Part 5 out of 7
could go where they liked.
AN INDEPENDENT COMMAND
As they left the village the Portuguese lieutenant burst into a sudden fit
"What is it, Lieutenant?" Terence asked.
"I am laughing at the way in which you--who, as you tell me, have only
been six months in the army--without hesitation organize what is really a
rising against the authorities, you having already taken representatives
of the Junta prisoners--"
"Yes; but you must remember that they took upon themselves to endeavour to
forcibly possess themselves of the treasure in my charge."
"That is true enough; still, you did capture them. You treated them with
considerable personal indignity, imprisoned them, and threatened their
lives. Then you incite, say 2,500 ordenancas to break open magazines."
"No, no, Lieutenant, I did not incite them. You will remember they
expressed a desire to march under my command to fight against the French.
I simply pointed out to them that they had no arms, and asked if they
could get any; and hearing that there were plenty lying useless a few
miles away, suggested that those arms would do more good in their hands
than stowed away in magazines. Upon their agreeing with me on this head, I
advised them to proceed in a quiet and orderly way, and to have no rioting
or disturbance of any sort. I said that if they, after arming themselves,
came to me and still wished to follow me, I would undertake to command
them. You see, everything depends upon the manner in which the thing is
"But you must remember, senor, that the Junta will naturally view the
matter in the light in which their representatives will place it before
"I think it unlikely," Terence replied, "that they will have any
opportunity of doing so. I took care that they were removed from the
window before I met the deputies of the men. They will consequently be
unaware of the arrangements made, and will, perhaps, go out as soon as we
have left and try to persuade the men to follow and attack us. As it was
possible that they might take this course, I took the precaution of
sending out one of the muleteers, with instructions to mention casually to
the men that I was leaving the three fellows behind me, and that it might
be as well for them to confine them under a guard so as to prevent their
going to Oporto at present and making mischief."
"I agree with you, senor, that they are certainly not likely to make any
report as to the proceedings here."
"I fancy not; in fact I should not be at all surprised if at the present
moment they are hanging from the windows of the house of the man they
caused to be murdered. They will most richly deserve their fate, and it
may save us some trouble. No doubt the Junta will hear some day that the
ordenancas here rose, killed the three members of their committee,
obtained arms at Castro, and marched into the mountains. The Junta will
care nothing whatever for the killing of its three agents; plenty of men
of the same kind can be found to do their work. That the mutineers
afterwards fell in with a British officer, and placed themselves under his
command, will not concern the Junta one way or the other, and they will
certainly be a great deal more useful in that way than they would be in
remaining unarmed here. They may even, when the French once get in motion,
come to regard the affair altogether as satisfactory. If all the new
levies were to act in exactly the same way, Portugal would be very
"But how are you going to feed them?"
"That is rather a serious question. I suppose they will have to be fed in
the same way as other irregular bands. However, I shall consider myself
fully justified in devoting a fifth of the money I am carrying to that
purpose. I obtained from Villiers L5,000 to enable Romana to support the
levies he is raising. Those levies will be for the most part unarmed, and
therefore practically useless; and as these Portuguese will be at any rate
fairly armed, and are likely to be of very much greater service than a
horde of Galician peasants, a portion at least of the money can be very
much more usefully employed in feeding them than were it all given to
Romana, I have no doubt whatever that when I explain the circumstances to
General Cradock, he will entirely approve of my appropriating a small
portion of the money that Villiers has chosen to throw away on Romana.
When you return I shall get you to carry a report from me to the general,
stating what I have done. I have no doubt he will warmly approve of it."
On approaching Castro they made a detour to avoid the town.
"There may be more representatives of the Junta there," Terence said, "and
we may have even more trouble with them than we had with the last. I don't
want any more bother, especially as I have much greater interest in the
money now than I had before. I have not a shadow of belief in those bands
of Portuguese peasants, but I do think that, with the aid of my two
troopers, I shall be able to lick these fellows into some sort of shape,
and to annoy Soult, if I cannot stop him. I hope they will find a good
supply of powder, besides the muskets and ammunition at Castro; we shall
want it for blowing up bridges and work of that sort."
"I wish I could go with you," Herrara said.
"I really don't see why you should not. I would take the blame on my own
shoulders. One of your troopers could carry my report to the general, and
I will say that under the circumstances I have taken upon myself to retain
you with me in order to assist me in drilling and organizing this band,
conceiving that your services with me would be very much more useful than
with your regiment. You see, you were placed under my orders, so that no
blame can fall upon you for obeying them, and at any rate you certainly
will be doing vastly better service to the country than if you were
stationed at Lisbon, with no prospect of an advance for a long time to
come. Still, of course, I will not retain you against your will."
"I should like it of all things," Herrara said; "but do you really think
that the general would approve?"
"I have not the least doubt that he would, and at any rate if he did not
he would only blame me, and not you. Your help would certainly be
invaluable to me, and so would that of your men. They are all picked
soldiers, and if we divided the force up into twelve companies, they would
very soon teach them as much drill as is necessary for work like this.
Each trooper would command one of the companies, my two orderlies would
act as field officers; you would be colonel, and I should be political
officer in command."
Herrara burst into a fit of laughter.
"You are the strangest fellow I ever met, senor. Here is a very serious
business, and you take it as easily as if it were a game of play. However,
it does seem to me that we might do some good service. At any rate I am
quite willing to obey your orders. It would be an adventure to talk of all
"That is right," Terence said; "and there will be some credit to be
gained, too. Indeed, we can safely say that our band will be very much
better organized than nineteen out of twenty of the irregular bands."
The track they followed was a very bad one, and the point at which they
regained the main road was eight miles north of Castro. There was a small
village here, and they at once halted. Although they had travelled slowly
they knew that the men could not come along for some time, as they were
not to start until an hour after them, and would be detained for some
considerable time at Castro. It was indeed nearly three hours before a
column marching in good order was seen coming along the road.
"That is a good sign," Terence said; "they have obeyed orders strictly;
whether they have got the arms I cannot tell yet. The men at the head of
the column have certainly muskets, but as the armed men were to go in
front that is no proof."
However, as the column approached, it could be seen that at any rate a
very considerable number were armed.
"We had better form them up as they come, Herrara. If the head of the
column stops it will stop them all, and then there will be confusion."
The road through the village was wide. When a hundred ranks had passed
they were halted, faced round, and marched forward, and so they continued
until the village was filled with a dense mass of men, twenty deep.
Terence observed with satisfaction that they had with them six bullock
carts filled with ammunition-cases, spare muskets, and powder-barrels. The
men who had first spoken to Terence had headed the column, and these had
stopped by his side as the others marched in.
"You have succeeded, I see," he said. "I hope that you were enabled to
accomplish it without violence."
"They were too much surprised to offer much resistance. Five fellows, who
said they were the committee appointed by the Junta, came to us and told
us that unless we dispersed at once we should be severely punished. We
told them that we had come out of our homes at the orders of the Junta,
but that as the Junta had not supplied us with arms we had come for them,
as we were not going to fight the French with nothing but sticks. They
then threatened us again, and we told them that if they hindered us from
defending the country we should hang them at once; and as they saw we
meant it, they went quietly off to their houses. Then we broke down the
door of the magazine. We found four thousand muskets there. Each man took
one, and we left the remainder and enough ammunition for them, and have
brought the rest here, together with a hundred spare muskets.
"We have observed excellent order, and no one was hurt or alarmed. The
only men who left the ranks were a score who went round to the bakers'
shops by my orders, and bought up all the bread in the place. We found a
bag with a thousand dollars at the quarters of Cortingos."
"What became of him and his two associates?"
"They had the impudence to come out and harangue us when you had gone; but
we tied them up to the branch of a tree, so there is an end of them."
"And a very fitting end, too," Terence said. "What have you done with the
"The bag is in that cart, senor."
"You had better appoint four of your number as treasurers. I would rather
not touch it. You must be as careful as you can, and spend it only on the
barest necessaries of life. We shall have few opportunities of buying
things in the mountains, but when we do come upon them they must be paid
for. Of course, we shall go no farther to-night. How many men have you?"
"About two thousand five hundred, senor."
"They must be told off into twelve companies. That will be two hundred and
ten to each company. I shall appoint one of these soldiers to each company
to drill and command it. I propose that each company shall elect its other
officers. Lieutenant Herrara will, under my orders, command the regiment.
The two English soldiers with me will each take command of six companies.
The first thing to be done is to tell off the men into companies."
"This we will at once do. After that they can be marched just outside the
village, and each company will then fall out and elect its officers. When
that is done the men will be quartered in the village. I have set apart
one room in each house for the inhabitants, and the men must pack as
tightly as they can into the others; and of course the sheds and stables
must also be utilized."
With the assistance of the troopers the work of dividing the force up into
companies was accomplished in an hour. Herrara then called his men to him.
"You will each take the command of a company," he said, "and drill them
and teach them the use of their arms. This force is now under the command
of this British officer. Acting under his orders, I take the command of
the force under him. So long as we are out you will each act as captains
of your companies, and your British comrades will act as field officers,
each taking the command of six companies. We are going to hinder the
advance of the French, and to cut their communications with Spain. It will
be a glorious and most honourable duty, and I rely most implicitly on your
doing your best to make the men under your command fit to meet the enemy.
Captain Juan Sanches, you will take the first company;" and so he allotted
to each his command.
The soldiers saluted gravely, but with an air of delight.
"You will, in the first place, march your men to various spots around the
village; they will then fall out and select six officers each. You will
see that each man knows the number of his company, so that they can fall
in without hesitation as soon as the order is given. While you are away we
shall examine the houses and allot so many to each company."
In the meantime Terence had been similarly instructing the two orderlies.
Although standing at attention, a broad grin of amusement stole over their
faces as he went on:
"I did not expect this any more than you did," he said; "but my orders
were open ones, and were to assist General Romana in hindering the advance
of the French, and I think that I cannot do so better than by augmenting
his forces by 2,500 well-armed men. I rely greatly upon you to assist me
in the work. You will, as you see, each occupy the position of field
officers, while the Portuguese troopers will each have the command of a
company. In order to support your authority I shall address you each as
major, and you can consider that you hold that rank as long as we are out
with this force. I have seen enough of you both to know that you will do
your duty well. You will understand that this is going to be no child's
play; it will be a dangerous service. I shall spare neither myself nor any
under my command. There will be lots of fighting and opportunities for you
to distinguish yourselves, and I hope that I shall be able to speak in
high terms of you when I send in my report to General Cradock."
"We will do our best, sir," Andrew Macwitty said. "How are we to address
"I shall keep to Mr. O'Connor, and shall consider myself a political
officer with supreme military authority. Your titles are simply for local
purposes, and to give you authority among the Portuguese."
"We don't know enough of the lingo to give the words of command, sir,"
William Bull said.
"That will not matter. The Portuguese dragoons will teach them as much
drill as it is necessary for them to know. If you have to post them in a
position you can do that well enough by signs; but at the same time it is
most desirable that you should both set to work in earnest and try to pick
up a little of the language. You both know enough to make a start with,
and if you ride every day with one or other of the captains of companies,
and when they are drilling the men stand by and listen to them, you will
soon learn enough to give the men the necessary orders. As a rule, the two
wings will act as separate regiments; each of them is rather stronger than
that of a line regiment at its full war strength, and it will be more
convenient to treat them as separate regiments, and, until we get to the
frontier, march them a few miles apart.
"In this way they can occupy different villages, and obtain better
accommodation than if they were all together. They have money enough to
buy bread and wine for some time. You and the captains under you had
better each form a sort of mess. You will, of course, draw rations of
bread and wine, and I will provide you with money to buy a sheep
occasionally or some fowls, to keep you in meat."
The two troopers walked gravely away, but as soon as they were at a little
distance they turned round the corner of a house and burst into a shout of
"How are you finding yourself to-day, Major Macwitty?"
"Just first-rate; and how is yoursel', Major Bull?" and they again went
off into another shout of laughter.
"This is a rum start, and no mistake, Macwitty."
"Ay, but it is no' an unpleasant one, I reckon. Mr. O'Connor knows what he
is about, though he is little more than a laddie. The orderly who brought
our orders to go with him, said he had heard from one of the general's
mess waiters that the general and the other officers were saying the young
officer had done something quite out of the way, and were paying him
compliments on it, and the general had put him on his own staff in
consequence, and was saying something about his having saved a wing of his
regiment from being captured by the French. The man had not heard it all;
but just scraps as he went in and out of the room with wine, but he said
it seemed something out of the way, and mighty creditable. And now what do
you think of this affair, Bull?"
"There is one thing, and that is that there is like to be, as he said,
plenty of fighting, for I should say that he is just the sort of fellow to
give us the chance of it, and I do think that these Portuguese fellows
really mean to fight."
"I think that mysel', but there is no answering for these brown-skin
chaps. Still, maybe it is the fault of the officers as well as the men."
"It will be a rare game anyhow, Macwitty. At any rate I will do my best to
get the fellows into order. He is a fine young officer, and a thorough
gentleman, and no mistake. He goes about it all as if he had been
accustomed to command two regiments all his life, and these Portuguese
fellows seem to have taken to him wonderfully. At any rate it will be a
thing for us to talk about all our lives--how we were majors for a bit,
and fought the French on our own account."
"Yes, if we get home to tell about it," Macwitty said, cautiously. "I
dinna think we can reckon much on that yet. It is a desperate sort of a
business, and he is ower young to command."
"I would rather have a young officer than an old one," Bull said,
carelessly; "and though he is Irish, I feel sure that he has got his head
screwed on the right way. Look how well he managed last night. Why, an old
general could not have done better. If he hadn't caught those three
fellows in a trap, I doubt whether we should have got out of the scrape.
Sixteen or seventeen men against over two thousand is pretty long odds. We
should have accounted for a lot of them, but they would have done for us
in the end."
"You are right there, Bull. I thought mysel' that it was an awkward fix,
and certainly he managed those Portuguese fellows well, and turned the lot
round his little finger. Ay, ay; he knows what he is doing perfectly well,
young as he is."
"Well, we had best be off to look after our commands,"
Bull laughed. "I suppose they will call mine the first regiment, as I have
the right wing."
While the men were away, Terence and Herrara, with the head man of the
village, went round to all the houses, and marked on pieces of paper the
number of men who could manage to lie down on the floors and passages,
with the number of the company, and fixed them on the doors; they also
made an arrangement with the proprietor of a neighbouring vineyard to
supply as much wine as was required, at the rate of a pint to each man.
When the men returned four men were told off from each company to fetch
the rations of bread, and another four to carry the wine. They were
accompanied by one of the newly elected sergeants to check the quantity,
and see that all was done in order. To prevent confusion the companies
were kept drawn up until the rations had been distributed; then they were
taken into their quarters, filling every room, attic and cellar, barn,
granary, and stable in the village. Then Terence and Herrara in one room,
and the troopers in another of the little inn, sat down to a meal Terence
had ordered as soon as they arrived.
The next morning at daybreak they marched off. Terence rode at their head,
Herrara at the rear of the regiment, and each captain at the head of his
company. From time to time Terence rode up and down the line, and ordered
the men to keep step.
"It is just as easy," he said to the captains, "for the men to do so as to
walk along anyhow, and they will find that the sound of all the footfalls
together helps them to march steadily and lessens fatigue. Never mind
about the slope of their muskets; you must not harass them about little
things, else they will get sulky; it will all come gradually."
Four marches of twenty miles each took them over the mountains in four
days. The Portuguese marched well, and not a single man fell out from the
ranks, while at the end of the day they were still fresh enough to allow
of an hour's drill. Even in that short time there was a very appreciable
difference in their appearance. They had already learned to keep their
distances on the march, to slope their muskets more evenly on their
shoulders, and to carry themselves with a more erect bearing. The first
two drills had been devoted to teaching them how to load and aim, the
other two to changes of formation, from column into line and back again.
"They would make fine soldiers, sir," Bull said, on the fourth evening,
"after they have had six months' drill."
"No doubt they would move more regularly," Terence agreed, "but in
mountain warfare that makes little difference; as soon as they have
learned to shoot straight, and to have confidence in themselves, they will
do just as well holding a defile or the head of a bridge as if they had
been drilled for months. We must get hold of some horns of some sort, and
they must learn a few simple calls, such as the advance, retire, form
square, and things of that sort. With such large companies the voice would
never be heard in the din of a battle. I hope that we shall get at least a
week to practise skirmishing over rough ground and to fall back in good
order, taking advantage of every rock and shelter, before we get under
fire. Do you know anything about blowing up bridges?"
"Not me, sir. That is engineers' business."
"It is a thing that troopers ought to know something about too, Bull; for
if you were far in advance without an engineer near you, you might do good
service by blowing up a bridge and checking the advance of an enemy.
However, I dare say we shall soon find out how it is best done. Now,
to-morrow morning we will have three hours of skirmishing work on these
hillsides. By that time the other regiment will have come up, and then we
will march together to join Romana."
The Spanish general was much surprised at the arrival of Terence at the
head of two well-armed regiments. His force had swelled considerably in
point of numbers, for he had sent messengers all over the country to the
priests, and these, having a horror of the French, had stirred up the
peasants by threats of eternal perdition if they came back; while Romana
issued proclamations threatening death to all who did not take up arms.
Thus he had some 8,000 men collected, of whom fully half were his own
dispersed soldiers. He received Terence with effusion.
"Have you brought me arms?" was his first question.
"No, sir; no transport could be obtained in Lisbon, and it was found
impossible to despatch any muskets to you. I have, however, four thousand
pounds, in dollars, to hand over. At starting I had five thousand, but of
these I have, in the exercise of my discretion, retained a thousand for
the purchase of provisions and necessaries for these two Portuguese
regiments which are under my command, and with which I hope to do good
service by co-operating with your force. Have you not found great
difficulty in victualling your men?"
"No, I have had no trouble on that score," the marquis said. "I found that
a magazine of provisions had been collected for the use of General Moore's
army at Montrui, three miles from here, and have been supporting my troops
on the contents. The money will be most useful, however, directly we move.
Fully half of my men have guns, for the Galician peasants are accustomed
to the use of arms. I wish that it had been more, but four thousand pounds
will be very welcome. Do you propose to join my force with your
"Not exactly to join them, General; my orders are to give you such
assistance as I can, and I think that I can do more by co-operating with
you independently. In the first place, I do not think that my Portuguese
would like to be commanded by a Spanish general; in the second place, it
would be extremely difficult to feed so large a body of troops in these
mountains, and the smaller the number the more easily can they move about.
Besides, in these defiles a large force of undisciplined men could not act
efficiently, and in case of a reverse would fall rapidly into confusion. I
propose to use my force as a sort of flying column, co-operating with
yours. Thus, if you attack the head of a column, I will fall on their
flank or rear, will harass their line of communication, blow up bridges
and destroy roads, and so render their movements slow and difficult. By
such means I should certainly render you more efficient service than if my
regiments were to form a part of your force."
"Perhaps that would be best," Romana said. "Could you supply me with any
ammunition? For although the peasants have guns, very few have more than a
few rounds of ammunition, and even this is not made up into cartridges."
"That I can do, sir. I can give you 20,000 rounds of ammunition and ten
barrels of powder. I have no lead, but you may perhaps be able to obtain
"Yes. The priests, in fact, have sent in a considerable amount. They have
stripped the roofs off their churches. That will be a most welcome supply
indeed, and I am heartily obliged to you."
The gift of the ammunition had the effect of doing away with any
discontent the Spaniard may have felt on finding that Terence was going to
act independently of him. It had indeed already flashed across his mind
that it might be unpleasant always to have a British officer with him,
from whose opinion he might frequently differ, and who might endeavour to
control his movements. He had hardly expected that, with so much on their
hands, and the claims that would be made from Oporto for assistance, they
would have sent any money; and the sixteen thousand dollars were therefore
most welcome, while the ammunition would be invaluable to him.
Terence had taken out his share of the money, and the cart with the
remainder for Romana was now at the door. The sacks were brought in,
Romana called in four or five officers, the dollars were counted out and a
receipt given to Terence for them.
"I will send the ammunition up in half an hour, Marquis."
"I thank you greatly, senor. I will at once order a number of men to set
to work casting bullets and preparing cartridge-cases. In the meantime,
please let me hear what are your general's plans for the defence of
Terence told him that he was unaware what were the intentions of the
British general, but that, from what he learned during the few hours that
he was at Lisbon, he thought it improbable in the extreme that Sir John
Cradock would be able to send any force to check the advance of the French
"In the first place," he said, "he is absolutely without transport; and in
the second Victor has a large army, and now that Saragossa has fallen,
there is nothing to prevent his marching direct upon Lisbon. Lapisse is at
Salamanca and can enter Portugal from the east. The whole country is in
confusion; with the exception of a force gathering under Lord Beresford
there is no army whatever. Lisbon is almost at the mercy of the mob, who,
supported by the government, march about with British muskets and pikes,
killing all they suspect of being favourable to the French, and even
attacking British soldiers and officers in the streets.
"Were the general to march north, he would not get news of Victor's
advance in time to get back to save Lisbon, therefore I fear that it is
absolutely impossible for him to attempt to check the French until they
cross the Douro, perhaps not until they cross the Mondego. The levies of
the northern province are ordered to assemble at Villa Real, and I
believe, from what I gathered on the march, that some thousands of men are
there, but I doubt very greatly whether they are in a state to offer any
determined resistance to Soult."
"That is a bad look-out," the general said, gloomily; "still, we must hope
for the best, as Spain will soon raise fresh armies, and so occupy the
attention of the enemy that Soult will have to fall back. I am in
communication with General Silveira, who will advance to Chaves; he has
four thousand men. He has written to me that the bishop had collected
50,000 peasants at Oporto."
"Where they will probably do more harm than good," Terence said,
scornfully. "I would rather have half a regiment of British troops than
the whole lot of them. It is not men that are wanted, it is discipline,
and 50,000 peasants will be even more unmanageable and useless than 5,000
would be. By the way, General, I have now to inform you that General
Cradock has done me the honour of placing me on his personal staff."
"I am glad to hear it," the marquis said, courteously; "it will certainly
increase your authority greatly."
Terence, leaving Romana, marched his troops to within a mile of Monterey,
choosing a spot where there was a wood which would afford some shelter to
the troops, and would give them a supply of firewood. At Monterey he would
be able to purchase provisions, and he wished to keep them apart from
Romana's men, whose undisciplined habits and general insubordination would
counteract his efforts with his own men.
The next ten days were spent in almost incessant drilling, and in
practising shooting. Bread and wine were obtained from Monterey, and he
purchased a large flock of sheep at a very low price, the peasants, in
their fear of the French, being very anxious to turn their flocks and
herds into money, which could be hid away securely until the tide of
invasion had passed. Laborious and frugal in their habits, these peasants
seldom touch meat, and the troops were highly gratified at the rations
supplied to them, and worked hard and cheerfully at their drill.
Among so many men there were naturally a few who were inclined to be
insubordinate. These were speedily weeded out. The offenders were promptly
seized, flogged, and expelled from the force, their places being supplied
from among the peasants, many of whom were desirous of enlisting. Terence
sent these off, save a few he selected, to Silveira, as his own force was
quite as large as could properly be handled. With improved food and
incessant drill the men rapidly developed into soldiers. Each carried a
rough native blanket rolled up like a scarf over one shoulder. This was
indeed the only point of regular equipment. They had no regular uniform,
but they were all in their peasant dresses. There was no communication
between them and Romana's forces, for the animosity between the two
peoples amounted to hatred. The Portuguese would indeed have marched to
attack them as willingly as they would have received the order to move
against the French.
During this week of waiting, Silveira with 4,000 men arrived at Chaves,
and a meeting took place between him and Romana. Both had plans equally
wild and impracticable, neither would give way, and as they were well
aware that their forces would never act together, they decided to act
independently against the French. At the end of eight days the news came
that Soult, having made all his preparations, had left Orense on his march
Terence had bought a quantity of rough canvas, and the men, as they sat
round the fires after their day's work was over, made haversacks in which
they could carry rations for four or five days. As soon as the news was
received that Soult was advancing, Terence ordered sufficient bread to
supply them for that time, from the bakehouses of Monterey. A hundred
rounds of ball-cartridge were served round to each. A light cart
containing eight barrels of powder, a bag with 1,000 dollars, and the
tent, was the only vehicle taken, and the rest of the ammunition and
powder was buried deep in the wood, and the bulk of the money privately
hidden in another spot by Terence and Herrara. Twelve horns had been
obtained; several of the men were able to blow them, and these, attached
one to each company, had learned a few calls. Terence and Herrara took
their post at the edge of the wood to watch the two regiments march past.
"I think they will do," Terence said; "they have picked up marvellously
since they have been here; and though I should not like to trust them in
the plain with Franceschi's cavalry sweeping down upon them, I think that
in mountain work they can be trusted to make a stand."
"I think so," Herrara agreed. "They have certainly improved wonderfully.
Our peasants are very docile and easily led when they have confidence in
their commander, and are not stirred up by agitators, but they are given
to sudden fury, as is shown by the frightful disorders at Lisbon and
Oporto. However, they certainly have confidence in you, and if they are
successful in the first skirmish or two they can be trusted to fight
THE FIRST SKIRMISH
Soult had spent a month in making his preparations for the invasion of
Portugal. The time, however, had not been wasted by him. Vigo, Tuy, and
Guardia had all been occupied without opposition. Salvatierra on the Minho
had been taken possession of, and thus three roads were open to him by
which to cross low down on the river, namely, at Guardia, Tuy, and
Salvatierra. These roads afforded the shortest and easiest line to Oporto.
Romana and Silveira had both been of opinion that he would march south
from Orense, through Monterey, and up the valley of the Tamega, and their
plans were all made with a view of opposing his advance in that direction.
The night before Terence marched he called upon Romana.
"It seems to me probable, Marquis, as it does to you, that the French will
advance by this line, but it is possible that they may follow the north
bank of the Minho and cross at Salvatierra or Tuy. By that route they
would have several rivers to cross but no mountains or defiles. Were they
to throw troops across there they would meet with no opposition until they
arrived at Oporto. It seems to me that my best plan would be to march west
and endeavour to prevent such a passage being made. If I could do so it
would prevent your position being turned. There are no bridges marked on
my map, and if I could secure the boats we should, at any rate, cause
Soult much difficulty and delay. No doubt there are some local levies
there, and we should be able to watch a considerable extent of the river;
indeed, so far as I can see, they must cross, if they cross at all there,
at one of the three towns on the north side, for it is only by the roads
running through these that they could carry their artillery and baggage."
"I think that will be an excellent plan," Romana said, "for although I
believe that they will come this way, I have been very uneasy at the
thought that they might possibly cross lower down, and so turn our
position altogether. But you will have to watch not only the three places
through which the roads pass, but other parts of the river, for they may
throw a few hundred men across in boats at any point, and these falling
suddenly upon your parties on the bank, might drive them away and enable
the main body to cross without resistance."
"I will keep as sharp a look-out as I can, Marquis." Marching north from
Monterey the troops moved through Villa Real and Gingo, and then, turning
west, crossed the river Lima, there a small stream, and then following the
valley of that river for some distance, turned off and struck the Minho
opposite Salvatierra, having covered fifty miles in two days. Here a
considerable number of armed peasants and ordenancas were gathered. They
were delighted at the arrival of two well-armed regiments; and hearing
from Herrara that Terence was a staff-officer of the British general, and
was sent by him to direct the defence of the river, they at once placed
themselves under his orders.
Terence found, to his satisfaction, that on the approach of the French
most of the boats had been removed to the south side of the river and
hauled up the bank. His first order was that anyone acquainted with the
position of any boats on the other side of the river should at once inform
him of it. It was not long before he heard of some twenty or thirty that
had been hidden by their owners on the other side, in order that they
might have the means of crossing to escape the French exactions. At
nightfall several boats were launched, and parties of men, directed by
those who had given information, started to cross the river and bring
those boats over. The Minho was at this time in flood and was running with
great rapidity, and Terence felt confident that in its present state none
of the enemy's cavalry would attempt to cross it by swimming.
He decided on placing the largest part of his force opposite Tuy, as the
principal road south passed through this town, and he would here be
supported by the guns of the fortress of Valenca. He stationed his first
battalion here, with orders to line the river for six miles above and
below this spot. Half of the second battalion he left under Macwitty, and
with the other half determined to march down towards the mouth of the
river. The next morning all the boats returned, bringing those for which
they had been searching, and after closely questioning the guides he felt
assured that there could be so few remaining that the French would hardly
attempt to cross the river in the face of the crowd of peasants--whom they
could not but see--lining the southern bank.
As soon as the boats had returned he marched with the three companies.
When half-way between Valenca and Caminha he met a peasant, who had
crossed from the northern bank in a boat that had escaped the search of
the French. He reported that some days before some 10,000 of the French
had arrived in the neighbourhood of the village Campo Sancos, and that a
division had been hard at work since their arrival transporting some large
fishing-boats and heavy guns from the harbour of Guardia to Campo Sancos.
The guns had been placed in a battery on a height, and the boats launched
in a little river that ran into the Minho village. Terence learned that
the work was now nearly completed, and the peasant had risked his life in
coming across to give information.
Terence at once sent off a mounted man to Valenca to request Herrara to
march down with the first battalion and to send on to Macwitty to leave
one company to assist the ordenancas to guard the river between
Salvatierra and Valenca, and to take post with the other two in front of
the latter town. At nightfall he was joined by Herrara.
After explaining the situation to him, Terence said:
"It will not be necessary to watch the river above Campo Sancos, for it
would be impossible to row heavy fishing-boats against this stream, so
they must land somewhere between that place and the mouth of the river.
Thus we have only some eight miles to guard, and as we have eighteen
hundred men, besides the peasants, we ought to be able to do that
thoroughly. I expect they will endeavour to make the passage to-night, and
they will certainly cross, as nearly as they can, opposite the village.
The battery is about a mile below it, and is no doubt intended to cover
their landing. I shall post myself with two companies of the first
battalion there, and extend another company from that point up to Campos
Sancos. You, with the other three companies and the three companies of the
second battalion, will watch the river below.
"It is unlucky that there is no moon at present. I do not expect, however,
that the attack will take place till morning, for, in the first place, the
peasant said that although the guns had been got up to the height they had
not yet been placed in position, and as we have noticed no movement there
all day, nor seen a French soldier anywhere near the river, they will only
be beginning work now, and can hardly have finished it until well on in
the night. Besides, when the first party who crossed have obtained a
footing here, the boats will have to go backwards and forwards. No doubt
the cavalry will be among the first to cross, and they would hardly get
the horses on board in the dark. It is of vital importance to repel this
attack, for if the French got across they would be at Vianna to-morrow
evening, and at Oporto three days later. I don't suppose that place will
resist for a day; and if, as is probable, Victor moves up from the south,
he and Soult may be in front of Lisbon in ten days' time.
"You had better tell your captains this, in order that they may understand
how vital it is to prevent the passage. From what I hear from the
peasants, the boats will not be able to carry more than three or four
hundred men, and wherever they land we ought to be able to crush them
before the boats can cross again and bring over reinforcements."
"Well, Bull, I think we are likely to have fighting tonight," Terence
said, as Herrara marched off with his men.
"I hope so, sir. I don't think they will be able to cross in our face, and
it will do the men a lot of good to win the first fight."
"If Romana's troops were worth anything, Soult would find himself in an
awkward position. He has got his whole army jammed up in the corner here,
and if he cannot cross there is nothing for him to do but to march along
the river to Orense, and then come down by the road through Monterey.
There are several streams to cross as he marches up the bank. Romana is
sure to have heard of his concentrating somewhere down near the mouth of
the river, and I should think that by this time he will have crossed near
Orense, and will arrive in time to dispute the passage of these streams.
He told me that the Galician peasants have been so enraged by their cattle
being carried off for the use of the French army that they will rise in
insurrection the instant the French march, and if that is the case, they
and Romana ought to be able to give Soult a lot of trouble before he
"I don't think those fellows with Romana are likely to do much, sir. The
French will just sweep them before them."
"I am afraid so, Bull; still, if we can prevent the French from crossing
here and compel them to follow the long road through Monterey, we shall
have done good service. It would give Portugal another seven or eight days
to prepare, and will send the enemy through a country where undisciplined
troops ought to be able to make a stand even against soldiers like the
All through the night Terence and his major patrolled the bank from the
point facing Campo Sancos to a mile below that on which the French were
placing their guns. Everything went on quietly, sentries at intervals kept
watch, and the men, wrapped in their blankets, lay down in parties of
fifty at short intervals.
"The day is beginning to break," Terence said, as he met Bull coming back
from the lower end of the line. "I am not afraid now, for if we can but
see them coming we can gather two or three hundred men at any point they
may be making for. Besides, our shooting would be very wild in the dark."
"That it would, sir; not one shot in fifty would hit the boats, let alone
the men; and when the Portuguese saw the boats come on without pause in
spite of their fire, they would be likely to lose heart and to get
"We may as well stop here, Bull. It will be light enough to see across the
river in another quarter of an hour, and if there are no boats coming
then, I think it is pretty certain that they will not begin until
to-morrow night. The peasant said that they have only got 10,000 troops
there as yet, and we know that Soult has more than double that, and he may
wait another day for them all to come up."
Ten minutes later one of the sentries close to them shouted out that he
could see boats. Terence ran up to him.
"Where are they, my man?"
"Nearly opposite, sir."
Terence gazed fixedly for a moment, and then said: "I see them; they are
heading straight across." Then he gave the order to the man who always
accompanied him with a horn, to blow the alarm.
At the sound, the troops sprang to their feet, and some hundreds of
peasants, who were lying down a short distance behind, ran up. The horn
was evidently heard on the other side of the river, for immediately the
guns of the battery opposite opened fire, and their shot whizzed overhead.
The boats plied their oars vigorously, and the French soldiers cheered;
they were but some three hundred yards away when first discovered. The
Portuguese were coming rapidly up at the double. Terence shouted that not
a shot was to be fired until he gave the order. He was obeyed by his own
men, but the peasants at once began a wild fire at the boats. By the time
these were within fifty yards of the shore Terence saw with satisfaction
that fully a company had come up. The men stood firmly, although the balls
from the French battery ploughed up the ground around them.
"Wait until the first boat grounds," Terence shouted again. Another minute
and the first fishing-boat touched the shore. Then the horn sounded, and
the front line of the Portuguese poured a terrible volley into it. A few
of the French soldiers only succeeded in gaining the land, and these were
at once shot down. Then the troops opened a rolling fire upon the other
boats. The French replied with their musketry, but their fire was feeble.
They had expected to have effected a landing with but slight opposition,
and the concentrated fire of the troops and the peasantry convinced them
that, even should they gain the shore, they would be greatly outnumbered,
and would be shot down before they could gather in any regular formation.
Many of the rowers, who were Spanish peasants forced into the work, had
fallen. Most of their comrades left the oars and threw themselves into the
bottom of the boats, and the craft drifted down the stream.
Shouts of triumph rose from the Portuguese, who obeyed the signal to form
fours, and marched along parallel with the boats, forming line
occasionally and firing heavy volleys. The French soldiers now seized the
oars and rowed the craft into the middle of the river, and then slowly and
painfully made their way to Campo Sancos, having lost more than half of
the three hundred men who had left there. The French battery ceased to
fire, and the din of battle was succeeded by a dead silence. Once
convinced that the French had abandoned the attempt to land, the
Portuguese broke into loud shouts of triumph, which were only checked when
Terence ordered them to form up in close order. When they did so he
addressed a few words to them, complimenting them upon the steadiness that
they had shown, and upon their obeying his order to reserve their fire
till the French were close at hand.
"I was convinced that you would behave well," he said, "and in future I
shall have no hesitation in meeting a body of French equal in numbers to
Messengers were at once despatched to order up all the troops that had
been posted below, and in two hours the whole force, with the exception of
the three companies, between them and Salvatierra, were assembled.
"The question is, Herrara," Terence said, when he and his colonel had
exchanged congratulations on the repulse of the French, "what will Soult
"That is a question upon which everything depends. I don't think he will
try again here. He has been eight days in preparing those boats to cross,
and now that he knows there is a very strong force here, and that even if
he got three or four times as many boats he would scarcely be able to
force a passage, my idea is that he will abandon the attack and march at
once for Orense. In that case the question is, shall we wait until we have
assured ourselves that he has gone, and then follow and harass his rear?
or shall we march up the river and then cross to help Romana to bar his
"I think the latter will be the best plan. You see, we should not be
cutting his communication were we to march now, because when he has
crossed the river Avia he will have direct communication with Ney, and
will of course draw all his supplies from the north, so I think that we
had better lose no time in pushing up along the river."
The troops were ordered to light fires and cook their breakfast. While
this was going on Terence assembled the peasant bands, and told them that
he thought the French would not make another attempt to cross, but that
they must remain in a state of watchfulness until they received certain
news from the other side that they had marched for Orense.
As soon as breakfast was over and the cooking-pots packed in the cart, the
two regiments started on their march. They were in high spirits, and
laughed and sang as they tramped along. They had lost but two killed by
the French musketry fire, and there were but five so severely wounded as
to be unable to take their places in the ranks. These Terence ordered to
be taken in a country cart to Pontelima, and he provided them with money
for their support there until cured.
The men having been on foot all night, Terence halted them after doing
fifteen miles. On the following morning, soon after they had started, they
saw a large body of French cavalry following the road by the river. These
were La Houssaye's, who had been quartered at Salvatierra, The river here
was narrower than it had been below, and halting the troops and forming
them in line, two or three volleys were fired across the river. These did
some execution, and caused much confusion in the French ranks. The
horsemen, however, galloped rapidly up the river, and were soon out of
"That settles the question, Herrara. The French are retracing their steps,
and bound for Orense. Soult has not let the grass grow under his feet, and
the cavalry are evidently sent on to clear out any bands of peasants that
may be gathering at the rivers."
La Houssaye, indeed, twice in the course of the day broke up irregular
bands, and burned two villages. The infantry and artillery, after passing
through Salvatierra, moved by the main road. This, however, was found to
be so bad that the artillery were, with ten of the sixteen light guns, and
six howitzers, left behind at Tuy, with a great ammunition and baggage
train, together with 900 sick. A garrison of 500 men were left in the
fort. Orders were given that all stragglers were to be retained at that
[Illustration: "THE FRENCH CAVALRY RODE UP TOWARDS THE SQUARES, BUT WERE
MET WITH HEAVY VOLLEYS"]
The march of the French was not unopposed. When they arrived at the river
Morenta they found 800 Spaniards had barricaded the bridges and repulsed
the advance parties of cavalry. On the 17th, at daybreak, the leading
division attacked them fiercely, carried the bridge, and pursued them
hotly, until at a short distance from Ribadavia the Spaniards rallied upon
some 10,000 irregulars arrayed in order of battle in a strong position
covering the town. The rest of the division and a brigade of cavalry came
up, and, directed by Soult himself, attacked the Spaniards, drove them
through the town and across the Avia with great loss. Twenty priests were
found among the slain. The next day three or four thousand other
irregulars from the valley of Avia were attacked and scattered, and on the
18th the French cavalry, with three brigades of infantry, entered Orense.
An hour earlier Terence had arrived on the other side of the river, and
had at once made preparations for blowing up the bridge. The men had been
but a short time at work when numbers of the townsmen streamed across the
bridge and reported that a great body of the French were entering the
town. Terence had a hasty consultation with Herrara, and both agreed that
they could not hope to hold the bridge long against the whole French army,
especially as they had learned two hours before from a peasant who had
ridden up, that strong bodies of French troops had crossed the river by
the ferries at Ribadavia and Barbibante, and that they might shortly be
attacked in flank. The powder-barrels were therefore hastily repacked, and
the troops marched off towards the hills on their left.
They were but half-way across the plain when a regiment of French cavalry
were seen riding in pursuit. The regiments were at once formed into
squares within fifty yards of each other, and Terence and Bull in the
centre of one square, and Herrara and Macwitty in the other, exhorted the
men to stand steady, assuring them there was nothing whatever to be feared
from the cavalry if they did so. The French rode up towards the squares,
but were met by heavy volleys, and after riding round them drew off,
having suffered considerable loss, being greatly surprised at finding that
instead of a mob of armed men, such as they had met at Avia, they were
encountered by soldiers possessing the steadiness of trained troops.
The regiments resumed their march until far up the hill, where they
proceeded to cut down trees and brushwood and to form an encampment, as
their leader had decided to stay here and await events until Soult's
intentions were clearly shown. There were two courses open to the French
general. He might advance to Allaritz and then march along the Lima, be
joined by his artillery and train from Tuy, and then move direct upon
Oporto, or he might follow the valley of the Tamega to Chaves, whence he
would have the choice of routes, and take either that over the Sierra de
Cabrera to Braga, or continue his course down the valley until he reached
It was not until the 4th of March that the French again moved forward. In
the meantime Terence was forced to remain quiet, except that each day he
marched his men farther among the hills and drilled them for some hours
perseveringly. The affair on the Minho and the repulse of the French
cavalry had given them great confidence in themselves and their leader,
and had shown them the value of steadiness, and of maintaining order and
discipline in the ranks. They therefore devoted themselves even more
willingly and zealously than before to their military exercises, and the
ten days taken by Soult in preparing for the advance were well spent in
accustoming the Portuguese to rapid movements among the mountains, and to
attaining a fair knowledge of what would be required of them in mountain
warfare. Two companies always remained in the camp, and these had several
skirmishes with bodies of French marauders, and small parties of cavalry
making across the country to ascertain the position and strength of the
The advance of the French was rapid, and on the 5th the cavalry and a
portion of the infantry reached Villa Real, where, on the evening of the
same day, two divisions of infantry arrived. That night Terence with his
men having on the 4th marched along the hills parallel to the road, made a
forced march, crossed the road and took up a position on the spur of the
mountains between Montalegre and the river. Even yet it was doubtful which
route Soult intended to follow, as the division at Villa Real might be
intended only to prevent Romana and Silveira falling upon his flank. As he
marched down the valley of the Lima, he had learned from Romana that he
and Silveira had decided to fall back to Chaves, and that he agreed with
Terence's opinion that he had better remain in the rear of the French, and
intercept their communications with Orense.
On the following morning the French advanced in force to Monterey. Romana
abandoned the position as they advanced, drew off to Verin, and then
retired along the road towards Sanabria. He thus left it open to himself
either to follow the road to Chaves, as agreed upon, or to retire into
Spain through the mountains. Franceschi's cavalry and a battalion of
French infantry overtook between two and three thousand men forming the
rear of Romana's column. The latter drew up in a great square. Franceschi
attacked the rear face with his infantry, passed with his cavalry round
the sides of the square, and placed himself between it and the rest of the
retiring column. He had with him four regiments of cavalry, and now hurled
a regiment at each side of the square.
The Spaniards were at once seized with dismay, broke their formation, and
in a moment the French cavalry were upon them, cutting and trampling them
down. Twelve hundred were killed and the rest made prisoners. As soon as
Romana heard of the disaster that had befallen his rearguard, he broke his
engagement with Silveira and led his force over the mountains into Spain,
where the news of his defeat caused the Spanish insurgent bands to
disperse rapidly to their homes, where they delivered up their arms; and
even the priests, who had been the main promoters of the rising, seeing
the failure of all their plans, advised them to maintain a peaceable
attitude in future.
Silveira was not more fortunate, for two thousand of his troops with some
guns, issuing from the mountains just as Franceschi returned from the
annihilation of Romana's rearguard, the French cavalry charged and
captured the Portuguese guns, and drove Silveira down the valley.
Soult paused two days at Monterey, the baggage and hospital train, and a
great convoy of provisions being brought up from Orense, under the guard
of a whole division. This rendered it evident that he intended to cut
himself off altogether from Spain, and to subsist entirely upon the
country. It was clear then that it was useless to attempt to fall upon his
rear, and by a long march through the mountains Terence took his force
down to Chaves.
Here he found that Silveira, deserted by Romana and beaten by Franceschi,
had fallen back to a mountain immediately behind Chaves. Terence continued
his march until he joined him. He found a great tumult going on among his
troops; always insubordinate, they were now in a state of mutiny. Many of
the officers openly advocated that they should desist from a struggle in
which success was altogether hopeless, and should go over and join the
French. The troops, however, not only spurned the advice, but fell upon
and killed several of those who offered it, and demanded from Silveira
that he should lead them down to defend Chaves. This he refused to do,
saying that the fortifications were old and useless, the guns worn out,
and that were they to shut themselves up there, they would be surrounded
and forced to surrender.
This refusal excited the mutineers to the highest pitch, and when Terence
arrived they were clamouring for his death. A small party of soldiers who
remained faithful to him surrounded him, but they would speedily have been
overpowered had it not been for the arrival of Terence's command. As soon
as he understood what was happening, he formed his men into a solid body,
marched through the excited crowd, and formed up in hollow square round
the general. The firm appearance of the force and the fact that they
possessed more arms than the whole of Silveira's army, had its effect. The
mutineers, however, to the number of 3,500, determined to carry out their
intentions, and at once marched away to Chaves. Silveira remained with but
a few hundred men, as the 2,000 routed by Franceschi had not rejoined him.
"I owe you my life, senor," he said to Terence, "for those mad fools would
certainly have murdered me."
"It is not surprising," Terence said. "A mob of men who are not soldiers
cannot be expected to observe discipline, especially when insubordination
and anarchy have been absolutely fomented by the authorities, crimes of
all sorts perpetrated by their orders, and no efforts whatever made to
"Your men seem to be disciplined and obedient," Silveira said.
"They have been taught to be so, General, and I believe that I can rely
upon them absolutely. If you had but officers and discipline, I am certain
that your soldiers would be excellent; but as it is, with a few
exceptions, your officers are worse than useless. They are appointed as a
reward for their support of the Junta; they are ignorant of their duties,
and many of them favour the French; they regard their soldiers as raised,
not for the defense of Portugal, but for the support of the Junta. I have
seen enough to know that the peasants are brave, hardy, and ready to
fight. But what can they do when they are but half-armed, and no attempt
whatever is made to discipline them? Have you heard, since these troubles
began, of a single man being shot for insubordination, or of a single
officer being punished even for the grossest neglect of orders? It is
nothing short of murder to put a mob of half-armed peasants to stand
against French troops."
"All that is quite true," Silveira said, heartily. "However, I shall do my
best, and shall, I doubt not, soon have another force collected, for now
that the French have fairly entered Portugal, and are marching towards the
capital, every man will take up arms. And you, senor, what do you mean to
"I shall harass the French as I see an opportunity, but I shall not
subject my men to certain disaster by joining any of the new levies. I
know what my men can do, and what I can do with them; but if mixed up with
thousands of raw peasants they would be swept away by the latter and share
in any misfortune that might befall them. What I have seen of your troops
to-day, and what I saw of Romana's, is quite enough to show me that to
lead peasants into the field is simply to bring misfortune and death upon
them. Far better that each leader should collect two or three hundred men
and teach them discipline and a little drill instead of taking a mob
thousands strong out to battle. Those men that have marched down into
Chaves will, you will see, offer no resistance, and will simply be killed
or made prisoners to a man. Now, may I ask if you have any stores here,
General? We have had great difficulty in buying food up in the mountains,
and as it will be useless to you, and certainly cannot be carried off, I
should be glad to fill the men's haversacks before we go farther."
"Certainly. I had enough meat and bread for my whole force for a week, and
you are welcome to take as much as you require. Which way do you propose
"I am waiting to see which way the French go after leaving Chaves. Whether
they go down the valley or across the mountains to Braga, I shall
endeavour to get ahead of them; and as my men are splendid marchers, I
have no doubt that I shall succeed in doing so, even if the French have a
few hours' start. If I can do nothing else, I can at least make their
cavalry keep together instead of riding in small parties all over the
country to sweep in food."
Fires were soon lighted, some bullocks killed and cut up, and a hearty
meal eaten. They had already made a very long march, and were ordered to
lie down until nightfall. Silveira marched away with his men, and Terence
and Herrara sat and watched the road, down which bodies of French troops
could already be seen advancing from Monterey towards Chaves. As they
approached the town, gun after gun was fired. The advance-guard halted and
waited until the whole division had come up.
IN THE PASSES
On the following day the French cavalry, with a division of infantry, took
up their position beyond the town, so as to cut off the retreat of the
garrison, who were then summoned to surrender. No reply was made, but for
the next twenty-four hours the defenders, although in no way attacked,
kept up a random fire from the guns on the walls, and with musketry, to
which no reply whatever was made by the French.
On the following day, the whole army having now come up, the town was
again summoned, and at once surrendered, when Soult, who did not wish to
be hampered with a mob of prisoners, contemptuously allowed them to depart
to their homes.
After bringing up his sick from Chaves, and discovering that the passes
through the mountains were unoccupied, and that the Portuguese army was at
Braga, Soult, on the 14th, began to move in that direction, both for the
purpose of crushing Friere and getting into communication with Tuy, and
being joined by his artillery from there. As soon as this movement was
seen from the hill where Terence's regiments had been for three days
resting, preparations were made for marching, and with haversacks well
filled with bread and meat, the troops started in good spirits. Terence
procured the services of a peasant well acquainted with the mountains, and
was led by paths used by shepherds across the hills, and after a twelve
hours' toilsome journey came down into the defiles that the French were
following. There he learned from peasants, that, with the exception of a
small scouting party two days before, there were no signs of any hostile
The men were at once set to work to destroy a bridge across a torrent at
the mouth of a defile. It was built of stone, but was old and in bad
repair, and the men had little difficulty in prising the stones of the
side walls from their places, and throwing them down into the stream.
Another party made a hole over the key of an arch. A barrel of powder was
placed here, and a train having been laid, was covered up by a pile of
rocks. A third party formed a barricade six feet high, across the end of
the bridge, and also two breastworks, each fifty yards away on either
side, so as to flank the approaches to the other end and the bridge. The
troops were extended along the hillsides, one battalion on each side of
the defile, under the shelter of the rocks and brush.
While these preparations were being made, the horses were taken up to the
top of the hills by some paths known to the peasants of a little village
near the mouth of the defile, the women and children following them.
Terence and Herrara had a consultation, and then the former called Bull
and Macwitty to him.
"Now," he said, "you understand that while we will defend this defile as
long as we can, we will run no risk of a defeat that might end in a rout.
We shall inflict heavy loss upon them before they can repair the bridge,
and can certainly force their cavalry to remain quiet until they bring up
their infantry. Colonel Herrara, you, with one company of the second
battalion, will hold the village, and we shall sweep the column advancing
along the bottom of the defile with a fire from each flank, while they
will also be exposed to your fire in front. When they succeed in making
their way up to within charging distance you will evacuate the village and
join Macwitty on the hill.
"They must attack us there on both sides, for no troops could march
through until the hillsides are cleared. It is probable that they may do
this before they attempt to attack the village, but in any case you must
keep up a steady fire until they get within fifty yards of you, then
retire up the hill, but leave a party to keep them in check until the rest
have gained the crest and formed up in good order. By the time you do this
they will have driven in your rear-guard. The French will be breathless
with their exertions when they reach you. Wait till a considerable number
have gained the crest, then, before they have time to form, pour a heavy
volley into them and charge, and then sweep them with your fire until they
reach the bottom. The next time they will no doubt attack in much greater
force; in that case we will move quietly off without waiting for them, and
will reunite at the village of Romar, five miles in the rear. If we find,
as we near it, that the French are in possession, we will halt, and I will
send orders to the second regiment as to what is to be done. If the force
is not too great we will attack them at night."
"How will you know where we shall be, sir?" Macwitty said.
"I have arranged with Colonel Herrara that when you halt you shall light
two fires a short distance from each other. I will reply by lighting one,
and the fires are then to be extinguished."
This being arranged, Terence went down and applied a match to the train,
and then retired at a run. Three minutes later there was a heavy
explosion, rocks flew high in the air, and when the smoke cleared away, a
cheer from the hillside told that the explosion had been successful.
Terence returned to the bridge; a considerable portion of the arch had
been blown away, and putting fifty men to work, the gap was soon carried
across the road and widened, so that there was a chasm twelve feet across.
The parties who were to man the breastworks were now posted. Terence
himself took the command here. The defenders consisted of a company of
Half an hour later a deep sound was heard, and as it grew louder the head
of a column of cavalry was seen approaching. The whole of the force on the
hillsides were hidden behind rocks or brushwood; not a head was shown
above the breastworks. The cavalry, however, halted, and an officer with
four men rode forward. When within fifty yards of the bridge a volley of
twenty muskets flashed out from the work behind it. The officer and three
men fell, the other galloped back to the main body. He had seen nothing
beyond the fact that there was a breastwork across the road, and
Franceschi, thinking that he had but a small force of peasants in front of
him, ordered a squadron to charge, and clear the obstacle.
As before, they were allowed to approach to within fifty yards of the
bridge, when from the breastwork in front, and the two side redoubts a
storm of musketry was poured into them. The effect was terrible; the head
of the squadron was swept away, but a few men charged forward until close
to the break in the bridge. Most of these fell, but a few galloped back,
and the remains of the squadron then trotted off in good order.
No further movement took place for an hour, and then a body of infantry,
some two thousand strong, appeared. As they passed the cavalry, the first
two companies were thrown out in skirmishing order, and were soon swarming
down towards the stream. The banks of this, although very steep, were not
impassable by infantry, and the defenders of the two side redoubts spread
themselves out along the bank, and, as the skirmishers approached, opened
For a time the rattle of firearms was incessant. When the main body of
French infantry had, as their commander thought, ascertained the strength
of the defenders, they advanced in solid order until near the bridge, and
then wheeled off on either flank and advanced with loud shouts. A horn was
sounded, and from the hillsides near a scattering fire of musketry opened
at once. The French, however, pushed forward without a pause. Terence's
horn sounded again, the men fell back from the bank, and the whole company
ran at full speed across the narrow valley, and took their place with
their comrades on the hillside.
The French crossed the stream under a heavy fire, and, dividing into two
portions, prepared to assault both hills simultaneously. The combat was
obstinate, the French suffered heavily, but pushed their way up
unflinchingly. The Portuguese, encouraged by the shouts of their officers,
held their ground obstinately, retreating only at the sound of their
horns, and renewing the combat a short distance higher up. Being sheltered
by the rocks behind which they lay, their loss was but trifling in
comparison to that of the French, who were forced to expose themselves as
they advanced, and whose numbers dwindled so rapidly that when half-way up
they were on both sides brought to a stand-still, and then, taking shelter
behind the rocks, they maintained the contest on more equal terms.
But by this time a column of 4,000 men was marching down to the stream,
and, dividing like the first, climbed the hills. The Portuguese now fell
back more rapidly, their fire slackened, and the French, with loud shouts,
pressed up the hill. Presently the resistance ceased altogether, and,
firing as they advanced at the flying figures, of whom they caught an
occasional glimpse, the French pressed forward as rapidly as the nature of
the ground would permit, cheering loudly. At last they reached the top of
the hill, and the leaders paused in doubt as they saw before them some
eleven or twelve hundred men drawn up in line four deep at a distance of
fifty yards. Every moment added to the number of the French, and as they
arrived their officers tried to form them into order. When their numbers
about equalled those of the Portuguese, two heavy volleys were poured into
them, and then, with loud shouts, the Portuguese rushed at them with
The charge was irresistible. The French were hurled over the crest and
went down the hill, carrying confusion and dismay among those climbing up.
The Portuguese pressed them hotly, giving them no time to rally, and
forcing them down to the bottom of the hill without a check. Then at the
signal they fell back to the post that they had held at the beginning of
the fight. The success was equal on both hillsides, and the regiments
cheered each other's victory with shouts which rose high above the roar of
musketry. With their usual discipline, the French speedily rallied, in
spite of the heavy fire that from both sides swept their ranks, and they
prepared, when joined by another regiment which was approaching at the
double to their assistance, to renew the assault.
Terence saw that, this time, the odds would be too great to withstand. His
horn sounded the retreat, and the Portuguese turned to make their way up
the hill just as a French battery opened fire. Sheltered among the rocks,
the infantry below were unconscious of the movement, for on either side a
company had been left to continue their fire until the main body gained
the top of the hill, when they too were summoned by the horns to fall
back. The wounded had been all taken up the hill, and were laid in
blankets and carried off by their comrades. As the two regiments marched
away from the crest of the defile the soldiers were in the highest
spirits. They had repulsed with heavy loss a French force of three times
their own strength, and they greeted Terence and Bull, as they rode
together along the column, with enthusiastic cheers.
The wounded, which in the first battalion numbered forty-three, were
despatched with a party a hundred strong to a village four miles away
among the mountains, and the regiment marched on until it reached the
point agreed upon.
Two men were sent forward to reconnoitre the village, and returned with
the report that it had already been occupied by a very strong force of
French cavalry. Half an hour later two wreaths of smoke rose on the
opposite hill. Sticks had been gathered in readiness, and the answering
signal was at once made. Two minutes later the smoke ceased to rise on
either side. Terence now received the reports of the captains of the six
companies, and found that fifteen men had been killed, and that his
strength was thus reduced by fifty-eight. The men were now told that they
could lie down, the companies keeping together so as to be ready for
Trifling wounds, of which there were some two or three and twenty, were
then attended to and bandaged. Some of these were quite serious enough to
have warranted the men falling out, but the delight and pride they felt at
their success had been so great that they had refused to be taken off with
their disabled comrades. Terence made a round of the troops and addressed
a few words to each company, praising their conduct, and thanking them for
the readiness and quickness with which they had obeyed his orders.
"You see, my lads," he said, "what can be done by discipline. Had it not
been for the steady drill you have had ever since we marched, we could not
have hoped to oppose the French, and I should not have ventured to have
done so. Now, you see, you have proved that you are as brave as the enemy,
and not only have you beaten them with heavy loss, but the effect of this
fight will be to render them more cautious in future and slower in their
movements, and the news of the blow you have struck will inspirit your
Having nothing else to do until after darkness fell, Terence, after
finishing his round, sat down and added an account of the fight to the
report he had written up at their last halting-place. This was written in
duplicate, one copy being intended for General Cradock, and the other for
the Portuguese authorities at Oporto. Outposts had been thrown out towards
the village as soon as they halted, and after opening their haversacks,
eating a meal, and quenching their thirst at a little rivulet that ran
down to the village, the men lay down to sleep, tired with their long
night's march and the excitement of the battle.
Terence was no exception to the general rule, for although he had had his
horse, yet for the greater part of the distance he had marched on foot, as
the ruggedness of the ground traversed had in most places been too great
to travel in safety on horseback in the dark. When night fell all were on
their feet again, refreshed by a long sleep. Two men were now sent down to
reconnoitre the village again. They reported that it was still occupied by
the cavalry. The infantry, as they could see by the fires along the road,
had bivouacked there, and one regiment at least had passed through the
village and had occupied the road ahead.
Terence had already written out his instructions to Herrara in triplicate,
and three men were despatched with these. They were warned to be extremely
careful, for the men who had first been sent, had reported that the French
had posted sentries out on their flanks. One of the messengers was to make
a long detour to cross the road half a mile ahead of the French, and then
to make his way along on the opposite hillside to the spot where Herrara
was posted. The other two were to make their way as best they could
through the village. The pieces of paper they carried were rolled up into
little balls, and they were ordered that, if noticed and an alarm given,
these were at once to be swallowed.
Soon after ten o'clock the regiment formed up. Terence had given detailed
orders to the captain of each company. These were instructed to call up
their men twenty at a time, and to explain their orders to them, so that
every man should know exactly what to do. No sound had been heard in the
village, and Terence felt sure that Herrara must have received his orders,
and at a quarter past ten he with one company moved slowly down towards
the village; Bull, with the main body of the force, marching westward
along the hills. Six men had volunteered for the service of silencing the
French outposts, and these, leaving their muskets behind, stole forward in
advance of the company, which halted at some little distance from the
In a quarter of an hour they returned. Eight French sentries had been
surprised and killed, the Portuguese crawling up to them until near enough
to spring upon and stab them without the slightest alarm being given. The
company now moved silently forward again until within a hundred yards of
the village, when they halted until the church clock struck eleven. Then
they rushed down into the village. As they entered it shots were fired,
and an outcry rose from the other side, showing that Herrara had managed
matters as well as they had. The surprise was complete; the street was
full of horses, while the soldiers had taken shelter in the houses. A
scene of the wildest confusion ensued. The horses were shot, for it was
most important to cripple this most formidable arm of the French service,
and the men were attacked as they poured out of the houses.
Bull, with a hundred men, made his way straight to the upper end of the
village and repelled the desperate attempts of a squadron of horse that
were posted beyond it in readiness for action, to break through to the
assistance of their comrades, while Terence and Herrara, each with a
hundred men, held the road at the lower end of the village to check an
infantry attack there. It was not long before it was delivered. The French
infantry, disciplined veterans, accustomed to surprises, had sprung to
their feet when the first shot was fired, and forming instantly into
column, came on at a run, led by their officers. Terence, with fifty men,
four deep, barred the way across the road; the rest of his men were
stationed along the high ground flanking it on one side, while Herrara
with his hundred flanked the opposite side.
As the French came on the Portuguese on the high ground remained silent
and unnoticed, but when a flash of fire ran across the road and a deadly
volley was poured in upon the enemy, those on the flanks at once opened
fire. For a moment the column paused in surprise, and then opened fire at
their unseen assailants, whose fire was causing such gaps in the ranks.
The colonel and several other officers who had been at its head had
fallen; in the din no orders could be heard, and for some minutes the head
of the column wasted away under the rain of bullets. Then a general
officer dashed up, and another body of Frenchmen came along at a run.
Terence's horn rang out loudly; the signal was repeated in the village,
the fire instantly ceased, and when the French column rushed into the
place not a foe was to be seen, but the street was choked up by dead
horses and men.
These reinforcements did not pause, but making their way over the
obstacles pressed on to where a roar of fire in front showed how hotly the
advance-guard was engaged. Here the surprise had been rather less
complete. Some of the outposts had given the alarm, and the French were on
their feet before, after pouring terrible volleys into them, a thousand
men fell upon them on either side. Great numbers of the French fell under
the fire, and the long line was broken up into sections by the impetuous
rush of the Portuguese. Nevertheless, the French soldiers hung together,
and the combat raged desperately until the head of the relieving column
came up. Then, as suddenly as before, the attack ceased. Not a gun was
fired, and, as if by magic, their assailants stole away into the darkness,
while the French opened a random fire after them.
An hour later the two Portuguese regiments united on the road two miles in
advance of the village. Their loss had been eighty-four killed and a
hundred and fifty wounded, of which seventy were serious cases. These
were, as before, sent off to be cared for in the mountain villages. The
French loss, as Terence afterward heard, had been very heavy; three
hundred of the cavalry had been killed, and upwards of four hundred
infantry. Great was the enthusiasm when the two regiments met, and after a
short halt marched away together into the hills and encamped in a wood two
miles from the road.
"What next, Generalissimo?" Herrara, whose left arm had been broken by a
"I think that we have done enough for the present," Terence said. "We will
leave it to the rest of the army to do a little fighting now. We have
lost, in killed and wounded, some two hundred men, and I don't wish to see
the whole force dwindle away. I propose that we do not go near Braga. I
have no idea of putting myself under the command of Friere; I have seen
enough of him already. So we will travel by by-roads till we get near
Oporto, then we will find out how matters stand there. My own idea is that
when the French army approaches, the Junta's courage will ooze out of its
finger ends, and that the 50,000 peasants, which it calls an army, will
bolt at the first attack of the French. So, as I don't mean to be trapped
there, we will rest on our laurels until we see how matters go."
It was well for the corps that Terence abstained from joining the army at
Braga. As the French entered the pass of Benda Nova, the peasants rushed
furiously down upon them. Many broke into the French columns, and fighting
desperately, were slain. The survivors made their way up the hillside, and
then making a detour, fell upon the rear of the column, killed fifty
stragglers and plundered the baggage. This spontaneous action of the
peasants was the only attempt made to bar the advance of the French, and
Friere permitted them to pass through defile after defile without firing a
shot. His conduct aroused the fury of his troops, and the feeling was
fanned by agents of the bishop, who had now become jealous of him, and his
men rushing upon him dragged him from a house in which he had taken
refuge, and slew him--a fit end to the career of a man who had proved
himself as unpatriotic as he was incapable.
On the 18th Soult arrived near Braga, and the Portuguese, who were now
commanded by Eben, a German officer in the British service, drew up to
meet him. The French began their advance on the 20th, and half an hour
later the Portuguese army was a mob of fugitives. The vanquished army lost
4,000 men and all their guns, 400 only being taken prisoners; the rest
dispersed in all directions, carrying tales of the invincibility of the
French. Had it not been for the stout resistance offered by 3,000 men,
placed on a position in the rear commanding the road, which checked the
pursuit of the cavalry and enabled the fugitives to make off, scarce a man
of the Portuguese would have escaped to tell the tale.
Terence had approached Oporto, and encamped in a large wood, when the
fugitives brought him news of the crushing defeat that they had suffered.
The soldiers were so furious when they heard of the disgraceful rout, that
Terence and Herrara had difficulty in preventing them from killing the
fugitives. The result strengthened his position. The troops on arriving at
their present camping-place were eager to be led into Oporto. Terence and
Herrara had talked the matter over several times, and agreed that such a
step might be fatal. Standing, as this town did, on the north side of the
river, the only means of leaving it was the bridge of boats, and if
anything happened to this all retreat would be cut off.
The defeat at Braga at once confirmed their opinion that the army of
peasants that the bishop had gathered round Oporto would be able to make
but little resistance to the French attack.
"It would be terrible," Herrara said; "50,000 fugitives, and a great
portion of the inhabitants of the town, all struggling to cross the
bridge, with the French cavalry pressing on their rear, and the French
artillery playing upon them. It is not to be thought of."
The troops, however, had been full of confidence in the valour of their
countrymen, and from their own success against the French believed that
the army at Braga would certainly defeat Soult, and there had been some
dissatisfaction that they had not been permitted to take part in the
victory. The news brought by the fugitives at once dissipated the hopes
that they had entertained. They saw that their commander had acted wisely
in refusing to join the army there, and their feeling of contempt for the
undisciplined ordenancas and peasants equalled the confidence they had
before reposed in them. Terence ordered the two regiments to form into a
hollow square and addressed them.
"Soldiers," he said, "I know that it was a disappointment to you that I
did not take you to Braga. Had I done so, not one of you would have
escaped, for when the rest fled like a flock of sheep you could not alone
have withstood the attack of the whole French army. I know that you wish
to enter Oporto. I have withstood that wish, and now you must see that I
was right in doing so. The peasants gathered in its defence are even less
disciplined than those at Braga, and Soult will, after two or three
minutes' fighting, capture the place. Were you there you could not prevent
such a result. You might hold the spot at which you were stationed, but if
the French broke in at any other point you would be surrounded and killed
to a man. What use would that be to Portugal? You can do more good by
living and fighting another day.
"Even if you should fall back with the other fugitives, what chance of
safety would there be? You know that there is but one bridge of boats
across the river, and that will soon be blocked by a panic-stricken crowd,
and your chance of crossing would be slight indeed. The men who fought at
Braga, those men who will fight before Oporto, are no more cowards than
you are, and had they gained as much discipline as you have, I would march
down with you at once and join in the defence. But a mob cannot withstand
disciplined troops. When the Portuguese have learned to be soldiers, they
may fight with a hope of success; until then it is taking them to
slaughter to set them in line of battle against the French. Soult may be
here in twenty-four hours, therefore I propose to march you down to the
river above Oporto. We are sure to find boats there, and we will cross at
once to the other side and encamp near the suburb at the south end of the
bridge, and when the fugitives pour over we will take our station there,
cover their retreat, and prevent the French from crossing in pursuit."
A murmur of satisfaction broke from the soldiers and swelled into a shout.
Soon after evening fell the corps marched from the wood, and two hours
later came down on the bank of the Douro. As Terence anticipated, there
were plenty of fishermen's boats hauled up, and the regiments passed over
by companies. By three in the morning all were across, and by five they
encamped in a wood beyond the steep hill rising behind the Villa Nova
suburb, on the left bank of the river. As soon as he had seen the soldiers
settled Terence borrowed the clothes of one of the men, and putting these
on instead of his uniform, he sent for Bull and Macwitty, and the two
soldiers soon arrived. They looked in astonishment at their officer.
"I am going into the town," he said, "partly to judge for myself of the
state of things there, and partly on a little private business of my own.
It is possible that I may get into trouble. I hope that I shall not do so,
but it is as well to be prepared for any emergency that might happen. If,
then, I do not return, you are to look to Colonel Herrara for orders. When
the French enter Oporto, which I am certain they will do as soon as they
attack it, you may gather your men at this end of the bridge, cover the
retreat, and repulse all efforts of the French to cross. As soon as those
attempts have ceased, you will march with the two regiments for Coimbra,
and report yourselves to the officer commanding there. Here are my
despatches to the general, in which I have done full justice to your
bravery and your conduct. Here is also a note to the officer commanding at
Coimbra. I have spoken to him about your conduct, and have asked him to
allow you to continue with the Portuguese until an order is received from
Sir John Cradock. I have given Colonel Herrara a duplicate of my
despatches and official orders, in case you should be killed."
"Cannot we go with you, sir?" Bull asked.
"I don't think so, Bull. Dress as you might, you could hardly be taken for
anything but an Englishman. Your walk and your complexion, to say nothing
of your hair, would betray you both at once. The first person who happened
to address you would discover that you were not natives, and the chances
are he would denounce you, and that you would be torn to pieces before you
could offer any explanation. Now, I think that I can pass readily enough.
The wind and rough weather have brought me to nearly the right colour, and
I know how to speak Portuguese well enough to ask any question without
"But why not take two of the men with you?" Macwitty said. "They could do
any talking that was necessary; and should anyone suggest that you are not
a native, they could declare that you were a comrade from their own
Bull strongly approved of the suggestion, and Terence, though in some
respects he would rather have been alone, at last agreed to it.
"They may as well take their arms; not for use, but to give them the
appearance of two men from the camp who had come down to make purchases in
Daylight was just breaking as the three crossed the bridge of boats into
the town, and passed through it up the hill to the great camp that had
been established there. It covered a large extent of ground, and contained
tents sufficient for the whole of the 50,000 men assembled. A short
distance away was the line of intrenchments on which the peasants had been
for some weeks engaged. They consisted of forts crowning a succession of
rounded hills, and connected by earthen ramparts, loopholed houses,
ditches, and an abattis of felled trees. No less than two hundred guns
were in place on the forts. It was a position that two thousand good
troops should have been able to hold against an army.
"It is a strong position," Terence said to the two men with him.
"Yes, the French can never pass that," one of them said, exultingly.
"That we shall see. They ought not to, certainly, but whether they will or
not is another matter."
They wandered about for a couple of hours. Once one of the Portuguese
joined a group of peasants, and learned from them something of the state
of things in the town, representing that they had but just arrived.
"You are lucky. You will see how we shall destroy the French army. Our
guns will sweep them away. Every man in the town is full of confidence,
and the traitors are all trembling in their houses. When the news of the
business at Braga came yesterday, and we learned the treachery of our
generals, the people rose, dragged fifteen suspected men of rank from the
prison and killed them. There is not a day that some of these traitors are
not rooted out."
"That is well," the other said; "it is traitors that have brought us to
"You will see how we shall fight when the French come. The bishop himself
has promised to come out in his robes to give us his blessing, and to call
down the wrath of heaven on the French infidels."
After having finished his survey of the line, Terence returned to the
city, and following the instructions that he had received as to the
situation of the convent at Santa Maria, he was not long in finding it. It
was a massive building; the windows of the two lower stories were closely
barred. He could not see any way of opening communications with his
cousin, or of devising any way of escape. He, however, thought that it
might possibly be managed if he could send in a rope to her and a pulley,
with means of fixing it; in that way he could lower her to the ground. But
all this would be very difficult to manage, even if he had ample time at
his disposal, and in the present circumstances it was altogether
impossible. He stared at the house for a long time in silence, but no idea
came to him, and it was with a feeling of hopelessness that he recrossed
the bridge and rejoined the troops.
"I am glad to see you back, sir," Bull said, heartily. "I have been in a
funk all this morning that something might happen to you."
"It has all gone off quietly. I will now tell you and Macwitty what my
business here is. I may need your help, and it is a matter in which none
of the Portuguese would dare to offer me any assistance."
"I think they would do maist anything for you, sir," Mac-witty said. "They
have that confidence in you, they would go through fire and water if you
were to lead them."
"They would do almost anything but what I want done now. I have a cousin,
a young lady, who is an heiress to a large fortune. Her father is dead,
and her mother, a wealthy land-owner, has had her shut up in a convent,
where they are trying to force her, against her will, to become a nun. She
is kept a prisoner, on bread and water, until she consents to sign a paper
surrendering all her rights. Now, what I want to do is to get her out. It
cannot be done by force; that is out of the question. It is a strong
building, and even if the men would consent to attack a convent, which
they would not do, all the town would be up, and we should have the whole
populace on us. So that force is out of the question. Now, the French are
sure to take the place. When they do, there will be an awful scene. They
will be furious at the resistance they have met with, and at the losses
that they have suffered. They will be maddened, and reasonably, by the
frightful tortures inflicted upon prisoners who have fallen into the hands
of the Portuguese, and you may be sure that for some time no quarter will
be given. The soldiers will be let loose upon the city, and there will be
no more respect for a convent than a dwelling-house. You may imagine how
frightfully anxious I am. If it had not been for the French I would have
let the matter stand until our army entered Oporto, but as it is, I must
try and do something; and, as far as I can see, the only chance will be in
the frightful confusion that will take place when the French enter the
"We will stand by you, Mr. O'Connor, you may be sure. You have only got to
tell us what to do, and you may trust us to do it."
Macwitty, who was a man of few words, nodded. "Mr. O'Connor knows that,"
"Thank you both," Terence said, heartily. "I must think out my plan, and
when I have decided upon it I will let you know."
During his visit to the other side of the river Terence had seen, with
great satisfaction, that a powerful battery, mounting fifty guns, had been
erected on the heights of Villa Nova, and its fire, he thought, should
effectually bar any attempt of the French to cross the bridge.
It would indeed be madness for them to attempt such an operation, as the
boats supporting the bridge could be instantly sunk by the concentrated
fire of the battery. He said nothing of this on his return to camp, as it
might have given rise to fresh agitation among the men, were they to be
aware that their presence was not really required for the defence of the
bridge. After a short stay in camp he again went down into the town, with
the idea that he was more likely to hit upon some plan of action there
than he would be in the camp.
The two men again went with him. Another prolonged stare at the convent
failed to inspire him with any scheme that was in the slightest degree
practicable. He fell back upon the conclusion he had mentioned to the two
troopers, that the only chance would be to take advantage of the wild
confusion that would prevail upon the entry of the French. The difficulty
that presented itself to him was, that the nuns would be so appalled by
the approach of the French that it would be unlikely that they would think
of leaving the protection--such as it was--of the convent, and would
shrink from encountering the wild turmoil in the streets. Even if they did
so, it would be too late for them to have any chance of getting across the
bridge, which would be thronged to a point of suffocation by the mob of
fugitives, and might readily be destroyed by one or two of the boats being
sunk by the French artillery.
The one thing evident was, that he must arrange to get a boat and to
station it at the end of some street going down to the river from the
neighbourhood of the convent. That part of the city being some distance
from the bridge, the streets would soon be deserted, and there would not
be a wild rush of fugitives to the boat, which would be the case were it
to be lying alongside anywhere near the bridge. Upon the other hand, it
would be less likely that the nuns would leave the convent if all was
comparatively quiet in that neighbourhood, and did they do so it would be
difficult in the extreme to carry off his cousin from their midst,
ignorant, too, as he was of her appearance. After looking for some time at
the convent, he returned to the more busy part of the town. Presently he
heard a great shouting; every window opened, and he saw a crowd coming
along the street. By the candles, banners, crucifixes, and canopies it was
evident that it was a religious procession. He was about to turn off into
a side street when the thought struck him that possibly it was the bishop
himself on his way up to the camp; therefore he remained in his place,
doffed his hat, and, like all around him, went down on one knee.
The procession was a long and stately one, and in the midst, walking
beneath a canopy, came the bishop himself. Terence gazed at him fixedly in
order to impress on his mind the features of the man whose ambition had
cost Portugal so dearly, and at whose instigation so much blood of the
most honest and capable men of the province had been shed. The face fully
justified the idea that he had formed of the man. The bishop was of
commanding presence, and walked with the air of one who was accustomed to
see all bow before him; but on the other hand, the face bore traces of his
violent character. There was a set smile on his lips, but his brow was
heavy and frowning, while his receding chin contradicted the strength of
the upper part of his face. There was, too, a look of anxiety and
restlessness betrayed by a nervous twitching of the lips.
"The scoundrel is a coward," Terence said to himself. "He may profess
absolute confidence, but I don't think he feels it, and I will bet odds
that he won't be in the front when the time for fighting comes."
Terence walked away after the procession had passed.
"If one could get hold of the bishop," he said to himself, "one might get
an order on the superior of the convent to hand over Mary O'Connor to the
bearer, but I don't see how that can possibly be managed. Of course, he is
surrounded by priests and officials all day, and his palace will be
guarded by any number of soldiers, for he must have many enemies. There
must be scores of relatives of men who have been killed by his orders, who
would assassinate him, bishop though he is, had they the chance. And even
if I got an order--and it seems to me impossible to do so--it would not be
made out in the name of Mary O'Connor. I know that they change their names
when they go into nunneries, and she may be Sister Angela or Cecilia, or
anything else, and I should not know in the slightest degree whether the
name he put down was the one that she really goes by. No, that idea is out
of the question."
Returning to the camp, he held counsel with Herrara. The latter, he knew,
had none of the bigotry so general among his countrymen. He had before
told him about his cousin being shut up against her will, and of the
letter that she had thrown out, but had hitherto said nothing of his
intention to bring about her escape if possible.
"I had an idea that that was what was in your mind when you went off so
early this morning, O'Connor. I have a high respect for the Church, but I
have no respect for its abuses. And the shutting up of a young lady, and
forcing her to take the veil in order to rob her of her property, is as
hateful to me as it can be to you, so that I should have no hesitation in
aiding you in your endeavour to bring about her escape. Have you formed
"No; I have thought it over again and again, but cannot think of any
"If that is the case, O'Connor, I fear that it is useless for me to try to
do so; you are so full of ideas always, that if you cannot see your way
out of the difficulty, it is hopeless to expect that I could do so. If you
can contrive any plan I will promise to aid you in any way you can point
out, but as to inventing one, I should never do so if I racked my brain
ever so much."
"There must be some way," Terence said. "I used to get into all sorts of
scrapes when I was a boy, but found there was always some way out of them,
if one could but hit upon it. The only thing that I can think of, is to
carry her off in the confusion when the French enter the town."
"I should say that the nuns would never think of leaving their convent,
O'Connor; it is their best hope of safety to remain there."
"No doubt it is, but the French don't always respect the convents--very
much the contrary, indeed. No, I don't think that they would go out merely
to rush into the street; but they might go out if they thought they could
get over the bridge before the French arrived."
"They might do that, certainly; indeed, it would be the best thing they
"Do you think that if one were to dress up as a priest, or as one of the
bishop's attendants, and to go as from him with an order to the lady
superior to take the nuns at once across the bridge to the convent on the
other side, she would obey it?"
"Not without some written order," Herrara said. "The bishop would
naturally send someone who would be known to her, or if he did send a
stranger he would give him a letter or some token she would recognize;
otherwise, she could not know that it was his order."
"That is what I was afraid of, Herrara, but it is what I shall try, if I
can see no other way. Indeed, I see only one chance of getting over the
difficulty. The bishop is a tyrant of the worst kind. Now, as far as I can
remember, tyrants of his sort--that is to say, tyrants who rule by working
on the passions of the mob--are always cowards. I watched the bishop
closely when I saw him to-day, and I am convinced he is one also. Even in
that kneeling crowd he could not conceal it. There was a nervous twitching
about his lips which, to my mind, showed that he was in a state of intense
anxiety, and that under all his swagger and show of confidence he was,
nevertheless, in a horrible state of alarm. That being so, it seems to me
extremely likely that when the fighting begins he will make a bolt of it.
He won't wait for the French to enter, for he would know well enough that
in their fury at their defeat, the fugitives, if they came upon him, would
be likely to tear him limb from limb, just as they have murdered dozens of
infinitely better men; so I think that he will make off beforehand. I
imagine that he will go secretly, and with only two or three attendants."
"But you could never carry him off without an alarm being raised, if that
is what you are thinking of, O' Connor."
"No, I am not thinking of that; but if I could, say with Bull and
Macwitty, suddenly attack him like three robbers, we might carry off
something that would serve as a sort of passport to the lady abbess. For
instance, he had a tremendously big ring on. I noticed it as he held up
his hands, as if on purpose to show it off."
"That was his episcopal ring," Herrara laughed. "Yes, if you could get
hold of that, it would be a key that would open the door of any convent."
"Do you think she would hand my cousin over to me if I showed it to her
and gave her a message as from the bishop?"
"Yes, if you knew the name. You see, from the day she was made a nun she
lost her former name altogether; and certainly the bishop would send for
her under her convent name."
"That is what I was thinking myself. Then I must get them all out."
"You have got to get the ring first," Herrara said with a smile.
"Yes, yes, I mean if I get it."
"But if the French have entered the town you can never get them across the
"No, I know that. I mean to get a boat and have it lying off the end of
some quiet street. I could put a couple of our men into that, for they
would only regard it, when I had got her on board, as an effort on my part
to save one of the nuns from the French. One thing to do would be to get
the robe of a priest, or the dress of one of the bishop's officials."
Herrara thought for some time. "I think that I could do that for you,
O'Connor. Of course I have a good many acquaintances in Oporto, among them
some ladies. I was intending to go across this evening and see some of
them, and implore them to leave the town before it is too late. One of
these friends of mine might buy some robes for me; a woman can do that
sort of thing when a man cannot. She can pretend that she wants to buy the
robe as a present for the parish priest, or her father confessor, or
something of that sort. At any rate, it is worth trying."
"It is, indeed, Herrara, and if you could manage it I should be greatly
obliged to you."
"I will go across at once. I expect Soult will be close up to-morrow
morning, or at any rate the next day. It may be another couple of days
before he gets his whole force concentrated, but in four days anyhow his
shot will be rattling down into the town. I will go and see what I can do.
You had better get one of my troopers to get the boat for you."
Herrara did not return until early on the following morning.
"I have managed it," he said, as Terence, who was getting very anxious
about him, ran forward to meet him.
"There is one family in Oporto whose eldest son is a brother officer of
mine, and I have visited them here with him, and have met them several
times at Lisbon. Indeed, I may tell you frankly that had it not been for
the troubles, his sister would, ere this time, have been affianced to me.
I had hoped that they had left the town before this, but they told me that
any movement of that sort might bring disaster on them. Two of her
brothers are in the army, and the bishop could not, therefore, pretend
that the father was a traitor to the country; being an elderly man, the
latter has in fact held aloof altogether from politics; but he is
certainly not of the bishop's party, and the bishop considers that all who
are not with him are against him. Had they attempted to leave the town
there is no doubt he would have made it a pretext for arresting the
father, and would certainly do so on the first opportunity. However, they
quite believed that the great force that there is here would be sufficient
to defend the fortifications, and were completely taken aback when I told
them that I was absolutely convinced that the place would fall at the
first attack of the French.
"They agreed to make all preparations for leaving at once. Their horses
have been seized, nominally that they should be used on the
fortifications, but really, I have no doubt, to prevent their leaving. Of
course I told them all about what we had been doing, in which they were
intensely interested. For aught they know, their house may be watched; so
they will come out in some of their servants' clothes. I told them that
they must leave on the night before Soult made his attack. Of course he
will summon the town, and the bishop will, of course, refuse to surrender,
and you may be sure the French will attack on the following day. They left
me alone with Lorenza for a time, and I took that opportunity of telling
her about your plan, and what you wanted, and she promised to procure you
the dress of an ecclesiastic to-morrow. I told her that you were about my
size and height.
"She knew your cousin personally, and was very fond of her, and therefore
entered all the more readily into our plans to get her out. She said that
she disappeared suddenly some months ago, and that her mother had given
out that she had been suddenly seized with the determination to enter a
convent, much against her own wishes. Lorenza felt sure that this was not
true, for she knew that your cousin had heard from her father much about
the Reformed religion, and was in her heart disposed that way. The mother
is engaged to be married to a nobleman who is one of the bishop's warmest
supporters, and the general idea was that Mary O'Connor had been forced
into a nunnery against her will. I sat talking with them until late last
night, and they would not hear of my leaving, especially as they said that
the town was full of bands of ruffians, who traversed the streets,
attacking and robbing anyone of respectable appearance. As I had rather a
fancy to try what a comfortable bed was like again, I did not need much
"Thank you greatly, Herrara, I am indeed obliged to you; things seem to
look really hopeful. I have arranged with Bull and Macwitty that on the
evening before the attack is likely to take place we will watch all night
at this end of the bridge. The bishop won't leave until the last thing,
but I would wager any money he will do so that night. He won't go farther
than Villa Nova, so as to be ready to cross again at once if the news
comes that the French have been beaten off. No doubt he will make the
excuse that as an ecclesiastic he could take no active part in the
defence, but had been engaged in prayer, which had done more towards
gaining the victory than his presence could possibly have done."
"I should not be surprised if that should be his course," Herrara said,
smiling. "At any rate, for your sake I hope that it will be. Have you seen
about a boat?"
"Yes, I spoke to Francesco Nortis yesterday evening, and told him that I
wanted to hire a boat with two boatmen for the next week. They were to be
at his service night and day. He was to tell them that he would not want
it for fishing, but that, in case, by any possibility, the French took the
town, he should be able to go across and bring some friends over. When I
told him that money was no object, he said that there would be no
difficulty about it. They will be glad enough to get a good week's pay and
next to nothing to do for it."
Two days passed quietly. On the first day the news arrived that Silveira
had invested Chaves on the day of the battle of Braga, and had forced the
garrison, which consisted of but a hundred fighting men, with twelve
hundred sick, to capitulate.
Day after day news came of the advance of the French. They had moved in
three columns. Each had met with a stout resistance, but had carried the
passes and bridges after severe loss. One of the columns had been held for
some time in check at the Ponte D'Ave, but had carried it at last,
whereupon the Portuguese had murdered their general and dispersed.
On the 26th, six days after the battle of Braga, Franceschi's cavalry were
seen approaching the position in front of Oporto. The alarm bells rung,
the troops hurried to their positions, but the day passed off quietly, the
confidence of the people being still further raised by the arrival of
2,000 regular troops sent by Beresford to their assistance. As there were
already seven or eight thousand regular troops in the camp, it seemed to
all that as Soult had but 20,000 men fit for action, the defences ought to
be held against him for any length of time. The majority, indeed, believed
that he would not even venture to attack the town when upon his arrival he
perceived its strength, especially when they knew that he had but a few
guns with him, his park of artillery being still at Tuy, which was closely
invested by the Spaniards.
On the following day the whole French army settled down in front of the
Portuguese works, and a wild and purposeless fire was now opened by the
defenders, although the French were far beyond musket-range.
Soult sent in a message to the bishop urging him to surrender. He assured
him that resistance was hopeless, and that it was his earnest desire to
save so great a city from the horrors of a storm. The message was sent by
a prisoner, who was seized by the mob in spite of the flag of truce that
he carried, and would have been murdered had he not assured the people
that he came with a message from Soult, to the effect that, seeing the
hopelessness of attacking the town or of marching back to the frontier in
safety, he wished to negotiate for a surrender for himself and his army.
At one point the Portuguese displayed a white flag, and shouted that they
wished to surrender. A French general advanced with another officer, but
when they reached the lines the Portuguese fell upon him, killed his
companion, and carried the general a prisoner into the town. The
negotiations were prolonged until evening, but the bishop declined all
Soult's overtures, and the fire from the intrenchments continued. In the