Jarvis
came to visit them, and a happier party could not have been found in
England. The will of Mr. Scudamore, made before he was aware of his
ruin, was now acted upon. He had left 20,000_l._ to Rhoda, and the
rest of his fortune in equal parts between his boys. Both Tom and
Peter were fond of a country life, and they bought two adjoining
estates near Oxford, Rhoda agreeing to stop with them and Miss
Scudamore alternately.

For a brief time there was a break in their happiness, Napoleon
escaped from Elba, and Europe was in a flame again. All the officers
on half pay were ordered to present themselves for duty, and the
Scudamores crossed with the army to Belgium, and fought at Waterloo.
Neither were hurt, nor was Sam, who had of course accompanied them.
Waterloo gave them another step in rank, and the Scudamores returned
as colonels to England.

It was their last war. A few years afterwards they married sisters,
and Rhoda having the year previous married a gentleman whose estate
was in the same county, they remained as united as ever. Sambo held
for many a year the important position of butler to Tom, then he found
that one of the housemaids did not regard his color as any insuperable
obstacle, and they were accordingly married. It was difficult to say
after this exactly the position which Sam held. He lived at a cottage
on the edge of the estate, where it joined that of Peter, and his time
was spent in generally looking after things at both houses, and as
years went on his great delight was, above all things, to relate to
numerous young Scudamores the adventures of their father and uncle
when he first knew them as the Young Buglers.

THE END.





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