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The Young Buglers
by G.A. Henty
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"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."

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