Part 8 out of 10
"The roar of laughing that interrupted me here was produced by the
expression of poor Mac's face. He had started up from the table, and
leaning with both his hands upon it, stared round upon the company like a
maniac,--his mouth and eyes wide open, and his hair actually bristling with
amazement. Thus he remained for a full minute, gasping like a fish in
a landing-net. It seemed a hard struggle for him to believe he was not
deranged. At last his eyes fell upon me; he uttered a deep groan, and with
a voice tremulous with rage, thundered out,--
"'The scoundrel! I never saw him before.'
"He rushed from the room, and gained the street. Before our roar of
laughter was over he had secured post-horses, and was galloping towards
Ennis at the top speed of his cattle.
"He exchanged at once into the line; but they say that he caught a glimpse
of my name in the army list, and sold out the next morning; be that as it
may, we never met since."
I have related O'Shaughnessy's story here, rather from the memory I have of
how we all laughed at it at the time, than from any feeling as to its real
desert; but when I think of the voice, look, accent, and gesture of the
narrator, I can scarcely keep myself from again giving way to laughter.
Never did the morning break more beautifully than on the 12th of May, 1809.
Huge masses of fog-like vapor had succeeded to the starry, cloudless night,
but one by one, they moved onwards towards the sea, disclosing as they
passed long tracts of lovely country, bathed in a rich golden glow. The
broad Douro, with its transparent current, shone out like a bright-colored
ribbon, meandering through the deep garment of fairest green; the darkly
shadowed mountains which closed the background loomed even larger than they
were; while their summits were tipped with the yellow glory of the morning.
The air was calm and still, and the very smoke that arose from the
peasant's cot labored as it ascended through the perfumed air, and save the
ripple of the stream, all was silent as the grave.
The squadron of the 14th, with which I was, had diverged from the road
beside the river, and to obtain a shorter path, had entered the skirts of
a dark pine wood; our pace was a sharp one; an orderly had been already
despatched to hasten our arrival, and we pressed on at a brisk trot. In
less than an hour we reached the verge of the wood, and as we rode out upon
the plain, what a spectacle met our eyes! Before us, in a narrow valley
separated from the river by a low ridge, were picketed three cavalry
regiments; their noiseless gestures and perfect stillness be-speaking at
once that they were intended for a surprise party. Farther down the stream,
and upon the opposite side, rose the massive towers and tall spires of
Oporto, displaying from their summits the broad ensign of France; while far
as the eye could reach, the broad dark masses of troops might be seen; the
intervals between their columns glittering with the bright equipments of
their cavalry, whose steel caps and lances were sparkling in the sun-beams.
The bivouac fires were still smouldering, and marking where some part of
the army had passed the night; for early as it was, it was evident that
their position had been changed; and even now, the heavy masses of dark
infantry might be seen moving from place to place, while the long line of
the road to Vallonga was marked with a vast cloud of dust. The French drum
and the light infantry bugle told, from time to time, that orders were
passing among the troops; while the glittering uniform of a staff officer,
as he galloped from the town, bespoke the note of preparation.
"Dismount! Steady; quietly, my lads," said the colonel, as he alighted upon
the grass. "Let the men have their breakfast."
The little amphitheatre we occupied hid us entirely from all observation
on the part of the enemy, but equally so excluded us from perceiving their
movements. It may readily be supposed then, with what impatience we waited
here, while the din and clangor of the French force, as they marched and
countermarched so near us, were clearly audible. The orders were, however,
strict that none should approach the bank of the river, and we lay
anxiously awaiting the moment when this inactivity should cease. More than
one orderly had arrived among us, bearing despatches from headquarters; but
where our main body was, or what the nature of the orders, no one could
guess. As for me, my excitement was at its height, and I could not speak
for the very tension of my nerves. The officers stood in little groups of
two and three, whispering anxiously together; but all I could collect was,
that Soult had already begun his retreat upon Amarante, and that, with the
broad stream of the Douro between us, he defied our pursuit.
"Well, Charley," said Power, laying his arm upon my shoulder, "the French
have given us the slip this time; they are already in march, and even if we
dared force a passage in the face of such an enemy, it seems there is not a
boat to be found. I have just seen Hammersley."
"Indeed! Where is he?" said I.
"He's gone back to Villa de Conde; he asked after you most particularly.
Don't blush, man; I'd rather back your chance than his, notwithstanding the
long letter that Lucy sends him. Poor fellow, he has been badly wounded,
but, it seems, declines going back to England."
"Captain Power," said an orderly, touching his cap, "General Murray desires
to see you."
Power hastened away, but returned in a few moments.
"I say, Charley, there's something in the wind here. I have just been
ordered to try where the stream is fordable. I've mentioned your name to
the general, and I think you'll be sent for soon. Good-by."
I buckled on my sword, and looking to my girths, stood watching the groups
around me; when suddenly a dragoon pulled his horse short up, and asked a
man near me if Mr. O'Malley was there.
"Yes; I am he."
"Orders from General Murray, sir," said the man, and rode off at a canter.
I opened and saw that the despatch was addressed to Sir Arthur Wellesley,
with the mere words, "With haste!" on the envelope.
Now, which way to turn I knew not; so springing into the saddle, I galloped
to where Colonel Merivale was standing talking to the colonel of a heavy
"May I ask, sir, by which road I am to proceed with this despatch?"
"Along the river, sir," said the heavy ------, a large dark-browed man,
with a most forbidding look. "You'll soon see the troops; you'd better stir
yourself, sir, or Sir Arthur is not very likely to be pleased with you."
Without venturing a reply to what I felt a somewhat unnecessary taunt, I
dashed spurs into my horse, and turned towards the river. I had not gained
the bank above a minute, when the loud ringing of a rifle struck upon my
ear; bang went another, and another. I hurried on, however, at the top of
my speed, thinking only of my mission and its pressing haste. As I turned
an angle of the stream, the vast column of the British came in sight, and
scarcely had my eye rested upon them when my horse staggered forwards,
plunged twice with his head nearly to the earth, and then, rearing madly
up, fell backwards to the ground. Crushed and bruised as I felt by my fall,
I was soon aroused to the necessity of exertion; for as I disengaged myself
from the poor beast, I discovered he had been killed by a bullet in the
counter; and scarcely had I recovered my legs when a shot struck my shako
and grazed my temples. I quickly threw myself to the ground, and creeping
on for some yards, reached at last some rising ground, from which I rolled
gently downwards into a little declivity, sheltered by the bank from the
When I arrived at headquarters, I was dreadfully fatigued and heated;
but resolving not to rest till I had delivered my despatches, I hastened
towards the convent of La Sierra, where I was told the commander-in-chief
As I came into the court of the convent, filled with general officers and
people of the staff, I was turning to ask how I should proceed, when Hixley
caught my eye.
"Well, O'Malley, what brings you here?"
"Despatches from General Murray."
"Indeed; oh, follow me."
He hurried me rapidly through the buzzing crowd, and ascending a large
gloomy stair, introduced me into a room, whore about a dozen persons in
uniform were writing at a long deal table.
"Captain Gordon," said he, addressing one of them, "despatches requiring
immediate attention have just been brought by this officer."
Before the sentence was finished the door opened, and a short, slight man,
in a gray undress coat, with a white cravat and a cocked hat, entered. The
dead silence that ensued was not necessary to assure me that he was one in
authority,--the look of command his bold, stern features presented; the
sharp, piercing eye, the compressed lip, the impressive expression of the
whole face, told plainly that he was one who held equally himself and
others in mastery.
"Send General Sherbroke here," said he to an aide-de-camp. "Let the light
brigade march into position;" and then turning suddenly to me, "Whose
despatches are these?"
"General Murray's, sir."
I needed no more than that look to assure me that this was he of whom I had
heard so much, and of whom the world was still to hear so much more.
He opened them quickly, and glancing his eye across the contents, crushed
the paper in his hand. Just as he did so, a spot of blood upon the envelope
attracted his attention.
"How's this,--are you wounded?"
"No, sir; my horse was killed--"
"Very well, sir; join your brigade. But stay, I shall have orders for you.
Well, Waters, what news?"
This question was addressed to an officer in a staff uniform, who entered
at the moment, followed by the short and bulky figure of a monk, his shaven
crown and large cassock strongly contrasting with the gorgeous glitter of
the costumes around him.
"I say, who have we here?"
"The Prior of Amarante, sir," replied Waters, "who has just come over. We
have already, by his aid, secured three large barges--"
"Let the artillery take up position in the convent at once," said Sir
Arthur, interrupting. "The boats will be brought round to the small creek
beneath the orchard. You, sir," turning to me, "will convey to General
Murray--but you appear weak. You, Gordon, will desire Murray to effect a
crossing at Avintas with the Germans and the 14th. Sherbroke's division
will occupy the Villa Nuova. What number of men can that seminary take?"
"From three to four hundred, sir. The padre mentions that all the vigilance
of the enemy is limited to the river below the town."
"I perceive it," was the short reply of Sir Arthur, as placing his hands
carelessly behind his back, he walked towards the window, and looked out
upon the river.
All was still as death in the chamber; not a lip murmured. The feeling of
respect for him in whose presence we were standing checked every thought of
utterance; while the stupendous gravity of the events before us engrossed
every mind and occupied every heart. I was standing near the window;
the effect of my fall had stunned me for a time, but I was gradually
recovering, and watched with a thrilling heart the scene before me. Great
and absorbing as was my interest in what was passing without, it was
nothing compared with what I felt as I looked at him upon whom our destiny
was then hanging. I had ample time to scan his features and canvass their
every lineament. Never before did I look upon such perfect impassibility;
the cold, determined expression was crossed by no show of passion or
impatience. All was rigid and motionless, and whatever might have been the
workings of the spirit within, certainly no external sign betrayed them;
and yet what a moment for him must that have been! Before him, separated by
a deep and rapid river, lay the conquering legions of France, led on by one
second alone to him whose very name had been the _prestige_ of victory.
Unprovided with every regular means of transport, in the broad glare of
day, in open defiance of their serried ranks and thundering artillery,
he dared the deed. What must have been his confidence in the soldiers he
commanded! What must have been his reliance upon his own genius! As such
thoughts rushed through my mind, the door opened and an officer entered
hastily, and whispering a few words to Colonel Waters, left the room.
"One boat is already brought up to the crossing-place, and entirely
concealed by the wall of the orchard."
"Let the men cross," was the brief reply.
No other word was spoken as, turning from the window, he closed his
telescope, and followed by all the others, descended to the courtyard.
This simple order was enough; an officer with a company of the Buffs
embarked, and thus began the passage of the Douro.
So engrossed was I in my vigilant observation of our leader, that I would
gladly have remained at the convent, when I received an order to join my
brigade, to which a detachment of artillery was already proceeding.
As I reached Avintas all was in motion. The cavalry was in readiness beside
the river; but as yet no boats had been discovered, and such was the
impatience of the men to cross, it was with difficulty they were prevented
trying the passage by swimming, when suddenly Power appeared followed by
several fishermen. Three or four small skiffs had been found, half sunk
in mud, among the rushes, and with such frail assistance we commenced to
"There will be something to write home to Galway soon, Charley, or I'm
terribly mistaken," said Fred, as he sprang into the boat beside me. "Was I
not a true prophet when I told you 'We'd meet the French in the morning?'"
"They're at it already," said Hixley, as a wreath of blue smoke floated
across the stream below us, and the loud boom of a large gun resounded
through the air.
Then came a deafening shout, followed by a rattling volley of small arms,
gradually swelling into a hot sustained fire, through which the cannon
pealed at intervals. Several large meadows lay along the river-side, where
our brigade was drawn up as the detachments landed from the boats; and
here, although nearly a league distant from the town, we now heard the din
and crash of battle, which increased every moment. The cannonade from the
Sierra convent, which at first was merely the fire of single guns, now
thundered away in one long roll, amidst which the sounds of falling walls
and crashing roofs were mingled. It was evident to us, from the continual
fire kept up, that the landing had been effected; while the swelling tide
of musketry told that fresh troops were momentarily coming up.
In less than twenty minutes our brigade was formed, and we now only waited
for two light four-pounders to be landed, when an officer galloped up in
haste, and called out,--
"The French are in retreat!" and pointing at the same moment to the
Vallonga road, we saw a long line of smoke and dust leading from the town,
through which, as we gazed, the colors of the enemy might be seen as they
defiled, while the unbroken lines of the wagons and heavy baggage proved
that it was no partial movement, but the army itself retreating.
"Fourteenth, threes about! close up! trot!" called out the loud and manly
voice of our leader, and the heavy tramp of our squadrons shook the very
ground as we advanced towards the road to Vallonga.
As we came on, the scene became one of overwhelming excitement; the
masses of the enemy that poured unceasingly from the town could now be
distinguished more clearly; and amidst all the crash of gun-carriages and
caissons, the voices of the staff officers rose high as they hurried along
the retreating battalions. A troop of flying artillery galloped forth
at top speed, and wheeling their guns into position with the speed of
lightning, prepared, by a flanking fire, to cover the retiring column. The
gunners sprang from their seats, the guns were already unlimbered, when Sir
George Murray, riding up at our left, called out,--
"Forward! close up! Charge!"
The word was scarcely spoken when the loud cheer answered the welcome
sound, and the same instant the long line of shining helmets passed with
the speed of a whirlwind; the pace increased at every stride, the ranks
grew closer, and like the dread force of some mighty engine we fell upon
the foe. I have felt all the glorious enthusiasm of a fox-hunt, when the
loud cry of the hounds, answered by the cheer of the joyous huntsman,
stirred the very heart within, but never till now did I know how far higher
the excitement reaches, when man to man, sabre to sabre, arm to arm, we
ride forward to the battle-field. On we went, the loud shout of "Forward!"
still ringing in our ears. One broken, irregular discharge from the French
guns shook the head of our advancing column, but stayed us not as we
galloped madly on.
I remember no more. The din, the smoke, the crash, the cry for quarter,
mingled with the shout of victory, the flying enemy, the agonizing shrieks
of the wounded,--all are commingled in my mind, but leave no trace of
clearness or connection between them; and it was only when the column
wheeled to reform behind the advancing squadrons, that I awoke from my
trance of maddening excitement, and perceived that we had carried the
position and cut off the guns of the enemy.
"Well done, 14th!" said an old gray-headed colonel, as he rode along our
line,--"gallantly done, lads!" The blood trickled from a sabre cut on his
temple, along his cheek, as he spoke; but he either knew it not or heeded
"There go the Germans!" said Power, pointing to the remainder of our
brigade, as they charged furiously upon the French infantry, and rode them,
down in masses.
Our guns came up at this time, and a plunging fire was opened upon the
thick and retreating ranks of the enemy. The carnage must have been
terrific, for the long breaches in their lines showed where the squadrons
of the cavalry had passed, or the most destructive tide of the artillery
had swept through them. The speed of the flying columns grew momentarily
more; the road became blocked up, too, by broken carriages and wounded; and
to add to their discomfiture, a damaging fire now opened from the town upon
the retreating column, while the brigade of Guards and the 29th pressed
hotly on their rear.
The scene was now beyond anything maddening in its interest. From the walls
of Oporto the English infantry poured forth in pursuit, while the whole
river was covered with boats as they still continued to cross over. The
artillery thundered from the Sierra to protect the landing, for it was even
still contested in places; and the cavalry, charging in flank, swept the
broken ranks and bore down upon the squares.
It was now, when the full tide of victory ran highest in our favor, that we
were ordered to retire from the road. Column after column passed before us,
unmolested and unassailed, and not even a cannon-shot arrested their steps.
Some unaccountable timidity of our leader directed this movement; and
while before our very eyes the gallant infantry were charging the retiring
columns, we remained still and inactive.
How little did the sense of praise we had already won repay us for the
shame and indignation we experienced at this moment, as with burning check
and compressed lip we watched the retreating files. "What can he mean?"
"Is there not some mistake?" "Are we never to charge?" were the muttered
questions around, as a staff officer galloped up with the order to take
ground still farther back, and nearer to the river.
The word was scarcely spoken when a young officer, in the uniform of a
general, dashed impetuously up; he held his plumed cap high above his head,
as he called out, "14th, follow me! Left face! wheel! charge!"
So, with the word, we were upon them. The French rear-guard was at this
moment at the narrowest part of the road, which opened by a bridge upon a
large open space; so that, forming with a narrow front and favored by a
declivity in the ground, we actually rode them down. Twice the French
formed, and twice were they broken. Meanwhile the carnage was dreadful
on both sides, our fellows dashing madly forward where the ranks were
thickest, the enemy resisting with the stubborn courage of men fighting for
their last spot of ground. So impetuous was the charge of our squadrons,
that we stopped not till, piercing the dense column of the retreating mass,
we reached the open ground beyond. Here we wheeled and prepared once more
to meet them, when suddenly some squadrons of cuirassiers debouched from
the road, and supported by a field-piece, showed front against us. This was
the moment that the remainder of our brigade should have come to our aid,
but not a man appeared. However, there was not an instant to be lost;
already the plunging fire of the four-pounder had swept through our files,
and every moment increased our danger.
"Once more, my lads, forward!" cried out our gallant leader, Sir Charles
Stewart, as waving his sabre, he dashed into the thickest of the fray.
So sudden was our charge that we were upon them before they were prepared.
And here ensued a terrific struggle; for as the cavalry of the enemy gave
way before us, we came upon the close ranks of the infantry at half-pistol
distance, who poured a withering volley into us as we approached. But what
could arrest the sweeping torrent of our brave fellows, though every moment
falling in numbers?
Harvey, our major, lost his arm near the shoulder. Scarcely an officer
was not wounded. Power received a deep sabre-cut in the cheek from an
aide-de-camp of General Foy, in return for a wound he gave the general;
while I, in my endeavor to save General Laborde when unhorsed, was cut down
through the helmet, and so stunned that I remembered no more around me. I
kept my saddle, it is true, but I lost every sense of consciousness, my
first glimmering of reason coming to my aid as I lay upon the river bank
and felt my faithful follower Mike bathing my temples with water, as he
kept up a running fire of lamentations for my being _murthered_ so young.
[Illustration: THE SKIRMISH.]
"Are you better, Mister Charles? Spake to me, alanah! Say that you're not
kilt, darling; do now. Oh, wirra! what'll I ever say to the master? and you
doing so beautiful! Wouldn't he give the best baste in his stable to be
looking at you to-day? There, take a sup; it's only water. Bad luck to
them, but it's hard work beatin' them. They 're only gone now. That's
right; now you're coming to."
"Where am I, Mike?"
"It's here you are, darling, resting yourself."
"Well, Charley, my poor fellow, you've got sore bones, too," cried Power,
as, his face swathed in bandages and covered with blood, he lay down on the
grass beside me. "It was a gallant thing while it lasted, but has cost us
dearly. Poor Hixley--"
"What of him?" said I, anxiously.
"Poor fellow, he has seen his last battle-field! He fell across me as we
came out upon the road. I lifted him up in my arms and bore him along above
fifty yards; but he was stone dead. Not a sigh, not a word escaped him;
shot through the forehead." As he spoke, his lips trembled, and his voice
sank to a mere whisper at the last words: "You remember what he said last
night. Poor fellow, he was every inch a soldier."
Such was his epitaph.
I turned my head towards the scene of our late encounter. Some dismounted
guns and broken wagons alone marked the spot; while far in the distance,
the dust of the retreating columns showed the beaten enemy as they hurried
towards the frontiers of Spain.
There are few sadder things in life than the day after a battle. The
high-beating hope, the bounding spirits, have passed away, and in their
stead comes the depressing reaction by which every overwrought excitement
is followed. With far different eyes do we look upon the compact ranks and
With helm arrayed,
And lance and blade,
And plume in the gay wind dancing!
and upon the cold and barren heath, whose only memory of the past is the
blood-stained turf, a mangled corpse, the broken gun, the shattered wall,
the well-trodden earth where columns stood, the cut-up ground where cavalry
had charged,--these are the sad relics of all the chivalry of yesterday.
The morning which followed the battle of the Douro was one of the most
beautiful I ever remember. There was that kind of freshness and elasticity
in the air which certain days possess, and communicate by some magic their
properties to ourselves. The thrush was singing gayly out from every grove
and wooded dell; the very river had a sound of gladness as it rippled on
against its sedgy banks; the foliage, too, sparkled in the fresh dew, as in
its robes of holiday, and all looked bright and happy.
We were picketed near the river, upon a gently rising ground, from which
the view extended for miles in every direction. Above us, the stream came
winding down amidst broad and fertile fields of tall grass and waving corn,
backed by deep and mellow woods, which were lost to the view upon the
distant hills; below, the river, widening as it went, pursued a straighter
course, or turned with bolder curves, till, passing beneath the town, it
spread into a large sheet of glassy water as it opened to the sea. The sun
was just rising as I looked upon this glorious scene, and already the tall
spires of Oporto were tipped with a bright rosy hue, while the massive
towers and dark walls threw their lengthened shadows far across the plain.
The fires of the bivouac still burned, but all slept around them. Not a
sound was heard save the tramp of a patrol or the short, quick cry of
the sentry. I sat lost in meditation, or rather in that state of dreamy
thoughtfulness in which the past and present are combined, and the absent
are alike before us as are the things we look upon.
One moment I felt as though I were describing to my uncle the battle of the
day before, pointing out where we stood, and how we charged; then again
I was at home, beside the broad, bleak Shannon, and the brown hills of
Scariff. I watched with beating heart the tall Sierra, where our path lay
for the future, and then turned my thoughts to him whose name was so soon
to be received in England with a nation's pride and gratitude, and panted
for a soldier's glory.
As thus I followed every rising fancy, I heard a step approach; it was a
figure muffled in a cavalry cloak, which I soon perceived to be Power.
"Charley!" said he, in a half-whisper, "get up and come with me. You are
aware of the general order, that while in pursuit of an enemy, all military
honors to the dead are forbidden; but we wish to place our poor comrade in
the earth before we leave."
I followed down a little path, through a grave of tall beech-trees, that
opened upon a little grassy terrace beside the river. A stunted olive-tree
stood by itself in the midst, and there I found five of our brother
officers standing, wrapped in their wide cloaks. As we pressed each other's
hands, not a word was spoken. Each heart was full; and hard features that
never quailed before the foe were now shaken with the convulsive spasm of
agony or compressed with stern determination to seem calm.
A cavalry helmet and a large blue cloak lay upon the grass. The narrow
grave was already dug beside it; and in the deathlike stillness around, the
service for the dead was read. The last words were over. We stooped and
placed the corpse, wrapped up in the broad mantle, in the earth; we
replaced the mould, and stood silently around the spot. The trumpet of our
regiment at this moment sounded the call; its clear notes rang sharply
through the thin air,--it was the soldier's requiem! and we turned away
without speaking, and returned to our quarters.
I had never known poor Hixley till a day or two before; but, somehow, my
grief for him was deep and heartfelt. It was not that his frank and manly
bearing, his bold and military air, had gained upon me. No; these were
indeed qualities to attract and delight me, but he had obtained a stronger
and faster hold upon my affections,--he spoke to me of home.
Of all the ties that bind us to the chance acquaintances we meet with in
life, what can equal this one? What a claim upon your love has he who can,
by some passing word, some fast-flitting thought, bring back the days of
your youth! What interest can he not excite by some anecdote of your boyish
days, some well-remembered trait of youthful daring, or early enterprise!
Many a year of sunshine and of storm have passed above my head; I have not
been without my moments of gratified pride and rewarded ambition; but my
heart has never responded so fully, so thankfully, so proudly to these,
such as they were, as to the simple, touching words of one who knew my
early home, and loved its inmates.
"Well, Fitzroy, what news?" inquired I, roused from my musing, as an
aide-de-camp galloped up at full speed.
"Tell Merivale to get the regiment under arms at once. Sir Arthur Wellesley
will be here in less than half an hour. You may look for the route
immediately. Where are the Germans quartered?"
"Lower down; beside that grove of beech-trees, next the river."
Scarcely was my reply spoken, when he dashed spurs into his horse, and was
soon out of sight. Meanwhile the plain beneath me presented an animated and
splendid spectacle. The different corps were falling into position to the
enlivening sounds of their quick-step, the trumpets of the cavalry rang
loudly through the valley, and the clatter of sabres and sabretasches
joined with the hollow tramp of the horses, as the squadron came up.
I had not a moment to lose; so hastening back to my quarters, I found Mike
waiting with my horse.
"Captain Power's before you, sir," said he, "and you'll have to make haste.
The regiments are under arms already."
From the little mound where I stood, I could see the long line of cavalry
as they deployed into the plain, followed by the horse artillery, which
brought up the rear.
"This looks like a march," thought I, as I pressed forward to join my
I had not advanced above a hundred yards through a narrow ravine when the
measured tread of infantry fell upon my ears. I pulled up to slacken my
pace, just as the head of a column turned round the angle of the road, and
came in view. The tall caps of a grenadier company was the first thing I
beheld, as they came on without roll of drum and sound of fife. I watched
with a soldier's pride the manly bearing and gallant step of the dense mass
as they defiled before me. I was struck no less by them than by a certain
look of a steady but sombre cast which each man wore.
"What can this mean?" thought I.
My first impression was, that a military execution was about to take place,
the next moment solved my doubt; for as the last files of the grenadiers
wheeled round, a dense mass behind came in sight, whose unarmed hands, and
downcast air, at once bespoke them prisoners-of-war.
What a sad sight it was! There was the old and weather-beaten grenadier,
erect in frame and firm in step, his gray mustache scarcely concealing
the scowl that curled his lip, side by side with the young and daring
conscript, even yet a mere boy; their march was regular, their gaze
steadfast,--no look of flinching courage there. On they came, a long
unbroken line. They looked not less proudly than their captors around them.
As I looked with heavy heart upon them, my attention was attracted to one
who marched alone behind the rest. He was a middle-sized but handsome youth
of some eighteen years at most; his light helmet and waving plume bespoke
him a _chasseur a cheval_, and I could plainly perceive, in his careless
half-saucy air, how indignantly he felt the position to which the fate of
war had reduced him. He caught my eyes fixed upon him, and for an instant
turned upon me a gaze of open and palpable defiance, drawing himself up
to his full height, and crossing his arms upon his breast; but probably
perceiving in my look more of interest than of triumph, his countenance
suddenly changed, a deep blush suffused his cheek, his eye beamed with a
softened and kindly expression, and carrying his hand to his helmet, he
saluted me, saying, in a voice of singular sweetness,--
_"Je vous souhaite un meilleur sort, camarade."_
I bowed, and muttering something in return, was about to make some inquiry
concerning him, when the loud call of the trumpet rang through the valley,
and apprised me that, in my interest for the prisoners, I had forgotten all
else, and was probably incurring censure for my absence.
When I joined the group of my brother officers, who stood gayly chatting
and laughing together before our lines, I was much surprised--nay almost
shocked--to find how little seeming impression had been made upon them, by
the sad duty we had performed that morning.
When last we met, each eye was downcast, each heart was full,--sorrow for
him we had lost from among us forever, mingling with the awful sense of
our own uncertain tenure here, had laid its impress on each brow; but
now, scarcely an hour elapsed, and all were cheerful and elated. The last
shovelful of earth upon the grave seemed to have buried both the dead and
the mourning. And such is war, and such the temperament it forms! Events so
strikingly opposite in their character and influences succeed so rapidly
one upon another that the mind is kept in one whirl of excitement, and at
length accustoms itself to change with every phase of circumstances; and
between joy and grief, hope and despondency, enthusiasm and depression,
there is neither breadth nor interval,--they follow each other as naturally
as morning succeeds to night.
I had not much time for such reflections; scarcely had I saluted the
officers about me, when the loud prolonged roll of the drums along the line
of infantry in the valley, followed by the sharp clatter of muskets as they
were raised to the shoulder, announced the troops were under arms, and the
"Have you seen the general order this morning, Power?" inquired an old
officer beside me.
"No; they say, however, that ours are mentioned."
"Harvey is going on favorably," cried a young cornet, as he galloped up to
"Take ground to the left!" sung out the clear voice of the colonel, as
he rode along in front. "Fourteenth, I am happy to inform you that your
conduct has met approval in the highest quarter. I have just received the
general orders, in which this occurs:--
"'THE TIMELY PASSAGE OF THE DOURO, AND SUBSEQUENT MOVEMENTS UPON THE
ENEMY'S FLANK, BY LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SHERBROKE, WITH THE GUARDS AND 29TH
REGIMENT, AND THE BRAVERY OF THE TWO SQUADRONS OF THE 14TH LIGHT
DRAGOONS, UNDER THE COMMAND OF MAJOR HARVEY, AND LED BY THE HONORABLE
BRIGADIER-GENERAL CHARLES STEWART, OBTAINED THE VICTORY'--Mark that, my
lads! obtained the victory--'WHICH HAS CONTRIBUTED SO MUCH TO THE HONOR OF
THE TROOPS ON THIS DAY.'"
The words were hardly spoken, when a tremendous cheer burst from the whole
line at once.
"Steady, Fourteenth! steady, lads!" said the gallant old colonel, as he
raised his hand gently; "the staff is approaching."
At the same moment, the white plumes appeared, rising above the brow of
the hill. On they came, glittering in all the splendor of aignillettes and
orders; all save one. He rode foremost, upon a small, compact, black horse;
his dress, a plain gray frock fastened at the waist by a red sash; his
cocked hat alone bespoke, in its plume, the general officer. He galloped
rapidly on till he came to the centre of the line; then turning short
round, he scanned the ranks from end to end with an eagle glance.
"Colonel Merivale, you have made known to your regiment my opinion of them,
as expressed in general orders?"
The colonel bowed low in acquiescence.
"Fitzroy, you have got the memorandum, I hope?"
The aide-de-camp here presented to Sir Arthur a slip of paper, which he
continued to regard attentively for some minutes.
"Captain Powel,--Power, I mean. Captain Power!"
Power rode out from the line.
"Your very distinguished conduct yesterday has been reported to me. I shall
have sincere pleasure in forwarding your name for the vacant majority.
"You have forgotten, Colonel Merivale, to send in the name of the officer
who saved General Laborde's life."
"I believe I have mentioned it, Sir Arthur," said the colonel: "Mr.
"True, I beg pardon; so you have--Mr. O'Malley; a very young officer
indeed,--ha, an Irishman! The south of Ireland, eh?"
"No, sir, the west."
"Oh, yes! Well, Mr. O'Malley, you are promoted. You have the lieutenancy
in your own regiment. By-the-bye, Merivale," here his voice changed into a
half-laughing tone, "ere I forget it, pray let me beg of you to look into
this honest fellow's claim; he has given me no peace the entire morning."
As he spoke, I turned my eyes in the direction he pointed, and to my utter
consternation, beheld my man Mickey Free standing among the staff, the
position he occupied, and the presence he stood in, having no more
perceptible effect upon his nerves than if he were assisting at an Irish
wake; but so completely was I overwhelmed with shame at the moment,
that the staff were already far down the lines ere I recovered my
self-possession, to which, certainly, I was in some degree recalled by
Master Mike's addressing me in a somewhat imploring voice:--
"Arrah, spake for me, Master Charles, alanah; sure they might do something
for me now, av it was only to make me a ganger."
Mickey's ideas of promotion, thus insinuatingly put forward, threw the
whole party around us into one burst of laughter.
"I have him down there," said he, pointing, as he spoke, to a thick grove
of cork-trees at a little distance.
"Who have you got there, Mike?" inquired Power.
"Devil a one o' me knows his name," replied he; "may be it's Bony himself."
"And how do you know he's there still?"
"How do I know, is it? Didn't I tie him last night?"
Curiosity to find out what Mickey could possibly allude to, induced Power
and myself to follow him down the slope to the clump of trees I have
mentioned. As we came near, the very distinct denunciations that issued
from the thicket proved pretty clearly the nature of the affair. It was
nothing less than a French officer of cavalry that Mike had unhorsed in the
_melee_, and wishing, probably, to preserve some testimony of his prowess,
had made prisoner, and tied fast to a cork-tree, the preceding evening.
"_Sacrebleu!_" said the poor Frenchman, as we approached, "_ce sont des
"Av it's making your sowl ye are," said Mike, "you're right; for may be
they won't let me keep you alive."
Mike's idea of a tame prisoner threw me into a fit of laughing, while Power
"And what do you want to do with him, Mickey?"
"The sorra one o' me knows, for he spakes no dacent tongue. Thighum thu,"
said he, addressing the prisoner, with a poke in the ribs at the same
moment. "But sure, Master Charles, he might tache me French."
There was something so irresistibly ludicrous in his tone and look as
he said these words, that both Power and myself absolutely roared with
laughter. We began, however, to feel not a little ashamed of our position
in the business, and explained to the Frenchman that our worthy countryman
had but little experience in the usages of war, while we proceeded to
unbind him and liberate him from his miserable bondage.
"It's letting him loose, you are, Captain? Master Charles, take care.
Be-gorra, av you had as much trouble in catching him as I had, you'd think
twice about letting him out. Listen to me, now," here he placed his closed
fist within an inch of the poor prisoner's nose,--"listen to me! Av you say
peas, by the morreal, I'll not lave a whole bone in your skin."
With some difficulty we persuaded Mike that his conduct, so far from
leading to his promotion, might, if known in another quarter, procure him
an acquaintance with the provost-marshal; a fact which, it was plain to
perceive, gave him but a very poor impression of military gratitude.
"Oh, then, if they were in swarms fornent me, devil receave the prisoner
I'll take again!"
So saying, he slowly returned to the regiment; while Power and I, having
conducted the Frenchman to the rear, cantered towards the town to learn the
news of the day.
The city on that day presented a most singular aspect. The streets, filled
with the town's-people and the soldiery, were decorated with flags and
garlands; the cafes were crowded with merry groups, and the sounds of
music and laughter resounded on all sides. The houses seemed to be
quite inadequate to afford accommodation to the numerous guests; and in
consequence, bullock cars and forage; wagons were converted into temporary
hotels, and many a jovial party were collected in both. Military music,
church bells, drinking choruses, were all commingled in the din and
turmoil; processions in honor of "Our Lady of Succor" were jammed up among
bacchanalian orgies, and their very chant half drowned in the cries of the
wounded as they passed on to the hospitals. With difficulty we pushed our
way through the dense mob, as we turned our steps towards the seminary. We
both felt naturally curious to see the place where our first detachment
landed, and to examine the opportunities of defence it presented. The
building itself was a large and irregular one of an oblong form, surrounded
by a high wall of solid masonry, the only entrance being by a heavy iron
At this spot the battle appeared to have raged with violence; one side of
the massive gate was torn from its hinges and lay flat upon the ground; the
walls were breached in many places; and pieces of torn uniforms, broken
bayonets, and bruised shakos attested that the conflict was a close one.
The seminary itself was in a falling state; the roof, from which Paget
had given his orders, and where he was wounded, had fallen in. The French
cannon had fissured the building from top to bottom, and it seemed only
awaiting the slightest impulse to crumble into ruin. When we regarded the
spot, and examined the narrow doorway which opening upon a flight of a few
steps to the river, admitted our first party, we could not help feeling
struck anew with the gallantry of that mere handful of brave fellows who
thus threw themselves amidst the overwhelming legions of the enemy, and at
once, without waiting for a single reinforcement, opened a fire upon their
ranks. Bold as the enterprise unquestionably was, we still felt with what
consummate judgment it had been planned; a bend of the river concealed
entirely the passage of the troops, the guns of the Sierras covered their
landing and completely swept one approach to the seminary. The French,
being thus obliged to attack by the gate, were compelled to make a
considerable _detour_ before they reached it, all of which gave time
for our divisions to cross; while the brigade of Guards, under General
Sherbroke, profiting by the confusion, passed the river below the town, and
took the enemy unexpectedly in the rear.
Brief as was the struggle within the town, it must have been a terrific
one. The artillery were firing at musket range; cavalry and infantry were
fighting hand to hand in narrow streets, a destructive musketry pouring all
the while from windows and house-tops.
At the Amarante gate, where the French defiled, the carnage was also great.
Their light artillery unlimbered some guns here to cover the columns as
they deployed, but Murray's cavalry having carried these, the flank of the
infantry became entirely exposed to the galling fire of small-arms from
the seminary, and the far more destructive shower of grape that poured
unceasingly from the Sierra.
Our brigade did the rest; and in less than one hour from the landing of the
first man, the French were in full retreat upon Vallonga.
"A glorious thing, Charley," said Power, after a pause, "and a proud
souvenir for hereafter."
A truth I felt deeply at the time, and one my heart responds to not less
fully as I am writing.
On the evening of the 12th, orders were received for the German brigade and
three squadrons of our regiment to pursue the French upon the Terracinthe
road by daybreak on the following morning.
I was busily occupied in my preparations for a hurried march when Mike came
up to say that an officer desired to speak with me; and the moment after
Captain Hammersley appeared. A sudden flush colored his pale and sickly
features, as he held out his hand and said,--
"I've come to wish you joy, O'Malley. I just this instant heard of your
promotion. I am sincerely glad of it; pray tell me the whole affair."
"That is the very thing I am unable to do. I have some very vague,
indistinct remembrance of warding off a sabre-cut from the head of a
wounded and unhorsed officer in the _melee_ of yesterday, but more I know
not. In fact, it was my first duty under fire. I've a tolerably clear
recollection of all the events of the morning, but the word 'Charge!' once
given, I remember very little more. But you, where have you been? How have
we not met before?"
"I've exchanged into a heavy dragoon regiment, and am now employed upon the
"You are aware that I have letters for you?"
"Power hinted, I think, something of the kind. I saw him very hurriedly."
These words were spoken with an effort at _nonchalance_ that evidently cost
As for me, my agitation was scarcely less, as fumbling for some seconds in
my portmanteau, I drew forth the long destined packet. As I placed it in
his hands, he grew deadly pale, and a slight spasmodic twitch in his upper
lip bespoke some unnatural struggle. He broke the seal suddenly, and as he
did so, the morocco case of a miniature fell upon the ground; his eyes ran
rapidly across the letter; the livid color of his lips as the blood forced
itself to them added to the corpse-like hue of his countenance.
"You, probably, are aware of the contents of this letter, Mr. O'Malley,"
said he, in an altered voice, whose tones, half in anger, half in
suppressed irony, cut to my very heart.
"I am in complete ignorance of them," said I, calmly.
"Indeed, sir!" replied he, with a sarcastic curl of his mouth as he spoke.
"Then, perhaps, you will tell me, too, that your very success is a secret
"I'm really not aware--"
"You think, probably, sir, that the pastime is an amusing one, to interfere
where the affections of others are concerned. I've heard of you, sir. Your
conduct at Lisbon is known to me; and though Captain Trevyllian may bear--"
"Stop, Captain Hammersley!" said I, with a tremendous effort to be
calm,--"stop! You have said enough, quite enough, to convince me of what
your object was in seeking me here to-day. You shall not be disappointed. I
trust that assurance will save you from any further display of temper."
"I thank you, most humbly I thank you for the quickness of your
apprehension; and I shall now take my leave. Good-evening, Mr. O'Malley. I
wish you much joy; you have my very fullest congratulations upon _all_ your
The sneering emphasis the last words were spoken with remained fixed in my
mind long after he took his departure; and, indeed, so completely did the
whole seem like a dream to me that were it not for the fragments of the
miniature that lay upon the ground where he had crushed them with his heel,
I could scarcely credit myself that I was awake.
My first impulse was to seek Power, upon whose judgment and discretion I
could with confidence rely.
I had not long to wait; for scarcely had I thrown my cloak around me, when
he rode up. He had just seen, Hammersley, and learned something of our
"Why, Charley, my dear fellow, what is this? How have you treated poor
"Treated _him_! Say, rather, how has he treated _me!_"
I here entered into a short but accurate account of our meeting, during
which Power listened with great composure; while I could perceive, from the
questions he asked, that some very different impression had been previously
made upon his mind.
"And this was all that passed?"
"But what of the business at Lisbon?"
"I don't understand."
"Why, he speaks,--he has heard some foolish account of your having made
some ridiculous speech there about your successful rivalry of him in
Ireland. Lucy Dashwood, I suppose, is referred to. Some one has been
good-natured enough to repeat the thing to him."
"But it never occurred. I never did."
"Are you sure, Charley?"
"I am sure. I know I never did."
"The poor fellow! He has been duped. Come, Charley, you must not take it
ill. Poor Hammersley has never recovered a sabre-wound he received some
months since upon the head; his intellect is really affected by it. Leave
it all to me. Promise not to leave your quarters till I return, and I'll
put everything right again."
I gave the required pledge; while Power, springing into the saddle, left me
to my own reflections.
My frame of mind as Power left me was by no means an enviable one. A
quarrel is rarely a happy incident in a man's life, still less is it so
when the difference arises with one we are disposed to like and respect.
Such was Hammersley. His manly, straightforward character had won my esteem
and regard, and it was with no common scrutiny I taxed my memory to think
what could have given rise to the impression he labored under of my
having injured him. His chance mention of Trevyllian suggested to me some
suspicion that his dislike of me, wherefore arising I knew not, might have
its share in the matter; and in this state of doubt and uncertainty I paced
impatiently up and down, anxiously watching for Power's return in the hope
of at length getting some real insight into the difficulty.
My patience was fast ebbing, Power had been absent above an hour, and no
appearance of him could I detect, when suddenly the tramp of a horse came
rapidly up the hill. I looked out and saw a rider coming forward at a very
fast pace. Before I had time for even a guess as to who it was, he drew
up, and I recognized Captain Trevyllian. There was a certain look of easy
impertinence and half-smiling satisfaction about his features I had never
seen before, as he touched his cap in salute, and said,--
"May I have the honor of a few words' conversation with you?"
I bowed silently, while he dismounted, and passing his bridle beneath his
arm, walked on beside me.
"My friend Captain Hammersley has commissioned me to wait upon you about
this unpleasant affair--"
"I beg pardon for the interruption, Captain Trevyllian, but as I have yet
to learn to what you or your friend alludes, perhaps it may facilitate
matters if you will explicitly state your meaning."
He grew crimson on the cheek as I said this, while, with a voice perfectly
unmoved, he continued,--
"I am not sufficiently in my friend's confidence to know the whole of the
affair in question, nor have I his permission to enter into any of it, he
probably presuming, as I certainly did myself, that your sense of honor
would have deemed further parley and discussion both unnecessary and
"In fact, then, if I understand, it is expected that I should meet Captain
Hammersley for some reason unknown--"
"He certainly desires a meeting with you," was the dry reply.
"And as certainly I shall not give it, before understanding upon what
"And such I am to report as your answer?" said he, looking at me at the
moment with an expression of ill-repressed triumph as he spoke.
There was something in these few words, as well as in the tone in which
they were spoken, that sunk deeply in my heart. Was it that by some trick
of diplomacy he was endeavoring to compromise my honor and character? Was
it possible that my refusal might be construed into any other than the
real cause? I was too young, too inexperienced in the world to decide the
question for myself, and no time was allowed me to seek another's counsel.
What a trying moment was that for me; my temples throbbed, my heart beat
almost audibly, and I stood afraid to speak; dreading on the one hand lest
my compliance might involve me in an act to embitter my life forever, and
fearful on the other, that my refusal might be reported as a trait of
He saw, he read my difficulty at a glance, and with a smile of most
supercilious expression, repeated coolly his former question. In an instant
all thought of Hammersley was forgotten. I remembered no more. I saw him
before me, he who had, since my first meeting, continually contrived to
pass some inappreciable slight upon me. My eyes flashed, my hands tingled
with ill-repressed rage, as I said,--
"With Captain Hammersley I am conscious of no quarrel, nor have I ever
shown by any act or look an intention to provoke one. Indeed, such
demonstrations are not always successful; there are persons most rigidly
scrupulous for a friend's honor, little disposed to guard their own."
"You mistake," said he, interrupting me, as I spoke these words with a look
as insulting as I could make it,--"you mistake. I have sworn a solemn oath
never to _send_ a challenge."
The emphasis upon the word "send," explained fully his meaning, when I
"But you will not decline--"
"Most certainly not," said he, again interrupting, while with sparkling eye
and elated look he drew himself up to his full height. "Your friend is--"
"Captain Power; and yours--"
"Sir Harry Beaufort. I may observe that, as the troops are in marching
order, the matter had better not be delayed."
"There shall be none on my part."
"Nor mine!" said he, as with a low bow and a look of most ineffable
triumph, he sprang into his saddle; then, "_Au revoir_, Mr. O'Malley," said
he, gathering up his reins. "Beaufort is on the staff, and quartered at
Oporto." So saying, he cantered easily down the slope, and once more I was
THE ROUTE CONTINUED.
I was leisurely examining my pistols,--poor Considine's last present to me
on leaving home,--when an orderly sergeant rode up, and delivered into my
hands the following order:--
Lieutenant O'Malley will hold himself in immediate readiness to
proceed on a particular service. By order of his Excellency the
Commander of the Forces.
[Signed] S. GORDON, Military Secretary.
"What can this mean?" thought I. "It is not possible that any rumor of my
intended meeting could have got abroad, and that my present destination
could be intended as a punishment?"
I walked hurriedly to the door of the little hut which formed my quarters;
below me in the plain, all was activity and preparation, the infantry were
drawn up in marching order, baggage wagons, ordnance stores, and artillery
seemed all in active preparation, and some cavalry squadrons might be
already seen with forage allowances behind the saddle, as if only waiting
the order to set out. I strained my eyes to see if Power was coming, but no
horseman approached in the direction. I stood, and I hesitated whether I
should not rather seek him at once, than continue to wait on in my present
uncertainty; but then, what if I should miss him? And I had pledged myself
to remain till he returned.
While I deliberated thus with myself, weighing the various chances for and
against each plan, I saw two mounted officers coming towards me at a brisk
trot. As they came nearer, I recognized one as my colonel, the other was an
officer of the staff.
Supposing that their mission had some relation to the order I had so lately
received, and which until now I had forgotten, I hastily returned and
ordered Mike to my presence.
"How are the horses, Mike?" said I.
"Never better, sir. Badger was wounded slightly by a spent shot in the
counter, but he's never the worse this morning, and the black horse is
capering like a filly."
"Get ready my pack, feed the cattle, and be prepared to set out at a
"Good advice, O'Malley," said the colonel, as he overheard the last
direction to my servant. "I hope the nags are in condition?"
"Why yes, sir, I believe they are."
"All the better; you've a sharp ride before you. Meanwhile let me introduce
my friend; Captain Beaumont, Mr. O'Malley. I think we had better be
"These are your instructions, Mr. O'Malley," said Captain Beaumont,
unfolding a map as he spoke. "You will proceed from this with half a troop
of our regiment by forced marches towards the frontier, passing through
the town of Calenco and Guarda and the Estrella pass. On arriving at the
headquarters of the Lusitanian Legion, which you will find there, you are
to put yourself under the orders of Major Monsoon, commanding that force.
Any Portuguese cavalry he may have with him will be attached to yours and
under your command; your rank for the time being that of captain. You will,
as far as possible, acquaint yourself with the habits and capabilities of
the native cavalry, and make such report as you judge necessary thereupon
to his Excellency the commander of the forces. I think it only fair to add
that you are indebted to my friend Colonel Merivale for the very flattering
position thus opened to your skill and enterprise."
"My dear Colonel, let me assure you--"
"Not a word, my boy. I knew the thing would suit you, and I am sure I
can count upon your not disappointing my expectations of you. Sir Arthur
perfectly remembers your name. He only asked two questions,--
"'Is he well mounted?'
"'Admirably,' was my answer.
"'Can you depend upon his promptitude?'
"'He'll leave in half an hour.' "So you see, O'Malley, I have already
pledged myself for you. And now I must say adieu; the regiments are about
to take up a more advanced position, so good-by. I hope you'll have a
pleasant time of it till we meet again."
"It is now twelve o'clock, Mr. O'Malley," said Beaumont; "we may rely upon
your immediate departure. Your written instructions and despatches will be
here within a quarter of an hour."
I muttered something,--what, I cannot remember; I bowed my thanks to my
worthy colonel, shook his hand warmly, and saw him ride down the hill
and disappear in the crowd of soldiery beneath, before I could recall my
faculties and think over my situation.
Then all at once did the full difficulty of my position break upon me. If
I accepted my present employment I must certainly fail in my engagement to
Trevyllian. But I had already pledged myself to its acceptance. What was to
be done? No time was left for deliberation. The very minutes I should have
spent in preparation were fast passing. Would that Power might appear!
Alas, he came not! My state of doubt and uncertainty increased every
moment; I saw nothing but ruin before me, even at a moment when fortune
promised most fairly for the future, and opened a field of enterprise my
heart had so often and so ardently desired. Nothing was left me but to
hasten to Colonel Merivale and decline my appointment; to do so was to
prejudice my character in his estimation forever, for I dared not allege
my reasons, and in all probability my conduct might require my leaving the
"Be it so, then," said I, in an accent of despair; "the die is cast."
I ordered my horse round; I wrote a few words to Power to explain my
absence should he come while I was away, and leaped into the saddle. As I
reached the plain my pace became a gallop, and I pressed my horse with all
the impatience my heart was burning with. I dashed along the lines towards
Oporto, neither hearing nor seeing aught around me, when suddenly the clank
of cavalry accoutrements behind induced me to turn my head, and I perceived
an orderly dragoon at full gallop in pursuit. I pulled up till he came
"Lieutenant O'Malley, sir," said the man, saluting, "these despatches are
I took them hurriedly, and was about to continue my route, when the
attitude of the dragoon arrested my attention. He had reined in his horse
to the side of the narrow causeway, and holding him still and steadily, sat
motionless as a statue. I looked behind and saw the whole staff approaching
at a brisk trot. Before I had a moment for thought they were beside me.
"Ah, O'Malley," cried Merivale, "you have your orders; don't wait; his
Excellency is coming up."
"Get along, I advise you," said another, "or you'll catch it, as some of us
have done this morning."
"All is right, Charley; you can go in safety," said a whispering voice, as
Power passed in a sharp canter.
That one sentence was enough; my heart bounded like a deer, my cheek beamed
with the glow of delighted pleasure, I closed my spurs upon my gallant gray
and dashed across the plain.
When I arrived at my quarters the men were drawn up in waiting, and
provided with rations for three days' march; Mike was also prepared for the
road, and nothing more remained to delay me.
"Captain Power has been here, sir, and left a note."
I took it and thrust it hastily into my sabretasche. I knew from the
few words he had spoken that my present step involved me in no ill
consequences; so giving the word to wheel into column, I rode to the front
and set out upon my march to Alcantara.
There are few things so inspiriting to a young soldier as the being
employed with a separate command; the picket and outpost duty have a charm
for him no other portion of his career possesses. The field seems open for
individual boldness and heroism; success, if obtained, must redound to his
own credit; and what can equal, in its spirit-stirring enthusiasm, that
first moment when we become in any way the arbiter of our own fortunes?
Such were my happy thoughts, as with a proud and elated heart I set forth
upon my march. The notice the commander-in-chief had bestowed upon me had
already done much; it had raised me in my own estimation, and implanted
within me a longing desire for further distinction. I thought, too, of
those far, far away, who were yet to hear of my successes.
I fancied to myself how they would severally receive the news. My poor
uncle, with tearful eye and quivering lip, was before me, as I saw him read
the despatch, then wipe his glasses, and read on, till at last, with one
long-drawn breath, his manly voice, tremulous with emotion, would break
forth: "My boy! my own Charley!" Then I pictured Considine, with port
erect and stern features, listening silently; not a syllable, not a motion
betraying that he felt interested in my fate, till as if impatient, at
length he would break in: "I knew it,--I said so; and yet you thought to
make him a lawyer!" And then old Sir Harry, his warm heart glowing with
pleasure, and his good-humored face beaming with happiness, how many a
blunder he would make in retailing the news, and how many a hearty laugh
his version of it would give rise to!
I passed in review before me the old servants, as they lingered in the
room to hear the story. Poor old Matthew, the butler, fumbling with his
corkscrew to gain a little time; then looking in my uncle's face, half
entreatingly, as he asked: "Any news of Master Charles, sir, from the
While thus my mind wandered back to the scenes and faces of my early home,
I feared to ask myself how _she_ would feel to whom my heart was now
turning. Too deeply did I know how poor my chances were in that quarter to
nourish hope, and yet I could not bring myself to abandon it altogether.
Hammersley's strange conduct suggested to me that he, at least, could not
be _my_ rival; while I plainly perceived that he regarded me as _his_.
There was a mystery in all this I could not fathom, and I ardently longed
for my next meeting with Power, to learn the nature of his interview, and
also in what manner the affair had been arranged.
Such were my passing thoughts as I pressed forward. My men, picked no less
for themselves than their horses, came rapidly along; and ere evening, we
had accomplished twelve leagues of our journey.
The country through which we journeyed, though wild and romantic in its
character, was singularly rich and fertile,--cultivation reaching to the
very summits of the rugged mountains, and patches of wheat and Indian corn
peeping amidst masses of granite rock and tangled brushwood. The vine
and the olive grew wild on every side; while the orange and the arbutus,
loading the air with perfume, were mingled with prickly pear-trees and
variegated hollies. We followed no regular track, but cantered along over
hill and valley, through forest and prairie, now in long file through some
tall field of waving corn, now in open order upon some level plain,--our
Portuguese guide riding a little in advance of us, upon a jet-black mule,
carolling merrily some wild Gallician melody as he went.
As the sun was setting, we arrived beside a little stream that flowing
along a rocky bed, skirted a vast forest of tall cork-trees. Here we called
a halt, and picketing our horses, proceeded to make our arrangements for a
Never do I remember a more lovely night. The watch-fires sent up a
delicious odor from the perfumed shrubs; while the glassy water reflected
on its still surface the starry sky that, unshadowed and unclouded,
stretched above us. I wrapped myself in my trooper's mantle, and lay down
beneath a tree,--but not to sleep. There was a something so exciting, and
withal so tranquillizing, that I had no thought of slumber, but fell into
a musing revery. There was a character of adventure in my position that
charmed me much. My men were gathered in little groups beside the fires;
some sunk in slumber, others sat smoking silently, or chatting, in a low
undertone, of some bygone scene of battle or bivouac; here and there were
picketed the horses; the heavy panoply and piled carbines flickering in the
red glare of the watch-fires, which ever and anon threw a flitting glow
upon the stern and swarthy faces of my bold troopers. Upon the trees
around, sabres and helmets, holsters and cross-belts, were hung like
armorial bearings in some antique hall, the dark foliage spreading its
heavy shadow around us. Farther off, upon a little rocky ledge, the erect
figure of the sentry, with his short carbine resting in the hollow of his
arm, was seen slowly pacing in measured tread, or standing for a moment
silently, as he looked upon the fair and tranquil sky,--his thoughts
doubtless far, far away, beyond the sea, to some humble home, where,--
"The hum of the spreading sycamore,
That grew beside his cottage door,"
was again in his ears, while the merry laugh of his children stirred his
bold heart. It was a Salvator-Rosa scene, and brought me back in fancy to
the bandit legends I had read in boyhood. By the uncertain light of the
wood embers I endeavored to sketch the group that lay before me.
The night wore on. One by one the soldiers stretched themselves to sleep,
and all was still. As the hours rolled by a drowsy feeling crept gradually
over me. I placed my pistols by my side, and having replenished the fire by
some fresh logs, disposed myself comfortably before it.
It was during that half-dreamy state that intervenes between waking and
sleep that a rustling sound of the branches behind attracted my attention.
The air was too calm to attribute this to the wind, so I listened for some
minutes; but sleep, too long deferred, was over-powerful, and my head sank
upon my grassy pillow, and I was soon sound asleep. How long I remained
thus, I know not; but I awoke suddenly. I fancied some one had shaken me
rudely by the shoulder; but yet all was tranquil. My men were sleeping
soundly as I saw them last. The fires were becoming low, and a gray streak
in the sky, as well as a sharp cold feeling of the air, betokened the
approach of day. Once more I heaped some dry branches together, and was
again about to stretch myself to rest, when I felt a hand upon my shoulder.
I turned quickly round, and by the imperfect light of the fire, saw the
figure of a man standing motionless beside me; his head was bare, and his
hair fell in long curls upon his shoulders; one hand was pressed upon his
bosom, and with the other he motioned me to silence. My first impression
was that our party were surprised by some French patrol; but as I looked
again, I recognized, to my amazement, that the individual before me was the
young French officer I had seen that morning a prisoner beside the Douro.
"How came you here?" said I, in a low voice, to him in French.
"Escaped; one of my own men threw himself between me and the sentry; I swam
the Douro, received a musket-ball through my arm, lost my shako, and here I
"You are aware you are again a prisoner?"
"If you desire it, of course I am," said he, in a voice full of feeling
that made my very heart creep. "I thought you were a party of Lorge's
Dragoons, scouring the country for forage; tracked you the entire day, and
have only now come up with you."
The poor fellow, who had neither eaten nor drunk since daybreak, wounded
and footsore, had accomplished twelve leagues of a march only once more to
fall into the hands of his enemies. His years could scarcely have numbered
nineteen; his countenance was singularly prepossessing; and though bleeding
and torn, with tattered uniform, and without a covering to his head, there
was no mistaking for a moment that he was of gentle blood. Noiselessly and
cautiously I made him sit down beside the fire, while I spread before him
the sparing remnant of my last night's supper, and shared my solitary
bottle of sherry with him.
From the moment he spoke, I never entertained a thought of making him a
prisoner; but as I knew not how far I was culpable in permitting, if not
actually facilitating, his escape, I resolved to keep the circumstance a
secret from my party, and if possible, get him away before daybreak.
No sooner did he learn my intentions regarding him, than in an instant
all memory of his past misfortune, all thoughts of his present destitute
condition, seemed to have fled; and while I dressed his wound and bound up
his shattered arm, he chattered away as unconcernedly about the past
and the future as though seated beside the fire of his own bivouac, and
surrounded by his own brother officers.
"You took us by surprise the other day," said he. "Our marshal looked for
the attack from the mouth of the river; we received information that your
ships were expected there. In any case, our retreat was an orderly one, and
must have been effected with slight loss."
I smiled at the self-complacency of this reasoning, but did not contradict
"Your loss must indeed have been great; your men crossed under the fire of
a whole battery."
"Not exactly," said I; "our first party were quietly stationed in Oporto
before you knew anything about it."
"_Ah, sacre Dieu!_ Treachery!" cried he, striking his forehead with his
"Not so; mere daring,--nothing more. But come, tell me something of your
own adventures. How were you taken?"
"Simply thus,--I was sent to the rear with orders to the artillery to cut
their traces, and leave the guns; and when coming back, my horse grew tired
in the heavy ground, and I was spurring him to the utmost, when one of your
heavy dragoons--an officer, too--dashed at me, and actually rode me down,
horse and all. I lay for some time bruised by the fall, when an infantry
soldier passing by seized me by the collar, and brought me to the rear. No
matter, however, here I am now. You will not give me up; and perhaps I may
one day live to repay the kindness."
"You have not long joined?"
"It was my first battle; my epaulettes were very smart things yesterday,
though they do look a little _passes_ to-day. You are advancing, I
I smiled without answering this question.
"Ah, I see you don't wish to speak. Never mind, your discretion is thrown
away upon me; for if I rejoined my regiment to-morrow, I should have
forgotten all you told me,--all but your great kindness." These last words
he spoke, bowing slightly his head, and coloring as he said them.
"You are a dragoon, I think?" said I, endeavoring to change the topic.
"I was, two days ago, _chasseur a cheval_, a sous-lieutenant, in the
regiment of my father, the General St. Croix."
"The name is familiar to me," I replied, "and I am sincerely happy to be in
a position to serve the son of so distinguished an officer."
"The son of so distinguished an officer is most deeply obliged, but wishes
with all his heart and soul he had never sought glory under such very
excellent auspices. You look surprised, _mon cher_; but let me tell you,
my military ardor is considerably abated in the last three days. Hunger,
thirst, imprisonment, and this"--lifting his wounded limb as he spoke--"are
sharp lessons in so short a campaign, and for one too, whose life hitherto
had much more of ease than adventure to boast of. Shall I tell you how I
became a soldier?"
"By all means; give me your glass first; and now, with a fresh log to the
fire, I'm your man."
"But stay; before I begin, look to this."
The blood was flowing rapidly from his wound, which with some difficulty I
succeeded in stanching. He drank off his wine hastily, held out his glass
to be refilled, and then began his story.
"You have never seen the Emperor?"
"_Sacrebleu!_ What a man he is! I'd rather stand under the fire of your
grenadiers, than meet his eye. When in a passion, he does not say much, it
is true; but what he does, comes with a kind of hissing, rushing sound,
while the very fire seems to kindle in his look. I have him before me this
instant, and though you will confess that my present condition has nothing
very pleasing in it, I should be sorry indeed to change it for the last
time I stood in his presence.
"Two months ago I sported the gay light-blue and silver of a page to the
Emperor, and certainly, what with balls, _bonbons_, flirtation, gossip,
and champagne suppers, led a very gay, reckless, and indolent life of it.
Somehow,--I may tell you more accurately at another period, if we ever
meet,--I got myself into disgrace, and as a punishment, was ordered
to absent myself from the Tuileries, and retire for some weeks to
Fontainebleau. Siberia to a Russian would scarcely be a heavier infliction
than was this banishment to me. There was no court, no levee, no military
parade, no ball, no opera. A small household of the Emperor's chosen
servants quietly kept house there. The gloomy walls re-echoed to no music;
the dark alleys of the dreary garden seemed the very impersonation of
solitude and decay. Nothing broke the dull monotony of the tiresome day,
except when occasionally, near sunset, the clash of the guard would be
heard turning out, and the clank of presenting arms, followed by the roll
of a heavy carriage into the gloomy courtyard. One lamp, shining like a
star, in a small chamber on the second floor, would remain till near four,
sometimes five o'clock in the morning. The same sounds of the guard and
the same dull roll of the carriage would break the stillness of the early
morning; and the Emperor--for it was he--would be on his road back to
"We never saw him,--I say we, for like myself some half-dozen others were
also there, expiating their follies by a life of cheerless _ennui_.
"It was upon a calm evening in April, we sat together chatting over the
various misdeeds which had consigned us to exile, when some one proposed,
by way of passing the time, that we should visit the small flower-garden
that was parted off from the rest, and reserved for the Emperor alone. It
was already beyond the hour he usually came; besides that, even should he
arrive, there was abundant time to get back before he could possibly reach
it. The garden we had often seen, but there was something in the fact that
our going there was a transgression that so pleased us all that we agreed
at once and set forth. For above an hour we loitered about the lonely and
deserted walks, where already the Emperor's foot-tracks had worn a marked
pathway, when we grew weary and were about to return, just as one of the
party suggested, half in ridicule of the sanctity of the spot, that we
should have a game of leap-frog ere we left it. The idea pleased us and was
at once adopted. Our plan was this,--each person stationed himself in some
by-walk or alley, and waited till the other, whose turn it was, came and
leaped over him; so that, besides the activity displayed, there was a
knowledge of the _locale_ necessary; for to any one passed over a forfeit
was to be paid. Our game began at once, and certainly I doubt if ever those
green alleys and shady groves rang to such hearty laughter. Here would be
seen a couple rolling over together on the grass; there some luckless wight
counting out his pocket-money to pay his penalty. The hours passed quietly
over, and the moon rose, and at last it came to my turn to make the tour of
the garden. As I was supposed to know all its intricacies better than the
rest, a longer time was given for them to conceal themselves; at length the
word was given, and I started.
"Anxious to acquit myself well, I hurried along at top speed, but guess my
surprise to discover that nowhere could I find one of my companions. Down
one walk I scampered, up another, across a third, but all was still and
silent; not a sound, not a breath, could I detect. There was still one part
of the garden unexplored; it was a small open space before a little pond
which usually contained the gold fish the Emperor was so fond of. Thither
I bent my steps, and had not gone far when in the pale moonlight I saw, at
length, one of my companions waiting patiently for my coming, his head
bent forward and his shoulders rounded. Anxious to repay him for my own
disappointment, I crept silently forward on tiptoe till quite near him,
when, rushing madly on, I sprang upon his back; just, however, as I rose to
leap over, he raised his head, and, staggered by the impulse of my spring,
he was thrown forward, and after an ineffectual effort to keep his legs
fell flat upon his face in the grass. Bursting with laughter, I fell over
him on the ground, and was turning to assist him, when suddenly he sprang
upon his feet, and--horror of horrors!--it was Napoleon himself; his
usually pale features were purple with rage, but not a word, not a syllable
"'_Qui etes vous_?' said he, at length.
"'St. Croix, Sire,' said I, still kneeling before him, while my very heart
leaped into my mouth.
"'St. Croix! _toujours_ St. Croix! Come here; approach me,' cried he, in a
voice of stifled passion.
"I rose; but before I could take a step forward he sprang at me, and
tearing off my epaulettes trampled them beneath his feet, and then he
shouted out, rather than spoke, the word '_Allez!_'
"I did not wait for a second intimation, but clearing the paling at a
spring, was many a mile from Fontainebleau before daybreak."
Twice the _reveil_ sounded; the horses champed impatiently their heavy
bits; my men stood waiting for the order to mount, ere I could arouse
myself from the deep sleep I had fallen into. The young Frenchman and his
story were in my dreams, and when I awoke, his figure, as he lay sleeping
beside the wood embers, was the first object I perceived. There he lay,
to all seeming as forgetful of his fate as though he still inhabited the
gorgeous halls and gilded saloons of the Tuileries; his pale and handsome
features wore even a placid smile as, doubtless, some dream of other days
flitted across him; his long hair waved in luxurious curls upon his neck,
and his light-brown mustache, slightly curled at the top, gave to his
mild and youthful features an air of saucy _fierte_ that heightened their
effect. A narrow blue ribbon which he wore round his throat gently peeped
from his open bosom. I could not resist the curiosity I felt to see what it
meant, and drawing it softly forth, I perceived that a small miniature was
attached to it. It was beautifully painted, and surrounded with brilliants
of some value. One glance showed me,--for I had seen more than one
engraving before of her,--that it was the portrait of the Empress
Josephine. Poor boy! he doubtless was a favorite at court; indeed,
everything in his air and manner bespoke him such. I gently replaced the
precious locket and turned from the spot to think over what was best to
be done for him. Knowing the vindictive feeling of the Portuguese towards
their invaders, I feared to take Pietro, our guide, into my confidence. I
accordingly summoned my man Mike to my aid, who, with all his country's
readiness, soon found out an expedient. It was to pretend to Pietro that
the prisoner was merely an English officer who had made his escape from the
French army, in which, against his will, he had been serving for some time.
This plan succeeded perfectly; and when St. Croix, mounted upon one of my
led horses, set out upon his march beside me, none was more profuse of his
attentions than the dark-brown guide whose hatred of a Frenchman was beyond
By thus giving him safe conduct through Portugal, I knew that when we
reached the frontier he could easily manage to come up with some part of
Marshal Victor's force, the advanced guard of which lay on the left bank of
To me the companionship was the greatest boon; the gay and buoyant spirit
that no reverse of fortune, no untoward event, could subdue, lightened many
an hour of the journey; and though at times the gasconading tone of the
Frenchman would peep through, there was still such a fund of good-tempered
raillery in all he said that it was impossible to feel angry with him.
His implicit faith in the Emperor's invincibility also amused me. Of the
unbounded confidence of the nation in general, and the army particularly,
in Napoleon, I had till then no conception. It was not that in the profound
skill and immense resources of the general they trusted, but they actually
regarded him as one placed above all the common accidents of fortune, and
revered him as something more than human.
"_Il viendra et puis_--" was the continued exclamation of the young
Frenchman. Any notion of our successfully resisting the overwhelming might
of the Emperor, he would have laughed to scorn, and so I let him go on
prophesying our future misfortunes till the time when, driven back upon
Lisbon, we should be compelled to evacuate the Peninsula, and under
favor of a convention be permitted to return to England. All this was
sufficiently ridiculous, coming from a youth of nineteen, wounded, in
misery, a prisoner; but further experience of his nation has shown me
that St. Croix was not the exception, but the rule. The conviction in the
ultimate success of their army, whatever be the merely momentary mishap, is
the one present thought of a Frenchman; a victory with them is a conquest;
a defeat,--if they are by any chance driven to acknowledge one,--a
I was too young a man, and still more, too young a soldier, to bear with
this absurd affectation of superiority as I ought, and consequently was
glad to wander, whenever I could, from the contested point of our national
superiority to other topics. St. Croix, although young, had seen much of
the world as a page in the splendid court of the Tuileries; the scenes
passing before his eyes were calculated to make a strong impression; and
by many an anecdote of his former life, he lightened the road as we passed
[Illustration: A TOUCH AT LEAP-FROG WITH NAPOLEON.]
"You promised, by-the-bye, to tell me of your banishment. How did that
occur, St. Croix?"
"_Ah, par Dieu!_ that was an unfortunate affair for me; then began all my
mishaps. But for that, I should never have been sent to Fontainebleau;
never have played leap-frog with the Emperor; never have been sent a
soldier into Spain. True," said he, laughing, "I should never have had the
happiness of your acquaintance. But still, I'd much rather have met you
first in the Place des Victoires than in the Estrella Mountains."
"Who knows?" said I; "perhaps your good genius prevailed in all this."
"Perhaps," said he, interrupting me; "that's exactly what the Empress
said,--she was my godmother,--'Jules will be a _Marechal de France yet_.'
But certainly, it must be confessed, I have made a bad beginning. However,
you wish to hear of my disgrace at court. _Allans donc_. But had we not
better wait for a halt?"
"Agreed," said I; "and so let us now press forward."
Under the deep shade of some tall trees, sheltered from the noonday sun, we
lay down to rest ourselves and enjoy a most patriarchal dinner,--some dry
biscuits, a few bunches of grapes, and a little weak wine, savoring more of
the borachio-skin than the vine-juice, were all we boasted; yet they were
not ungrateful at such a time and place.
"Whose health did you pledge then?" inquired St. Croix, with a
half-malicious smile, as I raised the glass silently to my lips.
I blushed deeply, and looked confused.
"_A ses beux yeux!_ whoever she be," said he, gayly tossing off his wine;
"and now, if you feel disposed, I'll tell you my story. In good truth, it
is not worth relating, but it may serve to set you asleep, at all events.
"I have already told you I was a page. Alas, the impressions you may feel
of that functionary, from having seen Cherubino, give but a faint notion of
him when pertaining to the household of the Emperor Napoleon.
"The _farfallone amoroso_ basked in the soft smiles and sunny looks of the
Countess Almaviva; we met but the cold, impassive look of Talleyrand, the
piercing and penetrating stare of Savary, or the ambiguous smile, half
menace, half mockery, of Monsieur Fouche. While on service, our days were
passed in the antechamber, beside the _salle d'audience_ of the Emperor,
reclining against the closed door, watching attentively for the gentle
tinkle of the little bell which summoned us to open for the exit of some
haughty diplomate, or the _entree_ of some redoubted general. Thus passed
we the weary hours; the illustrious visitors by whom we were surrounded
had no novelty, consequently no attraction for us, and the names already
historical were but household words with us.
"We often remarked, too, the proud and distant bearing the Emperor assumed
towards those of his generals who had been his former companions-in-arms.
Whatever familiarity or freedom may have existed in the campaign or in the
battle-field, the air of the Tuileries certainly chilled it. I have often
heard that the ceremonious observances and rigid etiquette of the old
Bourbon court were far preferable to the stern reserve and unbending
stiffness of the imperial one.
"The antechamber is but the reflection of the reception-room; and whatever
be the whims, the caprices, the littleness of the Great Man, they are
speedily assumed by his inferiors, and the dark temper of one casts a
lowering shadow on every menial by whom he is surrounded.
"As for us, we were certainly not long in catching somewhat of the spirit
of the Emperor; and I doubt much if the impertinence of the waiting-room
was not more dreaded and detested than the abrupt speech and searching look
of Napoleon himself.
"What a malicious pleasure have I not felt in arresting the step of M. de
Talleyrand, as he approached the Emperor's closet! With what easy insolence
have I lisped out, 'Pardon, Monsieur, but his Majesty cannot receive you,'
or 'Monsieur le Due, his Majesty has given no orders for your admission.'
How amusing it was to watch the baffled look of each, as he retired once
more to his place among the crowd, the wily diplomate covering his chagrin
with a practised smile, while the stern marshal would blush to his very
eyes with indignation! This was the great pleasure our position afforded
us, and with a boyish spirit of mischief, we cultivated it to perfection,
and became at last the very horror and detestation of all who frequented
the levees; and the ambassador whose fearless voice was heard among the
councils of kings became soft and conciliating in his approaches to us; and
the hardy general who would have charged upon a brigade of artillery was
timid as a girl in addressing us a mere question.
"Among the amiable class thus characterized I was most conspicuous,
preserving cautiously a tone of civility that left nothing openly to
complain of. I assumed an indifference and impartiality of manner that no
exigency of affairs, no pressing haste, could discompose or disturb; and
my bow of recognition to Soult or Massena was as coolly measured as my
monosyllabic answer was accurately conned over.
"Upon ordinary occasions the Emperor at the close of each person's audience
rang his little bell for the admission of the next in order as they arrived
in the waiting-room; yet when anything important was under consideration, a
list was given us in the morning of the names to be presented in rotation,
which no casual circumstance was ever suffered to interfere with.
"It is now about four months since, one fine morning, such a list was
placed within my hands. His Majesty was just then occupied with an inquiry
into the naval force of the kingdom; and as I cast my eyes carelessly
over the names, I read little else than Vice-Admiral So-and-so, Commander
Such-a-one, and Chef d'Escardron Such-another, and the levee presented
accordingly, instead of its usual brilliant array of gorgeous uniform and
aiguilletted marshals, the simple blue-and-gold of the naval service.
"The marine was not in high favor with the Emperor; and truly, my reception
of these unfrequent visitors was anything but flattering. The early part
of the morning was, as usual, occupied by the audience of the Minister of
Police, and the Duc de Bassano, who evidently, from the length of time
they remained, had matter of importance to communicate. Meanwhile the
antechamber filled rapidly, and before noon was actually crowded. It was
just at this moment that the folding-door slowly opened, and a figure
entered, such as I had never before seen in our brilliant saloon. He was a
man of five or six and fifty, short, thickset, and strongly built, with a
bronzed and weather-beaten face, and a broad open forehead deeply scarred
with a sabre-cut; a shaggy gray mustache curled over and concealed his
mouth, while eyebrows of the same color shaded his dark and piercing eyes.
His dress was a coarse cut of blue cloth such as the fishermen wear in
Bretagne, fastened at the waist by a broad belt of black leather, from
which hung a short-bladed cutlass; his loose trousers, of the same
material, were turned up at the ankles to show a pair of strong legs
coarsely cased in blue stockings and thick-soled shoes. A broad-leaved
oil-skin hat was held in one hand, and the other stuck carelessly in his
pocket, as he entered. He came in with a careless air, and familiarly
saluting one or two officers in the room, he sat himself down near the
door, appearing lost in his own reflections.
"'Who can you be, my worthy friend?' was my question to myself as I
surveyed this singular apparition. At the same time, casting my eyes down
the list, I perceived that several pilots of the coast of Havre, Calais,
and Boulogne had been summoned to Paris to give some information upon the
soundings and depth of water along the shore.
"'Ha,' thought I, 'I have it. The good man has mistaken his place,
and instead of remaining without, has walked boldly forward to the
"There was something so strange and so original in the grim look of the old
fellow, as he sat there alone, that I suffered him to remain quietly in his
delusion, rather than order him back to the waiting-room without; besides,
I perceived that a kind of sensation was created among the others by his
appearance there, which amused me greatly.
"As the day wore on, the officers formed into little groups of three or
four, chatting together in an undertone,--all save the old pilot. He had
taken a huge tobacco-box from his capacious breast-pocket, and inserting
an immense piece of the bitter weed in his mouth, began to chew it
as leisurely as though he were walking the quarter-deck. The cool
_insouciance_ of such a proceeding amused me much, and I resolved to draw
him out a little. His strong, broad Breton features, his deep voice, his
dry, blunt manner, were all in admirable keeping with his exterior.
"'_Par Dieu_, my lad,' said he, after chatting some time, 'had you not
better tell the Emperor that I am waiting? It's now past noon, and I must
"'Have a little patience,' said I; 'his Majesty is going to invite you to
"'Be it so,' said he, gravely; 'provided the hour be an early one, I'm his
"With difficulty did I keep down my laughter as he said this, and
"'So you know the Emperor already, it seems?'
"'Yes, that I do! I remember him when he was no higher than yourself.'
"'How delighted he'll be to find you here! I hope you have brought up some
of your family with you, as the Emperor would be so flattered by it?'
"'No, I've left them at home. This place don't suit us over well. We have
plenty to do besides spending our time and money among all you fine folks
"'And not a bad life of it, either,' added I, 'fishing for cod and
herrings,--stripping a wreck now and then.'
"He stared at me, as I said this, like a tiger on the spring, but spoke not
"'And how many young sea-wolves may you have in your den at home?'
"'Six; and all of them able to carry you with one hand, at arm's length.'
"'I have no doubt. I shall certainly not test their ability. But you
yourself,--how do you like the capital?'
"'Not over well; and I'll tell you why--'
"As he said this the door of the audience-chamber opened, and the Emperor
appeared. His eyes flashed fire as he looked hurriedly around the room.
"'Who is in waiting here?'"
"'I am, please your Majesty,' said I, bowing deeply, as I started from my
"'And where is the Admiral Truguet? Why was he not admitted?'
"'Not present, your Majesty,' said I, trembling with fear.
"'Hold there, young fellow; not so fast. Here he is.'
"'Ah, Truguet, _mon ami!_' cried the Emperor, placing both hands on the old
fellow's shoulders, 'how long have you been in waiting?'
"'Two hours and a half,' said he, producing in evidence a watch like a
"'What, two hours and a half, and I not know it!'
"'No matter; I am always happy to serve your Majesty. But if that fine
fellow had not told me that you were going to ask me to dinner--'
"'He! He said so, did he?' said Napoleon, turning on me a glance like a
wild beast. 'Yes, Truguet, so I am; you shall dine with me to-day. And you,
sir,' said he, dropping his voice to a whisper, as he came closer towards
me,--'and you have dared to speak thus? Call in a guard there. Capitaine,
put this person under arrest; he is disgraced. He is no longer page of the
palace. Out of my presence! away, sir!'
"The room wheeled round; my legs tottered; my senses reeled; and I saw no
"Three weeks' bread and water in St. Pelagie, however, brought me to my
recollection; and at last my kind, my more than kind friend, the Empress,
obtained my pardon, and sent me to Fontainebleau, till the Emperor should
forget all about it. How I contrived again to refresh his memory I have
already told you; and certainly you will acknowledge that I have not been
fortunate in my interviews with Napoleon."
I am conscious how much St. Croix's story loses in my telling. The simple
expressions, the grace of the narrative, were its charm: and these, alas!
I can neither translate nor imitate, no more than I can convey the strange
mixture of deep feeling and levity, shrewdness and simplicity, that
constituted the manner of the narrator.
With many a story of his courtly career he amused me as we trotted along;
when, towards nightfall of the third day, a peasant informed us that a
body of French cavalry occupied the convent of San Cristoval, about three
leagues off. The opportunity of his return to his own army pleased him far
less than I expected. Ho heard, without any show of satisfaction, that the
time of his liberation had arrived; and when the moment of leave-taking
drew near, he became deeply affected.
"_Eh, bien_, Charles," said he, smiling sadly through his dimmed and
tearful eyes. "You've been a kind friend to me. Is the time never to come
when I can repay you?"
"Yes, yes; we'll meet again, be assured of it. Meanwhile there is one way
you can more than repay anything I have done for you."
"Oh, name it at once!"
"Many a brave fellow of ours is now, and doubtless many more will be,
prisoners with your army in this war. Whenever, therefore, your lot brings
you in contact with such--"
"They shall be my brothers," said he, springing towards me and throwing his
arms round my neck. "Adieu, adieu!" With that he rushed from the spot, and
before I could speak again, was mounted upon the peasant's horse and waving
his hand to me in farewell.
I looked after him as he rode at a fast gallop down the slope of the green
mountain, the noise of the horse's feet echoing along the silent plain. I
turned at length to leave the spot, and then perceived for the first
time that when taking his farewell of me he had hung around my neck his
miniature of the Empress. Poor boy! How sorrowful I felt thus to rob him of
what he had held so dear! How gladly would I have overtaken him to restore
it! It was the only keepsake he possessed; and knowing that I would not
accept it if offered, he took this way of compelling me to keep it.
Through the long hours of the summer's night I thought of him; and when
at last I slept, towards morning, my first thought on waking was of the
solitary day before me. The miles no longer slipped imperceptibly along; no
longer did the noon and night seem fast to follow. Alas, that one should
grow old! The very sorrows of our early years have something soft and
touching in them. Arising less from deep wrong than slight mischances, the
grief they cause comes ever with an alloy of pleasant thoughts, telling
of the tender past, and amidst the tears called up, forming some bright
rainbow of future hope.
Poor St. Croix had already won greatly upon me, and I felt lonely and
desolate when he departed.
Nothing of incident marked our farther progress towards the frontier of
Spain, and at length we reached the small town of Alvas. It was past sunset
as we arrived, and instead of the usual quiet and repose of a little
village, we found the streets crowded with people, on horseback and on
foot; mules, bullocks, carts, and wagons blocked up the way, and the oaths
of the drivers and the screaming of women and children resounded on all
With what little Spanish I possessed I questioned some of those near me,
and learned, in reply, that a dreadful engagement had taken place that day
between the advanced guard of the French, under Victor, and the Lusitanian
legion; that the Portuguese troops had been beaten and completely routed,
losing all their artillery and baggage; that the French were rapidly
advancing, and expected hourly to arrive at Alvas, in consequence of which
the terror-stricken inhabitants were packing up their possessions and
Here, then, was a point of considerable difficulty for me at once. My
instructions had never provided for such a conjuncture, and I was totally
unable to determine what was best to be done; both my men and their horses
were completely tired by a march of fourteen leagues, and had a pressing
need of some rest; on every side of me the preparations for flight were
proceeding with all the speed that fear inspires; and to my urgent request
for some information as to food and shelter, I could obtain no other reply
than muttered menaces of the fate before me if I remained, and exaggerated
accounts of French cruelty.
Amidst all this bustle and confusion a tremendous fall of heavy rain set
in, which at once determined me, come what might, to house my party, and
provide forage for our horses.
As we pushed our way slowly through the encumbered streets, looking on
every side for some appearance of a village inn, a tremendous shout rose in
our rear, and a rush of the people towards us induced us to suppose
that the French were upon us. For some minutes the din and uproar were
terrific,--the clatter of horses' feet, the braying of trumpets, the
yelling of the mob, all mingling in one frightful concert.
I formed my men in close column, and waited steadily for the attack,
resolving, if possible, to charge through the advancing files,--any retreat
through the crowded and blocked-up thoroughfares being totally out of the
question. The rain was falling in such torrents that nothing could be seen
a few yards off, when suddenly a pause of a few seconds occurred, and from
the clash of accoutrements, and the hoarse tones of a loud voice, I judged
that the body of men before us were forming for attack.
Resolving, therefore, to take them by surprise, I gave the word to charge,
and spurring our jaded cattle, onward we dashed. The mob fled right and
left from us as we came on; and through the dense mist we could just
perceive a body of cavalry before us.
In an instant we were among them; down they went on every side, men and
horses rolling pell-mell over each other; not a blow, not a shot striking
us as we pressed on. Never did I witness such total consternation; some
threw themselves from their horses, and fled towards the houses; others
turned and tried to fall back, but the increasing pressure from behind held