The Young Buglers
Part 5 out of 6
fortify this place, and none, even of those most in the confidence of
the commander-in-chief, had any idea that a winter campaign was about
to commence. The French were equally unsuspicious of the truth. Twice
as strong as the British, they dreamt not that the latter would take
the offensive, and the French marshals had scattered their troops at
considerable distances from the frontier in winter quarters.
Upon the last day of the year the Scudamores both happened to have
returned to the front--Tom from Lisbon, and Peter from a long ride to
a distant Portuguese division. There was a merry party gathered round
a blazing fire in the yard of the house where they, with several other
aides-de-camp, were quartered. Some fifty officers of all ranks were
present, for a general invitation had been issued to all unattached
officers in honor of the occasion. Each brought in what liquor he
could get hold of, and any provisions which he had been able to
procure, and the evening was one of boisterous fun and jollity. In
the great kitchen blazed a fire, before which chickens and ducks
were roasting, turkeys and geese cut up in pieces for greater
rapidity of cooking, were grilling over the fire, and as they came
off the gridiron they were taken round by the soldier-servants to
their masters as they sat about on logs of wood, boxes, and other
substitutes for chairs. Most of the officers present had already
supped, and the late-comers were finishing their frugal meal, after
which the soldiers would take their turn. There was a brewing of punch
and an uncorking of many a bottle of generous wine; then the song and
laugh went round, and all prepared to usher in the new year joyously,
when a colonel of the staff, who had been dining with Lord Wellington,
entered. "Here's a seat, colonel," was shouted in a dozen places, but
he shook his head and held up his hand.
"Gentlemen, I am sorry to disturb you, but orders must be obeyed.
Villiers, Hogan, Scudamores both, Esdaile, Cooper, and Johnson, here
are despatches which have to be taken off at once. Gentlemen, I
should recommend you all to look to your horses. All attached to the
transport had better go to their head-quarters for orders."
"What is up, colonel?" was the general question.
"The army moves forward at daybreak. We are going to take Ciudad."
A cheer of surprise and delight burst from all. There was an emptying
of glasses, a pouring out of one more bumper to success, and in
five minutes the court was deserted save by some orderlies hastily
devouring the interrupted supper, and ere long the tramp of horses
could be heard, as the Scudamores and their comrades dashed off in
different directions with their despatches.
The next morning a bridge was thrown over the Agueda at Marialva,
six miles below Ciudad, but the investment was delayed, owing to the
slowness and insufficiency of the transport. Ciudad Rodrigo was but
a third-class fortress, and could have been captured by the process
of a regular siege with comparatively slight loss to the besiegers.
Wellington knew, however, that he could not afford the time for a
regular siege. Long before the approaches could have been made, and
the breaches effected according to rule, the French marshals would
have been up with overwhelming forces.
Beginning the investment on the 7th, Wellington determined that it
must be taken at all costs in twenty-four days, the last day of
the month being the very earliest date at which, according to his
calculations, any considerable body of French could come up to its
Ciudad lies on rising ground on the bank of the Agueda. The
fortifications were fairly strong, and being protected by a very high
glacis, it was difficult to effect a breach in them. The glacis is the
smooth ground outside the ditch. In well-constructed works the walls
of the fortification rise but very little above the ground beyond,
from which they are separated by a broad and deep ditch. Thus the
ground beyond the ditch, that is, the glacis, covers the walls from
the shot of a besieger, and renders it extremely difficult to reach
them. In the case of Ciudad, however, there were outside the place
two elevated plateaux, called the great and small Teson: Guns placed
on these could look down upon Ciudad, and could therefore easily
breach the walls. These, then, were the spots from which Wellington
determined to make the attack. The French, however, were aware of the
importance of the position, and had erected on the higher Teson an
inclosed and palisadoed redoubt, mounting two guns and a howitzer. A
great difficulty attending the operation was that there were neither
fuel nor shelter to be obtained on the right bank of the river, and
the weather set in very cold, with frost and snow, at the beginning
of the siege. Hence the troops had to be encamped on the left bank,
and each division, as its turn came, to occupy the trenches for
twenty-four hours, took cooked provisions with it, and waded across
On the 8th, Pack's division of Portuguese and the light division waded
the river three miles above the fortress, and, making a circuit took
up a place near the great Teson. There they remained quiet all day.
The French seeing that the place was not yet entirely invested paid
but little heed to them. At nightfall, however, Colonel Colborne,
with two companies from each of the regiments of the light division,
attacked the redoubt of San Francisco with such a sudden rush that it
was carried with the loss of only twenty-four men, the defenders, few
and unprepared, being all taken prisoners. Scarcely, however, was the
place captured than every gun of Ciudad which could be brought to bear
upon it opened with fury. All night, under a hail of shot and shell,
the troops labored steadily, and by daybreak the first parallel, that
is to say, a trench protected by a bank of earth six hundred yards
in length was sunk three feet deep. The next day the first division,
relieved the light division.
Tom and Peter, now that the army was stationary, had an easier time of
it, and obtained leave to cross the river to see the operations. The
troops had again to wade through the bitter cold water, and at any
other time would have grumbled rarely at the discomfort. When they
really engage in the work of war, however, the British soldier cares
for nothing, and holding up their rifles, pouches and haversacks, to
keep dry, the men crossed the river laughing and joking. There was but
little done all day, for the fire of the enemy was too fast and deadly
for men to work under it in daylight. At night the Scudamores left
their horses with those of the divisional officers, and accompanied
the troops into the trenches, to learn the work which had there to
be done. Directly it was dusk twelve hundred men fell to work to
construct their batteries. The night was dark, and it was strange to
the Scudamores to hear the thud of so many picks and shovels going,
to hear now and then a low spoken order, but to see nothing save when
the flash of the enemy's guns momentarily lit up the scene. Every half
minute or so the shot, shell, and grape came tearing through the air,
followed occasionally by a low cry or a deep moan. Exciting as it was
for a time, the boys having no duty, found it difficult long to keep
awake, and presently dozed off--at first to wake with a start whenever
a shell fell close, but presently to sleep soundly until dawn. By that
time the batteries, eighteen feet thick, were completed.
On the 10th the fourth division, and on the 11th the third, carried
on the works, but were nightly disturbed, not only by the heavy fire
from the bastions, but from some guns which the French had mounted on
the convent of San Francisco in the suburb on the left. Little was
effected in the next two days, for the frost hardened the ground and
impeded the work. On the night of the 13th the Santa Cruz convent was
carried and the trenches pushed forward, and on the next afternoon the
breaching batteries opened fire with twenty-five guns upon the points
of the wall at which it had been determined to make the breaches,
while two cannons kept down the fire of the French guns at the convent
of San Francisco. The French replied with more than fifty pieces,
and all night the tremendous fire was kept up on both sides without
intermission. Just at daybreak the sound of musketry mingled with the
roar of cannon, as the 40th Regiment attacked and carried the convent
of San Francisco. Through the 16th, 17th, and 18th the artillery
duel continued, some times one side, sometimes the other obtaining
the advantage; but during each night the trenches of the besiegers
were pushed forward, and each day saw the breaches in the ramparts
grow larger and larger. On the 19th the breaches were reported as
practicable--that is, that it would be possible for men to scramble up
the fallen rubbish to the top, and orders were therefore given for the
assault for that night.
The attack was to be made at four points simultaneously; the 5th,
94th, and 77th were to attack from the convent of Santa Cruz, to make
for the ditch, enter it, and work their way along to the great breach;
Mackinnon's brigade of the third division was to attack the great
breach from the front; the light division posted behind the convent
of San Francisco were to attack from the left, and make their way to
the small breach; while a false attack, to be converted into a real
one if the resistance was slight, was to be made by Pack's Portuguese
at the St. Jago gate at the opposite side of the town. As night fell
the troops moved into their position, and Lord Wellington went to
the convent of San Francisco, from whose roof he could survey the
operations. The Scudamores, with the rest of the staff, took up
their places behind him. Suddenly there was a shout on the far right,
followed by a sound of confused cheering and firing, while flashes of
flame leapt out along the walls, and the guns of the place opened fire
with a crash. Now the 5th, 94th, and 77th rushed with great swiftness
along the ditch, when, at the foot of the great breach, they were
met by the third division. Together they poured up the breach, and
the roar of musketry was tremendous. Once at the top of the breach,
however, they made no progress. From a trench which had been cut
beyond it, a ring of fire broke out, while muskets flashed from every
window in the houses near. It was evident that some serious obstacle
had been encountered, and that the main attack was arrested.
"This is terrible," Peter said, as almost breathless they watched the
storm of fire on and around the breach. "This is a thousand times
worse than a battle. It is awful to think how the shot must be telling
on that dense mass. Can nothing be done?"
"Hurrah! There go the light division at the small breach," Tom
exclaimed, as the French fire broke out along the ramparts in that
quarter. A violent cheer came up even above the din from the great
breach, but no answering fire lights the scene, for Major Napier,
who commanded, had forbidden his men to load, telling them to trust
entirely to the bayonet. There was no delay here; the firing of the
French ceased almost immediately, as with a fierce rush the men of the
light division bounded up the ruins and won the top of the breach. For
a moment or two there was a pause, for the French opened so fierce a
fire from either side, that the troops wavered. The officers sprang
to the front, the soldiers followed with the bayonet, and the French,
unable to stand the fierce onslaught, broke and fled into the town.
Then the men of the light division, rushing along the walls, took
the French who were defending the great breach in rear, and as these
gave way, the attacking party swept across the obstacles which, had
hitherto kept them, and the town was won. Pack's Portuguese had
effected an entrance at the St. Jago gate, which they found almost
deserted, for the garrison was weak, and every available man had been
taken for the defence of the breaches.
Thus was Ciudad Rodrigo taken after twelve days' siege, with a loss
of twelve hundred men and ninety officers, of which six hundred and
fifty men and sixty officers fell in that short, bloody fight at the
breaches. Among the killed was General Craufurd, who had commanded at
the fight on the Coa.
Upon entering the town three days afterwards, at the termination of
the disgraceful scene of riot and pillage with which the British
soldier, there as at other places, tarnished the laurels won by his
bravery in battle, the boys went to the scene of the struggle, and
then understood the cause of the delay upon the part of the stormers.
From the top of the breach there was a perpendicular fall of sixteen
feet, and the bottom of this was planted with sharp spikes, and strewn
with the fragments of shells which the French had rolled down into
it. Had it not been for the light division coming up, and taking the
defenders--who occupied the loopholed and fortified houses which
commanded this breach--in rear, the attack here could never have
The next few days were employed in repairing the breaches, and putting
the place again in a state of defence, as it was probable that Marmont
might come up and besiege it. The French marshal, however, when
hurrying to the relief of the town, heard the news of its fall, and
as the weather was very bad for campaigning, and provisions short,
he fall back again to his winter quarters, believing that Wellington
would, content with his success, make no fresh movement until the
spring. The English general, however, was far too able a strategist
not to profit by the supineness of his adversary, and, immediately
Ciudad Rodrigo was taken, he began to make preparations for the siege
of Badajos, a far stronger fortress than Ciudad, and defended by
strong detached forts. Three days after the fall of Rodrigo General
Hill came up with his division; to this the Norfolk Rangers now
belonged, and the Scudamores had therefore the delight of meeting all
their old friends again. They saw but little of them, however, for
they were constantly on the road to Lisbon with despatches, every
branch of the service being now strained to get the battering-train
destined for the attack on Badajos to the front, while orders were
sent to Silviera, Trant, Wilson, Lecca, and the other partisan
leaders, to hold all the fords and defiles along the frontier, so as
to prevent the French from making a counter-invasion of Portugal.
On the 11th of March the army arrived at Elvas, and on the 15th a
pontoon bridge was thrown across the Guadiana. The following day the
British troops crossed the river, and invested Badajos, with fifteen
thousand men, while Hill and Graham, with thirty thousand more moved
forward, so as to act as a covering army, in case the French should
advance to raise the siege. Badajos was defended by five thousand men,
under General Phillipson, a most able and energetic commander, who had
in every way strengthened the defences, and put them in a position to
offer an obstinate resistance.
Before attacking the fortress it was necessary to capture one of the
outlying forts, and that known as the Picurina was selected, because
the bastion of the Trinidad, which lay behind it, was the weakest
portion of the fortress. The trenches were commenced against this on
the night of the 17th, and, although the French made some vigorous
sorties, the works progressed so rapidly that all was ready for an
assault on the forts on the 25th, a delay of two days having been
occasioned by the French taking guns across the river, which swept
the trenches, and rendered work impossible, until a division was sent
round to drive in the French guns and invest the fortress on that
side. The Picurina was strong, and desperately defended, but it was
captured after a furious assault, which lasted one hour, and cost
nineteen officers and three hundred men. It was not, however, until
next evening that the fort could be occupied, for the guns of the town
poured such a hail of shot and shell into it, that a permanent footing
could not be obtained in it. Gradually, day by day, the trenches were
driven nearer to the doomed city, and the cannon of the batteries
worked day and night to establish a breach. Soult was known to be
approaching, but he wanted to gather up all his available forces, as
he believed the town capable of holding out for another month, at
least. Still he was approaching, and, although the three breaches
were scarcely yet practicable, and the fire of the town by no means
overpowered, Wellington determined upon an instant assault, and on the
night of the 6th of April the troops prepared for what turned out to
be the most terrible and bloody assault in the annals of the British
army. There were no less than six columns of attack, comprising in all
eighteen thousand men. Picton, on the right with the third division
was to cross the Rivillas and storm the castle. Wilson, with the
troops in the trenches, was to attack San Roque. In the center the
fourth and light division, under Colville and Barnard, were to assault
the breaches; and on the left Leith, with the fifth division, was to
make a false attack upon the fort of Pardaleras, and a real attack
upon the bastion of San Vincente by the river side. Across the river
the Portugese division, under Power, was to attack the works at the
head of the bridge. The night was dark and clouded, and all was as
still as death outside the town, when a lighted carcass, that is a
large iron canister filled with tar and combustibles, fell close to
the third division, and, exposing their ranks, forced them to commence
the attack before the hour appointed. Crossing the Rivillas by a
narrow bridge, under a tremendous fire, the third division assaulted
the castle, and, although their scaling-ladders were over and over
again hurled down, the stormers at last obtained a footing, and the
rest of the troops poured in and the castle was won. A similar and
more rapid success attended the assault on San Roque, which was
attacked so suddenly and violently, that it was taken with scarce
any resistance. In the mean time the assaults upon the breaches had
commenced, and it is best to give the account of this terrible scene
in the words of its eloquent and graphic historian, as the picture is
one of the most vivid that was ever drawn.
"All this time the tumult at the breaches was such as if the very
earth had been rent asunder, and its central fires bursting upwards
uncontrolled. The two divisions had reached the glacis just as the
firing at the castle commenced, and the flash of a single musket,
discharged from the covered-way as a signal, showed them that the
French were ready; yet no stir was heard and darkness covered the
breaches. Some hay-packs were thrown, some ladders placed, and the
forlorn hopes and storming parties of the light division, five hundred
in all, descended into the ditch without opposition; but then a bright
flame shooting upwards displayed all the terrors of the scene. The
ramparts, crowded with dark figures and glittering arms were on one
side, on the other the red columns of the British, deep and broad,
were coming on like streams of burning lava. It was the touch of the
magician's wand, for a crash of thunder followed, and with incredible
violence the storming parties were dashed to pieces by the explosion
of hundreds of shells and powder-barrels. For an instant the light
division stood on the brink of the ditch, amazed at the terrific
sight; but then, with a shout that matched even the sound of the
explosion, the men flew down the ladders, or, disdaining their aid,
leaped, reckless of the depth, into the gulf below--and at the same
moment, amidst a blaze of musketry that dazzled the eyes, the fourth
division came running in, and descended with a like fury. There were
only five ladders for the two columns, which were close together;
and a deep cut, made in the bottom of the ditch as far as the
counter-guard of the Trinidad, was filled with water from the
inundation. Into that watery snare the head of the fourth division
fell, and it is said above a hundred of the fusiliers, the men of
Albuera, were there smothered. Those who followed checked not, but,
as if such a disaster had been expected, turned to the left, and thus
came upon the face of the unfinished ravelin, which, being rough and
broken, was mistaken for the breach, and instantly covered with men;
yet a wide and deep chasm was still between them and the ramparts,
from whence came a deadly fire, wasting their ranks. Thus baffled,
they also commenced a rapid discharge of musketry and disorder ensued;
for the men of the light division, whose conducting engineer had been
disabled early and whose flank was confined by an unfinished ditch
intended to cut off the bastion of Santa Maria, rushed towards the
breaches of the curtain and the Trinidad, which were, indeed, before
them, but which the fourth division had been destined to storm. Great
was the confusion, for the ravelin was quite crowded with men of both
divisions; and while some continued to fire, others jumped down and
ran towards the breach; many also passed between the ravelin and
the counterguard of the Trinidad, the two divisions got mixed, the
reserves, which should have remained at the quarries, also came
pouring in, until the ditch was quite filled, the rear still crowding
forward, and all cheering vehemently. The enemy's shouts also were
loud and terrible, and the bursting of shells, and of grenades, and
the roaring of guns from the flanks, answered by the iron howitzers
from the battery of the parallel, the heavy roll, and horrid explosion
of the powder-barrels, the whizzing flight of the blazing splinters,
the loud exhortations of the officers, and the continual clatter
of the muskets, made a maddening din. Now a multitude bounded up
the great breach, as if driven by a whirlwind, but across the top
glittered a range of sword-blades, sharp-pointed, keen-edged on both
sides, and firmly fixed in ponderous beams chained together, and set
deep in the ruins; and for ten feet in front the ascent was covered
with loose planks, studded with sharp iron points, on which, feet
being set, the planks moved, and the unhappy soldiers, falling forward
on the spikes, rolled down upon the ranks behind. Then the Frenchmen,
shouting at the success of their stratagem, and, leaping forward,
plied their shot with terrible rapidity, for every man had several
muskets, and each musket, in addition to its ordinary charge,
contained a small cylinder of wood, stuck full of wooden slugs,
which scattered like hail when they were discharged. Once and again
the assailants rushed up the breaches, but always the sword-blades,
immovable and impassable, stopped their charge, and the hissing shells
and thundering powder-barrels exploded unceasingly. Hundreds of men
had fallen, hundreds more were dropping, still, the heroic officers
called aloud for new trials, and sometimes followed by many, sometimes
by a few, ascended the ruins; and so furious were the men themselves,
that, in one of these charges, the rear strove to push the foremost on
to the sword-blades, willing even to make a bridge of their writhing
bodies, but the others frustrated the attempt by dropping down; and
men fell so fast from the shot, it was hard to know who went down
voluntarily, who were stricken and many stooped unhurt that never rose
again. Vain also would it have been to break through the sword-blades,
for the trench and parapet behind the breach were finished, and the
assailants, crowded into even a narrower space than the ditch was,
would still have been separated from their enemies, and the slaughter
would have continued. At the beginning of this dreadful conflict
Andrew Barnard had, with prodigious efforts, separated his division
from the other, and preserved some degree of military array; but now
the tumult was such, no command would be heard distinctly except by
those close at hand, and the mutilated carcasses heaped on each other,
and the wounded struggling to avoid being trampled upon, broke the
formations; order was impossible! Officers of all ranks, followed more
or less numerously by the men, were seen to start out as if struck
by sudden madness, and rash into the breach, which, yawning and
glittering with steel, seemed like the mouth of a huge dragon belching
forth smoke and flame. In one of these attempts, Colonel Macleod, of
the 43rd, a young man whose feeble body would have been quite unfit
for war if it had not been sustained by an unconquerable spirit, was
killed; wherever his voice was heard his soldiers had gathered, and
with such a strong resolution did he lead them up the fatal ruins
that, when one behind him, in falling, plunged a bayonet into his
back, he complained, not; but, continuing his course, was shot dead
within a yard of the sword-blades. Yet there was no want of gallant
leaders, or desperate followers, until two hours passed in these
vain efforts had convinced the troops the breach of the Trinidad was
impregnable; and, as the opening in the curtain, although less strong,
was retired, and the approach to it impeded by deep holes and cuts
made in the ditch, the soldiers did not much notice it after the
partial failure of one attack which had been made early. Gathering in
dark groups, and leaning on their muskets, they looked up with sullen
desperation at the Trinidad, while the enemy, stepping out on the
ramparts, and aiming their shots by the light of the fire-balls which
they threw over, asked, as their victims fell, 'Why they did not come
into Badajos?' In this dreadful situation, while the dead were lying
in heaps, and others continually falling, the wounded crawling about
to get some shelter from the merciless shower above, and withal a
sickening stench from the burnt flesh of the slain, Captain Nicholas,
of the engineers, was observed by Lieutenant Shaw, of the 43rd, making
incredible efforts to force his way with a few men into the Santa
Maria Bastion. Shaw immediately collected fifty soldiers, of all
regiments, and joined him, and although there was a deep cut along
the foot of that breach also, it was instantly passed, and these two
young officers led their gallant band, with a rush, up the ruins; but
when they had gained two-thirds of the ascent, a concentrated fire
of musketry and grape dashed nearly the whole dead to the earth.
Nicholas was mortally wounded, and the intrepid Shaw stood alone! With
inexpressible coolness he looked at his watch, and saying it was too
late to carry the reaches, rejoined the masses at the other attack.
After this no further effort was made at any point, and the troops
remained passive but unflinching beneath the enemy's shot, which
streamed without intermission; for, of the riflemen on the glacis many
leaped early into the ditch and joined in the assault, and the rest,
raked by a cross-fire of grape from the distant bastions, baffled in
their aim by the smoke and flames from the explosions, and too few in
number, entirely failed to quell the French musketry. About midnight,
when two thousand brave men had fallen, Wellington, who was on a
height close to the quarries, ordered the remainder to retire and
re-form for a second assault; he had heard the castle was taken,
but thinking the enemy would still resist in the town, was resolved
to assail the breaches again. This retreat from the ditch was not
effected without further carnage and confusion. The French fire never
slackened. A cry arose that the enemy was making a sally from the
distant flanks, and there was a rush towards the ladders. Then the
groans and lamentations of the wounded, who could not move and
expected to be slain, increased, and many officers who had not heard
of the order, endeavored to stop the soldiers from going back; some
would even have removed the ladders but were unable to break the
While this terrible scene was passing, the victory had been decided
elsewhere. The capture of the castle by Picton would, in itself, have
caused the fall of the town upon the following day, but Leith, with
the fifth division, after hard fighting, scaled the St. Vincente
bastion, and came up through the town and took the defenders of the
breaches in the rear. Then the French gave way, the British poured in,
and the dreadful scenes which had marked the fall of Ciudad Rodrigo
were repeated, and even surpassed. Up to the present day the name of
an Englishman is coupled with a curse in the town of Badajos. At this
siege, as at the last, the Scudamores acted the part of lookers on,
and although they bitterly regretted it, it was well for them that it
was so. The capture of Badajos cost the allied army five thousand men,
of whom three thousand five hundred fell on the night of the assault.
Each of the divisions which attacked the breaches lost over twelve
hundred men, and the 52nd Regiment, who formed part of the light
division, lost their full share. Among the ranks of the officers the
slaughter was particularly great, and scarce one escaped without
a wound. The Scudamores would fain have volunteered to join their
regiment in the assault, but it was well known that Lord Wellington
would not allow staff officers to go outside their own work. Therefore
they had looked on with beating hearts and pale faces, and with
tears in their eyes, at that terrible fight at the Triudad, and had
determined that when morning came they would resign their staff
appointments and ask leave to join their regiment. But when morning
came, and the list of the killed and wounded was sent in, and they
went down with a party to the breach to collect the wounded, they
could not but feel that they had in all probability escaped death, or
what a soldier fears more, mutilation. "After all, Tom," Peter said,
"we have done some active service, and our promotion shows that we
are not cowards; there can be no reason why we should not do our duty
as the chief has marked it out for us, especially when it is quite
as likely to lead to rapid promotion as is such a murderous business
as this." After this no more was said about resigning the staff
appointment, which gave them plenty of hard work, and constant change
of scene, whereas had they remained with the regiment they would often
have been stationed for months in one place without a move.
The great triumphs of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajos did not lead to the
rapid successes which Wellington had hoped. The French generals,
on hearing of the loss of the latter fortress, again fell back,
and Wellington was so much hampered by shortness of money, by the
inefficiency, obstinacy, and intrigues of the Portuguese Government,
and by want of transport, that it was nearly three months before he
could get everything in readiness for an advance into Spain. At last
all was prepared, and on the 13th of June the army once more crossed
the Agueda and marched towards the Tamar in four columns. On the 17th
it was within six miles of Salamanca, and Marshal Marmont, unable for
the moment to stem the tide of invasion, evacuated the city, which
that evening blazed with illuminations, the people being half wild
with joy at their approaching deliverance. The French, however, had
not entirely departed, for eight hundred men still held some very
strong forts overlooking and guarding the city.
These forts held out desperately; the British battering train
was weak, and upon the 23d Marmont, having received considerable
reinforcements, advanced to raise the siege. Wellington, however,
refused to be tempted to leave his trenches to deliver a general
battle, but faced the enemy with a portion of his army while he
continued the siege.
Marmont, upon his part, believing that the forts could hold out for
fifteen days, put off the attack, as he knew that large reinforcements
were coming up. His calculations were frustrated by one of the forts
taking fire on the 27th, when an assault was delivered, and the whole
of the forts surrendered; Marmont at once fell back across the Douro,
there to await the arrival of his reinforcements.
Wellington, on his part, followed slowly, and his army took up a
position between Canizal and Castrejon, thereby covering the roads
from Toro and Tordesillas, the only points at which the French could
cross the river. The reports of the spies all agreed that the former
was the place at which the crossing would be made.
On the 16th of July an officer rode into Canizal, at headlong pace,
with the news that a reconnoitering party had crossed the Douro that
morning near Tordesillas, and had found that place deserted, except by
a garrison; and an hour later the news came in that three divisions of
the enemy were already across the river at Toro. Five minutes later
the Scudamores were on horseback, carrying orders that the whole of
the army, with the exception of the fourth and light divisions, which
were on the Trabancos, under General Cotton, were to concentrate at
Canizal that night. By the morning the movement was accomplished.
The day wore on in somewhat anxious expectation, and towards afternoon
Wellington, accompanied by Lord Beresford, and escorted by Alten's,
Bock's and Le Marchant's brigades of cavalry, started to make a
reconnaissance of the enemy's movements. Caution was needed for the
advance, as it was quite uncertain whether the French were pushing
on through the open country towards Canizal, or whether they were
following the direct road from Toro to Salamanca. Evening closed in,
but no signs of the French army were seen, and the party halted about
six miles from Toro, and small parties of cavalry were despatched
right and left to scour the country, and find out where the enemy had
"It's very strange where the French can have got to," was the remark
made, for the fiftieth time among the staff.
The detached parties returned, bringing no news whatever, and Lord
Wellington again advanced slowly and cautiously towards Toro. Small
parties were pushed on ahead, and presently an officer rode back
with the news that he had been as far as the river, and that not a
Frenchman was to be seen. It was too late to do any more, and they
remained in uncertainty whether the enemy had recrossed the river
after making a demonstration, or whether they had marched to their
right, so as to make a circuit, and throw themselves between Ciudad
Rodrigo and Salamanca, upon the line of communication of the British
Lord Wellington, with his staff, took possession of a deserted
farm-house, the cavalry picketed their horses round it, and the
Scudamores, who had been more than twenty-four hours in the saddle,
wrapped themselves in their cloaks, and stretching themselves on the
floor, were soon asleep. Just at midnight the sound of a horse's
footfall approaching at a gallop was heard, and an officer, who had
ridden, without drawing rein, from Canizal, dashed up to the farm.
Five minutes later the whole party were in the saddle again. The news
was important, indeed. Marmont had drawn his whole army back across
the Toro on the night of the 16th, had marched to Tordesillas, crossed
there, and in the afternoon, after a march of fifty miles, had fallen
upon Cotton's outposts, and driven them across the Trabancos.
Not a moment's time was lost by Wellington after he received the news;
but, unfortunately, six precious hours had already been wasted, owing
to the despatches not having reached him at Canizal. With the three
brigades of cavalry he set off at once towards Alaejos, while an
officer was despatched to Canizal, to order the fifth division to
march with all speed to Torrecilla de la Orden, six miles in the rear
of Cotton's position at Castrejon.
Four hours' riding brought them to Alaejos, where a halt for two or
three hours was ordered, to rest the weary horses and men. Soon after
daybreak, however, all thought of sleep was banished by the roar of
artillery, which told that Marmont was pressing hard upon Cotton's
troops. "To horse!" was the cry, and Lords Wellington and Beresford,
with their staff, rode off at full speed towards the scene of action,
with the cavalry following hard upon their heels. An hour's ride
brought them to the ground. Not much could be seen, for the country
was undulating and bare, like the Brighton Downs, and each depression
was full of the white morning mist, which wreathed and tossed
fantastically from the effects of the discharges of firearms, the
movements of masses of men, and the charges of cavalry hidden within
it. Upon a crest near at hand were a couple of British guns, with a
small escort of horse.
Suddenly, from the mist below, a party of some fifty French horsemen
dashed out and made for the guns. The supporting squadron, surprised
by the suddenness of the attack, broke and fled; the French followed
hard upon them, and just as Lord Wellington, with his staff, gained
the crest, pursuers and pursued came upon them, and in pell-mell
confusion the whole were borne down to the bottom of the hill. For
a few minutes it was a wild mélée. Lords Wellington, Beresford, and
their staff, with their swords drawn, were in the midst of the fight,
and friends and foes were mingled together, when the leading squadrons
of the cavalry from Alaejos came thundering down, and very few of the
Frenchmen who had made that gallant charge escaped to tell the tale.
The mists were now rapidly clearing up, and in a short time the whole
French army could be seen advancing. They moved towards the British
left, and Wellington ordered the troops at once to retire. The British
fell back in three columns, and marched for the Guarena, through
Torrecilla de la Orden. The French also marched straight for the
river, and now one of the most singular sights ever presented in
warfare was to be seen.
The hostile armies were marching abreast, the columns being but a few
hundred yards apart, the officers on either side waving their hands to
each other. For ten miles the armies thus pressed forward the officers
urging the men, and these straining every nerve to get first to the
river. From time to time the artillery of either side, finding a
convenient elevation, would pour a few volleys of grape into the
opposing columns, but the position of the two armies, did not often
admit of this. Gradually Cotton's men, fresher than the French, who
had, in the two previous days, marched fifty miles, gained ground,
and, reaching the river, marched across by the ford, the winners of
the great race by so little that one division, which halted for a
moment to drink, was swept by forty pieces of French artillery, which
arrived on the spot almost simultaneously with it.
On the Guarena the British found the remaining divisions of the army,
which had been brought up from Canizal. These checked Marmont in an
attempt to cross at Vallesa, while the 29th and 40th Regiments, with
a desperate bayonet charge, drove Carier's French division back as it
attempted to push forward beyond Castrillo. Thus the two armies faced
each other on the Guarena, and Marmont had gained absolutely nothing
by his false movement at Toro, and his long and skillful detour by
Quickly the rest of the day passed, as did the one which followed, the
troops on both sides resting after their fatigues. Wellington expected
to be attacked on the next morning and his army was arranged in two
lines ready for the combat. At daybreak, however, Marmont moved his
army up the river, crossed at a ford there, and marched straight
for Salamanca, thus turning Wellington's right, and threatening his
communications. The British at once fell back, and the scene of the
previous day was repeated the armies marching along the crest of two
parallel hills within musket shot distance of each other.
This time however, the French troops, although they had marched
considerably farther than the English proved themselves the best
marchers, and when night fell Wellington had the mortification of
seeing them in possession of the ford of Huerta on the Tormes, thus
securing for Marmont the junction with an army which was approaching
under King Joseph, and also the option of either fighting or refusing
battle. Wellington felt his position seriously threatened, and sent
off a despatch to the Spanish General Castanos, stating his inability
to hold his ground, and the probability that he should be obliged to
fall back upon Portugal. This letter proved the cause of the victory
of Salamanca for it was intercepted by the French, and Marmont,
fearing that Wellington would escape him, prepared at once to throw
himself upon the road to Ciudad Rodrigo, and thus cut the British line
of retreat, in spite of the positive order which he had received from
King Joseph not to fight until he himself arrived with his army.
Upon the 21st both armies crossed the Tormes, the French at Alba and
Huerta, the British at Aldea Lengua, and San Marta. Upon that day the
news reached Wellington that General Chauvel, with 2000 cavalry, and
20 guns, would reach Marmont on the evening of the 22d, or the morning
of the 23d, and the English general therefore resolved to retreat,
unless Marmont should, by some mistake, give him a chance of fighting
Close to the British right, and the French left, were two steep and
rugged hills, called the Hermanitos, or Brothers, and soon after
daybreak on the 22d, the French seized upon the one nearest to them,
while the British took possession of the other. Then, watching each
other, the two armies remained until noon, for Wellington could not
commence his retreat by daylight; but a long cloud of dust along the
road to Ciudad Rodrigo showed that the baggage of the army was already
_en route_ for Portugal. Marmont now determined to make a bold stroke
to cut off Wellington's retreat, and, although all his troops had not
yet arrived, he ordered Maucune, with two divisions, to march round by
the left and menace the Ciudad road. It was at three o'clock in the
afternoon, and Wellington, who had been up all night, thinking that
Marmont would make no move that day, had gone to lie down for an hour
or two, when Tom Scudamore who, from an elevated point, was watching
the movements of the enemy, hurried in with the news that the French
were pushing their left round towards the Ciudad Road.
Wellington leaped to his feet, and hurried to the high ground, where
he beheld, with stern satisfaction, that Marmont, in his eagerness
to prevent the British escape, had committed the flagrant error of
detaching his wing from his main body. Instantly he issued orders
for an attack, and the great mass of men upon the British Hermanito
moved down upon the plain to attack Maucune in flank, while the third
division was ordered to throw itself across his line of march, and to
attack him in front. As the advance across the plain would be taken in
flank by the fire from the French Hermanito, General Pack was ordered
to assail that position directly the British line had passed it.
Marmont, standing on the French Hermanito, was thunder-struck at
beholding the plain suddenly covered with enemies, and a tremendous
fire was at once opened upon the advancing British. Officer after
officer was despatched to hurry up the French troops still upon the
march, and when Marmont saw the third division dash across Maucune's
path, he was upon the point of hurrying himself to the spot, when a
shell burst close to him, and he was dashed to the earth with a broken
arm, and two deep wounds in his side.
Thus, at the critical point of the battle, the French army was left
without a head.
It was just five o'clock when Pakenham, with the third division, fell
like a thunderbolt upon the head of Maucune's troops. These, taken by
surprise by this attack, on the part of an enemy whom they had thought
to see in full flight, yet fought gallantly, and strove to gain time
to open out into order of battle. Bearing onwards, however, with
irresistible force, the third division broke the head of the column,
and drove it back upon its supports. Meanwhile, the battle raged all
along the line; in the plain the fourth division carried the village
of Arapiles, and drove back Bonnet's division with the bayonet, and
the fifth division attacked Maucune's command in flank, while Pakenham
was destroying its front.
Marmont was succeeded in his command by Bonnet, who was also wounded,
and Clausel, an able general, took the command. He reinforced Maucune
with his own divisions, which had just arrived, and, for a while,
restored the battle. Then, past the right and left of Pakenham's
division, the British cavalry, under Le Marchant, Anson, and D'Urban,
burst through the smoke and dust, rode down twelve hundred of the
French infantry, and then dashed on at the line behind. Nobly the
charge was pressed, the third division following at a run, and the
charge ceased not until the French left was entirely broken and five
guns, and two thousand prisoners taken.
But forty minutes had passed since the first gun was fired, and the
French defeat was already all but irretrievable, and the third,
fourth, and fifth divisions now in line, swept forward as to assured
victory. Clausel, however, proved equal to the emergency. He
reinforced Bonnet's division with that of Fereij, as yet fresh and
unbroken, and, at the same moment, Sarrut's and Brennier's divisions
issued from the forest, and formed in the line of battle. Behind them
the broken troops of Maucune's two divisions re-formed, and the battle
was renewed with terrible force.
Pack, at the same moment, attempted unsuccessfully to carry the French
Hermanito by assault with his Portuguese division, and the fate of the
battle was again in the balance; the British divisions outnumbered,
and outflanked, began to fall back, Generals Cole, Leith, and Spry,
were all wounded, and the French cavalry threatened the flank of the
line. Wellington, however, had still plenty of reserves in hand, and
at this critical moment he launched them at the enemy. The sixth
division was brought up from the second line, and hurled at the center
of the enemy in a fierce and prolonged charge, while the light and
first divisions were directed against the French divisions which were
descending from the French Hermanito, and against that of Foy, while
the seventh division and the Spaniards were brought up behind the
first line. Against so tremendous an assault as this the French could
make no stand, and were pushed back in ever increasing disorder to the
edge of the forest, where Foy's and Maucune's divisions stood at bay,
and covered their retreat in the fast gathering darkness.
Wellington believed that he should capture a great portion of the
beaten army, for he relied upon the Castle of Alba de Formes,
commanding the ford at that place, being held by the Spaniards, but
these had evacuated the place on the preceding day, and had not even
informed Wellington that they had done so.
Thus, hidden by the night, the French retreated with but slight loss
from the pursuing columns. In the battle the French had forty-two
thousand men and seventy-four guns; the Allies forty-six thousand and
sixty guns, but of the infantry a division were composed of Spaniards,
and these could not be relied upon in any way. It was probably the
most rapidly fought action ever known, and a French officer described
it as the defeat of forty thousand men in forty minutes. The French
loss was over twelve thousand in killed, wounded, and prisoners, and
so completely were they dispersed that Clausel a week afterwards
could only collect twenty thousand to their standards. It was a great
victory, and celebrated as the first which Wellington had gained over
the French, for although at Talavera and Busaco he had repulsed the
French attack, he was not in either case in a position to do more than
hold his ground.
Throughout this short and desperate fight the Scudamores had been
fully engaged in conveying orders from one part of the field to
another. Shot and shell flew around them in all directions, and yet
when they met at the end of the action they found that they had
escaped without a scratch. The day following the battle the pursuit
began. Had King Joseph's advancing army united with Clausel's broken
troops, he could have opposed Wellington's advance with a force far
superior in numbers to that defeated at Salamanca. But Joseph, after
hesitating, fell back in one direction, Clausel retreated in another,
the opportunity for concentration was lost, and Wellington found no
foe to bar his way on his triumphant march upon Madrid.
Joseph fell back from the capital as the English approached, leaving
some thousands of men in the strong place known as the Retiro,
together with an immense amount of arms, ammunition, and military
stores of all kinds, all of which, including the troops, fell into the
hands of the English within a few days of their arrival at Madrid.
It was a proud moment for the Scudamores, as riding behind Lord
Wellington they entered Madrid on the 14th August.
The city was half mad with joy. Crowds lined the streets, while every
window and balcony along the route was filled with ladies, who waved
their scarves, clapped their hands, and showered flowers upon the
heads of their deliverers. Those below, haggard and half-starved,
for the distress in Madrid was intense, thronged round the general's
horse, a shouting, weeping throng, kissing his cloak, his horse, any
portion of his equipments which they could touch. Altogether it was
one of the most glorious, most moving, most enthusiastic welcomes ever
offered to a general.
The next fortnight was spent in a round of fêtes, bull fights, and
balls, succeeding each other rapidly, but these rejoicings were but a
thin veil over the distress which was general throughout the town. The
people were starving, and many deaths occurred daily from hunger. The
British could do but little to relieve the suffering which they saw
around them, for they themselves were--owing to the utter breakdown of
all the arrangements undertaken by the Portuguese government, and to
the indecision and incapacity of the Home Government--badly fed, and
much in arrears of their pay. Nevertheless, the officers did what they
could, got up soup kitchens, and fed daily many hundreds of starving
The heat was excessive and a very great deal of illness took place
among the troops. The French were gathering strength in the South,
and Wellington determined upon marching north and seizing Burgos, an
important place, but poorly fortified. Leaving General Hill with two
divisions at Madrid, he marched with the rest of the army upon Burgos.
CAUGHT IN A TRAP.
So much had passed between the first visit of the Scudamores to Madrid
as Spanish peasant boys, and their second entry as captains upon Lord
Wellington's staff, that they had scarcely given a thought to the
dangers they had at that time run, or to the deadly hatred with which
they had inspired the guerilla chief Nunez. When they first rode
into the town, indeed, they had spoken of it one to the other, and
had agreed that it would be pleasant to be able to walk through the
streets without fear of assassination; for even, as Tom said, if the
scoundrel had any of his band there, they would not be likely to
recognize them in their uniforms.
One evening, however, when they had been in Madrid about a fortnight,
an incident happened which caused them to doubt whether their security
from the hatred of the guerilla was as complete as they had fancied.
They were sitting with a number of other officers in a large café in
the Puerta del Sol, the principal square in Madrid, when a girl came
round begging; instead of holding out her hand silently with a murmur
for charity in the name of the holy Virgin, she began a long story,
poured out in rapid language.
Several of the officers present knew more or less Spanish, but they
were unable to follow her quick utterances, and one of them said
laughingly, "Scudamore, this is a case for you, she is beyond us
The girl followed the direction of the speaker's eye, and moved across
to the brothers, who happened to be sitting next to each other, and
began her story again. It was a complicated tale of French oppression,
and the boys, interrupting her here and there to ask for details,
talked with her for some minutes.
"I believe she is lying," Tom said, in English, "she tells her story
as if she had learned it by heart, and gets confused whenever we
cross-question her; there, give her a few coppers, I am out of
As Peter put his hand into his pocket for the money, Tom glanced
up sharply at the girl. She was not, as might have been expected,
watching Peter's movements with interest, but was looking inquiringly
at some one in the crowd of promenaders. Tom followed her glance, and
saw a peasant, standing half-hidden behind a group of passers, nod to
her, and motion her to come to him. She waited until Peter put the
coins into her hand; then, with a brief word of thanks, she moved away
into the crowd.
"Peter, I believe those scoundrels are up to their old game, and
that we are watched. Once or twice since we have been sitting here I
have noticed a heavy-looking fellow glance at us very closely as he
passed, and I just saw the same fellow, who was evidently hiding from
observation, nod to that girl, and beckon her away."
"Her story was a lie from beginning to end," Peter said, "and it is
quite possible that it was a got-up thing, on purpose to see whether
we could talk Spanish well. I don't think any one could swear to us
who only saw us then; but the fact of our speaking Spanish so well
would go a long way towards settling the point in the mind of any one
who suspected us!"
"We must be careful in future, Peter, and avoid quiet streets after
dark, and keep a sharp look-out at all times, or we shall get a knife
between our ribs, as sure as fate."
Time, however, passed on without anything occurring to give any
support to their suspicion, they could not discover that they were
being watched, or their footsteps dogged. They, nevertheless,
continued to be, to a certain extent, upon their guard after dark; in
the daytime the number of English soldiers about the streets was so
large that there was very little danger of any attack.
On the evening before the army marched for Burgos, Tom, whose turn it
was for duty at head-quarters, received a despatch, to carry to one of
the generals of division encamped a mile or two out of the town. He
did not need to go round to his quarters, as his horse was standing
saddled in readiness in the courtyard. He was but an hour away, and,
as he knew that he would not be farther required, he rode round to the
house where he was quartered. His orderly came forward at his shout,
and took his horse, and he mounted the broad stairs of the house,
which was a very handsome one, and rang at the door on the second
floor; for in Spain, as indeed almost all over the Continent, each
floor is a separate dwelling.
Sam opened it.
"Nothing new, Sam?"
"No, sar, nothing new."
Tom passed through the sitting-room, and entered Peter's bedroom. It
was in darkness.
"Asleep, old man?" he asked.
There was no answer. He came back into the sitting room, where two
lamps were burning, and looked at his watch. "Half-past eleven. He is
off to bed early. Sam, bring me some supper if you have got anything,
I am hungry."
Sam came in, in a minute, with a small tray.
"How long has my brother been gone to bed?"
"Me did not know he gone to bed at all," Sam said, in surprise. "Me
thought Massa Peter been reading book."
Tom took up a light, and went into the bedroom, it was empty. "Sam,
there's something wrong here!" Tom said sharply, for a sudden
sensation of alarm seized him. "Peter is not here."
Sam came into the bedroom, and looked round in astonishment. "What
become of him?" he said. "Where de debil he got to?"
"That's what I want to know, Sam. Now, then, just give all your
attention. What time did he come in?"
"He came in at about nine o'clock, sar, with three other officers,
Captain Farquharson, Major Heriot, and Captain Brown. Dey have bottle
wine, and sit here and smoke. Well, Massa Tom, Sam sit in his room,
and smoke him pipe, and he doze off a little; after a bit, may be
ten o'clock, Sam hear dem move, and go to door; they were saying
good-night, when Massa Peter said, 'I will just go down to see that
the horses are all right.' Den dey all go down togeder."
"Did they shut the door?" Tom asked.
"No, Massa Tom, dey did not shut de door, because, a little while
after, Sam, he wake up wid little start; he hear de door bang, and
'spose Massa Peter come back. Sam go off to sleep again till you ring
Tom looked very grave. "What can Peter have gone off with Farquharson
at this time of night for?"
Then he looked round the room, and said, almost with a cry, "Sam,
look there, there are his cap and sword. He has not gone out with the
others at all. What can have happened?"
Tom first glanced into his own room, and then ran downstairs in haste,
followed by Sam, who was now also thoroughly alarmed. The orderly had
just made the horse comfortable for the night, and was leaving the
"Johnstone, when did you see my brother?"
"Well, it may be an hour, or an hour and a half back, sir. He came
down with some other officers; I did not see them, but I heard them
talking for a minute or two before he came in to look at the horses,
and he asked if they were all right, and said they must be saddled by
half-past five, and then he went up again--at least, I suppose he went
up, for he had not got his cap on. Is anything wrong, sir?"
"I don't know, I am afraid to think," Tom said, in a dazed way. "He is
not upstairs; he has not gone out; what can have become of him?"
He stood quiet for a minute or two, and then, with a great effort,
brought his thoughts within control again. "The first thing is to
assure ourselves whether he returned upstairs. Sam, fetch a lamp, the
stairs are not lighted, and I want to examine them."
Sam soon returned with the lamp, and Tom, beginning at the street
door, examined every step carefully all the way up, Sam and the
soldier following him.
"There has been no scuffle on the stairs," he said; then he went
through the little hall into the sitting-room again. Nothing appeared
to have been disturbed. Then he looked at the floor, which was of
polished oak, and knelt down to examine it more closely. "There have
been men with dirty shoes standing here," he cried. "Do you see the
marks on each side of the door, and there, do you see that scratch and
that? There has been a scuffle. Good heavens! what has taken place
Sam's face was pale with apprehension that something had happened to
Peter; but, he said, "How dat be, Massa Tom, with Sam in the next room
all the time?"
Tom made no reply; but was closely examining the floor--back across
the hall. "There is a mark; there is another," he said, "not made by
boots, but by their native sandals." Then he went out from the door,
and up the next flight of stairs.
"There," he said, "just as I thought." Just round the angle of the
stairs two steps were dirty and stained, as if dirty feet had been
trampling upon them for some time. "I suppose they knew I was out, and
watched here, for hours, perhaps. Then, when Peter went down, they
slipped in through the open door, and then"--without completing the
sentence, Tom went back into the room, and threw himself into a chair
in tearless despair.
Sam sobbed loudly. For some time there was silence. "There is no
blood, sir, that I can see, not a speck," the orderly said. "They
can't have killed Captain Scudamore, and, if they had, why should they
have carried his body away?"
This was the question Tom had been asking himself. Assassinations
were, in Madrid, every-day occurrences, and that Peter and he were
especially liable to be murdered, owing to the hatred of Nunez and his
gang, was clear; but, so far as he could see, not a drop of blood had
been shed here. Presently Sam began to sob more loudly. "Dis break
my heart, Massa Tom, to tink dat Sam be next door all de time, and,
instead of watching, he sleep so sound dat Massa Peter carried
"You are not to blame, Sam, there was, probably, no noise whatever.
But, what can it all mean? Johnstone, you had better go to bed, you
can do no good now. Sam, give me my pistols; take that big stick of
yours, and come round with me to head-quarters, we will call in at
Captain Farquharson's on the way."
That officer, on being roused, and made to understand what was the
matter, confirmed the account given by the orderly; he and his
companions had parted at the street door, and Peter had gone down the
yard to the stable.
"It is clear that Peter has been carried off," Tom said, "and I have
not the least doubt that it has been done by some of the band of
Nunez. As you have heard me say, they owe us a grudge, and have, no
doubt, been on the look-out ever since we came here. We have been
on guard, and never gave them a chance, and, I suppose, they got
desperate when they found the army was moving again, and so carried
out this audacious plan."
"If your brother had been found murdered I should understand it,"
Captain Farquharson said; "but, what on earth did they carry him off
Tom was silent for a minute.
"That fiend, Nunez, would have had us stabbed if he could do nothing
else; but he would, if I judge him rightly, be really contented with
nothing short of putting us to death himself in some horrible manner.
My own idea is, that Peter is hidden away somewhere near, will be kept
in concealment until the road is clear, and will then be taken to
Nunez. I must go off and try and save him at all hazards."
Captain Farquharson was silent, while Tom walked up and down the room
"I don't suppose the chief would refuse me leave," Tom said. "If he
does, I must throw up my commission."
"No, no; you are sure to get leave for such a thing as this, but the
difficulty of the affair will be to know how to proceed. The country
will swarm with French, the guerillas are sure to keep a sharp
look-out, and if you find him, how are you going to rescue him?"
"I don't know," Tom said, "but it's got to be done; that's clear. I
can't set out as a Spanish peasant," he went on after a pause. "They
know me as that now. At least, if I do I must get up as an old man
and change my appearance. I might go as a woman, but I am too tall in
the first place, and then women don't go wandering over the country
in such times as this. But there, I have time to think it over before
morning. I suppose the general will be moving about five o'clock;
I will see him the first thing, and tell him the whole story.
And so Tom went back to his quarters, and sat thinking deeply until
morning, while Sam sat gloomily in his little room, sometimes with
tears rolling down his cheeks, sometimes muttering terrible threats
against the guerillas, at other times cursing himself for having been
asleep instead of watching over his young master's safety. Tom had
briefly told him that he intended to get leave in order to search
for Peter. At daybreak, when he heard Tom moving, he went into the
"Look here, Massa Tom, Sam only one word to say. He going to look for
Massa Peter. Sam know dat him color berry spicuous, dat people look
at him and tink he de debil. Sam don't spect he going wid you. Dat
wouldn't do. Dese fellows watch him, know dat black fellow here. Only
Sam go somehow. He trabel night, hide up at day time. He join you de
last ting when you go to mash up dem guerillas like squash. Anyhow,
Sam must go. If can get leave, berry well, if not he desert. Anyhow he
go, dat sartin. Sam kill himself if he stay behind."
Tom had already thought over this. He was sure that the faithful negro
would not remain behind, but he had seen that his companionship would
be fatal. He had, therefore, formed some plan in his head similar to
that which Sam proposed, and he knew that when the moment for action
came his courage, strength, and devotion would be invaluable.
"You shall go, Sam," he said, holding out his hand to his attached
follower. "As you say, you can't go with me, but you shall go
"Thank you, Massa Tom," the negro said gratefully, "You berry sure if
Massa Peter die Sam die too."
Tom now went to head-quarters, and found that Lord Wellington was
just up. Sending in to say that he wished to speak with him for a few
minutes on a matter of urgent personal importance, he was admitted,
and related as concisely as he could Peter's disappearance, and told
the story of the affair with the guerillas, which accounted for the
intense desire for vengeance on the part of Nunez. He ended by asking
for leave of absence.
The general heard him to the end, asking a brief question here and
"You can have the leave certainly, Captain Scudamore, I know that it
is needless for me to point out the risks that you will run, both from
the French and guerillas. I think that it might be an advantage if I
give you a note which you can, in case of absolute necessity, show to
any French officer."
So saying, the general sat down and wrote as follows:--
"To the French officer commanding.--The Earl of Wellington,
commander-in-chief of His Britannic Majesty's forces in Spain, gives
his assurance that the bearer of this, Captain Scudamore, although not
in English uniform, is not engaged upon any mission connected with the
army, or to obtain information respecting the strength and position of
the French forces. His business is entirely private, and he is engaged
in an attempt to discover and rescue a brother who has been carried
off by the guerilla chief Nunez in order to gratify private vengeance.
The Earl of Wellington, confiding in the natural courtesy of the
French nation, trusts that officers of that service will, if applied
to, assist Captain Scudamore in any way in their power, and he will
feel personally obliged to them by their so doing."
Tom expressed his deep gratitude for this, which might, he foresaw, be
of inestimable advantage to him.
"I am taking my servant with me, sir--the negro; he will not travel
with me by day, but will join me wherever I tell him; he is very
strong and brave, and is deeply attached to us."
"Yes, I remember," the general said; "that is the man whose life you
saved. Do you leave at once?"
"No, sir; I am thinking of riding with you to-morrow at any rate. The
route lies on the way I have to go, and I am sure to be watched here."
"Very well," the general said; "I wish you good fortune; but you have
a difficult, almost a desperate, service before you."
Upon leaving head-quarters, Tom again called on Captain Farquharson.
"Farquharson, I hear that it will be eleven before the chief leaves. I
wish you would go to that little shop opposite the opera-house; they
have got wigs and all that sort of thing there. Please get me two
old men's wigs and beards, and one set of those mutton-chop shaped
whiskers, and a woman's wig. I haven't made up my mind yet what I am
going to wear, but I want these things to choose from. I am sure to be
watched, and if I were to go there they would find out, five minutes
afterwards, what I had bought. In the meantime I am going to the head
of the police to give notice of Peter's disappearance, and to ask him
to have the carts leaving the town for the next few days searched.
I have no doubt the fellows will outwit the police, but it's no use
throwing away a chance."
It was six days after this that an old man, with long white hair
and gray beard, and with a box containing cheap trinkets, beads,
necklaces, earrings, knives, scissors, and other like articles, was
sitting at the junction of two roads near the lower slopes of the
Pyrenees, some twenty miles north of Vittoria. He had one of his
sandals off, and appeared to have just risen from a bed of leaves in
the forest behind him. The dawn had broken, but it was still twilight.
Presently he heard a footstep coming along the road, and at once
applied himself to wrapping the bandages, which serve for stockings
to the Spanish peasant, round his leg, looking eagerly from under his
wide sombrero to see who was approaching. As the new-comer came in
sight, the pedlar at once ceased his employment and rose to meet him.
He had recognized the figure, but the face was hidden, the Spanish
cloak, worn as is usual by peasant and noble alike, with one end
thrown over the shoulder, hiding the chin and lower part of the face,
while the wide felt hat, pressed well down in front, allowed scarcely
a glimpse even of the nose. That, however, would have been sufficient
in the present case, for the man was a negro.
Upon seeing the pedlar rise, he ran forward to meet him.
"Ah, Massa Tom, tank de Lord me find you safe and sound. I always
keep on tinking you taken prisoner or killed eider by de French or de
robbers--one as bad as de oder."
"I have thought the same of you, Sam, for your risk has been far
greater than mine. Well, thank God, it is all right thus far. But come
back into the wood, I have got some food there, and here any one might
They were soon deep in the wood, where, by a pile of grass and leaves
which had evidently been used as a bed, was an open wallet, with some
bread, cheese, cold meat and a small skin of wine.
"Are you hungry, Sam?"
"Downright starving, sar; dis chile eat noting for two days."
"Why, how is that, Sam; you had six days' provision with you when you
"Dat true enough, sar, but Sam's appetite bigger than usual, noting to
do all day sitting in de woods, waiting for night to come so as to go
on again; so had to eat, and de food all went before Sam thought dat
dere was two more days before he meet you."
"Well, sit down now, Sam, and eat away; we have plenty of time."
They had much to tell each other. They had traveled by the same road,
one by night, the other by day--Sam passing the days sleeping in the
woods, his master traveling by day and at night sleeping in wretched
village posadas. He, too, would far rather have slept in the woods,
for the insects and filth made sleep almost impossible in these
places, besides which he ran a good deal of risk as to the discovery
of his disguise. He had, however, chosen the inns in hopes of hearing
something which might give him a clue as to the object of his search.
The only information, which he had gained was to the effect that Nunez
still had his quarters at the old place. He had been driven out of it,
and the village had been burned by the French, but the position was
a convenient one, and the houses had been cleared and roughly roofed
with boughs of trees and straw, and the band was still there. This
much was satisfactory, and he could hardly have expected to learn
more, unless he had happened to meet some of the members of the band
itself. They had not traveled by the main road, as upon that large
forces of the French were collected; and even if Tom could have
passed through, boldly, Sam could not have made his way. Even by the
road they had chosen Tom had met several bodies of French, while at
Vittoria a very large force was assembling, destined for the relief of
Sam had but few incidents to relate. He had been carefully instructed
by Tom before starting as to the road he should take, and the position
and distances apart of the towns and villages upon it. He had traveled
only at night, and had but once or twice exchanged a word with passers
by. People did not travel much at night in so disturbed a country,
and when Sam heard a foot-passenger approaching, or, as was more
frequently the case, a party of French cavalry, he left the road and
lay down, until they had passed. The one or two foot-passengers he had
met suddenly he had passed with the usual Spanish muttered salutation,
and the darkness and the disguise prevented any recognition of his
"Now, sar," Sam said, when they had finished breakfast, "what am to be
"I do not think, Sam, that the party who have got Peter have arrived
yet. They could only have started on the day that we did; they have as
long a road to go, and most likely they have got a bullock-cart, which
won't travel more than fifteen miles a day at the outside. They have
got Peter in a cart covered up with something, we may be sure. I don't
think they will be here for another day or so at the earliest. If we
knew what sort of cart it was, we could attack them on the way if
there are not too many of them; but unfortunately we don't know that;
and as there are three or four roads up to the village, and they are
sure to make a detour, we don't know which they will come by. I hope
to learn at the village. We will stay where we are till dark, then we
will push on; it is only a couple of miles or so from here. I will
steal into the place after dark, and try and overhear what is going
on. You shall remain at a point where you can see down into the
village and can hear a shout. I will give you this letter of Lord
Wellington, and if you hear a pistol shot and hear me shout 'Sam!' you
will know I am caught, and must make off as hard as you can to that
small town in the plain, where there is a French garrison; ask for the
commanding-officer, show this letter, and offer to guide them so as
to surprise Nunez and his band. That is our sole chance. But I don't
think there is much risk of being caught. I shall be very careful, you
may rely upon it; and as I know the position of the house, I shall be
able to make my way about. Once night has fallen they go off to bed;
and even if I walked boldly about the place I should likely enough
meet no one all night."
That evening Tom entered the village as soon as it was fairly dark. He
knew, from his former experience, that sentries were always placed at
points whence they could get a view of the roads, and he made his way
so as to avoid any risk of observation by them; but when he reached a
place whence he could in turn view the posts of the watchers, he found
that they were deserted, and concluded that the brigands had become
careless, from the belief that, now the French had once destroyed the
village, they would not be likely to come up to search for them there
a second time; besides which, they might reckon that the French had
their hands much too full with the advance of the Allied Army to spare
either men or time in raids upon the guerillas. In this particular,
indeed, they would have argued wrongly, for the French during the
whole war, however much they were pressed by Wellington, always kept
sufficient forces in hand to scatter the guerillas as fast as they
Tom had now taken off his beard and wig, and had put on the small
whisker, which is the general fashion of wearing the hair throughout
Spain. Thus he trusted, if surprised in the dark, to pass as one of
the band. So quiet was the village when he entered, that he at first
thought it was deserted; at last, however, he saw a light in one of
the houses in the center of the village. Approaching carefully and
noiselessly he saw a group of five men sitting and drinking round a
fire made on the ground, in the center of one of the windowless rooms,
the smoke finding its way out through the roof.
"I tell you," one said, "I am getting sick of this life; I am ready to
go and kill the French, but to be left up here, where there is nothing
to do, no one to talk to, not a roof to cover one; bah! I am sick of
it. But Nunez will be back in three days, and we shall be merry enough
"Not we," another said, "this was a pleasant village in the old days,
what is it now? There are no women, not even old mother Morena, who
used to cook well, if she was free of her tongue. There is not even a
priest now to shrive us if one is brought in to die."
"Nunez will come back in a good temper if it is true what Lope said
yesterday when he came through, that the lads at Madrid had got one
of those English boys who made a fool of him two years ago. That was
a go. Demonio! but it was a fine thing. If it is true that they have
got him and are bringing him here I would not be in his skin for all
the treasures of King Joseph. Yes, Nunez was always a devil, but he is
worse now. Somehow we always have bad luck, and the band gets smaller
and smaller, I don't suppose there's above fifty with him now. I
expect we shall have them pretty well all here this week."
"No fear of a visit from the French?"
"None; Reynier at Vittoria is busy now in sending every man he can
spare forward to the army that's gathering near Burgos."
This was enough for Tom, who stole silently away to the spot where Sam
was anxiously awaiting him.
JUST IN TIME.
"I shall go straight back to Vittoria, Sam. By what they say, General
Reynier is in command there, and as it was through his wife that all
this terrible business has come about, we have a right to expect him
to do his best to get us out of it. I will start at once. Now look
here, Sam. You must put yourself where you can keep watch over the
village. If you see any party come in, either to-night or to-morrow,
you must try and discover if Peter is among them. If he is, light a
fire down in that hollow where it can't be seen from above, but where
we can see it on that road. It's twenty miles to Vittoria; if I can
get to see General Reynier to-morrow, I may be back here with cavalry
by night; if he is out or anything prevents it, I will be here next
night, as soon after dusk as it will be safe. I will dismount the men
and take them over the hill, so as to avoid the sentinel who is sure
to be posted on the road when Nunez arrives. If they come in the
afternoon, Sam, and you find that anything is going to be done at
once, do everything you can to delay matters."
"All right, Massa Tom, if, when you come back you find Massa Peter
dead, you be berry sure you find dis chile gone down too."
It was seven o'clock next morning when Tom entered Vittoria, and
a few cautious inquiries proved the fact that General Reynier was
really in command of the French division there. He at once sought his
head-quarters, and after some talk with a woman selling fruit near the
house, heard that the general and his staff had started at daybreak,
but whither of course she knew not. Tom hesitated for some time, and
then, seeing an officer standing at the door, went up to him and asked
if the general would be back soon.
"He will be back in an hour or two," the officer replied in Spanish,
"but it is no use your waiting to see him. He has his hands full and
can't be bothered with petitions as to cattle stolen or orchards
robbed. Wait till we have driven the English back, and then we shall
have time to talk to you."
"Your pardon," Tom said humbly. "It is not a complaint that I have to
make, it is something of real importance which I have to communicate
"You can tell me, I am Colonel Decamps; it will be all the same thing
if your news is really important."
"Thank you very kindly, señor, it must be the general himself; I will
wait here." Thereupon Tom sat down with his back to the wall a short
distance off, pulled out some bread and fruit he had bought in the
town, and began quietly to eat his breakfast. An hour later a pretty
carriage with two fine horses drew up to the door. It was empty,
and was evidently intended for some one in the house. Suddenly, the
thought flashed across his mind, perhaps Madame Reynier and her child
were there. It was curious that the thought had not occurred to him
before, but it had not, and he drew near, when a sentry at the door
roughly ordered him to stand further back. Presently a lady came to
the door, accompanied by a little girl. There she stood for a minute
talking with the officer with whom Tom had spoken. At the moment a
young officer passed Tom on his way to the house.
"Monsieur," Tom said, in French, "do me the favor to place that ring
in the hands of Madame Reynier. It is a matter of life and death.
She will recognize the ring, it is her own," he added, as the young
officer in surprise hesitated. He was a bright handsome young fellow,
and after a moment's, pause, he went up to the lady. "My dear aunt,"
he said, "here is a mystery. An old Spanish beggar speaks French, not
very good French, but enough to make out, and he begs me to give you
this ring, which he says is yours, and which, by the way, looks a
valuable one." Madame Reynier, in some surprise, held out her hand
for the ring. "It is not mine," she began, when a sudden thought
struck her, and turning it round she saw "a Louise Reynier, tumors
reconnaissance," which she had had engraved on it, before giving it to
Tom. "Who gave it to you, Jules?" she asked eagerly.
"That old pedler," Jules said.
"Bring him in," Madame Reynier said, "the carriage must wait; I must
speak to him and alone."
"My dear aunt," began her nephew.
"Don't be afraid, Jules, I am not going to run away with him, and if
you are a good boy you shall know all about it afterwards, wait here,
Louise, with your cousin;" and beckoning to Tom to follow her, she
went into the house, the two officers looking astounded at each other
as the supposed Spanish pedler followed her into her sitting-room.
"What is your message?" she asked.
Tom's answer was to remove his wide hat, wig, and beard.
"Himself!" Madame Reynier exclaimed, "my preserver," and she held out
both her hands to him. "How glad I am, but oh! how foolish to come
here again, and--and"--she hesitated at the thought that he, an
English spy, ought not to come to her, the wife of a French general.
Tom guessed her thought. "Even General Reynier might succor us without
betraying the interests of his country. Read that, madame; it is an
open letter," and he handed her Lord Wellington's letter.
She glanced through it and turned pale. "Your brother! is he in the
hands of the guerillas? Where? How?"
"He is in the hands of that scoundrel Nunez; he swore he would be
revenged for that day's work, and he has had Peter carried off. No
doubt to kill him with torture."
"Oh! and it is through me," Madame Reynier exclaimed, greatly
distressed. "What can we do! Please let me consult with my friends,
every soldier shall be at your service," and she opened the door.
"Colonel Deschamps, Jules, come here directly, and bring Louise with
you." These officers, on entering, were struck dumb with astonishment
on finding a young peasant instead of an old pedler, and at seeing
tears standing in Madame Reynier's eyes. "Louise," she said to her
daughter, "look at this gentleman, who is he?"
The child looked hard at Tom; he was dressed nearly as when she first
saw him--and as he smiled she recognized him. "Oh, it is the good
boy!" she cried, and leaped into Tom's arms, and kissed him heartily.
"Do you think we have gone mad, Jules, Louise and I? This is one of
the young English officers who saved our lives, as you have often
heard me tell you."
Jules stepped forward, and shook Tom's hand heartily, but Colonel
Deschamps looked very serious. "But, madame," he began, "you are wrong
to tell me this."
"No, Colonel;" Madame Reynier said, "here is a letter, of which this
gentleman is the bearer, from Lord Wellington himself, vouching for
him, and asking for the help of every Frenchman."
Colonel Deschamps read it, and his brow cleared, and he held out his
hand to Tom. "Pardon my hesitation, sir," he said in Spanish; "but I
feared that I was placed in a painful position, between what I owe
to my country, and what all French soldiers owe to you, for what you
did for Madame Reynier. I am, indeed, glad to find that this letter
absolves me from the former duty, and leaves me free to do all I can
to discharge the latter debt. Where is your brother, and why has he
been carried off? I have known hundreds of our officers assassinated
by these Spanish wolves, but never one carried away. An English
officer, too, it makes it the more strange!"
Tom now related the story of Peter's abduction; the previous attempts
of members of Nunez's band to assassinate them, and the reasons he
had for believing that Peter was close to, if not already at, the
headquarters of that desperado.
"Is he still there?" Jules asked. "We routed him out directly the
general came up here. My aunt declared herself bound by a promise, and
would give us no clue as to the position of the village, but he had
made himself such a scourge, that there were plenty of others ready to
tell; if we had known the roads, we would have killed the whole band,
but unfortunately they took the alarm and made off. So he has gone
back there again. Ah! there is the general."
Madame Reynier went out to meet her husband, and drawing him aside
into another room, explained the whole circumstance to him, with
difficulty detaining him long enough to tell her story, as the moment
he found that his wife and child's deliverer was in the next room, he
desired to rush off to see him. The story over, he rushed impetuously
into the room, where Tom was explaining his plans to his French
friends, seized him in his arms, and kissed him on both cheeks, as if
he had been his son.
"I have longed for this day!" he said, wiping his eyes. "I have prayed
that I might some day meet you, to thank you for my wife and child,
who would have been lost to me, but for you. And now I hear your
gallant brother is paying with his life for that good deed. Tell me
what to do, and if necessary I will put the whole division at your
"I do not think that he will have above fifty men with him, general;
say eighty, at the outside. Two squadrons of cavalry will be
sufficient. They must dismount at the bottom of the hill, and I will
lead them up. We must not get within sight of the hill till it is too
dark for their look-out to see us, or the alarm would be given, and we
should catch no one. We shall know if they have arrived, by a fire my
man is to light. If they have not come, then I would put sentries on
guard upon every road leading there, and search every cart that comes
up; they are sure to have got him hid under some hay, or something of
that sort, and there are not likely to be more than two or three men
actually with it, so as not to attract attention. It will be all right
if they do not arrive there to-day."
"It is about five hours' ride for cavalry," the general said, "that
is at an easy pace; it will not be dark enough to approach the hill
without being seen till eight o'clock. Two squadrons shall be paraded
here at three o'clock. I will go with you myself; yes, and you shall
go too, Jules," he said, in answer to an anxious look from his nephew.
"In the mean time you can lend our friend some clothes; you are about
the same size."
"Come along," Jules said laughing; "I think we can improve your
appearance," and, indeed, he did so, for in half an hour Tom returned
looking all over a dashing young French hussar, and little Louise
clapped her hands and said--
"He does look nice, mamma, don't he? Why can't he stay with us always,
and dress like that? and we know he's brave, and he would help papa
and Jules to kill the wicked English."
There was a hearty laugh, and Jules was about to tell her that Tom was
himself one of the wicked English, but Madame Reynier shook her head,
for, as she told him afterwards, it was as well not to tell her, for
little mouths would talk, and there was no occasion to set everyone
wondering and talking about the visit of an English officer to General
Reynier. "There is no treason in it, Jules, still one does not want to
be suspected of treason, even by fools."
Sam watched all night, without hearing any sound of vehicles, but in
the morning he saw that several more guerillas had come in during the
night. In the morning parties of twos and threes began to come in
from the direction of Vittoria, and it was evident from the shouting
and noise in the village that these brought satisfactory news of
some kind. In the afternoon most of them went out again in a body
to the wood at the foot of the hill, and soon afterwards Sam saw a
cart coming along across the plain. Two men walked beside it, and
Sam could see one, if not two more perched upon the top of the load.
Three others walked along at a distance of some fifty yards ahead, and
as many more at about the same distance behind. He could see others
making their way through the fields. "Dis berry bad job," Sam said
to himself; "me berry much afraid dat Massa Tom he not get back in
time. Der's too many for Sam to fight all by himself, but he must
do someting." Whereupon Sam set to to think with all his might, and
presently burst into a broad grin. "Sure enough dat do," he said; "now
let me arrange all about what dey call de pamerphernalia." First, he
emptied out the contents of a couple of dozen pistol cartridges; he
wetted the powder and rolled it up in six cartridges, like squibs,
three short ones and three much longer. Then he opened Tom's kit,
and took out a small box of paints, which Tom had carried with him
for making dark lines on his face, and in other ways to assist his
disguise. Taking some white paint, Sam painted his eyelids up to his
eyebrows, and a circle on his cheeks, giving the eyes at a short
distance the appearance of ghastly saucers.
"Dat will do for de present," he said; "now for business. If dey wait
till it get dark, all right; if not, Sam do for Nunez and two or three
more, and den go down with Massa Peter!"
Then carefully examining the priming of the pair of pistols, which
he carried--the very pistols given to Peter by the passengers of the
Marlborough coach--he prepared to set out.
It was now six o'clock, and he calculated that the waggon would by
this time have mounted the hill, and reached the village; he had
already collected a large heap of dry sticks and some logs, at the
point Tom had pointed out, these he now lit, and then started for the
top of the hill. Looking back, just as he reached the crest, he could
see, knowing where it was, a very light smoke curling up over a clump
of trees which intervened between him and the fire, but it was so
slight that he was convinced that it would not be noticed by an
ordinary observer. Sam saw at once, on reaching the top of the hill,
that the guerillas were crowded round the waggon, which stood at the
edge of a small clump of trees in the middle of the village. The
moment was favourable, and he at once started forward, sometimes
making a detour, so as to have the shelter of a tree, sometimes
stooping behind a low stone wall, until he reached the first house
in the village. It was now comparatively easy work, for there were
enclosures and walls, the patches of garden-ground were breast-high
with weeds, and, stooping and crawling, Sam soon reached a house close
to the waggon. It was a mere hut, and had not been repaired. The roof
was gone, but the charred shutters and doors still hung on their
hinges. It was the very place from which to see without being seen.
Sam entered by a door from behind, and found that, through a slight
opening in the window-shutter, he could see all that was going on.
Some fifty guerillas were standing or sitting in groups at a distance
of twenty yards.
In the centre of the groups, lying on the ground, was a figure which
he at once recognized as Peter. It was wound round and round with
ropes; beside it stood, or rather danced, Nunez pouring forth strings
of abuse, of threats, and of curses, and enforcing them with repeated
kicks at the motionless figure.
"De debil!" muttered Sam, "me neber able to stand dis. If you not stop
dat, Massa Nunez, me put a bullet through dat ugly head of yours, as
sure as you stand dere. But me mustn't do it till last ting; for,
whether I kill him or not, it's all up with Massa Peter and me if I
Fortunately Nunez was tired, and in a short time he desisted, and
threw himself down on the ground. "Take off his ropes, one of you," he
said: "there would be no fear of his running away had he three or four
days to live, instead of as many hours. Take the gag out of his mouth,
throw some water over him to bring him round, and pour some wine down
his throat. I want him to be fresh, so as to be able to enjoy the
pleasure we have in store for him. And now let's have dinner."
Sam felt that for another hour at least Peter was safe, and
therefore, with the same precaution as before, he crept away from his
hiding-place, through the village, and over the hill-crest, to the
place where he had made his fire. The logs were burning well, but gave
out but little smoke. Sam looked at the sky. "Dusk cum on berry fast,"
he said; "another hour Massa Tom come on with soldiers. If he see
fire, he hurry up sharp." So saying, Sam heaped on a pile of wood,
and then made his way back. He knew that Tom would not approach until
it was too dark for the movements of the troops to be seen by the
look-outs, and that he could not be expected to reach the village
until fully an hour after dark. "Just another hour and a half," he
said to himself; "ebery thing depend upon what happen before dat
time." It was quite dusk before he regained the shelter of the
cottage. He had gone round by the wagon, and had taken from it a large
stable-fork, muttering as he did so. "Golly! dis de berry ting."
Close by he saw the carcase of a bullock which the guerillas had just
slaughtered, and from this he cut off the horns and tail.
When Sam peeped out through the shutter he saw that something was
going to be done. Nunez was sitting smoking a cigarette, with a look
of savage pleasure in his face, while the men heaped up a large fire
in front of the trees.
"I don't like dat gentleman's look," Sam said to himself. "It's time
dis chile begin to dress for de pantomime, dat quite plain. Massa Tom
get here too late." Thus saying, Sam began to deliberately undress.
Peter, his arms and feet still bound, was sitting with his back
against a tree, watching what were, he was convinced, the preparations
for his death. For the last ten days he had lived in a sort of
confused and painful dream. From the moment, when, upon entering his
room two hands suddenly gripped his throat, others thrust a gag in the
mouth, and then blindfolded him, while some one from behind lashed his
arms to his side, and then altogether, lifting him like a log, carried
him downstairs and threw him into a cart, he had not till now seen
anything. The bandage had never been removed from his eyes, or the
cords from his limbs. Sometimes he had been made to sit up, and soup
and wine had been poured down his throat, or a piece of bread thrust
into his mouth; then he had been again gagged and thrown into a cart.
Over him brushwood and fagots had been piled, and there he had lain,
until at night a stop was made, when he was taken out, fed, and then
thrust back again and covered over.
From the first he had never doubted who were his captors, or what was
his destination, and he therefore experienced no surprise whatever,
when, on his arrival at the village, on the bandage being taken off
his eyes, he saw where he was. That it was useless to beg for mercy of
the savages into whose power he had fallen he knew well enough, and he
looked as calm and indifferent, as if he did not hear a word of the
threats and imprecations which Nunez was heaping on him.
"You see that fire," the enraged guerilla said, "there you shall be
roasted! English pig that you are! But not yet. That were too quick
a death! Here," he said to his followers, "make a little fire by the
side of the big one--there under the arm of that tree; and put on
plenty of green leaves: we will smoke our pig a bit before we roast
Peter still eyed him unflinchingly. He was determined that no pain
should wring a complaint or prayer for mercy. Even now he did not
quite despair, for he thought that he had just one chance of life. He
was sure that Tom would move heaven and earth to save him. He reckoned
that he would at once guess who had carried him off, and with what
object; and he felt that Tom would be certain to set off to his
rescue. All this he had reflected over in his long days of weary
suffering, and from the moment that he was unbandaged, and propped
against the tree, he had listened attentively for any unusual sound.
How Tom could rescue him he did not see. He was so utterly crippled,
from his long confinement, that he knew that it would be hours,
perhaps days, before he could walk a step; yet, still he thought it
possible that Tom might try; and he feared more than he hoped, for he
trembled lest, if Tom were really there, that he would do some rash
thing, which would involve him in his fate. "Whether Tom is here or
not," Peter thought as he looked unflinchingly at Nunez, "one thing
is certain, if I know my brother, you will not have many days to live
after me, for Tom will follow you all over Spain, but he will avenge
me at last!" Such were Peter's thoughts, and so likely did he think it
that Tom was present, that he was scarcely surprised when he heard, as
from the ground behind him, a well-known voice.
"Massa Peter, you keep up your heart. Sam here, Massa Tom he be here
in another half hour with French soldiers. If dey go to kill you
before dat, Sam play dem trick. Can you run, Massa Peter, if I cut de
"Dat bad job. Neber mind, Massa Peter, you keep up your heart. Sam
keep quiet as long as he can, but when de worst come Sam do de trick
"Don't show yourself, Sam. It would only cost you your life, and
couldn't help me; besides, it would put them on their guard. They
won't kill me yet. They will smoke me, and so on, but they will make
it last as long as they can."
Peter was able to say this, for at the moment Nunez was occupied in
rolling and lighting a second cigarette. Peter received no answer, for
Sam, seeing some guerillas bringing sticks and leaves to make a fire,
as Nunez, had ordered, crept back again into the deep shadow behind.
The fire was now giving out volumes of smoke, a guerilla climbed up
the tree and slung a rope over it, and three others approached Peter.
His heart beat rapidly; but it was with hope, not fear. He knew, from
the words of Nunez, that at present he was not going to be burned,
but, as he guessed, to be hung over the smoke until he was insensible,
and then brought to life again with buckets of water, only to have the
suffocation repeated, until it pleased Nunez to try some fresh mode of
It was as he imagined. The rope was attached to his legs, and amid
the cheers of the guerillas, two men hauled upon the other end until
Peter swung, head downwards, over the fire. There was no flame, but
dense volumes of pungent smoke rose in his face. For a moment his eyes
smarted with agony, then a choking sensation seized him, his blood
seemed to rush into his head, and his veins to be bursting: and there
was a confused din in his ears and a last throb of pain, and then he
"That's enough for the present," Nunez said; "cut him down."
The men advanced to do so, but paused, with astonishment, for from
behind the great fire was a loud yell--"Yah, yah, yah!"--each louder
than the last, and then, leaping through the flames appeared, as they
supposed, the devil. Sam's appearance was indeed amply sufficient to
strike horror in the minds of a band of intensely superstitious men.
He had entirely stripped himself, with the exception of his sandals,
which he had retained in order to be able to run freely; on his head
were two great horns; in one hand he held a fork, and in the other
what appeared to be his tail, but which really belonged to the
slaughtered bullock. From his month, his horns, and the end of his
tail poured volumes of fire, arising, it needs not to say, from the
squibs he had prepared. The great white circles round the eyes added
to the ghastliness of his appearance, and seeing the terrible figure
leap apparently from the flames, it is no wonder that a scream of
terror rose from the guerillas. Whatever a Spanish peasant may believe
about saints and angels, he believes yet more implicitly in a devil.
Black, with horns, and a tail--and here he was--with these appendages
tipped with fire! Those who were able turned and fled in terror, those
who were too frightened to run fell on their knees and screamed for
mercy, while one or two fell insensible from fear. Taking the squibs
from his mouth, and giving one more startling yell, to quicken the
fugitives, Sam made two strides to where Peter was hanging, cut the
rope, and lowered him down.
Nunez had at first joined in the flight, but looking over his shoulder
he saw what Sam was doing. His rage and frenzy, at the thought of
being cheated of his victim, even by the evil one himself, overcame
his fear, and he rushed back, shouting, "He is mine! He is mine! I
won't give him to you!" and fired a pistol almost in Sam's face. The
ball carried away a portion of one of Sam's ears, and with a yell,
even more thrilling than those he had given before, he plunged his
pitchfork into the body of the guerilla, then, exerting all his
immense strength, he lifted him upon it, as if he had been a truss of
straw, took three steps to the great bonfire and cast the brigand into
There was a volume of sparks, a tumbling together of big logs, and the
most cruel of the Spanish guerillas had ceased to exist.
This awful sight completed the discomfiture of the guerillas--some
hearing their chief's shouts and the sound o his pistol had looked
round, but the sight of the gigantic fiend casting him into the fire
was too much for them. With cries of horror and fear they continued
their flight; a few of them, who had fallen on their knees, gained
strength enough, from fear, to rise and fly; the rest lay on their
faces. Sam saw that for the present all was clear, and lifting up
Peter's still insensible body, as if it had no weight whatever, he
turned and went at a brisk trot out of the village, then over the
crest and down towards the fire.
Then he heard a ring of metal in front of him, and a voice said, "_Qui
vive_!" while another voice said, "Is that you, Sam?"
"Bress de Lord! Massa Tom, dis is me sure enough: and what is much
better, here is Massa Peter."
"Thank God!" Tom said fervently. "Is he hurt? Why don't you speak,
"He all right, Massa Tom. He talk in a minute or two. Now smoke choke
him, he better presently. Here, massa, you take him down to fire, pour
a little brandy down his throat. Now, massa officer, I lead de way
back to village."
As Tom took Peter in his arms a sudden fire of musketry was heard down
on the road.
"Our fellows have got them," Jules said. "I don't know what has
alarmed them, but they are running away!"
"Push forward," General Reynier said, "and give no quarter! Jules,
keep by the negro, and see that he comes to no harm. The men might
mistake him for a guerilla."
The night was pitch dark, and the extraordinary appearance of Sam
could not be perceived until after scouring the village and shooting
the few wretches whom they found there, they gathered round the
fire. Before reaching it, however, Sam had slipped away for a moment
into the hut where he had stripped; here he quickly dressed himself,
removed the paint from his face, and rejoined the group, who were not
a little surprised at seeing his black face.
In a short time the parties who had been posted on all the various
roads came in, and it was found that they had between them killed
some thirty or forty of the brigands, and had brought in two or three
"Have you killed or taken Nunez?" General Reynier asked. "Our work is
only half done if that scoundrel has escaped."
"I have asked the prisoners," one of the officers said, "and they tell
an extraordinary story, that the devil has just thrown him into the
"What do they mean by such folly as that," the general asked angrily.
"Were they making fun of you?"
"No, sir, they were certainly serious enough over it, and they were
all running for their lives when they fell into our hands; they had
been horribly frightened at something."
"Ask that fellow there," the general said, pointing to a prisoner who
had been brought in by another detachment, "he cannot have spoken to
The man was brought forward, and then Jules asked him in Spanish:
"What were you all running away for?"
The man gave a glance of horror at the fire. "The devil came with his
pitchfork, fire came out of his mouth, his tail and his horns were
tipped with sparks, the captain fired at him, of course the bullet did
no good, and the devil put his fork into him, carried him to the fire,
and threw him in."
Jules and some of the other young officers burst out laughing, but the
"Humph! We can easily prove a portion of the story. See if there are
any human remains in that fire."
The wind was blowing the other way, but as a sergeant went up to the
fire in obedience to the general's order, he said:--
"There is a great smell of burnt flesh here, and, sapristi, yes," as
he tossed over the logs with his foot "there is a body here, sir,
pretty well burnt up."
"It's a curious story," the general said. "Where is that negro,
perhaps he can enlighten us?"
But Sam had already left to look after Peter.
"Jules, put these fellows against that wall and give them a volley,
then march the men down to the wood where their horses are. We will
bivouac here for the night."
A party now brought up Peter, who had quite come round, but was unable
to stand, or indeed to move his arms, so injured was he by the ropes,
which had completely cut their way into his flesh. However, he was
cheerful and bright, and able really to enjoy the supper which was
soon prepared. That done, General Reynier said:--
"Captain Scudamore, will you call your black man when he has finished
his supper, which, no doubt, he needs? I want him to tell me what took
place before we arrived. The prisoners were full of some cock-and-bull
story, that the devil had stuck his fork into their captain and
pitched him into the fire, and the story is corroborated, at least to
the extent of the fact that, on turning the fire over, we found a body
Sam, called and questioned, told the whole story, which Tom translated
as he went on to the French officers, and it was received with a
chorus of laughter at the thought of the oddity of Sam's appearance,
and of the brigands' terror, and with warm admiration for the able
stratagem and courage shown by the black.
Tom was delighted, and Peter, who had until now been entirely ignorant
of the manner in which he had been saved, feebly pressed Sam's hand
and said a few words of gratitude and thanks, which so delighted Sam
that he retired to cry quietly.
The next day they moved down to Vittoria, where Peter was tenderly
nursed by Madame Reynier. A week later he was fit to sit on horseback,
and the next day, after a hearty and affectionate parting, they
started to rejoin their own army. Both were now dressed as Spanish
gentlemen, and Jules, with four troopers accompanied them as an
They made a long detour to avoid the French army in the field under
Clausel, and at last came within sight of the British outposts. Here
Jules and his escort halted, and after a warm embrace with the merry
young Frenchman, they rode forward, and, after the usual parleying
with the pickets, were passed forward to the officer commanding the
post. He happened to be well known to them, and after the first
surprise, and a few words of explanation, they rode on towards the
head-quarters of the army besieging Burgos.
General Clausel fell back as Wellington advanced to Burgos, and the
British laid siege to the castle of that place. Like all Wellington's
sieges this was commenced with a wholly insufficient train of
artillery, and without the time necessary to carry out regular siege
operations. A considerable portion of the army were posted so as to
watch Clausel. The place was badly fortified, but the French under
Governor Dubreton defended themselves with immense skill and courage,
the English assaults were repulsed, successful sorties were made by
the garrison, and at last, after the failure of the fourth assault,
the siege was given up, and the allied armies turned their faces once
more towards Portugal.
It was time; the operations in the south upon which Wellington had
relied to keep at least a portion of the French forces engaged, had
failed signally, and the French generals were bringing up their
troops from all parts of Spain, and General Souham, having under him
Generals Clausel, Maucune, and Foy, with a force far superior to
that of the British, advanced to give battle. Then Wellington, whose
Anglo-Portuguese troops were much weakened by sickness, fell back
rapidly, sending orders to General Hill, who commanded the troops left
behind in Madrid, to evacuate that city, and to fall back and unite
with him on the Tormes.
It was only by some masterly maneuvering and some stiff fighting at
Venta de Pozo, on the Carrion, and on the Huebra, that Wellington drew
off his army to Ciudad Rodrigo.
During the retreat the British suffered very severely, and the
discipline of the army became greatly impaired, so much so that Lord
Wellington issued a general order rebuking the army, saying that
"discipline had deteriorated during the campaign in a greater degree
than he had ever witnessed or read of in any army, and this without
any unusual privation or hardship, or any long marches."
The number of stragglers may be imagined by the fact that the loss of
the allied army was upwards of nine thousand, of whom not more than
two thousand were killed and wounded at Burgos, and in the combats
during the retreat. This number includes the Spanish as well as the
It was the beginning of December when the allied army reached their
winter quarters around Ciudad Rodrigo. It was fortunate that the
season of the year, and the necessity which the French had to refill
their magazines, and collect food, gave breathing time and rest to
the British. Although strengthened by his junction with Hill, and by
the arrival of reinforcements from the coast, Wellington was not in a
position to have made a stand against such a force as the French could
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