Part 4 out of 10
father; 'he's lucky if he don't get shot himself!'
"'May I never, if I'm not sick of you both!' ejaculated rabbit-skin, in a
passion. 'I've moved you round every point of the compass, and the devil a
nearer we are than ever!'
"'Give us the word,' said one.
"'Downright murder,' said my father.
"'I don't care,' said the little man; 'we shall be here till doomsday.'
"'I can't permit this,' said my father; 'allow me.' So saying, he stepped
upon the window-sill, and leaped down into the field.
"'Before I can accept of your politeness,' said he of the rabbit-skin, 'may
I beg to know your name and position in society?'
"'Nothing more reasonable,' said my father. 'I'm Miles O'Shaughnessy,
Colonel of the Royal Raspers,--here is my card.'
"The piece of pasteboard was complacently handed from one to the other of
the party, who saluted my father with a smile of most courteous benignity.
"'Colonel O'Shaughnessy,' said one.
"'Miles O'Shaughnessy,' said the other.
"'Of Killinahoula Castle,' said the third.
"'At your service,' said my father, bowing, as he presented his snuff-box;
'and now to business, if you please, for my time also is limited.'
"'Very true,' observed he of the rabbit-skin; 'and, as you observe, now to
business; in virtue of which, Colonel Miles O'Shaughnessy, I hereby arrest
you in the King's name. Here is the writ; it's at the suit of Barnaby
Kelly, of Loughrea, for the sum of L1,482 19s. 7-1/2d., which--'
"Before he could conclude the sentence, my father discharged one obligation
by implanting his closed knuckles in his face. The blow, well aimed and
well intentioned, sent the little fellow summersetting like a sugar
hogshead. But, alas! it was of no use; the others, strong and able-bodied,
fell both upon him, and after a desperate struggle succeeded in getting him
down. To tie his hands, and convey him to the chaise, was the work of a few
moments; and as my father drove by the inn, the last object which caught
his view was a bloody encounter between his own people and the myrmidons
of the law, who, in great numbers, had laid siege to the house during his
capture. Thus was my father taken; and thus, in reward for yielding to a
virtuous weakness in his character, was he consigned to the ignominious
durance of a prison. Was I not right, then, in saying that such is the
melancholy position of our country, the most beautiful traits in our
character are converted into the elements of our ruin?"
"I dinna think ye ha'e made out your case, Major?" said the Scotch doctor,
who felt sorely puzzled at my friend's logic. "If your faether had na gi'en
"There is no saying what he wouldn't have done to the bailiffs,"
interrupted Dennis, who was following up a very different train of
"I fear me, Doctor," observed Quill, "you are much behind us in Scotland.
Not but that some of your chieftains are respectable men, and wouldn't get
on badly even in Galway."
"I thank ye muckle for the compliment," said the doctor, dryly; "but I ha'e
my doubts they'd think it ane, and they're crusty carls that's no' ower
safe to meddle wi'."
"I'd as soon propose a hand of 'spoiled five' to the Pope of Rome, as a
joke to one of them," returned Maurice.
"May be ye are na wrang there, Maister Quell."
"Well," cried Hampden, "if I may be allowed an opinion, I can safely aver I
know no quarters like Scotland. Edinburgh beyond anything or anywhere I was
ever placed in."
"Always after Dublin," interposed Maurice; while a general chorus of voices
re-echoed the sentiment.
"You are certainly a strong majority," said my friend, "against me; but
still I recant not my original opinion. Edinburgh before the world. For a
hospitality that never tires; for pleasant fellows that improve every day
of your acquaintance; for pretty girls that make you long for a repeal of
the canon about being only singly blessed, and lead you to long for a score
of them, Edinburgh,--I say again, before the world."
"Their ankles are devilish thick," whispered Maurice.
"A calumny, a base calumny!"
"And then they drink--"
"Yes; they drink very strong tea."
"Shall we ha'e a glass o' sherry together, Hampden?" said the Scotch
doctor, willing to acknowledge his defence of auld Reekie.
"And we'll take O'Malley in," said Hampden; "he looks imploringly."
"And now to return to the charge," quoth Maurice. "In what particular dare
ye contend the palm with Dublin? We'll not speak of beauty. I can't suffer
any such profane turn in the conversation as to dispute the superiority of
Irishwomen's lips, eyes, noses, and eyebrows, to anything under heaven.
We'll not talk of gay fellows; egad, we needn't. I'll give you the
garrison,--a decent present,--and I'll back the Irish bar for more genuine
drollery, more wit, more epigram, more ready sparkling fun, than the whole
rest of the empire--ay, and all her colonies--can boast of."
"They are nae remarkable for passing the bottle, if they resemble their
very gifted advocate," observed the Scotchman.
"But they are for filling and emptying both, making its current, as it
glides by, like a rich stream glittering in the sunbeams with the sparkling
lustre of their wit. Lord, how I'm blown! Fill my pannikin, Charley.
There's no subduing a Scot. Talk with him, drink with him, fight with him,
and he'll always have the last of it; there's only one way of concluding
"And that is--"
"Blarney him. Lord bless you, he can't stand it! Tell him Holyrood's like
Versailles, and the Trossach's finer than Mont Blanc; that Geordie Buchanan
was Homer, and the Canongate, Herculaneum,--then ye have him on the hip.
Now, ye never can humbug an Irishman that way; he'll know you're quizzing
him when you praise his country."
"Ye are right, Hampden," said the Scotch doctor, in reply to some
observation. "We are vara primitive in the Hielands, and we keep to our ain
national customs in dress and everything; and we are vara slow to learn,
and even when we try we are nae ower successfu' in our imitations, which
sometimes cost us dearly enough. Ye may have heard, may be, of the M'Nab o'
that ilk, and what happened him with the king's equerry?"
"I'm not quite certain," said Hampden, "if I ever heard the story."
"It's nae muckle of a story; but the way of it was this. When Montrose came
back from London, he brought with him a few Englishers to show them the
Highlands, and let them see something of deer-stalking,--among the rest, a
certain Sir George Sowerby, an aide-de-camp or an equerry of the prince.
He was a vara fine gentleman, that never loaded his ain gun, and a'most
thought it too much trouble to pull the trigger. He went out every
morning to shoot with his hair curled like a woman, and dressed like a
dancing-master. Now, there happened to be at the same time at the castle
the Laird o' M'Nab; he was a kind of cousin of the Montrose, and a rough
old tyke of the true Hieland breed, wha' thought that the head of a clan
was fully equal to any king or prince. He sat opposite to Sir George at
dinner the day of his arrival, and could not conceal his surprise at the
many new-fangled ways of feeding himself the Englisher adopted. He ate his
saumon wi' his fork in ae hand, and a bittock of bread in the other. He
would na touch the whiskey; helped himself to a cutlet wi' his fingers. But
what was maist extraordinary of all, he wore a pair o' braw white gloves
during the whole time o' dinner and when they came to tak' away the cloth,
he drew them off with a great air, and threw them into the middle of it,
and then, leisurely taking anither pair off a silver salver which his ain
man presented, he pat them on for dessert. The M'Nab, who, although an
auld-fashioned carl, was aye fond of bringing something new hame to his
friends, remarked the Englisher's proceeding with great care, and the next
day he appeared at dinner wi' a huge pair of Hieland mittens, which he
wore, to the astonishment of all and the amusement of most, through the
whole three courses; and exactly as the Englishman changed his gloves, the
M'Nab produced a fresh pair of goats' wool, four times as large as the
first, which, drawing on with prodigious gravity, he threw the others into
the middle of the cloth, remarking, as he did so,--
"'Ye see, Captain, we are never ower auld to learn.'
"All propriety was now at an end, and a hearty burst of laughter from one
end of the table to the other convulsed the whole company,--the M'Nab and
the Englishman being the only persons who did not join in it, but sat
glowering at each other like twa tigers; and, indeed, it needed, a'
the Montrose's interference that they had na quarrelled upon it in the
"The M'Nab was a man after my own heart," said Maurice; "there was
something very Irish in the lesson he gave the Englishman."
"I'd rather ye'd told him that than me," said the doctor, dryly; "he would
na hae thanked ye for mistaking him for ane of your countrymen."
"Come, Doctor," said Dennis, "could not ye give us a stave? Have ye nothing
that smacks of the brown fern and the blue lakes in your memory?"
"I have na a sang in my mind just noo except 'Johnny Cope,' which may be
might na be ower pleasant for the Englishers to listen to."
"I never heard a Scotch song worth sixpence," quoth Maurice, who seemed
bent on provoking the doctor's ire. "They contain nothing save some
puling sentimentality about lasses with lint-white locks, or some absurd
laudations of the Barley Bree."
"Hear till him, hear till him!" said the doctor, reddening with impatience.
"Show me anything," said Maurice, "like the 'Cruiskeen Lawn' or the 'Jug
of Punch;' but who can blame them, after all? You can't expect much from a
people with an imagination as naked as their own knees."
"Maurice! Maurice!" cried O'Shaughnessy, reprovingly, who saw that he was
pushing the other's endurance beyond all bounds.
"I mind weel," said the Scotchman, "what happened to ane o' your countrymen
wha took upon him to jest as you are doing now. It was to Laurie Cameron he
"And what said the redoubted Laurie in reply?"
"He did na say muckle, but he did something."
"And what might it be?" inquired Maurice.
"He threw him ower the brig of Ayr into the water, and he was drowned."
"And did Laurie come to no harm about the matter?"
"Ay, they tried him for it, and found him guilty; but when they asked
him what he had to say in his defence, he merely replied, 'When the carl
sneered about Scotland, I did na suspect that he did na ken how to swim;'
and so the end of it was, they did naething to Laurie."
"Cool that, certainly," said I.
"I prefer your friend with the mittens, I confess," said Maurice, "though
I'm sure both were most agreeable companion. But come, Doctor, couldn't you
Sit ye down, my heartie, and gie us a crack,
Let the wind tak' the care o' the world on his back.'"
"You maunna attempt English poethry, my freend Quell; for it must be
confessed ye'e a damnable accent of your ain."
"Milesian-Phoenician-Corkacian; nothing more, my boy, and a coaxing kind
of recitative it is, after all. Don't tell me of your soft Etruscan, your
plethoric. _Hoch_-Deutsch, your flattering French. To woo and win the
girl of your heart, give me a rich brogue and the least taste in life of
blarney! There's nothing like it, believe me,--every inflection of your
voice suggesting some tender pressure of her soft hand or taper waist,
every cadence falling on her gentle heart like a sea-breeze on a burning
coast, or a soft sirocco over a rose-tree. And then, think, my boys,--and
it is a fine thought after all,--what a glorious gift that is, out of the
reach of kings to give or to take, what neither depends upon the act of
Union nor the _Habeas Corpus_. No! they may starve us, laugh at us, tax us,
transport us. They may take our mountains, our valleys, and our bogs; but,
bad luck to them, they can't steal our 'blarney;' that's the privilege one
and indivisible with our identity. And while an Englishman raves of his
liberty, a Scotchman of his oaten meal, blarney's _our_ birthright, and a
prettier portion I'd never ask to leave behind me to my sons. If I'd as
large a family as the ould gentleman called Priam we used to hear of at
school, it's the only inheritance I'd give them, and one comfort there
would be besides, the legacy duty would be only a trifle. Charley, my
son, I see you're listening to me, and nothing satisfies me more than to
instruct inspiring youth; so never forget the old song,--
'If at your ease, the girls you'd please,
And win them, like Kate Kearney,
There's but one way, I've heard them say,
Go kiss the Stone of Blarney.'"
"What do you say, Shaugh, if we drink it with all the honors?"
"But gently: do I hear a trumpet there?"
"Ah, there go the bugles. Can it be daybreak already?"
"How short the nights are at this season!" said Quill.
"What an infernal rumpus they're making! It's not possible the troops are
to march so early."
"It wouldn't surprise me in the least," quoth Maurice; "there is no knowing
what the commander-in-chief's not capable of,--the reason's clear enough."
"And why, Maurice?"
"There's not a bit of blarney about him."
The _reveil_ sang out from every brigade, and the drums beat to fall in,
while Mike came galloping up at full speed to say that the bridge of boats
was completed, and that the Twelfth were already ordered to cross. Not a
moment was therefore to be lost; one parting cup we drained to our next
meeting, and amidst a hundred "good-bys" we mounted our horses. Poor
Hampden's brains, sadly confused by the wine and the laughing, he knew
little of what was going on around him, and passed the entire time of our
homeward ride in a vain endeavor to adapt "Mary Draper" to the air of "Rule
From this period the French continued their retreat, closely followed by
the allied armies, and on the 5th of April, Massena once more crossed the
frontier into Spain, leaving thirty thousand of his bravest troops behind
him, fourteen thousand of whom had fallen or been taken prisoners.
Reinforcements, however, came rapidly pouring in. Two divisions of the
Ninth corps had already arrived, and Drouet, with eleven thousand infantry
and cavalry, was preparing to march to his assistance. Thus strengthened,
the French army marched towards the Portuguese frontier, and Lord
Wellington, who had determined not to hazard much by his blockade of Ciudad
Rodrigo, fell back upon the large table-land beyond the Turones and the Dos
Casas, with his left at Fort Conception, and his right resting upon Fuentes
d'Onoro. His position extended to about five miles; and here, although
vastly inferior in numbers, yet relying upon the bravery of the troops, and
the moral ascendency acquired by their pursuit of the enemy, he finally
resolved upon giving them battle.
Being sent with despatches to Pack's brigade, which formed the blockading
force at Almeida, I did not reach Fuentes d'Onoro until the evening of the
3d. The thundering of the guns, which, even at the distance I was at, was
plainly heard, announced that an attack had taken place, but it by no means
prepared me for the scene which presented itself on my return.
The village of Fuentes d'Onoro, one of the most beautiful in Spain, is
situated in a lovely valley, where all the charms of verdure so peculiar to
the Peninsula seemed to have been scattered with a lavish hand. The citron
and the arbutus, growing wild, sheltered every cottage door, and the
olive and the laurel threw their shadows across the little rivulet which
traversed the village. The houses, observing no uniform arrangement,
stood wherever the caprice or the inclination of the builder suggested,
surrounded with little gardens, the inequality of the ground imparting a
picturesque feature to even the lowliest hut, while upon a craggy eminence
above the rest, an ancient convent and a ruined chapel looked down upon the
little peaceful hamlet with an air of tender protection.
Hitherto this lovely spot had escaped all the ravages of war. The light
division of our army had occupied it for months long; and every family was
gratefully remembered by some one or other of our officers, and more than
one of our wounded found in the kind and affectionate watching of these
poor peasants the solace which sickness rarely meets with when far from
home and country.
It was, then, with an anxious heart I pressed my horse forward into a
gallop as the night drew near. The artillery had been distinctly heard
during the day, and while I burned with eagerness to know the result, I
felt scarcely less anxious for the fate of that little hamlet whose name
many a kind story had implanted in my memory. The moon was shining brightly
as I passed the outpost, and leading my horse by the bridle, descended the
steep and rugged causeway to the village beneath me. The lanterns were
moving rapidly to and fro; the measured tread of infantry at night--that
ominous sound, which falls upon the heart so sadly--told me that they
were burying the dead. The air was still and breathless; not a sound was
stirring save the step of the soldiery, and the harsh clash of the shovel
as it struck the earth. I felt sad and sick at heart, and leaned against a
tree; a nightingale concealed in the leaves was pouring forth its plaintive
notes to the night air, and its low warble sounded like the dirge of the
departed. Far beyond, in the plain, the French watch-fires were burning,
and I could see from time to time the fatigue-parties moving in search of
their wounded. At this moment the clock of the convent struck eleven, and a
merry chime rang out, and was taken up by the echoes till it melted away in
the distance. Alas, where were those whose hearts were wont to feel cheered
at that happy peal; whose infancy it had gladdened; whose old age it has
hallowed? The fallen walls, the broken roof-trees, the ruin and desolation
on every side, told too plainly that they had passed away forever! The
smoking embers, the torn-up pathway, denoted the hard-fought struggle; and
as I passed along, I could see that every garden, where the cherry and the
apple-blossom were even still perfuming the air, had now its sepulchre.
"Halt, there!" cried a hoarse voice in front. "You cannot pass this
way,--the commander-in-chief's quarters."
I looked up and beheld a small but neat-looking cottage, which seemed to
have suffered less than the others around. Lights were shining brightly
from the windows, and I could even detect from time to time a figure
muffled up in a cloak passing to and fro across the window; while another,
seated at a table, was occupied in writing. I turned into a narrow path
which led into the little square of the village, and here, as I approached,
the hum and murmur of voices announced a bivouac party. Stopping to ask
what had been the result of the day, I learned that a tremendous attack
had been made by the French in column upon the village, which was at first
successful; but that afterwards the Seventy-first and Seventy-ninth,
marching down from the heights, had repulsed the enemy, and driven them
beyond the Dos Casas. Five hundred had fallen in that fierce encounter,
which was continued through every street and alley of the little hamlet.
The gallant Highlanders now occupied the battle-field; and hearing that the
cavalry brigade was some miles distant, I willingly accepted their offer to
share their bivouac, and passed the remainder of the night among them.
When day broke, our troops were under arms, but the enemy showed no
disposition to renew the attack. We could perceive, however, from the road
to the southward, by the long columns of dust, that reinforcements were
still arriving; and learned during the morning, from a deserter, that
Massena himself had come up, and Bessieres also, with twelve hundred
cavalry, and a battery of the Imperial Guard.
From the movements observable in the enemy, it was soon evident that the
battle, though deferred, was not abandoned; and the march of a strong
force towards the left of their position induced our commander-in-chief to
despatch the Seventh Division, under Houston, to occupy the height of Naval
d'Aver--our extreme right--in support of which our brigade of cavalry
marched as a covering force. The British position was thus unavoidably
extended to the enormous length of seven miles, occupying a succession of
small eminences, from the division at Fort Conception to the height of
Naval d'Aver,--Fuentes d'Onoro forming nearly the centre of the line.
It was evident, from the thickening combinations of the French, that a more
dreadful battle was still in reserve for us; and yet never did men look
more anxiously for the morrow.
As for myself, I felt a species of exhilaration I had never before
experienced; the events of the preceding day came dropping in upon me from
every side, and at every new tale of gallantry or daring I felt my heart
bounding with excited eagerness to win also my need of honorable praise.
Crawfurd, too, had recognized me in the kindest manner; and while saying
that he did not wish to withdraw me from my regiment on a day of battle,
added that he would make use of me for the present on his staff. Thus was
I engaged, from early in the morning till late in the evening, bringing
orders and despatches along the line. The troop-horse I rode--for I
reserved my gray for the following day--was scarcely able to carry me
along, as towards dusk I jogged along in the direction of Naval d'Aver.
When I did reach our quarters, the fires were lighted, and around one of
them I had the good fortune to find a party of the Fourteenth occupied in
discussing a very appetizing little supper. The clatter of plates, and the
popping of champagne corks were most agreeable sounds. Indeed, the latter
appeared to me so much too flattering an illusion, that I hesitated giving
credit to my senses in the matter, when Baker called out,--
"Come, Charley, sit down; you're just in the nick. Tom Marsden is giving us
a benefit. You know Tom?"
And here he presented me in due form to that best of commissaries and most
hospitable of horse-dealers.
"I can't introduce you to my friend on my right," continued Baker, "for my
Spanish is only a skeleton battalion; but he's a trump,--that I'll vouch
for; never flinches his glass, and looks as though he enjoyed all our
The Spaniard, who appeared to comprehend that he was alluded to, gravely
saluted me with a low bow, and offered his glass to hobnob with me. I
returned the curtesy with becoming ceremony, while Hampden whispered in my
"A fine-looking fellow. You know who he is? Julian, the Guerilla chief."
I had heard much of both the strangers. Tom Marsden was a household word
in every cavalry brigade; equally celebrated were his contracts and his
claret. He knew every one, from Lord Wellington to the last-joined cornet;
and while upon a march, there was no piece of better fortune than to be
asked to dine with him. So in the very thick of battle, Tom's critical eye
was scanning the squadrons engaged, with an accuracy as to the number of
fresh horses that would be required upon the morrow that nothing but long
practice and infinite coolness could have conferred.
Of the Guerilla I need not speak. The bold feats he accomplished, the aid
he rendered to the cause of his country, have made his name historical. Yet
still with all this, fatigue, more powerful than my curiosity, prevailed,
and I sank into a heavy sleep upon the grass, while my merry companions
kept up their revels till near morning. The last piece of consciousness I
am sensible of was seeing Julian spreading his wide mantle over me as I
lay, while I heard his deep voice whisper a kind wish for my repose.
THE BATTLE OF FUENTES D'ONORO.
So soundly did I sleep that the tumult and confusion of the morning never
awoke me; and the Guerilla, whose cavalry were stationed along the edge of
the ravine near the heights of Echora, would not permit of my being roused
before the last moment. Mike stood near me with my horses, and it was only
when the squadrons were actually forming that I sprang to my feet and
looked around me.
The day was just breaking; a thick mist lay upon the parched earth, and
concealed everything a hundred yards from where we stood. From this dense
vapor the cavalry defiled along the base of the hill, followed by the
horse artillery and the Guards, disappearing again as they passed us,
but proving, by the mass of troops now assembled, that our position was
regarded as the probable point of attack.
While the troops continued to take up their position, the sun shone out,
and a slight breeze blowing at the same, moment, the heavy clouds moved
past, and we beheld the magnificent panorama of the battle-field. Before
us, at the distance of less than half a league, the French cavalry were
drawn up in three strong columns; the Cuirassiers of the Guard, plainly
distinguished by their steel cuirasses, flanked by the Polish Lancers and a
strong huzzar brigade; a powerful artillery train supported the left, and
an infantry force occupied the entire space between the right and the
rising ground opposite Poco Velho. Farther to the right again, the column
destined for the attack of Fuentes d'Onoro were forming, and we could see
that, profiting by their past experience, they were bent upon attacking the
village with an overwhelming force.
For above two hours the French continued to manoeuvre, more than one
alteration having taken place in their disposition; fresh battalions were
moved towards the front, and gradually the whole of their cavalry was
assembled on the extreme left in front of our position. Our people were
ordered to breakfast where we stood; and a little after seven o'clock a
staff officer came riding down the line, followed in a few moments after by
General Crawfurd, when no sooner was his well-known brown cob recognized by
the troops than a hearty cheer greeted him along the whole division.
"Thank ye, boys; thank ye, boys, with all my heart. No man feels more
sensibly what that cheer means than I do. Guards, Lord Wellington relies
upon your maintaining this position, which is essential to the safety of
the whole line. You will be supported by the light division. I need say
no more. If such troops cannot keep their ground, none can. Fourteenth,
there's your place; the artillery and the Sixteenth are with you. They've
the odds of us in numbers, lads; but it will tell all the better in the
'Gazette.' I see they're moving; so fall in now, fall in; and Merivale,
move to the front. Ramsey, prepare to open your fire on the attacking
As he spoke, the low murmuring sound of distantly moving cavalry crept
along the earth, growing louder and louder, till at length we could detect
the heavy tramp of the squadrons as they came on in a trot, our pace
being merely a walk. While we thus advanced into the plain, the artillery
unlimbered behind us, and the Spanish cavalry, breaking into skirmishers,
dashed boldly to the front.
It was an exciting moment. The ground dipped between the two armies so
as to conceal the head of the advancing column of the French, and as the
Spanish skirmishers disappeared down the ridge, our beating hearts and
straining eyes followed their last horseman.
"Halt! halt!" was passed from squadron to squadron, and the same instant
the sharp ring of the pistol shots and the clash of steel from the valley,
told us the battle had begun. We could hear the Guerilla war-cry mingle
with the French shout, while the thickening crash of fire-arms implied a
sharper conflict. Our fellows were already manifesting some impatience
to press on, when a Spanish horseman appeared above the ridge, another
followed, and another, and then pell-mell, broken and disordered, they
fell back before the pursuing cavalry in flying masses; while the French,
charging them hotly home, utterly routed and repulsed them.
The leading squadrons of the French now fell back upon their support; the
column of attack thickened, and a thundering noise between their masses
announced their brigade of light guns as they galloped to the front. It was
then for the first time that I felt dispirited; far as my eye could stretch
the dense mass of sabres extended, defiling from the distant hills and
winding its slow length across the plain. I turned to look at our line,
scarce one thousand strong, and could not help feeling that our hour was
come: the feeling flashed vividly across my mind, but the next instant I
felt my cheek redden with shame as I gazed upon the sparkling eyes and bold
looks around me, the lips compressed, the hands knitted to their sabres;
all were motionless, but burning to advance.
The French had halted on the brow of the hill to form, when Merivale came
cantering up to us.
"Fourteenth, are you ready? Are you ready, lads?"
"Ready, sir! ready!" re-echoed along the line.
"Then push them home and charge! Charge!" cried he, raising his voice to a
shout at the last word.
Heavens, what a crash was there! Our horses, in top condition, no sooner
felt the spur than they bounded madly onwards. The pace--for the distance
did not exceed four hundred yards--was like racing. To resist the impetus
of our approach was impossible; and without a shot fired, scarcely a
sabre-cut exchanged, we actually rode down their advanced squadrons,
hurling them headlong upon their supporting division, and rolling men and
horses beneath us on every side. The French fell back upon their artillery;
but before they could succeed in opening their fire upon us, we had
wheeled, and carrying off about seventy prisoners, galloped back to our
position with the loss of but two men in the affair. The whole thing was so
sudden, so bold, and so successful, that I remember well, as we rode
back, a hearty burst of laughter was ringing through the squadron at the
ludicrous display of horsemanship the French presented as they tumbled
headlong down the hill; and I cannot help treasuring the recollection,
for from that moment, all thought of anything short of victory completely
quitted my mind, and many of my brother officers, who had participated in
my feelings at the commencement of the day, confessed to me afterwards that
it was then for the first time they felt assured of beating the enemy.
While we slowly fell back to our position, the French were seen advancing
in great force from the village of Almeida, to the attack of Poco Velho;
they came on at a rapid pace, their artillery upon their front and flank,
large masses of cavalry hovering around them. The attack upon the village
was now opened by the large guns; and amidst the booming of the artillery
and the crashing volleys of small fire-arms, rose the shout of the
assailants, and the wild cry of the Guerilla cavalry, who had formed in
front of the village. The French advanced firmly, driving back the pickets,
and actually inundated the devoted village with a shower of grape; the
blazing fires burst from the ignited roofs; and the black, dense smoke,
rising on high, seemed to rest like a pall over the little hamlet.
The conflict was now a tremendous one; our Seventh Division held the
village with the bayonet; but the French continuing to pour in mass upon
mass, drove them back with loss, and at the end of an hour's hard fighting,
took possession of the place.
The wood upon the left flank was now seen to swarm with light infantry, and
the advancement of their whole left proved that they meditated to turn our
flank; the space between the village and the hill of Naval d'Aver became
thus the central position; and here the Guerilla force, led on by Julian
Sanches, seemed to await the French with confidence. Soon, however, the
cuirassiers came galloping to the spot, and almost without exchanging a
sabre-cut, the Guerillas fell back, and retired behind the Turones. This
movement of Julian was more attributable to anger than to fear; for his
favorite lieutenant, being mistaken for a French officer, was shot by a
soldier of the Guards a few minutes before.
Montbrun pursued the Guerillas with some squadrons of horse, but they
turned resolutely upon the French, and not till overwhelmed by numbers did
they show any disposition to retreat.
The French, however, now threw forward their whole cavalry, and driving
back the English horse, succeeded in turning the right of the Seventh
Division. The battle by this time was general. The staff officers who came
up from the left informed us that Fuentes d'Onoro was attacked in force,
Massena himself leading the assault in person; while thus for seven miles
the fight was maintained hotly at intervals, it was evident that upon the
maintenance of our position the fortune of the day depended. Hitherto we
had been repulsed from the village and the wood; and the dark masses of
infantry which were assembled upon our right, seemed to threaten the hill
of Naval d'Aver with as sad a catastrophe.
Crawfurd came now galloping up among us, his eye flashing fire, and his
uniform splashed and covered with foam:
"Steady Sixteenth, steady! Don't blow your horses! Have your fellows
advanced, Malcolm?" said he, turning to an officer who stood beside him.
"Ay, there they go!" pointing with his finger to the wood where, as he
spoke, the short ringing of the British rifle proclaimed the advance of
that brigade. "Let the cavalry prepare to charge! And now, Ramsey, let us
give it them home!"
Scarcely were the words spoken, when the squadrons were formed, and in an
instant after, the French light infantry were seen retreating from the
wood, and flying in disorderly masses across the plain. Our squadrons
riding down among them, actually cut them to atoms, while the light
artillery, unlimbering, threw in a deadly discharge of grape-shot.
"To the right, Fourteenth, to the right!" cried General Stewart. "Have at
Whirling by them, we advanced at a gallop, and dashed towards the enemy,
who, not less resolutely bent, came boldly forward to meet us. The shock
was terrific! The leading squadrons on both sides went down almost to a
man, and all order being lost, the encounter became one of hand to hand.
The struggle was deadly; neither party would give way; and while fortune
now inclined hither and thither, Sir Charles Stewart singled out the French
general, Lamotte, and carried him off his prisoner. Meanwhile Montbrun's
cavalry and the cuirassiers came riding up, and the retreat now sounding
through our ranks, we were obliged to fall back upon the infantry. The
French pursued us hotly; and so rapid was their movement, that before
Ramsey's brigade could limber up and away, their squadrons had surrounded
him and captured his guns.
"Where is Ramsey?" cried Crawfurd, as he galloped to the head of our
division. "Cut off--cut off! Taken, by G----! There he goes!" said he,
pointing with his finger, as a dense cloud of mingled smoke and dust moved
darkly across the plain. "Form into column once more!"
As he spoke, the dense mass before us seemed agitated by some mighty
commotion; the flashing of blades, and the rattling of small-arms, mingled
with shouts of triumph or defiance, burst forth, and the ominous cloud
lowering more darkly, seemed peopled by those in deadly strife. An English
cheer pealed high above all other sounds; a second followed; the mass was
rent asunder, and like the forked lightning from a thunder-cloud, Ramsey
rode forth at the head of his battery, the horses bounding madly, while the
guns sprang behind them like things of no weight; the gunners leaped to
their places, and fighting hand to hand with the French cavalry, they flew
across the plain.
"Nobly done, gallant Ramsey!" said a voice behind me. I turned at the
sound; it was Lord Wellington who spoke. My eye fixed upon his stern
features, I forgot all else; when he suddenly recalled me to my
recollection by saying,--
"Follow your brigade, sir. Charge!"
In an instant I was with my people, who, intervening betwixt Ramsey and his
pursuers, repulsed the enemy with loss, and carried off several prisoners.
The French, however, came up in greater strength; overwhelming masses of
cavalry came sweeping upon us, and we were obliged to retire behind the
light division, which rapidly formed into squares to resist the cavalry.
The Seventh Division, which was more advanced, were, however, too late for
this movement, and before they could effect their formation, the French
were upon them. At this moment they owed their safety to the Chasseurs
Britanniques, who poured in a flanking fire, so close, and with so deadly
an aim, that their foes recoiled, beaten and bewildered.
Meanwhile the French had become masters of Pogo Velho; the formidable
masses had nearly outflanked us on the right. The battle was lost if we
could not fall back upon our original position, and concentrate our force
upon Fuentes d'Onoro. To effect this was a work of great difficulty; but
no time was to be lost. The Seventh Division were ordered to cross the
Turones, while Crawfurd, forming the light division into squares, covered
their retreat, and supported by the cavalry, sustained the whole force of
the enemy's attack.
Then was the moment to witness the cool and steady bravery of British
infantry; the squares dotted across the enormous plain seemed as nothing
amidst that confused and flying multitude, composed of commissariat
baggage, camp-followers, peasants, and finally, broken pickets and videttes
arriving from the wood. A cloud of cavalry hovered and darkened around
them; the Polish Lancers shook their long spears, impatient of delay, and
the wild huzzas burst momentarily from their squadrons as they waited for
the word to attack. But the British stood firm and undaunted; and although
the enemy rode round their squares, Montbrun himself at their head, they
never dared to charge them. Meanwhile the Seventh Division fell back, as
if on a parade, and crossing the river, took up their ground at Frenada,
pivoting upon the First Division; the remainder of the line also fell back,
and assumed a position at right angles with their former one, the cavalry
forming in front, and holding the French in check during the movement. This
was a splendid manoeuvre, and when made in face of an overnumbering enemy,
one unmatched during the whole war.
At sight of this new front, the French stopped short, and opened a fire
from their heavy guns. The British batteries replied with vigor and
silenced the enemy's cannon. The cavalry drew out of range, and the
infantry gradually fell back to their former position. While this was going
on, the attack upon Fuentes d'Onoro was continued with unabated vigor.
The three British regiments in the lower town were pierced by the
French tirailleurs, who poured upon them in overwhelming numbers; the
Seventy-ninth were broken, ten companies taken, and Cameron, their colonel,
mortally wounded. Thus the lower village was in the hands of the enemy,
while from the upper town the incessant roll of musketry proclaimed the
obstinate resistance of the British.
At this period the reserves were called up from the right, in time to
resist the additional troops which Drouet continued to bring on. The
French, reinforced by the whole Sixth Corps, now came forward at a
quick-step. Dashing through the ruined streets of the lower town, they
crossed the rivulet, fighting bravely, and charged against the height.
Already their leading files had gained the crag beside the chapel. A French
colonel holding his cap upon his sword-point waved on his men.
The grizzly features of the grenadiers soon appeared, and the dark column,
half-climbing, half-running, were seen scaling the height. A rifle-bullet
sent the French leader tumbling from the precipice; and a cheer--mad and
reckless as the war-cry of an Indian--rent the sky, as the 71st and 79th
Highlanders sprang upon the enemy.
Our part was a short one; advancing in half squadrons, we were concealed
from the observation of the enemy by the thick vineyards which skirted the
lower town, waiting, with impatience, the moment when our gallant infantry
should succeed in turning the tide of battle. We were ordered to dismount,
and stood with our bridles on our arms, anxious and expectant. The charge
of the French column was made close to where we were standing,--the
inspiriting cheers of the officers, the loud _vivas_ of the men, were
plainly heard by us as they rushed to the assault; but the space between
us was intersected by walls and brushwood, which totally prevented the
movements of cavalry.
Fearlessly their dark column moved up the heights, fixing the bayonets
as they went. No tirailleurs preceded them, but the tall shako of the
Grenadier of the Guard was seen in the first rank. Long before the end of
the column had passed us, the leading files were in action. A deafening
peal of musketry--so loud, so dense, it seemed like artillery--burst forth.
A volume of black smoke rolled heavily down from the heights and hid all
from our view, except when the vivid lightning of the platoon firing rent
the veil asunder, and showed us the troops almost in hand to hand conflict.
"It's Picton's Division, I'm certain," cried Merivale; "I hear the bagpipes
of the Highlanders."
"You are right, sir," said Hampden, "the Seventy-first are in the same
brigade, and I know their bugles well. There they go again!"
"Fourteenth! Fourteenth!" cried a voice from behind, and at the same
moment, a staff officer, without his hat, and his horse bleeding from a
recent sabre-cut, came up. "You must move to the rear, Colonel Merivale;
the French have gained the heights! Move round by the causeway; bring up
your squadrons as quickly as you can, and support the infantry!"
In a moment we were in our saddles; but scarcely was the word "to fall in"
given, when a loud cheer rent the very air; the musketry seemed suddenly
to cease, and the dark mass which continued to struggle up the heights
wavered, broke, and turned.
"What can that be?" said Merivale. "What can it mean?"
"I can tell you, sir," said I, proudly, while I felt my heart throb as
though it would bound from my bosom.
"And what is it, boy? Speak!"
"There it goes again! That was an Irish shout! The Eighty-eighth are at
"By Jove, here they come!" said Hampden. "God help the Frenchmen now!"
The words were not well spoken, when the red coats of our gallant fellows
were seen dashing through the vineyard.
"The steel, boys; nothing but the steel!" shouted a loud voice from the
crag above our heads.
I looked up. It was the stern Picton himself who spoke. The Eighty-eighth
now led the pursuit, and sprang from rock to rock in all the mad
impetuosity of battle; and like some mighty billow rolling before the gale,
the French went down the heights.
"Gallant Eighty-eighth! Gloriously done!" cried Picton, as he waved his
"Aren't we Connaught robbers, now?" shouted a rich brogue, as its owner,
breathless and bleeding, pressed forward in the charge.
A hearty burst of laughter mingled with the din of the battle.
"Now for it, boys! Now for _our_ work!" said old Merivale, drawing his
sabre as he spoke. "Forward! and charge!"
We waited not a second bidding, but bursting from our concealment,
galloped down into the broken column. It was no regular charge, but an
indiscriminate rush. Scarcely offering resistance, the enemy fell beneath
our sabres, or the still more deadly bayonets of the infantry, who were
inextricably mingled up in the conflict.
The chase was followed up for above half a mile, when we fell back,
fortunately in good time; for the French had opened a heavy fire from their
artillery, and regardless of their own retreating column, poured a shower
of grape among our squadrons. As we retired, the struggling files of the
Rangers joined us,--their faces and accoutrements blackened and begrimed
with powder; many of them, themselves wounded, had captured prisoners; and
one huge fellow of the grenadier company was seen driving before him a
no less powerful Frenchman, and to whom, as he turned from time to time
reluctantly, and scowled upon his jailer, the other vociferated some Irish
imprecation, whose harsh intentions were made most palpably evident by a
flourish of a drawn bayonet.
"Who is he?" said Mike; "who is he, ahagur?"
"Sorra one o' me knows," said the other; "but it's the chap that shot
Lieutenant Mahony, and I never took my eye off him after; and if the
lieutenant's not dead, sure it'll be a satisfaction to him that I cotch
The lower town was now evacuated by the French, who retired beyond the
range of our artillery; the upper continued in the occupation of our
troops; and worn out and exhausted, surrounded by dead and dying, both
parties abandoned the contest, and the battle was over.
Both sides laid claim to the victory; the French, because, having taken the
village of Poco Velho, they had pierced the British line, and compelled
them to fall back and assume a new position; the British, because the
attack upon Fuentes d'Onoro has been successfully resisted, and the
blockade of Almeida--the real object of the battle--maintained. The loss
to each was tremendous; fifteen hundred men and officers, of whom three
hundred were prisoners, were lost by the allies, and a far greater number
fell among the forces of the enemy.
After the action, a brigade of the light division released the troops in
the village, and the armies bivouacked once more in sight of each other.
"LIEUTENANT O'MALLEY, 14th Light Dragoons, to serve as extra aide-de-camp
to Major-General Crawfurd, until the pleasure of his Royal Highness the
Prince Regent is known." Such was the first paragraph of a general order,
dated Fuentes d'Onoro, the day after the battle, which met me as I woke
from a sound and heavy slumber, the result of thirteen hours on horseback.
A staff appointment was not exactly what I desired at the moment; but I
knew that with Crawfurd my duties were more likely to be at the pickets and
advanced posts of the army, than in the mere details of note-writing or
despatch-bearing; besides that, I felt, whenever anything of importance
was to be done, I should always obtain his permission to do duty with my
Taking a hurried breakfast, therefore, I mounted my horse, and cantered
over to Villa Formosa, where the general's quarters were, to return my
thanks for the promotion, and take the necessary steps for assuming my new
Although the sun had risen about two hours, the fatigue of the previous day
had impressed itself upon all around. The cavalry, men and horses, were
still stretched upon the sward, sunk in sleep; the videttes, weary and
tired, seemed anxiously watching for the relief; and the disordered and
confused appearance of everything bespoke that discipline had relaxed its
stern features, in compassion for the bold exertions of the preceding day.
The only contrast to this general air of exhaustion and weariness on every
side was a corps of sappers, who were busily employed upon the high grounds
above the village. Early as it was, they seemed to have been at work
some hours,--at least so their labors bespoke; for already a rampart
of considerable extent had been thrown up, stockades implanted, and a
breastwork was in a state of active preparation. The officer of the party,
wrapped up in a loose cloak, and mounted upon a sharp-looking hackney, rode
hither and thither as the occasion warranted, and seemed, as well as from
the distance I could guess, something of a tartar. At least I could not
help remarking how, at his approach, the several inferior officers seemed
suddenly so much more on the alert, and the men worked with an additional
vigor and activity. I stopped for some minutes to watch him, and seeing
an engineer captain of my acquaintance among the party, couldn't resist
"I say, Hatchard, your friend on the chestnut mare must have had an easier
day yesterday than some of us, or I'll be hanged if he'd be so active this
morning." Hatchard hung his head in some confusion, and did not reply;
and on my looking round, whom should I see before me but the identical
individual I had so coolly been criticising, and who, to my utter horror
and dismay, was no other than Lord Wellington himself. I did not wait for a
second peep. Helter-skelter, through water, thickets, and brambles, away I
went, clattering down the causeway like a madman. If a French squadron had
been behind me, I should have had a stouter heart, although I did not fear
pursuit. I felt his eye was upon me,--his sharp and piercing glance, that
shot like an arrow into me; and his firm look stared at me in every object
Onward I pressed, feeling in the very recklessness of my course some relief
to my sense of shame, and ardently hoping that some accident--some smashed
arm or broken collar-bone--might befall me and rescue me from any notice
my conduct might otherwise call for. I never drew rein till I reached the
Villa Formosa, and pulled up short at a small cottage where a double sentry
apprised me of the general's quarters. As I came up, the low lattice sprang
quickly open, and a figure, half dressed, and more than half asleep,
protruded his head.
"Well, what has happened? Anything wrong?" said he, whom I now recognized
to be General Crawfurd.
"No, nothing wrong, sir," stammered I, with evident confusion. "I'm merely
come to thank you for your kindness in my behalf."
"You seemed in a devil of a hurry to do it, if I'm to judge by the pace
you came at. Come in and take your breakfast with us; I shall be dressed
presently, and you'll meet some of your brother aides-de-camp."
Having given my horse to an orderly, I walked into a little room, whose
humble accommodations and unpretending appearance seemed in perfect
keeping with the simple and unostentatious character of the general. The
preparations for a good and substantial breakfast were, however, before
me, and an English newspaper of a late date spread its most ample pages
to welcome me. I had not been long absorbed in my reading, when the door
opened, and the general, whose toilet was not yet completed, made his
"Egad, O'Malley, you startled me this morning. I thought we were in for it
I took this as the most seasonable opportunity to recount my mishap of the
morning, and accordingly, without more ado, detailed the unlucky meeting
with the commander-in-chief. When I came to the end, Crawfurd threw himself
into a chair and laughed till the very tears coursed down his bronzed
"You don't say so, boy? You don't really tell me you said that? By Jove! I
had rather have faced a platoon of musketry than have stood in your shoes!
You did not wait for a reply, I think?"
"No, faith, sir, that I did not!"
"Do you suspect he knows you?"
"I trust not, sir; the whole thing passed so rapidly!"
"Well, it's most unlucky in more ways than one!" He paused for a few
moments as he said this, and then added, "Have you seen the general order?"
pushing towards me a written paper as he spoke. It ran thus:--
G.O. ADJUTANT-GENERAL'S OFFICE, VILLA FORMOSA,
May 6, 1811.
_Memorandum_.--Commanding officers are requested to send in to
the military secretary, as soon as possible, the names of officers they
may wish to have promoted in succession to those who have fallen
"Now look at this list. The Honorable Harvey Howard, Grenadier Guards,
to be first lieutenant, _vice_--No, not that. Henry Beauchamp--George
Villiers--ay, here it is! Captain Lyttleton, Fourteenth Light Dragoons,
to be major in the Third Dragoon Guards, _vice_ Godwin, killed in action;
Lieutenant O'Malley to be captain, _vice_ Lyttleton, promoted. You see,
boy, I did not forget you; you were to have had the vacant troop in your
own regiment. Now I almost doubt the prudence of bringing your name under
Lord Wellington's notice. He may have recognized you; and if he did so,
why, I rather think--that is, I suspect--I mean, the quieter you keep the
While I poured forth my gratitude as warmly as I was able for the general's
great kindness to me, I expressed my perfect concurrence in his views.
"Believe me, sir," said I, "I should much rather wait any number of years
for my promotion, than incur the risk of a reprimand; the more so, as it is
not the first time I have blundered with his lordship." I here narrated
my former meeting with Sir Arthur, at which Crawfurd's mirth again burst
forth, and he paced the room, holding his sides in an ecstasy of merriment.
"Come, come, lad, we'll hope for the best; we'll give you the chance that
he has not seen your face, and send the list forward as it is. But here
come our fellows."
As he spoke, the door opened, and three officers of his staff entered, to
whom, being severally introduced, we chatted away about the news of the
morning until breakfast.
"I've frequently heard of you from my friend Hammersley," said Captain
Fitzroy, addressing me. "You were intimately acquainted, I believe?"
"Oh, yes! Pray, where is he now? We have not met for a long time."
"The poor fellow's invalided; that sabre-cut upon his head has turned out
a sad affair, and he's gone back to England on a sick leave. Old Dashwood
took him back with him as private secretary, or something of that sort."
"Ah!" said another, "Dashwood has daughters, hasn't he? No bad notion of
his; for Hammersley will be a baronet some of these days, with a rent-roll
of eight or nine thousand per annum."
"Sir George Dashwood," said I, "has but one daughter, and I am quite sure
that in his kindness to Hammersley no intentions of the kind you mention
were mixed up."
"Well, I don't know," said the third, a pale, sickly youth, with handsome
but delicate features. "I was on Dashwood's staff until a few weeks ago,
and certainly I thought there was something going on between Hammersley
and Miss Lucy, who, be it spoken, is a devilish fine girl, though rather
disposed to give herself airs."
I felt my cheek and my temples boiling like a furnace; my hand trembled as
I lifted my coffee to my lips; and I would have given my expected promotion
twice over to have had any reasonable ground of quarrel with the speaker.
"Egad, lads," said Crawfurd, "that's the very best thing I know about a
command. As a bishop is always sure to portion off his daughters with
deaneries and rectories, so your knowing old general always marries his
among his staff."
This sally was met with the ready laughter of the subordinates, in which,
however little disposed. I was obliged to join.
"You are quite right, sir," rejoined the pale youth; "and Sir George has no
fortune to give his daughter."
"How came it, Horace, that you got off safe?" said Fitzroy, with a certain
air of affected seriousness in his voice and manner. "I wonder they let
such a prize escape them."
"Well, it was not exactly their fault, I do confess. Old Dashwood did the
civil towards me, and _la belle Lucie_ herself was condescending enough to
be less cruel than to the rest of the staff. Her father threw us a good
deal together; and in fact, I believe--I fear--that is--that I didn't
behave quite well."
"You may rest perfectly assured of it, sir," said I; "whatever your
previous conduct may have been, you have completely relieved your mind on
this occasion, and behaved most shamefully."
Had a shell fallen in the midst of us, the faces around me could not have
been more horror-struck than when, in a cool, determined tone, I spoke
these few words. Fitzroy pushed his chair slightly back from the table, and
fixed his eyes full upon me. Crawfurd grew dark-purple over his whole face
and forehead, and looked from one to the other of us without speaking;
while the Honorable Horace Delawar, the individual addressed, never changed
a muscle of his wan and sickly features, but lifting his eyes slowly from
his muffin, lisped softly out,--
"You think so? How very good!"
"General Crawfurd," said I, the moment I could collect myself sufficiently
to speak, "I am deeply grieved that I should so far have forgotten myself
as to disturb the harmony of your table; but when I tell you that Sir
George Dashwood is one of my warmest friends on earth; that from my
intimate knowledge of him, I am certain that gentleman's statements are
either the mere outpourings of folly or worse--"
"By Jove, O'Malley! you have a very singular mode of explaining away the
matter. Delawar, sit down again. Gentlemen, I have only one word to say
about this transaction; I'll have no squabbles nor broils here; from this
room to the guard-house is a five minutes' walk. Promise me, upon your
honors, this altercation ends here, or as sure as my name's Crawfurd, you
shall both be placed under arrest, and the man who refuses to obey me shall
be sent back to England."
Before I well knew in what way to proceed, Mr. Delawar rose and bowed
formally to the general, while I imitated his example; silently we resumed
our places, and after a pause of a few moments, the current of conversation
was renewed, and other topics discussed, but with such evident awkwardness
and constraint that all parties felt relieved when the general rose from
"I say, O'Malley, have you forwarded the returns to the adjutant-general's
"Yes, sir; I despatched them this morning before leaving my quarters."
"I am glad of it; the irregularities on this score have called forth a
heavy reprimand at headquarters."
I was also glad of it, and it chanced that by mere accident I remembered to
charge Mike with the papers, which, had they not been lying unsealed upon
the table before me, would, in all likelihood, have escaped my attention.
The post started to Lisbon that same morning, to take advantage of which
I had sat up writing for half the night. Little was I aware at the
moment what a mass of trouble and annoyance was in store for me from the
On the morning of the 7th we perceived, from a movement in the French camp,
that the wounded were being sent to the rear, and shortly afterwards the
main body of their army commenced its retreat. They moved with slow, and as
it were, reluctant steps; and Bessieres, who commanded the Imperial Guard,
turned his eyes more than once to that position which all the bravery of
his troops was unavailing to capture. Although our cavalry lay in force to
the front of our line, no attempt was made to molest the retreating French;
and Massena, having retired beyond the Aguada, left a strong force to watch
the ford, while the remainder of the army fell back upon Cuidad Rodrigo.
During this time we had succeeded in fortifying our position at Fuentes
d'Onoro so strongly as to resist any new attack, and Lord Wellington now
turned his whole attention to the blockade of Almeida, which, by Massena's
retreat, was abandoned to its fate.
On the morning of the 10th I accompanied General Crawfurd in a
reconnoissance of the fortress, which, from the intelligence we had lately
received, could not much longer hold out against our blockade. The fire
from the enemy's artillery was, however, hotly maintained; and as night
fell, some squadrons of the Fourteenth, who were picketed near, were unable
to light their watch-fires, being within reach of their shot. As the
darkness increased so did the cannonade, and the bright flashes from the
walls and the deep booming of the artillery became incessant.
A hundred conjectures were afloat to account for the circumstance; some
asserting that what we heard were mere signals to Massena's army; and
others, that Brennier was destroying and mutilating the fortress before he
evacuated it to the allies.
It was little past midnight when, tired from the fatigues of the day, I had
fallen asleep beneath a tree, an explosion, louder than any which preceded
it, burst suddenly forth, and as I awoke and looked about me, I perceived
the whole heavens illuminated by one bright glare, while the crashing
noise of falling stones and crumbling masonry told me that a mine had been
sprung; the moment after, all was calm and still and motionless; a thick
black smoke increasing the sombre darkness of the night shut out every star
from view, and some drops of heavy rain began to fall.
The silence, ten times more appalling than the din which preceded it,
weighed heavily upon my senses, and a dread of some unknown danger crept
over me; the exhaustion, however, was greater than my fear, and again I
sank into slumber.
Scarcely had I been half an hour asleep, when the blast of a trumpet again
awoke me, and I found, amidst the confusion and excitement about, that
something of importance had occurred. Questions were eagerly asked on all
sides, but no one could explain what had happened. Towards the town all was
as still as death, but a dropping, irregular fire of musketry issued from
the valley beside the Aguada. "What can this mean; what can it be?" we
asked of each other. "A sortie from the garrison," said one; "A night
attack by Massena's troops," cried another; and while thus we disputed and
argued, a horseman was heard advancing along the road at the top of his
"Where are the cavalry?" cried a voice I recognized as one of my brother
aides-de-camp. "Where are the Fourteenth?"
A cheer from our party answered this question, and the next moment,
breathless and agitated, he rode in among us.
"What is it? Are we attacked?"
"Would to Heaven that were all! But come along, lads, follow me."
"What can it be, then?" said I again; while my anxiety knew no bounds.
"Brennier has escaped; burst his way through Pack's Division, and has
already reached Valde Mula."
"The French have escaped!" was repeated from mouth to mouth; while,
pressing spurs to our horses, we broke into a gallop, and dashed forward in
the direction of the musketry. We soon came up with the 36th Infantry, who,
having thrown away their knapsacks, were rapidly pressing the pursuit. The
maledictions which burst from every side proved how severely the misfortune
was felt by all, while the eager advance of the men bespoke how ardently
they longed to repair the mishap.
Dark as was the night, we passed them in a gallop, when suddenly the
officer who commanded the leading squadron called out to halt.
"Take care there, lads!" cried he; "I hear the infantry before us; we shall
be down upon our own people."
The words were hardly spoken, when a bright flash blazed out before us, and
a smashing volley was poured into the squadron.
"The French! the French, by Jove!" said Hampden. "Forward, boys! charge
Breaking into open order, to avoid our wounded comrades, several of whom
had fallen by the fire, we rode down among them. In a moment their order
was broken, their ranks pierced, and fresh squadrons coming up at the
instant, they were sabred to a man.
After this the French pursued their march in silence, and even when
assembling in force we rode down upon their squares, they never halted nor
fired a shot. At Barba del Puerco, the ground being unfit for cavalry, the
Thirty-sixth took our place, and pressed them hotly home. Several of
the French were killed, and above three hundred made prisoners, but our
fellows, following up the pursuit too rashly, came upon an advanced body of
Massena's force, drawn up to await and cover Brennier's retreat; the result
was the loss of above thirty men in killed and wounded.
Thus were the great efforts of the three preceding days rendered fruitless
and nugatory. To maintain this blockade, Lord Wellington, with an inferior
force, and a position by no means strong, had ventured to give the enemy
battle; and now by the unskilfulness of some, and the negligence of others,
were all his combinations thwarted, and the French general enabled to march
his force through the midst of the blockading columns almost unmolested and
Lord Wellington's indignation was great, as well it might be; the prize for
which he had contested was torn from his grasp at the very moment he had
won it, and although the gallantry of the troops in the pursuit might,
under other circumstances, have called forth eulogium, his only observation
on the matter was a half-sarcastic allusion to the inconclusive effects of
undisciplined bravery. "Notwithstanding," says the general order of the
day, "what has been printed in gazettes and newspapers, we have never seen
small bodies, unsupported, successfully opposed to large; nor has the
experience of any officer realized the stories which all have read, of
whole armies being driven by a handful of light infantry and dragoons."
A NIGHT ON THE AZAVA.
Massena was now recalled, and Marmont, having assumed the command of
the French, army, retired towards Salamanca, while our troops went into
cantonments upon the Aguada. A period of inaction succeeded to our previous
life of bustle and excitement, and the whole interest of the campaign was
now centred in Beresford's army, exposed to Soult in Estramadura.
On the 15th Lord Wellington set out for that province, having already
directed a strong force to march upon Badajos.
"Well, O'Malley," said Crawfurd, as he returned from bidding Lord
Wellington good-by, "your business is all right; the commander-in-chief has
signed my recommendation, and you will get your troop."
While I continued to express my grateful acknowledgments for his kindness,
the general, apparently inattentive to all I was saying, paced the room
with hurried steps, stopping every now and then to glance at a large map of
Spain which covered one wall of the apartment, while he muttered to himself
some broken and disjointed sentences.
"Eight leagues--too weak in cavalry--with the left upon Fuenta Grenaldo--a
strong position. O'Malley, you'll take a troop of dragoons and patrol the
country towards Castro; you'll reconnoitre the position the Sixth Corps
occupies, but avoid any collision with the enemy's pickets, keeping the
Azava between you and them. Take rations for three days."
"When shall I set out, sir?"
"Now!" was the reply.
Knowing with what pleasure the hardy veteran recognized anything like
alacrity and despatch, I resolved to gratify him; and before half an hour
had elapsed, was ready with my troop to receive his final orders.
"Well done, boy!" said he, as he came to the door of the hut, "you've lost
no time. I don't believe I have any further instructions to give you; to
ascertain as far as possible the probable movement of the enemy is my
object, that's all." As he spoke this, he waved his hand, and wishing me
"Good-by," walked leisurely back into the house. I saw that his mind was
occupied by other thoughts; and although I desired to obtain some more
accurate information for my guidance, knowing his dislike to questions, I
merely returned his salute, and set forth upon my journey.
The morning was beautiful; the sun had risen about an hour, and the earth,
refreshed by the heavy dew of the night, was breathing forth all its
luxuriant fragrance. The river which flowed beside us was clear as crystal,
showing beneath its eddying current the shining, pebbly bed, while upon
the surface, the water-lilies floated or sank as the motion of the stream
inclined. The tall cork-trees spread their shadows about us, and the richly
plumed birds hopped from branch to branch awaking the echoes with their
It is but seldom that the heart of man is thoroughly attuned to the
circumstances of the scenery around him. How often do we need a struggle
with ourselves to enjoy the rich and beautiful landscape which lies smiling
in its freshness before us! How frequently do the blue sky and the calm air
look down upon the heart darkened and shadowed with affliction! And how
often have we felt the discrepancy between the lowering look of winter and
the glad sunshine of our hearts! The harmony of the world without with our
thoughts within is one of the purest, as it is one of the greatest, sources
of happiness. Our hopes and our ambitions lose their selfish character when
we feel that fortune smiles upon us from all around, and the flattery which
speaks to our hearts from the bright stars and the blue sky, the peaked
mountain or the humble flower, is greater in its mute eloquence than all
the tongue of man can tell us.
This feeling did I experience in all its fulness as I ruminated upon my
bettered fortunes, and felt within myself that secret instinct that tells
of happiness to come. In such moods of mind my thoughts strayed ever
homewards, and I could not help confessing how little were all my successes
in my eyes, did I not-hope for the day when I should pour forth my tale of
war and battle-field to the ears of those who loved me.
I resolved to write home at once to my uncle. I longed to tell him each
incident of my career, and my heart glowed as I thought over the broken
and disjointed sentences which every cotter around would whisper of my
fortunes, far prouder as they would be in the humble deeds of one they
knew, than in the proudest triumphs of a nation's glory.
Indeed, Mike himself gave the current to my thoughts. After riding beside
me for some time in silence, he remarked,--
"And isn't it Father Rush will be proud when he sees your honor's a
captain; to think of the little boy that he used to take before him on the
ould gray mare for a ride down the avenue,--to think of him being a real
captain, six feet two without his boots, and galloping over the French as
if they were lurchers! Peggy Mahon, that nursed you, will be the proud
woman the day she hears it; and there won't be a soldier sober in his
quarters that night in Portumna barracks! 'Pon my soul, there's not a thing
with a red coat on it, if it was even a scarecrow to frighten the birds
from the barley, that won't be treated with respect when they hear of the
The country through which we travelled was marked at every step by the
traces of a retreating army: the fields of rich corn lay flattened beneath
the tramp of cavalry, or the wheels of the baggage-wagons; the roads, cut
up and nearly impassable, were studded here and there with marks which
indicated a bivouac. At the same time, everything around bore a very
different aspect from what we had observed in Portugal; there, the
vindictive cruelty of the French soldiery had been seen in full sway: the
ruined chateau, the burned villages, the desecrated altars, the murdered
peasantry,--all attested the revengeful spirit of a beaten and baffled
enemy. No sooner, however, had they crossed the frontiers, than, as if by
magic, their character became totally changed. Discipline and obedience
succeeded to recklessness and pillage; and instead of treating the natives
with, inhumanity and cruelty, in all their intercourse with the Spaniards
the French behaved with moderation and even kindness. Paying for
everything, obtaining their billets peaceably and quietly, marching with
order and regularity, they advanced into the heart of the country, showing,
by the most irrefragable proof, the astonishing evidences of a discipline
which, by a word, could convert the lawless irregularities of a ruffian
soldiery into the orderly habits and obedient conduct of a highly-organized
As we neared the Azava, the tracks of the retiring enemy became gradually
less perceptible, and the country, uninjured by the march, extended for
miles around us in all the richness and abundance of a favored climate. The
tall corn, waving its yellow gold, reflected like a sea the clouds that
moved slowly above it. The wild gentian and the laurel grew thickly around,
and the cattle stood basking in the clear streams, while some listless
peasant lounged upon the bank beside them. Strange as all these evidences
of peace and tranquillity were, so near to the devastating track of a
mighty army, yet I have more than once witnessed the fact, and remarked
how, but a short distance from the line of our hurried march, the country
lay untouched and uninjured; and though the clank of arms and the dull roll
of the artillery may have struck upon the ear of the far-off dweller in his
native valley, he listened as he would have done to the passing thunder as
it crashed above him; and when the bright sky and pure air succeeded to
the lowering atmosphere and the darkening storm, he looked forth upon his
smiling fields and happy home, while he muttered to his heart a prayer of
thanksgiving that the scourge was passed.
We bivouacked upon the bank of the river, a truly Salvator Rosa scene;
the rocks, towering high above us, were fissured by the channel of many a
trickling stream, seeking, in its zigzag current, the bright river below.
The dark pine-tree and the oak mingled their foliage with the graceful
cedar, which spread its fan-like branches about us. Through the thick shade
some occasional glimpses of a starry sky could yet be seen, and a faint
yellow streak upon the silent river told that the queen of night was there.
When I had eaten my frugal supper, I wandered forth alone upon the bank
of the stream, now standing to watch its bold sweeps as it traversed the
lonely valley before me, now turning to catch a passing glance at our
red watch-fires and the hardy features which sat around. The hoarse and
careless laugh, the deep-toned voice of some old campaigner holding forth
his tale of flood and field, were the only sounds I heard; and gradually I
strolled beyond the reach of even these. The path beside the river, which
seemed scarped from the rock, was barely sufficient for the passage of
one man, a rude balustrade of wood being the only defence against the
precipice, which, from a height of full thirty feet, looked down upon the
stream. Here and there some broad gleam of moonlight would fall upon the
opposite bank, which, unlike the one I occupied, stretched out into rich
meadow and pasturage, broken by occasional clumps of ilex and beech. River
scenery has been ever a passion with me. I can glory in the bold and broken
outline of a mighty mountain; I can gaze with delighted eyes upon the
boundless seas, and know not whether to like it more in all the mighty
outpouring of its wrath, when the white waves lift their heads to heaven
and break themselves in foam upon the rocky beach, or in the calm beauty of
its broad and mirrored surface, in which the bright world of sun and sky
are seen full many a fathom deep. But far before these, I love the happy
and tranquil beauty of some bright river, tracing its winding current
through valley and through plain, now spreading into some calm and waveless
lake, now narrowing to an eddying stream with mossy rocks and waving trees
darkening over it. There's not a hut, however lowly, where the net of the
fisherman is stretched upon the sward, around whose hearth I do not picture
before me the faces of happy toil and humble contentment, while, from the
ruined tower upon the crag, methinks I hear the ancient sounds of wassail
and of welcome; and though the keep be fissured and the curtain fallen, and
though for banner there "waves some tall wall-flower," I can people its
crumbling walls with images of the past; and the merry laugh of the warder,
and the clanking tread of the mailed warrior, are as palpably before me as
the tangled lichen that now trails from its battlements.
As I wandered on, I reached the little rustic stair which led downward from
the path to the river's side; and on examining farther, perceived that at
this place the stream was fordable; a huge flat rock, filling up a great
part of the river's bed, occupied the middle, on either side of which the
current ran with increased force.
Bent upon exploring, I descended the cliff, and was preparing to cross,
when my attention was attracted by the twinkle of a fire at some distance
from me, on the opposite side; the flame rose and fell in fitful flashes,
as though some hand were ministering to it at the moment. As it was
impossible, from the silence on every side, that it could proceed from a
bivouac of the enemy, I resolved on approaching it, and examining it for
myself. I knew that the shepherds in remote districts were accustomed thus
to pass the summer nights, with no other covering save the blue vault above
them. It was not impossible, too, that it might prove a Guerilla party, who
frequently, in small numbers, hang upon the rear of a retreating army. Thus
conjecturing, I crossed the stream, and quickening my pace, walked forward
in the direction of the blaze. For a moment a projecting rock obstructed my
progress; and while I was devising some means of proceeding farther, the
sound of voices near me arrested my attention. I listened, and what was my
astonishment to hear that they spoke in French. I now crept cautiously to
the verge of the rock and looked over; the moon was streaming in its full
brilliancy upon a little shelving strand beside the stream, and here I
now beheld the figure of a French officer. He was habited in the undress
uniform of a _chasseur a cheval_, but wore no arms; indeed his occupation
at the moment was anything but a warlike one, he being leisurely employed
in collecting some flasks of champagne which apparently had been left to
cool within the stream.
"_Eh bien, Alphonse!_" said a voice in the direction of the fire, "what are
you delaying for?"
"I'm coming, I'm coming," said the other; "but, _par Dieu!_ I can only find
five of our bottles; one seems to have been carried away by the stream."
"No matter," replied the other, "we are but three of us, and one is, or
should be, on the sick list."
The only answer to this was the muttered chorus of a French drinking-song,
interrupted at intervals by an imprecation upon the missing flask. It
chanced, at this moment, that a slight clinking noise attracted me, and on
looking down, I perceived at the foot of the rock the prize he sought for.
It had been, as he conceived, carried away by an eddy of the stream and was
borne, as a true prisoner-of-war, within my grasp. I avow that from this
moment my interest in the scene became considerably heightened; such a waif
as a bottle of champagne was not to be despised in circumstances like mine;
and I watched with anxious eyes every gesture of the impatient Frenchman,
and alternately vibrated between hope and fear, as he neared or receded
from the missing flask.
"Let it go to the devil," shouted his companion, once more. "Jacques has
lost all patience with you."
"Be it so, then," said the other, as he prepared to take up his burden. At
this instant I made a slight effort so to change my position as to obtain
a view of the rest of the party. The branch by which I supported myself,
however, gave way beneath my grasp with a loud crash. I lost my footing,
and slipping downward from the rock, came plump into the stream below. The
noise, the splash, and more than all, the sudden appearance of a man beside
him, astounded the Frenchman, who almost let fall his pannier, and thus we
stood confronting each other for at least a couple of minutes in silence. A
hearty burst of laughter from both parties terminated this awkward moment,
while the Frenchman, with the readiness of his country, was the first to
open the negotiation.
"_Sacre Dieu!_" said he, "what can you be doing here? You're English,
"Even so," said I; "but that is the very question I was about to ask you;
what are you doing here?"
"_Eh bien_," replied the other, gayly, "you shall be answered in all
frankness. Our captain was wounded in the action of the 8th, and we heard
had been carried up the country by some peasants. As the army fell back, we
obtained permission to go in search of him. For two days all was fruitless;
the peasantry fled at our approach; and although we captured some of our
stolen property--among other things, the contents of this basket--yet we
never came upon the track of our comrade till this evening. A good-hearted
shepherd had taken him to his hut, and treated him with every kindness,
but no sooner did he hear the gallop of our horses and the clank of our
equipments, than, fearing himself to be made a prisoner, he fled up the
mountains, leaving our friend behind him; _voila notre histoire_. Here we
are, three in all, one of us with a deep sabre-cut in his shoulder. If you
are the stronger party, we are, I suppose, your prisoners; if not--"
What was to have followed I know not, for at this moment his companion, who
had finally lost all patience, came suddenly to the spot.
"A prisoner," cried he, placing a heavy hand upon my shoulder, while with
the other he held his drawn sword pointed towards my breast.
To draw a pistol from my bosom was the work of a second; and while gently
turning the point of his weapon away, I coolly said,--
"Not so fast, my friend, not so fast! The game is in my hands, not yours. I
have only to pull this trigger, and my dragoons are upon you; whatever fate
befall me, yours is certain."
A half-scornful laugh betrayed the incredulity of him I addressed, while
the other, apparently anxious to relieve the awkwardness of the moment,
suddenly broke in with,--
"He is right, Auguste, and you are wrong; we are in his power; that is,"
added he, smiling, "if he believes there is any triumph in capturing such
_pauvres diables_ as ourselves."
The features of him he addressed suddenly lost their scornful expression,
and sheathing his sword with an air of almost melodramatic solemnity,
he gravely pulled up his mustaches, and after a pause of a few seconds,
solemnly ejaculated a malediction upon his fortune.
"_C'est toujours ainsi_," said he, with a bitterness that only a Frenchman
can convey when cursing his destiny. "_Soyez bon enfant_, and see what will
come of it. Only be good-natured, only be kind, and if you haven't bad luck
at the end of it, it's only because fortune has a heavier stroke in reserve
for you hereafter."
I could not help smiling at the Frenchman's philosophy, which, assuming
as a good augury, he gayly said, "So, then, you'll not make us prisoners.
Isn't it so?"
"Prisoners," said the other, "nothing of the kind. Come and sup with us;
I'll venture to say our larder is as well stocked as your own; in any case
an omelette, a cold chicken, and a glass of champagne are not bad things in
I could not help laughing outright at the strangeness of the proposal.
"I fear I must decline," said I; "you seem to forget I am placed here to
watch, not to join you."
"_A la bonne heure_," cried the younger of the two; "do both. Come along;
_soyez bon camarade_; you are always near your own people, so don't refuse
In proportion as I declined, they both became more pressing in their
entreaties, and at last, I began to dread lest my refusal might seem to
proceed from some fear as to the good faith of the invitation, and I never
felt so awkwardly placed as when one plumply pressed me by saying,--
"_Mais pourquoi pas, mon cher?_"
I stammered out something about duty and discipline, when they both
interrupted me by a long burst of laughter.
"Come, come!" said they; "in an hour--in half an hour, if you will--you
shall be back with your own people. We've had plenty of fighting latterly,
and we are likely to have enough in future; we know something of each other
by this time in the field; let us see how we get on in the bivouac!"
Resolving not to be outdone in generosity, I replied at once, "Here goes,
Five minutes afterwards I found myself seated at their bivouac fire. The
captain, who was the oldest of the party, was a fine soldier-like fellow of
some forty years old; he had served in the Imperial Guard through all the
campaigns of Italy and Austria, and abounded in anecdotes of the French
army. From him I learned many of those characteristic traits which so
eminently distinguish the imperial troops, and saw how completely their
bravest and boldest feats of arms depended upon the personal valor of him
who led them on. From the daring enterprise of Napoleon at Lodi to the
conduct of the lowest corporal in the _grande armee_, the picture presents
nothing but a series of brilliant and splendid chivalry; while, at the same
time, the warlike character of the nation is displayed by that instinctive
appreciation of courage and daring which teaches them to follow their
officers to the very cannon's mouth.
"It was at Elchingen," said the captain, "you should have seen them. The
regiment in which I was a lieutenant was ordered to form close column, and
charge through a narrow ravine to carry a brigade of guns, which, by a
flanking fire, were devastating our troops. Before we could reach the
causeway, we were obliged to pass an open plain in which the ground dipped
for about a hundred yards; the column moved on, and though it descended one
hill, not a man ever mounted the opposite one. A very avalanche of balls
swept the entire valley; and yet amidst the thunder and the smoke, the red
glare of the artillery, and the carnage around them, our grenadiers marched
firmly up. At last, Marshal Ney sent an aide-de-camp with orders to the
troops to lie flat down, and in this position the artillery played over
us for above half an hour. The Austrians gradually slackened, and finally
discontinued their fire; this was the moment to resume the attack. I crept
cautiously to my knees and looked about. One word brought my men around me;
but I found to my horror that of a battalion who came into action fourteen
hundred strong, not five hundred remained; and that I myself, a mere
lieutenant, was now the senior officer of the regiment. Our gallant colonel
lay dead beside my feet. At this instant a thought struck me. I remembered
a habit he possessed in moments of difficulty and danger, of placing in his
shako a small red plume which he commonly carried in his belt. I searched
for it, and found it. As I held it aloft, a maddening cheer burst around
me, while from out the line each officer sprang madly forward, and rushed
to the head of the column. It was no longer a march. With a loud cry of
vengeance, the mass rushed forward, the men trying to outstrip their
officers, and come first in contact with the foe. Like tigers on the
spring, they fell upon the enemy, who, crushed, overwhelmed, and massacred,
lay in slaughtered heaps around the cannon. The cavalry of the Guard came
thundering on behind us; a whole division followed; and three thousand five
hundred prisoners, and fourteen pieces of artillery were captured.
"I sat upon the carriage of a gun, my face begrimed with powder, and my
uniform blackened and blood-stained. The whole thing appeared like some
shocking dream. I felt a hand upon my shoulder, while a rough voice called
in my ear, '_Capitaine du soixante-neuvieme, tu es mon frere!_'
"It was Ney who spoke. This," added the brave captain, his eyes filling as
he said the words,--"this is the sabre he gave me."
I know not why I have narrated this anecdote; it has little in itself, but
somehow, to me it brings back in all its fulness the recollection of that
There was something so strongly characteristic of the old Napoleonist
in the tone of his narrative that I listened throughout with breathless
attention. I began to feel too, for the first time, what a powerful arm
in war the Emperor had created by fostering the spirit of individual
enterprise. The field thus opened to fame and distinction left no bounds
to the ambition of any. The humble conscript, as he tore himself from the
embraces of his mother, wiped his tearful eyes to see before him in the
distance the baton of a marshal. The bold soldier who stormed a battery
felt his heart beat more proudly and more securely beneath the cordon of
the Legion than behind a cuirass of steel; and to a people in whom the
sense of duty alone would seem cold, barren, and inglorious, he had
substituted a highly-wrought chivalrous enthusiasm; and by the _prestige_
of his own name, the proud memory of his battles, and the glory of those
mighty tournaments at which all Europe were the spectators, he had
converted a nation into an army.
By a silent and instinctive compact we appeared to avoid those topics of
the campaign in which the honor of our respective arms was interested; and
once, when, by mere accident, the youngest of the party adverted to Fuentes
d'Onoro, the old captain adroitly turned the current of the conversation by
saying, "Come, Alphonse, let's have a song."
"Yes," said the other. "_Les Pas de Charge_."
"No, no," said the captain; "if I am to have a choice, let it be that
little Breton song you gave us on the Danube."
"So be it then," said Alphonse. "Here goes!"
I have endeavored to convey, by a translation, the words he sang; but I
feel conscious how totally their feeling and simplicity are lost when
deprived of their own _patois_, and the wild but touching melody that
THE BRETON HOME.
When the battle is o'er, and the sounds of fight
Have closed with the closing day,
How happy around the watch-fire's light
To chat the long hours away;
To chat the long hours away, my boy,
And talk of the days to come,
Or a better still and a purer joy,
To think of our far-off home.
How many a cheek will then grow pale,
That never felt a tear!
And many a stalwart heart will quail,
That never quailed in fear!
And the breast that like some mighty rock
Amidst the foaming sea
Bore high against the battle's shock
Now heaves like infancy.
And those who knew each other not
Their hands together steal,
Each thinks of some long hallowed spot,
And all like brothers feel:
Such holy thoughts to all are given;
The lowliest has his part;
The love of home, like love of heaven,
Is woven in our heart.
There was a pause as he concluded, each sank in his own reflections. How
long we should have thus remained, I know not; but we were speedily aroused
from our reveries by the tramp of horses near us. We listened, and could
plainly detect in their rude voices and coarse laughter the approach of a
body of Guerillas. We looked from one to the other in silence and in fear.
Nothing could be more unfortunate should we be discovered. Upon this point
we were left little time to deliberate; for with a loud cheer, four Spanish
horsemen galloped up to the spot, their carbines in the rest. The Frenchmen
sprang to their feet, and seized their sabres, bent upon making a resolute
resistance. As for me, my determination was at once taken. Remaining
quietly seated upon the grass, I stirred not for a moment, but addressing
him who appeared to be the chief of the Guerillas, said, in Spanish:--
"These are my prisoners; I am a British officer of dragoons, and my party
This evidently unexpected declaration seemed to surprise them, and they
conferred for a few moments together. Meanwhile they were joined by two
others, in one of whom we could recognize, by his costume, the real leader
of the party.
"I am captain in the light dragoons," said I, repeating my declaration.
"_Morte de Dios!_" replied he; "it is false; you are a spy!"
The word was repeated from lip to lip by his party, and I saw, in their
lowering looks and darkened features, that the moment was a critical one
"Down with your arms!" cried he, turning to the Frenchmen. "Surrender
yourselves our prisoners; I'll not bid ye twice!"
The Frenchmen turned upon me an inquiring look, as though to say that upon
me now their hopes entirely reposed.
"Do as he bids you," said I; while at the same moment I sprang to my legs,
and gave a loud, shrill whistle, the last echo of which had not died away
in the distance ere it was replied to.
[Illustration: THE TABLES TURNED.]
"Make no resistance now," said I to the Frenchmen; "our safety depends on
While this was passing two of the Spaniards had dismounted, and detaching a
coil of rope which hung from their saddle-peak, were proceeding to tie the
prisoners wrist to wrist; the others, with their carbines to the shoulder,
covered us man by man, the chief of the party having singled out me as his
"The fate of Mascarenhas might have taught you better," said he, "than to
play this game." And then added with a grim smile, "But we'll see if an
Englishman will not make as good a carbonado as a Portuguese!"
This cruel speech made my blood run cold, for I knew well to what he
alluded. I was at Lisbon at the time it happened, but the melancholy fate
of Julian Mascarenhas, the Portuguese spy, had reached me there. He was
burned to death at Torres Vedras!
The Spaniard's triumph over my terror was short-lived, indeed, for scarcely
had the words fallen from his lips, when a party of the Fourteenth,
dashing through the river at a gallop, came riding up. The attitude of the
Guerillas, as they sat with presented arms, was sufficient for my fellows
who needed not the exhortation of him who rode foremost of the party:--
"Ride them down, boys! Tumble them over! Flatten their broad beavers, the
"Whoop!" shouted Mike, as he rode at the chief with the force of a
catapult. Down went the Spaniard, horse and all; and before he could
disentangle himself, Mike was upon him, his knee pressed upon his neck.
"Isn't it enough for ye to pillage the whole country without robbing the
king's throops!" cried he, as he held him fast to the earth with one hand,
while he presented a loaded pistol to his face.
By this time the scene around me was sufficiently ludicrous. Such of the
Guerillas as had not been thrown by force from their saddles, had slid
peaceably down, and depositing their arms upon the ground, dropped upon
their knees in a semicircle around us, and amidst the hoarse laughter of
the troopers, and the irrepressible merriment of the Frenchmen, rose up the
muttered prayers of the miserable Spaniards, who believed that now their
last hour was come.
"_Madre de Dios_, indeed!" cried Mike, imitating the tone of a repentant
old sinner in a patched mantle; "it's much the blessed Virgin thinks of
the like o' ye, thieves and rogues as ye are; it a'most puts me beyond my
senses to see ye there crossing yourselves like _rale_ Christians."
If I could not help indulging myself in this retributive cruelty towards
the chief, and leaving him to the tender mercies of Mike, I ordered the
others to rise and form in line before me. Affecting to occupy myself
entirely with them, I withdrew the attention of all from the French
officers, who remained quiet spectators of the scene around them.
"_Point de facons_, gentlemen," said I, in a whisper. "Get to your horses
and away! Now's your time. Good-by!"
A warm grasp of the hand from each was the only reply, and I turned once
more to my discomforted friends the Guerillas.
"There, Mike, let the poor devil rise. I confess appearances were strong
against me just now."
"Well, Captain, are you convinced by this time that I was not deceiving
The Guerilla muttered some words of apology between his teeth, and while he
shook the dust from his cloak, and arranged the broken feather of his
hat, cast a look of scowling and indignant meaning upon Mike, whose rough
treatment he had evidently not forgiven.
"Don't be looking at me that way, you black thief! or I'll--"
"Hold there!" said I; "no more of this. Come, gentlemen, we must be
friends. If I mistake not, we've got something like refreshment at our
bivouac. In any case you'll partake of our watch-fire till morning."
They gladly accepted our invitation, and ere half an hour elapsed Mike's
performance in the part of host had completely erased every unpleasant
impression his first appearance gave rise to; and as for myself, when I did
sleep at last, the confused mixture of Spanish and Irish airs which issued
from the thicket beside me, proved that a most intimate alliance had grown
up between the parties.
An hour before daybreak the Guerillas were in motion, and having taken a
most ceremonious leave of us, they mounted their horses and set out upon
their journey. I saw their gaunt figures wind down the valley, and watched
them till they disappeared in the distance. "Yes, brigands though they be,"
thought I, "there is something fine, something heroic in the spirit of
their unrelenting vengeance." The sleuth-hound never sought the lair of
his victim with a more ravening appetite for blood than they track the
retreating columns of the enemy. Hovering around the line of march, they
sometimes swoop down in masses, and carry off a part of the baggage, or the
wounded. The wearied soldier, overcome by heat and exhaustion, who drops
behind his ranks, is their certain victim; the sentry on an advanced post
is scarcely less so. Whole pickets are sometimes attacked and carried off
to a man; and when traversing the lonely passes of some mountain gorge, or
defiling through the dense shadows of a wooded glen, the stoutest heart has
felt a fear, lest from behind the rock that frowned above him, or from the
leafy thicket whose branches stirred without a breeze, the sharp ring of a
Guerilla carbine might sound his death-knell.
It was thus in the retreat upon Corunna fell Colonel Lefebvre. Ever
foremost in the attack upon our rear-guard, this gallant youth (he was
scarce six-and-twenty), a colonel of his regiment, and decorated with the
Legion of Honor, he led on every charge of his bold "_sabreurs_," riding
up to the very bayonets of our squares, waving his hat above his head, and
seeming actually to court his death-wound; but so struck were our brave
fellows with his gallant bearing, that they cheered him as he came on.
It was in one of these moments as, rising high in his stirrups, he bore
down upon the unflinching ranks of the British infantry, the shrill whistle
of a ball strewed the leaves upon the roadside, the exulting shout of a
Guerilla followed it, and the same instant Lefebvre fell forward upon his
horse's mane, a deluge of blood bursting from his bosom. A broken cry
escaped his lips,--a last effort to cheer on his men; his noble charger
galloped forward between our squares, bearing to us our prisoner, the
corpse of his rider.
"Captain O'Malley," said a mounted dragoon to the advanced sentry at the
bottom of the little hill upon which I was standing. "Despatches from
headquarters, sir," delivering into my hands a large sealed packet from the
adjutant-general's office. While he proceeded to search for another letter
of which he was the bearer, I broke the seal and read as follows:--
Sir,--On the receipt of this order you are directed, having previously
resigned your command to the officer next in seniority, to
repair to headquarters at Fueutes d'Onoro, there to report yourself
I have the honor to be your obedient servant,
"What the devil can this mean?" said I to myself, as I read the lines over
again and again. "What have I done lately, or what have I left undone to
involve me in this scrape? Ah!" thought I, "to be sure, it can be nothing
else. Lord Wellington _did_ recognize me that unlucky morning, and has
determined not to let me pass unpunished. How unfortunate. Scarcely
twenty-four hours have elapsed since fortune seemed to smile upon me from
every side, and now the very destiny I most dreaded stares me fully in the
face." A reprimand, or the sentence of a court-martial, I shrank from with
a coward's fear. It mattered comparatively little from what source arising,
the injury to my pride as a man and my spirit as a soldier would be almost
"This is the letter, sir," said the orderly, presenting me with a packet,
the address of which was in Power's hand-writing. Eagerly tearing it open,
I sought for something which might explain my unhappy position. It bore the
same date as the official letter, and ran thus:--
My Dear Charley,--I joined yesterday, just in time to enjoy the
heartiest laugh I have had since our meeting. If notoriety can gratify
you, by Jove, you have it; for Charles O'Malley and his man Mickey
Free are bywords in every mess from Villa Formosa to the rear-guard.
As it's only fair you should participate a little in the fun you've
originated, let me explain the cause. Your inimitable man Mike, to
whom it appears you intrusted the report of killed and wounded for
the adjutant-general, having just at that moment accomplished a
letter to his friends at home, substituted his correspondence for your
returns, and doubtless, sent the list of the casualties as very
interesting information to his sweetheart in Ireland. If such be the
case, I hope and trust she has taken the blunder in better part than
old Colbourn, who swears he'll bring you to a court-martial, under
Heaven knows what charges. In fact, his passion has known no bounds
since the event; and a fit of jaundice has given his face a kind of
neutral tint between green and yellow, like nothing I know of except
the facings of the "dirty half-hundred." 
[Footnote 2: For the information of my unmilitary readers, I may
remark that this sobriquet was applied to the 50th Regiment.]
As Mr. Free's letter may be as great a curiosity to you as it has
been to us, I enclose you a copy of it, which Hopeton obtained for
me. It certainly places the estimable Mike in a strong light as a
despatch-writer. The occasional interruption to the current of the
letter, you will perceive, arises from Mike having used the pen of a
comrade, writing being, doubtless, an accomplishment forgotten in
the haste of preparing Mr. Free for the world; and the amanuensis
has, in more than one instance, committed to paper more than was
meant by the author:--
Mrs. M'Gra,--Tear an' ages, sure I need not be treating he
way. Now, just say Mrs. Mary--ay, that'll do--Mrs. Mary, it's may be
surprised you'll be to be reading a letter from your humble servant,
sitting on the top of the Alps,--arrah, may be it's not the Alps; but
sure she'll never know,--fornent the whole French army, with Bony
himself and all his jinnerals--God be between us and harm--ready to
murther every mother's son of us, av they were able, Molly darlin';
but, with the blessing of Providence, and Lord Wellington and Mister
Charles, we'll bate them yet, as we bate them afore.
My lips is wathering at the thought o' the plunder. I often
of Tim Riley, that was hanged for sheep-stealing; he'd be worth his
weight in gold here.
Mr. Charles is now a captain--devil a less--and myself might be
somethin' that same, but ye see I was always of a bashful n
and recommended the master in my place. "He's mighty young, Mister
Charles is," says my Lord Wellington to me,--"He's mighty young, Mr.
Free." "He is, my lord," says I; "he's young, as you obsarve, but
he's as much divilment in him as many that might be his father."
"That's somethin', Mr. Free," says my lord; "ye say he comes from a
good stock?" "The _rale_ sort, my lord," says I; "an ould, ancient
family, that's spent every sixpence they had in treating their
neighbors. My father lived near him for years,"--you see, Molly, I
said that to season the discourse. "We'll make him a captain," says
my lord; "but, Mr. Free, could we do nothing for you?" "Nothing, at
present, my lord. When my friends comes into power," says I, "they'll
think of me. There's many a little thing to give away in Ireland, and
they often find it mighty hard to find a man for lord-lieutenant; and
if that same, or a tide-waiter's place was vacant--" "Just tell me,"
says my lord. "It's what I'll do," says I. "And now, wishing you
happy dreams, I'll take my lave." Just so, Molly, it's hand and glove
we are. A pleasant face, agreeable manners seasoned with natural
modesty, and a good pair of legs, them's the gifts to push a man's
way in the world. And even with the ladies--but sure I am forgetting,
my master was proposed for, and your humble servant too, by two
illigant creatures in Lisbon; but it wouldn't do, Molly, it's higher
nor that we'll be looking,--_rale_ princesses, the devil a less. Tell
Kitty Hannigan I hope she's well; she was a disarving young
in her situation in life. Shusey Dogherty, at the cross roa
I don't forget the name--was a good-looking slip too; give her my
affectionate salutations, as we say in the Portuguese. I hope I'll be
able to bear the inclementuous nature of your climate when I go back;
but I can't expect to stay long--for Lord Wellington can't do without
me. We play duets on the guitar together every evening. The master is
shouting for a blanket, so no more at present from,
Your very affectionate friend,
P. S.--I don't write this myself, for the Spanish tongue p
out o' the habit of English. Tell Father Rush, if he'd study the
Portuguese, I'd use my interest for him with the Bishop of Toledo.
It's a country he'd like--no regular stations, but promiscuous eating
and drinking, and as pretty girls as ever confessed their sins.
My poor Charley, I think I am looking at you. I think I can
see the struggle between indignation, and laughter, which every line
of this letter inflicts upon you. Get back as quickly as you can, and
we'll try if Crawfurd won't pull you through the business. In any
case, expect no sympathy; and if you feel disposed to be angry with
all who laugh at you, you had better publish a challenge in the next
general order. George Scott, of, the Greys, bids me say, that if
you're hard up for cash, he'll give you a couple of hundred for
Mickey Free. I told him I thought you'd accept it, as your uncle
has the breed of those fellows upon his estate, and might have no
objection to weed his stud. Hammersley's gone back with the Dashwoods;
but I don't think you need fear anything in that quarter.
At the same time, if you wish for success, make a bold push for the
peerage and half-a-dozen decorations, for Miss Lucy is most decidedly
gone wild about military distinction. As for me, my affairs go on
well: I've had half-a-dozen quarrels with Inez, but we parted good
friends, and my bad Portuguese has got me out of all difficulties with
papa, who pressed me tolerably close as to fortune. I shall want
your assistance in this matter yet. If parchments will satisfy him, I
think I could get up a qualification; but somehow the matter must