Casting a backward glance to see how his followers fared, he waved the flag again, and I could guess at the defiant shout of "Viva el Rey!" that came from his lips.
"He's just splendid," said I, between my teeth. But surely now his time was come! Close on his heels rode the beaten Colombians, while in front another detachment, far stronger, awaited him. What would he do—surrender? That, I felt sure, would never enter his head.
One chance of escape there was if he would take it. By swerving sharply to the left he might avoid the hostile troopers, and gallop across the plain to the Royalist infantry. It was evident he saw this way out; but his blood was up, and he made straight for the forest of lances.
"Lost!" said I, with a groan. "Poor old Santiago!"
I counted eight men with him, and Royalist and Patriot troops combined held none braver. It was magnificent, and yet terrible, to watch them spring at the massed troops, Santiago only slightly in advance of them. I held my breath as they leaped into the throng and were swallowed up. We were not near enough to distinguish the flag amidst the flashing sabres and the long-handled lances, but I feared it had fallen with its daring protector.
The tumult showed that some of the brave few still lived, and suddenly I heard General Miller, as if his feelings had surprised him into speech, say in English,—
"By Jove, he's through!"
It was true. There in the distance rode a man bare-headed, waving a flag defiantly, and for all we knew cheering for the king. One by one four others joined him, and continued the gallop: their comrades lay dead on the plain.
Had half the Royalist cavalry possessed Santiago's pluck, the story of this affair at Junin would have had a different ending.
As it was, the Spaniards began to waver. They could barely hold their own against the reassembled squadrons from the defile, and our arrival had turned the scale. They began to give ground slowly but surely, in spite of their officers' appeals. I saw Santiago again; indeed he was the most conspicuous man, though not the highest officer, on the field. Wherever the troops seemed weakest, there he was, flag in hand, cheering them on and fighting desperately.
When at last they could stand it no longer, but broke and fled, he got together another little band to protect the retreat. But for him, I doubt whether Canterac would have saved a quarter of his cavalry. Once, when turning at bay to repel a fiercer rush than usual, he caught sight of me, and his face lit up with a smile. He had been wounded, but not dangerously, and his sword-arm was vigorous as ever.
Again and again, with the aid of his choicest troopers, he stemmed the onset; but his efforts were vain—we were too many. His men dropped one after another, and he was forced to continue the retreat, till the remnant of the Royalist horsemen found shelter behind the lines of their infantry, who greeted us with a scattering fire.
It was now growing dusk, and we could not attack an army, though General Miller decided to hang on a little longer. In the long pursuit our men had become scattered over the plain, and he dispatched various officers to collect them. Then turning to me, he said,—
"Crawford, ride back, find General Bolivar, and tell him the Royalists are in full retreat. If followed up strongly, I believe they would disperse."
Saluting, I turned my horse and rode back rapidly. The scene was bewildering. Officers galloped this way and that, shouting to their men; riderless horses careered madly about; slightly-wounded troopers were hobbling to the rear; others, more unfortunate, lay on the ground groaning and calling for water; while here and there mounted men were escorting groups of prisoners toward our infantry lines.
Several times I stopped to ask where General Bolivar was. He had entered the defile with the cavalry; but from the time our first squadrons were routed I had seen nothing of him. At last an officer told me that, seeing his horsemen overthrown, the general had galloped back to the infantry, which he had posted on a very high hill about a league away.
"He quite expected to be attacked," added my informant, "never dreaming we should recover ourselves. The Peruvians saved us. They are fine fellows!" For in the gathering gloom he could not distinguish my uniform.
"Thanks!" said I, laughing; "I'll repeat that compliment to my comrades," and rode on.
Bolivar was standing, or to be correct, walking about, on the brow of the hill, looking anxiously toward the plain. Several messengers had brought him word of the varying fortunes of the fight, but none had arrived from Miller.
I passed close to the head of the Peruvian infantry, and the colonel shouted,—
"What news, Crawford!"
"Good!" I replied, hurrying along; and reaching Bolivar, I jumped to the ground and saluted.
"Where do you come from?" he cried.
"General Miller, sir. The Royalists are in full retreat—horse, foot, and artillery. The general wishes me to say that a vigorous pursuit would probably disperse them altogether."
"Too late," said he; "tell General Miller I have ordered the cavalry to retire on me.—Caza," to one of his officers, "lend—"
"Lieutenant Crawford, sir."
"Lend Lieutenant Crawford your horse; his is done up.—Now ride as fast as you can, and give General Miller my message."
I saluted, sprang into the saddle, dashed past the Peruvian infantry, down the hill, and into the defile. Here I found the main body of our cavalry retiring in accordance with Bolivar's command, and heard that Miller, with a squadron of Peruvians, was still following the Royalists.
It was quite dark now, and the route was covered with hillocks; but I rode on swiftly, trusting to luck, and at length came up with the general, who had halted in his pursuit. On receiving Bolivar's message he immediately gave orders to retire, and about seven o'clock we reached our camping-ground.
Fortunately we managed to collect a little fuel, for the night was so intensely cold that few of the seriously wounded, though receiving every possible attention, survived its rigours. Even lying close to the fire and enveloped in our ponchos we shivered.
A surgeon had sewn up the cut in Alzura's face, and we gave him the most sheltered place, and the one nearest the fire. There was not much sleep for any of us that night; we were far too excited, and spent most of the time fighting the battle over again.
To my delight, every one talked of Santiago and his magnificent bravery.
"Didn't we take him prisoner once, down south?" asked Plaza. "His face seemed familiar to me."
"Yes," said I: "his name is Santiago Mariano, and at that time he was a major."
"Faith," observed Alzura, looking up, "as far as fighting goes, he ought to be a commander-in-chief! A wounded Colombian told me the fellow sprang on them like a lion falling on a herd of deer. A lucky thing for us that the Marianos are in a minority among the Royalists."
"Canterac nearly did the trick though," growled the major. "I thought he would drop on us in that defile. I tell you what it is: Bolivar can thank our colonel that he has any cavalry left."
"Bravo, major! I heard this evening that we saved the army."
"So we did," chuckled Plaza; "and we can say it without a word of boasting. I don't care about praising my own men." But the rest was drowned in good-humoured laughter, as every one knew that the finest troop in South America—and the world, too, for that matter—was Plaza's.
However, it appeared that we really had done a smart thing: for the next morning Bolivar held a grand parade, and in presence of the whole army ordered that henceforth the regiment of which we formed part should be known as the "Hussars of Junin;" and General Miller publicly said that we deserved the honour.
After the parade we marched into the town of Reyes, which had been sacked by the Royalists. Bolivar occupied the only hut that had a roof, the rest consisting of nothing but bare walls. The inhabitants had fled into the surrounding country, but now they returned, and did all they could to assist us, lighting fires, cooking our scanty rations, and erecting sheds to shelter us from the cold.
"I suppose it's all right," said Alzura; "but I can't help thinking Bolivar has made a big blunder. While we hang about here, Canterac is pulling himself together, and we shall have all the work to do over again. If I were the general—"
"I should join the other side immediately," laughed Plaza.
"Please don't interrupt," said Cordova. "It amuses me to hear these youngsters talk. I'll wager Alzura would have finished the war two years ago, only the end might not have been as we anticipate." At which there was a general laugh.
"What I don't like about Bolivar is his play-acting," I said. "Have you seen his hut? Have a look at it in the morning. The doorway is hung with silver ornaments in place of laurel wreaths, which the Indians were unable to get."
"But he can't help the Indians idolizing him!"
"Nonsense! Did you ever hear of such rubbish with San Martin? And the Indians worshipped him!"
"Ah!" exclaimed Plaza, "you're a San Martin man, and jealous of the new sun!"
"A new comet," said I, a bit testily perhaps, because Plaza had happened on an explanation very near the truth.
"At any rate," observed Cordova, "it's better to be here at our ease than tramping fruitlessly about the mountains. I'm fairly tired of that fun. I want a day or two at Lima."
None of us guessed how much weary marching lay before us ere we returned to the capital. However, for the time we were in comparatively good quarters, and though grumbling occasionally because Bolivar had not followed up the victory at Junin, were quite prepared to make the best of things.
A DISASTROUS RETREAT.
When General Canterac retreated from Junin, he fled from his own shadow. Instead of pursuing him closely, we advanced in a leisurely way to Guamanga, and stayed there a month doing nothing. Then we marched to Challuanca, where Bolivar, being needed at the capital, left us under the command of General Sucre, who had shown himself a very skilful soldier. It seems we were not strong enough to proceed, and as the rainy season was at hand, no one thought the Royalists would return to the attack.
The Patriot army was spread across the country for many miles, our post being on a high tableland four leagues from Challuanca. The weather was abominable. Frequent storms swept through the district, the rain fell in torrents, the thunder pealed in reverberating claps among the mountains, and many animals and some men were killed by the lightning. It was bitterly cold, too, and our only shelter was a cluster of miserable Indian huts, where we passed all our time when not on duty. Often I returned to my cheerless quarters cold, shivering, and drenched, yet with no change of clothing.
To add to our misfortunes, it was rumoured that the various Royalist armies, having united, were marching to attack us; so for days together we were kept on the alert, riding for hours over the desolate country and returning thoroughly exhausted.
One evening early in November I got back after a twenty miles' ride with a small patrol, and found the camp in a state of confusion.
"What is it, Alzura? what's all the fuss about?" I asked, wearily getting off my mule—for we rode horses only when absolutely necessary.
"Oh, my dear Juan, you will be delighted," he replied, his face brimming with fun. "We are just going back to Challuanca. The viceroy is somewhere in our rear with all his army, and we have to run for it."
"My animal is dead-beat," said I gloomily.
"You must walk, and lead both animals. Never mind, dear boy; the excitement will keep you going," he answered, laughing.
"Hullo! is it you, Crawford? In luck's way again! And I've been worrying about your being left behind," said Plaza, coming up.
I did not exactly see where the luck came in; but the sound of the bugle cut short my reply, and I took my place in the column. That march was the longest twelve miles I remember. Sometimes riding, sometimes walking, aching in every limb, and more than half asleep, I plodded along the rocky path, dreamily wondering at every step whether I could take another. As soon as we arrived at Challuanca I just lay down on the bare ground, and was fast asleep in a second.
It was daylight when the sounds of bugles awakened me, and I rose sleepily. The army had disappeared, with the exception of our squadron, which I afterwards found formed part of the rearguard.
"Come on, sleepy-head," sang out Alzura, "or you'll get no breakfast. I've seen to your animals. A wonder they didn't kick you to death in the night!"
"The poor beasts were too tired to have a kick left in them. Where's General Sucre?"
"Going on to a place called Lambrama. Do you know Miller is a prisoner?"
"A prisoner? I don't believe it."
"It's true, nevertheless. His scouting party has returned without him. From what I can hear, we're in a tight fix."
According to rumour, Alzura was right; but after a long and wearisome march we reached Lambrama, where General Sucre halted. During the afternoon, while we rested in the valley, a great shout from the troops on our right brought us to our feet, and we saw a soldier on a beautiful white horse descending a pass into the valley.
"That's General Miller's horse!" I cried excitedly.
"And the general's on its back!" said Plaza. "Viva! viva Miller!" And the cry was taken and repeated by thousands of lusty throats.
I had witnessed San Martin's brilliant reception, and had seen Bolivar feted by his admirers; but this outburst was the most remarkable of all. One would have thought the general was a personal friend of every man in the army.
Each battalion, as he passed it, broke into renewed cheering, the men flung their caps into the air, and the whole scene was one of amazing enthusiasm. The general rode along slowly, and his smiling face showed how greatly he was touched by his reception.
"The man's a marvel!" exclaimed Plaza admiringly. "Look at him! One would think he had just come from a pleasure-trip instead of being hunted through the mountains. I warrant the viceroy would count his capture cheap at half a million dollars."
"Say a million, and it would still be cheap," said Alzura; and most of us agreed with him.
General Miller apparently brought important information, as, shortly after his arrival, orders were issued for a fresh start. I need not dwell long upon our sufferings during that disastrous retreat. The Royalists had outmarched us, and, hoping to stop our advance, closed many of the defiles and destroyed the bridges by which we should have crossed the numerous rivers.
Several times we caught a glimpse of the enemy, and one night the hostile armies bivouacked within two miles of each other, but separated by a deep and rugged valley. The terrible march was so weakening us that many officers hoped the enemy would attack at once. But this the viceroy, who was a clever old soldier, would not do. His plan was to wear us down by degrees and only fight at an advantage.
For several days we remained watching each other, but on November 25th the Royalists disappeared, and Sucre immediately made preparations to cross the valley. A swollen river lay in our path; the bridge was destroyed, and there was no material with which to build another.
The crossing was simply terrible. The weather was intensely cold, and even at the ford the infantry were breast high in icy water. It was death to remain behind, however, and though many men, numbed and exhausted, were swept down the stream, only two lives were lost.
On the last night in November we reached a valley whose sides were clothed with enormous trees, and the order to encamp was gratefully received.
"Thank goodness!" said Alzura. "We shall have a comfortable night at last. The trees will shelter us from the cold winds, and we shall be as cozy as in bed."
"Humph!" said Gamarra testily; "much you know about it. In half an hour you'll wish we had camped on the top of a mountain."
"Why?" I asked curiously, for the valley seemed to me a very suitable camping-ground.
"Wait!" growled the crusty old major; "you'll soon know."
This sounded very mysterious, but in a short time the secret was out. We had just settled ourselves comfortably when Alzura started up, and some one said, in a tone of great disgust, "Mosquitoes!"
They were very fine specimens, and, I suppose, exceedingly angry at our invasion of their territory. They came buzzing up in countless thousands, and though many were slain, the slaughter made no apparent difference in their numbers.
I had put on my gloves, and now hastily covered my face with a handkerchief. The mosquitoes were by no means dismayed. Thirsting for blood, they would not be denied, but drank deeply. To any one mosquito-proof the scene would have been most laughable. We made a desperate fight, but the victory was to the mosquitoes.
Our hands, necks, and faces were swollen from their venomous bites. Some of the men could hardly see; and though we were dreadfully fatigued, every one longed to hear the bugle-call to fall in. No one wanted to remain in what Plaza christened "Alzura's paradise."
The welcome sound came at break of day, and we moved out quickly, abandoning the battlefield to our active and vigorous foes. As soon as we reached the open country the rain began to fall, and continued in torrents all that day and the following night.
"I don't exactly see how much better off we are than Barriero," remarked Alzura, as we lay down to sleep in a muddy puddle.
"You should have stayed with him, then."
"It's all very well to say that now. Why did you bring me away?"
I was too much staggered by the audacity of the question to make a suitable reply.
Hungry, cold, and wet, we resumed the retreat, and soon began defiling into another valley. Our squadron was right in the rear, and suddenly the sounds of firing and the cries of startled men were heard in front of us.
"Mount!" cried the colonel; for we were still leading our horses, and most of our mules were dead. "Forward! Trot!"
"Some of the enemy have doubled and cut in on our flank!" said Plaza excitedly.
"Gallop!" roared the colonel, as entering the valley we caught sight of what was going on.
Unperceived by us, a Royalist detachment had stolen down the valley and flung itself on the flank of our two rear battalions. Taken by surprise, and outnumbered, our men were speedily overpowered, and before we had arrived on the scene they had dispersed in all directions.
To the shouts of "Viva el Rey!" and encouraged by their officers, the Royalists were hotly chasing their beaten enemy. The valley was in a state of terrible confusion. The dead bodies of men lay scattered about; a few of the victors were dragging off an abandoned gun; others were carrying away stores and baggage. The fight was a complete disaster for our side.
"We can't do any good," whispered Alzura, as the colonel halted us, "and I doubt if we aren't cut off ourselves."
"Better charge at once," muttered Plaza; "the more we look at it the less we shall like it."
"My lads," cried the colonel, riding down the ranks, "there is a stiff bit of work before us. Let us remember we are the Hussars of Junin."
The troopers responded with a ringing "Viva!" and as we got a firmer seat on our saddles, Alzura remarked,—
"That's the way to talk, Juan. These fellows will fight to the death now."
There was something fresh happening on the other side, but we had no time to see what it was. The bugle sounded, and with the colonel leading we dashed straight across the valley. An infantry battalion peppered us from the right, and a squadron was drawn up right across our path.
Men began to fall. Here and there a riderless horse, darting from the ranks, tore across the valley. We were, as Alzura said, in a warm corner.
Bullets whizzed past our ears, but we noticed them not, riding straight as a die at the hostile cavalry.
"The major's down!" cried Plaza. "Poor old major!"
That was his only epitaph. We had no time to sorrow for any one just then, though we mourned for him sincerely enough afterwards.
"Charge!" roared the colonel; and the sabres flashed as the horses bounded forward, thundering with their hoofs on the ground.
"Caramba!" cried Plaza; "it's your old friend Mariano. Well, friend or foe, this is his last fight if my blade can reach him."
Yes, the officer who had accomplished this daring flanking movement was none other than Santiago Mariano, who, with the flush of success on his handsome face, was again leading his men to the charge.
"Viva el Rey!" he cried, and his voice rang high and clear above the din. "Down with the bandits!"
Crash! We were into them, fighting our way through desperately. Horses pranced, and bit, and kicked. Men shouted triumphantly, or went down with a cry of agony on their lips. Here a gap was made and filled at once, as some daring fighter urged his way forward.
Alzura rode with the colonel, carrying the colours, and we pressed after them, knowing that our sole chance of safety was to get through the Royalist squadron. On coming out at the other side we heard a voice crying, "Bravo! bravo, my bold hussars!" and there was General Miller, who seemed to scent a fight as a hound scents its quarry.
By this time Santiago had re-formed his squadron, and was dashing at our rear, when from the rocks above us sprang a line of fire, and his horsemen, wheeling round, rapidly withdrew. While we had been fighting, General Miller had rallied the beaten battalions and posted them in a commanding position to cover our ride through the pass.
That night in bivouac we counted Santiago's venture had cost us more than two hundred men, all the spare horses, and a quantity of stores.
"I hope you are proud of your Royalist friend," said Alzura to me. "He has done us a nice bit of mischief."
"He's a smart soldier."
"He is that," agreed Plaza, "and a splendid swordsman. I had a good bout with him, but could not pass his guard, though he was defending himself against three of us."
"Did any one see the major after he fell?" I interrupted.
"No," said Alzura; "but I feel sure he is dead, as the bullet passed through his forehead. He was a grim old fighter, and I'm sorry he's gone."
"So am I. But he died a soldier's death, poor old chap," said Cordova. "We must have lost heavily since the retreat began. I wonder what Sucre intends doing now."
"Why, continuing the retreat."
"To Lima? If so, he won't have a hundred men left by the time he reaches the capital."
"Well, what can he do? We can't stay here and starve, and he can't make the Royalists fight."
"As to starving," laughed Alzura, "I would as soon starve here as elsewhere. I'm getting used to it."
"And I don't know," remarked Cordova, "that forcing a fight will be so very brilliant for us. We have had one sample to-day."
"Oh, go to sleep! You might be a raven as far as croaking's concerned. One would think we were in a hole and couldn't get out. Trust to Sucre and Miller; they'll pull us through all right."
"I'm going to sleep," announced Alzura gravely. "I had a beautiful dream last night, and want to go on where reveille interrupted it. I dreamed we were in Lima, at a banquet given by the city to the Patriot officers. There was a band to play during the feast; the hall was brilliantly lit; the table was laden with all kinds of good things. We were just beginning when the band struck up, and I woke to hear Crawford saying, 'Are you going to sleep all day?' It was a splendid feast, though. Such a quantity of—"
"Sit on him, Juan! stifle him with his own poncho! Fancy talking of banquets now! Cruelty to animals I call it."
"Why, I thought you'd be delighted," grumbled Alzura.
In a very short time we were all asleep. We rose at dawn, hungry and shivering, to resume our journey. On this day the enemy marched parallel with us, but on the other side of a deep gorge, and General Sucre tried in vain to draw them into an engagement. Their leader was too crafty. Why need he sacrifice his men?
"It's a pity from our point of view," remarked Plaza, as we toiled along, "but they are playing the proper game. We're like fruit ripening on a tree. When thoroughly fit we shall just drop and be gathered without difficulty."
"Who's croaking now?" asked Cordova,
"I'm simply stating facts," replied Plaza. "Look at the road."
"Thanks; I've seen more than enough of it already."
"We're half starved."
"That's less than a fact," laughed Alzura. "You can put me down as three-quarters. If decent food were set before me, I shouldn't know how to eat it."
"We're losing hundreds of men," continued Plaza quietly, "and we've one miserable field-gun."
"Take a dose of your own medicine," said I, laughing. "Trust to Sucre and Miller; they'll pull us through."
The captain's gloomy fit soon passed off, and he was as cheerful as ever; but there was no doubt of our being in a very awkward position. As far as fighting went, we could hold our own till doomsday; but we were bound to eat, and food did not grow on the mountains.
Bolivar was working with all his fiery energy to hurry up reinforcements from Colombia and Chili, but until they arrived he could not send them on. Then, too, the viceroy had gained over several Indian tribes, and they had already cut one detachment to pieces. As far as I could judge, the Royalists had the whip-hand, and unless they made a mistake we should very shortly be at their mercy.
On the sixth of December we halted at a little village, and a thrill of joy went through the troops when it was rumoured that our leaders intended to attack the enemy at all risks. Wearied men, who had thrown themselves exhausted on the ground, struggled to their feet; starving men forgot their pangs; the very invalids crawled into the ranks, some of them so weak that they could barely trail a musket.
"Stand by your horses!" said the colonel, as the enemy were only three miles off, and we might be required at any moment.
An hour passed and we still waited; the morning wore away; afternoon merged into evening, and we were ordered to encamp. Something, we knew not what, had gone wrong.
"I don't know if there was a chance to-day," observed Plaza, "but won't there be one to-morrow?"
"Because the Royalists will block the road along which we must retreat. Then we must either throw ourselves against a terribly strong position, or stay here and starve."
Events soon proved that he had not spoken at random. Early next morning the enemy moved to an almost impregnable post. Twice our number of strong men, flushed with victory and well equipped with guns, might well have hesitated to attack. As for us, it was sheer madness.
Things had come to the worst now. Further retreat was barred; our provisions, even if we subsisted on the shortest of short rations, would not last five days, while to move against the foe was simply to commit suicide.
"Lucky Barriero, sitting in his little hut!" said Alzura; "no fighting, no starving! The next time we're taken prisoners we'll make the best of it, Juan."
"I doubt if the Spaniards will make many prisoners—that is, among the officers," growled Cordova. "The men will be spared, but we shall be put out of the way of doing mischief."
I think myself Cordova exaggerated the danger; but his opinion was shared by the great majority of the Patriots, and it was this fear which made them resolve to fight to the bitter end rather than surrender.
After breakfast we lounged about on the heights watching the Royalists, who had encamped just without gunshot, wondering what our leaders would decide to do.
THE BATTLE OF THE GENERALS.
"They're coming down!" cried Alzura excitedly, rushing into our tent.
It wanted two hours to sunset; we had done nothing all day, and tired of watching the enemy on the opposite heights, most of us had gone to sleep.
Alzura's announcement woke us up, and running forward, we glanced eagerly at the hill, which a battalion of infantry was descending.
"Skirmishers, nothing more," said Plaza quietly. "They fancy we might attempt a night attack. Take my word for it, they won't be foolish enough to meet us on the plain."
"Unless they try a rush in the dark."
"That's just possible, but not probable; they're sure of us without that."
"There goes a battalion of our light infantry in extended order," remarked Cordova; "but there won't be any real fighting to-night. I'm going back to bed."
"A very sensible proceeding, too," exclaimed a genial voice; and turning round we beheld General Miller. "I should advise all of you not on duty to do the same," he added.
"Are we going to fight, general?" I asked eagerly.
"Hullo, Crawford! I've been so busy that I've lost sight of you lately. Well, I hardly know. Perhaps the viceroy would be better able to tell you; he knows more about it than I do."
"I don't think he'll abandon his strong position just to give us a better chance, sir," remarked Plaza.
"Perhaps not," replied the general. "But you mustn't think he's in clover up yonder. His men are as hungry as ours, and that's saying much. If it is a fight, however, 'twill be a fight to the finish, and the Hussars of Junin won't be missing!"
"Take us with you, sir!"
"That's just what I've come to see the colonel about. I intend to get all the regiment together and use it as a battering-ram."
"He thinks the Royalists will attack," said Alzura, as the general passed on. "He has heard something important, you may depend. And why shouldn't they? they're two to one, and have no end of guns."
"I like his idea of using all the regiment," laughed Cordova. "Nearly a half of the third squadron are mounted on baggage mules; their horses are all dead."
"They must get fresh ones from the enemy," I suggested.
"Come," said Plaza; "there's nothing more to see here." And we returned to the tent.
Anxious to have a good long night, Cordova soon fell asleep; but Alzura and I sat up chatting till within an hour or two of dawn. We could hear the hostile skirmishers peppering away at each other at intervals, and somehow the sounds seemed to be the prelude to a coming battle.
Fortunately the morning dawned fair, but there was a nip in the air which impelled us to move about smartly. Then the sun rose gloriously over the eastern peaks, and its genial warmth raised our drooping spirits. I cannot account for the feeling, but somehow the whole army felt that a battle was imminent, and the faces of the troops wore a look of excited expectancy.
Directly after breakfast, or what we were pleased to call breakfast, the men began moving to their positions, each corps being formed in close column. For the better understanding of what happened, I must try to describe our position. We were drawn up on a nearly square tableland known as the Plain of Ayacucho, a league in circumference, and flanked right and left by rugged ravines. We had the village at our backs, and the only road by which we could retreat was effectually blocked. The Royalist army was perched just below the summit of a gigantic ridge called Condorcanqui, which formed the eastern boundary of the plain.
At seven o'clock our regiment moved out, and the men of the third squadron, of whom Cordova had spoken, provoked much humour and good-natured chaff as they rode past on their baggage mules. It was thought that they would help to make a show, but no one suspected that later on, when ordered to remain in the rear, they would answer firmly, "No, we will conquer or die with our comrades!"
The cavalry, consisting of four regiments, was stationed in the centre, with an infantry division on either side, and a third in the rear as a reserve.
About nine o'clock a great cheer rose from all parts of the plain: the Royalists were descending the craggy side of Condorcanqui. Between the infantry of each division appeared the cavalry, the riders leading their horses and advancing with difficulty. It was an impressive scene, and we stood watching with breathless interest.
Then our fellows renewed their cheering as General Sucre, riding along the line, addressed a few rousing words to each particular corps.
"A tough nut to crack," remarked Plaza, watching the Royalists form, "but we'll get at the kernel before the day's over."
"There's the beginning!" cried Alzura, as the infantry on our right slowly advanced. "Hurrah! we're to help!" for an aid-de-camp from General Sucre had just dashed up to Miller with orders.
We waited eagerly for the word to mount, but our turn had not yet come. Two cavalry regiments moved off with Miller, and left us gazing at the drama being unfolded before our eyes.
Our infantry columns marched to the attack like so many automatic machines; the Royalists waited firmly, as if confident of victory. We stood holding our horses, and quivering with excitement. Much would depend upon the result of that first encounter.
"They're stopping to fire," cried Alzura. "Now they're moving again. Viva! they're going to charge. Look at the sun on their bayonets."
Would the Royalists give way? No; they stood firm as the rocky heights behind them—not a man moved. It seemed to me that there was not even a tremor in the whole mass. If our fellows charged and failed, they would be cut to pieces. We were like spectators in a theatre, only the drama was a real one.
A mighty "Viva!" floated back to us as our men broke into the charge. It was neck or nothing now—decisive victory or stern defeat.
"The Royalists will run," muttered Plaza; "they must."
But they did not, and the next instant bayonet crossed bayonet in desperate conflict.
Excitement drove us well-nigh crazy. We cheered and shouted and waved our sabres, as if by so doing we could help in the fight. Our troops had met their match, and seemed to make no impression. Unless they went forward shortly they must retreat.
"If they're driven back," remarked Plaza, "they are lost."
How the struggle would have ended I cannot tell, but just then we broke into a cry of relief. The two cavalry regiments which had made a wide detour were seen bearing down on the Royalists' flanks. They swept along at hurricane speed. Nothing could stand against the shock of their long lances. A portion of the Royalists, facing about, delivered a telling volley at short range. Men and horses went down with a crash, but the survivors were not checked. A second volley crashed into them, making wide gaps, and then, with the force of a roaring torrent, they literally swept away the barrier of men and steel.
"That settles it," said Plaza, breathing deeply; "the bravest troops in the world couldn't recover from such a smashing blow. It's a case of complete rout, in that part of the field at all events."
He was right too. The enemy would not, indeed could not rally. Here and there small groups stood at bay, fighting desperately but vainly to stem the onset of their pursuers. All they could do was to die fighting, in the hope that the sacrifice might save their comrades. Even those who reached the heights were not out of danger. Whiz, whiz sped the bullets; and numbers of the fugitives rolled down the mountain side till their bodies were caught by crag or brushwood.
So greatly was our attention absorbed by the scene that we had scarcely noticed what was happening on our left. Suddenly, however, a heavy fire broke out, followed by the quick reports of hundreds of muskets. Our colonel glanced in the direction uneasily. His orders were strict. He was on no account to move his regiment, and yet—
"Crawford," said he, looking round, "see what that firing means."
I sprang to the saddle and galloped off. But for our success on the right, I should have felt inclined to take a gloomy view of things: our left had given way.
Two Royalist battalions were advancing in pursuit, while still further on the left a cavalry regiment was swooping down on one of our reserve battalions sent in support. The crafty enemy had crossed a deep ravine, on the farther side of which a whole division was stationed.
A mounted officer, with cap gone and cloak flying in the wind, pulled up on seeing me, and said rapidly, "Where is your regiment? Take me to your colonel quickly. We want cavalry; we must have cavalry, or our whole left will be rolled up!"
"This way," I replied, and together we galloped towards the Hussars of Junin, reaching the colonel just as General Miller dashed up from the right.
"What is it?" he asked hastily.
"We are overpowered, sir. The enemy have four field-guns across a ravine; our division has suffered terribly, and the troops are giving way. The general requires a regiment of cavalry immediately."
"Tell him it's coming," replied Miller.—"Now, colonel, here's a chance for your men to show their mettle. We've smashed the enemy on the right; let the 'Hussars of Junin' do the same on the left."
How we did cheer as our colonel led us out! General Miller's face wore an anxious expression as he glanced over the field. Everywhere the victorious Spaniards were driving back our left wing; we should only be just in time to repair the mischief.
"Push those two infantry battalions across the ravine while I rally the fugitives," said Miller. But he had barely spoken when the Royalist cavalry dashed down on the right flank.
"Here's Crawford's friend again!" said Plaza. "We might have guessed he had a hand in this business."
Santiago made a handsome picture as he tore along well in front of his regiment, and enemy though he was, I could not help feeling proud of him. We turned to meet this vigorous onslaught, and though Santiago fought with all the traditional valour of his race, his men, already tired by their great exertions, could not stand against us.
Stopping their flight, our own infantry rallied, and advanced in support, while their loud cheers proclaimed the arrival of a second cavalry regiment. Nothing daunted by his repulse, Santiago led his troopers against the new enemy, while we bore down on the hostile infantry.
"Gallop!" cried our colonel; and neck by neck the horses flew over the ground, the men waving their sabres and cheering lustily. We could see the glittering steel of the bayonets now, could almost look down the barrels of the muskets, when there came a blinding flash, the thud of falling bodies, and hoarse shrieks of pain.
"Forward!" thundered the colonel, "forward; remember the 'Hussars of Junin!'"
Crash we went right into them before they could fire another volley, and then it was horseman against footman, sabre against bayonet. To and fro we surged, striking parrying, thrusting, till at last the brave enemy, unable to continue the struggle longer, fled to the ravine, hotly pursued by our victorious regiment.
In a calmer moment we should have pulled up, but there was no stopping now. Some one raised a warning cry: it came too late. Down the ravine we went, the horses slipping and scrambling—some rolling over and crushing their riders; the majority, keeping their feet somehow, reached the opposite bank. A small detachment of the enemy halted to fire a scattering volley, which did some mischief. A man close to me fell forward on his horse's neck.
"Good-bye, Crawford!" said he faintly; "I am done for."
It was Cordova; but there was no time to help him. On we dashed straight at the guns, which the gunners dared not fire, so mixed up were friend and foe. A cry of "Viva el Rey!" arose in our rear. Santiago was galloping back.
The Royalists could not stand. Miller had brought up three battalions in double-quick time; the guns were ours; horse and foot we swept over the plain, driving the enemy pell-mell in all directions. Only the regiment led by the undaunted Santiago endeavoured to cover the retreat, and at last it too fled.
Not so their brave leader; he remained on the field. I found him later, with a hole in his side and a nasty gash across the face. He was not dead, however, and with assistance I carried him to the village, where a surgeon dressed his wounds. Then I returned to my regiment.
"It's all over!" cried Alzura exultantly. "The viceroy is taken prisoner, and Canterac has come to sue for terms. He is with Sucre now."
"Where is Plaza?"
"Just gone to find poor Cordova. It's hard lines to drop off in the moment of victory. And the war is over now; the Royalists will never lift their heads again."
This was not quite correct, as a few still held out in other parts of the country, but they were powerless to do any real mischief. This battle of Ayacucho—or Battle of the Generals, as we called it—secured the independence of Peru. Fourteen Spanish generals, some of them the most famous in South America, gave up their swords; nearly six hundred officers and most of the rank and file became prisoners of war.
Late that evening I went to see Santiago. He lay on a bench in a miserable hut, where several wounded officers had been brought for shelter. Two small earthen lamps gave a feeble light, barely sufficient for us to see each other's faces. I bent over him, and choked back the sob that would rise in my throat. We neither of us tried to gloze over the truth. He was dying, and we both knew it.
"I am glad you have come," he whispered. "It will soon be over, and I am not sorry; I have tried to do my best."
"Indeed you have, old fellow; friend and foe alike are loud in your praise."
"I have been loyal to my king; I have done my duty," he continued, not heeding the interruption. "Life is precious, Juan, but honour is the first thing. My name is unstained. I die as I have lived, a cavalier of Spain!"
That thought cheered him as he took his last and long journey. He was young and handsome and well beloved; he had fair estates and hosts of friends; he might have risen high in the councils of his nation; but death, stern and unyielding, claimed him, and he braced himself to meet it.
"Thank God!" he murmured; "I die with a clear conscience."
I stayed with him till nearly midnight, when he became unconscious. Then having work to do, I sorrowfully went away. Next morning, on my way to the hut I met General Miller.
"Poor fellow!" he said, when I told him of Santiago's state. "I will come with you. I remember him well."
Just as we were moving on, we met General Sucre accompanied by a Spanish officer, who on seeing Miller ran forward and embraced him.
"I know you!" he cried. "I am Valdes. You and I must be friends." Then turning to General Sucre, he added, "This Miller has often kept us on the move. I am called active; but he was a regular wizard—here, there, everywhere, without giving a clue to his intentions until he dealt us some sly blow."
I looked at this celebrated Spanish general with a great deal of interest. He was a small, spare man, with keen eyes and rough, weather-beaten face. He wore a broad-brimmed beaver hat, a coarse gray surtout, and long brown worsted leggings. He stooped slightly, and to judge by appearances, one would never have thought he was perhaps the finest soldier in the Spanish service.
Sucre left the two chatting, and presently Miller said, "I was just going to visit one of your men, a Colonel Mariano. Do you know him?"
"Mariano? He was my best cavalry officer. It was he who helped me to cut up your rearguard some time ago, and to drive back your left wing yesterday. I'll come with you."
"He will be very pleased to see you, no doubt.—You go first and show us the way, Crawford."
Santiago lay with closed eyes, breathing so faintly that at first we thought he was dead.
"Santiago," I softly whispered, "do you know me? I have brought you a visitor."
His eyes opened slowly, and there was a fleeting smile in them, but he did not speak.
"Colonel!" said Valdes, stepping to the side of the bench. The sound of that voice brought the poor fellow for a short time from the Valley of the Shadow. By some extraordinary means he managed to sit up without assistance, raised his hand to the salute, and in a clear, ringing voice exclaimed, "At your service, general!"
It was the last act of his life. On placing my arm round him to prevent him from falling, I found he was dead.
"A fine fellow," said General Miller quietly.
"A thorough soldier to the end!" cried the Spanish general.
I said nothing, but mourned none the less the true friend I had found in the ranks of our enemies.
We were very quiet in camp that day. The excitement of battle had passed, and we were counting the cost of our triumph. Many familiar faces were missing, and the death of Cordova especially affected us. We had been through many perils together, had endured many hardships, and it seemed a pity that he should not have lived to taste the sweets of victory.
Shortly before sunset that same day I received a message from General Miller asking me to go to his quarters. I found him expecting me, and he at once plunged into the subject upon which he wished to speak.
"The war is now over, Crawford," said he, "and General Sucre is able to release a large part of his force. I am proceeding to Cuzco, but there is no need for you to do so. You have done your share, and I intend sending you on special service to Lima."
"Oh, thank you, general!" I answered, my eyes sparkling and my cheeks flushing with pleasure.
"The regiment will return in a few weeks at the most," he continued. "Be ready to start in the morning, and don't forget to remember me kindly to your parents. Some day I hope to call upon them."
"I am sure you will receive a very warm welcome when you come, general," I replied, taking the hand held out to me.
"Well, dear boy," said Alzura, on my return to our quarters, "what is the news?"
"Good," said I, "though perhaps it's a bit selfish to say so. I start to-morrow for Lima. The regiment proceeds to Cuzco, but it will return to the capital in a few weeks."
"All right, old fellow. I'm glad to hear of your good fortune, though I shall miss you awfully. Mind you hunt up my people and tell them I'm all right and hoping to see them soon."
Of course I promised to do so, and then went to wish the others good-bye.
"I hope you will find all your people well," exclaimed Plaza on hearing the news. "After all, you're only a sort of advance courier, and we shall soon meet again."
"We shall expect you to give a ball to the officers of the regiment, and a feast to the men, when we reach the capital," cried Alzura merrily.
"Meanwhile," said Plaza gravely, "take my advice, and have a good rest."
Home again! The weary journey was at an end.
I had crossed the desolate mountains, and was riding into Lima. The city was gay with flags and bunting; decorations abounded on all sides; joy-bells pealed, and the streets resounded with the merry laughter and chatter of the citizens.
News of the brilliant victory at Ayacucho had evidently preceded me.
I longed to ride home at a gallop and throw myself into my mother's arms; I yearned eagerly for a glimpse of my father's face. I was (do not think the confession weak) utterly homesick. Duty, however, claimed me a while longer, and I turned my horse's head toward the Government House.
It was not possible to move at more than a foot-pace. The crowd surged around me; little children, garlanded with flowers, ran close to my horse's hoofs. I was terribly afraid some of them would be trampled to death.
Many soldiers were there, too, their uniforms spick and span, and unspotted by the soil of the Andes. Mine was dirty, bloodstained, and not altogether free from rents. I rode carefully, but my eyes were heavy and my limbs ached with fatigue.
Darting suddenly from the throng, a man seized my bridle-rein and cried aloud, "A soldier from Ayacucho! Here is one of our brave deliverers!"
Instantly I was surrounded by the crowd, which pressed me so closely that my horse could barely move. Viva after viva rent the air; laughing girls and women half smothered me with flowers; men marched beside me or fell into line behind, forming a kind of triumphal procession. One would have thought I was the saviour of the country—a second Bolivar!
Thus, laughing, cheering, and singing, they escorted me to the Government House, where, leaving my astonished horse with the guards, I hurried inside. An official, in all the glory of a gorgeous uniform, demanded my business, and remarked haughtily that the president was engaged.
"Tell him," said I, "that a lieutenant of the Hussars of Junin is here with dispatches from General Sucre."
After waiting a few minutes, I was conducted through the spacious hall to a room guarded by a file of soldiers. My attendant knocked timidly at the door, which was immediately opened, and I entered the apartment.
Bolivar sat at a table dictating letters to his secretary and talking to several officers of high rank. His complexion seemed sallower than ever, his dark hair had more of gray in it, but his eyes had lost none of their penetrating keenness.
I saluted and stood at attention, waiting for him to speak.
"Ah," exclaimed he, in his loud, rasping voice, and turning his eyes askance as he usually did in conversation, "you are Lieutenant Crawford! I have not forgotten you. How is it that you still have only two stripes?" pointing to the stripes of silver lace round my cuff, which denoted the rank of lieutenant.
"I do not know, general," I replied.
"Your Excellency!" corrected one of the officers standing near.
"Let him alone!" cried Bolivar; "he is a soldier, and 'general' comes more naturally to his lips.—Where are the dispatches?"
I presented them.
"Humph! enough work here for the rest of the day," said he on glancing through them.—"Garcia," turning to one of the officers, "countermand the reception; I shall be too busy.—Ah, here is a letter from Miller! I see he commends you very highly, young man, and desires to bring you to my notice. There is nothing I like so much as rewarding true merit.—Garcia, make out Lieutenant Crawford's commission as captain in the Hussars of Junin, for bravery on the field.—I congratulate you, captain. I see by your face you are anxious to go."
After thanking him for my promotion, I said, "Yes, general; I have not seen my father and mother for a very long time."
"Your father—ah, now I remember. He is no friend to me—would be glad to see me out of Peru, in fact, eh? Well, I shall go some day. But he is a true man for all that, and an Englishman. I love the English. Perhaps it is as well for your father that I do. Tell him, Captain Crawford, that Bolivar has some good points."
"He has already recognized them, general," I answered.
"He conceals his discovery well, then. But I will not keep you longer. Present yourself at my levee in the morning, and don't forget to wear that extra band of lace."
"There is no fear of that, general," said I, with a smile; "I am too proud of the honour."
Apparently the remark pleased him, as he was very gracious when I took my leave, though the officers-in-waiting looked at me as if I had been overbold.
Out again into the street. The crowd had dispersed, and only a few people were about as I once more mounted my jaded animal. Now for home! Forward, good horse! My spirits rose with every step; the tired feeling left me; I could have sung aloud for very joy.
The sight of the Montilla hacienda sobered my happiness somewhat. The grounds were trim and well-kept, but the dwelling looked untenanted. What had become of Rosa? Perhaps—yes, that must be it—she was staying with my mother. I urged my horse into a spasmodic gallop, but the poor beast soon resumed his old pace.
There was a horse behind me, though, that could gallop. I turned quickly to see who the rider was, and laughed gaily.
"Why, Jack!" cried the faithful Jose, his eyes brimful of pleasure.
"Captain Crawford, if you please!" I interrupted with assumed dignity.
"Captain or general, it's all the same to me, as long as you're home again, Jack, with no scratch on you! Hurrah! won't there be a fuss in the house to-night!" and away he went at breakneck speed toward the gate.
"Better so," said I, jogging along. "He'll be able to prepare them a little.—Come, old boy," to my horse, "can't you manage even a trot? Well, never mind; we're nearly there."
The gate of the park was wide open, and inside stood more than half of my father's servants. They could not wait for me to reach the courtyard. How they cheered, to be sure! It was a pleasant foretaste of the welcome that awaited me.
Good old Antonio was at the little gate, so I dismounted and spoke a word with him, though my feet itched to be dashing along the courtyard. Then I sent my horse to the stables, with strict orders that it should be carefully groomed and fed, and made comfortable.
At last! My heart beat loudly; my head was dizzy; I could barely distinguish the figures in the hall. But my mother's arms were round me, her lips pressed close to mine, in a fond embrace.
Then came my father's welcome, and presently, in the brilliantly-lit drawing-room, a young girl came forward and placed her hand in mine. She was dressed in black, and looked somewhat sad and careworn, as if life had not been particularly pleasant of late.
"Welcome home, Juan," said she softly; and I saw by her face she was thinking of the night when I had ridden hurriedly away in the vain endeavour to save her father's life. We did not speak of it then, and when, after changing my clothes, I returned to the drawing-room, Rosa was not there.
"She has gone to her own room," explained my mother, noticing my look of disappointment. "It would have been difficult for the poor child to stay with us this first evening."
"She has heard of her father's death, then?"
"Yes," said my father, quickly and with a warning glance. "She knows that the Indians shot him, thinking he had been in correspondence with the Royalists."
I understood at once that my father was aware of the truth, but that, with his usual kindly thought, he had kept it from both the bereaved girl and my mother. He never alluded to the miserable incident, nor did I; and Rosa was left in ignorance of the real reason for her father's untimely end.
Of course, we sat late talking over my adventures in the mountains, and of the terrible battle which had secured the independence of Peru.
"Yes," said my father confidently, "whatever else happens, the Spaniards will never again rule over this country; their power is broken. But we are not yet out of the wood: as a Peruvian, I still fear Bolivar's ambition."
"Oh," I exclaimed gaily, "I had forgotten Bolivar! He has made me a captain!" and I told them all about my interview with the celebrated general.
"I admit his good points," laughed my father; "but I do not like to see one person invested with such tremendous power. Still, there is no doubt we owe our liberty in great part to his wonderful energy, together with his determination never to acknowledge defeat. He has toiled day and night like a slave."
"I shall be glad when your regiment returns, Juan," said my mother. "I am longing to see your brave friends, and especially Alzura. I seem to know him quite well already."
"You are sure to like him, mother. He is a delightful companion, full of fun, and always laughing and joking. Plaza is older and more of a soldier, but I owe a great deal to his kindness."
"We will endeavour to repay it, my boy," said she brightly, kissing me good-night. "Don't stay up too long. Remember you have to attend the levee in the morning."
When she had retired, I asked my father for news of Raymon Sorillo.
"He is still serving against the Royalists, but his band has sadly diminished. He came here secretly one night, and informed me of your attempt to rescue Montilla. I think he was very angry; but he said it was a daring act, and almost successful. However, he bears no malice, and is as ready as ever to stand your friend."
"Ugh!" said I, getting up with a shiver; "I hope I shall not need his assistance."
The next day, after attending the levee, where Bolivar was particularly gracious, I obtained an indefinite leave of absence, and returned home.
Rosa was alone, and though rather dreading to be asked about the business of the silver key, I thought it best to get the interview over. As it happened, I need not have worried myself at all.
"I wanted to see you, Juan," she said, giving me her hand. "It seems ages ago when I sent you out on that terrible errand. I ought not to have done it; but my father's life was at stake, and I did not think of the danger to you."
"Think no more of it, Rosa. After all, the danger was trifling; the Indians would not have hurt me."
"I don't quite understand the story," she said thoughtfully, "but I know you risked your life."
"There was little risk. I had a slight chance to rescue your father from the Indians, and seized it. Unfortunately the attempt failed, and I was captured by the Royalists. So in one way you did me a good turn; for while the other fellows were starving and fighting in the mountains, I was pretty comfortably off."
"But you were in the great battle?"
"Yes, I was. I escaped from prison chiefly to please a mad-brained young lieutenant of my regiment. But it is all past now, Rosa, and there will be no more fighting."
"I am sorry for his Majesty," she said simply, "and for the loyal gentlemen who have died for him."
"There were some splendid fellows amongst the Royalists," I said, and proceeded to tell her the story of the gallant Santiago Mariano.
"He must have been a brave man, Juan!"
"He was, and he had equally brave comrades. Now that the struggle is over, they will join us, and we shall all work together in peace for the prosperity of our common country. The war has been a terrible evil, but I am hoping that much good may come from it. I dream of a grand future for Peru, and of a time when the Land of the Sun shall recover its ancient glory."
"I hope your dream will come true, Juan. I am sure you will try to make it do so," she said. "But you must not expect me to be pleased that we are no longer loyal subjects of the Spanish king."
* * * * * *
Here ends the story of my adventures during the War of Independence. The Spanish power was completely crushed; but, as my father had foretold, there were still many misfortunes in store for our unhappy country. The men who had fought so hard for liberty quarrelled among themselves. There were endless disputes and conspiracies, and many soldiers who had bravely faced death on the battlefield were executed by their fellow-countrymen.
For two years Bolivar ruled at Lima. He was at the height of his glory. He had freed Venezuela, New Granada, and Ecuador from the Spaniards, and joined them into the one country of Colombia. Upper Peru he had formed into another country called Bolivia, and he was the real master of Peru proper.
His boundless ambition, however, overreached itself. Enemies rose up against him on all sides. He was driven from power, and seven years after the battle of Ayacucho died a broken-hearted man.
After his departure from Lima, my father's Spanish friend, General La Mar, who had once been Governor of Callao, was elected president, and the country settled down into a state of something like order.
There still remain a few personal matters to be recorded before my pen is finally laid aside.
Among those who opposed Bolivar's rule in Peru, none was more bitter or reckless than the guerilla chief, Raymon Sorillo. Unfortunately for him, the war had greatly weakened the society of the Silver Key. His bravest men and ablest lieutenants had died fighting, and he was left with only a shadow of his former power.
Undaunted by this, he openly defied Bolivar's authority. For several months he held his own against the regular troops, but at last, being captured, was tried as a traitor, and condemned to death.
My father made strenuous efforts to save him, and would have succeeded but for Sorillo himself.
"The man is a desperate ruffian," said Bolivar, in answer to my father's appeal for mercy; "but I will pardon him on condition that he takes the oath of allegiance and swears to obey the laws."
Overjoyed by his success, my father hurried to the prison where Sorillo was confined. The doughty mountaineer refused the offer with scorn.
"I took up arms for the independence of Peru," said he, "not to exchange the tyranny of the Spaniards for that of a Venezuelan adventurer. I thank you, senor, from my heart, but I prefer death to these conditions."
My father stayed with him nearly the whole day, but could not shake his resolve. So in the early morning the redoubtable chief was led into the prison yard, and was placed near a wall. Some of the soldiers wished to bandage his eyes, but he would not allow it.
"No," said he; "I have looked in the face of death too closely and too often to fear it. Fire! I shall not tremble."
Thus he died, and whatever else may be said, it cannot be denied that, in his own headstrong, obstinate way, he was faithful to the cause for which many better men had laid down their lives.
Of my friend Plaza it is only necessary to say that, through General Miller's influence as well as by his own merit, he rapidly advanced to high office, being made governor of one of the inland provinces. He has paid me several visits since he left the hussars, and his sole regret is that Cordova did not live to share in the general good fortune.
An old acquaintance, who has also since done well in the world, is Barriero. When the victory at Ayacucho became known, the prisoners on the island rose in revolt, and overpowered their guards. Barriero placed himself at their head, seized all the arms and ammunition, and formed the patriots into a company. Then, assisted by some Indians, he crossed the morass and marched to Cuzco, where, to his joy and astonishment, he heard that Alzura and I had safely escaped across the dreaded swamp.
Alzura resigned his commission shortly after the regiment returned to Lima. He succeeded to a fine estate near the capital, and is one of our most frequent visitors. My father is very fond of him, and as for my mother, I sometimes say she thinks more of him than of myself; indeed, the dear fellow has almost become like a second son to her.
Jose is still my father's right-hand man. He has long since amassed a snug fortune; but I expect he will die in the old home, where he is an esteemed and valued and trusty friend.
Felipe Montilla's hacienda no longer stands desolate. Rosa has again taken up her residence there, but under the name of Crawford, and employs me, as my father jokingly says, to look after her estates. She is still a Royalist at heart, but as the years pass she becomes more and more reconciled to the changes which have taken place since Peru obtained its independence
AT THE POINT OF THE SWORD.