Part 2 out of 6
the whole afternoon to themselves. Their employment of those hours had
been undertaken at Peter's suggestion.
"Look here, Tom," he said, at the end of the first day's work, "from
what the corporal says, we shall have from one till about five to
ourselves. Now, we are going to Spain, and it seems to me that it
would be of great use to us, and might do us a great deal of good, to
know something of Spanish. We have got four pounds each left, and I
don't think that we could lay it out better than in getting a Spanish
master and some books, and in setting to in earnest at it. If we work
with all our might for four hours a day with a master, we shall have
made some progress, and shall pick up the pronunciation a little. I
dare say we shall be another ten days or a fortnight on the voyage,
and shall have lots of time on our hands. It will make it so much
easier to pick it up when we get there if we know a little to start
"I think it is a capital idea, Peter; I should think we are pretty
sure to find a master here."
There was no difficulty upon that score, for there were a large number
of Spanish in England at the time; men who had left the country rather
than remain under the French yoke, and among them were many who were
glad to get their living by teaching their native language. There were
two or three in this condition in Portsmouth, and to one of these the
boys applied. He was rather surprised at the application from the two
young buglers--for the uniforms were finished twenty-four hours after
their arrival--but at once agreed to devote his whole afternoons to
them. Having a strong motive for their work, and a determination
to succeed in it, the boys made a progress that astonished both
themselves and their teacher, and they now found the advantage of
their grounding in Latin at Eton. Absorbed in their work, they saw
little of the other boys, except at meals and when at practice.
One evening when at supper, one of the buglers, named Mitcham, a lad
of nearly eighteen, made some sneering remark about boys who thought
themselves above others, and gave themselves airs. Tom saw at once
that this allusion was meant for them, and took the matter up.
"I suppose you mean us, Mitcham. You are quite mistaken; neither my
brother nor myself think ourselves better than any one, nor have we
any idea of giving ourselves airs. The fact is--and I am not surprised
that you should think us unsociable--we are taking lessons in Spanish.
If we go with the regiment it will be very useful, and I have heard
it said that any one who lands in a foreign country, and who knows a
little of the grammar and pronunciation, will learn it in half the
time that he would were he altogether ignorant of both. I am sorry
that I did not mention it before, because I can understand that it
must seem as if we did not want to be sociable. I can assure you that
we do; and that after this fortnight is over we shall be ready to be
as jolly as any one. You see we are altogether behindhand with our
work now, and have got to work hard to put ourselves on your level."
Tom spoke so good-temperedly that there was a general feeling in his
favor, and several of them who had before thought with Mitcham, that
the new-comers were not inclined to be sociable, felt that they had
been mistaken. There was, however, a general feeling of surprise
and amusement at the idea of two boys voluntarily taking lessons in
Spanish. Mitcham, however, who was a surly-tempered young fellow, and
who was jealous of the progress which the boys were making, and of the
general liking with which they seemed to be regarded, said,--
"I believe that's only an excuse for getting away from us."
"Do you mean to say that you think that I am telling a lie?" Tom asked
"Yes, if you put it in that way, young 'un," Mitcham said.
"Hold your tongue, Mitcham, or I'll pull your ears for you," Corporal
Skinner said: but his speech was cut short by Tom's putting one hand
on the barrack table, vaulting across it, and striking Mitcham a heavy
blow between the eyes.
There was a cry of "a fight!" among the boys, but the men interfered
"You don't know what you are doing, young 'un," one said to Tom;
"when you hit a fellow here, you must fight him. That's the rule, and
you can't fight Mitcham; he's two years older, at least, and a head
"Of course I will fight him," Tom said. "I would fight him if he were
twice as big, if he called me a liar."
"Nonsense, young 'un!" another said, "it's not possible. He was wrong,
and if you had not struck him I would have licked him myself; but as
you have done so, you had better put up with a thrashing, and have
done with it."
"I should think so, indeed!" Tom said disdainfully. "I may get a
licking; I dare say I shall; but it won't be all on one side. Look
here, Mitcham, we will have it out to-morrow, on the ramparts behind
the barracks. But, if you will apologize to me for calling me a liar,
I'll say I am sorry I hit you."
"Oh, blow your sorrow!" the lad said. "I'll give you the heartiest
licking you ever had in your life, my young cock."
"Oh, all right," Tom said cheerfully. "We will see all about it when
the time comes."
As it was evident now that there was no way out of it, no one
interfered further in the matter. Quarrels in the army are always
settled by a fair fight, as at school; but several of the older men
questioned among themselves whether they ought to let this go on,
considering that Tom Scudamore was only between fifteen and sixteen,
while his opponent was two years older, and was so much heavier and
stronger. However, as it was plain that Tom would not take a thrashing
for the blow he had struck, and there did not seem any satisfactory
way out of it, nothing was done, except that two or three of them went
up to Mitcham, and strongly urged him to shake hands with Tom, and
confess that he had done wrong in giving him the lie. This Mitcham
would not hear of, and there was nothing further to be done.
"I am afraid, Tom, you have no chance with that fellow." Peter said,
as they were undressing.
"No chance in the world, Peter; but I can box fairly, you know, and am
pretty hard. I shall be able to punish him a bit, and you may be sure
I shall never give in. It's no great odds getting a licking, and I
suppose that they will stop it before I am killed. Don't bother about
it. I had rather get knocked about in a fight than get flogged at Eton
any day. I would rather you did not come to see it, Peter, if you
don't mind. When you fought Evans it hurt me ten times as much as if I
had been fighting, and, although you licked him, it made me feel like
a girl. I can stand twice the punishment if I don't feel that any blow
is hitting you as well as myself."
Tom's prediction about the fight turned out to be nearly correct. He
was more active, and a vastly better boxer than his antagonist, and
although he was constantly knocked down, he punished him very heavily
about the face. In fact, the fight was exactly similar to that great
battle, fifty years afterwards, between Sayers and Heenan. Time after
time Tom was knocked down, and even his second begged him to give in,
but he would not hear of it. Breathless and exhausted, but always
cool and smiling, he faced his heavy antagonist, eluding his furious
rushes, and managing to strike a few straight blows at his eyes before
being knocked down. By the time that they had fought a quarter of
an hour half the regiment was assembled, and loud were the cheers
which greeted Tom each time he came up, very pale and bleeding, but
confident, against his antagonist.
At last an old sergeant came forward. "Come," he said, "there has been
enough of this. You had better stop."
"Will he say he was sorry he called me a liar?" Tom asked.
"No, I won't," Mitcham answered.
The sergeant was about to use his authority to stop it, when Tom said
to him, in a low voice:
"Look, sergeant! please let us go on another five minutes. I think I
can stand that, and he can hardly see out of his eyes now. He won't
see a bit by that time."
The sergeant hesitated, but a glance at Tom's antagonist convinced him
that what he said was correct. Mitcham had at all times a round and
rather puffy face, and his cheeks were now so swollen with the effect
of Tom's straight, steady hitting, that he could with difficulty see.
It was a hard five minutes for Tom, for his antagonist, finding that
he was rapidly getting blind, rushed with fury upon him, trying to end
the fight. Tom had less difficulty in guarding the blows, given wildly
and almost at random, but he was knocked down time after time by the
mere force and weight of the rush. He felt himself getting weak, and
could hardly get up from his second's knee upon the call of time.
He was not afraid of being made to give in, but he was afraid of
fainting, and of so being unable to come up to time.
"Stick a knife into me; do anything!" he said to his second, "if I go
off, only bring me up to time. He can't hold out much longer."
Nor could he. His hitting became more and more at random, until at
last, on getting up from his second's knee, Mitcham cried in a hoarse
voice, "Where is he? I can't see him!"
Then Tom went forward with his hands down. "Look here, Mitcham, you
can't see, and I can hardly stand. I think we have both done enough.
We neither of us can give in, well because--because I am a gentleman,
you because you are bigger than I am; so let's shake hands, and say no
more about it."
Mitcham hesitated an instant, and then held out his hand. "You are a
good fellow, Scudamore, and there's my hand; but you have licked me
fairly. I can't come up to time, and you can. There, I am sorry I
called you a liar."
Tom took the hand, and shook it, and then a mist came over his eyes,
and his knees tottered, as, with the ringing cheers of the men in his
ears, he fainted into his second's arms.
"What a row the men are making!" the major said, as the sound of
cheering came through the open window of the mess-room, at which the
officers were sitting at lunch. "It's a fight of course, and a good
one, judging by the cheering. Does any one know who it is between?"
No one had heard.
"It's over now," the adjutant said, looking out of the window, "Here
are the men coming down in a stream. They look very excited over it. I
wonder who it has been. Stokes," he said, turning to one of the mess
servants, "go out, and find out who has been fighting, and all about
In a minute or two the man returned. "It's two of the band boys, sir."
"Oh, only two boys! I wonder they made such a fuss over that. Who are
"One was one of the boys who have just joined, sir. Tom Scudamore,
they call him."
"I guessed as much," Captain Manley laughed; "I knew they would not be
long here without a fight. Who was the other?"
"Well, sir, I almost thought it must be a mistake when they told me,
seeing they are so unequally matched, but they all say so, so in
course it's true--the other was Mitcham, the bugler of No. 3 Company."
"What a shame!" was the general exclamation, while Captain Manley got
up and called for his cap.
"A brutal shame, I call it," he said hotly. "Mitcham's nearly a man.
It ought not to have been allowed. I will go and inquire after the
boy. I will bet five pounds he was pretty nearly killed before he gave
"He didn't give in, Captain Manley," the servant said. "He won the
fight. They fought till Mitcham couldn't see, and then young Scudamore
went up and offered to draw it, but Mitcham acknowledged he was fairly
licked. It was a close thing, for the boy fainted right off; but he's
come round now, and says he's all right."
"Hurrah for Eton!" Carruthers shouted enthusiastically. "Hurrah! By
Jove, he is game, and no mistake. He won a hard fight or two at Eton,
but nothing like this. I call it splendid."
"The boy might have been killed," the major said gravely; while the
younger officers joined in Carruthers's exclamation at Tom's pluck.
"It is shameful that it was allowed. I suppose the quarrel began in
their quarters. Sergeant Howden is in charge of the room, and ought to
have stopped it at once. Every non-commissioned officer ought to have
stopped it. I will have Howden up before the colonel to-morrow."
"I think, major," Captain Manley said, "if you will excuse me, the
best plan, as far as the boy is concerned, is to take no notice of
it. As it is, he must have won the hearts of all the regiment by his
pluck, and if he is not seriously hurt, it is the very best thing, as
it has turned out, that could have happened. If any one gets into a
scrape about it, it might lessen the effect of the victory. I think if
you call Howden up, and give him a quiet wigging, it will do as well,
and won't injure the boys. What do you think?"
"Yes, you are right, Manley, as it has turned out; but the boy might
have been killed. However, I won't do more than give Howden a hearty
wigging, and will then learn how the affair begun. I think, Dr.
Stathers, that it would be as well if you went round and saw both of
them. You had better, I think, order them into hospital for the night,
and then the boy can go to bed at once, and come out again to-morrow,
if he has, as I hope, nothing worse than a few bruises. Please come
back, and tell us how you find them."
The report was favorable, and the next morning Tom came out of
hospital, and took his place as usual, with the party upon the
ramparts--pale, and a good deal marked, but not much the worse for his
battle; but it was some days before the swelling of his adversary's
face subsided sufficiently for him to return to duty.
Tom's victory--as Captain Manley had predicted--quite won the hearts
of the whole regiment, and the nicknames of "Sir Tom," and "Sir
Peter"--which had been given to them in jest after Tom's speech
about Sir Arthur Wellesley--were now generally applied to them. The
conversation in the mess-room had got about, and the old soldiers who
had served under Colonel Scudamore would have done anything for the
lads, although, as yet, they were hardly known personally except to
the band, as their devotion to work kept them quite apart from the
It was just three weeks after they had joined before the order came
for embarkation, and a thrill of pleasure and excitement ran through
the regiment when it was known that they were to go on board in four
days. Not the least delighted were Tom and Peter. It had already been
formally settled that they were to accompany the regiment, and it
was a proof of the popularity that they had gained, that every one
looked upon their going as a matter of course, and that no comment
was excited even among those who were left behind. Three days before
starting they had met Captain Manley in the barrack-yard, and after
saluting, Tom said, "If you please, sir, we wanted to ask you a
"What is that, lads?"
"If you please, sir, we understand that the boys of the band have
their bags carried for them, but the company buglers carry knapsacks,
like the men?"
"Yes, boys; the company buglers carry knapsacks and muskets."
"I am afraid we could not carry muskets and do much marching, sir, but
we have each a brace of pistols."
Captain Manley smiled. "Pistols would not look the thing on a
parade-ground, boys; but in a campaign people are not very particular,
and I have no doubt the colonel will overlook any little breach of
strict uniformity in your cases, as it is evident you can't carry
muskets. You can use your pistols, I hope," he said with a smile. "Hit
a penny every time at twenty paces!"
"No, sir, we can't do that," Tom said seriously. "We can hit a
good-sized apple nineteen times out of twenty."
"The deuce you can!" Captain Manley said. "How did you learn to do
"We have practiced twelve shots a day for the last six months, sir. We
were thinking of asking you, sir, if you would like to carry a brace
of them through the campaign. They are splendid weapons; and we shall
only carry one each. They would get rusty and spoil, if we left them
behind, and we should be very pleased to think they might be useful to
you, after your great kindness to us."
"It is not a very regular thing, boys," Captain Manley said, "for a
captain to be borrowing a brace of pistols from two of his buglers;
but you are exceptional buglers, and there is something in what you
say about rusting. Besides, it is possible you may lose yours, so I
will accept your offer with thanks, with the understanding that I will
carry the pistols, and you shall have them again if anything happens
to yours. But how about the knapsacks?"
"We were thinking of having two made of the regimental pattern, sir,
but smaller and lighter, if you think that it would be allowed."
"Well, I think, boys, if you are allowed to carry pistols instead of
muskets, no great objection will be made as to the exact size of the
knapsacks. Yes, you can get them made, and I will speak to the colonel
"Perhaps," he hesitated, "you may be in want of a little money; do
not hesitate if you do. I can let you have five pounds, and you
can pay me," he said with a laugh, "out of your share of our first
The boys colored hotly.
"No, thank you, Captain Manley; we have plenty of money. Shall we
bring the pistols to your quarters?"
"Do, lads, I am going in to lunch now, and will be in in half an
The boys at once went out and ordered their knapsacks. They had just
sold their watches, which were large, handsome, and of gold, and had
been given to them by their father when they went to Eton. They were
very sorry to part with them, but they agreed that it would be folly
to keep gold watches when the twenty pounds which they obtained for
them would buy two stout and useful silver watches and would leave
them twelve pounds in money. They then returned to barracks, took out
a brace of their pistols, carefully cleaned them, and removed the
silver plates upon the handles, and then walked across to Captain
Rather to their surprise and confusion they found five or six other
officers there, for Captain Manley had mentioned at lunch to the
amusement of his friends that he was going to be unexpectedly provided
with a brace of pistols, and several of them at once said that they
would go up with him to his quarters, as they wanted to see the boys
of whom they had spoken so much during the last fortnight. Tom and
Peter drew themselves up and saluted stiffly.
"You need not be buglers here, boys," Captain Manley said. "This is
my room, we are all gentlemen, and though I could not, according
to the regulations, walk down the street with you, the strictest
disciplinarian would excuse my doing as I like here."
The boys flushed with pleasure at Captain Manley's kind address, and
as he finished Carruthers stepped forward and shook them warmly by the
"How are you both?" he said. "You have not forgotten me, I hope."
"I had not seen you before. I did not know you were in the regiment,
Carruthers," the boys said warmly, pleased to find a face they
had known before; and then breaking off:--"I beg your pardon--Mr.
"There are no misters here as far as I am concerned, Scudamore. There
were no misters at Eton. This is a change, isn't it? Better than
grinding away at Greek by a long way. Well, I congratulate you on your
fight. You showed there was some good in dear old Eton still. I wish
you had let me know it was coming off. I would have given anything
to have seen it--from a distance, you know. If it had been the right
thing, I would have come and been your backer."
There was a general laugh, and then the officers all began to talk to
the boys. They were quiet and respectful in their manners, and fully
confirmed the favorable report which Captain Manley had given of them.
"Where are the pistols, boys?" their friend asked presently.
"Here, sir," and the boys produced them from under their jackets. "We
have no case, sir; we were obliged to leave it behind us when we--"
"Ran away," one of the officers said, laughing.
"They are a splendid pair of pistols," Captain Manley said, examining
them; "beautifully finished, and rifled. They look quite new, too,
though, of course, they are not."
"They are new, sir," Tom said; "we have only had them six months, and
they were new then."
"Indeed," Captain Manley said surprised; "I thought, of course, they
were family pistols. Why, how on earth, if it is not an impertinent
question, did you boys get hold of two brace of such pistols as these?
I have no right to ask the question, boys. I see there has been a
plate on the handles. But you said you had no relations, and I was
surprised into asking."
The boys colored.
"The question was quite natural, sir; the pistols were presented to us
by some people we traveled with once; we took the plates off because
they made a great fuss about nothing, and we thought that it would
There was a laugh among the officers at the boys' confusion.
"No one would suspect you of being cockey, Scudamore," Captain Manley
said kindly; "come, let me see the plates."
The boys took the little silver plates from their pockets and handed
them silently to Captain Manley, who read aloud, to the surprise of
those around him,--"'To Tom' and 'Peter,' they are alike except the
names. 'To Tom Scudamore, presented by the passengers in the Highflyer
coach on the 4th of August, 1808, as a testimony of their appreciation
of his gallant conduct, by which their property was saved from
plunder.' Why, what is this, you young pickles, what were you up to on
the 4th of August last year?"
"There was nothing in it at all, sir," Tom said; "we were on the coach
and were stopped by highwaymen. One of the passengers had pistols,
but was afraid to use them, and hid them among the boxes. So when the
passengers were ordered to get down to be searched, we hid ourselves,
and when the highwaymen were collecting their watches, Peter shot one,
and I drove the coach over another. The matter was very simple indeed;
but the passengers saved their money, so made a great fuss about it."
There was much laughter over Tom's statement, and then he had to
give a detailed account of the whole affair, which elicited many
expressions of approval.
"It does you credit, boys," Captain Manley said, "and shows that you
are cool as well as plucky. One quality is as valuable as the other.
There is every hope that you will do the regiment credit, boys, and
you may be sure that we shall give you every chance. And now good-bye
for the present."
"Good-bye, sir," Tom and Peter again drew themselves up, gave the
military salute, and went off to their comrades.
For when the order came to prepare for the embarkation, both Spanish
and bugling were given up, and the boys entered into the pleasure
of the holiday with immense zest. They had no regimental duties to
perform beyond being present at parade. They had no packing to do, and
fewer purchases to make. A ball or two of stout string, for, as Peter
said, string is always handy, and a large pocket-knife, each with
a variety of blades, were the principal items. They had a ring put
to the knives, so that they could sling them round the waist. They
had, therefore, nothing to do but to amuse themselves, and this they
did with a heartiness which astonished the other boys, and proved
conclusively that they did not want to be unsociable. They hired a
boat for a sail and took five or six other boys across to Ryde, only
just returning in time for tattoo, and they played such a number of
small practical jokes, such as putting a handful of peas into the
bugles and other wind instruments, that the band-master declared that
he thought that they were all bewitched, and he threatened to thrash
the boys all round, because he could not find out who had done it.
Especially angry was the man who played the big drum. This was a
gigantic negro, named Sam, a kind-hearted fellow, constantly smiling,
except when the thought of his own importance made him assume a
particularly grave appearance. He was a general favorite, although the
boys were rather afraid of him, for he was apt to get into a passion
if any jokes were attempted upon him, and of all offences the greatest
was to call him Sambo. Now none of the men ventured upon this, for
when he first joined, Sam had fought two or three desperate battles on
this ground, and his great strength and the insensibility of his head
to blows had invariably given him the victory. But, treated with what
he conceived proper respect, Sam was one of the best-tempered and
best-natured fellows in the regiment; and he himself, when he once
cooled down, was perfectly ready to join in the laugh against himself,
even after he had been most put out by a joke.
The day before the regiment was to embark, the officers gave a lawn
party; a large number of ladies were present, and the band was, of
course, to play. The piece which the bandmaster had selected for the
commencement began with four distinct beats of the big drum. Just
before it began, Captain Manley saw Tom and Peter, who with some of
the other boys had brought the music-stands into the ground, with
their faces bright with anticipated fun.
"What is the joke, boys?" he asked good-humoredly, as he passed them.
"I can't tell you, sir," Tom said; "but if you walk up close to the
band, and watch Sam's face when he begins, you will be amused, I
"Those are regular young pickles," Captain Manley said to the lady
he was walking with; "they are Etonians who have run away from home,
and are up to all kinds of mischief, but are the pluckiest and most
straightforward youngsters imaginable. I have no doubt that they are
up to some trick with our black drummer."
On their way to where the band was preparing to play, Captain Manley
said a word or two to several of the other officers, consequently
there was quite a little party standing watching the band when their
leader lifted his baton for the overture to begin.
There was nothing that Sam liked better than for the big drum to
commence, and with his head thrown well back and an air of extreme
importance, he lifted his arm and brought it down with what should
have been a sounding blow upon the drum. To his astonishment and to
the surprise of all the band, no deep boom was heard, only a low
muffled sound. Mechanically Sam raised his other arm and let it fall
with a similar result. Sam looked a picture of utter astonishment and
dismay, with his eyes opened to their fullest, and he gave vent to a
loud cry, which completed the effect produced by his face, and set
most of those looking on, and even the band themselves, into a roar of
laughter. Sam now examined his sticks, they appeared all right to the
eye, but directly he felt them his astonishment was turned into rage.
They were perfectly soft. Taking out his knife he cut them open, and
found that the balls were merely filled with a wad of soft cotton, the
necessary weight being given by pieces of lead fastened round the end
of the stick inside the ball with waxed thread.
Sam was too enraged to say more than his usual exclamation of
astonishment, "Golly!" and he held out his drumsticks to be examined
with the face of a black statue of surprise.
Even the band-master was obliged to laugh as he took the sticks from
Sam's hand to examine them.
"These are not your sticks at all, Sam," he said, looking closely at
them. "Here, boy," he called to Tom, who might have been detected from
the fact of his being the only person present with a serious face,
"run to the band-room and see if you can find the sticks."
In a few minutes Tom returned with the real drumsticks, which, he
said truly, he had found on the shelf where they were usually kept.
After that things went on as usual; Sam played with a sulky fury. His
dignity was injured, and he declared over and over again that if he
could "find de rascal who did it, by jingo, I pound him to squash!"
and there was no doubt from his look that he thoroughly meant what he
said. However, no inquiries could bring to light the author of the
There were no lighter hearts than those of Tom and Peter Scudamore
on board the transport "Nancy," as, among the hearty cheers of the
troops on board, and the waving of hats and handkerchiefs from friends
who had come out in small boats to say good-bye for the last time,
she weighed anchor, and set sail in company with some ten or twelve
other transports, and under convoy of two ships of war. It would be
difficult to imagine a prettier scene. The guns fired, the bands of
the various regiments played, and the white sails opened out bright
in the sun as the sailors swarmed into the rigging, anxious to outvie
each other. Even the soldiers pulled and hauled at the ropes, and ran
round with the capstan bars to get the anchors apeak. Tom and Peter,
of course, had, like the other boys, got very much in the way in their
desire to assist, and, having been once or twice knocked over by the
rush of men coming along with ropes, they wisely gave it up, and
leaned over the side to enjoy the scene.
"This is splendid, Tom, isn't it?"
"Glorious, Peter; but it's blowing pretty strong. I am afraid that we
sha'n't find it quite so glorious when we get out of the shelter of
Peter laughed. "No; I suppose we sha'n't all look as jolly as we do
now by night-time. However, the wind is nor'-westerly, which will help
us along nicely, if, as I heard one of the sailors say just now, it
does not go round to the south."
"Bugler, sound companies one, two, and three to breakfast."
The order interrupted the conversation, and, for the next hour,
the boys had little time for talk. Half the regiment was on board
the "Nancy," and, after breakfast, the men were divided into three
watches, of which one was always to be on deck, for the ship was very
crowded, and there was scarcely room for all the men to be below
together. The boys were in the same watch, for the day previous to
starting Tom had been appointed bugler to the 2d Company, Peter to the
3d. The 1st Company, or Grenadiers, were in the watch with the band,
the 2d and 3d Companies were together, and the 4th and 5th.
Tom was very ill for the first two days of the voyage, while Peter did
not feel the slightest effects from the motion. Upon the third day the
wind dropped suddenly, and the vessels rolled heavily in the swell,
with their sails flapping against the masts. Tom came up that morning
upon deck feeling quite well again, and the boys were immensely amused
at seeing the attempts of the soldiers to move about, the sudden
rushes, and the heavy falls. A parade had been ordered to take place;
but as no one could have stood steady without holding on, it was
abandoned as impossible. The men sat about under the bulwarks, and a
few amused themselves and the rest by trying to play various games,
such as laying a penny on the deck, and seeing which would pitch
another to lay nearest to it, from a distance of five yards. The
difficulty of balancing oneself in a heavily rolling vessel, and of
pitching a penny with any degree of accuracy, is great, and the manner
in which the coins, instead of coming down flat and remaining there,
rolled away into the scuppers, the throwers not unfrequently following
them, produced fits of laughter.
Tom was still feeling weak from his two days' illness, and was not
disposed actively to enter into the fun; but Peter enjoyed the heavy
rolling, and was all over the ship. Presently he saw Sam, the black
drummer, sitting in a dark corner below quietly asleep; his cap was
beside him, and the idea at once occurred to Peter that here was a
great opportunity for a joke. He made his way to the caboose, and
begged the cook to give him a handful of flour. The cook at first
refused, but was presently coaxed into doing so, and Peter stole to
where Sam was asleep, and put the flour into his cap, relying that, in
the darkness, Sam would put it on without noticing it. Then, going up
to the deck above, Peter put his head down the hatchway, and shouted
The negro woke at the sound of his name. "What is it?" he asked.
Receiving no reply, he got on to his feet, muttering, "Some one call
Sam, that for certain, can't do without Sam, always want here, want
there. I go up and see."
So saying, he put on his cap, and made his way up to the upper deck.
As he stood at the hatchway and looked round, there was, first a
titter, and then a roar of laughter from the men sitting or standing
along by the bulwarks. In putting on his cap some of the flour had
fallen out, and had streaked his face with white. Sam was utterly
unconscious that he was the object of the laughter, and said to one of
the men nearest to him, "Who call Sam?"
The man could not reply, but Tom, who was sitting close by, said, "It
was no one here, Sam, it must have been the bandmaster; there he is,
close to the quarter-deck."
Sam made his way along towards the point indicated, and as he did so
some of the officers upon the quarter-deck caught sight of him. "Just
look at Sambo," Carruthers exclaimed, "somebody has been larking with
him again. Look how all the men are laughing, and he evidently has no
suspicion of the figure he is."
The sergeant, who, the bandmaster having remained at the depôt, was
now acting as chief of the band, did not see Sam until the latter was
close to him. "You want me, sergeant?"
Sergeant Wilson looked up, and was astonished.
"What on earth have you been doing to yourself, Sam?" he asked.
"Me been having little nap down below," Sam said.
"Yes; but your face, man. What have you been doing to your face?"
Sam, in his turn, looked astonished. "Nothing whatsomeber, sargeant."
"Take off your cap, man, and look inside it." Sam did as ordered; and
as he removed the cap, and the powder fell from it all over his face
and shoulders, there was a perfect shout of laughter from the soldiers
and crew, who had been looking on, and the officers, looking down from
the rail of the quarter-deck, retired to laugh unnoticed.
The astonishment and rage of Sam were unbounded, and he gave a perfect
yell of surprise and fury. He stamped wildly for a minute or two, and
then, with a sudden movement rushed up on to the quarter-deck with
his cap in his hand. The colonel, who was holding on by the shrouds,
and talking with the major, in ignorance of what was going on, was
perfectly astounded at this sudden vision of the irate negro, and
neither he nor the major could restrain their laughter.
"Scuse me, colonel, sah, for de liberty," Sam burst out; "but look at
me, sah; is dis right, sah, is it right to make joke like dis on de
man dat play de big drum of de regiment?"
"No, no, Sam; not at all right," the colonel said, with difficulty.
"If you report who has played the trick upon you, I shall speak to him
very seriously; but, Sam, I should have thought that you were quite
big enough to take the matter in your own hands."
"Me big enough, Massah Colonel, me plenty big; but me not able to find
"Well, Sam, it is carrying a joke too far; still, it is only a trick
off duty, and I am afraid that it is beyond my power to interfere."
Sam thought for a moment, and, having by this time cooled down from
his first paroxysm of rage, he said, "Beg pardon, massa, you quite
right, no business of any one but Sam; but Sam too angry to 'top to
think. Scuse liberty, colonel," and Sam retired from the quarter-deck,
and made a bolt below down the nearest hatchway, when he plunged his
head into a bucket of water, and soon restored it to its usual ebony
Then he went to the cook and tried to find out to whom he had given
flour, but the cook replied at once, "Lor, I've given flour to the men
of each mess to make puddings of, about thirty of them," and Sam felt
as far off as ever.
Presently, however, a big sailor began to make fun of him, and Sam
retorted by knocking him down, after which there was a regular fight,
which was carried on under the greatest difficulty, owing to the
rolling of the ship. At last Sambo got the best of it, and this
restored him so thoroughly to a good temper that he was able to join
in the laugh at himself, reserving, however, his right to "knock de
rascal who did it into a squash."
The following day the weather changed, a wind sprang up nearly from
the north, which increased rapidly, until toward afternoon it was
blowing half a gale, before which the whole fleet, with their main
and topsails set, ran southward at great speed. A heavy cross sea was
running, the wares raised by the gale clashing with the heavy swell
previously rolling in from the westward, and so violent and sudden
were the lurches and rolls of the "Nancy" that the master feared that
her masts would go.
"How tremendously she rolls, Tom."
"Tremendously; the deck seems almost upright, and the water right
under our feet each time she goes over. She feels as if she were going
to turn topsy-turvy each roll. It's bad enough on deck; but it will be
worse down below."
"A great deal worse, Peter, it's nearly dark already; it will strike
eight bells in a minute or two, and then we shall have to go down.
There's no danger, of course, of the ship turning over, but it won't
be pleasant down below. Look out, Peter!"
The exclamation was caused by an awful crash. The ship had given a
tremendous lurch, when the long-boat, which was stowed amidships,
suddenly tore away from its fastenings and came crashing down.
It passed within three feet of where the boys were sitting, and
completely tore away the bulwark, leaving a great gap in the side,
where it had passed through. "Look, Tom, Sam's overboard!" Peter
Sam had been sitting on the bulwark, a few feet from them, holding on
by a shroud, when the boat came down upon him; with a cry he had let
go of the shroud and started back, falling into the water just as the
boat struck the bulwark. "There he is, Tom," Peter said, as he saw the
black only a few yards from the side. "He is hurt, come on," catching
up the end of a long rope coiled up on the deck close to their feet,
the boys jumped overboard together. A dozen strokes took them up to
Sam; but the black hull of the ship had already glanced past them.
They could hear loud shouts, but could not distinguish a word.
"Quick, round him, Peter!" and, in a moment, the boys twisted the rope
round the body of the black, and knotted it just as the drag of the
ship tightened it. Thus Sam's safety was secured, but the strain was
so tremendous as they tore through the water, that it was impossible
for the boys to hold on, and, in a moment, they were torn from their
"All right, Peter," Tom said cheerily, as they dashed the water from
their eyes, "there is the boat."
The remains of the boat were not ten yards distant, and in a few
strokes they had gained it. It was stove in and broken, but still held
together, floating on a level with the water's edge. With some trouble
the boys got inside her, and sat down on the bottom, so that their
heads were just out of water.
Then they had time to look round. The ship was already disappearing in
the gathering darkness.
"This boat will soon go to pieces, Tom," was Peter's first remark.
"I expect it will, Peter; but we must stick to its pieces. We had
better get off our boots. The water is pretty warm, that's one
"Do you think the ship will come back for us, Tom?"
"I don't think she can, Peter; at any rate, it is certain she can't
find us, it would take a long time to bring her round, and then, you
see, she could not sail straight back against the wind."
"Look here, Tom, I remember when I climbed up to look into the boats
yesterday that there were some little casks lashed under the seats,
and a sailor told me they were always kept full of water in case the
boats were wanted suddenly. If they are still there we might empty
them out, and they could keep us afloat any time."
"Hurrah! Peter, capital, let's see."
To their great delight the boys found four small water-kegs fastened
under the seats. Three of these they emptied, and fastening one of
them to that which they had left full, and then each taking hold of
one of the slings which were fastened to the kegs for convenience of
carriage, they waited quietly. In less than ten minutes from the time
when they first gained their frail refuge, a great wave broke just
upon them, and completely smashed up the remains of the boat. They had
cut off some rope from the mast, which they found with its sail furled
ready for use in the boat, and now roughly lashed themselves together,
face to face, so that they had a keg on each side. They had also
fastened a long piece of rope to the other kegs, so that they would
float near them.
It was a long and terrible night for them, generally their heads and
chests were well above the water, but at times a wave would break with
its white crest, and, for a time, the foam would be over their heads.
Fortunately the water was warm, and the wind fell a good deal. The
boys talked occasionally to each other, and kept up each other's
courage. Once or twice, in spite of the heavy sea, they were so much
overcome with exhaustion that they dozed uneasily for a while, with
their heads upon each other's shoulders, and great was their feeling
of relief and pleasure when morning began to break.
"It is going to be a splendid day, Peter, and the wind is dropping
"Look, Tom," Peter said, "there are some of the planks of the boat
jammed in with the kegs."
It was as Peter said; the two kegs, one empty and the other full, were
floating about ten yards off, at the length of the rope by which they
were attached to the boys, while with them was a confused mass of
wreckage of the boat.
"That is capital, Peter, we will see if we can't make a raft
As the sun rose and warmed the air, the boys strength and spirits
revived, and in a few hours they were so refreshed that they
determined to set about their raft. The wind had now entirely dropped,
the waves were still very high, but they came in long, smooth, regular
swells, over which they rose and fell almost imperceptibly.
"They must be rolling a good deal more in the 'Nancy' than we are
here, Peter. Now, the first thing is to have a drink. What a blessing
it is we have water." With their knives they soon got the bung out of
the water-keg, and each took a long drink, and then carefully closed
it up again.
"There, Peter, we have drunk as much as we wanted this time; but we
must be careful, there is no saying how long we may be before we are
picked up. Hurrah, Peter, here are the masts and sails, so we shall
have plenty of cord."
It took the boys nearly three hours to complete their task to their
satisfaction. When it was concluded they had the three empty kegs
lashed in a triangle about five feet apart, while two planks crossing
the triangle, assisted to keep all firm and tight; floating in the
center of the triangle was the keg of water. "There, I don't think
we can improve that, Peter," Tom said at last, "now, let us get on
and try it." They did so, and, to their great delight, found that
it floated a few inches above water. "We may as well get the masts
on board, Peter, and let the sails tow alongside. They may come in
useful; and now the first thing is to dry ourselves and our clothes."
The clothes were soon spread out to dry, and the boys luxuriated in
the warmth of the sun.
"What great, smooth waves these are, Tom, sometimes we are down in a
valley which runs miles long, and then we are up on a hill."
"Here we lay, all the day, in the bay of Biscay, oh!" Tom laughed.
"I only hope that the wished-for morrow may bring the sail in sight,
Peter. However, we can hold on for a few days, I suppose. That is a
four-gallon keg, so that we have got a quart of water each for eight
days, and hunger isn't so bad to bear as thirst. We have pretty well
done for our uniforms, our bugles are the only things that have not
For the boys' companies being on deck at the time of the accident,
they both had their bugles on when they jumped overboard.
"Our last upset was when that bargee canted us over at Eton, rather a
different business that, Peter."
"My shirt is not dry yet, Tom; but I shall put it on again, for the
sun is too hot to be pleasant."
Tom followed Peter's example.
"Do you think, Tom, that we had better try to get up a sort of sail
and make for land, or remain where we are?"
"Remain where we are, Peter, I should say. I suppose we must be a
hundred miles from the French coast, and even if the wind blew fair
we should be a long time getting there, and with the certainty of a
prison when we arrived. Still, if there were a strong west wind, I
suppose it would be our best way; as it is we have nothing to do but
to wait quietly, and hope for a ship. We are in the right line, and
there must be lots of vessels on their way, besides those which sailed
with us, for Portsmouth. So we must keep watch and watch. Now, Peter,
you lie down on that plank, it is just about long enough, you shall
have two hours' sleep, and then I'll have two, after that we will have
four hours each."
"How are we to count time?" Peter said laughing.
"I never thought of that," Tom said, looking at his watch. "Of course
it has stopped. We must guess as near as we can; at any rate, you go
to sleep first, and, when I am too sleepy to keep watch any longer, I
will wake you up."
So passed that day and the next night. A light breeze sprung up from
the southwest, and the sun again shone out brightly.
"I feel as if I wanted breakfast horribly," Peter said, with an
attempt at a smile. "Do you think that there is any possibility of
"We have nothing to make hooks with, Peter, and nothing to bait them
with if we had."
"There are lots of tiny fish swimming all about, Tom, if we could but
Tom was silent for awhile; then he said, "Look here, Peter. Let us cut
a piece off the sail about five feet long, and say three feet wide,
double it longways, and sew up the ends so as to make a bag; we can
unravel some string, and make holes with our knives. Then we can sink
it down two or three feet, and watch it; and when we see that some
little fish have got in it, we can draw it up very gently, and, by
raising it gradually from the sea, the water will run out, and we
shall catch the fish."
Peter agreed that at any rate it was worth trying; for, even if it did
not succeed, it was better for them to be doing something than sitting
idle. The sail and the floating wreckage were pulled alongside, and
the boys set to work. In three hours a large and shallow bag was made,
with some improvements upon Tom's original plan. The mouth was kept
open by two crossed pieces of wood, and four cords from the corners
were attached to the end of the oar which formed their fishing-rod. At
last it was finished, and the bag lowered.
To the horror of the boys, it was discovered that it would not sink.
They were ready to cry with vexation, for the want of food had made
them feel faint and weak.
"What have we got that is heavy?" Tom asked in despair.
"I have got fourpence in halfpence, Tom, and there are our knives and
Their pockets were ransacked, and the halfpence, knives, and watches
were placed in the bottom of the bag and lowered. Still the wood-work
"There are the bugles, Tom," Peter cried in delight. These had been
fastened to the raft, and were now hastily untied and placed in the
It sank now, and the boys lowered it five or six feet, so that they
could partly see into it. "There are lots of little fish swimming
about, Tom," Peter said in a whisper. "Some are almost as long as
one's hand. Do you think that they will go in, Tom?"
"I hope the glitter of the bugles and watches will attract them,
"There, Tom, there--I saw a whole swarm of little ones go in."
"Wait a minute or two, Peter, to let them get well down, and then draw
up as quietly as possible."
Very cautiously the boys raised the point of their rod until the
top of the square-mouthed bag was level with the surface; then they
brought it close to them and looked in, and as they did so gave a
simultaneous cheer. There, in the bottom of the canvas, two feet below
them, were a number of little fish moving about. Raising the rod
still higher, they gradually lifted the net out of the sea, the water
running quickly off as they did so, and then they proceeded to examine
"We will take out one and one, Peter; give them a nip as you take them
up, that will kill them." There were two fish of about three inches
long, another three or four of two inches, and some thirty or forty
the size of minnows. It was scarcely more than a mouthful each, but
it was a stay for a moment to their stomachs, and no one ever said a
thanksgiving with deeper feeling and heartiness than did the boys when
they had emptied their canvas net.
"We need not be anxious about food now, Peter; if we can catch these
in five minutes, we can get enough each day to satisfy us. They quench
the thirst too. We must limit ourselves to half a pint of water a day,
and we can hold on for a fortnight. We are safe to be picked up before
All the afternoon and evening the boys continued to let down and draw
up their net, sometimes bringing in only a few tiny fish, sometimes
getting half a dozen of the larger kind. By nightfall they had
satisfied the cravings of hunger, and felt stronger and better. One or
two sails had been seen during the day, but always at such distances
that it was evident at once that they could not pass within hail. That
night, fatigued with their exertions, both laid down and went to sleep
until morning, and slept more comfortably than before; for they had
fastened a piece of the sail tightly on the top of the raft, and lay
softly suspended in that, instead of being balanced upon a narrow and
uncomfortable plank. They felt new creatures when they woke, pulled
up their net, had a mouthful of raw fish, took off their clothes, and
had a swim, and then set to earnestly to fish. The sun was brighter,
and the fish in consequence kept deeper than upon the preceding day;
still by evening they had caught enough to take the edge off, if not
to satisfy, their hunger. The fishing, however, during the last hours
of daylight was altogether neglected, for behind them they could see
a sail, which appeared as if it might possibly come close enough to
observe them. There was still the long, steady swell coming in from
the Atlantic, and a light breeze was blowing from the north. The boys
had been so intent upon their fishing, that they had not noticed her
until she was within nine or ten miles of them. "She will not be up
for an hour and a half, Peter," Tom said, "and the sun will be down
long before that. I fear that the chance of their seeing us is very
small indeed. However, we will try. Let us get the net out of the
water, and hold it and the oar up. It is possible that some one may
see the canvas with a telescope before the sun goes down. Take the
things out of the net."
The oar with the canvas bag was elevated, and the boys anxiously
watched the course of the vessel. She was a large ship, but they could
only see her when they rose upon the top of the long smooth waves. "I
should think that she will pass within a mile of us, Peter," Tom said,
after half an hour's watching, "but I fear that she will not be much
closer. How unfortunate she had not come along an hour earlier. She
would have been sure to see us if it had been daylight. I don't think
that there is much chance now, for there is no moon. However, thank
God, we can hold on very well now, and next time we may have better
The sun had set more than half an hour before the ship came abreast of
them. They had evidently not been seen.
"Now, Peter," Tom said, "let us both hallo together; the wind is very
light, and it is just possible they may hear us."
Again and again the boys shouted, but the ship sailed steadily on.
Peter dashed the tears aside, and Tom said, with a quiver in his
voice, "Never mind, Peter; better luck next time, old boy. God has
been so good to us, that I feel quite confident we shall be saved."
"So do I, Tom," Peter said. "It was only a disappointment for a
minute. We may as well put the oar down, for my arm and back ache
"Mind how you do it, Peter. If we let the end go through the canvas,
we shall lose our watches and bugles, and then we shall not be able to
"Oh, Tom, the bugles!"
"What, Peter?" Tom said, astonished.
"We can make them hear, Tom, don't you see?"
"Hurrah, Peter! so we can. What a fool I was to forget it!"
In a moment the bugles rang out the assembly across the water. Again
and again the sharp, clear sound rose on the quiet evening air.
"Look, Peter, there are men going up the rigging to look round. Sound
Again and again they sounded the call, and then they saw the ship's
head come round, and her bow put towards them, and then they fell on
their knees and thanked God that they were saved.
In ten minutes the ship was close to them, thrown up into the wind, a
boat was lowered, and in another minute or two was alongside.
"Hallo!" the officer in charge exclaimed, "two boys, all alone. Here,
help them in, lads--that's it; now pull for the ship. Here, boys, take
a little brandy from this flask. How long have you been on that raft?"
"It is three days since we went overboard, sir; but we were in the
water for about eighteen hours before we made the raft."
Tom and Peter drank a little brandy, and felt better for it; but they
were weaker than they thought, for they had to be helped up the side
of the ship. A number of officers were grouped round the gangway, and
the boys saw that they were on board a vessel of war.
"Only these boys?" asked the captain in surprise of the officer who
had brought them on board.
"That is all, sir."
"Doctor, you had better see to them," the captain said. "If they are
strong enough to talk, after they have had some soup, let them come
to my cabin; if not, let them turn in in the sick bay, and I will see
them in the morning. One question though, boys. Are there any others
about--any one for me to look for or pick up?"
"No one else, sir," Tom said, and then followed the doctor aft. A
basin of soup and a glass of sherry did wonders for the boys, and in
an hour they proceeded to the captain's cabin, dressed in clothes
which the doctor had borrowed from two of the midshipmen for them,
for their own could never be worn again; indeed, they had not brought
their jackets from the raft, those garments having shrunk so from the
water, that the boys had not been able to put them on again, after
first taking them off to dry.
The doctor accompanied them, and in the captain's cabin they found the
first lieutenant, who had been in charge of the boat which picked them
"I am glad to see you looking so much better," the captain said as
they entered. "Sit down. Do you know," he went on with a smile, "I
do not think that any of us would have slept had you not recovered
sufficiently to tell your story to-night. We have been puzzling over
it in vain. How you two boys came to be adrift alone on a raft, made
up of three water-kegs, as Mr. Armstrong tells me, and how you came to
have two bugles with you on the raft, is altogether beyond us."
"The last matter is easily explained, sir," Tom said. "My brother and
myself are buglers in H.M.'s Regiment of Norfolk Rangers, and as we
were on duty when we went overboard, we had our bugles slung over our
"Buglers!" the captain said in surprise. "Why from your appearance and
mode of expressing yourselves, I take you to be gentlemen's sons."
"So we are, sir," Tom said quietly, "and I hope gentlemen--at any
rate we have been Etonians. But we have lost our father, and are now
buglers in the Rangers."
"Well, lads," the captain said after a pause, "and now tell us how you
came upon this little raft?"
Tom related modestly the story of their going overboard from the
"Nancy," of the formation of the raft, and of their after proceedings.
Their hearers were greatly astonished at the story; and the captain
said, "Young gentlemen, you have done a very gallant action, and have
behaved with a coolness and bravery which would have done credit to
old sailors. Had your father been alive he might have been proud
indeed of you. I should be proud had you been my sons. If you are
disposed to change services I will write directly we reach the Tagus
to obtain your discharge, and will give you midshipmen's berths on
board this ship. Don't answer now; you can think it over by the time
we reach Portugal. I will not detain you now; a night's rest will set
you up. Mr. Armstrong will introduce you to the midshipmen to-morrow;
you are passengers here now, and will mess with them. Good-night."
It was not many minutes before the boys were asleep in their hammocks.
If people's ears really tingle when they are being spoken about,
Tom and Peter would have had but little sleep that night. The first
lieutenant related the circumstances to the other lieutenants; the
second lieutenant, whose watch it was, told the gunner, who related
it to the petty officers; the doctor told his mates, who retailed the
story to the midshipmen; and so gradually it went over the whole ship,
and officers and men agreed that it was one of the pluckiest and
coolest things ever done.
The boys slept until nearly breakfast time, and were just dressed when
Mr. Armstrong came for them and took them to the midshipmen's berth,
where they were received with a warmth and heartiness which quite
surprised them. The midshipmen and mates pressed forward to shake
hands with them, and the stiflingly close little cock-pit was the
scene of an ovation. The boys were quite glad when the handshaking was
over, and they sat down to the rough meal which was then usual among
midshipmen. As the vessel had only left England four days before,
the fare was better than it would have been a week later, for there
was butter, cold ham and tongue upon the table. After breakfast they
were asked to tell the story over again, and this they did with great
modesty. Many questions were asked, and it was generally regretted
that they were not sailors. Upon going up on deck there was quite an
excitement among the sailors to get a look at them, and the gunner and
other petty officers came up and shook hands with them heartily, and
the boys wished from the depths of their hearts that people would not
make such a fuss about nothing; for, as Tom said to Peter, "Of course
we should not have jumped overboard if we had thought that we could
not have kept hold of the rope."
That day they dined in the cabin with the captain, who, after the
officers present had withdrawn, asked them if they would tell him
about their past lives. This the boys did frankly, and took the
opportunity of explaining that they had chosen the army because the
enemies' fleet having been destroyed, there was less chance of active
service in the navy than with the army just starting for Lisbon, and
that their uncle having commanded the regiment that they were in, they
had entered it, and had received so much kindness that they had fair
reason to hope that they would eventually obtain commissions. Hence,
while thanking him most warmly for his offer, they had decided to go
on in the path that they had chosen.
The captain remarked that, after what they had said, although he
should have been glad to have them with him, he thought that they had
The next morning, when the boys woke, they were surprised at the
absence of any motion of the vessel, and upon going on deck they found
that they were running up the Tagus, and that Lisbon was in sight.
The boys were delighted with the appearance of the Tagus, covered as
it now was with a fleet of transports and merchantmen. As they were
looking at it, the officer commanding the marines on board, who had
talked a good deal to them upon the preceding day, came up to them. "I
thought that you would be in a fix about clothes, my lads," he said.
"You could not very well join in these midshipman's uniforms, so I set
the tailor yesterday to cut down a couple of spare suits of my corps.
The buttons will not be right, but you can easily alter that when you
join. You had better go below at once and see if the things fit pretty
well. I have told the tailor to take them to the cock-pit and if they
do not fit they can alter them at once."
Thanking the officer very much for his thoughtful kindness, and much
relieved in mind--for they had already been wondering what they should
do--the boys ran below, and found that the tailor had guessed their
sizes pretty correctly, aided as he had been by the trousers they
had worn when they came on board. A few alterations were necessary,
and these he promised to get finished in a couple of hours. They had
scarcely gone on deck again when the anchor was let fall, and a boat
was lowered, in order that the captain might proceed to shore with the
despatches of which he was the bearer.
Just as he was upon the point of leaving the deck, his eye fell upon
the boys. "I shall be back again in an hour or two," he said; "do not
leave until I return. I will find out where your regiment is, and if
it has marched I will give you a certificate of how I picked you up,
otherwise you may be stopped on the way, and get into a scrape as two
boys who have strayed away from their regiment."
So saying, the captain got into his boat and rowed to shore. It was
one o'clock before he returned. The boys had dinner with the gunroom
officers, then changed their dress, and had now the appearance of
buglers in the marines.
The captain at once sent for them. "Your regiment went on yesterday
with the rest of the division. It halts to-day ten miles out of the
town. There is the certificate I spoke of. Mr. Armstrong is just going
off with two boats' crew to assist in unloading stores; I have asked
him to hand you over to the charge of some officer going up with a
convoy. And now good-bye, lads. I wish you every luck, and hope that
some day or other you may win your epaulets."
With renewed thanks for his kindness, the boys went up on deck. There
they shook hands and said good-bye to all the officers and midshipmen.
As they were waiting while the boats were being lowered, two of the
sailors went aft to the captain, who had come up from below and was
walking alone on the quarter-deck, and, with a touch of the hat, the
spokesman said, "Your honor, we're come to ax as how, if your honor
has no objection, we might just give a parting cheer to those 'ere
"Well, Jones," the captain said, smiling, "it's rather an unusual
thing for the crew of one of His Majesty's ships to cheer two young
"It is unusual, your honor, mighty unusual, because soldiers ain't in
general of much account at sea; but you see, your honor, this ain't a
usual circumstance, nohow. These here boys, which ain't much more than
babbies, have done what there ain't many men, not even of those who
are born and bred to the sea, would have done; and we should just like
to give them a bit of a cheer for good luck."
"Very well, Jones, tell the men they can do as they like."
Accordingly, as the boys took their seats in the boat they were
surprised at seeing the crew clustering to the side of the ship, while
some of the men ran up the rigging.
"What can the men be up to?" Tom asked Mr. Armstrong in surprise.
The lieutenant smiled, for he knew what was coming.
"Sheer off, men," he said, and as he did so the boatswain of the ship
gave the word, "Now, lads, three cheers for them boys; may they have
the luck they deserve."
Three thundering cheers burst from the whole crew, the men in the
boats tossing their oars in the naval fashion of acknowledgment of
the salute. Tom and Peter, astonished and affected, stood up, took
off their caps, and waved their hands in thanks to the crowd of faces
looking down upon them, and then sat down again and wiped their eyes.
"Row on," the lieutenant said, and the oars fell in the water with
a splash; one more cheer arose, and then the boats rowed for the
landing-place. The boys were too much affected to look up or speak,
until they reached the shore, nor did they notice a boat which rowed
past them upon its way to the vessel they had left, just after they
had started. It contained an officer in a general's uniform. The boat
steered to the ship's side, and the officer ascended the ladder. The
captain was on deck. "Ah, Craufurd," he said, "this is an unexpected
"I have just come back from my division for a few hours, Merivale;
there are a lot of stores which are essential, and some of my
artillery is not landed, so I thought I could hurry things up a bit.
My spare charger, and most of the chargers of my staff, are being
landed, too; the ship they came in was a day or two late; and as I had
to confer with the Portuguese Minister of War, I am killing a good
many birds with one stone. I heard you had just come in, and as I was
on board the "Clio" about my charger, I thought it would not be much
out of my way to run round and shake hands with you."
"I am very glad you did. Come into my cabin; you can spare time to
take some lunch, I hope."
While they were at lunch General Craufurd remarked, "So you have just
lost one of your officers, I see; promoted to another ship, eh?"
"Lost an officer!" Captain Merivale said in surprise. "No, not that I
have heard of. What makes you think so?"
"I thought so by the cheering the ship's crew gave that boat that left
the ship just before I came up. There was only a naval lieutenant in
her, and I supposed that he had just got his ship, and I thought by
the heartiness of the cheering what a good fellow he must be."
"But it was not the lieutenant the men were cheering," Captain
Merivale said with a smile.
"No!" General Craufurd said, surprised. "Why, there was no one else
in the boat. I looked attentively as I passed. There was only a
lieutenant, a midshipman who was steering, the men rowing, and two
little marine buglers, who had their handkerchiefs up to their faces.
So you see I took a very minute survey."
"You did indeed," Captain Merivale said, laughing. "Well, it was just
these little buglers that the crew of the ship were cheering."
General Craufurd looked up incredulously. "You're joking, Merivale.
The crew of His Majesty's frigate 'Latona' cheer two buglers of
marines! No, no, that won't do."
"It is a fact, though, Craufurd, unlikely as it seems, except that the
buglers belong to the Norfolk Rangers, and not to the Marines."
"The Rangers! They are in Hill's division. What is it all about? There
must be something very strange about it."
"There is indeed," Captain Merivale said, "very strange." And he then
related the whole story to his visitor.
"They are trumps indeed," the general said when the narrative was
ended, "and I am very glad that I happened to hear it. I will speak to
Hill about it, and will keep my eye upon them. Be assured they shall
have their epaulets as soon as possible--that is, if their conduct is
at all equal to their pluck. It is the least we can do when, as you
say, they have refused midshipmen's berths to stick to us. And now I
must be off."
The boat landed General Craufurd at the same landing-place at which
Tom and Peter had disembarked half an hour before. Lieutenant
Armstrong had spoken a few words to the officer who was superintending
the landing of stores and horses, and he, being far too busy to stop
to talk, briefly said that the boys could go up to join their regiment
with a convoy of stores which would start that night.
After saying good-bye to their friend the lieutenant, the boys sat
down upon some bales, and were watching with much amusement and
interest the busy scene before them. As General Craufurd passed they
rose and saluted.
"You are the boys from the 'Latona,' are you not?"
"Yes, sir," the boys answered in surprise.
"Can you ride?"
"Follow me, then."
Much surprised, the boys followed the general until he made his way
through the confusion to a group of newly landed horses. Near them
were a couple of mounted Hussars, who, at the sight of the general,
rode forward with his charger. He made a sign to them to wait a
moment, and walked up to the men who were holding the newly landed
"Which of you have got charge of two horses?"
Several of the men answered at once.
"Which of you are servants of officers on my staff?"
Three of those who had answered before replied now.
"Very well; just put saddles on to two of them. These lads will ride
them; they are going out with me at once; they will hand them over to
In another five minutes Tom and Peter, to their surprise and
delight, were clattering along through the streets of Lisbon upon
two first-rate horses in company with the two Hussars, while, twenty
lengths ahead, trotted General Craufurd with two officers who had been
down to Lisbon upon duty similar to his own. Once outside the town,
the general put his horse into a gallop, and his followers of course
did the same. Once or twice General Craufurd glanced back to see how
the boys rode, for a doubt had crossed his mind as to whether he had
been wise in putting them upon such valuable horses, but when he saw
that they were evidently accustomed to the work, he paid no further
attention to them.
The officers riding beside him, however, looked back several times.
"What luck we have, to be sure, Tom," Peter said, "and I can't
understand this a bit. How could the general know that we came from
the 'Latona'; as he evidently did, and by the way these officers have
looked back twice, I can't help thinking that he is talking about us."
Tom was as puzzled as Peter, but they soon forgot the subject, and
engaged in an animated conversation with the Hussars as to the
situation and position of the army, and the supposed strength and
locality of the French, concerning which they were, of course, in
complete ignorance. An hour and a half's sharp riding took them to
Torres Vedras, a small town which afterwards became celebrated for
the tremendous lines which Wellington erected there. The troops were
encamped in its vicinity, the general having his quarters at the house
of the Alcalde, or Mayor.
"Your regiment is a mile and a half distant, lads," General Craufurd
said as they drew up at his quarters; "you will have difficulty in
finding it this evening. Sergeant, take these lads round to the house
where my orderlies are quartered, and give them some supper. They can
join their regiment in the morning. I have heard of you, lads, from
Captain Merivale, and shall mention your conduct to General Hill, and
be assured I will keep my eye upon you."
The boys were soon asleep upon a heap of straw, and at six next
morning were upon the road, having already had some coffee and bread
for breakfast. They had no difficulty in finding their way, for
orderlies were already galloping about, and the bugle calls came sharp
upon their ears. The division was to march at seven. The Rangers
happened to be the first in advance, so that they passed through the
other regiments to arrive at theirs.
The tents were down when they arrived, and packed in readiness for the
bullock carts which stood by. The boys paused a little distance off,
and looked on with delight at the busy scene. At a note on the bugle
the tents and other baggage were stowed in the carts, and then the men
hitched on their knapsacks, unpiled arms, and began to fall into rank.
No one noticed the boys as they passed between the groups and
approached the band, who were mustering by the colors, which were as
usual placed in front of the guard tent.
"There's Sambo," Tom said; "I am glad they got him safe on board."
The negro was the first to perceive the boys as they came close up
to him. As he saw them he gave a sudden start, his eyes opened wider
and wider until the whites showed all round, his teeth chattered, the
shiny black of his face turned to a sort of dirty gray, and he threw
up his hands with a loud cry, "oh, golly, here's dose boys' spirits!"
He stepped back, heedless that the big drum was behind him, and the
next moment went back with a crash into it, and remained there with
his knees doubled up and his face looking out between them, too
frightened and horror-struck to make the least movement to extricate
For a moment no one noticed him, for at his cry they had all turned to
the boys, and stood as if petrified at seeing those whom they believed
had been drowned before their eyes a week before. The silence did
not last long, the boys bursting into a shout of laughter at Sam's
"Spirits! Sam," Tom said; "not by a long way yet, man. How are you
all? Come, get out of that, Sam and shake hands." And as the band with
a shout crowded round them, the boys helped Sam, who was trembling all
over from the shock and fright, from the drum.
For a moment the boys were quite confused and bewildered, for as they
hauled Sam to his feet their comrades of the band pressed round them
cheering, every one trying to shake them by the hand.
The news spread like wildfire among the troops, and there was at once
a general rush to the spot. The boys were seized in an instant, and
each raised on the shoulders of two of the grenadiers, and as they
made their appearance above the heads of the crowd a tremendous cheer
broke from the whole regiment.
"What can be the matter?" was the general exclamation of the colonel
and officers, who were just finishing their breakfasts in a cottage
which stood close behind the spot where their tents had been pitched
in the rear of the regiment. "What can be the matter?"--and as the
cheering continued there was a general rush to the door. There they
stood astonished at seeing the whole of the men clustered in one spot,
shouting and waving their caps.
"What can be the matter?" the colonel said again; "the whole regiment
seems to have gone mad."
"We shall know in a minute," Captain Manley said; "they are coming in
"Look at that fellow Sambo," exclaimed Carruthers; "he looks madder
than all the rest."
In spite of the intense surprise which all were feeling, there was a
general laugh, for the black was performing antics like one possessed;
his cap was gone, he jumped, he yelled, he waved his arms, with a
drumstick in each hand, wildly over his head, he twisted round and
round; he seemed really out of his mind. Suddenly he left the crowd,
and rushed on ahead at full speed towards the group of officers, still
leaping and yelling and waving his drumsticks.
The officers instinctively drew together as he approached, for they
thought that the gigantic negro was really out of his mind. He stopped
suddenly as he came up to them, and tried to fall into his usual
attitude of attention.
"Oh, Massa Colonel," he said in hoarse, sobbing tones, "only to
think, only to think. Scuse Sam, sar, but Sam feel he's going to bust
right up wid joy, massa. Dat no matter, but only to think. Bress de
Almighty, sar! only to think!"
None of the officers spoke for a minute in answer to these disjointed
exclamations. They were affected at the man's great emotion. His black
skin was still strangely pale, his eyes were distended, his lips
quivered, tears were rolling down his cheeks, and his huge frame was
shaken with sobs.
"Calm yourself, Sam--be calm, my man," the colonel said kindly. "Try
and tell us what has happened. What are the men so excited about? What
is the matter with them?"
"Oh, Massa Colonel," Sam said, "me try tell you all 'boat it. Only to
think, sar, dose boys cum back again; dose boys, sar, bress dem, dat
jumped into de water and got drowned just to save dis poor niggar,
sar. Dey cum back again; only tink ob dat!"
The officers looked at one another in surprise.
"I do believe he means the Scudamores! colonel," Captain Manley
exclaimed; "but no, it is impossible, no one could have lived five
minutes in that sea, and we know that they could not have been picked
up, for we were the last ship in the fleet."
"Yes, yes, sar, dat's dem, dey cum back sure enuff," Sam said.
Then Carruthers exclaimed, "I do believe it is so; there are a couple
of boys on the shoulders of the men in the middle of the crowd. Yes,
and, by Jove, it is the Scudamores. Hurrah! I am glad."
There was a general exclamation of pleasure from the whole group, for
the regret for the boys, who had, as was believed, perished in the
performance of such a gallant action, had been general and sincere,
and Captain Manley lifted his cap and said reverently, "Thank God,
these gallant lads are saved;" and those around, although some of them
were but little addicted to prayer, repeated the words and imitated
Carruthers would have stepped forward in his eagerness to greet his
former school-fellows, but Captain Manley laid his hand quietly on his
shoulder and said in a low tone, "Wait, Carruthers, let the colonel
And now the crowd came up to the cottage, those in front falling back
as they approached, so as to let the grenadiers come forward with
their burden. The boys were lowered to the ground, and stood at once
at attention; their faces were both flushed with excitement, and their
eyes swollen with tears, so much were they both moved by the welcome
which had greeted them.
There was a dead silence for a moment, and then Colonel Tritton said
in a loud, clear voice, which was heard all over the throng of men, "I
am glad, lads, to see you back again. I never expected to have seen
you again after we caught a glimpse of you as the sea washed you away.
You have seen how the men have welcomed you, and I can assure you
that the pleasure of the officers that two such gallant young fellows
should have been saved is no less than that of your comrades. A braver
act than that which you performed was never done. I shake hands with
you, and congratulate you in the name of the whole regiment." And,
suiting the action to the words, Colonel Tritton stepped forward and
shook the boys warmly by the hand, amidst a great cheer upon the part
of the whole regiment. Then he held up his hand for silence again.
"Bugler, sound the assembly; fall in, my lads, or we shall be late.
Come in here, boys; you can get something to eat, and tell us in a few
words how you were saved, for, even now that I see you it seems almost
THE PASSAGE OF THE DUORO--TALAVERA.
Very severe was the drill and discipline, and not very abundant was
the food, and there was a general feeling of pleasure when, by the
general concentration of the army at Coimbra, it was evident that
active operations were about to commence. On the 5th of May 9000
Portuguese, 3000 Germans, and 13,000 British troops were assembled.
Sir Arthur was already there, and upon the 6th General Beresford
marched with 10,000 men, and orders were issued for the rest of the
army to march out early the next day.
The Norfolk Rangers were in high glee that night, and many were the
tales told by the old soldiers of former engagements in which they
had taken part. Next morning, at daybreak, the tents were struck, the
baggage packed, and the wagons loaded. The people of Coimbra came out
in crowds to see the troops march, and many were the blessings and
good wishes poured out as the long line wound through the streets of
Hill's division was the last, and the rain was pouring down with great
force by the time they started. The march, however, was not a very
long one, for Beresford's division, which was to operate upon the
Upper Duoro, had a long distance to make, and it was necessary that
all should be ready for simultaneous action. For this purpose the army
halted the next day, and upon the 9th marched to Aveiro on the River
Vonga. Here a large flotilla of boats was found, and the Norfolk
Rangers with two other regiments were ordered to embark at once. The
Portuguese fishermen entered heart and soul into the business, and in
perfect silence the little flats were rowed up the lake of Ovar.
The soldiers were greatly crowded in the boats, and were glad, indeed,
when just as morning dawned they landed at the town of Ovar.
By this movement they were placed upon the right flank of Francheschi,
the general who commanded the advanced division of the French army.
Soon after they had landed the French were attacked in front, and
finding their flank turned, and the whole British force, which they
had believed to be seven days' march away, in their front, they fell
To their great disappointment, the Rangers took no share in this the
first skirmish of the war. But Hill's orders were not to press on the
enemy's rear. Three days more of marching and skirmishing brought them
close to the Duoro on the evening of the 11th. The enemy crossed that
evening and destroyed the bridge, and during the night the British
troops were all brought up, and massed behind the hill called the
Serra. This hill stood upon a sharp elbow which the river makes just
above the town of Oporto, and the British were here completely hidden
from Marshal Soult, who had no idea that they were so close at hand.
Indeed, knowing that the bridge was broken and that all the boats
had been carefully taken over to that side of the river, the Marshal
dreamt not that Sir Arthur would attempt to cross, but imagined that
he would take boats lower down near the mouth of the river and there
endeavor to cross. To prevent such an attempt Soult had massed his
army below Oporto.
The troops were ordered to pile arms, and eat their breakfast, but to
keep in position. "I wonder how we are to cross the river, Tom?" Peter
said. "It is three hundred yards across, with a rapid current, no man
in the world could swim that, and carry his musket and ammunition
"I expect Sir Arthur is reconnoitering, Peter; I saw him go up the
hill to that convent there; he must be able to see from there right
An hour passed, and then two or three officers were seen coming down
from the hill; one went up to General Hill, who happened at that
moment to be talking to Colonel Tritton. "You are to prepare to cross,
sir, Colonel Waters has discovered a small boat brought across by a
Portuguese in the night. They are going to cross to that great convent
you see upon the other side. They will bring back boats with them, and
you will cross at once, take possession of the convent, and hold it
against any force that may be brought against you until reinforcements
Very quickly were the orders passed, and with a smile of satisfaction
the men took their arms and fell in. They were moved near the river,
and kept under shelter of some houses.
"Keep near me," Colonel Tritton said to Tom and Peter, "I may want you
to carry messages, there will be no sounding of bugles to-day."
Keeping under the shade of some trees so that they could command a
view of the river without being seen from the opposite side, Colonel
Tritton with two of his officers and his two buglers, watched what
was going on. A few paces ahead of them were Generals Paget and Hill,
like themselves, watching the daring experiment. Behind, under shelter
of the houses, were the troops in dense masses. The Rangers, as the
first regiment in General Hill's division, were in front, and would
naturally be the first to cross. It was a most anxious moment, as
Colonel Waters and two Portuguese pushed the tiny boat from shore and
pulled across stream. The bulk of the Serra Hill hid the river at this
point, and even the convent opposite, from the sight of the French
army formed up below the town, but there were no doubt stragglers all
over the city, and the whole baggage of the French army was in retreat
by the road to Valarga which ran at a short distance behind the
Most anxiously their eyes were strained upon the opposite bank, from
which they expected to see the flash of musketry, as the little boat
neared the convent. All, however, was as still as death. Behind them
they heard a rumble, and looking round saw eighteen guns on their way
up the hill. From this eminence they could command the ground around
the Seminary, as the convent across the water was called, and thus
afford some aid to the troops as they crossed.
There was a murmur of satisfaction as the boat neared the opposite
shore, and after lying still for a moment to reconnoiter the convent,
pulled boldly up to the landing-place, where its occupants disembarked
and entered the Seminary. Their absence was not long. In a few minutes
they reappeared with eight or ten men, and then at once entered and
cast off three large boats moored along side.
The boys could hardly repress a cheer as they saw them fairly under
weigh. An officer now left the side of the General, and came to
Colonel Tritton, "You will get your first company in readiness to
embark, sir; do not let them show themselves until the last moment."
Colonel Tritton joined his men. "Captain Manley, take your company
forward, when the first boat touches the shore embark. Let there be no
noise or confusion."
"God bless you, Peter," Tom said, as they separated; "your company
won't be many minutes after us;" for the bugler of the first company
was ill, and Tom was ordered to take his place.
As the boat touched the shore Captain Manley ordered the leading files
of his company to come from under cover and take their place in the
boat. Twenty-four men entered, and when the other boats were also full
Captain Manley took his place, followed by his bugler, and the boats
pushed off again.
There was a dead silence in the boat, broken only by the sound of
the oars as the Portuguese tugged manfully at them, each oar being
double-banked by a soldier. The rest sat with their muskets in their
hands, their pouches open ready for use, and their eyes fixed upon the
shore. All was quiet, and with a sigh of relief, and a hearty hurrah
muttered under their breath, the men leapt from the boat and ran up to
It was a large building with a flat roof, and the enclosure around it
was surrounded by a high wall which swept round to the water's edge
on either side. The only entrance was through a stout gate studded
with iron. This was already closed and barred; the captain at once
distributed his men at the upper windows of the Seminary, with orders
not to show themselves until the alarm was given.
They had scarcely taken their places when they were joined by the
occupants of the second boat, while those of the third, in which
General Paget himself crossed, were but a minute or two later. Just as
they touched the shore, however, there was a sudden shout heard, this
was followed by others, and in five minutes a wild hubbub was heard in
the town. Drums beat to arms, and it was evident that the enemy were
at last awake to the fact that the British had effected a lodgment
upon their side of the stream.
"We shall have it hot presently," Captain Manley said to Tom. "They
will be a quarter of an hour before they can get round here, and we
shall have the three boats back by that time. The one we came in is
half-way across already."
Seven or eight minutes later a heavy column of men was seen pouring
out of the upper gate of the town. As they got into the open ground,
they threw out clouds of skirmishers, and pushed down towards the
convent. A heavy fire was at once opened upon them by the English guns
upon the Serra Hill. There was no longer any need for concealment. The
soldiers in the convent took their places at the windows, and as they
did so could hear the loud hurrahs of their comrades as they crowded
down to the bank upon the other side of the river to await their turn
to embark. Before the enemy were within musket-shot, three boat loads
more had been landed, and there were, therefore, 150 men now in the
convent. From the gates of the city the French artillery came pouring
out, and, taking up a position upon an eminence, opened fire upon the
convent just as the infantry had got within musket-range.
So suddenly did the noise of the enemy's cannonade, the crashing of
the balls against the thick walls of the Seminary, the rattle of the
enemy's musketry, and the louder roar of the muskets of the defenders,
blended on both sides with shouts and cheers, break out, that for a
minute or two Tom felt almost bewildered. He had no time, however, to
think, for an officer came up to Captain Manley. "The general is up on
the roof; he wants a bugler sent up to him."
Captain Manley nodded to Tom, who followed the aide-de-camp on to the
roof. Here he could see all that was passing, and an exciting sight
it was. Crowds of French soldiers were approaching the wall, keeping
up a tremendous musketry fire, whilst behind them three batteries of
field-guns were sending their messengers of death. From every upper
window of the convent the answering flashes came thick and fast, while
overhead hummed the shot from the British guns, on the Serra Hill.
Oporto itself was in a state of uproar. Drums were beating, trumpets
sounding, bells clanging, while from the house-tops the population,
men and women, were waving their handkerchiefs to the English,
gesticulating and making all sorts of pantomimic expression of joy.
Looking at the river behind, Tom saw with pleasure that some more
boats had been obtained, and that strong reinforcements would soon be
across. The whistling of the bullets and the hum of the round shot
were incessant, and Tom acknowledged to himself that he felt horribly
uncomfortable--much more uncomfortable than he had any idea that he
should feel under fire. Had he been actively engaged, he would have
hardly experienced this feeling; but to stand impassive under a heavy
fire is trying to the nerves of the oldest soldier. He was angry with
himself that he was not more indifferent to the whizzing of the balls;
but the sensation of discomfort under fire is beyond the control of
the will, and it is no unusual thing to see a young soldier who, later
in the day, may display an almost reckless courage, yet at first
flinch whenever balls hiss close by him, in spite of all his efforts
to the contrary. Tom was able, however, to control any outward
manifestation of his feelings, and took his place a few paces behind
General Paget, who was standing with one of his officers by his side,
watching the force which, momentarily increasing, was, in spite of the
British fire, making its way onward towards the gate.
It was evident that the general considered the danger to be pressing,
as he once or twice looked back to see how quickly the reinforcements
were crossing the river. The first time that he did so, his eye fell
on Tom. "Get behind those big chimneys, lad. There is no use in
exposing yourself unnecessarily."
Tom obeyed the order with alacrity, and, once in shelter, was soon
able to bring his nerves under control, and to look round the corner
of his shelter without flinching when the bullets sang past. In five
minutes General Hill joined Paget on the roof, and just as he did so
the latter was severely wounded and fell.
Tom ran forward to assist him, and, kneeling beside him, partially
supported him until four men came up and carried him below. The
position of the little garrison was now very precarious, the artillery
fire concentrated upon them was heavy, and the French swarmed up
to the wall, which they in vain endeavored to climb. The English
kept up a tremendous fire upon them, cheering constantly as fresh
reinforcements arrived, or as the enemy was momentarily repulsed.
Tom had now lost all nervousness, and was standing eagerly watching
the fight, when a ball knocked his shako off. The general happened to
turn around at the moment. "That was a narrow escape," he said with a
smile. "What is your name, lad?"
"Scudamore, sir," Tom answered.
"Scudamore--Scudamore. Yes, I remember the name now. You are one of
the lads General Craufurd spoke to me about. I want to see you. Come
to me to-morrow with your brother. Go down now and join your company;
I do not want you here."
Tom gladly went down, for he longed to be doing something. He soon
found his company, and, taking up a firelock of one of the men who had
fallen, was soon hard at work loading and firing into the assailants.
For an hour the strife continued. Fortunately General Murray had
found some boats three miles higher up the stream, and had crossed,
thus menacing the enemy's line of retreat. Suddenly a great pealing
of bells were heard in Oporto, with shouting and cheering, and the
house-tops were covered with people waving their handkerchiefs. The
French were evacuating the town. The inhabitants at once took across
some large barges to Villa Neva, a suburb lying across the river and
just below the Serra Hill. Here Sherbrooke began to cross.
It was now the time for the English to take the offensive. There were
now three battalions in the seminary, and as the French drew sullenly
off to join the column now flowing steadily out from Oporto along the
Valonga road, the gates were thrown open, and the English passing out
formed outside the walls, and poured volley after volley into the
retreating foe. Had Murray fallen upon their flank, the disaster of
the French would have been complete; but this general feared that the
enemy would turn upon him, and destroy his division before assistance
could arrive, and he therefore remained inactive, and allowed the long
column of fugitives to pass unmolested.
For the next eight days the English army followed hotly in pursuit,
and several skirmishes occurred; but Soult effected a most masterly
retreat, saving his army, when it seemed upon the brink of
destruction, by leaving his guns and baggage behind him, and leading
his men by paths over mountains supposed to be impassable for any
large body of men. He lost altogether 6000 men in this short campaign.
This included 3600 prisoners either captured in action or left behind
in the hospitals, and 1400 killed. The number of guns left behind was
fifty-eight. The English had only 300 killed and wounded.
Sir Arthur's plans for the invasion of Spain were not yet
complete, and he accordingly halted his army to await supplies and
reinforcements. During this time the young buglers had no opportunity
of calling upon Major-General Hill. The transport supplied by the
Spanish Government had failed grossly, and the troops were badly fed
at a time when, taking long marches, they most required support. The
first day after they halted the boys determined that they would, as
soon as they were off duty, call upon General Hill. While parade was
going on, however, they saw the general ride up to Colonel Tritton,
and enter into conversation with him. The bugler, who was standing
near, was ordered to sound the call for the officers to assemble in
front; and when they did so, Colonel Tritton left the general's side
and spoke a few words with them. There was a short conversation,
and then the colonel rejoined the general's side, and the officers
returned to their places. The colonel now rode forward to the center
of the line, and said in loud tones, "Men, I have a piece of news to
tell you which I think that you will be glad to hear. Upon my arrival
at Lisbon I reported the gallant conduct of Tom and Peter Scudamore
in rescuing one of their comrades when washed overboard in the Bay
of Biscay. Captain Merivale, of the "Latona," also reported it, and
General Hill, when he heard the circumstances, was also good enough to
send home a report recommending them for promotion. He has received
an answer from the Commander-in-Chief announcing that they are both
granted commissions in this regiment as a reward for their act of
distinguished gallantry. The regiment is dismissed."
As the men fell out they gave a loud and general cheer, and Tom and
Peter were surrounded by their comrades, who shook them by the hand,
and congratulated them upon their promotion. The boys were too much
surprised and affected to speak, and they had scarcely recovered from
their bewilderment, when Carruthers came up to them, and led them
to the colonel. Here General Hill first, and then all the officers,
warmly shook hands with them. The boys were much touched by the warmth
with which they were received, and were soon hurried off to the tents
of the officers. Several of the ensigns were slight young men, and
they insisted upon rigging the boys out in uniform, and the boys
had the less scruple in accepting the kind offer, inasmuch as they
expected every day to enter Spain, when the baggage would be cut down
to the smallest possible proportion, and the officers as well as
the men be obliged to leave almost everything behind them. Sam was
delighted at the promotion of his friends, and asked to be appointed
their servant, a request which was at once acceded to. The regiment
had now been three months in Spain, and the boys had continued to
work hard at Spanish, devoting several hours a day to its study, and
talking it whenever they could find an opportunity--no difficult
matter, as Portugal was full of Spanish who had crossed the frontier
to avoid the hated yoke of the French.
The delay in invading Spain was caused partly from want of
transport, but more by the utter incapacity of the Spanish Junta or
government, and by the arrogance and folly of Cuesta, the Spanish
Commander-in-Chief, who was always proposing impracticable schemes to
Wellington, and, inflated with Spanish pride and obstinacy, believed
that his own worthless troops were fully a match for the French, and
was jealous in the highest degree of the British general.
At last, on the 27th of June, the British army advanced. Scarcely had
they made a day's march, however, when the utter faithlessness of the
Spaniards became manifest. The provisions and transport promised were
not forthcoming, and from the very day of their advance the British
were badly fed, and indeed often not fed at all; and so great were
their sufferings during the campaign--sufferings caused by the
heartlessness of the people whom they had come to deliver from a
foreign yoke, that the British soldiers came to cherish a deep and
bitter hatred against the Spanish; and it was this intense feeling of
animosity which had no little to do with the cruel excesses of the
English soldiery upon the capture of Burgos and San Sebastian.
After many delays from these causes, the British army reached Oropesa
upon the 20th July, and there formed a junction with Cuesta's army.
Upon the 22d the allied armies moved forward, and upon the same
day the Spaniards came in contact with the French, and should have
inflicted a severe blow upon them, but the ignorance and timidity of
the Spanish generals enabled the enemy to draw off and concentrate
The British troops had now been for many days upon half rations, and
Sir Arthur gave notice to the Junta, that unless his requisitions were
complied with, he should retire from Spain. Cuesta, however, believing
that the French were retreating in haste, pushed his army across the
river Alberche, with the vain idea of defeating them, and entering
Madrid in triumph. Sir Arthur, seeing the fatal consequences which
would ensue, were the Spaniards attacked alone, laid aside his
previously-formed resolution, and put his army in motion across
the Alberche. The position of the allied armies was now most
dangerous--far more so, indeed, than the English general supposed.
Badly informed by the Spanish, he greatly underrated the enemy's
forces. Taking advantage of the delay caused by the want of provisions
and carriage, Soult, Victor, and Ney were marching their forces from
various points, and concentrating to crush the invading army. Upon the
26th the French met the Spanish army. General Zayas, who commanded
the Spanish advance of 4000 infantry and 2000 cavalry, scarcely
offered any resistance, his men broke and fled in disorder, and the
panic would have spread to the whole Spanish army, had not General
Albuquerque brought up 3000 more cavalry and held the French at
bay, while Cuesta retreated in great disorder. The Spanish loss by
dispersion and flight was no less than 4000 men, and the whole army
would have been broken up had not General Sherbrooke advanced with his
division, and placed it between the French and the flying Spaniards.
The allies now recrossed the Alberche and took up a position to cover
Talavera. Sir Arthur chose a strong defensive position, as it was
evident that the Spanish were worse than useless in the open field.
The Spaniards were placed with their right resting upon Talavera,
their left upon a mound whereon a large field-redoubt was constructed.
Their front was covered by a convent, by ditches, stone walls,
breastworks, and felled trees; and thus, worthless as were the troops,
they could scarcely be driven from a position almost impregnable.
The line beyond the Spanish was continued by Campbell's division, next
to which came that of Sherbrooke, its left extending to a steep hill.
Mackenzie and Donkin had not yet fallen hack from the Alberche. Hill
was in rear. The British troops, including the German legion, were
19,000 strong, with thirty guns. The Spaniards had 33,000 men and
seventy guns. The Spanish contingent could, however, be in no way
relied upon, and were, indeed, never seriously engaged. The real
battle was between the 19,000 British troops and 50,000 French.
The French attacked the British outposts with great impetuosity,
and Mackenzie and Donkin were driven in with a loss of 4000 men.
The latter took up his position with his brigade on the hill on
Sherbrooke's left; the former took post with Campbell's division, to
which he belonged. The French cavalry now galloped up towards the
portion of the line held by the Spanish, and discharged their pistols
at them, whereupon 10,000 Spanish infantry and the whole of their
artillery broke and fled in wild confusion. For miles they continued
their flight, but in the evening the Spanish cavalry were sent round