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be done, for I’m resolved to have his daughter.

The orderly is starting, so no more till we meet.

Yours ever, FRED POWER.

“Godwin,” said I, as I closed the letter, “I find myself in a scrape at headquarters; you are to take the command of the detachment, for I must set out at once.”

“Nothing serious, I hope. O’Malley?”

“Oh, no; nothing of consequence. A most absurd blunder of my rascally servant.”

“The Irish fellow yonder?”

“The same.”

“He seems to take it easily, however.”

“Oh, confound him! he does not know what trouble he has involved me in; not that he’ll care much when he does.”

“Why, he does not seem to be of a very desponding temperament. Listen to the fellow! I’ll be hanged, if he’s not singing!”

“I’m devilishly disposed to spoil his mirth. They tell me, however, he always keeps the troop in good humor; and see, the fellows are actually cleaning his horses for him, while he is sitting on the bank!”

“Faith, O’Malley, that fellow knows the world. Just hear him.”

Mr. Free was, as described, most leisurely reposing on a bank, a mug of something drinkable beside him, and a pipe of that curtailed proportion which an Irishman loves held daintily between his fingers. He appeared to be giving his directions to some soldiers of the troop, who were busily cleaning his horses and accoutrements for him.

[Illustration: MR. FREE PIPES WHILE HIS FRIENDS PIPE-CLAY.]

“That’s it, Jim! Rub ’em down along the hocks; he won’t kick; it’s only play. Scrub away, honey; that’s the devil’s own carbine to get clean.”

“Well, I say, Mr. Free, are you going to give us that ere song?”

“Yes. I’ll be danged if I burnish your sabre, if you don’t sing.”

“Tear an’ ages! ain’t I composing it? Av I was Tommy Moore, I couldn’t be quicker.”

“Well, come along, my hearty; let’s hear it.”

“Oh, murther!” said Mike, draining the pot to its last few drops, which he poured pathetically upon the grass before him; and then having emptied the ashes from his pipe, he heaved a deep sigh, as though to say life had no pleasures in store for him. A brief pause followed, after which, to the evident delight of his expectant audience, he began the following song, to the popular air of “Paddy O’Carroll”:–

BAD LUCK TO THIS MARCHING.

Air,–_Paddy O’Carroll_.

Bad luck to this marching,
Pipe-claying, and starching,
How neat one must be to be killed by the French, I’m sick of parading,
Through wet and cowld wading,
Or standing all night to be shot in a trench. To the tune of a fife
They dispose of your life,
You surrender your soul to some illigant lilt; Now, I like Garryowen,
When I hear it at home,
But it’s not half so sweet when you’re going to be kilt.

Then, though up late and early,
Our pay comes so rarely,
The devil a farthing we’ve ever to spare; They say some disaster
Befell the paymaster;
On my conscience, I think that the money’s not there. And just think what a blunder,
They won’t let us plunder,
While the convents invite us to rob them, ’tis clear; Though there isn’t a village,
But cries, “Come and pillage,”
Yet we leave all the mutton behind for Mounseer.

Like a sailor that’s nigh land,
I long for that island
Where even the kisses we steal if we please; Where it is no disgrace
If you don’t wash your face,
And you’ve nothing to do but to stand at your ease. With no sergeant t’abuse us,
We fight to amuse us;
Sure, it’s better bate Christians than kick a baboon. How I’d dance like a fairy
To see ould Dunleary,
And think twice ere I’d leave it to be a dragoon!

“There’s a sweet little bit for you,” said Mike, as he concluded; “thrown off as aisy as a game at football.”

“I say, Mr. Free, the captain’s looking for you; he’s just received despatches from the camp, and wants his horses.”

“In that case, gentlemen, I must take my leave of you; with the more regret, too, that I was thinking of treating you to a supper this evening. You needn’t be laughing; it’s in earnest I am. Coming, sir, coming!” shouted he, in a louder tone, answering some imaginary call, as an excuse for his exit.

When he appeared before me, an air of most business-like alacrity had succeeded to his late appearance, and having taken my orders to get the horses in readiness, he left me at once, and in less than half an hour we were upon the road.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

MONSOON IN TROUBLE.

As I rode along towards Fuentes d’Onoro, I could not help feeling provoked at the absurd circumstances in which I was involved. To be made the subject of laughter for a whole army was by no means a pleasant consideration; but what I felt far worse was the possibility that the mention of my name in connection with a reprimand might reach the ears of those who knew nothing of the cause.

Mr. Free himself seemed little under the influence of similar feelings; for when, after a silence of a couple of hours, I turned suddenly towards him with a half-angry look, and remarked, “You see, sir, what your confounded blundering has done,” his cool reply was,–

“Ah, then! won’t Mrs. M’Gra be frightened out of her life when she reads all about the killed and wounded in your honor’s report? I wonder if they ever had the manners to send my own letter afterwards, when they found out their mistake!”

“_Their_ mistake, do you say? rather _yours!_ You appear to have a happy knack of shifting blame from your own shoulders. And do you fancy that they’ve nothing else to do than to trouble their heads about your absurd letters?”

“Faith, it’s easily seen you never saw my letter, or you wouldn’t be saying that. And sure, it’s not much trouble it would give Colonel Fitzroy or any o’ the staff that write a good hand just to put in a line to Mrs. M’Gra, to prevent her feeling alarmed about that murthering paper. Well, well; it’s God’s blessing! I don’t think there’s anybody of the name of Mickey Free high up in the army but myself; so that the family won’t be going into mourning for me on a false alarm.”

I had not patience to participate in this view of the case; so that I continued my journey without speaking. We had jogged along for some time after dark, when the distant twinkle of the-watch-fires announced our approach to the camp. A detachment of the Fourteenth formed the advanced post, and from the officer in command I learned that Power was quartered at a small mill about half a mile distant; thither I accordingly turned my steps, but finding that the path which led abruptly down to it was broken and cut up in many places, I sent Mike back with the horses, and continued my way alone on foot.

The night was deliciously calm; and as I approached the little rustic mill, I could not help feeling struck with Power’s taste in a billet.

A little vine-clad cottage, built close against a rock, nearly concealed by the dense foliage around it, stood beside a clear rivulet whose eddying current supplied water to the mill, and rose in a dew-like spray which sparkled like gems in the pale moonlight. All was still within, but as I came nearer I thought I could detect the chords of a guitar. “Can it be,” thought I, “that Master Fred has given himself up to minstrelsy; or is it some little dress rehearsal for a serenade? But no,” thought I, “that certainly is not Power’s voice.” I crept stealthily down the little path, and approached the window; the lattice lay open, and as the curtain waved to and fro with the night air, I could see plainly all who were in the room.

Close beside the window sat a large, dark-featured Spaniard, his hands crossed upon his bosom and his head inclined heavily forward, the attitude perfectly denoting deep sleep, even had not his cigar, which remained passively between his lips, ceased to give forth its blue smoke wreath. At a little distance from him sat a young girl, who, even by the uncertain light, I could perceive was possessed of all that delicacy of form and gracefulness of carriage which characterize her nation.

Her pale features–paler still from the contrast with her jet black hair and dark costume–were lit up with an expression of animation and enthusiasm as her fingers swept rapidly and boldly across the strings of a guitar.

“And you’re not tired of it yet?” said she, bending her head downwards towards one whom I now for the first time perceived.

Reclining carelessly at her feet, his arm leaning upon her chair, while his hand occasionally touched her taper fingers, lay my good friend, Master Fred Power. An undress jacket, thrown loosely open, and a black neck-cloth, negligently knotted, bespoke the easy _nonchalance_ with which he prosecuted his courtship.

“Do sing it again?” said he, pressing her fingers to his lips.

What she replied, I could not catch; but Fred resumed: “No, no; he never wakes. The infernal clatter of that mill is his lullaby.”

“But your friend will be here soon,” said she. “Is it not so?”

“Oh, poor Charley! I’d almost forgotten him. By-the-bye, you mustn’t fall in love with him. There now, do not look angry; I only meant that, as I knew he’d be desperately smitten, you shouldn’t let him fancy he got any encouragement.”

“What would you have me do?” said she, artlessly.

“I have been thinking over that, too. In the first place, you’d better never let him hear you sing; scarcely ever smile; and as far as possible, keep out of his sight.”

“One would think, Senhor, that all these precautions were to be taken more on my account than on his. Is he so very dangerous, then?”

“Not a bit of it! Good-looking enough he is, but, only a boy; at the same time, a devilish bold one! And he’d think no more of springing through that window and throwing his arms round your neck, the very first moment of his arrival, than I should of whispering how much I love you.”

“How very odd he must be! I’m sure I should like him.”

“Many thanks to both for your kind hints; and now to take advantage of them.” So saying, I stepped lightly upon the window-sill, cleared the miller with one spring, and before Power could recover his legs or Margeritta her astonishment, I clasped her in my arms, and kissed her on either cheek.

“Charley! Charley! Damn it, man, it won’t do!” cried Fred; while the young lady, evidently more amused at his discomfiture than affronted at the liberty, threw herself into a seat, and laughed immoderately.

“Ha! Hilloa there! What is’t?” shouted the miller, rousing himself from his nap, and looking eagerly round. “Are they coming? Are the French coming?”

A hearty renewal of his daughter’s laughter was the only reply; while Power relieved his anxiety by saying,–

“No, no, Pedrillo, not the French; a mere marauding party,–nothing more. I say, Charley,” continued he, in a lower tone, “you had better lose no time in reporting yourself at headquarters. We’ll walk up together. Devilish awkward scrape, yours.”

“Never fear, Fred; time enough for all that. For the present, if you permit me, I’ll follow up my acquaintance with our fair friend here.”

“Gently, gently!” said he, with a look of most imposing seriousness. “Don’t mistake her; she’s not a mere country girl: you understand?–been bred in a convent here,–rather superior kind of thing.”

“Come, come, Fred, I’m not the man to interfere with you for a moment.”

“Good-night, Senhor,” said the old miller, who had been waiting patiently all this time to pay his respects before going.

“Yes, that’s it!” cried Power, eagerly. “Good-night, Pedrillo.”

“_Buonos noches_,” lisped out Margeritta, with a slight curtsy.

I sprang forward to acknowledge her salutation, when Power coolly interposed between us, and closing the door after them, placed his back against it.

“Master Charley, I must read you a lesson–“

“You inveterate hypocrite, don’t attempt this nonsense with _me_. But come, tell me how long you have been here?”

“Just twenty-four of the shortest hours I ever passed at an outpost. But listen,–do you know that voice? Isn’t it O’Shaughnessy?”

“To be sure it is. Hear the fellow’s song.”

“My father cared little for shot or shell, He laughed at death and dangers;
And he’d storm the very gates of hell With a company of the ‘Rangers.’
So sing tow, row, row, row, row,” etc.

“Ah, then, Mister Power, it’s twice I’d think of returning your visit, if I knew the state of your avenue. If there’s a grand jury in Spain, they might give you a presentment for this bit of road. My knees are as bare as a commissary’s conscience, and I’ve knocked as much flesh off my shin-bones as would make a cornet in the hussars!”

A regular roar of laughter from both of us apprized Dennis of our vicinity.

“And it’s laughing ye are? Wouldn’t it be as polite just to hold a candle or lantern for me in this confounded watercourse?”

“How goes it, Major?” cried I, extending my hand to him through the window.

“Charley–Charley O’Malley, my son! I’m glad to see you. It’s a hearty laugh you gave us this morning. My friend Mickey’s a pleasant fellow for a secretary-at-war. But it’s all settled now; Crawfurd arranged it for you this afternoon.”

“You don’t say so! Pray tell me all about it.”

“That’s just what I won’t; for ye see I don’t know it; but I believe old Monsoon’s affair has put everything out of their heads.”

“Monsoon’s affair! What is that? Out with it, Dennis.”

“Faith, I’ll be just as discreet about that as your own business. All I can tell you is, that they brought him up to headquarters this evening with a sergeant’s guard, and they say he’s to be tried by court-martial; and Picton is in a blessed humor about it.”

“What could it possibly have been? Some plundering affair, depend on it.”

“Faith, you may swear it wasn’t for his little charities, as Dr. Pangloss calls them, they’ve pulled him up,” cried Power.

“Maurice is in high feather about it,” said Dennis. “There are five of them up at Fuentes, making a list of the charges to send to Monsoon; for Bob Mahon, it seems, heard of the old fellow’s doings up the mountains.”

“What glorious fun!” said Tower. “Let’s haste and join them, boys.”

“Agreed,” said I. “Is it far from this?”

“Another stage. When we’ve got something to eat,” said the major, “if Power has any intentions that way–“

“Well, I really did begin to fear Fred’s memory was lapsing; but somehow, poor fellow, smiles have been more in his way than sandwiches lately.”

An admonishing look from Power was his only reply, as he walked towards the door. Bent upon teasing him, however, I continued,–

“My only fear is, he may do something silly.”

“Who? Monsoon, is it?”

“No, no. Not Monsoon; another friend of ours.”

“Faith, I scarcely thought your fears of old Monsoon were called for. He’s a fox–the devil a less.”

“No, no, Dennis. I wasn’t thinking of him. My anxieties were for a most soft-hearted young gentleman,–one Fred Power.”

“Charley, Charley!” said Fred, from the door, where he had been giving directions to his servant about supper. “A man can scarce do a more silly thing than marry in the army; all the disagreeables of married life, with none of its better features.”

“Marry–marry!” shouted O’Shaughnessy, “upon my conscience, it’s incomprehensible to me how a man can be guilty of it. To be sure, I don’t mean to say that there are not circumstances,–such as half-pay, old age, infirmity, the loss of your limbs, and the like; but that, with good health and a small balance at your banker’s, you should be led into such an embarrassment–“

“Men will flirt,” said I, interrupting; “men will press taper fingers, look into bright eyes, and feel their witchery; and although the fair owners be only quizzing them half the time, and amusing themselves the other, and though they be the veriest hackneyed coquettes–“

“Did you ever meet the Dalrymple girls, Dennis?” said Fred, with a look I shall never forget.

What the reply was I cannot tell. My shame and confusion were overwhelming, and Power’s victory complete.

“Here comes the prog,” cried Dennis, as Power’s servant entered with a very plausible-looking tray, while Fred proceeded to place before us a strong army of decanters.

Our supper was excellent, and we were enjoying ourselves to the utmost, when an orderly sergeant suddenly opened the door, and raising his hand to his cap, asked if Major Power was there.

“A letter for you, sir.”

“Monsoon’s writing, by Jove! Come, boys, let us see what it means. What a hand the old fellow writes! The letters look all crazy, and are tumbling against each other on every side. Did you ever see anything half so tipsy as the crossing of that _t?_”

“Read it. Read it out, Fred!”

Tuesday Evening.

Dear Power,–I’m in such a scrape! Come up and see me at once, bring a little sherry with you, and we’ll talk over what’s to be done.

Yours ever,

B. MONSOON.

Quarter-General.

We resolved to finish our evening with the major; so that, each having armed himself with a bottle or two, and the remnants of our supper, we set out towards his quarters, under the guidance of the orderly. After a sharp walk of half an hour, we reached a small hut, where two sentries of the Eighty-eighth were posted at the door.

O’Shaughnessy procured admittance for us, and in we went. At a small table, lighted by a thin tallow candle, sat old Monsoon, who, the weather being hot, had neither coat nor wig on; an old cracked china tea-pot, in which as we found afterwards he had mixed a little grog, stood before him, and a large mass of papers lay scattered around on every side,–he himself being occupied in poring over their contents, and taking occasional draughts from his uncouth goblet.

As we entered noiselessly, he never perceived us, but continued to mumble over, in a low tone, from the documents before him:–

“Upon my life, it’s like a dream to me! What infernal stuff this brandy is!”

CHARGE No. 8.–For conduct highly unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, in forcing the cellar of the San Nicholas convent at Banos, taking large quantities of wine therefrom, and subsequently compelling the prior to dance a bolero, thus creating a riot, and tending to destroy the harmony between the British and the Portuguese, so strongly inculcated to be preserved by the general orders.

“Destroy the harmony! Bless their hearts! How little they know of it! I’ve never passed a jollier night in the Peninsula! The prior’s a trump, and as for the bolero, he _would_ dance it. I hope they say nothing about my hornpipe.”

CHARGE No. 9.–For a gross violation of his duty as an officer, in sending a part of his brigade to attack and pillage the alcalde of Banos; thereby endangering the public peace of the town, being a flagrant breach of discipline and direct violation of the articles of war.

“Well, I’m afraid I was rather sharp on the alcalde, but we did him no harm except the fright. What sherry the fellow had! ‘t would have been a sin to let it fall into the hands of the French.”

CHARGE No. 10.–For threatening, on or about the night of the 3d, to place the town of Banos under contribution, and subsequently forcing the authorities to walk in procession before him, in absurd and ridiculous costumes.

“Lord, how good it was! I shall never forget the old alcalde! One of my fellows fastened a dead lamb round his neck, and told him it was the golden fleece. The commander-in-chief would have laughed himself if he had been there. Picton’s much too grave,–never likes a joke.”

CHARGE No. 11.–For insubordination and disobedience, in refusing to give up his sword, and rendering it necessary for the Portuguese guard to take it by force,–thereby placing himself in a situation highly degrading to a British officer.

“Didn’t I lay about me before they got it! Who’s that? Who’s laughing there? Ah, boys, I’m glad to see you! How are you, Fred? Well, Charley, I’ve heard of your scrape; very sad thing for so young a fellow as you are. I don’t think you’ll be broke; I’ll do what I can. I’ll see what I can do with Picton; we are very old friends, were at Eton together.”

“Many thanks, Major; but I hear your own affairs are not flourishing. What’s all this court-martial about?”

“A mere trifle; some little insubordination in the legion. Those Portuguese are sad dogs. How very good of you, Fred, to think of that little supper.”

While the major was speaking, his servant, with a dexterity the fruit of long habit, had garnished the table with the contents of our baskets, and Monsoon, apologizing for not putting on his wig, sat down among us with a face as cheerful as though the floor was not covered with the charges of the court-martial to be held on him.

As we chatted away over the campaign and its chances, Monsoon seemed little disposed to recur to his own fortunes. In fact, he appeared to suffer much more from what he termed my unlucky predicament than from his own mishaps. At the same time, as the evening wore on, and the sherry began to tell upon him, his heart expanded into its habitual moral tendency, and by an easy transition, he was led from the religious association of convents to the pleasures of pillaging them.

“What wine they have in their old cellars! It’s such fun drinking it out of great silver vessels as old as Methuselah. ‘There’s much treasure in the house of the righteous,’ as David says; and any one who has ever sacked a nunnery knows that.”

“I should like to have seen that prior dancing the bolero,” said Power.

“Wasn’t it good, though! He grew jealous of me, for I performed a hornpipe. Very good fellow the prior; not like the alcalde,–there was no fun in him. Lord bless him! he’ll never forget me.”

“What did you do with him, Major?”

“Well, I’ll tell you; but you mustn’t let it be known, for I see they have not put it in the court-martial. Is there no more sherry there? There, that will do; I’m always contented. ‘Better a dry morsel with quietness,’ as Moses says. Ay, Charley, never forget that ‘a merry heart is just like medicine.’ Job found out that, you know.”

“Well, but the alcalde, Major.”

“Oh! the alcalde, to be sure. These pious meditations make me forget earthly matters.”

“This old alcalde at Banos, I found out, was quite spoiled by Lord Wellington. He used to read all the general orders, and got an absurd notion in his head that because we were his allies, we were not allowed to plunder. Only think, he used to snap his fingers at Beresford, didn’t care twopence about the legion, and laughed outright at Wilson. So, when I was ordered down there, I took another way with him. I waited till night-fall, ordered two squadrons to turn their jackets, and sent forward one of my aides-de-camp, with a few troopers, to the alcalde’s house. They galloped into the courtyard, blowing trumpets and making an infernal hubbub. Down came the alcalde in a passion. ‘Prepare quarters quickly, and rations for eight hundred men.’

“‘Who dares to issue such an order?’ said he.

“The aide-de-camp whispered one word in his ear, and the old fellow grew pale as death. ‘Is he here; is he coming,–is he coming?’ said he, trembling from head to foot.

“I rode in myself at this moment looking thus,–

“‘_Ou est le malheureux?_’ said I, in French,–you know I speak French like Portuguese.”

“Devilish like, I’ve no doubt,” muttered Power.

“‘_Pardon, gracias eccellenza!_’ said the alcalde, on his knees.”

“Who the deuce did he take you for, Major?”

“You shall hear; you’ll never guess, though. Lord, I shall never forget it! He thought I was Marmont; my aide-de-camp told him so.”

One loud burst of laughter interrupted the major at this moment, and it was some considerable time before he could continue his narrative.

“And do you really mean,” said I, “that you personated the Duke de Raguse?”

“Did I not, though? If you had only seen me with a pair of great mustaches, and a drawn sabre in my hand, pacing the room up and down in presence of the assembled authorities. Napoleon himself might have been deceived. My first order was to cut off all their heads; but I commuted the sentence to a heavy fine. Ah, boys, if they only understood at headquarters how to carry on a war in the Peninsula, they’d never have to grumble in England about increased taxation! How I’d mulet the nunneries! How I’d grind the corporate towns! How I’d inundate the country with exchequer bills! I’d sell the priors at so much a head, and put the nuns up to auction by the dozen.”

“You sacrilegious old villain! But continue the account of your exploits.”

“Faith, I remember little more. After dinner I grew somewhat mellow, and a kind of moral bewilderment, which usually steals over me about eleven o’clock, induced me to invite the alcalde and all the aldermen to come and sup. Apparently, we had a merry night of it, and when morning broke, we were not quite clear in our intellects. Hence came that infernal procession; for when the alcalde rode round the town with a paper cap, and all the aldermen after him, the inhabitants felt offended, it seems, and sent for a large Guerilla force, who captured me and my staff, after a very vigorous resistance. The alcalde fought like a trump for us, for I promised to make him Prefect of the Seine; but we were overpowered, disarmed, and carried off. The remainder you can read in the court-martial, for you may think that after sacking the town, drinking all night, and fighting in the morning, my memory was none of the clearest.”

“Did you not explain that you were not the marshal-general?”

“No, faith, I know better than that; they’d have murdered me had they known their mistake. They brought me to headquarters in the hope of a great reward, and it was only when they reached this that they found out I was not the Duke de Raguse; so you see, boys, it’s a very complicated business.”

“‘Gad, and so it is,” said Power, “and an awkward one, too.”

“He’ll be hanged, as sure as my name’s Dennis!” vociferated O’Shaughnessy, with an energy that made the major jump from his chair. “Picton will hang him!”

“I’m not afraid,” said Monsoon; “they know me so well. Lord bless you, Beresford couldn’t get on without me!”

“Well, Major,” said I, “in any case, you certainly take no gloomy nor desponding view of your case.”

“Not I, boy. You know what Jeremiah says: ‘a merry heart is a continual feast;’ and so it is. I may die of repletion, but they’ll never find me starved with sorrow.”

“And, faith, it’s a strange thing!” muttered O’Shaughnessy, thinking aloud; “a most extraordinary thing! An honest fellow would be sure to be hanged; and there’s that old rogue, that’s been melting down more saints and blessed Virgins than the whole army together, he’ll escape. Ye’ll see he will!”

“There goes the patrol,” said Fred; “we must start.”

“Leave the sherry, boys; you’ll be back again. I’ll have it put up carefully.”

We could scarcely resist a roar of laughter as we said, “Good-night.”

“Adieu, Major,” said I; “we shall meet soon.”

So saying, I followed Power and O’Shaughnessy towards their quarters.

“Maurice has done it beautifully!” said Power. “Pleasant revelations the old fellow will make on the court-martial, if he only remembers what we’ve heard to-night! But here we are, Charley; so good-night, and remember, you breakfast with me to-morrow.”

CHAPTER XXIX.

THE CONFIDENCE.

“I have changed the venue, Charley,” said Power, as he came into my room the following morning,–“I’ve changed the venue, and come to breakfast with you.”

I could not help smiling as a certain suspicion crossed my mind; perceiving which, he quickly added,–

“No, no, boy! I guess what you’re thinking of. I’m not a bit jealous in that quarter. The fact is, you know, one cannot be too guarded.”

“Nor too suspicious of one’s friends, apparently.”

“A truce with quizzing. I say, have you reported yourself?”

“Yes; and received this moment a most kind note from the general. But it appears I’m not destined to have a long sojourn among you, for I’m desired to hold myself in readiness for a journey this very day.”

“Where the deuce are they going to send you now?”

“I’m not certain of my destination. I rather suspect there are despatches for Badajos. Just tell Mike to get breakfast, and I’ll join you immediately.”

When I walked into the little room which served as my _salon_, I found Power pacing up and down, apparently wrapped in meditation.

“I’ve been thinking, Charley,” said he, after a pause of about ten minutes,–“I’ve been thinking over our adventures in Lisbon. Devilish strange girl that senhora! When you resigned in my favor, I took it for granted that all difficulty was removed. Confound it! I no sooner began to profit by your absence, in pressing my suit, than she turned short round, treated me with marked coldness, exhibited a hundred wilful and capricious fancies, and concluded one day by quietly confessing to me you were the only man she cared for.”

“You are not serious in all this, Fred?” said I.

“Ain’t I though, by Jove! I wish to Heaven I were not! My dear Charley, the girl is an inveterate flirt,–a decided coquette. Whether she has a particle of heart or not, I can’t say; but certainly her greatest pleasure is to trifle with that of another. Some absurd suspicion that you were in love with Lucy Dashwood piqued her vanity, and the anxiety to recover a lapsing allegiance led her to suppose herself attached to you, and made her treat all my advances with the most frigid indifference or wayward caprice; the more provoking,” continued he, with a kind of bitterness in his tone, “as her father was disposed to take the thing favorably; and, if I must say it, I felt devilish spooney about her myself.

“It was only two days before I left, that in a conversation with Don Emanuel, he consented to receive my addresses to his daughter on my becoming lieutenant-colonel. I hastened back with delight to bring her the intelligence, and found her with a lock of hair on the book before her, over which she was weeping. Confound me, if it was not yours! I don’t know what I said, nor what she replied; but when we parted, it was with a perfect understanding we were never to meet again. Strange girl! She came that evening, put her arm within mine as I was walking alone in the garden, and half in jest, half in earnest, talked me out of all my suspicions, and left me fifty times more in love with her than ever. Egad! I thought I used to know something about women, but here is a chapter I’ve yet to read. Come, now, Charley, be frank with me; tell me all you know.”

“My poor Fred, if you were not head and ears in love, you would see as plainly as I do that your affairs prosper. And after all, how invariable is it that the man who has been the veriest flirt with women,–sighing, serenading, sonneteering, flinging himself at the feet of every pretty girl he meets with,–should become the most thorough dupe to his own feelings when his heart is really touched. Your man of eight-and-thirty is always the greatest fool about women.”

“Confound your impertinence! How the devil can a fellow with a mustache not stronger that a Circassian’s eyebrow read such a lecture to _me?_”

“Just for the very reason you’ve mentioned. You _glide_ into an attachment at _my_ time of life; you _fall_ in love at _yours_.”

“Yes,” said Power, musingly, “there is some truth in that. This flirting is sad work. It is just like sparring with a friend; you put on the gloves in perfect good humor, with the most friendly intentions of exchanging a few amicable blows; you find yourself insensibly warm with the enthusiasm of the conflict, and some unlucky hard knock decides the matter, and it ends in a downright fight.

“Few men, believe me, are regular seducers; and among those who behave ‘vilely’ (as they call it), three-fourths of the number have been more sinned against than sinning. You adventure upon love as upon a voyage to India. Leaving the cold northern latitudes of first acquaintance behind you, you gradually glide into the warmer and more genial climate of intimacy. Each day you travel southward shortens the miles and the hours of your existence; so tranquil is the passage, and so easy the transition, you suffer no shock by the change of temperature about you. Happy were it for us that in our courtship, as in our voyage, there were some certain Rubicon to remind us of the miles we have journeyed! Well were it if there were some meridian in love!”

“I’m not sure, Fred, that there is not that same shaving process they practise on the line, occasionally performed for us by parents and guardians at home; and I’m not certain that the iron hoop of old Neptune is not a pleasanter acquaintance than the hair-trigger of some indignant and fire-eating brother. But come, Fred, you have not told me the most important point,–how fare your fortunes now; or in other words, what are your present prospects as regards the senhora?”

“What a question to ask me! Why not request me to tell you where Soult will fight us next, and when Marmont will cross the frontier? My dear boy, I have not seen her for a week, an entire week,–seven full days and nights, each with their twenty-four hours of change and vacillation.”

“Well, then, give me the last bulletin from the seat of war; that at least you can do. Tell me how you parted.”

“Strangely enough. You must know we had a grand dinner at the villa the day before I left; and when we adjourned for our coffee to the garden, my spirits were at the top of their bent. Inez never looked so beautiful, never was one half so gracious; and as she leaned upon my arm, instead of following the others towards the little summer-house, I turned, as if inadvertently, into a narrow, dark alley that skirts the lake.”

“I know it well; continue.”

Power reddened slightly, and went on:–

“‘Why are we taking this path?’ said Donna Inez; ‘this is, surely, not a short way?’

“‘Oh, I wished to make my adieux to my old friends the swans. You know I go to-morrow.’

“‘Ah, that’s true,’ added she. ‘I’d quite forgotten it.’

“This speech was not very encouraging; but as I felt myself in for the battle, I was not going to retreat at the skirmish. ‘Now or never,’ thought I. I’ll not tell you what I said. I couldn’t, if I would. It is only with a pretty woman upon one’s arm; it is only when stealing a glance at her bright eyes, as you bend beyond the border of her bonnet,–that you know what it is to be eloquent. Watching the changeful color of her cheek with a more anxious heart than ever did mariner gaze upon the fitful sky above him, you pour out your whole soul in love; you leave no time for doubt, you leave no space for reply. The difficulties that shoot across her mind you reply to ere she is well conscious of them; and when you feel her hand tremble, or see her eyelids fall, like the leader of a storming party when the guns slacken in their fire, you spring boldly forward in the breach, and blind to every danger around you, rush madly on, and plant your standard upon the walls.”

“I hope you allow the vanquished the honors of war,” said I, interrupting.

Without noticing my observation, he continued:–

“I was on my knee before her, her hand passively resting in mine, her eyes bent _upon_ me softly and tearfully–“

“The game was your own, in fact.”

“You shall hear.

“‘Have we stood long enough thus, Senhor?’ said she, bursting into a fit of laughter.

“I sprang to my legs in anger and indignation.

“‘There, don’t be passionate; it is so tiresome. What do you call that tree there?’

“‘It is a tulip-tree,’ said I, coldly.

“‘Then, to put your gallantry to the test, do climb up there and pluck me that flower. No, the far one. If you fall into the lake and are drowned, why it would put an end to this foolish interview.’

“‘And if not?’ said I.

“‘Oh, then I shall take twelve hours to consider of it; and if my decision be in your favor, I’ll give you the flower ere you leave to-morrow.’

“It’s somewhat about thirty years since I went bird-nesting, and hang me, if a tight jacket and spurs are the best equipment for climbing a tree; but up I went, and, amidst a running fire of laughter and quizzing, reached the branch and brought it down safely.

“Inez took especial care to avoid me the rest of the evening. We did not meet until breakfast the following morning. I perceived then that she wore the flower in her belt; but, alas! I knew her too well to augur favorably from that; besides that, instead of any trace of sorrow or depression at my approaching departure, she was in high spirits, and the life of the party. ‘How can I manage to speak with her?’ said I to myself. ‘But one word,–I already anticipate what it must be; but let the blow fall–anything is better than this uncertainty.’

“‘The general and the staff have passed the gate, sir,’ said my servant at this moment.

“‘Are my horses ready?’

“‘At the door, sir; and the baggage gone forward.’

“I gave Inez one look–

“‘Did you say more coffee?’ said she, smiling.

“I bowed coldly, and rose from the table. They all assembled upon the terrace to see me ride away.

“‘You’ll let us hear from you,’ said Don Emanuel.

“‘And pray don’t forget the letter to my brother,’ cried old Madame Forjas.

“Twenty similar injunctions burst from the party, but not a word said Inez.

“‘Adieu, then!’ said I. ‘Farewell.’

“‘Adios! Go with God!’ chorused the party.

“‘Good-by, Senhora,’ said I. ‘Have _you_ nothing to tell me ere we part?’

“‘Not that I remember,’ said she, carelessly. ‘I hope you’ll have good weather.’

“‘There is a storm threatening,’ said I, gloomily.

“‘Well, a soldier cares little for a wet jacket.’

“‘Adieu!’ said I, sharply, darting at her a look that spoke my meaning.

“‘Farewell!’ repeated she, curtsying slightly, and giving one of her sweetest smiles.

“I drove the spurs into my horse’s flanks, but holding him firmly on the curb at the same moment, instead of dashing forward, he bounded madly in the air.

“‘What a pretty creature!’ said she, as she turned towards the house; then stopping carelessly, she looked round,–

“‘Should you like this bouquet?’

“Before I could reply, she disengaged it from her belt, and threw it towards me. The door closed behind her as she spoke. I galloped on to overtake the staff, _et voila tout_. Now, Charley, read my fate for me, and tell me what this portends.”

“I confess I only see one thing certain in the whole.”

“And that is?” said Power.

“That Master Fred Power is more irretrievably in love than any gentleman on full pay I ever met with.”

“By Jove, I half fear as much! Is that orderly waiting for you, Charley? Who do you want my man?”

“Captain O’Malley, sir. General Crawfurd desires to see you at headquarters immediately.”

“Come, Charley, I’m going towards Fuentes. Take your cap; we’ll walk down together.”

So saying, we cantered towards the village, where we separated,–Power to join some Fourteenth men stationed there on duty, and I to the general’s quarters to receive my orders.

CHAPTER XXX.

THE CANTONMENT.

Soon after this the army broke up from Caja, and went into cantonments along the Tagus, the headquarters being at Portalegre. We were here joined by four regiments of infantry lately arrived from England, and the 12th Light Dragoons. I shall not readily forget the first impression created among our reinforcements by the habits of our life at this period.

[Illustration: A HUNTING TURN-OUT IN THE PENINSULA.]

Brimful of expectation, they had landed at Lisbon, their minds filled with all the glorious expectancy of a brilliant campaign; sieges, storming, and battle-fields floated before their excited imagination. Scarcely, however, had they reached the camp, when these illusions were dissipated. Breakfasts, dinners, private theatricals, pigeon matches, formed our daily occupation. Lord Wellington’s hounds threw off regularly twice a week; and here might be seen every imaginable species of equipment, from the artillery officer mounted on his heavy troop horse, to the infantry subaltern on a Spanish jennet. Never was anything more ludicrous than our turn-out. Every quadruped in the army was put into requisition. And even those who rolled not from their saddles from sheer necessity, were most likely to do so from laughing at their neighbors. The pace may not have equalled Melton, nor the fences have been as stubborn as in Leicestershire, but I’ll be sworn there was more laughter, more fun, and more merriment, in one day with us, than in a whole season with the best organized pack in England. With a lively trust that the country was open and the leaps easy, every man took the field. Indeed, the only anxiety evinced at all, was to appear at the meet in something like jockey fashion, and I must confess that this feeling was particularly conspicuous among the infantry. Happy the man whose kit boasted a pair of cords or buck skins; thrice happy he who sported a pair of tops. I myself was in that enviable position, and well remember with what pride of heart I cantered up to cover in all the superior _eclat_ of my costume, though, if truth were to be spoken, I doubt if I should have passed muster among my friends of the “Blazers.” A round cavalry jacket and a foraging cap with a hanging tassel were the strange accompaniments of my more befitting nether garments. Whatever our costumes, the scene was a most animated one. Here the shell-jacket of a heavy dragoon was seen storming the fence of a vineyard; there the dark green of a rifleman was going the pace over the plain. The unsportsmanlike figure of a staff officer might be observed emerging from a drain, while some neck-or-nothing Irishman, with light infantry wings, was flying at every fence before him, and overturning all in his way. The rules and regulations of the service prevailed not here; the starred and gartered general, the plumed and aiguilletted colonel obtained but little deference and less mercy from his more humble subaltern. In fact, I am half disposed to think that many an old grudge of rigid discipline or severe duty met with its retribution here. More than once have I heard the muttered sentences around me which boded like this,–

“Go the pace, Harry, never flinch it! There’s old Colquhoun–take him in the haunches; roll him over!”

“See here, boys–watch how I’ll scatter the staff–Beg your pardon, General, hope I haven’t hurt you. Turn about–fair play–I have taught _you_ to take up a position now.”

I need scarcely say there was one whose person was sacred from all such attacks. He was well mounted upon a strong, half-breed horse; rode always foremost, following the hounds with the same steady pertinacity with which he would have followed the enemy, his compressed lip rarely opening for a laugh when even the most ludicrous misadventure was enacting before him; and when by chance he would give way, the short ha! ha! was over in a moment, and the cold, stern features were as fixed and impassive as before.

All the excitement, all the enthusiasm of a hunting-field, seemed powerless to turn his mind from the pre-occupation which the mighty interests he presided over, exacted. I remember once an incident which, however trivial in itself, is worth recording as illustrative of what I mean. We were going along at a topping pace, the hounds, a few fields in advance, were hidden from our view by a small beech copse. The party consisted of not more than six persons, one of whom was Lord Wellington himself. Our run had been a splendid one, and as we were pursuing the fox to earth, every man of us pushed his horse to his full stride in the hot enthusiasm of such a moment.

“This way, my lord, this way,” said Colonel Conyers, an old Melton man, who led the way. “The hounds are in the valley; keep to the left.” As no reply was made, after a few moments’ pause Conyers repeated his admonition, “You are wrong, my lord, the hounds are hunting yonder.”

“I know it!” was the brief answer given, with a shortness that almost savored of asperity; for a second or two not a word was spoken.

“How far is Niza, Gordon?” inquired Lord Wellington.

“About five leagues, my lord,” replied the astonished aide-de-camp.

“That’s the direction, is it not?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Let’s go over and inspect the wounded.”

No more was said, and before a second was given for consideration, away went his lordship, followed by his aide-de-camp, his pace the same stretching gallop, and apparently feeling as much excitement, as he dashed onwards towards the hospital, as though following in all the headlong enthusiasm of a fox chase.

Thus passed our summer; a life of happy ease and recreation succeeding to the harassing fatigues and severe privations of the preceding campaign. Such are the lights and shadows of a soldier’s life; such the checkered surface of his fortunes. Constituting, by their very change, that buoyant temperament, that happy indifference, which enables him to derive its full enjoyment from each passing incident of his career.

While thus we indulged in all the fascinations of a life of pleasure, the rigid discipline of the army was never for a moment forgotten. Reviews, parades, and inspections were of daily occurrence, and even a superficial observer could not fail to detect that under this apparent devotion to amusement and enjoyment, our commander-in-chief concealed a deep stroke of his policy.

The spirits of both men and officers, broken, in spite of their successes, by the incessant privations they had endured, imperatively demanded this period of rest and repose. The infantry, many of whom had served in the ill-fated campaign of Walcharen, wore still suffering from the effects of the intermittent fever. The cavalry, from deficient forage, severe marches, and unremitting service, were in great part unfit for duty. To take the field under circumstances like these was therefore impossible; and with the double object of restoring their wonted spirit to his troops, and checking the ravages which sickness and the casualties of war had made within his ranks, Lord Wellington embraced the opportunity of the enemy’s inaction to take up his present position on the Tagus.

But while we were enjoying all the pleasures of a country life, enhanced tenfold by daily association with gay and cheerful companions, the master-mind, whose reach extended from the profoundest calculations of strategy to minutest details of military organization, was never idle. Foreseeing that a period of inaction, like the present, must only be like the solemn calm that preludes the storm, he prepared for the future by those bold conceptions and unrivalled combinations which were to guide him through many a field of battle and of danger to end his career of glory in the liberation of the Peninsula.

The failure of the attack upon Badajos had neither damped his ardor nor changed his views; and he proceeded to the investment of Ciudad Rodrigo with the same intense determination of uprooting the French occupation in Spain by destroying their strongholds and cutting off their resources. Carrying aggressive war in one hand, he turned the other towards the maintenance of those defences which, in the event of disaster or defeat, must prove the refuge of the army.

To the lines of Torres Vedras he once more directed his attention. Engineer officers were despatched thither; the fortresses were put into repair; the bridges broken or injured during the French invasion were restored; the batteries upon the Tagus were rendered more effective, and furnaces for heating shot were added to them.

The inactivity and apathy of the Portuguese government but ill corresponded with his unwearied exertions; and despite of continual remonstrances and unceasing representations, the bridges over the Leira and Alva were left unrepaired, and the roads leading to them, so broken as to be almost impassable, might seriously have endangered the retreat of the army, should such a movement be deemed necessary.

It was in the first week of September. I was sent with despatches for the engineer officer in command at the lines, and during the fortnight of my absence, was enabled for the first time to examine those extraordinary defences which, for the space of thirty miles, extended over a country undulating in hill and valley, and presenting, by a succession of natural and artificial resources, the strongest and most impregnable barrier that has ever been presented against the advance of a conquering army.

CHAPTER XXXI.

MICKEY FREE’S ADVENTURE.

When I returned to the camp, I found the greatest excitement prevailing on all sides. Each day brought in fresh rumors that Marmont was advancing in force; that sixty thousand Frenchmen were in full march upon Ciudad Rodrigo, to raise the blockade, and renew the invasion of Portugal. Intercepted letters corroborated these reports; and the Guerillas who joined us spoke of large convoys which they had seen upon the roads from Salamanca and Tamanes.

Except the light division, which, under the command of Crawfurd, were posted upon the right of the Aguada, the whole of our army occupied the country from El Bodon to Gallegos; the Fourth Division being stationed at Fuente Guenaldo, where some intrenchments had been hastily thrown up.

To this position Lord Wellington resolved upon retreating, as affording points of greater strength and more capability of defence than the other line of road, which led by Almeida upon the Coa. Of the enemy’s intentions we were not long to remain in doubt; for on the morning of the 24th, a strong body were seen descending from the pass above Ciudad Rodrigo, and cautiously reconnoitring the banks of the Aguada. Far in the distance a countless train of wagons, bullock-cars, and loaded mules were seen winding their slow length along, accompanied by several squadrons of dragoons.

Their progress was slow, but as evening fell they entered the gates of the fortress; and the cheering of the garrison mixing with the strains of martial music, faint from distance, reached us where we lay upon the far-off heights of El Bodon. So long as the light lasted, we could perceive fresh troops arriving; and even when the darkness came on, we could detect the position of the reinforcing columns by the bright watch-fires which gleamed along the plain.

By daybreak we were under arms, anxiously watching for the intentions of our enemy, which soon became no longer dubious. Twenty-five squadrons of cavalry, supported by a whole division of infantry, were seen to defile along the great road from Ciudad Rodrigo to Guenaldo. Another column, equally numerous, marched straight upon Espeja; nothing could be more beautiful, nothing more martial, than their appearance: emerging from a close mountain gorge, they wound along the narrow road and appeared upon the bridge of the Aguada just as the morning sun was bursting forth, its bright beams tipping the polished cuirassiers and their glittering equipments, they shone in their panoply like the gay troop of some ancient tournament. The lancers of Berg, distinguished by their scarlet dolmans and gorgeous trappings, were followed by the Cuirassiers of the Guard, who again were succeeded by the _chasseurs a cheval_, their bright steel helmets and light-blue uniforms, their floating plumes and dappled chargers, looking the very _beau ideal_ of light horsemen; behind, the dark masses of the infantry pressed forward and deployed into the plain; while, bringing up the rear, the rolling din, like distant thunder, announced the “dread artillery.”

On they came, the seemingly interminable line converging on to that one spot upon whose summit now we assembled a force of scarcely ten thousand bayonets.

While this brilliant panorama was passing before our eyes, we ourselves were not idle. Orders had been sent to Picton to come up from the left with his division. Alten’s cavalry and a brigade of artillery were sent to the front, and every preparation which the nature of the ground admitted was made to resist the advance of the enemy. While these movements on either side occupied some hours, the scene was every moment increasing in interest. The large body of cavalry was now seen forming into columns of attack. Nine battalions of infantry moved up to their support, and forming into columns, echelons, and squares, performed before us all the manoeuvres of a review with the most admirable precision and rapidity; but from these our attention was soon taken by a brilliant display upon our left. Here, emerging from the wood which flanked the Aguada, were now to be seen the gorgeous staff of Marmont himself. Advancing at a walk, they came forward amidst the _vivas_ of the assembled thousands, burning with ardor and thirsting for victory. For a moment, as I looked, I could detect the marshal himself, as, holding his plumed hat above his head, he returned the salute of a lancer regiment, who proudly waved their banners as he passed; but, hark, what are those clanging sounds which, rising high above the rest, seem like the war-cry of a warrior?

“I can’t mistake those tones,” said a bronzed old veteran beside me; “those are the brass bands of the Imperial Guard. Can Napoleon be there? See, there they come!” As he spoke, the head of a column emerged from the wood, and deploying as they came, poured into the plain. For above an hour that mighty tide flowed on, and before noon a force of sixty thousand men was collected in the space beneath us.

I was not long to remain an unoccupied spectator of this brilliant display, for I soon received orders to move down with my squadron to the support of the Eleventh Light Dragoons, who were posted at the base of the hill. The order at the moment was anything but agreeable, for I was mounted upon a hack pony, on which I had ridden over from Crawfurd’s Division early in the morning, and suspecting that there might be some hot work during the day, had ordered Mike to follow with my horse. There was no time, however, for hesitation, and I moved my men down the slope in the direction of the skirmishers.

The position we occupied was singularly favorable,–our flanks defended on either side by brushwood, we could only be assailed in front; and here, notwithstanding our vast inferiority of force, we steadily awaited the attack. As I rode from out the thick wood, I could not help feeling surprised at the sounds which greeted me. Instead of the usual low and murmuring tones, the muttered sentences which precede a cavalry advance,–a roar of laughter shook the entire division, while exclamations burst from every side around me: “Look at him now!” “They have him, by heavens, they have him!” “Well done, well done!” “How the fellow rides!” “He’s hit, he’s hit!” “No, no!” “Is he down?” “He’s down!”

A loud cheer rent the air at this moment, and I reached the front in time to learn, the reason of all this excitement. In the wide plain before me a horseman was seen, having passed the ford of the Aguada, to advance at the top of his speed towards the British lines. As he came nearer, it was perceived that he was accompanied by a led horse, and apparently with total disregard of the presence of an enemy, rode boldly and carelessly forward. Behind him rode three lancers, their lances couched, their horses at speed; the pace was tremendous, and the excitement intense: for sometimes, as the leading horseman of the pursuit neared the fugitive, he would bend suddenly upon the saddle, and swerving to the right or the left, totally evade him, while again at others, with a loud cry of bold defiance, rising in his stirrups, he would press on, and with a shake of his bridle that bespoke the jockey, almost distance the enemy.

“That must be your fellow, O’Malley; that must be your Irish groom!” cried a brother officer. There could be no doubt of it. It was Mike himself.

“I’ll be hanged, if he’s not playing with them!” said Baker. “Look at the villain! He’s holding in; that’s more than the Frenchmen are doing. Look! look at the fellow on the gray horse! He has flung his trumpet to his back, and drawn his sabre.”

A loud cheer burst from the French lines; the trumpeter was gaining at every stride. Mike had got into deep ground, and the horses would not keep together. “Let the brown horse go! Let him go, man!” shouted the dragoons, while I re-echoed the cry with my utmost might. But not so, Mike held firmly on, and spurring madly, he lifted his horse at each stride, turning from time to time a glance at his pursuer. A shout of triumph rose from the French side; tin; trumpeter was beside him; his arm was uplifted; the sabre above his head. A yell broke from the British, and with difficulty could the squadron be restrained. For above a minute the horses went side by side, but the Frenchman delayed his stroke until he could get a little in the front. My excitement had rendered me speechless; if a word could have saved my poor fellow, I could not have spoken. A mist seemed to gather across my eyes, and the whole plain and its peopled thousands danced before my vision.

“He’s down!” “He’s down, by heavens!” “No! no, no!” “Look there! Nobly done!” “Gallant fellow!” “He has him! he has him, by —-!” A cheer that rent the very air above us broke from the squadrons, and Mike galloped in among us, holding the Frenchman by the throat with one hand; the bridle of his horse he firmly grasped with his own in the other.

[Illustration: MIKE CAPTURING THE TRUMPETER.]

“How was it? How did he do it?”

“He broke his sword-arm with a blow, and the Frenchman’s sabre fell to the earth.”

“Here he is, Mister Charles; and musha, but it’s trouble he gave me to catch him! And I hope your honor won’t be displeased at me losing the brown horse. I was obliged to let him go when the thief closed on me; but sure, there he is! May I never, if he’s not galloping into the lines by himself!” As he spoke, my brown charger came cantering up to the squadrons, and took his place in the line with the rest.

I had scarcely time to mount my horse, amidst a buzz of congratulations, when our squadron was ordered to the front. Mixed up with detachments from the Eleventh and Sixteenth, we continued to resist the enemy for about two hours.

Our charges were quick, sharp, and successive, pouring in our numbers wherever the enemy appeared for a moment to be broken, and then retreating under cover of our infantry when the opposing cavalry came down upon us in overwhelming numbers.

Nothing could be more perfect than the manner in which the different troops relieved each other during this part of the day. When the French squadrons advanced, ours met them as boldly. When the ground became no longer tenable, we broke and fell back, and the bayonets of the infantry arrested their progress. If the cavalry pressed heavily upon the squares, ours came up to the relief, and as they were beaten back, the artillery opened upon them with an avalanche of grape-shot.

I have seen many battles of greater duration and more important in result; many there have been in which more tactic was displayed, and greater combinations called forth,–but never did I witness a more desperate hand-to-hand conflict than on the heights of El Bodon.

Baffled by our resistance, Montbrun advanced with the Cuirassiers of the Guard. Riding down our advanced squadrons, they poured upon us like some mighty river, overwhelming all before it, and charged, cheering, up the heights. Our brave troopers were thrown back upon the artillery, and many of them cut down beside the guns. The artillerymen and the drivers shared the same fate, and the cannon were captured. A cheer of exultation burst from the French, and their _vivas_ rent the air. Their exultation was short-lived, and that cheer their death-cry; for the Fifth Foot, who had hitherto lain concealed in the grass, sprang madly to their feet, their gallant Major Ridge at their head. With a yell of vengeance they rushed upon the foe; the glistening bayonets glanced amidst the cavalry of the French; the troops pressed hotly home; and while the cuirassiers were driven down the hill, the guns were recaptured, limbered up, and brought away. This brilliant charge was the first recorded instance of cavalry being assailed by infantry in line.

But the hill could no longer be held; the French were advancing on either flank; overwhelming numbers pressed upon the front, and retreat was unavoidable. The cavalry were ordered to the rear, and Picton’s Division, throwing themselves into squares, covered the retreating movement.

The French dragoons bore down upon every face of those devoted battalions; the shouts of triumph cheered them as the earth trembled beneath their charge,–but the British infantry, reserving their fire until the sabres clanked with the bayonet, poured in a shattering volley, and the cry of the wounded and the groans of the dying rose from the smoke around them.

Again and again the French came on; and the same fate ever awaited then. The only movement in the British squares was closing up the spaces as their comrades fell or sank wounded to the earth.

At last reinforcements came up from the left; the whole retreated across the plain, until as they approached Guenaldo, our cavalry, having re-formed, came to their aid with one crushing charge, which closed the day.

That same night Lord Wellington fell back, and concentrating his troops within a narrow loop of land bounded on either flank by the Coa, awaited the arrival of the light division, which joined us at three in the morning.

The following day Marmont again made a demonstration of his force, but no attack followed. The position was too formidable to be easily assailed, and the experience of the preceding day had taught him that, however inferior in numbers, the troops he was opposed to were as valiant as they were ably commanded.

Soon after this, Marmont retired on the valley of the Tagus. Dorsenne also fell back, and for the present at least, no further effort was made to prosecute the invasion of Portugal.

CHAPTER XXXII.

THE SAN PETRO.

“Not badly wounded, O’Malley, I hope?” said General Crawfurd, as I waited upon him soon after the action.

I could not help starting at the question, while he repeated it, pointing at the same time to my left shoulder, from which a stream of blood was now flowing down my coat-sleeve.

“I never noticed it, sir, till this moment. It can’t be of much consequence, for I have been on horseback the entire day, and never felt it.”

“Look to it at once, boy; a man wants all his blood for this campaign. Go to your quarters. I shall not need you for the present; so pray see the doctor at once.”

As I left the general’s quarters, I began to feel sensible of pain, and before a quarter of an hour had elapsed, had quite convinced myself that my wound was a severe one. The hand and arm were swollen, heavy, and distended with hemorrhage beneath the skin, my thirst became great, and a cold, shuddering sensation passed over me from time to time.

I sat down for a moment upon the grass, and was just reflecting within myself what course I should pursue, when I heard the tramp of feet approaching. I looked up, and perceived some soldiers in fatigue dresses, followed by a few others who, from their noiseless gestures and sad countenances, I guessed were carrying some wounded comrade to the rear.

“Who is it, boys?” cried I.

“It’s the major, sir, the Lord be good to him!” said a hardy-looking Eighty-eighth man, wiping his eye with the cuff of his coat as he spoke.

“Not your major? Not Major O’Shaughnessy?” said I, jumping up and rushing forward towards the litter. Alas, too true, it was the gallant fellow himself! There he lay, pale and cold; his bloodless cheek and parted lips looking like death itself. A thin blue rivulet trickled from his forehead, but his most serious wound appeared to be in the side; his coat was open, and showed a mass of congealed and clotted blood, from the midst of which, with every motion of the way, a fresh stream kept welling upward. Whether from the shock or my loss of blood or from both together, I know not, but I sank fainting to the ground.

It would have needed a clearer brain and a cooler judgment than I possessed to have conjectured where I was, and what had occurred to me, when next I recovered my senses. Weak, fevered, and with a burning thirst, I lay, unable to move, and could merely perceive the objects which lay within the immediate reach of my vision. The place was cold, calm, and still as the grave. A lamp, which hung high above my head, threw a faint light around, and showed me, within a niche of the opposite wall, the figure of a gorgeously dressed female; she appeared to be standing motionless, but as the pale light flickered upon her features, I thought I could detect the semblance of a smile. The splendor of her costume and the glittering gems which shone upon her spotless robe gleamed through the darkness with an almost supernatural brilliancy, and so beautiful did she look, so calm her pale features, that as I opened and shut my eyes and rubbed my lids, I scarcely dared to trust to my erring senses, and believe it could be real. What could it mean? Whence this silence; this cold sense of awe and reverence? Was it a dream; was it the fitful vision of a disordered intellect? Could it be death? My eyes were riveted upon that beautiful figure. I essayed to speak, but could not; I would have beckoned her towards me, but my hands refused their office. I felt I know not what charm she possessed to calm my throbbing brain and burning heart; but as I turned from the gloom and darkness around to gaze upon her fair brow and unmoved features, I felt like the prisoner who turns from the cheerless desolation of his cell, and looks upon the fair world and the smiling valleys lying sunlit and shadowed before him.

Sleep at length came over me; and when I awoke, the day seemed breaking, for a faint gray tint stole through a stained-glass window, and fell in many colored patches upon the pavement. A low muttering sound attracted me; I listened, it was Mike’s voice. With difficulty raising myself upon one arm, I endeavored to see more around me. Scarcely had I assumed this position, when my eyes once more fell upon the white-clad figure of the preceding night. At her feet knelt Mike, his hands clasped, and his head bowed upon his bosom. Shall I confess my surprise, my disappointment! It was no other than an image of the blessed Virgin, decked out in all the gorgeous splendor which Catholic piety bestows upon her saints. The features, which the imperfect light and my more imperfect faculties had endowed with an expression of calm, angelic beauty, were, to my waking senses, but the cold and barren mockery of loveliness; the eyes, which my excited brain gifted with looks of tenderness and pity, stared with no speculation in them; yet contrasting my feelings of the night before, full as they were of, their deceptions, with my now waking thoughts, I longed once more for that delusion which threw a dreamy pleasure over me, and subdued the stormy passions of my soul into rest and repose.

“Who knows,” thought I, “but he who kneels yonder feels now as I did then? Who can tell how little the cold, unmeaning reality before him resembles the spiritualized creation the fervor of his love and the ardor of his devotion may have placed upon that altar? Who can limit or bound the depth of that adoration for an object whose attributes appeal not only to every sentiment of the heart, but also to every sense of the brain? I fancy that I can picture to myself how these tinselled relics, these tasteless waxworks, changed by the magic of devotion and of dread, become to the humble worshipper images of loveliness and beauty. The dim religious light; the reverberating footsteps echoed along those solemn aisles; the vaulted arches, into whose misty heights the sacred incense floats upward, while the deep organ is pealing its notes of praise or prayer,–these are no slight accessories to all the pomp and grandeur of a church whose forms and ceremonial, unchanged for ages and hallowed by a thousand associations, appeal to the mind of the humblest peasant or the proudest noble by all the weaknesses as by all the more favored features of our nature.”

How long I might have continued to meditate in this strain I know not, when a muttered observation from Mike turned the whole current of my thoughts. His devotion over, he had seated himself upon the steps of the altar, and appeared to be resolving some doubts within himself concerning his late pious duties.

“Masses is dearer here than in Galway. Father Rush would be well pleased at two-and-sixpence for what I paid three doubloons for, this morning. And sure it’s droll enough. How expensive an amusement it is to kill the French! Here’s half a dollar I gave for the soul of a cuirassier that I kilt yesterday, and nearly twice as much for an artilleryman I cut down at the guns; and because the villain swore like a heythen, Father Pedro told me he’d cost more nor if he died like a decent man.”

At these words he turned suddenly round towards the Virgin, and crossing himself devoutly, added,–

And sure it’s yourself knows if it’s fair to make me pay for devils that don’t know their duties; and after all, if you don’t understand English nor Irish, I’ve been wasting my time here this two hours.”

“I say, Mike, how’s my friend the major! How’s Major O’Shaughnessy?”

“Charmingly, sir. It was only loss of blood that ailed him. A thief with a pike–one of the chaps they call Poles, bekase of the long sticks they carry with them–stuck the major in the ribs; but Doctor Quill–God reward him! he’s a great doctor and a funny divil too–he cured him in no time.”

“And where is he now, Mike?”

“Just convanient, in a small chapel off the sacristy; and throuble enough we have to keep him quiet. He gave up the _con_fusion of roses, and took to punch; and faith, it isn’t hymns nor paslams [psalms] he’s singing all night. And they had me there, mixing materials and singing songs, till I heard the bell for matins; and what between the punch and the prayers, I never closed my eyes.”

“What do they call this convent?”

“It is a hard word, I misremember. It’s something like saltpetre. But how’s your honor? It’s time to ask.”

“Much better, Mike, much better. But as I see that either your drink or your devotion seems to have affected your nerves, you’d better lie down for an hour or two. I shall not want you.”

“That’s just what I can’t; for you see I’m making a song for this evening. The Rangers has a little supper, and I’m to be there; and though I’ve made one, I’m not sure it’ll do. May be your honor would give me your opinion about it?”

“With all my heart, Mike; let’s hear it.”

“Arrah, is it here, before the Virgin and the two blessed saints that’s up there in the glass cases? But sure, when they make an hospital of the place, and after the major’s songs last night–“

“Exactly so, Mike; out with it.”

“Well, Ma’am,” said he, turning towards the Virgin, “as I suspect you don’t know English, may be you’ll think it’s my offices I’m singing. So, saving your favor, here it is.”

MR. FREE’S SONG.

AIR,–“_Arrah, Catty, now can’t you be asy?_”

Oh, what stories I’ll tell when my sodgering’s o’er, And the gallant Fourteenth is disbanded; Not a drill nor parade will I hear of no more, When safely in Ireland landed.
With the blood that I spilt, the Frenchmen I kilt, I’ll drive the young girls half crazy; And some cute one will cry, with a wink of her eye, “Mister Free, now _why can’t you be asy?_”

I’ll tell how we routed the squadrons in fight, And destroyed them all at “Talavera,”
And then I’ll just add how we finished the night, In learning to dance the “bolera;”
How by the moonshine we drank raal wine, And rose next day fresh as a daisy;
Then some one will cry, with a look mighty sly, “Arrah, Mickey, _now can’t you lie asy?_”

I’ll tell how the nights with Sir Arthur we spent, Around a big fire in the air too,
Or may be enjoying ourselves in a tent, Exactly like Donnybrook fair too.
How he’d call out to me: “Pass the wine, Mr. Free, For you’re a man never is lazy!”
Then some one will cry, with a wink of her eye, “Arrah, Mickey, dear, _can’t you be asy?_”

I’ll tell, too, the long years in fighting we passed, Till Mounseer asked Bony to lead him;
And Sir Arthur, grown tired of glory at last, Begged of one Mickey Free to succeed him. “But, acushla,” says I, “the truth is I’m shy! There’s a lady in Ballymacrazy!
And I swore on the book–” He gave me a look, And cried: “Mickey, _now can’t you be asy?_”

“Arrah, Mickey, now can’t you be _asy?_” sang out a voice in chorus, and the next moment Dr. Quill himself made his appearance.

“Well, O’Malley, is it a penitential psalm you’re singing, or is my friend Mike endeavoring to raise your spirits with a Galway sonata?”

“A little bit of his own muse, Doctor, nothing more; but tell me, how goes it with the major,–is the poor fellow out of danger?”

“Except from the excess of his appetite, I know of no risk he runs. His servant is making gruel for him all day in a thing like the grog-tub of a frigate. But you’ve heard the news,–Sparks has been exchanged. He came here last night; but the moment he caught sight of me, he took his departure. Begad, I’m sure he’d rather pass a month in Verdun than a week in my company!”

“By-the-bye, Doctor, you never told me how this same antipathy of Sparks for you had its origin.”

“Sure I drove him out of the Tenth before he was three weeks with the regiment.”

“Ay, I remember; you began the story for me one night on the retreat from the Coa, but something broke it off in the middle.”

“Just so, I was sent for to the rear to take off some gentleman’s legs that weren’t in dancing condition; but as there’s no fear of interruption now, I’ll finish the story. But first, let us have a peep at the wounded. What beautiful anatomists they are in the French artillery! Do you feel the thing I have now in my forceps? There,–don’t jump,–that’s a bit of the brachial nerve most beautifully displayed. Faith, I think I’ll give Mike a demonstration.”

“Oh, Mister Quill, dear! Oh, Doctor, darling!”

“Arrah, Mickey, now can’t ye be asy?” sang out Maurice, with a perfect imitation of Mike’s voice and manner.

“A little lint here! Bend your arm,–that’s it–Don’t move your fingers. Now, Mickey, make me a cup of coffee with a glass of brandy in it. And now, Charley, for Sparks. I believe I told you what kind of fellows the Tenth were,–regular out-and-outers. We hadn’t three men in the regiment that were not from the south of Ireland,–the _bocca Corkana_ on their lips, fun and devilment in their eyes, and more drollery and humbug in their hearts than in all the messes in the service put together. No man had any chance among them if he wasn’t a real droll one; every man wrote his own songs and sang them too. It was no small promotion could tempt a fellow to exchange out of the corps. You may think, then, what a prize your friend Sparks proved to us; we held a court-martial upon him the week after he joined. It was proved in evidence that he had never said a good thing in his life, and had about as much notion of a joke as a Cherokee has of the Court of Chancery; and as to singing, Lord bless you, he had a tune with wooden turns to it,–it was most cruel to hear; and then the look of him, those eyes, like dropsical oysters, and the hair standing every way, like a field of insane flax, and the mouth with a curl in it like the slit in the side of a fiddle. A pleasant fellow that for a mess that always boasted the best-looking chaps in the service.

“‘What’s to be done with him?’ said the major; ‘shall we tell him we are ordered to India, and terrify him about his liver?’

“‘Or drill him into a hectic fever?’

“‘Or drink him dry?’

“‘Or get him into a fight and wing him?’

“‘Oh, no,’ said I, ‘leave him to me; we’ll laugh him out of the corps.’

“‘Yes, we’ll leave him to you, Maurice,’ said the rest.

“And that day week you might read in the ‘Gazette,’ ‘Pierce Flynn O’Haygerty, to be Ensign, 10th Foot, _vice_ Sparks, exchanged.'”

“But how was it done, Maurice; you haven’t told me that.”

“Nothing easier. I affected great intimacy with Sparks, bemoaned our hard fate, mutually, in being attached to such a regiment: ‘A damnable corps this,–low, vulgar fellows, practical jokes; not the kind of thing one expects in the army. But as for me, I’ve joined it partly from necessity. You, however, who might be in a crack regiment, I can’t conceive your remaining in it.’

“‘But why did you join, Doctor?’ said he; ‘what necessity could have induced you?’

“‘Ah, my friend,’ said I, ‘_that_ is the secret,–_that_ is the hidden grief that must lie buried in my own bosom.’

“I saw that his curiosity was excited, and took every means to increase it farther. At length, as if yielding to a sudden impulse of friendship, and having sworn him to secrecy, I took him aside, and began thus,–

“‘I may trust you, Sparks, I feel I may; and when I tell you that my honor, my reputation, my whole fortune is at stake, you will judge of the importance of the trust.’

“The goggle eyes rolled fearfully, and his features exhibited the most craving anxiety to hear my story.

“‘You wish to know why I left the Fifty-sixth. Now I’ll tell you; but mind, you’re pledged, you’re sworn, never to divulge it.’

“‘Honor bright.’

“‘There, that’s enough; I’m satisfied. It was a slight infraction of the articles of war; a little breach of the rules and regulations of the service; a trifling misconception of the mess code,–they caught me one evening leaving the mess with–What do you think in my pocket? But you’ll never tell! No, no, I know you’ll not; eight forks and a gravy-spoon,–silver forks every one of them. There now,’ said I, grasping his hand, ‘you have my secret; my fame and character are in your hands, for you see they made me quit the regiment,–a man can’t stay in a corps where he is laughed at.’

“Covering my face with my handkerchief, as if to conceal my shame, I turned away, and left Sparks to his meditations. That same evening we happened to have some strangers at mess; the bottle was passing freely round, and as usual the good spirits of the party at the top of their bent, when suddenly from the lower end of the table, a voice was heard demanding, in tones of the most pompous importance, permission to address the president upon a topic where the honor of the whole regiment was concerned.

“‘I rise, gentlemen,’ said Mr. Sparks, ‘with feelings the most painful; whatever may have been the laxity of habit and freedom of conversation habitual in this regiment, I never believed that so flagrant an instance as this morning came to my ears–‘

“‘Oh, murder!’ said I. ‘Oh, Sparks, darling, sure you’re not going to tell?’

“‘Doctor Quill,’ replied he, in an austere tone, ‘it is impossible for me to conceal it.’

“‘Oh, Sparks, dear, will you betray me?’

“I gave him here a look of the most imploring entreaty, to which he replied by one of unflinching sternness.

“‘I have made up my mind, sir,’ continued he; ‘it is possible the officers of this corps may look more leniently than I do upon this transaction; but know it they shall.’

“‘Out with it, Sparks; tell it by all means!’ cried a number of voices; for it was clear to every one, by this time, that he was involved in a hoax.

“Amidst, therefore, a confused volley of entreaty on one side, and my reiterated prayers for his silence, on the other, Sparks thus began:–

“‘Are you aware, gentlemen, why Dr. Quill left the Fifty-sixth?’

“‘No, no, no!’ rang from all sides; ‘let’s have it!’

“‘No, sir,’ said he, turning towards me, ‘concealment is impossible; an officer detected with the mess-plate in his pocket–‘

“They never let him finish, for a roar of laughter shook the table from one end to the other; while Sparks, horror-struck at the lack of feeling and propriety that could make men treat such a matter with ridicule, glared around him on every side.

“‘Oh, Maurice, Maurice!’ cried the major, wiping his eyes, ‘this is too bad; this is too bad!’

“‘Gracious Heaven!’ screamed Sparks, ‘can you laugh at it?’

“‘Laugh at it!’ re-echoed the paymaster, ‘God grant I only don’t burst a blood-vessel!’ And once more the sounds of merriment rang out anew, and lasted for several minutes.

“‘Oh, Maurice Quill,’ cried an old captain, ‘you’ve been too heavy on the lad. Why, Sparks, man, he’s been humbugging you.’

“Scarcely were the words spoken when he sprang from the room. The whole truth flashed at once upon his mind; in an instant he saw that he had exposed himself to the merciless ridicule of a mess-table and that all peace for him, in that regiment at least, was over.

“We got a glorious fellow in exchange for him; and Sparks descended into a cavalry regiment,–I ask your pardon, Charley,–where, as you are well aware, sharp wit and quick intellect are by no means indispensable. There now, don’t be angry or you’ll do yourself harm. So good-by, for an hour or two.”

CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE COUNT’S LETTER.

O’Shaughnessy’s wound, like my own, was happily only formidable from the loss of blood. The sabre or the lance are rarely, indeed, so death-dealing as the musket or the bayonet; and the murderous fire from a square of infantry is far more terrific in its consequences than the heaviest charge of a cavalry column. In a few weeks, therefore, we were once more about and fit for duty; but for the present the campaign was ended. The rainy season with its attendant train of sickness and sorrow set in. The troops were cantoned along the line of the frontier,–the infantry occupying the villages, and the cavalry being stationed wherever forage could be obtained.

The Fourteenth were posted at Avintas, but I saw little of them. I was continually employed upon the staff; and as General Crawfurd’s activity suffered no diminution from the interruption of the campaign, rarely passed a day without eight or nine hours on horseback.

The preparations for the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo occupied our undivided attention. To the reduction of this fortress and of Badajos, Lord Wellington looked as the most important objects, and prosecuted his plans with unremitting zeal. To my staff appointment I owed the opportunity of witnessing that stupendous feature of war, a siege; and as many of my friends formed part of the blockading force, I spent more than one night in the trenches. Indeed, except for this, the tiresome monotony of life was most irksome at this period. Day after day the incessant rain poured down. The supplies were bad, scanty, and irregular; the hospitals crowded with sick; field-sports impracticable; books there were none; and a dulness and spiritless depression prevailed on every side. Those who were actively engaged around Ciudad Rodrigo had, of course, the excitement and interest which the enterprise involved: but even there the works made slow progress. The breaching artillery was defective in every way: the rain undermined the faces of the bastions; the clayey soil sank beneath the weight of the heavy guns; and the storms of one night frequently destroyed more than a whole week’s labor had effected.

Thus passed the dreary months along; the cheeriest and gayest among us broken in spirit, and subdued in heart by the tedium of our life. The very news which reached us partook of the gloomy features of our prospects. We heard only of strong reinforcements marching to the support of the French in Estramadura. We were told that the Emperor, whose successes in Germany enabled him to turn his entire attention to the Spanish campaign, would himself be present in the coming spring, with overwhelming odds and a firm determination to drive us from the Peninsula.

In that frame of mind which such gloomy and depressing prospects are well calculated to suggest, I was returning one night to my quarters at Mucia, when suddenly I beheld Mike galloping towards me with a large packet in his hand, which he held aloft to catch my attention. “Letters from England, sir,” said he, “just arrived with the general’s despatches.” I broke the envelope at once, which bore the war-office seal, and as I did so, a perfect avalanche of letters fell at my feet. The first which caught my eye was an official intimation from the Horse Guards that the Prince Regent had been graciously pleased to confirm my promotion to the troop, my commission to bear date from the appointment, etc., etc. I could not help feeling struck, as my eye ran rapidly across the lines, that although the letter came from Sir George Dashwood’s office, it contained not a word of congratulation nor remembrance on his part, but was couched in the usual cold and formal language of an official document. Impatient, however, to look over my other letters, I thought but little of this; so, throwing them hurriedly into my sabretasche, I cantered on to my quarters without delay. Once more alone in silence, I sat down to commune with my far-off friends, and yet with all my anxiety to hear of home, passed several minutes in turning over the letters, guessing from whom they might have come, and picturing to myself their probable contents. “Ah, Frank Webber, I recognize your slap-dash, bold hand without the aid of the initials in the corner; and this–what can this be?–this queer, misshapen thing, representing nothing save the forty-seventh proposition of Euclid, and the address seemingly put on with a cat’s-tail dipped in lampblack? Yes, true enough, it is from Mister Free himself. And what have we here? This queer, quaint hand is no new acquaintance; how many a time have I looked upon it as the _ne plus ultra_ of caligraphy! But here is one I’m not so sure of. Who could have written this bolt-upright, old-fashioned superscription, not a letter of which seems on speaking terms with its neighbor? The very O absolutely turns its back upon the M in O’Malley, and the final Y wags his tail with a kind of independent shake, as if he did not care a curse for his predecessors! And the seal, too,–surely I know that griffin’s head, and that stern motto, _Non rogo sed capio_. To be sure, it is Billy Considine’s, the count himself. The very paper, yellow and time-stained, looks coeval with his youth; and I could even venture to wager that his sturdy pen was nibbed half a century since. I’ll not look farther among this confused mass of three-cornered billets, and long, treacherous-looking epistles, the very folding of which denote the dun. Here goes for the count!” So saying to myself, I drew closer to the fire, and began the following epistle:–

O’MALLEY CASTLE, November 3.

Dear Charley,–Here we sit in the little parlor with your last letter, the “Times,” and a big map before us, drinking your health, and wishing you a long career of the same glorious success you have hitherto enjoyed. Old as I am–eighty-two or eighty-three (I forget which) in June–I envy you with all my heart. Luck has stood to you, my boy; and if a French sabre or a bayonet finish you now, you’ve at least had a splendid burst of it. I was right in my opinion of you, and Godfrey himself owns it now,–a lawyer, indeed! Bad luck to them! we’ve had enough of lawyers. There’s old Hennesy,–honest Jack, as they used to call him,–that your uncle trusted for the last forty years, has raised eighteen thousand pounds on the title-deeds, and gone off to America. The old scoundrel! But it’s no use talking; the blow is a sore one to Godfrey, and the gout more troublesome than ever. Drumgold is making a motion in Chancery about it, to break the sale, and the tenants are in open rebellion and swear they’ll murther a receiver, if one is sent down among them. Indeed, they came in such force into Galway during the assizes, and did so much mischief, that the cases for trial were adjourned, and the judges left with a military escort to protect them. This, of course, is gratifying to our feelings; for, thank Providence, there is some good in the world yet. Kilmurry was sold last week for twelve thousand. Andy Blake would foreclose the mortgage, although we offered him every kind of satisfaction. This has done Godfrey a deal of harm; and some pitiful economy–taking only two bottles of claret after his dinner–has driven the gout to his head. They’ve been telling him he’d lengthen his days by this, and I tried it myself, and, faith, it was the longest day I ever spent in my life. I hope and trust you take your liquor like a gentleman and an Irish gentleman.

Kinshela, we hear, has issued an execution against the house and furniture; but the attempt to sell the demesne nearly killed your uncle. It was advertised in a London paper, and an offer made for it by an old general whom you may remember when down here. Indeed, if I mistake not, he was rather kind to you in the beginning. It would appear he did not wish to have his name known, but we found him out, and such a letter as we sent him! It’s little liking he’ll have to buy a Galway gentleman’s estate over his head, that same Sir George Dashwood! Godfrey offered to meet him anywhere he pleased, and if the doctor thought he could bear the sea voyage, he’d even go over to Holyhead; but the sneaking fellow sent an apologetic kind of a letter, with some humbug excuse about very different motives, etc. But we’ve done with him, and I think he with us.

When I had read thus far, I laid down the letter, unable to go on; the accumulated misfortunes of one I loved best in the world, following so fast one upon another, the insult–unprovoked, gratuitous insult–to him upon whom my hopes of future happiness so much depended, completely overwhelmed me. I tried to continue. Alas, the catalogue of evils went on; each line bore testimony to some farther wreck of fortune, some clearer evidence of a ruined house.

All that my gloomiest and darkest forebodings had pictured was come to pass; sickness, poverty, harassing unfeeling creditors, treachery, and ingratitude were goading to madness and despair a spirit whose kindliness of nature was unequalled. The shock of blasted fortunes was falling upon the dying heart; the convictions which a long life had never brought home–that men were false and their words a lie–were stealing over the man upon the brink of the grave; and he who had loved his neighbor like a brother was to be taught, at the eleventh hour, that the beings he trusted were perjured and forsworn.

A more unsuitable adviser than Considine, in difficulties like these, there could not be; his very contempt for all the forms of law and justice was sufficient to embroil my poor uncle still farther; so that I resolved at once to apply for leave, and if refused, and no other alternative offered, to leave the service. It was not without a sense of sorrow bordering on despair, that I came to this determination. My soldier’s life had become a passion with me. I loved it for its bold and chivalrous enthusiasm, its hour of battle and strife, its days of endurance and hardship, its trials, its triumphs; its very reverses were endeared by those they were shared with; and the spirit of adventure and the love of danger–that most exciting of all gambling–had now entwined themselves in my very nature. To surrender all these at once, and to exchange the daily, hourly enthusiasm of a campaign for the prospects now before me, was almost maddening. But still a sustaining sense of duty of what I owed to him, who, in his love, had sacrificed all for me, overpowered every other consideration. My mind was made up.

Father Rush’s letter was little more than a recapitulation of the count’s. Debt, distress, sickness, and the heart-burnings of altered fortunes filled it; and when I closed it, I felt like one over all whose views in life a dark and ill-omened cloud was closing forever. Webber’s I could not read; the light and cheerful raillery of a friend would have seemed, at such a time, like the cold, unfeeling sarcasm of an enemy. I sat down at last to write to the general, enclosing my application for leave, and begging of him to forward it, with a favorable recommendation, to headquarters.

This done, I lay down upon my bed, and overcome by fatigue and fretting, fell asleep to dream of my home and those I had left there; which, strangely too, were presented to my mind with all the happy features that made them so dear to my infancy.

CHAPTER XXXIV.

THE TRENCHES.

“I have not had time, O’Malley, to think of your application,” said Crawfurd, “nor is it likely I can for a day or two. Read that.” So saying, he pushed towards me a note, written, in pencil, which ran thus:–

CIUDAD RODRIGO, December 18.

Dear C.,–Fletcher tells me that the breaches will be practicable by to-morrow evening, and I think so myself. Come over, then, at once, for we shall not lose any time.

Yours, W.

“I have some despatches for your regiment, but if you prefer coming along with me–“

“My dear General, dare I ask for such a favor?”

“Well, come along; only remember that, although my division will be engaged, I cannot promise you anything to do. So now, get your horses ready; let’s away.”

It was in the afternoon of the following day that we rode into the large plain before Ciudad Rodrigo, and in which the allied armies were now assembled to the number of twelve thousand men. The loud booming of the siege artillery had been heard by me for some hours before; but notwithstanding this prelude and my own high-wrought expectations, I was far from anticipating the magnificent spectacle which burst upon my astonished view. The air was calm and still; a clear, blue, wintry sky stretched overhead, but below, the dense blue smoke of the deafening guns rolled in mighty volumes along the earth, and entirely concealed the lower part of the fortress; above this the tall towers and battlemented parapets rose into the thin, transparent sky like fairy palaces. A bright flash of flame would now and then burst forth from the walls, and a clanging crash of the brass metal be heard; but the unceasing roll of our artillery nearly drowned all other sounds, save when a loud cheer would burst from the trenches, while the clattering fall of masonry, and the crumbling stones as they rolled down, bespoke the reason of the cry. The utmost activity prevailed on all sides; troops pressed forward to the reliefs in the parallels; ammunition wagons moved to the front; general and staff officers rode furiously about the plain; and all betokened that the hour of attack was no longer far distant.

While all parties were anxiously awaiting the decision of our chief, the general order was made known, which, after briefly detailing the necessary arrangements, concluded with the emphatic words, “Ciudad Rodrigo _must_ be stormed to-night.” All speculation as to the troops to be engaged in this daring enterprise was soon at an end; for with his characteristic sense of duty, Lord Wellington made no invidious selection, but merely commanded that the attack should be made by whatever divisions might chance to be that day in the trenches. Upon the Third and Light Divisions, therefore, this glorious task devolved. The former was to attack the main breach; to Crawfurd’s Division was assigned the, if possible, more difficult enterprise of carrying the lesser one; while Pack’s Portuguese Brigade were to menace the convent of La Caridad by a feint attack, to be converted into a real one, if circumstances should permit.

The decision, however matured and comprehensive in all its details, was finally adopted so suddenly that every staff officer upon the ground was actively engaged during the entire evening in conveying the orders to the different regiments. As the day drew to a close, the cannonade slackened on either side, a solitary gun would be heard at intervals, and in the calm stillness around, its booming thunder re-echoed along the valleys of the Sierra; but as the moon rose and night set in, these were no longer heard, and a perfect stillness and tranquillity prevailed around. Even in the trenches, crowded with armed and anxious soldiers, not a whisper was heard; and amidst that mighty host which filled the plain, the tramp of a patrol could be distinctly noted, and the hoarse voice of the French sentry upon the walls, telling that all was well in Ciudad Rodrigo.

The massive fortress, looming larger as its dark shadow stood out from the sky, was still as the grave; while in the greater breach a faint light was seen to twinkle for a moment, and then suddenly to disappear, leaving all gloomy and dark as before.

Having been sent with orders to the Third Division, of which the Eighty-eighth formed a part, I took the opportunity of finding out O’Shaughnessy, who was himself to lead an escalade party in M’Kinnon’s Brigade. He sprang towards me as I came forward, and grasping my hand with a more than usual earnestness, called out, “The very man I wanted! Charley, my boy, do us a service now!”

Before I could reply, he continued in a lower tone, “A young fellow of ours, Harry Beauclerc, has been badly wounded in the trenches; but by some blunder, his injury is reported as a slight one, and although the poor fellow can scarcely stand, he insists upon going with the stormers.”

“Come here, Major, come here!” cried a voice at a little distance.

“Follow me, O’Malley,” cried O’Shaughnessy, moving in the direction of the speaker.

By the light of a lantern we could descry two officers kneeling upon the ground; between them on the grass lay the figure of a third, upon whose features, as the pale light fell, the hand of death seemed rapidly stealing. A slight froth, tinged with blood, rested on his lip, and the florid blood which stained the buff facing of his uniform indicated that his wound was through the lungs.

“He has fainted,” said one of the officers, in a low tone.