Part 4 out of 6
"Which way were they going?"
"As far as we could judge by the sound, sir, they were taking up a
position between Villa Formosa and Fort Conception."
"Good," the general said shortly; then turning to three or four of his
staff who had followed him from the cottage, "Get the troops under
arms at once. Come in here, gentlemen."
The Scudamores entered, and as they came into the light of a candle
which stood on the table the general smiled grimly.
"It is lucky you were able to recall yourselves to my memory, for
I should have needed some strong evidence to persuade me you were
British officers had I seen you before you spoke. You are wet to the
skin; there is a brandy bottle, and you will find some bread and cold
fowl in that cupboard."
Five minutes later the boys followed General Craufurd from his hut.
Short as was the time which had elapsed since their arrival, the
troops were already under arms, for three months of incessant alarm
and watchfulness had enabled this splendid division to act as one man,
and to fall in at any hour of the day or night in an incredibly short
time. Ten minutes later and the ramble of the baggage wagons was
heard along the road towards the bridge. The morning was clearing
fast, the clouds lifted, and the daylight seemed to break with unusual
The dark masses of the French became visible forming up before the
Turones, and Craufurd hurried forward his cavalry and guns to check
"Hurry the infantry up, hurry them up," the general said urgently to
the officers by him. "Let them take post along the ridge, and then
fall back fighting towards the bridge. Major MacLeod," he said to an
officer of the 43d, "take these gentlemen with you; they are officers
of the Norfolk Rangers. They will join your regiment for the present.
When your regiment falls back, occupy that stone inclosure a little
way down the slope at the left of the road, and hold the enemy in
check while the troops file over the bridge."
The officer addressed looked with surprise at the boys, and signing to
them to follow, hurried off to his regiment, which was on the left of
the British line.
Next to them came a regiment of Portuguese riflemen, with a wing of
the 95th upon either flank, while the 52d formed the right of the
Upon reaching the regiment, Major MacLeod briefly introduced the boys
to the colonel, who said, "As you have no arms, gentlemen, I think you
had better make for the bridge at once."
"Thank you, sir," Tom replied, "there will be some muskets disposable
before long, and directly they are so we will take our place in the
They had now leisure to look round and examine their position, and a
glance was sufficient to show how great was the peril in which General
Craufurd's obstinacy had placed his little force. In front of them
were 24,000 French infantry, 5000 cavalry, and 30 pieces of artillery.
An overwhelming force indeed, and one which could scarcely have been
withstood by the 4000 British infantry, even under the most favorable
conditions of position. The position, however, was here wholly against
the British. They stood at the edge of a plateau, and behind them the
ground fell away in a steep hillside to the Coa, a mile distant, and
across the Coa there was but a single bridge.
The enemy was approaching fast. Ney's great brigade of cavalry swept
the British horse before them, and the infantry were following at a
Resistance on the edge of the plateau was hopeless, and Craufurd
ordered the infantry to fall back at once. The 43d filed into the
inclosure, rapidly cut loopholes in the wall, and as the enemy
appeared on the crest above opened a tremendous fire, under cover of
which the cavalry and artillery trotted briskly and in good order down
the road to the bridge.
The Scudamores, having no duty, stood at the entrance to the inclosure
and watched the fight on their right. As the masses of French infantry
appeared on the edge of the plateau they made no pause, but opening
a heavy fire pressed forward on the retiring British troops, who
were falling back in open order, contesting every inch of ground. So
rapidly and hotly, however, did the French press after them that the
British were soon pushed back beyond the line of the inclosure, and as
the French followed closely, it was evident that the 43d would be cut
oft and surrounded.
Their colonel saw their danger, and called upon them to fall in and
retreat, but the entrance was so narrow that it was clear at a glance
that ere one company could pass through it the French would be upon
them, and the regiment caught like rats in a trap.
Officers and men alike saw the danger, and there was a pause of
Peter was standing next to the colonel, and said suddenly as the idea
flashed across him, "The wall is not very strong, sir, if the men mass
against it and push together I think it will go."
The colonel caught at the idea. "Now, lads, steady, form against the
rear wall four deep, close together, shoulder to shoulder, as close
as you can pack; now get ready, one, two, three!" and at the word the
heavy mass of men swung themselves against the wall; it swayed with
the shock, and many stones were displaced; another effort and the
wall tottered and fell, and with a glad shout the 43d burst out, and
trotting on at the double soon joined the rifles and 95th.
The ground was rough and broken with rocks, vineyards and inclosures,
and the troops, fighting with admirable coolness and judgment, took
advantage of every obstacle and fell back calmly and in good order
before the overwhelming force opposed to them.
Fortunately the jealousies of the French generals, which throughout
the campaign contributed in no slight degree to the success of
the British, was now the cause of their safety, for Montbrun, who
commanded the French heavy cavalry, refused to obey Ney's order to
charge straight down to the bridge, in which case the whole English
infantry would have been cut off; the French hussars, however, being
on the British rear, charged among them whenever the ground permitted
them to do so.
Upon the British right the ground was more open than upon the left,
and the 52d was therefore obliged to fall back more quickly than the
rest of the line, and were the first to arrive at the bridge head,
which was still choked with artillery and cavalry. This was the most
dangerous moment, the rest of the infantry could not retreat until the
bridge was clear, and the French with exulting shouts pressed hard
upon them to drive them back upon the river.
Major MacLeod, seeing the urgent danger, rallied four companies of his
regiment upon the little hill on the right of the road, while Major
Rowan collected two companies on another to the left. Here they were
joined by many of the riflemen, and for a while the French advance was
The Scudamores had remained throughout close to Major MacLeod, and had
long since armed themselves with the muskets and pouches of fallen
men, and with 43d shakoes on their heads, were fighting among the
The cloud of French skirmishers pressed hotly forward, and MacLeod,
seeing that the bridge was still blocked, resolved suddenly upon
a desperate measure. Taking off his cap, he pointed to the enemy,
and calling upon his men to follow him, rode boldly at them. Peter
Scudamore caught up a bugle which had fallen from a dead bugler by his
side, blew the charge, and the soldiers, cheering loudly, followed
MacLeod against the enemy.
Astounded at this sudden and unexpected attack, the French skirmishers
paused, and then fell back before the furious charge of the 43d, who
pressed after them with loud and continuous cheering. Looking back,
MacLeod saw that the bridge was now clear, and recalled the troops,
who fell back rapidly again before the French infantry had recovered
sufficiently from their surprise to press them.
The hussars were, however, again forward, and were galloping down the
road, which was here sunken between somewhat high banks. Tom and Peter
were with the last company, which turned and prepared to receive them,
when Tom, pointing to a coil of rope upon a cart which had broken
down, shouted, "Quick, tie it to these posts across the road." Two or
three men sprang to assist him, and in a minute the rope was stretched
across the road at a foot from the ground, and fastened round a stone
post on either side. They had scarcely seized their muskets and leapt
on the bank again, when the French cavalry came thundering down the
road. "Fire, a few of you," Tom said, "so as to call their attention
up here," and in accordance with his order a dropping fire was opened.
The French came along at a gallop; a few of the leading horses saw
the rope and leapt it, but those behind caught it and fell, the mass
behind pressed on, and in an instant the lane was choked with a
confused mass of men and horses. "Now a volley," Tom cried, "and then
to the bridge."
Every musket was emptied in to the struggling mass, and then with a
cheer, the men ran briskly down to the bridge, and crossed--the last
of the British troops over the Coa.
The rest of the infantry and artillery had already taken ground on the
heights behind the river, and these opened fire upon the French as
they approached the head of the bridge in pursuit. The British were
now, however, safe in the position which they ought to have taken up
before the advance of the French, and had General Craufurd obeyed his
orders not to fight beyond the Coa, the lives of 306 of his gallant
troops, including the officers, would have been saved.
The battle, however, was not yet over. The artillery on both sides
played across the ravine, the French skirmishers swarmed down to the
river bank, and between them and the British infantry a rapid fire was
exchanged, while a heavy column marched down to the bridge. With a
deep-sounding cheer they advanced upon it, while with answering cheers
the British opened fire upon them. The depth of the ravine at first
deceived the British marksmen, and the column pressed on until its
head was three-quarters across the bridge. Then the shower smote it,
and beneath that terrible fire the head of the column melted away.
Still it pressed on until across the bridge the corpses lay piled in a
mass as high as the parapet, and beyond this heap, this terrible line,
there was no living. Then sullenly and slowly the French fell back,
while the British cheers rose exultingly along the hillside.
Twice again did fresh columns pour on to the bridge, but only to melt
away under the British fire, neither of them reaching the dreadful
line which marked the point reached by the head of the first. The
artillery and musketry fire on both sides continued until four in the
afternoon, when a heavy rain set in, and the fire ceased altogether.
As the Coa was fordable at several points lower down, and the French
could therefore have turned the position next day, the British troops
fell back during the night behind the Pinhel river, where Picton's
division was also encamped.
Next morning the boys exchanged their Spanish suits for the uniform
of British officers, which they obtained from the effects of some of
those who had fallen upon the previous day, these being, as is usual
in a campaign, at once sold by auction, the amount realized being
received by the paymaster for the benefit of the dead men's relatives.
Major MacLeod had witnessed their ready presence of mind in throwing
the rope across the road, and so checking the French charge, and
giving time to the rear-guard to cross the bridge, and had made a very
favorable report upon the subject.
Two days later and they joined the Rangers, who were stationed at
Guarda, and were received with the greatest heartiness by their
brother officers, with warm but respectful greetings by the men, and
with uproarious demonstrations of gladness on the part of Sambo.
"The betting was two to one that you had gone down, boys," Captain
Manley said, after the first greetings; "but Carruthers and myself
have taken up all offers, and win I don't know how many dinners and
bottles of wine. I had the strongest faith you would get through
somehow. You will take up your quarters with me. I have two bedrooms
upstairs there, which Sam has taken possession of in your name. He
would have it that you were sure to be back in time for the first
fight. Dinner will be ready at six, and after that there will be a
general gathering round the fire in the open to hear your adventures.
No doubt you would be dining with the colonel, but I know he is
engaged to the general."
"Yes, he told us so," Tom said, "and we are to dine with him
"All right, then; we'll make a night of it. Carruthers is coming to
dine, and Burke and Lethbridge; but the room won't hold more than six.
We are going to have a feast, for Sam has got hold of a sucking-pig;
where he got it from I dare not inquire, and Lethbridge said his
fellow had, somehow or other, found a turkey; as to wine, we shall
have it of the best, for Burke is quartered at the monastery, and the
monks are so delighted at finding him a good Catholic that they have
given him the run of their cellar."
It was a jovial dinner, and no words can express the satisfaction and
delight which beamed on Sam's face as he stood behind his master, or
the grin of pride with which he placed the sucking-pig on the table.
"Sam, Sam!" Captain Manley said reprovingly, "I fear that pig is not
honestly come by, and that one of these days we shall hear that you
have come to a bad end."
"No, no, Massa Captain Manley, sar," Sam said, "dat pig come quite
honest, dat pig made present to Sam."
"A likely story that, Sam. Come, out with it. I have no doubt it was
quite as honest as Lethbridge's turkey anyhow. Come, tell us how it
Thus invoked, Sam's face assumed the pompons air with which he always
related a story, and he began,--
"Well, sar, de affair happened in dis way. When de massas arribe, two
o'clock, and went in for long talk wid de colonel, dis chile said to
himself, 'Now what am I going to get them for dinner?' De rations
sarve out dis morning war all skin and bone, and war pretty nigh
finished at lunch. Sam say to himself, 'Captain Manley's sure to say,
'You dine wid me;' but as Captain Manley hadn't got no food himself,
de invitation was berry kind, berry kind indeed; but massa wasn't
likely to get fat on dat invitation."
Sam's narrative was interrupted by a perfect shout of laughter upon
the part of all at table, Captain Manley joining heartily in the laugh
against himself. When they had a little recovered again, Sam went on
as gravely as ever. "Dis struck Sam berry serious, not to have nothing
for dinner after being away seben months; presently idea occur to dis
chile, and he stroll permiscuous up to big farm-house on hill. When
Sam got near house, kept out of sight of window; at last got quite
close, took off shako, and put head suddenly in at window. Sure
enough, just what Sam expected, dere sat missus of farm, fat ole
woman, wid fat ole servant opposite her. De door was open, and dis
little pig and several of his broders and sisters was a frisking in
and out. De old women look up bofe togeder, and dey give a awful
shriek when dey saw dis chile's head; dey fought it were de debil,
sure enough. Dey drop down on dere knees, and begin to pray as fast as
maybe. Den I give a loud 'Yah! yah!' and dey screams out fresh. 'Oh!
good massa debil!' says the ole woman, 'what you want? I been berry,
berry bad, but don't take me away.' You see, Massa Tom, I pick up
little Spanish, 'nuff to understand since you been gone. I not say
nuffin, and de ole woman den go on, 'If you want one soul Massa Debil,
take dis here,' pointing to her serbant;' she been much more wicked
nor me.' Den de serbant she set up awful shriek, and I says, 'Dis time
I hab pity on you, next time I come, if you not good I carry you bofe
away. But must take soul away to big debil 'else he neber forgibe me.
Dere, I will carry off soul of little pig. Gib it me.' De serbant she
gives cry ob joy, jump up, seize little pig, and berry much afraid,
bring him to window. Before I take him I say to old missus, 'Dis a
free gibt on your part?' and she say, 'Oh, yes, oh, yes, good Massa
Debil, you can take dem all if you like.' I say, 'No; only one--and
now me gib you bit advice. My Massa down below hear you very bad ole
women, never gib noting to de poor, berry hard, berry hard. Me advise
you change your conduct, or, as sure as eggs is eggs, he send me up
again for you no time.' Den I gave two great 'Yah! yah's!' again berry
loud, and showed de white ob my eyes, and dey went down on to knees
again, and I go quietly round corner ob house, and walk home wid de
pig which was giben to me. Noting like stealing about dat, Massa
Sam's story was received with roars of laughter, and when they had
recovered themselves a little, Captain Manley said, "It is lucky we
march to-morrow, Sam, for if the good woman were to catch a glimpse of
you in uniform, and were to find she had been tricked, she might lay
a complaint against you, and although, as you say, the pig was freely
given to you, I imagine the Provost Marshal might consider that it was
obtained under false pretences. But here are the other men outside, we
had better adjourn, for every one is longing to hear your adventures."
It was a lovely evening, and as the officers of the Norfolk Rangers
sat or lay round the fire, which was lit for light and cheerfulness
rather than warmth, the boys, after their long wanderings among
strangers, felt how pleasant and bright life was among friends
and comrades. They had first to relate their adventures with the
guerillas, after which it was agreed that they had earned the right to
be silent for the rest of the evening, and song, and jest, and merry
story went round the ring.
Sam was installed under the direction of the doctor, a jovial
Irishman, as concocter of punch, and his office was by no means a
"Now, major, give us the song of the regiment," Captain Manley said,
and, as he spoke, there was a general cry round the circle of "The
Rangers, the Rangers." "I'm agreeable," the major said. "Give me
another tumbler of punch to get my pipes in order. Make it a little
sweeter than the last brew, Sam; yes, that's better. Well, here
goes--full chorus, and no shirking."
"Hurrah for the Rangers, hurrah! hurrah!
Here's to the corps that we love so well;
Ever the first in the deadly fray,
Steady and firm amid shot and shell.
Scattered as skirmishers out in the front,
Contesting each foot of the ground we hold,
Nor yielding a step though we bear the brunt
Of the first attack of the foeman bold.
Hurrah for the Rangers, hurrah! hurrah!
Here's to the corps that we love so well;
Ever the first in the deadly fray,
Steady and firm amid shot and shell.
"Steady boys, steady, the foe falls back,
Sullenly back to the beat of the drum,
Hark to the thunder that nears our flank
Rally in square, boys, their cavalry come.
Squadron on squadron, wave upon wave,
Dashing along with an ocean's force,
But they break into spray on our bayonets' points,
And we mock at the fury of rider and horse.
Hurrah for the Rangers, &c.
"The gunner may boast of the death he deals
As he shatters the foe with his iron hail,
And may laugh with pride as he checks the charge,
Or sees the dark column falter and quail.
But the gunner fights with the foe afar,
In the rear of the line is the battery's place,
The Ranger fights with a sterner joy
For he strives with his foemen face to face.
Hurrah for the Rangers, &c.
"The cavalry man is dashing and gay,
His steed is fast, and his blade is fine,
He blithely rides to the fiercest fray,
And cuts his way through the foeman's line,
But the wild, fierce joys of the deadly breach,
Or the patient pluck of the serried square
Are far away from the horseman's reach,
While the Norfolk Rangers are sure to be there.
Hurrah for the Rangers, &c."
Long, loud, and hearty was the cheering as the last chorus concluded.
"Very good song, very well sung, jolly companions every one," shouted
the doctor. "Now, Manley, keep the ball rolling, give us the 'The
Bivouac,'" Captain Manley emptied his glass, and, without hesitation,
"The weary march is over, boys, the camp fire's burning bright,
So gather round the blazing logs, we'll keep high feast to-night,
For every heart is full of joy, and every cheek aglow,
That after months of waiting, at last we meet the foe.
To-morrow's sun will see the fight, and ere that sun goes down,
Our glorious flag another wreath of victory shall crown.
Hurrah, hurrah for the bivouac,
With comrades tried and true,
With faces bright, and spirits light,
And the foemen's fires in view.
"Then fill your cups with Spanish wine, and let the toast go round,
Here's a health to all who love us on dear old England's ground.
Be their tresses gold or auburn, or black as ebon's hue,
Be their eyes of witching hazel, loving gray, or heaven's blue,
Here's to them all, the girls we love, God bless them every one;
May we all be here to toast them when to-morrow's work is done.
Hurrah, hurrah, &c.
"But whate'er to-morrow bring us, it shall shed no gloom to-night,
For a British soldier does not flinch from thought of death in fight;
No better ending could we wish, no worthier do we know,
Than to fall for King and country, with our face towards the foe;
And if we go, our friends who stay will keep our memory bright,
And will drink to us in silence by many a camp-fire's light.
Hurrah, hurrah, &c."
When the last chorus had ceased, the boys, who had had a long march
that morning, and were thoroughly tired, stole quietly off to bed,
but it was not till long after they had gone to sleep that the jovial
party round the fire broke up, and that Sam was relieved from his
duties of concocter of punch.
BUSACO AND TORRES VEDRAS.
Instead of pressing forward upon his invasion of Portugal, Massena
prepared to besiege Almeida, and for a month the British and
Portuguese army remained in their position within a few hours' march
of that town. Wellington expected that Almeida would be able to
resist for two months, and hoped to find some opportunity for falling
suddenly upon the besiegers; but even a resistance of two months would
have made it so late in the season that Massena must have postponed
his invasion until the next spring.
Upon the morning of the 26th of August the French batteries opened
fire, and from Guarda the dull, heavy roar of artillery could be heard
all day. As darkness fell, the officers of the Rangers were, as usual,
assembling round their fire, when the earth seemed to shake beneath
their feet, and a flash like that of summer lightning lit the eastern
sky. "What can that be?" was the general exclamation. A minute later,
and a deep, heavy, prolonged roar sounded in their ears--then all was
"That is a big magazine," Captain Manley said, "and I'm afraid it's
the town, for it sounded too heavy for a mere field magazine. If it be
the town, you'll see it won't hold out much longer; even if the actual
damage is not very great, a great explosion always damages the morale
of a defense, and in that case we shall have Massena upon us, and
there will be wigs on the green ere many days are over."
Captain Manley's conclusions were correct. The magazine of Almeida had
exploded with terrific effect. Only six houses were left standing in
the town, a considerable portion of the ramparts was thrown down, and
five hundred people killed on the spot. The stones were hurled in all
directions with such force that forty of the besiegers were hurt in
Colonel Cox, who commanded, endeavored to rally the panic-stricken
garrison, and upon the following morning attempted to negotiate with
Massena, who sent an officer to demand instant surrender.
Defense was, in fact, impossible, but Colonel Cox attempted to
negotiate, because he hoped that Wellington would at once advance to
his rescue. His intentions were frustrated, however, by the treachery
and mutiny of the principal Portuguese officers under him, and the
French at once took possession of the ruins.
The British army fell back a short distance when the news of the
disaster arrived, and a fortnight of great anxiety and watchfulness
passed, as it was not certain by which road or roads Massena would
It was not until the 18th of September that Massena fairly commenced
his march, having chosen the road from Visen through Martagoa, and the
next day the news reached the Rangers that the British army was to
concentrate on the heights of Busaco.
"So we are going to have a fight for it," Carruthers said to the boys,
as the officers assembled in readiness to take their places when the
troops had fallen in. "What will be the end of it?"
"We shall lick them," an old captain said, "though they are two to
one, and then they will march round us somehow, and then we shall have
to fall back in all haste on Lisbon, and embark there, and we shall
eat our Christmas dinner in England."
There was a general murmur of assent, for at that time the belief was
almost universal in the British army that they would be forced to
"I do not know," Major Fanshawe said. "I heard last night, from a
man who has just returned from sick leave at Lisbon, that there are
thousands of peasants employed under our engineers in getting up some
tremendous works some fifteen miles this side of Lisbon. I should not
be surprised yet if Massena finds the chief a nut too hard to crack,
with all his force."
"I have heard something about these works at Torres Vedras," Captain
Manley said, "a mere rumor; still I believe there must be something in
it. Wellington has only some twenty-five thousand British troops, and
as many Portuguese, while Massena has over a hundred thousand veterans
at his command. Our game would be hopeless unless we have something to
fall back on. No; I have every faith in our general. But there goes
On the 24th the Rangers, with the rest of Picton's division, arrived
on the crest of Busaco, where Cole's and Craufurd's divisions arrived
on the same day. This position was one of immense strength, being a
long ridge, with a very deep valley in front. Upon the opposite side
of this ravine the slope was as steep and sharp as that of Busaco
itself, so that the opposite crest was within easy cannon shot.
The enemy, in order to attack the British position, would have to
descend into the bottom of this steep ravine, and then climb up the
precipitous ascent, to meet the British soldiers awaiting them, fresh
and unshaken, at the top. So strong, indeed, was the position that
the English generals were doubtful whether Massena would venture to
Upon the 25th Craufurd moved his division forward, and would have
repeated his mistake of the Coa had not Wellington himself gone
forward and recalled the troops, bringing them off with difficulty
in the face of the advancing masses of the French. By three in the
afternoon, 40,000 French infantry were on the ridge opposite Busaco,
and it appeared probable that the battle would take place that
afternoon, in which case the British position would have been
precarious, for neither Spencer's, Hill's, nor Leith's divisions were
Massena, however, was miles behind, and Ney, who commanded the
advance, could not attack without orders; thus, the moment favorable
for the French passed by. When Massena arrived next day, the British
divisions were all up and in their places, and the long crest of
Busaco swarmed with troops. Hill occupied the right across the road to
Pena Cova, then came Leith's 5th division, then came Picton with the
3d division, with Spencer's division, the 1st, next to him. On a
plateau in front of a convent lay Craufurd and Pack, while Cole, with
the 4th division, was on the left.
The 27th and 28th were passed in comparative tranquillity, the rival
armies surveying each other across the chasm. From the woods far below
came up the constant crack of the rifle, as the skirmishers on either
side pushed each other backwards; and on the evening of the 28th this
fighting increased so much in strength and intensity, that the British
troops were some time under arms in expectation of a night attack, for
the enemy's riflemen had pressed far up on the hill-side towards the
British lines. As the night went on, however, the fire ceased, and the
dark ravine between the two long lines of bright watch-fires became
hushed and still.
The Rangers were with Picton's division, and were out as an advance
half way down the ravine, two companies being down in the bottom as
skirmishers. Morning was but just breaking when a heavy fire burst out
in front. The regiment sprang to its feet, and prepared for action.
It was not long in coming, for the fire rolled rapidly up the hill
towards them, and the skirmishing companies came running back, pressed
by a heavy column of the enemy. Reynier had formed in two divisions,
one of which was now pressing forward against Picton's right, while
the object of the other was to gain the crest still farther to the
right, and so place themselves between Picton and Leigh. The whole
regiment was at once engaged, but the French assault was too powerful
to be resisted, and the Rangers and the other regiments of the
advanced brigade gave way sullenly, while the French eagerly pressed
up the hill, although a battery opened upon them from the crest, while
they were unsupported by their own artillery.
"Golly, Massa Peter, dese fellows fight berry hard; look as if dey
lick us dis time," the black, who was in Peter's company, said to him
as the regiment retreated.
"The battle has only begun yet, Sam. We have plenty of fresh troops at
the top of the hill."
"Good ting, dat, Massa Peter. Berry hard work, dis--climb hill, carry
kit, fire gun, dodge de bullets, all sam time."
"You didn't dodge that bullet sharp enough, Sam," Peter said with a
laugh, as the negro's shako was carried off with a ball.
"Him cum too fast. Dere, you frog-eating thief." he said angrily as he
fired his musket at an advancing foe. "Dat serve you right," he went
on to himself as the Frenchman fell. "You spoil Sam's hat. Dis colored
gentleman catch cold first time him come on to rain."
The French continued their impetuous advance. Picton's right, as they
climbed the hill, fell back towards his center, and in half an hour
from the first shot being fired the head of the French column had won
the crest, and, being between Leigh and Picton's divisions, had cut
the British position. Then the column nearest to Picton's division
began to wheel to its right, so as to sweep the crest.
"Lie down, the Rangers; every man down," shouted the colonel, and the
breathless men threw themselves panting on the ground. A wild Irish
shout was heard behind them as they did so, and a tremendous volley of
musketry rang over their heads, and then the 88th and a wing of the
45th dashed across them, and, with fierce cheers, charged that portion
of the column engaged in wheeling. Breathless and in disorder from
their prodigious efforts, the French were unable to resist this fresh
attack. In an instant the British were among them, and mixed up in
wild confusion, fighting hand to hand, the mass of combatants went
mingled together down the hill. Nor was the success of the French
column which had gained the crest of long duration, for Leith brought
up one of his brigades; Colonel Cameron, with the 9th Regiment, dashed
at the enemy with the bayonet, without firing a single shot, while
the 38th attacked their flank; and the French, unable to resist the
onslaught, relinquished their position and retreated down the hill.
Nor upon the French right had Ney's attack proved more successful.
Napier thus describes the combat in this quarter of the field:--"When
the light broke, three heavy masses detached from the sixth corps were
seen to enter the woods below, and to throw forward a profusion of
skirmishers; one of them, under General Marchand, emerging from the
dark chasm and following the main road, seemed intent to turn the
right of the light division; a second, under Loison, made straight up
the mountain against the front; the third remained in reserve. Simon's
brigade, leading Loison's attack, ascended with a wonderful alacrity,
and though the light troops plied it incessantly with musketry, and
the artillery bullets swept through it from the first to the last
section, its order was never disturbed, nor its speed in the least
abated. Ross's guns were worked with incredible quickness, yet their
range was palpably contracted every round; the enemy's shots came
ringing up in a sharper key, the English skirmishers, breathless
and begrimed with powder, rushed over the edge of the ascent, the
artillery drew back, and the victorious cries of the French were heard
within a few yards of the summit. Craufurd, standing alone on one of
the rocks, had been intently watching the progress of their attack,
and now, with a shrill tone, ordered the two regiments in reserve to
charge. The next moment a horrid shout startled the French column, and
eighteen hundred British bayonets went sparkling over the hill. Yet so
brave, so hardy were the leading French, that each man of the first
section raised his musket, and two officers and ten men fell before
them. Not a Frenchman had missed his mark. They could do no more. The
head of their column was violently thrown back upon the rear, both
flanks were overlapped at the same time by the English wings, three
terrible discharges at five yards' distance shattered the wavering
mass, and a long line of broken arms and bleeding carcases marked the
line of flight."
Ney did not renew the attack, and with some desultory skirmishing the
battle ended at two o'clock, and an hour's truce enabled both parties
to carry off their wounded.
Small parties of the French came in contact with the English
skirmishers during the afternoon, but the battle of Busaco was over.
"Don't call dat much of battle," Sam said discontentedly. "Just little
fierce fight, berry out of bref, and den, just as second wind came,
The battle of Busaco was indeed one of secondary importance. The
losses were not great on either side, although that of the French was
fully threefold greater than that of the British, as the former were
exposed during their attack to the grape and shell of the British
guns, while the French guns afforded no assistance to their infantry.
The French loss, in killed and wounded and prisoners, did not exceed
4000, of which only 800 were killed. Nor was any strategical advantage
gained by the battle, for the French, upon the following day, found
a road across the hills to the British left from Martagoa through
Throughout the day they made feints of renewing the attack upon the
English position, and it was not until late in the afternoon that long
columns of men were seen crossing the hill to the left; and Wellington
discovered that Busaco had been won in vain, for that his flank was
turned, and there was nothing for it but to fall back upon Torres
Vedras. Before night the whole British army was in retreat.
"What a horrible scene of confusion," Tom remarked, as they marched
into the town of Coimbra next day.
"Confusion!" Captain Manley said; "it is enough to drive a
commander-in-chief out of his mind. Here Wellington has for weeks
been endeavoring to get the Portuguese Government to compel all the
population to retire upon Lisbon, carrying all they can, destroying
the mills, and burning all the corn they could not carry off. The
Government did issue the order, but it has taken no steps whatever to
carry it out, although they knew all along that we could never repel
the invasion in the open. As it is, the greater portion of these poor
wretches will lose all they possess, which they might have carried
off quietly enough during the last two months. Many of them will lose
their lives, and they will block the roads so that we shall have the
French down on us to a certainty."
Nothing could be more sad than the scene. The streets of Coimbra were
crowded with fugitives from the country round, and these, as well as
the inhabitants, were all preparing to push onwards towards Lisbon.
Bullock carts and carriages, mules, donkeys, and horses were crowded
together, all laden with the aged, the children, the sick, and such
property as was most portable and valuable. Happily Massena had
a circuitous detour to make; the road in the mountain defile was
scarcely passable, and throughout the march he displayed but little
energy; consequently it was not until the morning of the first of
October that his cavalry engaged those of the light division which was
covering the retreat. The division fell back through the town, and the
inhabitants, who had lingered to the last in some vague hope that the
French would not come, now rushed out again. The bridge behind the
town was choked, and the troops had to halt for some time. In the rear
the pistol shots of the cavalry told of the approach of the French,
and the din made by the panic-stricken fugitives was increased by the
yells of the prisoners shut up and forgotten in the prison hard by.
Their cries and supplications were too painful to be resisted, and the
British forced the prison doors and let them free. Once across the
bridge, the troops found the defile of Condeixa so choked up that it
was impossible to effect a passage, and, had the French pressed them
the division must have been destroyed.
The French infantry, however, had not arrived, and by night the road
was cleared, and the troops passed on.
There was no pursuit, for Massena allowed his troops to halt and
plunder Coimbra, and the British by easy marches, fell back to
Torres Vedras; but though unpursued, the disorder and relaxation of
discipline which always marks a retreat, showed itself, and Wellington
was obliged to hang several plunderers, and to resort to other severe
measures to restore to discipline that army which, only a week before,
had repulsed the best troops of France. Towards the end of the march
the French pressed them again, and Craufurd, with his light division,
had a narrow escape of being cut off.
Great was the satisfaction of the British troops when they took up the
position so carefully prepared for them; equally great the surprise of
Massena and the French army when they beheld the almost impregnable
line of redoubts and fortresses of whose very existence they had only
heard a confused rumor two or three days before. And yet formidable
as was the chain of forts occupied by the British, this was weak in
comparison to the second line, some five or six miles in the rear,
to which Wellington would have fallen back if driven from his first
position. This second position was indeed that which he had originally
intended to have taken up, the redoubts on the exterior range of hills
being intended as outposts; but, while Massena delayed his advance,
the outside line of fortifications had so grown and increased in
strength, that Wellington resolved to hold them in the first place.
There were, therefore, as will be seen by the plan, three lines of
defense. The first from Alhandra on the Tagus to Zizandre on the
sea-coast. This, following the windings of the hills, was twenty-nine
miles long; the second and main line was from Quintella on the Tagus
to the mouth of the San Lorenza, twenty-four miles in length; the
third, intended to cover an embarkation, in case of necessity,
extended from Passo d'Arcos on the Tagus to the town of Junquera on
Massena spent some days in surveying the British position, and came to
the conclusion that it was too strong to be attacked. Had the order
of Wellington been carried out, and the whole country wasted of
provisions, the French army must have made a precipitate retreat to
avoid starvation, for they had no provisions or connection with Spain.
Wilson and Trant, with Portuguese levies, hung upon their rear, and
captured Coimbra, where Massena had left his sick and wounded, 5000 in
number, upon the very day after the main French army advanced from the
town. So vast were the supplies, however, left in the country that
Massena was able to take up his position, first immediately in front
of the British lines, and afterwards at Santarem, within a day's march
of them, and to maintain his army in food throughout the winter until
the beginning of March.
"Have you seen the _Gazette_, Scudamore?" Carruthers asked, rushing
into the tent one morning about a week after the regiment had settled
down in its tents on the heights of Torres Vedras.
"No; what's up?" Tom replied.
"There you are; you have both got your steps. Thomas Scudamore,
ensign, Norfolk Rangers, to be lieutenant, for distinguished services
in the field. Peter Scudamore, ditto, ditto. I wondered the chief had
done nothing for you after your journey through Spain."
"I am sure I did not expect anything," Tom answered, "and was quite
content when the colonel told us that Lord Wellington had said he was
pleased with the manner we had done our work. However, I am very glad;
but it is not pleasant going over five or six fellows' heads."
"Fortune of war," Carruthers said laughing. "Besides, two of them are
at the depôt, Sankey is away on sick leave, and none of the three who
are senior to you here will ever set the Thames on fire. No, no, you
have fairly earned your step and no one can say a word against it."
The news soon spread, and the boys were heartily congratulated by all
the officers of the regiment on their promotion, which placed them
next on the list to Carruthers, who had previously been the junior
lieutenant. Promotion in those days was rapid, and after a severe
engagement an ensign only joined upon the previous week might find
himself a lieutenant, from the number of death vacancies caused in
the ranks above him. The Norfolk Rangers had not suffered heavily at
Talavera, or the boys might have had their lieutenant's rank before
this, without performing any exceptional services.
"I wish we could get two months' leave, Tom," Peter said that night.
"Of course it is impossible, but it would be jolly to drop in upon
Rhoda. By her letter she seems well and happy, and aunt is very kind
to her. It would be nice; and now we are lieutenants, aunt wouldn't
tell us to rub our shoes."
"No," Tom laughed, "or be afraid of our pelting her pigeons and
"No," Peter said. "Evidently she is coming round. Rhoda said that
since she has heard that we have got our commissions she has given
up prophesying once or twice a day that we shall come to a bad
"Yes, and Rhoda said in her letter yesterday that aunt was quite
touched with those lace mantillas we got at Madrid, and sent off the
day after we rejoined, and actually remarked that, although we could
no longer be looked upon as boys, and seemed really as hair-brained
and fond of getting into scrapes as ever, yet it was evident that we
were good, kindly lads, and meant well at heart."
"I wish," Tom said, with a sudden burst of laughter, "that we could
dress in our old disguises, I as a student of theology you as a mild
young novice; what a lark we would have with her!" and the boys went
off into such shouts of laughter, that their aunt would have thought
them more scatter-brained than ever if she had heard them, while from
the tent of Captain Manley on one side, and of Carruthers and another
young officer on the other, came indignant expostulations, and
entreaties that they would keep quiet, and let other people go to
Very heavily did five months in the lines of Torres Vedras pass to the
Norfolk Rangers. When, in the beginning of November, Massena fell back
to Sautarem, the greater portion of the army followed him in readiness
for attack should any openings be found. Massena, however, entrenched
himself in a very strong position, and Wellington could no more attack
him than he could attack the lines of Torres Vedras; so that both
armies faced each other in inactivity until the beginning of March,
when Massena broke up his camp and began to retreat.
The Norfolk Rangers had been one of the regiments which had remained
in their quarters on Torres Vedras throughout the winter, and great
was the joy with which they received orders to strike their tents
and push on in pursuit. The retreat of Massena was masterly. Ney's
division covered the rear, and several sharp fights took place which
are known in history as the combats of Pombal, Redinha, Cazal Nova,
Foz d'Aronce, and Sabugal.
In most of these the enemy were driven from their position by the
British outflanking them and threatening their line of retreat; but in
the last, by a mistake of General Erskine, a portion of his division
attacked the enemy in rear, and, although vastly outnumbered, drove
him off from the crest he held with desperate valor. Wellington
himself said, "This was one of the most glorious actions British
troops were ever engaged in."
The next day the French crossed the Coa and Turones, and took up their
position under the guns of Ciudad Rodrigo, which they had left six
months before with the full assurance that they were going to conquer
Portugal, and drive the British into the sea. The invasion cost
Massena thirty thousand men, killed in battle, taken prisoners, or
dead from hardships, fatigues and fevers.
The Scudamores were not present at the battle of Sabugal, for on the
afternoon after the combat of Foz d'Aronce an orderly rode up to the
regiment and handed a note to the colonel. He read it, and at once
summoned the Scudamores at his side.
"An order from the commander-in-chief," he said, "for you to go to him
Following the orderly, the boys soon arrived at the cottage at which
Lord Wellington had established his headquarters.
"His lordship is with Lord Beresford," the aide-de-camp to whom they
gave their names said, "but the orders are that you are to be shown in
The lads were ushered into a small room, where, seated at a table,
were the commanders-in-chief of the British and the Portuguese troops.
"Young gentlemen," the former said, looking up with his keen piercing
eyes, "I have not seen you since your return from Spain. I am content
with what you did, and with the detailed report you sent me in. I
shall keep my eye upon you. Lord Beresford has asked me for two
officers as aides-de-camp, and he specially requires them to have a
perfect knowledge of Spanish. I have mentioned your names to him. It
is not often that I confidently recommend young officers, but from
what I know of you I have felt able to do so in the present case. You
will, with him, have opportunities of distinguishing yourselves
such as you could not have with your regiment. You accept the
Tom and Peter would far rather have remained with their regiment,
but they felt that, after what Lord Wellington had said, they could
not refuse; they consequently expressed at once their willingness
to serve, and their thanks to the general for his kindness in
"You can ride, I hope?" Lord Beresford, a powerfully-built,
pleasant-looking man, said.
"Yes, sir, we can both ride, but at present--"
"You have no horses, of course?" Lord Beresford put in. "I will
provide you with horses, and will assign servants to you from one of
the cavalry regiments with me. Will you join me at daybreak to-morrow?
we shall march at once."
There was a general expression of regret when the Scudamores informed
their comrades that they were again ordered on detached duty. As
to Sam, when Tom told him that he could not accompany them, he was
uproarious in his lamentations, and threatened to desert from his
regiment in order to follow them. At this the boys laughed, and told
Sam that he would be arrested and sent back before he had gone six
"I tink, Massa Tom, dat you might hab told de general dat you hab got
an fust-class serbent, and dat you bring him wid you."
"But we shall be mounted now, Sam, and must have mounted men with us.
You can't ride, you know."
"Yes, massa, dis child ride first-rate, he can."
"Why, Sam, I heard you say not long ago you had never ridden on a
horse all your life."
"Never hab, massa, dat's true 'nuff; but Sam sure he can ride. Berry
easy ting dat. Sit on saddle, one leg each side--not berry difficult
dat. Sam see tousand soldiers do dat ebery day; dey sit quite easy on
saddle; much more easy dat dan beat big drum."
The boys laughed heartily at Sam's notion of riding without practice,
and assured him that it was not so easy as he imagined.
"Look here, Sam," Peter said at last, "you practice riding a little,
and then next time we get away we will ask for you to go with us." And
with this Sam was obliged to be content.
Half an hour later, when the boys were chatting with Captain Manley,
Carruthers, and two or three other officers, in the tent of the
first-named officer, they heard a commotion outside, with shouts of
laughter, in which they joined as soon as they went out and saw what
was going on.
Sam, upon leaving the Scudamores, determined at once upon trying the
experiment of riding, in order that he might--for he had no doubt all
would be easy enough--ride triumphantly up to his masters' tent and
prove his ability to accompany them at once. He was not long before
he saw a muleteer coming along sitting carelessly on his mule, with
both legs on one side of the animal, side-saddle fashion, as is the
frequent custom of muleteers. It was evident, by the slowness of his
pace, that he was not pressed for time.
Sam thought that this was a fine opportunity.
"Let me have a ride?" he said to the muleteer in broken Portuguese.
The man shook his head. Sam held out a quarter of a dollar. "There,"
he said, "I'll give you that for a hour's ride."
The muleteer hesitated, and then said, "The mule is very bad tempered
"Oh, dat all nonsense," Sam thought, "he only pretend dat as excuse;
any one can see de creature as quiet as lamb; don't he let his master
sit on him sideways?"
"All right," he said aloud, "I try him."
The muleteer dismounted, and Sam prepared to take his place on the
saddle. By this time several of the Rangers had gathered round, and
these foreseeing, from the appearance of the mule and the look of sly
amusement in the face of the muleteer, that there was likely to be
some fun, at once proposed to assist, which they did by giving advice
to Sam of the most opposite nature. Sam was first going to mount on
the off side, but this irregularity was repressed, and one wag, taking
the stirrup of the near side in his hand, said, "Now, Sam, up you go,
never mind what these fellows say, you put your right foot in the
stirrup, and lift your left over the saddle."
Sam acted according to these instructions, and found himself, to his
intense amazement and the delight of the bystanders, sitting with his
face to the mule's tail.
"Hullo," he exclaimed in astonishment, "dis all wrong; you know noting
about de business, you Bill Atkins."
And Sam prepared to descend, when, at his first movement, the mule put
down his head and flung his heels high in the air. Sam instinctively
threw himself forward, but not recovering his upright position before
the mule again flung up her hind quarters, he received a violent
blow on the nose. "Golly!" exclaimed the black in a tone of extreme
anguish, as, with water streaming from his eyes, he instinctively
clutched the first thing which came to hand, the root of the mule's
tail, and held on like grim death. The astonished mule lashed out
wildly and furiously, but Sam, with his body laid close on her back,
his hands grasping her tail, and his legs and feet pressing tight to
her flanks, held on with the clutch of despair.
"Seize de debil!--seize him!--he gone mad!"--he shouted frantically,
but the soldiers were in such fits of laughter that they could do
Then the mule, finding that he could not get rid of this singular
burden by kicking, started suddenly off at full gallop.
"Stop him--stop him," yelled Sam. "Gracious me, dis am drefful."
This was the sight which met the eyes of the Scudamores and their
brother officers as they issued from their tents. The soldiers were
all out of their tents now, and the air rang with laughter mingled
with shouts of "Go it, moke!" "Hold on, Sam!"
"Stop that mule," Captain Manley shouted, "or the man will be killed."
Several soldiers ran to catch at the bridle, but the mule swerved and
dashed away out of camp along the road.
"Look, look," Tom said, "there are the staff, and Lord Wellington
among them. The mule's going to charge them."
The road was somewhat narrow, with a wall of four feet high on either
side, and the general, who was riding at the head of the party, drew
his rein when he saw the mule coming along at a furious gallop. The
staff did the same, and a general shout was raised to check or divert
her wild career. The obstinate brute, however, maddened by the shouts
which had greeted her from all sides, and the strange manner in which
she was being ridden, never swerved from her course. When she was
within five yards of the party, the general turned his horse, touched
him with his spur, and leaped him lightly over the wall; one or two
others followed his example, but the others had not time to do so
before the mule was among them. Two horses and riders were thrown
down, one on either side, with the impetus of the shock, and then,
kicking, striking and charging, the animal made its way past the
others and dashed on in despite of the attempts to stop her, and
the cries of "Shoot the brute," "Ride him down," and the angry
ejaculations of those injured in its passage. Thirty yards behind the
group of officers were the escort, and these prepared to catch the
mule, when turning to the left she leaped the wall, eliciting a scream
of terror from Sam, who was nearly shaken from his hold by the sudden
The anger of the officers was changed into a burst of amusement at
seeing Sam's dark face and staring eyes over the mule's crupper, and
even Lord Wellington smiled grimly. An order was hastily given, and
four troopers detached themselves from the escort and started off in
pursuit. The mule was, however, a fast one, and maddened by fright,
and it was some time before the foremost of the troopers was up to
her. As he came alongside, the mule suddenly swerved round and lashed
out viciously, one of her heels coming against the horse's ribs, and
the other against the leg of the rider, who, in spite of his thick
jack-boot, for some time thought that his leg was broken.
He fell behind, and the others, rendered cautious by the lesson, came
up but slowly, and prepared to close upon the animal's head, one
from each side. Just as they were going to do so, however, they were
startled by a scattered fire of musketry, and by the sound of balls
whizzing about their ears, and discovered that in the ardor of the
chase they had passed over the space which separated the French from
the English lines, and that they were close to the former. At the same
moment they saw a party of cavalry stealing round to cut off their
retreat. Turning their horses, the dragoons rode off at full speed,
but the French cavalry, on fresher horses, would have caught them
before they reached the English lines had not a troop of British horse
dashed forward to meet them upon seeing their danger. As to the mule,
she continued her wild gallop into the French lines, where she was
soon surrounded and captured.
The boys were greatly vexed at the loss of their faithful black, but
they had little time for grieving, for an hour after they rode off
with General Beresford's division. Three days' march brought them
to Campo Mayor, a town which had, two days before, surrendered to
the French, who, surprised by the sudden appearance of the British,
evacuated the place hastily and retreated, after suffering much from
a brilliant charge of the 13th Hussars, who, although unsupported,
charged right through the French cavalry, and Beresford then prepared
to lay siege to Badajos. Had he pushed forward at once, he would have
found the place unprepared for a siege, but, delaying a few days at
Elvas to give his tired troops repose, the French repaired the walls,
and were in a position to offer a respectable defense, when he made
his appearance under its walls. The army was very badly provided with
heavy guns, but the approaches were opened and the siege commenced in
regular form, when the news arrived that Soult was marching with a
powerful army to its relief. The guns were therefore withdrawn, the
siege raised, and Beresford marched to meet Soult at Albuera.
On the 15th of May he took up his position on rising ground looking
down on Albuera, having the river in his front. Acting with him, and
nominally under his orders, was a Spanish force under Blake. This
was intended to occupy the right of the position, but with the usual
Spanish dilatoriness, instead of being upon the ground, as he had
promised, by noon, Blake did not arrive until past midnight; the
French accordingly crossed the river unmolested, and the British
general found his right turned.
Beresford's position was now a very faulty one, as the woods
completely hid the movements of the enemy, and a high hill, which they
had at once seized, flanked the whole allied position and threatened
its line of retreat.
When the morning of the 16th dawned the armies were numerically very
unequal. The British had 30,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry, and 38 guns;
the French, 19,000 infantry, 4,000 cavalry, and 40 guns; but of these
the French were all veteran troops, while Beresford had but 6,000
British troops, the remainder being Spanish and Portuguese, upon
whom no reliance whatever was to be placed. The British officers
present were all of opinion that their chances of success, under
the circumstances, were slight indeed.
The battle commenced at nine in the morning by an attack by the French
general Godinot upon the bridge of Albuera. Their columns were,
however, so completely plowed by the guns of the Portuguese upon
the eminence behind it, that they made no progress, and Beresford
perceived at once that the main attack would be made on his right. He
despatched Tom Scudamore with orders to Blake to throw back his troops
at right angles to the main front. The pig-headed Spaniard refused to
obey, asserting that the main attack was in front. Colonel Hardinge
was sent to insist upon the order being carried out, but Blake still
refused, and Beresford himself rode furiously across and took the
command just as the French column debouched from the wood on the
Before the Spanish movement was completed the French were among them.
Their cavalry swept round to the right rear, and menaced the line of
retreat, the infantry charged the wavering Spanish battalions, and the
latter at once fell into confusion and began to fall back. William
Stewart now arrived with a brigade of the second division to endeavor
to retrieve the day; but as they were advancing into position, four
regiments of French cavalry, whose movements were hidden in the
driving rain until they were close at hand, fell upon them and rode
down two-thirds of the brigade, the 31st regiment alone having time
to form square and repulse the horsemen.
Beresford himself, with his staff, was in the middle of the mélée, and
the lads found themselves engaged in hand-to-hand combats with the
French troopers. All was confusion. Peter was unhorsed by the shock
of a French hussar, but Tom shot the trooper before he could cut Peter
down. Free for a moment, he looked round, and saw a French lancer
charging, lance at rest, at Lord Beresford. "Look out, sir!" he
shouted, and the general, turning round, swept aside the lance thrust
with his arm; and as the lancer, carried on by the impetus of his
charge, dashed against him, he seized him by the throat and waist,
lifted him bodily from his saddle, and hurled him insensible to
the ground. Just at this moment General Lumley arrived with some
Portuguese cavalry, and the French lancers galloped off.
The Spanish cavalry, who had orders to charge the French cavalry in
flank, galloped up until within a few yards of them, and then turned
and fled shamefully.
Beresford, now furious at the cowardice of the Spanish infantry,
seized one of their ensigns by the shoulder, and dragged him, with his
colors, to the front by main force, but the infantry would not even
The driving rain saved the allied army at this critical moment, for
Soult was unable to see the terrible confusion which reigned in their
ranks, and kept his heavy columns in hand when an attack would have
carried with it certain victory.
In the pause which ensued, the British regiments began to make their
way to the front. Colbourn, with the 31st Regiment, was already there;
Stewart brought up Haughton's brigade; and the 29th burst its way
through the flying Spaniards and joined the 31st, these movements
being made under a storm of shot and shell from the French artillery.
Colonel Hartman brought up the British artillery, and the Spanish
generals Zayas and Ballesteros succeeded in checking and bringing
forward again some of the Spanish infantry.
The French advanced in great force, the artillery on both sides poured
in grape at short distance, and the carnage was terrible. Still the
little band of British held their ground. Stewart was twice wounded,
Haughton and Colonels Duckworth and Inglis slain. Of the 57th Regiment
twenty-two officers and four hundred men fell out of the five hundred
that had mounted the hill, and the other regiments had suffered nearly
as severely. Not a third were standing unhurt, and fresh columns of
the French were advancing.
The battle looked desperate, and Beresford made preparations for a
retreat. At this moment, however, Colonel Hardinge brought up General
Cole with the fourth division, and Colonel Abercrombie with the third
brigade of Colbourn's second division. Beresford recalled his order
for retreat, and the terrible fight continued. The fourth division was
composed of two brigades, the one, a Portuguese under General Harvey,
was pushed down to the right to keep off the French cavalry, while the
Fusilier brigade, composed of the 7th and 23rd fusilier regiments,
under Sir William Myers, climbed the desperately contested hill, which
Abercombie ascended also, more on the left.
It was time, for the whole of the French reserves were now coming into
action; six guns were already in the enemy's possession, the remnant
of Haughton's brigade could no longer sustain its ground, and the
heavy French columns were advancing exultantly to assured victory.
Suddenly, through the smoke, Cole's fusilier brigade appeared on
the right of Haughton's brigade, just as Abercrombie came up on its
left. Startled by the sight, and by the heavy fire, the French column
paused, and, to quote Napier's glowing words, "hesitated, and then,
vomiting forth a storm of fire, hastily endeavored to enlarge their
front, while a fearful discharge of grape from all their artillery
whistled through the British ranks. Myers was killed, Cole and the
three colonels, Ellis, Blakeney and Hawkshawe, fell wounded; and the
fusilier battalions, struck by the iron tempest, reeled and staggered
like sinking ships; but suddenly and sternly recovering, they closed
with their terrible enemies, and then was seen with what a strength
and majesty the British soldier fights. In vain did Soult with voice
and gesture animate his Frenchmen; in vain did the hardiest veterans
break from the crowded columns and sacrifice their lives to gain time
for the mass to open out on such a fair field; in vain did the mass
itself bear up, and, fiercely striving, fire indiscriminately upon
friends and foes, while the horsemen hovering on its flank threatened
to charge the advancing line. Nothing could stop that astonishing
infantry; no sudden burst of undisciplined valor, no nervous
enthusiasm weakened the stability of their order; their flashing eyes
were bent on the dark columns in their front, their measured tread
shook the ground, their dreadful volleys swept away the head of every
formation, their deafening shouts overpowered the dissonant cries that
broke from all parts of the tumultuous crowd, as, slowly and with
horrid carnage, it was pushed by the incessant vigor of the attack to
the farthest edge of the hill. In vain did the French reserves mix
with the struggling multitude to sustain the fight; their efforts only
increased the irremediable confusion, and the mighty mass breaking off
like a loosened cliff, went headlong down the steep; the rain flowed
after in streams discolored with blood, and eighteen hundred unwounded
men, the remnant of six thousand unconquerable British soldiers, stood
triumphant on the fatal hill."
While this dreadful fight was going on, Hamilton's and Collier's
Portuguese divisions, ten thousand strong, marched to support the
British, but they did not reach the summit of the hill until the
battle was over; they suffered, however, a good deal of loss from the
French artillery, which, to cover the retreat, opened furiously upon
The French were in no position to renew the attack, the allies quite
incapable of pursuit, and when night fell the two armies were in the
same position they had occupied twenty-four hours before.
Never was British valor more conspicuously displayed than at the
battle of Albuera. Out of 6,000 infantry they lost 4,200 killed and
wounded, while the Spanish and Portuguese had but 2,600 killed and
wounded out of a total of 34,000; the French loss was over 8,000.
This desperate fight had lasted but four hours, but to all engaged
it seemed an age. The din, the whirl, the storm of shot, the fierce
charges of the cavalry, the swaying backwards and forwards of the
fight, the disastrous appearance of the battle from the first, all
combined to make up a perfectly bewildering confusion.
The Scudamores, after its commencement, had seen but little of each
other. Whenever one or other of them found their way to the general,
who was ever in the thickest of the fray, it was but to remain there
for a moment or two before being despatched with fresh messages.
Tom's horse was shot under him early in the day, but he obtained a
remount from an orderly and continued his duty until, just as the day
was won, he received a musket ball in the shoulder. He half fell, half
dismounted, and, giddy and faint, lay down and remained there until
the cessation of the fire told him that the battle was over. Then he
staggered to his feet and sought a surgeon. He presently found one
hard at work under a tree, but there was so large a number of wounded
men lying or sitting round, that Tom saw that it would be hours before
he could be attended to. As he turned to go he saw an officer of the
staff ride by.
"Ah, Scudamore! Are you hit too?--not very badly, I hope? The chief
was asking after you just now."
"My shoulder is smashed, I think," Tom said, "and the doctor has his
hands full at present; but if you will tie my arm tight across my
chest with my sash, I shall be able to get on."
The officer at once leapt from his horse, and proceeded to bind Tom's
arm in the position he requested.
"Have you seen my brother," Tom asked.
"No, I have not; he was close to Beresford when the fusiliers dashed
up the hill; his horse fell dead, but he was not hit, for I saw him
jump up all right. I did not see him afterwards. As he could not have
got a fresh mount then, I expect he joined the fusiliers and went up
"Is the loss heavy?" Tom asked.
"Awful--awful," the officer said. "If it had lasted another quarter of
an hour, there would have been nobody left alive; as it is, there are
not 2,000 men at the outside on their feet."
"What, altogether?" Tom exclaimed.
"Altogether," the officer answered sadly. "We have lose two men out of
every three who went into it."
"Thank you," Tom said. "Now where shall I find the general?"
"Up on the hill. I shall see you there in a few minutes. I hope you
will find your brother all right."
Very slowly did Tom make his way up the steep slope, sitting down to
rest many times, for he was faint from loss of blood and sick with the
pain of his wound, and it was a long half hour before he joined the
group of officers clustered round the commander-in-chief.
He was heartily greeted; but in answer to his question as to whether
any one had seen his brother, no one could give a satisfactory reply.
One, however, was able to confirm what had been before told to him,
for he had seen Peter on foot advancing with the fusilier brigade.
Tom's heart felt very heavy as he turned away towards the front, where
the fusiliers were standing on the ground they had so hardly won.
The distance he had to traverse was but short, but the journey was a
ghastly one. The ground was literally heaped with dead. Wounded men
were seen sitting up trying to stanch their wounds, others lay feebly
groaning, while soldiers were hurrying to and fro from the water
carts, with pannikins of water to relieve their agonizing thirst.
"Do you know, sergeant, whether they have collected the wounded
officers, and, if so, where they are?"
"Yes, sir, most of them are there at the right flank of the regiment."
Tom made his way towards the spot indicated, where a small group of
officers were standing, while a surgeon was examining a long line of
wounded laid side by side upon the ground. Tom hardly breathed as
he ran his eye along their faces, and his heart seemed to stop as
he recognized in the very one the surgeon was then examining the
dead-white face of Peter.
He staggered forward and said in a gasping voice, "He is my
brother--is he dead?"
The surgeon looked up. "Sit down," he said sharply, and Tom, unable to
resist the order, sank rather than sat down, his eyes still riveted on
"No," the surgeon said, answering the question, "he has only fainted
from loss of blood, but he is hit hard, the bullet has gone in just
above the hip, and until I know its course I can't say whether he has
a chance or not."
"Here, sergeant, give me the probe," and with this he proceeded
cautiously to examine the course of the ball. As he did so his anxious
face brightened a little.
"He was struck slantingly," he said, "the ball has gone round by the
back; turn him over, sergeant. Ah, I thought so; it has gone out on
the other side. Well, I think it has missed any vital part, and in
that case I can give you hope. There," he said after he had finished
dressing the wound and fastening a bandage tightly round the body;
"now pour some brandy-and-water down his throat, sergeant, and
sprinkle his face with water. Now, sir, I will look at your shoulder."
But he spoke to insensible ears, for Tom, upon hearing the more
favorable report as to Peter's state, had fainted dead off.
The surgeon glanced at him. "He'll come round all right," he said.
"I will go on in the mean time," and set to work at the next in the
It was some time before Tom recovered his consciousness; when he did
so, it was with a feeling of intense agony in the shoulder.
"Lie quiet," the surgeon said, "I shan't be long about it."
It seemed to Tom, nevertheless, as if an interminable time passed
before the surgeon spoke again.
"You'll do," he said. "It is an awkward shot, for it has broken the
shoulder bone and carried a portion away, but with quiet and care you
will get the use of your arm again. You are lucky, for if it had gone
two inches to the left it would have smashed the arm at the socket,
and two inches the other way and it would have been all up with you.
Now lie quiet for awhile; you can do nothing for your brother at
present. It may be hours before he recovers consciousness."
Tom was too faint and weak to argue, and a minute later he dropped off
to sleep, from which he did not wake until it was dusk. Sitting up, he
saw that he had been aroused by the approach of an officer, whom he
recognized as one of General Beresford's staff.
"How are you, Scudamore?" he asked. "The general has just sent me to
"He is very kind," Tom said. "I think that I am all right, only I am
The officer unslung a flask from his shoulder. "This is weak
brandy-and-water. I have brought it over for you. I am sorry to hear
your brother is so bad, but the doctor gives strong hopes of him in
Tom bent down over Peter. "He is breathing quietly," he said. "I hope
it is a sort of sleep he has fallen into. What are we doing?"
"Nothing," the officer answered; "there is nothing to do; every
unbounded man is under arms in case the French attack us in the night.
I expect, however, they will wait till morning, and if they come on
then, I fear our chance is a slight one indeed. We have only 1,800 of
our infantry; the German regiments and the Portuguese will do their
best; but the Spanish are utterly useless. Soult has lost more men
than we have, but we are like a body which has lost its back-bone; and
if the French, who are all good soldiers, renew the battle, I fear it
is all up with us."
"Have you got all our wounded in?" Tom asked.
"No," the officer said bitterly. "Our unwounded men must stand to
arms, and Lord Beresford sent over to Blake just now to ask for the
assistance of a battalion of Spaniards to collect our wounded, and the
brute sent back to say that it was the custom in allied armies for
each army to attend to its own wounded."
"The brute!" Tom repeated with disgust. "How the poor fellows must be
"The men who are but slightly wounded have been taking water to all
they can find, and the doctors are at work now, and will be all night
going about dressing wounds. The worst of it is, if the fight begins
again to-morrow, all the wounded who cannot crawl away must remain
under fire. However, the French wounded are all over the hill too, and
perhaps the French will avoid a cannonade as much as possible, for
their sake. It is a bad look-out altogether; and between ourselves,
Beresford has written to Lord Wellington to say that he anticipates a
"Is there any chance of reinforcements?" Tom asked.
"We hope that the third brigade of the fourth division will be up
to-morrow by midday; they are ordered to come on by forced marches.
If Soult does not attack till they arrive, it will make all the
difference, for 1,500 fresh men will nearly double our strength. But I
must be going now. Good-bye."
The surgeon presently came round again to see how the wounded officers
were getting on. Tom asked him whether there was anything he could do
for Peter; but the surgeon, after feeling his pulse, said: "No, not as
long as he breathes quietly like this; but if he moves pour a little
brandy-and-water down his throat. Now gentlemen, all who can must look
after the others, for there is not an available man, and I must be at
work all night on the field."
There were many of the officers who were not hit too severely to move
about, and these collected some wood and made a fire, so as to enable
them to see and attend to their more severely wounded comrades.
Tom took his place close to Peter, where he could watch his least
movement, and once or twice during the night poured a little
brandy-and-water between his lips. The other officers took it by turns
to attend to their comrades, to keep up the fire, and to sleep. Those
whose turn it was to be awake sat round the fire smoking, and talking
as to the chances of the morrow, getting up occasionally to give drink
to such of the badly wounded as were awake.
Tom, faint with his wound, found it, towards morning, impossible to
keep awake, and dozed off, to wake with a start and find that it was
broad daylight. Soon afterwards, to his intense satisfaction, Peter
opened his eyes. Tom bent over him. "Don't try to move, Peter; lie
quiet, old boy."
"What's the matter?" Peter asked with a puzzled look.
"You have been hit in the body, Peter, but the doctor means to get you
round in no time. Yes," he continued, seeing Peter's eyes fixed on his
bandaged shoulder, "I have had a tap too, but there's no great harm
done. There, drink some brandy-and-water, and go off to sleep again,
if you can."
The morning passed very slowly, the troops being all under arms,
expecting the renewed attack of Soult, but it came not; and when early
in the afternoon, the third brigade of the fourth division marched
into camp, they were received with general cheering. A heavy load
seemed taken off every one's heart, and they felt now that they could
fight, if fight they must, with a hope of success.
The new-comers, wearied as they were with their long forced marches,
at once took the outpost duties, and those relieved set about the duty
of collecting and bringing in all the wounded.
Next morning the joyful news came that Soult was retiring, and all
felt with a thrill of triumph that their sacrifices and efforts had
not been in vain, and that the hard-fought battle of Albuera was
forever to take its place among the great victories of the British
Two days after the battle of Albuera, Lord Wellington himself arrived,
and from the officers of his staff Tom heard the details of the battle
of Fuentes d'Onoro, which had been fought a few days previously, and
which had been nearly as hardly contested as had Albuera itself, both
sides claiming the victory.
The next day, the bulk of Beresford's army returned to the
neighborhood of Badajos, which they again invested, while a long
convoy of wounded started for Lisbon. The Scudamores accompanied it
as far as Campo Major, where a large hospital had been prepared for
those too ill to bear the journey. Peter was still unconscious. Fever
had set in upon the day after the battle, and for three weeks he lay
between life and death. Tom's arm was mending very slowly, and he
would have had hard work indeed in nursing Peter had it not been for
the arrival of unexpected assistance. A large villa had been taken
close to the main hospital for the use of officers, and one of the
rooms was allotted to the Scudamores.
Upon the evening of the second day after their arrival, Tom was
sitting by Peter's bedside, when, after a preliminary tap, the door
opened, and to Tom's perfect amazement Sambo entered. The negro
hurried forward, threw himself on his knees, seized Tom's hand and
kissed it passionately, and then looking at the thin and fever-flushed
face of Peter, he hid his face in his hands and sobbed unrestrainedly.
"Hush, Sam, hush," Tom said soothingly. "My poor fellow, why, where
have you come from? I thought you were a prisoner with the French."
"I knew how it would be, Massa Tom," the black said, paying no
attention to the questions. "First thing Sam said to himself when he
got among French fellows, 'Dere, dose young gentlemen dey get into
all sorts of danger widout Sam, sartin sure dey get hurt widout Sam
to look after dem.' Dat idea troubled Sam berry much, took away Sam's
"Well it turned out so, as you see, Sam," Tom said with a smile, "but
tell me how did you get away? But first give me some lemonade out of
that jug, then you can tell me all about it."
"Why, Massa Tom," Sam said, when he had complied with the request,
"you didn't think dat dis chile was going to stop prisoner with dose
French chaps; Sam not such a fool as dat, nohow. When dat cussed
mule--I tell you fair, Massa Tom, dis chile conclude dat riding not
such a berry easy ting after all--when dat cussed mule ran into French
camp, de soldiers dey catch him, and dey take Sam off, and den dey
jabber and laugh for all de world like great lots of monkeys. Well,
for some time Sam he didn't say nothing, all de wind shook out of his
body. Besides which he couldn't understand what dey say. Den all of
a sudden, to Sam's surprise, up came a colored soldier, and he speak
to Sam in de English tongue. 'Holla, broder, how you come here?" I
ask. 'I been cook on board English merchant ship,' he say. 'Ship she
taken by French privateer. When dey come to port dey say to me, "You
not Englishman, you hab choice, you go to prison, or you be French
soldier." Natural, I not want go prison, so I conclude be French
soldier. I daresay dey gib you choice too.' Well, massa, a wink as
good as a nod to blind hoss. So dey take me to tent, put me under
guard, and next day a French officer come dat speak English. He ask
me all sorts ob questions, and at last he ask me why I list English
soldier. So you see I had got a little lie all ready, and me tell him,
me one poor Melican negro man, cook on board Melican ship. Ship taken
by English man-ob-war. Put Sam in prison and give him choice to go as
soldier. "Den you not care about English,' de officer say, and Sam
draw hisself up and pat his chest and say, 'Me Melican citizen, me no
Britisher's slave, some day me go back States, go on board Melican
man-ob-war, me pay out dese Britishers for make Sam slave.' Den de
officer laugh, and say dat if I like I could fight dem now; and if I
prefer French uniform to French prison, me could have him. Ob course
I accep' offer, and harp an hour after me in French uniform. French
officer try to make joke ob Sam, and ask whether I like cavalry or
foot soldier. Sam say he had enuff of quadruples at present. Me remain
French soldier three weeks, den cum great battle, dey call him Fuentes
donory. Sam's regiment fight. Sam not like fire at red coats, so break
bullet off catridge, neber put him in gun. We charge right into middle
of village full of English soldiers, de bullets fly all about. Sam not
see de point ob getting kill by mistake, so he tumble down, pretend to
be dead. Presently French beaten back; when English soldier wid doctor
cum look at wounded, dey turn Sam ober, and dey say, 'Hullo, here dead
nigger.' 'Nigger yourself, John Atkins,' I say for sure enuff it's de
ole regiment--'you say dat once again me knock your head off;' me jump
up, and all de world call out, 'Hullo, why it's Sam.' Den me splain
matter, and all berry glad, cept John Atkins, and next morning me gib
him licking he member all his life, me pound him most to a squash.
Four days ago colonel send for Sam, say, 'Sam, berry bad job, bofe
Massas wounded bad, send you to nurse dem;' so dis chile come. Dat
all, Massa Tom. Here letter for you from colonel, now you read dis
letter, den you get in bed, you sleep all night, Sam watch Massa
Greatly relieved to have his faithful servant again, and to know that
Peter would be well cared for, instead of being left in charge of the
Spanish hospital orderly, whenever weakness and pain obliged him to
lie down, Tom abandoned his place by the bedside, and prepared for a
tranquil night's rest, first reading the colonel's letter.
"We are all grieved, my dear Scudamore, at hearing that you are both
wounded, and that your brother is at present in a serious state. We
trust, however, that he will pull through. I hear that Beresford has
praised you both most highly in despatches, and that your names are
sent home for companies. I heartily congratulate you. We have had some
tough work at Fuentes d'Onoro, although nothing to what yours must
have been at Albuera, still it was hot enough in all conscience, and
we had over a hundred casualties in the regiment. Carruthers and
Manley were both slightly wounded. Jones, Anstruther, Palmer, and
Chambers were killed, and several of the others hit more or less hard.
Sam has leave to remain with you until you rejoin, which will not, I
fear, be for some little time. Every one sends kind messages. Yours
truly, J. Tritton."
Nothing could exceed the care and devotion with which Sam nursed his
two masters, and Tom had the greatest difficulty in persuading him to
lie down and get a short sleep each day while he sat by Peter's bed.
At the end of three weeks Peter took a favorable turn. His fever
abated, and he awoke to consciousness. Another fortnight and he was
sufficiently convalescent to be moved, and accordingly they started to
travel by very easy stages to Lisbon, there to take ship for England,
as the doctor ordered Tom as well as his brother to go home for a
while to recruit. Tom was the less reluctant to do so, as it was
evident that with the force at his command Wellington would not be
able to undertake any great operation, and that the siege and capture
of Badajoz was the utmost likely to be accomplished in that season's
campaign. The mails in due course had brought out the _Gazette_,
and in it Tom and Peter Scudamore were promoted to be captains,
Colonel Tritton, upon being applied to, readily gave leave for Sam
to accompany his masters. It was a long journey to Lisbon, but the
jolting of the country cart was made bearable by a layer of hay,
two feet deep, upon which the mattresses were laid, Sam seeing that
at each night's halt the hay was taken out, well shaken, and then
returned to the cart, so as to preserve it light and elastic. A thick
canopy of boughs kept off the heat of the sun, and under it, within
reach of the invalids hung a gourd of fresh water, and a basket of
fruit. Several other cart-loads of wounded officers accompanied them,
and at night they would draw up by a grove of trees where water was
handy, those who could walk would get out, the others would be lifted
out on their mattresses, a great fire made, and round it the beds laid
in a circle, and then the evening would be spent in pleasant chat,
with many an anecdote and an occasional song, until the fire burnt
low, the talk died away, and each, covered in his blankets to keep off
the night dew, fell asleep. Pleasant as was the journey, however, it
was with a thrill of delight that they caught their first sight of
Lisbon, with its broad river, and the blue line of the sea beyond. A
few days later, and they embarked on board a transport, which seven
days afterwards, after a calm passage, arrived at Spithead.
Peter was by this time gaining strength fast, but his back was so
stiff and sore that he was unable to move it, and was obliged to swing
himself along on crutches. The next day the coach took them to London,
and they started the morning after for Marlborough. This time they had
to go inside the coach, two gentlemen, who had previously secured the
seats, kindly giving them up in favor of the wounded young officers,
while Sam took his place on the roof, and amused his fellow-passengers
with wonderful accounts of his adventures at the war. At the inn
at which they took dinner, they alighted, and Tom recognized in the
driver the same coachman who had driven them upon the memorable
occasion of their being stopped by highwaymen three years before. "You
don't remember us, coachman, do you?"
"No, gentlemen, I can't say as how,--but eh! no, why you're the werry
boys as shot the highwaymen. Well, I am glad to see you again, though
you do look white and bad, both of you. I heard as how there were
two wounded officers inside, and that black soldier has been telling
all sorts of tales of the wonderful things as his masters had done,
but not knowing as how it was you, I didn't much believe all he was
telling. Now I quite see as how it was true; and how are you both?"
"Getting on all right," Tom said, returning the warm shake of the
coachman's hand, "and do you know, those pistols have saved our lives
more than once."
"Have they now," the coachman said, in high admiration, "but there, we
most be moving, we are three minutes after time as it is; I shall see
you again next time we stop, gentlemen."
During the next stage the coachman and guard recounted to the outside
passengers the affair of the stopping the coach, and Sam's black face
shone with delight at the tale. Then he had his say, and related the
story of his falling overboard and being rescued, and in consequence
the lads were quite embarrassed when they next halted, by the
attention of their fellow-travelers, who could scarcely understand how
it was possible that two mere boys should have performed such feats of
Arrived at Marlborough they looked round in vain for the one-horsed
vehicle which had before met them. "I expect that aunt has not got
our letter, Peter," Tom said. "It would probably go up to town in the
coach with us, and is likely enough in the letter-bag in the boot.
Well, we must have a post-chaise. Won't aunt and Rhoda be surprised;
but they must be expecting us, because they will have had our letter
The horses were soon in, Sam took his seat in the rumble, and in a few
minutes they were bounding over the road at a very different pace to
that at which they had before traversed it. "There's the house among
the trees," Peter said at last, "with aunt's pigeons on the roof as
usual, and there's Minnie asleep on the window-sill, and there! yes,
As he spoke a girl, who was sitting reading under a tree, leapt to her
feet, on hearing a carriage stop, and then, catching sight of Peter
waving his hat, while Tom made frantic efforts to open the door, gave
a scream of delight, and rushed towards them, threw her arms round
Tom's neck as he jumped out, and then leapt into the chaise and hugged
and cried over Peter. He was soon helped out, and as they turned to go
towards the house they saw their aunt coming out to meet them.
Tom ran forward and throwing his arms round her neck kissed her
heartily, and before she could recover from her surprise, Peter was
alongside. "Please, aunt, you must kiss me," he said, "for I want my
arms for my crutches." His aunt leaned forward and kissed him, and
then wiped the tears from her eyes.
"I am glad to see you back, my dear nephews," she said. "We did not
understand each other very well before, but we shan't make any more
mistakes. This is your black servant, I suppose," she said, as Sam
came along, with a trunk in each hand. "Dear! dear! what a dreadfully
"How do you do, Sam?" Rhoda said, when he came up. "We have heard so
much of you, and how kindly you nursed my brothers."
"Sam quite well, tank you, little missy," Sam said, grinning all over
his face and showing his white teeth.
Miss Scudamore shrank towards Tom as Sam passed on, "Dear me, what
sharp-looking teeth he has, Tom. They don't eat curious things, these
black men, do they?"
"What sort of curious things, aunt?"
"Well, my dear, I know that these outlandish people do eat strange
things, and I have heard the Chinese eat dogs and cats. Now, if he has
a fancy for cats, I daresay I could buy him some in the village, only
he will have to cook them himself, I could never ask Hannah to cook
cats; but please ask him not to touch Minnie."
Peter had to stop in his walk and grasp his crutches tightly, not
to burst into a scream of laughter, while Tom answered with great
gravity, "My dear aunt, do not alarm yourself, I will answer for the
safety of Minnie as far as Sam is concerned."
When they reached the house, Miss Scudamore said--
"I think you young people will enjoy yourselves more if you go and sit
under the shade of the elm there, you will have a deal to say to each
other, and had better be alone." They were all glad at the suggestion,
as they were longing to be alone together.
Sam, by Miss Scudamore's directions, carried out a great easy chair,
of which Peter took possession. Rhoda sat on the grass at his feet,
and Tom threw himself down at full length. They were all too happy
to speak much for a time, and could only look fondly at each other.
"You have grown a great deal, Rhoda, but I do not think that you are
altered a bit otherwise."
"You are neither of you altered so much as I expected," Rhoda said. "I
had made up my mind that you would be changed a great deal. It sounds
so grand--Captains, indeed! I expected to have curtsey to you and
treat you with great respect; instead of that you look regular boys,
both of you. Of course you are big, and Peter looks very tall; how
tall are you, Peter?"
"Just over six feet," Peter said.
"Yes," Rhoda said, "you are tall enough, and Tom is broad enough for
men, but somehow you look regular boys still."
"This is very disrespectful Rhoda, to two Captains in His Majesty's
"It seems ridiculous, doesn't it," Rhoda said.
"It does," Tom said heartily, and the three went off into a shout of
"It isn't really ridiculous you know," Rhoda said, when they had
recovered their gravity. "To think of all the dangers you have gone
through. Aunt was as proud as could be when she saw your names over
and over again in despatches, and I have been like a little peacock.
Your doings have been the talk of every one round here, and I am sure
that if they had known you had been coming, the village would have put
up a triumphal arch, and presented you with an address."
"Thank goodness, they did not know it then," Tom said, "for it would
have been a deal worse to stand than the fire of a French battery.
Well, Rhoda, and now as to yourself; so you have really been always
very happy with aunt?"
"Very happy," Rhoda said; "she is most kind and indulgent, and so that
I attend to her little fancies, I can do just as I like. I have had
lessons regularly from the rector's eldest daughter, who has been
educated for a governess; and in every respect, aunt is all that is
kind. Fancy her being afraid of Sam eating Minnie."
After chatting for upwards of an hour, they went into the house, and
the rest of the day was spent in talking over all that had happened
since they left. Sam was in the kitchen where he made himself very
much at home, and although Hannah and the cook were at first rather
awed by his size, his black face and rolling eyes, they were soon
pacified by his good humor and readiness to make himself useful, and
were wonderfully interested by his long stories about what "Massas"
had done in the war.
Miss Scudamore, who was a little uneasy as to how things would go on
in the kitchen, made some excuse for going in once or twice in the
course of the evening. She found things going on much better that she
had expected, indeed so much better, that after Rhoda had gone up to
bed, where Peter had two hours before betaken himself, she said to Tom
as he was lighting his candle, "One minute, nephew; I could not speak
before Rhoda, but I wanted to say something to you about your negro.
I have heard that all soldiers are very much given to make love, and
we know from Shakespeare, that Othello, who was black too, you will
remember, nephew, made love to Desdemona, which shows that color does
not make so much difference as one would think. Now I do hope your
man will not make love to Hannah, I don't think she would like it,
my dear, and yet you know she might; one never knows what women will
do; they are always making fools of themselves," she added angrily,
thinking at the moment how a young girl she had trained up as a cook
had, after being with her three years, left a few weeks before to
marry the village blacksmith, "and I should be sorry to lose Hannah.
She has been with us more than twenty years. If he must fall in love
with one, my dear, let it be the cook."
Tom had a great command of his countenance, but he had great
difficulty in steadying his muscles. After a moment or two he said,
"I will give Sam a hint, aunt, if it becomes necessary, but I do not
think you need fear. I do not fancy Sam is matrimonially inclined at
present, and he wouldn't leave us even to marry Desdemona herself.
Good night, aunt."
So saying, Tom went upstairs, where he repeated to Peter, who was
still awake, his conversation with his aunt, and the two went into
shouts of laughter over the idea of Sam making love to the prim
The next six months passed over quietly and happily. The boys
were made a great deal of by the whole county, and Miss Scudamore
was greatly gratified at the name and credit they had gained for
themselves. She no longer worried about them, but as Rhoda declared,
quite spoiled them, and as Sam made no attempt to win the love of
the faithful Hannah, there was no cloud to mar the pleasure of the
CIUDAD RODRIGO AND BADAJOS.
It was in the beginning of December, 1811, that the Scudamores again
sailed up the Tagus to Lisbon, after an absence of just six months.
When they had passed the medical board, they were transferred from the
unattached list to the 52d Regiment, which was, fortunately for them,
also in Spain. No events of great importance had taken place during
their absence. Wellington, after the battles of Fuentes d'Onoro and
Albuera, had been compelled to fall back again to the frontier in the
face of greatly superior forces, and had maintained his old position
on the Coa till the approach of winter compelled the French to retire
into the interior, where they had their magazines and depôts.
The Scudamores found that the 52d were encamped on the Agueda,
and they at once prepared to go up country to join them. Their
chargers--presents from their aunt on leaving--were fresh and
vigorous, and they purchased a strong country horse for Sambo, who,
thanks to some practice which he had had in England, was now able to
cut a respectable figure on horseback. A few hours were sufficient to
make their preparations, and at noon on the day after landing, they
mounted, and, followed by Sam, accompanied by a muleteer and two mules
carrying their baggage, they started from the hotel at which they had
As they rode down the main street they saw several mounted
officers approaching, and at once recognized in the leader the
commander-in-chief, who had just arrived from the front to pay one
of his flying visits, to endeavor to allay the jealousies in the
Portuguese Council, and to insist upon the food which the British
Government was actually paying for, being supplied to the starving
Portuguese soldiers. Drawing their horses aside, they saluted Lord
Wellington as he rode past. He glanced at them keenly, as was his
custom, and evidently recognized them as he returned the salute.
When he had passed, they turned their horses and continued their way.
They had not gone fifty yards, however, when an officer came up at
a gallop. Lord Wellington wished them to call at his quarters in an
There are few things more annoying than, after having got through all
the trouble of packing and getting fairly on the road, to be stopped;
but there was no help for it, and the boys rode back to their hotel
again, where, putting up their horses, they told Sam not to let the
muleteer leave, for they should probably be on the road again in an
At the appointed time they called at the head-quarters, and giving
their cards to two officers on duty, took their seats in the anteroom.
It now became evident to them that their chance of an early interview
was not great, and that they would in all probability be obliged to
pass another night in Madrid. Portuguese grandees passed in and out,
staff officers of rank entered and left, important business was being
transacted, and the chance of two Line captains having an interview
with the commander-in-chief appeared but slight. Two hours passed
wearily, and then an orderly sergeant came into the room and read out
from a slip of paper the names "Captain Thomas Scudamore; Captain
Peter Scudamore. This way, if you please," he added, as the boys rose
in answer to their names, and he led the way into a room where a
colonel on the staff was seated before a table covered with papers.
"Gentlemen," he said, "I have news which I think will be pleasant to
you both. Lord Wellington has not forgotten the services you rendered
in carrying his communications to the guerilla chiefs. Your reports
were clear and concise, and your knowledge of Spanish especially
valuable. Lord Beresford, too, has reported most favorably of your
conduct while with him. There happen to be two vacancies on his staff,
and he has desired me to fill them up with your names."
Although the Scudamores would in some respects rather have remained
with their regiment, yet they could not refuse an honor which was
generally coveted as being a post in which an active officer had
plenty of opportunities of distinguishing himself, and which was
certain to lead to speedy promotion. They accordingly expressed their
warm thanks for the honor which Lord Wellington had done them.
"Are you well mounted?" Colonel Somerset asked.
"We have one capital charger each," Tom said.
"You will want another," Colonel Somerset remarked. "There are a lot
of remounts landed to-day. Here is an order to Captain Halket, the
officer in charge. Choose any two you like. The amount can be stopped
from your pay. How about servants; you are entitled to two each?"
"We have one man of the Norfolk Rangers--a very faithful fellow, who
has returned with us from leave; if he could be transferred, he would
do for us both if we had a cavalry man each for our horses."
The colonel at once wrote an order for Sam's transfer from his
regiment on detached service, and also one to the officer commanding a
cavalry regiment stationed in Madrid, to supply them with two troopers
"May I ask, sir, if we are likely to stay in Madrid long--as, if so,
we will look out for quarters?" Tom asked.
"No; the general returns to-morrow, or next day at latest, to Almeida,
and of course you will accompany him. Oh, by-the-by, Lord Wellington
will be glad if you will dine with him to-day--sharp six. By-the-way,
you will want to get staff uniform. There is the address of a Spanish
tailor, who has fitted out most of the men who have been appointed
here. He works fast, and will get most of the things you want ready
by to-morrow night. Don't get more things than are absolutely
necessary--merely undress suits. Excuse my asking how are you off for
money? I will give you an order on the paymaster if you like."
Tom replied that they had plenty of money, which indeed they had,
for their aunt had given them so handsome a present upon starting,
that they had tried to persuade her to be less generous, urging that
they really had no occasion for any money beyond their pay. She had
insisted, however, upon their accepting two checks, saying that one
never knew what was wanted, and it was always useful to have a sum to
fall back on in case of need.
Two days later the Scudamores, in their new staff uniforms, were,
with some six or eight other officers, riding in the suite of Lord
Wellington on the road to the Coa. The lads thought they had never
had a more pleasant time, the weather was fine and the temperature
delightful, their companions, all older somewhat than themselves, were
yet all young men in high health and spirits. The pace was good, for
Lord Wellington was a hard rider, and time was always precious with
him. At the halting-places the senior officers of the staff kept
together, while the aides-de-camp made up a mess of their own, always
choosing a place as far away as possible from that of the chief, so
that they could laugh, joke, and even sing, without fear of disturbing
Sam soon became a high favorite with the light-hearted young fellows,
and his services as forager for the mess were in high esteem.
Three days of hard riding took them to Almeida, where the breaches
caused by the great explosion had been repaired, and the place put
into a defensible position. Tom and Peter had been afraid that
there would be at least four months of enforced inactivity before
the spring; but they soon found that the post of aide-de-camp to
Wellington was no sinecure. For the next month they almost lived in
the saddle. The greater portion of the English army was indeed lying
on the Agueda, but there were detached bodies of British and large
numbers of Portuguese troops at various points along the whole line
of the Portuguese frontier, and with the commanders of these Lord
Wellington was in constant communication.
Towards the end of December some large convoys of heavy artillery
arrived at Almeida, but every one supposed that they were intended to