Part 4 out of 7
"Sixteen three months back, O'Grady," Terence put in.
"Yes, I remember now, but a week or two one way or the other makes no
difference. Here is Terence, just sixteen, who ought to be at school
trying to get a little learning into his head, laying down the law to his
supeyrior officers, just because he has had the luck to get onto the
brigadier's staff. I think sometimes that the world is coming to an end."
"At any rate, O'Grady," Terence laughed, "I am half a head taller than you
are, and could walk you off your legs any day."
"There! And he says this to a man who has gone through all the fatigues of
the rear-guard, while he has been riding about the country like a
gentleman at aise."
"Well, I cannot stop any longer," Terence said. "I am on my way up to see
how they are getting on with the earthworks, and the general may want me
at any moment."
"I would not trouble about that," O'Grady said, sarcastically; "perhaps he
might make a shift to do widout you, widout detriment to the service."
Terence made no reply, but, mounting, rode off up the hill behind the
town. At two o'clock on the 16th a general movement of the French line was
observed, and the British infantry, 14,500 strong, drew up in order of
battle along the position marked for them. The British were fighting under
a serious disadvantage, for not only had Soult over 20,000 infantry, with
very powerful artillery and great strength in cavalry, but owing to their
position on the crest running somewhat obliquely to the higher one
occupied by the French, the heavy battery on the rocks to their right
raked the whole line of battle. Hope's division was on the British left,
Baird's on the right. Fraser's division was on another ridge some distance
from the others, and immediately covering the town of Corunna; and Paget,
with his division to which the Mayo regiment was still attached, was
posted at the village of Airis, on the height between Hope's division and
the harbour, and looking down the valley between the main position and the
ridge held by Fraser.
From here he could either reinforce Hope and Baird, or advance down the
valley to repel any attack of the French cavalry, and cover the retreat of
the main body if forced to fall back. The battle commenced by the French
opening fire with their field-guns, which were distributed along the front
of their position, and by the heavy battery on their left, while their
infantry descended the mountain in three heavy columns, covered by clouds
of skirmishers. The British piquets were at once driven in, and the
village of Elvina, held by a portion of the 50th, carried. The French
column on this side then divided into two portions; one endeavoured to
turn Baird's right and enter the valley behind the British position, while
the other climbed the hill to attack him in front. The second column moved
against the British centre, and the third attacked Hope's left, which
rested on the village of Palavia Abaxo.
The nine English guns were altogether overmatched by those of Soult's
heavy battery. Moore, seeing that the half-column advancing by Baird's
flank made no movement to penetrate beyond his right, directed him to
throw back one regiment and take the French in flank. Paget was ordered to
advance up the valley, to drive back the French column, and menace the
French battery, uniting himself with a battalion previously posted on a
hill to keep the threatening masses of French cavalry in check. He also
sent word to Fraser to advance at once and support Paget. Baird launched
the 50th and 42d Regiments to meet the enemy issuing from Elvina. The
ground round the village was broken by stone walls and hollow roads, but
the French were forced back, and the 50th, entering the village with the
fleeing enemy, drove them, after a struggle, beyond the houses.
[Illustration: Map of the Battle of Corunna.]
The 42d, misunderstanding orders, retired towards the hill, and the
French, being reinforced, again attacked Elvina, which the 50th held
stubbornly until again joined by the 42d, which had been sent forward by
Moore himself. Paget was now engaged in the valley, the advance of the
enemy was arrested, and they suffered very heavily from the fire of the
regiments on the height above their flank, while Paget steadily gained
ground. The centre and left were now hotly engaged, but held their ground
against all the attacks of the enemy, and on the extreme left advanced and
drove the French out of the village of Palavia Abaxo, which they had
occupied. Elvina was now firmly held, while Paget carried all before him
on the right, and, with Fraser's division behind him, menaced the great
Had this been carried, the two divisions could have swept along the French
position, crumpling up the forces as they went, and driving them down
towards the river Moro, in which case they would have been lost. Owing,
however, to the battle having been begun at so late an hour, darkness now
fell. The general himself, while watching the contest at Elvina, had been
struck by a cannon-ball and mortally wounded. General Baird had also been
struck down. This loss of commanders combined with the darkness to arrest
the progress of the victorious troops, and permitted the French, who were
already falling back in great confusion, to recover themselves and
maintain their position.
The object for which the battle had been fought was gained. Night, which
had saved the French from total defeat, afforded the British the
opportunity of extricating themselves from their position, and General
Hope, who now assumed the command, ordered the troops to abandon their
positions and to march down to the port, leaving strong piquets with fires
burning to deceive the enemy. All the arrangements for embarkation had
been carefully arranged by Sir John Moore, and without the least hitch or
confusion the troops marched down to the port, and before morning were all
on board with the exception of a rear-guard, under General Beresford,
which occupied the citadel.
At daybreak the piquets were withdrawn and also embarked, and a force
under General Hill, that had been stationed on the ramparts to cover the
movement, then marched down to the citadel, and there took boats for the
ships. By this time, however, the French, having discovered that the
British position was abandoned, had planted a battery on the heights of
San Lucia and opened fire on the shipping. This caused much confusion
among the transports. Several of the masters cut their cables, and four
vessels ran ashore. The troops, however, were taken on board of other
transports by the boats of the men-of-war. The stranded ships were fired,
and the fleet got safely out of harbour.
The noble commander, by whose energy, resolution, and talent this
wonderful march had been achieved, lived only long enough to know that his
soldiers were victorious, and was buried the same night on the ramparts.
His memory was for a time assailed with floods of abuse by that portion of
the press and public that had all along vilified the action of the British
general, had swallowed eagerly every lie promulgated by the Junta of
Oporto, and by the whole of the Spanish authorities; but in time his
extraordinary merits came to be recognized to their full value, and his
name will long live as one of the noblest men and best generals Great
Britain has ever produced.
Beresford held the citadel until the 18th, and then embarked with his
troops and all the wounded; the people of Corunna, remaining true to their
promises, manned the ramparts of the town until the last British soldier
was on board.
The British loss in the battle was estimated at 800 men; that of the
French was put down at 3,000. Their greater loss was due to the fact that
they assumed the offensive, and were much more exposed than the defenders;
that the nine little guns of the latter were enabled to sweep them with
grape, while the British were so far away from the French batteries that
the latter were obliged to fire round shot; and lastly that the new
muskets and fresh ammunition gave a great advantage to the British over
the rusty muskets and often damaged powder of the French. Paget's division
had suffered but slightly, the main loss of the English having occurred in
and around Elvina, and from the shot of the heavy battery that swept the
crest held by them. Two officers killed and four wounded were the only
casualties in that division, while but thirty of the rank and file were
put out of action.
While the battle was at its height Terence was despatched by the brigadier
to carry an order to one of the regiments that had pushed too far forward
in its ardour. Scrambling over rough ground, and occasionally leaping a
wall, he reached the colonel. "The general requests you to fall back a
little, sir; you are farther forward than the regiment on your flank. The
enemy are pushing a force down the hill in your direction, and as there is
no support that can be sent to you at present, he wishes your extreme
right to be in touch with the left of the regiment holding Elvina."
"Very good. Tell General Fane that I will carry out his instructions.
Where is he now?"
"He is in the village, sir." Terence turned his horse to ride back. The
din of battle was almost bewildering. A desperate conflict was going on in
front of the village, where every wall was obstinately contested, the
regiment being hotly engaged with a French force that was rapidly
increasing in strength. The great French battery was sending its missiles
far overhead against the British position on the hill, the British guns
were playing on the French troops beyond the village, and the French light
field-pieces were pouring their fire into Elvina. Terence made his way
across the broken ground near the village. Galloping at a low stone wall,
the horse was in the act of rising to clear it when it was struck in the
head by a round shot. Terence was thrown far ahead over the wall, and fell
heavily head-foremost on a pile of stones covered by some low shrubs.
The shock was a terrible one, and for many hours he lay insensible. When
he recovered consciousness, he remained for some time wondering vaguely
where he was. Above him was a canopy of foliage, through which the rays of
the sun were streaming. A dead silence had succeeded the roar of battle.
He put his hand to his head, which was aching intolerably, and found that
his hair was thick with clotted blood.
"Yes, of course," he said to himself at last; "I was carrying a message to
Fane. I was just going to jump a wall and there was a sudden crash. I
remember--I flew out of the saddle--that is all I do remember. I have been
stunned, I suppose. How is it so quiet? I suppose the battle is over."
Then he sat suddenly upright.
"The sun is shining," he said. "It was getting dusk when I was riding back
to the village. I must have lain here all night."
Suddenly he heard a gun fired; it was quickly followed by others. He rose
on his knees and looked cautiously over the bushes.
"It is away there," he said, "on those heights above the harbour. The army
must have embarked, and the French are firing at the ships."
[Illustration: "POOR OLD JACK! HE HAS CARRIED ME WELL EVER SINCE I GOT HIM
AT TORRES VEDRAS."]
His conjecture was speedily verified, for, looking along the crest which
the British had held during the fight, he saw a large body of French
troops just reaching the top of the rise. He stood up now and looked
round. No one could be seen moving in the orchards and vineyards round. He
peered over the wall; his horse lay there in a huddled-up heap.
"A round shot in the head!" he exclaimed; "that accounts for it. Poor old
Jack! he has carried me well ever since I got him at Torres Vedras."
He climbed down and got what he was in search of--a large flask full of
brandy-and-water, which he carried in one of the holsters. He took a long
drink, and felt better at once.
"I may as well take the pistols," he said, and, putting them into his
belt, climbed over the wall again, and lay down among the bushes.
He was now able to think clearly. Should he get up and surrender himself
as a prisoner to the first body of French troops that he came across? or
should he lie where he was until nightfall, and then try to get away? If
he surrendered, there was before him a march of seven or eight hundred
miles to a French prison; if he tried to get away, no doubt there were
many hardships and dangers, but at least a possibility of rejoining sooner
or later. At any rate, he would be no worse off than the many hundreds who
had straggled during the march, for it was probable that the great
majority of these were spread over the country, as the French, pressing
forward in pursuit, would not have troubled themselves to hunt down
fugitives, who, if caught, would only be an encumbrance to them.
He was better off than they were, for at any rate he could make himself
understood, which was more than the majority of the soldiers could do; and
at least he would not provoke the animosity of the peasants by the rough
measures they would be likely to take to satisfy their wants. The worst of
it was that he had no money. Then suddenly he sat up again and looked at
"This is luck!" he exclaimed; "I had never given the thing a thought
On his arrival at Corunna he had thrown away the riding-boots he had
bought at Salamanca. The constant rains had so shrunk them that he could
no longer wear them without pain, and he had taken again to the boots that
he carried in his valise.
From the time when, at his father's suggestion, he had had extra soles
placed on them, above which were hidden fifteen guineas, the fact of the
money being there had never once occurred to him. He had had sufficient
cash about him to pay for purchases at Salamanca and on the road, and,
indeed, had five guineas still in his pocket, though he had drawn no pay
from the time of leaving Torres Vedras.
This discovery decided him. With twenty guineas he could pay his way for
months, and he determined to make the attempt to escape.
The firing continued for some time and then ceased.
"The fleet must have got out," he said to himself. "It is certain that the
French have not taken Corunna. We were getting the best of it up to the
time I was hurt, and it would be dark in another half-hour, and there
could be no fighting on such ground as this, after that. Besides, Corunna
is a strong fortress, and we could have held out there for weeks, for
Soult can have no battering train with him; besides, everything was ready
for embarkation, and I know that it was intended, whether we won or lost,
that the troops should go on board in the night."
As he lay there he could occasionally hear the sound of drums and trumpets
as the troops marched from their positions of the night before, to take up
others nearer to the town. At times he heard voices, and knew that they
were searching for wounded over the ground that had been so desperately
contested; but the spot where he was lying lay between the village and the
ground where the regiment he had gone to order back had been engaged with
the enemy, and as no fighting had taken place there, it was unlikely that
the search-parties would go over it. This, indeed, proved to be the case,
and after a time he fell off to sleep, and did not wake until night was
closing in. He was hungry now, and again crossing the wall he took half a
chicken and a piece of bread that his servant had thrust into his wallet
just before starting, and made a hearty meal. He unbuckled his sword and
left it behind him; he had his pistols, and a sword would be only an
As soon as it became quite dark he made his way cautiously down the
valley, passed the spot where the French column had suffered so heavily,
and then, turning to the left, traversed the narrow plain that divided the
position on which the French heavy battery had been placed and the plateau
on which their cavalry had been massed. Numerous fires blazed in the wide
valley behind, where the reserve had been stationed on the previous
morning, and he doubted not that the French cavalry were there, especially
as he found no signs of life on the plateau above. Coming presently on a
small stream he bathed his head for a considerable time, and then
proceeded on his way, feeling much brighter and fresher than he had done
The ground began to ascend more steeply, and after an hour's walking he
stood on the crest of the hill and looked down on the position that the
French had held, and beyond it on Corunna and the sea. The cold was
extreme. He had brought with him his greatcoat and blanket, and, wrapping
himself in these, lay down in a sheltered position and slept again till
morning broke. His head was now better, and he was able to think more
clearly than he could the day before. The first thing was to decide as to
his course. It would be dangerous to make direct for the frontier of
Portugal. Now that the British army had embarked, Soult would be free to
undertake operations in that country, and would doubtless shortly put his
troops in motion in that direction, and his cavalry would be scattering
all over the province collecting provisions. Moreover, there would be the
terrible range of the Tras-os-Montes to pass, and no certainty whatever of
being well received by the Portuguese peasants north of Oporto.
His constant study of the staff maps was now of great assistance to him.
He determined to turn west until he reached the river Minho some distance
below Lugo, which he could do by skirting the top of the hills. He would
therefore strike it somewhere about the point where the river Sil joined
it, and, following this, would find himself at the foot of the Cantabrian
Hills, dividing the Asturias from Leon. Then he could be guided by
circumstances, and could either cross these mountains and make for a
seaport, or could journey down through Leon to Ciudad-Rodrigo, which was
still held by a Spanish garrison, and from there make his way through
Portugal to Lisbon.
He questioned whether it would be wise for him to attempt to get the dress
of a Spanish peasant instead of his uniform, but he finally decided that
until he was beyond any risk of being captured by parties from either
Soult or Ney's armies, it would be better to continue in uniform. If taken
in that dress it would be seen that he was a straggler from Moore's army,
and he would be simply treated as a prisoner of war; while, if taken in
the dress of a peasant, he would be liable to be treated as a spy and
shot. Having made up his mind, he started at once, and in three hours was
at the foot of the hills on the other side of which ran the road from Lugo
to Corunna, which proved so disastrous to the army. He presently arrived
at a small hamlet, and the children in the streets ran shrieking away as
they saw him. Women appeared at the doors and looked out anxiously; they
had not before seen a British uniform, and at once supposed that he was
French. Seeing that he was alone, several men armed with clubs and picks
"I am an English officer," he said, "and I desire food and shelter for a
few hours. I have money to pay for it."
The peasants at once came round him. Confused accounts had reached them of
the doings on the other side of the hills. They knew that an English army
had marched from Lugo to Corunna, hotly pursued by the French, but they
had heard nothing of what had happened afterwards. They eagerly asked for
news. Terence told them that there had been a great battle outside
Corunna, that the French had been repulsed with much loss, and that the
English had embarked on board ships to take them round to Lisbon, there to
march east to meet the French again.
Nothing could be kinder than the treatment he received. They told him that
Ney's army was between the Sil and Lugo, but that no French troops had
crossed the Minho as yet.
They were eager to know why the English, if they had beaten the French,
sailed away. But when he said that Soult would have been joined by Ney in
a couple of days, and would then be well-nigh double the strength of the
British, who would be so hotly pressed that they would be unable to
embark, the peasants saw that what they considered their desertion could
not have been avoided. The news of the terrible defeats that had, a month
before, been inflicted upon their armies had not reached them, and Terence
did not think it necessary to enlighten them. He told them that the march
north of the English had been intended to bring all the French forces in
that direction, and so to enable the Spanish armies to operate
successfully, and that not only Soult and Ney, but Napoleon himself, had
been drawn off from the south in pursuit of them.
They were filled with satisfaction, and he was at once taken into one of
the cottages. A good meal was shortly placed before him, his head was
carefully bandaged, and he was then asked how it was that he had not
embarked with the rest of the army. He related how he had been left
behind, and then asked them their opinion as to his best course, telling
them the plan he himself had formed. They agreed at once that this was the
wisest one, but that it would be dangerous to try it until Ney's force had
moved from its present position. They knew that he had a division at
Orense on the Minho, and that parties of his cavalry had scoured the plain
as far as the river Ulla, and urged upon him to remain with them until
some news was obtained of the movements of the French army.
He gladly accepted the invitation, and for a couple of days remained at
the little hamlet. One of the peasants came in at the end of that time,
saying that the French in Corunna had crossed the mountains and had
arrived at Santiago, twenty miles distant, and that their cavalry were
scouring the country. They also brought news that Romana was at Toabado,
and that he had but two or three thousand men with him, the rest having
been routed and cut up by the French cavalry. Terence at once determined
to join him.
The fact that he still had some troops with him had no influence in
causing him to form this resolution. Romana had been so often defeated
that he knew that his men would, after their recent misfortunes, scatter
at once before even the weakest French detachment. But Romana himself knew
the country well, was a man of great resource and activity, and was likely
to evade all efforts to capture him. He thought then that by joining him
and sharing his fortunes he was more likely to have some opportunity of
making his way to Lisbon than he would have if left to his own resources,
especially as he had no doubt that Soult would at once prepare to invade
Portugal by occupying all the passes, and thus render it next to
impossible to journey thither alone and on foot. One of the peasants
offered to guide him across the hills to Toabado. They started at once,
and at daybreak next morning reached the village.
As Romana had been several times in personal communication with Sir John
Moore, Terence was acquainted with his appearance, and seeing him standing
at the door of the principal house of the village, went up to him and
saluted him. The latter looked upon him with great surprise.
"How have you managed to pass through the French?" he asked.
"I have seen none of them, Marquis. I was wounded in the battle of
Corunna, and after lying insensible all that night, found, when I
recovered in the morning, that the French had advanced and that I was in
their rear. I heard their guns from the heights above the town, and knew
that our army had gained their transports. I lay concealed all day and
then crossed the mountains, and have been resting for two days at a
village on the other side of the hills. The news came that you were here,
and I decided to join you at once. I was on the staff of General Fane,
and, knowing the duties of an aide-de-camp, thought I might make myself
useful to you until there was an opportunity of my rejoining a British
"You are welcome, sir," Romana said, courteously. "It was only this
morning that we learned from a prisoner that my men took that you had
driven back Soult before Corunna and had embarked safely. I was in great
fear that your army would have been captured. I see that you have been
wounded on the head."
"It can scarcely be called a wound, Marquis. I was carrying a message on
the battle-field; when I was taking a wall my horse was struck with a
round shot. I was thrown over his head onto a heap of rough stones, and it
was a marvel to me that I was not killed."
"I am just going to breakfast, senor, and shall be glad if you will join
me. I have no doubt that you will do justice to it."
Romana, who had commanded the Spanish troops which had escaped from
Holland, was the most energetic of the Spanish generals. Defeated often,
he was speedily at the head of fresh gatherings, and ready to take the
field again. As a partisan chief he was excellent, but possessed no
military talent, and was, like the Spaniards generally, full of grand but
utterly impracticable schemes, and in spite of his experience to the
contrary, confident that the Spaniards would overthrow the French.
"I have been unfortunate," he said, in reply to the inquiry as to how many
troops he had with him. "At your English general's request I took a
different course with my army to that which he was pursuing, in order that
his magazines should be untouched. I crossed his line of retreat, but
unfortunately Franceschi's cavalry come down upon us, cut up my artillery
and infantry, and scattered my force entirely. However, some three
thousand have rejoined, and I expect in a short time to be at the head of
20,000. I ought to have more, but these Galician peasants are stubborn
fellows. They know nothing of the affairs of Spain, and although they will
fight in defence of their own villages, they have no interest in anything
beyond, and hang back from joining an army that might operate outside
their province. You see, until now it has been untouched by war. They have
suffered in no way from French extortions and outrages. As soon as they
feel the smart themselves, I doubt not they will be as full of hatred of
the invaders as people are elsewhere, and as ready to take up arms against
Romana's troops were but a motley gathering. The force that he had brought
with him from Holland had been landed at Santander, marched to Bilbao, and
joined Blake's army, and had shared in the crushing defeat suffered by
that general at Espinosa, where most of them were taken prisoners. They
were again incorporated in the French army, and afterwards took part in
the Russian campaign, and in the retreat no less than four thousand of
them were taken prisoners by the Russians and handed over by them to
British transports sent to Cronstadt to fetch them. Romana himself had
escaped from the battle-field, and afterward raised a fresh force. This
had dwindled away from 15,000 to 5,000 when he joined Moore on his
advance, and now amounted to barely 2,000, of whom the greater portion had
thrown away their arms in their flight.
On the following day Romana, with a small body of cavalry, left Toabado,
crossed the Minho, descended into the valley of the Tamega, and took
refuge close to the Portuguese frontier line. Here he was, for a time,
safe from the pursuit of the French, the insignificance of his force being
his best protection. Soult lost no time. As soon as the English army had
left, Corunna opened its gates to him, as did Ferrol, although neither of
these towns could have been taken without a siege, and Soult must have
been delayed until a battering-train was brought from Madrid.
The magazines of British powder and stores that had been lying for months
in Ferrol were invaluable to him.
The soldiers were set to work to make fresh cartridges, and then, after
six days' halt to give rest to his weary and footsore men, he began to
prepare to carry out Napoleon's orders to invade Portugal. Ney, with
20,000 men, was to maintain Galicia, and, reinforced by a fresh division,
Soult was to march direct upon Oporto with 25,000 men, leaving 12,000 in
hospital, and 8,000 to keep up the line of communication with Ney. It took
some time to complete all the arrangements and to gather the force at St.
Jago Compostella, and it was not until the first of February that he was
able to move.
On the day of his arrival on the frontier, Romana despatched Terence to
Sir John Cradock, who now commanded the British troops in Portugal, which
had been augmented by fresh arrivals from England until their numbers
almost equalled that of the force with which Sir John Moore marched into
Romana asked that arms and money should be sent to him, promising to
harass the French advance, and cut their communications from the rear.
Terence gladly consented to carry his despatch; he was furnished with one
of the best horses in the troop, and at once started on his journey. It
was a long and harassing one; many ranges of mountains and hills had to be
crossed, by roads difficult in the extreme at the best of times, but
almost impassable in winter. Three times he was seized by parties of
Portuguese militia and raw levies, but was released on convincing their
leaders that he was the bearer of a communication to the English general.
The distance to be travelled was, in a direct line, over two hundred and
thirty miles. This was greatly increased by the circuitous nature of the
route through the mountainous country, so that it took nine days, and
would have much exceeded this time, had Terence not found a British force
at Coimbra, and there exchanged his worn-out animal for a fresh one,
placed at his disposal by the officer in command.
Cradock was experiencing exactly the same difficulties that Moore had
done. The Spanish and Portuguese authorities united in pressing him to
advance, the former urging upon him that his presence would be the signal
for the Spanish armies in the south to unite and entirely overthrow the
French, while the latter were desirous that he should march to
Ciudad-Rodrigo, defeat the French at Salamanca, and so protect Portugal
from invasion from that side.
That Portugal might be attacked from the north and south simultaneously by
Soult and Victor did not enter into their calculations, but while urging
an advance, the Junta would take no steps whatever to enable the army to
move; they would neither afford him facilities for collecting transport,
nor order the roads that he would have to traverse to be put in order, and
thwarted all his efforts to raise a strong force among the Portuguese.
There was, indeed, some improvement in the latter respect. At their own
request, Lord Beresford had been sent out from England to take the command
of the Portuguese armies, and as he had brought many British officers with
him, some 20,000 men had been armed and drilled, and could be reckoned
upon to do some service, if employed with British troops to give them
backbone. The Portuguese peasantry were strong and robust, and by nature
courageous, and needed only the discipline--that they could not receive
from their own officers--to turn them into valuable troops. According to
the law of the country every man was liable for service, and had the
corrupt Junta been dismissed, and full power been given to the British, an
army of 250,000 men might have been placed in the field for the defence of
the country, with a proper supply of arms and money.
But so far from assisting, the Junta threw every possible impediment in
the way. They feared that any real national effort, if successful, would
get altogether beyond their control, and that they would lose the power
that enabled them to enrich themselves at the expense of the people. Not
only that, but they were engaged in a struggle for supremacy with the
Junta of Oporto, which was striving by every means to render itself the
supreme authority of the whole of Portugal.
Terence had hoped that when he arrived at Lisbon he should meet the army
he had left at Corunna, for Sir John Moore's instructions had been precise
that the fleet was to go thither. These instructions, however, had been
disobeyed, and the fleet had sailed direct for England. It had on the way
encountered a great storm, which had scattered it in all directions.
Several of the ships were wrecked on the coast of England, and the army
which would have been of inestimable service at Lisbon, now served only,
by the tattered garments and emaciated frames of the soldiers, to excite a
burst of misplaced indignation against the memory of the general whose
genius had saved it from destruction.
On arriving at head-quarters and stating his errand, Terence was at once
admitted to the room where Sir John Cradock was at work.
"I am told, sir, that you are the bearer of a despatch from the Spanish
general, Romana. Before I open it, will you explain how it was that you
came to be with him?"
Terence gave a brief account of the manner in which, after being left
behind on the field of Corunna, he had succeeded in joining Romana.
The general's face, which had at first been severe, softened as he
"That is altogether satisfactory, Mr. O'Connor," he said. "I feared that
you might have been one of the stragglers, among whom I hear were many
officers, as well as thousands of men belonging to Sir John Moore's army.
We received news of his glorious fight at Corunna and the embarkation of
his army, by a ship that arrived here but three days since from that port.
Have you heard of the death of that noble soldier himself?"
"No, sir," Terence replied, much shocked at the news. "That is a terrible
loss, indeed. He was greatly loved by the army. He saw into every matter
himself, was with the rearguard all through the retreat, and laboured
night and day to maintain order and discipline, and it was assuredly no
fault of his if he failed."
"Was your own regiment in the rear-guard?"
"Yes, sir. It had the honour of being specially chosen by Sir John Moore
for its steadiness and good conduct. I was not with it, but was one of
Brigadier-general Fane's aides-de-camp. It was while carrying a message to
him that my horse was killed and I myself stunned by being thrown onto a
heap of stones."
Sir John Cradock nodded, and then opened Romana's despatch. He raised his
eyebrows slightly. He had been accustomed to such appeals for arms and
money, and knew how valueless were the promises that accompanied them.
"What force has General Romana with him?"
"Some two hundred cavalry and three or four thousand peasants, about a
quarter of whom only are armed."
"He says that he expects to be joined by twenty thousand men in a few
days. Have you any means of judging whether this statement is well
"That I cannot say. General Romana seems to me to be a man of greater
energy than any Spaniard I have hitherto met, and I know that he has
already sent messages to the priests throughout that part of Galicia
urging upon them the necessity of using their influence among the
peasantry. He got a force together in a very short time, after the
complete defeat and capture of his own command by the French, at the time
of Blake's defeat, and I think that he might do so again, though whether
they would be of any use whatever in the field I cannot say; but should
Soult advance into Portugal, I should think that bands of this sort might
very much harass him."
"No doubt they might do so. I will see, at any rate, if I can obtain some
money from the political agents. I have next to nothing in my military
chest, and our forces are at a standstill for the want of it. But that
does not seem to matter. While our troops are ill-fed, ragged, almost
shoeless, and unpaid, every Spanish or Portuguese rascal who holds out his
hand can get it filled with gold. As to arms, they are in the first place
wanted for the purpose of the Portuguese militia, who are likely to be a
good deal more useful than these irregular bands; and in the second place,
there are no means whatever of conveying even a hundred muskets, let alone
the ten thousand that Romana is good enough to ask for. By the way, are
you aware whether Sir John Moore intended the army to sail to England?"
"Certainly not, sir. I know that up to the moment the battle began the
preparation for the embarkation went on unceasingly, and General Fane told
me the night before that we were to be taken here. Whether Sir John may,
at the last moment, have countermanded that order I am unable to say."
"Yes, I know that it was his intention, for I received a letter from him,
written after his arrival at Corunna, saying that the embarkation could
not be effected without a battle, and that if he beat Soult he should at
once embark and bring the troops round here, as Ney's approaching force
would render Corunna untenable. Just at present the arrival of 20,000
tried troops would be invaluable. General Baird will, of course, have
succeeded Sir John Moore?"
"General Baird was severely wounded, sir. He had just ridden up to General
Fane when he was struck. General Hope would therefore be in command after
Sir John Moore was killed."
"I have heard no particulars of the battle," Sir John said, "beyond that
it has been fought and Soult has been driven back, that Sir John Moore is
killed, and that the army has embarked safely. And do I understand you
that it was towards the end of the battle that you were hurt?"
"It was getting dusk at the time, General, but I cannot say how long
fighting went on afterwards."
"Will you please to sit down at that table and give me, as nearly as you
can, a sketch of the position of our troops and those of the French, and
then explain to me, as far as you may have seen or know, the movements of
the corps and the course of events."
As Terence had, the evening before the battle, seen a sketch-map on which
General Fane had written the names and positions of the British force and
those of the French, he was able to draw one closely approximating to it.
In ten minutes he got up and handed the sketch to Sir John Cradock.
"I am afraid it is very rough, sir," he said, "but I think that it may
give you an idea of the position of the town and the neighbouring heights,
and the position occupied by our troops."
"Excellent, Mr. O'Connor!"
"I had the advantage of seeing a sketch-map that the brigadier drew out,
"Well, benefited from it. Now point out to me the various movements. It
seems to me that this large French battery must have galled the whole line
terribly; but, on the other hand, it is itself very exposed."
"General Fane said, sir, that he thought Soult was likely to be
over-confident. Our army was in frightful confusion on the retreat from
Lugo, and the number of stragglers was enormous. Although many came in
next day, the field-state showed that over 2,000 were still absent from
the colours. The brigadier was observing that there was one advantage in
this, namely, that Soult would suppose that the whole army was
disorganized, and might, therefore, take more liberties than he would
otherwise have done; and that, at any rate, he was likely to rely upon his
great force of cavalry on this plateau to cover the battery hill from any
attack on its left flank. It was for that purpose that General Paget
posted one of the regiments on this eminence on the right of the valley,
which had the effect of completely checking the French cavalry."
He then related the incidents of the battle as far as they had come under
"A very ably fought battle," Sir John Cradock said, as he followed on the
map Terence's account of the movements. "Soult evidently miscalculated Sir
John's strength and the fighting powers of his troops. He hurled his whole
force directly against the position, specially endeavouring to turn our
right, but the force he employed there was altogether insufficient for the
purpose. From his position I gather that he could not have known of the
existence of Paget's reserve up the valley, but he must have seen Fraser's
division on the hill above Coranto. I suppose he reckoned that this
turning movement would shake the British position, throw them into
confusion, and enable his direct attack to be successful before Fraser
could come to their support. I am much obliged to you for your
description, Mr. O'Connor; it is very clear and lucid. I will write a
note, which you shall take to Mr. Villiers, and it is possible that you
may get help from him for Romana. I shall be glad if you will dine with me
here at six o'clock."
"I am much obliged to you, General, but I have nothing but the uniform in
which I stand, which is, as you see, almost in rags, and stained with mire
"I think it is probable that you will have no difficulty in buying a fresh
uniform in the city; so many officers have come out here with exaggerated
ideas of the amount of transport, that they have had to cut down their
wardrobes to a very large extent."
He touched the bell. "Will you ask Captain Nelson to step in," he said to
the clerk who answered. "Captain Nelson," he said, as one of his staff
entered, "I want you to take Mr. O'Connor under your charge. He has just
arrived from the north, and was present at the battle of Corunna. He was
on Brigadier Fane's staff. As at present he is unattached, I shall put him
down in orders to-morrow as an extra aide-de-camp on my staff. He will be
leaving to-morrow for the northern frontier. I wish you to see if you
cannot get him an undress uniform. He belongs to the infantry. I will give
you an order on the paymaster, Mr. O'Connor, to honour your draft for any
amount that you may need. I dare say you are in arrears of pay."
"Yes, Sir John. I have drawn nothing since we marched from Torres Vedras
A DANGEROUS MISSION
Captain Nelson at once took Terence under his charge.
"You certainly look as if you wanted a new uniform," he said. "You must
have had an awfully rough time of it. If only for the sake of policy, we
ought to get you into a new one as soon as possible, for the very sight of
yours would be likely to demoralize the whole division by affording a
painful example of what they might expect on a campaign."
Terence laughed. "I know I look a perfect scarecrow. Do you think that you
can find me something? I really don't know what I should have done if I
had not had my greatcoat, for I could never have ventured to walk through
the street from the little inn where I put up my horse, if I could not
have hidden myself in it."
"I can, fortunately, put you in the right way without difficulty. There is
a man here who has made a business of buying up uniforms. I believe he
sends most of them to England, where they would certainly fetch a good
deal more than he gave for them; but I know that he keeps a stock by him,
for there is a constant demand. The work out in the country here does for
a uniform in no time, and many men who, before marching for the frontier,
parted with all their extra kit for a song, are glad enough to write to
him for a fresh outfit at three times the price he gave them two or three
"I wonder they don't send their surplus outfit back to England direct,"
"Well, you see, there is the risk of the things being lost or stolen on
the way home, or being ruined by damp before they are wanted again.
Besides, a man thinks there is no saying whether he shall ever want them
again, or how long the war will last, and is glad to take anything he can
get to save himself any further bother about them."
Terence was fortunate in being able to buy an undress uniform, with
facings similar to those of his own regiment, and to lay in a stock of
underclothes at a very much lower price than he could have purchased them
for even at home. Before leaving the shop he put on his new uniform and
left the old one to be thrown away.
"Now," Captain Nelson said, when they left the shop, "it is just our lunch
time. You must come with me and tell us all about your wonderful march and
the fight at the end of it."
"I was going down to see about my horse."
"Oh, that is all right! I sent down an orderly to bring him up to our
stables. There, this is where we mess," he said, stopping before a hotel.
"We find it much more comfortable than having it in a room at
head-quarters. Besides, one gets away from duty here. Of course, the chief
knows where we are, and can send for us if we are wanted; but one gets off
being set to do a lot of office work in the evening, and we find ourselves
much more free and comfortable when we haven't got two or three of the
big-wigs of the staff. So they have a little mess of their own there, and
we have a room kept for ourselves here."
There were more than a dozen officers assembled when the two entered the
room, where a meal was laid; for Captain Nelson had looked into the hotel
for a moment on their way to the tailor's, to tell his companions who
Terence was, and to say that he should bring him in to lunch. They had
told some of their acquaintances. Terence was introduced all round, and as
soon as the first course was taken off the table he was asked many
questions as to the march and battle; and by the time when, an hour later,
the party broke up, they had learned the leading incidents of the
"You may guess how anxious we were here," one of them said, "when Moore's
last despatch from Salamanca arrived, saying that he intended to advance,
and stating his reasons. Then there was a long silence; all sorts of
rumours reached us. Some said that, aided by a great Spanish army, he had
overthrown Napoleon, and had entered Madrid; others, again, stated that
his army had been crushed, and he, with the survivors, were prisoners, and
were on their way to the frontier--in fact, we had no certain news until
three days ago, when we heard of the battle, his death, and the
embarkation of the army, and its sailing for England. The last was a
"Only a temporary one, I should think," Captain Nelson said. "From Mr.
O'Connor's account of the state of the army, I should think that it is
just as well that they should have gone home to obtain an entirely new
rig-out; there would be no means of fitting them out here. A fortnight
ought to be enough to set them up in all respects, and as we certainly
shall not be able to march for another month--"
"For another three months, you mean, Nelson."
"Well, perhaps for another three months, the delay will not matter
"It won't matter at all, if the French oblige us by keeping perfectly
quiet, but if Soult menaces Portugal with invasion from the north, Lapisse
from the centre, and Victor from the south, we may have to defend
ourselves here in Lisbon before six weeks are out."
"Personally, I should not be sorry," another said, "if Soult does invade
the north and captures Oporto, hangs the bishop, and all the Junta. It
would be worth ten thousand men to us, for they are continually at
mischief. They do nothing themselves, and thwart all our efforts. They are
worse than the Junta here--if that is possible--and they have excited the
peasants so much against us that they desert in thousands as fast as they
are collected, while the population here hate us, I believe, quite as much
as they hate the French. But why they should do so Heaven knows, when we
have spent more money in Portugal than the whole country contained before
we came here."
After the party had broken up, Captain Nelson took Terence to Mr.
Villiers, who, on reading the general's letter and hearing from Terence
how Romana was situated, at once said that he would hand over to him
20,000 dollars to take to the Spanish general.
"How am I to carry it, sir? It will be of considerable weight, if it is in
"I will obtain for you four good mules," Mr. Villiers said, "and an escort
of twelve Portuguese cavalry under an officer."
"May I ask, sir, that the money shall be packed in ammunition-boxes, and
that no one except the officer shall know that these contain anything but
"You have no great faith in Portuguese honesty, Mr. O'Connor."
"As to their honesty as a general thing, sir, I express no opinion,"
Terence said, bluntly; "as to the honesty of their political partisans, I
have not a shadow of belief. Moreover, there is no love lost between them
and the Spaniards, and though possibly money for any of the Portuguese
leaders might be allowed to pass untouched by others--and even of this I
have great doubt--I feel convinced that none of them would allow it to go
out of the country for the use of the Spaniards if they could lay hold of
it by the way."
"Those being your sentiments, sir, I think that it is a pity the duty is
not intrusted to some officer of broader views."
"I doubt whether you would find one, sir; especially if he has, like
myself, been three or four months in the country. I have simply accepted
the duty, and not sought it, and should gladly be relieved of it. General
Romana sent me here with a despatch, and it is my duty, unless General
Cradock chooses another messenger, to carry back the reply, and anything
else with which I may be intrusted. I have for the past three months been
incessantly engaged on arduous and fatiguing duty. I have ridden for the
last nine days by some of the worst roads to be found in any part of the
world, I should say, and have before me the same journey. Besides, if I
receive the general's orders to that effect, I may have to stay with the
Spanish general, and in that case shall, I am sure, be constantly upon the
move, and that among wild mountains. If this treasure is handed over to me
I shall certainly do my best to take it safely and to defend it, if
necessary, with my life; but it is assuredly a duty of which I would
gladly be relieved. But that, sir, it seems to me, is a question solely
for the commander-in-chief."
Mr. Villiers gazed in angry surprise at the young ensign; then thinking,
perhaps, that he would put himself in the wrong, and as his interferences
in military matters with Sir John Cradock had not met with the success he
desired for them, he checked the words that rose to his lips, and said,
shortly: "The convoy will be ready to start from the treasury at daybreak
"I shall be there--if so commanded by General Cradock."
As soon as they had left the house Captain Nelson burst into shout of
"What is it?" Terence asked, in surprise.
"I would not have missed that for twenty pounds, O'Connor; it is the first
bit of real amusement I have had since I landed. To see Villiers--who
regards himself as the greatest man in the country, who not only thinks
that he regulates every political intrigue in Spain and Portugal, but
assumes to give the direction of every military movement also, and tries
to dictate to the general on purely military matters--quietly cheeked by
an ensign, is the best thing I ever saw."
"But he has nothing to do with military matters, has he?"
"No more than that mule-driver there, but he thinks he has; and yet, even
in his own political line, he is the most ill-informed and gullible of
fools, even among the mass of incompetent agents who have done their
utmost to ruin every plan that has been formed. I doubt whether he has
ever been correct in a single statement that he has made, and am quite
sure that every prophecy he has ventured upon has been falsified, every
negotiation he has entered into has failed, and every report sent home to
government is useful only if it is assumed to be wrong in every
particular; and yet the man is so puffed up with pride and arrogance that
he is well-nigh insupportable. The Spaniards have fooled him to the top of
his bent; it has paid them to do so. Through his representations the
ministry at home have distributed millions among them. Arms enough have
been sent to furnish nearly every able-bodied man in Spain, and harm
rather than good has come of it. Still, he is a very great man, and our
generals are obliged to treat him with the greatest civility, and to
pretend to give grave consideration to the plans that, if they emanated
from any other man, would be considered as proofs that he was only fit for
a mad-house. And to see you looking calmly in his face and announcing your
views of the Spanish and Portuguese was delightful." And Captain Nelson
again burst into laughter at the recollection.
Terence joined in the laugh. "I had no intention of offending him," he
said. "Of course I have often heard how he was pressing General Moore to
march into Spain, and promising that he should be met by immense armies
that were eager and ready to drive the French out of that country, and
were only waiting for his coming to set about doing so. I know that the
brigadier and his staff used to talk about what they called Villiers'
phantom armies, but as I only said what everyone says who has been in
Spain, it never struck me that I was likely to give him serious offence."
"And if you had thought so, I don't suppose it would have made any
"I don't suppose it would," Terence admitted; "and perhaps it will do him
good to hear a straightforward opinion for once."
"It will certainly do him no harm. Now, you had better tell the chief that
you are to have the money. I should think that he will probably send a
trooper with you as your orderly. Certainly, he has no reason to have a
higher opinion of the Portuguese than you have."
"I will go back with you, Captain Nelson; but as you were present, will
you kindly tell the general? I don't like bothering him."
"Certainly, if you wish it."
On arriving at head-quarters Terence sat down in the anteroom and took up
an English paper, as he had heard no home news for the last three months.
Presently Captain Nelson came out from the general's room and beckoned to
him. He followed him in. Four or five officers of rank were with the
general, and all were looking greatly amused when he entered.
"So you have succeeded in obtaining money for Romana," the general said.
"Yes, sir, there was no difficulty about it. Mr. Villiers asked me a few
questions as to the situation on the frontier, and at once said that I
should have L5,000 to take him."
"Captain Nelson tells us that you were unwise enough to express an opinion
as to the honesty of the Portuguese escort that he proposed to send with
"I said what I thought, General, and had no idea that Mr. Villiers would
take it as an offence, as he seemed to."
"Well, he has his own notions on these things, you see," he general said,
dryly, "and they do not exactly coincide with our experience; but then Mr.
Villiers claims to understand these people more thoroughly than we can
Terence was silent for a moment. "I only went by what I have seen, you
know," he said, after a pause, "and certainly had no intention of angering
Mr. Villiers. But it seemed to me that, as I was responsible for taking
this money to Romana, it was my duty to suggest a precaution that appeared
to me necessary."
"Quite right, quite right; and it is just as well, perhaps, that Mr.
Villiers should occasionally hear the opinions of officers of the army
frankly expressed. Certainly, I think that the precaution you suggested
was a wise one, and if Mr. Villiers does not do so, I will see that it is
"I have asked Captain Nelson to go with you, taking the treasure, to the
barracks and see that the money is taken out of the cases and repacked in
ammunition-boxes. It would be unwise in the extreme to tempt the cupidity
of any wandering parties that you might fall in with by the sight of
treasure-cases. Your suggestion quite justifies the opinion that I had
formed of you from the brief narrative that you gave me of the battle of
Corunna. For the present, gentlemen, I have appointed Mr. O'Connor as an
extra aide-de-camp on my staff. He served in that capacity with
Brigadier-general Fane from the time that the troops marched from here,
which is in itself a guarantee that he must, in the opinion of that
general, be thoroughly fit for the work.
"I think, Mr. O'Connor, that, going as you will as an officer on my staff,
it is best that you should be accompanied by a couple of troopers, and I
have just spoken to Colonel Gibbons, who will detach two of his best men
for that service. In addition to your being in charge of the treasure, you
will also carry a despatch from myself to General Romana, with suggestions
as to his co-operation in harassing the advance of the French. I will not
detain you further now. Don't forget the dinner hour."
A large party sat down to table. There were the officers Terence had seen
there in the afternoon, and several colonels and heads of departments of
the army, and Terence, although not shy by nature, felt a good deal
embarrassed when, as soon as the meal was concluded, several maps were, by
the general's orders, placed upon the table, and he was asked to give as
full an account as he was able of the events that had happened from the
time General Moore marched with his army from Salamanca, and so cut
himself off from all communication.
It was well that Terence had paid great attention to the conversations
between General Fane and the officers of the brigade staff, had studied
the maps, and had made himself, as far as he could, master of the details
of the movements of the various divisions, and had gathered from Fane's
remarks fair knowledge of General Moore's objects and intentions.
Therefore, when he had overcome his first embarrassment, he was able to
give a clear and lucid account of the campaign, and of the difficulties
that Moore had encountered and overcome in the course of his retreat. The
officers followed his account upon the maps, asked occasional questions,
and showed great interest in his description of the battle.
When he had done, Sir John Cradock said: "I am sure, gentlemen, that you
all agree with me that Mr. O'Connor has given us a singularly clear and
lucid account of the operations of the army, and that it is most
creditable that so young an officer should have posted himself up so
thoroughly, not only in the details of the work of his own brigade, but in
the general plans of the campaign and the movements of the various
divisions of the army."
There were also hearty compliments from all the officers as they rose from
"I doubt, indeed, Sir John," one of them said, "whether we should ever
have got so clear an account as that he has given from the official
despatches. I own that I, for one, have never fully understood what seemed
a hopeless incursion into the enemy's country, and I cannot too much
admire the daring of its conception. As to the success which has attended
it, there can be no doubt, for it completely paralysed the march of the
French armies, and has given ample time to the southern provinces of Spain
to place themselves in a position of defence. If they have not taken
advantage of the breathing time so given them, it is their fault, and in
no way detracts from the chivalrous enterprise of Moore."
"No, indeed," Sir John agreed; "the conception was truly an heroic one,
and one that required no less self-sacrifice than daring. There are few
generals who would venture on an advance when certain that it must be
followed by a retreat, and that at best he could but hope to escape from a
terrible disaster. It is true that he gained a victory which, under the
circumstances, was a most glorious one, but this was the effect of
accident rather than design. Had the fleet been in Corunna when he
arrived, he would have embarked at once, and in that case he would have
been attacked with ferocity by politicians at home, and would have been
accused of sacrificing a portion of his army on an enterprise that
everyone could have seen was ordained to be a failure before it
"Did you know General Fane personally before you were appointed to his
"No, General; he commanded the brigade of which my regiment formed part,
and of course I knew him by sight, but I had never had the honour of
exchanging a word with him."
"Then, may I ask why you were appointed to his staff, Mr. O'Connor?"
Terence hesitated. There was nothing he disliked more than talking of what
he himself had done. "It was a sort of accident, General."
"How an accident, Mr. O'Connor? Your conduct must have attracted his
attention in some way."
"It was an accident, sir," Terence said, reluctantly, "that General Fane
happened to be on board Sir Arthur Wellesley's ship at Vigo when my
colonel went there to make a report of some circumstances that occurred on
"Well, what were these circumstances?" the general asked. "You have shown
us that you have the details of a campaign at your finger ends, surely you
must be able to tell what those circumstances were that so interested
General Fane that he selected you to fill a vacancy on his staff."
Terence felt that there was no escape, and related as briefly as he could
the account of the engagement with the two privateers, and of their narrow
escape from being captured by a French frigate.
"That is a capital account, Mr. O'Connor," Sir John Cradock said, smiling,
as he brought it to a conclusion. "But, so far, I fail to see your
particular share in the matter."
"My share was very small, sir."
"I think I can fill up the facts that Mr. O'Connor's modesty has prevented
him from stating," one of the officers said.
"It happened that before we sailed from Ireland six weeks ago, an officer
of the Mayo Fusiliers, who had been invalided home in consequence of a
wound, dined at our mess, and he told the story very much as Mr. O'Connor
has told it, but he added the details that Mr. O'Connor has omitted.
Restated that really the escape of the wing of the regiment was entirely
due to an ensign who had recently joined--a son of one of the captains of
the regiment. He said that, in the first place, when the cannon were found
to be so honeycombed with rust that it would have been madness to attempt
to fire them, this young officer suggested that they should be bound round
with rope just like the handle of a cricket bat. This suggestion was
adopted, and they were therefore able to pour in the broadside that
crippled the lugger and brought her sails down, leaving her helpless under
the musketry fire of the troops. In the second place, when the ship was
being pounded by the other privateer without being able to make any reply,
and must shortly have either sunk or surrendered, this young officer
suggested to one of the captains that the lugger, lying helpless
alongside, should be boarded, and her guns turned on the brig, a
suggestion that led not only to the saving of the ship, but the capture of
the brig itself.
"Lastly, when the French frigate hove in sight, the troops were
transferred to the two prizes, and were about to make off, in which case
one of them would almost certainly have been captured. He suggested that
they should hoist French colours, and that both should be set to work to
transfer some of the stores from the ship to the privateers. This
suggestion was adopted, with the result that on the frigate approaching,
and seeing, as was supposed, two French privateers engaged in rifling a
prize, she continued on her way without troubling herself further about
them. Sir Arthur Wellesley issued a most laudatory notice of Mr.
O'Connor's conduct in general orders."
Most of those present remembered seeing the order, now that it was
mentioned, and the general, turning to Terence, who was colouring scarlet
with embarrassment and confusion, said, kindly:
"You see, we have got at it after all, Mr. O'Connor. I am glad that it
came from another source, for I do not suppose that we should have got all
the facts from you, even by cross-questioning. You may think, and I have
no doubt that you do think, that you received more credit than you
deserved for what you consider were merely ideas that struck you at the
moment; but such is not my opinion, nor that, I am sure, of the other
officers present. The story which we have just heard of you, and the
account that you have given of the campaign, afford great promise, I may
almost say a certainty, of your attaining, if you are spared, high
eminence in your profession.
"Your narrative showed that you are painstaking, accurate, and
intelligent. The facts that we have just heard prove you to be
exceptionally quick in conceiving ideas, cool in action, and able to think
of the right thing at the right time--all qualities that are requisite for
a great commander. I warmly congratulate you, that at the very
commencement of your career you should have had the opportunity afforded
you for showing that you possess these qualities, and of gaining the warm
approbation of men very much older than yourself, and all of wide
experience in their profession. I am sorry now that you are starting
to-morrow on what I cannot but consider a useless, as well as a somewhat
dangerous, undertaking. I should have been glad to have utilized your
services at once, and only hope that you will erelong rejoin us."
So saying, he rose. The hour was late, for Terence's description of the
campaign and battle had necessarily been a very long one, and the party at
once broke up, all the officers present shaking the lad warmly by the
"You are a lucky fellow, O'Connor," Captain Nelson said, as he accompanied
him to his room, in which a second bed had been set up for the young
ensign's accommodation. "You will certainly get on after this. There were
a dozen colonels and two generals of brigade among the party, and I fancy
that there is not one of them that will not bear you in mind and say a
good word for you, if opportunity occurs, and Sir John himself is sure to
push you on. I should say that not an officer of your rank in the army has
such good chances, and you look such a lad, too. You did not show it so
much when you first arrived; of course you were fagged and travel-stained
then, but now I should not take you for more than seventeen. Indeed, I
suppose you are not, as you only joined the service six months ago."
"No; I am not more than seventeen," Terence said, quietly, not thinking it
necessary to state that he wanted a good many months yet to that age, for
to do so would provoke questions as to how he obtained his commission
before he was sixteen. "But, you see, I have had a good many advantages. I
was brought up in barracks, and I suppose that sharpens one's wits a bit.
When I was quite a young boy I used to be a good deal with the junior
officers; of course, that made me older in my ideas than I should have
been if I had always associated with boys of my own age. Still, it has
been all luck, and though Sir John was kind enough to speak very warmly
about it, I really can't see that I have done anything out of the way."
"Luck comes to a good many fellows, O'Connor, but it is not every one who
has the quickness to make the most of the opportunity. You may say that
they are only ideas; but you see you had three valuable ideas, and none of
your brother officers had them, and you cannot deny that your brains
worked more quickly than those of the others.
"Well, we may as well turn in at once, as we have all got to be up before
daylight. I am very glad that Sir John has given you a couple of troopers.
It will make you feel a good deal more comfortable anyhow, even if you
don't get into any adventure where their aid may be of vital importance."
"It will indeed; alone I should have very little influence with the
Portuguese guard. These might be perfectly honest themselves, but they
might not be at all disposed to risk their lives by offering any
opposition to any band that might demand the ammunition they would believe
were in the cases. I was twice stopped by bands of scantily armed peasants
on my way down, and although they released me on seeing the letter that I
carried to the general, it was evident that they felt but little good-will
towards us, and had I had anything about me worth taking, my chance of
reaching Lisbon would have been small."
"The Junta of Oporto has spared no pains in spreading all sorts of
atrocious lies against us ever since the escort of the French prisoners
interfered to save them from the fury of the populace, though perhaps the
peasants in this part of the country still feel grateful to us for having
delivered them from the exactions of the French.
"In the north, where no French soldier has set foot, they have been taught
to regard us as enemies to be dreaded as much as the French. Up to the
present time all the orders for the raising of levies have been
disregarded north of the Douro, and though great quantities of arms have
been sent up to Oporto, I doubt whether a single musket has been
distributed by the Junta. That fellow Friere, the general of what they
call their army, is as bad as any of them. I hope that if Soult comes down
through the passes he will teach the fellow and his patrons a wholesome
"And do you think that the troops here will march north to defend Oporto?"
"I should hardly think that there is a chance of it. Were our force to do
so, Lisbon would be at the mercy of Victor and of the army corps at
Salamanca. Cuesta is, what he calls, watching Victor. He is one of the
most obstinate and pigheaded of all the generals. Victor will crush him
without difficulty, and could be at Lisbon long before we could get back
from Oporto. No, Lisbon is the key of the situation; there are very strong
positions on the range of hills between the river and the sea at Torres
Vedras, which could be held against greatly superior forces. The town
itself is protected by strong forts, which have been greatly strengthened
since we came. The men-of-war can come up to the town, aid in its defence,
and bring reinforcements; and provisions can be landed at all times.
"The loss of Lisbon would be a death-blow to Portuguese independence, and
you may be sure that the ministry at home would eagerly seize the
opportunity of abandoning the struggle here altogether. Do you know that
at the present moment, while urging Sir John Cradock to take the offensive
with only 15,000 men against the whole army of France in the Peninsula,
they have had the folly to send a splendid expedition of from thirty to
forty thousand good troops to Holland, where they will be powerless to do
any good, while their presence here would be simply invaluable. Well, we
will not enter upon that subject to-night; the folly and the incapacity of
Mr. Canning and his crew is a subject that, once begun, would keep one
talking until morning."
AN AWKWARD POSITION
When Captain Nelson and Terence went out, just as the morning was
breaking, they found the two troopers waiting in the street. Each held a
spare horse; the one was that upon which Terence had ridden from Coimbra,
the other was a fine English horse.
"What horse is this?" Terence asked.
"It is a present to you from Sir John Cradock," Captain Nelson said. "He
told me last night that the troopers had been ordered to ask for it when
they took your horse this morning, and that his men were ordered to hand
it over to them. He wished me to tell you that he had pleasure in
presenting the horse to you as a mark of his great satisfaction at the
manner in which you had mastered the military details of Sir John Moore's
expedition, and the clearness with which you had explained them."
"I am indeed greatly obliged to the general; it is most kind of him,"
Terence said. "Will you please express my thanks to him in a proper way,
They rode to the Treasury, where they found the Portuguese escort, with
the mules, waiting them. The officer in charge of the Treasury was already
there, and admitted the two officers.
"I have packed the money in ammunition-boxes," he said. "I received
instructions from Mr. Villiers to do so."
"It is evident that your words had some effect, Mr. O'Connor," Captain
Nelson said aside to Terence. "I suppose that when he thought it over he
came to the conclusion that, after all, your suggestions, were prudent
ones, and that it would add to the chance of the money reaching Romana
were he to adopt it."
"I am glad that he did so, for had the money been placed in the ordinary
chests and then brought to the barracks to be packed in ammunition-cases,
the Portuguese troopers would all have been sure of the nature of the
contents; whereas now, whatever they may suspect, they cannot be sure
about it, because there is a large amount of ammunition stored in the same
Some of the guard stationed in the Treasury carried the chests out, and
assisted the muleteers to lash them in their places.
[Illustration: TERENCE RECEIVES A PRESENT OF A HORSE FROM SIR JOHN
"I cannot thank you too warmly, Captain Nelson, for the kindness that you
have shown me," Terence said.
"Not at all," that officer replied; "I simply carried out the general's
orders, and the duty has been a very pleasant one. No, I don't think I
would mount that horse if I were you," he went on, as Terence walked
towards his acquisition. "I would have him led as far as Coimbra, while
you ride the horse you borrowed there, then he will be fresh for the
"That would be the best way, no doubt, though our stages must all be
comparatively short ones, owing to our having mules with us."
"I should not press them if I were you. I don't suppose that it will make
much difference whether Romana gets the money a few days sooner or later."
"None whatever, I should say," Terence laughed, as he mounted his horse.
"Still, I do think that he will be able to gather a mob of peasants. Of
course, being almost without arms, they will be of no use whatever for
fighting, but still they may harass Soult's communications, cut off
stragglers, and compel him to move slowly and cautiously."
Terence now saluted the Portuguese officer, who said, as he returned the
"My name, senor, is Juan Herrara."
"And mine is Terence O'Connor, senor. Our journey will be a somewhat long
one together, and I hope that we shall meet with no adventures or
accidents by the way."
"I hope not, senor. My instructions are simple; I am to place myself under
your orders, and to convey eight cases of ammunition to the northern
frontier, and to follow the routes that you may point out. I was ordered
also to pick the men who are to form the escort. I have done so, and I
think I can answer that they can be relied upon to do their duty under all
Terence now turned, and with a hearty farewell to Captain Nelson, rode on
by the side of Lieutenant Herrara. The two British troopers followed them,
the four mules with their two muleteers kept close behind, and the twelve
Portuguese troopers brought up the rear.
"It is a strong escort for four mules carrying ammunition," the Portuguese
officer said, with a smile.
"It may seem so," Terence laughed, "but you see the country, especially
north of the Douro, is greatly disturbed."
"Very much so, and I think that the precaution that has been taken is a
very wise one. I have been informed what is really in the cases. Were I
going by myself with a sergeant and twelve men, I should say that to put
the money in ammunition-cases was not only absolutely useless but
dangerous, the disproportion between the force and the value of the
ammunition would be so great that it would attract attention at once, but
as you are with us it is more likely to pass without observation. You are
an officer on the staff of the English general. You have your own two
orderlies, and, as you are carrying despatches, it is considered necessary
that you should have an escort of our people. The cases in that event
would seem to be of little importance, but to be simply travelling with us
to have the advantage of the protection of our escort."
"You are quite right, Senior Herrara, and it would have been vastly better
had the money been stowed in sacks filled up with grain; then they could
follow a short distance behind us, and it would seem that they were simply
carrying forage for our use on the road."
"That would have been very much better, senior. You might have it done at
"The money is in bags, each containing two hundred dollars. There will be
no trouble in transferring them to sacks filled with plenty of forage. Two
of your soldiers have behind them a bundle or two of faggots, a basket of
fowls, and other matters; these can be piled on the top of the sacks, so
that the fact that the principal load was forage would hardly be noticed.
You might mention to the muleteers that I thought that it would be a
considerable saving of weight if we used sacks instead of those heavy
cases, and that the ammunition would travel just as well in the one as the
other. We must arrange so that the muleteers do not suspect anything."
"As a rule," Herrara said, "they are very trustworthy. There is scarcely a
case known in which they have stolen goods intrusted to them, however
valuable; but it would be easy to place a few packets of ammunition in the
mouth of each sack, and call them in to cord them up firmly. The sight of
the ammunition would go far to lessen any suspicions they might have."
They reached Torres Vedras that night. Terence spoke to the officer in
command there, and was furnished with the sacks he required, and enough
forage to fill them. The boxes were put into a room in the barracks, and
here Terence, with his two orderlies, opened the cases and transferred the
bags of money to the centre of the sacks. Two or three dozen packets of
ammunition were obtained, and a few put into the mouths of the sacks.
These were left open, and the room locked up, two of the Portuguese
soldiers being placed on guard before it. Terence and Lieutenant Herrara
were invited to dine at mess and had quarters assigned to them, and
Terence, after dinner, again, but much more briefly than before, gave the
officers at the station a sketch of the retreat and battle.
The next morning the muleteers were called in to fasten up the sacks. At
the suggestion of the officer in command, a tent was also taken.
"You may want it badly before you are done," he said. "If I were you I
should always have it pitched, except when you are at a village, for you
can have the sacks in as beds, and so keep them under your eye; and if, as
you tell me, you are giving out that they contain ammunition, it would
seem but a natural step, as you are so able to keep it dry."
The mules looked more heavily laden than upon the preceding day, but they
were carrying no heavier burden, for the weight of the tent, its poles,
the basket of fowls, Terence's valise, and other articles, were
considerably less than those of the eight heavy cases that had been left
behind. The two officers now rode at the head of the detachment, and two
only of the Portuguese soldiers kept in rear of the mules, which now
followed at a distance of thirty or forty yards behind them. They stopped
that night at Rolica and the next at Leirya. This was a long march, and a
short one the next day brought them to Pombal, and the following afternoon
they arrived at Coimbra. Here they spent another pleasant evening with the
regiment stationed in the town.
"By the way, O'Connor," one of the officers said, after the dinner was
over and cigars lighted, "I suppose you don't happen to have any relations
"Well, I do happen to have some," Terence answered, in some surprise. "Why
do you ask?"
"Well, that is singular," the officer said; "I will tell you how it
happened. I was with the party that escorted the French prisoners down to
Oporto. Just as we had got into the town--it was before the row began, and
being early in the morning, there were very few people about--a head
appeared at a window on the second floor of a big convent standing on the
left side of the road. I remember the name was carved over the door-it was
the Convent of Santa Maria. I happened to catch sight of the nun, and she
at once dropped a little letter, which fell close to me. I picked it up
and stuck it into my glove, and thought no more about it for a time, for
the mob soon began to gather, to yell and threaten the prisoners, and my
hands were too full, till we had got them safely on board a ship, to think
any more of the matter. When I took off my glove the letter fell out. It
was simply addressed 'to an English officer.'
"'_I, an English girl, am detained here, a prisoner, principally because
my Spanish relations wish to seize my property. I have been made a nun by
force, though my father was a Protestant, and taught me his religion. I
pray you to endeavour to obtain my freedom. I am made most miserable here,
and am kept in solitary confinement. I have nothing to eat but bread and
water, because I will not sign a renunciation of my property. The Bishop
of Oporto has himself threatened me, and it is useless to appeal to him.
Nothing but an English army being stationed here can save me. Have pity
upon me, and aid me__.'
"It was signed '_Mary O'Connor__.' Of course no British troops have been
there since, but if we are sent there I had made up my mind to bring the
matter before the general, and ask him to interfere on the poor girl's
behalf; though I know that it would be an awkward matter. For if there is
one thing that the Portuguese are more touchy about than another, it is
any interference in religious matters, and the bishop, who is a most
intolerant rascal, would be the last man who would give way on such a
"I have not the least doubt in the world but that it is a cousin of mine,"
Terence said. "Her father went out to join a firm of wine merchants in
Oporto. I know that he married a very rich Portuguese heiress, and that
they had one daughter. My father told me that he gathered from his
cousin's letters that he and his wife did not get on very well together.
He died two years ago, and it is quite possible that the mother, who may
perhaps want to marry again, has shut the girl up in a convent to get rid
of her altogether, and to make her sign a document renouncing her right to
the property in favour of herself, or possibly, as the bishop seems to
have meddled in the affair, partly of the Church.
"I quite see that nothing can be done now, but if we do occupy Oporto,
some day, which is likely enough, I will speak to the general, and if he
says that it is a matter that he cannot entertain, I will see what I can
do to get her out."
"It is awkward work, O'Connor, fooling with a nunnery either here or in
Spain. The Portuguese are not so bigoted as the Spaniards across the
frontier, but there is not much difference, and if anyone is caught
meddling with a nunnery they would tear him to pieces, especially in
Oporto, where men who are even suspected of hostility to the bishop are
murdered every day."
"I don't want to run the risk of being torn to pieces, certainly, but
after what you have told me of her letter, I will not let my little cousin
be imprisoned all her life in a nunnery, and robbed of her property,
without making some strong effort to save her."
"I will give you the letter presently, O'Connor; I have it in a
pocket-book at my quarters. By the by, how old is your cousin?"
"About my own age, or a little younger."
The subject of the conversation was then changed, and half an hour later
the officer left the room and returned with the letter.
"At any rate," he said, "if we do go to Oporto you will have more
opportunity for getting the general to move than I should."
Terence had handed over the horse he had borrowed, with many thanks for
its use, and received his own again, which was in good condition after its
rest of seven or eight days. It was by no means a valuable animal, but he
thought it as well to take it on with him in case any of the other horses
should meet with an accident or break down during the journey through the
Coimbra was the last British station through which they would pass, and
the real difficulties of the journey would now begin. Terence had, before
starting, received a sum of money for the maintenance of himself and his
escort upon the way, and he had done all in his power to see that the
troopers were comfortable at their various halting-places.
The journey as far as the Douro passed without any adventure. They
encountered on the road several bands of peasants armed with pikes, clubs,
hoes, and a few guns. These were for the most part ordenancas or levies,
called out when a larger force than the regular troops and militia was
required. They were on their way to join the forces assembling under the
edicts, and beyond pausing to stare at the British officer with the two
dragoons behind him and an escort of their own troops, they paid no
attention to the party.
They crossed the Douro at St. Joa de Pesquiera, and on stopping at a large
village some ten miles beyond, found it occupied by a rabble of some two
thousand men, absolutely useless for service in the field, but capable of
offering an obstinate defence to the passage of a river, or of impeding an
enemy's advance through a mountain defile. As they stopped before the
principal inn a man, dressed in some attempt at a uniform, came out from a
"You are a British officer, sir?" he asked Terence, raising his broad hat
"I am an officer on the English general's staff, and am proceeding on a
mission from him to the northern frontier to ascertain the best means of
defence, and the route that the enemy are most likely to move by if they
attempt to invade Portugal from that direction."
"The French general would hardly venture to do that," the officer said,
disdainfully, "when there will be 50,000 Portuguese to bar his way."
"He may be in ignorance of the force that will gather to meet him,"
Terence said, gravely, and with difficulty restraining a smile at the
confident tone of this leader of an armed mob. "However, I have my orders
to carry out. Do you not think," he said, turning to Herrara, "that it
will be better for us to go on to the next hamlet, if there is one within
two or three miles. I fear there is little chance of obtaining any
accommodation for our men here."
"There is no need for that," the Portuguese colonel broke in. "There is a
large house at the end of the village that is at present vacant; the
proprietor, who was a disturber of the peace, and who belonged to the
French faction, was killed last week in the course of a disturbance
created by him. I, as Commissioner of the Junta here, had the house closed
up, but it is quite at your service."
As the march had already been a long one, Terence thought it best to
accept the offer. The colonel called a man, who presently brought a key,
and accompanied them to the house in question. It showed signs at once of
mob violence. The snow in the garden was trampled down, the windows
broken, and one of the lower ones smashed in as if an entry had been
effected here. The door was riddled with bullet holes. Upon this being
opened the destruction within was seen to be complete, rooms being strewn
with broken furniture and litter of all sorts.
"At any rate there is plenty of firewood," the lieutenant said, as he
ordered his men to clear out one of the rooms. "There has been dastardly
work here," he went on, as the man who had brought the key left the place.
"Yes, I have no doubt the proprietor, whoever he was, has been foully
murdered, and as likely as not by the orders of that fellow we met, who
says he is Commissioner of the Junta. I should not be surprised if we have
trouble with him before we have done. I should think, Herrara, you had
better send off a couple of men to get what they can in the way of
provisions and a skin of wine. This is a cheerless-looking place, and
these broken windows are not of much use for keeping out the cold. Bull,
you had better see if you can find something among all this rubbish to
hang up in front of the window, for in its present state it merely creates
The orderly went out, and returned with two torn curtains.
"There has been some bad work going on here, sir," he said. "There are
pools of blood in three of the rooms upstairs, and it is evident that
there has been a desperate struggle. One of the doors is broken in, and
there are several shot-holes through it."
"I am afraid there has been bad work. I suppose the man here was obnoxious
to somebody, so they murdered him. However, it is not our business."
Some of the horses were stabled in a large shed, the others in the lower
rooms of the house, the soldiers and muleteers taking possession of the
large kitchen, where they soon had a huge fire burning. The windows on
this side of the house were unbroken. The two orderlies soon fastened up
the curtains across the windows of the officers' room, and when the fire
was lighted it had a more cheerful aspect. The burdens of the mules were
brought into the room opposite, where there was a key in the door and bars
across the windows. Presently the soldiers returned with some meat, a
couple of fowls, bread, and some wine, together with a bunch of candles.
The fowls were soon plucked, cut in two, and grilled over the fire, and in
a quarter of an hour after the men's return the two officers sat down to
supper. The meal was just finished when there was a knock at the outer
door, and the soldier acting as sentry came in and said that Colonel
Cortingos desired to speak to them.
"I suppose that is the fellow we saw in the town," Terence said; "show him
The supposition was a correct one, for the man entered, accompanied by two
others. Terence had no doubt that this fellow was the author of the attack
upon the house, and the murderer of the proprietor and others. He did not
feel disposed to be exceptionally civil to him, but as he had a couple of
thousand men under his command and had certainly put the only available
place in the village at their disposal, he rose as he entered.
"These two gentlemen," the colonel began, "form, with myself, the
committee appointed by the Junta of Oporto to organize the national
resistance here and in the surrounding neighbourhood, to keep our eye upon
persons suspected of being favourable to the enemy, and to arrest and send
them to Oporto for trial. We are also enjoined to make close inquiries
into the business of all persons who may pass through here."
"I have already told you," Terence said, quietly, "that I am an officer on
the staff of the English general, and that I have a mission from him to
see what are the best means of defending the northern passes, and, I may
add, to enter into such arrangements as I may think proper with the
leaders of any bands who may be gathered for the purpose of defending
them. As I am acting under the direct orders of the general, I in no way
recognize the right of any local authority to interfere with me in any
"And I, Lieutenant Herrara, have been ordered by the colonel of my
regiment to command the escort of Portuguese cavalry told off to accompany
this British officer, and also feel myself free from any interference or
examination by civilians."
"I am a colonel!" Cortingos said, angrily.
"By whom appointed, if I may ask?"
"By the Junta of Oporto."
"I was not aware that they possessed the right of granting high
commissions," Herrara said, "although, of course, they can grant temporary
rank to those who command irregular forces. This British officer has
assured you as to the object of his journey, and unless that object has
had the approval of the military authorities at Lisbon he would not have
been furnished with an escort by them."
"I have only his word and yours as to that," Cortingos said, insolently.
"I am acting under the orders of the supreme authority of this province."
"You are doing your duty, no doubt," the lieutenant said, "in making these
inquiries. This officer has answered them, and I will answer any further
questions if I consider them to be reasonable."
"We wish, in the first place," Cortingos said, "to examine any official
passes you may have received."
"Our official passes are our uniforms," Herrara replied, haughtily.
"Uniforms have been useful for purposes of disguise before now," Cortingos
replied. "I again ask you to show me your authority."
"Here is an authority," Terence broke in. "Here is a despatch from General
Sir John Cradock to General Romana."
"Ah, ah, a Spaniard."
"A Spanish general, a marquis and grandee of Spain, who has been fighting
the French, and who is now with a portion of his army preparing to defend
the passes into Portugal."
Cortingos held out his hand for the paper, but Terence put it back again
into the breast-pocket of his uniform.
"No, sir," he said; "this communication is for the Marquis of Romana, and
for him only. No one else touches it so long as I am alive to defend it."
The colonel whispered to his two associates.
"We will let that pass for the present," he replied, and turning to
Terence again, said, "In the next place we wish to know the nature of the
contents of the sacks that are being carried by the mules that accompany
"They contain ammunition, and forage for our horses," Lieutenant Herrara
said. "You can, if you choose, question the muleteers, who fastened up the
sacks and had an opportunity of seeing the ammunition."
"In the name of the Junta I demand that ammunition!" Cortingos said, with
an air of authority. "It is monstrous that ammunition should be taken to
Spaniards, who have already shown that they are incapable of using it with
any effect, while here we have loyal men ready to die in their country's
defence, but altogether unprovided with ammunition."
"For that, sir, you must apply to your Junta. Since they give you orders,
let them give you ammunition; there is enough in Oporto to supply the
whole population, had they arms; and you may be assured that I and my men
will see that the convoy intrusted to our charge reaches its destination."
[Illustration: "IN THE NAME OF THE JUNTA, I DEMAND THAT AMMUNITION,"]
"I believe that there is not only ammunition, but money in those sacks,"
said Cortingos. "It would be an act of treachery to allow it to pass,
when, even if not taken to them directly, it might fall into the hands of
the French. It is needed here; my men lack shoes and clothes, and as you
say the object of your mission is to see to the defence of our frontier,
any money you may have cannot be better applied than to satisfy the
necessities of my soldiers. However, we do not wish to take steps that
might appear unfriendly. And, therefore, if you will allow us to inspect
the contents of those sacks, we will let you pass on if we find that they
contain no money--confiscating only the ammunition for the use of the
troops of the province."
"I refuse absolutely," Herrara said, "to allow anything confided to my
charge to be touched."
"That is your final decision," the man said, with a sneer.
"Final and absolute."
"I also shall do my duty;" and then, without another word, the colonel
with his two associates left the house.
"We shall have trouble with that fellow," Herrara said.
"So much the better," Terence replied. "We have evidence here that the
scoundrel is a murderer. No doubt he had some private enmity against the
owner of this establishment, and so denounced him to the Junta, and then
attacked the place, murdered him, and perhaps some of his servants, and
sacked the house. They won't find it so easy a job as it was last time;
all the windows are barred, and there are only three on this floor to
defend. The shutters of two of them are uninjured, so it is only the one
where they broke in before that they can attack, while our men at the
windows upstairs will make it hot for them as they approach. But I should
hardly think that the men he calls soldiers will venture to attack a party
of regular troops."
The lieutenant shrugged his shoulders.
"He will tell them some lies, probably assert that we are French agents in
disguise taking money to the French army. Indeed, there is neither order
nor discipline among these bands, and, roused to a pitch of fury, they
would murder their own leaders as readily as anyone else. The Junta acts
as if the province were altogether independent, and numbers of men of
position have been butchered on the pretence of their being adherents of
the French, when their sole crime was that they disapproved of the doings
of the bishop and his tools. You will see that the night will not pass off
without something happening. Of course, I shall be sorry to have to order
the men to fire. In the first place it would render it very difficult for
us to resume our journey; and in the second, if we succeed in getting out
alive, they will send a lying account of the affair to Lisbon, and there
will be all sorts of trouble. Still, of course, if they attack the house
we shall defend ourselves."
The two officers then made a tour of the house and carefully examined the
means of defence. The broken shutters were replaced in their position in
the window, and were backed with a pile of the fragments of furniture. The
horses were all brought in from the shed outside, the soldiers were warned
that the mob in the place were likely to attack them, and four of them
were placed as sentries at the upper windows; and, by the looks of the men
when the lieutenant made the communication to them, Terence saw that they
could be relied upon.
"I have no doubt that we shall be able to defend the place successfully,"
Terence said to the two British troopers; "but if the worst comes to the
worst we will all mount inside the house, throw open the door behind, and
then go right at them. But I hope that we shall avoid a fight, for if we
have one, it will be very difficult for us to make our way to the north,
or to get back across the Douro."
In an hour one of the sentries at the upper window brought news that a
large number of men were approaching. Terence at once gave some orders
that he and the lieutenant had agreed upon to the two soldiers, and four
of the Portuguese troopers, and then went up with the lieutenant to the
window over the door. He threw it open just as a crowd of men poured into
the garden in front.
"What is it?" he asked. "What do you want?"
"I demand entrance to this house in the name of the Junta of Oporto," a
voice which he recognized as that of Cortingos replied. "If that is
refused I shall denounce you as traitors to Portugal, and your blood will
be on your own heads."
"We respect the orders of the Junta," Herrara replied, "and are ready to
open the door as you demand; but I must first be assured that it is really
the committee appointed by the Junta that demand it."
Several of the men had torches, and these were brought forward, and they
saw the man and his two associates standing in front.
"Good, I will open the door," the lieutenant said, and he and Terence went
down. The bars were removed and the door thrown open, the two officers
walked a few paces outside, and then halted.
Followed closely by their armed followers, the three men approached,
confident in the strength of their following.
"Enter, gentlemen," Terence said. "I protest against this invasion, by
force, but I cannot oppose it."
The three men entered the door, the two officers standing aside and
allowing them to pass. The instant the three Portuguese had entered
Terence and the lieutenant threw themselves suddenly upon those following
them. Two or three rolled over with the suddenness of the assault, and the
rest recoiled a step or two. Before they could recover themselves Herrara
and Terence dashed through the door, which was slammed to and barred by
the two English troopers. Meanwhile, the three men had been seized by the
Portuguese troopers, their coats torn off them, and their hands tied
behind their backs, and then they were hurried upstairs.
Yells of fury filled the air outside, shots were fired at the windows, and
men began to beat the door and shutters with bludgeons and hatchets.
Suddenly a light appeared from a window above, and Cortingos and his two
friends were seen standing there. By the side of each stood a trooper,
holding a rope with a noose round the prisoners' necks. For a moment there
was a silence of stupefaction outside, followed by a yell of fury from the
mob. Herrara went to the window and shouted: "My friends." Again there was
a moment of silence, as each wanted to hear what he said. "My friends, at
the first shot that is fired, or the first blow that is struck at the
doors of this house, these three men will be hung out of the window. They
have deceived you grossly. I am an officer of the National Army, these
troopers are men of the 2d Portuguese Dragoons. We have been appointed by
the military authorities of Lisbon to escort this British officer, who is
on the staff of the British general, and whose commission is to make
arrangements with the Spanish general, Romana to harass the rear of the
French, and attack their convoys should they attempt to enter the northern
"These three scoundrels have deceived you, in order, as they hoped, to
obtain some money that they believed us to be escorting. As loyal
Portuguese, I warn you against attempting to aid the fellows in a deed
which would bring disgrace upon the national name, and would result in the
British general refusing to assist in the defence of your country. You are
brave men, but you see these three cowards are trembling like children. We
advise you to appoint fresh officers among yourselves, and to remain
faithful to your duty, which is to march when ordered to the defence of
the defiles. These three fellows we shall take with us, and will see that
they do not further deceive you. Already they have done harm enough by
goading you to theft, and to murder a man whose only fault was that he was
more patriotic than they are. Be assured that in no case would you be able
to carry this house. It is defended by sixteen well-armed men, and
hundreds of you would throw away your lives in the attempt. Therefore, I
advise you to go back to your quarters, and in the morning assemble and
choose your officers."
The crowd stood irresolute.
"Tell them to go, you cur," Herrara said to Cortingos, standing back from
the window and giving him a kick that almost sent him on his face. "Tell
them to disperse at once, if you don't want to be dangling from the end of
Cortingos stepped forward, and in a quavering voice told the men to
disperse to their quarters.
"We have made a mistake," he said. "I am now convinced that these officers
are what they appear to be. I beseech you do not cause trouble, and
disperse at once--quietly."
Hoots of derision and scorn rose from the peasants.
"I have a good mind to fire a shot before I go," one of the peasants
shouted, "just for the pleasure of seeing three such cowards hung."
Another yell of disgust and anger arose, and then the crowd melted away.
"Keep these three fellows at the window. Remove the ropes from their
necks, and take your place behind them; you will be relieved every hour.
If they move, bayonet them at once."
"We shall die of cold," one of the men whimpered.
"That would be a more honourable death than you are likely to meet,"
Terence said, scornfully. "I fancy if I don't hang you, those men in the
village will do so if they can lay hands on you."
"How about the sentries, sir?" the corporal of the escort asked Herrara as
they went downstairs. "They can all be removed except the one keeping
guard over these men--he is to be relieved every hour--and one inside the
door, he can be relieved every two hours."
The night passed quietly. Just as they were preparing to start next
morning, the soldier on guard over the prisoners shouted, "There is a
crowd of men coming!"
"Get your arms ready," Herrara said to the escort; "but I don't think
there will be any occasion to use them."
Terence went to the door. "Bull, do you and Macwitty keep close behind;
but whatever happens don't use your weapons, unless I order you to do so."
The crowd stopped at the gate, two of them only coming forward.
"We are ready to fight, sir," one said, addressing Terence, "but we have
no officers; none of us know anything about drill. We will follow you, if
you will command us, and you will find that we won't turn our backs to the
enemy. We know that English officers will fight."
"Wait a minute or two," Terence said, after a moment's hesitation, "I will
then give you my answer."
Herrara had followed him out and heard the offer.
"I don't know what to do, Herrara," Terence said, as he re-entered the
house. "My instructions are to join Romana, and to remain with him for a
time, sending word to Lisbon as to the state of things, and aiding him in
any way in my power. Here are between two and three thousand stout,
healthy fellows, evidently disposed to fight. If they were armed I would
not hesitate a moment, but I don't suppose that there are a hundred
muskets among them, and certainly Romana has none to give them. Still, in
the defiles we might give a good deal of trouble to the French by rolling
stones down, breaking up bridges, and that sort of thing."
"It would be good fun," Herrara laughed. "As for myself," he said, "I have
orders to return as soon as I have seen the treasure safely in Romana's
camp. If it hadn't been for that I should have liked nothing better,
though there would not have been much chance for cavalry work in these
"I will talk to them again," Terence said. "It is not often that one gets
the chance of an independent command. It is just the sort of work I should
He went out again. "I should like to command a number of brave fellows,"
he said, "but the question is about arms. There have been any quantity
sent out by England for your use; but instead of being served out, the
Juntas keep them all hidden up in magazines. Even now, when the French are
going to invade your country, they still keep them locked up, and send you
out with only pikes and staves to fight against a well-armed army. It is
nothing short of murder."
"Down with the Juntas!" cried half a dozen of the men standing near enough
to hear what was said.
"I don't say 'Down with the Juntas!'" Terence replied; "but I do say take
arms if you can get them. Are there any magazines near here?"
"There is one at Castro, ten miles away," the man said. "I know that there
are waggon-loads of arms there."
"Well, my friends, the matter stands thus: I, as a British officer, cannot
lead you to break open magazines; but I say this, if you choose to go in a
body to Castro and do it yourselves, and arm yourselves with all the
muskets that you can find there, and bring with you a good store of
ammunition in carts that you could take with you from here, and then come
to me at a spot where I will halt to-night five or six miles beyond
Castro, I will take command of you. But mind, if I command, I command. I
must have absolute obedience. It is only by obeying my orders without
question that you can hope to do any good. The first man who disobeys me I
shall shoot on the spot, and if others are disposed to support him I shall
leave you at once."
"I will consult the others," the man said. "Many of us, I know, will be
glad to fight under an English officer, and agree to obey him implicitly."
"Very well, I will give you a quarter of an hour to decide."
Before that time had elapsed a dozen men came to the door with the
"We have made up our minds, senor. We will follow you, and we will arm
ourselves at Castro. It is a sin that the arms should be lying there idle
with so many hands ready to use them."
"That is good," Terence said. "Now, my first order is that you wait until
I have been gone an hour; then, that you form up in military order, four
abreast; the men with guns in front, the others after them. You must go as
soldiers, and not as a mob. You must march into Castro peacefully and
quietly, not a man must straggle from the ranks. You must go to the
authorities and demand the arms and ammunition; if they refuse to give
them to you, march--always in regular order--to the magazine and burst it
open; then distribute the muskets and a hundred rounds of ammunition to
each man having one, take the rest of the stores in carts, and then march
away along the road north until you come to the place where we are halted.
"Observe the most perfect order in Castro. If any man plunders or meddles
in any way with the inhabitants and is reported to me, I shall know how to
punish him. From the moment that you leave this place remember that you
are soldiers of Portugal, and you must behave so as to be an honour to it
as well as a defence. Now let us all shout 'Viva Portugal!'"
A great shout followed the words, and then Terence went indoors, and five
minutes later started with his convoy, telling the three prisoners they