Part 7 out of 7
"By my sowl," O'Grady said to him, afterwards, "Terence O'Connor, you take
me breath away altogether. To think that a year ago you were just a
gossoon, and here ye are a colonel--a Portuguese colonel, I grant, but
still a colonel--fighting Soult, and houlding defiles, and making night
attacks, and thrashing the French cavalry, and carrying off a nun from a
convent, and outwitting a bishop, and playing all Sorts of divarsions. It
bates me entirely. There is Dicky Ryan, who, as I tould him yesterday, had
just the same chances as you have had, just Dicky Ryan still. I tould him
he ought to blush down to his boots."
"And what did he say, O'Grady?"
"The young spalpeen had the impudence to say that there was I, Captain
O'Grady, just the same as when he first joined, and, barring the loss of
an arm, divil a bit the better. And the worst of it is, it was true
entirely. If I could but find a pretty cousin shut up in a convent you
would see that I would not be backward in doing what had to be done; but
no such luck comes to me at all, at all."
"Quite so, O' Grady; I have had tremendous luck. And it has all come about
owing to my happening to think it would be a good thing to take possession
of that French lugger."
"Don't you think it, me boy," O'Grady said, seriously. "No doubt a man may
have a turn of luck, though it is not everyone who takes advantage of it
when it comes. But when you see a man always succeeding, always doing
something that other fellows don't do, and making his way up step by step,
you may put it down that luck has very little to do with the matter, and
that he has got something in him that other men haven't got. You may have
had some luck to start with--enough, perhaps, to have got you your
lieutenancy, though I don't say that it was luck; but you cannot put the
rest of it down to that."
At this moment Dick Ryan came and joined them.
"Well, Dicky," Terence said, "have you had no fun lately in the regiment?"
"Not a scrap," Ryan said, dismally. "There was not much chance of fun on
that long march; on board ship there was a storm all the way; then we were
kept on board the transport at Cork nearly three months. Everyone was out
of temper, and a mouse would not have dared squeak on board the ship. I
have had a bad time of it since the day we lost you."
"Oh, well, you will have plenty of chances yet, Dicky."
"It has not been the same thing since you have gone, Terence," he
grumbled. "Of course we could not always be having fun; but you know that
we were always putting our heads together and talking over what might be
done. It was good fun, even if we could not carry it out. I tried to stir
up the others of our lot, but they don't seem to have it in them. I wish
you could get me transferred to your regiment. I know that we should have
plenty of fun there."
"I am afraid that it could not be done, Dicky, though I should like it
immensely. But you see you have not learned a word of Portuguese, and you
would be of no use in the world."
"There it is, you see," O'Grady said. "That is one of the points which had
no luck in it, Terence. You were always trying to talk away with the
peasants; and, riding about as you did as Fane's aide-de-camp, you had
opportunities of doing so and made the most of them. Now there are not
three other fellows in the regiment who can ask a simple question. I can
shout _Carajo!__ at a mule-driver who loiters behind, and can add two or
three other strong Portuguese words, but there is an end of it. Cradock
would never have sent you that errand to Romana if you could not have
talked enough to have made yourself understood. You could never have jawed
those mutineers and put them up to getting hold of the arms. If Dicky Ryan
and I had been sent on that mission we should just have been as helpless
as babies, and should, like enough, have been murdered by that mob. There
was no luck about that, you see; it was just because you had done your
best to pick up the language, and nobody else had taken the trouble to
learn a word of it."
"I see that, O'Grady," Ryan said, dolefully. "I don't envy Terence a bit.
I know that he has quite deserved what he has got, and that if I had had
his start, I should never have got any farther. Still, I wish I could go
with him. I know that he has always been the one who invented our plans.
Still, I have had a good idea sometimes."
"Certainly you have, Dicky; and if I have generally started an idea, you
have always worked it up with me. Well, if you will get up Portuguese a
bit, and I see a chance of asking for another English officer, say as
adjutant, I will see if I cannot get you; but I could not ask for you
without being able to give as a reason that you could speak Portuguese
"I will try, Terence; upon my honour, I will try hard," Ryan said. "I will
get hold of a fellow and begin to-day."
"Quite right, Dicky," O'Grady said. "Faith, I would do it meself, if it
wasn't in the first place that I am too old to learn, and in the second
place that I niver could learn anything when I was a boy. I used to get
thrashed every day regularly, but divil a bit of difference did it make. I
got to read and write, and there I stuck. As for the ancients, I was
always mixing them up together; and whether it was Alexander or Caesar who
marched over the Alps and burnt Jerusalem, divil a bit do I know, and I
don't see that if I did know it would do me a hap'orth of good."
"I don't think that particular piece of knowledge would, O'Grady," Terence
agreed, with a hearty laugh; "still, even if you did learn Portuguese, I
couldn't ask for you. I don't mind Dicky, because he is only a year senior
to me; but if they made me commander-in-chief of the Portuguese army, I
could never have the cheek to give you an order."
Three weeks later came the startling news that Sir Arthur Wellesley had
arrived at Lisbon, and was to assume the command of the army. Sir John
Cradock was to command at Gibraltar. There was general satisfaction at the
news, for the events of the last campaign had given all who served under
him an implicit confidence in Sir Arthur; but it was felt that Sir John
Cradock had been very hardly treated. In the first place, he was a good
way senior to Sir Arthur, and in the second place, he had battled against
innumerable difficulties, and the time was now approaching when he would
reap the benefit of his labours. To Terence the news came almost as a
blow, for he felt that it was probable he might be at once appointed to a
Personally he would not have cared so much, but he would have regretted it
greatly for the sake of the men who had followed him. It was true that
they might obey Herrara as willingly as they did himself, but he knew that
the native officers did not possess anything like the same influence with
the Portuguese that the English did, and that there might be a rapid
deterioration in their discipline and morale. He remained in a state of
uncertainty for a week, at the end of which time he received a letter from
Captain Nelson, and tearing it open, read as follows:--
_My Dear O' Connor,
I dare say you have been feeling somewhat doubtful as to your position
since you heard that Sir Arthur has superseded Sir John Cradock. I may
tell you at once that he has taken over the whole of Sir John's staff,
yourself, of course, included. I ventured to suggest to Sir John that he
should mention your case to Sir Arthur, and he told me that he had
intended to take the opportunity of the first informal talk he had with
him to do so. The opportunity came yesterday, and Sir John went fully into
your case, showed him the reports, and mentioned how he came to appoint
you because of the clear and lucid description you gave of the movements
of every division of Moore's army.
Sir Arthur remembered your name at once, and the circumstances under which
he had mentioned you in general orders for your conduct on board the
transport coming out. Sir John told me that he said, 'There is no doubt
that O'Connor is a singularly promising young officer, Sir John. The check
he gave Soult on the Minho might have completely reversed the success of
the Frenchman's campaign had he had any but Spaniards and Portuguese to
oppose him. The report shows that O'Connor has done wonders with those two
regiments of his, and I shall not think of removing him from their
command. A trustworthy native corps of that description would be of the
greatest advantage, and will act, like Trant and Wilson's commands, as the
eyes of the army. I am much obliged to you for your having brought the
case before my notice, for otherwise, not knowing the circumstances, I
might very well have considered that the position of a lieutenant on my
staff as the commander of two native regiments was an anomalous one. I
should, no doubt, have inquired how it occurred before I thought of
superseding an officer you had selected, but your explanation more than
justifies his appointment.' So you see, Terence, the change will make no
difference in your position. And as I fancy Sir Arthur will not let the
grass grow under his feet, you are likely to have a lively time of it
before long. By the way, a Gazette has arrived, and it contains the
appointment of your two men to commissions.__
While waiting at Leirya, Terence had ordered uniforms for all the
officers. He had, after consultation with Herrara, decided upon one
approximating rather to the cavalry than to infantry dress, as being more
convenient for mounted officers. It consisted of tight-fitting green
patrol jacket, breeches of the same colour, and half-high boots and a
gold-embroidered belt and slings. The two English officers wore a yellow
band round their caps, and Herrara a gold one.
"I am sure, Colonel O'Connor," Bull said, when Terence told Macwitty and
him that they had been gazetted to commissions, "we cannot thank you
enough. Macwitty and I have done our best, but it has been nothing more
than teaching drill to a lot of recruits."
"We had two or three hard fights, too, Bull; and I have very good reason
for thinking most highly of you, for I should never have got the corps
into an efficient state without your assistance. And, indeed, I doubt
whether I should have ventured upon the task at all if I had not been sure
that I should be well seconded by you."
"It is good of you to say so, Colonel," Macwitty said; "but at any rate,
it has been a rare bit of luck for us, and little did we think when we
were ordered to accompany you it was going to lead to our getting
commissions. Well, we will do our best to deserve them."
"That I am sure you will, Macwitty; and now that the campaign is going to
commence in earnest, and we may have two or three years' hard fighting,
you may have opportunities of getting another step before you go home."
Three days later an order came to Terence to march north again with his
corps, and to place himself in some defensible position north of the
Mondego, and to co-operate, if necessary, with Trant and Silveira, also
ordered to take post beyond the river. Cuesta, the Portuguese general, had
gathered a fresh army of six thousand cavalry and thirty thousand
infantry. The greater portion were in a position in front of Victor's
outposts. Between the Tagus and the Mondego were 16,000 Portuguese troops
of the line, under Lord Beresford, that had been drilled and organized to
some extent by British officers. The British and German troops numbered
22,000 fighting men.
Sir Arthur Wellesley, at Lisbon, had the choice of either falling upon
Victor or Soult. The former would be the most advantageous operation, but,
upon the other hand, the Portuguese were most anxious to recover Oporto,
their second city, with the fertile country round it.
Another fact which influenced the decision was that Cuesta was alike
incapable and obstinate, and was wholly indisposed to co-operate warmly
with the British. The British commander, therefore, decided in the first
place to attack Soult, and the force at Leirya was ordered to march to
Coimbra. Five British battalions and two regiments of cavalry, with 7,000
Portuguese troops, were ordered to Abrantes and Santarem to check Victor,
should he endeavour to make a rapid march upon Lisbon. Four Portuguese
battalions were incorporated in each British brigade at Coimbra, Beresford
retaining 6,000 under his personal command. On the 2d of May Sir Arthur
reached Coimbra and reviewed the force, 25,000 strong, 9,000 being
Portuguese, 3,000 Germans, and 13,000 British.
Soult was badly informed of the storm that was gathering about him, or
many of his officers were disaffected, and were engaged in a plot to have
him supplanted; consequently, they kept back the information they received
of the movements of the British.
[Illustration: "WHO ARE YOU, SIR, AND WHAT TROOPS ARE THESE?" SIR ARTHUR]
On the 9th of May Terence was directing the movements of his men, who were
practising skirmishing among some rough ground at the bottom of the hill
upon which he had taken up his position, to defend, if necessary, the road
that crossed if. His men had thrown up several lines of breast-works along
the face of the hill to a point where steep ravines protected the flank of
his position. Presently he saw a party of horsemen riding down the hill
behind him. They reined up suddenly when half-way down the hill and paused
to watch what was being done; then they came on again. As they approached,
Terence recognized the erect figure of the officer who rode at the head of
the party. He cantered up and saluted.
"Who are you, sir, and what troops are these?" Sir Arthur asked, sharply.
"My name is O'Connor, sir. These men constitute the corps that I have the
honour to command."
"Form them up in line," the general said, briefly.
Terence rode away at a gallop, and as soon as he reached the spot where
his bugler was standing--for bugles had now taken the place of the horns
that had before served the purpose--the latter at once blew the assembly,
and then the order to form line. The men dashed down at the top of their
speed, and in a very short time formed up in a long line with their
officers in front.
"Break them into columns of companies," the general, who had now ridden
with the staff to the front, said.
The manoeuvre was performed steadily and well.
"Send out the alternate companies as skirmishers, while the other
companies form line and move forward in support." When this had been done
the order came: "Skirmishers, form into company squares to resist enemy's
This had been so frequently practised that in a few seconds the six
squares were formed up in an attitude to receive cavalry.
"That is very well done, Colonel O'Connor," Sir Arthur said, with more
warmth than was usual with him. "Your men are well in hand and know their
business. It is a very creditable display, indeed; you have proved your
capacity for command. I have not forgotten what I have heard of you, sir,
and it will not be long before your services are utilized."
So saying he rode on. Captain Nelson lingered behind for a moment to shake
hands with Terence.
"You may feel proud of that, O'Connor," he said; "Sir Arthur is not given
to praise, I can assure you. Good-bye, I must catch them up;" and,
turning, he soon overtook the general's staff.
That the general was well satisfied was proved by the fact that three days
later the following appeared in general orders:
_"The officer commanding-in-chief on Thursday inspected the corps under
the command of Lieutenant (with the rank of colonel in the Portuguese
army) O'Connor. He was much pleased with the discipline and quickness with
which the corps went through certain movements ordered by him. This corps
has already greatly distinguished itself, and Sir Arthur would point to it
as an example to be imitated by all officers having command of Portuguese
Soult's position had now become very dangerous. The Spanish and Portuguese
insurgents were upon the Lima, and the principal portion of his own force
was south of the Douro.
Franceschi's cavalry, supported by infantry and artillery, and by Mermet's
division, occupied the country between that river and the Vouga, and was
without communication with the centre at Oporto, except by the bridge of
Although aware that there was a considerable force gathering at Coimbra,
the French general had no idea that the whole of the British army was
assembling there. Confident that success would attend his operations, Sir
Arthur directed the Portuguese corps to be in readiness to harass Soult's
retreat through the mountain denies and up the valley of the Tamega, and
so to force him to march north instead of making for Salamanca, where he
could unite with the French army there.
A mounted officer brought similar orders to Terence. Half an hour after
receiving them the corps was on the march. The instructions were brief and
_"You will endeavour to harass Soult as he retreats across the
Tras-os-Montes, and try to head him off to the north. Act as circumstances
The service was a dangerous one, and Terence felt that it was a high
honour that the general should have appointed him to undertake it, for he
assuredly would not have sent the corps on such a mission had he not
considered that they could be relied upon to take care of themselves. They
would be wholly unsupported save by parties of peasants and ordenancas;
they would have to operate against an army broken, doubtless, by defeat,
but all the more determined to push on, as delay might mean total loss.
He followed the line of the Vouga to the point where it emerged from the
hills, crossed these, and came down upon the Douro some ten miles above
San Joao, at nearly the same spot where he had before made the passage
when on his way to join Romana.
He was now well beyond the district held by the French south of the Douro,
and, obtaining a number of boats, crossed the river, and then made for
Mirandella on the river Tua, and halted some distance from the town,
having made a march of over seventy miles in two days. Learning from the
peasants that there were no French troops west of the Tamega, he marched
the next day to the crest looking down into the valley, and here halted
until he could learn that Soult was retreating, and what road he was
following. He had not long to wait for news, for, on the night of the 9th,
while he was on his march by the Vouga, the British force had moved
forward to Aveiro. Hill's division had there taken boats, and proceeding
up the lake to Ovar, had landed at sunrise on the 10th, and placed himself
on Franceschi's right.
In the meantime Paget's division had marched to Albergaria, while Cotton's
division and Trant's command moved to turn Franceschi's position on its
right. The darkness and their ignorance of the roads prevented the
movement being attended with the hoped-for success. Had the operation been
carried out without a hitch, Franceschi and Mermet would both have been
driven off the line of retreat to the bridge of Oporto, and must have been
captured or destroyed. As it was, Franceschi fell back fighting, joined
Mermet's division at Crijo, a day's march in the rear, and although the
whole were driven on the following day from this position, they retired in
good order, and that night effected their retreat across the bridge of
boats, which was then destroyed.
As Franceschi's report informed Soult that the whole force of the allies
was now upon him, he at once sent off his heavy artillery and baggage by
the road to Amarante. Mermet was posted at Valongo, with orders to patrol
the river and to seize every boat. Those at Oporto were also secured. On
the morning of the 12th the British force was concentrated behind the hill
of Villa Nova, and Sir Arthur took his place on the top of the Serra
Convent, from whence he commanded a view of the city and opposite bank. He
saw that the French force was stationed for the most part below Oporto.
Franceschi's report had led Soult to believe that Hill's division had come
by sea, and he expected that the transports would go up to the mouth of
the Douro, and that the British would attempt to effect a landing there.
The river took a sharp turn round the Serra Convent, and Sir Arthur saw
that another large convent on the opposite bank, known as the Seminary,
was concealed by the hill from Soult's position, and that it might be
occupied without attracting the attention of the French. After much search
a little boat was found; in this a few men crossed and brought back two
large boats from the opposite side of the river. In these the troops at
once began to cross, and two companies had taken possession of the convent
before Soult was aware of what was going on. Then a prodigious din arose.
Troops were hurried through the town, the bugles and trumpets sounded the
alarm, while the populace thronged to the roofs of their houses wildly
cheering and waving handkerchiefs and scarves, and the church bells added
to the clamour.
Three batteries of artillery had been brought up close to the Serra
Convent, and now that there was no longer need of concealment these were
brought forward, and--as the French issued from the town and hurried
towards the post held by the two companies that had crossed--opened a
heavy fire upon them. The French pushed on gallantly in spite of this fire
and the musketry of the soldiers, but the wall of the convent was strong,
more boats had been obtained, and every minute added to the number of the
defenders. The attack was, nevertheless, obstinately continued. The French
artillery endeavoured to blow in the gate, and for a time the position of
the defenders was serious, but the enemy's troops were now evacuating the
lower part of the town, and immediately they did so the inhabitants
brought boats over, and a brigade under Sherwood crossed there.
In the meantime General Murray had been sent with the German division to
effect a passage of the river two miles farther up. Soult's orders to take
possession of all the boats had been neglected, and it was not long before
Murray crossed with his force. The confusion in the French line of retreat
was now terrible. A battery of artillery, who brought up the rear, were
smitten by the fire of Sherwood's men; many were killed, and the rest cut
their traces and galloped on to join the retreating army. Sherwood's men
pressed these in the rear, the infantry on the roof of the Seminary poured
their fire on the retiring masses, and the guns on the Serra rock swept
the long line.
Had Murray now fallen upon the disordered crowd their discomfiture would
have been complete, but he held his force inactive, afraid that the French
might turn upon him and drive him into the river. General Stewart and
Major Harvey, furious at his inactivity, charged the French at the head of
two squadrons of cavalry only, dashed through the enemy's column, unhorsed
General Laborde and wounded General Foy. Receiving, however, no support
whatever from Murray, the gallant little band of cavalry were forced to
fight their way back with loss. Thus, as Franceschi had been saved from
destruction from an error as to the road, Soult was saved the loss of this
army by Murray's timidity, and in both cases Sir Arthur's masterly plans
failed in attaining the complete success they deserved.
Terence had engaged several peasants to watch the roads leading from
Oporto, and as soon as he learned that a long train of baggage and heavy
guns was leaving the city by the road to Amarante, he crossed the valley,
took up a position on the Catalena hill flanking the road, and as the
waggons came along opened a sudden and heavy fire upon them. Although
protected by a strong guard the convoy fell into confusion, many of the
horses being killed by the first volley. Some of the drivers leapt from
their seats and deserted their charges, others flogged their horses, and
tried to push through the struggling mass. An incessant fire was kept up,
but just as Terence was about to order the whole corps to charge down and
complete the work, a large body of cavalry, followed by a heavy body of
infantry, appeared on the scene.
This was Merle's division, that had hastened up from Valonga on hearing
the firing. The advance of the cavalry was checked by the musketry fire,
but Merle at once ordered his infantry to mount the hill and drive the
Portuguese off. The latter stood their ground gallantly for some time,
inflicting heavy loss upon their assailants. Terence saw, however, that he
could not hope to withstand long the attack of a whole French division,
and leaving two companies behind to check the enemy's advance, he marched
along the crest of the hill until he came upon the road crossing from
Amarante to the Ave river.
By this time he had been joined by the rear-guard, who had retired in time
to make their escape before the French reached the top of the hill. Merle
posted a brigade along the crest of the ridge to prevent a repetition of
the attack, and to cover Soult's line of retreat, if he were forced to
fall back; while Terence took up his position near Pombeiro, whence he
presently saw the convoy enter Amarante. He had the satisfaction, however,
of noticing that it was greatly diminished in length, a great many of the
waggons having been left behind owing to the number of horses that had
been killed. His attack had had another advantage of which he was unaware,
for it had so occupied Merle's attention that he had neglected to have all
the boats taken across the river, which enabled Murray's command to cross
the next day, an error which, had Murray been possessed of any dash and
energy, would have proved fatal to the French army.
The next day Terence heard the sound of the guns on the Serra height, but
the distance was too great for the crack of musketry to reach him, and he
had no idea that the British were crossing the river until he saw the
French marching across the mouth of the valley towards Amarante. Among
such veteran troops discipline was speedly recovered, and they encamped in
good order in the valley. That town was, however, in the hands of the
Portuguese, Loison, either from treachery or incapacity, having disobeyed
Soult's orders and retired before the advance of the Portuguese force
under Lord Beresford, and, evacuating Amarante, taken the road to
Guimaraens, passing by Pombeiro.
He had sent no news to Soult, and the latter general was altogether
ignorant that he had left Amarante. Upon receiving the news from the head
of the column he at once saw that the position had now become a desperate
one. Beresford, he learned at the same time, had marched up the Tamega
valley to take post at Chaves, where Silveira had joined him. A retreat in
that direction, therefore, was impossible, and he at once destroyed his
baggage, spiked his guns, and at nightfall, guided by a peasant, ascended
a path up the Serra Catalena, and, marching all night, rejoined Loison at
Guimaraens, passing on his way through Pombeiro. Terence had left the
place a few hours before, believing that Soult must return up the valley
of the Tamega, and, ignorant that Beresford and Silveira barred the way,
he marched after nightfall towards Chaves and took up a position where he
could arrest, for a time, the retreat of the French army.
He had left two of his men at Pombeiro, and had halted but a short time
after completing his long and arduous march when his two men came up with
the news that Soult had passed by the very place he had a few hours before
left. As there was more than one route open to Soult, Terence was unable
to decide which he had best take. His men had already performed a very
long march, and it was absolutely necessary to give them a rest; he
therefore allowed them to sleep during the day. Towards evening he crossed
the Serra de Cabrierra and came down upon Salamende, and sent out scouts
for news. Destroying the guns, ammunition, and baggage of Loison's
division, Soult reached the Carvalho on the evening of the 14th, drew up
his army on the position that he had occupied two months before at the
battle of Braga, reorganized his forces, and ordering Loison to lead the
advance, while he himself took command of the rear, continued his march.
The next day Sir Arthur Wellesley, who had been obliged to halt at Oporto
until the whole army, with its artillery and train, had passed the river,
reached Braga, having marched by a much shorter road.
Terence's scouts brought news that the whole of the French army were
marching towards Salamende. Wholly unsupported as he was, ignorant of the
position of Beresford and Silveira, and knowing nothing of Sir Arthur's
march towards Braga, he decided not to attempt with his force to bar the
way to Soult's twenty thousand men, but to hold Salamende for a time and
then fall back up the mountains. Before doing so he sent a party to blow
up the bridge at Ponte Nova across the Cavado, and also sent his second
regiment to defend the passage at Riuvaens.
Thinking it likely that Soult would again cross the mountains to Chaves,
he sent Herrara in command of the force at the bridge, while he himself
remained at Salamende. Here he had the houses facing the road by which the
enemy would approach, loopholed and the road itself barricaded. Late in
the afternoon the French cavalry were seen approaching, and a heavy fire
was at once opened upon them. The rapidity of the discharges showed
Franceschi that the place was held by more than a mere party of peasants,
and he drew off his cavalry and allowed the infantry to pass him. For half
an hour the Portuguese held their ground and repulsed three determined
assaults; then, seeing a strong body of troops ascending the hillside to
take the position in flank, Terence ordered his troops to fall back. This
they did in good order, and took up a position high up on the hill.
The French made but a short pause; a small body of cavalry that Soult had
left near Braga brought him the news that the British army was entering
that town. Scouts were sent forward at once, and their report that the
bridge of Riuvaens was destroyed, and that 1,200 Portuguese regular troops
were on the opposite bank, decided him to take the road by the Ponte Nova.
The night was a terrible one; the rain had for two days been continuous,
and the troops were drenched to the skin and impatient at the hardship
that they had suffered. The scouts reported that the bridge here had also
been destroyed, but that one of the parapets was still unbroken, and that
the force on the other side consisted only of peasants. Soult ordered
Major Doulong, an officer celebrated for his courage, to take a hundred
grenadiers and secure the passage.
A violent storm was now raging, and their footsteps being deadened by the
roar of the wind, the French crept up, killed the Portuguese sentry on
their side of the bridge before he could give the alarm, and then crawled
across the narrow line of masonry. Then they rushed up the opposite
heights, shouting and firing, and the peasantry, believing that the whole
French army were upon them, fled at once. The bridge was hastily repaired,
and at four o'clock in the morning the whole of the French army had
crossed. Their retreat was opposed at a bridge of a single arch over a
torrent, by a party of Portuguese peasantry, but after two repulses the
French, led by Major Doulong, carried it.
They were just in time, for in the afternoon the British came upon a
strong rear-guard left at Salamende. Some light troops at once turned
their flank, while Sherwood attacked them in front, and they fled in
confusion to the Ponte Nova. As the general imagined that Soult would take
the other road, their retreat in this direction was for some time
unperceived, but just as they were crossing, the British artillery opened
fire upon the bridge with terrible effect, very many of the enemy being
killed before they could effect a passage. Their further retreat was
performed without molestation. The British troops had made very long
marches in the hopes of cutting Soult's line of retreat, and as the
French, unlike the British, carried no provisions for their march, there
was now little hope of overtaking them, especially as their main body was
Sir Arthur halted for a day at Riuvaens, where Terence's corps was now
concentrated, he having marched there the night he was driven out of
Salamende. As soon as the British entered the place, the general inquired
what corps was holding it, and at once sent for Terence.
"Let me hear what you have been doing, Colonel O'Connor."
Terence had, as soon as he heard that the army had arrived at Salamende,
written out a report of his movements from the time that he had marched
from Vouga. He now presented it. The general waved it aside.
"Tell me yourself," he said.
Terence related as briefly as possible the course he had followed, and the
reasons of his movements.
"Good!" the general said, when he had finished. "Your calculations were
all well founded; but, of course, you could not calculate on Soult's night
march across the Catalena hills, and, as you knew nothing of the
whereabouts of Beresford and Silveira, you had good reason to suppose that
Soult would continue his march up the valley of the Tamega to Chaves. That
was the only mistake you committed, and an older soldier might well have
fallen into the same error. When you had found out your mistake, you acted
promptly, and could not have done better than to proceed to Salamende. You
did well to destroy both bridges, and to place half your force to defend
the passage here, for you naturally supposed, as I supposed myself, that
Soult would follow this road down to Chaves.
"You were again deceived, but were in no way to blame. Your position was
most judiciously chosen on the Catalena hills on Soult's natural line of
retreat, and I heard that the enemy's baggage train had been very severely
mauled, and was only saved from destruction by Merle deploying his whole
division against the force attacking it. Again I see you made a stout
defence at Salamende. We saw a large number of French dead there as we
marched in. If everyone else had done as well as you have done, young sir,
Soult's army would never have escaped me."
Terence bowed, and retired deeply gratified, for he had been doubtful what
his reception would be. He knew that he had done his best, but twice he
had been mistaken, and each time the mistake had allowed Soult to pass
unmolested; and he was, therefore, all the more pleased on learning that
so skilful a general had declared that these mistakes, although
unfortunate, were yet natural.
Soult reached Orense on the 20th, without guns, stores, ammunition, or
baggage, his men exhausted with fatigue and misery, most of them shoeless,
and some without muskets. He had left Orense seventy-six days before with
22,000 men, and had lately been joined by 3,500 from Tuy. He returned with
19,500, having lost 6,000 by sword, sickness, assassination, and capture.
Of these 3,600 were taken in the hospitals at Oporto, Chaves, Vianna, and
Braga. One thousand were killed in the advance, and the remainder captured
or killed within the last eight days.
A day later the news arrived that Victor was at last advancing and a
considerable number of the troops assembled at Salamende, among them
Terence's corps, were ordered to march to join the force opposed to him.
Terence started two hours before the bulk of the force got into motion,
and traversing the ground at a high rate of speed, struck the road from
Lisbon a day in advance of the British troops. There was, however, no
occasion for action, for Victor, who had taken Abrantes, had, on receiving
news of the fall of Oporto, at once evacuated that town and fallen back,
and for a time all operations ceased on that side.
The British army had suffered but slight loss in battle, but the long
marches, the terribly wet weather, and the effect of climate told heavily
upon them, and upwards of 4,000 men were, in a short time, in hospital.
Fortunately, however, a reinforcement of equal strength arrived from
England, and the fighting strength of the army was therefore maintained.
There was still, however, a great want of transport animals; the
commissariat were, for the most part, new to their duties, and ignorant of
the language. Sir Arthur Wellesley was engaged in the endeavour to get
Cuesta to co-operate with him, but the obstinate old man refused to do so
unless his plans were adopted; and these were of so wild and impracticable
a character that Sir Arthur preferred to act alone, especially as Cuesta's
army had already been repeatedly beaten by the French, and the utter
worthlessness of his soldiers demonstrated.
The pause of operations in Spain, entailed by the concentration of the
commands of Soult, Ney, Victor, and Lapisse on the frontier, had given
breathing time to Spain. Large armies had again been raised, and the same
confident ideas, the same jealousy between generals, and the same quarrels
between the Juntas had been prevalent. Once again Spain was confident that
she could alone, and unaided, drive the French across the frontier
altogether, forgetful of the easy and crushing defeats that had before
been inflicted upon her. Like Moore, Sir Arthur Wellesley was to some
extent deceived by these boastings, and believed that he should obtain
material assistance in the way of transports and provisions, and that at
least valuable diversions might be made by the Spanish army.
He accepted, too, to some extent, the estimate of the Spaniards as to the
strength of the French, and believed that their fighting force in the
Peninsula did not exceed 130,000 men, whereas in reality it amounted to
over 250,000. The greatest impediment to the advance was the want of
money, for while the British government continued to pour vast sums into
Cadiz and Seville, for the use of the Spaniards, they were unable to find
money for the advance of their own army. The soldiers consequently were
unpaid, badly fed, almost in rags, and a large proportion of them
shoeless; and to meet the most urgent wants, the general was forced to
raise loans at exorbitant rates at Lisbon. And yet, while a great general
and a victorious army were nearly starving in Portugal, the British
government had landed 12,000 troops in Italy and had despatched one of the
finest expeditions that ever sailed from England, consisting of 40,000
troops and as many seamen and marines of the fleet, to Walcheren, where no
small proportion of them died of fever, and the rest returned home broken
in health and unfit for active service, without having performed a single
action worthy of merit.
The Mayo Fusiliers were among the regiments stationed at Abrantes, and
Terence received orders to take up a position four miles ahead of that
town, and hold it unless Victor again advanced in overwhelming strength,
and then to fall back on Abrantes. This exactly suited his own wishes. It
was pleasant to him to be within a short ride of his old regiment, while
at the same time his corps were not encamped with a British division, for
his own position was an anomalous one, and among the officers who did not
know him he was regarded as a young staff-officer. He could not explain
the position he held without constantly repeating the manner in which he
had gained a commission as colonel in the Portuguese service.
During the month that had passed without movement, he continued his
efforts to improve his corps, and borrowed a dozen non-commissioned
officers from Colonel Corcoran to instruct his sergeants in their duty,
and thus enable them to train others and relieve the officers of some of
their work. He had in his first report stated that he had kept back L1,000
of the money he carried to Romana for the use of his corps, and as he had
never received any comment or instructions as to the portion that had not
been expended, he had still some money in hand. This he spent in
supplementing the scanty rations served out. Frequently he rode into
Abrantes and spent the evening with the Mayo Fusiliers. The first time he
did so he requested the officers always to call him, as before, Terence
"It is absurd being addressed as colonel when I am only a lieutenant in
the service. Of course when I am with the corps it is a different thing; I
am its colonel, and must be called so; but it is really very annoying to
be called so here."
"You must be feeling quite rusty," Colonel Corcoran said to him, "sitting
here doing nothing, after nine months of incessant moving about."
"I am not rusting, Colonel, I am hard at work sharpening my blade; that
is, improving my corps. Your men drill my sergeants four hours a day, and
for the other eight each of them is repeating the instructions that he has
received to three others. So that by the time we are in movement again I
hope to have a sergeant who knows something of his duty to each fifty men.
I can assure you that in addition to the great need for such men when the
troops are out skirmishing, or otherwise detached in small parties, I felt
that their appearance on parade was greatly marred by the fact that the
non-commissioned officers did not know their proper places or their proper
work, which neither Bull nor Macwitty, nor indeed the company officers,
could instruct them in, all being cavalrymen."
"Yes, I noticed that when I saw them at Leirya," the colonel said. "Of
course it was of no consequence at all as far as their efficiency went,
but to the eye of an English officer, naturally, something seemed
"I should be glad of at least four more officers to each company, and at
one time thought of writing to Lord Beresford to ask him to supply me with
some, but I came to the conclusion that we had better leave matters as
they were. In the first place young officers would know nothing of their
work, and nothing of me; and in the second place, if they were men of good
family they would not like serving under officers who have been raised
from the ranks; and lastly, if they became discontented, they might render
the men so. We have done very fairly at present, and we had better go on
as we are; and when I get a sufficient number of trained men to furnish a
full supply of non-commissioned officers, I shall do better than with
commissioned ones, for the men are of course carefully selected, and I
know them to be trustworthy, whereas those they sent me might be idle, or
worse than useless."
"You spake like King Solomon, Terence," O'Grady said; "not that he can
have known anything whatever about military matters."
A roar of laughter greeted this very doubtful compliment.
"Thank you, O'Grady," Terence said. "That is one of the prettiest speeches
I have heard for a long time. I shall know where to come for a character."
"You are right there, Terence; but you may live a good many years before
you get a chance of calling a whole British army under arms, as you did at
Terence was at once assailed with a storm of questions, for with the
exception of O'Grady, no one had suspected the share that he and Dicky
Ryan had had in that affair. Terence knew that the latter had kept the
secret, for he had asked him only two or three days before, and he
therefore assumed an expression of innocence.
"What on earth do you mean, O'Grady?"
"What do I mane? Why, that somehow or other you were at the bottom of that
shindy when all the troops were turned out on a false alarm."
"Really, O'Grady, that is too bad. You know that every trick that was
played at Athlone was your suggestion, and as we never could find out how
that alarm originated, of course you put it down to me, whereas it is just
as likely to have been your own work. Colonel Corcoran knows that Dicky
and I were in the mess-room at the convent at the time when the alarm
"That was so," the colonel agreed, "for I know that you were talking to me
when Hoolan ran in and told us that there was a row in the town. On what
do you base your suspicions, O'Grady?"
"Just upon me knowledge of the two lads, Colonel. Faith, there never was a
piece of mischief afloat that they were not mixed up with."
"If that is all you have to say, O'Grady," Terence replied, "I should
advise you not to go hunting for mares' nests again. I know that you can
see as far into a brick wall as most people, but you cannot see what is
going on on the other side."
"All the same, Terence," O'Grady said, doggedly, "to the end of me life I
will always believe that you had a hand in the matter. There is no one
else that I know of except you and Ryan who would have had the cheek to do
such a thing, and I don't believe that you can deny it yourself."
"I shall not trouble myself to plead not guilty, except before a regularly
constituted court," Terence laughed. "At any rate, as when the march
begins we shall go on first as scouts, it may be that I shall send in news
which will turn out a British army again."
"I will forgive you if you do, for it is likely that we should have some
divarsion after turning out, instead of marching out and back again like a
regiment of omadhouns."
NEWS FROM HOME
A week after arriving at Abrantes, seeing that there was no probability
whatever of fighting for a time, Terence had suggested to Herrara that it
would be a good opportunity for him to run down to Lisbon for a few days
to see his fiancee and his friends in the town.
"I don't know who you really ought to apply to for leave," he said, "but
as we are a sort of half-independent corps, it seems the simplest way for
me to take the responsibility. Nobody is ever likely to ask any questions
about it; and now that it will simply be a matter of hard drill till the
army moves again, you can be very well spared. If it is company work, it
is the captain's business. If the two regiments are manoeuvring together,
they will of course be under Bull and Macwitty, and I should be acting as
"I should like to go very much," Herrara said. "I have not yet had the
pleasure of introducing myself to my family and friends as a
lieutenant-colonel. Of course, I wrote to my people when I received the
commission from Lord Beresford; but it would be really fun to surprise
some of my school-fellows and comrades, so if you think that it will not
be inconvenient I should like very much to go."
"Then if I were you I should start at once. I will give you a sort of
formal letter of leave in case you are questioned as you go down. You can
get to Santarem to-night and to Lisbon to-morrow afternoon."
"Is there anything that I can do for you?"
"Yes; I wish you would ask Don Jose if he will, through his friends at
Oporto, find out whether my cousin's mother was there at the time the
French entered, and if she was, whether she got through that horrible
business unhurt. I have been hearing about it from my friends, who were a
couple of days there before the force marched to Braga. They tell me that,
by all accounts, the business was even worse than we feared. The French
came upon some of their comrades tied to posts in the great square,
horribly mutilated, some of them with their eyes put out, still living,
and after that they spared no one; and upon my word, I can hardly blame
them, and in fact don't blame them at all, so long as they only their
vengeance on men. The people made it worse for themselves by keeping up a
desultory fire from windows and housetops when resistance had long ceased
to be of any use; and, of course, seeing their comrades shot down in this
way infuriated the troops still further.
"I don't suppose it will make the slightest difference in the world to my
cousin whether her mother is dead or not, for I fancy from what Mary said
that her mother never cared for her in the slightest. Possibly she was
jealous that the child had the first place in the father's affections.
However that may be, there was certainly no great love between them, and
of course her subsequent treatment of my cousin destroyed any affection
that might have existed. That either by some deed executed at the time of
marriage, or by Portuguese law, Mary has a right to the estate at her
mother's death, is clear from the efforts they made to get her to renounce
that right. Still, there is no more chance of her ever inheriting it than
there would be of her flying. As a nun she would naturally have to
renounce all property, and no doubt the law of this priest-ridden country
would decide that she had done so. She tells me--and I am sure,
truly--that she refused to open her lips to say a single word when she was
forced to go through the ceremony; but as, no doubt, a score of witnesses
would be brought forward to swear that she answered all the usual
questions and renounced all worldly possessions, that denial would go for
"Besides," Herrara said, "it would never do for her to set foot in
Portugal. She would be seized as an escaped nun immediately, and would
never be heard of again."
"I have no doubt that that would be so, Herrara; and as she has a nice
fortune from her father, you may be sure that she will not trouble about
the estates here, and her mother would be welcome to do as she likes with
them, which is, after all, not unreasonable, as they are her property and
descended to her from her father. Still, I should be glad to learn, if it
does not give any great trouble, whether if, as is almost certain--for the
people from all the country round took refuge there long before the French
arrived--she was in Oporto, and if so, whether she got through the sack of
the town unharmed. No doubt Mary would be glad to hear."
"I am sure Don Jose would be able to find out for you without any
difficulty," Herrara said; "indeed I expect he will soon be going back
there himself. Now that there is a British garrison in the town, that the
bishop must be utterly discredited there, and a good many of his Junta
must have been killed, while the rabble of the town has been thoroughly
discomfited, the place will be more comfortable to live in than it has
been for a long time past. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
A quarter of an hour later Herrara left for Lisbon, bearing many messages
of kind regards on Terence's part to Don Jose and his family. Terence's
last words were:
"By the way, Herrara, if you should be able to find at any store in Lisbon
some Irish whisky, I wish you would get six dozen cases for me, or what
would be more handy, a sixteen or eighteen gallon keg, and could get it
sent on by some cart coming here, I should be very much obliged. It had
better be sent to me, care of Colonel Corcoran, Mayo Fusiliers, Abrantes.
I should like to be able to give a glass to my friends when they ride out
to see me. But have the barrel or cases sewn up in canvas before the
address is put on; I would not trust it to the escort of any British guard
if they were aware of the nature of the contents. Wine would be safe with
them, for they can get that anywhere, but it would be too much for the
honesty of any Irishman if he were to see a cask labelled Irish whisky."
A week later Colonel Corcoran said when Terence rode in:
"By the bye, O'Connor, there is a cask of wine for you at my quarters; it
was brought up by an ammunition train this morning. The officer said that
a Portuguese colonel had begged him so earnestly to bring it up that he
could not refuse."
"It was Herrara, no doubt, Colonel; he has gone down to Lisbon for a
"Ah! I suppose he sent you a keg of choice wine."
"You shall taste it next time you come out, Colonel. I have been wishing
that I had something better than the ordinary wine of the country to offer
when you come over to see me. I will send over a couple of men with a cart
in the morning to bring it out to me."
On leaving that evening Terence invited all the officers who could get
away from duty to come over to lunch the next day.
"Bring your knives and forks with you," he said; "and I think you had
better bring your plates, too; I fancy four are all I can muster."
Early next morning Terence told Bull and Macwitty that he expected a dozen
officers out to lunch with him. "And I want you to lunch with me too. I
know that Captain O'Grady and others have asked you several times to go in
and dine at mess, and that you have not gone. I hope to-day you will meet
them at luncheon. I can understand that you feel a little uncomfortable at
this first meeting with a lot of officers as officers yourselves; but, of
course, you must do it sooner or later, and it would be much better doing
so at once.
"The next thing is, what can I give them to eat? I should be glad if you
will send out a dozen foraging parties in different directions; there must
be little villages scattered among the hills that have so far escaped
French and English plunderers. Let each party take four or five dollars
with them. I want anything that can be got, but my idea is a couple of
young kids, three or four ducks, or a couple of geese, as many chickens,
and of course any vegetables that you can get hold of. My man Sancho is a
capital cook, and he will get fires ready and two or three assistants.
They will be here by one o'clock, so the foraging parties had better
return by ten."
"If there is anything to be brought you shall have it, Colonel," Bull
said; "Macwitty and I will both go ourselves, and we will get half a dozen
of the captains to go too; between us it is hard if we don't manage to get
By ten o'clock the officers rode in, almost every one of them having some
sort of bird or beast hanging from his saddle-bow; there were two kids, a
sucking pig, two hares, half a dozen chickens, three geese, and five
ducks, while the nets which they carried for forage for their horses were
filled with vegetables. Half a dozen fires had already been lighted, and
Sancho had obtained as many assistants, so that by the time the colonel
and fifteen officers rode up lunch was ready.
After chatting for a few minutes with them, Terence led the way to a rough
table that was placed under the shade of a tree. Ammunition boxes were
arranged along for seats. Although but a portion of what had been brought
in had been cooked, the effect of the table was imposing.
"Why, O'Connor," the colonel said, "have you got one of the genii, like
Aladdin, and ordered him to bring up a banquet for you? I have not seen a
winged thing since we marched from Coimbra, and here you have got all the
luxuries of the season. No wonder you like independent action, if this is
what comes of it; there have we been feeding on tough ration beef, and
here are the contents of a whole farmyard."
Almost all the officers had been out before, and Bull and Macwitty had
been introduced to them. They now all sat down to the meal.
"I am sorry Major O'Driscol is not here," Terence said.
"He could not get away," the colonel said, from the other end of the
table. "If the general had come round and there hadn't been a
field-officer left to meet him there would have been a row over it. I have
brought pretty nearly all the officers with me, and I dared not stretch it
"O'Grady," Terence said, "I wish you would carve this hare for me, I have
no idea how it ought to be cut. I can manage a chicken, or a duck, but
this is beyond me altogether."
"I will do it gladly, Terence; faith, it is a comfort to find that there
is something you can't do." And so, with much laughter and fun, the meal
"You have not told us yet where you got all these provisions, O'Connor,"
the colonel said; "it is too bad to keep all the good things to yourself."
"It has been the work of eight officers, Colonel; they rode off this
morning in different directions among the hills, and there was not one of
them who returned empty-handed."
"The wine is fairly good," the colonel said, as he set down his tin mug
after a long draught, "but it was scarce worth sending all the way up from
"That has to follow, Colonel; I thought you would appreciate it better
after you had done eating."
"I have not had such a male since we left Athlone," O'Grady said, when at
last he reluctantly laid down his knife and fork. "Be jabers, it would be
all up with me if the French were to put in an appearance now, for faith I
don't think I could run a yard to save me life."
The tin mugs were all taken away and washed when the table was cleared.
"You are mighty particular, O'Connor," the colonel said.
"One mug is good enough for us. If we liquored-up a dozen times--which, by
the way, we never do--one of these wines is pretty well like another, and
if there was a slight difference it would not matter."
When the board was cleared a large jug was placed before Terence, and some
water-bottles at various points of the table.
"I thought, Colonel, that you might prefer spirits even to the wine,"
"And you are right, O'Connor. A good glass of wine after a good dinner is
no bad thing, but after such a meal as we have eaten I think that even
this bastely spirit of theirs--which, after all, is not so bad when you
get accustomed to it--is better than wine; it settles matters a bit."
Terence poured some of the spirit from a jug into his tin and filled it up
with water. "Help yourself," he said, passing the jug to O'Grady, who sat
next to him.
O'Grady was about to do so when he suddenly set the jug down.
"By the powers," he exclaimed, in astonishment, "but it is the real
"Go on, O'Grady, go on, the others are all waiting while you are looking
at it. If you feel too surprised to take it, pass the jug on."
O'Grady grasped it. "I will defind it wid me life!" he exclaimed. In the
meantime the colonel had filled his mug.
"Gentlemen," he said, solemnly, after raising it to his lips, "O'Grady is
right; it is Irish whisky, and good at that."
"It is a cruel trick you've played on us," O'Grady said, with a sigh, as
he replaced the empty mug upon the table. "I had almost forgotten the
taste, and had come to take kindly to the stuff here. Now I shall have to
go through it all again. It is like holding the cup to the lips of that
old heathen Tartarus, and taking it away again."
"Och, what does it matter, when he has been dead and buried thousands of
years, how he spilt his name. Where did you get it from, Terence?"
"I asked Herrara to try and find some for me at Lisbon; I thought it was
most likely that some English merchant there would have laid in a stock,
and it seems that he has found one."
"Do you hear that, Colonel? There is whisky to be had at Lisbon, and us
not know it."
"Well, Captain O'Grady, all I can say is that I shall at dinner this
evening move a vote of censure upon you as mess president for not having
discovered the fact before."
"Don't talk of dinner, Colonel; there is not one of us could think of
sitting down to ration beef after such a male as we have had--and with
whisky here, too! I move, Colonel, that no further mintion be made of
dinner. I have no doubt that Terence will give us some divilled
bones--there is as much left on the table as we have eaten--before we
start home to-night."
"I will do that with pleasure. In fact, it is exactly what I reckoned
upon," Terence replied.
"I think, O'Grady, we must send to Lisbon for some of this."
"Is it only think, Colonel? Faith, I would go down for it myself, if I had
to walk with pays in my boots and to carry it back on me shoulders. Can I
find Herrara there?" he asked.
"Yes, I can give you the address where he will be found."
"Anyhow, Colonel," O'Flaherty said, "I must--and I'm sure all present will
join me in the matter--protest against Captain O'Grady going down to
Lisbon to fetch whisky for the mess. You must know, sir, as well as I do,
that he would never return again, and we should probably hear some day
that his body had been found by the side of the road with three or four
empty kegs beside him."
There was a general burst of agreement.
"Perhaps, Doctor O'Flaherty," O'Grady said, in a tone of withering
sarcasm, "it's yourself who would like to be the messenger."
"There might be a worse one," O'Flaherty said, calmly; "but as I believe
that Captain Hall is going down on a week's leave to-morrow, I propose
that he, being an Englishman, and therefore more trustworthy than any
Irish member of the mess would be on such a mission, be requested to
purchase some for the use of the mess, and to escort it back again. How
much shall I say, Colonel?"
"That is a grave matter, and not to be answered hastily, Doctor. Let me
see, there are thirty-two officers with the regiment. Now, what would you
say would be a fair allowance per day for each man?"
"I should say half a bottle, Colonel. There are some of them won't take as
much, but O'Grady will square matters up."
"I protest against the insinuation," O'Grady said, rising; "and, moreover,
I would observe, that it is mighty little would be left for me after each
man had taken his whack."
"That is sixteen bottles a day. For a continuance I should consider that
too much; but seeing that we have been out of dacent liquor for a month,
and may have but a fortnight after it arrives to make up for lost time, we
will say sixteen bottles."
"Make it three gallons," O'Grady said, persuasively; "we shall be having
lots of men drop in when it gets known that we have got a supply."
"There is something in that, O'Grady. Well, we will say three
gallons--that is, forty-two gallons for a fortnight. We will commission
Captain Hall to bring back that quantity."
"If you say forty-five, Colonel, it will give us a drop in our flasks to
start with, and we are as likely to be fifteen days as fourteen, anyway."
"Let it be forty-five then," the colonel assented. "Will you undertake
that, Captain Hall?"
"Willingly, Colonel. I will get the whisky emptied into wine casks, and as
I know one of the chief commissaries at Lisbon, I can get it brought up
with the wine for the troops."
After sitting for a couple of hours, the colonel proposed that they should
all go for a walk, while those who preferred it should take a nap in the
"I move, O'Connor," he said, "that this meeting be adjourned until
"I think that will be a very good plan, Colonel."
The proposal was carried out. O'Grady and a few others declared that they
should prefer a nap. The rest started on foot, and sauntered about in the
shade of the wood for a couple of hours, then all gathered at the table
again. At eight o'clock grilled joints of fowls and ducks were put upon
the table, and at nine all mounted and rode back to Abrantes.
"How many of those quart jugs have been filled, Sancho?"
"That is not so bad," Terence said to Macwitty. "That is twelve bottles;
and as there were sixteen and our three selves, that is only about two
bottles between three men."
"I call that vera moderate under the circumstances, Colonel," Macwitty
said, gravely. "I have drank more myself many a time."
"They were a good many hours over it too," Terence added; "you may say it
was two sittings. You will see that we shall have a great many callers
from the camp for the next few days."
A fortnight later Terence received a letter from Don Jose, saying that he
had heard from his friend at Oporto, and that they informed him that the
Senora Johanna O'Connor had been killed at the sack of Oporto. She had
left her own house and taken refuge at the bishop's. That place had been
defended to the last, and when the infuriated French broke in, all within
its walls had been killed.
Terence was not altogether sorry to hear the news. The woman had been a
party to the cruel imprisonment of Mary. No doubt his cousin would feel
her death, but her grief could not be very deep; and it was, he thought,
just as well for her that her connection with Portugal should be
altogether severed. Her mother might have endeavoured to tempt her to
return there; and although he felt sure that she would not succeed in
this, she might at least have caused some trouble, and it was better that
there should be an end of it. As to the woman herself, she had been in
agreement with the bishop, had been mixed up in his intrigues, and her
death was caused by her misplaced confidence in him. Of course she had not
known that he had left the town, and thought that under his protection she
would be safe in the palace.
"She must have been a bad lot," he said to himself.
"Evidently she did not make her husband happy, and persecuted her
daughter, and I regret her death no more than any other of the ten
thousand people who fell in Oporto."
A few days later he received letters both from his father and Mary. Being
under eighteen he opened the former first.
_My Dear Terence,
I have heard all about you and your doings from Mary, and I am proud of
you. It is grand satisfaction that you should have won your lieutenancy,
and that you should be on the general's staff; as to your being a colonel,
although only a Portuguese one, it is simply astounding. I don't care so
much about the rank, for the Portuguese officers are poor creatures, not
one in fifty of them knows anything of his duty; but what I do value is
your independent command. That will give you opportunities for
distinguishing yourself that can never fall in the way of a subaltern of
the line, and I fancy, now that you have got Wellesley at the head, there
will be plenty of such opportunities.
I was delighted, as you may guess, when I got Mary's letter from London. I
had just settled at the old house, and mighty lonely I felt with no one to
speak to, and the wind whistling in at the broken windows, and the whole
place in confusion. So putting aside Mary, I was glad enough to have some
excuse for running away. I took the next coach for Dublin; found, by good
luck, a packet just sailing for London; and got there a week later. She is
a nice girl and a pretty one; but I suppose I need not tell you that. I
told her it was a poor place I was going to take her to, but she would be
as welcome as the flowers in May; but she only laughed and said, that
after being shut up for a year in a single room, and having nothing but
bread and water, it would not matter a pin to her what it was like.
She was in a grand house, and Mrs. Nelson insisted on my putting up there.
We stopped three days and then we took ship to Cork. We had to prove that
the money lying there belonged to me; that is to say, that I was the
person in whose name it had been put. I had all sort of botheration about
it, but luckily I knew the colonel of the regiment there, and he went to
the bank with me and testified. Then we came down here, and Mary hadn't
been here a day before she began to spend money. I said I would not allow
it; and she said I could not help it, the money was her own, and she could
spend it as she liked, which was true enough; and at present the place is
more topsy-turvy than ever.
I won't have anything to do with giving orders, but she has got a score of
masons and carpenters over from Athlone, and she is turning the old place
upside down. I sha'n't know it myself when she has done with it. There is
not a place fit to sit down in, and we are living for the time at the inn
at Kilnally, three miles away, and drive backwards and forwards to the
house. Except that we quarrel over that, we get on first-rate together.
She is never tired of talking about you, and when I hinted one day that it
was ridiculous your being made a colonel, she spurred up like a young
bantam, and more than hinted that if you had been appointed
commander-in-chief instead of Sir Arthur it would not have been beyond
My wound hurts me a bit sometimes, but I am able to get about all right,
and the surgeon says in a few months I shall be able to walk as straight
as anyone. And so, good-bye. I don't think I ever wrote such a long letter
before, and as Mary will be telling you everything, I don't suppose I
shall ever write such a long one again.__
Terence laughed as he put the letter down and opened one from his cousin.
_Dear Cousin Terence,
Here I am with your father as happy as a bird, and as free. I sing about
the place all day, my heart is so light, and should be perfectly happy
were it not that I am afraid that you will be fighting again soon, and
then I shall be very anxious about you. Your father is just what I thought
he would be from what I know of you. He is as kind as if he was my own
father, and reminds me of him. You told me it was a tumbledown old place,
and it is. When we came it was only fit for owls to live in, so, of
course, I set to work at once. Your father was very foolish about it, but,
of course, I had my way. What is the use of having money and living in an
owl's nest? So I have set a lot of men to work.
Your father won't interfere with it one way or the other. I had a builder
down, he shook his head over it and said that it would be cheaper to pull
it down and build a new one; but as it was an old family house I could not
do that. However, between ourselves, I don't think there will be much of
the old one left by the time we have finished. It looks awful at present.
I am building a new wall against the old one, so that it will look just
the same, only it will be new. The windows are going to be made bigger,
and there will be a new roof put on. Inside it will all have to come down,
all the woodwork was so rotten that it was dangerous to walk upstairs. It
is great fun looking after the workmen. And though your father does keep
on grumbling and saying that I am destroying the old place, I don't think
he really minds.
As I tell him, one could live in a house without windows nine months in
the year in Portugal, but it is not so in Ireland. One wants comfort,
Terence; and, as I have plenty of money, I don't see why we should not
have it. You can sleep on the ground, and go from morning till night in
wet clothes, when you are on a campaign, but that is no reason why you
should do it at other times. The weather is fine here now, at least your
father says it is fine, and I want to get everything pushed on and
finished before it changes to what even he will admit is wet. The people
here seem all very nice and pleasant. They are delighted at having your
father back again. I drive about with him a great deal, and we call upon
the neighbours, who all seem very pleased that the house is going to be
The poor people seem very poor. I don't know that they are poorer than
they are in Portugal, but I think they look poorer; but they don't seem to
mind much. I have made great friends with most of the children already,
and always go about with a large bag of sweetmeats in what your father
calls "the trap." I think of you very often, Terence, and your father and
I generally talk about you all the evening. By what he says you must have
been a very naughty boy, indeed, before you became a soldier. Do take care
of yourself. We shall be very, very anxious about you as soon as we hear
that fighting has begun again. I hope you think very often of your very
loving cousin, MARY O'CONNOR.__
"She will do a world of good to my father," Terence said to himself as he
put down the letters. "After being so long in the regiment he would have
felt being alone in that old place horribly, especially as it has, of
course, been a terrible trial to him to be laid aside just as a big
campaign is beginning. She will keep him alive, and he won't have any time
to mope. Even if for no other reason, it is a lucky thing indeed that I
was able to get Mary out. I sha'n't feel a bit anxious about him now."